Sunday, December 20, 2009


bring me a star.
glistening and pure.
one that REALLY shines.
light bursting everywhere.

let's take our sinew and muscle
and set jaws, with fire burning in our
souls, and push through the pain
into radiant freedom and exorbitant
joy and light,

it is Christmas.
white and pure and humbling.
Jesus, our Star, was born.
just for us. that, ultimately, what
was red as crimson can be as white
as snow.

bring me the Star.
i want to be like Him.
the bank at the grocery store
showed i had almost NOTHING in
my account. six days before Christmas.

with tears in my eyes,
i was driving out of the parking
lot when i saw a woman with a sign:
HELP! i pulled over to her. pushed
the window down.

tell me about you.
where you need help.
i just know you are a single
mother like me.

she smiled.
yes. with three sons.
i've tried everything, but
it's Christmas.....
i know. i know, i said.

turned the car around.
back to the bank.

there's a single mother
outside that is desperate.
she seems authentic.
Jesus says unto the least of these...
the hungry, the naked, the abandoned...
we are to love. so, i've returned to get a
little money for her.

ann!!!
the bank teller looked at me.
you hardly have any yourself.

i know. but just a little. i feel
destitute like her. i don't want
to miss Jesus' strong arm of love.

i found the woman.
put the folded cash in
her hand. remember, i tell her,
God's arm is never too short.
and He loves you.

my friend,
judy silverstein,
was telling me that God
uses the weak, and makes
them strong. the unknown.
He raises them to noble assignments
if they are humble. AND, God uses the
strong, but He must break them first
because He will share His glory with no one.

no bragging Christmas letters.
no overlooking of the needy.
no burden of being too busy for
God.

king david.
gideon.
the disciples.
abraham.
isaac
jacob
moses

crushed to be annointed
by the Star. the King of Kings.

three hours after i returned home,
begging God to give my children a
Christmas. all of them coming home.
all of them so incredibly loving to their mother.
three hours, and a knock at my front door.
a beautiful friend i have barely met.
an envelope in her hand. MUCH more
than i gave the woman by the store.

falling prone on my face
with such joy and gratitude and humility.
my friend falling to the floor. lying next to me.
our faces buried in the carpet. crying.
praying. praising God for the Star.

because of the Star,
we can partner with Him in
pouring His love and redemption
over our neighborhoods.

bring me the Star
that i may, somehow,
be holy like Him. beauty
for ashes. joy for mourning.
oh, Star, i come. i come.

Friday, December 11, 2009

"I have come to call not
the self-righteous, but sinners."
matthew 9:13

"i love and hate. i feel better about
feeling good. i feel guilty if i don't feel
guilty. i'm wide open.. i'm locked in.
i'm trusting and suspicious. i'm honest
and i still play games.

i broke every one of the The Ten Commandments
six times tuesday....and the God i've come to know
by sheer grace, the Jesus i met in the grounds of
my own self, has furiously loved me regardless
of my state...grace or disgrace. for His love
is never, never, never based on our performance.
never conditioned by our moods-of elation or
depression. the furious love of God knows no
shadow of alteration or change. it is always
reliable and always tender." brennan manning

i saw the clean morning sky.
heard music across the sunlight.
and this week, i experienced a REAL
miracle. they come if we are patient
enough.

something else beautiful happened.
my four birth mothers flew in from across
the country. we stayed at a gorgeous home
on bass lake. friends of mine who offered it
to us. how rare can it be that four beautiful
birth mothers from different places each
delivered a son, and will and i became the
parents. four sons from four courageous
women. and now, brothers.



i decided if any young woman
loved her baby so much she wanted to
give him something more than she thought
she could, that i would train my children
from a very young age about their birth moms.
i taught them to love them. showed them
pieces of themselves just like their birthmoms.
and today, 25 years later, sacred love reigns
among us.

i slept in the bedroom with brandt's birth mom.
my cell was turned off, but beth's was vibrating.
"hi, brandt. did you want to talk to your mom?"
"yes". in a way, it tells the whole story. i'm the
mom. they call me. but they respect and love
their birth moms very much. something i've
worked at many years. we are thick with love
and respect for each other. all of us.

so....
we are a family.
bound by chords..ropes...of love
that cannot be broken. we cooked
and laughed and cried. we talked about
how i've raised the boys. some things we
would all like to change in their life styles,
but they are young men. making their own
choices. and suddenly three of my kids
walked in and surprised us.

everything changed when the birth moms
saw how brandt hovered over his wife, jasmine.
and that when they looked into colson's
face, they SAW the very heart of God at
his core.

we've all returned home.
lonely for each other.
pictures and memories and
moments to be cherished forever.
it began to snow voraciously outside.
and robin, who takes ballet, did a dance
to a praise tape that none of us can forget.

love someone you've been afraid to.
hug and kiss and laugh and forgive and
ask God to show you the beauty in it all.
splash paint across the sky. open your
hearts and allow God to make you brave enough
to take care of yourselves. without fear. and know
i love you. each one who reads this blog.
you help heal my wounds. make me stand tall.
and remember that all God asks is that we
do what we can. jump across the sky
of wounds, and be FREE!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

i have wept over last week's
blog. the courage to bare my soul.
not to bring people to the edge, but
to allow others to know the imper-
fections of life that no one usually
talks about. we hide behind the
shame. the fears of what others
will think.

my son gave me his permission
to do that blog. let me tell you
what has happened. one of his
brothers found out about his pain
where he lives out-of-state, and
called him.

i want you to come live with me.
my apartment has two bedrooms,
and one is for you. what will it take?
how quickly can i get you here, bro?

beautiful. magnificent.
one brother to another.
my son who is visiting
was in such shock.

mom, what did you tell him?
i'm going into my room and closing
the door, and i want you to call
and see if he REALLY means this.

so....
i made the phone call.
i really feel right about this, mom.
there is no hidden agenda. i want
him to come. this is what families
do.

i call it a miracle.
a gesture of vast compassion
that most brothers don't do
when they are 20 yrs. old.

i think of my son in college
who calls me, and all his buddies
make jokes and noise.

well! hello, mrs. anderson.
mother of this geek over here.

my son laughs, and says ,
be quiet. i like talking to my mom!
and laughter erupts.

no alcohol or drug problems, yet,
but we never know where our children
are going to take us. nor life. but i
know families take work. and Jesus
is the blanket that wraps around us,
and holds us all together.

my children knew that until they were
18, all the rules were mine. but when
that birthday came around, they were
considered men. and their choices were
theirs.

every sunday,
we marched down the church
aisle to the front row. i never looked
around, and my children were mortified.
but i didn't want them sitting with their
friends, and missing the beauty and power
of the service. before they were 18.

my youngest worked
at starbuck's. one early saturday
morning, after he had been out
late with his friends. having too many
beers, he was still non-functioning,
and had his face in a bowl of ice.
he could hardly walk, but i drove him
over, and he just happened to be
very blessed that he had Jesus on
his team, because, somehow, he
made it through his shift. only God
knows what people got in their
coffees and lattes.

if you want your children to tell
you what they are struggling with,
listen with no judgement. no sermons.
just quiet thoughtfulness. reaction,
which i've wanted to do many times,
would have forever changed the dy-
namic of our relationships.

with four boys,
there were so many different
girls coming and going that
i got lost in all the jennifers
and amandas and ashleys.
i often, privately, rolled my
eyes, but my lips were zipped.

thanksgiving.
a time to ponder
ALL God has given us.
it's a time for families and friends.
good food. and a song. the wind
pushing the music through trees and
across oceans and into the cracks of
pain in all our lives.

did you know that sin is all level
at the foot of the Cross? that God
considers pride maybe more serious
than all the other offenses.

i love the Cross.
that it is never too crowded
for all of us to find a spot.
ALWAYS, there is room
for one more.

with bowed head,
i kneel. i reach out and
touch the roughness of the wood.
see the stain of Blood.
remember, again, that Jesus came
for me. for you. and it is NOT about
perfection, but clean, pure, uncondi-
tional LOVE. scraped and dragged
across the stony path to the hill
where Christ's Blood gushed into
our miserable lives.

take communion.
a piece of bread.
a touch of olive oil.
a sip of wine or juice.
celebrate the Blood because
without that vast, incomprehensible
gesture of torture and pain and love,
there would be no hope for all our wounds.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

most people think my children
are perfect. straight a students.
deeply devoted to Jesus. soul
winners. life changers. you know.
walking perfection.

but somehow, under will's and my
watch, we didn't get all the pieces
just right. missed things. even when
we thought we were doing our very
best because, next to Jesus, we
loved our four sons more than the
roar of the ocean or all the wonders
of the world. in an instant, we would
have given our lives for them.



one of my sons has come home a few
days early for thanksgiving. now under-
stand, my sons tell me things i'd NEVER
have told my parents. we are tight. the
five of us have fought wars together.
but tonight, in the car, my child started
crying. feeling so alone. no girl. the
guys he shares an apartment with have
both lost their jobs, so my son is left to
carry it all.

he's started smoking and doing weed.
it's so hard, mom, and no one respects
me and i do all the work. i'm so unappre-
ciated. feel so isolated. i go to the food bank
every day. they throw food from the truck,
and whatever you catch, you get to keep.
no one says 'thanks'...or offers to take
turns at my apartment.

despair began to roar in my head. my heart.
stark pain that made my bones feel
weak. my joy sheared by fear and dark-
ness. he is 21, and he feels the world
doesn't care, and he gravitates to anyone
who will embrace him. most of them lost
like he feels. most Christian parents
don't know, but i do. my sons simply
cannot keep secrets from me.

i know they have slept with girls.
Christian girls. having fun today is
to go to a bar, and have a few beers.

my children look perfect.
handsome. strong handshakes.
look you straight in the eyes.
are kind. give money to the poor.
they KNOW how i long for them
to go to church. but the church is
losing the fight for our children.
dreams aren't stirred and brushed
across their hearts, judgement
teases in every corner. not love.
but judgement.

my son came home with a mohawk.
oh, i'd told millions that we are to love
others. it is NOT about how anyone
looks. who they are, we can only change
the world with love. sweet, untarnished.
beautiful love. the strong arm of kindness.
of reminding others that God ONLY looks
at our hearts. period.

and my son walks in,
and he's needing me so much.
needing tenderness and embracement.
AND I FAILED!!

i was so scared.
what did this mean?
had he aligned himself with
a subculture so lonely....so
desperate...that he's lost himself?


today,
he got his mohawk shaved off.
today, for me. and i failed.
i made his outward appearance
matter too much. oh, my son and i are
still tight. but if i had only thrown my
arms around him. kissed him, and told
him i noticed he had a new haircut.
joked about it.

i learned to REALLY pray
when i became a mother of
adolescents. flat on my face.
praying more for me than for
them.

love. tip-toeing across the clouds.
not noticing externals. and even, knowing
things are maybe screwed up, we are
singing our love songs. knowing that
under all the appearances...are yearning,
lonely people. and we LOVE then.
running through a stream, a melody.
a choir. salvation's Song. the process
of redemption.

Monday, November 9, 2009


i only know the dying heart needs
the nourishment of memory
to live beyond too many winters.

rod mckuen


winter.
frigid hearts.
dry wind blowing our
dreams and hope across
the hardened, cold earth of
futility. miracles gone.
frozen. and our hearts
shrivel. hope withered.
the ache and blasts of life.

i've been in a very tough
financial place. i have
two banks. calling, i found
i had $120 in one, plus $200
in savings. trembling, i drove
across town to my other bank.
the one that REALLY matters.
where my car insurance and
gym automatically are withdrawn,
and the card by which i pay most
my bills.

clutched in my hand
was the $200
from the other bank's account.
knew this account was slim, too.
barely over $100.

my heart was like a burning torch.
terror rippled through every muscle
and brain wave. at least i had the $200
from the other savings account.
chewing on my fingers. a shudder as
i walked through the second bank's doors.

when i'm in deep straits financially.....
(most single mothers are terrorized by
the thought that the day might come when
management will start throwing your
furniture and clothes across the lawn)
my shame thickens. faith the size of a pea. i
doubt the God of the universe.

i approached the teller's counter.
only one guy iin a long row of women
tellers. he's my favorite because he
hustles. quiet. well-mannered.

i slip my card through,
and weakly say...nearly above a
whisper...greg, what is in my account?

let's see.
you have a little over
$1700 dollars, with nothing
used in your cash reserve (bank
money to reimburse).

i stand there transfixed.
greg, this cannot be true.
the last time i checked, it was
close to only one hundred dollars.
i'll swipe my card again.
same results. $1700.

racing heart.
face flushed. greg, pull up a
couple windows. where
did this come from?

before greg can say a thing,
i start run-on sentences.

greg, do you know Jesus?
i mean the REAL God?
the Hope of the world?
have you ever thought of running
with Him?

i mean....
i just came from
home. lying flat on my face.
by my bed. begging Jesus for
deliverance. some way to survive.
i had read the daily light. well, you
don't know about the daily light, but
it's a little book filled only with Scriptures.
and here i am................

suddenly, i sensed that the entire bank
was like a whisper. no one talking. a
silent symphony.

ann, i know about the daily light.
spoken quietly.

you DO?!!!
yes, and i know Jesus, too.

whoa.... !
YOU know Jesus, too?

it showed my deceased husband's
social security check. a little over $800,
but we never could figure out the rest.

i took one of the two one hundred bills,
and put it on the counter. placing greg's
hand on top of it. this is for YOU.

ann, i can't take that.
i could get fired for doing that.

you mean a lady can't just walk in
from the street. give you this and
they will FIRE you?

yes. they would.

but i want you to have this.
i don't need it anymore.
sorry, ann....but thank you so much
for the thought. it's been a hard day
for me, and you've made a difference
in my life.

i backed away from the bank.
all eyes on me. disbelief written
across by forehead. gratitude brushed
on the walls. a dance in the middle of
winter....

so many winters.
i just seem to fall into holes
i don't even see. and then spend
hours and months and years, with God's
help. crawling out.

an old hymn says,
i saw the Holy City beside
the crystal sea....

Holy City,
come to me.
come. and salvation
reign in my neighborhood.
at my bank. the grocery store.
the family next door.
shine, Jesus, shine.

dispense with the winter.
warm the world by your love.
thank you,, Lord..for the sweet
taste of your sanctity in our lives.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

"blessed are not the enlightened
whose every question has been
answered and who are delighted with
their own sublime insight....blessed,
rather, are the chased, the harassed
who must daily stand before my enigmas
and cannot solve them."


the curve of the sun.
shining. radiant. warm.
the taste of salt water and
the smell of skin turning damp
and brown.

then....
as we run, laughing. feeling
powerful, joyful. free, the
shadow falls. darkness hangs
over the clear sky.

beauty is gone. sheets
of pain hang over us. push us around.
knocked off balance , we try to find
ourselves again. crawl backwards.
toward power. the joy we once knew.

one of my sons called tonight.
crying. sitting outside in the snow
where he lives.

i'm the only one who works
in this apartment, mom. every day.
a lot of pressure. i go to the food bank.
get the food for everyone who hangs
out at our house. two of my friends are
having sex on my bed right now while
i sit in wet snow.

and his tears flowed.

i'm so lonely for you, mom.
could you please come just for a
couple days. for ANY time at all?
no one likes me. i can't find Christian
friends. a good church. why, mom?!

my youngest son who married the sweetest
girl four months ago just found out his wife
is one month pregnant. it wasn't what they
really wanted. brandt is to deploy to iraq
in may. he'll miss the baby's birth. they
wanted to be out of debt first. they want
children, but this soon?



i'm just a single mother.
of four. i kiss my children in
my sleep. lie on my face by my
bed, urgently praying that these
beautiful sons will find enough of
Jesus in me ... of His promise of
"joy in the morning"...that they
will be men of God's heart...and
willing to allow pain and suffering
to build character and humanity
and humility in them so they can
be wholly God's.

i'm not a lot as a mother.
the best i do is tell them the truth
about life. and that they are my
sun and midnight sky. cool, early
daybreak. that Jesus is our only Hope,
and if they miss Him, then they have missed
the most magnificent Gift of all.

"the poor are willing and easy to direct.
from the sky they can read the weather
and interpret the signs of the times.
MY GRACE IS UNPRETENTIOUS,
BUT THE POOR ARE SATISFIED WITH
LITTLE GIFTS." brennan manning

so, children, hold on to the wind.
when God is done buffeting you,
you will laugh again.and single mothers, and fathers,
stand.
unwilling to be blown
by the agonies of our children, and of
our own journeys.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

"i'm brennan. i'm an alcoholic.
how i got there, why i went back, is
the story of my life.
i'm brennan. i'm a catholic
is not the whole story.
i'm brennan. i was a priest but no longer.
i'm brennan. i'm a sinner, saved by grace.
only God, in His fury, knows the whole of it."
brennan manning



dark.
forboding.
buried. yearning.
begging for God's liberation.
for truth. so many struggles.
the sweet taste of liberation.
freedom.

gay vs. straight.
compulsive eating.
addicted to sex. pornography.
so broken.

"whiter than snow.
yes, whiter than snow.
now wash me and i
shall be whiter than snow."

i've been through the wilderness.
the desert. the deep, dark waters.
dived into the glistening, pure waters
of a swimming pool. begging...pleading
to be clean. washed.

we are all broken.
shattered glass.
charred emptiness.
except for Jesus.

purge us.
heal the charred despair.
get on the rug. in the car. on the floor.
scream for power in the Blood.
for there is no other.
none at all.
only the Blood.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

"go in love. go with love. go because of love.
how else will they know our good God?'
how else will we? claudia mair burney

"by this all men will know that you are my
disciples... if you love one another." john 13:35

a week ago, i boarded southwest,
guests of joseph and toni and their two
beautiful children.

as i mentioned in my last blog,
joseph was 10 yrs. old and one one of
twelve children that 24 yrs. ago, along with
11 other children , came as my guests to fly with
me to israel to cheer me through my 26.2 mile
race i'd never run before. now, he was flying me
to boston to meet his incredible family. renew ties.

after all these years...
and the
doubt that i would EVER see
these children again, the clouds parted.
the tears came. joseph, now 42, did everything
to make it a magnificent time. we stacked memories
to never be forgotten. from all the italian food we
could devour (the tangerine, almond tarts i could
NOT stop eating)..snacks in the boat..and diet
cokes and pepsi's wherever we could find them,
it was a dance. a miracle. and very hard to say
good-bye.

stretch your wings. grab a star. take one day at a
time, and allow God to give you an assignment of
love every day. watch the Light. listen to God's
voice. fly. most of all, pray for every opportunity
from God. it is ALL about LOVE. kindness.
planting seeds....until they sprout flowers between
your fingers. and all those around you are changed.
different. where there is pure love, the dance
begins. beauty, fresh and vibrant. live.

25 years, and joseph and i,
and his incredible family, find each other.
the fruit of our labor.

first night in the boat,
i slept in geno's cubby-hole.
brooklyn on the table's fold-out bed.

good-night, geno.
i love you.

i love you,too, ann.

brooklyn,
i really love you.

you, too, ann.

and we went around.
love, shining and clean and untarnished,
bound us together. all tucked into the small
living area. what a gift. fingers touching all
the wounds, and allowing us to rebuild the
walls of so many years apart.

do not be silent.
not quiet.
love is a burning torch.
let it burn. let it burn!

Friday, September 11, 2009


taste and see.
watch and wait.
pour love out to all
who pass your way.
you and Jesus and i and love.
the fruit of labored lives.

a child..joseph.
that.. i took with me,
and 11 other children
from the poor areas of boston..
to israel to run my very first
marathon found me on facebook.

he was 7, 8, 10.
earnest. vulnerable. precious.
beautiful. full of mischief.
i wrapped him in all the love
and warmth and strength of
God's love that i could.

joseph
now, 42. married with two
children. and tomorrow, he
is flying me to boston to spend
the week-end with him and his
family.

melted heart.
joy for the season.
rainbows across the sky
of broken lives everywhere.
the fruit of my pure love for
this little boy. my yearning
for Jesus to transform him.

miracles DO live.
serving Jesus DOES pay.
feel the warmth of earth under
your feet. the awe of a clean, early
morning. the touch of air against your
skin. and decide to allow God to
plant more dreams in you. and see
each one who passes by as His beautiful
creation.

pray for me as i go.
for joseph and his little
family.
with much love,
ann

Monday, August 31, 2009


"Jesus loves the little children.
all the children of the world.
red and yellow black and white.
all are precious in his sight.
Jesus loves the little children
of the world"

i love color. brilliant hues.
shades. layers of yellows and
violets and browns.
pink brick. sometimes, vanilla.
a wide, clean,
white. olive.

black offers something nothing else
can. gleaming, muscular athletes.
glistening sweat. and who can sing
like a black choir? or do jazz and the
blues with the soul of black musicians
who know pain like none others?!

i grew up in hawaii.
how come i had to be
tall. skinny. and WHITE?!

in the islands,
everyone was dark.
samoan. hawaiian. asian.
shimmering under the glowing
sun. color was God's idea!

quiet. listen.
my FAVORITE color
is LOVE. i've often
told my children the color
of one's skin means NOTHING
to me. put your finger in a paint
can. do a mural.
does the canvas show kindness?
the breeze in the sway of life? Jesus
with His arms extended? a child
on His lap? the sound of giggles?

my youngest son, brandt,
got married last week. oh,
he will be such a good husband
because he has loved me in such
beautiful ways. amazing son!

his wife?
jasmine. her name fits her.
fragrant. authentic. beautiful.
she is bi-racial.
african-american mother.
caucasion father.

if the color of their lives is LOVE,
their future is bright. jasmine
was taught that the mother
ALWAYS sits in the front seat.
a sign of honor. the color of love.
already at work.

i've always liked brandt's tastes,
in clothes. in his intuitive kindness,
and i like his taste in a wife.

congratulations, brandt and jasmine.
keep Jesus at the dinner table.
don't leave Him out of your prayers.
may the color of love reign as you
build your lives together.

remember,
the color of one's skin
is absolutely inconsequintial
to the victories of clean, pure,
love. may the color of love reign!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

written by a 16yr.old girl
who attends celebrate recovery
at shelter cove. modesto, ca.

dear drugs,
everyday that i was in pain, you were
there to take it away. you helped me
escape and forget all the memories of
my life. most of all, you made me forget
"me". for years, i thought that was your
best quality. i've finally realized it was your
worst. you took everything away from me.
my self-respect. my self-control. and slowly,
bit by bit, you took away pieces of me and
who i really was. you robbed me of my
innocence. you took a little girl away from
her parents. a big sister from her siblings...
and a best friend from so many. you turned
me into an empty, hollow shell, the opposite
of what i was meant to be. you killed a piece
of my soul that is so hard to get back. you
wasted so many days that i was meant to
live. when i had you in my life, i wasn't living.
i was merely existing. i was enslaved to you.
loved you. now my life has changed. i no longer
need you to shadow behind me. i'm going to
shine my own light. i'm finally a person
without you. in fact, i'm a better person. i'm
that little girl again. i'm that big sister again.
i'm a best friend again. but most importantly,
i'm myself again.it will be hard, at first, living
without you, but i know i can do it because
i am stronger than you. without me, you are
powerless and without you, i am invincible.
you can no longer rob me. you are nothing
more than the devil on earth, here to destroy
and consume lives. not me! not anymore.!
sincerely, a freed prisoner

we're all broken.
all desolate at different times.
shredded. wounds seared across
our souls. pain etched around the
edges.my children and i plowing through
cold fields of confusion and the wilderness
of defeat and rejection and fear. BUT....

"my chains are gone.
i've been set free.
my God, my Savior
has ransomed me.

and like a flood,
His mercy reigns.
unending love.
amazing grace."
(chris tomlin)

Monday, August 3, 2009

a thursday.
the sky heavy with
rain clouds. too much
humidity.

the location: dallas, texas.
in the large home of jenni and david,
their darling one yr. old and dog, bailey.

we drove around, and simply saw a
hair salon. i ran in, asking if they could
do a little french braiding, and wash
my hair? it had been over a week.

yes!
absolutely.
10:30 a.m. on wednesday.
then, they called and asked
if thursday would fit instead?
yes. no problem.

a mantra.
a yearning in my soul.
passion. clean and pure.
to touch the world for Jesus.

jenni dropped me off.
i walked in and a lovely,
relatively-young woman
was waiting for me.

before she could put the
plastic cape around my neck,
she wanted to know what i did?
i hesitated. something about
writing that utterly intriques people.
everyone has a story to tell. and i
was weary. longing for anonymity.

not defining it in any specific terms,
i simply said i wrote to put bread on
the table.

oh, ann!
i write, too.
you know, poems.
stuff like that. but i get
discouraged, and busy,
and never complete anything.

it's easy to do that.
i understand.

now, we're at the sink.
she's shampooing me.
she knows how to do that
right!!!

well, ann,
what do you write about?
tell me. i can't wait to hear.

my head back.
the sound of spraying water.
my eyes closed.

well, i write about Jesus.
of His vast love for each of
us. i write about my children.
about me. our struggles and
failures. our victories. and how God
weaves beauty through everything.

the slash of darkness that begins
to find a thread of sunlight woven through.

this beautician began to weep.
oh, ann, i can't believe you are here.
that i found you. you were to come
yesterday, and i wasn't here,
God did this!!

yes, maryann, this beautiful, majestic
God can put people together for all
His God-ordained reasons.

ann,
last night, my
husband left me.
for good. enraged for various
reasons. i was drinking. drunk.
we got into a big fight. now,
i'm responsible for this 6 mo. baby.
and, ann, i really love my husband.

maryann,
i don't know if your husband
will come back or not. but God
uses experiences like these to
completely break us so we can be
pure. so we are bottomed out. purged
of our self-absorbed ways. so we
stop, and can hear Him when He
speaks to us.

a single mother. suddenly.
doesn't know how she'll survive.
i tipped her as much as i possibly
could.

run into His arms, maryann.
they are never too short. we'll
run together. i know Jesus brought
me right to you. calling you. beckoning
you toward Himself. He must have a
serious calling on your life.

"generous love. God give grace!
huge in mercy. wipe out my bad record.
scrub away my guilt. soak out my sins
in your laundry. i know how bad i've been.

what you are after is truth
from the inside out.
enter me thus; conceive
a new, true life." psalm 52 The Message

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

"how easily could God,
if He so willed, set back the
world a little turn or two! correct
its griefs, and bring its joys again!"
edna st. vincent millay

just a turn here and there.
so the sorrows can be undone. the
failures. and life be as before. beautiful
and fresh and untarnished.


nash.
a graduate of whittier college.
summa cum laude..
young. vital. handsome.
his future planted with vastly-
promised possibilities. a job
waiting in san francisco. the
sky clean and blue. the pacific ocean
out his window. the world knocking
at his door.

one, gentle, cool evening.
he asked a beautiful, young , indian girl
to go out. maybe the third date, they
had protected sex. until the condon broke.
strangers. her culture a world away from his.
how much can you really know someone
over THREE dinners? how much?

she called and told him she was
pregnant, and positive it was his baby.
she was wild for nash the first night she
saw him. thought he was the most gorgeous
creature she'd ever laid eyes on.

pregnant?! a BABY?!
in one conversation, EVERYTHING nash
had going for him...freedom and the beginning
of the rest of his life...was obliterated.
shattered. leaving him naked. exposed. and
he withdrew deeper and deeper into himself.
the sky was no longer blue. the ocean a
million miles away.

lying in bed,
he would look over at this strange,
beautiful woman. pregnant with his child,
and he hated her. an unknown object.
blasting his peace. his joy. his soul!

he went to all the doctor's visits.
tried, in every way, to be honorable
and shoulder this weight. and he
sank lower. to depths no one else
knew or could understand.

the baby was born.
a beautiful, tiny girl.
i could not see a drop of nash
in this precious child we all
treasured.. none of us could.
but we embraced her. the
ground unstable under our feet.

the young mother
became more and more
distraught and demanding. nash
lost his bonus because of missing
so many work hours because of
her screaming orders to come home.

finally, secretly,
nash ordered a paternity test.
to be delivered to a private p.o. box.
without the mother knowing. he
swabbed the baby's cheek. then his
own. and mailed the package.

it was the same day....
the baby turned 6 mos. old...
nash had his birthday, and his mother,
my twin sister, jan, was diagnosed with
cancer. the DNA results came.
99.9% positive the baby was NOT his.

he went in, quietly, and picked up
this little girl we all loved. fed her.
talked to her. put a dry diaper on,
and laid her back in her crib.
with self-contained rage
boiling just under his skin.
behind his eyes. on the bottoms
of his feet, he handed susan the DNA
results. picked up a few things, and
walked out.

nash isn't about sitting behind a desk.
raking in alot of money for the sake of success.
he's a visionary. a dreamer. wanting to build a
better world. spain. china. anywhere. one brick
at a time. a banner here. five thousand there.
world, dance with me. believe with me. innovate.
create. expand.

like all of us,
maybe he forgot that the
Creator of the universe is the ONLY
One who can lead us to the music.
and direct the orchestra.

for weeks.....and months,
nash has been battling an internal war.
day after day, curled on his bed in a
fetal position. the hole too deep. the
wall too high. sometimes, he's sat at a
bar. drunk a martini. annihilated.

then, last night.
rock bottom. the place we all
must get to before we can rise out
of the ashes.

"God, i'll go. anywhere.
do anything. ANYTHING.
take my life. all of me. Jesus,
lead me out."

in its own way,
the sinner's prayer.
the arm
reaching out of the
wreckage, and God's arm
grabbing ours, and lifting us out.


"oh, joy,
you seek me through the pain.
i cannot close my heart to Thee.
i trace the rainbow through the rain,
and know the promise is not vain that
morn shall tearless be."

hey, nash,
your aunt ann treasures you.
believes in you. and i'm watching
as God turns the corner of your life.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

YES
to tomorrow.
fresh dreams.
higher mountains.
greater impossibilities.
wider sunrises.
stouter courage.
braver risks."
YES
because Jesus is the divine YES.
because He changes everything.
He is my highest fulfillment.
He made me whole...
takes the bad and turns it to good.
He is my Song.
my Reason to live.
"for to me to live is Christ"

i stand before Christ and the world.
my heart shouts an affirmation:
Jesus, i am a lowly servant woman.
take me. all of me.
add anything. take away anything.
at any cost. with any price.
make me Yours. completely...wholly.
may i not be remembered for how
i wear my hair
or the shape of my face
or the people i know
or the crowds i've addressed.
may i be known for loving You
for carrying a dream.
for building bridges
to the hurt and broken and lost in the world.
make me what You would be if You lived
in person where i do.
may everything accomplished through my simple
life bring honor and glory to You.
for carrying a dream.
to the hurt and broken and lost.
take my human failures and flaws,
and use them to remind those who know me
that only You are God.
and i will always just be ann.
amen.
amen.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

i can spot a single mother
across walmart or the grocery store.
or fixing sandwiches behind the counter
of subway.

all of us doing double time
to make ends meet. to keep the
roof over our heads. making sure
our children eat. that the electricity
isn't turned off.

the other night,
i went to celebrate recovery.
taylor, my oldest, to the gym.
all of me itched for a solid, two-hour
work-out, but keeping my sobriety
wooed me more than the other.

thinking taylor would be home
before i was. i left the house key
on the chest in the living room.
when i got home, the door was
locked. no key under the mat.

i got back in the car, to the gym.
and while waiting for my son to
answer the page (had ear phones
in, listening to his music so didn't
hear), i was visiting with sandy behind
the counter. handing out towels. etc.

finally, she came over,
and just the two of us were talking.

ann, i've worked here for seven years,
and still get $9 an hour. isn't that pitiful?!!
no benefits. nothing.

i found taylor.
he handed me the house keys.
as i was driving home, God
spoke.

ann, remember all the cash
at home that you got out for the
rent? give her $100 in My name.

these are my most glorious moments!!
the THRILL of helping Jesus in my
neighborhood. my face gets flushed
with excitement. heart pounding.

grabbing $100, and zooming back
to the gym. pushing through the front
door, i found her standing alone. wrap-
ping up for the night.

i rolled the bill
so she couldn't see
the amount. opened her
hand, and closed her fingers around
the money.'

sandy (fictitious name),
i give this to you in the name
of Jesus. i don't care what you do
with it.

a glorious God.
radiance on her face.
she began to weep.

sandy, this is not mine.
but God's. He knows ALL your
needs. covers you when you
are in pain. when you have run
out of all your resources.

she kept crying.
hugging me. kissing my face.

sandy, are you
a single mother?

yes, three children.

whoa! we were sisters.
leaning hard on Jesus to
keep us afloat. i know because
i have four as a single mother.

oh, ann, i love you.
you'll never know what
this means. miracles really
do happen! you have no idea
how much i needed this.

soaring with the angels.
the Divine. joining in God's
kingdom efforts on earth.
as fresh as the early morning
sky. as quiet as the sun stretching
lower and lower across the horizon.
single parents. alone and difficult,
yet NEVER alone. NEVER abandoned.

"guide me, oh, Thou great Jehovah.
lead me through this barren
land.
i am weak, but Thou art mightly.
guide me with Thy powerful hand.

bread of Heaven,
feed us 'til we want no more.
bread of Heaven,
feed us 'til we want no more."

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

"there is a River
that flows from Calvary....
there is a River that never
shall run dry...." old hymn


flow, River, flow.
our hearts are parched.
dried of compassion and love.
our vision is so narrow.
our thinking so small.
our fears like giants, taunting
us. and rage seeping out, and
mixing with our fake bravado.
crushing all the beauty.
shattering who we are for God.

my youngest son came home
for the week-end. my oldest, still
in college, here, too. they rented
the movie GRAN TARINO. clint eastwood.
get it. watch it.

clint is this bitter, old guy.
wife just died. spoiled, adult
children. his house gradually
surrounded by hmong families.
gang violence. he is hostile.
doesn't like anyone. annoyed
by all. loves only his dog.

his wife, before she died, made
the young, irish priest promise that
he would get her husband to confession
before he died. impossible challenge one.

it is subtle. the story line.
brick upon brick. ultimately, this old
guy cannot help himself. the love of
two hmong teenagers (brother/sister)begins
to crack eastwood's brittle exterior.

he feels more loved by his hmong neighbors
than his own, superficial, disrespecting adult
children. a hmong gang takes on this brother/
sister team. it fires eastwood up. he tackles
it first with violence. beats a gang member
brutally. pulls out his gun. his mind travels
back to vietnam, and the scourge of soul
when he had to kill.

without divulging
the brilliant evolvement
of love, let me just say "dirty harry"
was able, again, to produce a great
movie. though no spiritual thread was
woven into the story, it brought me back
to love.

"to write the love
of God above, would drain
the ocean dry. nor could the
scroll contain the whole...though
stretched from sky to sky." hymn

one of my children from boston...
a boy i utterly loved from the ghetto.
went with me and 11 other children
as my guests to israel to run my very
first marathon..found me on facebook.
from nine and ten years of age to now
42 yrs.. married with two children.

his mother was a woman who worked
in my neighborhood. someone i led
to Jesus. she, too, found me on facebook.
devout Christian. connected again after at
least 25 years ago. River flow. River flow.

a couple has been moving in
next door today. 107degrees.
it is 9:30p.m., and it hits me that
maybe they need taylor, my son, to
help. and me. i tear off my night-gown.
pull on shorts and teeshirt.
run next door and knock. they are basically
done for today. but we meet. and i had only
been home minutes when the knock comes
to my front door. the washing machine.
help? please? taylor runs over. they get
the job done. a new bridge built.

love transforms us.
takes the hardness and coldness
out of our hearts, and washes the rigidity
and sarcasm with purity. changes our
world view.

River come.
oh, River, come.
in the glistening waters
of your Blood, wash over
us.

sir, can i help you?
hey, kid, you want to play catch?
oh, what beautiful eyes you have.

spontaneous moments.
unheralded. authentic.
Jesus' Blood. our River.

oh, River, drench our desolation.
wash us. that your love, in us,
will change the world.

Friday, June 19, 2009

motherhood is beautiful
and hard and, often, way over
my head. especially when it
comes to tough love.

one of my sons lives in a city
close by. he is handsome, brilliant.
can talk to anyone, and write circles
around me.

but living skills?
keeping his word?
meaning to, but doing it is
another story altogether.

i drove to where he lives
ten days ago because he was
needing a bicycle. his walking
to work, two hours a day, demoralized
me, to say nothing of him.

so, i picked him up.
took him to o'brien's market
for his favorite, tri-tip sandwich,
and headed to walmart to check out
bikes.

mom! i have a great idea!
we could use your bank card,
and get me clear-wire service for
my computer. it's only $29 a mo!
well...it goes up to $44 after three
months.

BUT, mom, i have a job, and i
could pay you every month. like,
today is wednesday, and i get paid
friday. i'll give you the first month then.

for a brief moment,
my brain decided to sit on a shelf
somewhere, and i went along
with him. we bounded into the
clearwire store. i asked if we had time
to test it and return it. yes, one week.''

i laid my card on the counter, and we
walked out. tall and proud. i had the happiest
son in the world.

well, friday came, and i called about my
first payment. our agreement. his words
began to slide through me with a chill. a
dark realization. this utterly-amazing son
of mine, finding it hard to navigate life. not
doing what he said he wiould do, had just
displayed his life-worn behavior.

darling. you are an adult.
do NOT tell me you will do something
if you aren't. a person's word is his
character. shapes the form of his life
journey. establishes trust or negates
it.

BUT YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND, MOM!
i bought $50 wowrth of minutes for my phone
so you can always reach me.

AND, MOM, i was so lonely.
so down. so i took a nice girl
(you would REALLY like her!)
on a date.

honey,
the first month, and you already
have failed on your word.

i walked around for two days.
disgusted with myself. my son
does not drink or smoke or do drugs.
his addiction is a specific game online.

i knew better.
again, in a subtle moment of weakness,
(after all, we, as a family, had been through
the wilderness and the flood), i had created
a mess for myself.

and i knew
i'd face hell for
my decision.

day seven arrived.
i drove to where my son
lives, and knocked on the door.
i asked him for the clearwire box
and chords. within moments,
i was scorched by the heat of
rage spewing everywhere.

you are not worthy to be a mother.
you are worse than my worst girlfriend.
ouch! his girlfriends are the bottom-of-the-list girls.
i don't ever want to see you again.
i am going to change my last name.
i am no longer in this family, and i don't
want to EVER again be your son!!

i'll leave out the most choice words.
nasty, and outside my vocabulary.

listen, honey, i know i've not been perfect.
i know i've failed you. will you forgive me?

NO!! NEVER!!

well, no matter what,
i'm taking the box back to
the store. of you can't keep
your word the first month,
there's no question i can't depend
on it.

finally, i quietly walked next door
to the woman in charge of the program.
with young people, 18-21, chosen.
to teach life skills. free counselling. etc.
i needed support. i meant business, and
every single second of this scenario was
excruciating. if i wilted now, all the
tough love i'd doled out for the last 8 mos.
would go down the tube.

i'm a lover. let's be happy.
for the first time, ever, i had
stuck to my guns. unbending
to the schrewed manipulation.

the director
walked out with the box.
i cried, and thanked her for ALL
she was doing for my son.

ann, give him time. it'll be okay.

it sure didn't feel okay.

as i was almost to the freeway
for home, my son called. sobbing.

please don't get on the freeway, yet.
i didn't mean all those horrible things i
said, mom. you and i are close. right?!
i know i'm the black sheep in the family, but...

you are NOT the black sheep in our family.
not for one single second has that thought EVER
entered my mind. i'm so proud to be your mom.
i utterly believe in you. you are my son with
a calling on his life.

i drove back to where he lived.
we stopped and bought two of his
favorite dvd's he could watch on
his computer, and some groceries.

if we don't learn to stand
by our word growing up, then we
are adults still playing the same games.
still manipulating. we become grown-ups,
doing the same games, but more polished.
smoother. easier to dress ourselves in ways
not noticed at a glance.

i wish every morning had a clean,
summer sky. but they don't. some
days the wind swirls. thunder roars. people
have foul moods.

that is what the Redeemer, the Savior,
is all about. redemption. cleansing of
the carnality we are born with.

tough love.
it is not pretty.
but it is the foundation
of our destinies. we owe
it to our children to live through
the pain...to the other side...so
God can depend on us to be
His disciples. His world-changers.

Monday, June 8, 2009

"commend me to a bruised brother, a
broken reed. for the Man of Sorrows is never
far from him." robert murray mccheyne

hmmmm.
bruised and broken.
like Jesus. our goal.

can i keep the devil from taking
my song? pastor bobby's
words still ring in my ears.

plant my feet
on the Solid Rock.
held steady by Jesus.
when the storms roar, and
i sway in my pain, may the song
live!

the business goes under.
you lose your job. someone you
love more than you love yourself
dies. can the devil take our song?
can't let him do it.
can't let him win.

it was a normal week day.
i drove to modesto to see my
doctor. picked up a steaming-hot
bowl of cheesy-potato soup to go.
cradled the bowl, with a plastic lid,
deep in my lap. as i pulled right, onto
the main street, making a sharp turn,
the soup flew.
lid off. all over me, and toward the passenger seat
where i had important papers.
as i reached to grab the bowl,
i automatically turned the steering wheel
in that direction, and jumped the curb
on one side.

standing by my car. stunned.
soup down my black dress. chew-
ing on my bottom lip. unable
to bring the car back over the curb.
i stood.
cell phone forgotten at home.
my song fading.

a police car pulled up to see that
everything was okay. i explained my
delimna. before i could mentally devise
a solution, the officer looked at me, and
said....i can tell by your eyes that you
have been drinking!

excuse me?!! what did you say?

you have been drinking!
i can tell by your eyes.

too stunned to tell him i was ten
days away from eye surgery on the
muscles of my eyes...that one pupil
or the other wanders to the outside,
i just gaped at him.
speechless.
unable to dialogue that i have NEVER
liked alcohol. how it tastes or how it
makes me feel. i NEVER drink.

but before i knew it, they were
putting me in the backseat of the
police car. charging me with a DUI.
no breathilizer. just because..my eyes.

the song?
it was gone.
replaced by a dirge of terror and
horror and shock.

through the grid in the police car,
my voice trembling, i said, draw my blood!

it was done by a nurse.
i was booked into the women's jail
in the next city, in the middle of nowhere.
stripped. finger-printed. face mugged.
one phone call allowed, and i could not
think of one phone number. not one.

brokenness.
a path to higher ground.
well, i didn't like it. didn't want it.
knew i had been wronged, and did not
want any music.

finally, i was led outside.
three massive, tilled fields between
me and the road. was told i had five minutes
to cross this spanse, and catch the last bus
of the night to modesto.

run!
my instincts kicked in.
i knew how to run.
kicking off my
flip-flops. eyes down so as to miss
the holes. face covered in tears, i
started running for my life. as the bus
was pulling away, i slapped the door, and it opened.

today,
my eye surgery is done.
all charges have been dropped
because no alcohol or drugs were
found in my blood. it was a dear friend
who called out of the blue, who retained
an attorney to represent me. i had told
every young woman arrested after me about
Jesus. and He, through it all, did NOT aban-
don me.

i flunked with my song.
i wasn't noble in my brokenness.
but God used this in my life. the pain
DID become my gift.

"i want to scale the utmost heights,
and catch a gleam of glory bright;
but still i'll pray 'til Heaven i've found,
my prayer, my aim is highter ground." (old hymn)


"i will exalt you, O LORD, for You have lifted
me out of the depths and did not let my enemies
gloat over me...weeping may remain for a night,
but rejoicing comes in the morning." ps.30

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

pastor bobby said
the devil can't take my song!

i shout out
huh-uh! no, sir!
it is mine to sing, and
he is NOT going to quiet
my music.

oh, the devil tries. yes, he does.
he reminds me of all my
failures. he whispers that i am
weak. not worthy. but he can't
have my song!

my sister has cancer.
one of my children feels
very alone where he is.
i'm not always sure how
i will pay the bills. it is not
always easy to hang on to the
music, but the devil
can't take my song!

it is not hard to sing
on good days. when
everything just seems to
fall into place. the children
are thriving. friends embracing
me. enough money in the bank.
there is music everywhere.
i hear it in the trees. in
the laughter of those around
me. the chirping of the birds.

but, i trip, and fall
on little things if i'm not
careful. a criticism.
a minor collision. a miserable
work-out at the gym.
and my song begins to fade.
like the sun crawling below the
horizon. so subtle, the way
darkness settles over us. the way
music leaves me.

but...
just when the devil
thinks my song is gone,
i reach out to you.

let's join in our sorrows,
and our struggles. let's
become a choir. our voices
raised to the ONLY One
who can make the music.
the only One who knows the
song. let's sing!

never!
no!!
the devil can't
take my song
because he knows
NOTHING about melodies.
there is NO music where
he dwells. we will not
hang our instruments in
the trees. we will NOT
be quieted.

pastor bobby got it right.
the devil doesn't get it,
but he can't take away
our song.
even the rocks and hills cry out.
the song lives!

"He has given me a new song
to sing. a hymn of praise to
our God. many will see what He
has done. they will put their trust in
the Lord." ps.40:2-3

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

"i'm not afraid of storms
for i am learning how to sail
my ship." louisa may alcott

long ago,
i decided if i didn't make friends with
pain, i would be a miserable person. a
new storm has always been brewing somewhere
on the periphery of my life.

in my latest book, seduced by success, i made
a BOLD confession. this specific experience
shattered me. a tsunami that shredded my peace
and terrified me.

at 27 yrs. of age,
i lost my virginity to a
married man.

i was dean of women on a university
campus outside boston. one of my superiors,
highly regarded by all, fell for me. he was married,
with children, and i was utterly unprepared for the
wiles of some men. jan, my sister, had just married,
and it made me feel very alone. vulnerable.

this man, twice my age, was so subtle in wooing
me that i was in before i realized it. and didn't know
how to get out.

with all my heart, i was pure
about Jesus. He, my Star and Savior, was
everything. until this, i had never stepped my
toe outside the line of spiritual responsibility.

then,
beyond imagination,
a storm gust picked me up,
and blew me into a world of nightmares
and blurred truth beyond anything i had known.

i had saved myself for marriage, but in
one night, one moment, lost all the years
of purity. crossed a line that i could never
change.

he told me we were different.
that the commandments against adultery
and fornication in the Bible did NOT
apply to us. he called us exceptions.

how could that be?!
what was truth? scrambled brain.
terrified contradictions that i literally
could not match up. i became completely
lost.

many nights,
i would get into my sport's car, and
drive through winding streets in my
neighborhood. screaming and screaming.
retching out the pain. the horror and shame
of genuinely being lost from truth.

tears streaming down my face.
a wound so deep. slicing the clean, pure
journey into shards of ragged aching
utter misery.

Jesus! Father God!
help me. show me truth.
Lord, i am lost.

it was a big night.
i was speaking to a packed
coliseum. a lean, simple form
sitting on a stool. telling my
story of one young woman plus
a great God and love, changing the
world.

after,
as soon as i closed the door
to my hotel room, i fell on my face
by the bed. it didn't matter who had
walked there. what had been spilled
there.

nothing mattered.
nothing at all, except Jesus
coming and opening my eyes and heart.
a glorious night of blessing at the huge
auditorium, shrouded by a dark secret.

and even worse,
truly not knowing
the truth.

in time,
God led me out.
miraculously. the chains
of bondage removed. my soul
washed in God's glistening truth.

are you in the middle
of a storm? lost and shattered?

i promise you
that the Cross is far
more powerful than the lies
and deceit.

Jesus knew my heart.
He protected me. led me out.
confess and watch Him do the
same for you.

"there's room at the Cross
for you. there's room at the Cross
for you. though millions have come,
there's still room for one. yes,
there's room at the Cross for you."



"In the world you will have trouble, but be courageous-I have overcome the world!"
John 6:33

Saturday, May 16, 2009


"Lord, i want to be a Christian,
in my heart. in my heart.
Lord, i want to be a Christian
in my heart."

can you hear the music?
the heart's earnest melody?
with longing; a purity that
pierces the darkness?

in my heart.
where only God sees.
full-figured. skinny.
those sitting on a park bench, or
flying via foot. running in the early
morning mist when the sun begins to
settle on the far horizon. stretching its warmth
up and down streets, in the
neighborhoods everywhere.

in my heart
where it REALLY matters.
where we leave judgement
by the side of the road. in God's hands.
set it apart. love,
with no exceptions. shining in our eyes.
we look at people, and they can see
compassion and kindness
in spite of our own frailties and imper-
fections and sin.

hey, brother, can i take your hand?
little boy, do you want to play catch?
popcorn and laughter and a million red
balloons. all because Jesus REALLY lives.
and He is in us. in our hearts where the TRUTH
really shows. can you catch the melody?

tomorrow,
my oldest son turns 25 yrs. old.
will and i knew he was the most
beautiful baby in the nursery. and
the fact that he, at one month, rolled from
the middle of a king-sized bed, and fell off?
well, that classified him as a genius!

he, and my other three sons, melt my
cells and arteries and bones into gushing
pride. humility and gratitude. but do they
catch the rhythm of God's magnificent orchestra?
Lord, can they see my heart?
do they know, in the my quiet living out
of life, that YOU are my heart? you are ALL
that matters? do they see You in me?
in all the ways that count?

skin color means nothing
to me. social/economic status?
nothing. body size? nothing. nor
achievements can turn my head in a
different direction from the Song. oh,
i pray for my heart in this polluted, self-
absorbed world.

happy birthday, taylor.
welcome home from the university.
for the summer. catch that sweet,
clear music in the air. can you track
the rhythm of love that i've painted on
the walls? stamped the chords on the doors
so all can enjoy.

"Lord, i want to be a Christian
in my heart. in my heart."

that is ALL Jesus is about. His beethoven
of sorts. sit up. poise your instruments.
the common houses, on ordinary streets,
can tap to the beat of Christ's glorious
music of love.

come sing with me.
join the chorus.
we have work to do.
in all the heartache. all the
searching....for Someone...anyone...
to PLEASE play the song.
and tell them they will laugh again.
that joy comes in the morning.
and the shadows NEVER last
forever.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Single Parenting Q & A with Ann Kiemel

Two young girls wrote in to Heritage Builders and wanted Ann to address specific questions in regards to ministering to children from single parent families.
Her responses are thought-provoking and worth posting for others to read.
Here are their questions:

Thanks so much for being willing to help, we really appreciate it. Just to give you some context, our main idea for ministering to the kids in single parent homes was to send out a small quarterly magazine.

What are some similar emotions that kids in single parent situations probably share? For example, would they have anger, insecurity, rejection, or a sense of being un-loved?

What is the best way that kids (in general) receive encouragement?

What kinds of things might offend kids in single parent situations? For example, do you think it would be offensive to offer them a magazine labeled specifically for kids in single parent homes, or to offer to make dinner for them one night so they can spend time with their parents?

Do you think we could show God's love to them better by sending out the magazine, having events like Bible studies or movie nights they can come to, or doing random acts of kindness for them?

Now about the magazine... Do you have any suggestions on content, a program we can use to put it together, making it look appealing, etc.?

Do you have any other advice for us about working with these kids, the magazine, etc.? Any will be appreciated.

Again, thank you so much for taking the time out of your schedule to help us. We really value any input that you can give us.

And Ann's response:

dear girls,

my name is ann, and i am a single
mom who works with heritage builders on this
subject specifically. i hope these answers
will help you.

there are many things i don't know.
what age, generally, are you talking about?
what is the social-economic status?
do you do this full-time? i was deeply
touched by your passion and genuine
love for these single-parent kids. you
must be very special, and make a great
team!!

1. best way for kids to receive encouragement?

love. love. love. pick them up (one at a time
if you can), and go get ice cream together.
listen to them talk. about their day. about
their moms or dads. about hard stuff. maybe
letting them have your phone numbers so they
can always feel free to talk.

2. similar emotions single-parent kids feel
vs. all the others who live in two-parent houses?


it is easier today than it once was. today,
every l in 2-3 families is single-parent, so
children don't feel obviously disjointed and
separate from all the others. my husband
died 8 yrs. ago with cancer. i especially...and
still do...dread Father's Day. it makes the loss
feel so obvious. BUT, so much depends on the
mothers. some women can't imagine being alone,
so they hook up with men. bring them into the
home. etc. look at these kids you work with.
BUILD BRIDGES to the single parent. as you
work with the children, do something for the
mothers.

3. should we cook a special meal so they can
spend time with both parents?


yes. yes.
beautiful concept.

4.should we do Bible studies? random acts
of kindness?


again, tremendous ideas. not
knowing how old most your kids are, let me
tell you what i did when i was single, and out
to change the world for Jesus. i'd tell the guys,
who wanted to play on the basketball courts
in my neigborhood, "okay. no problem. BUT,
you have to spend 30 minutes with me in a
Bible study." i had all kinds of guys coming
to the Bible study, and then playing basket-
ball to their hearts' content. random acts of
kindness? you can never fail with this. just
be careful that you don't exhaust yourselves.
that you put into yourselves nurturing and rest and
love, or you will burn out.

5. the magazine?


i hope to meet you both
some day. you are so whole-hearted. creative
and passionate. a magazine is a BIG undertaking.
maybe once a month. each mag. should be clean
in its layout. simple to read. only three or four
pages. maybe featuring two kids an issue. pics
of them. what they love. then, it reinforces to each
one HOW special they are. most kids aren't into
alot of reading. school all day. homework to take
home. i know several women who produced beauti-
ful mags for kids, and eventually, the demand was
way down. not worth it for just a handful. how
about cards for the kids, from you? i'm a computer
idiot, but i receive cards, often. made, somehow,
online. OR, keeping a camera around, and each wk.
do a brief youtube with them in it.

6.clues to working with single-parent kids?

relate to them as if they are whole, and not
defective. divorce and death are not their fault.
what is each one's favorite candy or snack?
challenge them to DREAM BIG. to ask God
to plant a dream in them, and with all their
effort, and God's, never give up, and watch for
miracles. focus on them helping others. there
is so much healing when we give our lives away.
detach them from what they don't have, or can't
do. instead, help them to serve. to give. to
believe they can change the world. one person
at a time. our world is our neighborhood. i was
a youth director, once, out of college. big, wealthy
church. i told them God and i were going to
change the world, and if they wanted to join
me, they should meet me at the altar at 5:30 a.m.
on saturdays. prayer and breakfast (could be
fast food, with an allotment of how much they
can order).

girls, i wish my four sons (now, 20,21,23.24)
had had two gals like you in their lives. what a HUGE
difference it would have made. just remember: ask
God to make you creative. to give you ideas. and love
purely. YOU, both, ARE changing your world.
love,
ann kiemel anderson
heritage builders


If you a have question and/or set of questions for Ann, feel free to email them to
info@annkiemel.com.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

have you ever been
to an AA meeting?
or celebrate recovery,
the Christian counterpart?
once you have been,
you are never the same.

it is where Jesus visits.
the broken. the enslaved.
the struggling. the desperate.
we gather. in our yearning.
to touch Him. to crawl under
His arms of love, and feel His warmth
and compassion. to breathe the
same air. to inhale His grace. to find
communion with each other. where
it does not matter how we look. what
we are wearing. where we live.
we are grasping. reaching. lost in our
muddled lives for more of HIM.

on sunday mornings,
at church, it is eons away
from the huddled masses on the
outskirts. people drive to the
beautiful, steepled churches.
bound out of clean, shiny
cars. dressed in their best.
smiling. radiating vibrance and
enthusiasm. trying to exhibit
some level of perfection. sitting,
side by side. singing about God's
vast love. nodding at friends. ministers
with perfectly-knotted ties and boisterous
enthusiasm. i am sitting next to you.
but i don't know..not really..anything about
you. nor you, me. all of us too afraid
to share our darkness because then we
might feel rejected in the ONLY place
we are supposed to find unconditional
love.

last night,
i went to celebrate recovery.
heard a young man tell how,
in seven years, he had never gone
a day without smoking pot. yet, here,
he found hope, and is four days clean.
wonder on his face. in his voice. then,
i went to the women's substance abuse
group. single mothers, wives, young
women who have fought battles all week.
somehow held on until they could come.
sit in a circle and talk. complete trust
that what is shared there, stays there.
no pretense. no compromise of truth.
joined, not by our social-economic status,
but by our brokenness and failure and
struggles.

i'm ann. i'm an addict.

hi, ann.

some of you know i shattered my
femur. broke my hip, and cracked
my pelvis a yr. ago after a fall. i
had fourteen years of recovery under
my belt. my doctor gives me four
pain pills a day. i try to only take two
at night to sleep. i struggle. i
want to be pure for God. perfect.
yes, i want to be perfect for Him.
the Savior and Star of my life. but
it is so hard. am i wrong? right?

everyone listens. nods
in understanding on some level.
i've taken my darkness, and laid it
out in front of them. humbly.
with courage, dredged out of pain.

then, charity (not her real name) spoke.
i'm a mess. i'm 27. i can't help myself.
i'm smoking heroin, and really want to
shoot up so bad. i can tell i'm pregnant
again. i've had four kids so i know. my
boyfriend's abusive, but i don't know how
to live without him.

and she starts to weep.
stunning young woman.
externally flawless. but, shattered
of soul and spirit. grief and fear and
shame hanging on her. stooped over.
eyes downcast. combing her hair away
from her face with her fingers.
utterly destitute. terrified. i went over
and threw my arms around her. she buried
her head in my shoulder. i kissed her face.

i came home
knowing i had seen a
touch of Heaven. Jesus, the Savior
of the world, crucified for us all. and
though church on Sundays looks good
on the outside, behind every glistening
facade, there are secrets. troubles.
rebellious children. women who have had
abortions in their youth. moral failures.
all of us trying to hold it together, and
forgetting that Jesus came for us. not
to make us perfect. only HE is perfection.
but to take our hands, and
lead us down the road with grace and
tenderness. promising deliverance. giving
comfort.


it's ALL about the Blood.
the Blood of Jesus. He was
wounded and scarred and hung for our
transgressions. drink from His Cup
today. "there is power..power..wonder-
working power in the Blood of the Lamb."

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

this was a juicy hamburger and
strawberry milkshake day. blue the
color of topaz in the sky. the pacific ocean
35 feet from the hotel. brisk air as the salty
waves curled toward shore outside our hotel
room.

tom, my brother-in-law, had business to cover
twelve miles from the oregon coast, and he and
jan asked me to come along. a king-sized
bed and a roll-a-way. just what we wanted,
except tom insisted i sleep with jan, and he
took the roll-a-way. just like tom if you knew
him.

have you ever driven through massive
redwoods, and seen the river racing far below?
stood at the foot of one of these magnificent
trees, shooting high into the sky? so high that,
even squinting, you cannot see the top?

NOTHING God makes can be replicated by
man! not in our bodies. not the majestic
ocean that stretches even beyond the horizon.
jutting mountain peaks with a dash of snow.

sitting in the tiny, home-spun space,
sipping straws of the best ever milkshakes,
i knew how incredulous God's love is for
flawed mortals.

morning light burned through the curtains.
we took the elevator down to the free breakfast
in the lobby. children giggling. orange juice
spilled. i, with p.j. bottoms and a top on. laid
back. some couples animated with each other's
conversation. one man, alone, scowling. peel-
ing off his yogurt top as if he were yanking the
skin of failure off his miserable bones. his
bleak life. one baby screaming. high strung.
needing something, but no one knowing what.

i looked around.
so much life encapsulated in this
one hotel lobby.

we were having fun, but in the damp
quietness of my soul, when i least expect
it, a shadow falls. suddenly, my imperfec-
tions glare at my moment-before peace.

the essence, my entire adult life, is that
God only looks at the heart. our motives.
our love for Him. the clean intention of being
pure and perfect. even as perfection is as
theatrically warped as one lost mis-step...
in a brilliant performance that thrills the
heart and makes one weep. the unnoticed
error obscured completely.

do you ever move from a place of
peace to a cloud dangling overhead?
stealing what was just joy, to now doubts
of your worthiness? i do.

do you get lost in what it really means
to please God? to know your servanthood
is pure? deserving? i second-guess myself
all the time.

my father prayed and fasted, often ten days
at a time. he always seemed sad to me. my
brother set the tone, and he did not match up
to my father's standards. every waking moment
i was trying to make my dad's face light up.
at 7 yrs. old. 12 yrs.old. and through my teenage
years. attempting perfection was an everyday
effort for me. and utterly impossible.

i think i've finally learned to retrace my thoughts.
what had i seen on a billboard? what song had
just played on the cd? feelings are triggered by
something as simple as what someone
said to me that shamed me. once figured out,
a slice of sun trickles into my wound.

if this is not a milkshake and hamburger day,
walk around the block several times. endor-
phins help. do something beautiful for some-
one in your neighborhood. find a chair at the
mall, and watch God's incredible creations.
beauty lives in all of us. somewhere.

"Lord Jesus, i long to be perfectly whole.
i want you forever to live in my soul.
break down every idol. cast out every foe.
now wash me and i shall be whiter than snow."
(author unknown)

take a finger,
and write love across
the sky. dig a toe into
warm sand, and know that
God counts every grain on every
beach in all the world.
life is not defined by strawberry
milkshake days so much as
by the fact that God sticks them in
here and there because He loves to
surprise us. and lift the heavy loads
that life demands to purify us.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

a man wrote my children
a letter today about their mother.
he addressed my sons by name.
taylor, brock, colson, brandt.
we really love each other. and
he told the story of his youth ministry
in the 70's and 80's, and how my simple
books shaped his life. i wept.

i am making copies for each of my
sons, and they are going to be so
blessed. blessed because our journey...
the five of us...has been shaped by hardship
and struggle. something beautiful happens
when we stand together through deep waters
of adversity, and days of sorrow and loss.
even more powerful, God is placing wonderful,
loving, caring men into my sons' lives. and
they will be so proud that God has somehow
used their imperfect mom to make a difference.
i remind them that ANYONE can make a
difference. one plus Jesus plus love.

i also received a letter
this week from danae.
17 yrs. old. young and
vibrant and passionate about
Jesus, and taking Him to her
world. some day, i will be gone,
and she will take my place, and others,
reminding the world that Jesus
lives...and He loves. and
His love changes
EVERYTHING!

love.
that is all there is.

almost every day,
i drive over to panera's.
a bakery, and soup and sandwich
place. i made a decision to go
on Easter Sunday afternoon because
i am building bridges to the owner.
he is in my neighborhood.

the parking lot was completely empty.
fearful it was closed, i got out
of my car, anyway, and was
thrilled the door was open.

jerry was at the counter.
wow! i'm sure glad to see someone.
are other places as forsaken as
we are?

yes, i smiled.
so happy to reassure him
that his business wasn't going
under. i bought a shortbread
cookie, a bear claw, and yogurt
with granola. my favorites.

he thanked me so much
for always coming in and giving
him business. for bringing my friends
in, too. so happy! that is how i feel
when i have touched someone
in Jesus' Name.

one day, i went in, and autumn
was behind the counter. a single
mother of three. i ordered, paid,
and asked where we leave tips.
she said they didn't have tips there.

i stood there. thinking. praying.
opened my purse. i had a $100
to pay a bill, but pulled it out,
and rolled it up. sticking it in
autumn's hand, i said...

put this in your pocket.
i love you, and Jesus does.

later, i found out she bought
groceries for another single mom,
and herself. thanksgiving was the
next week.

people loving my children.
all of us trying to love the world.
fresh and glistening and pure.
God promises bright, happy
tomorrows. you'll see.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

jan, my twin sister, was just here
for three days. i've walked my husband
down the road of cancer, and now, jan,
my dearest friend in the world.

i drove her home to sacramento,
and then headed to modesto, to take
colson, my son, to dinner, and to walmart
to buy what he needs for a new job. again,
saddened by his struggles as i am with jan's.

then....
i began to think of Holy Week.
yesterday being Good Friday.
i called each of my children.

remember, today is when we humble
ourselves because Jesus died for our sins.
remember to look for the poor. do something
in Jesus's name for someone.

brock drove in from long beach.
my second oldest son. last night, late.
we'll go to church together tomorrow
before he heads home. Easter Sunday.
the JOY of the Resurrection!

"how precious is the flow..
that washes white as snow..
no other Fount i know..
nothing but the Blood of Jesus."

being brilliant didn't deliver me
from my sins and addictions and corrupt
core, willpower (and you have to have this
to qualify for three boston marathons...and
run ANY 26.2mi.race without stopping) couldn't
lead me out of darkness. only the Blood
of Jesus.

for jan. for my children. for all of us.
only Jesus's Blood can free us of enslavement.
fling the doors of imprisonment wide open.
we are all broken in some way. sick, and
needing healing. of body. or heart and soul.

cry out today.
to the ONLY One who offers
deliverance. the One who moves mountains.
slices through every impossibility,
and raises clean sunrises out of
dark, polluted fears and failures...and
the ropes of terror that bind us. cripple us.

i am not a saint.
i need all the grace everyone
else does. let's drink of the Cup,
and eat the Bread together.
and know...ALWAYS know...
that the Blood will NEVER lose
its power.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

today, i took care of a newborn baby.
beautiful. tiny. that sweet-baby smell.
it brought back so many memories of
when my four were newborns.

then, suddenly, they became teenagers.
almost overnight. and i was a single mom
through most those years. living by faith.
will had died, and cancelled his life-insurance
policy. we didn't have him, or steady finances.

i have loved every stage of my children's lives,
but do you remember when you were a teenager?
my sister and i hardly put our heads on the pillows
at night because we were afraid our teased hair
would get squashed. when we hated how we looked
en route to school, my mother would say,,,oh,
you are young and beautiful!

young?!! what did that
have to do with anything?!
i have said the same thing to my sons,
and they have looked at me the same
way i looked at my mother.

none of my children have gotten into
drugs. so far, no girl has gotten pregnant
that i know. but i had two children that
just fit perfectly into the school box.
homework. projects in on time. studied
on their own for tests. and i have two
who got a's on their tests, but could NEVER
get their brains around homework after 8 hrs.
of classes. my favorite letter of the alphabet
became "d" because it meant they at
least passed the class.

brandt, my youngest, who is now a firefighter
with the air force, would gladly tell you of some
of his escapades. how he and his friend stole
lighters from long's drug, and accidentally burned
an abandoned house to the ground. and how his
learning instructor called me every single day of
8th grade.

mrs. anderson?
yes?
brandt went across the street today
and pushed a port-a-potty over where there
is construction.

mom, i don't know why i did that.
i just thought it was a funny thing to do.

colson's english teacher happened to sit
behind me one sunday morning at church.
i had authored 17 books, and was terrified
colson had not passed her class because,
of course, he never did his homework.

even brock, in gifted classes, came home
one day and said,
mom, i have to drop out of high school.
i can't go on. i'll take my GED tomorrow
if you will let me.

and then,
all those car accidents
divided up between four teenagers.

today,
remember the one thing that matters
more than ANYTHING else: relationship.
no matter WHAT my children did, i believed
our relationship was all that really mattered.
they would tell me things i honestly can't
believe most teens would EVER tell their
parents. about sex and pornography and
the terror of rejection.

i wanted to say alot of things,
but i just listened. they trusted me.
it gave me a window in how to pray for
each of them. i would go in, every night,
and talk to them after the lights were out.
lying next to them, in the dark, where words
and emotions came so much easier.

i'm not a child expert,
but if we don't have a loving
relationship with our children,
then they will wander farther away.
yes, i had rules.some might seem silly.

no piercings until you are l8.
brock never complained, but on his l8th
birthday, i went with him to a tattoo shop
where some guy was supposed to be the BEST
with piercings. he had so many on his face that
i could not even really tell what he looked at.
i would not have even wanted him to touch me.
brock and i subtly eyed each other. i put $40
on the table. and stood by brock while he got
his lip pierced. it looked horribly painful, but it
was the best moment of brock's life, i think. smile.

no matter where your teenager is,
and i have seen mine fight and scream
and heard them use school verbage that
melted my insides. BUT, i told them every
single day that i was so PROUD to be their
mom. that i was the richest lady in the world.
i have hugged them. baked them brownies at
10p.m. at night. i've tried to keep my feet on
the ground, and take their momentary insults
without reacting too much. and yes, i called
the police one night because one of my sons
refused to show me any respect. but...

we are wrapped together
by chords of love and loyalty
and mutual respect. and in the
darkest of times, we run to each other.
if your child does not graduate from high
school, it is a disappointment,but there are
worse things. one of my sons is having
such a hard time finding himself. he is
in another city. staying at different friends'
houses, and i won't let him come home
because we have tried EVERYTHING together.
i tell him i think it is my fault. i'm not very
good at boundaries, and he NEEDS that.

but...
often, i drive to where he is.
take him out for his favorite sandwich.
get him a haircut. sometimes buy him
new underwear and socks, and maybe
a cd (he chose johnny cash. i approved).
but i don't give away money. i don't let
him see my tears when i drive away. i
know he has to figure out, on his own,
at 21 yrs. of age, how to find himself.

he calls every few days.
we always talk about how much
we love each other. i've told him,
in the past, that self-respect doesn't
just walk in the door, but i don't
anymore. i remind him, though, to
cry out to Jesus. to pray. that i'm on
my knees, for him, every day.

don't compare your family to
other families. to how well their
children seem to be doing. don't torture
yourself this way. i'd much rather my
children wander around, and find themselves
today than when they are thirty-five and forty.

relationship.
between us and God.
and between our children,
wherever they are,
and us.
that is everything.

Friday, March 27, 2009

there are a lot of losses
for every important gain.
roadblocks. mountains. rivers.
doors slammed in our faces.
corners of our souls caving in.

and then, God
gradually begins to lift us
into the light. away from the
weariness and fray. the depression
and doubts. and He begins to breathe
life into our dreams.

i have always been a dreamer.
always believed that nothing is
impossible with a giant God.
i've spoken it. written it. and
taught my children. written the
glory of what God can do if they
don't give up across the walls of
their hearts.

brock is my second oldest. ll months
younger than taylor. since junior high,
he has dreamed of playing bass in a band.
though academically gifted, college has had
no appeal. hey, he was willing to live in
his car just to tour with a band. he spent
hours and hours at the computer in our kitchen.
scrolling to all the bands. listening to every
genre of music. i'd take him to local con-
certs. he looked normal. everyone else would
be hanging around the doors with mohawks and
piercings. terrified me.

no piercings in this family until you are
eighteen yrs. old, and NO tatoos until you
are living on your own.

brock and i spent hours at the guitar store.
i'd sit on a speaker, and watch him pick chords
on all kinds of basses. i truly knew how beauti-
ful his heart was. how he wanted to minister to
kids. i was on his team!

he and taylor moved to san diego after taylor's
college. he auditioned for a big band and got se-
lected. toured 6 wks. each summer. that band dis-
mantled. he started a couple bands of his own, but
no one had his passion. and darkness settled in.
consuming any hope. abolishing the dream. he was
with me on a trip to alabama. he told me about his
despair. mother's day, 2008. we started walking.
brock, again, handing me his pain like a gift. soul
to soul.

then, last night.
the call came.
mom! remember the band i told
you about. played background for
a big, hollywood movie? i auditioned
last night, and am playing with them
at a big gig in hollywood in may!

sometimes, it is years.
i've been through the wilderness
myself. no sound from heaven. not
even a whisper. for years and years.
BUT, with a great, glorious God, and
time, dreams DO live. never, ever, ever
give up. the losses add up, and cres-
cendo into a magnificent, new tomorrow.