COVID Quarantine Mercies

Sometimes mercies arrive in the most unlikely packages.
Usually they come like the mail, every day around 1:00, the familiar squeak of a white truck’s brakes in front of the box,
Or transported by the trademark all-in-brown UPS guy.
Occasionally they appear as a delivery from the florist’s refrigerated van, a pretty bouquet with a card saying “Just Because”.
And then, there’s the guy who pulls up your driveway with no identifiable credentials and drops off something you weren’t expecting and didn’t order and you’re not sure if you want it, especially from a stranger.IMG_9860

Mercies are like that. Unpredictably lavish, everyday reliable and unexpectedly severe.

I’m reclining under the shade of a tree this start of summer afternoon, songbirds substituting for Spotify, breeze gently dancing through the branches keeping me cool, comfy chair too. Everthing’s picture perfect except that I’m swatting at unrelenting bloodsucking mosquitoes who are making a meal out of mine.

And that’s life.

I’ve always told my girls:
People are a mixed bag—beautiful but broken image bearers of their Designer.
Nature is majestic—full of grandeur- and at the same time all creation groans.
Our bodies are miraculously resilient while also incredibly fragile.

So, too the conundrum with mercies. At times, they’re profoundly better than we hoped. Gifts greater than what we dared to ask for. But sometimes, they weren’t on our list and we’d prefer to return them but we can’t. So much of the angst in life is set to rest when we learn to trust the whole spectrum of God’s mysterious graces and this season of COVID-19 pandemonium offers us unprecedented opportunities to practice.
Here’s what that’s looked like in our story the last 14 days of this year of Coronavirus.

I’ve got 3 kids who work in health care, reporting to the hospital day after day. We figured we’d all eventually get infected through them but so far we’ve just gotten free donuts for healthcare workers instead. Thanks God and Krispie Kreme too.

Robyn’s wedding took a direct hit from COVID-19. Plan A turned into Play Y by May 13. And I won’t lie, the lead up was rough—for all of us. But the day unfolded all sunshine. And one of  the bestest fresh mercies of the morning was the family friend who rescued us from our hair emergency. One by one, right there in our living room, she spent hours curling and pinning and braiding and clipping. And just like an assembly line, we stepped out of her chair all beautiful. We rode to the beach in our borrowed Ford RV chariot. The Lake glistening all diamond-like calm and the dunes warm on our bare shoulders and toes as covenant promises were exchanged. Then we celebrated together around a cozy candlelit outdoor table for 13 with pasta and cookie cake, finishing out the festivities with sparklers, confetti poppers and long hugs.

Two mornings later, my phone went ding while I was shopping at the grocery store.
That same sweet friend, texted saying, “My sister got tested for COVID last night and the results came back positive. I’m getting her symptoms and the CDC says it’s likely our family has it. I’ll be tested today. I’m so sorry but I wanted you to know.”

So, I messaged my family with the news.
“Oh wonderful!”
“I wanted to go home this weekend!”
“You mean I can’t volunteer to serve at drive-in church on Sunday?”
“Oh dear!” came the replies.

It wasn’t long until her follow up text confirmed, “I’m positive too.”

The ones who planned on a secluded honeymoon in the mountains went anyway.
Our nurse tested negative then went back to work.
The aspiring author just cleaned her room to make her creative studio more comfortable to write in during the quarantine rest.
And the one who wanted to go home to Chicago, but couldn’t on account of her conscience, got slightly cranky—only very temporarily though. Family time is great, but in moderation. At least that’s her perspective.

We formulated a plan, the four of us sleeping under this roof anyway.
We’ve all been exposed so we’re in this together, baby! 2 whole weeks of self-quarantine.
No Meijer. No Target. No Aldi. No Flowerland.
But, Yes to the trails. Yes to the beach.  And yes to the sunshine.
And the Chicago-girl and I, we made a pact.
Let’s not squander the time together, we agreed. Let’s redeem it. And we have.

May 15:
Caring friends start texting.
Ding. “Take plenty of Vitamin C and D and sit in the sunshine. Also, drink a glass of red wine everyday.”  “Why?” I ask. “There’s something in the grape, and the alcohol is like hand sanitizer for your stomach.” OK….
Ding. “Drink a lot of hot and orange juice.”
Another Ding. “Gargle and hot tea.”
Is there a pattern here?….

May 16:
Today’s best quotables:
“If I breathe on Teddy maybe he’ll get COVID and then I can get back at him for biting me last week.” (Lily)
“Life is really wow!” (Hope)

May 17:
Lily tested negative. We don’t know whether to laugh or cry. If we’re going to be stuck here for 2 weeks, we’d kind of like to get it over with and come out the other side with antibodies.

May 18: Got up at 10:30 today. That’s a 30 minute gain from yesterday. I’ve decided I’m going to give myself 1 full week to be entirely useless after the wedding and if I’m symptom free after that, I’m going to kick myself in the butt and get productive again.

May 19:
Daily fruit smoothie blended in the trusty Vitamix and doused in whip cream for everybody in the fam. Check.
2 mile jog. Check.
Switch out winter and summer clothes. Check.
I went to bed before midnight. Shocker.

May 20:
Second shower I’ve taken since the wedding.
Played Harry Potter Clue. Love is the only explanation.
Practiced a dance tutorial on YouTube for exercise.
Stayed up too late binge watching Netflix, heard a funny noise coming from the basement. I discovered a broken water line flooding the storage room. Caught it fast and an hour later, we’d cleaned up the mess and gone to bed. Murphy’s law mixed with fresh mercy. Isn’t that how life goes?

May 21:
My decks looks like a tulip festival. And when I peek through its floorboards I see a robin’s nest carefully constructed, strategically tucked under the wooden supports and housing 4 little blue eggs. Mama robin hovers nearby to protect her babies, hoping they’ll grow into healthy, autonomous birds. I get that.

May 22:
Watering and weeding. Every single day.
I cleaned out the room of the one who’s not coming back to it. Can’t go under it. Can’t go over it. Gotta go through it. And it’s hard….
Ruminating on the words of a new book I’m reading: “Your child has caused you pain as well, but as the parent, you do not get the freedom to bleed all over your child. You have real grief but your child is not the recipient of your grief.”  Ouch, that hurts! I’ve hemorrhaged all over my kids.

May 23:
Taking on the paperwork pile.
Started making my next T-shirt quilt.
Cancellations, refunds. No vacation to Prince Edward Island and the Lake of Shining Waters or Green Gables. Have I said it before? This year ranks low on my favorites list.
But, the kids buy me a 2 week subscription of Hello Fresh for dinner. Oh happy day!

May 24:
A quick trip to the lakeshore with Ang. First stop, the cemetery. Time for my annual meet and greet with mom and dad. Not a day goes by where I don’t wish I didn’t have to talk to a tombstone. Next stop, the beach. The lapping waves lullaby me  and I nap in the sunshine. It’s fun to be together.
Tailgating picnic for 5 at Kuyper College on the big hill. Peace. Joy.
Then, the honeymooners return with stories of their adventures.

 

May 25:
Church in our oversized chair. Angela and I share her consecrated bread.
Sorting through memories–purging, organizing, saving. This time she relinquished her dowry—a seashell collection- the brunt of our family joke about the  junk she’ll bring into a marriage someday.
Hot day. Maranatha at sunset—climbed to the prayer tower. Plenty to pray about. Not a prettier place to meet with Jesus.


The tear ducts overflowing tonight. Can’t seem to turn the faucet off. So much transition.

May 26:
Not a morning person. Tried to jog first thing. Another hot day. Fail. 1.2 miles and I quit. Well, actually I collapsed.
More sorting. This time it’s school books. 2 categories: 1) Save for the grandkids. 2) Don’t save for the grandkids.


Holiday dinner. All the kids around the table. Dragged up an old family joke from the archives. “What do we call a fairy who doesn’t take a bath?” –“A stinkerbell.” I really, really miss those days!
Watched Emma (2020) though I never could stay focused on a Jane Austen flick. Their lives are so boring.

May 27:
Tomorrow we get out of jail.
I’m starting to think about life post-quarantine.
Finding our new normal, just the 3 of us.
Dumping a colossal donation off at Goodwill.
Crossing the border into Indiana to go to Kohl’s later this week.
And now, because it’s time, Angela, she’ll load up her car, wave out the sunroof and go “Zoooom”….

These days, the ones God sovereignly surprised me with, they’ve actually been a treasure.
He protected our bodies from illness.
He provided a temporary diversion, a few weeks to rest and recharge before I face off the reality of yet another empty bedroom with all of its nostalgia.
And, He posited Angela and I in a training plan to strengthening our relational muscles through repetitions of love, respect and understanding and it turned out to be a great workout.
We stewarded our time responsibly.
We took a lot of walks.
We practiced being kind.
We gave each other space.
We listened to music. Arabic. Gaelic. German. Pop. Even CCM.
We Facetimed friends across the ocean and across town.
We watched movies– though my suggestions are always too sad, she says.
We talked about things that matter in the great big cosmos and in each of our own little worlds.
We cooked curry and baked scones and ate lots of homemade ice cream. She drank about a half dozen gallons of milk but neither of us imbibed any wine.
We went to the beach and watched the sunset together there too.
Lots of great memories to carry into a fresh, new summer. So many mercies.IMG_9644

And so, quarantine life turned into one of my favorite parts of this otherwise not-favorite year. God’s Plan B for the weeks post-wedding, turned out to be better than my plan A.
And I just feel really, really grateful.

On Sandwiches, Paper Cranes and Floatation Devices

Always start and end with gratitude.
That’s the bread in life’s best sandwich.

So, I’m grateful because
None of my kids live overseas this spring, stuck halfway around the world with second rate medical care.
Six weeks ago, I was double dosing on Naproxen to manage shoulder pain and now I’m raking my yard.
Most of my tribe is still getting their paychecks.
An early spring’s given me some elbow room outdoors during Michigan’s extended stay-at-home orders.
There’s an abundance of left over Russell Stover Easter candy available at Walgreens 50% off.
And, we have plenty of toilet paper!

But, truth is, I’m not loving this sandwich.
The stuff in the middle, it doesn’t taste very good!
And so far, this year gets a failing grade on my favorites list.
Not because of a single catastrophic event.
It’s aches and pains,
Conflict,
Disappointments,
Transitions,
And so many losses…

Which brings me to this very moment.
She’s stripped most of the decorations off the wall—the pressed leaves and calligraphy quotes, the string of Christmas lights that drapes around her window, the banner with her name on the door. The bed’s moving over to her new home tomorrow.
This space, it’s been a safe haven for my girl.
A sanctuary.

I was the one who told her, “You’re ready to fly.” And she is.
But her room feels naked with just the paper cranes, wing spans spread, hanging off fishing line from her ceiling.
And my grief’s exposed.
I’m crouched in the corner ugly-crying, wondering what happened to all that Kleenex my husband stockpiled for the pandemic.

2014 was my first launch.
And nothing prepared me for that kind of hard!
I dropped my kid off at college and drove 900 miles due South.
It felt like death though somehow, I survived.
We figured out how to live as 5 instead of 6.
And now, we’re transitioning to 4.
And in a couple of weeks, we’ll be 3.

For almost 22 years I’ve called this one to dinner every single night.
And I’m wearing at least 15 pounds worth of her famous chocolate chip cookies on my derriere.
Over these two plus decades, I’ve been a student of her expressions and moods.
I know all her favorite treats and what’s likely to bring a smile on a bad day.
I’ve prayed with her over every test.
I’ve watched her performances, applauded her accomplishments.
We’ve worked alongside each other and we’ve played together too.
I’ve hugged her and disciplined her.
Lectured and challenged her.
It’s been a long time since I laid next to her telling bedtime stories and singing lullabies as she drifted off to dreamland but it’s been comforting to know we’re sleeping under the safe roof anyway.

So, I told her today, “Try to remember the beautiful stuff most.”
I wish it was all beautiful!
Every moment of these approximately 8000 days.
But, it’s not.

I’m not a perfect parent. And her dad isn’t either.
She’s not a perfect kid. And neither are her sisters.

That reality tends to spiral me  into would-a, should-a, could-a…real fast.
To give myself a few hard swats with a 5 gallon paint stick.
And that’s the messy middle of my unappetizing sandwich.

But the bread of gratitude sustains me.
And so I intentionally recount the faithfulness of God in this kid’s story.
Last year about now, she had 50 bucks in the bank and her trusty Honda CRV named Winston. She graduated with her BSN a year early.
Then, she passed her NCLEX on her first try and God provided a full-time hospital nursing position.
She continued to live at home opting for free room and board, bedtime hugs included, so she could stockpile her savings.
And now, she bought her first home—a condo- just 11 minutes from the mama who’s crying on her bedroom floor tonight.fullsizeoutput_baab

The same loving Heavenly Father who’s written this chapter of her story, can He not be entrusted with the next one too?
And how about mine?

It sounds cliché but it’s not.
In this sink or swim world, the rhythm of gratitude, rehearsing His fresh mercies, acknowledging His faithfulness, that’s the floatation device that keeps me from drowning.

I pick up my hardcover copy of the Book, the one my Mama and Daddy gave me before I packed up my things and left an empty pink upstairs bedroom behind.
Here’s what it says:
He’s counting my tears and putting them in his bottle.
And my bottle, it matters to him.
He considers it tenderly.
It represents the love and investment I’ve made in my daughter’s life and He delights in the broken beautiful mama I’ve been to her.
He chose me for the task and celebrates that I’ve been faithful.
And he sympathizes with the loss I feel as she leaves our humble abode.
Those tears, He’ll use them to water the seeds of change and growth that are yet to be written into both of our stories.

Right outside the window where the paper cranes hang off the fishing wire, I planted a bunch of lily bulbs last Indian summer when mama’s intuition whispered the secret.
In time, they’ll bloom into an intoxicating mixture of fragrance and beauty.
I can’t see them yet.
They’re buried under the weight of the dirt. But what I have sown, He will make grow.
And with that confidence, I hope and wait with anticipation.IMG_9382

Social Distancing, Ventilators, Death and the Coronavirus

I’ve crossed this date off on my calendar 15 times since the one my dad’s heart rhythm went wonky and then silent. Twenty minutes later a medical technician found him slumped over his breakfast tray and CODE BLUE blared over the intercom, a flurry of care providers compressing and jolting his chest back to beating. Afterwards, his eyebrows stood straight up like Wile E. Coyote after running through electrical wires in that old animated cartoon called the Road Runner.

They couldn’t restore the brain function though.

I’ll never forget that morning. From a thousand miles away, I called to check in on him, confident he’d be safe in a hospital, but something in his voice tipped me off  that he wasn’t. “I’ll call the airline immediately and jump on the next plane home,” I told him. Before we hung up, so I could call American Airlines, he spoke these last words. “I love you’s and the kids.”

An hour later, the rise and fall of his chest, regulated by a ventilator gave the illusion of life but his oxygen deprived brain made flat waves on the EEG monitor, because really, he was already gone.Irvin2 1

Three days later, the room in ICU was packed with some of the people he’d loved most in the world. We read Words from his favorite dog-eared, worn, leather Book, the one he’d read from on the side of his bed every night for always. We were singing to him about clinging to the Old Rugged Cross and exchanging it for a crown when the ventilator went quiet and his chest went still.Irvin10 1

All this talk of potential ventilator shortages, reading about Italy and the choices medical professionals are being asked to make regarding the value of a life based on its statistical chance of recovery feels a bit like that old ethical educational exercise about the train. In it, either one dies to protect the masses or everyone potentially dies but no one is intentionally sacrificed. I’ve always hated to grapple with that scenario even when it’s hypothetical.

I can’t imagine being denied care because of a competition for medical equipment.
To not receive the benefit of the Hippocratic oath because of scarcity.
To be cheated out of the privilege of holding my loved one’s hand and saying goodbye due to quarantines.

My daughter texted me this morning saying, “I’ve never seen anything like this before.” “Neither have I,” I replied.
But that doesn’t mean that it’s the first time the government has issued policies restricting individual rights and freedoms for the benefit of the common good.

My dad contracted tuberculosis in 1946.
By mandate, he spent the next 5 years quarantined in a sanitorium.
And no, that’s not a typo.
Not 5 days or 5 months.
5 years.
5 years, he spent in isolation!Image 3-13-20 at 12.40 AM

I remember his stories of night sweats, waking up drenched and chilled.
The relentless coughing.
I remember scratching his back and tracing the c-shaped scar lines all the way up to his shoulder blades. “That’s where they opened me up and packed my lungs so they wouldn’t collapse,” he’d tell me.
“I laid in bed day after day wondering if I was going to die. I couldn’t see my family because I was contagious, so we wrote letters to each other.”
“The nurses, some of them were nice, but I didn’t like some of them, God forgive me. They were mean!”
“The other patients, they became family. It was awful hard to lose somebody.” His voice broke when he spoke those words.
“God knew what He was doing though, because that’s when I started reading my Bible. I realized I was a sinner, separated from Him and that He loved me and could save me from the consequences of my sin.”
“I remember the day I told Him, ‘God, I don’t ever want to leave here if I’m not different than when I came in. I want to love you and trust you and serve you for the rest of the days you give me no matter how many they are.’”
“After that, I learned to pray. I had plenty of time so I started talking to God and I’ve never stopped. Every day I pray for everyone I know and love by name and I learned to do that when I was sick.”

It’s true. Two hours before he got up every single morning for the next 55 years, he’d cover his tribe in prayer. The day he died, I lost my prayer blanket and nothing’s ever been the same.

In 1948, the wonder drug, Streptomycin, came on the market and it proved to be my dad’s miracle.
Eventually, his family got visitation passes and in 1951, he was released. He walked out of the hospital he’d been required to live in for the sake of public safety, a free man, ready to re-imagine his dreams and re-start his life.

Which brings us to today’s health crisis, COVID-19.

This past week takes me back to my childhood. I remember being a kid who went to bed on a February night during a winter weather advisory then woke up just as the local public school district called their first snow day of the year. Every other school in the county jumped on the bandwagon in about two seconds. These closings and cancellations feel like the same sort of  domino effect  on steroids.

Whether or not all these extreme measures for social distancing are necessary confuses me to a level beyond my pay grade and most of the articles I’ve read, loaded with charts and graphs, make my head spin. The thing is, the President, Governors, the CDC and many other local health experts are mandating and recommending extreme precautionary measures for public health.

I could choose to
Judge them,
Ignore them,
Politicize their decisions or
Accuse them of some sort of conspiracy theory.
Or, I can lean into the opportunity to be a team player.
To be quick to submit my rights for the sake of my community,
To concede my plans for the larger agenda of public health.

None of us really want to do that.
We’re not accustomed to restrictions on our personal autonomy.
We’re suspicious about submitting to our government.
We don’t like being told what to do.
Where to go (and not go).
And how to live.
We’re culturally unskilled at making personal concessions for the greater good.

That’s what makes this pandemic a monumental opportunity.
Especially for Christ followers.
We claim to be the guardians for the inalienable rights of the most vulnerable, ferociously defending the lives of the unborn.
Today, this week, this month and maybe beyond, we get an opportunity to expand our pro-life commitment to the diabetics and immuno- surpressed cancer patients, the elderly and people with other compromising health conditions.

How should we respond to the Coronavirus chaos?
For those of us who are card carrying Christ followers, we’ve already got our marching orders.
Imitate Jesus.
This isn’t the first time somebody’s been called on for no fault of their own to make life altering sacrifices for the good of others.
Such is the way of the cross.
And ‘tis the season.
I’m not exactly sure what that will look like in my little corner of the world. Maybe you’re not sure either; but, if we ask God to make us more like Jesus, He will.Screen Shot 2018-03-30 at 12.14.00 AM

None of us know how close to home this illness will impact our tribes.
But here’s what I do know.
I have this opportunity to lay down my rights, my plans and my conveniences for the sake of others.
It’s inconvenient.
It’s frustrating.
It’s anxiety producing.

But it’s also humbling.
And sacrificial.
And loving.
I get to wear some new shoes, following in His footsteps, ready to announce the gospel of peace (Ephesians 6:15).

My dad used to say, “I thank God for tuberculosis because without it, I don’t think I would have ever come to know His love and forgiveness because I wouldn’t have realized how much I needed it.”

Disruptions in life, they are a gift.
An invitation to take God’s hand, to let Him redirect us away from our Plan A to His plan B, C, D or Z and to trust the outcome to Him.

Nobody says it better than Ann Voskamp, “There’s a reason I am not writing the story of my life and God is. He knows how it all works out, where it all leads, what it all means. I don’t. So I will let God blow His wind, His trials, oxygen for joy’s fire. I will leave my hand open and be. Be at Peace. I will bend the knee and be small and let God give what God chooses to give because He only gives love. And I will whisper a surprise thanks.”

The older I get, the more I see them– the concentric circles of fresh mercies, new every morning.
Always have been.
Will be today.
And confident for tomorrow’s too.

Thanks be to God!

On Being Brave

We had so much fun apartment shopping together.
Fueled for our search with a piece of coconut cream pie from Sweetilicious, what could go wrong?Version 2

It was just like an episode out of house hunters.
First we looked at the one under budget. It was a quick 7 minute drive from work and less from her favorite library but farthest from our house and no laundry machines in the apartment.
Next came the one that felt super safe, right on budget with a garage but no pets allowed.
The last one was an old church renovated into apartments. Stained glass windows reflected prismatic rainbows onto the bedroom walls. The place was pristine but the price was steep.

First, she eliminated the church. It was perfect, but not financially realistic.
Then she applied to the other two. Thirty minutes later, her email inbox dinged and she had a lease ready to be signed for apartment number 1. At 25 Mbps, we were both shocked into reality.

This is really gonna happen!
Lily’s moving out.

I’m the one who spoke it first. “You’re ready for your own place.”
I don’t want it to be true but it is.
Thing is, I’m already losing one in May. Well, actually two, because Brennan’s been family for a long time now. I’ve been gearing up for that transition for months but, Lily, too?439BB329-7D8B-4CE7-9352-2492B796D7C7

After the email arrived, my tear ducts went leaky.
It’s all normal.
It’s healthy.
It’s even good.
But it’s just so dang hard.

It feels like I’m living that picture book, Let Me Hold You a Little Longer.Image 2-29-20 at 3.09 AM

“Long ago you came to me;
a miracle of firsts;
First smiles and teeth and baby steps,
a sunbeam on the burst.
But one day you will move away
and leave to me your past,
And I will be left thinking of
a lifetime of your lasts.”

Some things, I didn’t realize were “lasts” when I was living them.
Others have been easier to anticipate.

I miss those coffee dates at Starbucks,
Weekly beach trips,
Lying sandwiched in a twin bed between 2 little princesses telling stories, singing lullabies and saying bedtime prayers together.
The smell of their freshly baked chocolate chip cookies,
The sound of Little House on the Prairie audiobooks,
And errand buddies riding shotgun.

Times are a-changin’
We’re like the family going on a bear hunt.
We can’t go over it .
Can’t go under it.
Just gotta go through it. (We’re Going On A Bear Hunt, Rosen/Oxbury)Image 2-29-20 at 3.02 AM
I want us all to end up snuggled together in an enormous bed protected from all the bears like they do in the story, but that’s not how our adventure is going to end.
And so, I’m trying to be brave.
And so are they.

They’ll both be homesick when they leave, even if they don’t admit it; but in time, they’ll make their new place a home.
And they’ll establish fresh daily rhythms– just like their big sister did.

I’m wondering, will I?
Will home feel like home with 2 more empty bedrooms?
Will I ever adjust to dinner for 3?

I’m reminding myself that I’ve done this gig before and survived… so that makes me one for one statistically.
I’m excited for some intentional mama-daughter time with my baby and it’s long overdue.
And I’ve got to admit, I’m looking forward to finally having a clean bathroom. Just saying…

There it is, a jumpstart on my gratitude list.
Ecclesiastes says there’s a season for everything and God makes everything beautiful in its time.

It won’t be long till the ground thaws and 600+ tulip, daffodil and hyancith bulbs peek out of the garden to say hello. If the deer don’t eat them for dinner, they’ll bloom beautiful as a backdrop on the bride and groom at our celebratory feast in the yard.
IMG_2341
Fifty three winters, springs, summers and autumns… and fresh, new mercies in every single season of my story.
This one will be no exception.
Thanks be to God.

Mid-Winter Blues and Grays

Here’s what I know this wind whipping, snow dancing winter night. When pain stops you in your tracks and takes away your productivity, it can make you feel panicky.
I felt the nagging ache in my left shoulder a few months ago and ignored it. It amped up its annoyance the more I worked out, but what’s a girl to do when her daughter’s wedding is 4 months away and some of that flab around the midsection, it’s just gotta go.
Then, I woke up one morning and thought I was delivering a baby in my left shoulder. Seriously.
Try as I might with wedges and pain killers and ice packs and physical therapy, I just can’t make it stop.

I find myself threat forecasting again….
What if I can’t get on top of this before Spring?
How will I pull off all the preparations for Robyn’s dream wedding reception in our back yard?

And honestly, I don’t have until spring to be derailed.
More pressing questions include, how am I going to fix dinner tonight?
And do dishes?
And laundry?
And vacuum my floors?
Who’s going to drive my kid everywhere?
And how exactly do I wash my hair?

Usually, pain slinks around illusively and you wonder if it’ll be like the house guest who never leaves. But then again, here I am at 53 years old and every single physical issue I’ve struggled with eventually righted itself, so the odds are in my favor as is God’s supreme human anatomical design.

My counselor told me how he got the flu over New Years and was flat in bed for 10 days. He’d made other plans, a long to-do list with some days off work. He said he was grateful for his sickness. God knew he needed to rest and his Father chose what that rest should look like.
I needed to hear that story because it helps me to center in the storm of my own malaise.
What if this infirmity is my invitation to just walk with God more open handedly?
To rely on others to help me because I need to even if I don’t want to.
Maybe, it’s time to be reminded of how dependent I actually am on my Father’s help and presence to get me through each day.
To reconnect with Him in new ways.
Maybe I don’t get to know anything about anything.
Maybe I just need a reset—physically and spiritually.

It’s 6 weeks into a new year.
Mine started with a vacation. Sunshine. Hiking. Some drama-free moments I desperately needed but honestly, my daughter and I, we rubbed. It’s mostly growing pains but it still a bummer.IMG_8408

Then I came home and started a diet and exercise program because those mother of the bride photos, they go in the archives and that’s a lot of pressure.

One of my best buds flew up to visit me. She lives down south so I told her, “No need to bring boots or gloves or a coat or hats. You can wear mine. And for that matter, if you really want to travel light, you can borrow my bras and underwear too.” She’s that kind of friend. We spent almost 4 days together talking fast because there are more words than there is time. After we finished our Leslie Sansone total body fitness walking workout, she said she needed to send a picture of a snow angel to her baby girl and we were hot and sweaty so we opted for a pretty creative cool down routine. I kid you not. Two fifty- something women, mothers of 13 to be exact, crafted a couple of pretty sweet snow angels in our workout shorts and all I can say is, if you can, find yourself that kind of friend.IMG_8712

Wedding planning is down to double digits and even though the guest list is small, you still have to tick off the same checklist and work through the same negotiations to get the job done. And that’s been– an adventure…..IMG_0762

I started a new volunteer job for a ministry I believe in and it’s exciting to be actively supporting its purposes. I love my relationships with refugees and consider it a privilege to support them through their immigration process. I’m inspired by the young adult women in our church that I get to mentor. And, I even help out in my baby’s homeschool co-op. My husband, he’s always resourced me to serve generously and I’m super grateful.

So, here I am staring down Valentine’s Day convalescing between my bed and my chair. In “the good old days”, we did this holiday big, with super fun family traditions we called Family Love Days. We’d pick names out of a hat for secret admirers and lavish each other with love on the sly until our big reveal on Valentine’s Day. We’d celebrate God’s lavish affection for us with friends parties and heart shaped cookies and cupcakes.


I miss all that.
So very much.
Love notes days are long gone.
Most days, I’m not even sure if my family likes me.
It’s an ache, the emotional equivalent of that uncomfortable rub in my shoulder except for when it flares to a frowny face with tears on the pain scale and you wonder if it’s going to improve or how you’ll make it through.
But somehow you will and you do.Image 2-16-20 at 11.12 PM

There’ve been a lot of gray days this winter. I can hear it in these words.
Need me some Vitamin D, big time!
And the Truth.
That heavy, old, hard cover, Thompson Chain Reference Bible my mom and dad gave me when I was a teenager,
and my Bible apps,
and daily prayer liturgies,
the sermons,
my hymns and anthems playlist on Spotify,
prayer walks
and a faithful friend or two who listen to all my junk.
All of it reminds me of the Truth.
Everything God says and does is loving and good and everything He allows in my life holds redemptive potential.
Yeah, I’m feeling the burn of a Michigan winter—physically, emotionally and spiritually.
But it’s a good burn. Nowhere else I’d rather be.
And, Punxsutawney Phil predicts an early spring so that’s a mercy to anticipate.
You know,  just being my Daddy’s kid, resting in His strong and tender arms, that’s todays fresh mercy.
And it’s enough.20160128_165151

In Honor of MLK Jr.’s Dream

IMG_0333 2Ebeneezer Baptist. That’s the red brick church I walked to from downtown Atlanta one icy, cold afternoon two winters ago. In the peace plaza next to the building, there’s an eternal flame. Facing the Georgia marble tomb where MLK Jr. and his bride, Coretta, are laid to rest, we defrosted our fingers in its warmth.

It’s a national holiday. Government offices are closed. There won’t be any mail delivered to my box.
And today, I’m reflecting on MLK Jr.’s dream.
It’s a good dream.
It’s actually a great dream.
It’s God’s dream.

It’s a dream of white-skinned people and black-skinned people sitting down at a table together to share food and friendship.
It’s a dream of justice and freedom from discrimination for all Americans in every state of the union.
It’s a dream of black youth being judged by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin.
And it’s a dream of unified revelation of the glory of the Lord to all people.

The whole palette of colors God created are all equally beautiful to Him.
Red and yellow, black and white, all are precious in His sight.

Whenever any of His creative masterpieces are treated as inferior or demeaned, when injustice and violence is perpetrated against them, God is the first one to cry. And whatever breaks his heart, should break ours too.

So, I have a tradition. In recognition of this holiday, I always try to watch a movie that sensitizes me with the suffering of slavery, segregation and discrimination because
I don’t want to overlook the degradation that black people experience.
I don’t want to diminish the trauma in African American people’s stories.
I don’t want to forget the courage and sacrifices made for the sake of equal rights and freedoms.
Instead, I want to listen sensitively to the concerns of minority populations.
I want to contribute to peace and harmony between races.
I want to embrace a holy vision of liberty and justice for all.

The dream—it won’t be fully realized before heaven, but I look forward to the day when all God’s children join hands and sing the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last, free at last. Thank God almighty, we’re free at last.”

BONUS: My top 10 impact movies on this issue.
Selma
Ruby Bridges
Harriet
The Help
Lee Daniels’ The Butler
Loving
42
Hidden Figures
Woodlawn
Just Mercy

All is Well and All Will be Well

IMG_8544I hiked solo around Bell Rock on the last clear, blue-sky winter day of this vacation adventure.
God and I needed some connect time before re-entry into my real life. You know, the one with the nagging daily grind. The chronic relational struggles. The never-ending chores. And so much drama…
I miss the rest of my family and appreciate my home but it’s been pretty sweet not to wash a single dish over the last 5 days.
I haven’t picked up after anybody either.
And absolutely no cooking. None. Whole Foods Market deli, baby. We’ve been eating fine.

Thankfully, my challenges are pretty ordinary. Minor trials. First world problems, for sure.
I’m happy to report that none of my kids is held hostage by crazy terrorists,
We’re not fleeing from our lives with only the possessions we can carry on our backs,
Not a single family member is fighting stage 4 cancer, or any cancer for that matter,
None of have been washed out into Lake Michigan by a riptide or a 12 foot wave,
And as a bonus, neither Lily or I fell off any cliffs on this vacation either.

I spent 4 blissful days willing my fears and concerns out of sight, out of mind. Until this hike. And then, I knew they had to be faced again.
8.5 miles later, God and I finished our 3 hour conversation.
I used words. He spoke through creation.
At one point, I sat on a rock along a dry creek bed for a break and a couple of old codgers passed me, asking if I was doing mindful meditation.
“I’m eating a tangerine,” I replied, but what I should have told them, instead, is that I’m praying. Because that’s what I was doing. Casting all my cares on Him–my cares about Brian and Angela and Lily and Robyn and Brennan and Starla–because He cares about us. He cares deeply about our fears, our pain, our struggles, our disappointments, our questions, our doubts, our challenges and our confusion. He cares about the barriers in our relationships too.
He counts our tears and puts them in His bottle.
He knows just how many hairs are on our head even after we’ve just brushed it.
He is slow to anger and abounding in love.
He does not treat us as our sins deserve.
He never has and never will leave or forsake us.
And nothing can separate us from His love.
His plans are to give us a future and a hope.
And His mercies are new every morning, yesterday, today and tomorrow.
We are Chosen. Rescued. Adopted. Beloved.

After Bell Rock, I had one more place to visit, the final check mark on my bucket list for this trip. All the locals said, “You can’t miss seeing Chapel of the Holy Cross.” So, I drove to the base of the hill that the church was constructed into, then walked up to its back entrance. You can see through it before you even open the doors because its designed with floor to ceiling windows on both ends. There’s an imposing 33-foot crucifix sculpture of Jesus, bronze glistening off the sun’s rays, its backdrop, the red rocks of Sedona. I knelt at the bench in the front row, right behind the 3 day candles you can light for $5 and whispered the Lord’s Prayer as Jesus looked compassionately down from the cross, right at me.

On the first hike of my vacation, I worshipped baby Jesus celebrating the mystery of the incarnation.
And on my last hike, I’m gazing at Jesus body broken for me and wondering at the miracle of redemption.
And both realities remind me anew that All is Well and All will be Well.
Breathe it in. All is Well.
Exhale. All will be Well.
Repeat. Over and over.
Maybe I am doing mindful meditation after all…IMG_8408

It’s time. I’m packing my carry on. I’ll board my plane and, Lord willing, get back to the real life God’s called me to, with the people he’s privileged me to take my journey with, in about 9 hours. Ready to serve and desiring to love a bit more like the Jesus I’ve encountered in Arizona.

Happy Epiphany

IMG_8280They saw him and they worshipped him. They opened their treasures and presented them to him. Matthew 2:11

There were 3 of them, at least that’s how it’s always depicted in nativity scenes.
This gig, it’s just mother-daughter.

I didn’t pack for a journey that would last months, maybe years.
I left with a carry on and a backpack.

I didn’t cross the desert on a camel with the night sky as my map.
I boarded a plane, then rented a Volkswagen with Bluetooth GPS guidance and a perfect Spotify playlist of choral anthems, rich in Scripture, just like the girls used to sing.

I didn’t camp under the stars.
My mother in law loaned us a Wyndham timeshare in Sedona, Arizona with a 102 degree hot tub, perfect for admiring Orion’s belt.

I didn’t hover over the baby Jesus manger today. Not like the magi did.
But I saw him, gazing out over the canyon rim. And I, too, wondered at the miracle of such mysteriously lavish mercy and grace.IMG_7254

I didn’t offer him costly perfumes or precious metals.
But I presented Him with my sincerest worship. And so did she.
Each in our own ways, because we are both unique image-bearers on our own spiritual journeys. And today, we were traveling together.
Hers was a quiet expedition, transpiring in private places deep inside her soul and tethered to her worn, blue, leather Bible, a journal and pen she carried in her backpack.
Mine was more like a spring bubbling up at unsuspecting moments, leaking out the tear ducts and babbling from the mouth. The words all nuanced versions of “What kind of amazing God created all this?”
IMG_8292
We walked the rim together for several miles then attached our Krampons to our hiking boots and headed down the canyon. The snow only added to the splendor but made the switchback ridge trail icy and dangerous. It was 101 flights down a winding path to Ooh-Aah Point, every twist and turn, a new panoramic slice of gorgeousness.

I was almost to the scenic vista when I took my first fall. The provision that kept me from slipping caused me to stumble—twice. The first time, my micro-spikes caught on a rock and I went forward on my left side right into the mud. My personal off-duty nurse checked my wrist, verified that I could move my fingers and tried to dust off some of the dirt. I was shaken for a bit. I’ve never tumbled downhill a few feet from the edge of the Grand Canyon but the angels softened and directed my blow and I continued on lavished in grace.IMG_8262

There’s a reason they call it Ooh-Aah Point but no words to explain it, so, we took pictures to try and capture the grandeur even though the scale is all wrong. They’re a dim reflection of what’s real. Then, we each sat quietly for a while just savoring. And in my head, I was hearing the deep, resonant voice of George Beverly Shea bellowing out that old hymn, How Great Thou Art, like poetry:

O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder,
Consider all the worlds Thy hands have made.
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder.
Thy power throughout the universe displayed.

When through the woods, and forest glades I wander,
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees.
When I look down, from lofty mountain grandeur,
And see the brook, and feel the gentle breeze.

And when I think, that God, His Son not sparing,
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in.
That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin.

When Christ shall come, with shout of acclamation,
And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart.
Then I shall bow, in humble adoration,
And then proclaim: “My God, how great Thou art!”

Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee.
How great Thou art, how great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee.
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!

Eventually, we had to leave, to climb back up the canyon. The trek uphill was an entirely different kind of challenge. My spike snagged a stone again and this time, I went down on my right side before I reached the rim.

Worship is like that hike….
Falling on our faces, repeatedly.
Humbled by our sin and our human frailty.
It’s in the prostrate position that we best contrast our weakness to His strength.
Our dirty clothes to His pure holiness.
Our limited understanding with His omniscience.
Our finiteness to His eternality.
Our self-serving, temporal affections with His sacrificial and enduring love.

It’s exhilarating to worship in the rush of awe and wonder that comes from your first gaze on the Canyon from the edge of the rim.
But, on the ground, in the mud, we’re pillowed in His fresh mercies too.
And God celebrates both forms of honor.IMG_7304

It’s the beginning of a new decade and I got to spend my first Sabbath rest of this year in the sun-saturated, breathtaking beauty called the Grand Canyon.
And on this gift-giving holiday called Epiphany, I gave Jesus the gift of praise.
And He gave me the gift of hope.
Eternal hope.
Hope that when the curse of sin that mars the original design of creation is broken, God will restore it to its original glory.
This Canyon,
This whole world.
And even me.IMG_7326

I bow my knee to receive this gift Lord Jesus with gratitude.
Thanks Be To God.

Welcome to my World

I’m an Enneagram Six.
Self-help reading junkies like me probably know what that means. If not, the Enneagram categorizes people into 9 different personality types explaining the distinctive ways we humans are wired to conceptualize the world and manage our emotions. It’s a tool for self-understanding, relational growth and spiritual transformation.
I’m not just kinda Six, I’m textbook Six. It’s like somebody snuck inside my head, analyzed my inner world and then wrote about me.

An Enneagram Six lives with ongoing notions of concern, always on the alert to establish stability, safety and security for themselves and the people they love through threat forecasting and worst case scenario contingency planning. The looping internal monologue of a Six goes something like this. I want to take care of those I love so they’ll know they’re loved and secure and safe so I am going to go through every unsafe scenario I can imagine and if I can think these through, if I can contingency plan out of them, then I’m actually going to make them OK and I’ll make myself OK, in fact, I’ll make the world OK. (Chris Heuertz, Sleeping At Last Podcast episode 15)

Sixes are often unaware of how overactively their minds are working 24/7 and an unhealthy Six can get stuck on the hamster wheel of fear. But at their best, Sixes are loyal guardians and valiant protectors.

Webster-Thanksgiving-24Let’s get personal. This is what it’s like to be me.
As I write, I’m sitting in Chicago Midway airport waiting to board my flight to Dallas. I’m travelling the departure leg with my hubs, which means we’re both on the same airplane and if it crashes, our kids will be orphans. Maybe that’s not the first thought you have when you board a plane with your husband but it is mine.
So, last week, I sorted through our fire safe box to put our important documents in order in case we die. I googled sample wills in the state of Michigan and spent hours crafting an updated document to replace the outdated information on my previous instructions for our girls. Then, I drove to the bank to get it notarized, only to find out they don’t do that anymore, so I texted some friends a weird request for their witness signatures on my hand crafted will and got the job done by 9:30 pm last night.
Then, I talked to the grown-up kid who’ll be responsible for our minor, expounding on all the details in my document just to be sure there won’t be any confusion about my intentions, just in case.
I texted the one in Chicago and told her I love her because it’s possible that I won’t get another chance.
When they were littler, I used to write each of the girls letters every time I travelled just to be sure they’d have proof of my love in case I didn’t come back, as if decades of devotion and service, somehow, hasn’t communicated my heart.

And when I packed for this trip, or any trip, I’m always the one with the biggest suitcase. The longest packing list. The most frustrating pile of must-haves to ever be packed into and on top of an 8 passenger van. Just ask my husband.
Here’s the thing, how can I go somewhere unprepared for every possible contingency?
Warm weather? Cold weather? The forecast can change you know.
Medicines for headaches and back aches and tummy aches because who knows which kid will complain about what. And we might need the Neosporin and band-aids too because accidents are exactly that. You can’t predict that you won’t have them and you’ll want to be prepared if you do.

Then there’s my mental prayer list for air travel
and car travel
and even train travel.

Some of my requests are transferrable between modes of transportation but there are also unique potential dangers associated with each. So for air travel I ask God to oversee the TSA employees and give them success in identifying any terrorists boarding the plane.
God, Help the pilots not to be sick or hung over or distracted or inexperienced.
Bring any mechanical problems to light before this plane flies and give the mechanics the skill to fix them.
Help the air traffic controllers to be alert and accurate in their instructions for take off and landing.
Discernment, God. That’s what I’m asking for all the human decisions involved in this flight.
And those Canada geese, keep them away from flying into the propellers.
Intervene with the weather and help us to find airspace that’s not turbulent…

For a road trip, thank God there’s accuweather.com. I can and do check and recheck the hourly forecast at every major city along our route just to be prepared. Then I pray and ask God to keep everybody in their lane.
To prevent us from colliding with drivers under the influence or distracted.
That I can stay awake behind the wheel.
For roads to be free of dangerous debris or collisions with deer.
To protect us from slipping off the highway when there’s a wintry mix….

Trains, praying against derailment is definitely at the front of the line….

And just in case I didn’t think to alert God to every possible undesirable scenario, I always cover all potential oversights with an umbrella policy, requesting that He send his angels to surround us as we travel.

Truth. I’ve just given you a sneek-peak into my inner domain.
When you multiply that kind of hypervigilance exponentially over a lifetime, welcome to my world.
My personal and family issues–medical, relational, vocational, spiritual, marital and parenting- are overwhelming. Unrelenting. Exhausting. At least that’s how it often feels to me.
If mental gymnastics were an Olympic sport, I’d make a great competitor for the gold.

Take parenting, for example. I remember when loving my girls by protecting them from harm translated into baby monitors, car seats, electrical plug covers, gates at the top of the stairs and a complete kitchen reno to remove every trace of lead based paint in our kitchen cupboards.
Later, it morphed into sheltering them from the mean, bullying, bratty, other people’s children and the Christian faith undermining, hedonistic influence of traditional school. Everybody knows that homeschooling is the answer for that. Then, they started choosing friends outside the family and peer pressure came onto the radar screen so we made our home a desirable place to play and hang out because if they’re here, we have a better chance to monitor and supervise their activities, right? So, we chose a home in a convenient location, and the one before that, with a neighborhood pool. We increased the grocery budget for more snacks and extras around the dinner table, added easy care flooring and craiglist furniture for all those popcorn and movie night spills. A large screen TV hasn’t hurt either.
Then, the kids started driving. Well actually, their friends got their licenses first because a bonus birthday equals an extra year of maturing and another 100 hours of behind the wheel practice with dad too. Surely that statistically minimizes the risk of a life altering accident or at least delays the possibility. Cars with airbags and all wheel-drive moved up on the priority list too, as did the need for a carefully crafted conversation with anybody the girls buckled into the passenger seat next to.
Next came dating and there is literally no end to the threat forecasting scenarios a Six can create related to young love and its potential heartbreak. In the past six years, my nightly sleep log averages have diminished by several hours and my prayer muscles flexed to bulging buff.

There’s been shepherding our girls to understand the deep, deep love of Jesus and their need for it.
Educating them all the way through their high school diplomas.
Navigating the minefield of hormonal dramatics, depression and anxiety.
Chronic Illness.
Trauma and its aftermath.
Launching them into college and career.
Moving them into their first apartment.
Waving goodbye at the airport as they board a plane to travel and live in places that require a passport.
And now, one of them is planning a wedding. Getting married. And even though I totally love the one God’s adding to the family, the learning curve on parenting through this transition has been steep. Real steep.

Problem is, the way I’m wired to show love can also create relational barriers with the ones who mean the most to me. While projecting worse case scenarios and contingency plans to avoid undesirable consequences all happens in my contained gray space, the pre-emptive choices, the decisive resulting actions, even the subconscious but visibly apparent facial expressions I wear, can end up feeling like control rather than love. And my radar isn’t limited to tangible threats, it’s highly attuned to interpersonal communication triggers too. Expressions, tones, gestures, word choices, I’m hyper-analyzing them all for relational risk and potential breakdown. That kind of relational intensity can feel overwhelming to the people on the receiving end.

All my life it’s been like this. I just can’t turn it off.
Before you write me off as a candidate for the local psychiatric hospital, you should know that Enneagram research identifies Sixes as the most common of all types. There are a lot of us out there in society, somewhere on the continuum of growth between unhealthy and healthy. And thankfully, by God’s grace, I am moving along that path like a turtle, slowly, steadily inching closer toward greater wholeness with each passing year.

As with each of the other types, being a 6 isn’t a liability. It’s an asset.
Sixes by design are some of the most generous, self sacrificing, life givers in society. Enneagram experts say,
“Sixes are reliable, hard-working, responsible and trustworthy. They are excellent troubleshooters and the threat forecasters of humanity. They know what’s going to go wrong before it goes wrong. Yes, sometimes they can overreact and think themselves into some pretty angsty corners but if they’re grounded and have grown in self-trust, they’re usually right and you better listen to them. (Chris Heuertz, The Sleeping At Last podcast episode 15)”

And as I replay in my mind the ways my vigilance has served, contributed and protected my people, I can acknowledge it as a gift too.
My intentionality has created life giving family rhythms and traditions.
My scrupulous preplanning saves money and time and hassle.
My attention to detail helps avoid overlooking something important.
And my intuitive hypersensitivity has, at times, protected the ones I love from evil and danger.
My commitment to honest communication when relationships have small fissures can avert devastating long term relational consequences.
I ask helpful and introspective questions because I’ve already thought about a person’s backstory and the layers behind their words.
I’m a safe person for people to share their secrets with because I value the risk of trust.
I contribute a voice and perspective that balances impulsivity and its undesirable consequences.
I serve faithfully because I realize that life is a marathon and looking ahead to the end motivates me to persevere.
I live gratefully because I’m so hyper-aware of all the things that could go wrong that I have a deep appreciation for everything that goes right instead and gratitude is contagious.
And more that anything else, I pray. And not just crazy-person prayers, deep, groaning, faithful prayers because I know feel the weight of how desperately we all need Jesus as the ultimate protector.

My inner world isn’t entirely all doom and gloom. There’s a multifacetedness to each of our essences. A complimentary, secondary type that Enneagram calls a wing. Mine’s the Seven. Sevens are enthusiastic, playful and always looking for the next adventure. And that’s me too. My Seven wing serves as a balance to my Sixness and gives me tangible opportunities to express my courage. I’m leaning into it more deeply the faster my clock ticks. Last week, aging took another bite out of me. My newest official diagnosis is Osteopenia and my Six-self already threat forecasts a future broken hip. Thing is, I’m not hunkering down to try to protect myself from that possibility. Rather, I’m planning another hiking adventure with my newly financially independent daughter, who just happens to be a nurse, in case I do break my hip. We’re travelling together to the red rocks of Arizona and the south rim of the Grand Canyon in January.
And Lord knows, I need a vacation.

Here’s the thing. What a six really longs to hear from somebody in their life is,
“It must be so difficult to have those scary thoughts buzzing around in your head all the time.”
“I imagine you feel exhausted.”
“I really appreciate that you love me so much you’ve got my back in ways I wouldn’t even imagine I might need.”
But that’s not generally how this gig works.

Today, I disciplined myself to write a list. A comprehensive list of all my fears related to something important in my life. Pages and pages of fears each intervowen with threat forecasting everything from petty inconveniences to life altering consequences.
The weight of that list is crushing me except that I hear my Father say,
“I made you and I didn’t make any mistakes in the process.
There’s so much good you contribute to people’s lives by being protective. I love that about you.

You’ve also experienced a heck of a lot of relational pain because you got stuck on the hamster wheel.
I know you are completely exhausted!
Exhale deeply.
Give that list to me and come lie down in my lap.”
 
 “I’ll try,” I say, “but it’s so hard to give it up. Somehow, I’m even afraid to give up my fears.”
“I know,” Daddy responds.
“It’s OK. Just do the best you can.”

And in this moment, I am. Doing the best I can to separate myself from my list, to climb into the embrace of my Father’s strong, tender lap. Casting all my anxieties on Him because He cares for me.

My Scottish friend came to visit us one summer and didn’t bring his camera. I asked why and he said he’d decided to Savor the Moment. That’s what I’m trying to do, right now, as best as a Six can.

My Christmas tree lights are twinkling, the candles are lit and the Future of Forestry sings melodically, “Let Us Find Our Rest In Thee.” And that’s what I really need this Advent season.

In case you want to learn more about The Enneagram, here are my favorite resources.
Sleeping At Last Enneagram Series Podcasts with Ryan O’Neal and Chris Heuertz:
https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-sleeping-at-last-podcast/id1270570754
Episodes 4, 6, 10, 12, 13, 15, 16, 17 and 18
 
The Road Back To You by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile
https://www.theroadbacktoyou.com
 
The Path Between Us by Suzanne Stabile
https://www.amazon.com/Path-Between-Us-Enneagram-Relationships/dp/0830846425/ref=sr_1_1_sspa?ie=UTF8&qid=1523373604&sr=8-1-spons&keywords=the+path+between+us&psc=1
 

Grateful 2019

Webster-Thanksgiving-02Leftovers are crammed in the refrigerator,
The dishwasher running its third load,
One by one, everybody’s heading to bed except for the one working all through the night at the hospital,
            And me– the night owl.

IMG_7823Our 1,000 piece puzzle lays on the coffee table fully assembled.
So many doors of opportunity today for
Teamwork
Cooperation
Flexibility
Hospitality
And most of all Gratitude.

We walked through them all together, by God’s grace.
It wasn’t just Starla’s exquisite napkin folding,
Or Robyn and Brennan’s braided challah bread,
Lily’s sweet potato casserole,
Angela’s tabouleh salad,
Grandma’s homemade stuffing,
Brian’s perfectly cooked turkey,
Or even the flawless whipped potatoes,
Not to mention the amazing homemade pecan pies.

IMG_3677I treasured the walk on the White Pine trail recounting the personal ways we experienced God’s fresh mercies all the days of the last year,
Reading Psalm 100 around the feast table in English, Arabic and Spanish,
Team charades,
A cozy fire,
And a re-run of our family classic, Love Comes Softly.

I guess the shirts say it all.
Thanks be to God.