Our family enjoys craft ramen and sushi and we found a good spot in downtown Santa Barbara that satisfies our collective craving for a relaxed, no-nonsense meal that we didn’t have to make ourselves. One evening while we were savoring and slurping, the steam from our bowls rising like incense to the ramen deities, two of our kids randomly confessed they cuss at school.
Disclaimer: My boys are aware that I am sharing a snippet of our fun story and they’re hopeful it might encourage someone else. Thank you for not asking either me or my boys who said what to whom and where. It’ll kill the vibe.
That fact that I didn’t spew my broth everywhere and immediately reprimand them was evidence of significant spiritual growth for me (win #1). Instead, all of the sudden, I was acutely aware of the condensation slowly dripping down the side of my bottle of grapefruit JPop. I think I was actually slurping up a mouthful of noodles at the moment, which was good. It gave me time to take a mental deep cleansing breath and ponder how I was going to respond. This was me actually slowing my roll…not sushi.
I may have taken another bite or my husband may have spoken first, I’m not sure. I don’t remember everything that was shared. It doesn’t even matter because this post isn’t about how to parent (and I wouldn’t share those details here anyway). I just remember it was a great night. We asked lots of questions, leaving space for them to answer fully. We didn’t cut them off or correct them mid-sentence. They shared lots of details and we listened and laughed together as we came up with fun alternate phrases they could utter in a moment of frustration or when their words needed some extra PG-umph. (So many wins here.)
There was no condemnation (after all, I absolutely cuss sometimes), there was no embarrassment, but there was a level of openness we have only ever prayed for with our boys. It’s so funny because as they were talking, I remember my heart nodding in agreement, recognizing the patterns. When it got a little quiet, I thought it would be wise to offer some clarity about what they might be experiencing. It turns out they didn’t need me to mom-splain it to them. There was no confusion: they were experiencing temptation and they knew it. How did they know this?!
I was absolutely stunned at how beautifully they both articulated their struggle with the temptation to exchange their character for popularity or acceptance. They were crystal clear about how cussing made them feel—it was exciting and sorta cool, but they felt not quite themselves. They were conflicted and they talked to us about it. I could not believe we were having this conversation—it was so great!
We’ve always hoped that as our boys got older, they would talk to us about anything: their dreams, frustrations, struggles, feelings—anything. A friend, who has incredible relationships with her kids, once told me, “It starts with Pokemon cards.” Whatever it is our kids were into (Pokemon, Minecraft, whatever), we tried to let them tell us about it for as long as they wanted (within reason) whenever they wanted. That night at the ramen spot was a tiny moment we spent a decade cultivating. I’ll come back to this word in a minute.
Again, this is not a parenting blog (trust me, there are other parenting bloggers you can and should follow). This is a blog about recognizing the presence of God in our midst—in unexpected moments and in unusual circumstances. This is a space where we encourage people to ask questions, like “Where is God in this?” or “How can I connect more deeply with God in this season?” or “Why does God feel a million miles away?” This is a place where you—the whole you—are welcome with all of your skepticism, your questions, your doubts, your positive and negative experiences, your joys and sorrows!
This space, my blog, got me thinking about that word cultivation again. Like how on earth did you end up here? I mean a handful of you are my dearest friends, my cherished family, and sweet acquaintances. But many of you I’ve never even met. It makes me wonder if the space I’ve been cultivating here on my blog is not too different from my recent evening at the ramen bar (cussing included).
Every solo moment spent in silence with God, every prayer uttered in gratitude or confusion, every blog post tapped out onto my screen, each small step of vulnerability in private and public—all of this good, mundane, fulfilling, and, at times, frustrating work has brought us together. What an incredible gift this moment is.
I want to provide a space where you feel welcome, where you are invited to consider and experience God in a new or different (or familiar) way, and where your understanding of God expands in such a way that you might feel comfortable being your whole self; not the curated self you (and me) sometimes project into the world. Here, we can talk about our own temptations—gosh, I wish we had some ramen to go with this.
This is what cultivation looks like in my life right now. It’s the little things I do intentionally on a daily basis that grow me spiritually and develop me as a person so I can write authentically (not perfectly), and you feel welcome, encouraged, included, and inspired. It’s like what happened with my boys—we let them talk about whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted, for as long as they wanted.
This practice challenged us (so much Pokemon), but it opened doors. Over time, we grew comfortable asking more questions and they learned to trust us with their answers. This ultimately led to them feeling comfortable confessing something they might have otherwise kept hidden.
We cultivated space for honest, healthy, and loving communication. Like I said before, this isn’t a parenting blog, but it is a blog about cultivating a life. Life with God and life with each other. All of this has got me thinking: what is something you’re trying to cultivate in your life right now? I’d love to hear about it!