dot by faithful dot

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I arrived to this space with an apology for not writing.

Except that would not be accurate, I am always writing.

I write in my journal and on random slips of paper,

jotting notes in the margins of books and tapping sentences into my phone.

Words arises from the steam of my shower or the soft indent

in my pillow before succumbing to sleep.

Sometimes my thoughts compose a post while driving to work.

Perhaps I should curb this practice for safety’s sake.

Often I will open a notebook and find scribbles and arrows,

circles and sentences all in CAPS.

As I scan the page, a grin will pass over my face

and at the top of the hieroglyphics I will usually

write “this became the blog post” and fill in the title.

Somehow parts jotted all over the paper

became a map that directed the way to a published post.

My mind has felt like one of those pages of scribbles.

The exception being many of the dots are without

connecting lines.

There are a half-dozen half-written pieces in my

draft folder.

They may or may not ever see the light of a computer

screen other than mine.

For whatever reason, I can’t seem to finish the majority

of my writing.

I can’t figure out what to make for dinner.

There is lonely dirt by the fence where my

sunflowers usually ascend to the sky.

I can’t seem to finish a book. (Ack.)

Although I plan for the drought to end this week.

(I started reading this book on the road last weekend
and it is giving me so much to think about as a parent.)

My mind has been swimming with work,

a daughter graduating from college,

middle school decisions

for our son and a steady stream of bad news.

Somehow the joyous mingled with the sorrow

siphons away anything extraneous.

It has bothered me,

I have fought it and

been frustrated when I can’t concentrate

on a litany of pursuits.

Then I reflect on January, when I chose words

to help guide my year.

Be faithful.

Elisabeth Eliot’s constant encouragement

was to

“Do the next thing.”

Two sentences which will remind me

to breathe and take each aspect of

life one by one and as it comes.

Are your dots connecting?

Do you need to just keep faithfully

walking into the places laid before you?

I will work.

I will celebrate.

I will mourn with those who mourn.

I will listen and not look away.

I will cook.

I will write.

I will read.

Sometimes I will simply just be.

Most of all I will be faithful.

Today it meant pressing publish.

*****

Alright I did read one sweet book awhile ago which could be finished
over a weekend with a bottomless frosted glass of iced tea…
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry.
Enjoy.

 

open wide your cupboards

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I have a thing about dishes.

Just open my cupboards or observe my smile

whenever I use one of  my grandmother’s favorite serving dishes.

If those tidbits aren’t enough to

verify my dish passion obsession,

I even wrote about worrying about bowls

a year ago.

For Mother’s Day, Carl gave me the set of dishes I had

been spying.

They aren’t fine china, I’m talking Target,

which is more my style.

The set of dishes simply made me smile.

Plus the bowls were deep and wide just the way

Carl likes them.

Our everyday dishes had been held in the clutches

of young fumbling fingers

and taken countless tumbles to the floor,

contents ruined but never the plates.

The virtues of unbreakable dishes is undeniable

but the appearance doesn’t exude a lot of joy.

Hooray for new plates, cups and bowls.

Yet a week later the box sat in the corner

unopened.

Why?

I wasn’t sure where to put them.

Each time I opened a cupboard, I was faced

with removing dishes already occupying

shelf space.

For the most part, each plate, bowl or mug

no matter its condition held meaning and a memory.

Dishes are meant to be filled and emptied.

Each one reminded me of past feasts and perhaps

even some times of famine.

Are there relationships sitting on your life shelf

 solely as memories?

Is it time to gently lift them from the shelf

and store them away for a time?

My unbreakable dishes served their purpose for

a time and I honor all the hard knocks they took

at the hands of our family.

I am thankful for the way they supported my food ;)

At this moment,

for whatever reason,

these dishes rarely grace my table.

At this moment.

For now, I will carefully store them away.

Finally I opened the box.

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I suds away

the grime of the packaging.

Then set them out to dry.

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I looked at the wooden rack full of stoneware.

I wondered,

“Do these  dishes look like me?”

“Do they look unsophisticated?”

“Would I see these plates in _____________’s house?”

There are times when I second guess myself.

Often I fall into the trap of believing I must look like everyone else.

The truth is my plates are different from yours because

they are designed for my table,

my house,

my life.

Do your dishes look like you?

And while I am asking all these questions,

what’s on your plate?

Could there be so many servings the

image on the surface is obscured?

Will any sudden movement cause the contents of your mug

to splash over the rim?

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Are you realizing my dish craze is really more about being

crazy about life?

The plates you like,

the plates you share and the morsels you

decide to place upon those plates is true of life.

Life is about filling and emptying.

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In our home, we are determined to use our stuff.

It hasn’t always been this way,

observe Exhibit A.

I am changing.

We are using and filling our plates.

Even when Caleb asks,

“Where are the old, easy to carry plates?”

(Trust me, they are still close at hand.)

We are slurping out of cups and bowls.

We are reaching towards the dishes on our shelves,

scattering them on tablecloths

so they can be

filled,

emptied,

washed,

dried,

replaced

and the cycle

continues.

We risk the occasional chipped or broken dish,

much like we enter the fray of life each day.

We aren’t  saving these dishes for special occasions or only for the special people.

We are the special people and when you cross our threshold we deem

you special as well.

We embrace the old and are grateful for the new.

One day the new will become old as well,

old doesn’t have to mean covered in dust,

it should convey constant use and affection.

Open the cupboards of your life and take a peek.

What makes you smile?

As silly as it may sound,

what bowl is deep and wide like you?

What needs to be taken off your plate?

Now gather around your table and don’t miss

this wonderful feast called life.

when a groove is not the same as a rut

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The chief beauty about time// is that you cannot waste it in advance//
The next year, the next day, the next hours are lying ready for you,//
as perfect, as unspoiled, as if you had never wasted or misapplied//
a single moment in all your life//
You can turn over a new leaf every hour// if you choose.
//Arnold Bennett//

Somehow I have misplaced a full month of writing in this place.

I could easily explain the days and weeks away by saying I didn’t have time.

Getting used to the structure of work and dealing with several bouts of lingering

illness caused me to live my days in survival mode.

But in my absence, I have been reflecting on time.

Most mornings, I jump in my car and race down the freeway towards my

place of employment.

I have determined the amount of time I need to get from point a to point b.

Yet there are days when my car’s speed is quickly halted.

My steering wheel grip tightens and I glance at the clock.

Despite my best efforts, I have no control of what the lanes ahead will reveal.

A car crash may have occurred or a stalled car.

There could be a police car in view creating a renewed desire for drivers

to adhere to the rules of the road.

Often there is no other reason than many cars traveling at the same time.

No matter how much I wish, I can’t make the traffic move quicker although I would

like to believe my whispered prayers are mighty effective when the

revolutions of my wheels increase.

Mention traffic, weather or time in conversation and there is never

a shortage of opinions or more likely rolled eyes and sighs.

All three happen without our control.

Time has felt akin to traveling in a car with varying traffic patterns.

It seems no matter how I plan, time evaporates like being thrust

into a traffic jam, unable to change directions.

I wasted a lot of time talking about how little time I now had to

do all the things usually in my days.

This constant rehearsing created unease in my mind and in

my heart.

Mondays began with the renewed awareness of another week with

no time to spare.

This mindset was completely life draining and joy emptying

because I was consumed with my lack of resources.

Especially because I really like my job and the people I am

blessed to work with.

My days and time have simply been rearranged.

Then one morning, everything shifted as I was driving along.

I slammed on the brakes and the glare of red tail lights lit

up as far as I could see.

I didn’t sigh.

I didn’t look hurriedly at my clock.

I simply let my car idle

knowing it wouldn’t be motionless forever.

Forward movement resumed and I arrived

to my desk on time.

Week by week, I am learning a new groove.

15 minutes of book reading in the evening can be just

as satisfying as an hour.

Not having a week’s worth of meals planned

is not a crisis.

I begun to play around with how to have meaningful

devotions in the morning.

This had been the area which created the deepest

feelings of mourning.

I had felt very lonesome for time with my Father.

But slowly a rhythm has emerged and it has satisfied my longings.

Perhaps this week there will be a space for exercise.

And maybe my body clock will eventually awake earlier…maybe.

Hopefully the confetti thoughts wafting around my brain

will find their way to a journal or this blog from time to time.

You see a groove is not as deep as a rut.

A groove is the beginning of a pattern, a routine.

A rut is defined as a track worn by a wheel or by habitual passage.

A rut equals the deepening of a groove.

With every trip down the road, my groove

will gain depth and more familiarity.

Time may have changed dimensions but

doesn’t mean forfeited joy.

So what do you hear yourself rehearsing each week?

Is it something you fear is in short supply and has no

prospect of recovery?

Perhaps it’s time to cease clenching your

fists as you attempt to hold something you were

never designed to control.

Open wide your hands,

your heart

and your mind

and revel in how you can

best use what remains.

Take a deep breath

and let your car idle

until a new path

opens before you.

Then my friends,

travel the road

with freedom

and great joy

as you create deep

lasting ruts.

 

tables

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system:

  • an organized set of doctrines, ideas, or principles usually intended to explain the arrangement or working of a systematic whole 
  • an organized or established procedure 
  • harmonious arrangement or pattern

There are systems in place which govern our lives.

We may not be aware of how many established systems ground us.

Many are not of our choosing like the traffic system full of

stop lights and rules of the road.

Others we decide how we would like to arrange our

time and space:

make the bed or don’t,

drink coffee or endeavor to  be caffeine-free,

partake in daily breakfast or obey stomach

pangs by mid-morning,

exercise regularly or not.

These daily tasks are part of a routine, a pattern

which makes up a life system helping to

bring order and rhythm to our moments.

On Saturday Carl and I sat across from one another at our table.

He had showered after his Saturday morning basketball game,

Caleb had bid farewell to a sleepover pal and I slept as long as possible

and made the bed :)

We sat with cups of coffee and tea.

I tend to need more stuff and scattered before me were

a Bible, a study, a journal,

a few other books and lots of pens.

Carl had the huge book you see pictured above.

theology: the study of religious faith, practice, and experience;
especially :  the study of God and of God’s relation to the world

We have sat at this table hundreds of times.

We have consumed countless meals but regularly

we have come to this

table to spend time in God’s word,

to be anchored in our faith,

to find guidance,

comfort,

to learn lessons

and to seek truth.

When I snapped this picture, Carl was unaware because

he was immersed.

He was recalling and recounting his theology.

He was allowing himself to sit before God and

gather his system of beliefs at eye level.

Because some days hope seems a farther reach

than a week ago.

A week has passed since Carl’s sister Vickie died

so swiftly and without a whisper of warning.

We sat at the table to recover our systems and cling

to our theology.

The system we have surrendered our lives to is belief

in God,

the Creator,

the Sustainer of life

and the glue who tightly adheres all our crumbling bits.

We have learned to keep our hearts and ears open this week

and discovered abiding comfort.

It’s been found in the “crowd sourcing” of Facebook.

We’ve seen it in the way family and friends love us in their

own special blend of thoughtfulness.

The pages of Scriptures where we landed

these past days have encouraged us that one day Christ will

wipe away every tear and there will be

no more death,

no more caskets,

no more sickness

and no more crying.

(One day.)

We heard words declared from a video describe the

sounds of the cries of death in a hospital.

We remembered.

(God knew.)

Last Sunday we exchanged our church seats for ones in a hospital

but this week we resumed our  pew dwelling  and these were the

first words uttered by our pastor:

“This week, you might be facing a scary time.

It could be the day before a memorial service or a graveside service…”

God knew sitting in pews could never protect us from last Sunday.

But He promised to remain no matter where we sat,

be it a table,

a pew

or even a hospital.

So we rose from our pew

and sidled up to the Table filled with the knowledge that

Jesus bore all our sufferings.

We chew and sip at the Table’s edge because He

is acquainted with sorrow and joins us in our aches

and pains.

Each table has become a place where God hears the

splash of tears upon our cheeks and dispatches

His comfort and often it is through others.

We all have systems.

Whatever system you have in place,

I hope it is effective when life quakes.

I am realizing it is very simple,

there is belief and disbelief and each

is a theology.

Whatever your theology,

I pray it brings comfort

and hope in any season.

This week has shown me when

hard events come we still brush our teeth (good thing),

we make our beds,

we make French toast, steal an extra

piece of bacon, pet the dog and

clean up our messes.

Mostly.

We also hug and kiss a little more.

We say I love you and catch ourselves when

we realize our system has been to rush past

each other in a blur so instead

we stop,

capture one another’s eyes

to affirm our affections

and glory in our mutual comfort.

 

words matter

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On Friday, Caleb had the opportunity to take part in the team competition

at the Oregon State Chess Tournament.

Before each round, once the players assume their position behind

white or black pieces, they allow parents to assume their own positions and

take pictures of their players.

With some coaxing, I was able to get Caleb to display a smile and

as I was snapping his photo

a coach from another team walked up,

looked from me to the two opponents

flanking the chess board and then his gaze returned to me.

While shaking his head he said,
“Oh, that’s going to be a tough one! But it will be alright.”

At first I didn’t process what he said or meant.

It happened so fast.

As he was patting his hand on my shoulder, I realized

what he was suggesting.

By then it was time to take our seats and let the chess play begin.

Thankfully this man’s comments were not heard by Caleb.

I sat in my chair a bit rattled and sent out a quick text message

to family telling them to pray because Caleb was going to have a tough match.

Why did I send up a smoke signal?

I took the words of a stranger who possessed zero knowledge about the match

in question only his assumptions.

I took his words and branded them to my mind, my heart and my son.

I took his words and made them factual.

Guess what?

Caleb won the match.

Of the two rounds he played on Friday,

he said his first match had been the easiest.

The second match, he found himself in trouble.

His opponent had him in check several times.

He recounted how he decided he was going to

turn the game around and he did.

He was patient and believed in himself.

I am not sharing the fact that Caleb won his first match

to prove the man wrong.

Or even to brag.

I share it because I want to illustrate how easily and quickly

stray and unfiltered words can penetrate my mind.

Has this ever happened to you?

I want to have a broader shield over my thoughts and heart.

In fact, I want to be more like Caleb.

As we were driving home from the tournament, I  reluctantly told him

the story of the man and his off-handed remark.

Caleb asked me if I went up to the coach later and told him

he had won.

I said no.

I wanted to tell him off but I didn’t.

He said,

“Mom, you should have told him who I was and

that I am a good chess player.”

He’s right.

Sometimes I forget.

I forget why we named him Caleb.

Caleb means faithful.

We named him Caleb because of  the Caleb in the Bible.

Caleb was one of a group of spies tasked to survey the land promised to

Israel.

The majority of the spies returned with reports of being terrified

because ‘there were giants in the land.”

But Caleb and Joshua believed God was giving them the land

no matter the obstacles placed before their eyes.

We wanted our Caleb to believe His God could

accomplish big things.

I shouldn’t be surprised that he believes big.

He has been faithful to work hard in chess and has

set goals for himself each year.

His faithfulness (and the faithfulness of his coach Richard) are

the reason he was able to stare down an opponent without fear.

Words matter.

The words we say.

The words we hear.

Let’s make it our aim to say words which bring

courage and don’t discourage.

Let’s determine today when we hear a word designed

to defeat, instead we will remember who we are and not

how someone desires to define us.

Otherwise we will always find ourselves in checkmate.

Remember who you are.