#MondaysAtJesusFeet

Here we are, friends. It’s Monday.

It’s Monday and it’s time to sit and to savor the Word at Jesus’ feet.

We’re doing Lectio Divina every Monday and Thursday right here and today we’re spending time with Matthew 5:21-24 because here in the Sermon on the Mount is where we learn to walk out our faith.

There are some words of Jesus that require us to sit with them in prayer.

Because otherwise we’d rush right on by. It’s easier that way. We’d rather the internal mess stayed covered. We’d rather stay ignorant of our shadow sides.

 

In today’s scripture, we’re asked to uncover the root of anger in our lives and reconcile with our brother but sometimes those roots are buried. Deep. Today we give God permission to uncover what needs to be exposed. As we listen, we’re offered the truth that reconciliation leads to real Life.

{Every Monday and Thursday we have a Lectio Divina right here. Subscribe on the right to get them slipped quietly into your inbox.}

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Isaiah 40: 1-5 SLOW Word Lectio Divina

Hello fellow listeners,

Every Monday and Thursday a new SLOW Word Lectio Divina appears right here. Today we’re spending time in Isaiah 40:1-5. Can you hear Handel’s Messiah? “Every valley shall be lifted up. Every mountain and hill made low and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed.”

Kris Camealy in her book, Come Lord Jesus, invites us to meditate on the question, “What are the valleys in my life that cause me to stumble repeatedly?”

If you’re interested in traveling with Kris and I to the manger, you can pick up her book right here on Amazon.

(For those repeating, the scripture begins at 1:35.)

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The Key to Savoring Your Life Today and SLOW Word

(SLOW Word attached to the bottom, dear friends. It’s such a privilege to listen to the Word with you right here every Monday and Thursday!)

We’re in the middle of a mini-series on SLOW living right here at AThirstforGod.com.

Find Part 1 and 2 here: Making a Plan for Rest and Your Brilliant Simple Plan to Create Calm in the Chaos.

Here is Part 3:

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I needed a day off. I could feel the rising crankiness, the need to gaze quiet. I had created Monday’s schedule to fill, refresh, to build something worth standing on for another week, a Sabbath.

There was just this one other thing to fit in: the oil change. No problem, I thought. But the voice on the other line said he only had one appointment left…smack dab in the middle of my well-planned day. With annoyance, he grumbled, “Ma’am, is that the time you want, or not?” I had been dreaming of a hike around Slippery Rock River, skipping stones into the current, a slow saunter around a bookstore, even a Target run. Noon? I could feel the whine rising. The car would take at least an hour and a half and the day’s schedule was now smeared.

We would have to be content on our own familiar streets.  No adventures today.

I pushed the button for the garage door to open. “Xavier, we’re going a walk. You lead.” Exercise always clears my head. He swung his thin four-year-old leg over his muddy BMX, still balanced with training wheels. I held onto his black leather bike seat and pushed him up the short hill toward town until he could pedal forward himself.

I had lost the heart to lead: “Left or Right, Xavi?””Left!” he steered down the curb between the two white lines. Again and again he pedaled north taking us beyond our normal boundaries, one block after another, straight down Beaver St. We landed at the bottom of the hill in Edgeworth in a triangle of a park, huge oaks, small brook, inviting child-size stone bridge. Sometimes you don’t need to leave town to see new kingdoms.

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We were in unfamiliar territory in our own town. We scrambled down stone walls and sat next to the creek. He combed through the pebbles with his fingers, then piled them together to build a dam. Running up and down the creek, He tried to stay on the dry sidelines. Every few minutes he looked back to see if I was watching, eyes shining. I watched the magic gather and spread. Under the bridge, he spread out his arms, a strong man holding it up. I sat down in the middle of the joy fully immersed in the present.

My own stuck stream of delight was undammed by entering into NOW, senses alive, scrambling on rocks, listening to water grate over pebbles, breathing in the freshly mown grass. Simple, I know. But I wondered, how often am I truly Here, Now?

Back at home, I took out the dollar-store bottle of bubbles and the “fancy” camera. Just last year he could barely blow a bubble, more soap would spill on the concrete than spin through the air.

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As he blew into the wand, I held my breath. How often do I live life shrouded in a tangle of emotions and lists written long, pounding hard after life, when Life can be blown up full right here in the present?

I’ve always wanted to be one of the fully present people. Available. Paying attention. Listening. An “icon” of Julian of Norwich hangs above my writing desk, she who was cloistered in Norwich’s cathedral, present to the Presence. Anchored.  So often I spin dizzy through life missing the present as I reach out anxiously toward the future.

The present is as temporary as a bubble floating upwards and all we have is the gift of now to enjoy, to taste and see that God is good.

And I know: He is almost five and I want to memorize the surprised giggles, the smell of his sweaty blond head after he plays, the shine of his eyes as he twists around and searches for mine. I want to live thankful in the Now.

In this ordinary, magical life I’ve been given, I want to be marked “present.”

Share with us one of your favorite ways to be fully present. On the back porch with your first cup of coffee? Rocking that little one to sleep? Deep in the arms of your Love?

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Your Brilliant Simple Plan to Create Calm in Chaos and SLOW Word

It’s no secret. I need quiet like I need water.  Perhaps we all do. Have you read this article yet? Our brains require ample amounts of silence in order to rebuild the brain cells stolen by noise and stress.

Because who can truly hear in the middle of all this crushing noise?

“In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength” (Isaiah 30:15). (By the way, this is the first verse of the SLOW Word lectio divina included below.)

 

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This afternoon I chatted with another homeschool mama in the corner of a kitchen as kids in costumes ran from one room to another playing hide and seek. We whispered about the need for quiet as if we were divulging a secret then we giggled at the extremes we go to guard our hours alone. But if this article or my (everyday!) experience are any indication, needing silence is just as essential to our mental and emotional health as our computer’s reboot button is to its continued functioning. And really, should we be surprised? My husband asks me the same question every time my computer seizes up: “When was the last time you rebooted?”

So, friends, it’s time to make a plan for rebooting our internal computer. It’s been necessary for women (and men!) throughout time. John Wesley’s mother, Susanna (1669-1742), used to take her long apron and place it over her head to signal the need for calm. Madeleine L’Engle’s children would recognize her irritability as a need for silence long before she ever did and beg her to take off to her writing tower at Crosswicks. Other women have written about their struggle to create spaces of silence. The introvert in me always smiles when I read Naomi Shihab Nye’s poem The Art of Disappearing.

In the early 1950’s Anne Morrow Lindbergh penned A Gift from the Sea about the wrestle between motherhood and the need for quiet: “I must find a balance somewhere, or an alternating rhythm between these two extremes; a swinging of the pendulum between solitude and communion, between retreat and return. In my periods of retreat perhaps I can learn something to carry back into my worldly life.” Anne Morrow Lindbergh wrote these words before the hundreds of channels on the tv, the portable XBox, or the black hole of the interwebs.

 

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Into the age-old conversation I’m offering this simple little gem: #10MinutesofStillness. Sometimes simple can be embarrassing, but sometimes it can be brilliant. After years of practicing, this one, my friends, is brilliant simple. Of course, it’s not my brilliance. I’m just the beneficiary. I picked it up from my sister, who picked it up from a friend. You get the idea. Now here’s the prescription: Choose a quiet space, put the phone upside down and turn off any beeps and buzzes, and set an alarm for ten minutes. Full stop. It’s the mini-Sabbath in the middle of your busy Thursday.

(Secret: I’ve found #10MinutesofStillness are just as luxurious on family holidays as they are on a busy weekday. Here’s one of mine from family vacation last year.)

For just ten minutes you push away the incessant to-do list, and just settle into the gorgeous richness of the present moment. Listen for the birds. Scan your space for beauty. Be attentive to your breath. (Maybe you’re a shallow breather like I am?) Perhaps you can take a short phrase of scripture and do centering prayer. Most days I keep it simple. I make a cup of cinnamon tea, head out to the porch, shut the front door with all its crazy on the other side and sit in the swing. Ten minutes to hit the refresh button.

 

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Why #10MinutesofStillness? Here’s what I’ve found after a few years of the practice:

 

1. #10MinutesofStillness is the perfect transition.  Do you reach for a cereal bowl and a remote when the kids are finally in bed? Yup, some nights I do too.  Other nights I want to lean into something more creative. Scheduling a #10MinutesofStillness at the moment of transition helps me to be more mindful of my true desires and not just fall into an immediate Netflix hole. I did the same thing when the kids were young enough to nap.

 

2. #10MinutesofStillness gives us a moment of time to be attentive to emotions crowding under the surface. You know how it is. Your irritability is coming from somewhere. Nonjudgemental listening is the first step to untangling. Bring the emotion up into the air, look at it with compassionate curiosity and without trying to be a Fixer. Bring it up and out into the Presence of Christ.

 

3. #10MinutesofStillness is the creative’s best friend. When we’re mired in the tough of the making and the words refuse to flow, just ten minutes of no agenda silence will often unleash the dam and we’re on our way again.

 

4. #10MinutesofStillness is a gateway back to gratitude.  Practice opening up one sense at a time for sixty seconds each, without judging what you receive and without trying to create meaning. And then start thanking God for the simple gifts you are experiencing. Pretty soon the chaos is tinged with joy and you’re ready to love your people again.

 

5. #10MinutesofStillness can push the door open to God’s Presence. When our head is down and we’re leaning hard into hustle, we can forget to be aware of God-with-us.  Light a candle in your quiet space and sit without an agenda but with expectation, contemplatively present to He who is always present.

 

So, friend, I’m daring you: schedule a mini-Sabbath into your day. Cultivate a small corner of stillness then enter the conversation. What was it like for you? Was it a struggle? Was it a gift? We want to hear. And if you use the hashtag #10MinutesofStillness, let us know! I’d love to see the chorus of contemplatives rise!

 

Do you have another brilliant simple idea for creating calm in the chaos? Do share!

 

Today’s SLOW Word. (The scripture starts at 2:20):

Subscribe on the right for more aThirstforGod.com or the SLOW Word Lectio Divina videos.

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Making a Plan for Rest Today and Thursday’s SLOW WORD

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This July I was in Italy for three weeks with my people. I’m still living in the after-glow.  We spent one week on the Ligurian coast, a week in the Dolomites, a quick trip through Venice, and a week with friends in the hills of Tuscany on a vineyard.  A few days into mornings wandering markets and afternoons by the sea, my dad and I were chatting and this was the essence of our conversation: Italy is the anecdote to America.  It’s the anecdote to America’s speed, urgency, commercialism, and constant hustle.

We rented an Air B and B four flights above a gelato shop close enough to the Mediterranean to be lulled asleep by the waves. We feasted on simple foods, ripe white peaches, and bread slathered with pesto, prosciutto and fresh buffalo mozzarella. At night we watched the sun set over the water while eating thin crust pizza and then walked along the coast with a cone of raspberry gelato made in house just that day.  We were just steps from where I was born.

 

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But we weren’t the only ones living SLOWly and lavishly. The Italians spent hours around the table every evening and came out for gelato after the sun set. Whole families walked the town of Sori and Bogliasco and pushed the wheelchairs of the elderly so they could get fresh air.

In contrast, today I’m tempted to crack the whip.  We’ve just gotten back from fall break and my anxiety level is heightened. The oven top has four day old spaghetti sauce splatters (how did it get all the way up the side of the fridge?) and there’s a hurricane of boy’s clothing and soccer gear that hit the living room. I’m tempted to yell, to push, to demand. I’m tempted to make of our classroom an outer reflection of my inner life.  I need a Creator to make order out of chaos. I need Jesus to put his hand over my mind and calm the inner hurricane. I need to SLOW down.  I need to choose to get off the crazy train.

So today I choose SLOW. Today I choose to light a candle on the island whether it still has splashes of dried pumpkin bread on it or not.

I’m making a plan to:

say yes to Silence,

to Lower expectations,

to Open heart, Open hands,

and to stay aWake to God’s presence in the here and now.

I say yes to SLOW.

SLOW living is soul-full living.

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SLOW is going to be my new miniseries right here on the blog because I sense we’re hungry for stillness and for permission to live with margin. When we live SLOW, we live out of fullness, not depleted from hustle. We fill out our planners for every activity. It’s now time to make a plan for rest.

Today, this is my SLOWdown plan: #10MinutesofStillness sprinkled through the day.  I always set my alarm for ten minutes on my phone. It’s permission. I wave the children away and show them how much time I have left. Sometimes I just sit without any expectations, just enjoying the quiet and a cup of tea. Sometimes I listen to the emotions that are just on the surface and need my attention. Other times I follow this pattern from Dr. Daniel Siegel, a well-known neuroscientist who teaches us how to heal an anxious and battered brain: I open my senses one at a time without judging what they take in and then I invite Jesus into the present moment. You can read about these minirests here and here and here.  It’s baby steps for the busy. Perhaps you may want to use the hashtag yourself.  Show us what your experience is like on facebook or Instagram and then link right back here so we can find it.

 

Subscribe on the right to make sure you get all the SLOW goodness of the miniseries.

 

How do you plan for rest, dear friend? Perhaps this SLOW coming before the Word?

 

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Deep Breath: A Sabbath Practice

God is always trying to give good things to us, but our hands are too full

to receive them.    St. Augustine

 

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Our work this week has piled up heavy and we’re sure we won’t be able to climb out from under it all. I still have two loads of laundry glaring at me to be put away and a writing deadline looming. Sabbath rest feels awkward after a week like this. What if we were to sit still with all that’s weighing heavy, look at each piece clearly, and one by one place each concern in Jesus’ capable hands? He’s got big hands. He’s got this.

Sometimes we need Sabbath rituals to mark a new type of time: a fragrant cup of tea on the porch in the early morning, an afternoon nap on the couch, a slow walk by the creek hearing the trickle of water rush by. Maybe this simple prayer would open up a little breathing space until you can “Come to Him and rest.” Matthew 11:28a

 

May you find not just places of worship this Sabbath and and moments to realign your heart to His True North, but time to be refreshed in His Presence.

Summer

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When You’re Running on Empty

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The life you save may be your own. Flannery O’Connor

 

I was wedged into a Bed, Bath, and Beyond aisle late at night standing on a scale. I gasped. Audibly. Still in my pregnancy pants, I was every bit of 44 lbs over my normal weight two months after my second was born. I did the math. She had been eight lbs and the placenta probably weighed around four. And what about all that water? I stepped on a few more scales to make sure the first hadn’t been tampered with. Darn arrogant technology. That was a whole lot of truth staring back at me in big digital numbers. Ping and I was double espresso awake.

 

This little bit of loveliness propelled me into a season of 6 am trips to a small gym at a strip mall across the interstate. I got serious. 6 am serious. The endorphins helped heal the post-partum depression which always followed my births. But the biggest gift of all was discovering that morning exercise created a foundation for the day: more energy, less emotional roller coasters. All of us in the little yellow cottage could agree that was a good thing. 

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But here’s the thing. This felt bigger than just a New Year’s resolution. It felt like I was laying a foundation for a life. In the following weeks when I prayed about how I should be using my time and energy, I kept sensing the same thing. Hold steady. Keep laying this one foundation. The message didn’t move on until habits had been formed. In fact, the message didn’t change for six. whole. months. Six months later a foundation had been laid, something firm, something substantial, something that could be built on.

Apparently I wasn’t done. Not close. There were other layers added later, many layers like rest and sabbath, self-acceptance, and getting rooted and established in God’s love.

During most transitions we have to go back with our hard hats on and bang around a little, make sure each layer is solid, checking to see if there are any worrying cracks.

 

Early in my motherhood, my mom shared the oxygen mask metaphor with me and it fits right here smack dab in the middle of all this. It mixes metaphors but you get the point. Summer, she said, you can’t put anyone else’s mask on until you have slipped on yours. Check and check. If I forget to take care of my basics, my foundation, there are always consequences.

 

Last week was a week of crazy and I heard it again. Time to go back and shore up the foundation. I was throwing myself into a new schedule with homeschooling and ministry and by the end of the week the corners of my life were showing deep fissures. My patience was frayed. I was yelling faster, overworking. I was saying “yes” too often. Thursday night my husband called it out. I was cleaning after bedtime with a tape of resentfulness on replay before crawling into bed bone tired. Andrew hugged me, saw the tears, and then begged me to take the next day off. The next day during a personal sabbath I went back to the basics. Am I getting enough rest, enough exercise, enough healthy food, enough prayer, enough silence, enough time soaking in the love of God?

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This Pinterest meme brought big tears to the surface last Thursday night:  “You can’t pour from an empty cup. Take care of yourself first.” I pinned it to my BRAVE board. It felt brave to say yes to essential things when it would be easier to keep running full speed ahead. But I knew what empty felt like and it was time to go back to the basics and shore up the foundation.

 

What foundations do you shore up when you’re on empty?

If you’re reading Shauna Niequist’s beautiful brave book, Present Over Perfect, you’ll hear little bits of echoes here. Perhaps you want to read too? What’s been connecting with your heart?

 

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Perfect is no longer my friend

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I’m done with perfect. She’s been my friend for decades but lately the cost has been way too high.  When she’s around I forget to breathe deeply, joy is assigned a backseat and forgotten, and I drive around paralyzed by anxiety. I’ve even unfriended her on Facebook. I don’t want to see those sparkly images she’s always posting. I want to celebrate with the real, cheer on the unmasked beautiful, and have coffee with she who knows her stuff and is willing to be fully present to others who are just as messy and real.

 

The high cost of keeping Perfect my friend? Here’s the untidy mess:

Perfect’s exacted a complete loss of playfulness with my children.  I become a drill sergeant in our homeschool room when I’m trying to meet the expectations of Perfect. That first homeschool week? Heinous. I want a do-over. And note the word “expectations.” I’m realizing that Perfect’s expectations are always impossible. They are always out of reach.

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A loss of presence. I forget to connect to the immediate moment, to taste and see the present good gifts of God. I’ll forget to light the candle. I’ll forget to take off my shoes and feel the grass beneath my feet. I live with my head down, barreling through. As Shauna Niequist said in her new entirely fabulous book, Present Over Perfect: “I worship at the altar of my to do list.” Yup, I’ve set the table for that altar.

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Another cost? I stop offering hospitality. I become afraid of my messy house being judged when deep inside I know all people really want are a space to have a glass of iced tea and cozy up with an authentic conversation.

 

Writing has been the one who’s paid the highest cost. When I hear Perfect’s expectations, I become afraid of offering. I look down at my loaves and fish, that meager little lunch and hold back thinking: “This can’t be enough.” I’ve stopped writing here because I’d like a new snazzier look to my website and because I don’t have time to take as many photos, and I don’t have time to polish content etc. etc. etc. ad nauseum. Yup, I’m done with perfect. I’m going to choose to be real here…to have shorter posts…to use instagram photos when I need to and to say goodbye to perfect.

 

I am choosing to love with a messy kind of love because that’s all I’ve got anyway. And somehow, when we offer freely, God takes our small lunches and makes them enough. And yes, Enough is my new friend, and she fits my life perfectly.

 

What does perfect feel like in your life? What has been the cost of keeping her as a friend? How are you friending the messy real and unfriending Perfect? 

 

Friends, I adore Shauna’s new book Present Over Perfect so much I’d love to do a book club night at my house in the Atlanta area and/or a virtual book club week by week here. Yup, it’s that good, Sisters. Anybody in?

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How to Reclaim your Evening and Plan for True Rest (And a Giveaway!)

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It’s the kids’ bedtime and I can feel my intention for meaningful rest slipping away. I’m too weary to choose well. By the time the kids are kissed and prayed over, the dishes are done, and the dishwasher’s humming starts, I’m done too. Done. I reach for the cheap entertainment of Netflix as easily as I reach for the dark chocolate I hide in the refrigerator door.  I press power and feel a deep sigh. I lose myself in someone else’s story, someone else’s creativity.

 

I’m an introvert and rejuvenate with quiet. Quiet fuels my ministry, my creativity, my relationships. Every evening I need a reboot button for tomorrow’s ministry so I have enough energy to fight well, to love well. I need today to be untangled so I can start fresh tomorrow. But as I sink into the couch after a day of homeschooling and ministry, I reach for the easy button, the remote.

 

During commercials I feel the ragged edges of my own story needing to be attended to. The worry I’m avoiding. The conversation that’s nagging. The task I pretend I can keep pushing off indefinitely.  I can feel them tugging at the edges of my thoughts but push them back under the water of my conscious. They keep bobbing back up through the evening. Soon my free hours are gone. I’ve watched more than intended, always more. It’s a mild drug, but a drug all the same.

 

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday and this is the perfect time to say “yes” to more of God and take a clear look at our present addictions. Where am I choosing death instead of life? What other lovers am I expecting to give me peace, joy, and provision? I come to repentance with Hosea 2, especially verse 14, “I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her.”

 

I come to this Lent hungry for less hustle, more wide open spaces…for the wilderness with one Voice. I am a child of God with spiritual amnesia. I forget the bread back at my Abba’s table. This Lent I want to keep turning, keep re-turning to the table throughout the day, especially in the evening. This year I sense it is the easy decision toward the black box that is robbing me of the bread of Presence.

 

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Now don’t get me wrong. Andrew and I bond over cheering for our favorites as they their saute their way to Top Chef. I fold laundry to Madam Secretary on Monday afternoons. But that black box can become a black hole. When I take a walk at twilight I see blue flashing lights from every front window. I know I’m not alone. So often I find that I’ve sacrificed my evenings to escapism…instead of true refreshment. Even worse: some nights I fall asleep exhausted from running after bad guys on Blue Bloods. Ever wake up exhausted and realize your subconscious has been working overtime through your dreams? It’s time for us to reclaim rest.

 

This week, as I’ve wrestled with a desire to reclaim my evenings, I’ve heard this simple phrase: “Set a tray again.”

 

Set a tray. Years ago, I learned this practical trick for preparing for rest. It’s time to pick it up again.

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Why a tray?

 

First, I’m a simple person, a visual person. A bulleted list is not a strong enough magnet: take a bath, read a book, make a cup of tea. Lists can get lost. I need something concrete, something alluring, something to build a sense of expectation.

 

Second, setting a tray is just plain pragmatism. I know myself well. I need something that doesn’t require any work once I push past tired into exhaustion. By bedtime, entering into rest has to be just as simple as picking up a remote.

 

This is how it works. After I make my bed in the morning, I set out an empty tray. Right now it’s a simple rattan tray, a souvenir from a trip to Myanmar in seminary. Throughout the day, as I glance toward the bed, I fill it with small invitations.

 

Two types of things land on my tray: things that promise healthy self-care and others that draw me toward His Presence. Epsom salts with lavender to remind me to take a bath. A new candle. A painted mug from Romania WITH a Kava Kava tea bag tucked inside. A quiet book (check out the giveaway at the bottom for my absolute favorite quiet book of the moment!) Another day it might be a cooking magazine, favorite music, the butane lighter for the gas fireplace, a mug ready for hot milk with a dash of vanilla.

 

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The first category are reminders to be present. When I connect deeply to the senses, I shut down the day’s busyness, the whir of anxious thoughts, and choose to be HERE NOW. Then, once I’ve chosen concrete presence, I can begin to look around for His Presence. As Denise Levertov penned in her poem, Flickering Mind, “Lord, not You, it is I who am absent.” I can’t skip out on my humanity, the truth of a life rooted in the senses, in order to connect with God, I must say Yes to being a creature.

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I’ve also placed on the tray a journal, a Bible, a pen. It’s easy to forget, Rest is not something we do separate from God. Rest is a gift. 

  • “Come to Me all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:2

 

Rest at its truest is a gift meant to reclaim us. In rest, we collect pieces of ourselves we’ve scattered and bring them all into the Presence of God. In our quiet evening hours we can practice a light version of the Ignatian Examen, a type of reclaiming. We listen to our day, to the shadows and the light.

 

  1. Can you put a finger on that anxiety, when it showed up during the day? Can you remember when you started striving? What was going on around you when you felt that anger, that fear, that grief? That surge of energy? That desire? That hunger for heaven?
  2. OR When did you forget that you were not in control? When did you agree with the darkness, the lie you keep swallowing? When did you run over the people around you, treat them cheaply? When did you fall into your pet sin patterns?
  3. OR When did you look around and remember that God was present? Where did you sense His invitation? When did you sense the edges of joy?  Were there any words He spoke to your heart that you don’t want to forget? 

 

In a reclaimed evening we allow God’s Presence to untangle the knotted nest of the day. We list the day’s gratitudes. We grapple with the day’s chaos. Then, we open up our hands to receive His invitation to true rest.

 

#ReclaimRest Want to share your tray? I’ll post my tray variations on Instagram/Facebook throughout Lent as a type of accountability. Want to share your tray? Use the same hashtag, #ReclaimRest or link to me on Facebook.  No tray? Just share your practice of how you are reclaiming your rest.

 

 

The Giveaway!  

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Christie Purifoy has written the type of quiet book that is perfect for your evening hours. In her book she shares the first year of becoming the owner of a beautiful farmhouse and how the pursuit of “home” has wound its way through her pursuit of a rooted life.

Enter the giveaway! For each of these 4 actions you get another entry into the giveaway! Comment under this blogpost to tell me you’ve done one or all of the following:

  1. Subscribe to A Thirst for God on the homepage under the CONNECT box. Once a week, receive a practical way to become more present and more authentically pursue the with-God life.
  2. Visit Christie’s blog christiepurifoy.com and read her latest offering. She is a wonderful friend for the Journey and her beautiful writing is a gift.
  3. Follow me on Instagram: @mtrsummer and see the antics of an Anglican family of five struggling to find beauty among the chaos.
  4. Friend me on Facebook: Summer Gross

 

Linking with the always thoughtful Jennifer Dukes Lee at

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Six Things I learned this January 2016

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These pics above are from both December and January. You’ll forgive me. I loved the snow theme. We spent much of our January on the road. College of Bishops meeting in Florida. Reading, PA with family while Andrew was in Canterbury with the Archbishop of the ACNA. Washington DC with family connecting to the March for Life happenings. Then, we made a surprise re-visit back to Reading just in time to get snowed in for four happy days. Kids were ecstatic. Snowball fights. A massive snow cave, and yes, a snow bunny.

 

I’m joining Emily Freeman and loving this little ritual of looking back. I find that it’s a little bit like an Ignatian examen. It’s an exercise in gratitude and perhaps one day all of these “learnings” will make an awkward but charming diary of sorts.

 

So, here it is, what I learned in January:

 

1. I could be a truck driver. Give me audio books a smattering of podcasts and a wide open road. In my real life I have to fight to find time for reading. When I’m on the road, all I have to do is push play. Happiness.

 

This is what I’m currently “reading” on the road:

The Whole Brain Child. I love Daniel Siegel, a neuroscientist who gives us tips on how to build healthy brains. This is making me a better parent.

Chronicles of Narnia from Focus on the Family Radio Theatre. We listened to six of the seven books thanks to Andrew’s Aunt Nancy’s Christmas gift of the entire set. Every family should have their own copy. Period.

All the Light We do not See. A lovely book I’m savoring full of growing up during WWII. I haven’t finished it but love the splashes of reoccurring metaphors and finding seasons of joy in the midst of such intense suffering.

Essentialism: the Disciplined Pursuit of Less. I’m happily jumping on the bandwagon. Too many people have said that this book is changing the way they order their life. And yes, I agree. There are nuggets here I’ll keep coming back to.

 

with Narnia

These are the podcasts I’m listening to:

The Allender Center from Dan Allender. I can’t recommend this podcast highly enough. The ending the year well/beginning the year well podcasts are still echoing around in my heart. I now have an expanded ritual for this time period and this month it enabled me to net truths from last year instead of allowing them to slip through my fingers.

I’m inspired to build a stronger family culture around books here: The Read-Aloud Revival by Sarah MacKenzie.

This has become my cotton candy:  Happier Podcast with Gretchen Rubin. Hilarious. Two high powered sisters from the Bronx doing exactly what my sister and I do: tweak small habits that make big differences in our quality of life.

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2. I have a new writing ritual lifted straight from Joanna Penn of The Creative Penn. She is prolific and in one of her podcasts, she divulges to an interviewee that she writes in coffee shops in London to the sound of rain on her phone.  For two hours she writes to gentle rain and then packs up and takes a walk across a lovely London square to a new coffee shop and writes to the sound of thunderstorms. Hmmmm. As someone fascinated with neurology, I was intrigued. What fires together wires together, right? If you often snack on pringles while you drive on long trips, you are probably going to get a pringles craving during your next big trip. This works extremely well when we are developing habits. So, I’m writing again and now I experience an exceedingly strong creative urge every time I hear rain tap against window panes. Hmmm…I love rain.

 

3. Candlelight changes the atmosphere of a family meal. I found a few simple candlesticks under the credenza in the dining room and they are now permanent fixtures on our table. I light them to signal presence. This is when we put down phones and look into each others’ eyes. I think I’ll move to votives soon so I no longer have to scrape wax spots off the table.

 

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4. Candles are a big part of Hygge and Hygge is my new favorite winter word. Hygge is a Danish word which means more than just coziness, it means making beauty out of winter and creating a sense of belonging in the home, often with candles, a roaring fire, a warm drink, and a friend. Here was one of my favorite articles on creating Hygge at home.

 

5. My mother is a master at Hygge. Mom has big cable knit throws in every room, gas fireplace and candles always lit, and extra hot chocolate ready on the stove.  But, she wins on the Hygge rating scale with her breakfasts. She always makes the most delicious warm breakfasts with hot oatbran cereal. Stir nuts and then frozen blueberries, watching them plump up and become shiny and then when the steaming bowls come to the table, drizzle on a bit of honey. Healthy. Comforting. Hygge.

 

receive craft worship

 

6. This brings me to the January learning which is throwing open the sash on an extremely dusty room:

With gratitude there’s no room

for fear.

for perfectionism.

for pride.

for self-doubt.

for self-focus.

 

I’m pretty sure I knew this once but never understood that the same truth applied to writing. I’ve been mired in. Snowed in. Entirely stuck this past year. And the pit? I couldn’t get over the language of self-promotion tied to blog writing, book writing, social media writing. Build an audience? Those words make me feel slightly ill. Build a platform? Deeply ill. I remember sitting in on a talk at the Faith and Writing Conference at Calvin College on building an audience without losing your soul. They came up empty on the second part of the title. Don’t worry, you won’t, the publishing editors said after explaining what kind of self-marketing was needed to break into today’s market.

 

The truth is that my most rooted sins are related to approval addiction and get twanged whenever I do anything that smacks of self-promotion. I never want sharing content or searching for the perfect words to be about proving my self-worth.  You can see the conundrum. I’ve been frantically searching for divine answers for exactly one year.

 

The answer came oddly in the shape of a word from Drew Barrymore from the Happier Podcast I eluded to earlier. (I know. Cotton candy. But, stay with me here.) She was sharing about a new groundedness she had achieved with gratitude. This was the gist of what she said, or maybe of what I heard: Her creativity comes in response to deep gratitude of what she’s been given.   She knows that she’s just a normal person who’s been given extraordinary gifts. Talent honed by many? Gratitude. Years of fame which have given her the ability to direct her own film? Gratitude. Fans waiting to watch? Gratitude. Great staff to work with? Gratitude.

 

Gratitude connects us to the truth of grace:

I am but dust and yet I am allowed to be a kingdom bearer.

Thus, I’m building a new narrative around writing:

I get to play with words. I get to wrestle with meaning. I get to plunge deep into Word, allow it to transform me, then craft something new, and give it away.

Receive. Craft. Release. Worship.

 

How does gratitude change the light in your stuck rooms?

 

And you, Friend, what did you learn in January?

 

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Photo taken outside the most charming chapel of St. Brendan’s Anglican, Mount Desert Island Maine where I baptized my nephew and niece this August. Photo of open sketchbook taken from Death to Stock photos, all others, mine.

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