Category Archives: Faith

Oh, Rachel.

I recently finished reading, “Inspired,” by Rachel Held Evans. I bought the book the day the news came that Rachel died, basically out of the blue, in May 2019. She died of an allergic reaction to a medication when being treated for a simple infection. It was a stunning loss to progressive Christianity.

My friend Sheila, who I’ve had many conversations about faith with over the years, called the day of Rachel’s death. Sheila is a nurse and was dumbstruck by the news. We all were. We wept on the phone together for a friend we’d never met.

I’d read Rachel’s previous books, including “A Year in Biblical Womanhood,” which I found a delightful study in how to be a modern Christian woman who loves your faith but also doesn’t want to sleep in a tent in the front yard away from your family during your time of the month. (If you’ve read it, you get the joke. Rachel had a way of pushing boundaries that made many of us laugh and realize man’s hand is all over the Bible.)

I was so glad to have listened to “Searching for Sunday” via audiobook. Listening to Rachel describe visiting churches across the United States, ranking their after-service casseroles, and just hearing her southern twangy voice made her so real. I wanted to sit next to her, ranking macaroni dishes, listening to the stories of Lutherans, Methodists, Baptists across the land.

Unlike anyone else I’ve read, she spoke to my doubts and love of Christ. In “Inspired,” she discusses themes of the Bible with her typical candor and humor. She takes something so sacred and strips away the pomp and says, “Here. Read this. Let’s laugh at how dumb this part is and how it contradicts this part and instead take this bigger meaning from it. The Bible is for you. Jesus loves you. It doesn’t matter if you’re a prostitute or a prosecutor. Just read. Trust me.”

But she says it so much better.

I loved this book. I miss her. Finishing “Inspired” felt like attending a funeral for a far away friend. If you’re interested, she has a new book coming out later this year — finished by one of her actual friends. “Wholehearted Faith” is on pre-order. I can’t wait for November.

A Season of Rebirth

Grandma Max & Pap

Easter has always been one of my favorite holidays. My late Grandmother Maxine would have us to her home in Tucson for a simple meal after church, and we’d all enjoy chocolate. She loved chocolate, and it was her annual sacrifice for Lent.

I think of her often, how she’s molded who I am today, and how I wish I was more like her. She rarely complained. She rarely missed church. Her family was always her first priority. She was a child of the Great Depression, and this made her a practical, frugal adult. Our Christmas cookies often came in recycled cottage cheese containers, for example. She felt no shame in this.

That said, she loved beautiful things, for which she also felt no shame. She loved American Indian jewelry. I was lucky to inherit several pieces when she died; I still get choked up when I wear them. I wore one of her necklaces when we were married, and always wear a piece of her jewelry for important book events.

This week, as the world watched Notre Dame catch fire, I thought of her. My grandparents traveled to Europe on vacation in their late 70s. Her heart would have broken to see a place of worship in flames, especially during Holy Week. However, I think her spirits would have been lifted, as mine were, to see Parisians fill the streets to sing hymns in response.

My grandparents also spent many years living in Louisiana, and knowing my practical, ever-loving grandmother — her charity would have gone to the Baptist churches burned by an arsonist earlier this month. I can see her writing that check to meet her budget –$12, or $18, or whatever she could give.

I miss her dearly. When I sit in silence, I feel her presence, nudging me back toward church, pushing me toward closer relationships with my cousins, giving me the eye when I put the cottage cheese container in the recycling bin.

How lucky I have been to have these strong, faithful women in my life. As we celebrate Easter this weekend, I am thankful for them. It was, after all, a strong and faithful woman who told everyone of the resurrection.

Happy Easter, Passover, weekend to you and yours.


All the Goodness of This Year

Mexico City trip

This time of year, I like to look back and think about all of the wonderful days that we celebrated in some way. There was the trip to Mexico City, which remains one of my favorites of all time. Jason and I loved the culture, walking the city, the food, and definitely the art. Mexico City knows public art. It’s the first place I’ve visited that I loved so much, I’d prefer to go back in lieu of a new destination.

Mexico City trip

There is so much good food. And so much excellent public art.

After the earthquake, our friends from the DF rushed back to help friends and family. It was uncovered, unsurprisingly, that many of the buildings that fell around the city did so because the building codes had been ignored, inspectors paid off. It was also shown, equally unsurprisingly, that the Mexican people flooded the city with offers of assistance. They had to turn volunteers away, so many came to help their fellow countrymen in need.

Mexico City trip

Mexico City trip

Mexico City tripMexico City trip

Have I mentioned how much I love this country?

Yes, there was the slight blip of us wandering into a tequila bar near the Condessa neighborhood only to realize two steps inside that we were actually in a narcos bar and very, very much out of place. But hey, a quick shot of tequila before any other shots could be taken and we were back out on the streets with a great story in our pocket to elaborate and share with friends back home.

Grand Canyon, Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend trip October 2017

Also this year, my husband and I both changed jobs. I’m in the same field, and he’s returning to something he loves. We bought an all-electric car and expanded the garden to grow more of our own food. We hiked the Grand Canyon. We enjoyed our first full year of marriage, much of which we spent arm-in-arm happily arguing over who has the best burrito in town.

Grand Canyon, Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend trip October 2017

For media, a few things to share that I absolutely fell over myself loving:

  1. Novels by Swedish author Jonas Jonasson. His stuff is so weirdly creative, it is a true pleasure to read.
  2. The Crown, season 2, and what it is teaching me about the royal family and 1900s history.
  3. Til the Well Runs Dry, a novel by Lauren Francis-Sharma. I’ve thought about this book several times this year. The characters and the plight of immigrants stick with you.
  4. Africa Solo, which is my favorite non-fiction of the year —namely because I always want to be on the road seeing new places and Africa has my heart. I enjoyed traveling alongside this author.

Let us also remember this year, 2017, as the one where Robert Mugabe was removed from power. I wasn’t sure I’d ever see the day. I hopeful the people of Zimbabwe will find true leadership and inspire the people of Cameroon to boot Paul Biya next.

Wishes for 2018 include more travel, democracy, compassion, and peace around the world.



Online Bible Study

Prayer journal

A coworker gave me this weekly planner last month. In turn, I’ve been trying to establish a daily Bible scripture study and writing out the verse each morning. I’m starting my day with this, and a good cup of coffee. If I write out the verse, I think about it during the day.

prayer journal 2

This is my go-to online devotional. I appreciate the prayer and summary of the verse. In the past, I’ve followed the Bible in One Year, and I am going to do so again in 2018. There is an app with on-going conversation about the verses of the day, which I’m interested in learning from. If you would like to be a part of this online study, let me know. We’ll have a closed group and have a weekly discussion on what we’ve read.

Here’s to making 2018 a year of improved habits, and more quiet time with God.



November 2016 garden

In the last week, I’ve attended a women’s conference at church, read a book by Brene Brown on imperfections, and attended Glennon Doyle’s Together conference with a girlfriend. I feel a little punch drunk on empowerment.

The women’s conference was titled “Known” and focused on recognizing how God has made each of us as perfect beings. We are created in His image, and when we compare ourselves to others, or speak poorly about ourselves—we are missing the point. Strong female stories are told again and again in the Bible. The story of the midwives who didn’t wait for Moses to lead the Exodus, but realized the pharaoh was going to bring hell upon their people and instead started rounding up the first-borns and hiding them, is just one example.

The conference speakers discussed the book of Galatians. Afterword, I took some time to read this book in its entirety, which didn’t take long. My experience with the Holy Spirit is one of me being a complete bone head and the Holy Spirit being the most patient, loving, hilarious person around. Regularly She’s like, “Um, dumb dumb. Didn’t we already discuss this? Didn’t I already teach you that lesson in 2004, 2006, again in 2006, the fall of 2009, and that one time in 2011?” — to paraphrase.

In reading Galatians, I’m reminded of how the Holy Spirit is walking along side us all, and there ready and willing to hold our hands and help us see what we cannot on our own, if (and that’s a big if) we are willing to reach out a hand and ask for the friendship. One of the speakers at Known said she was sure the Holy Spirit is a female because she’s “always there, bossy, and ready to get the job done.” That made me smile.

I’ve got one foot firmly planted in this evangelical church and the other dangling in the foyer of the United Methodist church where I was raised. The evangelical movement is traditionally far too conservative for my view of the world and my spiritual understanding. This is a longer post for another day. I need to spend some more time thinking about it, but like a pebble in my shoe, I miss the United Methodist church when I’m at the other church — and I feel like I’m not totally at home in either pew.

The Together conference was a group of women discussing their walks in life, with Glennon ending the three-hour-long discussion with a prayer. She recently left her husband to marry Abby Wambach of Olympic soccer fame. The pair briefly discussed their journey with sobriety, struggling to understand their love for each other and also honoring Christ, and how they are using their fame for good. At the Phoenix tour stop, this included interviewing female farm laborers who are trying to end sexual violence in the fields, and speaking with a Phoenix woman who leads an effort to end honor killings among tribal members in her home country of Pakistan.

There were a lot of tears. Tears of joy, of anger at the injustice in the world, and tears of hope that women can turn this unhappy world around.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness and self-control.”

— Galatians 5: 22-23



The Boys Down the Street

Summer BBQ -- Colorado style

When I was 11 or so, a new family moved to the corner house on our street. They had one tow-head toddler who couldn’t say Kelli, so he called me Ki Ki. Soon, another baby boy was on the way. The parents and my parents made fast friends. I spent many, many summer days with tan lines and blood shot eyes chasing those two little boys, and my younger brother, around the pool.



The scent of burning charcoal briquettes immediately takes me back to these happy days. Our parents would grill and lounge in the shade and we would squeal and play and be utterly exhausted by the time night fell. (In retrospect, this was a brilliant parenting strategy.)

In time, I became the babysitter. I’d watch the two boys regularly over the next few years. I loved the brothers like they were my own. I read their favorite books to the point of memorization. I rocked them goodnight and gave them baths. I watched Aladdin on VHS tape approximately 10,000 times. I helped teach them to swim.

In 1994, I left my family (and theirs) to study in Mexico for a year. I was 14 and communication home was expensive. I’d call home on Sundays, and sometimes sneak a call to my dad at work. He’d always accept the charges. It was on one of those calls, when I stood at a pay phone in the foyer of the Mexican high school library, that my dad relayed the bad news. Gently, he told me the younger of the two neighbor boys was sick. He’d been sick for a while and they hadn’t been able to figure it out. Finally, they knew. He had a form of pediatric cancer and was off to Minnesota for treatment. His mom left her job and was living in the Ronald McDonald house.

I cried the tears of a gulping teenage girl whose world view had cracked, and was 1500 miles from those she loved most.

My mom helped watch the older brother, still just a little one, and my parents together kept an eye on their dad, who must have been out of his mind with grief and potential loss. The details of those days and months are not clear in my memory. What I do remember is returning home six months later and the youngest brother was still alive, in recovery, everyone back at home. When I went to visit, I realized that while he was alive, he was still dealing with the repercussions of having cell-altering chemicals and radiation at a tender age of growth. His color wasn’t right for a long time, his skin black and gray. And my last memory of him as a kindergarten student a few years later was one where he used a walker, dragging a foot behind him.

But he was alive!

The years rolled on, and soon the family was off to the Pacific Northwest for work. Their house sold quickly. I don’t remember ever saying goodbye. I do remember feeling like a piece of my childhood was packed in their moving truck, tucked between the towels that always smelled of chlorine and the tonka trucks. During the next 20 years, I spent more than a few hours looking for their family online with no luck.

Imagine my utter shock when about six weeks ago, laying on my mat in silence before a yoga class, a woman leaned her head next to mine and said, “KELLI!”

It was their mother. By sheer coincidence, after more than a decade of living elsewhere, we are neighbors again in an entirely different neighborhood. I hugged her with a ferocity that I think scared us both, and told her through tears how I’d searched for them. How was her youngest son? I asked it hesitantly, wondering all these years if the cancer had come back.

“Oh, he just graduated college. He lives with us! He’s great.”

He is great. That weekend, I got together with their family. Their eldest son, now a PhD candidate in northern California, was home visiting for the weekend — again by chance. We sat and reminisced, and I soon realized that while it was so important to my childhood — the time we’d spent together — the boys barely remembered me. They were more than ten years younger and their memories, of course, were those of little ones: blurry at best. But they did know of our family from the stories their parents had repeated, and I hugged them like an older sister would.

It was, and remains, a wonderful set of coincidences that brought a friendship together again.


Let Me Count The Ways

Baby Quilt for Nonnie

Some family friends recently opened their home to a foster baby, just a few days old. They have welcomed this child into their family fully — loving her with all their hearts. I made this baby quilt for that child, whose future custody is uncertain but may she always know she was loved. By many. By those who haven’t even met her.

Baby Quilt for Nonnie

Baby Quilt for Nonnie

Nonnie, your future is bright!


Auntie Kelli


African Jesus

Have you read this nonsense this week? The silly story from an NYC-based pastor on the 10 types of women Christian men shouldn’t marry. The list is a doozy and of course all based on scripture. (Cliff notes: the older woman, the woman who doesn’t want children, the divorcee, the career-first woman, etc.)

Let’s just call bullshit on this right now, shall we?

You know who Jesus spent a lot of time with? Mary Magdalene. She who is mentioned more than most of the apostles in the gospels. She who stood by Jesus during his crucifixion. And she who was the one who witnessed the resurrection.

Oh, and also? She who was previously, maybe, a prostitute. (Jesus forgave her for being a “sinful woman.” Draw your own conclusions. This point is highly debated.)

That’s right. One of Jesus’ most trusted confidants — the one who sounded the horns of celebration that the son of God had risen from the dead — was a woman of disrepute.

So, before we spend time creating silly lists about the types of people Christians should or shouldn’t marry, just maybe we should spend more time thinking about those cast aside. Is it based in fear? In the ugly within us? Because these sorts of lists are not based on New Testament scripture.

Jesus didn’t walk among the rich and mighty. He spent his time among the poor, the sick and those who had been set aside.

Enough! If you want to walk the talk, enough with the “them vs. us” — regardless of your faith! As my friend Nadia Bolz-Weber says, whenever you draw a line in the sand on where your love and compassion stop, Jesus is on the other side.



One older, career-driven, childless woman who loves Jesus

(And am created in the image of my maker — exactly the way He wanted)


Get Away

This weekend, we got away for a quick break north to Prescott — where it was mercifully a good 20 degrees cooler.

Prescott trip!

Prescott trip!

Prescott trip!

Prescott trip!

Prescott trip!

Prescott trip!

Prescott trip!

Prescott trip!

Prescott trip!

Prescott trip!

Three cheers to: excellent coffee and breakfast burritos at The Raven Cafe; fun thrift, the courthouse weekend art show, great people watching, time away alone with the man I love, and did I already mention the cooler weather?

Yes. Sweet Mary and Moses, I cannot wait for another break. I’m melting this summer.

Thank you, Prescott! We’ll be back soon.





This is my dad, Rex.

He is my hero, and my brother’s hero. He is my mother’s best friend. He is kind to animals and strangers and loves nothing more at this point in life than playing in his men’s club at the golf course with a bunch of guys who have 20 years on him. Or hunting with his son and brothers.

He also likes to talk about the weather, water the lawn while sipping a beer, or and chase those noisy raccoon out of the church attic; those golf geezers might be wearing off a bit.

This week a DJ was asking radio callers, “What is the one skill you use most that your father taught you?”

Immediately, I knew. Kindness.

Sure, he taught me to ride a bike, throw a ball, take care of a car, stick with goals, and a handful of other skills. But sincerely, he (and my mom) taught us kindness. I vividly remember him telling us when we started elementary school that our jobs as Donleys were to find the kids on the playground no one else wanted to play with, and to be their friends and protectors. No matter what, we were to be kind to everyone.

Granted, I still fail at this — but I remember the pep talk when I’m walking into difficult conversations at work, or dealing with the exhausted and rude postal service clerk. Kindness goes a long way. And my father is one of the most generous, kindest people you’ll ever meet. As a result, my life is rich with friends far and wide, interesting people I know in person and from this blog. I’m really lucky to have had the examples in my parents that being kind and creating friendships makes life much sweeter.

Thank you, Papi. You really are the very best dad in the entire world, and you are beloved.