finding our way home.

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I once had a fleet of Air Force servicemen and women point their guns at me.

A junior in college at the time, my friends Michael and Alyssa and I had gone to hear a show at a local coffee shop one Saturday night. We packed into my white Chevy Luv, its single row barely fitting our three bottoms. Maneuvering the stick shift was a little tricky given the lack of space, but the bigger quandary came in finding our way home.

We were all what one might call directionally impaired.

So, when we blew past the entrance gate at McChord Air Force base, thinking we could make a quick U-turn back to where we needed to be, military personnel did what they had been trained to do in the event of an intruder. They surrounded my pick-up truck with their bigger-than-life vehicles, lights flashing and sirens blaring. They drew their guns. They spoke through a megaphone to get our attention.

“Uh, Cara,” Alyssa said at one point, “you might want to stop.”

So focused on getting us back to the freeway and to the university we called home, it took me a second to realize the commotion going on around me.

They quickly ascertained that we were rather harmless (which we were), and sent us on our way. But I’ve never forgotten that detour.

Do not fret: story time’s not over yet! How does one unwanted detour through the McChord Air Force base apply to the rest of life? How and why do detours make us yearn for home? Today, some thoughts over at She Loves Magazine – join us! 

why we talk about race, everyday.

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You’d think I’d talk about issues of race and leaning into seeing color more than I do on this blog – which is true. I talk about it all the time. The HBH (Hot Black Husband) and I talk about it in some form or another every single day.

But it doesn’t always make its way to this space.

Maybe because it’s the topic of the book I’m writing. Sometimes all of the thoughts churning around inside of me still need to stay inside my brain and heart and soul. Sometimes I have other things on my mind.

Until now.

I’m delighted to introduce you to a new friend of mine, Michelle DeRusha. She also happens to be a white lady who’s passionate about racial justice. When she asked me to write for her and share some of my thoughts, I couldn’t help but say a hearty yes, yes, yes.

I’d love for you to join me over at her website today. Click here to read why we talk about race, everyday.  

Otherwise, here’s a sneak peak:

But by not talking about race, we denied some children their very identities, the individual parts that made them who they were.

We denied them their stories.

“In the end,” Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

His words haunt me. How many times have I kept silent, because I didn’t know what question I should ask, because I felt talking about a certain subject made me uncomfortable?

I guess you could say I’m on a learning journey now.

Are you on a learning journey, too? Click here to read the rest of my thoughts, then check out Michelle’s words and her books, 50 Women Every Christian Should Know and Spiritual Misfit, for yourself!

So, race: do you talk about it? Racial justice: do you engage with it in conversation over the dining room table? Dialogue now!

*Post contains Amazon Affiliate links, yo!

why we all need to say “i like you” every once in awhile.

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I knocked my glasses off my face in a moment of Zumba intensity Monday morning.

It was awesome.

My inner Latina stopped her twisty moves and bent down, doubled over in laughter. The instructor held her hand to her mouth and tried not to lock eyes with me in the mirrors. And the woman beside me – whom I’d also nearly hit in this moment of aerobic ecstasy – walked up to her friend in the front row, whispered in her ear and pointed back at me.

Were I 25 years younger, this would have become my “Most Embarrassing Moment Ever,” the one I wrote in to Teen magazine to try and win the $25 publishing prize.

But then the whispering woman did the most curious thing. She walked up to me. She put her arm around me. She started laughing, and she said, “You know what? I like you!”

And I told her I sure liked her in reply.

I suppose it hit me at that moment: there’s something to hearing – literally hearing someone say those three sacred words – I like you. 

Most of us, if we’re lucky, get to hear the all-important I love you on a regular basis. My babies say it in a drunkenly slurring sort of way, and the HBH (Hot Black Husband) says it and means it on a regular basis. Elmo says it on Sesame Street, and Gaga says it like she’s a broken record player when we call her on FaceTime.

But I don’t always hear I like you on a regular basis.

Maybe it speaks to my seventh grade self, the one that passed notes to all of her best friends between classes like the Easter Bunny passes out chocolate replicas of his bunny self over resurrection weekend.

I like you. Do you like me? Check yes. Check no. Check maybe so. 

Saying I like you seemed to roll off our tongues. It’s just what we said and did, maybe because we knew saying I love you actually came with series consequences. Those words couldn’t be taken lightly. But apparently I heard the former phrase enough to gain a “positive self esteem” that eventually carried me through life.

So when a stranger at the gym, someone I’ve spoken a mere ten words to in my short Monday morning Zumba career, and whom I’ve only interacted with in passing, pulled me close to her and whispered it in my ear, it sparked something in me.

Maybe she likes me because I make her laugh. Maybe she likes me because I don’t take myself – or others – too seriously. Maybe she just likes me for me. 

When someone pulls us close and whispers these sacred words, we’re reminded that we matter, that we have meaning, that who we are at our core is good and necessary and just plain likable. We’re liked with all our quirks and mannerisms, with all those things that make us us, that separate us from the gang, that make us unique and individual. We’re liked for us. 

So, let’s do this: let’s first of all believe that we’re likable ourselves – I like you, I like you, I like you! See, didn’t you need to hear that?

And then, let’s tell someone else they’re likable today. See it. Name it. Claim it.

Will you join me?

 

xo, c.

Hey! I like you. Isn’t that just good to hear sometimes? Believe it.

Dear Christian: the phrase you need to strike from your vocabulary.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

Dear Christian,

My words will come as a shock to some of you. You won’t get it. You won’t understand what’s wrong with the phrase that naturally flows out of your mouth on a daily basis. And I understand: I used to not only abuse the phrase as well, but I also neglected to see how there could be anything wrong with how I mashed it into my sentences. So, take heart: I’m not insulting your beliefs in God – for that much we share in common – but I am calling you on two words you need to strike from your vocabulary.

The phrase? “Love on.” “Loving on.” As in: 

I’m gonna go love on my Young Life kids today. 

I need to love on the gay community. 

I’m called to love on my friends who are sex workers. 

You catch my drift. I suppose it may not seem like a big deal to tack the preposition “on” after you stake claim to “love,” because, after all, Jesus did call us to love one another. Time and time again, he instructed his followers to love God and love other people. In fact, he also said that it’s all we need to do in this life we’ve been given.

But he didn’t instruct us to love on someone else.

This is the tricky part, I know, but this is what I want you to understand: when we love on another person, that individual becomes an object. He or she is not merely a person, wholly created and uniquely stamped with the image of God, but they are a means to the end. When we love on someone else, love becomes a duty and an obligation.We wear these words like a badge of honor, part and parcel something we’re required to do not because it’s WHO we’re supposed to be as Christians, but because it’s WHAT we’re supposed to be doing.

And that’s legalism. You know that. I know that, because people are, well, people.

People are not the kids you hope will accept Jesus into their hearts at the end of a week at camp, after you’ve loved on them more than anyone they’ve ever known.

People are not your neighbors you hope will start to come to church with you after they’ve seen the way you live, after they’ve experienced all the loving on them you’ve done through monthly cookie drop-offs.

And people are not friends from the gay community you hope to convert after you’ve loved on them enough for them to realize that you really, truly mean it when you say you hate the sin but love the sinner. [So please, if you’ve decided to love on the LGBTQ community after the tragedy early Sunday morning, stop now. Please.]

Enough is enough.

It’s time to stop treating people like mere slabs of meat, objects for our own glorification on this Christian side of heaven. 

Instead, try this: love people.

Gay? Love them.

Straight? Love them.

An unbeliever? Love them.

A believer? Love them.

A feminist? Love them.

A conservative, a liberal, a progressive, a libertarian? Love them.

Black, white, Asian, Pacific Islander, Latino, and all other beautiful colors under God’s color palate of a rainbow? Love them.

Let’s let the great love of Christ be the driving force, the perfection that steers away fear.

Can this Love be the thing that binds us? I think it can.

In this with you,

c.

Have you ever pressed “publish” on a post, and been really, really scared about what other people are going to think when they read this? That’s me today. But this needs to be said. So, do you agree? Can you strike or have you struck “love on” from your vocabulary? Start today!

the summer dessert that will change your life.

Brace yourselves: I’m about to let you in on a summer dessert that’ll change your life. 

Y’all ready for this?

This especially applies if you grew up camping every summer and find yourself yearning now for the taste of charred marshmallows. Perhaps you feel like you had one too many sticky stacks of high fructose corn syrup (as the HBH – Hot Black Husband – calls them) + chocolate + graham crackers when you were a counselor at summer camp.

But whatever your reason, have no fear, for gourmet s’mores are here. And as previously stated, they will change your life. Eager for a summer dessert for Saturday night’s Supper Club, I first heard about it on the Sorta Awesome podcast. Huddled around the grill on our backyard patio with fondue sticks in our hands [see, there is a use for the fondue pot you got at your wedding and still have never used], all six of us put it to use on Saturday night.

I opted for this delicious lemon meringue pie treat:

Photo courtesy of Cooking Classy.
Photo courtesy of Cooking Classy.

Jake one-upped the brilliant peanut butter s’more by adding a couple of maraschino cherries on top. The result? Peanut butter jelly time, y’all.

But then, add cherries. Photo courtesy of Pinch of Yum.
But then, add cherries. Photo courtesy of Pinch of Yum.

And Annie went wild for a little salted caramel, because who doesn’t love sweetness on top of sweetness (on top of sweetness, if we’re going to be so kind to our genuinely sweet friend):

Photo courtesy of Good Housekeeping.
Photo courtesy of Good Housekeeping.

Really, the possibilities are endless, but as for me and my house, we will serve the gourmet s’more. And I know, I know, this information may be nothing new for many of you, but I’m pretty sure my eyeballs rolled into the back of my head on Saturday night and may never return to normalcy given the simple decadence I ate.

So, go ahead: thank me now or thank me later, but just try it and thank me someday.

You’re welcome!

xo, c.

So, gourmet s’mores, grown-up s’mores …have they changed your life like they did mine? What’s your favorite combination? Otherwise, what’s YOUR favorite summer dessert? Do share! 

the 3 most important questions, ever.

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Meet three of my friends, Loree, Nikole and Mary Beth. Back in the day, we were all intertwined in middle school ministry together, as a parent, a student, a director and a volunteer leader respectively. Even though we’re all grown up now (and still rocking side ponytails, I might add), it was with them that I learned the art of asking questions. 

And I’ve got to tell you something: they taught me that there are three questions every human wants to be asked. So I wrote about it, of course. Click here to read the whole article!

We sat on a blanket outside the dining hall, our bare feet dangling over the fabric’s edge.

Camilla was 13, roaring to start the eighth grade at Mount Vernon Middle School in less than a month. I was 26, director of a local middle school outreach ministry, at a summer camp as a counselor to her and a handful of other students that week. Despite my prompts asking her to tell me about herself, her family, her pets—questions that typically get responses from other early adolescents I knew, as children are generally less guarded than adults—she remained mute.

I was stumped.

My only assignment that day was to have a conversation with the girls in my cabin, but nothing I said seemed to work with her. Then I remembered my friend Anna’s “three questions.” Anna was so passionate about her work with middle school students that she’d spent her professional life tending to their unique needs: first as a youth pastor, then as a junior high guidance counselor and later as a teen therapist.

If anyone knew how to get the Camillas of this world to open up, it was Anna. I yearned to do the same.

“I have three questions for you,” I said, then took a deep breath. If this didn’t work, our conversation would remain entirely one-sided.

I know, I know – I’m leaving you hanging like nobody’s business, but there are three questions I think every man, woman and (middle school) child desires to be asked, and I’d love for you to read the rest of the article to see what they are!

So, what do YOU think the three most important questions are? And on a similar thread, what’s the best question someone’s ever asked you? 

 

summer reading, yo.

Here ye, here ye: summer reading is here!

And friends, the possibilities are endless. The pages are infinite. The places with which we can curl up and read – with a worn paperback, under the covers with our Kindle, with earbuds in while we wash the dishes – are divine. 

So, what are you reading?

Here’s a look at nine books I’m eager to devour this summer:

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And you know what? I didn’t even mean to strategically place my wedding picture next to the stack, but since you asked, here’s me and the HBH (Hot Black Husband) straight up now tell me, marriage-style:

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We’re pretty fierce. (See also: I am so good at doing The Robot, face included. See also: so is he. He’s just a super smiley, posing robot).

But, the books. Back to the books.

The Blessing of a Skinned Knee: hailed by Hollywood Housewife as one of her favorite books on parenting, I’ve had it on my list for awhile and now find it highly appropriate given the number of Batman Band-Aids we go through on a weekly basis.

Vinegar GirlI’m actually reading this for the Englewood Review, which is utterly delightful to my book nerd brain. And even better, it’s a rewrite of The Taming of the Shrewwhich is one of my favorite Shakespearean plays.

Ethan Frome: This is my reread of the summer, which is a Really Big Deal, people. I don’t usually reread books, but once upon a time I remember loving Edith Wharton’s book, so I’m going to cozy up with it again soon.

The Real Thing: Originally a pick for the Shalom Book Club (which we later changed to The Knockoff)I’d already purchased it and then got all gushy about reading it, given all the weddings we’re going to this summer.

The Color of WaterThis has been at the top of my list for awhile now, as it’s a black man’s letter to his white mother. I can’t tell you how many people have recommended it to me, and given (my own) book content, I have a feeling it’s going to be rather influential.

Stiff: I know, random. I am generally not one for dead bodies, although I did watch a fair amount of Law and Order: SVU in my (knocked-up) days. But my cousins told me to read it, so when the cousins say you should do something, you do it.

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Roadmap to Reconciliation: Technically a fall pick for the Shalom Book Club, I heard Brenda Salter McNeil speak a month and a half ago in town, and I tell you what: I cannot wait any longer. Powerhouse, y’all. Please join me.

America’s Original Sin: I also got to hear Jim Wallis speak in San Francisco a couple of months ago, and he too is changing the way America talks about race. This is particularly fascinating given that, well, he’s white.

The NestOne of Modern Mrs. Darcy’s top five minimalist summer reading recommendations, I was originally going to read this on Audible but could not get enough of the cover. It’s gorgeous, y’all.

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I mean, it’s so gorgeous you could display it on your mantle.

[What? You don’t display books on your mantle? Too classy for such book wormery? Also, spell check keeps telling me that “wormery” is not a word. For purposes of this post, I choose to disagree.]

The Knockoff: as mentioned above, this is one of our Shalom Book Club (the book club podcast) summer reads. If you liked The Devil Wears Prada , I hear you will LOVE this pick. Join us!

The Pocketknife Bible: And this one is just for fun. For kicks. For giggles. It’s from the best friend, and it’s full of pictures, and I hear I might just get something out of it. (You may now equate “cousins” with “best friend”: I take my recommendations from those who know me best quite seriously).

So, that’s it. My Audible queue is packed with additional reads and I just requested a bunch of books in Overdrive (the library’s borrowing system), so I can keep my Kindle full of mostly fiction reads. I’m also reading several books for review, so be on the look out for further thoughts throughout the summer.

Finally, if you need more ideas for summer reading bliss, consider one of the following:

Happy reading!

So, what else would you add? Want to join me on any of the above books? Are you in deep hatred of any of the aforementioned books as well? Dive in, do tell!

*Post contains Amazon Affiliate links, yo!

what do you do in your spare time?

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This is my friend Lily. She doesn’t normally look that good in pictures, but then again, I don’t either. But one thing I love about this woman is that she’s really, really good at setting boundaries. She’s good at not making work her life, and she’s good at having an answer to the simple question, “What do you do in your spare time?”

So I wrote an article about this question of spare time, and I happen to feature Lily in it. Click here to read it in its entirety!

A couple of weeks ago, I sat with a friend on my couch, a steaming pot of peppermint loose leaf tea on the coffee table in front of us. It was our first meeting as mentor and mentee.

“So,” I asked her, “what do you do in your spare time?” She looked at me and laughed.

“Spare time? What spare time? I hang out with kids—that’s what I do in my spare time!” She smiled and nodded, eager for affirmation, I suppose. Maybe she thought I’d be proud of her choice to knock it out of the ballpark for the kingdom of God. After all, she not only worked in full-time youth ministry, but also volunteered all her extra hours for the same ministry. This was the expectation she placed on herself and on her volunteer leaders.

“Yeah, I get it,” I replied. “But I don’t think it’s the best choice.” The smile faded from her face. I mulled over how best to explain the can of worms I’d just opened. How could I let her know that I’d been there before, that I’d let ministry not just be a lifestyle but my life?

It’s so important for all of us (whether we’re in ministry or not) to have a life outside of work. We need to be able to answer that spare time question. Click here to read the rest of the article!

I’ve got one question for you: what do YOU do in your spare time?

 

where in you promise not to hold the world in your head, any longer.

Sometimes I think I can keep it all in my head.

“It,” of course, meaning doctor’s appointments, book interviews, chapter ideas, middle of the night epiphanies, babysitting hours, friend dates, dinner dates, wedding dates, wedding shower dates, birthday parties, camping trips, article deadlines, blog post ideas, blogging “next step” ideas, writing air dates, places to query, podcast ideas, books to read, needed Target/Trader Joe’s/Whole Foods items …and on and on the list goes.

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Until I can’t.

Take today, for instance. I had a sitter lined up from 12-5, so the day started with a lunch date at Cholita Linda’s (in which I brought my own lettuce and dressing to go with their carnitas. I’ve become that person. I am not ashamed). After lunch with a friend whose words I could take notes on they’re so good, I headed home to write. Because sometimes, even when I can get out of the house, I don’t want to spend money on an overpriced cup of tea and $2 an hour parking meters. I don’t want to sit in the Target Home & Garden section, pretending fluorescent lights aren’t luminescent above me while I write on my laptop.

So it’s kind of nice to drink a free cup of tea in the leather chair in your bedroom. It’s kind of nice when other people watch your shrieking children in the next room over. It’s kind of nice to feel normal and grown-up and adult in your own space.

But sometimes all that adulting takes its toll. 

You think you’re on top of it. You think your acupuncture appointment is at four o’clock, like it’s been for the past three weeks. You think you have time to read a chapter or two in the book you’re reviewing, and you think you may even be able to respond to the hoard of emails you’ve fallen so desperately behind on.

So you read and you dilly dally. You relish in this time to yourself, even if you should be stepping out into the sunshine, at least writing at the coffee shop down the street.

But then you shake your head for shoulding yourself, and you tell yourself that you’ll never, ever be someone who shoulds – not to yourself, not to others, not to your family.

(Insert Tina Fey meme into the blog post, now…)

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(Carry on, please). 

And you even have the grand idea, at 3:45 pm, to ride your bike to the office, because wouldn’t that be glorious? Wouldn’t a six minute ride in the sunshine be glorious? Wouldn’t the acupuncturist be proud of you for partaking of exercise and general feel-goodness of it all?

You pat yourself on the back. You ride your bike. You take the elevator, with said bike, up to the fourth floor. You walk into the office, ready to own all those miniature needles stuck all over your body to help with that middle of the night back pain you crave might end. And it’s true: you own it, you do, you do!

You are on top of the world, rockstar!

You are woman, hear you roar!

You ask the receptionist where you should park your bike (because, of course, you didn’t remember to bring a bike lock, but let’s go back to point A: you look good walking your bike into the acupuncturist’s office!)

And she gives you that millennial look: you know, the one that’s half disengaged, half uncaring, half annoyed with your general existence.

(Insert the trailer for The Great Indoors, coming to CBS this fall). 

(Resume).

But there’s something else she wants to say. Something you can’t quite read as you look for a place to park your gargantuan (but really, really good looking) red beast of a bike.

“Um, did you get our message?” she asks you.

“Huh?” you say in reply, for you’ve been riding your bike! You’ve been basking in the sunshine! You’ve been keeping it all in your head!

“Your appointment was at 3:20. It’s almost four o’clock.” She pauses. “And there’s a fee for missed or late appointments.”

You look at your phone, which holds your schedule, which you didn’t dare consult because why should you? It’s all in your head. You know your appointment’s at four o’clock, like it’s been every other week.

Until now.

Until it wasn’t.

Until the acupuncturist has a previously scheduled four o’clock appointment.

You look at the millennial. She looks at you. You put your helmet back on your head. She asks for your credit card. You shake your head, no. You’re not gonna do it. You’re there. You showed up. You just had a different time written on the calendar in your head.

She looks at you. Her jaw hangs open, like the dentist is straight-up looking at her teeth.

You walk out the door and hit the elevator button so you can journey back down four floors. You wonder if you made the right decision – refusing to pay, that is – but then, when the acupuncturist personally calls you a couple of hours later and offers you grace, grace, grace by way of waving the fee, you heave a sigh of relief.

Not because you got your way. But because this is one last thing you have to hold.

(And then you do what you should have done all along: you promise to consult your calendar every day. You promise not to hold the world in your head. And you promise to do unto others as others have done unto you: you promise to offer grace and extend kindness, both to those who deserve it and to those who don’t). 

Like me.

So. What say you? Have you ever tried to hold the world in your head and then failed miserably? I’d love to hear your story. Do tell!

esperanza rising (book club podcast #3).

Book club podcast, book club podcast!

What fun to read Esperanza Risinby Pam Munoz Ryan with many of you this last month. Even more fun was to discuss it with my favorite book club partner last week on the podcast.

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So, did you read the book with us?

What parts of this YA/middle grade book did you love, and what drove you crazy?

And how did reading a children’s book enlighten you in issues of immigration and migrant workers and those you may have “othered” in the best of ways?

Click here to listen to the podcast and view all the show notes, or (better yet!) head over to iTunes and subscribe to Osheta’s brainchild, the Shalom in the City podcast. Otherwise, if you have further thoughts, join the conversation and leave a comment below.

Finally, join us for the June book club podcast by reading Lauren Winner’s Wearing GodY’all, Winner is magical. I want to carry a little bit of her brilliance and wit around in my pocket, so do join us in reading her latest book in the coming month (especially, I’d add, if you practice the Christian or Jewish faith). Also, be sure to check out the updated book club books for July and August, as we’ve made some changes to the reading schedule.

Happy reading!

So, Esperanza Rising: did you read it? How did Pam Munoz Ryan’s words change you from the inside out? What other children’s books have you read that have had a major impact on your life?