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Learning the hard way that I'm crappy at paying attention
just ask my dog
Last week our dog went missing. He’s a cute little fella with a penchant for mischief; only a month or so ago we’d retrieved him from the animal shelter after a particularly naughty escapade, so this wasn’t exactly our first rodeo. But we had lately rounded a training corner that had successfully kept him near the house instead of roaming the prairie and forest behind our property at every ungodly hour of the day. So when he was nowhere to be found after we got the kids to sleep on this fateful night, Eric and I noted it was odd. When he still hadn’t returned by the time we ourselves were going to bed a few hours later, I began to worry. I worried hard.
This is how I found myself traipsing through the pitch-black woods at 11:00 pm waving my weak phone flashlight around like a madwoman, hollering for a beagle and hoping not to meet a coyote instead. Eric was by my side, ostensibly also looking for the dog but mostly preoccupied by the clear night sky and it’s (admittedly, pretty spectacular) display of stars. He stopped just a few feet off our property to look up and in his distraction lost the urgency of my intense search-and-rescue mission. Every so often he’d mumble out a reminder of his theory that Thunder was curled up on some neighbor’s couch and we would find him in the morning.
Irritated that my fatalistic imaginings were not going to be shared, I left the love of my life to his star-gazing devices, squared my shoulders to brave the wilderness alone, knowing that if this dog were to be found it would be up to me and me alone, guided by sheer will and the illuminating power of my iPhone.
Reader, the dog was not found.
Well, not that night anyway. He was found in the morning when we opened the minivan door to take the kids to school and that godforsaken dog looked up at us from the floorboard like this was a perfectly normal way to behold one another before sunrise.
Turns out, Eric had let Thunder come along to pick up our son from soccer the night before and the pup was so quiet Eric had forgotten to let him out of the van when they returned home… and continued to forget about him for the next, oh, twelve hours. The worst part about it all is that I could neither be mad at him nor make fun of him because taking the dog to soccer was my stupid idea in the first place, and I didn’t remember either.
This is no epic spiritual allegory, but perhaps it can serve as a simple call to the practice of paying attention. The more chaotic life feels (hello, raising five children), the more critical it becomes to learn the discipline of presence. Maybe that means turning off your phone for the weekend. Maybe that means getting down on the floor to play at your child’s eye level. Maybe that means going outside and studying an autumn leaf for fifteen minutes.
Maybe that means just being able to locate every human and non-human member of your family at any given moment (hey, some of us have a low bar). Whatever it means to you, may we commit ourselves to the practice of paying attention as though it is the practice of love itself. Because, really, it is.
(And because this has to be the question burning on each of your brains: no, the dog didn’t pee in the car. A very special shoutout to whoever is the patron saint of urine.)
I am thrilled to get to spill the beans to you that I have signed a contract with Penguin Random House to write two spiritual nonfiction books under their Christian imprint, Convergent Books. (*Cue confetti*) I am currently knee-deep in work on the first manuscipt, which will be a book about… drumroll… the female Christian mystics!
I’m really proud of the concept of this book, which flips the script on what we think we know about six historical figures — and how surprisingly relevant and subversive their messages continue to be today. We don’t have a publication date yet but it will likely be spring 2024. Shoutout to my phenomenal agent Keely Boeving and editor Matthew Burdette!
Since I have an entirely different book coming out in 2023 with Brazos Press, I am not announcing this one on social media yet to avoid confusion. But I couldn’t keep it a secret entirely, so I’m happy to get to share the good news with you!
Many thanks to the delightful Jenny Booth Potter for providing a chance for you guys to win a free copy of her new book, Doing Nothing is No Longer an Option: One Woman’s Journey into Everyday Antiracism. If you are frustrated about doing nothing but don’t know where to start in your own antiracism work, this is the book for you. And hey, with a foreword by Austin Channing Brown, you know its gonna be good.
To enter the giveaway, just leave a comment on this post! Easy peasy lemon squeezy. I’ll randomly draw a winner and notify them privately by November 12.
There is bound to be a lot of political noise in these next two weeks. May you go bravely into your communities to love the overlooked, assume the best about those you disagree with, and raise your voice for the things you know to be true.
And don’t forget to VOTE!
Here’s to paying attention and being present,
(thanks to our family friend, Emily Rocha, for these photos!)
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