The Gears of Progress

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 ~

Here is your Monday Manna….on a Tuesday. This is a good exercise in the “good enough.” When things didn’t come together to send this out yesterday, my temptation told me to wait for the next Monday. But I’m realizing again how many standards—especially perfectionistic ones—hold us back from a lot of goodness. Because as amazingly gracious as you are to receive this, the writing of it is a healing, integrating, and needed work for my own soul. 

Maybe some of you, like me, wear a super-cape reading, “able to jump to an all-or-nothing conclusion in the blink of an eye.” In our world run by measurements and comparisons and progress, the voice of “best only” is a loud one. One I listen to much too often. 

Because while we may think that the positive trajectory for a life moves on a graph, curving nicely up and to the right, it’s not true. 

I remember reading earlier this year an idea which has really burrowed its way into my heart, and which is slowly creating some transformation. It’s the truth that progress has three gears—forward, neutral, and reverse. 

That’s right. Moving backwards is part of the progress. Or sitting tight with watchful waiting.

We have heard this before. The two-steps-forward, one-step-back adage. But do we really believe it? Do we really trust that? And progress doesn’t mean everything turns out great. It means you keep going and choose wholeness. 

I believe living each day with a posture of acceptance, reflection, and trust is always, always progress, regardless of what direction it takes you in. Everything belongs, and nothing is wasted. All experiences are honored as a part of the deal. 

I think about Queen Elizabeth, and what her courageous journey looked like. How much fortitude and deep belief it took to embrace all those “gears.” 

And how really, this is true for anyone in leadership. Or anyone who works with people. Or anyone who splashes water on their face over the sink in the morning and gazes into the mirror. 

This doesn’t mean there won’t be times we make sudden turns, or even U-turns. But it does mean those turns are all part of the map. 

You’re on the right path. 


A Prayer…

This prayer, from my book, Ash and Starlight, was right were my heart was this week. Remember who you are, friends, and be intentional about what you pay attention to. You’ve got this. 

When I need a fresh spirit

Holy God,

Unfurl, unclench,

release, relax

my soul this day.

Unwind the tangled thoughts

that have trapped me

in webs of worry this week.

Show me I’m not cornered

in the decisions I face.

Bring my heart, mind,

conversations, and circumstances

into alignment as I seek to

keep putting one foot in front of the other…

peeling back the layers, one at a time,

to the person you’ve made me to be,

to the pieces of you placed within me.

I want to live with integrity, Lord –

to be whole on my inside and outside

and honest about my motives.

I hunger to hold quiet courage –

to be so steady in your promises

that I stop getting caught in comparison.

I need to see myself the way you do –

beloved and cherished and

completely enough.

Please, Holy Spirit, release my fear,

ushering in its place new trust, confidence, and peace.

May I claim that spirit of power,

love and self-discipline today

as I offer my life to you and your purpose.

As I follow your beckoning,

my soul’s face will emerge,

will smile, and begin again. 


Psalm 51:10 * 2 Corinthians 5:17 * 2 Timothy 1:7

“Create in me a clean heart, O God,

and put a new and right spirit within me.”

– Psalm 51:10


Something that nourished me recently…

Firstly, the “Justice Songs” album by Porter’s Gate. I’ve been listening to it so much recently. It’s exactly what we need right now. The third song is a really good one to run or walk to. And the last one has put my heart at rest countless times, perfect as you are going to bed. 

And then, this sunrise. I was running by the Northwestern Campus just as the sun was coming up. What was as moving to me as the sunrise itself was how countless people who were passing by—construction crews setting up for the day, college students on their way across campus, people on bikes zipping along—stopped. They walked onto the grass, paused, and watched it rise. I was struck by how this quiet, incomparable miracle happens every single day. And there is something within us that can’t but stop and bow. 

Ash & Starlight, plus other good things….

* Find Ash and Starlight here

* A couple prayer pieces I’m loving so much—

– Traci Smith’s new prayer book for kids— Little Prayers for Everyday Life. I drew upon the one about anger the other day (actually, multiple days) with one of my kiddos who was FEELING IT. (and me)

– Written earlier this summer, but this article by our patronness, Anne Lamott, about how she prays and why. It is so, so, so good. 

– Tish Harrison Warren’s book, “Prayer in the Night.” I hope I can share more about this one in the weeks to come, but it is bringing me back all over again to the age-old question of why bad things happen when we love and are loved by a very good God. 


With you on the road….

Love and Light,