Sabbath: An Invitation to Cease Striving

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Hello you…heavy-laden one.

You know that tug-of-war you’ve been straining with? All of your spirit pulling, begging, striving in the dust of a well-worn path?

Today is an invitation to open your fingers’ maniacal grip.

Feel the heavy frayed and frazzled rope of it slide through your palms. Hear the short scramble, the backwards jolt, the weight of it falling backwards with a thud.

Then listen (Matthew 11:28):

“Come to Me weary and heavy-laden…

Come out-of-breath Sprinters and faltering Marathoners,

Overworked and Malnourished bread-givers,

Empty Lovers and Thirsty chalice-holders,

 

Come Passion Seekers and Perfection Strivers,

Burnt out and Cut straight down,

Hope-less and Fear-full,

Visionless reCreators and puffed up Kingdom-builders,

Come to Me and Rest.”

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Sit right down here on the earth in front of Jesus.

Or feel free in exhaustion to prostrate right over, touch forehead to ground.

Then let it begin to rise, that longing, that fear that keeps you pulling at life hard. Listen until the chaos quiets and you hear the hoarse whisper…your heart’s deepest cry.

Name it. Speak it. Place it in His hands wide open.

And with a large intake of air He will fill your longing with pure breath of life. He’ll grant life and mercifully blow the chaff away.

Today, you are invited to rest, weary one.

Remember, it’s in His hands.

Then come Monday morning?

Ask Him how much of the battle He requires you to pick back up.

“Take My yoke upon you and learn from me for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Mt 11:29-30).

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Permission to Rest

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You are allowed to rest. This is permission. Invitation.

 

It had been a busy day, full of teetering stacks of laundry and ministry and the kind of slow exhaustion that makes one desperate for another cup of coffee…at 8…just to make it through the bedtime routine.  I laid on the couch utterly finished, trying to talk myself into walking downstairs to wash my face. The kids were finally asleep and in their own beds. I clicked the tv off. My show was over but my mind still spun. Then, out of the quiet I finally heard the invitation, “You, my child, are allowed to rest.”

 

The verses I had done Lectio Divina with that morning in my group came back to me in pushed open space of silence:

As a father has compassion on his children,
    so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;
for he knows how we are formed,
    he remembers that we are dust.
But from everlasting to everlasting
    the Lord’s love is with those who fear him” (Psalm 103:13, 17a).

 

He never expected a cape wearing supermom. He never expected me to take a flying leap from motherhood to ministry and back again without getting out of breath. He never expected me to soar into this move with all its constant anxious newness without the whiplash of the triggers. He remembers that I am dust and instead of being repelled by that fact, He offers me rest.

 

And you too.

 

You, my friend, are given permission to rest, a commandment to rest. This weekend, lets peel off these velcroed  capes and lean into the truth of our own frailty.

 

Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28) Yes, that sounds good about now.

Come pilgrimage with me into rest and into His heart. Place your email (always protected) in the Connect box on the front page and we’ll gently ramble there together.

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Advent, Day 20: How to Have Beautiful Feet this Christmas

In October in Harrisburg, PA Felicia had walked the runway interceding…in their shoes.

 

She told the horrors of the stories of the more than 20 million trafficked simply by wearing a dress.  It’s a runway show called Unchained (click the link here to find out more) and Felicia is a co-founder (along with my beautiful sister, Stephanie!). 24 dresses designed by the acclaimed Project Runway designer Korto Momulo tells the story of the broken daughters: innocence stolen, the abuse and addictions of the trafficked, then hope, rescue, and redemption.

 

Compassion had been building for those just steps away from the trafficked as the stories of women who struggled to live free were shared.

 

And something had been born in Felicia as she walked that runway in the shoes of their story.

 

Or reborn.

 

 

Her own step-mom had squeezed her feet into stilettos every night, danced on a platform, wore the makeup so heavy no one could see the scars.

 

And she was also the one who pushed through the turnstile at a Billy Graham Crusade, who brought Felicia to hear about Jesus.

 

And if compassion is just love stored up,

 

then compassionate action is love spilled out.

 

Because we get them.  Don’t we? We all crave love.

 

And desire substituted and crammed down tight keeps the hunger pains down.

 

Most had their “no” robbed early, their glory carted away by the power gorging. And powerless, they grasped for power wherever they could find it, landing them here in the dark smoky interior of a strip club.

 

And every captive daughter needs a Rescuer.

 

And all the image-bearers need to feel the weight of their value, taste hope in order to walk out of the dark of hell.

 

It was through Harmony Dust’s work at iamatreasure.com that love started surging into action for Felicia.   Harmony, who was trafficked herself, has outreaches for those in the industry and trains women to do the same. On her site, rescued girls tell their stories of sinking into hell and the Rescuer who walked right in and found them there.

 

A few weeks ago Felicia’s love broke wide open with urgency.  She shared with her Ohio State campus church that she planned to gather Christmas gifts for the girls at a nearby club to begin an outreach. Hearts and wallets opened and gift cards for Bath and Body Works were brought to Felicia. Another member of the church, Shaytell Furman linked arms with her to share her mission.  With the gift cards for Bath and Body Works, she and Shaytell went shopping choosing the language of lotions to tell the girls that they have value and worth.

 

They prayed the girls would rub in truth every time they rubbed the lotion in deep. They hoped the salve of the gospel of peace would begin healing the wide open wounds.

 

 

Thursday night they wrapped the gifts up pretty in gift bags and she and Shaytell prayed for just the right girls, just the right club to walk into.  They had their sites on a big commercial establishment but as they pulled into the driveway, Felicia glanced off to the left at a small shady club. Felicia found herself driving up deeper into the unknown. They parked out front, prayed for courage and then pulled open the heavy metal door.

 

Once inside their eyes needed to adjust to the darkness, the covered windows, the few bright spotlights.  Music pounded out a techno beat and men sat at a bar laughing with a few mingling girls. The air was stale with smoke and alcohol.

 

As they walked up to the bar to ask for the manager, a few women sitting at the bar smiled brightly. Felicia was startled. Their demeanor was entirely incongruous.  They were bright August sunshine in the midst of the hard looks, hands wrapped around glasses tight.

 

When they announced to the manager their desire to bring Christmas gifts to the girls, the angry manager softened.  She pointed to the women at the bar with the wide smiles. It was then that Felicia noticed the Bath and Body Works bags sitting on top of the bar.

 

They were Christians on a love mission as well.

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How to have beautiful feet this Christmas?

 

1. Like Felicia, ask God for where your story and the need of the world meet.  Our testimony brings empathy which in turn will keep us focused when the journey seems long.  Understand that the relationship building that opens doors for the Gospel takes time, grace, and truth.  See this quote picked out by Harmony  from iamatreasure.com by Cloud and Townsend:

 

For God’s system to work, you have to have all three. Grace and time together, without truth, will make you comfortable in your stuckness. Truth and time together, without grace, will discourage and break you. Grace and truth together without time will give you a vision and then not have you reach the completion of that vision. They must go together.               

 

2. Ask God to build in you a love for the broken beautiful.

 

 

3. Do something tangible to show them you care…to share with them their true value.

 

4. Listen well.

 

5. Bring them into safe community.

 

6. Introduce them to the Rescuer slowly, how He runs to those who come home, forgives their sins, carts away their shame.  Then He wraps His robe around them tight, introduces them to His neighbors as His beloved child.

 

Check out this book…no good news giver sharing Christ should be without this short, insightful book.

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The two women greeted Felicia and Shaytell.  “We’ve been praying for you,” one of them whispered as she leaned over.

 

Felicia and Shaytell learned that the smiling women at the bar had been coming to the club for years every Thursday night, praying, and slowly getting to know the girls.  Now the leader was moving out of state and was afraid the ministry would be dropped.  “And here you are,” she said, hope spreading across her face.

 

 

Summer Gross

“How beautiful are the feet of them that bring the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things.” (Romans 10:15b)

And now for a much more “soulful” version of Handel’s “How Beautiful are the Feet.”

photos from the Unchained Fashion Show. Hear more about my response to the show here.

photos by Andrea Hoppel

Make-up provided by Maria Teresa Hair and Make-up Artist

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Where My Story is Challenged by Truth

It all started when I brought Psalm 139 to bed with a hot steaming mug of chamomile tea, mulling it over in my mouth, breathing in its earthy fragrance and then licking the honey resting at the bottom.  I stopped abruptly on verse 14, and at first the words seem embarrassingly forthright, prideful even: “fearfull-y and wonderful-ly made.”  It felt hard to say, a passage that I would pass over quickly, like I was reading about breasts in the Song of Solomon. Inappropriate.  Overly intimate.  But I kept chewing over these words, knowing there was a truth I was dodging.  Finally, I fell asleep.

All through the night “fearfully and wonderfully made” wound its way through my dreams, and then appeared with the first light of morning.  Repetition had stripped the verse of the false veneer of pride.  The first jumps of delight appeared and I turned this key over and over in my hand, as if it was a foreign object I’d searched for as Mary for the secret garden key.

I was around her age, ten, when I lost it.

That first school day in Ohio’s rich farm country, twenty hours from my grammar school in Maine, I wore a white shirt with suspendered blue plaid pants, was called a clown and teased every time I opened my Eastern mouth.  I stuffed any hope of an easy move into the bottom of the toy chest along with the suspendered outfit.  I never wore it again.  Jr. high girls can be cruel and those four years my brain ate a new channel of self-despising all other thoughts filtered into.  At home I was loved, but at school I was pursued as a scapegoat of pre-teen inferiority.  I proved an easy target.

Hunchback bent, I lived deformed, leaning toward those as unhealed as me expecting them to turn, a lighthouse signaling glory.  False hope glimmered and was gone as each passed in front.  I forgot to stand straight to receive  truth from the One.  I forgot to listen to that Voice always speaking, inviting, affirming, challenging.

I walked leaking life.

The One eternally holding Living water says:“My people have committed two sins; they have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.”  (Jeremiah 2:13 )

Cannot hold water, those I was asking to stamp “Gift” on my forehead.

Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.  You have swallowed death, even this death of unholy judgment.  You know who I am: Your child, Your daughter, Your beloved, Your friend, Your sister.

I sit with that.  The God of the Universe calls me His child, accepted just as I am, loved here and now, before I get cleaned off.  A sponge, I swell, soaking up life-giving words:

If He gives me grace, perhaps I can too.

Later I go to the fitness center and after working out, find a quiet room while my children play with others.  I open the scripture back up.  The key is already in the verse! ”I praise You that I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”  It is another thanksgiving! And thanksgiving has recently opened up the core of my being.

Lately I’ve started accepting the imperfect gifts of each day, thanking God, lifting each “failed” interaction up, asking Him to bless and fill them with Himself…to redeem.  So why can’t I do that with myself?

Yes, I am imperfect.  I will always be imperfect but my continued anger at myself and the story that has created me is not making matters easier.  Can I accept God’s gift of me?  Can I lift myself back up (my tiny loaves) and pray that He will bless and multiply?

Sunday evening, heavy summer sun invites us west to the Lake Michigan shore.  As soon as we hit the sand, my kids dressed all in red swimsuits scatter and I tip my face to the sun, turning my ear to listen.

Summer, “thank me,”  I hear.

Instead of sitting on our blanket with a book, my normal modus operandi, I begin to play too.  I push rocks stuck deep at the water’s edge that look like they might have been a wicca circle and occasionally I glance up, hear my husband deep laugh helping five-year old Madeline balance on the boogy board in the waves.

God, help me too to learn balance…freedom… and to love me, because not loving me is creating a dam of my life, truncating my ability to open my arms wide, fearless.

As I push the large rocks around the wet sand, forming a cross, the voice of God comes clear.  I listen: whose authority will you accept as true?  The junior high girls from your past or the God of the Universe?

The question seems a bit ludicrous.  “I thank You for I am fearfully and wonderfully made” comes straight from scripture and who am I to question the God of the Universe’s authority?

He is the Light of the World, so why would I study someone else’s carnival mirror?

I stand on the flat rock at the center of the cross beam and lift my arms up to the sky.  Who am I NOT to thank You for the gift that You have given…to refuse any gift from You?  Bless the Lord O my soul and all that is within me and so I lift up my fullness and my emptiness, my imperfections and my gifts.

The Roman Catholic priest, Romano Guardini, writes in his essay, “The Acceptance of Oneself,” words that invite me to open the gift:

The act of self-acceptance is the root of all things. I must agree to be the person who I am. Agree to the qualifications which I have. Agree to live within my limits. … The clarity and the courageousness of this acceptance is the foundation of all existence.

The beach has emptied for dinner time and I stand, balancing on this rock cross, arms up.  You loved me even while I was a sinner.  And if You open-heart-pierced-hands could accept me, than who am I not to accept the gift?

And if I am a gift, so is the precious little one that just toddled up in her bathing suit covered with red cherries, splashing through the puddle beside the cross.  I look into her brown face with the four new serrated white teeth and tell her that she too is a gift of God.  She keeps coming back for more through the rest of the evening, eyes wide drinking love.

And this is why this self-acceptance, this thanksgiving is the opposite of pride.  Being a gift does not mean the least of these is not.  Being filled with this thanksgiving makes me want to go out into the highways and byways and put faces in my hands and speak truth into dry hearts.  “You” teenager with the hungry, aching eyes, “are fearfully and wonderfully made.” “You” gangly man-child whose mind never grew into his body and whose arms twist in constant motion, “are fearfully and wonderfully made.”

I want to whisper it into the heart of everyone I see and on the way home I tell the cashier at the grocery store with the lovely lips and the dreary store coat, “I hope you know that you are lovely.”  She smiles and light goes on in those almond-shaped eyes just for a moment.

Summer Gross

And you, my friend, you too are a gift, and I am utterly thankful for you.  You are made in the image of God and crafted with purpose. You are crazy beautiful, imprinted on every cell with His stamp.  Sure we are shot through with imperfection, scarred with the pain of a violent earth, but His redemption can make new even those stories.

This piece is reposted here but I find I need to drink slowly of its truth once again as I transition in this move to PA. Perhaps it will be a gift for you, too? Consider subscribing to this site through the Connect box on the right. Together we will wrestle with truth right here at “a thirst for God”, witness redemption through simple stories.

 

I would love to hear in the comments: What are you thankful for streaming out of your imperfect story, your God-given personality? Perhaps writing it down will strengthen the truth in your heart.


Summer Gross

linking with the always authentic and wisdom filled, Emily Wierenga here:

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Day 3: Jesus in. Jesus out.

John 15:1-8

Good teachers teach from what is right in front of them and my bet is that in this scripture, Jesus is too.

 

I imagine he and the disciples are on a hike to a new village…the Word, Jesus Himself, Kingdom spreading on foot.  They pass through Pasture, and ramble over a sheep trail, sidle next to a farm, and then the trail winds through a vineyard.  They are chatting as they walk and now it’s time for some water, figs, bread, maybe some cheese.  Vineyard vines provide shade for a picnic.

 

And Jesus gets quiet for a moment, bites into a fig, tips his head slightly staring off and the disciples know not to bother him when he has that look in his eyes.  Something good is coming.

 

I am the Vine, Jesus begins, the one rooted, planted and you, my friends, you are branches connected to me.  He puts his whole hand around ancient, gnarly vines climbing up out of the earth.

 

I am the one through whom the nourishment comes, and without Me, the Vine, you aren’t able to do much…little branches walking here or there can’t produce fruit on their own.  Only connected to Me, does fruit mature.  He fingers the tendrils of branches coming out of the vine.

 

This is how the Message translates Jesus’ words:

1-3 “I am the Real Vine and my Father is the Farmer. He cuts off every branch of me that doesn’t bear grapes. And every branch that is grape-bearing he prunes back so it will bear even more. You are already pruned back by the message I have spoken.

4“Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you. In the same way that a branch can’t bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can’t bear fruit unless you are joined with me.

5-8“I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing. Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the bonfire. But if you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon. This is how my Father shows who he is—when you produce grapes, when you mature as my disciples.

 

And we know that all through the gospel of John Jesus introduces Himself through the ordinary stuff of life.  I am the Bread of Life.  I am the Good Shepherd.  And now, here He goes again with “I am the Vine” and when He says “I Am,” we pay attention because He is giving us a window.  He is opening up a window to an important self-revelation.

 

And this friends, is where I always have gotten tripped up.  Jesus says that the danger is when there is no healthy strong fruit, we get pruned off at the end of harvest.   I got all tangled up in the words, believing that my responsibility was making fruit.  Eyes closed, squeezing my face tight and pushing out ripe purple sweetness.

 

And ahhhh, it has taken 30 years to get untangled.

 

Because where does Jesus say is my responsibility?  In the connection.  Period.  Abide in me (make sure your connection to me is vital) and I will abide in you…and my dear, do not worry, fruit will come.

 

But, here’s the lie that I gulped: “You must do something big for God in order to have worth” and it was preached directly from the pulpit and I know they didn’t mean to, but these were the words:  You will know a person by the fruit they have produced.  And I heard the judgment and the surge toward production and got tangled.  And so I believed that something big was expected from me and I tried straining hard to pop fruit out.  I truly did.  And it was forced and it was fearful and it was full of the dregs of me.

 

 

Because my self-made fruit is full of ego if I have not drunk Jesus.  Because, who is the Life?  Jesus.  Do I really want people to drink unadulterated me?  Not so tasty.  Bitter.  Watery.  I want to give TRUE nourishment…Living Water, Bread of Life.  If we give anything else but Jesus Himself, it is puny, shrunken, inedible.  He is the nourishment the world is seeking.  He is the vital Life a despairing culture is seeking.

 

So the Secret that I needed was this: Connect deeply to Jesus, abide, surrender, live in His Presence, be filled up! and Jesus will drip out.  Inevitable.  Organic.  And full of nourishing love.

 

And there’s nothing more fun…no joy can compare than handing out pure, unadulterated Jesus.

 

A drop to my children while laying on their bed listening to their stories of the day, a drop of love to the store clerk giving her a compliment, drops through the Word handed out, a drop drunk deep in the earth as I garden in my yard, a drop of love seeps out onto the neighborhood children as I smile, helping them to know that I believe they are fully-formed people worthy of my attention, drops of joy in the soup, love dripping out with the tears as I pray for someone grieving, Jesus nourishment in a sprinkler of sorts.

 

Because Jesus can’t be contained!…We drink Him?  And He will drip out…all nourishing and sticky and wine-making rich.

 

Jesus in.  Jesus out.

 

I don’t think I ever understood that fruit does not have to be fully formed and judgable at the Christian County Fair.  These were the things I was told we would be judged by: How many people have you led to Jesus this year? How big is your church, your ministry? How much wisdom have you given out?  How well-behaved, truth gulping are your children?  How perfect is your home?

 

All along, while I was straining toward finished products, Jesus was watching me stress and speaks truth out of Colossians 2: “Summer, you are complete in Me.”  I have gone to the cross and you have been forgiven and you have grace all over you and my dear, I do not judge you because I see you through the site-beams of the cross.  And so slowly, as I have meditated on “I am complete in Christ”, I have begun to rest in Christ because no success, no job, no self-made product gives me worth…only He does.

 

But, I still desire that sweet fruit, the life brimming with purpose.  And He wants that for me too…the Kingdom seeping into my neighborhood, my family, seeds of the Kingdom flung out into the world through the avenue of this person He has made.

 

So He says this: my dear ones, fruit production is My job.  This, and only this is your fruit tending responsibility: Connect here.

 

“Have you surrendered today, surrendered your doubts, your fears, your agendas, have you rested in Me, drank the Word of Me, breathed Me in…so that through You, I can drip out to the people around you?”

 

Jesus in.  Jesus out.

 

Quite simple really.

 

But surrender is hard and I have a bent toward making things complicated.

 

Terry Wardle illuminates the struggle this way in his highly engaging, (manly) book on the Holy Spirit, Untamed Christian, Unleashed Church (you’ve got to read this book!):

 

He tells the story about a spring deep in the forest close to his home.  And as baseball practice began each year, he and his friends would go there since it was only a few hundred yards from where they practiced.  But, each year, when they arrived, winter weather had deposited debris and rocks on the opening so that the spring could not run freely.  Then, he and his friends would do a little spring cleaning, removing dead leaves and pulling out sticks so that the water would bubble up fresh and clear, so that it would flow strong all through baseball season and into the summer heat.

 

Could it be that we are like that spring after winter… our connectors are jammed and the Spirit can’t flow and Jesus can’t drip out?  My sin and striving gets in the Spirit’s way and the Vine life gets jammed and pruning is just a part of daily life.

 

Tomorrow’s subject will be about Pruning and its normal place within the Christian life (especially in Lent?) making our good news, GOOD NEWS.

Are you missing Day 1 and Day 2?  Click here.

lent

And friend, if you desire to easily receive these Lenten posts in your inbox, add your email to the Connect square on the right of the page and push subscribe. Easy.

And if you have a story to share about evangelism…perhaps your own testimony, do send it.  I’d love to include it in the series.

(This is a previously published post with lots of re-editing.)

 

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Getting our Grooves on Every Wednesday Morning

We swing our hips, the coins sewn to our hip scarves jingle and we are transported.  And how we crave our weekly passport stamped!  We are living in a Western Michigan Winter.  The frigid cold has taken over our sweet little lakeside town and we wrap ourselves tight against the fierce wind putting our heads down as we travel from warm house to cold car to WalMart and back again.  Our world has shrunk, the grey clouds hang low heavy with snow and our skin, every inch covered, hungers for sunshine.

 

We are the 9am Zumba class at the Shoreline wellness center.  Six generations of women smiling, shaking, shuffling, sweating, bopping and sometimes busting out laughing into a dance room mirror.  We play dress up putting on colorful scarves and sounding like a troupe of gypsies ready for a performance.  Our resident male, very cooly plays hollow sounding sticks, keeping us on rhythm.  And how we truly need the help!  The dark days of winter have slowed down our cycles, and all we want to do is crawl under electric blankets and hibernate.

 

We are short women, tall graceful women and everything in between packed with color and getting our grooves on to the sound of warmer climes.  Most of the time we glue our eyes on our fearless leader, edging us over country border lines but sometimes, just sometimes, a woman finds her eyes closed and lost in the steel drum beat gets carried off in her own imagination and we all nod having been to that same locale.

 

Bollywood and hip-hop and salsa compel us to move in ways my strict Christian School upbringing would not have approved.  Prom at my high school included a “Grand March,” no jazz or techno beats to get endorphins surging.

 

The Latin beats take me back to the park in Dominican Republic where I was taught to Meringa with a class of children in uniforms after a long day at a Medical clinic with my dad.  Or the time when I was 15,a nurse from our medical mission trip held my hand and two Ecuadorian guys led us deep into Rio Bamba to a pulsing bar to teach us salsa.  Every once in a while one of my middle eastern belly dance jiggles comes out on the kitchen floor before dinner and my husband, Andrew, raises his eyebrows and grins wryly.  Straight faced, I honestly say, “honey, I’m working on my abs.”

 

They remind me of that bachelorette party last summer here and Maya Angelou’s story of women overcoming female competition and learning to celebrate the womanhood of each in the driving drumbeat one hot evening in Egypt.

 

I love these women, courageous and unassuming, unique and beautiful… and never taking themselves too seriously. One wears crazy tights and another a sequin dress and we are allowed to bring our full person-hood out on this dance floor where we are never judged, black biking shorts and all.  I love their bold moves and the laughter between songs and imagine that Jesus adores watching their peppery personalities come out in a celebration of joy, Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings at 9am.

Summer Gross

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The Struggle: Feasting on the Present Day 2

The skipping, whirring, pacing thoughts began their morbid merry-go-round when I was ten.

 

I called it nervousness.  The asthma medication inhaled would bring it on, the late dinner would leave me shaky, ordinary stress would demand I put on the brakes for hours of after-school napping.

 

The first memory startles with clarity: My two best friends were playing in the back of the woods at the school playground, a fort of dead vines and roots around a tree, a child’s Eden.  And then it hits me, this anxiety.  I am seeing outside of myself and I AM NOT LOVED.  It was concrete truth.  I was sure of it. I am not accepted here, not wanted.  I want to lash out.  I want to run.  And then the bell rings, I eat my bag lunch and life and clarity is restored.  The shakiness goes away and harmony restored.

 

But years of the truth blurring and I became blind with a lens that got smudged thicker and thicker.

The physical manifestations soon attached themselves parasitically to my relationships and I began a battle with a social-anxiety that left me clamoring for acceptance.

 

Insulin Resistance, PCOS, this unholy hormone cocktail pingponged me mercilessly from anxiety to depression with long periods of self-loathing in between.  Perusing the blur of memories I recognize periods of light and the fog lifting and now I see clearly, those were periods of Health.  They were periods of constant exercise, of learning to combat stress through practices like Feasting on the Present — things which have become integral now.

 

I was living life blurred.

 

Until Andrew and I tried to have children.

 

Two years later, countless doctor visits and various endocrinologists and then came the diagnosis: Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome.  I was not ovulating and there was a simple solution: glucophage, a common diabetes drug.  The lens of insulin resistance (commonly connected to PCOS) was removed and like a person rubbing her glasses, I could finally see a life unattached from the blur of fear.

 

Joy and healing began:

The healing of a marriage exhausted from my emotional roller coaster,

The inner healing and disentangling of true emotions from the still-daily physical manifestations of PCOS,

Grace, God-acceptance granting the possibility of self-acceptance,

and then the hunger of now, the desire of God and the gift of feasting in the present moment.

 

He has grasped and has lifted and I have become Eve resurrected.

 

This is my resurrection story.  What is yours?  We will treat it with honor, friend.

How is your daily feast and celebration coming? 

What has been the struggle that keeps you from staying grounded? 

Do join me for ten minutes a day of stillness of bringing your awareness to your senses, taking deep breaths, of feasting and celebrating the present. (Start with five if ten is too much?)

My feast this morning was me slipping deep into the warmth of a bath, the smell of citrus soap, the hum of the interstate racing past our sweet little town, the quiet of an empty house.  And thank You, thank You, thank You to the Giver of all these gifts!

Did you miss the struggle or the first day?  Find it  here and here

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What I want to remember this school year

Ready, Set,

Homeschool…

 

What I want to remember daily:

 

Grace.

Invite those precious minds to the water, wet their appetite, give them sips, but don’t let them drown!  And always, always, always, hold out grace open-handed.  (I love this sign!)

Remember wonder.

Remember getting your hands and knees dirty.

Remember the importance of learning how to learn…show them what round-the-cape wide-eyed exploration feels like.

Remember that the homeschooling mother’s best gift is her own love of wonder and desire to grow. (Thanks Ann)

Last time I homeschooled, I put too heavy a broken-back burden on all of us and we wore out.  We wore our love thin.  Sure, we had sweet saccharine moments reading books together on the red couch on a rainy day, but if they could do a little, I figured, I would push longer and we would end up in a heap…a tangled, frustrated mess.

My sister shared about a story she heard on NPR (I can’t seem to find) about gifted children and she said that this is what struck her: “a child learns best when he walks the edge of his competency.”

This year…grace.  Start out small and build…and don’t forget to watch the back of the pack for stragglers.

by Summer Gross

I’m joining Ann and counting thanks:

1. a lovely first day of school started with lip-smacking cinnamon rolls (I know it’s Labor Day, but honestly, I just couldn’t wait.)

2. the boy who came in from “recess:” I want more, please.

3. reading A Wrinkle in Time to Madeline cozy under my white comforter.  “Love is the one thing that IT does not have.”

4. the joy of friends, fresh ones and the cozy familiar…

5. my mother flying in to watch my little ones so I can go here

6. tiny red tomatoes that never make it in the door

7. oogles of amazing, intentional homeschool moms who inspire across this WWW… thank you

8. a river that runs through our town that provide dates on sailboats and long breath-catching walks in the morning

9. Indonesian Ginger Chicken.  I could write sonnets to you, Ina Garten.

10. The promise of a long chat in the park, the charcoal getting hot.

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When our Schedule Presses in Close

This story by Linda Andersen is a part of the Sabbath focus we have on Fridays here at a Thirst for God.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall lack nothing.  He makes me lie down in green pastures.  He leads me beside quiet waters,He restores my soul.” Ps. 23:1-3

“Hello Friend.  How is your life looking today?  A lot like mine, I imagine.

 

Each of our lives do look a little different.  And yet, in essence, they are exactly the same:  we’re all occupied.  With something or someone we  “do life”.  Small children make big demands.

 

Big children make bigger demands.

 

Life happens.

 

I have lived through most seasons of life, and still find sabbath times hard to come by.  Still I find them necessary for balance….for ballast.  This surprises me!  I thought when I became an “older woman” I would have it all together. I would have no need for cutaway times of solitude alone with my thoughts and the Lord.  Not so!!

 

Take yesterday. I could have done a zillion things more “useful”, but absolutely did NOT.  Coffee in hand, I headed toward Grand Haven on the shores of beautiful Lake Michigan.  My plan?   To while away a bunch of hours  alone in the womanly pursuit  of window shopping!  No hurry.  No schedule.  Finding shops that spurred creativity, I strolled: in and out, back and forth:  a bumblebee on the sunny side of the street, not  on a mission.

 

This was a day of sabbath hours, and different from most of my DAWG days  (days alone with God).  Today, it was all I needed.

 

Most of my  sabbaths are small, but add up to big or big enough.  Such is the hour I found last week.  I invite you to pull up a comfy chair, get a cup of whatever you love, (do use a beautiful cup), turn on soft music, and spend 20 luscious minutes loving God and life.  Dream..drift…and dabble on purpose .  Accomplish nothing in particular.   It’s more than okay….

 

  THE SABBATH SACK

It’s Monday.  And it’s May in Michigan.  Sky weeps wet, cutting rivers down blue-gray windows.  Nine days now.  I thump out of bed with a frown and meet this sodden,  day with an attitude cold as the sky.

 

Then, I think of Sunday.   Sunday was glorious!  Song and prayer and sermon and soulful hugs and strength upon strength as Spirit of God moved on the waters of my heart and shifted and rearrange my spirit.  Communion fed this soul.

 

Sundays are always easy to love.

 

But today is Monday.  Have I leaked so much grace?  Already?

 

On Monday I do errands.  So I dress for town and grab the list which tolls my hours, and head for my car.  What!  All the doors are locked!  No extra key!  Husband is here but not ready for fixing this!  Time ticks.  Anxiety shuffles in and takes a seat beside pity.  I’m surly as I step into his car and race toward today.

 

Spirit limps.  Thanks goes into hiding.  Rain pesters hard across grimy windshields.  Store to store.  Red light, green light.  One to go.  I stop to pick up an item, and clerk gifts me with a sack.  Sack is pink.  Over the top and girly.  So I poke, curious.  A candle, a hand massager, and bath salts!  For me?  On a rainy day, me?

 

Sky looks rosier as I finish my errands.  New script now.  What and when and how can I use my “Sabbath sack”?  Thoughts flit–play tag in my head, and I know today is the day!  After all, I reason, play does rhyme with gray!  Today I will pick my time and enjoy a sabbath hour, alone and listening, for God does speak, even on Mondays.

 

Responsibility balks and brays loud at this.

 

Two o’clock.  My hour arrives.  The house is empty and it is mine.  I turn the tub faucet.  A warm niagara  pools, filling the tub.  I drop in beads of scented oil….light candle.  Things are looking up.  I fire up the wood stove and sit back, loving the crackle.  Flames leap.  So far, so good.  Now the  music.  I am so ready for this!  Notes tumble and freefall around my quiet room.  I slip into the silky water and make room for joy.

 

“Father!”  “To think……you would even make it pink!”

 

Sabbath found me, and it harnessed my soul.  And God saw that it was good.

 

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Leaning Back into Grace

Resurrection is a gift.  Pure gift.  God kneading Kingdom  and spreading into us Life.

“If the Spirit of Him who rose Christ from the dead is living in you, then the Spirit of Him who rose Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies.”  (Romans 8:11)

This is our very present Hope.  Romans 8 whispers that resurrection is not just a future reality, but a Spirit-infused present reality.  Our powerful God of Easter pursues our death and with our surrendered help, conquers our death by His death.* (See prayer below)

We can lean back into grace.

This week, all I can do is receive.  I have had walking pneumonia that has knocked me off my feet. Literally horizontal…avec heating pad.

I have been leaning back into grace.

A friend came over and cleaned my house Monday: pure unadulturated grace.

My husband fills needs wordlessly and shows me grace in action.

And then there’s been that other grace: Grace to have enough energy to coordinate the tradition of coloring eggs. Thin shavings of crayons spread over steamy eggs.  Crayons melted, spreading a confetti of 3D color.

But here’s the gift, as Ann Voskamp would say, the hard eucharisteo: Sickness has been resurrection at work, raising me from of the death of expectations, out of law and into grace.

I have had no where else to go.

This has been the gift:

This sickness my ipad has 2 new books on it and I’ve been switching back and forth writing on little virtual notepads (way too much fun, I’m such a nerd!):  Holley Gerth‘s, You’re Already Amazing and neuroscientist, Dr. Caroline Leaf’s Who Switched Off My Brain.  They are informing and filling out eachother.

Holley Gerth speaks truth about our crazy expectations for our lives and how we eat every expectation handed to us by those who “love us and have a wonderful plan for our lives.”

She says: “Expectations are laws we place on ourselves and each other…You must do X or you will be punished in some way.” (Chapter 8)  She says that when we accept others’ expectations of us (or even our own Tower of Babel: our own expectations are often built from bricks of pride), there are usually unspoken punishments involved: disapproval, guilt, rejection, withdrawal of love, shame.

Huge aha moment: I’ve been living hunchbacked, bowed down under law.  Expectations force its way into every corner of my calendar, consume my housecleaning, pepper through my mothering and worse of all, make idols of my dreams.

What have I discovered?  Others’ expectations are subtle in my life, but my own…not so much. Expectations are weighing me down, drowning me in law.

I clean around my house angry that I haven’t done more.  I hold up a standard of perfect, and when I don’t see it, slap myself around in an internal dialogue, frustrated.  I am angry I don’t clean like my olympic homemaker of a mother-in-law, gifted in holding out her hand and making the chaos obey. (Where did Mary Poppins buy that snappy song for tidying up the nursery?)

Good mothers have clean houses.  Good wives welcome their husband home with order.  My expectations have created a harried woman, overwhelmed by perfect, unable to accept grace.

Dr. Caroline Leaf, a neuroscientist, teaches that thoughts can be formed and reformed, in fact, “transformed by the renewing of our mind.” (Romans 12:2)  Scripture is powerful and when meditated upon, literally transforms the landscape of our brain.

I have been getting up off the heating pad for a half hour at a time deep-breathing grace:  Summer, you are not under law, but under grace.  I am loving my family through tasks, loving myself by not demanding a sacrifice of pain in order to pursue perfect.

I have dropped expectations and have been drinking a new concoction: resurrection laced with grace.

And I am noticing grace is starting to spread.

Grace is spreading on the heat of my struggle and the surprise is: a confetti of celebration.  Who knows how far?

Summer Gross

*Paschal Troparian from Easter Liturgy:

Christ is risen from the dead,

trampling down death by death,

and on those in the tombs bestowing life!
linking with Ann Voskamp:

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