Giving Voice to Gratitude

There is wisdom in Easter lasting for 50 days. It takes a long time for the good news to sink in, to penetrate our bones. Lent, in some ways, comes more naturally to me: to lament, to turn inwards to God, to sacrifice. Joy is more challenging. I need all 50 days to practice living into celebration.

Brené Brown speaks to this challenge in both her books and her new Netflix special, The Call to Courage. The show kept me company as I folded laundry last week. I was half-listening to Brené while I ran through a to-do list for promoting This Life That Is Ours in my mind. Promoting a book is new work to me, and I often feel anxious about what I could and should be doing. However, when Brené described the difference between people who live vulnerable, authentic, whole-hearted lives, and those who don’t, she had my complete attention.

“The number one difference,” she said, “is that whole-hearted people let themselves experience joy.” They don’t run from it and they don’t catastrophize it, she explained. Instead, “they practice gratitude.”

I realized that I had been so worried about all that I could be doing for the book that I hadn’t paused to experience the deep goodness that already existed. Today, one month after the release of This Life That Is Ours and two weeks into the Easter season, I am pausing to be grateful for all that I have received, to savor the graces, and to practice joy. I am writing this list to say thank you to YOU, for the part you’ve played in this journey, and to invite you to make your own litany of gratitude.

A Litany of Gratitude, an Incomplete List

I am grateful…

For each person who came to each event – nearly 150 in all! For the gift of time and open hearts.

For the venues I was in, for the way they so lovingly held the launching of this book.

For the food and the hands that prepared it, and the joy my dad and my husband found in working together to set up the events.

For my mom and my sister taking care of my children, so I didn’t have to.

For my children, generously celebrating and practicing patience at long events.

For the beautiful extra touches my mom provided, the flowers and tablecloths and custom cookies which matched the cover of the book. 

I am grateful…

For the gifts I’ve received: the wine and flowers and brownies, the handmade Celtic mug, the necklace, each a tangible marker of celebration.

For each person who has bought a book.

For the privilege of signing books for people I know and people I don’t.

For the ways the book has already been shared: as a gift, through word of mouth, through social media posts, and Amazon reviews.

For the ways I hear through each of these things that this work is important. 

I am grateful.

And I pray for the way this book is making through the world. I pray over the current of love that flows from its words to the hearts of its readers. I pray the pages will be a channel through which the Holy Spirit flows. May the book be a good companion to each mother it meets.


A Pause

What might appear on your list of gratitude? What gifts and graces in your life long to be named? How might you practice joy this Easter season?

A Favor

If you have read This Life That Is Ours, I have a favor to ask: could you take a few minutes to rate and review it on Amazon and/or Goodreads? Reader reviews are an easy way to share about the book and help others to find it. (You don’t have to have bought the book from Amazon to review it there.)

THANK YOU – for the gift of your time, for reading along with me, for joining the celebration.

May Easter continue to unfold for you. May this season be one of both deep gratitude and deep joy.

Book News, Launch Events, & A Story

This is a big week: This Life That Is Ours: Motherhood As Spiritual Practice is now available wherever books are sold!

Four years after starting work on it, eighteen months after signing the contract, five months after finishing edits, it’s HERE! I am celebrating with two events:

  • Pittsburgh, PA - Launch Party at White Whale Bookstore, April 6th, 7-9 pm.

  • Springfield, OH - Author Program at Clark County Public Library Main, April 13th, 1-3 pm.

There will be books for sale and food and drink at each event. In Springfield, I’ll also be giving a talk on the writing process and the spiritual life of parenting. Please join me to celebrate (and buy a book and get it signed!).

If you can’t make it to an event, you can also get the book at your favorite bookstore or online retailer.

A Launch Day Story

This Monday was the official publication day, a day I have dreamed of since I was a kid: to have actually written a real book! I wanted to relax and savor the special day. The kids had a dentist appointment, but then we were going to go to a favorite coffee shop and take it easy the rest of the day.

Except Healy woke up with a fever, an earache, and a bad attitude. The dentist was followed by an emergency trip to the doctor. Which was then followed by the pharmacist. We finally returned home four hours later, after multiple meltdowns from everyone (including me). We were exhausted, and hungry, and disappointed.

I then spent fifteen minutes pinning Healy down in my arms, begging her to take the antibiotic while she screamed and cried. She finally took it, and was howling, “It’s not over! I can still taste it! Make it go away!” when someone knocked on the door.

It was my dear friend Lisa, bringing me flowers to celebrate the big day.

I burst into tears.

She gave me a hug, and then she took over. She asked my boys if they’d eaten lunch yet, and then made them food. She listened to them share their version of the day’s events while I rocked Healy on the couch. She made sure there was nothing else we needed. And then she left.

Lisa's Flowers

It was not the launch of my dreams.

It was, instead, a powerful reminder of why I wrote this book: because sometimes mothering takes us to the end of ourselves. Because it can shatter our expectations. Because sometimes we don’t know how we’re going to care for the sick child and feed the healthy children and care for our own souls. Because sometimes the Holy Spirit knocks on your door and gives you exactly what you need. Because we need companions. Because this work of mothering matters. Because it is all holy.

I hope you will share the good news of this book with the moms in your life. I am praying for all the hearts these words will companion.

Podcast News and Book Save the Dates

Happy 2019! I hope that your holiday season and new year were full of rest and connection and joyful surprise.

As I settle into the new year, I’m trying something…well…new! I’ve never had a “word of the year” before, but I’ve been intrigued by the idea. I’ve wondered what it could be like to pick a theme and to see how God might speak through it. As I prayed over this coming year and what is on the horizon, I heard God whispering to me to lean into TRUST. There are changes coming this year for me and my family, and some exciting new risks, and I can already see how returning to the word TRUST has loosened some of the fear and anxiety I carry around change.

I’m curious if you have a word of the year, and how you’ve chosen it. Is this a practice you’ve tried in the past? Or maybe it’s a new concept for you too? I shared about this on social media last week, and I was encouraged by all the responses. People are carrying some beautiful words and postures into the new year.


Hard at work on sound editing.

Hard at work on sound editing.

One of the places of great risk for me this year is through the podcast, Life As Spiritual Practice. After placing this project on hold in the fall, I feel ready to share these stories of connection with the holy. I also feel scared and nervous, and leaning into that word TRUST! The first episode will launch later this week, with new episodes each week through the end of February. You will receive an email when each episode becomes available. It will give you a behind-the-scenes look at the episode, and invite you more deeply into the practice that is explored that week. I hope and pray that this podcast will be a source of warmth, connection, and inspiration in these cold winter months (for those of us in the northern hemisphere!).


Another place of risk and hope is the launch of This Life That Is Ours: Motherhood As Spiritual Practice! It’s hard to believe, after four years of work, that this book will soon be in the hands of readers! There are two events coming up in April to celebrate. You will receive separate invitations closer to the dates, but if you’re like me, you’re already planning your spring, so I wanted to share in advance!

In Pittsburgh, PA: You are invited to a launch party at White Whale Bookstore on April 6th, 7-9pm. There will be books available to purchase. I’ll give a brief reading, and then sign books. Come eat and drink and celebrate with me!

In Springfield, OH: On Saturday, April 13th, 1-3 pm, I’ll be giving an Author Program at the Clark County Public Library. I’ll give a talk on the writing process and the content of the book, and then have a book signing. There will be food and drink and books available to purchase. I hope you can join me for this celebration!

Thank you so much - for sharing this journey with me, for letting me hear a bit of your sacred story, and for the ways you bring light into the world. I am grateful for you.

The Invitation of a Busy Advent

                I tend to feel tension in Advent. I desire it to be a time of quiet, of listening, of waiting. I want to sit in the darkness with the single candle flame that expands to two, then three, then four, waiting for full radiance to come in Christ’s birth. Attending to the mysteries of the season has seemed to beckon me to dark, still, womb-like waiting.

                Yet this longing for quiet anticipation plays out within my context, where December is always busy. I squeeze directees into the first three weeks of the month so I can take off time to be with family. I finish out year-end projects. I plan Christmas gifts for immediate and extended family members. I go to as many seasonal celebrations as I can. And inevitably I feel tired, overwhelmed, and pulled in too many directions.

                Often this tension leaves me feeling frustrated, as though I am failing at Advent. I can’t figure out how to get space to “do it right,” and all I can do is write off this year and hope that the next year will be different.

                The next year is never different.

                This year, I’m hearing a different invitation. As I reflected on Mary’s pregnancy, the Holy Spirit nudged me to look more closely at how Mary spent her days. For possibly the first time, I really saw what those final weeks of her pregnancy were like for her: preparing for her journey, packing up anything she might need knowing her child might be born before she returned home, traveling the rough and dusty roads, moving as quickly as her swollen body would allow. It was not a time of stillness and retreat. It was a time of constant activity.

                What might the season hold for me, if I enter it embracing the activity and the movement? What if, instead of resenting it and wishing it away, I saw it as part of preparing for Christ’s coming? Could I keep my internal gaze fixed on what is to come within the busyness, like Mary placing her hand on her belly as she traverses the distance between Galilee and Bethlehem?

                I think this might be the difference between being grounded and being centered. I am not rooted down, resting in place. Instead I am holding a still center within the movement. Maybe this shift will let me release the resentment. Maybe I can let go of how I wish this time would be, and instead encounter the God of Things As They Are.

                May you journey well this Advent. May this season of watching the glimmers of light grow to incandescence contain exactly what your soul most needs. Peace to you in the stillness. Peace to you in the busyness. Peace to you, right where you are.

Deep Listening


We visited the ocean last month. It is my favorite place – my soul longs to be close to the water, to hear the crashing water and feel the breeze and smell the salt air. I keep returning to our pictures of that time, for the waves seem to capture so much of what I am experiencing this month.

There are waves of joy as I anticipate bringing my book into the world, and as I celebrate its availability for pre-order (THANK YOU if you’ve already ordered a copy!). And there are waves of grief as I continue to mourn the loss of my friend, Tim, and grieve what life now looks like for his wife and children.

Within these waves of highs and lows, I am craving peace and quiet and rest. I am feeling tender. I am wanting to curl into myself and into God. It doesn’t feel like the right season to start a new venture. I’ve discerned, then, to wait to launch the Life As Spiritual Practice podcast. As my husband accurately described, “Launching now would be extending out into the world, when we’re needing to pull in.”

Although I feel peace about the decision, it is painful. I have recorded several episodes already, and I can’t wait to share them with you. I am trying to trust that they will be just as powerful and inspiring in January as they would have been in October. When I put things on hold, I tend to worry that they will die. There is part of me that is afraid that if I don’t launch now, I’ll never launch. As I discussed this with a spiritual companion, she said, “Could you see this as a deepening of your work, instead of a stopping? I am excited for how this deep listening will shape your interviews in the future.”

I hear in her words an invitation to trust, to let this season be the quiet that I am needing, to notice where ideas and projects are deepening instead of dying. And I share these words with you, in case they speak to the season you are in. Are there places you are being invited to rest? To wait? To allow things to lay dormant and deepen? Or maybe you are hearing the opposite invitation: maybe, after a long wait, it is time to risk and to release.

I pray for you, wherever you are, that you may have space for deep listening. That you may have companions to help you discern. That you may hear your own deepest invitations, and that you may respond with trust.

May it be so.

This Life That Is Ours Cover Reveal & Pre-Order

I am so delighted to share the cover of my book with you! I had dreamt of what the cover might look like, hoping that it would hold some of the awe and wonder with which the book was written. Alongside that hope was fear that the cover would be cheesy - too Christian-y, too Mom-y, lacking subtlety and hitting you over the head with overt symbolism. I was afraid the cover would turn people off instead of invite people in.


I was beside myself with joy when the publisher shared this cover option with me in June. I think it is simple, subtle, inviting, and intriguing. The overlay of the white on top of the painting draws you in. It’s a cover that I want to sit with and wonder about. I think they’ve beautifully captured the spirit of the book. I can’t wait to hold it in my hands.

The book still won’t be released until April 1st, but if you share my excitement, it is now available for pre-order at Upper Room’s online store. AND if you order before April 1st and use the promo code PRESALE30 you’ll receive 30% off. (You can also pre-order from Amazon, or Barnes & Noble, but I don’t have a discount code for them.) Isn’t that amazing?? This is all seeming so real! Every step along the way feels like another dream come true, and I am so, so grateful.

Blessed Are Those Who Mourn

Although that joy I’m feeling and inviting you to share with me is real, it’s also muted by sorrow. A very dear friend of mine passed away unexpectedly a week and a half ago. Tim Becker, his wife Caroline, and their son Luke were living with us when Declan came home from the hospital. Tim and Caroline taught us how to be parents. Tim experienced parenting his three children as a profound spiritual practice, and I am devastated that they will now grow up without their father. I am heartbroken for Caroline. And I just miss my friend. If you’d like to read more about Tim’s life, you can do so here. I also encourage you to give financially if you are able - even $5 makes a difference - and to join me in holding Caroline, Luke, Samuel, and Hosanna in your prayers.

Tim’s life drew me closer to the Lord in so many ways. Today, I am praying for you, that you may have companions on your spiritual journey. I am praying for the relationships that draw you deeper into your life of faith: may they be strengthened, may they be encouraging, may they be sources of love and joy.

Thank you for joining me, in both the celebrating and the grieving.

A Few Things

The start of fall is always a threshold time for my family. After a summer full of vacations and visits with loved ones, we’re looking forward to finding new rhythms. If this is a season of transition for you, I hope that you find the routines and the rhythms that will make this time sustainable for you.

One of the busy places in my life in this season is work! Things are bubbling in a couple of areas that I am excited to share with you.

Life As Spiritual Practice Podcast

Ready to record the first episode

Ready to record the first episode

In October, I will launch the Life As Spiritual Practice Podcast! This has been a dream of mine for several years. 2 years ago I began to dream of writing a book that would be a collection of interviews with people who had found a spiritual practice that made their soul sing. I was inspired by my mom and her love of singing, and by my dad and his meditation practice. I wanted to hear what it was really like for them to find these practices and connect to God through them. I shared this dream with several close friends, all of whom said the same thing, "That sounds like a podcast."

I did not like hearing that! I'm a writer and I knew nothing about podcasting! However, their words lodged into my heart and soul, and after months of avoiding their wisdom, and then a year of slowly chipping away at all the logistics, I have begun to capture these stories I so long to hear.

The format has changed a bit. Instead of just stories of people who have fallen in love with a practice, I want to hear stories of people who have found a way to connect with God through daily life. It will explore the ways everyday life can be spiritual practice. I'm still going to interview my parents. And some friends. And some fellow spiritual directors. And maybe you, too, if you've found a unique spiritual practice that allows you to connect to God in new ways. (If you are interested, let me know!)

The podcast will be launching in October, with weekly episodes for the months of October and November. You will receive email updates for each episode. I hope the podcast will be a space of life-affirming inspiration for you on your faith journey.

Spiritual Formation Event: The Contemplative Practice of Motherhood

I have been invited to teach a continuing ed course in the spring at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary on The Contemplative Practice of Motherhood. The course is open to all mothers. We will open with a half-day retreat in early January, followed by online materials and meetings for six weeks, and then a closing retreat.

The class is an opportunity to get a sneak peek at material from my book, This Life That Is Ours: Motherhood As Spiritual Practice. Participants will receive an advance copy of the book as part of the course. I am excited to play with the material in this new way, and to explore in community how our mothering can be a way to connect to God.

Registration is now open. You can learn more here:

That’s all for now. Later this month I will send you a sneak peek at the cover of my book (I can’t wait to share it with you!).

Until then, blessings to you, in your work, in your play, in your rest. May there be light for your path this day.

Back to School Blessing

I wrote this blessing last year, as we were preparing for the upcoming school year. I know in some parts of the U.S. children have already started back, in others they have a week or more of summer left. Wherever you are in your preparations, may this blessing be a point of light and comfort. 

A Back to School Blessing for Parents


As you meet the teachers, 
Walk the halls, 
Buy the supplies and pack the bags.
As you talk over the change in your routines, and
See your children’s eyes fill with tears or
Excitement or boredom or fear.
As you watch your children closely, 
To see how they’re doing, really doing, 
With this transition, 
May you take the time to check in
With how you’re really doing, too. 
May you be gentle with your own soul. 

May the energy and excitement
Of new routines, new friends, 
New teachers, new subjects
Breathe a spirit of newness in you, as well. 
This threshold time is not just for those in school.
May the Holy Spirit speak to you of
Change and anticipation and invitation,
And as she whispers to you
May your heart open in response.

May you know your children’s belovedness as you send them forth.
May you know your own belovedness as you send them. 
May it all be love, in the going and in the returning.
May it all be love.

A Blessing For One Who Walks Through Flames

In an On Being interview titled "The Soul in Depression," poet, psychologist, and professional translator Anita Barrows said, "In the fire there is only fire." That phrase called out at me at the time, asking to become a blessing. 

I do not know what form your fire takes. Maybe it is depression. Maybe anxiety. Maybe grief. Maybe illness. I simply know that if you are within the fire, this blessing is for you. 

A final note: I was still crafting this blessing when I learned of Anthony Bourdain's suicide, just days after Kate Spade. If you or someone you love is considering suicide, please reach out. You can call the national suicide prevention hotline at  1-800-273-8255 or visit them online here


In the fire there is only fire,

Flames dancing and burning and blinding.

There is no path forward or back,

Above or below.

There is only fire.


May no one say:

“It gets better.”

“It will make you stronger.”

“You don’t deserve this.”

“It is always darkest before the dawn.”

These words are accelerant,

And the flames leap higher.


No. Instead of empty words

May there be one who finds a way to

Enter and to be.

May the fire let them approach.

May you be joined within the flames.

May this one hold the hope for you,

Without rushing the healing.

May that presence be grounding.


May it create the tiniest

Downbeat of a pause

Between you

And the fire.

May it be enough distance

To see the flame as separate.

May it be enough space to survive this day.

Peregrinatio: To Be a Holy Wanderer

This is the last of our four-part series on Celtic spirituality. Thank you for exploring the rich heritage of the Celtic tradition with me!

There is a tradition in Celtic Christianity of the peregrinatio, a pilgrim who wanders without destination. This vein of holy traveler does not occur in other strands of spirituality. It contrasts with the pilgrim, who sets out with a particular destination. The peregrinatio hears an invitation within her own soul to set out, not knowing where God might lead her. It is intriguing that this comes out of Celtic spirituality, for these are a people deeply connected to both the land and to God. There wasn’t a sense that they needed to travel to find God elsewhere. Rather, the journey was a way to deepen in relationship with the Lord, to practice complete trust and surrender. The journey of the holy wanderer is a powerful metaphor of the interior journey, of the wilds within our own souls that God invites us to explore, and of the way a relationship with God is a journey into mystery.

Print of The Mysterious Boat by Odilon Redon

Print of The Mysterious Boat by Odilon Redon

St. Brendan the Navigator is the most famous of the peregrinatios. St. Brendan set out in his currach without oars, trusting the Holy Spirit to fill the sails and lead him wherever he was meant to go. His story has captured my imagination. I have a painting of his boat that I use as an entry point to prayer. I imagine myself in the boat and I ask the Holy Spirit to fill my sails and lead me where She will, to points unknown. I feel my soul fill with hope and possibility as I practice trusting the Lord with my journey. In my interior life, I am a content peregrinatio.

That is rarely the case in my exterior life. When I find myself in situations where the outcome is unknown and I am wandering without a destination, I feel anxious and worried. I want to take control and rush things along to an outcome. Will I get the job I hoped for? Will we need to move? What will the test results show? When the direction of my life is unclear, I often forget how to trust and find my hope in letting the Lord be my guide. To be without destination is an attractive concept and a difficult reality.

I see in the tradition of the peregrination an invitation to be in these unknown situations in a different way. I am learning how to reframe these exterior unknowns as opportunity to journey with the Lord. They remind me that God is both leading the way, and is the destination, and is the path that I travel. When I feel the anxiety and fear creep in, I remember St. Brendan’s boat, and I ask the Holy Spirit to help me to trust that my sails will be filled.

There are different ways to play with this concept of peregrinatio. Like me, you could pray imaginatively with the imagery of a boat at sea. Can you picture yourself in that vessel, riding the waves? What are the uncertain waters that you are experiencing in your life? What is your sense of God within the scene you enter? Another way to practice would be to set out for a walk without a destination, to let yourself physically wander. Notice as you walk, where God might be present within the wandering. These are just two possibilities. I hope you find time to play with this concept of the holy wanderer, and to deepen in your own spiritual journey.

For reflection: Where in your life are you being invited to live in the not yet known? What journeys are you currently taking that do not have a known destination? What might God be saying to you within the mystery?

Celtic Spirituality: The Monastic Invitation

monastic pic.png

In our explorations of Celtic spirituality, we have sat with the Celtic relationship with the land and the way they experienced God drawing near through thin places. We have encountered St. Brigid and experienced her invitation to meet an expansive God. Brigid’s story shows that there was an active spirituality that was met and incorporated into the Christianity of the Celtic world. That Christianity was in turn shaped by the monastic communities that dotted the land. Instead of learning the Christian way of life from the traditional church, lay people were folded into the life of the monastic community. As Esther DeWaal writes in her book The Celtic Way of Prayer: The Recovery of the Religious Imagination, “Early Celtic Christianity was above all monastic. People learned their religious beliefs and practices from the monastic communities with the monastic ideal of continual prayer.” Instead of spirituality being reserved for Sundays and formal church settings, Celts took their cues from the monasteries which invited prayer into every aspect of life. She goes on to describe this monastic way of prayer: “The Gaelic race see the hand of God in every place, in every time and in every thing. They have this sense of life being embraced on all sides by God.” In the litanies and rituals that she gathered in her book, DeWaal found that prayer was not formal or separate, but woven into the fabric of daily life. She found prayers that were spoken over the fire, the cooking, the laundry, the farming, the mending – the list goes on. They truly experienced God in all things.

What a beautiful invitation this is, to encounter God in every aspect of our lives! What might it be like to experience God’s presence in all that we do? These rituals of prayer invite us to open our eyes and experience the reality of God’s loving, encompassing presence. I wonder what it might mean for me to incorporate prayer into the mundane of the everyday. Could I write prayers for turning off the alarm, for making the bed, for dressing my children, for preparing breakfast? There are so many parts of my daily routine that I move through without thinking, and with only rare glimpses of God’s presence with me.

I am drawn to the ritual of these ancient Celtic prayers, to the idea that all of life could be opportunities. God desires to meet us in our daily life and cares about what we do. It’s not that we need these prayers to summon God or to make something mundane become holy. Rather, the prayer is an invitation to us, reminding us to be awake to what already is. Instead of creating reality they name the reality of God with us. They invite us to make interior space to receive God with us in our days. Again we turn to DeWaal, who says of Celtic spirituality, “At the heart of what I have been writing about … is a deep sense of the presence of God – God here and now, with me, close at hand, a God present in life and in work, immediate and accessible.” These ritualized prayers remind us of the sacramental nature of daily life, the way all our mundane work is an opportunity to experience the presence of the living God.

A small way to begin to practice that I’ve both used myself and shared with directees is to pray when I wash my hands. I will pray a short liturgy, “Lord, thank you for this water and for these hands. May they be prepared for your work. May my hands encounter you in all they do.” As I run my hands under the water, as I lather the soap over and between my fingers, as I watch the bubbles slide off of my skin and down the drain, I connect to the Lord who longs to connect with me.

I wonder, where in your daily routine could you experience God’s presence through prayer? Maybe you could write a prayer this week for a simple, everyday task, such as making breakfast or preparing for bed. In what small way could you practice letting God meet you and hold you in all you do?

St. Brigid, Weaver of Opposites

A hand-carved Celtic knot, a gift from March's Celtic Spirituality Retreat

A hand-carved Celtic knot, a gift from March's Celtic Spirituality Retreat

I love the intricate twists and turns of the hand-carved Celtic knot that I keep on my desk. I follow the lines with my fingers as I cradle it in my hands, not knowing where the loops will take me or when I will return to the beginning. The Celtic knot is a symbol of mystery, and one of the best-known symbols of Celtic spirituality. John O’Donohue, in Anam Cara: Spiritual Wisdom from the Celtic World, describes the Celtic connection to the knotted spiral:

The Celtic mind was never drawn to the single line; it avoided ways of seeing and being which seek satisfaction in certainty. The Celtic mind had a wonderful respect for the mystery of the circle and the spiral. The circle never gives itself completely to the eye or to the mind, but offers a trusting hospitality to that which is complex and mysterious.

This circular intricacy, the comfort with the complex and the mysterious, reminds me of St. Brigid. The patron saint of weavers, she weaves within her very being many opposites. As John Philip Newell writes in his book The Rebirthing of God: Christianity’s Struggle for New Beginnings:

Brigid of Kildare was said to be the daughter of a pagan chieftain and a Christian woman slave. She was born at dawn on the first of February while her mother (who worked as a dairy maid) was standing in the threshold of the household dairy. So it is that Brigid was born neither slave nor free, neither indoors nor outdoors, neither pagan nor Christian, neither in the winter or the spring, neither at day or at night. Brigid, therefore, was a liminal figure -- a woman of the margins and the thresholds.

In my own life, I’ve come to think of this woman of margins and thresholds as the patron saint of the both/and. Just as the Celtic knot weaves a complex pattern that cannot be easily untangled, Brigid weaves into a beautiful pattern concepts that are usually considered opposites: Christian and pagan, day and night, winter and spring, woman and (possibly) bishop. When I am feeling stuck, unable to reconcile two seemingly conflicting options or ideas, she reminds me to step back and look for a way to hold and include all that is before me. When I find myself thinking, “Either I could….or I could….” Shifting my gaze from my dilemma to St. Brigid invites a breath of possibility, and invites me to look for the potential both/and, to weave together my own opposites.

In this Easter season, we are also reminded through Brigid of the mystery of Christ’s rising. She points towards Jesus, who is the ultimate both/and, fully human, fully divine. St. Brigid shows us how to weave these seeming opposites, humanity and divinity, and to contemplate them within the person of Jesus. St. Brigid is an entry point to the mystery of our faith.

She is a model for us of Celtic spirituality, which holds opposites in friendship. Of this friendship, John O’Donohue says in Anam Cara, “For our sore and tormented separation, the possibility of this imaginative and unifying friendship is the Celtic gift.” In these polarized times, St. Brigid and Celtic spirituality offer a breath of fresh air. St. Brigid reminds us of the expansiveness of God, of the way God is not easily defined or limited or placed in a box. I feel the deep gift and necessity of this in my own life, to release my belief that I have all the answers or always know what is right.

I wonder, what opposites are you carrying in your life? Where are you experiencing tensions and the pull of either/or? What might it be like to spend time with St. Brigid, and allow her to reveal to you the possibility of both/and?

On Thin Places

On St. Patrick’s Day 2018, I had the privilege of leading a retreat on Celtic Spirituality in my hometown of Springfield, OH. I’ll be sharing a series of reflections on Celtic spirituality that are inspired by that sacred time, beginning with thin places.

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I first visited Ireland at the end of high school. My parents planned for this trip for years, and there was a sense of excitement and pilgrimage to this much-anticipated visit. I fell in love with the land in those weeks, with the green hills, the grey mist, the ocean met by rough-faced cliffs. There seemed to be such mystery and magic to the land, as if it stored secrets that I longed to uncover.

I was experiencing what the Celts call a “thin place,” a place where the veil between the sacred and mortal worlds is worn thin. Thin places are suffused with the holy. This is an illuminating concept for Celtic spirituality, for in many ways it is a spirituality of thin veils, of transparent membranes, of both/and. It is a spirituality that embraces and holds in close contacts things that are often considered to be opposite, like heaven and earth.

Thin places are where God draws close, where heaven presses near. They are often experienced in nature,  where creation inherently radiates God’s love, and in places where prayer has been practiced for generations, so that sacred conversation now permeates the place. A thin place is anywhere you easily experience the presence of the divine. Ireland is one such place for me; my own backyard, where I watch my children clamber and run and laugh and play as the sun sinks lower in the sky, is another. Sometimes thin places are exotic locations of shared pilgrimage; sometimes they are mundane, encountered in the course of our daily life.

We can experience thin places in particular locations. We can also encounter thin places in relationship, in the people with whom we share life. We meet thin places within those people who seem to instantly draw us into deeper waters, the people who shine forth God’s love to us.

Thin places invite us into a physical, embodied experience of the divine. We know our thin places by the way our soul leaps in recognition, by the way our hearts beat a bit faster as the Holy Spirit dances within us, by the way the hairs on our arms stand up, by the way our God who often seems so distant suddenly feels as near as our next breath.

I wonder, where are your thin places? What places do you experience as holy? Are there relationships where the veil between the ordinary and holy seems particularly thin? I hope that you may find time and space this month to explore and savor these sacred places in your life.

A Blessing For Holy Week

I confess to you that I am arriving to this Holy Week distracted and frazzled. I had such high hopes for Lent, for what I would give up, for what I would do, for how I would spend time with the Lord. Some of these have worked out, but many of them haven’t.

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Although I am rushing and collapsing into the week, I know I come in time. There is still time, in these next days, to draw close to Christ. I can still quiet my heart and mind and let Jesus be the center. This week we are invited to journey with Jesus, to walk alongside him as he approaches the cross. We are invited to offer him the attention and love and companionship that he offers us every other day of the year.

One of the ways I join Jesus is through a sense of wonder. I wonder what that last week was like for him. He clearly knew what was coming and hoped against it and yet walked forward faithfully. What was it like to be in his body that week? To feel his feet stepping firmly on the earth and count his footsteps? To wash his hands and marvel at the calluses and creases, the marks of a life that was coming to an end? How do you be present to life when you are confronting death?

These are some of the questions I hold, as I join him on the road. I hope for you to find your own questions, your own sources of wonder, your own ways to come alongside him this week. And I so offer you this blessing, to seal your holy journey.

A Blessing for Holy Week

However you arrive here – 
Centered and prepared,
Distracted and rushing,
Robust or fragile - 
It does not matter. 
It simply matters that you are here, 
At this holiest of weeks. 

This week has been waiting for you.
Can you feel the weight of it?
There is a slowness, a solidity to it. 
These days ask you to slow down with them. 
They ask you to let the weight hold you in place, 
That you may be fully present, 
That you may center yourself in Christ. 

The same Jesus who companions you
Is waiting to be companioned. 
Can you join him…
As he enters Jerusalem?
As he washes the feet of his beloved friends?
As he breaks bread and pours the cup?
As he eats one last meal?
As he waits for the betrayal of his disciple?
As he prays in the garden, begging the Lord?
And that is just the beginning of his walk…

May you hear the invitation of this week. 
May you move slow with the weight of it. 
May you arrive at Easter
Centered in Christ. 

A Blessing For the Cold

In January, I attended the Mystic Soul conference, a gathering to explore people of color-centered spirituality and activism. The conference was in Chicago, a city known for its harsh winter weather. The first day a freezing rain fell from a grey sky, and I hurried in from the cold to a warm and gently lit room.

Our gathering was opened with the simple refrain, sung over and over:

Come on in from the cold,

Come on in from the outside.

I have been reflecting on that invitation as I journey through January and February, as the weather around me is freezing and as my soul also feels a bit cold, without the joy of Christmas anticipation to sustain me. There are no family gatherings or major celebrations to get me through this month. Instead I am needing smaller points of warmth, to notice where I am being invited in from the cold in my ordinary existence.

May you also hear those small invitations, to come in from the cold, to find warmth and connection. Whether your cold is literal or figurative, three feet of snow outside or a sense of loneliness within, this blessing is for you.


When you are cold,

Your bones aching,

Your muscles tense.

When there is too little light

In your sky, as it moves from

Grey to black to grey again.

When you feel small, constricted,

Without hope.

May there be small sources of heat:

The light of the smile of a loved one.

The distant song of one bird,

Singing to you of spring.

The spark of recognition

In reading a sacred story.

A gift of laughter

Shared with a stranger.

May that warmth then radiate.

May it loosen your muscles,

Expand your lungs.

May your heart leap with unexpected joy.

And then –

May your warmth shine out,

May you be the source of heat for another.

That the cold around us may no longer penetrate so deeply.

That it may be met with freedom,

For we are ones who carry warmth.

Back to School Blessing

We are in the thick of the back to school season, a time of change and turmoil and, in my house at least, heightened emotions. This blessing is for parents, some balm for your soul as you walk with your children through this threshold time. 

A Back to School Blessing for Parents

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As you meet the teachers, 
Walk the halls, 
Buy the supplies and pack the bags.
As you talk over the change in your routines, and
See your children’s eyes fill with tears or
Excitement or boredom or fear.
As you watch your children closely, 
To see how they’re doing, really doing, 
With this transition, 
May you take the time to check in
With how you’re really doing, too. 
May you be gentle with your own soul. 

May the energy and excitement
Of new routines, new friends, 
New teachers, new subjects
Breathe a spirit of newness in you, as well. 
This threshold time is not just for those in school.
May the Holy Spirit speak to you of
Change and anticipation and invitation,
And as she whispers to you
May your heart open in response.

May you know your children’s belovedness as you send them forth.
May you know your own belovedness as you send them. 
May it all be love, in the going and in the returning.
May it all be love.

A Blessing For One Who Walks With

I wrote this blessing for my spiritual community, when we were in a season of many people experiencing hard things. We were walking with each other through the pain and the fear, collectively and individually, and I wanted to bless our path. This prayer is for you, as you journey with others. May your path be blessed.

A Blessing For One Who Walks With

As you journey beside a hurting a heart,

And feel your own heart breaking with and for,

May you know love.

May you feel God’s love for you,

Wrapping around and within,

And then may you feel it flowing out,

And towards, and over.


May you be both a vessel and a river,

Holding love and pouring out love,

Holding mercy and pouring out mercy.


And may you rest when it is time to rest.

May you remember that all the work is not yours to do.


May you know Christ in the companioning,

Christ in the resting,

Christ in the tears,

Christ in the joy.

The Discover Brothers

My sons love The Wild Kratts. The PBS kids’ show features the real-life brothers, Chris and Martin Kratts, who start each episode introducing the kids at home to wild animals in different parts of the world. As they describe the amazing features of these animals – their ability to leap high, run fast, or fly far – they begin to imagine what it would be like to have these “creature powers” for themselves. They become more and more excited, and finally turn to each other, shout, “What if?” and become cartoons.

Declan and Ronan are so inspired by The Wild Kratts that they’ve developed their own imaginary show, The Discover Brothers. The Discover Brothers explore the outdoors, and when they get excited, they turn to each other and shout, “I wonder!” And then they, too, become cartoons. As Declan will tell you, “It’s animazing! Get it? Animated and amazing?”

Their playful sense of imagination is animazing. My Discover Brothers are silly, and funny, and wise. They have discovered the wisdom of curiosity, the way it creates life and frees us and opens us up to new possibilities. I’ve been contemplating the wisdom of an “animating phrase” this week, the power of words that can animate us, that can shake up our expectations, help us to relax our grip, and open us up to surprise. “What if” and “I wonder” are good phrases to invite into areas of resistance and pain. When you notice negative emotions rising, when you are frustrated or annoyed or bored, try inviting curiosity in as well, exploring what is beneath the emotions, and what the invitation within them might be.

My own animating phrase is, “What are you up to, God?” This playfully worded question reminds me that I don’t have everything figured it out. When I am feeling angry or just annoyed, remembering to wonder about God’s presence and God’s invitation is freeing, and helps me to harbor curiosity and an openness to surprise. These animating phrases aren’t magical, and they don’t make the hard things disappear. They simply loosen our grip, and create a little space for wonder.

I invite you to play with this idea of animating phrases this week. What words might breathe life and openness into your days?

The Gentleness of Candlelight

In his blessing "For Light," John O'Donohue writes:

When we look into the heart,
May our eyes have the kindness
And reverence of candlelight.

As a writer and as a spiritual director, my life's work is to gaze into the heart, to seek out the quiet, hidden places where God speaks. As John O'Donohue so beautifully wrote, candlelight is just the right amount of light with which to explore these interior spaces. When there is too much light, we become overwhelmed and blinded, unable to comprehend what is right in front of us. Too much light is painful. And too much darkness? Is just that - dark, lonely, and often frightening. And so I travel by candlelight, creating small, gently lit spaces in which to sit and to wonder. The gentleness of candlelight is the perfect light with which to explore our own sacred stories, our individual tales of how we experience God in our lives, the invitations we are hearing, and the ways we are responding. 

I feel self-conscious even writing those words on this second day of February 2017. The gentleness of candlelight? When our world is blazing with the intense light of the public realm?In our charged political climate, it feels like the important stories are the BIG stories: the ones unfolding on a national and global scale. Those are the stories that demand our attention and our energy, and rightly so. This feels like such a strange time to be starting a blog that focuses on our individual sacred stories. But maybe that is exactly why this is the right time to start this blog. The bright light of the world around us makes it challenging to see what is within. The big stories can drown out our own stories. We need spaces of quiet, of rest, of wonder. We need some silence if we are to hear God speak.  

I hope this blog will be that kind of space for you. I'll be posting once a week or so, sometimes with original blessings and prayers, sometimes with stories from life with my three kids who are also my best teachers, and sometimes about the way God is speaking to me through what I'm reading. May my words create room for you to explore your own sacred story. May we each find enough silence to hear the small, still voice of God. I'm looking forward to this journey with you, and I'm holding a candle to light the way.

May You Know Courage

I wrote this blessing for myself, during a particularly challenging week. It is not just for me, though. It is for you, too. I hope it will be a gift for you, for the days you need some courage. 

A Blessing for Courage

May you know that courage is not always stoic and even-keeled or brash and risky.

May you know that courage can wear different faces:

It can sneak around your shoulders as you are overwhelmed by tears.

It can steal into your heart when you think all that lives there is fear.

It can pour down your shoulders and out through your fingers, mingling with a righteous anger.

It can live in your breath as you sit with the hard things and just breathe, in…

And out…


I was going to write you a blessing to summon courage,

A prayer that would gird you with it like armor, but look:

Courage is already here.


So instead, I pray:

May your eyes be open to its presence.

May your heart be clear and spacious enough for courage to spread out, move around,

and stretch its way into showing you what it might mean to live your courage.

And when you know where your courage is leading you,

May your steps be strong and firm.

Courage is already here.