thirty before thirty

choosing joie de vivre

How I’ll be spending the last year of my twenties/the most glorious to-do list you’ve ever seen:

  1. Travel somewhere solo A tentative, hopeful goal. Ideas for where/when/how are welcome!
  1. Make pasta from scratch I’ve always wanted to try this and have been a little intimidated by the process…but since my family’s trip to Italy has been pushed twice now, I’m bringing Italy home to us. We’re all due for some quality pasta!
  1. Keep a gratitude journal I’m convinced that gratitude is the key to happiness and want to get better at cultivating a habit of thankfulness! This is the one I got, but this was a close runner-up.
  1. Go on at least five dates I’d like to not die alone, but I also have a hard time leaving my house. Set me up with your brother, k? (but only if he’s cool)
  1. Try kickboxing I’ve always wanted to try this and think I might like it. Seems like a great and kind of bad-ass way to relieve stress.
  1. Make money writing Time to become a multiple-streams-of-income type of lady! I’ve been working on a little freelance website, so we’re on the right track. 
  1. Have a personal photoshoot A lot of people recommended this as a bucket-list idea. I’m looking forward to awkwardly prancing through a field of weeds during golden hour.
  1. Go camping I’ve never been! It’s time I learned how to sleep in the woods.
  1. Invest in stocks Your multiple-streams-of-income gal is also going to become someone with a “diverse portfolio.” My dad gave me money to put towards this last Christmas and I went and adopted a dog instead. Still an investment, sort of? But now I owe some $$ to eTrade.
  1. Meet my godbaby Thanks to COVID there is a bebe in Oklahoma that I’ve never met and will probably be closer to a toddler by the time I finally do. We’re feeling optimistic about the spring!
  1. Volunteer Sometimes nursing feels like enough community service for a thousand lifetimes, but I do get paid for that. Altruism, here I come.
  1. Do Karaoke Shocking, since I live in basically the drunkest party town in the country, but I’ve never tried karaoke! It scares me but I CAN DO HARD THINGS and that now includes singing to a roomful of strangers. 
  1. Take an Irish dance class I danced for a few years way way back in the day. I totally loved it, so I’m going to do a somewhat scary thing and see if my now-creaky knees (and hips and back and neck etc.) can handle it! 
  1. Learn a new song on the piano Similarly, I took piano lessons as a kiddo. I hated it then, but now appreciate the right-brain development it probably gave me. Hopefully I’ll enjoy it this time around.
  1. Learn to make wine This doesn’t need an explanation. 
  1. Go to the Bluebird Cafe Something I’ve been wanting to do since I moved to Nashville three years ago! 
  1. Go to a happy hour/eat out alone The thought of mingling with strangers makes me uncomfortable already, so I added it to the list. Conquering fears and all that. Maybe it’ll help me out with #4. 
  1. Go to the Rocky Horror Picture Show I sort of hate watching this movie and I don’t think I’ve ever finished it, but one of my sisters is obsessed and it seems like it’d be a cool thing to see live. I’m planning to wear fishnets, so that’ll be fun.
  1. Teach the dog to stop jumping on everything/everyone One of his many issues. I’m setting attainable goals, ok?
  1. Improve Spanish with Babbel I wish I hadn’t lost all my Spanish skills and could say more than ‘hola’ and ‘dolor’ to patients at work. Feels like a good-human thing to try and do.
  1. Stop checking my phone first and last thing every day (get a clock) A habit that I’m sure is making my life worse. There’s really no reason I should be falling asleep to dance videos on TikTok. I’m an adult.
  1. Learn to make pierogi My family has been eating Mrs. Ts for Christmas every year for as long as I can remember. Time to try the OG way!
  1. Try a pole dancing class I watched this video and was inspired. Looks incredibly hard and possibly empowering (if you can figure out how to do it). 
  1. Do a Hot Ones challenge Also inspired from Youtube and my mom’s recent obsession with the channel/hot sauce.
  1. Rent an igloo at the Bobby Hotel this winter All the cool kids have done it. I am now cool.
  1. Go on a ghost tour I’ve just never done this and it seems like a fun thing to do in October. 
  1. Eat at Yolan This restaurant has a Michelin-starred chef serving up Italian food in Nashville so I cannot think of a more dreamy dining experience. I asked my parents for a night out to eat for my birthday so this is actually going to happen!!
  1. Watch Rotten Tomato top movies of all time Just going to hit the top ten then see where things go.
  1. Stop weighing myself every day I was better about this for a while, but lately I’ve been back on the daily-weigh-in train and letting the numbers decide how confident I feel for the day. That’s BS. BYE!
  1. Finally finish Divine Mercy in my Soul I’ve started this book a thousand times since high school and can’t manage to get all the way through it. It’s so long! But since I briefly considered adding Anna Karenina to this to-do list, I felt like Mercy would be more wholesome.

And there you have it! Onward and upward, friends. Looking forward to seeing where this goes!

hello it’s me

long time to see

Hihihihihi!

It’s been a minute since I’ve put anything up here! If you’re a human being in the world, you already know that the pandemic has put a damper on most of everything. Like a stifling wet wool blanket, but less cozy. You get it. Thankfully, there were a few other things that got in the way of blogging that were actually good:

  1. I had a really lovely and creatively satisfying semester at school that got most of my write-y attention. 
  2. I was taking a stab at the real estate thing. I liked the way it worked around the writing and the potential for financial growth, but the struggle was real. Not my market and not my jam. I said goodbye to my short lived real estate career early in the summer. Hello and goodbye. Aloha, if you will. 
  3. I had an internship writing professional bloggies. Picked up some new keywords like AI and HR and DE&I. Twas fun.

And now I’m here! Still nursing part time and writing in the other times. Nursing is tiring as hell and a lot of us are struggling BUT here is the real news:

  1. Im turning 29 next week. (P.S. When I first wrote this I accidentally wrote 24 and cringed a little bit—you couldn’t pay me to be 24 all over again. Shudder.)
  2. I archived a lot of my old posts. Sorry if you wanted to poke around there a bit, but feel free to DM me if you need to read about heartbreak/divorce/trauma/recovery/etc. It’s still a part of my story, and very much still haunts me once in a while (as much as I wish it wouldn’t) but I’m just leaning towards a little more privacy in that chapter right now. Sometimes I feel a tiny bit badly for how open I was and the people I might have pissed off/made uncomfortable. Sometimes I don’t. Mainly I try to have compassion for the hurting girl who wrote some things to make it hurt less. Either way, I’m ready to shift the focus a bit.

So. Shifted focus:

Twenty nine. The last year of the most ridiculous decade. There was graduation, a marriage, a divorce, a few different states, a few stabs at new careers. Two graduate programs (one that I quit), three dogs, eight houses, and about a million hours in therapy. How to close this chapter? 

I didn’t want to spend the year sulking about the things I won’t have by the time I’m thirtyyou know, the things that the world measures success by: spouse/partner, property, financial stability, satisfying career, a group of friends to meet for brunch every Sunday. I’m choosing to celebrate what I do havean income, a solid family, friends across the country who love me from afar. A killer roomie, a silly dog, a bed to sleep in. My health. 

And, adult-y “success” or no, I’m going to get SOME things accomplished this year. And they’re going to be COOL things. Things that make me smarter, freer, healthier, happier, and more grateful than before. I’ve got a list of thirty and some backups (just in case, because, you know, COVID). 

Stick around to see 😉

curiouser and curiouser

an attempt to define the un-definable

I hate Alice in Wonderland—too trippy—but there’s a scene that’s been replaying in my head these last few weeks. It’s the one where an oversized hookah-smoking caterpillar blows smoke rings around Alice as he asks, “Who…are…you?” 

I see myself staring up at the worm, as unsure as Alice as she responds, “I hardly know, sir!” 

They go in circles and she insists, “I can’t explain myself, sir, because I’m not myself, you know.” The worm is a poor listener, or high, so Alice grows frustrated. She absolutely has no idea who she is, and she cannot possibly come up with an answer to satisfy him. The best she has to offer is vague: “I can’t put it any more clearly, for it isn’t clear to me.” 

Similarly, I am at a loss for labels. So many of the ways I used to define myself have drifted away as quietly as smoke rings: 

Married. 

Republican. 

Believer in post-racial America.

Nurse.

Eye-roller at vegans.

Despiser of feminists.

Knower of life’s timelines. 

Things have changed, and now I am in place where things are less solid, more fluid. More nuanced, complex, and messy.

Status: Divorcée. A one-word title, but there’s nothing in the name that carries the weight of a life’s vocation as nicely as married. It feels a little fuzzier.

Absolutely not a Republican, but maybe not a Democrat? Maybe more of a centrist, or a Libertarian? Don’t come at me, it’s TBD, I just know that I’m not in favor of he-who-shall-not-be-named.

Occasional vegan. Turns out I care about the planet, though I still love cheese.

Feminist, though a pro-life one, though also one that isn’t sure what the most effective way to support mothers/family/society is.

Human trying to become anti-racist after a lifetime of disbelief. V flawed.

Writer? Blogger, casually. Student, definitely. Does that make me “a creative” (I imagine this means I’ll take up wearing berets and snapping in smoky clubs, so maybe not). 

Still a nurse, yes, but not a full-time one, and unsure of how well I love the work. Overall, displeased with the business of healthcare, and burned out from caring so hard in a world built more for money than people. 

Real estate agent—this one is new. In my previous timeline I always imagined I’d quit nursing to raise children and let my fancy husband make ze monies. No children and no husband makes me my own breadwinner, and I realized I should probably be in a career that I wasn’t planning to quit someday. While, in a perfect world, I simply become the next J.K. Rowling and float about writing best sellers, I think this real estate business might be the place where I have the time and space and flexibility to write, the money to eat-pray-love my way around the globe, and the chance to still serve my community. I believe in home, so why not make myself a part of it?

Where does all that leave me now? Dabbling in several careers, with a mishmash of political leanings, no romantic involvements and some kind of half-assed vegan habit?

I’m a little bit of everything and entirely nothing.

My primary concern: I have no idea how I will explain myself at parties. I can see it in my head— 

“What do you do?” 

*brain short circuits*

“NurseRealtorWriterStudent.” 

Nothing neat enough to put cutely. But, then again, why the need to define myself by what I do at all? Sure, it might be the easiest to say, and, yes, you learn something from knowing a person’s job. Like when I say nurse, you might hear caring. You might find me trustworthy, reliable, kind. On the other hand, if I get into my current crossroads, you’re more likely to see a huge mess. You’ll nod your head, bemused, unsure of a girl who can’t commit to any one thing.

I know the gist of what I’m after, of course, but there’s nothing easily knowable from something as simple as a title. What I really want is beauty. Creativity. Rhythm. Abundance. I want peace, and grace. Wholeness, health, and a life where I am content, doing what I was made to do, not on a five-year-plan, but in finding one right thing after the next right thing.

Maybe the whole mess of myself, the possibility and the journey and the flaws, the beauty and the wonder and the hope, what I do or what I don’t do, will be caught up in one phrase after all: a name. My name. Rebecca Joy. Maybe that’s all you’ll ever need to know—maybe I grow so grounded into myself that you can reach the heart of me just from hearing it whispered. If only Alice knew how to say hers.

this week was the worst

love and loss and a dog

I love my dog. A lot. Too much, probably; last May I ambitiously submitted a “Modern Love” essay to The New York Times that detailed our mutual devotion. I have yet to hear back, and now I hope I never do.

I imagine I’ve run out of salt water. I’ve been crying at work, crying at home, crying in the car. Tears leak into all, like a faucet I cannot fix. It’s getting embarrassing. Even in school, faced with the most benign of prompts, I cry.


Prompt: Write about a long drive.

I am planning a drive to Pleasantview for Saturday. It will be anything but pleasant, though I picked the town for location, not for dramatic effect; it is evenly placed between my town and Steve’s. I’ve never met Steve, nor his wife, but they will both be there, at the Pleasantview Wendy’s, at 10:30.

They want to meet my dog. I’m not sure why. He bit our lab three times and my grandma once. He has a weight problem, an allergy problem, a guarding problem, and his nails grow too fast. 

The behaviorist promises he is fixable:

No, he won’t bite kids if you train him around kids. 

No, he won’t attack dogs if you bring him to the dog park. 

Yes, training will work. 

Does this work for normal people, or just dog trainers?

Which children should I volunteer? Hers?

I ruminate. Wherever I go he is there, reminding me of his devotion. I am torn between the teeth I’ve seen and the dog beside me now. He looks up trustingly, with his blue and brown eyes, his small tail twitching with joy, and I can’t help but love him back. He is a friend. He’s seen me through the worst of times and the best of times. I wanted there to be more times. 

Others will judge me, but I don’t trust me.

I feel guilty. I am guilty. 

I see us on Saturday; he will curl up in the front seat beside me. He will put his nose on the console, let me scratch behind his ears at the stoplights. He will pant, his pink tongue a bright spot against his white chest, his speckled gray back. He trusts me and I am leaving him. Another thing I’ve loved and left. 

I try to break it down, keep it simple. It’s just a drive. A meeting. A Wendy’s.

But then we will get to Wendy’s and simplicity will stop. He will wiggle his nub and hop out of the car. He will sniff the at the grass. We will peel our eyes for the unfamiliar car that holds a man named Steve and his wife. Together we will decide. 

I wonder if they’re kind. I wonder if I’ll change my mind. I wonder if I’ll drive away with an empty seat beside me, no traces left but shedded hair, and cry.


You can imagine how Saturday went. 

The couple was sweet; just this morning they assured me Bean has become “a big part of our little family.” 

My heart is warm, but broken.

And now, in the absence of one dysfunctional dog, there is nothing left to distract me from the more obvious truth: I am lonely. Really lonely. I realize that within my circle of friends, most live in another state. Most are married. Most have children. I can count on one hand the number of friends I have left who are single (in the sense that they are not married) though I struggle to think of anyone, siblings aside, who do not, at the very least, have a boyfriend. 

I am alone on this island. The grass here is charred, marked by plans that blossomed and withered under the scorching gaze of divorce. I wander around the desert, tumble weeks mocking, and find I’ve accidentally become a career woman.

Single wasn’t always a euphemism for lonely. For a while it was fun. There was a newfound sense of adventure, flexibility. The freedom to make my own choices. And, of course, there was always Bean. We were a neat little team of two. When asked about my home life, “It’s just me and my dog,” was enough. 

Until he was biting, then biting more, and I got lost. There were solutions but they were complicated ones; they demanded investment, prioritization, and held no guarantee of success. The liability would remain, squarely placed on my single-person shoulders. There was one else to carry the responsibility with, no one to distribute the weight.

Desolate in decision making, I decided to give my dog to a couple who promised they would love him and had the skills to help him. They were a team. They didn’t mind the vigilance or restriction or anxiety that comes with a sweet dog who hides a mean streak; they were ready to pick up where I couldn’t stand guard any longer.


In therapy we work on saying what I don’t have by adding a “yet.” I don’t have a date yet a boyfriend yet love yet a family yet. But what if there is no yet? What if the hope is misplaced? What if this is all there is?

How do I make it enough?


The answer comes this morning with feedback on my newest project:

“I’d like to see more of the narrator becoming her own separate person – separate from the husband and father. Most of what we read here is her seeing herself in relation to the men in her life – not her seeing herself individually.”

He’s right.

Who was I? 

Who am I? 

Apart from my ex, my mother, my father, my siblings, my work, my hobbies? 

Apart from my imaginary boyfriend, unrealized husband, fantasy children? 

Apart from my dog?

Is this aloneness a welcome mat? An invitation?

What next?

chapter one

the danger of change

New books always make me a little nervous. An unopened book holds all the hope in the world until, with bated breath, you meet the first page. In those first lines you often either realize you’ve wasted $9.99 in the Kindle store, or you find yourself settling in, patiently wading through the planting of characters, setting of scene, and foundation-laying of your next favorite story.

You’ve become an adventurer. You’ve let yourself into the front-yard garden and found it enchanting enough to tread down the lane, where you let yourself into an empty house. There you wait, contentedly, for the rest of the tale to grow up around you. You’ve committed, so slowly you’ve hardly noticed what’s happened, until you’re in the thick of it, lost in the magic. It is then that you realize the most important thing: chapter one was just an invitation, and this, now, is what really means something. Chapter two.

Here I am, a newly minted MFA student very wary of my own chapter two- this part of my journey that will mean something more. This undertaking that sounded fun a month ago as a hazy theory is now taking shape in real time, and I’m starting to see a future where I’m stretched and tired, overwhelmed, and likely in over my head.

It’s all so very different than the projects I’ve taken on before; moving from the task-oriented type-A-friendly world of nursing to a place where philosophy, psychology, spirit, and story are what counts – it’s significant, to say the least. I’m walking straight out of the land of flashcards right into a world of vulnerability. Imposter syndrome settles in like a cold as I google “what the hell is literary fiction,” transition from APA to MLA, from symptoms to syntax. I may have seen death in the flesh but, somehow, this feels more dangerous. It’s risky, this road; I’m unsure, insecure, unprepared, and, worse, I care more.

More than anything, I don’t know how to be in this world- I’ve never sunk into this side of my mind so purposefully, where learning is less about tasks and grades and more about craft. Truth. Love. What does this new style of living look like on me? Who will I become when I stop stuffing creativity into her cupboard under the stairs and let her out to see the stars? I guess we’ll see.

In the meantime, I carry on with the revolution armed with a new planner, a new haircut, and an old mantra: I can do hard things and these hard things are good. I keep reminding myself, too, that as hard as it looks, this still feels like coming home to a part of myself, and I imagine that is one of the keys to a good life- to come home to ourselves in more and more beautiful ways until we are home forever in the land where beauty multiplies endlessly. Once again, C.S. Lewis wrote it best: “I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now… Come further up, come further in!”

And then, a bit of truth from the same bit of childhood magic: “…for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning the Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.” 

Into the garden I go, coming home to an empty house, ready to see what grows in this place I’ve planted- a place held together by the author of the Great Story, the Great Story in which I will be writing a chapter. Further in we go.

a nation under god

authentic christians are anti-racist

My fingers have been tightly wound around the narrative I wrote for my own life, and God has been patiently uncurling my fingers, one by one. Dream bigger, He seems to say. Dream bigger, then bigger, then bigger. Now go.

I go, with sparkles in my eyes, and imagine myself stepping out into the wide world as a Joan of Arc. I want to be unafraid. I want to face those looking down on me, telling me I’m too young or inexperienced, too naive or out-of-touch, then surprise them with my wisdom. I want to stand my ground, confident in who I am and what I’m about, not shaken when the questioning starts or gaslighting makes my knees weak. I want to pick up my sword, my words, my voice, and fight for justice. I want to fight like God is behind me, working to save a nation, even when the sparkles are gone and all I’ve got left is a mess.

That being said, while Joan of Arc might not have had a Facebook account, I certainly do. And lately I’ve found myself doing what I’ve avoided for ages- engaging in the dreaded Facebook debate. Because somebody has to speak up, and sometimes that somebody is me.

In the process, I’ve discovered a handful of things that are starting to- for lack of a better phrase- piss me off. 

Firstly, primarily, mostly, I am sick of people who call themselves Christian spending more time arguing about protecting police than listening to or caring about people who have been marginalized. I’m frustrated, even dumbfounded, that the need to become anti-racist has become less important than the need to maintain neat politically conservative borders. Digging those heels in over whether or not Black people deserve to be heard is NOT the place your feet should be planted. 

I am sure, entirely sure, that Black people are more tired of this bizarre behavior than me. I offer my voice for those too weary to speak. 

Here it is, most clearly: Your ‘blue lives matter’ flag waves proudly in false righteousness- you might think you are innocently supporting the force, but I’m here to tell you that your timing is off. You think it means nothing, the blue stickers and posts, but right now it sends the message that your priority is more for the police than for the people who the police have harmed. That support right now is inherently political and has the capacity to be significantly damaging. Sure, shifting the focus to blue lives might be appropriate on some days, but today is not that day.

Beyond that, if we keep spending our time debating and trying to disprove racism instead of actually demonstrating real, active care for the Black community, it will only serve to further ostracize that community from our Christian spaces. They are going to feel more unwelcome in a church they should comfortably call home because we were too busy fighting to hear their stories.

We don’t listen, and we harm them further. On top of the years wasted where they were unable to join orders, take vows, or attend seminary. 

On top of the years they were, and continue to be, enslaved, taken advantage of, and neglected, while people of the Church look away.

On top of generations of artwork in cathedrals, museums, and homes that fail to depict the beauty of God reflected in dark-skinned faces.

On top of a disproportionately white canon of saints- not because saints of color didn’t exist, but because our Church has been complicit in a world of white supremacy. 

All of this pain should be ringing in our ears, calling us to action, but black voices still cannot be heard because we have hidden in our prayer groups and Bible studies to complain about the “secret liberal agenda” and anti-racist “propaganda.” We’ve wasted time instead of listening and believing, acknowledging our failings and trying to do better. Defensiveness has become the last flag waving- it’s a big one, and it’s red. 

At the very least, I will stand up. You will hear my voice- the voice of a Catholic. A Christian. A woman. White, weak, and flawed, but here. I am here and I will say, then say again, that Black lives matter. If you want to call yourself a Christian, a real one, it’s best you start acting like they do too, and start fighting like God is behind you. 

St. Joan of Arc, pray for us.

unbiased loving

an aspiration

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” Thank you, C.S. Lewis.

I’ve been thinking about these words lately, especially in the quest to untangle the biases woven into my heart and surroundings. There’s a lot that needs to be uprooted; this has become a season for removal and replanting. A season of making space for those who have been pushed aside. They are real people, those voices crying out from the books and podcasts and blogs. They are flesh and blood, with hearts exposed. How brave, to be so open, especially after so much pain.

That vulnerability deserves to be met with something even greater than dismantled bias. That is the minimum, and we must go beyond it- we must actively support and embrace a future where those most marginalized are free to lead beautiful, messy, wonderful lives. 


In the meantime, I’ve noticed that I hold a little bit more bias than I thought, in a lot more places than I thought. It’s at work, with patients who I assume will irritate me before I’ve spoken to them. It’s on dating apps, as I swipe by men with certain careers before I’ve seen their profiles. It’s in social situations, when I wander closer to the girls who look like me. I’ve done it at home, at church, in stores, online. It’s everywhere.

I’m beginning to wonder if the ideal, someday, would be for us operate with no bias at all. Is it possible to encounter each new person, each new situation, without considering the experiences behind us? Without letting the negative lessons we’ve learned about one person influence our interaction with the next person? Harder still- is it possible to untangle those predispositions when we meet the same person, but in a new moment? To perpetually offer the benefit of the doubt and maintain a disposition of charity, a complexion of peace?

I’m not suggesting a boundary-less life or existing blind to the behaviors of those who have hurt us. I’m sure it is appropriate to form opinions and act according to whatever information we are presented with. However, this intentional living, perhaps, does not exclude unbiased loving. Whatever we’ve chosen to move towards or away, we can do with a spirit of love. We can act with generosity and hold a heart for goodwill, whether that is from near or from far. We may have chosen to distance ourselves from someone or something in self-preservation or self-love, but we can still find peace, forgiveness, and hope.

I’m sure it’s the way God meets each of us, in each of our moments. It’s the way He meets me- not as the isolated, flawed piece of me that snapped at my sister an hour ago, or yelled at the guy who cut me off- but each moment, fresh, as if it’s the first most lovely moment He’s encountered me for all that I am at my worst and my best, and in that meeting He has still found me good.

He offers a blank slate, over and over and over again; His love always available, always renewable. Maybe it’s better than a blank slate- instead, it’s love like a fire in the winter, shade in the summer, the warmth of friendship in loneliness. As good, and always as good, as the first leap into a pool on a hot day or the first sip of coffee in the morning. It’s the first page of your favorite book, when somehow you’ve forgotten the plot points, so you relive it, in all it’s goodness, over and over and over. 


This love is lovely, in theory. It works for God. In practice, for humans, it’s harder. 

Hard to become anti-racist, in a world that’s pumped it into our veins.

Hard to do at work, to meet the next patient, who acts like the last patient, with fresh, kind eyes. 

Hard to do with new friends, when you’ve been bullied or burned by old ones.

Hard to do with men, when the ones before insulted, disappointed, cheated, or lied.

Hard to do with yourself, when the world has found that you aren’t quite enough.

It’s all hard. And it’s a surefire way to get hurt, this constant vulnerability. Ask C.S. Lewis. Ask Jesus. Ask your teachers, your nurses, your parents. There’s no guarantee that your openness will be matched; do it anyway. Bring your scraped knees and hearts to the source of the most perfect eternal, renewable love, then pull yourself up and offer love again. It’s the least we can do, when we’ve been given so much. 

This life isn’t for hiding or isolating, but for picking up our tired selves and meeting another moment, another person, or our very selves, with love, again. And then again.

It’s not easy. It’s messy. But it must be done, this unbiased loving. It’s the only way we’ll be free.

in service of justice

a disposition towards peace; righting the wrong of racism

When I was small, the most coveted crayon was the one we called “skin color.” We didn’t ask for it by name as we filled in our princesses; there was no mention of peach or tan, but somehow we still understood that the crayon in question wouldn’t be brown. Maybe because we were young and only thought of “skin color” as “our skin color,” or maybe, already, we thought that the default tone for skin should be white. Perhaps it was bias, already poison in our air, sinking into our hearts and lungs as insidiously as cancer. 

Whenever it started, it remains true that biases, untruths and prejudices snuck into our minds and remained a poisonous undercurrent for years. We grew up, learned in school that the civil war was over ages ago, that segregation was gone. We wondered what the problem still was.

Of course, there were many problems, but we were blind. We were handed down privilege and twisted patriotism; a lethal combination when met with willful ignorance, refusal to face discomfort, laziness, and self centeredness. The cost was high. It still is, as evidenced by the continued injustice and wrongful murders of those in the black community. 

Finally, today, we are late, but we are here. We are coming to terms with the reality that the problems we thought were gone never left- they only changed shape.

To the black community, I am sorry. I have failed you in my willful ignorance. I am sorry for the ways I’ve hurt you by my actions and inaction, the words I’ve spoken and the words I’ve failed to say. I am sorry for my bias. I’m sorry for not showing up sooner. You’ve deserved better. 

To the white community, don’t start in my words. With all humility and all respect, turn to the black community first. Listen to their words. Read their books. See their films. Hear their stories. I’m here, not as a leader, but as a small voice in the background using the tools I’ve been given to point towards truth. Members of the black community know those truths better than anyone; they live it. Open your heart. Believe them. And, seriously, please stop getting lost in debates over whatever conspiracy you think has infected the media, the country, the church. Do not turn this movement into a platform to rail against. This is more than an agenda. This is about human lives. 

Black persons deserve to live and do so abundantly; historically, they have not been afforded that freedom. They have been told, implicitly and explicitly, that they are not good, they are less-than, and they are not safe because of the color of their skin. They have been told this by governments, social structures, workplaces, judicial systems, healthcare providers, neighborhoods and friends. Centuries of these injustices have been inflicted on the black community with no promise of escape; the current system has had held the power to effectively traumatize an entire population, and to do so for generations. It must stop. 

It is time for black individuals to live in the safety that has eluded them for generations. They must be secure in their right to breathe, followed by their right to live abundantly and joyfully. They deserve to become who they were made to be, authentically alive, beautifully whole, untangled from the lies and traumas that have been inflicted upon them. They deserve to be set free, truly free, in every sense of the word.


If you have begun your journey of learning and hoping for this freedom, as I have and continue to do, I’d like to offer my thesis for moving forward in the work for justice for our black sisters and brothers:

We must remain people of peace.

To be clear- peace is not the absence of discomfort or a return to a quiet status quo. Peace, in this context, is a sense of being and operating that is moved by the Spirit and acts with eyes trained towards the hope in a well ordered world. In this world, the kingdom of God come to earth, ills are healed, injustice rectified and people are seen, loved and well. I cannot call myself a Christian, a feminist, or even a person of goodwill if I am not working for a world established in loving harmony. 

In pursuit of this harmony we must first be open to learning, then always open to learning more. In the learning, this spirit listens. It creates a space for taking in and then a time for pondering. Nothing of quality can come from what we see or hear if we don’t personally encounter and internalize what is being shared; peace will weave it together. 

This peace will allow us to incorporate new thought and root out wrong. Where the spirit burrows into our hearts, we will be ready to follow it towards introspection and humility. 

This peace will, at times, fuel anger; it will spark a heart that grows justly enraged at evil. This spark then follows through to movement- it doesn’t sulk, it doesn’t sit. It acts.

This spirit that moves to action is anchored, always, in goodness. It does not allow us to be self centered, working only to soothe our trouble consciences. It won’t allow us to walk away when the burdens are many. It does not tire. 

This spirit of peace is thoughtful. It allows critical reflection and thorough engagement with injustice from a deeply rooted place. It is intentional, as well, with both skills and time. 

This peace allows rest. If we are to prevent burn out, if we are to remain present and able to serve those who have been overloaded and overlooked for centuries, we must continue to restfully connect with the eternal source of our peace in prayer. Then, refreshed, we can show back up for more.

This peace will breed authenticity; when we do show up, we do so as integrated, whole humans, not half-selves participating for performance. It allows space to for mental, physical, spiritual and familial care, so that we may then serve thoroughly with our best selves and efforts. Our closest friends receive that effort, and it is time for our alienated black brothers and sisters to receive the same care.

Let this peace first form your own heart, then breathe life into your home, your workplace, and your world. Let this peace move you to service of God, especially in service of His black children. 

It’s time we were people of His Kingdom. Passed time. 

Let peace sustain the fight. 

a convert to feminism

adopting a movement i misunderstood

I cringe when I think of the things I used to say.

“I’m the furthest thing from a feminist.”

Feminists were frightening. They were nit-picking, angry man-haters, busy trying to become the men they hated in pursuit of power. Plus, feminists didn’t like stay-at-home-moms, and I thought I’d like to do that someday, so I distanced myself from the movement.

“Women are pretty emotional, they probably shouldn’t be president.”

I’d heard this argument and agreed. I was emotional, and this meant I could step into that office and be one missed Midol away from sending nuclear weapons to God-knows-where. Emotions were unpredictable, hormones unruly, so how could any of us be expected to rule the free world? Better leave those jobs to people with more even-keeled brains. Thank God He gave us men.

“Allowing women in combat is a bad idea.”

I used to nod along, quietly listening to the debates of military minded men and soak in the lessons they taught. According to them, adding women to their combat teams would change the dynamic and, ultimately, their world-saving capabilities. They made sense, for a while. Women aren’t biologically built the same. Maybe it really would distract men to have to worry about protecting their female counterparts. Maybe women wouldn’t be able to keep up. 

But then I started to ask questions.

What if she could keep up?

What if she was perfectly capable, and she just hasn’t had the chance to prove it?

What if she wanted that chance?

The questions continued. One debate-heavy night I got to the heart of the issue with another military-minded man, and it turns out there was another problem, which was, perhaps, the real  issue: a woman on the team meant that “men couldn’t act naturally.” Really, this meant that men would have to stop making derogatory, sexist, over-sexualized comments and cursing as much as they pleased. Or they wouldn’t stop, but they’d be too self-aware, and that would no longer be entirely comfortable. It would get in the way of the workflow.

I called bullshit; most people in the world need to learn how to regulate inappropriate behaviors, and the military shouldn’t be an exception to this norm. And, honestly, wasn’t it time to stop worrying about how free you are to say what you want and just worry about doing your job? Or, heaven forbid, reprogram your thinking so rude/inappropriate/sexist comments don’t even cross your mind?

The discussion (argument) spiraled out of control to end with a surprising, even more disturbing conclusion. That night I learned that some people actually think that men are smarter, as well as stronger, and women make sub-par career choices because of their limited capabilities. They were small-minded, unintelligent, and weak.

I was there, faced with these comments and questions and this male’s narrow-minded belief system, and I was dumbfounded. Shocked, really, and much angrier then I thought I’d be. This moment changed all; it goes down in history as was the moment I realized that I am, and probably always was, a feminist. 

I used to be afraid of being lumped in with those angry protestors. I was not the man-hating type, and I thought that if I didn’t don a labia-hat to march about town I had no right to the movement. Plus I had opinions that contradicted the loudest in the platform, so it would probably be best if I just keep my mouth shut altogether. Most of all, I thought that if I wanted to be a mother, forgo a career, and love a husband from home, I shouldn’t consider myself liberated or enlightened. 

That night set something free in me, though, and I realized that I had been wrong. Feminism is not, and should not, be narrowed down to a select group of political policies, reproductive laws, or who’s doing what with their jobs or their homes. It is more than that. 

Feminism is the belief that women are of equal dignity as men. As worthy of respect as men. Women are valuable, capable, contributing members of society, and should be treated as such.

Today I thank the man who was so absurdly wrong that I now see what is right: I am a feminist, and feminism is good. I have finally seen that this is not the movement I once hid from, but a well-founded belief that women are humans deserving of respectful treatment.

We are not playthings, trophies, or rewards. We are not sheep. 

We deserve the opportunity to serve wherever we please, in whatever capacity we please, and to do so with support. We should feel free to serve in the home, if that is where we’ve found our most authentic selves, but also free to pursue that same whole-hearted living in the classroom, the boardroom, the battlefield or wherever else we walk. We deserve to do so without being cat-called, shunned, or shamed. 

We deserve to engage with this world as whole persons, not divided into half-selves that don’t feel or make mistakes. We do both, and we need our male counterparts to continue letting us in anyway. Not in spite of our differences, but because of them. Without us an entire portion of the human experience is lost.

We are owed equal freedoms and the chance to pursue what is good without the pre-conceived judgement of men who believe they are wiser before they’ve even known us.

And then when they do come to know us, we should be free to embrace our nature, with all the mess and hormones and emotions, as our gift; perhaps this feminine range of experience would make us wiser leaders, not wild ones.

At the very least, no matter what we choose to do, it must be clear that we are more than mere ornaments, and we are not more worthy of respect if we are smaller, more attractive, or more pleasant.

As women, our hearts and minds and souls are as wide as the sky, as diverse as the earth, and we are all good.

Thank God for that.

further up and further in

on to the next right thing

Today is a daydream. Today I am simply a girl in a sundress, free to soak in gardenia-scented breezes and the birds singing praise to the spring. I’d like to stay here forever and let the days melt into each other like butter, golden and slow, because I’m dreading tomorrow. Tomorrow my alarm will ring until I crawl out of bed, pull on scrubs, and make my way to an alternate reality where the threat of a murderous virus has crept into my city. A pandemic has turned entire countries into war zones and we hold our breath as we wait for it to take us next. In the meantime our hours get cut, supplies rationed, processes changed, and rumors are spread. We live in the calm before the storm and I tick through the hours of my shift; I dream of a life where art and words and beauty weave the rhythm of my days instead of alarming machinery, upset patients, and the buzz of danger overhead. Some of my co-workers are proud to serve, but the state of the world has not reinvigorated my own love of nursing service. Rather, it has reinvigorated my desire to live authentically, invest in what I love, and protect what I care most about. I continue to practice the compassionate art of nursing and find myself yearning, instead, for the compassionate art of storytelling.

I am not ungrateful for the road I’ve been on; providing nursing care is a gift. I consider it a privilege to help new life into the world. I am glad to hold the hands of sick women and am always willing to advocate for patients in need, victims of abuse or victims of grief. I will happily bear cheerful news and offer condolences when news is unwelcome. In reality, some of these nursing days are good. Other days, especially lately, it’s become clear that the business of healthcare has outweighed its heart. I’m getting tired. More often now, I wonder why I’m here.

In an effort to redirect my future I comb through my past. I think back to my childhood and hear my mother, also a nurse, explain that the profession, above all, is a calling. I thought I heard that call. Maybe I still do. I’ve always appreciated how well nursing practice incorporates creative thinking, compassion, and technical skill. Sometimes, though, I consider my mother’s childhood, and there the doubts return. For a myriad of reasons, both cultural and practical, she grew up encouraged to pursue work she could lean on in case her husband failed her. Echoes of that encouragement lived in the back of my mind as I sorted through my own career goals; first to be rejected was pre-medicine.It would certainly be too hard to balance all that work with mothering, and how could I ever find a decent husband doing so much studying? I then passed up English, followed by theology, then psychology, because hobbies wouldn’t pay bills. Thus, in the service of practicality, another nursing student came into the world. 

Unfortunately that advice wasn’t entirely faulty; my nursing job did serve me well when I couldn’t rely on my husband. I married young, just after college, and was promptly carried off by his military career. Nursing provided some consistency in the chaos and I heard over and again how lucky I was that my job traveled so well. I agreed, thankful for the flexibility and the paycheck. I dove deeper into the field, supposing myself wise for working towards a masters before we began having children. Of course, life is never as neat as we hope for; my best plans were thwarted when my husband realized he didn’t want children. Thankfully, nursing was as reliable as ever when I realized I didn’t want him. I left and was indebted, again, to the job that traveled well.

Today, finally, in the absence of one dysfunctional marriage and many imagined children, I am free to envision what I want out of life for my own sake. There are things in my heart peeping out from the shadows, waking up with the spring to remind me of what I used to love. I easily recall the first book report I ever did and the vivid detail of my fifth grade English class. I remember ruining my eyes at seven reading Harry Potter by nightlight, poring through Lord of the Rings at eight, and my dad pulling me from the depths of teenage depression with The Right to Write. I recall the first book I ever scribbled out, a ten year old’s saga complete with fairies, and the newspaper I haphazardly started in high school. I used to tell people my dream was “to publish a book,” and it was writing that earned me a full tuition scholarship to college. I think back to nursing school and find that, of all the things I should have been proud of, the day my freshman English professor read my story aloud to the class was the highlight. Most recently, it was writing that helped me through divorce and brought me home to who I’m meant to be. Writing has been faithful.

Where writing has followed me, it is time I followed it. I am being pulled somewhere new and, hopefully, towards a more authentic version of myself. So far I’ve found that at my most wholesome, authentic core I am blissfully naive, enchanted with stories, and hoping to be in the service of beauty. In that service, in my most sparkling dreams, I join the class of authors who’ve told stories well through their novels, articles, television shows, films, poetry and music. The writing world is broad, the list endless. So endless, in fact, that I am not quite settled on where my writing voice will feel most at home in the future, though I do know where I’d like to begin. At this beginning, I hope for the chance to explore a world I did not allow myself to seriously consider in the past. Put simply, I want to write and I want to be given the tools to do it well. I am ready to learn. 

Naturally, there is also the possibility I find a way to weave my current profession into a writing career; I have found no better place to learn of humanity than entering into another’s experience of birth, life, sickness, and death. Either way, storytelling has my heart, and I want nothing more than to do it to the best of my ability in any of its forms. The unexpected nature of this journey has only proven that I must, we all must, invest in what we love. Destabilizing as it may seem to consider such drastic personal changes, all we can hope to do is take the small steps before us and move slowly in the direction of those passions. 


Further up and further in, friends.

The best is yet to come.