Saturday, December 8, 2012

Questions and answers

I have a lot of questions a lot of the time.  I love to hear people's stories and I like to learn from their mistakes.  I don't really care as much what you believe as how God shows up in your life.  I don't need you to quote me a scripture about God being faithful - just tell me about the times He's been faithful to you.  I can usually take it from there.

Thankfully God has graciously surrounded this life with people who enjoy (or at least act like they do!) lively conversations, a good debate, and late night chats.  They're people I want to (and sometimes do!) crawl up next to and say, "Tell me about Jesus."  And graciously - they do.  Over and over and over again we share stories of His presence, His peace and we find encouragement by being at His feet - together.

People always say, "When I get to Heaven I'm going to ask God......."  You fill in the blank.  We want to know why someone died, why someone lived, how God could allow the worst thing possible, and how He could seemingly look away when life was unfair.  How can He love us and still let us stumble and fall and hurt so deeply?  We shake our fists to Heaven and cry, "Where were you?"  And sometimes the deafening silence from Heaven is unbearably heartbreaking.  

Such is a life of faith.  To struggle with the questions and embrace the idea that there may be no answers.  Not here.  And maybe not There either.  To wrestle with the unknown and believe anyway.

To my knowledge I've never spent 90 minutes or 20 seconds or even a millisecond in Heaven.  Once I get there, I plan on staying.  But, sometimes when I need to know God is especially close; when my questions have drowned out the voice of the Answer and I feel alone in my wonderings; when I need to know God is still here - still at work - and still for the sinner, I play this little scenario out in my head.

I imagine myself walking through Heaven's door and kneeling before the One who has mattered more than anyone, anything.  I find the courage to look into His caring eyes and I find them to be smiling.  I say nothing because - I can't.  His loving face turns gently to the side as he asks, "What is it child?"

I think as hard as I can, but my mind is blank.  I look up at Him and say, "I thought there was something I was going to ask you.  It was really, really important to me just five minutes ago.  But, now?  Now I can't remember."

And in that moment I know for sure.  The questions are important.  They matter especially to the Earth bound sinner.  But one day they'll all be swallowed up and completely lose their power by the One who lovingly calls me to remember that He is the Answer.  Yesterday.  Today.  Forever.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Giving up Christmas for Advent

I'm still relatively new to the liturgical tradition.  I've only been in the Episcopal church almost two years.  I've experienced Lent twice, Advent and Christmas once, my own Confirmation and a host of other church traditions.  I love all of it.  Rest assured, I'm not drawn into the church by the glitz and glamour or the smells and bells if you will.  I understand it isn't all wonderful.  Nothing in this world makes me crazier or happier than the church.

Advent is my happy place.  Truth be told, I'm horrible at waiting, but through some long dark nights and seasons of the soul, I've learned to wait better.  I'm committed to Christ and most days I'm determined to see this journey to the end.  One time in a moment of extreme spiritual maturity I screamed.  Out loud.  "I'm NOT waiting ANYMORE!"  As clear as anything I've ever heard God said, "You can kick and you can scream or you can wait well, but you're going to wait."


I throw a holy fit semi regularly, but the great thing about God being the most important part of this life is the moment when I've worn myself completely out.  And I collapse on my bed and say, "Okay.  I'll do it your way.  I'll wait when it's hard.  I'll trust you when the nights are long.  And I'll love you all the way."  And I actually mean it.  Then I go to sleep because I'm pretty sure God needs a break from me as much as I do.

There's never a season spiritually that we aren't waiting for something.  Something to change.  Something to happen.  Something to stop happening.  Waiting on the world to change or at least our corner of it is exhausting.

But there's comfort and growth in the times when the calendar is missing and the clock seems stuck at never going to happen.

And if I really, really listen carefully, I always hear the whisper of Emmanuel in this season as he speaks to this heart....."I'm waiting with you."

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


No surprise to anyone that knows me or has read my new book that my favorite place in all the world is the monastery.  Monastic ground is sacred space to this life.  Occasionally my soul feels spiritually disconnected, my heart feels fragile, and my mind feels tired.  So, I go to the monastery.  The last few days was my first trip back post book publishing and I wondered if it would still be sacred.  Would it still hold the wonder?  Now that I've researched their practices and documented their lives, would I still feel wonderfully invisible in the choir stalls?

Thankfully, I did.  I quickly melded into the community I have come to honor and admire.  I closed my eyes and listed as sung vespers washed over my soul.  Confusion lessened.  Stress released.  The bells were calling me to a future and hope.  They were calling me.......Home.  Maybe not today.  But someday.

Speaking of someday, I spent several hours this trip in the Honeycreek Woodlands at their natural burial grounds.  I'm sorta dark when it comes to death.  I like to talk about it.  All of it.  I like to discuss when, where, how, why, and what happens.  In case you don't believe me, one of my most favorite books is this.  No really, it is.

I visited the eco-friendly sites both natural and cremated remains.  I talked to the groundskeepers who had fabulous stories and opinions on all things death and burial.  The grounds are beautiful.  The atmosphere reverent.  I'm not "green" per say, but eco-friendly burial makes a lot of sense to me and I'm not done researching it.  Of course, I'm also under the impression that once we're gone from here it won't really make a difference.  At all.

I returned to the monastery in time to sit in my stall for Compline.  Directly across from me was the oldest monk at that monastery.  101 years old.  Crouched over the prayer book in front of him, he bowed in all the right places.  He knew all the words.  Allegedly he'll meet his final resting place before I will.  He'll probably meet his Maker before I see Him face to face.  And in that moment I was grateful that we live in community together and we'll spend eternity together as well.  One God.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Church Disposable

Even though I promised myself I wouldn't.  Even though every time I couldn't get the wording right or the pages right or my thoughts in any kind of order I said I'd never write another book.  I am.  Two of them.  Funny how God uses that multiplies principle at inconvenient times.  I told myself I'd maybe write another book when I finished grad school.  I'm not at all finished with school and yet I find myself opening a new file on my computer and writing Chapter 1.  Happy sigh.  I'm finding that one becomes a writer because one can't not write.  Don't like double negatives?  Too bad :)

My next book will be about the church, about this generation and the one behind me, and why church cannot possibly continue as it has been.  I've always had a love hurt relationship with church the building and church the people.  And I'm not going to lie - being a single 32 year old woman makes it hard to fit into any church setting.  I adore the people I worship with currently, but I still don't exactly fit there.  I don't really fit anywhere.  And in great moments of faith I consider that a spiritual blessing because it throws me into the arms of the Almighty just about all the time.  But sometimes, if I'm really honest, I wish the church could be everywhere.  And why can't it be?

I'm planning to figure that out in the months to come.

And the journey continues......

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

What I'm reading

People always ask me what I'm reading.  I used to read a LOT more, but since I've embarked on a grad school quest, I'm trapped into reading things I care nothing about most of the time.  Ahem.  Anyway, I'm still reading about a book a week or so of my own choosing.  You should know I'll read just about anything, especially if someone says it's controversial.  I actually don't believe in hating a book without reading it.  And I believe we can read something we completely disagree without falling off the alleged deep end.  These are the books I'm reading currently.  Most I've read before and going back to reread for various reasons.  
 I love Ed Dobson.  He's living/dying with ALS right now and that gives him an amazing perspective on a lot of things.  He's friendly and The Year of Living Like Jesus is a great read.  I love his discovery that the rosary actually isn't just about praying to Mary.  I love his conversations with Rabbis and Catholic Priests.  It's a great book.
 I'm doing some research on death for an upcoming project right now so I've headed back into my bookcase to reread this one.  This book is a dance between a woman who's dying and the man who loves her.  It's biographical and a beautiful memoir that will leave you longing for Heaven.
 I'm also rereading this memoir.  I love this book.  It's long and drawn out, but I have great respect for anyone who tries to do anything to get closer to God.  It's an incredible journey and you'll be glad he let you come along.
 Ooooooo!  Controversy!  My favorite.  Someone told me not to read this book - so it's next on my list :)
 Sophy Burnham is one of my very favorite authors.  Her books are beautiful and welcoming.  Eloquently written, don't stop with this one.  Read her other books too.
I pretty much hate history, but I make myself read books about history because it's good for me.  I suppose.  I actually do love Arlington Cemetery so I'm looking forward to this one. 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Grace with free refills

Though I do love the mysterious element of serving an invisible God, occasionally I would prefer He come over for coffee, explain what was what is and what is to come, and leave before I get so convicted of my unworthiness that I die on the spot in an undeserving heap. 

I love the physical presence of Christ.  And even though we're on this side of actually touching the scars on his hands, I have to believe he's here.  It's why I love the Eucharist when the liurgy invites the presence of Christ to appear\.  And it's why I love prayer.  For those few minutes we're sharing the same space and the distance between Heaven and Earth disappears.

It's no surprise to anyone at this point that coffee is my love language.  Yeah, sure, I'm addicted to the large amounts of caffeine I mix into blonde roasts and lattes every day.  And I do feel more secure in an unsettled world that even if my Starbucks blows away, I have the Verismo at my house and I will survive.  But, it's more than the cream and Truvia blending my happiness into a cup of happiness.  It's the experience. 

Coffee with friends invites us to linger.  To discuss.  To not know what time it is.  To not be in such a hurry to get to the next thing that we miss this thing.  And God invites us to the very same thing.  To not just say our prayers to move on.  To not complete a spiritual checklist. To not just ask God for what we need or want, but, to linger. 

If I'm honest, I get so wrapped up in my own little world that if I'm not very intentional, I'll forget God.  I'll leave Him out of the big decisions and the little details.  I'll forget to listen for His heartbeat in every situation and I won't let Him lead this life.  Oh, sure, I'll pray, but I won't linger.  I won't stay with His presence long enough to make a difference.  In me.  And I won't let the lifegiving presence of Christ change me.

Sometimes I need a literal reminder.  So, this morning I sat my favorite coffee mug on the counter and prayed, "God.  I invite you into this life for coffee.  For a lifelong conversation that never ends.  I invite you to linger.  Stay when I want to hide.  Stay until the parts of me that look nothing like you disappear.  And give me grace.  With free refills."

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The winds of change

In retrospect, it may have been too much.  Working two full time jobs (for the last 10 years!), taking two grad school classes (one of them Statistics - yuck!), putting out a book, and having some semblance of a life all in the same 10 weeks.  It was heavy.  It was an invitation to blow things out of proportion and not be able to think clearly.  At all. 

And I found myself at the beach one day a few months ago holding this shell and thinking, "This is the heaviest thing I've carried today."  I suppose I meant that literally, but I also meant that emotionally, spiritually, humanly.  It felt so light in my hand, so effortless, so important. 

I believe God will let us go and go and go as long as we are willing or until we can't anymore.  He'll let us stay in the wrong place for the wrong reasons until we finally hear His sweet whisper saying, "Let go."  And it's a scary thing.  What if what changes is uncomfortable?  What if I don't like the changes?  What if??

And yet, the soul seems somewhat immune to fear and if you ignore it long enough, it's voice grows louder and it's call becomes clearer.  God leans in and before you can think to not listen, you hear Him say, "Stop crowding me out."  And you realize in that moment that you want nothing more than to make that space, that time.  And it feels more than right - it feels free.

So, recently I've put down some of the things I've been carrying for a long time.  I'm down to one full time job.  I'm making room for my writing.  I'm finally finishing grad school soon to get my master's in Psychology.  And I'm reconnecting with friends.  I can spend hours at lunch now if I want to or join them for a walk in the evening to talk about what God is up to or discuss plans or struggles.

For the first time in over a decade, I don't always have to know what time it is.  I don't have to be somewhere after somewhere before I have to be somewhere else.  I can just be sometimes.  I can get lost in a book.  I can take a nap.  I can finish my schoolwork without getting up before I go to bed.

And I can get completely lost in a yoga session, prayer time, or spending some time in quiet spiritual thought.  I can find God because I'm not too exhausted to look.  I'm redefining what it looks like to be me.  I can feel the winds of change blowing and I'm not just surviving.  I'm living.  I'm breathing.  I'm free.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Official book announcement

I didn't mean to write a book.  I meant to write down some memories, some moments, some thoughts about the time I spent at monasteries.  I wanted to remember the look in the eyes of an elderly monk when he talked about Heaven.  I wanted to remember the questions and how I found the Answer within those walls.  And I wanted to never forget that God was enough, is enough, and always will be enough.

So, I started writing some things down and people started reading them.  And laughing because I was painfully out of place initially at a monastery.  And they cried because the human condition is, more often than not, universal.  People started asking me about the Daily Office.  They wanted to know how I pray the offices in my own everyday normal life. 

And then right before my eyes a book started to develop. 

Longer story shorter - my book is currently available on Amazon.  How crazy is THAT?  And it's had a great few days thanks to many of you.  Soon I'll be embarking on a blog tour.  Stay tuned for more information!  In the mean time, I'd love for you to pick up your own copy and share your thoughts.  It's been an incredible journey and as always, I'm grateful to be on it with all of you.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Change in the air

Back to blogging with a few announcements!  October is going to prove the month of change for this life.  Stay tuned for more entries about a whole bunch of really exciting and different things.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Why the Sabbath has nothing to do with Sunday

I've gotten into an argument with some well meaning people over the years who just flat insist that everyone should take Sunday as the Lord's Day. And I get it. I have Bibles. I've read the 10 Commandments. I even try to keep most of them. But, I gotta say, it makes me nuts, especially when those same people are playing golf and mowing the lawn all afternoon after skipping church.  I'm not one to judge, ahem, I'm just saying.....something.

Some of the world, including clergy, has to actually work on Sundays.  If you want to go out to eat after church, be able to be treated at the emergency room, or pick up some chips and salsa for the game at the grocery store - someone has to be working.  And I would be one of those people.  And in case you think working on Sunday is some spiritual cop out, I spend some Sunday mornings and almost every Sunday night at church with one eye on my phone because I'm on call every single minute I'm there.  And if someone needs help when it's time for church?  I have to stay and help.

I digress.....sorta.

I do think keeping the Sabbath is not just a commandment, but essential to the growing life of any believer.  We need rest.  We need restorative time to leave the cares of this world and reconnect with God.  We weren't created to go a hundred miles an hour all the time.  I agree and I think God was really onto something when He said, "Come away with me to a quiet place and I will restore your soul."  I just don't think it has to be on Sunday.

I am careful to keep the Sabbath in my own life.  I understand that I operate better the rest of the time when I've put in the time with Him.  Ab-so-lute-ly.  It's not usually on the weekend though.  Sometimes it's a few hours in the morning.  More often it's an evening.  And occasionally I'll spend all night in a Sabbath mindset.  I keep the Sabbath regularly, and especially when my soul cries out for renewed connection.

Recently I had a rough day.  One of those re-think everything you can and run to vacation to get away from it all days.  I came home and collapsed on my bed before the Spirit whispered to my heart.  I've learned when He calls - answer.  So, I cancelled everything I had to do that night and rested.  Here's how the Sabbath works in my own life.

 I grab whatever books mean the most to me at that moment.  Usually, a spiritual memoir and a book of prayers.  I read and pray until I don't want to anymore.  And then I stop.
 I light lots of candles and spend time with God.  No words.  No requests.  I just show up in His presence and stay there for.....awhile.
 I hang out with my dogs because no one in this world offers me the unconditional love that they do.  No one.
 I listen to whatever songs I have on my "Contemplative" song list.  This changes sometimes, but not much.  These are my favorites right now.
I put on super comfy pajamas, put clean, crisp sheets on my bed, grab my favorite blanket and softest pillows and make tea.  I go to bed early because sometimes the most spiritual thing we can do for ourselves is take a nap.  I embrace stillness and take comfort in the quiet.  I turn my phone and my brain off.  I postpone worries for another day.  And I resist the urge to fill every moment with words and sounds.

Sometimes, an hour is plenty.  Other times it's an evening.  Once it was eight days in Puerto Rico before my soul finally said, "okay, we're good again."  The important thing is to find the Sabbath where it can be found.  It doesn't have to be my way or your way and it certainly doesn't have to be on Sunday.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Kneeling on the brink

“Lucy woke out of the deepest sleep you can imagine, 
with the feeling that the voice she liked best in the world had been calling her name.” 

One of the reasons I'm so drawn to monastic life is that I get it.  I understand investing lots of time alone with God produces a depth of spirituality unmatched by any church building.  We don't come to know his voice because others tell us what he sounds like.  We don't experience the joy of his faithfulness until we are unworthy.  And we don't find a deep rooted friendship with the Almighty unless we learn how to be his friend.

I'm so grateful to be surrounded in this life by people who love him well.  People who inspire me to be like him and to trust him more.  I love to discuss (and occasionally debate) God with people.  He comes up in my conversations all the time because there's nothing more important to me than him.  

It's great to have company on the road Home, but it seems when God does big things, important things in this life, he does it alone.  It starts as a gentle tug, then a pull, then he just shuts a bunch of doors until I have no choice.  Well, we always have a choice, but you know, not.  

This isn't my first time to seek God in the tricky seasons.  This isn't the first time I've had to leave unresolved questions at the beautiful feet of The Answer.  And I'll gladly do it again this time because I know the end result is pure beauty that will be covered with his fingerprints.

And I have faith I'll get to that point like the many other times when I've placed this fragile offering of a life into his strong hands.  But, as humanity would have it, there usually is a fight.  Like this morning after going to sleep at 2 a.m. waking up at 3 and begging God to not take the people physically closest to me away.   I'm not sure why I thought that prayer would work.  3 of my closest friends have moved away in the last six months.  But, it was in front of my thoughts today anyway.

I finally fell asleep after wearing myself out thinking, "What if? Yeah, but, Then what? Could this?  What if this?  And if that doesn't work?  And what if this doesn't happen?  And what if I don't know what to do?

I woke up with the gentle peace and knowing that only comes from God.  Peace that passes all understanding....even mine.  And I couldn't help but hear him saying, "I'm enough for you.  My plans are for good.  You are not alone."

...To be continued...

Monday, June 4, 2012

Planes and Shooting Stars

Last week my neighbor asked if I could watch her four year old son one evening while she ran to the store.  He's funny so of course I said yes.  We sat on my back porch while the dogs ran around and looked at the stars.  I wasn't really paying attention when all of the sudden he jumped out of the chair and said, "Wook Bwen!!!  A shooting stawr!"

I thought for a moment before I responded.  It was a plane, but I couldn't think of a good reason to tell him that.  He jumped in my lap and said, "You heard me?  A shooting stawr!  Whoa amazing!"  

I looked into his wide blue eyes and said, "I know!  So cool!!"  

He jumped down, spun around with his arms over his head and said, "I KNOW!  So so so so cool."

Then he went and chased the dogs.

I started thinking about this world we live in.  How sometimes shooting stars turn out to just be airplanes and it's so disappointing.  But, sometimes, especially when God gets involved, what we see as a plane with earthly eyes may just be a shooting star.  

The moon and stars to rule by night, for his lovingkindness is everlasting.
Psalm 136:9

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

When Church is Home

"Don't you hate high church?" asked a friend I had not seen in years.

To be fair, she didn't know.  Flashes of my recent Confirmation service went through my mind at lightning speed.  I couldn't decide whether to start my I love the Monastery speech or just look at her like she was crazy.  In a moment of Jesus filled grace I calmly asked, "Why do you?" 

"It's all pomp and circumstance.  No one even believes in God.  It's all rituals.  They don't even use the Bible!"
I bit my tongue.  Hard.  I could feel the Holy Spirit kicking me in the head, "Don't be snarky!!"  (Yes, in my world the Trinity uses words like snark).

It certainly wasn't the first time someone didn't understand my decision to leave the Baptist Church and join the Episcopal Church.  And she didn't even know that yet.

I snapped back to attention when she asked, "Oh yeah, where do you go to church now?"

To everyone who takes church for granted, I recommend taking a break.  Due to bunches of circumstances I spent over a year without a church family.  So many nights I prayed through tears that God would lead this life not just to any church, but to where he wanted me to be.  I learned a lot about ruthless trust in that season as Sunday after Wednesday after holiday I thought, "Life is lonely without a church family.  I know God is bigger than a building, but I need a building!  I need a place to go and more than that, a place to be."

If you've followed this blog for the past year, you know in ways only God could, he answered those prayers.  To sit in church and worship today I often fight back tears as I recall God's gracious faithfulness to this one tiny life.  He gave me a building, people, a church family and his love.  And he let me grow up in my faith through the process.  I gained far more than I lost for sure.

She was waiting on my answer.  Not wanting to start an argument I could feel my eyes start to fill up with tears.  "I go to the church that God chose for me.  I go there with people who love him and believe in sharing that love with the world.  I go there because God is there, because I know he's at work in my life every time I kneel in that pew.  Because every time I celebrate communion, I'm sure all over again that he is with me.  Always."

And later I thought, "I worship in that building with those people because on this journey to Heaven, that church feels like Home."

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The cross that binds us

The cross is the tie that binds us - to each other, to Christ, to eternity.  As it turns out, it's also that shape that holds our bodies together.  Simply described, Laminin is a protein network foundation for most cells and organs and without it tissues would not, could not, survive.

My prayer almost as a mantra lately has been that God would be at the core of this life.  At the heart of my decisions, the reflections of my behavior, and that the foundations of my relationships might be rooted and maintained by His  very being.  

It's helpful to think what holds me together both spiritually and physically - is the cross.

In yoga this morning I thought about how many tissues it takes to hold a single pose.  The amount of coordination for the body to move at all is another miracle worth noticing in itself.  I couldn't help but think of God at the center. 

And, like most days, I took what I learned there off the mat and into my day.

As my feet move, I'm praying they bring the good news of God's love to the world I encounter. 

As my hands move, I'm praying they are extended in peace and love. 

As my heart beats,  I'm praying as blood pumps through this body, God would flow through me.

And I'm praying that the cross would be more than the symbolic representation of my faith.  More than jewelry.  More than featured on my walls and engraved on the front of my Bible and BCP.  So much more than an earthly mark.

I'm praying I would remember that my cells cry out to be connected to him.  That I'm just passing through.  It was his sacrifice that led me to him, his love that keeps me near him and the cross that leads me Home.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Peace Love Jesus and Coffee

Not surprising, but still entertaining that this found it's way onto my desk today.  If the sides and title of this blog didn't give it away - I love coffee.  No, really, I do.  I love the way it tastes, the way it smells, and how it represents quality time shared with friends and quiet moments with God.  

I love when people ask me over for coffee.  There's no pretense, no expectations, only time.    I've spent many hours at Starbucks laughing and crying with those I adore the most.  Time is my love language and mixing that with caffeine and long discussions of Jesus is Heaven on Earth for moi.

Added to a life of 2 full time jobs, yoga, church, friends, home and 3 dogs.....this week I started my Masters Degree in Psychology.  It's an intense program with 10 projects and 10 papers due every 10 weeks.  That seemed easier when I was signing paperwork.  But, I'm determined to not just finish this degree, but finish well.  And that decision starts at the beginning.  

My two observations so far are....

1. Success is going to require a lot of coffee.  I've spent 12 hours at Starbucks already since Wednesday doing research, writing and reading.  What can I say?  I focus better with free refills.

2.  I need God big time.  More than once this week, waves of being completely overwhelmed have threatened to knock me over.  I've asked myself if I can honestly do well all that I'm committed to and still properly care for my own well being.  Can I work hard, play hard, study hard and rest enough to hear the voice of God whispering his plans and love into my life?  

I've combated these fears with a few plans....

1.  I'm adding more yoga classes.  I know that seems counter productive to time management, but it's critical for soul care.

2.  I'm returning to strict keeping of the daily office.  Prayer is my saving grace, but the rhythm of prayer gives me a map for my days.  I'm rekindling daily scripture reading and making a concentrated effort to find God in every moment of every day.

3.  I'm nurturing the communities to which I belong and maintaining the God connections in my life.  I need the break of lunch or dinner with friends, yoga with people of a similar mindset, and deep conversations on a walk or over coffee with spiritual people who encourage and inspire me to love God in the messy places.  

And I'm coming back around to where I started:

Peace - that I'm where I am on this journey and moving forward for reasons I may not know.

Love - Keeping those God has entrusted to me close and showing up often for those relationships.

Jesus - He's enough.  He just is.

Coffee - Because sometimes it's what ties it all together.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Monastic answers to death and dying

No secret - I love the monastic life.  Had I arrived on this Earth a different gender, drawn to a different denomination and with a different calling......I would have been a monk.  Spend my days with the liturgy of the hours and like minded people in a community of prayer?  Sign me up.  As it turns out, that is not my calling, but the life I live is forever better from time spent in their homes.

The Abbey of Gethsemani will forever hold a special place in my life as the first monastery where I spent much time with the daily office.  But, in recent years, mostly due to location, the Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers, GA has become a second home to me.  The schedule is rigid, but the monks are more laid back, easy to talk to, and several have a wicked killer Godly sense of humor.  

Father Corley was the first monk to welcome me the Monastery of the Holy Spirit.  He was animated and friendly and such a wonderful example of one content to be living out his true calling.  He died last week just 2 months shy of his 100th birthday and I've been thinking ever since how much I love the way monks care for the sick and dying.

The monastery infirmary has 10 rooms and 4 additional rooms serve as assisted living.  Brother Amelio had this to say about caring for one of the monks dying there -  

"I am amazed at his calmness, something I am sure that I would not have if it was me going through this procedure. He is a man of deep faith, prayerful, kind, thoughtful and insightful, so he has a lot of maturity that he is bringing with him to the table. I suppose his whole life has prepared him for this moment. It is no accident that he is this way, his maturity is based on a multitude of small choices over the years, that have led him to be the man he is today. Growing old in a graceful manner is not an accident, at least in my opinion."

They care for each other.  They are committed to working out their differences and living together in harmony.  The strong help the weak and the weak accept support when needed.  In my experience there, the living care for the dying and the dying inspire and encourage the living.  And not just physically.  It's a place where you can be whatever you are at the moment.  Strong, weak, questioning, filled with answers, assured, insecure, angry, peaceful, hurt,'s fine as long as you're committed to finding God at that particular juncture on your journey.  And at the heart of those who love Him, who isn't?  

The answers to death and dying in the monastic life are simple - Be there.  Show up.  Don't shy away from the heartbreak of death when people need you most.  Be alive in your grief and be present every moment of every day.  Come to think of it - that's how they do most things.

I'm grateful for Father Corley and the many monks there that allow fellow travelers to find Christ in all circumstances as a guest in their home.  I've found many answers within those walls and will continue to.  But, the next time I go, I'm pretty certain it will feel like someone is missing.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let your perpetual light shine upon him. May the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Next I'm going to

Finally decide on going to grad school?   Check.

Enroll in grad school?  Check.

Get accepted to grad school?  Check.

On-line education?  Yes.

Master's in Psychology?  In process.

Starting May 16th ready. or. not. ?


Here we go!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Thankful Thursday

We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield.
Psalm 33:20

Thankful this week.....

For a church family.  I hope you never have to, but if you ever spend a year without one, you'll appreciate it more when it comes around.  Still feeling such great love from a faithful God after Saturday's confirmation service.  

For Uncertainty.  It has arrived on multiple levels in many ways this week and has forced me to remember God is trustworthy.  I don't have to have all the answers or know everything. And although uncertainty is so uncomfortable, it is not impossible when we place our trust in a God who is working all things together for good.

The AP approved starting a sentence with hopefully.  Especially good since I do it all the time anyway.  My writing breathes an unedited sigh of relief.

Starbucks and lots of reading and writing accomplished there this week.  Blessed are the caffeinated.  (Amen).

For Peace.  Peace has wrapped itself around this heart and settled in.  May it always feel at home within and extending from this life.

Happy Thursday, friends!

Monday, April 23, 2012


All I knew walking into Christ Church the first Sunday of January 2011 was if this church didn't feel like home, I wasn't going anywhere else ever again.  Dramatic?  Maybe.  The truth?  For sure.  I wouldn't say God acts on our threats necessarily, but I do think he knows, maybe before we do, when we've waited long enough.  

I knew nothing about the Episcopal faith and no one.  I had no idea where to find the words, the music, and spent much of that first hour amazed that everyone seemed to know when to sit, stand, kneel.  I was fascinated and completely freaked out during The Peace when random people started hugging me and shaking my hand.  "We're so glad you're here!" Something in my heart couldn't help but believe them.

All I knew leaving that first day was I had to go back.  And I did.  Again and again and again.  Until I knew when to stand.  Until the prayers started getting way deeper than the words of my mouth.  Until everything I grew up believing about the liturgical faith began to unravel.  Quickly.  It started slowly seeping into everything I thought I knew......Jesus was here.....too.

I'd spend the next year asking God to let the truth surface.  That more than what I knew for sure, more than what I thought I might know - he would reveal the truth.  He's been gracious and faithful to answer that prayer.

Saturday I received Confirmation into the Episcopal faith.  I've yet to find adequate words to describe what happened at that alter, but in the days to come, I will.  It felt in that moment, surrounded by my closest friends and the body of Christ, that the struggle was worth it.  And all I really know for sure is that it felt like a definite end to a complicated chapter.

But, not just an end.  A brand new beginning.  All of the details I don't have yet, but the start of something good for sure.  So, where to go from here?  

"Go in peace to love and serve the Lord!"

Yes.  I'll start with that.

**Confirmation service at St. Thomas in Thomasville, GA.  

Friday, April 13, 2012

Friday iPhone Photo Dump

 I know.  I'm a slacker blogger.  I have some good and not so good excuses, but for today I'll post what I've been up to via iPhone photo dump.  I've been figuring out how to make this wreath so I don't have to steal it off the doors of my church.  I still might......
 I've been loving sweet gifts in the mail from friends and really wishing they lived a lot closer.  All applications for out of town friendships are currently closed :)
 I've been loving the days being longer and getting to watch the sunset when I walk the dogs at night.  
 I've been helping this sweet girl recover from her surgery.  She's even more adorable on drugs and is now all better!
 I've been reading lots of Anne Lamott and pondering this tweet.  A lot.  
 I've been watching mindless tv because that's all my brain can really keep up with at the moment.  Odyssey and I are loving the Real Housewives on the Kindle Fire.  

There's been LOTS of hours at the gym, not enough sleep and not enough fun and that's left my household feeling like this.  BUT, stay tuned......there are good things and more to talk about coming soon!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Prone to Wander

 I'm happiest when I'm wandering, especially somewhere new.  While at Amelia Island last week, I spent some time at Fort Clinch climbing walls and considering how fun it would be to own a cannon.  
 I thought about the line from the hymn, "Prone to wander, Lord I feel it," and couldn't help but think, "not really."  Oh, I know what Robert Robinson meant and I echo his sentiments.  I don't want to be wandering from the Lord, either.  
 But, I have to believe it's possible to wander to the Lord.  A different book, a new idea, experiencing a new tradition, finding him to be faithful and showing up when we aren't looking all draw us to him.
 I stumble in the darkness, but I wander toward the light.  "I am the light of the world."  Even in a tiny rundown fort never used in battle, he shines.  Historical settings make it easier for me to worship the ageless one.  "I was.  I am.  I am to come"
So, I won't pray for a heart that doesn't wander.  Some of my best spiritual discoveries have come from forks in the road.  My best God moments have been in an unknown place, wandering a road less traveled with people who have different ideas.  I will pray that all my wanderings bring me closer to Home and closer to Him.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Finishing 31

I'm wrapping up this year of my life with a little trip to the beach. Today I stood in the ocean at high tide with wild wind and let myself be hit by gigantic waves. Over and over and over again.

Sometimes it's good to feel small. Human.

I find it significantly easier to surrender when drowning in salt water. It doesn't hurt on occasion to let the Creator remind me I am created. Limited. Dependent.

My days are in his hands. My future secure in him. I forget sometimes, but it's still true.

And tonight, as the sun sets, I'm thankful for another year. Thankful for the times the waves have been overpowering and for the grace that has poured in as they've subsided. For the good times. The hard times. The in between times. And most thankful that the One the winds and the waves obey expects nothing less from me.

In this new year of life, I hope He finds me more trustworthy, faithful, obedient and loving. And if I'm still here 365 days from now, I hope I know Him better than I do today.

The journey continues....

Friday, March 2, 2012


I always refer to my pup Shine as my rescue dog. It's true that I rescued her from being put to sleep mere hours before the injection, but really, she rescued me.

I didn't know the day I picked her up from the pound smelling like old urine, infested with heartworms and limping from a torn knee meniscus that I was the one who would need saving.

I didn't know I was entering into a season where I would find the reassurance in the bright brown eyes of a happy lab mix who seemed heaven sent to help me believe in love unconditional.

She runs faster than my healthy dogs limping to greet me first. She throws all 70 pounds of herself into my lap at every opportunity clueless that she's not exactly a lap dog. When I'm on the couch reading she jumps all the way up, licks my hand and jumps down again just to reassure me she's there.

People were mean to her the whole first year of her life and yet her eyes leak trust and forgiveness.

She's been sick the past few weeks with a bad bladder infection and now bladder stones. She will have surgery on Thursday, but as we wait it's breaking my heart to know she's hurting. It's super hard and painful for her to go potty and she flinches when I open the door for her to go out.

At 3 am I sat on the back porch with her. She didn't seem to be in a hurry and I'm not one to judge the length of time it takes to gather strength. So we sat there together and waited. Bathed in moonlight and comforted in companionship I savored the peace of that moment.

I remembered there's joy in the waiting and even though it feels that way sometimes, I'm not alone. Someone who knew me from the foundation of the world knows my every thought, every tear, every frustration and every moment. And he reaches down with compassionate love and invites me to be rescued.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

You're my dust

Remember that you are dust. And to dust you will return.
Genesis 3:19

I was fashioned by the Divine and created for eternity, but I'm temporary and sometimes I need reminded. Even in my most spiritual moments, I'm human.

Ash Wednesday always gets below clogging my pores and soaks into my soul. Deeper than I'm comfortable with, really.

So, tonight I'll kneel at the alter and feel the rhythm of the liturgical year embrace my heart. I'll participate in repentance knowing there's not enough time to rehash all the ways I've fallen short. And I'll find grace.

I'm embracing prayer in this season of Lent. Just this morning I prayed, "I'm a dead man walking. Marked for death. I am dust and to dust I am returning." And maybe just because I have a reverently amusing relationship with the Almighty, I'm pretty sure I heard him whisper, "Yes, you are, but you're my dust."

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Coming Soon.....Lent

Still formulating how I plan to spend Lent this year and aware that I need to hurry.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Loneliness of Transformation

I'm not gonna lie. I find the spiritual life excruciatingly lonely sometimes. In my (somewhat limited) experience, God shows up in the quiet. The lessons learned in the dark last longer in the light. And true growth appears in those moments when you know it's God. He's the only one who was there.

Can I just say as spiritual as it sounds to say, "God and God alone!". . . I don't always prefer it?

Lately I find myself at the center of a transformation vortex in so many areas.

Physically I'm spending 7 hours at the gym a week and at least 4 hours at yoga on top of 75-80 hours of work. I'm watching my body and mind transform. I have the best personal trainers and the wisest yoga teacher, but at the end of the day, I have to do it. I'm responsible for the change.

I have to go for the long run. I have to complete a zillion repetitions. I have to not just show up for yoga, but participate in the renewing of my mind. I have to find the link where downward dog, cobra, downward dog, pigeon, downward dog, plank, downward dog, side plank, downward dog, warrior I, etc etc. connects with Breathe in peace and breathe out fear, anxiety and stress. That doesn't just happen because my teacher says so. I can and will downward dog/make a grocery list just as easily.

And maybe most importantly, my spiritual framework is being restructured. What I've known all along has been called into question and left me unsettled and afraid. Untangling "absolutes" is exhausting. I've gotten the best advice from the wisest spiritual people in my scope of reference. I'm eternally gratefully for their help, listening ears, and kind compassion in mass confusion. But, as much as I admire their walks and aspire to be just like them. . . . they can help, but they can't meet my spiritual desires for me. I have to pray the prayers, study the scriptures and seek God largely alone.

I'm settling into the loneliness in this season and finding it to be more friend than foe. I'm trusting that as God calls me away from distractions, he's drawing me closer to his heart. I'm even more grateful for those who come alongside me on this journey. I'm not exaggerating when I say I cherish every one. But, if I have to, I can survive alone with him. His grace is sufficient in the full times and in the lonely ones. When we're surrounded and when we're alone. When transformation is evident and when the process is painfully slow. He's there.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Cursing Cupid

Oh, calm down. This is not going to be another "rant from a single person" about how much I hate Valentine's Day. I'm not going to get on my soap box and carry on until I reach my dramatic conclusion, "Remind me. Was Jesus married?" I could. But, I won't.

In and out of relationships, the whole Valentine's Day thing makes me nauseated. It's too much red and pink and for a person who doesn't consume sugar, kinda pointless. It's just not as romantic to insist on organic strawberries not chocolate covered preferably blended into a delightful protein smoothie.

Cupid can keep her arrows. Christians can please keep their comments like, "God still loves you!" Hallmark can keep their cards and florists can save their flowers for something to actually celebrate. Oh, I think genuine love is wonderful. I just don't think we need a calendar to tell us when to love people.

Every year I'm more and more grateful for friends, single and married, who don't associate being single with the plague and don't assume I've "missed God's best" because I'm not at the bar looking pitiful.

And I especially appreciate a friend who called me this morning to say, "I know doing life alone must be hard sometimes, but trust me when I tell're the smart one."

I like to think so.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Books! January 2012

Even more than, "Are you ever going to get married?" the question I get asked is, "What are you reading?" Since I'm not reviewing as frequently, I'll try to do a month in review post of the books I loved. Here's my top 2 for January!

Flunking Sainthood by Jana Riess is a great memoir of one woman's journey to master spiritual practices. It's filled with good intentions and the graceful reassurance that no one is perfect when she falls short of her goals over and over again. Lighthearted and genuinely honest, it's a memoir that made me laugh out loud, tear up and nod in agreement. If you need companionship on your spiritual journey, this book is for you.

And, sad for you, this book isn't available yet. It was predictably great. But! If you haven't read her other books, now is your chance. Lis Wiehl has taken the Christian fiction market by storm and is quickly securing her place in the top must read mystery authors. Releasing mid April, you have until then to catch up on her other work and then read this one. You'll be glad you did!

To Reading!