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.

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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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Searching for Resurrection

Crabapple trees in pink frills process down my new street. All winter I wondered what color they would wear. Their miniature crabapples  fell onto the sidewalks and gave the early robins something to eat in the cold. Still, they kept their secret. Now I’m showered with fragrance as I pass them on my morning walk.

 

I needed spring.

 

I didn’t just hope for spring, long for spring or crave spring. This year I. needed. it. We moved into a new town, a new empty life right before the dying seasons and by March, I was holding my breath. I hadn’t been writing much, here or in my journal, afraid to go digging in the mucky soil. I was afraid of what I would find. I couldn’t write, couldn’t tunnel down with a trowel into the loam without signs of resurrection.

 

I’ve been a coward.

 

I know the grip of depression, the root ball of the mind squeezing tight. I’ve lived in its tomb before. This year I’ve been waiting…like the earth.

 

Last week, I took a camera with me, the children kicked on scooters creating a rhythm as they slid over the cracks and I went searching…for resurrection.

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Late the next day we drove up to McConnell’s Mill State Park. The children found a sandy spot on the trail by Slippery Rock River and started digging like they were at the beach. Caedmon rested under a tree deep in a book and Andrew took out his fly rod waving it back and forth with nymphs tied on tight for the ride. I went hiking, D60 camera around my neck, looking for light and resurrection.

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Tillium. They push up hidden under a canopy of trees creating constellations of light for those who go into the deep forests to find them. I remember tramping back into our woods behind the North Fairfield house in the wet of early spring and discovering an island covered with trillium. I held my breath as I tiptoed between their stalks afraid they would die if my foot came down heavy.

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In the days that followed I found other constellations of light and tried to drink deep.  But it wasn’t until I started naming the spaces in between, the dark places, that I began to hope. So much of what was making me hold my breath was a fear of rejection. Being new has its gifts but for a girl whose main wounding includes a fear of rejection, being new is like a drive over Gabon’s dirt roads from pothole to pothole, jolted and holding on, exhausting. I began to see patterns of tiny rejections I was holding onto. When was it that I quit writing? When was it that I began to veg out in front of the tv every night? When was it that new experiences made my heart pound hard?

 

We have to name the dark before we can renounce it.

 

I started to pray simply when I felt the shadow passing over, asking this question: what core longing is not being fulfilled? (This core longing list comes from here from Terry Wardle and maybe you remember my conversation about my moving fears and the core longing litany found here.)

Am I lacking:

A safe and secure environment,

constant reinforcement of my personal worth,

the need for repeated messages that I am valued, unique and special,

the need for unconditional love and acceptance,

basic care and nurture,

encouragement to grow and develop my personal gifts and talents,

a pathway to fellowship with you,

a sense of belonging, or

to feel useful and needed.

 

Acknowledging the empty places led me to light. He is always the Source of our core longings…no amount of turning toward the face of another will provide these essentials.

 

In lamenting my lack I was able to open my hands. I was able to stop the search, open my hands and ask the Provider.

 

Halfway through my hike, I had taken out my iphone and clicked. I breathed in the mist foaming up around the waterfall but I didn’t see THIS until my husband commented on it days later:

 

Light was streaming in.

 

In the midst of my maniacal search for resurrection, I had been bathed in unknown light. I breathed out slowly. He had always been present on the road. Resurrection had found me.

McConnell's mill

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linking with the lovely Jen Ferguson and the Soli Deo Gloria sisters

and joining with Jennifer’s community of storytellers...and boy, she will lift you up and speak encouragement straight into your eyes today: Don’t Give up.

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The Dance that Breaks Out When Women Get Real

Women are quick to lift up the mask, paint on the mask…but the truth?

 

The mask can plaster on hard. It becomes a wall between sisters and only the brave take it off. But when the walls do come down and the stories come out and we are dazzled.

 

Maya Angelou tells this story in one of her memoirs, I forget which one. Women and men had traveled from tribes all over Africa for a PanAfrican conference in Egypt and it was culminating in a feast that led to a dance. Men and women were separated after dinner and though Maya was about to quietly slip up to bed, that was when the joy let loose. Across the hotel ballroom were all shapes and sizes and colors worn on the milky coffee to the ebony. There were tall Ethiopian princesses with high foreheads and rounded Gabonese with the wide hips that swung in circles as she walked. The music thumped and the voices soared and the colors swirled, each bringing the gift of their own tribal rhythm.

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One gorgeous mass of a woman slid into the circle and brought out a white scarf, pulling it back and forth on the slight breeze of a body swaying. Maya watched as the others danced around her. When the tall Ethiopian jumped up straight in rhythm to the music, the others raised hands over her, celebrating the unique beauty.

 

This story appeared simultaneously in the minds of both my mother and I as we sat around a circle of women, sharing stories. It was a night of listening, of quiet, of the privilege of hearing the real.  And after one gorgeous story after another, of redemption and rescue, our first inclination? We wanted to raise our hands over them, glory in the mystery of brokenness made beautiful.

Because our lives are full of broken shards but God makes art with the pieces.

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No one escapes the hammer of a world turned against itself and we live shattered in a million jagged pieces. We walk around cut and try to put together the pieces with a good night cream and a pep talk.

 

The Open Circle was the innovative response of Annette, a spiritual director in training in Sinking Spring, PA, to her church’s desire for a new kind of women’s ministry. Sunday night she invited us to witness. We braved the piles of snow, the steep icy driveway and drove to Koinos Community Church, a Brethren in Christ church plant with a coffee house vibe.  Chairs were pulled up in a circle around the front corner. A simple white candle was lit to remind us that Christ was present.  We warmed hands around paper cups with hot tea and entered into the quiet.

 

Annette drew a circle of safety around the women: confidentiality, respect and the goal of listening, never fixing. Then she invited a single story, a young woman brave enough to pull off the mask, to show the years of scars, to lay out the broken pieces.

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When the young woman told her story, she let the tears flow. But sitting in the chairs around the circle, all we could see was her story through the lens of His Light. We saw the colors swirl in a kaleidoscope. She laid out the jumbled pieces and we saw the veins of the work of God, the patterns in rays of glory.

 

The vulnerable call out the brave in us and around the circle the stories began to slide out one at a time. As she pulled out the broken shards, we all felt brave enough, safe enough to pull out our stories with the pieces that still puzzle. Real stories…not polished and published, not perfect and performed but raw. They had a jagged beauty like the rocks along the coast of Maine.

 

Mama and I, we sat back in wonder. We could hear the whispers of resurrection and it made us feel giddy. From experience, we know that the circle of stories is the setting where healing begins, where prejudice falls off like a shroud, where the Body of Christ can rise again.

 

We could feel resurrection power surging

 

and it made us want to dance.

 

We wanted to grab the tall girl with the textured scarf, the beautiful blond with the black knee-high boots, the Girl scout mom with the bright smile and all the others into a circle. We wanted to celebrate the hard fought stories of surrender. We wanted to raise our hands over the slight one barely raising her eyes, let our celebration rub into her soul. We wanted to delight in the broken made beautiful.

 

We wanted to dance in the lit up patterns of redemption and lift our hands up, worship the Kalaidescope maker.

Unchained-25Photos not from my iphone taken Sunday night were from this post about the Unchained Runway show.

Join me on this thirsty pilgrimage toward God where the broken are being made beautiful?  Slide your email into the CONNECT rectangle on the front page.  Let’s travel these winding roads together.

linking with diana trautwein and together we are pondering the pieces

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Advent: Day 1, Leaning into Longing

We married in the dark candlelight of December.  Flurries swirled on Kenyon College’s campus and we hurried into the stone church holding all our hopes for our future. We were crazy young: 18 and 20. We turned toward each other, said “I do” with a black tux and a white puffy sleeved gown and just a vague notion of what “til death do you part” truly meant.

 

We married with holly in my bouquet, pine boughs across the pews and the words, “The Spirit and the Bride say come” inscribed in calligraphy over our heads.

 

The verse is full of longing:

The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost.

 

I’m thirsty. Lonely really.  I set down the book, turn off the tv, drive home from the masses of beautiful family and I…miss…Him. He is present, yes, but I can’t yet run my fingers over his face, gaze into the eyes that created the earth.

In Advent, we lean hard into the longing for Christ’s return.  Like the earth groaning for redemption in Romans 8:19. We too groan: THIS WAS NOT GOD’S ORIGINAL PLAN FOR US. We sink deep with cosmic disappointment. We witness the pain of sickness on our child’s face, the empty look of the newly orphaned. We leave our loved ones in the ground, glimpse the evil heralded on every news channel and cry out with the Spirit, COME. It is time for the redemption, the healing, the very earth shot through with joy.

Advent is time to allow ourselves to sit with a deep hunger for His return.

We can hear the longing, the urgency in Handel’s opening Sinfonia:

 

This Advent I’ll be joining up with my cousin Deb from Deb Howard Photography  (and yes, that’s my brother’s beautiful wedding on her front page) bringing together art and music (from the Messiah) with the very scriptures that Handel picked out to make way for Christ.

 

Come with us? If you have not yet begun to receive A THIRST FOR GOD in your inbox, this Advent series could be a gift to yourself, to a friend. Enter your email in the CONNECT box over there on the right and together we will journey through the darkness toward the manger.

 

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Serious Approval Addiction Excavation

So God has his working gloves on.  Really, we both do, shovels in hand.  We’re working around the dead shrubs planted in the front yard of my life… my people pleasing addiction. And friend, this baby has roots that go down way under the porch.  I’m talkin’ extensive excavation with a pickaxe or perhaps a field trip to the lab, untwining the strands of my DNA and picking at the genes with tweezers.

It is time to pick up the magnifying glass…to see what people pleasing really is: sin.

Why?

I say I only worship one God though I learned early how to bow to please the many.

I live, gate closed, fenced in with a graveyard of anonymous false gods.

Now do you see the God-separation in this sin? Not so pretty.

All I know is that He is a Resurrected God and this addiction has already been nailed to the cross, though the roots are crisscrossed in deep.

And so during a Thanksgiving week crammed full of three turkeys and overstuffed with stimuli (caused by all the beautiful people I love and love to please), He led me back to this here realization…the one that screams against the worship of polite, the worship of nice.

Here it is in all its naked glory:

I was created to be a challenge.

I was created to be a challenge.

 

No need to crawl up small and play elevator music to satiate moody crowds.  No more patting the hand of sin to make it feel better.  No more Nice as if nice was god.

I was meant to be a challenge, arms lifted in boxing gloves, unwilling to give up my soul to the masses who demand puniness.

 

I am shielded behind the Lion’s roar. 

And resting behind His opinion, His judgment, His Truth, I can walk with muscled purpose. 

 

Light does not ask Dark for His opinion of her skirt. 


I will not bow to the many who try to judge the few into obeisance.

 

I choose to listen to Your Voice.

I choose difference. 

I choose challenge.

I choose a substantial Life.

As I said, God and I, we are jumping on shovels together.  This one’s deep, but here’s a clue to the hard work we are about.  Miss Beth Moore spoke right to my heart in these highly practical talks, 15 min each about stronghold excavation with the Word.  Worth every second.

And friend, if you are bone-tired from the hard work of excavation, You are not alone.

Here’s the hope: God is more fierce for your freedom than you are!  And dear one, with your permission, He is coming in after you.  He is all about the divine surgical mending of your broken heart and tearing down the prison walls which have been constricting the air out of your life.  Confession and nailing that sin down is the first step to healing.

Your eyes will soon peruse a new land: wide-open freedom.

How do we know?  Because here’s Jesus’ mission statement:

(Eugene Peterson says to let the scripture roll around in the mind like a slowly melting lozenge. This one certainly deserves that kind of hmmmm, slow rocking-on-the-porch meditation.)

Isaiah 61:1-4

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
to grant to those who mourn in Zion—
to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.
4 They shall build up the ancient ruins;
they shall raise up the former devastations;
they shall repair the ruined cities,
the devastations of many generations.

(Tattoo photo from Pinterest, amazing birdcage photo I bought for my sister a few years ago? here)

This is obviously a repost (Ahem, thanksgiving?) but, oh, I seem to need it again as we live with mom and dad (who I adore with all my heart but who I long to please) for a few weeks during this transition: I am meant to be a challenge.

And you friend, do you wrestle with approval addiction?  Where do you find your strength? Oh do share.

(I’m linking with the fabulous Jen Ferguson who today has a review on what looks like a wonderful book on friendship and authenticity.)

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Prayers Watered, Answered, Savored

Dear friends we are in the process of scrubbing our house for renters and interviewing at a new parish but even in chaos I still need to take up this journal and write words, black on white to make sense of my life.  Thank you for being here, for being patient through this journey and for praying for us through this transition.

For Linda and Roy

 

We schlepped the card table and four chairs down the wooden stairs at Oval beach to the water’s edge, spread the Indian cloth, set out four goblets and the Italian picnic: a loaf of Como, Pesto to spread, cheeses, salami and cherry tomatoes.  Later I we glopped nutella  on paper plates and ran strawberries through the small mound.  The four of us indulged as if we were Dickens characters starved for the feast of life.

 

It was my birthday dinner and this year May 1st still came on the calendar, even when I’m wrung out.  I am full-on grieving the losses of a quaint town, an amazing church, (the beach where we camp out all summer) and a long string of friendships dug deep.

 

I was hungry for beauty because beauty heals.

 

And this year, this night, these two friends were my gift and our celebration of shared life these last four years.  My husband and I have glimpsed the faithful, intentional life lived long and the joy of simple, quality living.  Roy has been Andrew’s fishing buddy and together they memorized the last lines of TS Elliot’s Little Gidding.  Linda has been my writing/soul friend and she was quite simply the embodiment of hundreds of flung out prayers.

 

It was one of those prayers I started praying from desperation.  You know the kind.  A prayer that you can’t imagine could be answered but that your heart can’t stop whispering: “God please send me a writing friend.”

 

Sitting in creative writing classes at Asbury College, I thrived on the critique of Dr. Devon Brown and a class full of word smiths.  Together we unlocked the puzzles of interwoven words.  Seminary too I luxuriated in classes of students who pushed me and professors who opened their treasure chest of knowledge and I ran my fingers through down the luminous strings of tightly-bound wisdom.

 

After seminary, we moved to the shores of Lake Michigan, a sandy paradise, but an hour from any large town, had babies and was no longer portable.  I felt a bit, well, stuck.  I learned to sit still.  I learned to be needy and to pray.  I learned that God loves to answer be the Giver, the Source.

 

That’s when I learned to pray seed prayers, drop the need before God and water them liberally with prayers, patience, and time.  Nine months later I met Linda.

 

Linda, with starched white shirt and big, colorful earrings, walked  into my Tuesday night Bible study and began dropping those wise words strung together and I recognized her, a writer.  She slowly opened her heart and mentored me with enough vulnerability which became an invitation to friendship.  She was a writer who had been there and back, publishing books along the way and learning to fight for her daily art.  She was thirty years my senior but quickly became my best friend.

 

At first we would get together once a month just to talk about writing, and the creative life free of the guilt of production.  I was big and uncomfortably pregnant and she invited me to sink into a comfortable chair, luring me with cups of hot tea in a tea cup.  She pointed out the swans in the pond across the street as I sat on her screened-in porch and enjoyed the breeze coming straight through from the apple orchards across the yard.  We had an easy friendship, tossing around books and quotes and encouraging simple steps of creativity.

 

One of her great gifts to me?  This guilt-banishing wisdom: Summer, don’t worry.  When you are not writing, you are writing your life and it will seep out onto the page when you least expect it.

 

This was my luminous birthday gift, sitting toes in the sand for hours side by side with this God-given friend.  We gulped up warm sun and chatted easily, as we always do, of glimpses of God.

 

We celebrated His resurrection appearances in our ordinary lives and watched as answered prayer once again unfolded into joy, light shot through our grief-filled lives.

Picture found here.

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Psalm 23: Learning to Slow and Rest

Andrew’s retreating with a fly rod in hand and I’m cocooned in the love of family and this week we are resting. a lot.  This is a republished post from last year after Easter which I reread often…maybe it will be a gift for you too.

 

THE LORD is my Shepherd [to feed, guide, and shield me], I shall not lack. Psalm 23:1

You have the crook, yes, but You have the heart, open and generous, protecting, shielding.  I shall not lack…here, now in this Moment.  This seems to be the key.  You are always enough Here.  I am the one who runs ahead into lack, who runs ahead into fear and smacks my head sharp.  How could I lack with Your powerful Presence, with me, for me?  You are here and that news is like spring water running again.  Fear drives me to lack as a frozen stream, stuck.  Your Presence heals my fear of not enough, my fear of new, my fear of judgment.  The lies that shout, fall silent at Your feet.  You are here.  I shall not lack.

Sheep are dumb.  I heard it over and over in sermons.  Now I understand: “Sheep are simple.”  I AM simple to You.  You know my needs and how to meet them in the here and where to get daily bread.  This awkward, leaping frog jump into the future was never made for me.  I am simple.  I was meant to take small steps forward, while chomping on what was right in front of me.  I need to remain simple, open, slow, close to the Shepherd.

 2He makes me lie down in [fresh, tender] green pastures; He leads me beside the still and restful waters

In You I can rest deep, like Andrew and I did that night 15 yrs ago in our two person tent, hearing the water’s current and play around the rocks, zipping out and seeing the waterfall’s faithful spurt.  Someone had placed a stick cross in the rocks and that is still my favorite place we ever lived, even if it was just for a night.

Shepherd, you know my simple needs:  daily, minute by minute You, Bread of Life, fresh, tender Presence.

And Living Water.  Hours at the drinking fountain and You still do not run dry.

You never run dry.

 

 

 

 

 

3He refreshes and restores my life (my self); He leads me in the paths of righteousness [uprightness and right standing with Him–not for my earning it, but] for His name’s sake.

You refresh and restore my life.  When do you do this?  Now.  In the delicious, rain drenched kids-still-asleep early.

I am restored to joy by being present.  Here.  Now.  Because You are Here, Now.

Sheep are simple, easily led. I am not.

I am a wild colt, jolting, running crooked, spooked eyes wild at the unseen.

I feel You stand and hand out, low voice, full authority speak “Be Still” at my wave-whipped storms.

Be still and Know and then walk slow, purposeful,

listening

until you need to Be Still again.

 

4Yes, though I walk through the [deep, sunless] valley of the shadow of death, I will fear or dread no evil, for You are with me; Your rod [to protect] and Your staff [to guide], they comfort me.

We don’t get out of here alive, Dad says.  Death will come.

Death will someday be peace.  But fears, sudden tsunamis from the deep, make for a living death, whipped by lies taught by the unhealed.  I become a shade, afraid to walk on sharp grass, unable to identify the lines in my hands, let alone my Shepherd’s.

Knees tremor. Internal earthquake.

The crook helps.

I feel the gentle pressure of the wood tapping me from the precipice and I slide closer to the wall of the mountain, feel it solid against my palm.  “I am here, Summer.  Do you see that foot hold?

Step there.

Step and then another Step.

Deep Breath. It’s ok.

Take your time.

We’ve got all the time in the world.”

I hear my husband Andrew’s patient voice as we hiked dangerous passes around Linville Gorge before the children were born.

And how much more my Father in heaven?  The knees congeal again and I focus here, now:  Take in the view,

Feel the ground solid beneath my feet,

Run hands over the plants rooted in crevices.

He’s got this.  Deep Breath.

My God: He’s got this.

5You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my [brimming] cup runs over.

This one makes joy rise.  You cooking, stirring, adding your chiffonade herbs, spreading out a table cloth, folding napkins: the King of Hospitality.

And I love You for it.

The company, not so much.

But the enemy did not see Joy coming.

Crouching, ready to strike, shocked at a Present banquet with the Shepherd Himself.  Joy Present in the moment pushes fear to the edges.  Love shows him the door.

I can eat, drink, be satisfied, fully Present.  Drinking the vintage of the greatest Company.  I am loved and delighted in, oil anointing, not out of lack but spilling over.  We’ve got plenty, my Dear.  Let’s feast: raise a glass to our love.  Don’t worry, there’s more where this came from… for tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow.

6Surely or only goodness, mercy, and unfailing love shall follow me all the days of my life, and through the length of my days the house of the Lord [and His presence] shall be my dwelling place.

After feasting on Love made by the hands of Goodness Himself, Mercy’s coverage on my fears, I know how to Be.  I am to be a Dwelling open for Him, Being still and Knowing, and then walking slowly only when still and knowing.

I am to invite Him to my here, now.

You are Here, Bread, Living Water, wine of joy and You have and are and will give me gifts in the here.  Full ripe fruit moments I have just begun to taste.

I saw You eating a ripe peach slowly in my last prayer time solid in Your Presence.  You shocked me with Your enjoyment of the temporal.  I had forgotten that You redeem and resurrect earth, that turning water to wine was your first miracle…

resurrecting Present joy is mine.

Summer Gross

 

 

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He is risen! Happy Easter Friends

The baskets are stuffed, the Easter outfits laid out on the dining room floor, and the lily’s perfume fills the living room where I am sitting.  Quiet.

 

Quiet is pure gift in a clergy person’s home during Holy Week, especially where there are young children.

 

This year? Xavier fell asleep heavy in my arms during the Maundy Thursday service and Andrew and I passed him back and forth from shoulder to shoulder.  I preached, he celebrated.  He washed my feet.  I washed his.  We both washed the feet of Madeline and Caedmon.  Warm water splashed while her cowboy boots and his soccer shoes lay empty in a pile next to us, their eyes mesmerized on mom and dad’s hands cupping the water, caressing their feet. Xavier didn’t wake up until we arrived home.

 

Good Friday we follow the cross in the dark doing Stations of the Cross and readers have book lights and the Station’s modern art sketches are lit by candles.  This year Xavier got through two stations before he started doing jerky-looking calisthenics and we took a walk.  Progress.  Maybe next year we will get through number 3.

 

Nana and Grandpa Steve have added to the richness, flying in from far away and walking this Holy Week with us, sending the children into a constant sugar-high joy.  These children play and joke like they know they are loved.  We all sponge painted eggs and the children lost interest after coloring a few and ran to the sink to wash sticky fingers.  It was the adults who lingered at the table happy to do something creative and simple.

 

And I just can’t get over the gifts, the small graces that make up this life and His large gift that makes it all possible.  Because without His dying and taking on my death, I would never be able to drink from this heaven on earth.  I would have wriggled free of this Eden and bent, struggled into hell.  I know this because I almost threw it all away years ago before His wounds started healing me.

 

I’m thankful the pervasive evil (when did we get so fascinated with television about vampires, zombies, serial killers?) will never have the last word, that He already WAS the last word and that it is spreading forward and back, saturating and healing the earth.

 

So very thankful for these gifts and friends, honestly, I’m so very thankful for you as well and the family that is building here at a thirst for God, where we catch glimpses of “His hand at work in the world about us.”

 

Happy Easter to you my friends.

 

If you have time, check out this contemporary song based on St. John Chrysostom’s Easter hymn: here.

 

Maybe you, like my little Xavier, will lift your hand straight up toward the sky as you listen to this Matt Maher song and know, He is risen and miraculously, the Risen One is among us.

 

He is risen.  He is risen indeed.

 

Summer Gross

Pictures were from two years ago, an oh so warmer year.  

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Stephanie’s Bachelorette Party

The Dance

She is my sister and she is luminous.

I have eyes-wide-open watched as the grave opened.
I was witness
as the rock was slowly pried open

and the white putrid cloth,
suffocating life,
was unwrapped one slow turn after another.
Jesus called forceful and she woke up
out of sin-wracked pain
and the rock was rolled away
and His voice,
O HIS VOICE,
demanding the Breath to spark life again:

“She will be free.”

So I celebrate this glowing

golden-haired one.
And he does too, this man who saw Glory coming out of her eyes
and we dance side by side because

joy is celebrating the God-reflected.

Maya Angelou wrote in a memoir a scene
where women from all over Africa were separated from men
and the dancing
o the dancing over each…
celebrating the personal miracle of
wide hips swinging,
skinny arms pulsing strong and tall legs jumping straight powerful arrows-

recognising beauty and God-molded Life in different vases.

So we did. We danced for hours like this,

beat spurring praise,
celebrating that this THIS Beautiful one
is the handiwork, the Glory of God prism-ing out.

Light refracting in color.

 

She is my sister and this weekend she will be married and
I will dance over her again,

joy heavy with the miracle of this new story.

 

…………………………..
linking with:

friday favorite things | finding joy

Beholding Glory
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Growing Up

This is it.  That sweet anniversary.  My baby’s 3rd birthday and that anniversary of when You were here, so Present.

As Present as the red velvet couch I sit on.

As pervasive as the yummy bacon smell from the California BLT’s.

A time so sweet it awakened me last night at 3 in the morning with HOPE.  Desire.  Longing.  Something I haven’t felt for months.

A longing for Jesus Present in the chaos.

I remember. I had been afraid of how another baby would put stress on our vulnerable little world: a new church, a four year old, a two year old.  I asked a friend how she handled her third and she who usually chats with a subtlety admired by the English, looked at me, bloated fifty pounds, and said: “It rocked my world.”  I took in my breath.  My world was about to be rocked…and I needed Jesus.  Jesus, strong. Present.  Real.

So I started fasting everything but LeAnn Payne’s Healing Presence, Listening Prayer, Real Presence and Brother Lawrence’s short book, “Practicing the Presence of God.”  I knew from Revelations that God’s goal was to make his home among his people. (Revelations 21:3) So I begged, “No more theories, God.  I want to breathe You in and out with my every sharp intake…any less and we will drown.”

He filled my desperation with Himself and it lasted for three months of eating, drinking, sleeping, listening to God Himself.

It was if I had crawled up in that stern on Lake Galilee, storm raging, boat taking on water, but my head was on His heart, ka thump, ka thump, ka thump and I was rooted in peace.

The ancient liturgical prayer from the 100s, “Come Lord Jesus” was the thought that wound its way through every other, commanding them to obey.  I’m waking up hungry again.

Just a few weeks ago, I was living the opposite.

Empty.  Apathetic.  Tired.

For someone who was searching for the Presence of God, I grieved.  God felt farther away than He ever had been and I knew from experience that this had less to do with Him and more to do with barriers I had erected.  I just didn’t know as yet what those barriers were.

Then, we as a family crashed…money wise.  The boat started taking on huge waves. Fear squeezed…into a 36 hour migraine.

But it was Fear that led to the crying out.  “Jesus, don’t you know we are drowning?”

Fear then became the map.  I began stumbling around my inner landscape finding altars to consumerism and greed I never knew existed.  MORE was the chant.  I want.  I want.  I want…and then, “I deserve” the easy liturgy.

Capitalism had moved into the Bread of Life’s territory and I was seeking stale crumbs from the empty.

Ouch.  It is hard to stare sin in the face.

I went underground, clearing brush with repentance.  Carrying a pick axe of the Word. Hard, grunting work.  I feared clearing the surface and then watching the weedy altars rebuild themselves next week.

The roots went deep and I would need stronger stuff to kill the selfishness off.  After repentance, after using the power of scripture, I had no idea where to get that kind of spiritual pesticide.

Despair crept in.

Hope only began to rise as I read, “Man does not live on bread alone but by every Word that comes from the mouth of God.”  I learned a long time ago that you can’t just empty, you have to replace it with Life.  Nature abhors a vacuum.  Could it be that my hunger for more, my hunger for shiny things could be reassigned from stuff to WORD, alive, warm and nourishing?

I began to read Psalm 119 ravenous and the trip became a feast:

The weeds of selfishness ran deep and cried out the promise, “I will walk about in freedom for I have sought out your precepts.” (Psalm 119:45)  Freedom from consuming?  I wondered…what would that even look like?

My painful Self-indulgence, I knew could only be replaced by eternal treasure: “You are my Portion, Lord.” (Psalm 119:57)

A short read later and Verse 133b struck me fierce, “Let no sin rule over me” and yes, I had been slave to that which I have worshiped.  And I could no longer serve two masters.

Then, verse 147 would show me the next step: “I rise before dawn and cry for help, I have put my hope in Your word.”  Ahhhh, here was the key.  Crying out.  Jesus, where are you?  Jesus come into the storm!  The crying out would continue tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow morning as repentance and repetition comes before transformation when the greed is this entrenched.

Monday, my friend prayed over me at the prayer clinic using the Lazarus’ resurrection story, (John 11) and I, still despairing of sin’s entanglement heard, “Summer, come out” and resurrection life began spreading into the cracks and crevices.  When the sin is entrenched, I have found that some of my best weaponry is my friends’ swords”Confess your sins one to another and you will be healed (James 5:16)” has become the key to victory.

I had to take a break from writing…the battle was too fierce to make sense of…to share.  I had to hunker down.

A few weeks later and rest and new life have begun to mingle and the strength to fight with budgets and bills has built and I’ve started crunching numbers for fun.  Yep, you heard that right.  Fun.

I’ve begun reading 7- An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by the hilarious Jen Hatmaker.  How does she make something so painful as fasting so extremely witty?  The girl has clearly got a gift.

“Grayed-down discipleship is an easier sell, but it created pretend Christians, obsessing over Scriptures we like while conspicuously ignoring the rest.  Until God asks for everything and we answer, “It’s yours,” we don’t yet have ears to hear or eyes to see.  We’re still deaf to the truth, blind to freedom, deceived by the treasures of the world, imaging them to be the key when they are actually the lock.” pg. 93.

So, I’ve disappeared into weeks of summertime and kids and the beach and library trips but mostly into the struggle of my own soul knowing that I had to cry out and cry out and cry out.

Out of the desperation, the longing for communion is rising: “Come, Lord Jesus.”

No more theories.  Just Jesus standing in the middle of my storm.

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