advent 3: sojourners in the land.

Today is the third in a December and January series on Advent, Christmas and Epiphany. Following Sarah Arthur‘s new book, Light Upon Light (which I can’t recommend highly enough), this third week looks at the theme “Sojourners in the Land.” You can find week one and week two here. Check back each Saturday to see what’s new, and in the meantime, enter in and enjoy!

Flickr Creative Commons: Daniel Shah.
Flickr Creative Commons: Daniel Shah.

Another text popped up last night: What’s your address?  Did you move again?  I can’t remember…

And I’m like, I GET YOU.  I can’t wait to see your crew of smiling, effervescent faces in my mailbox, but I understand why you’d be asking me that question, again.

Because here’s the truth: I’ve not lived in the same place for more than two years since I was 18 years old – and y’all, I ain’t no spring chicken.

The upside is that I’ve become a master at packing and unpacking, a guru at visualizing a space and revamping living quarters appropriately, and an expert at constantly schlepping through stuff for the weekly Goodwill drop-off.

Martha Stewart would be so proud.

The downside, though, is obvious: I hate moving.  Although I’ve moved past enlisting friends and family to join in for “Free pizza and beer!” (because let’s be honest, that charm begins its rapid descent after or around the age of 25), I’m done sifting and sorting, filling and wadding and sorting our junk into cardboard boxes.

But I’ve accepted that, for whatever reason, this has been a part of my story, the marking point that’s kept me from getting too comfortable, from taking home for granted.  It’s helped me to understand what it means to be The New Girl, to start over in a neighborhood where you don’t know the back roads and you’ve yet to run into that friendly face in the grocery store.

It’s also helped me to understand what it means to be a sojourner, to be someone who resides temporarily in one place.  Because I, too, am a sojourner.  I wait for my final place, and I wait to hunker down and lay down roots.  I wait to make house our home, as I wait for home.

Certainly, this idea of sojourning is not new to the liturgical season of Advent.  Mary and Joseph, en route to parenthood, sojourned as they looked for a place to lay their heads.  The magi who practiced astrology – those three “wise men” who really did believe in signs and wonders, in a heavenly message communicated through the stars – were said to have trekked nearly a thousand miles in search of the baby boy.  Likewise, those dirty, stinky shepherds tending sheep in fields nearby, had to pick up their skirts and wander through the desert a few hundred yards at least.

And this doesn’t even begin to touch the greater idea of a wandering nation, a symbol of the Jewish people who have been cast out, ever yearning for home.  (Nor, for our purposes, does it begin to touch the bigger spiritual idea of one’s final eternal homeas well).

Because no matter where or how or why you sojourn, you search.  You search and you seek and you, too, yearn for a place to lay your head.  You sit by the rivers of Babylon and you remember Zion.  You wait and wonder how long… how long… how long… you’re to sing this song.

But then, perhaps because you’ve embraced this whole notion of sojourning as a part of your story, you put one foot in front of the other.  Step by step, you begin to believe that that is enough, that “The earth is enough and the air is enough/ For our wonder and our war…”*  You begin to dot your words with the occasional exclamation point because you trust in the journey, in the sojourn, in the temporary nature of it all.

Perhaps your mouth even whispers these ancient words:

“Lead, Kindly Light, amid the circling gloom,
Lead Thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home -
Lead Thou me on!
Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene, – one step enough for me.”*

So darling, let’s be sojourners.

Selah.

What about you?  Are you a sojourner?  How or where or why did that happen?  

* = “The House of Christmas” by G.K. Chesterton

** = a prayer from John Henry, Cardinal Newman

the little things: desire (kari wilhite).

Guest post Tuesday!  Today’s post is different: it’s different because you’ll see straight-up poetry.  It’s different because if you’re not of the Christian tradition, you’ll see and hear a strong faith language.  But just like every writer we’ve featured over the last year, when you read Kari’s words, you’ll meet someone who is uniquely, beautifully herself.  And the message she gives us is unforgettable.  Enjoy.  

Flickr Creative Commons: Skywalker108
Flickr Creative Commons: Skywalker108

Had you met me just a few years ago you may have come away with this sentiment: Well, she certainly is a nice pastor’s wife.  She is so involved, so supportive of her husband and is dedicated to the church. Now while that may be all pleasant, even expected, I was dumbfounded when people would say to me: “Kari, you know so much about everyone, but no one really knows you.” I actually chalked those comments up to my badge of Christ-likeness. Wasn’t I supposed to “serve” and “sacrifice” and “take up my cross” to minister to His Church? I didn’t think I had a story to share, that my story really didn’t matter…because I was in ministry.

A series of events in the spring of 2013 coupled with the clinical depression I have navigated for most of my adult life, led me into an emotional/mental/spiritual breakdown in June of that year. I could not cope anymore. I suffered intense insomnia. I was becoming OCD in certain behaviors. I was in despair and my husband didn’t know how to help and couldn’t help me. At the admonishment of close advisors I entered the Meier Clinic in Bothell, WA for a 3-week intense outpatient program. God intervened in such an amazing way giving me this gift: me.

And it all began on day 2 with my therapist and this simple word that I had never thought about, for me: desire. This poem is the account of that life-changing conversation.

What is your desire?
He asked me, sincere.
What do you mean?
I wanted to be clear.

 

What is your desire?
My name up on white-board
next to word: desire
he circled more and more.

 

I haven’t got a clue.
Well…maybe it is this:
my husband to love me forever
only-always, relentless.

 

Okay…how will you
get to that destination?
I guess by being awesome
at every situation.

 

If I clean the house perfect
care for children supreme
shoulder ministry load
do well at everything.

 

What is your desire?
he asked this yet again
didn’t I just tell him?
what does he want then?

 

What is YOUR desire?
his voice louder, steady
his eyes stared at me
I felt uncomfortable, shaky, heady.

 

What do you mean?
I guess I just don’t get it
I can’t discern your question
can’t you just give me credit?

 

He took the black marker
crossed out “desire” firmly
threw pen across room
looked at me quite sternly.

 

You
have not
allowed
yourself
to have
desire.

 

You, Kari, you
not your husband, but yourself
not your congregation
not your children’s health.

 

With this I broke, wept
I had never even thought
that desire was something
I was designed for, bought.

 

That God’s purposes
could in me be manifested
which meant, me, Kari
could have desire selection.

 

For 3 weeks I began
to unlock who I am
truth, grace, time
healing my inner-man.

 

It is all about vulnerability
letting go of powerful lies
that say I must do, fake it
instead of authentic cries.

 

Almost 2 years have passed
still learning about me
what I like, how I tick
my flirting with co-dependency.

 

I am facing my stuff now
with the help of friends
my Jesus gives me aid
with the gift of my pen.

 

No longer bound
by the lie that shame cast
I am living in freedom
I have found me, at last.

Might my experience will encourage anyone who struggles with desire and shame.  Might you find healing in loving yourself, forgiving yourself and embracing the desire that God created you to have.

 –

Kari-Small-e1407119208444Kari is a Northwest girl to the core; the evergreens speak to her soul and the rain is her native tongue. She used to be a “pastor’s wife”, but now she is the wife of Steve, who happens to be a pastor. They live within an hour of Mt. Rainier in Washington State with their four children, ages 7-15 (two boys and two girls). They have a hot/cold, love/hate relationship with their beloved 1982 Westfalia Vanagon which you may have seen behind a tow truck in the last decade. Her favorite things include journaling, letter-writing, dark chocolate, coffee and camping in old-growth forests. Oh, and she has dreadlocks.  So, what is your desire?  And how did Kari’s words impact you today?  Leave a comment below to encourage our friend.  

*We are not mental health professionals here at be, mama. be.  If you need professional help, please contact your doctor today.

advent 2: annunciations.

Today is the second in a December and January series on Advent, Christmas and Epiphany.  Following Sarah Arthur‘s new book, Light Upon Light (which I can’t recommend more highly), this second week looks at the theme “Annunciations.”  You can find week one here.  Check back each Saturday to see what’s new, and in the meantime, enter in and enjoy!  

Escalator Graffiti
Flickr Creative Commons: Tina Leggio.

Sometimes – like this morning – the HBH (Hot Black Husband) and I decide to put on our Brave Hats and navigate downtown San Francisco, with two young children in tow.  Generally speaking, we’ve not enough coffee in the morning when this decision is made, but the pull to ride the train! train! for Cancan’s amusement and get off at the Powell Street station to see Christmas in all its glitz and glory, is a weighty one.  So we go for it.

While doing so, many such announcements are made to the general public, including but not limited to:

We’re crazy!  

This – this screaming, restless saint of a tired child right here – is why you should be nice to all parental-looking people you encounter.

Two-year-olds: they’re not for the faint of heart.  

Escalators are the cheapest form of entertainment available out there;  head to your local mall and try one out today!  

Likewise, no shortage of relief exists once we’re home, safe and sound in the nest of comfort and routine.  Announcements continue to persist, in which I go from giver to receiver.  No longer do I inadvertently proclaim birth control to all Nordstrom patrons, but upon opening my laptop, I am inundated with messages: Save 15% today!  Free shipping!  (E-mail).  We just saw Santa! My kid cried when he was forced to sit on a stranger’s lap – you gotta try this! (Facebook).  Win me!  Quote me!  Retweet me!  (Twitter).

And like Bill Murray’s Groundhog’s Day, the cycle repeats, over and over again – with the same announcements, and the same mind-boggling inundation of information, and the same breathless beggary to consume and partake and buy more.    

Maybe that’s why I like the simple clarity of a single announcement, of an isolated interaction between a young girl and an angel.  And this announcement of the Incarnation – of God becoming fleshy man in the form of a baby – landed itself its own definition: annunciation.

We don’t know where Mary and Gabriel were when the Great Announcement took place, when he showed up to let her know that she was highly favored.

We know that this teenager didn’t understand it right away; she didn’t get why God chose her, and she didn’t get the whole Holy Spirit impregnation thing (and neither do I, let’s be honest).  And we know her response, at least the response passed down through centuries of oral tradition: Yes.  I accept.  I’m in.    

Because there, somewhere underneath Galilean stars, a holy moment birthed itself between God’s messenger and a bewildered teenager.  If Mary, exalted as she is, is anything like adolescents today, I’m guessing she left that conversation still caring about what others thought about her, still desiring to not have a Jerusalem camera crew following her every 16 & Pregnant move around town, still begging to not be announced and talked about behind other people’s backs.

Maybe that’s why this week’s advent theme is not just called annunciation, but annunciations.  Although the moment was singular, the message was bountiful: You are chosen.  You’re the one to carry the son, the son, that is.  Because things are gonna change through this birth, believe you me.

Announcements, where immensity cloister’d in thy dear womb.”*

Announcements to a girl “whose womb was a place/ Of middle kind…”**

Announcements that plead us beg, “Deliver, and make us, to both ways free.”  

So what announcements will you hear today?  Might we all tune our ears to a different, softer, magic-filled kind of announcing inundation today.

Announcements: what are your ears hearing on an everyday December basis?  And what do you need to tune into today?  Happy Advent!

* = “Annunciation” by John Donne

** = A prayer by John Donne

down with BBT, yeah you know me (or, why you should read barbara brown taylor).

Cropic Share File

Every year, I seem to have a different author I obsess over, absorbing their thoughts as I get to know them through their writing.  Last year Madeleine L’Engle and John Green vied for a tie, although Barbara Kingsolver and Rainbow Rowell fought for glittering runner-up crowns.  In years’ past, Brene Brown, N.T. Wright, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Lauren Winner, Saint Anne and Annie Dillard have held the coveted spot.  And, as happens with these authors in particular – with those who seem to hold my heart and know the inner workings of my brain – I find myself asking, How am I just now discovering their writing?  

Has a secret camera been planted in the corner of my living room, in which a little elf watches and listens in on every conversation, omnisciently knowing my every thought?

Am I therefore a target audience, the target audience?

And does this also mean that there are others like me?

That, in a nutshell, encompasses my year with Barbara Brown Taylor, or BBT, as I’ve affectionately come to call her.  BBT is a religion writer who’s comfortably settled into the seat of spiritual memoirs, finding Beauty in the everyday, seeking to understand life through a different set of lenses.  Because seeking to understand doesn’t necessarily mean finding all the answers: it also means wrestling with the questions and sitting in the gray and being okay with not knowing.  And maybe that’s why BBT’s been my girl this year.

It’s been a shifting and morphing season of belief.

It’s been a couple years of cleaning out the closet, digging through piles of discarded clothing to see what really fits and what I really want to wear.  Is turquoise still my color of choice?  Do those jeans actually fit?  Am I keep this sweater simply for memory’s sake?

I’m speaking metaphorically, of course, but as a faith and spirituality writer, I’ve been on a journey of self-discovery the past couple of years, essentially asking the question, Who is Christ to me?  My faith looks different now than it did five, ten years ago …but I, for one, happen to think that’s a good thing. And I, for one, also then find solace with the questions she asks and the curiosity with which she seeks to find answers.

Because BBT is for the seeker in each one of us.  She’s for she who doubts and he who doesn’t understand why the Jesus of his youth looks different from the Messiah of his grown-up years.  She’s for the one who walks through the dark, and embraces the dark, and finds God in the thick of it – even if his name isn’t shouted from the mountain tops, in bolded, capitalized font.

Of her eleven* published books, I read four this year.  Starting with her self-proclaimed trilogy, I discovered An Altar in the World on an airplane flight home from the Festival of Faith and Writing.  Yes, yes, yes!  She seeks to find Beauty - …Beauty, who is God in the everyday.  A couple months later, after I’d submitted a book proposal (about the experience of faith and doubt after leaving ministry), I read her book, Leaving Churchabout her own journey in leaving parish ministry.  I’m not alone, I kept thinking to myself, underlining every other sentence, nodding my head in silent acknowledgment.  I added Learning to Walk in the Dark to my list after reading an article that implored every Seven [on the Enneagram] to pick up a copy.  And for someone who desires to run from pain, it was good and necessary and balmy to my insides.  Finally, because I’ve been speaking more, I picked up a copy of one of her early books, The Preaching Life, and as per the BBT usual, I couldn’t put it down.

[One more thought: I will say that there is a clear shift between her early writing and more contemporary writing, in particular within language and belief system.  Some of you will find this repulsive, while others rejoice at the refreshment within – I look forward to hearing where you pitch your tent.]    

So, will I continue to get to know this woman through her words?  Probably.  Will she be next year’s author of choice?  Probably not.

But you never know.

I am, after all, down with BBT, yeah you know me.

Are you down with BBT or is it just me?  Who’s been your author of choice this past year or in previous years?  And what other 90’s hits would you like to see grace this blog page?

{Full disclosure: This post contains links to Amazon Affiliates – by clicking on a book link above, you support my not-so-nasty reading habit.  Thank you!}

the little things: she dreamt for me (callie glorioso-mays).

Guest post Tuesday is here!  Today you get to hear from a friend across the internet portals, someone I’m figuring out this mama-writer life alongside.  Callie’s message is both simple and profoundly true today, because sometimes we need others to dream dreams for us.  Keep reading to see what she has to say.  

Flickr Creative Commons: Photo cred, Nicole Pierce.
Flickr Creative Commons: Photo cred, Nicole Pierce.

I was in the throes of early motherhood. Not the very first stage, when people deliver meals and give you a pass on showing up places un-showered and clad in yoga pants. But the next stage when you realize that you have to function as a heavy-eyed zombie while still caring for a predictably unpredictable newborn.

Our son was born just eleven months after we got married, quickly changing our plans for the future. With Hadden’s arrival came the departure of my dreams – dreams of grad school, of a job in my field, of paying off student loans quickly, and of spending a few carefree years as newlyweds.

Instead I was a literal stay-at-home mother most days. We were living in a new state and I was faced with the realization that this life l looked so different from the one I’d dreamt of on my wedding day. I loved our son, but I was still clinging to the future I had planned in my head.

On the phone with my sister that day I expressed my frustration.

“Don’t think that this is the end,” she said simply.

When I didn’t understand, she elaborated, painting a verbal picture of what my life could look like.

What I had planned was undoubtedly the easier route to my dreams, but my sister showed me that it wasn’t the only way. Grad school could be accomplished one class at a time while my son was little or I could wait until my son was grown to get my graduate degree. School loans would take longer to pay off on a single income, but in the end, it would happen. And my husband and I could still travel the world, but we could do it as a family.

As a typical 20 something-year old, I couldn’t see far beyond my current stage of life. All around me my cohorts were conquering the world (or so it seemed to me). I felt left behind. In the all-encompassing chapter of caring for a newborn, I forgot that it was just that, a chapter and not the conclusion.  

“Don’t think that this is the end.”

In that moment, my sister did what I couldn’t do for myself: she dreamt for me. My plans had shattered in front of my face and she picked up the remnants and pieced them back together.

I am still a stay-at-home mother, but now I’m able to enjoy it. Instead of building a life rigidly around my dreams, I’ve learned to flex and adjust my dreams to fit into the life I have now. I treasure these days with my son and I’m able to fully appreciate them knowing that this is simply a stage and that there is indeed life after baby.

10530778_1603647909861819_4890637714163711807_nCallie Glorioso-Mays is a chronic over-thinker, a recovering people-pleaser, and the source of far too many questions. She has a degree in Applied Psychology with a minor in Biblical Studies. Callie is married to Caleb, a Cyber Space Operations officer in the USAF, and is the mother of Hadden, who is competing for the award of Precocious Child of the Year. They are currently stationed outside of Omaha, Nebraska.  Get to know Callie even more by reading her blog, following her on Twitter or subscribing to her Facebook page.  So tell us, how has someone dreamt for you, when you weren’t able to see it for yourself?  Otherwise, what did Callie say that encouraged you today?  Cheer her on in the comments below! 

advent 1: begin with a change.

Today is the first in a December and January series on Advent, Christmas and Epiphany.  Following Sarah Arthur‘s new book, Light Upon Light (which I can’t recommend more highly), this first week begins with the theme “Begin with a Change.”  Check back each Saturday to see what’s new, and in the meantime, enter in and enjoy!  

Flickr Creative Commons: Aff Photography.
Flickr Creative Commons: Aff Photography.

Christmas snuck upon me, again.  For the 35th year in a row, it’s like I went to bed sometime around the first of September, and awoke a day or two ago to find the world decked in green and red, illuminated by the hopeful glow of sparkling white lights.  Egg nog beckons me on an hourly basis and the mail box actually gets emptied every day because I am actually eager to see a stack of Real, Live Hand-Addressed Mail. The Justin Bieber Holiday station blasts through the Pandora speakers most every minute of our day, and I find myself at the gym for the sole purpose of burning off every Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Covered Peppermint Joe Joe I’ve more-than-merrily consumed.

It’s blissful.

And it’s exhausting, already.

Because we’ve yet to buy a tree and the bins of Christmas decorations remain stacked in the garage, somewhere between the lonely and forgotten camping gear and a now-defunct high chair.  I had aspirations of being So On Top of It! this year and getting all my Christmas shopping done by Thanksgiving, but by the time I finished stuffing my face with an Alabamian spread of turkey and gravy, mashed potatoes and sweet potato pie, I realized I’d already lost the battle.

Maybe next year, Self.

In the meantime, my to-do list grows: get decorations out, buy Christmas presents – figure out what to buy for Christmas presents – wrap Christmas presents, place Christmas presents in a place where your favorite two-year-old won’t go to town and unwrap his Christmas presents, figure out how to secure Christmas tree to wall so two-year-old won’t sharpen his climbing skills…

And so it goes.

Because if you’re anything like me, December arrives, and with it comes a flurry of stress and busyness, a rush of expectation and anticipation of the Big Day.  We go to parties and we hire sitters and we slurp our bellies into last year’s Spanx so we can impress and dazzle our friends with good tidings and great joy.  We decorate the kitchen in sprinkles and icing (perhaps frosting a sugar cookie or two in the process), and we say yes-yes-yes to every invitation that comes our way because we don’t want to miss one more minute of the magic and the merriment and the joy.

But in doing so we’re exhausted: tired and sleep-deprived, we exhibit the very nature of Scrooge himself.  We’re short with others – quick to anger and poor in love – and we’re even shorter with ourselves, pummeling our insides as the cycle begins anew at the start of each wintry, tinsel-filled day.

We’ve forgotten to enter into rest and reflection, to sit with that cup of hot tea and enter into the Holy, embracing the unknowing tension of the season.

We’ve neglected to steady our ears for “…the inaudible sound of a secret seed…”, to listen for Hope’s silence in the midst of the rustle and the rush.

As for me, change is imperative.  So I begin with the smallest of shifts, and when that cup of coffee first graces my hands, I read a poem or two and I engage in antiquated prayers.  I whisper “…enmeat yourself so we can rise onto our feet and meet,”** as I stare google-eyed at the little one perched atop my lap, holy cooing his reply.

I make an effort to steady my heart for this birthing grace, breathing hymn’s echoing haunt:

Of the Father’s love begotten,

Ere the worlds began to be,

He is Alpha and Omega,

He the source, the ending He…***

Because sometimes, my friends, you just have to begin with a change. And that is what I’m doing.

How about you?  If you celebrate Christmas (or participate in the Advent season), how do you prepare your heart for the Incarnation? Regardless of belief, what’s one change you’ve made lately that’s made all the difference?  (Also, if you haven’t already, be sure to check out A Very Foodie Giveaway, a contest I’m doing with five other writerly bloggers so YOU can win!)

* = “Freeman Creek Grove” by Paul Willis

** = “Incarnation” by Amit Majmudar.

*** = Translated from a poem by Aurelius Prudentius

a very foodie christmas {giveaway!}

Friends, it’s a big day – a big week, actually.  In the world of online writing, there are bloggers and there are writers, and I consider myself a mix of both, to be honest.  I’m not  one of those “mommy bloggers” but I do write about my boys occasionally.  I don’t have bundles of advertisers crowding the sidebar, but I have considered making a small hop into the monetary side of blogging.  And while you don’t necessarily see it, my blogging “voice” is different from my book voice which is different from my speaker voice –  mostly because different parts of the brain and heart become engaged in the process.  That being said, I couldn’t do this writing journey without you.  So, to thank you, my friends and readers, I’ve teamed up with five other writerly types to bring you…

potential giveaway

First, read the bios of these fabulous women – I guarantee you’re bound to discover a new storyteller to love.  And if you haven’t already, would you consider following me via email or liking my Facebook page?

Cara Meredith is a writer, speaker and musician from the greater San Francisco bay area. She is passionate about theology and books, her family, meals around the table, and finding Beauty in the most unlikely of places. A seven on the Enneagram, she also can’t help but try to laugh and smile at the ordinary everyday. You can connect with her on her blogFacebook, and Twitter

Christie Purifoy earned a PhD in English literature at the University of Chicago before trading the classroom for an old farmhouse and a garden in southeastern Pennsylvania. Her first book is forthcoming from Revell.  You can connect with her on her blogFacebook, and Twitter.

Carina is an etsy shop owner, writes when she can, works with Noonday to advocate for women around the world, and loves food. Preparing it, consuming it, sitting together around a table filled with friends and family enjoying it. She lives in Seattle, WA with her five lively children and one awesome husband, and drinks way too much coffee. You can connect with her on her blogetsy shop, and Instagram (among other places).  

Erin S. Lane is author of Lessons in Belonging from a Church-Going Commitment Phobe (forthcoming, February 2015) and co-editor of Talking Taboo, an anthology of writing by young Christian women on the intersection of faith and gender. Confirmed Catholic, raised Charismatic, and married to a Methodist, she blogs about faith, feminism, and, yes, cupcakes on her blog, Holy HellionsYou can also connect with her on Twitter.

Rachel Marie Stone is a writer living near Philadelphia. In the past eight years, she has lived in four countries and two states, and will gladly tell you about the various kinds of pizza she ate (or didn’t eat) in each place. Her book, Eat With Joy, won the Christianity Today Book Award for Christian Living. You can connect with her further on her blogTwitter, and Facebook

Cara Strickland is a writer, editor, and food critic in Spokane, Washington. She writes about singleness, food, feminism, and the way faith intersects life (among other things) on her blog Little Did She KnowCome say hi to her on Twitter or Facebook. She likes making new friends.

And now, let me show you what you have the chance of winning…
giveaway prizes final(1)
I know, I’m green with envy too. UGH. Enter to win by clicking on the Rafflecopter link HERE (the image itself won’t show up on my web page, but it will send you to the site itself).  Good luck!  Contest ends Thursday, December 11th.  Otherwise, be sure to get to know these other writerly friends, and spread the word.  In the mean time, what foodie prize item(s) do you HAVE to add to your Christmas list now?  xo.