Wednesday, August 31, 2011


Most of us don’t have deserts or remote mountain passes to wander in, and, even if we did, our responsibilities would keep us from spending much time there. Instead, we must find ways to nurture silence and solitude in the midst of our busy schedules. The most basic way to do this is simply creating. . . a state in which our inner voices are stilled and we stand alone with the Mystery. In the next 24 hours, create an opportunity for you to have just 10 minutes of silence — 5 minutes to still the waters, and 5 minutes to write without interruption. What writing surfaces when you are calm?

As the neighbor's lawnmower is silenced by the turning of a key and the traffic noise from the highway fades away, I am left with the hum of my computer. Hands quietly resting. Eyes closed.

Silence 5 minutes.

I trust in God's unfailing love.

Restless fingertips begin to move. The click of the keyboard joins the hum of my computer. Tomorrow is the first day of school. Children will meet teachers and classmates, explore new classroom spaces. Words unlock it all. The ability to read and write is the key to all the world. For if I can read I can visit faraway places in stories and textbooks. I can seek to understand mathematics and science. I can teach myself to play piano and guitar. I can open a book and read with God.

I can be an ageless student.

Tomorrow is the first day of school.


Monday, August 29, 2011

Screen Door

"... think about stories that you tell and the stories that others tell about you. It may help to think in terms of general categories ... Activity ... People ... Who has most impacted your life?"
—Dan Allender, To Be Told Workbook pg 10-11

Who has most impacted my life?
My husband.
My children.

When I got to my children, pages flowed into my journal. I began to describe how after living in major cities for more than a decade, we returned here, near the town where I grew up. People who knew me as a teen but were strangers to my children, would see my daughter and approach her to ask, "I went to school with ... are you her daughter?"
Those who saw something of me in my teenage daughter used my birth name and writing my birth name on the page of my journal opens a memory -- a time in my childhood, possibly 3rd or 4th grade, when I begin to imagine life as a grownup. I want to live in a house with a metal screen door, a screen door with an R at the center. Using another letter like an S or a W never enters the mind of the child me. She does not ponder marriage or other things she cannot see. The girl whose birth name is captured in the initials RR, simply sits and imagines her screen door. She does not ask God for more detail. She imagines and is content.

"Are your ears awake? Listen. Listen to the Wind Words,
the Spirit blowing through the churches.
I'll give the sacred manna to every conqueror;
I'll also give a clear, smooth stone
inscribed with your new name, your secret new name."
Revelation 2:17 MSG

photo by Nitkat

Sunday, August 28, 2011


I'd like you to meet Hua James Beethoven. He was an adorable puppy who grew into a really cute little dog. As a puppy, Hua tended to get a little too excited, a little too often. When that happened, his owner held him against her in a sort of firm and gentle bear hug ... and just patiently waited until
he puffed out a breath of submission. This happened a lot when Hua was a puppy. Now that he is older Hua doesn't need it nearly as often, but occasionally we humans find ourselves asking, "Hua? Do you need to be puffed?"

This past week groceries arrived in my kitchen with a request from the shopper/provider, "Could you make Chicken Quesadillas for dinner?"

"Sure." I responded, "If you'll cook the chicken."


The problem came in when I discovered that we had only enough cheddar for ONE serving. Dinner was for THREE.

Sitting comfortably, feet propped up on our coffee table, the requester of Chicken Quesadillas ignored me as I stomped past, car keys and cash in hand, muttering something under my breath and shutting the front door a little too firmly, on my way to the grocery store for more cheese.

As I drove through downtown, muscles tight with anger, I noticed the beauty and warmth of the old brick buildings, the soft golden color of the sunset. My grip on the steering wheel relaxed ever so slightly. I unconsciously raised my shoulders, and let them drop again, as I exhaled a huge and audible breath.

I thought about Hua James Beethoven, then laughed as I realized it was quite possible I had just been Puffed by God.


Saturday, August 27, 2011


I am dreaming. A vivid dream. A dream pulsating with sharp black and white images against backgrounds of gray horizons and concrete walls. My black lab mix, a middle-aged dog with stiffening joints, has become a young and healthy black colt. I no longer hold his leash in my hand, but a soft and flawless white rope that flows loosely against his mane. We are running, together, through a maze of concrete walls. Moonlight awaits us just around the next corner. A lush meadow of dew laden grass will caress his hooves and my bare feet. And we will run there too.

I am awake. I do not normally journal dreams, yet I am drawn tonight to find words to describe this experience. The utter freedom of running with a colt. A human body so healthy that anything is possible.

In 2008, I was asked to write my bio and chose to include Galatians 5:22-23 MSG. At the time it was all so new to me I had never even heard of the fruits of the Spirit. In 2011, in a Bible study with some friends, I am asked to choose a focus from this same passage. I choose gentleness (NIV), not needing to force our way in life (MSG).

The author of our Bible study challenges us to journal our thoughts about this statement: Soon, saying yes to God will no longer be a discipline of your heart but rather the delight of your life.

In her challenge, tonight I find the perfect word to capture the essence of my dream.



local time 2:31 AM

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Chicken Soup

I am in bed today, covered by a tattered star-patterned quilt, shoulders propped up by three pillows and a headboard, my little dog Harley curled up where he can see out the bedroom window. What started Tuesday as a sore and scratchy throat has become a full-blown summer cold with chest congestion, fever and cough. I went to bed early last night, without a good night kiss, my husband refusing to risk it.

This morning, as I waited for my chicken soup to warm, I walked into my husband's office and appropriated his laptop. It appears we last used it in April. Perhaps I'd better plug it in. I find an outlet in our bedroom, accidentally unplugging the clock for just a moment. It flashes an angry random time, annoyed by the power failure, demanding to be reset. I unplug it again. Who needs to know what time it is anyway?

I thought about Christine Caine, The Core Issue. She writes, "...eventually the stress and intensity of my schedule took its toll on my body, and I collapsed. Quite literally, in fact. I threw my back out, and my life came to a screeching halt." pg 46

She was forced to stop doing. She simply had to be still.

Tuesday over coffee, my friend Perry said, "Breathe. Find the sustainable pace, the rhythm, like a swimmer. Inhale air. Exhale into the water."

Christine Caine writes, "... I stopped drowning out the voice of my heart."

"Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all thing and be in health, even as your soul prospers." 3 John 2

The laptop saves a draft of this blog. 10:54 AM.

The alarm clock remains unplugged.



A forgotten bookmark, a gift from my friend Andrea, rests at page 139 of The Core Issue, Day 1 of a study "The Art of Being ... authentic Christianity, external actions flowing naturally from an internal life lived in intimacy with our Creator."

Is today the day I begin?


Saturday, August 20, 2011

Scratchy Summer Towels

Today, as I hang sheets out to dry on the clothesline in our back yard, I remember a wringer washer at the farmhouse where I lived as a child. I was afraid of getting my fingers caught in the rollers.

This morning, I pause a moment to wonder if maybe I once got my fingers pinched? Only a toddler at the time, it is unlikely I was tall enough to reach the rollers that squeezed water out of clothing, sheets and towels.

I am almost certain my parents didn't have a dryer. Mom alone carried baskets of wet laundry up the basement stairs, hung everything on a clothesline to dry. Doing our laundry with a wringer washer and clothesline had to be hard work.

Hanging sheets and towels on our clothesline is my summer indulgence, a simple task that purges that faded winter smell.
The faint body odors masked by fabric softeners and dryer sheets are released by sunshine and carried away by the wind.

I enjoy the crispness of the sheets and the feel of scratchy summer towels. Somehow time on the clothesline makes the sheets and towels new again.

Every child of God can defeat the world, and
our faith is what gives us this victory.
1 John 5:4 CEV


Photo Credit

Friday, August 19, 2011

Northern Girls

"... think about stories that you tell and the stories that others tell about you. It may help to think in terms of general categories ... Age ... Location ... How was your room decorated?"
—Dan Allender, To Be Told Workbook pg 10

When I began kindergarten
we lived in a pretty house
with a playhouse
under the tall pine trees
in the back yard.

My sister and I had our own
bedrooms, upstairs.
Our closets held secret doors
that connected us. I hear
giggles of little girls crawling
through a secret passageway.

Northern Tissue Girls "American
Beauties" hung in our bedrooms.
I see my younger sister in the
baby and the blond.
I see myself in the brunets,
especially the one with the kitten
because she has brown eyes.
Today, I discover these prints
were part of a hugely successful
advertising campaign. 30 million
households. 1959 to 1966.

Today, in my treasured childhood images, I see racism.

"American Beauty" is white.
The pretty little house with the playhouse under the pines.

An illusion.

A gauzy cocoon of pasteled falsehood.

Brokenness quietly perpetuating a monochromatic and exclusionary world.


The images included here are photos taken of the "American Beauties" prints that hang in the hallway outside my office, remnants of an advertising campaign by Northern Tissue

Additional history from

Thursday, August 18, 2011


This morning as I walk my dog Harley beneath the nearly-full 5am moon, I can see my breath. The predawn air is a bit chilly and gloriously mosquito-free. Summer is stretching and rising in her final days, like a sunbather brushing the sand from a lakeside lounge chair before dragging it to the parking lot and putting it in the trunk of her car. Fall lingers just behind the curtain, like an actress awaiting her cue. I can feel her heart beating.

A random and permanent artifact greets us near one of Harley's favorite trees, the imprint of a maple leaf that included itself in a driveway and sidewalk project, summer 2001.

I remember a movie-like scene at a nurses station.
A call from the CDC. Legionnaire's Disease.
A doctor telling a wife her husband might not make it.
A firm and gentle insistence that family, her in-laws, be notified. Her teary and silent refusal to comply.

My noncompliance in that moment was a bold gamble, a risk taken without examination of facts nor prayerful solicitation of guidance.

This summer, I am grateful for the maple leaf and a loving God who sometimes simply picks me up and carries me.


The Dune is Heavy

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


"I don't believe God is so concerned that we build ministriesor companies, families, or any other human legacyto his glory. His glory is grown when we simply live out the calling he has given us. We give him much greater glory when we are aware of our calling, live intentionally, and live with passion. That's how we coauthor our own story." —Dan Allender, To Be Told pg 22

This morning I opened my email to one of those glorious stories of faith and humanity, passed on through hundreds of emails to my inbox. It was inspiring. Then, it was not. At the end was that guilt-inducing admonition to pass it on ... or else. 

Yes, I thought, I will send my own email message to the person who has me on their forward-forward-forward list. Responding with a nasty 'take me off your list' email promises to feel quite satisfying in the moment. But, does it contribute anything to making this world a better place? Bringing a bit of heaven to earth?

I am reminded of a keynote speaker at a high school banquet in the spring of my senior year. She spoke of a yabut, a mythical creature often seen lurking in those deceptive moments when we respond to an idea with a subversive yes, then add something closer to what we really think, usually inserted after a but. She suggested that when we hear our mouths forming those two tiny words yes but, that each of us pause and take time to think about being honest, compassionate and respectful.

Like me, the person forwarding the email is a believer in Christ, a woman simply trying to live out the calling God has for her. In my visceral reaction to the admonition to pass it on ... or else, I felt a yabut lurking in the shadows. 

I stopped and took a breath, then simply hit delete.

As I am tentatively exploring coauthoring my story with God, Yes, buts and Maybes are not an option. Simply and fully, my answer to our Creator is Yes.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Quilt Makers

"We are quilt makers, artists, explorers ... look for paths you might have missed that will make your journey richer." Dan Allender, To Be Told Workbook pg 7

Today, I journaled memories from first grade to age forty from gazing out the tall windows of my first grade classroom to my tequila-infused 40th birthday celebration on a beach in Puerto Vallarta. 

In both places, time is an earthy visual and rich tactile memory. Green trees. Blue sky. My arms against wood-topped desk. The fingers of my right hand curled around a pencil. The canvas cabana and sun glasses providing welcome shade. My feet relaxing at the sides of my beach chair, buried beneath warm sand.

As I begin this work of introspection and the search for paths missed, I am intrigued by how far the little first grade girl has come, how much she has learned and experienced, and how somewhere deep inside her there remains a child-like awe for trees and sky, wood and sand.


Monday, August 15, 2011

Children of the Heart

In the fall of 2008 at my first ICAP-Global conference I purchased a circle of dolls, tiny women dressed in bright Guatemalan weaves. One holds a broom. Others hold
similar household items. Many are empty-handed. The card attached reads, "This product was made by women who live on the outskirts of Guatemala City ... working together these women have developed a community medical clinic and dental clinic, a scholarship and tutoring program, an infant growth monitoring and breast-feeding promotion program, a daycare center ... they have maintained a spirit of HOPE, which many in similar circumstances lost long ago. By purchasing this product you help support an entire community. Thank you..."

The circle hangs in my office, a reminder of a life-changing conference, a tribute to the power of women working together.

At the 2011 conference I brought home more tiny dolls dressed in Guatemalan weaves, this time as a gift for a young girl, the daughter of a close friend. Her thank you note hangs in my office.

She is taking good care of the dollys. She hopes I give her more gifts. She is making me a thank you letter.

Her words inspire me.

I long for words that will inspire the children of my heart, the men and women who struggle.

I too left footprints on the dark path of hopelessness. I look back now and know that I was not alone.

I call to God;
God will help me.
At dusk, dawn, and noon I sigh
deep sighs—he hears, he rescues.

Psalm 55:17 MSG

Sunday, August 14, 2011

4am Cucumbers

Yesterday when I arrived at the Dewey Street house to mow the lawn it was late morning. As I opened the screen door my keys slipped from my right hand, fell downward and bounced once before disappearing into the crack between the house and the steps, coming to rest beneath 500 lbs of precast concrete.

I can't get into the house. I can't drive home. Anxiety crashes in.

I step off the landing, set down the canvas bag held in my left hand, and begin digging for my phone. Found. I dial my husband. He asks where in our home he would find the spare keys. The house was easy. He will find those in the dining room, just outside his home office door. The car, well, um, there is only the one, there were two once, but...

My husband has more patience than anyone I know. After we hang up, I slip my cell phone into the back pocket of my paint-splattered khakis. Remembering that I am here to work, I walk around back to find the lawnmower.

About 45 minutes later my husband arrives with a spare set of house keys and a telescoping rod -- much like a car antenna -- with a magnet on the end. Using the spare keys, I let myself into the house, use the bathroom and find a flashlight. We need to move the stairs just a bit. Instead of trying to lift the concrete, my husband patiently pries the stairs away from the house -- an approach I hadn't even considered. Soon my keys are in my hand. We slide the stairs back to their original position, or perhaps just a bit closer to the front of the house.

All is well, or at least would be, if my cell phone hadn't slipped out of my pocket and fallen into the toilet. It is drying in a bag of rice. The outcome is not promising. Worrying about my phone is what woke me up at 4am this morning. Anxious in the darkness, I turn on both lights in the bathroom, then decide it needs cleaning. Task accomplished. On my way to the basement laundry room with a full hamper of dirty clothes, I walk through our kitchen. The dishes from supper are clean and dry in the dishwasher. In the sink, an empty storage container and a fork await washing, the last of the cucumber salad from dinner apparently enjoyed by my husband before coming to bed.

I smile at the thought of my husband eating cucumber salad 'bachelor style' right out of the container, not bothering with a plate. The cucumbers were a gift from a friend, an unexpected blessing in a week when the vines in our garden had faded and fizzled into lumps of brown from too much rain. I open the frig. A huge bowl of cucumbers from my friend's garden remains. I reach in and grab the bowl, move it to the kitchen counter. Dozer, our black lab, hears me and comes to sit nearby, quietly begging with big brown eyes. As I peel and slice, occasionally sharing a piece of cucumber with Dozer, I realize that what seemed so important only hours ago, really doesn't matter at all. I think about how blessed we truly are in this life -- by big things like marriage and by little things like 4 am cucumbers -- and how much more our Creator has waiting for us in the next.

Today is going to be a good day.


Thursday, August 11, 2011

Unwanted Change

"...the upheaval of unwanted change—tragedy that disrupts the status quo and compels attention, focus, engagement, and choice. This change drives us to write what we really want to say, because we have only a few blank pages left and little ink in our pen." Dan Allender, To Be Told

I love Dan Allender. He stretches my vocabulary, my intellect, my heart, my faith.

I hate Dan Allender. A self-described thief-therapist, he uses words to pick the locks in my gated illusions, then steals the peace of mind facade I cling to in a white-knuckled grasp.

In the aftermath of mid-July violence, there are people I am pushing away. I do not answer my phone. A tragedy has disrupted me. I find myself with less to give to friendships that now feel superficial. I find myself with less and less patience, a virtue not gifted and abundant in me but carefully cultivated and rare. I am withholding, conserving. Is it because I want to spend what remains of me with the people I love most? In pursuits held most passionately in my heart? With God?

Yes. Yes! YES!

Now. Today. I am going to withdraw from my lukewarm life in Laodicea. I am going to accept that I am wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I am going to examine the patterns in my life story and explore the story God wants for me.

I have only a few blank pages left and little ink in my pen.


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Savannah Wicker

My neighbors are residing their house. The discarded vinyl siding and leaky gutters the contractor removed now rest in a heap in the back yard, awaiting disposal. New siding is stacked neatly on pallets at the edge of the driveway, wrapped against the elements in white corrugated boxes covered by a brown tarp. The ends of the boxes peak from beneath the tarp. Tidy factory-printed letters neatly proclaim "Savannah Wicker" as the color inside.

I am intrigued.

"Savannah Wicker" speaks of Southern hospitality, a slower pace, warm weather and sunshine, expansive front porches surrounded by magnolia trees, a simple appreciation for sipping lemonade, time spent welcoming old friends like quiet summer breezes soft as whispers.

"Savannah Wicker" will wrap this home, sheltering the family from spring rains and winter storms.

As I continue to feel tossed by life's storms, a friend writes, "Its time you admit your humanity and take care of yourself. You are not alone."

This morning, an online daily devotional tells of Elijah not hearing God in the wind, the earthquake, nor the fire -- but in the whisper -- ending with the prayer: "Lord, I'm listening."

Simple. Quiet. Prayer.


I am listening.


Wednesday, August 3, 2011


Often these past weeks, I find
myself limp and tired like a pile of torn clothing awaiting the rag bag. I see stained and frayed garments in a laundry room corner, ready for remaining buttons to be cut off and added to the timeless jar of buttons, cloth ready to be cast aside as rags. I fear that the anger seething within me will rampage unimpeded, until the few bits of fine clay I shaped and fired here on earth are gently harvested by the button-cutter, the woven tapestry of me laid to rest in a dark
and dusty corner of the workshop, used to sop up spilled fluids,
a final task before being thrown into the dumpster and hauled away as trash. Listening to a recent podcast of a Sunday morning I missed, I was given the image of God reweaving our stories.
I remembered the gifted and patient owner of a dry cleaning business, a tiny woman who would repair the 3-corner tears in suits my husband wore to job sites. I knew where to look on the cleaned and pressed garments, yet her repairs were so flawless the cloth was like new. Today, a familiar voice reminds me. God simply gauges the damage and reweaves us. Skillfully. Patiently. God makes us new again.