Sunday, December 25, 2011

Resolved 2012

Had I known the outrage and confusion my decisions would create, I might have suggested to God we keep circumstances as they were. But, probably not. I was so lonely spiritually after awhile without a church and desperate for structure. It's okay to be an island until you need solid ground and don't have a boat. I wanted something to stand on and people to stand with. And I was at the end of every single option I knew.

"Go to mass for Christmas eve," echoed in my soul a whole year ago.

Go. . . . . where? Having been around the spiritual block enough times I knew to listen sooner than later. I did. I sat in the very back of a quiet Catholic church and watched church play out. I had been raised to believe "these" kinds of churches just went through the motions, never used scripture and had some remote if any relationship with God.

My soul swirled in the reverence. The scriptures, beautifully presented, came to life before my eyes. Communion was an experience. (And yes I knew I couldn't receive communion at a catholic church. File that under "tell me I can't.") And I couldn't help but think, "What's the big deal? God IS here."

I would spend most of the rest of the year fighting with people about my decision to transfer to a liturgical tradition. I'm thankful today for those who disagreed with me, who questioned me, and even for those who blatantly condemned me to Hell (not kidding). They all pushed me to dig deeper, learn more, ask more questions and find that my solid ground was and is within myself, not just a church building.

I'm thankful for a year in my church home where I feel loved and welcome. Where I feel grounded. Those walls and people have healed me from the inside out just by being there. I have found God in different and unexpected, but no less powerful ways. And He's the same God.

Looking back, I can't believe the people who have stayed with me through this confusing, questioning and frustrating season. I in no way blame the people who didn't. I'm pretty sure I would have stopped having the same conversation with me in early January. But, many of the same people who were there in January still are. Those who listened to my heartache, dried my tears and encouraged my shaky faith the most, still do. Oh, we're not talking as much about church confusion anymore, but we're wading our way through the instability that comes with all lives. Together. And this heart is grateful for the heart friends who have remained.

I hope, after doing a lot of work, I've emerged stronger in my faith. More faithful to the One I love the most. A better friend. A more understanding Christian. A person clothed first with compassion even when I disagree.

So, I close the book on this chapter and take a deep breath in the new season of walking with God. My only resolution for 2012 is to not argue with those who don't care about me. I'll only fight fair with people who do also. I'll hear the hard stuff from those who stick around long enough to help repair the wound. And I'll walk in love with myself and with those around me.

Because at the end of this journey I'm not going to stand before God and defend other people. I'm not going to have to answer for my church. I'm going to have to answer for me. And I'm standing firm on what I've known all along.

She said to Him, "Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world." John 11:27

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Merry Christmas!

In this season of celebration.

In the waiting of Advent.

In the anticipation of Christmas morning.


Our God is with us.

Merry Christmas!

Brenda, Odyssey, Ella, and Shine

*This blog will go on break until after the first of the year. Praying your holidays are happy ones filled with memories lasting into the New Year. Thankful for all of you as we wrap up 2011!

Friday, December 9, 2011


Personally, I think insecurity should fade out with the next round of evolutionary changes, but that seems unlikely. Hard to find is someone of the human condition who doesn't struggle with something. I love when people say they don't have any insecurities. "I've given all of that to Jesus!" Good for you. And I doubt it.

I find most of my insecurities are fed and watered by the lies in my own head. Ever hear the whisper of the enemy so loud it's deafening? Me too. A lot lately. And it's casually subtle - until it isn't.

You'll never be that so stop trying so hard.

You could never accomplish that.

That's a dream that will never happen. Give up while you still can.

Life doesn't get better from here.

People don't like you. You don't even like you!

God could care less about your phony attempts to love him. He could never love you anyway.

One at a time they seem almost manageable, but then come the days when it's a barrage of negativity. The days when your favorite jeans already don't fit, your hair is a mess and you're late-for everything. Days when you wonder where God is and how you could have possibly lost him in the first place. Days when you know the drama is high, but you just can't help yourself. Been there?

And a little thought emerges from the spiritual soil of your heart and without realizing it you ask yourself, "What if he's.....right? What if my future is bleak? What if my plans are in vain? What if he doesn't love me?"

On those days I like to gather up all the thoughts - the ones that make sense and the ones that don't. I try not to analyze them, but just pull them together into a giant heap of human confusion and breathe.

I wrap my hands as tightly as I can around them and remember that my control is limited and my heart frail. And I do give them to a God who is bigger and who thinks clearer because I have no idea where else to put them.

And I remember that his grace is sufficient......always.

His power is made perfect in my weakness......always.

And my security is in him......always.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

You won't die and other things I'm learning from the gym

Once I've made up my mind about something, I'm all in. I don't look back. I press on like it's my job. And it's really hard for anyone to change my mind. Actually, that might be true about most things.

I've embarked on a fitness expedition that admittedly may be more than I can handle. Don't worry. That's not stopping me.

Added to my regular yoga practice is now boot camp (appropriately named), TRX and several miles of running a week. It's taking ALL my free time and I secretly love it.

Here's what I've learned so far:
1. I'm stronger than I think I am.

2. I'm not really in good enough shape to get this in shape right now.

3. I've never needed the stress relief of working out more than I do now.

4. I don't have time, but I really never will.

5. Working out with a bunch of people is way easier than alone.

6. No matter what it is or how long the rep is - I won't die.

And, as a bonus, I'm getting great material. Last week while running on the treadmill the guy next to me said, "You're too short to be a pole dancer."

Hmm.....I'm okay with that :)

Sunday, November 27, 2011

In the waiting-Advent

This is my church. This is the alter and the building and the Body of Christ that together have restored me from the inside out. Sitting in the back row of a Catholic Church on Christmas eve last year, I told God, "I will wait for you. I will." Thankfully, it was only six more days until I found Christ Church. Some might call it an accident. I'm more inclined to Divine Providence. Whatever you want to call it, I'm thankful.

It seems fitting that I'll end my first liturgical year with waiting in a season of Advent.

I couldn't help but think yesterday kneeling in that pew, sitting in that building, worshiping with those people, "I want to wait. . . .here." Not just for the celebration of the birth of Christ, but also for his return.

As we wait.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

My first liturgical year - Advent

Not exactly intentionally, I stumbled into my first liturgical church service Christmas Eve of last year. I didn't know much about the liturgical calendar. I didn't know much about Advent. I didn't know much about, well, anything.

I'll write more about this year in the days to come. It has been hopeful, exciting and profoundly life changing.

For today, we celebrate the end of the church year. We enter now into a season of waiting and expectation. The busyness of this last month before Christmas dims as Advent whispers sweet peace in the waiting.

As for me and my house, there won't be a frantic rushing to get the latest everything at a $10 discount. There will be patient waiting. There will be remembering that God sent his son and when he did. . . . everything changed. For them and for us.

For now, the creche is empty, but not for long. As we wait.

Monday, November 21, 2011

My Real Life Mondays-Audrey Assad - Carry Me

One of my friends the other day wisely said, "We're all carrying something." I couldn't agree more which is why I'm so in love with this song right now. When we can't run, won't stand, feel weak and helpless, when life is too heavy - He carries us.

My real life-on a Monday.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Backwards and Forwards

Some of the best advice I've ever received is, when things get weird or scary, go back to the place where your footing seemed secure and work from there to discover what happened. It's pure genius really. Life doesn't often get messed up in one big tornado. A bunch of little things happen and we're not okay anymore.

Confusion and frustration are my go to emotions and the beginning of things spinning out of control. I start to be more carefree with my spiritual practices. I read the Bible, but I stop absorbing it. I say prayers, but I stop listening. I begin this weird dance with the Lord where I beg him to speak and then doubt or avoid what he's saying. It's crazy and I never recognize it until I'm smack in the middle of a mess.

Advent is a great time to take a spiritual inventory and I've been doing just that. Asking myself the hard questions. Why am I running from some things? What's working? What isn't? When was the last time I was in a great God place? What did that look like? What changes need to be made to get back there?

In yoga last week, we were doing backbends, bridges, and fish poses. The instructor said, "How do you feel?" Uncomfortable! "That's because you love productivity and accomplishment. The secret to moving forward is appreciating backward motion in moderation." Sure enough, a few downward dogs and forward bends later, I was feeling more balanced.

We look back to know where we came from and fall on God's faithfulness. We take what's working and carry it with us. We leave, by God's grace, what we need to let go. We press on, straight ahead with focused determination.

And the occasional peek in the rearview mirror.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Spiritual practice as separation

I love technology and up until last year had the latest everything Apple had to offer. I've had an iPhone since the day the hit the market and have been through, uh, several since then. I'm surely not far from owning an iPad. And I'm aware of the irony that even though I don't own a TV, I can (and do) watch the latest Grey's episode on my phone every week.

And technology affords me so many of my favorite people at my fingertips. I can Skype, text, e-mail, twitter, or Facebook most people from wherever I am. I love connection.

But, as Advent has been settling into my heart and life I realize my focus has been a bit off. I've touched base with a lot of people by 9 A.M. but maybe not given the day to the Lord as I need to. I've created more noise in a life that is often already overwhelmed, especially on the weekends at work.

So, today I begin, through advent, a social media free weekend policy for my own life. From Friday at 5 p.m. to Monday morning I will abandon the joy of twitter, Facebook, and blogging. I'm putting it on here so I'll really do it :) Keeping my e-mail and text open, but that's enough.

During the week I'll be still be around to debate important things like why McDonald's should die and how much coffee qualifies as an addiction.

But, for the weekend, I'll focus on him.

What are YOU doing to cultivate Advent in your heart this year?


Pumpkin Pie

Although I love being sugar and chemical free, it does make the holidays a little boring. This year for Thanksgiving I decided to figure out naturally sweetened pies that everyone would love. It took some research and a few practice rounds, but this one has officially made the cut!

Gluten free pie crust is a royal pain. You'll need a fairly large crust for this recipe.

*Pre-heat baking sheet at 375

1 - 15 oz can of pure pumpkin

1 - 12 oz can evaporated milk (not sweetened condensed!)

2 tsp ground cinnamon

2 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp ground cloves

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 c. honey

1/4 c. pure maple syrup

3 eggs

Stir pumpkin and evaporated milk together.

Add spices. Stir.

Stir in honey and maple syrup.

Blend 3 eggs together then stir into the mixture.

Pour filling into pie crust.

Put pie on preheated baking sheet into the over for 1 hour and 10 minutes or until knife comes out clean.

Cool on wire rack.

Store in the refrigerator! Yummy!!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Right in front of me

Truth be told, I'd probably be most content in a life that involved talking about God with people 24/7. I love to know where people find him and once they do, how he shows up and changes everything. I like to be around people who genuinely love him even in the messy places.

Coming home Sunday night was an adventure. I suppose the closest I live to completely walking by faith is scheduling flights that get me home at the last possible minute. It has worked out fine enough times that I ask myself often, "What could go wrong?" Oops.

I was sitting at the airport in Baltimore waiting on a guy who was semi uninterested to determine my fate when it hit me. Spiritual hangover. I had spent most of 3 days discussing, sharing, questioning, thinking about how God shows up and how he remains when things are hard. Incredible, life changing conversations, but in that moment I was a little overwhelmed. I had no idea how I would start to move all this external information inside. How the wonderful truths would translate into my own life. And it didn't help that I was very tired.

I leaned my head against the airport wall and prayed, "God. I want this life to matter. Not because I do, but because you do. A lot of the time I feel stuck and frustrated and lonely and in your way, but if you can use me where I am, I want nothing more. It doesn't even have to be big things, but gentle reminders that you are at work would help a lot. No rush. I'm willing to wait on you and for once I think I really mean that. Amen."

I opened my eyes to mass hysteria. 50+ people not able to get to all kinds of things because the plane was late. Most of the connections wouldn't be made. By now the guy at the desk told me, "Get to Charlotte and run. Good luck." Thankfully my spiritual gift is running in heels. I was reading a book minding my own business when a college aged woman came up to use the pay phone beside me. She fumbled with her credit card and I immediately recognized the look of incoming tears. She needed to be at her destination by 8 a.m. and she wasn't going to make it. For real.

I looked at my own phone and looked up, "Do you need to use my phone?" She burst into tears quickly telling me how she left her phone charging on accident and was now in a big mess. I handed it to her and said, "Take your time, really." She made several calls and returned it still crying.

She asked, "Are you going to get home tonight?"

I smiled and said, "I don't know."

She said, "But it's going to be alright?"

I said, "Absolutely."

She smiled and left and I prayed she would live within God's very best for her all the days of her life. As God settled into that moment I remembered again that the greatest use of my life is always meeting the needs right in front of me.

And that's the greatest calling.

Monday, November 7, 2011

My Real Life Mondays - A wonderful weekend

Just returning from a fabulous weekend in Baltimore with some of my favorite people on the planet. From the airport to lunch at M&S Grille where this salad changed my life. I now want to eat it every day. Not kidding.
It was SO fun to hang out IRL with friends of The Virtual Abbey. Rob is my hilarious adopted brother and Raima has inspired my life with her wise and beautiful spirituality.
And another rapid fire conversation with Penny! One of my favorite human beings for a bazillion reasons. Plus she brought tiarras which I may now wear to various outings. Or to work.
And, the reason we were there-to celebrate the sacrament of marriage with Meredith and Dan. There aren't enough words to describe how grateful I am to have Meredith as a friend in this life. And I adore Dan because he's smart and Godly and funny and wise. And they both let me borrow their books :)
The church was beautiful. The couple was stunning. The homily was incredible.
In a word - it was worship.

To be amidst such love and friendship was a blessing straight from God and I leave Baltimore motivated to keep living for him. To keep trusting him.
And thankful to be surrounded in this life by so many who love him so well.
A wonderful weekend indeed.

My real life - on a Monday.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

My Real Life Mondays - The Episcopal Church

True story - My relationship with God is best described as a friend refers to it - Multiple Spirituality Disorder. I'll never believe God fits into a denominational box of any size and if you try to fit me into one I'll run away screaming. Probably not kidding.

I grew up as a minister's kid in a Baptist/Bible Church. I fell in love with the God of the Old Testament and Jesus in the New Testament sometimes on a flannel board. (And, yes, I cut the head off John the Baptist. It's still funny.) It's hard for me to remember a time where God wasn't. And although I so love a great conversion testimony story, I wouldn't have it any other way for me. I'm 31 years old and I've loved God for 23 of those years already.

Sort of by accident, I attended Asbury University, a Methodist College where I studied Psychology. I'll never regret an education in a Christian environment with professors who loved and feared God. I've always preferred to learn about faith by watching people live it and for four years I had a front row seat peering into lives well lived.

While in college I attended a Methodist church exactly twice. I attended a Christian church for a year and a charismatic church for 3 years. Neither of them sans divine providence. I can't imagine being in any of those churches today, but at that time they were perfect. For me.

I moved to Georgia and remained in a charismatic church for awhile. I also spent oodles of time over the course of a decade at The Abbey of Gethsemani and still visit there yearly. I began to spend time praying the daily office and fell in love with the rhythms of prayer. Drawn to ancient traditions, my soul connects with liturgy in ways I cannot describe. I returned to the Baptist church briefly and then began almost a year without a church home.

It's in the valley we discover our own heartbeat. It's in the alone times that we ache for true community. It's the dark hours of the night when good enough......isn't. I visited every church I could think of. I listened to my friends tell me why I should go here or there. And I tried. I tried to be involved with people I already knew and loved. It just wouldn't work. I was spiritually lonely and so frustrated.

Christmas Eve I sat in the back row of a Catholic Church begging God to show up. I bowed my head as tears ran down my face, "God. I'm trying here. I'm trying to be faithful. I'm trying to wait on you. I'm trying to be where you want me to be. I know you're enough for me." I surrendered my trying that night and for the first time in a year I found peace.

A week later I walked into the Episcopal Church at the suggestion of an out of town friend. I knew nothing. I knew absolutely no one. Although I don't believe in following feelings alone, I do tend to trust the gentle leading of the Holy Spirit.

Today you'll find me within the walls of Christ Episcopal Church. God, for me, in this season is found kneeling in those pews, at the alter, within the liturgy and with those people. God still jumps off the pages of the Old Testament into my heart. And I'm still finding Jesus on every page of the New Testament. The word of the Lord is still changing my life and conforming me into the image of Christ with every minute of my life I spend there.

I appreciate community in ways I wouldn't have before. I cherish the sacred moments of an ordinary service after spending a year without it. I receive the body and the blood into every cell of my being and ask God every time to live through me. Even me. And I stand amazed every time when he does.

My real life. On a Monday.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Praying it away. With Prozac.

I used to fight with people all the time about the Christian response to medication for depression and anxiety. Really, like I never got off that soapbox. I work in the field of mental health and have spent years unraveling the complicated maze of depression in my own world. So, if you asked me the right question, I'd answer you both personally AND professionally. And most likely with a little too much opinion thrown in.

These days, I've gathered enough Jesus to offer grace to both sides of the argument while considering the person individually. I don't have a boxed answer - "Everyone should be on meds!" or "Nobody should! Say your prayers!" It's not that simple.

Here are my tips for considering meds for depression and anxiety:

1. Pray and pray for peace in your decisions. I believe with all my heart that Jesus is the Great Physician and I also believe he runs a superb pharmacy.

2. Meet with someone qualified who will not push you in either direction. Let them explain your options, the side effects and alternate forms of therapy that may help without medications.

3. Inform yourself. It's 2011. Read and research with an open mind, but don't get lost in the mix.

4. Trust yourself. You know or you will soon what works, what doesn't, what helps, and what makes things worse.

5. Be flexible. Remember that you're not committing to anything for a lifetime. I evaluate my emotional and mental health twice a year and discuss my thoughts on changing things with people I trust. I integrate all kinds of non med things into my life that help me participate in managing depression.

Also I keep a few people really informed which in turn gives them permission to say things like, "Um, do you think your meds are working?" Seriously five years ago I would never have written this post and been horrified if someone asked if I took meds. Now I could care less. Honestly. And I answer those questions with, "obviously NOT!" And we laugh because life is messy and so, so funny sometimes.

And, to get on my soapbox just for a moment, I don't think depression or anxiety or much else can be prayed away. They are symptoms......not sins. I live as close to the Almighty as I possibly can. I've quit taking meds more than once to be more spiritual and trust God more. There was nothing spiritually healthy about the downfall from that. Trust me.

Even today as I took the meds that keep my own darkness at bay, I prayed, "Grant me compassion for those who struggle with all things today. Surround this life with grace. Teach me in the darkness as I embrace Your light. Amen."

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Answer my prayers! No, not that way.

I went to Starbucks this morning to get a ton of reading done. Armed with a steaming mug of Pike's Place Roast and a pile of brand new books, I sat in the farthest corner relieved there were only two other people there and neither were talking.

I part time play an extrovert, but I'm really not. If I don't dose myself regularly with contemplation, meditation and quiet I'll die spiritually. . . .quickly. I had just settled contentedly into my introverted self when I woman walked in carrying an office. On the phone, computer, cords, briefcase, book - a mess. I rolled my eyes. Obviously she didn't get the memo - this is quiet Thursday.

She got her vanilla latte and, even though there were 75 open spaces, sat down right next to me. Seriously? I tried not to look as she unloaded her stuff, but when she reached over me for the third time to plug something in I half smiled, "Here. Let me." She did not thank me. I did not care.

"Having a good day? she asked cheerfully."

Lady, it's 7 a.m. How could I possibly know that already?


I settled back into my book about learning to love God more and act more like Jesus. Obviously just a refresher since I've so mastered that.

My new friend was noisy and she slurped coffee. She sighed. A lot. And she was all up in my space. I considered moving, but the south has rubbed off on me enough to not be rude on purpose - very often.

Back to my reading. About Jesus. The next sentence was, "Jesus was content because he was not angered by being interrupted."

Closed Jesus book. Opened yoga novel.

As I was driving to work an hour later I knew God wasn't going to miss that opportunity to make a point. Just last night I was telling Him that life has been tilted awfully far to the lonely side lately.

The lady didn't require anything from me. She wasn't trying to bother me. She just sat next to me. She was (relatively quiet) company. Two people minding their own business at Starbucks, but not alone. How many other times are people around to curb the loneliness and I see them as an annoyance? Hmmmmm.

God is slowly teaching me that He longs to hear me pray, to know my heart and to accept my requests as I make them known to Him. But, by being his, I don't get to decide how or when or why those prayers get answered. And, if I don't pay attention, I'll miss the answer all together.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Then you fall on your head

I'm doing a lot of yoga on my own these days, but I keep a teacher in the loop and have scheduled several intensives in the next year to keep myself accountable. Last night I was finishing up a 2 hour session and we were discussing all manner of things.

She asked, "What are your honest thoughts about yoga right this minute?"
Me: "That I'm still too big to be good at it."

(A few years ago a long round of steroids made my life a battle with weight. It is frustrating and it is on going).

She agreed that some poses would be easier if I were smaller, taller, etc. But, then very gently said, "I don't care what you weigh. You are good at this. You are crazy strong and I'm not just talking about yoga."

Interesting because I don't feel very strong right now. I feel weak. And fragile. I feel uncertain and uncomfortable. I'm in a spiritual place where I start to pray and hope God can fill in the blanks because I sure can't. Confusion is swirling and frustration is high. And I find myself whispering more often than not to the Almighty, "I. Just. Need. You."

My yoga teacher resumed our conversation with, "What pose would you do if you were the perfect weight and 10 years into a yoga practice?"

Me: "A back bend from standing/Wheel pose." (I don't know why. I just have a hard time with back bends and I really want to be good at them.)

We were sitting on the mat and she said, "Do it."

Me: "Now? No! I can't! What if I fall on my head?"

"Then you fall on your head."

Mainly because I'm stubborn, I said, "Ok, fine."

I stood there for a few minutes. I put my hands out in front of me and as I leaned back everything fell into place. I was flexible enough. I was strong enough. I could feel every vertebrae cooperate and before I knew it my hands were perfectly flat on the mat. It was a great victory.

Last night I prayed, "God what if nothing works out the way I dream? What if I get to the end of life and I've done nothing for You. What if these days don't matter when all is said and done? What if, what if, what if.......what if I fall on my head?"

"Then I'll catch you."

Monday, October 24, 2011

My Real Life Mondays - Iphone Photo Dump

Here's what I've been up to lately - the iPhone photo dump edition.

Making this awesome sugar free chemical free apple cranberry pie that will be making an appearance at Thanksgiving.
Rescuing this sweetie from the dryer. Her new favorite place to hide during thunderstorms. Bless her.
Remembering I've been drinking way too much coffee again.
Only drank 3 cups this weekend - getting back on track.
Cleaned up this room. Planning to spend LOTS of quiet time there in the evenings this week. Yoga, prayer, reading, etc. My soul has been SCREAMING for rest. More on that later.
I've been missing these friends so I'm drinking a lot of tea out of this mug lately.
And I've been getting much better at this yoga pose!
And making some great discoveries and spiritual connections in yoga. More on that later, too.

Happy Monday!!

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Magic of an Ordinary Day

Yesterday I was walking through the outpatient part of a hospital racing to a benefits meeting. I was bemoaning in my head that I had to run there on my lunch break and hoping I could get everything done that I needed to in the 45 minutes I had.

Hospitals are good places for perspective and, as it turns out, I've been praying for more.

I forced myself to slow down. The world wouldn't end if I was gone 46 minutes. I could feel the Spirit whisper, "don't rush. Don't miss this moment."

I still had to be responsible with my day. I couldn't stop and smell the roses or wander along on my happy way. But, I could notice.

Immediately my eyes fell on a younger man in a wheel chair with a balding head and a broken heart. He was very thin and apparently very ill. I wondered if he wouldn't rather have my life today.

I walked by the waiting room where a woman was rocking with her head in hands. Worry seeped from her pores while awaiting word from a loved one's procedure. I wondered if she would rather be running late for a meeting instead.

A man walked by me very slowly on crutches in a seemingly large amount of pain. I wondered if he would trade being busy at lunch for the ability to move freely.

An older woman on oxygen, and still struggling to breathe, was in the lobby. She was fragile and weak. Her bony fingers grasped the chair for dear life with every inhale. I wondered if she wouldn't gladly take the cold I'd been frustrated about just to be able to take a deeper breath.

I went to my meeting signing the forms for benefits I hope I never need. Cancer policies and accident coverage. Disability. Medical coverage and preventative measures. Sign here, here and here and you'll be covered if the unthinkable surfaces. Allegedly.

I tucked the forms into my purse and walked back down the hallways. Those I had seen before were on their way elsewhere and new people occupied the chairs. I prayed that peace would envelop that place and that I would never miss or take for granted the magic of an ordinary day.

Monday, October 17, 2011

My Real Life Mondays - Philosophy

People always ask me my favorite products. I have no idea why. I've never, ever had anywhere near perfect skin and at this point doubt I ever will. But, I gather inspiration where it can be found, and for me that's on the bottles of all things Philosophy.

My favorite company in all the world is Philosophy. Any cabinet in my bathroom is filled to the brim with their wonderful products with divine inspiration stamped on every bottle. A friend stayed in my guest room recently and spent at least an hour in the shower. "Sorry friend. I was reading all your cool bottles. I love that company!" Me too.
Perfect titles and an oil free make up remover that WORKS. What a concept.
This is what I'm scraping off my face before church these days. My all time favorite lip gloss.
When hope is not enough - enough said. I just love having this on my bathroom counter.
My favorite eye cream. Ever.
And this, I own the whole collection.
Inner Grace.
I don't just want to smell like it - I want to live it.

My real life-on a Monday.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Roaches, Snakes and Silver Linings

When I first moved to the south, I had no idea that bugs had evolved at a faster rate here. I settled into a cute, little (old) duplex with a roommate from work who was already from Georgia. One Friday night I was home alone moving in my things, minding my own business when a roach the size of a mouse came waltzing across the kitchen tile. (Side note: you do not have to be nasty to have roaches here, you just have to, well, be here).

I froze as my heart stopped. Racing through my mind came whattodowhattodowhattodo? I followed it around for a good 10 minutes. Having just left a charismatic church, I willed it to die. In Jesus' name. It didn't work. I reached for my phone, but didn't know many people yet. Finally I called my new roommate borderline hysterical who came to my rescue.

She found me in the living room following (at a safe distance) this somewhat smaller than a mouse now roach. "I don't know what to do!"

She walked toward it confidently and in one motion - stepped on it. Crunch. As she went to get one tissue to clean up the remains (ewwww!) she said, "Huh. That's interesting."

I was afraid to ask. "What's interesting?"

"Oh, nothing. It's just the ones that look like that usually fly."


I died on the spot.

And thought I would never recover or adjust to this treacherous new landscape.

But, 9 years and roughly 65,321,528,211 larger than life bugs later - I'm a semi pro. Just a few weeks ago I had to put a snake out of my misery when he threatened to get close to one of my dogs.

And, as I was tossing his remains into the woods behind my house I thought, "Huh. Too bad I don't have time or proper tools. He would make the coolest high heels!!"

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Yes, but, is it helping?

It's been about a year now since I've made a more concentrated effort to bring calm to my life. Stress was just about to kill me and my body was showing signs of fighting back. My doctor wisely said, "You're not at the breaking point yet, but you're dangerously close."

Knowing I had to do something, I fell headlong into a yoga practice more out of desperation than anything else. I returned to the basics of faith and embraced prayer and meditation like it was my job. I hired a private yoga teacher, began chiropractic care and massage therapy. I replaced much of the caffeine I consume with decaf tea. And I learned to breathe again.

I simplified my home and my life.

I said "no". . . . . a lot.

I cancelled my gym membership and returned to the joy of walking and jogging and breathing fresh air.

And even though I felt better, it's hard to measure things like that.

The yoga, the quiet, the prayer, the Scripture, the meditation, the candles, the simplifying. . . . . was it helping?

Twice lately, once last week and once this morning, I've gotten some unsettling news. Nothing to worry about yet, but that never stopped me before. Situational things that are out of my control, but that's also never stopped me. The first thing I noticed both times was, involuntarily, I took a deep breath and immediately felt centered. I prayed. I trusted. I did not freak out.

I surprise myself sometimes.

Have I mastered the art of balance? Not hardly.

Have I learned to trust the Lord to the extent that my actions and reactions are exactly his? Uh, no. For sure not.

But, as one who lives for progress I can say, yes, it's helping.

And I'm thankful for that.

Monday, October 10, 2011

My Real Life Mondays-Soup

So, if my refrigerator picture yesterday is any indication, I don't cook. Except that I do. I just don't do every day cooking. I love recipes that have 100 ingredients and take hours to make. I find the preparation of complicated food very therapeutic. So, while you're more likely to see me eating take out salads, I also love to cook. And here's the proof!

Rule #1 - I only cook with pretty food.
Rule #2: Cracked mustard seeds in olive oil make all recipes better
Rule #3: The anemic among us put spinach in everything. No, really.
Like comfort in a boiling pot of perfectly seasoned water! It's almost spiritual.

My real life. . . . on a Monday.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Introducing My Real Life Mondays

I was having this discussion with one of my friends over dinner the other night.

J: I like your blog, but it's not personal enough.

Me: Are you kidding?

J: No, I mean it IS, it just isn't. (Gotta love these conversations!)

Me: Okay, not personal enough, how?

J: Like, you don't post enough pictures of your real life.

Me: Okay, I don't post a lot of pictures. You're right. What would you like pictures of?

J: Fun stuff. You're fun. Like, what's in your refrigerator.

Me: Seriously? Who cares about that?

J: No! It's Fun! Be more fun!

Me: Okay!

So, thanks to my lovely friend J, you are warmly invited to a weekly blog post called My Real Life Mondays. Starting this Monday I'll pick a part of my *real* life to tell you about, show you, and introduce you to some of my favorite things along the way.

And, in case now curiosity has gotten the best of you. . . . .

Here's my refrigerator.

My ongoing obsession with IZZE, V8 Juice, other juice, Water, carbonated water, Almond Milk, mandarin oranges and cheese. I would always LOVE for that guy to come to my house who thinks he can make a meal out of any refrigerator. Good luck with that!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Not Today

As a chronic over-thinker, I'll wear myself out, all by myself, if I'll let me. I'm hoping the next translation of the Bible eliminates all verses about worry and anxiety. It makes me feel unspiritual to be drowning and then quickly recover enough to say nonchalantly (think Steel Magnolias), "Oh, me? I'm just a tiny bit concerned about that." PLEASE.

I heard a pastor the other day say, "Jesus never worried." Now, I can't say for sure because I wasn't there, but I'm thinking sweating drops of BLOOD may rank kinda high on the concerned scale! I'm just sayin.


Occasionally, I just have to give myself a break by giving my brain permission to slow down.

The mirror in my bathroom is 12 feet wide by 6 feet high. When I built my home I picked it out thinking it would be a great place to write notes. And I do. All the time.

So, this morning, in Merle Norman Sweet Marmalade lip pencil plus, I wrote in big letters NOT TODAY. I stood back and thought, Good!

Things I can't fix? Not today!

Things I can't change? Not today!

Things I wish would happen. Things I pray never will. Things I can't get over. And the things I probably shouldn't have yet. Worries about tomorrow, yesterday, and today. Anxiety about what has been, what is, and what maybe will be.

All of it will still be there for me to be concerned about another time.

But, not today.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Window on Depression

I don't write extensively on here about depression. It's something I deal with and occasionally overcome, but it doesn't define my existence. And it certainly isn't my intention to be some self appointed poster child for a disease I'm constantly trying to unravel.

But, lately I've had some great, although heart wrenching, back channel conversations with people. It's complicated and I'm not pretending I know what everyone goes through, but these are the things I find helpful to remember.

1. It's harder than it looks to act happy. A lot of the time - much harder.

2. No matter how much support you have, you always feel somewhat alone.

3. It's exhausting chasing the light.

4. Tidal waves can't always be predicted.

5. Any chronic disease is discouraging a lot of the time.

6. If you do, great, but you probably don't have the solution.

7. God IS the answer. Not necessarily helpful when people mention it as a cure.

8. Depression is NOT a sin. It's a symptom.

9. There are absolutely things people can do/not do to help with depression. And there's a lot to it that feels like being blindsided. Balancing both realistically is important.

10. The opposite of depression is not constant joy. Sometimes it's just being okay. And that's okay.

And not just regarding depression:

Be willing to give grace to those in your life who may be dealing with more than you realize. Sometimes actions and reactions surface from a place of just trying to survive. The greatest gift you can give someone else is to be there unconditionally. Hope is always there. It's just sometimes hard to find.

Books I Love

Leaving Church by Barbara Taylor Brown is easily one of my favorite books of the year, and quite possibly of all time. I always appreciate an honest memoir of genuine faith. I especially appreciated it at this time in my life. Beautifully written. I found God alive and well on every page. A great read.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

That's not incense

Christmas Eve will be the anniversary of my somewhat unintentional transition to the liturgical church tradition. I was thinking I could pull off the whole "I'm new so I don't know" act at least til then. Apparently not.

Last Wednesday a brand new person came in and, although there were at least 100 open spaces, sat down right next to me. Considering myself now a part of that church, I thought it might be rude to not welcome her along with the huge banner in the foyer. This church welcomes you+I'm in this church=I have to welcome you. So I did.

Smile. "Hey." (I live in South Georgia. Hey is a perfectly acceptable greeting in church or elsewhere).

She took this as an invitation and said, "ThisismyfirsttimehereI'veneverbeentoachurchlikethisandI'mnotsurewhattodomindifIsithere?" No breath. No kidding.

"No, of course not. Please, sit." I handed her my bulletin and bookmarked the readings for her.

When the service was over I expected her to have lots of questions or be completely overwhelmed. All she said was, "I love these kinds of churches! Where do they hide the incense? I didn't even see it but it smells so good! It's heavenly!"

I hated to have to tell her, but I did.

That's not incense.

That's furniture polish.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Brennen Manning-All is Grace

“For Ragamuffins, God's name is Mercy. We see our darkness as a prized possession because it drives us into the heart of God. Without mercy our darkness would plunge us into despair - for some, self-destruction. Time alone with God reveals the unfathomable depths of the poverty of the spirit. We are so poor that even our poverty is not our own: It belongs to the mysterium tremendum of a loving God.” -Brennen Manning

I don't keep a lot of books. The odds of finishing my reading list in a normal lifetime isn't even probable. If I'm reading a book you want, as soon as I'm done you can have it. No, really, you can. In recent years I've downsized my library from over 1000 books to less than 25.

I make a few exceptions. There's a shelf in my office of books you can't have. Although I can't be sure, it's quite possible I couldn't survive in their absence. They're books that have outlined my existence, saved my earthly life, and became better companions than most.

Henri Nouwen's The Return of the Prodigal Son, The Life of the Beloved, and Can you Drink the Cup?

Robert Benson's Between the Dreaming and the Coming True, Living Prayer, The Body Broken and In Constant Prayer.

And Brennen Manning. Abba's Child, The Furious Longing of God, The Ragamuffin Gospel, and The Wisdom of Tenderness.

Added to my shelf this morning is Manning's soon to be released memoirs, All is Grace. Anticipated to be his final work, it is the crowning glory of a life openly embracing the God he loves. Not a perfect life. Not a life cleaned up and offered with the expectation that more people will run to God if we make Him more attractive. He found God from the place he was standing, and God accepted and led him from that moment on. His story is a symphony of grace.

It was Manning who first brought to my awareness that my soul has a voice longing to be heard. It was in his words I found the freedom to sit with darkness and still trust the Light. On pages he penned, I found the love of a Father. The same God, great Creator and Ruler of the universe, calls this sinner, "Beloved." He invites me, welcomes me, to come to Him. Not when I get it all together. Not when I'm worthy. Now. And to keep bringing this mess of an existence to His heart, over, and over, and over again until my faith is made sight.

All is Grace Indeed.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

And What if They Don't

I think dreaming is risky and settling in is boring. It's a problem. I can't hope for too much without being afraid none of it will come true. And being without a challenge bores me to tears. I would sum up my life so far as constant frustration mixed with just enough bright rays of clarity and balance to survive.

Last year one of the few people who speak absolute truth into my life asked me a simple question. "If you could do anything with the days you are given what would it be?"

Fear gripped my soul. Say it out loud? Isn't that like announcing your wish post blowing out the candles?

And, as it happened, I couldn't tell her that day without a full blown panic attack. But, a few months later, I did. I can't tell you how freeing it was to put words to my dreams. Scary? Yes. Immediately I found the most terrifying part to be the possibility they wouldn't come true. Then what? Someone else would know! I wouldn't go to my grave thinking, "So glad I never said that!"

After, I said, (Because I'm SO spiritual), "And I swear if God doesn't have similar plans I'm going to throw a ROYAL FIT!" I wish I was kidding.

I was thinking about dreams yesterday. The ones that come true. The ones that don't. The ones that leave too quickly. And the ones we're so thankful never came to be. It's a scary ledge to dream big dreams.

I remember building my house several years ago and refusing to get involved in the process. I went there when I had to, checking on electrical outlet locations and other things. I picked out door handles and cabinets. I went through the motions without a lot of heart. Somewhere I feared that it would never be mine. Self preservation prevents hurt in my mind.

The day they handed me the keys, I sat in the middle of the living floor and wept. My dream of building and owning a home did come true, but I had missed the experience. I didn't marvel at the construction or count down the days. I was present for the process, but only to the point I wouldn't be disappointed.

Last night I prayed, "God. What if my dreams do come true?"
-Then you'll be ready.

"And. And. And what if they......don't?"
-Then you'll remember the joy is finding Me in the journey.

Not all who wander are lost.
J. R. R. Tolkien

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


Ring the bells that still can ring.
Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack in everything.
That's how the light gets in.
-Leonard Cohen

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Going to Heaven?? Planning on it.

For by grace you have been saved through faith;
and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God,
not as a result of works so that no one may boast.

Eph. 2:8-9

Yesterday we were watching a sermon by David Platt, the author of the popular book Radical, at work. I think he has great points about a lot of things and covers most topics in ways that are challenging and Biblical. His message about eternity made me nuts.

I agreed with him that salvation is more than "repeating this prayer" signing this card and accepting a get out of Hell free card. I agree that perhaps not everyone who proclaims right relationship with the Almighty is correct. I don't agree with his mindset that we can't know for sure we're going to Heaven.

He mentioned that it keeps him up at night worrying that the people he ministers to don't really know God. He's worried that if he's not careful he will stand before the judgement seat of Christ and hear, "I never knew you." He mentioned that those following God should display works of God and bear fruit. True. But, his message tilted dangerously close to putting salvation back in my court. And that's not good news.

I'll never believe in a God who expects His children to live in fear and anxiety. (Do not fear/be anxious for nothing zips through my mind). God refers to us as his children. Loved. Forgiven. Accepted. We do make a choice to choose Him. We accept his plan of redemption and we fall on his grace and mercy. And then, I have to believe, for my own sanity, we can know where we stand with him. What parent wants their child growing up saying, "You say I'm yours, but I'm just not sure."

I'm not of the mindset that threatening people with Hell will make them come running to the Father. God is everything to me. The rest of all of my life revolves around my decision to be His. That's not to say I've "arrived" spiritually. The fact that we're always changing things so this life better reflects Him is proof that the relationship lives.

I can't live with anxiety that Heaven is not for me. I can't live in fear that I'll get there and He won't recognize me. I've accepted His gift of salvation. I've aligned my life with his. At the end of the day, I'm a human being with an eternal soul. God does not fall off his throne when I fail.

And I'm planning on going to Heaven.

It was love that drew me to Him. . . . .

and love that leads me Home.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Closing the Book on Reviews

Yesterday, after almost three years of continuous reading, I cancelled all contracts to review books for publishers. It was not an easy decision. I have loved reading books for the purpose of sharing with others how remarkable they are. I've found authors I never would have discovered if not for reviews. It's been joy.

But, over the last month, the pile of books not to review has grown to epic proportions. Books I want to read. Books I need to read. I have found myself reading something I don't want to while looking longingly at a stack of Yoga Journal magazines wishing I could flip through those haphazardly instead.

So, yesterday I sent out gracious letters thanking companies that trusted my opinion. It made me sad to hit send, but I knew it was the right decision. I will still review a small handful of books that I feel are important, but definitely not 2-3 per week.

I want to review books when I get nothing in return. Books I love. Books that have changed my life. And not always books that I'm reading just because I promised to. It's been a remarkable journey and if anyone gives you the opportunity to review writing-do it.

Thank you to the publishers who believed in me to pass on the messages of those they represent. I am better for it.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

God in the broken places

A friend called me early yesterday morning and started sobbing before I finished saying, "hello." My heart broke.

"Bren? Where is this?"

I swallowed the urge to start rapid fire shooting Bible verses at her even though several came to mind. Cliches make me crazy. Christian cliches make me homicidal.

I didn't say anything, letting her weep for several minutes. When the storm had subsided, I said gently, "There's a purpose for the breaking."

"Bren. Promise me if I hold on long enough He'll put all the pieces back together again."

I wish I could have. I'd like to have that hope about some things myself.

I used to pray that God would fix everything with some magic spiritual superglue. I used to pray that He would shield me from being broken in the first place.

In recent years, my prayers have changed. I find myself often times quite literally on my knees praying, "Don't leave me alone in the broken places. Help me not to miss your plan for this moment in time. Be as real to me in the darkness as You have been in the light."


Night Night Blessings-A Book Review

Amy Parker writes great books for children and this one is no exception. The words are simple and the prayers sincere. The illustrations are super cute. This one has an audience of very young children who need books read to them. Gentle reminders of God's love, sweet prayers and beautiful pictures. Get it for the kids in your life.

*For Thomas Nelson

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Ascent From Darkness-A Book Review

I appreciate spiritual journeys. I respect a great testimony. And I'll never stop being amazed at God's ability to take someone from darkness to light. His redemptive plan is freedom.

Ascent from Darkness tells the true story of Michael Leehan as he falls into Satanism and returns redeemed by God's great grace. It's a truly remarkable testimony.

The writing is good and the people believable. The story is fast paced covering several decades.

And I'm going to have to say I don't recommend it. The darkness is so dark. The stories so vivid. The animal sacrifices are heartbreaking and the fear palpable. I know that Satan is alive and well on planet earth and spiritual warfare is real, but personally I don't want to read about it.

It would appeal to a limited audience at best. I am grateful for his freedom from darkness into God's glorious light. A miracle indeed.

*For Thomas Nelson

Close Enough to Hear God Breathe-A Book Review

"You're my child, my love, my pleasure."

I'll have to admit, I get a little weirded out when people talk about the Almighty like they're dating him. I get easily frustrated with those who ride on the emotion of spiritual highs and lows. And I think it's flat dangerous to base an entire relationship with God on feelings at any given moment. I have, at times, been all over the place spiritually and it has renewed my commitment to take God at His Word. Period.

Close Enough to Hear God Breathe by Greg Paul offers a unique balance of both fact and feelings. It reminded me in the hard times to listen for his sweet voice of peace, "I love you." And it was a gentle reminder in the disobedient times to hear him whisper, "I love you too much for this." An overall feeling that God is with us illuminates every page.

Quite possibly there's a place for both great love and a mighty reverence in the spiritual existence.

*For Thomas Nelson

Sunday, September 11, 2011

More Lost Than Found - A Book Review

It may be just that I find the topic of particular interest, but I love to converse with people who have left the faith/church and are or are not returning. I love to know why, what happened, and what's still drawing them even after being deeply wounded.

Jared Herd's book More Lost Than Found provides a companion on the unsteady ground of a faith journey. I respect his honesty and appreciate that not all of the questions he presents have easy answers.

A few of my favorite parts:

"Paul was willing to let things be ambiguous and undefined, to let the Good News shape people where they were instead of indoctrinating them in a cultural framework that made no sense."

"Because the journey began two thousand years ago wasn't to become more sacred. It was to walk closer to what is true."

"He doesn't force us to paint over the mess either. He allows things to be ugly. He doesn't work around reality-he works with it."

"The spiritual quest begins when we assume something we can't see is more real than what we can."

"Jesus, who died a horrible death himself, didn't deal in pithy comments and trite explanations that skirted gritty reality. He faced them; and sometimes he did nothing. He just let it hurt."

Amen to that.

It's easy to read with a nonjudgemental tone. I want to put it into the hands of everyone I've talked to lately who has said in one way or another, "Church hurts too much. I'm never going back."

*For Thomas Nelson

Friday, September 9, 2011

There You'll Find Me - A Book Review

I'm not too ashamed to say I begged, borrowed, and almost stole to get my hands on this book early. I'm also not too proud to say, it's teen fiction. Could have fooled me-I loved it!

The common denominator of the human experience is that we're all searching for something. I loved following Finley (great name) through this book as a foreign exchange student in Ireland on her quest for answers. With her deceased brother's journal in hand, she's looking for concrete things and also evidence that God still cares.

Surprisingly enjoyable, she unwillingly becomes involved with a superstar from vampire movies who fills the void and offers the help she needs.

When life gets out of control, Finley takes desperate actions and discovers that the best way to look up is when everything else has come crumbling down.

I loved it.

*For Thomas Nelson

Waking Hours - A Book Review

The latest book by Lis Wiehl releases October 4th as part of the East Salem Trilogy. I love her writing and find stories where the line between crime and the super natural gets blurred. Solving the murder of a girl is made especially difficult when all the suspects are teenagers. With help from a former football star longing to be a PI, the mystery is figured out just in time for another one and inevitable relationships are just beginning as the book ends. It's page turning at the finest level and right on track with her previous novels.

*For Thomas Nelson

Great Book Titles

Probably my favorite book title of all time.
A close second.
And the book I can't WAIT to read. Releasing October 4th!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Heartache via the church and her people

I wasn't going to go to church last night. I love my church, but I'm over the top irritated with all things Christian lately. I'm frustrated with some friendships. I'm annoyed that people have not turned out to be who trusted them to be. I'm tired of people wanting me to drop everything when they have a bad day, but can't be supportive for five minutes when I really need them. I'm tired of people putting denominational differences ahead of someone's heart. And I'm sad.

To be fair, I think church life is extra hard for single, divorced, separated, alone people. Just by social infrastructure, we don't fit. Thankfully, I've come to terms with worshiping alone after several years of resenting it. I almost, sometimes, prefer it. I can just be with God and not distracted. I certainly don't miss people elbowing me during parts of the sermon!

It's amazing how easy it is to get hurt in a church setting, and how unbelievably painful. Equally disturbing, how long it takes to recover. And once you've been hurt, it seems simple things get instantly multiplied way out of proportion. Once those you've trusted to hold your spirituality hurt you, it seems likely everyone will. Once harsh words are spoken within sacred walls, it seems hurt is lurking around every corner.

Humanity is fragile. The church is not immune.

So, in a brief moment of faith and maturity, I went to church last night. My current issue is not with those people. It's not their fault. I don't even really know most of them. But, they represent the church to me and I wanted to be away. I knew if and before I made my way to the alter I would have to forgive. Again.

Kneeling at the alter, I remembered life's a risk and church is not an exception. I forgave intentional and unintentional hurt. And as I heard these words. . . . .

Eternal God, heavenly Father,
You have graciously accepted us as living members
of Your Son our Savior Jesus Christ,
and You have fed us with spiritual food
in the Sacrament of His Body and Blood.
Send us now into the world in peace,
and grant us strength and courage
to love and serve You
with gladness and singleness of heart;
through Christ our Lord. Amen

And I forgave myself, too.

Hermie A Common Caterpillar - A Book Review

Max Lucado has released his Hermie and Friends book again for starting readers. Cute as ever, Hermie goes on a journey feeling very ordinary when God made him special. He finds friends along the way who seem to have special gifts when he seemingly has none. Falling into a deep sleep, he transforms into a beautiful butterfly. Repetition is good for new readers. The story is enjoyable, the characters are likable, and the artwork is beautiful. I hope Thomas Nelson also updates the rest of the series in a similar format.

*For Thomas Nelson

Gabby, God's Little Angel-A Book Review

Sheila Walsh returns to children's stories with Gabby, God's Little Angel. It's a delightful story of a guardian angel who leans towards trouble sent to help a human just the same. The artwork is precious. I have to say the prayer she prays is one God would probably like to hear more from me (except I don't have a pony!).

"Dear God, thank You so much for sending Your angel to help me stay on my pony today. I'll try not to be so much trouble tomorrow. I'm so glad You love me. Amen"


*For Thomas Nelson

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

I Just Do What My Row Is Doing

I know God has a killer sense of humor. I could list on here the zillion times He's shown up in ways that are profound, faithful, amazing....and humorous. It might be my favorite God quality. When it isn't-it isn't-but a whole lot of the time I think life is funny. We're human. We're flawed. We mess up. For whatever weird reason, I think spiritual stuff is extra funny

I was recounting this story to a friend of mine last night who said to me today, "Bren. You have to blog that. I was still laughing when I went to bed." So, here goes.

I'm getting WAY more comfortable in a liturgical church setting. I get it. I know what to say. I know when to say it. I'm getting to where I even kind of know what's next and whether it's in the Book of Common Prayer, the Service Book, the Hymnal, the bulletin, or the music book especially for the 1130 service. I swear whoever planned this church was ORGANIZED! Ha. So, anyway, now that I know where to find what and when-I'm starting to get the whole rhythm of the liturgical church......and I love it.

Enter Wednesday night several months ago. I'd never been to that service before. I went straight from work. I was talking to a friend on the phone while walking in (not paying attention) so I followed the people in front of me right into the overflow sanctuary. Quite frankly-I didn't know there WAS an overflow sanctuary. So, that's where I ended up-in a row with a bunch of random people which was fine but I got off the phone and thought, "Where am I?"

By then the service started and this room is kind of to the right of the front so you can see-but you can't. Anyway, when my friends ask about stuff at church I just tell them, "I don't know. I just do what my row is doing." :) It's the truth. So, I was paying attention, but this guy walked in and started doing something on his phone and I started thinking about what kind of phone it was and all the sudden my entire row (and a bunch of other people) stand up and start walking to the front. My thought? It's too early for communion and I don't remember seeing that whole set up, but again, I couldn't really see.

So, I either had to go with them or a bunch of people were going to have to crawl over me. I promise you not so long ago I was a "keep up appearances" at church kinda person. Apparently not anymore. So, I'm in the middle of all these people walking to the front when it occurs to me that...

A. I don't know what we're doing and

B. everyone isn't going.

It was too late. What to do, what to do? "Um, Lord?" Total peace. Okay! (Good thing the peace arrived because my other options were none!)

Everyone kneels at the alter. It's a lot of people. I'm somewhere in the middle. I wanted so much to worry, but I just couldn't. No one was looking at me anyway and I honestly just didn't care. I realize by now on Wednesdays they offer a time of "Special prayers for those in need." As long as it's "In general" I definitely qualified! (and thank goodness it wasn't "Confess your biggest sin in this line" Wednesday! I have GOT to pay more attention!).

In spite of myself, my vision tunneled on God showing up in this moment. Sweet indescribable peace. Literally drowning in grace and mercy in that moment. The whole world faded away. The priest comes to me, in the middle, FIRST (Um, why??? I'm in the middle!). He prayed the most beautiful prayer over this life. I can't remember any of it, but I feel like I've lived it out the rest of the week. I know it wasn't a magical prayer, but it was a fairly eternal moment.

I'm not one who gets all wrapped up in experience, but the bottom line is the peace at that alter now several months later-hasn't left. It's weird. And it's wonderful. And I'm so thankful. More than I realized, I must have needed that special God touch. That gentle reminder, "I'm here. I care."

And I had to laugh to myself last Wednesday when a lady sat down next to me and said, "Mind if I just do what you do?"

Not at all :)

Right From the Heart - A Book Review

I have a love/hate relationship with Daily Devotionals. For me they tend to be too much or all fluff. I was pleasantly surprised by Right From the Heart by Bryant Wright. The verse for the day is short and relevant enough to carry with me. The devotional itself is one page, concise, interesting and helpful. Conveniently sized at about 7x5 it's a go anywhere book. I love a hardcover devotional because it usually gets torn up by the end of a year. My only complaint is it really needs a ribbon bookmark. All daily use books should come standard with a bookmark in my opinion. Otherwise, I love it. I've already chosen it as my morning devotional to start again this January and read all year. It's a great book and would make a wonderful gift.

*For Thomas Nelson