Can You Go Home Again?

I Will Be Discovering One Answer

Everyone has to leave home eventually (although I do know one fella who never did, he just outlived his parents!). Perhaps what differs is the manner in which we leave.

What was it like when you left home? Did you launch happily, feeling supported and connected, or did you burn rubber on your way out? In my case, an unfortunate event — or yes, a series of them — catapulted me into the ether and sent me into free-fall.

Perhaps some of you have a story similar to mine — you found yourself loving Jesus, but not the church that introduced you to him, and you had to escape. (more…)

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Congregations, Maximize Your ROI

if you love your pastor, send her away!

As I’m putting together a Holy land pilgrimage for next March, so many pastors have told me they would love to go but simply can’t afford it. I understand the reality of finances. Pastors are not highly paid (which is an understatement). Most of them do the work with a great deal of love and drive, but very little fiscal reward.

Unfortunately, when churches refuse to help their pastors go on pilgrimage, they are overlooking a great return on their investment. There are significant benefits when a church sends their pastor to the Holy Land. I wrote about my own pilgrimage experience for EerdWord in 2012, and the article is still timely: When a Pastor Becomes a Pilgrim.

In terms of investment, think of it this way — (more…)

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My review of “When the English Fall”

I was pleased to review a debut novel for the Presbyterian Outlook. The author, David Williams, is a colleague — the pastor who succeeded me at Poolesville Presbyterian Church. Do you like 1) Amish fiction and/or 2) dystopian fiction? If so, this is a must read!

Reading the News Without Caffeine

When Heart Palpitations Make Sense

I come from a long line of coffee-drinkers. My parents drank coffee with every meal and frequently in between. At age 16 I started drinking it too, following my mother’s advice to forego any sweetener. Coffee-drinking is a lifetime activity so its best to fend off those spoons-full of sugar.

For decades the earthy aroma and flavor of coffee has provided my life a smell-track and taste-track. The activity of brewing and drinking coffee has provided a rhythm — as a waitress pouring at breakfast restaurants, as a pastor sipping at kitchen tables, as a writer with a cup perpetually cooling beside me. (more…)

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Thoughts on Longevity

Celebrating 33 Years of Marriage at a Gordon Lightfoot Concert

Doug and I had already made plans for our anniversary, but then I saw that Gordon Lightfoot was playing an intimate concert on our actual wedding date. Could we pass up that opportunity?

In my memoir I recount how Doug and I sang “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” as we paddled about on Lake Superior in a canoe on the weekend we met. Those two crooning young people still live in our memory, even if they have passed into middle age! And can you believe that Gordon Lightfoot is still performing at age 78, even after life-threatening illnesses?

I cancelled our plans for a night in the Northern Neck and bought the tickets. The Birchmere is an unusual place, for true music fans. The seating is general admission so you have to arrive early. Once you’re in the venue, you’re seated at tables and can order food and drink, so there’s the conviviality of eating a meal together. I loved meeting the people around us. (more…)

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My Unpublished Chapter: Skin in the Game

One of the chapters in my memoir manuscript was pulled before publication because it mentions the “hot topic” of abortion. I was upset that the chapter was cut because it relates an important part of my story —  the moment I decided to leave the church of my upbringing.

But eventually I understood that the publisher wanted to give my work its best chance. They knew their readers would be likely to boycott anything that was open to the possibility of abortion, even in the aftermath of sexual assault.

Now that my memoir has been out in the world for almost a year — wearing a sticker that says it won an award from the evangelical flagship, Christianity Today — it’s time to circle back to that missing chapter.

Sojourners, which is a Christian magazine from the progressive side of things (because there are many ways to be Christian), published the chapter as a stand-alone essay in their August issue. It’s titled “Skin in the Game.” Read it here.

Influence: Do you have it? Do you want it?

"Influencers," the writing vocation, and a tipi

The radiating lines of the tipi remind me of ripples in a pond, a way to picture “influence.” My photo, taken at an exhibit about the Blackfeet nation near Glacier NP.

Perhaps you’ve run across this unlikely noun: Influencer.

I heard it often during my last book launch. My publisher asked me to create a list of people who were in a position to influence others to read my book — writers, bloggers, pastors, and Good-readers. At first it was excruciating. I hated the idea of asking others to use their influence on my behalf. But I also understood why I needed to ask. Social media makes it possible for well-positioned people to influence buying behavior.

The word Influencer still feels non-grammatical to me, but I’ve come to see that my problems with the word are not purely grammatical. My discomfort goes straight to the heart of my vocation as a writer — and whether my work deserves to be supported. (more…)

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A Few Pics from Our Trip to Glacier NP

what a privilege to travel with my husband & my mother!

Mom, in her tiny sleeper car on Amtrak’s “Empire Builder”


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In the Dental Hygienist Chair

body memories of grief

Do you sometimes have body memories — that is, memories triggered by bodily experiences?

Today I sat down in a dentist chair, opened my mouth for Abby, my dental hygienist, and was pierced by grief and a sense of doom.

My body seemed to recall — more clearly than my mind — a teeth cleaning exactly one year previous. I had just gotten word that my father’s health was declining rapidly — in fact, he skipped church, saying he didn’t feel up to it. When I heard he skipped church I knew things were serious. (more…)

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Sometimes Topics Choose Us. Period.

bleeding women & menstrual hygiene

Ever since I was a little girl I wanted to be a writer. I just never imagined I would write about rape. Instead, I imagined traveling the world to research “The 25 Most Adventurous Vacations,” or maybe I’d create a brightly colored board book about baby hippos who wear polkadot tutus. I thought writing would be full of excitement, fun and whimsy!

But sometimes our life’s journey makes other choices for us. Choosing to be happy means choosing to embrace the unchosen topics that come our way. So here’s another unchosen topic that has grabbed ahold of me recently: menstrual hygiene in Africa.


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