Wednesday, May 9, 2012

i quit

Yes, you heard me. I quit. I'm totally done with this blog.

I'm actually very skilled at giving up. I am an expert at avoiding and hiding. I give myself permission all the time to pull the covers up over my head and ditch out of my life. It's not terribly attractive, but there it is. So I'm done here.

But before you get too bent out of shape, I'm starting another blog here. And I've already written my first entry. Hop on over and see what it's about!

Goodbye Listening Out Loud. You've been a good friend, but you're not very good at kicking me in the butt when I need it. And I need it bad right about now.

Monday, April 23, 2012


I've decided I hate process.

If you wanna know the truth I just want to go to sleep and wake up with a chip in my brain that would produce all the changes I'd like to see. (If you know of something like that shoot me an email.) I'd wake up and I'd be a luminous new woman who embraces all things good and healthy. I'd eat only what is nourishing in exactly the right portions except when it is hospitable to taste a little of a friend's homemade cookies that are still warm out of the oven. I'd exercise religiously in ways that transform my saggy 50-year-old body into that of a wise and adventurous 35-year-old athelete. I'd remind you of Jane Fonda in her prime, but without all the annoying political spewing and sanctimonious lectures. I'd attend to my emotions and my spirit in ways that open doors to unlimited peace and happiness sort of like a kindly monk in comfortable shoes who always has a goofy smile on his face. I'd order my life perfectly and care for myself and everyone around me like Mother Teresa on steroids. I'd write words regularly that make you want to laugh and cry and start all over again with my brilliant and funny insights. I'd remind you of Anne Lamott without the history of drug and alcohol abuse (so of course I would never be exactly like her and you'd be just a little sad about that and it would confuse you that you wish I had been on a bunch of meth binges and then came to my senses.)

Of course, none of you would want to hang out with me anymore because you'd secretly resent me and hope that I fall into a hole on one of my prayer walks. But that's a small price to pay, right?

I wish I was more disciplined and wise. I'm just not. I'll start some wonderful project with all kinds of energy and hope and then I'll poop out after about three hours. It's more than a little bit discouraging.

Here's the big problem: I don't take myself seriously. Or at least I don't take the laws of physics seriously. (entropy schmentropy, gravity schmavity) I don't honestly buy that actions have consequences and that gobs of peanut M&M's end up as flab. (How could something that good and lovely and yummy be bad?) I live my life as though I will live forever and always have a tomorrow to get it right. But that's not really true, is it? (Is it?)

I've been having a hard time motivating myself to do much of anything lately. It's not that I'm depressed, exactly. I'm just tired all the time and it feels like too much trouble to plan or type or get up off the couch. My one saving grace is Saturday morning breakfast. No matter how slovenly I feel I somehow manage to shop and clean and cook for my lovely family whenever it's humanly possible. Maybe I should treat everything like family breakfast. Hmmmmmm.

Anyway, there it is.

I sure hope Jesus is as sweet and forgiving as he seems. I'm gonna need that.

Monday, April 2, 2012

my doggies: for tammy



My doggies are my little zen masters. They reveal who I am so often (the good, the bad and the ugly) and teach me how to live simply. Their concerns are minimal. They want to be fed, go out for some fresh air, rest when they're tired, and get some attention and love once in a while. My grandkids do that for me too. If I'm paying attention, they show me God. 

Cowboy and Puk are getting old. (Weird, huh? They still look like they're puppies if you overlook the greying coats.) They don't seem too concerned about approaching the end of their lives and the limitations of old age. They just are. So lately, they're teaching me how to accept and let go. (However, I will cry and grieve with intensity when they're gone. I'm not THAT accepting.) 

I love these little guys.

What, if anything, functions this way for you? What points you to God and to your true self if you'll only pay attention? 

Thursday, March 29, 2012

practicing last words

I've never seen the trees bloom this early before. I have to remind myself that it's still March, that we could still have snow for many weeks. (Of course, it would immediately melt on the warm ground, so my heart doesn't really care.)

This has been a winter and spring that I will never forget as long as I live. It's the year that I braced myself and winter just petered out before it ever really arrived. It's been a season of mercy and warmth and unusual freedom. It's been a little bit of heaven.

Being the pessimist that I am, my thoughts have turned to worries over global warming and possible dire consequences down the road. (Don't tease me, I've always been this way.) But even if that's the reality there's nothing wrong with enjoying the sun while it's bright in the sky. Even if this is the first rumblings before the world caves in, I'm content today. In fact, I'd like to take this opportunity at the precipice of possible calamity to tell you all that I love you, and to thank God for you and for this moment. It's really all we have when everything else goes dark.

Does that strike you as unnecessarily bleak or weird? It doesn't matter. I like living this way. It's good to practice dying so that you can truly live. What would you suddenly care about if you knew everything was unraveling around you? What would be more or less important to you? How would your priorities change?

Even if the world is going to last for another one hundred million years just as it is today, it's good to live with the challenge of these questions. It wakes me up to the loveliness and preciousness of the leaves budding on the trees and the deep goodness of the opportunities to love blooming all around me.  It helps me to practice my last words so that I say them well and say them out loud over and over and over again.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012


We have swarms of ground bees busily doing their thing in our front yard. They usually last about a week or two and then they either settle down or move on (or die for all I know). I don't know anything about them except that they are a sign that life is back. Last year they alarmed me a little bit and I thought about trying to get rid of them, but now I just feel content to let them be. They're not out to harm me. In fact, they're on a mission to spread good things in my world. They're only a "problem" if I start to think they're out to get me.

I wonder how many other things in my life are this way? I wonder how many other things that I view as "problems" are actually intended for my good? If I'll just allow them to do their good work, my life will thrive and beauty will bloom. I'm going to be thinking about that for a while. Things like grief, dread, fear, anger, hunger and confusion are not intended to leave me miserable and empty. They are there like swarms of bees loaded with the pollen of my heart. If I'll patiently allow them to work as they were intended I'll see the goodness growing in the ground of a willing life. I'm pretty sure if I saw them as enemies and tried to get rid of them they would do the good work of covering me with the stings of my own foolish impatience.

So today, I'm welcoming the buzzing that signals growth. How about you?

Sunday, March 25, 2012

my body

I've lost five pounds this week, but before you congratulate me on my amazing discipline I'll confess that I'm taking medication that makes the thought of food seem like the worst idea ever. Still, it's a nice start to something that really needs to happen in my life. I'll take it. 

When I visited the doctor last week and stepped on the scale I was shocked (OK, not really that shocked) to find that I weigh more than I ever have in my entire life. It was more than a little disturbing and depressing to me. I can cut myself a tiny bit of slack because I've experienced a ton of illness in the last several years that involved long stretches of laying on the couch and comforting myself with chocolate. But it hasn't really done me any favors. Chocolate doesn't look all that great anymore when it turns into blobs of goo all over my body.

I've been on a little bit of a kick these days on Pinterest. I've been finding all of these DIY beauty ideas and all kinds of good ideas for food. For some reason I've been drawn to purchasing a lot more organic fruit and veggies and I feel compelled to take better care of myself. (This all occurred before the shocking doctor appointment revelation.) It feels good to be caring for myself in new ways. I'm thinking now that this was God preparing me to start on a new journey. God is merciful that way. He generally gives me a heads-up before he announces that he wants something new from me. I like that about him. 

And how weird that God wants me to be well. I mean, he could have asked me to do all kinds of things, but the thing most on his heart for me was to be well. I'm terrible at that and always have been. So I suspect this will be an ongoing struggle. And I'm scared to death that I'm actually talking about this publicly. Generally when I take on something involving my own health I do it very privately and don't let anybody in on it because then if I fail I won't have to face public humiliation. The flip side of that is I don't get any public encouragement either. 

I'm not going to be terribly rigid about this because I want these changes to be something I can sustain. I want to focus on healthier eating choices, smaller portions, daily yoga and three cardio opportunities a week. I'm hoping this will give me more energy, help me shed some of that weight, and will result in fewer incidents of illness. Wish me luck and blessings and feel free to ask me how I'm doing if you like. I'll be doing this for the rest of my life, but only one moment at a time. I'm inviting all of you along for the ride because I know you're lovely and wise and loving. I'll be needing all of that for a very long time.

Saturday, March 24, 2012


I know I've been quiet lately. I'm just getting over a nasty sinus infection and bronchitis that lasted most of two months. Sorry about that. But I'm feeling pretty good now (other than the side effects of the meds) so I'm hoping the words will be flowing nicely from this point on.

Today was family breakfast. I made breakfast burritos and I've gotta tell you, I pretty much rocked it. Saturday mornings are my favorite time of the whole week. I get to see my grandkids and that's all it really takes to make me smile.

Wyatt has really been growing and changing quite a bit lately. You know that timeframe when all of a sudden they start doing something crazy and new every day? He loves to climb and get into everything and when you try to redirect him he has a really impressive scream. Sarah says he sounds like the Nazgul from Lord of the Rings, and that's very accurate. You can't help but laugh at him. So I thought I would share this little treasure with you today. 

The last several weeks here have felt more like June and July rather than March. I'm not gonna complain. 

Monday, March 12, 2012

just right

Greyley and Indigo
Dave and I had dinner with some old friends Saturday night. They cooked us a meal that you just had to taste to believe and we chatted for hours afterwards. We bounced between gut-splitting laughter and heart-splitting stories filled with pain and loss but also love and redemption---all in the perfect proportions. (Goldilocks would have said, "Just right.") I love those moments in life where it's safe to be exactly who you are. No pretending. No having to read messages buried beneath the actual words you're hearing. No fear. It feeds your soul and makes you feel like a soft rain just washed years of dust off your heart.

At around 9:30 we heard their daughter calling for help from the other room. Her brother had fallen asleep in her arms and she needed someone to carry him to bed. I ran for my camera and snapped this picture, partly because it might be the sweetest thing I've ever seen and partly because it was a perfect metaphor for how the whole evening felt to me. You have to be pretty darn trusting of someone to fall asleep in their arms, and I'm pretty sure if we had stayed just a little later and had been a little more tired we all would have woke up the next morning at the kitchen table rubbing sleep out of our eyes and laughing like little kids.

Thanks Lori and Nate. We love you guys.

Saturday, March 10, 2012


I don't know what part of the world you're reading this from, but it's 63 degrees and sunny here and that is very weird in the best possible sense. My toes said hello to the sun for the first time since last fall. They were happy toes. The grandkids and Janelle stayed a little while after family breakfast to enjoy the day with Dave and I. Does it get any better than this? I don't think so.

It's good to be alive.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

melting is easy

Boy, winter is having a heck of a time around here. We can't seem to stay cold enough to keep the snow around. This is my back yard today. We have a gutter that needs repair and it just pours water in a particular place just outside our back door whenever it rains or the snow starts melting. We got a sloppy slush/ice/snow storm yesterday, but it's melting like crazy already.

It kind of got me thinking about how it doesn't take much to make me melt. The mere sight of my grandkids or my kids, the sound of Dave's voice, anything that suddenly strikes me as funny, a thoughtful email…it really doesn't take much at all and my heart softens inside my chest. It doesn't matter how cold and frozen I've been. Melting is easy. Then I started to think about how many opportunities I have to be a warm presence for others. I wonder how easy it might be to melt all of the people around me if I just bring a little tenderness and sincerity? It's worth a try. Maybe Minnesota would become a sweet little island if everyone melted at once.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


I'm watching Lincoln and Wyatt today, and Linc showed up with a big cut and bruise above his left eye. It made him look like a little toughie but he was actually quite concerned about it when he thought about it. At first he was proud to show it to me and then he wanted a bandaid and to lay on the couch and watch a movie.

That's all any of us really need when we're hurting. A little loving attention and distraction. Kids are brilliant at asking for what they need. I wish I was as smart as this little boy when it comes to my hurts. I wish I was better at letting people know when I need some loving attention and some company and distraction. Linc gets over his wounds really quickly because he knows how to ask for a bandaid and a cuddle.

Friday, February 24, 2012

danny's moving in!

sarah's pumped to have her big brother here

Today is the day. Danny's going to move in with us to save up for some big life changes coming his way. We're pretty excited over here. The first thing he said when he carried his guitar in is, "It's about to get a lot more musical up in here." I love that. It's just what we need.

Welcome home my little love!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

the beauty of what comes

I think I'm getting a little more skillful at appreciating whatever is here at the moment. Just outside my back door I found this thrilling little world and I had to get a shot of it. There's an awful lot of beauty waiting to surprise us when we care to notice it. Sometimes it's almost too much for me. It makes me want to laugh and cry at the same time.

It's good to be alive.

Monday, February 20, 2012

oh yeah, i remember her

Periodically I forget who I am. Does that ever happen to you? It's dreadful.

But lately I'm remembering who I really am deep down in buried places. It's like a light went on inside of me. Most of the time I'm fairly bad company for myself because I'm so self-critical, but these days I'm admiring things about myself that I had forgotten about.

For instance, I'm funny. I hate it when that part of me gets obscured because it's so fun to laugh and play. When I recover my laughter and lightness even the parts of me that I'd like to change seem kind of funny to me. When you're laughing everything seems kind of easy.

The other night I was laughing about something with David so hard that I got into a coughing spasm that almost killed me but it felt really good. That kind of laughter feels like a good massage afterwards. You get all relaxed and warm and satisfied. I want to do that more.

I wonder if Jesus ever told jokes? I suspect he had a pretty good sense of humor. When you look around with your eyes wide open your only choices are to laugh or cry. Or both.

Friday, February 17, 2012

letting in the light

I spent some time on the phone with a friend from far away today. I'm taking a course called Encountering Christ from my friend Christianne, and the course includes two sessions of spiritual direction. Honestly, I was a little apprehensive about this aspect of the course because talks like this force me to come clean about my life. I know that sounds weird coming from a counselor but I have very special rules that only apply to me out of all the people in the entire universe. (That seems smart, don't you think?) Christianne is one of those people who is just born to listen to people in a way that breaks them open and I knew that if I talked to her for any length of time I would have to be honest about where I was at, which is not really my idea of a party. Bah. I'd rather curl up under a blanket and eat popcorn while I watch three hours of things I will not remember after I turn the TV off. 

Anyway, it took about three minutes before I was discovering things about myself that were pretty interesting. This was surprising because I like to think that I'm terribly self-aware and brilliant and have everything all figured out and all. (I hope you're hearing the sarcasm.) I discovered that there has been growth and change in my internal life that had totally slipped under my radar. I discovered that I have resources that I was not taking advantage of. I learned about connections that I had never noticed before. And I learned, or rather remembered, that God is such a good Daddy. 

Is my voice different than it has been lately? Hmmmm. I don't think that's a coincidence. I've suddenly remembered that I have a pretty good sense of humor and kind of a rebellious streak that can get me into some trouble but can also be one of my most creative and fun strengths. I've got a renewed feeling of energy and hope. And all because I took the risk to let a little light into my odd internal world. You should try it sometime, even when it's scary or sounds like the worst idea ever in the history of bad ideas. Light can make all the dust and clutter more obvious, but it's also the only way to discover what is real. I'm glad I opened the blinds and dared to stare into the sun for a while. 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

my voice

I'm not really sure what's going on with me lately, but I'm having a terrible time finding my voice. In fact, it takes a lot of effort to even notice that my voice is missing. Part of this, I'm sure, is that I've had a cold for the last couple of weeks that just won't completely go away. So I'm out of sorts, physically. But mostly, I think I'm out of sorts spiritually and emotionally. I'm not in a crisis or anything, but God has been turning my attention to places that badly need it, and my response has been to mostly shut down and try to ignore it. That hasn't been the most helpful response.

Every February I seem to find myself in this place. Although this winter has been mild, it's still mostly wearing out it's welcome. And, weirdly, I miss the snow. We've only had about fifteen inches or so this winter and that has largely melted with the warm weather. So the landscape is brown and drab. It matches my internal world quite well. Don't get me wrong. I'm not complaining about the weather. I'm just noticing that it affects me in specific ways.

Bah. Even as I'm writing this, I'm getting sick of myself. And that attitude is probably closest to the root of my problem. I'm not very responsive to a particular kind of criticism, and when that criticism is internal it's hard to escape from it. That's what's very peculiar to me. I said earlier that God is turning my attention to places in my life that are in a bit of a shambles, but he's not nagging me and he's not being critical. His voice is kind and inviting. If I spoke to myself the way God speaks to me I might respond very differently. I might be less sick of myself and my internal voice. I might soften.

So, my voice isn't really missing. It's just that the voice I'm hearing is not my true voice. It's not the voice I use with anyone else in any other circumstances. It's reserved for myself alone when I'm not living up to my own hopes or expectations. This voice is shrill and brittle and mean and no one would want to spend much time listening to it. It's no wonder that I avoid myself. If I had a friend who spoke to me this way that friend wouldn't get much of my time, and I doubt I would really consider her a friend at all.

I'm trying to use a different voice with myself today. I'm trying to mimic the voice that God uses with me. He's not sick of me. His voice is soft and loving and encouraging. He wants good things for me and he sees the gifts that are languishing. His voice is an invitation born of love. That's what I want to he listening to each moment as I move through my days and nights. Maybe if I'm quiet enough I won't have to mimic anything. Maybe the voice of God will be the only thing I hear.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

all is grace

You say grace before meals.  All right.  But I say grace before the concert and the opera, and grace before the play and pantomime, and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing and grace before I dip the pen in the ink.  ~G.K. Chesterton


Super Bowl party: that's grandpa wrestling with the grandkids :)

so glad the sun hasn't been a stranger this winter

Today I am finally feeling more normal and I'm deeply grateful for that. The last week or so has been a blur of sleep and hacking coughs that rattled my whole body. It's good to wake up to the sun and a little bit of energy.

All is grace. Today I'm grateful for my grandchildren and the way they stir up all the love I have inside of me. I'm grateful for a home that is welcoming to everyone we know. And I'm grateful for the sun in a cloudless, cold sky.

All is grace.

Saturday, February 4, 2012


I woke this morning to a world that was frosted over, as though snowflakes had grown spiky white spines out of every tree branch. It's too bad it was so grey because when this happens in bright sunshine it's almost too beautiful to imagine. It makes you want to cry.

I've been sick since Wednesday. I only want to sleep and sleep. And sleep. When I saw the branches so beautiful and singing their high notes as I woke I couldn't help but sing along. I'm thankful for this gratuitous display of beauty today.

A friend of mine posts a daily five each day to record things that she's grateful for. She's been doing it for over three years. I wonder how that would change your perspective over time? She must always be searching for things to include. In fact, most days she posts more than five things. Today I'm thankful for the frost and for my husband who cares for me when I'm not well. I'm thankful for friends who send me encouraging words. I'm thankful for phone calls from my grandchildren. I'm thankful for music. It's not so hard to think of things I'm grateful for when I'm paying any attention at all.

Today I'm thankful even in my sleepy half life.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

out of the fog

I spent some time this afternoon with a woman that I used to counsel. She has a history full of loss and betrayal and drug abuse and mental illness. She tends to be hyper-focused on the parts of her life that are sad or difficult, and to tell you the truth there's an awful lot of sad and difficult things to focus on around her. I realized that it was hard to stay engaged because no matter how much effort I put into listening with compassion and gently redirecting her, she wasn't listening to me. She's extremely well defended. And then I realized how very close I came to being this way myself.

It's so easy to walk into the fog and never emerge again. There's a comfort in the hazy light and the permission it gives you to hide. After a while, the fog becomes a friend, maybe your closest friend. It's terrifying to become vulnerable and step into the full light of day.

Frankly, I don't know how I escaped that fog. I was lucky or blessed or however you'd like to frame that. I had friends and family who loved me through some ugly years. I made a few decisions along the way that helped. I learned something about the grace of God and the way he loves me. But honestly, I can't really account for the difference between this woman and myself.

I don't want to squirm out of this too easily. Sometimes it's good to be uncomfortable. Every answer I try to tell myself about how I am here and she's there feels flimsy. They all feel self-serving or blaming. The search for a comfortable explanation is just another form of fog. It's meant to keep me safe, imagining that I'm so very different from this woman who is stuck and miserable.

The truth is, I'm not that different. And it's important for me to remember that so that I can stay compassionate. The truth is, it's hard to walk out of the fog. I get it.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

midday moon

Sometimes when I see something unexpected or out of place, it shakes me out of my sleepwalk way of living. I love a midday moon. It reminds me that there's really very little difference between the night and the day. The sun and the moon are always there. They don't really disappear. It's just a matter of perspective and location. 

Hello moon. Isn't it a beautiful day?

Friday, January 27, 2012


A light snow is falling outside. There is no quiet like the sound of snow. It's almost like God is saying, "Shhhh. Listen." Everything that was brown and dirty becomes gradually bright and clean. It's like redemption. I'm listening in the quiet and inviting the bright whiteness inside of me. It came just in time, just when I was beginning to think there was no way to see the world as beautiful.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

as night falls

It's about a half an hour before dusk, when God is tucking in the world, covering me with night like a blanket. Today was beautiful and warm and I've been thankful for the light. Now the darkness is coming.

I got some word today from some friends who are far away. They are experiencing some very frightening circumstances. I can't go into it in detail, but I can say that my heart is breaking for them today and I'm praying that all will be well soon. I'm praying for their safety.

It's easy sometimes to get caught up in my particular concerns and problems. And then, just as easily, the sky opens up and cheers me. It doesn't take much for my mood to be carried in either direction. But when I hear things like I'm hearing today my heart is pulled in both directions at once. I'm so grateful for the safety of my loved ones. I'm so grateful for my life and the freedom I have to create and explore and move around and see the sky. AND I'm so sad and scared for my friends. I'm so frustrated that the world is cleanly divided between the fortunate and the forgotten. I'm grieving violence and sickness and poverty and despair. I'm putting myself in another part of the world and imagining myself there.

I will not waste this sunset for the heaviness of my heart. I will dance and move and love because evil is clawing at my soul and trying to swallow up the last scraps of goodness in the world. Night is falling, but there are still some slivers of light. I want to wrap my arms around my friends and remind them. Even in the most penetrating darkness the tenderness of love will light a candle. I'm holding a candle for my loves so far away.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

remember this

I've spent a lot of time writing today and that always makes for a good day. Dave is sleeping and no one else is home so I've had the benefit of lots of quiet. I originally had an appointment for this afternoon but the person called to reschedule yesterday so I had the whole day open to do some creating. I love this. And it makes me wonder, "Why do I avoid this so much? In fact, why do I avoid a lot of things that I know for certain will make me feel wonderful?"

I'm a big procrastinator and a perfectionist, as you know, and these two qualities combined (I wonder if they're not always combined, like conjoined twins?) make for quite a bit of misery for me. I'm working on cutting myself just enough slack to settle for something less than perfect, while encouraging myself to just dive in without too much in the way of expectations. And I'm working on remembering how good I feel when I just do something that I've been putting off. Or at least start. Starting is the hard part.

So, today I got my breakfast and drank some water and put on the coffee and wrote. And I'm still writing. I'm actually taking a break from writing to write this. Funny. I have all kinds of other tasks waiting for me like grumpy little trolls tossing the furniture around. That's OK. Everything else can wait. (Maybe the trick is to just choose wisely among procrastination choices.) Right now, the keyboard is warm and my fingers are nimble. I can't think of anything I'd rather be doing right now. I feel good.

Remember this, Terri. Remember this.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

the grace of a wide open sky

It's 11:30 am and the temperature outside is -6. My fingers are stiff and red from taking these pictures, although I was only outside for a few minutes. There's a stark beauty in this kind of cold. Even though the trees are sleeping and bare they look like they might be praising God in spite of themselves. But it is difficult to stay in the freezing temperatures long enough to actually see what is here.

I'm thinking of things that have defined me in my sleeping past. There is sadness and betrayal and loss. There is fear and bewilderment and loneliness. There is unfathomable cold.

But these are only partial truths. My memory sometimes plays tricks on me. My mind wants to both hover on the pain and ignore it at the same time. It neglects the elements that are bright and holy. But when I take the time to look around carefully, I'm amazed at the stark beauty of my history.

There is survival and laughter and grace. There is healing and friendship and forgiveness. With stiff fingers, I'm framing a view that is surprising to me, the sun shining so brightly that it's hard to see what I'm capturing.

I'm noticing the frozen fingers of the trees demonstrating how to live in the grace of a wide open sky, carrying the memory of every Winter that has given way to Spring.