neon pants, lectio divina & a funeral, all in the same breath.

Sometimes I forget how much I love the light.

For instance, take the current living room situation: I sit atop a neon green yoga ball typing. Neon orange work out pants cover my bum and neon pink Asics still adorn my feet from an hour at the gym this morning. You could say I have a problem with neon, in which I would respond, that yes, that’s probably true – but I am so glad All These Colors have resurrected themselves from the late 80’s and decided to pay me a visit. 

But the truth is this: I dress myself in light because it speaks to my insides. It somehow makes me feel a little happier and a little lighter and little more upbeat than a dreary all-black get-up.

But it’s easy for me to forget that we don’t live in a Rainbow Brite world.

Darkness and sadness and hard things do exist, mingling and moving, swerving and crashing into the light.

— 

On Saturday morning, I sat with a few friends of the heart. We try and gather on a monthly basis to eat pastries and drink hot beverages and catch up on one another’s lives. Then, when it’s time – when the inevitable pause emerges in conversation and each of us seems to know that it’s time to cease chatter and close our eyes – we enter into lectio divina.

We close our eyes and we pause.

We breathe in and out stillness, quietness, peace.

We seek to stop the ceaseless chatter that tends to steam roll its way from mind to heart to fingertips and toes and belly buttons, overwhelming and consuming The Present and What Could Be. 

We listen and we sit still. We whisper words of hope heavenward and we grab an arm in comfort.

And then, inevitably, as always happens, somehow the Enneagram makes its way into one conversation or another. Micha is a Four, and she always feels the feels, we say. She has a thing for darkness, and she embraces it with every part of her being. Me, I’m a Seven, even though I don’t always want to be. At my best, I’m fun-loving and light-filled, an optimist to the core and an utter delight to be around.

Obviously.

But I tend to run from darkness, always.

When Life isn’t pretty, when darkness or sadness or death enters my world, my natural tendency is to flee. Beauty, I say, over and over again, is found in the most unlikely of places – but if I’m honest, I’d just like for it to exist in the happy places.

We are resurrection people, after all. So why dwell in darkness? 

But Beauty, I’m learning, does exist in the most unlikely of places, including (and maybe even more than) those places that are light-filled. Beauty needs darkness to make itself known, to shine that much brighter, to help us realize that we aren’t resurrection people without being cross people first.

That morning, as I sat with these intimates, I told them about a memorial service I’d attended the afternoon before: Death wasn’t supposed to happen, at least not to her, not to a twenty-two year old girl. Her graduating class from high school wasn’t supposed to find their first reunion at funeral home in Belmont, and her family wasn’t supposed to expect death from a routine appendectomy.

As I sat in the very last row on Friday, I shook my head in disbelief – at the absurdity of her death, the shock of whys my only response. 

I struggled to agree with the pastor’s premise that God needed her more than we did here on earth, that this day was a celebration, a celebration indeed! Can I get an amen?

No one responded to his charismatic call. No one gave him his asked-for amen.

I struggled to see God – to see Beauty and Light and Peace – in the midst of Cristin’s memorial service.

But on Saturday morning I was reminded of Christ’s presence – that even if there’s not an answer to our whys, Christ is still there, in darkness just as much as in light.

It’s a with.

Christ with us: Even if it’s not the answer I want, it’s the answer I have. 

So, sweet Cristin, rest with him.

RIP Cristin Padilla, second from left.
RIP Cristin Padilla, second from left.

Life: it sure is hard sometimes, isn’t it? How are you at embracing the dark? Would you rather make a celebration of light, always? In this with you. 

rituals: paying attention to the sinking sun (micha boyett).

I know I always say “treat of treats!” when it comes to hearing from different voices in the #rituals series.  But I say it again today, because you not only get Guest Post Tuesday, but you also get Guest Post Friday – AND you get to hear from one of my favorite writers, dearest friends, and most sublime crafter of words, Micha Boyett.  Enjoy a look into her family’s nightly ritual.  

Screen Shot 2015-04-02 at 7.36.03 PM
The view from Micha’s back deck (stolen from her Instagram page).

It was January when we moved into our house over a year ago. We’d lived in San Francisco for close to four years already, but we’d mostly avoided the Outer Sunset District, a neighborhood known for soul-less square houses and tiny front yards paved over into driveways.

San Francisco is a city that was built around the bay, not the ocean. Though its roughly seven by seven miles of land are surrounded by water (the city’s on a peninsula), any iconic pictures of our fair city are pictures of the land beside the bay. The part of town by the ocean is less photogenic, less praiseworthy, plain.

We knew we were choosing our neighborhood based more on practicality and affordability than on beauty. We’d made peace with that reality. Then we happened upon our rental house, built at the perfect angle of the hill, its living room windows overlooking the ocean from a mile away.

Day after day we watch all that water moving straight into the edge of the world, massive container ships leaving the SF Bay for the edges of China. I’m still amazed, like I discovered a secret gem in San Francisco, quietly hiding among the square box houses and paved over yards: Who knew we would find the ocean?

But what we didn’t expect, even after discovering the beauty of our lucky find, was how evenings in this house would transform our family time. The day we moved here it was warm, in the high sixties, and the sky was clear, untouched by the fog that our part of town is known for. We ate pizza on the back patio with the boys and sat down on the concrete just in time to watch the sun fall over the Pacific.  Even our then two-year-old and five-year old quieted themselves as we stared at the path of the sunset. Falling, falling, falling, sink, into the water.

All humans are born with the innate knowledge that we need the sun, and that its path through the sky is our compass, our time-teller, our light-giver. It’s in our marrow to honor that gift from God.

So we watch it. Every day. Sometimes, if it’s warm, we stop and stand outside. Sometimes, we pause in the middle of dinner to stare. Sometimes just-out-of-the-bath my little boys are running naked and I’m shouting for them to put on pajamas, while the colors line the sky outside the windows. But always, we say it:

The sun is setting!

It’s sunset time!

Boys, look at the sunset tonight!

Sometimes friends join us on the patio to watch. Sometimes we stare from our windows, cozy, away from the chill of the wind. Sometimes the fog is too thick to make out much behind the gray sky. On the clear days, my husband is out on the patio snapping a picture for his daily collection of sunset photos.

But always we acknowledge the sun setting.

“Bye sun,” my now four-year-old says, mostly to himself, staring out the window.

There are no special prayers we pray in those moments, no liturgies of song or poetry. Just a unique sort of reverence, a realization that the sun has been sinking into the west for as long as the earth has spun, that long before our family set foot on this ground, people have stood in this spot staring at the same sun, the same sea.

Our ritual isn’t much. It’s simply a moment of acknowledging that God is up to something good, that God continues to whirl this world in its place around a star that warms us and gives us light, and each day wakes us up to the possibility that light brings life and breath and hope.

So we’ll keep watching, even in those moments when none of us have words for the miracle, the strips of orange and yellow and pink dripping through the sky into the dark blue of a still unknown sea.

Because miracles aren’t necessarily meant to be understood. Sometimes they’re just meant to be noticed. 

mbheadshotMicha (pronounced “MY-cah”) Boyett is a writer, blogger, and sometimes poet.  A former youth minister, she’s passionate about monasticism and ancient Christian spiritual practices and how they inform the contemporary life of faith. She is the author of Found: A Story Questions, Grace, and Everyday Prayer.Boyett and her husband live in San Francisco with their two boys. Follow her on Twitter or Facebook, and find her blog at michaboyett.com

 

found, part II (micha, micha!)

Buy it.  Read it.  Savor the change.
Buy it. Read it. Savor the change Micha’s words bring.

Sometimes a book changes you, in all the best possible ways.  Bread and Wine did this for me last year, and Micha’s book does it for me now.  The undisclosed truth is this: I’m totally and completely 100% biased towards this author.  I mean, she’s my real-life friend whom I beg to hang out with on a regular basis.  But – but, but, but – she’s also the real deal.  She’s this displaced, mid-19th century Romantic poet of sorts, who thinks and chews and feels each and every beauty-filled word that lands on the page.  Micha is authentic and she’s raw and she’s not afraid to step into the unknown foggy gray of the journey.  Friends, I’d say she’s worth celebrating.  So, how then did this book change me?

It’s prompted me to…

1.  Let me be okay with my sometimes-believer status: “I am a sometimes-believer, in love with Jesus.  I am a mystic who can’t grip tight enough to the mystical … Mostly, I long to know a quietness in my soul, true contentment, despite my spiritual unimpressiveness.  I need to believe that my simple life really is a gift and really can be holy.”  

2.  See a spiritual director again.   

3.  Make the HBH (Hot Black Husband) call me “Darling.”  Yes, please!

4.  Seek after alliteration, like this: “…the thick holiness of hope.”

5.  Notice God in the smallest and most ordinary of everyday ways.

6.  Hit up a monastery (again).

7.  Admit doubt.  Sit in the gray.  Not have or know or pretend to possess all the answers.

8.  Get to know the saints who have gone before me: “…Jean-Pierre de Caussade, an eighteenth-century French Jesuit, wrote that Christ comes to us in a fresh way every moment, every day.  We don’t have to separate the secular from the sacred.  Christ is alive right now, in all of it.”

9.  Ask questions.

10.  Pull a Micha, and, well, actually write that book I tinker with here and there.

11.  Acknowledge weakness and extend mercy.

12.  Lean in to the concept of mystery.

13.  Put on my Big Girl Panties: “I’ve been wondering what gives us courage, what makes a desire grow fat enough with hope that it miraculously weighs heavier, larger than our fears.”  

14.  Remember that less is more.  Pray those one-word prayers, like this: Okay.  

15.  Read a bit of poetry.  [The English Teacher Formerly Known As Myself typically shuns it …and why?]

16.  Be okay with this: “I have spent my life performing for people, for God, for myself.  I have begged for a grander story than the small, beautiful life I’ve been given.”

17.  Go and visit Austin.  And Philadelphia.  And Syracuse …because Micha makes them sound so dreamy!

18.  See the holy.  Cultivate grace.

(All bolded passages are Micha’s – page numbers not included, as words are quoted from an ARC).

What book has changed you recently?  To win a copy of Micha’s new book, Found, simply leave a comment on yesterday’s post.  Winner will be announced Sunday evening.  

found, part I (micha, micha!)

Friends, it’s Micha Week here on be, mama. be, as my good friend, Micha Boyett, just released her FIRST BOOK yesterday.  We are so, so excited for her.  So, visit the blog today and tomorrow, leave a comment of love, pure love on today’s post, and win yourself a copy of Found.  I’ll be giving away two copies. Contest ends Sunday at 6 pm PST.  

After a highly technical drawing of eeny-miney-moe, the winner is SARAH KERNER!!  Sarah, email me your address, and I’ll get it shipped out this week! 

And although it’s not terribly fun, per say, in case you’d rather read the dialogue, here it is below. Ignore and forgive all typos, thankyouverymuch.  

C: Hello! This is Cara Meredith, and I’ve got beside me not only Pioneer Lady, in the blue back behind us. Yes

M: …hi there.

C: But I also have world-renowned author. Her book comes out tomorrow she is a friend of mine, she’s coming to my birthday party tonight. Micha, tell us about your book in 30 seconds or less.

M: Yes …hi everybody, um, yeah I have a book coming out, tomorrow…. You wanted to sing, didn’t you?

C: Yes, I wanted to sing Annie, but I’m going to refrain.

M: Okay, it’s called FOUND: A Story of Questions, Grace and Everyday Prayer. Look for the foggy trees.

C: Oo-oh!

M: Yeah, it’s about a book, a journey of losing prayer and working really hard to find it again.

C: Hmmm.

M: Discovering along the way that it’s not and has never been about me finding prayer, but it’s about God finding me.

C: Mmm! I love that – just repeat your last sentence again.

M: It’s …do you remember?

C: It is not about me finding God or finding prayer, but it’s about God finding me. And I think that is the heart of Christianity.

M: Mmm hmmm.

C: Mmmm – I love that, so book comes out in less than 24 hours. This has been a process over the past 5, 6 years, of writing the book, of editing, of sifting through, and all of the sudden, wham bam, thank you ma’am, it’s here, tomorrow. Tell me every emotion that you’re feeling.

M: Well, I was, I was just cleaning the kitchen with Cara. Well, Cara was sitting, and I was feeling anxious about the mess.

C: I was watching, I was not doing a thing.

M: And I found the napkin that I cried all over last night – it was a pretty cloth one. But it was …I’m just feeling, I’m anxious, I’m excited, I’m worried. And I’m, I’m kind of scared in every direction. What if it crashes and burns? What if it does really great, and then somebody expects me to -write another book and I don’t know what to write? You know, like all of those things, and it’s wonderful. And I’m just kind of trying to figure out how to feel all of that at once. And, and, I’ve known other people who have published books in the past couple years, and have heard from each of them, all my life I’ve worked for this and it’s been my dream to publish a book. And then, what do you, here it is! Is my life supposed to be changed now …now that my dreams have been met? And you know, I think that’s how it is with every dream.   You dream of getting married, and then you’re married, and you’re like, oh, I’m still the person who’s not perfect, and my life is not perfect. Or you dream of having a kid, and you’re not the ideal mother you thought you’d be. So I think it’s the same kind of thing, it’s a gift, and I’m learning to hold it lightly and have gratitude.

C: Mmm hmm. You …uh, we were just talking about this and we were just talking about this, but you are a four on the Enneagram, and you right now are feeling the feels.

M: I’m feeling all feels everywhere.

C: Here there and everywhere. Wow. You don’t have to answer this question, but how do you sit in the middle, uh, without getting too much into the what if’s, no …this is who I am, this is the present gift.

M: You know, I talk in the book about my spiritual director, Debby;

C: That’s one of my questions!

M: She actually doesn’t live in San Francisco anymore, but we still have a relationship. I’d emailed her a couple months ago. Debby, I think I might die I might not …what if I can’t handle the criticisms, what if I can’t handle the praise. What if I am crushed either way, and my ego explodes, and she gave me this prayer practice that I’ve been trying to sit with, and it’s just this imaginative prayer at of looking at who beloved Micha is, and what really meets the needs in my life, and what does it mean that I’m completely loved by God, and that I can find my fulfillment in that. And that I can go over to insecure Micha, and what is trying to use to fill her heart, what is she looking to for fulfillment, and going over to vain Micha, and letting myself look at her too. And then, Debby explained this, let beloved Micha hold the hand of insecure Micha, and vain Micha, and go to the cross. And let them all sit before the cross. And I mean, that’s so powerful and beautiful, and it’s given me a language for looking at this day. When I wake up tomorrow morning, and my book is released, will beloved Micha be the leader, will the beloved Micha be leading the rest of me – because the other Michas are going to be there, but the process of healing is that daily moment by moment, am I gonna let the Micha who’s loved by Jesus be the one in charge around here.

C: Uh, spiritual directors have a special spot in heaven. I am in the midst of that. You answered my, uh, question I had written down. Let’s turn to writing a little bit more. You are a poet by nature; that, from what I understand, is a lot of what you originally went into getting your Masters for. So, I have read the book um, but how do you find your poetry in the midst of writing? How do you still fulfill that part of you even if this is not a book of poetry? Do you think someday you’re going to bust out with a poetry book, with the Micha Boyett book of poems?

M: I would love to. And I kind of had …I’ve been surprised in the past few years how I’ve gone over to prose. I don’t see myself as a fiction writer, I don’t feel like I have a brain for that. But I do want to pursue poetry more, and I have been thinking, once the book stuff calms down, I just want to read poems and write poems for a while.

C: Can you say poems one more time?

M: Poems, poems.

C: I love it. I feel like this is the difference between Texas and Oregon. Poems.

M: Poems.

C: Poems, y’all! Sorry. You want to write poems…

M: I do, and I’m gonna make it into two syllables. butI think when I write prose too, I love beautiful sentences. And so, I just kind of want to be… It’s hard for me when I have to write a sentence that is just there to serve a purpose of getting to the next sentence, that I just want the sentence to be a little , to be a little gemstone. I just want it to be so pretty.

C: Open up this gift!

M: So That is the challenge and the fun of prose for me is that I can try and do that. Sometimes I go overboard and I make the gemstone too intense and I have to tone it down.

C: A little too shiny. A little too shiny, friends. Uh, we were talking about this earlier, but also along the lines of writing; one of my favorite analogies from Barbara Kingsolver is the difference between fiction and nonfiction writing. And you said, yes, you are not a fictional writer, that is not what you write. But what she says in this metaphor is that she describes both aspects of writing as a garden. In fictional writing, you are out in the middle of the desert, and you just create, you create your garden, you create this story of a garden. With nonfiction writing, you are stepping into this overgrown forest of gardening weeds, and your job then is to sift down. So tell me, what then was the sifting process for you? Were there parts of the book that you mourned over losing, or was it one of those, no, this is the best, is arriving at this spot. What was that like for you?…

M: I love that image of like, yeah, you gotta get in there and just start weeding, and just see what’s there. I knew I wanted to write about this process in my life, this motherhood and what prayer had …thanks honey, and the struggle of prayer after I’d had a child. But I do think there’s something in the spiritual life that teaches us to look at what’s happened and see the story, and I think that is part of we serve a god of stories, a god who, you know the story of Christ is the story of God in the world, from the beginning. And we are part of that story. And I think the process of learning to look for God in my life has also led me to look back and say, oh, this is where God was working. You know, we all know, people of faith, we all know how to look back and say, yeah, that’s what was happening there. So in some ways writing this, or writing in general is a spiritual practice of looking for the story. And that is getting in there and wedding it out. But also, in terms of practical writing stuff, I’m an over-writer, so this book was a really long process because especially I cut about half of the book to make the book. So I probably wrote about 14,000 words in there, 6500 and two of my preciousness ended up in there, um, and a lot of what I cut was easy to cut, and then there was plenty that hurt a little bit. But thankfully I’ve had a lot of …when I was in graduate school for poetry, one of the main things I learned was revision. And learning how to, my professor would quote somebody else – I can’t remember who said it – but how to kill your darlings.

C: Mmm!

M: And so, that was a really good thing for me to belike, you know what? This stuff I wrote is not, it may seem beautiful, but I can just kkkkkkk ….I can just beat that thing out.

C: Beat that darling to a bloody pulp!

M: So, it is weird to write a book about your life, when it is a real life and you’re kind of, there’s that struggle, am I remembering this correctly, is this the truth? And how to make that, cause once you put it down on paper, like is this going to be how my kids remember this moment, …or will they have to remember it this moment this way because I wrote it this way? And it’s just complicated because it’s a real life, it’s not just a story I’m making up.

C: Oh, friendly. Friendlies – singular, plural. It has been so great being here before our decaf English Breakfast tea, with each other, with the pioneer lady, um, but we must let you go. Micha, we are delighted that this is being written. Two days from now, I’ll be posting some of my favorite quotes and passages from the book, along with giving away a couple of books. And otherwise we look forward to you diving into your poy-yems, and um, look forward to the next book, if and when that arises (which I’m sure it will). But we just think you are a gift and a delight, so thank you. Have a great day. Talk to you guys later.

M: Bye people.

You made it!  Leave a comment on today’s post, and win a copy of Micha’s new book – or, better yet, support the author yourself, and head to your favorite bookstore locale and Found buy a copy!  Winner will be drawn Sunday evening – contest closes at 6 pm.  

celebrity dopplegangers (Vlog).

Well, friends, it’s happened again: Micha and Cara have joined forces to bring you an incredibly important, super duper serious video log.  So, what do Reese Witherspoon, DJ Tanner, Jessi Spanno and Elizabeth Shue from Adventures in Babysitting have in common?  Just about as much as Alyssa Milano, Sarah McLaughlin and Maya Rudolph.  So, pull up a chair, fix your eyes accordingly on the screen for the next five minutes and get ready to laugh – because we think you just might.

xo.

What about you?  Who’s your celebrity doppleganger, or who would you LIKE to be your celebrity doppleganger?  And, more importantly, do you think Maya Rudolph wants to be movie star besties with me?  Cross the fingers, cross the fingers…

from the mouth of babes (vlog)

Happy Friday, Friendlies!

I’ve got to warn you: This little bit of vloggy goodness just happened with the Magnificent Mama Monk Micha – and I’m pretty sure we’re funnier together than we would be apart.  (I used to use that phrase solely for marriage alone, substituting “stronger” for “funnier,” but hereby bequeath this into the realm of friendship as well).  So, do nothing but sit back and enjoy this woeful tale of a cussing toddler and the burden of not using the words “butt” and “fart” – for, who knows, our humor just might be the slice of spectacular you’re looking for today.

xo. c.

What about you?  What woeful language disaster is your child or friend of small human stature into these days?  And more importantly, what’s the best song you’ve ever made up?  Sing it, please.

If you’re making it to be, mama. be for the first time today, welcome!  Cheer Cara on by liking the Facebook page, or clicking “follow” to receive emails directly in your inbox.  Grazi.  Otherwise, have you checked out Micha’s page yet?  Do it, do it, do it…

What I’m Into :: August 2013

What have you been up to and into and standing in the blessed thick of this past month?  Always love this time, and always love linking up with Miss Leigh!

This is the stack of books I entered vacation with ...and ended up staying pretty close to it!
This is the stack of books I entered vacation with …and amazingly, I ended up staying pretty close to it!

Finished reading: 

Seven Sacred Pauses (Wiederkehr) – I CANNOT recommend this book enough; although centered in the Christian tradition, Wiederkehr’s book is more spiritual in nature, and follows the daily Benedictine prayer rhythms.

French Women Don’t Get Fat (Guiliano) – Eh.  3/5 stars.  Voice is big to me, and Guiliano isn’t then my favorite to hear, although some of her ideas have stuck with me (and I really like the recipes to boot).

Me Before You (Moyes) – Ugh – in an are you kidding me, amazeballs sort of way.  Fabulous fiction read.   

I Suffer Not a Woman (Kroeger) – While this is one of the better books on an egalitarian viewpoint of the controversial “woman” scripture, it’s terribly boring.

Jesus Feminist (Bessey) – Friends, Sarah Bessey is an unapologetically, authentically heartfelt storyteller, so if you’re a fan of her writing, READ THIS when it comes out in November.

Bloodsucking Fiends (Moore) – Christopher Moore is to me in fabulously witty, fun fiction as to what John Green is to me in the realm of YA literature.  I love his writing.

Dark Places (Flynn) – It’s, well, dark.  I loved Gone Girl, and found myself liking (but definitely not loving) this previous book of hers.

The Happiness Project (Rubin) – read quasi-review here.

Why We Broke Up (Handler) – An ingenious YA book whose story was written after the accompanying pictures had been drawn.  Fabulous.

MFK Fisher, Julia Child and Alice Waters: Celebrating the Pleasures of the Table (Reardon) – Eh.  While I do love cooking biographies, my eyes glazed over like a crisped maple donut  sitting in the case, waiting for pick-up.  Lame pastry analogies aside, it too is terribly BORING.

Crazy Little Thing (Brogan) – 1 star.  I am not even going to type another sentence about this read.

Currently reading: Graceling; Les Miserables (56% of the way through, math majors), Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child + a slew of books for preaching on Isaiah 25 next Sunday!

TV: Breakout Kings, Real Housewives of Orange County, Orange is the New Black and Hollywood Game Night.  

Movies: It’s a Disaster

In the blogosphere: I took most of the month off from le Internet, and didn’t therefore record any favorites.  What were some of your favorites?

On my blog: my post for Micha-friend’s “One Good Phrase” definitely yielded the highest number of hits.  Um, obviously.    

Pondering: What will this fall look like?  Although it will certainly look different than it did a year ago, how will it look different from the previous eight months?

Cooking: ya’ll, if you haven’t made these Pinterest Chik-Fil-A faux-nuggets yet, do yourself a favor and break out the canola oil now.  I’d forgotten about these until just last night, and HOLY MOLEY, I may need a support group for these puppies (and exercise accountability).

K, ya’ll: in other news, I bought a bike.  It’s almost as good as a zoo.  And we’re putting the Little Bub’s seat on the back today.  But so far it is transforming our daily routine in good ol’ San Francisco, and freedom-freedom-freedom is pulsing through my veins every time I hop on its wide berth of a seat.  Get ready for more on that next week.

Love booky, bikey, bloggy be mama be.

What I'm Into at HopefulLeigh