Five Things I Do Instead of Blowing Up My Life and Starting Over


Last week I was working. I had my laptop with me in bed, I was wearing my sweatpants, a hoodie, and I was obsessing over whether or not a publisher is going to pick up The Day the Angels Fell (commercial break – you can purchase it for your Kindle right now for only $2.99). I am terrible atI have always struggled with…I am working on my ability to wait. Learning how to wait isn’t fun. It takes time.

There are plenty of areas of my life that aren’t exactly where I want them to be right now. There are many things I would wish into my present, if I could: a little more money, a few more projects, kids that all sleep through the night and don’t end up on your floor at various nope-o’clock hours. A box of Lucky Charms and a gallon of whole milk all to myself.

The temptation for me while waiting, with my personality and background and temperament, is to make drastic changes, either in an attempt to rush things or to so drastically change the game itself that what I was waiting for no longer applies. We’ll move! I’ll get a job! I’ll sleep all day! I’d rather blow up this beautiful life I’m living than sit around and wait.

This is a strange and scary concept I only just realized about myself as I typed that last sentence. I would rather change everything than keep waiting. See? Writing IS free therapy!

But instead of blowing things up and starting over again, I have to remind myself of what got me into this life, one that I honestly, truthfully, cross-my-heart really do love.

Trusting that God has this whole mess completely under control.

Consistently showing up and doing the work I can do (which for me looks like 1,000 words a day).

Choose hope (go on a jog or take the kids to the park).

Continue to believe in the necessity and power of shitty first drafts (thanks, Anne Lamott).

Embracing silence and releasing worry (don’t forget to breathe).

These are not concepts that apply only to writing. Maybe you’re a mom and the monotony or the schedule or the lack of adult conversation is killing you – keep showing up. Maybe you’re a business person writing your 100th business plan – choose hope. Maybe you’re trying yet another new idea – get that terrible first draft finished and behind you. Maybe you’re a pastor starting a new church and you don’t where the money will come from – release your worry.

But always remember – and this is coming from someone who’s been through quite a few of these waiting periods in my life – if all else fails, Lucky Charms will probably help, at least a little bit.


Waiting is Something Besides Sitting Around

Photo by Ermin Celikovic via Unsplash

“A waiting person is a patient person. The word patience means the willingness to stay where we are and live the situation out to the full in the belief that something hidden there will manifest itself to us.”

Henri Nouwen

Aren’t those beautiful words? Nouwen has a way of making even the most difficult things sound noble and worth doing.

But I still don’t enjoy waiting, no matter how glorious Nouwen tries to make it sound. I wonder if that’s because I’ve always seen waiting as sitting around, as nothing more than passing time. That’s not how Nouwen talks about it.

To him, waiting means 1) remaining 2) living 3) and paying attention.

That doesn’t sound like doing nothing. If this is true, if this Nouwen-esque kind of waiting is possible, then waiting is actually a switch from being static to being still, from a blank stare to calm awareness. Note especially that he doesn’t say waiting involves finding something new. No, the newness will make itself apparent to us when we remain, live, and pay attention.

What are you waiting for? Are you, like me, still trying too hard, when all that’s required of us in this time of waiting is to be still and aware?

* * * * *

These lucky folks are the winners of last week’s drawing for Christie Purifoy’s incredible memoir, Roots and Sky:

Kristin Potler
Jessica SanbornLaura Brownstein

Message me your info. I can’t wait for you to read this book!

* * * * *

Bryan Allain and I are putting together a top-secret project that will benefit writers. To get more info as it becomes available, go HERE.

One Christian’s Response to Super Tuesday


There’s a chaotic angst broiling in America these days. Facebook and Twitter basically blew up as the results from Super Tuesday became clear and He Who Must Not Be Named was declared the winner in many states, his path to the presidency made straight(er). You can feel the tension gathering tighter, like a spring pulling apart.

This fear shouldn’t surprise us. After all, the world profits on it. Our fear (of being hurt, of not having what our neighbor has, of being left out) makes the economic world go round. You can’t sell something to someone who is content with what they have, so we’re pummeled with the fear of being hungry or not having the best car or not having enough sex with the right kind of people. There’s the fear that refugees will destroy our economy, the fear that ISIS is in our backyard. If we listen to those fear-spewing stations long enough, we start to believe them.

In the mean time, our culture continues to feed us fear and angst and watches the bottom line go up. We devour it 24/7 in the news and on the radio and in our social media feeds, and we are sated, but we can’t stop eating it up.

More and more words.

More and more stuff.

More and more fear.

* * * * *

One of my Lenten practices is reading the book of Luke. I was driving down to see a client who lives in the southern end of Lancaster County, and as I drove those long slivers of road that run along the edges of fields and woods, I listened to chapter 24. It’s the story of the events that come after Jesus’ death.

But really, it’s the story of chaos.

From the other gospels we know that all kinds of chaotic things happened when Jesus died. There was a storm, a splitting curtain, and formerly dead people walking the streets of Jerusalem. There were angels and frightened guards and an empty tomb. There were arguments about what had happened. There was uncertainty and disappointment.

There was a lot of disappointment.

The one person they had hoped would lead them into a new kingdom was dead. Now what?

Then, in the midst of these chaotic days, two travelers walk from Jerusalem to Emmaus, a village seven miles outside the city. A third man joins them, and they tell him the story of all that is happening, all the fear, all the disappointment, all the chaos. This third man, it turns out, was Jesus, resurrected.

What jumped out at me the most about their interaction with Jesus was that he did not use this opportunity to promise them success, or wealth, or even a worldly kind of peace that might have calmed the turmoil in the land around them. He didn’t, in other words, promise them that everything would turn out okay. The pivotal moment of their meeting didn’t involve him rallying them to overthrow Rome or put the Pharisees in their place, once and for all.


The pivotal moment of their meeting came when he sat down with them and picked up the bread. He blessed it, he broke it, and he gave it.

* * * * *

I once heard a sermon by Henri Nouwen in which he talked about how many times Jesus was described as blessing bread, breaking it, and giving it. Nouwen goes on to suggest that this is the life of the true disciple of Christ, that all this handling of bread was actually Jesus foreshadowing what he would do, and what he would ask us to do.

We are blessed.

We are broken.

We are given to others.

* * * * *

These are chaotic times, no doubt. Sometimes I wonder if my generation has ever seen anything quite like it. But it is precisely the unrest and the fear that requires us to rediscover our foundation as sons and daughters of God.

Be blessed.

Be broken.

Be given.

Going Five Months Without Income (and Why Emptiness is a Good Thing)

Photo by Gili Benita via Unsplash

It is very hard to allow emptiness to exist in our lives. Emptiness requires a willingness not to be in control, a willingness to let something new and unexpected happen. It requires trust, surrender, and openness to guidance. God wants to dwell in our emptiness.”

– Henri Nouwen

Last year I didn’t have any major writing projects from March through July. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to live without money, but it’s a fairly challenging experience. Watching your credit card balance go up month after month is a soul-sucking exercise. Maile got a part-time job at a local market, I worked weekends selling baked goods to try and make a little extra while cobbling together some odds and ends on the writing front.

It was a long five months. It felt like a very empty five months. I wandered around the house, tired, not sure where to sit.

Emptiness is a funny thing, because while it’s basic implication is “lack” (empty stomachs, empty space, empty containers), emptiness also signifies something completely different.

Emptiness means there is room for opportunity.

Emptiness invites us to stop trying to control everything, to sit back and wait patiently for what might happen next to fill the void.

Emptiness creates space for trusting God.

* * * * *

Maile and I were talking about the hope of emptiness yesterday morning as we face our normal uncertainties in life. Being self-employed is a constant exercise in trust. She marched over to the side table in our bedroom and read the following passage from Isaiah 43:

“Forget the former things;
    do not dwell on the past.
19 See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland.
20 The wild animals honor me,
    the jackals and the owls,
because I provide water in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland,
to give drink to my people, my chosen,
21     the people I formed for myself
    that they may proclaim my praise.

“This isn’t the same old thing,” Maile insisted. “We’re not going around in circles. We’re not destined to live our past over and over again. God is doing a new thing. A new thing!”

The two of us sat there in the morning light, shadows from the sycamore tree outside the window waving on the floor of our room. We sat there, and for a moment we were in awe at the new thing this emptiness might bring.

This emptiness you’re experiencing? This sense that your circling around the same disappointment, the same failure, the same mistakes? It’s not true. There is a new thing in the making. There’s a stream making its way toward you, through the wasteland.

* * * * *

Where are you experiencing emptiness in your life? Would you consider beginning to see that emptiness as a space in which something new can grow?

* * * * *

indexI’m so excited to be giving away THREE FREE COPIES of a wonderful, beautifully-written book: Christie Purifoy’s Roots and Sky. If you’d like to enter your  name for a chance to win one of those copies, leave a comment below. You could always let us know how past emptiness led to something new. Or you could let us know your current emptiness and we could commiserate with you. Or you could simply say, “I’d love a copy of Christie’s book!”

When You Care Too Much About Politics


“Be careful of politicians who would offer you things that are not theirs to give.” Father David Peck, Saint James Episcopal Church

On Sunday it was cold. It doesn’t get that cold very often around here, the kind of cold that hurts your skin after a few minutes and burns the lungs. The kind that leaves you whispering, as you walk to church from your car, “Come Lord Jesus…and bring spring along with you.” Sam danced along the top of the shallow snow bank shouting, “Look at me! I’m Legolas!” The seven of us glided through the heavy, wooden doors and found a pew.

This week’s reading was on the temptation of Christ.

Command these stones.

Bow and worship me.

Throw yourself down from here.

It’s a poignant image, that of Satan offering Jesus so much in return for so little. How much effort would it have taken Jesus to turn the stones to bread? He had been fasting for 40 days, and the relief was right there, in the dust in front of him. One rock. One loaf. So simple.

But sometimes the things within our grasp aren’t the things worth grabbing onto.

* * * * *

One sentence from Father David’s sermon struck me more than any other. He weaved the temptations of Christ into our current lives, comparing the things Satan offered Jesus to the things these politicians offer us.

“Be careful,” he said, “of politicians who would offer you things that are not theirs to give.”

Yet this is what so many of us have fallen for, what so many of us swoon over. This candidate will do such and such. That candidate will not. This candidate will make my life better. That candidate will ruin us. Where does this falsely placed hope come from, especially among Christians?

Can we be honest and say that there is more than a little disappointment with this God of ours who so often does not heal the cancer, so often does not grant the promotion, so often seems to leave us wanting? So in our disappointment, unable to wait, we turn to human forms of power, living and breathing and speaking humanity, and the promises they make sound so good. So present. It’s right there, all that they say, within our grasp.

Dare I say that the level of happiness or anxiety we feel on the day after election day is a direct reflection of how much we are giving to Caesar what is not Caesar’s to have?

My First Ash Wednesday Service, and a Suggested Lenten Practice For My White Friends


I’ve never been to an Ash Wednesday service before. This is just our second Lenten season at Saint James Episcopal Church, and last year we couldn’t make it to the Wednesday service, so when we headed downtown yesterday, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect.

“Stop being so happy,” I told the kids as we walked towards the church. “This is not a joyful service. They put ashes on your head. It’s basically death.”

The kids stared at me as if I’d lost my mind.

I didn’t have anything to be afraid of, though. Reverend Lauren was as kind and gracious as ever, and she welcomed all the children to sit on the carpet up on stage, at the front of the church. She brought out various elements – water, light, oil, and ash – and explained their significance. After she explained the meaning behind Ash Wednesday, she walked around to each of the children and made the sign of the cross on their forehead with the ash.

“Remember you are made of dust, and to dust you will return.”

It was a somber service, yes, but there was a depth to it, a heaviness of spirit that somehow seemed right. I closed my eyes as Reverend Lauren put the ashes on my forehead, and, oh, how human I felt. Suddenly, the shortness of my life was on display for me to see, lasting no longer than the time it took her to mark me. I looked around at my fellow congregants and there was something obscene about the mark, as if I was seeing them naked. But there was also something beautiful about it, as if we had all finally admitted something very important, and now we could move forward.

I opened my eyes, my soul stunned. I glanced over and watched as she did the same to Leo, and I had to fight back the tears. It is one thing to acknowledge your own mortality, but quite another to be reminded that your one-year-old, with his new breath and his innocent eyes, is also marked. He will someday return to dust.

“Remember you are made of dust, and to dust you will return.”

* * * * *

I’ve been thinking a lot about what to give up or take on during Lent this year, and for the last few days one word has been projected into my mind: “Listen.” I haven’t been exactly sure what to think of this.

Then came the recent, trendy firestorms. Cam Newton, the black quarterback for the Carolina Panthers, and all the criticism surrounding him. Beyonce’s new video, Formation, and the backlash against it from many of my white friends. So many issues involving people of color, and so many smug, dismissive, insulting white voices.

Friends, during Lent, I commit to actively listening to my friends who are people of color. Will you join me in this? I say actively because I AM GOING TO SEEK THEM OUT AND ASK THEM TO TALK. My Facebook and Twitter friends. Eric, from across the street. Shayna, my wonderful new friend at Saint James.

For the next forty days, when you feel yourself getting ready to SHOUT your opinion about something that involves someone who’s not white, will you stop, take a deep breath, and find someone of color who doesn’t see things the way you do? Instead of simply spouting your opinion to the world so that all of your like-minded friends can like it or pat you on the back, will you ask people of color why they like Beyonce’s video, and then not argue your own side? Will you ask them how they feel about police brutality without saying anything in return? Will you ask them how they feel about racism in this country and simply listen? Will you ask them how they were treated growing up without comparing it to your own childhood? Will you ask them about the fears they have for their children without dismissing those fears?

Most of us have very deep, foundational reasons for feeling the way we do about certain things. Maybe it’s because of where we grew up, or who we grew up around, or what we’ve seen in the world. Maybe it’s what we were taught, or what we experienced, or what we believe. But other people have seen other things, and if we can stop shouting past each other, if we can stop and listen…I don’t know. It seems the right place to start.

Will you join me in dedicating this Lenten season to listening?

* * * * *

We got home, and we ate dinner, and the kids were playing around the house. I walked into the bathroom, and I caught my reflection in the mirror. The black mark on my forehead shocked me. I had forgotten about it. Instinctively, I reached up to wipe it away. But then I left it there.

How quickly we forget that we are all only ash. How quickly we forget.