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 :: Perhaps an Invitation to Powerlessness

Deep crevice.

A type of brokenness. 

If we’re friends on Facebook or you subscribe to the Cup of Sunday Quiet, then you know I’ve lately taken up a study of the Enneagram — a personality type indicator with roots dating back to the Desert Fathers and other wisdom traditions that is often applied in formation settings to help us understand our core needs, our besetting sins, and our growing edges for redemption. 

I’m fascinated and encouraged and inspired by all I’ve been learning about it. 

Pretty early in my process of study, I discovered I’m a 5. In Enneagram language, that means I’m an investigator and a perceiver. I prefer to experiene the world through the medium of my mind, gathering information and observing the world around me and seeking to understand things before choosing to act upon what I know. Us 5s like to understand how something works and seek to systematize that knowledge. We also have giftings for discernment and are prone to being mystics. 

At first, I didn’t want to be a 5. The idea of experiencing the world primarily through my head didn’t sit well with me. I thought, “That’s who I used to be. Jesus has redeemed me from my head living. He introduced me to my heart 15 years ago. I’m pretty sure I’m a heart person now.” 

And yet the more I read and reflected on my life experiences, from a young age to a young adult age to where I am today in mid-adulthood, I could see it was more and more true. Even the quirks used to describe 5s — like how they need their own private spaces and lots of time alone — began to make me laugh. It so much describes who I am and have always been. 

But then I got confused.

Over the weekend, I began talking to Kirk about writing a series on the Enneagram. Though I’ve just begun learning about this formation tool, I thought a series could be a helpful way of saying, “Look at this. It’s important. Here’s how it can help us all.” 

So Kirk and I sat on the couch yesterday morning and talked about this series idea. We talked about including some thoughts on its helpfulness in formation and the possibility of even including interviews with people who live out each of the 9 different numbers on the spectrum. And then off I went to Barnes & Noble, eagerly anticipating the help a few more resources could offer me in this process. I was a happy little learner bee (living out the true nature of my 5-ness!). 

And that’s when the confusion began. 

As I sat reading my new Enneagram book, I started to second-guess all I thought I’d come to understand about myself through the lens of the Enneagram. I read the description of the 1, who is concerned with perfection and things being right, and thought, “Well, maybe … ” I’ve always said my redemption story has been about Jesus’ rescue of me from the prison of my perfectionism. Then I read the description of the 2, known as “the helper,” and thought, “Hmmm. Maybe that too … ” The helper puts other people’s needs above their own and has a hard time caring for herself, and that, too, feels so much like the story of my life. 

I started to wonder if maybe I wasn’t a 5 after all. But then I read that 2s and 5s, in particular, almost never confuse themselves for each other. Misidentification with an Enneagram number can happen, for sure, but some misidentifications are more common than others. But 2s and 5s? That almost never happens. So why was I suddenly unsure? 

Like I said: confusion. 

All my enthusiam for the Enneagram series fell away. I started to fall into a deep funk, not unlike the funk that’s become all too familiar to me of late as I’ve grappled with God’s invitation for me to learn to carry stillness and as I’ve wrestled with a recent prayer experience I really didn’t understand

I told Kirk today that I feel like I’ve lost my footing. After several years of purposeful intent, of knowing what I’m about and what I’m moving toward and being faithful toward that end, nothing seems clear anymore. 

Then this afternoon, I had the chance to share the same thoughts with a close friend, who very perceptively pointed out, “Christianne, you’ve had several situations of late that have caused you to second-guess yourself.” She referenced the prayer experience that really threw me for a loop, then the way my life’s rhythm hasn’t looked anything like what I’m used to and really want and thought God wanted too, and then the Enneagram confusion that cropped up yesterday. 

“It makes sense that you’d feel like you’ve lost your footing,” she said. 

I don’t understand what God is doing right now with me, but these successive events all have a similar quality. And where it’s landing me is here: I just don’t know. 

I’m used to knowing. To having a sense of inner authority or inner knowing. To hearing God’s voice and then acting swiftly and surely in response. 

Right now, none of that is there. Everything I thought I knew has gone suspect. 

And I’ve realized all I can do in this place is depend on God. He’s the only sure thing. Not my knowing. Not my life situation. Not my future or even Kirk.

I keep revisiting that cliff’s edge where I’m sitting with God, just breathing, and let myself just continue to breathe with him. Sometimes as I’m sitting there, I tell God what I want and ask if he could possibly give it to me. Other times, like about an hour ago, I just sit there on the cliff’s edge with him and cry. 

All this feels very much like coming to the end of myself. 

And then tonight, I came across this video of Jean Vanier, the founder of the L’Arche communities, talking about this very thing. And I found it immensely comforting. 

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 :: When It Might Have to Do With Opening a Clenched Fist


Let go and … open?

It’s no secret I’m struggling with this turn in my journey. Every day, I’m thinking of what used to be and running scenarios in my mind for how to possibly create a return to it, then wondering if that response is not what God wants from me at all. 

And then last Thursday night happened. 

As I shared with my Sunday Quiet subscribers this past Sunday:

I shared a moment with God in prayer where I believed to have heard him say he’s going to take from me one of the most precious aspects of my life. A piece I cannot imagine ever living without.

Now, I may have heard God wrong. It’s happened before. But the impression was so clear, and it was so very much like what I’ve learned God’s voice sounds like in my life.

And it shook me. Really, really bad.

I’m still shaken by it.

I don’t know how to talk to God about what happened that night. I feel resistant to even a conversation with him about it. The times I’ve tried to pray, it’s felt like staring at a blank wall. All I’ve been able to muster so far is, “Why would you say that to me?” — without being able to wait and hear the answer. 

Kirk’s been encouraging me to ask God to confirm — or deny — if I heard him right. But I don’t feel able to even do that. The truth is, I don’t feel ready to hear the answer. If he says yes, then my world begins to shatter. If he says no, then my sense of surety in knowing his voice in my life goes suspect. 

I don’t know quite what to do with all this yet. I’m in a bit of a holding pattern with him, I guess.

It’s Tuesday now, and I still haven’t been able to go directly into a listening posture of prayer with God concerning this thing that happened last Thursday night. All I’ve been able to muster — still — is telling him how flabbergasted I am at what I heard and that I really don’t know why he’d tell me what he did, if, indeed, he told me what I think he did.

But there have been a few moments of silence. 

Like the silent spaces in the contemplative service at my church this past Sunday evening. And the 20 minutes of silence I entered into at the centering prayer group offered at my church on Monday morning. And the invitation to sit with God’s presence for a few quiet moments at the end of the weekly lectio recording included with this week’s Sunday Quiet letter. 

In those quiet moments, I began to see the potential synchronicity.

In a place where God is asking me to let go of an existence of quiet spaciousness and in a moment where I may have heard him say he’s planning to take away the most precious component of my life, my response is the same: to hold both with clenched fists.

I tell him no. Move to protect them both. Pull both of them closer and tell God he can’t have either one. Tell him they’re both mine. That he needs to fall in line and leave them be.

Maybe what he wants is for me to extend my hand and open my clenched fist.

The question is: Will I?

Carrying Stillness :: When You Don't Understand Why

I am missing this girl.

Her eyes so often hold a question.

I remember last June, a season I’d been spending with Jesus abruptly came to an end.  

For about nine months, we’d been meeting each day on the beach. Some days we’d walk back and forth along the shoreline. Sometimes we’d sit and stare at the waves. Sometimes I’d lean my head on his shoulder while we watched. Sometimes when I did this, he’d put his arm around my shoulder and sing over me. Other days, usually when I was upset with him for some reason, we’d stand facing each other on the sand while I let loose my diatribe and he took it all in stride and then responded in some totally unexpected but completely perfect way. 

It was such a treasured time. 

And then came the day we kept walking southward along the shoreline and turned a bend we’d never turned before. The familiar piece of shore we’d canvassed for nine months disappeared from view. Up ahead and to the right sat a piece of land jutting into the sea, covered in grass and ending with a steep drop-off cliff at its tip. On its south side sat a huge and rambling tree. 

My time on the beach with Jesus was over. 

The hard thing was that I didn’t know it was happening until it happened. I’d been content to walk with Jesus, exploring hither and yon on our daily beach dates, where sometimes I would lead and other times he would.

I had felt myself to be following his lead that day, but to me, we were just walking. I could tell he was leading, that he had a direction firmly in mind, but it wasn’t until we’d rounded the bend and walked up to that grassy knoll that I realized: This was our new destination. 

We weren’t going back. 

The other hard thing was that from our vantage point on the grassy cliff, I could see the beach we’d walked all those months. There it was, just out of reach. Here I was, in a new place. Here he was, too, with me in it, but I knew the other way we’d been sharing life together had come to an end. It was time for something new.

It hurt a lot when it happened.

I cried. I told my spiritual director, Elaine, it felt like he didn’t want to be with me anymore, and I couldn’t understand it. I stood face to face with Jesus, huge tears filling my eyes and spilling down my cheeks, and told him how much it hurt. Why didn’t he want to spend that uninterrupted time with me anymore? Why didn’t he want that intimacy we’d shared between us, just him and me? That experience of having me all to himself? Of having my undivided attention? Of experiencing my faithfulness to meet him each day on that beach that was ours? Why would he want to leave that space we shared? That season so beautiful?

Oh, yes. It hurt a lot.

The aftermath, when I realized what I’d lost without realizing I was losing it, was a painful time, and it was an awkward time.

He wanted to teach me a new way of being then, too, just like he does right now. He wanted to teach me how to look him in the eyes and have my own voice (which I wrote about here). He wanted to make me into a tree that allowed others to nestle inside its braches (which I wrote about here). He wanted to introduce me in greater depth to the Father and the Holy Spirit, beyond just being in relationship with himself, Jesus.

Eventually, I settled into the new territory and became familiar with its lush terrain. I became grateful for the chance to better know the Father and the Spirit. I came to love being a tree. I grew to love that cliff area. It’s still the place I regularly meet Jesus in our times of conversation. We like to sit with our legs hanging over the edge, looking north toward the beach shoreline we used to walk, often meeting there when we can watch the sun set over the ocean.

But it took time to receive. It took time to reorient. To accept this new thing. 

That’s where I’ve continued to be with this “carrying stillness” journey I’m on right now. I know I must sound like a broken record, sharing all the angles of this new invitation that I’ve found difficult. But it is what it is. Changing course means reorientation, which always begins with disorientation. Leaving behind a beloved gift means sadness. Especially when that beloved gift was something that equated to pure and unadulterated intimacy with the Beloved of your heart, and you don’t understand why your Beloved would want something else.

I know he has his reasons. I even know they are good. But that doesn’t mean they’re easy.

And so today I’m in a similar place I was on that June day he walked with me around a corner on the beach shoreline, never to return.

I think about the spacious, quiet life I used to lead. The simplicity of it. The focus of it. The way it felt completely tied to giving him my whole heart with intentionality and prayerfulness and attending each day to the cares and cries of the world. The way living a small and quiet life felt like the call to hiddenness he’d planted in me years before. 

I don’t know why he’d call me away from that. I wish it wasn’t so. To me, nothing seems better between us than that singleminded, devoted life I’d given him. 

I do know he knows what he’s doing. I know his ways are better than mine. I trust someday — hopefully soon — I’ll be grateful for this turn in the journey. 

But not today.

Today I’m still asking him if there can be some other way to keep things the way they were. And I know him well enough to know he’ll receive my tears and my asking with infinite patience and love, and also that he’ll respond in that perfect way he always does — a way that helps me accept what is.

Carrying Stillness :: On the Enneagram and Programs for Happiness

Brightness placed just so.

Bright spots in the rubble.

One afternoon while I was making lunch last week, I heard a podcast by Richard Rohr playing on Kirk’s computer. Rohr was talking about the Enneagram, and I heard him describe it as a means for each of us to understand our personally wired “program for happiness.” 

(Quick caveat: I’m not super familiar with the Enneagram, which, as a spiritual director, is something I know I ought to rectify. And so today, I finally ordered one of Rohr’s books on the subject. But if you want a quick and wonderful orientation to all things Enneagram, I encourage you to check out my friend Leigh Kramer’s recent post about it.)

Back to that day when I was making lunch and overheard Rohr’s mention of our propensity for certain “programs for happiness.” To paraphrase, he said we all have them. He said we try valiantly to make them work. He said this is part of being human. 

But he also said we aren’t meant to cling to them. To be attached to them. To make them the most important thing. 

I think this is what’s happened with my love for the still life I used to have.

Over a period of about 4-5 years, I discerned that spaciousness and stillness were components of a life posture that best fits my wiring. I also discerned it was — at least at that certain point in time — how God wanted me to orient my life and offer his gifts and life to the world. 

But I think that eventually became like bedrock to me. Like gospel. Somewhere along the line, without my realizing it happened, I may have become too rigidly tied to that sense of my life and what it was going to look like.

I felt enormously grateful for it. I felt at peace and at rest. It felt like I’d found my “zone,” and now all that needed doing was for me to keep living it, whatever that might mean.

But for him to turn me in a different direction, like he’s doing now? For him to say the time for stillness and space has ended for now, and perhaps forever? That was not okay.

Which is what indicates the “still and spacious” life may have become my prized program for happiness. 

So I’ve been paying attention to that. And it’s really been working me over. I didn’t realize it had become an idol, but I think — perhaps — it had.

Carrying Stillness :: When It's Not What You Want to Learn

Come and sit.

Shadows on the invitation.

I wish I could dress this up pretty, but I can’t:

I really don’t want to be learning this.

I’m pretty sure my last session with my spiritual director — the one in which I discovered the invitation to learn to carry stillness — could be categorized as the session in which I was at my least gracious. 

It’s usually the case that when God and I connect, I respond immediately. Zero questions asked. This is because God has earned my trust. Over the long history we’ve shared these 15 years now, I’ve grown to trust him implicitly — because he has demonstrated himself again and again to be completely trustworthy. I’ve grown to want what he wants, even if it’s hard. It hasn’t, for a long time, been hard to say yes to what he’s asked.

This time, though, I could barely get there.

Round and round I went in that session with God and Elaine.

“I don’t want to do this,” I said. “I don’t want this to be the invitation. I don’t want to learn this. Please don’t let it be true. This sucks. No.” 

Elaine, for her part, couldn’t stop smiling and clapping. She was exuberant at what she saw happening between God and me in that hour we shared. She was thrilled at the invitation for me to learn how to carry stillness. Her face was radiant about it all.

While she could have been self-conscious at how very different her affect was from my own, the difference between us did help me. It made a difference in my response to the whole thing to see this woman who has walked with me nearly five years — who knows my story and the landscape of my journey with God — responding the way she was. 

I didn’t want the invitation, but she was bubbling over with joy about it. 

I noticed her response, and it helped. 

It gave me pause in my fight.

Still, it wasn’t easy to say yes.

Even today, it’s not easy. I’m still struggling to say yes. I still want the invitation to go away. I don’t want it to be true. 

The truth for me in this? I want the quiet and calm of my previous existence back. I want the spaciousness. The room to breathe. The reflective, prayerful pace. That feels like life. And while I know it sounds privileged for me to say that, I had come to believe that way of being in the world was part of my vocational calling. I saw it as a key way I was meant to hold God and others in this world.

This moving from one immediate need of the moment to the next, one right after the other? It doesn’t feel like life. It feels compressed. Like I’m just surviving. Thin. 

I don’t want to live a thin life. I want a life brimmed full of meaning.

Today, I don’t know how to get from here to there — to the place where even the stacked-full life of activity feels just as brimmed full of meaning as the slow, reflective pace. I’m not there, but I suspect someday I will be. I know all God’s invitations are good and right.

In the meantime, I’m grieving the loss of what was. 

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?

A Meditation for Boston


Bringing light into the darkness.

What a week

I feel like I’ve gone to bed saying that several nights running now — and yet, each morning, I woke to even more startling news headlines. Today was no exception. 

If you’re like me, you’re feeling overwhelmed by the weight of all that’s happened in the world this week, and especially in Boston. And if you’re like me, you’re wondering what to do with all those feelings.  

Today, I’d like to offer you the opportunity to connect to your mind and heart in the midst of all that’s happened — a chance for stillness, silence, and prayer (or, if you’re not someone who prays, a chance for loving-kindness). If that sounds like something you’d benefit from receiving, I invite you to create space to listen through this audio meditation I created just for you.

Enter into the meditation here:  



Note: When playing the link, you may want to pause at the beginning and let the entire audio file buffer before listening your way through.

Much love always,


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: Snow Moments

Snow sky and wintry tree.

Taken in Nashville, February 2012

A reader in the U.K. shared with me this week that they’re having snow. Specifically, she shared about some time she spent standing at her window, looking out on the snow, finding a still moment. 

The silent falling of white

I live in sunny Florida, where snow is in no way a seasonal possibility, and I must say I envied my friend’s quiet moment with the hush of snow falling outside her window. Those of you living in colder climes might find the grace and joy of similar moments. 

Where have you been finding still points of late? 

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: 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: Wellspring

A holy chair.

Every second Thursday of the month, Kirk and I attend a contemplative gathering at a local church called Wellspring. It’s led by ordained artist and writer Jan Richardson and her immensely talented musician husband, Garrison Doles. 

We love it so. 

It’s a very simple service held in a tiny side chapel at the local United Methodist Church. The people who attend come from a wide ecumenical background and are beginning to feel a bit like family now. Garry shares his wonderful music with us. We read scripture together. We sit in long silences together. Jan shares a beautiful reflection that ushers us through the church year. We share conversation as a group from the places we’re sitting in our pews. We break the bread of Communion. 

I love every single aspect of this service, but one of the things I love the most is the chance to let my spirit rest. 

We slink quietly into the chapel, where Garry picks softly on his guitar and others sit quietly—listening, praying, being. We slide into our usual spot in the back pew, set our things down, and settle in. 

I close my eyes and breathe deep. I can feel the settling settle over me.

Time for rest

My spirit is at peace in this place. I’m welcome here. I’m invited to notice God. I’m thankful. 

The Wellspring service is a still point for me.

Do you have a space like this that is a still point for you?

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?

Into This Dark Night: The Invitation to You Here

Purple beauty.

This may be hard to believe, but when you are in a dark night of the senses, you don’t need to do anything. 

In fact, any activity you might do to help things along hinders the progress of this dark night. 

The temptation in this place is to stir up spiritual activity in the hopes of bringing back that feeling or confirmation we used to have that God is here and things are right with our soul. These efforts are in vain. Since the dark night is, in essence, a darkening of the senses, any effort to stir up those feelings in order to gain reassurance will prove fruitless. The senses are turned off for this season.

Another misdirected belief that can crop up in this place is that we need to cling to the spiritual disciplines so our faith won’t run aground here. There’s a belief that doing things will keep us grounded — that we need to keep our faith afloat during this dark time.

Spiritual activity isn’t the need of this season. 

The need is rest … quiet … stillness … inactivity. 

Does that strike you as odd? We’ve been talking about moving from milk to solid foods, from the mother’s breast to our own two feet. Oughtn’t that mean doing things to strengthen our limbs — like a bunch of activity to grow strong? 


Here’s how John of the Cross puts it:

“If only souls that this happens to could just be quiet, setting aside all concern about accomplishing any task — interior or exterior — and quit troubling themselves about doing anything! Soon, within that very stillness and release, they would begin to taste subtly of that inner nourishment, a nourishment so delicate that if they were purposely to try they could never taste it. This work only happens when the soul is at ease and free from care.”

The invitation to you in this place is rest. You are growing up — taking on solids and growing to stand and walk on your own two feet — but this happens at the level of the spirit, not the senses. It’s something God infuses in you. 

In short, he’s the one who grows you up. Your task is to let him. 

Let go. Rest. Be still here in this place.

Is that something you can allow yourself to do?

Enter a Moment of Silence


I am not going to say many words today. 

Instead, I invite you into silence. A moment of silence. Close your eyes and connect your being with the infinite being of God. Allow yourself to be in the presence of God’s infinity. No words are necessary. 

Can you be in a moment of silence today?