the gift of time away.

A week ago, I looked like this:

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Except that my lashes didn’t look near as long and my hair remained far from perfectly coifed. But the face? The furrowed brow and the I’ve had it up to here! eyes and the mouth that seems altogether unable to form a smile. That was me.

And then I stepped on an airplane.

Now, here’s a little secret: if you are a human currently not in constant, close proximity to pint-sized tagalongs who need you to make their food, get their drinks, wipe their bottoms, change their diapers, scrub their faces, dress their naked bodies, calm their big feelings, celebrate their little victories, and on and on the list goes, then you may not understand the blessed assurance of an airplane ride all by your lonesome.

But it is potentially the most glorious experience to wrangle into your seat, all by yourself. To read a book (The Nestin case you’re wondering), all by yourself. And to stare at the window without anyone touching or invading your space, all by yourself.

I’m telling you, this is the stuff miracles are made of.  

But even more than that, I got to hang out with the man who calls me (and most every other human he meets) Honey Bunny. Neighbor Mark is undoubtedly one of my favorite humans on earth, mostly because he taught me what it means to be a neighbor. And, mark my words: he will make an appearance in a book I write someday.

img_0901I also got to hang out with this girl, who’s one of the smartest, sassiest, most feeling-est people I know. She’s got a way with words and if you haven’t already gotten to know Ashley, please head over to her space today.

img_0890-1And this girl joined us as well. You’ve heard me talk about Osheta quite a bit, because she and I host the Shalom Book Club once a month – well folks, she’s the real deal. (Also, shameless plug: join the Shalom Sistas Hangout on Facebook if you haven’t already. Be a part of fascinating conversations, and cast your vote for the November Reader’s Choice book!)

img_0885And it wasn’t just people who filled me, this filled me:

img_0863Staring out the window into beauty, into sunshine, into blue skies filled me up and became the background for the words I ended up writing. Because it wasn’t merely a trip of furthering relationships, but it was a weekend of writing.

I needed the time and space away to wrap my brain around the words that’ve been lodged in my head for awhile. I needed to give my fingers room to breathe, so I could invite the Writing Muse in to take up residence in my insides.

And I needed this without the distraction of those precious, sticky little buggers I call my sons. 

So, I don’t know what it is for you, but get away. Go pack up a tent and head into the woods for a couple of days. Use free airline miles and hop on a plane to the mountains or to the beach – whatever place your heart thumps for the most. Hire a babysitter and have yourself an afternoon out so you can be reminded of your humanness, so you can remember that you’re not “just” a parent or a worker-bee or whatever role you’re feeling a bit too burnt out from right now.

Give yourself the gift of time away and see what happens. 

Because I bet you’ll find yourself filled and renewed and refreshed in a whole new way – and besides, you’re worth it!

Believe it.

Receive it.

Live it.

xo, c.

So, when have you been given the gift of time away? And, what fills you up when you ARE away – people, books, nature? Do tell!

the god die thing.

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I like to be in charge, especially when it comes to parenting. You, three foot tall person, are not in charge. Yes I am! No, you’re not. Mama’s in charge. This is a conversation we have daily, and will continue to have daily long after the toddler and preschooler days, too.

But here’s the thing: I may think I’m in charge (when really, it is entirely them – mercy, mercy), and I also may think I’m the one teaching them. But as this post written for my friend Tim shows, that’s far from the truth.

My babies are teaching me, that much I know. So here’s to my ears and your ears and maybe, perhaps all ears being open to learning from the least likely of folks.

“Look, Mama! It’s the God die thing.” We’d just gotten off the freeway when he said it. My husband and I looked at each other across the console of the car, and asked our four-year old son to repeat himself: “What’d you say, buddy?”

“It’s the God die thing. That’s the church where God died!”

All correct theology aside, we watched his sticky little fingers pointed skywards toward a simple but ornate cross on the top of a faded church steeple. We drive past this particular church on the corner of Fruitvale and Harold all the time, but it wasn’t until my little boy pointed it out that I actually noticed the place. I saw the straight lines of metal, the peeling green paint, the delicate leaves of hope and new life, twisting and wrapping their way around the ancient symbol like tendrils.

And it was like I saw the cross for the first time.

My eyes filled with tears, while my husband shook his head in disbelief. Somehow, our son gets it, and microscopic neurons in his brain have connected the basics of Jesus + cross + death. Man, I think to myself, maybe in the midst of everything we seem to do wrong when it comes to parenting, we really have done something right. Grand ideas and beliefs and truths have wiggled into his brain and taken up residence in his soul, and now he’s the one teaching me.

Again, click here to read the post in its entirety. Otherwise, if you’re a parent, how have your children taught you lately? When it comes to faith and spirituality, whatever your leanings, how have you been shown Truth lately?

a holy curiosity about fear (heather caliri).

Oh friends, I can’t wait to introduce you to a friend of mine, Heather Caliri. Heather has taught me what it means to be a truth-monger, to be brave with my words, and to tell the very best story I can tell. We are friends through a number of different online writing portals, so I’d sure love it if you got to know her through her story today. Enjoy! 

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Iguana Falls, Argentina.

The other day, one of my kids got upset about some schoolwork in her least-favorite subject.

“You can do it,” I told her.

She stared at me.

I didn’t blame her. Talk is cheap.

So I posed a different question. “What’s the worst-case scenario if you fail?” I asked.

She told me, her eyes worried. She finds the current hurdle hard, so what about the next steps? What if they prove impossible?

I nodded. These are real worries, and so much like mine about other things: about writing, faith, and (my daughter might laugh) homeschooling and parenting.

I ask her another question. “Are there worse things that can happen if you don’t try?”

Armed with those questions, we pick up her fear like a little knotted cord and examine it more closely. Are the intractable problems actually slipknots in disguise, where if you tug, they come undone? What’s the hidden risk behind giving up?

After we get curious together for a while, she was ready to try again.

I have learned the hard way to ask these questions for myself. I know my fear’s contours and knots like an old friendship bracelet, because I examine it nearly every day.

“What’s the worst-case scenario if you fail?” I ask myself, over and over. “Are there worse things that can happen if you don’t try?”

These questions astonish me.

See, for a long time, I didn’t know you could be curious about your own fear. I didn’t know you could question it, examine it, learn from it. I thought it simply was, a wall, a cage, a weight pressing on your chest.

I thought it was real, more real than anything else.

I did not know you could make it give a reason for its existence.

In her book Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert says that at age fifteen, she realized that fear was boring. “My fear never changed, never delighted, never offered a surprise twist or an unexpected ending. My fear was a song with only one note—only one word, actually—and that word was ‘STOP!’”

I learned that lesson at twenty. I went abroad to live in Argentina for a year. I had (I thought) faked my way into a very generous scholarship despite my middling Spanish and complete lack of travel experience. I’d charmed some generous people, and they’d bought me a plane ticket and now I was going to go live ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WORLD even though I was COMPLETELY INCOMPETENT.

The terms of the scholarship meant I travelled alone, with only vague links to other students and Argentine contacts. The scholarship lasted ten months. One of my first acts after landing and arriving at my rented room was calculating how long I had to last before I could go home.

The result made me weep. More than forty weeks.

What I wish I had asked myself, besides just the number of weeks I had to survive was: “What’s the worse-case scenario if you fail?”

And also: “What is the worst case scenario for never trying?”

Honestly, my worst-case fears about Argentina didn’t really go far enough. I struggled with absolutely brutal loneliness for months.

But as I learned in those forty weeks, the cost of not trying was infinitely greater than the fear ever was. It wasn’t even in the same universe.

Had I turned down the scholarship, I would not have known I could not only survive my worst-case scenario, but thrive.

I would not have ever experienced the joy that came with digging myself out of a hole and finding Argentine hands waiting to grasp mine.

Since Argentina, I’ve learned to ask myself questions about my fear, rather than simply letting it belt its one-note tune in my ear. Like my daughter, I have to ask the questions over and over, because the song is so damn repetitive.

I’ve learned to have holy curiosity about my own fear.

The more curious I am about my fear, the more lessons it teaches me. My fears tell me something about my values, about who I am, and the pain and suffering that shapes my character. My fears whisper, unwillingly, of the path that probably will lead me to the greatest payoffs: going straight through them.

And they remind me that in some ways, I’m still a child. I’m still shivery-scared about tough next steps. So it’s worth treating myself with gentleness.

Fear may be boring, but it is, in its odd way, also holy—if we only learn to look it in the eye.

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Heather Caliri is a writer from San Diego who knows first-hand how tiny, brave yeses can transform lives. She’s scared of (among other things) bees, heights, and the children’s movie Gremlins—but slowly found out she’s more courageous than she thought. Get her short e-book, “How To Become Braver,” for free hereDo head over and get Heather’s e-book if you haven’t already! Otherwise, two things: first of all, I’d love to feature your words on a guest post today. Hit me up! Second, what did you LOVE about Heather’s story? Leave her a comment below! 

because they can.

I didn’t do everything right as a teacher.

I was young and naive, pompous about my own educational experience, ignorant as a young twenty-something tends to be. My fourth year in the classroom, I moved from the private to the public sector: on a personal level, I needed to figure out whether I was supposed to work in the public school classroom or in a different capacity with students altogether. [The latter won out, and I spent the next eight years as a glorified youth minister of sorts.]

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But on the first or second day of school that year, my classroom filled to the gills with fourteen-year-old adolescents. Fluorescent lights hummed above and the not-so-distant sound of the custodial staff’s work space, on the other side of particle board walls, reminded me that this wasn’t your mama’s private school environment. I can’t remember what question I asked my students, but one by one I went up and down the rows: So, who ARE you? What’s your favorite kind of ice cream? What’d you do this summer? 

Something like that.

And when it came time for one young boy to speak, he refused. He stared at the white boards in front of him and shook his head vehemently to the left and right.

“I’ll wait for you,” I said, smiling.

“I’m not talking,” he replied.

“Yes, you are. I’ll wait. I’m patient.”

I looked around the room, amused by his antics, eager to get the rest of the students on my side. It was a showdown, teacher to student. I demanded respect. He refused to give it to me. Minutes went by, the second hand ticking incessantly overhead. Finally, the fight ended, likely when I docked him participation points over his refusal to speak.

He transferred out of my class that afternoon, citing me as “too peppy, too happy and too annoying,” so I trust I kept a smile on my face during the entire double dog dare debacle.

There aren’t many stories I remember from my time in the classroom, but I remember that one, mostly. But I don’t remember it because I was in the right. I remember it because in that moment, I failed that student.

Had I not cared so much about being right, about winning the argument, about him showing me the respect I so rightfully thought I deserved, I may have been able to be the teacher he needed me to be. I may have stopped focusing on myself for a moment and instead chosen to look past how he was behaving in that moment.

Now, hear me out: this doesn’t keep me up at night. But I can’t help but wondering how our children are being served.

A couple of weeks ago, Because They Can contacted me to see if I might help spread the word about their mission. Because here’s the thing: every student is different.

The public schools may have served me well, but that doesn’t mean that this school is going to be the best fit for this student, just as this teacher isn’t going to successfully meet the needs of this particular young boy or girl.

They call it the Belief Gap:

This is the gap between what adults believe is possible
and what kids are actually capable of achieving.

And when adults don’t believe in them,
kids stop believing in themselves.

And I don’t know about you, but I want to close the Belief Gap. Even if I no longer stand in front of a classroom, it hits me on a gut level now when and as I trust my older son to the women who teach him three hours a day now.

Because he’s mine.

And the kids who live in our neighborhoods and in our towns, who play Pokemon and hang out at the neighborhood playground and hoard all the tables at the local fro-yo shop after school, they’re ours too.

They matter. Their education matters. Their very lives matter.

So, get informed. Watch this video:

Let your heard be intertwined with something that really matters. Then, be changed. Get involved. And close the belief gap.

You in?

This isn’t the usual kind of post I feature, but after watching Dashaun’s story and learning more about the campaign, I knew I needed to speak up. I’d love for it to matter to you as well, so get involved!  

I’ve missed you.

In August I set out to get a good chunk of my manuscript written. And while I still have 1.5 chapters and a full proposal left to write, it was so, so good for my brain to focus in on one thing.

When I got writing time – which sometimes felt few and far between, because, August – I worked on the book. I didn’t think about blog posts and I didn’t think about articles. I didn’t read books for review and I didn’t work on sermon prep. I didn’t query, and I didn’t write monthly posts for She Loves Magazine and The Mudroom, and I didn’t even listen to the Beyond Your Blog podcast which over and over and over again encourages its readers to step out and write for pay.

It felt rather quiet.

There’s a funny little lie the writing world now likes to offer its word minions, and it’s this: writing is only writing when other people see it. 

Writing is only writing when comments are made and when posts are shared and when tweets are like.

And essentially it’s saying this: writing is only writing when other people affirm and give a big old Internet high-five to your gifts.

But writing couldn’t be further from the truth.

And this during this time of working on just one thing, and on just one thing that happened to be just between me and my computer, it’s like I was brought back to the love of the sport. This is why I do what I do: for healing, for processing, for letting the jigsaw pieces of the story in my mind work its way to the surface. I don’t do this for the benefit of my readers, but I do this because I can’t not do this. I do this because I don’t often know what I think until I sit down and put fingers to the keys. I do this because there’s a world of memories and information and unanswered questions swirling around in my mind, begging to be put back together again, maybe for the first time, maybe all over again.

But I have missed you. 

I have missed telling stories, and I have missed seeing your comments. I have missed the interaction with the outside world this slice of writing lends me, a life that would otherwise feel far more isolated than I’d ever like it for it to be.

But I don’t miss the ways in which I was able to be present over the past five weeks, with family and friends and strangers alike.

Like this…

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In Bend, Oregon

And this…

At Gilroy Gardens
At Gilroy Gardens

And this…

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On a date – I mean, at a wedding.

Sure, I cracked open my laptop most days. I sat down to write. I dared my fingers to type one thousand words a day (a feat that happened for the first week or two, before quickly losing steam – to the heat, to vacation, to a preschool that doesn’t start until after Labor Day). Because, as I realize every couple of months, the more I stayed away from my blog, the more I stayed away from Facebook. And the more I avoided Facebook, the more I didn’t scroll through my Twitter feed in my spare time. And on and on and on it went, and suddenly I’ve got 139 emails I need to reply to in my email inbox that I want nothing to do with.

Because I tasted the sweetness on the other side.

I remembered what it was like to do the hard work but not get sucked into the world I believe is so often worth everything – everything! – that I forget about the real, live, present universe right on my own front porch. 

So, my message varies: I probably owe you an email, and I’ll write you back. Eventually. I may have said a hearty yes yes yes to you, and now that I’m starting to dip my toes back into the water of Regular Life, I’m reminded that there’s only so much I can handle …and I have to say no. But regardless, I’m excited to be with you and journey with you. I can’t wait to ask you questions and enter into the mess of life together, with a big dose of story weaving on the side.

But if you’ll excuse me, now I need to close the laptop. To be with the ones I love. To cozy up with my book. And to remember that this now is the best gift of all. 

xo, c.

So, how ARE you? I’ve missed you! How was August for you? What’s been the biggest life lesson you’ve been handed over the past month? 

the geek’s guide to unrequited love (book club podcast #6)

Book club podcast, book club podcast! 

Oh friendlies. I’m telling you now: August’s book of the month for the Shalom Book Club was nothing short of my favorite. The cover! The geeks! The Comic Con Convention! The adolescents! The love, all the love! The endless 80’s references! The list goes on – so if you haven’t picked it up already, do not pass go, but head directly to your favorite book seller and purchase The Geek’s Guide to Unrequited Love by Sarvenaz Tash.

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The book is hilarious and witty, whimsical and full of a cast of characters that will surely tie to your heart in no time. And you know that if all you want to do after reading a book is head to your local comic book shop and hop on the Comic Con train, that the author’s done a great job. So, pick it up if you haven’t already, and have yourself a listen to the latest podcast episode, too, because, well, we’re funny.

Head over to iTunes and check out the latest episode, Book Club Podcast #6.Or head to Shalom in the City for all the show notes!

Also, be sure to grab a copy of Glennon Doyle Melton’s newest book, Love Warrior, our September book of the month. She is one of my favorite truth tellers out there, and I can’t WAIT to read her words!

Happy reading!

So, The Geek’s Guide: did you read it? Unfortunately, because I loved this book SO much I shall only allow you to write good things about it. Go! (And do join us for September’s book!)

one powerhouse of a woman.

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Sojourner Truth: have you heard of her? Honestly, I didn’t know much about her until I read her autobiography, began researching her further, and talked to my friend Michelle. And y’all, she is one powerhouse of a woman, a human, a former-slave-turned-abolititionist, among other things. So, I’d love for you to get to know her as I’ve begun to get to know her this summer.

You can head over to Gifted for Leadership to read the full article, or check out a portion of it right here:

Powerhouse is not a word often used to describe women of the 19th century, but Sojourner Truth is not like most of our spiritual mothers. An itinerant preacher turned abolitionist, and an early voice in the fight for women’s rights, Truth poured out her life for the marginalized and the oppressed.

Born into slavery in 1797, Isabella Van Wagenen—as she was called at birth—was separated from her parents at nine years of age. She was sold on an auction block for $100, with six sheep thrown in to “sweeten the deal.” Over the years, she faced sexual, physical, and emotional abuse at the hands of her masters, but somehow persevered. Many saw her as the lowest of society—not only black, but also a woman—but she overcame unfathomable adversity. From birth, the cards were stacked against her, but she retained a steady faith in the God who sees and hears every single one of his children.

When she was 29, Sojourner’s life began to take a positive turn. Although she couldn’t read or write, Truth escaped slavery with her infant daughter in 1826. A year later, the New York State Emancipation Act declared her a free woman. She soon learned that her five-year-old son, Peter, had been illegally sold into slavery in Alabama; so, in 1828, with the help of the Quakers, she sued the owner and became the first black woman to win a case against a white man in court. Some say this series of events gave Truth the gumption to step further into the life she was meant to live.

This is only the beginning of her story, and I’m telling you: if your heart beats wildly for the marginalized and the oppressed, you’ve got to continue getting to know this truth-teller. Click here and read the rest of the story! 

So, what females in history have been influential to you? What famous historical figure CHANGED the way you live today? 

*Post contains Amazon Affiliate links, yo!

when the cycle of home begins again.

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I am delighted to be over at Jen Pollock Michel’s place today with a story of home. Jen is the author of Teach Us to Want, a book that won numerous awards in 2014 and 2015, when it came out. She’s getting ready to launch her second book around the concept of HOME, so it was a delight to get to write for her today!

Click here to read the full story, and be sure to get to know Jen through her website. You won’t be disappointed, because don’t you too long for home, with all its memories and musings?

412 Pelican Landing Way, Brisbane, California 94005

It was our first home together, the place whose doors we first danced through after our honeymoon on Maui. I learned how to cook food that extended beyond the frozen food aisle at Trader Joe’s in her kitchen, and in her bathroom I giggled with joy and shock at two lines on a pregnancy test.

My husband and I became us in that house. I, for instance, came to realize how much he loves ketchup. And he (for instance) came to realize how I much refuse to let one drop of said ketchup go to waste before opening a new bottle.

“But there’s one tablespoon of ketchup left!” he’d exclaim, eager for a sparkly new bottle of Heinz 57.

“Exactly, honey: reduce, reuse, recycle. And we’re not recycling that bottle until it’s all squeezed out.”

If only ketchup remained our greatest worry.

In that place we both realized we don’t like to be wrong. We don’t necessarily like to say, “I’m sorry,” and we sure don’t like to admit that marriage can be hard work. But we also realized how much we desire the best for the other person – how we want to be the best team we can be, even if we disagree and don’t see eye to eye and find that sleeping on the couch sometimes isthe best option after a night’s fight.

I think that’s why our abrupt move, a year and a half into marriage, slayed me.

So, are you eager to know why the abrupt move, a year and a half into marriage, slayed me? Head on over to Jen’s website to read the rest of the article, and don’t forget to pre-order a copy of her book!

How do you long for home? What are some your favorite memories and musings of a place you once lived? Tell us a story, now! 

*Post contains Amazon Affiliate links, yo!

5 ways to encourage play in children.

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Well, first of all, friends, can I just say that I’m excited to not just point you to other things around the web in a couple of weeks here? It’s been an incredible month of making progress on my manuscript (17,326 words thus far – and hopefully another 6,000 to go). But I miss our interactions. I miss the interactions writing here and there around the internets provides us. So, here’s to health in balancing book writing, article writing, blog writing and sermon writing sometime in September again!

Meanwhile, if you have young children and sometimes find yourself stuck in knowing how to encourage play in them, consider leaning into this article written for MOPS. Or, dive into the beginning of it here:

They only needed pen and paper in order to get started yesterday. Somehow, making lists turned into drawing pictures of fire, and drawing fire turned into a game of Fire Chief for the next hour. Two little boys ran around the house, putting out “forest fires” in the living room, the bedroom and Mama and Daddy’s room alike.

As I watched my children, ages 2 and 4, enter into this world of imagination and play, I almost did a little skip in the air: They’re playing without me!

They don’t need me to sit in on playtime quite so much anymore, even though I more-than enjoy watching their creative juices flow. Although I loved them as babies, I love who they’re becoming – little boys who thrive on play, on creating imaginative worlds all their own. And it makes me want to do everything I can to encourage this critical element of childhood for them.

The American Academy of Pediatricians agrees. In a 2007 report, play promotes healthy development, and even helps maintain strong parent-child bonds: “Play allows children to use their creativity while developing their imagination, dexterity, and physical, cognitive and emotional strength.” Isn’t this the desire of every parent?

Let’s invite our children to just be kids and play ­– and, in case you need a couple of ideas, here are five things that have worked for my boys:

Curious as to what those five things that encouraged play for my boys were? Click here to read the rest of the article, then make it happen in your house or with a small child near you.

Let’s play!

How do YOU encourage play with the children in your life? What are some of your favorite memories of playing from your childhood? 

holy spirit conditioner.

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Today I’ve got a story of conditioner (which we use a lot of in our house), the messiness of life (as evidenced by every hour of every day), and a story of friendship (which I’m always learning and growing in, that’s for sure). Here’s a nugget of the article, or you can head on over to She Loves Magazine to read the whole thing!

We go through a lot of conditioner in our house.

My husband and I use extra conditioner on our boys’ hair when it’s washed, then we spray down their curls with a leave-in detangler most every day in between. We comb through the tangles until the ringlets pop and bounce, mostly because they can’t do it themselves, partially because I refuse to shave their heads quite yet. My younger son, whose hair is longer, curlier, coarser, can’t stand the process, but for the time being, I’m bound and determined to have one curly-haired baby boy.

If we don’t have conditioner, all hair-hell breaks loose. Gnarled baby dreadlocks stand in place of ringlets. A matted mess threatens the back heads, the spot a permanent reminder of the previous night’s sleep.

And sometimes, I must say, I feel like I’m in need of my own extra dollop of conditioner, too.

Because life, man: it’s messy.

Relationships are messy. Schedules and calendars and deadlines are messy. Political and racial wars are messy. The division that so easily exists between Christians–and the way we tend to forget that Christ remains the center, even when we disagree–is messy.

Sometimes it feels like everywhere I look, and everywhere I step, and everything I put a listening ear to is consumed by mess. My own hair a tangled mat of curls, I find myself reaching for a bottle of conditioner to pour like honey over my hair.

Is it just me?

Do you ever feel the same?

Don’t worry: it does not end with questions, even though that is the best way to end a story sometimes. So, head on over to She Loves Magazine to read the rest of the tale.

Happy August!

xo, c.

Holy Spirit Conditioner: what the Jesus mumbo-jumbo is that? I know, I was thinking the same thing, but then it just came on out. So, your thoughts? Do tell!