The Forty-First Letter: On Getting Comfortable & Why I Love College Students


Dear Daughters,

Your dad and I celebrated our 12th wedding anniversary last weekend. And by “celebrated” I mean we got take-out blue cheese and bacon burgers from a local foodie place and ate them during your quiet time on Sunday afternoon.

Twelve years is kind of a long time, considering I am a pretty young person.

And then I realize that I turn thirty-four next week. Thirty-four years young.

Most of my friends are older than I am, so I’m not really shocked by my age. What surprises me, sometimes, is how I’m settling into this life, how I still don’t feel like a “grown-up” but I’m beginning to be content not being one.

Settling-in is a good thing.

Mostly. I’ll be the first to admit it.

It is also a bad thing. Because my life has been pretty easy so far, I’ve felt myself getting pretty comfortable, not holding myself to as high of standards, letting my convictions slide as convenience (mine, as well as yours) takes center stage. Things that are more work, which I would have always thought “worth it,” don’t always seem so anymore.

It feels weird even to admit it, because that is so not me. I have always been overflowing with conviction. Not necessarily motivation, I’ll confess, but to the extent that I have not been motivated to make a change or be the change I saw necessary, I have always been aware of the way that I was not living up to my convictions. I think I’ve always favored clarity and naivety and idealism to being practical.

Because, let’s face it. The gospel is naive, girls. Jesus is pretty naive when he calls us to give up everything, isn’t he? That’s impractical, isn’t it? We don’t hear that very often from pulpits.

I don’t think others sense it yet, this tension I’m feeling as I get comfortable in my life.

In fact, I’m pretty sure I’m still seen as young and a little too idealistic at, say, church committee meetings. I attend an aging church, and it doesn’t go unnoticed by me that often when I make suggestions to folks who’ve been in the church for decades, I still hear the whole “Well, fourteen years ago, we had a committee that did such and such and that’s why we don’t do it that way any more.” That just warms the cockles of my heart, as you can imagine.

Or not.

But the thing is, when I’m honest with myself, I can admit that sometimes, now that I’m in my thirties, I simply want to do the easy thing, too.

Because I can, gosh darn it.

And I don’t like the hard work and I don’t really like change.

I hate that.

But here’s something I’ve been thinking about this week: this sliding toward comfort and conservatism is precisely why I love being involved in the lives of young people. College students. Seminary students. Young people who think that they can change the world–believe that the world can be changed–take seriously their role and their convictions.

They hold me to a higher standard.

They hold all of us to a higher standard.

And yet we so often discount what they have to say, without really listening. We look down on young people because their existence among us is often transient, and they seem too idealistic, and besides, what do they know about what it means to save for retirement or pay for health insurance?


They don’t know. And so they can be a lot less jaded than we are. We who have so much invested in our comfort, we who have worked hard for stability. Someone’s gotta pay the electric bill in our air-conditioned churches, right?

Ah, now I am getting preachy. There’s that old soapbox feeling again.

I imagine that when you read these letters, you yourself will be a young person. That’s why I wanted to write this one. I was imagining you as young women with conviction, with articulate voices, calling me to a higher standard. And I wanted to give you permission to stand firm, even when others say that you are young and naive and impractical.

I really hope you call me to a higher standard. I really hope your voices are charged with dissatisfaction with the way things are and hope at the way things could be. I hope you read scripture and see the disconnect with the way it is so often lived in this world. I hope you see a path forward, and I hope you are lights on that path for others.

For the old folks.

That is, for me.

I hope I will be able to hear you. I hope I will be challenged by you. I hope you’ll make me a little bit uncomfortable.

Because that is how it should be.

Thanks in advance, girls.


Your Momma




The Sixteenth Letter: Eleven Years In

Dear Daughters,

Eleven years ago today, your dad and I got married in a tall stone church on State Street in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. It was a hot June weekend in the Susquehanna River valley, and the roads near the church were roped off for a race. I saw family members who’d gotten stuck in traffic sneaking in just before I walked down the aisle.

We said in our wedding vows that we would serve God together, side by side.

Side by side.

Side by side for eleven years. Towering over most other human beings.

Two states, three graduate degrees, two apartments, two houses, four cars, two daughters, in eleven years.

We’ve lost five grandparents and found four nephews and two nieces in eleven years.

We’ve sanded down hardwood floors, painted and mudded walls and more walls and more walls, built a deck, planted gardens, strapped IKEA boxes on top of the Outback, dealt with motion sick babies. Eleven years.

We’ve walked with friends through divorce and remarriage, infertility and miscarriage. We’ve watched all ten seasons of FRIENDS an embarrassing number of times. We’ve entered the world of smart phones. Eleven years.

We’ve been published and—more often than not—received rejection letters. We’ve applied for jobs and not gotten them. We’ve gotten liturgical, begun eating locally, and started buying fair trade chocolate. Eleven years.

We’ve read a lot of books, written a lot of poems, attended a lot of Over the Rhine concerts. We’ve stopped drinking any tea in the morning that isn’t PG Tips. We eat Thai food on Tuesdays. Eleven years.

We’ve gone to Italy and slept in an airport in Atlanta. We’ve roadtripped it to the Grand Canyon and rented cars in Seattle. We’ll always call Pennsylvania home, but have managed to plant deep roots wherever “here” is. Texas. Kentucky. Eleven years.

We’ve gotten a little preachy on our soapboxes, stronger in our convictions, and urgent in our causes. We also go to bed earlier. Eleven years.

We’ve started going gray. Taking a little longer to recover from hard work days. Wrinkling around the eyes when we smile. Eleven years.

I’ve asked your dad many times over the last eleven years—“Do you think everyone has as much fun as we do?”

Because we have a lot of fun.

Not that there haven’t been tears and frustrations and anger and tears. Lots of tears. Life is hard and marriage is harder. Those months and years after having babies? The hardest. At least for me.

And eleven years in? Still hard.

But still fun, too.

I can’t imagine being side by side with anyone else.

I don’t know what our marriage will look like to you, growing up in this house. You’ll see the tears sometimes, and you’re both already such sensitive and sweet girls. But you’ll also hear the laughter and joking, the singing and dancing. You’ll see the book reading, you’ll hear the soapboxes, you’ll eat the tofu. And you’ll probably tower over everyone, too.

Regardless, as your dad and I serve God together, side by side, I love knowing that we’ll have you toddling along behind.

Stay close.


Your Momma