Something Beautiful Is On the Horizon

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It started with a picture. One little boy – dark brown eyes, smooth skin, dimpled fingers. He wore a T-Shirt and a scowl. Underneath his picture, three short sentences. Only three to describe this beautiful little boy. He liked cars. He was quiet and kept to himself. His name was…Abraham.

And the moment I saw him, I knew. Printing the picture out, I ran to my husbands office. Slamming the picture on his desk, I squealed, “This is our son! Meet your new son! I just know it…He is our son!” We both cried together as we stared at the photo and talked about what this would look like.

At that time, we were living in an apartment making Ramen noodles for dinner every night.  We were washing our plastic forks to save money. We barely had enough to fill the gas tank. But we believed. Oh, how we believed! This little boy was meant for our arms.

So, we took a step of faith. And then another and another. And with every step, we found the words of the Psalmist to ring true, “He’s solid rock under my feet…” (Psalm 62, MSG).   And, after months of fundraising and prayer and tears and paperwork, our son came home. He came HOME.

I’ll never forget those first days we shared together. Just the three of us hidden away from the world learning to be a family.

And then….Jordan,…Shiloh,…Isaiah,…Gideon. Blessing after blessing. Miracle after miracle. In the matter of a few short years, our very quiet home had become a very noisy one – full of mess, and chaos, and joy – oh so much joy!

It was after Gideon’s birth, we felt led to foster care (with the intentions of adopting). “One more girl would be nice,” we said. “Shiloh needs a sister,” we said.

Turns out, God had a different story to write…


The phone rang. As I went to answer it, I heard God’s voice speak so clearly to my heart, “These are your children. Say yes.”

The call I received was not for the girl we had planned on…it was for two boys. Two boys who we would later find had three younger siblings who needed a home, too.

And just like that, our five became ten.

I can still remember our first day together. We played all day. Hide and Seek, Lego’s, Play dough…I ended that day, and the others that would follow, overwhelmed with joy and exhaustion.

And now here we are, four years later and I can tell you…it has NOT been easy.

Some days have been downright ugly.

There have been many nights, I’ve cried myself to sleep.

When my child has screamed all day at me…all day, everyday for one straight year. I couldn’t touch that child, console that child, communicate with that child. I wondered, “Will I ever get to know (child’s name)?” “Will they every get to know me?”

When my child scratches at my face or punches me repeatedly…when they claw at the walls of the church and everyone is watching them as you try to carry them out.

When you haven’t slept in weeks, months, YEARS…

When your grandmother’s china was thrown across the room and shattered into a million pieces.

Not to mention, the laundry, the dishes, the clean up. It NEVER ends.

Adoption is not easy. PARENTING isn’t easy.

BUT…it’s worth it. 

Every time I see my children defy their label and every man-made expectation that was placed on them – my heart screams, “It’s worth it.”

Every time I see my children, barefoot and filthy,  giggle and run free through the Pine trees near our house – my heart screams, “It’s worth it.”

Every time they tell me something God is teaching them or sing me a song they’ve written or pray for the world or serve at the Food Pantry or splash in the water at the spray park like a KID, not a broken, had-to-grow-up-too-fast kid, but just…a kid, my heart screams, “It’s worth it.”

Every muddy footprint, every frog I find in a jar somewhere in my house, every fingerprint on the windows, every toy in my yard, every hole dug and left for me to step in, all the instruments playing different songs at the same time – the CHILDHOOD that is being lived in this home – reminds me daily, “IT’S WORTH IT.”

And because of this…

We had to say yes again.

YES to the mess and the beauty, the joys and the pain, the heartache and the overwhelming joy that is adoption.


A few months ago, my husband and I began the tedious process yet again. God spoke to us in many ways, including our children.

“Mommy, I had a dream last night, we had more kids.” 

“Mommy, God says there are more comin’. You ready?” 

Because our children are all older this time around, EVERYONE is so excited. It has become a family affair. They have helped with the paperwork, asked a million questions, met with the case worker, and spent hours looking through pictures of potential children. Just a few days ago, they helped cut and paste pictures into scrapbooks for our new children. They are already fighting about who will be their room.

Our home-study was completed last month and we were told, we could begin inquiring on children.

As we all huddled around the phone scrolling through pictures, we all found ourselves drawn to a family (yes…more than one…) who had been on the registry when we first began our journey but then had been taken off for a time. They came back on the site the DAY we received the green light to begin inquiring. All of us decided unanimously to inquire.

I thought, “Surely, they will think we are crazy.”

As the days went by, I reminded myself, “Don’t worry. Your worker told you that it will take awhile. You have a lot of children and it will take the right case worker to even look at your file.”

More days went by and I started to look at the registry again…”Maybe there are others we should inquire about.”

And then…. “Hello, Matt and Niki? I talked with the worker and…” I couldn’t believe it. They were willing to check out our home-study.

After full disclosure, we had to decide. Will we keep moving forward?

Our children listened intently. We knew this would affect all of us and we needed to decide together. After a moment of prayer, they all turned to my husband and said, “Dad, we have a GREEN LIGHT. We want to do this.”

So, we said yes. And we waited to see what they would say.

Finally today we received the call, after a talk with our case worker, not only had we been approved by their case worker, but also by the adoption rep for the state.  This is HUGE!

And so now…we wait again for the call that will tell us when we will meet them for the first time.

I’m nervous. I’m shocked. I’m overwhelmed. I’m excited. I’m overjoyed. I’m cautious. I’m ready. I’m not ready.

This part of the journey comes with so many emotions.

But deep in my heart, the words of Rita Springer’s song serenade me,

“It’s gonna be worth it. It’s gonna be worth it all.” 

Something beautiful is on the horizon! 








Preparing for Rain


This past week, we decided to take our children up to Fisherman Island State Park for a rustic-camping adventure. This would be our final trip of the summer and our last chance to enjoy the sunshine before we hit the books and entered yet another year of homeschooling.

As we drove up to the park, we could barely contain our excitement. It was BEAUTIFUL.

With our check-in paperwork stuck to the jelly on our dashboard (how convenient!), we slowly made our way down the bumpy dirt road leading to our camp site. We had breathtaking woodland scenery on one side and the gentle waves of Lake Michigan on the other. It was enough to make a grown woman cry.

“THIS is going to be a trip to remember!”

“THIS is going to be THE trip of all trips.”

Sure, we knew we would be rustic camping and that we had never done that before.

Sure, we knew that smelly outhouses awaited us  with un-flushable toilets and the stench of every camper who had come before us.

Sure, we knew we’d be without running water or showers for a few days…

But we were prepared for all of that. We felt ready to take on anything that life through at us. THIS was our moment. We were the Swiss Family Homan.

The first day was magical – the stuff memories are made of.

We swam in the lake for hours and built driftwood boats to float on. We scoured the shoreline for Petoskey stones and walked along the entire peninsula finding animal tracks and various flowers we’d read of in our school books last year.

Afterwards, we walked back to our tents and roasted hot dogs and marshmallows around a camp fire. An actual campfire we lit OURSELVES. We all had our heads a bit higher that night, our shoulders back a bit farther. We were killing this.

And then…




Cracks of thunder and sparks of lightning filled the sky.

And we all ran in hopes of saving ourselves.

The rest of the night (and on in to the morning), we huddled in our tents. We hadn’t brought games. Or water bottles. Or toys. Or notebooks to draw in. We just had to lay there staring at each other for HOURS while the rain soaked through our tents and drenched us.

And of course, every child had to pee.

So through the rainstorm we’d walk to the dark outhouse that smelled of rotten sauerkraut and wait outside in the pouring rain until they finished, only to back to the tent and see another head peeping out, “Hey, Ma…I gotta go.”

In the morning, we awoke – groggy, in need of coffee, and damp…very, very damp.

As we sat on the dunes watching the children splash and giggle and play the next morning (wearing the only dry clothes they had on…so that was that), we had to acknowledge the facts:

We were NOT prepared for this trip like we should’ve been.

If we were on Survivor…we’d be the first to be kicked off the island.

We needed things, we didn’t even think to pack. Like more clothes. Water. Tarp. WATER.

We coasted through this camping trip by the grace of God and our kids adventurous spirits.

Next time, we will be more prepared.


I hope.

Please, God, help us.


As we prepare for this upcoming adoption and the addition of more children, I find myself asking, “Am I ready for this?”

It’s terrifying and exciting all at the same time.

I’m the lady who forgets what day of the week it is and has no idea how old I am…

“God, you really trust me with another child?”

I’m thankful…but, frankly, kinda shocked.

“Am I up to this challenge?”

As I stuck decals on a wall in the new child’s room and planned where I will be putting the bed and the knick-knacks I’ve gathered…my heart went wild with all of these questions and fears.

And as quickly as the fear came, it left with these two words spoken by my Father God:

“I Am.” 



 “I Am your strength. I Am your peace. I Am your help. I Am your guide. I Am your hope. I Am your comfort…and because I Am, you can.” 

With each knick-knack placed upon the shelf, I felt my heart – moments ago wild with fear – now ALIVE with joy and courage.

I am not alone. I Am is with me. 

I am not enough. But I Am is. 

I don’t have all the answers. But I Am does. 



And because of I Am…I can.


What challenge are you facing? What giant are you staring down? What has God called you to that feels too big for you?

REST in this today.

He is I Am.

And because He is, YOU CAN!




The Lost & Found Toothbrush

My boys live by one simple rule: “What’s mine is mine and what’s yours…is mine.

Case In Point: The Community Toothbrush.

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One important thing to know BEFORE I share more on this story: Someday, my E! News Hollywood Story will begin and end with this – “Throughout her life, Nicole was known for having what can only be called as a “sheer hatred and disgust” for anything tooth-care related.” I HATE the smell of toothpaste. I HATE to touch someones toothbrush, clean toothpaste off the sink, and don’t get me started on SHARING my toothbrush. I don’t just hate toothbrushes and toothpaste – I genuinely CANNOT be near them. (Now, before you worry that I’ve made it to age 31 without ever using a toothbrush, let me be clear: I BRUSH MY TEETH. But I don’t want anyone else’s tooth-care items near mine. Girls got some strict boundaries on that. I even purchase the children new toothbrushes every month to ensure everyone has what they need…and don’t need to come within 500 feet of mine. I have a drawer FULL of spares. And yes, I’m aware I have issues. Jesus is still working on me.

So you can imagine how I feel about…(insert Jaws Music Theme) the “Community Toothbrush.”

And here is where our story begins…again…

My boys share a bathroom. It is the kind of bathroom you would expect from seven boys. A public urinal. An indoor port-a-john. A “smell and wear” pile of dirty – yet not yet “dirty enough” to go to the laundry – clothing options. I do my best to train them well. They do chores daily. They help during the weekly “cleaning day.” But it’s seven boys against one bathroom. We’re fighting a losing battle.

Within this bathroom, there are drawers. PLENTY of drawers to hold important items – like deodorant and TOOTHBRUSHES and toothpaste and….TOOTHBRUSHES. And every week, when I go to the store, I ask: “Boys, what do you need for your bathroom? Do you have… (and I go through a very specific and detailed list ensuring they have what is needed…and “bet your bottom dollar” (sang with an Annie voice) that I make sure tooth-care items are on that list.

A few days ago, as the boys slowly made their way up the stairs after morning chores (which is a mixture of WWF, Mixed Martial Arts, and organized “piling”), I asked the group, “Did y’all brush your teeth?”

“Yes, Mom.”

“Of course.”


Looking at Gideon (my 6 year old), I ask pointedly, “Did YOU brush your teeth?”

“Yes, of course. I used my finger.”

Heart palpitation. “Your…finger? Why not a, I don’t know,…TOOTHBRUSH?”

Shrugging nonchalantly, he picked up his breakfast plate from the counter and responded, “Because I don’t have one.”

Eye twitch. “When did this happen? I just went to the store. You guys didn’t say you need any toothbrushes.”

Through a mouthful of breakfast, Gideon says innocently, “It’s okay. I’ve been using Reuben’s.”


“Yea…lots of us have.”

“What? Wh-wh…why don’t you tell me that when I go to the store every week and ask if you need anything?”

“Because we don’t. We can just use his.”

Oh, sweet heavenly Father. A community toothbrush in the public urinal. Things felt like they were headed downhill real fast. When I asked for a show of hands as to who had been using the “community toothbrush,” multiple boys raised their hands.

I could barely stomach the news. Toothbrushes were top on my list for the grocery store that day and spares were handed out immediately.

Oh the joys of mothering boys. 


People often ask me for snapshot of my life. They ask what my parenting style is.

But this…this “community toothbrush” and smelly bathroom reality….this IS a a very REAL snapshot of my life.

Raising kids is MESSY and sometimes it’s downright HARD. Sometimes you have life-marking, memory-making moments together…and sometimes you just get through it. 

Like scrubbing toilets.

I’ve never heard of a mom who loves to scrub toilets…but we do it…because we know it’s all part of this messy, beautiful adventure called motherhood.

My “snapshot” is no different than yours.

Any my parenting style?

It’s a three-step process:

  1. Get On Your Knees.
  2. Throw Up Your Hands.
  3. Shout, “Dear God…What do I do?”

No joke. 99.9999% of parenting steps WAY beyond the line of what I can do on my own…I need His wisdom. I need His strength. I need His help.

I NEED Jesus.

And, I’ve come to discover that that’s okay. It’s OKAY to not be able to do it on your own. It’s OKAY to need a Savior. He knew we needed Him. That’s why He came.

I have a pretty good feeling that this wont be my last “community toothbrush.”

I also have a pretty good feeling that before they all graduate and move on, I will be keeping the Oral-B company afloat with all my tooth-care purchases.

But…there has to be a silver lining in this somewhere, right?

At least my boys have learned to…share?




A Kiss on the Cheek

I hurt my back today. Like…really hurt my back. I couldn’t move. Tears started rolling down my cheeks. My “tough-mom” persona was shattered in an instant and my kids were floored. They didn’t know what to do. I always bounce back, keep moving. Sure, I might close my eyes and bite my lips for a minute when I stub my toe or hit my head…but always, ALWAYS I keep moving. Until today. Today, I had to find a couch and stay there until Daddy came home.

And this broke my daughters heart.

“Is you okay, Mom?”

“I’m….okay…just hurts right now. It’ll get better.”

“(Loud Whisper) Guys, Mom is hurt. We need to help her.”

Over the course of the next few hours as we waited for Daddy to arrive home from work, she stayed close…sometimes too close.

“Sweetie, can you sit on the floor. When you sit on my legs, it hurts my back.”

“Oh, sure, Mom.”

“Sweetie, sitting on my feet is the same thing.”

We had this conversation multiple times.

No matter what assignment I gave her, she would be found coming back into the room where I sat like a bump on a log and slowly inching towards me.

She tried to be gentle.

But most of the affection she “bestowed” upon me was painful.

Except for one.

Closing my eyes at one point as I breathed through a spasm, I felt a small peck on my cheek. So gentle – much like the tickle of a butterfly wing on my cheek. I had to look and see if what I felt really happened and sure enough there she was – big brown eyes and toothy grin just inches from my face.

“I love you, Mama. I hope you feel better.”

And you better believe, I did.

You see, sometimes…I wonder.

I wonder if she understands how much I love her.

If she knows how valuable she is.

When she screams at me in anger and tells me I’m a bad mommy. When she hits me and tells me to leave her alone. When most of our day together looks a lot like: time out,  time out, time out…

And they tell you, “It’s not personal,” and, “It’s because of what she has been through…” and you know it. Deep down you know these are words of anger not truth. But…you still wonder.

Is it getting through?

Does she know how I feel?

Will she ever feel the same way?


And then one day…

She kisses your cheek and tells you how much she loves you and you realize…

It’s getting through.

She knows how you feel.

She feels the same way.

And it gives you the strength to keep moving forward.


It reminds me of the dunk tank we use to rent for every church event years ago.

You would throw a ball at the target – some would miss…MOST of mine would miss, but then – if you kept at it – one would finally hit the target and the seat would give way, completely immersing the victim (usually a pastor) in the water.

The key to achieving the goal of dunking the pastor was to KEEP AT IT. Aim for the target and just keep throwing.

And over time, all that persistence would pay off.

Today, I saw a brief snapshot of what will be. I saw the “fruits of the labor.” I saw what can happen when you just keep throwing balls at that target. Not all of them will miss.

Charles Spurgeon once wrote, “Through perseverance, the snail made it to the ark.”


It may feel like an uphill battle, an impossible target, a unwinnable war, a barren wasteland.

But keep loving.

Keep praying.

Keep throwing those balls at the target.

Throw and throw and throw and throw until that person is completely immersed in the love of God and finally break through.

This kiss on my cheek was the first of many to come.

Because He who has begun this good work WILL complete it.




Amazing Grace


Kneeling down in front of her, I can see her more clearly.

Two almond shaped eyes full of anger and sadness look directly into mine. Her wild hair sticking carelessly to her sweaty forehead, her fists clenched ever so tightly- everything about her dares me to come close…and yet begs me to.

In all honesty, what she deserves and what God has told me to do couldn’t be farther apart. Everything in me would like her to get what she deserves. It’d be easier to just be done tonight – to send her to her room, to ground her for the foreseeable future. Why? Because, in all honesty, I am tired. So very tired. This started long before sunrise and now, as the sun is going down, I just want to be DONE.  And that – all that “honesty” – is what screams in my ear as I kneel down in front of her and do what God has told me to do.

I open my arms.

I wrap her up.

And I offer her…GRACE.

Soon after, sleep comes easily. Her whole body relaxes, her guard coming down, if not for forever, at least for a night. She looks so peaceful, so content. The light from the hallway peeks through the door and unto her soft cheeks as I look in one last time. The sight is enough to take your breath away. She is…priceless.

 “All day long,” Father God said, “I stretch out my arms to a rebellious and contrary people.”

Oh, how I have been there, I thought to myself as I closed the door.

Rebellious? Check.

Contrary? Check. Check.

And I haven’t just been there…I’ve been…THAT.

He could have treated me as my sin deserved.

He could have thrown in the towel, called it off, turned away…

No one would have blamed Him, questioned Him, or doubted the “rightness” of His actions.

He had EVERY RIGHT to be…done.

And yet…

As I walk away from her door, I see a picture: A mini…ME, with strawberry blonde hair and freckles, running headfirst into the undeserved grace of Daddy God.

This image brings me to tears.

Because, you see, I need GRACE just as much as she does.

How many times could this verse have been applied to me?! ”All day long, I stretch out my arms to my disobedient daughter, Niki, who keeps running in the wrong direction!” 

And yet, He keeps stretching His arms out to me!

Oh, what manner of love is this?

We live in a culture that says, “Scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.” “Get even.” “Pay them back!” “If you want my respect, earn it!”   As the world around us screams for “retaliation” and “paying for one’s mistakes,” Jesus calls us to love like Him.

A King who humbled himself to the point of death.

A King who took the form of a servant.

A King who washed the feet of His disciples AND His betrayer.

A King who does not treat us as our sins deserve.

Loving like Him will look a lot like…

Blessing those who curse us…

Praying for those who persecute us…

Loving like Him will look a lot like…

Washing feet…

Doing the right thing even when others don’t…

Forgiving…even if they never ask for it or earn it.

Loving like Him will look a lot like…


What we have freely received, we now are called to freely give.

Jesus, help us…to be the kind of people who would wash our betrayer’s feet.

Jesus, help us…to be the hands and feet of grace.

The Best Stories


I always start vacations with such expectation.

I build it up in my mind.

What might be a “short trip up north” becomes an opportunity for a glorious, life-altering, EPIC adventure in which we will all get along wonderfully…and hold hands as we skip down the beach…with the waves of the Great Lakes tickling our toes…and angelic harps serenading us…as we take the most perfect family photo ever…in matching blue polo shirts…and everyone will be smiling…and…Are you getting the picture?


Because when these “high expectations” meet the mess of “reality” –

The car that blows up on the side of the highway in heat of mid-summer…

The child who gets the flu and pukes all over your vacation dreams…

The traffic jam that pulls from you the ability to make a child-safe port-a-potty out of a sand bucket and a prayer…

The tent that leaks…ON YOUR FACE…

When these “realities” (and all the others that come with having 10 children on one vacation with two VERY outnumbered parents) pop the bubble of my vacation hopes…

I have only TWO choices.

Number 1: I can fall into a puddle of my tears and eat my body weight in melted chocolate (that was hidden in the suitcase just in case I found myself in said moment).


Number 2: I can keep moving. Because beyond this moment is another… and it might be beautiful, the stuff dreams are made of…and I refuse to miss it.

Our last vacation was…not what I expected. It had many challenges. And on one of the hardest days – a day I was fighting with everything within me not to just pack it all up and head home early – we decided to take the kids to the beach to see the sunset. Swallowing my tears, I pasted a smile on my face and loaded them in the car. Once there, we climbed out of the van and gathered as a family on the beach. The water was beautiful. The sand tickled our feet. Wind blew our hair this way and that. “You can stick your feet in,” became to my children, “We can swim in our clothes!” We all jumped in the waves and splashed each other. As we drove home soaked from head to toe, I could feel the love of God crashing into my heart like the waves of the Atlantic Ocean. And I thanked God for that moment – a moment I could have easily missed if I’d surrendered to discouragement.

Someday, when we tell stories about our family vacations – do you know what stories we will tell? Which ones will make us belly-laugh and wipe away tears from our eyes?

The broken down van stories.

The leaky-tent stories.

The “when-everything-went-wrong” stories.

The “mess” of it all will fade over time and we will be left with sticky ice-cream fingers splashing salty waters and the ingenuity of the “Sand-Pail-Port-A-John.”

We will remember the laughter, the being together…

How do I know? Because that’s what I do with my brothers when we gather together. We tell of the vacation when our car decided it would only drive in reverse…or when mom turned all of our clothes pink…

We hold on to those moments…

These vacations may never live up to my “high expectations.”

They are far from perfect.


They do make for the best stories.







A Time to Rebuild…



I HATE PUZZLES. But…I also LOVE them.

It’s a complicated relationship.

There is nothing like the joy found in completing something that has challenged you and made you question your intellect.

There is also nothing like the frustration found in holding a piece they say fits into the puzzle BUT IT DOES NOT.

My oldest son can spend hours leaning over a puzzle, studying the pieces intently.

My son, Daniel, on the other hand…he just sits waiting for the moment…the moment he is released, like a bull rushing from the bull pen, to break it apart once again. THIS is his favorite part of puzzle-building. Demolition Daniel…He squeals with delight at the mess he has made.

What takes Reuben hours to build, take Daniel only seconds to destroy.

It’s like that in life too, isn’t it?

In just a few seconds,




can break hearts, destroy marriages, tear families apart.

And what took only seconds to destroy will now often require much, much longer to rebuild. 

And this where we too often give up.

Unwilling to patiently wait for the broken to be made whole, unwilling to regain trust bit by bit, unwilling to face head on the pain we’ve caused, the cost of our choices – we bail.

It is rare that my children ever rebuild after Demolition Dan gets his hands on the puzzle. WHY? Because they know…what took him seconds to destroy could take hours, even days to rebuild. And who wants to do that all over again? Who wants to take the time? 

Who wants to sit through the awkward silence that comes when two friends that have hurt each other don’t know what to say? 

Who wants to try to win the heart of their spouse again – walk over the shards of glass, woo a heart that once was strong and now is so “fragile?” 

Who wants to have to admit they were wrong? They screwed up? They didn’t handle things right? 

Who wants to say…sorry? 

Rebuilding is HARD sometimes. Rebuilding HURTS sometimes. Rebuilding is WORK.

I have another son…a great boy who I am just crazy about. He is, like we all are, still learning and growing. He did something that hurt others in the family. His choice…had consequence.


Sometime after the incident, after a heartfelt apology, after receiving a discipline, after lavishing those he hurt with love and kindness in hopes of restoring what he broke – he was blamed by a sibling for something he didn’t do.

His response?

“It’s okay, Mom. I know I have to earn their trust back. It will take time, but I’m not giving up.”

No kidding, y’all… This Mama WEPT.

What if we all made that same choice? What if we REFUSED to give up? 

What if we ALL got our hands busy doing the hard work of reconciliation?  

What if we lived aware that destruction takes seconds and rebuilding takes TIME…and stopped running from the consequence? 

There was an elderly couple years ago who were asked how they had stayed married for 65 years. Their response was this: “We were born in a time when if something was broken, we would fix it – not throw it away.” 

Luke 6: 27 – 28

27But to those of you who will listen, I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28blessthose who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.29If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone takes your cloak, do not withhold your tunic as well.…

God, give us the courage, the humility, and the love that it requires to REFUSE to give up, to accept  the consequence, and to keep our hands busy in the work of the reconciliation and rebuilding. Teach us, Father, how to love like YOU.