For the love of mountains and Jesus; or pink slippers, 10% and unexpected grace.

(An entirely different post than what I planned be writing this week…)

I have been chewing on a post for the last week and half and it is not this one….

Typically, an idea forms and the words come relatively quick. I reword and rework, sometimes erase and rewrite, but the words and ideas seem to just come. Writing for me has always been a joy, a place to release my thoughts, hopes, fears and prayers into the wide open. I can’t begin to express how important writing has become to me – and your comments, encouragement and ideas make it so much better.

Last week was not the easiest week and I am not even sure why….

I had a post started about some family conflict, how it is NOT always easy or pretty or even kind around here. And yet, it has not felt quite right to publish here, YET. Maybe in time, maybe not.

The reality is, I work really hard to be authentic, to not buy into only sharing the positive, “picture perfect” moments; normalizing both the struggle, the hard feelings AND the beautiful ones. And this past week, the beautiful seemed harder to find. Until yesterday…

A couple days before my big kids left to go on a church youth group trip to Colorado, we all seemed to be having issues with each other. Tension seemed sky high, all of us ruminating our own struggle. Suddenly, the kids were packed, leaving our house and off on a trip to Colorado for the first time.

My husband, youngest daughter and I remained home in a much quieter house. We visited dear friends for the weekend they left, but when we returned Sunday afternoon, the quiet within our walls was both needed and a bit unsettling. My mind kept thinking, “is this how it will feel a year from now, when E goes to college?”

Funny thing though… THIS post is not yet about my daughter marching toward senior year at an ever-quickening pace or my own both/and/and/and moments about that. My heart skips as I write that sentence, both excited for my girl and grieving already the future changes to our family as she makes decisions. But this post, this one that is jumping from my heart and fingers so quickly I can hardly keep up as I type, is about mountains, love and being seen.

Life for me growing up and navigating teen years was just full of unique to me challenges. EVERYONE can speak to their own challenges, none better or worse, simply our own. When my high school youth group was going to Colorado Challenge, I was not ready. I am sure that I missed an amazing experience and yet, I was not physically or emotionally aware enough at that point in my life, to face the difficulties of hiking, rappelling and advocating for my physical needs. I didn’t have the confidence. I believe it was absolutely part of God’s divine plan for me that I didn’t go THEN.

When I began working for a grassroots teen ministry just out of my undergraduate degree, I was invited to go with the church who had started and most supported this ministry. Though I was still anxious about the landscape and being out of my comfort zone, I was also beginning to understand my needs and voice. I know without a doubt that God wanted and made the way for me to go, AT THAT TIME in my life.

Before I gush poetically about the natural beauty and awe-inspiring scenery of Colorado itself for many paragraphs, (If you’ve been there, you know right?), this about sums it up, at least for me.

 “There were those green, undulating hills and this very beautiful river, the Colorado. The place is inspired and inspiring.”

– Terrence Malick.

I was in awe of Colorado, from the scenery as we drove through the state, to Colorado Challenge and every experience from the first to last time I was blessed enough to travel to Colorado, 5 trips in all. The last, was the one I had only dreamed of, worked for and raised money for so a group of teen moms could attend camp like their peers.

Each time I went has it’s own beauty and sacred space. I have memories I will forever cherish, tears that led to lifetime changes and awareness, places marked on my journey with Jesus Christ that allowed me to meet and love him personally. Moments where worship was ALL of who we are, you can’t get near enough to God’s own heart and call and YES to him is the most right, easiest answer.

I also had breathtaking moments of love, acceptance and grace that until that point, was new to me. From sitting behind students throughout evening chapel events and literally watching and praying with them as they said YES to Jesus and relationship to him to the grand view of Pikes Peak from camp. Whitewater rafting at Noah’s Ark, horseback rides through stunning trails, conversations late into the night, even helping the girls navigate conflict. Memories with my sister-friend and the students who bravely allowed me into their hearts and fears.

The first year I went, I struggled with many of the physical aspects of getting around the rustic camp grounds, roots, jutting up from the dirt in odd ever-changing directions, loose stones and steep inclines, not to mention that climbing was involved in nearly anything that you wanted to do for activities.

When we arrived at Rainbow Falls where groups were given the opportunity to rappel, I instantly knew  I could NOT climb to the top of the cliff we were supposed to rappel down without some serious back-up. I didn’t know the kids or leaders well, because I was asked to be an adult leader last minute when one of the others was sick. But I fell prey to believing that I, as an adult, “should not, could not,” ask those kids or other leaders for help climbing because “I am supposed to be an adult and help them!” Thank goodness for therapy that helps us see our own faulty beliefs and some of their roots.

By the next summer, I had built strong relationships with a number of the same high school kids who refused to let me “wait at the bottom,” this time around, walked with me carefully and safely up cliff and then helped me rappel! It is still an exhilarating badass, capable memory that means so much to me because it felt so impossible and I yearned to try.

One night, after worship had blown the roof off the chapel, I sat down next to a student named Ryan who just had a magnetism to kids around him. He had a smile that was both mischievous and kind, a signature baseball hat always worn backwards. He was wrestling in a way that I could feel as I sat next to him, listening and partly, just being present in whatever was the internal fight. “Why do you even want to listen?” He finally asked and his battle with something was palpable. I just prayed as tears filled his eyes. It was a holy, heart-wrenching space and yet, a memory I hold dear from an evening in that chapel in the mountains, overlooking Pikes Peak.

 In camp was Soldier’s Mountain, again something I had only heard about. I wrestled with longing and grief, the limitations of this body, when the kids begged me to come with them. A group of teen boys moved me to literal tears when they nearly plowed me over in the snack shack on our next to last night in camp.  They were organizing a sunrise hike up Soldier’s and “were bringing me with them!” They refused to take my no for an answer, (thankfully) and literally walked-step-by-slow-step up a steep incline to the top of Soldier’s Mountain. Reaching the top was an absolutely surreal moment, a picture of trust, care and acceptance that showed me Jesus himself in those teenage faces. Those boys are still “little brothers” to me, many years later.

There are so many more moments, the beautiful, brave teen moms that showed me as a single 25 year old what motherhood and sacrifice mean, how God can use everything to bring us closer. Jaw-dropping scenery, over and over, devotion from youth leaders and the very definition of brave, so many times I lost count.

Safe to say, Colorado has an important place in my heart. I even had dreams, hopes and prayers about moving there in my 20’s, but that too, was NOT God’s plan for me. My best friend played “Wide Open Spaces” by the Dixie Chicks about that time and it was as if they had written it for me… (Perhaps my version of how Taylor Swift “just gets it!!” in 2023?)

Life continues, I got accepted into graduate school in Michigan, met my love and the dream changed. God knew…and yet, I have for a long time told my kids about my love for Colorado, the incredible beauty and how God moves, especially during camp experiences…

I think in our relationships, there are always “mountain top and valley events,” and for me, relationship with Jesus is included. The mountains, whether physical and emotional, change us. Tremind us of the passion, the love and the goodness that ARE mountain-top experiences in relationships, especially when the greater amount of time in relationships takes place on the flat ground or the valleys (not always the most exciting parts of being in relationship.)

I have been doing clinical work for 22 years now, so my days of youth leading and traveling with students are a past chapter. So much so, that it caught me off guard when the church we’ve been attending since December began talking about a youth group trip to Rocky Mountain High in July in Estes Park.

I realized that my teens would get to experience Colorado in their own way; so. good.

I knew that the scenery would move them. I was even somewhat prepared for their personal “mountain-top experiences” and “the impending post-camp blues,” both familiar to me from my days as a camp counselor at Camp Geneva and Colorado Challenge.

What I really hadn’t considered for them was how this experience, uniquely their own, would truly translate, change them and shape them. How this week would give them lifelong memories with friends, leaders and Jesus Christ.

We picked them up yesterday in the church parking lot…rolling off the bus sweaty, exhausted, hoarse and beaming. Tight hugs, high-fives and inside jokes that I am sure, I will never here the beginning or the end of. The swath of parents hung back, both debating about embarrassing kids with big hugs (perhaps just me??) and trying to respect the vibes they were sending off. It was evident how this group of leaders and kids had bonded.

On one hand, I felt so old; and…so very thankful that after the pandemic changed so many things about so many churches, we are finding our way into a church community again, with our beautiful kids leading the way, fearlessly. A couple leaders came and introduced themselves, blessing us with kind words about the kids’ behavior and character. They may never know what that meant to us…

For the next few hours back home, the kids talked over and around each other, a unique shared experience of going on youth group trip as siblings and friends and all the dynamics in between. They showed us pictures of stunning mountains, sunrise views, elk roaming downtown, “right by the jerky store” and one of their leaders, dressed in a bear hug nightgown, pink slippers, shamelessly directing traffic in downtown Estes Park. They described “worship with so many kids, all raising our hands and holding nothing back.” They described messages from Megan Marshman, who presented them with opportunity after opportunity to know Jesus’s love, desire for relationship and sacrifice in such personal ways.

They told us about how as a group, they would nightly share their last 10%, allowing their friends and other leaders into the parts of ourselves that we all hold back, because, “if someone knows ________ about me, they will__________ (leave, tell others, think I’m a _____}”, or many other reasons.

Our kids shared some hard stuff about their own struggles. We are so very proud of them and shared with them our experience and belief that God will draw us in, rather than shame us out. They told us how their leaders discussed some of their own struggles, encouraged each other, then asked the group to pray over our kids and family.

I’m not sure if that moves you, but I get goose bumps (again) as I write those words.

It has been said, “It takes a village to raise kids.” The older I get, the more our village blesses us. The more our village draws us closer to Jesus, just by being WITH, authentically. The more the village ebbs and flows. The more the needs change within in the village, within ourselves.

I was once on the front lines with teens, staying up late, running on fumes, holding their stories firsthand. I was surrounded by a different village as I was a part of students and oh my goodness, those were the days….

Now…my kids are traveling; their village will change and I may not even know all their members. They are being challenged, sharpened, changing, softened and from what I know today, going all in with Jesus.

I am profoundly grateful for those who walk with me, who have shown me the heart of Jesus in Colorado and beyond. For the relationships I still have because of heart connections on the mountains and deep in the desolate valleys. I am thankful for those who see us not as we are but as we can be and have the courage to say so. I am thankful for health and strength. May we all be surrounded by those who build up when we need it, sit quietly and those who hype us into believing in ourselves at exactly the right moments.

“Colorado has always been a good place to find what you’re made of.”

– John Hickenlooper.

To Jesus, E & E,  Colorado and everywhere in between.


Philippians 1-3-4

“Mama, Jesus is smiling!”

(For SHM)

The sun was shining, I had the day off work. After I was blessed with a good workout and some quality time with my hubby, my youngest daughter (in her last year before turning 13,) asked if I would take her to 3 stores: a local consignment shop, 5 below (undoubtedly to spend her hard-earned dollars on a Squishmallow) and Ulta where she can cover the back of her hand in colors of eyeshadow, lip gloss and everything in between.

I learned a long time ago that when spending time with teens or even younger kids, being able to talk is one thing, but usually, having an activity at the same time is the very best case scenario. Before the pandemic, I spent many counseling hours playing Uno, “garbage” coloring or shooting hoops with a nerf basketball hoop while listening to some of the hardest stories and emotions. It is a lot easier for most of us, I think, if we are not in the spotlight, face to face or even asked direct questions.

With my own teens, sitting in the car driving, watching movies, building Legos, coloring and drawing or even sitting on their beds while they clean has provided some of the richest conversations we’ve ever had. Earning the right to be heard also consists of providing the safest opportunities and trust to be vulnerable.

In all honesty, I didn’t want to shop today. It has been a busy week, a headache was edging around my head from the moment I woke up and I truly wanted to spend some time researching how to self publish my writing! But…because of this career I have and the deep value instilled inside me about relationships, especially, with our beautiful kids, it was truly a very easy yes.

Our youngest daughter is the “icing on the cake,” of completing our family. She is, by many people’s description, “sunshine in human form.’ She loves with every fiber of her being, she cares deeper than most can even begin to imagine, is kind to a fault, has incredible wit and comedic timing (at 12!) and so truthfully, has a heart so much like how I know Jesus to be.

Lest you think she is the favorite of my 3 (or perfect), that is not the case. We ALL have our own brokenness. And we all know it…if we don’t, someone in this house will certainly let you know! She is a bundle of energy, lets her bodily noises fly at the most inopportune times and is at a really moody, emotional rollar coaster of a spot currently. We practice both/and ALOT in this season with (nearly) 3 teens in the house.

All that being said, I am feeling the race of time and KNOW without a single doubt that the days of her wanting or being able to amble around Ulta and laugh at funny outfits we put together on the fly or even spoil her with yet ANOTHER stuffed animal, are fleeting at BEST.

Before we left the driveway, she was cuing up Taylor Swift on her phone, creating our shopping play list in Apple Music and directing our route. Though I instantly became concerned about how long this shopping extravaganza was legitimately going to last, I played along because honestly, she’s my youngest. I’ve learned some things since the first daughter and our second kid, our son. She DOES have the more laid back versions of us, sometimes. Sometimes, I think we’ve kept her little for too long because “the last,” is hard to fathom. Whichever way it is, on any given day, we adore them all. So we listen to Taylor, LOUD, know we are enabling with ANOTHER stuffed animal and don’t get too uptight about it…at least today.

She directed me first to the consignment shop. On our way, we stopped at a busy intersection near a Burger King and the highway. On our right, a woman was walking, waving to each car. I looked and what appeared to be her husband and two small children sat in the grass, a sign explaining their need for food and shelter due to homelessness was propped up beside them. I am utterly ashamed to admit it, but my very first thought was, “shoot, I don’t want to make eye contact.”

These situations wreck havoc in my social-work-trained mind, my heart and the many pieces of advice and experience in our culture.

I have vivid memories of growing up in the Midwest and NOT experiencing the ravages and complexities of homelessness until I was on a family weekend in Chicago. As we walked our privileged selves to see Phantom of the Opera after eating at Gino’s East, we were asked many times for money, help or “a place to sleep.” My parents had tried their best to prepare their sheltered Caucasian kids, “don’t make eye contact,” tried to explain some difficulties with “giving money,” while also trying to honor helping others in the the name of Jesus. But nothing prepared me for the man propped up in a doorway, wearing clothes covered with dirt and holes, struggling to speak and holding a battered sign as we walked past. I am not sure if my parents whispered or if I realized on my own that the man also had cerebral palsy. I am certain I stopped and stared. I am certain seeds of fear were planted, “is this what happens as your grow up with this?” I was both terrified, horrified that this was indeed a real situation and sickened at injustice; this, awful, awful reality this side of Eden.

“Dad!” I tugged my dad’s arm as the crowd of people in Chicagoland kept moving past. “Dad, he has CP. And I think he peed on himself!” I cried, begging my dad to help him. It wouldn’t be the last time. My dad called my sister’s name, who was a bit ahead of us, but still near. She was carrying the coveted left-over pizza, had claimed it for her snack after the musical finished. He took the pizza, brought it to the man, set it in his lap and motioned for us to keep going.

Another time, we had driven to see my grandparents who lived an hour away for a pre-Christmas visit. The lights were bright and blinking, I was in the warm and lovely space of just seeing my grandma and suddenly, at a traffic light, a man yelled to people in the cars around us, for help. Tears streamed down my face as I heard my parents talking about calling the police, “he would at least be safe and have a warm place to sleep if they pick him up.” “Jail??” I thought, not understanding how that could possibly help him

. My dad, after trying to explain to me, poured hot coffee from the packed thermos into the mug he’d brought along, got out onto the busy, snowy street and as the man yelled, handed him one of our very familiar mugs. I watched, clutching a stuffed animal I had along and wondered how my dad would get his mug back. I think I started praying…that’s all I remember.

On yet another family trip, this time to San Diego there were countless experiences that I will not forget, both beautiful and life changing including one at Seaport Village that left a permanent mark on this heart God has given me.

We sat as a family eating dinner overlooking the ocean, the lights of the nearby carousel beckoning me in the dusky sunlight. It was dreamy and I felt like whole world was wide open to my teenage hopes and dreams. Suddenly, I looked out the windows in front of us and saw a man, bundled up in the California heat. He walked slowly, dreadlocks hanging in his worn face. I couldn’t take my eyes off him as suddenly he began digging in the garbage can in front of the windows where we sat. Tears instantly sprang to my eyes as he pulled an entire order of fries from the garbage and gobbled them like he had not eaten in a long time. I wept without control, pummeled instantly with a level of sadness and reality that I had no idea existed. I cried with a heart that was simultaneously terrified that people lived this way and the overwhelming desire to fix this man’s plight. It was a moment forever imprinted on my heart.

This was the feeling, now with years of life experience, but the same conflictedness, that came rushing back as my sweet daughter turned to me yesterday….

“Mama, we have to help them.” Her big eyes and heart were like looking in a mirror. My humanity thought, “I don’t know how…” The two of us in the car, safety, not sure about the situation and the realities crashing together with my daughter’s innocence, the innocence of the babies sitting on the grass with their parents and the overwhelming guilt that we were going to ULTA while they were in huge need….

I took a few deep breaths, drove slowly and prayed for God’s presence and wisdom.

It took a minute. My heart rate slowed. I explained to my love that I needed to think about it and she so patiently waited for my response….

I wanted to honor her, her desire and I needed to sit the wrestle I felt, trying to decipher the truth. I parked outside 5 Below, another deep breath…

“Trust me.” I almost audibly heard my Jesus whisper and wrap around me. Breathe…. “Trust…”

“Babe, let’s go get some things for them.” I said quietly to her and her face was so sure and beaming. “Oh mama, let’s!” She held my hand tight, helping me navigate the curb and entrance into the overstimulating store. We were five steps in when she knew EXACTLY what to do.

We filled a backpack with some basic supplies, her leading the way as I listened to her clarity and wisdom. Who was I to witness how God was using her?

She went to the stuffed animals. “This will be good for the baby! And the little kid will really like this!” She held up a zebra and a monkey. We lastly grabbed a few snack items, I handed her all the cash I had in my wallet and let her pay herself. Our items were nearly the exact amount I handed her. “Trust me…” Jesus seemed to whisper again to me, perhaps her and maybe even this family. We walked out and my sweet girl slipped her hand in mine again. “Mama, Jesus is SMILING right now!”

She filled the backpack while I drove back. The traffic swirled at that intersection and I prayed, “Jesus, use this moment, bless my girl and this family…” I couldn’t see the family for all the cars, but I carefully navigated to what I hoped would be a safe spot for us to give the backpack. I drove around the Burger King and there sat the family, all crowded under umbrellas, almost it seemed, to be waiting for us.

“I want to go, Mama.” I looked and my girl, so far beyond her years, was mouthing a prayer of her own. She took a deep breath as I put the car in park just feet from this dear family. She opened her door, stepped up to the mom who smiled and greeted her like a long lost friend.

“My mom and I bought this for you and your family. There’s toys for your kids. I hope everything in here helps you guys.” The parents both smiled, thanked us profusely, repeated, “may God bless your family.” As I sat there, the mom began to unpack the backpack, pulling out first the zebra and handing it to her smiling toddler. The small child broke into the biggest smile, hugging the zebra tight. My daughter climbed back in, waved and I could not control the tears that feel from my eyes, overwhelming my whole body. We backed out as they continued waving, eyes full of thanks. I sobbed, at my daughter’s faith, joy and leading. I cried for this family’s plight, wishing I could do so much more. I cried, out of my own shame and ignorance and God’s unending love and forgiveness.

“Mama, I have never felt this good. I think this is why we were supposed to come shopping today.” My little said in utter joy.

I have so much to learn. I learn so much from her and so many others around me.

Thank you for being such a picture of my Jesus, my daughter. You, change the world. You change me….

Thank you my Jesus for being patient in my ugly moments and for teaching me to trust you. Hold this family close, us all close and please keep making us each, more like you. I pray you are indeed, smiling.


Psalm 13

Some thoughts on imposters, cheating and battle hymns.

“Mom, your calves are popping!” My daughter exclaimed last night. I was walking in front of her as we left our dear friend’s house after an evening of feeling more blessed when we left than when we’d arrived. “What does that even mean????” My inner voice whispered. At the same moment, my body startled (involuntarily) as she verbalized something about these, MY legs, now the center of attention. Even after years of processing my own reactions, connections to emotions and everything in between, I found myself reacting just like I typically do to positive comments, especially about my body: with a passive tone of voice, “well, thanks, I am not sure why you are saying that,” or “thanks, but…” Besides the fact that “popping” is a new one to me and I can only assume that is positive, I still, at 50 do not know how to consistently appreciate this body.

As I was stretching and working on these muscles this morning, my mind drifted back to my daughter’s exclamation last night. Like a picture that slowly comes into focus, I realized that as I thought about her positivity about my muscle tone, the feeling I have most, is shame….

I wonder if you relate? In my office, I so often see eyes drop, hear tones of voice become softer, garbled, drift off or even a little disgruntled when the idea of appreciation of self is brought up. I’ve said it in other posts (and probably will again), that our society is 80% kinder to others than ourselves. (Check out the work of Dr. Kristin Neff at The Center for Mindful Self Compassion if you want to read more.) While I experience this number as higher in my work with clients, I too struggle to be equally kind to myself as I am to others. Why is it so hard to just say, “heck yes, my calves are popping?”

I began, with intentional curiosity to think about the shame I felt as my daughter complimented my calves last night. Much like the moment when we realize the correct answer when taking a test, I realized that when she complimented my calves, I felt like a complete imposter.

Cerebral Palsy causes my muscles to misfire, the part of my brain that regulates the “firing” is technically damaged. The vulnerability in me winces writing that and yet, it is the truth. My muscles fire beyond my control all the time, resulting in a lot of tone. The deep down thought for me regarding all my tone is that “it’s not real, athletes work for that and therefore earn the compliment. I don’t.” It is also hard to appreciate tone that can also make moving become much more difficult.

The very next thought was a memory of moving to another city just before high school, meeting new friends (that summer) and having my new friends remark about my “ripped biceps.” My only context for such a phrase was watching weight lifting in the Olympics. I began to wear longer sleeve t-shirts because in my mind, I didn’t want to look like a body builder. I didn’t know it was a compliment, and I felt fake. I hadn’t done any athletic hard work to earn their confusing to me compliments about my body. The fact was, people were complimenting a body that I didn’t like, understand and truly, wanted DESPERATELY to change. There weren’t enough positives for me about this body at that point to counteract my insecurity and imposter syndrome.

I wonder if I am not alone, that imposter syndrome is alive and well inside all of us to one degree or another, this side of heaven. Defined as the condition of feeling anxious and not experiencing success internally, despite being high-performing in external, objective ways, this condition often results in people feeling like “a fraud” or “a phony” and doubting their abilities. It is most often born from insecurity that has taken root and grown a tree of shame inside us. Once that tree is there, it is hard to see around it, becomes a part of every picture we have of ourselves. And for me, it has become siblings with the idea of “cheating.” Please let me explain.

One example…when I upgraded this spring to a recumbent pedal assist bike, I really had to work through the idea of cheating with that extra assistance. The perception with e-bikes, at least how I heard them, was that “people are just joy-riding.” The first time I rode that bike, 30 minutes after we purchased it, a neighbor commented, “that’s such a cool bike,” then looking closer stated, “oh, it’s got a motor, you are cheating!” Shame, imposter and “cheating” hopped on my bike and rode along. I can go faster than my husband on our rides now, but feel like I have to qualify it with, “yea, but only because of the motor.”

How many of us have those same passengers, riding around permanently? You may or may not be shocked to hear how many times I hear about imposter syndrome in the midst of sessions. Mine is occasionally cerebral palsy related, but it is many reasons for many people. It is like an old soundtrack that is ominous, “what if they find out this is the real part of me, not what they might think or believe…”

As I sit quietly, truth descends quickly, much quicker than it did when I was younger. I can kindly let the difficult feelings and memories (even shame) come forth, sit with them and then also engage in the truth. I know that (even when my perceptions and insecurities want to lie and make me believe otherwise) we are NOT imposters. God is the God of truth and gift-giving. He is perfect in his making and perfecting who he is within us. I am so very grateful….

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” “Psalm 139:14

Both/And in being human, right? We KNOW this verse perhaps, but applying and believing it? Much more difficult. One of the ways I help clients is to imagine how we would speak to our dearest friend and try to counteract that loud imposter with the “kindest thing you can say to yourself.” I encourage them to slow down and find a positive truth to counteract the loud lies…one truth at a time.

I pray for overwhelming kindness and compassion for ourselves and others. I pray for appreciation of the bodies God has created and given. And I pray for overwhelming truth and care, this side of heaven.

I was having a conversation with friends yesterday about “what our walkout song might be?” For me, there has been an anthem shared from a dear friend years ago. It embodies hope and crying out in the beautiful and the moments I brought to my knees.

“Hallelujah, hallelujah, every broken heart, be brave. Hallelujah, hallelujah, the Lord will make a way.” A prayer and anthem for us all. It is my deepest, truest prayer.

May we give the lies to Jesus, rest in his love and truth and keep doing all he has called us to. May we always keep trying to be kind, as much to ourselves as we are to everybody else. May we let our own imposter know that they are no longer needed and that our true self is worth trusting. May we learn to accept others appreciation of us with the same love and care it was given.


Psalm 139


It was a snowy afternoon, one of those where we as a family had a clear Sunday on the calendar, a truly miraculous thing. Even more shocking to me, as a mom of teens, was the fact that after lunch had been cleaned up, I wandered into the main area of our house and found it empty. This wasn’t new, especially as clean-up began. The family tale has always been that my grandpa’s sister, Aunt Betty, would always “need to go the bathroom” just as clean-up began. In reality, I think we all want to disappear at these points in post-meal chores, but our kids do a fantastic job helping, all over the house. Still, on the this particular day, I had gone to change clothes and found myself in a seemingly empty house.

I wasn’t sad – a fire started in our fireplace, courtesy of my husband who I could hear in the garage, already invested in something of his own. I curled up in our oversized sectional with a cozy blanket, trying to decide what I needed with this unexpected gift of quiet and being alone. I grabbed a journal, which didn’t feel quite right. Not my coloring, or napping. What did I need? 

I suddenly remembered the documentary on Mr. Rogers that had come out a few months prior. Yes! I could feel something align inside myself, but was not sure why…after searching the too many streaming services we pay for, I found “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” and could feel my soul settle just a bit further. With a cup of tea, fire crackling, my favorite fragrant candle giving me sweet memories of summer and my pup snoring on my lap, I hit PLAY on the remote and heard a familiar sound…. a few piano notes, a voice so kind, and THEN…. the familiar, ringing bells of Trolley. I couldn’t help but smile and instantly began to sing along with a seemingly forgotten song…”would you be mine, could you be mine, won’t you be my neighbor…” (are you singing along too, just reading the words? I thought you might be…)

The first few minutes gave glimpses of Mr. Rogers history, beginning with a sepia toned video of a young Fred Rogers, tickling the keys of a baby grand piano, rehearsing how he would describe feelings to a child. Cut to a group of children clamoring for his attention and with laser focus, the gift of his attention and response to one after another. Cut to a description from his producer, describing the many reasons why “Mr. Rogers Neighborhood SHOULD NOT HAVE worked” and then, this: Mr. Rogers, saying earnestly into the camera, “Love is at the root of everything, all learning, all parenting. Love or the lack of it. What we see and hear is part of what we become.”

As strange as it is to say regarding a documentary, I was completely riveted in 4:41 minutes. I could feel a few different things at the exact same time: It felt like a warm sunbeam shining on my face, simply seeing images and hearing Mr. Rogers, Trolley, Daniel and the many other sounds of the neighborhood. I sat there, my adult self invested in the well-done documentary, and the delight of reconnecting with an old friend, the safety and understanding in his words, because these have become such a core beliefs for me as well. Up until those 4 minutes and 41 seconds, I hadn’t known that he was someone with whom I held such similar beliefs. 

A memory emerged, a fuzzy photo in my mind of watching Mr. Rogers Neighborhood when I was very young. I could see myself, legs in a W, munching on cheerios, enthralled with Mr. Rogers and his land of make believe. I recalled his puppets, their personalities, the big red, yellow and green light, his voice, calm, caring and completely free of judgement. 

What t started as a feeling throughout my body that day, became something much more over the next 90 minutes. I wanted to know more and more still about this neighbor who I hadn’t seen in far too long. I found the melodies, stories and words returning from a place stored deep in the recesses of my heart, not even knowing I could still feel and sing every word.

I sat there there, a grown up, both safe in my living room, protected from the frigid Michigan winter, comfortably full from a Sunday meal with family and an acute awareness as I watched Mr. Rogers, heard his voice and character eloquently described, that he was indeed a safe, lovely friend to both myself and countless others. The kid inside me remembered the lilt in his voice, the comfort and calm, even as he talked about extremely hard things. I had not been through a war or natural disaster, traumatic death at a young age or divorce. Yet, the child inside me who had grown up with CP has been grappling with differences that I had no idea how to voice, acknowledge or process.

Bessel Vander Kolk writes in The Body Keeps the Score, “For our physiology to calm down, heal, and grow we need a visceral feeling of safety. No doctor can write a prescription for friendship and love: These are complex and hard-earned capacities. You don’t need a history of trauma to feel self-conscious and even panicked at a party with strangers – but trauma can turn the whole world into a gathering of aliens.

I watched in tears as he normalized issues of both acceptance and pain related to racial atrocity, by inviting Officer Clemmons to cool off his feet in the same pool; as he sang with a young boy, “its you I like,” after sitting with Jeff Erlanger and hearing his story about life in a wheelchair; and as he normalized, simply, “being kind.” He had even left a life-changing impression on a gorilla. Unreal. I was thunderstruck with the ideas that were so important to him, are some of the same beliefs for me that as a therapist (and human) that are imperative in teaching clients about feelings, empathy, self-compassion and healthy coping. 

I began to take notes, noticing the connection and truth I felt internally as Won’t You Be My Neighbor finished.

“If you really want to communicate, the most important thing is to just listen.” – Mr. Rogers

From his character, work ethic, kindness, gentleness and admitted imperfections, I felt an odd camaraderie, almost as if I could understand and value myself better because I was seeing him through the documentary.

He had a tremendous way of just being with people, allowing people to talk and listen well in return. He answered as much of his fan mail as possible, thousands who over the course of time, and for millions, contributed to how they had felt as a kid and still as an adult, even though they only ever met in the neighborhood, ON TV. He showed me and so many others that we were seen. 

He was ahead of his time, tackling issues involving racial inequality, fear, divorce, conflict (even war and assassination) death, inclusivity and healthy coping in eras where most of these might have been avoided. He was also an ordained Presbyterian minister, though he seemed to let his life speak to that so much more than using the words, at least that is how it felt for most in his neighborhood. 

Tom Hanks, who played Mr. Rogers in the 2019 film, “It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” said this while promoting the film: “‘There’s an acronym that I’m using now in my own life – W.A.I.T., wait – which stands for “Why am I talking?”‘ Hanks said. ‘You should just sit and start listening to everybody who comes your way and you’ll be amazed at what you learn.” I’ve shared with many clients while also reminding myself. It is just one of many, gems that I hold dear from the life of Mr. Rogers. He emulated my Jesus is so many ways, though I doubt he would’ve seen that about himself. People matter, their thoughts and feelings, needs and struggles. Kindness MATTERS, to others and ourselves. Play, learning and joy, are imperative.

I found myself studying, reading books and videos about his life in the weeks following the snowy Sunday. Everything I read, watched or discovered about Fred Rogers led me back to Jesus, my own calling and gentleness. 

As I have read, watched re-runs, highlighted quotes and wished I could I have tea with Fred, (and honestly, purchased a few more cardigans and even a t-shirt with his image on it) I am left with these truths:

-We are all human so there is no pedestal necessary. Our lives WILL touch others, in either the beautiful or the broken ways. I can only hope and strive for the beautiful and apologize when my broken (or mean or misguided or thoughtlessness) takes over. Mr. Rogers, as well as Jesus, show me the wisdom in being slow to speak, quick to listen and even quicker to offer love. 

“The greatest thing we can do is help somebody know that they’re loved, and capable of loving.” – Mr. Rogers

-All the things MATTER! How crayons are made, how to manage the mad, sad or every other; consistency, presence and play; gorillas, clocks, relationships, honesty, music, humor, reading, artwork, dignity work ethic and I43. (I’ll let you look that one up.) 

“I think Mr. Rogers was one of those people who do their his work seriously and hope that someone would pick up on the seriousness of what they are about.” -Betty Seamans, producer and actress, Mr. Rogers Neighborhood

Don’t we ALL hope that we will be understood, seen for what we are about? I think Mr. Rogers knew it wasn’t just kids that needed to hear how to love and be loved, feel and be strong enough to talk about it. I think he hoped that in teaching kids, it would be easier as adults. The the short version of my favorite quote is ‘whatever is mentionable is manageable.” (I’ll let you look up the long version, it’s also in the beginning of the bothandkeepitreal website.) This is an important belief in my work as a therapist, the seriousness of what I am about. I absolutely BELIEVE in the work of knowing and loving ourselves. My writing has become the joy and purpose in sharing my hope and beliefs. 

What are the important parts of you, the seriousness of what you are about? Don’t be afraid to share it in safe places, it is there you can be seen and cared for, exactly as you are. 

“I like you as you are, exactly and precisely, I think you turned out nicely, and I like you as you are. I children need to hear that, I don’t think anyone can grow unless they are accepted exactly as they are.” Mr. Rogers.

-“His theology (just like Jesus) was love your neighbor as yourself. It was deeply personal and wide open to all,” stated a cast member in the documentary. I think this is why Mr. Rogers still resonates with so many people, 20 years after his death. He was such a human example of the God he loved even if he never said it on the program. This past week, someone noticed the Mr. Rogers sticker on my cup that I always have with me. He commented, “I loved him. There are not people like him anymore.” I stopped myself from fangirling about my friend Fred, but I thought to myself, “I’m really trying to be!”

Still, I know that his unconditional, kind and gentle heart was not and is not the norm. The documentary also explored the nay-sayers and doubters, those who blamed Mr. Rogers for contributing to an entitled generation. Here is the last truth, at least for this post, right from the documentary itself.

“Mr. Rogers was not talking about entitlement. If you don’t believe everyone has inherent value, you might as well go against the fundamental notion of Christianity that you are the beloved son or daughter of God. ” Mr. Rogers explained what you are special means in one of his commencement speeches. “You are special ultimately means that you don’t ever have to do anything sensational for people to love you. You are loved just as you are. You are endowed by your creator with good.” Junlei Li, former co-executive director of the Fred Rogers institute.

“People were intolerant of his tolerance…” Tom Junod

Thank you Jesus and thank you Mr. Rogers for showing us how to live a different way. Thank you for your relentless pursuit of people, love and something so much greater than yourselves. 

May we follow in both Jesus’s and Mr. Rogers example: be tolerant, kind, loving neighbors, to ourselves and each other. May we find Jesus in each other, give grace and mercy extravagantly in many ways and may we love without ceasing….



PS If you are curious about some of the books or resources I’ve found about Mr. Rogers and his impact, please message or comment and I try to share!