just like me

I was nervous the first time I met the men. Possibly even afraid.

They were behind bars. Locked up in a maximum-security facility. Separated from society because they had done bad things. And most of them were going to live that way for a long time. Some already had, their crimes unfathomable.

My trip to the facility was to present a Latin jazz band concert. A few of the incarcerated men were onstage, helping with set-up when I arrived. They were polite, but physically far away in the large, concrete auditorium. I had worn a navy turtleneck sweater, black pants, and no make-up, very aware that I was a young woman entering an all-male facility. I could feel the eyes of each man who noticed me, wondering what I was doing there—so obviously out of place. A flurry of emotions flew through my head as the auditorium slowly filled to capacity. Should I be afraid? What are they thinking about me? Should I have come at all?

**

I’m honored to be writing over at the fabulous website Off the Page again this month! Won’t you join me there to read the rest?

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to whom?

I don’t know how to respond to these last few weeks. To the tragedy, the terror, the suffering, the injustice. To the knowledge that the ugly headlines represent just a fraction of the terrible-ness in the world.

I don’t know how to respond to my friend, who should have been celebrating her son’s first birthday this week. I don’t know how to respond to my mentor, whose husband had an unexpected heart attack. I don’t know how to respond to my children, who are growing up – too quickly – in a world filled with so much sadness. Continue reading

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amazing grace

My baby Hannah Grace is two years old. And the second verse of Amazing Grace just keeps playing on repeat in my head.

T’was grace that taught

My heart to fear,

And grace my fears relieved;

How precious did that grace appear

The hour I first believed!

Hannah Grace, each phrase is true. Your presence in my life has taught my heart to fear. The moment I first learned you were on your way, I was terrified. I didn’t think I could handle having another baby so soon after your brother. Your earliest existence made obvious to me that my control over my life was just smoke and mirrors. I had a perfect plan, and this wasn’t it. I was not in control, and I was scared. I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to do it, wouldn’t be able to love you well, wouldn’t be able to love your brother well, wouldn’t be able to take care of our home and all my responsibilities. I was scared to be a mom of “two under two.”

But two years ago, you began to prove me wrong. After nearly 42 weeks of pregnancy, you made me a mom of two under two. You showed me that I could do this thing that I had feared – if I trusted God and relied on Him for everything that I lacked. This life that He’s given me with you hasn’t been easy, but each day, He relieves my fears by another degree. And now, I understand that this began before I even met you.  Continue reading

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prayers of the people

You guys. I couldn’t love more the concept behind the new book Prayers of the People (out now on Amazon!). Here’s a shameless quote from the back:

What does it look like when a whole city prays?

What would it sound like if you joined them?

Written by artists, attorneys, bankers, ballet dancers, and Christians representing dozens of callings, Prayers of the People is a record of those who seek the still, small voice of God in one of the busiest cities on earth.

In this moving compilation, Christians throughout the city of New York, in vocations stretching from high fashion to high finance, share their personal prayers. Their circumstances are unique, but the themes occupying their meditations are universal: sin, grace, and, ultimately, hope.

Continue reading

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searching for strength in faith

Friends! I was honored to write recently for a wonderful website called Off the Page. The piece was published last week and I hope you’ll check it out.

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My childhood nickname was “Long Shot” because I always went for—and then achieved—the “long shots” in life. I grew up believing if I wanted something badly enough, I could achieve it. That if I was determined enough, worked hard enough, I could accomplish it. I soon realized accomplishments brought praise and accolades, and I created a life around my hard work, my accomplishments, the resulting praise.

I struggle, however, with my own weakness. I have always experienced the brokenness of our world so strongly, always experienced volatile emotions and reactions that often seem disproportionate. In an effort to avoid the devastation I experienced when let down, I began to worship self-reliance. My works—and hard work—bolstered me and buoyed me while masking my inner frailty.

By college I felt both unstoppable and deeply vulnerable. Utterly confident and acutely insecure. I worked hard. I relied on me.

Won’t you hop on over to read the rest at Off the Page?

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such a pretty girl

Such a pretty girl. We were sitting on the couch when he said it, tucking a few stray strands of hair behind my ear. It was so tender, so loving. So genuine.

I thought of the many times I had said those same words to my daughter, hoping that if I said it enough, she’d grow up believing it. That if she heard it enough, it would become true for her.

Such a pretty girl, I say, when washing her hair, getting her dressed, brushing her teeth, playing peek-a-boo. Pretty bow for a pretty girl, I say, trying to entice her into letting me clip a cloth-covered barrette into her finally-starting-to-come-in hair. Look at the pretty dress for my pretty girl! I exclaim, when I pull out a sweet jumper from a new bag of hand-me-downs.

I want my daughter to grow up knowing deep in her bones that she is beautiful. I don’t want her ever to doubt it.

I also want her to know why she is beautiful.  Continue reading

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What I’m Into: April Favorites

Oh you guys. Where did April GO?? I have a couple of half-finished posts that are waiting for those last few paragraphs to get written, and I’m sorry I haven’t been able to share more this month. I’ve been busy with other writing projects and performance work, and otherwise have been just trying to keep all the balls in the air.

But I’ve missed writing here – so here’s to a new month.

In other news, we had Spring Break (since when is having the kids home all the time a “break”?? Whose idea was this??), and the kids and I had a pretty great week, with lots of at-home Montessori activities and city outings and cooking projects. We all survived! But now my work for the summer is cut out for me, and I realize how much I need to plan, plan, plan for these kiddos at these ages.

 

Blog Posts & Articles

People, Borne of Poetry. By. Eugenia Leigh. What’s the value of poetry? What do poets do? Poets are story-tellers who help us understand the truth of our story, digest what is true, and both break and mend our hearts – according to my amazingly talented poet-friend Eugenia. She wrote this honest, beautiful piece for Inheritance Magazine this month and I hope everyone reads it.

The Body Broken Whole. By Jennifer Underwood. This piece is so beautiful (if a bit disarming for me to read since it’s about a woman named “Leah”), and a beautiful picture of community and restoration.  Continue reading

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When Work Feels Fruitless

It’s easy to think of “work” in the ways our society does – as something only related to money, status, stability. But God-given work is bigger.

Sorry for the radio silence around here. Head over to Redeemer Presbyterian’s Center for Faith and Work blog for a short post I wrote recently on the frustrations of God-given work. . .

**

My primary work is as a mother. I have several advanced degrees and I spend hours sitting on the floor, wiping runny noses, or standing in the kitchen, washing dishes. Many days, it seems like everything that I do backfires. It is easy to feel like what I’m doing is a waste of my time and education. I know that raising kids is about delayed gratification – after all, “your works will praise you at the gates” – but I could use a little more affirmation along the way. The work of being a full-time mom is hard, grueling work.

It’s not unusual for work to feel this way.

Read the rest here!

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What I’m Into: March Favorites

IMG_7725Blog Posts & Articles

How Weeds Become Offerings of Love. by Nicole Walters.  Words that I needed to be reminded of this month, especially! A beautiful post about being thankful for the weeds-that-are-gifts in our lives…and also an adorable story about a mother and her boy.

How I Won the Lottery. By Micha Boyett. One of my favorite bloggers has taken a hiatus from blogging to dedicate more energy to her family life after welcoming their third son, Ace, who has Down syndrome, into the world about a year ago. This post is one of the most beautiful, uplifting pieces of writing that I’ve read all month.

Changing the Question. By Sarah Wells. I probably need to read this once a month, just to be reminded that I need to “change my question” from “Why?” to “What now?” I love how she reminds that asking “Why?” always points us to the past, while asking “What now?” points to the future.  Continue reading

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splinters

My 20-month old daughter got her first splinter last week. It was one of those early spring days in New York, when everyone is both afraid to be overly hopeful and also completely ecstatic. We spent the afternoon at the playground, and I didn’t even notice the splinter until the following day. The shard of wood was long and deeply embedded. The skin around it was red and probably infected. Removing the splinter was awful, and I think everyone in the family cried.

Splinters don’t hurt much going in – they seem to slip under the skin so effortlessly. But removing the wood requires digging deeper into the surrounding area. Sometimes you have to cut open more skin in order to fold it back and grasp the splinter firmly enough to pull it out. In my childhood memories, the removal of a splinter was far more painful than acquiring it in the first place. Sometimes I even purposefully hid them from my parents to avoid it – but in the end, removal was always necessary.

My daughter suffered as my husband dug gently into her hand to remove the wood. This pain was necessary for healing. Without it, the infection would have worsened.

I have had many splinters in my life. Some have been identified quickly and removed without many tears. Others have embedded themselves deeply, and the discovery and then removal process has been painful, filled with struggle and suffering. My deepest, most infected splinters are not splinters of wood beneath my skin, Continue reading

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