May 062015

Last month, my mom and I were flying to an event where I was speaking. As I told her about some exciting things happening with Momastery, Together Rising, and my book—she seemed quieter than usual. I asked her what was wrong and her eyes got watery. She said, Oh, it’s nothing, honey. It’s silly. What? I said. Her voice quivered as she said, Oh, it’s just that you and your sister are doing such world-changing, important work. I’m so proud of you. Sometimes I wish I’d done something important, something world-changing—so you two could be as proud of me as I am of you. So that when you introduced to me to the crowds you speak to, you could say, I’d like to introduce you to my mom, she wrote this book or started this company or something important like that. I don’t know.

I was stunned. And so I held her hand but I did not know what to say.

I know what to say now.

Mama. You never taught me to care about the crowd, so let’s forget about them for a moment. Instead, please allow me to re-introduce you to yourself.


There you are, Mama.  Top row, there in the middle. You were born to Alice, a nurse and William, a surgeon. You were the second in a line of seven children. You shared your home (and one shower) with five sisters and two brothers. You were the caretaker and resident goody-goody. You rebelled by hiding in the closet to practice conjugating Spanish verbs in peace. Aunt Rosie told me: “I looked up to Patti. I was in awe of Patti. She always made me feel safe, wanted and loved. I could depend on her. She was fun, a bit mischievous, a bit daring. But mostly she was very responsible. Patti was and still is my rock. My go-to person. I trust her completely. She is full of generosity, love, tenderness, and wisdom.

High School

You went off to high school and were wildly popular, the head cheerleader and homecoming queen. But what people in your neighborhood remember of you is not your crown but your kindness. I found your old neighbor, Jane. Jane lived across from you on Sixth Street. She told me: “What made Patti so special as a teenager was that she was so pretty that she didn’t really have to be nice—she could have just gotten by on her looks. But she was more than just pretty. I always felt that she not only acknowledged my presence, but really saw that I was there. She always said hello and really waited to hear the answer that came back. It made me feel good.

After college, you decided to leave your small Ohio town and set off on your own. You moved to Virginia and became a Spanish teacher and then a guidance counselor. You cared for every student as if she were your own. Remember Cindy, mama? Cindy comes to every event of mine within thirty miles of her home, because of you. Cindy told me, “Your mom listened with her eyes. I could look at her as I would pour my emotions and know she was there WITH me in THAT moment. That was love. That love makes me cry as I sit here thinking about that time in my life with my injured heart. That was her gift for all of us students in a hard place.”

You met my dad at the school where you were both teaching. He was the football coach. I’d give all the money in my account for a chance to witness the moment you met.



You’ve been married for 42 years now, Mom. I was driving dad’s truck the other day and I found your high school picture taped inside his sun visor. When I asked him about it, Dad said: “Her face reminds me not to lose my cool. To be kind. Having her close makes me better.” Yes, I know what you mean, I said.


I took this pic driving away from you two the other day. My babies were in the car. Remember? And we were all watching you and thinking: Huh. That must be what marriage looks like after forty years. 


You and dad had two baby girls, Sister and me. You gave us yourself and then you gave us each other. You gave me my baby sister, Mama. It was just the four of us. Dad and his girls. Nothing else mattered. We were a team, even when—especially when—things got hard.


Delivery Room




Mom and girls

We’ve had lots of hard times, haven’t we, Mama? Remember when I was still drinking and I was so sick, and Craig and I came and told you that I was pregnant? Remember how afraid you were for us? Do you remember the first thing you said to us, Mom? You looked me right in the eye and after everything my addiction had put our family through you said: Glennon, you don’t have to marry him. We can raise this baby together. I was stunned by your immediate courage. You are never too tired to love me, Mom. And you are never too afraid to believe in me. Craig and I did get married and I did get sober but you kept your promise anyway. We are raising these babies together after all, aren’t we, Mama? Craig, me and you?

Mom me and chase

Mom and Chase



Remember when Sister told us she was moving to Rwanda to help save those little girls? And remember how every bone in your body was screaming NO and how you wished you’d never taught her to be so brave or care so much? Do you remember what you said? I do. You said: Go, honey. Do what you need to do. And remember how every night between the time you gave your blessing and the time she left, you knitted her that beautiful blanket—all purples and greens—your fingers furiously moving, night after night, so she’d have a reminder that even an ocean between you couldn’t stop you from loving her?


Sister comes home

And then this past year, Mama. This year your best friend, your mama, died. And you took her hand and even though both of you were shaking, you walked her home. They told you to hire a crew but you and your sisters and brothers said: No thank you. We will learn this. She cared for us and changed us and dressed us and prayed with us and rocked us to sleep and now it’s our turn. Our mother helped us live and we will help her die. And so you moved back to Ohio and you and your brothers and sisters spent months sleeping on the floor next to her bed. Waking five times a night to shift her body, giving her medicine for her pain, bathing her, curling her hair each morning, dressing her and picking out her jewelry with such great love, as if each morning she was preparing to meet the queen. For almost six months you left Alice Flaherty only once, to fly to Sister and meet your fifth grandchild—Alice Flaherty—because life goes on, even when life ends. And you held  your granddaughter Alice and remembered that when your work with Alice was done, another Alice would be waiting. Because your work is never done, Mama. We need you so much. All the time, every day. We thought we’d need you less as we got older but we need you more.



And when Grandma died, your grief was so deep and so relentless that it scared me, Mama. What I learned watching you grieve for Grandma—watching the Steady One shake is: You are just human. I couldn’t believe it, Mom. I think this is the moment a woman truly appreciates her mother for the first time—when she watches Her Rock cry and she suddenly understands: this woman has loved us this fiercely, this steadily, this completely all of these decades—and she is only a human being? Is that, then—what is also expected of me? 

Yes, you said. In your grief and with all your humanness you gave Grandma’s eulogy. You stood up at her service and you told the story and the legacy of your best friend. You did her justice, Mama. You were so brave and tender and beautiful. You stood tall and strong and your voice did not waver and you honored her. You told us with your posture, your voice, your presence: Daughters, Our love must be greater than our grief. Sister and I sat in the pew holding hands and we understood, Mama. Nothing, not fear, not fatigue, not deep, deep despair can keep us from showing up for our people. Love often means doing the hardest thing, the impossible thing. We understand. There is always something more important than your feelings, and that is your family.


And then two months later you were here, in Florida, with me, trying to heal and recover when you got the call that Aunt Debi found a lump, and that it was cancer. You must have been so afraid and so tired. But you did not consult your exhaustion or your pain or your fear. You just started packing. I watched you pack, Mama. And as you zipped up your suitcase once again I learned that Sisters answer the phone and then they start packing. You went to Debi and you sat by her bed. You changed her bandages and you cried and laughed with her—and so Debi was afraid and she was in pain but she was not alone in her fear and pain. Her sister was by her side.

Debi said:  “To me, Patti is the matriarch of our family. She shared my tears, she shared my fears but she would comfort me and tell me we would get through this. She was by my side ready to help me with whatever I needed done. She got up with me at least 3 times during the night, prepared and cooked meals, drove me to my doctor’s appointments. I can’t thank her enough, but the times I do, it is with my whole heart, which is filled with joy because of my sister, Patti.”

Do you think I will forget watching you pack and go? And as a result: do you think I will ever, for one second leave Sister alone? Your youngest daughter will never be alone, mama. Because I will answer the phone when she calls and then I will start packing. I understand, Mama.


And then you came back to Florida and spent this past winter with us. Remember when we were trying to decide how to help you heal and I asked you what your dream would be? A cruise around the world? A trip to Paris? You said: “I don’t have a single dream other than being with you. I don’t want to see the world, I just want to be with my grand babies. You guys are my world. Being with you is what I need to heal.” And so you came and you were with my babies every single day and it was the best winter we’ve ever had. I watched them with you for months. Do you remember what you kept saying to Amma each night as you taught her to knit?  I was listening from the dining room, Mom, and you were saying: “Just try honey. Don’t worry at all. If you mess up we will fix it together and begin again.”


That’s why I’m out there taking risks, Mama. Because you taught me that if I fail, so what? I can come home to you and you will look at me and your eyes will always say: You are my dream come true. Who cares what else you are? Who cares?

Not me.


Were you afraid, for a moment on the plane that day, that you’d been so busy loving your people that you forgot to do something important?

Because what I’ve learned from you is that there isn’t a damn thing more important than loving your people.

Do you wish you’d written a book? A book? Mama, your love has written the entire world of our family into existence. The characters in your story are bold and brave because your love made them that way. Our plot line is love and courage and hope and steadfastness. Our family is a beautiful story, Mama—and the hero of our story is you. You are the hero. You are the one. You created this family and you watch over it and tend to it and delight in it and you are the closest I’ve ever come to seeing God, Mama.

And here is the moral of your story: You taught us that what matters is love, and that love is relentlessly showing up for your people. Tweet: You taught us that what matters is love, and that love is relentlessly showing up for your people. @momastery

And so Sister and I will take care of each other forever. When the phone rings, we’ll answer it, and we’ll start packing. We will sleep on the floor and we will pick out jewelry and we will walk our people home. We will sit with our grand babies and we will teach them everything we know. Everything we know is what you taught us. We’ll give the eulogies, Mama. Even if we’re shaking, we’ll give the eulogies.

And we will always remember that the most world-changing work we can do is this: We can live in a way so that our children will be able to say, Not one moment of my life did I wonder if I was adored. Never, ever did I feel alone. And they will pass it on. They will answer the phone. They will start packing. They will know that when your people are hurting, you go. You show up. Again and again forever. That is family. That is love. That is your legacy. Your legacy is that none of your people will be alone. Not ever. Because you made that rule for us, and then you lived it. We just don’t know any different.


Well done, Mom. The story you wrote is my favorite of all time. A better story simply doesn’t exist.

Happy Heroes Day, Mama.


Carry On, Warrior
Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
Join the Momastery community on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram & Pinterest

Apr 302015

Friends, remember my trip to the Dominican Republic when I met our favorite holy rascal, Denisse? Remember how she brought together a team of hope spreaders to walk the streets,  gather the precious children of Boca Chica and give them the love, safety and future that is every child’s birthright?

Allow me to introduce you to another member of Denisse’s team. Meet Julito.


When Julito was seven years old,  he started working long hours on the streets of Boca Chica as a shoe shiner. When he was 14, he joined Caminante. Julito is now a multiplier, a staff member at Caminante, one of the rescued. Denisse and Caminante found him—they gave Julito hope and a future. And so now, years later, as soon as the sun starts to set, Julito starts walking these same streets, looking for little ones who need hope and a future, like he did once.

One night, Julito let me walk with him.

Streets at night

. . . I follow behind Julito through the streets of the city—past table after table of middle-aged white men—sitting in groups beckoning little girls to their tables. These little ones are Tish’s age, maybe Amma’s. They are exactly what these men have traveled from all over the world to find. I watch one precious child approach a table. The men smile at her. She smiles back, and then hangs her head, shyly, as her chin tucks into her chest. She has learned this move. My heart stops. But then Julito walks by and sees her. He calls her away from the table, away from the men. He calls her by name. Her head lifts and she becomes a little girl again. She runs over to Julito and he tells her she needs to get home so she can get some sleep. The little girl tells him that she’s not allowed to go home until she’s earned her money. This, what she’s doing at that table –  is what’s expected of her. Denisse nods, opens her purse and hands the little girl a few coins. She smiles and runs away. She runs home. This one has a home to run to. Many we saw on the street and the beach did not. . .


You can’t see the little boys at first—they seem to be hiding. But when they see Julito they run out onto the street or up to him on the beach—they show themselves. They grab onto Julito’s leg and he asks what they’ve eaten. I don’t know what they say back, I can’t understand. They run away. Where are their parents? I ask. We don’t know. Who takes care of them? They take care of themselves, and we help. Where do they sleep? They sleep where they can sleep. Can I see?

This is where they sleep. On the right side, on the concrete. They curl up next to each other for warmth.


Now I need you to stop for a second and track with me here. We are about to laugh. Get ready. It’s okay.

On our last night in Boca Chica—we were eating together and Julito leaned over towards me, placed his phone super close to my face, and snapped a picture. Then he sat back in his chair and started playing with his phone. I looked at Luciano, our friend and a CWS Program Officer, and said, “Huh? What was that for?” Luciano leaned over towards Julito and asked him in Spanish what was going on. Julito started explaining something while Luciano nodded and nodded. Then Luciano turned toward me and said: “So, here’s what happened. Julito’s got a girlfriend. He took a picture of you to send to her so she’ll know he’s not out with some young, hot babe. You know, he just wants to show her that you’re not a threat.”


“Wait. What?” I said. Luciano’s eyes widened as he processed the news he’d just delivered to me:  THAT I WAS OFFICIALLY ZERO THREAT TO OTHER WOMEN. THE INDISPUTABLE EVIDENCE OF THIS: A PICTURE OF MY FACE.

I looked over at Amy, who was looking back at me with what was supposed to be a sympathetic smile  – but it was hard not to notice that she was shaking. Her entire body was shaking with laughter.

Who knew? I said to Amy. It’s all over for me.

I didn’t know, either. Amy said. I had no idea, I promise. I would have told you. I thought we were still hot. I really did.


And Luciano looked terrified. His eyes widened and he started backpedaling fast…”Yes! You’re a threat! To someone like me, who is closer to your age! Just not to Julito, because he is young! But you could be a HUGE THREAT to someone who is older! HUGE THREAT! YES! HUGE!”

With this, I swear to you, Amy fell off her chair.

And Julito just looked at us with a face that said: Americans are odd.

Listen. The point is this: upon hearing the news that I was no longer a threat to other women, I felt sad. I felt terrified that I’d just been deemed . . . I don’t know: obsolete. HOW WEIRD IS THAT? Later that night, I lay in bed and tried to figure out how this declaration of Julito’s was tied to my experience in Boca Chica, with the hurting ones.

And it hit me.

Actually: I have never been a bigger threat in my life. It’s just that now I am finally wise enough to want to be the right kind of threat. Now that I’m not wasting my time and energy and money and heart and mind trying to be a threat to other women—I’m ready to become A Real Threat to things that SHOULD BE THREATENED.

Listen. I have made us a list. This is what I know. I know that I want to spend my life as a REAL THREAT to the following things:

Sisters: let’s not buy the lie being sold to us: that we should waste our one precious life and one brilliant mind and one beautiful body threatening each other. NOT BUYING IT.

I do not want to be a threat to you. I want to invite you to join arms with me and together I want US to become a REAL THREAT TO what needs changing. I want us to be WARRIORS together—for love, truth, peace, justice, children, the weak, the poor and the needy. Tweet: Let's be WARRIORS together—for love, truth, peace, justice, children, the weak & the needy. @momastery @cws_global I want apathy and fear and violence and poverty to SHAKE IN THEIR BOOTS WHEN THEY SEE US MARCHING TOGETHER TOWARDS THEM.

Let’s Walk Together and threaten the hell out of pain in this world.

The older I get, the wiser I get. The wiser I get—the bigger threat I become. Tweet: The older I get, the wiser I get. The wiser I get—the bigger threat I become. @momastery



PS What about you? What’s on your list? To what do YOU want to be a threat????

PPS Like the CWS Facebook page to get updates on the emergency response they’ve mobilized this week in response to the earthquake in Nepal, and to read more stories from people like Denisse and Julito around the world who are being lifted up through their support.


Carry On, Warrior
Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
Join the Momastery community on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram & Pinterest

Apr 282015

Because I’m both a proud supporter of GLAAD and a children’s minister, kids struggling with their sexuality/ gender identity and the church write to me sometimes. I think they sense that since much of their pain has originated from the church, they need their healing to come from the church too. I get that. Makes sense.

These precious ones’ stories are usually similar. One child recently described himself to me as transgender, and then went on to say that he feels both male and female. He’s just not sure. He’s unsure and he’s living in a world of people who seem to be sure and who fear uncertainty. Kids at school tease him and his church kicked his family out because this child’s being was causing “too much confusion.”  This is an especially sad development, because he is now starting to doubt that God loves him. People are leaving scripture on his doorstep to prove to this child that he’s an abomination. He is distraught, but, even so, he’s been reaching out to other transgender kids online–encouraging them to keep living. His parents are loving but confused and afraid.  You can imagine—this is hard all around. I felt such compassion for all of them—for this family and all of the ones who write to me. I always write back, even though I feel scared and unprepared and unqualified. I write back because somebody’s got to, and I’m the one on the other end of the email. I’m sure what I write to these kids isn’t perfect. But I’m trying. I’m trying not to let the fact that I don’t know how to love them perfectly keep me from loving them at all.

Anyway—here are a few excerpts of letters I’ve sent to these precious ones. Thought now might be a good time to share.


Hey, J. G Here.

Holy texts are like shovels—some use them to dig up the earth and plant new seeds and some use them to bang people over the head. Most of us do both.

Let’s dig, J.

Check out this scripture. It’s from right there in the beginning- the beginning of the Bible about the beginning of time.

So God created mankind in His own image; in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them.

J, did you catch that? It says that when God wanted to create people in God’s own image, God needed to create two genders to express God’s self fully. Could that mean that God’s image is both male and female, too? Both, J? Just like you? Maybe God is just like you, J.

Listen, J:

You need to remember that being rejected by church is not the same as being rejected by God. God did not kick you out of church, honey. The church kicked God out of church. Listen—I love the church, J. I spend every extra minute I have in mine. But I am here to tell you that the church is not God. You are more God than the church is, J—because you are made in God’s image: while the church is an institution. God loves you more than any institution He/She made for you, J. When folks decide they love any institution more than the individual souls inside them—they’re missing the mark. I love the church, J—but I love you more. If I’m forced to choose, I choose you and your heart every day and twice on Sundays. Just as God made you. Just as God made you.

And listen J: not only is your church not God, but your church does NOT officially represent God, either. There is no one church that represents God. If you still want church—you can have one. There are churches all over the place (I know because I serve one and speak at them all over the country) that already have places set for you at their table. You must look out and look around, J. A small worldview is deadly, especially for you. You need to think bigger than your church, bigger than your school, bigger than your town.

But while you’re thinking big, J—you still need to love small. Sweet J—please allow me to say this one thing. As I read your letter, I felt such compassion for your mother. I know she hasn’t responded like you hoped she would. Based on my own experience and what I’ve gathered from mamas all over the world I offer you this: your mama loves you. Fiercely and deeply and truly. Sometimes when you love someone like a mother loves her child—that love can turn into fear. It happens to me all the time. I am so afraid that the world will not be kind to my children. And so, J, I imagine that your mother is not afraid of you, but for you. She is so afraid that this world will not accept you that she may have decided that she has a better chance of changing you than she does of changing the whole world. Soon she will remember that she is your world, and if she accepts you first, then that’s a helluva good start. But I want to tell you something and I hope you don’t feel betrayed by me—I understand your mama’s fear. She just wants you to be okay, honey. Being a mom is so terrifying and lonely. You have a hard call and so does she. So does she.

This is my hunch, J. Your mom’s biggest fear is not that you are different, but that you are not going to be okay. Her fear will subside when she believes that you’re okay. The only way to convince her that you are okay, J, is to ACTUALLY BE OKAY. Listen, here’s the trick and please read this carefully. Whether or not you ever feel like you belong down here LARGELY DEPENDS ON YOU.

“Our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.” 
―Brené Brown.

Hear that? Starts with you. Starts with you, J. Do you believe you’re okay? I do.

So I don’t know, honey. Maybe you’ve been chosen to be a hand-raiser, to grow our circle. To help take our ideas about who’s in and who’s out wider and wider. Someday we will get so wide that ALL will be included and we will collectively come to that enlightened state when we all finally see, understand and accept that WE ARE ALL ONE. One day we will finally see that when we reject any person or group of people–we reject a part of our very selves. ALL are one. ALL are in. ALL are God’s beloved children with a place at the table. Then it will be On Earth as it is in heaven.  What if you’ve been called to move us forward toward heaven? It really feels to me like maybe you have.  Will you lead us with love? Will you see past our fear and calmly and solidly stand your ground? Will you claim your identity as child of God as enough? You are the one who decides. It’s not fair to carry this responsibility but few people called to be great request the job first. Lead us, J. The great ones don’t wait until it’s fair to show up. They show up and make it fair. Tweet: The great ones don’t wait until it’s fair to show up. They show up and make it fair. @momastery

Put this poem on your wall, okay? Along with the scripture in the beginning?

God Says Yes to Me
by Kaylin Haught
I asked God if it was okay to be melodramatic
and she said yes
I asked her if it was okay to be short
and she said it sure is
I asked her if I could wear nail polish
or not wear nail polish
and she said honey
she calls me that sometimes
she said you can do just exactly
what you want to
Thanks God I said
And is it even okay if I don’t paragraph
my letters
Sweetcakes God said
who knows where she picked that up
what I’m telling you is
Yes Yes Yes

J, God says YES to you. God is FOR you and God made you just as you are and God says yes even when God’s beloved institutions are screaming NOT YET. And so these questions are from me.

God, is it okay that J is confused about his gender and sexuality? YES!

Is it okay if J wears a tie one day and a skirt the next? YES!

Is it okay if while wearing a skirt and nail polish J loudly and proudly and without reservation, declares himself/herself to be a unique, unrepeatable, sparkling child of God? YES!

Is it okay if J forgives his mom before she figures all this out? YES!

Is it okay for J to forgive his church? To say: I am not going to take on your fear—but I forgive you for being afraid. I look forward to the day we can meet on the path again. Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes.

That is how I’m going to pray for you and your mama, J. With so many YESES.

Dear God,

Whisper YES to J and YES to his mama. And please don’t dare change one hair on his head. Change the whole rest of the world instead.

Carry On, Warrior
Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
Join the Momastery community on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram & Pinterest

 Posted by at 11:37 am  Comments Off on Think Big, Love Small
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