Author: Aimee Fritz

Suck it In, Suck it Up

“Suck your belly in and stand up straight.” “Why, Mom?” “Because that’s how you put on dresses. Come on. Stand taller.” Once she was all zipped up I stood behind her and looked in the dressing room mirror. She was looking straight into my eyes, with the betrayal and wounding of someone who was just slapped in the face. I paused, but then chalked up her sourness to tween melodrama. I looked her up and down in the form-fitting black dress. “Wow. You look beautiful, honey! Like a woman!” She shrugged. “What? You don’t want it? You look fantastic!” “I don’t know, Mom! Okay? I don’t know what I like, or what I’m supposed to like, or what I’m supposed to look like. Just get the dress if you think that’s what I’m supposed to get. I don’t care. Can we be done?” She pulled her school uniform back on and left the dressing room. I held the black dress up over my tired outfit and turned side-to-side. I wished my body was as good …

I Want to Be Her

I am one of the women who unexpectedly cried watching Wonder Woman opening weekend. I fell asleep during every Avengers and X-Men movie for the past three years. I assumed this DC movie would have the same nap-triggering formula, but with Xena: Warrior Princess costumes. Then the beautiful, strong, united, Amazon women of Themyscira descended on the beach to fight invading German soldiers, unafraid and victorious. I didn’t wince, cringe, or worry while they were fighting, because they weren’t victims or reactors. They expected to win and they did. Maybe this is what men always feel like when they watch battle scenes, but for the first time I felt like I just won with them on that beach. Tears sprung into my eyes. What a proud, exhilariating moment! A tiny flame ignited in my heart. Later in the film, Diana Prince (Wonder Woman) climbs out of one of the trenches on World War I’s Western Front, determined to charge through No Man’s Land to liberate a village. She doesn’t look scared, make jokes, cross herself, or ask for help. …

Lying is Fun

Everyone at the crowded table was laughing. My cousins could hardly breathe. Their friends were throwing their heads back and clapping. I was beaming, almost standing on my chair, gesturing wildly, telling them all about what happened when a squirrel snuck into my sleeping bag at summer camp. It truly was a hilarious 20-minute story, fill of dialogue, descriptions, character development, suspense, plot twists, and a satisfying grand finale. But it wasn’t true. I had lived in fear of finding a squirrel in my sleeping bag at camp. I obsessed over it all week: imagining all the places he would accidentally bite me, how his fluffy tail would feel on my mud-caked legs, and how his chittering family members would cheer from the rafters. Would I scream and run, or freeze and slowly be nibbled to death? Would the pretty counselor come to my aid, or the mean one? What would my seven bunkmates do? I still worried about a squirrel attack when I got home, ripping back my sheets at night before bed. Then …

Ostinato

“For I have known them all already, known them all:  Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,  I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;  I know the voices dying with a dying fall  Beneath the music from a farther room.                 So how should I presume?” – T.S. Eliot – The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock The stack of purple and blue pill organizers crushed me. Seven doors on seven organizers, each filled with different vitamins and prescriptions. Open the seven doors, drop in the tablets and capsules, close the doors, empty them in little bowls for each person at breakfast. Every day. Every week. Every month. Every year. Maybe someday we wouldn’t need to take pills. Maybe someday would be different. But not today. I tossed the clothes in the dryer, filled the dishwasher, looked for my wallet, yelled for the kids to get their shoes on, and loaded the car. Maybe someday the kids would empty the dishwasher without breaking anything. Maybe someday my youngest would tie her shoes. Maybe someday would be …

Buried Bulbs and Prayers

[Published at (in)courage May 19, 2017] When I saw the lumpy bags of daffodil bulbs at the store I was skeptical. The eager garden center employee hovered nearby, so I asked her, “Is it worth all the kneeling, getting dirty, and waiting? Are flowers really going to come? Is there any guarantee?” She promised the bulbs would bloom. I bought four bags and rushed to pick up my kids from school. Before she even got in the car, I could tell my daughter was angry, like she always was these days. She saw her classmates doubled over laughing on the school lawn as we drove by. She crossed her arms and set her jaw. When we got home she slammed the car door and followed her siblings into the house. I stayed quiet in the driver’s seat. I knew she didn’t want to talk about it. She refused to pray or be prayed for. She despised my hugs. I sighed. I’d been praying for her for so long. Would it ever get better? I remembered …

Never Alone

Several years ago my sister and I ran away to Florida. We were both reeling from unexpected heartbreaks – my infertility, her disbanded circle of friends. We felt lonely and untethered. We didn’t know what to say anymore. But we could be together. And we could read books. Stacks of books. We read at the airport, beach, bookstores, coffeeshops, and in bed until we fell asleep. Sometimes reading passages to each other. Sometimes swapping books. One late, long drive we took turns reading short stories to each other. We forgot our regular lives and entered into fictional strangers’ new schools, first dates, secret obsessions, trespasses, and crimes. When we surfaced from that collection of stories, on that dark highway, our own lives felt different. I just finished Everbloom: Stories of Living Deeply Rooted and Transformed Lives, a collection of essays, stories, and poetry by the Redbud Writers Guild. This would be have been just the right book for that weekend away with my sister. We were both at a crossroads, longing for change, to be in different …

Six Different Ways to Be Beautiful

If you are looking for an article about crunches, the Whole 30, or eyelash lengtheners, this is not the piece for you. This is about being Brave. I bet you’re rolling your eyes. Is this going to be about “beauty on the inside”? Probably written by woman who could benefit from some airbrushing? Is she going to talk about our “good personalities” or how much “Jesus made us and loves us”? No thanks. I really am just going to talk about 6 Brave things I’ve done that make me feel more Beautiful, whole, and strong. I’ve been walking toward this kind of beauty for a long time, with lots of counseling, prayer, and reflection. I was flabbergasted to find my story written out by someone else. Lee Wolf Blum’s new book, Brave is the New Beautiful, is compelling, encouraging, and relatable. I read it cover to cover in one very long bath. I smiled and cried reading stories so similar to mine (and similar to yours, I guarantee it). There were 6 things I learned about being Brave, …

Six Different Ways to Go Home

After being chased all day by work deadlines, kid drop-offs, online and in-person misunderstandings, and perpetual obligations, I just want to go Home. Jen Pollock Michel, in her new book, Keeping Place: Reflections on the Meaning of Home writes, “we are hardwired for place and permanence, for rest and refuge, for presence and protection” (p. 33). That’s how I feel when I pull in the driveway for the the last time each day–it’s like lunging for base in game of tag. I’m safe. I’m Home.  I experience the hardwiring for Home in 6 different ways, some temporary, some satisfying, some internal, some external, sometimes all of them all in one day. 1. Home is Where I Keep My Stuff That’s the first layer – my stuff. It’s the collection of what I need, want, and what’s important to me. My bed. My special pillow. My selected foods put where I like in my cabinets. My wedding album. My books. My boxes of my kids’ keepsakes tucked away in the basement. My guest room where I can invite you to leave …

Love and Loss – a Comparison of Redeeming Ruth and Arrival

[Warning – this post contains spoilers for the 2016 movie Arrival and the brand new memoir Redeeming Ruth.]   Is it better to have loved and lost, than to have never loved at all?   I finally watched Arrival, the award-winning, thought-provoking alien movie, starring Amy Adams as a linguist who saves the world. In the beginning of the movie there’s a montage of Louise (Amy Adams’ character) and Hannah, her cherished child who becomes very ill and dies. Later we find out Louise is remembering/forseeing her child, and her fate, before she even becomes pregnant. She chooses the relationship that will create her daughter, and to bear and love her fully, even though she knows the the suffering and loss that lies ahead. I had just finished Meadow Rue Merrill’s powerful new book, Redeeming Ruth:Everything Life Takes, Love Restores. I couldn’t help weaving both stories together as I watched Arrival. Redeeming Ruth is a fresh, clear, beautifully written memoir about adoption, courage, special needs, provision, faith, hope, and suffering.  One day a beautiful toddler with cerebral palsy is placed into Ruth’s arms …

Sign of the Times

[Published on Evangelicals for Social Action 4/19/17] “I think I’ve changed my mind. I don’t think we should do this.” I bit my lip and put my hands in my pockets. “Don’t be nervous. Be proud. This is who we are,” my husband said. He’s used to my last-minute jitters. “What’s the point? Are we trouble-makers? Are we show-offs? I don’t know.” I glanced at the sign on the counter, threw my head back, and sighed. “Come on. Let’s do this.” He headed out the front door. That afternoon I had gone to Clarkston, Georgia with a friend of mine and all our kids to Refuge Coffee Co., the place we adopted during our Family Compassion Focus last year. I chatted with our resettled refugee friends working on the coffee truck, tried a new tea, bought some new mugs, and brought home a sign offered by World Relief Atlanta that said in clear black letters REFUGEES WELCOME HERE. But when I saw the sign in my trunk when we got home my stomach twisted. I have …

Home-Grown Liturgy

[Published on The Mudroom on 3/7/17] It all started when the priest’s wife hugged me under the tall trees in my front yard and gave me her secret recipe to make Church of the Great Shepherd’s communion bread. Even though I wasn’t ordained, didn’t have a fancy robe, and didn’t own a Book of Common Prayer, I was invited to be a part of the sacrament and splendor of our young Episcopal church. Unshowered in yesterday’s workout clothes I whisked warm milk and honey together, rolled dough on my floured kitchen table, cut circles with a biscuit cutter, and marked crosses on each round with a serrated knife.   My bed-headed twins followed me to the oven in their footie pajamas. “Mama, is that bread?” “Yep. Bread for Jesus. For communion. We remember Jesus loves us when we eat communion bread.” “Mama, can we have that bread today?” “This bread is for church tomorrow, bunnies.” When the timer went off I held my toddlers back with one hand and opened the oven with the other. …

Still Waiting by Ann Swindell

I’m not good at waiting. I rip open the new bag of chips in the Kroger parking lot, love reading spoilers for TV season finales, weave in and out of the fast lane, and almost die waiting for my kids to get to the point of whatever story they’re telling. I’m definitely not good at waiting for big, important things. I writhed, groaned, swore, cried, doubted, and yelled at God in the hard, long seasons of waiting before I finally recovered from a car accident, finally got pregnant, and finally popped the champagne when my husband got a new job. I’m still waiting for lots of things. I’m back in physical therapy for a running injury and back in counseling for heartaches. A beloved friend might be on the verge of finally beating her decades-long illness. My kids pray everyday for me to stop being allergic to dogs so they can get one. We can’t find a church that nourishes and challenges us. Sometimes I’m not sure if I’m supposed to change my prayers or just give up …

I Confess: I Don’t Want Donuts

[Published on the Redbud Post on 4/1/17] Last weekend, I had eleven 12-year-old boys in my basement for a youth retreat. It was chaotic, gross, and perfect. We heard unhindered laughing, chasing, yelling, and body noises through two floors and closed doors. The leaders talked straight about God and good choices. Our doorbell rang at all hours, announcing the arrival of more volunteer drivers, youth mentors, and meal makers from the church. My son glowed with testosterone and belonging. On Sunday afternoon, I pulled on a hazmat suit and headed down the basement stairs to survey the damage. I picked up Slim Jim® wrappers, vacuumed millions of chip crumbs and rainbow Nerds candy, and looked away gagging when it came time to clean the toilet. But the entire time I smiled to myself and thanked God. This retreat was so much better than the last one. * * * When we moved to a new state a couple years ago, we knew we needed to find a church right away. We were deeply invested in the …

Long Days of Small Things – World Changer Wednesday

“Long Days of Small Things is a book that looks at the real life work we do in our everyday lives, and finds God right there in the midst of it. We think of spirituality as something that happens in our minds, in silence. We are taught that our bodies, our mess and complications and noise hold us back from being with God. That doesn’t leave a lot of hope for moms, whose pregnant or post-partum bodies, newborns, toddlers, and van-full of carpool kids have no end of loud, messy, physical, chaotic needs.” – Catherine McNiel

Same Home Different House

“Mom, are you mad?” She handed me another stack of dirty plates. “I just don’t agree, hon. I don’t think it’s true.” I took the plates and glanced up quickly to her earnest eyes. “Mom, it’s who I am. Don’t you see it? It totally makes sense.” She picked up a handful of  dirty silverware. Of course I saw it. In the clothes she wore, the books she read, the memes she laughed at. Her identity had been uncoiling in front of us for months. It scared me. “Honey, you’re in 6th grade! I think it’s, like, a phase, you know? I don’t think you have to make a declaration for your whole life right now.” I scrubbed a platter with anxious vigor. “Mom. Don’t tell me I’m going to outgrow it. This is who I am.” She stopped clearing the table and looked at me. “Honey, please. It can’t be true. Why would anyone choose that for themselves?” I looked down at the sink. “Mom, I didn’t choose it. It’s how I’m made.” I turned off the …

Our 2017 Family Compassion Focus

I finished 2016 bone weary. After several weeks of intentionally wringing joy, welcome, service, compassion, and celebration out of our days I was exhausted. We hosted 4 big parties, 7 family members for 8 days, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Years Eve. We deepened a lot of relationships and reignited our vision as a family. We laughed, vacuumed, and ate a lot. It was totally worth it. On the way to school the morning after we hosted 18 people from my husband’s work team for dinner, my kid prayed, “Thank you, God, that we could have a party in our house last night. Thank you that everyone seemed happy and had fun. Thank you that we are getting back to normal. I like it. Amen.“ Amen. I liked it, too. But I could not imagine summoning the meal prep, parenting expertise, negotiating tactics, spiritual soft-heartedness, and joy necessary for one more day. 2017 loomed large and daunting. This is our 7th year choosing a Family Compassion Focus. It’s become our tradition, our habit, our liturgy …

Comparison Game

[featured on Perissos 11/23/16] My first job out of college was at a Chicago homeless shelter. They provided drop-in services on cold winter nights and a year-round residential program for recovering homeless addicts. I did donor relations and lived in a crowded apartment above the shelter. I was invited to hang out with the residents whenever I wanted, including daily breakfast downstairs before work. Every morning, 13 residents would get up from the tables to form a circle in the warm cloud of Cook Lula’s spicy potatoes and onions. The tallest resident would boom, “Hook up the cables! I need a jump start!” We joined hands and closed our eyes. They thanked God for their warm beds and the roof over their heads. They thanked God for Mr. Jay and Mr. Brian teaching them how to stay clean and get jobs. Then one morning one man earnestly prayed, “I thank you, God, for the use of all my limbs.” Everyone nodded, murmured, and moaned their agreement. Never, ever in my life had I passionately thanked …

Zoe’s Visit to See “Refuge: An Exhibit by Photographer Ezra Millstein”

This essay was written by my daughter, Zoë Fritz, after spending an evening in Clarkston, Georgia, in October, 2016.  I got to see Refuge: An Exhibit by Photographer Ezra Millstein on Saturday, October 22. They filled the old Refuge Coffee Company garage with 20″ x 30” photographs. There was Middle Eastern music and food. There were people from many different countries in one room. I can’t believe I got to talk with the photographer! Ezra Millstein is the International Photographer for Habitat for Humanity.  I asked him if the parents of the children he wants to take pictures of say “No, you can’t do that.” He said that doesn’t usually happen. He said that kids love the camera and their parents want people to know what they’re going through. He has a 5 month old daughter and wonders if that’s why he’s been taking pictures of so many other daughters around the world. I really liked the piece with the man looking out his tent towards his old home. I’m sad he lost his home. I …

Mary’s Socks – World Changer Wednesday

Last October we featured World Changer, Mary Reczek. She’s a little girl in Wheaton, Illinois who set a goal to collect 800 socks for SOCKTOBER. But she received 1370(!), and with plenty of October left to go, she upped her goal to 2000(!). Last year Mary received 2635 pairs of socks for Chicago’s homeless! After that, Mary, and her brothers, Charlie, and Sam, went with World Changer Warrior Gayle Bloink several times into the city to feed, clothe, and pray with the homeless there.  The socks lasted almost an entire year. Because they had so many socks generously donated  last year, they were able to always have socks with them when they brought food on Saturdays. The socks were almost more important than the food!  So many homeless friends have come to hope for socks each week. It is difficult to turn them away.  Mary hated when she would run out on any given week. So for Mary’s birthday this year she would like to collect **3000 pairs of socks** for Chicago’s homeless by 10/31/16. (Here is …

The Stupid Cupcakes

[featured at The Mudroom 10/20/16] He found me lying there on the ground, spread eagle in dirty yoga pants, my back brace, and an apron. The TV sounded faint and tinny in the basement where the kids ran and hid when I started yelling. “What happened, honey? Are you okay?” Chris rushed to my side. “I can’t do this. Why are we doing this? I don’t want to do this anymore.” “How many cupcakes did you make today?” he sighed. “264. But I need 300. I miscounted. I have to make more for that damn baseball team. I promised.” “Why did you promise to make 300 cupcakes? We can’t do that.” “We’re doing it for ORPHANS! Because God loves orphans! Remember?! They have a crappy life and no parents and big diseases and we can’t even make cupcakes! We suck!” He pulled me up and hugged me. “Aim. You can’t keep doing this. We don’t have an industrial kitchen. We don’t have a staff. We have a tiny 90 year old kitchen and really intense …

The Long Family – World Changer Wednesday

I met Mary Beth years ago. We were both going through soul-crushing infertility. Our friendship was a gift from God in that long, hard season. We kept each other laughing and praying as we shared the absurdities, humiliations, disappointments, and hopes of trying to have babies. We desperately wanted to be mothers. Oh, how I thanked God not to go through all that alone! If you told us we’d have 6 six between us we would not have believed you. I love Mary Beth’s frank common sense, strong faith, and contagious humor. You’ll love reading how this led her family to a brand new, exciting, life-changing adventure. Hi Mary Beth, please tell us about your family! Carter, 12: Our first born. A miracle because there was a time we thought we would never be able to have children. He is funny, witty and has a heart of gold. He is as wise as an 80 year old man and can make you laugh as hard as you did when you were a kid. Mary Grace, 10: She …

Crows

Once I was held prisoner in my room for 10 weeks. Preterm labor demanded bedrest if I wanted to give my unborn babies a chance. I lived in fear of losing them. I also lived in fear of crows. ***** Almost every day of my bedrest crows came to haunt me. They curled their talons and straightened their black cloaks on the bare winter branches outside my window. They stared in my room with sinister eyes and cawed menacingly. I trembled. There was no roadkill in my room for them to eat. Whose death were they waiting for? Were they circling over the twins I was desperately trying to grow inside my huge belly? Did they think my babies weren’t going to make it? Did they know something I didn’t? One day I couldn’t take it anymore. I untangled myself from the contraction monitor, subcutaneous terbutaline pump, long white compression socks, and twisted blankets and heaved myself out of bed. I punched at the window with one hand and guarded my babies with the other. “Go …

No One is the Boss of Us

You know how to light a match, don’t you? I looked up at her and lied. She gave me the book of matches and watched me slowly draw the bud against the scratch. She grabbed it back, You’ve got to go fast, see? Boom! Zip! She laughed and gave me the lit match with her brown wrinkled hands. Put it in that hole there. See the flames? You just lit the grill! Now you can cook steakettes whenever you want. I confidently dropped the frozen patties from the butcher paper onto the grate. Little girls aren’t allowed to touch matches. please continue reading at You Are Here Stories [This story was featured at  You Are Here Stories 10/11/16.] Related Posts: The End of Pretending – my secret questions about faith were answered in the Psalms The Waves – 20 Years of Marriage – my secret beliefs about myself threatened to ruin us ©Aimee Fritz & Family Compassion Focus, 2016.

Jodie Kitchens – World Changer Wednesday

What if you wake up one morning and realize you’ve been only listening to your brain, and not your heart? What do you do? How do you start something new? I have come to know Jodie Kitchens through the magic of Facebook and our shared love for Haiti Partners. She is intelligent, passionate, fierce, hard-working, and from what I can tell, inexhaustible! After decades in corporate financial services, she joyfully changed her focus toward active compassion. I love her story. I’d love to hear what resonates with you! Thank you for being with us, Jodie! Please introduce yourself! My heart is all about “Helping Families in Crisis While Having Adventures and Learning.” About 2 ½ years ago, I had my moment. On a hillside near Fort Jacques,in Haiti, I reached my limit and sent my son James and Haiti Partners Director John Engle on up the hill to our original destination of a fort. As I sat, I watched the ants and a lizard go about their day, then I heard church singing waft through …

The Home Inspector

[featured on Perissos 10/7/16] I thought we were going to live there forever. But a week after the new windows were finally installed my husband took a new job across the country. After crying for days about leaving our best friends and favorite grocery stores, I focused all my energy on selling our beloved 90-year-old home. We went room by room, writing down 63 things that needed to fixed and finished before we could sell it. The hole in the wall where my son smashed the doorknob every day. The moldy splotch on the ceiling where the tub above leaked. The bent screen door. The missing rungs on the back porch. The peeling paint. We spent our weekends and evenings working on that list. Tacking up pieces of trim, painting over scratches and stains on the walls, replacing mirrors. We couldn’t fix it all, but we tried. We sold the house very quickly to great buyers with no legal or financial issues. All that was left was the Home Inspection. They say that Home Inspectors …

Dr. Jamie Aten – World Changer Wednesday

I am so thankful for the timing and content of this World Changer Wednesday post. We’re all watching Hurricane Matthew. It’s ravaging the Caribbean, and we are bracing for impact in the southeastern US. What a gift we can feature Dr. Jamie Aten, the Founder and Co-Director of the Humanitarian Disaster Institute. Jamie survived Hurricane Katrina and late-stage cancer. He is an expert on serving those going through trauma and disaster. He teaches, speaks, travels, serves, and writes. I’m so grateful he’s here to share his personal story, big ideas, and practical resources for coping with personal and natural disasters. Please tell us about yourself, Jamie! I am a disaster psychologist, author, and speaker. I help others cultivate faith and resilience amidst personal, mass, and humanitarian disasters. I don’t just study disasters—I have lived disasters. I am a Hurricane Katrina and a late-stage cancer survivor in remission. I channel these experiences into helping others live more resiliently and into helping churches minister more effectively. I hold an endowed research professorship and help train clinical psychology doctoral students at …

Heroes or Neighbors?

(featured on Evangelicals for Social Action September 13, 2016) “So what does this have to do with refugees?” I asked my kids at breakfast. “I don’t know. Maybe the naked part?” my son offered. “He’s naked? That’s what ‘stripped him of his clothes’ means? He’s lying naked on the road all beat up?!” my youngest daughter asked, shocked. “Yeah, it makes me think of those people washed up on the beach. The ones trying to get away from ISIS,” my oldest daughter thought aloud. I swallowed hard. We were reading the Good Samaritan story for clues about how God might want us to treat refugees for our Family Compassion Focus this year. This graphic imagery wasn’t on a webpage or TV news; it was in the Bible. That day we weren’t going to rush past the hard parts of the Jesus’ teaching. We were going to stop and stay there all summer, copying and memorizing every word, reciting them to each other in silly voices to make it stick, and asking each other what it really means. “Why do you think …

CAC – World Changer Wednesday

Are you compassionate? I’m not. My heart doesn’t naturally bend toward suffering with other people. My heart bends towards whatever is going to make my life better in that moment. For me, compassion is an often hard choice, that through years of slow practice, I’m learning to make more often. I started making these choices after a long season of reflection, contemplation, and yes, counseling, under the big fat umbrella of God’s grace. Because only there I can bear to see the true state of my own heart, and my own aching need for others to be compassionate with me. My friend Sam recently completed an official program for spiritual formation. Once I heard he graduated I pounced and asked if he would share some of the things he learned, and how they could help us all be more compassionate. I’m so thankful he was willing to do it. In the interview below Sam generously and bravely shares the who, what, when, where, how and why of his journey toward contemplation and action, and how that might help us …

The Waves – 20 Years of Marriage

One hot night in late July, a few weeks before our wedding, 20 years ago, I could hardly look at my handsome fiancé at dinner. He was happily talking about our new apartment, new jobs, and our honeymoon. I was trying to keep my food, and my long-held secret, down. He grabbed my hand, rubbed it with his calloused thumb, raised his eyebrows, and said, “You okay, Aim?” I felt the waves crash hard. Me:  “I don’t think I can do this.” Chris:   “Do what?” Me:  “Get married.” C:  “What do you mean?” Me: “I don’t think it’s a good idea for me to get married. I’m a lot of work. I don’t take very good care of myself, so I know I wouldn’t take very good care of you. I really don’t think I should get married.” C: [Silence] His face went gray and slack, he searched my eyes and then the floor. He listened to me repeat sorrowful variations of “it’s not you, it’s me.” After a couple minutes he said he …

Seeking Refuge – World Changer Wednesday

Every time there’s another terror attack, my primal fears are flared up. I do a quick security screening on my life: doors=locked kids=safe neighborhood=safe poverty level of my town=low everyone around me=looks like me travel plans=none closest mosque=don’t know Then I breathe easier and thank God that I live an ocean away from ISIS. I’m not proud of it. But I do think this way. Some people don’t get to live an ocean away from ISIS. Some people live in the nightmare of ISIS or Boko Haram or thousands of other places where evil and power and terror are the norm. They are literally dying, running for their lives, or dying trying. I might think, “O God, help them! Tell me what to do!” And then I think right after that, “Thank God my life’s not like that. Thank you for keeping me safe.”  I’m not proud of it. But I do pray this way. This year one part of our Family Compassion Focus is learning more about refugees. It hasn’t been easy. One of my kids …

My Body Tells the Truth

[featured on Perissos 7/11/16] My oldest friend was my biggest fan. She ran ahead to prepare the way for me. She’d say, “Have you seen Aimee? She’s so skinny!” Or “Isn’t Aimee cute? Those freckles!” Or “You can’t make red hair like that in a salon, you know!” She made people want to like me before I even met them. She made life easier. Then she got mean. I heard she gossiped and turned people against me. “Have you seen Aimee? She looks pregnant!” And “Why is Aimee so shiny? Is she sweating? Ew.” And “She definitely doesn’t look like someone who runs a lot.” I kept my head down in shame. I hated her. I wanted nothing to do with her. I cringed and curled into myself. I’m a rational and forgiving friend. When problems come I’m not afraid to address them, get the bottom of them, seek forgiveness, and extend forgiveness. But betrayal is different. This terrible old friend is My Body. She betrayed me. I believe it’s My Body’s job to defend, …

Por Que Parei de Orar por Meus Filhos

Algumas pessoas oram como um poeta. Se expressando radiantemente todas as grandes coisas que o Amado de sua alma tem feito. Seu amor é mútuo e glorioso. É dramático e florido, com gemidos e suspiros. Eu já orei assim, quando meu bebê bem gordinho sorriu para mim, e quando eu flagrei meu marido dando uma olhada em mim enquanto estava do outro lado da sala. Algumas pessoas oram como um inquilino, deixando ‘recadinhos’ na porta da casa do proprietário. Eles “reviram” os olhos quando algo não funciona, sabendo que sempre que o dono chegar ao problema, vai ser tarde demais. Eles o espera vir com cheiro de cigarros e com um rolo de fita adesiva, mas normalmente, no fim eles acabam consertando o problema sozinhos. O que imaginam ser o que o proprietário estava esperando que eles fizessem. Eu já orei assim, quando o câncer da minha amiga não se curou, e quando o divórcio do meu amigo foi finalizado. Algumas pessoas oram como uma criança, pedindo coisas grandes com grandes olhos inocentes. Eles pedem …

Being the Best Blessing EVER

[featured on Perissos 7/6/16] I distinctly remember walking into a dentist appointment thinking, “I want to be this hygienist’s favorite patient ever.” I already flossed and brushed my teeth, gargled, and blotted my lipstick. I smiled broadly, asked and answered questions, complimented her technique, and thanked her for her hard work. I left with a new toothbrush and a sense of accomplishment. Before I went home to cook the best dinner ever for my husband and friends, I interacted with the cashier at the store, tollbooth attendant, and neighbor the same way. I did everything I could to be the best customer, toll-payer, and neighbor they ever had. I wondered if they would go home and tell their families, “You’ll never believe how great this lady was today!” For my husband’s birthdays I would brainstorm a million ways to show him lavish love. I’d cover all 5 Love Languages – big gift, very long letter full of loving words, celebratory physical touch, sacrificial service, and lots of uninterrupted quality time. There could be no doubt I was a …

Refuge Coffee Company – World Changer Wednesday

Refugees get a lot of airtime these days. We’ve all seen the pictures of the overcrowded rafts and dead children washed on shore. We hear about what governments open their doors to them, and which ones have them tightly shut. We hear about Muslims, immigration, and walls all the time in this year’s unfortunate election jibber jabber. It’s a lot to figure out. Are refugees scammers? Just looking for better opportunities in better countries? Are refugees victims? Running for their lives from crazy leaders in hard places. Are refugees uneducated fools? Draining every person, place, and organization they encounter? Are refugees undercover sleeper agents? Slowly weaseling their way into our country to eventually destroy us? When we talk about refugees at our house, we talk about them as people. Refugees are people. They are dads that want their little girls to be safe. They are mamas grieving their dead sons. They are little kids that like toys and candy and are afraid of bad guys. Like all humans they need food, water, and shelter to survive. …

I’m Batman

[featured on Perissos 6/22/16] I really wanted to be Wonder Woman. I dreamed that I would have (and fill out) that shiny, patriotic bathing suit, use a magic lasso on bad guys, and marry Superman. I would pilot my invisible jet over the ocean or just ride on my super husband’s back through the sky. We would stop all evil and look good doing it. Then I outgrew my underoos, went to college, got married, and got a job. My husband is fantastic, but he cannot fly. I pilot a minivan instead of a crime-fighting invisible jet. My kids are obsessed with comic books. About 50% of our conversations are about superpowers, supervillains, ridiculous scenarios, and epic battles. Their favorite characters are mutants, stars of ancient mythology, aliens, or lab experiments gone wrong. But my favorite is Batman. It’s not just because he’s an introvert with depression (like me). Or because he has a dark anger that sometimes makes justice look like revenge (like me). I like Batman because he has zero superpowers (like me). I tell …

Slow Kingdom Coming – World Changer Wednesday

One of my favorite people is Kent Annan. I’ve known Kent for 21 years, since we were living in Europe doing things like serving refugees, doing economic development, and managing bed and breakfasts. One night he was tasked with keeping me, my mom, and my sister busy while Chris (his BFF) asked my dad for my hand. He was a good sport. Kent delights in empowering and connecting people with humility, grace, and good humor. He does this as a friend, author, and co-Director of Haiti Partners. He was the one we called with the earthquake hit Haiti in 2010. He was the reason our family first experimented with compassion. He has walked along side us and cheered us on from the very beginning. Kent’s newest book, Slow Kingdom Coming, gripped my heart when I read it last winter. I strongly resonate with the vision, hope, and 5 Practices he shares. He talks honestly about how hard it is to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly. But instead of that being an excuse or a deterrent, he …

FREE Family Tool Kit

Change takes time. I love watching turn-around shows because they give the satisfaction of a total transformation in less than an hour. It skips most of the slog and waiting and indecision, highlights one problem, offers a valiant solution, and then ta-da! The house, kitchen, hoarder’s room, bride, or dowdy dresser is now brand new. It’s addictive. I want that quick change everywhere, and get mad when it doesn’t happen. I went to counseling hard core for 9 years and still have flaws. My kids still think toothbrushing is optional. My marriage is still the safest and hardest thing I know. My faith is full of gaps. It’s even harder when I think about the world. Will refugees ever stop dying at sea? Will ISIS ever be thwarted? Will homelessness end? Will there always be orphans, dirty water, jails, and sex trafficking? I can’t take it. My kids can’t take it either. And that’s why we started having a Family Compassion Focus every year. We want to be World Changers. We want to “defend the weak and the …

New Girl

[featured on Perissos 6/3/16] I think I finally found a new church. I’ve been searching for a long time. I need a place where people accept me unconditionally, even when I make huge mistakes and have bad ideas. And thank God I found it. Right in front me. Right here on Hulu. It’s the TV show New Girl. One night my husband turned on a show with some woman in little girl/old lady dresses talking dramatically to three/four really immature guys. They all lived in a big loft together. I rolled my eyes. “Nope. This show looks lame.” He said, “I really think you would like it, but okay.” He turned it off. A couple months went by. The only things left in the queue were some documentaries we’re never going to watch. So my husband suggested New Girl again, and I relented. I laughed so hard. My husband smiled knowingly. We watched all five seasons. It is the story of the “adorkable” school teacher, Jess, and her three or four male roommates. Nick is the unkempt bartender …

The Luggage

One hot summer day, after swimming lessons and before an afternoon at the Art Institute of Chicago, we went to our homeless shelter. The parking lot was packed. I was wearing a short black dress, had my makeup, nails, and hair done. My kids were in clean clothes with hair still wet from the pool. We parked our shiny new minivan, looked around, and pulled out 7 suitcases. I strapped the hanging bags on my shoulders and carried two smaller ones, the big kids pushed two giant rollies, Greta dragged a bag. We lugged them across the soft asphalt and got in line at the front door. I took a deep breath in the hot sun. I whispered to the kids, “Be kind. Be polite. Do not touch each other or fight. Smile at everyone.” They looked around, a little scared. An old guy with a dirty shirt and beard blocked the doorway with his big belly. Two little girls with black pigtails and turquoise shorts giggled under a tree. Lots of tall skinny guys in undershirts …

Legion

[featured on Perissos, 5/18/16] The story of Legion gives me nightmares. It’s about a naked, bleeding, demon-possessed man with super-human strength, who lives in a cemetery, intentionally cuts himself with stones, and haunts the region with his screams. I think Legion looks like Sasquatch, the Hulk, and Satan all mixed together. In my dreams I walk toward the hillside at night, and I want to help him. I want to take him to a homeless shelter where he can get a shower, a meal, and a bed. I want to drive him to the ER and have someone look at his open wounds. I want him to get transferred to the Psych Ward. I want to give him a fresh start. I walk up the hill in the moonlight driven to find him. When he jumps out from behind a stone my adrenaline surges. I see his crazed eyes, long, matted hair, and gray teeth. I see his naked skin smeared with months of dirt and blood. I see deep scars from all his self-harm, …

2013 – World Changer Wednesday

I’m really missing the clarity, vision, purpose, and excitement our family had in 2013. Our experiments with World Changing became Heart Changing. And Home Changing. My husband, Chris, wrote about it for Dave Ramsey’s website. I re-read it this morning and got happy tears all over again. [Featured on daveramsey.com 12/17/13] Giving Lemon:Aid for Change All Christmas season, we’ve been writing and demonstrating ways to “give hope.” And people like Chris Fritz, a father of three, have done an incredible job of showing just how to do that.  Inspired by Blood:Water Mission’s goal to provide fresh water to children in Africa, Chris, his wife Aimee, and their children opened a lemonade stand as a way to raise money for that cause. They were blown away by what happened next.  “So what are we going to choose for our ministry focus for 2013?” It was a seemingly innocent question asked by my then 8-year-old daughter during last year’s Christmas Eve dinner. In 2012 we’d decided to help expand the kids worldview by picking a global issue—researching, discussing …

Literally?

[featured on Perissos 5/9/16] Every morning before I went to the bus stop, my mom would walk me to the front door in her zip-up gray robe, smelling of coffee, and start this conversation: Mom: “What can you do, Aimee?” (big smile) Me: “All things.” (sigh and eye roll) Mom: Through who?” Me: “Jesus.” (another sigh) Mom: “That’s right! You can do all things today! Do you have your armor on?” Me [?] Yes. Mom: Do you have your sword and breastplate? Me [?] Yes. Mom: Good! Love you! Have a good day. (big hug) Me: Bye. I didn’t understand any of that. I knew I couldn’t do “all things.” I couldn’t speak French or jump rope. I didn’t have x-ray vision or know how to make the flying carpet I ached for. There were dozens of things I wanted to do every day that I couldn’t. Poor Mom, she didn’t know what she was talking about. For years when she asked me if I had “my breastplate,” I thought she was asking if I …

Robins

Greta called out “Mama?” from her crib in the back of the house. We greeted each other with smiles and outstretched arms, like long lost lovers, before I carried her out to the front porch. She felt warm and soft and smelled of apples. We looked for our early morning creature friends from the white rocking chair. She stood on my thighs, squealing. I could feel her toes through her footie pjs. She pointed and I called out the animals: “That’s a squirrel: zip-zip! That’s a dog: hi puppy! That’s a bunny: hop hop! That’s a robin: God is Good!” I felt intense attachment to those round mama birds hopping in our dewy grass. I couldn’t believe they could stand up with the heaviness of the babies they carried. Most days I could barely stand up either. The robins made me feel like God was on our side. We heard the twins come downstairs and went inside. The robins moved to the backyard while we ate breakfast. They were on the branches, fence, patio furniture, and …

The 9 Arts of Spiritual Conversations – World Changer Wednesday

When I met John Crilly (aka “Crilly”), he was hosting a loud party at his house. I think he had one of his hats on, and was smiling so big it made my face hurt. Whenever someone would walk in the front door he would shout something like, “HEY EVERYBODY! IT’S PETE AND WENDY DAVIS!” And everyone in the room would cheer. He did this for hours. Crilly is a really touchy feely extrovert who is energized meeting new people and doing new things. He’s up for anything. But he’s also up for getting quiet if you have have a question or need to talk. My kids like to FaceTime him to tell him jokes about boogers. He’s a safe place. Crilly will share his big heart to give you the joy, safety, and attention you need in that moment. That’s why I’m not surprised he was a part of writing The 9 Arts of Spiritual Conversations. His passion for all kinds of people, for Jesus, for hope, and healing has been hard won, and it’s infectious. Hey …

I Stopped Praying for My Kids

Some people pray like a troubadour. Beaming about all the great things the Lover of their Soul has done. Their love is mutual and glorious. It’s dramatic and flowery, stomach flips and sighs. I’ve prayed like that, when my chubby baby smiled up me, and when I caught my husband looking at me from across the room. Some people pray like a tenant, leaving post-its on the landlord’s door. They roll their eyes whenever something breaks, knowing that whenever the scruffy, absent ex-con gets to it, it’ll be too late. They wait for him to come over smelling like cigarettes with a roll of duct tape, but normally end up fixing it themselves. Which is what the landlord was hoping for anyway. I’ve prayed like that, when my friend’s cancer didn’t get healed, and when my friend’s divorce was finalized. Some people pray like a child, asking for big things with big innocent eyes. They ask from the safe place on their daddy’s shoulders. Daddy is always patient and trustworthy. He can fix anything, and he …

The End of Pretending

[featured on Perissos 4/25/16] I was a cynical child. I read the encyclopedia and analyzed comic strips in the Sunday paper. I observed adults and memorized their conversations. I typically spoke out of the corner of my mouth in what relatives called my “ventriloquist voice.” I didn’t like church. The sweet incense and sticky pleather olive green kneelers were annoying. I didn’t like how the priest did that half-singing about communion at the altar. I didn’t want to read a public prayer about loving God when I didn’t even know him. What was so great about God anyway? Then my mom started talking about Jesus all the time, like he was her best friend or something. I couldn’t believe we had to start going to church twice on the weekends – Saturday night mass to keep our grandmas happy and Sunday morning megachurch to keep our parents happy. I didn’t like Kids Praise and Music Machine always playing loudly at home. So much smiling in those songs. Those happy bible verse lyrics invaded my best ideas. I tried to block them by …

Dawn Waters Baker – World Changer Wednesday

I meet God in art. When I don’t want to say or pray, when I can’t articulate the questions or joy in my heart, Art has been my sacred translator. I feel known, understood, and not alone when I encounter beauty on a canvas or carved in stone. I buy the postcards, calendars, and coffee table books of my favorites artists and their work. I use them when I pray. They help me listen and speak to God. I first saw Dawn Waters Baker’s work on Facebook. Scrolling on through the people’s quiz results and baby pictures on my feed, Dawn’s grand, majestic work stopped me. My heart raced, and then quieted. I knew I should pay attention. I was beckoned to stop my rush and contemplate the night sky on my screen. I got lost in the colors. Then the scene. Then the Creator of it all. I whispered worship at my kitchen counter, “thank you, God.” I asked Dawn if I could feature her and her work on World Changer Wednesday because her work …

A Wrinkled Mess

[featured on Perissos 3/23/16] Yesterday I decided to Spring-clean our bedroom, which included stripping the entire bed and washing the king sized duvet cover. When I pulled it out of the dryer it was a wrinkled mess. I declared, “I’m going to iron the duvet cover.” My husband looked up concerned and said, “You’re going to iron? Are you sure?” It’s been a long time since I ironed. Years. I don’t think my kids have ever seen me do it. Ain’t nobody got time for that. We send my husband’s shirts to the cleaners and buy wrinkle-free clothes for everyone else. I pulled down the squeaking legs of my ancient ironing board and blew dust off the bottle of starch. I turned the iron on. I looked for the seams hidden in the yards of fabric. The geometric pattern was all jumbled under the long wrinkles. Slowly I laid a section over the board and ran my hand over the cool fabric. I felt the heat from the iron. I shook and sprayed the starch. …

MOPS + Sole Hope – World Changer Wednesday

When I had young children I was in lockdown mode most of the time. I didn’t want to gather with other moms and hear their own crying babies, chronic fatigue, and familiar complaints. All I wanted was silence and alone time. I regret that now. I wish I would have taken up one of the dozens of offers to join playgroups, story times, or MOPS. I think I would have found the understanding and revitalizing courage I needed. Last month I got to visit two MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) groups in California. These moms show up to hear and serve each other with empathetic grace. They show up wearing, nursing, shushing, and smiling at their babies. They show up hungry to gather and grow. I was moved by their persevering love. One of the moms, named Stephanie, was introducing a service project to MOPS called “Sole Hope.” It sounded great! I wanted to hear how the project went, so I asked for her contact info. I texted her right away from the plane, “Taking off. …