Identity, Value and a Vitamix

women-leadersHave you ever noticed that products are known most often by their brand? I own a Hoover. I have a Jetta. I have a whirlpool. I own a Tempurpedic. I have a VitaMix. I go to 24hour. I go to Tim Keller’s. I drink Coke. I think you get the point.

I said nothing about the product of any of the above offerings and my hunch is that you will be able to tell me what the product is, simply by knowing it’s maker.

The brand becomes the product’s identity.

There is a lot of talk about identity in this country. And as I read through my Facebook (a Brand of Social Media) feed, I find that our search and our results are causing a lot of problems. We own false identities as our own and stand our ground. If our identities collide with others who claim a differing identity, then we clash and post stories about threats to our own kind. It grieves me to observe. And, it seems to me, that there are few places to find hope for unity, agreement, grace or love.

Though the metaphor is a bit crude in form and is still being worked out in this brain of mine. I wonder if we can learn a valuable lesson from Brands.

A Hoover is a vacuum. A Jetta is a car. A whirlpool is washing machine. A Tempurpedic – a mattress. A VitaMix – a blender. 24Hour, a gym. Tim Kellor’s  – is a church. Coke a beverage made with particular ingredients.

Identity: That by which something is defined and from which receives it’s value.

Okay, I’m going to get just a little brainy for a second.

We identify things by their definition – a Vitamix is a blender and identity is a value source – A VitaMix is known for being an amazing blender. The definition is its actual being and its value comes from how well it lives into its defined self. VitaMix gives the definition and value.

As humans this is super tricky. We do this with each other all of the time. I am Cari a single female, with blondish brown hair, of a certain height and weight, who performs certain tasks and owns and doesn’t own various products.

I am defined then by the fact that I am a person. And I seek to obtain my value from my performance as such. See how that can go south real fast? Who can measure up? What human could possibly measure up? We are a varied race… how then does that play out? We have varied beliefs, What then?

As humans we are fighting for our value. We strive to earn it. We yell to obtain it. We push and shove and insult others and kick and scream to be seen and heard, because our hope is found in one day obtaining value that will fill us…  me.. up to completion.

This battle can not be won. When I am in charge of my own identity or I outsource it to the opinions and thoughts of others I loose.


It is a dead end experiment to find one’s definition and value through self and other created things. Then what? How am I as a human person able to find an identity that will not lead to division, self or others centered hatred, or continual striving?

The answer is, like the brands we looked at earlier, we must look to our Maker, our Creator.

Our Identity as humans, in its truest form, was given to us when humankind was made.

Whether or not you believe in a Creator, imagine with me for a second or two, what if you were designed and it was so good it took your Maker’s breath away? What if your design came straight from him or her and it was perfect in every way? What if your identity had nothing to do with comparison to other created beings? What if your identity was placed and it said you were loved, valued and accepted? What then? How would you live, think, act, relate, disagree, and such?

We keep looking for a new identity story.

But maybe, just maybe…. we need an old one….

In Practice: Look at the brands in your home. What do you know about the value of the products based on their branding? Take a moment and think about your own “branding” from where does your value come?


With or without words

Thought Bubble

Have you ever been through an experience or season where words simply didn’t work? Either they failed to adequately describe thoughts or emotions or they simply were unable to paint an accurate picture of the beauty or pain of a particular experience.

The last two years of my life have felt wordless. Though I used thousands of words, they all felt inept. I had no idea how to describe what I was experiencing, though something felt sacred about the season.

This season abruptly came to an end on Monday. I had a conversation with a wise friend and in it, we both agreed this season, of depth and discovery, had come to it’s natural end. That was Monday.

Today, for the first time in two years I woke up with words.

I don’t know how all of these things work and to be honest I don’t know what words will show up on the page or screen, but I do know that the wordless season has given way into something new.

As you go through a season of rejoicing or lamenting, I pray that you will give yourself freedom to experience the season, speak the words you have and have grace for yourself with the words you only feel but can’t voice. Be where you are… for, eventually the words and understanding will come.

With curiosity for the words to come….


Denver’s Formation for Mission Intensive

Open HandsDenver’s Summer Formation for Mission Intensive:

This is a four week course that will invite you to understand your own formation, equip you with practices that you can incorporate into your life and your daily rhythms and will also give you a new look into what does it mean to live out of our formation as person of blessing in the world, in everyday mission. The learning will be in groups, individual coaching and self-driven practices to incorporate at home and where you work and play.

We will learn from one another along the way. Our main text will be the book of Mark, the Creation narrative and a few books or blogs that you will read on your own (recommended reading, not all necessary)

There will be optional learning experiences during the month as well, to learn from others in the Denver area who live out of their own formation in mission. A list of those will be made available when you register for the Intensive.

The Information Basics

 Dates: Groups will meet every Tuesday and Thursday between July 12 and August 4

If you are able to join a morning group it would be from 9-11 or an evening group offered from 6-8 *You will need to choose either the morning or the evening group for the duration of the month, unless otherwise worked out with Cari before hand.  Individual work: one day a week practice in your own space and rhythm

Content: Tuesdays will hold content on Identity and Formation

Thursdays will hold content on Mission as we will study Mark and the verbs of Jesus

At home practices that will help you engage the places you live work and play through the eyes of your formation in Jesus

Location: There will be various locations based on time and content.

If you choose to join us, the information will be sent to you before we begin on July 12.

Cost:   The intensive will cost $250. If you need information on scholarships, please      email me at

A Guide to Surviving Christmas for those who are single and those who love them: Part 4


I’m having the most difficult time with this particular blog post. Writing to those who love the unmarried feels deeply vulnerable. It involves uncovering my feelings, saying what I need, owning what I want and trusting others, those who love me in particular, with it. 

I could write a general blog post where I speak about these things in comfortable ways, but that feels dishonest in a series where I’ve already uncovered more of my self than that which I’m really comfortable. And, I can only write about what singles need to thrive, based upon my own needs and those who have chosen to disclose what they need to me. Truth be told, the things others have told me they need, for the most part, are what I need too. So I am bumping up against vulnerability walls.

When I get real honest, I mean the kind of honest that feels painful, even though I’m just getting honest with myself, I often don’t know what I need. Like all people, I at times don’t know I have a hope, need or a want for something until that something doesn’t happen. This is what makes it difficult to love someone who is single and meet them in their need and help them thrive. (ACTUALLY, this is what makes it difficult to love someone who exists. Most of us don’t know what we want and therefore it’s hard to meet a need or desire that is unknown. That is a human thing, not a single thing. But, again we are talking about singles here) To survive and even thrive during this season as a single it takes trial and error. It is not static, meaning, what I want this year, might be different than next. 

With all that said here goes…

The Christmas season can be challenging for me. It highlights the fact that I don’t have a family of my own and it can often feel like I get lost in the shuffle. I don’t always know where I belong. Yes, I belong to my family, but by now, I’m the only single sibling and my sisters are both establishing traditions within their own families.

I wonder is it alright for me to make traditions with family that I choose too? Do I get to prioritize my schedule with my friend family the same way that my sisters prioritize time with their family unit? I wonder Mom, Dad? does it hurt you when I do that? I wrestle a lot. I want to show up for everything and at times it feels like I show up for everything and it reminds me that I have little to invite someone else to show up for.

I at times get weary of inviting. There isn’t the same felt weight coming to a dinner party to meet friends, as there is in going to be with another’s family. I also have to work my schedule around others’ children’s plays, performances, school parties, date nights, family nights and the like. All of these are so incredibly important. I don’t get angry about showing up. I don’t feel like people need to stop showing up for their children, spouses and families for me. I don’t feel like it is insensitive to choose to be with your spouse and family. But,I do feel it. And, it can feel like an imbalance. I feel the lack of commonality. I feel the drive too and from places. I feel how different my life looks. Different doesn’t mean bad, it simply means different. And I feel it. 

With family, the traditions and excitement around Christmas involve my niece and nephews. I love it. I love buying them gifts. I love giving experiences. I love creating memories. And, when my sister bundles the kids up to go home with her husband, I get in my car and drive away alone. I don’t always feel it with sadness or with heavy weight, but I always notice. It would be so kind to have someone who notices with me.  (Not with words necessarily, but by leaving with love that is intentional.)

I feel like I miss out on things. I don’t have the firsts that the rest of my family has experienced. I miss out on watching someone I love, with the love of parent to their child or from spouse to spouse, while they open the thought out and uniquely chosen gift I had in mind. (must insert that I know sometimes it is probably hurtful to get an unplanned, not thought out gift. I know it must also be so hurtful to being forgotten by someone or the kids not appreciating what you purchased for them or the stress of making it come together… but this blog is not about those things) Even if I’ve romanticized the idea, I don’t know the difference because I’ve never experienced it.

I also love the traditions I’ve made. I love the plans I make. I love filling my life with rich and good and diverse things and experiences. This doesn’t mean I’m running from something, it doesn’t mean I’m too busy, for me, it means I’m choosing to live. I’d love if you asked me about the things in which I am involved. I’d love for you to know the names of my friends the way I know your husband, wife, and children’s names. I’d love for you to ask how an event was I was throwing and be interested in my life that is. Not the life that isn’t.

Being single isn’t a curse. But it is often ignored and treated like one. When conversations happen around tables and in living rooms and at parties ask me questions about my life. Ask me things that see me as I am, instead of what I’m not.

The best way you can help me, as your single daughter, sister, friend during this season is to see me as I am, love me, and invite me into relationship. Give me space and permission to feel what I am feeling. Remember me. See me. Include me. Let me host something. (Recently I heard of a family who were all traveling to be with the single sibling. The WHOLE FAMILY. It is easier to get one person somewhere, but the impact of an entire family, traveling for the one, validates their adulthood, their home, and says we care about you and it’s important you know you are as important to us to make the effort as it is that you make the effort over and over and over again.)

Even when you think I won’t want to wrap your kids’ presents with you, ask anyway… then, as we are wrapping, ask me about important things having to do with the “children” of my life. Stop by my house. I am telling you, there is almost nothing more meaningful to me than someone making the effort to come to me. I know it takes coordination and you have to bundle up the whole family or wait until the kids go to bed, but that one act will tell me you love me in a very powerful way.

Ask me what I want. If I can’t answer, ask in another way. If I still can’t answer, let me know that my wants are welcome.

Helping a single survive the Christmas Season is simply taking the time to love him or her where they are. As I began this post, I felt vulnerable, but now realize the things about which I’ve been writing are universal in some respect, and by no means are they too much or pathetic. (which is often the fear of the single female)

There are uniqueness to being single for certain, but those uniquenesses do not isolate us. We often choose isolation as a way to cope. It is not your job as the friend of a single to MAKE us feel loved, seen and known. That is actually our work. We are not entitled to special treatment because we are not married. BUT, our needs and experiences are different and thus we might need different things to feel included, loved and known. It is our work to believe in our created image, innate value and to engage life being present to and not trapped by circumstance. It is yours, as our friends and families, to love us as we are. To get to know us, get curious about our lives and experiences and love us with inclusion, effort, and persistence.

No, I didn’t give you 10 ways to love your single loved one. Love isn’t a check list. Jesus as he walked loved by seeing and responding with compassion and then doing something. This Christmas Season pray that you are given eyes to see those in your life, ask that your compassion increases for him or her and when prompted or invited… do something, act and love! 






A Survival Guide to Christmas for Singles and Those who Love Them: Part 3

IMG_0651I love Valentines Day. I know, this post is actually about Christmas, but just go with me on this one.

I. LOVE. Valentines Day.

It is one of my favorite holidays. And, it is a day where most, at least in the US, are focused on romantic love. He thinks about the significant other in his life and she dreams about the outfit she’ll wear for the overly anticipated, highly pressured date. It is a day where romantic relationships are at the forefront and it is day in which, though I have only been in a romantic relationship one time on the holiday (excluding of course 1st grade where I checked the box for YES I will be your girlfriend on every manila valentine I received) I thrive.

The same quality that gives me an incredible delight in a day where Cupid is King and Hallmark sells more movies about love and the pathetically single finally finding their soul mate, is the same quality that allows me to not only survive but thrive during the Christmas season:


Perspective is key.

This is true in all circumstances. Perspective is choosing to believe that God is good in all things, that he is in Charge, that His love for me is beyond comprehension, that He knows me, and He cries with me. He endures along my side. He is for me and beside me. He will always be my rescue. He is always for my good. And, He will always be ready to bless me, even when I am in the presence of my enemy.

There are all kinds of enemies presented during the Christmas Season. Loneliness. Self-hatred. Regret. Disappointment. Despair. Worthlessness. Shame. Rejection. The emotions felt are not the enemies, but the lies told within the feelings are invitations to agreements with the enemy of truth.

When we make an agreement with the lie often whispered in our feelings, our perspective follows.

For instance, when I feel sadness because I have a desire to be married or be a mom and that sadness turns to self accusation, comparison and blame it begins to nudge me to believe, “You are alone. No one sees you. You are worthless. No one will choose you. God isn’t good, He is holding out on you!

When I make an agreement with these phrases, my perspective shifts and I turn inward. I hide or I begin to resent others who have what I want. When I make agreements with the enemy of truth, the enemy of life, I turn away from God, self and others and risk becoming isolated and brittle. 

But, what happens when I choose to feel the sadness and hear the invitation of Jesus?

When I do not allow my circumstances or feelings to dictate my belief, perspective or behavior I can engage the story I am in, holding the truth of God and His good in my life. He is not holding out on me. He is not against me. He has not abandoned me. I was made in His image and my life, right now, has incredible value. I am strengthened by the truth and I know joy. 

It is when I am able to say, “God I am sad, Yet you are good!” that I am able to walk through whatever circumstance and felt emotion with joy, strength, grace and mercy. It is here that I receive the love of the Father, instead of trying to outsource it to someone or something else.  And it is here, where the blessing of Jesus enfolds me and the Holy Spirit reminds me that I get to be a conduit of His blessing in the lives of others.

This is why I love Valentine’s Day and this is why I can love and thrive during the Christmas season. My perspective shifts from being focused on my own felt lack to a perspective of abundance.

God is a God of abundance, not lack.

He gives out of His abundance.

He loves me out of his abundance and he invites me to love others out of the overflow of my connection with him. (read that again)

Because I believe that God is good

and I believe that I am His

and I believe that He has given me the ability to live as a person of blessing in the world,

these days are filled with opportunity to live the Royal Life of a Son or Daughter of a really good King, and, like Jesus, bring his blessing as far as the curse is found. 

This perspective has catalyzed adventure, created in me a sense of belonging and has spread the love of the Father.

Adventures like, On Valentine’s Day I have taken my niece and nephews out. We would go to the store, buy candy, write on Valentine’s Day cards and pass them out to strangers in parks, coffee shops, drop them off at friends and deliver them to neighbors. As we shared a small act of love, I knew joy.

It is simple. When my perspective is based on God’s goodness and my belonging to him, I treat others as I would like to be treated. I do for others, what I would want done for me. 

During the Christmas season I do the same. I take my lack and I ask God to bless it and I step with him to live in His abundance.

This year it looks like this:

  1. I would love to have tea parties with my own children. A little cheesy, yes, but I am cheesy. So, I am hosting a Christmas tea this Saturday for many of my friends’ children. I think there will be close to 30 of us. Shepherds are going to come and tell the story of how they met baby Jesus, we will do a craft and have a snow ball fight with newspaper.
  2. I want to host Christmas parities with someone and fill tables with people. So, a friend and I rented a mansion and are having a dinner for nearly 80 people, to remember, break bread, and reflect on the One who invites us to be Still. We will all get fancied up and I do not have to do it alone. We invited people who might also want the same thing. I think many of those on staff at my favorite coffee shop might join us.
  3. I want to be remembered. So every time I think of someone during this season I do something about it. I write, call, text, comment, tweet, or simply stop by.
  4. I want to feel seen and a sense of belonging to someone. So, I bake for my neighbors, write them each a card and let them know that they are seen and they belong.
  5. I want to go get a Christmas tree with my person. And, I actually get to go cut down a tree with my people. I’m not afraid to be a part of my married friend’s lives and traditions. I participate instead of opt out. (If you want to have a tradition! Create it! If you don’t want to do it alone. Ask someone.)
  6. I love to create experiences for people, because I love to experience things with people. A friend is coming into town and will be doing a home Christmas Concert at another friends home.
  7. I don’t like wrapping presents alone, so I ask others to come and wrap with me.
  8. I am not always a fan of decorating alone and I’ve asked a friend to decorate my tree with me.
  9. I have Christmas card parities, friends over to bake, people over to watch the cheesy Christmas movies and I give myself permission to create the traditions I need, even if my whole biological family isn’t involved.
  10. I go to a midnight carol service, usually alone.
  11. I drive around and look at lights and put on music often alone.
  12. I sit in my favorite leather chair and feel all the feelings, listen to the music, cry the tears the need to be cried and receive the abundance of the Father’s love for me, who so lovingly gave his son to meet us with blessing.

The lie and the curse want to be the reality of my, of your, story and perspective. When I choose to receive the love of the Father for me, when I receive Jesus, my lack becomes an overflow of His abundance and his blessing comes to me and through me as far as the curse is found

Joy To The World

Joy to the world! The Lord is come
Let earth receive her King!
Let every heart prepare Him room

And heaven and nature sing
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven, and heaven and nature sing

Joy to the world! the Savior reigns
Let men their songs employ
While fields and floods
Rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy
Repeat the sounding joy
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy

No more let sins and sorrows grow
Nor thorns infest the ground
He comes to make
His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found
Far as the curse is found
Far as, far as the curse is found

Read more: Christmas Carols – Joy To The World Lyrics | MetroLyrics




A survival guide to Christmas for singles and those who love them. Part 2

11990630_10156175457880004_5643878672051919213_nNow that we’ve established the four weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas can be challenging ones when you’re single lets talk about what that means.

First, there are a few assumptions I make as I write: 1. I know and understand that these four weeks are difficult for many people, not only those who are not married. 2. I understand that not every person who is single has had the same experiences as I am speaking from my own story and that of those who have shared his or her story with me.  3. The difficulty of singleness is not a male or female issue, it crosses genders.   4. I write not to exclude or ignore another’s pain, story or struggle. I know many of the emotions, thoughts and feelings experienced during these four weeks are common across demographics. If you relate to an experience or emotion, let it encourage you, feel seen in your own story and then respond in the way that you know how, from the context of your own life.

With that settled…

A Story:  Saturday night I came home to my empty house. I love my home. It is cozy, has just enough space. It affords me the opportunity to decorate, host and nest which are all very important. I feel safe at home.

This night, I took one step inside and my home felt empty. It greeted me with a rush of emotion and thought with tidal wave force.

I am alone.

I had just come off time with family and friends. I was also feeling all the warm and fuzzy things one can feel as snow is falling and Christmas is in the air. But, something hit. I knew it. I could feel it.

“you are alone!”

“you are invisible”

“you don’t belong to anyone”

And the hits just kept on coming. I searched the corners of my mind to get out. I knew I wasn’t alone. I knew I was seen. I knew that I did and do belong to others. But on this night, as the waves of lies, unmet expectations, and delayed hope crashed against my mind and heart, those were very difficult truths to hold onto .

I sat down and looked through Facebook to see if I could kick myself out of the onslaught, only to be greeted with pictures of friends and their new babies, friends and their husbands, friends and their families, and my angst grew. I love and celebrate these things in the lives of others, but this night, the enemy was using whatever he could to slap me around and get me to walk away from what was true. I put my computer aside.

Like the mature 41 year old that I am, I ran through a list of things I could do to get out of the feelings:

  1. Eat (there’s nothing in the house, I haven’t been to the grocery store in days)
  2. Call a friend (they are out of town and you may not want them to see you in your present condition)
  3. Call an acquaintance to make them a friend (I don’t have the engery)
  4. Do something spiritual (can’t concentrate, and right now I’m irritated with you God)
  5. Join Tinder, Match, EHarmony, Plenty of Fish, JDate, Farmers Only and find someone who will see me… maybe meet them for a drink… maybe they will kiss me… maybe then I won’t feel alone… REALITY CHECK, maybe Cari Jenkins, you need to think about something else
  6. Watch a movie (feel someone else’s loneliness so I don’t have to)
  7. Feel sorry for yourself, pout, think of sad things, build a case for how bad your life is, get mad (Ugh! This is going no where)

After running through more options than I care to list, I sat there, in my leather chair, and said aloud, “Lord, I don’t like that I want to be married. I don’t like doing this alone. I don’t like that I’m sad about this.” I took a deep breath, chose to shut my computer down, put on my favorite Christmas Album and pull out the decorations.

As I put up the decorations I proceeded to feel all the feelings.

I prayed as I hung garland. I was teary as I put out the manger scene. I said with a whisper only God and I could hear, “Please don’t let me do this alone again next year.” I wrote words of truth on the chalk board of my front stoop. And, I turned toward God in the midst of my story. I chose not to hide from the story, but to feel it. To engage all the emotion, to be naked with it before God and myself and be unashamed.

There is no shame in being single and there is no shame in wanting to be married.

I chose my perspective. I chose to feel. I chose to be with Jesus in the midst. I chose to believe. Because – I am never a victim to circumstance.

I posted a photo of my newly decorated home, mostly because I needed to remember what was true, and said,

I rarely choose my circumstance, but I always get to choose my perspective. 

Moments like this are not unfamiliar. They are familiar whether married or single. They surprise us, catch us off guard and altogether too often invite us into making agreements with that which is not true.

To survive the Christmas season, it is important…even imperative, to feel what we feel, to sit with ourselves and Jesus, holding our unanswered prayers, our places of impossibility and our felt hopelessness connecting with the longing within. It is equally important to speak of these feelings and experiences, getting naked before my intimate circles of friends and those who might just understand, and be unashamed.

It is then that we, you and I, get to invite others to hold our stories too. We get to step out of the lonely and step into belonging. We step out of our unbelief and into belief. We hold the simultaneous joy and sorrow of the moment, diminishing neither, nor exalting one above the other and in essence, be human.

We turn our surviving into thriving when we engage our stories with honesty, grace and patience. When we invite others in to our stories and recognize that Jesus, our long expected Savior truly did come to set us free, we live fully.

So today, when tempted to allow your circumstance to dictate your behavior and when ignoring the emotion or thoughts you have that feel unpleasant, take your emotion, whatever it is, and feel it, speak it, and pray it. Sit with it, with Jesus, and experience His love, His kindness, His good, His grace, His tears, His felt absence or His felt presence.  When we choose to feel and engage as we are, we move towards Him. For our longings are always His invitation to relationship. And, when we turn to Jesus and come to him, he meets us, where we are and gives us freedom.

Come Thou Long Expectant Jesus

Come, thou long expected Jesus,
born to set thy people free;
from our fears and sins release us,
let us find our rest in thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation,
hope of all the earth thou art;
dear desire of every nation,
joy of every longing heart.

Born thy people to deliver,
born a child and yet a King,
born to reign in us forever,
now thy gracious kingdom bring.
By thine own eternal spirit
rule in all our hearts alone;
by thine all sufficient merit,
raise us to thy glorious throne.


A survival guide to Christmas for singles and those who love them Part 1

IMG_0748Yesterday I had a conversation with a friend about her holiday plans. She spoke about the dynamics of her experience and at one point said, “It’d honestly just be easier if I took myself on vacation to Mexico and skip the whole thing.” She is in her early 40s and single.

She shared and I felt normal.

It is all kinds of funky being single during the four weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Of course, not all of the time, nor is it for everyone who is not married, but for many these four weeks highlight-with a spotlight as strong as the sun, the fact that one doesn’t have a spouse or a family of his or her own.

Having a single adult in your family is tricky for sure. I mean, you bring up singleness for some and instantaneous walls appear. If you don’t bring it up, for others, you’re insensitive. Maybe you seek to go out of your way to love or do something kind for someone who is single and they feel so much shame about their singleness that your gesture only evokes pain and highlights their place in life. And for others, (this would be my category of choice) there is so much pride about being single and ok, that they close off, power through and never admit what it hurtful or difficult.

Winning, in loving the single in your life, can be difficult.

For me, singleness is a subject about which I think or write begrudgingly. Writing this blog series makes me feel a little like I’m stepping out of the shower for all to see. But, what I know to be true is that there are so many men and women who secretly walk through these weeks, driving to and from parties, decorating, playing with other people’s children and on and off feeling the blaring absence of partnership and a family of their own. My pride, my public image, my desire for people to see me as content in all things without the hint of struggle must not be so loud that I miss the opportunity to encourage and or give a little help to my single friends and their families.

So, I’m coming out.


I am single. I love Advent. I love Christmas. I love the parties, the decor, the sentiment, the awfully predictable Hallmark movies, the Norman Rockwell ideal, the beauty, the stillness, the gathering, the quiet, the noise, the opening, the buying, the giving, the dressing up, the music, the majesty… I love it all. I soak it all in becoming like a child in awe of watching snow fall for the first time. It enraptures me.

And, Simultaneously

I feel alone. I long. I watch others care for their spouses and children and feel the absence of both in my life. I wonder if this will be the last year I’ll put up decorations alone. I buy presents for other people’s children that I love so deeply, and wonder if I’ll ever buy presents for my own. I understand the longing of Advent. I have to choose a perspective of hope and light and joy and love. I at times feel invisible. I drive to my family and  make plans based on their individual families experience and traditions. I seek to build my own traditions with friends and family, and am not guaranteed my traditions will always be the traditions of others as their families grow and change.

The holidays are a juxtaposition of light and dark. Loneliness, desire, longing, and unmet expectations are a part of every human’s journey. I do not know every human’s journey. I do, however, know mine. And so it is my hope, that as I share, that we will be encouraged as a people, to love others well, to own our own stories and not avoid what is painful but to learn to be present with the pain and the joy. (Thank you Inside Out and Pixar for the reminder) and know how to speak what we need.

So, over the next few days I’ll write about the story I know. Sharing both the good and the difficult and give a few suggestions to those of us who are not married how to engage the season well as well as give a few ideas for those who love us how to love us well. In the end, I’ll feel naked, and like Adam and Eve in the very beginning, feel no shame (or at least that is the hope). And maybe, you might feel seen, not as alone in your experience, or perhaps you might have a better idea of how to love others well too.





I was cold today. This is a new sensation for me in Altea. In my previous experience I was hot every day, all day. Today the sea breeze was cool and chilled each of us. Some how, we each last minute threw in a sweater or jacket just to be safe. I remember packing a yellow sweater and thinking I was crazy, “I’ll never wear that!” Today, I wore just that.

I walked the stairs again for the first time. Though, they are many, part of me couldn’t wait to concur them and build them into the routine of my day. Walking, movement and exercise are part of the gift of this place to me. This past year the movement I experienced was in my heart and not in my body. In many ways, it felt my body became paralyzed as I began addressing my heart in a new way. I had enough energy to feel, but not to move. I’m glad to be in a place where movement is a necessity and not a privilege.

Today I walked to buy stamps, make copies, purchase some materials for the group who will soon be arriving, and say hi to friends with whom I wanted to commit. I didn’t have to ask where I was going, I love knowing how to maneuver the streets which two years ago felt more like a maze than a grid of any kind. As I showed Stephanie and Cate around I felt as though I was introducing them to my town. We wove in and out and up and down, my resting face is a smile as I walk.

As the errands were run I would walk into the stores and immediately approach the person behind the counter as though I was from a small town in the Midwest. I’d smile and start talking. I of course know very little Spanish, but like Cate and Steph observed and recanted to me later, I talk as a local, an expert and completely confident in my language skills. I do not allow a measly little fact like I don’t actually speak Spanish get in the way of me making friends and having a conversation. There are too many words to be spoken and heard to let such an insignificant fact get in the way. Truth be told, I do have conversations, but I so long to be fluent. I so badly want to hear the tiny details of one’s heart and the visions of the mind. My concentration is such that I weary myself by days end from language acquisition alone. I will one day be fluent. I don’t know when or how, but I will become fluent. This is a fact.

We had staff meetings on the Terraza this afternoon. Together we listened to the story of Edge and the story of Arianna, Edge’s founder. We then went over the calendar of logistics for the next month. The calendar is full. As soon as the students arrive our days will be filled with relationships, creating, teaching and walking alongside a group of up to 30 participants at one time. I am excited and after the logistical meeting, feel grateful we have one and ½ more days until the first person’s arrival. There is still much to be accomplished. Finishing up the details feels like squeezing the final clown in an overstuffed Volkswagen Bug. It will all get done, but the final push takes a little effort.

I moved into my home for the month tonight. It is perfect. The staff will all be staying together. It sits right in the middle of the oldest part of town and the most vibrant. We are surrounded by cafés and one of my favorites, which my friends Sara and David own, can be seen from my window. I sit in my bed as I type, hearing chatter below. It matters not that it is in Spanish, restaurant chatter, in whatever language, all sounds the same and holds the same relational energy. Forks and knives hit the plates, glasses clink as toasts are made, chairs are moved and laughter echoes. I love it all. When I look down I see those gathered at the outdoor cafes and when I look up I see the Old Church, for which Altea if famous. She is a beautiful building, which holds a story so rich in history it dates prior to the Spanish Inquisition and the Crusades. I look at her and feel small. She has seen so very much, her story is grand and old and full of terror, grief, joy, sorrow, destruction and resurrection. I find comfort in her presence and remind myself that I too belong to a grand story.

A cat runs across the roof of a neighboring house. Birds fly to their nests tucked into the rounded terracotta tiles, roofing each home. Geckos scurry across building surfaces and pigeons with painted wings nest on near by roof tops. Everything has color. Every where I see life.

After we settled into our house we hosted our first meal. Seven of us sat on top of our roof sharing stories for hours. We laughed, cried, shared joys, difficulties and sorrows. We told our stories to remember good and to step into the stories of those with whom we’ll serve for the next four weeks. It is a beautiful thing to see strangers become friends through storytelling. Tonight was no different. Just over 24 hours ago, most everyone on staff was a name on a shared email list. And tonight, we are friends, brothers and sisters and coworkers living out of blessing to be blessing.

I no longer breathe out difficulty to breathe in good, but both breaths are filled with good.

We ended the night recalling the story of Joshua 4 and the Israelites crossing the Jordan and building an alter to remember all that God has done. I write this email with the same intent. I write to remember. I write to include you in my remembering. I write to invite you into the story of what is taking place here.

Thanks for remembering with me. What do you want to remember from this day? Take time to share it.

The Sea


The sea is a constant here in Altea. Altea nestles into the Mediterranean and takes on its life and rhythm. Tonight the sea is peaceful and quiet. Any noise that is above the subtle sound of the sea’s movement stands out like yellow on a black wall. I am sitting on the balcony of one of the five homes that have been rented throughout Altea for our group this summer. I feel at peace here.

One of my very favorite aspects of the sea is its color. It is an ever changing patchwork of blue. The colors change with the mood of the sky and are made brilliant by the light of the sun. The sea itself is constant, but the way it looks changes. Today the sea was a brilliant blue, a bright turquoise, grey and a smattering of dark navy, sky blue and sea blue. Each time I encountered the sea it told a different story.

Because I often see life as metaphor the sea has been my teacher. I have seen Creator God in the sea. He is constant. He is mighty. He is peaceful. He is always there. He changes in appearance but not in character. We, who live in Him, reflect Him. Therefore, He too is seen in a patchwork of beauty.

I am invited into the sea’s story. I watch it every day and am enraptured by it. I can’t wait to dive into it and swim in the life that is to be had in its flow.

I desire to be one who reflects the brilliant color of the sea. I want to reflect the image of my Creator. I want to live in the juxtapositions of permission given by the sea. The constancy and the change. The ever present and the grey. The steady power and the brilliant blues.

God does not invite us into a story that is bland and one dimensional, He is multifaceted and He, like the see holds more than one truth at the same time. This past year, I was learning to live in the reality that I hold grief and joy. I hold with in me the hope found in a constant present God and the profound dark that lies within life’s experiences. I know the depths of loneliness and the fact that I am consumed by Him and His ever present nature.

My experience of God is like my experience of the sea and here in Altea, He shows Himself to me every day.

A day that would fill a week


The stories of today feel as though they would fill a week of stories. As I walked through the town my senses were peaked remembering much of the brick streets, white buildings, and sea breeze. I love the sound of the sea, the familiar faces, the language that is a mystery but becoming more familiar with each day. When I’m here I feel alive. When I am here I feel as though I play.

Relationships are remarkably important in this culture. All things pause for people. In my time here I get to invest in people, all day. (I get to invest in me too.) It is beautiful and life giving. I know that God is doing work in all places and to be partnering with Him in this place is such an incredible privilege.

This place agrees with me.

Soon I will have a group of just over 30 individuals from the States who will be eager and ready to learn, experience, explore and engage. I will be a bit more divided in attention, as I will want to spend time with my Spanish friends, the students, other group participants and staff. I know that the time here will go quickly. It is important for me to make use of the time I have, receiving the blessing of the Father to be a blessing to those with whom I come in contact.

Tomorrow I will wake to another day filled with good. I will wake to adventure, to connection with God and people, to a feast for my senses and to expectation of seeing God display His good throughout the hours.

“When I awake I am with you.” Psalm 139:18

Tomorrow, take some time and see how the Lord is also with you. Where do you see Him? How do you experience Him? Blessings be upon your sight today.