Interiorities: "Restore My Soul"

I’ve just returned from a week’s stay in snowy Michigan as part of a residency requirement for my graduate program. It was a week spent laughing, sharing, learning, crying, listening, thinking, and worshiping with my dear cohort friends and the many others met along the way. 

The day before I left on this trip, as I folded my laundry in preparation, I found myself uttering a heart-prayer over and over:

“Restore my soul.”

Restore my soul, restore my soul, restore my soul. 

I realized this was my prayer for the week ahead. In being taken out of the dailiness of a regular routine, and in preparation for the new season of work-life ahead when I returned, my heart kept asking Jesus to come and restore my soul. It had become such a parched and thirsty soul over the past several months of busyness.

Oh, how beautifully God answered this prayer.

In quiet moments like these, God returned my heart to itself and to himself: 

  • Through the beauty of a snow scene, I found the beauty of God. I stepped outside my cabin on the very first morning to be greeted by a shocking-white snow scene. All was quiet. Small dusts of snowflakes fell lightly on my face and hair and jacket. The cold air heightened my senses. It was quietly beautiful. I couldn’t help but tell God how beautiful he is.
  • Through noticing small incarnational moments, I discovered the ache in my soul that springs forth in longing for God. I completed several short reflective exercises on the first day of the residency that had me noticing different ways God meets me in my daily life. Moments like the attentive presence of my little girl kitty, the sparkling beauty of the sun on a lake, the mystical romance of hanging moss on trees. Through these reflective exercises, I was reminded that I always feel a strong and stirring ache deep down in my soul in these moments of surprising connection with God’s presence and beauty. It’s a reminder that my heart has a continually unsatisfied longing for God. 
  • Through a time of prayer, I wept at the sight of God’s beauty. While sitting among a group of friends at dinner, I became aware of my heart’s longing for prayer. It was a longing I hadn’t felt for quite some time, so I paid attention. I excused myself and headed to the 24/7 prayer room: a darkened room lit by candles, piles of pillows on the floor, and an ample supply of tissues. As I listened to a particular worship song on my iPod, tears streamed down my face. The beauty of the Lord loomed closer, the communion of our hearts grew stronger, and I could not help but cry at the sight of his beauty. 
  • Through a brisk, cold walk, my body praised God with vigorous movement. After that time of prayer in the 24/7 prayer room, my body needed to move — and preferably in the cold night air. I pulled on my winter cap and gloves, buttoned my jacket close, and turned up the worship tunes on my iPod. I may or may not have been singing loudly as I tramped along the circular pathway. :) 

I’m so very thankful for the way God met me in those moments. I had cried out for him to restore my soul, and he presented himself to me for deep, long drinks of himself. I could not help but adore him in response.

What about you: What has been your own heart’s prayer to God these days? How have you seen him responding to that prayer?

Interiorities: "You're Valuable"

I shared in my recent life update video that the past few months have been an unexpectedly overwhelming season of busyness. I got to a place where it finally became too much, and so to recover my place of centeredness I went through an intentional process of discernment. I created a “tree of life” diagram and then made some decisions about which branches should stay on the tree or be cut off. 

I thought in making these decisions, that life would become easier. That it would flow more freely. And it did, for a spell. 

But then the holidays came. And we went out of town. And then committed to lots of intentional planning for the upcoming year. And then it was time to begin preparing for my January residency in Michigan. And that meant finishing out all the other last-minute details needing my attention before going out of town and starting a full-time job.

I leave on Friday for 8 days, and when I return I’ll launch straight into my new work.

It’s an exciting time, full of purpose and meaning, and I can’t wait to discover what’s ahead. But this morning I realized this means I’m in the final days of a season that has marked the last two and a half years of my life. 

I can count the remaining days of this beloved, bohemian lifestyle on the fingers of just one hand.

So there are feelings of loss right now. And a recognition that the quiet, slow-paced days that my soul most naturally inhabits are really now at an end. My summer of solitude marked the end of those days, without my realizing that it was so. Life has been non-stop busy ever since, and will continue to be so as I juggle an invigorating full-time commitment, a graduate program, a spiritual direction training program, a heartfelt ministry to incarcerated individuals, and this lovely online space right here.

And the truth is, I’m learning that I don’t know how to connect to God well in the midst of all this busyness. My most natural place of connection to God is in the quiet, contemplative spaces. That’s where I fell in love with Jesus. That’s where I learned how to listen to my heart. That’s where I learned how to pray. 

But when things get all stirred up and a bustle of activity swirls all around me, I lose sight of God. I even lose sight of myself. 

Today, in a much-needed session with my spiritual director, I discovered how much the busyness spins me away from God and myself. And in the season ahead that will be full of life and vibrancy and so much activity and involvement in so many things, I wonder what that will mean. 

Perhaps it means learning to relate to God inside the busyness.

At least, that’s the possibility that emerged during my session. And I wasn’t sure what I thought of it. After all, I don’t know how to relate to God in this place. How do I even begin? And does it mean giving up the precious connection with God I find in contemplative, still spaces? What if this new way isn’t enough?

Thankfully, something happened inside the session to make me more ready and open to learning some new ways of prayer.

There came a moment when my director invited me to voice to God the busyness. “If you look into the mystery that is God, can you just voice those words to him? Tell him those words, ‘I’m busy?’”

It was an admission I found difficult.

Again, God hasn’t been present with me inside the busyness. I’ve been trying to handle it all on my own. But to admit it, finally, to God? That felt hard. 

However, those specific words she used about voicing this truth to the mystery of God were helpful. They connected in my mind to the great sense of swirling chaos I have been feeling inside all this busyness of life. So I imagined me, inside this swirling chaos, looking out at the great mystery that is God. 

Quietly, with tears rolling down my face, I said in a very small voice: “I’m busy.”

In that image of my life as a swirling chaos that I was holding in that prayerful moment, I could see myself as a very small speck inside of it. A bright speck, but a tiny one, trying to harness all that swirly-ness and chaos on my own.

And in the midst of that twister-like chaos, I heard God say to me, “You’re valuable.” 

Those two words. Wow.

To a tiny speck in mad, swirling chaos, those two words nearly knocked me off my feet.

I’m valuable? Me? A tiny speck? 


To the master of the universe, I’m valuable. He sees me. Even in the midst of the madness, I exist. I matter. I’m valuable. 

Thank you, Jesus. 

Perhaps if God sees me in all my swirly chaos — not only sees me but finds me irrevocably valuable — I can begin to consider how to meet him inside the busy places. Perhaps I can learn how to connect to him in the active, non-stop moments. 

After all, he sees me in those places. And if he sees me, perhaps I can see him, too.

Interiorities: "You Made Me Fall in Love with You"

Last week I participated in a miniature version of a spiritual direction session with a small group in my graduate program. One of my classmates was serving as the spiritual director, and I was participating as the directee.

It turned out to be an experience my friend Barb would call “whoa dang” — one of those times when God shows up and knocks your socks right off. 

The session began with my sharing about the image of the wilderness I’d discovered the previous week. I had continued to think about that image over the course of several days and felt there was more I could learn from it. I wanted to take time in our session to explore the image a bit more.

My classmate’s response surprised me.

He said, “I’ve noticed that you ‘sit with images’ a lot … and that God speaks to you through those. God speaks to me in very similar ways. What kept coming up in me as I read your words is the idea of worship … specifically musical worship. I feel like this may be connected to the dying process in some way. How has your experience been with God in times of worship recently?”

What an unexpected question!

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Interiorities: "I Am With You," Part 2

Shortly after I wrote this post, in which I shared about practicing a prayer and meditation exercise called “palms down, palms up” for the very first time, I learned just how powerful such a prayer exercise can be.

In the final, listening portion of that first exercise, I had received from God these four precious words: “I am with you.” Even though I had known this truth cognitively for a long time, that day it became even more personal. The truth of it reached deep into my being. I heard God speaking it directly to me, and I believed it was true in a deeper way than I had believed it before.

I soon came to see that those were four words received in due season, as over the course of the next several days I found myself in two very difficult situations that required me to press forward in courage. Both times, it was the experience of having received those words, “I am with you,” that gave me the courage to do what I needed to do.

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Interiorities: "I Receive From You Who I Really Am"

One thing I’ve loved about my spiritual disciplines class is the freedom we’re given to practice the disciplines each week in a way that is most meaningful to our current journey and life situation. We study two new disciplines each week and are then asked to practice them in some specific way, writing a reflection at the end of each week to share what we did and how it went.

On the whole, I have loved this because it brings a measure of freedom to an otherwise very structured experience. By their very nature, the spiritual disciplines are focused and intentional: we choose to do something in a certain way for a certain period of time in order to place ourselves before God and allow Him to change us. Simply by choosing to practice the disciplines, in other words, we bring to our lives some level of restriction. The freedom to choose what form that restriction has taken each week in this class, then, has been a real gift. It allows me to apply the material I’m learning in a way that is personal to my journey, my current life situation, my actual habits, and my specific need for growth.

This freedom to choose became difficult for me, however, when I got to week four.

In the fourth week, we studied the disciplines of simplicity and solitude. Figuring out a way to practice solitude was easy, as there is a retreat center near our house that has a long boardwalk through the woods that ends up at a lakeside seating area. Out by the lake, there’s nothing but the sound of water lapping and wind blowing through trees to keep you company. I decided I would spend some time sitting there at the end of the week, taking only myself, my Bible, and a notebook, leaving even my cell phone on silent so I wouldn’t hear it ring.

But getting to my time at the lake on Friday proved much more difficult than I thought it would be, and this is because of the way I wrestled with the discipline of simplicity all week long.

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Interiorities: "I Am With You"

Last week, as part of the spiritual disciplines class I am taking this term, I practiced a meditation exercise called “palms-down, palms-up.” Richard Foster describes this exercise in his book Celebration of Discipline. It is as an opportunity to release our concerns and sins to God in order to receive more of His nature and desire for us instead.

I sat cross-legged on my couch and draped my palms, face-down, over the edge of my knees. Quietly, I began to voice to God all the things that had holed themselves up in my heart that needed to be released. I quickly realized this was a form of confession with statements like, “I release to You my concern for my reputation. I release to You my stubbornness of heart. I release to You the way I withhold myself, my time, and my affection from people in my life. I release to You my plans and hopes for my future.” It felt like a deep cleansing as I sat there, letting all of this go out into the open between me and Him.

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