Lent is often a time for many of us when we start to dig a little deeper, carve out some silence in the busyness of life. Of course pandemic life has everything turned upside down, but perhaps these offerings are just what your soul needed. They can be used as prayer prompts, journal prompts, meditation prompts, or just a moment of reflection in a busy season.

Sign up here for the 40 Days of Deep Wisdom:

Sign up here for the 40 Days of Silence

Whatever way you choose I hope that you are able to find some restoration, some healing, some silence, some ways to reconnect.

The Longest Night…

In the midst of the pandemic and the odd times we find ourselves in there are these moments of coming full circle and seeing the ways that God weaves lives and times together… This is a story about that.

Many moons ago when I was living in South Carolina I wasn’t able to go home for Christmas to be with my Minnesota family. It was the year that my Grandma Staab had passed away and I was feeling sad and homesick. Pastor Robin Griffeth invited me to her Longest Night Service… it was the first time I had ever experienced a service of this type and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.

It was exactly what I didn’t even know I needed.

A quiet space to be with people who could hold the fullness of the season. The opportunity to be with other people where it wasn’t out of place for me to cry in the pew. No one would wonder if I was okay, or why I wasn’t “Merry and Bright!”. It was a place to come to be accepted, just as I was. Where grief was a companion and was saved a seat and people we loved were named, candles were lit, losses were honored and it was all okay.

Truly, part of this book was created that evening. When I was given permission to be where I was, to grieve and to be held in that moment, knowing full well that the magic of Christmas would weave its way back in my life in new and different ways. It was a space that I was so thankful for and one that I wanted to share with others.

Fast forward many years and this book was birthed into the world. Pastor Robin reached out a few weeks ago wondering if I would be willing to read part of my book at her Longest Night Service unaware of how much comfort and healing her kindness and this very service brought so long ago. This pandemic has reeked havoc in so many ways and in so many traditions, and yet, as all things, has offered opportunities and ways of connecting that were unavailable before. So I was able to Zoom on in and join her and some of her church family and pay it forward providing a chance to share comfort and consolation on the Longest Night.

This year many of my friends attended “Blue Christmas”, “Empty Chair” and “Longest Night” services which have become more common and I am so thankful. To be surrounded in this midst of grief with the knowledge that you are not alone, with the reminder that God meets us wherever we are at in the season and to be held in your moment of need. Community may look different this year, but needing to share time, space and grace remains the same.

For those who would like to read a prayer here is a beautiful piece from author Sarah Bessey.

A Prayer for the Broken-Hearted at Christmas.

I pray that in your longest night you are able to find hope and healing. That you are able to be in whatever place your heart needs and that your Christmas is whatever you need it to be.

With love,


I love reading  Audrey Kletscher Helbling’s blog – Minnesota Prairie Roots. She covers a wide variety of life in rural Minnesota, festivals, small bits and pieces of the ordinary, the extraordinary and the little bits that weave together a good life. If her blog were a food it would be a tator tot hotdish. Warm, comforting and what you reach for when you need a little taste of home.

I was thrilled when I woke up to this beautiful review of The First Christmas: Finding Your Way After Loss.

Here is a brief snippet of her post:


She calls grief “a wild mess of things that can’t be anticipated.” That seems such a spot-on assessment as we all grieve in different and unexpected ways. Erica advises us to be gentle with ourselves, to allow grief in, to listen to what our hearts need.

I found this statement particularly profound: When grief is invited in…it is then that it loses its power over you, it is then that grief offers itself to share its gifts. It is then that there is space made for joy.

I appreciate that Erica embraces and acknowledges grief in all its pain and darkness. Yet, she writes with the light of hope, of joy-filled moments returning, of strength gained. When I emailed Erica to tell her that her writing touched me and caused me to cry as I thought of losses in my life, she responded, “…that was my prayer…that people would feel heard, understood, and not alone in their grief journey or their choices.”

After you write, read, reread, rearrange, re-write and redo the process ad-nauseum sometimes your words start to lose their shine. The act of being handled, thrown around, taken out and put back in and taken out again makes them look a little weary and a bit stale. So as a writer, when you release your words out into the world it is through the magic of looking at them through others eyes that the words come alive again. Then you can see them shimmering with the hope that they will find the heart they were intended for, and I am reminded that hearing people’s experiences of them is the best part of the journey.

So thank you to all of those who have shared with me their responses to the book as it finds its way in the world. I am thrilled that it has been able to meet people where they are at, to bring the peace and healing that I intended when I first wrote the very first draft so long ago.

The First Christmas

It has been awhile since I have posted. A global pandemic and a year that just keeps growing wilder and wilder, two toddlers, working full time and trying to keep all the plates spinning and balls in the air means something has to give. For awhile it has been writing on the blog.

Even though it hasn’t been posted here, I haven’t stopped writing. During snippets of stolen time I have been working on a secret project, compiling snippets of prose, revamping a popular blog post, pondering what words grieving hearts need to hear.

And now my secret project is ready to be birthed into the world.

The First Christmas: Finding Your Way After Loss

A gift book to help navigate the first Christmas in grief. A permission slip of sorts to help comfort and guide you. A reminder that what you are experiencing is perfectly normal. Grief is hard. Add in “the most magical time of year”, people’s expectations, our own hearts expectations and it can weigh on us and leave us feeling shattered and alone.

Grief, I’ve learned, is really just love. It is all the love you want to give, but cannot. All that unspent love gathers in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in the hollow part of your chest.

Grief is just love with no place to go.

Jamie Anderson

It is my hope that this book will be a companion for you, an opportunity to make the holiday one that is meaningful for you… whatever that may mean to you this year.

If you feel like you or someone you know might appreciate this book here is the link to order a copy of your very own.

A prayer and reminder for you:

May you be held, may you be loved, may you find peace wherever you are.

This poem reminds me of the power of being present, the ministry that happens when you leave your agenda behind and simply meet people where they are at.

When you are deep in grief it is such a gift to have a person who doesn’t have to fix it, change it or make it anything other than what it is.  Grief is often hard, heavy and difficult… woven with hope, healing and brief moments of respite, but so much of the time it is just heavy.  People spend so much time wanting and trying to be someplace other than where they are at… missing, longing and hurting for the dreams that have died, the person who is gone or for the things that aren’t the way they wish they were… and doing anything to not feel all that comes with that.

It is a beautiful reminder to ourselves to allow the fullness of what is, knowing that “no feeling is final”.  There is a freedom in allowing what is, not fighting it, knowing that it won’t always be this way, but that for now, it is.

If we are lucky, we have these people in our lives who can meet us in the midst of deep grief.  Today I would invite you to meet yourself there.  Allow yourself to be where you are, meet yourself with the holy reverence you reserve for those you deeply love and allow yourself to be right where you are.

“Let everything happen to you
Beauty and terror
Just keep going
No feeling is final”

― Rainer Maria Rilke

Christmas House

It is that time of year again when many of us who are deep in the midst of cold and snow hunker down and cozy in for a period of reflection and silence.

There is something that is so hauntingly beautiful and quiet about the way the snow falls from the sky, silently blanketing everything in pure white.  A new beginning of sorts that beckons us to become more silent as well.  Each year I find after the hustle and bustle of Christmas and New Year’s my soul often seeks out silence and reflection to think about what the year ahead may bring.

A friend offered this beautiful piece on her Facebook page and it was one of those pieces that caused me to stop scrolling and sit to think more about the space beyond prayer and the moment when one truly dissolves into the silence…

As my prayer become more attentive and inward
I had less and less to say.
I finally became completely silent.
I started to listen
– which is even further removed from speaking.
I first thought that praying entailed speaking.
I then learnt that praying is hearing,
not merely being silent.
This is how it is.
To pray does not mean to listen to oneself speaking,
Prayer involves becoming silent,
And being silent,
And waiting until God is heard.
~ Søren Kierkegaard

If you are interested in cultivating more silence in your life, sign up for my free 40 Days of Silence offering here.

May this New Year hold the possibilities of new beginnings and new discoveries that await you in the silence that invites you home.

The Work of Christmas


The Work of Christmas

When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and the princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among brothers,
To make music in the heart.

Howard Thurman- a mystical, prophetic preacher active in the civil rights movement who studied with Rufus Jones and joined the Wider Quaker Fellowship in the 1960s.

Black Fire: African American Quakers on Spirituality and Human Rights

Angels are waiting…


I had a friend recently who was headed to do hard things.  And as I gave her a hug I whispered in her ear

“The angels are already waiting for you there.  You are not alone.”

It wasn’t me whispering, rather, it was me being willing to be a vessel.

When I make space for silence in my life so I can hear those little whispers, when I make space to be a vessel I am given opportunity after opportunity to show up, to share the ministry of presence, to be who and what that person needs in the moment.

Perhaps our only work is to be willing to be silent long enough to be given our instructions on how in that moment to be a vessel for love.

We have been hearing a lot of bad news in the world lately, and with all that is happening it is easy to find ourselves despairing at the state of the world. It certainly seems that there is a fair share of darkness that has been dominating lately.  I wanted to offer a little light, and the reminder that things are not always what they seem.

The other day I was presenting on my favorite topic to a group of college students, the “Art of Deep Listening”.  I always begin the presentation the same way, by asking the group to share the last time that they felt deeply listened to.  It is interesting to see the themes emerge and hear people share their stories of feeling loved through listening.  According to my informal poll, it seems that mothers and best friends are the best listeners.

One of the young woman shared about how the night before as she had been stressing about finals, and overwhelmed with everything she had to do her roommate deeply listened.  She never told her that she was overreacting, she didn’t tell her to suck it up, or try to show her all that she did had under control, or share with her all of her solutions.  Instead, she listened generously, shared her presence for as long as it was needed, and then, she made her a waffle for breakfast that morning.

And sure enough, after a good night of sleep, feeling heard and understood the world seemed a lot more manageable, and whatever was looming large the night before seemed to fall into place, at least a little bit.  But the kind act of being provided for, of being nurtured and cared about “fixed” what was “broken”.  Her roommate knew a secret that we too often forget… sometimes things aren’t meant to be fixed, or changed in that moment, it is in these small acts of kindness, of nurturing that we heal each other.  It is in these small acts of compassion that we remind each other that the world can be a safe place.  It is in offering a safe space to be that healing can happen.

When we can offer a soft place to land for those we love, when we can share with one another our  little acts of love, we light up the world.

And we could all use a little more light in the world.



The Monk Manifesto

Summer 2015

Summer 2015

It has been a long time since I have found myself in front of the computer to write a blog post. I have been embarking on a creative journey lately, one that has been all-consuming, and much different than I had expected.

Christmas Eve my partner and I found out that I was pregnant. It has been an amazing gift, but it has been difficult. I have been sick most of my pregnancy, and I have been learning a lot about my limitations. My world has gotten a lot smaller than I am used to and I have had to learn how to be better at saying no. With just a little over a week left I am coming out of the fog and starting to feel better and more myself with each passing day. With all of this focus on my physical body and all of its changes, and the physical changes in the house, creating a nursery and getting all of the essentials ready for the new arrival I am realizing that I am craving more of the sacred. I am craving more time to go within and to spend some time pondering what all these changes mean. And as I was thinking about how to delve more deeply into living with intention and where to even begin after being so externally focused on all of my to do lists and “things to get done before the baby arrives” this beautiful piece came across my newsfeed today on Facebook and I have been thinking about it ever since.  And since I have been so focused on doing, it feels like shifting into a different gear to focus on being- albeit a welcome one and this feels like just the place to start.

The Monk Manifesto: Seven Principles for Living with Deep Intention:

Monk Manifesto: A public expression of your commitment to live a compassionate, contemplative, and creative life.

The Monk Manifesto-

I commit to finding moments each day for silence and solitude, to make space for another voice to be heard, and to resist a culture of noise and constant stimulation.

I commit to radical acts of hospitality by welcoming the stranger both without and within. I recognize that when I make space inside my heart for the unclaimed parts of myself, I cultivate compassion and the ability to accept those places in others.

I commit to cultivating community by finding kindred spirits along the path, soul friends with whom I can share my deepest longings, and mentors who can offer guidance and wisdom for the journey.

I commit to cultivating awareness of my kinship with creation and a healthy asceticism by discerning my use of energy and things, letting go of what does not help nature to flourish.

I commit to bringing myself fully present to the work I do, whether paid or unpaid, holding a heart of gratitude for the ability to express my gifts in the world in meaningful ways.

I commit to rhythms of rest and renewal through the regular practice of Sabbath and resist a culture of busyness that measures my worth by what I do.

I commit to a lifetime of ongoing conversion and transformation, recognizing that I am always on a journey with both gifts and limitations.

Christine Valters Painter

It brings me great peace to be reminded that I will always be given what I need when I ask for it, to know that if I choose to walk a more contemplative path it is always one step away.

It brings me great peace to know that there are seasons in my life that allow for different focuses, but that a deep and meaningful life is always waiting in every season and in all ways, and that both doing and being have their place.

It brings me great peace to be reminded that as long as I am living deeply in the midst of life there will be treasures to unearth, love to be found, and joy to be had.

It brings me great peace to know that the path that I have chosen for my spiritual journey allows for detours, for exploration, for compassion with myself.

It brings me great peace to be reminded that as I embark on this shift in identity, in this life-changing journey, that I can choose to do this with compassion, with creativity and contemplation.