Ballroom Bird’s Nest

420593_10200698533813210_651053855_n (1)For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. Philippines 4:13, Geesh, at least there won’t be a bird on my head… Yes, this continued to run through my mind, and thank you Jesus for it.

When God has laid out something before you he’ll prepare you, and in the most creative of ways. He’s kinda awesome that way.

Before Christmas I was preparing to share my heart-publicly. If you’ve read any of my stuff you know that it’s quite easy for me to spill it all over a page. I tend to leave nothing unexposed. However, this was entirely different, this was me, in the flesh, facing a full sanctuary. I knew God had led me to this place, but holy-cats, did he know what he was doing?

In my preparations (who am I kidding… truthfully, in my panic) it didn’t take long for me to recognize the parallel between this moment and that of an experience almost three years earlier.

He’s good at that-reminding us of our past experiences, of the moments we’ve already survived.  Perhaps our past is laid out for moments like these.

Spring of 2013 ~ I received an email from the director of Camp Odayin (a residential camp program for kids with heart disease). It’s an organization that we’ve been a part of since our son Charlie was about five years old.

She asked if Charlie would take part in their annual fundraising Gala. She asked if he would be part of a “fashion show” to highlight the things campers do while at camp. He would have the theme “Nature” which would require a home made costume to reflect his theme. Most remarkably, she asked if he would stand up at the podium and thank donors for coming to the Gala.

Without hesitation he said, “sure, no problem”. We had just celebrated his eighth birthday.

The day of the event, I put together his nature threads with a glue gun, a vest, and a dismantled easter wreath. I glued a bird’s nest to the bill of a white baseball cap. I took apart the vines from the wreath and I wrapped his entire body in them, and with that we set out for a ballroom downtown.

My normally very confident very outgoing little boy kept looking at himself and then at me like, “Really Mom?” Once downtown, we peaked into the ballroom where there was hundreds of people in suits and cocktail dresses.

He was nervous, and I kept reassuring him that it would be ok, that he’s got this-no problem.

He trusted me, I’m his Mama and I led him to this place and told him he’s got this. Encouragement came for the handful of campers as they entered the ballroom for the fashion show. To end the show, Miss Minnesota, who was the MC for the evening, invited Charlie up to the podium. She was wearing a pageant dress, and of course a crown (could this moment seem any stranger?). She helped him get up onto a chair to reach the microphone.

I didn’t know what he was going to say, as my own words rushed back to me, I had told him to say just what was on his heart-and then I thought …oh Dear God, what was on his heart? He leaned into the microphone and said, “Well, I just wanted to thank all of you for coming- and yeah, well… I’m just happy that my camp is gettin’ a whole lot more money!”

…and with that the ballroom exploded with cheers, he jumped off the podium and enjoyed a round of high-fives as he made his way back to me.

It was a done deal. He said what was on his heart. It was the truth, his camp was gettin’ a whole lot more money. He was also the only one who could say it out loud, considering that he was eight and had a zipper-club scar down the middle of his chest (all the while covered in a dismantled easter wreath).

December of 2015~ So I was reminded of that moment, and I hung onto it as I prepared to share “just what was on my heart”.

My night turned out to be a blessing-not easy-peasy, but definitely a blessing. Holy-cats, He knows what He’s doing, and thank goodness I got to dress myself.

As we enter this fresh new year, who knows what may be in store. Let us find courage in Him.

“Thank you Jesus for your unending presence. Help us to trust in you, to find courage in you- wholeheartedly, in the way of a child, especially where it really counts, where perhaps you are leading us into something bright and new. Amen.”

Mindy’s book Embracing Charlie was honored with a Finalist Title in the Christian Inspirational Category of the 2014 USA Best Book Awards. Ballroom Bird’s Nest was also published on Easter Praise.

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little Aylan

Last Wednesday I woke to find images on FaceBook of a lifeless little Syrian boy lying on the shore of a Turkish resort town. His image stole my breath, and left my heart heavy in grief. The photograph captured his sweet innocence in perfect contrast with the atrocities of the evil that is the islamic state.

If I could melt away all that surrounded him, the cold sand and rocky beach, the waves of the sea washing over his sweet face, his soaked clothes and shoes-if only. In my minds-eye I see him lying in his parent’s bed warm and dry, air filling his little chest allowing it to rise and fall sweetly as he dreams of toy trains and running beside his big brother.

mašinkaThe world soon knew his name-little Aylan. He was three years old. We knew his story as well. His family spent $4,000 to board a small boat off the coast of Turkey with the hope of reaching Kos Greece, and a new life in Europe. Tragically-as if his story was anything else-after his family payed the smuggler $4,000, no money remained for life jackets. The small boat capsized and Aylan perished along with his mother and five year old brother.

Syrian refugees have a piece of my heart. Aleppo, Syria is my husband’s birthplace. Birthplace, I must premiss, but not his ancestral home as he is often quick to point out. His family also endured incredible atrocities at the hand of radical islam. His grandfather, and great-grandparents were survivors of the Armenian Genocide. Also refugees, they settled in Syria and Lebanon in 1915. It’s been 100 years since the Armenian Genocide-sadly it seems little has changed.

A few months shy of my husband’s eighteenth birthday his family set out for a new life in the States. My Pauly is the best storyteller. Over our marriage he has shared so much about his childhood. Stories about growing up in a Christian neighborhood in Aleppo. Stories we all can relate to, even if our stories are an ocean away. Stories like sneaking out and taking his dad’s car for a midnight joy ride with his buddies-who needs a license anyway. Girls, bicycles, birthday parties, corner ice cream shops, more trouble than his parents would like to know-he has painted a colorful picture for me describing a group of young boys with life to burn.

Recent reports say that half of Syria’s population is now displaced. Half. Most of Paul’s childhood friends left Syria in the same way he did, now more than two decades ago. But some remained-who knows where they are now.

SIRIA_-_LIBANO_-_aleppo_devastataThe Armenian Catholic Church, his family’s church home, where he served as an alter boy was destroyed by a bomb this last April. The Church dated back to the 15th century and housed relics and icons including a painting from 1703. His neighborhood has been a hot spot for violence, as it has been home to Syrian Christians for hundreds of years.

The building where he grew up was also bombed-destroying homes on the top floor. Families still occupy the floors below the damage. Who knows what each day feels like for those living beneath and amongst the rubble. My Paul has my heart, and I can’t help but think about what his life would look like had he stayed. These are the things I ponder.

…and now with the image of little Aylan, now it seems I have a picture for my heavy heart.

Jesus, Please Come…  Revelation 21:4  He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”

Consider joining me in supporting World Vision in their efforts to help Syrian Refugees.

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On The Marquee

I have a place for my emotion. It’s a tidy little space, and for the most part it all fits quite nicely in there.

Except for anxiety … that prickly stuff doesn’t fit anywhere.

splitsville MGD©This last week it was getting the best of me. I’d lie awake with my thoughts circling my mind like they were suspended on a marquee. The possibility of a new job seemed to have sparked this unwelcome feeling of unease. Then there is all the silly stuff too, insignificant things that shouldn’t share my pillow. My anxiousness didn’t just occupy my mind it extended to the tips of my fingers and rose to the top of my chest. I couldn’t seem to tuck it away, so I’d bring it with me into my day.

One such day ~ I had a meeting scheduled with my pastor. I hadn’t even sat down across from her before she invited me to speak at this year’s Christmas Tea. What an incredible honor. Then, just a couple of hours later, I received a phone call in which I was offered that new job-the one that had consumed my 2:00 am thoughts. Holy buckets, I felt immensely blessed! But for heaven sakes, there was no place to put all this emotion now.

Before bed that night I knelt under the picture window in the front room of my home. I thanked God for these new opportunities.

The next morning with my coffee in hand, and my kids still tucked in bed, I scrolled through my Facebook feed. I held my breath as I read the post of a fellow “heart mom”. Her nine year-old daughter was just wheeled back into the operating room for her fifth heart surgery, and with that, all my pent up stuff, all the nonsense worry, it found its release. It poured from my eyes, streaming down my cheeks.

I found her CaringBridge page where her dad shared his raw emotion across the page. He talked about the brutality in watching his little girl suffer. He ended his post with, “If you pray, please do so. Ask for steady hands, sharp minds and peaceful hearts.”

Steady hands, sharp minds and peaceful hearts. His words stayed with me in the most profound way-far beyond his intention for her medical team.

The next couple of days each time I prayed for these things I thought about how his requests, especially for a peaceful heart, transcends all that challenges us.

The next time I’m up at 2:00 am, I’m going to do my best to put his words on my mind’s marquee. Steady Hands, Sharp Minds and Peaceful Hearts. It’s sure to be a prettier display.

Mindy Lynn is the Author of Embracing Charlie. Embracing Charlie was honored as a Finalist in the Christian Inspirational Category of the 2014 USA Best Book Awards. Consider Subscribing to Mindy’s Blog Via email-ensuring you won’t miss a post.

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Deep Empty Spaces

Illness, Injury, Addiction… Prayer. When we go to Christ with these we do so with the heaviest of hearts. Perhaps because these things we have little control over. Perhaps because they can threaten everything. Sadly, we all have our season-finding ourselves here.

kalnik 050I’ve cried out for the life of my child. I’ve petitioned Jesus to touch my son, to miraculously make him whole believing that He is the same living God today as yesterday.

I’ve asked Him to guide the hearts of his Doctors and Nurses. I’ve asked for healing through medicine and in their hands.

I’ve been broken and empty with no accord left on my own. I’ve called on Him to pick me up and move me forward.

Healing comes in so many ways.

From my book, Embracing Charlie, Chapter Titled “Talking to God”

“Have you been home yet?” Karen asked from the other side of the Isolette. Karen, Charlie’s nurse, was with us for most of the time we spent in the NICU. She even volunteered to work double shifts in order to be with Charlie. She knew cardiac care. She was confident and skilled, and had a less flowery, no-coddle approach. She was single, full-figured, and somewhere in her thirties. She had short, blonde, heavily styled hair that somehow suited her no-nonsense attitude. I became attached very quickly. I was thankful for her, less flower and all.

“Not yet,” I replied, “but we talked about going home today to get some clean clothes and things.”

“You need to prepare yourself the best you can for how difficult it will be to go home without your baby,” she said. “Parents don’t always anticipate the emotional impact of going home with empty arms.” I heard her, but I was quick to dismiss it. How much harder can this get? Besides, we had known for months now that having to leave him at the hospital would be a real possibility.

A few hours later, Paul pushed open the heavy hospital door leading onto the top level of the parking ramp. We stepped out into the day, and I instinctively took a deep, cleansing breath of fresh air. I stood with my eyes closed and my face toward the sky, the cool spring breeze on my cheeks. I had gone days without stepping outside.

I heard it in the distance at first, the whooping, repetitive sound of a helicopter’s propeller. It became louder and louder. I opened my eyes and, still gazing skyward, saw the halo effect of the circling propeller above us. The red emergency cross came into focus as the helicopter gently landed on the rooftop next to us. It was an impressive sight. Paul and I looked at one another with sadness. Somebody’s baby was in that helicopter. Maybe their baby was fresh and new, or maybe their baby was fourteen years old. It was someone’s baby all the same, and their lives were upside down too.

“It’s not the first one I’ve seen land,” Paul said to me. “I’ve seen them come and go a few times when I’ve been out here talking to God.” “Talking to God” meant a little more than prayer for Paul. I don’t mean to imply that he wasn’t actually doing that—talking to God—because I am sure he was. It’s just that if he went out to “talk to God,” he did so with either a cigarette or a cheap cigar.

Paul had confessed to me how his nicotine relapse occurred. It was late in the evening on the day of Charlie’s birth. The dust had just started to settle from the chaos of the day. With his nerves unhinged, Paul walked out the front doors of the hospital, cut across the traffic on Chicago Avenue, and walked into the convenience store kitty-corner to the hospital. He walked up to the cashier, who sat behind a heavy pane of bullet-proof glass. Without hesitation, he asked for a pack of Marlboro Reds and a lighter. It was his first pack of cigarettes in more than two years, an addiction he had worked tirelessly to overcome. He didn’t even make it back across the street; instead, he sat on the curb, gas pumps behind him and city traffic in front of him, tapped his box of Reds on the cement, and lifted his first cigarette from the rest. He sat, he inhaled, and he talked to God.

Each mile we drove away from the hospital felt like twenty. I stared out the car window, watching the world move by. Our world had suddenly stopped, while the rest had the audacity to keep humming along. Half an hour later, we walked into the silence of our empty house. I sat on the staircase leading up to our bedrooms while Paul busied himself with our bags and mail.

I was attentive to a hollowness tucked deep inside me. It was the same place that had whispered for life when I knew I wanted my babies. Now there was emptiness, and it intensified with the absence of Sophie’s footsteps. I was exhausted in a way I’d never experienced. The middle of my chest was heavy, as if something were pressing on my heart. The heaviness had come the moment Charlie was taken from me, and it had stayed with me ever since. Paul looked over to me from the stack of envelopes and said, “It’s going to be okay. He’s going to be okay.” Then he set them down, came over, bent down, and held me. I sobbed, and I sobbed, and I sobbed. I told him that I knew he was right, Charlie would be okay. Still, I expressed how awful the pain was, how the suffering seemed unbearable, how I felt helpless in his suffering because, even though I was his mom, I couldn’t make it better. I was broken too. I sobbed until my eyes ran dry and I’d flooded Paul’s broad shoulders.

As Paul eased away from me, I continued to lie on the stairway. I pushed on, inviting Jesus to heal me, to give me strength. I asked him to embrace me in my brokenness. My body was limp and heavy with exhaustion, just like a sleeping child who is scooped up into her father’s arms. I recognized his presence, not by his scent or the softness of his shirt collar. I recognized him by the calm that blanketed me. My eyes opened and closed drowsily until, finally, I surrendered to the fatigue. This is the part where, as a child, I would let my head drape heavily over his shoulder. There was magic here. He was strong and steady under me. His strength moved us. I was just along for the ride. It was the safest place in the world, the embrace of my Father. He took me up, readily and gladly.

I gathered myself from the staircase and moved forward. I washed clothes, gathered some things, and avoided the stillness of my babies’ bedrooms. Then we hurried back to the hospital, where everything was just as it had been upon our departure. I sat at my son’s bedside and asked Jesus to scoop him up, to embrace him in the same way he’d embraced me.

kalnik 037This human experience is mysterious at best. Perhaps after our petitions we are still stricken. Maybe our loved ones still suffer even after our endless requests. Maybe we experience miraculous healing. Perhaps our healing comes after years of prayer.

Maybe we are left scarred.

Some things leave hurts so deep that only Jesus, who can give sight to the blind and heal the unclean, can reach in and fill those deep empty spaces. We aren’t likely to be the same. I would dare to say that I am more than I ever was before.

One of my favorites,

Psalm 147:3 He heals the broken hearted and binds up their wounds.

Burdens are sure to come. Let us turn to Him with our petitions and our broken hearts. Let Him bind up our wounds.

Deep Empty Spaces was also published for Easter Praise.

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Held in Tight

When my husband and I were first married he drove a small transportation bus. He really liked his job. He came home with all sorts of stories-most of which involved how tenacious people are. He brought people to work each day-people who could have easily decided that things were just too hard. He enjoyed his riders company.

My favorite story, once while parked and waiting for his next scheduled pick-up a group of clowns got on his bus. Yes—clowns, red rubber noses, floppy shoes, full clown make-up in either sad or happy faces, all of it. This group of developmentally delayed young adults were not on his schedule. While doing his best to explain that he wasn’t the driver they had been waiting for, and that he was sure another was on the way, one tearful young lady refused to get off. That’s all it took. Moments later he had a clown revolt on his hands. He had to call dispatch and explain that he had clowns on his bus, some angry, some sad, some who were painted happy but had now become sad, and nobody was getting off, and what was he supposed to do now? Not my point at all-but how do I keep the clown revolt story to myself?

Some things stay with me, with more profound reason.

He had just as many riders whose challenges were not developmental, but physical. He came home one evening haunted by an exchange he had earlier in the day. After strapping a quadriplegic man’s chair into the bus’s harness system, the man asked him if he had pulled the straps as tight as possible. He asked if he wouldn’t mind doing it once more, pulling each strap as tight as he could. The man looked at him apologetically, explaining that he had been thrown from a vehicle the day he became paralyzed. No ride had ever been the same since and now he needed to know that he was held in tight.

Sometimes we need to know.

DSC_3391My 13 year old daughter spent much of the past school year with her cell phone almost always in hand (sometimes I wish I could chuck that thing-or give it to a group of clowns). Somehow she even worked texting her friends into her already time pressed pre-school morning routine. One morning late Spring she received a text like none she had ever received before. It wasn’t about who was crushing on who, or what she should wear that day. This one was different. One of her friends had tragically woke to find her Mom lying on the floor. Just like that. She hadn’t been ill, she hadn’t hurt herself, she was just gone.

I drove home from work that evening anxious to see my girl and hold her tight. As I drove I thought about how things had shifted for my daughter a bit that day. She’s my oldest child, and here was a moment I couldn’t shield her from. This heartbreak was inside of her circle-not mine. I guess things had shifted for me a bit too.

I walked into the kitchen and put my arms around my girl, tight. With each moment my embrace intensified. I needed her to know she was held in tight. Sometimes we need to know. I closed my eyes and thought about the wheelchair bound man from so many years before.

We chatted about her day. We talked about how fragile life can be. We talked about how her friend’s life would never be quite the same again. We talked about the ways in which she could be a good friend. We talked about prayer.

This will likely stay with me too.

Mindy Lynn is the Author of Embracing Charlie. Embracing Charlie was honored as a Finalist in the Christian Inspirational Category of the 2014 USA Best Book Awards. Consider Subscribing to Mindy’s Blog Via email-ensuring you won’t miss a post.

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Lapel Roses

Sometimes my senses are crazy technicolor dream-like sharp. I can also sleep walk through the most important moments, but sometimes I’m all in.

It was a fresh morning late this spring-the rush to get my kids out the door had just passed. I sat with my first cup of coffee in hand. (Complete with essential non-dairy flavored creamer-Lord help me, what is in that stuff anyway?) I looked around at all that begged for my attention. Balancing work and family, some weeks I faired better than this. This one was ugly.

I sat contemplating if my Friday morning Yoga class was a good idea. Wavering, I looked down at our ten pound oatmeal colored pup for guidance. “What do you think Tucky, do I go do the Yoga thing -or do I deal with one of these piles?”

11026054_10205422161860959_4263521531158385620_nHe thought it best that I go. I love that dog. After a ten minute drive to a nearby church that hosts my class, I found that the parking lot had three times the regular number of cars. Parked on the circular drive was a hearse. Behind the hearse cars lined up with those little magnetic flags attached to the hoods-the ones that say “I’ve lost someone-please move out of my way”.

I parked and watched for a moment. Funeral attendees slowly made their way to the building. Fellow yogis walked in slowly too. I moved towards the door wishing there was a service entrance or something. Freshly planted flowers lined the church’s sidewalk-bright pinks and reds nestled in black moist dirt. Just before I reached the doors I looked down at my clothes. I mirrored the level of disorder I had waiting for me at home. I wore Yoga layers in the most awful way, a hot pink tank with an orange t-shirt over the top. I paired my four year old look with gray, used to be black yoga pants. I was grateful that my mismatched socks were my secret-but oye my hair was no ones secret.

I walked through the doors and directly into a reception area. With my purple mat in hand I scan the room wondering how I might inconspicuously cross and make my way to class. I caught the eye of my teacher who was both trying to be a wall flower and guide her students into an alternate classroom. I crossed the room filled with mourners and linen covered tables. My eye caught an open shallow box upon one of the tables, boutonnieres laid inside, each a dark red rose.

Thankful to be out of the funeral attendees sight, I made my way to the second floor. Squeezed into a small space, we started our practice. Even so, my mind stayed on the first floor. I thought about whom they celebrated, whose life they reflected upon from the pews below us. Air moved easily in and out of my lungs. I paused, recognizing the gift in something so effortless-my breath.

file000527022049I thought about the newly planted flowers lining the walkway and the freshly cut flowers pinned upon dark suit lapels in the sanctuary. Soft new-age music filled our room, yet my ears were drawn to the muffled sound of “When The Saints Go Marching In” escaping from the sanctuary.

Some time of quiet followed the old hymns before laughter erupted spilling far beyond the sanctuary doors. The sound of a life with rich moments. It made us smile at one another.

Leaving I tried to sneak through the crowd the way I had going in. Tall easels with dozens of pictures displayed on heavy poster boards now lined my exit. Upon them were snap shots in color of aging grandparents surrounded by family. There were photos in black and white, photos in sepia, and ones with hand-painted touches, pastels painted upon lips and cheeks.

I drove home with my windows down and my sunroof wide open. With fresh air blowing wildly through the car’s cabin contentment washed over me. I was grateful for my unorganized, chaotic, beautiful life. I was grateful for that morning, for my smart dog, for the chance to listen in to the celebration of someones seemingly rich life, for freshly planted flowers, and for freshly cut lapel ones too.

More technicolor mornings like this please. Thank you Jesus.

Tucky it seemed hadn’t done anything with my piles-there they remained upon my return.

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Humility, Headstones, and Headless Corpses

(Originally posted for Easter’s Blog in May of 2015)

Parenthood is crazy hard sometimes. In part because children hold your heart hostage in the most beautiful and frightening ways. Being asked the really difficult questions by people who call you Mommy, that’s when things feel especially slippery. I do my best, but honestly sometimes I wonder who is teaching whom.

In Matthew 18 the disciples came to Jesus and asked “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”. In verse 4, with a child upon His lap, Jesus answered by saying, “So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.”

Humility. Humility and the greatest in the Kingdom. How do I lead them?

Ever notice the beautiful way a child can simply accept circumstance in spite of adversity?

From my book, Embracing Charlie (circa 2010, Charlie’s question of his “crossed-up” tubes is in reference to his congenital heart defect-Transposition of the Great Arteries)

file0001330232053 Riding in Cars ~ We were out for a drive through the city, my babies and me. The day was sunny and fresh. With the windows down, cool air blew through the Jeep’s cab. A voice from the back interrupted our cruising music: “Sophie, why did my tubes get crossed up? I mean, how did that happen to me?” My finger promptly hit the off button on the radio. Charlie was five, and he preferred to ask the big questions of his big sister first. I suspect he figured he was more likely to get it straight from her. I was on edge. I hoped she would answer him well. He believed her every word. If Sophie said it, then it must be true, because she was eight and she knew lots of stuff.

“Well, buddy, I guess it just happened like that. They must have got crossed up when you were in Mom’s belly,” she said, giving it little thought.

“But why? Why did they get crossed up?” he questioned again.

“I guess that’s just how you were made, Char-Char,” she answered. Moments of silence passed in the back seat, while I held my breath in the front.

“Mommy?” he called out, throwing his little voice to the Jeep’s front. It was a “listen to me” plea, as if I hadn’t been waiting on his every breath. “How come my tubes got crossed up, how come?” he asked.

“I’m not sure, buddy. I don’t really know how that happened. Things like that just happen to babies sometimes,” I said.

“Well, did something like that happen to Sophie when she was a baby? Were her tubes crossed up?” he questioned.

“No, sweet boy,” I softly replied. We drove along in silence, letting our thoughts drop where they may. It wasn’t the first time he’d asked.

“What are all those things?” Charlie said, breaking our silence once more. He was pointing out his open window at the hundreds of stately headstones tightly packed next to one another beyond the white, cast-iron fence of a grand old cemetery.

“That’s where all the dead people are,” Sophie said. See, she did know lots of stuff.

“What? Where are they?” he questioned.

“They’re buried under the ground, and those big crosses and stuff have their names on them,” Sophie said in her “I know stuff” matter-of-fact way. I looked back at him in the rear view mirror. His face was covered in question, eyebrows raised like Come on, there’s no way all those things have dead people under them?! But Sophie had said so. . . . More silence, more processing.

“Mommy, your friend Kelli died because she didn’t wear her seat belt, right?” Charlie said, moving on.

“Well, yes, buddy, that’s right, she died in a car accident,” I answered.
Then, using the Arabic word for “Grandma,” Charlie asked, “Mommy, why did Teta Jacqueline die?” His wheels were really turning now.

“She was old, honey, and sick. Remember, she had a disease that made it hard for her to breathe?”

“So are Kelli and Teta Jacqueline buried over there under the ground?” he asked.

“No, hun, they’re not buried in this cemetery. There are lots of cemeteries all over in different places. People are usually buried near the city they lived in.”

When Charlie learns something of interest, he’ll share it in a rather theatrical way. With the white iron fence disappearing in the distance behind us, he extended his hand toward the cemetery and announced, “You see all those dead people, Sophie? You see them? All of those dead people have their heads chopped off!” I shook my head reflexively, as if to rattle his sentence loose and knock it out. I was certain I must not have heard him correctly.

“What? No, they don’t!” Sophie replied.

“Oh, yes, they do, they totally do! You see, Sophie, when you die, your soul goes to heaven to be with Jesus. But only”—great dramatic pause on only—“your body stays here. So, your head gets, well . . . chopped off.” He said it dramatically, making a cutting motion with his hand across his neck.

Conversations rushed back to me, and now they made perfect sense. Charlie had repeatedly asked me what happens to you after you die, and each time I’d tell him, he’d look at me with the most bewildered expressions. Repeatedly I’d said to him, “Just your body stays here, but the you that makes you you, that place in your heart called your soul, it goes to heaven to be with Jesus.”

And so, we spent the remainder of our sunny drive discussing how you actually don’t get your head chopped off after you die. Hard as I tried, I couldn’t steer the conversation away from headless corpses. I was forced to admit that there was the possibility that somebody buried in that cemetery died because their head was chopped off, and they, in fact, would be buried without their head attached.

Crossed-up tubes, headstones, and headless bodies—you can’t prepare for this; I was just along for the ride.

Jesus, we call on You ~ As we face the crazy hard challenges of this life, may the beautiful humility that each of us carried as a child uncover itself again and bring us peace. Amen.

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Little Armenians

Who knows what a new day brings. Last Sunday morning I woke up to find images of Pope Francis strung through my Facebook newsfeed. Comments he made during Sunday Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica marking the 100th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide left the Turkish Foreign Minister turning to Twitter and ambassadors scrambling.

For a brief moment and in an incredibly insignificant and selfish way I thought, Lord Jesus show the world who the Armenian people are, so that I may never, ever, ever have to resort to the Kardashians as a reference when trying to explain my husband’s ethnicity. Just an honest Jesus moment, what can I say.

10985340_10205796771465965_7283016304982171630_nPope Francis called the slaughter of Armenians by Ottoman Turks the first genocide of the 20th century and urged the international community to recognize it as such. Although historians estimate that 1.5 million Armenians were killed by Ottoman Turks around the time of World War I,  the Turkish government has definitely denied that a genocide ever took place. Sadly, for decades now the United States has avoided officially using the word Genocide in regards to the Massacre. Not because it wasn’t indeed Genocide, but because Turkey is an important military ally with an important military base.

As I rattled off the Pope’s eloquent and unapologetic statements to my hubby, my little Armenians, the ones I’m lucky enough to share my life with, were still snuggled into their beds.

I’d affectionately coined them my watered-down Armenians-a sentiment I shared in my own Facebook post that morning. To which my brother-in-law, Pierre, responded warmly that there is no such thing. After some days to ponder, not only do I think he’s right (yes, Pierre, I’m admitting it to the whole world) but I think it might just be the smartest thing he’s ever said.

My kids, 10 and 13, spent the morning watching a documentary about that atrocities of their ancestors. It’s a graphic and upsetting film. I wanted to hide this from them, to shield them from the inherent evil in the world-but that too would be injustice. They watched and my heart was heavy for them.

Before my children were born, in the heartbreaking images of starving survivors I’d see the face of my husband’s grandfather, Dikran.

Raised in a multigenerational home, my husband shared his childhood home with his grandfather. Dikran served in the French Colonial military and was an accomplished tennis champion. Well into his eighties he still had the physique of an athlete. Because he preferred the sympathies given to the frail, his appearance often mirrored unsteadiness. Nonetheless, when he thought he was alone we would find him running and jumping through my mother-in-laws living room. Dikran and I shared the same conversations countless times. In his limited English he would do his best to tell me about his love for tennis. He would also say to me, “I speak English very good… Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Sunday…” and then he would laugh at himself like it was the first time he said it, and as if he thought that English sounded absurd. I’m told that he had an incredible dry sense of humor, and that in his prime he was the life of every party without ever cracking a smile. Dikran died four years after my husband and I were married. In the last few days of his life whenever he saw my face he wept.

Dikran was born in Armenia in 1913. He was a toddler during the massacres.

Through the resolve and tenacity of his mother, Jameleh, Dikran and his siblings survived genocide. Refusing to deny Christ, her husband was taken in the night, put in shackles, and marched off to slaughter. The sound of shackles scraping along the cobblestone road would haunt her for the rest of her life. She was forced from her grand home filled with fine things. Knowing they would be driven into the death marches, she made the decision to leave Dikran behind. He was hidden away and cared for by his aunt. With her two older sons at her side she carried her infant daughter for nearly 40 days through the Syrian desert. Witnessing the most vile abuses at the hands of the Turkish guards she resorted to covering herself in animal feces in an attempt to avoid their abuses. They finally found refuge in Aleppo, Syria. Dikran would make the pilgrimage to Aleppo three years later. They lived for five years in Aleppo off the repayment of a debt that was owed to Jemeleh’s husband. When the debt was paid in full, Jameleh was no longer able to care for her children. Dikran would spend much of his youth in an orphanage run by Catholic Charities.

11156232_10205796771625969_4920684143615517400_nSince the birth of my children what I see now in the haunting documentary images are the faces of my own children. Pierre, you’re so right there simply is no such thing as a watered-down Armenian. Perhaps it’s the incredible tenacity of my husband’s grandparents to survive, to refuse to let evil win, that shows itself in the eye’s of my children.

And so we continue to move forward, and my little Armenians carry the resolve of their ancestors. They are beautiful and thriving, as are our nieces and nephews and in that I know that evil didn’t win. It never truly wins.

Searching scripture to match the enormity of the pain of Genocide brought me to Revelation. Some things are just too heavy for this world and so we must fix our eyes on the next.

Revelation 21:4 New Living Translation (NLT)

He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”

A Prayer for our heavy hearts-

“Lead us Lord that we may, in both big and small ways, challenge evil.  Where it begins help us to be your light that overshadows darkness. Help us to lead our children in a manner that honors those who have gone before us and have endured great sorrow. Protect our hearts, in your Son’s precious name. Amen.”

Little Armenians was originally posted for Easter Praise in April of 2015. Mindy’s book Embracing Charlie was honored with a Finalist Title in the Christian Inspirational Category of the 2014 USA Best Book Awards.

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Textiles for His Grace

(Originally posted for Easter’s Blog in March of 2015)

In the Gospel of Matthew, the 21st chapter recounts Jesus’s entry into Jerusalem on the first Palm Sunday-“Jesus Triumphant Entry”.

It sounds like it was a pretty amazing party. A parade of waving palm branches, shouts of admiration for the Son of David, His Jewish brothers and sisters acknowledging Him jubilantly as their prophesied Savior-a joyous celebration indeed.

Matthew 21: 6-11 NLT

The two disciples did as Jesus commanded. They brought the donkey and the colt to him and threw their garments over the colt, and he sat on it.

Most of the crowd spread their garments on the road ahead of him, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. Jesus was in the center of the procession, and the people all around him were shouting,

“Praise God for the Son of David!
Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Praise God in highest heaven!”

10 The entire city of Jerusalem was in an uproar as he entered. “Who is this?” they asked.11 And the crowds replied, “It’s Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”

Other translatiotextile-548716_640ns read “Hosanna in the highest heaven!”. “Hosanna” was a Hebrew expression meaning “Save” that became a exclamation of praise-how lovely!

I can’t help but put myself there among the shouting crowd. What resonates with me most is verse 8, “Most of the crowd spread their garments on the road ahead of him…”. In the midst of a mess of people, a public parade no less, people in the crowd felt compelled to spread their garments on the dirty road. Thus, making a textile trail for the King and His colt to enter Jerusalem upon.

As we move into Holy Week may we consider ways that we too might lay down our garments for Christ-ways in which we can humbly serve as the foundation upon which His Grace moves within the world. Let us not forget that in spite of all things, He laid down his life for ours.

May this Holy Week be full of reflection and blessings!

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Granddaddy was a Hillbilly Scholar

Ever hear this phrase? -“If you wanna hear God laugh, tell him your plans.” The country duo Van Zant used it as a song lyric in Help Somebody.  I’ll admit it-I love Country music, my favorite is a little classic Kenny and Dolly circa mid 80’s. My love for country music should come as no surprise. My dad has a pickin’ porch on his property in rural east Texas. (Pickin’ porch-a porch that looks like a western store front made for playing bluegrass music. My daddy has a banjo and a handle bar mustache-true story.) The first line of Help Somebody -“Well, granddaddy was a hillbilly scholar, blue collar of a man.” Ok… so none of this is my point, but I couldn’t help myself-let’s regress.

The song, with it’s deeply highbrow lyrics, came out in 2005. It was the same year when the life I had planned for myself had taken a dramatic turn-probably why it struck me so. I learned so much that year- including the realization that we have such little control over life’s really big stuff.

If you look back at the things that have happened to you along the way, do we not have times when we say-  “Whoa…I did not see that one coming.”? My experience, this thing that I hadn’t planned for, left me on my knees calling out. It also brought me to a beautiful place of growth and joy.


Jeremiah 29:11-13 (NIV) 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

As we enter into this new year, I have my idea of what I’d like the coming year to look like. I have goals for my personal and professional growth. I’ll also do my best to remain open to what God may have in store for me-cause who knows.

In 2015, no matter where it may lead us, “Let’s Prosper”

In this, let us pray,

“Jesus as we enter into the coming year we ask for your favor, may we prosper. Help us to relax the grip of control we have over our lives Lord so that we are able to recognize the direction you may place before us. Amen.”


“May my peers think none less of me, now that I’ve exposed my love for The Gambler, and Islands in the Streams. Amen.”  

(Also published for Easter Prays on January 4th, 2015)

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