Sunday, August 18, 2019

I am a False Prophet

Worriers are false prophets.

I am a false prophet. I am constantly predicting things that don't come true.

I think about my husband dying and how I would possibly be able to raise these children by myself. I think about my children's choices and imagine them on the street or behind bars or in my basement (supposing I have a basement). I think about waking up to my house on fire. I think about the economy failing. The government failing. The airplane failing. Myself failing.

I wake up in the middle of the night and think about how miserable I'll feel the next day if I don't get back to sleep. I think about about whether I will make the wrong decision, about whether I already did make the wrong decision, about whether I said the wrong thing or wrote the wrong thing or offended him or hurt her. 

Contemplating these things isn't necessarily a bad thing, if all I was doing was contemplating. A wise person thinks ahead, after all, and some introspection is good for the soul. 

But I don't just think about these things. I feel the emotion as if they are definitely going to happen, or are already happening. My mind and body react as if the terrible thing I imagine has already come true.

How many false predictions have I made to myself over my lifetime? Millions? Billions? How much adrenaline has been unnecessarily let loose in my body? How many hours of sleep have I lost just by worrying about how many hours of sleep I might lose? How much ibuprofen have I taken for headaches caused by catastrophic situations that never materialized?  

I'm wrong 99% of the time, and yet pathetically, I still continue to make predictions. I play the lottery with my worries. Sure, it didn't happen the last 5000 times, but it just might this time. I'm like the foolish person who shells out $3.99 a minute to have a psychic give another wrong glimpse into the future, just in case this time it's right. 

And what about that one percent? Those very, very few times when the worst does happen, what then? 

Elyse Fitzpatrick wrote, "You know, the problem with fears that exist only in our imagination is that, since they aren't real, we must face them alone. God's grace isn't available to help us overcome imaginary problems that reside only in our mind. He will help us to put these imagined fears to death, but it's only in the real world that His power is effective to uphold us in trouble. It's only when He calls us to go through difficult times that His power is present to protect, comfort, and strengthen us." (Overcoming Fear, Worry, and Anxiety

Oh yeah. There's that.

Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? Your heavenly Father knows [what you need]. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
~ Jesus







Monday, August 5, 2019

Dear America, You and I Have a Complicated Relationship

Dear America,

You and I have a complicated relationship.

You gave me my citizenship when I was born. In fact, my dad was serving at an army base when I arrived one freezing winter day in New Jersey. My passport is American navy blue. I belong to you, whether I like it or not.

Yet for over half my life, I've lived in other countries. Pieces of those places have latched themselves onto me. I've never wholly and completely been one of your own, which has left me feeling like an outsider. But like the astronauts who have the privilege of seeing our planet as a small blue marble, I've had the privilege of seeing you, for many years, from the outside. A different perspective is always a privilege.

Back when I was younger and much more of a black-and-white thinker, I have to admit that mostly I was just critical of you. I focused only on your negatives, and other countries seemed much more unique and interesting. So even while I reaped enormous benefits from belonging to you, I distanced my identity away from you. But now that I'm older and wiser? Well, how I feel about you is much more complicated.

We're visiting America this summer, and the other night, we were driving up a windy stretch of mountain highway, and the traffic stopped dead. We could tell that just around the bend ahead, a bad accident had happened. But as we sat and waited behind the thousands of other brake lights impatiently twinkling in the night, a looming light appeared in the sky. And we watched, in awe, as a helicopter circled slowly and then landed. It was only fifteen minutes later that it rose into the air again and the traffic started moving.

And I thought, This is why America is amazing. 

Then I thought, That's a new perspective for me. 

I've always been critical of your consumerism and hoarding, your ability to produce so much junk that even developing countries don't want the excess. Yet I also see your capitalism and how it has brought an unprecedented standard of living to millions of people, and I want that for other countries too.

I despair over your debauchery--you fuel a massive, perverse online industry that exploits women and children, college campuses that are nothing but one big party, and sexuality that has hijacked how we define identity. Yet I see your freedom--to own property, to start churches, to send your daughters to college, even to publicly criticize your president--freedom that most in the world don't even dream of. And I realize that this freedom is inextricably connected to allowing people to make bad choices.

I hate that I have to tell my 11-year-old African son that when he is in America, he can't put up his hoodie in public. I hate that I have to explain to him why. Yet, I love that I could take my daughter (who happens to be an American immigrant) to the brilliant musical Hamilton and she could see a stage full of actors portraying the Founding Fathers--and who share her skin tone.

I love how you are one nation made up of people from many nations, a country founded on ideals, not ethnic groups. Yet sometimes it remains an ideal, not a reality, as fear and complacency keep neighborhoods and churches in their own separate corners. But other times, it doesn't, and that gives me hope.

I used to view your suburbs with disdain, with their soul-sucking uniformity and monotony. Now I see how those neat little lines of houses represent a miracle in human history--millions of ordinary people living with plumbing, electricity, security, independence. How easy it is for me to forget how I benefited from that "ordinary" life--riding bikes around my parents' cozy cul-de-sac without any worry that I might not eat that night, or that soldiers might come and burn it all down.

It's easy to crave adventure and uniqueness from within the safe confines of that blue American passport. Yes, I love living overseas, and it is a privilege. But you know what I've realized? It's even more of a privilege to enjoy the benefits of being American while living overseas.

And that humbles me. It makes me less critical and more thankful.

You, my country, are complicated. But so is life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in a fallen world.










Tuesday, July 30, 2019

You Were Right, Dad

I picked up our Round Table pizza last night, and I thought about Frank.

The summer I was sixteen, my dad declared that I would be getting a summer job. He helped me write a resume, and one Saturday morning, drove me around to local businesses, stopped the car, and forced me to get out and introduce myself to managers. I was not an outgoing person, but my dad believed in throwing me in the deep end.

One of those places was Copy Plus, a small store owned by Frank, which was just a few blocks away from my home in California. I got the job that same week. (It was either that or the candy store at the mall. Given these options, I figured a copy store was going to be better than any mall job. I was right.)

Frank was my first boss. He was from Philly, and he often told me the story of the gunshot wound on his elbow. One of my first lessons from him was that if anyone ever came into the store with a gun, I should open the cash register and back away. My wide-eyed little sixteen-year-old suburban self wondered what I had gotten myself into. After all, this was my neighborhood shopping center, not the ghetto.

Frank had a big laugh and an even bigger heart. He looked after me like a daughter, and he shared his business and his life with me. Every morning, he would tell me how much money we made the day before. We weren't Kinko's, he would tell me, but Copy Plus always went the extra mile.

It was just making copies, I thought--but with Frank, it wasn't just making copies. Frank taught me how to run and service his giant, high speed copy machines, and I learned the thrill of getting them all working at the same time. The rhythmic chanting of those machines were the background noise as he taught me how to make our customers happy. I learned how to smile at strangers, how to solve people's problems, how to meet deadlines. I experienced the exhilaration of handing a satisfied customer a nice, neat box of a job well done.

Frank showed me what good business looks like. What a good boss looks like.

Now that I think about it, I learned a lot about life at Copy Plus. Parts of Frank are indelibly a part of who I am.

Over the next several years, I quit that job four times--to go back to high school, to go to college, to be a camp counselor, to be a student teacher. Whenever I visited home, I would visit Frank, and every time, he asked me if I wanted my job back. He hired me back--four times. Copy Plus became a part of my history.

Round Table Pizza was just two doors down from Copy Plus. Round Table is still there, but there's a UPS store where Copy Plus used to be. My parents have lived in the same house since I was two years old (minus the years in Africa), so when we visit, we order our pizza from the same Round Table. Last night, picking up the pizza, I lingered in front of that UPS store, and I remembered Frank. And I remembered that day my dad forced me out of that car with my resume. He told me that one day when I was older, I would thank him for it. He was right.


Saturday, July 20, 2019

She is a TCK.



Johnny, at the park: MONGOOSE!
Me: Nope, that's a squirrel. Wrong country, Buddy.


Josiah, staring with interest at the stove: What kind of stove is that?
Me: It's electric. It runs on electricity.
Josiah: Oh, so if the power goes out, it stops working?
Me: Yep.
Josiah: That doesn't sound very good. You could be in the middle of cooking and then have to stop.
Me: Yeah, but the power doesn't go off in America.
Josiah: Not EVER?
Me: Well, sometimes in big storms, but yeah, not really ever.
Josiah (very impressed): Whoa.


Amusing quotes aside, the truth is that my kids are somewhat of an enigma. They don't fit into any particular category. They are Tanzanian by blood, but their parents are American. They are similar to other internationally adopted kids, except that they aren't being raised in their adoptive parents' home country, but their own birth country.

A Tanzanian friend once asked me if my kids identified more with being American or Tanzanian. I told him that I'm not really sure (and I don't think they are really sure), but that I would guess that they feel more American when they are in Tanzania, and more Tanzanian when they are America. Because they don't fit in perfectly in either place.

They can greet their elders with Shikamoo without an accent, but they would never yell Wazungu! when they see a white person walking on the road, like other Tanzanian kids their age. They love chips mayai and macaroni and cheese and wali na maharage and Pizza Hut. They have been taught to eat with a knife and fork but know not to use their left hand if there aren't any utensils available.

This would be true of any missionary kid who had lived in Tanzania, but my kids are different from even them. They know all about hair salon culture, but, of course, they go there with their white mom so they always get odd looks. They can go to the market and not stand out--that is, until someone assumes their Swahili is better than it actually is.

Haven of Peace Academy is a perfect place for my children, and so they've stayed insulated from a great deal of this struggle. Josiah has one friend who is ethnically Indian but has a passport and culture from Australia. Another friend is half Tanzanian and half Zimbabwean, but was born in South Africa. Another is half African-American and half Kiwi, but born in America. All are being raised in Tanzania. Josiah, with his complex identity, fits right in.

HOPAC is a middle life, a life in between worlds. Yet the life that HOPAC gives them is not sustainable.

It's like an airplane: Passengers from all over the world, all walks of life, a hundred different backgrounds--all crammed into a tiny tube hovering over the earth. Not belonging to any one place; suspended, for a short period of time, above all the world's nations. My kids live there, in that plane, at HOPAC. Yet at some point, that airplane has to land. And the older my kids get, the more I wonder and worry about how that landing will go for them.

I grew up in Liberia, so to some degree, I understand what it's like to grow up between worlds. But I was not adopted, I was not Liberian, and my parents always had a house in California for us to come back to. Yes, losing Liberia was traumatic for me. But it also was not my country. How do I help my children to navigate an identity that I can never fully understand?

My eldest daughter is a sketcher, and as we have been traveling in California these last three weeks (six cities so far), I've caught her sketching in fancy lettering--on Best Western Hotel notepads, in the sketchbook she bought in Istanbul, on any scrap of paper--I am a TCK. I am a Third Culture Kid. She is processing that identity--that life hovering above the nations, that life in between worlds.

I see this, and my eyes mist over. I am so proud to be her mom. It takes courage to be her. There is much she will teach me.






Saturday, July 13, 2019

Four Continents in a Week

When your flight plan takes you through Istanbul, Turkey, why not go ahead and just hang out for a few days?

And while you're at it, why not just head over to Greece too? I mean, as long as you're in the neighborhood. 

Why not? Well, visiting Greece involved missing the last few days of school, so just Grace and her Daddy got to be the lucky ones to do that part. Pretty awesome experience for my 13-year-old Percy Jackson fan. The rest of us left the day after HOPAC finished (Which, yes, this did mean that I departed Dar es Salaam by myself at 3 a.m. with my three remaining children. But no worries--only two of them threw up on the plane. That was totally fun.) Ahem. But hey--Greece for my daughter and husband: Worth it.

We met up in Istanbul, which we explored as a family for four days. We visited the famous Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia--the church turned mosque turned museum, and the massive underground Basilica Cisterns. We visited museums full of ancient statues, thousands of years old, and other pieces pillaged from Egypt and the middle east during the reign of Constantinople. We traveled by ferry and tram and bus and suspended trolley.

But our kids' favorite part was probably the food, especially since they had been inculcated by Mark Weins' food videos for a few weeks before the trip (who happens to be the son of a friend of ours). America sells nachos and hotdogs in their park stands, but Istanbul sells corn-on-the-cob and chestnuts. We never got tired of the thinly sliced meat and the piles and piles of Turkish delight. And of course, the ice cream sellers who always tease their customers with lavish performances before finally handing them a cone.

Since Istanbul has the distinction of being part of two continents, we were all pretty impressed that we went through four continents in a week: Africa, Europe, Asia, and North America. 


She's a runner, and now she's run in the original Olympic stadium. How cool is that?



Back together again in Istanbul


He went through four continents in a week, and I think his favorite part was this kitten. 






Sunday, July 7, 2019

All I Knew Was That I Didn't Want to be Michael Scott


I'm so used to processing my thinking in this space. These past two years, It has been odd for me to do a job for 45+ hours a week and yet write so little about it. And now that I'm in America (did you know that? I'm in America for the summer--surprise!), people ask me, "So how is it being principal?" And I open my mouth and I smile and nothing comes out. How do I even start? How do I begin to describe an experience that I haven't really processed yet? 

I think I watched way too much of The Office before I became an administrator. Michael Scott gave me the impression that bosses just prowled around all day, looking over people's shoulders and distracting them from doing their jobs. I knew I didn't want to be him, but I wasn't exactly sure what a good boss did do. 

I had spent almost 20 years involved in education, so I had worked for principals before, of course, but I really hadn't the foggiest idea of what a day in the life of a principal actually looked like. How would I figure out what I was supposed to do all day? It's probably a good thing I didn't admit this two years ago. You might have wondered why on earth I was qualified for the job. I actually wondered that myself, honestly. I just blindly trusted the people around me who assured me that they knew I could do it.

It took me approximately five minutes to realize that I didn't need to worry about figuring out what I was supposed to do. It's like a game of Whack-a-Mole. The first mole popped up, and as soon as I whacked it, five more took it's place. And from that first day, I just kept whacking moles for the next two years. They just never stopped popping up. If this had been Chuck E. Cheese's, I definitely would have earned 20 bazillion prize tickets.

(Don't worry; no children are actually whacked.)

So. Other than being really busy, how is it being principal?

I love it. Yes, I love it. I say that with no hesitation. This is a school that Gil and I helped to build, how could I not love it? I get to be a part of the 100+ staff from all over the world that make up Haven of Peace Academy. I supervise about twenty of them and work alongside the rest. The level of love and trust we have for each other, despite occasional conflicts, is extraordinary. We are not just a work place, we are a community.

I love these kids. Oh my gosh, I love these kids. Some of them crack me up. They come up to talk to me and I start laughing before they even speak, because I know it will be hilarious. Lots of them make me cry. There's the ones who are struggling to read but then win every race on Sports Day. The ones who are struggling to speak English but create masterpieces in art class. And the ones who are very familiar with my office. I think those hold the deepest places in my heart.

I read and commented on 150 report cards during the last week of school. It made my head spin and drove my stress up to an unhealthy level but I felt like a proud parent. So much progress evidenced on those ordinary pieces of paper. Evidence of teachers who poured their very souls into children--countless hours of energy and love. Evidence of children who read and calculated and imagined for 180 days, who allowed their minds to be expanded and their responsibility to be stretched. I'm so proud of my school. 

That's the easy part to talk about. Yes, I love it. But this job, these past two years, have been so much more complex than that. I love it, and it is intense. That intensity is the part that I haven't really processed, nor can I really write about in detail. Teachers struggling through anxiety or depression. Kids with learning disabilities that we don't know how to handle, nor are there better options available in Tanzania. Kids coming to school with emotional needs that we can't meet but suck us dry. Countless parents desperate to get their kids into our school, and I have to break their hearts. And the recruiting: Not enough teachers. Never enough teachers. A teacher who says yes and then has to back out due to medical concerns. Will God provide? He always does. Somehow. But still I am anxious. It all is a weight I fight to cast off my shoulders and onto His.

And then there's me: Will I be enough? Can I be enough? Every time I think I'm ahead, another five moles pop up. I'm a task-driven person, and this is a job full of tasks, but I worry, constantly, that I'm choosing tasks over people. In working with teachers/parents/students, I straddle the line between grace and policy, forgiveness and law. Am I getting it right? I second guess myself often. Did I say the right thing in that email? Did I handle that discipline situation correctly? Well, no time to ponder that, because I'm off onto the next thing. Make me enough, I pray. But I won't ever be. It's only God who is enough. So let the stress go, Amy.

Two years down. Have I succeeded? Well, at least I know I'm not Michael Scott. At least there's that. And that's something, right?


My core Primary (Elementary) teachers this year. We've been through thick and thin, we seven. I am so grateful for them.

HOPAC Primary Team

My "other" team....the office staff: Principals, operations, procurement, finance, counseling and other admin


Our brand new beautiful Performing Arts Centre

This is why I love Primary: First grade teacher asked her students to copy down their favorite Bible verse....and this is what one of them gave her. Now I just made your day, didn't I? You're welcome.


My heart.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

The Happiest Kind of Sadness: Portrait of a Friendship


"I heard you are going to the clinic today," I texted my friend Alyssa. "Would you mind taking in my kid's urine sample?"

"Sure," she texted back. And then we tried to figure out how to get it to her. 

"Oh! Mark's at the bakery with his prayer group," she remembered. "Just take it to him there."

This is when you know you've hit the level of BFF: You can hand a man bag of pee at the bakery with his prayer group and feel no shame.

****

By the time our lives crossed with Mark and Alyssa Dunker and Ben and Lauren Snyder, it was about six years into our Tanzanian life, and Gil and I were friend-weary. Both couples, in fact, had contributed to that--they had come into our lives for about a year, and then left. Like so many before them; like so many would after. 

But the Dunkers and the Snyders were different, because even though we assumed we would never see them again, they came back to Tanzania. We still had our guard up, though. Friendships between missionaries can go deep and strong in a short amount of time, but they tend to not last very long. Best not to get too attached. 

But life just kept throwing the six of us together. 

Being part of Reach Global, that made us automatic "family." The unwritten rules of missionary culture state that mission teammates stick together. You might have barely met these people, but they're the first ones you ask when you need someone to watch your kids. There's an assumption you'll get invited for holiday dinners. When you can't figure out how to debone a chicken or get a driver's license or kill the ticks on your dog, they are the first ones you call. You know, like family. Except in a desperate, lonely, out-of-options sort of way. You don't really have a choice. You either depend on these people, or die.  

But with the Dunkers and the Snyders, our relationships became more than mission family. Because of Haven of Peace Academy and Reach Tanzania Bible School, our lives started overlapping and boomeranging back on themselves. The paths of our lives became a mega-highway, intersecting and crossing and merging all into one. 

****

Think about all of your various friends. You've got your church friends, and your Bible study friends. There's your work friends, and your soccer mom friends. There's your friends who are the parents of your kids, and your community friends, who you keep running into in the grocery store or the local pool. 

Now imagine you have a friend who falls into every category. Every single one. And then imagine that you just happen to be living in a foreign country with that friend. 

You get the idea.

****

We were at Ben and Lauren's house when Josiah took his first steps. Lauren and I planned Haven of Peace Academy's first graduation ceremony together. The four of us shared a common love for HOPAC, and a common passion to see it get bigger, better, see its impact increase. Lauren served as school counselor, Gil as chaplain, and Ben quickly climbed from math teacher to director. I joined the board of directors for several years, then Ben and his team hired me as elementary principal. 

I drove Mark and Alyssa around Dar es Salaam their first week, and I was with them when they bought their car. Alyssa and I bonded when she spent hours picking lice out of my hair. They came to Tanzania to train pastors, which, besides HOPAC, was our other passion. So when Gil decided it was time to leave HOPAC and start training pastors, we now had a reason to stay in Tanzania. The Dunkers had started a Bible school, and we enthusiastically joined in.

We grew together with the Snyders by building Haven of Peace Academy. We grew together with the Dunkers by building Reach Tanzania Bible School. Somewhere along the way it became the six of us. Sure, we had common interests--missions, adoption, politics, theology, culture--but I think it was common life more than common interests that brought us together.

It's now been ten years. These ten years have not been easy on any of our three families--at many times bordering on tragic. At first we relied on each other because it just made sense--these were the people closest to us. But go through that enough times, and one day you realize that you really know these people. And they really know you, and they still like you. And you think, Wow, this is something really special.

In tangible ways, but also in very real emotional and spiritual ways, they kept us here. We kept them here. 

****

Have you ever been in an emotionally intense situation--a short-term missions trip or a week-long camp, where you didn't know anybody but formed deep friendships quickly? There is something about being away from home together, living in close quarters and experiencing intense emotions together that bonds people for life. 

Now take that kind of experience and multiply it by five hundred.

****

I sit here in my quiet living room and watch the darkening sky, listening to the crows bidding goodnight and the crickets waking up. This small space, with the weird pink tiled floor and the couches we could never make very comfortable, is alive with memories.

I see the Christmases. The plastic gangly tree in the corner, the stockings strung across the window, the stale smell of air conditioning pushing out the stifling heat seeking to consume us. Many are here in the room, many we love and consider family, but they come and go during different years like Ebenezer's ghosts. But the Dunkers and the Snyders, they are the constant. They are here every year. 

I see Friday nights with my floor strewn with popcorn and my throw pillows with holes in them and the sweat stains on my couch from dozens of teenagers. Ben and Lauren are here in the midst of them, Ben and Gil playing basketball with the boys outside the window, the girls chatting with Lauren and me. Sometimes the power goes out. And we sit here in the dark and laugh hysterically and sweat even more. 

I see Lauren and me on one of those Friday nights, sitting in that corner on the weird pink tile floor, the swirl of teenagers laughing around us, while I tell her about my trip to see Lily. And about another little girl named Zawadi, who also needed a family. 

I see Alyssa and Lauren and I, all three of us on the well-worn carpet, weeping in prayer over Zawadi. Weeks and months and years. 

I see movies projected on the wall while my kids snuggle in with Aunt Alyssa or Uncle Ben. And finally, Zawadi is there too.

I see the Medina and Snyder and Dunker kids sitting on that tile floor with their striped melamine plates filled with homemade pizza. Don't sit on the carpet! I holler every time. They don't. They know better. Because I say it every time.

****

There was also the traveling.

We went all over Tanzania together--for language school, for vacation, for HOPAC trips--to Zanzibar, Moshi, Lushoto, Kigomboni, Arusha. And then out of the country--Kenya, South Africa, even Slovenia. 

It wasn't always all six of us, and it was rarely just the six of us, but again, the Snyders and the Dunkers and Medinas were the common denominator. Together we navigated airports and taxis and foreign languages. We caravanned in our mini-vans and would stop on the side of the road for kids to pee. We would always send each other text messages about speed traps. 

We took students to camp and on spiritual retreats, sports weekends and senior trips. We went to mission conferences and HOPAC conferences. We went to the mountains for the week after Christmas--every single year. 

We sat around beach campfires and laughed about ridiculous inside jokes. The guys played board games for seemingly every waking hour. We prayed and played with students side by side. We explored other missionary schools together, collecting ideas that led to passionate conversations late into the night, planning together how to make our school better. 

Every place, every drive, every airport, we wracked up more memories. Sometimes bad ones, most of them good.

****

Their friendships snuck up on me. 

I was so used to holding loosely to missionary friendships that at first I didn't even recognize the bonds, thin as gossamer webs, slowly beginning to pull us together. Events that seem insignificant, if there are enough of them, one day start becoming quite significant indeed. Building memories, after enough time, becomes building history.

And one day, several years ago, I woke up and realized that the Snyders and the Dunkers and the Medinas weren't just family. When you work and play and grow and cry alongside each other, for so many years, the description is closer to siblings than anything else.

The day I came to that realization was also the day I began to grieve. I was in deep; I was past the point of no return. What we had was quite extraordinary, but what we had would never last. When you move overseas, there should be flashing red lights around a huge sign that reads, "Beware: Make friendships at your own risk. They will be amazing, but they will break your heart."

But it will be the happiest kind of sadness.

****

It didn't matter how many ways that our roads had intersected. At some point, we always knew they would diverge. None of us belong to this country. It would be just a matter of time before those paths would start going in opposite directions. The Snyders are leaving Tanzania. It's the end of an era.

Of course, the friendship won't end; that would be inconceivable. But it won't ever be the same.

So I am grieving. I guess I always have been. That's the danger of loving something or someone too much in this overseas life. I guess that's the danger of loving anything in this fleeting life. There is no constant. There is no permanency. Not on this side of the veil, anyway.

But we do sometimes get glimpses of eternity in this fleeting life--a perfect sunset, delicious ice cream, a belly-laugh with a spouse or child, a resonant symphony. Extraordinary friendship fits into that category. What's temporary now will one day be forever. And it will be glorious. How grateful I am to have had that glimpse.

Lily's "Support Tree" in first grade: Mom, Dad, Uncle Ben, Aunt Lauren, Uncle Mark, Aunt Alyssa