Keep Watering

When Jon and I moved into our apartment, we found that we had a fairly large balcony that was...well,  awkward and naked. It got a tremendous amount of sunlight but, was too narrow for a table and chairs, too long to break it up with cool furniture or a fire pit, and we could think of only one solution. PLANTS.

We spent quite a few weekends at OSH and started to cultivate a little garden that we have come to love and take pride in. We just survived our first year with the garden and it has taught me a great deal.

When we picked out our plants we were so excited. Peppers and blackberries and night-blooming jasmine and sage and succulents... We planted, and watered and watched as our lil' babies flourished. However, somewhere near the end of November it happened.

Yes, even in Southern California. Winter. 

We watered and watched, only to be discouraged that our plant babes were no longer sprouting. They just... stopped. They dried up and withered away.

BUT, we pressed on. We were faithful plant parents, watering them daily, trusting in the inevitable change in the season, even if it didn't produce any quick results.

Things. Looked. Bleak. For months. MONTHS, I say.

And then, spring.





Just like that! Last week some time, maybe a bit before that... I walked outside and, *gasp* spring! Little blossoms, buds, sprouts and shoots began appearing like magic. "It's here! They're back! They're alive!" I shouted... to myself... and to the annoyed neighbor who promptly shut their window on me.

I know that Jesus used a lot of agricultural talk in His teachings because he was often talking to farmers and shepherds and such but, I also thing there's an abundant crop of life lesson-y stuff in the way that God created plants to work.

In this case, I was just tremendously encouraged by the fruit of faithfulness.

For each of us, there are a handful of things that we need to pour our time and energy into. Relationships, healing, our spiritual life, our physical and emotional health etc. And for each of these things, there are winters.

There are times when you'll find yourself watering the ground and it just looks dry and cracked for days, months... years even. It can get quite frustrating and tempting to just stop and wait, or get a new plant or take up a different friggin hobby that isn't so hard.

But if you trust the inevitable change in seasons... that it won't be winter forever, when spring comes, you'll find that your little crops were being nurtured by you all along. You'll find that the watering, the tending-to was never in vain.

You will walk outside, thinking its winter, only to find a most fruitful time of Spring.

I believe that. I'm finding that to be true in so many areas of my life. In my marriage, in my emotional healing, in my Spiritual health...

Pouring-in is never in vain. Don't quit.



Carly Calmes the First


start_preview.preview Last weekend I witnessed a conversation between two good friends of mine that spread a goofy smile right across my face.

This one friend, we'll call them Maude, has been writing some hilarious and provoking stories from her own life in blog form for a while now. Maude always has something beautiful to say and laughs her way through most of it, busting through her own musings with giggles that let you she is passionate but doesn't take herself too seriously.

The other friend, lets call him Quincy, is a multi-talented and prophetic man who has known Maude a while now and reads her stuff. He loves it. Quincy, in the midst of hearing Maude catch him up on her life, interjects with his gut feeling that God wants her to write. Not like, keep writing cause its fun to read, but write with a capital W, as in, this is what you will DO with your life.

He is currently in the process of putting out a book and he has resources, tools, and contacts she could use. He offers them up to her and she gets goose chills because she had just prayed, JUST prayed, for God to make it clear to her. She just prayed for God to put this, whatever it is, this calling, in her lap because she needs it to be obvious.

God was clear. He isn't always, but He was then.

THEN, as my husband, Jon, and I were walking to the car, he walks up to Maude. I follow because I do that.  Jon says "So, I don't want to freak you out. But, I saw you talking to Quincy earlier... About 6 months ago I dreamed you guys were having that conversation. I don't know what its about, but I know that whatever he told you was from God and that you have to do it. Whatever he told you to do, do it". Jon had no idea what they were talking about.


Maude and I were talking about this beautiful chain of conversations that were indeed clarifying her call. She said "I have goosebumps! This is so crazy. But I know when I get home and start thinking about it, the thoughts will rush in my head.. telling me 'Who do you think you are?! You can't do this! You're not nearly as good as those other writers!' "

At that moment, in my back pocket, I shared a golden nugget of truth that God has been teaching me in this season.

When God calls you to do something, its for HIS purposes, for something He's up to. If God's calling you to do something, and He has given you favor in that area, its not your job to judge whether you're good enough for it. 

     Being good enough has NOTHING to do with it. 

We read over and over in scripture, of those who weren't qualified for the tasks to which they were called.   You might not actually be qualified... but if God has called you, HE will qualify you.

So why then, when we think of stepping into our calling or things that God has for us, do we feel like we should get as good as possible at that thing before being faithful and taking a step forward?

Why are we afraid to try anything that we aren't the best at? Or at least, better than some other folks...

We're mashing up the way that the world operates and the way that our God operates... and because of this mixup far too many of us are hiding our gifts beneath... bushel... baskets... when they ought to be on display. When they're on display for God's glory, what do we have to fear?

So I told Maude to just start.

Then I told myself that, too.

And now I tell you. If there's something you have planted in your heart to do, and its been affirmed by trusted sources in your life,  just start doing it and don't be afraid of who might be better at it than you.

Someone WILL be better. We don't have to be afraid of NOT being the best. We don't have to be afraid of weakness. We can be confident in Him when we're unsure of ourselves.   There are millions of better singer songwriters out there than I. However, if I believe God has called me and gifted me to sing,  then I have to trust that He'll carry me to the place He wants me... But I can't sit around waiting to start until I'm better. I have to be faithful now, and trust that He's up to something that doesn't require me to be the best, but to trust Him.

Get started, and be carried by His strength and goodness, not yours.

I'm back.


Carly Calmes the First

Neighbor Family

Jon and I pay way too much money for our beloved one-bedroom nest. We justify it for the perks such as in-unit laundry ( legit and unheard of in Santa Monica apartments) a dishwasher, a garage and a decent outdoor grilling space. However, both Jon and I know that a huge part of why we're there are Guido, Kathleen, Stella and Archer Faas. We have become family to this clan of Netherlandish gems that live downstairs from us. Jon is a tremendous neighbor and I'm so glad. If it were left up to me I still wouldn't know any of our neighbors to this day because I am too nervous to meet people and take the first step toward friendship. Jon has no problem with that and it has resulted in some really great relationships.

The Faas family lives downstairs from us and we have a sort of summer-camp style living situation with them. They need to borrow basil from our garden? They just walk right through our door to the back porch and grab some. Is it Saturday? That means that we have been woken up by their kids shouting our names and kicking down our front door to play. Did we just slave over a meal? That means we have to run a taste downstairs for them. Did Guido just buy a new whiskey? He's running up a snifter for us with the full expectation that we will return the glass full of our current libation.

In tender moments, they have confessed that they love us. That we are family. But there's one major difference between us- you guessed it- Jesus.

Guido is a brain researcher and professor at UCLA, Kathleen is an intelligent english teacher at the local high school. They are our favorite Atheists. Where you find Bibles and Timothy Keller books on our shelves, you find "The God Delusion", "God is not good" and all of Dawkins' books on theirs.

Our neighbors are staunch atheists. We are staunch Jesus-people. And yet, we're family.

We joke around about this and touch on it every now and then, but we mostly leave conversations about this difference to the moments where it naturally comes up. Sometimes theres a funny tension about it, like when Stella, the 7 year old asked us where we were headed last week. When we told her "Church", she responded with "Well, I don't believe in God", to which Jon replied "Well, we do". "You DO??", Stella asked. We are in a time and city where children are shocked to find believers in God right next door.

Then there are times like last night where, over a decent bourbon, Jon had a two hour conversation with Guido about the real Jesus, the one that he hadn't heard about in his European Catholic upbringing. They mostly end in an "agree to disagree" type place, and then go on loving each other like normal.

Until this point in my life, I think I would feel a sense of anxiety and fear surrounding this relationship.

Are we supposed to convert them? Should that be our goal? What does that goal look like?

I would constantly fear that we weren't trying hard enough. However, now, I'm seeing things differently.

Now, I think that same fear is what has caused this country to think Christians are jerk-faces. I think that fear is what drives people to be street shouters ( I would say preachers but, without love, they just sound like shouters). I think fear is what causes people to think they're supposed to hate. Fear is love's great opposer ( 1John).

The relationship we share with the Faas family is the kind of relationship that our current culture deems impossible. Its a relationship built on friendship and laughter, that shares all things despite our clear difference.

Its a relationship where the Christians aren't loving because of an agenda. We're loving because we've been given a heart for them and yes, we share our faith, but its because we know one another and when you know one another these things come out. When you're really engaging with people as your real selves, you can't hide it.

We can have real conversations, without those walls that get put up when people who don't really know or love one another try to talk religion.

Sometimes I wonder if one day we'll have it out and our difference will split us... but I know better.

Though its strange to know that they think that the thing Jon and I give all of our time, gifts, energy and finances to isn't even real, its a beautiful thing that they call us family.

Don't get me wrong, we aren't hiding our faith or the fact that we believe that everyone, including them, is created for relationship with God. We just see them as our friends and  neighbor family, rather than the atheist project God put downstairs.

May we learn to see others as people, just like us. May we find more reasons to love one another than fight one another. May we find a way to share our faith at the same time as serving and blessing others rather than waiting until they agree with it to serve and bless. May we actually love our neighbors, just like Jesus wanted.


Carly Calmes the First

Hard-Fought Dangerous...ness

Phew! How long's it been, guys? A WEEK? Two? THREE?!Oh, how time flies. First, thanks to all who have encouraged me to keep blogging beyond January. I had no idea so many folks were tuning in, let alone enjoying this lil' thing. So, thank you times one gazillion for the sweet words and pushes to keep going.

As I previously mentioned, I recently had the privilege of leading the women of Clayton Community Church up in Concord ( NorCal) in worship at their yearly women's retreat. We nestled into the redwood trees of the Santa Cruz mountains and had a really wonderful time of reflection, fellowship and communing with God.


(This is the stage where I lead from. Can you imagine having church there every week? I got lost imagining it.)

I was poured into constantly by the women, who averaged at about 50 years old. I felt so lifted up by the way they reflected who I am back to me. I have to pinch myself sometimes when people give me compliments and words of encouragement... Like, are you REALLY saying this stuff to me? ME? ME! This kid?


Anyhow, I anticipated my time there would be formative on this new/old/new journey ( again see "Getting Out Of The Trashcan...") because I knew I'd be spending time with the incredible Mrs. Brenda Ameli. I shared a little bit about her in my last post but, lets just say she's taken on the form of part-time spiritual mom to me and countless others, and she is literally the only woman I know who really.. really loves herself.

When I say that, I mean that I've met a lot of women who tolerate themselves because its "the right thing" to do. I've met plenty of women who just suppress self-hatred because they're supposed to believe God loves them. I've known legions of women who look to the scriptures about God's love and think "That's nice" but when they look in the mirror, they see "ugly" and "fat". Brenda believes with all of her heart that she is loved and not only that, but she's beautiful, sexy even, and she frequently jokes that she's "God's Favorite". She sees women in a way that is so rebellious with love and celebration that its mind-blowing.

I was eager to share my mission toward self-love with her because I knew that she would not only be excited for me but, she'd have some tips on how to get there.  We met up for some pilates ( she's an instructor) and got to chatting. I told her about this journey and without asking for it, she began to encourage me.

When Brenda speaks about this topic, its like God's heart just shines right out of her and when you're caught in the glow, oh how sweet it is. God has made Brenda a stream of living water in the vast desert of broken hearted, self-hating women. They come to her for a drink and are brought to life in new ways.

"I want God to make me like that", I told her.

"I can't wait for you to come to this side, Carly. I see you and your beauty and your story and I can't WAIT until you come to the side that I'm on!", she replied.

Brenda used to be a Weight Watchers coach, and was formerly obsessed with weight loss. She yo-yo'd her whole life and one day, she quit Weight Watchers because of how unhealthy it can be. Both of my parents are on the program and, though its been helpful to them in certain ways, it also creates a culture of obsession with points and calories and... the joy of food is kind of sucked right out of it. I would say its good for weight loss, bad for holistic health ( emotional, spiritual, social etc) Also, once you're off of the point system, it becomes very difficult to learn how to be good to yourself. As a former coach, she admitted that the program was created to enslave folks in a certain way. It doesn't want them to NOT need to program. If people stop needing it, the business fails.

Anyhow, as she was describing her journey to me, she looked me in the eyes and said "The place that I'm at came after years of fighting for it. This place has been hard-fought." and I sensed in that moment that I'd have to fight hard, too.

Later that evening, the Pastor's wife and Brenda laid hands on me and prayed for this ministry to flourish in me. They affirmed something I have been feeling, that this isn't just a personal journey of healing, its the start of a ministry. They asked God to give me the same gift for seeing myself and women that Brenda has. They prayed for deep healing of the things that lead me here in the first place. They rebuked the ways I've treated myself, in word and deed, and forbid me to ever do them again. They forbid me to call myself names, to refuse my husbands love for me based on what I felt I looked like, and to verbally reject compliments. They instructed me to look into the mirror and tell myself good things. I got squeamish because Brenda said " You need to start looking in the mirror and teaching yourself how to see yourself. You need to stop calling yourself anything negative. Instead, you HAVE to start saying 'I am a beautiful, curvy, woman. I have a WOMAN'S figure and its soft and sexy and attractive!".

Yikes. Those words are so uncomfortable to me! I've been telling myself the opposite for so many years that they sound silly. That's the beauty of having mentors to guide you down paths they have blazed: they know how to get there better than you do. Yeah, it sounds crazy to start looking in the mirror, calling myself sexy, but what do I know? I don't have authority on how to love yourself. I need help!

Just before we left the retreat space, Brenda handed me a tattered book. It was her personal copy of a book called "Nice Girls Don't Change The World" by Lynne Hybels. Its a piece about this woman's journey toward fully living into her gifts and belovedness, and how for 40 years she thought that being a Christian woman was about being nice. The book takes you through her journey from niceness to fearless, radiant, bold living by the love and calling of God.

Brenda wrote a note to me on the first page. It reads " Beautiful, Amazing Carly, God is making you dangerous and it is a thrilling thing to behold. Much love, Brenda".


Something about those words, "God is making you dangerous" has felt particularly true. I look at Brenda, as gentle and sweet as she can be, and I see that dangerous quality to how radiant her acceptance of love is. When she heard me talk about how I see myself, she got downright angry. She wasn't angry at me, she was angry at the lies I believe.  I've seen her weep over how women see themselves, and express how deeply evil those lies are. She sees this culture of self-loathing for what it is and it affects her like it affects God. It makes her hate  the powers that would love nothing more than for women to be oppressed by feelings of inadequacy forever. She hates it so much because she can see the true beauty in women and to know that they can't see it and instead, see these terrible lies, it makes her deeply upset.  When her life is lived out of God's love for her, it IS dangerous. Its dangerous in that it shines so brightly into the darkness. It's powerful.

Lets get back to ME being dangerous. DAAAANGEROUS ( a la Michael Jackson) Nobody has ever called me that before. I love it. It makes me feel like a warrior eagle riding on a motorcycle on fire. Yeah. I said it.

I have a lot of work to do. A LOT. I have years of fighting hard ahead of me, but seeing Brenda operate out of self-love, and the gift of helping other women to love themselves, makes me believe that the fight is absolutely worth it. I'm fighting for the garden- for "naked and unashamed" to be the norm again in this world, in my life and among the women God has called "wonderfully made".

Here's to fighting hard. Here's to becoming dangerous. Thanks Brenda.


Carly Calmes the First

The End of the first -Uary

What a week! And I'm not just talking about Jess and Nick's smooch on "New Girl" f3471f2fc68683df6f4d00bb91b0ca9a

( incase you missed this steamy piece of goodness...I just about fainted with joy)

January has been a really wonderful month.

This marks my 31st consecutive daily post. As I look back on this month, its been helpful to have these posts collecting to remind me that life is much more full than I think. Writing every day has given me the perspective that each day we're here has tremendous potential.

Truthfully, that realization hasn't come with an overwhelming sense of daily inspiration. Actually, it has come with the discipline that its taken to write every day. Almost every evening this month, I've crawled into bed with my computer at around 10:45pm, told Jon "I'm blogging now!" ( so he can play video games for a half hour or so) and sat there staring at a blank screen wondering what the heck I would write about.

Each time I searched my heart, mind, and day out, there surfaced some nugget of the presence of God. Whether in encouragement, revelation, fun moment, song or even just a laugh... He's been there. To stop and document has meant, for me, recognizing that days aren't void of purpose and meaning.

As I take a break from the daily obligation of posting, I look forward to a bit more free space in the evenings without needing to squeeze a post out of myself into the wee hours. However, its been a fun little journey to get my blogging voice back. I'm excited to blog when I feel like I have something to blog about rather than blogging just to blog!

This break feels appropriate as tomorrow I leave for three days to lead worship at a women's retreat in Santa Cruz ( Northern California).

I also get to spend time with one of my favorite people, Brenda, who could certainly help me in a time like this. Brenda is a mother of 3 adult boys ( that's how I know her actually, her son is a good friend of mine) and is a real treasure. She is the only woman I know, especially at her age and place in life, who really.. really... loves herself. It radiates from her. She talks about it with so much grace and joy that its almost disarming. She came to a women's retreat of ours a couple of years ago and when she spoke about how much she loved herself as a daughter of the Lord, the girls of our church looked at her like a magical alien unicorn... like we had no idea her kind could exist.

Anyhow, I could go on and on and on about Brenda... but the point was, I'm going away for three days to worship with some women up in Santa Cruz, spend some time with one in particular who has paved the way for this journey I'm on, and maybe even take some time for myself to *gulp* ... rest.

Thanks for those of you who have read and supported my posting during this month-long adventure. I promise a future full of intentional posts full of the nuggets of God's goodness and truth I collect along my way.

Off to pack and then retreat! Happy February, y'all.


Carly Calmes the First