What I’m Into – May 2017

Hi all! Happy almost-June to you!

For the first time in many moons, I feel like I’m truly on summer vacation. This is the benefit of working (mostly) according to the academic calendar. And having a second job that means I can sit in my favorite oversized red chair in my living room with the balcony door open and stay in my sweat pants.

My roommate’s first question when she gets home from her nine-to-five job every day is, “Did you leave the apartment today?” It does not sadden me not at all that most days I can say “no” before we change and leave for the gym. Bonus: I’m saving a ton of gas money because I never go anywhere.

But, I’ll be honest, I feel super conflicted about this time that I have on my hands. I could find a third job, something part-time that could bolster my savings account and help pay for all of the lovely wedding details. (Side note: My impulse there is to say “stupid” wedding details, because wedding planning is so not my favorite thing and the expense of the wedding is STRESSING ME OUT. But, I’ve been told that I need to, in Jesse’s words, knock it off. And it occurs to me that calling the wedding stupid might just be hurting Nick’s feelings, so I should probably, you know, knock it off. So, “lovely” is the word I’m going with. If it comes across as sarcastic, well…there’s only so much a girl can change.) (Side note to the side note: I am more excited to marry Nick than I have been about just about anything else in my life, which is a weird thing to admit out loud for this girl who always prioritized school and work, but there it is. My goal for the rest of the summer is to try to get that excitement to translate to excitement about the actual wedding. I’m sure I will be perfectly lovely as I attempt this.) (Side note to the side note of the side note: Nick is saint.)

The other thing I can do with this summer is…write.

If you’ve been around here at all in the last few years, you know that I have been kicking around the idea of a book. You may even know that I have a shitty first draft of a manuscript on a hard drive buried in the back of my TV cabinet. (Another side note: If you’re a student and you’ve been in my freshmen comp class, you just caught that reference to Anne Lamott. I want you to note that all writers start with shitty first drafts, and then we do the work to make it better, usually with an editor. The best lesson you can learn as a writer is to love your editor. Also, hi students!) (Another side note to the side note: I can’t not teach. It’s in my bones now. Enjoy.)

My editor-friend, more friend than editor, is so committed to my writing that she has arranged her schedule so that we can work across from each other most Friday afternoons at Grand Rapids coffee shop. She does her editing and emailing for her real job, while I try to stay off Twitter and try to get some writing done. This is what happens when you have good friends who take you seriously when you say, “I’m really poorly self-disciplined. I need someone next to me to yell at me to stop getting online and baking cookies.”

I’m grateful for good friends. And because of just these Friday afternoons, I have at-least-they’re-started shitty first drafts of six essays wanting my attention to be finished. I’m hopeful that these are the bones of a better book than the one that’s on the old hard drive.

I suspect if I buckle down, I might be able to knock the thing out before school starts again in the Fall. But, that assumes I can get over the guilt of not taking on another job. (My best people are already championing me and yelling at me to get over myself. Don’t @ me.)



I gave my final the first Wednesday in May, and within three hours of the last student putting the last period on their last essay, my bags were packed and Joy and I were headed to the airport for a week in Portland, Oregon. I graded on the plane, and I suspect that I was kinder in my marks than I would have been had I been at my dining table. That’s just what vacation does to a teacher’s mood. (Students, hi again. And you’re welcome.)

I won’t repeat what most of you have already seen on Facebook and Instagram, but let me say – I think this really was the trip of a lifetime. Not because I got to see a part of the world that I hadn’t seen before, or because we did a lot of really cool things and ate a lot of really good food, but because these friends who went through college with me are still my friends today, and there’s something special in spending time together as adults. There’s something sacred in knowing each other so well.

Also, we met Megan Rapinoe, and no one else in my world would nerd out even half as hard as three of us did over this photo with the US Women’s National Soccer Team’s corner-kick queen.


Photo credits to Betts, for the selfies, and Joy, for everything that isn’t a selfie. 


 So, Joy and I have been working through Grey’s Anatomy on Netlflix for…way too long. It’s become even longer because we hopped over to the least-known Shonda show, Private Practice, which was a Grey’s spin-off. We saw a note pop up that it is leaving Netflix June 6, so we’ve been taking it down hard this month.

Frankly, it hasn’t left a lot of room for anything else. No shame.


I have discovered that I like running at the gym a lot more when I’m listening to a book or a podcast. You know I’ve been listening to Harry Potter for, like, the last two years. But, I’ve hit that part in Book 5 where Harry is a whiny little baby and I threw the book across the room the last time I tried reading them. I can’t afford to throw my phone, so I just stopped listening. I’ll get back to it again, but when I’m trapped in the car with hours to just power through and finish it. Next month I’m road tripping home again, so I’m hopeful for that then. (I’m sure it will be lovely.)

Instead, I’ve discovered that listening to the Popcast is a great way to distract myself at the gym. I’m now the idiot laughing on the treadmill with my ear buds in, but oh well. It’s, in their words, “delightful idiocy” that is “committed to educating you on the things that entertain but do not matter.” Yes, Lord. I am in.


Also, Sheryl Crow released a new CD this month, and though I have not purchased a physical CD in years, I ran out and got this one. Sheryl’s music was the soundtrack of the year that Joy, Betts, and I all lived together in college, so it seemed only right to get it before we left on our trip to Portland. I’m not sorry. It sounds like a re-visit to the old Sheryl, like Tuesday Night Music Club Sheryl, which means it’s roll down the windows and sing along music. Which means it will also be a great soundtrack for this summer.



Basically, I sent a frantic text to Jesse and Nickie that said something along the lines of, “If I can’t check out of wedding planning every once in awhile, I’m going to elope and tell no one. I may not even tell Nick. I need a novel, what’ve you got?”

85990Nickie responded by buying and shipping me a copy of a Brent Weeks novel that is HUGE, and I’m glad I’m in summer hours and have the time to read it. Jesse, in typical Jesse fashion, offered the cheesiest of fairy tale stories. But, they weren’t available via my library, so I opted for a series that was suggested based on my search. Do not judge; it has a terrible title – The Princess Academy. It’s a trilogy, and it follows this one particular girl from a mining village where the next princess for this land is supposed to have been prophesied to come from. But, she’s kind of, as you would expect, the anti-princess and she does everything wrong. She’s not couth enough, she’s not pretty enough, and she’s not educated enough. She doesn’t even really want to be at the Academy where these miner girls are being trained to be a princess. She just wants to make her father proud, which of course she does, as you would expect.

I’m not saying it’s great literature, but it was a fun read, and I took each of the books down in an afternoon. Yay for middle-school age young adult fiction when you need to check out from wedding planning before you stab yourself in the eye with a fork if you have to look at one more Pinterest board!

Next month, I’m aiming for that Brent Weeks novel, S by JJ Abrams, a lesser-known JoJo Moyes novel, and a smattering of spiritual memoir. Because that is my favorite genre.

Kudos if you hung around to the end of this thing. I am, as I always am when I do one of these posts, linking up with What I’m Into at my friend Leigh’s.

What I’m Into – November 2015

So, I haven’t blogged about much of anything in the last few months because over the summer I got a new job and moved halfway across the country to Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Life in the Midwest if very different than life on the East Coast, and I’m still – after 5 months in my new position – figuring out to balance work and writing and dating and friending. (Yes, I did just make that a verb.) I don’t know that I’m doing all things well, as I haven’t written in months and months, but I really like my job and I’m really loving the life I’m building in this new place.


Out-of-Sorts-CoverSarah Bessey’s Out of Sorts – As is often the case, my favorite writers books tend to meet me right in the moment that I need them. Moving to GR and meeting new people and sharing my story of how I ended up here has had me confessing some ugly truths that I think about church, and I needed someone’s permission to be messy about it still. I needed someone to remind me:

“Lean into your questions and your doubts until you find that God is out here in the wilderness too.”

 “Sometimes we have to cut away the old for new to grow. We are resurrection people, darling.”

 “I’m not afraid for you: you are held. You are loved and you are free. I am hopeful for you.”

 Notes from a Blue Bike coverTsh Oxenreider’s Notes From a Blue Bike – My BFF read this over the summer and loved it, which inspired a lot of good conversations about education and food and consumerism, which is why I decided to read it too. I didn’t love it as much as she did, and I think it’s simply because I’m not in the same space to receive it – as a wife, as a mom, and all that. But that said, I did like it and Tsh did make me think about things I wouldn’t have otherwise.

Frank Miller’s Dark Knight III I know, I know. #nerdalert. But, I truly can’t help it. Frank Miller’s Batman is my favorite and I have been jonesing to get my hands on Book 1 of his new series – which is exactly how my buddy Matt convinced me to go to the comic book shop at midnight on Black Friday. #nerdswag.

Books that are next on the docket: Amber Haines’ Wild in the Hollow, Kathleen Norris’ Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith, Chip Heath & Dan Heath’s Switch: How to Change Thing When Change is Hard.

I remain in desperate need of a good novel and am not above begging for your suggestions.


Joy and I don’t have cable or Internet hooked up in our apartment yet, so we’ve been binge-watching Gilmore Girls on DVD.   Which also explains why our dining room is still full of boxes needing to be unpacked.

Also, because he really likes me, Nick has been watching Parks and Recreation, so many of our date nights have been literally Netflix and chill. (Welcome to dating in your thirties when you have jobs and classes and are exhausted by 8 PM.)


When I was mooching off living with Miranda the last three months, I subjected her to The Voice, Castle, and… Grey’s Anatomy. Which I’m guessing means she’s pretty excited that I’m not commandeering her remote anymore.


Ben Rector’s new album, Brand New.

Andrew McMahon, In the Wilderness…over and over again.

The Magnolia Record Club playlist on Spotify, compiled by the Club’s founder Drew Holcomb. (Super sweet folk indie music. I’m in love.)

I’m not a super fan of Christmas, but this year seems like one worth celebrating – 2015 has been a good year to me. So, if you have suggestions of solid Christmas music (think Sara Groves instead of Michael Buble), I’m open to those too.


Joy and I moved into our new apartment last weekend. It only took us three months to find it, so yay!

I travelled home for Thanksgiving, and basically spent the week playing with my nephews and niece-in-love. It was perfection.


It’s hard to believe that it’s less than a month until I’m home again. It would be ridiculous of me to pretend that I’m not thrilled about this. Because it’s not the easiest thing to feel like your heart is in two places, which I know sounds crazy because most people spend their lifetime trying to find just one place to belong. But, I spend a lot of time feeling split – wanting to be here, wanting to be there. I miss my home people when I’m in GR, and I miss my GR people when I’m home. I don’t always know how to deal with the tension, so I binge watch Gilmore Girls, and text my friends and my parents, and I go to bed thinking that there really are worse problems to have than having people who love you from different pockets of the world.

What I'm Into


I’m linking up again with Leigh Kramer and her  What I’m Into  series, even though the last one I did was over a year ago because I’ve forgotten how to blog.


What I’m Into – September 2014

Hello, friends! Did you remember I have a blog? Yeah? Then you’re one step ahead of me because clearly I forgot.

Actually, the truth is I have wanted to be here and I have been desperately aching to tell you about the ways God’s been at work in me this summer, and about what He’s continuing to teach me about friendship and church and love and grace. But the funny thing about those stories is that they found their way into a book, and that’s where I think they’re meant to be.

At the beginning of September, I put the last period on the last essay and I sent it to my editor-friend, and she was way more encouraging than I deserve, and now we’re polishing essays and shifting chapters around and creating together a better story than the one I set out to tell.

Lord, bless the editor for she shall inherit the earth. And if not the earth, at least she’ll inherit a percentage of whatever money this book makes and all the credit in the world for making me a better writer.

So then, September became about celebrating. My friends threw me a submission party, and we toasted what’s been finished and prayed for what comes next. They are good friends, these people of mine, and it helps me push forward knowing that whatever comes, they will be there and there will be champagne.

My best pal from college flew in for a week, and we celebrated our September birthdays together. We went camping and to the Renaissance Festival, and had dinners with my hometown friends every night. We ate ice cream every day and enjoyed the sweetness of our friendship. In a lot of ways we’ve changed, but in a lot of other ways we’re still the same kids that shared a bunk bed in a dorm room and wondered what we’d be like when we grew up. I pray this stays true when we’re celebrating our 81st birthdays together.

Then last weekend, I turned 31 and we celebrated again. At my friend’s lake house, there was no cake, but there was plenty of pork barbecue. And there was singing, and boating, and laughing, and all of the things that go into the building of friendships. There was lots of time to read and play games, and nothing was rushed. We lingered over meals, and stayed up when were tired, and we enjoyed time together. I guess we all kind of organically realized the luxury of  casting off the responsibilities of the world for a couple of days just to go out and play. And I think that was the best birthday present ever.

In the midst of all the celebrating, I stole off to my grandparents for a few days. I slept and read and ate on endless loop, and it was wonderful. Their town is small and quiet, and doesn’t offer much in the way of activity. When I was teenager, I didn’t much get the appeal of this kind of place. Why would you want to live somewhere that doesn’t even have a Starbucks? But, I get it now. I get it because I want it – that kind of slow, unrushed existence. The kind of life where you get to know your neighbors, and there’s not a lot of traffic, and you can walk into town. The kind of life where you can sit on a porch and watch the world go by, and that means you’re noticing the squirrels are burying nuts under the tree in the front yard and the sparrows are soaking up the last few warms days in the birdbath before winter sets in. The kind of life where you don’t feel like you have to be anywhere, because all that you need is right there where you are. Yeah, I want that.


Because of the time at the lake and the time at my grandparents, I had time to read and it was glorious. I read some not-great novels, but I also read memoirs that I’d been aching to get to for a long time.

Jen Hatmaker’s Interrupted was one I was glad that I didn’t get to earlier, because I wouldn’t have understood her heart in it the way that I do now. I understand what it is to be active in ministry and church and too look all spiritually together, and then have God tap your heart and say, “Hey, remember me?” I understand the prayers of desperation that come when you leave a place of busyness to get back to remembering, and I understand what it is to read the Scripture and have it reveal something new about God and His will for your life. I understand what it is to make some decisions in the newness that leave people scratching their heads. And I understand what it is when Jesus comes in and wrecks your comfortable Christianity. To say that I appreciated this book would be an understatement.

I also read Barbara Brown Taylor’s “An Altar in the World,” and loved, loved, loved it. Taylor is a great writer, and she is wise and insightful in ways I can only dream to be. She shares her own faith experience, saturates it in the Bible, and allows the reader a fresh perspective on some old stories.   For example, the story of Abraham and Sarah, while about the ways God make good out of bad, is also a story about two people who consent to follow:

The Bible gives no reason for God’s choice of Abraham and Sarah except their willingness to get lost. They were not young. They were not spiritual giants. All they really had going for them was their willingness to set off on a divinely inspired trip without a map, equipped with nothing but God’s promise to be with them. Most Sunday school teachers stop there, but if you follow Abraham and Sarah all the way to Egypt and back, you get the kind of details that mark genuine wilderness time…Ostensibly, none of this would have happened if Abraham and Sarah had just thanked God for the interesting travel suggestion and said no, they thought they’d just stay home in Ur where they belonged. By saying yes instead – by consenting to get lost – they selected a family gene that would become dominant in years to come (pgs. 73 -74).

And I’ll tell you right now, as someone who is struggling with an intense desire to be on an adventure with Jesus with no real clear idea of what she means when she says that, this passage not only resonates with me, but also led me back to a familiar Bible story with eyes looking for those details that mark a genuine wilderness time. And so, I’m asking myself the questions – when is it time to get lost? And what does that look like?

I don’t have answers, but I’m enjoying this season of living into the questions.


When I was book writing, I didn’t listen to a lot of new music. I stuck with my favorites – Audrey Assad, Paul Simon, Damien Rice, and hymns heavy with piano. But, I also fell in love with Ellie Holcomb and her guitar and her lyrics. She’s also now on regular rotation.



I was glad that book-writing coincided with summer-hiatus, so I didn’t miss the start to the new show season and so I didn’t watch TV instead of working, which is all to say that I didn’t watch a ton of stuff this summer. Although, I *really* hate to admit that one night (when I couldn’t sleep because I was too busy stressing about some crap about platform, which is such a waste of a writer’s time), I totally binged on FYI’s “Married at First Sight.” Go ahead and Google it, and then decide if you want to remain my friend. If you don’t, I totally understand. I’m not sure I want to be friends with me either.

Also, a friend texted me and told me I needed to watch this clip from Garfunkel and Oates, which I did, and then proceeded to laugh about for the next month. Heck, I’m still laughing. (They’re colorful, so ya know, language warning and all that.)


I think I’ll just leave it you with that. And with the promise that I’m back to blogging, hopefully this time with even more frequency. You are my people, and I have missed you.

What I'm Into


(Once again, I’ve linked up with Leigh Kramer and her peeps. Pop over there to check out some other cool posts about what some other cool people are into this month.  See you all for another fun round at the end of October.)

What I’m Into – June 2014

What I'm IntoHoly hotness, Batman! It’s summer time, good and officially. And while I don’t love the rising temps and constant sweating, June was cool enough that sitting on the porch with my pals didn’t feel akin to sitting wrapped up in a warm towel. So, I’m chalking the month up to a win.



My friend Sarah turned 26 in April, and we were finally able to get together to celebrate the awesomeness that she is. We all donned tiaras and wore fake tattoos and had a proper Disney Princess themed party, because apparently that sort of thing is just as fun when you turn 26 as when you turn 6. And maybe it’s even a little bit better because you can play Candy Land *and* drink beer. (Photo creds to my pal Amy.)

photo 5

Belle didn't make it to the ball. She quit.
Belle and I had similar feelings about Disney Princess Candy Land.
This is the face of a Candy Land winner.
This is the face of a winner.
This is my "I can't even princess anymore" face.
This is my “I can’t even princess anymore” face.

photo 4


The Playing House finale on USA was a great ending to the ten-episode first season. It was funny and poignant and all the things I love about TV.

Also, my pals and I went to see a couple of movies because doings things outside means sweating too much. So, I recommend Maleficent if you’re at all into pretty cinematography or Angelina Jolie’s cheekbones. Both are prominent.


The Fault in Our Stars brought me to tears. I’m not giving anything away by saying this, but there’s a great line at the end of the film about being deeply loved, about how that’s more important than being widely loved, and this is a theme that I’m starting to dig on big time.



First, Addie Zierman wrote a helpful, insightful, smart series on blogging, and it is chock full of resources. If you’re a blogger on any kind of level, spend some time there. I’m a sporadic blogger at best, and it’s inspired me to take it more seriously and to make some good changes. Stay tuned for all that.

Second, summer time is novel time, let’s just make that clear.

Jamie Ford’s 2009 debut, The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, chronicles the friendship between Henry and Keiko, a Chinese boy and Japanese girl, in Seattle after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the U.S.’s entrance into World War II. It’s interestingly done as Ford alternates between the 1940s and the 1980s, where we meet Henry as an old man telling stories about Keiko and his childhood to his son.

I’m only about halfway through, but Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible is becoming one of my favorites. The story about an overzealous Baptist preacher who drags his family on mission to the Congo is intense, but in all the right ways. It’s a book to sit with, not blow through.

In contrast, Lauren Graham’s Someday, Someday Maybe I finished in a couple of days. Graham, perhaps better known for her roles as Lorelai Gilmore and Sarah Braverman, tells the story of an actress trying to beat a self-imposed deadline for success in New York City. Predictable and cheesy, Graham’s voice comes through as the main character, Franny, and you can’t help but enjoy it and laugh along. It’s pretty much the perfect summer beach book.


Andy Grammer’s Back Home is summer on the radio.

And I find myself now a major fan of Tyler Stenson, a singer/songwriter out of Portland, Oregon. Good words and an acoustic guitar is pretty much all it takes for me.

What I’m Into – May 2014

WhatWhen Leigh posted that link-up time was upon us, I was surprised at how quickly the end of May sneaked up on me. What a weirdo month it’s been. But, it’s been a full month too, with lots of good times with lots of good friends, some who I don’t get to see very often.

Let’s start there…


My high school pal Becca came to visit at the beginning of the month, and I love when she’s in town. We’ve been friends since we were sixteen and there’s something comforting in just sitting with someone who’s known you through all the crazy changes life brings in the decade between kid and adult. We spent an afternoon doing “Maryland things,” which basically means we sat by the water and ate seafood.

At the end of the month, my friends Claire and Dave came to town all the way from London. To be fair, they’re my friends by extension – because Claire and my oldest pal Beth studied together at St Andrews and then became the  best of pals, and Beth likes me enough to share them with me. I think this is how some of the best friendships are made, when you like each other enough to share.

Beth, Me, Dave, and Claire - proof of the best kind of sharing.
Beth, Me, Dave, and Claire. The best kind of sharing.

My friend Danielle is a friend I made through Beth too, because Danielle lived with Beth in college and then Beth moved away for her doctoral studies and Danielle and I kept hanging without her. So, last weekend Danielle’s daughter had a birthday and I got invited to the bowling party, where I hung in the back and with the grown-ups and drank juice boxes and chewed bubble gum because I’m not about relinquishing all childhood things.

Kids at heart.
Kids at heart.

Like eating ice cream at the newest local joint and riding the plastic tractor.

On top of  tractor

And then I held a gun when my friend Matt and my dad and Matt’s dad and my mom went to the local gun range to shoot clays with 12-gauge shotguns. I’ll tell you why I’m a fan of this activity, because it always is a good time with Matt, my pal who knows me really well and still has a thing or two to teach me. At one point I was over-thinking my movements, as I’m prone to do, and Matt leaned over the from the clay launcher and said, “If you’re not smiling, you have no business shooting,” which was his way of reminding me that the point of going to the gun range was to have fun, not to be the best shot. Lord love Matt, I think that’s a lesson that’ll transfer off the range.


Love DoesMy Bible study, after a mini-break, is back to things this week with Beth Moore’s Esther. When the BFF and I ran to get our new books, the bookstore had Bob Goff’s Love Does on sale, and I grabbed it on impulse heading for the counter. I think it’s probably the best impulse decision I’ve ever made. Because this is a book that met me in a place where I needed to meet it and it’s a book I’m going to live with, just like Anne Lamott’s Grace Eventually and Shauna Niequist’s Bittersweet and Lauren Winner’s Girl Meets God and Rachel Held Evans’ Year of Biblical Womanhood. Bob’s point, I think, is that knowing God makes love the whole point, and it’s not enough to sit and think about how to love people well, you have to get off your butt and love. He then offers that getting off our butt is going to always be an adventure with Jesus:

You don’t need to know everything when you’re with someone you trust. That’s probably why Jesus’ disciples never said they were on a mission trip. I think they knew love already had a name and they didn’t need a program or anything else to define it. We don’t either. The kind of adventure Jesus has invited us on doesn’t require an application or prerequisites. It’s just about deciding to take up an offer made by a father who wants us to come (pg. 136).

I want to live in a new normal where I can reach out to people who are different from me and just be friends. I remember hearing in elementary school that we could be pen pals with someone far away. That was great and all, but there’s a big difference between being pen pals and being real pals. To make an impact you have to go there and start a friendship. Friends do – they don’t just think about it (pg. 74).

I think I found similar kind of themes – about going on an adventures with Jesus – in the blogosphere this month:


I’ve been a Damien Rice fan for a long time, but this month my friend introduced me to a great used music/book store and I bought his O album (the one with the greats like “Cannonball” and “Delicate”) again because I lost my copy years ago. And I forgot how much I love him, and how much his music feels like the best parts of falling in love.



It never occurred to me that people watch things not to be entertained, but because they want to learn something. This explains why my dad is always watching the dang History channel and why we got into a small conversation about it when he asked me about the new X-Men movie and I said that it was “interesting.” He said that he’d never heard a consumer movie described as “interesting,” and I said I didn’t know what a consumer movie was. He explained that it’s just created to be consumed, just to be entertaining, and I said I didn’t understand the problem. And I didn’t have the words at the moment, but I’m okay with entertainment for entertainment’s sake or art for art’s sake, even when said art reveals Hugh Jackman’s backside.

Most TV shows are on summer hiatus after big finales (Is Castle alive?? Bye Cristina! What will become of Danny and Mindy now?!), so I’ve had to find other things to watch. I wasn’t going to give USA’s Playing House a chance, even though it’s about best friends and I’m a sucker for those kind of shows, but then I read an interview with Jessica St. Clair and Lennon Parham, who are the creators and the leads and real life BFFs. And I’m obsessed! I texted Joy right away and I made her watch it, because I couldn’t stand her not watching something I loved anymore than Jess can’t stand that Lennon has never watch Gilmore Girls. And it’s worth noting that this show purposefully has a Stars Hollow/Lorelai and Rory style to it, but with more improv and adult humor.

And as someone who doesn’t love summer, at least laughing at a new show is something.

What I’m Into – April 2014


Hey April, let’s have a quick chat. We’re not gonna talk about how long it’s been since I’ve linked up, but you gave me reason again. You were awesome and I appreciate you showing up when you did. I needed you. Like, seriously *needed* you. This winter was long and cold, and I needed your sunshine, and your warmer temperatures, and your road trip, and your Holy Week, and all of it. I needed all of you. So, thanks. Thanks for showing up and thanks for being awesome.


The highlight for me in April was, of course, my trip to Michigan. I love Michigan in a way that doesn’t make sense because it’s cold, and it snows October to April, and in twelve years this East Coast girl hasn’t found a decent seafood place. But, the people. Oh, my people! These are folks I’ve known for more than a decade now; we were teenagers when we met, and now we do adult life together as much as Facebook and emails and texts and phone calls will allow. And that is why these visits are so treasured – because the time face-to-face is so rare, and because face-to-face fosters the relationships in a way that Faceboook and emails and texts and phone calls can’t. We live into these moments together, and I’m always impressed by how good the time is when we’re bent on simply enjoying each other. Good like being close to God’s heart is good.

Of course, my time was punctuated differently this time because of the Festival of Faith and Writing. I’m not sure how to sum up FFW, because I took a legal pad’s worth of notes over the three-days, so here’s some of the things that people much smarter than me said, straight from my legal pad:


  • “Art gives us a map, so we can figure out who we are in the world. And we make art because the next generation needs the maps.” – Gene Luen Yang
  • “Our story is not complete until it has been heard by people.” – Uwem Akpan
  • “We use humor to survive, so the Devil doesn’t do too much damage.” – Uwem Akpan
  • “Good story can be tragic.” – Shannon Huffman Polson
  • “All good writing is pressing on a bruise.” – Shannon Huffman Polson, quoting Pam Houston
  • “The word ‘Christian’ was never meant to be a modifier. When it’s used that way, it becomes a lesser being. If we are to be Christian writers, we need to be writers who are Christian.” – Bret Lott
  • “Writing with precision is important because we were made in the image of God, not blurrily, not kind of, but precisely made in the image of God.” – Bret Lott
  • “Human words matter because written words are the best communicator of ideas, and ideas rule the world.” – Richard Foster
  • “Silence allows us to cultivate the soil of our hearts, so the words that grow forth are crisp and clear and true.” – Richard Foster
  • “One of the greatest traps for us as Christians is clichés. It takes courage and care to use words in a holy way.” – Carolyn Weber
  • “I think sometimes we think grace will get out of hand. But, grace got out of hand the moment that the God of the universe hung on the cross and said, ‘Father, forgive them for the know not what they do.’” – Rachel Held Evans
  • “It so does not work for me that when you sit down to write all your psychiatric issues show up, and they sit at your desk, and they have some feelings, and they’re worried.” – Anne Lamott
  • “There are two versions of you – who you think you are and who your best friend thinks you are. Have the courage to believe her version.” – Anne Lamott
  • “It is the particular call of writers to behold, to invite others to see God.” – Sharon Garlough Brown
  • “When something bad happens, we ask ‘Where is God?’ He was there. What good was his presence? There’s no good answer. Chaplains don’t have a good answer. Frederick Buechner didn’t have a good answer. Mother Mary and Mary Magdalene didn’t have a good answer at the foot of the cross. But, they stayed.” – Anne Lamott
  • “People want to say that you can’t have faith and fear at the same time, and I don’t want to sit with those people at lunch. I have a lot of faith. But, I’m fearful. I came this way.” – Anne Lamott
  • “Grant me the courage to accept the things I cannot change…which is everybody else.” – Anne Lamott
  • “In my mind, ‘find your voice’ doesn’t make sense. I say find your obsession. What takes hold of you and won’t let go? If you want to write about people, maybe that’s not a good reason to write. But, if you’re obsessed with knowing more, go with that.” – Sean Hill
  • “We serve at the hands of a generous Master.” – Rachel Held Evans

In my non-writing life, I babysat a bunch this month. I have some thoughts about this – about what a strange turn of events this is, because for so long I identified myself as not-kid person and now I am babysitting all the time, and I’m trusted with people’s kids, and what is wrong with you people?  Because this is all a little weird.  But…weird as it is, it’s also so good. Like being close to God’s heart is good.

Lunching and lounging.
Lunching and lounging.
Two peas in a pod.
Not-a-kid person? Noah doesn’t buy it.


Per recommendations of a couple of friends whose reading suggestions I always take, in the last week of the month I read Glennon Doyle Melton’s Carry On, Warrior. I was on board with her after the dedication to her mother, but she had me after she said, “[God-sized holes] are good for making friends, and friends are the best fillers I’ve found yet. Maybe because other people are the closest we get to God on this side. So when we use them to find God in each other, we become holy.”  That’ll preach.

My Bible study also finished Ann Voskamp’s 1,000 Gifts, which I recommend reading with a group of people with whom you can say out loud the things you’re grateful for. It’s good. Like being close to God’s heart is good.

Also, I’ve started blog-reading again, but with much less gusto than before. I don’t have any recommendations because I know most of you who read my blog are already reading the blogs I read. So, just keep reading, you smart people, you.


The trip to Michigan takes me across four states in 11 hours, so I don’t make that trip anymore without good books-on-CD and good tunes. On the drive out, I listened to Ally Vesterfelt’s Packing Light, which is about a road trip she takes around all 50 states with a friend. It’s about letting go of “stuff,” but I think it’s more about finding yourself. I immediately gave my copy to Joy and she’s also recently listened to it. For the past couple of weeks, we’ve either been texting about the rules we need if we ever decide to do the Amazing Race together or the practicality of making a fifty state road trip together. In both circumstances, Joy tells me I need to stop driving like I’m from the East Coast before she’ll get in a car with me for that long. I’m not sure what she means, except I think she’ll probably be glad that I’m a frequent-lane-changer when we’re in, like, India or something.

On the way home, I listened to a lot of the Coffee House satellite radio station. (I always listen to a lot of the Coffee House satellite radio station.) And so now I’m obsessed with Alternate Routes “Nothing More” and Passenger’s “Scare Away the Dark.”



Grey’s Anatomy – because Cristina is about to leave, and because Joy and I need to talk about something other than travelling all the time.

Castle – because they’re about to get married, and because I have more than a little crush on Nathan Fillion. And because, let’s be honest, I kind of wish I were Kate Beckett.

The Mindy Project – because Mindy Kaling is me…or so a Buzzfeed quiz told me.

And also, you should see Captain America: The Winter Soldier if you’re at all into the superhero movies that Hollywood has been churning out lately.

Brick-MansionsOh, and I need someone to go see Brick Mansions with me – because Paul Walker! And because Beth adamantly refuses. She doesn’t really love me, I guess. Whatever.


So, hey May – what’ve you got for me?

What I’m Into – October 2013

What I'm Into (Leigh Kramer)I’ll tell you what, I like these What I’m Into link-ups with Leigh every month. Not just because I get to talk just for a bit about the books that are making me thinking differently, and the TV shows that are making me laugh, and the music that is filling my soul, but because these posts make me reflect on the month.  They make me think about where I was and what I was doing at the beginning of a month and consider where I am and what I’m doing at month’s end. They force me to consider where I’m spending my time, and I have to ask myself if I’m happy about that. Sometimes I’m not, but I have to say, most times I really am. I’m noticing retrospectively that I’m telling stories about my friends and the things we’re doing together, and by so doing, I’m keeping track of the memories we’re making at every turn.

Certainly, this October proves no exception.


Early in the month, I tagged along with my friend and her family to an Orchard in PA.  We had a blast being outside, telling stories, eating all that not-good-for-you fair kind of food.  This is what I know: There is nothing that satisfies my fat kid soul like cider donuts and hot coffee.

At the end of the month, I attended a Blackaby Ministries conference with some of my favorite people in the world.  You’ll know the name “Blackaby” if you’ve ever done the Experiencing God study.  My Tuesday Night Bible Study girls and I worked our way through it almost two years ago, and it was a great time of great honesty in our group.  Because of this, it was a treat to hear again the heart of that study from Richard Blackaby himself. I’ll say this too, Blackaby is a great storyteller. He is someone who understands that power of story, who sees the way it connects people and allows God to break in.  And with humility and grace, he simply shared the story of his family, and of how his dad came to write Experiencing God.

Experiencing God(Incidentally, Henry Blackaby came to write his study after being approached by a publisher to simply put on paper the lessons that God had been teaching him.  When his son, Richard, told this story at the conference this weekend, I flashed back to those exact same words being said to me by the BFF three years ago – “Will you take a cue from Lauren Winner, and just write down what God’s teaching you?” In that flash, I was reminded not of how much she loves me, but of how much she believes in me.  And at the end of that session, I hugged her and I hugged her hard. Because the friend that believes in you before you believe in yourself is God’s grace with skin on. And somewhere over the last year I lost sight of that.)


Shauna Niequist’s Bittersweet…again.  Because I can’t help when I’m feeling really run down, but to turn back to words that I know will speak softly to my spirit and remind to look for God and hope.

Katie Davis’ Kisses from Katie after months of being told I need to by several friends.  What’s surprised me as I read this one is how much it’s challenged me to think about what it really looks like to love someone…or several someones.

My blog reader hasn’t been touched much this month…again.  I have spent the better part of the last few months, as I’ve said before, sorting out exactly what *I’m* thinking that reading everybody else’s words about church, faith, God, friends, dating, and whatever else weren’t helping my head to clear, they were only making things cloudier.  Blog reading became, for me, became a mass of information, thousand word post after thousand word post of too-much-to-process.  I know that I’ll be back in the blogger world again soon, because blogging people are my people, but that’s going to have to wait until November.


much-ado-about-nothing-262x350So, let’s just have a moment and talk about the awesomeness that is Joss Whedon’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing.”  It’s hilariously done, well cast, and a good way to spend a couple of hours…especially if you’re a fan of, say, Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Firefly.

Tom Hiddleston, who we know as Loki from The Avengers, plays Henry V in the latest PBS version of Shakespeare’s play of the same name.  And I’ll say this, my friend who is currently teaching a class at a state college on Tudor-Stuart Britain enjoyed it a lot. I, however, spent most of the time playing Hay Day on my phone, the exception being when my friend called for my attention –“Seriously, watch this part. You’ll laugh. The King is about to make a lot of jokes about balls.”   For the record, the King did not. He made a lot of jokes about tennis, which is not the same thing.

And of course, I’m watching Castle, New Girl, the Mindy Project, Modern Family, and Parenthood.  If anyone has thoughts on the Caskett relationship or why the heck Sarah Braverman is crying SO MUCH this season, let me know.


I’m obsessed with Aloe Blacc’s “Wake Me Up” and Passengers’ “Let Her Go,” either of which is probably playing on the radio every four minutes, so it’s a pretty happy time in my car this month.

Also, one of my favorite bands, Page CXVI, is releasing an album for Advent. Now, I’m not usually one who’s jonesing to listen to Christmas music, but I’m excited about this album because I feel like in the hustle-and-bustle in the Christmas season that so often frustrates me, it’s going to help me slow down and remember Jesus.  If you’re so inclined, even though it’s only October ,you can listen to their version of Silent Night here.