Crossing it off the list

I asked author, friend and fellow Redbud Margaret Philbrick if she would write a post for the Worlds That Changed My World series. I’m so glad she said yes…. Enjoy the read!

I wanted to write about Shakespeare since it’s his 450th birthday today. His 116th sonnet is a classic perspective on love that I teach all my classes, but have his words changed my world? Somewhat, but not enough. The Bible? Yes, but who isn’t going to write about that? Song of Songs 4:10 and 2nd Corinthians 4:17 were both recently given to me by friends and I think they are changing my world, but I’m waiting for God to reveal what they mean to my life. Not enough information yet for a post.

In 1993 at 1:00 a.m., I sat on the edge of the bed bouncing our first infant. He was crying, for the twelfth middle of the night in a row. All swaddled up in his blankies and draw-string p.j.’s, just fed, just changed, just rocked and screaming. I deliriously walked over to close the bedroom window so the neighbors could keep sleeping next door. Then back to the edge of the bed for more of the bouncing and rocking routine. I felt like crying, but instead decided to solve the problem by illustrating for my wide awake husband all the things we had done right and my possible solutions we had not yet tried, like piling into the SUV for a middle of the night run to McDonalds. The car nap was better than no sleep at all.

to do
After a few minutes of trying to talk above the screaming, my husband came over and sat next to me. Bouncing in unison, he put his arm around me and whispered, “Having a baby is not a cross it off the list project.” Then I started crying. I had left my high powered advertising job for this? What was I accomplishing between diaper changes? Folding tiny socks, a stroll through Hoffman Park, cooking dinner and planting pansies between running inside when the baby monitor was coding red. Not exactly glamorous Kellogg’s Special K cereal shoots with Christie Turlington in L.A.

His words crept into the empty nooks of my soul to reorient my perspective. I began to get free. Having a baby and the opportunity to be at home and take care of him brought the privilege of new found freedom. I didn’t need to make the list anymore. We could do whatever we wanted; Arlington Racetrack, baby in a backpack to bet on the horses, the horse farm down on Naperville road for morning turn out, picnic lunches on a back yard blanket. One of my favorite memories from twenty years ago was our springtime stroll over to the college. He was three months old, still lying flat in the stroller and I would place him beneath the bell tower and blooming pink magnolia tree cornered by the sound of “All Creatures of our God and King” on the carillon. He would look up at the petals and kick out his legs and arms, screeching with delight at the sight and sound of wonder. This is the kind of thing Mary must have pondered in her heart, watching Jesus interact with HIS world.

Twelve words, spoken by a sleep deprived husband, are etched in my soul. They’ve kept me from becoming controlled by the list. Leaving the door open to spontaneity, I can take in the world by seasons, enacting senses in the moment. This spring, stand under a blooming magnolia and look up. View the blue crevasses between the rosy cups and sniff. Be enveloped. We all have just one day at a time. Try to see it all, without the list.


Philbrick-5Margaret Philbrick is an author, gardener and teacher who desires to plant seeds in hearts. Margaret is a graduate of Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, (Lit. major) and has a Masters in Teaching from National Louis University. She teaches writing and literature to children at The Greenhouse School and Home School University. She is actively involved in the fulfillment of God’s vision at Church of the Resurrection and the Redbud Writers Guild  where she serves on the board of both organizations. She helps empower the silenced feminine voice by mentoring women writers in Afghanistan via the Afghan Women’s Writing Project. Back to the Manger, her first book is a holiday gift book she created with her mother, an oil painter. Her first novel, A Minor – A Novel of Love, Music and Memory releases June 1st, 2014. You can find Margaret in her garden digging in the dirt or writing poetry and you can connect with her on-line via her website at

When My Children Squabble

sibling squabble

When my children squabble, they shout loudly and I tell them they don’t need to shout: I can hear them.

When my children squabble, they point out how well they are doing and how evil the others are by comparison.

When my children squabble, they are so puffed up with their “rightness”, so aggrieved by my slowness to take their side.

When my children squabble, I see how very young they are, and how very little they understand. Their truths are true, but partial.

When my children squabble, there is anger. There are tears.

When my children squabble, I love them and am for them – and yet they seem frustrated. I think sometimes they would rather I were a referee than a refuge.

When my children squabble, I see their hearts, their sense of justice, their longing for fairness and understanding. I also see their pride, their caprice.

When my children squabble, I grieve for the hurt they are experiencing and the hurt they are dishing out in their immaturity.

When my children squabble, I remember that they will not always be children – one day they will see that the issue of who got the blue cup is petty, and that it doesn’t matter who sat in the middle seat or who got to stay up later.

When my children squabble, it makes me long for the day when perspective and maturity will allow them to treasure their siblings for the riches that they are.
And from time to time, when I read about Christians fighting AGAIN and calling names AGAIN and behaving badly AGAIN, each citing reasons why God is more on their side than the others’ side, then I wonder:

Is God looking down on us with a sigh and saying: “Look, my children are squabbling,”?


Kathy Escobar is hosting a fabulous synchroblog this month on bridging the divide between believers.  Check out some of the other wonderful posts from this series:

Pick of the Clicks 4/19/14

So this was a fun week: if you’re in the USA, every date this week was a numeric palindrome!





etc. My inner geek rejoices!

In other news: I had a most wonderful time at the Festival of Faith and Writing: listening, learning, laughing, walking, walking more, hugging strangers I’ve loved online for months as if they were old friends. It was fantastic. I loved new friend Kim van Brunt’s summary of the Festival – she put the experience into words perfectly: On Inspiration Overload.

One highlight of the Festival was getting to meet the editors and many of the contributors to Christianity Today’s Her.meneutics, which is arguably my favorite online read. This week I wanted to commend: Don’t Blame Evangelicals for the Cult of the Virgin by Karen Swallow Prior (whom I met! Yay!!!)

One of the things I realized at the Festival is how relatively poorly read I am. I have a HEAP of reading, both ancient and modern, I want to do! But since I’m not going to get to reading all of Shakespeare in the immediate future, I liked Good Tickle Brain’s summary of all of the Shakespeare plays in three cartoon panels. Very useful. Also, a great reminder that complexity of plot is not necessary to make a classic!

Tylor Standly’s piece on 6 People Who Should Be Banned From Evangelicasm (Or, A Lesson in Consistency) is a fabulous read. You might be surprised.

Loved reading this week about Yellowberry: Meet the Teen Titan Who Is Taking On The Youth Bra Industry. GO GIRL!!! I am so impressed.

I so appreciated Cara Meredith’s little Starbucks story: beautifully and honestly told in This Morning’s Barista.

On a completely different note: I want to share with you this week’s biggest laugh. My domestic goddess of a sister, who keeps a variety of animals and grows her own produce, was growing wary of an increasingly belligerent rooster in their back yard. He attacked my nephew. Enough was enough: this is what she did.

nemesis meal

Coq au Vin will henceforth always be called Nemesis Meal in our house :-)

Also, my friend Liz Mallory (who wrote a fabulous guest post last week, in case you missed it!), posted this picture which made me giggle: One donut to rule them all.

LOTR donut

My friend Kelley posted these fabulous 29 charts that detail painfully accurate facts of life. Hahahahahaha! I couldn’t even choose a favorite!

As for me: I had my first article published in RELEVANT magazine last week: Is There Such a Thing as Being Too Authentic? woo hoo!!

I also decided to take Glennon Melton at Momastery’s challenge and write about something messy and beautiful. I wrote about marriage, and was amazed at the response to this piece: Angry Birds and Silences.

And then, coming back to the Festival again, I met an extraordinary teacher on the plane last week. Watching her grade moved me to tears (no joke), and I hammered out a quick 20 minute letter to her students in Note to a Junior High Student… which has turned out to be my most shared blog post ever! I think there are a lot of teachers out there in need of some encouragement :-)

Finally: this is Easter Weekend. My favorite Easter insight came from Margot Starbuck’s post “Because Jesus Didn’t Treat His Friends Like Numbskulls“. Touching, thought-provoking, funny. It even had a hashtag in it. (And also? I met Margot at the Festival. She is awesome – and a fierce copy editor – check out her work at WordMelon.)

I also tried my hand at writing a short story this week: Two Silent Confessions. I don’t usually write fiction, but loved writing this and found it surprisingly worshipful. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Also – we have a WINNER of Vivian Mabuni’s most wonderful book “Warrior in Pink”. Check out Viv’s post from this week… and the winner is Kate Motaung! I’ll be in touch!

That’s all for this week, friends. Please leave a comment and say hi. What’s the best thing you read this week? What’s the best thing you wrote?

Happy clicking!


Two Silent Confessions / Stories of Easter



It had been a long day: the council had been up all night at an furtively-convened midnight trial. The accused had been shuttled from governor to king and back to the governor again. A shouting mob was appeased. An execution hastily arranged.

As the members of the ruling Jewish Council argued, rallied and victoriously shouted judgment over the accused, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea were silent. Both knew this Jesus.

Joseph was a secret disciple. The Sanhedrin were unaware one of their own had himself been captivated by their captive. Nicodemus had once stolen away at night to question him. The young Rabbi had said such confusing things about being born anew, even when one was old. “But if you believe in me, you will not die but have eternal life,” he had said. Confused, Nicodemus had retreated into the shadows and slowly digested Jesus’ words.

Throughout that nights’ proceedings, they had said nothing. As their fellow Council members accused and attacked, they remained silent. They thronged to the Praetorium. Pilate passed his sentence, and they were silent.

And then there were crowds. Some mocking, some weeping, some watching at a distance in horror. Too weak to make the journey himself, they saw a rugged Cyrene drafted to help him bear his cross.

And then there were nails. And a hoisting. And a jeering thief silenced by a penitent one.

And then there was darkness: three hours of eerie noonday darkness. A heavenly shroud, oppressively heavy.

And then there was a cry, a heartbreak shouted to the heavens, a yielding of his spirit.

And then there was an earthquake: and people they had wept over and buried in years past were seen walking out of tombs.

And then there was silence.

They were silent.

joseph nicodemus

Watching the sun make its dive for the horizon, Joseph quickened his pace to Pilate’s residence. There was no time to lose if he was to be buried before the Sabbath began. Breaking the silence, he addressed Pilate: “Can I have his body? For burial. It is our custom.” Pilate sighed. The day had been too long to try this Jew with the crime of being associated with a condemned man. “Take it,” he ordered.

Nicodemus met Joseph back at Golgotha. Finding new strength in old limbs, they lifted Jesus and carried him to Joseph’s family tomb. Racing nightfall, they worked deftly. Eyelids closed. Nakedness covered. Balms uncorked, cloths tightly wrapped, myrrh applied. This was not the anointing he deserved. Unable to honor him as they ought in life, they honored him in his death.

“We will be shunned when the Council expels us,” said the older.

“Yes,” replied the younger, “but we could do no other.”

Nodding at the weeping women who sat across from the tomb, they made their way home as the sky drained pink.

Their thoughts turned homeward. How would they explain to their wives that they would likely be ousted from the synagogue? The Passover Seder was to begin in just a few hours. How would they explain that they could not join the Passover feast that night, being ritually unclean from cradling a dead man?

But how could they not have done what they did? They had seen how he died. Surely, he was the Son of God.

They crunched towards the city gate without speaking.


Silent, but having confessed with their deeds. The time for speaking would yet come.



An Act of Worship – Vivian’s Story & a Book Giveaway

I met Vivian within a few weeks of one of my best friends being diagnosed with breast cancer. After learning that Vivian had written a book about her experience, I quickly asked if I could be among the first to read it. I was not disappointed: I read it within 24 hours of getting it, and was the first person to post a review on I am so grateful for Viv’s story, and so thankful that she’s participating in the Words That Changed My World series. Also, I have a free copy of Vivian’s book “Warrior in Pink” to give away. Leave a comment after this post to enter!

warriorinpinkThe book about my cancer journey released on April 1st. When God began opening the doors for the book to be birthed, I had to learn a whole new world: query letters, book proposals, literary agents, pub boards, platform, shopping a manuscript, and on and on. My learning curve was almost a vertical up and down. Now I am familiar with these publishing terms, but the same feelings of being overwhelmed have been replaced by a new set of fears: launching a book, juggling a growing travel and speaking schedule, live radio interviews, fiddling with another proposal for book number two. I circle around again to that familiar feeling of inadequacy, of not being ____________ enough, of being way in over my head. Part of me wants to fall into a hole and take a long nap.

Like the Israelites who needed reminding and re-reminding, I needed a perspective restorer which came from my husband, Darrin, two years ago. His words changed me. They shifted my thinking entirely.

On the phone, during the pause before a connecting flight to his ministry meetings, Darrin shared these wise words:

“We don’t have control over how the Lord blesses or gifts us. We are stewards of what He shows us to do and to be. This (the writing) for you is an act of worship.”

 An act of worship. That changes everything. It alleviates the pressure of having to “make it happen” or control the outcome of this whole crazy adventure. Darrin encouraged me to just write. Where God would take the book was completely in His hands.

When I first started blogging during cancer treatment, every entry felt like an act of worship. I wrote from my heart and there was no striving, no proofreading. It was holy ground. I still have much to learn about the nuts and bolts of writing and trust that those things will come as I continue, but more important is the posture of my heart.

And today, as I sit feeling fearful and inadequate about the road ahead, I’m reminded of the simple truth of dedicating my heart and actions to the Lord.

Looking back over this two year book publishing adventure, I see God’s faithfulness. His purposes will be accomplished. My choice is to shift the pressure of trying to control the outcome, which I fully know is an illusion, to that of opening my hands and lifting my works to the King.

This act of worship spills over into every area of life. In the mountains of unending laundry, the helping with homework, walking the dog, conversations with the neighbor, the everything of the everyday. Stewarding well our lives, our experiences, our relationships, our stuff, is a form of worship.

You and I have been entrusted with leading in various places and in various capacities. All of it is an act of worship.

And in our worship our purpose and prayer is to life Jesus high.

For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.(Romans 11:36 NASB)

Vivian Mabuni joined staff with Cru (Campus Crusade for Christ) 25 years ago and has served on the UC Berkeley and UCLA campuses and on the Epic National Executive Team (Epic is the Asian American ministry of Cru). Vivian enjoys teaching and training college students at conferences and retreats and speaking at women’s events. She is the author of “Warrior In Pink: A Story of Cancer, Community and the God Who Comforts” (Discovery House Publishers). She has been married 22 years to her husband, Darrin, and is mom to three wonderful kids, Jonathan (20), Michael (17), and Julia (12). They live in Mission Viejo, California along with their German Shepherd, Koa. Connect with her at the following places:

Twitter/Instagram: @vivmabuni

Hop along, Easter Bunny: I mean it.

Little ones say things that literally take my breath away. I wrote this 3 years ago, and it gave me chills to remember it. I thought I’d share with you why our family (still) has the Easter bunny tradition pass over us.

It seems that at least once a week, My eldest and I have a conversation that astounds me. She is not yet four, but the questions she asks and her grasp of things is amazing to me.

But perhaps just as amazing as her questions is how, when I am answering her questions, the words seem to take on extra gravitas as they come out of my mouth. Things that I’ve known for years suddenly become REALLY, REALLY REAL as I explain them to my daughter. It brings me to tears on occasion.

For example, last week as we were driving we were talking about the fields and trees we were passing and how God had made them all. She remembered we learned Genesis 1:1: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” and asked more about creation. And as I began to explain to her that God made things by SPEAKING – as in, he just opened his mouth and said it, and then it was, the truth of that fact dawned on me again with such power that it literally made my pulse quicken. I’ve known that truth for years, but as we talked about how God didn’t make things out of wood or playdoh or paper like we do; he just said “let there be a sun”, and there was a sun! … I was filled afresh with wonder.

Or again last week, we were talking about calendars. She was complaining that it was very hard to wait until November when it would be her birthday. Our conversation went something like this:

Me: I know it’s hard to wait, but if you take it one day at a time, eventually your birthday will come. The best we can do is just go day by day, and after a while it will be your birthday, and granny will be here, and then it will be Christmas, and one day even Jesus will come back. Just one day at a time.
Her: That’s silly: Jesus coming back.
Me: No really – He is coming back. One day we are going to see him face to face, just like you are looking at me now. (Again – moment of stunned realization as the gravitas of that truth hit me afresh. I got teary eyed.)
Her: But Mom, Jesus is too big to fit into our house.
Me: (laughing and amazed) Actually, Jesus is a regular sized person – so he could visit us in our house. But the bible says when he comes back he’s going to take us to be with him in the new heaven and new earth where God has made new homes for us all to live in.
Her: (thinking) Is everyone going to live there?
Me: No, only people who love Jesus and believe in Him and want to be with him now will also be with Him then.
Her: (thinking) Mom, what are the names?
Me: The names?
Her: The names of the people who don’t believe in him!!? We need to pray for them, Mom.

Oh my, between her serious little questions and articulating answers for her, the weight of eternity hung heavily over me that day. There’s something about saying these things out loud to her simple, trusting face which makes the enormous responsibility of parenting loom all the larger. I DARE not say these things to her unless I am completely and utterly convinced they are true.

Conversations with my children have forced me, again and again, to revisit why I am a Christian. Not just because it ‘works for me’ (although it does), or because God has answered prayers (although He has)… but fundamentally because I am convinced that Jesus lived, died and was who He said he was. While at law school I applied ALL of my ‘laws of evidence’ rules and all of my critical reasoning to figuring out whether there was sufficient evidence in Jesus – and came out with a mental conviction which completely overwhelmed my expectations.

And so I say these weighty things to my trusting daughter with a straight face and a full heart, and as I speak it – the truth of it is tested again for me.

Which brings me to the Easter Bunny and Santa. Before my children were born I had thought that navigating ‘what to do about Santa and the easter bunny and the tooth fairy’ would be big issues for me. As it turns out, they are not big issues at all.

Now that I find myself in real conversation with a daughter (as opposed to hypothetical ‘what would I do if I were a parent’ imagining), and the experience of ‘the gravitas of truth’ has fallen on me – I just CAN NOT, even if I wanted to, look at my daughter straight-faced and tell her that those things were true if they are not.

I tell her many things, and I read her many stories – and she needs to know from my face and tone of voice that some of those fall into the ‘pretend’ category (little red riding hood, the monster at the end of this book, sesame street and Santa), but others fall into the ‘real’ category (David and Goliath, Jesus rising from the dead, evaporation and how clouds are formed). So far, she’s had no difficulty in understanding that. She has a lively imagination, and her make-believe world and made-up stories are often hilarious patchwork narratives comprised of Aesop’s Fables and Old Testament characters… but at the end of the day, she knows that God is real, and Curious George isn’t.

And so we are happy to tell her stories which are fun and fill her in on our cultural narrative. I want her to know about Goldilocks and the three bears, Sleeping Beauty and Old Mother Goose. They form part of our rich heritage. And so, dare I say it, does Santa and the tooth fairy. They are fun, and she needs to be able to understand the symbols and pictures all around her during the year…

But as someone who feels the sharp conviction of truth when I have to speak it out loud to my daughter, I cannot and will not tell her that Santa is coming down the chimney this Christmas and wake her up with excitement to see what he’s brought. Her trust is too precious and the truth is too great to mess with those boundaries.

Note to a Junior High Student

Dear Student,

Today, I sat next to your teacher on the plane. We sat down and exchanged names and destinations. We were both returning home from the same writers conference. “Are you a writer?” I asked. “I’m an English teacher,” she said, “but I go for the love of reading.”

We settled into our flight. I dived into a bowl of pretzels; she pulled out her laptop. I confess I peeked at her screen.

She was grading your paper.

Her fingers shimmered over the keyboard: selecting text and typing notes in the margin: “use size 12 font here”, “capitalize your title”, “can you think of a way to tie these sentences together for more emphasis?” and, “this paragraph would be better if you introduced your big idea here.”

And then this: “:-)” . . . A smiley face of encouragement and enjoyment.

I think perhaps she spent more time molding your first paragraph than even you did: shaping it, clarifying it, edging it towards expression and excellence.

And I wondered, student, if you know how much your teacher loves you? Did you know that she writes all those notes not to point out your faults but to point out your future: she is shaping YOU, clarifying YOU, edging YOU towards expression and excellence.

Did you know she spent so much time on this? She was tired this morning. She could have slept or read a book, she could have read your paper and just issued you a grade. But instead, she made notes because she is investing in you. She fussed with your grammar and punctuation and sentence structure because she believes you have a voice and it is important and she wants it to be heard.


“This is a strong paragraph,” she typed. “Make this active rather than passive,” and “add a space at the beginning of this sentence.”

I remember getting papers back in high school. I remember greedily searching for my grade. The grade was all that mattered: the teachers’ notes a supplementary thought. If the grade was a B, I was already upset. The notes, I thought, were just details to put me down.

Student, I watched your teacher grade your paper, and I want you to know she is not writing to put you down. She is writing to help you up. She loves you. She believes you matter.

Tomorrow you will get your paper back and it will be filled with the red ink of correction. Perhaps you will feel discouraged. Angry. Disappointed. Bummed.

But I write this in the hope that maybe, just for a moment, in those notes you will see something else: the time and dedication of a teacher who believes in you, wants you to succeed, wants you to fly.

She’s not on your back, she’s at your side.

Please, read her notes, and know that you are loved.