As long as I can remember, as long as I’ve been on this earth, Sunday has been a day of gathering.


Born into a church family from a church family, born to preacher parents, all other days pointed to Sunday.


We gathered Sunday clothes and Sunday books, Sunday people and Sunday dinner. The doors opened wide on our little churches begging for a bigger gathering of people week after week.


Sunday was the day we all got up with the same purpose, same intention, same schedule. And somehow, we got there without contention and we got there early, amen and thank you Jesus.


Sunday is where I learned beauty isn’t always external or pretty. There was the Sunday beauty of Billy, an older man who sat at the organ every week, shoes off with his socked-feet on the pedals, greeting everyone who walked by.


Billy was different. I never heard the real story but the mark on his head seemed to confirm a head injury of some kind. His was an awkward beauty, best seen when looking back and realizing his testimony was his faithfulness.

Beauty in the kids squirming about and the homeless man who wandered in, welcomed by Ed, stone cold deaf but it never stopped him from nodding in agreement with whatever was said that he never heard.


It was one of our pastors at our long time church who had the courage to cancel Sunday night service one year on Mother’s Day. It was all our group of peers could do not to stand up and let out a hearty cheer for his sheer bravery. The pastor said seemed like this was a good day to gather with our families.


Turned out that was a test and not long after we stopped having Sunday night church all together. We didn’t stop gathering. Relationships were strengthened in those afternoons on the tennis court or a cookout with friends. Our families grew together watching our kids play. Fellowship beyond the church doors made it a lasting beauty.

Today it’s me and Hudson doing the gathering of stuff Sunday mornings; sermon notes, laptop for media, prayers for everything. It’s the two of us gathering an extended family of men once stained with the disease of addiction, many struggling still and even in struggle we see how beauty doesn’t give up.


We will gather songs and words and hearts along the way. We will pray our sinful lives will be restored and we thank God for recovering the beauty he made in us all along.

Young love

It is young love. Not young of age but young of new where the two are still enamored with each new place, new event, something special to share between them. He wants to take her to this restaurant where the fish taco’s are great and she really needs to go on the boat, to enjoy the leisurely ride down the intracoastal, this part of Florida is new to her. She bounces when we hit the wake of another boat and he moves around her, arms holding her close. He smiles at her wide eyes as we bounce along and she asks me to take their picture.



It was at summer camp and we were 13 and had I had no idea his kindness and attention meant he liked me. In that liked me kind of way. It wasn’t love, not even puppy love but the newness, you remember. The smiles, the sweetness, the confusion.

I’ve never been good with love. I’ve had trouble recognizing it and then not sure what to do with it. The butterflies in your stomach weren’t always truthful. But sometimes love is something others see more from the outside than you see within.

me-Henry1977 BW

I have this man, that after 37 years still pulls me close and I still blush and wriggle away, struggling with accepting his generous affections. Sometimes I lean in because I know this is love, not the fake stuff where you pretend to like everything the other one likes.

Oscar Roan  Oscar Roan

I watched Oscar smile big watching his new wife move about, learning her way in their life together.

I thought about our early days of love and my continual missteps at accepting all that he gives. And in it I turned my thoughts to the days when Jesus was my first love. That time is still clear to me. The time when I realized the church wasn’t my salvation and my parents Jesus was theirs, not mine. They couldn’t make that decision. It could only come from me and that summer of the year they divorced I decided He would be my personal Jesus. He would get me through life and I would turn to him. Always.


Mama and I moved where I had no one, no friends, no family, not even a familiar spot, only familiar songs on the radio. I especially needed Jesus and I spent time reading the bible. I carried it to school some days, sitting in a quiet spot at lunch to read more. First love. It’s like that.

I guess seeing this new love with our friend reminded me how stale I’ve let mine get. That love for Jesus, the only one who is love. It’s not just what he says but He. Is. Love. I know it. I claim it. But. But I treat him like an acquaintance. Like someone I used to know but have let the friendship grow cold.

My best relationships are two-sided. They are give and take. It’s time I give more. It’s time I accept more. Of Him.

“Yet there is one thing wrong; you don’t love me as at first! Think about those times of your first love (how different now!) and turn back to me again and work as you did before…” Revelation 2:4-5 TLB

King-sized life

My hand tugs the king-sized sheet up and I smooth it down before placing the pillows on the bed and walk to the other side to do the same. Every morning.

We started with a queen-sized bed. It was enough. I wondered aloud why anyone would want a king size. All that space when you end up puddled in the middle together.

We live in a parsonage; a house owned by our organization. It’s fully furnished so we get what we get. Our second appointment we got a king sized bed. That was 19 years ago and every appointment since has had the big bed where we square off our space and snuggle deep into its comfort.

It can mirror a life of years spent together. We started small and close. A small cottage with a drop-down table attached to our living room wall because there was no other eating area. All of life shared in this cozy place. No man cave, no bedroom t.v., no gazillion channels to feed our differing tastes.

red white quilt


blue and white quilts

You can see a bit of two ruts in this mattress that has formed to our positions for seven years. The space between that has become comfortable causes much discomfort when we feel squeezed into the full-sized bed at our daughters. How do people do this?

Our lives have spread out some, it’s good and healthy to find your way as one, always knowing you’re only one that is apart of two.

I wonder the temptation of space. The becoming one that forgets about the two.

We value alone time and personal space. American families are smaller but our houses bigger. Fewer people, more space. We build more space only to fill them with things to connect us, texting each other in the next room.

I celebrate the positives of technology and am thankful that cell phones help our children remain more connected to us than the days of land lines and pay-by-the-minute long distance calls. I’m thankful for seeing photo’s of friends living in other countries and being able to watch their children grow up. There is a certain connectivity but yet we are lonely.

Lonely for the more that comes with conversations, real voices to hear the joke, real faces to see the sly grin, the raised eyebrow. We’re learning human connection can’t be replaced by technology. Aren’t we?

Or are we letting our carefully crafted profiles represent reality?

Story (5-minute Friday)

Story, as in my story. A story to be lived, to be shared, to be redeemed. A story that tells of hope, of beauty, of a life that is continually being found by the Savior of Fools.

My story spills out here, on this little space I call Graceland because it is that. It is all grace as this story continues from day-to-day and I am living in graceland, always.

This is about forgiveness as I revisit issues that have kept me from living a fuller life in God and learning I can forgive a past and I can forgive me and I can accept God’s forgiveness. Really accept it.

This story is about my parts that include ministry and walking in a community of men in recovery and some not wanting it at all and learning how to love them all and still love me and God.

This story is amazing because God is amazing and his design is nothing short of the kind of story that draws men and women to Him.

This story, the one I keep trying to write instead of giving the keyboard to God, this one isn’t over. It’s a love story and mystery. It’s full of unexpected, page-turning twists and even when I don’t know what the next chapter holds, I know the ending. I already know that this story, the one that sometimes is tragic and others victorious, in the end, the very end, love wins.

(I’m linking up with Lisa-Jo Baker for the 5-minute Friday posts. Hop over to read others, or write your own, take on the prompt: story)


The Wedding

When it comes to our children, grown and all, I’m slow at revealing much of their lives. Even joyous ones like a wedding. However, I have no issues with showing pictures of the grand-daughter any time! 😀

I share so much of my heartaches and fears with you how can I not share the joys?

First, a humble thank you to those who prayed for our travels and prayed for my strength and my heart as we saw a son married and a mother with no recognition of her children or grandchildren. You are awesome!

The venue for the wedding was the Venetian Resort and it was absolutely beautiful. From the door man and accordion player at the entrance to the grand halls with murals on the ceilings and marble under foot. It was near sensory overload to take it in.

The wedding itself was small. The bridal party consisted of the bride, groom and minister (aka groom’s father). A gathering of 30 to 40 family and friends (mostly friends) were there to share in the joy and the joy was so evident on the faces of the sweet couple.

My two best men

brother and sister

with my boy

The backdrop was an interior courtyard and was just perfect.

The perfect music accompaniment

My pictures aren’t the best as it’s not easy being mom-of-the-groom trying to be stealth about taking pictures. The professional has some fantastic shots and even asked the bride and groom if he could use them on his website for advertising purposes.

Photo apps on iPhones are great for some fun edits.

A dress change at the reception and the bride was radiant, her smile glowing as always.

May God’s love bind them, His spirit live in them and His Son be reflected in them.

Today is her birthday


Mama is 74 today. She has no idea. When I visited her in March she had to sign her name to some medical forms. She hesitated as I spelled it out for her. It wasn’t her handwriting but very child-like. It’s not so bad not knowing your age. You can be any age you want! She is happy and in reasonably good health. Physically.

Happy mom giving hugs to the other residents

There’s no need to send her cards, though I did. For me again. She was able to read a few months ago and I suspect she still can. She knew her name and even got her birthday right when the hospital woman asked her. I was so proud of mama.

All the years I’ve sent her gifts not because she needed a thing but to show her how much her being born means to me. Obvious, I know. Without her I’d not be here, and so on. Today I was thinking about the gifts she has given me.

She had a deep appreciation for arts, particularly handmade things.  She was my biggest encourager in that area: drawing, painting, quilting, sewing. We shared that interest and appreciation.

Recognized in her town in 2008.

A few years back at a Salvation Army event.

Her example of service and selflessness is unmatched. She always put herself last to another’s need. At times, to a fault.

Her service to others was born from her desire to serve God. Not just a desire, but God’s calling on her life. She served with integrity, humility and great character.

She’s never been afraid of hard work and could get a meal together for 100 people all in her head. I’m sorely lacking in that area though I married someone who can. And she loved Henry dearly.

In the kitchen at my brothers wedding.

I know I’m speaking in past tense as though she’s no longer here but in that sense she isn’t. She doesn’t remember Henry, our children, where we live or that she collects apples. She does remember God. She is still giving gifts to others through her love for Him. The gift of her laughter and joy.

March 2012

Those are the real things that have mattered and they are  gifts. I have silly things that remind me of her. An apple-shaped dish, one serving of her silver flatware, a tiara she used to give to her scouting girls. I have a letter she wrote to me years ago that surfaces now and then. Those things will fade, break, get lost or tarnish. But not love. Not the love she showed, the love she lived and lives. Even God’s words assures us “the greatest of these is love”.

Thanks mama. For showing all your love.


All Out of Love?

The day of love is over. The jewelry and lingerie commercials have ended. The candy is half price. Even the price of roses is less today. The day after the day of love. Just a day. One a year. To declare our love.

I was standing among four men, in their 20’s, all in our program. They’d come to help with a project. It was Awards night. Every month we celebrate sobriety achievements and program graduates. It fell on Valentines this year. We were going to decorate a little.


They wheeled the helium tank in the work room. Two more came to help. Ribbon was being cut, bags stuffed with tissue paper and rocks to weight the balloons. The room filled with laughter and just being in their presence made me feel younger, energized. Loved. They worked together focused on adding to another’s joy.

This is love. Love in action. Real love that doesn’t end. You won’t find cards for this and there’s no need for chocolates although none turned down the pink M&M’s I had.

This, these men, their struggles and pain, their past and uncertain future, all point to love without strings, without end. I see God in the midst of their tears and smiles. I see him touching their lives and bringing clarity to their eyes and mind. And when He touches them, it spills over to me. It’s that kind of love. One that cannot be contained.

I could choose to see the pain and failures. But is that how I want to limit God? Yes, He is in there in the pain and all the disappointments. But God is bigger. I choose to see the possible because that’s what God sees in me. A faulty, stumbling woman who knows God loves her anyway. He sees a possibility beyond my capacity. He sees His love poured out and spilling over in puddles of grace. This is love. The never-ending love that will not let me go.


Donna (left) in 1977 at our wedding reception

We grew up together. Not as children but as young women, young mothers. I had my baby first and she came over for visits, still waiting on her baby. She wasn’t a talker and it felt hard at first. The silences making me uncomfortable. She wanted children, had always wanted children but it wasn’t time for them yet.

The years went on, I had my second and she was the only one happy for me when I told her. We weren’t planning another child so soon but Donna was thrilled. Others, including mama, commented quietly in that unapproving way. This time she would give birth first. Her first six months older than our second.

Our oldest children, Rachel and Heather (mine) 1984?

H.S. Graduation Rachel and our son, Jonathan 1998

Our children would grow up together. We would take them to the beach once a week in summer packing picnic lunches. We spent hours together with our children playing while we discovered our common interests and talking of our childhood. Our scars, our choices, our mistakes.

History is important in friendships. She is the only one I share history with. The only one still present in my life. The distance has been too much for most of my friendships from long ago to survive. The moving. Some friendships we thought would always last ended because they couldn’t survive tragedy. My face a reminder of pain and loss.

So I cling to this friendship. We will go months without a word between us. Both of us quite capable of using email but she doesn’t need words to convey security like I do. Affirmation of friendship. She is the quiet one and I the needy.

Until yesterday when I got an email that she was in town and could we do lunch. Yes, yes, we’ll do lunch. It wasn’t the best timing for me but you do what you want to do and I wanted to do this. The friendship is important. She is important. So we met. As though we saw each other last week.

Donna carved this for me out of Ivory soap 20 years ago. It's yellowed with age but still standing.

In our younger days we took quilting class together (she made all of the bridesmaids dresses for her wedding!). We’ve always shared an interest in the arts and crafts and I asked her what she was working on today. She’s been through a lot in her life but she is strong, Donna is. I have seen her face some terrible demons but she has shown them God is stronger. She is happy. Content. With herself. A gift.

As I become intentional with my gratitude I’m going to try to end each post with things I am thankful for today. I’m starting a list. Care to join me?

#1 Donna

#2 Abiding friendships

#3 Panera Bread (we met there for brunch)

Love Ya

I’m blessed. As an adult living away from my parents every long distance phone call ended with “I love you.” The same is true with our grown children be it phone call or text from our son. It’s rare there isn’t a ‘love you’ ending.

But those words don’t just spill from my mouth. There is someone in our work connections that will say that to us – “I love you.” And I think, how can you, you don’t know me? It really bugs me because it doesn’t seem genuine. It’s even less than saying “I love that song” or “I love that book”. The word is over used. When over used the meaning is empty.

Then there’s the “love ya” ending or “luv ya”. The noncommittal love, which really isn’t love, is it?

This isn’t about semantics. It’s about discovering how God has expanded my heart to include people I never would have dreamed as those to whom I say “I love you”.

Of course that one little word has more meanings than that of romantic love. That’s not the love I’m talking about but the love that is backed with genuine care for another. The kind of caring that makes the heart tender and capable of being broken or at least bruised. The kind of love where my eyes watch carefully over their actions and tear easily when I hear their stories. God’s love swelling in me.

It didn’t come easily, saying I love you to men I don’t really know and whose lives have been out of my scope of experience. Even when one would say it to me I couldn’t respond in same. I didn’t feel true. How could I say what wasn’t there.

Just a few of those we love.

It is true. Now. I do love them. Collectively, I love them with a mother’s love that wants them to learn, admit, accept, learn some more, get it right this whole recovery living.

Others, I love with more knowledge as I’ve watched them come through the program and move forward with their life. Mark, Glen, Adam, Daniel, OJ, Wesley, Eric, Randall, Jimmy, Steve, Mike, Mike, Mike 🙂 …Even those that have relapsed I love with a heart of a parent waiting for the lost son to return. I watch the door, listen to others tell me where they are and I wait with a heart of love hoping to welcome them home.

I love you guys. Really.

Simply Saturday – Through My Lens

I’ve taken so many beach pictures that I often question taking my camera to the beach anymore. How many pictures of waves cresting and palm trees does one need? “But if you don’t….” my inner voice says. So it was on this Saturday as I lay on the lounge chair.

I felt a bit uncomfortable, spying on another, encroaching on this moment belonging to them. But I couldn’t help myself from what looked so tender. A camera captures the outer, the surface. The photographer puts the emotion to it. I’m learning.

I am a person of limited imagination. Not much of a dreamer. Unless it’s about people. I watched this couple wondering. Is it daughter and mother? Mother-in-law, aunt? Is this a dream for the older woman or a return to a place she has loved.

I love that she took off her shoes. Wanted to feel the sand in her toes and the cool touch of water. Can you see the smile on their faces? How the older holds onto the younger? How they are interdependent?

Even now as I look at the photographs I feel the serenity and joy of that moment. Like a secret I was sharing with these two strangers. A secret that brings joy to others when shared.