Thursday, August 22, 2019


As a college student, my soc appeared on my student ID. Later, living in Iowa it was my driver's license number. My soc is the first number I experienced as an identity.

Now, several decades later, other numbers identify me... my age, my date of birth, the number on my real estate license, the employee ID at work, my account number at the credit union, my soc... and every social media portal wants me to hand over my cell phone number just in case.

On this day, number 1169 of my widowhood, I grow weary of being known primarily by the numbers. A heartfelt plea to HR for a change in my scheduled availability resulted in a temporary reprieve, yet within two or three weeks it was back to business (and scheduling) as usual. Enter ambivalence---the coexistence of positive and negative feelings simultaneously drawing me in opposite directions.

I am drawn to examining the ambivalence like a biology teacher dissecting a frog.

I am doing the messy and intricate work of understanding my reaction to being known as a number and formulating a response.

"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men..." Col 3:23

Yes. I am still working on that!


image source:

Monday, June 24, 2019

Two Chairs

This arrangement still strikes me as odd, the wicker rockers so much a part of my story not gathered for conversation, but side by side, facing opposite directions, like a married couple who long ago said goodbye to kindness.

My studio is so much more inviting if the chairs are arranged for conversation, and faithfully each time I vacuum the chairs are placed where society says chairs belong -- side by side, angling slightly toward each other, inviting us to gather, sit and chat. Then, as the week unfolds, I turn one toward the patio door to watch the sunset or a passing storm. The other is drawn in the opposite direction toward the vintage oak table that functions as my desk as I snuggle in to write or edit, or perhaps listen to a podcast of a sermon from Fellowship, the community of believers I left behind.

This morning, I am moved toward understanding the movement of the chairs:

Friends are welcome to visit, yet to extend an invitation is rare.
Widowhood is my current season, tears still fall unexpectedly.
Solitude is my refuge, a hallmark of my introverted nature.

Exhaustion in my soul deters me from spontaneously returning the chairs to a welcoming posture... 

... ready for an unexpected guest.

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. -- Matthew 10:29 NIV


Thursday, May 9, 2019


The air smells sweet and inviting as I open the patio door to let in the breeze. Freshly mown grass. Blossoming honeysuckle. I walk across the lively green clover masquerading as grass in the island of the parking lot and make my way past the swimming pool. Laborers are working on it... restoration and repair. Hopefully it will be done for the holiday weekend coming up at the end of May. 

At the far end of the courtyard surrounding the pool I make my way up a concrete stairway. I continue heading north for a block or so before turning east and looping through the neighborhood on Peace Haven, then south on Sappington Barracks Road, turning west again and heading home along Barracksview… my one-mile loop. The smell of honeysuckle comes and goes as I walk, my eyes enjoy the blooming color of delightful flower gardens, bushes accentuating well-manicured lawns, the intriguing 5 3 1 of the numbers identifying the house painted on metal buckets overflowing with fresh growing things! I think of my daughter and her husband, their house, something clever … though 3 1 3 2 will be four buckets and that even number is just not as appealing. I tuck the crumpled idea away for another time. My daughter and her husband are already gathering ideas that inspire. My gardening, painting, mulching, porch decorating days are behind me. I walk on. 

On my right is the blue house, its magnolia tree fully green now, having dropped its magnificent blooms some weeks ago. I pass under a towering oak tree and am reminded of the trees of my childhood. The evening is a warm and inviting 79 degrees, which (to a girl from Wisconsin) feels like mid-summer… not spring, not the first week of May… Summer! Returning to the apartment, I open my patio door wide to welcome the breeze. 

I am restless… weary of the required reading for the real estate licensing exam and the self-imposed foray into a Cloud and Townsend book on boundaries and motherhood. I put down my highlighters –- yellow for the boundaries book; yellow, pink, green to organize the seemingly endless minutiae to be memorized for the real estate exam. I rise from my chair, stare at the wall calendar and contemplate… when do I want to take the exam? Resignation to the keeping of my promise takes me to the computer and soon I am scheduling. 9am May 17. $62 please. 

Well, that's a stretch. Please was not displayed on the screen. 

I exit the exam vendor page and log in to my real estate email. I add the appointment to the online calendar I share with the broker who employs me as her assistant and note the expense in the register of my checkbook. 

As I commit to taking the next step all that I am doing-pursuing-experiencing brings images of a Spirograph attempt gone awry, or skeins of yarn twisted and knotted, the colors endlessly intersecting. 

I put my fingers to the computer keyboard and type chaos-yarn-tornado and a few other words seeking an image that speaks to the current state of me.  

As the setting sun abandons the sky, a gentle rain begins to fall. In the quiet of this night I breathe in the damp freshly washed air and embrace the immutable widowed sadness within me. 

image credit

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Without Wheels

On Easter Sunday, in the quiet hours following the fun and frenzied egg hunt, my grandson and I move bicycles up the hill from the lower driveway near the garage. He is intending to ride. One training wheel on his younger sister's older bike is coming loose from the frame, its precarious angle not supporting an upright posture, the bike tipping easily and dangerously to one side. He abandons it, choosing another bicycle instead.

Thirty-six hours later, I am dropping off my car at the repair shop. A friend who lives in my neighborhood is waiting in her van to give me a ride home. I write my contact information and my car-complaint on an envelope, dropping my keys into the dropbox.

I am now without wheels.

Arriving home, I write “No car!” on a yellow sticky note and adhere it to the coffee pot.

I promised to be to work at the real estate office by 10am. The reminder will keep me from the mishap of walking out the door with no time to spare and discovering my car is not in the parking lot, giving in to panic, perhaps even reporting it stolen ... or at the very least frantically searching for it in the vastness of my apartment complex. But, let's not go there.

I wrote the note.

The distance, 2.7 miles, will take an hour to walk.

The friend who gave me a lift last night is willing to take me to work this morning. Others, too, are willing to help.

I walk.

When I arrive at the office, the broker offers to give me a ride back to the repair shop at the close of the day. At 5:25pm I hop out of her car, wallet in hand, wave good-bye and walk into the building. As the woman behind the counter hands me my keys, she smiles and says, No charge. I am astonished and grateful. I struggle to wrap my heart and my head around this unexpected and generous gift.

Since January 24 -- 89 days ago -- God has pulled me from the depths of despair.

On this day -- day 1047 of my widowhood -- a new path stretches out before me. Am I am ready to take off the training wheels and ride?

Monday, March 11, 2019


Less than a week ago, my friend asked for prayer. 

My friend is an advocate and leader in anti-trafficking---a woman on the front lines. 
She had committed to assisting a woman caught in a dangerous web. 

The prayer was for the first step: moving the woman (let's call her Willow) out of the neighborhood where her car had been stolen and her apartment had been burglarized. My friend's husband would assist. A third volunteer was desirable; none were available.  

I'll go, I offered.

Less than an hour later, in a neighborhood unfamiliar to me, carrying hastily packed boxes and bags from an apartment, I found myself praying in the chaos that God would help us take with us the things that mattered most. 

Willow's mattress was rolled and pushed into the backseat of one vehicle. The sturdy wood bed frame miraculously fit in the hatchback of my car. Bedding, swiftly packed clothing, kitchen essentials, personal care products and other necessities filled a third car. Occasional tables and painted canvasses, revealing Willow as an artist, were gently added. I prayed again. So much was being left behind!

In the 90 minute window allotted, the plan unfolded. Willow packed and we loaded for 40 minutes. Then, Willow locked the apartment and left with a trusted advocate to get the keys to her new place. Meanwhile we drove 9.6 miles to the new apartment attempting to avoid rush hour traffic. We arrived ahead of Willow and unloaded. Then we waited.

In the waiting, time was unrestricted. Feeling unnerved I asked my friend about the chaos, the reality of so much being left behind, the undermining of Willow's humanity --- her sense of safety. 

My friend was comforting and encouraging, and openly shared about similar moving experiences... the necessity of an escape plan, the need for vigilance. And, how God changes our lives, the provision of her current home where she feels safe.

Her honesty left me with the realization that this is the first time -- as a person whose life was predominantly safely middle class married -- that I am personally engaging the silent threat of chaos. 

A few months ago I stored a nylon cinch sack near the safe that holds my passport and other documents, determining that if escape were necessary (natural disaster or human threat) I could walk cross-country the 3 miles to my son and daughter-in-law's house. 

In recent days I find myself pondering, in Hollywood apocalyptic style: What else is essential to take with me? 

From my growing library (153 books counted today) I am selecting these books: The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough 1977, The Shack by William Paul Young 2007, The Transforming Friendship by Leslie D. Weatherhead 1928, and Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell 2005.  

I am a flawed, human and fragile encourager, a speaker and writer of words. 

My spiritual gift is exhortation.

Willow is gifted. She is an artist.

In the chaos she chose to bring her paintings.  

I will bring four books.


Thursday, February 28, 2019

Dinner from an Empty Refrigerator

As I put down the red silicone scraper and step back from the stove, something pleasing catches my eye, something beautiful, this food. 

I'd worked only one job today, and my small group was canceled due to icy weather so ... when I arrived home, the luxury of time met me at the door. The studio apartment -- all 461 square feet of it -- has been home for the past year. Many might consider it small. It all depends on where you are coming from ... 

... and when arriving here I'd come from a bedroom plus bath where I'd lived as a guest and grandmother-in-residence for 14 months. Yes, my son and daughter-in-law were inviting, loving, gracious and welcoming. The kitchen, living room, kids' bedrooms, play room and family room were open to me almost any time and there was a spoken expectation that I'd join the family for dinner, which was wonderful ... and yet the introvert in me felt more comfortable upstairs, in my bedroom plus bath, listening to the muffled voices of the grandchildren reading or playing or squabbling or getting ready for bed.

Tonight, my meal, the food -- a southwestern rice with beans and corn served over sauteed breast of chicken with a heaping spoonful of cream cheese blended with sour cream and salsa, plus fresh chocolate chip cookies -- looked so inviting! I am not much of a cook and readily confess that I'd rather be eating ... enjoying the aromas, textures, flavors. The feel of the warm ceramic bowl in my hands, the balance of the well-crafted fork, inspire delight. 

I wash the dishes, including a carafe of way-too-old-to-consume pineapple juice left over from my January birthday. The refrigerator looks quite empty. In the digestive aftermath of the meal I move on, choosing to sit on the futon snuggled up with a soft grey lap blanket gifted me one Christmas by my niece. 

The apartment is quiet. I miss the muted voices of the grandchildren.

Traffic moving along the freeway that borders this apartment complex fades into the background, except for the occasional semi. Without looking out the sliding glass doors (the only window in this studio), my senses tell me almost instinctively what time it is. Evening darkness and steady noise point to the 7pm to 1am travel of city-dwellers and suburbanites. When I awaken in the night a hushed stillness indicates a sleeping community, the highway nearly deserted. Soft morning light and limited but growing noise signal early commuters avoiding rush hour traffic.

Despite the delightful meal and my comfort in this living space, evening is difficult. This is when I most wish to turn back the clock to when evening meals were shared by two, the life I had before my husband died. One of us cooked; the other did dishes. In the oasis between dinner and sleep we returned to the kitchen table for a game of Scrabble, or settled into rocking chairs to watch a movie. 

Decades ago (before we married) my husband and I were not surprised to discover Myers-Briggs assessments categorized me as an introvert. After nearly 1000 days a widow, there is a shift as the woman that is me slides closer to recluse. The grey kaleidoscope of living alone is slowly becoming my normal. The shapes and sounds and tastes of life are dulled by loneliness. 

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
    and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Ps 34:18

Perhaps that is why I took the photograph... to capture the colors and vibrant promise of the meal, to embrace delight, to remember the Lord is close.


Sunday, October 28, 2018

a view from a point

Looking out the window from the 14th floor of the Federal Courthouse I saw something unexpected ... the Gateway Arch from the west side, the mighty Mississippi a narrow strip of water in the background.

In respect for the solemnity of the event -- the sentencing hearing of a friend -- I had left my cell phone behind, in a car parked on the streets below. I could not digitally capture the image.

Searching today for a photograph that represented what my eyes had briefly observed, I discovered how rarely the camera lens captures this view. Most of humanity photographs the arch from the east; the vast majority from at or near ground level. 

I am reminded of a new-to-me concept from Richard Rohr's "The Naked Now"

a viewpoint is a view from a point.

Like the view from the 14th floor, an unfamiliar viewpoint occasionally surprises me. More often, though, it is an event that impacts my viewpoint -- when life-as-I-know-it is altered by death or birth, unexpected illness or the restoration of health, the tension of chaos or the tranquility of shalom, the earthly consequences of sin or the arrival of healing grace.

In the days and weeks preceding the sentencing of my friend, my heart and my prayers sought grace and peace for her. 

I found my heart pondering God's justice and grace against the backdrop of our legal system. I wrestled with the great potential for injustice, knowing that though the U.S. is ranked 19 of 113 countries globally, our legal system is a poor substitute for justice.

I struggle with the incarceration response to financial crime and the probation plea arranged for life-threatening choices. 

I pray seeking grace and justice for two friends. One, in 2018, is accompanied by her defense attorney and the other, in 2011, is a witness for the prosecution. 

And, even as I write, I am convicted, my bias exposed

my viewing point is my seat in the courtroom.


Photo credit: 20490869
U.S. Ranking: WJP Rule of Law Index 2017-2018