Rambling Vignettes of Listening {An Abstraction on Slippers}

I walk to the bathroom in my slippers at 6 pm, when my back feels like it will break, and bend over the bathtub anyway. Water and giggles splash me awake. I gently coerse them to their feet for a slathering of soap and the wash rag slides over their little bodies, and it’s like a good cleansing of my soul.

I do these things over and over—heat up the pajamas over the free-standing oil heater, slide them on, zip them up, then roughly towel-dry their heads and comb through wet hair. These rituals are quieting and peaceful, the heater a make-shift altar, the stool a pew, and the careful zipping and closure of buttons a concrete theology of the only kind that makes any sense to me—love. The theology that puts clothes on bare backs, brings a glass of water to the lips of the thirsty, washes the dirt of the unclean, and wraps arms round the filthy, looks into their eyes and accepts them the way they are.

Still in my pink and white furry slippers, plaid pajama pants, and stained Aeropostale hoodie, I dump can after can of tomatoes, beans, chilis and olives into a stock-pot large enough to feed a family of six for two nights. The soup simmers and warms the kitchen and my heart.

It’s difficult to pull myself away from the computer with all my adult friends, who make me feel so validated, and to ring my hands in prayer, in these rote routines that are never-ending. As soon as I wash and fold the clothes,  they are in the dirty pile again. I don't get to leave home much, so it's hard to stop "involving myself" in adult things. But living in this gentle, patient way requires that I turn off the noise and listen to my little people. And what I hear is beautiful in the silence, in the waiting, in the serving.

I practice the discipline of going outside, even when it's cold. I don’t let myself be overcome with angst and melancholy. I look at the stars, and wait, because God speaks to me there.

I practice cutting off a conversation I'd really like to have on messenger, and walk outside because I can hear the giggles wafting in through my window from the trampoline, and don’t fancy myself too dignified to jump up on the trampoline and play silly games.

These are my altars, they are my sanctuaries, they are my church, my holy place.

This weekend I went on a bike ride with my daughter again to the store. This time it was the six year old. She is so fearless and brave. Not once did she say, Mama wait, or Mama I can’t keep up, or Don’t leave me. She cheerfully stayed behind, or sped on ahead, a huge proud grin spread wide across her face, and I, warily aware of cars that might come our way any moment, constantly tried to hold her back, or pull her up with me. Her bravery makes me come to a stop, and really take a look at my own courage, or lack thereof.

We all went to the playground on Sunday, and there was lots of sunshine there, as if it was waiting for us. It had not been beaming as brightly before.

Their smiles when I took pictures of them soaring on the swings found me in my stalled faith and depressed mood, and startled me awake and once again, I found a reason to believe.

I’ve struggled in my relationship with God, because I am afraid when I step out onto that limb in shaky belief, that He will leave me hanging, that I’ll be left alone, in jadedness and hurt.

For about a week, I could not hear Him at all, I thought. It seemed my heart was overwhelmed, confused, muddled. I worried, I doubted. I walked outside late one night, bundled up, and everything was still and my heart felt dead along with all the winter barrenness buried deep under the cold, wet ground. All the life had been beat down by freezing rain and all felt numb and desolate.

I let the sterile sleepiness overtake me for a moment. I felt abandoned. Then I surrendered, and looked up and the stars jolted me with their twinkling, their stark loveliness. I knew He was waiting. I said out loud, which is rare for me, Talk to me, GodWhat do I do with this?

And you know what? He didn’t leave me hanging. No friend, He comes on wings of love. He said to me, crystal clear, You are worrying over things you have no business worrying over. I am going to take care of it. Trust me, and stop worrying.

And he spoke something with limpid lucidity—grace.  And—love.

Yes, Father, I know. I see. I hear. And just like that, my fear was dissolved. In His hands, picking me up off that shaky limb.

I may have a relationship with Him now, all on my own, without someone else telling me what that should look like. Seriously. This is not blowing smoke, y' know? No, for the first time, I mean it.

I thought I meant it long ago,  and I think in some ways I did. But-- and here's the really honest part-- I was following someone else's leading. I was doing it because I felt I had to-- the advent, the lent, the praying, the homemaking (making cookies, folding clothes, and all the things). It was never enough unless I was doing IT ALL. I thought I was finding God in that. And in a way, I did. But maybe it was only a glimpse. I limited him, boxed him in, not in the ways I always had, but in a different way. I just gave him a new box.

Now, I'm listening. I'm not making idols, not play-acting, not doing Lent just because I'm thinking how much content it will offer my writing. I'm listening to the Spirit. I used to HATE it when people said that. Because I'm a rebel, and spiritual talk felt so superficial to me.

Oh, what I was missing out on, and then again, I wasn’t missing anything. Because I’ve travelled this roving path, like a gypsy desperately seeking the spark of life, and I'm listening. He is in the pain, the mess, the times I have too much to drink and go to bed drowsy, He's in the words that aren't being said when I'm talking to a friend, and I have to listen  for them, because then I get to hear HIM.

He is in the beauty, He is in the homework I don't want to do with kids. He is in that beautiful dimpled smile my girl gives me, so proud of herself, when she reads her kindergarten reader.
I don't care about prayer rituals. I don't care about church services. I don't care if my blog sounds dignified or if a lot of people read, or if I EVER write a book. Because these altars, on this sacred ground of wet bath-time tile floor? They teach me something a church service never could.

I want to listen, and I want to learn to be brave, and to be who He made me to be. And I don't want to miss one precious moment. Oh, and believe me, I miss plenty.
But there's the beauty in the mess, right there. I get to start all over the very second I pull myself away from my selfishness. Full Stop. Grace.

I guess I'm just talking about being set free.

To be free, we have to strip down bare, shirk of all that entangles. The noise, the comparisons, the selfishness, and the bitterness too--let's throw them off. Those things keep you from listening, they keep you from freedom, and they keep you from creating the way He meant for me and for you to do. I know, because for a time when I allowed those things to consume, I just could  not write. My ears were stopped up, and I was caged inside the prison I had constructed for myself. 

Now I will embrace fearlessness. 

The courage I find in a bike ride teaches me to be brave enough to step out on the shaky limb, to believe and to say it out loud, that He speaks to me when I take notice, and that it's in the red-winged bird's flight, the rock song playing on the radio as we all bump along down the highway and it's in the text messages a friend sends, holding fast with me in prayer and trust before God that His promise was never that things would be easy, but that He would finish all good things He has begun. 

He has spoken. I hear Him. 

What do you hear Him saying?

***Will you do this with me, friends? Let's explore the practice of listening! This week, before you write, take a walk, in the woods, at the lake or park, down your neighborhood road, ride a bike, play tag, listen for the wind, watch the trees, the sky, pay attention to the small, seemingly unnecessary details of your day. It is here you will find wholeness, here you will find strength, beauty, brokenness, goodness, joy, pain... Here you will find God. THEN write about it-- Our prompt is Serve (next week's is below), but our focus is on the practice of listening and then writing. Excited? We'll connect on twitter and facebook with the hashtag, #listeningtoyourlife and of course as always, #concretewords. Do me a favor and use these on social media and share with friends--invite them?
What this link-up is about: We "write out spirit" by practicing writing about the invisible using concrete words. In case you are going "what in the world is a concrete word?!"--this just means (using the prompt to inspire) write out what's around us--concrete words make the senses come alive, gives place. In every story, there is always an above and beneath, a beside, something tucked away, aromas in the air, something calling in the trees or from the street, notes in our pocket, rocks in our shoes, sand between our toes. Go here to see Amber's take on this. It was very helpful to me--I think it will be beneficial for you, too.

A few simple guidelines:       1. Be sure you link up the URL to your Concrete Words
                                             post and not just your blog home page URL.
                                         2. Put a link to this post on your blog so that others
                                             can find their way back here.
                                         3. Try to visit one or two others and encourage their efforts
                                         4. Please write along with us, using concrete words--
                                             and the prompt--Please no entries with how-to's, advertising,
                                             or sponsored posts
                                         5. We connect on twitter with the hashtag #concretewords--
                                               please share so others can join!

Today's prompt is Slippers. GO!

**{This link up will run until next Monday, the 10th, 11:59 pm., giving you plenty of time to write and link-up before the next concrete words is posted the following day. Sometime between now & then, I will read your stories and highlight one of them from this link-up on social media. On the 10th, the prompt will be Altar .}


  1. This is really something, Nacole. I felt like we were sitting side-by-side on a log in the woods, and I was just listening to you talk it out. I could relate to a lot of this; I, too, struggle in walking away from adult conversations on the computer. I've tried to limit myself in so many ways (even giving up facebook, one season of lent, during the children's awake hours), but I find that I'm an all or nothing sort of person. The time may come that I'll need to give up the Internet altogether, and the thought of that unsettles me, but I will admit freely: I feel so much happier without facebook and some of the blogs I used to read. I miss it all very, very little. I'm less angry and impatient w/ the children, too.

    I struggle with the balance of wanting to pursue bigger and more and thinking it's hogwash (at least for me). If I were to write a book, why would I write it? For my family, I guess, and I'm already writing for them: printing and binding my blog posts faithfully. There will always be someone bigger and more, and I can read desperation in the blog posts of so many. Competition drips from so many words, everyone scrambling to be on top. I can't, won't play the reindeer games required for that climb: even the biggest success is temporary. I want to be true to myself. I want to write what's on my heart, and I want to capture my person and this time the very best I can. And it's ok if there are only a few people to read. A few people...a few FRIENDS...are all I need: just enough people to laugh w/ me along the way. It's ok.

    I think you're growing stronger in your spirit; I do. I read that. May God bless as you continue to listen. One thing I've learned over the years is that He never hides from us. He wants relationship with us. He loves us so passionately that He sent His Son to this wanting place to die, and as a parent, I can't imagine.

  2. Oh I hear my own voice in this, Nacole. The rebel, the free-spirit, the wanting to do all the things and none of the things...I've made a religion, at times, of all the trying rather than build a faith on what's planted right in front of me.
    Thank you for scratching out the itch down in your bones, friend. For writing it real. Like I told you before, the good, the gritty, the gorgeous--that's what this is.



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