Category Archives: Spiritual Life

Seeking a Post-Toddler Rhythm of Daily Renewal

Over the past four months, I have been emerging from the fog of family life with preschoolers. My youngest of two preschool-age sons is getting ever-closer to age four, and the oldest one is almost off to Kindergarten. Christmas this year involved eight straight hours of focused Lego construction with no interruptions for nap time or diaper changes or incomprehensible meltdowns. In that space, I quickly realized that I am not a toddler mom anymore, and those long days of responding to minute-by-minute needs are fading. (Praise the Lord of the heavenly host, for ever and ever, Amen.) As an introvert with a currently very extroverted life, the last few years of having these little people with so many needs has taken its toll on me physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Through Christmas’ Lego construction marathon, however, I realized we were entering a new season of life. Once again, I could focus and rest and be. I could finally respond to that deep calling within me for space for silence and contemplation and communion with God. Because the nights were not so sleepless anymore, I could return to my preferred rhythm of mornings alone in a quiet home, one of my favorite parts of life on this earth.

To pursue the time for contemplation, I desperately needed a new rhythm to reset the habits of a chronically-exhausted person. The only morning rhythm I had through the infant and toddler years was coffee-making, so it was the only real habit to build off. With coffee as the anchor point, I started setting an alarm to get me to bed earlier (bye-bye evening Netflix), set my alarm for an earlier wakeup (hello “Early Riser” ringtone), rolled out of bed, flicked on the electric kettle, prayed the kids slept through the coffee grinding, and cleared a space at the kitchen table for quiet contemplation.

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My Sacred Ordinary Days planner.

After some time of sitting in this space without a way to organize the time, I noticed a friend posting an Instagram of his new Sacred Ordinary Days liturgical planner. I was intrigued. I ordered my own copy, and immediately fell in love with the tool. In one book, it organizes daily lectionary readings in Scripture, provides space to journal about Sabbath, gives prompts for a weekly Prayer of Examen, and functions as a daily planner helping me prioritize my work/school/family schedules. It is brief enough that I can complete the readings in 15 minutes, but it is also spacious enough that if time allows, I can easily sit with it for an hour or more. It is a simple and well executed resource that provides the framing I needed to reset my daily rhythms. So now I sit down in the mornings, fresh cup of coffee in hand, pull out Sacred Ordinary Days, and flip through my Bible to the daily readings. After so many years of floundering through toddlerland, it’s like my parched soul is becoming new again in this contemplative morning space.

As I read, the lectionary moves me along in a rhythm before I’m even quite awake enough to realize what is happening. Sometimes I read and reread the same passage until it makes sense. Sometimes I copy down the passages that stand out, and consider them as God’s word for me that morning. Sometimes I stare off into space, clutching my now-lukewarm coffee mug in my hand thinking about nothing in particular. Sometimes I pray for people as they come to mind. I am filled with gratitude most days when it all comes together and that time and space is available.

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Morning Lego carnage in the midst of Valentines Party residue.

At some point in time in the midst of this, the little ones emerge from their room, footie pajamas shuffling along the floor, and the silence transitions to the murmur of little voices asking to watch Power Rangers or requesting help peeling a banana. We’re in the same space together, but for a little while still, I can be miles away, deep in prayer and thought, responding to their needs with a bit more gratitude and patience than I used to. On mornings when I’m lucky, I make it all the way through the readings in time to review my calendar for the day and to-do list. On these days, the transition from being space to preparing to do the work of the day is beautiful and seamless.

Other days I realize the morning is passing too quickly and abandon the process partway to track down elusive sets of matching socks and get us out the door on time. Still other mornings, I still oversleep, my body claiming the rest it needs. On these mornings, there’s more chaos, more tears, and more stress. It’s not a perfect system by any means, but we hobble along and start again the next day or the next week. After a few months of practicing, though, the contemplative routine has taken root deeply enough that a few days away are enough to call me back to reset the daily rhythm.

In hindsight, it’s almost like the first few years of my children’s lives, they were so dependent on me that they literally sucked the lifeblood right out of me into their rapidly-growing bodies. Now that they can build Legos and function with a little bit more independence (not yet forsaking my amazing banana peeling skills), I’m responding by giving my body and soul the rhythms of rest and care that it needs. I’m returning to the regular practice of daily contemplation and prayer to seek God’s renewal. Also, mornings with my kids feel much more symbiotic than it used to, since I have a little bit more opportunity to get renewed before responding to their needs.

In a political season that’s been as chaotic as this one has been and continues to be, and as so many friends and family are being spurred onward in tackling good and important works, this kind of rhythm feels even more important. I love reading and processing what my friends write and post, and I love engaging in the dialogue as I’m able. I can’t do any of it well, however, if the me that greets the day is the exhausted, lifeblood-drained, “unable to nicely respond to a small person asking for help with breakfast” me. So, I commend practices of renewal to you, friends. Seek out the things that give you life and do them without guilt. Seek out a rhythm of health. If you’re a person of faith, seek out the daily time of prayer and reading God’s word. As you’re able, seek renewal daily before you confront a world in desperate need of the gifts you possess to share with them.

40 Acres and Late Night Drives

I don’t remember the last time I took a late night drive just because.

Tonight I took one because I needed to get out of the house. It had been me and the baby in the living room for most of the day, and I needed something to get me off the couch.

So at the late hour of 6:30 (ha!) I loaded my fuzzy dino pj’s and knit sock monkey hat-wearing boy into the carseat and headed 30 minutes north to the Co-op. For some diapering supplies and a bit of grocery shopping.

I wanted to listen to worship music in the dark in the car. I almost never want to listen to Christian music, and for whatever reason, I tend to want to when I’m sad. I’m not really particularly sure why I was sad, but I was. And a late night drive and some worship music fit the bill.

At some point, a guitar riff started, and I thought it was Ryan Adams. Only that wouldn’t make sense because I’m PRETTY sure that Pandora wouldn’t play Ryan Adams on my “Glory Revealed” Christian worship station. And it turns out, it wasn’t Ryan Adams, it was another one of my favorites. It was Caedmon’s Call, “40 Acres.”

My eyes welled up. Because the song helped me finally realize what I was feeling and why I wanted to listen to worship music in the dark. The feeling of sadness mixed with loneliness that I was carrying in that moment was the same feeling I used to have when I’d listen to that album 12 years ago. Then I was a different girl: a college freshman in Indiana, filled with expectancy and pain and hope. Now I am a mom and wife in Washington, filled with expectancy and pain and hope. And it was the same set of lyrics:

There’s 40 acres and redemption to be found
Just along down the way
There is a place where no plow blade has turned the ground
And you will turn it over, ’cause out here hope remains
‘Cause out here hope remains…

The song was a gift tonight, reminding me that in the moments that I’m sad, that the same God is here as was there. Reminding me that my life is on a trajectory, and that each of these places is a part of the story. Reminding me that it’s all connected. Reminding me I’m not alone.

On Solitude

Yesterday morning, I arrived at the coffee shop where I meet with my friend and coworker weekly for coffee and ministry discussions.  We’re both at a similar place in life — married and in ministry in the same small town, working with both our local churches and our para-church youth ministry.  We both look forward to this time to connect and talk and be encouraged by having a friend looking at life from a similar vantage point.  She happened to be running late due to her previous meeting running long, and I was presented, for the first time in a long time, with an empty spot of time in a coffee shop, Jack Johnson singing overhead…just me, a fresh cup of coffee, an empty journal page, and a stack of books.  All the while, my baby boy is rolling around in my belly, elbowing and kicking (ever-so-gently…thank you 21 weeks!)  reminding me that life as I know it is about to change in a drastic way.

I often get nostalgic when I’m alone in this particular coffee shop, because 7 1/2 years ago, when I interviewed for my ministry position in small-town Washington, I spent an afternoon alone, journalling at this same coffee shop, trying to discern if I would move to this town.  Over the years, the coffee shop has changed from a country-western theme to a more normal contemporary coffee shop, but the barrista and the coffee are still the same.  And 7 1/2 years later, it’s still me in the coffee shop, but it’s not the 22-year-old, recent college grad looking for the adventure of real life, it’s a 30-year-old, married, homeowning, mom-to-be.

Sitting in the same coffee shop, journal and pen in hand, feels grounding.  I suddenly feel centered and able to look at my life from a bird’s eye view, with a wide scape of understanding of where I’ve come from and been over the last 8 years.  I pull out Ruth Haley Barton’s Sacred Rhythms, which I’ve been reading slowly over the last 8 months with a spiritual mentor.  This month’s chapter is on discernment, which Barton describes a spiritual practice we use in combination with a self-examination, in which we take a bird’s eye view of our lives to assess where we are in regards to God’s will.

In the midst of this time and space, I’m aware of how much my soul longs for this kind of solitude, and how lately, I’ve not made it a priority.  In the course of just 45 minutes, my soul is refreshed, my heart inspired, and my spirit renewed with hope.  Again, baby boy kicks me, and I write in my journal, “4-5 more months, and then everything changes.”

I begin to wonder how a mom can have a morning alone in a coffee shop when there’s a baby to care for.  I wonder how a mom can make it to yoga class a few nights a week for physical rejuvenation.  I wonder how a mom can pursue motherhood, solitude, and a healthy marriage all at once.

The Lord doesn’t necessarily respond with a road map for these questions, but He does remind me that nothing can ever or will ever be able to replace time alone with Him.  And in the refreshing of my true self, I realize there’s nothing like the blessing of time in solitude with Him.  In my journal, I commit the next 4-6 weeks to actively pursuing the disciplines I’ve been reading about in Barton, through Solitude, Lectio Divina, Breath Prayer, Yoga and Self-Examination…all of which is a part of the process of transformation the Lord’s been calling me to this year: towards a deeper intimacy in relationship with Him which will hopefully lead to a deeper awareness of and discernment of His will.  This morning, Barton said that being open to God’s will means honestly being willing to be open to the Lord’s leading to anything–absolutely anything…and that solitude is the most important discipline in honing our understanding of His voice.

What does it look like for a mommy minister with young kids to pursue solitude?  I don’t know yet…but this morning I was wooed again to time alone with the Lord and firmly reminded that no matter how full life gets, solitude must still be a part of it.

This morning in Exodus

This morning in Exodus, I read of Moses’ trips up and down Mt. Sinai, dwelling in the presence of the Lord.  In response to the commands that Moses receives from the Lord, the people say, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.”  (Ex. 24:7.).  We know, through reading the rest of the Old Testament, that these words were not so simply lived out.

Something in their lives was not fully submitted to the Lord…maybe it was because they were impatient about getting to their destination.  Maybe they’d become too comfortable living in Egypt, or maybe, they just got tired of a God they couldn’t see, so in the case of the Golden Calf, they replaced Him with one they could see.

This morning, I reflect on how it’s easy to say we’ll be obedient and do everything the Lord says and how there’s a huge disconnect between believing it in our hearts and believing it enough to do it.  The other night with the teens we talked about how a disciple isn’t just someone who believes their teacher, it is someone who follows the teacher’s example and does as the teacher does.

So a logical question is, “Where in my life are my actions not lining up with my beliefs, and am I going to change my beliefs to fit my actions or change my actions to fit my beliefs?”

Running as Catharsis: Running as Worship

I hate running.  Absolutely hate it.  I have friends that run, and they tell me it’s awesome.  Friends and family who run marathons, half-marathons and 5ks and get addicted to it.  Sometimes my friends even write blogs about how awesome running is.  (i.e. Awesome Bonnie, fitness guru, who writes about winter running here.)  All of these romantic notions convince me I like the idea of running.

So one morning (er, like, yesterday) I get tricked into running.  Continue reading

Reading the Bible with the Teens

Husband and I are meeting weekly with a group of ten teen gals and one of our adult volunteers to read the Bible together.  We’re studying through the Bible for the whole school year, Genesis to Revelation.  It’s a pretty big job to tackle, and requires several hours of reading on our own each week, but I’m already impressed with the girls’ dedication to the task.  (Last week, out of the 7 girls who were there, all of them had done all of the week’s reading.)

This week, it’s 35 chapters of Genesis, covering Abraham through Joseph.  There’s some crazy stuff that happens in there.  So excited to see what peaks their interest…

Some of my favorite questions so far:

Why was the temple so flashy when Jesus’ was so humble?
Who are the Nephilim?  (Genesis 6:4) Seriously.  I’d never noticed them before.
How did the animals on the ark not kill each other?
Why don’t we observe the Sabbath anymore?

 

Patty, Buddy, Pike Place: Maundy Thursday in Seattle

Last night, Husband and I went to see the ever-wonderful Patty Griffin and Buddy Miller at the Moore.  On Maundy Thursday, Patty’s haunting covers of gospel standards (from her most recent album Downtown Church) were quenching parts me I didn’t even know had dried up.  She wasn’t necessarily trying to facilitate worship, but for me, that’s what it was…a quality of music that transcends anything I can normally experience during worship, and no one was up there trying to manage how I should be feeling…I was just able to experience it.

Beforehand, we grabbed dinner at a hole-in-the-wall in the International District, played cribbage at Starbucks, and took some pics at the market at dusk.  I’ve been messing with the manual features on our Nikon D60 lately, because it seems sinful to own such a great camera and keep using it as a point and shoot.  No pics of the concert, but a few snapshots of the streets of Seattle on a quiet Thursday night.