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Dating Noah Gundersen

Dating Noah Gundersen

At the beginning of January, I prepared to go on my first date in many months. I’d been working full time, and pouring myself into that role with abandon, trying to convince myself that it was healthy. But I knew it wasn’t.

My therapist and I began to talk about healthy adjustments, things that I could do to make my life work for me. I was pushing against the life I was leading, desperate for change and not sure how to begin to get there.

She knows me well by now, and she knows that I would like to fall in love. “Is it time to try dating online again?” she asked, gently.

It was a while before I plopped down on her lime green couch and agreed. It was time.

I was scared to venture back into the world of first dates and casual conversations. I hated the feeling of being looked at but not seen. I never knew what to wear.

I took a deep breath and put myself out there, a profile for everyone to see.

I started chatting with someone who sounded interesting. Let’s call him Noah. He was from Seattle, recently moved back from California, in Spokane for just a short time. He was a writer, a musician, a reader.

We agreed to meet at a bookshop and wander the stacks.

Many of you may know that I’m a great fan of Noah Gundersen. Certain songs have been like friends to me over the past couple of years, ever since I heard him open for Over the Rhine in Seattle, in the fragile days after I’d put myself out there, truly myself, and been rejected. He might not know it, but we have a bond.

Do you ever get a feeling that you’ve met someone before, even if you’re meeting them for the first time? That was my experience with Noah, from the moment he walked up to me, as I flipped through a book at Barnes and Noble, waiting for him nervously.

We walked and talked, warming up to each other as we pointed out our favorite Dr. Seuss books. It didn’t take me too long to put my finger on it. It felt like I was on a date with Noah Gundersen.

Like one of those familiar songs about love and loss, hope and sorrow, I was calmed by Noah’s very presence. He listened and he talked, he smiled, and he looked serious. He wrapped himself closely in his jacket before we went outside, the faint scent of cigarette smoke clinging to him.

Although part of me hoped that we might have a chance to date, a deeper part of me knew that wasn’t why we connected. After that first meeting, I saw him just once more, after a terrible date. He drank tequila and listened to me vent, while I became more at ease with every breath.

That night, I played Noah Gundersen music for him in my car, while he leaned against it and smoked a cigarette. “This is sad,” he said, leaning into my car for a moment. “But it’s beautiful.”

He kissed my cheek just before he vanished into the night. I drove home with a sense of comfort and peace I hadn’t felt in a long time, if at all.

Weeks later, after I’d taken a hopeful chance on a relationship, and had to let it go, I texted Noah. “I just want to say thank you,” I said. “You helped me to hope again.”

He texted back a few minutes later. “That makes me feel really nice.”

I’ve thought about those moments many times since January. It’s still surreal the way his presence evoked a Noah Gundersen song. A soundtrack was always playing in the back of my mind.

Now, as I walk forward into conversations, revealing pieces of my true self a little at a time, I’m holding hands with hope, feeling her kiss brush lightly against my cheek.


For more Single Minded Mondays, click here.

Sharelines:

"He kissed my cheek just before he vanished into the night."

Although part of me hoped that we might have a chance to date, a deeper part of me knew that wasn’t why we connected.

"Do you ever get a feeling that you’ve met someone before, even if you’re meeting them for the first time?"

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Pull Yourself Together {at You Are Here}

Pull Yourself Together

My latest post for You Are Here is less about a physical place, and more about a mental one.  I’m writing about suicidal thoughts, depression, and when it’s no longer a good idea to “pull it together.” Won’t you join me?

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Suicidal thoughts, depression, and not "keeping it together" for #YouAreHere

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de(tales): wind

I’ve known Gayl for some time through online writing groups and mutual friends. Over the last few months I have grown to love her encouraging spirit and beautiful writing. She has become a dear friend. 

I know you’ll enjoy this windy de(tale) of hers today. 

https://www.etsy.com/shop/ChaoticArtAngel

https://www.etsy.com/shop/ChaoticArtAngel

The wind and I go back a long way.

In my younger years I would stay outside as long as I could before a storm. As I felt the wind pick up speed, saw the dark clouds roll in and the trees swaying, I felt a sense of freedom and power. Sometimes the wind would almost push me along. Other times I would run into it feeling it rush across my face and lift my hair. It was a wonderful feeling to stand there or slowly wander around the yard, twirling with my arms outstretched, as the wind grew stronger.

I loved it.

Growing up in Jacksonville, Florida, we experienced pretty warm weather, especially in the summer. When a storm came up, which it often did very quickly, the touch of the wind and then the rain provided some relief. But, just as quickly, the storm would subside. The sun would come out again, and as the street dried, you could see the steam rise. There was so much humidity the air felt hot, sticky and even warmer than before the storm.

No wonder I enjoyed the refreshment brought by the wind!

I had a lot of fun outside as a kid playing basketball, tag football or cops and robbers with my brothers along with other neighborhood kids. Riding my bike and swinging on the swings were things I enjoyed the most, because I loved the feel of the wind.

After I was grown, married and children came along (there were seven), I spent less and less time outside. It was not because I didn’t want to be there, but with such a large family I always felt overwhelmed with much to do, like meals to prepare, laundry, cleaning house, and more. I thought it was my duty to take care of everything, but I neglected to care for myself properly. It seemed like there was no time to go out and enjoy nature. It wasn’t that I never went outside, but it was not as often as it should have been. My children spent many hours out of the house and I would join them on occasion. I now wish I had done it more.

Storms would come and go, but I had forgotten my joy of being in the wind.

There are cycles in our lives, though. The winds of change have been blowing again in my life. A little over a year ago I took a collective led by Jennifer Upton, who encouraged us to look at ordinary things in new ways to see the beauty. I learned to slow down and really look at what is around me. She suggested we go outdoors every day and take time to really see things, not just quickly pass them by. Armed with cameras we would take photos and share them on our special facebook page. I began to remember how much enjoyment I used to find in being outdoors.

I have been forever changed.

I notice things I would have missed before. I love sitting on our hillside feeling the warm sunshine and the gentle breeze caressing my face and hair. I often sit on my porch swing enjoying the wind as it whistles through the trees and plays haunting melodies on the chimes. It doesn’t storm as much here as it did in Florida, but…

I still love the feeling of wind before a storm.


profilepic2015Gayl Wright makes her home in lovely Sunset, SC. She enjoys photography, music, writing poetry, art journaling, crocheting, and interacting with people. She is learning to enjoy life at the fullest, observing details, and finding beauty in unexpected places. You can find her blogging at http://gaylwright.blogspot.com. On Twitter she is @GaylWright and instagram @gaylwright.

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"Storms would come and go, but I had forgotten my joy of being in the wind." - @GaylWright

A windy de(tale) by @GaylWright

"In my younger years I would stay outside as long as I could before a storm. " - @GaylWright

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For Gilbert, With Love

For Gilbert, With Love | by Cara Strickland | Little Did She Know

On April 15, Jonathan Crombie died.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the name, Jonathan was the actor who played Gilbert Blythe to Megan Follows’ Anne Shirley in Anne of Green Gables. 

After I found out, I spent the rest of that day, and the next few, in a haze of sadness. All lives are worth mourning, of course, but as an artist, Jonathan did something particularly special for me: he brought to life a character who was one of my first introductions to romantic love.

I was seven when I first started sneaking Anne of Green Gables (in book form) into my room to read. My mother thought it was a little mature for me, so I hid it under my desk (somehow, she always found it and put it away).

When I finally did read it, identifying with Anne’s character all the way, I couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like to be wanted by someone the way Anne was wanted by Gilbert. There was safety in knowing that though she continued to say no and walk away from him, pursuing her dreams, writing and teaching and moving away, he was always there. He never gave up on her.

Those movies became my go-to fare for when I was sick, and many other times besides. I have seen them many times, and the lines come to me by memory. They ring in my ears and echo in the far reaches of my mind. It is significant that my first boyfriend felt the need to purchase them for me on DVD. I reference these movies often in conversation.

It’s Jonathan’s voice I hear when I think about Gilbert trying to find a way to meet the new girl (who wanted nothing to do with him). That whispered, insistent “carrots.” It’s his critique of Anne’s writing (which was needed, if not appreciated), it’s the way he tells her that there won’t be diamond sunbursts or marble halls, and finally hears the words we’ve all been waiting for her to say: “I don’t want sunbursts, or marble halls, I just want you.”

There are few on-screen kisses as satisfying as that one, for me.

I have grown up and pursued my writing, and my dreams. I have taught, and I have moved away. I don’t have a Gilbert in my life, but the hope was always there. I never let go of the idea that there might be someone in the world who would be delighted by who I was, over years and time and space. That was a gift Gilbert gave me. That was a gift Jonathan gave me.

There is a part in one of the movies that kept playing in my mind after I heard the news of Jonathan’s death. It is close to the time that Anne realizes how important Gilbert is to her, and that she doesn’t want to lose him. As Anne is meeting Diana’s baby, Minnie May says: “Did you know Gilbert Blythe was dying?” As I walked through the hours, sitting with the news, these words kept repeating, as if on a loop.

In the movie, they are a catalyst for change, as difficult things so often are. Anne rushes to Gilbert’s bedside, and he does recover. Minnie May’s words are dire, but they are not true.

Jonathan Crombie did pass from this world, but he left behind Gilbert Blythe. For so many of us, because of Jonathan, Gilbert Blythe will never die.


 

For more Single Minded Mondays, click here.

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Sharelines:

An elegy for Jonathan Crombie, (and Gilbert Blythe).

"For so many of us, because of Jonathan, Gilbert Blythe will never die."

"Jonathan Crombie did pass from this world, but he left behind Gilbert Blythe."

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Embracing The Body {review and giveaway}

Embracing the Body

Ever since I first heard about Embracing The Body: Finding God in Our Flesh and Bone, by my friend Tara Owens, I have been eager to read it. The last few years have been a journey of reclaiming my body as good and made by God. This book felt like the perfect way to continue that discovery and conversation with God and myself.

Tara is a spiritual director, and she brings the beauty of that tradition with her to this book. She invites me to sit with my body, the parts and sensations that make me uncomfortable, and the ones that bring me joy. At the end of each chapter she gives exercises, ways to connect my body with the book I’m reading, feeling it in my fingers and toes. Frankly, I usually skip questions for reflection or exercises at the end of book chapters, but these were different. Tara asked me to go on a walk, to smash a piece of pottery, to hold hands with someone for a time. The exercises are a gift, and many of them have stayed with me.

I love the way Tara talks about our particularity. Recently, I had an epiphany that was big for me. I realized that I experience the world very specifically through my body. I am 5’2”, and only understand what it is to be that height or one achieved by different shoes. I know only my level of vision, my sense of smell, the ways that my brain processes data based on everything I’ve ever experienced. My life in the world is completely tied up in my specific body.

It is into the consciousness of our particular bodies, and the unpredictability of all bodies that I am beckoned in this book. Even though I’ve been trying to pay attention, beginning to practice yoga, to feed myself when I’m hungry and put myself to bed when I’m tired, I still found myself resistant to many of the ways Tara asked me to listen. I don’t have to dig deep to realize that my very resistance is a clue about the places that still need to be healed.

This work flies in the face of the idea that we can separate from our bodies, living in our minds and eventually floating away into eternity where we will never experience another creaky knee. We are here, present in these places. They are how we experience the world. They are how we experience God. They are intentional.

It is a rare (and perhaps non-existent) person who has no healing work to be done regarding their body. Unfortunately, the church has often contributed to the baggage in this area, rather than the healing. It is my hope that this book, filled with Biblical examples, words in the original languages, and examples from church mothers and fathers (and Tara’s life and work with spiritual direction) may aid churches and individuals in beginning to be supportive and holistic about these fleshy places we live inside. Or, you know, us.

It is hard to put into words the gifts that this book brings. I can see in it such potential for change, healing and growth. I can see the blessing, ready to be unleashed. It’s a book about connection, between us, others, and God. It’s a book about accepting the truth of how we were made, and how we function. It’s a book that will likely make you uncomfortable.

As I walked with this book, I awoke very early in the morning, experiencing intense cramps. This is unusual for me, though it has been known to happen. As I waited for the pain killers to take effect, unable to find a comfortable position in my bed, I began to think about the pain, and what it was saying to me. I seldom think about menstruation, allowing it to pass, wishing it on its way quickly. I’ve certainly never written about it before. But in that moment, at 4am, I allowed myself to listen to the ways that my body was mourning. I acknowledged the fact that I had been physically prepared to nurture new life, and that my uterus was rending itself, my pain a reminder of a hope that never came to fruition.

Tara has invited me to think this way, to change the way I interact with my body. It is not just about giving grace, or seeking balance, or getting sleep (though I feel encouraged to do those things), it’s about listening. It’s about paying attention to what I’m trying to say to myself, and repairing the communication lines that have been inactive for too long.

Intervarsity Press has generously given me five copies to give away to you, my lovely readers. They are happy to ship to both US and Canadian addresses. You can enter the contest below.

Whether you win a copy, or buy one, I hope that you will spend some time with this book. May it begin to work in you as it has done in me.

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A review of #EmbracingTheBody by @t_owens (and a giveaway).

Tara has invited me to...change the way I interact with my body. #EmbracingTheBody #giveaway

This book will probably make you uncomfortable, and that's a good thing. #EmbracingTheBody #giveaway

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de(tales): word quilt

Jamie and I have known each other online for some time. She is a gifted writer, a truth-teller, and a fierce defender of those she loves. 

I hope you enjoy this de(tale) about honoring every part of her, even the shabby bits.  

de(tales): word quilt | Little Did She Know

I have always been fond of the arts in all varieties; they are part of my identity. As a child, my sisters and I put on many plays for our parents. It took a lot of imagination to put together story, costumes, scenery and props in our small family basement; and we loved every minute of it. Then, in my early twenties, I participated in a small college stage production. I played an old storytelling pioneer woman named Sarah, as well as a few other roles switched around improv-style.

The play was a musical titled Quilters. It portrays a patchwork of stories pieced together to form a picture of authentic pioneer life for women in North America, and how the art of quilting gave them hope and purpose to carry on through the hardships.

It was an eye-opening event for me: immersing myself in tales of tragedy, triumph, faith and family. Many of these stories are of women who experienced heart-rending loss and other facets of their harsh reality, yet they found their peace in the daily labor of quilt-making. It was their coping tool, and the glue that held their community together. It was part of their identity. I’m sure it was no coincidence they referred to their finished product as a “comfort.”

I identify with these women as I, too, need a daily anchor to keep my emotional health intact. But in this season of life, quilting is not the answer. In fact, it has been many years since I picked up a needle-and-thread to craft a quilt for my first baby. I took my sweet time, and my grandmother had to finish it since I went into labor sooner than expected. As a mom to a newborn, quilt-making was no longer a priority.

The nine years following my fling with quilting have been consumed with parenting. For a while, I had no time for myself, and in consequence felt like I had lost my identity. I was feeling disconnected from past and purpose, and I was anxious about the future: was there space for me and my dreams? One Saturday, I was having a particularly desperate moment where it seemed like a good idea to hide from my family inside the hall closet. It’s a walk-in, and not the least bit soundproof. But it still felt like stepping away from the stress.

I decided to pull out a box of keepsakes in an attempt to regain that feeling of personal identity carried in my memories. As I fingered the jagged edges and scraps of ephemera from my past, I felt more at peace with my present. I found an old newsletter in which my words were published for the very first time as a cover article. I had forgotten all about it. I read through and saw the girl I used to be held in tension with the growth I had experienced since that time. I highlighted words that were especially meaningful to me; words that reminded me how much I mattered regardless of where I ended up in life. I cut out the highlighted words and placed them together, and they read like a poem. Finding these old pieces of myself and putting them together in new ways reminded me of The Quilters and how they did much the same thing with the many pieces of fabric infused with their memories.

Sitting there in the closet surrounded by various boxes of valuable clutter, I turned to the concept of piecing words like one would piece a quilt. Blending together elements of old to make a beautiful new. I see quilting as a timeless picture of life, made up of tiny scraps of moments and memories; little stories in the big picture. It is the same with found poetry, which is the name given to piecing cut-out words together to create a new story through imagery.

Inside a quilt nothing is wasted. There is room even for the worn or the ugly. Each piece is a part of the quilt’s identity. Nothing is too shabby to be redeemed. It is all made into a colorful collage of personal history. In found poetry, I have uncovered a new kind of art to appreciate: the art of rediscovery.

The quilters made each story of their lives into a piece of art they could view every day. Why not do the same with printed words? Among the boxes of old letters, journals, and articles about my past, there are stories and prayers waiting to be pieced together into poems. I may have lost touch with identity for a time, yes. But I am reclaiming it, piece by piece, while adding new stories to the picture. I have a whole journal designated for this now. Instead of keeping all my memories collecting dust in boxes, I am putting them to good use by creating personally meaningful art. I look forward to rediscovering myself again and again through found poetry: the quilting of words.


Jamie BagleyJamie values connection, energy, empathy, freedom, and happiness. She believes in the lifelong pursuit of dreams, and will write her heart out to that end. Flowers delight her and trees are her people. She’d love to bond with you over tea and pie, and awkward jokes. You’ll find her writing her heart out at jamiewrightbagley.com, and @jamiebrightley on Twitter.


You can check out the other de(tales) (so far) here.

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A de(tale) about learning to honor all of the pieces of a life, even the shabby ones by @jamiebrightley

"words that reminded me how much I mattered regardless of where I ended up in life." - @jamiebrightley

"I see quilting as a timeless picture of life, made up of tiny scraps of moments and memories" @jamiebrightley

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Success

Success | by Cara Strickland | Little Did She Know

Last weekend I was at a writing conference in Portland. I chose to go, in large part, because Emily Freeman was the headliner, and her book Grace For the Good Girl meant the world to me when I read it, after an impulse check-out at the library. It’s been part of my road to freedom from perfectionism and never quite feeling good enough.

Emily talked, one morning, about success. “If you define success by something you can’t control, you will always feel like a failure.” Like that day many years ago when I read her first book, a lightbulb went off in my head and I started making notes.

She was talking about success in writing and publishing, of course. But as she continued to talk about reasonable goals, and success that is within our grasp, I started to think about how I define success. Without really knowing it, I’ve been defining success by whether or not I’m married or in a relationship.

As soon as I admitted it in my own mind, my heart began to break.

As I’ve found and left jobs in the right time, doing my best in them, innovating, saving money, I have felt like a failure.

As I’ve pursued my love of writing, seeking and obtaining publication, compensation, and consistency, I have felt like a failure.

As I’ve moved out on my own, learning how to take care of all the little pieces of a life, from the car, to the house, to the cooking, I have felt like a failure.

As I’ve done the hard work of therapy, learning about myself and pursuing health in mind, body, and spirit, I have felt like a failure.

As I’ve poured myself into friendships, church, and other wonderful people, I have felt like a failure.

No matter what, in the back of my mind, I couldn’t help but wonder if anyone knew. There were days that I wanted to scream, the anxiety bubbling up so much that I almost couldn’t breathe. When I saw couples walking down the street together, I would feel sick. When exes got married, I struggled against anger. Why were they successful, and I wasn’t?

Of course, all the while I continued to build a wonderful life, successful by many people’s standards, including mine, if I’m honest. Emily’s words exposed an undergirding assumption I’ve carried for too long, a lie that has become far too heavy.

It’s one thing to be lonely, and to wish for a partner. I desire that sort of relationship, and I have no shame about that. Spouses, and friends, and children, jobs, and rest, and creativity are gifts. It makes sense that we desire them. It makes sense that we want good things. What doesn’t make sense is when I tell myself that I’m not successful unless I have them. Not only does it keep me anxious and desperate, but broken-hearted, too, every single day that goes by.

Since letting go of this lie, I’ve noticed that the knot in my stomach which seemed so much a part of me is gone. When I hear those voices making their way into my consciousness, I’m recognizing and contradicting them. I’m letting myself sit with the loneliness, and the doubt that my desire will come to pass. I’m praying anyway.

Instead of defining success by something I can’t control, I’m learning to find things that I can control, and do them. I’m making myself food, hoping to try a new recipe each week, and putting one word in front of another as I write my book. I am finding success in these endeavors.

I used to ask myself the hard question, the one I knew I needed to face. What if I never get married? I was on the way home from the conference when I realized that my honest answer has been: I will have failed. I couldn’t stop the tears from falling.

Maybe marriage and relationship aren’t your definition of success. Maybe it’s parenthood, or your dream job. Maybe it’s freedom, working for yourself, or not working at all. Maybe it’s about money, a book contract, or your name in lights. Let yourselves off the hook, friends. Redefine success for yourself.


For more Single Minded Mondays, click here.

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A Single Minded Monday about success with thanks to @emilypfreeman.

"As I’ve poured myself into friendships, church, and other wonderful people, I have felt like a failure."

"There were days that I wanted to scream, the anxiety bubbling up so much that I almost couldn’t breathe."

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Searching For Sunday {review and giveaway}

photo-1424162539895-29afe3897f11

This week Rachel Held Evans released a new book called Searching For Sunday. When I first found out that Rachel was writing a book about church, I was a little disappointed in a way that surprised me. I’ve struggled with church in the last few years, beginning to sort through some of the pain, much like many in my generation. But at the end of the day, I was forced to blame my reaction to Rachel’s topic on something far less trendy: a book about church sounded boring.

That may be why my advanced review copy sat on my shelf for longer than I care to admit. I took it with me to conferences and on vacation, but I didn’t open it. Until this week.

I’m sorry I waited so long.

This book is for those like me, who are scared to admit that the thought of a book about church might be boring. This book is for those who have been burnt, or bruised, or simply left out. This book is anything but boring.

As much as this is a book about church, this is a book about doubt. It’s about wondering if everything you’ve believed is true, and wondering what you would do if that was the case. I’ve had these thoughts in the last years, months, and days. If we read, in part, to feel less alone, this book accomplished that goal for me.

“There are other people singing words to hymns they’re not sure they believe today, other people digging out dresses from the backs of their closets today, other people ruining Easter brunch today, other people just showing up today.” 

But although this is a story of doubt, it is also an unashamed story of hope. It is the memoir version of what it looks like to continue moving through liturgy, even when you don’t feel the truth of the words in your bones. Rachel wonders, Rachel doubts, but she can’t shake her love for Jesus, or for the church. Neither can I.

“The elements and the meal are identified in different ways: the body of Christ, broken; the blood of Christ, shed; the Bread of heaven, the cup of salvation, the mystery of faith, the supper of the Lamb. But in every tradition I know, someone, at some point, says, ‘Remember.’”

Within these pages, I felt myself relax. Here, I could be myself in all of my anxiety, my questions, my sin, and my hope. My idealism was as at home in this book as my cynicism. (Which is, joyously enough, how I feel about my church).

I had a similar experience with Lauren Winner’s Still, which I read about once a year. There is something especially gracious about a book that allows you to be at ease inside it. I have a feeling that Rachel’s will become a refuge for me to return to many times.

From the first page, my English major heart delighted in the beauty of Rachel’s well-crafted words. She took her time with this book and it shows. The book is structured around the sacraments, but the structure rests around the words like a shawl, they are at home there, not forced to fit.

evansRachel’s reading intertwines with her words, giving me several books to add to my reading list, as well as chance encounters with tried and true friends.

Like me, Rachel has found a home within a more liturgical tradition than the one she was raised in. I couldn’t help but be impressed by the gracious way she talked about the churches of her youth. There are no bad guys in this book. 

Like all stories about church, this is a love story, complete with break-ups and references to Taylor Swift. It’s bittersweet, wistful, thankful for the steps along the way (even the hard ones). It’s a book brimming with faith. It’s a book to call you home, even if you’re not sure you belong there.

I’m delighted to be giving away three copies of this book on behalf of the publisher. You can enter below.

 

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"It’s a book to call you home, even if you’re not sure you belong there." a review of @rachelheldevans #SearchingForSunday

A review of #SearchingForSunday by @rachelheldevans (and a giveaway)!

"Within these pages, I felt myself relax." a review of #SearchingForSunday (and a giveaway).

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de(tales): ducky

Nicole is a voice of freedom in my life. We met through an online community of writers at a time when I was learning to embrace my body in all of its human-ness. We got to hug and chat too briefly last February at a conference. She never ceases to be encouraging on that front (and many others). Besides that, she is a beautiful writer. 

Enjoy, friends. 

de(tales): ducky

As soon as he’d left my hand, I regretted tossing him into the air. Before his little, fluffy wings could flap twice in the bedtime air, her voice rang out to pierce my mother’s heart.

“Mom! Ducky, is one of the family. He’s like my heart on the outside. Be careful!”

Our “Velveteen Rabbit” is a stuffed duck named Ducky. He arrived at our house before my daughter was even born; one of many gifts from friends for our firstborn. We did not choose him nor did we think he would be her favorite. No one gets to choose their favorites, though. Favorites choose you.

He has a music box inside his belly and a handle to pull that stretches his little body long and lean. As it contracts back to its chubby resting shape, a lullaby plays. This was his first key into her life.

See, our oldest had a terrible time sleeping. Call it colic or call it torture, but she would cry herself into a frenzy every night no matter what we did. We found order and a way to count the time by pulling that little musical cord inside Ducky.

Each pull was a manageable time to survive. We could do anything for one length of the lullaby. Hold her for one lullaby. Let her cry for a lullaby. Sit on the floor and let myself cry for one lullaby. Stand over the crib praying reminder-prayers that she is God’s child not mine and He is using all things for good… even this… for one lullaby. Hold her tense, little body and Ducky close together on my chest for one lullaby.

Repeat again and again.

As time went on and she eventually learned to soothe herself to sleep. She gained control of her limbs and used that power to hold tight to Ducky. Her full, little fingers rubbed Ducky’s silky neck ribbon. This was his second key into her life: that little, silky ribbon. Rub back and forth. Back and forth. Rhythm. Sensation. Comfort.

Years of comfort were in that little yellow ribbon. Through nighttimes and dentist chairs, long car rides and family pictures, Ducky was there – always there to comfort and protect.

He has been her courage – truly, her “heart on the outside.”

It’s been many years since I could so flippantly toss his once-yellow body through the air and onto a bed, and ten years since we first met. Now threadbare and brown, Ducky stays home most days. He rests on a handmade bed of scraps of fabric, single socks, and borrowed scarves – a prince among stuffed paupers.

He prays with us each night before bed, going first and speaking through my daughter’s falsetto voice. He is real, as real as the mother-to-little-ones that I was these last ten years.

I see in Ducky’s faded color and the holes forming around the words “Ducky Kisses” on his chest, the time and wear I have experienced. All the days of love, demands, sticky hands, cuddles, and rough play have passed in that miraculous way – where each day is an eternity and each year is just a brief moment.

I see in Ducky my own becoming. Being loved by a child changes you. I too have changed colors and show holes around my words. My stuffing doesn’t always stay in place. But I am more real than ever before – more vulnerable, beautiful, brave, and loving.

:::

“Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’

‘Does it hurt?’ asked the Rabbit.

‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.’

‘Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’

‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

― Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit


Nicole RomeroNicole Romero created Love and Making It {a course in beauty & intimacy}, will cross oceans to see you believe your own beauty, and leads a thriving arts ministry in Southern California. As a blogger and speaker across the country, Nicole spends her time creating rich conversations around hard topics like leadership, faith, doubt, relationships, and what it means to live with a full spirit in a real body.  Nicole is also very good at relaxing with her family… and eating Nutella. Get to know her at 1000Strands.com and on Twitter at @nicoletteromero – Everything is connected.

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"He has been her courage - truly, her "heart on the outside." @nicoletteromero

"We could do anything for one length of the lullaby. " @nicoletteromero

"No one gets to choose their favorites, though. Favorites choose you. " @nicoletteromero

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Monday

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Significant Others

Significant Others

If we’re getting to know each other over dinner or a cup of coffee and you ask me about my greatest fear, I might say something about spiders or snakes and giggle a little. But then, I’ll pause and tell you that my greatest fear is that I will be single always.

I don’t love the way this insecurity winds itself around my heart, holding me in its thrall. I don’t love the sick feeling in the pit of my stomach when I think about my relational state, or the desperation that seems to flow through me like panic from time to time.

This is what my greatest fear feels like from the inside.

There are many scenarios that reside within that fear. This weekend, I experienced one of them when my starter died, slowly, during a road trip, leaving my car dead in Portland.

If I had to choose a stressful scenario to top my list, this one would be ideal.

As I began to walk through the situation, I didn’t do it alone. My friend Hope was with me, planning only to have a cozy lunch. Instead, in addition to lunch, she was the one to wait with me for roadside assistance, accompany me to Costco, watch me purchase a battery I didn’t need, and eventually help me decide to abandon my car overnight.

Another friend from the conference picked us both up, helping us get where we need to go. Yet another drove me to meet the tow truck in the morning, and walked with me through the trip to the dealership and the repair.

I wasn’t alone for a step.

In the three hours between the gas station in Kennewick, where I discovered the problem, and Portland, I began to speak angrily (and tensely) to God. Intellectually, I knew that things wouldn’t have been materially different had I been in a relationship or marriage. I would still have traveled to Portland for the conference alone. My starter gave out as many things do: with no warning. I would still have been driving down the road in a state of worry, hoping that I would make it, the words of the man who had jumped my car still ringing in my ear: you’d better hope your battery makes it. It could die at any time. 

I knew that marriage wouldn’t have changed anything, but I couldn’t help but feel that this incident underscored my singleness. It made me feel single with a capital “s.” I was angry, I was hurt, I was frustrated.

But as the weekend unfolded, my friends took good care of me. They treated me with love, they kept me company, they checked on me via text and phone. They held me in strong, warm arms. This weekend, these were my significant others, and I was unable to imagine a scenario in which having a partner would have been better.

My angry, tense prayers to God were not answered in the way I might hope, I suppose: with lightning and thunder and a man prepared for mutual adoration. Instead, they were answered with people I’ve loved, and spent time getting to know. This love story, this rescue, came in a way I didn’t expect. Little did she know.


For more Single Minded Mondays, click here.

Sharelines:

"My angry, tense prayers to God were not answered in the way I might hope, I suppose" - @littledidcknow

"you’d better hope your battery makes it. It could die at any time. " - @littledidcknow

"I couldn’t help but feel that this incident underscored my singleness. It made me feel single with a capital “s.”

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