simply breathing

whatever your family bed or nap time routine might entail, there is that final moment when your child’s breathing becomes soft and regular and you know they are are out.

in that moment i am always acutely aware of my own posture.

perfect stillness.

perfect breathing.

perfect peace.

and even with a thousand ragged thoughts clamoring for my response, in that exact moment, i quiet every single one of them. other children and their homework questions will have to wait. phone calls are irrelevant.  bills and to-do lists will have to get in line behind this perfect moment of stillness and quiet breathing where i am doing the very very most important thing in the entire world: breathing quietly so my little one can sleep. my failures or supposed successes of the day do not compare to the sense of ease and rest that finds me snuggled nose to nose with a sleeping child.

so for every moment of chaos and disease that comes for you today, i send an invitation to become aware of simply breathing. it might be the most life giving thing you can give yourself today.

Advertisements

Summer storms in a very dark night

The rip of lightening across the yard rips me out of sleep and quickly to the window. Its still a novelty to this California girl to experience such a wild display of weather in the summer months. Sometimes, like tonight, the lightening comes on tiptoe for hours… Simply lapping across the sky in silent displays of firework like burst of intense white light. Science aside, these storms are nothing short of wonderful, wonder full.

Heart pounding now I quickly begin the ritual of closing windows. The wind sneaks in a spray of fresh rain while I slam the window closed and blows on my face the most intense breath of earthy breath.

Pound. Pound. Pound.

Adrenaline comes to me in these moments not only because of what feels like impending natural danger but also because I am so emotionally and spiritually moved by the intense energy and beauty of these onset storms. One moment, peaceful slumber. The next instant, fully awake to life. It is impossible to sleep as every pulse point is at the ready. Fully alive because of this dangerous beauty. Merciless lightening slaps at trees where some branches will not escape. Thunder applauds.

Heart pounding I am expectant and slightly fearful. No one in their sane mind would venture out into this wild dance, but I long to. No one in their safe mind would risk being struck, but what is this human longing to be out where life is wild and unexpected.

Pound. Pound. Pound.

One hand on the cool glass I peer out. Something like sadness comes over me as I recognize that this is as close as I will ever be to this beautiful and dangerous storm.

Heart subsiding to normal beats, I finally lay down and simply let the dark quiet of the after storm console me.

Eastertide. Jesus walks with me.

I’m a couple weeks into new routine of paying attention more regularly to my prayer life. I have been doing this through the discipline of praying the hours. I can’t say that I have hit every time slot, but what has happened to my train of thought has been nothing short of wonderful.

As an extrovert with a husband working mostly from home and four children, I have no shortage of voices to engage my thinking throughout the day. Maybe for you it is work conversations, people you bump into at school, your children’s coaches or ballet teachers. Maybe for you, you have voices that are challenging or exhausting. Maybe as much as you love talking (like me) the sound of your own voice and thought life exhausts you at times.

Fixed hour prayer has been one way to integrate all of my external noise with internal dialogue with Jesus. Our family is in the midst of a few path-altering choices where my husband and I are facing decisions that affect our financial future. We can only talk about these things for so long before we come to a place where we are forced to surrender. We do not control every outcome. We do not hold the responses of others under our influence. We can make predictions, but they are just as likely to not happen as they are to happen. So instead of spinning these thoughts like plates in the air, fixed hour prayer is one way to set all of the plates back in the cupboard and let them rest for awhile. After a momentary pause from spinning, I am finding myself more content with the unknown, more ready to face the next few hours without anxiety.

We have many voices to engage throughout the days and week.  For me it is husband, children, friends, ministry partners, authors, spiritual directees and mentees who cause my own mental noise to become a jumbled mess of ideas and problems to consider.  Having the fixed mark of praying the hours has been one way to regularly deposit the cares and concerns of my day into the capable hands of Jesus Christ.Then, I move on the the next few hours with a much more contented and clear conscience. It’s as if these regular stops are reminding my soul that God is always aware of me in an even greater way than my little mind is aware of Him.

  • Do you find it easy or difficult to pray throughout the day?
  • What are the practices of habits that you engage to bring you back into knowing the presence of God?

Eastertide. Jesus walking around.

Today we went on a looonnnggg car ride to take a look at a possible kitchen space for my husbands biz. I thought about how car rides have changed since I was a kid. Media, in it’s many forms, has made the car less of a family cocoon and more of a place to be individually entertained ( at least in our family these days).

And something about this bothers me so much even while i do very little to change it. It’s like something invisible and powerful presses slightly against my best intentions and I give in like my life depends on it.

Enter the daily office. A simple little practice ( well, in theory) where I am joining the monastic cultures worldwide to pause at regular intervals and enter in to an intentional time of reciting prayer. I have attempted this practice before and failed miserably…. Or did I? Even the attempting to draw closer to my heavenly Father, the Spirit who loves me, and Jesus my savior and friend… Even my worst attempts can bring such intimacy. Even a half read prayer is giving me new language to communicate with and about God.

And just like the way I am raising my kiddos, my absolute number one priority is that my children know they are watched and waited for… No matter what. That we learn each others language and give grace where grace is needed. Car rides are great places to do all of that, even if there is music or movies or iPod touch games or instagram photos or texting or whatever! It’s not my ideal, but we are drawing nearer to one another, observing each other, watching and learning each others language. And any one who has ever travelled in a car with children longer than 4 minutes knows that auto travel is a hotbed for grace awakenings.

So, imperfectly and less than ideal I may go, I purpose myself to journey this path of daily prayer.
Want to join me?

The Refrain for Tuesday Morning Lessons:
Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord.

Holy Week. Washing Feet …

I so intended to write yesterday. It was a day that I sought God everywhere in the corners of ordinary and found Him.

After as hour of inspiring conversation with my soul friend, I ended our chat to find out that my little tater tot had been creating the most marvelously large mud puddle in our backyard. I am not prone to freak out over mess. Even though I knew he had pretty much ruined his sleeping shirt, I watched him drag the hose and that white shirt and his little toes through the murky muddy yard. I watched him laugh and sing a song about mud. I though about why I wasn’t mad about mud. And then it came. It was so easy to hose this little guy off.

Then the  gentle voice said “It’s not hard for me to wash your feet”.

Tears.

My little guy in all his mud with wet tee shirt and hair and smiling face. He had no idea that this might be a bad idea. Or he did. It didn’t matter. At that moment of observing my son,  I observed Jesus with a towel, at my feet, with my mud, with the muck and yuck of my everyday flaws and imperfections. “It’s not that hard for me to wash your feet”.

But I want to remind Jesus of how hard the cross was, how hard it was to endure shame He didn’t deserve, how much I still miss the simple instructions while I pursue more relevant ambitions, how I ignore the poor and reach for a place among the religious. Don’t you see what a mess I am, Jesus?

“It’s not that hard for me to wash your feet like it’s not that hard for you to wash your son, because you love him so much. And I love you so much.”

It’s that simple for me right now.

Lent in everyday language. Day Thirty-two.

It’s official.

I am free from one of my own worst enemies: my tendency to be mad when I don’t finish something the way I wanted to. Like this blog where I purposed myself to write everyday during the days of Lent. 40 days to be exact that would mark my devotion to the deeper spiritual practices of daily examen. I even offered to share these daily nuggets with my faith community on their homepage. I started strong, was hit mid-stream with a writers dilemma (how much to share and how much not to share), and sort of petered off in my resolve to write everyday.

Usually these starts and stops are quickly followed by some self-debasing language that seems to scold me like some highly critical parent “See. You never finish what you start. See. You always stop before you finish. See. You’re late.”  During this highly introspective and contemplative season of my life, I have not had the time or space to spend with these voices of criticism and control. Instead, other voices have beckoned me onward and forward.

Like one voice from the editor of the company I am doing free-lance work for right now. She said (paraphrased) “Amy, you are a writer. You have the heart of a writer, and that can’t be taught. The other stuff like structure and grammar is easy to work on once you have the heart for writing” Another voice came from my husband who noticed I hadn’t been posting. He said “I miss getting your daily emails. I really like what you write.”  So these two very important people who matter so much in terms of what I am writing were the voices that trumped the other ones who play with my insecurity and fear that I am somehow not allowed to fail. Or to write honestly. Or to fail. Or to pause. Or to write about something controversial.

These are my words, downloaded from a mind full of stories and dreams and poems for a world where I believe authentic living is possible. Where I believe that the God created us to live is in simplicity and unity with God. Where I believe that Jesus is our model for a perfectly authentic spirituality. Where I believe that Jesus left His Spirit to be Our Holy Counselor and Present help to live this life well.

Where I believe that the language we speak and the words we choose can invite healing into a world is too codependent on popular culture to choose for them how they will think and what they will care about.

These words matter. Your words matter. Our words matter.

Daily Examen

1. How do you see God’s provision today?

Today I see the way God is providing time for me to have carved out time to be one on one with my kids. This is a result of the role my husband has been able to play in our family lately since our job transition back in December. My 8 year old son asked me on Monday if we could have a date looked forward to it all week. It took all day for us to finally get out of the house and when we did, I think we held hands for about three hours straight. We He talked about everything. He told me the movies he wanted to see, the girl he liked at school, the way he wanted to learn phonics better because “school isn’t just about grades, Mom. I want to really learn some stuff!” He didn’t ask me any questions. I watched him and noticed things that escape my attention when I am busy wrangling 4 at a time.  I imagine that is the way God wants me to be present with my children more often.

2. How do you need to see God’s provision today?

One of the parts of our date was to head to the Lego store at one of the biggest and nicest malls in Orange County. I am not a mall person. Never have been. It always makes me feel instantly like I am wearing the wrong shoes or my jeans aren’t new enough or that I want to run into the Baby Gap and buy all of my children matching outfits. I also am amazed at the number of messages stores send with their marketing promises of sexy-skinny-rich. It just doesn’t fit me on a normal everyday, let alone in a season where I really can’t afford to buy myself a new pair of jeans. In the mall, we went straight to the Lego store to play and look at Legos. But even there I felt that pull to have more, to have something, to buy something, to validate my love for my son (WHO LOVES LEGOS) by purchasing something for him before we left. My purchase was SMALL. But my need for God in this struggle against stuff is BIG. I need to see God in these little wars against stuff. I need to see how God wants to provide and how to feel less guilty when I do want things.  Do I always have to say no? Am I never allowed to want things? Will I ever be able to buy a new pair of jeans? Will this season of scarcity be the way I will live normally or will there be some balance? God, provide your peace as you provide for every other need in my life.

How do these questions help you notice God in your everyday life?

Lent in everyday language. Day Twenty-nine.

I was sharing with a friend today that I hadn’t been very faithful to my daily posts. The reason is due in large part to the fact that I have been laser focused on a new venture with my chef husband where we hope to provide meals to families. Many, many, families.

My friend commented “It sounds like you are in a season within a season!” How true.

How true always.

Seasons that seem to present us with something specific, like winter for example, often erupt into the most brilliant days of sunshine and people immediately want to throw their boots into the basement (that’s what I did when I lived in Michigan anyway). Winter plus sunshine. A season within a season.

I have shared so much about our financial situation here, calling it L.A.C.K. yet in this season of financial questions, we have lived on less and learned to launch. Forgive the poor alliterations, but Lack and Launch are presenting themselves in a magnificent display of season within season. How is it even possible that we could carry both around with us each day? How do you carry the spiritual and natural polarities around with you each day?

So with that I invite you to embrace whatever season of life is apparent, and the mysterious appearances of diverging sub-seasons that spring up everywhere.

My Examen- My Poem of Noticing

Where do you notice God today?

sunlight through back doors spilling onto kitchen tiles while my husband cooks and cooks and cooks. miracles showing up underfoot. God, give me the ability to let myself look down in unlikely places to see You showing up.

son running in circles with dirty, wet grassy feet and falling into piles of his own laughter and hiccups. the fullness of joy encapsulated in the freedom of a two year old. God, give me the freedom to be that full of joy.

red and yellow and orange peppers eaten raw from a bowl. sweet. crunchy. perfect vegetables grown from seeds that I mostly taste drowned in false flavors and sauces and preservatives. God, help me to learn how to eat from and to enjoy from the Garden again.

Where do I need to notice God today?

broken little bird in the form of a ten-year old girl. a daughter of nobody knows exactly. left behind to fall through cracks of beauracracy and democracy and inefficiency. we watch with our “hands tied”. God, untie our hands to we can untie her abuse.

broken dreams in the form of mental illness on a man who leads the country in a compassionate cry for Uganda. media feasts. citizens speculate. God, grant us the wisdom to know the difference between truth and lies and media spun drama.

hungry people camping outside of grocery stores where there is enough food for everyone. I hand them something simple, but it isn’t enough to feed them their identity.  God. let the last be the first as You let Your Kingdom come.

How are these questions prompting you to see God with new eyes today?