an open book

 

black twist pen on notebook

On a stunning late June afternoon, our daughter Courtney became a wife.

Spoiler alert: It was the most amazing day sandwiched between two equally wondrous days of celebration.

Our family won’t easily forget the joy of witnessing love by raising glasses, cheering, dancing and feasting as our family enlarged for the better.

However, the months leading up to the big event were filled with countless sleepless nights.

Not because of attempting to lasso a budget although the rope often felt out of reach.

No matter how I tried, I could not envision what or how this day of days would look or feel.

Since I couldn’t visualize those 6 hours, I threw myself into list making during my waking hours and sadly my sleeping hours also kept a tally.

My sleep was compromised simply because my mind was restless for a glimpse of the future.

One night in late January, sleep seemed pointless due to my overactive brain, I left my pillow behind and entered the darkest gap between night and morning and tucked myself under the dining room table before my journal.

I wrote in bold letters:

ALL THE THINGS THAT CONCERN ME

I wrote it all down.

There was nothing too insignificant or monumental that wasn’t scribbled on two pages.

I laid every care, fear and worry upon the lines of that open book, like a prayer or a hyperventilating plea sent in the direction of heaven.

Then I went to sleep.

I would like to report to never having another night of tossing and turning.

I did but the space between waking and falling back into dreamland was narrower.

For the majority of my life, I have trusted God.

Trust has been reflexive like a doctor’s hammer tap below one’s knee but often a whispered hope.

This summer was one in a collection of remembering the God I trust.

Sometimes my trust in God has put the emphasis on my actions instead of tilting the weight off my shoulders and witnessing the character of the God, who can be trusted.

*****

When I was young, my mother taught me to thread her needle.

After I mastered this skill, she showed me how to tie a knot on thread draped through the needle’s eye.

I remember watching her fingers, thumb and thread and it seemed the most mysterious display, especially when my clumsy hands tried to duplicate the feat.

Two thread lengths tethered only by the eye of a needle, each side placed between my thumb and second finger, as they slid back and forth until a knot formed.

At first it seemed improbable, impossible.

A folded piece of fiber remained uncontrolled.

But after practice and failed attempts, knot making became automatic.

I wouldn’t give a single thought when presented with a needle and thread today.
But if I dare to  pause long enough to observe the reflexive movements of my hand, I still marvel when a knot appears due to the gentle gliding of two parts of one hand.

I believe in the God who knows how to thread the pieces of my life through their appointed spaces.

I believe in the God who expertly knots every dangling fear, insecurity and worry.

I shudder by how easily I grow accustomed to his handiwork, some seen and often more shielded from my view, all accomplished by the rubbing of his fingers to and fro over my life.

*****

During the final moments leading to the wedding, I was given time to spend with Courtney in the balcony area of the venue. I looked at her and decades of prayers flooded my soul and were placed alongside my love for her. We spoke, we laughed and desperately tried not to ruin our make-up. It felt like an eternity had passed once I walked down the stairs to see the procession lined up, excitedly chatting as they waited for me. I took my place next to my tall son in the front of the line. I was certain the sacred space with Courtney had put our schedule in jeopardy but I lifted my eyes to the wall clock and it was exactly 4pm.

When does a wedding start on time?

That day.

I am not writing to share how God crossed out or put a check mark beside every one of my journal full of concerns, yet He did.

I am writing to admit none of my sleepless nights accomplished anything but darker under eye circles.

I am writing this because although it sounds cliché, God is never late or too early.
In fact, His timing is impeccable.

I am writing this not because God gave us the most brilliantly happy day, yet He did.

I am writing this because He pulled out all the stops for a brilliantly happy day in the midst of a multitude of sad days past, present and undoubtedly in the future.

He gave us merriment hemmed in beside the hard places which have taken up residency in our lives and seem to have no intention of hanging a vacancy sign.

I want to whisper and shout about my days to God, knowing no utterance is too trivial for His hearing.

I want to be an open book.

As I surrender my lists to Him as an act of trust, the privilege is mine to see the God who can be trusted to gently slide His hands across each strand of my life and affix it to Himself.

It seem improbable, impossible.

In His mercy and kindness, He ties knots of faithfulness all over the threads of my life.

Each one is a full stop in the story of me, allowing me to pause, stare back in wonder of the God who can be trusted.

 

Photo by Mohammad Danish on Pexels.com

friday joy (transitions edition)

 

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I believe joy is always present.

It’s just that during roll call, joy frequently chooses to respond inaudibly.

But joy is there.

Even when it has to be dug up from the depths.

Sometimes joy hides.

Or we push it away and simply don’t have or want

our line of vision adjusted to spy it.

Joy can seem like a fickle companion cloaked in mystery.

You might feel all frowny, out of sorts and then without warning

joy lands as unexpected as a dragonfly lighting in your midst.

Joy is a direct hit to the soul, like shouting,

“You sunk my battleship!”

Except even if your vessel takes on water,

you win.

Your soul has been saturated with an ocean of joy.

          *****

I skipped last Friday’s joy post.

Last week, was an exceedingly difficult one for several people I love.

So many dear ones have been in long and short holding

patterns of waiting for the deepest sorrow to land.

Friends waded into the crashing waves of grief as

they said goodbye to a precious 2-day old baby,

a brave husband and a dearly beloved mother.

I am sure if I took a poll of readers, you could offer

your own version of pain or sadness you experienced.

It seemed hollow to write about the joyous wonders of

ice cream or a favorite pen.

It’s important to mourn with those who mourn.

I am praying  each family will discover joy hasn’t

abandoned them, it’s pressed down during this

time of weeping and reflection.

I haven’t witnessed the dragonfly landings of last summer.

But I know dragonflies exist.

We might not always feel joy.

But joy exists and quite remarkably can

coexist with sorrow.

(If you don’t believe me, take yourself to see the
movie Inside Out immediately….brilliant!)

Joy came and is coming to me in two ways this week:

Ocean Joy

Honestly, I am kind of cheating as I write this post.
(see what I did?)

But by the time, you read these words, we will be on

a beach, enjoying cooler weather and my soul will

be drunk with joy and rest.

I love the Oregon coast for so many reasons.

I feel the presence of God in every thunderous clapping of waves and

each cycle of foam skimming my toes.

 I hear Him in the wind that inevitably destroys my

hair style yet rebuilds my frame.

It’s where I first knew without wavering,

I loved Carl and we told

each other those three huge words.

Don’t let anyone convince you to believe

“I love you” are three little words.

Our time on the coast will look quite different as

there will be three in attendance.

You may have noticed, I didn’t use the word “only”.

It’s obvious I want our family of five to always be together,

especially at the beach, but I am learning when I use

the word only, it minimizes the number and members.

The word only can kind of have an attitude and I am fighting

this with all I have.

There will be three of us at the beach and we will

build sand castles of joy right beside a couple of missing footprints.

Life verse of joy

I paraphrased a verse to a friend in an email this week.

It caused me to reflect on how this verse has given me

not only peace over the last decade but it also has established

joy in the midst of trials.

“and that is why I suffer these things.
But I am not ashamed,
because I know the One I have believed in
and am persuaded that He is able to guard
what has been entrusted to me until that day.

II Timothy 1: 12

Our family is dealing with growing pains.

I suppose this is the right term for this patch of time.

The only way I can express this season is to say if our family were

a piece of elastic, there has been gradual and rapid stretching away from

the hands who have held the elastic.

And just when our hearts settle into acceptance of this newly created space,

this new dimension, the elastic snaps back into place with a ricochet of hugs.

The elastic remains but changed.

No longer can you run your hand across its smooth surface as

it now possesses ruffles all along its length.

So when there are days when I feel the stretching as well as weeks

of slack, I remember that really in all things but especially regarding my children,

I know God will guard them as I continually entrust them to Him.

I wouldn’t entrust them to anyone but I am confident I can hand

them to their Maker because I know whom I have believed.

I know He remains tethered to me and my family.

I know He is the fullness of joy, because He is the

Designer of dragonflies and oceans and sunsets.

On sad or happy days,

He remains my joy.

*****

Book Joy

Finished: Wild in the Hollowssuch an incredibly honest and transparent memoir. I loved it.

Beach Reading: Big Little Liesbecause I am going to the beach and it was on the Lucky Day shelf at the library.

May joy curl up beside you this weekend and bring you comfort.

And if it’s too hot, may joy come waving a fan to cool your body and soul.

friday joy (take care of yourself edition)

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When you set after chasing down joy, it comes out of hiding
and doesn’t seem quite so elusive.
Perhaps it was always present,
never left,
was right before my 
eyes,
yet I refused to invite it to cross my threshold.
It has been a fun week of discovering joy’s appearance
within the bookends of Fridays.
My line-up this week seems to fall under the category of
self-care. It wasn’t intentional but perhaps instructive.
Tending to ourselves is vital in ways which may be
mutually and individually meaningful.
My little list may not be close to what would bring you
joy but as you read them,
consider how you might be a more intentional
caretaker of your soul.

Chatbooks

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My friend Cheryl introduced me to the wonders of Project Life,
a simple and wonderful way to document your life in photos.
It encouraged me to quit hoarding my photos on my phone
but instead to print them out and let my family run their fingers
along pages of memories.
The difficult part is I tend to get behind then caught up and
then I get behind again.
It’s not causing me to lose sleep but
it does bother me when I am months behind.
So a few weeks ago,
I gave myself a pardon,
a break,
a pass.
Hello Chatbooks.

Chatbooks takes Instagram photos and creates books.
Each book is 60 pages in length.
It’s like a chronological Instagram book.
Of course you can delete any photos you don’t want included.
So I used a free book offer and made 4 books.
it took a few minutes and they arrived this past week
.
(It’s killing me how I lined up the books in backwards order. Sigh.)

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I was so excited to unwrap the small package and impressed by the quality.
They are so adorable and precious.

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You can also make custom books from your photos as well if you are not an Instagram
user.
I kept the captions to my photos but you can customize your books.

Think you might want to try it, use my referral code for a free book NWX6HXK6

Joyous book making!

No Schedule

It has been several months since we have had an unscheduled
weekend. It was the most glorious kind of joy which wrapped
itself around my soul all week-long.
To have a few days to cease from rushing from one event to
the next was such a luxury.
Life shouldn’t feel like a race.

Caleb and I met Carlen for lunch downtown then we puttered
around Powell’s which is so dangerous but in the best way.
It is probably the one place where my children can depend on
Mom saying yes to their asking.
Caleb and I came home with a stack of books and full tummies.
There was time to sink into studying the book of James, write,
play games, stroll through a Farmer’s market and snack on crepes
with Carl.

I also spent a couple of hours making play lists on Spotify.
It’s taken me forever to completely understand the difference
between Spotify and Pandora.
Busyness can make me forget my need for music.
Now I have many of the tunes which bring me joy
at the touch of a screen.

Tip: Try the 7-day free premium trial to enable
adding songs with the most ease.
Currently they are offering a 3-month premium
trial for $0.99. Sounds like a great way to try
out the premium features but free is grand too.

Pedicures

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See how much I love you?

I am sharing my toes.
This was actually from an Instagram
post showing me wearing pants because
the weather was actually cool.

Finally.

I made a commitment in early May to get a pedicure,
if possible, every two weeks.

My rationale:

  1. I would like to have nice looking toes during the summer
  2. The leg and foot massage is a gift.
  3. Regular pedicures will cease the undecipherable chatter
    from operators about my feet,
    namely their condition between pedicures.
    I know they are talking about my feet.
    They are!

Carl thinks I need to have better foot esteem 🙂
Perhaps he is right.
But for now, I am going every 2 weeks-ish and
isn’t  FootJoy a shoe brand?
Well, I have foot joy and my foot esteem is climbing.
Bonus: I haven’t heard any whispers or seen
any rolled eyes in months.

Speaking our wishes out loud

On Wednesday, all the kids and I were sitting
in the living room around dinner time when
unprovoked I blurted,

“I want to go to a concert so badly.”

Carlen responded casually,

“Well there is a pop-up concert in the park at 7.”

We gathered all the necessary supplies

for a picnic accompanied by music.

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An unexpected evening listening to Mike Posner.

It’s what happens when you cast your wishes into the air to be heard.

Joy photo of the week

Joy isn’t always perfect with hair disobeying the call of wind
or eyes open at the most ideal angle.
Joy isn’t about looking skyward to try to erase the lines
and duplicate chins.
Joy is time spent with those you love and who know
when you put your hand over your heart, you are deeply
happy and at home,
it means laughter spilling over your frame as your shaky
selfie skill-less hands attempts to capture
the joy with the net of a lens.

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Joy is meant to be shared.

Book joy

Finished: Chasing Francis

Currently Reading: Wild in the Hollows

 

May you take care of yourself and lasso joy in the attempt.

 

 

friday joy (hot weather edition)

Remember those mason jar flowers standing strong
in the midst of the harshest of temperatures?

Behold 5 joys that stood out to me during this recent hot spell:

Meet Fantasia, my personal fan!

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What took me so long to buy one?
This has been the best $12 I have spent in a long time.
I am sure it is common for mates to have differing body temperatures and such
is the case for me and Carl.
It has always been this way but to put it delicately,
since arriving at the doorstep of 50 ,
I’ve had to “welcome” spontaneous temperature flares, if you gather my meaning.
With the twist of a dial, a breeze comes to the rescue.
Gone is the usual night table clutter now that Fantasia has won my heart.
If the photo captured the floor, you would see our dog Hazel happily
dozing on my side of the bed as well as a few books scattered on the carpet.
Ahhh, Hazel and I feel so much better, thanks to Fantasia.

The Sorta Awesome Podcast

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It’s summer and the days have been long and hot.
My morning and afternoon work commute has been the same.
Instead of getting an attitude (well, most of the time),
I have started listening to The Sorta Awesome podcast.
You may have read Megan Tietz’s blog Sorta Crunchy over the years.
She made the decision to discontinue blogging this past January.
Heavy sigh.
However her archives remain online. Yay.
As an aside, Megan is responsible for what qualifies in my blogging world as creating
a viral post for me.
I am forever grateful for her sharing during her Sunday Brunch series.
I loved her blog but she is a natural at podcasting with her group of co-hosts and special
guests make it the perfect accompaniment for driving, cooking dinner or simply eavesdropping while sipping iced tea in an Adirondack chair.
The topics are a wide variety of, well awesome.
My favorites so far have been about making friendships as an adult, personality types and summer. I am saving several for the car but I plan to listen
to the newest one on how to build a love-filled home this weekend.
Check it out here. I use Stitcher to manage the podcasts I enjoy.

Everything I Never Told You

I read Everything I Never Told You a few weeks ago and I
continue to think about it.
This book contained a vitally important reminder regarding the words
I say to my children. My words may be filled with the highest intentions
and the most noble motives, but how are they interpreted by the hearer?
It has made me ponder the repetitive words/sentences I say over my
children.
What truly is my motivation?
I have had to wade to a new shore of understanding to find if my words
are pure or perhaps wrapped in bandages from my past life wounds.

Tillamookies

I hesitate to post something that is not widely available in the U.S.

Yet I have to share how much joy these little ice cream sandwiches have created
during the heat of the evening.
I don’t have mad skills when it comes to eating ice cream in a cone.
My confession sounds ridiculous but you have never observed me, have you?
There’s a reason why I always order ice cream in a dish.
We all have our issues and mine comes in the form of a waffle cone.
These little sandwiches hit the spot and satisfy my waffle cone envy.
Plus they are not outrageous in the calorie department.
Try them and if you live faraway from Oregon, go here.
Enter your zip code and if you come up with nada,
press the Tillamook Please button to create a form to
give to your local grocer!
Everyone should have a Tillamookie!

Inside Out

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Caleb and I escaped a hot Friday and went to see Pixar’s newest movie Inside Out.
Oh how I loved this movie!
In fact, it was discussed on one of the Sorta Awesome podcasts and I was nodding
away in agreement.
I think Caleb was the perfect age to see the depiction of emotions as he embarks
on the adventure of middle school. Yet as an adult, I gleaned a lot as well.
I think it is the perfect movie for everyone.
Plus do not get to the movie after the previews as the Pixar short was exceptional.
It made me cry…which is quite easy but still, it was precious.

Okay I fibbed, I need to add a favorite photo of joy and one more joy to round
out the Friday Joy, do you mind?
That’s a lot of joy in one sentence!

Photo Joy-The Peanuts Movie and Caleb!

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We cannot wait for The Peanuts Movie!

The Beginning, The Middle and The End of the Urban Adventure Quest

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The Beginning.

A little background is in order.

We are a family of five.
Carl and I are a week shy of 29 years of marriage.
Hooray!
We have two daughters Carlen and Courtney who are 25 and 22 and a son Caleb who is 11.
Also hooray!
Our family dynamic is changing.
The majority of our days have shifted to Carl, Caleb and me on the home front.
This has been a slow shift.
You need to know this because I often hear so many parents, especially moms
saying “We only have “fill in number” more summers with “fill in name of child”.
This is true.
But it isn’t always true.
I am not pointing fingers because I moaned the same words.
I believed when Carlen was handed her diploma that life as we knew it was over.
It would never be the same or the five of us.
It was a time to celebrate and grieve.
Life does change but it doesn’t always mean the age of 18 marks THE END.
My advice is to enjoy all the years and seasons and don’t bemoan the future
before it has been written.

Rewind to the night before the 4th of July.
Carl and I had said good night to Caleb and as I was leaving his room,
he peeked out and sadly said his sisters were not going to be with us
tomorrow and it was THE FOURTH OF JULY!”
Hugs commenced.
It was about 11pm and Carl and I sprawled on our bed with laptop and Portland Monthly’s
summer guide and tried to devise a plan to make the 4th fun for Caleb.
We stumbled upon the Urban Adventure Quest which is a smart phone driven scavenger
hunt around downtown Portland  as well as other cities in the U.S.
Think The Amazing Race which is one of our family’s favorite shows.
We whispered a prayer for God to lift Caleb’s spirits and for
his weary parents to have energy despite the heat.

The photo above is the three of us ready to start at Pioneer Courthouse Square.

We had a blast trying to decipher clues and solve puzzles.
What added to the adventure was running into other people who had the same idea.
We felt we knew our downtown quite well but often we drive past buildings
and never see the details. We uncovered a whole new world and learned
more history of our city.
We were sweaty but we were having such a great time when we found this guy!

The Middle

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If you don’t recognize him, this is Damian Lillard of the Portland Trailblazers and an All-Star.
It had been a rough week of trades for the NBA team and Damian will remain and
be the face of the franchise. He was so gracious to take a moment for a photo.
Caleb was brave enough to ask.
To say this made our Caleb’s day/week/month/life is an understatement.
He kept saying amidst giggles that this was the best 4th EVAH.

The End

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We did it!

Several hours later, we finished, solved all the puzzles and found all the clues.
We were hot, sweaty, exhilarated and famished.
Now we want to do the one in Seattle 🙂

I couldn’t help thinking over the last few days about how God takes our feeble
attempts and adds to them in spectacular ways.
We did our part by finding something fun to do and we simply asked Him to bless us
with energy of body and spirit.
He adding something unexpected in the middle to our beginning and ending.

It’s a joy to be loved by God with such imagination and timing.

Sometimes joy is as close as your night table and often we need

to sit and reflect on our days to recall what made joy bubble up in your spirit.

So tell me, what’s your most recent joy?

joy in a mason jar

It seems like a faraway memory but it was only a few weeks ago, when I

gathered the family around our patio picnic table to feast.

At the time, it seemed too hot to cook, so I robbed all the chilly morsels

from our refrigerator, added a few items from the store

and grabbed a couple of bunches of flowers.

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fist bumped while reaching toward plates in unison,

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our eyes devoured the array of colors before a single bite,

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inside jokes usher contagious giggles

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and gulps of both sweet and tart coolant will always be a distant second

to the refreshing joy of family.

We cleared the table, marveled at the effectiveness of a dollar store fly zapper

and shuffled a deck of card to end the night.

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At day’s end, this vase of store-bought flowers flanked the empty table.

Then the real heat hit Oregon.

As Carl and I limped past the table to spray water upon our grass

known as straw and our heat stroked flowers,

the mason jar flowers stood tall.

Our dinners were held before oscillating fans and every once in a while,

I would spy an inch of water in the jar and fill it.

It is not an exaggeration that I survive the heat and little else.

It never occurred to me to bring the flowers inside to be enjoyed

in our house known as the sauna.

After 3 weeks,the flowers were placed among

the compost heap.

Two bunches of flowers whisper to me,

Helen,

in the harshest and most unbearably hot seasons,

joy remains.

***

By a slip of my pinky finger (I blame the heat),
I pressed publish before this post was finished
and (shudder) or edited.
Oops…sorry email subscribers!

Instead of what I had originally planned for this post,
this Friday (and hopefully subsequent Fridays),
I will post my 5 small joys of the week.

Until Friday,

Seek joy.

Embrace joy.

Believe in joy,

even when it seems like a faraway memory.