5 Minutes in a Pulpit

Last Sunday I had an opportunity to share from the pulpit how I got to be “where I am today” — well, they asked me to speak about the non-profit I worked alongside others to open….and I took the opportunity to regal them with “my life’s journey.”  Here’s the 5 minutes in a just slightly edited version — names changed….and this one will flow more smoothly than my stressed-stuttering 🙂

Today I traded my mom three very wild and active boys….for one quiet man.  She has my kids at home….and my dad is here with me. It’s made a huge difference in my stress level!

Today, I am going to tell you a story of seeing God’s handiwork in one’s life…even if it takes 40 years!  Yes, forty years.

God put a million, million doors in the world
For His love to walk through
One of those doors is you
I said, God put a million, million doors in the world
For His love to walk through
One of those doors is you 
(Jason Gray)

When I was four, my parents moved our family to Thailand. This was in the early 70s. It took weeks for a letter to get there, months for a package. There was no internet. There was only one TV channel which had a Buddhist monk speaking 24/7. There was where I grew up – attended Thai school and boarding school. Played with Thai and Hilltribe kids. Raised my pet pig (Wilbur, of course) and pet monkey (Agun). There I fell off a water buffalo. There I was baptized, there I was a kid….oblivious to the fact that my parents were sharing the love of Christ day in and day out.

We returned to the US and I entered high school….then college….graduate school….and mid-way through med school – my sister and I returned to visit northern Thailand. It had been twenty years and our former village was now a suburb of Chiang Rai. We walked up to the gate of our former house, knocked and said “Hi, our Dad built this.”

It didn’t take long for word to spread that the “Williams girls” were back. People came forth to share story after story of how our parents had touched their lives and made them whole. You see ….my parents were doors….of God’s love to walk through.

Naturally, I retained a bit of that missionary spirit and did short-term mission trips to Haiti and Guatemala. In medical school, I knew I wanted to be a pediatrician because I loved kids. I also knew I wanted to learn about adult medicine as well because I just “knew” I would be in a third-world country and would need it.  And yet….I never felt the “call” to be overseas.

I struggled to figure out what I was to do in life.  I got a degree in elementary education, and yet, I wasn’t called into teaching. I completed a PhD in developmental psychology, yet I wasn’t called to do research. I handled the mocking of “are you a forever student?” with grace.

After a particularly challenging month of residency at a missionary hospital in Kenya, I returned to Pittsburgh. My sister greeted me off the plane and said, “So….while you were away, I was contemplating the Biblical principle of caring for widows and young children and since we don’t care about old ladies….I signed up for foster parenting classes.”  Six months later, a little toddler came into our lives. He stayed with us off and on for three years at which point, Super Tall Guy had joined us as well as my sister’s son The Flipper.

Soon there was Mr. Ornery and then my sister accepted her son Trouble (Capital T). Ten months later another phone call asked if I “wanted to adopt a third?” I had 15 minutes…. The Little Guy arrived. Our house was full of boys. And my life was full from practicing medicine and working another part-time job.  And yet….I still was seeking.

Four years ago last month while attending a pediatric function, a colleague said to me – “Lynne, you should talk with this new resident who did a study on a crisis nursery.” A what?  “A 24/7 safe place for kids under the age of 6 when their families are in crisis.”

At that moment – I knew my “calling.” At that very moment, I knew that this, this was what God had prepared me to do. He had brought me to a place where I was equipped and connected enough to help a team create the first crisis nursery in Pittsburgh – Jeremiah’s Place.

A place for families to leave their children in a medical emergency, or if the parent needed to get to a job interview, or if the parent was just too stressed to parent well and had no other support. A place to keep kids safe in a moment of potential harm and a place to love on and help the families move forward.jere-bears2

Why was I a missionary kid? – to instill in me a heart for those in need

Why did I get an elementary education, early childhood education undergraduate degree all the while knowing I didn’t want to teach? – because I needed to know how to teach children and parents

Why did I spend 7 years in graduate school studying developmental psychology? – because I needed to understand the very young child and the forces that affect their lives

Why did I go to medical school and become a pediatrician? – because I needed to know about the health of children

Why do adult medicine? – because….oh – I’m still asking God that question.

Why adopt three boys from foster care?  — because I needed to understand the stress of parenting and because they needed me….and I needed them.

Four years….countless hours at the computer, hundreds of meetings, talking to people, reading, visiting crisis nurseries – sacrificing sleep, sacrificing time for work, sacrificing time with my own children….

Through it all, I realized that the Lord called me to bring Hope to the mission field here in Pittsburgh. I didn’t need to be in a third-world country. I needed to be here — right here in Pittsburgh.

Jeremiah 29:11

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

This is the mission of Jeremiah’s Place – to bring Hope and a Future to children and families.

This is my door —- What is yours?

The Arrival of Mr. Trouble….and the house was never the same…

Pudgy, chubby little cheeks. Pink fingers and toes. Soft downy blond hair. We stared at him….he was so fair, so pink, so….white!  We had to keep checking him to make sure he was breathing and alive and he was okay….because he was so white! One day, handswhen he was a couple months old he was crying and crying and his cheeks and skin got all blotchy red. Kathy panicked and called me over to evaluate this problem. I turned to her and said, “He’s white. White kids do that when they cry. You know….if you had birthed a baby, he’d do the same thing” (our family is so freckled and fair).

And, this baby was so quiet when he arrived a week after he was born. He slept, he ate, he slept some more. Nothing – no sound…..for about ten days….and then never again (except once when he had a fever….he actually sat on the couch for more than 10 seconds….and we knew he was sick. It was almost a shame to give him Tylenol and perk him up!).

Almost four years ago, we welcomed Mr. Trouble. I confess that I only vaguely remember the day of his coming – must have been some craziness happening in my life at the time. But I do remember instantly loving his blue eyes and soft hair and falling in love with his endearing smile.

Yet, he comes by his nickname with great vigor. He is a cross somewhere between Dennis the Menace meets Curious George….meets the Tanzmanian Devil. There’s the saying that if a toddler has been quiet for 10 minutes, you better figure out what they are doing. We had to keep Mr. Trouble on a “2-minute leash” – doesn’t matter how exhausted you’re feeling, if you haven’t seem Mr. Trouble in the last 100 seconds, you better stand up and go looking….or you’re just going to be wiped out by the mess you’ll be cleaning!!

It’s pretty clear that he’s going to become a future Nobel Prize winner. His inquisitiveness has no bounds:

  • If I knock over this gallon of milk, how long will it take to travel across the dining room table and splash onto the floor (forming what diameter puddle under the table?)?
  • If I open this box of crackers and toss them delightfully into the air, how far will they scatter?
  • Is there anything in this refrigerator to eat?!?


    How about this? Hurt?

  • If I pee on the Legos, how long will it take for the yellow puddle to be discovered?
  • If I bite you on the inner thigh….does that hurt?
  • If I mix and swirl liquid hand soap and Jif peanut butter on the hardwood floor, does it actually clean the floor or just leave a greasy residue?
  • Is there anything in this refrigerator to eat?!?
  • If I knock down the cardboard fort painstakingly created by Super Tall Guy, will he let me join him in play or chase me out of the room in anger?
  • If I be Jake and the Neverland Pirates with my sword and backpack, Little Guy – will you be Cubby?
  • Is there anything in this refrigerator to eat?!?

I am sorry to say it – but this kid is so BUSY all the time, that I am constantly using the “tag, you’re it” policy….ie, “Not my kid!”  My sister….she’s a saint…..and she deserves a HUGE award for keeping him out of the hospital and out of the ER so far. She’s also amazingly patient with him. I’m amazingly hands-off. I know my limits. “Yep, he’s yours.”

But he’s growing up. He’s almost four. We actually let him play for 3 minutes at a time now before getting up to check on him….unless we hear a squeal, then it’s NOW!

Love you, blue-eyed Trouble!







The Moments of Mothering

What I don’t do anymore                                           What I do:

  • Fly to Italy for a long weekend to celebrate a friend’s wedding
Dread long weekends of entertaining five young boys
  • Wonder at the beauty of long walks under a moonlit sky
Fall asleep at 7:30 while putting the kids to bed
  • Sleep in on a Saturday and enjoy a delightful morning run
Pretend to be sleeping yet with heads near my head guarding against “pows” from rambunctious boys
  • Play Rummikub on a Sunday afternoon while sipping hazelnut coffee and nibbling freshly baked scones
Watch boys play flag football while alternating between freezing under an umbrella or frantically searching for sunscreen
Dream of sitting around and doing nothing!
  • Go out for Happy Hour, take in a play, relax at the symphony, enjoy lectures at the Carnegie
Build Lego aircraft, join orange Matchbox tracks, wash clothes, wash dishes, wash boys, repeat
  • Be spontaneous.
React spontaneously
  • Borrow other people’s children to play with or take to visit the zoo
Get smothered by tons of love, kisses, hugs, joy, laughter, giggles, bubble juice, slobber, drool, sticky fingers, sticky faces, mud, dirt, stains, sweat, tears, bruises, and whatever else a little boy can find.



What I do now is let a huge crocodile tear escape from the corner of my eye as I whisper to Super Tall Guy the other night – “You, boy….you are the one that made me a mother. Thank you.”

You see….don’t be fooled by this mothering business.

You are not going to “love” every moment.

But you are going to love having had “the” moments.



Top Ten Trophies for Boys under Ten….and their Mom

My boys love awards. They love medals. They love trophies. Our house is full of “awards.” We have the cheap plastic ones that they walk around the house wearing on odd dress-up occasions. We have the “everyone’s a winner” medals from doing the Junior Great Race in Pittsburgh. We have medals won in competition by hard work and 3-times-a-week gymnastics practice. We have trophies for completing a season and for being the best. We have “Student of the Week” awards and “Clean Desk” awards (but I don’t believe that one at all….given the status of said child’s room). In fact, the boys like medals so much that they give them out to each other sometimes.IMG_0165

And many of these recognitions are fine and good, but I would like the boys to actually earn some of them.

So I’ve decided that here are the Top Ten Trophies to be Awarded to Boys under Ten (at least in my house….in this season of life):

10. The “Thank you for saying Thank You” Award.

9. The “Just Try One Bite without a Fuss” prize.

8. The “Getting off the brother you are sitting on the first time I ask you” Medal of Honor.

7. The “You went in to use the bathroom ….and came out ….without leaving a puddle at the base of the toilet!” Most High Praise

6. The “Most Costly Child” Honor (in terms of total cost of two 42-inch plasma TVs, countless light bulbs, numerous chairs including the portable camp chair I just purchased yesterday for soccer! and so much more)

5. The “You gave the toy back after grabbing it out of your brother’s hands” Certificate.

4. The “Stopped when asked to stop before running in the parking lot” Award for Safety.

3. The “You actually washed your hands after using the bathroom….with soap!?” Amazement Award.

2. The “Wow – your little brother just hit you and you DIDN’T punch him back!” Trophy

And finally…

1. Bronze – “You got dressed without being asked.”
Silver – “You got dressed AND brushed your teeth?!”
And the Gold Medal goes for – “You put on underwear!!” – The crowd cheers!!

Some possible future awards….not yet attained:
• Put the toilet seat down award.
• Ate something green on your own initiative certificate.
• Woke up and didn’t whine within the first five minutes winner (oh, that might not ever happen)

These thoughts ran through my head this week as I thought about the “stars” I write on pieces of scrap paper magnetted to the fridge. When the boys earn twenty, they earn a prize. It’s been a good system for a bit of time. But sometimes there doesn’t appear to be anything that alters their behavior.

This was particularly the case in church this morning. “The talk” was provided before we got out of the car. Reminders were sprinkled over the course of the first few minutes. The five year old was removed to the parking lot for a few minutes for a more intense reminder. But by the time the 7-year-old had racked up an hour of time-out for making noise during the service, the 3-year-old entered screaming for communion and the 5-year-old was playing in the baptism fount…..All three were unceremoniously removed to the car.

My head exploded. My blood pressure shot. My face was red as a torrent of admonitions flowed in anger…..a diatribe reviewing the “inappropriate” behavior and noise during church. That was it. Grounded for the day – 5 year old banished to the third floor and 7 year old restricted to the second. I handed them bagels and bananas and left….zombie-like to the door of the back porch where I sat and cried. Embarrassment makes me angry. Anger makes me sad. Parenting makes me exhausted. Emotions make me clean the house for two hours…..and weed the garden… and send boys back upstairs over and over all day……and realize that with all the awards that I dole out and the stars I reward and the praise and the high-fives, the real award goes to me. Me.

The Bounce Back Award goes to me and every other parent who hits the end of their limits. Who let themselves embrace the hardship of parenting. Who sit and cry at how overwhelming the responsibility is sometimes. Who have learned to forgive their children and forgive themselves. Who get up again and brush off the dirt and say – Here I am. I love you and will never give up. Ever.

Congratulations to every single parent who Bounces Back. Here’s your gold star. gold-star-sxcTreasure it…

….just as you treasure those who cause you to earn it.