returning to Lent. one moment at a time.

Lent in everyday language is written off of the pages of my own story where I play the leading role of wife, mother, author, and sometimes-scholar of spiritual formation/soul care and prayer. For each day of Lent, I am committing to fast from my typical outward communication and practice the daily examen. Simply put, the examen is a centuries old practice that helps us notice where God is working in our everyday-ordinary-activity filled lives.

If you have even a small desire to join in this 40-day journey, please know that you do not have to get up in the dark or commit hours and hours of time.  Perhaps in this season of Lent where we might be tempted to give up eating sugar ((again)) or not participate in Lent at all ((again)).. perhaps we can make a change in the way we commonly spend 30 minutes or more of our day and simply ask ourselves two questions about our day.

That’s it. Two questions.

Give up some time spent on distracting activities for 40 days. Read through some reflective questions. Respond here (if you dare 🙂 ) or in a journal or on your own blog. And the hope for all of us is that we will learn together how to recognize what things in life are life giving and what things in our lives are more likely to bring us despair and fragmentation.  Hint: If you are doing the examen in the morning hours, you may want to reflect on the day that has just passed. If you are doing these exercises in the evening, you would review the events of the day you are in. Just saying.

In preparation for Day One, here are your two questions

  1. For what moment today am I most grateful?
  2. For what moment today am I least grateful?

Looking forward to returning to God together

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this new year. in 52 parts.

The skill of writing is to create a context in which other people can think. Edwin Schlossberg

 

shrieks of laughter can often turn to tears of defeat when two little boys start to wrestle in their pajamas on my giant sized bed. it’s the softest playground they can imagine.

its tempting to let them wrestle away as i type here. just trying to sort out a few of the thoughts that invite me in this new year named 2013. wanting so desperately to start this year differently – yet knowing how mundane and even maniacal some of the new year mechanics have been for me in the past.

  1. write ambitious list with every hopeful financial, spiritual, physical, and relational goal
  2. visit list periodically throughout the year and be sorely disappointed
  3. repeat. repeat. repeat.

this year invites me to so much change. so much growth. so much love and nurturing of my soul and the souls of those nearest and dearest to me. i don’t want to miss a moment of it. and writing it all down helps us to remember and not miss a moment of things.

so as the boys wrestle precariously close to my fragile bedside lamp and piles of suitcases wait to be unpacked from our fabulous family visit to California i pause and ask this week, this first week:

what desires my attention? what is desperate for my affection? what distracts my best intentions? lead me to the truth of what is best suited for peaceful and purposeful daily living.

right now, i think these boys need a wrestling coach.

xo.

mother.author.scholar.mother.

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?

Lent in everyday language. Day Twenty.

i have written a number of posts… all saved in draft form… many unfinished.. over the last several days of my Lenten journey. It has not been difficult for me to find time to become aware of God’s presence in my life, rather it has been extremely difficult for me to protect my practice of writing.

as a mother of four with a toddler still at home, i am reminded of the fight we have to wage in order to carve out sacred time. some of us do this in our practice of exercise and we will not miss a work out that we have scheduled. for others there may be other practices that are completely worth fighting for and take precedence over all other negotiable activities.

what i recognize in this season of my life is that writing is a practice worth fighting for. it is a practice that helps me to peg down some meaning in day to day life and create containers for my wandering thoughts and dreams.

but i will live in the grace and goodness that my days are full of conversations and prayers for others, delighting in and disciplining my children, and sometimes the very thing that i want to do is the last thing that i get to do, for now.

so thank you for wandering along through Lent with me. part of Lent is about reconciliation, and sometimes reconciliation has to begin within us where we tend to be the most critical and unforgiving. live in expectation for great great things to come when Jesus is risen… and with Him our very life will be made new again.. on Easter and in every season of our life that invites renewal.

Examen

1. Where did I notice God’s power today?

Our church is going through a journey through Scripture for about 6 months covering a time line of the history of God’s people. We took time Sunday to discuss the place in history where the Holy Spirit is sent by Jesus. I share with you not from an intellectual but from an experiential position. We experienced something new. We experienced an invitation by God to surrender to the Holy Spirit. So many people came forward to pray and to worship God and to be healed. In a new way, our church said yes. All weekend I had been expectant that something would happen. I called friends to pray, I spent time worshiping at home with my  children, and even wrote down some of the things I felt God was showing me. I was so expectant that God’s power would show up at church on Sunday in ways that might be truly transforming. Have you ever had that sense that God wants to do something immeasurably more? That kind of power is like a tsunami building (thank you Georgia for the analogy) and will at once come crashing into our ordinary lives. That is the power I started to see… the building at least.. and some of the waves beginning to form.

2. Where do I need to notice God’s power?

All day I contemplated the idea of walking in authority. I wondered what it would look like for me to walk through my days if I had already received all that God wanted to give me in terms of authority, organization, conversation, prayer, faith. I am so hungry for more of God and I am missing something.. some critical piece that causes me to give up my truest sense of God and give over to the ideas of others. It comes when people around me don’t have faith and I think “Do I really want to go there?”. It happens when I am ignored and I think “Do I really want to keep putting myself out there?”  It happens when I have a dream over and over again and someone might offer me a dose of disbelief and I take it in and convince myself that the dream is unrealistic. What is more real? God’s power to give me a dream and bring it to pass or fellow humans along the road of formation who themselves have lost their own ability to dream? I need God’s power to simply grab hold of that which He put in front of me.Give me your power to do Your will

Philippians 3:12 Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.

 

How do these questions help you notice God today?