Tag Archive - Life

Tiny Dancer…

Tiny dancer, you have danced your way into my heart. How could I know how many ways I needed to be made new? How healing it would be to feel your tiny fingers grasp my arm? How my eyes would see the world again through yours? How I would learn to breathe slowly…and really listen…and touch everything…and taste it…because of you?

You tiptoed into my life on a springtime afternoon. Rain fell outside the windows. But inside it was warm. And I waited. To see you. For the first time. And your mommy was brave. And in the most ordinary, ever-day miracle, the world became sweeter and more real because you were in it.

Life is in you. Everything grows. So fast! Random thrashings of arms and legs have become purposeful grasps…and crawling…and sitting up. I see you set your gaze on something across the room, and at once your body flies into motion. Unstoppable. Until your objective is attained. Swollen gums give way to your first tooth. Arms and legs strain at the limits of clothing hardly worn. And an elegance, a grace, is coming to your movements. You are learning to dance, little one.



So curious, you are! Hungry to know about everything. Carefully you run your hands over faces, fabrics, chair legs. Studying. Drinking deeply. A contemplative. From the womb. Was I once like you? Did I understand how to be still and look long? I am learning again. You are teaching me.

How is it, baby girl, that you find this place in everyone who sees you? Soft. Tender. Kind. Your joy pierces to the heart of them, revealing their best selves. Like magic. Yet, you seem unaware. As though nothing could be more natural.

Six months you have been on this earth, dear one. Thank you for the music. For the sweetness of your smile. For making each day with you a voyage of discovery, even if we never leave the house. The dance is only beginning. There is so much good ahead of you. And I will be somewhere in the wings…stitching costumes, bringing roses, and cheering you on.

For Kenzie, who is six months old today, with Love.


*Photograph at the top of the post taken by my daughter, Kelsey, Kenzie’s mommy. Photo at the bottom taken just yesterday…mommy and daughter…arm in arm. First of many…

If I Were Really Brave….

Luci Swindoll is a wild woman. Her life story throbs with adventure, with risks taken and narrow escapes, with moments seized and savored. Few people know how to squeeze more glory out of a life than she.

However, even she has a few things she would like to have done differently. Opportunities missed. Moments when she wishes she would have followed her heart. She talks about this in  her book, Doing Life Differently: The Art of Living With Imagination. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. I keep asking myself, “What are the dreams I surrendered too easily? What would I do if I were really brave?” And, most importantly, “Which of these is still possible?”

They are uncomfortable, vulnerable, scary, thrilling questions to ponder. I thought it might be easier if you and I consider them together. So, I will share a few of mine with you and you can share yours with me. If you dare. And maybe we will end up borrowing one or two from each other. And we can sit out on the ledge together until one of us has the courage to jump. 🙂

Write a Book  There. I said it. Out loud. It is something that has tugged at my heart for a couple of years now. But I keep sabotaging myself. I say I have no time. Which is true, and not true. I do have many demands on my time. And I feel selfish writing when there is  a baby to take care of and homework or laundry or dishes to be done. But, I also waste time. Every day. Mostly I’m scared. Scared that it will be awful. Scared I will write it and nobody will read it.

Play the Mandolin  I bought one. That’s a start, right? I love it’s sound…in bluegrass…in lovely Venetian barcarolles and love songs. And, though it has 8 strings, it only has 4 pitches. Pretty accessible, given that I am already relatively musical. But it’s harder than it looks. And there’s that whole time thingy. It’s looking across the room at me right now. As I type this. Not accusing, exactly. Singing…softly…

Study Abroad  Was this even available when I was in college? I didn’t know about it if it was. But I wish I had had the chutzpa to get myself out of the country, one way or another, when I was younger; more malleable.

Study Literature or Art History at the University Level I could totally be one of those people who just goes to college for the rest of my life. I actually looked into it a couple of years ago. But, it’s expensive. And the schedule is inflexible. So for now, I read great literature on my own. And visit museums. And attend lectures. And read about artists…

Become Fluent in Another Language  This is one of two that Luci and I share. I know a fair amount of survival French and bits of Italian and German. But, I would like to know another language well enough that I could have a thought in that language without thinking it in English and translating. Does that make sense? Phrases sometimes come to me in French. That’s a start, I suppose. But I am far from being able to carry on a comfortable conversation without lots of stopping and starting and wrinkling my nose and grasping for the right words.

Live in Europe Probably France. Or Italy. Or both. 🙂 Visiting has been so lovely. But I want to live the rhythm of life in a Provencal or Tuscan village. To buy fresh bread at the boulangerie every morning. And assist with the grape and olive harvests. To know a people who sees the world through a different lens. I regularly survey rental properties online. (When I should be writing or practicing mandolin or French. :)) It is a dream, fortunately, that Mike and I share. So, just maybe….

Walk the Camino de Santiago de Compostela  Beginning on the French side of the Pyrenees and crossing northern Spain, this is one of the oldest and most traversed pilgrimages in all of Christendom. 780 km. It usually takes 3-4 weeks to complete it. I first learned of it from my friend CeCe who traveled the final 150 km with her sister a few years ago. Orthodoxy has taught me to eat, and breathe, and wear my faith. Now I want to walk it. Father Kevin Dodd’s beautiful book, To the Field of Stars, is stoking my desire. And I am seriously considering a mini pilgrimage (in my car) to a neighboring state to see the new film called The Way which depicts one man’s (fictional) journey. I had decided the Camino would be a most appropriate way to mark my 50th birthday (in 2016) until Jake and I began seriously taking about this:

Hike the Appalachian Trail  Probably not all of it. That takes around 7 months. But we’re thinking we might hit it for a couple of months the summer after he graduates from college. That gives us a while to acquire the gear and take a number of practice hikes. Appalachia is my heritage. I drank the rugged beauty of it in with my milk. It is a worthy endeavor, especially if I get to do it with my son.

OK, there you go. A rather unwieldy collection of dreams deferred…for now…but not forever.

How bout you? What would you do if you were really brave?

Wild and Extravagant…

The texture of the world, its filigree and scrollwork, means that there is the possibility for beauty here, a beauty inexhaustible in its complexity, which opens to my knock, which answers in me a call I do not remember calling, and which trains me to the wild and extravagant nature of the spirit I seek.

~Annie Dillard

I have this collection…photographs from Yellowstone. I had to take them. But, how to explain them? How to describe the sense of urgency to capture…bits of mineral laden goo that to me resemble the musings of a Kandinsky or Pollack? Charred black trunks standing valiantly against stone and sky. Austere. Piercing. Simmering pots of pink mud that make me laugh out loud. Stones painted in umber, sienna, and olive by the continual washing of geyser runoff.

It’s not roses or sunsets or babies. Not your typical fodder for photographs, or meditations on beauty. But I find them captivating. That God would choose to spend His creative capital so recklessly; to imbue the most humble of creations with wonder and a raw grandeur.

There is, perhaps, a lesson in this. How many other places around me does beauty lie, unseen? A teenaged boy who is still growing into his long, gangly limbs. An old woman, bent by the years, whose skin hangs in folds. A stranger whose angry bravado mars, but cannot completely conceal, the image of God. If I linger long enough…if I train my eye to search for it, what might I see?

I submit these quirky images for your perusal, along with observations by a couple of kindred spirits. And I challenge you…I challenge me…to walk through this day with eyes wide open.

Wild and extravagant beauty is all around us.

The creator goes off on one wild, specific tangent after another, or millions simultaneously, with an exuberance that would seem to be unwarranted, and with an abandoned energy sprung from an unfathomable font…Freedom is the world’s water and weather, the world’s nourishment freely given, its soil and sap: and the creator loves pizzazz.

~Annie Dillard

Nature is mythical and mystical always, and spends her whole genius on the least work.

~Henry David Thoreau

Our life is a faint tracing on the surface of mystery.

~Annie Dillard

Bless My Enemies, O Lord


It seems that, as recently as the 1950’s, the tiny island of Guam was home to a number of native birds who were to be found nowhere else in the world. Today, most of these species are extinct. Why?

Guam became an important stop for trading ships plying the Pacific. Some of these ships came from Australia and New Guinea. Hidden inside their holds was a dangerous predator. The brown tree snake. He was offloaded with some of the cargo. With no natural predators, the snake thrived on this unsuspecting island. His principle source of nourishment?

Eggs.

These birds were not victims of a malicious attack. They fell prey to ignorance. A villain that was unseen could not be thwarted.

I am very like these ships. Inside me lurk villains, capable of hurting those I love. Anger, bitterness, regret. I am unaware of them. Until I’m injured. Then, they come festering to the surface. And must be dealt with.

In his remarkable book, Giver of Life, Father John Oliver says I should be thankful for people who bump up against me. Who hurt me. And provoke me. Because they help the toxic sludge find a way out. And I can be made right. If I am willing.

He’s right, of course. But I have really struggled with this over the last couple of days. So I return to this prayer. I am ashamed to admit how often I need it. It is not who I am. But, it is who I would be. Perhaps, if you find yourself in a similar place, it will be helpful to you…

Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.

Enemies have driven me into Thy embrace more than friends have.
Friends have bound me to earth, enemies have loosed me from earth and have demolished all my aspirations in the world.
Enemies have made me a stranger in worldly realms and an extraneous inhabitant of the world.

Just as a hunted animal finds safer shelter than an unhunted animal does, so have I, persecuted by enemies, found the safest sanctuary, having ensconced myself beneath Thy tabernacle, where neither friends nor enemies can slay my soul.

Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.

They, rather than I, have confessed my sins before the world.
They have punished me, whenever I have hesitated to punish myself.
They have tormented me, whenever I have tried to flee torments.
They have scolded me, whenever I have flattered myself
They have spat upon me, whenever I have filled myself with arrogance.

Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.

Whenever I have made myself wise, they have called me foolish.
Whenever I have made myself mighty, they have mocked me as though I were a dwarf.
Whenever I have wanted to lead people, they have shoved me into the background.
Whenever I have rushed to enrich myself, they have prevented me with an iron hand.
Whenever I thought that I would sleep peacefully, they have wakened me from sleep.
Whenever I have tried to build a home for a long and tranquil life, they have demolished it and driven me out.

Truly, enemies have cut me loose from the world and have stretched out my hands to the hem of Thy garment.

 Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.

Bless them and multiply them; multiply them and make them even more bitterly against me:
so that my fleeing to Thee may have no return
;
so that all hope in men may be scattered like cobwebs;
so that absolute serenity may begin to reign in my soul;
so that my heart may become the grave of my two evil twins: arrogance and anger
;
so that I might amass all my treasure in heaven;
ah,
so that I may for once be freed from self deception, which has entangled me in the dreadful web of illusory life.

Enemies have taught me to know what hardly anyone knows, that a person has no enemies in the world except himself.

One hates his enemies only when he fails to realize that they are not enemies, but cruel friends.
It is truly difficult for me to say who has done me more good and who has done me more evil in the world: friends or enemies.

Therefore bless, O Lord, both my friends and my enemies.

A slave curses enemies, for he does not understand.
But a son blesses them, for he understands.
For a son knows that his enemies cannot touch his life. Therefore he freely steps among them and prays to God for them.

Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.

Amen

~St. Nicolai of Zica

 

*The story at the top of the post is also excerpted (and abbreviated) from Father John Oliver’s book, Giver of Life. I highly commend it to you.

**The beautiful bird in the photo is the Mariana fruit-dove, one of the species who no longer breathes upon this earth. Lord, may Your Kingdom come. Make all things right. Amen.

Grand Teton Ultra: The Gear

I’ve never been a boy scout. But I like their motto.

Be Prepared

I guess you could call me a gear junky. In preparing for my first ultra, I have read lots of ultra-runner blogs trying to figure out just what I will need with me for every eventuality. I have researched fuel, hydration, clothing, shoes, etc… Then, I tested them out to see what works for me. In the event you are a gear junky too, here’s a look at what will be in my bag. Let me know if I have forgotten anything. 🙂

Hydration:
With highs in the 90’s for the last two months here in Tennessee, I have had lots of opportunity to experiment with hydration. Hammer Heed will be provided on the course. I like it. Not too sweet. Digests easily. However, a few aid stations will provide only water so I am taking NUUN tablets to drop into it. They will provide a nice change and are easy to carry. Again, not too sweet, and slightly effervescent. Runners are required to carry a hydration system. I will use the same handheld bottle I used in the Pikes Peak Ascent (2 years ago this weekend:)). It has served me well in training runs this summer. I will be very conscientious about hydration, even though temps will be cooler, because the air will be so dry.

Fuel:
Fueling begins days ahead, of course, but I will only address race day. I will enjoy my favorite breakfast: Kashi GoLean cereal with walnuts, fruit, and soy milk. And coffee. Aid stations will again provide an assortment of snacks. But, I will be packing Clif bars, raw, unsalted almonds, and Snyder’s Buffalo Hot pretzel pieces (salty and hard-very satisfying).

Shoes:
I will be alternating two pairs of shoes. My Newtons are the most comfortable shoes I have ever worn. I can run for hours with no discomfort. And, did I mention that they’re pink? 🙂 However, on a highly technical trail, they are less than ideal, particularly if I am doing quite a bit of walking. So I will use them on the middle stretches where the incline is more gradual and the trails are a bit more accommodating. For the steeper, more treacherous sections I will be wearing the new Saucony Peregrine. I love the way it grips the trail. Very responsive. I’ve logged many trail miles in both.

Clothing:
This area is a little dicey since we are going out several days early, and since weather in the mountains can change at the drop of a hat. Temps at start and finish will probably be in the 30’s, while it could climb to the 70’s in the heat of the day. (Both will be a relief from the sweltering temps at home.) In general, I will pack both shorts and pants. One change of my under layer as a treat when it gets wet. Gloves, headband, and hat to keep extremities warm during the predawn and post sunset hours. Rain jacket/windbreaker with hood. Just in case. A lightweight long-sleeved layer that can be tied around the waist. And a fleece. Smartwool socks. Also, compression socks, primarily for after. But, I might slip them on for the last few miles if my ankles are unduly fatigued.

Accessories:
Flashlight for pre-dawn start and probable post-sunset finish. Not a big fan of headlamps. Used flashlight in Ragnar last year, as well as several nighttime training runs. SPIbelt to carry snacks, nuun tablets, and my phone. iPhone to take pics, store poems and prayers (more on this later), and possibly tweet from the trail, depending on service…and maybe order pizza. 🙂

The course is arranged in a cloverleaf pattern meaning that we will return to the start/finish aid station 3 times during the race. So I can stock up my gear drop bag with the essentials and just take what I need for each out and back. I will probably stick in a light-weight back pack just in case, but I hope to be able to fit anything I need to carry in my SPIbelt.

What am I missing? Come on, my crazy endurance pals. Help a sistah out!

*P.S. I am refining my playlist. I test drove it today, but it needs tweaking. I also am assembling poems, scriptures, and prayers to take with me. Unconventional, to be sure, but important to me. I will post on this next Saturday.

*P.S.S. Grizzly, Mountain Lion, and Moose sightings are a distinct possibility. As well as rattlesnakes. I welcome any tips on dealing with aforementioned wildlife. Thank you. 🙂

My Friend, Hannah Coulter

My grandmother would blush like a schoolgirl…when I asked her questions I had no business asking. She and my Grandpa told us wonderful stories about their life together. About their courtship and about the early years of their marriage; hard, lean, and good. But if I began to push too far for the romantic details, her eyes would twinkle, her cheeks flush, and she would say, “I guess that’s kind of private.”

Not all the particulars are the same, but the world of  Hannah Coulter is very like my grandmother’s. Same era. Both of them farm wives, wed to the soil as much as their husbands. Both with a tenacious, indomitable spirit, and a feminine grace.

Wendell Berry tells the story in Hannah’s voice. And when she speaks of the love she and Nathan shared, I sometimes feel like I’m peaking behind my grandma’s twinkling eyes and rosy cheeks, to a story women of her generation just didn’t tell. Of a tenderness that thrust it’s feet into the soil as they wrested a living from the ground. Of lovemaking that was a culmination of long days of gathering hay, and feeding the animals, and sharing meals. The all day kind of loving that grows and seasons with years.

You may have a long journey to travel to meet somebody in the innermost inwardness and sweetness of the room of love…The meeting is prepared in the long day. In the work of years. In the keeping of faith. In kindness…

You come together to the day’s end, weary and sore, troubled and afraid. You take it all into your arms. It goes away. And there you are, where giving and taking are the same. And you live a little while entirely in a gift.

The words have all been said, all permissions given. And you are free in the place that is the two of you together. What could be more heavenly than to have desire and satisfaction in the same room? If you want to know why, even in the midst of telling of sorrow and sadness, I am giving thanks. This is why.

I will miss Hannah’s voice. As I miss Grandma’s. She has been a worthy friend; telling stories of folks very like those I grew up with. People who take care of one another. Who sit a spell on the porch, and talk deep. Who share in the labors of the day, and also in celebration and grief. People who understand the land and its wants and needs. Who sorrow to see the demise of the small farmer and the slipping away of a life that has been good to them.

Thank you to my friend, Ian, who recommended Wendell Berry’s Port William novels to me in the Lost Books post. I can hardly wait to pick up another one. And thank you to www.christianaudio.com for offering the audio download FREE this month. I encourage you to take advantage of this offer. Get to know my friend, Hannah. I think you will be glad you did.

Un-booklist

Firemen no longer put out fires, they start them. It is their job to eradicate any clandestine stash of books that may be found. The powers that be have decided it is dangerous to allow people to think for themselves. Therefore, they will be told what to think. And nothing poses a greater threat to manipulation and propaganda than books.

This, in brief, is the disturbing and eerily plausible world presented by Ray Bradbury in the book Fahrenheit 451. Brave souls who attempt to preserve books face imprisonment or even death. But there is a remnant…an outcast group of scholars and intellectuals living like hobos on the periphery of civilization (if you can call it civilization). They know that a culture that does not think is destined to implode eventually. And when that time comes, they will be needed.

Each of these men carries with him the books that will be needed to rebuild the world. But, he carries it inside him. Books like Plato’s Republic, Marcus Aurelius, Machiavelli’s The Prince, the writings of Albert Einstein and Albert Schweitzer, the Magna Charta, the four Gospels… have been committed to memory. Astounding, but not impossible. A recent film, The Book of Eli, explores a similar premise.

Today’s “booklist” post is a little out of the ordinary. I am posting no list. Rather, a question. If it were up to you to contribute one or two books to the rebuilding of a world that had lost all, which would it be? What truth, what idea or story is so pivotal to who we are as a human race that you would be willing to eat its words in order to pass them on?

I would like to make one stipulation in order to keep things interesting. I know that most of us would want to be sure the Scriptures would carry on. However, if you choose to memorize Scripture, will you be so kind as to specify a book? One of the Gospels, perhaps, or the book of Proverbs, et al…

I listened to Fahrenheit 451 on audio, mostly on a trail run I did a few weeks back. The finish wrecked me and left me sobbing on the trail. There has been a monstrous battle, and our outcasts are now walking back toward the smoking remains of the city to begin the long work of redemption. Our protagonist, Montag, formerly a book-burner, has told the group earlier that he can contribute most of the book of Ecclesiastes and parts of Revelation. As he begins to search within himself for words appropriate to this hour, he lands on these. May they inspire you…

To every thing there is a season…
A time to break down and a time to build up
A time to keep silence and a time to speak…

And on either side of the river was there a tree of life which bore twelve manner of fruits and yielded her fruit every month. And the leaves of the trees were for the healing of the nations….

Stained Glass Hearts

Supernatural grandeur expands our soul and helps us throughout the day to live not in glass-breaking tension but in tiptoe perspective. It’s the place where, in our “upward leap of the heart,” we see beyond the fray to the Father who does all things well.  ~Patsy Clairmont

Diminutive dynamo. Teller of tales. Wearer of audacious designer boots, including at least one pair in red. She who can captivate a whole stadium full of women and keep them breathless, on the edge of their seats. All are apt descriptions of Patsy Clairmont.

But it’s only part of the story.

Contemplative. Poet. She who has a deep ache for beauty, transcendence, truth. Weaver of words who can turn a phrase with a delicate, fragile loveliness that pierces the heart. This too is Patsy Clairmont.

I’m known for my playful approach to life, which is fused within me; but to those who are closest to me, I’m also known for my need to pull on galoshes and wade into a thought. I guess when you’ve lived 60-plus years you collect a lot of heartache from this wind-whipped world that causes you to search the shadows of the forest. In my childhood I would have skipped through the woods oblivious to anything more than the path ahead, but today I’ve learned to check the secret places for the treasures of darkness.

Patsy’s new book, Stained Glass Hearts, is a sweet washing of the soul, with stories true and deep. With generous transparency, she takes us inside some of the more excruciating places in her life. She gives a courageous, vulnerable account of fear so paralyzing that it kept her housebound. Difficult to imagine if you have ever seen her on stage. But that is the beauty of the story. She shows us how, if we let Him, God will take the broken shards of our lives and solder them into luminous works of art.

…even though the stained glass pieces are artistically designed, they still have been broken, sanded, and soldered. They didn’t naturally fit the redemptive pattern without holy repairs. Also, stained glass art doesn’t begin to show its beauty or its inspiration or release its story until light touches the dark. The light transforms an otherwise subtle picture into a brilliant, dimensional experience.

Along with her stories, her experiences, her great loves and her great woes, Patsy introduces us to some of those who have shed light on her path. At the end of each chapter is a gallery in which she shares poems, paintings, songs, prayers, artistry of all sorts that have nourished her spirit. I implore you to google each of these as you read. A sumptuous feast for the soul.

Many of us have come to love the ones who have left lovely lines that fit inside us, that help us to see our world more grandly and ourselves more kindly.

Don’t all of us wish we had more wise voices in our lives? Those who deal with us winsomely and honestly, helping us find our true selves. Patsy is such a voice. As she walks with us through gardens and galleries, thunderstorms and snow, she gently points out things along the way. “Did you see that?” “Listen!” And our parched souls drink the liquid grace of the moment. And we are refreshed. And inspired. And emboldened.

Rescue us from small speculations. Enlarge our hearts. You alone, Lord, can attend to our desperation. Silence us with your peace. Comfort us with your tenderness. Mend us with your love. Amen.

Amen.

 

A Blessing Unsolicited: Part II

*Largely excerpted from a post I wrote in October of last year. With illuminations. And an addendum.

It is not at all the way I imagined it would be…in those moments…when I dreamed for my daughter…recklessly…without bounds.  It is not the way I dreamed it for myself.  I always envisioned myself as an obnoxious grandmother…of the sort who would relate, in excruciating detail, each moment of the pregnancy, birth and childhood….to my long-suffering friends, as well as to blog readers, mere acquaintances, seat mates on planes, unfortunate cashiers….   Instead, we have eased into it…with fragility, and uncertainty…timidly feeling our way…one…step…at a time.

My daughter is having a baby.  She is eighteen.  She is not married.

I grieve for her.  I grieve for the fact that sadness and regret have wrapped their murky tendrils around a moment meant to radiate white-hot with joy.  I grieve because raising children demands so much of you in the best of circumstances.  And now, it will demand more.  And I grieve for her dreams.  Dreams that must be amended…or postponed…indefinitely.

And yet…..

Life is a gift.
ALWAYS.
Unanticipated. Perhaps.
Not asked for.
But Wanted.
Oh, yes!
Most assuredly
WANTED!!

And JOY persists…nudging, warming, and sometimes erupting into glorious raptures.  Because we have made a space for it.  Because we have learned, through follies of our own, that God takes a peculiar pleasure in transforming what seem to be impossible situations into vibrant displays of His glory.

I watch my precious daughter as she becomes particular about caring for her body to protect the baby.  I watch her dream and study.  I see her unfolding…like a blossom…the sweet, fragile beauty that has been clasped so tightly…unfurling.  I see the intensity of her love for this tiny one who she has never met growing her…stretching her.  And I know this will continue to call something out in her…will help her to find things in herself…she does not even know exist…yet.

I am not naive.  I know this will demand more of her than either of us can imagine.  But I keep asking myself my friend Gail’s favorite question, “What does this make possible?”  And, I confess, I find the possibilities exhilarating.

Friends and family members have exceeded our wildest imagination in the extravagance of their grace and love.  It has been good to see the people of God walk in their roles as lovers and redeemers.  It is another lesson in the power of community and in the futility of living alone.

Addendum: Kenzie is three months old today. The hard has been every bit as hard as we imagined. But the wonderful. Well, let me just say that our capacity for delight has been stretched to dimensions completely unfathomable. We are seeing all things anew. Through deep sapphire eyes full of wonder. There is magic in the world that did not exist before. And my lovely daughter continues to grow into this role. Her love for her baby is fierce and wild. And playful and full of laughter.

It is a story that is only just beginning. A story full of hope. Of laughter, and discovery, and sweetness yet untasted. Sometimes the most beautiful gifts come in unlikely packages.

Happy 3 month birthday, little one!! I love you!

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
~Jeremiah 29:11

*Photos 1-4 and 6 taken by my daughter, the mommy. Photo 5 taken by our dear friend Angela Davis.

Fringe Benefits…

July in Tennessee. 95 degrees in the shade. 127% humidity. Air like gravy. You could scoop it with a spoon. Put it on your biscuits. We walk around in it. Breathe it. Wear it on our skin.

And so….we crazy types who like to run (or bike, or hike, etc…) find ourselves setting the alarm earlier and earlier to catch those couple of hours when the temp will plummet to 84* and there will be pinpricks of night in the air, and the dark will create an illusion of cool, and maybe, just maybe, we can breathe. I’m not always happy about it, to be honest. But I do it. Because it makes me strong. And healthy. Because the running teaches me so much about life. About doing what is hard. About pain. About persistence.

And here is the other thing I know. That every time I go out there…every time I do the hard thing…there will be something I didn’t expect. A fringe benefit. A gift I could not have thought to ask for. For instance….

Saturday morning…fog lies heavy, like a blanket, on the cornfields. Slanting rays of sunlight refract through the trees making spectacular displays of light. Prisms. Colors sorting themselves into groups. I. Am. Dazzled. And I am only getting started…

I know the Natchez Trace Bridge. I watched it being built. I have biked over it. Sat on the edge of it. Seen it in sunshine and snow. But I have never seen it like this….

I become part of it. Part of the cloud. Part of the unknowing. The mystery. My heart is pounding. I am laughing. Out loud.

I could be in bed right now.
I could be missing
this….

And…

I could have missed the barred owl. Keeping late hours. Exchanging love songs with a distant sweetheart. He was so close I could feel the tremolo of his voice in my chest…

I could have missed the long, black ribbon, lazily threading its way across my path. Stopping occasionally to scent the air with his tongue. Majestic. Elegant. Beautiful. Black snake…

Wildflowers. Chipmunks. Squirrels. Rabbits. Birds…….

It’s not only in the running, though.

When Mike and I chose to do the hard work of rebuilding a marriage, we could not imagine all the ancillary gifts that would surprise us. They surprise us still…a little at a time.

My friends who have walked…are walking…the sometimes harrowing road of adoption…uncertain, costly, emotional…tell of unexpected graces…gifts they could never have anticipated.

My run was not without cost. One of those gorgeous slanting rays of sunlight blinded me long enough for me to miss a tree root. I stumbled and opened a nice gash in my knee. I had a few bloody miles ahead of me. There will always be a price. But it is a price well worth paying.

What is the hard thing you are afraid of? So afraid that you are paralyzed to move forward? I wonder what might be unleashed in the universe if you were to make the hard choice to plunge in.

“When I have been truly searching for my treasure, I’ve discovered things along the way that I never would have seen had I not had the courage to try things that seemed impossible…” ~Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

“Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.” ~Goethe

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