what i’m into :: october 2014.

We continue to settle into life with two littles …and oh, the full, crazy, wide-eyed and bushy-tailed life it is.  We’ve been to the zoo about a million times, and we’ve relished quality time with friends, and we’ve eaten more than our share of yummy meals.  But mostly, we just stare into the wonder that is our newly-smiling Baby Brother: 

I believe the word for this is ...smitten.

I believe the word for this is …smitten.

So as I link up with the lovely Leigh for this month’s “What I’m Into,” be sure to tell me what YOU’VE been into in the comments below!  

I’ve read some books this month… 

Crossing to Safety (Stegner, 5/5) – This book, about a four-way relationship between two couples over the course of time, was absolutely lovely to me.  Maybe because I yearn for this for the HBH and me, or maybe because I’m drawn to Stegner’s vivid descriptions of the little details.  Either way, I think it’s a bit like Annie Dillard: you either love or hate the woman’s writing.

A Christian Survival Guide (Cyzewski, 4/5) – Ed knows his stuff, and he’s got some of the best sarcasm-filled one liners ever.  I’d recommend this to those exploring the Christian faith, interested in a basic seminary understanding.

The Hardest Peace (Tippetts, 2/5) – Not my favorite, for a variety of reasons that I’m not going to go into here, but you can still win a copy through Friday!  (WORST PROMOTION EVER, I know).  

Not That Kind of Girl (Dunham, 3/5) – I admire and respect Lena Dunham, even if her book wasn’t my favorite thing ever.  Her voice is unapologetically hers, though, and that I’ll strive after myself.

On What Grounds (Coyle, 3/5) – Because sometimes you just need a slightly cheesy, java-filled mystery read.

Tell the Wolves I’m Home (Brunt, 5/5) – YES!  Lovely, haunting and beautifully written, this was hands-down my favorite read of October.  I highly recommend if you’re into YA lit.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s (Capote, 4/5) – I’d seen the movie, but I hadn’t read the book – and since it was the 99-cent Daily Deal on Audible, I went for it.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Smith, 4/5) – I read this book a number of years ago, but didn’t remember it enough to actually discuss it in the Sassy Ladies Book Club.  So, I read it again, and while Smith’s style isn’t my favorite, her content is right up my boat.  Because life is all about finding Beauty in the most unlikely of places. 

And I’m currently reading: 

Lila; Outlander; Jane Eyre; Light Upon Light; How Language Works; The Enneagram.  Also, are we friends on Goodreads yet?  Hit me up!  

gilmore-girls_1280x1024

I’m staring at the boob tube…

and quickly becoming besties with Lorelei and Rory (on Gilmore Girls), given our three am hang out times when Baby Brother gets hungry.  How did I happen to miss this show fifteen years ago?  Be still my late 90’s heart.  Otherwise, besides getting the daily dose of Curious George and Thomas the Train, the HBH (Hot Black Husband) and I found time to watch The World Series, Blackish, How to Get Away with Murder and Scandal.  

And I’m giggling heartily at… 

(Our beloved Neighbor Mark has consistently thrown his name ideas into the hat for our kids: Eva Destructshun.  Anita Zaminashun.  Sharon Needles.  Although he’s never actually won a bid, when he sent me this video, I DIED).

I’m consuming calories…

and friends, stop the presses because I actually started meal planning.  Like, once a week, I sit down and look through our refrigerator and cupboards, and actually plan out what we’re going to eat for dinner the coming week.  And it means we’re eating things like this:

One of the favorite new meals.

One of the favorite new meals.

And I’m starting to write again…

I’ve taken a self-imposed maternity leave and therefore a writing moratorium the past two months, but I’m starting to get itchy for WORDS!  On the blog, “how i read,” “to not produce,” “the 2 am boob tube,” and my post for BBT’s An Altar in the World got a bit of traction on She Loves.  Otherwise, I have three speaking engagements in November, so I’m in the midst of sermon prep now – go go go!

Finally, lest you think I’ve forgotten the cuteness of my first-born, let it be known: he’s a darling, still.  Mostly.  Especially during nap time.  Did I just say that out loud?

FullSizeRender 2

Livin’ la vida loca, I tell you. But in the meantime, what have YOU been into? What have you read and eaten and watched this past month? What’s made you laugh and giggle and snort with glee? Do tell!

how i read.

Lately, I’ve had quite a few people ask me how I manage to read – given a newborn and a toddler, a house to look after, articles and posts and chapters to write (…well, not this month), and talks to prepare.  And honestly, I’m not exactly sure how it happens, but sometimes, somehow, someway it does.  Here are some thoughts:

Current reads.

Current reads.

*Books are accessible.  At home, there are books in the living room and the bedroom, the kitchen and even the bathroom.  I find that if there’s a book sitting there staring at me, I’m more likely to pick it up and read it, even if just for a minute or two.

*Sometimes reading is brief, at best.  I used to think that reading required a quiet library and earphones and a lengthy amount of time; sometimes now I only get a page read at a time, but a page is still a page.

*The current season allows for it.  My job is two-fold: I mostly take care of my babies, and I sometimes write and speak.  We have people who help us out with childcare two days a week, but on the other five days a week, I find I can successfully manage ONE outing a day.  That means that we’re usually home the majority of the afternoon for nap times and such …so, I pull out a book.

*Books are on me.  I always have a book in my purse, because you don’t know how many times I’ve been out and about and have had to pull over to feed Baby Brother.  I’d rather read a few pages than scroll through Facebook, again.

*I choose reading.  So often in our social media-driven culture, we’re bombarded with technology all the time – asking us to believe in it and buy into it and beg for more more more.  I finally updated my phone the other day, and found that it had this handy dandy new Health app installed on it, which tracks how many steps I take daily.  But really, by participating in this, I’m silently being asked to carry my phone on me every minute of the day.  And let’s be honest: I don’t need to be attached to my phone anymore than I already am.  It’s already a distraction.  It already pulls me away from the now, from being present to my children and husband and the explosion of life around me.  If I have free time, I’d rather my child see me grab a book to read than stare absentmindedly at the screen in front me.  So, I choose books.

*Audible, Audible, Audible.  There are so many audio book options out there, but Audible is my favorite.  One credit = one book = $10/month.  Obviously you can buy more credits for a substantial discount, and they run fabulous Daily Deals.  I listen to books while I’m driving, making dinner, folding laundry or out for a walk, and find that I “read” 2-3 books per month this way.

*Books are plentiful.  Like I said earlier, books are everywhere in our house, even though, after reading, I only keep the ones I think I’ll read or reference again.  (And the ones I don’t keep, I then pass off to a friend, sell on Amazon, trade on Paperback Swap or give to Goodwill).  But there’s always an option, which brings up the following problem: all the books I’ve acquired but have yet to read…

Exhibit A.

Exhibit A.

Exhibit B.

Exhibit B.

*I read with distractions.  I’m thinking primarily of football here: the HBH (Hot Black Husband) loves the game – I, on the other hand, am slowly growing in my like for it.  So if there’s a game on television (for the fifth day in a row), I don’t mind catching a page here or there.

*I just say no.  Like the Nancy Reagan anti-drug campaign pounded into elementary me in the 80’s, I Just Say No! to bad books.  Life is too short to waste time on horrid literature, so if it’s not catching me, to the Goodwill pile it goes.  I’ve also become a huge fan of Goodreads in the last year, and find that it’s helped me weed out books that may not float my boat.

*Better readers make better writers.  My love to write motivates my love to read.  That’s all.

The bottom line is this: reading is whatever you make it to be.  Yes, I watch television, which usually ends up equating to one show a day (minus right now with the current San Francisco – Kansas City showdown.  Go Giants!)

Yes, I try my hardest to make the people I love, those who are two inches and two feet in front of me, my priority.

But yes, I also find time to give heed to the power of words.

What about you?

So, how do you read?  What would you add to this list?  And what, on the current “to-read shelf” would you make my next reading priority?  (Also, if you haven’t already, leave a comment on Saturday’s post to win a copy of The Hardest Peace …because your chances of winning are pretty darn good).    

the hardest peace {book giveaway}

Have you ever had a friend whose words you continue to slurp up and soak up and muse over, hours, days and years later?

tippetts

Holly and I met in Santa Cruz.  Single and ready to minglewe were both teachers by day and friend-seeking hot chocolate with extra whipped cream drinkers by night. She was my older, wiser friend who wore mismatched socks and listened – really listened – when you talked, inviting you to go first and share all facets of your life: job, boys, church, boys, social life, boys …etcetera, etcetera.

So I don’t know where we were when she first christened my mind with the concept of hard-good, but it stuck.  Because life, Care – she’d always call me “Care,” dropping the “a” at the end in nicknamed endearment – is always good, even if it’s hard-good sometimes.  I’m sure I nodded my head then like I’m doing now: yes, yes, yes.  

I’m sure I also thought of my present problems (as I’m thinking of Present Problems now) and thought, yes, that’s true and that’s Truth.  Because for whatever reason, this simple both-and, this simultaneous, messy holding of good and hard, pain and redemption, made sense.

As you may know, it’s Input Month in our little neck of the woods.  I’ve been soaking in baby and learning how to juggle two little ones, seeking to rest and breathe and be, watching as many episodes of Gilmore Girls at two in the morning as I can, because I can.

But I’ve also been doing my fair share of reading, and Kara Tippetts’ The Hardest Peace speaks to this idea of good-hard:  “But the redemption of my hard yesterdays,” writes Tippetts, “gives me a softened heart to walk in my tomorrows” (35).  She has a very different way of telling her very real version of living with Stage IV cancer, alongside her husband and four children.  I’ll be honest: it’s a hard story to read sometimes, and entering into pain isn’t always my first choice of literature (or of life for that matter, let’s be honest).

But she doesn’t leave us hanging, because instead she hopes.  She lives and breathes and clings to Hope for really, it’s all we have left at the end of the day.  And just like Holly, the pages utter wisdom-filled words of truth that the reader will continue to hold on to hours and days and years later.  “Remember,” she writes near the end, “beauty, not pretty” (117).

Beauty, not pretty.

Yes, yes, yes.  

Because this beauty, this hard-good in the midst of the ordinary everyday, is what we lean into when we embrace that stunning mess called life.  It may not be what I always choose, but it is what I get to live.

And that, I’d say, is a good thing.

I’m giving away TWO copies of Kara Tippetts’ The Hardest Peace, sponsored by Litfuse Publicity Group.  Simply leave a comment below!  Winners announced on Friday, October 31st.

the little things: hair detangler (zohary ross).

Oh friends, we’ve got another Real Deal Holyfield here for you today – because my real life friend, Zohary, who lives a couple blocks away, whose children play on the backyard playground with my own, speaks action into words. Not only will you install the Amazon app onto your phone after reading her story, but you’ll be reminded to ACT …and that, I think, is magically holy.  Enjoy.

Photo cred: Today's Parent.

Photo cred: Today’s Parent.

My closest and dearest sister friend has terminal brain cancer.

A few days after her first surgery I left my own clan behind and flew out to Seattle to spend the weekend with her and her family. My mission was just to be helpful, in any way that I possibly could. To be fleshy hands and feet.

It so happened that the Saturday I arrived was the diagnosis day. As I texted her husband that I had arrived and asked if it was OK that I was heading right over to the hospital, he responded with the worst news, “Yeah. We just found out it’s an aggressive form of cancer.”

Glioblastoma multiforme. I can’t even say the words without feeling sick.

In any case, I put my strong face on and headed over to the hospital. Apparently I’m pretty good in crisis because I managed to keep it together and then only broke down after leaving the hospital.

I spend the days in the hospital with the family, asking questions and trying to be helpful. In the evenings I took her two daughters, 10 & 8, out for dinner and an outing, because – really – as if having your mom be sick isn’t bad enough then you have to also give up your weekends to being at the hospital, too.

At some point over the weekend I heard my friend’s husband, who at this point has been living like a single dad in addition to full-time care taker of sick wife, lament that he was having a hard time combing the oldest daughter’s hair which is long, almost down to her waist.

He mentioned it in passing to my friend who suggested maybe she might want to cut her hair.

Now I’m not an expert on too many things but I know about being a girl and I know about traumatic bad haircuts, so I did not want to wish this on this sweet girl who was already going through so much.

The conversation moved on to other topics and we discussed second opinions, donations, radiation and worst-case scenarios.

My heart broke over and over that weekend and it still does.

But on Monday morning as I stopped by the hospital for one last visit before I flew back home I asked my friend’s husband how the hair brushing went that morning. Again he said it was hard and didn’t feel like he could do a good job. That’s a mom thing to do.

And OH, how badly girls need their mommies at 8 & 10.

Without even thinking about it, I grabbed my phone and pulled up my amazon app. As a mom of 4 I add things to my “cart” several times per week, almost daily. Books, school supplies, misc. gadgets for my husband, you name it.

This time I just added a bottle of Original Sprout Miracle Detangler to my cart and confirmed my friends mailing address. I advised my friend’s husband that they would be receiving a package in two days (thank you Amazon Prime!) and that I hoped it helped.

A few days later I got a call from an incredibly shy 10 year old girl, and it was one of my favorite phone calls ever. She struggled to speak up but just wanted to say hi and thank me for the hair stuff. And when I got a text from her daddy the next day saying that the brushing had been pain free, I nearly cried.

The last thing these girls needed was any more pain and if I could help in any kind of way to prevent tangles or worse bad haircuts, then that was what God sent me there for that weekend.

I can’t fix my friend’s cancer, I’m not a doctor and though I’m still praying for a miracle there isn’t a lot I can do to make her more comfortable. But it was an incredible blessing that weekend to know that I could just do one simple thing to ease one little girl’s pain.

blogsidebarZohary is a peacemaker, an encourager, and a work in progress. She is fiercely authentic. She loves geeking out about personality tests, cold cans of Coke, and her beautiful family—one amazing husband and four wild and loving kids. She’s a credentialed school counselor in California and a life coach, certified by Light University and trained in Dr. Brené Brown’s Daring Way Methodology. She’s passionate about giving and receiving grace, finding hope in hard situations, shining in all the areas, encouraging other to shine, too, and mint chocolate anything. Her name is made up from the names of four loved ones.  You can connect with her at on her blog  or on her Facebook page.  Otherwise, how did Zohary’s story encourage you and change you and touch you?  Leave her a comment today!

to not produce.

A week or two ago I sat wrapped in fuzzy green blanket on the leather chair upstairs, on a conference call of sorts with a couple of writerly friends.  We couldn’t figure out how to get the sound to work, so we each sat there staring at silent bobbling heads on a shared Google screen with phones affixed to our ears.  When it came time to update everyone on all the writing I’m doing, on the output that’s a-flowin’, on the hoards of book deals I’m getting, I just laughed.  Because life is far from that right now.

So I asked these women to hold me accountable to not producing, at least through the month of October.

To not writing.

To not pounding the pavement or putting the pedal to the metal or trying to get ‘er done …or whatever fill-in-the-blank production-infused I liken to use in order to get one more article submitted and one more chapter finished and one more blog published.

Photo cred: Krispy Kreme donuts, Wikipedia.

Photo cred: Krispy Kreme donuts, Wikipedia.

Because right now my job is to snuggle my seven-week old and breathe in that perfect baby smell.

For now, my fingers aren’t to sit glued to a laptop, clicking away, seeking that perfect combination of verbs and adjectives and nouns, but they’re to absorb.  They’re to absorb the newness of our family of four and to marvel in the wonder that is us, even if this transition is hard.  Even if I wonder how anyone ever successfully raises more than one child.  Even if the HBH (Hot Black Husband) and I are playing our own game of Monday Night Football, one-on-one defense at its finest. 

But for now my hands are to chop the onions and carrots and celery for dinner, slowly and mindfully, and to smile at the realization that this right here, right now is my sublime.

These are my halcyon days.  

Because these are the fingers that hold the glass of water I chug around two every morning when Baby Brother starts to cry, begging, grunting, pleading for food.  These are the fingers that just minutes later click “play” on the iPad screen so I can take in another early morning episode of The Gilmore Girls.  (God, I love the 90’s).  These are the hands that hold A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, and these are the limbs, somehow connected to the rest of my body, that remind me to relish in this time of filling.  Newborn-parched, I get to rest and take in and simply receive input without feeling an ounce of guilt.

Even if, when I step into the ugly game of Compare and Contrast, I still feel the guilt.

Even if, like right now, there is an aliveness that happens within when my soul is granted permission to speak words to paper.  Because this too can wait.

So, if you’ll excuse me I’m going to curl up with book and baby …and be.  

xo, c.

What about you?  What do you need permission to take a breather from?  What are your halcyon days?

prayer: then & now.

RedCouch

The gift arrived on a Sunday morning.

My husband and I sat cozied together on an over-sized reading chair, one of those perfect pieces of furniture that makes you wonder whether it’s built for one or for two, the kind that requires a cup of tea no matter the visitor. Almost by accident, we found ourselves at House Church that morning, apart from the norm of Apostle’s Creed recitations and formalized Eucharist indulgences. I feel my heart beating wildly as I lean in to cushion and skin, my body sinking further and deeper into the man I hold hands with for life. Our four-week-old son nestles into his chest and I close my eyes, just for a moment.

I breathe in this perfection, our own corner but a small slice of the halcyon morning.

I smell the coffee wafting from paper cup in hands, its energy waking my newborn-weary body. I hear the hallowed words the voices sing in repetition, the simple eight-word chant growing in strength and belief with each growing verse: “Be still and know that I am God.” It’s as if I can taste the Spirit. You are here. You are present. You are ours.

My senses are fully alive.

And in doing so, I am fully connected to the presence of God.

In Barbara Brown Taylor’s An Altar in the World, the reader is introduced to this very concept:

Prayer … is waking up to the presence of God no matter where I am or what I am doing. When I am fully alert to whatever or whoever is right in front of me; when I am electrically aware of the tremendous gift of being alive; when I am able to give myself wholly to the moment I am in, then I am in prayer. Prayer is happening, and it is not necessarily something that I am doing. God is happening, and I am lucky enough to know that I am in The Midst (178).

Could connection to The Holy actually be this simple?

* * *

I return to House Church, to the twenty-five people gathered haphazardly together on the main floor of Mark and Lisa’s San Francisco flat. As luck would have it, our discussion that morning centers on prayer, around that same notion of entering into God’s presence. We read John 17 and Luke 24, and gathering in clusters throughout the space, we begin to unpack our previous notions of prayer next to the morning’s texts.

A memory floods my mind: I am a sophomore in college, and I believe in a big, boisterous, Spirit-filled God. Hundreds of us gather this particular Monday night, spread throughout the room, standing and kneeling, swaying and bowing. We worship, loudly, and we raise our hands upwards, fingertips gasping for air.

When it comes time to pray, I know the drill. I know how it’s supposed to be done: You raise your voice and sometimes you shout. You prove you know your Bible by inserting God’s Word into your prayer, which is deemed a holy success by the sounds of your peers. Because when a prayer is really good, everyone cheers and claps, with shouts of yes and amen.

This is what I want—because isn’t this what God wants as well?

I know, I’m leaving you hanging – but the story is far from over.  Click here to head on over to She Loves Magazine read about when I became a “prayer weakling.”  Otherwise, what is prayer to you?  How has your experience of prayer changed over the years, if at all?  

PS: If you haven’t yet read or heard of Barbara Brown Taylor’s An Altar in the World, PICK IT UP!

the little things: sitting on the mattress (cari jenkins)

Guest post Tuesday, guest post Tuesday! We’ve got the lovely and my real-life friend Cari with us today – and the moment she shares is just scrumptious.  And as I’ve seen with my friend, and as you’ll soon experience through her writing, Cari offers this world the gift of presence.  Check out how that happened one night on a mattress under a bridge.

IMG_8075

I glanced to my right and saw Mike, Bob and Bongo. The three men lived under a bridge down the street from my house. Over a period of a few weeks the three of us had become friends. Knowing, I had told the three that I’d be bringing dinner on this particular evening I checked to make sure they were home as I drove to mine. I noticed something new in their spot. The three men had acquired a mattress and were all sitting on it as if it were their living room. Somewhere inside of me I knew, I just knew that I was going to have to sit with them on that mattress.

I arrived at home and quickly prepared the meal. The whole time I was distracted by the lingering thought of joining these three men in their new “living room.” I pulled dinner out of the oven, filled Tupperware containers and pulled together the necessary plates and silverware placing the contents in a bag big enough to carry it all in one load.

I walked the half block to the spot where my friends lived. We greeted each other and Mike without skipping a beat says, “Cari, you must join us. My mother would find me so rude if I didn’t offer you a seat on our new furniture.” With that, I sat down. There I was a 30 something female sitting with three men nearly double my age on a mattress, underneath a bridge in the middle of San Diego. If only my mother could see me now, I thought to myself.

I passed the plate around and set the food out. Mike asks, “You’ll be joining us tonight won’t you?” I hadn’t planned on it. In fact, sitting on the mattress was already a little above and beyond the call of duty. But, I had no reason not to stay and I did refer to these men as friends, and friends, they eat together. For the next hour and a half the four of us sat on the mattress, breaking bread, telling stories and sitting not as helper and helped, but as true, equal, peers and friends.

I sat. I ate. I became friends with. And, I changed. No longer was I satisfied with being the helper. No longer was it enough to hand out food to those in need. No, I saw that it was in sitting among, eating with, asking questions and listening to the stories of these men that I was with them instead of over them.

When I reflect on this one event in my life I understand, just a bit more, the power, beauty and significance of the story of Jesus. God who was over, became God who is with. Immanuel, God with us. I am so thankful for these three men and the friendship we formed. And, I am so glad I chose to forgo my idea of safety, comfort, and position to enter the story of another, to be with; truly, purely and wholly with. For I was the one who was changed for the better.

Screen Shot 2014-10-14 at 8.26.36 AMWith 20 years of local church experience, Cari uses her gifts and experience to make the Kingdom of God tangible through relationship as a creative, connector, encourager, pastor and missional strategist.  Her love for the church and the individuals who make up the body have created a deep  desire to see the Body flourish as individuals root themselves in Jesus and extend themselves to the world around them.  In 2007 Cari founded The 11:29 Project; a work dedicated to fostering sustainable and thriving leaders. Through this work Cari meets with leaders around the globe, who desire to make the Kingdom of God tangible in their spheres of influence, for discipleship, soul care and encouragement.  Cari lives in Denver, Colorado and often finds herself in Los Angeles, California where she serves a community of young creatives seeking to influence the world through their creativity.  So, how did Cari’s story invite you in to being present?  How did her one little moment CHANGE you?  Encourage our friend today!