Luke 17: 12-19 Lectio Divina

 

More on the Three Kernels of Corn

 

Happy Thanksgiving dear ones!

I hope today you are nested in the midst of your family, surrounded by your people and all that abundance. I hope you soak there, sit back and look at everyone’s face in the light of the candles. I hope you sit still in the moment and let the thanks rise.

What a joy it has been to journey with you!

Confession: This SLOW Word video was number 5…yup 5.  My phone doesn’t upload more than 15 minutes worth and oh, friends, aren’t you glad?  This SLOW Word would cease to be a gift if it was any more. But, I had the hardest time getting this particular lectio divina under 15 minutes and trying again is easier than cutting and pasting in a video program. This is why #5 is significant; it wasn’t until number 5 that this scripture started making its way deep.

Sometimes we need repetition in order to receive.

I want to be child-like in joy. I never want to just receive the abundance and keep walking down the road, into the next busy moment.  I need to be healed of my spiritual entitlement, and instead, return with a response that comes from overflow.

I want to be one who rises to sing: “I have seen the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living” every. single. time.

You too?

Love you all. Happy Thanksgiving!

Summer Joy

 

 

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Your Brilliant Simple Plan to Create Calm in Chaos and SLOW Word

It’s no secret. I need quiet like I need water.  Perhaps we all do. Have you read this article yet? Our brains require ample amounts of silence in order to rebuild the brain cells stolen by noise and stress.

Because who can truly hear in the middle of all this crushing noise?

“In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength” (Isaiah 30:15). (By the way, this is the first verse of the SLOW Word lectio divina included below.)

 

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This afternoon I chatted with another homeschool mama in the corner of a kitchen as kids in costumes ran from one room to another playing hide and seek. We whispered about the need for quiet as if we were divulging a secret then we giggled at the extremes we go to guard our hours alone. But if this article or my (everyday!) experience are any indication, needing silence is just as essential to our mental and emotional health as our computer’s reboot button is to its continued functioning. And really, should we be surprised? My husband asks me the same question every time my computer seizes up: “When was the last time you rebooted?”

So, friends, it’s time to make a plan for rebooting our internal computer. It’s been necessary for women (and men!) throughout time. John Wesley’s mother, Susanna (1669-1742), used to take her long apron and place it over her head to signal the need for calm. Madeleine L’Engle’s children would recognize her irritability as a need for silence long before she ever did and beg her to take off to her writing tower at Crosswicks. Other women have written about their struggle to create spaces of silence. The introvert in me always smiles when I read Naomi Shihab Nye’s poem The Art of Disappearing.

In the early 1950’s Anne Morrow Lindbergh penned A Gift from the Sea about the wrestle between motherhood and the need for quiet: “I must find a balance somewhere, or an alternating rhythm between these two extremes; a swinging of the pendulum between solitude and communion, between retreat and return. In my periods of retreat perhaps I can learn something to carry back into my worldly life.” Anne Morrow Lindbergh wrote these words before the hundreds of channels on the tv, the portable XBox, or the black hole of the interwebs.

 

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Into the age-old conversation I’m offering this simple little gem: #10MinutesofStillness. Sometimes simple can be embarrassing, but sometimes it can be brilliant. After years of practicing, this one, my friends, is brilliant simple. Of course, it’s not my brilliance. I’m just the beneficiary. I picked it up from my sister, who picked it up from a friend. You get the idea. Now here’s the prescription: Choose a quiet space, put the phone upside down and turn off any beeps and buzzes, and set an alarm for ten minutes. Full stop. It’s the mini-Sabbath in the middle of your busy Thursday.

(Secret: I’ve found #10MinutesofStillness are just as luxurious on family holidays as they are on a busy weekday. Here’s one of mine from family vacation last year.)

For just ten minutes you push away the incessant to-do list, and just settle into the gorgeous richness of the present moment. Listen for the birds. Scan your space for beauty. Be attentive to your breath. (Maybe you’re a shallow breather like I am?) Perhaps you can take a short phrase of scripture and do centering prayer. Most days I keep it simple. I make a cup of cinnamon tea, head out to the porch, shut the front door with all its crazy on the other side and sit in the swing. Ten minutes to hit the refresh button.

 

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Why #10MinutesofStillness? Here’s what I’ve found after a few years of the practice:

 

1. #10MinutesofStillness is the perfect transition.  Do you reach for a cereal bowl and a remote when the kids are finally in bed? Yup, some nights I do too.  Other nights I want to lean into something more creative. Scheduling a #10MinutesofStillness at the moment of transition helps me to be more mindful of my true desires and not just fall into an immediate Netflix hole. I did the same thing when the kids were young enough to nap.

 

2. #10MinutesofStillness gives us a moment of time to be attentive to emotions crowding under the surface. You know how it is. Your irritability is coming from somewhere. Nonjudgemental listening is the first step to untangling. Bring the emotion up into the air, look at it with compassionate curiosity and without trying to be a Fixer. Bring it up and out into the Presence of Christ.

 

3. #10MinutesofStillness is the creative’s best friend. When we’re mired in the tough of the making and the words refuse to flow, just ten minutes of no agenda silence will often unleash the dam and we’re on our way again.

 

4. #10MinutesofStillness is a gateway back to gratitude.  Practice opening up one sense at a time for sixty seconds each, without judging what you receive and without trying to create meaning. And then start thanking God for the simple gifts you are experiencing. Pretty soon the chaos is tinged with joy and you’re ready to love your people again.

 

5. #10MinutesofStillness can push the door open to God’s Presence. When our head is down and we’re leaning hard into hustle, we can forget to be aware of God-with-us.  Light a candle in your quiet space and sit without an agenda but with expectation, contemplatively present to He who is always present.

 

So, friend, I’m daring you: schedule a mini-Sabbath into your day. Cultivate a small corner of stillness then enter the conversation. What was it like for you? Was it a struggle? Was it a gift? We want to hear. And if you use the hashtag #10MinutesofStillness, let us know! I’d love to see the chorus of contemplatives rise!

 

Do you have another brilliant simple idea for creating calm in the chaos? Do share!

 

Today’s SLOW Word. (The scripture starts at 2:20):

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Three Kernels of Corn, a Simple Thanksgiving Tradition

It’s been two years…and yet this story feels fresh and once again, in just a few days, we will pass the corn kernels around the table and say thanks. Perhaps this tradition could find itself a new home around your table?

I found them in her dining room tucked into a lowboy drawer: a sandwich sized Ziploc bag of corn kernels.  I looked around at the china hutch full, the table shrunk small.  She passed away a week ago and yesterday we packed in tight, arms around each other, celebrating her life.  She was redhead spunky and arms always wide to receive us. I choked out the eulogy and together Andrew and I handed out the bread and the wine.

 

Now neither she nor grandpa lived there.  The ranch house felt hollow. Full of stuff, but empty of…her. We wandered around smelling her perfume, running our hands over last winter’s wool coats. I took in my breath sharply as I found the peach blouse hung up in the basement like it had just been pressed for her to run down and button up. There was a black and white picture tucked into her top drawer, all my family standing on Crescent Beach smiling at her, Xavier a tiny bundle folded in my arms just five weeks old. Slippers were parked beside the bed where she had slid them off before being driven to the nursing home. She kept falling. Alzheimer’s stealing her life one week at a time.

 

I wandered back into the dining room. Grandpa didn’t want all this cherry furniture or the red and gold china he carried home from Malaysia to go to strangers. The furniture was packed into a Uhaul for my house, the china wrapped for future Thanksgivings at Aaron’s. The mourning was fresh but we were all together and needed to work through grief. We gathered in the dining room looking through drawers and found the bag of kernels with the brass snuffer. I squeezed the bag in my hands, hundreds of kernels gathered and handed out and then gathered again Thanksgiving after Thanksgiving.

 

This is where we would pull the dining room table out large, slide in the leaves, float out an ironed white table cloth, lap-sized white napkins. The turkey was cut with the electric knife, covered with foil and slid back into the oven, side dishes covered and fighting for space on the racks. And then we would gather around the set table, three tiny corn kernels alone on the center of each large plate.  Just seeing them would make Uncle Chris groan, “Can’t we just do two kernels this year? The mashed potatoes are gonna get cold!” But, we all knew that when the stories came out, the thanksgivings of the year, his eyes would get as misty as anybody’s.

And this is how the tradition works: each kernel represents a thanks.  As a small bowl is passed around the table, thanksgivings gathered one at a time. The bowl makes its way around the table a full three times, corn kernels dropped in and clinking. The kids inevitably give thanks for their family, but they too are being warmed by the gifts held out. “I’m thankful for my wife who encouraged me through the job loss.”  “God has been so good to us, carrying us through this move.” We lift up the stories in one massive eucharisteo.

 

And this is when the stories of faith journeys usually came out. This is where we heard “the old old stories.” Grandpa’s thanks rose loud as he sobbed, told the story of when his parents became Jesus-followers and Scripture lovers, how God had transformed the ugly twisted in his family.  Our stones of remembrances were shrunk into kernels, but they still held weight. We would turn them around in our hands, feel the white tips, the dimpled sides. Our Ebenezers.

 

And this is when I would hold my Nona’s hand as she silently watched the answers to her prayers. This year we will share stories, give thanks for her life.

(Many have asked for a copy of the eulogy gathered from many family members, a conglomeration of memories, and so I include a link here: Mary Myers Eulogy.)

 

And you friends, what are you thankful for this Thanksgiving?

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Day 17: Thank

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 16: We Need You to be Fully You

Her heart squeezed tight as she stepped out of the silver Honda after the six hour drive. She stretched her legs and willed her heart to stretch too, but felt the familiar anxiety pinch it tight.  She was a newlywed arriving at the in-laws for the next family wedding, the next big event after hers.

 

She looked toward the family home and wondered what cloud of stress engulfed the family just through that front door. Without meaning to, she gulped the stress down tight.

Through the door and after the warm kisses she picked up an apron, tying the strings tight around her waist.  Then her blond eyebrows lifted and her lips forced the cheery, “So, what can I do to help?”

 

She directed her question at her father-in-law chopping peppers at the kitchen island.

 

The knife slowed its downward rock onto the wood cutting board until it stopped and he waved her over to his side, “Stephanie, honestly, what we need most is for you to be fully you. We need Stephanie. We need you.”  He went back to slicing the red pepper, slow and even and didn’t notice how her breath had begun to slow too.

 

She had been invited to come alive, invited to become Real and bring her gift for leaving beauty in her wake.

 

She had offered her hands empty and he had asked for her heart full.

 

And this, dear one, is what I hear too.

 

Our Father invites us to come fully alive, to bring our full heart to this new adventure.

 

 

We are invited to bring our gifts and words and love into a God-starved world  and open our hands to serve Jesus to the searching.

 

And yes, I know, if you are like me you are looking at your meager lunch, those slivers of fish, those seemingly insufficient barley loaves and wondering how it could possibly be enough.  Your time is scrunched, your words feel anemic, your life has been broken and rebroken and those talents you have? You sometimes desire to grasp the shovel and bury them deep. But remember, friend, He knows how to bless brokenness. He knows how to multiply what lies small in your hands.

 

 

And you, my friend, you are enough and your heart, fully alive, is needed right here, right now in this zipcode.

 

The God-hungry are waiting for you to come alive, to risk opening your heart and sharing the Bread in your hands.

 

God calls us to stop hiding, to stop dominating, to trust him, and to offer our true selves. He wants us to bring to bear the weight of our lives and all that He has given to us, worked into us, and offer it to our world.”

John and Staci Eldredge, Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman’s Soul.

 

And this is her poem, my sister, the one who swings her heart open wide.

CROWNED ONE

Luminous

heart shimmering on skin

bursting from uncontained laughter

head back

 

Announce your presence:

shutters blown open.

Santa Ana winds whip mystery

and

scent of freshly baked bread

still warm.

If you have a bit more time, check out my sister Stephanie’s story on re.write magazine this month found here: Issue #19. And don’t miss learning about her beautiful non-profit, Unchained, raising a new generation of abolitionists.

 

Thank you to Cate Catani Robertson and Katherine Birkbeck Photography.  Congratulations and thank you for sharing your gift: Gorgeous.

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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 5: Sabbath, The Sacrament of Now

We spend so much time fighting with comparisons, don’t we? (I like this ice cream shop back in PA better than that one.) We build a fantasy world comprised of all the places we’ve ever lived or think we’d want to. This exercise asks us to be fully in the present. What I’ve learned is that being fully present in the now is a surprising gateway to thanksgiving, a gateway to awareness of God’s presence, and a gateway towards the contentment we seek.

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I needed a day off. I could feel the rising crankiness, the need to gaze quiet. I had created Monday’s schedule to fill, refresh, to build something worth standing on for another week, a Sabbath.

 

There was just this one other thing to fit in: the oil change. No problem, I thought. But the voice on the other line said he only had one appointment left…smack dab in the middle of my well-planned day. With annoyance, he grumbled, “Ma’am, is that the time you want, or not?” I had been dreaming of a hike around Slippery Rock River, skipping stones into the current, a slow saunter around a bookstore, even a Target run (FYI, I love Target entirely too much, enough to be included in this “favorites” list.) Noon? I could feel a whine rising. The car would take at least an hour and a half and the day’s schedule was now smeared.

 

We would have to be content on our own familiar streets.  No adventures today.

 

I pushed the button for the garage door to open. “Xavier, we’re going a walk. You lead.” Exercise always clears my head. He swung his thin four-year-old leg over his muddy BMX, still balanced with training wheels. I held onto his black leather bike seat and pushed him up the short hill toward town until he could pedal forward himself.

 

I had lost the heart to lead: “Left or Right, Xavi?””Left!” he steered down the curb between the two white lines. Again and again he pedaled north taking us beyond our normal boundaries, one block after another, straight down Beaver St. We landed at the bottom of the hill in Edgeworth in a triangle of a park, huge oaks, small brook, inviting child-size stone bridge. Sometimes you don’t need to leave town to visit new kingdoms.

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We were in unfamiliar territory in our new town. We scrambled down stone walls directing fast moving run-off water. He combed through the pebbles with his fingers, water trickling through then piled them together to build a dam. Running up and down the creek, He tried to stay on the dry sidelines, looking back again and again to see if I was watching, eyes shining. I watched the magic gather and spread. Under the bridge, he spread out his arms, a strong man holding it up. I sat down in the middle of the joy fully immersed in the present.

 

My own stuck stream of delight was undammed by entering into NOW, senses alive, scrambling on rocks, listening to water grate over pebbles, breathing in the freshly mown grass. Simple, I know. But I wondered, how often am I truly Here, Now?

 

Back at home, I took out the dollar-store bottle of bubbles and the “fancy” camera. Just last year he could barely blow a bubble, more soap would spill on the concrete than spin through the air.

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As he blew into the wand, I held my breath. How often do I live life shrouded in a tangle of emotions and lists written long, pounding hard after life, when Life can be blown up full right here in the present?

 

I’ve always wanted to be one of the fully present people. Available. Paying attention. Listening. An “icon” of Julian of Norwich hangs above my writing desk, she who was cloistered in Norwich’s cathedral, present to the Presence, anchored.  So often I spin dizzy through life, my feet barely feeling the fake brick kitchen linoleum, missing the present as I reach out anxious toward the future.

 

The present is as temporary as a bubble floating upwards and all we have is the gift of now to enjoy, to taste and see that God is good.

 

And I know: He is almost five and I want to memorize the surprised giggles, the smell of his sweaty blond head, the shine of his eyes as he twists around and searches for mine, to live thankful Now.

 

I want to be marked “present.”

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Today’s Action: 

A spiritual exercise: The Sacrament of the Present Moment

We live life stuck in yesterday’s regret or deep in the future of “have-to-do’s.” How often do we miss the daily feast found right HERE? This is the Sacrament of the Present Moment, the Sacrament of NOW, a way to receive the gift being sent. This is a practical way to stop, pull up to the table, grab a fork, and taste the feast He has sent.

Practice opening up to the senses one at a time:

What do you see? Let your eyes stop on a detail of life. Study it.

A minute later, open up your sense of hearing. Listen. Let the sounds of life in without needing to evaluate them. What do you hear?

Then, after a minute, ask yourself, what do I feel? What’s under your feet, between your hands? Feel the warmth of the mug, the wet sand under your toes.

This one we often forget…a sense of smell, the clean fresh smell of laundry? The sandy smell of your child’s head after a day at the beach?

And then when eating or drinking? Be fully present, taste each herb, feel the texture, fully enjoy the bite. Savor.

Savor the moment, receive the gifts of God, watch for the joy. Allow the practice of the senses to send you straight into thanksgiving. Thank God for what you are seeing, hearing, feeling, touching, tasting. Acknowledge that He is present, the Giver of all good things. Stop. Invite Him into the moment. Enjoy His company.

Share with us one of your favorite ways to be fully present. On the back porch with your first cup of coffee? Rocking that little one to sleep? Deep in the arms of your love?

Want more? I’ve typed out post after post on this struggle toward present joy. Start here?

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Dear friend, I’m always blessed to have you as a companion on the journey and right now we’re five days into #31 days of writing learning to fall in love with our zip code. Want more? Slip your email in the Connect box on the front page.

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Welcome Home, A Sabbath Blessing

We have been racing and filling and schlepping heavy loads and now…

it is a deep breath kind of day,

a put up your feet kind of Sabbath,

a stop and watch the water flow kind of day.

 

Praying for you…praying for me…May we stop spinning, stop producing,

stop pretending perfect long enough

to hear Him say

come on in,

my beloved,

welcome home.

Have you found these lovely lullabies? We sometimes put them on around bedtime snack time…the perfect transition.

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Parenting on Holy Ground

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Each one felt like a warm bloody mass of miracle when first placed on my chest all arms and legs and eyes unblinking. Every time.

 

“I have my own baby!” Madeline jumped up and down beside the hospital bed when she first glimpsed Xavier’s swaddled body. She was sure I had birthed him just for her to take home and play baby. I felt the same. I have my own baby. With each one we drove them home just a half mile from the hospital and I walked them room by room introducing them to the yellow cottage, “Here is our living room. We will cuddle on that red couch and we will read books.” “Here is our kitchen where I will cook your meals and we will eat together at this maple table just as my family did.” I would travel around from room to room feeling insanely silly and insanely happy.

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“He settles the barren woman in her home, a happy mother of children. Praise the Lord.”  Those words are folded inside Psalm 113:9 and every time I come across them, I recognize my own story.

 

It was going on two years and every month, there it was, the bleeding that signaled we were still very much alone. Doctor after doctor couldn’t tell me why I wasn’t conceiving. Finally they came up with a name: PolyCystic Ovarian Syndrome. I was only ovulating once every three months, if that. I started making the rounds from doctors to endocrinologists trying on gowns with the open backs in light blues and greys. I remember when she sat down in front of me, the first doctor who looked at me with hope in her eyes. “You are a very lucky woman,” she explained, my chart in her hands. “Now, this was only discovered about five years ago and I just learned about it recently. We found out that a simple diabetes medication will increase how often a woman with PCOS ovulates. Women like you are getting pregnant on this medication all the time.” Eleven months later, I was holding Caedmon, my fragile miracle.

 

muddyHow often do I take them for granted, these vulnerable humans, now stretched longer? Madeline sits on my lap on the couch to watch tv before bed and her legs stretch almost all the way down my legs. We giggle at her feet wiggling, her toes painted sparkly pink, small replicas of mine. I try to remember to daily look into her eyes, put her face in my hands and speak truth, “You, my beloved, are a daughter of the King. You are a princess of the Most High God, fearfully and wonderfully made.” She giggles and looks away. I won’t stop until she believes it, until her identity is etched deeper than the names they will try to throw at her.

 

20120423-210338.jpgMotherhood has not come easily to me. I struggle hard against the domestic life. Keeping a house clean feels like Sisyphus pushing a boulder uphill for all eternity, everyday the same impossible task. I don’t even see the mess until the mail is piled high on the sideboard, the grime thick around the stainless steel sink.  Even bonding with my children took conscious, focused work. I had to choose to be a mother.

 

Maddie beachI sometimes joke that motherhood is my school of sanctification. I struggle with tight-fisted selfishness and lose patience during nearly every bedtime routine. But, every once in a while I wake up with clarity, knowing that this is my most important ministry. I love teaching and spiritual direction and writing and hospital visits, but I have a sense that if I am not faithful to these three, just like in 1 Corinthians 13, it will all be for nothing. And so I pray for a big love for three blond kids who are no longer babies, but who still live vulnerable. I pray for a super-human mothering love.

 

What I’ve learned about parenting through this 9 years:

Parent S.L.O.W.

S Speak their identity in Christ, give them the ability to choose the truth.

L Lists are always lower than persons. Hold to-do lists loosely. Fix your priorities.

O Organize ahead of time to avoid living anxious

W Wade into the world of their experience. Choose to be fully Present, walk tenderly. Get down at their level, look into their eyes as they speak.

 

Parent with shoes off. These small ones are the hand-picked creations of God, made in His image for this time and this place. They are princes and princesses of the Kingdom. Shoes off. This is holy ground.

 

Parent knees down, prayerful, humble. Teach repentance by modeling. Our sorry is absolutely essential to their staying healthy.  And how will they learn godly sorrow over their sin if we never show them ours?

 

Parent with the end game in mind. We want to build character. They will learn about their Good Shepherd chiefly from how we treat them now.

April 1 and Holy Week 013

Counting gifts with Ann, sharing with Laura and Jen:

A roaring fire, a cheese plate and a date with my Love

New friends, a board game and seven children draped across couches hugging popcorn bowls

The gift of easy friendship

ASK, Mamas who love their children and give their time once a week to teach them Jesus

Teaching Xavier his letters, his hand over my mouth, feeling the words

Caedmon’s birdfeeder and the running life list

My dad, chief encourager and that lovely call

Receiving bread and wine from their hands

Caedmon’s first reading, Malachi 3 spoken in from the pulpit in a child’s voice

Snow days and sick days that ironed the week out quiet

 

 

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How to Get Out of An Auto-pilot Life

photo (4)My windshield is smeared with salt and grime, striped with my windshield wipers’ attempts to polish the world.  The wiper fluid is frozen and its meager attempts at throwing up liquid just makes the snow on the front of the car splatter with blue.

It feels like that sometimes, this trying to see the world’s glory.  Beauty is veiled and I hunger to see as the Eucharistic prayer says, “God at work in the world about us.”

 

Last night, as I climbed onto the couch with my journal, I had the sense that God wanted to call me “to walk with Him in the cool of the evening.”

 

Have you ever done that, walked through a gardener’s small plot of land in the summer growing season? Full of the pride of creation they point out how the blueberry bushes have taken off this year and the hydrangeas are embarrassingly abundant.

 

You take time, listen, drink in beauty.

 

If we were Adam and Eve and invited by God to take that slow putter around His garden, I imagine He would point out the highlights: the leathery broad leaves of elephant’s ear shining with the evening sun, the orchid’s delicate spots, the scurry of the chipmunk. Perhaps He would even gaze into the kaleidoscopic color of your eyes and point out His delight where function and glory mix.  You, my friend, are a crowning achievement of creation.

 

Could it be that is how God desires us to walk around in His world?  As a beauty seeker always on the hunt.

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We were on our way home from a flurry of errands when I prayed for open eyes.  It’s so easy to live, eyes down, barreling through the hours.

 

The sun was shining on the morning’s fresh snow and the shadows spread out long across the yards, dark filigree against white.  My eyes blinked open and then squinted into a world covered with snow and reflecting light.

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Lord, clean the smear of a life on auto-pilot. I live anxious and self-focused, giving more worship to my to-do list than to my Life-giver. I weigh my value in ticked off lines instead of Your delight. I pray for epiphany eyes to take in beauty and search for Your hand at work in the world about me.

 

Join me in continuing to search for God in beauty and in the Word.  Slip your email into the Connect box on the front page and together…we’ll pilgrimage eyes wide open.

1. penne with Parmesan Béchamel sauce

2. Waking up to a songbird which found Caed’s new feeder

3. Caedmon with a new pair of binoculars naming birds

4. Madeline feeding the birds strings of seeds along tree branches and windowsills

5. A fire, Narnia, and a girl giggling beside me

6. Carrying a sleeping boy upstairs

7.   .75 primroses, a bit of pink frilliness for my desk

8. planning a week of meals and a week of how I will treat my family

9. Oatmeal chocolate chip cookies with Madeline

10. Andrew praying for our week in the light of the fire, the children quiet in the holy

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What delights did you feast on today?

Joining Ann Voskamp and continuing to count the gifts:

 

and writing in community with Laura Boggess here:

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2014 One Word: Acceptance, the Root of Honesty, Part 2

The snow had fallen heavy on the world, like a down blanket one feather at a time. We woke up in the week after Christmas in a suburban Narnia, our world stilled. Even the shrubbery wound tight with lights outside my parents’ door was muted by the snow. We were stuck. Stopped.

 

But there is another reason why we could not fight our way back home. The minivan was at the local Garage after lurching and coughing up each incline of Central PA on our way to my family Christmas.  We heard words like catalytic convertor and numbers that made us feel kicked in the gut.

 

And so plans slowed like the cars that inched past the house until we crossed out hours and days and each day there is a new agenda written which I had to accept.

 

And acceptance must come before the gifts can be unwrapped.

 

And I’ve learned that true joy must be birthed.

 

And that snowy week, what emerged were gifts piled high:

  • chats in French/English with my belle soeur (isn’t “beautiful sister” so much lovelier than sister in law?) around the island chopping vegetables,
  • my brother leaning over to hear my four year old’s stories on the ski lift in front of me,
  • my daughter’s flushed cheeks, her not wanting the mountain to end,
  • Caedmon cuddled on his Grandpa’s lap by the fire, talking low,
  • salmon in poached wine with an especially earthy Pinot Noir,
  • my six month old nephew’s gasping laughter, Xavier laying next to him, eye to eye,
  • and the conversations that left us all full of hope.

 

And when the garage finally re-opened, had time to work their magic, our car traversed the mountains like a young-un. And then when we opened our front door late on the fourth, we were able to enter back into life restored.

 

But it is not just change I find hardest to accept…honestly, it is me.  I entered the Christmas season exhausted and instead of tucking myself in, I pushed hard. I didn’t want to accept the truth of fatigue, of an end to myself. I didn’t want to slow, to take healthy steps toward self-care.  Instead, I rummaged around in the kitchen for more sugar, more caffeine. I forced smiles.

 

This quote always makes me drop the shoulders, sigh deep, resign myself to a new honesty:

“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,” Fr. Romano Guardini.

 

When I accept myself and my limits, I am being honest.

 

And who am I if not finite?  Any plastic mask of perfect comes directly between me and Jesus.  And it’s not Him I’m kidding.  I’m the daughter of Eve. I’m the one who’s hiding. True acceptance must begin at the beginning.

 

I’ve recently picked up this ancient prayer again: Lord, Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner. It’s known throughout the Eastern Orthodox world as the Jesus Prayer. I put it down four years ago after yelling it out in the delivery room where my sister was seriously freaked out. But, I’ve come back to the cry of the blind man.  This single prayer is the essence of acceptance. I am a sinner and I need mercy from my Savior. Every. Single. Day.

 

It is the end to the superwoman and the beginning to mercy. It is the end of powering through and the opening of the door swung wide to grace.

 

 

This lovely photo with text found at This Lovely Truth here:

And you, Friend, what word or words have you chosen?  Is there a resolution you are beginning to fight for? Do share with us.

And by the way, your presence here is pure gift.  I hope you know that. If you want to receive more of “a thirst for God,” slip your email into the Connect box on the right side of the home page.  Let’s pilgrimage together.

linking with the lovely storyteller Jennifer Dukes Lee here. Did you hear she has a book coming out…all about people pleasing. I’m going to have to get my hands on one.

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