Posts tagged our common humanity
Compassionate Parenting

I was going to be the best mother. I would blow everyone away with my mothering skills—most of all my husband, who, amid is longing for fatherhood, carried the ominous expectation that it would be the weight to finally completely cripple him with anxiety. Luckily, I knew my motherhood would render parenting our first child a breeze. He'd be ready for six more in no time.

I rounded the corner of my final lap toward family life sure of two things: 1) Parents should be in control at all times, and 2) Children should never be allowed to emotionally manipulate their parents. Bolstered by a stack of books penned by some prolific Christian authors, I was convinced that this two-part theory (with enough nurture thrown in) would guarantee a happy home life.

But when motherhood finally met me at dusk in a little Ugandan orphanage, I furrowed my brow and curved down my mouth at how my expectations failed to fall in line. I had a degree in family studies, for crying out loud. What were these inadequacies and failures doing, showing up in the one area I was supposed to be good at? We finalized the adoption, and, despite all the parenting advice I'd taken in, I couldn't control my son. A year went by, then another, and another. We loved each other deeply, but the Beatles were wrong—love wasn't all we needed. I felt hopeless and defeated; he felt cornered and scared. I didn't know how to get through to him, and he didn't know how to trust me. We were at a stalemate: a very emotional, angry, brokenhearted draw.

And that is exactly where I was the night my husband discovered a man named Jean Vanier in a mediocre-quality YouTube video.

Read the rest in the July 2018 issue of St. Anthony Messenger

Roots and Flings

My childhood was marked by long car rides. We moved around quite a bit there for a while, all the brick houses a long highway's journey to my grandparents in Mississippi. Both of my parents were born and raised there; neither desired to stay. So I grew up comfortable with road trips; back in the good old days, of course, my father would remove the back seat of our minivan completely and my mother would sit on the floor with my sister and me playing Barbies until we fell asleep, curled in a pile like the litter of kittens that would inevitably be waiting for us at Maw Maw and Paw Paw's. No one spays a barn cat.

We'd visit one set of grandparents for a few days then get back in the car for a four-hour drive to the home of the other set. It was a seamless setup until the day my little brother accidentally kicked the gear shift and flipped the car and my un-seat-belted sister broke her leg and we all said thank God it wasn't worse and my uncle put a hot pink cast on her that itched and pricked and nearly thirty years later I'm still using that story to threaten my boys into their seat belts.

Childhood memories are like turtles, like hermit crabs: touch them too abrasively and they'll disappear into their shells. You don't get to control when they come out again.


When my dad's parents died in my twenties I mourned the loss of people I loved but not the place. When you're young you don't need to be rooted, you think. You've got a wide world before you and who needs home? I was tied to nowhere, a product of parents who followed passion and opportunity to tread across several states. We made fun of mom for how giddy she would get on those trips back home to Mississippi. She wasn't a silly woman, but the nearer we sped the more she would giggle at things that weren't funny. My dad's sarcasm pounced on it, affectionate in his own way. It was a ritual, and we teased her every time. Four hours to go and we cheer, gas station candy bars in hand. Two hours to go and mom can't sit still. Half an hour to go and she puts on more lipstick and fluffs her hair around.

What, I wonder, will be the rituals my own children remember?


We laid my Paw Paw in the delta soil on Sunday. We knew it was coming: 6-8 weeks, the doctor had said, 6-8 weeks until the cancer takes him. He made it eight weeks and one day, because he's a stubborn Southern farmer and he'll last an extra day just to prove you wrong.

You think you're ready for death but you are never ready for death. Even still, even knowing that, I am surprised by the depth of my emotions. I loved him so. As a kid I would sit in his lap and listen for as long as he'd talk, hearing about cow shows and cotton and how much I looked like my mama. "She's Kay made over," he'd tell anyone who'd listen, pride dripping from his voice. I grew under the shade of his delight.

I am nearly thirty-five years old and to this day I adore the smell of cow manure. It smells like my childhood, it smells like freedom and breath and feeling deeply rooted. My grandparents' farm is home. It is the only place I can go to physically return to childhood memories. It was the only place in my life that had never changed.

Last week it changed. When he passed, the farm changed, the house changed, Sunflower County changed, the delta changed, Mississippi changed. I've never lived in the state and didn't realize that it was the only real home I had until this weekend when I was there and he wasn't. Part of the grief I feel is losing a man (a truly great, kind, generous man) I loved, and part of it is knowing that everything is changing and I can't stop it. But Maw Maw remains in their home; strong as a baby bull, that woman-- she'll probably outlive us all. Some years ago my uncle built a cabin 200 yards away, in the very spot where Paw Paw was born. I have a home there, I know; a changed home but a home still.

I could buy a plot of the family land, I could build a house there, we could make a life there. But outside of the haven of that farm is a state with a sordid history that it's still scraping the scabs off of, and I don't want to bring my multicolored family into that long fight for healing. We are charged with making a home elsewhere.


The world is the oyster of this generation; we follow jobs, we follow education, we follow appetites for adventure and sensuality. Home is wherever I'm with you, we say, we sing, and I want it to be true but I'm not sure I believe it anymore. I'm not sure I believe it at all.

The Road to Golgotha

We walk to Good Friday the only way we know how: one foot in front of the other, unsure of what we are meant to be feeling, uncomfortable with sadness and grief, untaught in the ways of lament. We are both creators and products of this culture we live out our days in; one that silences the suffering, not out of malice but discomfort. Scripture says that God "sustains the weary with a word," but the imago Dei in me can't seem to remember how.

Ancient societies had elaborate traditions for mourning, but my grandfather is dying and all I know to do is text him pictures of my kids. I want the world to stop; I want my family to walk away from our jobs and our schools and our lives and set up vigil around that old farmhouse for weeks until he drifts into eternal rest. But we haven't set our world up for that. We expect the bereaved to stay on the treadmill. You told him goodbye two weeks ago, after all. What more could you hope for than that? No one says it. No one except society and my own heart.

I peer into the tomorrow of Good Friday tentatively, sure that when the hour of our Lord strikes at 3:00 I will miss it; too busy slathering peanut butter onto apple slices or pulling a bedraggled toddler from his crib. I have only ever observed the day as a mother of young children, and I find myself fantasizing about how holy it will be when they're grown and gone and I have the whole day for silence and fasting and prayer. And then I berate myself because this right here is holy, and when that day comes in the future I know I will cry tears of memory, thinking on how loud and messy and hard and precious Good Friday used to be.

I feebly offer my children what I know of the Triduum; I piece together a liturgy of life that I only hope will anchor them to something eternal as they grow and change. Tonight we will wash each other's feet in mass, and I will cry freely in front of God and men the whole time. We won't receive communion at mass on Friday- we'll kiss the feet of Jesus on the crucifix instead- and maybe the awe-full/awful truth of this holy day will seep into their bones, ready to be unearthed and dusted off in twenty years when their faith feels rootless. Saturday will be still (but they are small boys so it won't be still at all) until the Easter Vigil, when the fire will reflect in their eyes and their tiny hands will grip candles determinedly as the litany of saints dead but alive rolls over their ears.

Good Friday will not feel powerful and sacred; I've been a mother long enough to feel sure about that. But I will walk my children down the road to Golgotha anyway, praying that the liturgy of death and resurrection will be locked somewhere deep within that I can't see, there for the taking when they need it; there for the taking when they are 87 years old and dying, receiving texted photographs of their great-grandchildren to make them smile.