what i’m into :: march 2014.

Another month has passed – which is always a little trippy in of itself, every single time the 31st (or 30th or 28th…) rolls around.  Likewise, I find myself wondering, how’d that time go by again, already?  But alas, it’s here, and beggars of time-standing-still can’t be choosers, so link up with Leigh, and take a look at all you’ve been into in the month of March!

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We celebrated my birthday with The World’s Best Guacamole competition – which was kind of the best idea in my life.  Congrats to winners winners Todd and Lori!

I read: 

Into the Tangle of Friendship (Kephart), 5/5: A.  I love memoirs.  B.  I’m not sure if it’s the time/spot/place in my life right now, but I do feel like I’m at a crossroads spot in friendship.  C. Kephart’s book struck a chord in all the right (and hard) ways (although it didn’t do the same for most of the Sassy Ladies Book Club).

Anne of Windy Poplars (#4), Anne’s House of Dreams (#5) and Rainbow Valley (#7), (Montgomery), average 3/5: I’m still sticking with the very first book as my very favorite of the Anne series.  Additionally, it was a wee bit confusing when Kindle somehow left out book #6 on my free download: skipping from a near-barren Anne in dream abode to an undisclosed house full of unruly littles made me go, uh, did I miss something here?  Yes.  Yes, you did.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (Kingsolver), 5/5: I cannot say enough about this book.  Click here for more of a review.

The Lowland (Lahiri), 4/5: Another book club pick, I generally haven’t been a fan of – well, how shall I put it? – bollywood lit, but there’s a reason why Lahiri’s book won the Pultizer.  While I could have used a bit more energy and overall sunshine, lollipops and rainbows (…), her writing is contagious.

A Tree Full of Angels (Wiederkehr), 5/5: I am such a fan of Macrina Wiederhehr.  That, perhaps, is the bottom line of our story and/or overall review here.  And, to boot, I’m pretty sure the book was written just for me, because it’s all about finding God’s beauty in the most ordinary of places.

Random MOMents of Grace (Moyer), 3/5: Ginny’s book is easy to read, but in all the right ways.  It’s not brainless.  It makes you think and feel and muse over the everyday loveliness of motherhood – author interview and giveaway coming next week!

Girl at the End of the World (Esther), 5/5: BAM.  Elizabeth Esther nailed it.  I intended to read the book over the course of a week or two – and subsequently finished it in less than 72 hours.  The story is terribly intriguing, and her writing creatively flows, page after page.

I’m reading: Handling the Truth; The Locust Effect; Americanah; Paper Towns; Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership; Rilla of Ingleside.  

I wore: more and more maternity clothes, although I’m stilling holding strong to my old jeans with a room-for-belly shirt on top.  I’ve also rocked these lovely Kate Spades a couple of times, courtesy of the HBH (Hot Black Husband) on my birthday.  Good job, love!

I mean, if these don't inspire superb writing material, I don't know what does!
I mean, if these don’t inspire superb writing material, I don’t know what does!

I wrote: Four sermons, as I’m speaking weekly through May now.  Four retreat talks, as I also spoke at a women’s retreat this past weekend.  And various articles, guest posts, and a few nuggets of chapters for that back burner book I’m writing.  Love the writerly life.  

I ate: well, a whole lot of guacamole.  And we ate at the fabulous Caribbean-style tapas bar in the city last night, Cha Cha Cha’s for the HBH’s birthday.  Bottom line: Come to town and we’ll make a night of it!

And I laughed a hearty belly of laugh after watching this: 

 

(This will only make sense if you remember “Charlie bit me!” from a couple years ago – click here to watch the two little English bubs in all their Youtube glory).

That’s about it!  So, what about you?  What have you read, watched or eaten in the past month that’s made you gush with glorious joy or cause you to scream with horror at the absurdity of it all?  

engulfed by the same water.

Whatever your stance on World Vision’s decision and reversal of said-decision this past week, I find it slightly ironic that my writing appears on the Women of Vision website today.  Because the truth is, regardless of the gay marriage debate that hinders and harbors within the Church today, we are all engulfed by the same waters.  So whether you feel vindicated or betrayed by this week’s decisions, remember WHO this is argument is actually all about – don’t neglect the child who depends on you.  

Photo cred: Future World Architecture.
Photo cred: Future World Architecture.

A smile swept across my face, its upward turn a constant part of my facial features that night. Our son at home with the sitter, my husband and I relished in three hours of sacred time together, just the two of us; and after an evening of Peruvian-style tapas and conversation, we found ourselves parked at a tucked away little cove off Highway 1.

Ours the lone car in the parking lot, the scene itself was eerily inviting. Dialogue waned as the beauty before us enlarged: mere feet in front of the hood loomed the crest of ocean waves. There was nothing calm about the power displayed, as violet-colored waves fought and crashed and pounded, one after another. My eyes darted back and forth, trying to catch the perfection of the curling, inviting foam fingering its way towards us.

I thought about God’s challenge to Job, his question that always seems to catch me by surprise: “Have you journeyed to the springs of the sea or walked in the recesses of the deep?” (38:16).

Click here to read the rest of the article, to see and hear and feel how we are all engulfed by the same water.  

xo, c.

my kid eats babies (& other such conversations).

Cancan is becoming a verbose little being …and it’s hilarious.  It makes me giddy to enter into actual full-blown conversations, like this:

But for now, I thought I’d take the time to instead write down what I hear myself saying, within the time frame of a single hour.  

Take breakfast, for instance…

“Cancan, would you like to eat babies?”  (He’s affectionately deemed his favorite yogurt, “babies,” for the picture of a baby on the front of it).

And then a few minutes later…

“Okay, we don’t throw babies on the floor.”  Because yes, babies are not meant for throwing.

A few minutes later, his friend Baby Ruth shows up to play, and she wants a hug…

Cancan, stop being a linebacker!  We don’t tackle our friends.”

And then, while reading books…

Cancan, please don’t head butt Mama.  …Cancan, no head butt.  …Cancan, head butt hurts!”

Soon we decide to step outside and play with cars and trucks and gravel…

“No no, Cancan.  We don’t put gravel in our mouth-“

His reply: “DOH!” “DOH DOH DOH DOH DOH!”  I’ll show you, Ma!  I totally know what “No!” means!  

And finally, after an intense meltdown when I won’t let him attempt to consume dirty gravel and make him come inside…

“Mama loves Cancan.”  He looks up, absorbing my words, gulping down one last tear.

“…and Dada,” he replies.  My own eyes fill with tears – yes, and Dada too.  He gets it.  He gets this thing called love.

Might you too find beauty and grace and laughter in the smallest of conversations today.

xo, c.

What about you?  What’s the funniest thing a little person has said to you lately?  And more importantly, should we continue to let my kid eat babies?

the little things: when silence speaks (lily jensen).

Have you ever experienced grief?  I think we all have, in one shape or form, so I love how, through the universal experience of grief, today’s writer sees that the little things ARE the big things.  So friends of the Internet, meet friend of mine and friend of many, Lily.  Delight and rest and be filled by her words today!

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“At Forza for the next few hours…shutting my phone off, but if you’re home, swing by,” the text says, though I am sitting at a different, favorite coffee shop in Fremont.

I am trying my best to be disciplined and get some work done on a sermon I am giving in a month.  My roommate and I both needed to get some work done and decided to coffee-shop-work together that afternoon.  It was a typical day in Seattle, a little gray, the chance of rain always 100%, even though it doesn’t rain everyday here, much to the chagrin of worldwide stereotypes about the great Northwest.

I text back as fast as I can so she gets my response before she turns her phone off, “I’ll stop by on my way home!”  My roommate drove us to Milstead, dropping me off a mile short of our house at Forza where I pull up a chair alongside two friends I’ve known for a total of five minutes each. Not literally, but in the grand scheme of things time spent has been minimal, and depth has already been reached.

You should know this part of the story: I moved to Seattle four months ago, and as I was preparing to move I was collecting names of people I should be in touch with once I got settled.  Some people included networking for my job, while others were names of people I should befriend.

And four or five times by different people I was told that there was one woman I should really get to know because I’d really like her and she’d really like me.  So in modern technology fashion I Facebook messaged her and said, “So I hear we’re going to be great friends. I can’t wait.” I love how great friendships often are born out of knowing incredible people and the overflow of those relationships happens by adding to the fold new remarkable people.

So there I was.  Getting comfortable at a coffee shop in Seattle is like walking into a living room you’ve spent countless hours in.  You’re welcome to be there, the people are good and so is the coffee. I settle in next to my new friends and we catch up; we Instagram a photo, we spend some time laughing. She was finishing a great book while I pulled out a different book I was re-reading.

And here’s the thing: one of the things my friend and I share that brought us close together quickly was a shared sense of loss.  I’ve had two friends die in a short amount of time and her sister had recently passed away.  What’s often so challenging in grieving is it’s very hard to wrap words around everything one feels both emotionally and physically.  For me, the sadness begins in my bones and seems to rest in the deepest parts of me. There are many moments where the words I try to form don’t come out except in deep heaves and sobs. The one thing that’s been most helpful for me as I’ve grieved for years now is the silent presence of a dear one next to me.

As my friend is finishing a book that is reminiscent of her sister’s life and death, the sadness wells up from deep within.  The tears of remembrance and loss, joy and sorrow come cascading down as we sit and stare.  The clouds have rolled in; they are dark and are emptying themselves of their weight. It’s a powerful rain, washing over everything. I’ve tried so many times to imitate the rain with my tears, to empty the weight of my soul, and yet it replenishes itself endlessly.  I put my hand on her knee and I pray.  Words form in my brain that I’ve never prayed for myself, much less for another experiencing this bone crushing sorrow.  I stare at the rain; my soul and heart ache with hers.  A few words are shared and we realize time has gotten away from us. They need to drive and fight traffic, and I ask for a ride home in this torrential downpour.  Hugs are exchanged as well as words of kindness.

And I walk through my front door, I type into a text, “I love you,” knowing her phone was still off. That’s all that could be said. That’s all that needed to be said. More was said in the silence of those two hours than out loud.  Because silence speaks from our deepest parts, our aching parts and brings forth comfort and new life.

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DSCN2360Lily is a friend, a hearty laugher, a wearer of fabulous earrings, and a 7 on the Enneagram. She spends her days – well, and many nights, too – working for the non-profit outreach organization, Young Life, and hosts the World’s Best Brunch with her roommates every Sunday morning.  Leave an encouraging note for Lily today!  How did her words touch you?  

 

when you’re in the desert.

Photo cred: Wikipedia Commons.
Photo cred: Wikipedia Commons.

A little over a year ago, I wrote the following post entitled, “On Not Buying Business Cards.”  And it was an appropriate step, at the time.  I found myself following a dream, seemingly for the first time: I’d write and I’d speak, I told the world around me.  I’d embrace the New Reality.  I’d be the primary caregiver for my son, and somehow, somewhere along the way, I’d finally, once and for all, learn how to be.  So I renamed the blog “be, mama. be” in an effort to learn how to rest and be in the present moment: I liked the figure of repetition within the name itself, perhaps believing that with mere wordy return the main message would begin to seep in.

And while I had an overall idea of the encompassing journey ahead, I didn’t count on the bumps in the road: I didn’t count on the loneliness that would ensue.  I didn’t think about the fact that it would take time to start over in a whole new vocation, that I wouldn’t be hired on the spot just because I declared it so.  I didn’t imagine the hurt, the loss, the anger and the bitterness that came with transitioning out of the world of ministry.  I didn’t dream of the desert.

Because sometimes you find yourself in a desert, even if you don’t realize that’s where you’ve put up tent.  You realize you’re parched and you yearn for answers, but you find that you’re still too exhausted to even pursue a drink.  Because when you’re in the desert, all you can do is receive – but oftentimes there’s not a burgeoning population around you to offer you a trickle of their canteen, like you’ve see in the cartoons.  So you take off your sunglasses, and you and open your eyes wide, wider still, squinting against the accusing sun.  You try to observe and absorb the Beauty of barrenness around you – the prickles of the cactus and the perfect periwinkle blue of the sky and the endless, sun-soaked landscape.  But you’re just not there yet.  You’re still sitting in the desert, and it just feels really hot and really dry and really, really hopelessly, forever. 

And that’s okay.  

Maybe, had I seen a psychologist, he would have deemed it depression.  We would have talked through the pain, and I would have chugged down a Happy Pill or two every morning.  Or maybe, had I seen a spiritual director, she would have called it just another Dark Night of the Soul.  I would have likened my situation to Mother Teresa, but I wouldn’t have liked shelling out $75 every month, because truthfully, I’d want to want God.  And I just wasn’t feeling it, because where was He in the midst of the anger and the sadness, the hurt and the bitterness?  Where was He when I stopped being the one to call, when I didn’t receive phone calls in return?

Because maybe it was just a transition.  And maybe with transitions comes loss, and it’s a loss that we have to sit in and with, between and before.  In the barren desert, we have to lean into the stages of grief: we feel denial for our pain and isolation overwhelms (1).  Anger rears its ugly head, again and again and again (2).  We make bargains with ourselves, with the “if only’s” my new form of communication for what I could and should have done (3).  And then we’re sad.  We’ve always prided ourselves on being a really good friend, so we never expected friendships to only last for a season.  We thought when we communicated Call me, I can’t call you that they’d call.  We shed tears and we mourn the loss, not necessarily of people, but of this past season of our lives, of all it represented (4).  But then somehow, somewhere along the way, between central Oregon and the Sierra Nevadas, acceptance arrived (5).  We began to drink again, we began to feel filled.  We felt the weight slowly lift itself from our shoulders, and we sensed an emergence of peace.  We entered into New Life, all over again.

We began to journey out of the desert.  

So I bought business cards – because it was finally time.  Because I found insides ready, in a kind of, mostly, sorta type of way.  2013 was the year and time to let my heart heal and hurt, to sit in the pain and slowly begin to put my finger on my real identity, the identity that doesn’t involve my vocation, that isn’t determined by the amount of money I bring to the table every month.  For my identity is peace and joy, and my identity is celebration with childlike glee.  And this I’m now ready and willing and eager to share with the world around me, as a writer, as a speaker, as a musician.

This I’m ready to lean into.

What about you?  Have you ever experienced the desert, and what, at the heart of it all, is your identity?  

Kingsolver, turkey sex & novels in the desert.

9780060852559_custom-4382cbbd5b1e1279063adc84e376cb2552f777d8-s6-c30Sometimes you read a book that just sticks with you, which, one hopes, is the point of a narrative.  Case in point, Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle made me want to jump on the locavore bandwagon, buying and eating food that is grown and made within a 100-mile radius.  It made me go, YEAH, I can make my own mozzarella!  You bet I can invest heavily in Mason jars for summer canning and salsa-making!  (Both prospects of which are highly overzealous, given my track record).  And, over the course of time, I learned more about turkey sex than I ever deemed imaginable.

While it’s likely that our family’s food habits will continue to morph and change over the course of time, I can’t stop going back to a metaphor on writing found at the very end of the book.  Kingsolver is primarily known for her works of fiction, but found herself approaching her publisher with an idea for a non-fiction book: with her family, attempt to live off their land, eating only locally-produced foods, for an entire year.  As such, she then described the difference between fiction and non-fiction writing in the following way:

“The best way I can describe it is to use a metaphor my brother gave me one time.  I used to live in the desert, and I gardened in the desert, and the first time he came out to visit me in Tuscon and he saw this beautiful little garden that I was forcing to grow out of the desert, he said, ‘The way you make a garden in the desert is you point to a spot and you put all your energy into that and you water it and you make something grow. Back East,’ where he lived and gardened, ‘the way you make a garden is you point to a place — a scrubby, raggedy, weedy, brambly hillside — and you remove everything else except what you want.’

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And that is exactly the difference between writing fiction and nonfiction. A novel is like a garden in the desert. You choose this spot and then you water the heck out of it and you work and you work and you make this simple single thing – you force this plot where there was nothing and you make it all come out of that barren place.

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Whereas, a nonfiction narrative is to begin with this scrambly, weedy thing we call our life, or some subject, some aspect of life, and then you pull out everything that doesn’t belong. That’s the challenge.

And it’s much harder in a way because you have to pull out so much and just throw it away.

The temptation, when you’re writing, especially something that’s like a memoir, something about your own life, is to leave things because that’s how they really happened. That’s irrelevant. The fact that it happened is irrelevant. The fact that it’s funny or entertaining is irrelevant. The only reason to leave it in is that it adds to the story.”

I love this.  I love that right now, I’m in the midst of gathering all those weedy, scrambled stories together, to see what’s there, to see the loot of beauty I have before me.  Eventually, as a memoirist, I’ll begin the sifting process, throwing out everything in the garden that doesn’t belong …but for now, I’m jumping into a jumbled, overgrown acreage of land, going what the H-E-Double Hockey Sticks have I gotten myself into?

And loving it.

No matter your plot of land, happy gardening, friends!

xo, c.

What about you?  Have you read any of Kingsolver’s works before?  And what do you think about this writing metaphor?  

when holy happens in the cereal aisle.

Cara Meredith

Standing in the middle of the Safeway cereal aisle is generally not the place one decides to release the tear-filled floodgates.

But, then again, my tears don’t generally follow the schedule and plans I have for their salty little lives.

I’d left a career in teaching to step into full-time ministry, packing up my bags in the Santa Cruz mountains for the suburbs of Seattle.  But somehow, I think I’d misunderstood the intent of songs of my Christian upbringing, because I took having the “…joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart,” a little too literally.   I came to believe that if I had Jesus in my heart, I would and could experience little to no pain.  Eternal, joy-filled happiness must always reside, I resolutely clung to and believed – even when life is hard, even when tragedy strikes.  Because everything happens for a reason, I’d whisper.  Because he’s not going to give us anything we can’t handle, I’d say over and over again, mimicking the words of Mother Teresa

So when pain came, I stuffed it down. 

I held back tears, staying strong for the people around me, because this was who I believed I was supposed to be: and she, the Professional Christian, the one getting paid to love Jesus, was secure enough to lead the people around me.

But then the reality of loneliness set in.

The hardships of moving and starting over, both vocationally and relationally, began to rear their honest, ugly heads.

To read the rest of the article, and what went down in the middle of the cereal aisle, click here and visit my friend Adelle in the meantime!  

xo, c.