Synapse Superpower

“Remember what you were saying! I want to hear the rest,” I yelled to Emily, as our ever-revolving door opened. A new load of three arrived, hunched over with backpacks, baseball equipment, and an enormous cello. They kicked of their shoes, scattering dirt clumps across the floor, as Sawyer leapt up into the waiting arms of his big brother.

“Hey look! It’s Barry Allen!” Yelled Wesley, who then leaned in closer to Sawyer, “Or are you the Flash right now?”

The toddler grinned and nodded.

Curie thrust a school permission slip into my hands while Magellan bounded down to the basement to check on the progress of their lego project. Papa trailed last in the door and kissed my cheek.

“Wesley forgot his batting helmet, we’ll have to pick it up from his Mom’s before the game tomorrow.”

I sighed and nodded, “Ok – and John just let me know he’ll be out of town this Wednesday so the boys will be here after all. We should cancel the dinner.”

Upstairs Wendy began crying, awake from her nap, punctuated quickly by Newton on the drum kit.

I turned to Emily, “I’ll be right back!” and dashed upstairs to grab the baby.

Moments later when I returned, Emily was still sitting in the same place, smiling. We exchanged looks. One of my oldest friends, I knew her smiles well along with their many interpretations. This one seemed to say,

“Crazy, crazy life!”

I was the last of our college friends we’d have imagined living such a life.

We rarely enjoyed time together since she moved to China with her family, every minute of her visit counted. As we balanced babies and coffee out back to the deck, she shared an observation.

“When children are exposed to another language early on, it opens up new areas of their brains that would otherwise lie dormant. New synapses are created and begin sparking. That is what I see in your crazy blended-family life. New areas of your brain are being used to make all of this happen and run smoothly. The coordination, the communication, the self-control. These are not passive things, these are the powerful gifts developing in you.”

Her words resonated. Instead of seeing all of the details as difficult and taxing, I could choose to see our sometimes-crazy life as healthy stretching, like mental/emotional exercise or yoga.

As Lori White writes on Upworthy:

Being bilingual exercises your brain and makes it stronger, more complex, and healthier.

The pouring out was actually enabling us to become more, not less. It is such a kingdom principle, because his ways are not our ways, and often the thing that feels it might destroy us is the very tool that shapes us to become richer, stronger versions of ourselves. There are still times I doubt my ability to handle the constant complexity of our life. But He is a good Father, the very best, who only gives good gifts. He must know we have what it takes to steward the gift of this mega-family, with all of it’s relational and logistical spaghetti.

Perspective matters.

Every situation in our lives can be used to transform us for good, I’ve seen it first-hand now so many, many times. Believing that, and leaning in toward the good growth, impacts the process tremendously. So today when faced with another problem to solve in our ever-changing family landscape, from vacation scheduling conflicts to wounded hearts to forgotten gym shoes, I will lean into the creative Problem Solver. I will start from a place of gratitude, believing that I am gaining new synapses, new growth, new strength.

Fairness vs Fullness

I toasted bagels and sliced peaches for chattering mouths this morning while uninvited tears slipped subtly down my cheeks. All week I firmly resisted shards of fear and worry, but today the underlying grief worked its way to the surface.

Tomorrow we enter the courthouse again. More than five years have passed since I stepped into such a room to hear the proclamation of a judge over the content of my life. Much has changed. But I am reminded this week that our life circumstances will forever be vulnerable to a subjective microscope. At any point, our finances, our time with our own children, where or how we live, decisions as basic as trips and schooling and activities, can be laid out and dissected before a judge. Judges who don’t know us, or our children, or Jesus. They weigh the glimpses of information before them and rule as best they can.

That ruling can affect almost every aspect of our lives. Again I feel the free-fall and lack of control. This morning emotions surged to the surface, punctuated with words like fairness and justice. Panic rose as I remembered how fairness in divorce is something of an oxymoron.

I have zero faith for fairness.

So what do I have faith for? God and I have been going deeper with this question lately. When everything gets shaken, where does my peace reside? Do I believe that He is good, that He is alive and active and powerful – yes. Does He love me? Yes. Do these things translate into a guaranteed painless list of answered check boxes for all my desires?


God and I have been wrestling this out for awhile now. Because I do wholeheartedly believe in His goodness, that He delights to give good gifts to His children, that He died to redeem all the effects of sin – not just poor choices that would separate us, but also pain and loss and suffering. That those things are finished and paid for; it was not a first installment, Jesus’s death was the price paid in full.

So how does that translate to life here and now? When he thought of me on that cross, paying the ultimate price, what did he see? Did He envision a world full of people with everything their hearts and eyes could imagine? Maybe the eternal answer is yes, in heaven it may very well be so. But what about here and now? I could definitely use a bigger house, 5 bedrooms. Maybe 6. Well, why not 7, or 8? And a swimming pool would be delightful. Indoor, as long as I’m asking. So a house big enough for each of our children to have their own room, and an indoor pool, and any number of other things. And now that I think about it, living somewhere warmer would be nice. With mountains, and ocean, and a city nearby. But plenty of money to afford to live there, to shop at Whole Foods and buy only local and organic. My list could go on – the perfect life. Could we all have a list like this, everyone in the world? Is the resurrection like the introduction of a magic genie lamp into our world, except the wishes are endless? For everyone, well everyone who calls on the name of the Lord?

That doesn’t really make sense to me either. So if the cross does not translate into a fair life, nor does it translate into a genie life, what does it actually mean for life in the days?

What resonates most in my spirit is this: I do have faith for fullness. We are now able to have the Holy Spirit alive in us, to become like Him. To not only live more closely with Him minute by minute, but also to exude Him more truly to others – to love Him and to love others well. What I do have deep faith for is that I can live intimately close to God through anything, and that I can become more like Jesus.

Which means in the middle of anything, it is possible for me to have:










God calls this fruit. Not only because they are delightful; but also because they are results that must be cultivated. We are capable now of producing them, but they must be grown. In much the same way that my body is capable of many things, but only to the extent that I train or exercise it toward that end. My focus has been disjointed and distracted for awhile now, I have let these places go slack. I want to see them flourish again, and in new ways. I want to love and connect with the Source again in such a way that they become my natural environment. These things seem like true kingdom life, accessible to all wherever one might live or whatever one’s circumstances. What economy or illness or even judge can steal these gifts away?

I choose today a stance and life lived toward this vision and in close proximity to that Source. I will not focus on top-level outcomes or fairness which pave the way for fear, I will simply make known my requests to God and then leave them with Him. In peace. In trust. In rest. I choose to live above the circumstances, knowing that God deeply loves us and will never leave nor forsake us – and trust that all of His gifts are good. To some degree these can sound like just the right words to say. But I fully believe they will be followed in the days and weeks to come with examples of these incredible gifts in action, and why His higher way is of such great worth.

May He be with the judge tomorrow and help him to see rightly. May He give us favor and a way forward. But ultimately, may I end tomorrow closer to Him than I started the day, regardless of any ruling or outcome. At true rest in His goodness and love.

Just as grace trumps justice, fullness is a higher way than fairness.

The Teaming Masses

I unlock the front door to escape the arctic air and am greeted by the ever-growing tangle of tennis shoes, baseball cleats, slippers, gym shoes and snowboots, thrown together in an ungangly mess . I stand on the hardwood floor, my own boots dripping melted snow and salt remains into the floor below me, because every inch of rug and floor mat is already claimed. The baby squirms in my arms as I give the pile a kick to free the slightest corner for my own two feet. I slip out of my boots and move into the living room, though I don’t have to move far. Nine people with only one pair of shoes would be more than enough in an old four-square home with no closet or entryway to speak of. 18 shoes. But of course not even the boys have just one pair of shoes, especially in the winter, and we are often sorting through closer to 30 shoes that greet us each day.

Of the many issues I imagined before we married, I had not even begun to grasp how much and how often we would grapple with the question of space. Its limits, its possibilities, how to stretch it, how to multiply it, how to organize it, how to share it, even how much monetary value to give it. And just as we figure out one of those pressing questions, it morphs into yet another – because some boy joined the baseball team and brought home bags of equipment, or began the cello, or we must find a spot for the keyboard before lessons begin. After 16 years in Chicago, I am used to living with space at a premium. Things my other midwestern friends take for granted, like double garages and entryway closets, I long ago laid down. I chose that these would not dictate the quality of my life or what city we chose to lay down roots. Little did I know what walking out that decision would look like many years later.

We bought this house nine years ago from an older couple, professors with no children, who had inhabited it for 25 years. They loved the old home and restored it in every way possible. Walking in the front door the first time I was greeted by amazing space and light. For us, and our three small children, it was perfect. Rooms for everyone, even an office for me. Someone prayed over me during that season, saying they saw a picture of the exact house we were about to purchase, many years out, full to the brim with teenagers.

Little did I know what that would mean.

Fast forward nine years and everything within has doubled. This sturdy old home now houses eight beds and a crib, eight desks, nine dressers, tables and furniture and dishes and food and coats to nurture nine living, breathing, running, eating, sleeping, breathing humans. I stood back the other night at our 10-seat table, that can’t be walked fully around when a chair is pulled out, and watched as a packed room of excited little boys shouted out numbers while waving cards wildly, chairs tipping over in the excitement – fully engaged in their favorite board game, Sentinels of the Multiverse. A family event request from our oldest on the day he turned 13. Our pioneer into the teenage years, the first of many, many more just on his heels.

The evening hours filled with riotous noise. Many eruptions of yelling and laughter and cheering peppered the game, as the baby watched on with great curiosity while his sister occasionally swirled him around or delivered him a new toy.

Eventually the heroes defeated the villains, and many hands scrambled to put away the game and return eight empty popcorn bowls to the dishwasher. The tired stairs creaked beneath innumerable pairs of feet that lumbered up toward bedrooms, lined with books and beds and belongings. But first six children squeeze into the tiny bathroom to brush teeth, taking turns to spit and elbowing each other to see who will protest first this night.

They retire to rooms that are full, no one has a room to themselves any longer. They step over a brother’s dirty clothes or baseball bag, they climb up rope ladders to the lofts that Papa built them. And then, they talk. And talk. And talk. There is always periodic grumbling about space; something new to be squeezed in, something lost, something stepped on or misused by someone else. But at the end of the day there is always this. The pains, and sweetness, of living in close community with so many other messy human beings.

A couple months ago someone was praying over me yet again. This time she saw a picture of a house, a different house. An enormous house, by a lake, large enough that every person in our family could have a room to themselves, with room left over for guests. My small mind could not even picture such a thing, but I quieted my heart and took in her words without judgement.

Our oldest, the teenager, was with me, and afterwards on the drive home he was quiet for a long time. Finally he turned to me and said, “Mom, even if that does happen. Can Wesley and I please still share a room?”

I know the doubling of our family has cost them many things, like a house where they don’t have to move three bikes out of the way to get to their own. But clearly, it has gained them many things as well, and I’m grateful for those reminders.

Yours, Mine, and Ours

When we first married, people asked all the time if we might have more children. We laughed. Hard. The kind of laughing where you turn red and can’t catch your breath. We were overextended just figuring out a new marriage and parenting the six we suddenly had together.

But anything can change with time. And our hearts certainly did. We both began to acknowledge a desire deep within to have a child together, and to have a child that would share DNA with everyone in our huge blended family. Maybe Curie’s eyes, Eliot’s laugh, Sullivan’s creativity – anything would be possible.

We wrestled with all of the questions, weighed the risks, rewards and costs. But mostly, we prayed. And God was faithful to answer, with a gentle invitation to More. Not a commandment, not even a request; simply a loving invitation.

After the divorce, through tears, I had given all of my baby and maternity things away. I had closed that door in my heart. And risking being more vulnerable, more dependent again stirred up a lot of fear for me. Again with our finances, our time, our space – could we add more? Could we handle more stretching? God’s gentle, consistent answer seemed to be yes.

So we embarked on whole new journey together, and many months later saw the sweet result of our answer to the invitation.

Welcome, darling boy. You can’t begin to imagine the love that surrounds you.




Courageous questions

“And this is what I made in art today!” Eliot spouted, proudly offering up his paper sculpture for both parents to see. We  took in the spiraled mesh of curled extruding magazines shards, an 8-year old’s vision of zuchini. Crazy. Distorted. Beautiful. We shared a quick knowing glance, both pressing back smiles.

“Wow, zuchhini huh?” John leaned in closer to survey the beautiful and distorted vegetable recreation.

Eliot bounced as he spoke, “Yep! Zucchini! And this is what I did in science..” He whipped solar system diagrams out of his camouflaged backpack, “and geography…and english…” the papers just kept piling up in front of us. We grinned at the onslaught of sudden show-and-tell.

I put my arm around his bony shoulders and squeezed, knowing how he enjoyed the individual attention, a rarity for one so far down in birth order. He soaked in every second.

He put one arm around my waist and squeezed me back, then his other arm sprang out from his side and wrapped around his father, pulling him in. Close. Awkwardly close.

I gave one more slight squeeze and then let go and stepped back. Reclaiming my space.

John stayed put, but with one hand began leafing through the buffet of work, “You are so smart Eliot. You do such great work, I love seeing everything you do,” he pulled out a particularly fiery picture of Jupiter and held it up to the light.

Eliot’s smile widened.

He turned his radiant face upward and said, “Dad, can you spend the night? Just tonight? Please?”

John and I both froze. Amazing that so many years later, so comfortable in the new normal, things still occasionally knock the wind out of us.

We both laughed nervously, John reached down tousled his son’s sandy hair. “No no, you know that’s not possible. But I love being with you. And I’ll see you again soon. Friday – just a few more days.”

Eliot looked back and forth between our faces, finally resting again on his father’s. “Please Dad! Come on, just one night! We’ll have a sleepover!”

John pulled him in for a long hug, answering with his silence.

When he unwrapped his arms from the boy, Eliot was still smiling. But less. The glow was diminished, his shoulders slumped now ever so slightly. “Okay,” he responded, “Friday.” The response of a boy who was used to his life, who had accepted it. And yet still dared to ask for what he actually wanted. Against all odds.

But that night he would sleep in the home he was legally bound to sleep in. And I would sleep there as well, with my husband. John would go home to his wife, and sleep with her. Everyone in their place.


His words, no his courage, echoed through my mind that night as I wrestled myself to sleep. Eliot could not even walk when John left, he certainly had no memory of living day in and day out with his father. And he loved every member of his ever-growing crazy tribe – the step-parents, the step-siblings, the half-brothers – all of them. A family and life not unlike the unwieldy zucchini structure. Yet still deep in his tiny heart he hoped for something else. Something he would never have. Two parents, his parents, under the same roof.

So should he have asked outloud for this, for the impossible? Is that not what I’ve taught and trained him to do, to search his heart, to ask with courage, to believe? Just that weekend at church, the speaker  again stirred us to a frenzy, “Nothing is impossible with God! Nothing!” and of course I cheered in agreement, surrounded by fellow cheerleaders. Certainly it was true. The Bible said it, after all.

Yet how do I say to those little rich brown eyes that everything is possible with God, except the things he wants most? Do I make up answers I don’t actually have, or do I teach him how to overlook the things that just don’t add up?

My dream for him, for myself as well I suppose, is a rich courageous faith that dares to take God at His word, even before we can get it all worked out ourselves. I’m not sure it’s possible to set parameters on risk. All questions must be able to be asked, all deep dreams of the heart free to be brought into the light.

God is not scared of our questions. In fact it’s very much the opposite; God-in-flesh not only welcomed them, he often answered with even grander questions. So tonight my faith looks like not having it worked out. Trusting enough to allow space for his honest questions, impossible though they might seem. Grateful that he feels safe enough with us to ask them out loud, maybe echoes of the same love from our heavenly Father who tells us to approach His throne boldly as well.