5 Good Things

1. sons
Our second child was a boy. It’s nearly incomprehensible how much joy both of our children bring. I delight in the differences between daughters and sons. We have been through challenging times with this boy. Perhaps that is what makes the joy so full.

2. breakfast
I’ve always been a breakfast person even when it meant a carton of chocolate milk picked up at the convenience store. Most of my life it’s been little more than cereal and milk. The past few years it’s become a more intentional menu. After visiting Israel I came home eating yogurt most days for breakfast. Greek yogurt, nuts, honey and hot tea, preferably Tazo Organic Chai…..yum!

3. community worship
I’m lousy at personal worship. I’m impatient and self-conscious and all of that. But coming together with others and seeing their expressions is where I find a deeper appreciation.

4. rhythm
I like complicated beats. The kind that aren’t always expected. A syncopated rhythm or at least one with with hesitation. It draws me in. Makes me notice. But the subtle rhythms of life are the ones that trip me up. I don’t know what takes me so long to notice them and make the connections they are drawing in my life.

5. old things
An old manual typewriter sits not far from where I sit now. It doesn’t work well. You can’t get a piece of paper in it because the paper wheel doesn’t grab properly. But I like seeing it. The record player across the room isn’t as obvious. It plays vinyl but it’s not old. It’s made to look like a replica and has a few modern hookups. I learned to type on a manual but one perhaps not this old. I asked for a record player for my 15 birthday and had one until getting the new things called c.d. players in the 80’s. Today even the younger ones are turning back to what is old. They wear wireless headphones while listening to needles glide across vinyl records. Amazing.

The best old things are friends.

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 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.

Five-Minute Friday {Celebrate}


“Celebrate”, she said.

“Today?” I thought.

Really, it’s not been a great week. I’ve tossed and turned carrying burdens of friends, feeling uncertainty in decisions that don’t have to be made now except for my lack of patience. I’ve been angered by injustice to others and disappointed in much, including myself. We haven’t even seen blue skies in the Sunshine State in two days and the forecast is for more storms.


Wait, I see a sliver of blue in the sky out back. There is a small part in the clouds. For now. The rains will come again but now there is blue so yes, let’s celebrate now!

Let’s celebrate when the sun peaks out and when the rains pour down.

Let’s celebrate when the answers don’t come or the answer is no.

Let’s celebrate when it doesn’t go my way, when another sleepless night comes and when you feel forgotten. Let’s celebrate in the middle of the mess.

I can’t celebrate without gratitude and gratitude is what I need now. A heart that is thankful for umbrellas and taking risks and knowing that God knows my need.

Let’s celebrate for friends who share their burdens and friends who ask for prayer and friends you’ve never met on this side of the screen and leave you words of encouragement and truth.

Let’s celebrate every day a God who sees inside our mess and calls us His own.

Linking up with a free-writing mob of bloggers in a weekly writing prompt hosted by Kate. Stop over and be part of the conversation.



Make it count

count your blessings

Sometimes the speed with which we go from one season to another, from holiday to holiday, scares me as much as the frog I nearly stepped on today that came from nowhere. Is it me or all of us? When the calendar turns to October it seems the invisible conductor signals cut time and we all step faster to his beat.

Last week people were lined up to buy candy and costumes. Our neighbors decked their front yard with hay bales and spider webs and turned the strobe lights on Halloween night as the kids poured by. And just like a page is turned, the sales pages have exchanged pumpkins for Christmas trees and somewhere in between Thanksgiving is a bit lost.

Sometimes I forget that Thanksgiving is a distinctly American holiday. Other countries have their celebration of thanks but the fourth Thursday in November is set aside for ours. It means something different to all of us I expect. We carry our family traditions or forge new ones.

I can’t think of a better reason to celebrate than to give thanks. Our thanks is given to God who provides and sustains. Often not as we expect but as we need, when we need. And no matter how each year we say we’re going to count our thanks all year it gets lost in the next holiday and the next. Not that thanks doesn’t come from our heart and mouths but without as much intention as this time of year.

Let’s start again. With intention to number our thanks and call them out because gratitude isn’t to be whispered.

Psalm 103-1

Five-Minute Friday {grateful}

Linking up with Lisa-Jo Baker again and the host of bloggers who join her each Friday for the word prompt she provides and the word: GO

My mind jumped to a hundred different directions when I saw the word prompt: grateful. Really? My life is grateful. It is full and it is more and it is beyond expectations and when I practice that gratefulness, when I claim it and profess it, I am overwhelmed and know that I am loved by a God who is love.

Truth is, there’s something I’m not grateful for. This time of year it stares me square in the face as I scan the card aisle at the store. Another year buying a card for a mama who doesn’t know me or her other children. A card I will sign, “from your daughter” holding on to some hope those words will mean something.



Scan 11


I’ve read Ann Voskamp and practiced writing my gifts, those little things I take for granted that are true gifts like the palm trees swaying outside my window just now and the shade of blue on the cup I’m sipping my chai tea and the machine I’m tapping these words on. I have much, am grateful for much but I haven’t found grateful in dementia.

Mother’s Day phone calls use to be hearing mama’s smile in her voice, and the weariness from working with Postal Carriers food drive that is always Mother’s Day weekend. She found her joy in service, it was her joy and witness. I don’t remember the last time I spoke to mama on Mother’s Day but our last calls found her fumbling for words and abruptly ending the conversations with “thanks for calling”. No, I’m not grateful for the sneak attack that has robbed our family of a mother and grandmother. I’m not grateful for dementia.


But I am grateful for the before. The before years that were filled with conversations that held stories and laughter. Hour long monthly calls that kept this mama and daughter separated by a few thousand miles connected. That time is cherished more now in a bittersweet kind of way but make no mistake, I am grateful for that. For her love of art and people and God. More than anything her love of God that was evidenced in her service to others has marked not only my life but countless others.

I am grateful for mama. I am grateful for the grace God gives that somehow gets us through this time. The time I cannot thank him for. Not yet, maybe ever. For the good care she receives, for those who care for her, for a sister who is amazing and carries this heavy load with grace and love, for the legacy mama has given, the life of witness she has lived, for these I am grateful. These are lasting. These are true. These cannot be taken by disease. God’s grace covers it all.



“But wait! There’s more!”

Times like this my heart is so big and full with gratitude and joy and my face is beaming brighter than the Florida sun. It’s just been one of those evenings. The kind that can’t be scripted but should always be cherished and it is and I believe there will be more of these days. I believe it because I believe in a God who is changing lives every day.

The monthly awards are always a special time. You can gauge the attitude of the house at these meetings, the way the men cheer each other and the nicknames you discover. Tonight may be a little more dear as our speaker has been solid since the day he walked in over 3 years ago. I wasn’t sure about him at first. He has those droopy eyes like stoners have and I didn’t think he was serious. I questioned the house manager who assured me he was a great guy and yes, yes, he is. When Eric first came through our doors he looked my husband straight in the eyes with his droopy ones and said, “I’m here for the long haul” and three years later Eric is a valued employee.


handing out birthday bags at our monthly awards

handing out birthday bags at our monthly awards

April awards

April awards

Eric has long moved out but comes to work in the warehouse everyday, working with the newest men, the men who aren’t sure why they’re with us or if they’re going to stay. The men still weak from their crack or heroin diet, the ones whose hands aren’t steady because they haven’t had a drink to steady them. Eric and Jeff (another exemplary employee with 12 years sobriety) work with these men and show these men what integrity and character is.

So he stood behind the microphone with his strong voice and focused eyes staring into our hearts and telling how his worst day ended in a prayer. A prayer in a crack house telling God, ‘if this is all there is for me take my life now’. So God did. He took that life, the old life that wanted crack and pills and shots and whatever he could get, God took that life and gave Eric a new one. Somehow, Eric got to our doors and when he walked through, he said he decided to abuse everything the program had to offer him the way he abused the drugs. So he used the counseling and 12 steps and used the Bible and prayer and he used it all. And God kept giving him more.

Yes, it was a day that was ending like that. A celebration that continues every day Eric lives to tell it. And like the crazy loud man on the commercial says, “But wait, there’s more”

We come home to see our daughter and granddaughter on FaceTime and when I sing out to the 6-year-old, “Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens” she beams big and sings back “bright copper kettles with warm woolen mittens”. She has just watched both old and new versions of The Sound of Music and has ranked, in order, her favorite songs and our music worlds can join together and it is joyous.

family christmas  family christmas

And once again, I hear the voice, “But wait!, there’s more!”

The message tone sounds on Facebook and I check it to read a note from Nick, celebrating 3 years the end of May. Nick who called me every Sunday night for a year after his grandma passed because he used to call her. Nick, who came through our program twice and relapsed but got up again and again and is finding the blessings of sobriety too. He was writing to tell us about a possible new job, an advancement and to say he misses us and will visit soon. Again, my heart swells up and my face beams a smile in an empty room.

In three hours time all of this. Blessing after blessing and God’s extravagance is poured out on me, an undeserving child who is prone to whining and sarcasm. But God says, ‘Wait, there’s more!’ There’s always more because this is how God loves his people.


Practicing gratitude

image from Pinterest

image from Pinterest

Please and thank you come as easily smiling for me. They were taught and modeled in front of me and no one ever gets mad at you for saying thank you.

“It seems that gratitude without practice may be a little like faith without works—it’s not alive.” The Gifts of Imperfection, Brene Brown

She says practice. Gratitude is not an attitude but a practice. And I need practice.

home decor

I closed myself up yesterday, pulling the gray from outside around me like a scratchy blanket. My heart dipping in sorrow thinking about mama’s advancing dementia, thinking about my loss, my sisters burden. There wasn’t much thanks being said, no gratitude practiced. I allowed it.

I flipped through family pictures of last year’s Thanksgiving. Smiling at our granddaughters laughter as a puppy licked her right in the mouth but again, sorrow pricked seeing my mother-in-law who will be absent our table this year. She’s gone to a grander celebration and left us to miss her.

The men are offering their thanks on our bulletin board.

The men are offering their thanks on our bulletin board.



I plan Sunday chapel service. I always do whether we’re here or out-of-town. It’s a control thing. Last week when my heart was singing a happier song I planned our time spent in community worship to focus on giving thanks. Our songs would be praises, we would give prayers and speak words of praise and thanks and gratefulness. And we did. They did. And five days ago God knew I needed this more than anyone in that chapel.

When they were invited to give their prayers of thanks their voices were eager to share. I strained to hear them, speaking at that quieter prayer voice I guess, and I missed to many. We sang and they were invited to share their thanks. Again, eager but I could hear them as they stood and I smiled and fought back tears because they were my sermon of love.

This tall one stood, giving thanks, still surprised he is accepted and loved. And the one they call Papa Bear, he stood and said he came for hope but got so much more. Another and another and they kept standing thanking God for “one more minute”, for life, for another chance. They practiced gratitude and it made their faith alive.

Please and thank you are nice but not enough. Not enough to produce gratitude. That takes practice.