The Belong Tour: I’m a Conference Junkie

You have to know that I’m a conference junkie. I’m a 100% auditory learner, which is maybe an exaggeration since I do most of my learning through books, but still. I’m a lecture-lover at my core. Talk to me with your stories and your bullet points and your sound bytes of glorious quotability, and I will be yours forever. It’s a proven theorem.

I went to the Belong Tour this weekend. It’s the Christian women’s spinoff of Women of Faith. It’s the same formatting (and perhaps the same white chairs on stage), all now rewritten and structured for the rising generation of women thinkers and leaders. In other words, far less humor about hot flashes and menopause, more guidance about thinking and dreaming and becoming, all rooted in the agreement that every woman gets a seat at this table.belong

The women on that stage and on this tour are seriously some of my favorites on the planet. There’s Shauna Niequist, whom I just really want to invite me over for dinner. I want her conversation, her laughter, and all of her recipes. I feel like we can BoyMom it up together.

There’s Patsy Clairmont, who’s a combination of your wise, darling grandma and your colorful, eccentric art teacher. (My friend Sarah leaned over to say, “Don’t you feel like you want her to be your grandma?” Well, since I’ve been traveling to ‘visit her’ once a year for the last decade, I do kind of actually feel like she is my grandma.)

There’s Jen Hatmaker, who is every girlfriend’s best girlfriend. She’s who we need, you guys. Peter recently called me out on some Jen-Hatmaker-hero-worship. I am prayerfully considering this respectful admonition, but not in any drastic ways like fasting from her books or any such nonsense. And anyway, I prefer to refer to my practice of study as “learning from a mentor in my field,” thank you very much.

It’s possible that Jen Hatmaker’s talk resonated also with anyone other than me, since she very well owned the stage, made us laugh, and set us all in motion to take ourselves and our gifts seriously. But I’m not kidding when I say that I felt like she was talking just to me. She talked laughably about her many early years of writing books nobody read, and she set me free to put my yes on the table, to simply show up for my own life with the gifts God has given me, and to trust him with the outcomes.hatmakerimg_3791

I wrote voraciously, taking notes like a wild woman and storing it all in my heart.

And then she quoted Marianne Williamson, in A Return to Love, and I sat up straight like a sunflower facing the sun, letting the truth wash over me and set my confidence free.

She said,

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

We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be?

We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.”

Well, that’ll preach. Actually, it did. Quite fantastically.

When Strong Women Do Great Things

“When strong women do great things, they have to do what it takes for everyone to be taken care of.” ~ my friend, Diana

I serve on a team with Diana as we host a monthly event for women. (It’s something I’d love for you to come to if you are: a) anywhere near the Denver area, and b) a woman, but that’s a different conversation.) Diana leads, I teach, another woman plans all the connectivity, yet another one plans hospitality, and then we open the doors and women find each other. It’s awesome.

So we were trying to plan a meeting so we could debrief from last month and plan next month, but it’s never easy to do with jobs and kids and families and all the things. Then one of the women said, “Well, I think I could meet Thursday afternoon. The worst case scenario is I’ll have to bring my little boy.”

It’s a common, everyday problem among moms of preschoolers, and Diana’s response was wonderful and gracious and worth repeating. First, she gave all the grace for Jennifer to bring Mason, and then she said:

When strong women do great things, they have to do what it takes for everyone to be taken care of.”

Don’t you just love that? I do.

I want to write it on everything, on behalf of the strong women doing the hard things and making sure all the everyones are taken care of. It’s not small thing and it’s not an easy gig.

I’m fairly confident that we’re all strong people doing great things. I always have more grace for the person in front of me when I remind myself that we are each doing our personal best.

And let’s be honest: there’s a lot of “everyone” to be taken care of.

Do what you need to do in the way you need to do it with the information and resources you have.  That’s all there is, strong girl.


An Open Letter to Jeremy Hubbard and Fox31 News: The Night You Put My Kid on the News

Dear Jeremy Hubbard,

Last night you featured my nine-year-old son Tyler on your 9:00 news segment.  And I have just a few things I need to say.

(Watch the news feature Here.)

1512102_10202400139512179_1294974595_oWhen my two sons lost their dad before they were in kindergarten, I set about on an unwanted mission. “They must know their story,” I promised myself1617702_10202400116831612_250502263_o. “I have to know that they can tell this story like their own, because it is theirs. This is their one childhood, he was their dad, and they need the skills to carry this story.”

My children were so very heartbreakingly young to face a giant called Death, and in the grips of my own grief, I knew implicitly that I must help them understand what happened and who they are in the shadow of this valley.

Six years later, Tyler attended Camp Erin a few weeks ago, a grief camp for children dealing with the loss of someone they love, and your team from Denver’s Fox31 attended the weekend as well to share the story of a camp that’s helping mend their broken hearts. When I picked up Tyler at the end of the weekend, the camp director told me you had zeroed in on Tyler and his best buddy Sean, that they may be the featured focus of the story. And so we waited to see what that might look like.

Jeremy, were the power vested in me, I would grant you a Peabody for the exquisite work of this feature.

We huddled together on the couch to watch your story unfold last night. Tyler and I held hands under the blanket, squeezing back and forth each time we saw him on TV or heard his name. At first, it was a magical novelty, almost his name in lights. But then something else began to happen, a different magical something that’s the dream of parenting. You let me see who my son is when nobody’s watching, when he forgot there was a microphone was tucked inside his hoodie.

tylerimg_3772When he whispered to Sean, “Think of a memory you have of your dad. Every dad has to be strong and smart. Your dad was strong and smart. You are strong and smart. He is always with you.” Then to watch Sean take the stage and share a memory—and conquer a fear—and to hear Tyler whisper, “Sean! C’mere! You did it!”

To understate it, I was simply undone.

“Every dad has to be strong and smart.

Your dad was strong and smart.

You are strong and smart.

He is always with you.”

~ Tyler



Who was this child, the encourager and confidante? This expert grief counselor at age nine, leading like he had a voice and loving like nobody was watching? Who was this child who knew his story, who had learned to comfort others with the comfort he had received? You said it yourself: “Tyler, the redhead, is a very special kid. We knew it from the moment we met him.”

What a daunting task before you, to do justice to the camp, the grief, the losses, and most of all, to the children. But you did it. You featured their stories with so much dignity and grace.

Yes, you showed the arc of a story, but somehow and far greater, you showed the arc of courage between two boys who know more than children should have to carry.

Holy goodness… How did you do that?

I’m telling you, I want to fashion a Peabody with my own two hands just so I can make sure you get one. I don’t think that counts in the world you travel in, but I’m not above such lengths.

And to both you and your co-anchor, Aristea Brady, thank you for letting your raw emotion show in response to such stories. (Clearly, you had no choice.) Jeremy, you spoke my son’s name around a lump in your throat, and Aristea, you cried on the air for your husband’s loss, for the losses of these children, and for the beauty of this piece for the world to see. I cried with you both. We all did.

I am humbled and thankful. You have done well.

With all the thanks for a story told,


* * *

To support Shimmering Wings, and help send more children to Camp Erin, visit their website.

Football, Concussions, and Parenting

It would have been great if we could have made it just a few more weeks (or longer… longer would have been great, too) into football season without a concussion. But here we are, sitting in a room with no light, no stimuli, and no fun, while Tucker recovers from a fall and blow to the head at Tuesday night’s practice.


Dear people who worry about concussions and therefore hate youth football:

I know. I hear you.

I read your emails, I see your text messages, and I hear it in your voice. Concussions are serious situations, and we’re taking this seriously. He’s been seen by his doctor, he’s on bed rest and brain rest, and we’re entering slowly and cautiously into the thinking

Also, football is in my son’s blood just like writing is in mine. He’s going to play whether he’s on a team or not, whether I endorse it or not, and whether I want him to or not. So I’m embracing reality, getting him the training and coaching he needs, and allowing margin in our lives for a recovery like this one. 

“But you should take him off the team,” some say. 

“But that would crush his spirit in ways you can’t understand,” I say.

Also, this particular concussion could have happened with any sport, since he fell backward and wasn’t involved in any kind of tackle or helmet-to-helmet contact.

Also, there is more concussion awareness than ever before, both on the field and off.

Also, I can’t protect him from everything.

It is no small thing to love a football player.

Thank you for your love and concern and concussion awareness. For now, under the advisement of doctors, coaches, and the conversations of my marriage, my kid will stay on the team.

All the love,



There. With that said, let’s move on, please.

One of the best things about my job is that sometimes I get to read and endorse works of art that will later become bound books on shelves, and now they are piles of paper and thousands of words strung together with careful planning and design. They will later be out in bookstores and the world, and I get to hold them while they are still in utero. On a few books in the world, my name is on the back with words that say something like, “You should read this. It’s good.” (Although far more eloquent and specific and inviting and intriguing.)

I have the pleasure right now of reading the pre-printed version of Long Days of Small Things: Motherhood as a Spiritual Discipline, by Catherine McNiel. It’s coming out in March, and I can already tell you that it’s a nugget of goodness for moms. (I almost said ‘young moms’ or ‘moms of small children,’ but here I am reading it while my son is needing great patience and care, and this book is holding my weary self together.)

Here’s the quote I needed today:

“Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control—we may not realize it, but a harvest is being formed in our souls as we ebb and flow through sleepless nights and chaotic days. Just as certainly and invisibly as the seeds in my garden somehow turn into carrots and potatoes out of sight, below the surface, our spirits are being formed in the secret corners of motherhood.”

Yes. This.

I’m in that place of having my tall boy beside me, day in and day out, during nighttime watch and daytime healing. (And he’s hungry all.the.time.)  It’s a quotient of quality time that he and I haven’t done in a while. In some ways, it’s precious and sweet and fleeting. And in other ways, it’s just a lot for both of us. So when I don’t have a few moments today to spend in the ways I planned (or wanted) (or needed), I bring these words to mind.

Motherhood, by its very constant nature, is a spiritual discipline.

This dark family room, where my child and I are letting his precious brain heal, is the place where love grows.

You are a Verb.

I am in the sweet eye of the storm in the book writing process, that window of time after I’ve sent my manuscript to my editor but before she has sent it back. I had been writing with ferocious intensity for weeks upon weeks, and now there’s a gentle and gradual—and temporary—lift of deadlines.

After I’ve met a deadline, I spend a little time spinning, like I don’t know how to slow down and I kind of don’t know what to do with myself. I always tell myself with grand authority, “Perhaps today I shall think about nothing. That sounds inviting.” But shortly after that I remember that I know myself, and ‘thinking about nothing’ isn’t what I do. I am far more likely to think about everything.

In this sweet window of sitting up straight and finding myself again, I’m listening to Elizabeth Gilbert’s podcast called Magic Lessons. It’s born from her book Big Magic, one of my favorite reads of 2015. Liz is a leading thinker on the intricacies of creating, the beauty of it all, and the courage to live and create fearlessly. In each of her sessions, she interviews an artist who is stuck in one way or another. Sometimes they are afraid to go public with their art, or afraid to tell their story out loud, or afraid they’re not good enough, or afraid of failing, or afraid of succeeding.

Most always, they are in one way or another paralyzed by fear.

She listens to them with so much compassion, and then she gives them a homework assignment to jumpstart their process. Then Liz consults with one of her colleagues in the field who’s already doing what this artist wants to do. Together, they lift the injured artist’s eyes to the sky, remind them that they matter and their work is valid, and they inspire new art to become.

Liz interviewed a young poet who had been denied acceptance to more than ten MFA programs. Ouch. This girl had done what so many of us fear: she put her work out there to be accepted or denied, and she was denied. Repeatedly.

Liz sought counsel from poet Mark Nepo. On the podcast, Mark said that one of the great interesting things about art is this: when someone recognizes an ability in us, they tell us “to become that.”

If someone hears you singing to yourself with pure loveliness, they say, “Oh, you should become a singer.”

If you express yourself well, someone says, “You should be a writer.”

When they see what you’re good at, they say, “You should be a _______.”

Mark says, “The world tells you to become a noun. And the vitality of life is in staying a verb.”

The truth is that you already are that, because you’re already doing that. The world tells you to become what you’re already doing. But that’s because the world is most comfortable with nouns. They want to turn you into a noun, when the truth is that you are a verb.

She said, “Don’t get so busy preparing for your life as a writer that you forget to write.”

Which is ironic, since in my case, the verb is the noun. (How I love to play with words.)

Be devoted to the craft. Be devoted to keep growing.IMG_3719

(Whatever you’re doing today, be a verb. It’s where the good stuff is.)