Shalom Book Club, 2017!

(But first, an announcement about the podcast: if you’ve already read all the good Shalom in the City news, just scroll to the bottom for BOOKS).

i.

Most of you know that one of my favorite parts of 2016 was getting to pair up with my dear friend Osheta for the Shalom Book Club, a monthly book club podcast.

Well, have I got news for you…

First, the book club starts up again in March – scroll down to see six months’ worth of picks. I can’t wait. I can’t wait. I can’t wait. 

Second, the format of Shalom in the City is changing when it comes to the who. Instead of new guests every week, there will be a monthly rotation of co-hosts and one guest per month. I’ll always show up as the Fabulously Witty and Highly Stimulating Book Guru (or so I’m calling myself), but puh-lease extend a warm welcome to two new co-hosts, Jerusalem Greer and Abby Perry.

You can read more about Abby’s role on the podcast here.

And click here to read more about Jerusalem’s role on the podcast.

Third, the format of Shalom in the City is changing when it comes to the what. We’re narrowing our focus. We’re going deep in one theme for four months straight, and then having loads of fun with Camp Shalom in July and August. But from March to June, the books we read, and the conversations we have on the podcast and in the hang out will focus around the central theme of hopeful resistance.

Because, this:

This is hope springing up out of murky parts.

This is finding beauty in the most unlikely of places.

This is going, Man, I don’t necessarily like or understand everything going on in the world today, but I choose to actively be a peacemaker instead of a peacekeeper.  

And this is doing it all together, in and with and through the concept of shalom.

ii.

“Um, weren’t you going to talk about the books?”

“Yes, yes I was. They’re here! Announcements, announcements, announcements! Grab a copy of each of the books listed below, then head over to the Shalom Sistas Hangout and leave a comment. Book club podcasts work when you leave YOUR thoughts and ideas.” 

“Yeah, yeah, yeah, I get it: the books?”

“The books!

March: The Sun is Also a Star (Nicola Yoon). This YA book kicks off the theme of hopeful resistance, and I’m telling you now: Yoon is a master storyteller. Her book Everything, Everything was one of my favorite reads of 2016, and I can’t wait to enter into this one with all of you.

April: ONE (Deidra Riggs). Am I allowed to be more than excited for books, two months in a row? Deidra’s book kicks off the theme of division within hopeful resistance, and I can’t think of a better shalom-seeking book than this one. Also, I am delighted to be speaking at the upcoming ONE Conference (with Deidra) in April, and would love to have you join me! (Note: book releases April 4, 2017).

May: Hallelujah Anyway (Anne Lamott). I know, I know – how the H-E-double hockey sticks did we get so lucky as to read three amazing books three months in a row? Squeeze me. With the theme of defensiveness within hopeful resistance rounding out May, we could think of a better author who’s offered the world a dose of vulnerability than this saint. (Note: book also releases April 4, 2017). 

June: LaRose (Louise Erdrich). When it comes to the theme of despair within hopeful resistance, we yearned to read an adult fiction book that dealt with the issues of mental illness and was written by a woman of color. Erdrich, who’s Native American, fit the bill with this 2016 New York Times Bestseller, and I, for one, can’t wait to read it.

July: Saints and Misfits (S.K. Ali). If this opening line doesn’t get you, I don’t know what will: “…an unforgettable debut novel that feels like a modern day My So-Called Life …starring a Muslim teen.” I mean, I love me some Claire Danes, but I can’t wait to read this top pick, right in the middle of Camp Shalom!

August: Foreign Soil (Maxine Beneba Clark). When Elle Magazine marked this book as one of their most anticipated reads of 2017, I knew I had to check it out. So, here’s the deal: it’s written by a West Indian and Australian writer and slam poet, so you know the literary juices will be flowing with this one. And, maybe it’s because I read in bits and spurts during the summer, but a book of short stories that take place all over the world seem quite appropriate to me!

September through June books will be announced later this year! 

Otherwise, listen, read, enter in …and enjoy.

So, Shalom in the City: have you checked out Osheta’s brainchild of a website yet? What books are you MOST excited to read with us this year? 

Getting paid to write, #2

Today’s super sexy writing space: the kitchen counter.

Well, yesterday was just fun, friends. I told the story of how the HBH (Hot Black Husband) and I made a goal that I would get paid to write 12 articles in 2016 – and ended up surpassing that goal by five.

While I don’t think it’s rocket science, it did take me more than three years to get to the point of believing I was smart enough and witty enough and writerly enough to get paid to write.

So, I gave you seven ideas that worked for me yesterday, and I’ve got seven more for you today.

1. Join an online writing network. For a long time, I thought that if I just put my words out there on the Internets, that the writing would come. Some editor, some agent, some someone would see the magical way I have with words and call me to come forth. And sure, invitations eventually came, but for the most part, I’ve had to seek out writing opportunities. If you don’t have specific publications in mind, perhaps it might be in your best interest to join a writing network where opportunities sometimes come to you. Go to Google. Type in “online writing opportunities.” Press send. Or check out places like Brian Scott’s Online Writing Jobs or Write.com.

2. Listen to your jealousies. One of the wisest things Osheta ever said to me was to listen to my jealousies. I’m not sure whether this was over Voxer or on podcast airwaves, but the phrase never left my head. Jealous of a friend who got a piece published at Brain, Child Magazine?  Do something about it. Got all sorts of green feelings floating around your insides when a complete stranger had a Sojourners piece go viral? Well, first of all stop comparing yourself to people you don’t actually know on the Internet – and then submit a query yourself.

Osheta, my dear friend and the brain behind Shalom in the City.

3. Keep putting yourself out there. a “no” today is not necessarily a “no” forever. I wish I would have written down how many places I queried this last year and I received rejections from. But, friends: I queried. Real Simple may not have accepted my pitch but they did email me back. (Victory!) My story may not be what Sunset is looking for right now, but I did put myself out there, and that counts for something.

4. Engage in the news. When I first had dreams of getting paid to write, I thought that editors would pick up all my Super Lovely Storytelling Ways – without the need for any sort of cultural relevance. But, more and more, publications need a tie-in. They need to know how your story relates to what’s going on the world. Learn how to do both and you just may be able to JUST write your Super Lovely Storytelling Ways-stories someday.  

5. Purposefully ask yourself, what do I think about this subject? I just taught it today in a research writing class, but annotating an article is simply finding out what you think about a subject. So, do the same when it comes to the news. Do the same when it comes to the everyday stories of your life. At the end of February, an article will run on CT Women that birthed in my heart and mind almost a year ago. This picture of my oldest son, saying a prayer before dinner, is ruminating around in my mind right now – and will come to fruition someday.

Son of a preacher woman.

6. Listen to a podcast like “Beyond Your Blog.” Even though BYB is no longer producing podcast content, ample opportunities exist on Susan’s website. When I stumbled upon her podcast last spring, listening to it – to her interviewing publishers within the industry – normalized the idea of me putting myself out there. She inadvertently helped me to believe in myself. So, please, have a listen to old episodes and check out the website for loads of encouragement and opportunities.

7. Believe in yourself. I probably should have put this first, on the very first post – but alas, I didn’t. Here’s the deal: if you want to be a writer, call yourself a writer. If you write writerly things, call yourself a writer. If you want to publish articles online or in a magazine and have done the hard work to get there, call yourself a writer. For too long I referred to my budding occupation as “stepping into writing and speaking,” which was true to an extent, but I also wasn’t fully giving myself credit for who I really was, already, in the present, everyday.

That’s it for now, but I want to hear from you! Also, be sure to read yesterday’s post if you haven’t already and enter to win a copy of Dating During the Apocalypse (by leaving a “pick me!” comment). Winner will be drawn Friday, 3 pm. 

Happy writing!

So, what have you to add? Any of these seven ideas spark something within you? 

*Post contains Amazon Affiliate links.

Getting paid to write, #1 (and a book giveaway)…

A couple of weeks ago, I posted the above picture on Instagram and said this:

A year ago, the HBH (Hot Black Husband) and I sat down to write our “Better Together” goals for 2016. #10 was to have 12 articles published for pay, which felt like such a huge, lofty goal. I’d been doing the writer thing for awhile but hadn’t made a penny. I knew I couldn’t do this without his support, emotionally, financially, physically. But as of today, I had 17 – 17!! – (paid) published articles in 2017. It doesn’t mean that I’m rich, nor does it mean that I’ve finally “made it” as a writer. But when I got this book in the mail, a book that holds MY words in one of its chapters, the first of three (!!!) anthologies I’ll have a chapter in in the new year, I jumped up and down. I giggled with joy. I breathed in the pages of Dating During the Apocalypse and I called it my own. So people, dream big dreams, make lofty goals, and then, do something about it. Put pen to paper – or whatever it is for you – and do the hard work. It’s worth it!

Honestly, I debated whether or not to post the picture. In a sense, it felt gimmicky – like I was trying to sell people something, and that wasn’t at all what I wanted to communicate. But y’all saw through my fears and instead offered heaps of encouragement: to keep going, to thank me for sharing our Better Together goals, to find the strength to make your dreams happen. 

And that fired me up in the best kind of way, to say the least.

It encouraged me to keep putting myself out there, when it comes to writing in particular, and it told me that I might have some wisdom for others who are seeking to do the same.

So, if you dream of getting paid to write, I’ve got 7 ideas for you today, and another seven ideas for you tomorrow: :

  1. Make a list of places where you’d love to see your name in print. When 2016 started, I wrote down all sorts of print and online publications I’d love to write for someday, places that felt unattainable and wholly out of reach: Christianity Today, Scary Mommy, Books & Culture, For Her and Real Simple. So, what publication is it for you? Who do you resonate with personally? For me, physically writing down a list of publications on a small white board was enough to motivate me toward action – maybe because the idea didn’t just live in my head anymore.  
My current dream list of places to pitch…

2. Build relationships with editors. Y’all, to me Twitter exists for one reason and one reason alone: to help you build relationships with complete strangers. Start following editors whose publications you dream of writing for, and then, interact with them. Reply to their tweets. Get to know them. Build a relationship with them so that when you land in their inbox someday, they’ll know who you are.

3. Speak truth to other writerly types, and let them speak truth to you: A year or so ago, I had a conversation with an author who’d already published one book and was finishing her second book. She felt so wholly above me, but at one point in our very normalized conversation, she suggested I query a certain publication: I think your story would be great for them, she said to me. One query, three revisions and two months later, I saw my name in print. 

4. Learn how to queryTo query means to send a pitch or an idea to an editor at a publication. But, do your homework. Every publication is different; if they tell you they want a 200-word pitch, write a 200-word pitch. If they say you’re to message editors directly, you should message editors directly. If you’re to submit a form, submit a form. Unless you have a personal relationship with an editor, follow the directions! When you do write, brevity is key. Clarification is essential. A quick list of credentials is helpful. So, start practicing.

5. Find a tribe of writers who will encourage you to pursue your dreams: Almost three years ago I joined a group of Christian women writers called the Redbud Writers Guild. I didn’t have any sort of writing “cred” behind my name, but I believed that it might happen someday. Eventually, a handful of us within the larger group began holding each other accountable to querying on a monthly basis – and it made all the difference. Find other writers! Find people who will encourage you to pursue your dreams!

This is my friend, Ashley. We talk about writing almost everyday over Voxer. I couldn’t do this writerly thing without her.

6. Make it a goal to send one query every week or month. Do your homework. Read content on a publication’s website so you fully know and understand the audience you desire to write for – then, put pull up your pants, do the hard work and press SEND. Sometimes, pressing “send” is the hardest part of all, but you did it. You put your brilliant ideas out there into cyberspace, without knowing whether they’ll be accepted or rejected, and at least at the beginning, that might just be the hardest part of all.

7. Believe in abundance, not scarcityThere is room enough for you at the table. There is room enough for me at the table. If “X” writer steals your Super Brilliant Absolutely Fabulous Idea, well, then come up with another idea! Pat her on the back and say, “Good job, friend – you did it!” Or, start writing through the originally stolen idea, and see how yours differs. Take a different angle, move on and believe that there’s room for both of your brilliant selves.

That’s it for now, but have no fear – seven more will tomorrow be here! Also, want to win a copy of Dating During the Apocalypseleave a comment below saying, “Pick me!” . 

Happy writing!

So, what would you add to the list? How did YOU begin getting paid to write? And how best do you need to be supported in your writing journey? Also, if you’d like to win a copy of Dating During the Apocalypse, leave a comment saying, “Pick me!” 

*Post contains Amazon Affiliate links.

You think my tractor’s sexy? You should see my top 20 book list.

You think the toy tractor sitting on the floor of the beyond-messy playroom is sexy? You should see my top twenty book list. 

Because y’all: I read a whole lotta books in 2016, and I’d love to let you in on my top twenty reads. So, can we get this reading-tractor-sexiness party started?

I knew you’d say yes.

But first, some stats…

Number of books read: 113, which is 11 more than each of the last two years!

Mode of reading: Audible! Hardback! KindleOverdrive! Paperback!

Best book I read: Paul Kalanithi’s When Breath Becomes Air. I haven’t cried while reading a book in a long, long time – and this was more than good for my soul. He’s smart. He’s deeply empathetic and soulfully brilliant. And when cancer invites itself into his life, he lets us all in, one breathtaking page at a time as he embraces both life and death.

Book genres: academic (4), fiction (32), non-fiction (17), Christian non-fiction/memoir (32), YA fiction (4), memoir (16), cookbook (3), children’s (3), plays (1), humor (1)

Female/male authorship: 80 females, 33 males

81% of the books I read were published in the last five years

March boasted the biggest number of books read in a month (12), while April brought in the fewest number of books read (6). Funny how that took place in back-to-back months…

Total number of pages consumed: 31,940 pages

So, what other 19 books am I dying to share with you, that I’d love for you to add to your shelves today? Read on!

FICTION: 

The book that will restore your faith in humanity: The One-In-a-Million Boy (Monica Wood)

The book dedicated to my unrequited high school self: The Geek’s Guide to Unrequited Love (Sarvenaz Tash)

The book for everyone who loves books: The Shadow of the Wind (Carlos Ruiz Zafon)

The book any fan of classic literature (and The Babysitter’s Club) has to read: Texts from Jane Eyre (Mallory Ortberg)

The book that will make you fall in love with YA lit: Everything, Everything (Nicola Yoon)

NON-FICTION: 

The book that’ll make you get up and do something with your life: Year of Yes (Shonda Rhimes)

The book every human in America needs to read right now, when it comes to issues of race: The New Jim Crow (Michelle Alexander)

The (journalistic) book about Jesus that Christians and non-Christians alike need to get their hands on: Rescuing Jesus (Deborah Jian-Lee)

The book that makes you realize why people win Pulitzers: Angela’s Ashes (Frank McCourt)

The book that reads like a poem, because it’s written by an actual poet: Light of the World (Elizabeth Alexander)

The book of free-verse poetry that reads like butter: Brown Girl Dreaming (Jacqueline Woodson)

The book every aspiring memoirist must read, no questions asked: The Art of Memoir (Mary Karr)

SPIRITUAL MEMOIR/CHRISTIAN NON-FICTION: 

The book your inner Anglican will piously scream for: Liturgy of the Ordinary (Tish Harrison Warren)

The book all the happy-clappy Christians need to embrace: Prophetic Lament (Soong-Chan Rah)

The book that’s hauntingly relevant in America today: Assimilate or Go Home (D.L. Mayfield)

The book every Jesus girl needs to pick up: A Woman’s Place (Katelyn Beaty)

The book that’ll spark the poetic Pentecostal inside you: How to Survive a Shipwreck (Jonathan Martin)

The book you and your faith community need to wrestle through now, when it comes to racial reconciliationRoadmap to Reconciliation (Brenda Salter McNeil)

So, there you go, friends. Here’s to bringing sexy back via all those books we stick our noses in this coming year. Might your reading – and your tractor – be sexy. Also, connect with me on Goodreads if you haven’t already!

Happy reading!

cm.

Your thoughts? You agree, disagree? Which of my choices made you vomit in your mouth, and which ones made you fist-pump the air with glee? And tell me, what was the best book YOU read in 2016? Tell, tell! 

3 “year” books I want you to read.

I’m over “year” books, if you know what I mean: that contrived formula of “I, said author, will do _____ in 12 months” and write all about it.

In fact, I probably look something like this, all supermodel teenage angst included:

While I felt solidly set on not moving forward in the above book arena, the gods of reading disagreed. Three unlikely books crossed my path (and all within the last couple of months, mind you), which made me maybe, possibly, kind of, sort of begin to change my mind.

Just a wee little bit.

So, whether or not you’re in the same boat, I dare you to take a look at these three “year” books – for all of them gave me a new perspective and changed me from the inside out.

And isn’t that what reading should do, anyway?

The Year of Small Things: Radical Faith for the Rest of Us (Sarah Arthur and Erin Wasinger). Albeit (and admittedly) contrived, covenant friends Arthur and Wasinger set out to tackle the twelve marks of New Monasticism in – you guessed it – twelve months’ time. Maybe because I find myself drawn to the simple beauty of the movement itself, but the book is moving. It’ll make you want to get your finances and your friendships and your stuff in order – and the fluidity with which the two authors move with each other and with their families in each chapter makes it hard to put down. Note: book comes out January 31st – reserve your copy today! 

Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand in the Sun and Be Your Own Person (Shonda Rhimes) – Y’all: Olivia Pope is my spirit animal. Granted, I’m not drinking wine right now, because, well, sugar, but I’d live on popcorn and wine if I could. (And apparently live in DC, run Pope & Associates, have an off-again, on-again love affair with the President – wait, scratch that thought. Let’s just get to the book at hand). Rhimes is no joke. She’s changed the way America views “the other,” by making women, people of color and the LGBTQ community, to name a few, the protagonists of numerous hit television shows. This matters. This counts. And this is so, so important regardless of whether or not your world is surrounded by people in the aforementioned categories – because she’s normalizing a very normal part of our country. So, this book follows a year of her saying yes to the things that scared her, for “…the very act of saying yes is not just life-changing, it is lifesaving” (206). I couldn’t agree more. This also happens to be our December book club pick for the Shalom Book Clubclick here to listen to the episode if you haven’t already! 

Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life (Tish Harrison Warren). Okay, Warren’s book is not technically a contrived “year-long” effort of a book – in fact, were she here to defend herself, she’d vehemently disagree. But if you’re in the mood for a book that will change the ordinary, everyday aspects of your life if applied over the course of a year, pick up a copy of her book. Because for all of us, there are small practices and habits that form a theology of the everyday. “…my theology was too big to touch a typical day in my life. I’d developed the habit of ignoring God in the midst of the daily grind” (55). If this thought resonates with you, consider giving Warren’s lyrical prose a try. You won’t be disappointed. Also, look for my interview with Tish in an upcoming issue of Englewood Review of Books

Happy reading!

xo, c.

So, what “year” book changed you from the inside out? Have you given any of the above books a try, or do you have a book you think I should read? Shout, shout, let it all out! 

*Post contains Amazon Affiliate links, yo yo ma.

the 2017 reading challenge.

It’s coming, it’s coming – I swear it is. “It,” of course being my favorite books of 2016, which by this point is at least a week and a half late.

But, moving.

And Christmas.

And sickness galore, including my own fight with one fire-breathing dragon of a throat (who also goes by the name Strep Throat. He won). 

And binge-watching a favorite new show, The Fosters: 

So, that post shall come, along with three books all around the theme of “year” I think you should read. But before those posts come to your inboxes this week, I wanted to revisit one of my favorite reading ideas for upcoming year: Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Reading Challenge.

Now, true confessions: upon looking back through my 2016 book challenges, I only read three of the 12 books I said I would read. What does that tell us? Cara is full of great ideas: yes. Cara oftentimes gets super duper excited by the shiny things that light her path, including a paperback book: yes. Cara still thinks you should make reading goals, because the point, math majors, is to READ.

So, make a list. Use Modern Mrs. Darcy’s, check out your local library’s website, or create an extremely detailed Excel spreadsheet that no one but you will ever see. And then, read. Read on vacation and read before you go to bed. “Read” when you’re driving in the carpool lane, and read when you’re holed up in the kitchen cooking dinner.

She’s got two different lists for you to choose from, whether you’re reading for fun or reading for growth:

I’m going for the latter of the lists, because let’s be honest – it’s really easy for me to read for fun. So, this is what I’m setting out to read in 2017:

a Newberry Award winner: The Giver (Lois Lowry). I’m not sure how I’ve never read this book.

a book in translation: Five Spice Street (Can Xue). I need to read more Chinese authors: there, I said it.

a book that’s more than 600 pages: Gone With the Wind (Margaret Mitchell). Let me say it again: I’m not sure how I’ve never read this book.

a book of poetry: A Thousand Mornings (Mary Oliver). Long time Mary Oliver fan, first time reader.

a book of any genre that discusses current events: The Big Short (Michael Lewis). I loved the movie but could still stand to understand more of what actually happened in America’s recent financial crisis.

an immigrant story: The Book of Unknown Americans (Christina Henriquez). I’ve actually had this book on my shelf for a few months now, so I best get to reading it.

a book published before you were born: Anna Karenina (Leo Tolstoy). I’m stealing one from last year’s challenge, because I’ve yet to read it. Still.

three books by the same author: The Wrinkle in Time Quintet Boxed Set (Madeleine L’Engle). Yes, I’ve read the first of the five but could stand to read it again – and to read the remaining four books!

a book by an #ownvoices author: If I Was Your Girl (Meredith Russo). I can stand a little more YA in my life, don’t you think?

a book with an ambiguous ending: The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood). This has been on my list for awhile, but do I really want to read it? Arghhhhhh!

a book nominated for an award in 2017: Ruined (Ruth Everhart). Listed as one of Christianity Today’s Best Books of 2017, it sounds fascinating. And it’s a memoir, so naturally, I’m in.

a Pulitzer Prize winner: Beloved (Toni Morrison). Yup, still haven’t read this one either. Um, it’s time.

Happy reading, friends!

cm.

So, what say you? Did any of the above titles catch your gaze – because you KNOW I’d love to have you join me in reading one of them! Otherwise, what’s on your reading list for 2017? 

*Post contains Amazon Affiliate links, yo!

bookending change.

A couple of months ago I had a conversation that would reorient the way I looked at change. It didn’t make the process of leaving the Bay Area any easier, nor did it take away the pain of saying goodbye to a whole lot of people who hold my heart. But being reminded that change is inevitable – and that the best thing we can sometimes do is bookend our lives with change was the exact thing I needed to hear. Head to (in)courage to read the full post that ran on Wednesday, or read a snippet of it here:

Her advice was simple, her definition of grace even simpler:

“Put change at the beginning, middle, and end of your life – and then you’ll really find Life!”

I stared at her, head slowly nodding as my mind rapidly tried to process the weight of her words. Sipping my tea, I asked her to repeat herself again, and then a third time, so I could truly hear what she was saying, so I could write it down in my notebook, so its simplicity could sink into my bones.

You see, my husband had just been offered an incredible promotion – two states away. Like a jumbled pile of puzzle pieces, the idea of relocating held possibility: most of my family lived there, along with a good handful of friends. The cost of living was cheaper, the pace of life slower, the possibilities for growth outstanding.

All of it looked good on paper, but paper doesn’t necessarily reflect the heart.

Interested in reading the rest of the piece? Head to (in)courage and check it out! Otherwise, I’m in this thing called LIFE and all its change with you, dear ones.

So, change: love it? Hate it? Want some more of it? Also, be sure to sign up here to receive free daily notes from (in)courage, sent right to your inbox!  

 

 

you are needed.

There are times that I haven’t felt like my voice was needed, let alone my gender a necessary addition to the life of the church.

But there have been women along the way – women like Mylinda, one of my first pastors, and Lisa, a woman in ministry who believed in my gifts as a lay person – who have reminded me that my voice, my identity and my gender are more than needed in the Kingdom of God. Head over to Gifted for Leadership to read the entire article, for the church, and the entire body of Christ, needs women leaders!

I remember our conversation like it was yesterday.

“Have you ever thought about being a pastor when you grow up?” Pastor Mylinda leaned over and asked, pointing to the people and the building around us. “I could see you doing what I do.”

I looked at her and gawked. Me? I wanted her to see something bigger, shinier, and perhaps a bit higher-paying for me. But she saw pastoring in my future, and a pastor of sorts I eventually became. It all began when Mylinda spoke those holy words to me.

Over the next 15 years, though, I began to doubt them. I hardly saw any women in positions of leadership. I’d left the little American Baptist church I grew up in—a denomination known for its support of women—and the church Mylinda pastored. Most of the worship settings I chose hadn’t yet figured out what they believed about females in the church.

Questions soon overwhelmed me: Could women hold positions of leadership in the church? All I knew was that I wasn’t seeing people who looked like me leading the flock. As a young woman, not seeing older women in leadership positions felt detrimental to my calling, my sex, and my identity. If there wasn’t room for other seminary-trained, called, women who had gifts and talents to share, how could I ever attempt to do the same?

Curious as to the answers to the questions I posed? Head over to Gifted for Leadership to read more, and remember, woman, you are needed!

Otherwise, enter the conversation: How important is it for you to see women leaders in the church? Whether you’re a man or a woman, how have women in leadership positively affected who you are? 

the yeses and noes of 2017

Osheta and I recorded the latest Shalom Book Club podcast today, a mash-up episode of Wangs Vs. the World meetsYear of Yes – two books that couldn’t be more different if they tried.

Listen here! Listen here! Listen here! 

But as my co-host always does, she finds a way to bring together the most unlikely of topics; she weaves shalom into the conversation and she makes room for grace, and somehow along the way, she always makes me feel like a million bucks, too.

And I, for one, want to say my yeses and noes as loudly and vibrantly as this crew right here.

So, today, in the midst of laughing and interrupting each other and sharing our hearts over the podcast airwaves, we also found ourselves narrowing in on two questions that seem rather applicable to the start of the new year:

What are you saying yes to this year? 

What are you saying no to this year? 

It’s the yeses and noes of 2017, the yeses and noes of where we’ve been and where we want to go and really, who, as our best and most real selves, we want to become along the way.

So, what is it for you? What are your yeses and your noes? How do you want to grow and change and be and morph into the Gina 2.0 version, the Mark 3.6 version, the Cora 7.0 version of yourself?

Here’s what I’m looking at in the coming year:

I’m saying YES to dreaming big. As some of you know, a year or so ago, the HBH (Hot Black Husband) and I sat down to write our Better Together goals together; while we haven’t formally done that yet this year, my mind is churning. It’s in go-mode. One of the best goals I made for myself in 2016 was to write for pay: even though it felt like such a big, unattainable number, I set out to publish twelve articles for pay last year. And at the end of the year, I did a little hop, skip and a jump when I realized that I’d surpassed my goal by FIVE, and instead seventeen articles published for pay last year. Fist pump! High five! Toe touch! Well, this year, I desire to continue in that trajectory but I’m dreaming big, even bigger: I want a book contract. I want to publish in Salon, Real Simple and The Atlantic. I want to believe that my writing is good enough.

I’m saying YES to health. I’m sick of holding on to baby weight. I’m sick of downing a glass of wine every night – not as a treat, but because it’s rote, it’s routine. I’m sick of not being able to fit into the clothes I want to fit into. I’m sick of back pain and of being a living, breathing conundrum to the doctors who try and treat me. So, I’m bound and determined to find the healthiest version of myself, through whatever means necessary. Year of health, here I come!

I’m saying YES to me. You may have read my post in She Loves Magazine last week, but one of the things I realized upon moving here is that in taking care of others I oftentimes neglect to take care of myself. So, what does care look like for me? It might mean working a bit more, because truth be told, I’m a better mom to my boys when I get time away from them. It might mean treating myself to a manicure or pedicure. Or it might mean simply standing up for what need and remembering that I have a voice and a say in the matter.

And on the opposite hand…

I’m saying NO to sugar – at least for now. The story of my back: I mean, at this point we could write a novel about it. The problem seemed to be solved with Physical Therapy, but that was short-lived. Gluten seemed to be the main culprit for a while, but hasn’t continued to fully rid me of pain. Then, just last week, the third friend in a two-week period mused aloud whether sugar might be the cause of my inflammation. Y’all: the result was immediate. The pain is considerably low. I’ve slept until seven in the morning most every morning. I may only be five days into a sugar-free lifestyle, but it seems to have struck the most positive of nerves – so for now, I’m just saying no to one of my favorite ingredients (and yes, this has included wine as well).

 

I’m saying NO to bad fits. A funny thing happened on the way toward becoming a bonafide writer and speaker: I started biting off everything. Anything and everything that came my way, I took it. Now, is that wrong? Not necessarily, at least for a time. But it’s time to narrow my focus, just as it’s time to not merely say yes to something just because it’s a “great opportunity” or has an “outstanding platform.” If I’m not a good fit, I’m not a good fit – and I don’t need to morph myself into something I’m not and vice-versa.

Finally, I’m saying NO to excess stuff. Man, y’all: you know that we just moved, just as you know that “we just moved” is a phrase I’ve used a lot over the last eighteen years of my life. Even though I haul carloads of junk to the local Goodwill on a monthly basis, there’s nothing like moving to show you how much STUFF you still have …and don’t need. I desire simplicity, and if that means further pounding my way through every unopened box in the house in order to say good-bye to items that long don’t give us life, I’m in.

So, that’s it for me, at least for now, at least for today. Because at the end of the day, this is truth: we need to say no in order that we might say a bigger yes. 

Wouldn’t you agree?

So, what are your noes? And your yeses? Be sure to check out the latest and greatest Shalom Book Club episode, and otherwise, fill me in: I want to hear your list! 

*Post contains Amazon Affiliate links, m’ dears.

singing our broken hallelujahs

I don’t often realize I’ve reached capacity until near-implosion occurs.

My family and I had just made a major move: from the San Francisco Bay Area to Seattle, Washington, from blue skies to gray, from a comfortable knowing to what felt like a raw and callow Great Unknown.

I was trying my hardest to make lemonade out of what felt like a bucket full of lemons. Surely, my sons and I would don our rain jackets and cold weather knit hats and still step outside, even if the weather was a little bit frightful. We’d jump through puddles in the rain and we’d walk down to the water to feed the ducks and we’d be our bravest selves when it was time to make new friends.

But in doing all the really good motherly things I was supposed to do in order to help my children transition well, I’d neglected to look out for myself.

One afternoon, we went to an art studio. We went to the grocery store and jumped up and down in the cereal aisle, because Cheerios! Rice Krispies! Cap’n Crunch! We popped by to visit a friend who lives on that side of town, and then, finally, we made our way home. But about halfway there, in the rain and wind and dark and storm, in the middle of a high traffic hour, and on streets I didn’t yet know my way around, and with cars that drive way too passively for their own good, I realized that I’d left the keys to our apartment at our friend’s house.

Soon, when what should have taken 15 minutes neared the hour-long mark, a near-implosion occurred.

The restless kids in the backseat screamed for Christmas music, for “Christmas! Christmas! Christmas! Songs now! Now, Mama, now!” They threw wild punches in the air at each other and at themselves, and they cried for crackers and string cheese and apple juice, none of which I had with me in the car.

My fingers gripped the steering wheel tightly and my shoulders hunched over, the stress of the afternoon curling its sinewy way to every bone and muscle in my body. Like the rain pounding at my front windshield, my eyes filled with tears–at the stress, at my own state of mourning, at the foundation ripped out from underneath me.

I could feel a swell of anger and hurt and exhaustion rising within me, from tummy to throat to mouth. I opened my lips, ready to scream–at my children, at my own lack of foresight in forgetting to check that the keys were in my purse, at God for uprooting me from the place I’d called home for the last 15 years … and then I heard singing.

Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah

The story is FAR from over yet – in fact, I’d love for you to head over to She Loves Magazine, to read about how my sweet son ministered to me (and to watch a video of him!). Otherwise, what broken hallelujahs are you singing right now?