the little things: you choice this life… (holly mchale-larsen)

I could not be in love with this post any more than I already am …and since Holly sufficiently introduces the two of us in just a paragraph or two, I’m just going to let you continue reading.  Enjoy, for real, ENJOY.  

This is my first blog entry. Ever. From reading numerous blogs, and the Huffington Post, I know people click on entries whose authors read like David Sedaris or John Green and have lists, such as the six steps to get a child to stay in bed. (I’m currently on step three, which is to ignore them. It is not going well.) Nonetheless, I am minutes away from my deadline. Cara’s patience with me is weaning. I don’t have time to try to be charming or clever. Instead, you all get me at the end of a long weekend, where my mind has begun composing lists for the morning. (Oh, and I’m trying to get two young children to stay in bed. I am on step four: bribe them with chocolate.)

So here is my story…

Proof of friendship: Doug, Cara, Michael & Holly (2000).
Proof of friendship: Doug, Cara, Michael & Holly (2000).

Wait! I am guest on Cara’s blog, which means some of you- most of you- have no idea who I am. In less than fifty words, this is how I know Cara: We went to college together and even though we were different years we had much in common, such as we were both RA’s, curly haired, loved the Spirit, feminists and number 7’s. Is that enough? Do you feel like you know me? Moving on.

Again, here is my story…

It was a normal day. I am not even sure when or where this conversation took place. But, I was on the phone with my spiritual director, chatting about my life. I think, I only had one child at this time- who stayed in his bed at night- but I honestly cannot recall. My life was chaos. My life is chaos. Seriously, whose life isn’t chaos? I’m pretty sure I was going on and on about how exhausting it was wearing all the hats I did: mother, wife, pastor, friend and so on. Everyone demanded my attention. I was overwhelmed with a sense of helplessness; feeling I was losing myself in caring for others.


When I paused to take a breath my spiritual director, Susan, bluntly stated, “Well, you choice this life.” Now my spiritual director is a compassionate woman. Susan is positive and empathic. She is the type of person who would never need six steps to get her kids to stay in bed. (I’m sure Susan just let them run around all night, wearing fairy tutus and listening to late 90’s Tracy Chapman.) Susan is not frank.

“You choice this life…”

I did.

“You choice this life…”

For whatever reason, Susan’s words caught me off guard. Silenced me. And, strangely, gave me a sense of responsibility. My chaos was not random nor was I a bystander in my life. Life is a mixture of freewill and fate. Since philosophy and I do not agree, even though I’m into theology, let me explain this all in the world of Gwyneth Paltrow. Life is Sliding Doors.   We have an active role in what happens to use and there is a good douse of chance thrown in too.

“You choice this life…”

Now I realize there are aspects to our lives we don’t have a choice in: cancer, abuse, death, addictions and so on. In the line of work I’m in, I often find myself saying, “We don’t know why this happened. You didn’t cause it nor did God. Life just happens.”

This is true.   And… let’s be honest… most of what consumes our daily anxiety and stress are matters we do have a say in, parts of us we choice. So… because this is my blog entry, and we are using my life as an example, here is a list of how I chose my life

Kids: I did not magically click my heals three times and find babies nursing at my breasts. No. Even though both of my kids were unplanned, both came after long deserts of trying to get pregnant. These were- are- wanted children. They are miracles I dreamed about it. I choose to have them. And I continue, even when they don’t go to sleep well, to be active in their lives.

My Job: I constantly have to remind myself I worked very hard to become a pastor. Yes, there was deep sense with in me calling me to this role. Choosing to listen to this voice, nevertheless, still meant four years of graduate school, a summer of chaplaincy, a year of internship and prayerfully jumping through many bureaucratic hops. This vocation was an active decision. It still is. As a mother I daily wrestle with my vocation. Can I honestly manage both roles? Currently, I am blessed to be able to. But, it is a choice.


Marriage: My wedding was July 24, 2004 but I did not get married on that day. Confused. Unlike what Say Yes to the Dress tells us marriage does not happen with the exchanging of rings and signing of the license. Daily- okay not always daily- I have choose to be married, to be in this relationship. My marriage is a conscious decision.

My life is still chaos, as I’m sure yours is too. We do have, nonetheless, a choice in life. We choose 83% of what happens on to us and 100% of how we respond. We have a choice.

(In case you are wondering, step four worked! Thank you chocolate.)

SONY DSCHolly McHale-Larsen is a mother of two young children, Lutheran pastor, wife of an Episcopal priest, runner, crappy chocolate enthusiast, diehard Oakland lover -even though she hails from the Seattle area- and creative with her use of the English language.  So, seriously, what do you have to say to our fabulous friend today?  Thank her for her creative language use now!

the little things: the last day I walked away (lesley miller).

Have you ever met one of those people who just seems to sparkle, who makes you feel like a million bucks just by being you?  Lesley is one of those people.  Even though she’s only been an in-person friend to me once, she is Pure Joy to be around.  So lean into what this mama-writer has to say today …because how we respond to poverty and homelessness is a problem many of us encounter every single day.    


When I think about China, I think about gray weather and that woman in the subway exit near Tiananmen Square with her face flat on the cement. She had a young toddler with her. After I collected myself from almost tripping on them, I briefly considered my options. And then, I looked down on the pair of precious women living in a country with gender preferences, and for a moment I believed a lie learned somewhere along the way:  Ignore them because giving attention only encourages the problem.

So I kept walking.

It wasn’t my first experience with poverty, which is perhaps why the short encounter still hurts my heart all these years later. I should have known better.

I grew up in a beautiful small town in Southern California where the homeless weren’t welcome on neighborhood streets. It was a safe and wonderful place to grow up, but the city’s policies meant I wasn’t exposed to poverty until college. In Santa Barbara—another beautiful small town—the homeless line State Street with signs and guitars and bowls meant for donations. It was during those formative young adult years that I began thinking about how I, a young single female, should respond to people in need. I didn’t want to encourage the “problem” and I couldn’t help everyone, and I didn’t know who’d use my money for drugs. Every time I headed downtown I felt inner turmoil and immeasurable guilt.

Do I smile and say ‘God Bless You’ but not stop? Do I throw a quarter to everyone I pass? Do I pick one person and buy them a hamburger? Do I avoid eye contact? Do I hand over a dollar bill with instructions to use it wisely?  

Depending on the day (and whether my wallet was full) I used one of these replies, but never did I come to a conclusion as to the best one.  Encountering poverty made me uncomfortable no matter how I responded, so I threw a buck here and a dime there and tried not to think about it too much.

I can’t exactly remember what challenged me to specifically think about women and poverty differently—whether it was a book or a blog post or a documentary—but a few years after returning from China these words entered my life: “There is no excuse for ignoring women and children with an evident need for food or shelter.”

While there’s a lot about poverty I don’t understand, those words rang truer to me than anything else I’d ever been told. They also explained why I’d never been able to  forgive myself for not stopping to help the mom and daughter in the Beijing subway station.

When I think back to that muggy May day in China, and a mama trying so desperately to provide for her child, I no longer experience waves of regret. Instead, I remember that day as the last time I kept walking.

While I still can’t financially help every person I come across who needs help, my eyes are now open wide to the women and children on our streets because they are especially vulnerable. I pray for the right words to say and I never turn my eyes the other direction.  We have water and snacks in our car to offer, and I stop and ask how I can help get them shelter for the night. I’m learning how to safely ask if they’re being trafficked or living in danger, and who to call if I know I’m not prepared to help. I’m not usually their solution, but I try to be a bridge to get them to a safer place.

Poverty and homelessness and women on the street still make me very, very uncomfortable. And I’ve realized that’s exactly how I should feel.

email.lesley011Lesley Miller is a wife, mama and writer living in Santa Barbara, California. She loves running, the beach, avocados, Pilates and chocolate cake. When she’s not chasing children, she’s blogging or writing for various places around the web. You can also connect with her you, Lesley, for your thought-provoking, moment-capturing words.  Leave Lesley some LOVE in the comment section today!

the little things: becoming big (sharita knobloch).

I’m just starting to get to know Sharita through these-here portals of the internet, but friends, I’ve got to tell you: I like what I see.  I like that she’s a powerhouse, that she encourages and pushes, in all the right ways, that she tells stories and gives examples of which every single one of us can relate.  So read, enjoy, and show our friend some love!  


We’ve all heard it.

There are quotes said, books written, movies scripted around it.

The butterfly effect—that strange yet powerful phenomenon that says the beating wings of a single butterfly can have a drastic impact on weather systems and other events around the world.

The same concept can be applied to a pebble tossed in the water. Concentric ripples grow outwardly, getting bigger and bigger until their effects fade away into distant waters.

Whatever analogy you want to use, I wholeheartedly believe in this truth:

Sometimes the smallest aspects of life become big in the blink of an eye.  

Just think about it:

Saying a shy “yes” to that blue-eyed soldier when he asks you to dance might seem small… but when you end up marrying him, that little thing becomes big.

Giving the tired grocery store cashier a genuine smile and thanking them for their hard work might seem small… but when it reminds them there IS joy in the world and people do care, that little thing becomes big.

Taking a single deep breath before you snap at your kid for sneaking yet another cookie might seem small… but later, when the evening wasn’t full of tears and harsh words, you will be grateful for how that little thing becomes big.

Choosing to forgive someone for any kind of offense might seem small… but when you feel that freedom in your heart and the potential gratitude from the other person, that little thing becomes big.

Buying a stranger’s coffee or meal “just because” might seem small… but when they pay it forward and start a chain of kindness, that little thing becomes big.

Praying with your neighbor when they go through a hard season might seem small… but when their faith grows stronger and they share it with their family, that little thing becomes big.

Carving out a few precious moments in your schedule to “recharge” you heart-batteries might seem small… but when you become a better mama, wife, friend, daughter, everything, that little thing becomes big.

Putting down the phone or technological device to watch your little one giggle in the floor with the dog might seem small… but when you watch your not-so-little one walk across that stage during graduation years later, that little thing becomes big.

Deciding that you will get the salad instead of the fries and take a quick walk before crashing on the couch might seem small… but a few months later when you are healthier than ever before, that little thing becomes big.

Standing up for what you believe in when someone who lacks integrity says, “Follow me” might seem small… but when their world comes crashing down due to their poor decisions, that little thing becomes big.

Friends, there are many, many seemingly small scenarios, opportunities and choice presented to us daily that, in the end, might become pretty big.

It is kind of intimidating yet exciting to consider how our “little” actions might be a lot bigger than anticipated, yes?

In what areas of your life do you notice the little things becoming big things? How can we be more aware of the potentially big impact our decisions and daily choices can have on this world? I would love to hear your feedback. Chime in by leaving a comment below.

I sincerely pray this short little post helps you to think… And think big.

Because who knows how big our little life choices can truly become? 

New Cropped headshot SharitaSharita Knobloch describes herself as a Jesus-loving, enthusiastically creative minister, writer, and Blackaby Spiritual Leadership Coach.  She loves encouraging others to find Jesus in the everyday and live in His light through blogging and coaching at 7 Days Time Ministry. She adores her family, specifically her Beloved army infantry husband Brandon, their sweet daughter Charis and goofy little dog, Justus. Sharita enjoys exploring her current “home” state of Washington, breaking in new journals with inky pens, and the occasional square of dark chocolate in the bathtub. You can connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.  Otherwise, what can you say to encourage our friend today?  

the little things: you can’t cry now (jeff shankle).

Y’all, Tuesdays are getting REAL in these here parts, and I, for one, love it.  Join with me in cheering on today’s writer, Jeff, who, after reading Cathy’s post last week, knew he, too, had to be honest with this words. I had the distinctly hilarious opportunity to work alongside this guy for a couple of years, and I can tell you, he’s got some good stuff for us to read.   


My family had dropped me off at college for the start of the second semester of freshman year earlier in the day.  So naturally, as most teenage college students I took to pillaging the town in some irresponsible way.  Parties were happening and I hadn’t a care in the world since classes didn’t start for another few days.  College life, single, and a little hard-earned cash in the pocket.

I had finally gotten back to my dorm room and was starting to settle down and go to bed when the phone rang.  My brother was on the other line

“I can’t beat around the bush.  Dad died tonight.”

I could tell by the seriousness in his voice that this wasn’t a sick joke.  He was killed while walking to a late dinner meeting.  I started crying and couldn’t speak a word.  Then he said something that has probably changed my life more than anything else has…

“Listen.  You can’t cry right now.  You have to help our family through this.  We don’t know what we’re doing.”

Strangely I immediately stopped crying.  It’s crazy to think that a 19-year-old who loses his father suddenly would only shed a couple tears.  But somehow that’s what happened.  Part of that is because you have to know my brother:

Over the past 20+ years he’s been in the US Army and has been to all the places you read about in the news.  He is a Sergeant – not the kind who yells at Privates, but one who teaches Officers – currently, and was an Airborne Ranger at the time of the phone call.  While he likes to have fun with people just as much as we all do, you always knew when he was being serious.  And when he was being serious every single word was serious and intentional.

To understand it more you’d have to know my father:

He wasn’t just the patriarch of our family; he was the patriarch to lots of people.  Two years before his death he’d been featured on the front page of the Richmond newspaper for the second time.  He was very active in civic life, ran a food-service that served 1200 a day, and still made plenty of time for his family.  He was beyond an over-achiever having been blind since the age of 16, and having little to nothing when he first moved to the “big city” of Richmond, his only home the YMCA.

Jeff's family: he's the wee little stripey in the middle.
Jeff’s family: he’s the wee little stripey in the middle.

I, on the other hand, was just 19 years old and the youngest of three.  I was still trying to figure out what the heck I was doing with my life.  I am the first of my brothers and sisters to go to college even though I had never been much of a good student.  If there were ever an example of someone cruising through life without a clue as to what was coming next it was me.

Oh sure, I learned lots of things and had gained lots of experiences.  I’d always been active.  However, if you’d asked me why I ran for class office, traveled to Boston to serve the poor, or competed in track and field to the point of throwing up, I couldn’t give you much of an answer.  All those things (and more) just seemed like the thing to do at the moment.

But with the weight of those words, “You have to help our family through this,” everything started to change.  It was as if I became responsible overnight.  Education became a serious endeavor.  Fitness meant more than simply winning medals.  The purpose of wisdom now had nothing to do with impressing people.  Those entire things fell under this new umbrella of using my developing abilities to bring people along.

Over the years that’s meant helping my family through various valleys in our lives.  It’s also meant fighting against discrimination and injustices.  It’s meant having fun, joking, and working with people from every walk of life.  It’s meant being innovative in problem-solving.  All those things my father did seemingly effortlessly, so effortlessly this teenager didn’t notice much until they fell onto his plate as an adult.

If what I’ve been doing over the past 15 years hasn’t added up to that, then I’ve missed the mark.  Sometimes I start to tear up again and think so.  Then I hear that abrupt phone call again…

“Listen.  You can’t cry right now.”  And I keep fighting on.

Jeff is married to his better half, Jenn, who is expecting twins later this year.  He dabbles in work at a church, work outside the church, and school here and there.  He runs a ton, cooks good food, and is a storyteller at heart.  You can find him on Twitter at @jbshankle, or check out his blog today!  Encourage Jeff for his bravery with words today!  How did his words CHANGE you? 

the little things: the voicemail that saved my life (cathy meredith).

There’s not many times in your life when complete strangers become sought-after friends.  After realizing that a) we were related, and that b) our husbands shared the same name (and good-looking HBH genes), we said WE GOTTA DO THIS! and relished in the time they spent in San Francisco this past winter.  So I’m gonna warn you: Cathy’s got a beautiful story to tell, and you may just have tear-filled eye ducts at the end of today’s journey.  

Evan, Cathy and James.

A voicemail. It was only one minute and eight seconds long…but it saved my life. It changed our lives. Forever.

It was just after 5 PM. I nervously collected my things that Thursday evening from my 1st grade classroom on Chicago’s south side. I had been thinking about this moment all day. I could not focus. I had survived another day with my rowdy group of 28 six year olds, as well as the professional development we had every Thursday after school. Finally, for better or worse, we would know. That voicemail had been sitting there waiting to be listened to for hours. I had promised my husband James that we would listen to it together. We were going to find out whether or not we were pregnant.

The road to this point had not been an easy one. It had stretched an interminable nine years. Nine years of trying to have a baby is a VERY LONG time. It wore on me…on us…on our relationship. It was this specter that hung over us. This other person that we wanted to be there that wasn’t, and whose absence we mourned every day…even though we had never met them. People asked us when we were first married, “When are you guys going to have a baby?” or “You just need to relax! It will happen when it’s supposed to happen.” Women would tell me what books to read, what time of the month to have sex, how I should prop my butt up with pillows afterwards. I became obsessed. I read every fertility book out there. Took all the advice I was given. Tried to not “think” about it. But how could I NOT think about it? It seemed that everyone I knew was getting pregnant. Why couldn’t we get pregnant? What was wrong? We were good people and would make great parents.

A few years stretched into many. Friends went on to have not just one baby, but many babies. Complete families…two and three kids or more. People stopped asking us, “When are you going to have kids?” It had been so many years, people either knew there was something wrong, or thought we didn’t want them. And still it was eating away at us. We saw many doctors…and they all gave the same diagnosis, “unexplained infertility”.

We stopped thinking about getting pregnant for several years. Lived in New York City, travelled, enjoyed just being married. Reconnected. Relaxed. Lived life. Tried acupuncture and herbal remedies in hopes of healing my body naturally. None of it led to a pregnancy. We started to seriously consider adoption.

In the spring of 2012, we thought we were pregnant…and then found out we weren’t. I called my mother. She said, “I am so sorry. I wish there was something I could do.” I cried…and cried. A deep cry down from the depths of my soul…a soul that was broken. I could not stop. I sat there in my Toyota Corolla, pulled over on the side of the road less than a mile from home, and cried with my mother on the other end of the line. I asked her, “Why is God doing this to me? Why? I don’t understand.” “I don’t know,” she said. “I really don’t know.”

After I hung up the phone, I sat there in my car and said a prayer out loud. I asked God to please, just give me ONE baby. Just one. I used to have dreams of a bigger family. I did not want my child to be an “only child” like I was. But I was in the bargaining stage. “Please God, just give me one baby. Just one. I will do whatever you want.”

On this Thursday evening, in our car, outside of my school…we would find out if God had heard and answered my desperate prayer that day. We nervously pressed play. “Hi Cathy, its Tina from Dr. Sherbahn’s office. I’m calling to let you know you had a positive HCG result today…so congratulations….”. She went on to say other things about follow up and coming in for an ultrasound…but it was all a blur. I was pregnant. I could not believe it. James looked at me with astonished joy…”We are pregnant, baby!” I felt like I was in a dream. I needed to be pinched. Was this really happening?

Since our son Evan was born on May 23, 2013, my life has been full of those “pinch me” moments. I take NOTHING for granted. Every little moment is a tear-inducing miracle. If almost a decade of infertility gave me anything, it was the gift of realizing that no moment is small. I cherish them all…every milestone, every cry, every laugh, every snuggle. He is our miracle.

P1030068Cathy Meredith is a full-time stay at home mom with her 11-month-old son, Evan.  Currently, Cathy and Evan are accompanying hubby/daddy James Vincent Meredith on his national tour of the musical, The Book of Mormon.  Before becoming a stay at home mom, Cathy worked as an elementary school teacher in the Chicago Public Schools for four years.  Prior to her career as a teacher, she worked for ten years in the not-for-profit world as a Program Director for an arts-education organization.  She loves travel, photography, being an amateur “foodie”, and writing (when she has time!).  You can find her on Facebook here.  So, what can you say to encourage our friend today?  Leave her love!

the little things: some 4000 year old words (mimi davis)

Guest post Tuesday, guest post Tuesday!  Today you have the opportunity to hear from a new friend of mine, Mimi Davis.  Mimi and I were introduced a number of months back when we hosted a giveaway together, and it’s obvious and evident that she’s got a heart of gold.  So listen and learn as she passes on some of her parenting wisdom to the rest of us.  

I floundered as a parent when my children started approaching elementary age. I did fine in the basic areas of love, comfort, feeding, clothing, but the older my children became, the less confident I felt of providing proper direction and guidance for them. I felt ill-equipped to navigate them through the preteen and teen years still ahead. The world, I felt, had become much more complicated and harsh than the reality that I had grown up in.

Mimi's kids, Austin & Catie.
Mimi’s kids, Austin & Catie.

Then one day, I stumbled upon some words in Deuteronomy 6:6-7. I had read them many times before and had studied their significance but on that particular day, the words seemed to be highlighted just for me, like a beacon lighting my way.

“These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.  Impress them on your children.  Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”  

It was like something resonated deep within my maternal soul. Right before me was the answer for which I had been searching. Those verses contained a simple wisdom that would act as my guide for parenting. These children were mine, I reasoned, and it was my overwhelming privilege and responsibility to teach them in this short season of time the values that I prayed would last them a lifetime. Every moment mattered and still matters.

I took hold of those words that day and applied that sage advice to all areas of my parental life. What those verses suggested to me was that no moment was insignificant and to raise good humans, I needed to be intentional in my parenting to guide them onto the right paths. I realized that meant I couldn’t slack off because I was never off instruction duty as a parent. For me, I realized too that I needed to understand my faith and the world around me better so that I could be better prepared to help them.

No topic was off limits for discussion and quite often, our discussions were while they helped me with everyday mundane tasks like folding clothes. I never waited for the “right” moment to have a conversation because I believed as these verses state that any and every moment was the right opportunity to talk. We talked about everything from sex to politics to social issues while I also wove in our faith practices and beliefs into the discussion. I was careful to match the discussion with their maturity level. Sometimes inwardly, I cringed talking about uncomfortable topics but outwardly, I always tried to maintain a calm exterior and discuss them like I would their English homework. At times, I succeeded and others, I failed. My hope was that when a real crisis or difficulty came into their lives that my son and daughter would first turn to my husband and me.

These words taught me about intentional, responsible parenting, that every moment was “the moment.” For me, the secret to raising good kids was found in that 4000+ year old principle that had withstood the test of time.

So, love them, parent them, and don’t be a sissy about it.

Mimi & her family today - and let's be honest: does the woman look like she could have grown children?  Wowzas!
Mimi & her darling family today.

banff-20130927-00436Wife and mom to 2 grown children, I spend my days reading, writing and definitely not doing arithmetic.  I blog at State of Hospitality about life, faith, family, books, DIY or whatever else strikes my fancy, and teach bible study locally and host studies online at Sweeter Than Honey Ministry.  Here’s what I love about Mimi: first of all, she does not look like she could have grown children, IN THE LEAST.  Pretty please, little baby Jesus, give me genes like Mimi!  But really, mostly, I love that she humbly passes on wisdom-filled goodness to the rest of us.  What did you learn from our friend today?  Show her some love!

the little things: fresh eyes (sarah kerner).

Can I just say that I love Tuesdays?  I love how five little words – “nothing, in fact, is small…” – morphs itself into thousands of other stories.  And I, for one, am honored that I get to host a few of these words!  Sarah is a woman I’m glad to call friend, even though we still haven’t technically met (yet!).  You’ll find yourself catching your breath in anticipation while reading the story – enjoy!  


I had just arrived in Chicago with one of my best friends, and we were running a half-marathon the next morning.  This was a big deal for us; it was her first half-marathon, and my first since having a baby.  We’d been training for months for this race.  We’d slowly built up our mileage, practiced different fueling strategies, debated carrying water versus water stops, and carefully pondered the placement of the porta-potties along the route.  We’d booked airplane tickets and hotel rooms.  Later that day, we would go to a crowded convention hall on Navy Pier to pick up our race numbers and timing chips.  From my pocket, I unfolded and re-read the pre-race email that detailed our transportation options for getting to the starting line, several miles south of our hotel.

As out-of-towners with no rental car, we knew we would be riding the subway to the start of the race.  The directions seemed easy enough — catch a Metra train and head south.  We already knew the train tracks ran alongside the road across the street from our hotel, so we confirmed with the front desk clerk that the station we needed was just one and half blocks away: “it’s right on Michigan Avenue, you can’t miss it.”  Perfect.  We set several alarms to go off between 5:15 and 5:30 a.m. so we would have plenty of time to get to the starting line for the 7:00 a.m. race.

The morning of the race, we quickly donned our running clothes, and headed out the front door of the hotel.  It was so early that it was still dark outside.  We crossed the street and walked in the direction of the station.  We soon arrived.  Well, sort of.  We could see it very clearly — the platform, the tracks, the trains… but how were we supposed to get down there?  From the sidewalk where we were standing, we were about 15 feet above the platform.  I spotted a gate that appeared to be slightly overgrown with vines, but it was worth a try, right?  Locked.  I began to approach a man folding up some blankets on the other side of the wide sidewalk, oblivious to the fact that I was essentially walking into his bedroom — my friend wisely steered me away.  I began to panic.  There were only a few trains running that early in the morning, and I started to worry that we wouldn’t make it to the start of the race that we’d been working towards for so long.  I ran back and forth across the sidewalk, feeling like a frenzied contestant in The Amazing Race.  I looked over the railing again, and decided the only way left to get there was to scale the wall down to the platform.  I started to climb onto the fence at the edge of the wall.  “This is crazy,” my friend reasoned, “there has to be a way to get in there.  It can’t be that hard!  What are we missing?”

I took a deep breath, whispered to myself, “Help me out here, God,” and scanned the wide sidewalks with fresh eyes.  There it was, plain as day.  The entrance to the train station.  On the other side of the street.  With all the planning, preparation and coordination that led us to this day, we had nearly missed the race by crossing the street too soon.

I don’t often find myself on the deserted streets of a big city before 6am, searching in vain for something that should be easy to find.  But more often than I’d like to admit, I find myself feeling that same adrenaline-fueled powerlessness, because despite my careful planning, life is not going according to plan.  The scenarios vary — my kids are driving me crazy, a misunderstanding with my husband, feeling clueless at work — but the common element in all of them is feeling like I’m hopelessly mired in a bad situation.

My natural response is to ramp up my own efforts to solve the problem, but I am slowly learning that there is a simpler path to becoming the more patient, loving, and light-hearted person that I want to be — the person that I think God wants me to be.  All I can do is the same small thing that I did on that dark morning in Chicago:  Breathe.  Ask for help from God.  Listen to a trusted friend.   And keep an open mind — my path through life may look a lot different than what I’m expecting.

(And you’ll be glad to know that we did make it to the starting line on time!)

BSD+photoSarah is an unintentional pastor’s wife, mama, friend, sister, runner, newbie weightlifter, knitter, reader, United Methodist, terrible but enthusiastic dancer, and healthy/hippie cook and baker who blogs about her daily adventures (and love of the movie Grease) at Beauty School Dropout.  What can you say to encourage Sarah today? Thank you for sharing, friend!

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!


“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.


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 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.

the little things: wild, unpredictable, glorious (lizzy bailey).

As per the usual, I love today’s post, and I love today’s writer.  Her words are the epitome of Lizzy herself: straight, simple, and sprinkled with nuggets of holy movement.  Enjoy this snapshot of one small and powerful moment atop one large and power-filled mountain.  


I close my eyes, and I see it.

It was a perfect summer day in the British Columbia mountains. I had just graduated high school and was on a backpacking adventure with my best friends. Sunshine, a slight breeze, and layers of mountains as far as I could see. We were on day four of six on our adventure, and having survived the trees, rivers, snow, and constant up, up, up, we made it. We were living on the mountaintop.

We had a few hours of solitude time, so I gathered my two foam sleeping pads, journal and lunch, and headed for a rock outcropping at the edge of the mountain. My friends were spread out far along the ridge, so I too found the perfect spot. Basking in the sun, I read and wrote, listened and ate.

It was pure bliss.

Some people, like Lizzy, climb these mountains.  Some people, like me, do not.
Some people, like Lizzy, climb these mountains. Some people, like me, do not.

A couple of hours in, I remember standing up to stretch, when all of a sudden a gust of wind roared up, stealing one of my foam mats. It was the good, thick, comfortable one.

No!  Shall I chase after it?  Eh, not a wise move.  

I watch it tumble and flip over the jagged rocks below. There was nothing I could do. So I sit instead. I watch the departure of foam mat #1. It felt like forever. I watch it fly through the air and fall and rise with the wind, like it had been given wings and was finally free to fly. Goodbye, dear friend, companion, layer of comfort all these nights. There you go, at the mercy of the Almighty.

Wind is a sneaky little bugger. How can it be so refreshing yet so powerful and violent at the same time? I’m not sure why I remember the foam mat #1 incident so vividly, or why the clarity of the moment is with me thirteen years later. I think, maybe, it’s because the power of God was on display right in front of my face – it was so close I could feel it, smell it, hear it. The author and designer of creation was showing off for me. I had encountered a God who was wild and unpredictable and glorious. Sitting on that rock, I felt small and insignificant, yet mightily protected and deeply known.

So today, I close my eyes, and I remember.

I remember that life is best not in the striving for my own plans or finding the worth in my efforts, but rather with a front row seat to witness the mastery of the Maker. I remember that the One who controls the winds controls and provides for my future. And that in the small, routine moments, God comes up big.

IMG_3202Lizzy is a farmer, a substitute teacher, a Young Life leader and a friend who hails from Snohomish, Washington.  She loves running, her golden retriever, Bruce, and good coffee, especially with good friends.  And men, SHE’S SINGLE and ready to mingle, so pick a number today!  Otherwise, friends, what can you say to thank and encourage Lizzy today?