the 10.5 most memorable posts of 2014.

I have begun to emerge from the Christmas fog.

Yesterday Cancan and I dragged a sad and brittle Douglas fir around the corner to the parking lot, mopping the living room floor soon thereafter.  Because really, how do you lift an evergreen out of its stand with a two-year-old as your Great Assistant?  Back to Point A: You don’t.  You instead blast “Just Another Manic Monday” on your 1989 Sony boombox, and you get clean floors as a bonus.  Viola! 

So while we continue to hunker down here for a few more days, cleaning the closets and finding more pine needles and taking copious notes on Really Important Books, take a look back on the year’s most popular writing posts.

Oh, and enjoy!

10.  Our 100%, completely true Christmas letter (which, I might say, I had so much fun writing).

9.  These two posts on faith, on the gray and the desert, seemed to resonate with a lot of folks.

8. That time I locked my keys, my purse and my KID in the car.

img_15487.  One of my favorites, by far: that time I asked my female cousin if she took her male fiance to be her lawfully wedded wife.  It happens.  

6.  When my obsession with Downton Abbey led to Ten Slightly Sarcastic Gifts for the Downton Lover.

5.  You know, a pregnancy announcement: (and, of course, the birth announcement was quite popular too).

Fresh plucking.
Fresh plucking.

4.  And here’s one that I’ll never quite understand, but I will tell you this: if you ever want TONS OF HITS tag your piece with “turkey sex.”

3.  A discussion on race, about how I do see color, along with one of my favorite books of 2014.

2. That time I ran into a stranger at the park and she broke every “what not to say to a pregnant lady” rule.

470233447_48a7e123ed1.5 And oh yes, the time I realized the HBH doesn’t want me cheering on The Football alongside him.  Such a shame!

And the #1 post on this ol’ blog for 2014? 

1.  Bringing sexy back!  I ain’t no Justin Timberlake, but I sure do like to get my read on (so hence, my top 20 books of 2013).  Don’t you worry: 2014’s list will be up on Friday, so come on back!

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And that, my friends, is a recap of the last year.

To see what I’m reading, let’s become book nerds on Goodreads together.  To see pictures of daily life and the cute little munchkins I call Mine! Mine! Mine! follow me on Instagram. 

Otherwise, as per the usual, I’m kind of-sorta-maybe linking up with the Lovely Leigh for her monthly recap.  Join us!  But for you, what memorable posts do you remember from this past year? 

the little things: standing in front of the mirror (holly terpening).

Man, I can’t believe it: this is our LAST “The Little Things” guest post of this year.  In a week or two, I’ll highlight some of the stories we journeyed through and introduce you to 2015’s theme.  (If you’d an invitation to write, do contact me!)  Otherwise, enjoy this hard-but-good last piece from an old friend of mine, Holly Please take note that this post is about pregnancy loss, and may trigger emotions from those who have traveled the same journey.  

Flickr Creative Commons: Rudolph Visek.
Flickr Creative Commons: Rudolph Visek.

I walked the Green Mile two days before Christmas last year, 2013.  

My Green Mile did not have Tom Hanks or any magical theme woven throughout it.  If it had, I imagine everything would have turned out differently.

Moments before, I had been in the exam room with my husband.  He was lovingly holding my hand and I was uncomfortably lying on the table as an extremely nice technician moved a very cold ultrasound around on my uterus.  She made small talk as she searched, before finally saying, “I think it’s just too early to see them with this type of ultrasound.  I’m going to have you go empty your bladder, and when you return we will try the other kind.”

My husband and I made eye contact as I slowly got up, cleaning the ultrasound goo off my tummy so I could get dressed. This was our fourth ultrasound, and for ultrasounds two and three our identical twins heartbeats could be easily detected using the “exterior” equipment.  There was really only one reason she would not have been able to find the heartbeats at this stage.  Still, I gamely slipped on my shoes and headed for the bathroom.  As I walked down what seemed like an endless white, sterile hallway, doctors and nurses just reporting for work at this ungodly hour greeted me with friendly smiles.  I returned them with polite good mornings and stayed my course.

When I reached the bathroom, I suddenly realized that whole walk had been an epic waste of time, because I didn’t need to go.  Instead, I stood in front of the mirror with the water running, with my hands caressing my slightly rounded belly and thought to myself, This is the last time I am going to feel happy for a while.  Because right now I don’t know.  Not for sure.  Even though I did know for sure.

When I had left the exam room to head down the mile-long hallway, a sense of calm and peace had engulfed me.  I was walking away from what I knew was a nightmare.  As I made the return walk to the exam room, I left all that calm and peacefulness behind me in a wake of dread with…each…step.  I considered not going back, maybe just making a U-turn and heading for the café on the other side of the building.  I could hide out there, drink my first cup of coffee in three months, and elongate the time I had left before my heart broke into a million pieces.  I didn’t have my purse with me, but maybe the barista would feel sorry for me and hook me up with a nice hot drink, which I would then take over to the big comfy chairs, sit down, and hide out from reality for a while.

This plan involved abandoning my husband in the exam room, so I steeled myself and made the rest of the return journey back to the last place I wanted to be.  The technician, with a heart as big as Texas, spent about ten minutes desperately searching for heartbeats.  I think she wanted to find them as badly as we did.  I do not know how she brought herself to tell my husband and I, two days before Christmas, that our twins had died.  But she did, and then she left us alone to process the news.  I’m pretty sure she needed to get out of there before she herself started to cry.

After about ten minutes, our perinatologist came in the room and offered his condolences.  In his hand he held sonograms from the ultrasound, and he hesitated before offering up the news.  Not the news that we had lost them, but the news that our twins were not identical, as we had believed.  They were conjoined at the pelvis, and had we not lost them at ten weeks, we would have lost them three months later.  If not then, they may have survived gestation, but they would never have survived outside the womb.  Neither my husband or I knew where to begin processing this information; we had just learned our babies had died, and now we were hearing why.  It was the equivalent of trying to pour three cups of water into a one-cup receptacle.  He asked me if I wanted to have a D&C that day, or if I would prefer to take some medicine that would induce a miscarriage at home.

I told him with two days until Christmas, I needed to go home and make things as normal and festive for my two year old as I possibly could.  We agreed to touch base December 26, at which time I chose the pills.  I asked him what I should be prepared for once the pills kicked in, and he responded by saying, “It shouldn’t be too bad.  They are the size of two large grapes right next to each other.  You won’t see anything that looks like a baby.”

Two grapes.  Ten weeks of loving these tiny little beings that grew inside my body amounted to two grapes.  Ten weeks of dreaming what these new babies would look like, act like.  Ten weeks of joy as we imagined them squealing with glee as their big brother made funny faces to make them laugh.  Two grapes.  A lot of love, excitement, expectation, and heartbreak can easily fit into two large grapes.

In the year that has passed, I have done my grieving and accepted that they are most assuredly better off in heaven than they would have been here on earth with me.  The emotional pain lessened in time, and joy eventually found a way to fight through the layer of gray and burst forth back into my daily life.  Sometimes when I look through my son’s “fancy clothes” (the ones on hangers) I encounter the Big Brother long sleeved tee shirt he wore the day we told my parents we were pregnant.  Each time I see it I feel a pang in my heart and flip quickly past it.  The most logical thing to do would be to fold it up and put it away; however, I washed and ironed it for a reason.  I have every confidence that he will have the opportunity to wear it again someday, as long as that day comes before he grows out of a 3T.

Hipster santaHolly can be found at Borrowed Genes, where she blogs about her journey to grow her family, as well as her adventures in motherhood and other parenting shenanigans.  Holly left teaching after ten years to become a stay at home mother to her son, Ezra.  She and her husband are currently playing the waiting game in the adoption process, as they pray for the phone call that will tell them a birthmother has chosen them to be the family for her baby.  If you or someone in your acquaintance is a birthmother actively seeking a family for an upcoming baby, Holly will gratefully accept your referrals and present them to her adoption agency.  Otherwise, how did Holly’s words touch you today?  Leave a message and encourage her today!

advent 4: a question, an answer & one great game.

Today is the fourth in a December and January series on Advent, Christmas and Epiphany. Following Sarah Arthur‘s new book, Light Upon Light (which I can’t recommend highly enough), this fourth week looks at Advent as a whole, with the original post appearing on the Redbud Writers Guild website. You can find week oneweek two and week three here. Check back each Saturday to see what’s new, and in the meantime, enter in and enjoy!

Flickr Creative Commons: Diyosa Carter.
Flickr Creative Commons: Diyosa Carter.

We play a mean game of hide-and-go-seek in our house.

The rules of it are generally governed by our two-and-a-half year old, and go something like this:

Canon [our son] directs Dada or Mama to sit on the couch and “Count!” He then runs five feet to the right and hides behind the faded and ill-hanging living room curtains.  Between breathless giggles, he manages to squeak out, “I hide! I hide!”  Meanwhile, my husband and I begin to muse aloud as to where the little bugger might be hiding.

“Where is Canon?  Is he underneath the dining room table?”  Giggle, giggle, giggle.  

“Where’s Cancan?  Is he …hiding behind the couch?  Did he crawl up on top of the refrigerator?  I just can’t find him!”  Giggle, giggle!  

After a round or two of naming nearly every inanimate object in the house, one of us – the hider or the seeker, that is – gives up.  The wiggling curtain is traded in for one tackle of a bear hug, along with the opportunity to play the game all over again.  Even though we’ve known where he is all along, we continue to join in to his delight of being found.

So we squeal along with him.  Our collective bellies ache with the joy of discovery – for he, the object of our affection, has been found.

I suppose the parallel is obvious: we too have been found.

In the season of Advent, we celebrate finally knowing the answer to the first God-question ever posed, to Eden’s great game of hide-and-go-seek.  Perhaps I’d heard the connection a thousand times before, perhaps I hadn’t; regardless, when our pastor pointed it out this weekend, I nodded my head emphatically, bouncing Baby Boy against my chest as I stood in the back of the musty, candle-lit sanctuary.

Like a parent who knows his son’s not-so-secret hiding location, God called out to his friends in the garden that day.  Although the text doesn’t say it, I think there must have been a pause somewhere between the question and the response.  Perhaps in the stillness there existed the audible sound of a gulp or the heave of a sigh or the hiccup of a cry – you know, the universal indication for females everywhere that Ugly Cry is about to commence.  For in Perfection that day, blame and excuses and a jumble of dialogue followed, although for our purposes, they too are beside the point.

Instead, the main point is this: we humans received an answer to the first question God ever asked.

Where are you?  

Pause.  Stillness.  Gulp.  Sigh.  Hiccup.

But then the answer comes: I am here.  

I am here in the form of a tiny baby.

I am here through the virgin’s birth, for I, Emmanuel, am God with you.

I’ve found you and I join in to this life with you – and I delight in this journey of you finding me, over and over and over again.

But first and always first, I find you.  And it’s in this dance of being found and finding him – of the back and forth, and forth and back – that we celebrate the Christmas season.  We enter into the sacred, into the holy, into the beauty of relationship found with the God who became one of us.

Might it be so, I say.

Amen.

“Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Emmanuel,” which means, “God with us.”   So, what is Advent to you?  Might you continue to celebrate wholeheartedly this season.  

a very brilliant christmas letter, from me to you.

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Dearest friends and family,

Well, it’s been another normal year of amazingness here in the Meredith mansion.  We’ve enjoyed near-perfect 80 degree weather every single day of the year.  This, of course, is an anomaly for fog-filled Pacifica, but the sun seems to favor our household, shining its light directly upon our residence, and our residence alone.  Sometimes we feel bad for the other 38,602 residents of the town, but if the star of the solar system chooses you, you willingly oblige. And can you blame it?

“Cancan” is nearly two and a half years old and scintillating in every way.  He’s been accepted early-admission to Harvard, and is debating as to whether or not he’ll major in Political Science and become the first youngest, mixed-race, hottest President of the United States ever (at four years of age), or if he’ll just do a once-over and successfully major in one of every subject.  Either way, we predict he’ll take over the world, so do vote for Cancan in 2016!  He also has dreams of “football! football!” both from Santa Claus and of the NFL; we hope this can happen after his presidency, as it’d be nice for him to rest his mind a bit after the eight years in office.

“Frodo” (as our dazzling older offspring calls him) is almost four months old and quite the lady killer.  We’ve started charging admission to meet our kin, for his presence alone slays the masses.  Patrons of the little saint wind the block for the chance to breathe his milky air, with upwards of 1.2 million already raised.  We hope to reach an additional 2 mil by the end of the week, so if you haven’t had the chance to squeeze his Buddha belly, buy your ticket now!  When he’s not meeting various kings and queens, princes and princesses and Greek and Roman gods of this world, Frodo enjoys narrowing down his choices for a dowry-bride, practicing his American Idol vocal techniques and partying like a rockstar at three in the morning.

The HBH (Hot Black Husband) continues to practice his nightly dance skills, leading the world in YouTube’s #1 dance-at-home video series, “Don’tcha Wish Your Dancing was Hot Like Me?”  We’ve all enjoyed its reigning 38-week success, and James is currently in negotiations with Sony, Sundance, Universal and Pixar for the best offer.  We’d hoped he’d be able to star in the videos, but it looks like Denzel is going to play him again.  In his spare time, he enjoys documenting our family’s every move (much to the chagrin of the photography team at National Geographic, whom he continues to turn down), and the blessed nine hours of sleep he gets every night.  [Did I mention Frodo started sleeping through the night at two days of age?  When you’re as amazing as us, it happens.]

Finally, Cara, the humble and awe-inspiring writer of this Christmas letter, continues to dazzle the world with her words.  When she opens her mouth, it’s like effervescent butterflies fly out, anointing the ears of all who listen; when her fingers touch the keys [be it computer or piano], a magical mixture of Dickens and Beethoven pour forth.  She just can’t stop the brilliance!  Since we also have a maid, a butler, a wet-nurse, a full-time nanny and a masseuse on hand at all times, Cara enjoys eating bonbons and watching soaps all the live long day.

Well friends, we do hope your normal lives, although minor in comparison to our utter radiance, shine in their own small way this holiday season.

Merry Christmas!

The Meredith Clan

the little things: the speed of change (heather caliri).

Well, ready, set, go …that’s all I have to say to you. We only have TWO more Guest Post Tuesdays until 2015 commences (eventually). So enjoy my new friend Heather’s words for us today, because friends, she is a bonafide word-master.  Enjoy.  

Flickr Creative Commons: Kevin Dooley.
Flickr Creative Commons: Kevin Dooley.

“Look, Mama,” my youngest said.

I was at my desk, a few feet from our dining table. Both my daughters were busy with markers and colored pencils; stray copy paper and card stock littered the shining surface.

I pressed send on my email, then got up and walked over to her.

And almost gasped with surprise.

She’d drawn a girl. A girl with a circle for a head, and a body: torso like a rectangle, arms like blocks, plump hands at the ends of each. The girl wore a dress, she had curly hair, she was smiling up at me with joy.

My daughter drawing wasn’t notable. No, she and her big sister used reams of paper every month.

What surprised me was that yesterday, and the day before , and the days and weeks before that, her way of drawing people had been completely different.

They were stick figures, torsos a slender stem. Arms stick straight to the side like a T. Legs also to the side, parallel to the arms, as if each figure were a gymnast doing the splits.

Both ways of drawing were dear. Both wonderful. Both made me smile.

But both were completely, absolutely different.

In one day.

“You did it different!” I said, my voice full of the excitement I felt. “You came up with a new way of drawing people.”

She grinned up at me, pleased with her work. Then she got a fresh sheet of paper and started again.

I watched her for a moment, in wonder.

Because I will never, ever get used to watching people change right in front of me. Not slow-motion change, like hair or nails growing. No: the gigantic, lightening bright flashes.

Before I had kids, I thought all change happened slowly. I assumed that I evolved like the Grand Canyon, worn down over millennia. I thought everyone changed too slowly to notice, that new life required endless patience and gritting my teeth for the long haul.

But the very first moments of parenthood started changing my mind.

The day I found out I was pregnant, I gripped the test stick in my hand, blinking at the positive result. Moments ago, I had been me, with everything that signified sure as stone.

Now, I was radically, basically different. I was pregnant.

The speed of that change mystified me.

Birth happened that way too—I was all roly-poly possibility, then a writhing dervish, then a still, astonished mother with a baby at her breast. All in a few short hours.

No, the longer I see my children grow, the longer I walk alongside them, a student of humanity, the more I realize change isn’t slow.

It happens in great gulps, in sudden jerky leaps forward. My children circle around a new skill for a while, hesitant and nervous, and then they lurch forward with bravery into something new.

And suddenly they are walking or potty-trained or reading or drawing a girl with solid fingers and toes.

We notice children’s changes because they’re so physical, and because they’re celebrating them at regular, predictable intervals: walking, losing teeth, mastering bicycles and roller skates and hitting a baseball. We know it’s a special window of possibility; we know we have to savor the anticipation.

But I don’t think the changes end in childhood. They just go underground, into our hearts and spirits. Sometimes circumstances change us—losses or heady gains, life shifts or hardships. Or sometimes we start moving with intention in a new direction and end up far, far away from where we started.

I start journaling each day and find it thrusts me into a new way of praying. I pray in a different way and suddenly my way of relating to God is profoundly altered. A new expression of faith starts working transformation in my marriage and family relationships and creativity.

This sense that nothing changes, that we are who we are, forevermore?

It’s a lie.

We do not have to walk in slow motion through life, waiting for wind to sand us down. No: we’re all poised on the brink of new possibilities, new ways of moving through the world. We’re all at a precipice, facing dizzying choices that might plunge us into new adventures.

What if we had that same sort of anticipation with ourselves that we have with our kids? What if we waiting, with bated breath, to see what might happen next? What if we were ready, at every moment, to astonish ourselves?

h bio pic_june 2014 editsHeather Caliri is a writer from San Diego. She started saying yes to joy in her faith two years ago and was surprised to find that joy led straight to Jesus. Her new journal for people anxious about the Bible is called Unquiet Time: A devotional for the rest of us.  And friends, I don’t know if you’re breathing a sigh of blessed LOVELINESS at Heather’s writing, but I sure am.  So, what can you say to our friend today?  What is change to you? 

advent 3: sojourners in the land.

Today is the third in a December and January series on Advent, Christmas and Epiphany. Following Sarah Arthur‘s new book, Light Upon Light (which I can’t recommend highly enough), this third week looks at the theme “Sojourners in the Land.” You can find week one and week two here. Check back each Saturday to see what’s new, and in the meantime, enter in and enjoy!

Flickr Creative Commons: Daniel Shah.
Flickr Creative Commons: Daniel Shah.

Another text popped up last night: What’s your address?  Did you move again?  I can’t remember…

And I’m like, I GET YOU.  I can’t wait to see your crew of smiling, effervescent faces in my mailbox, but I understand why you’d be asking me that question, again.

Because here’s the truth: I’ve not lived in the same place for more than two years since I was 18 years old – and y’all, I ain’t no spring chicken.

The upside is that I’ve become a master at packing and unpacking, a guru at visualizing a space and revamping living quarters appropriately, and an expert at constantly schlepping through stuff for the weekly Goodwill drop-off.

Martha Stewart would be so proud.

The downside, though, is obvious: I hate moving.  Although I’ve moved past enlisting friends and family to join in for “Free pizza and beer!” (because let’s be honest, that charm begins its rapid descent after or around the age of 25), I’m done sifting and sorting, filling and wadding and sorting our junk into cardboard boxes.

But I’ve accepted that, for whatever reason, this has been a part of my story, the marking point that’s kept me from getting too comfortable, from taking home for granted.  It’s helped me to understand what it means to be The New Girl, to start over in a neighborhood where you don’t know the back roads and you’ve yet to run into that friendly face in the grocery store.

It’s also helped me to understand what it means to be a sojourner, to be someone who resides temporarily in one place.  Because I, too, am a sojourner.  I wait for my final place, and I wait to hunker down and lay down roots.  I wait to make house our home, as I wait for home.

Certainly, this idea of sojourning is not new to the liturgical season of Advent.  Mary and Joseph, en route to parenthood, sojourned as they looked for a place to lay their heads.  The magi who practiced astrology – those three “wise men” who really did believe in signs and wonders, in a heavenly message communicated through the stars – were said to have trekked nearly a thousand miles in search of the baby boy.  Likewise, those dirty, stinky shepherds tending sheep in fields nearby, had to pick up their skirts and wander through the desert a few hundred yards at least.

And this doesn’t even begin to touch the greater idea of a wandering nation, a symbol of the Jewish people who have been cast out, ever yearning for home.  (Nor, for our purposes, does it begin to touch the bigger spiritual idea of one’s final eternal homeas well).

Because no matter where or how or why you sojourn, you search.  You search and you seek and you, too, yearn for a place to lay your head.  You sit by the rivers of Babylon and you remember Zion.  You wait and wonder how long… how long… how long… you’re to sing this song.

But then, perhaps because you’ve embraced this whole notion of sojourning as a part of your story, you put one foot in front of the other.  Step by step, you begin to believe that that is enough, that “The earth is enough and the air is enough/ For our wonder and our war…”*  You begin to dot your words with the occasional exclamation point because you trust in the journey, in the sojourn, in the temporary nature of it all.

Perhaps your mouth even whispers these ancient words:

“Lead, Kindly Light, amid the circling gloom,
Lead Thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home –
Lead Thou me on!
Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene, – one step enough for me.”*

So darling, let’s be sojourners.

Selah.

What about you?  Are you a sojourner?  How or where or why did that happen?  

* = “The House of Christmas” by G.K. Chesterton

** = a prayer from John Henry, Cardinal Newman

the little things: desire (kari wilhite).

Guest post Tuesday!  Today’s post is different: it’s different because you’ll see straight-up poetry.  It’s different because if you’re not of the Christian tradition, you’ll see and hear a strong faith language.  But just like every writer we’ve featured over the last year, when you read Kari’s words, you’ll meet someone who is uniquely, beautifully herself.  And the message she gives us is unforgettable.  Enjoy.  

Flickr Creative Commons: Skywalker108
Flickr Creative Commons: Skywalker108

Had you met me just a few years ago you may have come away with this sentiment: Well, she certainly is a nice pastor’s wife.  She is so involved, so supportive of her husband and is dedicated to the church. Now while that may be all pleasant, even expected, I was dumbfounded when people would say to me: “Kari, you know so much about everyone, but no one really knows you.” I actually chalked those comments up to my badge of Christ-likeness. Wasn’t I supposed to “serve” and “sacrifice” and “take up my cross” to minister to His Church? I didn’t think I had a story to share, that my story really didn’t matter…because I was in ministry.

A series of events in the spring of 2013 coupled with the clinical depression I have navigated for most of my adult life, led me into an emotional/mental/spiritual breakdown in June of that year. I could not cope anymore. I suffered intense insomnia. I was becoming OCD in certain behaviors. I was in despair and my husband didn’t know how to help and couldn’t help me. At the admonishment of close advisors I entered the Meier Clinic in Bothell, WA for a 3-week intense outpatient program. God intervened in such an amazing way giving me this gift: me.

And it all began on day 2 with my therapist and this simple word that I had never thought about, for me: desire. This poem is the account of that life-changing conversation.

What is your desire?
He asked me, sincere.
What do you mean?
I wanted to be clear.

 

What is your desire?
My name up on white-board
next to word: desire
he circled more and more.

 

I haven’t got a clue.
Well…maybe it is this:
my husband to love me forever
only-always, relentless.

 

Okay…how will you
get to that destination?
I guess by being awesome
at every situation.

 

If I clean the house perfect
care for children supreme
shoulder ministry load
do well at everything.

 

What is your desire?
he asked this yet again
didn’t I just tell him?
what does he want then?

 

What is YOUR desire?
his voice louder, steady
his eyes stared at me
I felt uncomfortable, shaky, heady.

 

What do you mean?
I guess I just don’t get it
I can’t discern your question
can’t you just give me credit?

 

He took the black marker
crossed out “desire” firmly
threw pen across room
looked at me quite sternly.

 

You
have not
allowed
yourself
to have
desire.

 

You, Kari, you
not your husband, but yourself
not your congregation
not your children’s health.

 

With this I broke, wept
I had never even thought
that desire was something
I was designed for, bought.

 

That God’s purposes
could in me be manifested
which meant, me, Kari
could have desire selection.

 

For 3 weeks I began
to unlock who I am
truth, grace, time
healing my inner-man.

 

It is all about vulnerability
letting go of powerful lies
that say I must do, fake it
instead of authentic cries.

 

Almost 2 years have passed
still learning about me
what I like, how I tick
my flirting with co-dependency.

 

I am facing my stuff now
with the help of friends
my Jesus gives me aid
with the gift of my pen.

 

No longer bound
by the lie that shame cast
I am living in freedom
I have found me, at last.

Might my experience will encourage anyone who struggles with desire and shame.  Might you find healing in loving yourself, forgiving yourself and embracing the desire that God created you to have.

 —

Kari-Small-e1407119208444Kari is a Northwest girl to the core; the evergreens speak to her soul and the rain is her native tongue. She used to be a “pastor’s wife”, but now she is the wife of Steve, who happens to be a pastor. They live within an hour of Mt. Rainier in Washington State with their four children, ages 7-15 (two boys and two girls). They have a hot/cold, love/hate relationship with their beloved 1982 Westfalia Vanagon which you may have seen behind a tow truck in the last decade. Her favorite things include journaling, letter-writing, dark chocolate, coffee and camping in old-growth forests. Oh, and she has dreadlocks.  So, what is your desire?  And how did Kari’s words impact you today?  Leave a comment below to encourage our friend.  

*We are not mental health professionals here at be, mama. be.  If you need professional help, please contact your doctor today.

advent 2: annunciations.

Today is the second in a December and January series on Advent, Christmas and Epiphany.  Following Sarah Arthur‘s new book, Light Upon Light (which I can’t recommend more highly), this second week looks at the theme “Annunciations.”  You can find week one here.  Check back each Saturday to see what’s new, and in the meantime, enter in and enjoy!  

Escalator Graffiti
Flickr Creative Commons: Tina Leggio.

Sometimes – like this morning – the HBH (Hot Black Husband) and I decide to put on our Brave Hats and navigate downtown San Francisco, with two young children in tow.  Generally speaking, we’ve not enough coffee in the morning when this decision is made, but the pull to ride the train! train! for Cancan’s amusement and get off at the Powell Street station to see Christmas in all its glitz and glory, is a weighty one.  So we go for it.

While doing so, many such announcements are made to the general public, including but not limited to:

We’re crazy!  

This – this screaming, restless saint of a tired child right here – is why you should be nice to all parental-looking people you encounter.

Two-year-olds: they’re not for the faint of heart.  

Escalators are the cheapest form of entertainment available out there;  head to your local mall and try one out today!  

Likewise, no shortage of relief exists once we’re home, safe and sound in the nest of comfort and routine.  Announcements continue to persist, in which I go from giver to receiver.  No longer do I inadvertently proclaim birth control to all Nordstrom patrons, but upon opening my laptop, I am inundated with messages: Save 15% today!  Free shipping!  (E-mail).  We just saw Santa! My kid cried when he was forced to sit on a stranger’s lap – you gotta try this! (Facebook).  Win me!  Quote me!  Retweet me!  (Twitter).

And like Bill Murray’s Groundhog’s Day, the cycle repeats, over and over again – with the same announcements, and the same mind-boggling inundation of information, and the same breathless beggary to consume and partake and buy more.    

Maybe that’s why I like the simple clarity of a single announcement, of an isolated interaction between a young girl and an angel.  And this announcement of the Incarnation – of God becoming fleshy man in the form of a baby – landed itself its own definition: annunciation.

We don’t know where Mary and Gabriel were when the Great Announcement took place, when he showed up to let her know that she was highly favored.

We know that this teenager didn’t understand it right away; she didn’t get why God chose her, and she didn’t get the whole Holy Spirit impregnation thing (and neither do I, let’s be honest).  And we know her response, at least the response passed down through centuries of oral tradition: Yes.  I accept.  I’m in.    

Because there, somewhere underneath Galilean stars, a holy moment birthed itself between God’s messenger and a bewildered teenager.  If Mary, exalted as she is, is anything like adolescents today, I’m guessing she left that conversation still caring about what others thought about her, still desiring to not have a Jerusalem camera crew following her every 16 & Pregnant move around town, still begging to not be announced and talked about behind other people’s backs.

Maybe that’s why this week’s advent theme is not just called annunciation, but annunciations.  Although the moment was singular, the message was bountiful: You are chosen.  You’re the one to carry the son, the son, that is.  Because things are gonna change through this birth, believe you me.

Announcements, where immensity cloister’d in thy dear womb.”*

Announcements to a girl “whose womb was a place/ Of middle kind…”**

Announcements that plead us beg, “Deliver, and make us, to both ways free.”  

So what announcements will you hear today?  Might we all tune our ears to a different, softer, magic-filled kind of announcing inundation today.

Announcements: what are your ears hearing on an everyday December basis?  And what do you need to tune into today?  Happy Advent!

* = “Annunciation” by John Donne

** = A prayer by John Donne

down with BBT, yeah you know me (or, why you should read barbara brown taylor).

Cropic Share File

Every year, I seem to have a different author I obsess over, absorbing their thoughts as I get to know them through their writing.  Last year Madeleine L’Engle and John Green vied for a tie, although Barbara Kingsolver and Rainbow Rowell fought for glittering runner-up crowns.  In years’ past, Brene Brown, N.T. Wright, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Lauren Winner, Saint Anne and Annie Dillard have held the coveted spot.  And, as happens with these authors in particular – with those who seem to hold my heart and know the inner workings of my brain – I find myself asking, How am I just now discovering their writing?  

Has a secret camera been planted in the corner of my living room, in which a little elf watches and listens in on every conversation, omnisciently knowing my every thought?

Am I therefore a target audience, the target audience?

And does this also mean that there are others like me?

That, in a nutshell, encompasses my year with Barbara Brown Taylor, or BBT, as I’ve affectionately come to call her.  BBT is a religion writer who’s comfortably settled into the seat of spiritual memoirs, finding Beauty in the everyday, seeking to understand life through a different set of lenses.  Because seeking to understand doesn’t necessarily mean finding all the answers: it also means wrestling with the questions and sitting in the gray and being okay with not knowing.  And maybe that’s why BBT’s been my girl this year.

It’s been a shifting and morphing season of belief.

It’s been a couple years of cleaning out the closet, digging through piles of discarded clothing to see what really fits and what I really want to wear.  Is turquoise still my color of choice?  Do those jeans actually fit?  Am I keep this sweater simply for memory’s sake?

I’m speaking metaphorically, of course, but as a faith and spirituality writer, I’ve been on a journey of self-discovery the past couple of years, essentially asking the question, Who is Christ to me?  My faith looks different now than it did five, ten years ago …but I, for one, happen to think that’s a good thing. And I, for one, also then find solace with the questions she asks and the curiosity with which she seeks to find answers.

Because BBT is for the seeker in each one of us.  She’s for she who doubts and he who doesn’t understand why the Jesus of his youth looks different from the Messiah of his grown-up years.  She’s for the one who walks through the dark, and embraces the dark, and finds God in the thick of it – even if his name isn’t shouted from the mountain tops, in bolded, capitalized font.

Of her eleven* published books, I read four this year.  Starting with her self-proclaimed trilogy, I discovered An Altar in the World on an airplane flight home from the Festival of Faith and Writing.  Yes, yes, yes!  She seeks to find Beauty – …Beauty, who is God – in the everyday.  A couple months later, after I’d submitted a book proposal (about the experience of faith and doubt after leaving ministry), I read her book, Leaving Churchabout her own journey in leaving parish ministry.  I’m not alone, I kept thinking to myself, underlining every other sentence, nodding my head in silent acknowledgment.  I added Learning to Walk in the Dark to my list after reading an article that implored every Seven [on the Enneagram] to pick up a copy.  And for someone who desires to run from pain, it was good and necessary and balmy to my insides.  Finally, because I’ve been speaking more, I picked up a copy of one of her early books, The Preaching Life, and as per the BBT usual, I couldn’t put it down.

[One more thought: I will say that there is a clear shift between her early writing and more contemporary writing, in particular within language and belief system.  Some of you will find this repulsive, while others rejoice at the refreshment within – I look forward to hearing where you pitch your tent.]    

So, will I continue to get to know this woman through her words?  Probably.  Will she be next year’s author of choice?  Probably not.

But you never know.

I am, after all, down with BBT, yeah you know me.

Are you down with BBT or is it just me?  Who’s been your author of choice this past year or in previous years?  And what other 90’s hits would you like to see grace this blog page?

{Full disclosure: This post contains links to Amazon Affiliates – by clicking on a book link above, you support my not-so-nasty reading habit.  Thank you!}

the little things: she dreamt for me (callie glorioso-mays).

Guest post Tuesday is here!  Today you get to hear from a friend across the internet portals, someone I’m figuring out this mama-writer life alongside.  Callie’s message is both simple and profoundly true today, because sometimes we need others to dream dreams for us.  Keep reading to see what she has to say.  

Flickr Creative Commons: Photo cred, Nicole Pierce.
Flickr Creative Commons: Photo cred, Nicole Pierce.

I was in the throes of early motherhood. Not the very first stage, when people deliver meals and give you a pass on showing up places un-showered and clad in yoga pants. But the next stage when you realize that you have to function as a heavy-eyed zombie while still caring for a predictably unpredictable newborn.

Our son was born just eleven months after we got married, quickly changing our plans for the future. With Hadden’s arrival came the departure of my dreams – dreams of grad school, of a job in my field, of paying off student loans quickly, and of spending a few carefree years as newlyweds.

Instead I was a literal stay-at-home mother most days. We were living in a new state and I was faced with the realization that this life l looked so different from the one I’d dreamt of on my wedding day. I loved our son, but I was still clinging to the future I had planned in my head.

On the phone with my sister that day I expressed my frustration.

“Don’t think that this is the end,” she said simply.

When I didn’t understand, she elaborated, painting a verbal picture of what my life could look like.

What I had planned was undoubtedly the easier route to my dreams, but my sister showed me that it wasn’t the only way. Grad school could be accomplished one class at a time while my son was little or I could wait until my son was grown to get my graduate degree. School loans would take longer to pay off on a single income, but in the end, it would happen. And my husband and I could still travel the world, but we could do it as a family.

As a typical 20 something-year old, I couldn’t see far beyond my current stage of life. All around me my cohorts were conquering the world (or so it seemed to me). I felt left behind. In the all-encompassing chapter of caring for a newborn, I forgot that it was just that, a chapter and not the conclusion.  

“Don’t think that this is the end.”

In that moment, my sister did what I couldn’t do for myself: she dreamt for me. My plans had shattered in front of my face and she picked up the remnants and pieced them back together.

I am still a stay-at-home mother, but now I’m able to enjoy it. Instead of building a life rigidly around my dreams, I’ve learned to flex and adjust my dreams to fit into the life I have now. I treasure these days with my son and I’m able to fully appreciate them knowing that this is simply a stage and that there is indeed life after baby.

10530778_1603647909861819_4890637714163711807_nCallie Glorioso-Mays is a chronic over-thinker, a recovering people-pleaser, and the source of far too many questions. She has a degree in Applied Psychology with a minor in Biblical Studies. Callie is married to Caleb, a Cyber Space Operations officer in the USAF, and is the mother of Hadden, who is competing for the award of Precocious Child of the Year. They are currently stationed outside of Omaha, Nebraska.  Get to know Callie even more by reading her blog, following her on Twitter or subscribing to her Facebook page.  So tell us, how has someone dreamt for you, when you weren’t able to see it for yourself?  Otherwise, what did Callie say that encouraged you today?  Cheer her on in the comments below!