Kindness Outlives Us

ML in 1998

***obviously a repost from this day in 2009***

3months ago today, Maggie Lee died. 10 months ago, she gave some of her Christmas money to our World Vision Friend in India, Rinky, to use for something extra. Today, I got the most radiant picture of Rinky in her school uniform and backpack: proof that our good deeds DO matter and DO live on beyond our years on earth. I love you, Maggie Lee! 





Find Someone Who Will Give You The Socks Off Their Feet

See this guy in the middle? Holding the red chicken-flapper doohickey of me & my Mom? Yea- that one. He did something extraordinary a decade ago that still touches me to this day; he loaned me his socks. 

The venue: First Baptist Church School Carnival. Per my style I just asked the coordinator to put me anywhere I was needed. I rushed to the school straight from work on Louisiana “Fall” Day of 80 degrees. I checked in and got my assignment: the 40 climbing wall inside a jumpy thing. Wrapped in bacon. Stuffed in a taco shell.

I was in charge of crowd control and could not wear my loafers inside the bounce house. I flung them off and dove into my position. Literally. The crowd subsided and to my shock, I glanced down to notice that only half of my toenails were painted while the balance did some creepy vintage horror nail show in the shade of ruby red neglect. 

I searched the crowd of beautiful moms who planned stuff and didn’t have janky feet and finally landed on the visage of my knight in shining khakis. My demure voice boomed like a can opener and my John tracked it to my post. I motioned a “cone here” and my eyes the exclamation mark.

When just close outside of the net to hear me I asked a biggie.  “Can I have your socks?”

“My socks? What?  Right now?”

“Shhh! Yes. My toes are crazy and I need to cover them up right now.”

He took off and moments later slipped me the navy shame-shields which saved my dignity. It is indeed the little things. The small sacrifices and shouldering the big burdens. He is an unselfish person and I am still amazed that he gave me his socks that day. 

John and I just celebrated our 9th Maggie Lee for Good Day. A day of kindness in our daughter’s memory. I am so crazy blessed to share all of life’s joys and sorrow with this person who has bettered me. I was told in my first counseling session after losing ML that most couples don’t make it after a child is lost. I totally understand why but am grateful to God for sustaining us and giving us grace to give to each other. 

And sometimes grace comes in the form of socks. 

#christianfaith, #God's redemption, #grief, Grief, Hope, School Principal, Uncategorized

Wisdom from a Principal

I have not the foggiest idea why the story of Maggie Lee’s life and death has touched the souls it has. Truly, it makes absolutely no sense other than God’s eye toward and passion for redemption. Stories like those of Principal Smith’s helped me intuit that there were greater realities at play in all of this than I could begin to realize. In hindsight, it is easier to see God as a maker who will eventually take all of our broken crayons and melt them together into something amazingly beautiful like the cake I produced in my Easy Bake Oven 40 years ago… except cosmically better.

I am inspired by grace I cannot see bubbling up in those I can see. May you be moved as I certainly was. Here is an email exchange between my Baylor Room mate, Betsy Sone Jones and her former Principal, Alan Smith, as he contemplates retirement:

(used by permission)

FYI – I am preparing a list of things to do in my next life. One of those is to drive and actually visit Maggie Lee’s Closet in order to make a donation (a very small one since my income is going to take a hit).

I am so thankful that you brought Maggie Lee into my life and that she has stayed with me all of this time. Amazingly, I cannot imagine Maggie Lee being any more alive than she is right now.

You did a GREAT thing by helping to push this out to others and in convincing me that this was something we needed to do as a school. Truthfully – it was what I needed to do for me as it allowed me to realize that developing perfect schedules, preparing for state tests, etc. was not all we needed to accomplish with our boys and girls. We needed to foster compassion, care, giving, and love and Maggie Lee, more than anyone else, allowed me to see this. I have worked to compile a list of the people that truly impacted my life in education. Maggie Lee, even though we never officially met, is on my list.

I am proud of all that you have done for ABC. Maggie Lee would have loved your music class and would have been a great Dancing Drum student! Keep doing what you do.




What I Know Six Months Out

On October 29th Maggie Lee would have been 21 years old. Schools are gearing up for Maggie Lee for Good Day and the promotion of kindness which will ensue. Candy sales are happening to benefit Maggie Lee’s Closet and sororities are planning events for this annual initiative. It is GREAT news amid all of the tragedy and poignant reminder that God’s wheelhouse is redemption.

Several people have referenced “What I Know Six Months Out,” and asked about it which struck me as really bizarre so I decided to repost. So much has changed, so many millions of prayers of mine have been answered while just as many monstrous fears have fallen by the wayside. Our ten-year-old in his tiny suit who wanted to speak at his sister’s funeral is a college freshman fearful of exactly NOTHING which is God’s grace. He has the 1p.m. Monday DJ slot for Texas Tech Radio KTXT and adores West Texas. I believe we’ve lost him forever to West Texas and I could not be more thrilled! It is a gift to watch his life unfold, even the challenging days.

John and I have found the love of God an enormous sea where drowning is impossible. The only proper response is to relax long enough to float. We are still polar opposites with aligned hearts and shared purpose. He is a good man to his core and prizes the practice of, in Jen Hatmaker’s words, “Pulling up another chair to God’s table,” inviting everyone to God’s redemptive grace while helping them find daily bread, jobs and purpose. He’s aged well although his hair is now more salt than pepper. Still a stone-cold fox- just a silver one.

Here’s the post from what seems a lifetime ago:

Jinny Henson

I have often reassured myself in the six months since Maggie Lee’s death that although I have no idea what I will do without her, I honestly didn’t know what to do with her when she first arrived, either. Somehow this gives me room to breathe and by the grace of God, I sense that I will adapt to my new life in some measure as I did before.

Of course, birthing a child and burying a child are two radically different prospects. On the one hand you deliver a bundle of dreams wrapped in possibility oozing potential and conversely, in the other unnatural scenario, you lower those most treasured dreams into the ground…forever.

It is a disorienting experience and frankly I am shocked to still wake up every morning. “A Broken Heart Still Beats,” is the title of a grief book for parents and, alas, mine still does. I remember reading a about a friend’s 4-year-old daughter who had cancer two years ago. As I clicked out of the email, I sighed with relief that God had not laid that burden on me because He knew full well that I could never take anything so awful.

And then in a moment, despite the diligent love that you have and the protective eye you naturally cast, a freak accident comes calling and is unaware that your family is supposed to be exempt. As soon as you’re told that your child will die, you begin to ratchet down expectations. You see a child in a wheelchair and breathe a hasty,”I’ll take it,” or one with a contracted little body, but still able to communicate and think,”I would gladly spend my life taking care of her” But, alas, the ultimate bargain isn’t yours to make.

I remember painting Maggie Lee’s toenails crazy colors while she was comatose and massaging her legs when the nurses would let me take the pressure cuffs off. I told everyone that she always wanted to be famous and wouldn’t she be irked that she slept right through it? I distinctly remember the kindness of a nurse preparing her body for burial as it were by bathing her when the end was near; detaching the monitor from her head to wash her blood-matted hair so that I could braid it one final time. I also remember most of all longing to explain to them just who was lying in that bed covered with tubes and monitors, but that proved to be impossible.
It still is impossible, but the urge remains to remind the world that although she only had 12 years, she was truly a phenomenal little person.

I have learned a few things in my first 6 months of new-born grief. Certainly, many more lessons are to follow as I will contend with this ever-present absence as long as I shall live. I have learned that it is impossible to shake a good friend. Most people are lucky to have one true friend when it is all said and done. I have an embarrassing wealth of amazing friends and family who have shouldered the burden of loss with me. Souls who have sincerely attempted to put themselves in our unenviable shoes, anticipate our needs and keep us supplied with books and Starbucks cards.

I have learned to treasure every imperfect day and those who remain. Life is hard and will not for the vast majority of us ever turn out in the way we would choose. I guess that’s why we’re all so cranky. Since Maggie Lee’s death, I have tried to suck the marrow out of life even more than I did before; enjoying my family as they they are, not as they should be. We often unwrap the presents of the people around us with a conditional bent of dissatisfaction; we love our children but try to exact better performances from them. We appreciate our parents but our dad dresses funny and mom has a goatee. We are committed to our spouse but he sets the thermostat too low and never remembers how we like our coffee. Losing someone I love has helped me to step back and be grateful for what and whom I have left.

Even though I never was much of a control freak, I now know that even the appearance of control over my circumstances is nothing but a facade. It is with infinite wisdom that the writer of Ecclesiastes compares our earthly existence with a fleeting vapor. I have learned that even if life would’ve obediently followed my plans, that I would have at some juncture encountered a traumatic blow or two. Time wounds all heels, and many more graphically than mine, just consider Haiti. No purpose is served by pridefully thinking that no ones loss can ever rival mine. If I wear my disaster like a orchid on Mother’s Day, it will only serve to frighten people. Every human being will be confronted by unwanted circumstances to which they can accept, or wander down main street in a nightgown like Mary Todd Lincoln. As for myself, I never looked too hot in a nightie.

I have learned that t-shirt fronts serve as great Kleenex if you suddenly get an unexpected gusher. Gut-wrenching grief is sneaky and will typically ambush you at the most inappropriate moments such as the carpool line, Sunday School or the deli counter over cold-cuts. Some times, emotions are brought on by well-intentioned small-talk such as, “How many children do you have?” or, “Is he an only child?” I have found it best to answer the question as my life is now rather than to thrust my emotional baggage on an unsuspecting Wal-Mart Employee. People by and large are unprepared for the flood of toxic emotions a grieving person is capable of producing.

I have learned that people do indeed want good to have the last word. When our three week ordeal ended, over 250,000 visits had been made to Maggie Lee’s Caring Bridge Site. On October 29th, what would’ve been her 13th birthday, over 18,000 people signed up to do a good deed. On “Maggie Lee For Good,” Day, Lawyers took on cases pro-bono, an American passed out baguettes to the homeless French in the Eiffel Tower’s shadow and one man installed a hot water heater for a disabled man in Louisiana who previously showered on his back porch. Schools had canned-food drives, friends had lemonade stands benefiting Children’s Hospitals and a Pediatrician in Texas forgave the medical debt of a newly-unemployed father, just to name a few. I have learned that when you are determined to wrist good out of tragedy, God and many other people will hustle to help you.

I have learned that although I struggle with God and miss my daughter desperately that I am not prepared to go it alone. I know intrinsically that God is the only path to true healing of which I can conceive. Although there are days that the searing pain wins over me, I have learned that my Heavenly is indeed close to the brokenhearted, and that hope in Christ will sustain me until I see my precious child again.

I have learned that of all the things I have failed to prioritize, that mothering is not one of them. Not that I was or will ever be perfect, but that I was dead-on in living with my family as my priority. I am devastated to have placed so much import on loving my children only to have had one of them die, but grateful that for a brief period of time that I did what mattered most. When Maggie Lee told me that I was the best mother in the world, I would tell her that I was sure she would grow up and need counseling for something I had done or failed to do but that she would know that I loved her with all of my heart. And, she did.




A New Dress for Picture Day

Maggie Lee’s Closet is an awesome responsibility. How ironic that in Maggie Lee’s 12 years of life her closet was a wreck and now the closet which bares her name is a beautiful, organized island of joyful fashion. This organization is owed to the brilliant volunteers who, unlike myself, have the faculty of both brain hemispheres compared with my one. 

This week Debbie, Aprile and Beth spent their days washing and ironing tubs of donations because they’re incredible. Lisa and Sharon joined me in the closet yesterday. Lisa has a law degree and is meticulously organized. Sharon is also degreed but more on the party-starter end of the spectrum. Lisa collected extra hangers and color-coded them while Sharon had the kids she assisted run a relay race to see if the new tennies “made them go faster.” The race shot the distance of our hall and the turn-around spot was the glass display case. Why is Lisa friends with us?

Soon after we opened a lady came by with a referral from Catholic Charities. She filled out the application and I asked if her child was with her. She was not but returned with her in an hour. Denise was so precious and when we three learned that she had Picture Day tomorrow we were the freaking Cinderella mice. We all brought dresses, Lisa found shoes and Sharon had the perfect finishing touch- a fringy bag from her daughter she had brought that day. 

Denise was a beautiful soul as was her grandmother. They had just moved from California and had nothing but a California Drivers Licence. They were lit up from the inside such lovely people. 

“I thought I would have to wear my uniform on Picture Day. I am so happy I came here.  I never want to leave!”

So that is what you have created my beautiful tribe. All of you who donate time, talent and treasure to Maggie Lee’s Closet. You create a moment in time where we get to whisper to these young souls that they are amazing and loved and that God has a great plan for their lives. 


Houstonstrong: Mimi-1 Snake- 0

I was holding up pretty well until I heard my Mom in Houston say these words Sunday morning: “There is a tiny bit of water inside the house. Nothing major and, oh, I just killed a snake in our dining room.”

“WHAT?” I shrieked. 

 Tears breached my emotional levee as she assured me that it was “More like a baby snake. A worm, really” and my intentions to encourage the Steel Magnolia wound up in contraflow as she calmed my nerves. She developed a nasty cough last week and so it was hard to catch each word she spoke but her placid tone convinced me that she would indeed be fine. 

Last week I pleaded with the matriarch to come to Shreveport and get out of harm’s way but like all of my Houston family members and friends she did not leave. No one that I know did. Nobody. There was certainly no mandatory evacuation. 

As it turns out the flood waters in Mimi’s house was contained in our fabulous sunken dining room. Classic Brady architecture. The water never amounted to more than three inches inside and her Nissan Rogue was completely unscathed. Her next-door neighbors The Sheridens were not so fortunate, they received over a foot of water throughout their home. 

Neighbors Jane and Dean spent the night Sunday Night and would have certainly offered the same hospitality should my Mom have needed it. When I asked her what the tornado plan was she said that The Sheridens helped her clean out an inside closet for their storm shelter. 

Thankfully Sunday Night held nothing for Mimi’s small area of Southwest Houston but receding water. The front and back yards were no longer lakes even though other parts of Houston and Texas were totally submerged. 

By Monday floodwaters had seeped back outside. She has flood insurance which will help with repairs especially since her never-before-flooded home is on the market. You can actually spy the realtor’s sign in the river of her front yard if you can look closely enough.

Nothing remains the same but change and change the neighborhood has. The “Michael Dell House” caddy-corner from Mimi has long since changed hands and changed hands again. Herod Elementary, the foundation of my childhood was raised to make way for a new Herod. One which my Ex-pat friend in Ireland, Christie Taylor Seaver saw underwater on the news. 

Houston is my hometown. She is Pine-tree sap on my fat little Kindergarden hands and Christmas work at Neiman Marcus. Faith in God I found at Westbury Baptist and the love of good parents. Houston is a gang of friends from Caversham who played Breyer Horses instead of Barbies (I had the blonde ones) endless birthday cakes and streamer-wrapped rooms. 

My hometown memories are James Avery bracelets and Halloween Carnivals and doing life with those from other countries, beliefs and perspectives. Houston is Jill and Colleen’s adventures and Amy Skjonsby’s Duran Duran posters. 

To see so many hometown friends and acquaintances’ social media posts of homes underwater and offers of help is completely surreal. I cannot fathom how bizarre it must be to live there right now. I asked Mimi for a picture to prove that she was O.K. and she sent me this pictures of her neighbors & herself. 

Love and prayers to all of you in the wake of this horrific disaster. Please know we watch with sick stomachs and broken hearts. 


Khaki Fair Uniform Give Away This Thursday!

BRAND NEW Khaki Fair Video here

Our sweet Maggie Lee passed away eight years ago and to honor her, we are once more having KhakiFair this Thursday, August 3rd at 520 Olive St. in Shreveport. We remember her in fun ways which makes the world a happier place. It’s a pretty great gig!

-What the HECK is Khaki Fair?

A free uniform give away to bless the children of Shreveport-Bossier from Kindergarden-8th GRADE. Maggie Lee’s Closet, a non-profit organization, is a year-round free clothing closet and Khaki Fair is the biggest party of the year.

Where is this fun event taking place?

520 Olive St. in Shreveport at 4 pm on Thursday, August 3rd. First-come, first-served.

-What do I need to bring if my child needs a uniform ?

Your CHILD. No uniforms will be given without kids present. 

-How can I get in on this fun deal?

Volunteer! We need 3 more sweet Maggieleestas to do nails for the event and 5 more uniform-deliverers. It’s fun, easy & organized in a way which makes it a breeze to hop in there & make peoples’ day. Please arrive by 3:30. Send a message to jinnyhenson’s FaceBook page or the MaggieLeeforGood FB page or post a comment.

If you feel inclined to give a tax-deductible donation to provide a uniform, you’re awesome that way. Uniforms are $25.00 and you may send a check to  Maggie Lee’s Closet  520 Olive St.   Shreveport, LA 71104

We have adorable donation cards so include a name & address of someone you’d like to honor with that donation and we’ll get that done.

Secure on-line donation instructions are also on maggieleeforgood.org

Thank you for reading this post and bringing goodness into the world.




Bus wreck, Church bus accident, Loss, Overcoming loss, Tragedy, Uncategorized

Bibles and Bus Wrecks

Last Friday 17-year-old Sarah Hammering died in a church bus accident in Atlanta, GA. on her way to a mission trip. As I watched the video clip of her mother Karen read Sarah’s journal for reporters, I was tremendously moved. Sarah referenced Bible verses and reflected on participating in God’s divine nature, loving and serving the children of Botswana whom she called her “little buddies” and confidence in God’s desire to do great things. What a doll.

Her family looked shocked yet determined to wrestle eternal good from their sudden reality: a heap of metal, tire marks and luggage scattered across Camp Creek Parkway. Though stunned by grief, The Hammering’s default reaction was to seek a higher purpose. Let this one fact be known: Sarah will not have died in vain. This family is determined not to let this happen. The Bible verses their daughter journaled about will impact people whom she has never met.

This determination reminds me of the many ways to process loss. One way is to bring good, the other is to want everyone in the world to feel the pain you feel. King Solomon encounters the later in 1 Kings 3:16-28 where two mothers fight for custody of an infant. The women who lived in the same home each claimed that the living baby was hers. #sisterwivesprobs? After listening to each case, Solomon brilliantly asks for a sword to cut the baby as to give each mother half. The true mother begs him to let the child live while the mourning mother says, “do it!” If I have to suffer, then let everyone suffer is her attitude. It is a noble choice and only one born of God which can be on the front lines of fire fighting even after one’s home is a smoldering heap of ashes.

What God has covered this family with is the peace which passes all understanding. Not that their road will be easy but it can be eventually surprisingly  beautiful as God redeems this incredible loss. Despite our most valiant effort to live a painless life, no one I have ever met has been able to pull that one off. In the season of trial there will be just two choices: living a life we really don’t want to live or not living at all.  We can accept the challenge before us moment by moment with grace and dig in or choose to be miserable. We can take a deep breath and be part of the solution or scream because our lives should not be this way.

I am inspired by this family. I implore you to pray as I know the millions of prayers have been the gas in our family’s tank for eight years this July.

“Gradually we learn to trust the wounds and failures of life, which are much better teachers than our supposed successes.” -Therese of Lisceaux

High School Graduation, High School Seniors, Teaching, Uncategorized

Teacher Love

In April when my girl-mom friend Lisa told me the graduation announcements had been delivered, I got that boy-mom gut-panic feelin’ again. Considering the fact that one has to possess the translation skills of a CIA operative to decode snippets of messages from a male 18-year-old child, I am not sure why this continues to startle me.

For whatever reason last November I saved the yellow portion of the Josten’s triplicate receipt and sent the check and form order to school with Jack. After mining snipets of information from Jack’s text messages and a second clarifying phone call to Lisa, the coin finally dropped. The upshod: “When the lady was there delivering the graduation boxes (in April) I told her I probably had the order form in my back pack (from November) but she said it was too late.” Parenthetical details, mine. Bottom line was we had no graduation announcements.

I immediately called the Josten’s office here. I went on line and sent an email. I was frantic. Announcements are important but I was most fearful that we’d missed the window for ordering a commencement cap & gown. I Googled Party City + graduate costume just in case we had to go that route. I am not even kidding. The next day I received a call from the rep who confirmed that it was indeed too late to order custom announcements. He slipped in anecdotally that the only calls he receives between April and Graduation is from boy moms. He added that our school, to my relief, handles the caps and gowns.

I was upset because I struggle under the onerous misconception that everything matters equally. I feel like I am missing out when I fail to send a check for a fundraiser, T-shirt supporting some great cause or miss the chance to purchase a Class of 2017 ANYTHING. There is a little thing in my mind which taunts me with the thought of missing out. Even in my acute disorganization, I see every picture order form as a must, each senior moment as important and obsess because he is not prone to asking classmates to sign his yearbook. Jack never worries about missing out. On. Anything. So why would he worry if the Josten’s order form was caught up somewhere between the third Heaven and the organizational Hades of his F-250 cab?

Amazed at the need for the reminder, this maternal question accosted my teflon soul: “If he doesn’t care, WHY SHOULD I?” I have struggled to teach my son the virtue of useless anxiety but it simply refuses to take with that one. Aughhhh!  So after 12 hours of panic the solution was to merely go on line and select a graduation announcement. After looking on a few sites, I quickly found the card I liked. The graduation announcement had approximately 40 places for pictures and since this isn’t a People Magazine spread, I wanted to take a moment to thank those who have dedicated their lives to the teaching profession.

I asked Jack who his all-time favorite teachers were. He had to really think about this. This is the list of the best of the best: Ms. Davis (Kindergarten & 1st Grade, Lakeview El in Trophy Club, TX) Ms. Ashcraft (3rd & 5th, FBCS Shreveport, LA) Mr Walker (8th Grade History, CMM Shreveport) Ms Vigen (AP English 11th / 12th Loyola) and Mr. Vaughan (11th / 12th some advanced AP Science and they grow crazy 10-pound cabbages & stuff)

So I loaded up pictures of the “GOATS,” (greatest of all time) and in doing so felt so thankful for these men and women as well as for all teachers who have pulled out the best in my child. Ms. Davis who helped teach Jack to read when he was 5 made it possible for him to have Ms. Vigen in A.P. English Junior Year over a decade later. Ms. Ashcraft’s prayers, kindness and love for God’s Word earned her the moniker “My Rabbi,” from Jack. Mr. Walker’s love for History and no-nonsense ways readied him for the rigors of classes to come. Mr. Vaughan and Ms. Vigen both slogged through the onerous Texas Tech Honors College recommendation forms without which Jack would not be able to be a part of that program next year.

I am truly proud of my son. He has worked really hard and done well. I could not have gotten into, much less through his high school. I broke out in cold sweats at every back-to-school night when I saw everything each class would require. Thank God for genetic drift. Along with admiration for him, though, I hold a deep respect for those in the teaching profession. Those who are asked to compensate for the kids with no family support and be helicopter-parent swatters for the over-involved matriarchs. Educators are by and large patient souls who eat from a brown bag in under 22 minutes, see our children at their best and worst and in many cases still manage to impart a love of learning (or at least academic survival skills to carry them to next year’s challenges.)

Teachers: I love you people. You have made your life’s work inspiring kids not only to take tests but to learn to think. Like Lego architects, you build upon the work done before by last year’s engineers, identify vulnerable gaps and help children construct vital bridges of understanding. Here’s to you, teachers, you routinely buy paper and pencils for kids without physical supplies and often encourage those kids without emotional tools for life. You are increasingly being called upon to perform the job of referee, mentor, life coach and parent for those in your charge. It is an awesome responsibility.

Jack is beyond blessed to have learned under all the teachers in his K-12 adventure. Not every year was perfect, not every teacher was perfect but neither is any parent or child. I am just so grateful for the world of educators and I just had to stop by and tell you so. We celebrate our children at graduation and they never would have gotten to the finish line without you. Thank you.

As you reflect upon your life, reader, who are your GOATS?


Knox to join CBF staff as part of expansion initiative in the Southwest 

So proud of Marv Knox! What a fine Christian man he is. KUDOS!



April 13, 2017

By Jeff Huett and Aaron Weaver 

marv knox Marv Knox

DECATUR, Ga. – A preeminent Baptist journalist and thought leader in Texas who has covered the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship from its inception will join the CBF staff to promote Baptist identity, Christian cooperation and effective missions and ministry in the Southwest United States.

Marv Knox, the editor/publisher of the Baptist Standard Publishing Company headquartered in Dallas, will join the CBF staff as field coordinator of Fellowship Southwest on August 1. He has served at the Baptist Standard since 1999, where he currently edits a weekly digital news journal and a print magazine called CommonCall.

Fellowship Southwest is a new regional network announced in February that will supplement the work of three autonomous CBF state/regional organizations — CBF of Texas, CBF of Oklahoma and CBF West. It is a part of a CBF expansion initiative that includes further integration…

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