It’s Yours Not Mine

After nights of waking at 3 AM, of going out to the couch so i won’t wake him, of laying there sleepless with the usual trick of reading to lull me back to sleep, with even that failing me, you’d think I’d learn. 

You’d think I’d learn that the thoughts that wake me and occupy my mind, you’d think I’d learn those concerns are yours not mine.

The employee issues at work, the fatal overdose that was so unexpected of one with much promise, the grief that has become a silent companion, these are your cares, your concerns your problems, not mine.

But I will take them from you. Again. And again. I will hold them tight-fisted and I will lose sleep and depression will attempt to return because I’ve got this God. Life needs another flesh and blood life to take charge and step up and do the hard things. I mean, where are you but in the shadows of our prayers? 

I know the words about giving our cares to you. But tell me, how, exactly, does that work again? Because I still see a world that is filled with hate and greed and threatening to implode. I see addiction and disease taking our young and weak. And I’m one of the weak. I am so weak.

I see death and lies and rude people who don’t even know how to say excuse me. I just don’t see you. And I need to see you, right here. Because I believe you are. 

I wonder if giving all of this stuff to you is seeing you? I meant it when I said I’m not sure how that works because I’ve been holding your stuff for a really long time. We’re in this together right? I want to help and it’s hard to realize you don’t need my help. The lines get blurry between that whole faith and works thing because I’ve got the works down pretty good.

I like the notion of your will not mine. but honestly, when do I really let it be your will?

Step One: admit that you are powerless to do the right thing and that your life is unmanageable. 

I’m not an alcoholic. Not an addict. But I’m drunk on caring for things that are out of my control. I’m enticed by control, my drug of choice. All the things in neat little rows working as they should. Life, as I would have it. 

Instead of the familiar verses about casting my cares on the Lord because he cares for me, I find my comfort in the first steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, principles built on the bible, for wayward souls like me.

Christmas at My Age

In recent years many of my doctors have started conversations with these words: “At your age….” At your age I want you to take a baby aspirin (even though I have no family history of heart issues)At your age your teeth start to shift. At your age your eyes, your skin, your sleep…..

There is one childhood Christmas that sticks in my mind. It’s the year I asked Santa for an Easy-bake Oven.  I was 8 or 9 and the anticipation filled me with such excitement that I woke up in the middle of the night to peek into our living room to see if Santa had come. 

There is another year where I remember hearing the reports of where Santa and his sleigh were at that moment. I was a year or two younger and don’t remember the desired present but it was the excitement and anticipation of the event.

At my age, I’ve seen a lot of Christmases. Not all were happy or filled with excitement. We shift from the fables and presents and getting and think more about preparing and giving. We try to figure out ways to balance all the things without losing the reason we celebrate.

At my age I want the kind of Christmases where I still experience the wonder of the season. I want to be filled with the glory the angels sang about and know the joy of giving. 

At my age I want to hold dearly in my heart the memories of those we’ve lost while I hold the joy of their eternal peace and wholeness. 

I want to deck the halls and smile at the twinkling lights, to line our shelves with the Santa’s collected over the years, to celebrate the remnants of our past and the hope of our future.

At my age, I want to remember that Christ is being born every day, over and over in our life when we cling to his hope and peace and share his joy and love. 

Merry Christmas

And the Glory Shone Around Them

“…and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified,..”

Every Sunday one of the residents stands in front of the chapel and reads the scripture selected for this weeks worship gathering.

This may be the first time he’s read in a church setting. It may be the first time he has read from the bible. He might stumble over the words. He might be filled with fear even though he’s volunteered to do this.

With 100 men I don’t know many details of their life but I know he’s not living at the Salvation Army because life was good. It’s alcohol or drugs and these days in this part of the country odds are it’s opioids. I know there was something that took him out of life. If you heard some of their stories you’d probably give him a pass for choosing drugs or alcohol to numb the pain; to escape the nightmares that were real.

What I see when they stand in the front of our simple, small chapel isn’t what brought them here. I’ve come to see God’s glory surrounding them. God’s radiant love and mercy shining around someone who still isn’t sure if there is a God. 

It’s easier to recognize God’s glory in church. It’s easier to see it shining on the clean and well fed. But the truth is, God’s glory was shining on them holding that cardboard sign on the side of the road. His glory was wrapping them in a grace they hadn’t discovered. 

The familiar verse in Luke gives a beautiful image of God’s glory. The Voice says it this way:

“Suddenly a messenger of the Lord stood in front of them, and the darkness was replaced by a glorious light—the shining light of God’s glory. They were terrified!” Luke 2:9

God chose to shine his glory on a group of smelly men who spent most of their time living outdoors with their sheep. They were laborers. Unless they had an assistant they probably didn’t take time off to attend religious instruction. In other words, they weren’t church folks. Their ordinary life was interrupted by God’s radiant glory, their darkness replaced by His glory. This heavenly birth announcement was specifically given to them. By an ANGEL CHOIR! 

He stands in front of our chapel and reads. 

He plays his first piano solo in church one week. 

He kneels at the altar. 

He is sitting in our service unsure of who this Jesus is. 

He is angry with God. 

He stands to thank God for giving him breath. 

I have wrestled with God, turned my back on him, ignored his voice yet, it’s His glorious light that continues to break through the darkness in my life.

God’s grace surrounds us. Do you see it?
God’s glory always shines in the dark places. 

Hope of All Hope

“Even when there was no reason for hope, Abraham kept hoping—believing that he would become the father of many nations…” Romans 4:18a NLT

Our Advent celebration begins with hope. Hope is that thing that doesn’t make sense. It’s the thing that keeps us alive when all else seems lost. Hope keeps us searching. We breathe it in slowly, praying even these small breaths will sustain us one more day.

When God’s people haven’t seen a hint of light or hope of day, God will do something new.
Preface to Isaiah 9 in The Voice

God’s story, as recorded in the Bible through lives of men and women, is a story of hope. The stories of Abraham and Esther take twists and turns but are examples of unfailing hope. When people feared the worst the prophet Isaiah assured them a Savior would come. 

Hope of all hopes, dream of our dreams, a child is born, sweet-breathed; a son is given to us: a living gift. And even now, with tiny features and dewy hair, He is great.  The power of leadership, and the weight of authority, will rest on His shoulders. His name? His name we’ll know in many ways—He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Dear Father everlasting, ever-present never-failing, Master of Wholeness, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6 the Voice

When that Hope came in form of a baby many didn’t believe. They’re still searching. We are searching. We’re desperate for hope so we place it in money, status, family, politics. We grab at things we can hold.

When we hope in the tangible and temporal we discover more emptiness.I can’t explain this hope I have. For me hope looks like getting up when part of me wants to bury myself deeper under the covers of a comfortable bed. I might only make it to the couch but it’s a declaration that I haven’t given up.

Even with tears filling my eyes and fear stirring within there is a glimmer that relief will come. Somewhere, when things seem to be at their worst, I have hope. 

There was no hoping that mama’s dementia would improve or be cured. As dementia took more and more of her I was reminded that while we lost the essence of our mother, we held to the hope that pointed to her restoration in eternity. 

When I stare at an uncertain future and feel lacking in every area it is the One who is my Hope that assures me of his unending care. Hope isn’t answers. I don’t have them. Hope is the expectation that God will fulfill his promise of unfailing love.

This isn’t wishful thinking. This is God’s promise. His Son. Our Wonderful Counselor, MightyGod, Master of Wholeness and Prince of Peace.

This is the Hope of all Hopes. 

Advent Ignores the Urgency of Now and Says Wait

We can’t wait for the oven to preheat to 350* and then more time to bake so we microwave.

Why spend time writing a note inside a card, finding a stamp and sending off in the mail knowing it will take days when we can email now?

We have 24-hour news services where we can get information from anywhere now.

My impatience grows sitting at red lights or with drivers who seem in no rush. Even when I don’t have a schedule I want people and things to move now.

This is why I need Advent to interrupt my hamster wheel life. My feet are peddling faster and faster only to be back where I started. My brain is thinking about the to-do list for tomorrow and next week and the parties and presents and everything I want done now.

But Advent announces an arrival we must prepare for. An arrival of hope and peace and love and joy. An arrival of promise that we anticipate and wait with the expectancy of a child before Christmas morning.

The Advent candles flicker slowly providing a visual calm for me because in the face of this slowing I am torn. Torn by duties and responsibilities to prepare and make pretty and spread cheer for those in our care.

Yet, I will pause when the candles are lit. I will listen as the words of the Christmas story are spoken and sing from my heart the rejoicing that Christ is coming. He comes now.

“Glory!” sang the angel chorus
“Glory!” echoed back the night
Love has come to walk among us
Christ the Lord is born this night

The Changing Family Table

Every year it seems Thanksgiving is getting closer to being squeezed out by all the fanfare of Black Friday. In between the adds for “Best Deals” are the grocery specials on sweet potatoes and turkeys.

Then there are voices proclaiming appreciation for Thanksgiving more than Christmas. They like the slower pace dictated by the day that seems to be focused on family.

Family has always been the focus of our Thanksgiving gathering. Some years have included friends who would have been home alone. We discover which customs we share and where we differ…usually as it relates to food. My mother-in-law always brought the northern foods to our more southern group that would never consider having a Thanksgiving meal without pecan pie.

Menu aside our real reason for gathering was each other. This year will be the first in our 41 year marriage where we won’t be with family on Thanksgiving day. In today’s mobile society that’s quite an achievement. It also speaks to the fact that we like each other.

I know my heart will be missing our coming together. It already does. I’m saddened that my cousin won’t be able to host this year because of damage to their home caused by Hurricane Michael. Five weeks later and only one supermarket chain has been able to reopen.

While we won’t be with kin we will be with our community that gives us every reason to be thankful. Some of our residents in our ARC will celebrate with their sponsors or friends. Very few will share the day with family. For all of them we will be that for them, as best we can while also wearing the hats of pastor, teacher, director. Seeing change in their lives gives us more than we can ever give to them.

One of our counselors focuses on gratitude in one of her groups. Many of us have learned the value of incorporating thoughts of gratitude daily. It’s an intentional practice. It’s especially important for those who find themselves living in a place that was their last hope.

We’ve used different ways to share our thanks over the years. Reading their words humbles me and draws me in a little more to their journey.

We’ve done this at our family Thanksgivings too. Our words of thanks are evidence of privilege: family, music, food, laughter. They are simple and general even though said with true gratitude.

It’s a mingling of both that brings hearts together in a real family table. One that extends beyond the literal table and chairs. We need the experience of each other to build a stronger community. But we need it most to come closer to God’s immense grace and mercy.

Come, thou Fount of every blessing,
tune my heart to sing thy grace;
streams of mercy, never ceasing,
call for songs of loudest praise.

Write 31 Days {week 2}

This the second week of the writing challenge to write everyday in October. I’m expressing my writing with photos posted on Instagram and posting weekly reviews here. You can find week one here.

Five Minute Friday gives word prompts to direct our writing. If you want to explore the writings of others check out the hashtag #write31days.

Day 7 | Hope


From the tiny acorn, the ones that litter the yard and crunch under your feet, come strong oak trees. The acorn and mustard seed, both small in size, are symbols of hope. Their growth and strength doesn’t come overnight but with waiting. Their growth is not limited by size. Hope in God is always without limitations. 

“Wait with hope. Hope now; hope always!” Psalm 131:3 the Message

Day 8 | Comfort


“The best comfort food will always be greens, cornbread, and fried chicken.” Maya Angelou

Cornbread is one of my comfort foods. My granny made hers in a cast-iron skillet in the oven. She liked to crumble her cornbread in a glass of buttermilk and eat it with a spoon. I just like it slathered with butter. Though it’s pretty good to crumble a bit of it and add to beef stew. Delicious comfort!

Day 9 | Inspire


“Creativity takes courage.” Pablo Picasso

Day 10 | How

“A woman is like a tea bag – you can’t tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water.” Eleanor Roosevelt  

I wonder if we’re at our strongest when we feel the weakest.

Day 11 | Door


This is a door at Thomas Edison’s winter home in Ft. Myers, FL. (An interesting tour) Edison opened the  door to sight and sound with his inventions of the incandescent light bulb, phonograph, film, and movie camera just to name a few. These days I’m contemplating what new doors will open to a new future. I’m learning to accept not having that answered today. I can accept it because I believe in God who has been called the door. It’s not always easy but faith seldom is.

Day 12 | Praise





The past 10 years we’ve celebrated Thanksgiving with extended family in Panama City, Florida. Most years, tables have been put end to end outside to accommodate our growing family. Over the years we’ve added spouses and grandchildren and held space for empty chairs of parents who have passed. 

Each year my cousin (our hostess) has a different way for us to express our thanks. One year there were five corn kernels on our plates. Another year we wrote on construction paper leaves and hung on a branch. It wasn’t the method but the priority and reason we gathered. From youngest to oldest we shared things that filled our hearts with thanks. Music, family, faith, being together, laughter….so much.

This year Hurricane Michael marched through their town with no respect to the families who make their lives there. When my phone lit up with my cousin’s name I answered screaming her name in sheer delight – “Beki!” Her first words were actually, “Breathe….breathe….we’re alright. Our home is destroyed but we’re all okay” A tall pine tree at the corner of their yard came down on their roof and then rolled onto his truck. They were inside their house praying and singing songs of praise. They were scared but the worst had passed and now we were so very thankful for their safety. Gratitude is another form of praise. 

It’s too early to know if we’ll be able to gather for another Thanksgiving celebration in their yard this year. But we will continue to praise as our hearts are full of thanks for each other. 

Day 13 | Talk

I miss this lady.  I miss her laugh and her encouragement. I miss the long talks we had catching up on life from our corners of the country. I miss her heart for service. But all that I miss is held in our memories and passed on to us through her example. 

The Warriors Pose

The last time I sat with her in church was like sitting in a draft. She was next to me, somehow knowing she was in her church of 40 years, but there was a current of air separating her from me. She smiled and I chose to believe it was a smile of familiarity even though she referred to me as “that lady with a nice smile”.

That lady. The one who’d grown inside of her for 9 months, who she’d taken to piano lessons and sewn clothes for. Her first born, first daughter who she instilled an interest in art and a desire for lifelong learning was ‘that lady‘.

She was there in body but there was a presence that was missing. It made the air still, stagnant.

I decided to fly cross country to visit my sister on the first Mother’s Day after mama passed. It felt right to be there, as if it would somehow redeem the loss.

I thought it would be easy.  But when my eyes peeled open in the early morning light on Mother’s Day, sleeping in my nephews room at my sisters house 3000 miles from mine, I missed her. I missed mama sitting next to me not knowing who I was but smiling kindly.

You see, she was a warrior. Her life had been given to fighting for those who couldn’t fight for themselves. She’d organized teams of volunteers to take kids shopping at Christmas. She lead food drives and took coats to families needing protection from the harsh winters. She’d enlisted a whole army who never realized they too were warriors.

Bit by bit we would lose her memories of being a family. The look of uncertainty covered her face. She was lost and searching not only for memories but for words and meaning.There was no fighting Alzheimer’s. It was always going to win.

Somehow her reverence for scripture remained long after our connection was lost.  On my husband’s last visit with me he pulled up a passage from the Bible on his phone and started reading. Her body stilled as she focused all she had on the words being read. She seemed to give a slight nod of affirmation. It was something I held onto as if a small victory had been won.

In yoga, the warrior pose is standing with legs apart and arms stretched outward. It doesn’t appear to be a warrior-like position. Rather than looking like one ready for battle it’s one of complete openness. It was the pose mama held as she fought poverty and loneliness. Compassion always stands firm, arms always outstretched.

Alzheimer’s left ongoing grief in its wake. Grief is stealthy in its attack brought on by the best of memories. It aims for the heart. Some days I want to take the curl-up-in-a-ball-and-watch-Netflix pose. Instead, I allow the grief to wash over me, blinking back the salty tears filling my eyes.  An open heart is stronger than we can imagine. 

I’m a fighter I remind myself. I come from a long line of strong women, women who stood firm in conviction and held their arms wide open for family and strangers. There is no assurance you won’t be hurt. To the contrary, there is evidence you will be hurt. Again and again. But you won’t stop fighting.

It can feel a little like losing but love sometimes does.

Only the truest of warriors expose themselves in battle. They stand unarmed and unprotected, with arms of grace wide open.

Pinterest Isn’t Always Right

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.

I like good quotes and have collected quite a few but I ran across this one that made me wince.
“This will all make perfect sense someday.” I liked the style of it. The background was a bold yellow and the words looked like they were handwritten on white paper and pasted in the middle of the yellow. There was a lot of white space which we know draws our interest.
I wondered how many people saved that being comforted by the words.
Wouldn’t it be nice if someday it would make perfect sense?
Mental illness
I can’t make sense of any of it but I believe there is hope. And hope is more than a verse in beautiful calligraphy on Instagram.
Hope is crying with the co-worker just diagnosed with cancer and hope is my friend who volunteers at a pregnancy crisis center. It’s teaching our children and grandchildren about respect and showing it to one another. Hope is smiling and holding the door open and making room for the person who doesn’t look like you.
I haven’t been able to make sense out of hope. But I believe it’s where we find God.

The prayers of strangers

It wasn’t the typical Sunday morning but I’m not quite sure what typical means some days. My sister was visiting and going with us to chapel service, her first in the recovery community.  Hudson was leaving town immediately following the service and before I walked out of our house I had a message from a friend in another town asking our men to pray for JW.

As I set up the computer for the media another message flashed across my screen: please pray for JR’s wife and then the needs of another not asking for prayer but I knew it was needed.

chapel edit


Every week there are those sitting in silence, doubting prayer, wondering why theirs wasn’t answered or if they should even ask for prayer. We’ve all trivialized our problems because those of another sounds greater. We’ve sulked because we’re still waiting for the last 10 prayers to be answered and now we aren’t even sure we believe.

It stays in my mind, this woman of the faith who has never met one of the men she has asked to pray. She knows of their brokeness, of the reasons they’ve had to put humility aside and walk through our doors. She’s heard me tell the stories and these are the ones she wants to pray, for one they don’t know either.

My faith is shallow and impatient. It doesn’t wait long and its doubt comes quick. My faith reaches to people I know, I’ve seen their lives and heard their hearts and maybe, maybe, I’ll whisper my need to them.

I know these men and I know God and I know the broken are just the ones God uses to crash my arrogance and pride. I know he hears the hearts of those whose hearts beat for Him and nothing beats louder than a heart needing to be made new.

We prayed for the known and the unknown. Some are praying still. I don’t understand the mystery of prayer. I’m not too good at it, at least the way it seems it should be done. I hope I’m wrong about that. I hope I’m wrong that it needs to be always done on my knees in a quiet room with no distractions and no less than 10 minutes, preferably 15 minutes. Doesn’t that sound right?

You thank and praise, which seem the same to me but I heard someone say they’re different and you should include both in your prayers.

You admit and request and you wrap it all in gratitude and that I know it right because how can I not be grateful to the One who somehow holds it all.

Mostly I pray in spurts. In the moment as it comes to me like seeing a request on Facebook and sometimes I touch the screen and say a prayer. I know I’ll forget if I don’t say it just then.

I pray with my eyes open a lot because I’m driving or at my desk or someone comes to mind while I’m cooking. It always too little  but God isn’t the one measuring prayers by word count or eyes closed.

I don’t know why she asked a group of strangers, men with addiction problems, to pray for her friend. I do know God has heard their prayers. I know her faith in God is why she asked and not her faith in people. I know her faith has helped strengthen mine.