Connecting with God, each other, and ourselves in the broken and beautiful

Category: Monday Manna

The Power of Pausing…

A version of this post appeared in my “Monday Manna” newsletter. If you’d like to receive this directly to your inbox, subscribe here.

Peace and love to you, friends, in this Thanksgiving week ~ 

These weeks have been full since I last wrote to you, with other writing deadlines and trips and many (MANY) no-school-days for my kiddos. I’ve joked in the past that “Monday Manna” would be more appropriately titled “Monthly Manna,” but even that is a stretch! Please know I am continually humbled that you allow me into your inbox at all, and pray there is something useful God is bringing to your beautiful heart and meaningful life in some small way. 

So, here’s a little haiku I wrote…

In the PAUSE is space

where wisdom exhales, taking

power’s open hands. 

I’ve been surrounded lately with promptings to reflect on the power of pausing. There’s the famous quote you may know from Austrian psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor  Viktor Frankl—“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our responseIn our response lies our growth and our freedom..”

“Space” is another way to frame it. A little protected place. 

When we pause, we claim our power to choose a response, rather than default to react. We are claiming some ownership over what we say and do. And in doing that, much more likely to say and do what is in line with our truth. 

Even though the cultural waters in which we swim are currents of immediacy, you don’t have to swim in that lane anymore. When someone asks something of you, you can take some time before offering an answer. When someone does or says something that ignites or triggers us inside, we can claim that pause. We can settle into the shelter of that space and let wisdom “exhale” while we “take power’s open hands.” Hands which will lead us away from activation and ground us in both peace and peace-making. 

Pausing is also powerful in times of anxiety. When we pause and breathe, we recognize how, fundamentally, we are okay. It’s like what I once heard a therapist say—”if you are breathing, there is more right than wrong with you.” 

A pause can be a form of rest, or even a re-set. After I had my first child, a dear friend and mentor who’d raised four children of her own came over once a week to be with my daughter while I had an hour to myself. But alongside the reprieve this was in and itself, Sally also imparted much wisdom. She told me that when my daughter went down for a nap, I would want to do all the things. “Sit down,” Sally said. “Sit down and drink a cup of tea.” 

I still hear Sally’s voice, years later. And some days I take the time to pause and some days I don’t. But I always feel more like myself on the days I do, because pausing, I’m realizing, is prayer. 

When I take a moment, or even a few, to breathe, to sit in a chair or stand at the window, I recognize God’s presence with me. I get grounded in where I am. And I remember anew how Jesus was so profoundly good at pausing. I don’t know anyone else who slept in a boat through a storm. 

A pause is connection. Connection to God. Connection to your true heart. And from that place of connection, you can have so much confidence in choosing what you will do next. You will move through your life awake, aware, and grateful. And you will feel strong. Because you are. 

So the invitation this week as Thanksgiving approaches and families gather, is to pause. Let God’s wisdom exhale in you. Honor yourself, and the One within you, in this way. 


A Prayer

I recently heard November described as “All-Saints month,” which brought comfort to my heart, as well as an opening. In the past, I’d only thought about All-Saints Day (November 1), and this year, didn’t have space to reflect very much on a busy Tuesday. But embracing this entire month as an opportunity to feel and pray for the saints in our lives and the gift of resurrection felt freeing. Know that I am thinking of you as you miss saints at your own Thanksgiving tables this year….

From my book, Ash and Starlight…

 For All-Saints Day

God of welcome and warmth,

I’m a bit melancholy –

or maybe it’s pensive –

in approaching this All-Saints Day.

It’s a beautiful day –

this time to remember and give thanks

for the saints who have graced my life.

These angels –

raw, real, and devoted

in their humanity –

who have encouraged me,

emboldened me,

taught me what I needed

to know to survive…

I think of parents, grandparents,

partners, wives, husbands,

sisters, brothers,

teachers, colleagues,

neighbors, friends –

some of them did seem

pretty unlikely characters

to be your saints,

but the more I live,

the more I realize

that’s pretty typical of you

and your choosing.

I am grateful for these

quirky, lovely individuals

who have gone before me but

whose light still shines,

bringing warmth and illumination

to my own journey.

Their whispers of wisdom

help me hunger for a deeper

wholeness found in you.

They tell me I can be a saint too…

You have called me, like those before me,

to do things with a great, tidal love,

covering the ache of this world.

So I answer this calling, God, with all I am.

I bring you myself and my prayers

for all those on my heart.

I thank you, God, for the

saints of then and

the saints of now…

for the saint you are kindling inside of me.

May I remain grateful for their impact

on my life and heart –

the truth they spoke and lived,

the faith they held and passed on,

the love they modeled and shared.


Jeremiah 1:5 * Hebrews 11-12:2 * 2 Timothy 1:5-7

“Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses…

let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us…”

– Hebrews 12:1-2


Something that nourished me recently…

“Pauses” can be geographical, too. This overlook of Lake Michigan on a frequent running route is a place I make myself pause. I’m often tempted to keep jogging, peek over the railing, and roll on through. But lately, I’ve been trying to train myself to stop. Seeing these footprints in the crusty snow on a run recently was just the inspiration I needed to stop and pause. A reminder again of how we help each other learn to do this. 

Another geographical pause. My family just got back from a short trip to Saugatuck, MI. It was wonderful. And so cold. Here’s us at the top of Mt. Baldhead where my two-year-old enjoyed sliding down the 300 snow-laden steps on his bottom. His own form of a sledding, perhaps. 


Ash & Starlight, plus other good things….

* Find Ash and Starlight here

One of my Wholly Writers sisters just published a BEAUTIFUL book. When the COVID shut-down first happened, Sarah Scherschligt started writing daily posts on Facebook as a way to encourage her church/community and remain connected during those early lock-down days. Every post ended with, “God Holds You.” The lock-down continued. And Sarah kept writing, every single day. For thirteen months. All of Sarah’s reflections are now compiled into an incredible book. It’s both memoir and social commentary, reflecting on faith through the pandemic, but also the social upheaval of these y ears, including the struggle for racial justice, the January 6th insurrection, and the deepening environmental crisis. This book is a companion, friends, to carry with us as look back on this time and wonder how we did it. We did it, because God held us. Get one for yourself, and then every person on your Christmas list. 

* More from amazing, amazing friends — abby mohaupt and Dr. Ted Hiebert  did a powerful event at our church on climate migration last month. My brain was spinning in listening to abby and Ted share. I urge you to listen. The event was recorded and can be viewed here. All especially timely as we look at the breaking news  from the U.N. Climate Agreement in which rich countries have agreed to pay developing nations for damage caused by global warming. So much to figure out still, of course, but this is progress after 30 years of deadlock. Also, if you are a faith leader, please consider signing this multi-faith letter for fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty.  

* I’m a frequent peruser in Trader Joe’s card section, and a friend saw this before I did.  This was a fun surprise!!! 

Artist is Penelope Dullaghan

*We are Grateful: Otsaliheliga is one of my new favorite children’s books, perfect for this time of year. Otsaliheliga is used by the Cherokee Nation to express gratitude. This book is written by a citizen of the Cherokee Nation and goes through the year—fall through summer—with celebrations and experiences. It has a full syllabary and glossary, too. My kids love this book.  

* Lastly, thank you again for all your support with the Chicago Marathon and fundraising for the Alzheimer’s Association. I realized one of my favorite pictures from the whole weekend somehow didn’t copy into the last Monday Manna—my brother, sister-in-law and I after the race. One of the biggest blessings was getting to do this race with them (though they are superhuman fast, so not “with” them, in that sense, LOL). Love you, Matt and Caitlin. 


Wishing you all peace and power in your pauses this week. And for those in the U.S., a Thanksgiving of meaning, joy, and connection. 

Love and Light,


Marathons and Moulding…

A version of this post appeared in my “Monday Manna” newsletter. If you’d like to receive this directly to your inbox, subscribe here.

Fresh mercies and hope to you, friends, as we start this new week ~ 

Before anything else, if you live in the path of Hurricane Ian, I have been carrying you around in my heart continually. We are all holding the heavy images, and I can only imagine how it feels for those who lived these pictures. We always belong to one another, and disasters bring that truth to the front seat it should always have. More on that below, including some places I personally donate. 

I’ve been reflecting a lot lately on the threads tying us together— the lasting impact we can make, even when a relationship or connection is a short season. 

This coming Sunday, October 9, I’ll be running the Chicago Marathon for the Alzheimer’s Association in honor of my mom, along with my brother and sister-in-law. It’s a surreal and sacred time as the culmination of a year’s training and injury rehabilitation is now just days away. 

I’ve shared in earlier posts how this marathon encompasses a myriad of meaningful layers. My last marathon was Boston of 2013 when bombs detonated and road races changed forever. There have been devastating deaths and babies born and diagnoses and moves since I last laced up shoes for a marathon. My life is different. I am different. 

The winds of loving support from those around me have been literal wings to my (many days feeling like cement blocks) legs. I’ve been humbled to receive generous donations and vulnerable stories from many of you who have loved ones living with Alzheimer’s. Your support has been truly incredible. I’ve carried a list of names with me on nearly every run. 

It was a dark morning a couple weeks ago when I was finishing up a speed workout at our local high school track. The wind whirled with that freshly fall bite, I could see light over the tree line edging out the layers of clouds, and I was alone on the lanes. I pressed my watch and settled into my cadence. And as I came around the curve, I had flash backs in my ears, my eyes, my memory. 

I pictured my very first run in sixth-grade wearing an oversized cotton t-shirt, following my dad on his run and turning to walk back home after half a mile. 

I heard again my high school track coach, standing on the field grass with a stop watch. I thought of my cross-country teammates and the energy we shared with one another  simply through running side by side. 

I thought of my physical therapist who helped me heal from a hamstring injury earlier this year. My husband who managed a literal circus every morning so I could run early. The local pool supervisor who let me get in the diving well to aqua jog when my legs couldn’t take the pounding. My three kids who took turns on bikes or the running stroller to keep me company, all while listening to my marathon playlist (an eclectic mix of everything from Encanto and the Jackson 5 to Coldplay and Lady Gaga).

I thought of the many beautiful people who helped me get here. 

And not just marathon-here, but life-here. 

It is a true miracle, isn’t it? A marvel when we reflect on how we are who we are and are where we are because of the generosity—intentional or unknown—from those along the way? 

When I left for Taiwan after college, my home church in South Dakota sent me with a prayer quilt. Amid the patches of purple daisies and yellow swirl drops were countless knots of thin white yarn, each knot tied by the hands of a faith family member. Each knot tied with a prayer. 

I slept under that quilt those nine months in Taiwan, and I keep that quilt out now, draping it over my legs and placing my hands on the tassels. 

“We are moulded and remoulded,” writes Francois Mauriac, “by those who have loved us, and though their love may pass, we are nevertheless their work.” 

I offer this invitation for you to consider your own moulding, and the moulder you are alongside the Great Moulder.

All those years. All those holy hands…including yours. 

Again, it’s a miracle….

Thank you, dear friends, for your support and love. See you after the finish line. 


A Prayer…

Today’s prayer is fuel for me right now, but also, a connection to the last Monday Manna and the “gears of progress.” From my book, Ash and Starlight…

When I need to remember I’m an overcomer

Strong and Loving God,

In you,

through you,

because of you,

I am an overcomer.

Thank you for helping me trust amid setbacks…

for training me to see how progress

isn’t a straight line, but a squiggly one

marked by moments I put my hands on

my knees and gasp for breath.

I keep my eyes forward

that I might see the

promise before me.

Through my sweat today,

I’m building new strength

and skill for tomorrow.

The simple choice to try again,

to show up and do the work,

is victory in your book.

Help me find a goal that’s attainable for now,

and tomorrow, one a little further down the road.

I will be less overwhelmed that way…

And that’s how you do it –

sneaking me into believing

I can do this thing.

Yours is the coaching

voice I need most,

speaking directly in

my ear as you run alongside,

stride for stride.

I believe in you. 

I am with you. 

We will overcome

this together. 


Psalm 121 * 2 Timothy 4:7-8 * Hebrews 12:1-2

“Let us run with perseverance the

 race that is set before us, looking

to Jesus…” – Hebrews 12:1-2


Something that nourished me recently…

For the first time in six years, my writing group gathered with our incredible coach, Marge Barrett, at her river home in Marine on St. Croix. The time, people, and place formed such a haven for my soul and body. I didn’t do too much writing, but I did talk and eat and savor the company of women I respect so much. And I did run. William O’Brien park provided actual fields of gold. 

I wrote some weeks ago about how threshold crossings abound right now, and a seemingly small, yet significant, one for me was the recent passing of my old lap top. This was my companion when I first met my writing group. What I typed my first book on. And so much more. Time for a new season. 

Ash & Starlight, plus other good things….

* Find Ash and Starlight here

* Thank you, thank you, thank you again to all who have supported the Alzheimer’s Association and my training. We have raised over $6,500! My fundraising page is here. Also, a bonus challenge—if you should find yourself in Chicago on Sunday morning and play a song from my playlist when I run by, I may have a prize for you. 

* There are so many beautiful people doing beautiful work to help our siblings in need after Hurricane Ian. I personally appreciate and support PDA (Presbyterian Disaster Assistance) and Together Rising

* More money for more important causes—a local mom in my area began March Fourth as a response to the shooting in Highland Park this summer. If you are local and want a yard sign, let me know! Learn more about this amazing advocacy group working to ban assault weapons here

This book by MaryAnn McKibben Dana. It is manna, my friends. I’ll be sharing more about it in the weeks to come. 


Giving thanks for your mouldedness and the ways you mould, and cheering you on in your own race…

Love and Light,


What Matters

A version of this post appeared in my “Monday Manna” newsletter. If you’d like to receive this directly to your inbox, subscribe here.

Good morning, friends ~ 

What matters? What really matters? 

I’ve been confronted with this question—and the challenge to answer it—in various forms and at numerous times in recent months. Perhaps one of the biggest sources posing this question is the sorting my brother and I are doing right now in my mom’s house. When my mom needed to make a swift and sudden move from her house (and our childhood home) a couple of months ago, we knew this was going to be an intense process, especially as my brother and I live hundreds of miles away and have kids in diapers. 

The time we have to go through our family home of nearly thirty years is limited. The stress of it all found me standing in my mom’s kitchen, eating my children’s bunny grahams by the fistful in pajamas at 7:00 p.m. 

Many of you know so deeply this experience. You’ve done it. You’re holding things in your hands and deciding what to keep. Is it sacrilegious to throw photos of the people you love more than anything in a dumpster?  

Does the photo matter, or the memory and people the photo represents? Sometimes it’s a yes to both. These matters of the heart can be tedious as we’re asked to sift our values out from all this chaff.  

I’m reminded of an Arthur Brooks’ article in The Atlantic a couple months ago (“The Satisfaction Trap”) which I keep returning to again and again and again. With a focus on how perpetually discontent many of us seem to be, Brooks humbly and wisely points us toward a complete reframing of what we want. Of what really matters to us. 

He describes being with some close friends at the home of a dear friend diagnosed with an aggressive cancer. As dusk settled in, his friend gathered the group to stand by a plant with tiny flowers, still closed. They stood still in silence for ten minutes. Brooks writes how all of the sudden, the flowers popped open, and the group drew in their breath with amazement. This happens, he learned, every single evening.  

It was such a moving experience of deep satisfaction that Brooks—a Harvard professor who has achieved more acclamation and awards than one could list—started making a daily item on his to-to list to, “be truly present for an ordinary occurrence.” 

It’s the marvel and the miracle of being grateful and alive right where you are, letting it shape you. It’s prioritizing presence. 

I’m beginning to wonder if this kind of living is the key to freedom. We suffer so much through our attachments and clinging, be it to people or things or plans. But what if what truly matters, what leads to the contentment and freedom God longs for in us, is planting our feet right here, opening our eyes, and receiving what’s before us as a gracious gift? What if all the the things we’ve been striving for and think we want are actually leading us further away from the vibrancy we long for? 

These questions shift my whole spirit in my mom’s house. Maybe I can let go of the stress and instead say, “thank you,” a million times with every item I touch, whether it’s stored or passed on, for the memories and moments it represents. 

I wrote a few weeks ago about a coaching summit I attended with some other Presbyterian pastors. At the close of each day, we gathered in a circle, joined hands, and chanted one of my favorite quotes from Dag Hammarskjöld. 

“For all that has been,” said the leader,

“THANKS!” we responded, taking a big step together into the circle. 

“For all that has been,” the leader continued,

“YES!” we exclaimed, raising our joined hands into the air. 

For now, this is what matters to me. Gratitude and a “yes” to the seemingly small and simple right here and now. 

This is a sacred time for many of us—Holy Week, Passover, Ramadan—all in these coming days. I personally am reflecting with amazement, confession, and hope over Jesus’ extraordinary love, and how his living out what matters changed everything.

And still does. 


Getting grounded in what matters to me right now. 

From my book, Ash and Starlight: Prayers for the Chaos and Grace of Daily Life.

When I need to ground myself in today

Calming One,

I am stopping now.

I am resting now.

I am letting the stillness

of being with you

wash in like a wave,

while the chatter and

activity around me recede.

Thank goodness I don’t need

silence around me

in order to have quiet inside.

This moment, God –

it’s what I need and where I am.

I find myself so encumbered

by yesterdays and tomorrows

that sometimes, I leave today 

in the corner.

But today is enough.

You’re giving me the daily bread I need for now –

a person who loves me,

a moment to breathe,

a meal on the table,

a word bringing hope,

a gleam of life outside my window.

Please help me open my hands

and receive today with gratitude,

letting past seasons fill me with appreciation,

and seasons yet to be give me hope.

But for now – 

Today. Today. Today.

I love you best when I’m present,

seeing and hearing and holding

what asks for my heartfelt attention

here and now.

You promise to hold

space for everything else.

Thank you for bringing me back, God.

Thank you for the miracle of manna.


1 Kings 17:8-16 * Matthew 6:11 * Matthew 6:34

“Give us this day our daily bread.”

– Matthew 6:11


Giving thanks for seasons, the  memories held there, and how God brings it all together. My husband gave me this week a framed art piece he created of three maps—the Twin Cities (where he’s from), Sioux Falls, SD (where I grew up), and Chicago (where we live now).  

Trampoline joy at the neighbor’s house. Reminds me of a beloved poem by William Martin….”The Marvel of the Ordinary.” 

“Do not ask your children
to strive for extraordinary lives.
Such striving may seem admirable,
but it is the way of foolishness.
Help them instead to find the wonder
and the marvel of an ordinary life.
Show them the joy of tasting
tomatoes, apples and pears.
Show them how to cry
when pets and people die.
Show them the infinite pleasure
in the touch of a hand.
And make the ordinary come alive for them.
The extraordinary will take care of itself.”


* Find Ash and Starlight here. 

* I am a team writer and editor for Illustrated Ministry and I am very excited about these new flags being launched. 


Grace and peace and presence and gratitude to each of you today…. 

Love and Light,


© 2023 Ash and Starlight

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑