When a Smile Slips In

This last week has been a difficult one.  Getting ready for yet another move.  Having strong mold reactions to my apartment.  Finding another place to stay so I can keep working.  Missing people and weekly rituals.  Crying a lot, because my body is so tired, and that’s all I can seem to do sometimes.

However, I’ve found enough strength for each day.  And as I went to work every day, I was met by the smiles of kids, of their observations that brought me into a different world.  One student is a keen observer of animals.  During our lessons, he would tell me what bird was flying through the backyard.  He would watch for the hummingbird at the feeder.

Others gave me book recommendations!  (And these are students who don’t like to read very much! 🙂  Yet, one story almost brought me to tears.  One parent told me that as she told her son about some changes happening at school, including more time being pulled out of the classroom to work on reading, he responded, “But mom, I just want to move far away, and live on a farm and work the land.  You don’t need to read to be able to do that.”

He continued, “I don’t need a fancy house or fancy cars, but I just want to live with the animals and adopt some of them.”  While the mom thought the innocence of her son was touching, she went on to tell him, that while his life plan sounded nice that the world revolves around money.

My student, her son, reached out gently, touched his mom’s arm and said, “No mom, the world revolves around friendship.”

I almost cried, but then I smiled.  This student can be very difficult, yet he has a soft heart.   He’s empathetic and sees the world through the eyes of one who struggles.  The poor in heart, those who are often left out and forgotten, who are constantly vulnerable and live on the fringes–they really do see God.


Simple Questions

Last week I listened to a podcast, where the person being interviewed expressed that the words of her yoga teacher were still rattling around in her mind:

“How tender do you want to get? How soft do you want to become?”

Those words made me stop.

I want to be a person who can receive. Someone who can be present, accepting the simple moments as they come and go. I want to be able to be still myself, so I realize what I need and want, and not be so terrified of my fatigue.

I want others to know that they are so important, that I’m willing to get close enough so that they change me.

And yet I’ve lived enough to know that this vulnerability is costly.  My generation values authenticity and vulnerability and yet it’s hard to be the first person to speak, the person to say, “I’m not okay.”

These months have been ones of seeing myself more honestly, seeing my protective walls, and knowing that they don’t just come crashing down in a moment.  It’s more like a slow melting away.

Receptiveness doesn’t mean being a push-over, just as sacrifice means that one must first recognize that there is a self to sacrifice. Without a discerning eye, receptiveness could look like people pleasing and helping could be avoidance.

So I keep returning to stillness, to myself and the Divine, to see how much my ego actually is at work and to see my own goodness and worth more clearly.

Sometimes receptiveness looks like receiving love, being affirmed, being reminded of how valuable I am just for being me. It could mean a hug, a compliment, being still enough to receive this moment, and the unknown that comes with it.

In order to be soft, I want to live into my body, knowing its joys and its pains.  I want to feel what I’m actually feeling, when my jaw tenses up, when my shoulders scrunch to my ears, or when I can actually touch my toes! I want to know when my breath is shallow and when its full. I want to listen to the emotions that rise up in me.

As I daily pay attention to myself, I will be more attune to others, having extra capacity for laughter and tears.

For in times of vulnerability, there is a shared tenderness, and we both could become softer as a result.  Of course, the choice is ours.  We have to be willing to sit “on the mourner’s bench” as Nicholas Wolterstorff likes to say.

The one who is tender speaks bravely, inviting everyone else in the room into a softer, gentler place.

Into a more expansive view of the world.  Into a new emotion, understanding, or empathy.

But there is no force. She could be met with unhelpful silence, misunderstanding, pet answers.

But she also could be met with love and acceptance.  There is great risk in seeking to be tender.

Yet there’s also an invitation to everyone else in the room.

Do you want to be tender and soft too? Will you join me on this journey of honesty, risk, and feeling deeply?



Chores and Pounding Nails

Spare moments these days are spent trying to get the scum that won’t come off the kitchen floor.

They are spent pounding nails into the wall, hanging up one picture at a time, adding some color.

They are spent forgetting where my car keys are, and turning on the wrong light switch.

They are spent remembering that I really do need to get another soap dispenser for the second bathroom!

These moments are simple, yet recurring moments in my newly moved state.

Yet, there’s something special about this state, even though I would like to the to-do list checked off as quick as possible.

I love to create order, to organize, to make sense out of piles and trash.  Even I love the throw the books to the side for awhile, and engage in manual labor, and be nourished by the rhythm of the mop, the placing of the fingers so exactly as to not be hit by the hammer.

I love creating spaces that feel simple, yet sacred.  Thought goes into creating an environment that feels calm and restorative, a place where honesty and vulnerability can slowly heal, both myself and others.


Slowly, but surely, my office is becoming a place of both joy and resolve, of writing and rest.  For writing inspiration, I have put hopeful quotes by Allison (please, please check out her blog here), in frames and hung them to the right of my desk.  These are my simple reminders that writing is worth it, and that it’s healing for me and others.

What simple moments are full of meaning for you right now?

The Most Important Thing

Last week, I met with my spiritual director.  Throughout the month as I await my meeting, I scribble down thoughts in my journal of things I might want to talk about with her.  Yet, as the time arises, I ask myself:

What is the most important thing we should be talking about? 

The goal of meeting with my spiritual director is to discuss how I’m seeing God at work in my life.  So I’m learning to slow down, attune to my own life, how he’s working internally and externally.  I’m getting used to open ending questions swirling in my mind.

  • What is the Lord revealing to me about myself?
  • What questions am I entering more deeply?
  • What is the Lord saying to me presently?
  • What images center me and ground me right now?

So as I walk into the parlor at Tabernacle Presbyterian at the corner of 34th and Central, I anticipate discussing the most important thing.  Currently it’s an image about the tree in Psalm 1, that’s planted by steams of water, that bears its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither.

tab pres

As the conversation starts, we discuss this image, and keep coming back to it throughout the conversation.  I’m being invited into a more hidden life, a life whose roots keep going deeper and deeper into the soil.  I’m to be grounded, not moving, being tempted to engage in a more active life.  I am to appreciate, to find joy and contentment in staying right where I am.

Peace emerges as the most important thing is discussed.  We end our conversation as I make an observation that the theme of “prophet” has come up again and again this month and I’m wondering how I may be encouraged to take on an unpopular, but necessary stance.  No answers, just a large question to be lived–and to figure out what this means day by day.

What is the most important thing you should be discussing?  

Who do you discuss the most important thing with?

A Year In Review

I want to end the year reviewing some of the highlights of 2015, some things that I’ve posted about, and some things that I haven’t.  I hope you also spend some time to think about the blessings of 2015, ones that are obvious and maybe even ones hiding in a dark corner.


-Going to a Michigan vs. Purdue basketball game in W. Lafayette for my birthday

-Being diagnosed with Hashimoto’s

-Going to a Penny and Sparrow and Josh Garrels’ concert

-Visiting my sister at Grove City for a sister trip and at graduation

-Visiting Chelsea in Memphis

-Celebrating that Chels went into remission and moved to Indy

-Living with two different families in Indy

-Working at Vision Academy and Dyslexia Institute

-Hosting a “I’m getting healthier” party in May

-Eating at several local restaurants

-Traveling to Chicago

-Sharing my testimony at Redeemer

– Attending a liturgical church and Tuesday night sermon discussions at the barn

-Starting my spiritual direction course

-Taking a poetry class

-Participating in 3 different retreats

-Completing one year of blogging

-Tweaking treatment plans, slowly getting healthier

-Watching plenty of Gilmore Girls and Parks and Rec

-Shopping at farmer’s markets

-Baking for fall and winter

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, friends!  Be on the look out for more thematic writing in 2016.

What are your blessings of 2015?

Tears and Pumpkin Pancakes

Leaves are just starting to turn here in Indy.  To welcome fall, there is plenty of fall baking.  I’ve made applesauce, apple crisp, pumpkin bars, a breakfast pumpkin porridge made with butternut squash, and pumpkin pancakes.  In our apartment we are burning an oatmeal cookie candle almost daily.  We now are buying fall flowers for our kitchen table, filled with hues of orange, yellow, red, accented with a deep purple.  Spices of choice are cinnamon, nutmeg, cumin and cloves.


Yes, fall is beginning in all of its glory.  And I love fall so much.

But I must also admit that fall means acknowledging a slow (but maybe fast) descent into winter. Into hibernation. Stillness. Cold. Isolation. For everything there is a season.

And in this subtle, beautiful autumn, I’m starting to grieve.  Morning tears surface as I acknowledge that I’m walking away from teaching.  I’m leaving a profession I thought that I loved.  I cry because I’m sad that I have an autoimmune disease and it feels like some days I spend all of my energy trying to manage my environment.  I’m not as flexible as I wish I could be.  I grieve as I fight to leave my old self behind: one that wants to defend myself at all costs, to please others, simply to conform and fit in.

As I eat my pumpkin pancakes and wipe the tears from my eyes, I’m reminded that I’m being remade.  It’s hard work, painful and lonely, yet I’m being shaped into someone only the Father knows.

What are you enjoying this autumn season?

What are you grieving? How are you changing?

Psalm 22

For he has not despised or abhorred

the affliction of the afflicted,

and he has not hidden his face from him,

but has heard, when he cried to him.

From you comes my praise in the great congregation…

-Psalm 22:24-25

Redeemer Pres