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!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!