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Sunday, December 30, 2012

one word

so...picking one word as a theme for the new year is really big nowadays.

i'm game to try it for a year...and see if it really changes anything.

this past year, in fact the past 3 years, have had a word going for them- TIRED. aka overcommitted, stretched, fatigued, doing-things-out-of-wrong-motives, ....

shall i go on?

yup, that's me.


so i am going to intentionally choose my word for this year.

it is


now let's see if i can actually make it work.

*stop sniggering, all of you*

Friday, December 21, 2012


when christmas comes, it's hard to slow down.

i feel guilty thinking about all the things i have NOT done this year.

this feeling recirculates every single year, and i have to get a handle on it every single year.

or it spoils the season.

things change from year to year- schedules are different, sickness steals a day here and there, pressures poke up nasty little heads from unexpected corners...

but christmas comes, nonetheless.

in our corner of the world, it's easy to get frustrated with the traffic. this is the single worst point of the holiday season where we are. millions of cars on tiny narrow streets trying to get into vast malls to spend their money...and everyone ends up honking and swearing and driving recklessly so as to be first in line. blood pressure rises. tempers flare. the contrast of the happy music of 'jingle bells' and the race to the tills is ridiculous.

where are you, christmas?

i still my heart.

i refuse to join the fracas.

i wait. i pray. i trust holy spirit to guide me in my activities this season- gauging my energy level and my peace of mind over the 'must-see's' and the 'should-do's'.


as ann says, 'what if christmas was about the presents we already have'...???

what if it were all about what we already have.

our health. our family. our joy in jesus. our bountiful table. our nice clothes. our pleasant friends.

our garden/house/vacation/work/churchfamily/bible/healthinsurance/nicerestaurants/gifting/talents/....

the list is endless.

why must we have more?

where are we going?

what could the mall possibly offer that we do not already have????

so again, this year, i am boycotting christmas in a sense.

i am stilling.

i am consciously holding myself in that still inner place where HE speaks- and says, 'it's really all about ME.'




write dangerously, she said.

write what you wish someone would write to you.

get to the edge of the cliff and look down, then take a deep breath and jump.

flail if you must, but jump.


the world has not ended, me living at the eastern edge of it, and so we must go on.


oh yes.

it's dangerous. it's dark. it's murderous. it's terrifying.

but it has not ended.

and so we must, and shall, continue to breathe, and eat, and walk, and have conversations, and live- dangerously.

because we are on a whirling planet at the edge of a vast universe filled with terrifying and beautiful things, and we understand none of it, and our whitened knuckles grip gravity because we don't know how else to spin through space without falling off. we are not reepicheep, composed in his small coracle, riding the shimmering blue wave into aslan's world. we toil here in the backwoods of the galaxy, knowing not what we spin or weave, and we gasp as the ball we're stuck on rotates endlessly through space with us clinging desperately to every tiny blade of grass.

and so, there. that was dangerous.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

the storm approaches

a howler, they say,
this huge yellow and red circle on the blue of the pacific
glowing on my computer screen

looks angry

looks hungry

circling in a vast violent rotation
of screaming wind and thrashing rainbands

it's coming

it's coming

the air is deathly still and dripping humid
the clouds hover low
like threads of some monstrous web
tightening overhead

we wait

we wait

we wait

for the storm

to come

Sunday, November 18, 2012


it's quiet here, in my corner of the world.

only the sweep of the wind and the cry of the birds.

(a distant hum from the highway sometimes.)

my mind opens up in the stillness-

stretches itself and breathes deep

and unfurls like a flower in morning sun.

my brain reaches out into the open space where there is no noise

and comes alive

with thoughts that think themselves,


my body nestles into curled comfort of deep cushion

and every nerve ending uncoils itself

in peaceful rest. things growing...birds and cats and sleeping dogs...


Thursday, November 15, 2012

anniversaries of the heart...

my mother died 21 years ago on november 14th, 1991.

21 years ago yesterday.

not a day has gone by that i have not thought of her, wished she were here, regretted the years we spent apart with only snail mail letters every few months to catch up on each other's lives.

i've written much about my mother- all of it tender and charitable. i have no negative memories of her. she was a firecracker of a mom- she wasn't perfect but she didn't pretend to be. this i loved about her.

there was a deep understanding between us. i was her confidante from a young age and i knew her better than anyone. she told me things she never told anyone else. she treated me like an adult, but she did not cling. she released me to fly away from the nest so very young. she trusted me.

i, of course, betrayed that trust by simply being human. on the other hand, she had pretty high standards.

what would i say to her today, if there was snail mail - or something- between heaven and here?

i don't know.

i would probably just run to her and bury my head on her shoulder and feel her patting my back and stroking my hair. i would cry. she would cry.

then we'd wipe our eyes, put the kettle on, and sit down all comfortable for a lovely afternoon of catching up.

i miss you, mom. i wish you hadn't died. i wish you'd seen all my beautiful children. i wish you could spar with dennis about "Scritchure" as you used to do. i wish the years here weren't so long.

and i really really wish i had some nice pictures of you.

but we have this to look forward to- you from your eternal side of things and me here in the crawling of the days...together again one day. forever. i can't wait.

Sunday, November 11, 2012


i was born 7 years after my father came home from the war.

except that a part of him never really came home.

he enlisted in the air force at 21- the ROYAL CANADIAN AIR FORCE or RCAF. he was a genius at math, even though he'd quit school after 9th grade to work on the farm, like most of the boys did back then. the air force brought him up to speed in a few months, and then assigned him to be a navigator, although he wanted to be a pilot.

he learned to fly by the give directions to the crew by the points of light in the night sky. it was blackout, you know, during the the stars were bright. cloudy nights were non-flying nights.

my father never really came down out of the clouds. ever.

the war changed him, twisted him, scarred him. not physically- he was as beautiful when he came home as when he left. but inside, where it matters, he was wounded. he was broken.

his whole crew went down one night in the north sea. he was sick in bed with a high fever that night and could not go out on the mission. when they told him, he took all the blame on himself. all the black 'if only's' in the world descended upon his shoulders, and the ultimate survivor's guilt set the course for the rest of his life.

we, his children, became military cadets...sat in front of blackboards in the kitchen along with neighbor children rounded up to join the crew. hour after hour, we did star charts, mathematical calculus, navigator's drills. our instructor barked, coughed, shouted, sputtered.

my cousin andrew wrote a haunting song called 'three candles', in which he pays tribute to the warrior who did not fall into the sea, but rather into the confusion of a life lived as the sole survivor. my father would indeed climb up on the roof of every house we ever lived in and sing 'farther along...we'll know all about it...farther along we'll understand why...."

i imagine he still doesn't understand. at 89, the memories are all he has. he lives in those past moments. he's in uniform, he's sharp and ready and terrified and proud...flying the dark skies with his eyes on the heavens and star charts in his hands...the north star always just at the edge of his vision...europe at war beneath the lancaster bombers that roar into the cloudless night. he quotes 'high flight' and becomes one with the wind.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

snapshots of my week, randomly...

i almost put a color rinse in my hair this morning...but i got an attack of vertigo when i bent over to shower it and so i didn't. church was awesome, my son jonathan is the 2nd best preacher in the world.

if you put a bit of crushed anise in with rosemary and garlic, nobody can guess what the secret ingredient is in your roasted chicken. we drew christmas names today for immediate family. my husband was clocked going 60 MPH on his bike. i was clocked going 120 KM in my van. i was talking at the time.

penelope is getting better. the vet said she's now 3 on the 1-10 scale. she may live a few years yet, she said, but probably will always be frail. i am very happy that her ear is improving- the growth is smaller, it might be just an abcess.

i am not happy that my bathroom which is also penelope's bathroom, smells rather...pungent.

we had family pictures taken today, courtesy of tracey. i hope they are nice. i think they are. emma was an angel and posed and posed.

i went grocery shopping at 4 pm so as to not have to do it on a monday morning. you'd think the store would be packed. it wasn't. i was thankful. we had icecream after shopping. i bought a stuffed bear wearing winter clothes. the bear, that is.

last week i taught for 2 days. i love art. the kids are awesome. i love the art classroom. i could just stay in there forever. this week i will teach 4 days. the creativity of little people never fails to amaze me!

it's hot. the cold front needs to extend south where we are. the days are getting shorter...the sun is rising and setting farther south. the sky is different. i'll set up my telescope soon...want to make sure the rain is really finished.

my knee hurts. too much tree-climbing, perhaps?

thus ends my sunday night randomness. i shall now watch downton abbey with my husband. good night.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

9 days

9 days ago i walked into a pet shop to look at birdcages.

they were prohibitively expensive. while chatting with the owner of the petshop, explaining to him that i needed a 'catproof' cage, and complaining about the high prices of things in general, he asked me to come inside and look at his cats.

two persian cats in cages. one- fat and healthy and beautiful.

the other- a frail skeleton with half the hair on her face gone, lying in her own filth.

i gasped in horror and protested to the owner, 'why haven't you taken her to the vet?'

'there's nothing wrong with her,' he assured me.

sick to my stomach at the sight of this wretched animal suffering, i opened the door of her cage to see if she was too far gone. she staggered to her feet, crept to the door of the cage, and gave one frail cry. it was as if she said, 'please. this is my last chance.'

do i need to tell you what happened then? money changed ten minutes we were at the animal clinic just across the street, i was feeding her the boiled chicken from my lunch, and "penelope's" new life had begun.

it was a rough start. she was- still is- a very sick little feline. massive systemic infection. worms. protozoa. third degree malnutrition. and a dreadful growth in her ear that could be malignant.

a waste of money? possibly.

a hopeless case? maybe.

but all i know is that i could not walk away and leave her to certain death in that dark, dirty petshop.

penelope has a chance. and even if she doesn't make it, i know it was the right thing to do.

Monday, October 15, 2012

'it droppeth as the gentle rain from heav'n'...

i've been thinking a lot lately about mercy.

that rare quality that 'is not strained'...

that is an attribute of God...

that tempers justice...

ah yes.

my lowest gift. 

i score really really low on mercy. 

as in, zero.

in 2006, God played such a joke on me.

he gave me a baby girl whose name was 'mercy'.

that was her given name at birth- 

we added 'emma', 

but her birth mom gave her that lovely name 

as her only gift

and we kept it.



letting the justice of a crime be forgotten. 

not giving someone what they deserve as punishment.

hard for someone like me- 

a black/and/white, prophetic, 

no-nonsense type of person. 

i'm an 'off-with-her-head' soul. 

a shylock if there ever was one.

oh! but God has had such mercy on me. 

such forgiveness. 

such unmerited grace 

and such undeserved putting-away 

of sins and punishment.

how could i do less? 

nature-contrary...but how?

and so i ponder mercy.

and i look at my little daughter 

and am in awe

that God- so intentional- reminded me 

and gave me her.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

i saw her song in my mind

I passed a woman standing by her gate 
this morning, 
with her head tilted back
and her slender throat exposed;
lips moving, 
eyes looking beyond her dingy world, 
she swayed rhythmically 
and I could see she was singing. 

Inside my air conditioned chariot, 
I heard nothing of her song. 
Perhaps her radio was on-
Perhaps a neighbor was strumming a guitar.
or maybe she just loved to sing. 

I don't know.

I sped through her world 
of broken-down shanties 
and narrow garbage-strewn streets
like a wind in the night. 

But long after I'd left her behind, 
I saw her song in my mind.

Monday, October 8, 2012

apologies to emily

silence needing sound
a vacuum where i am
restless brain- without a thought-
sucks up forgetful plan

never reaching Decibel
crashing on the light
how strange to open door
and feel the wind in flight

Friday, September 28, 2012

of a brother...

it's his birthday today, and he is somewhere.

none of us really know where.

he's "gone to ground" as my sister beth says...buried somewhere anonymously-in hiding.

he is the youngest of four boys. he was a blond, curly-haired, angel faced little man with a sweet smile and a tender spirit, born in a time of trouble and near-death for my precious mom. he was her 'valley' child and she sang her way through the terror as she lingered in the shadows.

perhaps the shadows followed the child.

life twisted him.

he tried to stay straight- i know he did- but wrong choices wove a web from which he could not- cannot- escape.

i think of him often...remember the innocence and brilliance of his childhood, the golden voice of him...before harsh reality seared his soul.

before his golden curls were forcibly cut off so that he would look more "boyish".

before cruel words and mocking taunts and secret trouble drove him from home.

i remember my little brother. and i pray.


Monday, September 24, 2012


both fathers

sole survivors
of tragic wipe-out
of all else

each breathing man
crushed by fire
by water
snuffed out in seconds

the two fathers
left alone
to live long lives
that wander into sunset years
slow and steady


we the children
surprised by life
think of the fire and water
that our small cells
escaped so narrowly

we breathe
we breathe

-the story behind this is that both my husband's father and my father were sole survivors- one of a freak fire in a workplace, the other of a training plane crashing in WW2. 

Sunday, September 23, 2012


'sticks and stones may break my bones,
but words can never hurt me'

that's an old proverb.

and that's also a lie.

cruel childhood words are the most painful weapon ever to pierce our hearts and wound us. they carry a weight of unknown damage that can lacerate a little heart to the depths. and they create a maelstrom of injury that may take decades to heal.

this week a child said innocently to my little girl, 'so...i heard you were found in an orphanage?'

i was sitting nearby and in the split second of silence that followed, my heart stopped. then instantly i heard my own too-bright voice saying, 'oh no...her birth mommy couldn't keep her so God gave her to us...'

and then fielding the inevitable volley of follow-up questions...

'she's ADOPTED?'

'why did her birth mom give her away?'

and so on.

we had told our daughter the circumstances of her birth long before this happened, and this was not news to her. she knows her story.

but in the days that followed, i watched and listened carefully for questions and comments from my little one, because she was the heart for whom this was 'sticks and stones'.

all was quiet.

then today, as she was playing with a friend, out it came.

'pretend your birth mom couldn't look after you so she gave you away, and you were adopted by someone else, and then.....'

oh, my sweet little girl.

if only i could spare you the pain of others' careless, ignorant words and questions.

if only i could protect your precious heart from the bruises and cuts of others' attitudes and speech.

if only i could change your past and you had been born, in your own words, 'in my tummy'...instead of- and i'm not second-guessing God here, just thinking out loud- how it did happen.

thankful as i am to have you, it's hard to explain just the way things were. people just don't get it. i'm not sure you and i and daddy get it. and children say the most hurtful things of all because they just spit out their thoughts unfiltered.

all i can do i pray that the great Healer finds ways to bind up the slashes and scrapes that you have already received on your sweet spirit. I pray that the great Forgiver teaches you to forgive those who ask too many questions, stare too hard and long, and say things that you cannot possibly be expected to understand.

and i pray that you- and i- will learn to be gentle with words, slow with questions, and ready to bring healing and forgiveness to every difficult and awkward situation.

especially when we have no answers.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

while i was sleeping

weird and wonderful things are happening in my spiritual life recently.

i'm having visitations from Holy Spirit in my sleep...

one night a couple of weeks ago, i dreamed that i was 'slain in the Spirit' (an old Pentecostal term for falling down almost unconscious during prayer or ministry time). i have actually been 'slain' while awake, and felt the presence of God so strongly that it was like a soft blanket with anchors of steel that held me to the floor while HE did a work in my heart. 

DISLAIMER: nobody has ever 'pushed me over', either...and i've made it a point to keep standing when everyone is falling around me because i truly don't want to be a part of mass hysteria...

but this was different- because i was alone, and sleeping, at the time.

i fell over sideways (in my dream) and lay on the floor in a trance, awake (but sleeping) but not able to move. in my arms i held a huge golden circle of light that was warm on my chest. i lay there for a long time (while i was sleeping) and the presence of God trembled, vibrated, warmed...strangely powerful and beautiful. 

after awhile i sat up.

then a lady bent over me (in my dream) and said some words in a language i did not understand. she laid a gentle hand on my (sleeping) shoulder, and i was slain again. over i went on the floor, still clutching the huge circle of golden light, and this time the air around me was a rainbow- a pulsating kaleidoscope of light that throbbed around me, through me, within me. 

for an eternity i lay there, bathed in the light, filled with the light, paralyzed by the light. my worlds of inner and outer consciousness bridged and melded and swirled together in stupefying wonder. 

(SPOCK would have been proud.)

when i awoke from the dream, i was changed...i felt if something wonderful was going to happen. had already happened.

i wonder what HE is up to now...i'm on the brink of something...and the air is crisp and clean and smells like sunshine and the pulsating circle of light thrills within my arms.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

of tambourines, sandals, and Jesus freaks...

i'm remembering a beautiful song that we used to sing back in the early 70' was the end of the Jesus Movement and we were all still pretty much hippies, even though some of us were young marrieds with kids...

we'd get in our home groups, close our eyes, and sing and sway as acoustic guitars strummed the hypnotic tune from Godspell...

"day by by day...O dear Lord, three things I see Thee more Thee more dearly...follow Thee more by day..."

those words have followed me through all these decades. they are still the prayer of my heart.

forever i'll be a child of the 60's...the decade when everything was changing and anything was possible. over-arching it all, from my perspective, was the Person of Jesus Christ, the King of the Flower Children and the Man for whom tens of thousands of us chose willingly to be called freaks. we were truly Jesus freaks. the spirit world was rocking, the tambourines were jingling, and we danced in the footprints of the Jesus boots of the Lamb of God- in our bare feet and our sandals -

and we loved him.

tomorrow i will hum this song to myself my mind i'll rock back and forth and fling my long hair and my bracelets will clink and the earth will shake and Godspell will ring out a call again to the millions of kids in a generation who needed and found something to live for...

and it will be my birthday, and i will love him far more now that i did then. and day by day i am still following in His footsteps...

because i am still a Jesus freak, and He is still the King of the Flower Children.

Thursday, August 30, 2012


it's taken a long time, but i have finally figured out the spiritual significance of MULCH.

(see here to read my confusion...)

yes, mulch.


rotting organic material.

fly-attracting, smelly, soggy, gross mulch.

oh, it's significant, all right. wait. wait. wait.

a couple of years ago when i first began my tropical garden escapades, i had many revelations- if you can call them that- of the significance of many different things that grow in relation to how my relationship with God works.

but one thing i could not understand was MULCH. what did it mean? how do i relate to it in terms of a learning experience from my garden? what do i do with its characteristics- most of which are just plain gross- and translate that over to my life?

it took a beautiful  video to make the lesson clear to my gardener brain.

this unbelievable story taught me that overtop of my rocky adobe ground (read "heart") i could put anything organic that had died (read "laying one's life down") and it would change the soil (read "redemption").

and it's all straight from the BIBLE.

i'm excited. this information is not only changing the way i use the land God has given me, but also my everyday life. suddenly i see that everything in my life that lays itself down and dies, will change the hard rocky nature of my human heart into a life-bearing organism that is self-sustaining (read "GOD") and life-bearing.

watch the video. you won't believe.

but i hope you do.

and come on over to my tropical garden some day, to see how things are changing. bring a bag of something dead with you. =)

Monday, August 20, 2012

the not-so-good samaritans...

yesterday my wallet was stolen out of my purse in broad daylight at a restaurant table in full view of a group of people who saw it happen.


by the time i discovered the theft, reported it, alerted security, calmed down the four little ones with me who were crying and yammering and praying, and watched the videotape of the event, the thieves were long gone.

fortunately for me, their modus operandi was to grab the cash and throw the wallet away. it was found about an hour later- intact except for a bit of cash.

in the panic and rush of the moment, i didn't think much about my fellow-patrons who saw it happen... until i got home.

then it hit me; these people watched two men rob me, and did nothing. only when they saw me frantically telling the staff i'd been robbed did they come forward and say, 'yes, we saw two men take a red wallet out of her bag and leave the store. they scared us so we just protected our own bags'.


i was mad. i'm still mad.

but in my heart i'm questioning a deeper thing- am i like that sometimes? do i watch someone being robbed and terrorized by evil stuff and because 'it's not my responsibility' i say nothing?

do i keep quiet when obvious bad things are happening?

do i use the excuse 'it's not my garbage' when i see litter everywhere and no one picking anything up?

when i see a lost crying child in a mall and don't stop to help?

when i pass a woman on a cellphone standing beside her stranded car on a highway, am i being one of the two passersby from the story of the GOOD SAMARITAN?

am i willing to inconvenience myself, or risk embarrassment or injury to help a stranger?

actually, i have many times stopped to help people and been vilified for it...i've been considered 'weird' for cleaning up my street or picking up pieces of garbage lying around. i've used this persecution as an excuse to get sloppy as a good samaritan.

shame on me.

this world has become a 'mind your own business' sort of world.

a 'don't get involved' sort of world.

an 'it's their problem' sort of world.


malls- highways- streets- restaurants- are not always safe places...but how much nicer they would be if people watched out for each other. if we all cared enough to risk a little bit to make a difference.

me included.
                               * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

linking up to emily  , hope i did this right. if not, somebody help me out. :?

Sunday, August 12, 2012

where has my daddy gone?

what did i expect to see when  we walked through the doors of the nursing home this summer to visit my father...

my heart was pounding, as it always has whenever a face-to-face with him is imminent. he is my dad, yes, but he still terrifies me- flashes of a horror-filled childhood and his years of raging/depression/raging/depression still have me trapped in the anticipated fear of being around him. i'm still about 8 when i'm with him.

the summer sun was hot, and the tall green trees sheltered us as we entered the home...waited for the doors to be unlocked ('we've got runners', they said) and choked at the smell of old age and despair. i applauded in my heart the one brave soul sitting in his wheelchair outside.

down the hall...into his room...around the bed we gathered...and he looked up with a bright smile and called my name...i put my arms around his bony shoulders and gently hugged him, an old post of a man who yields no more now than when he was strong...

a brief hour out in the shady courtyard...feeding him raspberries and chocolates, his blue-veined fingers slowly sorting out the bright fruit and carefully putting it in his mouth...reaching slowly for 'just one more' chocolate...

he entered into the conversation sometimes, but i knew he was listening even when he said nothing. his eyes slightly faded and his cognition delayed by the medication he is on to keep him calm, nevertheless he was 'there', briefly. once or twice a spark of the old dad i know flared up...he laughed softly at appropriate times...talked of old times once...was pleasant and pliable and too ready to say 'ok, ok' when we asked or suggested anything.

this was not the dad i knew. this pleasant voice, this contented body language, this gentleness...who was this, and what have they done with my father?

for the thousandth time, i wished i could care for him...but the chance is gone. i live on the other side of the planet from him.

it is what it is.

after that brief hour, after he became weary and i wheeled him back to his room, after i gently hugged him again, still stiff as a board, and we said slow goodbyes, we walked down the hall and out into the sunshine of a july afternoon.

my heart was pounding, still.

i wanted to cry out and beg them to be careful with him, to be gentle with his old bones, to wrap him carefully and watch his feet when you wheel him around the doorways, and brush his teeth and comb his hair and don't leave him alone all the gentle with him!!! he's the only dad i'll ever have! i wanted to scream.

i didn't, of course. i'm told he's well cared for. i'm told the staff love him and enjoy him. i'm told he has friends that he chats with at mealtimes.

but oh. oh. oh.

how hard it was to leave him there and wonder...

wonder where my dad was, and feel like an 8-year-old leaving home.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


we sit on the edge of our seats, dressed in our finery, hearts beating fast as we wait for our name to be called. 'in recognition of 25 years service in missions...' is the phrase we want to hear, the award we have come to receive, the piece of paper that says we have survived being missionaries in a far-away land, under the auspices of this organization, for two and a half decades.

through coup d'etats attempts, bombings, civil unrest, poverty, raising our kids in a foreign place, struggling to make ends meet, traveling back and forth to the homeland, we have persevered. we have not quit. we have survived, and flourished. we are established now as career missionaries, and we wait for the recognition of that.

names are called.

people go forward.

our name is not on the list.

we slump back in our seats, look at each other in silent wonderment, and the wave of disappointment slams our hearts like a tsunami.

what happened? they knew we were coming! they knew we've been on the list! what happened?

in those silent, breathless moments of shock and betrayal, we sit, dressed in our finery, feeling invisible and obscure and worthless.

we whisperingly decide to leave the hall, separately so as not to make a scene...our tears just beneath the surface.

and we realize we've been overlooked...not for the first time...and it hurts.

in the morning, we feel somewhat better.

and i can't speak for my love, but i decide that this does not affect my life one bit. my sense of entitlement reveals a very human desire for admiration and recognition, a wish to hear "you are special and valued".

which, after all, does not need to come from an organization.

because i know who values me, who sees all the years of hard work and struggle and faithfulness.

he sees, he knows, and he cares.

and i don't have to get dressed up, either.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

we sit out on the balcony with them, in the long northern twilight, talking and laughing and letting the heat of the day dissipate into memory. dad has just fallen and scraped his elbow, startling mom who found him on the floor...she called for dennis just as he was walking in the door. the shock of it still trembles in the air. 

yesterday we drove out to the senior's center where they are on the list of 'next admissions'...the cold granite fact is that when someone dies, a room will become available for them. we walked through the home with mom- dad did not want to come. she was so pitifully cheerful and positive...thankful that we would take the time to see where they are probably going to be living short months from now. 

we planned furniture layouts, measured the rooms, peeked and nodded and smiled and shook hands with staff...we tried so hard. we succeeded in being happy and positive and decisive. this is where they will go. this is where they will live.

and in the aftermath of that hour, i watched mom walk back into her own little apartment on her arthritic crippled feet and i looked at her eyes...and i saw her gather her strength and bear up under it all like a warrior and i was in awe. her blue eyes took in her home...the lovely things she has, the beautiful furniture and the simple treasures, and i saw her box them up in her mind and put them away and lay it all aside for the future that she can no longer handle.

old age is not for the faint of heart. 

it takes dignity and courage and determination...the tantrums come of course, mostly from dad...but the difficult choice of giving up all independence, even temporarily in mom's case, is hard. just hard.

when it's my turn i hope i am graceful and gentle and accepting. i am learning. but it's hard.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

here on the other side of the planet...

i slog through fogged days and restless nights waiting till my 'soul catches up with my body'- having been sadly displaced by flying thousands of miles in just a few agonizing hours.

i feel the cool wind on my face in this northern city- even the hottest part of the day has a bite to it, and the streets are wide and straight and it's quiet and the green fields are vast under the big blue sky.

my little one sings, dances, plays, toughs it through the sleepless nights and in a darkened room as we try to get her brain to recognize melatonin and the change of circadian rhythms there is nothing to be done but laugh and enjoy her delight in this new world.

we hang a red and white maple-leaf flag from the balcony in honor of CANADA day, and at the vast superstore i buy huge containers of things i can never find on the other side of the planet, and we eat too much and the berries taste sweet on our tongues and our skin is dry because it is NOT 100% humidity here.

people are friendly- they talk and take every opportunity for a conversation until my shy granddaughter protests and takes shortcuts so she doesn't have to meet anyone when we walk.

i stroll around the lake- THE LAKE!- and the ducks- DUCKS!- bob in the clear water and the aeration fountains spray into the cool air and people sit on the benches and no one is spitting on the ground, or throwing their trash everywhere, or swimming in the lake, or jumping over the dividing walls, or building shacks on the fields.

the shock to the system is terrific.

a whole different world.

and the difference throbs in my heart, and i raise bleary eyes to the clouds in the pristine sky and as i wait for my brain to arrive, i give thanks, deep thanks, for it all.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

flurries of frantic flailing

it would happen.

in the middle of a family crisis, whilst trying to get ready for a 5-week long trip to the West, my tooth starts aching. so off to the dentist i go...screwing my courage to the sticking place and praying hard...

and the drill, and the tension, and the cold water shooting all over my sensitive teeth and not enough anesthesia and two hours with my jaw wide open....MIGRAINE.

so down for two days....stuff to do is backing up...suitcases to pack, shopping to be done...

writing down instructions for the girls who will stay in the house and look after 9 - NINE- animals and a HUGE garden...

trying to organize everything and repeatedly finding that i've forgotten/lost/broken some valuable item that needs to go on the trip or take care of something here...

sometimes i just feel like such a failure.

Monday, June 11, 2012


this past week has been hard.

hard to eat.

hard to breathe.

hard to shake my head and look around at my normal.

because my child

my son

is on the other side of the world


i have not prayed this deeply for a long time. i have not surrendered this heavily for a long time. i have not waded through deep water like this for a long time.

made harder because he is so far away. if i could be doing something- babysitting, nursing, helping in any way, i'd feel better.

the complete helplessness to do anything but pray is revealing my doubt, my shallowness.

deep down in my core self

some true lies bubbled up

to the surface

and showed their nasty faces...

fear (what if he dies/never fully recovers/blah blah blah)

guilt (maybe i didn't give him enough vitamins/i should have taken better care of him as an infant)

insecurity (what if he can't be the strength of our old age that we need him to be)

and so on.

most of all, i didn't want him to be afraid.

i didn't want him to feel scared and alone.

you see how silly this is; a grown man with a loving wife and two wonderful children and a calling of God on his life?


this mom totally reverted to "mommy" when he got sick. seriously sick. as in desperately ill from an unknown cause.

i had to 'go there'.

i had to think through all these feelings and allow the lies to be exposed and allow Jesus to bring truth to the deep dark places.

calm has come. i wouldn't say it's total peace, because i still can't eat much, and i still find myself holding my breath...but it's better.

such a week

 of re-learning to trust.

of breathing, one breath at a time.

of sorrowing over his pain and my own.

please God let it be over soon.

for his sake- and honestly, selfishly- for mine.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

dimly the future

yesterday my sweet almost-6-year old emma-girlie was playing with her best friend and 'twin', cherrylyn.

i happened to overhear bits of their conversation.

emma: 'pretend your mom is 65, and mine is 63, and they are best friends like we are, and we all live together, and....."

cherrylyn: 'ok, and they go places together, and they have a lot of kids, and they have a bakery..."

and on and on they chattered, building an imaginary world that was created out of their own reality. well, emma's reality.

that sobering reality is that she has a mother who is in her 60's.

it's no big deal to her. i keep up. i dye my hair. she doesn't know, my girlie doesn't, that her mommy is a full generation older than her friend's mommies...she doesn't realize that being 60 plus is not really "normal" for a child her age.

but i know.

and i see dimly into the hazy future and i wonder...i wonder...

when she's a teenager, will i still be able to keep up?

what supplements can i take that will keep me young?

what else can i do that will delay the inevitable decline of this dear old body to the point that my little daughter notices that her mother is old?

she asked me the other day..."mommy, are you an old lady?"

i gasped in mock horror.

"oh my goodness, no, emma! mommy is not an old lady!"

but in many ways i am.

i'm old enough to have regrets, and to do things differently with emma than i did with the first little birds in my nest- i am old enough to know better now.

i'm wiser. i'm softer. i'm tireder.

yes, i know that's not a word.

i try to peer through the shadows into the future. at what point will emma be a motherless child?

at what point will we say that final goodbye?

how much can i teach her to make her ready to face life alone- far too young?

but then i think...every precious moment is a gift. nobody has a guarantee of 18 years with their child. nobody can ever pour enough of herself into a little one to prepare that child to launch from the nest into a confusing and difficult world, even when mom is only a phone call away.

i have a relative who refused to learn to cook while she lived at home with her mother. everything was done for her by a doting parent. when that child got married and left home, she'd call every night to ask mom how to make supper.

emma will not have that option, i don't think.

but even if i can't squeeze it all in, don't have time to teach her to cook, there are other things...

 i hope she knows how much i love her.

i hope she remembers the fun we have baking, making play doh, reading together, creating a tropical jungle around our house together, going on trips, singing, playing piano, and all the other lovely things that fill our days.

it's no joke to be a senior parent of a small child. it's no sacrifice either.

it's all joy.

i cannot see into the shadows in front of us, so i simply adore the present.

and i choose to not fear the future.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

"pale, but adamant": GRAPHIC WARNING

i was 28.

my youngest child was 4, the eldest was 9.

my DH was in india on a missions trip.

i was bleeding to death.

my uterus, was in fact, falling out of my body and pouring the life out of me. my hemoglobin was 4. i was too weak to walk, i laid on the couch all day and ladies from the church brought food and cleaned my house and cared for the kids. i was dying.

when DH called home, after about 2 weeks of this, i told him to come home immediately and shouted over the terrible connection that i was hemorrhaging and needed to have surgery right away. he had trouble understanding what i was saying. but to his credit, he did cut his trip short and within a week was home to prevent my imminent death.

he carried me to a local doctor, who referred me to a specialist, who tried to send me back to the local doctor. i recall sitting in that office, shaking my head, trembling with weakness, and saying, "no, take this out of me. you have to."

i think he knew. and he wrote on my chart, 'pale, but adamant'. scheduled me for surgery. within a week, i was relieved of my hemorrhaging organ and began to live again.

i've often said, i never really felt good a day in my life till i had that hysterectomy.

i began to climb ladders and clean windows. i cooked and played with my children and went for walks and became strong again.

that was many decades ago. most women grieve the loss of their uterus. i don't. i never have. i never missed it.

but i am thankful that it was the home to grow a beautiful daughter and a beautiful son, and an angel child who has grown up in heaven...

and i've never said thank you to it, never appreciated it like i should have.


thank you, dear uterus, for doing your job well. i'm sorry you failed, but i don't miss you.

the end.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

on my knees
at the foot of the Cross,
i position myself
in humility and reverence.

nothing in me
is worthy of this,
the Cross- the Cross.

so i bow,
low and emptied out,
before ultimate forgiveness.

if He can forgive me,
so full of me and vile,
how can i do less than

shall i rise up-
in the hideous glory of myself,
proud and righteous,
and bare my bleeding heart
for all to see?

could i? would i?

bowed low,
i linger here,
beneath the arms of mercy,
quieted, still,
looking long
on the anguished face
of love.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

corners of my mind

everyone has a dark corner of the mind that hides from the light of day.

in this picture of my grandma's house as it looks now, (courtesy of google maps) if you look closely, you can see a tiny window high up in the peak of the roof ...this image evokes a memory that was hidden for decades in the darkest deepest recesses of my mind.

when i look at that tiny window, i remember a dark night, a shadowy figure beside my bed, a thudding and a shouting and the wail of police sirens and the silent deafening screams coming out of my mouth as i stood shivering barefoot in dewy grass.

in between the beginning and the end of this memory, stands this image. i know that to get from the A to the C, i had to go through this tiny window- the B.

but my mind does not remember this.

there's a blank.

i realized this about 10 years ago while undergoing some intensive inner healing- and i gave myself permission to remember what happened.

it took 6 months before the truth slowly crept out of the deep crevass where my subconscious had buried it. and even then, it had a dream-like quality to it that made me unsure if it really happened.

even now, i'm not sure. but this is all i've got.

that night, my uncle stood beside my bed. i was terrified of him at the best of times, as he was a silent and scary man who smelled of alcohol and never spoke. my 12-year-old self knew that something was wrong with him. to awaken out of a deep sleep and see him standing there in just his underwear jolted me into panic, and then the darkness came.

the dream is's dark, and i feel pressure on my slowmotion i get out of the bed, run up the stairs to where my grandmother slept, tear through her room to the end wall, stand on a rickety chair, and squeeze my trembling body out this tiny window onto the roof. then i drop to the ground below, stand there in the freezing grass in my bare feet and scream in the morning chill until help comes in the form of my dear uncle bill...who shouts and rants and calls- i presume-  the police

 and then everything stops and i don't know what happens after that.

my mind has done the best it can to bring to light what happened, and that's all there is.

and it doesn't hurt any more, but this picture makes me sad.

bad things happen to little girls.

scary things happen.

and the memories get buried under the layers of life...until they can't stay buried anymore and zombie-like, unearth themselves under the pressure of the pain.

i'm glad this corner of my mind disgorged to the best of its ability what it could.

the healing is light. it is the LIGHT.

he was there, and he helped me through that window.

but even if he hadn't, he could still heal the memory.

the mind is an incredible thing, doing what it must to preserve sanity.

but i'm thankful that the darkness cannot hide forever. the light speaks truth. the lies flee. healing comes.

and the window is just a window on an old tumbledown house on a little street from my childhood.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

i have 5 children. 3 of them are adopted.

each mother's day, but this one in particular, i think about the birth mothers of my 3 who are privileged to have two moms. 

as emma says, 'yippee! i have two moms! a birth mom and a REAL MOM!"

but i think of the women who gave birth to my beautiful heart reaches out to them and i wish there was a way to let them know how loved their kids are, how proud they could be of these gifts for whom they chose the hope of a better life.

so i just pray, as i have prayed all these long years, that the heart of each one of these three women would be comforted and they would know somehow that their child is safe, loved, happy and well.

and i wish they could know how thankful i am that they chose to make the sacrifice- they chose to hold their babies on open hands so that God, in His strange and wonderful way, could weave the circumstances into a pattern that brought our children home to us, as He no doubt destined.

no doubt. i use that phrase with intention...

i have no doubt that each child found their way to our home and hearts because it was His wish and His design.

there are no accidents when we ask for a child. there are no accidents when we are surprised by one, as with our little emma. 

it was all His plan.

i hope the precious birth moms of my kids know that. 

i pray they know that they were not failures as mothers. 

Lord, help them to know that. Help them to know they did a good thing, a wise thing.

Help them to know i am thankful.

and comfort their hearts this mother's day. 

My mother was a lady. Her name is Donna- which, fittingly, means ‘lady’.

She’s been in heaven 20 long years, and I’ve missed her every single day. In honor of her memory, I’d like to share a little of what I remember, and what I know, about this mighty little woman.

She was born in the depression, 1923, to a large, troubled English-Irish family who lived in a tiny house beside the railroad tracks. They were poor in every way. My mother was the 7th of 8 children…I don’t imagine she got much attention, especially since one of the older children was severely handicapped with cerebral palsy.

My grandmother Henrietta, whom we always called Grandma Chase, married John William Chase at 16 to escape an abusive stepmother. Her first little son, born when she was 17, died at just a few months old as a result of a horrific scalding accident. My teenaged grandmother was canning something and the boiler tipped over on the baby in the carriage beside the stove. My mind doesn’t want to go here, but I’m told the baby simply gasped and gasped for 3 days and then died. Right when it happened, my grandfather screamed, ‘You’ve killed my son!’ and fled. He never came back till it was all over and the baby was buried. I have never been told the child’s name.

My grandma was pregnant at the time with her second child- and gave birth to a severely brain-damaged little girl, Hazel.

Then came Fred, Lloyd, May, and Evelyn. And then my mother, ‘Donna Pearl’. I think fondly that giving their 7th baby such a beautiful name may have meant some reconciliation on the part of her parents. Later came a little boy, Ralph. He froze to death in a city gutter at the age of 45, an alcoholic and homeless, and my mother grieved unspeakably.

So treasured was my mother among her siblings that her older brother Fred named his little girl ‘Donna Pearl’ too. When he later brought home his motherless child to be raised and eventually adopted by Grandma Chase, it was quite confusing to have two ‘Donna Pearl’s in the house, so mom became just ‘Donna’ and the little one was always ‘Donna Pearl’, spoken as one word- ‘Donnapurl’. 

Mom almost died at the age of 7 from pneumonia in both lungs. No antibiotics then…in the hospital they put tubes directly into her lungs to drain the fluid that was strangling her. I was always horrified at the vast holes in her little back, evidence of what must have been a ghastly surgery. My grandmother used to tell me in hushed tones of the day she saw the death angel in my mom’s hospital room, and how she rebuked the gray shrouded figure and commanded her dying daughter to live.

And live she did.

She graduated from high school and became a ‘stenographer’- an old-fashioned term for ‘secretary with typing skills’. Along the way she became an excellent piano player and singer. Her sweet voice gave her a chance to sing in a rather famous gospel trio, ‘The Grace Trio’, at her home church in the city. She sang on the church’s radio program for years.

Donna developed an evangelistic fervor that caused her to begin to travel with an evangelist, ‘Sister Margaret’, on crusades. This is how she met my dad…during a crusade in a little country church she found him standing alone on the edge of the crowd under a tree, like Nathaniel- and stepped forward to save his soul.

And so, and so…they fell in love.

This tiny, elegant, frail city girl walked bravely out of her world when she married my father. She moved with him to a farm and did her very best to learn how to live without luxury and conveniences. She tried so hard. Baking bread, milking cows, planting home gardens, and having a baby every year…her little frame began to bend with weariness and the telling scars of the harshness of the winters took a toll. She went snow-blind sometimes. Her teeth fell out. Her dainty hands became crooked and wrinkled from handwashing clothes for years on the washboard.

But she still sang.

Her voice was a lilting soprano, with a brilliant timbre in the gentle vibrato. She’d sing through the trials, sing through the dark hours, hum when things were really, really bad. Her crooked fingers taught each of us to play piano, accompanied by the delicate but firm whomp of a hairbrush on the head when we made mistakes. She played the pump organ for services at the little country church, until I got old enough to be commandeered for that job.

She baked and cooked and kept a sparsely beautiful house filled with cast-off antiques. We learned to eat properly and have good table manners. We were poor, but we were proud. There were flowers in the house in summertime, fresh bread when we’d get home from school on cold winter afternoons. We were fed oatmeal, and sardines, and apples, and roast beef on Sundays with sometimes a pie…and always the tea- strong, sweet, creamy…proper English tea.

We were loved, prodded, pushed to achieve, admonished sternly and disciplined without mercy. There was a line we dared not cross. The glint in her green eyes and the tightening of her lips was enough to signify that it was time to stop.

But Mother could laugh! Oh, she could laugh. A deep roaring belly laugh would burst out of her tiny throat and we would gaze in astonishment at the tears of hilarity flowing down.

Mom suffered from headaches, possibly due to her eye problems. In retrospect, I think they were migraines. She would ask me to brush her hair; it seemed to ease the pain. I would scowl selfishly and quickly run the bristle brush through her fine light-brown hair, just wanting to get it done and get on with what I was doing. How I wish I could go back and do it again with gentleness and compassion.

As the oldest, I silently and sadly watched my mother’s strength fade with the years. During her last pregnancy, she wept in frustrated exhaustion as the child within refused to be born on time. After ten months, finally my youngest sister came forth, weighing ten pounds 13 ounces. How my little mama did that, I don’t know. She told me that she said to the despairing doctor, ‘You pull, and I’ll push’ and out came the baby. Mom was about 4 feet ten. Incredible.

But she was strong on the inside. As dad disappeared periodically into his depressive episodes, she held on. She cowered to nothing. She wept in secret but she flamed in public. She flapped her spiritual apron at the demons oppressing us the same way she flapped it at the raging bull in our field. ‘Shoo! Shoo!’ she screamed, at both the bull and the devil.

She washed endless dishes, made thousands of meals, changed diapers for 8 children, nursed illness, swept floors, helped with homework, entertained, and as the house emptied out of the older ones, took in and fostered two native boys. She taught choirs at the local school. She was a cook in a shelter for problematic juveniles. She was discerning in her friendships, but those she chose were precious to her. When my little sisters were playing sports in school, she went to games and cheered them on. She was spunky and brave and resilient, even after a head-on car accident and then a fall that resulted in a broken pelvis challenged her aging body to rebound.

One of my favorite memories is a turbulent meal when my father was being particularly difficult. Mother came to the end of her patience, as she sometimes did. She grabbed a large open gallon pail of Roger’s Corn Syrup and set it upside down on his head, and the golden liquid slowly ran down around his ears and over his eyes. My dad was so astounded that his rage turned to hysteria- I can still see him with his head under the tap, cackling with laughter. We children did not know whether to laugh or cry.

Mom’s green eyes would crackle with fury when she was angry. But quick as a lightning flash, the sweet lines of her mouth would bend in laughter. She could talk…she’d stay up with us late at night while the parties were going on in our house- grand central, we were…she loved kids and company and fun. Dad, of course, had long since hidden away in his room and gone to bed.

Her disapproval brought ice to the bones. A steely quiet would reign in the house, and until she was pacified, the air was thick with gloom. We were accustomed to dad’s moods and they meant nothing, but mom had to be happy or ‘ain’t nobody happy.’ If we lipped off to her, a swift stinging slap to the face would happen before we could even flinch or blink.

Some of my kids and grandkids have her attributes, including the ‘Irish’, as she called it- meaning the ability to instantly switch moods and go from night to day. Some of them have the sweet voice, the huge doe eyes, the dear little pointy off-center nose. And one of them has the special gift of her name- ‘Pearl’ .

I miss her every day. I miss seeing her perfect slanted handwriting on letters. I miss her scolding. I miss her singing. I miss her gift for entertaining and making people of every race and color feel like they belonged. I miss her love of rummage sale bargains, and her joy in sunshine and flowers and the colors of fall. I miss making her tea- strong and sweet.

I wish she had lived longer- cancer captured her as it did with all her sisters except Hazel. I wish she hadn’t died before she’d seen all of my children, and their children. I wish, I wish…

Happy mother’s day, dearest mother…I know you probably are very busy in heaven leading the children's choir and organizing bake sales and giving advice to the Lord on how to deal with the devil, but I hope just for one moment you are allowed to remember that you have 8 very thankful children here on earth, and ever so many grandchildren- 25, I think- and quite a few greatgrandchildren- 14, I think- and all of them are a result of your choices and your love.

And someday soon, we will be together again. And we shall have tea.