Finding God in the Middle of My Everyday

I want to leave enough room in my heart for the unexpected”  I pondered in the glow of a dimly lit early morning room, with fireplace blazing, candle burning, a mug of coffee in my hand. This poem entitled “A Permeable Life” by Carrie Newcomer seemed an appropriate poem/prayer to start this day. Hmm, I was loving the atmosphere and beginning to engage with this first line, imagining my heart as it would move through the day when, yes there is a when, my phone rang. My daughter needed my help. Her husband was in bed with a migraine headache, she needed to get to work, and would I come and get 3 kids ready for school and the babysitter.

So this idea of a permeable life, leaving room for the unexpected, came to life. A reality type of life. Of course I said yes, of course I threw on some clothes, discarded my coffee, packed a toddler seat in the car and set off to help out. Grandma to the rescue.

Yet this line kept niggling in my soul, “I want to leave enough room in my heart for the unexpected”.

And this was definitely “the unexpected” for my morning routine.

Oh the things grandmas will do. And there was no question in my heart that this was the thing I should and wanted to be able to do!

So grandma was greeted with a baby who wanted to be held, a five year old needing breakfast (of course he wanted me to cook some eggs not just set a bowl of cereal in front of him) and a two year old who decided she also wanted eggs after eating her cereal and a baby who needed a bottle and… If I wasn’t fully alert before now I was at complete attention to this permeable thing called the unexpected.

Okay grandma, leave enough room for the unexpected I whispered into my breath.

As I juggled my duties I found myself wondering how to navigate this time crunch with a baby who was supposed to take a little nap and didn’t and a two year old who needed to go potty but didn’t and a five year old who insisted on showing me a picture of the monster he had dreamed about all while he was supposed to be getting dressed and ready for kindergarten. And the two year old finally emerged dressed and ready for her day- pink slacks, purple shirt, purple tutu, gray and orange candy corn socks and pink shoes to finish her ensemble. What a beautiful sight!

Again, I was reminded of that line “I want to leave enough room in my heart for the unexpected”.

So circumstances that would normally make me feel hurried and a bit anxious felt more like moments to enjoy.

Why not?

And then there were more moments.

Five minutes to the time we were to exit the house, the baby fell asleep. Yes. Sound asleep. The five year old and the two year old s-l-o-w-l-y put on their shoes, coats and hats. We s-l-o-w-l-y gathered up back packs, boots, baby doll, mittens and lunch bag and climbed into grandma’s car. I then went back in the house and got the baby out of bed, into the car seat and buckled secure in the car.

Off we go… No we don’t.

I had to get out of the car and close the garage door, enter the house, exit the house through the front door, climb back in the car.

I told the 5 year old that we might be a little late for school and he said that would be okay as long as I walked him into the building to his classroom. He wasn’t ruffled but I was beginning to feel a bit anxious.

And then that line floated across my soul again- “I want to leave enough room in my heart for the unexpected”.

Yep. That’s what this grandma wanted to do. Three little treasures in my car. Something I didn’t expect. But what an amazing thing to leave enough room for today!


A Hazelnut in My Hand

As I have been determinedly learning this gift of silence, I am more and more convinced that life without taking the time to be quiet and still, is missing a huge slice of life this side of heaven.

A few years ago I began the New Year by reading and writing about staying at attention and in adoration of the living God.

I purposely would look for that theme as I read through the Bible and then apply it to my life on a somewhat orderly schedule. That  journey has been the beginning of a shift in how I try to live out each day.

And more recently, this journey has taken me to a place of practicing solitude and silence. I am learning to pay attention to whispers, to tears, to near tears, to joy, to songs, to silence.

As I am learning to enjoy the fruits of being quiet, I realize that this journey is an ever -learning one.

Learning to pay attention to some of the most mundane and ‘seeing’ God in those moments is amazing.

I recently read a poem entitled ‘The Hazelnut’. Written centuries ago by Julian of Norwich.

Each time I read through this poem, I am finding more fruit. I desire to be able to hold in my hand something as simple as a hazelnut and ponder God. Just like Julian.

A hazelnut of all things! A little, hard, round piece of nut! She pondered and held and felt it rolling around in her hand and waited. Waited for the Holy to speak.

He showed me a little thing…Ahh, can I put myself in such a place where I can know that God is showing me a little thing? So attuned and so attentive that I hear Him tell me a story through such a thing as a hazelnut?

Julian goes on to say that she looked upon it with her inner eye of understanding…

In this Little Thing (writes Julian), I saw three properties. The first is that God made it, the second is that God loves it, the third, that God keeps it.

A hazelnut in her hand. Simple but profound. As Julian pondered on what the Lord showed her, she stated that only when she is fastened to Him will she completely know God as Maker, Lover and Keeper.

Wow. That’s worth pausing for.

That’s all. Just sit, look, wait, listen. Our inner eye of understanding is our soul. And God dwells there.

He has many treasures to share with us if we will just take the time to listen…

So I hold in my hand a mere hazelnut. What say you, God?

Might He fill my head and heart with His Presence and speak just as He did with Julian?

autumn3 My ‘hundred acre wood’ is a place called Bever Park. Whether it is actually 100 acres, I haven’t a clue but to me it is a wooded delight.

A few days ago I spent some morning time out here taking notice of my surroundings.

This park is full of trees, groves of them, mature, leafy, and deciduous. Therefore their leaves are beginning to tumble off their branches, floating ever so gently to the ground.

It is Fall. Autumn. And around here Fall means falling leaves, falling acorns, falling buckeyes, falling walnuts! Sometimes, it would be smart to wear a helmet while walking through these ‘hundred acre woods’ !

Accompanying this gentle breeze are handfuls of bursts of color. Splotches of golden yellow, orange, and spots of red are beginning to show.

At this moment, the wood seems alive with the breeze of wind seemingly turning and rotating clumps of leaves like flutters.

And as much as I look upon the wood, I seem to run out of options of imagination, like what’s next to see. And I look again. I ‘see’ the same beautiful, alive picture. And I could stop writing here.

But I am here to take notice in this ‘hundred acre wood’. I realize that there is always more when God is brought into the picture. If I sit here and simply take notice of this panorama, it becomes just a beautiful picture to behold. An idol to remember in my mind’s eye.

But as I begin to take notice of God first and foremost in this picture then the dimensions of this panorama become exponential. A never- ending, ever- changing picture. With more possibilities to behold.

I take notice.

Your Presence is here.

And out there.

You are with me now.

You are in the wooded panorama.



As I look upon the twirling leaves, I know that You are the One behind the movement. We don’t see wind but it is full of mystery. And just as the wind is full of mystery, You are so much more full of mystery. For you have created and continue to create this breeze. You are the Mystery with a capital ‘M’ behind this panoramic picture.

And You are the Mystery that I take notice of in this present moment as I gaze upon this scene.

Deep in this ‘hundred acre wood’.

Seeing God Through The Trees

Fresh Vision is the theme this week for contemplation in my daily devotional. I don’t know about you but many times I clamor and cry out that “I need ‘fresh vision’ God! Give it to me now, please?!!!”

And what I really need is to be refreshed ‘from within’ before I seek for it ‘from without and about and around’.

Anne Bradstreet (English-American 1612-1672) penned this quite accurately when she wrote her Contemplations I & II.

As I read through her poem and sat with these writings for a while I realized that she captured the heart of it all.

Contemplations I & II

Some time now past in the autumnal tide,

When Phoebus (another name for the Greek god Helios or sun) wanted but one hour to bed,

The trees all richly clad, yet void of pride,

Were gilded o’er by his rich golden head:

Their leaves and fruits seemed painted, but was true,

Of green, of red, of yellow, mixed hue;

Rapt were my senses at this delectable view.

This verse is full of life and color and beautiful prose that causes us to dial down and imagine the beauty of this scene.

I can see it having lived my whole life in the Midwest where the trees burst into color beginning this time of year. There can be quite an amazing array of patches of color dotting the landscape.

Ahhhh…Scenic. Peaceful. A breath of freshness in our mind’s eye.

And in our gazing, if we stop here, we are merely enjoying the tree’s display of color which in and of itself is arresting to our mind’s eye.

But this curiosity must take us deeper to discover the Maker behind this scene. An iconic view through the trees so to speak that leads us to God.

She goes on to write:

I wist not what to wish. Yet sure, thought I,

If so much excellence abide below,

How excellent is He that dwells on high?

Whose power and beauty by His works we know!

Sure He is goodness, wisdom, glory, light,

That hath this under-world so richly dight.(adorned or dressed)

More heaven than earth was here, no winter and no night.

When we discover the Maker behind the trees, the One who dwells on high, then true refreshment comes as we allow Him access to our soul.

That is fresh vision from within.

So as we watch the trees this time of year, let us sit and ponder the One who has brought this piece of heaven to us for our delight and our refreshment and our gaze.

May we see God through the trees…


Silence, the other side.

In our spiritual formation circles, we long to practice silence. For it is life giving. We become more attuned to listening, hearing from God, sensing His awesome Presence.

But the other side.

When God seems to be silent.

And we are either raging, passionate, hopeless and more…

That silence is fiercely quiet.

We question the quiet.

We pelt the heavens with our desperate cries of ‘why the silence?’

And yet we long for silence so we can ‘hear’ Him. But when the tables are turned or so it seems, we long for the noise and restless stirrings of the heavens to break in upon us, to reassure us that we are not alone.

And then we come upon Revelation 8:1: Heaven fell quiet- complete silence for about half an hour.


Heaven fell quiet? All of heaven with its legions of Angels and Saints worshipping day and night?

Fell quiet?

Perhaps they were silent so that they could hear the prayers of those from earth who were desperately crying out to God for help.

Well, if we continue to read about what happened next, we will see that out of the silence, action developed. All heaven heard the prayers of the people!

And then they took those prayers, those heart cries and offered them up to God. An Angel was given a great quantity of incense so that he could offer up the prayers of all the holy people of God on the Golden Altar before the Throne. …Smoke billowed up from the incense-laced prayers of the Holy ones, rose before God from the hand of the Angel. Then the Angel filled the censer with fire from the Altar and heaved it to earth. It set off thunders, voices, lightnings, and an earthquake. (v.4b-5)

Quiet … Action!

Eugene Peterson calls this ‘reversed thunder’. “The prayers had ascended, unnoted by the journalists of the day, returned with immense force- in George Herbert’s phrase, as a ‘reversed thunder.’ Prayer reenters history with incalculable effects.” (Rev.8 – Conversation: Eugene Peterson)

All is not lost when there is silence in heaven. All may seem lost when we are crying out, feeling as if our prayers are floating somewhere out there in cyber space or something.

But the real picture, the true picture is that God is listening. Our prayers are not for naught. Rather they are caught and returned with action.

So today, take heart.

Out of the silence, action develops…




Dedicated to our newest grandchild Abigail!

Abigail Marie McAtee.
April 26, 2013.
That You, O Lord brought her from the womb, hidden from our eyes.
To suddenly and simply…born!
Into the light of our lives.

Names On Purpose

There’s just something about a name…I was thinking about how beautiful are the names of our grandchildren. When I ponder on their names, each personality comes to light. Although they all carry similar DNA being cousins and siblings and all, each one is a person on their own.
And they own their name.
And wear their names well.
The reasons behind their namings is varied. From family names to just because we love this name, to this name is a good fit with the last name and some or all of the above. Their names have become representative of their persona.
For instance, I can’t imagine calling Anna, Ellie, Jack, Lydia or Gavin anything other than their given name simply because when I think of their names, I envision all of who they are and who they are becoming.
And that’s a grand thing!
Oh my. I am overwhelmed right now with the ponderings that their names bring to mind. All of these grandkids are precious. Thinking about each one of their names evokes deep feelings of passion and love that only a grandma and grandpa would understand. Smile!
Anna Grace, Ellie Elizabeth, Jack Martin, Lydia Addison, Gavin Wesley…
And oh my goodness (!), in just a few days we will be meeting either Abigail Marie or George Alden! Another name to add to the family list of names.
And I am once again smitten with names! Their names!
There certainly is just something about a name!

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