Tuesday, October 30, 2007

She is the reason...

for my quietness these past few days. Today is my daughter's 14th birthday. Lots of gift buying and wrapping. Lots of reminiscing about those last days of my pregnancy, those thirteen hours of labor, and the arrival of our first-born, much-anticipated, and dearly beloved, Kristiana Nicole. Bursting onto the scene at a healthy 9 pounds and 1 ounce, 22 inches, she filled our arms and our hearts with joy and laughter from the first day.

Ain't she gorgeous??? Whether opening gifts on our bed early in the morning or looking dazzling late in the evening, this girl radiates light and peace and grace. Okay, I'm more than a tiny bit biased, I know - but if you ask anybody who knows her, they will say the same.

Yes, we wrapped up a few trinkets and doo-dads and gave them to her
on this, her special day.
But for Steve, Daniel, and me, she is the gift.

Every year around this time, I am reminded of a great story that a friend of mine tells each of her four daughters - and not only on their birthdays. She gathers each one into her arms, pulls her in close, and says, "Way back before you were born, way up in heaven, God looked around at all the beautiful babies, and He chose you to be born into our family. Of all those babies, you were the one He gave to us. And we are so thrilled that He did." I like that.

You, Kristiana, are the one chosen for us. We couldn't be happier.

Happy birthday, pretty girl.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Thankful Thursday

This photo was taken at Wing Haven in 2006.
That is Daniel's well-clad foot.
That is a much loved prayer of mine.
1. It's raining here in Charlotte. It has been raining since yesterday afternoon.
A slow, steady soaking rain. Thanks be to God.

2. I have felt surrounded by love and challenged by love in these past few days. Your words and prayers are appreciated and evident in my heart and soul.

3. A week or so ago, I browsed the shelves of my personal library and made two piles of books I have bought over the years but have never read. In doing so, I rediscovered one volume I'd bought ages ago. It was on the shelf closest to my desk, but my eyes had stopped seeing it. (Does that happen to anyone else?)

The book in question was written/compiled by Sabrina Ward Harrison, and is titled, The True and The Questions. Essentially it is a journal with various questions, quotes, and writing prompts. Thick paper to write on with fat markers. Lots of room for stickers and ephemera, stories and prayers.

I pulled it out last weekend and started filling its pages with random thoughts, lists, hopes, dreams, disappointments, and the like. I already keep a journal that has lined pages, and I love it. I continue to fill those pages. But this book is different. It's colorful. It's messy and sticky and I don't have to fill the pages in order. It's a place where the mystery and the mess of my life can spill without fear of messing anything up or crossing any pre-determined and well-established lines. What a timely re-discovery for me - perfect for my current state of mind and spirit.

4. The title itself is perfect for me right now too:
The True and The Questions.

I know what is true: God has not given me a spirit of fear but of power and love and a sound mind. I know that I am not alone. I know that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. I know that all my needs have always been provided; I have never missed a meal or lacked anything I have needed. I know that I am surrounded by and filled with love. I know the truth.

But still... there are the questions. Some of them, many of them, are answered with all that I know is True. It's just that sometimes I forget the truth. It's just that sometimes my questions do not have simple answers. Sometimes the answers I receive do not seem adequate. Sometimes there do not appear to be any answers at all. And all of that is okay. I must remember and cling to the truth.

I know the verse: "You shall know The Truth, and The Truth shall set you free."

I guess I have to ask myself how well I know the truth.
Why I so often forget it.

Why I so often listen to, believe, and live as though
all the lies
about fear, weakness, and hopelessness
anger, violence, and war,
emptiness, insufficiency, and inadequacy,
are true.

5. When I focus on that which is true, the questions subside - temporarily.
When I lose perspective on what is true again (I repeat this cycle often), I can come always back to it. I don't have to remain adrift on the sea of questions and fear and doubt indefinitely. Sometimes I need to relax and let the rip tides of life pull me away from the beach - and rest in the knowledge that when my flailing finally ceases, I will be carried back to shore. On the life-saving truth of The Word, on the backs of other travelers who willingly bear me up, and escort me back to where I can stand on my own again. (See #2.)

6. I have some awesome friends. Some of my dearest friends live hours and hours away. Some of these fabulous friends I have never met face-to-face, but the depth of their love and concern for me, the strength of their commitment to me is greater than many people I see regularly.

7. I am loved.

8. My daughter makes an awesome trail mix: nuts, raisins, M&Ms, sesame sticks, and other goodies.

9. Yerba mate tea, hot and sweet, is a great way to start the day.

10. It's okay to drink more than one cup of yerba mate.

11. Although my bones are stiffening with age and my skin is wrinkling,
I do not yawn at my life.
My life, with all its twists, turns,
unexpected riptides, and strong undercurrents
is not boring. It never has been.
Thanks be to God.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Now and The Not Yet

The pier at Sunset Beach. As I stood beneath it and took this photo, I marveled at how those sturdy beams withstood the pounding of the waves. But I also remembered all the times I have seen weathermen and women stand beside the remainder of such structures after the passage of a hurricane. The power of the wind and waves can overwhelm even the strongest buildings... and people.

There is a curious, confounding, and reassuring story in the New Testament book of Mark, chapter 4, that I have been thinking about this afternoon. It is the story of Jesus and His disciples crossing the lake. Here is the story - with my commentary:

That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, "Let us go over to the other side of the lake." Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped.

Whose idea was it to cross the lake? It was Jesus' idea. I wonder if the disciples wondered why they were crossing. Did they even want to cross? Was there something on the other side that they had decided they wanted to see or explore? Or was the decision exclusively his? No answer is provided in the text, but we read that they got into the boat.

Makes me wonder: how many of the paths in my life were taken without much forethought on my part? Was there something on the other side of grad school, marriage, parenthood, homeschooling that I decided I wanted to see? How did I decide to take these pathways, to travel this particular route through life? Looking back, the answers to those questions aren't entirely clear, but nevertheless here I am in the boat. I am not alone in this boat. There are lots of boats floating around on the vast ocean that is this life, and there are lots of people in all those boats.

All kinds of furious squalls have come upon us, and many of our boats are being swamped. There are the Southern Californians in all kinds of boats, trying to escape the squalls of fire. The water-weary residents of New Orleans are watching their city flood again - in different kinds of boats. The afraid, the alone, the abandoned - are in the boat. There are the abused, the confused, the misused, the misunderstood, and the downright downtrodden - all in their own boats, watching the waves overtake them one by one.

Where are we going, Lord? What's on the other side of this choppy, turbulent, life-threatening water? When will we reach the other side? Will we reach the other side?

Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, "Teacher, don't you care if we drown?"

I don't know about anybody else out there, but I've spent an inordinate amount of time asking this question lately. I sometimes couch it in kinder, gentler, more sanctified terms than the disciples did, but the question is essentially the same.












This part is the now.
The tears, the troubles, the loss, the anguish.
This is the now.

Next comes the "not yet."

He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, "Peace. Be still." Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.

"Lord, I beg you, please wake up. Stand up. Rebuke the waves, the flames, the fists being cocked back in anger, the pink slips being pushed across desks in apathy, the disease that claims entire families and villages, the violence, the bullets, the racism, and the all-consuming greed. Lord, please calm the stormy marriages and parent-child relationships, the fears of all people the world over. Lord, I pray for a calming of the wind and the seas that threaten to overwhelm all of us. Please cause the roaring of our anxious hearts to quiet down and the shaking of our shrill voices to be still. Please bring us peace."

Here is a lone surfer, against all odds, facing the ocean waves alone.
How often I have felt like him. And you?

He said to his disciples, "Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?"

My answer to his questions: "I'm afraid because I don't have the power to bring peace, not to my children, not to my friends, not even to myself. I'm afraid because I cannot see the horizon, but I believe that you can. I'm afraid because I'm human, and humans are fearful creatures. I'm afraid because my faith wavers. Or does my faith waver because I'm afraid? I don't know the answer to that question either, Lord, but I do know this: I am afraid. I do have faith - most of the time. No, I have faith all of the time; it's just that doubts come right along with my faith. Questions too. Wondering.

"If you don't mind, by way of answering your second question, I'm gonna quote back to you something someone said to you in Mark 9, 'I do believe; help my unbelief.' You promised In Joshua 1 that you would be with us. You promised in Philippians 4 that your peace would pass our understanding. You promised in Isaiah 43 that the fire and the floods wouldn't burn us or sweep over us. Lord, please help us to stand strong and watch with rapt attention as you keep your promises."

They were terrified and asked each other, "Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him."

Here is another part of the not yet.
The wind and waves haven't obeyed yet.
At least not as far as I can see now.

The now and the not yet.
Right now, the earth is parched and the trees are dying here in Charlotte.
Right now, the sky is dark and cloudy.
Right now, however, it's not raining.
Not yet.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Keeping Life in Perspective - Again

The wild fires in California are still uncontained.
Hundreds of thousands of people have had to evacuate their homes.

Flooding in many areas of South East Asia.
At one point, over a million people in China had to evacuate their homes.

A woman at a friend's church buried her 3rd and last surviving child last week.
Cause of death for all three: untreatable cancer.

A homeschooling family of nine (seven children!) that I mentioned over a year ago.
The father is still out of work.

I find myself praying the same prayer dozens of times each day.
"Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy."

I remember the story of one family whose house burned down earlier this year. They packed whatever they could grab and evacuated. They came back to nothing. The insurance check arrived. They decided not to rebuild. They asked themselves a powerful and life-changing question: who needs all that stuff?

That family of nine has not missed one meal or mortgage payment. Friends and family have left countless checks, supermarket gift cards and bags of groceries. Two weeks ago, that family hosted a "Celebration" party. They wanted to celebrate the goodness of God even as they await His provision of a job for Dad. They continue to pray for mercy, yes, but they also give thanks for all that they already have received.

That bereaved mother, what can I say? What can she say? Not much. There are no easy or pat answers to the questions she must be asking of God. But in every moment of her sorrow, she has been surrounded by friends who know enough not to lecture her or try to stem the tide of her tears. Friends who show their love and support and who live out the love of God simply by showing up and being right there if she needs them.

I am grateful for the repeated reminders that it is only
His mercy, His comforting presence,
His peace that passes all our understanding
that sustain us.
That strengthen us.
That keep us all from being consumed.

"Tis grace has brought me safe thus far,
and grace will lead me home."

Friday, October 19, 2007

An "aha" moment...

It rained last night and this morning. It has rained off and on today. For that I am enormously grateful. We still need at least 14 inches of rain to catch up, but every drop helps. As I folded a load of laundry this afternoon, I wondered about how many more days we will have water to do laundry and shower and drink. I've heard that there are some counties and cities that have less than 100 days of water left. What happens then? What will happen next?

I started to worry.
What if we run out of water?
What if we have to have power outages because
the hydroelectric plant doesn't have enough water to run it?
What if the roots of one of the trees out back give way
and a tree falls on the roof?
What if the drought continues?
What if???

Above and below are the two people who take up the most space in my thoughts and prayers on a daily basis. I pray for their protection, peace, health, strength, and salvation from all that would do them harm of any kind.

From there, my mind moved down the list of my favorite concerns.
What if one of us gets sick?
What if one of the children gets hurt?
What if there is a fire?
What if Steve loses his job?
What if we have to move away from Charlotte?
What would happen then?
Broken fingernails, food poisoning, job change, illness, drought, robbery,
car accidents, death, war, tornado, earthquake.
You name it, I began to think about it and worry about it.

From there, my mind moved on to prayer.
Lord, have mercy on us. Please send us more rain.
Lord, please protect my husband and children.
Lord, I worry about so many things.
There's nothing I can do to change the weather,
but I worry anyway.
There's nothing I can about so many things in the world,
but I worry anyway.
I don't like to worry.
I don't want to worry.
I know I shouldn't worry.

At that moment, instantly, a clear response came to my mind.
It was as though a Voice spoke directly to me.
"So stop worrying."


"Stop worrying.
If worry does nothing, then stop worrying.
If worry changes nothing and accomplishes nothing,
then stop worrying."

You mean I can choose to stop worrying? I have a choice?

"Yes, you can decide to stop worrying.
The worries will undoubtedly return.
When they do, decide to stop worrying again.
For now, stop worrying."


So I stopped worrying.
For now.

This is a photo of us at the local white water training center.
Can you guess which one of us was tired of being in photos?

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Day of Global Action against Poverty

I received this email from One.Org earlier today.
Today is our day —the Global Day of Action Against Poverty— the day for the billion people around the world who live in extreme poverty.

Today, ONE members and activists from partner organizations are walking the halls of Congress delivering tens of thousands of letters—most of them from members like you—about the Jubilee Act.

Today, Reverend David Duncombe is eating for his first full day after his 40 day fast.

Today, by making thousands of phone calls to Congress asking them to cosponsor the Jubilee Act, we can make the difference between passage and failure for this crucial piece of legislation.

You can make a call in just one minute by:
Calling 1-800-786-2663
Going here to get more information about how to talk to your representative and to register your call— this helps One.Org keep track of which offices need to receive more calls.

The Jubilee Act calls for debt relief for some of the world's poorest nations. Experience proves that debt relief for countries committed to investing in their people's future is one of the most effective ways to fight extreme poverty. And it's easy to see why.

Haiti spends twice as much repaying debt as it does on health care. Eliminating this debt would allow Haiti to spend more on programs that would help the extremely poor like Tanzania did in 2000. When Tanzania's debt was canceled, that government was able to eliminate school fees, sending 1.6 million children to school almost overnight.

Since we started taking action on the Jubilee Act last week, key Senators introduced a companion bill, a critical step in the process. That's just the beginning. If we make our voices heard on Capitol Hill, if we get the phones ringing off the hook, we can put momentum behind the Jubilee Act. And it all starts with you.

Please dial 1-800-786-2663 and ask your elected officials to co-sponsor the Jubilee Act.

A billion people around the world live in extreme poverty. They don't have a voice in Congress. Let's lend them ours. On this Global Day of Action Against Poverty, take a minute, make a call, and help to save their lives.

Thank you,

Susan McCue, ONE.org

PS. If you want more information about the Jubilee Act as well as other initiatives to help the poor, sick, and needy in our world, click here.

PSS. I called my two senators and asked them to sponsor this bill. It took less than five minutes, less time than waiting for a cup of coffee at Starbucks or fast food at the drive thru. Rather than only ranting and raving against poverty, I did something. Each ONE of us can make a difference. Please make the phone call on behalf of the hurting and hungry in our world.

Ten Things You Will Always Find

This is a photo of my journal from yesterday afternoon. I was sitting at Daniel's baseball practice (notice the bleachers around the edges of the photos) with pens and gluesticks, various things I'd printed off the computer, and lots of goodies cut out of Skirt magazine. Collages. List-making. Reading. All kinds of creative and colorful fun. And all of it came out of my magical, mysterious handbag... Read on!

In My Purse/Pocketbook/Mini Suitcase. The huge Baggallini satchel I haul around with me everywhere I go.

1. A cosmetic pouch with various lip glosses, hand gel, Listerine strips, a small mirror, and extra keys for the house and the car.

2. A pen case with a dozen colored pens and a glue stick.

3. A small notebook for notes, grocery lists, and ideas for future writings.

4. A Bible.

5. A small digital camera.

6. My calendar.

7. A glasses case with whichever pair of glasses I'm not wearing - either my sunglasses or my regular glasses.

8. My wallet.

9. The remote control alarm setter for the house.

10. Gum, mints, or candy of some kind.


Most of the time, I also have my journal, a book to read, my iPod, a snack of some kind, a ziploc bag with a toothbrush and toothpaste, and a large pencil case with other kinds of pens, markers, scissors, and more glue sticks.

On occasion, I will carry an umbrella and a sweater or scarf of some kind.

I have even been known to carry bug spray, sunscreen, treats for the movies, jelly bean stashes, and magazines.

This bag can weigh up to 15 pounds at any given time. When I wear tank tops or stare at myself in the mirror before I am fully dressed, my right shoulder is visibly larger than my left. I have no regrets about my asymmetry. I am a collector and carrier of stuff. I cannot imagine leaving home without any of my stuff.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

What would you do if...

Terminal 4, Madrid Barajas Airport.

you knew you couldn't fail?

Andrea from the Superhero Journal blog posted this question last week on her blog (Scroll down to her post from October 11, 2007). I've spent many hours thinking about that question. Another blog posted by Jen Lemen prompted a whole host of other thoughts: Make a list of 100 things you hope/wish/plan to do before you die.

The following is a combination answer to those two queries.

* Travel all over the world, spending six to twelve months in any city or town that drew me in.

* Get lost in parks, libraries, museums, and airports.

* Dance and sing a lot more. Out loud. In public places.
With my husband and children. And anyone else who would dare to join in.

* Give out a lot more hugs. Tell a lot more people how I feel about them -
well, the good stuff, anyway.

* Keep more of the bad stuff to myself.

* Take the scenic route more often. Pull over. Take photos. Sketch.
Close my eyes and breathe in new scents from scenic places.

* Learn to speak Italian fluently.

* Fly first class to a far-off destination.

* Meet up with my blogging buddies in their hometowns.

* Watch Wimbledon tennis on center court.

* Go back to Paris.

* Take a spontaneous trip. Leave a note, but don't say where I'm going.

* Walk through a museum with a good friend. Gaze silently at the art. Smile.

* Meet some of the people in Antonio's family.

* Become the woman I dream of meeting and knowing.

* Speak to a group of 500 or more people.

* Go for an entire year without buying any clothes.

* But only after going on a "What Not To Wear" type of shopping spree.

* Dance under the full moon.

* Dance in the rain. Get soaked. Keep on dancing.

* Apply for the Rome Prize or some other grant. Go live overseas, explore,
read, write, do research - on someone else's dime.

* Learn to sew - and make my own clothes. Accessories to match, of course.

* Learn to cook better. Learn to like cooking.

* Put up anonymous love notes in public places.

* Be reunited with my most distant brother.

* Sell a lot of our stuff and downsize to a well-built, well-appointed,
well-insulated, "off the grid" bungalow or cottage-style house.

* Stop feeling guilty for all the ways in which my wishes, dreams, and faith conflict. Accept myself and my contradictions. Stop apologizing.

* Realize and accept that my faith and my love for people (no matter their hang-ups, addictions, marital status, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, gender, nationality, immigration status, race, age, etc.), for this planet, and for myself, with all my own hang-ups, addictions, etc --> recognize that those things don't conflict. I am called to love all people. I am called to care for the world that I live in. I am called to be strong and of good courage, to pray without ceasing, and to greet others with a holy kiss. What's wrong with that???

Those are my bags, and that is my coat.
In Madrid, awaiting my flight to La Coruna.
Off to see Antonio.
On the road. On my own.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Five Things That Are Great

in my life right now.

1. I am doing a lot of journaling, blogging, scrapbooking, reading, and creating things I like lately. Colored markers, stickers, rubber stamps, paper clips, hole punchers, glue dots are flying around here. I'm loving it!

2. I began teaching a Bible study at the church yesterday with some of the Spanish-speaking women. I love to teach, and I love to speak Spanish - doing both at the same time - bliss! It looks like I am going to be teaching another journaling class in January. Yup, two classes, two preps, but like I said, I love to teach! It would be nice to get paid... but the joy of my students and the learning that I do along the way will have to be my payment for now.


This is me, talking, teaching, mouth wide open, doing what I love best.
Amazingly enough, the women's group from the church I attended when we lived in CT, has invited me to be their retreat speaker three years in a row. I keep telling them that when they tire of me and decide to invite someone else, I will not be offended. In the meantime, if they keep asking, I will keep going back. And they even pay me; what a blessing!

3. I have reconnected with several dear friends of late. Through emails, text messages, telephone calls, and snail mail. (One friend sent me a book and message series that are blowing my mind! BLOWING MY MIND! The book is entitled The Myth of a Christian Nation. The sermon series by the same author, Greg Boyd, is called "The Sword and The Cross." Wow on both counts!) I like being remembered and loved; I am beginning to suspect that we all do. Friendship is grand.

4. We haven't seen any ants in over two weeks. We broke down and bought Terro Ant Baits - and they work. We haven't seen a single ant since the day we put them out. I'm still a little nervous about the whole situation, afraid that I will have a major heart attack if they return, but so far so good. What is it about those tiny little creatures that bothers me so much???

5. Today is Sunday - my favorite day of the week. Coffee and conversation with Steve this morning. Church. Out to lunch alone with Kristiana. Right now, she is hanging out with two of her friends while I sit here blogging. Steve and Daniel are doing some sports-related thing... (They returned home as I wrote this paragraph). In a few minutes, Steve, Daniel, Kristiana, her friends, and I will return to church for "Family Day" - food, games, and fellowship there from 3 until 6 pm.

If I gave it a few minutes, the list of things in my life that are a challenge right now could easily fill a page or two, but the blessings far outnumber the difficulties. My goal is to focus my thoughts more on that which is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy.

Life is good.
God is good.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Being and going green...

I've been tagged again. It's a tag about "being green." I like the idea of being green, green like spring, money, and romaine lettuce. Green is good. Lulliloo's husband recently returned from a leadership conference in Atlanta that had a workshop that focused on spiritual stewardship of the earth. Sounds like an excellent workshop to me.

The challenge is to list three ways in which I practice protection of the environment. (I will list more than three...)

1. We are extremely conservative in our use of water: short showers, not letting the water run while we are brushing our teeth or wiping down the kitchen counters. I hate being at someone's house and watching them let the water run while they wipe the counters and the stove, load the dishwasher, and turn to me to chat. I often ask if the water needs to run. Even in stores and restaurants, I ask if water has to be running if no one is at the sink. As a family, we are not wedded to the idea of a daily shower either. If you haven't been sweating or rolling in the dirt of a baseball field, then why take a shower? Grab a wash cloth to wash your face, armpits, and other needy places, and take a shower tomorrow.

(I will digress here for a Dolly Parton quip. She said that when she was growing up, her family didn't have running water, so they would each have a little pot or tub of water and have to wash using a small amount of water. In teaching them how to clean themselves, her mother would tell them, "Wash as far up as possible. Wash as far down as possible. Then wash "possible." Get it?)

2. We recycle every kind of paper: paper towels (which I need to wean us off us!), junk mail, magazines, cereal boxes, facial tissues, anything that is paper, plastic, or glass, we recycle. Like Lulliloo, I regularly go through the garbage to find what others have tossed. Our weekly garbage amount has diminished substantially since we became more serious recyclers.

3. The vast majority of the detergents, soaps, and cleaners we use in the house are enviromentally friendly: organic, completely biodegradable, and then we recycle the bottle, of course. We buy in bulk so that we don't buy and toss dozens of small bottles each year. And I am getting better about using sponges, brushes, and cloths to clean, and not only paper towels. One all-natural detergent company claims that if every household in America traded a single bottle of petroleum-based laundry detergent (yes, it's made from oil!) for a non-oil based product, just one bottle, millions of barrels of oil could be saved. Imagine if every household traded two or three bottles per year?? Talk about dependence on crude and refined oil going way down... what a concept!

4. Turning off lights in rooms where we aren't is also a big thing in our house. Not everyone has caught on with this one, but we are making progress.

5. We keep our air conditioning on 79 or 80 degrees in the summer, and at 68 in the winter. My dad used to tell us that we didn't need to be walking around in shorts in the dead of winter or sweatpants in the summer. We had to adjust our dress code to the thermostat and not the other way around.

6. We try to open our windows as much as possible in the car - avoiding the use of air conditioning when we can. In the NC heat, that's not always possible, but as soon as the car cools off, we turn off the AC and deal with the heat for as long as we can stand it.

7. We have begun to use the long-lasting lightbulbs. Inside and outside.

8. Before we were in drought conditions and were required to stop watering our lawn, we made the decision to water less. To think about the ramifications on the environment of using strong lawn products and fertilizers. To consider whether the precious resource that is water is best used to keep our lawn green. To talk about what lawns are for. Lawn owners get the grass to grow in thick and green and then tell their children not to play or walk on them. "Don't lay down. Don't sit down. Just stay off the lawn." What's up with that?

Thanks for the challenge to think about ways to live better, to take better care of our planet, and to encourage others to do the same. This is the only planet we've got; why not take great care of it and leave as many of its bountiful, beautiful resources for our children to enjoy as we possibly can?

The last time I was in Connecticut, I had the chance to go past the house we lived in when we were CT residents. This was it - our humble abode. The two windows on the bottom right side of the house were our homeschool room. I learned how to surf the internet in that room. The large window above that was our living room. To the left of the front door, that first window on the top floor was Daniel's bedroom. And the last window on the left on the top was my study - which was the guest room when we had visitors. Kristiana's room was in the back opposite Daniel's room. Our bedroom was on the back next to my study. The two lower windows on the left were in the garage.

Look at that lawn! We had a blast playing on it: wiffle ball, kickball, soccer, running all around, chasing each other, playing catch, building snowmen and igloos in winter. Good memories!

We also had water concerns there because we had a well. How much water is in the well? Is the water clean enough? What if we don't get enough rain? I heard stories about other people's wells running dry, but we never had that problem - thanks be to God. There is a rather large pool behind the house. When the water leaked from the pool (which was often as the pool was old) or evaporated in the summer sun, I was perpetually nervous about refilling the pool from the well... Not such good memories! But, boy oh boy, did we love that house!

For those of you keeping score, we have been in our current house for nearly five years; it will be five years on November 2nd! Steve started working at the bank in the middle of September of 2002 and lived in a corporate apartment for a while, but the kids and I didn't get here until the beginning of November. These five years have FLOWN by!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

A few links to check out...

Who wouldn't feel creative in a space like this?

This is the kind of radical honesty I aspire to...

A tired mummy's blog of quotes relating to war and peace: look here.

Amy's blog about communion: look here.

It's nice to be remembered and spoken well of... it really is. (Scroll down to the piece dated October 8, 2007)

You have six weeks to live. You have an audience of 400 people who want to hear your parting thoughts. What would you tell them? Listen to this guy.

Do something simple, quick, and in support of cancer research. Go to this website and click the big pink box. No purchase. No info to give away. And while you are there, follow the other links at the top of the page to click and support other worthy causes. It's free to you, but makes a difference in lives of other people and in the life of our planet.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Sometimes... Random Thoughts on This Monday Evening

Silence is the best answer.

Love is the only gift I can offer.

A hug makes me feel much better.

Tears are the best cleaning solution.

Running away is the best way to deal with it.

Taking inventory is the best reminder of life's blessings.

A smile is the only alternative to weeping.

My journal is my only friend.

One pastor friend used to say, "Stop questioning your reality. Question your fantasies."

A wise teacher recently said, "Nothing is ideal."


I have found it hard to maintain high spirits this afternoon and evening. Earlier in the day, I had a long talk and took a short walk with a dear friend who is hurting, feeling overwhelmed with work, and wondering how she is going to resolve the myriad problems she is facing. I have thought of her and prayed for her often this evening.

What can I do to help her?
What burdens of hers can I carry?
How should I pray for her?
How should I pray for the many people I know who are in pain, afraid, lonely, wondering when the sadness, the fear, and the drought (physical and spiritual) will end?

Here I sit in my study in the unrelenting Charlotte heat (is it really 90 degrees on October 8th?), wondering what to do, what to say, how to think, and how to pray. I look at my bookshelf in the hopes of finding the perfect book with the perfect quote and the perfect answer for all that ails me, my friend, and the world. If only it were that easy...

Maybe it's easier than I thought. There is one section of my non-fiction books that is shelved in alphabetical order according to the author's last name. The following list of titles is captured in the order in which they appear on the shelf. (This is not an exhaustive list, mind you, but these are the titles that caught my attention tonight.)

Journal to the Self
Living the Questions
Beyond Codependency
Finding your Way Home
Sex God
Simple Abundance
Loving God Through the Darkness
The Sacred Romance
The Journey of Desire
Eat Pray Love
Being Peace
A Testament of Devotion
The Dance of the Dissident Daughter
First Light
When the Heart Waits
God's Joyful Surprise
Operating Instructions
Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith
Plan B: More Thoughts on Faith
Grace (Eventually)
Practicing His Presence
A New Kind of Christian
The Story We Find Ourselves In
Searching for God Knows What
Through Painted Deserts
Amazing Grace: A New Vocabulary of Faith
The Cloister Walk
The Quotidian Mysteries
Can You Drink the Cup?
Clowning in Rome
A Cry for Mercy
Here and Now
The Inner Voice of Love
Life of the Beloved
Making All Things New
Show Me the Way
With Burning Hearts
With Open Hands
My Monastery is A Minivan
Leaving Church
The Bridges of Madison County (a juicy novel thrown in to remind me that I am human!)
girl meets God
Mudhouse Sabbath
Dangerous Wonder
Messy Spirituality

Perfect. The perfect list/metaphor/answer to so much that is ailing me at the moment. So many words of grace, encouragement, and challenge.

From start to finish: I am moving beyond codependency towards the God who created sex and romance and desire and laughter and joy in all its forms, eating, praying, loving. There is room in my life for His joyful surprises and a desperate need for operating instructions. So many thoughts on faith because I DO want to be a new kind of Christian, one with my questions and doubts and wanderings in the forefront of my life. I do not want to spend my life sitting in one place, but rather searching for (only) God knows what through painted deserts, dry cities, and quiet cathedrals. I am on a cloister walk, seeking a new vocabulary for the amazing grace that gave birth to this new kind of Christianity, with my eyes wide open for the mysteries embedded in all the quotidian demands of my life.

Here and now, I wish I were clowning in Rome, but because I cannot do that I will walk though my life asking Christ to show me the way, to keep my heart burning and my hands open to receive all that He has for me. On most days, my monastery is not only my minivan, but also my kitchen counter. I have been known to find sanctuary in the aisles of the supermarket, on my knees scrubbing the floor, standing over a hot iron, and kneeling beside my children's beds at night as we bid each other farewell until morning.

Will I ever have the courage to leave church for a while, to be the girl who meets God in the coffeehouse on the sabbath day, filled with silent and dangerous wonder for the mess that is my spiritual life???

(Can you say all that three times fast?)

If you scan this photo carefully, you can see some of the elephants in my elephant statue collection. I hope to have 25 eventually... from all over the world. The books on the top right-hand shelves, the ones that all look identical, those are filled journals. Those volumes cover the years from 1998 until the present. Since capturing this photo last November, I rearranged the shelves, shifting the journals so they fill the top left shelf as well, and adding more of the books that I needed within arm's length of my desk. Perhaps I will take an updated photo of my study...

Friday, October 05, 2007

For those who love the book - Eat Pray Love

The author, Elizabeth Gilbert, will be on Oprah today at 4 PM, EST. Check it out. Or record it and watch it later.

Also, there is a great book club interview with her on the Borders.com website. Check it out here. It is well worth the thirty to forty minutes it takes to watch it. I listened, took notes, and look forward to what new things will transpire in my own life as a result of reading the book, pondering its implications, and deciding to stand up tall for the things and people I believe in. Life is too short to back down and back peddle and apologize for who I am and what matters most to me.

Look out world; Gail is making a plan and preparing to launch it.
The countdown is on.


I often return to this photo taken on our trip up north back in June. I remember how strange and how strong I felt as I looked out at that beautiful stretch of road ahead of our car. No one was going in our direction. No one was coming towards us. There are many times, more often of late, when I think of that old song of the church, "I have decided to follow Jesus." One verse says: "Though none go with me, still I will follow." Though none go with me down this path towards peace, contentment, grace, forgiveness, mercy, reconciliation, and justice - still I will follow.

The best news I have heard in these past few months is that I am not alone. There are many who are traveling with me on this road, many who, like me, often feel alone. But we are discovering and embracing each other. Here online. At peace marches and rallies. In casual conversation. At church. In the neighborhood. We are not alone.

I am not alone. But even if that were the case, still I would follow.
Still I will follow.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

What if... Thursday Thirteen

I've been asking myself a lot of questions this week. Here are a few of them.

What if...

1. I put together a list of 100 things I want to do before I die and then start to make those things happen?

2. This really is the only life I get to live on this earth?

3. I waste too much time making lists and spend no time making a life?

4. It doesn't rain for another three months? What will we drink, bathe in, and cook with?

5. I got pregnant again?

6. Steve got a job in London or Madrid? How happy would I be?

7. I didn't watch television again ever? How much writing and creating would I get done in all that recovered time?

8. I told everyone I know how much my relationship with God means to me, the radical difference faith in Him has made in my life, and how much better my life is now than when I only marginally believed and didn't take my spiritual life seriously?

9. Someone In Charge decides that this country needs to start bombing another country? Again?

10. Those of us who oppose war stood up and said "No" and pointed out the many ways that the war in Iraq has been disastrous for most of the people involved - just like we predicted it would be? (If you want more info on opposing another war in another country, check out Lisa's blog.)

11. This "Christian nation" with all its "Christian" leaders actually took love, forgiveness, grace, and mercy as our main objectives, stopped feeling like we have to "do it to them before they do it to us," and believed God when He said (over and over): "Do not repay evil for evil. Vengeance is mine; I will repay"???

12. We actually lived by His mandate: "By this will all the world know that you are my disciples, if you love one another"?

13. We stopped saying we are a Christian nation and became truly religious individuals? I like the definition of "religious" presented by James, the brother of Jesus?

He wrote in James 1:27 - Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

What if???

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

In Pain...

What Steve affectionately refers to as "the coronation" was completed this morning. Yup, I am the proud owner of a brand new permanent porcelain crown, bottom right side, huge molar. It's a beauty. The novacaine is now wearing off, so there is a little throbbing going on. Ouch.

As I sat and waited for my turn in the torture chair, a woman was being checked out by the receptionist. She had a brand new dentist-recommended electric toothbrush. She asked the hygienist if she had to floss AND use her new toy. "Yes, use it in conjunction with the floss." I imagine that she left the office with sore gums, freshly scraped. Ouch.

Daniel, my sweet boy, is home today from school. He called me three times yesterday during the morning complaining of a headache, and finally I offered to pick him up early in the afternoon. He climbed into bed at 1:30 and got up only to go lay in our bed or on the couch for the remainder of the day. Lights out at 8:45 last night, and not much activity this morning. Although he and Kristiana are glad to be together again (kinda like the old days of homeschooling), I can tell that he's not his usual high energy self. Ouch.

But more than that, so much more than that are the friends, whose names I will not mention, who are dealing with soul pain, physical suffering far more serious than a dental crown, financial crises, marital difficulties, and the like.

One friend going through a second divorce.
Another friend also going through a second divorce.
A woman abandoned by her husband, after he declared that he is gay.
A daughter whose mother calls her horrible names and threatens her with physical and emotional harm.
Another daughter whose father denies her love and support. I know far too many young women in this situation.
A woman whose husband has checked out of their marriage mentally, emotionally, physically. Completely gone. His body is present, but his spirit is far, far away.
A husband whose wife suffers from a debilitating disease and is sliding into depression. Another husband in the same situation. These two men watch helplessly.
The two women mentioned above, the two who are suffering so severely.

And then there are the "walking wounded."
Those of us who cannot give a clear description or explanation for what we are feeling these days.
But we are lonely, worried, feeling isolated and misunderstood.
We hardly understand ourselves or what motivates us, so how can we expect anyone else to understand us or even care to understand???
The married ones who wish we were single.
The single ones who wish we were married.
The childless who long for children.
The parents who long for a reprieve from parenthood.
The children caught up in the sandwich generation: raising our children and taking care of our parents. When do we get a break?
The siblings of those mentioned above, the siblings who do nothing to help.
The financially strapped who just want a break from the bills.
The wealthy who want a break from the worry and anxiety.
The healthy who wait for "the bad news" to come.
The ill who long for some good news, anything, but something.

As I drove home from the dentist this morning, poking myself in the jaw, smiling at the oddness of the numbness, I looked around at other drivers, and wondered.

Which of them is returning from a dentist's or doctor's appointment? Bad news and hefty bill in hand?

Which of them is on his or her way to a job interview? All the while, bills pile up and collectors call regularly.

Which of them wonders where his or her spouse is or where the children are? Which of them is running away from the spouse and children?

What untold stories lie just below the surface for each person I see? Whose tears are on the verge of overflowing, in their cars, in the office, behind the dental mask, or in the supermarket?

Then a new line of thought began: I am wasting my time in trying to decide who has what problem.
Face it, Gail; we are all struggling.
We are all in need of grace, of mercy, of prayer, of healing, of help.
We are all in pain.

And, of course, I began to pray.
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy on me.
On my family.
On my friends.
On all your people all around the world.
On all the people you have created, those who believe in you and those who don't.
Lord Jesus Christ, please have mercy.

This photo was taken in January in Spain. It was a gorgeous day, as the sky and clouds attest. But the only way to see the beauty of the day was to look up. On that day, at that moment, that wall was "the lifter of my head." Had I looked only at the wall, its density and rocks, I would have missed the glory just above.

These verses seem to fit the image.
Psalm 3:3-5 -

But Thou, O Lord, art a shield for me,
My glory and the Lifter of my head.
I cried unto the Lord with my voice
And He heard me out of His holy hill.
I lay me down to sleep and awake
For the Lord sustains me.

Some days I wish I lived closer to this strong tower. I would run into it often and hide. Within its heavy, stone walls, I could rest and be safe. Don't we all need a strong tower from time to time? Fortunately, there is One.

Psalm 18:1-3 -

"I love Thee, O Lord, my strength."
The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge;
My Shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised,
And I am saved from my enemies.

Proverbs 18:10 -

The name of the Lord is a strong tower;
the righteous run into it and they are saved.