Apr 072010

The night before Sister left for Rwanda, she gave me a letter, along with a very special gift. I’m offering them to you today because Bubba always tells us: “To whom much is given, much is expected.” Today you’ll get to read her letter and tomorrow I’ll send you to her blog, where you can become her partner on the great adventure that she and God, and all of us, are on together.

My hope is that you will be as encouraged and inspired by her as I am, everyday.

Here goes.


March 24, 2010

We can do hard things.

Slow and Steady.

Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not easily broken.

Ecclesiastes 4:12


I think I first gave it to you in 1999. I was in my second year at UVA, you were in your fifth year at JMU. I was worried about you, about your eating and drinking and health. But I knew that if you believed in you- believed that you were worth fighting for – you could be well. That you were strong. So strong. That you would need to be strong to struggle toward health.

I sent you a long letter and these little black boots with fire red laces. The boots, little kids’ hiking/combat boot type things, had the label “Rebel” on them and those bold, defiant laces. I loved them. And I loved the word Rebel to describe what we needed to do. To defy the powerful forces that made you feel so desperate to match the image of acceptable thinness, the same that kept me the year before, and a few years beyond, in the crazy-making cycle of bulimia. To defy the temptation to believe that you were what alcohol had made you. They were an invitation- those little Rebels – to put on our badass boots and courageously hump through our battlefield toward the peaceful clearing where we belonged. By one step. Then another.

That was the first time those laces and we met.

In 2001, you gave a boot back to me. The other had long since disappeared in the muddy trenches, but you gave one back to me in 2001 when I left for law school. You told me it would be hard, but we could do hard things. It was hard. I hated it actually. But we did it.

Close to midnight in January 2003, after I got the call that it was all happening, I carefully unlaced the sacred red string and packed it – together with every desperate prayer and joy in my heart- and drove from Charlottesville to Fairfax to deliver it to you as you delivered Chase. It was in the room that changed the world- when you were ushered into motherhood and family and the greatest challenge of your life.

You gave the lace back in 2006 as I was being ushered out of what I believed was my most important role. As I recovered- in your basement and in your care – from the divorce, the only thing I could do was take the hump – one step at a time – with faith that a clearing was ahead, even when I could not see a sign of peace anywhere in the distance. The image of those boots – the belief that what saves a person is to take one step, and then another- was the only way I managed to stumble, solemn and grateful and defiant, onto the clearing where I could breathe easy again.

Each one step. And each another. These are all life is. Every day a million courageous or grueling one steps; each crisis the will to step instead of crumble, each joy a grateful skip. This is what is required of life.

But the joy of life- the privilege of life – is these boots, these laces. It is the comfort and peace in knowing that each step we take is accounted for by each other. Knowing that the other is walking each step with you – would take that hike for you if she could – and will not let you fall. Will never let you fall except into her arms. These laces signify the privilege of knowing we walk with each other through everything, and that is because we are two united and with God three – we can do hard things.

These next many months will be no different, except in proximity. You will be with me through every step I take, every person I meet. I will be with you through every writing session and bath time, through your recovery from Lyme and your small town adventures. We will miss nothing. But that might be difficult to remember at times. So this lace, this lace will help us remember. I will wear mine everyday to remind me how blessed I am to walk this world together.

We can do hard things.

Slow and Steady.

Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not easily broken.

Ecclesiastes 4:12



These are the bracelets Sister had made out of the Red Rebel Shoelaces, which we will wear each day that she’s gone.

Cords of three strands.

Good story, huh?

Apr 082010

There we are, the Doyle Sisters, the night before Amanda left for Rwanda to help some other sisters.

Please head over here and sign up on Sister’s blog as a follower. Maybe you could even leave her a little note. Just let her know you’re thinking of her. She’s brave, but brave people get lonely, too.
Thanks, Monkees.
Love, G

May 252010

I’m planning to visit Sister in Rwanda soon. So I’ve been spending lots of time trying to convince Craig that it’ll be a perfectly safe trip, mostly by making up stories and statistics that I’ve “read recently.” This is how I prepare most of my opening arguments. When I wanted to get pregnant with Amma, I told Craig that I “read recently” that couples with three children are statistically likely to become filthy rich and also make out ridiculously often. Welcome, Amma!

So I was Skyping with Sister the other day and she mentioned that she was exhausted because she’d spent the whole day interviewing potential guards for her new Rwandan home.

At dinner that night I said to Craig, “Honey, strangest thing. I just read that Rwanda was recently listed on Forbes’ Safest Places for Women to Visit Alone In The Whole Wide World list! Isn’t that great news?” Then I told him about how tired Sister was from all the guard hiring.

Craig ignored the exciting fake Forbes news and said, “Hon, If Rwanda is so safe, why does Sister need to hire a guard?”


I ran upstairs after dinner, Skyped Sister back and said, HEY! If Rwanda is so safe why do you need to hire a guard, anyway??

Sister said, “Well, there’s really no violent crime here, but there is theft, so every compound has a guard on the premises so the house never appears vacant. But it’s mostly for show. The guards don’t even have arms.”


Now over the past few months I have learned that there is a lot about Africa that I just don’t understand. And I have finally accepted the fact that just because something doesn’t make sense to me, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t make sense. And so I keep my mouth shut a lot. But I draw the line at armless guards.

“SISTER, WHAT THE HELL? WHAT is your lovely guard going to do if someone DOES try to break in? Bite him? Kick him? Give him a really dirty look? Why don’t you just guard yourself, Sister? At least you have ARMS!!”

Sister was very quiet for a moment.

Then she said slowly. “Um. I meant guns, Sister. The guards do have actual arms, they just don’t carry guns.”

My turn to be a little quiet.

Oh, I said. Ohhhh. Right. I thought maybe it was some sort of “armless affirmative action” program. Not that there would be anything wrong with that, Sister. I mean, if that were the case, I would totally support that program.

I know you would, G, said Sister. I know you would.

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