“Go in peace”

The stories of Mark 5:21-43 may be familiar to you. The dying girl and the hemorrhaging woman are two profound examples of God’s love, mashed together in one powerful chapter of God’s attention to healing and to the plight of women and children.

First I want to acknowledge that while they end in miraculous restoration, these stories are difficult. They are painful. They are painful and they are familiar.

If we pause for even one moment, offer the text one smidge of empathy, we can see ourselves here. We know these stories.

Our community has lost children too soon. Our community struggles with and cares for those who struggle with chronic illness. We have felt the desperation of Jairus,  advocating for his child. Like the woman, we know what it is to be sick and tired of being sick and tired.

And we have also seen that death and disease, grief and exhaustion, the depletion of our financial and emotional stores, is not the end of the story. They are not the end of our stories. We have seen that God doesn’t ration out God’s power and love, but that it is surprisingly abundant, plenty for us all.

I want us to focus this morning on the hemorrhaging woman who interrupts Jesus. This woman had suffered from ongoing menstruation for twelve years. Twelve years! We know that women’s reproductive health concerns aren’t always taken seriously in our own day and age, particularly for poor women and women of color. We can only imagine the struggle to be heard and treated with the limited medical knowledge and access of her time, no sonograms or blood tests to give clarity. When the problem first began, maybe she went to her local healer, but his treatment didn’t work. She was referred to another, and then another, and another physician. Their remedies ranged from harmlessly ineffective to miserable, some gave her other symptoms, worse than the sickness in the first place. We know that story. And without proper treatment, what would become any dream she might have had of a baby? We know that story, too.

In the culture and time of this gospel, there were guidelines for cleanliness and purity that pertained to women’s cycles. With bleeding that never stopped, she would have been continuously restricted in her religious participation with her community. She would have had to maintain a stringent hygiene regimen, going above and beyond with every interaction, every household chore, to avoid sharing her impure state with others. Modern medicine tells us that side effects of this type of condition would include dizziness and fainting, irregular heart rate, low energy, and, likely, continual physical pain. For 12 years.

We can’t know exactly how her community has responded to her sickness. People may have been offering her all the support and compassion they could, making meal trains and going to appointments. Or people may have been tired of offering her support, and offer only resentment or avoidance — the text doesn’t say. We do know that she had hit her limit. In spite of her overwhelming fear, in spite of all the social boundaries that said she should not, she was going to advocate for her healing, go straight to the best option for freedom.

She is sick and tired, and she’s had enough.

Now, the gospel of Mark is a rapid fire story, the comic book equivalent of the gospels. Everything happens quickly, and Jesus is on the move, the man of action. But in this portion of the text, he takes a passive and objective role as the bleeding woman takes center stage as our protagonist. This is her story. She is the one on the move, and this reversal of the script, so different than what we expect, fits with the way that she crosses boundaries and our expectations of what a Jesus-healing looks like.

She thinks, “If I can just get close enough, if I can just touch him, I’ll be ok.”

Can you see it? Close your eyes with me and imagine.

Imagine being tired, more tired than you’ve ever been in your life, and walking out into a bunch of people in the street. It’s a big crowd of people. You spot him in the center, but you’re on the edge of the group. You duck and move and squeeze between bodies, some of them strangers and some of them folks you’ve known your whole life, trying not to lose sight of him, trying not to lose your pace with the group. Your toes got stepped on, now you’re practically in this guys armpit over here, someone notices you and says hello, tries to draw you into conversation — but no, you won’t be distracted.

And then, just like that, he’s right in front of you. You grab the hem of his clothes, just a little brush, a moment, one finger skimming over fabric, and. . . .relief. You feel blood pressure stabilize, fuzzy thoughts clear and focus, strength surging through legs and trunk. Can you imagine it?

She went where she wasn’t supposed to go. She broke the rules. She crossed all kinds of boundaries to claim healing and flourishing. And when Jesus realizes what has happened, realizes that his power has gone, his boundary crossed…. he greets her with love.
He knows his own abundance — he goes on to raise the little girl, after all — he knew the admonition of the Apostle Paul to the church at Corinth, that “The one who had much did not have too much, and the one who had little did not have too little.”
From the abundance of his own power and resources, Christ affirms her transgression, and greets her with love.

She broke the rules for the sake of safety and healing, to claim a future for herself, a connection to her family and community. Her self-advocacy and faith for her wholeness was the right thing! And Jesus honors her courage. “Your faith has made you well; go in peace.”

———–

Our church has the tradition of reading the letters of apostles, such as Paul, in worship. This morning I would like to conclude with a letter from one of our modern-day apostles, Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry, published last week.

Right now our church and country has a chance to model ourselves after Jesus in this story. We have thousands of people crossing boundaries at great risk in hope of flourishing, safety, healing. As you listen, I invite you to hold in your heart and mind, our sister, the hemorrhaging woman, and her courage to seek a better life. I invite you to you to hold in your heart and mind, the assurance that the power of God, the compassion of God, the family of God, is far bigger and more abundant than we could imagine, more than enough for any human need.

From Bishop Michael:
“The screams of children being taken from their mothers and fathers at our border, under our flag, haunts the nation. Across political and religious divides, the nation – and the world – is aghast and Americans are refusing complicity in all the ways they can. Millions of people are crying, protesting and praying in our houses of worship and in the public square. In a moment of national shame, huge swaths of people are acting in love.

The families making treacherous and often dangerous journeys to seek refuge in the US are desperate. They face extreme violence, persecution and poverty in their home countries. You cannot deter people who are fleeing for their lives, even with policies as cruel as taking children away from their parents. People who come to our borders only hope to give their children a chance. We should be meeting these people with compassion.

Christians have recoiled against the notion that ripping children from their parents – euphemistically called “family separation” – in any way comports with the teachings of Jesus Christ. Jesus of Nazareth, his mother, Mary, and Joseph were refugees who fled persecution and emigrated to Egypt. Love thy neighbor is the Christian way. There is no biblical mandate or warrant for what is occurring on our borders. Christianity must never be confused with cruelty.
While the president has rightly declared families will no longer be separated at the border, he wrongly continues to promote a hurtful immigration policy greatly devoid of human compassion. Even with the new executive order, immigration officers will keep families who are legally seeking asylum in detention.

The agony of migrant parents at our border is immense. Every parent has feared the unthinkable: my child is gone. For me, it was a flash of dread in an everyday experience while shopping with my two young children in a department store. My oldest daughter wandered away and for the 10 seconds before I found her nestled between hanging clothes I felt a panic I had never before imagined.

Those remain the longest 10 seconds of my life and are seared in my memory. I can still taste the fear and I relive that sick feeling in my body remembering what it was like to be physically shaken by the fear that I had lost my daughter and would not be able to find her. Imagine those seconds multiplied by days and weeks and months.
Today, there remain thousands of children scattered in foster homes and child prison camps with no system in place for reunification. Each of these children needs our prayers, our voices of outrage and our help to reunite them with their families and heal from this terror. And the children who came before them, those who have crossed the border as children alone and some who were remanded to youth prisons that are under scrutiny for abusive practices – these children also need our intervention.

The rhetoric from our government leaders, which casts “the other” – in this case, families seeking refuge – as dangerous, inhumanely violates the Christian tradition. Selfishness is a sin. We cannot live up to our country’s ideals if we embrace only our own desires and put our needs above all others – even above God. Being a US citizen does not make us more human than people on the other side of our border.
We are in the midst of a global migration crisis, where millions of families have been separated after fleeing their homelands due to violence, conflict and persecution.

This crisis touches almost every continent in the world. The US is on track to resettle the fewest refugees since the refugee resettlement programme began in 1980. God does not condone our attack on immigrants. Jesus says: “Love your neighbour.” Jesus says: “Love your enemy.” Jesus says: “Welcome the stranger.”

What is the Christian way to manage borders? Strength does not require cruelty. Indeed, cruelty is a response rooted in weakness. Jesus was clear about what true strength is and it always is driven by love. There may be many policy prescriptions, but the prism through which we view them should be the same: does the policy treat people with love, acknowledging our common humanity? If the answer is no, it is not a Christian solution. Detaining and separating families – children and their parents – is not just happening at the border. Some immigrant parents and care-givers who have lived in the US for decades – and have children who are US citizens – are being rounded up and deported, leaving a trail of countless children in this country without their parents.

President Trump’s executive order has not quieted the cries of the children still separated from their parents. It has not comforted the parents still panicked because they cannot see their babies. It does nothing to stop the heartless deportations of immigrants who are longtime neighbors and members of our communities.

All of those families weep. And so we must respond to the weeping by working to help America to live out one of its core ideals, enshrined in words on the Statue of Liberty.
Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me.
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

Anatheism and Sacramental Democratic Participation

This weekend I got to return to Lee University to present some ideas about faith and citizenship. Take a look!

Returning to God and Each Other-Anatheism as Christian Citizenship and Resistance

Abundance and Surprise

This sermon was preached on June 17th at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Chattanooga.
The Kingdom of God, the love of God at work, is like a great many different things and stories. It’s like a treasure in a field, it’s like a man searching for a sheep, it’s like a fishing net, it’s like baking bread. And today it’s like a plant that grows whether we tend it or not, and it’s an little bitty teensy weensy seed that stakes over the garden. There are so many parables, and they can be confusing. We know that Jesus had to explain them to his disciples again and again. Parables are meant to confound and challenge us with their rich images.
The Bible as a whole can be confusing. It’s full of contradictions and mixed metaphors. It’s a book with a complicated and ancient context that we try, each week and each day, to fit into life as we know it. We certainly may find ourselves in these parables, but Jesus gave us so many different stories and images because we cannot reduce and simplify God to one tidy approach. The reformed pastor and theologian Karl Barth wrote that trying to pin down God’s kingdom is like trying to capture a bird in flight. The moment we point it out, we’re already behind — that bird is soaring away, on the move, and we can only trace its path.
But I have to say this morning: there is one important thing we can count on when we come to the Bible. There is a crucial guiding question for making sense of what the Bible is saying to us in our time. It’s how we go about determining what exactly is “biblical.” And that question is this: “Am I understanding and applying the Bible in a way that leads me to better love God, and love my neighbor?” Are we growing in love of God and love of neighbor?
Do we read and apply the Bible as people transformed by the love of God? This love so abundant and unexpected and giving that it does not make sense in this world? The kingdom of God is among us, certainly in our personal spirituality, but also in the ways that we live together.
So, are we reading the Bible and applying it to our lives in a way that upholds violence, or brings peace? Do we use the Bible to tear families apart, or hold them together? Do we use the Bible to exclude others or welcome them? Are we reading the Bible with love?
The apostle Paul, one of our earliest companions in wrestling with and living by the Bible, wrote that love is the fulfillment of the law, love is the fulfillment of the law. Love is the fulfillment of God’s word, so as we wrestle with the meaning of today’s parables, we keep our eyes out for love.
God, have mercy on us and give us the ears to hear your word of love:
“The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground…
It is like a mustard seed, sown upon the ground.”
What does planting seeds tell us about God’s transforming love?
Back in May our family went down to the beach in South Carolina, near Charleston, and while we were there, we got to visit with my aunt Lisa. She and my uncle live on a few acres near the marsh and grow a garden every year. It’s a massive plot, all this rich, dark, sandy earth, and they eat from the garden all summer and fall, and pickle and can jars so that they eat from their land all year. They’ve had a big, wild, experimental garden as long ago as I can remember, and every single year of gardening is different.
“So Lisa,” I say, “What’s in the garden this year?”
“Well, we’ve got okra and tomatoes, of course, and onions and radishes and carrots, and all the herbs and flowers. We’ve got some new corn varieties we’re going to try, and squash and zucchini, even though the zucchini wasn’t great last year. And we’re going to try garlic to keep the deer out. And you know, we’re going to do peanuts! We tried that years ago and it didn’t do a thing, but last year I did just one little half row of peanuts just for fun and they took over! We had boiled peanuts and boiled peanuts and boiled peanuts til we couldn’t eat any more. You know those peanuts just took over.”
Lisa’s been growing a garden on that same patch of earth on Wadmalaw Island, South Carolina for twenty plus years. There are a few things she can count on, like the tomatoes will work, and so will the deer, but there are parts of her garden that are always a surprise.
Those seeds and starts will sprout and grow, and she does not know how. Much to her surprise, that little old half a row of peanuts suddenly flourish and take over half the garden!
This morning, the Gospel call our attention to this mysterious promise of small things. The kingdom of God, the transforming love and grace of God, is like a tiny seed that grows without our work or attention, it is the smallest thing grown large and lush and offering welcome.
Do you know that there are a lot of little seeds being planted around here at St. Paul’s?
For the last two weeks, Hope and her amazing team of volunteers have been sowing seeds of God’s kingdom in the children of this community. I’ve been listening to art and fun camp down the hall from my office, and I’m in awe of what a few small moments, a morning of crafts or creative writing, a silly game with pool noodles or funny voices, what mustard seeds of faith and love might be sown in these kids over just a few hours.
There are 8 perennials, plants that come back again and again, growing downstairs in St. Catherine’s shelter. There are 8 little rooms with 8 beds to provide sanctuary for women who need help getting off the street or the strength to take their first steps toward addiction recovery.
There are the financial seeds of small grants administered by the outreach committee each year, small grants that might not seem like much, but these little grants become meals at the community kitchen. They support our Latino neighbors through the work of La Paz. They break into cycles of trauma and poverty. They start small, and grow to affirm the dignity of all our community members as children of God.
Another thing about these little seeds is that they yield abundance. The little seeds of our parable become an entire harvest, feed a household or a community. When we look for God in our lives and the world, we can discern Kingdom by looking for that abundance that only comes by grace, and by looking for what is inviting and connecting and providing hospitality. The branches of that mustard seed kingdom make space for all the birds of the air. We recognize that God’s love is present and at work when our lives, our homes and families, our church, our work places all take on the quality of hospitality and welcome, making space for the ones who need it.
When I first started dating my husband, he was living in a big house with a group of friends. Each one was in some way serving the Nashville community, whether through churches or nonprofit work, and they wanted to live together in a meaningful way and open their home to their neighbors. So every single Sunday afternoon, they held a community potluck lunch. Many folks came from the little church around the corner, some from the public housing in the neighborhood, and a few students from the universities nearby. And every single week, whether they had ten people or thirty, there was enough for everybody to have something to eat.
Don’t believe the lie of scarcity. Our culture runs on the myth that there isn’t enough to go around, that the answer is more stuff, that we need to grasp tightly after our safety and our resources. But that is a false gospel. We don’t have to live in that scarcity, that fear, that grasping and controlling. We don’t have to believe the lie that our flourishing depends on excluding, punishing, withholding, or deporting any one else. The mustard seed, that itty bitty thing, shows itself to be more food and shade and shelter than we ever could have imagined.
We like to know what we’re going to get, we like things in good order, according to plan. But what is unmistakable in these parables is that we are not in control. We must be surprised by God! At those community potluck lunches? Well, everyone would have food to eat, but sometimes it would be weird. Some weeks might just have three different noodle dishes and some ice cream, or just pancakes and fried fish, or beans and rice and fruit salad. There was always enough, but we couldn’t count on the menu, and it might not be what you’d necessarily choose for your Sunday lunch.
From our phone apps to our financial plans to our vision for our children and our country, we like to have it all mapped out and for things to go according to our plan. But the kingdom of God is so often, by our standards, counter intuitive, inconvenient, and weird. The our best laid plans fail, but then the most surprising graces show up out of the blue. Gardeners know this, perhaps, better than most of us. A farmer friend of mine would say of gardening and life, “A weed is just a plant where you didn’t want it to be.” We might have liked our mustard to stay small and orderly. Or maybe we wanted a nice big apple tree in that spot. Maybe we didn’t want all the birds to come and roost — we only wanted robins, but here they are, we got them all.
Look around your life — what surprises have shown up? Haven’t they beengood?
In our planned out, scheduled, controlled lives, surprises can make us nervous. Change and difference brings fear. But 1 John reminds us that ‘There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” God is inviting us to be surprised not by fear, but by God’s own love. God is inviting us to be surprised by the expansive abundance of God’s kingdom.
We can be mad that there are peanuts in the garden, or we can plant more rows.
We’re all here today because we want to encounter the love of God in our lives, because we want to follow Jesus in giving that radical love of God away to the world. But these parables caution that there isn’t one perfect formula for how to do that. God’s love, God’s kingdom comes from small and unexpected places. God’s love, God’s kingdom, is more abundant than we can imagine. God’s love, God’s kingdom, surprises us and thwarts our expectations. We can start to keep an eye out for seedlings, and we can keep on planting them. We go into the world with a prayerful attitude attention and a God-transformed heart. We receive the incredible harvest of God’s grace and presence around us, and keep on sowing our little seeds of love and justice, to sprout and grow, we do not know how.

Keeping Watch, Bearing Witness

This is the final reflection of the Keep Watch With Me Lenten Reader for Peacemakers

We have been watching and witnessing together. We have read one another’s stories of hurt and hope, of suffering and salvation. We have practiced and prayed together, seeking love and light in the wandering of Lent.

On Easter, many of us read the John 20 narrative of the resurrection, Mary Magdalene’s story. Hers is the story of recognition that turns from Lent to Easter, from the quiet darkness of Saturday to the blaze of fire and light of resurrection Sunday, from death to life.

Mary keeps watch at the tomb, waiting and remaining in the face of death.

We keep watch.

We keep watch in the midst of grief and the darkness before the dawn.

We keep watch when we have no hope, we when do not understand.

We keep watch with questions, with doubt, with our whole selves.

We keep watch when others have given up, when it feels like there is nothing to watch for.

Mary bears witness, telling of the impossible and unexpected Life she has encountered.

We bear witness.

We bear witness to Christ present, alive, surprising.

We bear witness as we recognize God and are recognized by God.

We bear witness to the resistance of death, despair, and systemic violence.

We bear witness in our communities, that we might become a new kind of community.

We are invited with Mary, with all saints and people of goodwill, to bear witness to the mind-bending good news that Hope was in the graveyard, that Peace is on the move. The empire lost and the resistance is strong. Love is rallying us to the cause of creation, life, growth and movement.

So, let us go forth into our lives and work and the world, carrying the wisdom we have learned together in our watch. Let us go with the Light, bearing witness in our peacemaking, in our spiritual practices, and in our stories.

This Is My Body

Have I got a recommendation for y’all.
A few weeks ago I was given the opportunity to read an upcoming book from Upper Room Books, This Is My Body: Embracing The Messiness of Faith and Motherhood by Hannah E. Shanks.
Oh my goodness. That’s only all I ever seem to talk about.
In her book, Big Magic, Liz Gilbert shares her theory on Creativity, who comes along and taps you on the shoulder with an idea. If you won’t or can’t give life to the idea, Creativity moves along to another soul who is willing or able to make the Creative Idea come into the world. When I read This Is My Body, I thought of this theory immediately, as Hannah Shanks has put to the page so many of the prayers and conversations my mama friends and I have been having. This Is My Body is the absolute book of my heart, and of so many other mama/theologian hearts. It’s the story of my past two and a half years, of so much of coming into motherhood. It’s a book as universal and exceptional as the experience of motherhood itself.
Hannah is a brave theologian. She wades into nitty-gritty, concrete, gross and glorious embodiment. Incarnational theology, ironically, is so often approached as an abstraction. But grounded in the minutia of physical changes in pregnancy and birth, this Christology can’t help but keep its skin and blood, its placenta and colostrum and sweat and mucus. This courage reminds me to muster my own, to remember that I, too–my life and motherhood and ministry and theological reflection–I am united with Jesus in all my bodiliness. Her theology roams beyond the initial topic of motherhood, dealing with fundamental feminist questions of belonging and equality, asking, “How, in a religion where God incarnate was physically borne, supported, and raised by a woman, did we come to a place where women were seen as secondary to men in carrying the gospel?”
And Hannah is a brave mama. She names conflicting emotions and the gut-wrenching mind/body connection of pregnancy pains and fears, postpartum struggles, and the mind-numbing exhaustion of life with a newborn. This courage reminds me that I, too, felt those things and hid them, worried about my solitude in my worry and ambivalence. The connections between pregnancy and postpartum with prayer practice and faith also connected with my experience. To be sure, breastfeeding all night felt like a vigil of hours, but that prayer was offered with unapologetic tiredness and sometimes, frustration. Hannah describes with so much grace and honesty how all of these feelings and experiences are bound up together.
Reading this, I found myself thrown into body memories, brought to tears and belly aches in recollection of the body immediacy of pregnancy, of labor and delivery, of nursing. My body was just so loud to me then, so demanding and strong. What’s more, as I read, I suddenly became aware of what I no longer know about God, aware of insights about Eucharist, even about myself and my son that are no longer known and lived in my flesh. That knowledge of “this is my body,” so acute, so sacred and earthy and bloody, has faded. I knew because my body knew. Now, “this is my body” means something else. The book left me with an invitation to discern what this life stage and embodiment, so different that the last, might have to teach me about God with us.
Thoughtful of her audience, Hannah Shanks acknowledges her social location and particularity as a cisgendered and reproductively able-bodied woman. She acknowledges the limits of her story. But a story told well, in its particularity, is a story that points beyond its teller to connect with many. She writes, “The parts of myself that I don’t want to reconcile aren’t left out of God’s radical work…Turns out, being made one with Christ means being made one with ourselves, too.” This good, hard news of grace and bodiliness and integration into God is good, hard news for us all, not just for the mamas. This book casts a vision for all of us to have space to say, “This is my body.”
The book will be out from Upper Room in May (preorder here) and I’ll be clamoring about it on facebook and instagram with links to buy. Get it for yourselves, for baby shower gifts, for your midwife, for anyone who likes to talk about bodies. There’s even a discussion guide in the back if you decide to go wild and make it a book club. Hmm… that’s a thought.

Having Kids and Selling Out

This week I’ve been listening to “How to Survive the End of the World,” a podcast by Autumn Brown and adrienne maree brown. It’s fantastic. Check it out.

In listening to their conversations, particularly about child- birthing and loss and raising, I realized that I’ve been struggling with my identity as a mom and someone who cares about and works for justice in the world.

Having S. corresponded with a shift in my work and life. I was starting seminary with a hefty commute, my partner’s organizing job was getting way more demanding, and a baby adds a new level of financial and emotional need. I had finished my time at Vanderbilt, where opportunities to plug into social movements abound, and where, as a student, I had the flexibility to give time and attention to those movements.

The emotionally intensive facilitation work I really got into before and during pregnancy went to the back burner. For the most part, we can only afford to have childcare for hours during which we are working or at school, for me).

Social movement spaces aren’t always conducive to young families — it’s a lot of long days and evening meetings for a baby or toddler — and I regularly choose consistent nap time and slow evenings and dinners for my son over, well, just about any other option. Especially at the beginning, his sleeping and eating was so easily throw off track, and a bad afternoon nap meant lots of night waking, lots of exhaustion.

But is that just a list of excuses? Have I sold out?

There’s obviously part of me that thinks so, or I wouldn’t be writing this. But Autumn and adrienne have been reminding me that the small stabilities and consistencies for my kid are also a form of movement work. I chose the part time hourly cubicle job that pays the bills and frees up my heart and mind, so I can replenish those emotional resources to respond to a toddler with patience and re-read that bell hooks picture book 17 times. That is the work of dismantling the patriarchy, for him and also in myself.

I’ve internalized the devaluation of (traditionally women’s) labor that focuses on the home and child, even within a framework that explicitly values the feminized and vulnerable, that claims liberation for folks to be able to do exactly this work: raise a child with peace and connection, take time to tend emotional intelligence and body and family.

The movement work will go on. There will still be groups to facilitate. There will be books to write. There will be gardens to plant and protests to join and classes to teach and hospital visits to make — all those works I have loved to do and will love to do again. Not now doesn’t mean never.

And now I can choose to remember and recenter the truth that this little guy — and the small moments like this morning, drawing circles and singing “peace like a river” while putting on his shoes — he is my daily work of justice and freedom.

EEK!

In my graduate studies and practice as a minister, I teach spiritual practices that connect the Christian tradition of scripture, prayer, and worship to emotional intelligence, embodiment, and mindfulness. As a mom, I hope to ground my young son’s faith in this as well.

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Eek! Said Amy by L.J. Zimmerman and Charles Long is one of the best tools I have found for this. The story explores body and emotions with a boy named Devon and Amy, his amygdala. They’re a great team, most of the time, but Amy sometimes gets in “red alert!” and Devon struggles with very big fear at some small things like a little bug, social anxiety, or stepping on a sidewalk crack. These worries are relatable for children, and so are the hopeful practices offered: a talk with mom, a simple breathing meditation, and some Bible verses to memorize and remember when things are scary.

I read this with my son who’s 20 months old, and while it’s aimed at older children, he was engaged with the book. He requested, “Amy?” “Emotions?” long after we put the book away. My five year old nephew connected more deeply, wondering if he has an amygdala, too, and practicing deep breaths full of God’s love along with Devon. This is a book to grow into, with layers of emotional intelligence, body awareness, and prayer for different developmental stages.

Also, it’s funny. The pictures and dialogue are clever, and I didn’t hate reading it five times in a row for a toddler. And let’s be real, mamas — that matters, too.

You can order Eek! Said Amy on Amazon or from Abingdon Press this week! I will definitely be buying a few copies for friends and family, and keep on revisiting it with my child. With the terrible twos around the corner, we can probably both use some deep breaths of God’s love and a gentle reminder that God can help us be brave through big emotions.