My Lifelong Struggle with “Quiet Times”

When I was growing up, I knew that we were supposed to have a “quiet time.” In the conservative Christian church and school circle I matured in, this meant a dedicated time of scripture study, meditation and prayer. Usually the idea was presented at a retreat, from whence I would enthusiastically return to real life and have quiet times for a few days until I got tired of trying to wake up early or find time to do something I found, frankly, boring.

To my profound disappointment, the recommendation to make time for quiet times did not go away when I went off to college. Through my involvement at InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, I had waves of guilt about my lack of quiet times. I just couldn’t seem to make time. With a few exceptions: when I did sit down to journal with God, as I did on our retreats, amazing things happened. Every year, our chapter went to a retreat at beautiful Montreat in the North Carolina mountains. I remember sitting on a rock in the middle of a mountain stream and feeling God’s presence, his reality. My “forced” quiet times at chapter camp, our annual gathering with other InterVarsity chapters, led to the surrender of sins, of my struggle with depression, of my fears about the future. My quiet times at my CityLights experience in St. Louis transformed my perspective as I realized God’s passion for immigrants, for widows and orphans, and for social justice. In all these cases, I was in situations that dictated a quiet time – and when I listened, it was transformative.

Then “adulting” happened; nobody makes you have a quiet time when you’re in nursing school, when you’re working, when you fall into Default Christian mode of church-Bible study-ministry involvement. Recently, as I discussed in my last blog post, I realized that I needed to focus more on the spiritual side of things, that I was drawing water from a well that I was not caring for.

Yet so strong was my distaste for quiet times that I wondered aloud to myself “Do I need them? Can I just skip them?”

God spoke through my grandmother, who shared about her quiet times. If my grandma is doing quiet times at 80+, I clearly need to be doing them at 30+. God spoke to me through my readings and Bible study passages. Jesus was always going off by himself to talk to God. Finally, God reminded me I need quiet time, that these are not for him but for me. When I skip quiet times, or whatever you want to call them, I am doing myself a disservice. He also reminded me I don’t need to have 30 minutes – I can do 5-10 minted at a time, and I can read the Bible and write notes on my phone, which is a lot easier in Mom-life than finding 30 minutes to sit in a carefully appointed quiet time retreat.

(If you have a nicely decorated quiet time space, and 30 minutes to sit there, no offense meant, I am just a bit jealous).

Finally, the Holy Spirit reminded me that studying this word doesn’t have to be drudgery. I don’t have to plow through one book at a time. I can listen to what he’s calling me to. Right now, my study is a bit eclectic – but it is keeping my interest, I am learning a ton, and the Holy Spirit is certainly speaking to me through the word.

Have you had a rough time with “quiet times?”

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The Write Life

At the end of 2017, I planned to share flash fiction and nonfiction on my blog this year. I still intend to do that – eventually. Those ambitions were superseded by other great opportunities. I decided to write a novella; I also took some Coursera creative writing classes. In the last year, I’ve been trying to make time for my writing and prioritize my writing, and these two opportunities allowed me to try some new things.

After I submitted my novella, I began paying attention to the things I’d been putting on the back burner. I began to realize that in trying to live the “write” life, I may have been missing out on the “right” life. I kept hearing the Holy Spirit whisper “Seek ye First the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” I think the joy of having a “room or my own,” the space and stability to write, distracted me from a better focus.

Life consists of more than writing. While I will always write – I can’t help writing – the right life for me means following God’s leading. It means the “rite life,” following the patterns and rituals, personal and public, that I do in pursuit of God. It means the “wright life,” pursuing my vocations as a nurse, a mother, and a Bible study participant and sometimes leader.

Our lives are full of activities both mundane and sublime. Sometimes we are wiping out toddler potties; sometimes we are reading or writing poetry. “So whether you eat or drink” or work or stay home or write or nurse or potty train “do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:3). That is my goal for this year, as our lives change forever, as we go from a family of 3 to family of 4. Whatever challenges or joys lie ahead, I am thankful to walk with God through all of them.

The Holy Spirit continues to remind me that God is in control. Two weeks ago, we went to a Newsboys concert. The Newsboys were my favorite group in middle school and their songs were formational in my faith, and their current lead singer, Michael Tait, was in my other favorite group, DC Talk. During the concert, Michael Tait said, “We’re not called because we’re talented. We’re talented because we’re called!” The true value of our gifts and talents becomes apparent when we surrender them to God.

Writing Goals 2018

My favorite find many years ago at Half Price Books was The Pillow Book by Sei Shonagon. Written by a Japanese noblewoman hundreds of years ago, it consists of a variety of very short pieces: poetic lists, descriptions of obscure anecdotes, descriptions of ceremonies and events. There is something elegant and beautiful in its brevity and eccentricity.

That combination of qualities is something I am interesting in interpreting and creating. I have spent a lot of time this year re-investing in my passion for writing – reading The Artist’s Way, making time to prioritize reading and writing, taking some online courses, joining a local writing group, and putting myself out there by making submissions. I have made the huge step of admitting that despite my fear of critique, writing community is something I need.

During this time, I have become intrigued by a couple genres – flash fiction and flash nonfiction. Both are very short pieces; while word counts vary, many sources suggest less than 1000 words. This length requires a radical paring, a distillation to the very essence of the story and the experience.

While I continue writing in other formats – journals, a novella contest, submissions to magazines or contests, and whatever I can scribble while deliriously nursing a new baby – my goal for my blog this year is to practice my flash fiction and nonfiction skills. I hope it will be fun for everyone!

My theme will be Genesis – beginning, origin, creation, and the source of those first incredible stories in the Bible. Here’s to a wonderful 2018!

We’re having a…

A few weekends ago, we celebrated my husband’s 30th birthday. He is an incredible guy and has been through a lot in 30 years – academic success, medical school, marriage, cancer, house ownership, residency, fatherhood, and getting a real job. So when he said he wanted to go to a Brazilian steakhouse for his birthday, I said, “You betcha!” And I planned a few surprises for his un-surprise birthday party .

First, I had invited my dad. We knew he was coming, but I hadn’t read his flight information very carefully and was sure he was coming on Friday. So when he texted me on Thursday and said he was at the airport I said “what?! Awesome!” He walked in to surprise Chris at handbells, and we got to spend all day Friday together!

Second, Chris’s dad and partner had secretly planned to come as well. We walked into the party room on Saturday evening and – there they were, all the way from Virginia!!!

Another surprise for the guests – the beautiful chemistry-themed birthday cake was also a gender reveal cake. We figured it was a great time, with so many friends and family already assembled.

After a delicious dinner of meat on sticks – so tasty for this iron-craving mama – we cut into the cake and found pink frosting! “It’s a girl!”

As we drove home, I was thrilled but surprised. This time I had been sure it was a boy. Of course I love our daughter and baby girls. I began to look forward to our girls being best friends, sharing a room, not having to buy new clothes…

We got home and I double-checked the genetics report hidden in my bedside drawer.

Y chromosome material present?!!! Male fetus?!!!

I walked out of there, stunned, waving the paper at my family. “The cake decorator got it wrong!”

A glance at the report revealed the problem… it’s very confusing to read. I had just printed it from my record and handed it to her – NOT the best idea. I should have had a friend look and tell her!

So then we had to call all the guests and family we had already notified and let them know….

WE’RE ACTUALLY HAVING A BOY!

The Deer on our Road

I almost hit a deer this week. I was driving down our neighborhood road after an Oktoberfest celebration at church when the deer plunged in front of the car. When it first ran out, I thought it was a jogger, then a really big dog. Then I caught a glimpse of antlers – a young buck. I slammed on the brakes, swerved a little, and watched the silent animal disappear over the hill into the drainage pond that he was no doubt seeking. 
I felt as though I’d just seen a falling star. This is only the second deer I’ve ever seen in my neighborhood. It had come from a dense plot of houses. Was he eating someone’s flowers? Taking a stroll on the sidewalk?
“You okay, mommy?” my toddler called.

“Yes!” I told her. “We almost hit a deer.”

“Where?” She twisted, wanting only to see this rare animal.

“It’s gone,” I told her.

Almost everyone in rural areas has a story about a deer-strike or a near-miss. How many times have I white-knuckled my way on curving country roads at night, freezing internally at the glint of eyes? 

Yet even our city lifestyle does not guarantee that we will not meet a deer. Freak things happen. People hit deer even in urban areas. Mountain lions attack people in parks. Recent disasters remind us that no one is immune from natural disasters like floods or fires. 

 Yet we forget that these are possibilities, instead worrying about schools or work stress or the many other mundane mosquitoes that suck our life blood. In our bubble of computers and Facebook, we distance the possibility of these tragedies. 

I say this not to inspire a life of constant fear and vigilance, but to encourage us to minimize those vampiric details. Life is a precious gift best held gently; we must treasure our days and loved ones because there are no guarantees. Why do we let little issues steal our joy? We are alive! 

Mixed with the gratitude at having missed death (at least for the deer) was delight with the serendipity of the experience, this brief moment of magic, a glimpse of something extraordinary.

Anthro in Action 

A decade ago, I graduated with my degree in anthropology, unsure where that study would take me. I had decided against a life in academia, and I wished at some points over the next few years that I had double-majored in something more directly applicable to the job market. However, I was always thankful for what anthropology taught me and the amazing people I met because of it. 
When I was doing my senior thesis, I did a whole chapter about “Thanksgiving Tamales.” The church I visited had an Anglo American and a Latino population, and they came together for a Thanksgiving potluck with tamales, tacos, turkey and all the fixings. It was delicious and fascinating; it was a highlight of my year. 

Ten years later, I found my way to an English class/Bible study for the international ladies who come to Rochester. They are usually here for a year or two as their husband does research or a fellowship at Mayo. These ladies are brilliant and accomplished; many are doctors or nurses back home, and most have two or three children that they are caring for while navigating a challenging new culture and difficult language. I am teaching them conversational English this year; thankfully they all know English already, so I am just attempting to add a few phrases to their lexicon. 

As I attended a potluck social with these women and we talked about their lives back home, and ate delicious Korean and Japanese food, I felt a sense of deja vu and remembered our “Thanksgiving Tamales.” Then I felt elated – this was anthropology in action! 

Of course an anthropology degree is not necessary to join an international Bible study, or to qualify me to be an English teacher, or to give me a heart for welcoming people from other countries. However, I truly believe my Anthropology experiences opened my eyes and heart to other cultures and taught me important things about recognizing my ethnocentrism and the power of food to bring people together. 

I still don’t know where God will use all my life experiences, my gifts and talents. I love to write and am still searching out where, when and how He plans to use that drive. However, I know where I saw him this week – at a potluck with women from all over Japan and South Korea, enjoying some deliciously unfamiliar delicacies, reminding me that He works all things together for good. 

When I Feel God


When I see his creation – the crescent shadows of the leaves mirroring the eclipse. When I see a dramatic sunset, purples, pinks, and reds. Or a sunrise – the brilliant colors. Either one at a beach. Anything at a beach, where I feel his power in the ocean. When I see a waterfall or feel the gravity of the mountains. 

When I see the life He has created: a rabbit with the sunlight in its pink ears, quivering, watching me while pretending to ignore me. A bold redwing blackbird singing his defiant song as he guards his territory. A blue heron standing on the edge of a pond, sipping the small silver fish, winging away when I get too close.


When I feel a warm breeze blow and I feel like He is caressing my cheek, whispering to me in a language I don’t yet know. 

When I listen to a beautiful hymn or solo or play handbells at church and feel caught up in the music, in praise to him. Sometimes I want it to just keep going forever and I think that’s what heaven is like, eternal music. 

When I get a sweet tender sleepy sticky hug from my daughter and realize what a blessing, what a privilege it is to be her mom, even though I have to muddle through helping her grow into a functional adult. When I spend time with my friends from around the world and family members and feel part of a vast and caring clan. 

When do you feel God?