guest post

Feet, Ocean, + Freedom: Why I Needed This Coaching Group

Megan Kallenbach - Ezer + Co.

Megan Kallenbach

Guest Post

I was standing on the edge of the road looking down at the water. As I strolled the path, I felt the wind gusting through my hair. The sound of the ocean was roaring through my ears. As I sat down to look out and embrace the moment, I had this thought: ”I just have to put my feet in.” That thought and feeling wouldn’t leave my body until almost instinctively I headed for the shore. I’m not sure what made those thoughts come to me. Maybe it was the desire to wash away the last season of my life. The season that broke me and rebuilt me all in one. I felt like I was a phoenix that rose from the ashes.

Before I started this journey, I was a broken woman, barely surviving. You see, I was in this journey to motherhood through unconventional means. In January of 2018, I became a foster mom. In February, I got placed with the best little baby girl the world has ever known. For awhile, I felt on top of the world. I was leading three ministries through transitions, I was a mom for the first time, and I honestly felt like I was rocking it all. Of course, we know that things never stay that way. My church had decided that I was not the person they were looking for to continue leading the ministries, so they started to look for someone else. They found that person and unfortunately I felt a tension in that relationship. It wasn’t his fault and it wasn’t my fault; it was the result of a bad situation overall. Shortly after that, I got a call for a little toddler, in which that “yes” turned my next season into one of the hardest I have ever experienced. All of a sudden, I was bearing the weight of disappointment and the feeling of being overwhelmed in a constant state.

Realizing I needed help, I heard about this Women In Leadership Cohort. I had no idea how I was going to do it, but I realized I needed something. The trajectory I was headed was not good for me nor the children I was caring for. So I signed up. That single moment changed everything for me.

I remember going into the first retreat so broken. I wasn’t sure the ladies would like me. Heck, I didn’t even like me at this point. I was stressed and overwhelmed and that was a baseline for my life. I remember people always saying, “I’m not sure how you do it.”; meaning be a single parent and work full time. Truthfully, I’m not sure how I made it through those first months either. It was clearly Jesus and coffee, because there was no other way. Parenting is hard enough, but parenting trauma is harder. Then factor in that I was in a position at a church that I loved so much but wasn’t happy anymore. It was a tough season. As April asked the hard questions and gave us room to search our souls, I began my wrestling stage. When I finally felt like I was ready to give up, life shifted. A job opened that seemed like a dream and I began my crawl out of the space I was in. Parenting was getting easier and routine began.

By the time we got to the second retreat, I was in a completely different place. Noticeably different. Even the other ladies could see the actual physical changes in me. Hope. I had hope. But I wasn’t done yet. I needed one more thing: forgiveness.

As my feet touched the water, I breathed in and out, thinking of the people, the hopes, the promises broken, that I needed to forgive. I felt the tinge of cold surge through my whole body. I felt alive. It was time to let go. Let go of it all. The journey was long and hard but it brought me to this place, this moment. The moment where I could look back and see the faithfulness of God. The point where I could let go of those hurts and decide to wash it away in the salty, cold water. In that moment, it was like I let Jesus Himself wash my feet as He said, “I am here, I love you, well done my faithful servant”. Then, as fast as it started, the moment was gone and I was on a plane back. But I will forever remember that moment. The moment I felt free.

first shared on Megan’s blog:

Thoughts from Megan after our first coaching retreat:

Our next coaching group starts September 24-26th. If you need to shift your self-leadership investment like Megan did, say “YES” to yourself and your leadership.

Have some reasons (aka excuses) about why you can’t say yes right now? Megan personally paid for her own coaching group experience. Single momma of 2 foster girls, working full-time in job that was strangling her soul. She found childcare for her foster daughters. She sacrificed financially to make it happen. Her transformation mattered that much to her. She’s a new woman as a result of what she learned and did in those 6-months.

Say “YES”. You are worth it.

Raise Your Voice

Today’s a big day!

Today is the one year anniversary of Kathy Khang’s important book, Raise Your Voice: Why We Stay Silent and How We Speak Up! To celebrate, below is an excerpt from her book. Go buy it. Give your money to women, especially women of color.

This excerpt is from her first chapter, “Seen and Not Heard”. How very true this is for women. I also wanted to share this particular excerpt because it highlights friends Amena Brown and Soul City Church, which is co-pastored by Jeanne Stevens.

Last year, I hosted Kathy on The Global Fringe podcast. In that episode, we talked about the biblical story of Esther in a way I’d never heard before but resonated with so deeply. Kathy’s attitude is empowering. She doesn’t shy away from addressing issues of justice and mercy and how we are created to use our voices for the betterment of another. And as a justice warrior, Kathy helps us identify necessary self-care as an act of political warfare.

She’s a force. Listen. Follow. Learn from her.

Raise Your Voice
Kathy Khang - Raise Your Voice

The Stories We Tell

I had the honor of watching my friend, author and artist Amena Brown, raise her voice at Soul City Church in Chicago. Amena told us a story about her grandmother and the care she put into packing food for family members who were traveling. Her grandmother would carefully wrap a slice of cake in waxed paper and put fried chicken in a paper towel and foil. These lovingly packed meals were important to African Americans in the time before the passage of the Civil Rights Act, when black travelers didn’t know if they would be able to find a restaurant that would serve them.

As I recall Amena’s performance, mannerisms, and imitation of her grandmother’s speech and cadence, I can see how the warm memories of food dovetailed into a story of racial injustice. Amena can tell this story because of who she is and who her people are. And while I can share her story here, I can’t pos- sibly embody the story because it’s not in my bones or blood.

But I can share the story of how my grandmother, who was a child in Korea during Japanese rule, was widowed before she turned forty while raising five children and how she never remarried. I can tell you how she refused to tell me her Japanese name, but did tell me about why she choose not to remarry—because she would have been forced to prioritize her role as wife over her role as mother, even though it was difficult to live as a single mother in her patriarchal culture.

Amena’s grandmother and my grandmother. Two different women, two different periods in history—but injustice didn’t silence them or stop them from acting on their own behalf and on behalf of their families. We need to give voice to these uniquely embodied stories. We need their complexity and beauty. And this is where I see my story, and the various stories of diverse communities, and the biblical stories of Esther, the bleeding woman, Moses, the women at the cross, and the resurrection colliding—in identity formation, in community, and in advocacy against racism and misogyny.

Most of the books I’ve read and speakers I’ve heard on the topic of voice and identity have been white men or women with little nuance and contextualization for individuals and communities that reside both on the margins and simultane- ously in the intersections. I believe we need to address voice and identity through the intersections of race, ethnicity, gender, and class, as well as in personal and public spheres of communication. The growing focus on racial reconciliation and the pursuit of justice only highlights the lack of nonwhite and nonblack voices, especially but not exclusively in evangelical circles. Women of color need to be part of the reconciling work of the gospel. We all need to understand that voice, identity, and agency are given by God but often underdeveloped or ignored in people on the margins. We need to be seen and heard.

Here Breathing (feat. Amena Brown Owen)

Ever forget to breathe?

Have difficulty taking deep breaths in stressful moments?

Me too.

Breathing is essential to being alive. It’s core to living fully in your body, mind, and spirit. And yet, too often we hold our breath, take hurried, shallow breaths, or are gasping for breath because we feel like we’re drowning.

Last year I hosted my friend, Amena Brown Owen, on my podcast, The Global Fringe. We talked about what it’s like to be black and female in America. If you’ve ever heard Amena preach through her gift of spoken word, you know that she uses her voice with powerful poignancy and persuasion. In the episode, we talked about redefining womanhood when it all doesn’t go as planned, the beauty and terror of being black, and how to care for your soul in it all. A storyteller at heart, Amena weaves us through her narrative, easily finding connection to ours. I asked if she’d be willing to share her poem “Here Breathing” with us. Generously, she agreed.

Take a deep breath. Listen. You are still here. Breathing.

Written + Performed by Amena Brown Owen
DP/Editor Zac Holben from Friendly Human

This fall, ten women in spiritual leadership from all over the country will intentionally connect for six months. Imagine not drowning in your life and leadership. Imagine what it would look and feel like to be set on fire, breathing deeply and fully, with purpose. Join us.

Get all the details and apply HERE.

Ezer + Co. Coaching Group - Drowning Breath

Stay Awhile

Tamara Carpenter - Ezer + Co.

Tamara Carpenter

Guest Post

What does it mean to be an Ezer; a warrior, a strong helper? I’m still learning.

My progress toward wholeness is advancing in fits and starts. I’m learning that by owning my whole story, even the unseemly parts, I grow stronger. With help from God and friends, I also gain courage to face my fears instead of bolting. Forged under the pressure of scarcity, my shadow life is gradually exposed through vulnerability and it surrenders haltingly to real desires, interests, and passions. As time passes, I feel stronger, freer, and more joyful.

I’m learning that strong women never travel alone. I walk in the company of women and men bent on becoming all they were created to be. In this safe space, we are vulnerable; we show up; we cheer each other on. And God is pleased.

I am growing up into my original design. Like layers peeled away over time, the child within is timeless, embodying all I was meant to be and created for. She is powerful, brave, distinct. Her voice, muted since birth, grows stronger each day as she embraces her true identity. A rising force that cannot be denied.

This is how my journey began…

Safely curled in a fetal position, I lay motionless.

In the dream, I am encased in an egg-shaped capsule with thick, opaque walls. I see shadows of people passing, but no one sees me. It is a refuge. Predictable. Controlled. Protected.

From there I can observe without showing up; critique without committing. From an early age I learned to survive this way. Just follow the rules and figure out how to make everyone happy. Fly low. Never dream. Stay quiet.

Many years, and a myriad of circumstances, led me into this pallid existence. Release, however, arrived in an instant.

Someone cracked an opening in the encasement just large enough for light to penetrate and color to invade. A hand entered my darkness and beckoned me forth.

I had a choice. There is always a choice. I could accept the offer and follow color, or remain in the shadows.

It takes only a little faith to move a mountain. I mustered enough.

Emboldened by hope, I strained against the wall and it yielded to the internal pressure. My feet exited first coming to rest on warm, rich soil. As the remainder of my stiff body unfurled, I breathed in the sweet scent of a thousand blossoms and relished in the playful song of Spring. Freed from constraining walls, the sun's warmth coursed over my chilled body and vibrant hues washed the remaining scales from my eyes.

I saw we were in a lush meadow, my Rescuer and I, surrounded by impenetrable, rugged mountains that pierced the heavens. The valley overflowed with wildflowers and rushing streams. Only an occasional oak tree interrupted the lush turf carpeting the expanse.

We stood in silence. It was exquisite and untamed. Fertile and wild.

Releasing the hand that delivered me, I stepped forward in wonder. Instantly, the joy of my newfound freedom was slashed by a cold blade of fear. This expanse was resplendent, yes, but also formidable. Where was the control? Where the safety?

Instinctively, I turned toward the shell I had vacated. Although still resting on the meadow floor, it was clear I could never return to its safe confines. Somehow, I was larger now.

Scanning the horizon for another hideout, my eyes came to rest on the hand still extended by my Liberator. Her hand was meant to be my security. God’s presence my fortress.

If I accepted the offer, together we would walk. Explore. Discover. Conquer.

Reaching out my hand, she enveloped it in her and led me away from my past. In time, fear gave way to trust. Trust created room for peace. And peace ushered in rest.

As dusk fell, still hand in hand, we ascended a knoll. Gazing down onto yet another meadow, I saw hundreds of great boulders strewn haphazardly as far as the eye could see. When I asked why the landscape had changed, she urged me to look more closely. Suddenly, I realized these were not boulders, but egg-shaped capsules. Each containing a person, curled motionless in a fetal position.

Tears flowed unrestrained and a mere glance was enough. Together we moved toward the nearest pod. Easing next to it, she whispered, “Stay with them awhile as I work.”

We are all meant to shine as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
— Marianne Williamson

The Wind Factor

This week, I had the gift of spending some time with long-time (S)HERO, Nancy Beach. When I first began my leadership journey over 20 years ago, Nancy Beach was one of first women I saw leading and teaching at the highest levels of the church. She led a large area of the church, was respected internationally for her leadership in the creative arts, and regularly spoke to thousands of women AND men (what?!?!). I could hardly imagine a future like that for myself.

Fast forward about 10 years, my path connected more with hers and she began investing into my life and leadership. Along the way, Nancy has been a trusted, crucial voice in chapters of transition and decision-making.

If you don’t know Nancy, she was one of the key leaders who broke the silence of the abuse at Willow Creek Community Church with Bill Hybels. It has cost her deeply and her bravery has profoundly impacted me. But she’s owning her whole story, raising her voice so women can be equal partners with men in life and leadership.

Guides along the way make all the difference in the world

Guides along the way make all the difference in the world

A couple weeks ago Nancy was in Australia and New Zealand speaking about the #churchtoo movement, how men and women better partner together in healthy ways. Her brilliant daughter, Samantha, joined her to illustrate the messages with poignant stories. She enthusiastically shared her experience and art with us.

Listen to this powerful leader! I had a giant lump in my throat watching both of her pieces.

Samantha reflected on her experience in a Facebook post:

“I spent my last day down under climbing a volcano. It was weird! On this island, there are still big stretches of lava rocks where it is impossible to believe anything could grow. But most of the island is v lush. So I read all the infographics to figure out dis mystery. Apparently post-volcano, the WIND carried teeny seeds over that became moss and that became other plants and that attracted birds which carried other seeds and now there are 200 species of native plants and trees. On an island with NO SOIL. There are orchids!


It’s been about a year since my mom and others made public the abuse that had occurred behind the scenes at my beloved childhood church. We, and many, are still sifting through the wreckage.


But these past two weeks, seeds took root amongst church leaders in Australia and NZ who choose to enter into the #churchtoo conversation. My mom accepted the invitation to lead a series of conferences around the issue and she asked me to create a few pieces to support her teaching.

The church is lightyears behind on matters of power/gender/abuse. We are islands of dead rocks.


So thank God for the wind factor. That there are little signs of life where it doesn’t make sense that there would be. Like a lot of pastors who drive on the wrong side of the road coming together to make this an urgent priority. Like my mom leading and teaching on this stuff after she was burned by it.


I am so crazy proud of her. (That feeling makes me feel old!) I will always remember this trip together.”

“We’ve transformed everything but ourselves.”

"How do you wind up in the story you're in?"

Follow Samantha’s work here: