Write 31 Days {week 4}

This is the last full week of October’s writing challenge. I’m enjoying culling through my photos to see what is sparked by the prompts. It’s not always the obvious. I’m trying to stretch my mind though some days….there isn’t much to stretch. You can follow me on Instagram to see my previous posts or check them out here: week 1, week 2, week 3.


21 | start

“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” Arthur Ashe

Start a book, a garden, a family. Start singing. Start dancing. Start living.


22 | help

My husband and I are Administrators of a residential rehabilitation program. People come to us for some kind of help. Some come seeking shelter from the streets thinking they just need food and rest. Some are looking for a magic cure. But they come searching for help. Help is easy to offer. That’s what we do. 

As I walked down the hall trying to balance the boxes I had in my arms one of the residents called out, “Need help?” “I got it”, I replied as I continued toward the door. He was persistent as he said a littler more firmly, “Let us help you.”

Me? Need help? He caught me. Yes, I could have managed the load I was carrying but to be honest, it was nice to have someone notice the load and want to share it with me. I want to think that accepting his help actually helped us both.

There’s an old hymn we sing we often sing that reminds us who is our true help.

“Are we weak and heavy-laden,

  Cumbered with a load of care?

Precious Savior, still our refuge—

  Take it to the Lord in prayer;

Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?

  Take it to the Lord in prayer;

In His arms He’ll take and shield thee,

  Thou wilt find a solace there.”


23 | common

Shells are as common to our South Florida landscape as fall leaves are in the northeast. What’s ordinary to one isn’t to another which is our cue to take note of the every day things around us. The simple and familiar are where our gratitude begins.


24 | brief

The lifespan of a butterfly is brief. Yet in it’s time it does what it was created to do. 


25 | capture

Like so many others, this young one is watching for a wave to capture. Often, they spend more time waiting. Perhaps the anticipation is part of the lure. 


26 | celebrate

11 years ago I stroked my daughter’s hair as she gave birth to her daughter. We celebrate the grand’s birthday this weekend. We’ve been to parties at parks, bounce places and zip lines but this year we’re being banished. After we eat at her choice of restaurants and watch her open her presents, that is. This year she’s having a sleepover. Even her dad is getting the boot for a girls only night. I expect there will be little sleep and an overflow of giggles.


27 | whole

Our nephew and his bride cut through the whole for the first slice of their wedding cake. This is how we live life – one slice at a time. Make it sweet!


It’s Time to Jump


Photo by Aniketh Kumar on Unsplash

 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.


Photo by Blake Cheek on Unsplash


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!


A Few Things I Learned This Summer


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.

  1. Henry and I were invited to participate in a wedding this summer. It was a privilege and joy to see the transformation and restoration take place in this young man’s life. The wedding was in Philadelphia which gave us a few hours to explore the city and wish we’d had more time. We spent an evening walking in the historic downtown and enjoyed the mixture of history, urban and northern scenery. Who knew?
  2. I took a break. I put blogging on hold and released myself from self-imposed pressures of social media. It was the best thing I did for myself. I realized (aka learned) I’d been focusing on the wrong things. I felt like I was chasing after approval and life isn’t meant to be a chase nor do I need man’s approval. (Still working on that one.)
  3. I discovered Tazo Chai Vanilla Caramel tea. Delicious!
  4. Art is saving my sanity. I am an over thinker. Anyone? The only shut off button for my mind seems to be busy hands. When I’m sewing or painting or taking photos my mind is focused on what’s in front of me. It’s deciding which color of thread to use and cutting the fabric straight. Or setting up a still life shoot or doodling. I’ve known this but when I cut back on blogging I rediscovered what adds peace to my life. And to the lives of those around me 😉 You can check out my photos on Unsplash, a free download site.
  5. I learned to make Apple Cider donuts. YES! First, cooking is not my gifting. I often find it confusing and stressful. But…..there are these apple cider donuts we buy every August from an Orchard in North Carolina. And We. Love. Them. The donuts and the orchard because there is just too much goodness there. This year I set out to learn to make them. My only criteria was they had to be baked. I ordered donut baking pans from Amazon. There is still a bit of tinkering to do with the recipe but it was a success! If you’re interested you can find the recipe here.

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.


The Things We Keep


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.

Mama had the same phone number over 30 years. It was the only one I knew by memory not speed dial. She was the last to maintain a landline, one that would give a busy signal because she never used an answering machine.
When Alzheimer’s progressed to where she needed the safety of a nursing facility I never deleted the phone number from my contacts. I can recite it today as fast as my own.

It’s been 2 years and three months since mama died and I get it. I’ve cleaned out my contact list a couple of times since her passing and both times my finger paused at her name before going on to the next. As if leaving her name in print in my electronic contact book will secure her place in my life.
I am slowly starting to sort through things as we prepare our move into retirement. Clutter is not me but there is So Much Stuff. Every room I walk through holds more things to decide what to keep and what to let go. On the wall is a framed cover of Carole King’s Tapestry album. I practically wore the grooves of the vinyl down the summer of my 14th year. It’s never the item but the memory connected to it.
Every year when we bring out the boxes of Christmas ornaments there is a gold-painted construction paper macaroni star made by one of our kids in preschool. Our kids are in their late 30’s. Dried pasta and Elmer’s school glue are amazing.
I may not be a pack rat but I have a sentimental heart that holds tightly to memories.
At some point I’ll need to let go of our daughter’s favorite rag doll. The one she carried by the braided pigtails until they came unglued from the side of her head. I’ll have to find a new home for our son’s first teddy bear that he named Freddy and the Star Wars figures he’s insisted we keep for him the past 20 years.
Letting go of the things feels like a betrayal. As if all the stories are tied to an object when the most precious things for us to keep are the stories.
There are tangible things we keep. Granny’s dishes kept packed in a box. Ticket stubs from our first trip to England. Family bibles. And phone numbers in contacts.

The Mist


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.

Any time of day is quieter here by this lake surrounded by the Smokey Mountains. It’s offering a peace your body forgets it needs until the stillness finds you.
Life is going on as usual. Bills will come in, issues will have to be dealt with at home, laundry needs to be done and meals prepared. But none of it seems burdensome cloaked in the mist and sound of nature.
We hear the crunch of gravel as cars rumble past our house just off the lake. They are few and slow. Bird song and voices carry from across the way penetrating the stillness.
Being surrounded by layer upon layer of nature helps me realize why people forsake the tidy neighborhoods of cookie cutter homes in cities and suburbs.
Five houses on the left daisies reach across the asphalt of the one way road giving access to our side of the oval shaped “neighborhood”. The red clapboard house next door has window boxes of flowers and some days we catch sight of a rabbit foraging on the ground between our houses.
Swans swim at one end of the lake while geese waddle at the other with random paddleboats and kayaks in between. It’s a 3 mile walk around this lake that’s lined with a multicolored rose garden. There’s no place you can go in this small town without a burst of color. It is the only sound that complements this quiet.
We share this space with family. The quiet will be short lived. Soon voices will be making decisions and dissections. We’ll decide which pies to order for our midweek gathering as we dissect the message at the morning’s meeting – part of our work that brings us here.
There are responsibilities that have traveled with us. We haven’t left all of life’s noise behind. The difference is the easy temperatures that invite us to sit on the porch and listen more closely to the call of the birds. We hear a distant saw and the buzz of crickets or cicadas. (This city girl doesn’t know the difference.) Being in these surroundings provide a layer of resistance to the demands that make me wonder can I do this at home?
Why does it seem easier to allow frustration to rule at home? We can’t change our physical surroundings. August in South Florida is stifling with humidity that makes porches empty. Our night skies are polluted with artificial light from below making the stars above invisible. There is a constant rumble of sound: a grinding truck, roaring motorcycle, bass beat throbbing from a car or neighbor’s radio playing across the backyard of our zero lot line homes. The noise in our heads is the hardest to quiet. I want to think if only. If only we lived here. If only this was our setting. If only this quiet, this mist that shrouds reality could follow me home.
The mist finally parts and we see clearly the houses on the other side of the lake.
When you can’t change things you accept what is. Acceptance and I aren’t on good terms. I fight it like a toddler fighting a nap. When faced with denial or acceptance I like to think I choose acceptance. All be it begrudgingly. Reality stares me down and wins.
Acceptance says be thankful for the time away and enjoy the change of scenery. It reminds us to have gratitude for little things: air conditioning at home, and, big things: meaningful work to do. Acceptance acknowledges God is in the mist just as he is in the cloudless blue skies; in the mountains and the oceans.
Acceptance is a soul-saving surrender to a loving God.

You don’t have to catch every ball thrown to you



Did you ever play the game “Think Fast” or was it just in my family?

That’s when you’re walking through a room and a football comes hurling at you while your dad calls out “think fast!”. No? Just my dad?

It wasn’t a game favored by mama since she preferred things, especially balls, not to be thrown in the house but when she wasn’t looking…….well, you know.

Obviously, the objective was to catch the ball. The one you weren’t expecting.

Somewhere we got the notion we had to catch every ball thrown our way.  And it seems the balls come faster and faster: work, marriage, a baby, another baby, school, church, sports, health problems, aging parents and more.

A wise friend told me, “You don’t have to catch every ball that’s thrown at you.” True, but how do you stand there and watch it fall? Maybe I can just stand there and say, “Oh, were you throwing that to me?” I wonder how that would work.

Yesterday the ball of relapse came spiraling our way, We saw this one coming, but we stood there and let it fall to the floor. It wasn’t mine to catch.

Some days I have to take off the cape.

And it’s okay. That cape was just for show anyway. The real strength isn’t yours but His.

This is the last in a group discussion link-up of the book, On Being a Writer, hosted by Kate Motaung. Stop over to get an overview of the series.

Five-Minute Friday {same}

Thirty-eight years next month and we couldn’t be more different.

The memories of standing in front of the church, our church, our people, of saying quiet the words of promise, those memories seem more clear than the photo’s that have started to age.

We were young. I was scared. He was certain. Was that the hint to other differences that would enfold?

The signs were there. He’s an outdoor guy and I’d rather not sweat. He’s an introvert easily depleted by the peopling he must do everyday and I crave conversation.

His car radio is set to the classical station on XM and mine is likely to have my iPhone plugged in with music a bit more caffeinated.


Us then ’77

Us now with son and daughter-in-law

Us now with son and daughter-in-law

The older we’ve grown the more glaring these differences have become. His preference to science-fiction and mine to crime-legal-suspense genre. His crazy love of golf and my complete lack of getting it. His ability to fall asleep anywhere, anytime in seconds and my ability to lay there for 30 minutes, sometimes waken at 3AM trying to will myself back to sleep knowing it won’t come for at least 90 minutes and this with Melatonin!

We joke and say it’s worked for 38 years why change it.

The truth is we both love Jesus and want others to love Jesus. He stands firm and strong for me when I’m overtaken by grief, sorrow, disappointment. We love our children and family and count ourselves blessed to be part of their lives, near and far.

Truth is, at our very core, those foundations we have built our lives on, there we are the same.

Linking up with Kate Motaung for the weekly Five-Minute writing prompt. Head over to Kate’s and join the party. 

Five-Minute Friday {YES}

Friday, looking at a bonus day extending the weekend.

Friday, with the weekly laundry to wash and groceries to buy.

Friday melting in to the Saturday when college football season finally returns and brings with it more yelling at people who, thankfully, can’t hear us but this is what we do when our favorite sport returns.


empty tea cup

The end of the week that brings opportunities to linger over breakfast, a chance to play or being instead of doing for a while. A chance to come together with our faith community Sunday that always brings new grace.

A time to say no to the ‘should’ and YES to the unknown possibilities. To say YES to living wholehearted, weak and trembling, but learning we are made in the image of God and he is waiting to say YES to us.

Linking up with the weekly Five-Minute Friday blog party at Kate Motaung‘s place. Stop over and share your words on this weeks prompt.

What We Learned {August}


I nearly let this link-up go by as it’s just a busy week. But I was diligent in jotting down things I learned and it looks like August was a good month for boosting knowledge.

Basics that I probably should have known but, you know, now I do!

Who doesn’t use Google image to find pictures of anything but I never realized there was a way to pinpoint my searches. Once you’re in Google Image, look for the button that says “more tools” and click that. There you will be able to refine your search to file size, type and the best part, images that don’t have use restrictions. BONUS!


I’ve read about a lot of folks using Periscope so I had to take a look. It’s easy as it’s a free app to download, follow whoever you want and when they go live you’ll get a sound notification. You can watch it live or anytime within 24 hours. Most segments are 15 minutes or less which is perfect. You can even watch Emily Freeman on Periscope 😉

If you like photography and using filters, etc. I have found Rhonna Farrer tutorials on Periscope to be especially helpful.


                                               edited with rdmagic and rhonnadesigns apps


Here’s something else I’ve been seeing in print more and more: the word bespoke. I had no idea the meaning and the context wasn’t helping me so to the dictionary app I went to discover it means “made to order”. Huh, who knew? 😉

Swag – I think we all know the current meaning has been associated with swag bags as in the goodies you get at a conference, etc. At our nieces wedding the photographer was doing pics of the groomsmen when she said, “Show me your swag.” The men were a bit restrained but the two little boys quickly threw their arms crossed over their chest to their shoulders. So now I’m learning from a 5 and 7-year-old. Sounds about right.


Paul Kathryn_batchWatermark

                             My favorite of the day: my brother walking his middle daughter down the aisle.

Speaking of weddings, and photography, said niece asked if I’d take pictures at the wedding too. Since I wasn’t the primary photographer (we’re all friends so there was no threat) there was no pressure and it enabled me to focus on the candid and do what I love most: capturing the mood of the moment. What a delight.

August was the time for my husband and I to get our personnel review with the organization we’re with. That hour conversation about goals taught me I wasn’t prepared and needed to put more intentional direction in my life. I wrote about the results of that meeting here.

Linking up with Emily Freeman over at Chatting at the Sky for a monthly link-up of What We Learned.

Goals? Me?

around the lake in North Carolina

I don’t know what I expected but I didn’t expect this.

It was our five-year review. At least I guess it’s a five-year thing. They’ve happened somewhat randomly throughout our 20+ years as Salvation Army pastors.

This review skipped the basics, the stuff that tells you how you’re doing or the perception of how you’re doing and went straight to the goals. As in, ‘what are three goals you have?’

I sat silent.

He didn’t want to hear what I was thinking. That Hudson is just shy of 4 years from retirement and my goal is to get through and get out. How’s that for goals?

Finally, a few things were scratched out…I mentioned a certification one of our counselors has encouraged me to get and we talked about that and a possibility of schooling for an advanced certification in addictions counseling.

It all sounded good and met the needs of the review. Whew, that was close!

Then I got an email inquiring about checking on my credits and what would be needed to finish a degree and reality set in and I realized this goal thing was serious.

And one standard review woke me up from my comfortable coasting. It woke me to the reality of what’s next? What is that thing that will always be there when I’m not required to do this or that?

Those thoughts swirled through my mind for days as I needed to peel off layers of expectations, perceptions and obligations. I need to find the basics that make me want to learn and share.

Then I wrote this email:

“As I have thought about our conversation, talked to Henry (who seems to know me better than I know myself) and let these things settle in my heart, I think my real desire, is indeed, communicating; communicating a story of grace and hope and the beauty of God.”

And then I shared it with three friends because to say it makes it real and, hopefully, makes me accountable. But to say it here? I’m taking a deep breath now.

My heart isn’t with the certification for addictions counseling even though I could make money doing that in retirement. My real desire is to tell stories; through words (written and spoken) and or pictures, (photo’s or art).

I’m not sure how it will look right now but I’m looking around to find out. It’s not an obvious thing or easily quantified in our standardized goals but I feel settled about it. In the way that I’m not questioning it or wishy-washy. I don’t have a goal to write a book or be a commercial success but to hone the talents I’ve been given to continue to learn and grow and share God’s story of grace. 

There is a lot of unknown. But this unknown has me excited for the possibilities God has ahead.

The first person I shared this with has this on her Facebook status today. Maybe it’s not just for me but for you too.

no fear
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10