#21 - How curiosity and proximity will change everything you thought you knew with Manda Carpenter

July 11, 2023
Manda Carpenter

Episode Summary

On this week’s episode of The Aro Podcast, we welcome the incredible Manda Carpenter. Manda is an author, podcast host, teacher, advocate, speaker, and dedicated mother on a mission to create a longer table. Join us as Manda opens up about her personal stories and the powerful impact she strives to make in the lives of the vulnerable. Through her everyday life, she advocates for redemption and empowers those in need. You'll be captivated by her experiences and how her perspective was transformed through her journey of discovering that everything she thought she knew could be changed by embracing curiosity and getting close to the stories of others. Don't miss this heartfelt conversation that will inspire you to make a difference in your own life and the lives of those around you.

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Episode Transcript

Manda Carpenter (00:00):

I mean, I could talk about this for days, but I always say there isn't a single person we wouldn't love if we knew their story. I truly believe that. I think take your nemesis, take the person you can't stand. Okay. I won't say the name of the person that comes to mind for me, but there is one. Okay. It is someone, I'll just describe this. It is someone who I see politically, everything opposite on. I think their approach to things is wrong. You know, I can get in that head space. What, what helps me come back to a place of, of, of, of genuine love and curiosity towards her is when I say, Amanda, first of all, it wasn't that long ago that you were just like her. And in many ways you still are just like her. And if you got to know her story, I bet you'd find out a lot of things that have led her to really double down on who she is today. And suddenly, empathy is replacing judgment and compassion is replacing comparison.

Joey Odom (01:04):

Welcome back to The Aro Podcast. It's Joey Odom, co-founder of Aro. Hey, I hope you're having fun listening. I'm having a ton of fun doing this. I hope it's meaningful content to you, having great guests, great conversations. And I have a favor to ask of you. Will you share The Aro Podcast with somebody? It could be this one with Manda Carpenter. You're gonna love this episode, but it could be a past one, one that you think would be meaningful to somebody, you know. Will you just shoot 'em a quick text, let 'em know about The Aro Podcast? We would appreciate that very much. I have a great conversation with Manda Carpenter today. Manda Carpenter is a podcaster and an author, coach teacher. She's just wonderful. She says she's an introvert, but I actually think she's an extrovert. But she did a great job Today. She talks about a lot of really cool things, uncomfortable conversations, kind of building a longer table to have more inclusive conversations and, and what happens when you have proximity to somebody and how that changes your opinion on them. When you hear their story, you're really gonna like it. Sit back, relax. Enjoy my conversation with Manda Carpenter.


Manda, you've, okay. So you've done a lot. And it, it's a little, and <laugh>, when I looked at our age differential and me realizing how much older I was, I, I thought, how in the world have you done so much cool stuff? But for so taught at a low income school, you led global media at a multi-billion dollar company, local church ministry in Chicago, and author, you're now in la you do a bunch of speaking, writing, hosting a podcast, coaching, advocating, foster parenting. What did I leave out by the way? Did I say momming? Momming in there wiping? Like what did I, what did I miss there?

Manda Carpenter (02:42):

Oh my goodness. I mean, you, you covered it. And it, and it might sound exhausting, but it's, it's been exhilarating. It's been so fun. And it, it wasn't like I grew up thinking that's what I wanna do. I wanna, you know, enlist that whole resume. I, I really just wanted to be a teacher and maybe write a book. I have gotten to do both of those things, right. Which is really cool. But I had no idea what life had in store for me. And it has just been so cool that there have been so many moments. I didn't know what was around the corner and I was either scared because of, I hate the unknown, I'm a control freak. Right. Or, um, things didn't go as planned. I've hit some really low lows that's obviously left outta the resume, but we'll probably touch on it <laugh>. And, um, and honestly, it's all served a purpose. Like nothing has been wasted. And so I'm so grateful. Like, I can't tell you, I don't have a five-year plan. Like, I have no idea what I'll be doing two years from now, let alone five. So it's been really fun. Yeah.

Joey Odom (03:42):

That's so awesome of all of that. So you are, I, I, I'm interested, I wanna hear a little bit about where you are right now, and then take us back to kind of how it crescendo to there. So what, what is, what would you say if you were to kind of put in, in a brief statement of synopsis, what's the core of your, like the thrust of your intentionality right now? Like, what's the core of what you're focused on, the thing that gets you up in the mornings and kind of like your core thesis on life and what you're, what you're aiming to do right now?

Manda Carpenter (04:09):

Yeah. I love this question. I if, if people listening aren't familiar, there's this thing called life plan. Have you heard of Life Plan?

Joey Odom (04:16):

I think I have.

Manda Carpenter (04:17):

It's through the Patterson.

Joey Odom (04:20):

Um, yes, I have,

Manda Carpenter (04:20):

Yes. Okay. So needless to say, uh, when I was working at a church in Chicago, our pastors who I know you are familiar with, jar Jeanie, Steven the best, who I love, they're wonderful working for them at that church was pivotal, like so great in my, my vocational but also personal journey and, um, groom me so much. But anyways, they had mentioned life plan and they were familiar with it and had gone through it and they said, you know, if you ever get the chance, you and Eric, that's my husband should totally do it and it's an investment, but if you understand the value of it, like it's worth it. So we saved and planned and he kind of went first and then I went and um, then we got to meet with our facilitator together, which was super fun. Cuz normally married couples do at the same time. But when you're young and don't have a ton of extra cash, you take your turns and then you regroup. And, um, I, I mentioned that to say that what came out of my life plan is sort of this statement that means so much to me. Um, it meant so much to me when I first received it in, gosh, that was 2019 I believe. And here we are today. It's still the kind of thing that I come back to. And that is, I exist to empower the vulnerable and advocate for redemption.

Joey Odom (05:33):


Manda Carpenter (05:33):

In everything that I do. That is why I want to wake up in the morning and be a present mom and be a loving wife and show up for our foster kids or the people in my community, my next door neighbors that we share walls cuz we're in an apartment building here in la. Um, what I love about that statement is it so represents I've always been,

Joey Odom (05:58):


Manda Carpenter (05:59):

Um, yeah. Ever since I was a child, but also like who I'm becoming, there's still room for growth and it's wide enough, it's general enough, it's not too specific that like vocationally I can only do one thing for the rest of my life. Um, but it's just this, this statement of intentionality that keeps me grounded and helps me really filter. I'm like a yes person. Yeah. I love saying yes to like anything and everything. And what's the problem with that is you get burned out really quickly and then you're, you have all these like, good distractions. You could say yes to any and everything, but they're not always your best. Yes. Yeah. And so a statement like that, I exist to empower the vulnerable and advocate for redemption. It means so much to me and it really serves as a filter for what I show up and how I show up in the world. Yeah.

Joey Odom (06:52):

It allows you to say no to things, but then also puts you within a, a right framework, right where you can, where you have different vehicles for doing that. That's who you are, that's who you've always been. So it gives you a vehicle. So whether it's, you know, it's teaching or speaking or coaching or whatever it is, or podcast, um, I'm sure that makes it, that, that allows you, I would assume to then just walk in that with full confidence. Like, oh, this is what I was made to do, which is not, which I, I I've had a problem. I'm curious if you've had a problem with this in your life of kind of owning that. Cuz it feels like arrogance, you know, in a way you, you wanna go away from arrogance, but then if you realize, no, no, no, I got a bunch of crappy stuff too, but I'm, but this is who I am. As it helped you walk in that more confidently with a little bit more bravado or something like that.

Manda Carpenter (07:35):

Yeah. Yeah. I totally relate to what you're saying. I think it's really helped me because it serves as this compass of the direction I wanna move in. Yeah. So, uh, it's sometimes hard to explain, but like, I once heard someone say like, you can't get where you wanna go until you know where you are. Yeah. And so similar when you walk into a mall, I don't know how much the last time I've been like a mall, um, but there's like a map and the star says, you are here and then Annie Ann's pretzels is up here and I really wanna

Joey Odom (08:08):

Get this. It's, you go immediately, right?

Manda Carpenter (08:09):

Yeah. Yeah. And, and so for me, that statement, it really just serves as where I wanna go. But then there's so many other tools in my life that help me to see where I am. Like I you are right here. Yeah. And it's just this guide that kind of keeps me on track. I get off track all the time, let's be honest. Yeah. Like, so, so yeah. But, um, it feels good to not be waking up and feeling like every day's the same and I'm not evolving. Um, I, I want my life to be moving in a direction that has meaning. Like I, I, I have to know that there's a greater purpose to this because to be honest, life has not always been kind. Yeah. Um, mental health has been a huge struggle of mine. I talk about that in my latest book. There have been moments more than one where I haven't wanted to be here anymore to be totally frank.


Sure. And I don't know how else to explain it other than if I don't stay grounded in a purpose of like, I exist, I am here to do this thing every single day, I'm gonna get up and I'm gonna like, try to add value to the world in this particular way, then I'm, I'm not sure I could handle Yeah. Like year after year with all the things that happen in the world. You know, another mass shooting, another, another diagnosis in the family, another, you know, failure or thing that goes wrong. And we're all dealing with that. Yeah. On some level, like personally and systematically, there's just heartache all around. And I, this might sound morbid, but like I've kind of found that that's the only way for me to stay and contribute and be a part of this world and, and enjoy it honestly. Yeah. Is to say, why am I here? What is the meaning? And so, yeah. I think if I were waking up day after day and that wasn't clear, or there wasn't any vision for it and I had no idea where I was or where I wanted to go, that is a scary dark dot for me.

Joey Odom (10:12):

Yeah. How did, in, in the times before you had these tools, before you had this clarity on who you were and what you were meant to be, how did, how did you get through those? I mean, for people maybe listening right now who maybe don't have that same level of clarity, what does that encouragement, how did you get through those times and then, um, you know, maybe that advice for somebody who is going through that without the, the specific clarity on who they are and where they're going?

Manda Carpenter (10:34):

Yeah. I mean, I, I would just say there are so many tools out there for self-awareness and, and mirrors essentially mirror holders. You know, whether it's another person, like a mentor that you just talk to or a counselor that you can start to see a clearer picture of who you are and where you're at and how you're feeling. I think so many of us too, we're just out of tune with what's going on inside. Yeah. And, um, we, we have to be willing to face reality. So that's kind of step one is like, really assess your life and assess how you're feeling and where you're at. And, um, if you, if you're able to then get really honest, well it might feel, uh, defeating or a little bit like, oh no, things are worse than I thought. Or I'm further from where I wanna be than I thought, or whatever the case is.


But it's actually hopeful. Yeah. Because it is the only way forward. And so once you kind of have that self-awareness and you can take ownership, you, you can start to, um, utilize people, books, podcasts, resources, so many tools exist to help you sort of move forward. And, and there's a lot that you can do for yourself. But I just wanna say like the, I am not like a hustle motivator type coach. Like, I don't believe we can save ourselves. I don't believe we can do it all on our own. I think so much of this requires vulnerability and to in community. And that is super vulnerable. But if you're willing to go there, if you're willing to say, I, I, I am waking up and admitting I hate my life. Yeah. I feel like I'm grouchy towards my kids. I don't like my spouse. There's no love between us.


I, my job is just a job that I make money at and I need a total kind of life overhaul. Well, I am so proud of you for admitting that. Right. And now you can move forward and there are ways to do that. So Yeah. I mean, one of those tools, shameless plug my book, soul Care to Save Your Life. Yeah. It's 15 practices that help you work through all that inner stuff that it matters, I think more than anything else in the world, but nobody else can see it. It's intangible. So it's really, um, difficult. It's like, where do you start? How do I do this work? Um, so it's, it's a process. It's a journey. Yeah. And it really has no ending point sort of ongoing. Um, but there's hope. There is hope. Yeah.

Joey Odom (12:52):

And in some ways when you, it's almost like when you acknowledge those things that you're feeling or you say, I do hate my job, in some ways it removes that level of expectation you have for it to be the thing that fulfills you. And so in that way, just that, that acknowledgement in and of itself is such a powerful thing cuz it removes that expectation. Like, this is not my source. Um, <laugh>,


Yes. Had a crappy day last week and I picked up my daughter from her volleyball, um, um, practice and is on the drive home. I was just, and she's very, she's built emotionally like me, so she feels the same way I do. I'm, IM kind of built not to be too generous, specific, but I'm built like a woman emotionally. Um, so, so we, uh, so I was just talking with her and, and about my day and I came down to, I thought about this when you were talking about self-aware awareness and how I'm feeling and what I came down to on the, the things throughout that day that just kind of sucked. I just got to the point where I thought, I'm just mad because the things didn't go my way today. Like, it, I wanted things to go a certain way and they didn't go.


And in and in a way that was just an acknowledgement. It was good. Like it's not something catastrophic. It's just like I wanted four or five things that I didn't get and it was, it, it is that very first step of just that self-awareness. And it requires stillness. It requires, you know, quiet to get to that place. So I'd love that as a very first start. And then from there you can say, okay, I need to talk to somebody or I need to, whatever the, you know, fill in the blank. Yeah. But I love that beginning step of the self-awareness.

Manda Carpenter (14:14):

Yeah. I mean I, I, I think it's the, the, the requirement be before all else. Because if, if you're not self-aware, like I said, it's, it's like that map. If you don't know where you are and who you are, then you have no idea where you're going and who you're gonna be or how to get there. So Yeah. Yeah. Super important stuff.

Joey Odom (14:34):

Can we break down your life plan statement? The, the two parts to that empower the vulnerable advocate for redemption. Will you, will you start with, with the first piece of that empower the vulnerable? So who are the vulnerable, who the ones that you're seeking out, and then what are you doing to empower them? Just for, for Amanda Carpenter

Manda Carpenter (14:50):

Personally? Yeah. Yeah. Love this question cuz this is kind of what we did through my life plan when we were solidifying that this was the statement to kind of check it, it was like, okay, well let's answer those questions. So who are the vulnerable? Um, I I won't use like a Google textbook definition. I'll, I'll use my definition. Yeah. Which is the vulnerable. Anyone who I see as an underdog, anyone who may not have the same privileges that I have, anyone who is currently in a place where they could use a helping hand, they're vulnerable. So that, that doesn't mean that anyone who, that someone who's wealthy couldn't be in a vulnerable position. They could, they could be emotionally super vulnerable. They could be in a place where, um, they're vulnerable for other reasons. So it's, it's not necessarily a financial, uh, stipulation or a, an oppression stipulation.


Although I will say the majority of people who I would consider to be in a vulnerable place are typically being oppressed and are facing a lot of injustices systematically. So again, there's, there's room for lots of people in there. It means I don't, I don't say no to working with someone just because they're not, uh, living on the streets. I try to see my work as both. And, um, for me that does include fostering, uh, my husband and I are foster parents. So both from a lifestyle standpoint of being foster parents, but also it's, that extends far beyond just caring for the kids in our care. It's really how can we wrap our arms around and partner with their parents, their whole family. Um, because that, that is what it means for us to empower the vulnerable. It's not just love the cute kid in your care.


It's love their whole family, which is sometimes not as, uh, fun or natural, if I'm really honest. Sure. But it's necessary. And I've seen the beauty from it. And that kind of leads to part two, which is advocating for redemption. And not that this whole thing has to do with foster care, but just to, to extend that example over right. When we empower the vulnerable, that is how <laugh> that is largely how I see redemption happen. So that is one way that I get to advocate for redemption, but I get to advocate for redemption when I speak into someone's marriage that is seemingly hopeless and in shambles. And I get to share my story of how my husband and I went through a really hard thing. I was unfaithful, um, the very first year that we were married and kept that a secret for too long.


Ended up the, the guilt and the shame took a toll on my mental health. And I, that was when I was at my lowest. I had a lot of suicidal ideations and thought there was no reason for me to be here anymore. Finally confessed that to him. And we, over time, uh, cause I don't wanna make it seem like it was all sunshine and rainbows, but over time, repaired and restored our marriage. And here we are many years later, thriving, and now getting to share that experience and help advocate for redemption in other people's marriages. Yeah. That's, that's just one example. But advocating for redemption looks like, how can I show up in the world and help bring people together, help bring a person back together? How can I help bring restoration and healing to the world in any way, um, to a family, to a person, to a system, to an organization. It takes a lot of different forms, but yeah. Hopefully that breakdown kind of helps explain the two

Joey Odom (18:13):

Parts. Well, you, this is a, as basic a question as I get, and I, you know, I know the textbook definition definition, but that I feel like the concept of redemption. I've, I've heard for whatever reason, maybe I've just heard it more and more over the last few weeks specifically, will you talk about just that term redemption, even the concept and, and go deep on it. Yeah. Cause I think it's a really amazing one. I think we're all seeking some level of redemption mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And like you said, it comes in a lot of different forms. I'd, I'd be curious to hear since you're, since you're so focused on it, what, what that means to you.

Manda Carpenter (18:43):

Yeah. Redemption to me means, I mean, I would say it's synonymous with, with healing. Um, but I would also say that redemption, like, we often want the redemption story that is like a happy ending. But healing doesn't always mean you get a happy ending. You can experience healing, but the marriage still ends. You can experience healing, but the person still dies. You can experience healing, but you don't get the outcome you want. And yet there is still redemption, um, redemption, just like adoption. We'll take that for example. A a lot of things come back to me for sure within the child welfare system. So adoption, to me, adoption is a redemption story. This child gains permanency and forever with a family who has chosen them and loves them. And that's beautiful. That's amazing. There is healing in that. And there is still a brokenness and a grieving, and it's this both.


And it's not perfect, you know, to me, in a perfect world, like in a heaven type of world, quote unquote. Yeah. Um, we wouldn't need adoption. Everyone would get to stay with their own mom and dad and everyone would be wanted and treated well and that everyone would be capable and financially capable of caring for their own. Right. So, but to me, redemption is still possible. I'm, it's so, it's sometimes so hard to explain. But yeah. Redemption is simply to me that the end of the story was not all broken, all bad, no healing, no closure. That there, that there was healing, there was closure, there was beauty on the other side of this. Um, any redemption story that I can tell is beautiful. Yeah. And there was pain and hardship and things still didn't go necessarily the way I wanted it to go.

Joey Odom (20:40):

It's almost like in, in order for a redemption story, there has to be some ugly that preceded it. There has to be something that there's no, there's no need redemption otherwise. So you're right. Totally. I love, I love your I the thought of the it's both and Yeah. That is beautiful. And it really was terrible. Yeah. You know, it's, it doesn't, it doesn't erase that first part of it.

Manda Carpenter (20:59):

Yeah. I think it's almost why we, or at least I, uh, really prefer redemption stories to just like, I mean, I think all of us do. Like we love the underdog winning. Yeah. We love to see the person come back from a struggle or the person who's released from being incarcerated go on to do something really big and cool with their lives. We love these redemption stories, but like you said, the ugliness comes first. There has to be brokenness first. It's why I think we're attracted to people who've gone through really hard things, hard drama, and yet survived and lived to tell it and have gone on with their lives. Um, versus just a story where someone was like born into greatness and continue to be great. It's like, that's cool, but like, show me someone who has been in the thick of it and yet it didn't destroy them. And that's redemption.

Joey Odom (21:49):

I love that.


I think a top three favorite ro story for me comes from Shelby in Kansas. Shelby says day one and my seven year old already gets it. I sat my phone down to put my two year old to bed. I came out of his bedroom and asked my older kids if they had seen my phone, my daughter chimes in that she put it in that box for me. I told her thank you and asked what she thought of it. She said she liked it because she got to spend more time with me. That's proof enough that it's worth it. If you'd love to create those stories on your own, just go to go ro.com to learn more and to join. I wanna hear you. So your your your podcast, the Longer Table podcast, which is fantastic by the way. So much so that we, that we sponsor it, we love it so much. Um, but we, we, we love what you're doing, but it's, you don't shy away there in in your conversations. No topic is off limits. Will you tell me first about the term, a longer table and then maybe the origin story of how that came to be and your, your, your lack of fear of controversial topics?

Manda Carpenter (22:52):

Sure. Uh, so first and foremost, a longer table, that phrase has meant so much to me since my husband and I first got married. We were trying to find kind of like a, a scripture or a verse to build our life around. And at the time, I, I would say there was some deconstructing of faith going on, on, on his end. He's been very open about his faith journey, so he wouldn't mind if I share that. And so a scripture just wasn't resonating for us as a couple. And instead we said, we had both one of us had stumbled upon the phrase, when you have more than you need, build a longer table rather than a higher fence, which has been attributed to different people. So I don't know the exact original source, but that quote is something we clung to. And it's something we said in, in terms of intentional living.


That's how we wanna live our life. That's the thing we wanna come back to. Obviously later on came the life plan, which sort of clarifies that even more and gets even more like granular. But from a general perspective, I was 23, we had just gotten married and it was like, when we have more than we need, let's build a longer table rather than a higher fence. So fast forward years later, 2020, I believe I launched a longer table podcast. Maybe it was 2019. I, the years are, everything's a blur because of Covid of course. But I said, you know what? I think that that's what I wanna name the podcast is a longer table podcast. I was like, I am craving a space where people can talk about things that matter. Sometimes things that are hard or controversial, um, without necessarily agreeing, but we can sit at the same table and have that conversation.


And, and I think I was personally on my own journey of, I had always kind of seen the world as like black and white and as an Enneagram eight, type eight, if anyone identifies and can relate, that's super common for an eight. Um, but as we move towards health, I think for me at least what's been true is I've realized the world is not black and white. Yeah. That actually things are a lot more gray than I thought they were. And that when I lean into the gray and I maybe embrace the gray a little bit, I end up loving people better. I end up, um, less in the self-righteous state and much more in this, uh, ability to be curious and empathetic and learn and hear people out. And so, uh, I would say it was in our time of living in Chicago, still somewhat newly married and, and fostering that, I began to realize, oh, the parents of these kids in my care, they're not monsters.


This is not black and white. It's not, they're bad people and I'm a good person. Oh man, they've got a lot that's kind of been a against them or not on their side a lot that's led them to where they're at today. Maybe this is a little more gray. Maybe not every kid should be in foster care who's in foster care. And it was like my wheels, you know, the, the wheels were turning. And as I was having these realizations, it extended far beyond foster care. It was like the way I voted and the way I saw politics. And it's just like, I don't have all the answers. I still don't. Yeah. Um, clearly I have a lot more questions than answers nowadays and a lot more that I say I don't have a clue. I used to be so sure about it. And now I don't know, I don't have a stance because I'm a little confused and I think it's a really gray area. So, to make a long story short, that is why I decided to launch a longer table podcast was I wanted to have spaces where we could talk about things. And no matter where you lived, what type of community you lived in, you could kind of get out of your echo chamber and try to hear other perspectives on a variety of conversations.

Joey Odom (26:25):

I, I think, I think stances are generally overrated, you know what I mean? Like, why is my opinion on name the topic, why is that important? You know what I mean? Because then it literally, why is it important there, there's no real reason for me to, to take stances on a, on a bunch of things that we all do social media. Um, and this is not a slam on social media. It just makes it very easy to believe that your stance is that important on a, on a macro issue. Um, you have a line that I love and actually a quick story before. So in the, I guess it was early two thousands, we were in a small group and it was right around when the Iraq war was happening. So this is after nine 11 Iraq war was happening. I was, you know, gung ho heck yeah.


Let's, we had to go in there WMDs and all that kinda stuff. And then one of my good friends, Matt, who was in our small group who had three young kids, was sent to, was sent there. He was sent in the belly of the beast. He was right in in the fighting zone. And I thought, am I really as much for this war as I thought I was? This is no statement on the war, but it was just, when something like that really personalized, when it personalized to me, it changed the entire way I viewed all of that. Cuz I wasn't viewing this war as a bunch of my friends going off in the Fallujah. It was, it was me more viewing it as, okay, this is just a, a big macro thing. So I think that the in the line you say, and by the way, for anybody listening, that's not a statement on what I thought about the war or anything on politics. It was just the fact that it became a personal issue to me and it made me rethink what my actual belief was on it. Yes. But when you say something that I love and it made me think about it, as you say, curiosity and proximity will change everything you thought you knew. Yep. Will you, will you ex expand on that statement? Cuz it's profound.

Manda Carpenter (28:06):

Yeah. Uh, absolutely. That's one of the next books I'm working on, and that's the subtitle is, uh, curiosity and proximity will challenge everything you Thought You Knew. Uh, it's a story of my life. It is everything that I thought I knew I was so sure, uh, which is every 20 something. I think maybe it was just me, but I mean, <laugh> take, take any agram who's not healthy in her twenties, who thinks she knows it all. Um, that was, that was me. I'm gonna humble myself and just admit it. And I was just wrong about so many things. And it wasn't until I got curious and I was in proximity to people, not just the topic on these issues, but actual people living day-to-day lives who have stories that I started to kind of come against some tension for the first time. Yeah. And it was like, oh, oh, maybe the way that I was told that this happens, maybe that's not the way that people end up living on the streets.


Like maybe my unhoused neighbors are just that my unhoused neighbors not necessarily a drug addict who made bad choices and ended up on the streets. And even if that is their story, well, there's probably more to it. And they are worthy of being loved and heard. And so, I mean, I could talk about this for days, but I always say there isn't a single person we wouldn't love if we knew their story. I truly believe that. I think take your nemesis, take the person you can't stand. Okay. I won't say the name of the person that comes to mind for me, but there is one. Okay. It's not

Joey Odom (29:45):

Fully me. It, it's not me. Is it? It's not me. Right

Manda Carpenter (29:46):

Joey? It is not you.

Joey Odom (29:47):

Okay, good, good, good. It's not You Carry on. Got it.

Manda Carpenter (29:49):

It's someone, it's someone, I'll just describe this. It is someone who I see politically everything opposite on. I think their approach to things is wrong. You know, I can get in that head space. What what helps me come back to a place of, of, of, of genuine love and curiosity towards her is when I say Amanda, first of all, it wasn't that long ago that you were just like her. And in many ways you still are just like her. And if you got to know her story, I bet you'd find out a lot of things that have led her to really double down on who she is today. And suddenly empathy is replacing judgment and compassion is replacing comparison. Yeah. And I just, that's huge. And so I believe if we're willing to get curious and we're willing to get in proximity and proximity doesn't mean you have to uproot your life and move to a city or move across the world.


Proximity can be through podcasts, through books like thankfully because of technology today, proximity is accessible no matter where you are, uh, for the most part. And without you having to completely overhaul your life in uproot. Um, and I just wanna say that if you go down that journey, it's gonna be incredible and I like want you to do it so much, but also you might lose a few friends. Right. You might, um, go through some hardships along the way because if you're like me especially, you won't be able to sit quietly and just accept conversation that doesn't allow for nuance. For example, if I'm sitting in a room, even at a family gathering and everyone's talking about, um, uh, a thing that they like, oh, can you believe this? Or can you believe whatever? I am one of the first people to say, well, but what about, let me play devil's advocate. Like I'm that annoying person now. But it's because I'm always like, there's nuance here and it's more brave than you think, and you're only looking at it. If you can't see past your nose, well then of course you're gonna see that way. Yeah. But if we can, if we can look past our nose, if we can consider the bigger picture, if we can listen and get to know other people's stories, it might shake things up. It might change the way we see the world and the way we believe.

Joey Odom (32:08):

Which is also hard because in in some ways it, it's in some ways it's like you've, you're becoming more tolerant and understanding. But then is it, is it hard once you've had that kind of revelation for yourself that I need to be more tolerant and understanding, it's almost, it almost can turn into judgments over those who are not tolerant and understanding. That seems like there's a little bit of a catch 22 there.

Manda Carpenter (32:29):

Yes. I love that you're bringing that up. That is something that's so important to talk about. My husband and I were just talking about it recently. We said, we're too liberal for our conservative friends, we're too conservative for our liberal friends. Right. Like, we kind of find ourselves never fitting in. And something that we have seen, particularly in spaces where people, let's let's use the woke language, like sure. They're more woke. Right. They, what I see that side, which most people would put me on that side, they would say, oh, you're liberal, or you're this or that. Even though I wouldn't say I am at all actually, but, um, I don't fit anywhere. Um, what I would say is I do see this. Yeah. It's like, we want you to include everyone and love everyone. Okay. But now we're gonna judge you if you don't do those things.


Right. Yes. I totally see what you're saying. And that's something where we've even had a hard time, like my husband and I, uh, haven't been going to a church recently because we just haven't found a space where we're really looking for a place that when they say everyone is welcome. Yeah. They truly mean everyone. Most people hear that and they think, oh, you mean like include the lgbtq plus community? Yes, sure. But beyond that, I still want my Republican family members to feel comfortable attending your church. I still want people who don't see it all the same way as me, politically, spiritually, or in other ways to be welcome at that table too. So that's the thing that I've tried to do with my life and and on my podcast in one format is I wanna build a longer table. And I have had to, I, I'm constantly trying to invite more voices to the table that I don't see eye to eye with because I genuinely value their perspective and I wanna have those conversations. You know, Joey, the hard part though is most people who, who it's very obvious we don't see things eye to eye. They don't wanna come on the podcast <laugh> like, darn it come, I just wanna have a, I wanna have a pleasant conversation with you. So finding, finding those people to have those conversations isn't always easy. But I've been grateful for the ones that we have had.

Joey Odom (34:28):

Ha Have you found, I mean, truly whenever you, whether it's on the podcast or even just in everyday life, when you have conversations with people who differ with you, when you do have that one-on-one, do you find th I mean, has it played out like that things really, do you find more commonality than you thought you had? Is that pretty consistent?

Manda Carpenter (34:43):

Yes. Yes. For sure. Obviously, the healthier myself and that other person is the, the easier and smoother that conversation goes. And I think the more we're able to see, wait a second. A line that I've been, uh, using recently in, in hard conversations is I think we want the same thing. We just see two very different paths to getting there. Or Yeah. Like we both want there to be no one living on the streets. I think we just see two different paths to how we can make that a reality. Yeah. Or same thing goes for, you know, I don't, neither of us want mass shootings to happen. You think this will solve it. I think this might solve it. And, but, but at the end of the day, let's come back to where is the common ground. We both want almost always the same thing. We just see different paths to getting there. And if we can make room for that, if we can make space for that, if we can welcome that it's a both and situation and don't always have to be quote unquote Right. Or changing people's minds. People are a lot more willing to stick around and hang out and have a conversation, even if it's a little bit wonky at times.

Joey Odom (35:50):

It's so true. Just, just by Yeah, acknowledging that. I think I've always, I've often wondered what would happen if they, if in a presidential debate, if one of the candidates said that like, Hey, I think you love America. I really do. But I think, you know what I mean? It seems like that would be, I think it seems like there would be that that middle of America would really, there would be someone, the fringes who would actually probably hate that, but right in the middle. I think the majority of America Americans would be like, yeah, I like that. I think that's true.

Manda Carpenter (36:13):

Totally. I know. Um,

Joey Odom (36:15):

I I do, you referenced it earlier. I I do, I have a bunch of questions, but I want to hear about Soul Care to Save Your Life. That was your book you wrote, uh, women's Devotional in 2008, uh, which is called Space and then Soul Care to Save Your Life was, um, was a book that came out last year. 2021. Yeah. 2022. Okay. So very new. And you do, you go through these, those soul care practices, break it into three parts. Will you talk about a couple of those things? Maybe a little bit of an overview of the book and then maybe a couple of those practices, um, even for someone listening today that they can latch onto the first practice of which certainly being going and buying the book today, which everybody needs to do. Yeah. But can you walk us through some of that?

Manda Carpenter (36:51):

Yeah, this book was like the book. I couldn't not write. Like I didn't wanna tell these stories because one way to summarize soul care, to save your life is just to say it is every lesson I learned the hard way in my twenties. Um, and let me just say I learned it the hard way, <laugh>, I didn't, I didn't choose the easy route. Like I had to learn it through really, um, true, you know, some of it's funny, but also some of it's, uh, devastating, you know? Yeah. Like infidelity in your marriage. Who wants to go through that? Like, could I have learned about integrity a different way, or learned that I had an addiction that needed to be healed outside of committing that sin and going through that really terrible thing and putting my husband through that, I wish. Yeah. Um, but that's not the way my story goes.


So it's a book where I'm really honest. Uh, so it feels, I would say it reads like a memoir. You get to know me and my story, but it's not all about me. I'm, I'm telling my story as a way of really inviting you to consider your own. And so each of the 15 chapters has a soul care practice that I allude to, um, that I invite you to try. And then at the end of each chapter, there are five reflection questions. You can use those by yourself, which I really encourage. But then I would also say take it, um, forward. I said this earlier, you can only go so far on your own. So invite someone into that space with you, maybe through a small group or a mentor or just a bestie, um, and, and tackle those questions then with somebody else who can serve as your mirror holder.


But it's three parts. It's awareness, ownership, transformation. And we've already talked about awareness a little bit. I think that's step one is you gotta know who you are and where you are and really get, um, deep there. Ownership is then taking it to a place where you don't just say, well, this is who I am. I'm an addict. I struggle with this thing. Like, sucks a suck. That's just who I am. <laugh>. I lived in that space for a little while because I truly thought that that was it. And I realized that's such a victim mindset and, and it doesn't have to be that way. And so I walk you through some exercises around ownership, um, and kind of getting off of autopilot as I call it. I think so many of us are living on autopilot. We just wake up, we do the same things every day.


There's things we don't like about our life. We don't do anything to change it. We just kind of accept it as this is, this is the best I got. I don't know. And we just do that day after day after day. And oh, it's so sad. Like there is, that is dying. Like that is death. Like you were just inching towards death. And we all are, I guess in a morbid sense, but it's so much, life is just so much richer and more meaningful and beautiful if we don't, uh, live on autopilot. And so I really walk through that. And then that last section on transformation is, I, I believe wholeheartedly that people can change. I believe that because I myself have and can continue to, and I, I see it all around me. Um, I know there are people who are cynical, skeptic, have walked through a lot of painful things.


And they view someone at least in their life as like, oh, well there's no way they could change. There's no way they could ever actually be healed or different. And I would just challenge that and say, um, you may not see it in your lifetime. Uh, but people can change. And I think there's a huge difference between change and transformation. And so we, the focus is on transformation. I really kind of define the two and the difference and then, you know, walk through. Cause that, I think so many self-help books, for example, they teach you how to change and that's, that's great. That might be helpful for a week or a month, right? Or five years and even five years. Great, I'm glad you changed for those five years. But in order to truly transform and for it to not be, you're just managing behaviors, you're just modifying your behavior.


Like that is the opposite of what I wanna see happen for people. And it wasn't until I got out of trying and striving to change and modify my behavior that I was actually able to kind of accept and surrender and lean into this much more organic journey of transformation. So that's sort of an overview. Yeah. The practices though are, I mean, some of them are super simple. It's embrace embarrassment for the sake of freedom. That is a practice. And I tell you how I've experienced that and how you can do that too. Um, another one is, oh goodness, I'm totally blanking on my own practices.

Joey Odom (41:23):

Now I have 'em here. Live in a rhythm of real ground yourself. Yes. Pretty good. Identify your hidden secrets to develop a habit of confession.

Manda Carpenter (41:30):


Joey Odom (41:31):

Dig your layer deeper. Yeah. What, what, what's one or of those that are actually, you know what, I, I actually wanna hear the embrace embarrassment. Yeah. Cause that's really good. I I actually like that. In fact, I believe that in order to really be great, you have to have a group of friends around you who will embarrass you and make fun of you a bunch. So I think that's good. What, what, what does that mean to embrace embarrassment for the sake of freedom?

Manda Carpenter (41:50):

Yeah. I just, I don't think we can be free if we're faking it. And I think that when we stop faking it, we are bound to embarrass ourselves a time or two. So em, embracing embarrassment for the sake of freedom can look like a lot of different things for me. It has looked like I, I have felt very embarrassed speaking up in a group about something, but man, if I hadn't spoken up, I would've not been authentic and true to myself. So I had to embrace embarrassment in order to feel free and to be free. Um, I've had to embrace embarrassment of trying new things, um, starting my podcast for example. Yeah. Oh my goodness. I am actually, uh, someone who struggles a lot with social anxiety. And so I don't think people have a clue how hard it's for me to get behind a mic show up weekly on a podcast or even more so is for me going on a stage.


I spoke in front of like 500 a couple years ago, and I mean, I was like throwing up behind stage beforehand. Like, I'm not your natural, like, get up there and talk to everyone that is my husband. And so, but I push myself to do it sometimes because embracing embarrassment, even though, and, and I have had talks go so badly, um, I have had podcasts that go so poorly, hopefully not this one, Joey, not this one. That's great. But, um, <laugh>. But I have had to learn that embracing embarrassment is one of the only ways that we can live free if we spend our whole life trying to avoid being embarrassed. Yeah. We are going to live, um, as like a shell of ourselves and our life will reflect that. And so, um, that's just one of the 15 practices that have really taught me how I can care for myself on a deeper level and live my best life and show up in this world whole and healed. Yeah.

Joey Odom (43:35):

You talk about something that I can relate to, uh, in the book you talk about, about a need for affirmation, which I can relate to. And it, it seems to me is you're leaning into embarrassment. It releases, it also releases your need for affirmation. It's, it's two different things where if you're not, and you're right, being on a podcast, it, it, it is very vulnerable for me, for me. And, and not only would someone say, Hey, your podcast is crappy. Like, that would crush me. Right? But I'm also in the same way, like really like, like clinging to those like the compliments also. And I don't like either of those. I don't want either of those. And so if you're willing to be embarrassed, then you kind of relinquish the need for as much affirmation and then the comment and then the negativity doesn't hurt as much either. Can you relate to that? Yeah.

Manda Carpenter (44:18):

Oh, totally. I forget who said that, that famous phrase or quote, that's basically like, if you, if you live for the praise, you'll die from the rejection. And Yeah. In other words, you go, they, they say it differently. But I, I so relate. Honestly, I would've quit the internet and what I do day to day a long time ago. If that were, you know, I, you can't let the praise or the the affirmation kind of build you up or get to your head. You can't be let, you cannot let that be the thing that drives you and motivates you. Um, because it is true. Then when you get the rejection and the hate and the hard stuff, or you fail, and trust me, you will fail if you're living publicly Right. At times, um, it'll crush you and then you'll, you'll just be done. And like, that's not sustainable.


Yeah. So I think a more sustainable way of living is to really get clear and to find what is motivating me and make sure it's no, check it, check it often. Yeah. Um, that is, that is something I bring up I say in the book a lot is I am constantly assessing my motives. My, um, yeah, motive's probably the best way to put it. Like, right, why am I wanting to do this thing? Why do I wanna have this conversation with this person? Like, why did I say the thing that like motives I think matter so, so much. Yeah. And I also think it's reflected, I tell a really short story in the book about going to a John Mayer concert and feeling just so in awe watching him do his thing. I mean, obviously he's incredible, we all know this, right? Or if you don't know, he's incredible <laugh>, um, of a guitar player.


And so watching him do his thing, but like you could just tell like he wasn't motivated or there to like put on a show or because everyone like thousands had gathered to see him. Like he was almost like in his own world, like not paying attention to the crowd or really anyone. I mean, his eyes were closed half the time and he was just like in it, loving his thing. And we can never tell anyone else's motives. So I'm not trying to say that we could tell his motives, but it is very evident. Uh, I think it almost always comes through. People can sniff that out. Yeah. And it's so much more attractive when your motives are pure. And so it's just a practice. It's part of the, the work of soul care is Yeah. Is constantly assessing and checking yourself.

Joey Odom (46:36):

Yeah, that's so true. And it is your rights, the practice, the practice becomes the being and the being becomes practice and it's all kind of all intertwined. Um, do you have a few more minutes? Yeah, yeah. Wanna be respect? So I'm, I'm curious and um, you, you are so intentional, you are so lasered in. How do you and Eric especially you're, you're, um, with Shaya, how old is Shaya?

Manda Carpenter (46:55):

He's two

Joey Odom (46:56):

Shy is two. So you got the little one at home, you've had a bunch of foster kids. 16, is that right? 16 Foster kids come through your home.

Manda Carpenter (47:03):

We just had our 17th. So 17th. Yeah.

Joey Odom (47:05):

Unbelievable. Yeah. So you clearly have to be locked in on, on the technology side. We talked a little bit about it before the show, and this is not me asking you for a com <laugh> for a commercial for us. I'm curious, yeah. Your relationship, you and Eric's relationship with technology, your intentionality around it and how you manage that in your home.

Manda Carpenter (47:21):

Yeah. Yeah. This is super important to us because I'm gonna admit that like without really hard boundaries around it, I would be on my phone way too much. Ditto, ditto. Um, and I, I don't know if that's solely because of the work that we do, right? Like I, a lot of my work I have to show up on social media and for a long time I kind of used that as a way of justifying my excessive phone use. And then I, I think I got sick of myself and those excuses and kind of saw other people living a more free life where they weren't so attached to this device and I was like, wait, there's gotta be a better way. And so yeah, you can learn how to like, you know, plan social media more in batches and only show up a couple of times a day for short times and not be scrolling.


And I did begin to implement all of that and that's been really helpful. But what I've been loving about us getting the RO device, honestly is we, I was telling you before we started recording like yesterday, you know, my son, our two year old gets home from daycare and we only have like two and a half hours between him coming home from daycare and like, he's gotta go to sleep because an overly tired toddler is not a fun toddler to be around. Right. And we want our mom and dad, you know, alone time. So those two and a half hours, I think what I find is that it's really easy for me to like, try to multitask, um, one cuz I'm a high capacity person two because it's kind of the world we live in and it's so like culturally and societally like normal. Um, but it's so harmful.


Uh, I, I'll never forget, like there was a day where I was like cooking like mac and cheese or something on the stove while trying to like answer an email and like also put a story up in my stories. And then Shya was like tugging on my leg cuz he needed something. And then I ended up spilling the spatula thing out of the pot and like got mad at him, like got frustrated at my two-year-old and it was like, whoa. I mean, in that moment I think I felt so guilty honestly within like 10 seconds. Cause I had just snapped at my two-year-old and he hadn't done anything wrong. Yeah, it was, I was overly stimulated. I was trying to do too many things at once. I wasn't being present to the child that needed me. Um, and that was a big wake up call.


And that's one example of a million times I have failed as a parent. But what has been a practice for Eric and I, and he's much better at this than me. So I'm thankful that I have a spouse who kind of does, I would say lead in this way. We kind of have our strengths. And this one is his, is unplugging, being fully present both in conversation with other people. Like when he's playing with our son, that's all he's doing. He's not also trying to work, also trying to cook, also trying to clean. And I know that especially single parent households, you're gonna multitask. Sometimes it's inevitable, right? But I do think that if we're willing to put some boundaries in place and get intentional and creative, we can all, uh, detach a little bit more. And so what I've been loving about the RO devices, we came home from daycare pickup yesterday, and we have these two and a half hours.


And we knew we wanted to spend time with Shia. We knew we had to go to Target to get more milk. Cause we were out. And again, we do not run out of milk with the toddler. And we had to cook dinner. He needed a bath. So it was like, how are we fitting all this in? And we, we decided it was kind of on a whim, but my husband was like, okay, I'm gonna plug in to the ro. I was like, me too. Cause we're like, we don't need our phones for anything. We have our cards and our keys, like our phone. While it has the capability to like pay at the store and unlock things and do all these cool things, you don't have to rely on it for that. Like, it doesn't have to be an extension of your hand. And so we put it away.


We went to, to Target, walked there first, got the meal, put in the thing. We're like, okay, we'll go do 30 minutes at the park, go, you know, do 30 minutes. The park. We were just fully on with Shya, having fun with him. We get home, we start cooking dinner, we were home. And neither of us went to the device to unplug our phone from the RO because we were just continuing in that rhythm of being fully present. And it wasn't until he went to bed that we both got our phones out and we were like, okay, let's take like 15, 20 minutes check in. What do we miss? What do we need to do? And yeah, I mean, not to go on and on and on, but I can truly say that it is more than just a box where you put your phone.


What I am loving about it and what motivates me so much is when I like unplug it and it tells me like how much time it was in there, and then I get to log what I was doing. Yeah. And so I put outdoor time with Shya and Eric, you know, like, that is so motivating for me because it's not just about not being on my phone, it's what I am doing and what I am saying yes to when it's gone. And honestly, I'm so excited for like, when I hit the year mark because I can't wait to see how many hours I've gotten back. Right. In my, in my year. Um, and I use an old fashioned alarm clock next to my bed. Nice. And we keep our phones in the ro at night. And like, that's a game changer because I'm reading before bed, which is something that I used to do that I had gotten out of the habit of since becoming a mom to Shya.


Um, just because I think the newborn phase happened and then it was the infant little phase. It's just like, it can kind of never end. And you can sort of keep justifying never getting back to a healthy place with rhythms in general or phone usage, but eventually, like you just have to wake up one day and say, I'm sick of this and I want it to change and I'm willing to do whatever it takes to change. Right. Yeah. And ro has just been something where genuinely it's helping us so much and we're, we're so grateful for it. We love it. Our friends love it. They come over, they're like, oh, I can charge my phone. They plug it in. They've, you know, are are with us and wanting to be present. So it's been, it's been awesome. Yeah. I can't say enough great things about it. I am just organically telling everyone I know about it.

Joey Odom (52:59):

Wow. That's very nice of you. We, I I love hearing that, that that, that, you know, the future that you're setting up for Shy is so great. Just him, him recognizing, having that intrinsic sense of value that he's more valuable than, than, than our devices. So that, that's awesome. And Eric are doing that.

Manda Carpenter (53:13):

Um, yeah, more what do they say more is caught than taught, right? That's right. So like I'm, I'm not gonna teach him how to not be on his phone when he has one someday. Oh my gosh. That's a scary thought. But hopefully he'll very easily know how to put it down. Because we have family dinners and we don't have our phones out at family dinners. Right. Because he just sees that's just the, that's just gonna become the norm in our family. I hope so. Yeah. It's awesome. I think it's huge.

Joey Odom (53:40):

I love that. Or what, what's our one, what's your one thing, if someone could, could leave with just a single thing, a message for someone listening today, what would, what would you want people to hear today? Just the the one thing we could leave people with.

Manda Carpenter (53:52):

Yeah. I would just say, you're not stuck. You're not stuck. Whatever that means for you. You're not stuck in an unhappy marriage. You're not stuck at a job you hate. You're not stuck in whatever way that you're unfulfilled. Um, that there is hope, there is possibility to change and to transform and to, um, you can have a brighter future than your past. So don't settle. You're not stuck. There's a, there's a, there is a way forward.

Joey Odom (54:26):

That's not a small message. And I want the listener to do something that's maybe a little bit, um, unconventional, but just hit after I say this. Hit pause. And I just want you to say, I'm not stuck. Just, just let your ears hear your, your mouth. Say that. Just say, I'm not stuck. And you'll believe it. Your ears believe with your mouth, what you hear. And so I think that's an important thing for us to hear. So just hit pause real quick. We'll, we'll be waiting for you and just say, I'm not stuck, Amanda, that's, that is, that's really, really good. That, thank you for your generosity of time. This has been amazing. Um, Amanda carpenter.com is where people can go. Yeah. They need to listen to a longer table podcast. You need to go buy Soul Care to save your life. You actually should probably go back and buy space. The devotional <laugh> 2008. Yeah. What, what else? And, and where, where can people follow you on socials?

Manda Carpenter (55:16):

Amanda Carpenter? Yeah. I pretty much just use Instagram. I tried TikTok and I just said, I don't need one more app taking up space in my life. You're good. And I realized that's just like for fun mainly. And while I do value fun, it's not, um, it just didn't really fit why I exist on this earth. So I just stopped using it. So I like it. I'm only on Instagram right now.

Joey Odom (55:40):

Catch her on the Gram <laugh>. Uh, Amanda, thank you so much. It was so, it was awesome talking to you.

Manda Carpenter (55:46):

Thank you. Thanks for having me. It means a

Joey Odom (55:47):

Lot. You heard what Manda said right at the end. She said, you are not stuck. A lot of us believe we are stuck where we are, but I'm telling you, you're not. So if you've not done it already, finish out this episode and just say it aloud to yourself. I'm not stuck. Thank you so much for listening to this week's episode of The Aro Podcast. We can't wait to see you again next week. The Aro Podcast is produced and edited by the team at Palm Tree Pod co. Special thanks to Emily Miles for video and digital support and to our executive producer Aro's own, Katelyn Farley.