God’s Sweet Spot

By Holly

I love to ask my daughters about their names. Tweener Maya, who currently wishes her name was Morgan, rolls her eyes while seven-year old Sage’s smile spreads under her lit-up eyes. I want to be sure Maya knows how she was named after two beautiful female writers, one a famous poet and the other who would have been had the drunk driver not taken her life in college. And I hope Sage will understand the multiple meanings behind her name – wisdom, its particular shade of green and the ubiquitous plant of my beloved New Mexican desert.

But it is their version of their name stories that I most love to hear, how the stories evolve over time and the details get mixed up, like Sage thinking she was named after an owl and Maya remembering the National Geographic magazine that came out the week after she was born with “MAYA” on the cover. We giggle as one story leads to another and, in the end, I feel satisfied. While they may not get all the details right, they understand the heart behind their names.

While I am convinced that Maya would be different if she were Morgan, it is how she understands and lives from the heart behind her name that matters. There are details, motives and feelings that I want to pass on to my girls about their names, but it is their own versions of the stories I tell them that will shape how they move through this world.

I like to imagine God asking me about the names he’s given me, listening with smiling eyes and open arms, patiently letting my versions of his naming stories evolve into laughter just as I do with my daughters. I picture God asking me to remember why he named me Free, New, or Wonderfully Made. I hear myself stumbling through my answers and leaving out important details.

Then, in the presence of the one who named me, I feel my fears about getting things wrong, and even my shame about not living up to these names, fade away. I understand that God had his reasons for giving us names and, just as my girls will never breathe in the New Mexico desert the same way I do, or feel the way my heart falls into rhythm when I read Maya Angelou, we will never experience our names exactly the way God does.

And this is exactly how it was meant to be.

God didn’t give us names like Cherished, Whole and Forgiven to see if we would get them right. He didn’t call us Washed Clean or Child of God to load us up with expectations and pressure.

God simply wants us to grasp the heart – the love – behind the names he gave us.

He wants to hear our versions of his stories, however crazy and far off from his intentions they may be. Because, more than anything, God wants to meet us in his sweet spot – the place where his story meets ours.

Love in the Hall of Presidents

By Holly and Kari*


You know how they say love slows time?

It makes you wonder what you’re doing wrong. Yesterday, you found yourself shopping for your husband’s Valentine’s Day card for the 17th time.  And, just like eyeliner suddenly starts competing with the fine lines of 40, a multiple-decade marriage happens overnight.

Here’s how I see it: Love – at least the marriage kind – doesn’t slow the clock.  Love’s effect on time is more like what happens when you visit the Hall of Presidents in the middle of your Disney World vacation.  You know…the Magic Kingdom “attraction” that leaves you wondering whose idea it was to stick an animatronic tribute to all 43 Presidents just 50 steps away from Cinderella’s castle.  Right in the heart of the Happiest Place on Earth, you find yourself feeling like you’re back in school and moderately disturbed by the fidgety, life-sized leaders making robotic eye-contact with you.

The 22-minute show feels like both an eternity and a flash. Somewhere between the Gettysburg Address and the Great Depression, you lose interest.   Reviewing American History in the heart of the Happiest Place on Earth feels uneasy, confusing, a little bit wrong.  If it weren’t for the A/C, you would bolt.  Your carousel of Disney World supposed-to images invades your mind and spins you into distraction.  Dissatisfaction.

Awestruck eyes, constant wonder, Princess perfection. Elaborate escapes and dreams coming true.  Main Street USA.  Non-stop entertainment.   Isn’t that how it’s supposed to be?

Instead, in the Hall of Presidents, this: America the Beautiful, built on conflict and struggle.  Embarrassing scars of our homeland – injustice, pride, discord – transformed into propellers of progress.  Long stretches of mundane in-between understood only now, merely failures or boredom then.  Nothing constant, not even why we warred.

You taste both nostalgia and regret. The simpler times:  only 13 states.  The promise of unexplored territory.  We the People, perfect Union, domestic Tranquility.  And.  Why didn’t we pay more attention?  Why couldn’t we see what was really going on?  How do egos both blind and bury?

As you are pulled into the magnetic force of the exiting crowd, you wonder what just happened. Just like 17 years unfolding overnight, you suddenly feel the pressure of space that lies between a punctuated past and towering possibilities of a castle.

It’s hard to breathe here, to do real time. Now contains both then and later; it carries both suffocation and freedom.

You have a feeling that, like a country, love is as much alive in this moment as it was and could be. That it doesn’t depend on the passing of time.  It’s not better.  Or worse.  Not found or lost.  It is, simply, alive.

Yesterdays glitter swept up
golden, chocolate, red
leftovers to remember
love’s lofty ideals
insatiable desire for
“happily ever after.”

Todays confetti spread sea to sea
white, blue, crimson
casualties to commemorate
freedom, liberty, honor
tenacious reminder
“we’ve come a long ways.”

*Prose by Holly, poem by Kari

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Navigating the Messiness of Helping vs Rescuing

by Kari

What happens inside of you when you see a child struggle, maybe your own child? This happened recently while at a jam session for my 3 fiddler children. It was a roomful of musicians of varying ages and abilities and I was excited to include my children in this experience. As I sat across the room I noticed one of my daughters puddling up in her chair, holding her fiddle to her chin. I saw her try to compose herself as they played a familiar tune that she had recently learned but not perfected. I saw her chest heave back the tears as she tried to hide her pain…all while the music played. What should I do? Should I “let her suffer” and teach her a lesson of how this would have been different had she practiced like I had urged? Should I leave the room or just look away and let her figure it out? Positive that rescuing her wouldn’t solve anything, I did feel in my spirit that I needed to help her in some way. So, this is what I did.


I see you honey
I see your affect
I see your discomfort
…please don’t neglect

I want to rush in
I want to kiss bruise
I want to protect
…oh to just soothe

I whisper, “let’s go”
I whisper, “it’s okay”
I whisper, “I love you”
…on my lap did she lay

I dare not gloss over
I dare not erase
I dare not fix it
…the dance of her faith

She couldn’t explain it
She couldn’t articulate
She couldn’t verbalize
…her inner landscape

She cried on my arm
She cried in her grief
She cried, I stroked hair
…it gave her relief

I offered to talk
I offered just silence
I offered sheer presence
…only God knows the mileage

Got a Friend in Crisis? Here’s a Story That Will Help You Know How to Help Them

By Holly

Parentingupstream / Pixabay

The hard, red lump on my two-week-old daughter’s chest was not getting better.  We were six days into the non-rhythm of our hospital stay and my hope was fading.  I didn’t think I could endure another needle prick to my baby’s tiny body, confused look on a doctor’s face, or nurse’s check that confirmed no improvement.  Another day of endless waiting, aberrant interruptions and question marks hovering palpably in the foreign space of a hospital room seemed unbearable.

And my sister knew; she heard my desperation from thousands of miles away.  The next morning, she showed up.

After a five-and-a-half hour flight and rearranging a complicated schedule that a single working mom of three juggles daily, she stood right there in front of me, holding balloons and the stuffed pink penguin that we now know intimately as Penny.  Suddenly, the unbearable turned bearable.

There was nothing she could do, she couldn’t fix.  But she jumped through hoops to show up anyways.

Showing up, when there is nothing to do but sit in the thick fog of desperation, when there is no work to be done to make things better, when words can’t cheer up…is for only the bravest of brave.  When all you have to offer is the very stuff of showing up – your presence – you have to take a leap of faith that only the shame-conquering-courageous can make.

Because all you have to offer is you.  You have to believe you are enough.  You have to believe you are worthy of sharing in another’s desperation.

Sometimes I wonder:  If the tables had been turned, would I have done the same?  Would I have shown up in her hospital room?  Or would I have been stopped by the ocean of shame that lies between holding back and showing up?   The ocean that is full of endless waves of “Who am I to show up there?” questions.  The ocean that drowns me in questions of “But what can I really do?” and convinces me that I have so little to offer.   The ocean with the powerful current that keeps pulling me to the “How can I make this crisis better?” question.

And when I get stuck on the how to make it better question, I come up empty handed.  I don’t know what it’s like to mother a child battling cancer, I have never walked in the shoes of clinical depression, I have never fought to get through a day sober, I don’t know how it feels to lose a job or a family or even a dog.  My I-don’t-know’s and I-have-never’s lead me right back to the who-am-I’s.  When I know I can’t make it better, I don’t feel like enough.

But then I think about the disorienting moment in which I saw my sister standing in the hospital room.  I recall the sudden ease with which I could breathe again.  I remember the burst of confidence that came in that moment, the one that assured me that I could get through another day.

And I realize something fascinating:  My sister didn’t make it better.   My daughter still had the lump.  The doctors still didn’t know.   But my sister made it bearable.

Because she believed she was worthy, she was enough, to get on a plane and fly across the country into desperation, I believed I could bear the pain.

To Those Who Have Left A Church (or Work or School or…)Without Saying Goodbye

by Kari

Unsplash / Pixabay

I thought saying goodbye would become easier as I got older.  I am finding out it is just as confusing and difficult as if I were a kid again.  People walk in and out of our lives so easily, and I walk in and out of theirs.  Why is it so hard for us to say “goodbye”?  Is it because we don’t know how?  Is it because it’s just too awkward?  In churches, in particular, the experience of people not saying goodbye after months, years, even decades is just par for the course. Feelings of sadness, disappointment and frustration well up within me. So, to all of the people who have wandered out of my life over the years (not just church related) and never said “goodbye”, I own up to my part and perhaps we’ll get a chance to say “goodbye” someday.

The Lost Art of Saying Goodbye

perhaps not clarity
perhaps not even closure

perhaps not crying
perhaps not even composure

I think saying goodbye is about:

I’m not owed an explanation
I’m not in charge of salvation
I’m not privy to every situation

yet I muddle through
the lost art of saying goodbye
neighborhood, job, church,
vacation, camp, or school
what could be had
if we resurrected
the lost art of saying goodbye?

it’s messy, awkward
yucky and unpleasant
how about a kind of
healing ointment of connection
not clarity
not convincing
not coercing
not even closure

but the art of saying:
“it has been a privilege”
“this has been quite an experience”
“I appreciate you”
“you have helped me”
“my life is richer”
“I’m sorry I didn’t”
“thank you”