Monthly Archives: August 2011

First Day of Preschool (!) Thankful

Many reasons to be grateful today:

  • August is so ready for some friends and a schedule. He loved his art school in San Francisco and I know he’s going to thrive at real preschool. Circle time! Playing with new kids! Eating lunch without his mama! (And then going home with her 15 minutes later…) It’s going to be so good.
  • I’m thankful that for every moment in my life where I’ve been as afraid as August is about his first day at a new school with new friends and new teachers, I’ve been lovingly nudged off the edge. Today I will have to do some nudging.
  • The greenest romaine I’ve ever cut up for salad last night. How have I never noticed how beautiful lettuce can be?
  • A husband who does dishes and puts away food.
  • A rustically modern bench Chris got at an antique sell on Sunday.
  • 1 ½ weeks until we move into a home and get our stuff out of storage.
  • Reconnecting with friends from long ago.
  • The beauty of being in a new city and with new people but feeling at home at Young Life “Club” Sunday night (UT College Life to be exact…)
  • How baby T-Rexy grabs my hair in both fists and pulls me down for a kiss. Such passion!
  • How is it that these boys have me for a mom?

  • I’m thankful for sweet babies who grow as tall as a 5-year-old and get hairy legs and become obsessed with volcanoes, engines, and fire:

Thanks to my sister-in-law and SunnyKaye Photography for the photos…


Filed under Motherhood, the Praying Life

The Chalice

I grew up in a faith tradition that celebrated the Lord’s Supper every quarter, four times a year. I remember my first Communion on a Sunday night: it was passed down the aisle in an offering-esque plate—a dry-white cracker, a doll-size cup of juice. I was in second grade and had recently made a profession of faith. My parents had shown me it was important, this miniature meal. I knew it mattered.

I was told that we participated in the meal rarely because it was so valuable. I remember asking why other churches had Communion every week and we didn’t. The answer was always the same: We can appreciate it more when it’s rare. If you do it every week, it isn’t as special.

When I moved to Syracuse 10 years ago, I found a small Episcopal congregation, full of loveliness: the cheesiest worship band ever, randomly scattered gray hairs, and the sweetest prayers I’d ever heard in church. I loved the earnestness of that church’s prayers for peace, just at the time when the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were beginning. I loved the dearness of voices peppering out from kneeled bodies on pews when the pastor offered space for our own added requests: a woman’s son who was struggling with addiction, a family member fighting cancer, a financial need.

And I loved weekly communion. Preparing my heart alone in a pew among people I hardly knew, walking the short aisle to the kneeling bench before the altar, bowing my head as the bread was pressed into my palm. The pastor saying my name when he reminded me that Christ’s body had been given for me. I couldn’t believe the depth of reverence, the meaning that this form of celebration had given me. I began to feel like I’d been missing something wonderful.

My friend at that church was a mother and was pregnant with her second child. Each week when she received her bread and wine, her 2-year-old and unborn baby were prayed for, her son’s head marked with the cross. It felt like what every mother longs for—that physical blessing on her child: prayer with some meat on it.

I realized that I would never be able to go back to a little Communion here and there. For me, it marked my week. I was consistently reminded that I belonged to God not because of my own merit, but because of Christ. The Communion table wouldn’t let me forget the cross.

In all my churches since, I’ve been shaped by this constant repetition: The bread offered to me, the wine given. I began to always drink from that shared cup. I stopped being a dipper. I love the symbolism too much to worry about germs. I love seeing the old lady with her walker and knowing that my lips will touch that cup as well. It’s the same reason I felt the blessing for my babies when I took the wine and bread into my pregnant body. Or now, when I ask Christ to pass himself along to my five-month-old in my milk. It’s the family of God. This is our meal.

And so, here in a new church where the liturgy is the same but the faces are unknown, where every conversation takes effort and I get tired at the thought of the work to come in building a community, I can still stand beside my husband, our children in tow, and wait for the blessing.

My husband dips his bread, always has. I understand. But there’s this thing in me that needs to gulp as much as I can out of that shared chalice. I want the family with 8 kids down the aisle and the high school kids a few rows up. I want the single women on the back row and the blue-haired ladies in front of me. I want our shared taking of this wine. I want our mouths to know Jesus together.

And I want to leave knowing I am not alone here. I’ve always been in this family with them. They have always been in this family with me.

And so I drink.


Filed under the Praying Life

‘Eucharisteo always precedes the miracle’ (Or, Why One Thousand Gifts is changing my life)

Today I’m guest-posting at Christianity Today’s Women’s Blog: Her.menutics. The piece is called “One Thousand Gifts, Reconsidered: A second take on Ann Voskamp’s bestseller about gratitude.” As if you really wanted to hear me go on and on about One Thousand Gifts some more…

Please? Don’t you want me to go on and on a little more?

Read it here.



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Filed under Books

To Lose Faith is to Stop Looking

“To lose faith is to stop looking.  To lose faith is to decide that all you ever saw from afar was your own best dreams.”               -Frederick Buechner

I’ve had that quote on a sticky on my desktop for years now. I don’t know where I first read it. I simply read it. Every day I read it.

I’m a doubter.

That probably doesn’t come as a shock to you if you’ve been reading this blog long enough. Usually, if a believer finds peace in the acceptance of “mystery,” she worked a long time to get her hands off of the doubt and on to that mystery.

What I mean is, my head has never let me rest, not since the first day I declared to Jesus my life, a four-year-old on a swing in the backyard of my babysitter’s house. No, that wasn’t when I was “saved.” That came later. At four, I understood what I needed to understand: good and evil. Jesus and Devil. Myself, the swing and the sky. I gave Jesus a whole heart. I rejected all I knew of evil. I offered this life.

There are some decisions that shape the course of what you are, where you’ll walk this earth. Mine was love. I boldly offered Jesus my love. My head has been crammed ever since. For every certain experience of God’s presence, for every answered prayer, there a sure and present nag, a crusty whisper that what I’ve seen is not enough, that what I’ve counted as God’s love has been simply privilege.

Then I pray and choose to let the girl on the swing love Jesus.

My son is three-years-old, and thinking. Every prayer I offer out loud he’s thinking through. Reacting. Analyzing. Determining.

Friday in the car, we listened to an old folk hymn from a children’s album: “Welcome Table.

“This song’s about having dinner with God, August,” I said, glancing in the rearview mirror. “It’s about heaven and how we get to go there.”

“I don’t want to go to heaven,” he said. “I want to stay at my house.”

“You won’t go for a long time,” I said. “And it’s so wonderful there.” He wasn’t convinced.

He was still thinking about it Saturday night. “Mommy,” he said, interrupting my prayer, my hands still tucking the sheets around him as the words came out. “Mommy! But I can’t see God!”

My heart sank. It wasn’t because he admitted what we all struggle with. Not “seeing” is the hardest part, right?

My heart sank because I saw in him what lives in me, that twirling brain, striving for some solid part to hang my faith upon. I long for him to be a man of deep, life-altering faith. And I know it will be a battle for him.

I looked at him, answered: “God is too beautiful for us to see, Aug.”

And so we hold to the part we can’t see, right? We call that beauty the mystery and we beg for it to seep into the rest of us so it’s not just our hearts that believe, not just our bodies, not just our souls, but those pesky minds God gave us too. And I hope I’ll raise this long-legged boy to look with his mind into the depths of that mystery and call it beautiful. Because, when he does, he’ll find that there is much that lies deeper than his “own best dreams” and he’ll long for the table where God is serving that lovely meal.

And I’ll save a seat for him nearby.


Filed under the Praying Life

Some Wednesdays are for Grateful

That’s why I have this list:

  • Is there a better way to love your friend than to fly to her home in a cool city that you never get to see because you’re stuck in her air conditioned (PTL!) apartment for three days helping her feed, clean and tuck in her kids? Cat Prewitt is a hero who deserved a much cooler vacation this past weekend. But she made my birthday full of sweetness. (Also, she took August to the store to buy cake mix and they made me a birthday cake while I read the newest issue of Vanity Fair! What a lady.)
  • I’m thankful that I spent my birthday night with two of my dearest friends from two separate pieces of my life. They don’t know each other. But they were both with me in my living room, laughing. I love it when my worlds smush together.
  • My Yoobs, whom I love so much, sent me the most beautiful bouquet of flowers Monday. And it literally came to my door as I was wiping a child’s poop off the floor. Grace has a sense of humor. (They also wrote a poem to me, each stanza emailed from a separate person. It was awesome.)
  • I’m thankful for sweet messages on Facebook. Is it true that I heard from someone on my 4th grade softball team whom I haven’t seen since 7th grade? Yes, that’s true. Oh, the wonders of Facebook.
  • Christopher came home. He’s the best.
  • My baby fell asleep Tuesday night on his own, without a tear.
  • My baby’s laugh is thick and rich and lovely.
  • August and I can actually recognize the individual deer in our temporary “back yard.” One is a mama with a broken leg. It’s grown back crooked and she limps, her Bambi following behind her. All the deer are hungry in this drought. So, I’ve taken to throwing my veggie ends out to them. (Is that wrong? I can’t help it.) This afternoon Mama and Bambi walked by and I remembered I hadn’t cut or cleaned our celery. “Hurry, Aug!” I said. “I just want Mama to get the celery before the other deer come.” My son ran to the kitchen with me, saying, “Hurry, Mommy!” while I chopped the ends off and he helped me throw them out for the deer (who, believe it or not, stand 2 feet behind our fence staring at us). I’m thankful I could feed her. (I know what it feels like to be a hungry breastfeeding mama.)
  • I’m thankful for books and letters and phone calls and sunshine and splash pads and friendship and iced coffee.

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Filed under Motherhood


From last year. How do I have that shirt on every time I post a picture on this blog?

It’s always a little bit awkward to tell people it’s your birthday. That’s because their reaction to hearing such a thing (if they didn’t already know it) is either pity or guilt. I don’t want strangers to feel sorry that I don’t have any one to celebrate with me. I also don’t want friends to feel guilty that they didn’t know.

That’s a great thing about Facebook, right? You don’t have to shout your birthday from the mountaintops. It does it for you. Then you get birthday messages from the most random set of people you could have imagined. It’s wonderful.

Guess what? I’m 32 today.

32 years feels like a really legitimate age. Don’t get me wrong, it’s no 34 (shout out to Dick Diver and his fanboy Chris Hohorst here).  I love being a real grown up. When I was in my twenties I was often mistaken for a high school student. Seriously. I was twenty-eight and pregnant doing ministry at a high school and always felt like the pregnant teen at the football game. But, turning 30 did wonders for my adult face. Maybe it was a couple of eye wrinkles or losing the round cheeks. Maybe it was a shift in how I carried myself. But I love it. I love being 30-something and embracing my mom-ness.

So, I’m 32. It was nine years ago when I first celebrated a birthday alone in Syracuse, one week into my new life there as a graduate student. I don’t even remember that birthday. Not one memory. I remember a lot of other birthdays, though, especially the good ones: my 20th when my college roommates surprised me with an apartment full of friends who loved me, my 30th when my husband gave me a “goodbye Philadelphia” weekend, where we stayed in a hotel and ate really wonderful food, my 31st when August and I spent the afternoon making birthday cupcakes with sprinkles (and I realized that I had a little boy, not a baby).

This birthday, my husband is traveling for work, and I’m in a new city. Awwww, poor lonely thing, you say. Don’t feel too sorry for me. The Greatest Husband Ever award is about to be presented. Right now. Guess who flew my dear friend Cat here from Philadelphia to spend my birthday weekend with me and help me with the boys? That’s right. Gold star, Mr. Hohorst.

All weekend I kept thinking, what profound thing should I write about my birthday? How has my life changed since I turned 31, 365 days ago?

I had a baby. My toddler became an actual scrawny-legged kid. I moved, again. I learned a lot about being thankful. I learned a lot about hospitality. I learned (or at least contemplated) a lot about stability.

I love birthdays. I think that’s because I believe in touchstones. I believe in celebrations—moments to mark your life, take stock, remember. I love birthdays because I believe every life should be celebrated. I love birthdays because my friend Molly taught me the value of birthday breakfasts in bed and I believe fully in that tradition. I love birthdays because they can always feel just as magical as they did when you were a kid—if you allow them to, if you don’t dismiss their significance. I love birthdays because I believe aging is something special: I’m proud to have made it this far. I hope I’m just as proud when the number is in the 50s or 60s. I want to know that I’ve worked hard for every wrinkle, every bit of wisdom time has offered.

So, this is my birthday post. Hope it didn’t make you feel pity and/or guilt.




Filed under Uncategorized

“Forever — is composed of Nows”

We have a new poem, dear memorizing friends.

I know you always think I’ve forgotten. But I really haven’t. I’m just waiting and thinking. (Or, more likely, distracted by everything else in my life that’s not poetry.)

Did you know that I love Emily Dickinson? I love her for being so very weird. I love her freaky white dress she wore as a “recluse” and the apocryphal treats she lowered to children in a basket from her window when she was a bit too anxious to leave her room. I love her for writing lovely letters to men whom she hardly met in real life because she wouldn’t leave Amherst and for calling her romantic(?) interest who lived in Philadelphia, “My Philadelphia.” (Secret: I’ve been known to use that phrase for my own Philly-native-hubs). I love her for the dashes all over her poems that most would say look ugly but in reality are the perfect valleys of the lines, the unsaid part that holds the key to what is underneath her words. And I love her for her killer first lines:

I felt a Funeral in my Brain

Blazing in gold and quenching in purple

Bring me the sunset in a cup

Dare you see a soul at the white heat?

Eden is that old-fashioned House

An everywhere of silver

I could go on and on…

So why did I choose this poem when there are hundreds of Dickinson poems for our minds to fix themselves on? Honestly, I just feel drawn to these words. It feels like words I want to say to myself when my kids are screaming and I’m crying and I wish I had friends.

Forever – is composed of Nows – (690)

by Emily Dickinson

Forever – is composed of Nows –
‘Tis not a different time –
Except for Infiniteness –
And Latitude of Home –

From this – experienced Here –
Remove the Dates – to These –
Let Months dissolve in further Months –
And Years – exhale in Years –

Without Debate – or Pause –
Or Celebrated Days –
No different Our Years would be
From Anno Dominies –


“Forever — is composed of Nows.” All these sweet and frantic nows that only exist in this moment. What does she mean by “a Latitude of Home”? I don’t know but I can’t stop thinking about it and I think it’s something good.

Will you think about home and now and all those dashes with me and we’ll figure it out? 


Filed under Poetry