Friday, July 22, 2011

Morning Glory

"So, in regard to disagreeable and formidable things, 
prudence does not consist in evasion or 
in flight, but in courage." Ralph Waldo Emerson

Last night, in a dream, I was being suffocated. Someone was holding me down, menacingly covering me, imprisoning me beneath a stale quilted blanket held over head and face. As panic rose in my consciousness, the frantic beating of my heart recklessly abandons me, threatening to assist my aggressor in accomplishing my untimely death. In the moment I am most afraid, a whisper of peaceful calm encourages me to focus on my breathing, to slow my own heartbeat, to release my fear, to remember my Creator.

I enjoy this makeshift trellis in my garden, an ancient and rusty chunk of fencing salvaged from a dear friend’s backyard. Today, she no longer lives on the property where we spent hours uncovering this treasure. Violence visited. She will relocate. When she is gone, the tattered fencing will remain in my garden and every day it remind me of her.

Today a morning glory is blooming gently amid the shadows. Like a gentle whisper she will grow, using the rough and jagged metal as support throughout the brightest day and the darkest night.

Beautiful. Temporary. Courageous.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear,
but of power and of love and of a sound mind.


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Illusion of Familiarity

" in the illusion of familiarity, when in reality, every
moment and every breath is always unfamiliar, unknown."
- Nico, Interruption

We are comfortable in our not knowing
what goes on behind
closed doors
accustomed to the inviting store fronts
that friends and family want
their lives to be.

We gaze into the window displays
and perhaps 
engage in conversation
in the doorway
at the front counter.

Rarely do we see
the stockroom
the employee entrance
the loading dock
the alleyway dumpsters.

Asking to step 
the counter
or tour
the stockroom
is risky.

Perhaps we will engage instead by
our family and friends
to come out the front door
stand on the sidewalk
sit on the curb
walk in the gritty street
to share
a morning sunrise or
an afternoon stroll
 or simply gaze in awe
at a night sky.



Fire Up by Ben von Burg
“Books are the best of things, well used. What is the right use? What is the one end, which all means go to effect? They are for nothing but to inspire.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson  As a writer, your only duty is to be original, to inspire, to put something new on paper. Don’t be reasonable – your job is to to fire up people’s imaginations, to give them permission to dream, and to lift their heads up to the incredible sight of the stars. They may forget what you wrote about – but they won’t forget how you made them feel. It’s your turn now. Dream, be unreasonable and write what comes to you for 15 minutes. BvB

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Broken Glass

I am tottering on the brink of rage, seething and angry in the aftermath of broken glass. Not a dropped glass lying broken in a puddle of spilled milk on a kitchen floor, but a shattering of trust. In the aftermath of trust broken, I spent today setting sharp steel traps in conversations and coming at friends with words like poison-tipped claws.

I focused on the darkness not the light.

For months I sensed need in the other, yet I failed to respond, sitting back, waiting for a request for help that never came. I ignored the need.

Tonight, I realize that failure entangled at least two participants. Together we shattered the trust.

If my friend’s mother in a distant town falls ill and he urgently desires to visit her, which would reveal a deeper friendship—my lending him my motor-bike in response to his request for it, or my taking it to his door as soon as I heard of the need, without waiting to be asked?” —Leslie Weatherhead, The Transforming Friendship.

Today, Weatherhead’s words start a tiny ripple of potential change within me. In my exhaustion, I find a quiet strength in my Creator – strength enough to make useless the sharp steel traps and poison-tipped claws, if I simply make time to pray.


Change Your Thinking
by Maryellen Smith
“If you can’t change your fate, change your attitude.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson At any given point in time, you’re only one thought away from changing your thinking. What thought can you change today? MS

Saturday, July 16, 2011


I am inspired by simple stories from my childhood tied up in fairy tale endings like Cinderella with Lesley Ann Warren or the animated How the Grinch Stole Christmas narrated by Boris Karloff.

I am inspired by sequined comedy and clueless heroism in the weeping The Three Amigos who just found out life is not a movie.

I am inspired by the play of light and dark in an oil painting of a stormy sea I once viewed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Today I cannot remember the title of the painting nor the name of the painter, yet the inspiration remains.

Unlike the quintessential renaissance man, a master of both arts and sciences,
I am a woman adrift in
a stormy ever-expanding
sea of inventions and incantations that I will
never master.

And I find inspiration in
the simple, paint-spattered t-shirt of an apprentice working and learning and living in this creative space called life.


Original Thought by Michael Brajkovich
“The arts and inventions of each period are only its costume, and do not invigorate men.” Think of the last time that you thought, said, or did something that was original. What inspired or invigorated this? MB

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Blue Hydrangeas

blue hydrangeas

blue stained glass

stained glass ducks

a bunch of multicultural rubber duckies

just a bunch of flakes

dog treats in kitchen jars

wheat on a bowl, the pattern my grandmother owned

my favorite cotton table cloth

rockers with faded cushions on my front porch

the encouraging words of a friend

blue hydrangeas

blue stained glass

stained glass ducks

a bunch of
rubber duckies

just a bunch of flakes

dog treats in kitchen jars

wheat on a bowl, the pattern my grandmother owned

my favorite cotton table cloth

rockers with faded cushions
on my front porch

the encouraging words
of a friend
Zeph 3:17


Ordinary Things by Ana Guardia
“Every artist was first an amateur.”
To be an artist one has to find beauty in ordinary things. Find 10 things of great beauty in the landscape that surrounds you. For example, crumple sheets on your bed in the morning, the smell of coffee making its way around a busy office. AG

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

White Lotus

My friend May is someone who seems to footnote every thought. She works in a toxic environment, her every word open to public scrutiny, subject to management surveillance and beaten into submission by unbridled criticism.

Her footnotes drive me crazy, yet in May I see a hero.

Like a lotus flower growing up from the murky bottom of a back- water pond to emerge in full bloom above the stale water, May has an inner beauty gracefully revealed when her true voice rises.

I am
a woman
for freedom tasted
in writing
my own

a woman
heart touched
by those who inspire me
with their words
and with their lives

a woman
breathing fresh air
a fragile heart
a flawed human
a message of hope

a woman
for courage
into the darkness

a woman
who chooses
to turn
and see
the darkness
until each person
on this earth
rises from
the murky water
and is welcomed
into the Light


White Lotus
Sherry and Debbie are sisters in faith, women who helped open the eyes of my heart to the tenacious darkness of trafficking and the unlimited potential of healing in Christ ~ using simple construction paper colors and a beautiful Krama as a blindfold.

Deep in Your Soul by Michael McFadden
“I hate quotations. Tell me what you know.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson. What message is yearning inside you? What is something you know deep in your soul? Don’t look for someone else to describe it. You do it. Write it down. Write it as a poem, a sentence or even just a string of words. Just make sure you get it to paper. MM

Legacy 2

In the opening pages of "The Transforming Friendship" by Leslie D. Weatherhead, the author dedicates his book:




First Edition
February 1928
The Camelot Press Limited
London and Southampton
Great Britain

Legacy by Tim Belber
"To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment." —Ralph Waldo Emerson One definition of legacy is what someone feels, thinks for says where they hear your name. What are you doing today to build the legacy you want? TB

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


Months ago, I skipped The 7 Habits ... and began with a borrowed copy of The 8th. All around me friends were writing their eulogies, and I was thinking about my obituary. Vastly different words. Eulogy. Obituary.

As I read Covey's The 8th Habit, I found myself rolling up my sleeves and doing the work. I culled through a year of scribbled appointments in my calendar and the box full of disheveled receipts in my office. I examined the trails of my own time alongside my husband's money, then made changes. People with worthy projects fell away from my "Giving To" list as I intentionally concentrated on people and passions closest to my heart.

Today, as I imagine my own funeral, the duo becomes a trio: Eulogy. Obituary. Legacy.

Obituary is math. Dates. Names. Spouse, children, siblings, in-laws, parents, workplace, hobbies. In print. Black easily-smudged soy-based-ink numbers and letters on not-so-white paper made from recycled newspapers. One photograph?

Eulogy is ceremony. Words written and shared by one or two people, probably from a podium, at the front of an empty or crowded room. Sentences spoken about me in the memorial service, phrases formally marking the passage of me, the end of one life here on earth. A neatly framed collection of photos? A bulletin board covered with snapshots?

Legacy is celebration. It is a collection of 'remember whens' easily shared, at the funeral luncheon, over a morning cup of coffee or a afternoon glass of wine, across a campfire, around a Thanksgiving table. The stories told about me by the people who shared in the living. The black-lettered words of obituary coming alive in the color and movement of shared memories.

Legacy is layered with innumerable voices
— a papier-mâché sculpture of me.


Legacy by Tim Belber
“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson One definition of legacy is what someone feels, thinks and says when they hear your name. What are you doing today to build the legacy you want? TB

Monday, July 11, 2011


glasses, freckles

white hair
brown eyes

corners of the mouth turned gently down

then up

a self-conscious smile

an age spot on her right cheek
a beauty mark below her lower lip
puffy quilted cushions of wrinkles above the cheekbones



faint frown lines on the bridge of the nose
between uneven eyebrows

light from the window to her right
the left left in slight shadow

the left eye looks smaller, the right eye ?

a right hand removing the glasses

the scar
on her forehead
above her left eye
almost indistinguishable from wrinkles of age

a left hand reaching up
to touch the scar

a fading scar
from stitches put in
before I was in Kindergarten
I remember falling
hitting my head on the sharp corner
of a table next to a couch
in the living room

patient eyes

then tears

why tears?

then laugh lines and crows feet revealed by a nervous smile

I check the time
seeking closure ?
11 minutes


Mirror, Mirror by Esther Poyer
"Truth is beautiful, without doubt; but so are lies." —Ralph Waldo Emerson Mirror, mirror on the wall... find the nearest mirror. Look. Keep looking for 3 minutes. Write about what you see. EP

A Busy Weekend In A Small Town

On Saturday, a wedding ceremony at a park in a neighboring city, then a reception and dance just a few blocks from our house, meant no one stayed at home to keep Harley company. I showed up at regular intervals to take him outside, but I didn't stay long and we didn't walk far. On Sunday family and friends drove a couple miles north to work on the old house my son and daughter-in-law just bought, then stayed for an impromptu cookout, but it was stifling hot outside – too hot for a little long-haired dog – so again Harley stayed home alone.

Today, Harley simply wants to be held.

In the days and weeks when I find myself spending too much time alone, I often lack the courage to seek out the people who love me and ask to be held. Today, I want to be more like Harley.
I want to openly crave and joyfully accept the human embrace.


Harley is a rescued 6-year-old Papillon male who grew up in Texas. In April, he came to live in Wisconsin, the home of Harley Davidson Motorcycles. We now call him Harley Davidson. I wonder what he will think about winter.

Day 40 Trust30 Challenge

Friday, July 8, 2011


One day, in a blog, I read these words, “... times are cut out for brutal honesty ...”

The words that followed were and are hauntingly brutally hurtful.

I am uncertain this morning about the words I am posting to my own blog. I am so very aware of my own human frailties.

I am unsure how to respond with my abilities.

... each speaker gets a chance to say something special from God, and you all learn from each other. If you choose to speak, you're also responsible for how and when you speak. When we worship the right way, God doesn't stir us up into confusion; he brings us into harmony. This goes for all the churches—no exceptions. MSG

or ... if you prefer ...

... one by one, that all may learn and all may be encouraged. And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints. NKJV

If I choose to speak, I am responsible for how and when. I am responsible for my words.

Words that bring discord and confusion are not brutally honest – just brutal.

Today, I hesitate. With every key stroke, there is pain.


excerpts 1 Corinthians 14:26-33

Nothing To Lose by Tanner Christianson
“Self-censorship is not just self-betrayal and self-abandonment (which would be bad enough), but soul-betrayal and betrayal of our Muse, out inner voice, our highest self.” Too often we censor ourselves, our actions, and our work in hope or fear of what might happen if we otherwise don’t. What words would you write today, and what actions would you take, if you had nothing to fear, nothing to lose? TC

Thursday, July 7, 2011

191 Words

How many days start with a whine… a toddler-like but I waaaannt it? Yesterday, online at Barnes & Noble, I ordered 3 books $35. Then my daughter stopped by, so we grabbed dinner at a little place just down the street $27. Today, I read a plea for help on a friend’s blog and hesitate to donate $50, telling myself perhaps we can’t afford it.

How can we not?

Like a child throwing a tantrum at the mall, I latch onto things impulsively, not rationally. I am lured in by the anticipation of crisp pages in a new book. I ignore planning a meal, paying a local restaurant to cook for us instead.

I embrace the infantile impulse me me me.

Today, in the little red book I am reading each morning, Beth Moore explores God giving Paul an all-expenses paid trip to his destination Acts 26:29. She writes, [God] gives us what we need, not what we want.

Day 10 of the Trust30 Challenge asked: If you could spread your personal message right now to 1 million people, what would you say?

Today, I would say 2 words: Please Donate


Day 38
Worthwhile Day by Jessica Dang
“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could.”
What is one thing you can do that would make today worthwhile? What’s stopping you from getting started right now? JD

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Be You

Be You by Elizabeth Presson
In one sentence, who are you?

I am an Encourager, a speaker and writer of words, seeking to inspire others with courage, spirit and hope.



After spending more than half of our Trust30 days together trying to catch up, Tuesday night I was inspired by This: "Fear evaporated under these conditions"

I grabbed a piece of whiteboard
and my tube of toothpaste, went outside in the fading light and wrote This: "Jesus wept"

Jesus was human. He shed silent tears as the mourners lead him to the tomb of Lazarus, his friend. He shed silent tears for Lazarus' sisters Martha and Mary, and the people who mourned with them. Jesus wept for his friends, and the friends of his friends.

And Jesus wept for us.

I want to evaporate fear caring about people in the moment, struggling and weeping beside people in distress, living and celebrating joy as it happens in my life and in the lives of those around me. When we put down our shields to share our sorrow and our joy with the world, Life evaporates fear.

I am inspired by This.


Number 1 Passion
by Eric Handler
What is your #1 passion in life?  Now, imagine what would happen if you incorporated that passion into your life daily.  Write down your passion and keep it close to you.  Remind yourself of it daily, just like brushing your teeth. EH

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


The birds are singing to the predawn gray, encouraging the arrival of the sun. I walk my middle-aged dogs first Harley, then Dozer as the sun crests the horizon and our neighbors wake.

Dozer stands as a sentinel at the living room window, waiting to bark at the paperboy. Harley and I move to the kitchen, unload the dishwasher and make a pot of coffee, find a couple of dog treats in the jar. We take one to Dozer.

I bring a steaming mug with me to my second floor office, and settle into the comfortable worn upholstery of my favorite chair. Harley climbs the stairs right behind me, curls up in my lap. I read and listen, open my day in prayer. Harley insists I pet his ears.

In the corner between two windows, my computer rests on a battered library table. Just beyond my reach, a simple paint-splattered wood chair waits, ready for my work to begin. I can spend hours here reading emails, writing responses, editing a manual, writing a blog for Trust30, formatting a book written by a friend with only the sun marking time.

Sometimes, Harley and I miss lunch.


Energy by Julia E
“The world belongs to the energetic.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson  It’s easy to blame our failure to meet our goals or to live our dream lives on a lack of energy, and we don’t always stop to think about the quality of energy in our lives. Yet we can choose to create and manage our own energy flow. Think of an instance when you’ve been so involved in an activity that you’ve lost track of time, and then identity the passions and energies you were feeding. Who was there with you? What were you doing? What will you do to make time for moments like that one more often? JE

what would you be

a painter

oils on canvas

water colors on paper

cascading images, murals on plaster walls

creator of decorative wallpaper boarders and stenciled images

that are neither wall paper

nor stenciled

at all


What would you be by Ryan Allis
If a year from now you weren't in the profession you're currently in, what would you be in your wildest dreams? RA


On the day I am born, the "US begins spraying foliage in Vietnam to expose Viet Cong guerrillas. The US dropped millions of gallons of herbicides such as Agent Orange which sparked charges that the United States was violating international norms against using chemical weapons in war, and many of the herbicides were later found to cause birth defects and rare forms of cancer in humans."

As I watch the film of American soldiers spraying the banks of the Saigon River with a mixture of commercial weed killer and river water, my heart weeps. The young men draw herbicide-laden mist into their lungs with each breath, not knowing the suffering it carries. An unseen assailant waits in the mist, delivering birth defects to American children and haunting American families with rare cancers.

Defoliating the lush green shoreline saves human lives by under- mining an enemy, subverting a military maneuver. An enemy once readily camouflaged is unable to hide, unable to ambush. Yet an unseen assailant remains, the herbicide-laden river will ravage Vietnamese children with birth defects, strike down Vietnamese families with rare cancers – without regard to north or south, enemy or ally.

Death. Poison. Ravaging. Suffering. War.
A broken and fallen world. The inhumanity of humanity.


#Trust30 Carries On
Congrats on completing 30 days of writing reflections! The feedback on #trust30 has been so great that Amber has volunteered to continue the prompts as a personal project. The hope is that these daily emails will guide you on your writing journey, and help you to look within and get to know yourself. To kick off this new leg, here’s a prompt from Seth Godin: Find something that happened on the day and date you were born. Write about it.


Job: If my job annoys me, I am truly in trouble. I volunteer for organizations I am passionate about, alongside people I respect, admire, love. That’s not to say personalities don’t get in the way, but it is rare, and I find myself truly enjoying my job 359 days each year.

If I am honest, the relationship most often
not working
in my life is
my role as daughter.
I often
hear failure
in words
said to the daughter-in-me. I often find myself playing a child’s game of telephone with a couple of metal cans and a string.
An intended good job, here is an idea for doing better becomes
a jumbled garbage, there is no reason to try any longer. I cling
to my garbled hurt like a 3-year-old clutching her woobie. Change comes when I release imagined expectations and aphonic blame, when I put down the cans-n-string phone of childhood.

Friends: Limitless levels of friendship flow across my lifetime.

my mentors as friends

the friends I sometimes mentor

friends I want to spend more time with

fading friends with whom I find little in common

rekindled opportunities held in friendships softly faded

people who call themselves friends yet seem to insist
on playing prove you love me games

people who whine a competitive friendship challenge
with invitations to coffee and camaraderie
if only I will call them

those who will read this and elect to stand apart from me
clinging to the jumbled words and garbled hurt
of my flawed humanity
building self-imposed barriers to our friendship

In a quick list of 15 friends, I find people in all categories. Change comes as I sift the broad inclusive group called friends and focus on people I want to spend more time with – my friends.


Movie: Mr. Mom
Cans photo

Fault and Change by Carlos Miceli
I must be myself. I cannot break myself any longer for you, or you. - Ralph Waldo Emerson Think of all the things that are not working in your life. That job you don’t like, that relationship that’s not working, those friends that annoy you. Now turn them all on you. Imagine that everything that’s not working in your life, is your fault. How would you approach it? What would you work on to change your life to the state that you want it to be? CM

Monday, July 4, 2011


A straw hat. A wool scarf. A summer dress.
An umbrella on a cloudless day.
Me. Standing barefoot inside the backyard dog kennel fence.

Do you want to look at the camera?

asks the recruited-amateur-photographer-husband

No. This is good. Just take the picture.
Rw replies

Image by Matthew Stillman
Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Mess up your hair. If you are wearing makeup – smudge it. If you have a pair of pants that dont really fit you – put them on. Put on a top that doesn’t go with those pants. Go to your sock drawer. Pull out two socks that don’t match. Different lengths, materials, colors, elasticity.
Now two shoes. You know the drill.
Need to add more? Ties? Hair clips? Stick your gut out? 
I trust you to go further.
Take a picture.
Get ready to post it online.
Are you feeling dread? Excitement? Is this not the image you have of yourself? Write about the fear or the thrill that this raises in you? Who do you need to look good for and what story does it tell about you? Or why don’t you care? MS


The movie Frequency is a beautiful celebration of our humanity, a movie in which a ham radio set connects a son with his father across 30 years, allowing the son to hear the voice of a father he barely remembers.

Like a movie critic pointing out inconsistencies in the plot, I rudely reject the idea that the devices I am text messaging with today will be functioning ten years from now. Technology is simply moving too fast.

Turning away from the technological challenges, I find myself examining the relationship of now-me and future-me, asking the question, Will the things I am doing today be something of value in 10 years?

If not, what needs to change?


Movie: Frequency

10 Year Text by Tia Singh
Speak what you think now in hard words, and tomorrow speak what tomorrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said today. – Ralph Waldo Emerson  Imagine your future self, ie, you 10 years from now. If he/she were to send you a tweet or a text message, 1) what would it say and 2) how would that transform your life or change something you’re doing, thinking, believing or saying today? TS

Sunday, July 3, 2011


I long to escape the carnival house of mirrors in which I often immerse myself, an unpredictable and often unflattering series of distorted self-images. I call a friend a coward, only to realize within a few hours that I was the one most cowardice. I fault someone for using “Christian-speak” then hear myself using a similar phrase just a few weeks later.

In the margin on a page in a book a few of us are reading, I scribble “When words or people grate on us like sandpaper, is it something the enemy doesn’t want us to hear? A healing word for us? Or a brokenness in another person, a lock for which we hold a healing key?”

The book pushes aside the classic labels of promiscuity and purity, focusing our hearts and minds on integrity.

Expectations. Impact. Outcomes. I can’t predict the expectations others bring – for the book or for me, the person who suggested this book club. I can’t predict the impact of multiple women reading this book and spending time together discussing the ideas contained. Often it is difficult to ascertain who will show up week to week to discuss a chapter, so long-term predictability readily eludes me.

I can’t predict. I need to trust.

I need to trust that the women who come, the words we read, and the discussions that follow will touch us – that for each of us there will be a healing word or the discovery of a healing key for a brokenness locked inside another.

As we journey together toward integrity the distorted images will be shattered, the glass shards combined with sand and heat, the essential elements blown into beautiful artisan glass.


Overcoming Uncertainty by Sean Ogle
Nothing can bring you peace but yourself. Nothing can bring you peace but the triumph of principles. – Ralph Waldo Emerson  Write down a major life goal you have yet to achieve or even begin to take action on. For each goal, write down three uncertainties (read: fears) you have relating to each goal. Break it down further, and write down three reasons for each uncertainty. When you have three reasons for your fear, you’ll be able to start processing the change because you know where the fear stems from. Now you’ll be able to make a smaller changes that push you towards your larger goal. So begins the process of “trusting yourself.” SO


Trust30 Challenge
Day 20 “Fortune Cookies
I spent most of a day putting together this photo. I emptied drawers of cookbooks and journals, explored books on my bookshelf and scraps of own writing. I called my husband asking him to pick up a box of fortune cookies and rummaged through the ancient oak furniture that holds our table linens to find my favorite cotton table cloth.

As I leafed through books and read scraps of writing, I was comforted by the texture of the paper on my fingertips, the black-lettered words before me taking on the color and movement of memories. I dumped the box of fortune cookies alongside my paper treasures and sliced open the cellophane neatly wrapping each one to experience the satisfying crunch of cookies breaking in my hands, making a mess. I tasted stolen bits, crumbs melted on my tongue. I sat at my desk, finger tips clicking on keyboard, posting my Day 20 blog.

The printer called on Friday. Mother's cookbook is ready. My youngest sister will be thrilled. 


Alive-est by Sam Davidson
Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind. If we follow the truth, it will bring us out safe at last. - Ralph Waldo Emerson   When did you feel most alive recently? Where were you? What did you smell? What sights and sounds did you experience? Capture that moment on paper and recall that feeling. Then, when it’s time to create something, read your own words to reclaim a sense of being to motivate you to complete a task at hand. SD