Monday, April 25, 2011

In the Valley, On the Mountain, In the Pen

    I’m once again sitting in the puppy pen, with the dog. Poor pup, she had one internal suture that just wouldn’t dissolve and had to be removed. So, here we are again - in the pen, with her paw sitting on top of my foot. A knee brace is on my knee and I’m tired. It’s been a long day. Running here, running there – I admit that I was close to tears this morning. Poke me and I won’t bleed, I’ll just melt into a hot salty mess of tears making a great big puddle in the floor. What caused all of that though? Well, I got up early to take the dog to the vet to have the suture removed. I always hate leaving her, but especially hated it this time because I knew she really just had her ACL fixed about a month and a half ago. Reopen part of the incision, it seems like a really awful thing, especially when I can’t explain why or what for or really reassure that this is for her good and I am coming back. So, leaving there, I headed to the knee doctor. I have reached the point, six months after originally injuring it, where I just want it fixed. Really folks, it’s been long enough. I’ve tried to be a good sport with physical therapy, repeated appointments, etc… but today I felt like we were back at the beginning. Well, it could be… or it could be… or …. Oh my goodness, just fix it! So, I tried to pull it all together and get to work. Only to have to leave a few hours later for an MRI and then to pick up the pup from the vet, did I mention I did a lot of going from place to place today.
   So, sitting here in the pen I could quite easily feel pretty sorry for myself. I hurt and am tired, the pup has a wound that is seeping a bit still, and I still don’t have an answer for my knee. But instead of dissolving and melting, which is still a possibility because that’s life, I’m trying my best to remember that God is in control and is good. He is good on the mountain when things are calm and beautiful. He is in the valley, when things are dark and you want to just go back to bed and crawl in for the remainder of however long it’s going to take for the remaining problem to dissipate. He is good when you are sitting in the puppy pen with the dog licking your pajama pant leg as she is commencing her nightly bathing ritual. He is good regardless. Regardless of the place, the situation, the mood, the weather, the economy, the politics, the environment, regardless of my hopes or dreams or failures – God is good. He is good when there are valleys and storms. He is good when joints hurt or sutures don’t dissolve. God is good when lupine is blooming and spring winds are carrying sounds of mountain goats. God is good when skies are blue, clouds are fluffy and everything is going just right. God is good when dogs are hurt, when we are hurt and when we are contained in puppy pens.
   I may just spend some time dissolving into a pile of tears soon, especially if I don’t have an answer of something that is wrong with my knee in the next week. But, God will still be good.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Time Between

   Between the silence of Good Friday and the slow crescendo of praise on what we know as Easter, I wonder what it sounded like between. But, not only in Jerusalem, but in heaven. As the tragedy of the sinless Christ taking on the sin of the world passed, I wonder what it sounded like in heaven.

   I know a bit of who God is, what He is like. I know that He is not the creator of panic and despondency that literally sucks up hope like a black hole sucks up light. He is source of hope, of joy, of the perfect plan. I can imagine with knowing that, that heaven’s citizens gathered around to praise God. Not to rejoice in the pain and suffering, but to marvel at the majesty of the sacrifice of love that was made. I imagine Jesus speaking to the thief who had joined him the day before in paradise. Perhaps providing a tour or introducing him to the actual Moses whose words he had most likely heard most of his life. I can imagine the people gathering to Jesus, those who He had healed, touched, or ministered to during his lifetime. Stories could have been passed, “do you remember when…” I can imagine God the Father greeting His Son. The Holy Spirit could have joined them in a close embrace, as the plan that they had enacted together was changing so drastically for people.
   I would imagine that the praise started much sooner in heaven on earth. And on earth, it was a time of doubt and fear.

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Sounds of the Day

   It’s Good Friday and I have been thinking about the sounds that would have comprised this day in Jerusalem. It is obviously a day that focuses on Jesus, and the sacrifice He made for us. However, I wonder what the sounds were like that day.
   It’s been like living in a rain forest here, a cold damp wet rain forest, which creates lovely sounds on the roof as I settle in to sleep. The sounds of the birds outside, the dogs as they bark their hellos, the television, the wind in the pines… there are just so many sounds surrounding me today.
   I wonder what the sounds were on that day in Jerusalem. After Christ died, after his body was removed from the cross. The heckling sounds, the feet on the roads, and the sound of the hammer and nails have all faded. Now, it is the sounds of soldiers and the sigh of wood as it is relieved of its weight. The night sounds could have occurred. People would have returned to their homes, I wonder what that sound was. Doors opened and closed, and what were the conversations that occurred? Had the fever of the day been broken with the realization of the actions of the day and its consequences? Were voices lowered in fear or raised in irritation? Did children sense the tension and rev up their little motors to pitches normally only reached during full moons? Were there the sounds of sobs in the streets or laughter?
  Today we remember. Today we think back and remember the actions, sights, and sounds of that day.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

From Noise to Quiet

   It’s taken several years, a lot of practice, and literally holding onto my Bible and clutching at the verses inside, but I have learned to appreciate some quiet time. There were the times when, if I was alone, I would have the TV turned up, the CD player playing, and singing along at the top of my lungs. It wasn’t so much that I was afraid of being alone at that time; it was that the quiet got to me. It was so quiet it was loud and pounded in my ears.

   I’m not even sure when it happened; though I do know it happened slowly, when the quiet did not become such a difficult thing. When that happened, I was surprised to find how much I enjoyed the quiet, the relaxing I found inside of it. The sweetness of the quiet, to hear myself think and even better to listen to the voice that urges me to “be still.” Now, I find that I look to turn off the phone, unplug from the craziness of a packed schedule, turn off the TV, and enjoy the comfort of a quiet book on the front porch with sunshine.
   When I find the noise of life filling my “ears” back up I am now more comfortable with the hush. It is a friend, a comfort that is welcomed.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Not Going to Listen

   I stand with my hands firmly placed over my ears. They put a solid, consistent pressure over the openings and block out some sound. “I’m not going to listen. I refuse. I won’t.” The muscles are tense and getting tired, my head starts hurting, and yet I remain stubborn – I’m not listening! I don’t care if everyone else says that it’s about God and not about me, I’m not happy with the change and so I intend to just ignore it until the very thing I am ignoring comes and knocks me flat on my behind.

   I’ve been in that spot before. I’ve been there, with cramped arms and a cramped torso, and feeling stuck because you can’t do much with your hands placed over your ears. My stomach places itself into knots as my refusal turns from rebellion to indignation to arrogant pride to sheepish un-knowing of how to extract myself from the situation. I’ve placed my hands over my ears when God tells me to move and when He tells me not to move. “Are you kidding me? You want me to do WHAT? Have you thought that through thoroughly?”
   And in the midst of that, the sorrowful things mount. I miss out on the conversation, feeling as if God is standing there with an exasperated look on His face, shaking His head, and waiting with great patience for a small child to stop throwing a temper tantrum. I miss out on His plan, His desire to do work within me. All that strain on my arms, like holding a handle for too long and too tightly and the muscles don’t relax easily. “Ummm… I’m stuck God.” I do appreciate that He doesn’t laugh at me at this point, but helps me to remove my arms.
   If you have your movement of arms stuck up in some weird angle, hands thoroughly pressed against your ears, I encourage you to know that you aren’t alone and that God can help those hands relax so you can hear again.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Thirds and Pens

   Before I was even born, my life included music. Between my mother singing to me before I was born and my dad singing to her belly, the harmony of music has been in my life longer than I have been drawing air into my lungs. Tight harmony has been part of that, where chord structures bound into thirds have twisted and turned in the air, jumping from ear to ear. Moving up and building into strong crescendos, tipping back into gentle pianissimo tones. Growing up with that kind of harmony, I am fortunate to be able to read music, but can also hear the harmony. Let me hear a song a few times and then I feel free to jump in (in most cases).

   I’ve also been, and am blessed by, some wonderful friendships. I remember writing pages and pages of letters to one of these friends. Such sweet girly fluff that was absolute life and death to us at the time. We wrote letters back and forth about school, boyfriends, teachers, marching band, laughter, hopes, fears, families, I don’t believe that there were any subjects which were off limits. This kind of friend is like a musical third, sketched out on stationary and through life stories rather than score paper. We have laughed hysterically, like a rapid crescendo that leaves to harmony that bubbles back through the phrase. We have cried and cradled each other in sorrow, letting tears play tight minor dissonance resolving back into the harmony over and over. These kinds of friends are rare and a blessing. They are a treasure of life harmony in thirds.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Ya’ll, Coke, and Yankee

   I’m not sure if it’s the result of reading To Kill a Mockingbird again, or the first few warm days of spring, or just remembrances, but part of me has been remembering living in the southern US and missing it. I have to chuckle to myself when this feeling hits me, because I wasn’t all that sad about leaving the south to live in the mid-west again. Don’t get me wrong, it had its charms. I just got sick and tired of being called a Yankee and being asked what kind of coke I would like at the drive through window when I ordered coke to drink. The culture was foreign to me, and I remember feeling very alone in the midst of a world that I just did not understand. I said “you guys” instead of “hey ya’ll” and constantly forget to include ma’am and sir in my sentences. I have to admit, the manners were pretty nice, and you just can’t get better fish fry hush puppies. But, it wasn’t something I really understood and I was ready to move on.

   Now, I am remembering a slow moving southern town, with the smell of honeysuckle and salty Gulf air when the breeze blew just right. I am remembering the manners when gentlemen hold the doors open and help you carry your bags. I remember the slightly slower drawl that only serve to disguise the quick wits that lay beneath. Azalea blooms rampantly through sandy grass yards, where mounds of fire ants live their lives. Something has happened between then and now, and now I can appreciate the place as I couldn’t then.
   Maybe I just need to go find myself an azalea to stick my nose into or make real sweet tea. Maybe one good mornin’ ya’ll would get it out of my system. If I could though, I think I would take an amalgamation of all the places I have lived and bring out the best things. For example, there are just not as many fans as fervent in their baseball player support as the Cleveland Indians. Bring out that enthusiasm and rock solid school districts, with the slightly slower pace and hospitality and community values of the southern Christian families. Then, throw in some mid-west solidity and poof – it’s a heady mix of Spanish moss and corn fields.
  I think what it really boils down is that some days, I just get home sick. And my heart tells me that I’m not at home yet. Not really. Oh, it’s a nice enough place that I live in now, even though they don’t make hush puppies at fish fries, but it’s still foreign. There are times when I just grow weary of being an alien in the land and want to feel that I really fit. God knows where this life will take me, certainly I don’t, and I may once again wind up hearing that drawl and seeing signs for boiled peanuts. Or, maybe I’ll head out west and try a new flavor. But regardless, I think part of me will always hold back because that won’t be home either. Moving around, well it’s made me understand more of how this world is not my home. And today, well today I’m just a bit home sick.

Thursday, April 14, 2011


   I just finished Chesapeake by Michener, a book that found me thoroughly hooked by the end of the second chapter. As the times progressed, (and I promise not to give out the ending of the story), I thought of my own family and how they moved across the ocean and to the frontier of the New World.

   One particular family story sticks in my mind as I think of the settlers. Leaving from Wales, a husband and wife, and their two boys boarded a ship and sailed the Atlantic to arrive in Penn’s colony. It must have taken such nerve to leave home, family, friends, and a way of life for parts literally unknown. But, to top it off, the third boy was due soon and born while at sea. They named him Seaborn Lewis. Every once in a while I think about what it must have been like to travel across the sea like that and what the general feeling was upon that ship. With a new baby and two little boys to get underfoot, under deck, and under anything else on a ship where there could be mischief; how did they handle that? Was this young mother frightened over the colony that awaited her or excited. Did she stand on the deck and watch her home slowly move farther and farther into the horizon, or did she look out to the home that would be? Regardless of her fears and possible hesitations, this wife and mother made the journey and raised her family to be part of their new community.
   I moved around a bit as a kid. Sometimes it wasn’t too hard, other times it was dreadfully difficult. Ohio, Kentucky, Florida, Ohio, Iowa…. Schools changed, friends were made and left, neighborhoods were known and then left. I developed a strong distaste for that song Friends, by Michael W. Smith, because I heard it so much. In this day and age, there are many ways to communicate with the people who were and are part of my life, though separated by many miles. Skype, facebook, e-mail, telephone, letters, photos, packages, or even trips; my possibilities are full of options. With that, I think about how that would have been so different in the 1600s. A letter, carried on a ship over an ocean, perhaps a package or a silhouette. Whole families would have sprung up with barely knowing each other as an ocean separated them. The words on long awaited letters must have been cherished.
   I pass people on the sidewalk, sit next to them at church, talk to them in random conversations. I wonder how many of them have had someone reach out to bring cherished words. As they also need someone who seeks to understand them, the feeling of separation or conquering their own ocean.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Lead Wings

   Now that the weather has turned, the birds are starting to return. Strings of geese fly overhead, honking and forming great v’s in the sky. As they fly up there, I notice that the v is a constant changing thing, like a living breathing entity. One goose holds the lead and then another. They sweep into the lead position and back out, moving gracefully and without argument over and over.

   The lead goose, cutting through the air for all the others has a most tiring job. Leadership, whether in a sweep of geese or of people, can be a tiring thing. We can learn from the geese as they allow the leadership position to move through the whole flock. The fortitude of the birds, it is one because they share responsibilities. We also can learn to share the burdens of leadership.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Yearly Spring Watch

   Every year I look forward to seeing the trees bud out, the first blossoms prepare to bloom, and the smell of the season change to reflect the earth’s soil melting the ice coat it has had all winter. Somehow each year I miss the moment when the season changes. Not the calendar date that marks when spring officially begins, but the actual moment when the leaves start sprouting and budded flowers start blooming. I think it must happen overnight in the blink of an eye. One moment, everything is still and cautious again late snowfalls and frosts. And then the next moment, caution is thrown aside and the leaves come out. Soon, the trees contain a haze of fresh green and the ground a landscape of littered leaf protectors.

   It seems that normally when the first day occurs that I am at work. The weather is perfect, a light breeze and the temperatures are not too high, and I’m stuck inside. So, this Sunday was such a wonderful anomaly. Sitting in a dark green plastic chair, with my feet propped up on a bright yellow children’s plastic slide I found myself sinking lower and lower as my mid section relaxed into the beautiful day. A book in hand, my Diet Pepsi sitting next to the chair’s legs, and the dogs wandering about the yard finding sticks to eat on – what a lovely way to kick off spring.

Sunday, April 10, 2011


   I heard a friend coin a term that I just loved, a “Stay-cation”. A vacation where you stay at home. It may mean a complete break from everything or just stepping away from the normal responsibilities of life to enjoy a break. When I mentioned this to another friend, she wanted to know if I ever felt guilty when I declared these mini-vacation where I don’t actually vacate. I have to say, “no”. A resounding, great big no!

   We live in a world driven by doing. Every moment seems to be taken with doing something, not necessarily doing something productive, just doing something. Wonderful technology that can keep us connected can also become burdensome after a while. The constant connection, constant movement, it can be quite overwhelming. When I am in the middle of the busy times, when I can’t seem to do more than juggle the calendar, I remember how Jesus took his disciples away. They would move away from the people, the burdens, the demands, and the needs. They would be guided away for times of teaching, of a mental and emotional breather.
    I hope that if you need a break, that you will schedule it in, schedule it into the business of your calendar.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Practicing Patience Makes For….

   Practice makes perfect, and I’m practicing patience. Somehow, I’ve not arrived at perfect patience yet. Patience, so elusive, and yet desirable to have. Why? Because it will make things smoother or less stressful? Because it is a virtue? Can’t I just have patience – you know, right now this instant? I’m practicing patience with a knee injury. A stumble in November still leaves me with a knee that is now taped, braced, and iced on a daily basis with physical therapy exercises to do. They urge me in physical therapy to have patience, it takes time to rebuild muscle. Arrrggghhh!!! I want to not hurt, to be able to trust the next step.

   So, in the middle of physical therapy exercises, and the restraint not to just throw the tape in the trash, I’m trying to practice patience. Practice, keep trying, forward movement that is intentional though not always perfect. Hopefully this will be something that is fixed soon and I can toss the tape and put away the brace. But in the meantime, I will be attempting to continue the practice of patience and put away the grumbling.

Thursday, April 7, 2011


   My dogs make me laugh.  They are such a big part of my life, full of joy, slobbery kisses, and paw holding.  But, one of the characteristics that I just love the most are the ways they explore the world around them.  I have the tendency to just gloss over the details in places I see every day.  Don’t ask me what someone else wore, because unless it really caught my eye – there is a good chance I won’t notice.  I have to really catch my attention and bring it into focus with a purpose for detail to really notice them. The dogs on the other hand… I think they notice everything.  Megan notices everything that goes in the house, especially if it involves the treat door.  I think she has a special alarm hard wired into her ears to go off – “treat door opening, treat door opening, approach treat door with caution and sad puppy face.”    She takes it all in, holding up her head like some dignitary and observes her realm.  Megan even notices when I put on my tennis shoes, work shoes, or am barefoot.  They all mean something different to her and they are clues to how her day is going.  Sierra takes in all the motion in bushes.  She will stick her head into the bushes and soon birds will go flying from them.   And she loves lights, dancing and prancing around the bushes whenever the lights are to be turned on.   Snowflakes are carefully selected from across the yard to be chased down with delight.  Buddy is the youngest and notices everything, birds flying, sounds from the computer, the water bowl being filled.  They all take such great notice of their world and know the details.  I love my furry explorers.  They know so much and notice so much in their environment.  They are beautiful explorers. 

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Pots on the Porch

   Spring must be coming, even though it was thirty degrees this morning, because a porch has been lined with pots. They aren’t fancy or much too look at, a rangy bunch of mismatched colors, beigey green and grayed white, with a mix of shapes and sizes. I see them; dirt spilled here and there showing work in progress. I’m looking forward to seeing what grows in these pots. Seeds to be planted, growing where they are placed.

   Sometimes I don’t come across too fancy. I can have some really interesting hair days or dry skin or just feel off. Truth be told, I would love to just stay in my sweatpants, throw on a t-shirt, and toss my hair up in pigtails or in a ball cap for my going out outfit for the day. Shoes should either be cute and comfy or strictly optional. As a child I would refuse jeans in favor of the comfort of sweats. Still love them! And these are just the surface things, just like that assortment of pots. It is in the dirt, loamy and nutrient filled that seeds are placed and then grow. Blooming up, bountiful in growth, the pots become just an afterthought in the green above them.

Monday, April 4, 2011

A Wedding Feast

   I have read the story of the wedding feast in the Bible many times, how the celebration occurred and the water that turned to wine. But, yesterday I attended a wedding feast where I watched such joy and celebration that it was indeed the turning of two into one.

   There have been several weddings I have had the pleasure of attending, some that were extremely personally important to me. The groom saw the bride and his face just beamed. Flowers, carefully picked out and arranged around a carefully chosen color scheme echo the personal preference of the couple. The music, cake, dress, suit, etc.. – they have all been so carefully chosen. This wedding had all of those, but this one was unique in a really wonderful way.
   Sitting at the reception, the toasts begin. A heartfelt toast from two brothers and a sister leave us laughing and reflecting about the couple. Then, the bride and groom took a moment with the mic to address their guests. I’ve never heard an altar call at a wedding, but this one had one. Wow! In no way did this diminish the moment of this couple, or reduce the attention on them. But, instead it was such a beautifully powerful reminder of the love Christ has for his bride, the Church. Many congratulations to the new couple. I hope they can look back on their wedding day with great memories and one day hear how seeds they planted on that day took root.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Sheldon and Mr. B

   Two turtles live in a pen/tank at the local nature center. Mr. B is a pretty green, with the traditionally shaped chiseled looking turtle head. He stretches out his neck to look at visitors and fans his delicate looking clawed toes through the water. The shell is arched and covers his body, providing protection from any wild and crazy spectator that might approach.

   Sheldon is the other turtle in the tank. A soft shelled turtle, rather greenish grey, he is shaped differently than other turtles that I am used to seeing. Flatter and his shell fits more as a covering for the body, not as a hiding place. Sheldon is a bit wider, with a tuberous nosed face. He looks completely different.
   They are both turtles. They both are made to look exactly like that type of turtle looks.
   I pass around a dozen people a day in a walk from work to my car. Each one looks different. They are all people, but completely unique. While you determine if you are a fan of Sheldon or Mr. B or both, don’t lose sight that they are both turtles – and we are both people.