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.
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.
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?
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
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!
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
My son has this book that he loves called The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge. In the book, the little red lighthouse is proud of its job sending out beacons of light to protect the boats in the river from the rocky shores. One day, a crew of men appears:
Every day [the little red lighthouse] watched the strange new gray thing beside it grow and grow. Huge towers seemed to touch the sky. Strong loops of steel swept across the river.
How big it was!
A great gray bridge, spanning the Hudson River from shore to shore. It made the little red lighthouse feel very, very small.
“Mommy, is the little red lighthouse sad?” my son asked one day after I read this passage to him.
“Yes, sweetie, it is,” I replied.
“But why?” he asked. (He is a three-year-old, after all.)
“Well, the lighthouse is afraid that he won’t have any work to do, now that the great gray bridge has been built. He’s afraid that there’s no job for him. And that makes him sad. It feels good to have a job to do, doesn’t it?” Continue reading
You guys. This might be my most seemingly-superficial post to date. Don’t judge me. (Or quit reading.)
This post is about clothes. That’s right. Clothes.
But I’ve been thinking a lot about clothes. I’ve been thinking about them because a few months ago, I bought this wild pair of leggings. They were quite a bit out of my comfort zone, but I really liked the pattern, and I really wanted to be able to wear them. And they were not expensive. So: why not?
At first I wore them a bit sparingly. I’m not usually a loud dresser.
Or, not lately.
But as the months have gone by, I’ve started wearing them more and more. And I’m buying a second pair. And when I wear them, I feel confident. Kind of like I can kick butt, actually. Continue reading
All right you guys, I’m going to try not to get too metaphorical or too sentimental in this post. (It might be difficult.) Thursday morning, I was sitting alone in a mostly empty plane, next to a window. And the sunlight was just streaming in. My engagement ring caught the light and scattered it everywhere in shards of colored beauty.
I had just left the biggest loves of my life behind in Manhattan and was flying – alone – to Memphis for a short week of rehearsals and concerts. But I wasn’t leaving all my loves behind in just that single place – some of my loves are in Texas and Florida, in Colorado and North Carolina. Some are in Brooklyn and Astoria. Some are in the woods and some are here no more. Some are words in books, some are the notes of a score. Some are the crashing waves and some are the breathtaking sunsets.
I have many loves.
And although I was leaving some behind – I was also heading straight for some others. Continue reading
So this will be a short post (see! It can be done), but in light of JANUARY FIRST, I’ve been thinking about the new year and what’s ahead and the idea of making “New Year’s Resolutions.”
I loved two recent but fairly dissimilar posts I read on this topic (and you should read them, too!). Addie Zierman writes wonderfully and beautifully about how and why she makes resolutions each year – how they represent “a praise, a prayer, a confession, a cry of hope” – in her post In Defense of New Year’s Resolutions. Meanwhile, Glennon Doyle Melton preaches “I don’t want to be a BETTER ME in 2016. Screw that. I don’t want to chase after some imaginary more fabulous version of myself. I AM what the people I love need.” in her post Best New Year’s Ever.
Growing up, I nearly always made New Year’s resolutions. Depending on my age, they generally focused around being nicer to my sister, how many A’s I’d make in school, saying thank-you more often to my parents, eating better, exercising better, praying more, memorizing Scripture, cooking more – and on and on. They generally lasted – like most resolutions, as far as I can tell – sometime between twenty-four hours and twenty-four days. So it goes.
Then I got married, and one day another married couple (who had been married nearly five whole years by that point) told us about The F’s. Continue reading