the upside of anger

 

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I am slowly learning to make peace with posting my thoughts infrequently. Perhaps this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. When the beginning of posts remain hidden in the draft pile, it’s easy to consider them as discarded thoughts. Now I see them staying unearthed because they haven’t finished percolating. Often the person I am at the time of pressing publish is not residing in the same place as when I first tapped along the keyboard. The words remain true and I don’t want to bury them because although I have taken a few steps further on the path, it is only a few feet.

*****

Early in April, I hired Caleb to help me deal with the weed issue in our yard. Carl was committed elsewhere and I needed some built-in accountability and company.

I suppose most people don’t enjoy weeding, it’s the after results which beckons even sore muscles to dance.

Caleb and I assumed our positions along the fence line of our driveway to deal with the tangled assortment of foliage. My hope was to clear the weeds, spiff up the soil and plant sunflower seeds to whisper the promise of a summer full of glory.

At first glance, the dirt appeared possessed with an assortment of stray grass, clover and bluebells. But once we moved farther down the fence, there was evidence of the ground cover our neighbor had planted along his side of the fence. The longer I pulled, the more problems ensued. Not only had the ground cover found its way under and through the fence but plunged its roots system deep throughout my plot of earth.

As I progressed, I yanked out tendrils of green with gusto. I might even say with some fury. I was locked in a game of tug-of-war and mostly unintentionally disrupted the plants on the other side. What was most unsettling was the amount of muttering taking flight and rage churning within me.

I stood up to stretch and surveyed the backyard. Every season seems to bring gifts from our neighbors’ yard. Fir needles and pine cones, stray branches and fallen leaves endlessly seem to be strewn across our patchy lawn and neglected flowerbeds.

I simply wanna pull my own weeds!

I only wanna deal with MY stuff!

How foolish to experience the makings of a tantrum over inanimate objects.

Yet how illuminating.

It has taken piles of yard debris shoved into cans to reveal the anger in my life, not basic anger but unproductive and unresolved anger. Anger from someone else’s weeds growing outside their confines. Anger which has risen from all the many unwanted intruders which cross into my self-imposed life boundaries.

I don’t consider myself an angry person. Aren’t angry people those who keep their faces tightly pinched into a frown? Surely that isn’t what my public face reveals.

Anger has become an easily accessed emotion. It has slowly and stealthily become my go-to response. It’s not tears or even pouting. It’s not bouts of depression although it is sometimes involves eating whatever emotion I am trying not to explore.

Anger is like a place card set on a table for a guest yet to be invited. Anger takes the place of what you have not allowed a seat at your table. It could be fear, lack of control, sadness, depression, discouragement or any other emotion that is eclipsed by anger and rage. Anger settles right below our subconscious, waits until its ready to make an ungraceful entrance. Anger leans on the horn and abandons once you remember there are no tinted windows. It is consistent in humbly making us regret our responses. We understandable  avoid examining anger as it makes us feel ashamed.
Nothing gets everyone’s attention like anger.

I am trying to not panic when anger arrives. I am looking at the upside of anger and seeing it as a teacher and not my undoing. I have viewed each day as a sprint from beginning to end and haven’t allowed myself precious time to break down each heartache, struggle, disappointment, dream deferred or ended. I forced a steady supply of weeds farther and farther into the depths of its receptacle. I hoped like my actual weeds that by setting them at the curb to be carried away every week, they would cease to exist when in reality they re-seeded and multiplied.

It’s the reason my journals are barren. Blogging has fulfilled part of my need for expression but the majority of my thoughts needs to be worked out with ink between hardbound covers and not on a screen.

My responses to loved ones have contained heavy usage of the word “fine”. I need to give better answers and my people deserve to hear them.

I have chosen the conversations I have wanted to have with God. I have kept my words tightly reined instead of loosening my tongue with abandon.

I am not a tether ball on a string being whipped back and forth by every outside force seeking to keep me from the center pole.

I am the pole and God is wrapping His presence around me no matter which direction the prevailing winds blows. God’s string of protection and love is tightly coiled around me when I need it most and loosens so I can avail myself to others.

My friends, are you erupting over the most basic annoyances of life?

Pay attention to your anger.

Take an inventory of what might be the root of your rage and what it is
attempting to bury.

You might discover more weeds than you envisioned. Examine one at a time
and carefully allow your mind to attach the proper emotion with each memory.

Weeding is hard, back-breaking and knee-aching work. Weeding requires time and repeated effort. I didn’t plant the sunflower seeds during that weed-pulling, rage-filled day. In a matter of weeks, more weeds grew to replace the cleared section of land. In fact, they were numerous and large.

I’m back to weed pulling and less muttering.

Care to pull some weeds with me?

 

three books

DR SEUSS

During a recent visit, I asked my mother how she would describe me as a reader while growing up. She immediately responded by saying I always was reading a book. To further emphasize the point, she said during frequent trips to visit grandparents, my brother would know the route as his face was turned towards the window and the scenery, mine was envisioning the scenery on the page.

Reading relaxes me.
Reading centers me.
Reading informs me.
Reading transports me.
Reading is what makes me…me.

My last post was about the first year back to work. I mentioned not having
a lot of time to read. But how like God to have me assist a fellow book lover to and have book chats all during the week. We speak the same language.

Several friends have told me how much they enjoy posts about books. I thought it might be fun to from time to time to share three books in these three categories:

  • Books I love
  • Books I have recently read
  • Books I am reading

These are not reviews, simply an appetizer to whet your reading appetite.

As you see from the stack, I am already cheating. I can’t help myself.

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Books I love

The Night Circus: Books read during the summer, I tend to remember the most.
If a book can draw you away from running around in the sunshine, it’s a good book.
I read this during the summer of 2011 and it captivated and transported me.

“The circus arrives without warning.
No announcements precede it, no paper notices on downtown posts and 
billboards, no mentions or advertisements in local newspapers. It is simply
there, when yesterday it was not.”

It’s the story of Marco and Celia, two young illusionist who have been trained by two masters to compete in a “game”. That is all I will say. It is on my re-read list as I recently learned it is being made into a movie, which excites and scares me. I am not sure I want what I envisioned to be cast on a screen instead in the mind.

Girl Meets God: I adore memoirs. This is one of my favorites. Lauren Winner tells the story of her conversion from Judaism to Christianity. It is written in sections according to the Christian church calendar and is intermixed with her grief in missing her Orthodox Jewish traditions. Lauren writes with such intelligence, humor and honesty.

“Easter, it seems to me, is the most profoundly Jewish of all Christian holidays. For a Jew becoming a Christian, bodily resurrection is no surprise. It is what we had been expecting all along.”
Books I recently read:

Coming Clean (not pictured): I had the pleasure of being in a writers’ workshop lead by Seth Haines last year. I was anxious to read his first book. Coming Clean is a recounting of the first 90 days of Seth’s sobriety. It’s a journal about cravings and being unable to pray in life’s harshest moments. We all crave something don’t we? What are we using to cover our pain, our fears, our doubts?
Coming Clean is brilliantly honest and candid.

Books I am reading: 

My books are toppling over at the moment. The only way to decide what to read next is based on library due dates and which books cannot be renewed. Sigh.

Four Seasons in Rome:  Once upon a time, I spent 10 days in Italy. It was part of a 3 1/2  week holiday during my semester abroad. As wonderful as that sounds right now, it pales in comparison to being given the opportunity to write in Rome for a year. Within those 365 days, Anthony Doerr created All The Light We Cannot See.

When Breath Becomes Air: This book doesn’t need much introduction as it seems to be everywhere. As of last week, I was #322 on the library hold list. My sweet neighbor and friend Stephanie surprised me by knocking on my door to give me her library copy and share her personal connection with Paul Kalanithi. Paul Kalanithi was a brilliant neurosurgeon who was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer. I have a rare evening to myself and anticipate finishing it tonight. I know it won’t be an easy completion but when we read or listen to each other’s stories, we honor their footsteps.

The Better Life: Don’t you love the cover? I’ve had this book for a while. I read some of it and then it got buried under a pile of books, no doubt. It is simply a tiny book of short chapters about small things that can be done right this very instant to make your life better.

 

I would love to know what you are reading OR what books you love?

*****

Want more book ideas?
My favorite Tuesday morning ride to work routine is to listen to Anne Bogel’s
podcast What Should I Read Next?

You can find it here. A new episode every Tuesday.

 

 

 

a year later

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On March 2nd, I celebrated one year on the job.

It’s funny how slowly and quickly a year can pass.

Time moves molasses slow when you are learning new skills and desperately want to be a master in a matter of days but at quitting time each day you lament to having nothing in common with superhero.

Times resembles a speeding bullet when your body has relinquished sleeping in.

Yet the passage of these 365+ days has shown me the value of days strung together allowing me to arrive at a different space than previously resided.

Bullet journals are all the rage right now, so let’s pretend this is a page from mine recounting a half-dozen or so takeaways from my first year on the job after a lengthy sabbatical.

  • Don’t diminish the change.
    I believe I spent roughly 3/4’s of this past year, pushing back against the fact that  a big change had occurred in my life and my family’s. I found myself saying these words, “I am only working part-time” or “20 hours a week shouldn’t make such an impact”, or further “what’s wrong with me, you would think I was working full-time?”
    With each uttered word, I diminished the change. I essentially wouldn’t give myself permission to feel weak or overwhelmed. I erroneously believed I had to be strong and in control always. And if I believed this for myself, I further translated it to mean the people in my life held the same belief. It was a sham. I am slowly recovering from this faulty belief system and the easiest way for me to test which path I am walking is to check out my neck muscles and listen to my response when asked how I am doing. My mouth and neck are the quickest indicators of whether I am holding my breath instead of letting air expand my lungs, or trying to hold control in a death-grip instead of opening my hands in acceptance.
  • Choose relationships over responsibility.
    During the first two weeks of work, I came down with a horrible cold/flu and missed two days of work. About a week and a half later, Carl’s sister suddenly passed away. We said goodbye to her Sunday afternoon and that night, I went to the store, bought everything I could think of for Carl and my children to meet with our nephew and niece and their families during Monday morning and afternoon. I went to work. I will emphasis,no one from my work said I needed to be there. I felt like I should be there. Carl and I had discussed it and we both felt since I would miss work for services, I should go. If places were traded, Carl would have been at work. We both value being responsible and dependable. But here is what I know now. I should have stayed home to be with my family. Yes I left some killer trays of food but I shouldn’t have gotten in my car and driven away. It was simply one day in a work week. That one day would not write the story of my work life but it did subtract a page from my family’s chronicle. On that Monday, I chose to elevate my work responsibility over my response to relationship. This was a mistake, I will not repeat.
  • Give yourself time and extend yourself grace.
    I kept waiting for one magical morning when I would wake up and every part of my life was put back into a perfect order. Or better yet, to spring out of bed at 6am without an alarm, full of purpose and joy. I grieved the loss of my old life and rhythm and it felt extremely painful to envision my days looking differently.
    I truly think it demanded a year of walking through the literal seasons and days to grasp the new rhythm. A year to realize I wouldn’t crumble. I missed (for the most part) being the boss of my days.  Well, at least thinking I was boss. But if I am the most candid with you, I was the most lonesome for God of my whole life. I have known wilderness seasons and sections of life I would never want to revisit, but this parcel of land was foreign like none I had ever known. Desolate.
    God was there but I missed having loads of time to just hang out in my house with Him. I experienced winter throughout spring and summer. Change is hard because it disrupts the familiar but God cannot be changed. Isn’t that good news?! The days look different but in God’s tenderness, He has helped me find Him in smaller tighter fitting spaces of time. I am grateful and a lot less lonely.
  • Learn to say no with an asterisk.
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    I stumbled upon this graphic when I was setting up to write this post. I hadn’t realized it had been nearly 2 months since my last post. It was interesting to see a year stacked in blog posts. The areas I said no with an asterisk this past year were: weekly blog writing, card writing, regular friend time, reading, making meals for others and gift giving. Saying no with an asterisk took three forms: No for now, yes but not as often and no to being on time. I said “no for now” to regular blog and card writing. Sigh. Both types of writing ignite my soul but unless I sense a persistent nudge rather than nagging guilt, it’s a no for now. The next “no” was actually “yes but not as often” for friend time, taking meals and reading. Friday is my day off. It took me a couple of months to realize the calendar square is quite small. I can’t grocery shop, see the dentist, chat over paper cups with a friend, clean my house,exercise,take a nap and finish a book
    without it seeping outside my planner. Friends have been patient and understanding and just like a boomerang initially labeled no, it has slowly returned with a yes more often. Last year was not a stellar year of book reading as I didn’t have the brain space for it. I could not read in the evenings. By year-end, reading moved to the big Yes column. Gifts are in the “no, it won’t be on time” category. I love giving gifts as well as sending cards but I have made peace with not being on time especially if mailing is involved. A gift is still a gift whenever it is received.
  • Ask for and accept help.
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    One of our neighbors delivered a card and a container of cookies to our porch during my first week of work. In every sense of the word, it was the sweetest gesture. It buoyed my weary soul. When I profusely thanked her, she reminded me of how I had made her family a meal when she had returned to work, soup when they were ALL sick and cared for them when while her husband was traveling for work. I knew this but had forgotten. The cookies were her way of saying thank you and remembrance of the early days of work. I have been carried by so many over this past year. The biggest area has been needing help with Caleb. I have sent out text messages which might as well been typed in all CAPS and had moms immediately respond with a “of course Caleb can hang out with us.” Caleb has been quick to let us know he is an extrovert among introverted parents. He needs his people. Before I could even ask, moms have given me a place for Caleb to be on no school days or late openings or school breaks. It simply makes me teary by how much this has meant to me, to us. Right now, it feels very out of balance and I have no way of repaying them. But then I remind myself how others were in the same position and I provided a soft place to land and it probably felt like a teeter totter heavily weighted on one side. Teeter totters rise and fall, thank you friends and family for lifting me towards the sky.
    And thanks for a husband who among other great things seems to always be bearing a basket of freshly laundered clothes. Blessed.

    • Make your desert island list.
      When life gets rearranged, essentials matter. What would you take if you were stranded on a deserted island?The question is designed to draw an arrow towards what is valued. I have thought about my loves and needs. I am going to change the question to: What would I take if I was working on a deserted island?
      I would take my God, my people, my books and my creativity. Actually God would be there, I wouldn’t have to ask. So my people in their various forms of family and friends because I see a big island. I envision a secluded place for my hammock where I refuel with solitude and a good book. Although, I haven’t figured out on the mainland a way to up my steps with lots of sitting at work,I think the island living would provide the right amount of fitness while I survey the beauty helping me to create.

      *****

      Cheers to the past year of change and a new year in which to sink deeper into all its many nuances. I am grateful to be on the other side of a year. Thank you for continuing to read this blog during the silences or lengthy posts. I deeply appreciate your faithfulness and friendship to no end.

more than pocket change

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When I am asked about my weekend, I always pause.

It’s not because I am concerned about my response but rather it takes a moment
to recall the details.
Monday mornings mean the comforter must be peeled away
and even though there seems no evidence, the sun has risen on the week.

Frequently I feel the same when considering the past year.
It’s like traveling the depth of the pocket of a comfortably broken-in coat.
You expect your fingers to land only on air and fuzz and linty bits.
But once your hand is airborne again, a stray $5 bill, a ticket stub or
receipt is discovered, you feel akin to a magician bearing a hat marked by remembrance.
There are times it pays to dig through the darkness to find the light.

Here is a bit of my dirt, unearthed in 2015:

  • I am smarter than a 5th grader.
    I began a new job the polar opposite of physical therapy last year.
    No longer am I concerned with a patient’s strength or walking abilities,
    but crunching numbers and working in an office setting.
    The first 3 months, my brain threatened to shut down from overuse,
    but so far, I have come out of the tunnel of learning unscathed.
    I can do hard things.
    At least hard things to me.
    I learned to rest in my words for 2015, “be faithful”.
    I would  return each day ready to learn and exhale when inevitable mistakes happened or I didn’t comprehend the new language.
    Week by week, faithfulness compounded like interest
    and strengthened my confidence.
  • Put down the mop and NO ONE gets hurt.
    This year, I had to lower the bar.
    Actually who is this mythical person who set the bar?
    I have pursued a bar I either constantly ran into or missed.
    This year, I took a breath and realized my vertical leap didn’t match my real life.
    My house wasn’t as clean last year. Nor will it be this year.
    Here’s the deal, our lives have ebbs and flow.
    When I visit my parents’ home, I love how clean it feels,
    but I am quick to  remind myself, they don’t own a forever shedding dog
    and a 12 year-old boy and his trail of cast off items.
    Yet a mom with toddlers might wander through my front door and declare the current state of our home as pristine, without Cheerios and blocks in every corner.
    Truly if we keep our eyes and ears open, we see a circle of outstretched arms beckoning the pilgrims behind them to breathe easy and enjoy the view without judgment.
    I learned  am learning to love our home in all its B+ cleanliness.
    See the Christmas tree at the top of the page?
    This was the year, we reaffirmed our ceilings to be 8 feet tall and to have the angel most likely to slam dunk when we left the house.
    One night we wound the lights, the next night we scattered multi-colored globes and never brought out the box of ornaments.
    I believe this was one of our favorite trees ever. It was a huge tree for our
    space but I sidled up to the twinkling wonder for countless nights.
    We lowered the bar and no one got hurt.
    I am writing less on this blog and more people are reading.
    Perhaps there were too many words 😉
  • Being intentional shouldn’t be relegated to a nice thought.
    One of Carl’s sisters died unexpectedly last year. The Saturday after her surgery, we made our way from Portland to Vancouver and encountered terrible
    gridlock. We considered taking the nearest exit and changing our visit to the
    next day. By the grace of God, we continued on our route. We had the most
    enjoyable time visiting with Vickie and other family members. We laughed
    and Vickie told several stories, she showed off her new knee and took her
    walker for a stroll. We invited those present to share Easter brunch with us
    the following week.
    On Sunday, Vickie’s walker was cast aside for a new body in heaven.
    I will never forget those brief hours of laughter at the hospital or the arduous ones
    the following day. We miss her deeply but those final memories, we hoard them.
    Be intention.
    Yet I still have to remind myself about the brevity of life.
    I aspire to move beyond the slogan to a guiding call.
  • Make friends with being misunderstood.
    I will probably have to break-up and make-up with this lesson for the rest of my days.
    We made a decision this past year. As with most major decisions, it required a lot
    of discussion and prayer.
    It was a tough one, with pros and cons in each direction.
    Decisions are made by experts.
    Our family are the experts when it comes to our family.
    I could tell you owning a dog is the only way to co-exist in a house
    and you might frown because dogs frighten you.
    Perhaps we continue to discuss this difference in viewpoint over nachos
    and I even take to Facebook to encourage dog lovers to unite and
    rally behind my decision. This is my right.
    It is also another person’s right to never wander into a pet store.
    This may sound like an absurd scenario but fill in the blank with any
    opinion which differs from your own.
    I started following threads and reading comments on Facebook
    which although clearly NOT directed at me, hit me personally.
    My heart would race and like any worthy introvert, I started composing
    my comments in my head and while I slept.
    I wanted desperately to share my viewpoint and not be characterized
    as someone I am not.
    But I was afraid because I had seen others attempt to share an opposing
    view and seen as defensive.
    One day, with one little click of a mouse, I stopped the madness and
    un-followed a couple of groups.
    My blood pressure slowed and I began standing in
    the decision and in the face of being misunderstood.
    I would rather have conversations about differences across a table and
    face-to face and most definitely with a plate of nachos.
  • I’m not stronger than I think, God is even stronger than I knew.
    Eleven years ago, I stood before an audience to give a word of encouragement.
    Part way through the talk, I shared how it had been the worst
    year of our lives. Can you tell, I never had taken a speech class? I promise,
    there was encouragement mingled with the unbearable.
    I shared about God and me. I talked about His love and devotion, which continues
    to stagger me. I spoke about the 18th Psalm which talks about God,
    His character, power and how He teaches His children to fight when the
    storms of life threaten drowning.
    My advice to you is never stand up before anyone and say it is your worse day, week, month or year ever.
    Although I believed it when I stood on the stage, life became several
    shades deeper than the hardest we had known.
    A few years later, I listed the events of that crushing season and it filled a page.
    Those were the “I don’t wanna answer the next phone call” hard years.
    Guess what?
    Life continues to be difficult and challenging.
    But you are smarter than a 5th grader, so you know this, right?
    I still feel fragile at times yet God remains incomparably strong.
    He is stronger than I ever gave Him credit and I am glad to be wrong about
    the scope of His strength and faithfulness.

It is God who arms me with strength
and keeps my way secure.

Psalm 18:32

What lessons have you  found buried in the pockets of this past year?

I would love to know.
Leave a comment here or even on Facebook.

Deluge

 

(photo taken from passenger seat)

(photo taken from passenger seat)

During the first week of December, Portland and the surrounding areas were hit with record rainfall.
My first morning drive to work, of what was to turn into weeks of downpours, felt like a car wash except for my disobedience to all the rules. My car was not in neutral, my foot was gently on the accelerator and my hands most definitely were gripping the steering wheel.

The ground seemed to cry “uncle” and could not keep up with the pace and quantity of rain leading to flooding and landslides. Puddles and standing water were everywhere making it difficult to walk let alone drive without extreme caution.

A few days into the deluge, I was driving home from work, the rain had lightened up and the sun decided to peer through the grey sky. As the sunshine began to stretch wider and longer, a single ray landed on an impressive high-rise.

I took my eyes off the road in front of me for a moment and gazed at this beaming building in the sky. The sun flickered enough to cease blinding my sight and revealed 5 letters across 5 window panes.

PEACE.

I locked eyes on the word, glanced back at the road and cars in front of me and then lifted my chin up. I admit wanting to snap a quick photo but you know, I was driving…on a freeway.

It’s just as well, because as I kept up this vigil of looking up and down,
I was caught off-guard as tears began to coat my cheeks.

I have no idea the window owner’s intention.

Nor does it matter because it spoke to me in the midst of a chaotic
season, a relentless year.

All I knew was this year my heart had been flooded by images of Paris, black bodies in the streets, weary refugees and thoughts about a man with power, position and a platform shouting out words of fear and hate.
Does his loud voice speak for the hushed beliefs of others?
These heartaches beyond my doorstep clasp hands with all that cross the
threshold of my home.

Tears speak.

In the ensuing weeks, I continued to look up through the clouds to see a word which continued to settle and help me exhale most of what is contained in a day.

I am not sure how many years, I have chosen a word or phrase to embrace for the year ahead. I have grown to cherish this practice. Some years, it has been a challenge and other years, like this one, it has beckoned to me from the sky.

My word for 2016 is peace and to further solidify the choice, unbeknownst to me, Carl picked the same word.

Whenever I choose a word in January, I always believe I know the reasons but there are always surprises and deeper purposes than I know at the time.

This is what I know now.

There are times when our lives become so saturated with the cares and concerns of our lives and world that the evidence comes by way of flood or landslide.

I believe there is a way to live at peace despite the deluge of life.

I want peace to reign in the world and I will pray and do my part for that end.

But peace has to be at work in my heart, my actions and my emotions.

The way I treat others or even mutter about them in the confines of my car speaks to the place of peace in my life.

I am becoming increasingly aware how often I replace the good with the hard,
obliterating the blessed fingerprints all over my life.
I can be forgetful.

I want peace to be an umbrella over the good and hard throughout my days.

The good is present, the hard may arrive but God has not changed.

God remains and Jesus continues to be my Prince of Peace,
I must allow Him elbow room in my heart and mind.

I want His peace to invade my life to such an extent my heart can’t keep up with its pace and quantity. The only solution is to allow the runoff to saturate the world around me.
That’s the best kind of flood.

May 2016 and beyond be lived in the midst of these verses:

And know that the peace of God (a peace that is beyond any and all of our human understanding) will stand watch over your hearts and minds in Jesus, the Anointed One.

Finally, brothers and sisters, fill your minds with beauty and truth. Meditate on whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is good, whatever is virtuous and praiseworthy. Keep to the script: whatever you learned and received and heard and saw in me—do it—and the God of peace will walk with you.

Philippians 4: 7-9 (The Voice)

To my faithful readers,
as I enter my 10th year of blogging,
thanks for sticking with me whether I have doused you with many words
or you have patiently waited through droughts,
this is my blessing and prayer for you:

The Eternal One bless and keep you.
May He make His face shine upon you 
and be gracious to you.
The Eternal One lift up His countenance
to look upon you and give you peace.

Numbers 6:24-26 (The Voice)

 

(I have been writing this post for weeks, in my mind and on
scraps of paper. Yesterday I finally sat to write  and my blog
would not open..sigh! But late last night, it appeared and this
morning there is snow! Each day is different and a chance
to practice peacekeeping.)