Dec 29, 2014

The Cusp of a New Year

Teetering on the edge of a year, 
on the end of another 365 days, 
a brisk glance back brings a few thoughts to mind;
some are simply musings.
Others, really essential.

  1. It’s beneficial to record a list of the Books I’v read. For one thing, I surprised myself by the shear number of titles that I’v poured through this past year. 34 books, from several genres, on multiple topics, with faith, art, writing, and strong female characters being predominant themes across nonfiction and literature. Another benefit of the list are the cues offered in remembering titles and content, not to mention insight as to the ebb and flow of my interests, and finally, it makes recommending books easier. 
  2. Fiction that taught me the most: Orphan Train and The Invention of Wings.
  3. Memoir that made the most indelible impression: Lit by Mary Karr and The Sacred Journey by Buechner.
  4. Writers greatly entertain me when they write about writing, such as The Memoir Project by Marion Smith and Pat Conroy’s, My Reading Life.  
  5. Talking to my Pastor is something I’ll do more often. Especially when a well known, highly respected, Bible curriculum writer puts forth an interpretation that resonates badly with one’s heart. A good conversation on theology with a compassionate and learned pastor is enlightening, not to mention, good for the soul.
  6. Being the Nana of 4 year old  twins is even better than being the Nana of three year old twins. Four year olds send you a hand signed Christmas card. Four year olds remember those swimming lessons that you and grandpa took them to. Four year olds ask their mother if they can call Nana (well, of course!). Four year olds ask “Can we make muffins?” and “What project did you bring for us to do together?”. 
  7. Reflections are a second chance to see the wonder. I have taken to noticing the myriad of images that are reflected in our immediate environment. I wrote about it over here. It’s magical to consider the optical science at work in this often missed mirrored world that we pass through every day. It has become one more of those spiritual practices that I weave into my living in order to attend more closely to God’s complexity and awe.
  8. Have no doubt. In the midst of wrapping worry around the world’s ongoing traumas and raging atrocities, I wrote here about those three words that rose to my attention last summer. Three words that remain bold within my heart, a bold proclamation of God’s Time regardless of what new year may be marked by mankind.
  9. Time is rolling waves of blessed potential. Truly. Capture its gift with hungry hearts. This post last December recalled the words from the 90th Psalm. 
  10. The New Year bells come faster across a lifetime; ringing out that snowy year in the seventies just old enough for the first toast with champagne, ringing out in ’81 with a newborn at my breast, ringing out in ’97 newly remarried walking home in the starlight and glitter of softly falling snow, ringing out in 2010 grateful for husband's restored health and the birth of infant grandsons, ...and here they are again, ringing out in 2014. 
  11. God's blessings are abundant. Every season, every year. More on abundance over here. With vigilance the reward is sacred. Warm your soul in the abundance of God's grace this year and every year!
Linking with others pondering the New Year over at Emily's blog. Join us.
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Sep 6, 2014

A Second Chance to See Wonder

A heightened appreciation for reflections rose out of viewing the world through a camera’s lens. 

Consider the science of light and the multiple lenses, mechanical and biological that are at work as one’s brain receives and then interprets a reflected image. Imagine a flow chart of that: from the reflection’s source to the camera, through the eye, along the dendrites, picking up metaphors of meaning from amygdala’s treasure trove of emotion. 

Once the concept captured my attention, the presence of reflections became more abundant. The common images thrown back from blocks of storefront windows, shimmering puddles of rain, or the glassy, mirrored surface of water, certainly. But then the more subtle sources caught my eye. Reflected images etched on the surface of brewed green tea or in a flower’s mounded raindrop. Images bouncing back from the silver tray, the brass pendulum, and the glass door of the anniversary clock. The blue stained-glass cross reflected on a granite surface and the river rock repeated against dark pottery. 

From images of clouds viewed close-in and tiny on that orb of a raindrop, to images of lush shoreline seen from across the pond reflected back in the long length of wall to ceiling windows; our world is shimmered back for us, to appreciate, maybe without even turning around, to take second look. 

"See things from His perspective." Col. 3:1 MSG

To do so might change your perspective. It might prompt you to ponder how closely you’re looking at all that is before you. It might reveal bounty and wonders that have otherwise escaped your attention.

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Aug 29, 2014

Summer Remembrance

Early morning temperatures dipped by almost ten degrees this weekend, 
as August bids its 2014 adieu. 

The cooler morning offered a delightfully fresh hint of the next season, though we all know we still have many more weeks of extended summer that is par for our region. None the less, there was this brief interlude, this breath of coolness, this nod to softer days of less light and a planet tipping away from the sun’s blaze. Summer’s green begins to take on that more rustic shade, edged with crisped, drying hues. Blooms are worn, somewhat ravaged by the boldness of summer. The new blossoms are unfolding smaller, dropping petals sooner, there satin beauty not lasting as long as their predecessors. 

We turn to one another and say, Where did it go? 
Every season we say that. 

Remember when we were celebrating those glorious buds opening at the ends of stems and marveling at the late-into-the-evening sunsets painted orange across the blue sky. Remember children in the pool for hours perfecting their under water skills, extending their bravery in the deep end, diving endlessly to retrieve rings thrown to the bottom. Tomatoes and watermelon have been sweeter these recent months and sweet corn is still fresh in the produce department. Remember the lazier mornings of summer with coffee on the back porch, serenaded by birds, entertained by squirrels, and occasionally visited by that resident rabbit who lives in the Indian Hawthorn hedge. We watched lizards scamper across the top of the fence and fledgling Blue Jays teeter on the edge of their nest outside the bay window. We have watched Herons catch fish as turtles basked on the pond’s banks and the Mallards floated endlessly. 

And though the events of the world were far less bucolic through this summer, it remains important to remember that which was abundant, that which was brimming with blessing and goodness. In every season harken back to treasures that came your way, whispered from the heavens by God’s grace to season your life with His love and provision.

“I will remember the deeds of the Lord...” Psalm 77:11

                                                                               * * *

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Aug 21, 2014

Slower Steps {Learning to Take the Long Way Around}

Taking shorter steps, slower steps, allows the early morning breeze to be savored, its banking, soft approach is noticed, its reoccurring wisps of cooler threads do not escape attention and are a welcome surprise this deep into the August summer. Freedom to take the long-way-around offers the most shaded canopy branching wide, ladened with the season’s full foliage. 

Passing the homes along each block ...
I’m aware that they’re likely empty on a weekday morning, just as my own was during the years of scheduled and contracted productivity. Occupants are at their office, at their desks, on their computers, attending to agendas, checking off lists, collaborating, reaching for goals, gaining information, experience, livlihoods...globally, homes are empty and work is moving history along.

Still walking, slowly... 
I recall the physical pace of those productive years. From the moment of leaving bed in the predawn of each day, the work day steps were accumulated with only occasional interruption, until back at home, end of day dishes were done, bath and stories were done, and all needs for the next morning’s departure were collected at the door. Steps were rarely short and certainly not slow. On arrival to campus, those steps were purposefully taken in a circuitous route, calculated to complete efficiently as many tasks as possible along the way, often in the company of twenty or so young students and the coral-ing of their many steps.

Crossing the street to follow the shade and the bend of the tree lined curb                                                                    I ponder the process that took place to step out of that pace of daily living, to mentally step back from the persistent multitasking drive that accomplishes a never ending magnitude of responsibilities in the finite hours of a day. It was a process of gradual recalibrating of the priorities of time that allowed the external race walker to convert to walker seeking internal peace. Intentionally, it has become acceptable to take shorter steps and move at a slower pace. Not because I’m incapable of that meteoric pace, but because the value of attention to the bounty of this world, the bounty of  this fleeting life, can only be captured when its not being raced past in a blur. 
                                                       * * *

Transitions take so many forms and all are challenging. What motivates you to engage in the process, to 'slow your steps' or 'take the long way around'?

Linking with TellHisStory and Weekend Brew. Enjoy the photos and thoughts of these fellow writers by clicking on the links below.

Jul 30, 2014


I linger over a photo of our precious little grandsons; 
standing side by side on the pristine beach, gingerly venturing out into the foaming surf, thrilled by the cold blue waves and the tickle of Gulf shore sand washing against their feet. 

In the way that thoughts wander, 
in my mind’s eye 
I travel across that same blue sea stretching vast across the planet 
to the Mediterranean shores where it is not safe for other little children to play. 
Places where wars rage.

Then I imagine being able to visually draw back from these beaches just as the satellites do; taking in more and more land mass until its the large curving surface of our living planet that is seen spinning endlessly beneath its cameras.

On that ever rotating mass of miraculous alchemy of water and earth 
there are billions of life incidents occurring. 
Billions of human actions taking place. Billions of actions enacted with mercy and compassion. 
And then there are the others. 

In seeking God’s peace
the response seemed to be, 
"Have no doubt."
All of it is enacted under the gaze of our Holy Creator God. 
And all of it will be redeemed by His incomprehensible power, 
in His good time.

"From heaven the Lord looks down
and sees all mankind;
from His dwelling place he watches
all who live on Earth –
he who forms the hearts of all,
who considers everything they do."
Psalm 33:13-15


Linking with Emily, click here at Chatting At the Sky as we bloggers gather to muse over what we learned this summer and with Still Saturday where the gifts of Sabbath thoughts are shared.

Jul 28, 2014

Approach from a Different Angle

While squeezing some semblance of life out of hard, uncompromising circumstances solace arrived in the strength of a single wild bloom. 

During an early morning walk it appeared unexpected and incongruent, like a sun-yellow flag planted in a moonscape of rock. Living green and spiraled gold surrounded by the sharp edges of dry, nonsustaining stone. 

A water seeking, nutrient dependent creature can perish in such an environment. 

Living seems just so at times. All that is visible appears to offer not a mite of support to ease basic survival through treacherous times.

Approaching the bloom on the return circuit of the walk, passing by from a different angle, changed the perspective, changed the understanding. 

Consider instead, the protective qualities of impervious rock. No lawn mowing blades arrived here to slice through a wild bloom. Flooding rivulets of rain washing down the rocky bank were channeled around the shallowly rooted, errant seed until its roots grew a deeper grip. The sharp and uneven rock surfaces prevented the smooth terrain seeking footsteps of humans. 

The seemingly rigid and hard may be providential protection and an opportunity to thrive.

Revisit the harsh and uncompromising circumstances. It may be that the presence of sacred grace, a veiled blessing, is obscured by a narrow perspective.


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Jul 19, 2014

My Strength

My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart 
and my portion forever.
Psalm 73:26


The heart shutters at the darker events of its time; shutters and howls in grief for fellow humanity suffering from the varied forms and wretched consequences of trauma. 

A young loved one debilitated by chronic pain or global humanity shattered by ancient battles: in faith  we grasp for the sacred response of fervent prayer.

 Knees bent to the floor, head bowed, hands clasped, whispers wringing out pleas for mercy that can only come from the almighty power of Holy God. 

Prayer re-enacted across the course of our breath filled hours 
is witness to the faith and hope in our souls.


Posting photo praise and encouraging words with fellow writers at The Weekend Brew, Still Saturday, Unforced Rhythms, Coffee for Your Heart, and His Story. Click a button below to visit that community’s posts.

Jul 13, 2014

Enter Silence

When life is heavy and hard to take, 
go off by yourself. 
Enter into silence. 
Bow in prayer. 
Wait for hope to appear. 
Lamentation 3:28 MSG

Richard Foster writes on the Discipline of Solitude 
and the gifts that this practice offers to the searching heart: 

“There is the freedom to be alone, 
not in order to be away from other people 
but in order to hear the divine Whisper better.” *

Further in the discussion of solitude Foster adds:

“The dark night (of the soul) is one of the ways God brings us to hush, 
a stillness so that He may work an inner transformation upon the soul.” *

Settle into silence,
still enough,
to capture a universe of watery orbs spilled across a single blossom. 

Such moments welcome the Holy whispers of wisdom.

*Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster.

Posting with Still Saturday, The Weekend Brew, Tell His Story, and Unforced Rhythms
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Jul 5, 2014

A Reading Mother

Marlene, 1978

Sunday’s, after church and lunch, mother would read the Sunday paper. Glasses would perch low on the bridge of her nose. She sat, legs crossed, on the couch, still in church clothes, heels kicked off, a long string of pearls and that small pocket watch on a gold chain graced her slender neck. She read closely, page by page, throughout the afternoon well past the sun’s brightest rays spilling across the hardwood floor. 

In the quiet evening hours mom was frequently found reclined, pillows stacked behind her head, book in hand. The thick volumes of historical fiction and poetry on her bedside table and the half a dozen National Geographic or art books stacked on the living room coffee table were ever changing. She was a devoted library patron who scoured those shelves for history, culture, and faith in every genre. Her home was littered with books and her life was peopled with fellow readers. Book Clubs were not common in small town midAmerica in that era and yet, mom had one. The community of women gathered monthly to enjoy the brisk conversation that good reads foster and I had the privilege to be their guest one summer morning. Suffice it to say that one does not really know their mom until you have heard her converse articulately about the literary merits of a classic book of fiction or a recent best seller. I was startled by her range of knowledge and impressed by her articulate manner of discussion. It was a watershed moment for me, seeing her in the fullness of her character.  

She read to to be inspired. She read to study and she read to teach. There were years that read to her young children. There were years that she taught adult Bible study classes. Then there were years that she returned to the University.  A corner of the living room was set aside for portraits of her children under which was placed her desk. It was a beautiful, oval, antique oak, writing desk, place at an angle from the framed, wide beveled glass, window. It was paired with a carved oak chair with a caned seat. Their uniquely grained surfaces and finely carved details were stunning. It is poignant to recall her seated there, under the lamp light, with opened books leaning against each other, spread out in front of her as she studied. She relished social sciences, Russian literature, Women’s Studies, and Biblical history. Tolstoy, Friedan, the Gospels, Hebrew texts, and multiple versions of Bibles covered her desk in those years. During this season of life Mama Marlene’s slight frame seemed to gain noticeable stature. She stood taller. She spoke with even more eloquence. Her mind was lit up by academic pursuits. I will forever remember the joy and passion that she claimed from the rigors and knowledge of advanced learning. Her reading was perennial. Every season, any hour, life long. It is fair to say she read voraciously.

Her children too, became readers. Our professions and interests mirror hers, in reinvented interpretations of our own. The wellspring, undeniably, was our mother’s example and her passion for the wealth of imaginative, intellectual, and spiritual inspiration that can be found in the printed word. 

{Joining these writing communities: Click here for Unforced Rhythms or Essential Fridays. Click on the buttons below for Still Saturday and The Weekend Brew to go to this week's gathering of posts.}

Jun 1, 2014

What I Learned in May: The Speed of Life

For the preceding three hundred and sixty five days 
I’d been standing on that decade marker. 

An even number, 
divisible by ten 
with a zero in the ones place. 
The zero in the ones place is essential. 

Essential to the emotional clinging, the avoidance of embracing an additional decade of age. As long as the zero was there (I thought to myself) I had not actually stepped off INTO the next decade. I could still glance over my shoulder and feel only a bit removed from the younger decade that I had just lived beyond. The younger decade suggested a half way mark through life. The next decade heralds (very loudly) that I’m two thirds of the way done. 

You see how this clinging to that zero takes on more importance! 

Well, we all know the drill. 
Twelve more months did slip by.  
And once again I faced my May birthday. The LED of my age did blink, replacing the zero with a one. Somehow the six in the tens place seems to loom even larger now. 

I’m certain that Almighty Father God shakes His head in humored tolerance as I’m the gazillion-bizillionth human who has burbled a lackluster opinion about the speed of this earthly life.

{Posting with other musing thinkers over at Emily's blog as we gather to wonder about new learnings for the month.}

May 26, 2014

A Heart at Peace

“A heart at peace, 
gives life to the body.”
Proverbs 14:30

Warmer seasons come late, seeping in around winter’s greedy grasp. Leaves gingerly appear, testing the possibilities, braving winter’s many backward glances. 

The air is brisk or warm, brightly lit or misted and grey, but sampled no less, as human hearts yearn for an opportunity to be out in the newly unfolding world. 

Encourage the mind to cast out winter’s narrowed ponderings, to fling open verandas of new color, richer scents, and softer views. Human flesh, feathered birds, furred critters; all venture hopeful as temperatures slowly offer up hints of warmth. 

A walk along the pathways reveals scars of winter’s passing. Scars of cold are scratched into fencing and bark alike. The new season unfurls its green to cover such with foliage and distract the eye with vivd blooms. 

Willingly, I focus on the beauty, looking past the marred, the fallen, and the wounded; for the natural world redeemed by spring brings joy. 

And thus I am reminded, how God’s redeeming work over wounded souls also gives rise to the heart’s joy.

Posting with Liesha Epperstien and the community of GRACE writers. Join us!

May 10, 2014

Mary Speaks

A Mother's Day tribute to the young woman who carried our Lord, nurtured Him through childhood, and bore the full experience of His life and dying.

Mary Speaks: 
by Madeleine L’Engle

O you who bear the pain of the whole earth, I bore you.
O you whose tears gave human tears their worth, I laughed with you.
You, who when your hem is touched, give power, I nourished you.
Who turn the day to night in this dark hour, light comes from you.
O you who hold the world in your embrace, I carried you.
Whose arms encircled the world with your grace, I once held you.
O you who laughed and ate and walked the shore, I played with you.
And I, who with all others, you died for, now I hold you.
May I be faithful to this final test, in this last hour I hold my child, my son;

His body close enfolded to my breast:
The holder held, the bearer borne.
Mourning to joy, darkness to morn.
Open, my arms; your work is done.
Taken from The Ordering of Love ~ New & Collected Poems of Madeleine L'Engle

{Linking with other writer's sharing faith at Still Saturday, Sunday Community, and The Weekend Brew. Click on those buttons below to peruse more meditations on faith.}

Apr 30, 2014

April's Tender Spring

{Joining the online writers community at Chatting at the Sky in sharing the interesting, the joyful, the curious that flows through the course of daily life.}

April’s spring is a tender time of pale green feathering at the edges of every branch and spreading wide across warming lawns. Courageous color bursts from blooms of bulbs and tree limbs encouraging the winter weary hearts of we humans who long for the promise of more beauty to come. It's no surprise that April hosts Earth Day, or that it's the perfect season to celebrate Poetry Month. 

Do you marvel at the artistic displays seen at the Anthropologie stores? I do. Love them! Interestingly you can view a video of how one of the teams designed a display for April by visiting the Anthropologie blog post for their Earth Day window display. A creative tribute to the metamorphosis and migration of the Monarch Butterfly.Way fun for the artist in all of us!

Sabbath rest, so elusive, so essential. 
In my reading this month I learned that planning ahead to insure that the Sabbath day is a clean slate makes it more likely that it will be experienced  in ways that are restoring to you. I also learned to view the day as a celebration, as a day of activities that are out of the ordinary and therefore reviving and festive in nature. I was introduced to these key steps and others, for how to attain the restoring balm of a Sabbath retreat from writer Shelly Miller.

April is Poetry Month. 
Seth Haines writes poignantly about the power of poetry, about how it's unique elements speak to the soul of the human condition. And then there was this student's response to a writing test prompt. Clearly this young writer, a very reluctant poet, had poetry in his literate world, either through song, scripture, and oral story reading. He has internalized form, cadence, rhyme, and similes through the osmosis of being exposed to literature. Even if he hates it he has learned and retained its elements in long term memory. Which is the power of being read to and the expectation of well designed language arts education. He has no idea how his tastes may change in the decades ahead. Finally, among the favorite poems that I read this  month is the one below, written by Jane Kenyon:

I got out of bed

on two strong legs.
It might have been
otherwise. I ate
cereal, sweet
milk, ripe, flawless
peach. It might
have been otherwise.
I took the dog uphill
to the birch wood.
All morning I did
the work I love.
At noon I lay down
with my mate. It might
have been otherwise.
We ate dinner together
at a table with silver
candlesticks. It might
have been otherwise.
I slept in a bed
in a room with paintings
on the walls, and
planned another day
just like this day.
But one day, I know,
it will be otherwise. 
-By Jane Kenyon

During this season's Sabbath Sundays I'm tenderly mindful of April's celebrations of Easter blessings, Earth's spring splendor, and the beautiful words woven by the human hearts.


Apr 19, 2014

Turn to the Light

In early spring
living things turn into the light.

Stems, branches, and vines 
reach for the sun’s rays.
Blooms and leaves too,
bend in that direction.

Felines search out sills 
most drenched with brilliance.

Turtles sun along the banks of brightly lit shores.

We humans 
lift our faces for that longed for warmth.

And the Christian heart...
turns toward the brilliance of the risen Lord on Easter Sunday.

Fervent for Holy hope.
Rejoicing in the eternal gift.

Apr 5, 2014


“Blessing has in it the power to increase.” 
As my eyes decoded left to right, those words rose from the page to be heeded by the heart. The heart leaned in close, the meaning so decidedly true. 

Yes, certainly it is as the writer intended in reference to God’s word in the128th Psalm. 

But then carried further, applied expansively, 
God’s blessings in all forms propagate to bring forward additional abundance. 
A revelation that is known only as one’s faith life grows deep roots nurtured by prayer, study, and a persistent vigilance for divine purpose. 

Think of it more simply: 
study extends your knowledge. 
Knowledge expands your faith. 
Faith transforms your perception. 
Perception heeds divine presence and provision 
which further affirms and emboldens your faith. 
The more you are aware of God at work, 
the more you will see God’s work. 
“Blessing has in it the power to increase.”
As is my pleasure each weekend,
 I'm linking with thoughtful folks over at 
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the Sunday community, 
and Weekend Brew
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Mar 28, 2014

Sizing Up the Highlights

Sizing up the month's highlights once again. These bits of thought come to mind... 

1. We all relearned the two faces of March. 

I remain partial to the fragile blooming, bright, crisp air version. And have risked planting flowers in the front porch pots. During the final days of the month I'll learn if that was a smart move or not. Fingers crossed.

2. I was just sort of visually stunned to peruse the Google data center . Take a look at the artistic  innards of what is basically today's version of the blended, global library and post office.

3. I'm discovering HGTV. {Geez, you're thinking, where have you been?} Never the less,  House Hunters International is new to me. I so admire the various motivations that people have for moving beyond their native country. One woman was a food blogger moving to a small city in France to immerse herself in local cuisine to better inform her writing. A couple, after years of working in the hospitality industry, was looking for an island resort of their own, to live in and manage. Making dreams like these a reality takes courage and creativity. Not to mention the fascinating diversity of design and architecture of housing around the world.

4. I hit a jackpot of good reads this month and was introduced to two authors. One, Christian poet Jane Kenyon wrote a delightful collection of essays that were published in A Hundred White Daffodils {must love that title!}. See a post about her writing and excerpts from her poems over here

Next up, I courageously ventured through Mary Karr's memoir, LIT. I will admit to skimming the harsh early chapters. It takes a stout heart to read authentic struggles. BUT, the remaining story of hard sought scratching toward survival through faith and her eventual conversion to Christianity was stunning. Her writing is gifted while shirking no realities. In an interview about her work memoirist Mary Karr stated:
"That’s what’s so gorgeous about humanity. It doesn’t matter how bleak our daily lives are, we still fight for the light. I think that’s our divinity. We lean into love, even in the most hideous circumstances. We manage to hope." The Paris Review, 2009.
Swan Thieves was fiction to curl up and get lost in. It wrapped me in the painter's life and art history with a compelling psychological mystery woven through two parallel plots. To be savored.

5. Encountered several beautiful unknown words recently. I favored this one: numinous - spiritually elevated, mysterious.

6. Walking in early spring twilight is heavenly. 
Even as solar beams slip low on the horizon the senses remember heat and light.


Venture over to What We Learned to share the humorous and the quirky of fellow writers in Emily's community. You'll think, "Really? I did not know that!"