MANY YEARS AGO, when I was a young mother, on a summer day with perfect weather, in a charming beach town where my family and I had gone to enjoy the surf and sun, I realized that I wanted to run away.

I pulled into a gas station with a movie-star-handsome husband who loved and took good care of me, three cute, healthy children, enough money to refuel our monster gas-guzzler and what should have been hints of an existential crisis.

In those days before pay-at-the-pump, I walked into the Mini-Mart wielding our VISA card while my husband did the dirty work of pumping the gas.

As I approached the cash register, time stood still. I remember the glare of harsh fluorescent lights as I froze and stared at the racks of Cheetos and pork rinds and the vials of strange caffeine products that guarantee that long-haul truckers won’t nod off before they get their loads to Reno.

I can still hear the piped-in, elevator music version of Brian’s Song, a tearjerker from the Seventies about a cancer-stricken football player (“If the hands of time were hands that I could hold . . .”).

I saw the dingy tiled floor rising up to meet me, and the air-freshener rack looked like a Tilt-a-Whirl coming at me as the room – and I – spun a little.

I realized that I wanted to run down the hall beyond the bathrooms, just past the bucket full of green cleaning solution with a grimy mop protruding from it, out the back exit beyond the dumpsters. I’d just keep going across that barren South Carolina field of dry grass blanched by the summer sun, strewn with cigarette butts and broken beer bottles, and I’d run forever.

I wanted to escape my beautiful life.

I hadn’t known it before that moment, but all of a sudden I knew it with complete certainty.

And instead of running I signed the gas chit and slowly walked out the way I’d come in, through the glass doors with those vertical stickers on them that help the clerk determine the height of the bad guys storming out with wads of stolen cash.

My 5 foot, 3 inch self marched back to our blue Suburban, hoisted myself up to the shotgun position, turned and cheerily said something or other to my waiting clan, and we wheeled away to more family fun, probably another trip to the Dipper Dan ice cream parlor.

And I shoved down that message from the universe that told me I was not enjoying this vacation – or my happy Christian life – quite as much as I thought I was.

* * *

Twenty years later, I live with the same husband in the same house on the same street in Washington D.C. And yet everything is different.

This is a story of escaping “the good life” and finding my own life – a life that’s bigger, scarier, and more beautiful than anything I could have planned.

I’m nobody special.

But I do happen to be one of God’s favorites.

The fact is . . . you are too.

We don’t usually believe that, do we?

For a long time I lived like I was in a fireproof building, avoiding God’s blazing love for me. I wasn’t taking advantage of my birthright – encounters with a laughing Jesus and feasts at a big old banquet table with a bunch of good people.

I was missing my own life.

Until God asked me something akin to “Where are you?”

I saw that I was hiding from him, holed up in a way of life that kept me from truly living, in a structure tainted with asbestos.

God chose to woo me out, call me forth, and urge me to step out ever so gingerly. Over the course of a long, hard decade or so, he showed me my own pain and defenses and pointed out where he was – with me.

He did it through people, through kindness, through invitation, and mostly by disrupting my neatly laid plans.

What follows is an unorthodox memoir of the journey from fear and shame to the freedom that comes from knowing that I am seen, known, and loved just as I am – wobbly, vulnerable, rarely cool, and also, as it turns out, worth knowing.

This is a jumble of stories – part of one big story – about moving from loneliness to belonging, from perfunctory participation in Christian culture to a deep, sustaining faith that God is who he says he is and that he is more than enough.

What these stories have in common is that each one showed me more of God. Each showed me something about him that I had hoped was true but hadn’t much believed despite growing up in church.

Eventually I came to believe that my life has deep meaning, great purpose, and much adventure ahead.

There’s a kingdom awaiting, one that is about invitation and not punishment, power and not lip service, laughter and not legalism. It’s a love-fest journey with a custom-made, crazy quilt family to which we already belong. God’s perfect order will be restored, not to mind-numbingly boring clouds and harps but to all that was intended, to this earth made whole, your people without tears, no more sorrow, all joy.

You may be wondering where that promised life is, where you’ll find the good life. I sure wondered. The quest I’ve been on may be your quest too. My story will only be valuable to you if it piques your interest in finding the love that’s out there for the taking, the spacious life that’s available to God’s favorites.

The fact is . . . that’s all of us.

Come on. Are you in?

It won’t be the same without you.



what people are saying:

This is your story and mine.

When you least expect it, one of its pages magically turns into a mirror...

John D.

Every (long) once in awhile, a “Christian” book comes around, which is more than applicable to ANY and ALL audiences. This is that book and then some.

Joseph K.

It's a brave thing to speak your voice and tell your story so publicly, especially when it doesn't always fit into our cookie cutter mold of what the "perfect life" looks like.

Her stories are beautiful, gritty, sad, sweet, and real, and provide the best kind of shake-up to our own yearnings to live more deeply.

Caitlin C.
Move over Anne Lamott!

Cary is honest, funny, sweet, slightly quirky, and profound as she describes her discovery of how her life has been blessed when she dared to open her heart to the possibilities that God can offer.

Gretchen M.

It's the first time I've read a book in one sitting!

Amy H.

Cried and laughed my way through this awesome book, which felt like a ride in Cary's Mini Cooper.

Sarah B.

Cary's words are honest and courageous; tender and convicting. Her desire to find God in abundance and despair is inspiring.

Naomi W.