I would love for you to visit my new site:
I hope you will follow me there and read my words.
Thank you for all the support over the years.
I would love for you to visit my new site:
I hope you will follow me there and read my words.
Thank you for all the support over the years.
The snow and ice storms which stretched the length of the United States in the past weeks felt a bit like Lent to me this year. It was forecasted but when it arrived, it ushered in more disruption than envisioned.
We were fortunate to not have any issues with power. However, the days of snow and freezing rain caused our patio awning to partially collapse. The buckling of the metal pinned our back door, barring us from access. During the ensuing days, prior to demolition, every family member descended the stairs, grabbed the doorknob, and only then remembered there wasn’t a way out.
I often try to access God through the back door. I gather my tools coupled with good, hard work, believing my entrance comes with a list of attached strings.
When in reality, no one has instructed me to enter this way and especially not God. He has thrust open the front door, held up a sign of welcome. He’s not worried about my muddy shoes or failure to unlace them upon my arrival.
His arms are expansive, eyes full of delight, a shaking finger not in sight. His demand is a full embrace, the only admission price.
How often I am like sweaty Martha peeking out of the kitchen wondering who has time to sit when there is so much to be done, completely missing who has entered my front door.
I miss His offer of rest.
I turn my back as He beckons me to hand over my burdens.
My murmuring from the list of what I fear must be abandoned, causes me to not hear Him say,
“Come to Me.”
This Lenten season, I am endeavoring to step away from some of my daily practices in favor of smaller ones, in the hopes of cultivating a deeper sense of reflection.
*choose less to be enfolded by more
*allow some checkboxes to remain hollow
*remember perfection is a weight designed to block my access to freedom
*present myself as a flawed person in great need of a Savior
In the span of an hour, our damaged awning was torn down and hauled away.
We can see the sky and newfound light as it easily funnels through the back door window.
Doors are meant to allow entrance.
I simply want to remember to place my hands on the correct handles.
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I have grown accustomed to witnessing wings of feather land throughout the day, feasting upon cages of seed and suet. Our yard has become a dependable place for nourishment, especially when food sources are the most scarce.
There was a time when few birds bridged the threshold between air and our land. Patience and consistency were required to create a sanctuary that would entice birds to develop a steady flight pattern to our feeders. This wasn’t rocket science, simply provide an ample supply of food and the hungry will arrive.
I have only recently stumbled upon the realization that long before this daily migration, these birds had always been present, simply hidden from my sight, feeding in someone else’s yard.
After living in Oregon for over thirty years, we have traversed the Columbia River Gorge countless times. The majority of these trips were to visit family in Pullman, Washington, the city of my birth. It has taken me many years to drive this stretch of highway without fear of disaster. Despite its beautiful vistas, there is a sense of reckless abandon when tethered to cruise control, the asphalt seems to disappear and the focal points are fir trees and choppy water dotted with windsurfers. However, the treks over the last several months have proven to draw my mind and eyes away from the terrain.
Last week, we traveled those relentlessly winding roads again, through fog and patches of sun. It was our first time returning to my hometown since saying goodbye to my father. I knew it would bring depth to the reality of his absence. I had braced myself for feelings of sadness and grief once I entered my parents’ home and looked into my mother’s face etched with beauty and loss. But I found a captive audience is easier prey as we hadn’t traveled more than an hour before the fluttering of emotions landed.
I think grief is a bit like the birds of my yard. They weren’t always there but now they are. Perhaps there was only the hint or whisper of outstretched wings overhead. Then one day a source becomes visible enough for them to flock and partake.
The interesting thing about grief is when it seems to hides, loosening its grip, its presence remains. I am grateful when grief yields a sliver to give access to laughter. When grief arrives, from a song, a familiar winding road, a calendar date, or any manner of memories descending from the sky, I summon the courage to allow it to access my heart.
I think it is impossible to live in this world, especially last year’s closed-door world, and not be familiar with grief. It doesn’t have to be the loss of a loved one for it to land in the branches of your life. It could stem from a dream deferred, a handful of regrets, hardships, the finality of a relationship or job, disappointments, or any number of reasons.
We need one another as grief is either landing on our own branches or nestling in someone else’s yard.
If you find yourself in a place of grief or perhaps the stay-at-home time has revealed hidden places of sorrow that need examination, I have some suggestions, not the cure but ways to gently bolster your soul as grief inhabits your life. Many of these bullet points may feel repetitive to what I have shared previously, they are, I believe they deserve repeating.
On Sunday, we woke to a snow-covered car and Carl took the wheel, driving us through slush and the tiny promise of sunshine.
I felt braver and without hesitation accepted the challenge of driving the final stretch through the Gorge. Caleb pointed out a rainbow as we neared Hood River. I kept driving despite a fierce wind that shifted all sizes of vehicles beyond their assigned lanes.
At one point, my eyes glanced from my steering wheel up towards the sand-colored rock formations to my left. Suddenly my fingers were rapidly snapping to alert those who were stoppered by earbuds. A herd of bighorn sheep, appearing carved into the stone stood motionless in regal beauty as we made our way onward. How could we not linger our gazes as long as they were in our line of sight?
Within the flight patterns and landings of grief, some days come bearing the gift of beauty to behold, a turn or a lift of the head, along the road with all its many twists and turns.
When grief lands on the branches of your life, may you feel the weight but not be broken.
May the reverberation experienced when grief takes flight deposit beauty and grace in its place.
The word “slow” was my daily guide last year.
I shouldn’t have been surprised by how the messages it whispered showed up within my days and mindset at a snail’s pace.
I began a 30-day morning yoga challenge a few weeks ago. Twenty days in and I have assumed downward dog a total of eight times.
I feel no shame.
I hold no judgment over my head.
Those two sentences are a revelation.
They are evidence of uncoiling my worn and weary default responses
by saturating each one with grace, ease, and understanding.
That was Exhibit A, allow me to share Exhibit B.
For the last two weeks, I accepted another challenge, a step challenge with a group of friends.
The first week, I finished somewhere a bit below the middle of the pack. This past week, however, revealed a different set of data. The first few days were strong but despite my intention to lace up my shoes for the final two days, I found myself encountering interludes (my fancy name for interruptions). Usually, I tend to avoid interludes. But these interludes were welcomed.
A catch-up session with my youngest daughter, watching the Up Series with my oldest daughter. My mom and I spending time marveling at all the good and hard things that can be contained in a day.
On Friday evening, when I opened my Fitbit app and scanned to find my name at the bottom of the heap, I was pleasantly surprised when my thoughts mirrored how I felt about my yoga practice.
I didn’t feel shame.
I didn’t feel self-judgment.
I didn’t feel my normal competitive mindset.
Instead, I felt the gift and beauty of company.
Just as there is not a mythical finish line; there is not a true bottom unless it is named and viewed as such.
Could I have taken more steps? Absolutely.
Perhaps the steps taken were the ones designed for that given five-day period.
I am not behind in unrolling my yoga mat.
I am simply taking my time.
I am not at the bottom.
I am in good company.
I am learning how all the hills, valleys, and interludes in life are meant to be simply travailed.
They are not designed to elevate perfection, shunning inconsistencies.
They are a part of our life practice.
In the past, I would have given up for not showing up perfectly in my bare feet but now I am more interested in doing yoga thirty times versus thirty times in a row.
Maybe the better challenge for me is to simply count to thirty.
Maybe it’s time to cease looking at my place, shift my gaze towards those who surround me, the ones bearing arrows pointing onward with them.
This is the type of company that is with me and for me, not competing against me.
What challenge makes you feel behind?
Keep unrolling the mat.
Keep lacing up the shoes.
Keep drinking the water.
Keep painting the canvas.
Keep showing up.
You are in good company.
There were weeks following my father’s passing in November when I didn’t feel like doing anything.
I didn’t want to think about the food I ate.
I didn’t want to think about whether I exercised or stepped out into the fresh air.
I didn’t concern myself with how late I stayed up at night or how long I remained under my duvet.
Those were not the days to be concerned about goals or “should’s”.
Those were the days to walk tenderly through each moment tightly gripping grace and my Maker’s hand.
However, even in the midst of this necessary time of being gentle with myself, I knew this new liturgy of living didn’t feel like me.
On the last day of November, I decided to do one thing.
I pulled out my nearly expired bottle of multi-vitamins, poured them onto my kitchen counter, and counted 32 pills. There were exactly enough vitamins to usher me through 2020. I set the bottle next to my chair in the living room as a visual reminder. My reward upon completion, other than adding a bit of health to my insides, was to order a more “fun” vitamin.
I decided to take the most minuscule action to assist my health during an emotionally depleting time. But an even more powerful reason was the vision I have of my mother. During the first weeks of living into a new existence without the love of her life, I watched as she sat at her counter assembling vitamins and supplements in her daily pill box compartments. It was in stark contrast to the disposal of my father’s no longer necessary medications.
Consuming and disposing, two such opposed actions, but to me, I was witnessing a small act of resistance. This was my mother’s gentle way of declaring her presence in this life. She was continuing on in the face of prayers answered differently than hoped for, yet remaining resolute, one day at a time.
A vitamin a day whether morning, noon, or before my head indented my pillow, became my act of resistance as well. When my vitamin bottle began to rattle at the end of December, I marveled because although this small habit didn’t yield a single visible change, emotionally it anchored my consistent desire to not give up.
Don’t give up.
No matter what mountain seems unscaleable, take one small step today and repeat it again as long as you need.
Take a shower.
Phone a friend.
Take a few deep breaths.
Listen to a favorite song every day.
Borrow a prayer from the Psalms.
Drink a glass of water.
Buy a bouquet of flowers.
Walk around the block.
Read a poem.
Make a list of favorite movies and watch one weekly.
Look for sunsets even on cloudy days, especially on cloudy days.
Don’t give up, don’t ever give up.
The photo above is of my new fun care/of vitamins . I planned to share the link for those interested but perhaps there is “someone” always listening because, on Sunday afternoon, I received an email with a referral code to share an offer for 50% off first-time orders. However, if you would be so kind to click this link, take a short quiz about your personal health needs, I will earn a few points towards my future health.
No purchase necessary.
“So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever.”
II Corinthians 4: 16-18 (The Message)
We are not even two weeks into 2021 and there has already been
such trauma inflicted into our days.
Late in the week, I tapped a few paragraphs on my laptop and then deleted them. None of my words seem important at the moment or necessary to pile more to the many you have heard or read this past week.
However, the part I could find relevant from that elusive post was my intention to share the word I chose on my birthday last August. This is the second year of selecting a word for my chronological year versus on January 1st. In the weeks to come, I will share more about my rationale. But today, I want to encourage you to borrow it.
Interlude: inter [between] ludus [play]
a period or event that comes between two others and is different from them
It’s easy to go through our days as being a collection of before’s and after’s.
I will take a walk after work.
I will read a book before the children wake up.
I will have more time after I retire.
Life will go back to normal after the pandemic.
Taking a moment to reflect on the space between before
and after is important but it’s often avoided or rushed past.
May the word interlude, be your whispered permission to pause.
Take a break from watching the news or scrolling social media.
Schedule time in silence to consider your beliefs and the effect of the past week.
Number the losses of 2020 and don’t allow your soul to completely
reside in 2021 without taking a moment to honor each one.
Don’t forget to marvel at how much courage, strength, and perseverance you possessed.
The gift of an interlude, as with music, is how the longer composition is enhanced by its presence.
An interlude or reflection doesn’t need to be lengthy or performed only once. It’s simply designed to bring meaning and depth to our lives. Interludes can instruct, reveal and heal us.
This week, I plan to take a deeper look at the past week and year. So often I am anxious to wish away time instead of remaining in the moment or mulling over the details later. Sometimes this wishing comes in the form of polishing shiny new year goals, an attempt to push away the harsh parts of life in favor of what I believe will ease away past aches. I am going to continue to grieve my deep losses but also look out for strains of evidence pointing to life, like the nasturtiums and herbs in my terra cotta pot which refuses to obey winter.
“We are like common clay jars that carry this glorious treasure within, so that the extraordinary overflow of power will be seen as God’s, not ours. Though we experience every kind of pressure, we’re not crushed. At times we don’t know what to do, but quitting is not an option. We are persecuted by others, but God has not forsaken us. We may be knocked down, but not out.”
II Corinthians 4: 7-9 (TPT)
I have been working through a list of ten questions to ask at the end of the year courtesy of Laura Tremaine.
You can find all ten questions here. I enjoy using the time between Christmas and New Year’s Day to consider the past year and to set intentions or rhythms for the next year and these questions have been extremely helpful to me. In one sitting, I answered the first eight questions but let the last two questions linger and returned to them a day later.
The ninth question is:
What am I removing to make more space?
Initially, this question felt rather difficult because this year has been about removal to the core. As I sat with this question a little longer I wanted to share a few of the “things” I want to remove:
My husband and I have been consistently unburdening our storage rooms with items accumulated over the many years we have lived in our home. Some items are broken, out of date, were useful at one time but no longer. Our needs and intentions have changed over the decades. Every bag filled for Goodwill or to be recycled, not only clears physical space but also space in our souls. Often we look at each other and shake our heads unable to determine why a certain item exists upon our shelves. We declare we will never allow other people to give us their “discards”! The bullet list above is very similar to the physical items placed in the trunk of the car.
Sometimes it is necessary to remove what has been collected from others.
Sometimes it is time to remove what is no longer useful or serving a worthy purpose.
Sometimes its time to trash what is broken.
Sometimes it is simply about ridding your life of too much stuff to allow space to see yourself clearly.
May you approach this new year by removing what no longer fits and discovering breathing room.
I set an intention for 2020 to dust off this blog and be present more often.
Writing consistently and connecting with so many of you has been one of the richest gifts this year has bestowed on me.
I am forever grateful for the time each one of you took to click a link and read the words placed on my heart.
Joy be yours in the year to come,
Last summer I preordered a book set to release in October.
I kept stumbling upon advance reviews that were mixed.
I canceled my order.
Then I remembered my resolve to resist being easily swayed by public opinion as it doesn’t necessarily make it mine.
I reordered the book for this reason and because I knew a bit of fantasy in my life was welcome.
Autumn arrived as did a book porch drop and upon pulling back the dust jacket, fanning the pages, the attention to detail, inside and out was impressive.
As many readers during the pandemic have struggled to stay focused on the page, I have found myself in this camp as well. I would read a few chapters, grateful for the brevity of each one, a small respite from weighty thoughts circling my mind.
Last week, I closed the last page, not before a few audible sniffs.
I reopened the book to find a blank page at the end and did something I never have done before.
I wrote the date and a long paragraph about why this book was important to me at that very moment as well as noting a few pages with sentences I wanted to remember.
This book had been stuffed in the back pocket of my purse, kept me company while waiting in a car when a virus prohibited entering beyond the sliding doors. It had been packed in a suitcase, barely touched during my father’s final days. A book, present even when closed tightly.
A book can invite a reader into a journey. This book led me to other places when life was inescapable. But I dare say I etched a path upon the pages of this book as well.
They say books find us at the right time. In the past, I have been remiss about documenting how a book found its way into my hands or its lasting impression. This was my attempt to stack memories about a reading experience and how it intersected with my surrounding circumstances.
Last week I also uncovered a print from the early days of marriage. Instinctively, I turned the pastel frame over to see a yellowing taped card bearing words of “farewell for now” and deep affection from one of our first friends as newlyweds. In an instant, I was 24 again and saturated with reflections and stories.
This year has been steeped with difficult and anticipated memories blotted out by various speeds.
There is a summer photo of my family I intend to frame. It’s a selfie in all it’s non-professional glory. Yet a glance of this captured moment will be a reminder of togetherness, fun, and the beauty of the outdoors. It will also be a hushed nod to all that we didn’t know in the months ahead.
No one ever knows what a given day will contain but 2020 has heightened this awareness.
I am looking for any opportunity to embrace joy by stacking memories.
Will you join me?
Frame a silly photo.
Leave a Sharpie note inside a board game telling the tale of an epic game.
Write in the margin of your books or on the last page.
On the back of that one million piece puzzle box indelibly record the names of the conquerors.
Name a favorite beverage or concoction to evoke the positive aspects of this past season.
Start a new tradition or embrace an old one.
Blow bubbles on New Year’s Eve.
Create an anti-despair playlist.
Don’t wait until the new year to be a caretaker of your memories because even with all the hope we can spare, the stroke of midnight on a new year is not a magic eraser.
Start stacking today.
May we seek not to erase the excruciating parts of this year but rather allow all the good patches of life to come alongside the rough and raw terrain, bringing comfort and hope for the future.
If we have been given a future, we can be grateful for each added memory.
From an August 2016 Instagram post:
It is the very nature of being human to want the best seat, the highest and clearest vantage point.
I am slowly learning the gift of simply clinging underneath.
Underneath the umbrella of His care, comfort, and protection.
I don’t have to see everything coming.
I am grateful for all the ladybugs that have landed on me or crossed my path over the past four months.
If God designed ladybugs to bear spots, I know He undoubtedly covers my life.
I had to pause for a moment to determine the significance of four years ago.
It was during the days following my husband Carl’s cancer surgery and the diagnosis four months prior.
Despite his family history whispering a warning for a decade, we didn’t see it coming.
My Dad was diagnosed with cancer a year later, we didn’t see that coming either.
Nor did we envision his passing before his birthday which always escorted us to Thanksgiving, if not a shared date.
Reflecting on these social media words caused me to exhale my abiding belief in these words and discover them even truer today.
It is easy and tempting to post platitudes and shiny sentiments only to discover their elusiveness when life is revealed as tender, fragile, and raw. Now in the midst of feeling tender, fragile, and raw, I know God’s covering is beyond what I hoped or could foolishly attempt to conjure.
If you know me or have read this blog for a length of time, you are aware of my love for ladybugs.
If there is such as a thing as spirit insects, then the ladybug is mine. Ladybugs have always landed within my sight during times when I needed to be reminded of God’s presence. It’s been the sweetest wink from heaven to me. Maybe I have just gotten good at spotting ladybugs but I will counter by saying if you don’t look, you won’t see.
One chilly morning, I swept away golden and brown leaves that had found their way into the warm confines of my parent’s entryway. It’s a chore that needed to be done but it was also a way to keep busier than my mind which continued to replay a loop of Dad’s final days. It seems I can’t fully access my memories until my mind fully absorbs the speed of his decline. The word whiplash becomes a common descriptor during those early days of loss. I donned headphones to listen to a podcast, another distraction tactic and in my attempt to capture debris within a dustpan, a speedy messenger came my way.
I grab a paper towel to keep my visitor in the frame of my phone camera. I think better of trying to swoop up my red dotted friend and run upstairs to show my Mom because I doubt my ability to contain it.
I quickly texted this blurry photo to a friend who recently asked about why ladybugs were important to me.
In the midst of the mundane, God broke through spectacularly. Despite ground hardened by snow and grief, life remains, bearing the tiniest of imprints. A small insect sought refuge from the cold and warmed a daughter in the process.
I am not the first to express that there is the thinnest thread between the natural and the spiritual, between heaven and earth. Even on days when a veil of tears is present, I am treated to the precious gift of new sight, looking equates to trust. Perhaps this vision has always been present and simply ignored. Or perhaps when we are the most greedy for a sign our eyes open wide enough to experience wonder.
This past week, Carl and I began the second season of His Dark Materials. Later in the evening, I opened my Kindle to read a few pages of a book called Wintering. I have nearly a half dozen books I am “reading” right now and although I prefer paper to screen I chose this one. I hadn’t read very far when the author begins writing about The Golden Compass (one of the books in Philip Pullman’s Dark Materials series of books) and many of the characters. Abandoning my chair, I head towards the kitchen to read the passages to Carl while he fills the water reservoir for the next morning’s coffee.
Is this a coincidence?
A phenomenon we do not know about?
Or is it simply a reminder of how God enters our days and nights in seemingly insignificant ways?
But it isn’t insignificant. He knows the skin in which I dwell and how my heart swells with joy and bleeds in sorrow.
He helps me not feel as if life is full of random occurrences but actually fraught with divine connecting points.
I will keep looking as if attempting to uncover treasure plunged to the deepest depths.
I will also leave room for all that is designed to be hidden from my view.
Because I don’t have to see everything coming.
Lord, help me to always rest in Your marvelous covering whether fully sighted or not.
“Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true,
the best, not the worst;
the beautiful, not the ugly;
things to praise, not things to curse.
Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.”
Philippians 4:8-9 MSG
A few weeks ago, I received a communication that led me down a road called jumping to conclusions. I presented the words to Carl, he grabbed a backpack and joined me on a joint trek towards despair. Our thinking was faulty as it lacked the full context. A few hours later, our assumptions proved incomplete. What has remained with me, a constant reminder of sorts, is how quickly and easily it was to heap insufficient evidence onto an already difficult reality. I moved from a place of sorrow to wading in the depths of despair because I was poised to leap. Because my mind was weary and fragile, it was easy to assume the worst. Even more baffling to realize how much relief was derived when we were able to back up to our original source of grief. The mind is incredibly powerful and can lead us astray if we are not vigilant in what we allow it to contain.
Assumptions are easy to make, based on what is heard or read, but even information beyond earshot can follow this same dangerous pattern.
At the beginning of the year, I spent time reading the Gospels. When I arrived at the parable of the Prodigal Son, I couldn’t help seeing new aspects. For those not familiar with this parable, a man has two sons. The younger son decides to ask his father for his inheritance in advance, which the father relinquishes. The son sets out on an escapade of wild living and squanders his inheritance. He is destitute to the extent the pigs’ food looks appetizing. He returns to his senses, realizes his foolishness, and that his own father’s servants are living better than he has found himself. He decides to return home, beg for forgiveness, admit his unworthiness to be called a son, but instead his father’s servant. When this scene plays out, the father will have none of this scenario, embraces him, puts a ring and robe on his son as befitting his position, and calls for a feast.
As the feast is ramping up, the older brother returns and hears the sounds of merriment and inquires about the happenings. He is informed of his brother’s return and the father’s call for a party. The older brother is furious and when his father finds him to discern why he has not joined the festivities, the brother lays into this father by pointing out his brother’s poor behavior in contrast to his own. He is irritated his father never let him celebrate even in a small way with his friends. The brother calls the prodigal, “this son of yours”, distancing himself. The father explains to his eldest son how everything he has is his “but how can we not celebrate because this brother of yours was lost but now he is found.” He draws the sons closer.
What occurred to me while reading this parable was considering the point when the older brother entered the scene. One might say he was late to the party or more importantly, late for his younger brother’s entrance. He missed his brother’s harsh world living appearance, confession, and request to be considered a servant, no longer a son or a brother. It makes me wonder if he might have also been moved to compassion had he witnessed his brother’s state and contrition? But instead, he responded with the evidence he had been mulling over in his mind since his brother’s departure.
I wonder how often I am prone to a tirade based on long-held beliefs that no longer prove to be accurate?
I am endeavoring to pause before I wander down a road paved by my own imagination. During this particular time, my mind can quickly move from hope to despair, from life to death, from peace to fear, and from truth to falsehoods. Most importantly, when ugly and evil words are uttered, I will not allow them a corner of my mind, heart, or soul. Even when they are fact-checked and deemed as truly spoken.
Questions for this week:
What are you allowing to fill your mind?
Are you meditating on what is true?
Who or what is the dominate voice in your life?
What pieces of information are missing to complete an accurate picture?
What tools could you assemble to help your mind land in peaceful places?
May we make it our aim to fill our minds with what is true and beautiful.
May we stop, look and listen before we leap in a faulty direction.
May we ever be in awe of all we don’t know or see, but yet God does.
Two tools helping me daily: