Category Archives: Personal Thoughts

Do I Stay Christian? by Brian D McLaren

This is not a devotional book. This is not about the five steps to salvation. I wouldn’t even recommend this book to a new believer, but it is a book that is necessary.

Church attendance in recent years has been declining. People have been leaving the church and Christianity. There has been a lot of conjecture about why, and this book gives a broad look into that perspective. The author pulls from personal conversations he has had with people in ministry who left ministry or Christianity as a whole.

The book is broken up into “no,” “yes,” and “how.” Each chapter of no or yes explores a different reason why people left or stayed in Christianity. I have personally chosen to stay Christian, but I didn’t relate to every chapter in yes, and I understand a lot of the no’s reasoning. Some of the “No” chapters were a review for me because I had read other books that outlined in more detail those particular reasons.

The How chapters were the author’s “what’s next” answer. He speaks to both those remaining in Christianity and those who chose not to about community and remaining educated about the issues in our world and how we respond. He cautions people to stay grounded in reality, to not fear the headlines or put too much faith in the promises of politicians.

I would recommend this to people in the church or who have left the church or are in that limbo between the two. I would challenge those who don’t understand why people are leaving to read the “no” chapters with an open heart. I think it would go a long way to helping to understand what is going on in our society and move towards a better one.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

This historical fiction set after World War 2 is completely endearing. It follows Juliet Ashton, a writer who became a little famous after her newspaper column during the war that was a satirical commentary. Once those articles were made into a book, she was looking for a new subject matter to write.

Then one day, she receives a letter from a man named Dawsey who lives in the quaint Guernsey in the Channel Islands between England and France which had been occupied by the Germans during the war. This was the door that opened Juliet to this town and its people and the story of survival during the German occupation. And, of course, the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.

The entire book is a collection of correspondence which allows multiple points of view. Through these letters, Juliet forms relationships with various people in this book club as well as writing to her publisher and her friends, giving the reader a unique way into her own thoughts and feelings. Secrets could be divulged in these letters, or withheld in this form of conversation, only to be revealed in other ways later on.

Even though a lot of the subject matter surrounds World War 2 and the Holocaust, the resiliency of the people in this book is highlighted more than the atrocities that they endured. They are mentioned, but only in a way that better describes how people got through it. But be aware that there are mentions of execution, starvation, and suffering in this book.

It’s a beautiful book about amazing people that feel like friends at the end. It’s the kind of community that is there for each other and loves each other through dark times. This was a feel good book, and one that I would recommend to anyone who enjoys historical fiction (especially around WW2), happy endings, and friends to lovers kind of stories.

Wrapping It Up

I hope you enjoyed my series on The Way to Pentecost. If you want to start back at the beginning, here is the first post.

When I began this series, I already planned to take a break from writing after my final post. This is my birthday month, and we have some family activities planned as well. So, the blog is going to go quiet for the next couple of weeks while I rest and reflect about writing on this blog again.

I’ve really enjoyed learning about those forty days between resurrection and ascension and what Jesus did during that time. From the big miracles to the small intimate moments, he shared what was important to him, that we carry his name and his message into the far reaches of the world, forgiving and loving others just as we have been forgiven and loved. With everything going on in the world right now, the love that Jesus taught and exhibited, even in those last days, seems even more vital to us moving forward.

See you in a couple of weeks!

Community, Take Two

Last week, I talked about how I lost trust in community over the last 10 years, but especially more recently. A lot of you reached out publicly and privately, online and in person, to share your own frustrations with specific communities in your life. It is always encouraging to know I’m not alone, but my heart breaks that communities at large have become so fractured.

My own observations feel that this has been a long time coming. The pandemic was just the physical manifestation of things that have been happening for a while. In my life time, we have had large established entities fail us. We no longer have the security of our schools since Columbine and Sandy Hook. We no longer have the security of our American soil after 9/11. We no longer have the security of buying a home or our economy after the recession and housing crisis. Even in the last year, we have seen failings in our legal system, corporations, and many more, even in our own churches.

And in this pandemic, there has been no consensus in our government or even in our medical field. While ER doctors who are on the brink of breakdown are begging people to get vaccinated, we have nurses who are mourning the loss of their job because they don’t trust the vaccine. I have seen people be berated for wearing masks in a grocery store, while others are yelled at for not wearing them at all.

But regardless of how or why, which I’m sure people with much more expertise that I have are already trying to figure it out, I think we can agree that community is broken. But, it’s not gone forever. We were made for community. I truly believe that it will break through, that somehow through compassion and conversation, wounds will heal.

I’m in a unique position right now. While waiting for our impending move to a new home (the house is still being built so we have to wait until that is done), I have been taking the time to figure out what I am looking for in building or joining communities moving forward.

First, healthy boundaries. I am choosing to trust my own voice given to me by God to remind myself that I am valuable and worthy of any community I choose to join. In the past, when I’ve moved to a new area, I always started with a posture of proving my worth by exhausting myself in busyness so that people in that community would label me in positive light. Without that being my goal anymore, I can now focus on developing healthy relationships, making commitments when I’m ready and feel that I can devote the time and energy required.

Second, finding places that don’t participate in gatekeeping. I want to find places and groups where anyone would feel welcome, safe and loved walking through the doors. No matter how long they stayed, they didn’t feel judged and were met not with a put together attitude but one of humility and love.

Third, finding people who lead with love, that are willing to sit in the tension of differing opinions, devoted to listening with humility and being okay with not having everything figured out. None of us have all the answers, though we have lots of opinions. Trite, cliched comments that attempt to sweep others under the rug need not apply.

And finally, having an awareness for the needs of the community. Not just in service projects, but in learning how to develop relationships with people who don’t look like them, think like them, talk like them. Leading the conversations with questions and curiosity instead of judgment and close-mindedness.

Our communities are fractured, but I still have hope. I have already begun to develop relationships with people who have hearts like the ones I described above. I see that as a sign that God is guiding me. I will continue to pray for our communities, that God moves in big ways. And I look forward to seeing where we will find these places and people that will make a difference that we desperately need.

Trusting my Community (Part 1)

I want to disclaimer this last post of the series. And it will be in two parts. In talking about trusting my body, trusting my own voice, I was moving from a place where I questioned those things to a place where I’m finally listening to them. This first of two posts is about the opposite, and it is coming from a place of grief, confusion, anger, and sadness. But I need to share it.

I have lost trust in my community.

This is not just about the crazy stuff happening in our country, though it is a part of it. This is something that I haven’t really addressed for the past 10 years, mostly because I’ve blamed myself, that I wasn’t consistent enough, wasn’t giving enough, wasn’t thoughtful enough, grateful enough. That’s why I wake up on a random Saturday morning and see other people celebrating their years and decades long friendships with people who have been there for the ups and downs, and I just start crying.

It really hit hard when my second daughter’s 5 year stillbirth anniversary came and went and no one reached out. I get it. It’s a family anniversary of a sad milestone. Something I can journal about and talk to a therapist and reach out to loss mom groups and take that initiative myself, right?

It hurts because I grew up with the notion as a people pleaser that I needed to be there for people as a way to show them how to be there for me. What a difference it made to acknowledge anniversaries and pain in their life, and that if I did it consistently, the right way, and was there for people, then they would do the same and be there for me. If I could anticipate their needs, then they would anticipate mine in return. It’s a weird return on investment perspective that never seemed to work out in reality. And while I’m moving away from being a people pleaser and unlearning all these expectations, I don’t know how to build relationship with people outside of this model.

But it’s not just people. It’s organizations who portray a family-like or team-like atmosphere, but end up getting all caught up in the programs and the goals and the initiatives and lose sight of the people. The need for volunteers or for people to come to them instead of reaching out and building relationships beyond buildings. It’s making decisions that exclude or abandon whole groups of people. It’s the feeling of not belonging when you or someone you love walk through the doors.

I know what it’s like to not feel heard, not feel seen, not belong. Decisions being made without you in mind because you are a minority. After my first stillbirth, I realized how much I didn’t belong in the community I was a part of. I didn’t have kids, and I had to explain it to every new person I met. And there wasn’t a place for me, unless it was a place of service, while others were getting served. But the reality was that I was drained and I needed so much, but I wasn’t the right demographic. They didn’t know what to do with me, and they wanted me to figure it out.

And that’s what I did. I looked for other communities. And I found some. And I became a part of them, but after our kid was born, I realized that we no longer fit. We didn’t belong, again. So, I went back to the original communities thinking that now I could finally belong. But being marginalized and spending time with other people who have been hurt and marginalized changed me. I kept seeing groups of people getting left out again and again. And I knew I couldn’t stay.

But now, I’m really alone. It feels like people are too busy or I’m too much of a burden, that the timing is always off or I’m just not the kind of person people want to invest in. I feel like everyone is still Facebook friends with me, but they have all unfollowed me and I’m talking into the wind or the abyss.

Anytime I write about this pain, I immediately delete it. It sounds too angry. It sounds too bitter. People are going to get mad because I’m not being grateful for the things they have done in the past or I should speak up more or not be such a hard person to be around in the first place. That I did this to myself.

There is some truth to that. We are moving out of the neighborhood we have lived in for 12 years, moving into a new city where we really don’t know anyone. We left the church where we were members for almost 14 years, without any real plan or place to plug into. I lost a lot of friends during my pregnancy loss season and didn’t make many new mom friends (thanks COVID). And on top of all that, I am horribly inconsistent because I get overwhelmed easily and forget what day it is sometimes. But I’m tired of carrying this burden. I’m tired of feeling alone.

But if I’ve learned anything, I know we are never truly alone. Yes, I believe God is walking through this season with me, but I also believe that other people feel this way too. Or they have been there. I believe we are made for community, even those who are introverted and socially awkward. And I know that it will get better, that all will be revealed in God’s perfect timing. So, I choose to share this to show others their thoughts and emotions are not wrong, their pain and hurt is valid and real, and you are worthy of love. And maybe, just maybe, this confession will lead me to the community I long for.

Trusting My Voice

I used to describe myself as a people pleaser the way an interviewee would say their weakness is just being too committed to their work. I didn’t understand how detrimental it was to try to please people. To make people happy. That doesn’t sound bad, right? But what it did was put undue responsibility on myself to regulate other people’s emotions and tempers and views of who I was. Things that I had absolutely no ability to control. Still, I was consumed in wanting people, anyone really, to see me in a positive light, because my whole identity was hanging on that opinion.

In the midst of all this worry and anxiety about what other people thought about me, I lost my own voice. I didn’t set up healthy boundaries. I always had an excuse for others, but never excused myself. I would break down if someone confronted me about how they felt I needed to change or how I disappointed them in some way. Shame became the guide in my life, either by trying to avoid it or just letting it consume me.

Something changed over the last year. Along with learning to trust my own body, I started building space around me. Space to sit in stillness and listen to the Spirit’s whisper reminding me who I was. Reminding me that I had a voice of value. Reminding me that I no longer needed to let shame lead my decisions or overpower my thoughts. And as my voice grew louder, it had some things to say.

  • I have the power to say no. Even if I have said yes in the past. Even if I said yes to begin with. I can still say no. This requires me to slow down and start listening to my body, to God, to my own bandwidth. No longer can I fill up my days with busyness. Busyness was a way I could escape from the shame and the guilt of not measuring up to other people. Saying yes until I was burnt out was how I showed others that I was dependable, to show that I cared. But I could never balance it all, and something else in my life would always be left wanting. So saying no gave me the power to create space.
  • I purposefully create space. Space for body breaks. Space to sit with God and with my breath. Space for days when I do absolutely nothing. For me, one of those days is Monday. I don’t set appointments on Mondays. They are the days I recover from full weekends. I don’t do housework on Mondays. They are unproductive days to the outside eye, but they are so necessary. And if Monday doesn’t work, then it’s a different day. I’m not rigid in the structure, but I make sure that there are at least a couple days like this in my week. They are an important reminder that I have value even when I’m not producing. I get to just be me.
  • I get to define me. When I was a young married, I would scour the internet and books for information on how to be a good whatever. Wife. Christian. Person, in general. I thought I needed some definition to fulfill. And if it wasn’t research, then it was how other people thought I was doing. Did they feel loved by me? Wanted? Respected? I measured my entire life on the opinions of others, whether in person or in word. But now, I have taken back that responsibility and acknowledge that right now, without a single change to who I am, I am a worthy and valuable individual.
  • I stopped trying to constantly improve myself. What I mean by that is instead of feeling like I’m a broken thing that needs to be constantly fixed, I start with the idea that, “I am already good.” Maybe a bedtime routine needs tweaking, or maybe my lack of patience means I need more sleep, or I need to add an extra walk into my day, or maybe I don’t need that extra cup of coffee in the afternoon. But none of this takes away from the fact that I am already good. I don’t have to have it all figured out. Of course there is always something new to learn, something new to try, but I celebrate the things I’ve already learned and what I’ve already let go.
  • I officially retire as a mind reader. For the longest time, I would anticipate other people’s feelings, desires and needs. I would get it right enough to think I was right every time. This doesn’t mean I have completely stopped caring about whether or not my actions or words hurt others. I take responsibility for causing pain or hurt, even unintentionally, to other people. But it is no longer my responsibility to regulate other people by trying to read into their tone or facial expressions or expect any kind of passive aggressive behavior. I want my words to be taken as truth so it’s only fair that I give others the same treatment.

I’m learning and growing every day. I am finally really giving myself grace, and not just one more chance to get it right. I’m not the girl I was yesterday, though I look at her as the beautiful heart that she was, willing to carry shame and blame for the sake of others. But I’m letting go of that shame and moving towards the person I was created to be. What I keep reminding myself is that I’m doing the best I can with every day God gives me on this earth. Letting go and learning to become the person that God created me to be on this lifelong journey.

Trusting My Body

In the first year of my kid’s life, I was desperate to find a schedule that solved every issue we faced. But even to this day, not one of the many schedule suggestions online worked for us. Namely because this kid wakes up between 6 and 6:30 almost every single morning, and apparently, the majority of the schedules out there cannot fathom a child getting up that early. The best piece of advice for us was “feed the baby when they are hungry and sleep when they sleep,” but it required me to slow down, tune into my kid’s body, and look and listen for cues.

That was extremely hard for me. And one of the reasons it was so difficult was because I wasn’t doing it with my own body. I hadn’t for a long time. I didn’t realize that this was a major barrier at the time, but looking back, and after an extremely good amount of therapy this last year, I discovered that somewhere along the way, I stopped trusting myself.

I stopped trusting my body. Instead, I let society, community, and culture dictate how I should take care of this body, what it should look like, what it should be able to do. I chased one diet after another, one schedule after another, researched every culturally successful person’s morning and evening routine, trying to glean some wisdom that would make me feel happy, healthy, put together, organized, and whole. Even church culture promoted a certain standard to chase, from the clothes I wore to how I should act in every relationship I had, even how to grieve.

But this spring, I started listening to my body. At first, it was chaotic because it had so much to say, but once I stilled, once I allowed it to speak, it reminded me of the truths that God had woven into my heart from a very small age. I am loved. I am beautiful. I am strong. I cannot be defined by the ideas around me because I will never completely fit. I was not made to completely fit. I was made to stand on my own, to shine, to sing, to dance, to smile and laugh, to be in relationship with the one true Creator of the universe.

Now, that sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? But I am still in the early stages of this realization. I still struggle with the beauty of my body. Something that I’ve seen work for other women who have had children and are trying accept their body after it goes through so many changes in pregnancy is the fact that their body carried those babies and brought them into the world. But that doesn’t completely work for me. My body has a 25% success rate so far in that area. And before I had my kid, I was carrying the weight of failed pregnancies. So, how do I find beauty in a body I thought betrayed me?

It’s not easy. Surprisingly, or maybe not so, when I recently started doing 20-30 minutes of yoga a day, I started to feel more in tune with my body. I’ve been doing yoga for about 20 years now, off and on, but I don’t think there is something mystical or magical about yoga. It’s about breathing, listening to the basic breath coming into your body and releasing out of it. It’s about being aware when your muscles stretch and your bones creak or pop. It’s not about the positions or getting to the next level for me, it’s about the slowing down.

When I slow down, I see my body in action. It actually tells me much earlier than I realized exactly what it needs. There are the big signals, like the extreme pain of a kidney stone, but it also tells me in the small nudges towards hunger, loneliness, thirst. I also recognize that this isn’t new. We learn this in science class, but it’s drowned out by words like food addiction and laziness. These kinds of words have convinced me not to trust my body, that it is too broken to communicate. When in reality, it’s been communicating just fine, it’s just that how my body works doesn’t seem to match how my culture says it’s supposed to work. And that is what I have to unlearn and let go.

It’s a work in progress. For the longest time, being busy was considered the highest achievement, but I realize now that it was keeping me from listening to the body God created, to allow it to work the way it was made to, instead having to turn to other sources who could never know my body the way I do. Right now, I have a slight headache, and I realized I hadn’t had much water this morning. Now, I wouldn’t have realized that before, I would have taken a pain pill or tried to find some quick fix, or I would have tried to muscle through it, ending up more sick, usually with something sinus related. But I stopped, listened, and I’m sipping on water between sentences. Slowly, my headache is disappearing. Of course, if it didn’t, I would try other things, but I’m not chasing the quick fixes as much anymore.

And learning to embrace my body, to listen to its cues, will not be quickly fixed either. There are days I’m frustrated that I don’t look like I did when I was 20, or fit into clothes and styles I have loved in the past. But now, I have an opportunity to really find what I love, really know who I am, and build a confidence that will see me through this life with grace, compassion and love.


I got severely dehydrated last week, and also got an ear infection somehow, but I was concerned it might be COVID (even though I am fully vaccinated and have been for months). So I went to my favorite Urgent Care/ER to have both checked out. I’ve been here two other times in this last shutdown year, for a kidney stone and for chest pains (both resolved easily and were not serious). But there was never more than one other person in the waiting room.

This time, there were five in the waiting room, with no available beds for at least an hour to an hour and a half (which I think they meant in the ER portion of the facility because I was in and out on the Urgent Care side in about an hour). The nurse told me it was because the local hospital was at capacity and they were getting some of the overflow, plus walk-ins like me.

My major concern this past year has been the hospitals. If the hospitals are overrun with COVID patients, then they don’t have the capacity for heart attacks, strokes, broken bones and concussions. If I had another kidney stone, where would I go? Where would my kid go after a fall or a spiked fever at 2am?

Of course, the information I’m receiving is saying that this new variant is making more kids sick than the previous ones did. Arkansas Children’s Hospital issued a press release this week stating they have 24 patients hospitalized who are positive with COVID-19, 7 of them in ICU and 4 on ventilators. This is a 50% increase from any previous daily hospitalization. So, the whole “it’s not as bad for kids” may not be entirely true for this form of the virus.

So while one half of me is following this information so I can try to make the day to day decisions that involve my kid, the other half of me is tired.

I’m tired of the fighting. I’m tired of the cacophony of information resources that make up our country. I’m tired of not feeling safe in public places because frankly, people aren’t being honest about the whole mask/vaccinated thing.

But then, I also get it. I get that there are a lot of good fights to fight, things worth fighting for that will affect the generations to come. I get that we have all been misled in one way or another in our lives, and even the best of informational resources have been wrong at times, and that’s a really scary place to be wrong. I get that people have been harassed on both sides of the mask issue as well as the vaccine.

I’m just tired. And the idea of facing another shutdown (even if self-imposed) sounds overwhelming, even for a homebody like me. Because I know it will not be everyone this time. I know that my state will never impose another lockdown again (although I truly want to be wrong about that if we really face dire times again). It will be my own choice, and I will miss out on the community I desperately need. The community I have needed for over a year. The community I have only tasted these last two months.

But I’m going to do what I normally do. I’m going to write a long blog post (check). Then I’m going to pray about it (as I have been every single day since the beginning of this whole thing). Then I’m going to breathe, go to bed, sleep, get up in the morning and start a new day. With the hope that I may be a little less tired than I was the day before.

Hello, Again

How was everyone’s weekend? I still have this blasted cold, but I’m on the upswing, I think. I was spoiled this last year from not getting sick. It was unbelievable, friends. All that social distancing and mask wearing, and for the first time EVER, I went through a whole year without getting the sniffles once. And the first week we swing back to the normal side of life, I’m down for three weeks. It’s ridiculous. I mean, I understand that being in the rhythms of community is important, but I am also a big fan of breathing through my nose. So, give and take, I guess.

It’s supposed to rain all week this week, and while I’m a fan of my garden getting watered without me lugging several gallons of it to my raised beds, I’m hoping that the rain will stop by Saturday. There are holiday festivities this weekend that depend on decent weather. And I really want my kid to experience those activities. I guess we shall see.

I’m still in that process of going through things, but in the worst way. I’m struggling, friends. It’s like, I look at a closet and think, “Yea, I need to go through that.” Then I shut the doors. Or, I open a tote from one shelf and look through all the contents with loving nostalgia, then place the tote back on the shelf, having done nothing to organize, categorize, or whittle down the contents in that storage bin. The closet looks the same as when I started.

However, today, I did go through one shelf in my office closet. It was a basket of candles. I pulled open an excel and listed every candle in the bin. I also opened and smelled the candles to decide whether or not they were still good (because candles do go bad) or even if I still liked the scent of them. Everything I kept was listed in the excel, and now I have a pile of candles to get rid of. Along with the pile of books. But all of this took an hour of my time today. Granted, I also had to check on my dog and watch a Tiktok video or three because focusing is hard, but at this rate, I’m going to have to pack things and move them to the new house before I actually decide whether or not I want to keep them.

It’s just 12 years of life I’m trying to sift through. No big deal.

Well, it’s time to go wake up the kid again. Until next time.

Streams of Thought

I don’t really know what to title this blog post. I thought about maybe “I’m back!” or “Blogging again!”, but honestly, I’m not ready to be completely consistent, you know? I just wanted to hop on here and leave a little love note to my friends and family that still miraculously check on this blog to see if there is a new post.

And I love you for that. Please keep checking back in, I promise my brain will settle enough at some point to bring back some organized consistency. But for now, just a little update.

After one full week of normalcy around here, we all promptly got a cold that is still hanging on to me with a vise-like grip, despite the copious amounts of medicine, tea, water, cough drops, hot baths/showers, and general rest I have tried to do with a three year old underfoot. It’s not covid, but my cough sounds like covid, so I’m also trying my best to avoid public places at the moment so I don’t scare someone who is spending their first day in the world without a mask, only to find some woman walking into the store hacking up half of her lung.

I also had a birthday, which was super low key. I had an amazing day with my husband and kid, but I realized just how much I have forgotten how to be social. Plus, a lot of my friends have gone in completely different directions in life over the last year or two, so coming out of this pandemic, I am sort of starting over in the friend department. Which is a little daunting to an introverted homebody who has not been exercising her social muscles for a year, and they have definitely atrophied. I mean, I’m going to stay in touch with my current friends, but most have or are soon moving away.

That said, I’m moving as well. Right in the middle of this fall (hopefully, if all the cards play as they are supposed to). It’s too far from where I am, but it’s far enough to be new. This honestly started with my husband and I swapping pictures of houses for sale on Zillow which somehow became a more serious conversation. Then we started looking at neighborhoods and home builders, and wham, bam, thank you ma’am, we signed a contract and the wheels are now in motion. We have lived where we have lived for almost 12 years. These walls have seen so much of our lives – our heartbreaks, our joys, our fights, and our growth as human beings (literally for my kid who was brought to this home after the hospital and now is over three feet tall).

So, I’ve begun the process of going through things, because no one wants to move things they don’t want. And of course, I started with books. I now have four neat towers of books on the floor of my office, waiting for me to figure out how I want to give them away. I’m excited with how I have organized the ones I’m keeping. I divided them by read and not read, with one shelf for general reference books. I figured out that I read a lot of young adult, but have a good bit of adult books and non fiction to last me probably until next year at the rate I’m reading them.

I am still reading. I keep a reading journal with brief bits of thought on each book, but I haven’t actually written a review for one in quite a long time. I am out of practice, I’m sure. I did write a book review for the children’s book, “What is God Like?” by Rachel Held Evans and Matthew Paul Turner because a) I was on the launch team but b) I would have done it anyway because I love both of these people. By the way, it debuted at number one on the NYT best seller list for Children’s Picture Books.

Well, I told myself I would write until my kid’s nap is over, which is now, so if you made it through this stream of consciousness, I love you. Thank you for checking in and checking up on me. Hopefully, I will make this consistent, and then I can confidently say I’m back, but I’m trying not to put too much pressure on myself. I mean, I still have to figure out that “being social” thing again, so there’s a good bit on my plate. Talk to you soon!