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Against all the Odds

“I didn’t know what I was getting into.”

How many times, and for how many things, could I say that?

How many things I would never have done… had I known.

How many days would have been less full?

So I have to wonder: what if not knowing is the point?

The point when we determine – no matter what – life is worth living.

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What if diving in is the secret?

the secret to collecting deep in the heart

every hope and dream

every heart ache and wandering,

every prayer and hard earned scar

and waking up like from a stupor – drenched –

in over your head

only to hear Life whisper,

“You’re right. You didn’t know what you got yourself into

… but I did. And I do.

And that alone has got to be enough for you right now.”

What if knowing Who,  is all that is needed to tear down the power of “what”

finally free to exhale all the scary What ifs

and

– against all odds –

inhale his Peace

 

If only…

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And there they were,

~ a gathering of clouds ~

spread perfectly above a slice of sky … a window to the universe.

 

Precisely aligned to reflect the beauty of the rising sun, these puffs of vapor were destined for greatness,

designed for magnificence

and clearly meant to become an unparalleled sunrise.

Then…

BOOM!

Nothing.

 

Not even a fizzle.

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In clamoring for a better view of Sun’s entrance, they squeezed shut the slice of sky

pushing,

shoving,

elbowing their way to a better seat.

Loyal only to themselves, they tripped over ambition and became a huddled mass

closing down

even a hint of Heaven’s window

that would have transformed them into Beauty beyond themselves.

 

Instead…

 

Earth kept on spinning

and Sun rose behind a muddle of grey

and this bramble of darkening fluff just kept on shoving and pushing and crowding out Light’s magic

oblivious to the greatness they could have become.

 

… If only they had known.

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The Dance

My father-in-law died from Alzheimers this week. He died peacefully in the hands of a facility full of life and hope and angels dressed in flesh. Unmistakably, Alzheimer’s is a hideous and heart-wrenching disease and to those of you living out this life with your loved ones, my heart goes out to you. Yet, I am thankful that this disease is mercifully forgetful for the one living in its tangled grip. And for the ones watching it play out, dare I say, in struggling past the initial shock and grief, there can sometimes be found – even just briefly – beauty in the ashes. I pray you have moments of beauty, -albeit different and stark and always sad- but beauty nonetheless.

 

In the early years my husband and I cared for Dad at home, until we couldn’t anymore.

… This is the dance we danced. 

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We dance this dance
you and I
between magic
and tragedy
and the innocence of life
reduced to a Saturday picture show
whose cutting room floor we waltz gently upon
strewn with
images and scripts
and tangled nests of
stories…

those reel too real stories
that circle tirelessly
and feed endlessly
onto Silver Screens of nickel talkies
and kerosene-lit rooms
spliced with fiddle-played tunes
and a dad who hunts badgers on sunlit prairies
with his 10-year-old son
softshoeing closely beside

On this dance floor we dip
and in dipping we slide
into The Great War
of a 17-year-old sailor
fueled by honor
and duty
and a dream of life at sea                                                                                                                 haunted by Japanese boys with eyes too big and wanting

to forget

Swinging to a different song
we twirl through manhood
past marriage, and fatherhood, and too many years
sliced and forgotten
on Sundowner’s cutting room floor                                                                                                      buried
too far beyond reach to protect

so we glide and sachet and tap past all the madness

… and we gently circle back

to Saturday’s picture show and its nickel talkies
and this waltz                                                                                                                                       between magic
and tragedy
and the innocence
of a mind
brought back to simpler memories

of Life that keeps dancing on

astaire (1)                                                                                      Dance free now, Dad. Dance free.

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in the settling of the dust

We-are-dust

the dust has settled now

particles of Life strewn through space

finding rest

on window sills

and piano benches

and picture frames that speak of a different time

when the dust was first kicked

up

into Clouds of Life

that followed little boys dressed in ninja gear

and cowboy hats

and dreams too big to hold

racing into summer nights

piled high with sleeping bags and shooting stars

darting through ping pong marathons

and “Happy Shakes” and treks along the railroad tracks

_ _ _ … ~~~ —- _ _ .. ~~ —. _ ~ —

. . . . . . . .

Grains of childhood gone too soon

quiet now

finding rest

in the settling

of dust

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Let Us Walk Worthy

the deep ache of Want

She was gone. And he was walking alone. Her camera in his hand, taking pictures of what life was meant to look like

if she were near his side.

Two weeks gone now, and he was wandering the canyons of Utah. Alone.

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You wouldn’t know on the outside.

He smiled and chatted briefly about the coldness of his feet. “Maybe someday, I’ll come back and wear what I need to make it up the Narrows

… maybe someday.”

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Obvious, was the Nikon camera he guarded as he forged through the icy water. We asked him if he wanted a picture of himself in this adventure, framed in all of Zion’s beauty. You’d have thought we had handed him a rare and costly treasure. As Chris started the photographer talk of of cameras and lenses, millimeters and apertures, his face washed red with a clouded uncertainty… He didn’t know what lens he had. He didn’t know his camera’s ins and outs. He didn’t even know the name of the weight that draped heavy around his neck. With a hesitant voice, he offered, “I’m sorry. I don’t really know a lot. The camera is, was my wi… um…I inherited it.”

Carefully he looked into the lens with a faraway smile, and the shot was taken. And another for good measure. Then his words began to tumble into the river at our feet. He apologized that he was going to cry. He’d lost his wife two weeks ago. A two year battle of cancer. His boss had said, “Go. Take as much time as you need.” He went. With his wife’s camera, and a dream, and a new life that didn’t fit right.

Wouldn’t ever fit the same way again.

He said he’d be okay. He said times like this he’d fill up and then overflow, and he’d go sit on back over on the beach right there, and just cry and let it out. He said how thankful he was for the picture.

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We said how we would pray for him in this hard time,

in this new life

and how we were praying even now.

Then, he thanked us and hugged us and we left him alone

… with a picture,

a raw new memory,

and the deep ache of Want.

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Looking back, as we headed up the river,

 

I saw him build an altar.

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Let Us Walk Worthy

… though I can’t imagine where

 

Early morning shadows sprinkle the lawn revealing splashes of Light

and baby fresh,

spring-popping

green.

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The robin hops through the landscape – stopping to listen – head cocked at the slightest rumble of a worm inching its way near.

The flower turns its head to welcome morning’s light.

And just beyond, a doe and her twins stroll past, looking for greener pastures I suppose…

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… though I can’t imagine where

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Today,

this day,

is a gift.

The birds know it. The flower and doe know it… and the worm that got away knows it too. Chirping in the distance, blossoming and grazing along the sun’s lit path, … inching through the warming earth. Happy to sing their morning song, they welcome the turning of this world toward its Maker.

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New mercies, new hope, a new start.

 

What purpose do I have in this new day?

What Good works are planned for me to walk in since the beginning of time?

What voices need silencing to hear the One Voice that is needful to hear?

 

Be still and know that I am God.

Really know.

 

Quieting the noise of life

long enough to understand

 the certainty of the Life Giver.

 

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Seasons change.

Life happens.

… I don’t know what tomorrow brings, or the day after that or next month or next year.

But this I know:

In this moment, I am loved by a King

I can face this day and all the craziness it may bring

with thankfulness.

Today, in Him, I have a haven.

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Jesus loves me. This I know.

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Old Crusty, be gone!

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We all self-talk. We all have those inner conversations – some analytical, some matter-of-fact that say: “Do this. Go here. … Okay, that’s done.” And then there’s the other conversations – the judgments. The ones that wiggle their way into our hearts and hiss: “That was stupid! Why did you say THAT? I can’t believe I DID that?!”

 

Over the last year, something has changed in my self-talk. Instead of berating myself, I hear myself say, “Good job, Jane.” … or “You can do this, go for it.” or… “It’s okay, you’ll get another chance.”

 

These new conversations tickle me rosy pink every time. It’s nice to be nice to myself. It makes me giggle deep down in the heart of me, where disappointment used to nestle. It makes all remaining Crusties break apart and bounce far away, sent out with the garbage by the simple kind words, “Good job, Jane.”

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Today I heard an old barrage of similar rubbage, “I can’t do it.” These are words I’d like to send running as well. But the thing is: I don’t want to be one of those bubbly, smile-pasted-on, “name-it-claim-it” kind of girls. Because, honestly, the very real truth is: there are some things I think I should be able do, or try to do, that I really can’t do. I simply can’t.

I mean, can’t can’t…

 

So how do I change the self that struggles underneath the taunting of this honest “I can’t.” I know I can’t stay up any later, work any longer – try or pray any harder. I am doing what I can. Sooo??

Sooo…I just stop fighting it.

“I can’t.”

Plain and simple.

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Maybe someone else can. Maybe someone else looks like they can. Maybe someone else is simply satisfied. But that’s definitely not me.

So how do I change the self-talking reality of “I can’t” into one I can live with,

giggle with,

and break apart this old Crusty with?

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“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Yeah, yeah, I know… but. But it doesn’t say I should do all things through Christ, or I will do all things, it says I can. And somehow I don’t thing Jesus is thinking about my growing list of “to do’s.” I don’t think he’s giving me a lot of “shoulds.” Maybe, the “I can” he’s talking about is really just back to the basics:

I can have a great attitude in all things

through Christ who strengthens me.

I can try my hardest, and let the rest go

through Christ who strengthens me.

I can learn to be who he made me to be in the midst of my “to do” list

through Christ who strengthens me.

I can let go the strangle-hold of “I shoulds”

through Christ who strengthens me.

I can do all the needful things

and smile,

at the all the rest

in that “I’m thankful I’m not bored” kind of way.

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Woman and her Savior against the world.

Me and Jesus against the wiles of the enemy.

“To-do’s, schma-mooz”

… I can do all (important) things through Christ

my sweet, Nazarene rebel who strengthens me

and cheers me on

when and where it counts.

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