It Started with Stand-Up

It started with a stand-up comedy routine. This one to be exact.

We’ve been watching it on repeat at our house. Sarah’s routine sparked important conversation for Dylan and me. After watching a few times, I found myself wondering, ‘Yeah! Do I contribute to the problem of men feeling like they’re losing their voice?’ There needs to be space for men to make plans and pay for dinner.

This is a BIG feminist discussion and I don’t have an answer to the mystery of emasculation in our culture. I tend to think it’s not q.u.i.t.e. my problem if men who’ve historically made bad decisions are feeling crushed by powerful women.

Both men and women have different strengths. I believe feminine and masculine traits live in all of us. How these traits are lived out has a lot to do with our culture, and the media, and the muddied messages of chivalry, independence, patriarchy, and equality.

It is my problem, however, when my husband is holding back because I overpower his voice and poo-poo his plans.

So, on Friday night, after starting a text thread asking how he wanted to spend our evening, I had to consider my silencing. He suggested, ‘let’s go out, get a drink, listen to some jazz.’ I stifled the urge to say ‘shoot, I was hoping for Mrs. Maisel and a glass of white wine while wearing pajamas.’

He had made a plan.

I shushed my impulse to lounge and instead I blew dry my hair, put on some red lipstick, and set out for an evening of saxophone and cocktails.

As we walked down the stairs to the basement bar, I whispered to myself, ‘I’m tired of being afraid of living.’ I think we both are. We’ve been in a bit of a holding pattern for a while – waiting on news, waiting on opportunities, living in the just-a-little-longers. Grief tends to rip the plans right out of you.

So for this year, I’m going about living boldly and holding space for the rising tides bringing us back to shore again. I’ve booked a birthday trip to the mountains, am headed to Portland to see an old friend, and am carving out space to fashion a book out of these posts. He’s going to fix up a car, draft some buildings and learn new software. Together we’ll tackle our ugly basement, paint some cabinets, and build a website.

We’re going to get up off the couch and hold hands as we step into jazz clubs, letting brushes on drums and stand-up bass bolster us up.

We’re making plans again. What a beautiful thing.

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Coming Back

I’ve been practicing telling my grief story out loud. To people using their ears and their eyes.

It’s easier for me to type my story. I’m more comfortable when you’re just reading what I write.

I’m dreaming of new ways to bring my speaking voice to my experience and sent an email ask to Shelby Forsythia if she would be willing to host me on her podcast Coming Back.  She lost her mom when she was in college, and dove right in to learning more about grief, healing, and the power of owning one’s experience.

Shelby describes herself as an intuitive grief guide and works with people struggling with grief and loss. In her interviews with others, she offers refreshing perspectives on the way our culture handles grief, and focuses on real experiences with real humans as we continue to live with loss.

Her tagline, “because even through grief we are growing” pinched my heart and said, ‘pay attention to this’ – she’s on to something.

I’m thrilled to share our conversation here and am very thankful to be in her group of people growing with grief. We talk about introversion, a little bit of Jesus, and how searching for beautiful things informs my process with loss.

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Shelby is also looking for new folks to interview on her podcast for her FIFTH(!) season.  If you are interested in sharing your experience with grief, send her an email and tell her I sent you.

Happy listening.

The 2018 Give Light Giveaway Winner Is …

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Remember those embers? We’re starting a little fire. Thank you to the following folks who entered the Give Light Giveaway. The winner is announced at the bottom of this post and will be contacted shortly.

What gives you hope?


My hope comes from my kids and I hope I can give them the best life possible.

– Alice V.


A darkened church filled to capacity being infused with light one candle at a time while everyone sings Silent Night.

A third grade boy filling the heart of a child with special behavioral needs by asking him to be his twin on ‘twin’s day’. He remembered that they both had the same Christmas shirt in second grade. He also ate lunch with him.

Brilliant sunrises, amazing sunsets, crystal clear blue skies.

– Cathy H.


I am hopeful for good things ahead because I survived this past year without losing or compromising my integrity, patience, curiosity, creativity, willingness to try, or ability to love. I look forward to using these as guideposts and inspiration in the coming year.

– Laura G


Besides my faith in God, new life gives me hope: A precious baby, a wobbly-legged calf, or a tiny green shoot popping out of the brown dirt.  New life is such a miracle!

– Cathy P.


What gives me hope:

My children give me hope every day. And every child that walks into my life and shares their unfiltered joy with me. As long as new life keeps bringing new joy to the world I am hopeful.

– Christine C.


What gives me hope? Prayer gives me hope. When I pray for peace, faith, forgiveness or love; I’m given hope. When I pray for meekness, strength, comfort or mercy; I’m given hope. When I pray for courage, compassion, patience, and self-control; I’m given hope. When I pray for a sense of humor in a dark place, for listening ears when I want to scream, for self-love when I’ve made a mistake, for acceptance instead of judgment; I’m given hope.

For me, prayer is more than an expression of thanksgiving or a plea for help. Prayer is hope eternal.

– Suzanne M


There are two things that give me hope:

Seeing glimpses of how God has been preparing me and working behind the scenes for this season of my life.
Seeing the good that is still in the world.  I am reminded of friends giving gifts to their friends who are differently abled.  Giving baby dolls or stuffed animal dogs to those suffering from dementia to help make them feel purposeful and needed.  It helps remind them even subconsciously of previous times in their life when they were a caregiver for pets and / or children.
– Stephanie S.

Hi all,
I admit that it was hard for me to write a submission for this and I searched my brain and heart as to why. I realized that it’s because I don’t feel particularly hopeful this season. It’s definitely not like good things aren’t in my life right now, but it’s been a strange, quick, busy season where the gifts were unwrapped before I could say “it’s Christmas already?” My feelings seem to be echoed by everyone I talk to. I also feel like I’m in a strange limbo where I want to be working towards something but I haven’t figured out what.
However, there have been a few things that make me want to break down in tears just from the pure thoughtfulness of them, and they all have to do with children. I dropped by for a surprise visit to my friends’ house to visit with them and their kids on Christmas Eve. They were so welcoming and the kids were so excited that it immediately brightened my day. Not only that, but their daughter wrote me such a sweet note; I included pictures of it below. This is the same daughter that once picked the cheese out of the last cheddar biscuit for me just so I could have it (I’m lactose intolerant). Her kindness, uninhibited by motive or obligation, floors me every time.
katiem1  katie M 2
The second thing that has brightened my days are the spontaneous hugs of my niece. My brother and his family are visiting from Mexico for the holidays and I don’t get to see her very often, but she seems to revere me like one would a big sister. Every time I’ve seen her over the last few days, she just randomly runs up to me and hugs me. It’s an expression of joy that I feel so grateful to be on the receiving end of.
The third thing is my tiny 1.5 yr old nephew diving in for a cracker crumb-filled kiss before he left my parents’ house last night. He has been so hesitant around me the past couple of months and I cherish those moments of closeness.
What do these all give me hope for?
The next moment.
– Katie M.

Thanks to my husband’s helpful selection, this year’s winner is Suzanne M. Here’s to hoping in 2019.
I’m also hoping to have more guest bloggers in the year ahead. If you are interested in contributing new content, let’s connect!

January Favorite Things – 2019

 

It’s tradition in my family to watch The Rose Bowl Parade (#1 Favorite Thing) on New Year’s Day. My parents lived in Pasadena when they were first married and so we always had it on in the background when we woke groggily on the first day of the year. Nostalgia mixed with beautiful compilations of floral majesty – this parade is an amazing artistic effort.

The past few years I turned the live stream on with tears on my cheeks and we’d watched without Dad. Starting another year without loved ones is bittersweet. Sometimes, you still feel guilty for living.

Today, I turned on the parade and scooted our little leaf receiver, trying without success to get a clear stream via our janky attempt at living cable-free. I can’t find the ABC live stream and the ESPN account we share with a relative isn’t granting me access.

BUT – great news – the Spanish channel is coming in perfectly. So here I sit, watching the floats and the bands and the flowers and Dad is chuckling along with me because I can’t understand much.

‘Stop taking new starts without me so seriously,’ he whispers. I’m putting my head on his shoulder and trying to figure out the subtitles.

So, adding to the list, here are a few of my favorite things to start the year off right.

2. Electric Fondue Pot


I found an unopened wedding present in the cupboard this weekend and decided to continue another tradition of New Year’s fondue at our house. This little guy is so easy to use and dipping treats in chocolate is a guaranteed crowd pleaser. I knew we registered for this for a reason.

3. Photo Books on Shutterfly

I love making albums for the year just finished in January. Take a few minutes, download the photos from your phone, and upload the images to Shutterfly. Don’t be intimidated by creative limitations – if you want, you can use their “Make My Book” feature and they will put all your photos in beautiful designs for you. They’re always having a sale and you get a great keepsake.

4. Pick Your Word

I was introduced to the idea of picking a word for your year ahead in college. My small group leader encouraged us to prayerfully pick a word to focus on in the next twelve months. We know we break resolutions, but having a word to return to, shaping your choices and your hopes is easier to return to as time goes on. This book explains the idea in more detail. My word for this year is REACH.  What’s yours?

5. Pick Your Tunes

Bring in the new year with some new anthems. Dylan was given Miles Davis on vinyl and we’ve been filling our house with jazz. Buy a new album, pick a new song, add some life into your home with music.

Happy New Year!

Let’s Create a Flickering Fire

“Work without hope draws nectar in a sieve, and hope without an object cannot live.” – Samuel Taylor Coleridge

The week between Christmas and New Year’s always finds me feeling a little deflated. Like the giant blow-up characters sagging in lawns, folks turn out the lights and lay face down on the grass. We’re a little tired and need another burst of air to fill up our fragile skins. We require breath in the hope of new, good, and better in the year ahead.

For me, 2018 was packed with new things as I pursued a list of 29 things to do before I turn 30. I made big resolutions and dipped my toes out of my comfort zone.

My resolution for 2019? Just eat breakfast.

Sure, I’ve got big dreams waiting in the wings, yet I bat my hands at the spidery myth that living in the space of ‘next’ will be better than whatever this season provides. I know I never arrive.

I believe beauty in the imperfect will serve our messy world right here, wherever you sit or scan and read. I also believe in the tiny, magical glow of hope. Like a little ember on the edge of the fire ring, small sparks can turn to a flickering fire. Without holding space for fresh air of peace, we ache and crave and miss out on magic.

Thank you to the following folks who’ve entered the Give Light Giveaway and answered the question, ‘What gives you hope?’

They’ve started with small sparks. Add your input by tomorrow evening.

Let’s create a flickering fire of hope for the year ahead.

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Photo by Hannah Troupe on Unsplash


Besides my faith in God, new life gives me hope: A precious baby, a wobbly-legged calf, or a tiny green shoot popping out of the brown dirt.  New life is such a miracle!

– Cathy P.


What gives me hope:

My children give me hope every day. And every child that walks into my life and shares their unfiltered joy with me. As long as new life keeps bringing new joy to the world I am hopeful.

– Christine C.


What gives me hope? Prayer gives me hope. When I pray for peace, faith, forgiveness or love; I’m given hope. When I pray for meekness, strength, comfort or mercy; I’m given hope. When I pray for courage, compassion, patience, and self-control; I’m given hope. When I pray for a sense of humor in a dark place, for listening ears when I want to scream, for self-love when I’ve made a mistake, for acceptance instead of judgment; I’m given hope.

For me, prayer is more than an expression of thanksgiving or a plea for help. Prayer is hope eternal.

– Suzanne M


There are two things that give me hope:

Seeing glimpses of how God has been preparing me and working behind the scenes for this season of my life.
Seeing the good that is still in the world.  I am reminded of friends giving gifts to their friends who are differently abled.  Giving baby dolls or stuffed animal dogs to those suffering from dementia to help make them feel purposeful and needed.  It helps remind them even subconsciously of previous times in their life when they were a caregiver for pets and / or children.
– Stephanie S.

Hi all,
I admit that it was hard for me to write a submission for this and I searched my brain and heart as to why. I realized that it’s because I don’t feel particularly hopeful this season. It’s definitely not like good things aren’t in my life right now, but it’s been a strange, quick, busy season where the gifts were unwrapped before I could say “it’s Christmas already?” My feelings seem to be echoed by everyone I talk to. I also feel like I’m in a strange limbo where I want to be working towards something but I haven’t figured out what.
However, there have been a few things that make me want to break down in tears just from the pure thoughtfulness of them, and they all have to do with children. I dropped by for a surprise visit to my friends’ house to visit with them and their kids on Christmas Eve. They were so welcoming and the kids were so excited that it immediately brightened my day. Not only that, but their daughter wrote me such a sweet note; I included pictures of it below. This is the same daughter that once picked the cheese out of the last cheddar biscuit for me just so I could have it (I’m lactose intolerant). Her kindness, uninhibited by motive or obligation, floors me every time.
              
The second thing that has brightened my days are the spontaneous hugs of my niece. My brother and his family are visiting from Mexico for the holidays and I don’t get to see her very often, but she seems to revere me like one would a big sister. Every time I’ve seen her over the last few days, she just randomly runs up to me and hugs me. It’s an expression of joy that I feel so grateful to be on the receiving end of.
The third thing is my tiny 1.5 yr old nephew diving in for a cracker crumb-filled kiss before he left my parents’ house last night. He has been so hesitant around me the past couple of months and I cherish those moments of closeness.
What do these all give me hope for?
The next moment.
– Katie M.

Submit your entry by Midnight on 12.31.2018

Details on how to enter here.

 

I’m Inviting You

I have the day off. For most folks in Colorado, sunny trails and crunching snow beckon on days gifted outside of the office. I see your pictures, your snow shoes, your athletic pants.

Here’s the thing. It’s cold out, there’s no snow in my neighborhood, and I don’t see myself leaving the house.

Instead, I’ve spent the morning reading Bob Goff’s book Love Does: Discover a Secretly Incredible Life in an Ordinary World

I kept my butt in the chair and my fingers clicked the pages – next, next, next. I devoured his stories and my heart beat quicker with the amazing possibilities he bravely steped into in his life.

If God makes ordinary people move, why can’t God move Bob? Bob kept saying yes.

Why can’t God move me too?

Or you?

I’ve been a little disheartened this season as only one person has told me what gives them hope in the Give Light Giveaway. I find myself asking, ‘Are we so battered and tired, sitting slumped against walls that nothing feels hopeful?’ I’ve been there.

Or are we so busy and bustling we don’t have a quick second to answer the question, ‘What keeps us going despite all this mess?’

Maybe you’re in a better headspace than me and living anxiety-free comes easier to you.  Maybe you live boldly with ease and march into new spaces and sit at all the tables with confidence.

I’m unlearning the practice of waiting to be invited to participate.

Bob’s book invited me to be brave.

I’m inviting you to be hopeful. 

The Give Light Giveaway runs through Monday night. I hope to hear what gives you hope, wherever you sit, with whatever reverberates in your heart this season.

Here’s a reminder on how to share your answer to the question, ‘ what gives you hope?’

Not Quite a Christmas Cantata

They’ve been doing it for centuries. Singing in narrative verse to tell the story of the the nativity and the Christmas miracle. Wearing long red robes which morphed into vibrant red sweaters, men and women have stood on choral bleachers in front of audiences for a very long time singing songs of the coming of Christ.

Tis’ the season of the Christmas Cantata.

Raise your hand if you know what those two words mean. For those of you who aren’t attending church, never have, maybe never want to – that’s cool too. Think a carefully curated playlist of classics like Silent Night, Joy to the World, with maybe parts of Handel’s Messiah mixed in.

I have one vibrant memory of attending such a concert at the church my dad pastored. I was five or six and sat in the first few church pews, staring up in wonder at the gentleman singing in front of us. The mustard yellow upholstery scratched my little legs in their little white tights as I swung them back and forth, teetering on the edge.

I remember the glow of the candles, and the warm yellow lights bouncing off the brick walls of the sanctuary and I remember the sweaters. Bright red sweaters, probably with a crisp white collared tee underneath, were paired with khakis making middle aged men looked like Target employees. I remember sitting next to my dad and watching those sweaters move while their mustaches danced as they mouthed out melodies of all the traditional songs. I mostly remember the mustaches.

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Photo by David Beale on Unsplash

It has been years since I’ve been to a Christmas Cantata. For whatever reason, many of the newer, non-denominational churches we’ve been attending in the last decade don’t allow just any man on stage to sing.

In these bigger, more liberal establishments, musicians have to try out and prove their worth to perform with a microphone. We wouldn’t want worship led by an average engineer in khakis would we? Including ordinary folks’ talents in worship seems a lost art in the new wave of Christian religion.

This past weekend we didn’t go to a Canata, per se’, but we did go to a Christmas worship service at the local Presbyterian church. I sat in a mustard yellow church pew that surely would have scratched my legs if I was wearing white tights. Around me, the average demographics of the audience were certainly older by twenty years compared to where we sometimes worship now. On the front table were four Advent candles, three purple, one pink, one white – another tradition missing from big church stages. Above in the rafters, supported carefully in the beams, sat a most massive pipe organ waiting to be awoken by the days event. Big stained glass windows filtered the light encouraging it to dance across the stage. This was a sanctuary steeped in tradition and liturgy and it made me miss my Evangelical roots … just a teeny bit.

A tiny orchestra of ten or so men and women formed just below familiar black risers. To the left of them sat a full choir with close to thirty singers wearing floor length blue robes. Behind them, a bell choir of twelve wore plush velvet shirts and black gloves to protect the fragile tones. They were quiet – eager and ready to play and sing.

This congregation rallied over 100 talented folks to show up to share the gift of Christmas music with us. I don’t know, maybe they had to audition, but I was moved by the willingness for ordinary people to sign up and say, ‘Hey, I know how to play an instrument and I’m going to use my skill to bring some joy this season.’

Bring joy they did – an hour of beautiful music rehearsed and delivered to bring magic our way.

There is beauty in tradition, in family memories of Christmases past, and in the reverence experienced when we still our hearts enough to watch those willing to share their gifts with us. It doesn’t matter how old you are, or if you sing a little flat. Your voice carries and lifts up hearts. Your wrists make bells do magical things. And the choice to be present and not participate like the little blond boy with his arms stuffed up in his purple choir robes, refusing to sing a single word in the children’s choir – that’s beautiful too.


P.S. – There’s still time to enter the Give Light Giveaway. My friends at Colorpockit have just launched their new business and are graciously donating a set to be included in the prize pack this year. Colorpockit is the new portable adult coloring system that allows you to take your creativity wherever you go! It’s available in plastic or wood, and each Colorpockit comes with 12 dual-sided pencils giving you 24 vibrant colors, a built-in pencil sharpener, and 12 postcards to color. Fun right! You can learn more here