holy curiosity: outsourcing (annie rim).

Holy curiosity is BACK! Let me introduce you to a friend of mine: Annie is a reader and a writer, and someone I’ve enjoyed getting to know over the past couple of months. And the message she brings today is so, SO very important, for our own curiosities should NEVER be outsourced. Read, enjoy and share! 

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I’ve always been a curious person.

When I was young and had a question, my dad would point me in the direction of his out-of-date set of encyclopedias. Sometimes my question was answered, but more often, I would get sucked into reading about other places and ideas and histories.

As a teacher, I was surrounded by curiosity and in charge of facilitating it in a meaningful way. My days were spent creating activities and lessons that guided my students toward more questions and ideas. I still made time for my own curiosity, through books and travel and cultural events.

And then I became a mom. Everyone knows kids are curious – google it and you’ll find quotes from Walt Disney and Madeleine L’Engle to Eleanor Roosevelt and Albert Einstein about the incredible curiosity of children. Mine are no exception – my three year old explores and questions her world constantly.

As my daughter became more active and more curious, I found myself outsourcing my own curiosity. I was surrounded and enthralled by Bea’s discoveries – who has time to add to that full day? I continued to read and my taste turned more and more toward nonfiction – a way to continue learning, but I didn’t really allow time for my own curiosities. I pushed them into the margins and told myself that one day I’d have time for my own interests again. Today is the day to focus on my kids; to build their own discoveries; to cherish these quickly passing moments.

I’m sure you know where this is going. Outsourcing curiosity is not sustainable or healthy.

In my years as an educator, I would tell parents the importance of reading with and in front of their kids. Yes, it’s important to read with your kids, but it’s also so important for them to see that you value reading. That, unless they see you practicing reading for pleasure, there’s no buy-in to teach them to read for fun. (Reading can be substituted for anything – cooking, hiking, singing – whatever you value and want your kids to value.)

I knew the importance of modeling curiosity but I wasn’t following my own advice. As Bea became more independent, it was easier to add my own interests. I would read in her playroom while she invented games with her toys. Soon she would sit next to me with a stack of books and we’d quietly read side by side. I started a blog and now, she likes to “blog” alongside me.

When our second daughter joined our family last year, I instinctively put aside my own activities. And, in that newborn haze, it was ok. But, as she has become more independent, I am reminded that I need to pursue my own curiosities.

So, I’m learning the art of calligraphy. I’ll never open an Etsy shop, but the act of sitting down, pen in hand, writing the alphabet over and over and over again is soothing and reminds me that pursuing my own curiosity fills me as a person. I set up a craft table in Bea’s playroom (read: table I don’t have to clean up before dinner) and now we sit together working on projects while Elle watches.

Something I’m reminded of again and again is that God created us to be curious. When I hear holy curiosity, I am struck by the fact that this is how we are designed. We are designed to create, to invent, to explore. However that looks and whatever form it takes, the way we draw near to our Creator is to Create.

I’m slowly remembering this and when I make room for my own curiosity, not only do I model this life-giving practice for my daughters, I honor the person I am made to be. And that restores my soul.

b0e99c233553803656d6d63843356e1bAnnie Rim lives in Colorado where she plays with her two daughters, hikes with her husband, teaches at an art museum, is part of a longtime book club, and reflects about life & faith here on her blog: annierim.wordpress.com. Though she’s not particularly witty or artsy, for a dose of “real life,” you can connect with her on Twitter and Instagram.

rituals: fluffy tails & peanut butter (kelsey jenney).

Guest post Tuesday! Today’s writer is an old friend of mine, someone I met my first year in ministry when we found ourselves in the same discussion group. She is an infectious person, in the most positive sense of the word, and uses more exclamation points (!!!) than anyone I know. So, meet Kelsey, and cheer her on at the end by leaving a comment. 

I LOVE PB&J… It’s my go-to Favorite Breakfast! Peanut Butter, Jelly Time!

I eat it open face in the morning, you know I want to keep it classy in those early morning hours where I feel like there is a lot of flurry… Makeup to do, emails to write, and lists that have piled of expectations I have not managed to accomplish yet!

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Hunks of fruit heaped on sprouted bread, and a crunch that tastes so delicious and familiar. I also love the bread to be really toasted, like a 5 on my toaster! Haha, that compliments the gooey peanut butter spread and extends comfort in those early morning hours of each day!

I should back up and say… I’m a quirky person by nature and having rituals and rhythms makes life, in more ways than I care to admit, feel manageable!

Want a small glimpse into a few of my rituals… Well, I pump my gas to the nearest $.05… $32.95, $22.15, etc, always needs to end with a 5! I have used the same pink comb since high school, pulled my hair to the same side of my face with a bobby pin with the same hair spray brand to hold my massive curly hair captive, I open the blinds in my house in the same order every morning, and always use 3 exclamation points, at least, at the end of every text!!!

I am a walking ritual in so many ways… a creature of rhythm, habit, or maybe a small case of some OCD tendencies I might need to explore after writing this. Haha! These small moments of ritual provide some consistency in the day ahead.

In the early morning hours, I roll out of bed, make my way downstairs, open the blinds, pour my dark roast coffee, and put my toast in the toaster.

It is with the smell of peanuts, and their nuzzle… I Am Here is spoken!

I am embarrassed about the cry of my heart most days as I sip coffee, and eat my PB & J. It weighs with the longings and desires I have, all of the things I want to change about the world, about me… all I wish was different, or the small things I find myself being frustrated by way too easily. The moments of anxiety, mixed with a delightful jam or jelly. There are the days I feel uncertain and it all weighs a little more on me. I can honestly get lost in here. My own head, the swirling thoughts and fears that come with each day.

Then their noses press into me. They look with their big brown eyes, and I see two faces, and I hear it again, “I am Here.”

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These furry, friendly faces, my two Giant Goldendoodles, or as they are usually referred to… The SnuggleBears. Goofy, large, wonky, and all sorts of fluff, these two, bound down the stairs with an ease… Another Morning!!!

They hear the toaster, they sit and watch. They sit patiently and wait. Ever since I have had Mason and Milo, now 8 & 7, they have joined me on the couch with the Today Show, Journaling, Coffee, and PB & J!

It might be perfection, even as I think about it now, my heart leaps. These two buddies, side by side with their big brown eyes focused on one thing… TOAST!!!

I couldn’t tell you when this all started, but the boy dogs know they always get the right corner of the toast after I am done, which means I start eating on the left corner… Ok, as I re-read that I realize I might be a bit obsessive! Haha but it’s true… I eat it clockwise. They know my rhythm so well now that they wait. Eyes big, glued to the bread… Mason always drools just a little, but not enough to be too gross, and Milo slumps down, head resting on the edge of the couch, trusting he won’t have to fight for his piece.

They sit, they wait, they watch. Attentive. Patient.

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It is so simple. It is so sweet. Honestly, it is our little rhythm. A ritual of being fully present.

Those big, brown eyes that reassure me they are present to me. Without an agenda, well besides wanting a bite. Fully embracing the current moment. Fully Present.

In those quiet moments, I hear it quite loudly through their faces, “I Am Here!”

I am REMINDED of the one that is always present. Without agenda or distraction. The one that KNOWS my rhythm, my tendencies, my fears. The one that sits patiently with me in ALL things. Our God, who extends His hand and gives us the right corner… THE BIG Right Corner. Always the right, best corner for us because He knows us. He knows what we need!

Without distraction, I can be patient with myself again because I trust our God will give me GOOD things. I am known and seen, plunged into the depths of His love.

He will give us Himself. Everyday. Through the noise in my own head, and the longings of my heart He sits and waits with me, “I am Here!” And especially in the mess of this junky, broken world, my longing is to know He is near.

Yes, through drool, wet doggie noses, wagging fluffy tails, corner pieces of bread, and peanut butter I am reminded that there is one who is always present with me!

I want to look at my God with unwavering trust, He has this. He has me. In fact, I would argue he stares right back at each of us with gushing amounts of love, grace, and big right corner pieces of goodness!!!

“You are welcome!!!” I exclaim to the boys, as I stand up, and if dogs can smile, they do!!! And then I smile too, eyes big for the day ahead “Thank You Lord, I will be present to You today!!!”

Little lessons from my friends with four paws, who love their right corner piece of PB &J!

heykelseyKelsey might look like Ms. Frizzle, but her LAST name is Jenney. She believes that in this life we are given joy, laughter, and soooo much LOVE!!! She is on Young Life Staff in Michigan, and has a deep love for ALL things Animals, especially her TWO Puppers Mason and Milo. She enjoys scarves, black coffee, walking, and watching all things Real Housewives. She can never have enough Peanut Butter, Hummus, or Guacamole… OR Wine and Vegan Treats if we are getting REAL honest! You can find her on her blog or on TwitterIt’s Cara again: didn’t Kelsey just WAKE YOU UP this morning? Pups and peanut butter and God – it doesn’t get much better than that. Leave her a message below!

out of sorts (and a giveaway!)

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I often feel like I popped out of the womb a Christian.

It was a given: my mother was baptized while I wriggled inside her belly, and my father was the son of a Baptist minister and one sassy, piano-playing Church Lady. Growing up, we said our prayers over the dinner table and at bedtime. We went to church on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights, not merely because it was what we thought we should do, but because it was simply What We Did.

And we did church. Never staking claim to any one denomination, we instead attended a variety of different churches: Presbyterian, Nazarene, American Baptist.

We made the Church People our people. We ate with them and we mourned with them. We laughed with them and fought with them and invited them into our home so that we could be their people, too.

Through my formative years, I never questioned why we did what we did, or even why we did what we did, because it was simply was who we were. Some people did little league, and some people did swim team. Some people did Girl Scouts and some people did family and some people did music. And we too did all of those things to an extent, for a time. But as for my family, we did church.

This was the narrative that shaped me and formed me, a liberal Baptist theology my faith’s foundation. So we sang the hymns and we got dunked in the baptismal font. We cheered on both men and women in the pulpit and in all forms of leadership. We went on mission trips and we invited our friends to youth group. We shaped our lives around the church’s schedule.

Until we didn’t.

Until I didn’t.

I’ve always been a bit of a rabble-rouser, in an I-took-the-biggest-piece-of-bread-from-the-communion-bowl-and-dipped-TWICE sort of way. So it always came as a shake to my foundation when my questions arose and circumstances changed.

Like when I started going to the most popular church in town, on my own as a sixteen-year-old, and didn’t see women in up-front roles.

Or when someone spray painted “God Hates Fags” on the side of the English department building in college, and I couldn’t reconcile a loving and a hating God inhabiting the same body.

Or when I read Anne Lamott’s Traveling Mercies for the first time, and began to see a different sort of Jesus, a new people of God.

Or when I taught at a Christian school, and dozens of teachers were handed notices of leave because, “It was for the betterment of our lambs.” Or when I worked for a conservative outreach ministry, and questioned a one-sided, “non-negotiable” statement of sin. Or when I went to seminary and discovered liberation theology, among other things. Or when my best friend came out of the closet, and I couldn’t sense of how the two fit together, because he loved Jesus better than anyone I knew. Or when I left full-time ministry and began to discover different voices of faith, different perspectives of the same God. Or when I, or when I, or when I…

The list goes on.

For our theology – or how we see God – is a morphing, shifting, changing entity. And this shapeshifting faith can make us feel rather out of sorts sometimes.

But that’s normal.

And it’s good.

And, dare I say, it’s necessary if we are to grow as persons of faith.

That’s why I’m delighted to tell you about blogger, author and speaker Sarah Bessey’s new book, Out of SortsBecause her story of a morphing, shifting, changing faith gives us permission to look into our own narratives and tell our stories of pain and of joy, of questions and of change. It’s different from her first memoir, Jesus Feminist, as it’s centered around the art of storytelling, and, given the subject matter, it’s that much more personal.

Really, her words make you feel like you’re sitting down over a cup of tea with a dear friend. And sometimes that’s the best and most comforting book you can read, especially when your faith feels out of sorts and upside-down and all over the place.

So, fellow pilgrim, friend and sojourner, might your exploration continue. And if you’re in this place in which it seems and feels like there are more questions than answers, know that you are not alone.

But you are seen and you are loved.

xo, c.

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So, have you ever felt out of sorts, whether in your faith or in life in general? Share a story with us! And, as promised, leave a comment below to win a copy of Sarah’s new book. Contest ends Friday, November 6th. 

rituals: when grace comes in the form of a red coffee mug (ashley hales).

Guest post Tuesday! Meet Ashley, one of my Voxer friends and Redbud friends and writer-in-general friends. I love that she realized a set of ordinary ol’ red coffee mugs weren’t actually so ordinary – and the ritual that began with them ran so much deeper. Because it’s true: the not-so-ordinary rituals truly DO make the story that much deeper. Enjoy! 

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I decided several years back that I really wanted some fancy red coffee mugs from Williams-Sonoma – something special to hold my morning coffee. After saving up, I ordered a pair of red mugs. They seemed so very cheerful.

When my friend Melissa and I decided to pray together every Thursday, I brought out the red mugs. Sometimes just having something beautiful and warm to hold in my hands for our truth-telling would be enough. Today, I can’t help but think of them a bit like sacraments. They are outward signs of something deep and mysterious, something that was the very means of grace. And now (having moved away) when I pull them out of my cabinets, I feel the ache of absence.

Of course there was everything that came before the mugs: there was our laughter over our frazzled nerves, our commiseration together as we both could never seem to get our houses in order, and a our shared desire for talk deeper than diapering and sleep schedules. Plus, we were pastors’ wives. We figured maybe we should give this prayer thing an actual go – see if it really was as life giving as the Bible said.

Every Thursday morning up until our recent move, we committed to the slow and steady grace of prayer. Our older children were in school and Melissa would come to my messy house, her smaller kids wearing their wellies on the wrong feet and my own kids usually half-dressed. I’d sweep away the piles and put on the kettle while one of us started a video for the toddlers in the basement. We’d placate them with snacks in time for the electric kettle to ding.

There was peppermint tea in the spring, chai in the autumn, black milky tea in winter. Sometimes I’d bring out my fancy blue and white Burleigh plates with something sweet.

We’d sigh, knowing that in all the snatches of what would be interrupted time that morning, there was someone who would see us. It was a terrific freedom to confess our anger, our bitterness and resentment and most of all, to take turns pointing the other to a glorious hope that had nothing to do with our performance or the cleanliness of our homes. We’d remind each other again and again: You are loved. You are valuable. You are known. And yet, I see your brokenness. That’s real too. But friend, there is healing. There is the hope of transformation, of all things being made new.

More often than not, we’d only get through half of our tea as we distracted babies with toys, or nursed newborns or attended to the toddlers asking for more Veggie Tales. It didn’t feel like much was happening at all most times. I wondered where prayer was when it felt tacked-on or squashed in-between the demands of little children. How could God hear us and be at work when we were so very distracted?

But there’s something that goes deeper in those layers of repetitive action. I’m just so near-sighted that it’s only now, having some distance, that I’m able to see the gift of those red coffee mugs.

It was more than simply a warm beverage and time with a friend. It was more than letting go of the mom guilt about sequestering our children in the basement with a Netflix babysitter. It was presence. It was hope that God was real and that there was someone else who was leaning into all the doubts, all the hard, all the stresses of this life alongside of me. We walked through pregnancies and growing family dynamics, marital fights, her dad’s early onset Alzheimer’s, and our inclination to lose our tempers. There was no need to hide.

Those red coffee mugs were means of grace. It was grace as one of us would hand the newest baby off to use the bathroom, or to bounce as the other prayed. And like all means of grace it was so ordinary to almost go unnoticed. Perhaps that’s where the beauty is, in its very mundaneness. Perhaps the ordinary is full of wonder and we’re just numb to it, too busy to notice how grace steals in through something as ordinary as shared tea in a red mug. Perhaps there is wonder and beauty and something glorious happening through Thursday morning tea and prayer time. Perhaps this is what life is about: the layering of ordinary event upon ordinary event; but through them all grace hovers just below the surface and knits them together right into glory itself.

AshleyHalespicAshley describes herself as a recovering good girl who’s been caught by the wide mercy of Jesus. She clings to stories, hot cups of coffee, and “me, too” conversations with girlfriends. Ashley’s a mama to 4 littles, wife to her church planter husband, and holds a Ph.D. in English. She writes at Circling the Story, The Mudroom, and loves to make friends on TwitterIt’s Cara again: Have you run to the kitchen to make yourself a cup of tea yet? Otherwise, how have ordinary ol’ coffee mugs been moments of stolen grace? 

my little lady.

I call her my little lady.

She stands to the left of the kitchen sink, dressed in pearls and a sexy black dress. She doesn’t don heels, nor is her hair all done up, but she sees me in yoga pants and in rumpled, just-woke-up pajamas, in heels and in the same pair of skinny jeans I sport day after day. Together, she and I keep each other company.

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I suppose it’s a little strange to give this much thought to an inanimate dish soap holder and the pearled black dress that clothe her.

But I suppose it’s even stranger to compare her to God.

To think her Spirit-like might be to start humming a chorus about how my sin, like the dishes piled high in the sink, has been washed away. I have been made clean and renewed, sudsy bubbles scrubbing every last speck – and while that may be true, to an extent, it feels a bit too individualistic, a revivalist’s visit to the campy King of my youth, complete with good ol’ Baptist songs belted around the campfire.

Likewise, I could expound on her watchful, all-knowing, all-seeing presence. She, like the eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleburgtake in every last bit of activity and of restlessness, of household screams and broken tears and hushed moments, too. She looks over the valley of our small space: ashen dinner remnants stayed from the night before, the moral wasteland of our kitchen floors most certainly a swift ticket to hell’s fiery furnace. But like the sin-cleaner, an uninvolved, uncaring Great Judge isn’t the Jesus I know.

So who is she?

To me, she is Beauty.

And to me, Beauty is found in the most unlikely of places, where and when we least likely expect it.

The story continues over at Abby Norman’s blog today. I’d be honored if you joined me over there – will you? Otherwise, where have you seen the Kingdom of God recently? 

rituals: holding on with all my might (nicole t. walters).

I’m constantly amazed at all the different rituals parents have with their children – while this was never the intention with this year’s theme, it’s been fun to see the progression. Enjoy and dive into  my friend Nicole T. Walter’s words today, and who knows? Maybe it’ll prompt an extra snuggle out of those nearest and dearest to you. Lots of love! 

Photo cred: Creative Outlet
Photo cred: Creative Outlet

It happens every night. Sometimes it is tiny little tiptoes and sometimes it is a tired, clumsy climb up. Regardless of how they get there, every morning I wake up to find two little bodies intertwined with mine. My son, just four, snuggles between my husband and I while his sister, six, curls up firmly against me.

Sometimes I tell other moms that the kids end up in bed with us every night and they gasp, “I would never let my kids do that.” I usually sleep like the dead, so it doesn’t disturb my sleep when they crawl into bed. But it is those morning hours that I would never trade for the world.

I wake to find two little blonde heads laying on one part of me or another. I usually try to get up the first time my alarm breaks through my sleep, but their presence holds me there. I cuddle deeper into the covers and warmth of four bodies nestled into a queen size bed.

I can’t pull myself from their sweet embrace just yet.

It isn’t natural for me to be able to take moments to just hold them. I am so “Type A” that slowing down is literally work for me. Extreme drivenness, mile-long to-do lists, multi-tasking and the drive to be perfect – these things come easily for me. It is slowing down that is hard.

As soon as that first ring of the alarm sounds, my mind starts racing. Most days I wake up already feeling behind, wishing I had gotten up earlier so I could get more tasks done before the day really begins and the kids awaken.

My tendency is to jump out of bed and into the day ahead, listening to the voices in my head telling me all I need to accomplish.

But there are these two little reminders in my bed. Their sweet sleeping faces pull me back for a moment.

I know it won’t always be this way.

So this has become the ritual of my day that reminds me to slow down and not take a moment for granted. Some nights that I am feeling extra rushed, I can’t wait to hold them. I need that sweet feeling of slow, so I scoop their tiny bodies up in my arms and nestle into bed with them.

I certainly don’t cherish every minute. Life gets busy and I rush them through the day more often than I should. I nod and smile while not really listening sometimes when they tell the same story over and over.

But there are other moments, too.

I will be walking my preschooler down the hall to class and he reaches up to grab my hand. I close my eyes for a minute and try to memorize the exact size of his hand in mine. I run my finger over the back of his thumb and try to slow my walking so that short hall feels a little longer.

I know there will come a day, probably not too far in the future, when it won’t be cool to hold mommy’s hand anymore. His fingers will be bigger than mine someday and won’t fit so perfectly into the palm of my hand.

Every night before I go to bed, usually much too late because I have been up getting all those tasks done, I kneel down in the nightlight’s glow. Since mommy and daddy aren’t available yet, he his found his way into big sister’s room.

I lay my head on their chests; I close my eyes and just hold them in the dark. I breathe prayers over them that I may not have found time in the hectic day to pray. I thank the Lord for these quiet moments and ask for more of them.

Help me to slow down, God. It is all going too fast. Help me to just hold onto them with all my might.

Then, I crawl into bed and spend a few precious moments with their dad. We know there will be little arms prying their way between us soon.

Then, we quickly fall into welcome sleep, listening for the approach of little feet.

Nicole T. Walters is a writer from metro Atlanta who has written for Relevant.comHer.meneuticsSheLoves Magazine and is a member of the Redbud Writer’s Guild. Nicole blogs about faith and being on mission wherever God has placed you at nicoletwalters.com. You can connect with her on Facebook and TwitterIt’s Cara again: Even though we don’t have littles who join us in bed most mornings, this kind of makes me want to MAKE them plop into our queen with us. Room for all, room for all! Leave Nicole a note and tell her how much you appreciated her words, will you?

eyes wide open (#wholemama)

Lately I’ve been keeping my eyes open, when it comes to prayer, that is.

The good girl within sometimes still cringes, when I feel like I’m going against the Supposed To’s and the Must Have’s and the This Is How We Do It, ala Montell Jordan meets Jesus prototype of Christian prayer.

Like I said, it’s kind of like this song plays in the background…

…and try as I might, I just can’t get it right.

I want to close my eyes, and I want to go hole up in the corner where no one will see me or hear me, where my words don’t matter because it’s just between me and heaven’s Magnum P.I.

I want holiness to emanate throughout the house – in fact, while we’re at it, it’d help me if the Mormon Tabernacle Christmas Album pumped holy puffs of air outside our house as well, simultaneous bursts of heavenly sound and smell alongside daily loads of Downy fresh protect. I want my children to sit quietly in the corner, reading, or maybe even humming Benedictine chants to the tune of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, while I breathe in the quiet of unbroken mornings with my Savior.

But ain’t none of that gonna happen, y’all. 

So maybe that’s why I’ve been keeping my eyes open lately.

Because when my eyes are open, a different type of prayer happens. It’s a prayer that forces me to enter the moment, insides still as can be, while chaos realms in every outside precipice of my world.

It’s a prayer that brings a smile to my lips when my three-year-old boy jumps onto the piano bench, and starts banging on the keys, singing, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus to the tune of the song he’s just created.

It’s a prayer that quickens my insides and slows my pulse, all at the same time, when a smile slowly, shyly starts to creep across Baby Brother’s face, when it’s a smile entirely, solely directed at me.

And I don’t always know how Holy all of this is, but were we to dust off the family Bible, the one that nestles between wedding photo albums and Thomas the Train locomotives and circus-themed finger puppets, I think we could crack open a verse or two about the Kingdom of God. And maybe we’d see that it’s more about stepping into the holiness of what’s already here, of who’s already come, than begging and pleading and insisting Old Suitor Heaven come our way. 

So, for now, I’m going to keep my eyes open. I’m going to keep my eyes open at the dinner table each night, when we go around the table and say what we’re thankful for, when Cancan clasps his hands together afterwards and shouts, “Amen!”

My eyes will stay open when I’m nursing and they’ll stay open on Sunday mornings when we gather with our people – because sometimes, when every head is bowed and every eye is closed, I like to keep mine open. I like to look around the room and breathe in the holiness, see eyelids kissed by peace and mouths pursed in intimate trust.

And that too is just as prayerful, because sometimes, the prayers of these saints are the ones that hold me up when I’m too weak to formulate my own. 

So, what about you? What is prayer to you? Do share. And feel free to include your favorite, most obscure mid-90’s dance relic – bonus points if you do! Meanwhile, I’m over at Esther Emery’s blog, joining in for the weekly #wholemama prompt. We’d love for you to join us!