Carrying Stillness :: The Sweetness of Surrender

I heart Winter Park.

Rooted despite the winds.

It has hardly seemed possible, but it’s true: Since I wrote my last post about surrender and powerlessness, I have found myself carrying a deep well of serenity, calmness, and peace — carrying stillness — around inside me. 

My external circumstances haven’t changed. I don’t have crystal-clear answers to the questions I have asked. 

And yet that certainty and understanding I’ve sought seem the less important thing. 

In their place, I’ve received a deep companionship with God that requires no words and, surprisingly, is transportable. 

Three nights ago, when I wrote that post, I spent a good chunk of time beforehand in tears. I was sitting on the cliff’s edge with God, our legs hanging over the side and the ocean stretched out before us, and I literally cried on his shoulder. I bawled at the prospect of and experience of surrender. 

Surrender of my need to understand. Surrender of my power over circumstances. Surrender of my pride and control and knowing. 

What remains is peace. 

I’m still sitting on that cliff’s edge with God. Our legs still hang over the edge. We’re still looking out at that wide expanse of ocean. We still see the shoreline where we walked together almost a year

And we just sit. Together. Shoulder to shoulder. 

That sense of being with God in this way is, amazingly, inside me. I feel it there as I answer emails, edit projects for clients, work on the Look at Jesus course, plan meals, shop for groceries, meet with friends and counselors, exercise, make the bed, make meals, do the laundry, enjoy time with Kirk, and just generally juggle the needs of work, home, heart, vocation, and relationship. 

Life is moving, always moving. Yet inside, I am still. 

Carrying Stillness :: Breathe



As I’ve continued to struggle through this month of learning God wants me to learn to carry stillness and of thinking I heard God say something additionally awful to me about two weeks ago, I’ve been sharing more of the details with some key people in my life and have been reminded of the value of commuity in helping us discern.

Yesterday, I published a piece for CenterQuest that shares more details of that “additionally awful” thing I thought I heard God say and how my community is helping me to discern what to do with it. 

One of the people along that path of discernment is my former supervisor for my spiritual direction traning program, Kay. Kay is one of God’s great gifts to my life. She’s strong and she’s kind and she’s rooted, and she has often helped me notice connections in my journey that I wouldn’t have seen on my own. 

Our SD session last week was no exception. 

I told her about my session with Elaine last month and how what emerged was a sense that God’s inviting me to learn a new way of being inside my circumstances. I told her that I’ve been struggling and arguing with God about this ever since. I told her about what happened two weeks ago on Halloween night, when I thought I heard God saying he would be taking Kirk from me. And I told her I have felt so stuck, not knowing if what I heard that night was actually God’s voice or some pernicious voice or just my own subconscious freaking out in some strange way. 

Then Kay helped me see something new. She didn’t tell me where she thought the voice came from. She never sought to answer that question for me. But she did draw a connection between what happened in last month’s session with Elaine and what happened on Halloween night and its aftermath. 

“Isn’t it interesting,” she said, “how you went from hearing God say you are going to learn a new way of being with the external chaos of life, only to enter into an experience that seems like you’re one small figure inside a hurricane? Everything’s swirling and upended because of what you thought you heard God tell you about Kirk.” 

She was right. It has felt like a hurricane ever since. I have felt like a tiny figure inside a swirling chaos of confusion.

And so she wondered with me:

How might God give me an opportunity to carry stillness in the hurricane of this — whether what I thought I heard was actually God’s voice or not?

When I took time to pray in the session, what came out was mostly tears. 

“I hate arguing with you,” I told God. I cried and tears dripped down my cheeks and nose and all I kept thinking was how much I want to be on the same page as this God I’ve come to love so much. How much it hurts to be in a different place than he is. 

Eventually, I asked him to tell me what I need to know regarding what happened on Halloween night. I hoped to hear a definitive answer, some yes or no that it was him or not him, some sense of closure to this weird thing I just keep carrying around. 

Instead, what I got was breath.

Myself breathing in and out. Him breathing with me. Facing each other, breathing. Then sitting together on the cliff’s edge, looking out over the water, breathing. 

Just breathing. In silence. Breath. 

It was rather radicalizing for me to just be with God in this way. Sure, I’ve sat with him in silence before. Usually it happens in times when I’m struggling toward surrender, as he just waits with and for me to be ready. Other times it happens in contemplative prayer, where there are no images, just silence.

This time felt different. 

This time felt like an invitation to be with God in my breathing. I’m constantly breathing in and out. And as I breathe, God is in the breath. He’s the one who gives me breath. He’s as close as my own breath, or even closer. As I breathe in and out, God sustains me. He’s with me every second of every day. In the one thing that brought me relief on Halloween night — hearing Kirk’s breath — God continues to sustain us with this blessed breath. Even when we die, when we have no more breath, we wake up to the same sustaining presence of God.

Right now, God doesn’t have answers to give me about what happened. He doesn’t seem particularly concerned with giving me those answers that I seek.

Rather, he’s more concerned with breath. With standing, sitting, and just being with me in every moment through that in-and-out blessedness of breath.

This, I’m seeing, is one way of learning to carry stillness. Just breathing. Every moment. With God.

Carrying Stillness :: An Introduction to What I'm Learning

Caring for the Christ.

Carrying Christ.

So, I’m starting off the blogging re-introduction with a new series based entirely on something I’m in the process of learning. It feels like a major risk to write my way through something I haven’t learned yet — so many of the series here on Still Forming have been written on topics I’ve worked my way through at some point in the journey and then came here to share with you. 

But this one’s different. This one’s being written as I’m living it.

But you know what I realized shortly after the recognition that I should probably write my way through this (and the consequent freak-out that followed)? That the two most recent series on this site — the body series and the series on beginning the work again — were also written this way. So I guess I’ve been getting used to writing my way through learning curves more than I realized this year.

Even so, it feels super vulnerable to do this.

It’s my hope that as I write my way through this, you’ll find something helpful or valuable to your own current journey. And maybe along the way, you’ll have insights to share with me too — I would welcome insights shared from your own experience on this subject!

So, here’s what the new series is about. 

I’ve learned over the past four years or so that part of my vocation is that of a contemplative and that my natural rhythm is rather slow and still, and I have made it a priority to align the reality of my life with those truths. I shared a series with you last year on the subject of living a rhythmed life, and I still stand by the value and helpfulness of living one’s life this way. I would still be living that way right now if it weren’t for the way God is directing me otherwise, at least for this current season of my life. 

And therein lies the rub: God is directing me otherwise in this current season of my life.

For the last six months or so, I have struggled to find a rhythm that rings true to my most natural rhythm. The extended periods of stillness and quiet I’ve known and cultivated the last several years are gone. I rarely have the chance to sit in stillness and quiet reflection and prayer at my desk anymore. 

My vocation as a contemplative feels like it’s gone missing, and I have been mourning this and feeling distressed about it ever since I noticed the change. 

Last week, I met with my spiritual director, Elaine, and shared with her the frustration I’m facing in this. And as she always does, she invited me to take this frustration to God in prayer. 

As I did so, I saw God and I walking along a beach shoreline together. It looked to be about five in the afternoon, and the sand along the shoreline was soft and cold and wet. We were barefoot, walking slowly together, and I knew God already held a knowledge of the disorientation and frustration I’ve been feeling about this, as well as my not knowing what to do about it.

That’s when he said something new.

“You’ve been dependent on external circumstances to form your sense of identity,” he said. “But now it’s time to go deeper. It’s time for that identity of stillness to be found on the inside of you.”

In other words, it’s time to learn something new.

I understood God to be saying in this moment that my circumstances aren’t going to change. Unlike previous seasons when I’ve felt overwhelmed and out of sync with my true rhythm, this isn’t about discerning if commitments or structures in my life need to change. Rather, it’s my relation to the things already in my life that will change.

I’ll be honest: I felt frustrated by this revelation. I love the spaciousness and quiet I’d cultivated in my lifestyle the last four years. I thirst for it, and I feel quite wonky when life doesn’t provide room for it. And here God was telling me I’m not going to have that spaciousness and quiet for the foreseeable future. Things will continue to swirl and move, but my relation to all of it is going to somehow change.

Somehow I’m going to learn to carry a sense of stillness inside me no matter the external circumstances. That external rhythm of quiet and contemplation I’ve come to love and need in my life is going to go internal instead. I’m going to become less dependent on my external circumstances to find that quiet and peace.  

I’m going to learn to carry stillness. 

So, that’s what the new series is about: learning to carry stillness. 

Have you had to learn this at some point in your life? What did you learn along the way?

The Body Series: Caring for Our Personhood


Today, in the aftermath of a particularly tender session with my spiritual director yesterday, I’ve been feeling rather raw. Truth be told, I shed some tears while talking with a friend about it this morning, and then I sat on my couch in a bit of “zombie shock” for a while. 

This can happen in spiritual direction sometimes. It creates such a safe space for exploration and discovery that sometimes as-yet-unrecognized truths will surface and be spoken aloud for perhaps the first time ever. 

That’s what happened for me yesterday.

So today, in my zombie-shock mode, I had a hard time getting going. I have a work project I’ve been trying to finish, but diving straight into it felt like a harsh way to treat my soul — almost like saying, “You go underground now. I’ve got other things to do.”

Eventually, I decided to run a couple easy errands. Drop off some library books. Stop by the post office for mail. Stop by the bank to make a deposit. So I changed into some workout clothes, pulled on a baseball cap, and headed out the door.

It’s beautiful outside today, so I drove with my windows down and took an easy pace, still feeling mindful of going gentle with my soul. And then, once I was out and about, I remembered that I’ve been wanting to visit a local bike shop for a while now and have had trouble finding the time to do it.

So I headed over there. 

The experience of that bike shop visit was so healing for me.

It feels a bit strange to say that, but it was. The gentleman who got paired with me for the sales process was patient and kind. He listened to what I was there to do — learn what I could about what bike style might be best for me, since I’m a beginner — and took time to walk with me through the difference sections of the bike area, explaining how the bikes were different and may or may not be helpful to me.

When it came time to test-ride some of them, he was infinitely patient there, too, letting me try one after another and adjusting which bike he’d wheel out next depending on my feedback about the bike I’d just tested. He answered every single question I had — and I had a lot of them. He looked me in the eye while I spoke, and he looked me in the eye when he answered.

But even more than that was the experience I had of myself throughout my time there. 

I gave myself permission to learn. To have an opinion of the bikes I tried. To ask questions. I would test-ride a bike and think, “What do I like about this bike experience? What don’t I like? What questions do I have about it? What feels awkward? What feels right?” I gave myself permission to keep asking for a different bike when I didn’t think the one I’d just tested was “the one.” 

It felt so good to do this. So caring of my personhood.

It felt like an alignment of body and soul — taking care of them both, letting them “converse” with each other along the way. And in the aftermath of what came up for me in my direction session yesterday, as I’m feeling tender and raw, it felt like one of the most kind things I could do for myself today. It felt like an extension of what I shared here yesterday: according ourselves a measure of dignity and self-care.

Have you ever experienced something similar, where you felt like you were caring for your greater sense of personhood?

The Body Series: Learning to Care for the Body

Gnarled life.

What my starting point feels like.

The revelation I shared with you on Friday has been a really big one in my progress to relate to my body in a healthier, more caring way. The idea that I can view my body’s formation in a similar way to how I view my spiritual formation … well, for a girl whose life’s work is enfolded in spiritual formation, I couldn’t ask for a more fitting “click.”

I think what’s so helpful about this is the idea that I just do my part

My part has to do with what I put into my body, how I move my body around, and how I view my body. The rest is up to God and the way God made my body to function and respond to my input on its own. It really takes the pressure off, even as it hands me responsibility in the matter. 

And so today, I tried a cycling class at the gym. It was hard, but not so hard that I had collapsed by the end of it. I ate an orange and drank water. I had some whole-grain cereal with banana for breakfast. I did our meal planning, went to the grocery store, and then had another orange.

And all the while, I’ve sought to tune into my body. The different leg muscles the cycling class worked at different times, as well as my stomach muscles. The feeling of strength as I pushed a heavy cart of Costco supplies across the parking lot. The sense that I have this body, and this body has me. Again, that everything I experience in the world and that others experience of me is mediated by my body.

This quote from Stephanie Paulsell in Reclaiming the Body in Christian Spirituality says it so well: 

“Such is the mystery of the body. Sometimes we know that we are our bodies, that our capacity for life and death makes us who we are. At other times, we feel that we simply inhabit a vessel that is inadequate to contain all that we are.” 

—p. ix–x

In some ways I am my body, and in other ways, I simply have a body. Either way, this body is a necessary part of who I am and my experience of this life. It will still be with me, in similar but different form, in heaven.

God is asking me to care for this earthen vessel. 

And so the challenge is to do so. To care for my body. To learn to befriend it. To love it, even.

How are you doing in your progress to do the same?

The Body Series: What If Our Cells Mimic the Formation Process?

Light shines through.

Body and spirit, both reaching toward light.

So, here’s the kind of person I am. 

When I tumbled down the Wikipedia rabbit hole in my workaday education about the body and nutrition, my mind started spinning on the possibility that our cells mimic the formation process that happens in our spiritual lives. 

Track with me here a moment on this. 

  • What if the enzymes our cells need in order to experience the chemical reactions that spur them down metabolic pathways mimic the work of the Holy Spirit or God’s grace in our formation process?
  • What if the choices I make every day in my food consumption and exercise mimic my participation in my formation process through the practice of spiritual disciplines? 
  • What if the outcomes of healthy body formation — health, vitality, energy — mimic the outcomes of healthy spiritual formation, which include a strengthened spirit and a greater capacity for love and good deeds?

The possibility that our body’s formation could mimic our spirit’s formation made me smile and shake my head in delight. Of course God would do that. 

Here’s a little bit more of what I mean.

When it comes to spiritual formation, I’ve written quite a bit on the principle of indirection — namely, that it is the process by which God handles our formation but utilizes our participation. We are partners in the process, and our part is to be faithful with undertaking small acts within our power, trusting God to do the parts we cannot do ourselves. (If you’d like to read more on indirection, you can find some more thoughts on this here, here, here, and here.)

I think the body’s formation might work something like that: I put certain things into my body, trusting that the mysterious work of God inside my body through mechanisms he created will bring about my growth and health. I need to do my part, and then let go, trusting that he’ll do his and that the outcome will be a body increasingly like the one he intends me to inhabit.

And so it made me ask myself:

Will I care for the formation of my body as intentionally as I care for the formation of my spirit?

Will you?

The Body Series: In It for the Long Haul

Come. Enter in.

When I began the process of learning my heart, it was helpful to have had two years of introspection in my back pocket.

Certain books had helped me think about myself, my life, and God in significantly new ways over those two years. I’d taken myself to therapy for a spell, where I’d just begun to learn about the inclinations and coping mechanisms and motivations that, underneath the surface, had guided my daily life, thought processes, and beliefs for so long without my knowing it. And, of course, I’d sat in the dark, willfully refusing to move so that God could teach me a new thing I really, truly wanted to understand and believe, instead of just saying I believed it.

As I shared yesterday, I’m in a similar place on this body journey now. 

Here’s what I know: I don’t understand the body. What’s more, I don’t understand my body. 

And after about seven years of living with a body that is completely foreign to the one I grew up with, flailing about in so many random ways in an effort to understand, change, and/or make peace with the body I now have, it’s time to sit down, willfully, and not get up until I get it. 

This could take a long time, but I’m not sure there’s any other way. I seem to be a stubborn sort when it comes to learning something important. I was just remembering this morning, for instance, that I went through a similar process over a very long period of years when I wanted to learn what forgiveness means and how to forgive someone — really learn it, so that I could say I forgave someone and mean it from my heart, rather than saying I forgave them just because the Bible said I should.

It took years, but I got there. And once I got there, it truly changed me.

I seem to have a way of digging in my heels, doggedly, for however long it takes to really learn something I just don’t understand. 

But when I learn it, I learn it.

It really means something then. 

It took me years to learn my heart. It took me years to learn forgiveness. And it may take me years to learn my body.

But I’m deciding right now that I’m OK with that — because it means that when I learn it, I’ll really have learned it, and it will change the way I relate to my body going forward, presumably for the rest of my life.

So, let’s begin. Shall we?

The Body Series: The Connection Between Body and Soul


Usually when I run a series here on Still Forming, I have a strong sense of where it will go before it even starts — an outline already exists in my head, or a list of post ideas has been scribbled in my journal, to be used as a guide along the way. 

But this time? No such outline or list exists. 

Yes, there are the seven posts I wrote last year on this topic, some of which we’ll revisit here. And there are the three books I’ve read or am currently reading that will spark conversation and serve as additional voices for us in this series. 

But right now I have no list. I have no outline. 

And so today, I simply want to share what I’m noticing in this present moment: the connection between body and spirit. 

This isn’t new information.

Most are no doubt familiar with the concept that the body and soul are related and affect each other. There’s the prevalence of yoga as a form of exercise and an opportunity for meditation. There’s the sense of overall well being that results after having exercised the body. And there’s the evidence of psychosomatic illnesses, where mental or emotional factors create physical results in the body, such as migraines or ulcers or back pain.

But since this series is, for me, an attempt to take head knowledge deeper — for it to become real knowledge, not just head knowledge — I’m sharing today what I noticed this morning that is helping this concept become more real.

It happened when I sat down at my desk to enjoy my usual morning routine of coffee and prayer. Before I got started, I checked in on my usual online haunts. And there, I learned some news that startled me. Grieved me. Panicked me. Confused me. 

And then I couldn’t concentrate. 

There I sat, the psalms open before me on the desk, but my mind and heart couldn’t translate the words. Instead, my knee shook up and down. I sat with my elbow on the desk and my hand covering my mouth. My eyes glazed over. My mind shot elsewhere. I stared out the window. I checked my email. I texted. 

Every few minutes, I would return to what was meant to be the central focus — prayer and quiet — but my focus continued to be anything but those things. 

Eventually, as I paid attention to what was happening, I experienced my body speaking to me.

My shaking leg told me I was nervous. My inability to read the psalms said that my mind and heart had other things taking their notice. My glazed-over eyes said I’d gone someplace else. 

Listening to my body — noticing what it was telling me — became an opportunity for my time of prayer to go a different direction. Rather than the psalms being a launching point for prayer, as they usually are, my body instructed my prayers instead. I talked to God about what bothered me. I prayed for those concerned. I sat with questions, letting God be with me in my holding of them.

Have you ever had a similar experience, where your body “spoke” the state of your soul?

The Body Series: An Introduction

Alive and well.

Last year, I wrote a series of posts on my (now defunct) personal blog that I referred to as “The Body Posts.” These posts were a repository for my thoughts on a relatively new exploration about the relationship God wants me to have with my body. 

About halfway through the year, however, I reached a decision to focus my complete attention on the work I do here at Still Forming, and so I shut down my personal blog. One result of that decision is that I never finished writing that series of posts on the body.

And so I’ve decided to revive it here. 

Here’s the thing about my relationship with my body that I want you to know up front: I don’t have a very good one. I grew up, well into my mid-twenties, never having to worry about what I put into my body to feed it or having to exercise my body to stay trim — and this worked great, since I had terrible eating habits from the get-go and nary an athletic bone in my body. 

I was stick-thin for a quarter of a century. Until, suddenly, I wasn’t. 

And I was completely unprepared for my new non-thin existence.

I flailed about for a number of years because of this.

For starters, I was certainly familiar with the Sunday school answers you can throw at issues of the body: that the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, that God cares about the human body because he created it, that Jesus also inhabited a body, that we’ll have bodies in heaven. Those answers meant nothing to me, though.

I was familiar, too, with the math and science of it all: that the body needs a certain degree of fat and protein and carbohydrates for optimum existence, that we burn energy in calories, that there are ways to raise and lower our metabolism. All that felt like reading Greek.

The truth of it is, I had no framework for a healthy relationship with my body. I was at ground zero in my understanding.

And it took me a really, really long time to care.

And so I’m starting this series from here: a place of (now) caring but (still) not understanding.

I have some thoughts and questions in my back pocket, left over from that initial exploration that began last year, which I’ll pull out to get us started. And I’ve got three great resources that I’ll use along the way to help guide our conversation: 

But other than that, I’m entering into this new series still very much a beginner on all these things. And the series will reflect that. 

Will you be a beginner with me? 

Do you have struggles or questions about your relationship with your body, too?

Still Points in the Day: Notes from the Rocket

Photo courtesy of Christine Mason Miller

An entry in the Notes from the Rocket series

by Christine Mason Miller.


I have this beautiful friend, Christine Mason Miller, who reached out to me a couple years ago via email. We found ourselves sharing many common interests, particularly concerning interior growth and spirituality, and since then have shared emails, phone calls, a couple yummy lunch dates, and even the rare handwritten letter. 

Christine is a wise soul. A generous soul. A gregarious soul. A contemplative soul.

She teaches me so much. 

About six months ago, maybe, she began posting a series of photos on Instagram that she titled “Notes from the Rocket.” The Rocket is her vintage typewriter. The notes are gentle words of wisdom. She posts them almost daily.

When scrolling through my Instagram feed, I’ve noticed these notes from Christine’s vintage Rocket typewriter have become a still point for me. The words wash over me, offering me graces I didn’t know I needed in the moments I encountered them.

If you’re on Instagram, I recommend you follow Christine. She has a way of restoring and uplifting the soul.

Note: This marks the last entry in the “Still Points in the Day” series here on Still Forming. Join me back here on Monday for a new series exploration.

Still Points in the Day: All Is Prayer


A friend shared a video with me yesterday about prayer as a state of consciousness — the idea that we can hold a posture, inwardly and outwardly, that is prayer, no matter what we are doing. 

It made me think of the series we explored here recently called “Prayer Can Be.”

Prayer can be verbal, yes.

But it can also be silence, and dance, and drawing, and tears, and exercise, and preparing a meal, and so many other things in life. 

Just as I was sharing yesterday, in reference to the writings of Brother Lawrence and Jean-Pierre de Caussade, practicing the presence of God and attending to the sacrament of the present moment can create in us an ability to be still and prayerful inside ourselves while going about the mundane details of life. 

In that sense, still points are with us all day long. 

I’d encourage you to watch the 3-minute video my friend shared with me. Perhaps it will serve as a still point for you, as it was for me. 

Still Points in the Day: Routine Activities


As I was getting ready for work this morning, I noticed a still point happening underneath the surface of my around-the-house bustling.

Washing the dishes. 

Making the coffee. 

Drying my hair. 

Putting on make-up. 

I started thinking how often this happens for me.

I can be washing the dishes in the kitchen sink after dinner, sudsing up each dish and then rinsing it clean with hot water, and in my mind and heart I’m thinking of someone or a situation. Praying over it. Meditating upon it. 

Or I’m going through the motions of my getting-ready routine — brushing through my curls, applying lotions and moisturizers to my face and skin, picking out my shoes for the day — and underneath those automatic activities, I’m thinking about the day ahead, holding concerns in my heart, thinking through decisions. 

Brother Lawrence spoke of making each activity a prayer. Jean-Pierre de Caussade wrote of the sacrament of the present moment. Both of these men were speaking of mindfulness — being present to what you are doing as you are doing it, allowing that activity to become an intentional channel for prayer — and I’m very much in favor of that practice as a means of prayer. 

But sometimes automatic activities and routines we’ve sustained for so long we could do them blind become hospitable moments for deeper thought. It’s like someone who prefers to draw or take notes or play solitaire while listening to a lecture because the use of their hands keeps one part of their brain happy while freeing up the other part of their brain to listen better. 

Routine activities are like that for me sometimes. They can be gateways for deeper meditations of the heart. 

Do you ever experience this?

Still Points in the Day: Music


Have you ever had one of those moments where you’re listening to a new song or watching a music video and you’re completely arrested by what you hear? The last time I can remember that happening was when I discovered the Civil Wars and watched their “Poison and Wine” video. (So completely heartbreaking.) 

But this past Friday, I had a chance to check out a band called the Lone Bellow and stumbled on this video: 

If you can’t see the video in your RSS feed or email browser, click here.

Oh, man. It made time stop for me. I couldn’t pull my eyes away from the screen, and I teared up, just listening to the heartache here. 

It was a moment that made me completely present. Everything else fell away and I was totally zoned in. 

Has that happened to you with music ever before? 

Still Points in the Day: Sitting in the Bank Drive-Up

A chance moment.

I stopped by the bank on my lunch break today, and while the teller was processing my transaction, I noticed a little bird sitting on top of a 3-foot post about 10 feet away from my car. Just sitting there, looking out on the traffic of the busy street in front of him, cocking his head from side to side in curiosity, taking it all in. 

I loved that petite little bird. He reminded me a bit of Diva and the way she sits and looks out on our neighborhood

That little bird was a bit of a zen master for me in that moment — in the midst of the busyness and the rush and the ordinariness of life’s afternoon, he was just sitting there, appreciating the moment. 

And so I did too. (At least, until my time in the drive-up was done.)

Have you caught chance moments like this lately, going about the mundane duties of life but then arrested by the invitation to take it all in?

Still Points in the Day: Writing Passages

Thomas Merton. Inspired.

I had a pretty exceptional session in spiritual direction with Elaine earlier this week that is making all the difference in the world in my continued life with God. I’ll be sharing more about it in the Cup of Sunday Quiet mailing this weekend, but for now I will share that because of what happened in our session, I’m feeling joy again. Connection with God. Surrounded by love. Pursuit of life. 

Because of this, I’ve been able to hold still moments of contemplation with greater duration this week. 

And that’s been such a gift, given this hard season. 

A couple nights ago, I stayed up in the late hours reading a new copy of Thomas Merton’s New Seeds of Contemplation that Kirk gifted to me recently. When I came to the following passage, I kept reading it over and over again: 

“For it is God’s love that warms me in the sun and God’s love that sends the cold rain. It is God’s love that feeds me the bread I eat and God that feeds me also by hunger and fasting. It is the love of God that sends the winter days when I am cold and sick, and the hot summer when I labor and my clothes are full of sweat: but it is God who breathes on me with light winds off the river and in the breezes out of the wood. His love spreads the shade of the sycamore over my head and sends the water-boy along the edge of the wheat field with a bucket from the spring, while the laborers are resting and the mules stand under the tree …

   “And I would grow together with thousands and millions of other freedoms into the gold of one huge field praising God, loaded with increase, loaded with wheat. If in all things I consider only the heat and the cold, the food or the hunger, the sickness or labor, the beauty or pleasure, the success and failure or the material good or evil my works have won for my own will, I will find only emptiness and not happiness. I shall not be fed, I shall not be full. For my food is the will of Him who made me and Who made all things in order to give Himself to me through them.” 

—Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation

It was a still point for me to read these words again and again. But I also felt moved to do something with them.

For the first time, I wished myself a word artist, able to create a beautiful doodling of this quote. 

But I am not a word artist. I do not create beautiful doodles with words. 

I do write, though. And so I pulled out some nice stationery paper, broke it in half, and wrote out the words by hand. 

Writing the words on paper in my own penmanship helped me meditate even deeper upon their meaning to me. It helped push them deeper into my heart. It helped claim them even more as my truth. 

Do you ever write passages that mean something like this to you?

Still Points in the Day: Listening to Another

Landslide of glory.

I had a chance to meet a friend for happy hour last night. We’re relatively new friends, and there’s a lot about each other’s lives and histories that we have yet to learn. So we sat outside in the perfect evening clime, drank some wine, shared some food, and talked. 

It was a chance for me to listen — openly, attentively, deeply, acceptingly. To receive and hold her heart and story. To see God so plainly there. To acknowledge truth with her — the hard parts and the grace-filled parts. To share what I could see in her sharing.

Holding space with another person is such an opportunity for stillness in the present moment. To be fully there, welcoming what comes. To gaze with the gaze of God, the one who does not look away or flinch but nods, acknowledges, responds, and loves. Always.

How have you experienced listening as a still point?

Still Points in the Day: Sitting on the Couch With Coffee or Tea

My favorite mug.

My favorite mug. 

When we first moved into our neighborhood, we discovered a family of owls lives here. In the evenings, on occasion, we could hear them hooting back and forth to one another.

We spotted one of them pretty early on — a barred owl, sitting up in a tree, staring at us as we looked up at him. We named him Reuben. 

Only occasionally have we heard that family of owls in the five years we’ve lived here. Maybe they moved to another neighborhood for a while. 

But they seem to have moved back. 

Over the last couple months, we’ve heard them frequently. Hooting and cacking back and forth at one another. One owl, in particular, hoots his way all through the night sometimes. 

I notice the owls hooting when I sit on the couch in the evenings with my mug of tea. Doing nothing else. Just sitting and being with the moment and listening to the sounds of the owls. Watching Solomon and Diva snooze, all snuggled up on a blanket. 


Do you know the sound a cardinal makes? 

It’s a tiny chirp. A tweet. One staccato note, so unobtrusive. The same pitch every time. 

I know this because Kirk knows pretty much everything there is to know about birds. He can identify them by sight and sound. He can spot a bald eagle far off in the sky, catching its “flash of white” on its wingspan and tail. He knows about ospreys and herons and kites and, yes, cardinals. 

He taught me to notice the cardinal chirp.

I hear it when I’m sitting on the couch in the morning with my tumbler of coffee. Just sitting. Doing nothing but breathing in and out. Listening to the sounds of the neighborhood. Rubbing Diva’s back if she decides to snuggle up beside me on the blanket. 


Sitting on the couch with coffee or tea in the morning or evening becomes a still point for me. 

What are the still points for you right now?

Still Points in the Day: Watching Diva

I love watching Diva sit at the screen door and look out at the neighborhood. She's so curious yet content.

I count as a “still point” anything that causes me to be present to the present moment — not avoiding or distracting myself away from the reality of where I really am. 

And so, sometimes, the still point I most need is found in watching Diva. 

One of her favorite things to do is sit in front of the screen door, looking out on the neighborhood. She’ll sit in the same position for such a long time, and the only things moving are her ears, which twitch from time to time, or her face, which moves up, down, and side to side as she watches squirrels climb trees, lizards cross the porch, or cars drive by. 

I love her contentment and curiosity.

As I typed this post, she discovered a small-sized box I put in the middle of our front room after I returned from Costco. It took her about an hour to discover it sitting there, waiting for her, but once she found it, she put her front paws inside of it, straddling it, and rubbed her face along the box edge. Then she put the rest of herself inside the box and sat there, looking around, triumphant. 

Sometimes she sits stock-still about two inches in front of the air conditioning vent in our hallway, staring at it. I have no idea why she does this.

Just a moment ago, she rubbed her paws frantically against my leg when she heard me singing an Adele song. Then, when I pulled her on my lap to give her a squeeze, she wriggled out of my arms and jumped on the table, all so she could sit on the opposite side of my laptop screen and rub her face along its edge. 

When she’s curious, I watch her. 

When she’s still as a statue, I watch her. 

When she’s sleeping, I watch her. 

When she’s wandering around the house, I watch her. 

When she’s tolerating Solomon’s advances, I watch her. 

When she stares up at me with her plaintive blue eyes, I watch her.

I learn so much, just watching Diva. She fills my heart so full, I think it’s going to explode. I’m thankful for the way she teaches me how to love, both in the way I love her and in the way she loves me. 

I find still points in the day watching Diva.

What about you? Where are you finding still points right now?

Still Points in the Day: Post-Run

Bearded mother.

On the first day of January, I started a personal challenge called #mileaday. It’s a challenge to run one mile every day for the month of January, and so far I’ve been faithful to do it. (I have Elise Blaha to thank for the inspiration to try this—I follow her on Instagram and watched her complete her own version of the challenge every day between Thanksgiving and New Year’s.)

First things first. I am not a runner. Not in the slightest. I’ve always viewed running as a special form of torture and could not comprehend why anyone would choose to do it willingly. I viewed those who love running as a very special subset of the human race—one to which I would never, ever belong. 

But Elise’s description of the #mileaday challenge on her blog appealed to me. For starters, it felt do-able. One mile a day. That’s it. A 10- to 15-minute commitment. Just getting outside and moving my body around. Running as fast or as slow as I needed, but just doing it.

I figured I could try it for the month of January and see what happened. 

It’s been an interesting challenge so far, and I’ll likely write more of my thoughts on the experience later on, probably once I finish the month. 

But for now, I want to share this:

My favorite part is the post-run routine.

That’s when I get to walk and recover my heartrate and breathing. It’s when I get to listen to more mellow tunes and relax my hold on my phone and not constantly worry about my earbuds popping out of my ears or have to keep adjusting them. 

Best of all, it’s when I get to wander.

I wander around the neighborhood, revisiting the spots I noticed during my run where I saw something interesting worth photographing. I go back to those places and get to take a meditative moment with beauty and reflection and creativity and God.

It’s been a bit of a dry season for my, creatively, the last few months. I’ve hardly photographed anything. My eyes couldn’t seem to notice anything new. Nothing seemed fresh or beautiful anymore. Whereas I used to take several photographs a day, almost bubbling over with the beauty I noticed around me, I was lucky if I took three photographs in a week anymore. 

But on Day 3 of the #mileaday challenge, I remarked the following: 

“I think being outside is good for me. I’m finding beautiful things to photograph again.” 

I’m finding still points in my post-run routine, and I’m so thankful for it.

Where are you finding still points right now?

Still Points in the Day: Laying in Bed, and an Introduction

Light shines through.

Taken on Christmas Day at a family friend’s house.

This morning, I woke at 5:30 a.m.

There was no reason for this, and I’d only gone to sleep about four hours earlier. But there I was: in bed, wide awake. 

I clicked on the phone to see the time, groaned, and then slid the bar with my finger to unlock it. Then I opened the usual apps in the usual order. First, email. Then Facebook and Twitter. Then Instagram. Then, because I was bored, solitaire. Then, because all the cards on the screen made my bleary eyes dizzy, Cheesar—a game app that’s recently addicted me.

But I was too tired to play games. So I groped in the dark for my earbuds, untangled them, and plugged them into my phone. Then I opened the Netflix app and streamed Parenthood from where I’d left off. 

These are the things I do when I can’t sleep.

These are the things I do when I don’t want the stillness. 

Stillness has always come easy for me. I’m a contemplative by nature and a contemplative by vocation. Extended times of stillness are part of my regular life, a commitment I maintain with care and relative ease.

That is, until recently. 

If you subscribe to the Cup of Sunday Quiet email series, you know, from the personal notes I share in that space each week, that I’ve been walking through a difficult season in my faith life. A lot has changed in the last six months, and the changes have not been one bit comfortable. 

One of the most difficult aspects of this shift is stillness. Staying present to God and the work God is doing in me is hard work, and I find myself resistant. 

And so I distract myself. 

And all along, the feeling that I’m missing out on something important dogs at my heels. 

I know that stillness is what I need. Being present to God. Being present to myself. Being awake to my interior life. 

I streamed Parenthood on my phone until 7:30 this morning. Then I closed out of Netflix, clicked off my phone, and pulled the earbuds out. My head collapsed on the pillow. I shifted to my side and pulled one knee up to my ribs. I closed my eyes. Breathed in and out. 


Somehow, the grace to attend reached me. I noticed my thoughts as they rambled over my day yesterday—the things I did, the things I had planned to do but didn’t. Regrets. Sadness. Gladness. Thanks. 

I felt the gift of that moment, just being present and acknowledging the truth of my thoughts and feelings to myself and to God. And then I thought of this space—how this could be a place where I invite us all to be present to the still moments in our days, at least for the next little while. 

No matter how hard-won those still points are. 

Will you join me?

Today, I had a still moment while laying in bed. What about you?