Category: faith

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about blooming.

I know, how deep, right?

Thinking about blooming in the springtime?

Call someone call Oprah! Tell her to get out the overstuffed chairs and place them in the forest! It’s time to sit down and talk about how deep and unique I am for having a revelation basic to the human existence! (Btw, I never planned on referencing Oprah so much in my writing. It just happens sometimes so I’m rolling with it.)

Anyway, blooming- I’ve been thinking a lot about it.

Which is sort of new, because I don’t exactly have a green thumb- In fact, I’ve killed every plant that I’ve ever owned. Every single one. Even the succulents on my front porch, which I assumed were basically indestructible. After 15 years of attempting to have greenery in my home, the plant-killing became too much for my conscience to bear so I finally gave up.

I’ve never even been one to notice flowers, much less learn their names, how to care for them, or appreciate their unique beauty. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m not some kind of cold, cynical monster who landscapes her front yard with exposed aggregate instead of grass, I guess you could say I’ve just never exactly stopped to smell the roses.

Until lately.

Last week flowers made me cry.

They weren’t even flowers that someone picked or bought or presented me with. They were just out in the wild. And by “the wild”, I mean that one island of trees in the middle of the parking lot at my kid’s elementary school; the one that runs the length of the carpool lane.

There were cherry blossom trees in full bloom there, in the middle of all that asphalt, bursting with so many pink petals that they covered the entire surface of the ground below.

It probably feels like I’m about to ramp up here into some metaphor about life springing up out of dead places or something, but that’s actually not where I’m headed. (Although, maybe it should be a post for another day? ??‍♀️Please mark yes or no and put in locker #7.) Read More…

Well folks, 2016 is officially over.

Between the election (don’t worry, I’m not even going there) and everything else that happened (side eye to you Brad & Angelina), let’s all be real here: It was a bumpy ride, yes?

But take heart, dear readers, because it wasn’t a total wash.

We did learn a few things along the way.

Things like…

CHECK YOUR JUNK MAIL

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I cannot tell you how many times this year I sat wringing my hands, checking my inbox, or even foolishly ignoring it, ultimately having no clue that emails were just sitting in my junk mail collecting dust. And I don’t just mean Old Navy ads and those pesky emails from the dealership where you bought your Chevy Traverse 4 years ago.

I mean like, important emails.

“Oh, that editor actually wants to have lunch with you and she needs to know if Wednesday works? Cool, cool, cool. You should probably just sweat bullets, assume she’s never going to respond, and that you’ve clearly made the whole thing up, only to discover at the last minute that she had emailed you DAYS ago.”

“Oh, you’re going on a podcast and you’re wondering what the questions will be, but you’re not sure if it’s kosher to ask? You should probably just wing it, only to discover 17 minutes after you nervous-talked all that nonsense about your recurring Amy Poehler dream to your gracious interviewer, that he had, in fact, emailed you offering to show you the questions ahead of time.”

“Oh, you just yanked your two grumpy children out of bed and hauled them to school because you didn’t see the email from the school district about the snow day?” In the famous words of Adam Sandler in the Wedding Singer, “This information would’ve been useful to me yesterday!” 

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People of the Internet! Learn from my mistakes!

CHECK YOUR JUNK MAIL.

Regularly. Read More…

I have a confession to make. It’s the sort of thing that a writer should never admit.

I’m a VERY picky reader.

When it comes to purchasing books, I rarely discriminate. At this very moment I have at least 20 fantastic books on my shelf that are still waiting to be opened. I love to buy books. I love the smell of them, the feel of them nestled in the crook of my arm as I walk into a coffee shop, and the way my little heart skips a beat every single time I walk through the doors of a Barnes & Noble.

But when it comes to actually reading books in their entirety, I do admit that my standards are…shall we say…a bit high? I’m not easily entertained. I can’t help it! I’m just not.

If a book doesn’t grab me within the first 3 chapters I rarely pick it back up. I realize that this makes me sound like an elitist snob, and no, the irony is not lost on me that as a humble and lowly writer myself, I may need to consider suggesting LOWER standards for consumption, but whatever. I don’t care. It’s the truth! And I’m only telling you so you understand that when I recommend a book, I really mean it.

So obviously I’m going to recommend a book now.

Are you ready? Read More…

Today I’m over at The Mudroom, sharing a personal glimpse into the real truth of (our) marriage. I’m only posting part of it here, but I hope you click the link and read the rest of it over at Mudroom, because I think the ending is important. I really bared my heart in this one and I hope that you find it useful.

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This morning I sat down with my coffee and some old photos with no other intention than to reminisce. Today marks 14 years of marriage for my husband and I, and to celebrate, I decided to take a little trip down memory lane. Because if there’s one game in life that I enjoy more than “Name that movie”, it’s “Remember When”.

Everyone close to me has grown accustomed to my random blurting of (completely out of context) sentences that begin with “Remember When…”

“Remember when we all snuck out of bible college to pull an all-nighter at Taryn’s house and Danny and John climbed through the window to scare us at midnight? Remember how we all panicked and thought we were going to die, but Amber B. was the only one smart enough to run out the front door?”

“Remember when you had giardia, and you were high on pain medicine and came into the library where I worked at 11pm in your sweatpants loudly demanding some kind of meat, preferably jerky?”

“Remember when we were dating long distance, and you’d call me every night at the same time, and you’d always be wearing that same noisy jacket that crinkled in the background? I still have that jacket.”

I could go on, but you get the picture. I like to relive the past. There is a whole compartment of my heart dedicated solely to nostalgia. Usually the memories I find myself returning to again and again are the happy moments, the funny moments, or the unbearably tender moments. But today was a little different. I found myself looking through old photos, scanning to find an echo of some of our more difficult moments.

Because, can I be honest? This last year was harder on us than we expected, and today I found myself simply needing to remember another time like this. A time when we overcame. A time when we burrowed down into the foxhole together until the storm passed. A time when we learned to tear down certain walls in order to strengthen our foundation.

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While we’ve always been a couple that generally gets along, we’ve certainly had our share of trying seasons before. (Side eye to you, colicky babies.) But if pressed for a reason, I’m not sure I could even tell you why this year was harder on us than most others.

Maybe it’s the fact that after 14 years, we’ve been married just long enough to actually have baggage. Old wounds that have been healed and forgotten can be pricked right back open again in an instant.

Maybe it’s all the new dreams sprouting in our hearts, and the fact that those dreams require a bravery and vulnerability that have left us both feeling fragile and exposed in our own ways.

Maybe it’s all the outside pressures of work, money, schedules, and ministry that press in and down on us at times, threatening to burst our happy, intimate little bubble.

Or maybe?

Maybe it’s just growing pains.

After all, growth means change, and change can be rather uncomfortable at times.

READ MORE HERE:

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Today I’m inviting you up onto my blog porch, pouring you a cup of hot coffee, and sitting down beside you to hear from one of my favorite people. When I say “favorite” I mean it in the sense that I have always admired her coolness from afar, not in the sense that we hang out all the time in real life- although I’m fairly certain we would if we still lived in the same city. I have known Bruk for well over 10 years, and watched her grow from a confident, self-assured teenager into an effortlessly cool, relentlessly authentic, stunning-from-the-inside-out, grown up lady. It seems that Bruk has always known exactly who she is, and as a fellow woman, I find that to be both refreshing and inspiring.

She does interesting things like make jewelry, write songs, and take pretty photographs, and she does brave things like live in Africa for a year. The words she wrote here are just one small part of her big story.

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“When she reaches for him, you reach for Me.”

Those words changed my perspective the teeniest bit.

You know… when you know that God has the best plan for you, but you don’t entirely believe it until He gives you a fresh look? Maybe you don’t know. In my mind I’m the only person that doesn’t always trust God, but go with me here. I’m about to get real open about some stuff that I just don’t like getting real open about.

I’m 28 and single. When I say 28, I actually mean 27 and turning 28 next week, which is weirdly freaking me out. And when I say single, I mean it in every sense of the word.

Always. Forever. Single.

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It’s recently been pointed out to me that being single isn’t really the thing I struggle with, so much as the fact that I’ve never had a relationship. While I almost think that’s true, it’s also sort of not.

I’m good at being single. That’s the thing that scares me a little bit. I live mostly on my own. I’m great with power tools. I support myself, move as I wish, travel as I wish, shop as I wish. When I have a date I’m not thinking “Oh man, I hope he likes me!”, I’m thinking, “Oh crap, what if he likes me?” and the self-sabotage sort of starts there. Read More…

This week’s guest post is from my friend, Kris Camealy, and I’m thrilled to be hosting her words because they are honest and real. I hope that you, like me, see an echo of yourself in these paragraphs, and are encouraged.

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I sat down on the front stoop the other evening and watched a flock of Canadian geese fly overhead, while my kids scattered themselves down the street, making new friends with the neighbors. They’d been recruited for an impromptu soccer game happening up the street, in the common area between a couple of houses, an invitation unlike any we’ve ever had. This kind of living is completely new to us.

Before we moved here in March, for nearly twelve years, we lived on a noisy, unfriendly street that over the years, became more and more transient with the shifting tides of the economy. Our neighbors changed frequently as houses changed hands, suffered foreclosures, became rentals and so on. The neighbors who did remain we rarely saw, on account of a number of factors.

But it wasn’t all their fault. We could have made more of an effort.
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When my husband and I first moved to the old house, we had one toddler and one baby on the way. After walking through a number of nasty houses, we stumbled into a house that was clean, tidy, and move-in ready. We didn’t deliberate long before signing on the dotted line. We made our home there, and for a while, tolerated the openness of our large backyard. But as the boys grew into preschoolers, and we added yet another baby to the mix, the lack of fencing around the perimeter of our yard gave me pause. Our backyard became a regular cut-through for teens making their way to the bus stop, or to the main road. People regularly walked through our yard as if it were a public thoroughfare, and honestly? I hated this. The regular foot-traffic of strangers across our property made me feel unsafe, and caused me great angst when the children wanted to play in the yard. This, coupled with the fact that our home sat only one house into the neighborhood, off of a busy road, made me long for a fence to keep the kids in, and the wanderers out.

As soon as we were able, we had a 6 foot privacy fence installed all the way around the backyard. I would no longer have to deal with the neighbors dogs pooping where my kids played, or the teenagers behind our home traipsing past my living room window on their way to wherever. My kids could play freely without my worrying that they’d somehow make their way to the busy street out front. This was exactly what we wanted.

But now? I would no longer see my neighbors.

Before the fence, we’d greet each other while returning our trash cans to the backs of our homes, or while raking the yard or letting the dogs out. Before the fence, we could wave hello as they sat on their back deck, or grilled burgers across the lawn.

Before the fence, interaction with our neighbors happened naturally, without much effort, without any pretense.

The fence gave us exactly what we wanted. I still think we needed the fence for all of the reasons I mentioned, but at the same time, we lost something too. When we locked the door on that house for the last time, after 11 years in the only neighborhood my children had ever known, we didn’t say goodbye to anyone. We had no relationships there to grieve or miss. We’d been rooted there alone, and partly by our own doing.
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After nearly 12 years in what felt like a social dessert, we’ve miraculously landed here, on what is arguably the most social street in the state. Six months ago, I didn’t know places like this actually existed, outside of Hollywood sound stages and sitcoms. We are living in a place “where everybody knows your name”. For real. It’s crazy-amazing.

Almost no one has a fence.

Our current backyard is a wide open space that bleeds indistinguishable into our two neighbors yards. Our children play between the houses, and in the common area situated smack out my kitchen back door. On any given afternoon, half of the neighborhood can be seen wandering between each others homes, sitting in each others driveways, and wandering in and out of each other’s garages. Here, you can’t help but see each other.
I’ve thought a lot about fences since we settled here. I’ve thought a lot about the ways we build them in real life, and relationally. If I am honest, I liked living behind a fence. It made me feel safe. The 6-foot privacy fence erected behind my old house is not the first fence I’ve lived behind. Or hidden behind. It’s only in the last couple of years that God has revealed to me, what a master architect I have been at building fences.

Last year, God called me to launch GraceTable, a hospitality themed website where writers share stories of what it is to love their neighbors, to live in community and wrestle out what Jesus meant when He said, “Love your neighbor as yourself”. GraceTable is a virtual space, but through it God is teaching us what it means to make actual space for people. As we have been coming around to the idea of practicing intentional hospitality, it’s not lost on me that God planted us here, in a neighborhood free of fences. This is a place God is growing me, growing us, as a family. We are learning what it is to let others in, to let them walk on our grass, and discovering the beauty of fence-free living.

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Kris is passionate about bringing people to the table to be nourished by good words, good food and Jesus. Meet Kris at her blog, kriscamealy.com and on Instagram @kriscamealy. Kris is the author of the book, Holey, Wholly, Holy: A Lenten Journey Of Refinement and the founder of GraceTable.org, a community Table open to all who are hungry for more of Jesus.

You guys are in for a treat today. In fact, it’s kind of like a double treat, so, you’re welcome.

Not only do you get a hilarious peak into the creative process of real life editor, Cara Sexton (which made me feel a whole lot better about my own creative process, btw), but you also get a sneak peak into the making of Soul Bare: Stories of Redemption, which officially releases August 5th! That’s tomorrow!

You guys. This book is amazing. It’s a compilation of stories from so many of my favorite authors and each one is real, raw, personal and gutsy. Do yourself a favor: Order it. Go to your local bookstore and buy it. Borrow it if you have to. Just get your hands on it! Read it. Let these stories refresh your tired soul. Be blessed.

Okay, here is Cara’s post!

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I’ve always been fascinated by the creative process of other writers, and I also aspire to one day teach writing classes. Because of my unparalleled expertise in this area, when Amber asked me if I’d consider guest posting on her blog (ohmygosh, did you hear that?! Amber Salhus asked me to guest post on her blog EVERYBODY BE COOL), I figured you all could take a lesson from me on one of the important aspects of blogging/writing/being basically awesome in every way.

Here are 10 easy steps for writing a guest post for one of your favorite bloggers when the opportunity presents itself:

Step 1: Promise to deliver it on Sunday or Monday.

Step 2: On Tuesday, begin existential panic. Read More…

A few months ago when I was arranging for these summer guest posts (by the way, aren’t we so proud of me for planning ahead?) I was thrilled when Melissa generously offered to contribute her words. I know personally how difficult it can be to keep up with our own projects, so I don’t take it for granted when other writers go out of their way to collaborate. Also, yay for a new friend! I connected with her writing style right away because she’s got just enough sass and humor to keep things interesting. I knew she’d fit right in over here, so please make sure you head over to her website when you’re done reading this and check it out.

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Once I was a bridesmaid at a fancy wedding at a fancy country club. I had no business in this place but I loved my friend so much and I committed to her so I wore that periwinkle taffeta with a smile as pinched as my shoes. I ran to the restroom before the ceremony because fancy makes me nervous. Afterwards, I grabbed a cool drink and took a quick stroll by the pool.

I noticed some admiring glances from inside and it made me feel beautiful and confident. Smiling coyly, I tucked my hair behind my ear to let everyone know I was cool with the attention. As it turns out, some sweet older lady let me know the back of my dress was tucked up into my pantyhose.

I bless that woman to this day.

Hiding in the bathroom for the rest of the night was the only logical thought I had but the bride kept calling to me from the other side of the door. The sound of my precious friend’s sweet voice made me have to think hard about things. There were many reasons why I could’ve stayed perched on the commode fussing over my pride like a brand new baby.

But…I was really only there for one reason.

And I also really wanted to dance.

The feelings I had the night of that wedding remind me a lot about how it feels to do what God calls us to: a little naked, vulnerable, and sometimes foolish and drafty. Read More…

Today’s guest post is by my new friend and fellow hope*writer, Carrie Stephens. I connected  with Carrie right away because I could tell she’s a person who likes to laugh, but also isn’t afraid to get deep. I’m thrilled to share my space with her because I just know you guys will appreciate her words.

After you’re done reading this post, head on over to her blog and show her some love! (Sorry, did I just get bossy?) I didn’t mean to. It’s just that I’m still on the road-trip, its past midnight, and I’ve technically walked over 45,000 steps in the last two days, so once again I’ve lost all ability to be genteel.

I know you’ll understand. Because we’re comfortable with each other like that.

Without further ado, here is Carrie’s post!

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When I was six years old, my friend Dayna and I liked to play hospital. One of us was the pregnant woman, the other was the nurse/Doctor/entire hospital staff. I had seen an episode of General Hospital at a friend’s house (yes, my mother was appropriately horrified), so I knew everyone made very dramatic faces in hospitals. We made sure to do likewise.

Nurse: No! No food for you! [insert maniacal laughter]
Patient: [Languishing with hand over forehead] Surely this will be the end of me!
Doctor: [Heroic face] “Don’t worry…I will save you and your baby!” [Pulls baby from under the blanket over my stomach.]

The narrative always went this same way. Mean nurse. Heroic doctor. Easy-to-deliver baby. What we lacked in our understanding of reality, we made up for in imaginary awesomeness. Read More…

As you guys know, I’ve arranged to host some guest posts here throughout the summer and I’m so excited because today I finally get to share the first one with you!

It’s a dandy, too.

You guys are going to love this one.

Steve Wiens is a writer-friend, as well as a pastor, and today he’s pulling back the curtain and giving us a behind-the-scenes peek into the reality of life as a pastor. Growing up as a preacher’s kid myself, I can relate so much to his words, as well as the personal struggles and rewards that are so closely entwined with life in the ministry.

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Being a pastor is the best, worst job ever.

First of all, you have the dubious honor of attempting to speak for God on Sundays, and most of the rest of the week, too. When it comes to a layup like John 3:16, we come out smelling pretty good. God loves everyone, everywhere! I love that one, and I try to sneak it into just about every sermon I can.

But what about when it comes to the one where God piles one family in a large boat, along with all the animals, except the unicorns (who apparently were having coffee or frolicking in the hills or didn’t print their boarding passes on time) while the rest of the world drowns? I’m not sure where the hope is in that one. And why is it that this story is the one that gets painted on the walls of every kids ministry room in every church in the northern hemisphere?

Which brings me to the babies. Whenever I get to dedicate or baptize one of them, I cry great big pastor-tears. Whether they gurgle and coo when I hold them or let out a blood-curdling scream of anguish, I love them all. I baptized one of them recently who was wearing a little baby-sized fedora and bowtie. For reals. Babies are cute, but babies with fedoras? You had me at hello. Read More…