When a Holy Desire is Thwarted

For Red Tent Living this month...

Perhaps you can relate? Ever feel that a genuine, sacred desire is being thwarted? Yeah, that's us.

Clouds move in and the wind picks up. Sunny, blue skies turn gray and thunder ripples west. Another Saturday’s desperate attempt at play, thwarted. Our family story, on repeat. Stuck in a motif we’re rather tired of, weary of.

It began while living overseas. In a megacity of concrete and traffic and millions and millions of bodies, we craved space, nature. We brought picnics to the waterfront patch of green, but stray cats and dogs forced us to move. We bought bikes to transport on the ferry across the sea to an island without cars, but the hordes of people made it virtually impossible to peddle. We left early on weekend mornings to reach a forest outside of the sprawl, spent a refreshing few hours in the trees, before sitting in endless hours of congestion homeward. The hot, stop and go sucked the life from us.

We left the megacity with weary souls.

In the Pacific Northwest, we tried camping with friends. We emptied the nearby camp store of tarps and they were still insufficient to protect us from the onslaught of rain. Years later, when we had all moved to sunny Colorado, we tried again. Memorial Day in the mountains brought rain. We went south in June: Rain. We went to the desert the next year: Rain. We went east to Nebraska: Rain.

It became laughable, so long as we were together. But alone as a family, after a tiresome week of holding trauma for clients or teaching about trafficking or struggling with school friends, we reach for play. When it alludes us time after time, it is not so funny. It is the very opposite of funny.

Continue reading here.



It did not rain!

Italy in Pictures

Twenty years ago we blew every penny we were given for our wedding and honeymoon and went to Italy. One of us had just graduated and was jobless and the other would be returning to a work-study job in a preschool making minimum wage. We could care less. He had offered to take me out of the country for the very first time and not a common sense piece of logic could have stopped me from being so whimsical. One would hope that after 20 years, a healthy mix of responsibility, savings, and income would lend itself to either an easy to afford anniversary trip or the reserve to not go. Unfortunately, that first trip abroad created an insatiable zest for travel and taught us how to do it within our finances, small as they may be. And, having spent the last 2 decades in ministry, income never quite allowed us to be sensible. Creative is the way of travel for us.

To make this 20th anniversary trip back to Italy a reality we relied on two things: credit cards that gave us 50,000 air miles for signing up (which turned into 2 free tickets) and a father who gifted us with timeshare points to stay in an apartment, in the middle of Tuscany, for free. The apartment allowed us to cook most meals and that left our biggest extravagance: a hotspot to enable Siri to talk us through the crazy mountain roads of the Crete Sienese, in butchered Italian no less.

Folks, if you long to travel and see the world, figure out a way to make it happen. Get creative and think outside of the box. I guarantee you'll spend as much for a week in Disney or on a beach in Mexico. I'll spare you the throw back photos I took 20 years ago when I first took over the camera! But hopefully these pictures come close to expressing the beauty of Italy.

Territorial Abbey of Monte Oliveto Maggiore


Sienna Celloist

Sant'Antimo Abbey

Sant'Antimo Abbey Valley

Sant'Antimo Abbey Olive Tree

Sant'Antimo Abbey Grounds

Sant'Antimo Abbey Altar

San Biagio

San Biagio Church


Roman Herb Bike

Roman Bar


Oldest Door in Montepulciano


Montalcino Winery

Marmore Falls

Italian Women

Italian Cheese

Eating Outside in Italy


Brunello Winery Montalcino


Assis Street

19th century cafe

Books I'm Reading This Month (#2)

Books-1 Web Last month's list was a huge success so I guess I'll continue to let you peruse my side table. In fact, I'll take a pic of it for you!

Side TableYes, yes, there are lots of books on there! This list is just what I'm finishing, not including what I spot read.

Some have asked when I have time to read. As an encouragement to crazy ones and young parents, I will say I've learned to read in the margins. This is how I made it through grad school with a toddler and two little kids: book in one hand, hair brush or soup ladle in the other, or other arm draped around a kid on the couch as they watched PBS. Now it's the carpool lines or in transit moments, book always in the seat next to me: never leave home without one!

This Month's List:

1. Notes from a blue bike Notes From a Blue Bike by Tsh Oxenreider. Two things: It starts in Turkey and the title is awesome. Had to read it. Tsh writes of how life in Turkey helped her identify the style of living she wanted for her family and goes about addressing the main categories they deemed most valuable: education, travel, food, work, and entertainment. She is the author of the popular blog, The Art of Simple and in Blue Bike, she writes about the decisions she's made to be intentional about living the life she wants. Really delightful read!

Runaway Girl 2. Runaway Girl: Escaping Life on the Streets by Carissa Phelps. Because I love survivor memoirs and this was professional development. Kudos to Phelps for working through the trauma of her life on the run and doing something good with it. But as much as this was Carissa's story, it was a call to those of us who desire to "do good" or "help." The people who intersected her life at Juvenile Hall or in the alternative school were heroes in their own right, helping shape the narrative of change.


unquiet time 3. Unquiet Time by Heather Caliri. Because Heather is a new friend and fellow Redbud and I like what she's writing about over on her blog. With a similar theme to the next book, Heather writes of post-perfectionist faith. This hand-lettered devotional is whimsical with thought-provoking quotes and artistic prompts. I am thoroughly enjoying it.


When We Were on Fire 4. When We Were on Fire: A Memoir of Consuming Faith, Tangled Love and Starting Over by Addie Zierman.  Addie is every evangelical believer who came to faith in the 90's. Riddled with humor and pain because it is so vividly true, she captures the emotional consequences of being entirely consumed by a sub-culture. I appreciate that she never gives up on God, nor questions Him as much as she does other believers, evangelical culture, and some of the harmful byproducts.


Fine balance5. A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry. Because I need fiction and a friend thought I would like it upon learning I was briefly a Russian Lit major in college. Just started this one. My Thanksgiving read. Really great character development so far.


Really, I would be happy if I lived in a bookstore. I would sleep in a mound of stuffed animals, live off of scones and coffee, and spend the day devouring an aisle before I moved on to the next. How about you? What are you reading?

On a Beauty Hunt: When the Pain is too Great, Stick it to Him

I felt so guilty at the close of the day, headed to a farm with friends to grill, and dream, around a fire pit. I knew I would feast on beauty in all its forms - relationship, food, and nature - and had spent the day similarly. Intentionally carving out space of time to attend to space of dwelling, I had organized a new spice drawer, repurposed file boxes with colors for my new pallet, and thrift store hopped for hidden gems. My creative daughter in tow, we had had a great day. But not far from my creativity were thoughts of Christians forced out of Iraq, kids from my sister-in-law's homeland laying hope at our borders, a dear one who lost triplets, another praying in the health of twins, a third distancing herself from a hard marriage, another burying a parent. I felt indulgent with my spices and cute chalkboard labels. Who am I to enjoy beauty when so much pain surrounds me, us, in this world?

In the car on the way to the farm I dare to utter this to my husband. He has spent a day immersed in trauma, counseling people with heartaches too great to carry. I feel guilty even with him, knowing his holding of pain allows me to buy chalkboard labels. There are days he admits to jealousy so there are days of delight I hide. But he surprises me with his middle finger and a wry grin. "Don't you feel like you're stickin' it to him?"

We had just passed the old strip club and a sketchy looking car so I'm confused. Who are we stickin' it to? "Finding beauty despite the brokenness. Don't you think that's saying 'up yours' to the enemy?" I smile, considering.

And then today, out of nowhere, but thanks to Macrina Wiederkehr's A Tree Full of Angels: Seeing the Holy in the Ordinary I am reading Psalm 104: 15,

wine that gladdens the heart of man, oil to make his face shine, and bread that sustains the heart.

I am struck by the word gladden and overcome by an image of a long table beneath the cottonwood trees of last night... bistro lights and good food, laughter, bread and wine. Delight. God gave it all, to gladden our heart and make our face shine. To sustain our hearts, even when they grow weary.

So I'm going to stick it to him. My weapon in the face of harm and distrust and sadness will be beauty. It's a small offering to a hurting world, but a sacred one. One I've already unknowingly been doing. This summer, I've been on a beauty hunt, as if needing to name and immortalize the small acts I notice: the chalk art street, the Rockies, the fabric flowers woven into the chain link fence penning an abandoned lot, a vintage wall with loved ones, an artistic place to sit, and the beauty of my risk-taker daughter as we drive through the campground.

But I'm curious, what do you do to "stick it to him?" How do you overcome the realities of a hurting world?