in the interest of full disclosure

too many times, we are afraid to step out because the unknown is far more risky than the places we’ve already been.  we might think we’re safer, but the truth is safety is an illusion.

i watched the half time show last night of the super bowl, and while i think Katy Perry’s songs are as catchy as the next person, i found myself a little heartbroken inside.  all i could think about was the hunger games.

the movies, the books, whatever.  if you haven’t read/seen them, you should remedy it immediately.  it may be juvenile fiction, but the lessons and metaphors are profound.

last night, katy perry dancing with golden eyeliner and sparkled shoes was not unlike katniss everdeen dressed up before the cameras.   the largest human trafficking event of the year happens in the shadows of dancing sharks and defense teams punching the opposition.  katniss everdeen eats well at the capital knowing that her family back in district 12 is starving without her to hunt for them.

but most of us gathered around the screens, puppy bowls, nachos, buffalo wings, fed and happy to be hanging out with friends at this traditional display of good ole fashioned american fun.

but what would happen if we cared more about injustice than we did about filling ourselves?  what mountains might be moved by our unwillingness to be silent on the devastating realities of our day and time?

martin luther king, jr said “a threat to justice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

i feel overwhelmed by that thought sometimes.  as though i cannot imagine doing enough to make a real difference and so it would be better to do nothing.

which brings me back to the place i started:  we cannot imagine what might happen if we step out.  we must risk ourselves and our illusions of safety to do what is daring, bold, vulnerable, and probably appears foolish on one level or another.

so, what will i do today?  i started with this blog that i am often too afraid to write for fear of upsetting people.  next, i will be advocating for my refugee friends who need work and who need champions on their sides.

how about you?  what are you willing to risk today?

ps. if you’re unfamiliar with the issue of human trafficking, consider visiting to learn more and take action.

waiting and forgiveness

Advent always reminds me of forgiveness.

when i think about how this time of year, i feel like vacillating between extreme emotions (complete, total elation and despair), i wonder what it is that sends us on an emotional roller coaster through what should be a time of peace, love, and goodwill towards humanity.

i could be wrong, but i think it is about forgiveness. i think it’s because we come to this time of year afraid that all of our past failures of the year, all of our wounds, all of the places we are afraid for anyone to know about, will suddenly pop up on the hallmark channel during a Christmas movie special.

this week, while talking to the sewing artisans, again i heard them say that there is no forgiveness for terrorists. the bad was too bad to forgive.

and i understand. not completely because i’ve never been worried that my parents were going to be hit by a bomb on the way to the grocery store. but we all understand some level of grief and pain if we’re honest.

but if there’s no forgiveness for that kind of bad, there’s no forgiveness for my kind of bad. and if i believe that hating my brother is the same as murder, then i am as guilty as they are.

we approach this season of giving with a mindset that it is our job to give freely. and it is in some sense.

but what if today, we chose to give a little forgiveness. forgive ourselves for not doing, being, behaving perfectly. forgive each other for the same. and forgive the world for being the broken place that it is. and forgive ourselves because we cannot fix it completely.

in the freedom of forgiveness, we might find space to make tiny changes with great love that will, as Mother Theresa said, change the world.

dreaming may be the business of fools . . .

i meet their gazes, one by one. they are afraid to look me in the eye because i am crying. i’m not a pretty crier, if such a thing exists. my eyes get huge and red and swollen, i can’t speak clearly and my mouth makes an odd contorted shape as i try to squeak out my thoughts anyway.

brené brown says there is magic in vulnerability.

i didn’t really believe her. when i meet the gazes of the strongest survivors i know and told them we were growing because the opposite of growing is dying, that i couldn’t let the darkness win, they each surrendered. all their defenses melted away.

they cried too. after so many years of the darkness beating at their windows and doors, demanding they keep quiet, it is hard to imagine a place where the darkness wouldn’t win. while their homelands and family members are ripped apart by terrorists and people who have lost complete touch with even the most basic tenets of humanity, they sit empty handed waiting, not believing anything matters.

but the light is winning, in their little studio, their creativity is marching forward, boldly into the place where their past traumas become transformed into compelling compassion and wisdom. they are women of substance and they are dreaming.

and i am the chief among fools to have the privilege of dreaming alongside of them.

things fall apart


when she sits still for even a moment, her eyes are full of tears. she continues to sew because if she doesn’t, she’ll weep all the time.

i knew before she called me, her family was in the news and not on the page she’d like to be. she is worried sick, day and night. living in an extended stay suite because all of the trouble cost her much more than she ever thought she’d have to pay.

in fall, when the crab apples change colors and the leaves begin to inch by inch turn, i often wonder how it is that we have hope for winter. without our collective memory, we would all be scared silly believing the world was dying brilliantly, never realizing that life would return again months later, bolder and more beautiful.

i can’t tell her that now. she’d never understand. but i believe and hope and pray for the approaching winter to spare her soul’s hope.



as you walk up to the office where i work, there’s a dogwood tree that stretches out over the sidewalk. it isn’t that tall really, but there’s this branch that leans far and low out. i often bump into it on busy mornings when i am trying to make sure my toddler doesn’t dash back into the street.

yesterday morning though, i meandered up the sidewalk when my eight year old yelled, “mom look at the babies! look at the nest!”

and sure enough, there it was, a nest in the middle of the low hanging branch, a momma bird perched on the edge and three huge baby birds with their necks stretched up to the sky, mouths open, starving for the food she was trying to bring them.

there’s nothing that brightens my day faster than a bird’s nest. it’s a tiny piece of home built wherever, using anything that’s available. bird’s nests remind me that we can make whatever we like out of what we are given.

if i were given a pile of grass, bits of yarn, twigs, i would never accomplish what those robins have: an exquisite home just the perfect size for nurturing the next generation.

if we look carefully, we may find pieces of our lives seem exactly like that: bits of random that don’t make sense when handled one by one.

may we all build with what we are given. who knows what home we might provide for those among us who are vulnerable.

the pain is worth the thunder*

so i just got back from what some might call the world’s worst sabbatical.

seriously! wrong buses, lost luggage, ridiculous taxis, stolen passports, broken arms, an extra week in a city whose nickname is “the oven”?

i wept more than once. (more than twice, actually) i wondered many times what in the world i was doing trekking around with two little girls. i felt fear and panic clamoring at the door with each scenario.

but what if by some miracle, i was exactly where i was supposed to be?

what would happen if i hadn’t spent a month speaking another language, bumbling around after almost a decade of not speaking said language? what happens if there are no sleepy sunrises in paris? or random strangers who share their life story on a metro ride? or awe-struck moments in front of ancient cathedrals? or successful haggles in the souk for special treasures? or dazzling sunsets on a moroccan beach? what do we do without beauty and experiences that take us outside of ourselves?

we might miss the pain. that’s for sure. your passports won’t likely be stolen if you stay at home. but even that’s not a guarantee.

we need the thunder. we need something bigger than us to help us see just how little we in fact are. we need something that moves us, startles us, and makes us turn our heads away from what we think is real.

i wasn’t entirely sure what i was supposed to learn on this sabbatical. but now i see a little clearer than i did when i started. the message is simple:

be brave, the thunder is more than worth it.

and that makes it the world’s best sabbatical in my book.

*from here

wallowing in the lap of a stranger


one of my most favorite things about Muslim culture is how hospitable it is.

while riding a train after picking up new passports, dear little t got so bored. her sister was asleep, and her mom was half asleep. sitting on a train for three hours was not her idea of fun.

across from me sat an elderly Muslim woman. she was visibly tired, probably from being up late at night and then up early in the morning, breaking and beginning the fast is exhausting.

as t whimpered or fussed, she looked up from her dozing and grinned, shook prayer beads, and looked for ways to entertain a restless toddler.

she told me she was a grandmother with either 4 or 14 grandchildren (in my fatigue, i wasn’t quite sure). she reached for t and bounced her on her lap. she let t crawl and swing over her legs. she even let t wrap her sacred prayer beads around her feet.

she was so gracious, so welcoming. i can’t imagine how tired and hungry she must have been, late afternoon during ramadan in 100 degree temperatures is no small thing. but for her, welcoming a child was much more important than her own personal needs.

i would have been lost without her. too sleepy, too hot, too thirsty to be patient with a wiggly worm, she was a gift to me.

t was delighted by her. t giggled and grinned, thrilled to be adored by this woman who loved her instantly.

i hope for a world where we all feel so compelled to love each other with that kind of mercy.