Dear mom,

I turned 38 yesterday.

It rained.

We had planned for family photos in the afternoon and instead we were soaked with the inevitable – families make plans and the heavens map their own course regardless. I had blow dried my hair for half an hour and in 8 minutes flat it was all rag-tag like my thirteen-year-old self.

I’ve missed you.

Lately I’ve missed you more. I’ve cracked open a door to remembering what life looked like with you in it and all kinds of strong feelings have blown in along with the memories.

I parent deliberately these days. Less fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants more thought. You would love my sons. Jackson wears your name and your love for story so close to his skin I’m amazed to watch how DNA can move through the generations. He eats movies and imaginary characters loom so large in his mind I know we will have to guard what he consumes.

Today he was looking for something to eat and informed me all he wanted was some junk food. It would make you laugh how passionate he is about chocolate.

Micah challenges me. Liesbet tells me he looks like Luke and I see it – all Dutch born genes looming out of his blue eyes and fair skin. He is built for rugby but if he grows up Stateside I’d say football is in his future. Some days the juxtaposition of his temper and bulk with his sensitive spirit can make it hard to navigate his world. He pours so much love into his puppy I know the rightness of agreeing to add a dog to our circle of crazy despite what it costs me in irritation.

I don’t iron.

When I read how you wrote your mom that you’d ironed 4 loads of laundry I laughed out loud since my boys just asked me recently what the iron was when I’d hauled it out for a special occasion.

I want you to meet Zoe, mom. She has unmade me and then put me back together again.

And this time the parts of me that got broken after you died seem to have jigsawed themselves into place. I can see the whole picture and am surprised how beautiful it is. She takes my hand and her chubby fingers fold my soul into her palm.

Zoe is teaching me how you loved me. That you loved me much deeper and longer than I could possibly remember. That you loved me at midnight and for three years in Zululand and during standard six and when my skin broke out and you tried to take me for that facial that just ended up making me feel embarrassed and mad at you.

Everything I can’t remember about you, I see reflected in Zoe’s eyes.

I am terrified by how much I love her.

How did you bear the good-bye?

Twenty years. Twenty years. It hurts to type it.

Twenty years ago I sat in a pew and sang the last words you left for us,

Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

One week after I turned eighteen.

I’m 38 today.

And I’m still singing it, mom. I’m singing it still and I still believe every hard, awful word to be true. That we can sing though the heavens crash open and the world comes pouring down around us. We can raise our eyes and our voices to the hills where our help comes from and sing. Even when all that comes out is a whisper.

Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

I bought knee-high boots last year – the first pair since the ones I bought when I was 18. I think you’d like them. They’re a burnt umber kind of suede and they make me feel brave.

Like riding bareback in the Karoo.

Like walking the ridge of Table Mountain.

Like traveling overseas.

Like changing my first diaper.

I am growing into brave and I have a daughter. We would light your smile on fire. All the frenetic life in this small house all clamoring to be loved. It makes crying OK. Because you can be sad and you can be well at the same time.

And I am.

Happy birth day to us.

~your Lisa-Jo


My friend Lisa Leonard sent me the necklace in the above photos. I cherish the reminder of my story as I wear it around my neck. It’s part of her Heartfelt Collection and I wanted to let you know it’s available at 15% off with the code LLD15 until September 15. And the double gift was when my friend Mallory photographed me with it in the pouring rain yesterday. All plans drenched in God’s own timing. All those memories cupped in my trembling, wet hands. {More to come about how she’s coming to the Northern Virginia area if you’re looking for my favorite photographer of all time}