Category Archives: glimpses of goodness

Hanging Beauty

I love the way the morning sunlight shines on the tree in my front yard, illuminating its leaves in a sunny green glow. I also love the addition of the hanging basket found on the steps of my side porch. I do not know where it came from. It is a mystery. 

Truly. It is lovely. I will enjoy it while it is here.

These flowers are a bright addition to the morning view, as they also glow in the sunlight. It makes returning from the dog walk an extra treat.

They speak to me of goodness and beauty in the midst of the hard. That vision was beginning to slip away.  My ability to see redemption in the strange places, small spaces was waning.

These flowers are one of many things that converged this week to offer hope.

Sometimes it’s hard to hold on. In those moments I will look out and remind myself to just be like the flowers and rest in the container. I do not have to work so hard at hanging on and holding everything together. I can just be and bloom.

I am glad that I sat down to write today. If you have time and are so inclined, actually check out the links. As they came to mind and I added them, the act of reading truth and seeing God’s faithfulness recorded in the archives of the blog offered encouragement to my soul.

Maybe you will be encouraged, as well.

Saturday’s End

Saturday’s end finds me sitting in my corner in the space of in between.

I am waiting for Steve to get the girls settled for the night. I am searching my brain for words that keep drifting just out of reach. I want to write, to keep up the momentum, but there is not much coming.

Saturday’s end finds me both wrestling with and resting in enough. The things did not all happen today, but enough of them did. What constitutes a good Saturday?

For me it was the impromptu phone call after lunch when I was ready to jump out of my skin. Hearing my sister’s voice on the other end as I walked the neighborhood alone was both comforting and clarifying as she talked me through the struggle to the other side.

It was the father/daughter yardwork , the sound of a chainsaw cutting stray tree branches allowing more sunlight into the yard and the smell of cut branches burning in the fire pit.

It was the smiles and laughter and engagement I witnessed through the window, because close up it is difficult to see.

It was the joy of finished chores after the angst of wrangling everyone through them, because no one wants to pick up after others, but we all live here and have responsibilities.

It was dinner around the table with enough asparagus for all, because it is the current favorite vegetable.

It was the laughter following dinner as an impromptu photo shoot took place. So much laughter. Sibling love is the best.

It was a son preparing for homecoming and another preparing for work and daughters doling out shower time to ensure there was enough hot water for all.

It was the realization that here we go again with the refrigerator that is never fully stocked and the people that have lots of things to say and the laundry pile that is never ever finished and the hot water tank that is never quite full.

It was being reminded that there is life in this place, even in the midst of all that is hard. There was a lot of hard today, too.

At Saturday’s end, I will choose to rest in enough. It was enough to have been given another day to live and to love and to laugh. Because those things all happened, and it has not always been so. Today it was.

Hiking and Heart Connection

It was a good day of hiking and heart connection.

Mamas, it’s hard. Mothering is just hard. Maybe not all of the time, and maybe never for you, but it was really hard for me. And in my story, something being difficult to do was not a reason to pause and question it. There was no room for exploring other options or making changes, only soldiering on with the choice that had already been made.

Nineteen years ago I was 27 and had just birthed a 10lb 4oz boy. He was welcomed by his three older siblings, ages 5,4, and 3. Steve and I had been married six years. That is a lot of living and people to fit into a short period of time.

Child number four was not at all like the others. He did not fit any sort of mold, and contrary to what people always said to me, I hear it gets easier after three, nothing could have been further from the truth. Please refrain from offering things that you have heard about situations that you have not experienced to the one struggling in the midst of them. It is truly not helpful.

It did not get easier for me.

There were a lot of hard things to push through and four more babies to follow. I wondered if I would make it. I wondered how something so excruciatingly difficult for me could ever be worth it.

Today happened.

I made it.

It was worth it.

My son and I hiked High Knob together to celebrate his 19th birthday.

He has been there often. Today was my first time. We parked and entered the trail and walked and talked. The sky was a brilliant shade of blue. The leaves were beginning to change. We had the trail to ourselves.

We climbed to the top of the lookout and sat, enjoying the gentle breeze and the stunning view. We shared conversation.

We hiked back to the car, mindfully aware of our surroundings, noticing little things like this wooly bear on the path.

Somewhere along the way, my phone received a wave of service, and several texts dropped into it. One was from my mom, inviting us for coffee to celebrate Kieran and Grammy who share a birthday. We stopped there on our way back to town and captured this picture of the birthday buddies born 75 years apart.

Please don’t give up hope in your hard, whatever that hard may be. I know that it seems easy for me to say, because I am not in your situation. All I know is that today was a glimpse of such sweet goodness and such great reward as my son and I took time together to extract ourselves from the couches and get out into nature together.

It was so worth it. I am grateful for the gift I received on this day nineteen years ago and for the gift I received today.

Don’t miss yours!

Update

It’s dark here on the back deck of my grandparents’ home in Clinton Township, Michigan. The hum of the air conditioner unit competes with the chirping of the crickets, as the light from my phone competes with the stars.

Man-made sound and light drowns out those of nature.  The chatter in my head drowns out the still, small voice of the Spirit. I am pushed and frenzied and expanding to hold much, as I struggle to rest in the arms of the one who holds my expansive soul.

I turn the phone upside down on my lap to brighten the night sky. My eyes adjust to the shades of dark and the silhouettes of trees against the gray sky. Overcast clouds allow stars to shine behind, not through, them, as one or two dare to peek out before being hidden again quickly.

My last visit to this area was 26 years ago with my family and fiancé the summer before I was married. Michigan, the place of childhood vacations and Christmas breaks, was a chapter closed.

This week I returned with my mom and daughter and my brother and his daughter to visit my mom’s parents. Four generations gathered in a place I had never been. It is one that many of my older children have visited, taking trips with their grandparents.

It was my turn.

It is strange to inhabit a new space filled with childhood memories. Walking through the newer, modern home with its unfamiliar floor plan, I felt the walls and shelves both comforting and disrupting with their familiar decor. Much is from another era that I remember vividly, yet is also a blur.

This has been a visit full of laughter and tears and deep conversations. There have been times of wrestling and struggling in my heart concurrent with unexpected joyful and aha moments.

I have gotten face time with precious family members who hold shared memories and also surprises. I have drawn a clearer picture of people I love, as their faces and stories come more fully into focus. Hearing their perspectives, impressions, and experiences has brought unexpected tears along with head-nodding laughter.

I have connected more deeply with my people.

Those places of connection are settling in my heart as I ponder all the conversations that these days have held. The thing about real life stories and connections is that they belong to their own tellers. This is a space for mine, and for what I choose to process and share of it.

For now it is this picture of feet side by side and propped on a table as laughter rang out while tales were told.

And also the bowl of M&Ms that kept me grounded when I needed some space and chocolate.


Goodnight, Friends. I know it is late, but this is when it is.

Miraculous Change

Miracles can happen. I attest to this in the midst of experiencing miraculous change. I wonder, though, if it is also the result of hard work. Am I in the middle of a miracle? Or is this the fruit of faith?

For years, deep inside my soul, unrest and fear coexisted with a helping of added pressure to perform. It was as if I had lost any ability to make choices. Had I ever experienced the power of active choice?  

I knew how to be passive and allow others to choose for me. I bore a burden of expectations, both other-imposed and self. If you can check off all of the boxes on this big list for everyone else, THEN maybe you can do something for yourself.

It is amazing that I did not self-destruct. In the midst of many struggles and losses, God in his deep kindness kept meaningful parts me intact ~ my singing voice, my body, my health. I am so grateful for that miracle.

There were small spaces that I claimed in the midst of the bigness of life. I found space to exercise, to read my Bible, to listen for the still, small voice, to cultivate what I could of relationships in the midst of whatever chaos was presenting, to care for my children, to love my husband.

I chose to stay open to my husband, even when I could not feel. In the midst of internal loneliness, I continued to engage external connection with him. In the midst of the fear of pregnancy and loss of voice over my body’s capacity to grow and bear children, I kept trying. Trusting. Even when I did not understand and had no words to bring, I tried.

I journaled a lot. It is a miracle that I allowed hard words to flow from my heart to paper.

I said yes to things that terrified me, like traveling internationally to be on a team leading worship at a women’s retreat. I said yes to lowering my guard and letting people peek behind the tinted automatic window of my heart before raising it up when their vision became too intense.

I kept going.

I said yes to an invitation to step deeper into my story at the Journey, parts one and two, with Open Hearts Ministry. I seized the weeks, those two years in a row, in the midst of a full life. I did not wait for the perfect time. That is miraculous.

I started a blog. Not sure of the end, not knowing where it was going, I threw words into cyberspace that would later be read by a woman who would reach back to me when I reached out to her. I risked being seen more closely, and miraculously ended up in a space of transformational friendship.

It feels miraculous that at 45 I am finally connecting with myself on a deeper level. How did this happen? Why now? I do not know. What makes a miracle miraculous?

I did not wake up one morning miraculously changed. I fought for my heart every step of the way and allowed others to fight for me, as well. God fought for me when I could do nothing but stand still and see his salvation. I let people in and relinquished the control that I held so tightly, concerning what people saw in me, when they saw it, and how.

Miraculously, healing came. Seasons and spaces of small heart miracles, sometimes involving just getting out of bed, led to this latest big miracle breaking open over my head, shattering and spilling me out all over the place. Slowing me down.

Your voice is slower.

You sounded different in your voicemail. Slower.

Wow! It’s already 7:00! Usually you have to leave to get somewhere else after this much time.

These words and more were spoken over me in the days following the most current miraculous. It was on the heels of my third weekend in Seattle at the Allender Center, pursuing the Lay Counseling Certificate. In this space I miraculously chose to risk, share, and be seen by others. I succumbed to holy terror.

Something happened. I still do not see the miracle clearly, because, Friends, we cannot see our own faces. All I know is that when we take off the mask or roll down the tinted automatic window, allowing others to see us, we invite miracles to happen. The fruit of that faith is sweet.

Playful Goodness

I sat in a window seat, solo in my row, listening to Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat for nostalgia’s sake. Having just eaten an in-flight snack, I was holding off on opening the small bottle of red wine and pouring it into the blue plastic cup.

Oh, the wine . . .

I really debated whether I should order a glass on this flight or not, and it wasn’t because of the cup. I have embraced that there are acceptable times to drink wine from plastic cups, which include, but are not limited to, outdoor weddings, poolside, anytime an excessive amount of money would need to be spent to rent glassware when plastic will do, and on airplanes.

My first airplane wine was purchased for me by a fellow group member who happened to be on the same flight back in November. Though she was in the front of the plane, and I was in the back, she came bounding to my row with the words, I want to buy you a glass of wine, but you have to tell me what kind you want.

I chose white, and she returned to her seat. The food and drink carts drew closer and closer to my row, and my anxiety level rose. How will this work? Do I ask or say, Hey, I’m the one who gets the wine!?

I found myself wishing that she had never said anything about buying me wine. Then I would not have ended up in this awkward space of having to speak up. Why does it have to be this hard? What do I do now? The cart is gone, and I have no wine, and I don’t want to call attention to myself or need.

The struggle was real. I finally rose from my seat to walk towards the front of the plane and ask how I was going to get the wine. I fought feelings of shame and contempt that threatened to engulf me for having questions about her gift and needing further attention to receive it.

What?! You didn’t get your wine? That is not acceptable!

She jumped up and walked to the back of the plane to ask the flight attendant about it. He had forgotten, and as a result, comped her the glass. It was free. She sat in the empty seat in my row with me for awhile and we talked. I processed what had happened and felt grateful for the practice of speaking up for myself.

Settling into my seat on the third flight, her words, Have a glass of wine for me! Were ringing in my ears or eyes via a text. I had never ordered a glass for myself on a plane, and decided to do so. I knew she would ask.

Red wine, please.

Taking my card, the flight attendant looked at it, then handed it back. No swipe. No cost.

Leaving the card in a conspicuous location on my tray in case he was returning later to swipe it, I turned and continued the conversation I was having with the young woman in the window seat who was heading home to Seattle. The attendant did not return.

I fully believe Jesus bought me that glass of wine and met me in that space.

Which brings me back to the window seat of this, my final flight to Seattle. I thought back to waiting at the gate. I had texted Tina, the friend I am staying with, to tell her I was getting ready to board the plane. She teased me about getting my free wine again. I felt pressure and ambivalence about ordering one.

If I did not order a glass at all, I would not have to explain it away when it was not free. Besides, this time I had an entire row to myself. That’s something, right? Certainly Jesus was in the row, in the space, with me.

And yet, this was the celebration flight. The final trip. As the beverage cart drew closer, I decided to toast my hard work by buying a glass of red wine. The flight attendant took my card, her wristful of Alex and Ani bracelets jingling. I smiled. She swiped.

1. . . 2. . . 3 times.

The card reader isn’t reading this card. Do you have another?

Shaking my head, resigned to saving the money, confident that at least I tried, I began to hand back the plastic cup containing the small closed bottle.

Oh no, it’s okay, you can keep it.

Three flights, three glasses, three times met in a miraculous space where my water was turned to wine. I was seen by the lover of my soul who knew just what I needed  , and also what I desired, and met me in that space.

Thank you, Jesus.

Scenes From Seattle, part 3

The following pictures are from my January trip to Seattle. Part 1 is here. Part 2 is here.

All packed up and ready to go. My four-legged little friend wants to join me.

Nothing beats a thoughtful suitcase-surprise!

This is the room waiting for a special visitor to arrive!

My beautiful sister, Deborah, flew in to join me!

This was a favorite space in our room. I loved the fireplace and the footrest. The chairs were comfy, too.

I still had to go to class during the day. Coffee and coloring helped me keep my focus on the task at hand.

Evenings were made for Lavender and Lemon Drop Martinis! Nothing beats a martini with the sis.

Seafood night! Dinners out together were the best. They were the highlight of my day. (Sorry, Group. You were a close second!)

My face when I am sitting across from one of my favorite people ever and cannot believe it is really real. And seafood skewers and wine make me smile, too.

There is so much love in this picture. And so much longing to not be so far apart. And there is also Ubering. That happened.

This is the smile of denial that we are getting ready to board the light rail to the airport. It was too soon to think about saying goodbye.

All aboard! A new experience awaits on the light rail ride to the airport.

A bag of goodies is tucked safely into my satchel. Bath bombs for all! They made it home with zero breakage.

I always appreciate the space for sitting with coffee and reflecting on the weekend as I wait in the airport for my final connecting flight, following the red-eye.

I left this,

. . . and returned to this!

Bloom

Discovering the bloom was surprising.

Why am I surprised, again?

God continues to surprise and amaze me along this stretch of the journey, and I continue to struggle to believe the goodness is real and really for me. He shows me that he sees me and is here for me in the bigness and chaos with just what I need, and I wonder about next time.

Will you still see me then, Father? Next time?

The bloom in front of me whispers this time. Grace for today.

It came on the day that I finished a big story for this session in Seattle. This weekend we delve into sexuality. I tiptoed in last year via Red Tent. It’s time to go deeper.

I could have missed this tiny bloom completely, but I didn’t. The pink flower adorning the leggy growth propped by the plant stand called to me as I passed by, stopped, and marveled.

Steve, look at this!

So many things spoke to me through this little pink flower. I immediately texted the giver of the transplanted-from-broken-small-shoots in a little pot to tell her. I had transplanted the growth to a larger floor pot. It’s the one to the right of the stand in the picture. It took off wildly. Like my life.

So there it is. The bloom. The special sign to me that I am seen, it is time, and all will be well. At the end of the growth will come the flower.

But first, the terror of being dumped out and re-potted. First the mess.

Arrival

Christmas came. It brought beauty, comfort, joy. It brought love. The hope I held in the waiting grew, and light broke through my darkness.

From early morning presents while live-video streaming with a man-child on the other side of the world, to sitting down for our traditional breakfast at a beautifully bedecked table, to napping and waking to the sound of laughter around the table, Christmas brought comfort and joy to my weary heart.

It brought tears.

There’s something about listening to adult children share life plans and goals around the breakfast table that touched a chord deep in my heart. How redemptive to have dreamers who can voice their dreams freely. What a gift!

My parents joined us for dinner at 4:00.

They played a game with the grand kids while Steve and I cleaned the kitchen. Redemptive grace.

More laughter.

Christmas is hard for me. I am learning to understand and find more words as to why that is. I am learning to be kind to the places that hurt. I am growing.

I took two naps.

I showered using my adult daughter’s Lush bath products, massaging a seasonal body wash over my skin, turning it a grinchy shade of green. I breathed deeply and grinned a grinchy grin. I am the grinch, and it is okay.

I laughed twice today. Real laughter. Deep laughter.

My son who was video streaming from Bali, Indonesia, as we opened gifts, later commented on my first laugh. It was fun hearing you laugh so much when you were opening your present.

Eleven-year old daughter had wrapped thirteen-year old son’s gift to me for him. A bag of peppermint-cookie Lindor truffles was wrapped in layer upon layer of paper. Each layer that I tore off revealed another. It was so funny to me, peeling back paper only to find more. Real laughter erupted from my innermost being.

I really do love my kids and their sense of humor. Mostly. Usually. When I slow down and have time to appreciate it.

The second laugh was as Steve and I were walking the grand-furs. I held Wren’s leash. He had Dewey. Steve and Dewey were ahead of us. I wondered what would happen if Wren and I passed them, so we ran ahead.

Dewey was not happy with this, and his short legs moved double-time to pull Steve along. I hadn’t told Steve my thoughts or motive for running ahead. He commented, Dewey doesn’t like having Wren ahead of him.

I started laughing. I laughed more. Wren and I let them pass us and then ran ahead again, laughter bubbling up from inside of me over how funny Dewey looked trying to catch up to and pass us. Laughter felt so good. So freeing.

It has been a good Christmas. It has been a hard Christmas. It has been a good, hard Christmas.

Hashtag blessed.

Just What I Need

Departure was difficult. Waves of sadness crashed over me when I let them. All morning an eight-year-old girl stole moments to sidle up to my desk and press herself into me, looking up with big, sad eyes.

I’m going to miss you.

I’ll miss you, too, Little One.

It’s hard for me to fathom being missed, but I believe it from the comments and conversations overheard at home and school. I choose to believe it in the midst of unbelief.

I will also miss.

Saying goodbye to my love triggers deep, deep feelings, long buried, yet tapping me on the shoulder for attention. Painful goodbyes and long distance separation belong to our story. My well-crafted walls, once easy to put up, are beginning to crack.

I purposely chose an airport away from a metropolis with lots of people and traffic. The smooth hour and forty minute drive south allows me time to think.

Starbucks’ Chile Mocha doesn’t rival Shenandoah Joe’s Aztec, but it’s not bad. I bless my husband for his encouragement to drive through Starbucks and for giving me money to try this new seasonal drink.

Self care looks like stopping to use the restroom when I have to. Baby steps. Not gonna lie. I go inside.

The airport is quiet and empty. Security is a breeze. I sit and wait.

Now I can allow my mind to fully unwind and wander. It goes right to the earbuds I forgot to borrow from my husband. I choose to use money gifted by my inlaws for snacks to buy a pair.

The music pumping into my ears throughout the flight makes every dime of that purchase worth it.

Flight one is late. My smooth plan is hitting a snag, and countless checkings of my connecting flight information is not speeding this flight up a bit. I keep checking.

Prop planes are another part of my story. Lots of puddle jumping. Still the loud rattle outside of my window is jarring.

Why does it feel like a lawn mower is pushing me up into the sky? I focus on pressing my back into the seatback and imagine I am getting a massage.

Wednesday is chapel day. Was I really just sitting in chapel with my class this morning singing Good, Good Father? It is not lost on me that the worship song Mr. C chose for this month has been another thing preparing my heart for the road ahead.

It is work to truly believe my Father’s goodness, and that He knows just what I need, even if it is uncomfortable or hard.

It’s hard to sit on a late flight and wonder where the connecting gate will be in the airport. It’s hard to think that just what I need could involve missing it.

And that would be okay.

There is a level of tension and expectancy as we crowd the aisle waiting to funnel off of the plane and wait for our carry-on bags. This is why the flight attendant firmly admonishes us that under no circumstances are we to go beyond the propellers.

I want to dash back and grab my bag and run into the airport to find my gate. Instead I wait like everyone else until the cart wheels up. All of us have places to be. Mine is gate B4. I am in concourse E.

Grateful for my daily Dewey workouts, I begin the dash. And dash it is. And focus.

You know just what I need. . .

You’re a good, good Father. . .

I am loved by you.

The words set my pace.

It takes an eternity and several moving sidewalks to traverse concourse E and try to locate B. It draws closer as other letters branch off and shops begin to appear.

Piano music fills the air as concourse B comes into view. A young man sits at a grand piano playing.

My ears hone in on the tune in disbelief. It really can’t be.

Can it?

I want to stop and fumble through my bag for my wallet to dig out some cash to drop in the tip jar if there is one. Is there a tip jar? I have no time. I must get to gate B4. I must stop in the restroom.

I offer up a prayer of blessing, instead. It’s all I can do.

I arrive at my gate just as standbys are being called.

My bag must be checked, and I surrender it at the end of the ramp before boarding. I breathe my way onto the plane.

Sinking into the window seat, I allow the tears to roll down my face.

Dear Young Man playing Good, Good, Father on the piano in the Charlotte Airport,
Thank you for the gift of worship in the chaos of travel. Through you, the Father gave me just what I needed to get to my plane on time. May the God who sees in secret reward you openly.