on oozing candor.

back-burner

I sat with a group of mamas yesterday morning, discussing a chapter in the book* we’ve been musing over the past couple of months.  Even though most of us don’t have kids over the age of five or six, we take seriously the relationships we have with our children.  We want to know how to be better mamas, so we ask each other questions and we tell stories about our own childhoods and we think about our own little San Francisco-based families.  And for two hours every Wednesday morning, with coffee and tea, bagels and brie, scones and fruit, it becomes a free therapy session of sorts.

Really, it’s kind of miraculous and mind-boggling, all at the same time.

So yesterday morning, we found ourselves discussing how we might cultivate an atmosphere of candor in our households, allowing both children and parents to grasp honesty’s freedom.  But before we could get too far, the following question had to be asked: What’s the difference between candor and honesty?  

CANDOR: 1. whiteness, brilliance; unstained purity.  2.  freedom from prejudice or malice; fairness.  3.  archaic: kindliness.  4.  unreserved, honest or sincere expression, forthrightness.

Because here’s what we realized: to be parents who cultivate candor toward their children, to be spouses who esteem candor to their “other,” and to be friends who hold candor as significant in their relationships, it doesn’t just mean we’re honest.

It means that we’re putting the other person before ourselves.  

It means that we’re thinking before we speak.  

It means that just because we can say something doesn’t mean we should say something.  

And it means that we’re responding instead of reacting.  

Now here’s the hard part of it for me: I want to be right.  In fact, when I KNOW I’m right, it’s really, really hard to be wrong.  I want to pull out all of my persuasive arguing skills, the ones that won’t take “no” for an answer, and the ones that show my strength in the face of weakness, exclamation point!  What, you’ve hurt me?  Well then, let me show you …and I pull out the punches.  I ain’t no Candace Cameron Bure, if you know what I mean.**

I somehow begin to believe, just like my pre-adolescent self, X-number of years ago, that the world revolves around me.

And that’s great …when you’re 13.

But perhaps – just perhaps – by the time you enter your Dirty Thirties, you begin to realize that it’s not all about you.  You begin to learn (maybe all over again, for the first time), what it means to put others first, that to love them well means letting Self’s Need to Win simmer on the back burner for a little while.

Sometimes it means telling myself that this too shall pass.  Sometimes it means picking and choosing my battles.  Sometimes it means holding my tongue and not digging up old wounds; it means remembering to shut my trap when an issue or argument is already over and done with, when resolution has come and reconciliation’s been made.  And sometimes it means taking a deep breath and counting to three – or five or 100 – so that I can remember that there are two sides to every story.

So Friendlies, for today, and tomorrow and hopefully tomorrow’s tomorrow too, I’m practicing candor.

Because at the end of it all, I just want to ooze candor – and that is that.

What about you?  Is there a difference between candor and honesty, if at all?  And what, more importantly, do you want to OOZE this year?

— 

*The book?  Grace-Based Parenting by Dr. Tim Kimmel.  Not my favorite of 2013, but it certainly merits strong points of learning and discussion.

**Sorry D.J. Tanner – love you, love your show.

a cry, a shout (advent).

Photo cred: Patheos.
Photo cred: Patheos.

A year ago, my eyes seemed to do nothing but cry.

Broken-hearted and exultant, hurt and joy-filled, reflective and hopeful at the end of one chapter and the beginning of another.  I’d returned to work full-time in September, with Cancan in tote much of the time – and instead of retracing the steps I’d walked in months and years prior, pain and hurt and blame held the upper hand.  I’d make apologies, pleading to make right that which had somehow gone wrong, only to find that another I’m sorry, I’m so, so sorry needed to be uttered.  I was exhausted emotionally, physically, spiritually – and at the end of the day, it took all my energy to muster and ask and plead, Where are you in the middle of this, God?  Because it didn’t make sense.  Heartache isn’t supposed to coincide with the Church.

But sometimes it’s a reality.

Sometimes it happens.

Even though I looked forward to life slowing down, to pursuing The Writer’s Dream, to being the primary caregiver for my son, there was still hurt in the present.  I yearned and I longed for everything wrong to be made right again, but no matter what I did or said or seemed to believed, situations and circumstances and conversations seemed beyond my control.

Against my nature, I began to learn what it means to sit with the tension, to embrace the discomfort and the gray that can overwhelm.

I began to sit with Advent.

I sit at the piano and turn to page 38; I let my fingers do the talking as the mournful triplets repeat and build, repeat and build:

A thrill of hope, the weary soul rejoices
For yonder breaks, a new and glorious morn
Fall – on your knees,
O hear, the angel voices… 

I remember the gray of a year ago.

I embrace expectations lost and I let go, I cling to the Already-But-Not-Yet, to the thrill of hoping, to the hardship of hoping. A part of my heart still hurts, a part of my insides weary but a sliver, a slice of hope remains, and I pound the keys in remembrance.

I am before my grandmother’s old piano – the one I can’t yet call my own yet, even if it technically resides in my dining room for the long haul – and I plunk, plunk, plunk away at the keys.  The D# above middle C is numb, deaf to sound, so I move my right hand just an octave higher and the song is given new life.

The King of kings lay thus in lowly manger,
in all our trials born to be our friend;
He knows our need,
He guardeth us from danger…

Over and over again, I tap away at the keys.  I repeat the song’s verses because I want to believe it, I need to believe it – my soul needs its mournfully magnificent refrain.  Because He knows my need.

I too am given new life.

And this, I suppose, is Advent: We wait for Hope to come – we yearn for hope triumphant, for hope fulfilled.  Sometimes there’s a voice in the desert that says, “Cry!” – and, like the reality of a year ago, we prepare to lift our voices to cry, even if it doesn’t quite feel right.  And sometimes, and maybe some years, that same voice instead says, “Shout!” and triumphantly, we shout, Look! Look! the only way we know how, fingers plunking and playing and breathing new song.

Sometimes, in preparation we cry and sometimes we shout, but always, always, we  yearn for comfort, we cling like babes to Hope Coming.  Because, because …Look at Him!  God, the Master, comes in power, ready to go into action.  (Isaiah 40:9, The Message).

Yes.

Yes, yes, yes.

Might this be our prayer today.  Happy Advent, friends.

What about you?  What, if anything, is Advent to you?  How do you cry, how do you shout?  (And thank you for sharing this post if it resonates with you).  

i’m a jesus feminist because…

The lovely Sarah Bessey‘s book, Jesus Feminist, officially hit the book store stands yesterday, and friends, it’s the real deal, mostly because she’s the real, authentic deal.  Some of you might be wondering how “Jesus” and “Feminist” can sit side by side, but as Bessey so beautifully puts it in this article, “I’m a feminist because I love Jesus so much…” – and friends, that’s Truth right there.  So without further adieu, I’m a Jesus Feminist because…

Photo cred: Altra Point.
Photo cred: Altra Point.

women modeled leadership in the church I grew up in.  Mylinda and Pam preached on various Sundays, Linda gave the announcements, and different women served communion, took the offering and served as elders and deacons.  Sure, they were also standing in the back burping babies and teaching children’s classes and setting up the punch for the social hour, but all were free to use their gifts accordingly.  I never questioned whether there was even another way within the church.

my parents instilled a confidence within me that nothing was outside of my abilities or bounds – of all things, my sex certainly was not a limiting factor.

Young Life believes in women in leadership.  I saw this as a high school student when I saw both males and females given equal opportunities, and I experienced this on staff when I was not limited by my gender, but all the more encouraged to assume leadership roles.

I was given opportunities to use my gifts and passions and talents – though young, different organizations and camps and churches offered me a platform to open my mouth and speak.  (Thank you, Young Life, Frontier Ranch and Mount Hermon, to name a few).

I read and I questioned and I let myself feel angry if something didn’t make sense, if a verse or a statement or an implied belief didn’t sit right with me.  Though certainly not academic, I remember reading Traveling Mercies for the first time in my early twenties, when Lamott’s words encouraged me to truly be me, to believe what I wanted to believe and still love Jesus all the same. Permission had been granted through mere print.

I read the writings of various feminist theologians, and found my heart thumping along with a good number of these men and women.

I realized that it’s so important for the next generation to have modeled.  Our girls need to see and hear and experience leadership from both men and women in the school and in the church, at home and in play.

But there’s a “but” to it as well; I’m a Jesus Feminist because…

I was silenced.  It was assumed that I would conform to conservative biblical gender roles, because this was the right and the only way.

I didn’t see women up front.  Because I didn’t hear women preach and lead and use their gifts accordingly.

I was looked down upon solely because of my gender.  I was excused and looked over.  I was disregarded and stereotyped.

I was called a Jezebel.

...the misunderstood words of Paul and Timothy infuriated me, past, present and future.  For years, my face would grow red with anger, my emotions overwhelmed; I tried to piece together a response, because I couldn’t understand why the Jesus who was so for women would seem so opposite from those whose words followed the writings of his life.  I couldn’t understand why if it was for freedom Christ had set us free that I was still limited, solely because of my sex.

But mostly, I’m a Jesus Feminist because…

Jesus loves me so much.  

It’s not so much about my response to him, as it is his response to me.  It’s his response to the widows and the orphans, to slaves and women and children, to the marginalized and the poor, and to my own heart, today, here and now, regardless of my reply.

And that’s why I’m a Jesus Feminist.

What about you?  Why are you a Jesus Feminist, and/or why does the combination of these two words together send shivers up your spine?  But more importantly, aren’t you glad that, as adults, we can still love each other even if we disagree?  

a walk, a song & the return of joy.

It was just an ordinary Friday afternoon: Cancan and I had driven to the local BART station to drop off the car for Daddy.  See, we’ve embraced City Life for all its worth by only having one car – I, in return, toss labels like “sexy” and “living simply” and “eco-savvy” onto our choice of transportation [the choice of transportation that equals out to me getting the car most of the week], while the HBH (…rightfully) guffaws at the hassle of it all.  But there we were, on the corner of Ocean and San Jose; Baby strapped in the stroller, I checked to make sure the car was clear of belongings and subsequently texted Husband the address.  Earphones in place, I steadied myself for the long upward descent home, and then it happened.

Music started playing.

Mind you, I realize this is considered normal to the great majority of 21st century Americans, particularly those who pop earphones into their ears and wait for a listening reaction to occur.

But for me (First World Problem, First World Problem…), in order to save space on my phone, I’d purposefully not synced the itunes album on my computer with the album on my phone.  And then the break-in happened, and all of our pictures and my Masters coursework and that which could be considered my livelihood of writing and speaking documents were lost, along with the music, too.

And a slew of emotions ensued: I was angry and I was sad and I was bitter, seemingly all at the same time.  I mourned and I shook my fist and I grew paranoid at the very thought of the Comcast man parked obtrusively in front of our house, as the police said it was a group of thieves posting as service workers who likely broke in to our residence.  I drove around the block three times and then I parked in our driveway again, and I ran inside and grabbed the new laptop and the borrowed iPad because I would not let this happen again.  I cussed and I screamed, but then I pulled to the side of the road, and with deep breaths I said, FEAR, You will not get the best of me.  Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, come…

So here we were, just a couple days after circling the block, when the music started playing.

And walking up the sidewalk, I looked to my right to see if the sound was coming from the park, and across my shoulder to the other side to see if a parked car was playing the haunting, soul-searching echoes of the cello and its accompanying strings.  But then I realized that it was coming from my ears – my ears – and it was my music – my music – and with tears in my eyes, I picked up my phone from its hiding place, and I looked at the screen in disbelief.

Zoe Keating - check her out.  Photo cred: NPR.
Zoe Keating – check her out. Photo cred: NPR.

Somehow, the magical world of iCloud had saved my music, even if it took me six weeks to realize it.

So, my legs began pumping faster as the hill started to rise, purposeful, purposeful, as Hope started to sing its way into my soul, as Beauty opened my eyes to her Already-In-Existence self.  I listened to the mournful cellist, Zoe Keating, pour her own self into her stringed instrument, to my favorite of songs, “Sun Will Set,” and I was again reminded of new beginnings, each day, every day, given anew.  Grace massaged my tired shoulders as I pushed the stroller up the hill: the sun will rise and the sun will set, but tomorrow is a new day.  And with it comes the unimagined, refueling abundance of more Hope and more Beauty and more Grace.

The smile would not wear on my face, but grew with each step, the depths of its very existence filling my insides and reaching out its gnarled fingers to strangers I passed on gritty street corners, to the old man crossing the street with suitcase in tote.

Because I guess for a little while there, I’d forgotten what joy was like.  

But then – as often happens, I suppose – that gentle reminder, that loving nudge pushed its way in …and this time, I said yes.  And it wasn’t that my music was saved, per say, but it was that reminder of Hope Remaining, the combination of the song and the day and the loveliness of God cupping me in the palms of his hands, saying, I’ve got you.  

I’m grateful.

(I’m also really, really glad Apple products are smarter than the average user.  Ahem).

What about you?  What’s given you Hope lately?  What’s brought back joy and put a pep in your step lately?  

the beautiful & cranky (vlog).

Hello friends!

Ugh: the book that I’ve got for you today is just delicious.  It’s our first spiritual memoir here on be, mama. be, but I’ve got to warn you: it’s offensive and beautiful and authentically raw and gruesomely lovely, all at the same time. The book?  Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint by Nadia Bolz-Weber.  So beware, and embrace, and enjoy!

xo, c.

What about you?  Have you read Bolz-Weber’s book?  How is your faith an interweaving mix of both the cranky and the beautiful? 

This post contains a link to Amazon, so if you click on the aforementioned link and buy the book, you inadvertently support my reading habits, and therefore this blog.  Thank you!

a letter of lauren.

I think I was 23 when I first discovered her.

I’d flown down to San Diego for Thanksgiving, and as Sister was working days in the naval hospital, I’d traipsed around downtown, alone and lonely, the two words’ definitions still indistinguishable to me at the time.  It was the first time I’d ever gone to the theater by myself, and holding my bag of popcorn (extra butter) and Diet Coke, I remember thinking, am I even allowed to laugh when there’s no one to laugh with?  I wanted the comfort a friend next to me, an arm to clutch, the reassurance of flesh.

Friends defined me.  I was never without.

I was so scared.

But as the day went on, I got braver.  I ate lunch, by myself, and then I went to the book store, all alone, and perused the various sections of Borders – discount, non-fiction, fiction, children’s, spirituality, in that order – until I finally stumbled upon this find:

(um, read it).
(um, read it).

I looked at the cover, and I was like, What the cheesiness, Batman?  But curious nonetheless, I sat down in the middle of the book store floor (which really, is one of the most magical places on earth, if you ask me), and began to read her words.  I read about her spiritual journey, how God had always been part and parcel of who she was, of her story.  And then, somewhere and somehow along the way, her journey morphed from Judaism to Christianity, though she held onto and maintained many cultural elements of her Jewish upbringing.  

And her words were funny and witty and poignant to me, and I remember thinking, this is me.  I too am on a spiritual journey.  I too am a girl who meets God.  I too am funny and witty and poignant!  (What I lacked in esteem of Alone, I certainly didn’t lack in confidence of my own personality).

Three chapters later, mind made up, I brought the book to the counter, awkwardly shy and ashamed of the cover.  For whatever reason, my choice of faith shamed me.  Although I taught at a Christian school and spoke at Christian camps and faithfully attended a – you guessed it – Christian church, I didn’t want to appear like I was one of those people.  No, no, I’m a liberal.  No, no, red, white and blue donkey all the way!

I held my faith at bay until I knew my beliefs were safe for disclosure.

Walking out of the bookstore, I ripped the cover off my hardback edition, throwing it in the trash.  I was now free to be me, my beliefs released for their own choosing. 

And this I realized today, after finishing a third book of this author’s: Lauren Winner has been a part of my faith journey for a good little while now.  She’s been alongside me as the girl who seeks after her God, and she’s been with me as the one who grabs hold of her cultural roots.  And now, in her book Still, she’s beside me when and as my faith journey morphs and wanes and questions and pools – and then burgeons and builds and begins anew again.  She’s with me in the Dark Night, and in that middle place, and when the whys seem to overwhelm the other question words, the ones with definitive, absolute answers.

“What you promise when you are confirmed …is not that you will believe this forever.  What you promise when you are confirmed is that this is the story you will wrestle with forever.” 

And friends, this story, this grand and magnificent and tragic and beauty-filled story, is the story I wrestled with then, and am wrestling with now, and will wrestle with until I’m laid gray in the grave – and it feels good to admit that.  There is freedom in its disclosure.

So, Ms. Winner, thank you for being on this journey with me.  I look forward to meeting you someday.

xo, c.

[Books: Girl Meets God, Mudhouse Sabbath, Still – if you click on a link and buy one of these books, you support my reading habits, and therefore this blog.  Thank you!]

What about you?  What author has been with you on your journey of life?  Don’t be a lurker, do share!

the battle inside you & me.

I left the library on Monday, blissful six hours of writing time under my belt, sans (precious, adorable, energy-filled) Little Man.  Driving down a narrow residential street, I turned the corner past our favorite neighborhood playground, and was about to turn right again when I came face to face with Mr. Mercedes Benz.  Our streets were perpendicular to each other, so as he cut the corner to turn left, and I went around the parked truck in an effort to turn right, we came head to head, narrowly missing each other.

Literally.

The hoods of our cars were almost kissing, a mere three feet between us, drivers squared up and ready to duel.  We were Talladega Nights, but set to broad daylight in a quiet, residential area of the City.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against those who are able to afford a $131,000 car payment – and maybe if I banked a million or two a year, I too would be sporting a Benz.  But then I’d also have my own driver (…and nanny and butler and personal assistant to boot), and I’d be spending every other month on a small island off the coast of Italy, so this kind of interaction wouldn’t necessarily apply.

But I digress.

Anger evident, he motioned his hands wildly for me to go to the left around him, for he obviously had the right of way.

I fought back, motioning for him to back up and admit mistake, as any kind I-almost-cut-you-off, I-was-wrong-you-were-right driver would do.  I also debated the logistics of hopping the curb to the right of his car, as the laws of driving would suggest, but figured that the innocent stop sign or the neighbor’s white picket fence would probably win.

We were head to head, waiting for the other to plead mercy, to let go, to give up the fight.  

And then I realized something: He’s fighting a battle.  

Even though at that moment, I wanted to win the battle so, so badly, I stopped fighting.  I stopped revving my engine, I stopped trying to be right, I stopped trying to win.  And as I drove past him, I didn’t even give him the bird, as I’m so prone to do when I think that the driving population is far from being for me, when the world is entirely against me.

But instead, I drove around to the left, and instead of a lone middle finger salute, I raised all FIVE fingers in the air and plastered a -mostly sincere and genuine – smile on my face and waved at him.

Like a good neighbor would.

Like any human being should.  

I feel like the phrase has been floating around the portals of America for a good while now; I’d heard it in sermons, and seen it in books, and lately strewn across Facebook and Pinterest and Instagram alike.  But it wasn’t until this last week that the depths of its truth sunk into my soul:

Truth.
Truth.

Because this I realized: I’ve been fighting a pretty hard battle lately too.  Experiencing the violation of a break-in has rocked me at times; even though I know in my head that we’re safe, that physically our house is more secure than ever, that mentally the chances of The Bad Guys coming again is slim, still I feel violated.  Still I feel scared and paranoid and sad and mad sometimes.

It’s like I’ve got my Berenstein Bears distorted green glasses atop my eyes for a little while here – so I glance at the backpacks of those we walk past on the street to see if they’re wearing my husband’s stolen one, and I peer out the window at every passing truck – are they the fake service workers the police said robbed our house?  

But then I stop.

I stop because I realize that these thoughts and feelings are normal for the time being, but they will not claim me.  This evil is powerless.  Instead, I acknowledge my own hard battle, and I lean into He who is my peace, the One who calms my beating heart.

I take a deep breath, and confetti-like grace showers my head, tickling my eyes and dusting my nose and covering my hair in all its New Year’s glory.

Somehow, this Divine Grace reminds me that the battle doesn’t just exist just inside me, but it’s inside every single one of us.  

And somehow this truth, this truth of Hard Battles inside you and inside me, inside Mr. Mercedes Benz and inside every other stranger and friend I encounter today, is healing.  It’s enough to make me realize that I don’t need to be right and win, that I can let go and practice kindness.  

Because you never know what might happen along the way.

xoxo, c.

What about you?  Can we fight the hard battles together?  Are you in?