I’m joining the fabulous Emily Freeman in sharing 10 things I learned this August weaving back and forth from silly to serious. This is the summer vacation edition.
1. First, I need to just keep pushing the publish button. Keep putting words on paper. Keep making art.
This winter I stopped writing. I really had a hundred excuses including a new job and homeschooling, but there’s more of a messy reality behind the whiny list. As I began teaching new Journey groups, (Healing Care Group with Terry Wardle’s incredible curriculum,) the Lord uncovered how much of my sense of significance rested in approval through ministry.
My writing was completely tangled up in it like a nest of fishing line, a chaos of deep hunger for worth.
I needed to stop writing. I needed a pregnant silence in which to be transformed. Daily, even hourly at first, I held out empty hands and brought my nagging hungers to God. I stayed present with Him using Brennan Manning’s beautiful prayer, “Abba, Father, I belong to You.”
After the soul work, I’m writing out of a new wide-open sort of freedom. I’m not holding on with a tight fist. It is now my barefoot joy, my worship.
But honestly, starting to write in the open again was hard. I’m a perfectionist, a poet who weighs the power of every word. This month I learned to just…push…publish. Over vacation I wrote for just twenty minutes a day with my thumbs on an iphone keyboard…on instagram…on Facebook here, here, and here…(wherever words are free) and then came home and opened my laptop and began writing in earnest.
2. In August I reconnected to the power of the podcast: short, concise teaching and entertaining. We logged a lot of hours on the road. 25 hours to Maine. 25 hours back. This is where I discovered Michael Hyatt’s, This is Your Life. First, I listened to Escape Perfectionism Once and For All then I began streaming episode after episode. By now, I’m a groupie. Another favorite, this one with much wisdom? Why Learning to Lead Means Learning to Follow. I wish I had digested that one straight out of college.
3. This month I’ve embraced becoming a morning person…but I’ve learned that it truly IS an art. This is Michael Hyatt on How to Become a Morning Person. I told you I’m a groupie. I also reached deep into the encouragement from Hello Mornings I did a few years ago. Check them out. The key to becoming a morning person? Go to bed every night fifteen minutes earlier in order to wake up 15 minutes earlier. Oh ya, and naps, glorious glorious naps.
4. This month I discovered a new standard for the perfect breakfast: Lobster Benedict. Amazing. That is all.
5. Lately I’ve been trying out Shauna Niequist’s dinner question from Bread and Wine: If you knew you were going to die tomorrow (sounds like the beginning of an Evangelism Explosion question, doesn’t it?) and you would choose any meal you wanted to have the day before, what would it be? You learn so much about a person when you ask about their food loves. Their eyes light up and you hear stories about grandma and that time they travelled by boat to Greece and had their first espresso on the deck looking over the Adriatic.
6. Vacation with older kids? So much easier. We just spent two weeks on Mount Desert Island, Maine going in and out of Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park. I had my first actual vacation in ten years.
7. This August I was shocked to find I feel rooted in Maine along the wild, rocky coastline, the stiff fir trees that stand up against the winter wind. Even after moving away thirty years ago, I put my feet on Crescent Beach, Cape Elizabeth and had that soul sense of home. I immediately wanted to start writing. Do you have a place like that?
9. I’ve been waiting for Emily Freeman’s book, Simply Tuesday, and I couldn’t just sit in the bookstore to read, I had to buy it immediately. It is the type of book I can only read with a pencil in hand, underlining and amening all the way through. This lady has read my mail. She echoes LeAnne Payne’s writing: Celebrate your smallness.
10. Here is my biggest aha moment this month. I took a walk on Crescent Beach where we had spent whole summer days when I was a child and was surprised to discover my trust plant had grown deep roots.
As I walked back toward the Inn after an early morning walk, I prayed a new surrender prayer and discovered there were no “buts,” no fears, no root of anger toward God. I prayed God would do all that it takes to transform me and make me holy. And here’s the shocker, folks; for the first time, I did not fear the outcome. Tears are rolling now. This has been a long time coming. I closed up to trust after sexual abuse the year I was fourteen, and then wrestled to exhaustion with the problem of evil. How can we trust that God is good if He allows evil into the lives of the small and innocent?
I wrestled with tutors at L’Abri, Switzerland when newly married, through the lines of poetry furiously scribbled through seminary, and then through the deep healing which has occurred through formational prayer. I’ve wrestled and God, He’s stayed, and I’m starting to recognize the blessing.
Then kindly, He gave me this peek. This trust-building has been the hard work He’s been accomplishing during these last excruciating moves. We move and He keeps stripping me, humbling me Hosea 2 style taking away all my “lovers,” and then beckoning me to come lay my head against His chest to hear His heartbeat: You are my beloved. You are my beloved. You are my beloved.
I finally trust the sound of that heartbeat.
You too, friend, lean in hard. Put your head on His chest like John at the table with the bread and the wine. Listen to His heart. Pull in tight. You are His beloved. You are His beloved. You are His beloved.
Can you hear it? It’s as steady as the lapping of the water on the shore.
And you, dear friend, what have you learned this August?
Want to read more places where I am writing words? Join with me on Instagram, mtrsummer, and Facebook: Summer Gross.