Category Archives: musings

Welcome, 2019!

As 2018 drew to a close, I found myself thinking time and time again about this blog. When I started blogging a decade or so ago, it was a way to encourage the discipline of writing in my life. I had become an editor at that point and spent my days poring over others’ work rather than my own and I didn’t want writing for my own personal benefit to fade out of my life.

In those days, I blogged daily, first thing. But since leaving the editing world (at least full-time; I’m still open to freelance gigs), I’ve been writing daily. And most of the time, these are stories I’m excited to tell and tales about people I want the world to know and experience.

I write every day, but I blog … rarely.

I had hoped that by the time 2019 got here, I would have a plan for what I wanted to do with my blog. I’d tossed aside the idea of closing it down completely and thought that I’d magically have an editorial calendar of sorts all planned out.

But 2019 is here—and I don’t have a plan. I don’t have all the pieces lined up and the stories written and a plan for what I’ll post here tomorrow or next week or next month.

And maybe—just maybe—that’s a little how my life feels right now. I have a beautiful life, but I don’t have all the pieces lined up, a detailed plan for how 2019 will go. And maybe that’s because I’ve lived long enough to know that life is more like a river than a straight line. It’s full of curves and rapids and long months or years where it feels just like you’re floating or stalled—either way, you’re getting nowhere fast.

So in 2019, I’m embracing the reality that I don’t have to have everything figured out. It’s OK to be unfinished, as this blog has always proclaimed. And while I have some goals for this year—reading more, getting to know my neighbors better, consistently studying Scripture, investing in the lives of people I love better, taking time to enjoy the things I love—I don’t have a 2019 plan of action.

And I’m OK with that.

All that to say, there are some things I know I want to do on the blog this year. I want to continue to highlight things I love: family, faith, writing, cooking, reading and the creative arts. I want to see if there are ways to work in more journalistic approaches to stories, maybe including profiles of people I know or meet. I want to take a deep dive into history and examine something or someone, to research and learn and write about it.

These are all unfinished ideas. But like I said, that’s always been the idea behind this blog. So here’s to a new year and a fresh start—and a hope to publish more here in 2019!


Benefit of the Doubt

Part of my job involves editing the quarterly alumni magazine for the University. This also means that for a few weeks after each issue hits mailboxes, I receive calls from all the people who want their names off the mailing list.

Usually, the people are polite and just inform me that the person on the mailing label no longer lives at that address or that their parent has passed away and no longer needs to be on the mailing list. I express my condolences or thanks, get the information, and pass it along to the person who manages the list.

Early last month, I got a call from a man who I assumed was calling for this reason after he introduced himself. I had my pen ready to take down his address.

Instead, his voice took on an angry tone and grew louder as he spoke. His ire wasn’t fueled by any content in the magazine. Instead, it was the mailing label that had angered him. Pause and consider that: the mailing label.

Addressed to both him and his wife, he was furious that we had addressed the magazine to his wife using the title “Mrs.” rather than a title that reflected her professional position.

A position we at the university were entirely unaware of.

(Note: people often assume that universities automatically receive address updates, death notices and promotion info. We don’t—not unless you tell us.)

I assured the man that using the title “Mrs.” was in no way meant to intentionally slight his wife, but it did little to calm him. He informed me that if we expected him or his wife to do anything for the university, we should give his wife her due. I explained again that there was no intention not to do that. It’s hard to address someone with a title you don’t know they have. I ended the conversation as amicably as I could and went on with my day, but I found myself thinking about it again and again.

I ended the conversation as amicably as I could and went on with my day, but I found myself thinking about it again and again.

In many ways, we’ve become a society that doesn’t give the benefit of the doubt. Like my caller, we assume that any discomfort, small mistake or slight that comes our way is intentional.


Not everything that seems like a slight or dig at you is intentional. That car that cut you off in the traffic on the way to work? Maybe she was late for a presentation and didn’t even see you. That email that seemed snarky and pointed? Maybe the writer was trying to be funny and didn’t realize that humor can be easily misconstrued when there aren’t facial or social cues to tip you off. That person who is being so hard to work with and seemingly making snide comments behind your back? Maybe he or she is going through something personally that you have no idea about.

Sure, sometimes we discover that some people are intentionally trying to be hurtful when their actions erase all doubt. But most of the time, do yourself and those around you a favor and give them the benefit of the doubt!

Closing the door

I help with the arts ministry at my church, working with the teens. The goal of this ministry is to help the children and teens in our church see how they can use the arts and their gifts to glorify God and encourage the church. We spend a lot of time on musical things, which is great because I love singing, but we’ve also delved into writing, photography and other artistic endeavors.

This spring, we’re working on a project that will combine photography and writing. We’ve challenged the kids to write about a moment in their journey with Christ and then take a photograph to go with it.

So, to kick things off, I shared mine with them this week. It’s all about how God led me to leave a job I loved to take a chance on a job that he opened the door for me to have.

I knew the door was closing, and there was nothing I could do to stop it. 

This job, these people I loved like family, this work with its eternal focus—it would all continue. But it would continue without me. 

God had opened the door that allowed me to serve here for a season, but He would also be the One to close that door. 

I had known for months that the door was closing. I had cried. I had prayed. I had held on so tightly that my fingers were about to slammed in the door. For more than a decade, God had allowed me to do work I loved alongside people I respected. But quietly, He had begun to move me toward the next step, inching the door shut even as He made a way for a new adventure. 

I didn’t know how or when exactly that door would finally close, but at some point, when all my protests had grown silent, I felt His peace. In the quiet, I knew with certainty that the Lord who led me there would lead me on to the future. 

I had mistakenly believed that this job, this work defined who I was. But what God taught me as He closed one door and opened another was that He knew me better than I knew myself. That his plan was better than mine. 

He closed the door. 

And when He opened a new door, He led me to a place where I felt joy and purpose in ways I never could have imagined. 

“For I know the plans I have for you”—this is the LORD’s declaration—“plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”
—Jeremiah 29:11

Let’s be the church.

In December 1997 when the Heath High School shooting happened, I was finishing up the first semester of my freshman year of college. Located near Paducah, Ky., Heath High School was a familiar name. My family sometimes drove to Paducah to shop, especially around Christmas. About a two hour drive from my hometown, Paducah was the halfway point on the drive from the bootheel of Missouri to Nashville.

My college years are punctuated by school shootings. In my sophomore year, Columbine happened. When I heard the news, my mind instantly flashed to a classmate we’d just interviewed as an assignment in my first journalism class. She was from Littleton. In the days that followed, I was glued to the news coverage, terrified, shocked, confused. It made the horror of our world and our own capability for evil become more real than they ever had before.

The violence didn’t end there. Virginia Tech. Northern Illinois University, Newtown. The list has grown long in these 20 years. And for those cities, small and large towns and college campuses, the horror of that day leaves a scar that never fully heals. Time in these places are now starkly marked by “before” and “after.” Everything is different, and it will never be the same. Innocence is lost, and evil indeed lives here.

Another city was added to the list this week: Benton, Ky. Located so close to my hometown that our local new station covers the city, Benton is a small town in southwestern Kentucky. My brother spent two summers working at a camp near there, attending church in Benton. What Benton made me realize, perhaps belatedly, was that this violence could happen anywhere. Down the street from my house. In my hometown. At the school my best friend’s kids attend. Where my sweet kindergarteners from church go.

Evil indeed lives here. In this world that is so capable of breathtaking beauty and awe-inspiring moments of true human compassion, evil is also very real.

I had to turn the coverage off this week. As someone trained as a journalist, I want to know the facts, but I find it hard to not become emotionally involved, especially when this tragedy happened so close to my hometown. I can’t not imagine the depth of loss, the grief, the sadness carried by those affected.

I want to live in a world where there are no more alerts about mass shootings that scroll across my phone. I wish that cycles of abuse and poverty and addiction and more didn’t trap people in their currents and pull people under their waves. I wish we as a society truly focused more on putting others first rather than getting what we want for ourselves.

I wish for a better place, but wishing rarely makes anything better.

So I will work for a better place. I will be kind when there is no reason to be kind. I will ask God to help to open my eyes to those in need and help me to see how He would use me.

So instead of allowing this moment to become one defined by partisan politics, believers, let’s be the church. Let’s mourn with those who mourn. Let’s pray as we’ve never prayed before. Let’s love and serve to the best of our ability.

Let’s be known by our love and shine some light in one of our country’s darkest moments.

Lessons in the rubble


A chapter in my life came to a symbolic, cinematic end today. The new owners of the LifeWay property in downtown Nashville imploded the Draper Centennial Tower to make room for the upcoming Nashville Yards project.

16989468115_baabbbeaf5_zI spent 12 years working every day in that building. Twelve years that spanned only two offices (a rarity for anyone who works at LifeWay past a year). Twelve years of hard work, amazing coworkers and lunches in the cafeteria.

I watched from home, via livestream. As the building crumpled in on itself, I thought about the memories those hallways and offices held. Those EC planning meetings where we laughed until we cried. The week of feasting before Christmas, department meetings and Monday devotions. That time my friend Jason and I watched the trailer for a scary movie and both screamed when something creepy suddenly showed in the video. That weird sticky eyeball that we threw onto the ceiling of my office and it got stuck and stayed there. I kind of hope it’s still there, somewhere in all the rubble. There were stand-up meetings, tough conversations and people who would stop whatever they were doing and pray for you. Cart luge. Birthday celebrations. Practical jokes. Laughter, a good share of tears and so many hugs.

I will admit that the implosion affected me a little more than I expected. I understand and agree with the need for change and know the new LifeWay building just a few blocks over provides better resources for the nature of the work in today’s world.

But after the tower fell and the smoke began to clear, I realized a couple of things.

  1. It was just a building. It wasn’t the building that made those 12 years of my life so special. It was the people, the relationships. My coworkers. The talented people who graciously wrote for me for years and those who trusted me with the words they’d birthed into the world and allowed me to prune and shape them. Many of my coworkers became more like family and those relationships continue today. The building may be gone, but those are the things that last.
  2. In the end, only the things that really mattered will last. Buildings fall. Jobs change. Stuff is just, well, stuff. What mattered within those walls was those relationships and the shared goal of the material we created. We were there, united under one mission: to create resources that God used to draw people into deeper relationship with Himself. I hope that even now, the resources I worked on continue to draw students closer to God. The fact that He would use our humble efforts is amazing, to say the least. The walls where we planned and prayed for those resources are gone, but the mission continues. At times, the work may have felt like just meeting deadlines, but it was work with an eternal impact.

And eternal things last.


Let’s be us.

Last night, at the close of a long week filled with news reports that saddened and depressed me—the news of Charlottesville, Va., incredibly ignorant comments leveled against a very well spoken DACA student who wrote a well-informed, respectful op-ed piece in the Tennessean— I was aimlessly scrolling through my Facebook feed. I ran across a post from a journalist I like, Steve Hartman, who has made a living simply telling the stories of regular people from around the country, detailing their struggles, the moments in their lives when everything changed, their day-to-day lives and the acts of service, attitudes and tasks that help us to recognize that everyone—the people next door, that man down the street, that person whose politics you don’t agree with—have a story to tell and something to offer.

Steve hosted “CBS Sunday Morning” yesterday, and took to social media earlier in the weekend to point out that he wasn’t an anchor and never had been and went as far as to admit that he was nervous. He asked for advice on which tie to wear, having bought two since he never wore them, and chose the yellow one, the clear viewer favorite.

As the hours left in Sunday began to wane, Hartman took to social media to thank his fans, not just for their wardrobe advice, but also for their encouragement. “You say I make you cry. But you turned the tables this weekend,” he wrote. “Many of you sensed I was a little outside my comfort zone and wrote things like, ‘You got this!’ It helped. It felt like a team effort.”

But it was Hartman’s next few words that shone a little light into the darkness of this weekend.

A few even said, “You’re one of us!” I thought a lot about that. I thought — who exactly is “us?” Who are all of you who choose to follow, friend, and even advocate for a news reporter? I know from experience how diverse you are. Your backgrounds and political beliefs vary widely. So then who is “us?”
Maybe we’re just the hopeful. Maybe we’re the people who still believe the world is mostly good. Regardless, I’m grateful we found each other.

In a week where there has been so much division, so much us v. them, so much hatred against others because of skin color or immigration status or whatever, it was good to be reminded of the word “us.”

The thing that makes us “us” is our humanity. And when we choose to look at another person and regard them as lesser, we aren’t just hurting them, we’re hurting ourselves. What happened in Charlottesville is wrong; there’s no other way to say it. As a Christian, I cannot condone bigotry and racism. We are made in the image of God, and when I degrade you, I degrade Him.

So this week, let’s live, think, speak and act with an “us” mentality rather than a “them” mentality.

Let’s be us.

The long farewell

I didn’t grow up a Glen Campbell fan.

My parents listened to a wide variety of music when I was growing up. Songs of the 70s. The Oak Ridge Boys. Gospel and Southern Gospel music. Some Simon and Garfunkel, a little Linda Rondstat, the Eagles.

But never Glen Campbell. And truth be told, even if you asked me today, I’d probably only be able to tick off his biggest hits, the ones everyone knows, like “Rhinestone Cowboy,” “Wichita Lineman,” and “Gentle on My Mind.”

But Campbell’s brutal honesty about his Alzheimer’s and his long farewell to his fans, well, it captured my heart. A songwriter and singer so talented, so beloved, so known who was willing to be that vulnerable and loved his fans so much he was willing to take the risk—I couldn’t get past that.

Here’s why.

On a cold, damp fall day about six years ago, sometime around Thanksgiving, I think, my dad and I unlocked the door to my grandmother’s empty house and quietly walked through the “back porch” sitting room, past the kitchen and dining room and into Grandma Ruby’s rarely used living room. The house was empty and beginning to take on the look of a long term yard sale as various members of the family worked to go through her belongings.

Grandma’s long farewell had begun years earlier when dementia began to rob her memories. We lost her in bits and pieces. I became a face she recognized and a name she knew, but the face and the name didn’t match anymore. She once told me when I visited, “I remember Mandy, but I don’t see her much anymore. But I love her.”

By the time her long farewell ended in early June of 2011, it was hard to know where in time Grandma lived in her memories. What I knew when she passed away was that she had made a forever mark on my heart. Grandma Ruby would always live in my memories, in my heart.

So that chilly afternoon, when my dad and I stood in her living room, the one with the picture window that faced the south, where the afternoon light would filter in, gilding the furniture and burnish the walls, we stood at the huge stereo console that now sits in my parents’ basement and flipped through the LPs housed inside. I’d recently gotten a record player and my dad wanted to see if any of his old Letterman LPs were still there (they were and I have a bunch of them). But I happened on several Glen Campbell albums and took them home with me.

My dad said they probably belonged to my grandma, so I took them, too. I wanted to hold in my hands and listen to something she had liked, to have a little piece of her at home with me. So that Glen Campbell Christmas album and By the Time I Get to Phoenix came to Nashville.

I listen to the Christmas album every year while decorating my tree. The first year, it was just to find out what it was like. The second was to remind me of her. With the third, it became a tradition.

Last night, when I heard that Glen Campbell’s own long farewell was over, it only seemed fitting to pull out one of the albums and take a listen.

So I listened, to the A and B-sides, with the blinds wide open and the afternoon sun filtering in, gilding the room.


And I remembered.

Give a gift

Earlier this week, I went to a funeral. During the service, the younger brother of the man we were there to honor stood up to speak. As he stood behind the podium, his voice shaking a little as he spoke about his brother, he looked out at the crowd and locked eyes with a group of men who had been his brother’s college teammates.

“You were his friends and his brothers,” he said. “But really, you were his heroes. And because you were his heroes, you were mine, too.”

There it was: a gift.

On this day of all days, he could have stood behind the podium and let his words focus on himself, the depth of his own loss and grief. But in a moment, he gave a gift to men his brother had loved.

A gift of graciousness. Of kindness.

In our world, it’s so easy to become focused on ourselves, our needs, our issues, our problems, joys and concerns that we don’t see the needs of others. To become so focused on what we want to say next in the conversation that we don’t even listen to what the other person has to say. To be so intent on what we’re doing or what we’re interested in, that we roll right past the friend who is hurting, who simply needs someone to notice.

So this week, rather than to focus solely on ourselves, let’s seek to give gifts. Gifts of graciousness and kindness.

The gift of listening before we speak.

The gift of inclusion.

The gift of patience, respect and honor.

When we find ourselves turning inward and our own needs and concerns become our only focus, let’s ask God to open our eyes to the needs and concerns of those around us so we can give gifts.

100 words on home

I want to go home. I say those words often. In quiet moments when I’m tired or feel forgotten or alone. When parts of life seem hard or stressful. When there’s a longing in my heart, a feeling that all the joys and beauty of this world can’t seem to fulfill. Sometimes, it’s a desire to go home to visit my family, to go to a place that feels comfortable, where I feel cared for. Sometimes, it’s a longing for my own house. But more often than not, it’s a longing for my true home, where all will be made right. Eternity is written on my heart, and the longing gives me hope.

Someone else’s kitchen

I think about them sometimes.

Our names, hidden under a layer of paint, marking our heights throughout the years, climbing up the wall next to the door to the cellar in a house that I’m no longer free to visit.

The names of my cousins at the top, Chris always the tallest. My brother’s name, then mine, always the shortest. So often on a Sunday afternoon visit to my grandparents’ house, we’d grab a pen off the old roll-top desk in the hallway, measure our heights and write our names on the paneling, imprinting our mark on the wall in the old house my grandmother bought during World War II when my grandfather was still overseas, and she was a young mother trying to figure out life at home without him.

After my grandmother passed away, we spent months cleaning out the house. There was an auction and eventually the house was sold. Before it went on the market, my mom and my aunt painted the kitchen, covering up the names and heights that we’d etched into that wall over the years.

But I still think about those names sometimes.

About how underneath that layer of paint in someone else’s kitchen, they’re still there. And I wonder, if the new owners ever run their fingers across that wall and feel the writing in relief and wonder what it is. Or maybe they don’t know or care and the secret stays hidden beneath the paint and they are none the wiser.

And maybe, if I’m honest, I prefer it that way. That the names stay hidden beneath that paint, just as they are hidden in my heart and mind. That they’re a sweet secret between my grandparents and the grandkids that no one else can see.

There, in someone else’s kitchen is a silent testimony that we were there, and we were deeply loved.