Reckless Love

Summer’s begun. I know this because the swimsuit MJ’s been putting on all winter is now a legitimate outfit here in Cleveland. It was all of 69 degrees here the other day.


I also know it’s summer because MJ is eating corn dogs. She got turned on to them at Blossom Fest; our very Stars Hollowesque (for you Gilmore Girls fans) town fair.

MJ now insists on eating a corn dog every time we plop on the couch to watch Peter Rabbit for maybe the fiftieth time. PR now rivals Shrek on my list of top 10 movies ever made. It’s hysterical.

So no, I’m not the parent boasting here of my child’s sophisticated palate for sushi and filet mignon. Miss Margaret Joy wants a corn dog.

It makes her happy.

And don’t we all want to be happy?

We do.

I know this because schools seem to give awards for all sorts of things these days in efforts to incite happiness in kids and their beaming / clapping parents.

At Kenston there are awards for the highest grade in Physics (go Phoebe!), awards for perfect attendance, and an award for “Hey, you’re 17, got up each day, and put your pants on.”

Know what makes me happy? Getting organized and clean. So while my older kids are off glamping in Jackson Hole, I’ve been categorizing my cards, polishing silver, and sorting through holiday decorations in our basement. I even washed my car. Like all of it.

Eric Boaz had a granola bar lodged in the side of his car seat from three months ago and a very sticky Costco fruit snack from last year stuck in the seatbelt. That is all totally and completely clean thanks to me.

It should surprise no one that as a woman about to turn 40 I’m cleaning my car with the same gusto and dutifulness I had cleaning our family mini van when I was 11.

Because I was the kid who took out the little vacuum accessory parts stuffed in a drawer somewhere and cleaned our “sorry excuse for a car”.

Our “sorry excuse for a car” was a bluish gray Plymouth minivan in which we’d change from our ballet clothes into horseback riding clothes every Saturday morning. The minivan in which my mom drove us all to Mercer Island to see my cousins, a roughly 40 hour drive from Phoenix. I remember that ride because we listened to Psalty tapes, I got car sick, and my older brothers used my back as a footrest on the journey.

Over the years our “sorry excuse for a car” morphed into a transformer like box with 4 wheels but 0 side view mirrors. Thank you teenage brother drivers. We’d even ask mom to drop us off a mile from school so no one had to see our “sorry excuse for a car” with smashed mirrors and a big swipe of peeled paint on the door.

But let me tell you, that bluish Plymouth mini van with no air conditioning, fabric from the roof caving in, and a side door that didn’t exactly open without a karate kick, was perfectly vacuumed inside because Miss Marcia Larson did that.

So yeah, clean makes me happy.

So does TV. I treat my TV shows and TV watching with the seriousness some reserve for politics. And with only two kids at home the past few days, I’ve been learning from master writer Shonda Rhimes via Masterclass – learning from the writer of Scandal, Grey’s Anatomy, and now the phenomenal “For the People” (the best show on TV, hands down) how to write for TV. I just love it. TV makes me happy.

But by happy, I don’t mean fulfilled.

Seeing my kid get an award, cleaning my car and dislodging fruit snacks from hard to reach places and yes, watching The Bachelorette with my girls Monday nights…those get me about 25% “there.”

C.S. Lewis once said “don’t let your happiness depend on something you can lose.” And you can lose awards, clean rooms get messy, and TV shows veer off course and leave us disappointed. Even the big things we think are our “everything”, the stuff we count on for happiness like family, ultimately can’t fulfill.

To be frank – these are dark days.  “Become My Mom Again” in The New York Times just breaks me. Because hopelessness is on the rise. Suicide rates are up 13%. Last week the most widely read piece in the New York Times led with “You accomplished something great. So now what?”

So now what?

Women face dark seasons for chemical and biological reasons we don’t even fully understand. In fact, there’s a term for that now:  “mastescence”: the “hormone-addled transitions of pregnancy and parenthood. Rhyming with adolescence, both are times when body morphing and hormones shifting lead to an upheaval in how a person feels emotionally.”

Hurt is everywhere. Defying gender, racial and religious differences. We are all human and so we must all hurt.

So when I read MJ’s book last night – The Garden. The Curtain. And the Cross. it moved me to tears. Because we don’t have to wander around looking to our awards, our cleaned up car, or our DVR queue for answers.

This simple book delivers a simple message. And that message is this: God took down the “Keep Out Sign” when He sent His Son to die for us. And we can live everyday with hope that as bad as life can get.

When our babies die.

Our house burns down.

Our parents get sick.

Our jobs get taken away from us.

God says “come on in friend” and bestows upon us His undeserved and reckless love:

“There’s no shadow You won’t light up

Mountain You won’t climb up

Coming after me

There’s no wall You won’t kick down

Lie You won’t tear down

Coming after me”










1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Seb got a recorder. EB got a haircut.


Seb came home with an exuberant note from school announcing a spectacular new initiative involving my 9 year old son, a recorder, and his entire family in Saturday 7AM renditions of “Old McDonald”.


If you’re not familiar with the recorder it’s a beautiful Stradivarius of black plastic, just breathtakingly beautiful, like Yo Yo Ma’s cello.


The school heightened my excitement by announcing that my child could keep track of this recorder and bring it to and from school each day in his backpack.


Because who better to keep track of a recorder than my 9 year old son who can’t find the TV remote.  Calls me to help him find it. And then finds it.  In his hand.


This is a fabulous school initiative. Heroes of yore all played the recorder.  When Abraham Lincoln penned the Gettysburg address, he actually played “Old McDonald” on his recorder for inspiration. Gandhi? Same.


Every day the recorder brings new joys. “Mom, I can’t find my recorder?!” “Mom, I have a recorder test tomorrow?!” “Mom, have you seen my recorder book?!”


Meanwhile, I can’t keep track of E.B.(who got a haircut compliments of his 2 year old sister last week) let alone Seb’s recorder. It’s been lost three times. It’s been found 3 times. Once in Seb’s desk. Once in Madison’s desk. Once in his backpack.


Third grade ends next week. So does our relationship with this recorder.


Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

A counter-fundamentalism of love

My family has a problem.

A serious one.

We can’t go anywhere without turning into McKinsey-like consultants.

Take, for example, Pinecrest (for non-Chagrin Falls residents it’s a new open air mall that just opened up nearby).

I love it. BiBiBop food is amazing. Who doesn’t love a Shake Shack burger? The store that sells whales on your pants. The Whole Foods French macaron & acai bowl bars. REI which inspires us to think, and yet not actually go, camping.

But why isn’t there a coffee shop there? And why, when you enter the Silverspot Cinema, do you enter through a cement staircase, walk by the bar with your 8 year old, and have to arrive 30 minutes early to get dine in service?

See what I mean?

Despite our consulting proclivities, here’s the news at 7460 Faraway Trail: Phoebe’s been in the garage figuring out drill bits for a Physics catapult project, Chloe starts competing her Amy Poehler Harvard address for Speech soon, Seb informed me (like the Spielberg director he hopes to one day become) that the script on the first Goosebumps was better than the second, and MJ is a worship minister in the making:

And let’s not forget the little guy.

E.B. is a huge fan of Jimmy Fallon’s hilarious “thank you note” segment. He’s also completely enthralled with this doctor who knows how to make even Polio immunizations fun. 

And Mr. Eric Boaz and mommy chuckled out loud at this very 1990’s scene from Grey’s

Just last week, E.B. got mommy into The Alec Baldwin Show. Apparently we are the only ones. Have you seen the ratings?

I digress. On the new show Baldwin interviewed Kim Kardashian West and we found Kim to be surprisingly insightful for someone with perfect makeup who lives in Calabasas and uses the F word in casual conversation with her mom.

E.B. was particularly struck, at 4 months of age, at how Kim worries about how money could impact her children and how she struggled with being independent and then marrying a successful man (his name is Kanye if you’ve been living in a cave somewhere) and is learning to submit her schedule and needs to his. 

I kinda liked KKW (although I wasn’t prepared to) because she’s being intellectually honest.

What I don’t appreciate is how Christian women can be intellectually dishonest at worst, disingenuous at best in these matters. I was reading a book the other day by a female evangelical writer who was comparing two historical dates and wrote, of a 3 digit subtraction problem,for me all this math stuff is hard.”  

What bothers me about this statement is twofold. One, she sells a lot of books so I’m guessing she kinda figured out addition and subtraction to strike a lucrative publishing deal. 

But second,  I have daughters. 3 daughters. And I’d like my three daughters to be successful, which usually requires one to be good at math. Because, well, math is pretty important if you want to be a lawyer, a marketing executive, or manage a family budget.

Which is why Meghan Markle’s speech in Fiji last week was so compelling. The Suits  actress turned Duchess went to Northwestern University, where, ostensibly, she took a math course or two before becoming part of the Royal family.

I know about Meghan Markle’s speech because I got United airline miles last month to put towards free high brow magazines like People. Here’s what Meghan said:

“It was through scholarships, financial aid programs and work-study, where my earnings from a job on campus went directly towards my tuition, that I was able to attend university….and without question, it was worth every effort.”

Girls can be good at math. Put in lots of effort to work their way through school (I worked 2 jobs at Vanderbilt and am thankful for what that taught me). And girls can and should be successful in the workplace and at home (not necessarily at the same time as in my case.)

Girls can also be strong.

At Propel (my mom’s group on Thursday mornings), the main speaker, Christine Caine, said something powerful last time.

That “Jesus didn’t come to make us nice”.

God did not command Joshua to be trivial, weak and fearful in chapter 1 verse 9 but rather, “strong and courageous.”

Joni Eareckson Tada (paraplegic and my spiritual hero) says it best:

“We refuse to present a picture of ‘gentle Jesus, meek and mild’, a portrait that tugs at your sentiments or pulls at your heartstrings. That’s because we deal with so many people who suffer, and when you’re hurting hard, you’re neither helped nor inspired by a syrupy picture of the Lord….when your heart is being wrung out like a sponge…you want a warrior Jesus. You want a battlefield Jesus. You want mighty.”

I need to hear that. Because I’m still reeling from Pittsburgh. By the hate.

Which is why Rabbi Jonathan Sack’s book To Heal a Fractured World, offers hope: “the only force equal to a fundamentalism of hate is a counter-fundamentalism of love.”

I pray a counter-fundamentalism of love pierces the darkness of our fractured and broken world.

There is hope. Compliments of Sebby’s verse:

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Kids need roots. And wings

Before kids I remember watching other parents indulge their children’s incessant desire for Band-aids. I remember thinking:

“Why don’t you just tell your kid there’s no boo boo, no need for a Band-aid, and it’s wasteful to use one (or ten) when they’re not needed.”

Now that I have a 2 year old, I currently think:

“Sure, have a Bandaid. Have 20. Put them on me, your baby brother, your face, the shower door. In fact, perform heart surgery if you’d like as long as you give me 5 minutes to eat my scrambled eggs.”

Back to roots and wings.

Sweet Home Alabama is a ridiculous movie. McDreamy. Reese Witherspoon. That scene in Tiffany’s. It is pure Hallmark-esque fantasy.  But I love it and justify my obsessive TV and movie habits by the deep spiritual truths I find therein 🙂

This “roots and wings” thing from the movie has stuck with me through the years. Because whether it’s seeing MJ off to preschool or prepping Pheebs for college I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to be a parent.

And I don’t just mean the legal piece of paper that says “I’m now responsible for every wonderful and stupid thing you do”, I mean the emotional process of investing yourself in someone you love only to see them take flight on their own. On a Homecoming Wizard of Oz float 🙂

Of not just giving them life (for biological children) but teaching them how to live (for adopted children).

As a parent, we’re doing our job well when we work ourselves out of this job.

We are “feeding them so they can one day feed themselves, we’re teaching them in order that they may no longer need our teaching” (C.S. Lewis in The Four Loves).

And it’s easy, with so much wrapped up in our children, so much feeding and teaching required, to idolize and deify them.  

But what I’ve seen and experienced myself is that worshipping our children leads us to either indulge them or, on the other extreme, to “helicopter” them.

Keller lays out this spiritual and psychological phenomenon in Counterfeit Gods:

“Everyone has to live for something, and if that something is not God {children}, then we are driven by that thing we love – by overwork to achieve it, by inordinate fear if it is threatened, deep anger if its being blocked and inconsolable despair if its lost.”

Our kids (or spouse, or job, or financial security or physical beauty or need to have it all together) can’t be on the throne. They have a an important place in our lives but not the only one.

So in order to let go and let God, we need to have our heart in the right place, sacrificially pouring into our kiddos and yet holding onto them loosely in the process.

This is hard.

The other pondering thought of my week is what to do about politics. Cause a guy named Rambo is running for judge here in Chagrin and every time I see his sign, I’m picturing Sylvester Stallone with a gavel. 

Politics is everywhere right now. And as a veritable news junkie, I’ve watched the Kavanaugh hearings and read every Op-ed page in every left wing and right wing paper known to man the past few days while E.B. nurses to develop yet a few more fat rolls.

Love those fat rolls…and all I can think about is how politics is a total grandstanding circus.

I love circuses. So does Queen Latifah:

Which is why I was struck by Tim Keller’s New York Times Op-ed on how we, as believers, should handle the circus in Washington.

If you read anything by Tim, you know that he always takes the middle, reasoned approach.  He’s always advising we “live out the tension” of extremes and inhabit that hard place – the “gray” one, achieved at only through wisdom and prayer.

He doesn’t give pat answers unless there’s a pat one to be found in Scripture. So here’s what he says:

“The Bible shows believers as holding important posts in pagan governments — think of Joseph and Daniel in the Old Testament. Christians should be involved politically as a way of loving our neighbors, whether they believe as we do or not. To work for better public schools or for a justice system not weighted against the poor or to end racial segregation requires political engagement. Christians have done these things in the past and should continue to do so.

Nevertheless, while believers can register under a party affiliation and be active in politics, they should not identify the Christian church or faith with a political party as the only Christian one.”

To paraphrase, we should be in the political fray but carefully, seeing the wide spectrum of political views people who love God can hold.

Reading Tim’s piece reminds me that the song doesn’t go “May they know we are Christians by our political affiliation or policy triumph” but “may they know we are Christians by our love

If love comes first, our political tone, approach, and effort will be fair, done with excellence, and rightly ordered. With love coming first.

What is not rightly ordered right now is my pantry.  

Someone, who shall remain nameless (Miss Margaret Joy), has taken it upon herself to helpfully frustrate my system. There is stuff scattered everywhere, including corn, stickers, popcorn, Goldfish, and my Werthers stash (my “grannie candies” as some call them).

Thankfully, God is the author of “order” and not confusion (1 Cor 14:33). And He takes that order into our lives, as chaotic as they may seem.  Chance the Rapper even reminds us that God “orders our step” in his song Blessings, disabusing us of the notion that we’re charting our own path and able to create order out of chaos on our own.

We are not able. We cannot do it.

He can.

So as we’re doing our day, sweeping up Goldfish on our pantry floor, parenting our kids, reading Op-eds about the Senate, and thinking about our role as parents, we do it holding on to “great love.”

Love that offers expensive, not cheap grace, to do it.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

“Good men distinguished by zeal and a conspicuous absence of brains”

So Cleveland took a hit this summer. We no longer have LeBron.

But Cleveland’s still got it. The Browns won a game.

And Springfield, Ohio can claim John Legend, of EGOT fame (Emmy!, Grammy!, Oscar!, Tony!) and the world’s most famous phone charger klepto.


Funny thing happened on the way to Vineyard Vines the other day. Seb desperately needed another pair of pants with whales on them (and I do mean desperately, we live in Chagrin Falls) and the consignment shop is out.  

Whoever else is shopping at the consignment shop and likes whale pants for their child must cease and desist. You are robbing my stash and I’m starting to take it personally.

I digress. The lady at checkout was being friendly, asked me how many kids I have and then asked if I was Mormon or Catholic. I mean, who else would have 5 children?

My mom, mother to 6, got this question a lot too. Her answer? “Passionate Protestants.”

Being a mom is just fascinating. Being a mom is just challenging. Lauren Daigle (aka Gospel’s version of Adele)’s song “You Say” ran a couple dozen times in my head before E.B. was born.


I meditated on Daigle’s song a lot because last May and June are what I’d call one of my “low output” seasons.

A season where my to do list wasn’t getting done. Eric’s cold brews weren’t stocked for the Apocalypse in the fridge. We were out of Sprite Zero for Seb’s Peiffer Punch (don’t burst Seb’s bubble but his punch is actually a Shirley Temple), I hadn’t made it to Costco to grab the salmon, grapes, Goldfish, quinoa packets, and paper towels my family relies on. My math tutoring of Seb came to a grinding halt. MJ’s diaper pail was emptied less frequently and her Dick and Jane books sat on our bookshelf for longer than I care to admit. I even waited a whole ten minutes to respond to my emails.

This is what I call failure.

It’s called failure because I pride myself on always having inventory. On getting stuff done. On being on top of my Gmail Inbox.

Note the word “pride” in there.

Pregnancy, like so many other things I’ve experienced since having children, is one of the many moments in a woman’s life when you find yourself unable to contribute like you did before.

You are big. You are tired. You are growing an organ (a placenta).

Before being a parent, I didn’t know that people have to write “MOM” in felt pen on their half and half so that it’s there for them in the morning. Or that no one really cares to connect with you on LinkedIn anymore because, well, you’re simply out of the game. Because Eric Peiffer Industries isn’t hiring anytime soon.  So, well, you just don’t matter anymore.

Worse, as a woman in Australia just experienced, you can’t breastfeed your child in public (even with a covering!) in the off chance that your cover-up shawl could possibly fall down by accident and offend a peering man (anyone else find this ironic in a world where two thirds of men admit to watching porn?)

To women everywhere – I salute you. Mom – you truly are my hero.

I humbly acknowledge I didn’t really “get it” until I walked through it.

But sometimes, we feel bad about our low output seasons because we know how much our work actually does matter.

In our low output season parenting conversations decrease, Amazon boxes don’t get dissected and put away, and Haagen Dazs peanut butter ice cream falls to dangerously low levels in the freezer.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be competent in our role as homemaker. Cue C.S. Lewis:

“I think I can understand that feeling about a housewife’s work being like that of Sisyphus (who was the stone rolling gentleman). But it is surely, in reality, the most important work in the world. What do ships, railways, mines, cars, government etc exist for except that people may be fed, warmed, and safe in their own homes? We wage war in order to have peace, we work in order to have leisure, we produce food in order to eat it. So your job is the one for which all others exist.

But it’s our idolatry of our role in the home that needs deconstructing.

Wanting to have an orderly home isn’t the problem. It’s wanting to have an orderly home above all else and feeling like failures when we can’t do it that’s the problem.

I know what you’re thinking.  “Marcia, just don’t worry about it… God doesn’t require us to be successful, just faithful.”

But let’s be honest – many people are faithfully executing towards failure. Spurgeon calls these people “good men (women) who are distinguished by enormous zeal and a conspicuous absence of brains.”

We don’t have to be successful in our work, but we are called to be what Tim Keller calls “fruitful”. In our “low output” seasons that fruitfulness might look different. It might mean not getting all the errands done but instead, spending those mornings in nausea in prayer for a friend who’s struggling with depression or divorce. It might mean listening to worship music when we’re tempted to binge watch another Netflix series in a moment of extreme fatigue.

Whatever “fruitfulness” means in our own lives, we can receive what Hebrews 4:16 calls “grace for our time of need.”

Receive that grace today.


Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Raising Warrior Women

Look what Eric put on my car last week:


Speaking of student drivers, Coco got her permit last week.  And as Chloe drives down Faraway Trail, MJ watches Peter Rabbit (which like Shrek, I enjoy more than she does) and simultaneously tries to eat pictures of desserts in The New York Times Food section.


As MJ literally tries to bite into the newspaper, I’m working on my Lysa TerKeurst Bible Study, Seb sings happy birthday ALL THE  TIME (an idea Bubbe gave him to assure he washes his hands for a full 30 seconds) and Seb’s friends come by to grab a popsicle and forage in our backyard so they can all get poison ivy together.

Fun times.

To facilitate all the foraging, I’ve tried to institute a “wear a watch and come home at 5:30PM” policy. But Seb is finding it very challenging to keep track of that watch. Every day last week that watch disappeared and every day Seb blamed MJ (because why not?) or, of course, me.

He’s turning into an 8 year old Bulldog:

Inevitably, we find the watch exactly where Seb put it 2 minutes prior and then I remind Seb that his watch really isn’t lost until I can’t find it.

Just the other day, Seb could not find the ketchup. Anywhere. And I mean, the kid took time away from building his Lego set to spend an entire 2 seconds actually looking for it before announcing MJ stole his ketchup.

I found it. In the freezer. He’d put it there.

Pew Research says parents spent 47% of their time worrying about their kids. This is why.

In other news, Grocery Store Joe is going on DWTS, we saw Crazy Rich Asians, I read that your childrens cells live on in your body your entire lifetime, and Eric Boaz slept a full night!!!!


Since E.B. decided that sleep was, just maybe, a good idea at 10 weeks of age, I got to read the paper (this WSJ essay is the best: Yes, we really do want to have a 5th child),  learned more about David & Goliath from Malcolm Gladwell,  heard MJ start saying “you guys” and “sit down!”, and I went to Target last week.

By myself.


Lastly, I’m now praying Proverbs 31 over my daughters since a “wise woman builds her house” (in the emotional / spiritual sense) and “watches over the affairs of her household” – what Tim Keller calls the ultimate “managing partner.”

And, per the Hebrew word khayil, a “noble” woman is also valiant. A soldier.

She’s a warrior.

A warrior prepared for heroic action (“she girds her loins” in verse 17 = an idiom). A warrior with “power as her clothing” (verse 25). A warrior who possesses “faithful instruction on her tongue” (Hebrew term torah-chesed in verse 26).

And this warrior keeps an upbeat attitude in the process – she “delights in working with her hands” (verse 13).

Most importantly, a warrior woman, as Proverbs 31 outlines, “laughs at the days to come” (verse 25).  By watching stuff like this:

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Crisis Mode


Seb taught me how to create a meme last night. Because this is what we do on mommy / son date nights after we’ve watched “Music Man”, eaten burgers & green tea ice cream, discussed the merits of comic books, a fair price for his lemonade stand, the existence of Titanoboas, and why Eric Boaz can’t sleep on his bunk bed at 7 weeks of age.

Speaking of Mr. Eric Boaz Jr., during my quiet time this morning, I read 2 Chronicles 3:17 and discovered Boaz is the name of the left pillar in Solomon’s temple. Meaning, once our little guy’s out of Pampers, he’s destined for greatness.

And being destined for greatness means, as C.S. Lewis explains, some crises along the way: “Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny“.

We recently had a crisis here in the Peiffer household. It was a normal day, you know, laundry, handyman fixing something MJ broke, bacon cooking, unpacking Amazon boxes, nursing E.B., picking up after MJ, until all of a sudden I hear Sebby scream, “Mooooooooooooooooom!”

As I’m running down the stairs with E.B. still nursing on me (I’m his favorite restaurant) and MJ sobbing behind me, I’m imagining an ER trip in our future – did Seb slice his finger with a knife? Burn himself on the stove? Eat detergent? Step on a glass chard?

The answer to all of the above is no. Seb is calmly standing at the counter with a pencil in hand. And then it comes:

“Mom, how do you spell knee?”

Not a crisis.

But when I’m facing a true and real crisis, I have a plan. I turn to God.

And sometimes, I just don’t have the words to say. Sometimes the prayer is  – “Lord, just help.” Whether it’s potty training, confronting someone I love, or doing yet another load of laundry, I’m just not sure how to say what I’m feeling, what I need.

Which is why it’s nice to use what other people have said.

N.T. Wright says using liturgy is actually a “form of grace & humility”; it’s saying “yeah, I’m not super articulate right now so I’m gonna say what that guy a couple hundred years ago said.” Such as this simple prayer by John Baillie:


And then I take a bath. Bath comes from the Greek word “balaneion” which means “to wash anxiety from the mind.” It’s quiet in there, an escape from the kiddos, until someone inevitably yells through the door, “Mom, did you get more Goldfish today?!”

But one thing I’ve learned as a mom is that what I view as interruptions are, as CS Lewis aptly put it “precisely one’s life.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized