“The Miracle lives in your spatula as much as it lives in their fork.”

I do not have comment wars here on the blog. I barely need to screen for spam because most of the comments are the sweetest encouragement. Yesterday, I read this comment out loud to friends and I read it out loud again today so the conversation could continue. Here is just a little snippet of what Lexi said, but you should definitely read the rest.

It is hard to put ourself second, or third, or ninetieth because of the fact that that is still ultimately where ‘we’ ‘I’ want to be. There is no complete Joy in the thought of putting yourself anywhere. You say ‘I love you’ to someone–or a thing– because you desire it–fully. It brings you to a place of desire for that moment in which you can speak to it and let it be known how you desire to be with it. You are not thinking about how much you are loving that thing– or person– more than the last- Or how well you are doing it on that day. You are thinking of it. Solely the ‘it’. It’s a longing–and it’s deep–and very very Joyful.

You are not first because you are providing pancakes (or your house) and the other is not second for eating them. You enjoyed baking them (or else you would not have done it) and the friend enjoyed eating them (because we all must eat and what better to eat than breakfast for dinner!) You both are at the crux of love in the form of friendship, neighborhood and company. It is in Jesus’ delight (if I may boldly dare to say what he feels) that you both are simply enjoying. The Miracle lives in your spatula as much as it lives in their fork.

Maybe I am chasing after “second” when I really should be chasing after Jesus, who for the joy set before him endured the cross and scorned its shame (Hebrews 12:2). It seems like the life of Jesus was about the pleasure of His father – the joy always before Him actually changed the circumstances around him.

We never hear Jesus say, “I must be thoughtful about putting others ahead of myself.” He lived a life of love in all the ways He enjoyed pleasing His Father and we are supposed to imitate his life. “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Ephesians 5:1-2 ESV)

Sometimes I aspire to endure. I aspire to get joy by way of inconvenience and hardship instead of enduring all circumstances for the joy already set before me. Jesus longed for something that already existed (joy) through the grace and provision of the Father, and in doing so He served and loved well.

Joy is not something you strive to have, but something that happens when you are longing for something else.

Joy happens as we realize there is an eternity and that eternity is imprinted on our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Joy might happen when we see someone smile or when we hold a child or when we meet the neighbors or when we set a full table or when we walk around a rainy city all day with friends from home.

That’s where I was today, slopping around on rainy sidewalks with people I love. I didn’t set out to get joy or to be inconvenienced. I set out because joy was waiting to happen and then it did. We were a sloppy wet mess of joy soaking in spring rain.

Lexi’s comment yesterday made me think about the way I think about joy (too much thinking, I know). Or maybe it made me think about it less. Mainly, it made me admit that it is okay not to concentrate on inconvenience and hardship and pain as it relates to being first or second or ninetieth.

It is better best to concentrate on taking joy in what pleases the Father, whether you are holding a spatula or a fork.


There was another comment I read out loud, but it was because Sue Barnett, BA English thought I wanted the whole world on LSD. I’m not sure how she came to that conclusion, but you can read the comment at this post what if the grass was pink.

pancakes, parks, practical humility

Not every idea is a good idea.

I am a fearless brainstormer, so I suppose I would know. If it takes 100 ideas to find a good one, I will crank them out. I will suggest hovercrafts, paper plane deliveries, and real-life choose your own adventure novels without any sort of hesitation. I love ideas probably because I love imagination and getting to use both is like being set loose in a playground or a zoo (or a playground zoo, which sounds equally dangerous and exciting).

When I moved to New York City in August, I tried to keep my ideas to a minimum. I tried not to imagine too clearly what my life would be like – the ways I would serve and love this new place. Because I have lots of thoughts about what it means to love a city, and I’ve lived in a few. Every city (and rural, Midwestern town) has its own heartbeat – its own way of doing things and its own resistance to doing anything differently. I was not surprised to hear New York City’s heartbeat pumping rhythmically in public transit and peddlers and power struggles. There is definitely a New York state of mind and I am still not sure what my give-and-take should be in adopting it.

Either way, I live here and because I live here, I want to love well here.

When I move to a new city, I want to be intentional about knowing needs before trying to meet needs. But that takes a lot of self-control and I’m not always awesome at that. Which is why I stopped at the corner of Parkside and Ocean Ave to ask the small crowd gathered there if they would eat pancakes in an hour if I brought them back to the park.

The back story on this pancake idea is as long as winter darkness, so I’ll spare you. The short version is this: I want to love my community, want to get uncomfortable, want to serve intentionally… and I got antsy about it. I threw the idea out to a few people and I had both yeah-sayers and nay-sayers. The idea for pancakes in the park came because pancakes were part of a far-off-probably-never dream that required much more structure and probably some sort of involvement with the FDA. When I shared the idea, my friend said I should just start somewhere.

The park at night seemed like a good starting place. I could flip the (chocolate chip and maple) cakes in my apartment and take them over to the park in my bike basket. What the cakes lacked in fresh hotness they would make up for in sweet deliciousness.

I’ll admit, it was a haphazard plan.

The idea was like a battering ram and I was convinced it would knock down the barriers I still feel in this community, convinced this idea let me serve my community (and convinced that service would make this place more home).

I love pancakes, so that’s clearly not the problem. I also love parks (anyone would be crazy not to in the city), so that isn’t what made this idea fall flat.

The problem with pancakes in the park is that I stopped imagining too soon. I stopped being persistent about the process of knowing my community, thinking I could still love them well with an idea that made sense to me.

After the little group at the park laughed at me and I laughed at myself, we had a good conversation about the neighborhood and then I ran home whispering a pep talk about not giving up. It’s good to get practically humble – to realize you are holding a battering ram up against a mountain that isn’t supposed to move.

It is good because when you let go of a bad idea, you are free to think of something else – something better. Sprawled out on thrifted and sidewalk-swiped furniture, a new brainstorm happened and new plans are in the mix.

Pancake Mondays is going to be a thing that will still legitimize my Christmas ask for a griddle, but the action will happen much closer than the park. I’m hoping to host a monthly or weekly gathering of neighbors and friends for pancakes in my apartment instead. We’ve met many of the people on our floor, but have yet to get beyond the “nice to meet you” pleasantries and what way is better than a regular invitation to the best meal of the day served at night?

So far, I’ve got a roomie and an incredibly supportive boyfriend on board along with several other friends who want to join the party. I’m not sure, it could still fail and that’s okay. Practical humility is what you need if you want to serve your community well. There will be bad ideas before there will be good ideas and sometimes good ideas turn sour.

I haven’t completely given up on distributing food to strangers, but I have a new strategy for that as well. Patrick once carried around a container of my homemade cookies while running errands and he ended up offering them to the cab driver, the rental car attendant, and his neighbor. They seemed to like the gesture, at least no one laughed at him. So, I have thought about baking batches of cookies and then distributing them to friends to carry in their bags to give out when an opportunity arises.

Of course, all this is to be continued (including my ongoing humility lessons). I will keep learning to put down the battering ram and hold my ideas loosely.

Regardless, something will get baked and I think I’ll be able to find people who would enjoy it.

why we want to hide away

I know I’m pushing it… using the “we” in reference to myself inside the group called “New Yorkers.” I’m presuming a lot at this point, fresh off the Midwest-is-best plane and barely two months new in this metropolis. But, if you would, just let me for this one post.

I think I’m starting to understand why there are fewer apartment parties and more occasional, casual gatherings.

New Yorkers (natives and transplants) talk about plans in extremely vague and non-committal terms. Inevitably, every New Yorker has had a “really rough week” and it’s not just a line. It’s legitimate. This is a crazy place and the public transportation gives you plenty of time to ruminate over all the week’s awry events. In addition to all the people involved in your personal and work life, the sheer number of faces you encounter in any given day pushes anyone (no matter how social or strong) into survival mode.

How do I keep my head above water?

Never mind the gallery showings and premieres and benefit galas, how do I stay alive without going crazy? It’s true everywhere, but it feels truer here in New York, where the options are like a million menus of different languages shoved under your chin while a million different people wait for you to make your decision.

Before I moved here, I listened to a sermon by Tim Keller on living for the city – intentionally loving and pouring into the urban space because it is an open door in a way other places are not. A native Midwesterner and natural potluck lover, intentionally loving a city makes sense. Hosting and greeting neighbors and being busy makes sense.

But, this is overload.

I’m not saying it’s impossible, I’m just saying I think I understand why we want to hideaway. I get why hosting is hard. I am tempted to say the same “it’s been a rough week” to anyone who asks me to hang out this weekend. I am tempted to slide into vague, non-committal assurances when plans come up. I am tempted to be selfish because it feels more like preservation.

So, now I’ll believe even this temptation is not too much. There is room and space and mental energy to host and love and pour out intentional service into a city that sometimes tries to sap my strength. I’ll pray my heart believes what I know is true when I want to hide away.

the whole thunderstorm

I have been a smidgeon more bold about looking for places to guest post and exploring writing opportunities. I penned this email in response to an editor who invited me to write for their online publication antler.

Things are pretty dicey around here as I apply for jobs in NYC and still juggle the day-to-days, you know how that goes. My apologies for not writing sooner. It was like a little bit of lightning to have someone ask, “What do you think you’d like to write about?” It was honestly part of the paralysis in getting back to you.

What would I like to write about? So many splendid things.

The biggest wrestling match I’ve been tangled up in recently has to do with work and passion and calling and vocation. I’m in the process of applying for jobs, so I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about what it is I am supposed to pursue. You know – the questions you are supposed to ask/answer at 18 or at least by 24. These questions and answers are in an unfortunate cyclical pattern in my life and I’m still twirling.

Linguistics? Social Work? Community Advocacy? Public Policy? Writer? Dancer?

I just threw that “dancer” idea in for fun. If I’m honest, I would also say freestyle rapper because I really do love leaving rap messages on my friend’s voicemails. My point is that I hold some pretty strong beliefs about calling and vocation and I can’t seem to get them all to line up in the way I answer the question, “What do you most like to do?

Isn’t it from a privileged position that I can ask that question in the first place? What makes me think I need to LIKE what I do from 9-5… so many people don’t and they are still created in the image of God and have the ability to give Him glory with their days. On the other hand, God has created us with hands and minds and thoughts and abilities that will specifically give Him glory and reveal His creativity as we reach for and beyond the limits we’ve been given.

So, is it wasteful to have a mind that chooses to read textbooks at the beach but then not engage that mind in a classroom? Is it wasteful to choose to have a job at the bottom of the todem pole based on the belief that all levels of the todem pole are important? Is it irresponsible to work in a field that does not utilize what feels like one’s greatest passion?

It is with these things I wrestle and I suppose right now my body is nearly worn out with the fight. I know the best writing comes at these kinds of moments, so I wonder if I shouldn’t pursue this idea for a post.

I’m free for skype or phone, but now that you’ve read a few of the raindrops I’m not sure if you’ll want the whole thunderstorm.

Just let me know.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Occupy Life: Spanish at an Irish pub

This is another in a series of posts called Occupy Life. Each day you and I occupy physical time and space, making bold statements about what is most important in this life (whether we’re holding picket signs or not). Other entries: pancake battertying ribbonsAlejandra,  Lunch HourDelaney and Roland or the original post Occupy Life: Things One Might Do While Unemployed.

The scene is an unlikely one – Iowa’s attempt at a small Irish pub – but as good a place as any to brush up on my rusty Spanish skills. I’ve given up thinking my heart is capable of uprooting and replanting an endless amount of times. Instead, I believe my heart has magical roots that span states and countries and oceans. And maybe for that reason, I still kind of introduce myself as 100% catracha. If you don’t understand, then you probably aren’t Honduran. But, it might explain why the invitation to tell stories of Honduras in Spanish made my skin tingle.

The excitement came like a flood as I talked about all the faces and places and valleys and mountains that led me to discover a fuller picture of my God. And then I realized my words tripping over words may not make any sense to my friend – especially in Spanish. I offered to switch back to English, but my friend said my blabbering was preferable to Rosetta Stone.

And then it hit me. The words flew out of my mouth accompanied by hands waving and another wild (probably unflattering) smile stretched across my face, “a la orden!”

“A la orden” is a Spanish phrase that means, “at your service” and it was thrown around as often as Midwestern “hellos” when I was in Honduras. I noticed whenever one of my high school girls complimented another on an outfit, the response was always, “a la orden,” which meant that the outfit or shoes or whatever could be borrowed at any time. It was “at their service.” I started to think that we should have the same response whenever anyone compliments our talents.

My friend looked amused. I was trying to gather my jumbled excitement and put it into words… words that could somehow communicate how passionate I am about this idea that NOTHING I can do/say/sing/write/give is mine. Nothing. I don’t own my talents. There is no Caroline Copyright on my abilities. It’s ALL the Lord’s and it is ALL on loan for the purpose of loving God and serving others.

Right there in that cozy, Irish-looking booth I gestured and exclaimed and squealed and probably got more excited than the average, sober Irish pub-goer. But it was like re-discovering this beautiful Truth in a new context called Ames, Iowa.

I live here. I work here. I serve here.
How can I love God by making my every talent available to others?

Oh, you like my whimsical bubble letters? Let me know when you need a poster made.
Oh, you like the way I chase your kids around? Let me know when you need a night off.
Oh, you like my acapella singing at work? Let me know when you need a karaoke buddy.
Oh, you’re looking for a Spanish speaking buddy? Let me know the time and place.

Seriously, just TALKING about a la orden makes my heart sing.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy
by turning compliments into acts of service