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.


I want to retreat. To hide out from people, people I know, and just pretend I have this normal life where I’m a housewife (I was good at that role) and I can tidy up things that are a bit in need and cook a healthy dinner for us and maybe pay attention to the art class I’ve had to ignore due to schedule or do something else creative, but solitary.


I’d rather do that than prepare for this conference (that I love you know) and spend 2 1/2 days of go-see-do-sleep repeat. I’d rather ponder quiet thoughts and put fingers to the keys than wait for Ruth to die not knowing when, again, we’ll pack a bag and take a journey that feels so unnecessary and too much.

I am feeling selfish and needy and I just want to take a nap. And I don’t nap! Yeah, that’s where I am.

It will pass. It always does. Some caffeine and a game day face and I’ll benefit from the need to carry on.

But….this feels more. A little. This time. I think it’s death. I think it’s the waiting and the life that won’t wait. I plan. I need plans. But life, and death, have plans of their own leaving me to choose my response.

The game day face hasn’t worked too well today and I’m afraid people have seen more of the real me than they ever should. I could feel it in my walk, fast paced with purpose. My words clipped and the anxiety crawling across my shoulders.


We are using the chapel this Sunday. Period. There are chairs in it and the piano was put in today and will be tuned by the end of the week. We will be in there Sunday because I need to be there where we all sit together and I am not apart from them. Dorothy needs a piano to play and not the junk she’s be struggling with to get a melody played.

We don’t know how to use the new audio/visual system and the installers have made no attempts to train us. A call today informed us the techs are installing a system for someone – IN THE BAHAMAS! No matter. We can go low-tech. We have chairs, we have a piano and we have the Word.

Henry and I were trying to see what we could figure out on our own and as he was trying to get audio I was crouched on the small platform, bowed over when I knew I had to stop. Stop fussing, stop rushing and release, again, it to God’s control. To His purpose. Again. And in those few moments I knew it will be okay. If I step out of God’s way, if calm down and let Him be, He will.


He will care for my mother-in-law in her dying moments as He’s cared for her all these years.

He will care for our family as we sort out the details and make room in our lives for another loss that will mean eternal joy.

He will tend to audio and air conditioning and time limits.

He will be thanked for his graciousness toward me when I don’t deserve it.

He will surprise me with his truth in a new way and I will praise His name.

He will get me through today and that’s all I have.

Heart singing

They weren’t pews but not chairs either. Some kind of wooden folding seats with two hooked together. Were it not for a photo of my 5-year old self sitting next to little brother  I’d not remember what we sat in that makeshift chapel in the early 60’s in Pine Bluff, Arkansas.

The building had seen other uses and been condemned is how the story was told. It became the first Salvation Army outpost in that small town south of Little Rock. A chapel that wasn’t a chapel but I remember Sunday nights in that small building. Sunday nights were different because the songs were faster and there was a lot of clapping. It was the old hymns and the people loved singing them. It seemed every week we sang “I’ve got a mansion, just over the hilltop…”

In concert with Phil Laeger

In concert with Phil Laeger

The platform was cleared for the grand piano to take center stage. This chapel, large, light-filled, padded pews. A departure this week, a joining with the congregation down the street, graciously hosting our guest and allowing more room than our little place.

In concert with Phil Laeger

This week, fingers commanding every key, a voice that is more like a heart singing and we’ve come together expecting more. This is why we gather. This is why the Word tells us not to neglect the coming together as a community.

A voice behind me sings out, not a note in key, but their heart was full of joy and I know his voice was like an angel as it reached its intended destination. I looked at faces and many looked absent in some way and I have no idea how this was possible except to know how many times I am absent in this moment. Focused on the mechanics and time more than being open to a moving from God.

In concert with Phil Laeger

Something about that singing when I was a little girl stayed with me. In a condemned funeral home, songs of praise and promise rang out from feeble voices and proclaimed life. It wasn’t the skill but the hearts because I knew they were singing with whole hearts.

In concert with Phil Laeger

In concert with Phil Laeger

A row of little ones were behind me. I am the older one now. They don’t know the songs, aren’t old enough to read the words projected on the screen but paged through the books as if they could. Just listen, dear children. Just listen to the hearts around you. Hear the ones singing with their hearts because this is the music of love.

When It’s Not Easy


We were in church Sunday, not the service we lead but another. The music team was leading songs and this one I’d not heard but immediately couldn’t sing the words. Not from my heart.

“It’s so easy to love  you, It’s so easy to love you, It’s so easy to love you”

Yes, we were singing to God, yes to the God who I know as love but He is love, not me. Not always and there have been times and will be times it is not easy to love Him.

It’s not the song writer, whoever that may be. Bless them if they’ve come to that point in their life where it is easy but I have squirmed and fought and withheld my love. Asked “why, God?” and I’m not sure it’s easy to love when I’m asking why. Why did he choose that way to live? Why did she marry him? Why are we moving again? Why am I so stubborn? Why can’t I just love?

An employee is especially warm and friendly and free with hugs and she says “I love you” and I don’t respond as I don’t know her. . I return her hug but the words? No, won’t come out. I want to be done with the fake stuff and it would be fake. She’s a nice person and as I’ve come to know her she is genuine and this is who she is

It’s me again. Taking words too serious perhaps, especially a word like love that we throw around about all kinds of things. I love this picture, I love that shirt, I love your purse. So why isn’t “I love you” easy to say?

We sing another song, “There is no God like Jehovah” and I believe that. Believe there is none greater. I believe he is my all in all and he knows my name and of course, how great is our God? Yes, yes! But Lord, it is not always easy to love you.

Forgive my wandering heart as I withhold from you what you so freely give. When you love me in spite of me, of my doubt, my pride, my impatience, my hurt and yes, my shame. Unlock that dam where the love gets caught and stuck in the mire of self-pity and resentment and let me come to you with love outpouring.

I’m a saint and a sinner

I’m a lover and a fighter

I’m a true believer, with great desire

I’m a preacher of grace, prophet of love, teacher of truth

I’ve fallen down so many times

But here I stand in front of you

Take me as I am

But please don’t leave me that way

‘Cause I know that you can make me better than I am today 

(This is Who I Am, Third Day)


This isn’t a country song

I’m not a fan of country music so I’m sure I’ll get this wrong, or offend someone, but wasn’t there an old joke about playing a country song backwards? If you play one backwards you get your wife back, your dog back, etc.? The inference seemed to be country songs are sad. They are about loss. I fear it could seem this blog is often sad and about loss.

I write about life as it surrounds me and it is those times of despair or loneliness or grief that grip me most. Those deep feelings that wrench my heart and twist my faith. I wonder if my posts were ‘played backward’ we’d get those things back?





flowers and trees

There is much sadness in families marked by dementia, divorce, addiction. And there is much joy. Much. JOY.

Perhaps it’s the joy voice I need to work on. But don’t you see it? It’s the voice that is spelled F A I T H. In the midst of sorrow there is faith and that carries joy. A quiet, not always smiling but always thankful, joy.

While mama doesn’t remember me, I remember her and all she has given me and still does: JOY

Another relapse, another one falls to the disease in the community that holds my heart but I turn to see three more who are celebrating two years clean, 10 years, clean, 22 months clean. JOY

A friend going through emotional heartbreak with a child but she is true and she faithful and she loves. JOY




I said something in the class I teach with the men in recovery and it came out wrong and they laughed like I never heard them laugh and my face was scarlet for an hour (I mean really!) and I’m not sure I can walk in that class again. JOY

My life is filled with joy. I am a happy person because I know I am loved by the only faithful One who can be joy in the midst of all life gives us. Make no mistake, when I share my heartbreak with you, it’s God’s way of soothing my soul and reminding me of His great joy.


Hallelujah People

“At my church we sing a gospel song called, “Hallelujah anyway”. Everything’s a mess, and you’re going down the tube financially and gaining weight? Well, hallelujah anyway.” – Anne Lamont

I want to be this person. This hallelujah person who can look in the face of sorrow and frustration and say, ‘hallelujah anyway’.

When trust has been broken and lies told to our face, ‘hallelujah anyway’.

When one goes back into their addiction and we’ve cared about him for so long and called him friend, yes then, ‘hallelujah anyway’.

Bethany Children's Home 2473


When I don’t want to hear one more story or take the time to listen to one who needs listening to, especially then, ‘hallelujah anyway’.

Enough petty frustrations and be gone sorrow for I am the child of God who loves me and enables me to say


It’s not church, it’s ministry

All Sundays but one we gather in our small chapel to sing songs, read scripture, pray and listen to a sermon. Sometimes others share some words of testimony of how God has changed their lives. We come together to worship, though for most of them attendance is mandatory. It’s required in the six month program. Others, program graduates, employees, etc. come to be part of this group of broken, restored people.






Once a year, we meet outside. We take our worship of the Creator to creation. Chairs are set up in the clearing and tables covered under the pavilion. Charcoal is started on the grills and the smell of lunch wafts its way through the air as we worship. We sing, share scripture and a shorter message is shared.

Most weeks, we shake hands with the men as they leave the chapel. Some will go to other churches, some for a bike ride, AA meetings or stay at the Center. When church is over, that’s it for the day. For most. Most weeks.














Everyone thinks it’s special because we’re outside. Most years it’s been warm enough for the guys to wear shorts, though this year there were so many hooded sweatshirts it looked like a hip-hop group. 🙂 Yes, it was cold for even the transplants. They don’t wear the suits required for Sunday morning and Henry and I aren’t in our uniforms. We linger. Everyone does. We move from the clearing to the tables, walk to the beach or through the mangroves on the boardwalk. We sit and talk. We hear Alumni thank one of the residents for sharing his testimony of faith. We meet mom’s who’ve come to share better times with their sons. We see them have fun with each other, support each other.

This isn’t church, it is ministry. This is communion. This is community.


When he took control (and I lost it)

No matter how I think I connect or want to understand their life I can’t. Not really. Not all of it. I don’t get life not being raised in a church. Not always, ALWAYS, having a bible and knowing how to look up a passage without the index.

I will never connect with having an addiction that destroys your life or holding a sign that says “homeless, please help”. I don’t understand what life is really like for a man whose life span is shorter just because of the color of his skin. I want to. But I can’t. So I am who I am. We are who we are. With them. In front of them.








New Year’s Eve at the Center included karaoke after the watchnight service. What a combo! As the karaoke was winding down (and it was a laugh riot) Henry stands up, takes the mic, looks at his phone where he’s looked up lyrics and starts singing. To me. Coming closer and closer. I think it was some cheesy Elvis song but I really don’t remember because I only felt my face getting hotter and kept giving him the “cut it” sign as he crept closer and grinned bigger. I was one of two women in a room full of men. The place erupted in applause and it was finally over.


He wasn’t doing that for the men. He was doing that because he knows how uncomfortable it makes me, to have him show his affection like that. He likes making me squirm. Seeing my face redden and me not being able to hide. Anywhere. He was just being him. My husband. The man who has loved me for what seems like forever and, somehow, loves me more.

It was the following week in a staff meeting when I find out  quite a few of the men had gone to the intake counselor to tell her about it and how much they loved it. They loved seeing me squirm, first of all, but mostly, seeing love. This surprised me. A lot. That they would think anything other than how funny it was to see “Mrs. Major” get all red and wriggle in her seat the closer “the Major” got.

There’s so much I’ll never get about their lives. Maybe that’s the point. The point of grace for one. Grace that allows us to be us and allows them to be who they are…..struggling, imperfect, broken, searching, loving, celebrating. All of us together. Sharing grace. Sharing love. Sharing God.

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now am found was blind but now I see.

His song


These words stopped me cold as I read them:

“How else can there ever be a song? Unless you answer the call of God? That’s the only rhythm that can make music: to do the will of the One whose heart beats at the center of the cosmos.”

Granny would talk to herself at times and tell me it was alright, with a chuckle on her lips, as long as you don’t answer yourself. I do the same, causing Henry to ask, “do I need to answer?” No, not usually. Just me thinking out loud. Now it’s our granddaughter who not only thinks things out loud but sings, a lot, to herself and anyone in earshot. Some of her songs are in a made-up language but there seems to be music she hears in her head. Or, perhaps, in her heart.

Singing a tune to herself

Daddy, on the left, playing his trombone.

From growing up with a dad whistling a tune throughout the day or air conducting the brass band playing on the stereo I’ve grown up with music. It permeates my life still. I’m drawn to rhythms and harmony. To layers of music played by hands and not much of the electronica.

I mark where I’ve lived by songs. The breakfast table in Fort Smith, AR early 1971 hearing Ray Stevens and Perry Como on the radio. Spring ’74, riding to high school in Beaumont, TX hearing Paul McCartney sing “Silly Love Song” and wearing out Carole King’s Tapestry album in Oklahoma and Maryland the summer my parents divorced.

God, who sets the rhythm of the cosmos, is the eternal song of love, of life. And His song calls my name. That was my girlish dream: to date a guitar playing guy who would sing me songs. I dated a couple of those guys and none played me songs. It was a fantasy of a young woman’s ideal. The real thing was tarnished but not God. His songs are for me and some days I answer. Not enough, I know. My ear gets distracted by other sounds and tunes, none as true as His. A song Van Morrison sings comes to mind now…”when will I ever learn….to live in God…when will I ever learn?

When I answer His song, the song that calls my name, I’m joined in His dance and I can move. I can dance. This girl who was never allowed to go to a dance and has no confidence to dance now is filled with rhythm. His rhythm. And it’s good.



The edges of Tropical Storm Debby poured down on us early Sunday morning. Our volunteer pianist called to say she didn’t feel comfortable driving in the rain. She is a dear woman whose presence is more than playing the piano for us but she made the right choice not getting out in the weather. It called for a quick change of music. Thankfully, we have music video’s made to sing with and the men enjoy the modern praise and worship songs. Unsure where to start I asked a few men in the chapel. Unanimous: I Can Only Imagine.

I like the song, though I don’t think it’s the most singable for a congregation but the men know it, love it, follow along.

We’d started the service with a more rousing song celebrating God’s reign and moved on to a shared reading, prayer and another song. Henry was going to speak about God’s touch. I was enjoying the moment surrounded by these friends.

J.T., profoundly hard of hearing, has been signing the songs the past week or so. I told him how I love watching him sing. His eyes have to read the words carefully and his hands move swiftly. He told me he tries not to go too fast or slow. The first couple of months he only sat watching others sing with their voices.

As I saw his hands moving I noticed others around him and saw their mouths singing these words as though they were singing with their whole hearts. Geoff, the one with cancer, can’t stand long enough for the songs so he sits on the front row to see every word on the screen. I’ve never seen him sing so fully as he did yesterday. Another near by has a deep struggle with some identity issues and I know his heart has been moved as he desires a closer walk with God.

What are they imagining? That the cancer would go away? That one could be able to hear so his voice could sing? That old desires would vanish and relationships mended?

Are these their thoughts as they sing “I can only imagine what it will be like when I walk by Your side….”

Marie turns to me and sees my eyes, moist with tears, and she stops and places her hand on my cheek. I am overwhelmed by Him. By God. Again, time after time I am overwhelmed with his love and grace. Grace that keeps this man struggling with the pain of cancer making the 25 minute drive or having his wife bring him. Grace that affirms M’s place as a child of God. Grace reaches my heart as one who can’t sing with his voice sings with his hands and I am overwhelmed with my God and his love for me.

While we wait for that day, the day when all will be restored, he gives grace to get us through. Grace of acceptance of our limitations and a God without limits. It’s enough for today as we imagine the day to come.