Category Archives: Spiritual Stuff

I Don’t Believe in Soul Mates

Look what we did!

Look what we did!

Happy 20th Anniversary to me and my favorite person*!

It feels both bizarre, and the exact opposite of bizarre, to have reached this milestone. Being married to one another is just what we do, is all. There are all kinds of books and articles about how to have a happy marriage—I’m not inclined to add to their number, even if I felt I had some wisdom to offer, which I don’t. Because I’ve got to be honest. Marriage is a crap shoot. You hope you have some enduring compatibility and you work at it and you let a lot of stuff go, and still there’s all this stuff that acts upon you that you don’t have a lot of control over. Financial hardship can be a huge stressor. Health crises can put couples to the test. Family support is invaluable.

The presence or absence of those things does not mean a marriage’s success or demise. But we don’t do this work in a vacuum. And Robert and I have been very lucky.

Check out this interesting post that correlates divorce rates to a whole host of factors. Did you know that the more people spend on their weddings, the more likely they are to divorce? And the more people who attended your wedding, the more stable your marriage is likely to be?

I am a fan of John Gottman’s work about making marriages work, and give his books to couples I’m counseling before marriage. Aside from that, anything I could say about marriage would be A Guide To Being Married to Robert Dana, and that’s just not going to be very useful to you.

Instead, if you’ll indulge me, I wrote this a long time ago, and I post it in honor of the day.

i don’t believe in
soul mates,
The One,
you complete me,
i’ve been waiting for a girl like you,
a feeling deep in your soul says you were half now you’re whole.

but i did have a dream once:
i stood outside my childhood home
and a party buzzed and clattered within.
and my guide (faceless person)
said my soul mate was inside.
i wandered slowly,
scrutinizing each face:
is it you?
hmm… no.
let’s see. no.
maybe? no.
oh, no! no!

at first, i was unhurried;
later, i grew troubled:
the crowd had thinned,
maybe he’d left,
while i was wasting my time
with my who’s who
of what-might-have-beens-and-thankfully-weren’t.

in the last room
he turned,
you turned,
and smiled,
plaid shirt and jeans.
(where are your glasses?)
and the great thing about dreams is,
you get to be surprised
by the predictable.

i woke up, and the dream,
vaporized; i was bereft,
but a miracle happened–
you didn’t disappear.

i don’t believe in soul mates.

i believe in
choices, experiences,
quiet over breakfast,
a hello at the end of the day,
the heaven in ordinary things,

and this dream.


*That’s a reference to Jake Armerding‘s song, “Favorite Person,” which I’ve been humming all day. “When we all stand as one, when they’re playing Mendelssohn, when we’re rich, when we’re poor, when we are forevermore… you’re my favorite person in this world.”

Riding the Rails

Riding the Rails

I’m on the Amtrak Northeast Regional, headed for Scotch Plains, NJ where I will preach at Willow Grove Presbyterian tomorrow morning and lead a workshop for the community in the afternoon. (Many thanks to my friend Denise Anderson for preaching for the good folks of Tiny Church tomorrow morning!)

It was a stressful day getting to this point—I’ll spare you the boring details—but there’s nothing like a train ride to calm the mind and lull a person into a lovely Sabbathy space. I can see why Amtrak’s writing residencies are so popular. Some day…

I write and talk in workshops about creating margins in our lives. I get a bit frantic without a buffer between this thing and that thing. Unfortunately, I have not done well at margins lately. But as grace would have it, my host in NJ suggested the train, even though I could easily drive. And I’m glad she did. Train travel is a buffer experience. (Oh look, there goes Wilmington!)

October is a big month for our household. Robert has some travel, I have a couple of speaking events I’m really looking forward to in Alexandria, VA and Austin, TX, and our church’s 100th anniversary is happily upon us. Oh, and did I mention our 20th wedding anniversary? It will all zip by if we are not intentional about creating some breathing space in between those good but immovable objects. Wish us luck… and I wish you luck & grace too, for the living of your days.


photo credit: …-Wink-… via photopin cc

Art to Inspire… Plus a Giveaway!

The Blue Room is undergoing a few changes.

No, not this website—the actual blue room, our dining room-turned-office and craft space for which this website is named. The Blue Room is a symbol for the stuff in our lives that doesn’t work that needs to be reimagined to embrace the way things are, not the way we think they should be. With three young children, we never used our formal dining room. But I did need a study at home. And the kids would benefit from a place where they could play around with glitter, paint, glue and stickers. Preferably a place without carpet…

So during Snowpocalypse of 2010, our Blue Room was transformed from a useless place to a space for life and creativity.

I realized recently that despite the symbolism of the Blue Room, the walls have been adorned with the same artwork I’ve had for a long time. I don’t remember when I got this labyrinth poster (scroll down for the only image I can find online), but it was well before the 1999 gathering being advertised.

And Jane Evershed’s First Supper has been with me for many years. As a former Baptist who grew up with a blond Jesus and very male-centric images of God and Jesus’ closest followers, I love Evershed’s table, with 12 multi-racial and beautifully adorned women raising their glasses into the air. (Which one is the host at the table? Which one is Jesus? None of them. All of them.)

But life moves on. And now I have one of these, a rendering of the cover of Boston Magazine from last spring:


Peace, love, and running.

Here’s poster #2. Brain Pickings is one of my favorite sites, and Maria Popova recently published Seven Life Lessons from her work on the site. The folks Holstee Company came up with a beautiful graphical rendering of it. It arrived last week and is hanging on the nail I used for the Evershed poster. The placement isn’t quite right in the room, but I love it. A closeup from their website:


Which brings me to the giveaway. The Holstee company initially sent me their manifesto poster by mistake. The corrected the order, and asked me to keep the poster. But I want to share the love. So comment here or on my Facebook page with a recent “Blue Room” experience: either something you’ve reconfigured to fit your life as it really is, or something you know you need to reconfigure. (Or a general “hi” is fine too.) Each comment will be entered once. Submissions are due by Friday August 22 at midnight EDT.

Here’s Holstee’s manifesto poster (actual size 18×24″). Good luck to everyone!


Link Love: We Need Each Other

I’m back. What a vacation it was.

And what a week to be on vacation… and not preaching.



Robin Williams in The Birdcage, one of my favorites.

I don’t feel a need to comment at length on the events of last week. Many have already done so, and done it better than I could. But I did want to share two links that, taken together this morning, gave me a bit of hope and perspective.

The first is a study suggesting that we’re happier when we chat with strangers, e.g. on public transportation:

The investigation began with rail and bus commuters travelling into Chicago. Dozens of them were recruited into one of three conditions – to engage in conversation with a stranger on the train, sit in solitude, or simply behave as they usually would. Afterwards they mailed back a questionnaire in which they answered questions about the experience.

The returned questionnaires showed it was those commuters who were instructed to strike up conversation with a stranger who’d had the most positive experiences (sitting in solitude was the least enjoyable, with behaving as normal scoring in between).

We tend to avoid conversation because we think the other person won’t want to engage—but the research showed that was not the case: “[Study participants] predicted that over 50 per cent of strangers would likely rebuff their attempts to talk – in fact, this didn’t occur for any of the participants who were instructed to chat to stranger in the earlier studies.” 

I’m pretty introverted in public spaces. And it’s taken some time to feel OK with that. I’m a mother of three and a pastor—I engage with people a lot; I don’t need to do it everywhere. Still, I sometimes challenge myself to strike up a short conversation with a stranger, and it always feels good to do so.

We are made to connect.

The second link is this video from The Dish, called Suicide Breeds Suicide. Jennifer Michael Hecht, who wrote the book Stay: A History of Suicide and Philosophies Against It, addresses the issue of “copycat behavior” following a suicide. For example, she reports that young people whose parents commit suicide can be three times as likely to attempt suicide as a result.

I don’t like the phrase, “Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.” Robin Williams suffered from a life-long illness. His struggle, while it seemed to wax and wane at various times, was as permanent a condition as he could possibly imagine. Still, there are folks out there who believe that the world will be better off without them in it. That’s demonstrably false, according to the research about suicide contagion.

Hecht puts it like this: “If you don’t kill yourself, you are saving someone’s life. …I don’t want to dwell on the guilt of what you do if you harm yourself, I want to dwell on the wonder of how much you meant to people you don’t even know. …The one thing we need to add to that is gratitude, and I don’t mind starting it: I’m grateful. You’re my hero. Thank you for not killing yourself.”

One of Andrew Sullivan’s readers, who had experienced suicidal feelings, responded to the video:

When I was at my lowest ebb, I definitely knew that if I ended my life I would hurt others around me – my family, my friends. But in the two or so years I struggled with those feelings, I can tell you it never once occurred to me that killing myself might lead someone else to end their life. Such a thought would have been abhorrent to me, and I couldn’t help wondering after I watched Hecht’s video whether suicide prevention counsellors make that point to those at risk of harming themselves. I think if they did, some of those people would step back from the brink. It’s one thing to hurt yourself and rationalize that your pain is greater than the pain you’ll cause others through your death; it’s quite another to think you might be compelling some of those who knew you to step into that abyss themselves.

Watch the whole thing here—it’s short:

We are made to connect.

And we are made connected. There’s no avoiding it.

Time to Count Some Stars


I wrote recently about attending the Sarah McLachlan concert with my mother at Wolf Trap (outdoor arena in the DC area). In the post I shared how social media impacted the concert-going experience, in mostly positive ways. But I also had a very low-tech experience that was significant.

I spent most of the concert sitting on our picnic blanket on the lawn, but at one point I was lying down on my back, looking up at the sky. It was a mostly clear evening, and as I was looking and listening I realized with a start that a star had appeared where there hadn’t been one visible before. I had seen the star emerge in the sky. I then spent the next couple of songs trying to catch each star as it slowly came into being.

(I know, the stars are always there. It’s poetic language, people!)

I thought that bit from Barbara Brown Taylor’s Learning to Walk in the Dark when she and Ed take time to watch the moon rise. They realize it’s probably been two decades since they’d last done so, and they ask one another why. BBT knows the answer and it lands with a thud: “We’ve been busy. For twenty years.”

Before two Saturdays ago, when was the last time I’d watched the stars come out? Have I ever?

We’re off today for about 10 days of vacation, and there will be lots of time and space for this kind of activity. See you on the flip side. Hope you have a chance to do some star-hunting too.

photo credit: Jason Carpenter via photopin cc