We Showed Up

To be quite honest I was terrified of Thanksgiving this year. Holidays are typically stressful- in the best of ways- for most families. Schedules, road trips, different beds, tired kids, unusual routines, faces you love-but-haven't-lived with since high school and about five, ten, fifteen extra people squeezed into houses built for, well, not fifteen. We walk into the holidays silently praying that no one turns on the wrong news channel or brings up politics, hoping that we don't get caught giving the stink eye to another siblings' kid (though we love our nieces and nephews- we do-it's just...) and praying that everyone eats the food with as much enthusiastic joy as the hostess is hoping for. 

Most people spend the holidays waiting for earthquakes, praying for tremors, grateful for fault lines buried deep beneath the earth's surface. Even the irreligious know to start the holidays off with a little holy help prayer on their lips.

So this year was no different than any others. There would be two sisters, four nieces, three husbands, one tiny house, two excited grandparents, and more food than we could stomach. There would be the normal aforementioned family issues that people face whilst heading into the holidays. Joy and stress co-mingling. Fault lines shifting. Families colliding. But this time there would be holes. Missing spots at the table. Grief, raw and unvarnished.

This year there would be no Grandpa. No Mamaw. No Maggie. No Ellen.

I was terrified that our family had weathered the most immediate moments of our deep losses but would come together, thrust into the familial chaos of holidays, and finally implode. I knew we had made it through the center of the storm. The part where you are thrashed about until your bones hurts and your soul cries mercy. But sometimes, when it's all said and done, that's the easy part. The storm. The decimation. In those moments you get these magical things called endorphins. They kick in and kick butt.  Leading up to the storm, and at the storms very height, you are surrounded by the prayers of people, generous doses of God's peace that passes understanding, super-human grace and an overall blurry, fuzzy feeling that keeps you from actually feeling the full weight of it all. But after all that passes and you are mangled up like driftwood, in a river three counties over, in a place you have never known...well, that's when the hard work and spaghetti aisle meltdowns begin.

And I was afraid that moment would happen for all of us, simultaneously, around the Thanksgiving dinner table. The spaghetti aisle meltdown. As if all our grief--- raw, unvarnished, different in nature and beast- would rub to together like sand paper until the fault lines had no choice but to find fault and finally falter.

What happened instead was quite unexpected.
We had our best Thanksgiving ever.

I think it's because we all came with our limps, battle scars and sadness and we were kind to one another. Empathetic. Gracious. And honest.

I think it's because my 83 year-old-grandma who had to take her husband of fifty-five years off of unexpected life support in August... was brave enough to get on a plane by herself and show up for the day of giving thanks.

I think it's because my dad loved on the granddaughters he did have, but when it came time to pray around the Thanksgiving table he gave thanks for Maggie and Ellen too. And then he openly wept, and in so doing, gave us permission to finally do the same. 

I think it's because we played football. And wore turkey hats. And drank more Starbucks coffee than can possibly be good for us. And played dominoes. And let our girls run free. And let our tears run free. And dwelt in the beauty of the moment while also being able to say to one another, "Hey, remember that one year FROM HELL?!?!? Yeah... it's almost over now." And I mostly think it's because we all showed up when we didn't want to.  When we didn't think we could and didn't know how or what the outcome might be. We showed up anyways. And we all knew we were walking on fault lines that might give at any moment- but still- we walked.

And you know what? The fault lines seemed to re-align. To pull in tight. To grow stronger under the earth beneath us. There were no stress fractures, no earthquakes, no tremors. There was strength in showing up with what little we had, but showing up all the while. And this year I am thankful for Thanksgiving. The actual day, the actual meal around the table, the actual chaotic holiday of it all. Because this year we are still walking... and we all walked to the table together.

In loving memory of Maggie Jane and Ellen Olivia Miller, my beautiful nieces. Merlin Hehn, my amazing grandpa. Merle Chisolm, my beautiful mamaw. Jimmy Mac McNamara, my friend and manna. All celebrating Thanksgiving in heaven this year.

Meet the Family!

Meet Lexie Grace, my first ever niece!

Meet Abigail Hope, my second ever niece!

Meet Bella

my daughters best friend who is a puppet that lives on my hand that I might have to knock off soon because OH MY GOSH every-ever-lovin'-waking moment Annie wants me to "talk Bella and Tad." Tad's her brother. They are from Chicago but they live with us because- Lord only knows- but I think I told her their mom couldn't take care of them anymore. Great, not only do we have sock puppets, but they are foster-sock puppets with heaps of therapy in front of them.

Y'all, what started out as a fun craft project has turned into a seriously unhealthy relationship. They have their own personalities and voices and Annie, I am quite sure, loves them more than Ryan and I combined. And I don't know how to kill them off. But it's become a real problem. The very first words out of her mouth each day are, "Talk Bella! Talk Tad," and she falls asleep with them every night. She wants Bella to go potty with her and help her wipe. She wants them to eat at the table with us, drive the car with me, and she wants them in the bathtub. She cries as if a puppy is being ripped from her arms,"Don't take my friends away," if I take them off for a time out.

She doesn't understand why I don't bring them in public and though the grandparents, aunts, uncles and family friends have been so nice to Bella and Tad- I swear they think I am insane. (You know who you are. Thanks for treating them like people in front of Annie, but you should know, I promise I don't get some weird joy out of being a puppetmaster for my strange 2-year-old. I promise.)

This week, I am sad to announce, I gave in to Annie-

who begged and pleaded with her most logical arguments and sincerest desires that we please bring Bella and Tad with us to the park where we took a 40 minute train ride on Martin Luther King day, with every other child in Ft. Worth, Texas who wasn't in school.

And so I  brought them.

On the train.

On a public train...

I talked to socks. 

I talked to socks on my hands in front of hundreds of people- any my daughter gleefully relished every second of it.  Every kid on the train was staring at us. Then, they started asking the puppets questions and laughing and having fun with Bella and Tad!?! Having fun with my hands and the creepy ladies puppet voices.

OH MY GOSH. Every adult looked at me like I might try to steal their child for use in my own, twisted, personal circus. Like I actually enjoyed it. Like this brought me great pleasure to talk in voices to socks to lots of strane children while my daughter kisses the socks and tells the other kids they are her best friends.

Wow. That's really all I can say. I have stooped to a new low as a parent. Today, I raise a toast to all the people in this world doing insane things for the children they love...

Rescue Me




please don't.

Just let me die here.


Annie and I had an amazing trip to Hawaii visiting my sister Melissa. It was perfect until we had to come home :) We missed Ryan though;  so the eight hour plane ride (seven and a half of which my precious daughter decided not to sleep), five hour time zone change, and Texas heat were well worth the journey home.  I'll be back to writing soon. Until then, enjoy my Hawaii pictures here.


My brother-in-law, Tim, deploys to Afghanistan in three days. It is his third deployment since President George W. Bush declared war on Iraq and subsequently Afghanistan. Our military is exhausted. Our military families are exhausted. Our military bases are depleted.

Souls are weary. Families are broken. Lives are falling through the cracks.

God how I long for the day when humans stop destroying each other.

3,000 men and women from his base are gone.


It's a ghost town of wives and babies and kids and chaplains trying to keep it all together.

And it's getting harder to keep it all together.

I am tired of this war. And I am tired of watching so many strong women (men) fight the war back home in their husband's (wives) absence.

Tim will be gone for 14 months.

While Melissa and Tim have a peace right now that passes all logical understanding...

they have been on an emotional roller coaster.

They have been trying to get pregnant for well over a year.

You know.

Or maybe you don't.

Can any of us really understand the intensity these families are living under?

Trying so hard to get pregnant  before he leaves, because truthfully -it's always there- the worst case scenario tucked away somewhere in the back of your mind.

What if he never comes home?

Trying so hard to not be stressed about getting pregnant before he leaves because, you can't make a baby happen.

And, maybe you don't even want to? I mean, what would it be like to give birth without your husband being around? To grow a tiny, kicking, squirrely little baby alien in your belly and have no daddy to whisper to it?

Trying so hard to sleep through the night, because the nightmares of someone in uniform showing up at your door with "the news" keeps you awake for months on end.

Trying so hard to trust that your wife will be taken care of in the arms of her friends and family; that if she were pregnant your baby would grow to love you even though it had never heard your voice or felt your touch; trying so hard to live in hope and not fear; trying so hard to get everything in order before you leave.

Trying so hard to enjoy the moments you have and not think about the unknown that lies ahead.

They have been preparing for this moment for almost a year. A year ago we knew he would deploy. Each month crept closer and closer and the curse that we refused to name got nearer and nearer. But now it is here. And I feel my heart almost stopping.

War. Tim. My sister's husband. A man we love. A friend. A buddy. Camouflage. Helicopter rides through the desert. A machine gun. IED's. Radical extremists. Third time. Really, third time? It's like we're basically begging for these men and women to not come home... teasing fate or something. No one should have to be in war three times. No wife should have to endure that. No child. No family. No man or woman on the field. And yet, these men and women are three and four times deep into deployments.

Thoughts rush my mind and my heart swells and I pray a prayer that makes no sense... God protect Tim.

Knowing it must grieve God's heart when any person dies in battle and believing that God does not interfere with IED's and machine guns; I have to believe that death in war is not God's plan for any one's life.

War was not the plan.

Death was not the plan.

Not the original one.

But you still pray. You pray for miracles. And peace. And protection. And you beg God for mercy. And you trust. Not always knowing exactly what it is you are trusting. But you trust, because God's peace that doesn't make any sense starts oozing into you. Something becomes calm. Centered. You trust that no matter what happens...

there is always hope.

And maybe that is why we pray for protection. Maybe God does perform a few miracles in the desert. Or maybe war is just war, and while some miracles happen, often times- there aren't many miracles in war. Maybe God is just there, walking through the valley of the "shadow of death"  alongside His children. Still, we pray- fearfully begging for miracles of protection- but mostly we pray because when we get past those initial prayers of fear, we desperately need to find ourselves connected to the heart of Jesus.

Our healer.

The only One who can make sense in the chaos we have created.

We need Him. And we need to be deeply rooted in His message.

Our God is with us. Emmanuel.

Jesus drew near to the weak, weary, and broken. He seemed to be on a perpetual mission of finding the sick, and putting a balm on their soul.

We need peace that makes no sense. We need water when our souls are dried up. We need a firm foundation.

When everything you love leaves on the back of a C-130... and your foundation shakes like the tremors of an earthquake-

His rod and staff will comfort you. He will lead you beside still waters. He will restore your soul. He will fill your cup. And though the world may give way... you can safely dwell in His house.


Melissa is pregnant.

they found out a few weeks ago.

Tim will be gone for 14 months.

Four months after she delivers their sweet baby.


I've said it before and will say it again and again and again: thank you, thank you, thank you to all who serve and the families who persevere back home. Your sacrifice is inspiring and beautiful. In the midst of war, we draw near to Jesus, the deliverer. The giver peace. We pray for miracles- but more than that- we pray because the Lord is our refuge.


Do you have a loved one who is deployed? Please put their name and any specifics about their family in the comments section.  At the beginning of next week, I will compile the list and turn it into a blog, which anyone can then print off and use to faithfully pray for your loved one.


Do you know an organization that supports military families? Please leave a link in the comment section. I will compile those into a blog next week as well.



If you have any family or friends at Schofield Barracks in Hawaii- please let them know I will be doing a FREE show on the base, May 10th at 9:00 a.m. in the chapel. Military families from any base on the island are welcome to attend and free childcare is included!

Stories: A Journey of Hope and Redemption

Free acoustic concert and worship with Jenny Simmons from Addison Road

honoring the military families on the island of Honolulu

May 10th, 2011 Schofield Barracks

9:00 a.m.

Sponsored by Women of the Chapel



Therapy Thursday


Letters From My Sister

a true form of therapy...

On Getting your Christmas Wish List Together


Yep, you know it, it's that time once again! Time to put the tree up, and to dream of a white Christmas, and to come on ring those bells, AND time to start thinking about your Christmas Wish List. That's right, what would you love most to find waiting for you under that Christmas tree of love this Christmas?? Do you hope for a little red wagon, the kind that makes you fly, whatever it is, your heart desires, now is the time to be thinking about it. And I propose this year we write our lists in the form of a letter to Santa Clause. Yes, that is right, a sweet letter telling Santa what it is YOU want for Christmas this year. Then forward that letter on to everyone else, and it will be just like Santa Clause is coming to our doorsteps once again, dropping off wonderful surprises for us to wake up to on Christmas morn. And don't forget to remember, Jesus is the Reason for the Season! Much Love and Happy Santa Writing (Ryan this means you too!) ~Mel

On Responding to Melissa

Dear Melissa,

Do you know what the date of today is? It has to be almost Thanksgiving, right? Oh wait...let me look at my calendar. That can’t be right...my calendar says it’s only Oct 9. So only 9 days ago we were in the month of freakin’ September.

I am still high off the big Columbus Day celebration we had yesterday. We still have Reformation Day, Halloween, All Saints Day, Election Day, Veterans Day, Remembrance Day (for our Canadian friends up north), Thanksgiving, Feast of Christ The King (for you Catholics), Chanukah (for people of Jewish descent) and even Advent before we get to Christmas.

Please get back to me when we are about 30 days away from Christmas. I might have a list ready. I have to see what I get for All Saints Day first before I can finalize my list.

Much Love and full of the Holiday Spirit,


On Some Things Never Changing

It's Christmas in Killatee with all the folks at home! (She means Killarney, a Bing Crosby Christmas classic.)

I know, I know Ryan, I'm not allowed to start any of this until AFTER Thanksgiving, but I just can't help it!!! So since we are going with the theme, Less is Best, this year, I thought it would be a good idea to start giving suggestive suggestions, not saying you have to stick with any code of buying, but you know, just thought since I was going to be starting my Christmas looking that YOU could start giving me your Christmas listings! =) That rhymed.

On Following Up

Well Hello Again Everyone!!

This is your friendly reminder that I will be doing most and hopefully ALL of my Christmas shopping on Black Friday (actually, the outlet malls in San Marcos open at 12am on Thursday night and the biggest sales will be going on from 12-6am, and I will SO be there! And if anyone would like to join me it will be a TON of fun!!!), but anyways, this is your last opportunity to give me a list of what you want, otherwise I will just be creative, but I'm not actually a very creative person so it will be to your benefit to send me a list!!!

Dad and Sarah, you have sent out a very small list, and unfortunately Sarah, I don't think I'll be able to buy you furniture. Dad, you have sent out just a few things as well, and there just aren't enough things on your list to go around...kay???? (And by the way, that runner's calendar looks really cool, but that site is shady!! They won't even tell you how much you are paying for everything and they just say "bill you later", which is very tricky business, I put in a fake name and address to see if the total would come up at the end, and it didn't, so BOB GEORGE who lives on 555 East Dr. in San Antonio will be receiving a runner's calendar this year =) Hope the house is vacant or non-existent.)

On what to buy Melissa’s cat, Tiger, for Christmas

My cat, who is most definitely mentally handicapped, truly needs other things to occupy its poor little feeble mind, because as of right now, he is eating toilet paper, and I'm not sure where he got the toilet paper from, considering we ran out last night, but this is how he spends most of his days, except when he is napping in his kitty litter box. So really, he needs toys.

On the Pervasive Randomness My Sis Possesses

From Dad: I don't know what it's like where you guys are, but it's snowing where I am! Don't worry, supposed to be less than an inch accumulation...barely enough for a snow mouse!

Melissa’s response: I LOVE SNOW MOUSES!!!

Melissa’s response to me adding my mother in law to the family e-mail list, “Hmmmm, I recognize all those e-mail addresses up there, except who is Ila???? Well anyways, nice to have a new family member aboard, whomever you are!”

On Planning a Party when Melissa is Unavailable

Family- As we all know, no one can have an adequate, happily spent, mesmerized, delightful, wonderfully intoxicating (on joy of course), lovely, Happy Birthday Day party without ME, HELLO!!! And of course the others might add something special as well. So I vote NO for this course of action! NO because I like cake, yummy foods, and ice cream, and I like presents (even if they aren't mine), and I like biscuits, and sing-song fests, and old grandparents telling lame jokes, and animals running around the house like a wild barn or a forsaken zoo. And so my vote is NO, because without all of this, how could one really, truly, have a happy birthday???? I must say it would be non-sensical, unfashionable, unthinkable, illogical.... absurd, asinine, brainless , cockamamie, crazy, daffy*, daft , dingy, dippy*, doltish *, dotty*, fantastic, fatuous , feebleminded*, half-baked*, half-witted*, harebrained... to truly think you could have a HAPPY BIRTHDAY, without me and all the other things that make birthdays so special at the Chisolm house!!.

(Sorry, I had to rely on dictionary.com to help with those last words =)...)

But, I guess it is not MY birthday, and so whatever suites you best, well, I guess we have to go with that idea, even if that doesn't include me and yummy food and disturbed animals. Ok, Fine, My Vote is YES, yes you can have your happy birthday without me, but don't think I'm not going to sulk about it, because I am.

On The Deep Well That Runs Within Her

I remember the words that are on the little board at Glorieta. You'll have to stop by and take a picture of the old wooden sign if it is still there. (The last time she saw this sign was over ten years ago):

An hour spent in silent prayer,

Within God's sacred garden here,

Brings sweet content within the soul,

as self I yield to His control.

I set each human problem free,

And in it's place, dear Lord, to thee,

I build an alter deep within

Secure from life's depressing sin.

On Loving Me Well

Melissa recently sent me an email with these words. Nothing more. Nothing less.

Sometimes I'm a selfish fake

You're always a true friend

And I don't deserve you

'Cause I'm not there for you

Please forgive me again

I wanna be there for you

Someone you can come to

Runs deeper than my bones

I wanna be there for you

I wanna be there for you

And be someone you can come to

The love runs deeper than my bones

I wanna be there for you

*Sometimes love and laughter are the best forms of therapy.

Thank you Melissa for being water to my soul…

and one of the best therapist’s I have ever known.*