Turning 40 29/40

I am thankful for the enduring democracy of my home country. I did not know how thankful I was until I recently traveled outside its borders.

There was a crush of people running for their lives. Unchecked cartel activity busy with an active land grab in Central America is creating a living hell for families throughout several countries. Economic & political instability leaves little room to survive, throw in a volcanic eruption, and there is little question, I too would leave my home.

It’s an unexpected horror as I look into what’s going on right next door to our country. I am visiting the same footprint we always go to in August. But this time, it’s different.

I cannot reconcile what I have seen and what I now know. I cannot un-know it. It is jarring.

The media has spoken about caravans of people, walls that are going to be built, and laws that are being broken. But this was not any of those things. I met people. I heard the stories. I fed the children. Could I not be one of these mothers had I not been born American?

A father hoping to gain asylum in the US was waiting for his court date with his children. The initial dates are 6 months out. At that time, they will be given another evaluation date several months out when their case will be decided. Every time a family with children is caught crossing illegally, they must be jump the line to meet new hearing deadline, thus pushing back the dates for those legally waiting to seek asylum. This, unfortunately, incentivizes those with children to cross illegally to be seen sooner. Considering half of the 8,000 refugees at the border are unaccompanied minors, it’s not hard to pick off a child to take across the river with you.

This particular father had driven a taxi in El Salvador. If he wanted to continue driving his taxi, he needs to pay the cartel that worked the city. He went home and was visited by a different cartel. If he wanted to be safe in his home he needed to pay them to remain there. While the local gang members were offering their protection services they eyed his children, and they said the oldest was big enough to start working for the cartel.

If you refuse the cartel, they kill you. It is their management philosophy. It encourages compliance.

If I were in that situation I would pay to protect my children. I would try to remain. Until that last proposition regarding my oldest. If I refuse, I am killed. If I remain, my son will be trained to do the killing. If I run, at least there is a chance of living. It may be a small chance, but there is a guarantee of death and devastation befalling my family, my children especially, if I do not run.

In my home, in comfortable Fort Thomas, I don’t fear. I have freedom to build a business, to work where I want. I am safe in my home, paying taxes to a government that pays my police officers. I don’t have to pay bribes to keep thugs from breaking in, to keep us from being murdered for disobeying, to keep my children from being forced into working for a crime syndicate.

How simple a freedom. I didn’t even know to be thankful for it because I didn’t know I lived it. Until I saw how others didn’t. How great the Lord’s mercy in my life. How great my bounty.

Turning 40 28/40

Door of Faith Orphanage has been a cherished trip in my kids’ hearts for the last several years. It’s an orphanage an hour south of San Diego in Mexico’s Baja Peninsula. Having stepped into American orphan care through the Kentucky foster care system, being in this orphanage is a layered experience for me. Under DJ & Lynette‘s leadership, DOFO has seen generational poverty, addiction and abuse broken. Their kids are welcome to stay as long as they are in school. They’ve even seen some on to graduate school, having teachers, lawyers and architects amongst the kids that grew up in DOFO. This is a best in class place to have any children, mine included.

My brother and sister first started visiting here in the 80s. Their friends, DJ & Lynette Schuetze, have been there for decades. DJ and my brother were roommates in Orange County, discovering their faith as 20-somethings, and then newlyweds at the same time. The love runs deep.

Peter first visited when he was 10 months old. My nephew Andrew was a wiley little guy a year younger than Peter is right now. This year, they discovered Pokemon stashed around La Mision, Tijuana & Rosarito (it got old) and plotted to eat quesadillas at every meal.

I need my children to live outside of the petri dish of designer shoes and dance recitals. In a social and political climate where there is so much accusation, I want my kids to have loved someone that was different than them. I want them to see different peoples, families, cultures and appreciate the value. It does not have to be what Americans, Murriners, Christians, etc have chosen to be good. We can even learn from those with whom we disagree. In order to have unity on a relational and national scale, this must come first. It is why we spend precious vacation days working in a Mexican orphanage.

Valle de Guadalupe (read: Mexico’s Napa Valley) is one plateau over. We spent our first morning hiking the 10 minutes up a peak to look over DOFO’s valley. That morning fog rolling in is a marker of the perfect wine making climate. The afternoons are hot in the sun, perfect for our daily dips into the Pacific with dolphin spotting at sunset. This year we also hit the tidepool jackpot- watching a crab fully molt, our own personal Nat Geo episode. We made meals for the kids in residence, did science projects, worked in Tijuana, and played- with the kids and with each other.

Our visits have a focus on relationship as much as service. We played soccer with the littles, taught the bakery loving teens how to make sourdough bread, built marshmallow guns, and ate at our favorite taco stands. We sit at the dining tables with the kids and fumble through Esplanglish with giggles and hand motions. It is embarrassing and sweet.

My kids are loved. They love others. I do work. I find rest. My heart fills. My cup runneth over.

Turning 40 33/40

The decades old septic system at the orphanage has finally met its end. It’s perfectly timed with our visit.

undefined As a result, we run out of water- some days earlier than others. Our drinking water is never at risk but our bathing, toilet and kitchen water is managed with drought mindset. My children now know California’s shortage protocol for potties- If it’s yellow, let it mellow; if it’s brown, flush it down.

We served hundreds of pancakes this morning then washed all the dishes in 6 inches of soap water and 4 inches of rinse water. We take showers where we turn off the spray all but 2 minutes of flow. To soak our body, turn it off while we soap, on for a rinse, off to conditioner and shave, on to rinse before hopping out fresh and clean.

Thinking of last week’s showers and my extra moments spent standing in a strong fount just for pleasure feels so decadent. So privileged. Entitled, even.

I can’t wait to flush my toilet paper again.

Turning 40 27/40

I read the book Boundaries in Dating when I was freshly into dating the boy that became my husband. It was what we talked about on our date nights while other folks in new relationships went mini golfing. We were pretty intentional from the first moments of romance. Maybe that’s because 7 days after our first date, that boy professed his love for me and his intention to marry me. What a weirdo. Turns out, I’m into it.

Now as a grown stinking woman trying to have healthy relational interactions- especially with those around me that have NEVER had a model for healthy relationships- I’m reading the book again in community with other book readers and boundary confused friends.

It has been pretty life changing for me. It has resulted in profound peace, freedom, lightness even. I see people around me getting all worked up and it’s clear to me it’s a boundary issue….they aren’t so keen on finding out about their issues, but that’s not my issue!!!

I saw my kids reacting to uncomfortable situations by slinging shame at each other. I knew they had learned that from me. I had to find a better way of managing my discomfort, identifying why I’m upset, define what I need, communicate it, and follow through on what I’ve said.

My disappointment in seeing myself, my brokeness, replicated in my children was a motivation. Now that I’ve learned some new skills with this life changing book, I’m hoping those will be replicated in the little people around me.

I’m so thankful I’m a work in progress.

Grateful for the Peace in the Wait

My freshest babe, just two years into feeling my arms around her, has chosen to leave the nest.

She’s a bona fide milk carton missing kid now.  I don’t know if it was her childhood traumatized brain, or if she felt oppressively controlled with a curfew, or if the lure of a Romeo & Juliet romance was so compelling, but she left for a dinner with her beau (against our wishes) and never came home.  

When the police officer stood up from my dining table after I shared our story and gave him her photo, I asked myself, Is this who I am now?  Someone who files missing person reports and alerts CPD’s human trafficking officer of our 17 yr old’s last known whereabouts?  Is this what I do? I use my private investigator skills to track her to an out-of-town bus station? We just had the best moments of our relationship this summer. I must have been mistaken to think our laughter and affection was authentic.

The truth is, I don’t know.  I don’t know what is true of us, because I don’t know what is true for her.  So I am choosing to dwell in what I do know is true.

She was the Lord’s child before she was ever mine.  He sees her. He knows where she is. He would leave the masses to go after her, his lost little sheep.  But he also respects her NO.  If she wants her will more than any other thing, the Lord will let her have what she wants.  He waits for us to ask for help. He waits for us to want Him. So I will also wait.

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:7 NIV

As I wait, I am thankful for God’s peace. I feel it guarding me from the terror that could immobilize in this situation.  I shouldn’t be able to sleep at night or function throughout the day, but I have a steadiness that makes no sense.  I am beyond grateful to dwell in a sense of wholeness instead of the fear of morgues and pimps and violence that wants my attention.

Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.

Philippians 4:6-7, The Message

Join me in letting petition and praise shape our worries into prayers.  Pray for a lost child, who may not think she is lost, to return back home. In the name of Jesus.

Turning 40 25/40

I lived in California for half of my elementary years. Both in So Cal, northeast of LA, and in No Cal, inland from San Francisco. I have funny memories of drought restroom protocol- If it’s yellow, let it mellow; if it’s brown, flush it down– and of the many playgrounds we toured as busy children living in gorgeous weather.

Ed (dad), Maryann, Mike, Linda, Jenny (mom), Peggy

I was homeschooled while we lived in California. My mom said that she lamented sending me to elementary school right when I got interesting, so she decided to keep me around for a little bit longer. It was a pretty great experience for me. My family speculates that this extra little time of nurturing may have given me self-confidence, an entrepreneurial spirit, and a comfort level with being an outlier that my siblings did not receive from their early childhood years.

On last year’s annual pilgrimage to our favorite orphanage we took a drive up the coast to see our childhood homeschool families. My parents & I circled up with as many as could make it, to celebrate and cherish the community as we had 30 years prior. This time, our backyard dinner included a new generation, but the laughter and life rang as true as it did in decades past.

Anya, Annie, Peggy, Becca, Jenny

The girls, whom in childhood, I had loved and wished were my sisters, continued to be beautiful and funny and so smart. Heart sisters among themselves. Nearly the entire crop of homeschoolers became educators, some with an eye on administration; all with an eye on changing lives. We looked at each other over breastfeeding and cocktails between conversations of spirituality and our shared childhood oddities- and realized- we were the ages of our mothers when they decided to all move in together, school together, and church together. We are them. How lucky am I to have ever had this? The luckiest. I’m so thankful my parents are weirdos. I’m so thankful they made their friends family as we traveled the country.

Turning 40 24/40

My practice of gratitude started this year when I needed to weaponize hope to battle against heart break that made me want to control those around me to stop the pain or keep it from happening again.

As you can imagine, that made life for those around me a living hell. They just saw that I was high strung, easy to scream, and they started to withhold information from me to avoid a blow up. Through divine serendipity, I received a gratitude journal from our oldest. The kids were let loose in Target and most came back with office supplies. 😍

Though office supplies (and chocolate chip cookies and airline tickets) are my love language- this was an unknown need I had. It has been the weapon I’ve used to beat back hopelessness. It is changing me.

Turning 40 23/40

Jim Drew

I was homeschooled for all my years in California. My mom was my daily teacher, my twin brother my classmates until I got so stir crazy I needed more people.

My first year in a public school classroom was 4th grade under the care of Yvonne Moss, 1988. I still remember sweet little things about that first year- names of my classmates, riddles on the chalkboard, hearing about french kissing on the playground, running into bullies for the first time, the curriculum and my projects. My first year at Bidwell Elementary was cut short with a move to Ohio 6 weeks before the end of the school year.  It was pretty heart breaking.

In a tender and uncommon turn of events, Ms Moss & I became pen pals.  We kept writing to each other.  For years.  

Elizabeth, Peggy, Lydia, Yvonne
Concord, CA
August 2018

I received postcards from her travels and whale watching trips. Over my childhood I would share about my activities and growing faith, which we came to share. She was faithful when I was slow to respond and I adored her adventurous spirit. Last fall we were able to see each other and spend an afternoon catching up. She gifted me the love of learning, the joy of receiving a hand written note, and a quiet but consistent layering of what it looked like to have a life well lived. She continues to live it well, and it was fun to live it with her for a day.

This year my twins enter fourth grade, Peter his first year in middle school, and Tearsa to college. I wish for each of them to have a single Yvonne Moss in their lives. What a gift that would be.

Turning 40 22/40

We were all hanging out in a church youth group where there was earnest pursuit for something more. We became friends with each other out of proximity and stayed friends for years that followed. When I think about the most sacred places in my heart during that coming of age era, Kara and Mary are tucked away in there.

Kara, Peggy, Mary, Michelle
Could this have been my bridal shower @ Mary’s newlywed home?

Mary and I spent so many years filled with fun and laughter, summer camps and lake houses. I stressed out her father to no end with my pitifully lacking manners and far too casual demeanor.

Kara had limited exposure to me because I was considered a bad influence over her. She became too loud, too outspoken, and too excitable after we spent time together. I loved those things about her.

In college I spent a summer in Colorado having a low grade nervous break down. It was my first time revisiting the death on my brother since he passed when I was 11 years old. I called Kara from Colorado because she had walked a road fraught with struggle and dark valleys, and had successfully continued on to mountain tops. I asked for her help that summer I was stranded in Fort Collins. I remember sitting in a hallway pay phone booth in a Colorado State sorority house when she said to me, “Peggy, sometimes things break and you don’t get to know why.”

Peggy & Kara
Celebrating the sale of my first business

It was the saddest, truest thing she could have said. There are no silver bullets to life and pain. There is persisting on, and sometimes you even get to receive the revelation of a problem’s root cause. And sometimes you don’t. But still, persist.

She is still so wise. And ever the beauty. She offers comfort, support, love, and no cheap answers. She is reliable counsel. Soon, it will be 30 years I’ve been able to count on her. She is flesh on bone mercy in my life. Still sacred in my heart.

Turning 40 21/40

How do you give word to something so powerful it’s beyond words? I have several gratitudes that begin with that sentiment. My most profound one I shall save for last. But this first I have, didn’t really bear its fruit until years after the hard work had been put in.

I was a know-nothing college freshman looking for a place to belong when I showed up at Thursday night meeting. There was a VHS hype video of women in rowing shells put to music and a buzz of energy in the air.

Peggy, Ellen, Mo, Midge, Erin, Liz, Allison
Cocoa Beach, FL Winter Training

The years on the women’s rowing team at The Ohio State University were mostly thankless. The sport has few races in a year and you could take 2,000 practice strokes for every race stroke. There was just so much work. And all of it was hard. I remember our weight room workouts would have you doing 200 reps to simulate a race duration. So while we were pouring sweat down our elbows repping out 200 bench pulls the golfers would walk the indoor track with their golf bags clacking every step of the way BECAUSE THAT WAS THEIR WORKOUT. Freaking golfers. Sissies.

My hands bled. My back seized. My shoulder tore. My lungs burned. One time I went out so hard on the rowing machine for so long, I vomited on myself & lost my vision, entering full delirium. Everyone else knew not to start out so hard. That was embarrassing. So was crying at practice all the time. I’ve learned I cry at pinnacle experiences- joy, sorrow, beauty, etc. It’s still not normal though.

All of those experiences were alongside my crew. As the years after graduation passed, some of us have found each other, and chosen each other again and again. We all knew each other when we were hopeful and foolish.

As the years have become decades, these women are like home to me.

Ellen, Molly
Mindy, Peggy, Jenni, Erin

My rowers are a safe place where I’m understood. I can share my wild spiritual adventures with Jesus and find wisdom in their experiences enduring suffering. I can speak of my latest foster care wounds and be understood by those who have navigated these paths ahead of me parenting special needs or responding first to profound community trauma. I am deeply loved here. I am appreciated for who I am. I am encouraged and affirmed in this sisterhood. They are so intelligent, accomplished, and overcoming. They are so impressive to me. And they love first. Always love.