10 Things I Learned in August

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.

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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.

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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.


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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?

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8. I brought lots of books to Maine but read only one: Wild in the Hollow by Amber Haines.  I was entranced. It was messy and beautiful and redemptive. Those are my favorite stories.


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.



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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.

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Day 21: Self-Acceptance and the Mysteries of Grief

The last few months I have been living the stages of grief, swerving from anger to depression and back again, barely catching my breath. I only momentarily live in the broad open spaces of acceptance before being pulled back into the vortex.  Grieving is exhausting and messy and triggers other places of deep brokenness yelling, “aha, and you thought you were more together, more healed!”


Yesterday I found THIS BOOK and through the lovely, authentic writing of Leanna Tankersley began to remember the deep, velvet gift of self-acceptance. Crazy that last January I would know that self-acceptance would be this year’s key…and crazy that by December and through one more move I would completely forget.



Self-Acceptance is nothing fancy, it’s just finding yourself on an emotional map and looking and saying, “Yup, that’s where I am…and Yup, I’m not sure where to go from here” and then just sitting down in grace.


Sunday I cried through the entire church service like a crazy woman. Andrew had to go in search of tissues I was such a blubbering mess. He came back with 10. I used them all and then left during the exchange of peace to go out in search of more.  Later we escaped through a back door because once again, I couldn’t stop the tears.


Before the escape, I lay my head down in front of a small side altar and just looked at the crucifix there. I gazed at He who gave up and kept giving up until there was nothing left to give up. We stared at each other for a while…and then I kept on weeping.


Today? The opposite. No weeping. Stillness. Even a small lovely ounce of Anticipation. This is the serious crazy of grief, wide pendulum swings of emotion catching you by surprise.


Things I have learned through this season:


1. Grieving is circular. It doesn’t get wrapped up tight in 31 days…or 40 days.  Just the idea that I tried to will myself towards 31 days to rootedness makes me feel nauseated now.


2. Nourishment is essential. I need serious amounts of Jesus to make it through. My sweet priest friend, Carrie Klukas put me onto this one. Sometimes it takes 10 chapters of the Word to come right through the smothering tunnel to the light. Sometimes tapas meals of scripture just doesn’t cut it. There are seasons of malnourishment where we will need long slow feasts.


3. The senses are like a valve for deep emotion to pass through. Music, beauty, art, love-making. They are all triggers.


4. People who haven’t gone through this process of moving, loving and leaving, over and over just plain forget. It’s like the forgetfulness of a young mom who just through labor looks in her husband’s eyes and asks for another one.  My favorite question: “So, how are you getting settled?” I just don’t know what to say.


5. Grieving just means there was something lost which was of great worth. The truth is that I wouldn’t be grieving so deeply if I hadn’t been given the privilege of loving so deeply. When we do the work to move past the masks to the beautiful, soft underneath with people, we fall in love hard.  Hard.  The loss then becomes more of an excruciating tear. Jagged. Nothing clean about it.


But tonight I had to share because for the first time in this crazy ride, I’m realizing that this too is the gift. We give ourselves. We love hard. We choose a wide “yes” over the easy, tightfisted no.


We are ushered into the holy of holies with the image of God written all over the dna of a human being and we are hushed into silence. We take off our shoes and share bits of the real over cheddar biscuits at a table at Red Lobster, over a candle flaming in a small prayer room, over a conference table cluttered with thick binders where together we have been seeking wholeness.


So maybe this season of brokenness is inevitable after imbibing so much joy and knowing that the well…that particular well…can no longer be reached.


And this is perhaps our only taste of the cross following life…of stretching our arms to purposefully love in spite of knowing we are all walking slowly towards another loss.


So, here’s to being truthful with our stuff,

to the unexpected surge of anticipation which trusts that empty arms will someday be filled again,

to self-acceptance being the path to wide open spaces,

…and knowing that through Christ, resurrection always follows the cross.


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Day 18: Be Content

I grew up believing I would be a missionary. After feeding on thick books about Amy Carmichael and Hudson Taylor, I buckled seat belts on as many planes as possible and headed to Gabon, West Africa, Albania, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, and Tibet.


I learned to fall in love with people while dancing the salsa in an upstairs cafe in Ecuador, while looking into jet black faces with shiny white smiles, and while trying to learn Spanish one “como se dice” at a time.


And I learned to love people while looking into the eyes of the Buddhist monk in Tibet. He invited us into his cell and served us Tang out of a small, metal thermos. Mine had a large black fly swimming in the middle. He quickly turned around and flicked it out and then offered it back to me with a smile. Andrew played soccer with the younger monks in their long red robes in an open space in the middle of their buildings. They kept reaching down and rewinding the fabric as it slipped.


But sometimes it’s easier to love the exotic “other” rather than the neighbor who shares a fence.


In seminary Andrew and I went to Myanmar/Burma for six weeks with a professor and I was surprised to find that now just six weeks was too long. I missed the familiar cheeseburger and now dreamed about a home to bring babies home from the hospital to. However, when we bought the yellow cottage and I woke up early and went to sleep late with the babies, I now craved the unknown of adventure, the red dirt streets of a faraway marketplace, the bowl of noodles with chopsticks.


My mind had been captured in a web of discontent.


Out of seminary, six years of ministry and two babies later, I started intuiting that the pattern of discontent, my constant proclivity to look for “greener pastures,” was tied to the drag of depression. I had become familiar with its grasping power and it was time to put discontent away. Searching for the key, I turned to my concordance with the word “content” and then Philippians 4:10-14. There I read Paul had grasped what I knew I needed to learn. He wrote: “I have learned the secret of being content” but I had learned no such secret.  All I knew was a gnawing fantasy world that was never satisfied.


The secret to a joy-filled life lays deep in the recesses of a hard won contentment.  It cannot be taught. It will never be caught. It can only be learned. It can only be chosen. I was going to need that secret if I would ever learn to love my zipcode.


Paul embarrasses our efforts when he writes in chains, (Phil 4:12-14): “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”


Paul’s secret? “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.”


Our secret? We can choose to love this zip code leaning heavy on the strength of Christ,


  • who chose earth when he could have stayed enthroned in heaven,
  • who chose to eat at the table with sinners when he could have eaten in political comfort,
  • who chose service when he could have chosen power,
  • who chose death when he could have worn a crown,
  • who chose to fall in love with an unworthy people, walk their streets, touch their leprosy, use the earth’s mud to set their eyes free to see glory. 



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In Linda Dillow’s book, Calm My Anxious Heart, the author recounts the story of a missionary wife named Ella Spees, who worked beside her husband in primitive conditions with the pygmies in Africa for 52 years. Ella’s journal was found after her death along with this prescription for contentment:


  1. Never allow yourself to complain about anything–not even the weather.
  2. Never picture yourself in any other circumstance or someplace else.
  3. Never compare your lot with another’s.
  4. Never allow yourself to wish this or that had been otherwise.
  5. Never dwell on tomorrow–remember that tomorrow is God’s, not ours.


As we choose this new zip code, we beg for an enlarged heart, for the strength of a Christ who chose service and did not demand impossible perfection. We choose to look into the eyes of our next-door neighbor with grace and beckon with invitation. We choose to eat out of the hands of God who ALWAYS gives good things because He Is Good.


We choose the daily yes of contentment.


Action: Keep filling up the pages of your thanksgiving list. Keep writing line after line. Nature abhors a vacuum and though we start recognizing and journaling the patterns of discontent, we need to fill the emptiness with something new, something good. Also from Philippians 4, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.


Today Hunt Beauty. Give thanks.



We’re on a 31 day journey toward falling in love with our zip code. Our family just moved down five states south and are loving the warm October. Would you like to come along? Slip your email address (I’ll guard it with my life) into the CONNECT box on the front page and we’ll journey together. Start here.





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Day 17: Thank


It was summer in South Haven, MI. Life was full of fresh blueberries, Kilwin’s ice cream, and white pizza from Venezia brought down to the beach to watch the sunset, but I couldn’t taste any of it. A conflict was escalating in our small church plant and so was my anxiety. I lived, breathed, and slept tense, shoulders tight to my ears.


Our parish was struggling financially and everyone felt responsible. That summer anxiety played itself out in an argument of hurricane proportions. We wondered daily if a gust would slam shut our doors. People chose sides. Others chose to fume in secret but could no longer look us in the eye.   These were people we had loved for nine years, who had loved us. Our livelihood was at stake. God’s harvest in that town was being tested.


That summer I read Ann Voskamp’s book, One Thousand Gifts.  I read it one small mobile page at a time and then downloaded the audio version on my phone so I could have Ann’s poetic rhythm of grace spoken over me. I listened while driving our minivan to and from the beach, while running on a treadmill, and while putting together a casserole for my family.  Soon I began writing my first thanksgiving list. I still have it:

1. Baby boy curls

2. Gentle breeze rustling maple leaves at the park

3. Static hair on yellow plastic slides

4. My son feeling the texture of a hosta leaf between his fingers

5. Nap

6. A book that is leading me straight into the heart of all You’ve been teaching me.



At first, it felt rote and awkward but just a few days later I was shocked as it began healing my fixation on the conflict.  All of a sudden I could taste my food again, smell the sandy hair of my children after a day playing in the sand. Anxiety was no longer undoing me.  I began to live slowly and more present, searching for joy moments, then turning back around to thank the Giver. I remember holding onto that simple list as if it was holding together my world. Every night I would review the list and hold on tight. First thing in the morning I would reread it. Joy built to a crescendo thanksgiving upon thanksgiving, full feast after full feast.


Six weeks later we witnessed a miracle. Not only was the conflict healed, but we saw the glory of God brought on by a season of humility and true repentance. That next sunday we had a true, Biblical passing of the peace, with tears and hugs and Tenth Avenue North’s This is Where the Healing Begins. We witnessed heaven touch down in the cafeteria of the middle school where we met.


A year later when we began to sense the Lord was moving us out of that beloved people, I began to listen to Ann’s chapter 8 on trust and how the written thanksgivings can become a bridge from one unknown to another.  The thanksgivings, Ann said, could become the planks we walk on…one solid simple gift of God after another.


This weekend I began scrawling down thanks, one at a time. Again, that small shift occurred. I began to return to joy as once again I began to taste and see that God is good.


This weekend I gave thanks for:

1. The cushions on the pews at Holy Cross (don’t laugh…they’re seriously fantastic!)

2. Xavier’s teachers who cause him to strut into school every morning

3. Geese honking in long “V”

4. Toast with ricotta and orangemarmalade

5. Caedmon kneeling for the confession on his own

6. The gift of a bag of granny smiths turned into fresh apple cake

7. Night jumping on the trampoline

8. Bird chatter

9. Madeline’s invitation to a neighborhood tea party

10. hike on the Chatahoochee (pic by Maddie)

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Action: What are you thankful for, my friends? Might I suggest you join me (and Ann) in this writing down of gifts.


We’re on a 31 day journey toward falling in love with our zip code. Our family just moved down five states south and are loving the warm October. Would you like to come along? Slip your email address (I’ll guard it with my life) into the CONNECT box on the front page and we’ll journey together. Start here.


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Day 15: Rebuild

Like the walls of Jerusalem in Nehemiah’s time, our lives after a move are in various states of disrepair. We can’t figure out how all the rocks fit into our new schedules and so everything feels a bit haphazard, chaotic. We’re catching meals instead of making them. Our prayer life feels awkward and anemic. Even our turns around the grocery store aisles take longer because we can’t find where they put their crackers. It’s similar to any major life change, one that upends our schedules.


When we skimp on our necessities, we end up getting cheated. The consequences are that we lack the emotional stamina to withstand the emotional onslaught. We are vulnerable, and fragile, our emotions smacking us around. We need to rebuild our protection.


Here’s MY list of necessities in no particular order and how I’m doing:

  • Healthy food? Sometimes.
  • Sleep? Sometimes
  • Exercise? Barely.
  • Scripture and prayer? Sometimes.
  • Sabbath time? Almost never.
  • Time to listen and receive from God? Barely.
  • Deep connections with a friend? Every once in a while.
  • Spiritual director? Not yet.


When our walls are down, we should not be surprised when we are taken out easily.  “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (Proverbs 4:23)


We have to repair the walls to protect the heart.


Action: List your necessities and prioritize. Work on rebuilding one section of the wall at a time.  Give yourself huge amounts of grace. Wait on the Lord for wisdom. Don’t use a backhoe or bulldozer, just life one small rock upon another.


We’re on a 31 day journey toward falling in love with our zip code. Our family just moved down five states south and are loving the warm October. Would you like to come along? Slip your email address (I’ll guard it with my life) into the CONNECT box on the front page and we’ll journey together. Start here.




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Day 13: Lamenting or How to Give our Negative Emotions to God


Three weeks ago I looked across to Andrew reading in bed and wondered out loud when we would be allowed to go home.  I was done with this moving thing. Our neighborhood pool had just closed for the autumn, he was beginning to travel again, and I could no longer pretend we were on vacation to “The South.” He looked at me with that uneasy look husbands sometimes give their wives when they find themselves in the deep end and then he quietly whispered the truthful: “We ARE at home.” For a week, tears slid out unable to stop.  I lived a constant lament bouncing back and forth through Elizabeth Kubler Ross’ 5 stages of grief from loss to anger to depression and back to anger again.


The uprooting and the tearing had left me breathless, fragile. We had just moved exactly one year before. It had taken 12 months to root in PA, to slowly push one lego block of life onto each other, to watch a life begin to build again. Then they were all torn apart again. I was grief-stricken, angry. Resentment had become my default and I couldn’t make it through to acceptance without moving through the lament.  Everything else was pretending.

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The Psalmist is our guide through praying with integrity and sending our emotions straight to the heart of God. His prayers are never carefully picked out and pasted over perfection. He wails. He whispers out of the pain of anxious depression. He accuses God, “How long O Lord? Will You forget me forever? (Psalm 13:1) He spews out, “shatter the teeth of the wicked,” (Ps 3:7).


There are more lament Psalms than thanksgiving Psalms. That’s not the type of information we are given in Sunday school. Most churches have decided to drop all the Psalms that don’t leave us clapping when set to a beat. Eugene Petersen says that we’ve given the Psalms a Psalmectomy, picking and choosing the ones that fit into our comfortable theology. He said that it is a reflection of a Christianity that thinks we should always have our Sunday best on before God: performance-driven Christianity. How we deal with our emotions is a large test of the truth of that statement.


Jesus never sinned but he also never wore a stoic mask. He wept at Lazarus’ grave. He fumed at the Pharisees. He whipped the temple back into shape. He spent hours mourning the coming cross in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Take this cup from me.”


We are human. He knows we are but dust. If we try to hold onto toxic emotions, they get trapped, simmer and then so often get dredged back up as sin. We fear walking close to the pain and yet the pain escalates when we try to stay away.


We don’t need to fear our emotions. He promises to walk with us.


Isaiah 43:2 “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.”


But we often refuse to get close to the blaze. (Amazing book about this? Terry Wardle’s Draw Close to the Fire.  It’s like finding a guide through the wilderness.)


We’ve lost the ancient gift of lament.


It seems counterintuitive. We want to slide directly from our negative emotions into a life of the pursuit of happiness and the quick fix but our souls were designed for integrity. Sometimes the way up is down. Living with integrity means opening up our truth before the Lord, acknowledging our struggle. He can handle it, you know. He can handle all our deep brokennesses as well as our petty disappointments. He can handle it, but He knows that we can’t. When we hold onto our brokenness, it begins to break us.


When the Redeemer is handed all the pieces of our brokenness, He is given the power to do what He does best, breathe into it and transform it into something new.



Action: How do we lament in a healthy way? Pick up a pen and paper or spend time with a safe person (a spiritual director? a pastor? a spiritual mentor?) and share your lament with them:

Identify a feeling or a single issue you are struggling with

Address your cry to the Lord. The entire lament needs to be directed to His attention.

Write uncensored. Get honest, dredge up the darkness and bring it into the light. Only there can it be transformed.

Begin by telling the Lord what happened, what was said, how you were hurt, what it has cost you, what lies you have come to believe as a result of this wound. Get specific.

Focus on the emotions. Don’t hold back. Don’t censure yourself or be concerned with grammar, spelling, form, or punctuation. Just let it spill out.

Count the cost. What has this cost us emotionally, physically, personally, for you, for those around you?

In most lament Psalms, David or another of the Psalmists, after the complaint has been raised, they ask for God’s truth to shine into the pain.  How do we do that? After we have spilled out our honest, uncensored complaint, ask these questions: Where are You in this, Lord? What do You have to say? What hope do You have for me?  Listen. Be still. Wait.


We’re on a 31 day journey toward falling in love with our zip code. Our family just moved down five states south and are loving the warm October. Would you like to come along? Slip your email address (I’ll guard it with my life) into the CONNECT box on the front page and we’ll journey together. Start here.

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Day 12: Get Real

When you packed up that UHaul you carried more than just your tan couch up the ramp, you brought along other baggage too: grief, anxiety, anger, and possibly fear. Moving changes everything. Psychologists say it can disturb the deepest foundations underneath your identity. Everything feels unstable and vulnerable: your job and sense of purpose, your community and sense of belonging, even where you would find your late night gallon of milk.


You, my friend, were not meant to carry all that extra weight into your new life.  Today, I give you permission to unpack those heavy boxes.


Every loss requires a corresponding grieving period; every dream deserves the dignity of a burial.

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Terry Wardle in his book, Healing Care, Healing Prayer connects dealing with our emotions to archery,

“Expressing emotions is like shooting an arrow. The internal energy created from deep wounding is expelled when an individual releases the feelings of hurt. Such release may be initially difficult, but it enables one to rise up and function appropriately once again. Certainly the intensity of feeling and length of grieving varies with each wound; but expressing the motional turmoil is both positive and healthy. However, when the emotions are killed, denied or stuffed, the powerful energy remains trapped within the individual. This ongoing tension often leads to levels of breakdown. Unexpressed feelings eventually produce symptoms of ill health in a person’s body, mind and spirit. When the breakdown does occur, a person may not initially realize what has happened. But the truth is that a lifetime of stuffing has ultimately fractured their lives.”

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The good news? Our cries are welcomed, not rejected.


Psalm 116 has a beautiful picture of our Holy Listener:

I love the Lord, because he has heard
    my voice and my pleas for mercy.
Because he inclined his ear to me,
    therefore I will call on him as long as I live.


What glorious imagery! His ear is not only available, He is leaning down toward us, focused on the unique timbre of our voice, listening for our cry.


The truth is that your future ability to love freely in this new land will be determined by how well you unpack your grief. Listen to your slowly simmering emotions. Name them. Then, like the Psalmist who knew the power of the uncensored lament, send it straight to Christ. Send it straight to the cross.  He is the only One who can bear our grief and carry our sorrows. (Isaiah 53:4)


Tomorrow we’ll get even more practical. With Day 13 we will learn the how to’s of lamenting like David.


Want more? Find it here and here.


We’re on a 31 day journey toward falling in love with our zip code. Our family just moved down five states south and are loving the warm October. Would you like to come along? Slip your email address (I’ll guard it with my life) into the CONNECT box on the front page and we’ll journey together.


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Day 10: Embrace Solitude

Wide open, unfilled spaces can be utterly freeing. Anne Morrow Lindbergh in A Gift by the Sea rolled up the rugs in her “shell of a beach house” to encourage visual simplicity, a way of embracing the quiet. With this move, your schedule has been tamed, the phone stilled and the clutter hasn’t yet crept back onto the countertops. Here in the wide open landscape, you have the freedom to listen to the direction of your life once again.


Breathing space.



“Therefore I will allure her and bring her into the desert and speak tenderly to her.” Hosea 2:14


The desert can be fierce and unrelenting or it can be the quiet space where in the stillness God’s voice becomes strong again, where His hand becomes the only comfort, His table the only place we come to for bread.


This is the call I hear today: Be still and do not rush to fill the emptiness. Use this time to to listen to His voice.  Start by brushing close to His tenderness. Don’t start with words, just practice His presence. Repeat the truth: “He is here.”



But there is another honest truth of life in the desert. And at first it feels like the opposite of the first truth, the gift of hearing the voice of God, but in reality, it is a further deepening. In solitude our emotions rise loud, perhaps even crying out, demanding attention like a raw wound.


We may have wrapped our wounds carefully in the busyness of our last setting, in the friendships and hard work, in the virtual and real landscapes that crowded our view. Now in the lack of distractions of a new move, we may feel deeply all that we lack, all that we have left behind, or perhaps all that we have always hungered for. Today, get still and listen to the unquiet within your soul. Let it rise to the surface. Be brave. Name it and bring it to the table with Christ.


Action: Get out a journal today and listen.

  • What voices are trying to define your identity? What do they say about you?
  • Where are you running when you get lonely? TV? Facebook? The refrigerator?
  • What lies are echoing off the bare walls of your life?
  • What do you fear you will never have again?
  • What deep desires keep rising to the surface?
  • Where do you go to get filled other than Christ?


Bring each one to the table in the next few days.


Jesus was allured into the desert by the Spirit for forty days in order to confront the temptations of the evil one. Today, confront the voices who are tempting you to believe their lies.  Name them. Bring them out of the darkness into the light of God’s truth-filled presence. Then ask God what truth He wants to use to combat these lies.


Pray that your wilderness will not be wasted.


We’re on a 31 day journey toward falling in love with our zip code. Our family just moved down five states south and are loving the warm October. Would you like to come along? Slip your email address (I’ll guard it with my life) into the CONNECT box on the front page and we’ll journey together.


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Day 6: Home Base

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Every new exploration needs a home base but when we are struggling to put down roots, sometimes we neglect ours out of rebellion. I don’t mean that in not creating home we are sinning against the homemaking gods, but sometimes in our grieving we can live shallow, in hope that it won’t hurt as much if we have to pull those roots back up.  Today, make homemaking a step toward trusting the God who is watching over the seeds of your future.  Say “yes” to home.

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Ina Garten’s intro to her cookbook, Barefoot Contessa at Home, always inspires me to simmer mulled cider on the stove, light a candle on the island as I work, and love my family with a welcoming home base:

“‘Something smells really good!’ my husband, Jeffrey, exclaims every Friday when he walks in the door. Most weeks, Jeffrey has been around the world and back and when he walks in that door, I want him to feel that he’s really home. What he doesn’t realize is that what feels very casual is, in fact, quite deliberate: the music is playing, all the lights are on, there are flowers everywhere, and chicken and onions are roasting in the oven.

I didn’t always know how to do all that. It took time and lots of experimentation. Over the 38 years we’ve been married, I’ve tried everything–the good, the bad, and the ugly. But I’ve evolved a style that seems to work for me. I like knowing that there are twenty new magazines on the coffee table, delicious French teas in the pantry, and expensive bubble baths next to the tub. A good home should gather you up in its arms like a warm cashmere blanket, soothe your hurt feelings, and prepare you to go back out into that big bad world tomorrow, all ready to fight the dragons.

I’m basically a nester. All day long, I feel as though I’m batting back the baseballs that are being hurled at me: decisions to make, places to go, cranky people to deal with…and when I come home, I want my house to feel serene and beautiful, like the way to feel when you get into bed piled high with down pillows; you’re safe.”

Good Monday morning, friend, we’re on a journey to thriving right where we’re planted. We just moved five states south and I’m stumbling through learning to love a new town full of the broken beautiful. Come along? Type your email into the “Connect” square on the right hand side of the front page and join me for the pilgrimage. It’ll be nice to have your company along the way.


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