Changing the Soil of My Heart, Little by Little [Guest Post]

Now that I’m back (more-or-less) to the blogging world, I’m excited to introduce to you a few more new voices. Anita Mathias is a truly beautiful writer, and I’m so honored to have her over here today to share! Please welcome her.


I read the Gospels, I hear them preached, and tap, tap, tap, go my jubilant feet.

The Gospels tell me lovely things I wanted to believe but feared were not true; that fellow Christians often suggested were not true, by their deeds, if not their words; and that our world definitely believes are not true. I read the Gospels and sense everything sad coming untrue, as Sam Gamgee exclaims in his delight.

What only fools gather and heap into barns? And see here: He says, it’s safe to forgive and bless even our pesky enemies, for he has our affairs in hand. And–look, he says prayer can move mountains, lame feet, dead bodies, anything… And look, I am commanded not to worry, but to live free as a bird–commanded, I tell you.

Tap, tap, tap, my toes beat at the Gospel’s jazz rhythm of hope.

“Oh yes!” I resolve as Rilke did when faced with the sheer beauty of the Archaic Torso of Apollo, “I will revise my life.”

I have decided to follow Jesus, my heart sings. I will forever live in the waterfall, the force field of God’s power.

* * *

And then, I go out into the world, where not everyone in the stands is a cheerleader and I am sometimes cheated; where my prayers are not instantly answered and my words are plagiarized.

And something leaks out of me.

The resolve to seek comfort and joy in the filling of the Holy Spirit? Well, it becomes chocolate and the Holy Spirit. And 10,000 pedometer steps, for my body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, well…

And keeping the house orderly for God is not a God of disorder but of peace…Well. And waking very early in the morning, while it is still dark to spend time with my heavenly Father. Well…

Oh, I had wanted to speak words which  give energy and  life, but I hear myself speaking critical words which sap resolve, words which stem from tiredness and frustration, and I am filled with shame.

Oh, wretched woman that I am, who will rescue me from this body of death?

* * *

Jesus Christ will, oh yes, he will, through multiple means of grace.

And here is one, suggested by the prophet Habbakuk, 2600 years ago. I will write down the vision and make it plain that I may run when I read it

What I resolved when I was on fire on the mountain-top, I will rre-read in the damp-squibby valley.

I have a sheet of “epiphanies and resolutions” in my prayer journal. I resolutely pray through each desire of my heart, a page or so a day,  and when I come to that page, I resolve again.

And I resume revising my life.

* * *

In the long run, failure does not matter. Getting side-tracked doesn’t matter. All that matters is beginning again. And again. The simple glory of persisting.

Yes, I will eat more veggies and walk more because my body is a temple of the Holy Spirit and I want to keep it fit and strong. Yes, I will run an orderly house for the sake of my own mental health and happiness and for the peace of its inhabitants. Yes, “there is nothing but love,”–so help me God, I will remember that “all is small save love, for love is all in all.” Yes, I will wake early. And writing, oh yes, writing! I will write faithfully as a bird sings, for that is what I’ve been created to do.

“The essential thing in heaven and in earth is that there should be long obedience in the same direction. There thereby results, and has always resulted something which has made life worth living:   virtue, art, music, dancing, reason, spirituality– anything whatever that is transfiguring, refined, foolish, or divine,” Nietzche wrote in Beyond Good and Evil.

“If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavours to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours,” Thoreau observed.

And I read my resolves, and I re-resolve, and by persisting  with the help of invisible friends—the Lord Jesus himself; God my Father; the Holy Spirit my Comforter; and the protective angelic hosts sent at my prayers – I will more than conquer those invisible enemies of my soul, the birds of distraction, the sun of discouragement, the thorns of hassles and the temptation to earn more than necessary.

And, God willing, my heart through constant amendments with the sun of grace, the water of the word and the compost of Christian community will become good soil, in which those beautiful seeds of the gospel, seeds of mercy, kindness, gentleness and love will be fruitful–ever so fruitful.



Anita Mathias is the author of Wandering Between Two Worlds (Benediction Classics, 2007). She has won a writing fellowship from The National Endowment for the Arts & her writing has appeared in The Washington Post, The London MagazineCommonwealAmerica, The Christian Century, and The Best Spiritual Writing anthologies.  She recently visited Cambodia as a Tearfund blogger.

Anita lives in Oxford, England, and blogs at Dreaming Beneath the Spires. She tweets @anitamathias1 & is on Facebook at Dreaming Beneath the Spires.

What I’m Into: The Off-The-Grid July Edition


Let me say, first of all, that July is a terrible time to try to write a book.

I took this month off from The Internet in order to focus on my second book. I didn’t blog. I barely tweeted or Facebook-ed, and I only Pinterested recreationally.

I carved out time to write. I made hefty goals. I booked a hotel room alone for a night to work, and I spent lots of mornings at Caribou and Panera and my favorite local coffee shop/wine bar, The Bean. And it all would have totally worked had it not been for, you know, sunshine. And the river. And sidewalk chalk and afternoon matinees and parades and road-trips and beach days.

It wasn’t that I didn’t write this month: I did. Almost every day. And yet, the world that I inhabited in these last weeks wasn’t the ethereal world of memoir. I meant to spend the month looking through a telescope at the universe that is The Past. I meant to focus in and out and then back in again until I began to see light I hadn’t noticed before. I meant to get something done.

What I learned is that it’s a little impossible to fully inhabit the interior world of memoir when the world of Minnesota July is happening all around you.

Word-count wise, the month was a little frustrating. But also, everywhere around me, the world was awash with light and water and sprinklers making rainbows in the grass. Every night, my sons smelled like sweat and earth and had came in with dirt streaked across their faces. When I washed them down in the bathtub, the whole thing became grimy with sand.

So, all in all, I think I’m gonna call it a win.

What I’ve Been Reading 

books i read 1

Half-Price Books is located right next to one of my favorite writing spots, and this summer, they’ve made me deviate from my Summer Reading List in unexpected ways. I picked up a copy of Prep there at the beginning of the month because I’d heard good things about Curtis Sittenfeld. I bought The Round House because I’d heard even better things about Louise Erdrich, and because she’s Minnesotan, so it’s like we’re kin.

Both books were well-written, though I found Prep to be a little depressing and disconcerting. I kept wanting to shake the main character. She was so withdrawn, so self-isolating, constantly standing in her own way. Never taking a chance. It was only after I finished reading the book that I realized that probably it elicited such a reaction from me because I was so much like her in high school. If I hadn’t been a Jesus Freak, this might have been how it went for me. Which was sobering.

The Round House was brilliant in ways I still can’t quite figure out. (Some of the best books I’ve read this year feel a little over my head, a little out of my reach. I kind of wish I could go back to class and have a brilliant professor help me uncover the nuances.) Still, it was also a bit depressing.

So then I read about Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour, a young adult book that was light and fun and well-suited for summer. No, I don’t need any English professor to help me with it. And yes, that was a bit of a relief in the middle of July.

books i read 2

I finally read Capotes Breakfast at Tiffany’s…and then I took some high school girls from my church to see it downtown in the park. They all wore black dresses and pearls, and I brought pretend champagne and plastic flutes, and we sat on a blanket and watched Audrey Hepburn embody Holly Golightly. The movie keeps whole pages of text exactly as is…but introduces some major changes. Including the ending. And the romance factor. In the end, I love both the book and the movie for different reasons…though they are far from the same story.

I read Shauna Niequist’s Bread & Wine, which inspired me to try my first risotto and to throw spontaneous a wine and cheese party for my 31st birthday. After falling in love with Barbara Brown Taylor in An Altar in the World, I burned through Learning to Walk in the DarkI found to be extremely insightful and interesting. I’ll be unpacking some of the things that I underlined there, I think, for a long time.


Not pictured here is my friend Liz Bolz Ranfeld’s unpublished manuscript Teen Maniac, which I read on my phone in the dark at my parents’ house while I waited for my kids to fall asleep. I met Liz in a strange coincidence outside one of the sessions at the Festival of Faith and Writing, where we bonded quickly over Teen Mania experiences that overlapped in really strange ways.

When she told me she’d written a manuscript about her experience, I asked if she’d let me read it. She did, and it was beautifully written and powerful for me in ways I didn’t expect. There was something about seeing my experience mirrored in someone else’s, hearing the words that she spoke so similar to the language I used in those years. It got me digging through some of my Teen Mania baggage again, and I’ll probably be revisiting some of the language I internalized there (Lady in Waiting, Guard Your Heart, Revival, Sinner’s Prayer, etc.) over the next months.

What I’ve Been Listening To

It’s been a big Sleeping at Last month for me. I downloaded both their Yearbook project and their Atlas project, and it’s been a source of inspiration and grace to me as I’ve been writing and thinking and untangling this next volume of my story.

Andrew and I also saw Begin Again with Kiera Knightly and Adam Levine this month and really liked it. I downloaded a couple of songs from the movie and have been quite smitten with them as well.

What I’ve Been Watching

Desperate Housewives. I meant to only watch one season. Now I’m somehow on Season 7. I blame the laundry. And the dishes.

Seriously though. THIS CLIP. Lynette is my favorite.

We’ve also been watching Master Chef. That plus Bread and Wine make me want to cook all the things. All the time. And use things like shallots and smoked paprika. Instead of, you know, Velveeta.

Other Things I’ve Been Up to This Month

Another year at the Andover FunFest parade…another giant bucket of candy, most of which I’ll end up throwing out. Ahh America.


Cheese curds.


Fireworks. We (tried to) keep the kids up late and walk over to the fireworks for the first time. Dane did great. Liam slept through the entire thing, including the grand finale, even though we were so close to the action that we could actually see the big pile of explosives they were setting off.

The real question here is, how can he sleep through that but not through his mother quietly creeping down the stairs first thing in the morning and sitting down at the table? Mom Radar. It’s a real thing.


River tubing. We figured bought some river tubes and went down the nearby Rum River for the first time every. And then the second. And then the third. It has officially ruined me for any waterpark lazy river ever. Heavenly.


A week in Chicago with the kids so that I could get some writing in while they did VBS with their Grandma. While we were there, we also got to swim in my favorite neighborhood pool and visit the Butterfly Garden at the Chicago Botanical Gardens.

butterfly garden

Hanging out on our awesome new patio with my husband.


Two beautiful weddings. During one of the receptions, I may or may not have jumped into the nearby lake for a late night swim. Because JULY.


Blog & Writing

I’m officially back to blogging…though I may not be quite as prolific as usual. There’s still a lot of writing to do on the book, and I can already feel the crazy energy of August mounting around here. School! Deadlines! Emails!

I’m getting a late start going through all of the beautiful posts you linked to in the Celebration of Blogging last month, but I’m loving every piece I read.  Sorry about the lack of timeliness, but I will read every single one…eventually.

I’m making progress on the book, but it’s S-L-O-W. At this point, I think I’ve deleted at least twice as many words as I’ve kept. Possibly three times. Sigh.


I’m linking up with my lovely friend Leigh Kramer as usual. Did you know she just started a brand new Enneagram Coaching business? I’m SO EXCITED for her and planning to schedule some sessions later this year to figure out more about what my enneagram type means for my spiritual, writing, and mothering journeys.

What about you? What have you been into in July?

A Time to Be Quiet


In my blog series last week, one of the practices of sustainability that I talked about was taking intentional breaks from your blog. And it’s time for me to do that here.

I’ve talked a little bit here about my struggles with my second book. The truth is, I’d forgotten how much this kind of writing — memoir writing – seems to require from me even as it heals me. It’s long, vulnerable work. It means deleting a lot of perfectly lovely words to get at the One Big Thing beneath all the other things. It means a lot of tears and insecurity and coffee and chocolate.

And what I’ve found is that I’m struggling to do all this while maintaining the blog. Even when I write about less emotionally taxing subjects (like favorite books and blogging practices), the time it requires to put these things out into the Internet is more than I have to give right now.

So, that said, I’m going to be stepping away from the blog for the rest of July and perhaps a bit of August to focus more fully on the book.

I’ll miss working things out in this space over these next few weeks, but I know that what I need in my creative process right now is a little breathing space. A little more quiet.

Even though there won’t be anything new here, there’s a ton to explore in the Archives. Check out the Glossary of Terms to see posts on your favorite (least favorite?) Christian cliches. If you’re looking for some simple ways to embrace acts of social justice in your everyday life, check out some of the brilliant guest posts from the One Small Change Series. Or take a break from my blog altogether and check out my first book instead! It’s way easier to read on the beach than a blog. And that’s exactly where you should be right now. Because July.

I’ll also be around a bit on Twitter and Facebook. Please follow and catch up with me there!

Thanks so much for understanding and for being here, on the other side of these blog posts, encouraging me in so many ways.

See you in a month or so!

What I’m Into – June 2014

june 2014

Is anyone else just totally baffled as to where June went?

Truly. It is absolutely terrifying to me, how fast summer is going.

Still, it’s been an incredible month of sunshine, swimming, reading, and resting. We are scratched up, mosquito bitten and a little bit blonder. I am grateful.

What I’m Reading

books june 14

I loved everything I read this month. What Alice Forgot is a great, fun summer read, and I think I Rainbow Rowell’s Attachments was fantastic, and she captured the year 1999 perfectlyI finished Daily Rituals: How Artists Workwhich I raved about already here. And I finished my first Barbara Brown Taylor, An Altar in the Worldwhich may have actually changed my life.

What I’m Watching

I had every intention of quitting my re-watching of Desperate Housewives after I got through the first season. But really, who are we kidding? I just started Season 5.

My name is Addie Zierman. I am addicted to TV.

Also this month, I took myself to The Fault in Our Stars and sobbed alone in the theatre for two hours. (Good, cheap therapy.) And I saw the new X-Men movie with Andrew. Summer is for comic book movies.

What I’m Listening to

This month, all the country music. But also Of Monsters and Men, Cat Stevens and Angus & Julia Stone.

One of my favorite bands, Sleeping at Last, is giving away their entire 36-song Yearbook project on Noisetrade for a limited time (July 1 – 14). All the tips that you leave go to the Preemtive Love Coalition, which facilitates life-saving heart surgery for Iraqi children in need. Awesome. (I downloaded it yesterday. I know what I’ll be into for most of July!)

Other Things I’m Into

- Lots and lots of mornings spent at the park


- Frog catching. (This was the morning that we found the motherlode of frogs and toads in the egress window: SEVENTEEN!)


- Spring cleaning. I cleaned our insanely messy guest room and play room and went through all the kids’ toys. For kicks, I counted our accumulated tiny animals as I cleaned. (Tiny animals are my kids’ major obsession. Some kids like cars. Some kids like blocks. My kids? All the animals.) Any guesses on how many we had?

animal explosion

The grand total was 695. And I didn’t look under any couch cushions. So I’m guessing the total is actually somewhere over 700. We have a problem.

- Falling cotton seeds. Summer snow.


- A spontaneous family getaway to Duluth…

duluth collage

- …where my five-year-old lost his first tooth. Woah.

lost tooth

Blog & Writing Stuff

This summer, I’m deep in the process of work on Book 2. As I’ve been thinking deeply about my own struggles with my faith in that draft, I’ve had less energy to do it here. So I featured some of the brilliant words of other writers on the subject this month instead. (The one slightly deep spiritual post I managed this month was over at Deeper Story and was about that rotten phrase, “If you feel far away from God, guess who moved?”)

Instead of writing about my usual faith-y topics, I shared some of my favorite books on writing and my favorite literary memoirs and did a week-long series on everything I know about blogging. At the end of the series, many of you shared your own blogs, and I’m looking forward to checking them out over the month of July!

I’m linking up as always with the lovely Leigh Kramer. What have you been into this month?