Naming the Longing


Adjacent to the parking lot of our condominium building, sat a clump of pine trees with fine, green needles and dripping sap. The landscapers planted the trees in such a way that, once grown, they formed a canopy above a small, oval opening. If one looked hard enough, and squinted against the sunlight, one might see it.

As kids, my neighbor, Michelle and I, discovered this opening and it became my favorite place to retreat from pesky siblings and the heat of summer…

For the rest of the story, follow me on over to the Mudroom where I write more about naming the longing inside each of us.

The Holy Oak: A Story of Rootedness and Community


Our town was built around a single tree. The Holy Oak stands in the cemetery of the Presbyterian Church in the center of town. It is the oldest white oak in America, and it has presided over this patch of land for almost six hundred years. The Holy Oak has watched centuries of life unfold, from Native Americans hunting in the local woods to Revolutionary soldiers marching to war to a brick and mortar town springing up around it to kids running around the courtyard playing Pokémon Go.

Over the years, the branches have provided shade over the headstones of revolutionary soldiers and the church’s own parishioners. The trunk has absorbed the sound of praise and prayers, and the leaves have swayed to the sound of children, my own among them, plinking away for a crowd of proud parents during piano recital season. The tree’s roots have held this town together from the ground up, as change inevitably swept through.

Once the oak reached its full height, it grew wider and wider rather than tall. This is an admirable goal in life, I think–to grow wider and deeper and increasingly broad. Tall is big, proud, imposing, but width is inclusive and encompassing. Depth is wise. To grow in depth is to establish roots that become smaller and smaller as the fibers bury themselves and fan out. Change occurs in the delicate, most vulnerable places.

The complexity of the tree lies at the tips of its roots and in the fine veins of its leaves. Our own complexities, the small and fragile parts we try to avoid or hide, are the ones that allow us to grow deeper in faith, in relationships, and in understanding. It’s where we absorb the essence of life. Just as the oak’s roots absorb water or sunlight or nutrients, we take in impressions, words, and feelings. These tender, rooted places are where we hear the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit, whispering “Here is the way, walk in it.”


This year, when the tree failed to unfurl in all its glory, experts were called in for their professional opinion. Reporters arrived to tell the story. And artists set up charcoal and paper on easels to make sketches.

The Holy Oak is dying.

I found an old photo of my children standing under the massive tree in full bloom, and I felt sad, but also grateful. We stood in the shade of the oldest white oak in America, where George Whitfield preached to a crowd of 3,000 during the Great Awakening. The tree echoes with the sound of him proclaiming the gospel. It echoes with the sound of my daughter playing Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. It echoes with the footsteps of countless people living ordinary lives across the ages.

While life played out beneath the Holy Oak’s branches, it rooted itself in the dark soil and stretched into the sunlight, growing tall and deep and wide. And we’re all the better for it.

How to Live with Contradictions: Embrace October


“All things on earth point home in old October; sailors to sea, travellers to walls and fences, hunters to field and hollow and the long voice of the hounds, the lover to the love he has forsaken.” ~Thomas Wolfe

It took me forty years to unearth this truth: Everything I hunger for is satisfied by October.

It is a study in contrasts:  warm and cold, wet and dry, blooming with life and sliding towards decay. It is glorious in its turning, changeable by nature, and I can feel the heft of it bearing down on my shoulders. It is weighty.

Each day is unknowable from the beginning and yet satisfying in its end.

October reminds me to set my face towards home. It is a returning to all the disparate, changeable sides of myself, and acknowledging that I can welcome all parts of me to be at home here. Like you, like October, I am a study in contrasts too. I am a homesick wanderer. An artist mother. A dreamy pragmatist. A lazy runner. A skeptical believer. A wise fool.

It has taken many years for me to learn the beauty of complexity and accept that this complexity is ok. It’s ok to hold all of these things within my body. It’s ok to give them a flesh and blood home.

If you find yourself struggling with some of the contradictions in your life, wondering how to feel at home within yourself again, step outside and take a deep breath of October. Take note of the warmth of the sun carried by the sharp bite of the autumn wind. Listen for the crunch of leaves beneath hibernating branches. Recognize it as a wealth of riches, a homecoming, a ripeness.

Find yourself at home within the contradictions, not in spite of them. Welcome home. Welcome October.

Hiding in Plain Sight


A ring of keys swung from her hip, and I could hear her clinking down the hall long before she came into view. Her name was Ida, and she was the geriatric security guard employed by my high school to police the front doors. We held opposing goals; mine was to avoid her and all other adults while slipping in through the triple set of front doors of the red brick school building.

Her goal was to catch me…

To read the rest of the post, join me at More to Be.


Don’t forget to enter my giveaway for Shannan Martin’s fantastic new book Falling Free: Rescued from the life I always wanted.  Leave a comment on the blog or on my Facebook page for a chance to win. I’ll choose the lucky winner on Wednesday, October 5th.

Falling Free: A Book Giveaway


“Hallelujah, there is no one-mission-fits-all. Heartbreak, loneliness, isolation, and lack aren’t organized by zip code, and he’s begging all of us not to detour around the pain.” ~Shannan Martin in Falling Free

***This giveaway is now closed. Thanks for reading!

I live in an affluent area, surrounded by affluent people, doing whatever it is the affluent do. If the rumors are true, the teens do heroin and shots of vodka on weekends. The fathers do long hours at work, and potentially one of the women they meet there. The mothers do pills or wine or retail therapy.

This is an overgeneralization, of course. There are healthy people living full, meaningful lives in our community. Generous. Kind. Purposeful people. But, in my experience, the rumors often hold a kernel of truth. I know cheaters. I know mothers who pop or sip or over-shop. I know kids who go wild. I know parents who support their wilding.

There is a pervasive poverty of spirit metastasizing and killing families in communities like mine. It is silent, but it is epidemic. It is deadly. I recognize something of myself in the mothers and fathers and kids here. I may not be acting out these dysfunctions in my everyday life (although I have been known to shop my feelings), but I know my heart, and it’s often filled with anxiety and fear. It is prone to wander. It is selfish and consumeristic and fickle.

I recently read Shannan Martin‘s challenging new book, Falling Free, where she chronicles her family’s move from their comfortable, middle class life in a beautiful, old farmhouse to an urban center riddled with crime, drugs, and failing schools. In short order, her husband resigned from his job to become a chaplain at the county jail, they adopted a young man with an arrest record, and they flung open the doors of their home, and became a haven for toddlers, wayward teens, and former criminals.

In her book, Shannan shares her story of how deciding to follow God into his upside down kingdom turned her family’s life inside out and upside down. She writes of the good and the hard, the gut-wrenching and the holy. It’s a strong book, a call to live with the ferocious love of Jesus, a vivid reminder of what it means to truly live with a kingdom mindset today.

Falling Free left me wondering how I can obey Jesus’ call to love the disenfranchised, the poor, the outsider, when my real life is filled with the “Haves” rather than the “Have Nots”. I know for this season of life, we are living exactly where God has placed us. I’m certain that God has brought us here to grow roots, to learn what it means to belong, and perhaps, he has rooted us here to offer others a place of belonging.

I don’t know the answer to my wonderings yet. I don’t know how to meet the needs of the people around me, much less the needs of the people in communities I’ll never meet. Shannan writes, “Hallelujah, there is no one-mission-fits-all.” and I bathe in this grace. While I don’t know my exact mission for living like Jesus in my community, I do know that it begins by asking myself hard questions. It begins by examining my own heart, and looking for opportunities to be the hands and feet of Jesus on this earth in both my community and communities outside of it. There is room for all of us to use our gifts, our abundance, and our rootedness to show others the love of Christ. Pain isn’t restricted to a zip code, and neither is generosity.


I’m giving away one copy of Shannan’s book, Falling Free, and I would love for you to have it. Prepare yourself for a roller coaster of emotions, because you’re going to feel ’em! To enter the drawing either leave a comment here on the blog, or on my Facebook page. In an entirely unscientific method of drawing a name out of a hat, I will choose and notify a winner by next Wednesday, Oct 5th. Happy commenting!