May 062014

Chi and Mary

These two women approached my table last month at a book signing. The woman on the right is Chi and the one on the left is Mary.

Chi leaned over the table to whisper something to me, so I leaned towards her to listen.

Chi gestured toward Mary and said quietly:

“This is Mary. Mary is my ex-husband’s girlfriend. We came here together tonight because we need to tell you a story. It’s a short story, but a good one.  This woman is dating my ex-husband, and she has decided to love my son. She doesn’t have to, but she chooses to. She loves him well, with her whole heart. I have never known how to thank her for making that decision. For deciding to love my son so well. I  just wanted you to know that your book is what I finally gave her to say thank you. To say thank you to Mary for loving my son.”

I stared at Chi for a moment and then looked over at Mary. Mary’s eyes were red, and brimming with tears. She stayed close to Chi’s side. We said no more words. I stood up and walked around the table to embrace them both. We stood together and hugged and cried. Because we knew:

This is Love. What we have here is LOVE.

There is a term in carpentry called Sistering. This is how one Momastery reader defines it:

Sometimes an existing joist, which was designed to handle a certain load, becomes too weak. Maybe it was damaged by water or fire. Maybe it still has structural integrity but an addition is being constructed and the new load is going to be a lot heavier than before. Either way, now it is not as sturdy as it needs to be.

When a builder needs to strengthen that joist, she puts a new member right next to the original one and fastens the two together. Sometimes, two new joists are needed- one on either side.

Do you know what they call that?

A Sister Joist.

And builders use “Sister” as a verb, like, “We need to Sister the joists in the east bay about four feet.” Even better is the nonsensical: “Sistering” as in, “Are they finished Sistering the roof rafters?”

Sometimes the load of life is too heavy for a couple. They break.  And sometimes after the breaking, they bring a new member in and place her next to the original one. Sometimes the two are fastened tightly together.

Sometimes a mama looks at her ex-husband’s girlfriend and instead of thinking: Less Of My Boy’s Love For Me, She thinks: More Love For My Boy.

What a strong structure this little boy will grow up in, with two sisters beside him, steadying him, bearing his load, holding him up. Mary and Chi are fastened together by their mutual love for this child. Mary and Chi are Sistering.

Sister On.

Chi and Family


Over the years I’ve heard from so many of you doing the brutiful work of blending families. Based on your stories-  I acknowledge in advance that Chi and Mary’s approach is not always possible and far from the only way to prove that Love Wins for blended families. Share your strategies or your HARD with us below. YOU ARE WARRIORS!

Carry On, Warrior
Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
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May 022014

Three Levels

You guys, I just have a hot second here, but I need your attention because I just got back from therapy and have something to report. I am going to tell you all the things I learn there, because therapy is quite expensive but if 150,000 of us can benefit, then I’ll feel like it’s a really decent investment.

So, today my smart therapist said this:

There are three different levels of Looking at and Thinking About Other People.

Level One is the way a child sees other people. Innocent and purely.  Children, before they hit a certain level of age/experience don’t see faults in others. All is good.

Level Two is when we grow up a little and “wisen up.” Think teenagers.  Now we can see the faults of others clearly. And so we think it’s our job to prove how smart we have become by pointing those faults out.  When we are operating at Level Two, we assume that anyone who is NOT pointing out other people’s faults is naïve- or just not smart enough to see the faults. We need to educate everybody about everybody else. Many people operate this way their whole lives.

But just because people aren’t pointing out each others faults doesn’t mean they can’t see them. Most of us CAN see each other’s faults and gifts pretty clearly. But when people are operating on Level Three, they have wisened up even more. Yes- of course they see the strengths and the weaknesses in the people around them pretty clearly- just as clearly as the Level Two-ers.  But they know that usually, it’s wiser and more gentle and more helpful to point out strengths and leave the weaknesses be. And they’d rather be wise, helpful and gentle than “smart.”

Level Three-ers take other people in like they take in a child’s orchestra concert.  Kids concerts don’t sound all that good. They are a train wreck, really, when you break them down into their parts. Their parts are mostly missed notes and flats and sharps and kids crying and snotty noses and uncomfortable plastic chairs and maybe a splitting headache or two.

But when we refuse to break a kids’ concert down into its imperfect parts and take it in as a whole – we realize that right there – in the midst of the mess – somehow, some really beautiful and holy music is being made. We get the chills for how lovely all the imperfect parts are together.

To folks with Level-Three eyes, people are like kids’ concerts.  They don’t sound perfect. They are a big old collection of faults sometimes.  But taken as a whole, they can give you the chills, they’re so holy.

Dear God,

Help me look at everyone who crosses my path today through Level Three Eyes.




Carry On, Warrior
Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
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Apr 302014


I think we love well here.

HERE we practice loving ourselves, loving each other, and loving our communities (through the daily work of Monkee See – Monkee Do.) I am so awed and grateful that Momastery has turned into a place where we practice the art and science of love in ever-widening circles.

This year we are going to continue working on loving ourselves, each other, and our communities while adding a bigger circle. For an entire YEAR, your team at Momastery has been behind the scenes researching how to best extend this circle globally with humility and wisdom. Creating a plan that includes bold love while treading very, very lightly has been TOUGH. We have stopped and started one hundred times. Slow is important here. In love we must Walk Humbly.

In the end we’ve decided that we should stick to what we do best. We don’t know enough to ACT. No. We’d just stick to what we do best- we’d hear and tell stories that unite people In Love. We’d stick to our motto that “the most revolutionary thing you can do is introduce people to each other.” We want to introduce family members here to their family members over there.  WE WANT TO PLAN A FAMILY REUNION.

Folks are always talking about heaven as the “kingdom of God” and as I tell my Sunday school kids: kin means family. Heaven happens on Earth every time we love others like they are our own family. Because they are. That’s living in the truth. Living According to the Truth is Heaven.

Speaking of kids.

Here’s why I really want to work on widening our circles. I don’t want us to “save the world.” I just want us to save our families from triviality and provincial thinking and ingratitude and pride and isolation and powerlessness and the illusion of US/THEM. No us/them please- just one big WE. I want us to raise a generation of American kids who live with the awareness that the world is bigger and more beautiful and brutal than the world they can see with their little eyes. I want our kids to understand that they have a HUGE family that spans continents and crosses oceans and inhabits an entire planet. I want them to know that when we say “We Belong To Each Other,” that We doesn’t refer to their nuclear family or classroom or neighborhood or team or religion or political party or nation- it refers to the WHOLE WORLD. Everybody. I want them to know what the term “everybody” looks like, feels like, sounds like, smells like, tastes like.

In other words, I want my kids to feel connected to their global family. But how do people connect? Do they connect to ISSUES, or STATISTICS or PROJECTS? No, I think people connect best to other people, and do that through stories. I do not want to teach my kids about what the word POVERTY means- I just want to introduce them to some kids their age across the world and tell them about the bruty of their daily lives. This is what her school looks like, Tish. Look! This is where the play outside! Her dinner looks different than yours, Tish- doesn’t it? LOOK! She’s missing her front tooth too!

Tish will notice. She will hear the stories and look at the pictures and she will notice what is the same and what it different. And her inherent sense of justice will kick in. And SHE will tell me what needs to be done for her brothers and sisters. And then we will do it. The children will lead us. Because I’ll tell you when people start caring about poverty:  when they learn that someone in their family is suffering at its hands. That’s when the fire is lit.

And so maybe if we tell enough stories and draw HUGE circles around our families and children, we’ll raise a generation of children AWARE of their global family. An aware generation of kids is likely to become a generation of adults who ACTS on behalf of their global family. Because family – family sticks together. Simple as that. We do not have to CONVINCE people to take care of each other. We just have to introduce folks to their long, lost family members.

But HOW? I know YOU: my family members HERE. But I don’t know THEM: my family members over THERE. I needed to find someone who knew our international family.

Enter the relief and development organization Church World Service. We began talking six months ago. They love us. They love our work. They know our family abroad. Their goal is the same as ours. TO HAVE A FAMILY REUNION. They are coming alongside us. I could not be more thrilled to be led by these wise, fierce, gentle, humble souls. They are becoming part of our family. Here is our whole plan:

They will tell me stories about our family members abroad.

I will tell them to you in ways that we can share with our kids at the dinner table or at bedtime.

We will widen our circle and the circles of our children.

That’s it. Oh, but wait. That’s actually not it. CWS is also going to contribute to us financially to help this community family begin to sustain itself – 100% received from CWS will be dedicated to this community’s operating costs.  I am overjoyed.

The work of CWS is so big and so beautiful that there is no way to share all of it with you in a simple post.  So, instead, I am going to answer a few pressing questions now, and then, over the next months, I’m going to share some stories with you. I’ll tell you about a project or a person, a community across the world or a neighborhood close you, that is being reached by the work of CWS.  These are such good stories, my friends. Such good, good stories.

But, for today, let’s just start the introduction.

Q. What does Church World Service do? 

A.  They fight hunger and poverty.  In ways large and small, in the United States and in over 30 countries around the world, CWS works to alleviate suffering and empower people to live healthy, whole lives.

Q. How do they do that?

A. Carefully. And with intention.

CWS recognizes that a transformative project in one community might actually cause harm in another, so they tread carefully. They know that one size doesn’t fit all for development work, so they work with individuals and groups to determine the best projects to meet their needs.

By coming alongside people already working, they listen first to find out the most pressing needs, and are then able to work within that community to effect change. By doing this, they are able to provide help that ends hunger and poverty, and promotes peace and justice in a way that lasts.

Q. Why do you trust them?

A.  I trust them first of all because they are a highly rated global development organization with a strong reputation for doing good work.  And I think that it is important that, while they love and serve in the name of the Church, they do not proselytize or convert. Their purpose is simply to help people who are suffering, and to educate the rest us about how to do that better, without any other motives.

When we asked Hack and Angie, two of our CWS friends, whether they served everybody, all the people, no matter what faith they have, Hack said yes, of course—but not to forget the people who have no faith. They love those people, too. This was a good answer.


You know how when a crisis occurs and we are all shocked and devastated and don’t know what to do?  And then we remember the words of Mister Rogers:  “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”  Right now, today, CWS is working in the US South and Mid-West, responding to devastation from recent storms and tornadoes, and coming alongside people as they recover.

Partnering like this is new territory for us, but I know it’s going to be good. Beautiful, even. Church World Service looks the brutal in the face and turns it holy. Just like we do here. We’ve found some amazing helpers.

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

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