rituals: when hymns belong to babies (christy knutson).

I’ve got a lovely guest post for you today …one that involves babies and songs that are not just songs but hymns. Because, as writer Christy Knutson says below, sometimes we build rituals – but sometimes rituals build us. Ain’t that the truth.  Enjoy my new friend’s words, and cheer her on by leaving a comment at the end of the post! 

Photo cred: Ashley Blevins Photography.
Photo cred: Ashley Blevins Photography.

It’s nighttime and her daily afternoon-long colic fit is behind us. I sway in the darkness, singing, “…strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow…” as the tears roll from my face into her mop of black hair. I sing more to myself than to her. Over and over, the liturgy of hope and faithfulness. The prayers and pleading for strength and the light of a new day.

I am drowning in the overwhelm of life with my first baby, combined with a touch of postpartum depression and the searing pain that comes with being stripped of selfishness and control. The incessant crying, the lack of comfort she seems to find in me and the loneliness broke me. What began as a ritual for her ended up as a source of comfort for me.


I was in the first trimester of my pregnancy with Annazalie when I found myself on a plane to Las Vegas. I was meeting two of my dearest college friends for a carefree, sweet, refreshing weekend in the most unlikely of places.

A friend had recently mailed me a copy of Noel Piper’s book, Treasuring God in Our Traditions, knowing my penchant for all things tradition. It was a quick read and I drank deep the ideas and values she shared. One tradition struck me as especially beautiful. John and Noel, before the births of their children, selected a hymn for each one. They sung the hymn as they rocked them to sleep at night and it grew with them as they grew.


Early in my pregnancy with Annazalie we received results that indicated she was at a heightened risk for Down Syndrome. Having just experienced a miscarriage, we opted against an amniocentesis for clarity and decided to wait and see. For months we prayed over our growing daughter, trusting that she was being knit together with attention and care, no matter the outcome.

During that time of uncertainty her personal hymn became clear: Great is Thy Faithfulness. The song had always carried a special meaning for my husband and I and it was beautifully sung at our wedding. The lyrics became a battle song of sorts, declaring that despite the circumstances of her health, God is and will be faithful to her and to us.

Our sweet girl was born without that extra chromosome. She was declared “typical,” and we thanked God. We thanked Him that He was and is faithful no matter the particularity of her health, and we thanked Him that He will remain faithful in the specific struggles she will inevitably face.


A few years later I found myself, hands resting on belly, trying out a favorite hymn for our growing baby boy. We twirled it around in our minds for a few weeks, but it didn’t feel right. Days later we sang Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing in church and I knew we had landed on the hymn for our Bennet.

Several months before his first birthday I find myself standing in church. He, in true Bennet form, is resting in my arms, face nuzzled into my neck as we sing. One song ends and the violinist begins playing “his song.”

I think he is asleep, but within seconds his head pops up and with wide eyes and a look of excitement he looks to the front. As we begin singing the well-acquainted words his sugary sweet baby noises pipe up. In his own way he is worshiping with us. I glance at my husband and we can’t help but smile with overwhelming gratitude and love.

“…Let that grace now, like a fetter…Bind my wandering heart to thee…”


Out of all our many traditions and rituals, the selecting and pouring out of hymns over our children is one of my favorite. As their hearts grow and change and as our role as parents shift with them, the words will carry new meanings and memories. But despite circumstances and the particulars of our seasons in life, they will always serve to speak truth and hope over our family.

Sometimes we build rituals. Sometimes rituals build themselves. In our experience, the birth of this ritual for our children has grown into a gift for us as much as for them. And at the end of the day, that’s the thing about rituals. They like to surprise us.


Christy Knutson is a communications and creative professional at Moxie Speak. In her free time she enjoys writing over at the new Faith and Mystery. She calls Raleigh, NC home along with her husband (Jon), daughter (Annazalie), son (Bennet) and two cats. You can also find her on Facebook, Instagram and (sometimes) TwitterIt’s Cara again: I mean, was that not an endearing post or WHAT? Regardless of your faith leanings, what is the hymn you sing over your children, over your love, over your friend? Enter the conversation!

finding Beauty, again.

I saw Beauty yesterday on a late afternoon walk with the family.

The water is so blue it sparkles, and Cancan is at his best, fist-pumping the air with one hand while he cheers himself on – and rallies the crowd to do the same. The HBH (Hot Black Husband) is tireless as he runs beside his son and Frodo warms the hearts of strangers everywhere as he raises a sticky hand in hello.


And sometimes – although it’s usually pretty rare these days – I actually capture glimpses of Beauty. But most of the time I don’t. Most of the time I’m so caught up in the moment (or so I hope), I forget to pull out my camera.

But still it makes me wonder, where else have I seen Beauty – who, to me, is Christ – in the most unlikely of places? 

I saw it this weekend in the college students who chased our boys up and down slides this weekend on a rickety old playground. I got to speak to a group of them up in the Sierra Nevadas, and partake of their fully-alive selves, their questioning selves, their hurting selves. And because these were the words I preached and pleaded and hoped to be true, it made me open my eyes and ears in a new way, all over again.

I heard it yesterday in the car, through the words about marriage from Rob and Kristen Bell, on a long-ago podcast of The Liturgists. So, how’s your zimzum?

I saw it when I put a plea on Facebook for people to buy raffle tickets for Cancan’s non-profit school …and y’all came thru. Sometimes this parenting thing can feel like an island, but after a Friday like that, I am reminded of my village. Because what you didn’t see is that just seconds before, angry and frustrated preschool tears dripped into his hot chocolate. I’d wanted to throw his strawberry jam toast across the room, but with each ticket purchased, my spirit lifted.

Funny how that happens.


I tasted it last night when I took a bite of tom kha kai soup from a Thai-Laotian restaurant nearby. Real chunks of coconut floated around in the steaming liquid and I just about keeled over in happiness.

I feel it, past and present, when my fingers have a story to tell, when I sit down at my laptop and can’t stop the typing. 

And I experience it when last-minute texts come in, when friends pop by for a visit and an unexplainable three-year-old camaraderie begins to happen with the littles:


I see it when Frodo takes one, two, five steps across the room, and I see it when the HBH cleans the kitchen tirelessly, effortlessly, just because.

I breathe it in on walks with old friends, when you don’t have to explain yourself because they already know – and accept, and love – the back story. And I exhale it out again when new friends come across my paths, when we find that commonality and begin to cling to it because this is what we share.

For this Beauty, it is with us and in us, before us and behind us, above us and below us. It’s to our right and to our left, and it’s with us when we lie down and when we sit down and when we arise. It’s in the heart of every man who thinks of us, just as it’s in the mouth of everyone who speaks of us, or so we hope. It’s in the eyes of all who see us and the ears of all who hear us.

And just as St. Patrick prayed, so I too lean into this Beauty today. 

Might it be the same for you?

So, where are you finding Beauty in the most unlikely of places? I’d love to hear …so, share a story!

what i’m into :: august & september 2015.

Just today I looked at the calendar and realized my son is – to the date – 13 months old. Here I was, telling everyone he’s a year old, that he’ll soon be 13 months …and lo and behold, IT’S ALREADY HERE. Do you ever feel that way about life in general? Linking up with the lovely LOCAL Leigh for this month (and last’s) What I’m Into. 

We had some fun, this time at the Bay Area Discovery Museum:


The highlight of the past couple of months was hopping on a plane to the middle of the Pacific. This pretty much captured our everyday world:


The HBH (Hot Black Husband) and I celebrated our fifth anniversary, and cheered on Papa John and Aunt Tina’s ten year vow renewal:


I wrote every day – and completed four chapters! – and we swam, lots. We grilled fish most every day, used Yelp like it was nobody’s business, read and rested. And we celebrated this little dude’s FIRST birthday:


I also read a few books, including these four and five star favorites: 

Jacob Have I Loved (Paterson), 5/5 – This was my favorite book when I was twelve, and it’s still just as good.

Go Set a Watchman (Lee), 4/5 – Y’all: just read it. But don’t read it with TKAM in mind.

Loser (Spinelli), 4/5 – Jerry Spinelli is a magical weaver of children’s literature. I can’t wait to introduce my boys to his writing someday.

The Whole-Brain Child (Siegel), 5/5 – This might be the best parenting book I’ve read TO DATE.

Tiny Beautiful Things (Strayed), 5/5 – Wow. Wowwowwowwow. I couldn’t stand Wild, but this book rekindled my faith in all things Cheryl Strayed.

A Man Called Ove (Backman), 5/5 – Grumpy Old Man. Hilarious. Heartwarming. And true. So, so true, for there is a story behind every hurting, angry human.

The Girl Who Fell from the Sky (Durrow), 4/5 – The book I feel like I need to read a second time in order to truly understand.

Wild in the Hollow (Haines), 5/5 – Quite possibly the best spiritual memoir I’ve read this year. And y’all, I read a lot of them.

Orphan Train (Kline), 5/5 – Absolutely fascinating and fun and captivating from start to finish – and unbelievable that this is based on a part of American history.

How to Be a Woman (Moran), 4/5 – Snarky. Witty. Funny. Crass. Caitlin Moran is one brilliant lady.

The Girl With All the Gifts (Carey), 4/5 – Let’s call this one “The Most Unexpected Book I Found Myself Reading.” I would not have chosen this in a million years, but y’all: fascinating.

Out of Sorts (Bessey), 4/5 – Sarah’s second book is sure to strike a chord with a whole new flock of readers. I felt like we were sitting down to a cup of tea together, it’s that personable.

Maisie Dobbs (Winspear), 4/5 – While it’s well-written, I really don’t think it should be hailed as a mystery novel.

Astonish Me (Shipstead), 4/5 – A terribly fascinating look into the last place on earth most of us have probably ever encountered: the world of ballet. (Well, but for my performance in “E.T. on the Moon” when I was four).

Also read: The Cultivated Life; Amsterdam; The Seven Good Years; The Book of Forgiving; The Last Anniversary; Lunch in Paris; Three Daughters; A Tale of Two Cities ; Sailing Alone Around the Room.

Currently reading: Rules of Civility; The Magician’s Assistant; The Boys in the Boat; Simply Tuesday; The Beginning of Desire.

If you’d like to unite as book nerd friends, forever and ever, amen, then let’s be friends on Goodreads!

Otherwise, here’s a bit more of what we’ve been up to: 

Cancan officially started preschool, and y’all, he is AMPED.


Then, two weeks ago, in a moment of brilliancy, I spilled half a glass of wine on my laptop. It sat in rice for forty-eight hours, and then hung out at hotel de la M.A.C. store for a week …where it was found to not have an OUNCE of damage! We were all doing a happy clappy, praise Jesus dance over here.


This man and I went on another (!) date (even if it did end in parent happy hour):


And the cookie cups that were supposed to look like this…


But ended up looking like this…


Landed these pictures an upcoming highlight on Tyra Banks’ new show! (No, I’m not joking. Yes, I’m totally serious. Keep on failing, friends, keep on Pinterest Failing).

So, that’s it, in a nutshell. We’ve entertained and we’ve watched football. We’ve had moments with some of our dearest and never snapped a picture because the moment was that good. We’ve tried our hardest to lean into love and into life, and that, if you ask me, is what it’s all about.

xo, c.

What about you? What have you been into this past month? What have you read and watched and listened to? What’s struck your fancy, and what’s just sent a shriek of terror through you? Join in the conversation!

rituals: saturday morning breakfasts (kristin wolven).

Guest post Tuesday! Today’s post – and writer – will make you want to find your people on Saturday mornings. It’ll make you want to dirty pans with scrambled eggs and partake with glee of the slow, precise, perfect art of baking. Kristin is an old friend from camp, but I can picture her reading this story – so, enjoy her heart as you get to know her voice as well.

Long ago, I slipped into a ritual of daydreaming what it would be like to be married someday. This was the direct result of well-intended youth group sermons, and the promise I felt owed to me if I attended a Christian college. You can imagine my disappointment, when at the ripe age of 26 I was still not married.

Fortunately, my friend Emily called me one weekday afternoon while I was shopping and said, “Do you want to start a Bible study with me?” So we did. And it was great. A few years later, five of us from the group decided to become roommates. Because who wouldn’t want to rent their Orange County track home to five single girls? Did I mention we met in a Bible study?

We eagerly moved into a quaint, two story home in a neighborhood surrounded by green hills. Although there are many adjectives I could use to describe our time together, it’s just easiest to say it was fun. It was a ton of fun. Together we binged watched episodes of The Office, hosted parties, indulged in late night talks and early morning runs.

Sometime during our third year as roommates, we started having breakfast together on Saturday mornings. It wasn’t planned. It just happened.

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There were six of us in the house at the time. Gradually, we found ourselves spending Saturday mornings making Val’s scone recipe, scrambled eggs with cheddar cheese, or French toast. We would sit at the large kitchen table talking, laughing, and pouring cup after cup of coffee. Eventually, we’d glance at the clock and it would be noon.

It slowly became a tradition. One we still celebrate. Only Emily, Katie and I live in Pasadena now, but the habit remains.

The first roommate up on a Saturday morning pulls the coffee press out of the cupboard, grinds the beans, and boils water. I love waking up to the aroma of fresh coffee. Emily might whip up a delicious egg dish. Katie always pushes for pumpkin pancakes even when it’s 90 degrees outside. Since I’m not the most skilled cook, I tend to focus on making coffee. Then I usually end up standing at the sink, grabbing dirty dishes to wash as Emily and Katie cook and bake.

Although some of the roommates have gotten married, they still come back regularly for Saturday morning breakfasts. These mornings are sacred. We sit and we talk. We eat and we pray. We give thanks for the time we have together. We share our hearts and catch up.

These years I’ve spent with my roommates have been a profound blessing. This journey hasn’t looked quite like the daydreams of my youth. But walking alongside such strong, beautiful, wise, and compassionate women has been a gift.

Community should be a ritual everyone gets to enjoy. It’s one of the most beautiful parts of being human.

It’s been six years. Six years of Saturday morning breakfasts. A tradition that I’m sure we’ll be preserving for the rest of our lives. Because these are lifelong friendships. This will be a lifelong ritual.

IMG_1385Kristin Wolven lives in Pasadena, CA where she spends her days as an associate producer and studio teacher for  television. She loves coffee, writing, singing in the car, and living life with her roommates. Kristin’s blog, “In the Meantime,” is currently under construction, but look for its rebirth in 2016. It’s Cara again, and I’d love to stay and chat, but I must make my way to the kitchen and whip up a batch of scones. Mmm. Didn’t Kristin’s words make you hungry for every beautiful part of Saturday mornings? Leave her some love below!

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.


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. 

a round of story-weaving for you today.

It’s not everyday that you get to see your words featured at the homes of three of your favorite writerly friends. But sometimes, perhaps because your laptop is still at the doctor’s office, and all forms of organization are out the window, it just happens. So, will you join me in this storytelling soiree today? 

First, over at Heather Caliri’s blog, we have these words:


Heather invited us to write about a time when the yoke was easy …and for me, I reflected on the year after leaving ministry, when God wasn’t necessarily easy to find but there all along. Click here to read those words.

Next, my C.S. Lewis buff of a friend, Jennifer Neyhart, asked us to write about a book or author who influenced us greatly. I really, really wanted to write about N.T. Wright or even Karl Barth, but nope – Saint Anne won the coveted spot again. Click here to read all about how Traveling Mercies changed me entirely that first year after college.


The effervescent Lindsey Smallwood invited me to write about an extraordinary moment …but as you know by now, I believe that the ordinary is really quite extraordinary (and the extraordinary is sometimes quite ordinary).


I’d love for you to join in a reflection on this past Sunday, when Cancan declared “Jingle Bells” the song of the day and we all joined in. Click here to read that post.

Okay, fine, there’s one more: some of you may have seen a post in your inboxes last Wednesday that directed you over to She Loves Magazine. Well, the latter half of the piece – the part with a sprinkling of hope, if you ask me – had gotten left out, so they featured it again on Sunday. Humanity happens, y’all!


This post might be the saddest of the lot, but I’m telling you: Hope still sings. I’d love it if you clicked here to read about my beautiful grandmother and her fight with Alzheimer’s disease.

So, that’s about it. Otherwise, how is your yoke made easy today? And what author or book changed you entirely? What ordinary part of your life is really, quite extraordinary? And, how are you doing the only thing you can and holding a hand? Let’s dialogue!

rituals: everyday chaos (marcy weydemuller).

Guest post Tuesday! I want you to meet Marcy, one of the people who helped me fine tune my writing, who believed in me the very first time I uttered, “I want to be a writer. Is it possible?” Although we’re not able to be in a writing group anymore, I’ll always hold and admire her influence in my life. Enjoy her words today. 

Photo cred (of Ocean Beach, San Francisco): rentcafe.
Photo cred (of Ocean Beach, San Francisco): rentcafe.

When Cara Meredith asked me to consider a blog on rituals I hesitated because I didn’t think of myself as a ritual type. Then I wondered how to define a ritual ‘type’ and, if I could, then how might that attitude, or activity, differ from habits or traditions? Since I knew I had several months to ponder I said yes, and then immediately forgot all about it until the deadline loomed. Now that is a typical habit.

I consider myself a quiet introvert who loves structure and giant blocks of time to read and write and think. However, my actual life is chaotic, dramatic, always rushed, often loud, and no day is ever structured anymore.

Instead my days are in free-fall even when my calendar is clearly marked with assigned commitments. Some are of my own making such as forgotten lurking deadlines, some the general life trials we all struggle with like power outages, some totally random slivers of brokenness, and others the deep valued relationships with family and friends that trump any activity any time.

Lately transition seasons seem to interrupt with more frequency and add a sense of dislocation as well. The most recent one has lasted over a year and is still is process. I became overwhelmed and needed to find a way to cope. I tried to think back on what I’d let go of, or now did too seldom, to keep my heart above water. I know there is really nothing to do about the trials and circumstances that wash in like a flood, but I have been able to navigate with peace in the storms before. What had I let go of?

Surprisingly I realized nothing externally, but definitely internally. I had allowed the craziness of tick-tock clock time, filled with no margins, overcome my timeless rhythm. Instead of quiet devotion and prayer time to start my day, I raced through the reading as a checkmark on my to do list. And pushed prayers to mimic a quick shortened message like quick texts throughout the day. Nothing wrong, but nothing deep either. I no longer paused to take a breath even when I physically stopped moving. I missed inhaling nature except for the wind’s touch when I rolled down my windows driving.

So I guess I found I am a ritual type—at least for myself. I need to consciously choose to take pause breaks for scripture or devotional reading, to pray with concentration even if only a few minutes at a time, and to stop and look at the beauty God created.

Sometimes on my way home lately I stop near the ocean and set my alarm for fifteen minutes and do absolutely nothing but watch the waves. Or take a detour on my way home to drive along tree-lined streets instead of fast car choked cement roads.

I’ve been really intentional the past few weeks and guess what—the external chaos became an avalanche. But rushing and reacting are no longer my immediate internal heartbeats, even if outwardly I am actually, literally, running. A pause to calibrate changes everything.

To listen, to be aware, to participate by choice, to trust, changes my story from despair to hope—every day.

Blessings on your pauses,


263084_10150210271344299_3611430_nMarcy lives in northern California. She is a Freelance Content Editor, Writing Coach, Workshop Instructor, and Author. Her fiction includes fantasy, historical, and contemporary stories, and in non-fiction she writes devotions, Bible studies, writer’s workshops, and poetry. She is the author of Lightbearer: The Lorica Prophecies, a YA novel; A Writer’s Spiritual Retreat, a reflective journal; and An Advent Journal, which releases this November. Connect with Marcy on her website, two different blogs (here and here), on Facebook and on Twitter