Friday, September 28, 2012

Birds, bikes and starfish

     You can’t see them in this photo. 
     As I ran past a small pond this morning, a large white egret flew in, without even a single flap of her snowy wings.  At almost the same moment, a great blue heron took off across the pond with a couple of strong, slow flaps, looking like a small airplane, almost skimming the top of the water.  Two large birds in full flight, crossing paths, reflected in the water below.
     I stopped running to watch.  I didn't have a camera or even my cell phone so the photograph exists only in my mind.  I've written and deleted several drafts thinking about the metaphor or the message - but realized all I need to say is that it was beautiful.  It was a magnificent moment and thankfully, I had enough sense to stop running and pay attention. I pulled out my earbuds, silenced Lady Gaga, and listened to the sounds of the pond.
        The egret sailed across the street to another pond.  The heron landed on the far side and carefully folded his wings.  I watched for another moment, put my earbuds back in and started running again. But I remembered the silent, tranquil flight of those birds all day. 


     I bought a new bike a few weeks ago, and suddenly I feel like I'm part of a different world. There is a new language (cadence, century, peloton), a new wardrobe (which must include padded bike shorts), and most of all new community. People I had never met approach me to compliment my bike, share favorite places to ride, ask about car racks and accessories. And others who were already friends are now my peloton on Saturday mornings, offering advice, encouragement, and fellowship to this new rider. I thought I was just buying a bike, but I got so much more.


What remains unseen

     I watched a charming movie last night with my oldest son, both of us staying up too late, but enjoying the time together. We watched “The Magic of Belle Isle” with Morgan Freeman, a re-coming of age story about a writer finding his voice again. He mentors a child writer in the film telling her ‘always look for what you cannot see.’ He teaches her the power of imagination and more importantly the power of hope and love. 
     Recently on a long beach walk with my two younger sons, we ran across hordes of starfish and sand dollars. We literally had to skirt the starfish to keep from stepping on them and gathered sand dollars as if we were on an egg hunt. I taught them how to spot them past a covering of sand. It was a magical day, despite our sunburns, a sandy bouquet. As a parent I do try to teach them to find what they cannot see. Sometimes, especially if life events are dragging us down, it takes a bit of imagination.


Friday, September 21, 2012


Kill Shot
My hands are sweating. I don’t know if it’s because of the 45 Magnum in my hand or the pressure of his hand at the dip of my low back. I turn to look at my ‘date’ and instantly get reprimanded to look at the target. I refocus, check that I’m avoiding ‘limp wrist,’ slow my breathing and squeeze the trigger. I jump despite bracing for the gunfire and the hot shell casing flashing out. He informs me I hit in the black. A kill shot.
He’s happy. I’m terrified.
I think of how little pressure it took to send a bullet blazing at my paper target and immense relief that somehow the bullet didn’t richochet to kill someone in the room, particularly my date. Good men are hard to find at this age.
Thoughts begin to fire in rapid assault. I’m divorced and attempting to date in my 40s as a mother with three kids and a responsible job. What am I doing at an indoor shooting range pretending I have time to date? What am I thinking?  
I refocus, slow my breathing and squeeze the trigger.  
      I’m thinking it feels good to have sweaty palms.


     It was a moment of disorientation.   Last week, out on my usual running route, i decided to mix it up and run the route backwards.  Not backwards as in turning myself around so that I could see where I had been, (I am truly not that graceful - even though a running coach once had me doing that for a few paces because it uses different muscles) but backwards, as in the opposite direction.  Instead of turning right at the stop sign, I turned left and started running at what was usually the end. 
    Lost in my running reverie and mulling over all my little troubles, I came to myself and realized that I had no idea where I was.  In the middle of a route I had run hundreds of times, I was completely disoriented - all because I was running in a different direction. The houses and streets looked different from this side and I wasn’t sure where to turn.  I quickly re-oriented myself, but I was struck by how much difference a simple reversal of the view made.  It was a completely different perspective.
     Perhaps, we just need to turn around and walk the other way for a few minutes. Mix things up. It may be all we need for a fresh perspective.


What a wonder to find
Etched in the sand
The same geography that lies
Just beneath my skin.

Veins and capillaries,
Open like a science book illustration,
Carrying liquid life
To and from the source.

But scattered about,
Obstructing, interrupting the flow,
A few shell corpses
Will not be ignored.

Nothing for me to do
But take notice, and remember
That in such juxtapositions
May be the signature of the Creator.


Friday, September 14, 2012

Slowing down to marvel

     Hurley and I took a walk on the trails through Palmetto Islands County Park, enjoying the hint of fall in the air. As usual, we had different rhythms. I would prefer to power walk, getting the best workout possible in the least amount of time. Hurley would prefer to sniff every inch of our surroundings. 
     Not long after I adopted Hurley, I got a great book called Bonding With Your Dog by Victoria Schade. One of the author's suggestions was a compromise, a sort of game on walks, allowing both dog and human to enjoy it. Hurley knows the routine by now. He walks ahead of me and gets his sniffs in until I catch up and pass him, then runs ahead again. If something really interesting catches his nose, he pulls at the leash behind me a bit and I pause. "1 . . . 2 . . . 3 . . . Let's go!" Then we move on. Hurley knows the game so well now that I rarely ever have to finish counting before he starts moving.
       It's good for both of us, and causes me to slow down and notice things, too. If we hadn't been motionless on the trail for a few seconds, this little fiddler crab wouldn't have come out of his hole! 
     How much do we miss when we don't allow ourselves to pause and count to three sometimes?


A Message from our Sponsor

     I love how I get a “word” from the Lord from the oddest of places. One of my favorite places is through a church just down the road from my house. I can tell I’d like the pastor or layperson who keeps up the church’s sign. It always has a pithy saying that doesn’t seem to preach or come off as righteous as do other church signs I see.
     One of the latest sayings: “We are too old when we lose our marvels.”
     You have to love that. My boys laugh at me sometimes when we’re out hiking a trail. I get unduly excited when I see a flower, such as my recent “find” pictured above, or a view I’ve never experienced before. They humor me for this juvenile behavior. To me, though, it’s like being touched by the Divine.


     I open the door to to the back porch, balancing my morning coffee and notebook.  The air is so suddenly cool, it catches me off guard.   After weeks of smothering summer heat and humidity, this fresh, clear morning is a welcome relief.  I breathe in deeply, with an immense sigh of gratitude.
       As I sip my coffee, I think of the word ruah. This Hebrew word essentially means wind, air, the very breath of God in creation.   Ruah creates, inspires and brings order out of chaos.   Ruah is the mighty wind that roars over the waters but ruah is also the gentle breeze on the porch that brings comfort and relief.
     I feel the breath of God on my face, renewing my life.  I linger on the porch, resting in ruah.


Thursday, September 6, 2012

A sky, a stitch, and a wrestling match

        My Texas friends always tell me how much they miss the sky when they move east.  "There’s not a lot of sky here," a good friend commented upon moving to upstate SC. The statement didn't make much sense, until I spent last week driving through East Texas, through little towns like Tyler, Brownsboro, and Hubbard to Bartlett, TX and I realized they were right.  There's a lot more sky in Texas. It's wide, wide open land with short shrubby trees and a lot of fenced in dust.  As another friend said,  “In Texas, we like to fence in our nothing.”  
        As much as I love my home on the coast and my hometown in the mountains, I did love looking at that Texas sky. My eyes continued to be drawn upward.  The limitless blue made the horizon stretch just a bit wider, opening up a bit more room to think, more room to be.  You could straighten your shoulders, stretch your arms for miles and never touch a thing.  It was infinite space that made me realize how limited my view had become.  That immeasurable holy sky drove home the true smallness of all my little worries and frets. 
        A limitless sky is good for the soul.  It's time to stretch.


      God and I continued our conversation as we sat crocheting. (Click here for beginning of conversation in November 8, 2011 blog post)  I sighed loudly, dropping the
written pattern and ripping out another row of my work. “Ugh, this
pattern sucks!”
        “So why keep following it?” God asked.
        “Because . . . it’s a pattern,” I stammered. “How would I know what
to do without it?!”
        God smiled. “You have what you need, Beloved. I’ve made sure of that.”
        I sighed again. “Meaning what, exactly?” It’s hard to get a straight
answer out of God during these chats.
        “You know how to crochet. You do a stitch. Then you decide what you
want the next stitch to be and do that one. And when you think it’s
time to start a new row, you finish off and turn.”
        “But what if it takes me fifty rows to realize I’ve made a mistake?” I asked.
        “Then you rip out forty-nine and do it differently.”
        “And lose everything?!” There was panic in the shrill crescendo of my question.
        Calmly, God replied, “Not everything. You learn from your mistakes
and build on your successes. I made you good at that.”
        “Thanks,” I smirked. “Why couldn’t you have just made me so I do
things right the first time?” By now I have learned not to expect
answers to such questions. God began a new row, and I stared with envy
at the perfect stitches.
        “Perfection isn’t the point, Beloved.” I jumped, caught off guard by
God’s spoken response to my silent thoughts. God laughed, then handed
me the yarn and hook. “Here, you finish it.” With trembling hands, I
looped the yarn over the hook and began to put it through the next
        “But what is it?” I asked. God said nothing. I finished a single
crochet and paused.
        “Good,” God nodded.  “Now, what do you want the next stitch to be?” I
sat staring at the yarn in my hands, terrified of ruining the
beautiful work God had begun. I couldn’t even tell what I was supposed
to make of it. A blanket? A scarf? A sweater? A doll? Maybe it was
something that hadn’t even occurred to me yet. Helplessly, I looked
up, and God winked. “Just the next stitch.”
        “And then?”
        God reached over and squeezed my hand. “Then one more.” I took a deep
breath, and looped the yarn over the hook.


Wrestling Match
     At a recent Beth Moore event at the North Charleston Coliseum, I was pleased to see that 9,000 people attended from 25 different states. As we all raised our voices in a chorus of “How Great is thy Faithfulness,” I let the blessings of the song, of all the different voices of faith, roll around me.
     I’ve never done a Moore event or Bible study when I haven’t been richly blessed. Early on Moore asked, “How many times are we striving for something that God has already given us?” We studied the story of Jacob and Esau’s reunion, including how Jacob wrestled with the angel. The angel could have ended the fight at any time, as he did in the end by touching Jacob’s hip socket, but instead they wrestled. Her point:  Have you let go too soon?
     She talked about those among us who have had a season of our life that seemed to go on too long with no blessing. Her suggestion: Hold on for the blessing with the passion of Jacob. Turn back around and say, ‘Lord, I will not let go until the blessing comes.’       Sometimes you’re never closer to Jesus than when you’re wrestling it out.
      I’m not sure why so many of us have seasons that seem too long, but I think she’s right. We have to want the blessing, the good work that God promises he's doing in us, enough to wrestle it out.