The space between here and there

the grace of good enough

Here again I find myself in a space of waiting. I’m not where I was. I’m not yet where I’m going. Yet, change is budding as we fill our house with baby things: clothes, toys, stroller and so on. The magical baby smell I wondered about all these years turns out to be Dreft detergent. I let out a sigh of disappointment on that discovery a few weeks ago. Some mysteries are better left unsolved.

As we prep the house and wait to hear the last stamp of approval for our license, I’m stretched thin. It’s hard work to hold my breath, when there’s nothing else to take in either. I’m ready to move on and yet held in the space between here and there. Continue reading


Flipping the switch: on becoming light this Advent

3335CDD9-5825-4509-B4E5-C4C66CECDE4BAdvent feels different this year, and not just because I actually started holiday shopping before December 22 for what seems like the first time ever.

Normally a season of quiet, wistful reflection for me, the time of waiting for the birth of a baby once reminded me of what I wished God would do for me in my infertile state. This year the infertility story isn’t a trigger or focus for me, and instead I’m more focused on God breaking into the world.

How does God slip into this dark, broken place?

As I read news stories, I feel overwhelmed. The world feels dark, and I find myself anticipating impending doom. Is anything good happening out there?

Plus, since we learned our cat has lung cancer, I spend days waiting and watching this cat’s every move, wondering when a coughing fit might be his last, or which cuddle nap will be my last with the warm fur ball.

I want the god who sweeps in to fix things. I want a snap your fingers, wave your wand instantaneous magic.

But, that is not what I got this year. This Advent I find myself hooked by Isaiah 61 and the parable of the talents (or the bags of gold or the three servants, all depending on your translation) in Matthew 25:14-30.

I read Matthew 25 back in November, and it lingered in my thoughts. Driving to work. Sitting at my desk. Sipping coffee at local cafes. Everywhere I went I meditated on it, whether I wanted to hear it or not. For weeks now, it simmered in my brain, bubbling and distilling.

I found myself troubled as I read the first time. I carry a Jekyll and Hyde image of God, and I hadn’t realized the duality of these pictures. I wait for God to kick me to the curb ruthlessly for reasons I don’t understand, and yet I’m also convinced that I’m loved and warmly welcomed. God wears two faces for me. What scares me perhaps the most is the thought of an arbitrary God.

And so, I stewed and stewed on this passage. Fearfully. Angrily. Nervously.

Light flickered. I want a god who magically fixes the world outside of me. In my timidity, I want to sit passively by waiting for God to act. I want the god who doesn’t expect too much from me. But, perhaps, none of those are actually true of God. Perhaps those are idols I created.

In the parable of the talents, the master distributes the money according the ability of each of the servants (Mt. 25:15). The first two act with faith in the one who invested in them. The third, gets scared of losing the little he was granted, and buries it (Mt. 25:24-25). In that time, burying valuables was a common way of protecting an investment. But the master was less interested in hedging bets, and more interested in those who acted with faith.

I wanted to be like the servant who successfully invests the greatest amount of money and is publicly praised, but in reality, I think I’m most often like the servant who buried the money. I’m scared of epic fails, and so I’d prefer to play it safe and hide.

What would change for me if I acted with faith, trusting God to bear fruit — instead of withholding in fear of making a mistake? What if I trusted God actually gave me gifts and talents he confidently thinks I can invest? What if I placed my faith in God, instead of resting on my ability (or inability, for that matter) to make things happen?

Because the truth is, I am not helpless or useless. Neither are you. We are flush with capability, you and I. The question is: whether you and I will place those gifts and talents in faithful service to Jesus.

The practice will vary for all of us; we all have different calls and vocations. And the beauty of seeing these work together astounds me these days as I watch my church community work together in living out their passions.

As God acts throughout the Bible, he acts through human hands. Paul. Deborah. Peter. Huldah. Isaiah.

Isaiah 61 reminds me, too: God acts through human hands. Isaiah proclaims, “The spirit of the Lord God is upon because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners (Is. 61:1).” Isaiah speaks a word of hope and good news.

And this message is repeated by the incarnate Jesus as he proclaimed these words at the start of his public ministry in Luke 4. Jesus entrusted his followers with this same mission: to carry on the work of becoming good news for those to whom good news is a far-off, seemingly impossible thing.

This season instead of personal comfort, I find myself challenged in a different direction.

Instead of waiting for light to come to me, I wonder about glowing with the light of Christ for others. A switch in me has been flipped. I wonder what it means to become one who is good news to the downtrodden and hopeless? How does the overflow of who Jesus is to me spill over into the welcome I have for others?

In the darkness of this Advent instead of waiting for God to work magic outside of me, I find myself asking Jesus to transform me to be more like him.

Making peace with awkward small talk

Trail of the Cedars

Every time I think I’m done writing about infertility, life throws surprises, and I find myself with new stories to process. Starting a job in a church and meeting loads of people brings up new rounds of questions for me.

I’ve been infertile for a decade, and I keep thinking I’ll finish working through my issues at some point. It’s naive, and, frankly, I should know better because grief doesn’t quite work that way. We get better at carrying it. But, still it sneaks up on us in cycles and waves.

I started writing in the middle of the story because I found myself aggravated by the published materials sanitizing the dramatic, painful middle with happy adoption endings or magic surprise babies. Finding material that helpfully wrestled the tension in the messy, broken middle was difficult. And so, I wrote my story here.

Mostly, I’ve made fragile peace with this story. This is my life. I can’t change it. And, there’s so much that’s wonderful in my life. Infertility is only a portion of my story — not the whole thing.

But, in the midst of getting-to-know-you small talk these days, I found myself with new waves of shame and deeper questions. Every time I think I figured out how to navigate the small talk game, like in this old post, the rules of the game change. Continue reading

The Grace of “Good Enough”

the grace of good enough

I aim for perfect.

The goal isn’t praise or accolades; praise makes me awkward, especially when I’m just doing what was expected of me. Really, I want to avoid disgruntled comments. I desperately want to be competent, and the fear I’ll be weighed and found wanting drives my compulsive striving. I manage better when I limit the areas where I feel a need to be competent.

The problem: I forget to set my limits consciously and strategically.

When everything is up for grabs–home, family, faith, work, photography, friends– my vision blurs like a telephoto zoom lens panning in and out without focusing. It’s exhausting. Continue reading

Prophets so rarely speak words I actually want to hear.

sunlight on 100s of stairs web

I huffed and puffed up this massive flight of stairs. I dripped sweat, my calves burned, but the exercise was physically good for me, and the view at the end of the journey was worth the difficulty. But, still, the process to get there was painful. I think examining our stories is somewhat like this hiking experience.

Perhaps the more accurate title for the post is “Best Books Read in 2017: Third Quarter Edition.” But, there’s a theme running through what struck me in each of these books: the role of stories in shaping the way we engage the world. Continue reading

On embracing process, or an ode to the bullet journal

IMG_6312Bullet journaling chills out my perfectionism. Or at least, forces frequent application of acceptance techniques. Ripping less than stellar pages from a leather bound journal is less tidy than pulling out pages from a spiral bound notebook. So, I’m learning the practice of self-acceptance and self-compassion, even as I try out new things.

In the process, I’m learning creativity is less about inherent giftedness and largely about the grind. What am I willing to research and practice?

Photography already feels this way for me — less about an “eye” that just magically sees and more about trial-and-error. I read tips and manuals, I browse the internet for ideas, and then, I practice. Take notes, mental or literal. My bullet journal has pages of notes on things I’ve learned from different shoots, things to do better next time, things that worked great (or crashed and burned). And then, I repeat and try again.

In a quick internet search I learn a couple of different styles of lettering for headers of my pages. I don’t know how to draw donuts, banners or cameras, but here again, Google brings me examples and instructions to my fingertips. I just have to try it.

Some attempts are better than others. Multidimensional donuts are way easier for me than coffee mugs. Lettering is simpler than vegetables. But, still, even the less-than-perfect sketches get to stay.


And oh yeah, for whatever reason, I always work in ink, so mistakes are not erasable. Maybe I’ll switch that up, but likely not. As a lefty who drags her hand through her work, I hate writing with pencil.

I still use my notes of coffee shops to visit; I still write down what’s been happening in the vegetable patch. Even on my reflection pages, I don’t force full sentences or perfect writing craft. I just jot notes on feelings or moments I’d like to remember. If I want to cross out a word, I do and I move on. This is not the great American novel or theological treatise; it’s a draft sketch —  a few quick lines to leave an impression and capture glimpses of the Spirit working alongside the glances at my emotional health.


Previously I’d get frustrated when a journal got chaotic with haphazard notes or ideas, and I’d jettison the partially filled journal in favor of a fresh, unmarked notebook. Then, rapidly repeat when perfectionism meant I couldn’t find space for the messier parts of me.

Offering compassion and mercy to myself has never been a strong suit, but somehow in this bullet journaling process of organizing life and goals, I’m learning to practice this on a small scale. The index page is unsightly, but it functions, I need it and I don’t want to start over. Thus, it stays. Even if I don’t like how a particular page looks, I need the list on the other side. And so, oh well, guess I’ll keep the ugly page too. It gets to stay at the table.

And the same is true for us, too. In Matthew 13, Jesus tells a parable about the wheat and the weeds. A farmer sowed a field full of wheat, and an enemy planted weeds among the wheat. The workers came to the farmer wanting to rip out all the weeds, but the farmer said, “No. If you rip out the weeds at this stage, you’ll rip out the wheat, too. Leave it until the time of harvest.”

Bullet journaling is, for me, a constant reminder of the co-existence in this parable. Tearing out the page with mistakes means losing pages with things I need. So, it stays, and I try again. I’ll learn, and the next time maybe I won’t make the same mistakes in sketching. I don’t ignore the presence of the weeds, but I don’t let them overshadow the wheat in the journal either. And, the same goes for life outside the bullet journal as well. This micro scale is helping me practice this on a bigger level too.

Casting … and waiting

071417 the dress

the sauna-like dress

The navy dress I wore for my interview looked quite professional and cute, but the fabric did not breathe. In my jittery, “oh, please like me” state, that means I was sweating as though trapped in a sauna for hours. The outer fabric, however, did not reveal my drippy condition, while I sat trussed up by the red belt threatening to cut off my air supply. Lacking oxygen and overly warm, the anxiety threatened to consume — as it does whenever I would really like something to work out. Continue reading