Monday, October 31, 2011

really bad ideas

Today is Halloween, and I have to tell you, I've never much liked this holiday. Even as a kid (I'm an introvert) I would dread it, and as a mother I absolutely loathed it. Who thought this one up? I imagine the conversation being something like this:

"Hey, I have an idea. How about if we send our kids out at night in costumes that obscure their vision and have them visit strangers houses asking for candy?'

"Sweet idea! How about if we do it every year on the day of the dead?"

"Even better!"

But since I'm practicing radical acceptance and working to not be the biggest drag in the world, I'll tell you what I do like about Halloween.

  • Seeing the tiny little kids in their costumes (accompanied by parents!)
  • Getting to love on the neighborhood kids
  • Eating lots of chocolate with impunity
  • The memory of the Halloween a couple of years ago when my husband hid himself in a big pile of leaves and jumped out to scare all the teenagers. Best. Prank. Ever!
Tomorrow I'll post some pictures of my favorite little Elmo's and Hockey Players and other such cuties. 

Sunday, October 30, 2011

she's coming

oct. 5


She's coming. She's creeping in with her cold breath and dark moods. Autumn is holding on and gasping her last brilliant colors, but she knows she's going to lose soon. I'll miss her so terribly.

It's easy to be melancholy when Winter peeks around the corner, heavy luggage in tow. Of course, she has her own beauty, white and stark, her blinding crystals gleaming off the bare branches. Some days I love her wild temper, the way she stops the whole world while she flexes her muscles. Other days I am holding my breath as her icy fingers claw at my heart. 

But this year, I'm going to try to find a place inside me to welcome her just as she is. It doesn't matter how much I fight and protest. She's coming whether my hands are clenched in fists or open wide to the darkening sky. 

Saturday, October 29, 2011

something truer than pain

So I guess I jinxed myself when I said I was feeling so good. I spent the whole day yesterday with a whopper of a migraine. But I'm better today, and I managed to be gentle with myself and not awfulize my life.

I've noticed that I tend to forget all things beautiful when I'm sick. It feels as though my whole entire life is nothing but pain when I get my feet knocked out from under me that way. It's not true though. I have to remember that it's not true at all.

Even when I'm at the lowest points, I still have so much beauty around me. I have all kinds of people around me who love and care for me. When I open my eyes for even a few moments I can clearly see all of the blessings like warm blankets folded around me. Its a new discipline of mine to turn my attention to all of the goodness even when the blinding pain tries to wipe out the truth. I have an embarrassing amount of love aways at my fingertips. And I've been around the block enough times to know how sadly rare that is.

When I'm sick, my dogs come and press against my body to keep me warm. They seem to know that I need contact and tenderness. It helps me to remember these things. So much love. So much love.

I can't complain.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

contentment and acceptance

This is me in a very content place.

Something astounding is emerging for me as I've been feeling better and taking better care of myself. I hesitate to say it out loud. It's kind of scandalous, really.

I like me.

I don't know if you get how weird it is for me to say that. I have this idealized self that usually gets in the way of me liking the real me. The idealized me weighs about 30-40 pounds less. She's much wiser and more disciplined. Her house is perfect. She has already written that amazing book that's locked inside her because she never experiences writer's block. Her prayer times are completely consistent and wonderfully enlightening to others.

In other words, she's kind of irritating.

It's not that I wouldn't love for some of that to be true about me. But the truth is, that's not me right now. So I'm welcoming the me that is here in this moment. And you know what? I think Jesus likes me just fine exactly the way I am.

I hope if I'm ever closer to my idealized self I'll welcome her with just as much kindness.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

all good things

If you've followed this blog for any length of time you know that I struggle with some health issues and have occasional bouts of depression. The last two years have been a little taste of hell when it comes to those problems. Frankly, there have been moments when all I could do was wrestle with the demons in my head that were dangling ideas about suicide in front of me. But for the last couple of months I've been blessed with some relief and you can't imagine how amazing that feels. Here's a little list of what's been good these days:

  • I've barely had to take any migraine medication and the headaches I do get are very manageable
  • I've been sleeping much better without the need for sleeping medication
  • I have felt a great deal of contentment and lightness that has been heavenly
  • I've been doing yoga almost daily (sometimes twice in one day)
  • I've been able to write again (my brain was mush for a long time)
  • I've been able to focus more on my health
  • I've been getting out to visit friends more often
  • I've been cultivating a listening posture towards God and others
I could go on and on.

I'm always a little shy when it comes to declaring that I've found some kind of permanent answer, and I have no idea if all of this is just a sweet little vacation or if I'm genuinely entering a new life without the pain baggage that I've been carrying. But it sure does feel good today. 

Today, there are only these good things. All good things.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

ok, i guess i lied...

I said that Friday's post would be the last of my reflections on my time at Pacem, but I realized something today that I wanted to share.

When I was at the hermitage, there were several squirrels that I came to consider my friends. I named one Francis (for St. Francis of Assisi) and I so much enjoyed watching them dig through the dry leaves for left over acorns.

Well, today I was checking my Facebook page when an ad of some sort popped up that included an image of a squirrel, and I realized that it automatically reminded me of Francis, which of course reminded me of Pacem in Terris. Then I remembered that I've seen many squirrels since I got back and I thought of my hermitage every time. I love it when some small thing becomes a regular reminder to stop and breathe and notice what's lovely and good. Who knew squirrels would someday gently bring me back to my right mind and direct my heart to God?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Friday, October 21, 2011

bringing the hermitage home

It's been a week since I headed out to Pacem in Terris, and I've been practicing bringing that way of being into my everydayness. I've been stopping to listen to the sounds of my home and my neighborhood. I've been noticing the way my mind flits around like a water bug until I bring my love and intention to it. I've been stopping more often to notice what is good and what is beautiful. I've been inviting Jesus to be with me even though I know he's there before the invitation. He's so quiet and tender.

These are the paths I walk every day. There's plenty of beauty right here to bring me back to God.

This is my task for the rest of my life, to live this way and by my very life to demonstrate a reality that is not immediately obvious to the rest of the world.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

mwen fatigue anpil

That's Haitian Kreyol for "I'm very tired." And I am. But I'm also feeling very happy and grateful.

I had a houseguest for the last 27 hours. Her name is Amanda, and she's a young woman who survived the earthquake in Port au Prince.

my friend Jen with Amanda in Haiti last year

Amanda has been traveling back and forth between Haiti and Minnesota for surgical procedures and physical therapy for the last year or so. Her story is terrible and very sad, but she never stops smiling. I had so much fun with her practicing my Kreyol and cooking together. Honestly, I'm so tired right now that I can't put together too many words, but I wanted to share this blessing with you. Amanda reminded me that even in the face of the most horrible things life can throw at you, it's possible to smile and love one another.

Bondye beni ou. (God bless you.)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

children and saints

"Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." ~Luke 18:16-17

The patron saint of the hermitage I stayed at this last weekend is St. Therese of Lisieux. She lost her mother when she was 4 years old, and when she was 15 she entered the Carmelite convent at Normandy France. She referred to herself as a "little flower" and she practiced what she called "the little way of spiritual childhood." Therese died of tuberculosis when she was 24. I wondered during my stay how a person can become a saint in such a short amount of time. Especially given that tuberculosis is a wasting disease that slowly debilitates before it finally kills you (there are treatments now, but none then) I wondered where this sick little girl learned so much about love.

I don't know much about how these kinds of things work, but I think I must have benefitted from Therese's influence around me. I felt very much like a child during my stay at Pacem. In fact, my most productive times of prayer really didn't consist of words at all. I would lay down on my bed and invite Jesus to be there with me, very much like a child who asks a parent to cuddle for a while as they fall asleep. I felt so much love and peace. I had no fear. I very nearly heard a quiet "shhhhhhh" as I fell asleep. This was the way I interacted with God when I was a very little child, and I miss it. So, so good. This is how silent prayer is for me. I don't have to know the right words. I don't have to sound smart or have everything figured out. I just have to be exactly where I am and trust that I am loved.

Maybe saints are just little children who don't know any better.

Monday, October 17, 2011

the communion of silence

I was taking a walk on Saturday afternoon when I came upon a woman walking with a cane. We caught each other's eyes and smiled a greeting to one another. As I was about to pass her, she pointed to deer tracks in the sand and we shared in that blessing together, imagining the deer quietly passing through the forest on this very path. No words were exchanged between us.

One of the benefits of silence is the wide open space it creates to love without division. Had this woman and I engaged in some conversation, we might have discovered some differences between us. Maybe we don't believe the same things. Maybe she is quite different from me in the area of politics. Maybe we have different ideas about how to live. Whatever. It doesn't take many words to create a wall between people, and no matter how flimsy that wall is, it's a shame.

But here in this place, this woman and I loved one another and felt a kinship instantly. We were exactly the same in all the ways that mattered. We both love Jesus and we had come to the forest to listen for his voice. That's all that really matters, isn't it?

I'm not suggesting that we should never talk to one another and sometimes even muck through difficult conversations. But I do think that silence is highly underrated. Maybe if we talked a little less and demonstrated love more often, we would have more blessings to share together. Maybe we would notice the footprints that are just beside us, binding us together.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

the sound of silence

I'm back from my silent retreat and I have a few reflections to share with you over the next few days, but for now I'll just share some photos. Enjoy!

 this was my hermitage

 the view from my rocking chair

 the view from my screen porch

 the cross at the edge of the prairie

 guest reception at the main house

 the chapel

 on the walking path

 wetland off the path

 a deer print on the walking path

 the path to my hermitage

a little squirrel who kept me company

Thursday, October 13, 2011

pacem in terris

Tomorrow I'm heading off to Pacem in Terris for the weekend. For those of you who don't know about this, it's a little retreat center consisting of individual hermitages...very humble in nature: no electricity or running water. I truly love this place. I'm looking forward to the quiet reflection time unplugged from distractions. This obviously means that I won't be posting anything for the next couple of days, but I promise when I get back I'll share a little something about my time there. But for now, here are a few photos I've taken during past visits. Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


For the last week or more we've had unseasonably warm weather with lots of sun. Today it's cooler and very dark and rainy. We even had a little hail.

I love the sound of rain.

It doesn't seem to matter if it's a gentle rain or a house-rattling storm - the sound energizes and calms me at the same time.

Earlier this summer we had lots and lots of rain and I started to resent it, forgot how beautiful it could be. I longed for sunshine and felt like some kind of green, wet mold had seeped into my pores. It felt oppressive.

But today, I'm welcoming back my old friend. She is caring for the thirsty ground and blessing the trees. She is singing to my shriveled, dry soul.

Hello rain.

Monday, October 10, 2011


I have a little room at the foot of my basement stairs that has only been opened once before today. It doesn't have a doorknob and you have to remove the railing on the staircase to get to it. We didn't open it until a couple of months after we moved in and I remember a sense of excitement when we finally peered inside. What would we find? When we jimmied the door open it turned out that it was just a tiny, empty cement-walled room under our stairs. Nothing special. But for some reason I pulled out a screwdriver again today and took another look. Still nothing there (except a LOT of cobwebs) but I felt the same emotions as the door creaked open. I was thinking, "Maybe there was something there that I overlooked before."

Every once in a while I have a dream about a gigantic old house filled with rooms that had not been opened in many decades. In the dream, I open these rooms and find all kinds of beautiful old treasures waiting for me like orphans. When I wake, my heart is generally thumping in my chest. Sometimes in these dreams the abandoned rooms are in my own house, and I wonder how I could have overlooked them all this time. There's something about these dreams that's important to me. Something about neglect and the possibility of discovery. Something about finding things that have been there all along.

I'm opening my heart and peeking in. It's scary, but I just love an old door.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

on being human

Whew! Glad that's out of the way!

It didn't take me long to "fail" at my every day blogging commitment. You might imagine that I feel badly about that, but I honestly feel really good. I tend to be an all-or-nothing kind of girl, and it's a good discipline for me to recognize my limits without giving up. So I'm still here and still excited about what blogging does for me. In fact, I think it makes this space more human and welcoming.

A few weeks ago I was reading a book that I downloaded about simplicity. There are a few people I really look up to in this area and I was really impressed with these writers and what they had been able to accomplish. About half-way through the book one of the authors confessed that he has a long way to go before he accomplishes some of his goals. For instance, he still has quite a bit of debt that he's working to eliminate and he still has a huge mortgage that he's paying down in order to sell, yadda, yadda. And I noticed as I was reading this that I was experiencing relief and hope. So I stopped to examine those feelings.

I realized that I felt at home with these people who were headed in the same direction that I am AND experiencing some of the same challenges that I am. There's something so refreshing about running into people who are candid about the struggles that a journey entails. It's good to know that we're not alone when we hit a wall or wrestle with what it takes to get from here to there. Sometimes it's good to be reminded that "here" is the only place I can really be. No matter how good "there" is, I will only inch closer by embracing "here" with all of my heart and strength.

Maybe "there" is just an excuse to give up.

Isn't it good to be here? Isn't it good to be human together?

“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people." ~Anne Lamott

Friday, October 7, 2011


I've been down with a migraine today, and it's just now occurring to me how unrealistic an every day blogging commitment might be. How about if I just do my best. Deal?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

something i'm looking forward to...

You may notice that I've added a badge to the right called "Look at Jesus: A Gospel Immersion Course". I'm so excited about this. It's an online course lead by my dear friend Christianne Squires. She has such a gentle spirit and I'm so looking forward to walking through the gospels with her. She's offering a pretty great discount for this course so if you want to join in, just click on the links and you'll find a little more information about it. I know you won't regret it.

Oh, and by the way, thanks everyone for your thoughtful feedback on my post yesterday. I've already benefitted so much from your wisdom.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

clearing space

Today the weather is warm and dry and the leaves are brilliant as they signal the coming of winter. They remind me to use my time wisely and notice what is beautiful while it is here, in this moment. I'm grateful to the leaves today.

Dave and I are busy today clearing clutter and getting ready for the long winter ahead. I'm focusing on preparing a welcoming environment for writing and praying. It's a reflective process for me. Writing and praying are at the heart of what I want my life to be about. How can I make space for them and clear out the things that compete for my attention?

So I'll ask you. What helps you to write and pray (or anything else that is important to you)? How do you create an environment that helps you to do what you're most called to do?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Kòt a Kòt: the big reveal

For those of you who have grown kids, you probably know about the phenomenon I'm going to tell you about. You're raising your babies, enjoying each developmental stage, happy to be their parents, and suddenly you realize very late in the game that they're not kids anymore. It's a shocking realization, and sometimes it means that you haven't really prepared yourself for what that means. Well, we at Providence Ministries are finding ourselves in that spot.

Providence Ministries has always concerned itself with the lives of particular children. When we talk about ourselves we talk about a children's home. It's not that we don't do other things in Haiti, but this has been our primary identity. Well, one day we woke up and realized that the "children" are young women. Our youngest girl is 15, and three of the girls are set to graduate from high school this coming year. Two of them are hoping to be nurses and one of them wants to be a doctor. Of course we're thrilled about this, but we've sort of been skimming along with the "children's home" mindset and we're woefully unprepared for this next stage.

Language is a funny thing. The kinds of words you use can keep you stuck, but a new set of words can put you back on track in a hurry. So we've decided to change our name to reflect reality. We're changing our name to Kòt a Kòt (Side by Side) to reflect the reality that we're working side by side with the girls in this next phase of their life. They are no longer dependent children. They are partners with us in shaping a future that will hopefully make Haiti a better place. This was our hope all along, but the girls have always been free to choose whatever path seemed best for them.

I'll have more to say about this in the coming months, but for now I'll just tell you that we'll be raising money for college for them in the next year or so. We'll also be busy setting up a new website, rewriting articles of incorporation, creating presentations and things like that. It should be a fun ride and we're really excited to see the girls (actually, women) taking their first tentative steps into a new world. I hope you'll all be along on that journey.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Kòt a Kòt

Kòt a Kòt is a Kreyol phrase that means "side by side". What do you think of when you hear the phrase "side by side"? It's going to be a big phrase in my life very soon. I wonder if you can guess how?

I've got some things brewing in my mind about these few words and I'll share more about that tomorrow. For now I just wanted to thank you for walking with me kòt a kòt these last several years. This blog has always been a very friendly and supportive place. It's helped me more than you'll ever know just to have your voices in my life. Side by side is how helping happens best. And you've all helped me that way.

More tomorrow...

Sunday, October 2, 2011

spirit lake

I've spent this weekend on the shores of Spirit Lake just across the border of Minnesota into Iowa. It's an enormous lake and it's usually very windy. The sound of the waves remind me of the ocean when it's wild and thrashing. I love this place. The cabin here belongs to our dear friends and they generously share it with us whenever we need to get away for a bit. It's been good to begin again here with the wind and water.

Yesterday we went for a walk and sat on the shore for a bit skipping stones. I was searching for stones when I noticed that what had looked like sand was actually millions of tiny snail shells. It's funny what you see when you look closely. I wonder what I'll notice as I begin to search my heart and open my eyes? I wonder what treasures are there waiting for me?

Saturday, October 1, 2011

falling awake

Here's what I love about writing:

I love that it forces me to go inside and stretch and ask good questions. I love that it forces my eyes and my heart to open wide. I love how tapping these keys or touching pen to paper reveals a voice and a mind. I love that suddenly I remember what matters to me and it gives me strength to take wobbly steps in that direction. I love that I find God fully alive, his breath warming me.

I love that I fall awake.

Thanks for the kind welcome back. It's good to be here again.