Thursday, November 30, 2006

Thankful Thursday

I woke up half an hour before the alarm clock this morning.
Leaped out of bed. Mind in high gear.
Heart overflowing with gratitude.
Came to the computer.

This Thursday, I am grateful for -

my health - lots of people I know have colds, and many are seriously ill.

this home I love

the three people who live in this house with me

my happy, healthy, laughing, dancing children

the husband who loves when we laugh and dance

my wrist brace - it's aching these days because I've been doing A LOT of writing

all the amazing lessons I'm learning these days, hence all the writing

unexpected emails and messages

snail mail letters

Christmas cards from friends near and far

my little rag-tag group of Awana kids - for some strange reason they seem to like me

learning more about my digital camera - it's amazing what happens when you read the instruction booklet. My goal for December and January is to set aside time to learn how to put a picture or two here on the blog. (Can anyone give me a quick lesson? Send along any ideas to defragment my feeble understanding of how to do it?)

taking self-timed photos of myself and the kids in the waiting room at the dentist's office. That silly little son of mine likes to make "rabbit ears" behind my head.

that neither of the children had any cavities. I haven't yet told them that most kids resist daily flossing. It'll be my little secret...

the big dinner we will have tonight before Steve and Daniel go away together for a father-son retreat tomorrow

all the plans Kristiana and I have for our ladies only weekend here in the house we love. How will we ever get it all done? Perhaps we'll pull an all-nighter tomorrow night... What do you think, KNB?

synchronicity - On Tuesday, Daniel said he wanted to go to school "because they have book sales." Yesterday I received an email with an ad and coupon for a 50% off Scholastic Warehouse sale open to teachers, administrators, and HOMESCHOOLERS. We are going next week. Yeah for Daniel! I will buy him as many books as he wants; when he wants to read, we all say silent prayers of praise.

the library: I simply do not understand why that place isn't filled to overflowing every day. All those books and videos for free? Where is everybody? I picked up three books and a movie yesterday, and there's another book waiting for me now. I am as happy as a pig in slop. I confess that I sniff old books. I stand in the library and apologize silently to the stacks of books because I won't be able to read them all. I've actually thought about trying. Yes, Jill, I'm saying it in public: I am a serious geek.

the contradictions in my life - I know these previous two things are contradictory - buying books when the library is walking distance away. Honestly, one of the things I love most about myself and the way I live my life is how I am learning to embrace the contradictions. I can sing the old hymns of the church at 10:30 am and dance to Ricky Martin at noon. I can buy clothes at both Good Will and Nordstroms. I can love and adore my children and husband one minute and be ready to pack my stuff and move to Madrid ALONE an hour later. It's who I am. I am grateful that I see those contradictions and accept them. I know way too many people who either deny them or in vain seek to justify them.

I know it's still early, but I'm gonna sign off here and go finish one of the library books I picked up earlier this week: a Dietrich Bonhoeffer book on life in community. Too many books. Not enough time.

What a blessed life I lead.
Thanks be to God.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Defragmenting the Hard Drive

Two nights ago I remembered.

I remembered that when the computer gets really sluggish, takes forever to open files, or refuses to cooperate with some requests, it's time to defragment the hard drive. We've had this computer for four years, so first of all, I'm thankful that it still functions as well as it does. Even though it hasn't been defragmented in these four years, we've never had a crash or major problem with it - thank God.

But on Monday night I remembered. First I asked the hard drive to analyze itself, and after a very few seconds, up popped a multi-colored rectangle. Red for fragmented files. Blue for contiguous files. Green for unmoveable files. White for free space. Turns out the computer is 70% full - which concerns me anyway. But the good news is that there is still 30% of free space.

The computer recommended that I defragment it. I clicked the button, and the process began. Slowly. Imperceptibly. I sat and watched those little lines shift and reshift for nearly half an hour - only 3% complete. Forget it, I told myself, this is going to take all night. So I went to bed. In the morning, all I saw were big chunks of blue and white, as well as two very small green pieces. Unmoved.

I logged onto the internet. Fast. Found my email. Fast. Read a few blogs I like. Fast. Played a game or two. Fast. Efficient. Computing was enjoyable again. And fast.

I must admit that I'm feeling a little sluggish these days. Taking longer than necessary to find things I need. Not answering emails, letters, phone messages, or even my children's questions as quickly as I used to. Not following up when requests are made -and sometime freezing mid-task. Crashing while folding clothes, cooking dinner, and training the dog - all at the same time.

It's time to defragment my own hard drive. To take a good long look at the fragmented files - the date nights with Steve that have been hijacked by sporting events, meetings, and parental obligations. I need to consider the contiguous files - the things that are holding together, but only barely. Things like keeping the house in order, getting prepared for the holidays, and church obligations. And then there are the unmoveable files - the stuff that has to happen no matter how I'm feeling: homeschooling, feeding the family, making sure Maya gets fed and that the cars have gas are just a few of those.

Like the computer, I need a good overnight (or weekend session) to begin to put the pieces back together, to reinforce the foundation under this life which sometimes seems to shift unexpectedly, to reevaluate the unmoveable stuff, to remind myself of what matters most, and put as many files as possible back together and back where they belong.

When I told Kristiana about defragmenting the computer, I explained to her how files tend to get split up and the computer takes longer to do ... blah, blah, blah. Her eyes glazed over. Always seeking to keep my explanations relevant to their lives, I gave her this example: Imagine trying to get dressed in the morning, but your shirts are in the laundry room, your pants are in the family room, your socks are in the kitchen, your belt is in the living room, and your undergarments are in the dining room. (One thing to consider is that the house is too big, but that's a whole nother blog.) That's not a very efficient way to get yourself dressed, is it? Being the fashionista that she is, she understood that.

And that's a lot like how I feel these days. The garments that cover my life, my soul's wardrobe are tossed here, there and beyond. Not enough organization sometimes. Too much at other times. Not enough down time some days. And wasted time on other days. So I've decided to do some defragmenting of my own hard drive.

Yesterday, I "sternly" told the kids to follow me into the family room. Daniel was in the middle of making lunch, and Kristiana was reading. (Yes, they make their own lunch, well-trained children that they are!) I've very rarely stern with them, so I got their attention quickly. Confused and a little distressed, they obeyed. (Yes, they obeyed.) Once we got in there, I smiled and said, "Let's dance." Daniel had put on a really fun Ricky Martin song before lunch, so we danced. Formed a conga line. Sang. Laughed. Got a little sweaty.

Then, she went back to reading. He went back making his sandwich. I went back to whatever I'd been doing. And I felt like one fragmented file was on its way to being contiguous again: three small pieces of the "laugh and dance with the kids" file had been restored.

There are a few unmoveable files that, in fact, cannot neither be removed nor moved. But there's a lot fewer of those than I'd like to believe. Plus, if I surround those ominous green slivers of my life with lots of blue chunks, with things that are going as well as they can, then those slivers will feel a lot smaller than they do at the moment, when so much of my life feels like fragments of fragile glass patched together with rubber cement.

So off I go. Time for bed. Time to put my heart and mind into defragmenting mode during the night watch. Hopefully when I awake, a few more red files will be blue.

The objective, however, isn't to speed through life the way my computer seems to be speeding through its paces these days. I will settle for more enjoyment of my life. More peace. More patience. And more time to dance with the kids in the family room before lunch.

Here's to defragmenting.
Declaring a truce within ourselves.
And all the other great words we can think of that start with

Monday, November 27, 2006

These Little Lights of Mine

I love Christmas. I love the decorations and the trees and the Nativity scenes and the reindeer on people's lawns. I love the cookies and the Christmas morning casserole and monkey bread and hot apple cider. I love singing Christmas carols at church and around the piano with the children.

Most of all, I love hearing the story of how Jesus Christ came to earth as a tiny baby. I used to think that it was one of most unlikely stories of all time. Last week, however, I heard a sermon by Rob Bell, and he pointed out that for nearly 500 years before Christ's birth, there were several stories of Roman gods that "lived" very similar lives, died similar deaths, and rose from the dead. I'm sure I will spell some of the names wrong, but here goes: Mithra, Addis, Adonis, Horis, and even Julius Caesar himself are among several who are said to have been either born of virgins, crucified, and/or resurrected. The thing that sets Jesus apart is the fact that He is the only one who not only existed in real life, but also has an empty tomb with his name plate above it. But that's not the point of this blog.

Tonight the focus is on Christmas.
Another thing I love about Christmas is the lights.
Sure, there are the lights that are meticulously placed along the rooflines of most of the stores and other businesses here in Charlotte. There are the lights that people string over their trees and bushes. Our neighbors across the street always write a word with the lights on their bushes; sometimes they say "joy" and sometimes "noel." Cleverly done.

But for me, the best lights are the candle lights that are placed singly in the windows of houses. One small white light standing alone in the face of deep, cold darkness. Last night, Kristiana and I placed our lights in the windows of the second floor of our home.

For us, those lights serve as a signal to those outside that we who live here celebrate the light that has come into the world. From the window sills, these lights are visible down on the street below and from quite a few yards up the street. The simplicity of it. The elegance of it. The power of it. Turn them on and our house appears out of the darkness.

Not only do these little lights shine for the people outside, they shine pretty brightly inside our house as well. Late at night when we are all in bed, those little 4 watt bulbs are almost enough to keep us awake. Last night, I had to get up and draw the curtains so that Steve and I could sleep deeply. It felt as though the full moon were sitting on our window sills.

Dark outside. Dark inside.
Light a few small candle lights.
Bright outside. Bright inside.

Yet another metaphor for my life.
Sometimes the dark clouds roll in, and I start feeling sorry for myself.
Why are we the only ones responsible for _________________?
Why won't anyone relieve us of these burdens?
Why did we have to get cheated by an unscrupulous lawyer?
Why don't we get a break on our taxes?
Why can't I figure this problem out?
Why doesn't anyone care about me?
Poor me. Woe is me.
Boo-hoo. Waaah!

Then I read a letter from a friend in prison who is serving a 27 year sentence, far beyond what was just and fair for the crime he committed. I read of his joy in the midst of prison, his faith, his best wishes for me as I traveled to Spain. I laugh at his reference to his "mansion and the security guards who make sure nothing is stolen."

Then I open a gift from friends from the Spanish congregation at our church: a beautiful blanket with our names inscribed and the Bible verse that says, "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." Their card said, "You and your family have been a ray of light in the darkness for many people." Deep. Humbling. Wow.

Then I read a blog about someone who heard a total stranger speak words of despair about the state of the world, and stop that man, take his hands in her own, and give him a blessing, offering up a prayer on his behalf. Not willing to be left out, that man's friend asked for a blessing of his own. (Check out

Then I hear a song, read a book, go for a walk in our neighborhood with the children, listen to a message online (Rob Bell at is awesome), sit out on the deck and fall asleep in the late autumn sunshine only to awaken to the sound of birds in chorus. These are the things that rekindle the flame of hope in my soul that self-pity and depression so easily snuff out.
And this little light of mine is relit. Shining again.

Often it is easier to be a light for those outside of my family, outside of my home. It's easy to give a word of encouragement to someone who has been abandoned by her husband, someone who is raising children alone, someone who is facing financial difficulties. It's far more difficult to give those smiles and hugs and uplifting comments to the woman in the mirror.

So this Christmas, in the midst of all the baking and shopping and cooking and reading stories to the children and blogging and the like, I promise to set aside time to consider the light.
To sit in the darkness when it descends and allow light to pierce it, to shatter the shadows, and shed light into the darkest places within me.
To consider the light of life, the light of the world, the light of all men and women.

I will sing about the light, write about it, ponder what it is to walk in the light, and sit in the quiet glow of the light in the window, the lights on our tree, and the light in my soul.

My wish for all of us this Christmas
is that we will all know what it is to be
called out of darkness
into His Glorious Light.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

How can I say thanks?

For the Carolina blue sky that hung placidly overhead this morning as Kristiana and I went for a long walk? For bright sunshine today after several days of drenching rains? For the strength of our legs and lungs as we plowed up and down the hills of our neighborhood?

For the love of family and friends - some of whom will gather in a couple of hours to eat, drink, be merry, talk, laugh, tell stories, and then undoubtedly take a nap?

For the turkey, beef (made by my mother for those of us who don't like turkey), salad, vegetables, stuffing (my own recipe), homemade cranberry sauce, and all the other goodies we will gorge ourselves on?

For the books I've read, the music I've listened to, the lessons I've learned, the journal and scrapbooking pages I've filled in these past few weeks?

For the traveling mercies that surround me on every trip, whether to Spain or to the supermarket, whether to church or Starbucks? For the friendly faces and warm greetings of both familiar and unfamiliar ones I meet along the way?

For the countless stories and anecdotes I hear and read that give evidence of the love, the grace, the forgiveness, the restoration of families, and the reconciliation taking place between former enemies?

For the countless people whose life mission is to bring about peace, reunion, and reconnection between the lost, the broken, the weary, and the heavy laden?

For the realization that His will can be done and is being done on earth as it is in heaven - and for the ways in which I see that will being done in my heart, in my home, in my community, and around the world?

I am thankful that there are many who seek to spread words of love in a desperate and lonely world.

I am thankful that there are many who refuse to spread words of poison, accusation, and derision.

I am thankful that there are those who stand against violence and war - whether they are wars of words or weapons of mass destruction.

I am thankful that I can make a difference in this war-torn world by being an ambassador for peace, for laughter, for forgiveness, and for beauty.

For this and for so much more...
for oatmeal with bananas cut up in it
for yerba mate tea
for snuggles with my hubby and children
for Maya's tiny little tail at the end of her tiny little body
for online sermons by Rob Bell
for the power of prayer
for the strength that comes from silence
for telephone calls with distant friends
for collages in my journals
for cross necklaces
for Ali Edwards, Leonie Allan, Jen Lemen, Kristin Noelle, Jen Gray, Andrea Scher and Joanne Rah - women I have never met in person but whose internet creativity, vulnerability, and heart-filled encouragement have touched and changed my life in ways they may never know

for this and for so much more...
I give thanks.

O give thanks to the Lord
for He is good
His love endures forever.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Why do I love Italy so much?

Until yesterday I couldn't answer that question coherently. I would have said things like, "It's so beautiful. The art is amazing. The architecture is breathtaking. The men and women are gorgeous. The shopping..." Silly stuff like that. But today I understand and can articulate it better.

Why do I understand today what I did not understand yesterday? Not because I'm in Italy, although I would certainly love to be.
Not because I've done a thorough study of the art and history of Italy, although I would love to do that as well.

Today I understand my passion for that country better because I have just finished reading one of the BEST BOOKS I've ever read. Ever. It is entitled Chasing Francis, and it was written by a friend, Ian Cron. Bravo, Ian!

Why this book?
It presents a man's crisis of faith. A valley of doubt. A trail of tears. A break from the church. A rebirth into something entirely new.

It tells the tale of one man's journey, a pilgrimage from despair to hope, from emptiness to fulness, from sorrow to joy. But when the book ends, the journey is only just getting fully underway.

I love that this book doesn't give easy and pat answers to the deepest questions of the soul. I love that there aren't three easy explanations for the trials we face in life and two simple ways to overcome doubt and be as solid as a rock in our faith. I love the fact that the book includes a list of other books to consult and consider. I love the questions at the end of the book that provoke thought and discussion and more serious pondering.

And most of all, I love the fact that this book takes place - in part - in Italy. In Rome, in Florence, in Assisi, and beyond. The churches, the cathedrals, the museums, the back streets, the fancy hotels, the orchestra halls, and the hilltops of Tuscany serve as the backdrop for the story of Chase Falson's faith and my faith. The walks he takes, the questions he asks, the journal entry he pens resonate so deeply with me.

I am reminded of conversations I have had with others who have tasted the beauty of Italy and felt its depth to the core. I am reminded of my own solo journeys there, of tears I left to bathe its streets, its church pews, and its museum halls. I am reminded of the many pages of my travel journals that are peppered with questions and pocked with still more salty tears. I think of the postcards and letters I sent from there and how the words I wrote revealed the depth of my emotion in such small and shallow ways.

Back in October of 2001, just a few weeks after the tragedy of September 11th, I set out on my first trip to Italy. Concerned about the decision to leave my family in order to travel alone in a country I'd never visited at a time of national and international fear, a few days before my scheduled departure I went to see Ian to ask his advice and to speak to him about a personal crisis that I was experiencing at the time. He listened quietly and then asked to pray for me. In his prayer, he spoke words that touched my soul more deeply than nearly anything I'd heard before or have heard every since. He prayed that I would know peace and safety and experience what it was to be "alone with The Alone." I wrote those words in my journal that day. When I packed my things for the trip, I took my Walkman and a copy of Ian's first CD entitled, Sacred Hunger.

While on the train from Rome to Orvieto on my last full day of that trip, I listened to the CD and one of the songs pulled out the plug that had been holding the waters of my own internal Niagara Falls inside. I wept openly; so numerous were my tears and so obvious my sorrow, that a woman got up from her and came to ask if I was okay. I smiled and nodded through my tears and assured her that all was well.

After pulling myself together, and only marginally, I spent most of that day wandering through the winding streets of that small hilltown, into and out of the Etruscan Museum, marveling at the ceramics for sale, and ate a magnificently delicious bowl of gelato from the gelateria next to the duomo. Then I entered Orvieto's grand cathedral and made my way into the side chapel with the frescoes of the dead coming to life, of flesh being put onto the bones of lives gone by. At the moment, I cannot recall the name of the artist. Anyway, I walked around in that chapel. I stood still. I gazed. I marveled. I oohed and aahed. And again, I cried as I felt new energy, new blood surge my own dried and carefully preserved heart. I felt myself coming back to life on that day in that church in that enthralling little town.

The words to Ian's song, I Want To Go Home, came back to me then and again today.

This Irish coast is breaking my heart tonight
A mystical yearning, an ache in my soul
Each crashing wave reminds me - I am living in exile.

Chorus: I want to go home
I want to be with My Father
Run right by his side through all his fields of grace
Yes, I love my life, but isn't it right to want to go home?

Is it so wrong to want the invisible?
A time and a place where you finally belong
I could go on in this world with just one glimpse of eternity.

This 'now but not yet' leaves me divided
Walking on earth when my soul wants to fly
But I know this journey I'm on is built on this sacred hunger.

I want to go home...

Italy is the place where I have felt most like my soul, my heart, my spirit was flying. Most like my soul had found a place of rest, of repose, of being at home. Where the sacred hunger in my heart has been temporarily sated. And oddly enough, that's exactly why I don't go there as often as I go to Spain. It's almost too much. The feeling of connection with beauty, with history, with silent awe, with art, with food, with nature, with other people, with ancient love and grace and soulfulness. During each of my three trips there, I have had moments of such depth, richness, and fullness that I have not wanted to come back home. In fact, I have never felt more at home than when I have sat on quiet pews in quiet churches in Italy. Or on benches in its museums. At the huge square table in the front room of LPQ on the Via Tomacelli in Roma. In the cloister at the church of Santa Croce (the Holy Cross) in Firenze. Standing in front of Bernini's statues of Jonah and Daniel, and Caravaggio's paintings from the life of Paul in the church of Santa Maria del Popolo in Roma. Eating pizza and writing a letter at a tiny plaza in Orvieto. Crying. Laughing. Journaling. Alone with The Alone.

Words don't do it justice.
In Italian it is, "Senza parole."

But Ian's book, Ian's words come mighty close.
Buy the book and CD at

Friday, November 17, 2006

The Spider is Gone

Several weeks ago, back before I left for Spain, while out for an early morning walk, I saw a big black and yellow spider suspended in a magnificently detailed web a couple of blocks from our house. It had hitched one end of its lacy home to a light post and the other to a mailbox nearly four feet away. The web was wide and tall and meticulously groomed.

I could see places where the spider had obviously had to repair the web; it looked like someone had taken a needle and thread and used a carefully measured zig-zag stitch to reattach several web strands that had unraveled. I was so impressed with that spider and its home that soon after I returned home that morning, Kristiana, Maya and I walked back up the street. Maya wasn't terribly interested in the web, but Kristiana and I stood and stared at it for several moments, few words passing between us. A staggering work of spidery genius.

Days passed. Weeks passed. But the spider did not; it was firmly anchored in that web. On the way home from the supermarket one rainy and windy night, I looked at the web as I drove by, and there was the spider, blown back and forth, but essentially unmoved. A follow-up visit to my leggy friend confirmed that his home had sustained storm damage, but repairs were well underway.

This past week, however, the spider was gone. The web hung limp. Tenantless. Abandoned. I don't know what happened to the spider, but I do know that something happened to me. That spider prompted me to think about my own life, my own web, my home, and my response to life's billowing storms.

For one thing, I was challenged to reconsider how often I think about abandoning my web, how often I think about my shoes, pocketbooks, cars, and sometimes even relationships with a callousness that causes me to shudder. I ask myself questions like: Why put so much time and effort into repairing something that can so easily be replaced? Why bother? I know lots of people with many more pairs of shoes than I've got. I only paid ??? for them anyway. This old bucket of bolts; as soon as a better model comes out, I want it. I'd bet better off alone that going through this again.

Fortunately, these days I am getting more adept at answering those kinds of questions with another question: is this thing, this person, this relationship truly replaceable? Even if it is, what is that replacement going to cost? Where did my obsession with perfection come from anyway? Much of the time damaged goods are still good.

That scar on my shin comes with a story: a tale about summer camp in Napanoch, New York, running down some stairs during a rainstorm, and falling. The resulting gauge of flesh was too deep to even warrant stitches; the gap was too wide. A good bandage, lots of antibiotics, and waiting for enough skin to grow to cover it. Touching that spot today is akin to touching the bone itself. Thank God for long skirts, over-the-knee socks, and knee-high boots. There are several scars on the left side of my neck that are the result of shingles. I have a pile of sleeveless, short-sleeved, and long-sleeved turtlenecks (one of which I am wearing right now) that are chosen because they cover up those scars. The scar on my soul has several stories as well: broken love relationships, churches that have imploded, family members whose neglect, abuse, and criticism - so many stories, so little time.

What is wrong with having visible scars and stitches anyway? We spend so much of life trying to keep our wounds hidden, trying to convince others and ourselves that all is well, that we have no real problems, and that we haven't cried ourselves to sleep many nights, that we actually begin to believe the ultimate lie. We think we are the only ones trying to lose five or ten pounds, the only ones with children who disrespect and willfully disobey their parents, the only ones whose husbands or lovers seem distant most of the time, and the only ones with doubts, questions, and concerns about nearly every area in our lives, including our faith, perhaps especially our faith.

I have come to realize that we all have our woundedness. We all have family members with cancer, addictions, disabilities, and loved ones who have died suddenly. I met a woman today whose husband was killed seven years ago in a car accident when their children were toddlers. Someone else there is struggling terribly with trying to lose weight, but having no visible success. Another is launching herself in a new job because ends aren't meeting as well as they used to. Together we shared stories, helpful hints, words of encouragement, and wished each other traveling mercies as we continue this walk of faith called life. I look forward to hearing how far they've come when we meet again.

There's a spot on the ceiling in our family room that needs to be scraped and painted. What we really need to do is find out where the slow drip of water is coming from that is causing the spot to form. The exhaust fan in our master bathroom isn't working at the moment. The carpeting upstairs in our house looks like it needs to be cleaned again. The lawn is covered with leaves, and the flowers that were planted during the summer have died and need to be pulled up and replaced with pansies - which bloom all winter here in Charlotte.

There's a spot on my heart that, when I touch it or pay any attention to it at all, causes tears to erupt whenever I think of how much I miss certain friends. There is a slow drip of anxiety when I think of the possibility that I may never see them again. The exhaust fan in the ceiling of my spirit works rather slowly when I think of certain sibling issues, in-law issues, and extended family concerns; steam builds up, but it is slow to disperse. Earlier blooms of patience, grace, and joyful laughter need the fertilizer of solitude, meditation, and prolonged time spent with dear friends pretty soon, or impatience and the thorny weeds of bitterness are likely to choke them out.

My tattered and sometimes poorly maintained marriage is worthy of prayer, care, and repair; it cannot be replaced or recreated. I like the way Jen Lemen's husband said it: What if we toss perfection overboard? What if we decide that a less scripted, less surly, more unpredictable, but wholly honest relationship is better than abandoning this one and trying to find someone or something better? What if we are better off together and this is as good as it gets? It's not about conceding defeat; it's not about giving up hope for improvement. It's about claiming victory in the areas where we have success and basking in those. It's about deciding on a new model of marriage because the old one isn't working for us. Or for anyone else I know... but that's a-whole-nother blog.

The spider is gone. His web is empty, lifeless, and useless.

May my web, my home, my heart, my spirit never be so.
May I be ever willing to pull out the needle and thread
of prayer, of thoughtful reflection, of truthful conversation,
and of regular introspection so that this house will always be a home,
so that this soul will always be full of life, and
so that peace that passes all understanding and
unspeakable joy will be evident to everyone I meet.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

There is so much beauty...

Today has been a glorious day.

I fell asleep last night and awoke this morning to the sound of much-needed rain. Unfortunately dozens of people here in North Carolina fell asleep to the sound of the rain and were awakened by tornadoes ripping their houses to pieces. Sometimes I feel like one of the piggies living in the brick house that the wolf wasn't able to blow down. Every time I hear of such violent storms and the havoc they wreak, I thank God for keeping us safe.

The children and I had a good morning of homeschooling: reading about the Civil War - or the War of Northern Aggression - depending on who you ask, and working together on how to write "a five paragraph essay." Our first venture is a piece on the pros and cons of homeschooling. Even though they are unlikely to use this format in any writing project other than those required in school, they have to learn how to write them. I'm determined to make the process as enjoyable as possible - so we are working on each essay together and will be careful to choose topics of interest to us.

I met a friend, Sangita, for lunch. Although I was saddened to hear of the passing of her dear father, I was glad to hear that her mother will come from India at the end of December and spend several months here in Charlotte with her family.

It is always a blessing to catch up with friends, eat good food, and have some time alone - even if it is only the time I spend in the car getting from here to there and back.

The children and I enjoyed a dinner of homemade pizza and salad together, and each of us is now spending some time alone doing things we each enjoy.

I have read several beautiful, colorful, wonder-filled blogs today. Feel free to check a couple of them out: and and There are a lot of smart, thoughtful, caring, wise women out there. I wish I knew them in person, but I am enormously grateful for the opportunity to know them online. Plus there is the quietly faith-affirming which is a website that offers readers a place for prayer and contemplation.

From here, I will head back downstairs to the kitchen for dessert - chocolate chip and toffee bars that Kristiana and I made earlier this week. Then I will put on my jammies and robe and spend a couple of hours reading and journaling and playing with colorful and creative goodies of all kinds.

Steve is away on business until Saturday afternoon, so I get to leave my sweet nothings spread out all over the bed and the floor and the chair in the corner without worrying about him tripping and falling over it.

Today has been a glorious, beautiful, most enjoyable day.
Thanks be to God.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

"Ani Ma' Amin"

Wednesday Worship was more beautiful today than usual. Every Wednesday at noon, my dear friend Katie Crowe leads a group of fellow travelers on the walk of faith through a 30 minute service of worship, song, prayer, and teaching at First Presbyterian Church here in Charlotte. The services are entitled "Faith@Work."

Today we were blessed by the children's choir from the Trinity Episcopal School with three songs. The title of the first song was the same as that of this blog. After they sang two stanzas of this song, one of the singers stepped forward and read a thoughtful translation of the words and the sentiment of the piece.

Ani Ma' Amin, she explained, is an ancient Hebrew song of hope that is roughly translated like this: No matter how long the Messiah tarries in His coming, I will believe in Him. No matter how long He tarries, when He arrives, He will find me waiting for Him.

Even as they entered the gas chambers during World War II's atrocities, thousands of Jews sang this song, ceasing their worship only when the gas filled their lungs and silenced them forever. No matter what we face, no matter how dreadful our circumstances, we will believe. We will have faith.

This morning in her strong voice, that young African-American girl spoke eloquently of the value of every face, every race, every person, and every soul. It is only when we honor every person created in the image of the Creator as a soul in need of love, acceptance, and forgiveness, it is only then that we will turn away from prejudice, from rejection, and even from violence. She concluded with these two statements: "This is what we sing. This is what we believe."

Many years ago when I was still in college,
I sat in tear-soaked silence as Sweet Honey in the Rock sang these words:
"We who believe in freedom cannot rest;
We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes.
Until the killing of black men, black mothers' sons,
is as important as the killing of white men, white mothers' sons."

At the time they first sang their melodic homage to freedom in the 1960s, Sweet Honey in the Rock was embroiled in the civil rights movement in our nation's southern states. When I heard them lift their voices in the early 1980's, they were urging us to take a stand against apartheid in South Africa.

Today those words apply yet again - or perhaps "still" - to Darfur, the Sudan, and many war-torn, poverty-stricken areas not only in Africa, but also in New Orleans and its environs. The tens of thousands of brown-skinned Iraqis and Afghans who have lost their lives in the past four years have been counted far less rigorously than the American, English, and Italian soldiers who have died there.

We who say we believe in freedom, in democracy, in human rights,
We who say we ought to stand up against injustice, terrorism,
and evil
no matter where we find it -
We cannot rest
We ought not rest
Until the killing of anyone's sons matters to all of us.
Until the death of children due to hunger and malnutrition makes us push our obese bodies away from the buffet table in disgust.
Until the constant acquisition of more stuff for ourselves and for our children bothers us more than only when the bills arrive at the end of the month.

I have begun to pray new prayers of late.
I have begun to pray and ask for deliverance from the spirit of consumerism.
I have begun to pray that my family will find television repulsive, the commercials infuriating, and going shopping (except for food shopping) excessive.
I have begun to pray that we who have been so richly blessed will understand our responsibility to bless others who have less than we have. And not only will we understand and appreciate our responsibility, but also that we will joyfully fulfill it.

I have begun to ask myself to make clear and uncompromising distinctions between what I need and what I want. As clothing and shoes wear down and wear out, I want to carefully consider whether or not I need to them. When the lease on our very luxurious car ends next summer, I want to be ready and willing to let it go and not replace it. I want to become a person who is willing to forego personal pleasure in order to provide for someone else's needs. In the words of Ronald Sider: I want to learn to "live simply so that others can simply live."

I used to live this way. I used to think this way. Back when my children were young and money was tight, I went through an entire year without buying any clothing for myself. After the first couple of months, it wasn't even hard to bypass the mall and Good Will stores. I had more than enough. I have even more now. So very much more.

Perhaps it is time to get back to that simpler way of life.
Certinly it is time to get back to that place of the simple faith those children sang about this morning: faith in the beauty and worth of all the people around me. Faith that people of all colors, shapes, and sizes, all economic and social backgrounds, all political and religious persuasions can sing together, work together, and live together in such a way that we bring an end to as many of the atrocities that daily victimize thousands of people as possible.

And when He returns, may the Messiah find me waiting.
Not sitting passively, mind you, but actively waiting.
Working for peace, liberty, and justice for all.
So help me God.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

A Change is Coming...

Many changes, I hope.

Blogspot has been taken over by Google, and we are being required to switch over or be banned from our blogs. I'm pondering a break from blogging for a while. Perhaps a switch to some other form of communication.

I will be teaching a course on spiritual journaling at my church in January. There is much preparation to be done for that class.

I am planning another month-long trip to Spain with the children in the late spring. So much to do: We must find an apartment, make the necessary arrangements to rent it, and plan adventures during our sojourn in the country that has captured my heart.

I am in the middle of reading through a pile of books that has been calling my name for a good long time. Many thoughts of simplicity, solitude, silence, reflection, and rejuvenation.

Tears flow as I pray for a friend who was recently diagnosed with cancer on the membrane around his eyeball. I still pray regularly for Laurie, the widow who lost her young son back in April. The wife of a former pastor was paralyzed in a biking accident a few weeks ago. There is much to mourn.

But there are also many reasons to rejoice: Thanksgiving is just a few days away. I have so much for which to give thanks. My own good health and a clean bill of health written up for the kids this past week - their radiant, glowingly beautiful, and very pregnant pediatrician complimented them both on how much and how well they have grown in the past year. The very fact that, for most of their lives, they have visited the doctor only once per year - for their well visits - is reason enough to rejoice. They have both been chosen as members of the local rec program's basketball teams. Daniel's baseball team won the league championship for his age group last Thursday night. And then he was invited to the homes of three children from teams he'd beaten. Talk about popular! Just today, two women asked me to teach a class on journaling; I had the pleasure of telling them that just such a class is in the works.

Last night, we were invited to dinner in celebration of the birthday of one of Daniel's teammates. The homeowners had the forethought and the money (!) to purchase the empty lot behind their home and had a swimming pool and outdoor kitchen built. Beautiful. Tasteful. Luxurious.

Twelve or fifteen of us stood poolside on an unseasonably warm November evening, eating, drinking, laughing, telling stories, watching our children run and play carelessly. I was overwhelmed with awe at the beauty of the setting, honored to have been invited to participate in the festivities, and silenced by the realization that ours, that mine, is truly a blessed life. We see and live among such wealth, such privilege, and such responsibility.

Food, clothing, cars, houses, rolling lawns, bubbling hot tubs, outdoor fireplaces, plasma televisions, computers, shopping plazas, Starbucks, California Pizza Kitchen, Barnes and Noble, Neiman Marcus, Nordstroms, full bellies, and empty complaint boxes. Life is grand. Couldn't be finer.

But what will it profit us if we gain the whole world - and that's how it felt last night, as if every one of us has the whole world by the tail - and lose our souls? What have we gained? I wondered what all this wealth and comfort cost us. How much time we ought to spend with our children is spent working endless hours in order to afford all the stuff we give to them instead of giving ourselves? How much of the mental and emotional energy that we spend on mowing lawns, washing expensive cars, buying more stuff to fill our increasingly large homes, and then paying the bills for all of it could be better spent reading, creating art, and laughing together with those we love?

But enough of the third person theatrics.
Enough of the first person plural flourishes.
I've got to make it personal.
What will I do with the many gifts I've been given?
What difference will my life make in the lives of others?
How will I bless someone else with my life?
How does simplicity fit into the context of my complex life?
Is there room for solitude and silence in my noisy and busy world?
Can I afford to shut those things out for much longer?
What matters more than peace that passes understanding,
than unspeakable joy,
than contentment and gratitude in all circumstances?

Yes, a change is coming.
Hopefully, many changes.
I'm not sure what. I'm not sure when. I'm not sure how.
But something's gotta give.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

It's a New Day...

A new day for our nation's government.
To move in a new direction, with new men and women in leadership positions.
To change our course, to shift the balance of power.
To make a new plan for a new future.

It is time to admit mistakes and wrong decisions.
It is time to consider new possibilities and changes in direction.

It is time to graciously step down and accept defeat.
It is time to graciously accept the mantle of responsibility and accept victory.

It is time for each of us, for all of us to reach out to one another, asking for forgiveness for words spoken in anger, in conceit, in self-pity, and in vain attempts to cover our own wrongdoing.

It's a new day, yes, but some things will remain the same, at least they ought to.

In my own life, I will continue to still seek to do right because it's the right thing to do. I will continue to examine my own behavior, to acknowledge my failings, and pray for the humility to admit wrong and make amends. I will encourage my husband, my children, and my friends to do the same. I will continue to pray for our national leaders, governors, senators, and congressional representatives - for their integrity, for their pursuit of righteousness, and for their resolve to stand firm for justice, peace, and mercy.

If there is going to be peace in the world, I must begin to pursue it in my own life. I will be peaceful with my words, by not using foul language, mean words, not engaging in gossip, and not bad-mouthing those with whom I disagree.

I will be peaceful in my actions, not only in how I treat my husband and children, the people I love, but also in how I treat those who bad-mouth and criticize me and the ideas I embrace. As much as it depends on me, I will live at peace with all those with whom I come in contact.

Jesus said that the world will know we are Christians, not by our political capital, not by our wealth, not because we pick and choose which social or political or religious battles we will fight, or which laws we establish or take off the books. We will be known as children of God not because we agree on every point or because we are all healthy, wealthy, and strong. No, He didn't refer to any of those things as the standards by which the world would know who we are and Whose we are.

He said that the world, our neighbors, our friends,
and our family members will know we are Christians
by our love one for another.

Love that is patient, kind, rejoices with the truth
(even if the truth hurts me or my feelings).
Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes,
and always perseveres.

Love does not envy, doesn't boast, is not proud, rude,
self-seeking, or easily angered.

Love keeps no record of wrong.
(That's the toughest one for me. I SOOOOO want to point out
all the wrong I see in others.
A little "I told you so" every now and then
makes me feel so good.
But love, true love, relinquishes all hope for
retaliation and self-promotion.)

That's the kind of love I want to know.
That's the kind of love for which I want to be known.
Whether Democrat or Republican, wealthy or poor, black or white,
citizen or immigrant, married or single, parent or childless,
may it be love that both sets us apart and draws us together.

It's a new day for our country.
It's a new day for our entire world.
I hope and pray that it is a new day for me too.

Where we go from here, how the forward journey will progress, I do not yet know.
But I will not fear. I will not worry. Like my friend, Leonie, in a land far away, I will find my way into a church, sit quietly, and gaze up at the cross, alternating between whispering my prayers, my hopes, my dreams, my doubts, my fears,
and holding my breath as I wait to hear the answers.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Every Connection Matters

This morning, I read on the superhero journal ( about the way Andrea Scher interacts with people at the post office. She acknowledges rightly that every connection we make, every interaction we have with other people matters. If we miss a meeting or party, people do notice. When we speak to someone with respect and honor - or with anger and disdain - we leave a mark. We leave a footprint on their lives.

Yesterday at church, my daughter and I had a chance to speak to the new worship leader. He moved to Charlotte with his wife and three daughters this past summer from Michigan. Tim and Vicki are both enormously talented singers and musicians, and they bring a joy and energy to the worship ministry that is refreshing, joyful to watch, and pleasing to the Lord. I have had a couple of chances to speak with them both, but more frequently with him, and have been careful to offer words of encouragement and gratitude for his hard work and willingness to lead us in music and singing each Sunday. I thanked him for the ways in which his presence at our church blessed and benefitted my spiritual life.

But Tim and Vicki are also human beings. They have daughters who are transitioning - sometimes smoothly and sometimes not-so-smoothly - to their new life here in Charlotte. They are trying to find their way around this new place with its odd street configurations and sometimes confusing southern ways. They are facing new concerns and issues at a new church. They are criticized and judged for their words and actions. In our conversation, I honored all of those factors, told him we are praying for him and his family, and promised to continue to do so. Not surprisingly, I could tell as I spoke to him that he was uncomfortable with receiving compliments. He was much more comfortable in thanking me for my prayers for their family than receiving my accolades.

Why is it so difficult for us to simply say thanks for the kind words that are offered to us? Why is it so hard to believe that our lives matter to others? I think the only way we will ever change our tendency to disbelieve our value is by looking people in the eye and telling them exactly why they matter to us - over and over. Life is too short to hold back on loving others; by the time we get around to telling them how we feel, it may be too late. They - or we - could be dead, have moved away, or be so overwhelmed with feelings of worthlessness that either they cannot hear our words or we cannot speak them. I am determined to not wait that long.

Last week, a friend of mine sent me an email in which she described some challenges she is currently facing. I wrote her one of my typical long, descriptive, overly emotional missives, and then I called her and left her a message telling her that she is in my thoughts and prayers. When she called me back, she expressed sincere gratitude for my gestures of kindness towards her, and we talked for quite a while. Yes, every connection, every contact makes a difference.

When I read the blogs other people write and send comments
When I read the emails that friends send and write back to them
When I listen to phone messages and respond with a card sent "snail mail"
When I smile at the person checking me out at the supermarket
When I return to that cashier and remind him or her of a previous exchange
When I sincerely thank the store employee who loads my groceries into the car
or recommends a bottle of wine
or weighs and wraps my fish selection
or asks me if I've found everything I needed at the market
When I visit a neighbor and comment on the kitchen renovations she is doing
When I thank the doctor or dentist for helping me stay healthy
When I hug the folks at church and listen to their stories
I am fully aware that every one of those interactions leaves a mark.
Every smile, snarl, compliment, and curse matters.

I have a friend in Spain who told me a long time ago that every night when he goes to bed, he takes a few moments to consider if he has made someone smile at some point during that day. Was it a child in a stroller, a co-worker, a client, a friend, or his wife? Whose day was improved, even if only for a moment, because of something he said or did? Good question, Jorge, very good question.

To that list, I will add the name of the One whose approval of my life matters than all others. On a daily basis I wonder, "Have I done anything today that made God smile? That was pleasing to Him? Did I love with a whole heart? Did I forgive someone for a wrong done to me? Did I refrain from gossip or slander? Did I reach out to someone in need and lend a hand? Did I write an email or a blog or a card that would lift someone's spirits? Did I give thanks for the many blessings I received today?"

Psalm 19:14 says, Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.

Ephesians 4:29 follows that: Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

Certainly every day I blow it. I say mean things. I certainly think mean things. A lot of the time, I want to walk - no, run - away from my life and start all over as a single, childless, and carefree woman in a breezy apartment overlooking el Paseo de la Castellana in Madrid. I am selfish and thoughtless; as proof of that, I confess that I like to shop more than I like to clean the house.

But the deepest desire of my heart is to honor God with every decision I make.
Beyond that, I long to become the strongest, most joyful, gracious, and creative woman I can be, and in turn love, honor, respect, and build others up.

Every night I want my last thought to be a question:
Have I made at least one connection, had at least one interaction,
or made at least one decision today that honored God and encouraged someone else?

Every time I can honestly answer "Yes" will have been a good day.

Thanks, Andrea, for your blog and the challenge to make every connection count.

Friday, November 03, 2006

What are you dreaming about?

Earlier this week I began to read a book by SARK called Making Your Creative Dreams Real. Colorful, challenging, and encouraging, this book is making me look at myself and my life through newly enlightened eyes. Lots of questions have bubbled to the surface.

What have I always dreamt that I could do or be?
What were some of my childhood dreams for my life?
Have any of those dreams changed?
If not, am I pursuing any of them?

The good news is that I have rediscovered some of my childhood dreams.
Turns out I have always wanted to:
Be a wife and mother.
Be a teacher.
Read and write a lot.

The more exciting news is that I have figured out ways to combine and expand on those dreams. Nowadays my dream includes the desire to be a teacher who travels all over the world telling stories, sharing tips on how to live a grace-filled, wonder-filled, joy-filled life. I want to meet men and women who are living out their dreams (even if their "day jobs" don't have anything to do with those dreams), ask them how they are doing it, and then (with their permission) taking their advice, suggestions, and tips to share with others.

My greatest challenge in this area is to continue to expand on those dreams.
And to bring them to life. To live my dreams out loud. Without apology.

To make what SARK calls "micromovements" towards the accomplishment of those goals. I can make telephone calls to friends and ask if they know of someone who might benefit from a class or motivational talk I am willing to give. I can keep reading this book and stimulating my imagination to discover other movements, other venues, and other lessons I need to learn in order to keep living out my dreams. By way of encouragement, I can make lists of all the ways in which my dreams have already come true. I can transform those dreamy moments into talks and topics I'd love to teach about.

I find myself smiling a lot this week as I think about the myriad ways I can potentially live out my dreams. I find myself laughing to myself as I honor the fact that I am already living out some of them. And I am humbled by the fact that I have the time, the energy, and the support of family and friends as I seek ways to go even farther, to dig deeper, and to shine brighter in this increasingly dark and lonely world.

As fall turns into winter, I will warm myself by the fires of friendship, community, and fake gas logs in the fireplace while sippling chamomile and lavender tea.

As the stress and demands of the holidays descend upon me, I will refuse to be overwhelmed, instead taking time to relax with Steve and the children, escape to Barnes and Noble and Starbucks, and practice saying "No" to parties and other events that I don't wish to attend. Without excuse. Just a simple "No." It's okay; they will just invite someone else to take my place.

As war rages on, I will seek peace.

As personal and relational insecurity increases all around me,
I will stand strong and secure in who I am and Whose I am.

As fear and fear-mongering prevail, I will claim the truth of Psalm 23:
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil for You
(The God who Sees, The God who Heals, Provides, and Protects)
art with me.

In the midst of it all, I will keep on dreaming.
I will live out these dreams as best I can.
And I will not stop living as boldly and loudly as I can until
this aging shell that houses my
dreaming, praying, wandering, wondering soul
is laid to rest in the casket.

Until then, rock on, dudes and dudettes.
Rock on.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Thursday Thirteen: Irritation x (times) thirteen

1. Politicians who lie

2. Politicians who twist each other's words

3. Negative political ads

4. Politicians who appear at the end of ads to say "I am so-and-so, and I approve this ad."

5. All the excuses that politicians make in order to justify their selfish, unjust, unfair, financially- and morally-questionable decisions

6. The elected officials who compromise what they know is right in order to be either elected or reelected

7. The lies we believe in order to vote for the candidates we choose

8. The lies we tell in order to justify our political choices

9. The desperate scarcity of helpful information we receive from candidates in order to make informed decisions

10. Finding political propaganda on my car that tells me nothing about any particular candidate, but serves to incite my ire all the more

11. The venomous, biased, mean-spirited discussion that goes on in relation to politics

12. How little I trust our political system: will my vote be counted? Is it possible to know for sure? How sad is it that I even have to wonder about it?

13. We can make bullets to pierce armor. We can build spaceships that go into outer space and return in one piece (most of the time). We have the capacity to listen to every phone call made by anyone and everyone in this country. We can also monitor every email sent to and fro. How can it be that in this nation, the United States of America, this nation that is exporting democracy around the world, we cannot come up with a nationally established and applied standard for electing our officials? Why can't we come up with a reliable voting machine? And why is it that only now, at the time of national elections, are we hearing that there are still major problems with the voting machines that are being used all over our country?

Added on Friday, November 3rd at 3 PM: Here we go with yet another evangelical Christian/pastor/political advisor sex scandal. What is it that is so difficult for these guys to understand? If you are a closet homosexual or a pedophile or an addict of some kind or spousal abuser, please do us all a favor and don't preach publically against the lifestyle you have chosen to live in secret.

You are going to get caught.
You are going to tell a series of lies to cover your trail.
Then you will end up having to tell the truth,
humiliating yourself, your family, and your church.
Then all of us who are trying hard not to dishonor
the Name of Jesus end up having to answer for your hypocrisy.

If you wanna live in the closet, then choose a spacious one,
decorate it to your taste, and live contentedly there.
Sit back, shut up, and keep your dirty little secrets to yourself.
That's what I'm doing!!!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Four years ago today...

We set out from Norwalk, Connecticut, for Charlotte, North Carolina.
I vacuumed my house one last time.
Walked its empty rooms.
Gave thanks for all the joys we had shared there and
blessed each room for its future occupants.
And I wept.

Five years of abundant living had come to an end,
and we were on our way to an entirely new life,
a life brimming with abundance we had
never known or imagined would ever be ours to enjoy.

Five years at 145 North Seir Hill Road in Norwalk.
The white raised ranch on the corner of Grey Hollow Road.
The house with the ice-water swimming pool and expansive lawn.
The house with the magnificent old trees that provided us with deep shade in the summer and inundated us with deep piles of colorful leaves in the fall.
The house with the wood-burning fireplace and the cool tile floor in the basement. The house with its pantry in the basement and kitchen on the upper floor.
The house with the well and its salt crystal water purification system.
The house where Daniel learned to walk and play baseball.
The house where Kristiana learned to read and play basketball.
The house were we had Bible studies and pool parties, dinners and Easter egg hunts, noisy birthday parties and quiet Christmas mornings.
The house where the homeschooling adventure began.
The house where I learned how to use the internet and how to reboot my computer after viruses had taken over.
Five years flew by in that house. And I am grateful for every minute.

Four years ago today, our life in that house ended.
Four years ago tomorrow, our life in this house began.
How these years have flown.
This house that surpasses all my house-related dreams with its brick exterior, its dark hardwood floors downstairs and cozy carpet upstairs, its kitchen island, built-in cabinets, and its many light- and air- welcoming windows.
This house with its squeaks, leaks, cracks, and crevices.
This house that protects our lives, our dreams, our dog, our books, and so much more.
This house where I take my life into my hands every time I have to relight the gas-powered water heater. (When will somebody invent a gas water heater that doesn't need to be lit by human hands???)
This house where I have learned to blog and have made friends that I know only because of the internet.
This house where I have begun to scrapbook.
This house where my daughter is blossoming into a beautiful teenage girl and
my son is becoming the kind of young man I am proud to call my own.
This house from which I am moving out into the world as a motivational speaker and retreat leader.
This house where we have lived, loved, argued, made up, welcomed friends, and banned bugs.

This house of dreams.
This house of belonging.
This house that is a home to a family I know and love
and to a future I don't yet know but excitedly anticipate.

For each day,
with its blessings and blunders,
with its cheerfulness and challenges,
with its delights and disappointments,
with its grace and grumbling,
with its laughter and laments,
with its lessons and losses,
with all that I am and all that I have,
I give thanks.

Thank you to all of you who knew me before this Charlotte adventure began, those who wished me well on my journey, and those who have traveled with me in body, mind, and spirit every step of the way. Thank you to all of you, my internet/blog/virtual world friends, not only those who read my rantings and then write to me, call me, encourage me, pray for me, but also to those of you who read this blog but do none of the above. Thank you for walking this pilgrim pathway for these two years that I've been blogging. Please journey on with me.

Grace, peace, and mercy be yours.
Today and forever.
Or at the very least for
four more years...
four more years...

Speaking of which - To the American citizens in the crowd: Don't forget to vote!