& if not.

Last night in our small group, we lingered for a while on the subject of hearing and following God’s call. I listened and did not share. I did not share not just because I am the new one to this group or because I am definitely the most theologically and socially liberal in the group, but because I am in such a period of discernment these days I’m not even sure how to use words to describe it. I was texting with the best mom ever yesterday and  I said, “I just want to lay roots.” And she said, “you were laying roots when it was sadly taken away.” This is a true point. When the world collapses around you and when you lose your earthly anchor, where do you turn? What comes next? I cannot go back to the trajectory that I was on because the partner on that journey is no longer here. I can move forward vocationally, physically, and spiritually, but so much of what I thought was the “plan” just doesn’t exist on earth.

Fact of the matter is, I have moved forward. I have tried so very hard to hear the “what’s next” from God. I am comfortable in being alone-eating alone in public, going to the movies and concerts, traveling…but this comfort does not prevent loneliness. That longing to be emotionally connected to others. I am so blessed to have a wide network of friends and family with whom I have these connections. And, they 100% live at least a one day’s drive away. While facetime and google make visual connections possible, it simply isn’t the same. How do you rebuild close connections in a place that seems content to keep things as they are and doesn’t seem to have room for an outsider?

How also, do you really move forward with trust that God’s timing and God’s call is the best? I don’t think it is wrong to feel sad or mad or frustrated by the state of things. Some might say that isn’t being true to God but I think it is honoring the range of emotions that we have been given as humans. The key is to move forward even in the midst of the sadness or anger. To not allow discernment to cause stagnation. And as I have said a million times, if God could just shout instead of using the still small voice, that would be awesome.

So what comes next? I do not know, but I know that many have walked into that unknown before me with confidence. Daniel and the boys did not know if they would be delivered from the fiery furnace but instead chose to stand firm against idols (Daniel 3.) Ruth did not know what to expect when losing her husband and staying with her mother-in-law, Naomi, but she pressed on (Ruth 1.) So press on it is…a step in faith that it “all” will make sense at some point. I will know where and how to lay roots because I am rooted in the One who makes all things new, heals the broken hearted, and sets the captives free.



Read all the things, 2017

It is December 31, 2016 which means people are wrapping up after a long 365 days and starting fresh plans. I have monumentally failed at every reading list challenge I’ve taken on in the last few years but I still make a list! This doesn’t mean I haven’t read abundantly, it just means I get distracted. I found a great and long list of categories to consider for 2017. I changed two categories and deleted one but I’ve spent the morning finding 49 books that I hope to tackle in 2017. Some will be easier than others and some will likely find their way to the bottom of the stack. Some will be replaced as our book club tackles other titles but I’d like to set the goal of NOT buying books for at least the first six months of 2017 so all of these books except for two are in my current stacks. (Anyone wanna be an accountability partner here?) This list has some things out of my comfort zone, some deep thinkers, some fluff, and I hope to immerse in the pages as a new year wanders forward.

Here’s the list:

A book with more than 500 pages: The Innovators (Walter Isaacson)
a classic romance: Persuasion (Jane Austen) (ugh…I’ll try again.)
a book that became a movie:  Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (Ransom Riggs)
a book published this year: The Underground Railroad (Colson Whitehead)
a book with a number in the title: 13 Gifts (Wendy Mass)
a book written by someone under 30: The Opposite of Loneliness (Marina Keegan)
a book with nonhuman characters: A Dog’s Purpose (W. Bruce Cameron)
a funny book: Choose Your Own Autobiography (Neil Patrick Harris)
a book by a female author: Americanah (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie)
a mystery or thriller: The Ocean at the End of the Lane (Neil Gaiman)
a book with a one word title: Lit (Mary Karr)
a book of short stories: The Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway
a book set in a different country: Everyone Brave is Forgiven (Chris Cleve)
a nonfiction book: Just Mercy (Bryan Stevenson)
a popular author’s first book: About Grace (Anthony Doerr)
a book from an author you love that you haven’t read yet: Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands (Chris Bohjalian)
a book a friend recommended: My Summer of Southern Discomfort (Stephanie Gayle)
a pulitzer prize winning book: Middlesex (Jeffrey Eugenides)
a book based on a true story: Caleb’s Crossing (Geraldine Brooks)
a book at the bottom of your to-read list: Plenty Ladylike (Claire McCaskill)
a book you mom loves: Return of the Native (Thomas Hardy)
a book that scares you: Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand)
a book more than 100 years old: Heart of Darkness (Joseph Conrad)
a book based entirely on its cover: On Such a Full Sea (Chang-Rae Lee)
a book you were supposed to read in school but didn’t: Invisible Man (Ralph Ellison)
A memoir: Barbarian Days A Surfing Life (William Finnegan)
A book you can finish in a day: Auggie & Me (RJ Palacio)
A book with antonyms in the title: A Crooked Kind of Perfect (Linda Urban)
A book set in a place you’ve always wanted to visit: The Vacationers (Emma Straub)
A book that came out the year you were born: The Enormous Crocodile (Roald Dahl)
A book with bad reviews: Brave New World (Aldous Huxley)
A trilogy: Chaos Walking Trilogy (Patrick Ness)
A book from your childhood: A Wrinkle in Time (Madeline L’Engle)
A book with a love triangle: Far from the Madding Crowd (Thomas Hardy)
A book set in the future: Ready Player One (Ernest Cline)
A book set in high school: A Separate Peace (John Knowles)
A book with a color in the title: Seeing Red (Kathryn Erskine)
A book that made you cry: Watership Down (Richard Adams) (they say it’s going to make me cry)
A book with magic: The Golem and the Jinni (Helene Wecker)
A graphic novel: Fun Home (Alison Bechtel)
A book by an author you’ve never read before: Mosquitoland (David Arnold)
A book you own but have never read: The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood)
A book that takes place in your hometown: A Blue Spool of Thread (Anne Tyler) (no books are set in my hometown, Severna Park, so I chose Baltimore.)
A book that was originally written in another language: The Reason I Jump (Naoki Higashida)
A book written by an author with your same initials: Flame & Shadow (Sara Teasdale)
a book of inspiration: No Mud, No Lotus (Thich Nhat Hanh)
A banned book: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (Sherman Alexie)
A book based on or turned into a TV show: The Magicians (Lev Grossman)
A book you started but never finished: Killing Lincoln (Bill O’Reilly)

What’s on your list for 2017?


I’m sitting in our sweet, little regional airport waiting to take a quick trip home. The coffee from the local shop is adequate at best but they are winning the morning by having  espn college gameday on the big screen. I am perpetually early for flights and this makes the wait enjoyable. 

While watching Kirk and Rece and Coach, the word of the day came to me: spin

How often to we watch commentators and coaches spin the story to highlight their side or preference? How often do we hear political commentators and professional spinners move the story to their side? Sometimes the spin is so fierce it leaves me dizzy and disconcerted. Where do we go to escape the noise and find balance? 

Turn it off. Open a novel. Get outside. Snuggle the dog. Run in the sun. Drink a beer on the back porch. Have dinner with a friend and absolutely no electronics present. Sleep an extra hour. Write down prayers. Breathe deeply and be content with the world passing by for a while.

The world will keep spinning even if we take a break from it. In our constant spinning world, we will not miss as much as we think we will. 

Need some inspiration to escape the spin? Check out today’s gameday tear fest: http://www.espn.com/video/clip?id=17974494



And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?” Luke 12:25, nrsv

Worry-wart. Nervous-nelly. Anxiety-girl. All terms that fit my personality quite well. My desire to please and to get things right can lead me to undue worry. About outcomes, about perceptions, about responses. And yet, as I get older I realize that all of this worry is completely for naught.


Some worry-fight or flight reflex in actual danger situations-is so very important. If I’m being chased by a bear, I want the worry chemicals to kick in. But, in most situations, worry will only cause unnecessary energy outputs to a situation.

We are currently in a significant uptick of worry as a nation. It has become, in the words of the New York Times, an epidemic. My family and friends feel this as the election looms eight days away. I feel this workplace as we navigate the waters of change. I feel this in my time as I want to give my all to all the things.

But, we are reminded both in Luke and Matthew’s Gospel that worrying adds nothing to our lives. No value. No time. So I must fight the tide of worry and focus rationally on important tasks at hand, one breath at a time. Care to join me? Let’s consider the lilies together.


I am rarely bored. My mind, alas, swirls a mile a minute from the time I am awake to the time the melatonin kicks in at night. I am, for better or worse, connected for all of my waking hours. However, as a child, I was not connected. We had cable, but were one of the last families to get nintendo. I played Oregon Trail and Carmen San Diego on the big IBM computer with the floppy disk, but not all day.

I had the chance to spend hours outside in the creek behind our house or at a friend’s house. In my teen years, we would walk around downtown Annapolis without a cell phone or hang out at the beach in my neighborhood without wifi. (Wifi didn’t exist.) We had the chance to be bored. I didn’t go to a lot of summer camps so after swim team each day, I would have to make my own fun.

In our 24/7 connected world, our kids don’t know how to be bored very well. It can be scary for them to be left to their own without the security of electronics or someone telling them how to make their fun. We know they need the boredom to be creative. Not just from common sense, but most recently from this study published by the World Economic Forum. So what do we do when a connected kid says, I’m bored? We should treat it as a gift. We should say something like, “wow, that’s so great that you don’t have something specific to do, imagine all the things you could do.” And then, walk away. Allow kids to sit with their own boredom and figure it out.

I love this list that I’ve seen on many a blog. It doesn’t have to just mean in the summer. Boredom can strike us at any time–if we have the control to challenge ourselves and embrace, oh the things we could think, do, create, and learn. Time to get bored, friends…




“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.” -Marianne Williamson

Fear of change. Fear of death. Fear of spiders and snakes. Fear of food touching on the plate. Fear of heights. Fear of failure.

These are truths for so many people, including me (mostly snakes and heights.) We are so easily led down the dark path of fear and away from the light path of courage in our daily lives. Our current media cycle is perpetuated on increasing the divisive fears in our citizenry. Our economy is fragile. Our family lives sometimes held onto with a sliver of thread. Our relationships thinned by more technology and less depth.

AND YET, we have so much in which we can find joy and courage. We have promises in faith and resilience. We have light in small moments–children’s laughter, dog tail wags, a delicious glass of wine, a real hug, a passed peace, kneeling at the altar, the changing leaves of autumn, espn college gameday, a Packers win….Our gratitude can help erase our fear. When we live a life of joy and gratitude, we don’t have time for fear.

Scripture gives us so many examples of conquering fear:

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”-John 14:27

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” 1 John 4:18

“An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.” Proverbs 12:25

“Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6

As does literature:

“Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams, because every second of the search is a second’s encounter with God and with eternity.” ― Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.” ― Frank Herbert, Dune

“Fear doesn’t shut you down; it wakes you up” ― Veronica Roth, Divergent

“We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.” ― Plato

“Scared is what you’re feeling. Brave is what you’re doing.”
Emma Donoghue, Room

“Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.”
Brené Brown, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead

We must not be afraid to enter the arena of our fears and bravely move forward in faith. If we focus on gratitude, on moving forward, and on courage–we don’t have room for fear.





I am currently obsessed with this song. (Seriously, I have listened to it 10 times today. Thanks Drew.)

Wild is the perfect way to describe life these days. I look up all the time at my Mary Oliver quote in my living room: “Tell me, what it is you plan to do with your one wild and precious life.” Gosh, most of the time, I feel like I’m on a hamster wheel. And, most of our lives, I am guessing, feel like roller coasters these days. We are so caught up in the busy of life. We are overwhelmed with the noise of the election, the other, the …

I miss the real wild sometimes. The nature that was at my doorstep in my little cottage backing to Rock Creek and the five minutes it took for me to be completely immersed in nature even despite being just outside the Beltway. I miss the top of Sugarloaf Mountain where the vista of the farms of Frederick County still seem placid.

I can completely understand why people take to the Appalachian, John Muir, or Pacific Coast trail to escape the noise. It is only when we can get out of range of wifi that many of us even realize the power of quiet. While I can’t break away anytime soon–these two documentaries have helped me take momentary peace. I commend them to you if you need a little nature therapy and the closest you can get is Netflix.

Mile/Mile & a Half

Paul’s Boots

And, of course if you haven’t read Wild by Cheryl Strayed or Into the Wild by Jon Krakauker, I encourage you to do that, too. (Don’t just watch the movies…) They will show you the power that being in the wild of nature can do to transform a soul.

May you find solace in the wild world in a way that restores you.


“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” 2 Timothy 4:7

I used to race a lot. Every other weekend or so, or at least every month, I would pin a number to my middle, double knot my shoes and race. There were years when I raced hard and years when I entered races but wasn’t “racing” but merely running. At this point, if I put on a bib every two-three months, that is pretty amazing. I’m racing long next weekend and that should be a fascinating look at whether or not I’m still a game day player.

But I digress…

I feel like these days I’m on a race of another kind. The race to get it all done, to fit it all in, to make something of myself, all before the sun is up and past the sunset. The two ended candle is past burnt-it is melted flat. But it is not the race of doing that is the exhausting part-it is the race of grieving. The race of grief that spent months taking a toll on parts of me I could (my midsection) and couldn’t (my cortisol level) see. Now as I continue to move forward at breakneck speed for leading, coaching, and doing life–I am acutely aware of the way that this race has beaten me down. While I am not a daily blubbery mess as I was in those first few months, it is the layers that now suck my energy in a way not unlike the way years of training did to me in the early 2010’s.

So thinking to the Epistle today…when does the race end? How have I lived my life in a manner that allows me to pour myself as a libation to God when I am just so damn tired? Will I stand at the seat of judgement and be able to say, I fought the Good Fight? Right now, I’m just working toward lacing up the shoes and hitting the pavement. I’m working on managing and leading in climate of great change. I’m working to try to get my furbaby to stop chewing ALL THE THINGS. So where does the pour myself out for God come in?

Hopefully in the little moments. Hopefully it finds its way in the small conversations with kids, the quotes and tools I send to teachers that maybe one reads, perhaps it is in the one person (hi Mom) who reads these writings and opens up their vulnerability cup in conversation with another? Maybe it is none of these things and the race I’m running right now, like my physical ones of years past, is just the season I’m supposed to be in. Maybe the Good Fight right now is about getting up and trying despite the physical and mental weight of grief that haven’t found their way off me yet.

Either way, I will keep the face and continue to run with perseverance, this race.



We ask it of one another, every day. “Are you ok?” We answer plaintively–I’m fine, I’m good, I’m well. Because, really most of the time, we are generally ok. We can get through each day amongst a mountain of struggle (seen and unseen) in order to accomplish our lists. And most of the time this is…ok.

Yet there will be moments when we are genuinely not ok. We need to pause, we need to escape, we need to breathe. We need to honor that our bodies and minds are only able to handle a certain level of stress or angst or sadness or hunger or pain or fear or all of the above and if we don’t honor it, we are witness to our own destruction. In the pressures of our current societal pace, it is hard to honor the need to not be ok. We must keep pressing forward. We have to fight back against the pressures and accept our need to be fully human.

My favorite television show of all time is, of course, The West Wing. My people of the Bartlet administration have seen me through good times and bad. Heck, my dog is named after them. They are notorious in their use of the word ok and its power to bring closure, acceptance, and understanding. In TWW world, OK holds a LOT of weight; in the prose of Aaron Sorkin, it is not flippant. Much like I overuse the word awesome, thereby reducing its efficacy and power, I also overuse ok. I think it is time to honor the power of the true ok and use it sparingly–only when its power is truly necessary and its meaning truly real.

Ok. Ok. What’s Next?

**Image from The West Wing Weekly, aka The Best Podcast of All Time.**


Today was a very long day. We had our governance day for Leadership Montgomery and spent the day with Allison Black Cornelius engaging in leadership development. While much of it was repeated information from years of OD/LD training, I loved the day. Allison, I’ve decided, is my new spirit animal. She is engaging, courageous, loves Nick Saban, and curses like a sailor. Therefore, we are either twins or best friends. 🙂

But at one point, we spent a few seconds talking about information overload and the word “saturation” was used. YES. That is the perfect word for it. We are saturated with information. We can’t escape it. (Unless we live in a yurt off the grid in Montana.) We start our days with the glow of the screen and can’t get away from the immediacy of our accounts and updates. It is exhausting and it is killing us–as a society and as individuals.

My favorite, Andrew Sullivan, has recently emerged from his self-imposed technology exile and tells his tale of media saturation in New York Magazine.  (An article I found via this interesting take in the NYT.) I found myself relating to him in so many ways but also feeling afraid. What would happen if I truly stopped or created legit balance in my life when it comes to technology. What would happen if I stayed away from facebook for one day or didn’t check my email every 5 minutes? Would the world keep turning? Would people be upset with me?

I am less worried about FOMO and more worried about disappointing people who have come to expect immediate response. AND YET, I know that the work I do, 99.9% of the time is not life-death. (Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE MY WORK but yet, I am not a first responder or a world leader, so I know that 99.9% of the time, no one is in danger in if I don’t respond immediately.)  So is it ok for me to put the phone away? Is it really ok for me to be present? 

I don’t have the answer but I can’t help but hope that we will reach a tipping point in our society and realize that our lives cannot be fully lived on a four-inch screen. We need to create balance. We need to take a break. And it will only be with a courageous critical mass saying “chill out and walk away from the instagram” that we will find a contentment in actually doing so.

On that note, this five minute free write ends and I will shut off my screens. Sleep tight!