Dread Leads You Deeper

Tara encountered Christiana Peterson and her words in Grand Rapids at the 2018 Festival of Faith & Writing. She knew immediately that Christiana would be a friend to the Anam Cara community. The excerpt below can be found in Christiana’s book, Mystics & Misfits: Meeting God Through St. Francis and Other Unlikely Saints.

Though the chapter this comes from is called Winter (and it is currently summer), when I stumbled across this, I loved it and wanted to share. Christiana gives us a glimpse into her every day journey – one that hold the roles of mother, wife and farmer with an ache to live in deep spiritual places. Christiana explores the desire to live a life of mysticism amidst the mundane routines of the daily life.


In the middle of February, my craving for the healing warmth of soil under my fingernails saw me starting my seeds inside the house too early. Flimsy black plastic trays lined the edges of my sliding glass doors. Their roots would be long enough to need more room before the soil in my garden was warm enough to transplant them. But I didn’t care. If I could just see something grow, I could believe that spring was possible. I could believe that the tracks in the snow—ones that marked my anxiety-filled trips to feed the chickens—were melting into the dirt, providing the moisture it needed for another year of growth. I needed to see the snow melting and the sun rising.

And I did. And just as my fingers were aching to grow something tangible in the soil, life was taking root inside my body as well: I discovered I was pregnant with our third child. Even though this was unexpected, we were excited to tell the kids. We knew Neva and Jude would take to their older sibling duties with gusto.

My belly expanded into the warmth of those summer months in the sixth growing season, healing parts of me. But true healing isn’t linear; it happens in fits and starts. Sometimes the tracks in the snow melt into the earth. And sometimes the snow covers them again and more are made.

Our lives had become waves of celebration and tension. Matthew and I realized that we could map out the farm seasons not by how well the farm had done or the health of the crops but by which major drama had occurred each year. The stress of five years in such an unsettled place began to catch up with both of us. Each winter, with the shorter days and so much more time to think, we wondered whether we should keep sticking it out for another farm season. It began to feel as though there were a fifth time of year: the season of dread.

In his book Contemplative Prayer, twentieth-century Cistercian monk and mystic Thomas Merton writes of the necessity of dread—dread leads you deeper. He says of a monk who is deep in monastic prayer:

The Word of God which is his comfort is also his distress. The liturgy, which is his joy and which reveals to him the glory of God, cannot fill a heart that has not previously been humbled and emptied by dread. Alleluia is the song of the desert.

The monk who is truly a man of prayer and who seriously faces the challenge of his vocation in all its depth is by that very fact exposed to existential dread. . . . The monk confronts his own humanity and that of his world at the deepest and most central point where the void seems to open out into black despair.

As I plunged more deeply into motherhood, I wondered what dread meant for a woman—one who, with her duties, couldn’t be a monk in the practical ways of life. Maybe she was a mother and a wife, working in the naptime hours or caring for others, or maybe she was single and working outside the home. Maybe she had a loving husband who craved her body and emotional strength, or babies who needed her body to live, who needed her emotional strength to be healthy. She was tapped out, her needs forsaken not because her husband and children were at fault but because she idolized her marriage, she attached to the idea that motherhood was a calling. Instead of insisting on her need for the things that gave her life, she was afraid that her needs were the idols.

She needed to grow in her spirit. But sometimes it felt as though I didn’t have the space to feel God’s presence. The mystics seemed to dwell in places of constant search, marked by times of quietness and times of agony, periods that lead them into a deeper relationship with God. Many of them monastics and nuns, they all appear to live in extremities of solitude, silence, and prayer, where distractions are mostly internal.

Clearly they didn’t have three young children. My solitude was extreme only in its absence.

Did I take a pass on mysticism when I became a mother and not a nun? Distractions abounded, and solitude took so much energy. And what was left for myself? What was left for God?

As I reached my mid-thirties, my hormones changing in normal ways, I was overcome by my own existential dread. Not from hours spent in solitary prayer—that was hardly ever a possibility—but from anxiety and depression. Were those anxious thoughts my prayers? Was this the kind of dread that should be my friend?

Maybe. Maybe dread was the only thing that made me desperate enough to ask God for help.

(Quotes are from Contemplative Prayer by Thomas Merton)
“Excerpted from Christiana N. Peterson’s new book, Mystics and Misfits: Meeting God through St. Francis and Other Unlikely Saints. (Herald Press, 2018) All rights reserved. Used with permission. www.HeraldPress.com

Christiana N. Peterson has written at places like Christianity Today, Christian Century, SheLoves, and Art House America about farm life, fairytales, community life, and grief. She lives with her husband and their kids in Ohio where she spends her time writing, wrangling four children, reading YA novels, leading worship, and trying to figure out how to live a mystical faith.

What I’m Into (March 2014 Edition)

So, I’m back on the What I’m Into bandwagon again, given the recent resurgence in my life of things like energy and space for creativity. If you’re not a personal directee of mine, haven’t taken one of my eCourses, don’t know me in real life, follow me in Instagram or on Facebook (in which case, Hello! Nice to meet you!), you’ll be surprised to know that I’ve been hibernating away the first three months of 2014 because I’m expecting our first child, due to release in September 2014, slightly before my first book baby releases in December of this year.


To all pregnant women who have told me that they were “tired” and I nodded sympathetically, I officially apologize. Y’all, pregnancy tired is nothing. at. all. like normal tired. If you’d like to experience the bumping-into-walls-exhausted feeling I’ve enjoyed these past few months, I recommend catching the flu, not sleeping for five days and then going on an all-night bender that leaves you massively hung over (although I don’t actually recommend any of those things.) If you add that all up, you have a general approximation of what the past 14+ weeks have felt like to me, especially during the midday hours. Bring it on, second trimester energy!

All of that said, we’re thrilled, excited, freaked out and completely trusting in the One who is knitting this holy little life together in my womb as I write this. And we covet your prayers, as always.

So, with that, here’s what I was into in March (when I wasn’t zoned out on the couch):

Read & Reading:

As you might imagine, books were slow going this month, but I did make it through I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai, a fascinating read that I listened to on Audible. To me, this is one of those books better heard, because you get to hear the author’s voice in the foreword, and a native Pakastani voice reading the text, which made it come more vividly alive to me. Such an education on this history of that region and the plight of young girls under the Taliban regime.

I also finished The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman for my book club. I really wanted to love it, as several of my book club members do, but I just didn’t “bond with it” as a dear friend of mine says. I loved The Dovekeepers, but one of the narrators of this book just fell flat for me, and despite the vivid depiction of events in and around New York in 1911, I wasn’t emotionally drawn in. I wonder if it’s just a book that doesn’t fit my life stage at the moment.

Now that my pregnancy is more public, I can tell you I’m reading two lovely books that I’m finding very helpful in navigating this new path before me, one recommended in a magazine I love, Brain, Child, and another given to me by my dear friend Laura Brown (whose book, Everything That Makes You Mom is pretty much the PERFECT Mother’s Day gift, especially for the mom who seems to have everything or wants nothing. You fill out the book yourself with memories of your mother and it becomes this deeply personal, lovely keepsake. Seriously, go buy it for your mom now.)

The latter is Creating with God: The Holy Confusing Blessedness of Pregnancy by Sarah Jobe and it’s making me laugh and cry and pray and nod my head, often all at the same time. The former is A Good Birth: Finding the Positive and Profound in Your Childbirth Experience by Anne Lyerly, a secular book with a terrible subtitle that I’m nonetheless loving so much that I checked out a copy from the library so that my husband can read along with me. This one is helping me stay sane amidst the emotionally fraught waters of pregnancy, birthing and motherhood, each of which has had a sea of ink spilled on how to do “right” and “well”, which, in my experience, tends towards a kind of secular legalism and behavioral policing in which nobody really feels good about their choices. This book is the opposite of that, and makes me feel human and empowered.

I’m also working through God For Us: Rediscovering the Meaning of Lent and Easter for my Lenten devotional, and I’ve got a number of great books on my nightstand that I’m starting to journey through, like Micah Boyett’s luminous Found: A Story of Questions, Grace & Everyday Prayer, which I can already recommend to you, and Notes from A Blue Bike: Living Intentionally in a Chaotic World by Tsh Oxenreider.

Last month, I asked friends on Facebook for good fantasy fiction reads, because I love a good story, and I’m currently working through Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay. It hasn’t hooked me deeply yet, but I’m only a hundred or so pages in, so I’m giving it a chance.


Mostly, I’m reading these days, both as a discipline and as a desire, but there are still a few shows that we record (mostly on the Food Network) to watch when there’s time. Shows like Beat Bobby Flay (which is new, and I’m not in love with), Worst Cooks In America (whose finale we’ll be watching with a dear friend tonight), Cutthroat Kitchen and Southern At Heart (which I’m liking more and more). We’re also still into Castle, and my husband is watching The Walking Dead (which I just can’t do). I’m about to start up the next season of Call the Midwife, which is suddenly more relevant to my life. For whatever reason, we’ve just lost interest in the other dramas that we’ve been into, and haven’t watched a single episode of either Downton Abbey or Parenthood during their recent runs. I suspect I’ll catch up at some point, but we just haven’t felt drawn in that direction. Instead, I’m catching up on back episodes of Dr. Who that I never saw (I started watching somewhere halfway through season 3) in anticipation of having to deal with a new Doctor when the show starts airing again. After a rocky start, we are really enjoying MARVEL’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which has been doing some very interesting movie/television crossover stuff with the MARVEL universe characters across the board.


Because of the aforementioned Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (whose title is very annoying to type out), we’ve been watching some of the MARVEL movies once more, including Thor, Iron Man 2, Avengers and Thor: The Dark World. I’m not embarrassed to say I’m a super-hero geek, and I’m excited for the upcoming Avengers 2 movie, as well as the next X-Men movie (so sad that the world can’t intersect). This weekend we saw Captain America: The Winter Soldier in theaters (only the second thing I’ve seen in theaters since the Dr. Who 50th Anniversary Special), which was a lot more interesting and complex than I thought it would be. We also caught up on Hunger Games: Catching Fire, which I didn’t adore, but liked, and Frozen, which was a great new Disney movie with an empowering plot line and a way too catchy theme song. (We also loved The LEGO Movie, which is nuanced, engaging and a brilliant story for both kids and adults.)


Things have been quiet in my house and head recently, as I’ve preferred silence (and sleep) when I can find it, but I’ve been using Spotify a lot more and have been enjoying All Sons & Daughter, The Brilliance and Noah Gundersen‘s music quite a bit. I’m also super excited that the new self-titled worship album by my friends Tim & Laurie Thornton, will be out on Palm Sunday, and I got a bit of a sneak peek of it. They have a free instrumental version here, but I’ll tell you the whole album 100% worth picking up. My favorite worship song this month is Oceans (Where Feet May Fail) by Hillsong United.

Things I Love:

  • The annual Retreat in Daily Life was this month, and there’s nothing I love more than watching God meet people so deeply and intimately in their everyday lives. It’s such a privilege to shepherd this retreat, and this year was no exception.
  • My dear friend and mentor, Sandy Broadus, launched the Emmaus Center this month in Canada, and I couldn’t be more proud.
  • Voxing with my almost 2-year-old niece, Violet, makes my day. Nothing melts me more than when she says “Hi, T!” or “Love you.”
  • We published the next issue of Conversations Journal this month on Wisdom & Aging, and I got to interview Eugene Peterson for it. What a humbling and holy experience.
  • Studying Scripture in rabbinic style with a group of holy wanderers. The way God meets us in the text, through each other, and in study has been truly transformative and full of grace. I couldn’t ask for more, and yet God meets me every time I do.
  • Wunderlist. Pregnancy brain is a THING, and I wouldn’t be able to keep track of my life these days without this multi-platform GTD tool.

On The Blog:

Things have obviously been a little quiet around here, due to some aforementioned hibernation. But I got to announce the title and release date of Embracing the Body: Finding God in Our Flesh & Bone (well, that was in February, but who’s counting) and I’m going to be sharing the cover very soon.

In the next week or so, I’m also going to be launching a series on the Enneagram and Prayer, inspired by Leigh Kramer’s series on the Enneagram and Blogging. I’m super excited about this, as I find the Enneagram a really helpful tool in spiritual growth and use it in spiritual direction, and I’m also happy to be getting back on the horse in terms of blogging and creating here in this space.

So that’s it. That’s my March. What about you? What were you into? What did you discover this month?

What I’m Into (September 2013)

September, it’s not you—it’s me. (Or maybe it was you.)

Normally, September, you and I have a thing. It’s be a really steady thing, dependable, and I’ve just come to expect it out of you. Maybe it was me, getting lazy, or maybe it was that I was so focused on other things.

We started off on the right foot, and you had some amazing highlights, don’t get me wrong.

First of all, you pulled out your usual: the beginning of Autumn. You know just how to catch my heart, September, with your cooling days and your crisp nights. There were a few great nights on the porch with our new neighbors, talking about life and listening to the darkness. (But that black widow spider you threw in? Were you trying to be funny? Death-dealing arachnids aren’t cool at all, September.)

You played host to some awesome guest posts I got to write this month, too. This post on being a monk in the world at the Abbey of the Arts in advance of some upcoming work Christine and I are going to do together? That was awesome. And I also wrote for A Beautiful Mess about celebrating that big thing that happened during you, September.

That big thing was finishing up the first draft of my book manuscript. I know you didn’t do that, but you made that possible, September, and I’m so very grateful. It’s been a dream I’ve had since I was a little girl, and you made space for the Holy Spirit to hover over, and for these words to come to life:

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Good on ya, September.

Then there was that Soul Care Day up at Potter’s Inn. I know you share that honor with all the other months, but I needed it just when it came around, and your timing didn’t fail.

You pulled out all the stops at the end of the month. I mean, what can beat a new niece being born? Really, now, just look at that face:


You hosted that party of cuteness, September. And I thank you for it.

But you did rain on your own parade quite a bit. And by quite a bit, I mean way too much. Really, the 500-year flood in Colorado, September? Haven’t we had enough natural disasters in Colorado this year? The whole flooding thing cancelled a retreat I was set to speak at, not to mention wrecking a whole lot of people’s lives.

And then there was the working all the time, and the deadlines. There was the stress-test, and the There were the great books (some of them advanced copies by friends, September, c’mon!) I didn’t have time to read, the movies and TV shows that I couldn’t get around to and the really rough stories you played host to, September. Haven’t you learned that you need to be a little more fun? Stop hanging around with Destruction and Despair, September, I don’t like what they’re doing to you. When you rolled around it used to be all bright colors and pumpkins, and this year you’ve been wearing black and talking about how pointless it all is. Quit it, September. You’re my favorite month.

I know you tried to pull it together at the end there, with my birthday and that great dinner out, but the damage had already been done for this season. I’m not going to dethrone you from your place atop my calendar favorites, but let’s try to hold it together a bit better next year, okay, September? Because this year, I just wasn’t that into you.

So, how about you? How was your September? Were you more into it than I was?

What I'm Into at HopefulLeigh

I’m linking up with the wordsmistress Leigh Kramer. Join us, if you’re so inclined!

What I’m Into (July 2013)

I’m getting this in right under the wire. With less than two hours for the link with with Leigh, I figured I’d put in my last-ditch effort to get ‘er done.

July has been primarily about WRITING. THE. BOOK. And I did (although I also still am.) My goal was to reach my intended word count by August 1, and on August 1 I was sitting in my favorite café in Santa Fe, NM, drinking jasmine tea and pushing over the finish line. Beautifully poetic, because Santa Fe (and the Glen Workshop) is where the seeds of this book were first planted deep within me. I still have a few (two, actually) chapters left to flesh out, but it looks like I’m on track to get a spit-and-polished manuscript to my very patient InterVarsity Press editors on October 1 (the official deadline.) Hallelujah!

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Because I’ve been focused on writing, things like reading, watching television or hanging out with real human beings hasn’t happened all that much, so what I’m into this month is primarily going to be… well… writing. And Scrivener. And eating cupcakes.

And a few other things…

Read and Reading:

Well, one of the only things I read this month was my owns words—and a few blogs here and there. Book nerd fail. Writer win.

I did read Marie Howe’s The Kingdom of Ordinary Time, which is a lovely collection of poems that kept me sane during my prose-heavy season. I’m also reading her chapbook What The Living Do for my book club this month.

I’m also working my way through At the Still Point: A Literary Guide to Prayer in Ordinary Time which is a truly lovely compilation of Scripture, poetry and book excerpts for Ordinary Time.

On My Nightstand:

I’ve got a ton of books stacked up, ready to read (or return, sadly, to the library unread.)

The Artist’s Rule: Nurturing Your Creative Soul With Monastic Wisdom by Christine Valters Paintner. I’ve read this before, but I’m about to go through it again with a writer’s group in an online course (Story201) and I’m looking forward to dipping in again.

The True Secret of Writing: Connecting Life with Language by Natalie Goldberg. This has come recommended by several people recently, so I’m eager to read it.

An Unhurried Life: Following Jesus’ Rhythms of Work and Rest by Alan Fadling. I’m looking forward to this book by a colleague.

Darkness Sticks to Everything by Tom Hennen. Poetry recommended by one of my favorite contemporary poets, John Blase.

The Creative Habit: Learn it and Use it for Life by Twyla Tharp. An oldy but a goody—and one I haven’t read yet.

Eve’s Striptease by Julia Kasdorf. I missed her at the Glen this year, but I’m happy to have her poetry nearby.

Mars Being Red by Marvin Bell. Another poetry collection recommended by a friend. I need more poetry in my life right now.

Conversations With Denise Levertov edited by Jewel Spears Brooker. A gem I found at Eighth Day Books and couldn’t leave behind.

Bad Religion: How We Became A Nation of Heretics by Ross Douthat. Every year, I ask Warren Farha of Eighth Day which book from the past year MUST I read. This is one of two he recommended this year. Jeweled by David Rhodes (a new novel) was his second recommendation.

Finding God in a Bag of Groceries by Laura Lapins Willis. One of the sad things about being focused on writing is that I don’t get to read my friends books the MINUTE they come out. Looking forward to dipping into Laura’s work.

The Courage to Create by Rollo May. I may have a theme going on here.

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion—still, yes. I’ll get to it

TV & Movies:

I’ve been keeping up (or catching up, via DVR) on Next Food Network Star (go, Damaris!) and So You Think You Can Dance (which got fascinatingly odd last night). My husband had the flu for nearly two weeks, so he lay on the couch and watched back to back episodes of Dr. Who, which I tried to ignore him by means of a noise cancelling headset and loud cello music. I was, inevitably, drawn in, so now after late night writing binges I top off my sleep-deprivation with an episode or two myself. We’re still mid-David Tennant, so I’m waaay behind on the current Dr. Who drama. At the same time, I kind of like dipping into this oeuvre slowly and with intention, rather than snarfing it all down at once, like I did Call the Midwife.


Not much new here. Mostly dancing around to my writing anthem, Brave, and listening to classical cello. I know I should be into the new Civil Wars album, but I’m not. I may be a late adopter, or I may just be done with their drama.

Words, Words, Words:

I’m over 59,000 words on the manuscript, which feels SO GOOD. There will be more words this month, along with a lot of reading on the topic. I have a stack of as-yet-unlisted-for-you books that I’m reading as research, and I’m going to step back into those in August.

On My Blog & Elsewhere:

The blog has been fairly quiet in July, due to the aforementioned writing. I wrote over at A Beautiful Mess on Savoring the Sameness this summer, and bled out a vulnerable piece about step-mothering and creativity over at Elora Nicole‘s called How Do You Answer?

Things I Love:

  • Red velvet cupcakes from Chef Sugar’s.
  • My friend Preston getting confirmed… and engaged!
  • This awesome site that graphs whacky theological realities. I mean, I geeked out. It’s awesome. For example:
  • Lentil, the French Bulldog that was born with facial deformations, was rescued by a woman who believed he should have a chance to live, and became a beacon of hope for children suffering from all sorts of facial deformations everywhere. Plus, LENTIL.
  • Being almost… almost done.
  • My friend Anne being here to visit (technically August, but whatever.)
  • Daily prayer, art journaling and remembering.
  • Spiritual direction—as always and ever, I am so deeply humbled by the stories I get to witness.

So, how about you? How was your July? What are you into? What are you up to?

What I'm Into at HopefulLeigh

I’m linking up with the wordsmistress Leigh Kramer. Join us, if you’re so inclined!

What I’m Into (June 2013 Edition)

So, June was on fire. Literally.

At the moment of this post, there are somewhere between 7 and 12 fires burning in my home state of Colorado, one of which had consumed at least 81,000 acres, another of which has destroyed more than 500 homes in Black Forest, a beautiful area of Colorado Springs to the north and east of where I live. It’s also the one year anniversary of the Waldo Canyon Fire that caused us to evacuate our home in less than 45 minutes, driving away with near certainty that our home would be consumed. It wasn’t, but more than 350 homes in our vicinity were, and the view of the burn scar from my office window reminds me daily of the way the verses “I lift up my eyes to the hills—where does my help come from?” in Psalm 121 changed that day.

This month I’ve been writing and wrestling, making progress on the book, and sitting with God in the quiet of the morning. I’ve held hope in my hands and felt the stretch of tragedy and triumph together. I’ve even had more than a few laughs, surprises and sunny days. All in all, a good month.

So here’s what I’ve been into (and up to) this June.

Read and Reading:

My Bright Abyss: Meditations of a Modern Believer by Christian Wiman—OH. MY. WORD. I’m only halfway through this book, and I’ve stopped highlighting, because I’m highlighting absolutely everything. Wiman is the (former as of this month) editor of Poetry magazine, and this book is as much verse as prose, as much poetic and polemic (and probably very little of the latter.) I might be in danger of being rightly accused of proselytizing for this book. I mean, read this:

Our minds are constantly trying to bring God down to our level rather than letting him lift us into levels of which we were not previously capable. This is as true in life as it is in art. Thus we love within the lines experience has drawn for us, we create out of impulses that are familiar and, if we are honest with ourselves, exhausted. What might it mean to be drawn into meanings that, in some profound and necessary sense, shatter us? This is what it means to love. This is what should mean to write one more poem. The inner and the outer urgency of it, the mysterious and confused agency of it. All love abhors habit, and poetry is a species of love.

Sober Mercies: How Love Caught Up With A Christian Drunk by Heather Kopp—Written by a friend of mine, this is a tender, profound memoir that I dip into like sliding into a pool on a warm day.

A Darker Place by Laurie King—I needed some good mind candy. Laurie King is a favorite in that department, and I discovered a book of hers that I haven’t read. This one is about cults and religious extremism. Fun read, especially given my calling.

Canyon Road: A Book of Prayer—This is a beautiful collection of prayers that I came across because of Christy Tennant Krispin‘s recommendation. I’m enjoying leafing through them gently.

On My Nightstand:

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion—still, yes. I’ll get to it

I’ve got one other Laurie King novel in my Kindle cue, and few other books-to-read related to my writing, but the nightstand is thankfully fairly bare (my floors and bookshelves are another story.)

TV & Movies:

In shock and delight, I realized I’d somehow missed a whole season of Call the Midwife is available. My husband experiences the show as talk-talk-cry-talk-SCREAM-SCREAM-SCREAM-talk-talk, so he doesn’t watch it with me, but I don’t watch The Walking Dead with him (I can’t deal with zombies), so I think we’re even. Some of the people I’ve been unhappily disliking have left the Next Food Network Star, so I’m looking forward to the next few episodes getting real, y’all. And, of course, So You Think You Can Dance is on.

Bryan’s been out to see Man of Steel and World War Z, but I skipped both of those—the former because I’m not a huge Superman fan and the latter because, well, zombies. I’ve been head-down with the book, so I suspect that I won’t be seeing much in the next few months.

That said…. SHERLOCK! It’s coming back this fall, and I’m going to eat the sofa in anticipation of each episode, I’m sure. I’m also considering crumbling to the peer pressure that is Dr. Who. I know I’m late to the party, but the first episode turned me off so badly that I’m really going to have to take it on faith to watch another episode.


I just downloaded the new Patty Griffin album, American Kid. I’m loving it, as I do all of Griffin’s work. “Wild Old Dog” seems to be on repeat for me.

I’m waiting for Sam Phillips’s new album, Push Any Button with anticipation.

And we made it to an Over the Rhine concert the beginning of this month. Bryan and I are a patron of both of their upcoming albums, Meet Met At The Edge of the World, and the Christmas album Blood Oranges In the Snow. I loved hearing some of the new music at their concert in Denver, and can’t wait to get my hands on The Edge of the World.

Words, Words, Words:

I’m at 38,424 words on the book at the moment. It’s a patchwork, really, but I’m excited about having momentum. The sinew is knitting together, the circulatory system is beginning to form. I feel the beat of it’s heart, at a distance from me, and it sounds like thunder.

I’m also in the middle of editing the next issue of Conversations Journal—Be Not Afraid. Arch Hart, Gary Black, Rebekah Lyons, Emilie Griffin, Amy Simpson, to name a few. I’m excited about what Issue 11.2 has in store.

On My Blog & Elsewhere:

I’ve written about storms a lot recently, and I’m particularly proud of this piece over at Elora Nicole‘s on waiting for rain.

I also guest posted for Rachel Held Evans, which resulted in a whole day discussing sex with strangers, but, hey, it was great.

Because of that, I ended up on Andrew Sullivan‘s weekend roundup, which leaves me unsure if I should be honored or horrified. (Warning, the video is horrifying, and Sullivan is an angry atheist.)

Things I Love:

  • This status update from John D. Blase: “I’m interested in writing that speaks of life lives on this dark and marvelous planer, writing that honors dying and sex and cottonwood trees and lower-middle-class cabernet and your daughter’s faded red robe that hangs behind the door and the fact that your grandfather poured cream in his cereal instead of milk. I’m interested in writing that smells and tastes and feels, writing that makes the marrow burn. I’m not interested in any other kind of writing.”
  • This post by Sarah Bessey on slow summer light.
  • These words by Jamie the Very Worst Missionary on Taking Back Eden.
  • This love letter by my friend and mentor Preston (although I think his love‘s post was better—sorry, P!)
  • This blessing of words by Winn Collier on blessing.
  • Skype dates with Tanya Marlow and Lorraine Wheeler. Why must the best people always live in England?

So, how about you? How was your June? What are you into? What are you up to?

What I'm Into at HopefulLeigh

I’m linking up with the wordsmistress Leigh Kramer. Join us, if you’re so inclined!

What I’m Into (May 2013 Edition)

Uh, where did May go?

As a contemplative, it makes me shudder that I ask that question at all—mindfulness and presence are very important to me. That said, May started out with travel, as I began the month in Toronto for my niece’s first birthday (I can’t believe you’re one, Violet!)

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Then I headed over to England for my best friend’s wedding in Brightlingsea. Because she’s a spiritual director (and my best friend, hello), she arranged a road trip for the two of us, the weekend before her wedding, to York Minster Cathedral and Durham Cathedral. We attended Evensong in York and Matins and Sung Eucharist in Durham. This liturgy junky was completely geeked out. It was peaceful and holy and beautiful and good. And I met God in a stained glass window (more about that in another post at another time.)  That, and I lit prayer candles for you, Anam Cara Community, in each place. Then I came home, caught the flu, taught on the body and spirituality at a retreat and a church in the area, and got food poisoning. So, basically I was home and functional for about a week of May. Which is why this is going to be a very short roundup of the month. (Sorry, Hopeful Leigh.)

We’ve also had some very exciting developments going on behind this scenes that I’m bursting to tell you about, but not yet. Not yet.

So here’s what I’ve been into (and up to) this May

Read and Reading:

Because of my travel, I didn’t read a whole lot this month. It’s amazing how falling behind on reading restricts my horizons and makes my world feel smaller. While I’ve still had access to the web, and I’ve still been reading online, there’s something about picking up something between two covers that makes the difference.

Benediction—my friend, John Blase, recommended this book. I really enjoyed it. It’s slow pace and thoughtful prose grounded me in place and grace.

Honoring the Body—a re-read for my book writing that I’m still re-reading

On My Nightstand:

I’ve got a whole stack on my nightstand. Some are books that friends have written, some are books for my book project, some are just for fun. Can you guess which is which?

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Afloat by Erin Healy

Sober Mercies: How Love Caught Up With A Christian Drunk by Heather Kopp

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

In Plain View by Olivia Newport

Penguins and Golden Calves: Icons and Idols in Antarctica and Other Unexpected Places by Madeleine L’Engle


TV & Movies:

Last month I said that I’d started Game of Cards. And that’s as far as I’ve gotten—one episode. I’m not sure why. I think it might not be the right season.

I’m pining away for more Call the Midwife, and watched the season finale of Castle (yup, I’m a Nathan Fillion junkie). I watched the Iron Chef Tournament of Champions, which felt fixed, even if my favorite Michael Symon won, and fast-forwarded through the Chopped Tournament of Champions. Although I’m not sure how the new season works, I’m happily heckling the new Next Food Network Star. I haven’t picked favorites yet for So You Think You Can Dance, but I’m enjoying the season so far.

I also had a chance to get out to two movies (recovering from being sick means that lots of activity isn’t going to be possible, but sitting in a theater chair for a few hours is perfectly fine). My geek roots are showing in the movie choices: Star Trek: Into Darkness and Iron Man 3. Both were fun, but the former had more plot holes than Swiss cheese. I’m hoping to see both The Great Gatsby and Mud this month. I’d also like to see Silver Lining Playbook, although I know that will have to be a Netflix watch.


I’m loving Zoë Keating, a contemporary cellist who is accompanying my morning writing sessions. I picked up Noisetrade’s Summer Sampler, and am listening my way through that. I won’t tell you how many times I’ve danced around my house to Sara Bareilles’s Brave. I dare you not to dance, just a little.

Things I Love:

  • Watching my friend marry the man of her dreams
  • Discovering Haagen Dazs’s Limoncello Gelato. So yum!
  • Durham Cathedral. Seriously. I wish I could visit once a month
  • This hymn that was played at Dallas Willard’s memorial. (I know the music sounds cheesy, but it’s SO beautiful.)
  • Whit Wednesdays on the Anam Cara Facebook page (still my fav.)
  • Getting back on the horse after not being able to write while sick. (And all the people who are supporting me along the way.)
  • This book of prayers. So centering.
  • Being confirmed in my church—a holy, amazing and Holy Spirit-filled time.

So, how about you? How was your May?

What are you into? What are you up to?


What I'm Into at HopefulLeigh

I’m linking up with the wordsmistress Leigh Kramer. Join us, if you’re so inclined!

What I’m Into (April 2013 Edition)

So, I’m jumping on the monthly compendium bandwagon, a bandwagon decorated lovingly and so hospitably decorated by Hopeful Leigh. I know I’m a bit late to this party, but I’ve done it in my head for at least the past three months. That should count, shouldn’t it?

April’s been the cruelest month in terms of the weather here in Colorado Springs. We’ve had more snow in the past four weeks than we’ve had almost all winter. But it’s also been a month of incredible creativity, change and hope in our home and in my ministry. There are good things pushing up from the under the soil, things long buried and some things thought dead.

So here’s what I’ve been into (and up to) this April.

Read and Reading:

When Women Were Birds—I picked this up several months ago for my book club, and didn’t get through it. I’m taking an incredible e-course called Story101 with Elora of The Story Unfolding, and the first week’s assignment was to read WWWB. I didn’t think that I’d get through it, but reading it with a pen in hand, interacting with the pages and engaging my own voice has been transformative. I recommend it.

Misreading Scripture With Western Eyes—another book club pick, most of this information is familiar to me because of some of the rabbinic study that I do, but it’s good to remember.

The Impatient Woman’s Guide to Getting Pregnant—I feel a bit embarrassed sharing this title with you, but I’m reading it. It’s funny, although a little too desultory toward men for my taste, and just keeps me grounded as my husband and I continue along the journey of trying to conceive. I’m actually not feeling impatient at all, so don’t let the title fool you, but it’s full of grounded statistics and good advice in a way that random Internet searches are definitely not.

Blue Nights—I didn’t enjoy this as much as some of my respected friends, so I’m not going to effuse about it. I love her style and her voice, but since this is my first Joan Didion, I wasn’t as blown away as I expected to be. Perhaps I should have read A Year of Magical Thinking first.

Wild Mind—another from Story101. Loving.

Freefall to Fly—I read Rebekah Lyons on the plane ride to England. I’m going to be interviewing her for a piece in Conversations. Her book is lovely.

The Death of Adam: Essays on Modern Thought—short, meaty pieces to keep me thinking while I’m writing.

A Diary of Private Prayer—A stunning little book of daily prayer that’s humbling me before God.

Waiting for God—I dip into Simone Weil like I eat a piece of rich, expensive dark chocolate, or drink a complex red wine: slowly, one bit at a time.

Everything is Waiting for You—because I always need to be reading poetry.


On My Nightstand:

Benediction—I’m looking forward to this. I’ve heard good things about it from voices that I love.

Prophetic Imagination—I’ve read this before, but I’m looking forward to a re-read.

Journal of a Solitude & Zen in the Art of Writing—two more for Story101

Honoring the Body—a re-read for my book writing

Driftless—A book recommended by a man whose reading recommendations I would take any day, any time, even if he said the phone book was engaging in this year’s addition, Warren Farha of Eighth Day Books

Bread & Wine—I’ve heard great things about Shauna Niequist’s newest. I’m looking forward to tasting and seeing for myself.


I’ve gotten addicted to Call the Midwife, and started to watch Game of Cards. But generally, I’m watching TV less these days and reading more books. (Although I will readily admit that I’m super happy to have So You Think You Can Dance returning on May 14.) We’ve also been re-watching all of Firefly, and saw Serenity again—because. FIREFLY.


I’ve gotten addicted to cello music as the soundtrack for my writing this month. I’ve downloaded all of Yo-Yo Ma‘s Cello Suites and I’m checking out other more contemporary composers and cellists. I was also introduced to Page CXVI and their heavenly renditions of traditional hymns, and Anaïs Mitchell, whose pipes are just my style. We saw Great Big Sea in concert, and loved the sense of my homeland and the dancing all night.

Things I Love:

  • Seeing so many of my directees fall more deeply in love with God
  • Traveling for my niece’s first birthday, and watching her confusion over what to do with a cupcake turn to utter delight
  • Preparing to celebrate my best friend’s wedding in England on May 11
  • This video about making art
  • Whit Wednesdays on the Anam Cara Facebook page
  • The Story101 e-course and the women creatives there. To quote a friend, “Whoa-dang.”
  • Seeing the word count on my book go up day after day. It’s happening, people!
  • This free desktop image:


  • The crocuses I planted last fall poking through the Spring snow:

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Eventually, I’ll add a section on what’s been going on here on the Anam Cara blog, as well as around the web (but not today, I’m in England with my best friend, and I’m going to go focus on that now). I’m going to try to keep those lists focused on things sacred and beautiful, but I suspect I’ll throw in a silly gif or meme along the way—because I’m holding to my theory that Jesus *loved* to laugh, and laugh readily and heartily. It’s a discipline I’m learning, y’all. As a spiritual director, I get way too serious sometimes. It’s not me holding the world in place, after all.

So, how about you? How was your April?

What are you into? What are you up to?

I’m linking up with the wordsmistress Leigh Kramer. Join us, if you’re so inclined!