Saturday, April 6, 2024

What it felt like to be set right

 What it felt like to be set right

It felt like finding her center- she never knew she had one

(she was more like smoke before)

Dispersed like the winds, always spread thin

Blown around by the whims of others

The ping pong ball, sent flying by the slightest tap

Spinning, bouncing in any and every direction at once

It felt like being protected (finally), and planted

Given roots, and her very own soil, and nourishment for her soul

Cool waters and stable ground 

Permission to take up space, space meant just for her.

She was settled in, planted where she could finally grow

Finally stretch her arms up toward the sun

Nourished to her core; steadily growing taller 

She still feels the winds

Sometimes she bends, and sometimes she resists

And she worries about it all a little less;

her face is up toward the sun

Photo by Eldon

Thursday, March 21, 2024

life on life terms at the dentist

“accepting life on life’s terms”

Sounds like riding the waves, embracing the ebb and flow like some majestic surfer with perfect balance.. and maybe sometimes it is like that.

But sometimes it’s like sitting in the dentist chair, and there is really no reason to clench your hands but there you are doing it again. Teeth scraping: THIS is life on a weekday morning and it’s just plain unpleasant. Life on life’s terms, here?

And as I sit there I can’t escape into a puddle of blissful serenity; it’s physically not possible. I have to keep some tension in my jaw or the scraping couldn’t happen;  a little resistance is required for any progress to be made. 

But squeezing my hands together helps nothing. Looking at the clock, tensing up my facial muscles or back, these are all bodily expressions of non-resignation to the moment; a futile attempt to block or hurry the process. Letting these reactions reign just makes me more uncomfortable, guarded, impatient; I'm fighting the moment, fighting reality.

Notice. Allow. Release. Surrender. 

It’s a hard dance to do in the dentist chair, or anywhere, if I’m honest.

These questions I have been carrying for months sat with me in the dentist chair:

What could it mean to live awake to discomfort without squirming to escape?

To feel the necessary resistance that comes with progress, change, or growth?

To believe that hard things can be good, that pain can be the way forward to something better?

To refrain from futile fighting, to unclench and allow the moment?

To “accept hardships as the pathway to peace?”

To commend self, life, body, moments to God on a regular weekday?

God grant me the serenity To accept the things I cannot change; Courage to change the things I can; And wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time; Enjoying one moment at a time; Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; Taking, as He did, this sinful world As it is, not as I would have it; Trusting that He will make all things right If I surrender to His Will; So that I may be reasonably happy in this life And supremely happy with Him Forever and ever in the next. Amen.

Richard Neibuhr

Wednesday, March 6, 2024

to Seth on your 18th birthday


Remember when you used to be my shopping buddy? You were always organizing my cart, following me around so I could shop like a queen, hand you my things, and trust you to file them neatly. Sometimes I’d feel snarky and chuck something wantonly in the cart, just to trigger your lecture about categories and order and efficiency. Then I’d watch you indignantly unload the groceries on the belt, in all decency and order. At home, you’d command your brothers to unload alongside you, supervise putting away, and ensure a satisfying conclusion to the operation. And I’d say something small like, “Thanks for the help.” 

Meanwhile, in my soul, I was really learning to see you, to marvel, and to stop fighting who you are by asking you to read fairytales with me or dance in my kitchen. God was teaching me a new dance, one that went more like, “Wow, look at you, learning to embrace the person God made you to be.”

Sometimes you’d go too far, give orders too harshly, or threaten to beat the brother that didn’t cooperate. And sometimes I’d yellingly cancel all the efforts towards growth for everyone, “Stop fighting and just go to your rooms!” We’ve both had to grow so much over these years, and growing is a loud, messy process. 

Remember that time we were fighting about physics but it wasn’t really about physics, and I got teary? And you stayed calm and said, “I love you mom; I probably don't say that enough.” The universe shifted for me in that moment. Since then, you’ve had to handle more of my tears than any of your siblings, especially during our emergency trip to Michigan when Bump was sick; I’ll never forget your solid, loving presence in those days.

Speaking of tears, I cried the other day because you brought the trash up to the house without being asked. This is getting out of hand! But Your launch day is so close, your engines are revving-- they’ve been revving for years-- and every moment before the flag drops is precious to me. 

I keep thinking of Mary and how she must just really get it, this ache I feel around my sons. Watching Jesus pour out like that; doing his duty to his own harm, pulling away from home and from her, literally spilling his life blood.  “Didn’t you save any for me?” (Did she think this as his body lay lifeless on her lap?)

Did she feel the pull I feel, between the love of him FOR the way he pours out, for the duty he sees in service to others, for the manly determination and self sacrifice,  AND the desire to soften it, to save some of him for herself?

She watched him go out, away, in love and service.  And then He came back to her; He came back for real and for eternity, to her and to us, the church. 

And now we join the dance of loving and releasing; now we send our husbands and sons off, and we are wrought with pride-fear-sadness-joy as they bring light elsewhere, doing their duty, and we wait. 

On Whom are we waiting? We wait on a generous God, who takes what we commend to him, multiplies it, expands our worlds, and blows our minds with his provision. This God who comes back, who brings back, who gathers and makes all things new; He can be trusted with all that is precious. 

The generous, pouring love of our Lord lives in you, and it’s almost time for you to pour elsewhere. I’m grateful that we got to have you for ourselves, for a little while. 

Keep standing under the waterfall of his grace and letting cover you, and spill out from you onto everyone in your life.  I can only guess what your pouring out might look like: making order of chaos, tweaking systems to make them more efficient, or keeping other people in line? It might also look like being a calm loving witness to a flood of someone else’s tears, and it might sound like music,  or it could even look like putting a protective fence around a garden of wildflowers.

I can’t wait to see what God’s grace pours into your life and what flows out; may you abide in Him always. Meanwhile, I’ll be over here with the wrinkly Nana-face and the teary eyes that are marveling at the work of God, and saying something like, “WOW, look at you.”

Love you lots,


Sunday, December 31, 2023

at the waterfall, alive

 The waterfall; I’m staring right at it; 

the constant outpouring of the grace of God; the way He pours and pours

the flow of time in its stubborn, forward current

always coming; always refusing be collected and held

If i cup my hands under, I don’t slow the flow, not even a little

I change the path of the water a little, but it all spills out the sides

Just as much coming, filling, passing away

at the same rate it always has

If i put my hands over my ears

move away from the sound, try to ignore the whole thing

that changes nothing, either. It’s all going away,

at the same rate it always has. 

If i cup my hands under, I don’t slow the flow, 

but I feel it

the cool presence of this one moment, coming, filling, passing away

I am here for it. 

Lord, it is good to be here. 

Opening eyes and mouth and heart to the flood of living water, to Jesus’s presence right here and now. Noticing the gifts he gives, letting them go, praising him, letting the grief-gratitude pour out in His presence as it comes.

Will there be days when this flood turns to a trickle? Of course. But I need not fear, because His presence will remain even then; my living water will not run out.

No photo description available.
photo credit: Eldon Cook

Saturday, December 23, 2023

The story of a pew

Upheld in church, supported in body by a former tree, she sits on a wooden pew. It once turned sunshine into food, life, shade; it now rests from its labors, and yet it still holds life. 

Where did this tree grow, and what did it support in its life?  The weight of birds, squirrels, even treehouses cannot compare to the weight it supports today.

How many weary behinds sat right here, after grinding away at a lifeless job all week, feeling trapped, burdened, weary?

Did a mom sit here once, making her family’s meal plan during the sermon

opening snacks, giving out threats and snuggles as needed

unable to be still for even a moment to meet her present Lord?

How many hands grasped the wood, dizzy and a little hungover

trying desperately to paint a “fine face” over shame and fear and shaky resolutions?

How many times did this back support a body ridden with cancer?

See the the drip of wax from Christmas eve candles

due to elderly shaking hands, 

or siblings threatening to burn each other’s hair.

Are there teeth marks on this pew from a toddler, now grown and flown? 

Is the hymnal marked by a crayon held by a child that now holds his own baby?

How many sat here, utterly distracted and restless

or carrying a silent heavy question, 

or simmering rage

or quiet desperation

or tearful gratitude

The rings of a tree tell the story of the seasons, the life that surrounded the tree as it grew. And this tree still gathers stories, welcoming all who come to rest, welcoming every story to sit at the feet of Jesus and be refreshed by his grace and His Word.

To every person made in the image of God, 

it quietly beckons:

Welcome, come rest,

be healed, be refreshed.

There is a place for you, right here, in the presence of God.

You belong here.
Your story has a place here. 

Come and sit; Jesus is a gracious host.

Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live. (Isaiah 55:1)

(This reflection was inspired by this sermon, where Pastor Schultz shares these ideas, but far better than I did!)

Wednesday, December 13, 2023

The doors of my soul are open
Jesus walks freely about the rooms
Come in, Lord, see
You are welcome here.
Breeze, blow through;
Air it out, freshen me up.
What furniture needs rearranging, Lord?
How’s the remodeling going?
Tear down, build, remake me,
Even though it hurts
Doors of my soul, open to Him
It is He who made you and remakes you
He is making all things new.
Let Him.

Saturday, December 9, 2023

curriculum twist

 Last week he learned how to drive a tearful mama through the dark and snow

How to walk into hospital rooms and give long hugs

How to see strength made weak, and not crumble at the knees,

How to give hugs liberally, to hold his Nana and speak love into her heart

To sit alone in the quiet rooms of her house, to miss all the noise, even siblings, 

and to lean on his people, and to let his mom see his tearful face without shame

And he learned how to keep praying the Lord’s prayer when his mama’s voice broke, when she couldn’t quite say “thy will be done.” 

and how to wait out her grief tornado with calm loving presence in a parking lot

(as she once waited out his temper tantrums)

We noticed the subtle difference between a hurried “Do you have questions?” and a gentle “What questions do you have?” How a posture can push away or invite, can threaten or serve; the gift of an unhurried presence and a compassionate ear. 

and we learned how to ender hospital rooms with a story to tell, about life on the outside

and a psalm or prayer for emergencies

and to let people talk; let them tell and retell all the horrible twists and turns

and how it’s always ok to say nothing and just be present

and to ask ourselves what we need to keep showing up to those hard places

What is the family’s treatment plan? 

And we looked around and saw Hope and Fear

Both stubbornly insisting on being in the room, all the time

(Let them speak, don’t let either bulldoze the other out

They both need to be heard

and neither one really knows the future)

If a tender heart peeks out, and ‘I need to tell you how much you mean to me’ starts, and a chin quivers, don’t smother the uncomfortableness- yours or theirs- let the words be said, and let your tears be seen, too. 

Remember, when you are allowed to enter in to someone’s pain,

you are standing on sacred ground.

Move softly. 

Hug often.

Carry grace.

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

The shape of hands, giving thanks

The shape of hands, giving thanks

They hold what is given tenderly

With all the weight of attention, right now, here

Savoring, naming what is given

and giving thanks to the Giver.

They share, they don’t begrudge

Knowing nobody gets all the blessings, 

nobody gets everything all at once

and there is enough

They are open

They hold what is given 

and let go of what is not given

If God does not will it, it will turn into worms in these hands

They hold a heart out, 

the real and wanting heart, with the wounds and the worries

the questions and the darkness

the tension of things broken and waiting

to a Giver who can be trusted

They let go of grasping

They let go of fighting for something else

They let go of directing the play

and settle into the character, the scene, given, right here. 

They let go

or they try to let go

and when there’s a fist of grasping that can’t let 

Then there’s a letting go of forcing

and a prayerful incompleteness that can be OK (even not OK)

If He who began this work on these hands

has promised to complete it

The shape of hands, giving thanks

is the shape of hands that feel the heartbeat of Jesus

steadied by His love

held fast by His holding, 

right here.

Jesus, caretaker of all that is precious,


and hold

our hands. 


The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places, 

indeed I have a beautiful inheritance. 

In your presence there is fullness of joy;

At your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 16)


Saturday, November 4, 2023

outgrown pillow

 a baby boy with round cheeks; red and fat and leaning on his mom

mom is the whole world

and there is nothing but love and trust between them

it cracks a heart wide open

and mom pours out and out, 

giving life until she’s empty

until it hurts

but it hardly hurts at all really 

and she wouldn’t want to be anywhere else

when she’s baby’s pillow

and then the pillow is outgrown

‘she watches as her babies drift violently away’

giving less, that’s what really hurts

moving over, standing back, watching from the stands

she was the literal whole world

then suddenly

she becomes someone who has to work

to earn a peek into a heart

sometimes she’s shut out entirely

for long cold seasons

and she prays and waits outside the angry closed door

for years if she must

not knowing if it’s a cocoon or a tomb that encloses

not knowing if spring will come

Sometimes she’s granted VIP access

to a tender brave moment, or a tough scary question

or a whispered confession

Sometimes she’s invited into a spirited sparring match

or invited to dream alongside, 

to see shiny imagined futures in the clouds

As they get bigger,

she gets smaller

and the moments become weightier

for her

remember the bouquet of apology dandelions?

remember the blankie, and how he’d cry when you washed it?

remember the chapter books on the swing?

remember when you thought you’d die of squeaky kid voices,

thought you’d run screaming into the woods 

with one more demand? 

It was all too much. 

and then there was just




Let go.

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