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?
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.
They had a dog. A big, beautiful, wonderfully calm, long-haired golden retriever. And sitting on the floor with him — stroking his silky hair and listening to his contented breathing — was possibly the most peaceful thing about my life in 2003-2005.
Sometimes, I even got to walk him.
They also had what felt like a home. They had two kids – teenagers – and their dog and their life and their friends and their work. She talked to her mom on the phone every couple of days (I remember her answering it often when I was there – an old, hanging-on-the-wall phone) and they went for long morning walks along the river. They got the newspaper. They always had a pot of coffee on. I guess I felt like that’s what it was to be an adult. To have a home, and a routine, and a family, and a rich life woven together.
Their home was like a refuge to me – a haven of security and stability during wandering college and post-college years, when I was living with countless roommates, with haphazard furniture and random posters tacked onto the walls, eating Trader Joe’s frozen burritos for dinner. When I visited their home, I wanted to spend hours there (and often did) – learning from them and absorbing their life. I wanted to be transformed by their (seemingly) calm, collected, stable selves. Continue reading
Each Monday morning, I meet with a group of fellow moms for a couple of hours to catch up, commiserate, pray together, share advice, and study some aspect of the Bible. This Moms Group has often served as a necessary lifeline over the past three years. It has also served as a very reliable source of coffee.
I could ramble on about all the ways this group has been so important to me – friendships formed, meals delivered, childcare offered, lots of hard-earned tips and ideas shared. And maybe I will, someday, since it has certainly – and perhaps unexpectedly – become one of my treasures. But today I want to write about something I learned from a book that we worked through together during the Fall.
One of the last chapters of this book (called Gospel Love) develops an idea that I’ve come to call entering in. We have to enter into the world that someone who is “hard to love” inhabits. This idea has changed and challenged much of the way that I love. Continue reading
I had an incredible run today. It was incredible not because of the dirt roads or the farmland, not because of the breathtaking views or scenic waterways, not because of the cool breeze blowing my hair or the cacophony of bird noises filling my ears. It was incredible because of the way I witnessed and relived my own story of coming into adulthood in New York City.
Today I started out at the home that my husband and I own in upper Manhattan (well, technically the bank still owns most of it), the home where we are raising our two kiddos and figuring out what it is to be a family of four, living in THE City. I headed north, passing the playground where we took Jacob the day Hannah Grace was born and the swings that I rocked gently on that morning, wondering if that day would be the day that our lives would be forever changed – again. I turned around at the lighthouse that was my first “big destination” when I started running again after Hannah Grace was born, and ran beneath “our bridge,” as our toddler calls the GW.
Heading south, I entered such familiar territory. The miles I ran during our early marriage, sometimes staring blindly out at the water, wondering what I had gotten myself into as I tried to figure out how to bend my life to meet and embrace someone else’s. The miles I ran the morning I found out we were expecting Jacob, plotting how to tell Harrison and practically sprinting the entire distance in elated joy. The miles I walked when eight months pregnant with Jacob and I could run no more, and the loops I ran with our stroller when I first started running again after he was born. Continue reading
Although I did not mention it here, I gave up Facebook for Lent this year (I know, I know. More than fashionably late in bringing this up – as usual). At any rate, I gave it up for two reasons. And, as is often the case with these things, I learned significantly more than I had anticipated.
I gave it up because it’s often a waste of time. And while I’m learning to embrace the necessity of rest and taking breaks more than I ever have before – let’s face it, mindless scrolling is just not helpful. And it’s also really not even a break. Because as I scroll, my brain is bombarded with images, and with words that I read and engage with and think about and respond to. So it’s not a break. And then I get sucked in, and it’s bye-bye break.
So there’s that. But also, Facebook makes me envious. I know this about myself, and wanted to give myself a break from the temptation. The temptation of comparing my life to everyone else’s. My pictures to theirs, my Sunday afternoons, my anniversary dinner, my spring break trip. Facebook makes me forget what I have and it makes me want what it looks like everyone else has. So I thought a break would do me some good. Continue reading
Happy First Birthday to grace in the darkness! A year ago today, you made your way into cyberspace after many months of gestation (months which I spent researching and planning and writing and designing) and, like any birth, that day was filled with many hopes and dreams, much excitement, and certainly some nerves. It’s hard to believe it’s been this long already — and that some of you are still reading my words after 365 days.
Mostly, it’s hard to believe because it’s so easy to wish that I’d done more. Written more posts, taken more beautiful photos, facilitated more guest authors. Also, I’d hoped for more success. I wish I had acquired more followers, seen more readership growth, been offered more book deals (ha!). I’d hoped for more.
However, despite not being more, it’s been a good, full year. A hard year, certainly, but what year isn’t? As I was preparing to write this post, and thinking about the past year, I revisited many posts from the last twelve months (of course). I revisited the dark places and the questions, the favorite quotes, the letters to my son and daughter, the post about learning to love our family of four and the posts exploring Ed Welch’s book about faith and depression that I found so useful. I remembered my struggles with finding community in New York and applauded my efforts at starting to run again. And you know what? It’s not more, and it’s not the best, but it is good. Continue reading
Filed under blogging, career, children, community, depression, family, god & faith, identity, motherhood, prayer, Uncategorized, writing
So I’ve been thinking a lot lately about community. The community that I long to have is starkly different from the community that I currently have. I dream about a community that starts with friends and grows to include spouses and children. I dream about our kids growing up together, seeing each other often and spontaneously, playing in the streets and running back and forth between houses, sharing snacks and swimsuits, sharing Thanksgiving and New Years Eve and the Fourth of July.
I dream of close friends who have “been there through thick and thin,” who show up at each other’s homes with meals and Kleenex and go out for girls’ nights and pedicures. I imagine my children growing up with a small circle of other adult figures around them, friends and mentors of mine who pray for them and help parent them, who fill in where I lack (anyone want to sew a Halloween costumes?) and who attend my kids’ weddings while recalling their first birthdays.
I am often frustrated, here in New York City, because my community doesn’t look like this. Continue reading