What’s Nourishing Me this Month

1. Ever have a recipe that is so decadent you hoard it just for the oooohs and ahhhs? This is mine. The kids adore it at home but I call it Adult Mac and Cheese when I bring it to parties. It’s always licked clean when I bring it home. Gloriously creamy. Sinfully buttery. Add crumbled bacon and peas and suddenly it’s a one-dish gift brought steaming from the oven.

This is Giada de Laurentiis’ Baked rigatoni with Béchamel Sauce.  I’m guessing from her figure that she doesn’t serve this too often but I’m sure glad she was inspired to grate all that fontina. The recipe can be found on the food channel here.

baked rigatoni2. You know those toxic thoughts that are like a ditch you keep falling into? A trigger pounces and all of a sudden, you’re a ditch dweller for a few days. Sometimes they are lies that were proclaimed over you as a child…sometimes they are steams of thought you barely recognized were holding you captive.  You just like you were living in a cloud of negativity, serving up side-helpings of anxiety.


Yup, I’ve got some of those too.


A month ago, I was sitting at Panera when the spiritual director I had gone to see looked at me asked me what dreams I had in a particular area of my life. He smiled when he said it, “What could you imagine God’s dream for this could be?…like in five years.” It was in an area where I felt I was over my head. I hyperventilated. I fidgeted in my wooden seat. I couldn’t dream. I couldn’t ask God what His dream was.  The anxiety felt thick and I know I looked back at him with wild eyes.

 light darkness tunnel well stairs

I was being held captive by the toxic thought that I couldn’t accomplish hard things (hard as in stretching or connected to being in the spotlight). That weekend I joined my mom who has had huge transformations this last couple months overcoming toxic thoughts and signed up for this: Dr. Caroline Leaf’s 21 Day Brain Detox. I spent 21…though with sick days and busy days it was more like 30…days with Dr. Leaf’s easy to follow process and began isolating this one particular thought pattern.


Do I sound like an infomercial? Do forgive me. I’m just so dang thankful to be getting free.

bird tattoo pinterest


Dr. Leaf is a neuroscientist and I’m absolutely fascinated with the way the brain works. She has had articles published in scientific journals but now brings her studies to a Christian audience where she couples it with working with the Holy Spirit and with Scripture. It frankly works much better than my usual process of journaling obsessively for a week and then burning out.  This is the process I always wished I had while working with my beautiful friends in inner healing prayer.  It will not replace the hard work of inner healing but I believe it works hand in hand to extend and bring full healing to the mind.


Her work completely jives with the brain science I’ve been learning with Dr. Terry Wardle at Ashland Seminary and Dr. Daniel Siegel, a psych professor and writer from UCLA. And with Scripture.  You know those verses about taking every thought captive (2 Corinthians 10:5b) and about continually renewing your mind (Romans 12:2)? Who really knows how to do that? Sometimes a thought will get out of control and completely run me over. This has taught me a slow process for interrupting the power of a toxic thought.  No more thinking that the ditch you find yourself in will be your home forever.  With Scripture, with the Holy Spirit’s leading and with Dr. Leaf’s program, you can live ditch-free.


I know…infomercial again. Enter swelling movie music and pictures of little girls dancing.


Here is a short 2 minute video from her blog:



This is a much longer (but fascinating) video you can watch while doing dishes or folding clothes (and yes, I know the outfit of the fifty year old woman introducing her came off the rack from an insane rocker chic store…but this is Texas and she completely forgot to contextualize for us.)



As for my story? God used this process to walk me through a lie I’d held onto for twenty-five years, the “I can’t” lie.


I’m learning to live in the wide open land of: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).



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What Nourished (And Wrecked Me) this Week

What nourished and wrecked me this week:

1. Caedmon wanted to eat pizza Sunday night and Madeline wanted to knead it and watch it rise. So this is the pizza we chose and while the recipe encourages the use of a refridgerator pizza dough, in the past we’ve made it both ways.  I’m always looking for flavorful and frugal recipes and this one is Andrew and my favorite: Spinach, bacon and ricotta white pizza. Yum. If you like roasted garlic and bacon, you’ll love this.

2. This week I read this book:

Mysteries of the Jesus Prayer: Experiencing the Presence of God and a Pilgrimage to the Heart of Ancient Christianity.


I honestly couldn’t stop.  I read it in between every crack and crevice I could find.


It made me hungry for new stamps in my passport, for chapels full of icons and incense, for silence and humble holy people.  This book reminded me that the church of the West is often adopting capitalism as a virtue and that I am a product of that church.  Which leads me to this next gift:


2. Last night I had the gift of an evening of Sabbath. My thoughts were tangled, my patience was short and it had been weeks since I had seen the inside of my own soul…alone. It was time for a Sabbath. Andrew kept the kids and I went out.


My Sabbaths usually start with journaling and lots of confession. Last night that took a while. I felt like I had been living through the wilderness temptation…with a toddler running around my legs. Hungry for bread over Bread. Striving to build and rule my own kingdom. Yeah, that.


I needed to turn down the volume on the world so I could hear the Voice of God again. In the old days, (and I mean the really old days) that meant leaving the world of rich fat Christendom and holing up in a cave in the desert. While that’s not really an option for a mom, that doesn’t mean I don’t crave a bit of desert. I started hearing one of my favorite texts early in the week, “Therefore I will now allure her into the desert and speak tenderly to her,” (Hosea 2:) This is exactly what my heart craves. No blips or beeps or rings. No full laundry baskets or over-taxed agendas. I need silence to remember what His Voice sounds like again.


3. After listening to my sin, this quote from Richard Foster’s Sanctuary of the Soul about surrender wrecked me: “We relinquish into God’s hands our imperialist ambitions to be greater and more admired, to be richer and more powerful, to be saintlier and more influential.

Ahhh, imperialist ambitions. So that’s where I’ve been heading…Tower of Babel building.

4. So if my Sabbaths usually begin with confession, they need to end with inspiration.


I have to go back into the chaos of motherhood armed with a new perspective.

Last night it was this: 


If you’ve never read Rachel Macy Stafford’s blog, read here first:


The Day I Stopped Saying “Hurry up.”


When Barnes and Noble announced their closing over the loudspeaker, I turned toward home.  After entering a dark house I tiptoed upstairs to the kids’ rooms.  I kissed cheeks, pulled blankets up and whispering to each that they were my treasure.


Today Hands Free Mama’s inspiration continued and instead of a painful two hours waiting for Midas to change my flat, the kids and I giggled over madlibs (remember those?) and arrived home full from all the laughter. Instead of spending time, we inched closer to each other. Thanks Rachel and of course, thank you to the God of Sabbath.

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What Nourished this Week…with the perfect brunch menu

A few midsummer discoveries:

1. Brunch is the perfect hospitality meal with this amazing baked Blintz with blueberry sauce from Ina Garten, this quiche, caramelized bacon (Oh My Word!) and a whatever-you-have-on-hand fruit salad.  The secret to why this functions so well for entertaining? Make ahead recipes. Oh, and who doesn’t love a cold champagne glass of mimosa on a hot day?  The perfect menu for cooking up new friendships.


2. Richard Foster’s book: Sanctuary of the Soul.  Practical. Engaging.  He invites us to the well, to dip our hands into the cool wet Word, and then teaches us how to be still enough to drink God’s Presence.  I love writers who have LIVED their wisdom, been tested, tried and humbled by the Giver.  Foster is such a one.


Another reason why I love Foster? Listening to Foster is like walking into a room of the great cloud of witnesses gathered around a table.  He pulls thousands of years of the wise into one place to encourage our distracted 21st century minds and then train them back onto Jesus. Here is one such quote, this time from William Penn: Therefore brethren, let us be careful neither to run out ahead of our Guide, nor loiter behind him; since he that makes haste may miss his way, and he that stays behind may lose his Guide.

3. Robert Siegel, poet.  This interview.  This poetry. Such rich gifts. What am I savoring?  This piece of advice to writers:

Be concrete in your writing, prose or poetry. Appeal to the five senses. This is something we can continue to learn all our lives. As Pound said, “Go in fear of abstractions.” Good writing relies on strong verbs and nouns. Don’t over-adjective and be especially cautious with adverbs.

This poem: (An excerpt from Annunciation)

She didn’t notice at first the air had changed.

She didn’t, because she had no expectation

Except the moment and what she was doing, absorbed

In it without the slightest reservation.

Things grew brighter, more distinct, themselves,

In a way beyond explaining. This was her home,

Yet somehow things grew more homelike.

But honestly, it was this simple paragraph about one of his professors at Wheaton which has me gasping at a life that was continually birthing others:

“A third teacher I must mention is Professor Clyde Kilby at Wheaton, the man who founded the Wade Collection of the Inklings: C.S.Lewis, Tolkien, Charles Williams, Dorothy Sayers, Owen Barfield and others. Besides his enthusiasm for literature—especially the Romantic poets and the Inklings—he conveyed a greatness of soul. Literature was very much involved with life and his living faith and his love for students. You could drop into his office any afternoon—or his home on campus—and he would make you feel as if to him you were the most important person in the world at that moment . His wife Martha did the same; they entertained students in their home all the time. I can still hear his infectious laugh, as he told us how his grandmother used to sneak out of her bedroom onto the porch roof to read Byron, as her father had refused to have Byron’s poems under his roof. He was a lovely man, a man radiant with love.”

LeAnn Payne’s writing and giftings were also birthed in relationship to Kilby and his wife at Wheaton and ahhh, what legacy this man continues to have, radiant with love and door-open hospitality. 



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Weekly Nourishment: Scripture Typer and Hello Mornings Love

I’m a good news, shout it from the rooftop type girl.  I’ve even got to sing the praises of my brilliant new hairstylist! (By the way, she’s in Holland, MI, researches justice issues around the world for fun, and chats with me about Mali, West Africa while she massages my head.  I’m in love. I tipped her with this life-changer of a book, Half the Sky.)


1. First, about two weeks ago I was reading Ann Voskamp’s site www.aholyexperience.com and the hilarious Liz Curtis Higgs was guest posting on her sight singing the praises of this: www.ScriptureTyper.com .  If you want to read her guest post about how scripture typer has transformed her life in scripture click here.


I could identify with the prolific Mrs. Higgs.  When I memorize scripture, it is always a struggle.  I memorize in spurts then forget them shortly after.  This site is pure fun and feels almost game-like.  Almost.  The point is that these words get stuck somewhere between the folds of my brain and the Holy Spirit knows how to get them unstuck when I need them most.


Click on Scripture Memory on the menu and then “Getting Started” and watch the videos first. I’ll never memorize scripture again without the help of this right and left brain connecting boost.


Joy of My favorite morning: Christmas

2. So, I know you are going to hate me, but I love mornings!  A friend once asked me what I drink to rev up in the morning and when I said “water” she rolled her eyes.  But, habits and excuses and a night owl husband and I had given up my favorite hours of the day, let them just slide away unmourned.  No more.  I found this site:  http://www.hellomornings.org/ and have been taking the challenge.  Richer, fuller, more efficient.  Yup, all that.  I’m taking back mornings using their help.  They suggest babysteps and weekly changing your bedtime to wake up time just 15 minutes early.  Smart. The greatest tip I’ve found yet?  Set an alarm for bedtime and keep it.  I’m happily sliding under the electric blanket a full hour and a half earlier and waking up at “ahhh, I’ve got a whole two hours before the kids wake up.”  I know.  Don’t hate me.

I hope your weekend is full of snow sledding and marshmallow-filled hot chocolate. Remember, friend, you are loved by the God of the Universe and He wants You to lean back into Him, allowing Him to form you into His image.

Be Still and know that He is God.  You don’t have to grunt it out and do it all by your lonesome, You’ve got the All-Powerful one on your team.

Oh, and by the way, I’m excited to have a Lenten Series posting daily this year on Cross-Shaped love evangelism.  Join me?  Feel free to sign up for daily emails to make it that much easier.  Lent begins February 13th.


Blessings, friend.  I honestly love to be on the journey with you,


And do tell.  Where has your nourishment come from this week?


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This Week December 14, 2012 – What Nourished Me

After school I pulled Madeline onto my lap and we sunk deep into the red bean bag chair.  I memorized the smell of her hair and the beautiful dimple that comes out in her left cheek when she’s being tickled and couldn’t get enough.  I rubbed Caedmon’s cold cheeks with my hands and pulled his head onto my shoulder whispering that I was so glad I got to be his mama.  And Xavier?  We splashed in the Wellness Center therapy pool later and giggled as he emptied my water bottle on my head.  It was a halting giggle, but after today’s New Hope tragedy, I have baskets full of patience.  So thankful for my safe little family and so extremely sad that we live in the kind of world where some are not safe.

Jesus, Redeemer, Resurrection, bless with healing sleep those New Hope families in homes lit up for Christmas but heavy with grief.  Be present, risen Christ and walk through their walls, even those presently being built in fear.


And this last week?

I fell in love with this magazine, the simple life, at Barnes and Noble today.  The fresh Donna Hay-like photos, the message, the call to fully enjoy what we have already been given.    Plus, it is British and I get to vicariously enjoy spying on simple lives across the large water. The magazine is deliciously seasonal and makes you want to sink into an easy chair in front of a fireplace with a book and a full teapot complete with tea cozy.

In the simple life, I discovered Susannah Conway who guided the reader through thanksgiving by being fully present in their senses, a type of feasting on the present.  Thank you, Susannah, I love perusing those gorgeous polaroids strewn through your site.

To hers I add these simple joys:

My favorite Christmas humidifier? A simple pasta pot simmering throughout the hours filled with oranges, whole cloves and a cinnamon stick.

The elaborate notes my daughter leaves around the house.  This one found after decorating the Christmas tree.  “I love you mom and dad and brothers.  You bring so much color to my life.  My heart could burst.” (All in a first graders spelling, of course.)


and our 17th wedding anniversary coming up.  The simple joy of a marriage that has traveled over hard bumps and found an open restful space.  Yup, that’s us.


Then, I found this, a post by Justin Zoradi, founder of the organization, These Numbers Have Faces which again grounded my ego.  Thank you.  And my favorite lines?

“Your relative smallness next to God’s great vastness enables us to do something small and to do it very well. Your calling to the small things is the great invitation from the light that the darkness cannot overtake.”

I am called to small things, not big things, and in fact, God’s small things, not even my small things.  Clarity.

And you friends?  How did God nourish you this week?  What are your simple joys? What are you reading, listening to?  How did the New Hope tragedy affect you?

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What Inspired Me this Week

1. I was daydreaming after the kids were in bed perusing this site full of French farmhouse design eye candy.  This interview of Yvonne McGrane, a business woman, mom and designer, held an interesting insight I’ve been rolling around in my mind:

One of my values is living every moment.

Really living and breathing in every one.

I recently learned this requires creating “white space” around moments rather than packing in one To Do after another throughout my day.

This way if a moment grows — say I run into a friend and we get into a deep connection – I make time to be present and enjoy it. Let it grow.

I used to always be thinking of all the things I had to do each day so there was little white space left. I missed lots of spontaneous opportunities for fulfillment and chances to share and receive gifts with others.”

Thanks, Yasmine.  White space.  Yes.  Need to pencil that into my google calendar.  Perhaps this is another clue to practicing feasting on the present moment.

2. This article in World Magazine blew me and our marketing-savvy culture away in one clarity-producing breath.  In it, Ann Voskamp is interviewed and admits that for 6/7 years she pushed the publish button without knowing that anyone was reading!  No site meter.  No comment log.  She published into a black hole.

Why did she publish?  She was writing an online journal and held out hope that her story would speak to that one lamb that Jesus goes after.  She didn’t type out her story for the 99, she courageously went after the 1 in an anti-marketing strategy so like Jesus.

I’m inspired to keep lighting my candle for one.  Mothering.  Pastoring.  Writing.  For one.

And her writing shack?  That’s all I need for my mansion in heaven, Lord, as long as it is located in Tuscany, of course.

3.  Perhaps this will be nourishment for next week?  My favorite beef stew: Beef Daube Provencal from Cooking Light.  Incredible flavor profile.  I always double it this time of year and have extra for Christmas Eve.  It’s comfort food and company worthy, the best combination.

Have a wonderful white-space filled Sabbath friends!

Summer Gross

(First photo of Yvonne’s own home found on Pinterest via BHG, recipe photo found on myrecipes.com, Ann’s photo by Layne Beckner Grime/Genesis Photos)


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What Nourished Me This Week

One of the greatest joys in my life is to pull books off my bookshelf, share music, print off a chocolate brownie recipe to share.  If it was melt in the mouth good, than why keep quiet?

Want a view of my week’s favorite things?

1. Friday night movie: Cyrano de Bergerac.  His language and fierce love of poetry, his devotion to a woman.  Her orange gossamer cape.  Light and fun, especially the fifth (?) time.

2. Honestly, how have I missed this?  Donald Miller’s book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years who encouraged his readers to become more intentional about their lives.  He’s written a blog, a paperback/workbook by the same Storyline title and software that makes my little techy heart race!  This quote from the free downloadable chapter gave me something to chew on all week long.

“My friend Justin Zoradi runs an organization called These Numbers Have Faces.  In his work, he provides scholarships for students in second and third-world countries so students can attend college.  Each of his students then pays back their scholarship through community service that helps somebody else.  It’s a revolutionary program and under Justin’s leadership, it’s thriving.

I talked with Justin recently and he said something I’ll remember for years.  Justin said: Don, just sitting down to do my job every day is a revolutionary act.  It may not feel like it, but by showing up at the office and facing the mundane nature of the work, I’m pushing back against academic inequality.  I get up, I do my work.

I agree with Justin in that when we push the plot forward we’ll drive light into darkness, no matter how mundane it may feel.”

Thank you, Donald Miller.  All week long I’ve lit a candle both literally and figuratively and seen it advancing into the darkness, one inch at a time.  The prayer is that I’m never advancing myself, but Him.

3. I downloaded this:  We sang it around the black babygrand at Aunt Sue’s over Thanksgiving, women who have walked through fire, singing of God’s faithfulness and as I listen over and over, I can’t help but raise my hands.  I downloaded The Falls’ Church Anglican’s version off of itunes.  Beautiful.

4. I started Quiet by Susan Cain: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking and ahhh, I am not alone in this fight for quiet.  Fascinating commentary on a loud, self-promoting society.

This weekend I’ll be looking for moments of peace to reflect on the beginning of Advent. I’m waiting, hoping, praying for Christ’s Presence to be born in me anew.

What nourished you this week?

Summer Gross


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