Thursday, December 31, 2009


A poem by Ann Weems from her book of Christmas poems, Kneeling in Bethlehem.

          after the angels,
          after the stable,
          after the Child,
   they went back...
   as we always must,
back to the world that doesn't understand our talk of angels and stars
and especially not the Child.

We go back complaining that it doesn't last.
They went back singing praises to God!
We do have to go back,
          but we can still
          sing the alleluias.


I want to add so many things to the "after" list.
After the shopping and giving and receiving...
after the driving away and driving home...
after the cooking and baking...
after the Christmas cards and newsletters...
after taking down the Christmas tree...
after putting the ornaments back into the attic...
after the chocolate mint candy disappears from the shelves...
after Starbucks puts their red cups and big snowflakes away again...
after the after-Christmas sales are finished...
after the break from homeschooling is over...
after the complaining about the past...
after the worrying about the future...
after the wishing...
after the hoping...
after the mondo beyondo dreaming and list-making
after the praying...
after the tears...
after the sighs...
after the disillusionment...
after the disappointment...
after the missed opportunities...
after the broken promises to other and to myself...
after all of that...
after every single thing...

Later I will go back to normal life. to chores. to phone calls.
to appointments. to obligations. to class. to clinics.
to teaching. to studying.
to joy. to laughter. to journaling.
to telephone calls and books and gifts from distant friends.
to playing games together. to reading together. to eating together.
to our separate spaces. to our quiet spaces.
to our everyday, perfectly ordinary sacred spaces.

And in all of it, thru all of it,
before all of it, after all of it,

whatever "it" is,
I can still sing the alleluias. say "thanks be to God" over and over.
and remind myself that in the new year,
as in the year that is now ending,
all shall be well.
yes. indeed.
all shall be well.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Waiting for whatever is coming...

An after-lunch cappuccino in Myrtle Beach

Frederick Buechner wrote: "The extraordinary thing that is about to happen is matched only by the extraordinary moment just before it happens. Advent is the name of that moment."

A mid-afternoon frisbee session

So whether it is the advent - the arrival - of a delicious meal, a long walk on the beach, a new year, or the celebration of the birth of Christ, I hope and pray for the patience, gratitude, contentment, and excitement to wait graciously for whatever is coming.

Turning for home (our beach home, that is)

Monday, December 28, 2009

I'm not dead...

I'm not even sick. But I will tell you this: spending five days away from the internet feels like a terminal illness... that is certainly what my husband and son expressed by moping around the place, dragging their stockinged feet. Silly rabbits! Quite frankly, I enjoyed the temporary disconnection from all things virtual.

The real reason for my recent silence around here is that our family spent the last five days and four nights holed up in a friend's house near the beach along the South Carolina coast. It was windy and cold and rainy on Christmas day. The other four days, it was just windy and cold.

But we were sooooo happy. So very happy. We walked up and down the beach, collected shells, threw the frisbee, and took lots of photographs. We shopped and played tennis (yes, it is possible to play tennis on the day after Christmas in certain parts of North and South Carolina - yea!) and gaped at all the huge, tacky touristy shops and watched football games on television and ate too many sweets.

Going away was the perfect way to avoid all the Christmas crush here in Charlotte. We didn't exchange gifts on Christmas; we just enjoyed each other's company and gave thanks for our relatively good health and our beautifully dysfunctional family. At one point when I was ready to lose my patience, I thought, "This is one f---ed up family... but, then again, everybody's got one." And with that, I laughed at my foolish pride and ridiculously high standards - and poured myself another glass of wine.

I will upload photos and write more later this week. Right now, though, I am going to move the laundry along, make myself some Trader Joe's Candy Cane Decaf Green Tea (truly, the best stuff on earth!), and bask in the warmth and wonder of being back at home.

I trust you all had a Merry Christmas, a Happy Hanukah, a lovely Winter Solstice, that all the Kwanzaa festivities are going well, and that every single one of us will have a better 2010 than we can ask, imagine, or dream up.

And for a lovely glimpse of the joy of dancing, check this out. Thanks, Lisa, for the link.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Need a lift? A great story of adventure?

Then check this out.
Welcome home, Launa. Welcome home.

I am convinced that no one in the world loves to travel more than I do. No one loves to fly more than I do. To pack and unpack and repack and underpack and overpack and then wing my way across the ocean with one carry on bag, no matter how long my stay overseas. I love every minute of the journey: the ride to the airport, the waiting for the flight, getting thru customs, walking past all the people waiting for bags to arrive, and zipping to my ground transportation. There is a lesson to be learned every step of the way, a sight to be seen, and joy to be absorbed, a smile to share, and a journal entry to be documented. I am never happier than when I am on a journey.

So following Launa and her family adventure in France this year has me chomping at the bit for another trip, dreaming up itineraries and menus for my family, all while praying for the peace and safety of a dear and distant friend and her loved ones in a country I know precious little about.

Someday it will be my turn to take my brood on such a great adventure. Someday...
In the meantime, I read her blog and marvel at all she has experienced.
(I will say it again: it will be well worth your time to take a look at this most recent post of her blog.)

Dream up your own journeys, your own adventures.
And give thanks for every safe passage you have had up to this point in your life -
not only the big trips, but also the little ones.
The trips to the supermarket and the pharmacy.
The walks to church to receive the Eucharist.
The loathsome drives to doctor's office appointments.
The repetitive pick-up routes to schools and after-school programs.
Greeting new friends at the airport and returning them there after too-short visits.

Every journey is a journey, one for which we can give thanks.
One from which we can learn a hard-earned lesson.

Traveling mercies were with Joseph and Mary and her unborn son as they made their way to Bethlehem more than 2000 years ago for the birth of the One whose Life and Death and Resurrection give meaning and purpose and hope to my daily journeys.

Traveling mercies were with Launa and her family as they made their way back to the States last weekend.

I wish traveling mercies to N on her journey today and over the next two weeks.

May traveling mercies be with us on our upcoming Christmas journey.

May goodness and mercy follow us and lead us and fill us and surround all of us
all the days of our lives.

Bon voyage.
Buon viaggio.
Buen viaje.
Safe passage.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

One thing you should definitely do today...

Check out this post by Jen Lemen. I wish this meant that she is coming back to the world of blogging on a regular basis, but unfortunately that's not the feeling I get. But anyway, check it out. Read it. Ponder it.

After reading her post and spending way too much time drooling over the photo she included with it, I pulled out my handy-dandy journal and spewed out a partial list of the "shoulds" and "should nots" that I have been living under the authority of lately, and it is rather disgustingly and depressingly lengthy. It was horrifying and disheartening and wearisome to see it all on paper, but also energizing and liberating and exciting to think of all kinds of ways to evict those gremlins with their sensible and sedating voices of reason and righteousness and earnestness and legalism that have taken up residence in my heart and soul!!! After all, I have been set free from so much of what burdens and weighs me down, so why do I so often look for new ways to live under yet another yoke of slavery?

You should definitely read that post by Jen.
You should definitely make up your own list and figure out ways to burn or otherwise destroy it.
And you should definitely NOT listen to me when I tell you what you should do.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

"I am Tiger Woods."

Actually, I am Gail Henderson-Belsito.

But, like Tiger, I have believed the hype about how good and smart and disciplined and talented I am.
I have lied and cheated and stolen.
I have tried to cover my tracks, deleting emails and text messages, phone numbers and email addresses, throwing away letters and other objects, trying to change patterns of thought and speech and activity, hiding purchases and receipts - all in vain attempts to get rid of the evidence of my transgressions.
I have hurt and betrayed those I love and those who love me - and myself.
I have been caught, been remorseful, and begged for forgiveness.
I have had to confess my wrongdoings in front of others and ask for their forgiveness as well.
I have suffered dire consequences, including the loss of trust and the confidence of others.
I have spent countless hours and days, years in some cases, trying to restore my reputation and reestablish my integrity.
I have been looked upon with suspicion and doubt, fear and disappointment by those closest to me.
I have wept bitter tears of regret and shame, despair and dejection.
And I deserved every bit of the derision and accusation that came my way. I still do.
I have been unable to answer the question: "What was I thinking?"

I am Tiger Woods - Every bit of his self-ordained invincibility and self-confirming arrogance exist within me, in my heart, in my life, every bit of it.

But thanks be to God, it did not all end back there and back then in the muck and mire.
Thanks be to God that a time came when I was caught and had to own up to my wrongdoing.
I had to face my accusers - and there have been many - and plead for grace and mercy.
The good news is that I have been forgiven. I have been restored.
By the ones I hurt. By God.
It took a while, but I have even been able to forgive myself.

Let me be the first to admit: I am most definitely going to mess up again in the future.
I will hurt those that I love again and again. I will lie and cheat and steal again.
I know it. That is part of the human experience and the human condition.
And when that happens, I will ask for forgiveness again and again.

My heart breaks for Tiger and his wife, their children, their family, and their friends.
The ripple effects of his transgressions will reach the lives of people he doesn't even know.
This thing is far from over.

I pray that he and his wife will survive the shame and horror of all of this and be stronger people as a result.
I pray that he will come to understand the root of his behavior and be willing and able to abandon this way of living and choose life, real life based on confession and repentance, forgiveness and restoration, truth and love.
I pray that someday he will stand tall and strong in public again, speak of this valley in his life as the turning point that changed him forever, and that this will serve as a source of challenge and hope and inspiration for the millions who are watching this dreadful saga knowing full well that they also can say: "I am Tiger Woods."

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

It was a dark and rainy night...

The wind whipped. The rain pounded down so hard that it woke me up more than once. A little after 7 am, I heard the soft and tentative tweeting of a bird. I smiled. "It was a nasty night," I thought. "I am glad the birds survived."

Then my mind began to wander to other animals: squirrels, possums, raccoons, skunks, frogs, and deer. Where do they hide and what do they do when it rains so hard and the wind is so fierce?

And what about homeless people and those with holes in their roofs or broken windows or who live in areas that tend to flood? The other night at 24-7, I overheard a man and woman talking. The man was describing where he lived, "out in the woods behind the air conditioning place around the corner." I wonder how he fared last night, as well as the other people who live there in that wooded area along with him.

While snuggled cozily in bed this morning, I thanked God for our home, sturdy, warm, and strong.
And I lifted up those who must have woken up quite soggy and cold this morning.
I forget to pray for the suffering of other people far more often than I would care to admit.
I am glad that the sound of the bird singing this morning reminded me to take up the mantle again.
Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Like a cocaine addict...

I'm not courting God like a ravished lover - No. Mine is a much messier quest. I'm courting Him like a cocaine addict - counting worthless & selling off anything that stands between having what I seek...

Scouring the deep recesses of all my comfort zones for any remnant of change that may have slipped between the cushions... every penny counts & everything that is mine is handed over that I might apprehend Him, know Him, walk in the pleasure of His presence, in His resurrection life... Even if it means fellowshipping with suffering.

Here, anchored in the sweat & snot & tears & shakes of a morning 'episode' .. my longing overtakes my logic & reason. I curse my brokenness, swear through a vow, & hand over all my gods & goods for another sight of His face, his heart, His soul... Him.

I'm not courting God like a ravished lover - This day, my Philippians 3:7-12* is a much, much messier quest - I'm courting Him like a cocaine addict. (Written by the director of 24-7 whose writing is found at

I found that gem tonight during another visit to 24-7, my favorite quiet place in Charlotte. I had some free time before seeing my amazing therapist, so I drove there, hid myself away, deep in a corner to pray and journal and sit in silence. Sticking up out of a book, a card caught my eye. I grabbed it, read it, and tucked it into my journal.

Truthfully, I am feeling a lot like a sugar addict these days. I spent many secretive hours last week binging on candy and cookies and pie. Drinking heavily sweetened tea. Wishing, longing, jonesing for more sweetness in my days and nights, I filled my body with sugar. Over the weekend, my face began to shrivel and shrink and sprout pimples. A troublesome patch of skin next to my right eye began to darken and itch again. It took me a while, but I finally figured it out: I needed more water. Living Water. I needed to cut out the crappy food and eat well. I needed to cut back on the sugar and fill up on healthier, heartier fare. In the words of a dear friend, I need to "wipe that smile off my face" and get real about what's bitter and sour in my life right now.

So there I sat at that table at 24-7 tonight. Gulping down mouthfuls of Living Water, peace, quietness. Writing in circles, literally turning my journal around and around so that I filled a page with sentences and questions in a circular pattern. They were traveling in circles in my mind, so why not spin them around my journal as well? A faint buzz began very soon thereafter. Then came a few furtive smiles. Stiffled giggles. The munchies.

Is that what happens to cocaine addicts? Or alcoholics? Do they spin around and around, selling everything they have, giving it all away for the next hit, the next high? That's certainly how I felt earlier today: like I was ready to sell just about everything for peace, for silence, for a few moments alone with The Alone. And that is exactly what I experienced tonight at that table in that dark, candle-lit warehouse where silence and prayer and meditation and contemplation are the only things that are expected.

I stumbled out of there high as a kite, sweaty, shaky, snotty - and at peace.

* Philippians 3:7-12: But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ - the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrecton and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, and somehow to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

The Season of Waiting is Over

A  long time ago, I heard about a book entitled The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning. Someone whose opinion on spiritual things, whose book recommendations, whose prayers over me before I travel set me on a new path before my first trip to Italy back in 2001, told me about that book. For some reason, I never read it. I've read every other book he's ever recommended, but this one has always eluded me.

Anyway, recently I was in Barnes and Noble and I stumbled upon a whole bunch of books that Brennan Manning has written. I thumbed through all of them, but didn't buy any of them at the time. In the back of one of those books, however, I found an afterword by someone whose blog is entitled The Ragamuffin Diva. Apparently, Mair, the Ragamuffin Diva, had read The Ragamuffin Gospel a few years earlier, seen herself among the "bedraggled, beat-up and burnt-out" that that book is written for and gave herself that wonderful name.

I hadn't read the book her afterword appeared in, and I still haven't read The Ragamuffin Gospel in its entirety, mind you, but her words, her afterwords, her openness, vulnerability, honesty, and strong voice were enough to confirm not only that I had to read that book, but also that I had found a spiritual soul-sister. As soon as I got home, I looked up her blog, and I laughed out loud, jumped up and down, and gave thanks to God for bringing her into my life. There she was - another woman whose search for God outstrips her search for everything and everyone else in life. Someone whose questions and doubts and fears are counterbalanced (most of the time) by her peace and trust and heartfelt knowledge that God will show up on time everytime. I like her kind of faith. I long to have more of her kind of faith.

The Ragamuffin Diva has begun a series of blog posts about Advent that gets me out of bed early in the mornings these days in search of her stories and her prayers. Check out the first of her series here.

Yes, the season of waiting is over. I have prayed often and waited years for someone like Mair to show up in my life. Someone who reads and writes and talks and sings and dances about her faith in God and her longing for Him to fill her to the utmost. Someone who is unwavering about her commitment to Him, her search for Him, her determination to find Him at all times, in all situations, and in everyone she meets - including the man on the street who asks for a hug, the landlord who wants her out of her place of residence, and the abused, pregnant woman looking for a place to stay. Someone whose faith has gotten her into some tight spots, but who has made the decision to follow hard after God no matter what. Someone who writes long and hard about her struggles, who doesn't disguise them in coded or coy wording, or stop writing when times get tough. In fact, it was facing the most difficult challenge of her life that drew her into the blogging world. It was the urge to recount the deep and dark stuff of her life, her failings and faults that drew her out into the open. And many people have pulled up their chairs to the fire of her faith and are finding a place where they are warmly welcomed home and asked to sit a while and rest.

I am one of those people.

Thank you, my dear sister Mair. I look forward to reading more of your writing, to following the saga of the establishment of your hospitality house, and to becoming your sister-friend, your co-traveler on this journey of faith. I hope that someday you and I are able to make a pilgrimage together to The Big House in Rome, singing and dancing and crying our way home.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

It's not everyday...

that my face and a few of my words appear in print. So when such a thing happens, I want to shout it from the rooftop - but not sound too braggadocious. Anyway, when you have a moment, take a peek at this!!!

I am a homeschooling mother with a wandering soul.
Hear me roar!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Something joy-filled this way comes...

Today is the first Sunday of Advent, the season of preparation before Christmas Day.
Today we will decorate our Christmas tree. We will pull out ornaments and memories of Christmases past.
We will share our dreams and hopes for this Christmas and new year soon to begin.
We will prepare our hearts and minds and our home for the coming of the Lord. Again. Afresh.
May He come again with joy. With peace. With hope. With comfort. With presence. With love.

Something healing and joy-filled and beautiful and colorful and quiet and grace-filled this way comes.
No, not something, but rather Someone.

I love this time of year. Not because of the presents that we give one another. Not because of the special songs that are sung for only one month out of the year. Not because my birthday falls within the next two weeks. Not because of the abundance of chocolate mint drinks and candies that appear at this time of year. Although I thoroughly enjoy all those things.

I love this time of year because just as the days are getting darker and shorter and colder, hope dawns again. The brightness of the moon these past few nights has reminded me that, simply by lifting my eyes to the hills or to the horizon, I can see the light that appears and illumines the darkest times and places. I love this time of year because that tiny baby born in Bethlehem many moons ago grew up to become the One whose Story stirs my soul to life and hope every morning and sends me off to gentle, peaceful, restorative sleep every night.

Even though there is so much that is meant to distract us from that story, even though there is so much ridicule aimed at those of us who still believe that story, even though there has been so much suffering inflicted on billions of people all around the world in the name of the man that tiny baby grew up to be, I still believe that He is the Prince of Peace, The Healer, The One who Comforts those who Mourn.

So later this morning, my husband, my daughter and I will forego the Sunday sermon at church in order to decorate our Christmas tree. We will tell stories and listen to Christmas music and give thanks and praise for that tiny baby in that tiny manger in that tiny town. And we will open our hearts and minds and hands and spirits to welcome that Special Someone, that love-obsessed, peace-loving, joy-filled Someone that this way comes.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

On this Thanksgiving Day

It's a foggy Thanksgiving morning here in Charlotte and I awoke with only one thing in mind: gratefulness.

I am grateful that, after many nights of interrupted sleep, last night I slept well and didn't awaken fully until nearly 7 am.

The coffee this morning was strong and sweet. The oatmeal was thick and hot and sweetened with blueberries, soy milk, and a little brown sugar.

I sat at the table and read and journaled peacefully while the rest of the family either slept or did something quiet.

I don't have much cooking to do today; my mother and my niece are whipping up a feast that I need only to make an appearance at.

We seem to have passed through the worst of the most recent storm that descended on our family. There is renewed hope. There is peace.

I have received emails, phone calls, text messages, and even snail mail from friends and family, each one expressing love and encouragement and support and gratitude that I am a part of their lives.

The church service last night was both encouraging and challenging: It's easy to give thanks when our salaries have risen, when there is extra money in the bank and food in the pantry. It's easy to give thanks when the table is overflowing with food and our closets are full of new and top-of-the-line garments.

But for many people, those conditions for giving thanks have not been met this year. For many, jobs and savings and homes have been lost since last Thanksgiving. Health and security and an expectation of more of the same have also been lost.

And here came the challenge: We ought to give thanks even for the little that we have. What we have may not be much. It may be messy. It may be second-hand or leaky, unfashionable or glued together. But in any case, in every case, we have cause for thanksgiving. We have cause for rejoicing.

Giving thanks in all circumstances is not easy, but if we find ways to give thanks, if we begin and end each day counting and naming our many blessings aloud (or in my case in the pages of a journal), then our perspectives are likely to change. Our expectations are likely to change. Our relationships will change as we find reasons to compliment and complement one another. Our speech patterns will change as we seek ways to build one another up and not only criticize one another. Our point of view will change as we seek out blessings and abundance, rather than focusing our attention on what is missing and what we wish we could change. And at the end of the day, at the end of the week, at the end of the month, we will recognize that our souls will have been transformed as well. Because it is impossible to spend that much time seeking and finding the good in every situation, giving thanks in every situation, and not be changed, profoundly changed by the process.

On this Thanksgiving Day, my heart is full of gratitude for all that has been, all that is, and all that is yet to come. Whatever it turns out to be.

Thanks be to God.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

What's shaking?

Mary Oliver wrote this delightful tidbit in her book of poetry entitled, Evidence.

We Shake with Joy

We shake with joy, we shake with grief.
What a time they have, these two
housed as they are in the same body

On this day, two days before we will sit around a table laden with food and surrounded by family, I ask myself, "What else is shaking in this body of mine?"

Well, there is a little bit of extra skin and fluff where my yet-to-be-born babies hung out for a few months many years ago.

There are the bags under my eyes, some due to age, most due to the countless tears that used to occupy them but have since soaked the front of many a tee shirt and bathrobe.

There are a couple hundred dreadlocs that hang nearly halfway down my back these days.

There are quivers up and down my spine every now and then when I think about the dreams that are yet to be fulfilled and the challenges that will undoubtedly try to stand in the way of their realization.

My head is shaking back and forth as I marvel at both the blessings and the obstacles that are my joy and my lot in life.

Friends who send packages to my children (thanks a ton, Lisa!).

Friends who travel miles to sit with me and cry (Karen, you are THE BEST!).

Friends who send songs and stories and hugs and kisses and dreams and hopes and support and advice and all their wishes for what is yet to come.

Even the silent friends, the ones who don't write or call back or do any of the things that I wish they would do, even they bring a smile to my face.

Even the distant ones, the ones who seem to have disappeared from my life completely, you still have a space in my heart and soul and mind and spirit. You always will.

Perhaps it is time to stop shaking.
Perhaps just for a moment I will sit here,
be still,
close my eyes,
still my fingers and my thoughts,
take three deep breaths,
remember that I am safe, I am loved, I am at peace
thanks again, Lisa, for that timely note)

and give thanks.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

What I'm clinging to this morning...

When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. "Lord, my servant lies at home paralyzed and in terrible suffering."

Jesus said to him, "I will go and heal him."

The centurion replied, "Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed."


Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, "Teacher, don't you care if we drown? Lord, save us."

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

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

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


Father of an ill child: If you can do anything, take pity on me and my son.
Jesus: If you can? Everything is possible for him who believes.
Father: I do believe. Help me overcome my unbelief.


Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. She said to herself, "If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed." Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.

At once, Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, "Who touched my clothes?"

"You see the people crowding against you," his disciples answered, "and yet you ask, 'Who touched me?'"

But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet, and trembling with fear, told him the whole truth.

He said to her, "Take heart, daughter. Your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering."


My prayer this morning is short, simple, and desperate:
"Lord, please say the word and let her be healed.
Give her peace. Give her rest.
Help her to be free from her suffering.
Lord, have mercy. Christ have mercy."

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Thankful Thursday

It has been a very long time since I have expressed my gratitude in a post.
Here goes...

* I am grateful for this six or seven-year-old laptop that keeps me connected to the internet and gives me a private and safe place to store my photos and documents.

* I am grateful for the external hard drive where I back up all the things I have on this laptop. After all, it's not going to last forever. (But it has lasted longer than our two-year-old Mac - which had to have its hard drive replaced earlier this week! So much for my naive belief about Macs not having major problems like PCs... )

* I am grateful for the study in which I am sitting, a small and sacred space where I can sit quietly surrounded by my books and my journals, and filled with my questions, dreams, and thoughts.

* I am grateful for the big red couch in the living room downstairs. I get to climb into its cozy lap every morning when the children and I start our homeschooling day.

* I am grateful for the previous owners of this house who, upon moving out seven years ago, left their extra refrigerator for us in the garage.

* I am grateful for the refrigerator and freezer we have in our kitchen. The extra one in the garage died this week, and we had to transfer its contents into the kitchen.

* I am enormously grateful for all the food we have in this house and in our bellies, perishable and non-perishable.

* I am grateful for indoor plumbing and running water and electricity and windows that open and close and brick walls and doors that close and lock and grass and trees and birds and falling leaves and cloudy skies and starry nights and the full moon.

* What else am I grateful for today?

- for easy and quick access to medical help.
- for the doctor who put the two stitches in my finger last week.
- for my family's help around the house when I was unable to do my usual tasks.
- for the health and strength and happiness we share as a family

- for our extended family, those we are in contact with and those we have fallen out of contact with. (I do love you still and pray often that you and those you love are well. I pray that your daughter's wedding goes well and that she is tremendously happy in her married life.)
- for friends, far and wide, who have changed my life in profound ways and whose lives I have influenced as well. You will never know how much I love you - and miss you.

- for our two functioning automobiles.
- for the fact that our roof isn't leaking during these days of heavy rain.

- for journals and markers and magazines and scissors and glue dots and stickers
- for books and websites that encourage me to live fully, deeply, with joy, with gusto, without apology, without reservation, without rancor, without resentment.
- for a camera that captures mostly ordinary and occasionally extraordinary moments and places in my life.
- for the many albums that hold those photos, my memories, and great joy within their covers.

- I am grateful for art and music and poetry and novels and non-fiction books too. I am grateful for coffee and tea and ice water and soy milk and orange peach mango drinks from Trader Joe's. I am grateful for rosemary olive oil bagels with butter and an egg on them. I am grateful for thick socks and sweatpants and heavy robes and soft pillows and down comforters. I am grateful for Sweet Mint Lifesavers and Burt's Bees lip balm sticks and Kleenex and Dr. Bronner's soap and Clean Day laundry detergent and Harris Teeter fresh-baked whole wheat bread.

- I am grateful for my neighbor with her pink raincoat and pink and white umbrella, outside chasing her two sons who I would imagine insisted on riding their bikes and scooters in the rain. She has no idea how beautiful she is and how much her smile lights up my day every time I see her.

- I am grateful to be alive and happy and healthy and stitched together and held together and loved and even liked on this cloudy Thursday afternoon way down south in Charlotte, North Carolina.

*** We are tremendously blessed.
And I am deeply grateful.
Thanks be to God.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Two stitches holding me together...

Yesterday, Kristiana and I decided to make a large and lovely pot of vegetable, bean, and barley soup. Delectable. Delicious. Dangerous.

Well, the soup wasn't dangerous. But the knife that I sharpened in order to cut the sweet potatoes was.

Well, the knife wasn't dangerous. But when I stuck my hand into the soapy water in the sink to grab something to wash, the blade of the knife was facing up, my right pinkie was facing down, and they met.

Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!

Blood flowed. As did my tears. Steve rushed home from work to take me to urgent care. By the time we got there, the bleeding had stopped. I expected the doctor to say that they could just bandage it well and send me on my way. Nope. They advised me to get a tetanus shot and then proceeded to close the gap in my finger with two stitches. And for the foreseeable future: no dishwashing.

It has proved much more difficult than I expected to let go of the reins of doing housework.
To ask for help with simple things.
To type without my pinkie.
But I am learning how to swallow my pride and let things go, accept the help of my family, and stop apologizing for needing emergency medical attention.

As always, the first thing I did when we were back at home after my little adventure was give thanks to God that it wasn't any worse than it was. I could have severed a nerve or a tendon. I could have been burned by the soup pot. Our house could have been damaged as a result of the horrific gas leak at the end of our driveway this past summer. In all of the times I have washed dishes in the past, on all of the car rides and train trips and flights, in any or all of those ordinary but potentially life-threatening moments of life, tragedy could have befallen us. We could have faced yesterday's little incident without the rich blessing of health insurance to cover our costs. If that had been the case, I would probably not have gone for help and would have faced the possibility of infection and deeper damage to my finger and an even larger bill for later assistance.

So many possibilities.
So much protection from harm.
So much for which to give thanks.

After a terrible car accident involving five young women she knows, Jen Gray wrote a moving piece the other day that speaks to the sacredness of life, the need to put and keep the big things and the little things in their proper perspective, and to take time to honor and celebrate the miracle that is this life we live.

Every time that I look at this damaged pinkie over the next ten days,
every time I change the bandage and apply antibiotic ointment to the wound,
every time that I think of the two stitches that are holding me together,
I will remember Jen's words:

"This life is holy.
This life is sacred.
This life is to be cherished."

PS. I am sure many of you appreciate the fact that there are no photos with this post. After all the years of me looking at countless cuts, bruises, puddles, and piles that they have endured and produced, my husband and children flatly refuse to look at my stitches. Wimps!!!

Monday, November 02, 2009

Home away from home...

Without question, without any doubt, without apology, I know and proclaim that the place my heart and soul find deepest rest and peace is in the country of Spain. When the wheels of whatever aircraft I happen to be on touch down on the tarmac at Madrid's Barajas International Airport, I practically burst into song.

Until breakfast at La Uni Cafe in Valladolid, Spain, this past September 16th, I hadn't heard the song that ought to be playing on my ipod every time I land there: "This is Home." (Unfortunately, I have not been able to find that particular version of the song on Itunes as yet, but I'm still searching.)

I was born in New York City nearly 44 years ago and spent the next 17+ years there. Since then, I have lived in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and North Carolina, but Spain is my home. My heart's home. My soul's resting place. Until I can afford to own or rent a place there, however, my place of residence, my soul's layover point, if you will, continues to be Whatever City, USA.

Someone filled and left that black journal there for others to peruse and marinate in. It is laying on top of my journal - into which I copied many questions and statements and words of wisdom gleaned from reading my new favorite "little black book."

Less than a month ago, I discovered my heart and soul's home away from home. It's a converted warehouse space in a part of Charlotte I had only driven through on my way to one of the groovy, artsy-fartsy parts of Charlotte. A part of Charlotte I have only driven through as quickly as possible.

But one day back in early October, the kids and I drove through "that part of town" more slowly, in search of 24-7. We found it. Across the street from an unfinished condo complex, a sign of the real estate and financial crisis that has gripped this nation for more than a year now.

We approached the rather unremarkable door, pushed it open, stepped inside - and I began to weep. Immediately.

A self-portrait taken at 24-7.

We all know that it doesn't take much to make me cry, but these tears were different. These were the tears of a child returning home after several weeks at summer camp. A child that has had fun at camp, made new friends, gone on hikes, eaten hot dogs and smores around the fire, and had a wonderful time.

What the child doesn't realize until she returns home - and what I didn't realize until I stepped into that sacred place - was how much she missed home. How much she needed to return to a place where all was peaceful and quiet and welcoming and warm and there were no expectations for clever banter or malicious gossip about the weakest link in the camp cabin. I desperately needed all of those things, more than I knew.

The writing on the wall. An invitation to come away and rest. I said, "yes."

Stepping into 24-7 was like returning home. Rediscovering the place where quietness and peace reign. Private alcoves to sit and read and pray and cry and take communion and look at the drawings and paintings created by other visitors and read other people's words in journals and on the walls, and add my own to theirs.

This is what that lovely metal table looked like after I unloaded all my loot and took up temporary residence last Saturday. Many pages of collages and journaling and prayers were composed on that table in the midst of that mess.

I sat there quietly for nearly three hours. Emptying not only ink cartridges but also the satchel of shame and pain and resentment and loneliness and fear that I didn't realize I was carrying. And somewhere in the midst of all that, while draining my large water bottle and refreshing far more than my dehydrated body, I heard my soul whisper something faint but unmistakable -

"This is home."

Friday, October 30, 2009

She's Sixteen...

She's beautiful...

and she's mine.

I stand corrected: She's ours.

Happy Birthday, KB.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Hearing voices again...

"Some years into our spiritual journey, after the waves of anticipation that mark the beginning of any pilgrimage have begun to ebb into life's middle years of service and busyness, a voice speaks to us in the midst of all we are doing. There is something missing in all of this, it suggests. There is something more.

The voice often comes in the middle of the night or the early hours of morning, when our hearts are most unedited and vulnerable. At first, we mistake the source of this voice and assume it is just our imagination. We fluff up our pillow, roll over, and go back to sleep. Days, weeks, even months go by and the voice speaks to us again: Aren't you thirsty? Listen to your heart. Something is missing.

We listen and we are aware of... a sigh. And under the sigh is something dangerous, something that feels adulterous and disloyal to the religion we are serving. We sense a passion deep within that threatens a total disregard for the program we are living; it feels reckless, wild.


Sometime later, the voice in our heart dares to speak to us again, more insistently this time. Listen to me - there is something missing in all this. You long to be in a love affair, an adventure. You were made for something more. You know it."

Taken from the opening page of The Sacred Romance by Brent Curtis and John Eldredge
Much of my morning time these days, much of my evening time these days, a whole lot of my thinking time these days is spent in conversation with this voice. This voice is telling me that longing for more, for adventure, for something deeper and more passionate than what I've been doing lately - that my heart is meant for more than "principles and programs and efficiency."

It's not about running away with the circus or hunting down another man or finding a new family. It's more than reading books about being a better wife and a stronger Christian and or a more inspired cook. It's far deeper, intrinsic, and transformational than that.

This voice is calling me to come away for a while, by myself, to rest. To listen. To be touched. To be held. To be made new. To rediscover passion for the world and its people, for my world and its people, and for myself. To reawaken my love for art and music and conversation and food and wine and laughter and sorrow too. It is not enough to simply live; I long to live abundantly again. I am determined to do just that.

Unfortunately, I know many people who say that my constant longing for more is selfish at its root. There are people who say that if I follow my feelings and emotions and longings, if I admit to hearing these voices and taking their utterings seriously, then I am going to plunge myself headlong into a life of debauchery and licentiousness. (I am not exactly sure what those words mean although they certainly sound mean - the words as well as the people who utter them. Therefore, I stay away from those people as much as I can.)

Thankfully, I am not the only one who wants all this passion and joy and fullness of life for me.

In John 10:10, He said, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come that they might have life and have it to the full."

John 15:11 ~ (After talking to His good friends about love and abiding together in an ongoing vine-branch-sticking together relationship,) Jesus said, "I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete."

So, yes, I am hearing voices again. Well, One Voice actually. And that voice is inviting me to dance and sing and live fully this adventure called life.

Wait, I think I hear the coffee pot singing a welcoming song.
It's time for me to go dance my morning caffeine dance.

Later the same morning after the caffeine has taken effect...

I am on a journey. Sometimes I call it my life journey. Sometimes I call it a journey to the garbage dump of my life, the smelly dark place, the lonely and frightful place. Sometimes it feels like a journey to the highest heights, the brightest lights, the best of everything. It feels repetitive and cyclical much of the time. It feels like deja-vu over and over again. And that is the nature of this life, with its cycling and recycling.

When the walk thru the valley is longest and darkest, I yearn for the light, for music, for feasting, for love, for passion.

When the light is bright and the way is wide and welcoming, I forget how dark the darkness can be and feel.

Very soon after my return from Spain, while I was still unpacking the souvenirs along with the great memories and lessons learned, darkness fell once again, all too quickly. One friend reminded me a few days' walk into this current valley: "We fall down. We get up. We fall down. We get up."

This morning, I find myself once again in the getting up phase. And for that I am grateful: for the ability, the willingness, the deep desire to get up again. To find my way back onto the path towards peace and joy and rest and another phase of the incredible lightness and rightness of being. To grope my way out of this present darkness back into the kingdom of Her glorious light.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Wanting it both ways... and getting it

Most of the time, I don't think of myself as a greedy person. I am (usually) willing to give up the last bagel or piece of pie if someone else wants it. I am (usually) willing to let someone skip me in the supermarket line if he or she has fewer items and seems to be in a rush. You want the parking space badly enough to glare at me across two car hoods and dashboards? By all means, take it. Even when I am the airport waiting to board a long-anticipated flight to the place where my soul finds rest, if someone seems adamant about getting onto the airplane before me, if someone's urge to use the cramped, smelly lavatory exceeds my own, I gladly and patiently step aside. "Go right ahead. I can wait."

But when it comes to matters of the heart, when it comes to relationships, to love and friendship, to peace at home and abroad, when it comes to health and safety, I want it all. I want it now. I don't want to wait my turn. I don't want to allow anyone to get at "it," whatever "it" is, before me.

I want it both ways.

I want to share love and give love freely to others.
And I want a whole lot for myself.

I want plenty of time to spend with my family and friends.
And I want plenty of time for myself by myself.

I want to reach out to others, with email, text messages, snail mail, phone calls. And I want them to reach out to me likewise.

I want empty times, empty spaces, empty days.
And I want days and places and moments that are filled to overflowing.

As a (relatively) rational, clear-headed, spiritually-minded adult, I understand that fullness and emptiness, that bounty and want, that sunshine and rain, that calm seas and stormy ones, that joy and sorrow are cycles through which I will pass throughout the course of my life. Sickness comes, and sickness goes. Strength abounds and then it abandons me. Loneliness ebbs and flows as well - even in the midst of a busy household and surrounded by loving, caring, attentive friends. I get that. But still...

But still, there are many times over the course of the average year/month/day/hour, when I find that my soul is hungry, my bones are tired, and every part of me is profoundly lonely. As a woman, wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, I often feel unappreciated and disrespected and forgotten. At those moments, I begin to wish for things and people and situations and relationships that are not mine to have. I lust. I long for. I crave. I covet. I fantasize. I plan my next escape. And next time, I promise myself, I will buy a one-way ticket. No more round trip passage for me.

I promise myself that things are gonna change.
Enough is enough.
I'm out of here.
For real.
Cause this sucks.
I've had it.
I've been so good for so long.
It's time to be real, to be true, to live out my dreams.
On my own terms.
I want it all.
And I want it now.

Deep breath. Deep sigh.
Deep sorrow. Deep cry.
Deep remembrance.
I already have it all.
I have absolutely everything I have ever needed and most of what I want.

Food, shelter, clothing.
Health, strength, safety.
Love, friendship, connection.
Laughter, music, dancing.
Peace, hope, a future.

My appreciation for the beauty of a calm ocean is deepened after passing through a stormy night. My appreciation for good health is heightened after passing through a season of illness. Solitude means much more to me after days and weeks of ceaseless activity and tending to the needs of others above and before myself.

When I step back from the striving, the pushing, the determined efforts,
when I look back at all the people I have met and known and loved,
at all the journeys and resting places that have defined my life,
when I take a few moments to prayerfully consider the wonder of life
and the beauty of this world,
when I still myself enough to hear and see and truly notice my life as it is
right here, right now, at this moment,
it is then that I realize that empty or full, lonely or surrounded,
ravenous or satiated, angry or at peace, exhausted or well-rested,
remembered or abandoned, welcomed or rejected,
at all times, in all places,
I have all that I need.

I am blessed in heavenly places - and earthly ones too.
And I am grateful.
Thanks be to God.

Monday, October 19, 2009

My New Theme Song

It's called "Through the Fire." It is performed by the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir and the Crabb Family. I've listened and cried to it several times today.

So many times I've questioned certain circumstances
Things I could not understand
Many times in trials, weakness blurs my vision
Then my frustration gets so out of hand
It's then I am reminded I've never been forsaken
I've never had to stand the test alone
As I look at all the victories, the spirit rises up in me
And it's through the fire my weakness is made strong

Chorus - He never promised that the cross would not get heavy
And the hill would not be hard to climb
He never offered our victories without fighting
But He said help would always come in time
Just remember when you're standing in the valley of decision
And the adversary says, "Give in,"
Just hold on, our Lord will show up
And He will take you through the fire again

I know within myself that I would surely perish;
But if I trust the hand of God, He'll shield the flames again.

He never promised that the cross would not get heavy
And the hill would not be hard to climb
He never offered our victories without fighting
But He said help would always come in time
Just remember when you're standing in the valley of decision
And the adversary says, "Give in,"
Just hold on, our Lord will show up
And He will take you through the fire again.


My daughter discovered this song on my ipod (yup, my ipod) the other day. I had never heard it before. Twice we started listening to it in the car, but for one reason or another, we never heard it in its entirety. Earlier today, on my way home from dropping Daniel off to play tennis, I tried yet again. I am glad I was in the car alone because I was crying before the first verse was finished. By the time the chorus ended, I declared, "This is my new theme song." I proceeded to listen to it three more times before pulling into the garage.

This gem is a perfectly timed discovery, I realize,
as we are walking through a fire of our own,
carrying a particularly heavy cross,
climbing a high hill,
and fighting a serious battle - all at the same time.
But on some level, isn't everyone???

Here's to getting thru to the other side.
All shall be well.
All shall be well.

PS. This is the second time in the past year that "one of my theme songs" has been discovered on my own ipod. How is it possible that I have songs on MY ipod that I have never heard before? Truthfully, the answer to that question does not matter. What does matter is that these songs have discovered me at just the right time. The right song at the right time.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Where I'm hanging out these days...

I'm spending most of my time seeing after these two beautiful people I live with and who are doing a great job raising me.

I'm trying to give up this title. I took the photo of the mugs at a bookstore in order to avoid adding more stuff to the surface of my already messy desk and life.

Robert Benson wrote that Ed Farrell said that sometimes we go away on retreat to "walk the shoreline of our own being and see what has washed up in the night."

That's exactly what I am hoping to do next week. I'm heading out for a few days of quietness, prayer, walking by the sea, listening, learning, preparing myself to hunker down and press through the remainder of the fall, winter, the holidays. I'm heading off for some spiritual exercises, to strengthen these weary shoulders.

(Addendum: Trip was cancelled. Will be walking the shoreline of my life this week, but right here at home...)

Sometimes life happens so fast, so furiously, and then so slowly, so grudgingly that I find it difficult to put much into words. Those are the times when I marinate in other people's musings. Here are a few I have been pondering recently...

First of all, the dazzling Jen Gray.
Then there is the ever-thoughtful Launa, telling the truth as she is finding it playing out in her life.
Lisa often finds a way to capture the struggles that capture my attention so often.
Before the last several big events, trips, and otherwise important moments of my life, I have turned to this beautiful piece by Jen Lee to help settle my jitters and go in peace.
One of my favorite pastors, Jonathan Scott, must have been reading my journals before he wrote this piece on prayer and doubt and weakness and wondering when it will be my turn to get God to do what I want Him to do.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

That's my boy!

He's just as happy spinning and swinging a tennis racket

as he is preparing to dive into a dish of strawberry shortcake and ice cream on a date with his mom.

Yup, that's him making it into the local newspaper too. Click on the link, then scroll down to page 6.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

A day of extremes...

On Sunday morning, my husband and I played hooky from the Spanish congregation at church and went out for breakfast, just the two of us. At the table next to us were a father and son duo. The son was wearing a Charlotte Latin jacket - the most expensive and most highly regarded private school in Charlotte. They were eating. Drinking. Talking. Flipping through a catalog and deciding which handgun the son wanted. Stainless steel or black? With a pearl handle or without? With or without a laser? ("No," the dad said, "you shouldn't get a laser. That gives someone else something to shoot at.")

On Sunday evening, my daughter and I went to hear Shane Claiborne speak. He talked about how the Amish community, just days after that deranged gunman entered their school and killed several of their children, gathered around and prayed for and supported the family of the man who murdered their loved ones. Money that the Amish received from concerned outsiders was used to establish college scholarships for that man's children.

He talked about approaching gun store owners in the Philadelphia area (where he lives) and asking them to consider signing a pact that they would not sell more than 100 guns to any single buyer. He and his friends have yet to get the store owners to make such a commitment.

Shane challenged us to reimagine how we live and move in the world, how we face down our enemies with love, with grace, with mercy, with forgiveness - even while facing the barrel of a gun. He challenged us to stop thinking that violence and killing will ever stop violence and killing. He was never more convinced of the need to stand against violence than when he was in Iraq in 2003. He met many fellow followers of Christ there - who told him that they are praying for Christians here in the US. They expressed their disbelief that there are those in our country who name the name of Christ as their Lord and Savior and also think that bombing and invading Iraq and killing its citizens can be done with Christ's blessing. Some questioned Shane about whether there is any difference between killing in the name of Allah and killing in the name of God.

Shane said he was surprised at how many Christ-followers he met there and expressed his surprise to them. The pastor of the church responded, "Why are you so surprised? This is where Christianity was founded. You didn't invent Christianity in the US; you only domesticated it."

Here are a few suggestions I gleaned from a booklet I received that night:
Dismantle a bomb. (Can't do that.)
Dismantle a theological argument that justifies bombs. (The dismantling must start within me.)
Dismantle an ideology of security that requires bombs. (This one, too.)
Love according to a greater standard than the world's. (I'm gonna need a lot of help on this one. Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy.)

Breaking the stunned silence we shared as we listened to that father-son duo casually discuss what sounded like an imminent handgun purchase, Steve said, "What a legacy to leave to his son." Indeed.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

The Blessing of a Filthy Carpet

The carpet was a mess. Pet stains. Food stains. Life stains. Along came a great deal: the Happy Feet carpet cleaning company offered to clean four rooms for $100. Staircases, extra. So I picked the four worst rooms. Both staircases were a nightmare.

In preparation, I had to pick up everything that could be moved and put it someplace else. I had to vacuum thoroughly, especially around the edges of the rooms.

On Wednesday night, I began to move things. One huge box of my journals. Another box of photographs. File baskets. Piles of books, mail, and bags of bags. Dumbbells. A cricket bat. Perfect push-up gadgets. An exercise ball. A medicine ball. Packs of stickers. Dozens of computer cables and several power strips. I had clearly lost track of how much stuff we have.

On Thursday morning, I told the children to grab everything they would need for the entire day and bring it downstairs. Homeschool materials. Clothing. Cell phones. Headphones for ipods. Books to read. Journals. Cameras. Textbooks. Bibles. Pens and pencils. The computer they use for homeschooling. My computer.

Do you need all this stuff, Gail? Really? Really?

I decided that I would not replace any boxes or piles of anything until I had gone through it all. No matter how long it takes, I told myself, I'm gonna go through the files and boxes and get rid of the junk.

Several discarded armloads of graduate school readings, old magazines, indecipherable ramblings, dusty exercise equipment later, the second floor of my house is far less cluttered. There are fewer piles. There is less to stumble over in the middle of the night. A few pieces of furniture have been rearranged. A rug has found a home in another room. I rediscovered a few goodies that I had forgetten about, and I am going to repurpose a few goodies that I no longer need.

I pulled out one of the journals I kept during my first trip to Spain back in 1986. I am not exaggerating when I say that I have loved that country since the first time I set foot on its soil - even though the conductor on the overnight train that transported me from Spain's border with Andorra to the city of Madrid groped me in the middle of the night. I didn't sleep much after that frightful encounter.

I pulled out the journal I kept during the summer before Kristiana was born. Until I began to reread those cracked and yellowing pages, I admit that I had forgotten what my life was life before I had children. Since the noisy arrival of my darling daughter in the wee hours of the morning of October 30th nearly sixteen years ago, my sleep pattern has never been the same.

Looking back, I don't think I would trade those sleepless nights for nights of uninterrupted, adventure-less, childless sleep. I wouldn't trade the filthiness of our carpet for a pristinely kept home. I would trade the piles of dirty dishes, the hampers full of dirty laundry, or the bathtubs with their dirty rings for an unused, empty, untouched home. My home buzzes and beeps and spills over with messiness because this is where we have grown up together, grown closer together, and are growing towards each other every day. This is where we laugh and cry and learn and teach one another all kinds of things. This is where we play catch and tennis and Last Word and bingo and poker and canasta and chinese checkers. This is where we sit at the table to eat and sit in front of the television to eat. This is where we make up stories and read stories and write stories. This is where we sing and dance and trip and fall and create art. This is where we make promises and then break them. Whenever we return home from our various adventures, the first thing we do is take off our shoes because this blessed home of ours is holy ground. Apparently, we bring messes in on our socks and our bare feet because, after all, we still need to get our carpets cleaned.

No, it isn't always easy or smooth or perfectly choreographed, but this is our stained, dusty, topsy-turvy, disorderly, unplanned, unpredictable, delightful, spirited, active, funny, exhilarating, bountiful, beautiful life.

At first it seemed like a good idea to get the carpets cleaned. Then the hassle of cleaning up the place before the cleaners threatened to dampen my spirits. Being reminded by the rediscovery of dozens of journals and hundreds of photos of the amazing life I have lived makes all that inconvenience more of a blessing than a hassle.

This is my life.
And I am enormously grateful.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Ordinary. Perfect. Holy. Still.

Many are the days, the hours, the moments that are perfectly. ordinary. wholly. holy. Those are the days, the hours, the moments when I feel and go deeper. still.

Here are a few such moments from my time in Spain.

Coffee and digestive cookies for breakfast.

A burger, fries, and lemon soda for lunch.

The view from a city bus I rode in Madrid.
On my way to a child's 3-year-old birthday party.

Bathtime for Alvaro.

In the car on the way back from the beach. Talking. Telling stories.

On a walk in Sevilla - just before dinner.

Eating dinner later that same night.

These are the days, the hours, the moments that make my life so outrageously, magnificently perfect, ordinary, holy, deeper, still.

Friday, September 25, 2009

In deep denial...

I have procrastinated and postponed and waited and held off. I don't want to face the facts, to tell the truth, to 'fess up. But here goes:

I'm home. Back from Spain. From yet another adventure across the sea.

(Let me take a moment here to suggest that I might very well have the best husband in the world. Well, he's certainly the best husband I have ever had. He is also the only husband I will ever have... but that's a story for a whole 'nother post. I have the only husband that I know of who that buys tickets for his wife to travel. Some of you may think it is because he wants me to go away, and perhaps you are right. But even if that is the case, not many husbands who claim to want to get rid of their wives actually buy the ticket! Anyway, back to my darling husband, Steve: he buys the airline ticket, plans activities for me to do overseas, and then also plans special activities for himself and the children here at home. Yes, he takes time off from work to hang out with the kids. Yes, he's a keeper. Definitely a keeper.)

I returned to Charlotte Douglas Airport late Monday night to the smiles and hugs of my hubby and children. Bright and early on Tuesday morning, still under the influence of Madrid's timezone, I got up and wandered around the house. I swept the kitchen floor. I cleaned a few toilets. I folded some laundry and put it away. I organized the homeschool table. I made myself a cup of coffee (with grounds I had brought back from Madrid) and sat down at the kitchen table to journal - in my travel journal.

This is a self-portrait: reading and journaling at a gem of a cafe in Madrid.

I did the same thing on Wednesday morning: up early, cup of Spanish coffee, journaling in the travel journal. On both days, I spent inordinate amounts of time calculating what I was doing a week or two ago at the same time. I read my journal entries for those days, trying to re-place myself in the scenarios I inhabited back then and over there.


These two photos are indicative of the way I carry myself in Spain. In public, when others look at me or take a photo of me, I am collected and calm and serene.

When I am by myself, I am laughing and smiling and trying to capture how great I feel in my reflection in the mirrors of closed shops.

Here is a question I often ask myself: What is it about Spain that causes me such joy, that heals me, that recenters me? After 23 years of visiting there (and nearly that many visits) I still do not have an articulate answer to that question.

Yesterday morning, it hit me. I was in denial. My body is here at home. But my soul hasn't caught up yet; I'm experiencing what Nikki Hardin, publisher of Skirt magazine, aptly named "soul lag."

flying home, starting over,
having soul lag, waiting for it
to catch up with my body, the
dislocation of being Here There
Somewhere Nowhere, of being
between heaven and earth, of
flying and landing and waiting
and taking off and going in
circles, when every new wait-
ing room is filled with middle
of the night regrets and yester-
day's news and strangers and
you're a stranger too, flying
so far you break the barrier of
your own fear, flying so high
no one can reach you, flying
home and learning to kiss the
ground I step on every day.

Last night, I decided it was time to put the travel journal up on the shelf and pull out the regular, every day, "this is my life" journal. No regrets. No deep sighs. No resentments. Resolve. Gratitude. Peace.

Here's how my typical re-placing myself fantasies go: This past Wednesday morning, I replayed last Wednesday morning's events in my mind as I sat at the breakfast table. For the next several Wednesday mornings, when I sit down to breakfast, I will replay that moment in my mind.

Last Wednesday morning, September 16th, I sat in a cafe in Valladolid, Spain, with one of my dearest friends in the world, and a song came on the radio that had as one of its most repeated phrases, "This is home." As I sat there, nursing that perfectly brewed cup of coffee (see photo above), eating a grilled croissant with apricot jam (why don't croissants get split and grilled face down here!!!???), tears sprang immediately to my eyes. It was true: "This is home."

At that moment, at that table, and again at this moment, at this table, I declare to myself: There is to be no more living in denial. I choose to live in truth. Here is one of the deepest truths of my life: this place, wherever I am sitting or standing, right here and right now, wherever I am, I can be at peace, trusting in the divine timing and providence of God.

Wherever these meandering feet and this wandering soul go,
right then and there, right here and now, this is home

PS. There's also the minor issue of having fallen in love again...

Friday, September 18, 2009

Confession Time...

I have taken up drinking.

Alone at a favorite watering hole, one I discovered originally in Rome back in 2001.

Alone at the kitchen table of the apartment where I am holed up.
(The title of the book is To Go on Pilgrimage: Outward and Inward.)

And because I have heard that it is not good to imbibe alone, I have gotten together twice with a niece who also likes to toss one back every once in a while.

I have met up with friends on occasion as well.
There is nothing quite like bellying up to the bar, ordering "the usual,"
and enjoying the fruit of the vine.

I can already tell that this is going to be a hard habit to break.