The key…

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Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves.
Phillipians 2:1-4

Pure love, pure motive.

Don’t give in to the temptation to manipulate, positioning myself over or ahead of anyone else.
Don’t try to own it all and don’t try to take what belongs to someone else.

Listen for the whispers that instruct me and boldly take steps in the direction I am being led.
Cultivate my soil.
 That is the key to joy and contentment.

Nothing will be withheld from me.

Encourage others to own what they have been given.
Build up, cheer and affirm — wherever possible.

Understand that some rival because they are afraid.
Understand that sometimes — that might be me.

We weren’t made to self glory — we were made to reflect glory. 

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Photo art: kingabritschgi via Slowly Drifting

He wished me Spring

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Spring is the time of year when new life vibrates just beneath the surface of the ground.  The earth is warming and pulsing with life. Seeds are germinating and shafts of green are pushing up through the soil — stretching to receive light. The air is cool, dry and crisp. Birds flit about stealing dried bits to stuff into the small places where they will hide their young. Creatures emerge from their slumber to make the sounds that will build to create the symphony of summer.

Spring is also the time when my mother died. With the cool breeze comes the faint memory of the car ride to the memorial service. The sky was a crisp Colorado blue — the day was cruel in it’s beauty. With her, died everything I ever believed about the world. My personal world construct was shattered.  She was brutalized, her blood was spilled, and her heart stopped beating.
Her life was no more.

I think, if she could have voiced her last wish for me, it would be that I would have a chance — a chance to live a rich and abundant life, a life full of love, a life teeming with relationships.
She would have wished me Spring.

And Spring is when my stepmother died. With the sunshine that calls forth the buds on the trees, comes the memories of our drive to the funeral home and the flurry of decisions. We surrounded her bed as a family on the night she died, unaware that as we prayed to say goodbye, that she would really go. I awoke to the alarm, in the dark of the morning, and crept down the quiet hall to her room- it was time to slip the tiny white pill beneath her tongue to quell the anxiety. But when I got there, the weak heaving of her chest had stopped. But I couldn’t be sure — was she breathing? Her skin was cool — or was it? Should I wake my sleeping father to his dread? Could this be?
It was over.

I think, if she could have voiced her last wish for me, it would be that I would have a chance — a chance to live a rich and abundant life, a life full of love, a life teeming with relationships.
She would have wished me Spring.

And Spring is the time when we celebrate Easter. With the dyed eggs, and the grassy baskets, and the pretty dresses, come the memories of the cross and the horror of His passing. With the opening of the daffodils, I remember the day His life-giving blood was spilled in hatred. And with the rising of the sun, three days later, I remember that the stone was rolled away, and He rose.
But was He really alive? It made no sense.
Did they really see Him?
For Him, it wasn’t over.

He did voice His last wish- a wish that has been carried through the generations. He wished that I would have a chance — a chance to live a rich and abundant life, a life full of love, a life teeming with relationships.
Because of Him, I have access to it all.
He wished me Spring.

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Photo Credit:  Caroline Paulus
A late Easter post dedicated to a blogger in England who, tragically, just lost her son, and is suffering through unspeakable grief.
See her story at The Journey of My Left Foot (whilst remembering my son)
My Friend, He wishes you Spring…

Mud Balls in the Basement

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I can’t seem to let go. It’s not so much the practical things. It’s the words scrawled on little slips of paper. It’s the cement-hard mud balls that were rolled up by tiny hands. It’s the heartfelt message on a Christmas tag. It’s the smooth rock from a happy shore.

Bereft of so many of my own childhood memories, I have always clung to little things. I’m so obsessed with not losing something meaningful that I have been known to dig through my children’s trash as they purge their bedrooms. “WHAT!! You can’t throw that away,” I gasp, as I snatch it and add it to my pile.

Now, don’t get the wrong idea, I’m not real big on ticket stubs or figurines.
It’s the more important things — like the little construction paper leaves we cut out at Thanksgiving time. Each of us would take one out of the basket, which sat in the center of the table, and write on it what we were thankful for. When the kids were little, they were always thankful for daddy and the dog.

Or it’s the notes — things that indicate who we have been in the world.
It’s the cards and drawings and well-used trinkets.

IMG_9839As a little girl, we moved across country and practically severed all family ties. Because the tiny fragments of family history that I could remember, were not underscored by tradition or cemented by rehearsal- they began to fade away and get buried in the intensity of the painful every day. While my propensity to collect things that bore meaning began long before I lost my mother, her sudden, violent death caused my inadvertent quest to preserve precious memories to grow more intense.

By the time we unlocked the door to Mom’s condominium, the crime had been solved and there was no one around. The bright yellow police tape, which barred the door, was the only obvious sign that anything had taken place at all. Mom had been brutally murdered and her body had been hidden in a closet in the spare bedroom. Ironically, the house was spotless. There was no sign of the argument that had led to her death. The broken statue that had crushed her skull was nowhere to be found and there was no sign of the gun. The bed was made, the cat was fed, and the dishes were done. It took us awhile to find the shadow in the chocolate brown carpet. It was just about the only clue left. Her blood.

As we began to open drawers and dig through closets, we searched desperately for something we could take away that embodied her essence — something that would allow us to keep her. Perhaps some private note that would unravel the mystery — something that was attached to her plaguing sadness. But there was nothing. No diaries. No special jewelry. No treasured trinkets. Only her smell, which was growing faint in the robe which hung on the back of the bedroom door. I tied the robe up tight in a plastic grocery bag with the hope that I could capture her fragrance there. She was a lonely woman. She had no friends that could tell the story of her heart.

Now, some 30 years later, I am thinking through a recent visit to my mother-in-law’s home. In her prime, Joyce was a proud and lovely woman — the consummate hostess, accomplished homemaker, and a keeper of treasured things. She is spending her final days waiting for heaven in the memory ward of a nursing home, unable to speak. Dad is still walking the halls of the house, but nothing is the same without her. As I ran my fingers over the things that used to mean something to her, which are still neatly arranged in her home, I realize her essence is fading. One day soon, all of the treasures that fill Joyce and Stew’s home will be disassembled and divided. If the stories aren’t told that are attached to the objects held dear, they will one day become items to be taken away in a box.

3229343087_c485ed07cf_bThen, as I sat in the middle of a heap in my own father’s basement, wading through the items he and my stepmother collected over the years, I contemplated what it all means. Sally died of breast cancer a few years ago and it’s hard for my dad to figure out what matters. What if he gives away something that could be meaningful to someone? How can he possibly muster the energy to sort through all the things that have no meaning to him without her? Cookbooks and sewing stuff, and bathroom junk, and pretty pictures, and little statues, and extra shoes, and bags, and jackets? There seems to be nothing that truly bears her essence.

In the end, we all lay in our beds and face the end of opportunity. Our piles of stuff, no matter how well pared down, gather dust and go out of style. Much of what we hold dear will be loaded into boxes and hauled to Goodwill. So how do we capture the essence of what has been? It’s not the things we keep that bear meaning. It’s not the bed or the sheets, but it’s the warm place left by the breathing person who slept there. It’s not the after-shave my husband wears, but the way the room smells after he’s gone. It’s not the swing set, but the bare spots left in the grass from all the days little feet wore away patches. It’s not the field, but the path that runs through it.

So, through the connection of many dots, I have arrived at today. I’m going to approach the pile in the basement, and write down the stories that are associated with my little things. Then, maybe, I can let them go and my children won’t have quite so many boxes to take to Goodwill. They won’t have to wonder why I saved a little wooden box full of mud balls.

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Photo Credit: Locket photo by Paula Bailey

Just outside the window…

 

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In the early morning hours, when the only sound is the quiet hum of the house, I open the window over my desk and wrap myself a little more tightly into my robe. The soft, cool breeze carries in a swirl of noise.

What’s left of the morning rain drips off the roof, tap, tap, tapping on the wooden porch beneath my window. Morning tunes, sung in all octaves, fill the air with layers of asymmetric artistry. Busy chickadees flutter and flap as they dart back and forth with bits of stuff for their nests. One brave, little fellow lands on the sill right in from of me- curiously seeking fuzzy treasure.

The grass is soggy and bright green. Robins land and bounce, cocking their heads as if to listen for the worms they spot and wriggle out of the soft ground.

Spring has finally swept over the land.

There are many days when the sky seems to boil and dark clouds roll; days when torrential rain forces the creeks to overflow, and large pools of water flood the low places in the terrain. Under the mud and muck, new life pulsates with wild energy.

A careful eye will see plants beginning to make their rhythmic rise from the soil. Finally, after a long, frozen winter in the midwest, gardens are being cleared and planted, and farmers are waiting for the perfect day to till and seed.

With the faithful entrance of Spring comes the annual invitation to join in the rhythm. A new day to dig, a new day to seed, a new day to water. A new day to release that which has passed, so that it can fortify that which is to come. A new day to work for the promise of a reaping.

Just outside the winter-stained window, there’s a noise that’s louder that the drone of this world; a ringing more urgent than the constant ping of the cell phone.

There is an offer to take part in a story so much more exciting than the one portrayed on screen.
It’s organic, it’s ancient, and it calls to our souls.
Arise and awaken, open a window and listen for the sound… new life is at hand.

Turning the page…

|The celebration of a New Year.
The day we officially turn the worn page,
which is both woefully stained with mistakes…
and remarkably highlighted by small victories.

Today, we look forward with hope
to the markings in the next chapter…
We pray to be more careful in the forming of our words,
but less careful in the intimacies of our souls.
More careful of our sorrowful laziness
and less careful when pursuing our passion.
More sure of God’s melodic Word
and less sure of the lies carved in our skin.

Today, because of God’s grace and His unimaginable mercy
we turn the page.
With pen in hand, we begin to scrawl…
with all the force of what’s behind
and all the magnetism of what’s ahead.
Happy new page,
Happy new year.