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It was several weeks ago when a text came through from my youngest sister.

I want you to know that I am praying Joel 2:25 for you, that the Lord will restore to you the years the locusts have eaten.

As one of my go-to people while processing the Return in 2015, she was privy to much angst and frustration over the mess that I was trying to wade through and understand. Her simple text touched my heart in a profound way, as I began pondering what restoration would look like.

restore ~ to put or bring back to an earlier or original state; to put back into use or service; to give back

Other words and phrases began popping into my head in various contexts. One such passage was this prayer of confession from the Book of Common Prayer.

ALMIGHTY and most merciful Father; We have erred, and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep. We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts. We have offended against Thy holy laws. We have left undone those things which we ought to have done; And we have done those things which we ought not to have done; And there is no health in us. But Thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us, miserable offenders. Spare Thou those, O God, who confess their faults. Restore Thou those who are penitent; According to Thy promises declared unto mankind in Christ Jesus our Lord. And grant, O most merciful Father, for His sake; That we may hereafter live a godly, righteous, and sober life, To the glory of Thy holy Name. Amen.

We have left undone those things which we ought to have done, and we have done those things which we ought not to have done. Yes. Left undone. Much.

Restore thou those who are penitent.


Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit.
Psalm 51:12, ESV

I have not felt much joy, lately, and certainly not over the salvation so graciously given to me by Jesus.

Restore joy.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in the paths of righteousness,
for his name’s sake.
Psalm 23:1-3, ESV

Restore my soul. Yes. My soul is tired.

It’s interesting that restore is one of the words in the acrostic I did for return last year.


It reminds me that there are still places to return to, that I am not finished with that word totally, yet, but that I can back off and rest awhile. Rest in the mess.

When Steve asked me about this year’s word, I had a difficult time articulating why I chose it. I felt clumsy and awkward and began to panic and doubt my choice. I began to lose faith in my instincts and myself.

Maybe it’s not a good word. What do you think?

And that is where I knew it was right, because it is a good word and it’s mine. I don’t need permission or approval for my words to matter. I can choose them just because.

Maybe I need to restore some confidence in myself.

There was also a hard conversation yesterday that reminded me that this is a good focus for this year. There have been places in relationships broken, left undone.

Restore relationships.

Christmas break offered Steve and me a taste of unstructured time together. There were moments to just be and not feel rushed. There were moments when the kids were occupied and there were no immediate projects to attend to. We had snippets of time to dream and risk sharing those dreams with each other.

Restore our dreams. Our ability to dream. Restore our hearts.

So my word this year is a claiming of a promise made in Scripture and the continued walking by faith, believing that which is unseen. It is trusting that, yes, even what has been broken and felt shattered beyond repair can be restored.

Where might you hold hope for restoration this year, Dear Reader?

I will restore to you the years
that the swarming locust has eaten
Joel 2:25, ESV



Return to Year’s End

It’s another year’s end. Almost. Today I sit in the tension of a messy house and messy relationships and messy conversations and a messy heart.

Floodplain, the latest project by Sara Groves, plays in the background while my youngest plays in a box in the living room for her not-so-quiet-time.

Really we don’t need much
Just strength to believe it
There’s honey in the rock
There’s more than we see.

These patches of joy
These stretches of sorrow
There’s enough for today
There will be enough tomorrow.

I’m trying to trust enough for today.

My brain works faster than my fingers as thoughts bombard my head, trying to connect in a coherent way. Last year’s word drifts through my mind, filtering experiences and thoughts through its grid.

Did I do enough? Get it right? How was my progress?

I’ve been here before. . . Sara croons in the background. Friends, get this album. *She has an incredible gift . . . wondering why I can’t do better than I’ve done.

The hand of grace reaches down to me ~
A voice inside says that I can be free.

And I sit here wanting to be anyone but myself.

A voice inside says that I will be free.

Ah, yes, it’s another year’s end.

*When I say get this album, I mean it is amazing. I receive nothing from this link other than the joy of knowing that others may discover Sara’s gift of singing to the heart.*

Sweet Potatoes

It’s Thanksgiving Eve, and tonight I am thankful that the sweet potatoes are fixed and ready to be baked tomorrow. I am thankful for my parents and their willingness to host Thanksgiving dinner. It is lovely to just show up.

I first tasted this casserole twenty-eight years ago, Holiday Season 1987, with Steve’s family. His sister-in-law, Robin, prepared it. I asked for the recipe. I still have it on a faded pink piece of paper.

Siblings have requested the recipe in the past. This year an adult child texted to ask. After digging around, looking for, and finally finding it, I decided to post it here.

Robin’s Sweet Potatoes
4 or 5 sweet potatoes, baked, and middles scooped into a mixing bowl.*
1 cup sugar

1 stick butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 c milk
3 eggs
Mix well.
Pour into a greased baking dish.
Prepare topping.
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
1 cup brown sugar
1/3 stick butter, melted
Mix together, spread over potatoes, and bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

*To cook sweet potatoes, wash and then prick them all over with a fork. Place on a foil-lined cookie sheet or baking pan and bake at 375 for an hour or so. Remove from oven to counter or just turn off the oven and let them cool in there. When cool to touch, the insides scoop right out.*

This dish can be made ahead of time and baked later. I have played around with this recipe by adding more potatoes, cutting the sugar/butter to taste, etc. It’s still good, but definitely not diet, low-carb, low-fat, or low anything. It’s like candy.

Perfect for twice a year!


These aren’t just any apples. They are Black Twig apples, brought in a keepsake basket by Steve’s parents to us. Just because.

More than the gift of tart, delicious fruit, I am thankful for the gift of having both sets of parents (and the children’s grandparents) close by.

I am thankful that the littles get to experience their Grandparents McClay in their own way.

Tonight that experience involved grandparents driving Coco to and from soccer practice and then joining us for dinner. We sat around the table together and enjoyed time. We hugged goodbye.

We shared life together.

That, and a love for crisp, tart, Virginia-grown apples.

When Words Fail

I have the best of intentions. Lots of thoughts. I think, I should write that idea/phrase/word progression down. I do. Or don’t.

I have ideas of how this blog should work. I set quiet intentions for myself. Small goals. Just write, I say. Then I click onto Facebook or Instagram and scroll and troll and ponder and pine and lose time. I don’t write.

I add a title for a new post, hoping to come back to it. To be inspired. But I’m tired.

I take a picture. I’ll write about that, for sure! I think. Folders of pictures wait in my laptop. When did I take that picture of that great cappuccino? I wonder, scrolling through piles of dates. I was going to blog about it. What was I going to say, again?

I am as unorganized in my virtual life as I am in real life.

The purple paper journal holds more, these days. Where blog words fail, journal words flow. The raw. The realest of real. The place for my heart to cry out, rough and unpolished. Often journal words meander to the blog, but only after they have had time to age like fine wine.

Or maybe after I’ve had a glass or two of fine wine.

When words fail, and I’m feeling flat, I am amazed at how encouragement comes.

Tonight it came in the form of being tagged in a Facebook comment along with this amazing blogger.

A mutual friend commented on how we have encouraged her to take positive steps and make some pretty big changes in her life. Little did she know how much her words were encouraging me. Encouraging me to write. To keep going. To just do it, whatever IT is in this moment.

So, I am writing when words fail.

Thank you, Dear Friend, for stepping out and saying the words.

Often we think them. How often do we say them? Or tag them?

Tonight in the tagging, I was given a gift. A fellow warrior-princess gave me the courage to keep writing even when words fail.

And also, maybe I will try crow pose again myself one of these days. 😉

Circling the Wagons

It’s a season to circle the wagons. Some seasons are like that. I have been fighting this one, pushing it back, but I can’t anymore.

With each day, I notice more and more needs presenting right here under my roof when I have been outward-focused. It’s part of what was unhealthy about facebook for me. There was too much looking out when things inside this place got messy.

It’s part of what makes me question the blog and the purpose I have in writing it. Is it to reach out to others or to sort out my heart? Is it both? Is it necessary? Wise?

My sister shared a line with me, If you blog but you don’t post it to facebook, did you really blog?

I laughed, but it feels true.

Another bit of unhealthiness in my world.

Circling the wagons feels hard to me. I would rather hop on horseback and ride off somewhere far away.

But here is where I need to be and here is where we need to stop and circle up and figure out and trust.

Today it looks like playing Art Lotto with the kids.

Kind Readers, will you pray for my heart and for the hearts in these wagons, in this house? I plan to keep writing and sorting and processing here but in a quiet kind of way that’s not big on likes and shares.

That’s okay, because I know the one who likes me and invites me to share in his suffering. He has walked this road before me and will continue to guide my path.


Functional Wife, Functional Mother

As part of my theme of returning this year, I am taking this incredibly vulnerable (for me) post from my private blog today as an example of grace and change, and God’s work in my life, though not on my timetable. It was and is and continues to be a process of hope and trust and choosing to keep going, even when I can’t see or understand why. Read through the comments, as well, as they are telling. 

Back in July, 1996, I was a 25 year old wife, married 4 1/2 years, and a mom of 3 little ones aged 3,2,1.  Every area of life was full and overwhelming. That was all I knew. I had to keep going and going and going because there were no other options. It was a lonely time full of disappointment, disillusion, despair, and depression (which would not be acknowledged and dealt with for 12 more years after I had 5 additional kids).

I know it was all grace that kept me functioning when I didn’t think I could. It was mercy that Steve and I not only loved each other but LIKED each other enough to keep trying to push through and make sense of the senseless. It was writing that moved the clutter inside from my head to paper and it was Jesus who heard my cries and never let  me go.

I wrote Functional Wife, Functional Mother during this time. It’s one of those mantras that would get stuck in my head, and I had to get it out. That’s how I felt. Like I was barely functioning. At 25.

Thank God for His redeeming love. He has made and continues to make all things new, but it has been a long, at times, lonely process. Here I am over 17 years later to testify that things do get better. Just not always on our time table!

From deep within the bin of my 25 year old heart….

Functional wife, functional mother.

When I’m not doing one thing, I’m doing another.

I’m feeling let down, I’m starting to smother

As functional wife, functional mother.

I get out of bed, there’s a baby to hold.

I look in the mirror, my face looks so old.

I go down the stairs, there’s a pile of clothes to fold.

And the bread in the cupboard is starting to grow mold.

And I’m a

Functional wife, functional mother.

When I’m not doing one thing, I’m doing another.

I’m feeling let down, I’m starting to smother

As functional wife, functional mother.

My husband comes home, he kisses my cheek.

We’re both so tired, it’s been a long week.

What’s in our hearts, we can’t even speak.

What would we find, if we dared to peek?

He’d find a

Functional wife, functional mother.

When I’m not doing one thing, I’m doing another.

I’m feeling let down, I’m starting to smother

As functional wife, functional mother.

Please do not say it will all go away,

and that what I am feeling is not here to stay.

I’ve heard it before, I still feel the same way.

It may soon get better but for today

I’m just a

Functional wife, functional mother.

When I’m not doing one thing, I’m doing another.

I’m feeling let down, I’m starting to smother

As functional wife, functional mother.

Seeking the Lost

This post is part of the Chicago Trip series from 2013.

My only “break” was the time spent left behind searching the Shedd Aquarium for my son’s lost backpack while the rest of the group bused over to the Art Institute.

Praise God, I found the backpack, but it would be lying to say there were no tears. Prayers, phonecalls, and detective work revealed the location.


We were at the aquarium rise and shine at 9. When noon rolled around, buses were boarded for a short ride to the Art Institute.

A teacher took attendance, asking in an urgent tone where my son and his friend were. Immediately they came running down the sidewalk and burst onboard.

It was revealed that a backpack might be lost. Yes or no? Is it or isn’t it? What to do? Times like this bring out my inner 10 year old, and I feel helpless.

The idea of getting off to hunt for the lost item myself was met by resistance from our local tour director. While I wanted to be set free to look and then walk or taxi to the museum, she thought it was too far and I should call someone in the other group that was staying a few minutes longer and ask them to look for it.

I didn’t want to compound the problem.

I wanted to understand what was going on inside of me.

I wanted to be there for my own kid like I would be for anyone else’s.

I got off of the bus.

It wasn’t at Ice Age 4D, not at lost and found. I wrote a description of the item and my contact information in a notebook at the information desk. (I’m pretty sure its sole purpose is to placate tourists who lose stuff.)

With strollers and diaper bags everywhere, who would notice a lone burnt-orange backpack and turn it in to lost and found?


The logical, grownup side of my brain kicked in, and I remembered taking Kieran’s picture while waiting for the 11:00 movie. A quick review of the shots on my camera revealed no backpack.

But wait!

I had taken an even earlier picture at the sea lion. I checked it. No backpack.

sea lion

At that time, my child had raved about the time spent with penguins and otters. They were down below, and I would give it one last go and call Steve to keep from losing my bearings in the process.


He listened and talked me through the descent to the scene where the backpack was finally found amidst tears and a fragmented explanation to the young family guarding it.

I returned to the front desk to assure them that the lost had been found. I called the bus driver and waited outside with my ipod for him to circle around and get me.


I texted my mom chaperone friends who met me at the student group entrance of the Art Institute and whisked me in for an afternoon of art therapy, courtesy of Rembrandt, Monet, and VanGogh.



My head was hung in shame

for as long as I can remember

 but especially at 16, when my heart began to break.

I cried out in agony



Tears poured from my eyes

’til I could cry no more.

My heart wound was so deep.

Could it ever be healed?

It seemed impossible.

I begged for relief and received only answers that gave me false hope.



Until God intervened.

He revealed to me a plan

That he made long ago

To turn disaster into


And questions to peace.

And as I poured out my heart like water to the Lord

And as godly friends rescued me by speaking truth to my lies

And as I lifted my hands in prayer

Pleading for my children to be spared from what evil has tried to steal

God came.

And healed me.

And bound up my wounds.

And through terror and kindness

He granted relief.

Happy Birthday, Dad!

Today is my dad’s birthday. I am grateful to have him here celebrating another year of LIFE after the adventures of last summer.

I am also grateful for an entire day off (sort of) to have time to actually think and write a birthday post. Because that’s what you do when you have a blog of your own, right?

Last Father’s Day, my sister wrote this about our dad. It’s beautiful and amazing and also an example of how we had different dads  sixteen years apart. I know. Scandalous. But true.

I got the young, new, idealistic dad. With hair.

little me in the apple tree

My childhood memories include looking up at lengths of patterned polyester stretch-and-sew pants.

It was many, many moons ago. We did do fun things together, Dad comments on this picture that someone posted for a TBT on facebook.

And I believe it. We did. I remember some of them.

I remember getting ice cream in Indiana and trying to lick it into a soft serve swirl on top. I remember the Enchanted Forest, and walks collecting aluminum cans, and my first tooth being pulled in his band director office at CCA, (aka the baptistry closet?).

It was carefully placed in that spot in my Snoopy thermos where the drinking cup screwed on, for safekeeping until I got home.

I remember riding to school with him on snow days and visiting classrooms and collecting teacher cast-offs to bring home to teach my own students siblings. I remember the siblings coming, and coming, and Saturday morning cartoons and laundry and meal-planning, and sliding down the stairs in the inflatable raft.

You remember too much.

That, too.

Thinking about my childhood and relationship with my dad, many stories come to mind, illustrating our dynamic. They show the dance that was ours that we didn’t even understand at the time.

dancing with dad

One such story involves shopping for shoes. I want to put myself at ten or eleven, so I will say I was somewhere in between. Like this child.


I needed new shoes, and Dad took me out to Prince George’s Plaza. Or maybe he didn’t. Maybe it was to the shoe store in Riverdale Plaza. Memory is fiction, you know. He took me out to buy a pair of shoes. I do know that for a fact.

Our family didn’t have lots of money, and as a general rule, we got what we needed. No frills. Unless you were shopping with Dad. Then there was at least the chance to get the thing that was a little bit extra.

For me, the extra was not just getting shoes, but brown-suede, lace-up shoes, with crepe soles that were shaped into individual rolls all along the bottom. I remember them kind of looking like long tootsie rolls.

As a side note, this means it had to have been before the sixth grade, mail-order Mason Shoes sensible slip-ons with the flat bottoms, perfect for the gluing on of a lift to the left one. But that is another story for another time.

I tied on the beautiful new shoes and wore them home from the store. Is there anything better for a kid than getting to wear new shoes home? I didn’t think so.

Basking in the delight of my new shoes and in time alone with my dad (if we were alone. I don’t remember any siblings along.), we headed home. All felt right in the world.

The station wagon parked along the curb in front of our city duplex. I opened the passenger door and stepped out and into a pile of dog poop.

Poop oozed between each roll of those crepe soles. All’s right became oh sh!t.

I remember those shoe bottoms being scrubbed and scraped. Those delightful, rubber rolled soles became a nightmare. I felt the tension and stress and the shatter of shalom.

I don’t remember feeling a comfortable in-between of oh well, dog poop happens. My childish world was experienced and viewed through a lens of either all (everything is right with you) or nothing (everything is wrong with you).

When you allow yourself to remember and feel the good, you open yourself up to remembering and feeling the painful.

And there was painful.

There was hurt and misunderstanding and brokenness and shame. There was loss and miscommunication and fear and stress.

There was my big toe, for goodness sake!

But there was also redemption coming. Strange and small and slow, it crept up, at first. Nudging, tapping on the shoulder, whispering what about me?

It wasn’t easy, isn’t easy to learn a new dance.

dancing with dad

Sometimes it takes years of trying, stepping in dog poop, and getting your toes stepped on to learn the new moves. Sometimes the moves feel stiff and unnatural, and you long for the effortless twirling across the floor of that father-daughter team.

But this is us.

And we have grown. Are growing. Were picked for each other by a God who loves us and already knew we were who we needed to be in each other’s lives. Even when we might have thought otherwise.

I am grateful for the new dance we have grown into, even when it is scary, and I wonder if it is real.

dancing with dad

And about that baby sister of mine and how we had different dads? The last line of her post sums up how our dad is the same. I’m stealing it for the last line of mine!

I love seeing how far our relationship has come, and I’m excited to see where it is headed!