Wednesday, September 24, 2014

When Prayer is Common: A Guest Post

Photo by Preston Yancey
(I'm am so honored and excited to have Preston Yancey sharing in this space today. What I love most about Preston is his writing style and his honesty. I love that we both find the sacred in the mundane and experience God in cooking and food. I'm so thankful to him for crafting a post that fits perfectly in this space and speaks to me deeply during this season of life. I hope you finding it speaking to you as well.)

Mondays are slower days here. We get up and have breakfast—greek yogurt, honey, and a homemade almond coconut granola—we are three months married and we are already settled into our habits. We read together a passage of Scripture slowly. Four times between us, alternating between she and I. The ancient church called this practice lectio divina, the art of listening for God in the Scripture. We take a few minutes to share what stood out, what took our attention, and then conversation turns to the day ahead, its own sort of lectio in a way, the recitation of schedule to hear the lilts, the unease, the hoped for. We take the canvas bags on the way out, I drive her to campus, and then I head on to the grocery store. There aren’t many people that early in the morning, the fish monger is usually still just setting things out, and I ask him for the twenty third time whether or not there is any whole fresh trout and he, once more, says they only have frozen. Conversation with the cashier is always the usual exchange: a fine morning, looking forward to the weekend already, her daughter is applying to college. Back at the apartment the canvas bags are hoisted up a flight—I always try and take too much at a time, this, too, now habit—and then the contents slowly put away: the grains in a small space above the sink, the wine in the antique copper basin by the easel, the bread flour in the canister on the fridge. This is the smallest kitchen I have ever had, but it is the one I have loved the most.

Here is the end of the island where we sat and chose our future. Here the meals were planned. Here the vows recited again. Here the term papers outlined.

I’m breaking down a chicken for dinner, an adaption of Jamie Oliver’s chicken in milk. I’m thinking about how we try so much these days to justify ourselves, to justify the ordinary. The ordinary needs no justification, if we are inclined to believe the saints. All of this life is caught up into God. Not one thing in this life can ever be ordinary if in Jesus all things hold together. (Colossians 1:17) I get told often about the qualifications around my faith—I studied theology in graduate school, I write about God and our relation to God, I am part of the monolith of Christian identity in the digital age. These things seem to make people assume a good deal about how hours must be spent in prayer, in study, that the spiritual doing is done so often, so constantly. But that’s an old lie. That’s the ancient lie that whispers to us in the dark that our neighbors have something we do not and cannot. My faith is common. Just as common as yours. And that Monday morning rhythm, that slow pace and dance and movement? That’s all a prayer of a kind. It’s common prayer. It’s the ordinary doing kind of prayer. The spiritual of it shows up in the posture in which it is done. Take a moment and just breathe. Breathe deep. Are you searching for intentionality in everything you do? Stop. Just be there. Just be in the presence of God in the midst of the recitation of schedule, the school drop off, the routine chat in the grocery store. There is not one thing in this world that is secular if we believe in a God who has the hold world in God’s hands.

Maybe this is what you need to hear today: it is enough. What you are doing is enough. But it’s not enough because it has some grandiose deeper meaning or because its the sort of thing you would Instagram. It’s enough because you are enough because God is enough. Full stop. Faith is ordinary. Prayer is common. Sometimes what that means is hauling bags upstairs because you feed the ones you love. Sometimes that’s making sure to always speak to the cashier like they are a fellow human. Sometimes it is the most mundane of actions, made whole because God tangles Godself all in them. There can be no deeper meaning than that. Why on earth would we want more?

Now, about that chicken in milk, which is the best recipe for chicken I have ever made, let me tell you: it can be yours. It, along with nine other favorite recipes of mine can be yours when you preorder my new book, Tables in the Wilderness: A Memoir of God Found, Lost, and Found Again, which comes out on September 30th. When you preorder, I’ll send you a copy of some of my favorite and best-tired-and-tested creations, like chocolate pavlova and a French onion soup that has seen a decade of practice and refinement. Details on that here

Preston Yancey is a lifelong Texan raised Southern Baptist who fell in love with reading saints, crossing himself, and high church spirituality. He now makes his home within the Anglican tradition. He is a writer, painter, baker, and speaker. An alumnus of Baylor University, Preston completed a masters in theology from St. Andrews University in Scotland before returning to the States. He currently lives with his wife, Hilary, in Waco, Texas, where she is a PhD candidate in Philosophy at Baylor. Preorder Preston’s new book, Tables in the Wilderness: A Memoir of God Found, Lost, and Found Again here. Find him on Twitter here or at his blog here.

How do you experience God in the mundane? We'd love to hear from you in the comments below.

Monday, September 22, 2014

For Couples, Singles and Anyone Who Wants to Really Live

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I've told the story before of how I sat in the middle of a staff meeting in a huge board room and had an epiphany; I had been holding off on living.

I had a million excuses or what seemed like great reasons why I was waiting to live so much of my life. But if we're honest I was really just missing out and I know I'm not the only one.

Perhaps you're waiting until you graduate, get married, find the perfect job, have kids, or any other milestone that you think will set you free to really live. I've got news for you. You're wasting your life. You're wasting precious minutes, days and opportunities waiting. I know. I was there too.

In the month of October I'm joining with the Nester to Write 31 Days. This will be my fourth time (I can't even believe it) participating in the 31 day challenge. This year I'll be writing 31 Days of Celebrations and Traditions (for couples, singles, and anyone who wants to really live).

I've noticed (especially in the church) that singles and couples without kids spend a lot of time putting their lives on hold until they reach some kind of mythological status that will finally complete their lives and free them up to pursue their dreams. So I'll be writing directly to those two groups. However I'll share practical suggestions for living well that will apply to almost anyone. I'll write about the theology of celebration and some practical ways for celebrating in your daily life and creating simple meaningful traditions that help you to live more intentionally.

I hope you'll join me in October as we learn together how to live better more joyful lives that are overflowing with gratitude and celebration for the now. You can follow along by clicking on the subscribe button on the top right.

Are you participating in the 31 day challenge this year? If so I'd love to hear from you in the comments below. 

Friday, September 19, 2014

Hold: #FiveMinuteFriday

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(It's been busy  this week but I'm so excited about what's in store. Next week there'll be a very special guest post and we'll start talking about 31 days. But like every Friday I'm joining with a community of writers that encourage one another. I write to process my week, discover what I truly believe and tell stories. You can join us here.)

I measure the ingredients out methodically. I have scoured the Internet for the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe and I hope the one I've chosen lives up to all the hype. I mix in coconut sugar and cream it with eggs, butter and vanilla. And I pray.

This is new for me. Learning to pray over what seems like the smallest things. And this time I pray for him. I pray love into that dough. I pray that he won't see the end of a relationship as the end of himself. Or worse yet, the end of life.

I believe in the power of prayer. In community, God, life lived together, and presence. But I also believe in the power of a chocolate chip cookie. It is one of the few times that I get out the white flour and refined sugar I so staunchly avoid.

And I pray. I wrap the cookies with a personalized tag. And I pray he will feel, know, taste and eat love. I pray as he takes hold of that plate that he will be completely aware that he is anything but alone. And I pray he will remember what he knows of us. What he knows of Jesus. And perhaps this end of a relationship may be the beginning of life after all...

Friday, September 12, 2014

Ready: #FiveMinuteFriday

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(On Fridays I join with a community of writers that encourage one another. A lot of times you'll find me sharing stories from my own life because stories are my favorite. I also write to process the week and learn what I really believe. You can join us here.)

I stare at the page on my calendar. I'm supposed to call her on a Wednesday. Can you ever be ready for something like this? I think maybe. But I'm not sure. So much unknown.

I met her on Twitter. A girl who lives over 1000 miles away. I don't do this. I'm not one of those people that make "friends" on the internet.

But her tweets stopped me in my tracks. Her questions about God not healing when we've prayed and prayed. About when God is silent. When He doesn't answer. These are the things I cannot ignore. I know them all too well.

So I dial the numbers. And her voice is not what I expected. But is it ever, really? We talk for an hour and 20 minutes. We share stories. And eventually we unwrap even those. We go deeper. Both of us victims of abuse. Unbelievable losses, suffering, and life lived, in our short years.

God is funny, you know? I would have never said, "hey, I'd like to disciple this stranger I don't know who I met on the internet." But He knows. He knows what our hearts and lives need. He creates and weaves our stories so that, believe it or not, we're nearly always ready.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Orlando Ladies: You're Invited

 "What does it look like to build and rebuild in my life, with my gifts and my skills and do that for the glory of God?"

Have you ever felt alone? In your city? In your neighborhood? In your life?

Have you ever felt Restless? Convinced that you are are made for something greater? But not sure what that means? Or how to get there?

Yeah, I thought so. Me, too.

"By ourselves we won't make a dent in the rubble crushing those around us."


"This is a movement of women that actually believes God at His word that He could take us in our places and use us for His glory and the good of his people."

The mission of IF is to gather, equip, and unleash the next generation of women to live out their purpose. Does that excite you, too? When I first heard of IF roughly a year ago I knew it was something my heart had been longing for and that I had to be involved in.

If you feel the same way I'd love to invite you to join our first IF:Orlando gathering. We're meeting in less than two weeks with women all over the world to gather and pray:

  • When: Tuesday, September 23, 7:00-9:00 PM
  • Who: Women of Orlando
  • Where: Enders Park Clubhouse at Baldwin Park, 947 Fern Ave, Orlando, 32814
  • What: We'll pray, connect with other women in our neighborhood and share dessert and coffee.

Join our IF:Orlando group on Facebook here. RSVP for our prayer gathering here

Want to hear more about IF:Orlando? Courtney, another one of our area leaders, shares a great post here.

"We are going to be free and set others free. Period."


I'd love to here if you plan on joining us in the comments below. If you're not local to Orlando find an IF:Pray event in your area here.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Whisper: #FiveMinuteFriday

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 (On Fridays I join with a community of writers who encourage one another. For me it's a break from more practical writing and a chance to have a little fun. You can join us here.)

Inspiration strikes us all differently. Some of us feel like it rarely strikes us at all. Others feel forlorn when for once they sit down to write uninspired.

Part of my process for writing is visualization. It always has been. It's that way for everything. When I taught dance. In relationships. In life. I rehearse, replay, rewrite in my head over and over before I put pen to paper.

Like most women I work on my art in the fray. Like most writers I also make intentional time to write. And when my schedule clears unexpectedly I relish in the whisper of quiet. Silence. White space.

I don't always know where my writing will end. But when I get to that last period I know more of what I believe. I love the stories of those around me more. I find space to process my week, my life.

I stare out the window into a backyard that is much like a secret garden. Bright light wakes me up. I find inspiration in living. In nature. In the stories of those around me. But most of all in the beautiful mundane of daily life.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

For All Women: Who Create, Make Beauty, Give Life

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 "I've come to believe all women are mothers because we all bring life to the world...when we write, cook, plant, make beauty where there was none, speak an encouraging word, say a prayer, take a hand and form hope out of thin air, resurrect a marriage, save a life from poverty, bring forth light and truth and goodness in ways women are uniquely created to do." -Holley Gerth

Once upon a time, I sat at a desk in my private office during my lunch hour at the job I hated and got very very angry at Holley Gerth. Do you know Holley? She's an encourager, a writer, a speaker, but certainly not one typically stirring up controversy in the blogosphere. She's more of a "speak the truth in love" kind, than an incite you to anger kind.

But I was waist deep in one of the harder seasons of our infertility journey and I did not want to read her words. I did not want God to speak to me through that post. But most of all I did not want to believe the truth; Holley way right.


It came slowly to me. In those tear stained moments my soul shouted, "No!" Even as I gently heard God whispering yes. I did not want to embrace my current season. I did not want see where God was using me already to grow and birth things.

But at some point, over time I started embracing it. Sure I did not want to become a mother figure to twenty-something male college students. I certainly did not set out to "mother" a woman older than me. But it has happened again and again. As I feed people, meet there needs, listen to their heartaches, and make a welcoming space for them in my home, I continue to embrace my role of mothering.

There is still pain and loss and grief in this area of my life. I still have babies in heaven that I long to hold. And a failed adoption of two little boys that leaves a gap longing to be filled. But most of the time I have peace too.

God may never give us more children. I hope He does. But as I wait, not knowing His plans or heart, I try to savor this season. This season of nearly unlimited time with my husband. A season of caring for those who eventually go home and don't wake me up at all hours of night. A season of helping to grow so many things.


Once upon a time, Holley Gerth made me mad. Because she was right; all women are mothers.

So what do you think? Is Holley right? I'd love to hear your thought in the comments below.