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Life with three kids is full of noise. And so is my head. Sometimes it’s because of the noise around me, and sometimes it’s my own fault. Sometimes I’m constantly on the computer, looking for something, anything, to keep my brain busy.

And usually, my brain is happier when it’s busy. I don’t like having to sit and wait and do nothing. I want to at least have something to read.

But sometimes, I recognize that what I really need is some quiet, and I’m seeing that right now.

I have a lot to do tomorrow. I don’t have to work, so I’m planning to take care of multiple errands and household tasks. But maybe I can carve out a time and place for quiet; if not tomorrow, then maybe some evening soon.

One place I like for quiet is The Grotto, also known as The National Sanctuary of Our Sorrowful Mother. It’s a Catholic sanctuary on Rocky Butte in Portland, Oregon, with 62 acres of gardens and chapels. It’s peaceful and beautiful, with indoor and outdoor spaces, and it’s much less expensive than the typical spiritual retreat (free to visit the lower level; $4.00 to ride the elevator to the upper level).

Just thinking about it makes me smile.


Today was a difficult day. Did I get through it? Yes. Did I use coping strategies to get through it? Yes. I took some deep breaths, took myself offline for a little while to eliminate stress, and went for a two-mile walk. I also reached out to a higher power. Did this connection help me get through today? YES.

Part of the difficulty today was an encounter on Twitter with a couple of people who have a problem with me believing in this higher power. In the past, I’ve been more likely to get upset about encounters with religious fundamentalists who think that everyone MUST believe as they do, and practice religion as they do. But today it was atheists — who also think that everyone should believe as they do. And today, they were insisting that Christianity is evil, and encourages people to kill, and what kind of God allows children to be killed or molested, anyway?

And it got to the point where it was simply not a healthy conversation any more.

For now, I’ve unfollowed them on Twitter. That just means they won’t show up in my timeline while I’m on Twitter. I haven’t blocked them from my life. I’ve actually known one of them for several years, and I don’t want to do that. But I can’t take a daily barrage of what I’m starting to feel is hate speech.

Other than that — I’m hoping to move forward with a loving attitude, and without entering into potentially hurtful conversations.

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances. (First Thessalonians 5:16-18a)

Paul gives this advice to the Thessalonian church, and it’s a list that transcends time; I certainly find it as useful in the 21st century as it presumably was in the first.

But how? OK, maybe I’m not literally CONTINUAL about it. But I do reach out often for a hand, a rope, a presence. And if I don’t know what to say, I fall back on a couple of short prayers that are easily memorized and repeated.

One is similar to Paul’s advice above.

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his steadfast love endures forever. (Psalm 118:29, paraphrased from the NRSV)

This phrase appears in many of the Psalms and in other books of the Bible; I can imagine people throughout the ages repeating these words.

And the other is the Jesus Prayer, a traditional prayer of the Eastern Orthodox Church.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

I got this one from Madeleine L’Engle, who described especially falling back on the Jesus Prayer when waking up with middle-of-the-night anxieties. I’ve read about it elsewhere since then (and even seen it on Twitter), but that was where I first heard about it.

In times of joy, anxiety, grief, or any time at all, this is where I go.

This post was triggered by my reading of the daily devotional from The Upper Room; reading this is a great daily practice and I urge you to check it out if you’re interested.

I was quite busy on Saturday. We did housework in the morning, and then I took my eldest daughter to a science class in the afternoon. It was way across town, so I waited there for her, and did some blogging and related tasks on my computer. Then we went home, ate dinner, and hung out reading and watching TV until bedtime.

But I still had more things to do today. There were a few more cleaning tasks, the grocery shopping, and preparation for our Girl Scout meeting on Monday. But I didn’t really want to do any of that, and I knew that what I really needed was a Sabbath.

However, I still felt like I needed to do the other things. So I sat around on the computer and didn’t really do anything, and felt guilty about the things I wasn’t doing. I didn’t really either take a Sabbath or get things done; all I did was worry.

Next Sunday, I’m just going to do it. I’m going to take a Sabbath. I’m going to play music and read books and dance with my daughters and not worry about stuff that I “should” be doing.

How can I BE Christ in the world?

This is one of those weeks where I’m thinking “Well, I didn’t really do anything to be Christ.”  Sure, I did a lot of stuff. But did any of it matter?

Well, everything matters, I suppose. But that doesn’t change how I feel.

Mostly I’m just really tired lately. I wake up (not early enough) and go to work. When I get home, I feel sleepy and/or physically ill. And so I revert to being selfish. I don’t want to do anything that involves getting up and moving, either for myself or for others. I do things on the computer. I read and process email, and blog, and keep my calendar current. I do things for the Portland WordPress User Group, or for the local community dinner. But I push housework and gardening and things that would actually help my family out of my mind.

Summer was great. I could take things at my own pace. But right now, I really need help managing this.

I just now wrote this as a creative writing exercise. But it’s a true story. Make of it what you will.

The sheer rock wall stretched along the side of the ravine. Above and below, the ravine was equally steep. And back? Back was a long way. We chose to go forward, one at a time, toes clinging to the earth below the rock, bodies hugging the wall.

I slipped on the way over, grabbing the edge of the rock, my feet scrabbling for a moment. But I didn’t go down the hillside, and neither did anyone else.

We named that place Hell, because we didn’t know where we were or how soon we would get out of it. But we did eventually. We had to spend the night outdoors, in the middle of a forest road, and then next day, we found that we were closer than we’d thought; if we had kept going down the road we might have found our way out that night.

But in the dark, we couldn’t see enough to know that, so we stayed out, shivering, huddled by a tiny campfire. And in the morning, we knew just where to go.

I wrote this devotion two years ago, and it’s very much with me today:

“All human beings come from the ground, and humankind was created out of the dust.  In the fullness of his knowledge the Lord distinguished them and appointed their different ways.” –Sirach 33:10-11

When I picture myself in contact with God, I see myself in nature – sitting on the ground, cross-legged, eyes closed, holding my hands out to God’s presence.  I can hear leaves rustling in the breeze, and the birds and squirrels chattering, and know that what God has created is good.

Theologian Paul Tillich spoke of God as the “ground of all being,” and that is how I relate to God – as the ground under me, from which we all spring.  God supports us and steadies us, and if we feel shaky, we can actually sit down and feel God there beneath us.  We can reach out to the Creator’s presence for sustenance and strength, and see it all around us in the natural world.

Today is a shaky day for me. I suspect it’s because the summer is ending. I go back to work next week, and as usual, I haven’t accomplished all that I planned to do during my time off. I’ve grown some food, but I’m hardly a farmer. I’ve done some writing, but not that much. My soon-to-be kindergartner isn’t reading at a first-grade level (yes, I’m crazy like that), and the other kids haven’t read all of the good books I wanted them to read. I lost 10 lbs-ish, but got stuck after that.

Okay, if I’m being honest there is a lot that I have accomplished, too (including spending quality time with my family), and I should be glad of that. But these transition times are hard for me and always have been.

I didn’t really recognize it as transition anxiety this morning. I just knew that I was feeling depressed and anxious and having a hard time doing anything.

But I’ve been holding on to God as the ground of my being today. When I feel anxious, I acknowledge it, and return to that connection with God. It doesn’t make the anxiety go away, but it does keep me going.

I just got more than I bargained for at the grocery store.

My daughter and I walked up to the door just as a lady and her son were getting out of a cab. While I was grabbing a cart, the lady stormed into the cart bay, shouting “if you’re going to live in this country, you should learn to speak English!”

I wasn’t sure who she was talking to, but since our local Winco has customers from a wide variety of ethnic backgrounds, it could have been one of several people within shouting distance.

Evidently, I’d forgotten my mouth filter, because I burst out with a “WHAT?!”

She looked at me and said, “I was talking to my son.”

Realizing now that I had spoken out loud, I replied “Well, that’s very rude talk,” and turned away with the cart. She continued talking, saying something about the cab driver, and that she was sorry to offend me, especially in front of my little girl, but…

We kept walking, and I hoped we wouldn’t see her inside the store.

Of course, we did run into each other again, in the dairy section. I didn’t see her coming; she approached me, and calmly said, “I want to apologize. I shouldn’t have said that. I was just really upset; that’s wasn’t me.” She explained that the cab driver had wanted to drop her off down by the street instead of at the door of the store, and she’s disabled and can’t walk far, so that’s really not OK. And his not speaking good English didn’t help the situation.

I nodded, and said, “I would be really upset about that, too.”  And then she apologized to my daughter too, reiterating that she shouldn’t have said that.

I thanked her, and we moved on again. And then as we left the store, she was outside waiting for another cab, and she waved cheerily and said “Have a nice day!”

I’m not sure what the lesson is here. Maybe just that it’s worth speaking out? I’ve had other experiences in which speaking out just made the person angrier. In this instance, it actually worked.

Yesterday I attended a memorial service for a great lady who had been married for 58 years. At her request, her husband got up to speak at the end about their 58 years of marriage.

“About 58 years of marriage – what I’m going to talk about is the anger.”


He went on to say that in 58 years of marriage, there is plenty of anger. But over the last three weeks of her life, there was only love. And that there will be times of anger in any marriage, but that’s OK.

I know that sometimes a marriage really does need to end. But for most of us, this is real wisdom.

Bonus: Read 1 Corinthians 13