He is young but they’re all young these days.
He is young but they’re all young these days.
This withered and dying sunflower holds remnants of what was. It’s color is still true and some of the petals refuse to let go.
When I brought the bundle of yellow from the store some blooms weren’t fully open. Over the course of the week their petals relaxed and exposed more of the round center. Their stalks are thick and have the strength to support their brilliantly colored heads.
Over two weeks time I watched them cycle from full strength to petals dropping and starting to wither. Even as their blooms fade their beauty does not. The petals aren’t smooth or full. Yet it doesn’t negate their beauty. Neither has my admiration diminished. Through all of the stages they carry themselves with strength and a quiet grace.
Two years ago we lost the last of our parents. They are all gone on to glory now. We watched them age, color draining little by little. Dark hair to white. Energy slowly waned unable to keep pace with their younger selves or their great-grandchild. Some held tighter like the petals on the sunflowers. But life wins as it always does. The ultimate oxymoron.
Remnants have been left in their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. Remnants of beauty that defies the kind in magazine pages. Beauty isn’t always smooth skin and clear eyes. It’s not about strength or memory. It is more. Somewhere in the withering and fading you see the grace.
Pinterest has taken the place of magazines. It’s Better Homes & Gardens, Bon Apetit, In Style and Reader’s Digest all in one. I’ve saved recipes, fashion ideas and quotes. There are how-to’s from building a backyard cupola to a science project. It’s an encyclopedia offering information you didn’t know you needed.
We are sitting midway back in the movie theater. Tom Cruise is gripping a cable attached to the bottom of a helicopter as it flies over mountainous terrain. I know he’s going to survive yet my palms are sweating.
My husband and I were walking up the metal steps of a lighthouse with our 17 and 18-year-old kids. Half way up, I froze. I felt the fear rise up in my chest as I stood there. After calming my breathing, I reached out to touch the wall as I walked back down every step trying to focus on the wall.
Since then I’ve made it to the top of two lighthouses. Both by holding the belt loop of my husband, walking so closely behind him that I barely saw where my feet were stepping. Once to the top, I stood with my back against the wall looking straight out to enjoy the view. It was beautiful. For about 2 minutes.
I can climb a ladder or tree or scramble on top of our kitchen cabinets to reach something. But somewhere there’s a point I can’t cross. I can’t even watch it on a movie screen.
My toes are perilously close to the edge of life these days. I don’t want to be there but age does that. It pushes you further and further out past your youth to a point where fear threatens to keep you from looking down. You brave a glimpse now and then and what you see is deep and murky.
The edge feels crumbly as if the ground may give way. Actually, it does seem to be breaking off in tiny bits. A clump of usefulness slips between your toes and you try to back away. Purpose and worth are crumbling too and if you could just tip toe around the soft spots …but there’s no place left to go.
Instead of sweaty palms my heart feels like it’s taking an extra beat as I peer into what’s ahead.
The ground that was solid and true for years has suddenly become marshy. I knew the way around motherhood and ministry. I understood my purpose and eagerly pursued it. There was room to walk and my footing was sure more times than not.
I stayed clear of the edge and maybe that’s the problem. What I see as clouded in a thick mist is where the mystery is. Perhaps that’s where God’s real purpose is. Not in my knowing but in me trusting.
No, I don’t like being nudged so close to this vast expanse of what looks like nothingness. I don’t want the anxiety that uncertainty brings.
In her book Learning to Walk in the Dark, Barbara Brown Taylor says, “The only real difference between Anxiety and Excitement was my willingness to let go of Fear.”
Retirement from the known and purposeful is imminent. It is also scary and filled with anxiety and grief. Yet, here I am with toes on the edge getting ever so close to the mystery of what is ahead.
I want to grab hold of excitement for new possibilities like I held tight to my husband’s belt loops. I want my fingers to wrap around my truth and purpose, whatever it may look like, because I know my true worth can only be found in God.
You know the main character in the movie is going to make it. James Bond always survives. Jason Bourne and Indiana Jones escaped death multiple times as does Tom Cruise in the Mission Impossible series. They aren’t afraid to let go and jump.
Sweaty palms, racing heart…let’s jump!
There are two tragedies with addicts. There is the tragic life of the addict. A person whose life has unraveled and become a stranger to all who knew them. They have changed in every way.
It’s been a while since I’ve written a recap of things I’ve learned. It started with Emily Freeman‘s invitation to join her in keeping track of the things. She started a monthly review over on her blog that has become a seasonal account. It’s not easy to recall the lessons but being intentional helps us see that we are always learning and sometimes the little things are the big triumphs.
We are always learning something but it happens in such ordinary ways we forget the little strides we’re making. I’d encourage you to keep track of the lessons. Jot them down in your day planner or write them on the wall calendar. Make a “Learned” list in Evernote or tell Alexa to keep track but do it. (she says to herself) It’s a gift to yourself.
It had been a while since my father-in-law died when I saw his phone number still in my husbands contact list. It was thoughtless of me to call this to his attention but I did. He knew it was there, of course.
I don’t know what early mornings look like the other 11 months of the year in this part of North Carolina but many mornings in August the mist hangs low, almost touching the surface of the lake. There is a stillness even as the geese glide across the glassy water.
As long as I can remember, as long as I’ve been on this earth, Sunday has been a day of gathering.
Born into a church family from a church family, born to preacher parents, all other days pointed to Sunday.
We gathered Sunday clothes and Sunday books, Sunday people and Sunday dinner. The doors opened wide on our little churches begging for a bigger gathering of people week after week.
Sunday was the day we all got up with the same purpose, same intention, same schedule. And somehow, we got there without contention and we got there early, amen and thank you Jesus.
Sunday is where I learned beauty isn’t always external or pretty. There was the Sunday beauty of Billy, an older man who sat at the organ every week, shoes off with his socked-feet on the pedals, greeting everyone who walked by.
Billy was different. I never heard the real story but the mark on his head seemed to confirm a head injury of some kind. His was an awkward beauty, best seen when looking back and realizing his testimony was his faithfulness.
Beauty in the kids squirming about and the homeless man who wandered in, welcomed by Ed, stone cold deaf but it never stopped him from nodding in agreement with whatever was said that he never heard.
It was one of our pastors at our long time church who had the courage to cancel Sunday night service one year on Mother’s Day. It was all our group of peers could do not to stand up and let out a hearty cheer for his sheer bravery. The pastor said seemed like this was a good day to gather with our families.
Turned out that was a test and not long after we stopped having Sunday night church all together. We didn’t stop gathering. Relationships were strengthened in those afternoons on the tennis court or a cookout with friends. Our families grew together watching our kids play. Fellowship beyond the church doors made it a lasting beauty.
Today it’s me and Hudson doing the gathering of stuff Sunday mornings; sermon notes, laptop for media, prayers for everything. It’s the two of us gathering an extended family of men once stained with the disease of addiction, many struggling still and even in struggle we see how beauty doesn’t give up.
We will gather songs and words and hearts along the way. We will pray our sinful lives will be restored and we thank God for recovering the beauty he made in us all along.
It wasn’t a garden but a patch of dirt beside the asphalt parking lot. There they were, taller than my 5’4″ and showing off their beauty, reflecting the glory of their Maker. These yellow beauties seem rather ordinary in these parts.
They were mixed with other flowers but the sunflower commands attention. It’s boldness of color and height all seems to scream “look at ME!”