battleship

battleship

When my family reached the last weekend in August, I could feel their weariness. This wasn’t the usual fatigue from trying to lasso every bit of sunshine and recreation. It was a lethargy from repeatedly navigating and bracing for changing conditions and parameters during a typically care-free season.  

We had loosely planned a family outing but as the day drew closer, a quick family pulse revealed the previous intentions were neutral. If one person had been enthusiastic, the others would have rallied. This signaled a need to pivot because embracing time together was our priority. I suggested a board game tournament followed by a nacho bar, enthusiasm was instantly restored.

The weather was a sweet spot, not too hot or chilly. Caleb and I arranged our patio table with games ranging from age-old favorites like Trouble, Rack-O, Battleship, and Connect-Four. We played in pairs, set a ten-minute timer, rotated opponents, and added other games as necessary. Each round was scored according to which player won the most games or was in the lead if the game was not completed. Once tabulated,  the top winners had a Jenga showdown. Everyone was able to pick a movie sized candy in order of their finish. Then it was time for each of us to create nacho masterpieces.

When Carl and played Battleship, the only words spoken were a location, hit, miss, or the dreaded,  you sunk my battleship.

As the buzzer sounded, I was declared the winner by achieving the most hits and sunken ships. By positioning my ships alongside the corners of the board, my strategy to keep out of sight and danger proved successful.

I have employed this same strategy in life as well. I’ve lived trying to either remain hidden or outrun the potential assaults of life.  But I never could ignore the whisper reminding me to brace for being caught. This mindset does nothing to perpetuate the gentle, slow, and peaceful life I crave. 

It’s demanding, exhausting, and chaotic. 

I have been reflecting on the hits and misses of my life, and especially over the last six months. When considering the list of misses, I am flooded with gratitude. However, the hits require effort to exhale from the remembrance of what was given permission to invade my life.

The hits and misses are two-sided markers, etched upon my life history, one part relief and the other a wound at varying stages of healing.  But whether the hits landed or missed the target of my life, these events don’t define me nor are my identity. 

They don’t get to decide if I continue to carry joy or love or hope in my heart. 

They can hurt me but they don’t get to destroy me.

They don’t get to wave a banner over my life proclaiming defeat.

I am determined to pursue peace, not surrender, despite the pieces of shrapnel that remain lodged close to my heart and mind.

I  will live in the reality that it is possible and necessary to hold the bitter with the sweet. 

It’s commonplace to laugh and cry nearly simultaneously.

Our circumstances no matter how difficult cannot strip away our true identities. 

+++++

How is the condition of your vessel today?

Has your life felt like a target practice?

Has the constant barrage of hits robbed your joy and peace?

+++++

Remember your identity.

You are strong.

You are courageous.

You are someone who perseveres.

You possess everything needed to traverse the waters of trials.

Sometimes you write a list to remind yourself.

Sometimes you share your life hits with another person allowing them to bear witness that your battleship has not sunk.

*****

May our identity not be founded in the hits and misses of this life.

May we reaffirm our belief in our ability to hold harshness and sweetness in unison.

May we recognize the battle is not ours alone.

May we always remember we don’t fight as those without hope.

*****

 “And this is why I am suffering as I do. Still, I am not ashamed, for I know (perceive,  have knowledge of, and am acquainted with) Him Whom I have believed (adhered to and trusted in and relied on), and I am [positively] persuaded that He is able to guard and keep that which has been entrusted to me and which I have committed [to Him] until that day.”

II Timothy 1: 12 (Amplified)

heavy

heavy

It’s Saturday and on this hazy smoke-filled morning, I spy a sparrow pecking at what appears to be part of a leaf from our fallen sunflowers, casualties of the wind storms of the past week. As my bleary eyes adjusted, the bird’s beak reveals the remains of a grasshopper. My husband saunters into the kitchen and stands behind me to determine my view. I explain my gaze and he questions, 

“Does that mean the locusts have arrived?”

We faintly chuckle, not whole-heartedly because it is too soon, too fresh for a belly laugh. There has been a heaviness hovering over our days and now is not the time for jokes. 

It does feel like locusts have begun to inhabit our land. Along the west coast, the days have contained windstorms, power outages, and the incessant spread of wildfires. Our family has not experienced the ravages of fires as countless have been devastated by, only the byproduct of smoke, lots and lots of smoke. It’s a constant reminder of being on the periphery of suffering. It’s a call to pray for those who won’t soon forget the smell of smoke even once the skies return to blue.  

I snapped the above photo on a morning when I should have stayed indoors. I attempted to water our plants after the previous days’ wind storms had stripped every bit of moisture from the earth. Debris needed to be removed before accessing the ground. A vivid green grasshopper seemed unbothered by the destruction or the shower of my hose as it surveyed its landing place. Okay, maybe this metaphor rings hollow when recalling the bird’s activity from the first sentences. Perhaps it only emphasizes the cycle of life. We are living in a time where the contrast between death and life are ever before our eyes. This reality is monstrous to our souls.

What can we hold onto when in an instant there can be elements designed to take us out?

Many people choose a word for the year and my new tradition is to choose one on my birthday. However, determining a word as a path for the next 365 days can be as daunting as trying to contain a fire.

I propose choosing a word for a season, month, week, day, or even moment. 

Selecting a word isn’t reaching into your pocket to grasp a rabbit’s foot or shaking a magic eight ball. It is driving a stake into the ground or burying an anchor into the depths. It’s admitting our suffering is not shallow and requires an equally weighty resolve. It reminds us that suffering is collective and not comparative. Last week, I found myself in the midst of a text thread comparing air quality levels when hazardous is hazardous no matter the number. We don’t need to quantify or compare our discomfort. It’s shared suffering but what brings me strength may be different than another’s person’s needs.  

What word would help guide each day with its unique amount of challenges?

What word could be whispered when life feels overwhelmingly difficult?

Carl has been using the word resilient a lot lately. Soon I will write about my birthday word, but lately I have been tightly grasping the word “fixed”.

I want to keep my mind fixed when the whole world seems to be coming unglued.

Here is a list of possibilities:

  • trust
  • resolve
  • courage
  • hope
  • peace
  • joy
  • remain
  • faith
  • breathe
  • love
  • steadfast
  • strong
  • soft
  • abide
  • rest
  • exhale
  • safe
  • brave

If this exercise feels too difficult, simply copy these words or others onto small slips of paper and fold. Empty all these folded words into a jar or bowl and draw one out whenever you feel in need of an anchor or stake.

I keep going back to one of my favorite psalms which gave me hope during the first tender days of the pandemic. Psalm 46 continues to have the staying power I need to navigate these days. It’s a fitting benediction for this Monday in September.

God is our refuge and strength,

    an ever-present help in trouble.

Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way

    and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,

though its waters roar and foam

    and the mountains quake with their surging.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,

    the holy place where the Most High dwells.

God is within her, she will not fall;

    God will help her at break of day.

Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;

    he lifts his voice, the earth melts.

The Lord Almighty is with us;

    the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Come and see what the Lord has done,

    the desolations he has brought on the earth.

He makes wars cease

    to the ends of the earth.

He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;

    he burns the shields with fire.

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;

    I will be exalted among the nations,

    I will be exalted in the earth.”

The Lord Almighty is with us;

    the God of Jacob is our fortress.

keep walking

keep walking

resistance
an act or instance of resisting
a means of resisting
the power or capacity to resist an opposing force

+++++

A sprinkler stopped me in my tracks a few weeks ago.

I decided to change my morning routine and walk as soon after waking as possible. My favorite walk is circling the park a half block from our home.  I know the path in my sleep which is very close to accurate. But on this given morning there was one sprinkler creating lakes over a good portion of my route. The arc stopped my tennis shoes from moving and as if playing jump rope, I needed to wait until it seemed safe to cross without being hit. 

The second time I reached this point, a man pushing a stroller came alongside me on the opposite edge of the path. We were both mesmerized by the stream of water, he looked over to me and asked,

“What do we do? Will it come back around?”

Remembering this was not my first loop, I responded by saying,

“No, this is when we go!”

We quickened our pace and continued our walk.

The following morning, I began my loop and saw the sprinkler of the day before, went through the motion of waiting my turn, and continued to walk. But in the distance, there were three intersecting sprinklers, watering the grass, paths, sidewalk, and extending to reach sections of the rose garden. With one sprinkler behind me, the new and numerous obstacles seemed to be a deal-breaker. I stood for several moments deciding what to do. There was no way I could continue my path without a serious drenching, I was the intersecting point of this Venn diagram. My non-morning person’s inner voice said to go home, this was too much.  But after a bit of self-talk, I took my feet to the street avoiding a downpour and thankfully, oncoming traffic. It seemed silly to feel thwarted by a line-up of sprinklers, however I wasn’t alone in this predicament. Other runners and walkers shook their heads in unison, continuing onward after assessing the situation. 

I did several more laps that morning for my own good but also to observe how other people navigated the sprinklers. The unofficial results of my sprinkler resistance study are below.

Some people:

  • saw the obstacle, turned around and took another route
  • waited until the obstacle cleared their way
  • adjusted their pace to walk/run behind the path of the water
  • attempted to outrun the sprinklers
  • ran directly into the spray not allowing it to deter their path

How do you handle resistance?

Prior to this global pandemic, I might have declared one strategy as better than another. Each day is filled with a multitude of changing scenarios, decisions, and new information that can feel akin to being sprayed in the face by an incoming sprinkler. Every type of resistance we encounter may require a different response.

It’s vital to remember we are encountering resistance nearly every moment. It could involve being surrounded by competing viewpoints or juggling work and schooling children. It might be patchy Wifi or grappling with the loss of what once was and now is. It is no wonder we feel so very tired. 

I can’t spare anyone from resistance but I can share that you are not alone. Whichever strategy feels best for you in any situation is valid. If you feel lost, imitate the stroller-pushing father who asked what to do and whether to expect the path of resistance to return. Let’s help one another deal with daily obstacles. Find the person who will help you know when it is time to go as well as to pause. The best reminder might be to look in the mirror and calendar. We have crossed springtime and summer and are about to enter a new season. Resistance has been encountered and traversed more times than imagined. Well done, friends.

On a recent morning, I took my normal walk. I expected all the usual landmines to mark my path. Yet there wasn’t a sprinkler in sight, only puddles providing evidence that resistance is never imagined. I felt myself grin because I had laced my shoes in spite of the hindrances I anticipated awaiting me. I pushed past the morning achiness and stiffness which favors lingering under my bed sheets. I took my place on the given path.

On my final lap, as the sun began to escape from behind the clouds, the sparkle of a familiar arc of water came into view. Resistance is often merely hidden from view. After repeated introductions it still feels like an intruder, but no longer a stranger, but an acquaintance. I’m not trapped on a one-way street, as now resistance is acquainted with me. 

I have resisted. 

My steps didn’t cease. 

My breath didn’t quicken or falter.

I simply kept walking.

*****

May we recognize the resistance crossing our paths.

May we have confidence to choose how to handle the obstacles in our days.

May we know when to walk, run, pause, or turn around.

May we know we are not alone when we face resistance or get a little wet.

present days

present days

personal organizer and pink flowers on desk
Photo by Kaboompics .com on Pexels.com

For the last five years, I’ve been on a seemingly elusive search for the ideal planner, until this year. I found one that possessed my desired wants and needs, all in a streamlined, classic design.  This planner was a blend of productivity and positive thinking. In fact, the project pages of the planner helped me to sketch out my blog posts in January.

Here’s a peek into my process:

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If you look at the bottom right-hand corner, the word “planner” is written. A casual glance at the project pages over the next four months repeatedly showed this word. I had every intention of writing about my newfound planner until 2020 made planning a distant memory. This page reveals ideas not mined yet, changes in directions, questions, rearranging dates, and process progression, kinda like 2020. January’s project page looks different than each month after. Running my eyes along the postings of June allows me to understand why I took a break in July. 

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Each day, week, and month, a mystery. 

I tried to use this planner until the first part of May when it felt like the planner had morphed into a place holder for crossed-out plans. I no longer needed a planner to keep my schedule organized but wanted a place to organize my days, to feel some direction.

I decided to use an un-dated 90-day planner and it has been one of the best decisions for helping me stay present. Keeping a planner of this nature allows me to look only at a small window into the future. This has been so helpful in the midst of so many unknowns. I look at the current week and when it draws to a close, I consider next week. I don’t feel my heart racing with wondering about December because it doesn’t land within my allotment of 90 days. Another bonus of an undated planner is the ability to begin on any date without being required to adhere to the traditional division of four quarters of the year. I started towards the beginning of May and completed my planner last week. Onto the next 90 days!

I can’t tell you how much this has changed my mindset and mood. This has been an unexpected gift of the pause button pushed on our lives, focusing on one day at a time and not a full year. 

I haven’t completely abandoned my yearly planner. I continue to use the monthly project pages to structure posts for the blog. Sometimes I write across the pages of specific weeks with random or concrete thoughts I want to document. It feels hard to let this planner languish unused.  At the end of the month, I complete the reflection section containing the following prompts:  last month’s wins, still in progress, let go of,  think on,  work on, and complete. 

What tools are you using to stay present during these uncertain days?

Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.

Matthew 6: 34 (The Message)

*****

May our minds and eyes roam within the confines of each given day.

May we rejoice in the goodness of each day given.

May we hold our plans loosely without abandoning our dreams.

May we receive the gift of presence.

The links for both planners mentioned are found below. In reality, there isn’t an ideal or perfect planner. Many experts believe the best planner is the one that will be used. There are oodles of 90-day planners on the market, I didn’t do my normal exhaustive research, it was simply the first one I came across, and currently, it is working for me. Sometimes it’s best not to overthink. 

Get To Work Book  (there are many other wonderful products too.)

My Next 90 Days

essentials

essentials

img_0714

Yellow is not my color. I don’t naturally gravitate to the sun. I am vertically challenged. You could say sunflowers are the opposite of me but yet, I can’t imagine a summer without being able to behold them.

This year I was later than normal planting sunflowers, having misplaced my harvested seeds and purchased seed packets only to lament whether to enter a store for replacements during those early days of COVID-19. It didn’t seem a necessary risk for something which felt non-essential.  Thankfully, a friend saved summer by dropping off a Ziploc bag of her own harvested seeds. 

Then there was a land disagreement.  One party wanted sunflowers to line the fence as usual and other parties disliked the disruption it created while shooting baskets. Truth be told, it was the gasps heard when a stray ball headed in the direction of the growing stalks that weren’t appreciated. 

 Finally, on May 12th, a compromise was reached and seeds were buried along a quarter of the fence.

The first flowers began to open last week. This year’s smaller patch of unknown seed varieties has proven to be a bit of a mystery.  It has been an unexpected gift mimicking this current time of so many unknowable answers and outcomes. 

I wanted to plant pre-determined sunflowers in a certain place at a specific time.
The seeds were lost or hidden, out of reach and conflicts arose creating delays.

When I walk outside, I could grumble that there are not more sunflowers. 

Or I can remember, there are sunflowers. 

I could look at the buttery yellow goodness of petals and murmur about missing Mexican sunflowers or Italian Whites, last year’s favorite.

Or I can remember, there are sunflowers. 

I could sigh about the flowers taking too long because I wanted to see blooms in July.

Maybe God knew I would need sunflowers more in August and September. 

Life has been increasingly pared-down to the bare minimums. It has made me appreciate simple pleasures rather than only finding satisfaction in an abundance of fluff. This row of beauty has made me think about what is essential for summer. If you have read this blog for any length of time, my must-haves won’t be surprising.

My summer essentials:

  • Sunflowers
  • Nasturtiums
  • Blueberries
  • Sun tea
  • Books
  • The ocean

With the exception of one, these are fairly simple needs to accomplish. I have jotted this list down in my somewhat abandoned planner (more on this reality, next week). I want to remember during an uncertain summer,
a season was bolstered by simple things.

Now it’s your turn, what would be on your summer essential list?
If you don’t know, there is nearly a month to explore and decide what are the make or break parts of summer for you. It’s not too late.

By determining the essentials, when unexpected fun arrives, it’s simply a wondrous overflow worthy of celebrating even more. 

*****

May we be grateful for simple pleasures.

May we number our essentials and view each one as a blessing.

In the places we see only lack or loss, help us to see a different perspective. 

May the remaining days of summer bring every essential thing.

trumpet

trumpet

 

20140614_152226

In the college/farming community where I grew up, my father was the hospital pharmacist. He had also been quite an athlete in his day (understatement) and as a hobby, he officiated football. He began refereeing high school football games in pint-sized towns and worked his way up to the college ranks and even became the president of the national association of sports officials. He aimed to encourage more women and people of color to pursue officiating in all sports and levels. My brother and I were raised by parents who exhibited excellence no matter where they put their minds and hands. 

When I was ten, my father and another referee were assigned to a game in a nearby town. He invited my friend, Marilyn, and me to tagalong for a Friday night outing. We were girls who played kick the can with our neighbors or hide and seek in wheatfields. Even going to a town a fraction of the size of our own was an adventure to us. 

We giggled in the back seat with anticipation of going to a football game under the lights. When we arrived, Marilyn asked me if the Greyhounds (our town’s high school mascot) or the Cougars (the college’s mascot) were playing. I mumbled that I wasn’t sure. The answer was none of the above.  We were young, innocent, and a bit clueless. My dad gave me money to buy concessions at half-time and told us to have fun, and he would see us after the game. Please note this was during the ’70s, in small-town America, a distant land where I grew up never considering locking a door, so this wasn’t an unusual scenario. 

As we had arrived much earlier than the game’s start time, Marilyn and I ran around until we heard cheers erupt as football teams took the field. We discovered there were not any bleachers, and fans were standing along the sidelines to spectate, which we were unaccustomed, but took in stride and entertained ourselves. 

At half-time, we were ready to spend our money and ran up a hill to enter the promised land of candy. We reached the top of the ascent and nearly crashed into a group of high school girls. In unison, we raised our chins to lay eyes on those we believed to be mythical creatures, the ones who could drive, wear make-up, and go on dates. As stars shone in our eyes, the closest girl looked from my blonde-haired friend then in my direction, uttered an expletive followed by a slur. Her words were few but the volume beckoned more eyes to land on me.

I won’t type the expletive nor the slur. This type of language is not worthy of repeating or space on my blog. All slurs are wrong however, in this particular case, the one lobbed at me did not “belong” to my ethnic group. 

We stood motionless, stunned for a moment, and as perhaps only grade school kids can pull off, looked at each other and roared with laughter then turned to run back down the hill.  

Despite the super-charged moment, we didn’t talk about it then, although we have as adults. We can only surmise that we knew what had occurred was hurtful and didn’t make sense but equally ridiculous for someone to hurl a doubly wrong insult. Racism is rooted in faulty, hasty assessments and misplaced fear. It can be obvious or subtle. 

It’s unwise to speak in absolutes. Although, I suspect few people of color haven’t experienced some form of racism. Most of my experiences would be characterized as benign compared to others and those missing from history books or acts of violence viewed on witnesses’ cell phones. Yet this story is over 45 years and despite not recalling every detail, two friends remember, it’s stitched into our histories.

If you were to enter this story, what part would you play?

Are you surrounded by those whose skin tone rarely resembles your own, hoping to be seen as equal and valued? Do you possess a hushed fear that ordinary activities could in an instant turn ugly?

Are you a leader with words laced with stereotypes designed to perpetuate negative perceptions and division? Do you bring up ethnicity when it isn’t necessary to mention?

Are you flanking the leader vacillating between awkwardness and agreement, but by remaining on the same ground, the choice is made? 

Do you identify with the crowd, minding your own business, believing the unfolding scenario doesn’t involve you and therefore, not your concern?

Are you now or have always been, the friend standing shoulder to shoulder, turning away from racism as an act of defiance and solidarity? Are you the one who walks beside friends as allies, helping to deflate the power of the maddening crowd?

Who are you? 

Who do you long to be? 

Guess what? It’s possible to have inhabited many of these characters. Have you ever uttered a word used routinely by others only to discover it was not appropriate or kind?

Allow me to raise my hand.

Several years ago, my husband and I were watching a television program. A woman spoke about her background and expressed how a certain word made her feel. Carl and I gasped with disbelief. This was a word, often used as a verb, we particularly remember hearing during our childhoods. If we had known its spelling, we might have questioned its origins, we hope. We realized how easily our language can be infiltrated with harm when we adopt words without thought. Now if we hear this word we will have the opportunity to gently educate from a place of our own learning.

No matter where you stand today, there is an opportunity to turn around and lock arms with others as allies.

*****

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight, LORD, my Rock, and my Redeemer.

Psalm 19:14 


*While writing drafts of this post, I titled it after the name of the town where my story took place. I had no intention of using the name when posted.  It was incredibly interesting to learn the meaning of this word is trumpet, to produce a sudden and brief burst of force. The words we speak may be momentary but carry a tremendous amount of force and the effects may remain longer than when first reached the air and ears.

May our words bless and not curse.

 

signposts

signposts

img_0513-1When I turned 55 last August and chose the word slow to anchor my year, I also christened the milestone with two others. 

I declared this season as midlife crafting to propel myself away from a supposed crisis. Whether I was intentional or not, this past year has circled around my identity.
Crafting involves taking a little bit of this and that. If done properly,  I hope my life in progress will definitely look homemade and not mass-produced. Identities are meant to be unique. 

Pinning down an identity can resemble a magician’s sleight of the hand, complete with smoke and mirrors. We are meant to grow and change, not possessing the same identity at twelve as forty. And yet, there are some defining parts of our identity that will always remain, our core.

I have been looking backward to who I inhabited in the past, making a truce with the less desirable bits and honoring pieces overlooked which make me who I am today. 

If I hadn’t slowed down this past year, I may have missed two signposts leading me to recover a piece of my identity.

*****

My mother discovered an envelope of my Girl Scout badges which she arranged in a shadow box along with my scout pin and sent as a gift. I love this square box, placed it to see most days but the even more precious part of this gift is the envelope affixed to the back. Inside is a short note from my troop leader. One sentence stands out,

“Helen, you have been a good scribe this year.” 

Evidently, I had been my troop’s secretary. As I thought about this role, I recalled several other times I had assumed the position of secretary or recorder. It seemed my place in the world was often to write down the contents of meetings.

I was a scribe. 

Perhaps I wrote down the words of others until I was ready to write my own. 

Perhaps I was content to listen to the words of others instead of speaking my own. 

Now I am a  writer. 

Now I have a voice.

A few months later, Carl was clearing away clutter and came across a program from my physical therapy school graduation. I glanced at the folded paper and without thought, scanned the list of names, reminding myself of each classmate.  I also looked at who our class speakers were and nodded thinking, “Yes, of course.” I set the program aside but not out of reach. 

In March, when the world began to close its doors and I attempted to write words of hope and encouragement along an unknown path, I began to close each post with a benediction, it seemed right. 

Allow me to return to my  32-year-old parchment paper program. It laid cast aside for several weeks without regard, until one day, the synapses in my brain fired and connected at the right moment and inside me was a gentle, pleading voice saying, 

“Wait a minute.” 

I picked up the program, scanned to the bottom of the page, and saw my name on one side of the paper, directly across from the word, benediction.

Picking up the program from all those years ago, my first inclination was centered on the class as a whole and a couple of names that seemed to bear more weight than my own. 

How had I forgotten this fact, this honor?

I was chosen to speak words ending a ceremony and our time as students. I wrote a prayer ushering in a new identity to 32 other people before we filed out toward the embraces of our loved ones, ready to forge our paths in the world.

For decades, I had forgotten. 

One day by looking behind,  I was reminded.

I remembered.  

I recovered a piece of my identity.

My eyes frequently look to the crowd or someone else, missing the space designed for me. I fell asleep to myself and missed my own name. 

I write benedictions.

*****

What if you haven’t forgotten?

What if the names you rehearse are those you no longer desire?

Sometimes names are repeatedly spoken over us by ourselves or others.  It could be time to release the names we no longer wish to wear or trap us by familiarity. Start reaching for life-giving words. 

Several years ago, my son asked me to stop calling him by a nickname created by our family. My children have handfuls of nicknames but he was the first to ask for one to cease usage, if not entirely, at least in front of his friends. We hadn’t intended to use it outside of our family but sometimes a  name becomes reflexive. I liked the nickname and a part of me wanted to hold on.  But my thoughts and affection for this term of endearment weren’t important, for my son, this name didn’t measure up to the identity he was building. I stopped using it. 

If a name you are called evokes a visceral response, this is a signpost revealing a desire to no longer answer to this name.  

What name no longer fits? 

May we use this time to reflect on what names we want to honor and cherish and the ones which need to fall to the ground rendering them powerless.

What would it be like if we all emerged from this time of crisis and stepped outside our doors fully as the people were always designed to be?

What a wonderful world to behold!

Have you forgotten who you are?

Are you only remembering names that are untrue?

What signposts have you ignored?

*****

May we regain our sight to rediscover who we truly are.

May we uncover signposts everywhere.

May we take our eyes off the crowded path and not miss the one bearing our name.

May we have the confidence to express the need for certain names to be extinguished.


Benediction:

  • the invocation of a blessing 
  • the short blessing with which public worship is concluded 
  • something that promotes goodness or well-being and,
    an expression of good wishes
resting and returning

resting and returning

Hello friends.

I am full of joy and expectation to be writing again in this space.

I was unsure about returning this summer. As I began my break, it was apparent, I was more exhausted than envisioned. I felt empty of words and couldn’t see a clear path or direction before me. It is a huge disservice to attempt to manufacture content, a pause was wise and beneficial. 

Resting is vitally essential for all of us.  Somehow I had succumbed to a belief that the collective shut down of life was restful. I had slowed down but the constant changing tides of any given day took a toll.  I pushed back many of my emotions related to the pandemic and racial tensions to the background and kept going. 

I say to you today, don’t mistake this time of being less busy with outside of the home pursuits as any less taxing. We all need time to reflect, grieve, process, and reassess. Even usual summertime activities are different than in the past. We have lost our care-free existence and spontaneity and I am guessing even if this wasn’t a normal bent, it would be welcomed right now. 

My time away from this blog didn’t feel different during the first two weeks. Life continued with more in-person gatherings with my children but even being in the company of my nearest and dearest still brings an element of feeling risky and foreign. We spent a few days in two cabins along the Columbia Gorge, a precious family memory. We felt safe and secluded and did not take for granted the blessing of those days. We had our masks when we did venture into any area with people which was twice on a waterfall hike and to pick up take-out one evening.

I woke up early each morning to spend time with God and to simply watch the water from the deck. It wasn’t easy to rouse my sleepy self but the steadiness of keeping rhythms, no matter what, has deepened in me. It was a gift to be away from home and endeavoring to not squander a moment. However, not a lot of words were written except for some scribbles in my journal.

Then my guys went camping and this was the first time I had more than an hour in our home alone since March. I adore my people but I crave silence and solitude and they know it. The anticipation of words and fear of none appearing were my companions. I have learned and this time was no exception, the words come but not on command. It takes time to surrender to silence and slow the pleading pulse of anticipation. 

Ever land on the most brilliant idea when soaped up in the shower without a pen at hand? Being silent allowed me to hear again and mostly when I wasn’t thinking about writing. 

Since March, I have asked God to entrust me with words like He gave manna to the Israelites in the wilderness. I am learning to trust He will give me just enough words for each week. Although I now have a page full of bullet points, I know all the thoughts could turn into a solitary post. It’s disappointing as I long to be “ahead” but it’s truly the way of the Master to dispense what I need. I can view this as crumbs when in reality it is a basketful of bread, broken with plenty to share.

We live in an upside-down world.  It’s difficult to behold beauty but also stare straight into the realities of despair and heartbreak. My nasturtiums have been growing along our fence with gusto with flowers erupting in colors beyond the typical yellows and oranges. But this week, I turned over a few leaves, only to find tightly affixed black dotted clusters of bugs. I know these pesky bugs from past seasons and can never rid my plants of them before they choke out life. I have two options. I can ignore the bugs pretending they don’t exist until they spread to every plant, creating mass casualties. Or I can gently remove the infected leaves and in some cases plants, protecting the healthy ones.

I am fighting for joy in the midst of despair and wading through misinformation. I am choosing to not ignore the brutal parts of life and doing what I can do when life feels out of control. Sometimes it is simply to take a deep breath, whisper a prayer, and unclench my jaw and hands. I look to the shades of my flowers knowing there are forces that can and at times want to assault my joy and stability. I will enjoy them at the moment without fear and obsessing about what might be on the underside.

I am back to living with my people again and as Oregon has declared, this will be the way for quite a while. This wasn’t a surprise but being refreshed helped me to surrender to this sustained reality.  I needed time alone however it is a mistake to believe I can’t find solitude when my home is inhabited by others. I just need to be a bit more creative.

My challenge to you is to look for patches of solitude this week. Here are some ideas to help fuel your creativity.

  • Get up early and watch the sunrise.
  • Stay up late and stargaze.
  • Watch less news.
  • Hold your phone less.
  • Watch a butterfly or a bee. 
  • Close your eyes. If you fall asleep, you needed a deeper rest.
  • It bears repeating, take a nap.
  • Pick one hour each day or even 15 minutes to simply do nothing. Let your mind wander. Allow the silence to offer a surprise landing of thoughts or ideas revealed.
  • Walk around your yard or garden. Don’t water, prune, pull a weed, or even harvest. Simply marvel at creation and hear the sound of your footsteps, the birds of the air, and the sound of your breath enlarging and also softening.
  • Seek ladybugs. Number the dragonflies.
  • Sit and watch the moon rise. In fact, make it a point to see every phase of the moon this month.
  • Blow bubbles and watch each one pop. Muse about how our days are like bubbles, fleeting, yet beautiful and full of wonder. Marvel how at any age, bubbles never cease to bring a smile and cause us to look up.
  • Sit in your favorite chair inside or outside with a frosty beverage and just be wonderful you.

Fill each day with the essentials and plenty of margins to be still and quiet. 

*****

May each day provide moments of quiet.

May we access our need for silence and solitude.

May we release the uncontrollable and embrace wonder.

May we fight for joy especially on days where it feels like we are in a dry and weary land where there is no water. 

May we know and believe, whatever the cluster of pesky bugs in our lives, it will not dismantle or steal our joy.

May we be like bubbles to one another.

 

slowing down

slowing down

Several years ago, when Caleb was in seventh grade, I had carpool duty two afternoons each week. I usually arrived early enough to relax post-work by reading, listening to music, or a podcast. One afternoon, as the group loaded their belongings into the cargo part of the car, I hadn’t turned off my music selection which was my habit. 

I started to switch the music off when in unison, everyone except Caleb(who is his mother’s frequent passenger), yelled “Hamilton! Turn it up!” I obliged and drove the next 30 minutes to a unique rendition of the musical Hamilton which repeated for several weeks until one carpool member urged for a new music selection. 

This will always be an indelible memory of how art can bridge the seemingly wide chasm between people. 

My original five watched the movie version of Hamilton at exactly midnight the moment it premiered. This might seem like overkill but we are trying to make a celebration out of anything these days, especially when we can do it in our own home.   What a treat to see the music we have loved and couldn’t get out of our heads jump to life before our eyes. 

Even my next sentence echoes Eliza’s words to Alexander (“Take a break.”) but I am going to heed them better than he did.

I am taking a break from writing on the blog for at least the rest of July. Normally, I wouldn’t make any fuss about it but so many of you dear friends wondered where Monday’s post was last week. Thanks for missing the post. 

I’ve written a lot of words since the first Monday in January. I love a good streak and I have only missed two Mondays in the past seven months. But alas, I am not meant to be a machine. We all need to remember this for ourselves and sanity.

January was the month I decided to return to writing regularly on this blog and gather words about what I was learning about slow living. “Slow” was the word I picked at the end of August as my word for my birthday year. 

I realized last Monday, my birthday was only 50 days away. What a lot of living over the course of this year and what a lot of slowing down in the second quarter of 2020.  It’s time for me to consider a new word for my upcoming birthday and continue to hold tightly to the goodness of the word “slow”. I hope to spend time journaling and fleshing out new thoughts. There is an avalanche of words out in the world right this moment, I want my words to be ones of hope, encouragement, and life-giving. 

It’s summertime. Time for a rest, lots of iced tea, and books.

The best way to know when I have returned to posting is to be subscribed to my blog. Sign-up information is found on the sidebar, thanks for your readership.

So Jesus said to his disciples, “Come, let’s take a break and find a secluded place where you can rest awhile.” 

Mark 6: 31 (TPT)

That sounds mighty nice.

 

*****

 

May this summer bring gifts beyond measure.

May you find joy in the midst of disappointment from abandoned plans.

May you revel in offering the gift of safety to others by wearing a mask.

May God grant you health and wellness during this time of mounting statistics.

May rest and recreation hold hands with one another during this season of sunshine.

May you allow yourself to take a break.

 

beauty for ashes

beauty for ashes

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On the occasion of my birthday in August, I chose the word “slow” to guide my 55th year.

Even for all the reasons I needed to choose the word, I hadn’t anticipated how much it would prove valuable in 2020. As I endeavored to live a slowed down life, previously filled space emerged to allow me to write weekly many months before the pandemic settled into our lives, a gift nestled in ashes. But perhaps one of the most difficult lessons of this time has been that even when life comes to an abrupt halt, it doesn’t build a wall against heartache or pain. However it can’t diminish our ability to celebrate or find joy, if we seek to unbury it like a treasure. This has been a bittersweet season for so many. I am not sure anyone has been immune to its effects.

The county where I live seemed to be the last in the country to move into Phase One. Last week, I had my first appointment and a couple of small in-person hang-outs. Carl mused how quickly we had gotten out of shape at gathering. Our pace has slowed and is quickly exhausted by an out of the house schedule. There is an extra emotional component related to continuing to strive to keep ourselves and others safe.

As we begin to walk towards the return of daily activities try to remember to:

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Go slowly.

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Breathe deeply.

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Pick the pace that is best for you.

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Yes and no can be the right answer for different people.

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Remember the lessons learned during sheltering.
List them to anchor each day.

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Extend grace to yourself.

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Extend grace to others.