Tag Archives: seasons


In the morning, I lift her out of the crib. She rests her head on my shoulder, tucking her little body into the side of me. We whisper our morning greetings to each other. It’s Easter Sunday, and I stayed up last night to press her little denim dress with the ruffled skirt–one, two, three layers. I slip it over her head, and button the little white lace sweater over it. I carry her to the bathroom and comb her hair, telling her all the while how beautiful she is. (And she is! My goodness.) We’re almost done, and she slips a little toward the round sink. I catch her, but she’s felt the scare and starts to cry. It takes time for her little self to calm after things like this–five minutes of shhhhhh and pat and sway. My sensitive-souled girl.

Before, something like this would have stolen the morning from us.

Later, we eat breakfast at the church and wait while the big kids hide eggs outside. When they’re done, we march our three out the door. The boys are off in a flash with their buckets, having done this before. Aimee walks with her basket like she’s been practicing, stoops down to collect the eggs she spots. After four, she dumps them all out triumphantly and collects them again. We laugh, and take pictures, and shiver a little in the cold Spring wind. What is it about Easter, always chilling us in the thin outfits we insist on wearing?

I’m not trying to make anything more spiritual than it already is, and that feels good. This egg hunt, this celebration of Spring, is also a celebration of resurrection and all the rest of it. Whatever I may feel or not feel, it doesn’t matter right now. I am rediscovering simple, good things. Among them: I have a daughter who laughs and runs (runs!) with her Easter basket, I have two brown-eyed boys–one who still belly-laughs and one who goes deep into his thoughts and says, when the pastor asks, that Easter is about celebrating hope. I have a man by my side with warm hands and an imagination about life. We’ve dreamed together, and we’ve learned to let ourselves be tired.

I could never make these things more beautiful than they already are.

I’ve been holding two things side by side: great beauty and great sadness. I make inquiries about therapy, for myself this time, because I want to be happy. That is all, and it is enough: I want to be happy. I am worthy of happiness, I tried recently to say to myself in the mirror, and couldn’t quite look my reflected self in the eye.

I’m not sure why I’ve waited so long to ask for this kind of help.

I talk through the hour-and-a-half session like it’s ten minutes, and learn to breathe into the spot in my chest where the pain throbs. It helps. Let me be your container for awhile, she says, and I agree. I feel like there is an ocean to organize into glass vials–to label and sort and store. I can’t fathom it, really, but it’s comforting to think that someone else can. You don’t just walk away from a fear-saturated belief system and have no cost to pay. But it’s time.

Time for new things to be born.



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feasting, fasting, and dreaming of bread

Ricky and I are almost finished with our Whole30–an elimination diet that cuts out all grains, dairy, legumes, sugar, alcohol, and anything processed for thirty days. The idea is to reduce inflammation and discover if any of those foods are making you sick, and for us, it’s also a way to shed some holiday pounds and detox from sugar. In case you’d like to know, our Valentine’s Day dessert was a roasted sweet potato with ghee, strawberries, blueberries, and a sprinkle of nutmeg–which is actually quite delicious–but it was hard for me to focus on that after smelling the warm, cotton-candy aroma of fresh-out-of-the-oven red velvet cupcakes I’d baked with the kids. But–lest you think we’re noble or anything like that, know that we’ve both cheated. Ricky ate a fish sandwich when a friend came to town and I took a big bite of Silas’ peanut butter and honey sandwich one day when no one was around (it was an awesome moment). We discovered that our trail mix has sugar in it and ate it anyway, I’ve drizzled  honey into my coffee a time or two, and last night we seriously considered making it a Whole25 so we could be done before the weekend.

Also, every Sunday we gladly accept a broken piece of bread and a sip of wine. Our pastor sometimes gives out very large pieces of bread, noting that it’s a habit he formed during his prison ministry days, from wanting to offer the inmates as much nourishment as possible. We don’t complain.

Since I’ve confessed, I feel justified in bragging that we sat and watched our kids eat McDonald’s at the Air and Space Museum (it was the only food choice available, it was dinnertime, and they were about to stage a mutiny) and did not eat a single fry. I was totally having a battle in my mind. We then drove an hour back home and picked up some Chipotle bowls–green salad, steak, grilled peppers and onions, pico de gallo, and a gigantic scoop of guacamole. It tasted like heaven, and victory. That was a high point.


A few other high points: whipping olive oil, and egg, and some lemon juice into mayonnaise that’s better than anything you can buy, better skin from our increased avocado consumption, and making Paleo spaghetti with our friend Adam, who came to visit us right in the middle of our Whole30 and jumped right in with us. Roasted brussels sprouts and bacon. Coffee with a sprinkle of cinnamon and plain almond milk. Sparkling water (Silas calls it spicy water) with a squeeze of fresh lime. Berries with a dollop of whipped coconut cream, no sugar necessary. A new appreciation for the beauty and versatility of whole foods.

A low point: discovering I’m allergic to plaintains. What the what.

It may seem like unnecessary self-torture, but I’ve also been reading Shauna Niequist’s luscious book Bread and Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table during our Whole30. It was just too beautiful of a book to put down until February 25th (oh yes, I’m counting down at this point.) The book is full of mouth-watering recipes like blueberry crisp, breakfast cookies, and risotto, but there’s also a chapter called Feasting and Fasting that strengthened my resolve. She writes:

I love the feasting part of life. I don’t want Thanksgiving without stuffing or Christmas without cookies and champagne. I don’t want to give up our family tradition of deep-frying everything we can think of on New Year’s Eve. But I’m learning that feasting can only exist healthfully–physically, spiritually, and emotionally–in a life that also includes fasting.


Fasting gives me a chance to practice the discipline of not having what I want at every moment, of limiting my consumption, making space in my body and in my spirit for a new year, one that’s not driven by my mouth, by wanting, by consuming. (both quotes from Kindle edition, p. 133)

On days when I’m home with my children, my life seems to revolve around food. Ricky and I alternate making breakfast, then there’s a morning snack, then lunch, then dinner planning mid-afternoon if I’m on top of things, then making said dinner while handing hungry children slices of clementine oranges to tide them over, then a steaming cup of reward-tea after all littles are tucked into bed. I don’t go more than two hours without thinking about food, and sometimes it feels like a burden. It makes me think of some nursing shifts, when I would run like mad from 7 AM until 2 or 3 in the afternoon, and suddenly realize I hadn’t eaten anything, find some food to inhale, and get back to running. There was something freeing about it, in a way–being too busy to think about food very much.

Fasting is different, though. Fasting is when you’re thinking of food but intentionally moving those thoughts elsewhere. That’s more like what this Whole30 has felt like–spanning lots of cooped-up, snowy days and the holiday of chocolate and sugar. I feel a new sturdiness inside. I have more energy. I really, really want to eat the things I can’t have, simply because I’ve told myself I can’t have them.

There’s a space in my life that isn’t being immediately filled. That, I think, is the point of all this.

I’m fascinated by the parallels between my relationship to food and my spiritual well-being. Our church foremothers and fathers were onto something big as they observed the church calendar, which is essentially a series of feasts and fasts.  I’m in Church Calendar Kindergarten right now, but I’m loving the guidelines I find there.  They help as we try to settle into a rhythm of enjoying the bounty of the earth and caring for our bodies,  holding ourselves back from having all things at all times, making the days of fasting worth it, and the days of feasting a true reward.

Those are kind of lofty words for a cheater-pants, I know. Fasting is about humility, too. Let’s just hope we can make it five more days.

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My first big girl Bible was a pale pink Precious Moments NIV softcover. I drew ballerinas on the inside cover and doodled my name and a few verses in colorful marker. I faithfully studied my memory verses for Sunday school. I could sing all sixty-six books to a catchy tune by age three, I’m told.

It’s packed away in a cardboard box, with a tiny blue willow china tea set and other mementos of a simple, sweet time.

In the awkward years between child and teenager, my parents gave me a thick, dark brown leather Spirit Filled Life Bible. That was my Bible all through high school. I carried it to school, camp, conventions, and church. I wrote enthusiastic, sincere notes in the margins, followed by exclamation points. I highlighted favorite passages, and then underlined them when I came across them again.

By the time my senior year of high school was coming to a close, the spine of this Bible was broken and chunks of pages would fall out easily. The highest grade I ever received for a college course was a 98, for The Bible as Literature. I attribute that to my time of intense study as a teenager.

It too is in a cardboard box, along with letters folded into interesting shapes (relics from pre-texting days), pictures from mission trips and youth conferences, and passionate journal entries. Those were the days of eagerness and sincerity, days of blissful unknowing.

Next came a navy blue slimline New King James Version, given to me upon my high school graduation by my pastors on May 20, 2001, with the inscription may the Lord bless you and keep you scrawled in the front.

Unlike its predecessor, its cover remains intact, and the notes are a bit quiet, followed by more question marks than exclamation points. This is the Bible with which I’ve struggled.

Its supple leather cover remains intact; I’ve been the one in pieces.

I’ve read this Bible and wished I could go back– to when the words were nothing but beautiful, to when I didn’t see the harshness of humanity in them;  to when I could get lost for hours, drunk on a kind of love. Instead, I’ve been soberly examining, and when I find writers who’ve been able to find precious things between the lines, I inhale their words like I used to inhale the other ones.

It’s taken many years to understand this: the Word of God is first and foremost a Person. When I read ancient words keeping Him in mind, they take on a new color, a new meaning. I believe I’ve known this Person for most of my life; that many things have clouded my view, that many things still do.

I can mark the seasons of my life by these books. I keep them like the treasures they are, but I think I’d like to get another one soon.

For the new season.

A different draft of this piece was originally posted on Noting Now.

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I am a fan of resolutions, not because I keep them all, but because they encourage intentional living. I think that, when peppered with a whole lot of grace, resolutions are wondeful.

This was my list for 2013. In bold, I’ve examined how each one turned out, if you’re interested in that sort of thing.

  • have a monthly date night with Ricky.  Find a regular babysitter again, enlist grandparents, etc. This happened more often than not, but I’m not sure it was every single month. We were definitely more intentional about it, and living in the area we do now really helps, because there’s always something interesting to do.
  • have one day a week that is social-media free. I’m thinking Sunday; a true Sabbath. This didn’t always happen, but when it did I really felt the difference. It’s very much needed, for me.
  • invite people over for dinner more. We were good about this, but then we moved across the country. I hope for the kinds of dinners we used to have. Oh, how I miss our friends.
  • finish paying off my student loans (carryover from 2012) Done! Phew, that felt good.
  • ski! (another carryover, and should happen very soon) I was a bit freaked out (see this post) but I did it! 
  • keep reading at least a book every month (having a day off from social media should really help) Done! And when I wasn’t working a full time night job, I read even more. Imagine that 😉
  • find ways to write more Done! I started this blog (albeit late in the year) and have been pursuing a different depth of writing that’s challenging but rewarding.
  • finish Silas’ baby book, and start Little Miss’ Silas’ book is done, but I haven’t started Aimee’s. I did buy the supplies many, many months ago.
  • move toward a more specific nursing practice–by the end of the year I’d like to be working in just one unit. I got brave and interviewed for a Labor and Delivery position, and worked there from March until August. I learned so much and worked with wonderful people! The experience cemented my desire to work in this area and eventually pursue a graduate degree in nurse midwifery. I’m on the hunt for a job here, after the New Year, and I have wild hopes for a DAY position.
  • keep up the practice of letting go–letting go of my to-do list so I can play with my kids, letting go of my preference for a clean house so I can write/read/spend quality time people/pray/go for a walk/etc. I’m good at making lists and living by them. I’d like to be better at spontaneous enjoyment. This one’s a lifelong goal, I’d say, because it’s hard. It’s one of those everyday opportunities. Sometimes I did, sometimes I didn’t, but I don’t think I ever regretted it when I did. 
  • ….and on that note, I choose enjoy as my one word for 2013. I want to enjoy my life: my family, my work outside and inside the home, my place of worship, my relationships. I want to be brave enough to let go of burdensome things; to let go of any impulse to impress or prove a point. I simply want to do things because I enjoy them, thereby being who I was meant to be. Another lifelong goal; another thing I both struggled and succeeded to do. I found the courage to let go of some pretty major things that were painful and increasingly unhealthy for me, and as a result I feel lighter and oddly, a little lost. I suppose that happens when you make space for something new. I hope to find some things to fill that space in a healthy way in 2014. I’m hoping to write more about this as I process it all.

And now, 2014! Wow, that was weird to type. I think that I’d mostly like to keep doing what I found to work this past year, along with a few new focus points. So:

  • Monthly date night!
  • Find another Labor and Delivery focused job.
  • Social Media-Free Sunday!
  • Start and finish Aimee’s baby book.
  • Eat mostly whole foods, 90% of the time. Cheat on occasion and enjoy it immensely. (Lifelong food philosophy.)
  • Learn to ice skate. There’s a rink right next to our house that offers 30 minute lessons.
  • Be silly with my kids, every day if possible.
  • Keep reading. Keep writing. But write only what’s real.

Tomorrow I’ll be back with my word for 2014 and a fun announcement. I hope you’re enjoying these days of winding down, reflecting, hoping and pausing. I’m not rushing ahead just yet; not putting the lights and glowy things away (it’s only the sixth day of Christmas, after all) but these are the days I start thinking about how Christmas makes way for Springand all sorts of new beginnings. Here’s to dreaming and scheming.

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We make our way down the hill from the cul-de-sac to the footpath, me pushing the stroller, their little faces growing rosy in the cold air. Still growing accustomed to all of these trees, we look up, quiet, crunching the diminishing leaf piles underneath. As we walk toward the water, the remaining leaved branches shimmer and sway in the slight breeze, but my gaze goes to line of thinning, nearly bare trees in the distance. They don’t seem to move at all. It’s as if they’ve shifted their weight a little lower into the earth and now they stand with perfect posture, rooted, stoic.

There’s a different sort of chill in the air today; autumn is giving way, slowly. I’m thinking of the winter to come, of more time indoors.


In the early hours before sunlight, I fold myself out of the warm bed, first creaking down the stairs for coffee, to listen and write in the still, taking joy from all the feathers lining my nest lately. I’ve known bare, too.


The man who helped to bring me up in this world would have been 65 last Friday. I’ve never observed All Saint’s Day before, and so I haven’t noticed its proximity to his birthday. It comes around this time of year when we’re adjusting to less light, reading more, wrapping up in warmth, re-calibrating to a slower rhythm.

So maybe it’s a gift that the community church we visited on Sunday celebrated All Saint’s Day a week late. They placed remembrances on an altar, lit candles, wiped their eyes, and later we passed bread and sipped wine from that same altar. When we sang a song honoring the ordinary saints that we love and miss, I heard my Dad in the words.

It was a gift to pause and feel the sadness tug at me, but meet quickly with joy as it does now. It took years for that to happen, for time to weave its silky cocoon around all those sharp edges that would pierce with every turn. I’m blessed to remember someone so fondly. Blessed for these roots from which to draw water.

And today, blessed to walk through our little neighborhood forest as it shakes its leaves down and reminds me: I’m rooted, I’m known, and all shall be well.

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November 15, 2013 · 5:00 am

on roles, adventure, and what feminism means to me

“I want a wife who will stay home and take care of the kids,” he said, earnestly. He was breaking up with me, even though we’d never defined ourselves as a couple. We’d been getting to know each other for a few months. Hanging out with mutual friends, watching movies, studying. I liked him, and he liked me, that much was obvious.

We’d had a few conversations about the future. All of nineteen years old at the time, I had some thoughts of going to medical school, some dreams about medical missionary work. I might have said I was interested in botany, or ballet, or becoming a spy; what he heard was not a housewife. This was a problem, because it was his belief that as a Christian woman, a Biblical woman, my role was to raise children and care for my home, and apparently nothing beyond that.

Once, at a party, he introduced me to a girl who was planning to go to Russia that summer. She gushed about how she was so excited to have an adventure now, because later she planned to be a stay-at-home mom. I didn’t think too much of it at the time, but later it struck me as an odd thing to say. Adventure now, mom later?

Looking back, I wonder. Was the girl at the party supposed to sway my opinion?

I’m pretty sure I dodged a bullet there. I’m nothing but grateful that he broke things off; most likely one of us would have eventually. But I do find it incredibly odd that he, or anyone else, would judge a woman not by her personality, interests, intellect, even her appearance, but by her role. I didn’t think much about privilege or subculture then. All I really heard was that my dreams were less worthy of consideration.

I think about that moment in contrast to many others. All the times I’ve dreamed out loud with my now husband, all the times he’s affirmed me, and I him. How we take turns pursuing our dreams. I am so incredibly grateful to have married someone who didn’t look at me and see a role. He saw Emily, a person who will change with the seasons. At times, like today, home with yoga pants on, bathrooms to clean, and two babies to snuggle and direct. At times, leaving the house for a night shift at the hospital, assisting women through labor, wrapping up newborns, teaching new mothers, working toward a professional goal. At times, writingwritingwriting because I need to. We are a great many things. 

Three cheers for my feminist husband, full of dreams himself. We’ve evolved, we’ll keep evolving, we’ll make a way for each other. And here’s something important: this doesn’t conflict with our Christianity. No, it’s informed by it. At our wedding, we took communion while our dear friends sang these words:

Jesus, You are
Jesus, You were
Jesus, You will always be
a perfect servant to us
a perfect servant to death
even death on a cross.

Give us the picture of Your face
show us the measure of Your grace
reveal the love of the Father
put within us tenderness
release from us all selfishness
we’ll consider them better
we’re Yours
give us hearts of servants.

I didn’t know those were prophetic words. I just thought they were beautiful, and we wanted to honor and include Jesus in our ceremony. We’re eight years in, and we haven’t always been Jesus-y in our treatment of each other. Sometimes not even close. We’ve fought about all the usual things. Through it all, the goal remains, and while I’m open to people interpreting these things differently, it’s my personal conviction that the best way to be Christlike to our spouse or anyone else for that matter is to see them as a whole, varied, evolving person. No one person nurtures, no one person provides; it’s all mixed together and messy and beautiful.

This is my experience with what Sarah Bessey calls Jesus Feminism. It’s a term that she made up when concerned people asked her wanted to know what kind of feminist she was. She writes:

Throughout the records of the Gospels, I saw how Jesus didn’t treat women any differently than men, and I liked that. We weren’t too precious for words, dainty like fine china. We received no free pass or delicate worries about our ability to understand or contribute or work. Women were not too sweet or weak for the conviction of the Holy Spirit, or too manipulative or prone to jealousy, insecurity, and deception to push back the kingdom of darkness. Jesus did not patronize, and he did not condescend. (Kindle loc 17)

Sarah herself is a stay at home mom (or mum, as she would say) to three children, by choice. She enjoys and honors this work while recognizing that it’s not everyone’s calling, nor is it even an option for everyone. “If the title can’t be enjoyed by a woman in Haiti, or even by the women hailed in Scripture, the same way it can by a middle-class woman in Canada,” she writes, “then biblical womanhood must be more than this.” (Kindle loc 100)

If I could have a cup of coffee with the girl from the party, I’d want to know if motherhood has turned out to be one of her greatest adventures, if she’s now a mother. It certainly has for me. I’d want to know if she defines herself singularly, or if her husband does, if she’s now married. I’d want to ask her a lot of things. I hope she’s happy. I hope she knows now that to be a woman is a gift; not something to be martyred, but lived out fully.

This is my contribution to Sarah Bessey’s synchroblog, in celebration of her new book Jesus Feminist.

The song I mentioned above is Hearts of Servants by Shane & Shane.

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November 12, 2013 · 10:39 am

a season of looking

On our first expedition, we drive twenty minutes to charismatic Episcopalian church in a nearby town. A friend back home went there for a few years and liked it, and so it seems a good place to start. They are in the thick of a church split, we discover quickly, and most of the congregation is working toward full fellowship with the Catholic Church. So, we find ourselves in Mass, with three young children and creaky wood pews, unprepared. There are no crayons or books or Goldfish in my bag. Still, there’s a young family just ahead of us with a toddler who’s creaking the pews and floor quite a lot himself, so we don’t feel so bad. No one seems to pay too much mind to our noisy little ones, and there’s a lovely message there: kids are welcome, distracting noise and all. We don’t exactly relax, but we’re not on edge either, and we follow along as best we can with the service. I sneak in a few moments to take in the words and surroundings. As time passes though, Aimee and Silas only get louder, and I can’t hear a single thought in my head, much less outside. Ricky and I give each other the look and slip out.

We find a fairly new church plant whose website and Facebook page look promising. They meet in an old building close to downtown, and again we find ourselves creaking on wood floors as we climb a curving flight of stairs to the small meeting room. They are already singing, and we file into the only empty seats we see after pausing in the doorway. The space takes me back to Chi Alpha, a ministry that Ricky and I were part of in college. The pastor plays an acoustic guitar and sings familiar worship songs, and we sing along easily. After the singing, we greet each other and the pastor’s wife offers to take the kids to another room, where they’re going to have a snack and Bible lesson. There are a few other kids there, and Nicky’s eyes light up. He misses kids’ church. We listen to the message, and I realize I’m leaning forward. Hungry. Lonely for the familiarity of it, but not completely sure if it’s what I want anymore.

I find a Lutheran congregation online, and their welcome statement draws me in. We again enter a building feeling a little unsure, looking for clues as to where the kids should go and where we should sit. We find a place in the back, sing some unfamiliar songs and feel a bit awkward. I realize, in this moment, that worship songs have a certain predictability to them and these songs don’t. We listen to a young woman read from Scripture, and murmur thanks be to God after the reader says the Word of the Lord. Our kids go forward for a very enthusiastic children’s message, then out for Sunday School. We listen to the Homily, and it’s not so much this is what God thinks as a more modest this is what I think this might mean.  Then, we sing some more, shuffling pages, trying to keep up. We pass Peace around like an invisible orb between the flesh of our hands, and that’s when things start to slow down. Next, the Table: the center of it all. The body of Christ, broken for you. The blood of Christ, shed for you. We make our way to the front to receive the bread and wine. The atmosphere is reverent, soft, earthy. Our children come back in for a blessing; the pastor kneels in front of each one, speaks a blessing over them, makes a cross on each forehead. Tears spring into my eyes; I feel a certain heaviness lift. It feels mystical but not complicatedThe elements, I remember hearing them called in church when I was growing up. Please prepare your hearts as the ushers pass the elements. Yes, exactly, it feels elemental. Afterward, our kids swing and play outside and we make easy conversation with the pastor and his wife. We’re not Lutheran, is that okay? Ricky asks with a wink, and his question is met with similar humor. This place is so different from what we know, but it could be home. It could be, but we’re not ready to choose just yet.

A few weeks pass and we decide to visit a church that another friend recommends. We find ourselves on a long driveway in a line of cars entering a parking lot. The building is massive. We find the kids’ wing, where we’re given a quick orientation by a very friendly woman. She assures us that the church is very diverse and that they only sing contemporary music, and maybe in a different situation I’d roll my eyes but her sincerity preemptively convicts me. We register as visitors and take multiple badges and beepers and numbers, then drop the kids off in their respective rooms and find our way to the main auditorium, just in time for the transition from worship time to announcement time. A group of young adults has just returned from a retreat. There’s a support group for the grieving. The men are having a special breakfast next weekend. It seems easy enough to get plugged in, to find a small planet within this enormous universe. The sermon is interesting, challenging, and organized. I can’t find fault with any of it, really, but I wonder if we would ever actually meet the pastor, if we went there. I already know of my tendency to shut down when I go to church, perhaps the potential for anonymity would only encourage more of the same. Perhaps I’m not really giving this megachurch a chance, because my heart went cold toward such things a few years ago. It’s not their fault.


Maybe I want more than can be given. I’d like some years back. I’d like to somehow disassociate Sunday mornings from sorrow, and suppression, and survival. I’d like to heal in public as well as in private. Me, always smiling on Sunday mornings, never quite able to show myself. Driving home, relieved. Driving home, sad. I used to belong. I want to belong.

I feel like such a cliché sometimes. Flirting with liturgy, criticizing my evangelical experience, cringing at my indecision.

Informing my thoughts are two selves: one who learned early to shrug off preferences and personal opinions, and one who is slowly learning to pay attention to them. There’s a whole generation of us, echoing each other, helping each other define what went wrong, looking for a way forward. There’s a reason for it.


I want small, because small challenges me in important ways. Community, noisy children, thoughtful conversation. I want bread, wine and blessing, candles and Words. Oh, the words. I think it’s my mother’s doing, teaching us so many hymns when we were growing up. I can’t stay away from the words. Stirring words for the easy times,  soothing words for the rough.

A while back, I tucked away these words from pastor Brian Zahnd:

Orthodox beauty. Catholic mystery. Anglican liturgy. Protestant theology. Evangelical energy. I need it all.

Most likely, I won’t find all of these things in one building, but I have access to them. We won’t find a perfect community, but I’d like to find something that honors the way we believers all need each other. Because we do.

I do.


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