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


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.


March 1 2012 052


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.


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.




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.


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!  


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 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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  1. I subscribed to your email and requested you aS a friend on fb. I have a friend connection to the author of this book you show. Amazing what God is bringing her family thru in recent tragedy. Thank you for your post on rest. Timely reminder!

  2. This post is beautifully written and very timely for me, as I ask the Lord if I should fast from TV (and you can see, it’s past Ash Wed., and I am already late). I struggle w/ TV news, so I can stay politically informed. (At least, that’s my excuse). But I’m drowning in all the negativity it affords. Summer, I love your idea of setting a tray–a visual reminder of rest and refreshment. I always set tea table the night before, so I am easily drawn to keep my morning rendezvous w/ the Lord. Perhaps your suggestion will prompt a nightly date as well. I just friend you on FB and read Christie’s beautiful post. I pray that her eyes may close each night in deep rest, and that the Lord will minister to her and her family in their deep grief (sorry, I couldn’t find a way to comment there). I have heard so much about her book, and know it will be a poignant read.
    Lynn Morrissey

  3. Oh and I already subscribe to your lovely blog. BTW, I love the banner. It’s like a beautiful watercolor painting that invites me to sit “at table” with you.

  4. Oh, Oh, OH! Summer, I forgot to tell you that Flickering Mind is one of my favorite poems, and really resonates w/ me at this time in my life. I adore this poem and anything by Levertov. I don’t know a lot of Xns who know her work, so I was surprised to see it here.

    1. Lynn, how fun!!! Levertov is my favorite poet! Her Annunciation catches my breath every time! I wrote poetry before I began writing prose. It’s where I go to get inspired.

      1. Summer, I had never read your final comment to me. Oh Annunciation!!! It is utterly exquisite!!! Do you have her book The Stream and the Sapphire. Annuniciation is in it, and many other wonderful poems. But I think Annuciation may be my favorite. I too dabble in poetry, so I appreciate that you do.

        1. I DO! She’s my favorite poet hands down although I also adore Lucille Clifton with her compact, crushing ending lines. My first Levertov poetry book was handed to me by my tutor at Swiss L’Abri when I was 21. I had never read such elegant, deep-well poetry. My most recent Levertov find was a year ago at a book sale in the craftsman-style library in Bar Harbor after a beautiful trip in Maine: The Poet in the World. It felt prophetic, like a sword on the shoulder. Have you ever seen this book:
          Changed my life.

  5. Oh Summer, thank you. So often I forget to come back to see if there is some little offering for me. Thank you (many bloggers don’t do that). I was not familiar w/ this book, so of course, with your life-changing recommendation, I shall order it. I was just putting together an Amazon list (it will be the end of my financial retirement resources no doubt!) But what a way to retire, leaving food purchases for poetic food for thought. I’m being a bit dramatic, but I actually do have many books in my kitchen pantry instead of canned goods! 🙂 I’ve never heard of Lucille Clifton, nor was I familiar w/ Poet in the World. Thank you. also, I wanted to tell you about a book that I love, recently recommended by a friend. It’s called Word in the Wilderness by Malcolm Guite. It too was prophetic in my life. Perhaps it will speak to you similarly! Some of his poems had that sword-on-the-shoulder effect on me, which Levertov knew. All my best!

    1. Thank you for your comments, Lynn! I HAVE read some of Malcom Guite’s poems. I always come away feeling full as if I’ve had a feast. I’m looking forward to this Word in the Wilderness. No, I’ve only connected to these two virtually. They are both amazing writers. Shelly is in the Anglican world as I am. I’ve enjoyed living vicariously through her move to England. Sabbath has been a theme of mine for years but she occupies that space so well. I’m hoping I can just offer the gift of a spiritual practice that is the deep breath at the heart of the Sabbath. I’ve been a part of her Sabbath Society since it began. Jennifer has such a gift for hospitality in the writing world. Love her! I haven’t read her newest yet. I’d love to attend one of her retreats! What have you been up to lately?

  6. Oh, I also just noticed that you know Jennifer Dukes Lee. A very precious soul to me. And her latest release The Happiness Dare is wonderful. Jennifer is the real thing, summer. A very lovely lover of the Lord. And her young Lydia can really write up a storm as well. Amazingly talented young lady.

  7. Ive met both Jennifer and Shelly personally a couple of times, and know Shelly better. They are delightful ladies, powerful writers, and precious Christians. Interestingly, Shelly grew up in St. Louis, where I live, and she lived in the same area some of my relatives did. Shelly has really been called by God to share His joys of Sabbath, I believe for about the past two years. If you are part of the SS, then I know you can write to her personally by replying to her letters. I have loved the beauty of her writing, and moreover, who she is as a person. She is so passionate for Christ and for sharing His truths. You will love her upcoming book. I think it is wonderful that you too feel this passion for observing the Sabbath and sharing about His rest w/ your readers. Thank you for asking about me. Lately, for the past couple of years, I have discovered this wonderful and younger online writing community. I’m a traditionally published author, and I obeyed the Lord for a season after my last book was published to lay down my pen (which was an anguished decision). It has been a joy to come alongside other authors with encouragement and support, and also to bask in their beautiful words–authors like you. It’s only recently that I have begun to sense God’s nudge to write again myself. I’ve guest-posted on a number of blogs, contributed part of my story fairly recently to Carol Kent’s Unquenchable book and to Dawn Camp’s The Gift of Friendship, and I’m a contributor at The Consilium Lakeside blog and Deeper Water. My passion is prayer-journaling, and it was the subject of my last book. Have you written any books? How long have you been blogging? I have loved connecting w/ you, and all because somehow I had googled something, and your name popped up, and I loved your pretty banner. Then I loved what I read! All the best as you write for Him! And feel free to connect via email, too:

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