For the Days You Don't Feel Like an Award Winner

For the Days You Don't Feel Like an Award Winner

This past summer I wrote half of a book.

My husband was gracious enough to spend his days off from teaching to watch our kids so that I could park myself in quiet spaces around our city and write. It was glorious, it was rejuvenating, and it was amazing the words I could crank out when my writing hours expanded beyond 7-9 pm.

But here’s the thing: unless you are a New York Times Bestseller, or unless you have a bomb social media platform, or unless your first book called Here Goes Nothing far exceeds everyone’s expectations in sales – there is no guarantee that the second book you wrote half of will receive a contract.

Going through the publishing process with a prestigious company the first time around only confirmed that I am a tiny fish in an extremely large ocean of talented people. But - neither naively nor pessimistically - I decided to try for a second book contract anyway.

And I was told no.

An Introvert's Survival Guide to Motherhood

An Introvert's Survival Guide to Motherhood

Someone once asked me when I realized I was an introvert. I told her I didn’t fully acknowledge that part of my personality until I became a mom.

Pre-parenthood, my cup of energy depleted at the rate of someone drinking through a coffee straw. Social interaction was draining, but it was easier to prioritize time for myself. 

When our daughter was born, it felt like someone picked up my glass of energy, looked me square in the eyes, and dumped it out all over the toy-littered floor. The intense attention that tiny people need, combined with little time to recharge, made motherhood's first season feel like it was sucking the life right out of me. 

When Jesus Doesn't Call You On The Phone

When Jesus Doesn't Call You On The Phone

I remember sitting in a room full of swiveling chairs, approaching my final semester of college and wondering, What’s next, Lord?

It can be an exciting question to ask, full of awe at a world exploding with options of places and peoples. But it can also be a question filled with anxieties:

No, seriously, WHAT’S NEXT, LORD?!

As my husband and I stood in front of a room of college seniors in their own swivel chairs a week and a half ago, I understood what a blessing six years of post-college-graduation hindsight can be. It’s easy to look back now and say that God faithfully led us from one thing to the next, mercifully opening and closing different doors for us.

But it wasn’t always easy when we were standing in the hallway staring at Doors 1, 2, and 3, and being forced to pick one. Or feeling like there were no doors to choose from at all.

A Note to Those Dropping Off Casseroles

A Note to Those Dropping Off Casseroles

To the One Dropping Off Casseroles,

 

You showed up.

Right now as I’m living my own worst nightmare – having lost someone I love – that simple truth means everything to me.

I know coming here to my doorstep wasn’t an easy thing to do. Let’s be honest, you being here while I’m deeply grieving probably feels awkward. Sadness itself is awkward, and for that reason alone I know it would have been easier for you to stay home and avoid having to see me and these tears that can't seem to stop streaming down my face.

I’ll Never Send My Kid to Preschool. And Other Ways I’ve Changed My Mind.

I’ll Never Send My Kid to Preschool. And Other Ways I’ve Changed My Mind.

As we perused the racks of school uniforms, I held back tears.

Wasn’t I just holding our first baby tightly against my chest, breathing in her precious newborn scent? Since when did years pass by in only seconds? And since when did little navy polos and black Mary Jane’s and Back to School Shopping become an integral part of my life?  

I knew these days would come eventually. Babies barely leave the birth canal before society wants to know how, when, and where their parents plan to educate them.

But as I held up different sizes of pants and shirts to my daughter’s four-year-old frame, I knew that while a large part of me felt sensitive to motherhood’s changing seasons, the other part of me was struggling to let myself change my mind.

I’ll never send her to school before Kindergarten, I used to think and say out loud.

We Can't Stop at Band-Aids

We Can't Stop at Band-Aids

I woke up from a nap to four missed calls from my neighbor.

I called back right away, never expecting to hear her voice come through the speaker saying, “I just got evicted.”

My mind raced for solutions to a problem much larger than I am, and then came back to the starting line when she asked, “Do you have any trash bags to put our stuff in?”

That One Time I Accused My Husband of Never Helping Me While He Was Helping Me

That One Time I Accused My Husband of Never Helping Me While He Was Helping Me

I took our kids to the grocery store last week after school.

One child - who shall remain nameless – whined incessantly up and down every single aisle. I almost set her on the Clearance rack next to all of the weirdly flavored jars of jelly that will eventually end up in landfills and walked away.

With blood, sweat, and only a few tears of my own, I managed to get our bags of groceries into the car, as well as our children.

On the way home, the Whiny One Who Shall Not Be Named was given orders to remain silent – lest her words be used against her in all future decisions on the writing of our family’s will.

And it worked – mostly because there was a bribe for cheese crackers included. At least, it worked until she started screaming that she had to go potty.

When You Don’t Know the Moral Of the Story

When You Don’t Know the Moral Of the Story

“Do you have any advice to give me as I write about living in an inner city neighborhood?" I asked one of our mentors.

He went over important precautions, and then he ended with this: “Most of the time, writers want to know the moral of the story. But when you live in a distressed neighborhood, things will happen and you won’t be able to explain why. And that’s okay.”

I was impressed by his ability to capture the dilemma of what it’s like to digest your life in real time on the Internet.

Token White Girl

Token White Girl

I could easily reword my Christian testimony to reflect the number of interactions I had with people of minority races before the age of 22:

“I lived in an all-white Christian home, attended a mostly white Christian school, and went to a predominantly white Christian church.”

In specific regards to African Americans, what I knew were things I was taught in history books or saw in the movies. To me, they were like mystical creatures who manifested themselves into three categories: historical figures from the Civil Rights movement, NBA players, and Tyler Perry’s Madea.

Why I’ll Never Write About Safe Parenting

Why I’ll Never Write About Safe Parenting

Our daughter spent the first ten months of her life in Guatemala where car seats simply were not a thing.

She sat on my lap in crowed vans and refurbished school buses, speeding through our city's cobbled streets and careening around winding mountain roads.

Our move back to the States and her transition to the laws of car seats was, shall I say, rough. There were times it took both my husband and I to wrangle her into her seat and buckle her in. There were times she would push the chest clip far below the recommended armpit height, and wriggled her arms above the straps. And there were times, during the long battle it took to get her to accept her car seat, we gave up and let her ride with her pits out. We chose our sanity over her safety.

Leave Your Heart Open, Just Not Your Garage

Leave Your Heart Open, Just Not Your Garage

We asked them for advice.

Years ago they lived in a similar neighborhood in Kalamazoo, and they remembered the times their parents called asking, "So, how's Beruit?"

In what could have become hours of conversation had to be boiled down to a few minutes walking out of the sanctuary. With big smiles they answered my question, "Don't get too attached to your earthly possessions."

Two weeks later, we are out a bike and a new lawn mower. 

The Carpet Guy Won't Work in Our Neighborhood

The Carpet Guy Won't Work in Our Neighborhood

"You ain't brought your mama here yet, have you?" Johnny asked with a slight smirk.

My mama lives on the other side of Lake Michigan but no, she hasn't been to our new house yet. Johnny grew up a couple blocks down the street, so he wasn't naive to the crime maps we scoured in our free time for months before we bought the place. 

"By the way," our contractor joined the conversation, "The guy I usually hire to do carpet won't work in this neighborhood." Another smirk. "But Home Depot and Menards will."

Journeys That Transform

Journeys That Transform

On that first journey, Mauricio had worn the dress shoes that I had given him, because he was told that they would make him look less like an immigrant. 

The only problem was that within the first hour of a four day journey, his feet were covered in painful blisters!  On this second journey, those same shoes hung from his backpack the entire time as we sojourned together as brothers and companions on the Way. He had walked in my shoes, and I was now walking in his, trekking northward in solidarity with all those who make this pilgrimage to escape violence and poverty, and to bring life and sustenance to their families and loved ones. 

The arc of my life had taken me to an immigrant neighborhood, to a shelter for refugees, to a food distribution for recent arrivals, to a tiny room in a flat filled with immigrant families. Inasmuch as a privileged gringo could do, I had walked for many years in the shoes of my sisters and brothers. They had become family and taught me more than I could ever imagine about what it meant to be human, and what it meant to be a follower of the forsaken Christ. We could never abandon one another. We discovered that we were related and that made all the difference. 

Won't You Be My {Honest} Neighbor?

Won't You Be My {Honest} Neighbor?

Being neighborly means not only loving someone just the way they are, but also presenting ourselves just the way we are.

And this type of authenticity goes much deeper than how tidy we keep our homes or how often we burn the pizza. It’s beyond how many times per week I choose to wear yoga pants instead of pants with a zipper, or how often I forgo mascara.

Thinking Generously of Our Neighbors {Even When They Don't Deserve It}

Thinking Generously of Our Neighbors {Even When They Don't Deserve It}

The fastest way to make an enemy is a sinful, cynical mind.

A cynically minded person will jump to conclusions and assume the worst possible motive for whatever it was the other person said or did. These cynical thoughts become snarky comments that tumble out of our mouths and start a fire that spreads rapidly. Our words all too often poison the minds of others in our way of getting them “on our side.”

Not All My Neighbors Like Me

Not All My Neighbors Like Me

Loving my introverted husband has taught me how to love my introverted neighbors. When meeting a new neighbor, I have to be careful to not come on too strong. I try to read their subtle body language and verbal cues, and not take offense when someone doesn’t react with the same enthusiasm I bring to the table. I need to know what’s happening inside an introvert’s head when I say “open house” or “party”.

Privileged {Coming Face to Face with My Hidden Sin of Favoritism}

Privileged {Coming Face to Face with My Hidden Sin of Favoritism}

Before that evening I would have said, without hesitation, “I love being the hands and feet of Jesus, and I love loving His people.” But for the first time in a long time, I was pushed to engage with His people that weren’t my people. Sure, I think I can be great at loving my friends and being kind and compassionate with people who are like me, but when confronted with people who made me feel uncomfortable, my compassionate, privileged self became entitled and superior.

Being confronted with your own ugliness—staring at your flesh in a spiritual mirror— is physically painful. I didn’t like the woman who showed up that night. I liked who I thought I was. But that person was shaped by theories and ideas, not by truly living out the hard things that make us human.

This experience pushed me out of my comfort zone—out from behind my books and Bibles and blog—it pushed me to actually see and interact with God’s people. And in this pushing I came face to face with my own worldly preferences, my favoritism toward people closer to my own social status.

Stretching in the Gap

Stretching in the Gap

It was a rare moment; I had the house all to myself.

I was on my knees, feeling overwhelmed, praying to God for each of my three daughters by name.

Who can weather these times?  How can I effectively parent my children so they grow to fear God, love others and be the gift they are?  I lay my tear strung questions and bleeding heart before the Lord.

In the midst of my overwhelming emotions and questions, I sensed the Lord urging me on: “keep stretching in the gap”.

I’m Right on Time and You’re Speaking My Language {And That Makes it Hard to Love You}

I’m Right on Time and You’re Speaking My Language {And That Makes it Hard to Love You}

It was hard to go overseas; it was a sacrifice. But now that we have been home six months, I want to let you in on a little secret: I think doing missions during my day- to-day life in my own city and my own culture is even harder. It definitely is not easier.