Wednesday, November 23, 2011


For the beauty of each new day here in the Lowcountry,
for a church where I am encouraged and challenged and loved,
for the gift of laughter,
for a rewarding and fulfilling job that also meets my financial needs,
for beloved friends and family literally all over the world,
for Hurley (the world's greatest dog),
for parents who raised me to love learning and never stop,
for memories and photos of the people and places I have loved,
for second chances (and third and fourth and so on),
for a house of my own so near the ocean,
for all the different colors my eyes can see,
for only having been admitted to the hospital once in my life (so far),
for books to read and time to read them,
for the inspiration to write and keep writing,
for music to hear and sing,
for good food,
for moments that take my breath away and give me goosebumps,
for great colleagues and a wonderful supervisor,
for foreign travels and foreign languages,
for being a work in progress,
for all the stories that have taught me about God and the world and myself,
and most of all for the One whose love surrounds me, and whose mercy and grace are redeeming me,
thanks be to God.



In this early morning moment, I find myself already full
of thanksgiving
for a husband who loves me deeply and completely,
daughters and a son in law who fill the house with laughter 
and the stories of their lives, 
for everyone together under one roof.

For rain in the middle of the night,
wind chimes that sing with a fresh breeze on the porch,
sweet basil clipped from the garden, 
and that holy trinity of garlic, onions, and celery,
for the unacknowledged luxury of clean water 
that pours forth with just a turn of my wrist.

For my old sewing table and scraps for new quilts,
long runs and strong legs,
time to write and to sew and pull weeds,
for a refrigerator filled beyond overflowing with food 
(and for family and friends who will be here to enjoy it!) 
for the mercy of stretchy jeans on feast days.

For new beginnings and old friends, 
for the freedom to move forward and explore new paths,
for the winds of change that keep my life fresh,
and for the quiet to know that just this moment,
just this breath, 
is enough.



Kiawah Island on a recent November morning 
(meditating on two scriptures Psalm 40:3/Isaiah 43:1-2)

Taking Flight
Where even to start with thanks for this holiday season.
There are the usual suspects, of course -
Friends, family, home and hearth

But what really has me on my knees this season
feeling so blessed
is how God's teaching me
to just be content 
in flight

No thoughts lingering on where I took off or where I'm gong to land.
Just this moment suspended in time, able to see the small gifts all around
to really be with people and hear what they have to say
to watch God plant a new song in my heart
though I tremble, and I'm not sure of the words
only the refrain in the wind


Monday, November 21, 2011

Soul incarnate - and a little cleaning

Sarah McCarthy, Sarah Edwards
Camp St.Christopher, Seabrook Island
November 2011
I had so much fun watching Sarah Edwards in choir Sunday.

Before she rode with my group to the women’s retreat, I barely knew her.   I didn’t appreciate her wiry, buoyant hair or her dry, quick wit. As a storm blew in as we drove along oak-draped sea island roads, she quoted a line form E.M. Forster that aptly depicted the smell of the air: "The air was white, and when they alighted it tasted like cold pennies." Lovely, I thought. A little literature along the way.

I discovered we shared similar pains and losses in our childhood and are kindred spirits in many ways. It’s amazing the bonding that can happen on a car ride.
To be honest, I almost didn’t offer for her to ride with us because it meant coordinating four schedules and what if I was running late, which I was. What a blessing I would have missed, though. I’m learning to listen to how God uses other people in my life to deepen my journey, whether a short, chance encounter or a lengthy, blossoming friendship.  
Relationship, writes Thomas Moore in Care of the Soul, is "the discovery of ways soul is incarnated in the world." Each pair of two has a unique relationship found nowhere else in the world. It’s a wonderful way of looking at life, at the gift of making connections.




A bowl of water
(clean, cool)
And one of food
(always the same, 2 cups per day)
Satisfy your needs
(at least, you never complain).
A warm place to lie down
(in the sun if possible)
In our yard or on your bed
(or most often on mine)
Is enough to elicit contented sighs
(deep, peaceful).
Your many friends
(human or canine)
Are never taken for granted
(not even close),
But welcomed with smiles, wags, and happy yelps
(no matter if they left only moments ago).
A trip to the park
(the beach, the pet store)
Sends you into paroxysms of gratitude
(spinning and jumping with uncontainable joy).
How easy to forget
(after more than a year together)
That you were hurt
(beaten, abandoned, starving)
And so afraid
(of everything, everyone).
Fear was cast out
(slowly, so slowly at first)
By love, as the Bible says
(though my love is far from perfect).
No matter what I ask
(sit, wait, don't chase the kitty),
You comply obediently
(however unreasonable my demands must seem).
If I could ask one more thing
(though you give so much),
Please teach me dog-like faith
(and hope and love).
Could I trust God as you trust me
(constantly, unconditionally),
I would count myself a saint.



It’s time for true confessions.  Sometimes I enjoy cleaning - scrubbing down the kitchen, cleaning out the fridge, washing the walls and baseboards, dusting the book shelves, vacuuming black cat hair off of everything, cleaning the mildew off the back porch,  laundering linens and curtains, washing the windows until they sparkle  (although I haven’t found a great formula for that yet!). 

Cleaning is a tangible job.  You can see the results - unlike my usual work of listening and encouraging and teaching.   There are results in that work as well - but those results tend to be more of a long term, feel better nature.  A clean and organized fridge - now that’s something you can see on the spot.  
Good clean work.

I particularly enjoy cleaning this time of the year.   This is the great holiday scrub down.  Cleaning means company is coming for the holidays and this week, it’s family.  My daughters and son-in-law are coming home for Thanksgiving week. Yay!   Extended family plus some good friends will arrive for Thanksgiving Day.

At this time of year, cleaning has a meaning all its own. It means welcoming my children and family home.  Cleaning is preparing for memories yet to happen and anticipation of good times to come.   It makes me happy just to grab the duster and get ready!

Welcome home!


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

 I see them from my kitchen window.  
Pops of pink, red and orange in the garden. 
They survived the early frost, tall,
four feet at least, and still blooming, 
my cut and come again zinnias.  
It's time, I think.  Company is coming
Time to pull them up, tidy the garden.
The stalks are withered brown, the leaves rusty 
and white with mildew  - never mind the blooms.
Time for the compost pile.
I go to the garden to wrestle flowers 
from the ground, out of misery.  Cover the earth 
with a layer of brown mulch, bought, expensive, 
from the big box.  Neat, static.  A picture in a magazine.
Sun rays focus on this patch of life, warming.  
I have to take off my sweater. 
and then I see
A lizard, brown like the leaf on which she stands, 
looks up at me. Butterflies and an old monarch
still visiting their orange and pink lovers.
a frog beneath an overturned clay pot,
bees buzzing, a moth with a tattered wing
and my cut and come again zinnias,
still alive, 
some buds not yet opened
in the november of life.
breathing generativity.
The whole plant is thriving, bustling
busy with living and dying,
not ready for the compost pile - not yet.



This is Shay, my tow-headed Potter, who turned out as an aging, gray Harry on Halloween despite the jet black hair spray. He loves casting spells, and unfortunately because I have seen the movies and read the books, I understand what he’s saying. I use silencio on him, but alas, the spell’s short-lived.
Sometimes I’m embarrassed I love juvenile literature. I have an excuse. I have kids, so I am exposed to these things. I’ve enjoyed the Potter and Hunger Games series, and such delicate classics as The Single Shard by Linda Sue Park. I wonder what I’ll use for an excuse when my kids are grown. Much to my joy, in reading the book The Happiness Project, I learned the author started a juvenile book club with adults for the pure joy of reading kid’s classics. I think there’s a lot to be said about coming at life and spirituality with the love and wonder of a child.

Post what your favorite juvenile literature is. Let’s share favorites!



A solitary bee worked his way from flower to flower.  This being November, he didn't have many to choose from as he buzzed here and there over the sand dunes.  A few viney weeds among the scrub bushes and pine trees still held yellow blooms, and he seemed to be making sure not to miss a single one.  As I watched him, I remembered the somewhat depressing statistic I'd heard from some beekeepers at the recent fair, that the life's work of this bee would amount to only a fraction of a teaspoon of honey.  "Poor little guy," I thought as he kept collecting the pollen.  Just as he got airborne and aimed for a particularly bright and large blossom, a gust of wind challenged him.  I have never been a big fan of bees, or anything else that stings, but I suddenly found myself rooting for this one.  "Come on, come on," I told him quietly, as I willed the wind to die down.  He kept pushing with all his might into the wind, determined to stay on course toward his goal, for what must have seemed aeons from a bee's perspective.  The wind was relentless, and I began to lose faith.  "I think I might just quit right now if I were you, little bee.  What if you sit this one out?  What difference will it make if the hive misses out on the teensy little bit of honey you'll make, anyway?"  But the bee could not understand my fatalistic musing.  He knew what he was put on earth to do, and no matter how small his contribution, he was going to do it.  The wind finally subsided, maybe as awed as I was by bee tenacity, and he landed, exhausted, on the object of his desire.  It was all I could do not to cheer.


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Beach Retreat

“Here's the problem,” I said to God while we sat crocheting. “I can't stand single crochet anymore.” God said nothing, so I continued. “Single crochet is . . . boring. It's the most basic, dull stitch there is. Anybody can do that one.”
“Anybody?” God asked. “I've had more than a few people tell me it's difficult to do well.”
“I just mean, it's nothing spectacular,” I continued. “When you get into the double and triple crochet, that's when things get interesting.”
“Single is how everyone begins,” God reminded me.
“But they don't stay there,” I protested.
“Some do. There are beautiful, intricate patterns that can only be created from single crochet. You've seen a few.”
I sighed. “This isn't really about crochet.”
“Yes, beloved, I know.”
“Of course you know,” I huffed. “You know everything.”
I could tell God was trying not to laugh. It annoyed me in the way you can only get annoyed with someone you really love.
“I don't want to be single crochet,” I said quietly. “At least not forever. This is not what I hoped for, not what I had planned. How long do I have to be alone?”
God stayed maddeningly silent, but kept working the yarn, counting every stitch.



There’s nothing quite like early morning light. 
I’m always amazed at the magic that happens on an early morning walk. I managed to wake to take a sunrise walk while at Camp St. Christopher where I went for a women’s retreat at Providence Baptist Church. Having to shed my shoes and wade through chilly high-tide surf, I made it to the beach-front side of the island. There I watched the sun start the day, but got the eerie sense that someone was watching me.  I turned to scan the houses behind me, but saw no one.   Catching movement in the dunes,  I realized six deer were standing still, same posture, ears cocked,  perfectly alert as if frozen by the light - all of us in silent reverence for the start of the day.
So some time this week or this holiday season - rise early - and receive the blessings.

Why I Wake Early

Hello, sun in my face.
Hello, you who made the morning
and spread it over the fields
and into the faces of the tulips
and the nodding morning glories,
and into the windows of, even, the
miserable and the crotchety –

best preacher that ever was,
dear star, that just happens
to be where you are in the universe
to keep us from ever-darkness,
to ease us with warm touching,
to hold us in the great hands of light –
good morning, good morning, good morning.

Watch, now, how I start the day
in happiness, in kindness.

~ Mary Oliver ~ 

(Why I Wake Early, 2004)



Walking takes longer...than any other known form of locomotion except crawling.  Thus it stretches time and prolongs life.  Life is already too short to waste on speed.   ~ Edward Abbey, "Walking"

It took me a while to get used to sand.  I grew up an Appalachian mountain girl.   Life in the South Carolina lowcountry,  only six miles from the ocean, has been an experience in flat land, tidal clocks and sand... everywhere.   On my feet, in my hair, on my children, in my car, in the house.    I started digging a garden in my back yard and what did I find but oyster shells and ...sand.   (And some weird clay dirt... but we won’t go into that.)  

What I have found is that sand slows you down.  I’m normally a fast walker.  At the store, on my walks, up the stairs, across the parking lot... I walk fast.  But not in sand.   I can run (sort of) on the hard packed sand left by the surf -  but not in soft sand.  There’s really no way to move fast there.  And that’s a good thing.  Sand slows me down.  Walking out to the beach,  I have to step carefully and with purpose.  Different muscles in my hips and legs push me forward.    I watch out for sand spurs and fire ants, paying attention. 

I see the yellow flowers and the worn rope that edge the path.  I stop and take a picture.  I’m not moving forward in a rush to my destination.  I'm  breathing and present and listening.  Here in the sand.