Monday, December 26, 2016


the gift of comfort from Amanda
"If the wise men had been women ..." the joke opens, "... asked directions, arrived on time, helped deliver the baby, cleaned the stable..." diminishing males in applauding females.

My heart is reminded Mary and Martha, sisters -- Mary at the feet of Jesus, listening to His teachings; Martha in the kitchen. It is Martha that Jesus invites into a new role, to leave the kitchen, to sit at His feet and learn.

Later in the story, the roles are reversed. It is Martha who goes out to meet Jesus, and Mary who stays at home.

As the story unfolds, neither woman is diminished. Both are invited, valued, purposed, loved.

If today you find yourself exhausted by the tasks of Christmas, sit down, be restful, wrap yourself in comfort, enjoy the silence, mute the noise.

Listen to your heart. God is there.


Friday, December 16, 2016

and the child grew

In these weeks of Advent my soul is strengthen by the words, the story of Christmas, as told in Luke, Chapters 1 and 2.

Today the words of Zachariah, the father of John the Baptist, spoke at the birth of his son: And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
    for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
77 to give knowledge of salvation to his people
    in the forgiveness of their sins,
78 because of the tender mercy of our God,
    whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high
79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
    to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

80 And the child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day of his public appearance to Israel. Luke 1:76-80 ESV

In these days, the first Christmas following the death of my husband, I miss the words of encouragement, the call to be a person of peace, to grow and become strong in spirit and I am most grateful for his words, spoken over our children for the past 31 years.


Thursday, September 1, 2016

finding rest

an envelope arrived yesterday from the director of the crematory that assisted us in the days following my husband's unexpected death. at first, i did not want to open it, though its thickness indicated it contained material intended to help me, the grieving person. the envelope rests on the kitchen counter for a time, then i retrieve the letter opener - neatness counts - slit open the envelope, remove its contents and read the cover letter. "Dear Renee, During grief, some days are just harder than others. This brochure gives ideas for getting the most from the toughest ones..." 

something in the words acknowledging the toughest days is soothing to my soul. i read every word of the first 8 pages, skip page 9 - a list of books - and move onto the brochure. reading each paragraph, i nod my head in recognition. yes, me too. yes. yes.

note to self: the author of the brochure is the writer whose book you didn't buy, seeking instead to purchase the book by the female author. me being me. predictable. more

the apartment is sometimes empty and unwelcoming. my husband is not here. i am living without sufficient rest. sleeping during the day is easy enough especially the 3 days each week i work overnights. getting into bed alone at a normal time on a normal night triggers weeping. i toss and turn. the sleep that once came so naturally is now illusive. my soul grows weary.

at the same time, i am 3 journals and 3 blogs into this journey. last night i submitted a piece to Red Tent Living for possible publication, something i haven't done in months more. i am weaving together thoughts and words in coherent fashion. i am writing and that signals i am on the road to recovering, to finding my new normal. breakfast with a friend has resumed at Chickadee's; coffee, strategic planning, shared love of God's word with friend-and-pastor has begun again at Caribou. 

today is day 84 and there is renewed hope that someday i will find rest.


God heals the brokenhearted
    and binds up their wounds. Psalm 147:3

Friday, August 12, 2016


I run from the sanctuary, exit the building, find myself under a tree. I am undone by the music a saxophone playing Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah, your song, the first one on your playlist, the first song selected as we planned your funeral, the song that drifted through Demmler Park at 2pm on July 2nd as mourners gathered to celebrate your life.

Session Six: Leadership Illusions opened with Bill Hybels challenging us to explore our blind spots through in introspection, reflection, taking inventory, recreating, re-creating, being with God. The invitation to this conference was a gift. This is our second day and it is good to be here. Bill invites us to reflect on the illusion that growth in leadership capacity and growth in our souls can be achieved simultaneously and at the same rate, that as the leadership capacity/speed curve swoops upward the curve of growth in our souls will keep pace. The truth is that the growth curve of our souls flattens, perhaps turns downward, as in our broken humanity we neglect the spiritual nourishment practices essential to flourishing.

My pen was poised over the designated page in our Summit Notebook, my first-born perfectionist ready to meet this challenge. Bill promises beautiful music. A saxophone begins playing ... it only takes a few notes for me to recognize the melody ... it your song, the song ... Hallelujah.

I run from the sanctuary and exit the building. I need to be outside in the open, to feel the sunlight, to see the clouds, to breathe fresh air. I sit on the bench outside the entrance and give myself over to the messy snotty cries rising up from deep within me, embracing what is illusive and rare for me a complete surrender to grief.

Time passes. I open my eyes and look up. I see the tree. I lie down on the bench. The shape of the branches above reminds me of the broom tree in Elijah's story. My tree is mature and young and healthy flourishing with rich green leaves and strong limbs. As I kick off my shoes and get more comfortable, I am thankful for the early-morning decision to wear pants instead of a skirt, and find myself embracing the freedom to recline without shocking someone who may walk by feeling in the moment that even as I dressed this morning God was with me.

Beneath my broom tree I envision the curves on the screen in the sanctuary, my friends continuing on inside the building, my own curves of speed and soul growth. My speed has slowed and flat-lined in the weeks since your death. My soul growth has risen to meet the speed curve then also flat-lined, God weaving the two together for strength and endurance.

In the quiet of surrender I look up and see two large branches that meet, twist making a knot before separating one growing toward the sky and the other bowing low to earth. You are the upper branch stretching to understand the universe, eager to learn. I am the lower branch left here on earth, embraced by gravity, caressed by the rain, brushed by the wind, living apart from you.

Abandoning my recent prayers of please take me too, I accept God's call back into creation, here on earth for as long as life endures.


Friday, August 5, 2016

blue sweatshirt day

i am awake by 6 a.m., my dog Harley has let me know he is ready to eat breakfast. the house is cool especially for August. the temperature matches my mood. i am sad.

i choose the blue sweatshirt from one of many graceful bends in the wrought iron shelf that captures the clothes i will wear again before laundering. this one's hung here awhile, somewhere in the neighborhood of 55 days.

today is day 57.

i am very sad.

the blue sweatshirt is a well worn men's pull over hoodie, 3X tall, with a splotch of cotton candy pink paint on the left shoulder, and when i am honest i know that every day could be a blue sweatshirt day.

the man i loved for 31 years died unexpectedly 57 days ago. i am without my spouse, my friend, my lover ... the grumpa to my grandma, the dad to my mom, the husband to my wife, the man to my woman ... the person best suited to comfort me in life cannot be here to console me in grief.

every day is a challenge. i find it difficult to breathe.

i remember the day we cleaned out his closet. one of the mourners who came by that weekend commented that a dresser full of clothes remains following the death of her loved one. i snarl and turn away, sensing her condemnation, returning it with my own. day 2 or day 3 may be too soon, but within my stone-cold heart i hatefully speculate that 3668 days is way too many.

condemnation becomes a tennis match, volleys and drop shots.

only satan wins.

i pause my writing and laugh aloud now, thinking about the day i added pink paint to the blue sweatshirt. i had volunteered to paint a girl's bedroom in a close friend's home; my husband had been co-volunteered to loft her bed. i had optimistically estimated the painting and drying times, and as we began to loft the bed his shoulder touched a wall ... needless to say the paint was not dry.

it is not the misapplication of cotton candy pink that entices laughter now, it was what happened in the time that followed, a favorite memory of the two of us laying underneath the bed and arguing ... fighting about a next step. i hear another friend come up the steps intent on offering to help. he hears us fighting, senses the tension, and turns to walk back down the stairs without a word. good man. his arrival and departure invite me back from temporary insanity and i laugh with my husband at the foolishness of this fight.

it was a good day. a very good day.


Saturday, March 19, 2016


This image is more than just a series of lines, the imitation Easter offered by marshmallow candy...

... it is a cave, a tomb, a stone rolled away, living water flowing, streams of living water joining streams, forming rivers, rivers moving to the sea.

... it is flowing water, living water, life and movement, quiet peaceful currents and rushing breathless rapids. God's calling on our lives. The river turns, then turns again. Like life. Your life. My life.

Each turning point, embracing redemption, falling to my knees, lying on the ground, a growing awareness that the stairway to heaven is a downward path, serving, striving toward perfect submission, until Christ comes again.


Thursday, January 21, 2016


The invitation came from a trusted friend and without hesitation i accepted: yes, i will be a presenter for the first Justice Panel, a new journey in our faith community.

Inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King's challenge to rise above the narrow confines of individualistic concerns, we seek first to understand, then to be understood; to listen with empathy and compassion; to preserve dignity and embrace humanity.
An individual has not started living fully until they can rise above the narrow confines of individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of humanity. Every person must decide whether they will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness. - Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

A local bakery owner welcomed us and made fresh coffee. Early arrivals rearranged tables, three presenters filled seats along one side, the facilitator to our right, my spouse to our left.

As others arrive my heart hesitates, a nagging pulse of thought threatens to unravel me: my husband's heart, his feelings, as he takes in the words i am about to share. i hesitate.

Our topic? abortion

My words:

Each year 3 million unintended pregnancies gather like raindrops cascading into a waterfall. Our American culture celebrates passion and independence, giving in to seduction, going with the flow. Stopping to put on a condom, to talk about contraception, to prevent pregnancy, is too often missing from the love scenes in movies and TV. The idea of waiting for the person God designed for us, does not seem to exist at all.

A few months after The Supreme Court decided Roe vs Wade, my mother invited me to sit down at the kitchen table for a talk -- the talk about what would be happening to my body, about sex, about how good girls don't. In her nervous words I found no redemption for bad girls who did, no room for compassion, no invitation to the beauty of monogamy, no celebration of sexuality as God designed it. In the years that followed as my body and mind grew from girl to woman, my heart twisted with fear. I became convinced that were I to disclose an unplanned pregnancy, my father would kill me with his bare hands. I chose to be careful, to use birth control, to seek medical care, to preserve my own life, to never get pregnant.

At the same time, compassion for other women grew within me: women without resources to pay for medical care, women discarded-abandoned-marginalized, women trapped in impossible situations, lives infused with violence both real and imagined, truth and lies, women facing unexpected pregnancies, women who needed care, women who needed choices.

Through the 70s the images of back-alley abortions, of mothers and children butchered by human greed, haunted me. In the 80s the grotesque, amplified posters of aborted babies held by people picketing along South Hastings Way, disgusted me. And in the 90s after writing a letter to the editor championing the redirection of talents from debating abortion to providing education, prenatal care and support, I was unprepared for the inhumanity that arrived in our mailbox from strangers claiming pro-life status.

In 2008, in the months just before we started Whispered Hopes, four women came to me with their personal stories of choice and life, unplanned pregnancy and abortion. In these intimate, quiet, tearful conversations each woman in her own time told her own story. One told of a husband who insisted she abort and the miraculous moment when she refused, getting up from the clinic table, choosing life for their child and their marriage. Another woman spoke of shame and isolation, of keeping her secret from even her closest companions, of prayer and fear, seeking God's guidance, and experiencing a peace in the decision to abort -- a false peace that dissipated the moment she left the clinic. The other two women were within my closest family and friends, so close that my heart silently screamed, "I would have raised your child as my own!" Yet, the shame associated is so deep and the compassion with in me so hidden, the silence sealed their resolve. 

If I am honest, it is more complicated than being willing to help after her story is told. Breaking the isolation, overcoming the fear, telling our story to another human, trusting one another requires great courage. To reveal our story while we are in the stormy sea of an unintended pregnancy requires miraculous courage. God-breathed courage.

My hands are empty. My heart is broken. 

If a woman is seeking an abortion, I will petition God for the courage to go with her into the clinic, for the faith to pray with her and for her, looking for the miracle, as we walk together through this storm.

After thoughts...

In the 24 hours following our Justice Panel i realized that i am on both sides of this issue: i believe life begins at conception and i uphold a woman's (parent's) right to choose.

An inner discussion is on-going, how do we honor both people present at conception?

... and footnotes:

We seek first to understand, then to be understood - Stephen Covey

3 million unintended pregnancies annually, reported in 2012 statistics Center for Disease Control,  with 699,000+ pregnancies ended in abortions for the same time period.

Unintended pregnancies account for 51% of pregnancies in our country, reported by Guttmacher Institute; with further identification as 31% mistimed and 20% unwanted. [more]
Another discovery for me is the scope of time we risk unintended pregnancy.  From CDC (but source missing in my notes) is the concept that women are fertile from 15 to 44 so even those who want children and a family spend decades seeking to avoid pregnancy rather than welcoming it.

Roe v Wade was decided on 01/22/1973 and for me this marks the beginning of the brutal, divisive debate still raging in American society.