Author Archive for Cara Meredith

Cara Meredith is a writer, speaker and musician from the greater San Francisco area. She is passionate about theology and books, her family, meals around the table, and finding Beauty in the most unlikely of places. A seven on the Enneagram, she also can’t help but try to laugh and smile at the ordinary everyday.

How I Found Creativity After Being the DIY Queen

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Creativity is a privilege.

I wouldn’t have made such a statement five, ten years ago. I probably would have said that creativity is something we’re born with, that not being able to pass by your local Hobby Lobby without going inside may be a good indication that the Creativity Fairy has taken up residence in your life.

But that was before. For me, there exists a before and an after: before children and after children. I don’t know what “before” is for you, but there was a time in my grown-up life when, but for work commitments and social engagements, my schedule was entirely my own. I’d scour Martha Stewart Living and the Pottery Barn catalogue like it was my job. Ripping pages out of the magazines, I’d plaster the east wall of our garage with pictures of everything I wanted to do and create and make.

And then I’d do it — I’d actually do it. I repurposed signs out of wood I found on the side of the road, adding favorite quotes from Emily Dickinson and Saint Anthony to its tarnished sides. I invested in a staple gun so I could staple the hell out of a piece of plywood wrapped in cotton fluff and cover it in a gray and white striped fabric. Affixing stained wooden legs to the bottom of the plywood with brackets, our dining room table seemed to delight in the addition of a bench.

(Never mind that the legs were always wobbly, and we wouldn’t dare let anyone sit on it for fear of an emergency room visit. Alas, the stapled bench I worked so hard to create eventually made its way to the local Goodwill.)

Every room in our 1200-square foot condo was covered in Cara’s DIY creations. I took pride in my work. I showed it off with humor and with pride.

And then I got pregnant.

All that creativity mojo, which, at the time, had almost entirely been funneled into paint fumes and hammers, went out the window. What little energy I did have went to my job, to keeping a local outreach ministry afloat and out of the proverbial financial black hole. Exhausted at the end of the day, I couldn’t do anything more than lie prostrate on the couch and watch episodes of Law & Order: SUV.

Olivia Benson still holds a special place in my heart, I tell you.

I suppose that’s why I remind you (and me, and all of us), that creativity is not only a privilege, but it is an honor and a choice.

It is an honor to be given the time and space to do what we were made to do, whatever the outlet, whomever the recipient.

But leaning into our creative sides is also a choice we make.

If you’re anything like me, whatever your lot in life, you don’t have all the time in the world. After a long day at work, whether you sit in an office cubicle or wrangle small humans in the confines of your home, you don’t have more than a couple of hours each day to really do what you want to do.

So, we make a choice. We make do with what we do have instead of what we don’t have. We choose to believe that God will use us — even us, especially us — in these few and precious hours we hand over to him.

And then we go for it.

We give it all we got, because we know this little slice of time still matters deeply.

For me, creativity now looks vastly different than it looked when I called myself the DIY Queen. My creative side finds expression almost entirely through my words, when I have and make the time to sit down for an hour in the afternoon or evening. And maybe, because I know these hours are not only a gift, but a choice I’m making to enter in with, I guard them fiercely.

Because I know there are stories upon stories upon stories still waiting to be told. And telling these stories is a privilege. And entering into this privilege, as you can guess, is purely a choice.

Might we choose wisely.

Why I Don’t Like to Think About Repentance Now

door-1110670_960_720 I slammed a door this morning. On purpose. Somehow, someway, it seemed better to take my frustration out on an inanimate wooden object than to yell or scream or pummel my fists in the air, Billy Blanks, two-year-old tantrum-style.

Really, the messiness of my morning is a confession of sorts. It’s my way of telling you that I don’t have it all together. It’s also my way of reminding myself that life doesn’t always—maybe ever—go the way I think it should, and that I need to lessen unrealistic expectations of perfection I place on myself and on those around me.

Because life, man: it’s messy.

I can sometimes feel up to my ears in deadlines—for writing and speaking and all the Very Good Things I’ve said a hearty yes to. Instead of remembering that inspiration will come when it’s supposed to, and instead of leaning into waiting for the right time as opposed to my own forced version of it, I find myself running to the other end of the house and slamming a door as hard as I can along the way. And when the door slams and seems to shake the walls of our urban-suburban house, and when a haunting silence suddenly ensues from two young boys who all of the sudden find themselves wondering why their mama is so very mad, I feel righteously vindicated and like the world’s worst mother, all at the same time.

Is it just me?

But here’s the other part of my confession: when I run and when I slam and when I remove myself for approximately fifteen seconds from an eighteen-month-old little boy who wants nothing to do with a pair of miniature Levi’s his mama wants him to wear, I am somehow renewed. I don’t mean that in an And then I found Jesus, and he made it all happy-clappy right again sort of way, but a teensy, weensy amount of peace does starts to trickle over and in me and through me.

So, is that God? Is that the peace of Christ? Perhaps.

When I walk back into the same room that felt so hot and stuffy and frustrating mere minutes before, I am renewed. I am ready to tackle each and every anti-pants situation that comes my way.

And I suppose this re-do, this turning around, this do-over of sorts is technically called repentance. It isn’t something I tend to latch onto as a part of my everyday vocabulary. Like, ever. It makes me think of hellfire and brimstone billboards on the side of Interstate 80, the ones that yoke “Repent!” with “Perish!” and twist the words of Jesus into an all or nothing salvific scare tactic.

But it also makes me think of a church I attended in college. Her young identity was so overly rooted in repentance—in ridding our secular CD collections of potentially impure thoughts, in ridding our natural tongue for any eccentricities that might not point to a faith-filled life—that by the time I left the church, I felt like I’d lost sight of Jesus altogether.

The act of repentance had been so intricately tied to everything I was doing wrong, and to everything I needed to do to “get right” with God and with others. And it had so consumed my faith then, that now, almost twenty years later, negative associations between doing and rightness wear me down. I don’t so much like to think about repentance now, still. And honestly, I haven’t done the work of processing through the positive side of repenting to know what it might mean on the other side.

But turning around I can understand. Starting over is something I can wrap my mind around. I can look at my reaction to this morning’s situation: I tried to take time into my own hands (which, anyone who’s ever hung out with small humans isn’t necessarily the greatest idea in America). I needed another cup of coffee, and may have been, oh, you know, slightly grumpy. And I’d just woken up with a cold—the kind that parches your lips and makes you feel like you have Chia teeth because you’ve been haphazardly breathing through your mouth all night.

So, I wasn’t exactly the kindest human to my children. I needed a do-over. I needed to make a U-turn, with my son and with myself. I guess that means I really did do and implement and put into practice the act of repentance. As per the word itself, I’m still not ready to purposefully use or utter “repentance” in the context of a sentence again. But I just might practice turning—toward the Holy, toward others, toward myself— again. Maybe.

Learning to Wait at the DMV

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Sometimes I feel like I spend entire days in wait: for traffic lights to turn green, for e-mail responses to come, for naptime to come so I can get a couple hours of writing and “me” time in. For the heart-pounding class at the gym to finally come to a close, for my husband to get home, for my fingers to pound out that final word on my manuscript. And so the story goes.

But oftentimes, the more I focus on all this waiting I have to do, the more impatient I become. It’s as if the rose-colored glasses that I normally view life through turn a monstrous shade of green.

And it gets ugly. I get ugly. Life itself gets ugly.

I ready my hand to blare the horn and I curse my computer toward all those blasted humans on the other side of my computer that do not understand my need for a timely reply, snarkle, snarkle. I snap at my children and I slam bedroom doors, as if that’s an acceptable outpouring of my frustration. I barely acknowledge my husband when he walks through the door, and I forget to give myself grace when it comes to my own set of self-imposed deadlines.

In all of these moments—moments in which I could have stopped and paused and breathed in the beauty of the present moment—I’ve instead lost the opportunity altogether. The waiting has gotten me nowhere, and it’s a nowhere I realize I don’t want to arrive at again anytime soon.

For this nowhere is no way to live.

The irony, of course, is that when I’m in waiting situations with other people, I often become the best version of my waiting self, the person I want to be in all waiting circumstances.

I stand in line at the DMV, a hub known for extreme queues. It’s also a place beautifully filled with every type and kind and make of person, with those I don’t normally see everyday as I flit around in my bubbled world. If I don’t have a child attached to the hip, I carry with me a book, and I relish in the chance to read entire chapters uninterrupted. But then it happens every time: the fleshy people around me catch my attention. They stir my insides with excitement for the story we humans naturally create.

I hear the woman behind me, who huffs and puffs as if she’s about to blow the DMV down. She complains about the line and she complains about the lack of workers. She complains about her swollen ankles, and she complains about the fact that she’s been here twice already this week, Can you even believe THAT?

And I smile and I nod, and then somehow the laments she spews forth have the opposite affect on me. I become the happiest, most chipper version of myself.

I hear the man in front of me, (because let’s be honest, I’m eavesdropping), and his conversation with the DMV employee makes my day:

“Do you still weight 165 pounds, sir?”

“No, I lost weight!”

“How much do you weigh then, sir?”

“I lost twenty pounds!” He beams.

“So, you weigh 145 pounds now, sir?”

“Yup.” He turns around and gives those of standing in line a head nod. I nod my head in return, and a smile spreads across my face.

Man, I love the human race.

Waiting is inevitable, but how we choose to sit with the waiting is ours alone. As for me, I want to be the one who delights and laughs at the world around her, fully in tune to the melody of life before her and behind her. I want to laugh at the things to come, and I want joy to deeply penetrate every part of me. And when waiting comes, and along with it, times that require endurance and perseverance, I want to be the best version of my waiting self.

But for now, I guess I’ll just have to wait and see what happens.

When We All Just Want to Be Known

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Fifty of us invaded their driveway on Tuesday night.

Card tables and ice chests and camping chairs decorated the pavement, along with stacks of paper plates and plastic silverware and Red Solo cups. The grill sizzled, red and gray coals in wait for chicken apple sausages and hot dogs from the local butcher. We scrawled our names in Sharpies and affixed them to our shirts. My three-year-old zoomed his fire truck over sidewalk cracks, eager for his friends to join him.

As the clock struck seven, nearly every door of every house on our block creaked open: neighbor after neighbor left the comfort of their living rooms for the potential discomfort of shaking hands and greeting those who don’t look like them and act like them, for interactions with those who aren’t them.

Soon the card tables were filled to overflowing, with Sherry’s World Famous Mac and Cheese and Kaleo’s chicken and veggie stir-fry. Ellen, who sports an extra chromosome, beamed with pride as she offered a casserole dish of brownies, and Pierre smiled shyly, beaming over blueberry custard.

We came together, practicing hospitality with those who live within a stone’s throw. We dove into conversations with each other. We asked questions and we gave answers, we let it be awkward and we laughed at the children. We made connections and we practiced being what we already were to each other: Neighbors.

As I’ve gotten older, I like to think that I’ve become just a teensy bit wiser, mostly because I’ve eaten my fair share of humble pie—with every bite of that wisdom-filled dessert a result of the wide variety of humans I’ve interacted with along the way.

For all these humans, regardless of race and age, gender and religion, hold one unifying truth in common: We all just want to be known.

We want to be known and understood.

We want to hear our name spoken from another person’s mouth.

We want to be asked how we’re doing, for someone to take the time to look us in the eyes and really mean it.

And we want to gulp down thirsty mouthfuls of hope and healing when that sacred “me too” is whispered in reply.

I think that’s what made Tuesday night so perfect and holy and downright lovely to me: I experienced the hope that comes with being known.

You see, we’ve only lived on our block for the past five months. A year ago, my family and I lived in a little bedrock community on the California coast. Nine months pregnant with our second son, I felt engulfed by the fog that surrounded us daily. While the gated community we lived within made us feel more-than-safe, feelings of isolation and loneliness came along with it.

We wondered if there was a better fit for us.

Two months later, my husband landed his dream job, but along with it came a two-and-a-half hour daily commute. With newborn in tow, the isolation and the loneliness and even the fog seemed to increase. Day by day, it began chipping away at my marriage and at my family’s ability to actually be a family. Hope in and of itself seemed the farthest thing from our minds, a word we merely breathed aloud on Sunday mornings but didn’t seem to grasp the rest of the week.

Maybe that’s when we knew something had to change, when we let ourselves explore the possibility of a move. So we began to dream and pray and seek out where we might land.

We knew we desired a walk-able, urban environment within twenty minutes of my husband’s office. We wanted a racially diverse community with people who looked like Mama and Daddy. And, although we questioned whether or not we could ask Old Man Suitor about the weather, we asked for sun.

Three months later, after numerous rental applications and rejections alike, we felt like we struck gold with this particular neighborhood. And, as evidenced by Tuesday’s gathering, the bounty only seems to be growing.

For we’ve found hope, and Hope—who’s actually been there all along—has returned with holy exclamation points for his daughter who simply needed to experience the joy of being known.

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