Archives for November 2012

Spirit-Led Parenting – A Guest Post

One of the great joys of blogging the last two years has been the discovery of a rich community life out here in cyberspace. Megan Tietz and Laura Oyer are two of the many women it has been my privilege to come to ‘know,’ courtesy of the internet. I read a review of their parenting book early this year and was really impressed. So, I ordered four copies! There were four expectant couples in our church community at that time and I could  think of no better gift than an ‘instruction’ book that basically said – listen to your baby and to your own heart and toss out all the ‘shoulds.’  They’re entering round two of the required (and important) PR work for their fine book and I am delighted and honored to host this essay from Laura as they make the rounds of about a dozen blogs in the next few days. I encourage you to interact with Laura here, to think about the questions she asks, and to reflect on your own parenting experiences (if you have children) or about parenting you’ve observed (if you don’t have kids). Just opening the door and saying,  “Hey, I’m not sure about this…what have YOU tried?” can be a tremendously freeing experience. So, go for it!

Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  2 Corinthians 3:17
I’ll begin with an honest admission:  I like rules.  I share in the opening chapter of our book that my nightmare assignments in school days were those with an open structure.  Options?  No, thank you.  I prefer guidelines and no-fail directions toward certain success. 
I expected the rules I’d heard for parenting a new baby to lead to that neat-and-tidy success found by so many.  Instead, they didn’t work for me or my baby, and I lived for a time in terror over the implications of what that failure would mean.
As Megan shared yesterday at O My Family, one of the bonds that deepened our friendship and led us to write this book was that we both entered parenthood bound as slaves to fear.  Our purpose in sharing our tear-stained stories is to encourage others navigating life with an infant, inviting them to the pursuit of another way. 
There is an approach to parenting that looks fear in the face and boldly speaks an answer:  Freedom.  Freedom from required formulas, unrealistic expectations of our children and ourselves, and the belief that we must force our babies to fit into a mold that may not have been designed for them.  
– Spirit-Led Parenting, page 42
When we live in fear, we resist the freedom that serves as a banner proclaiming the presence of the Spirit.  Yet Megan and I each found that in spite of our resistance, God beckoned us through the heartache of frustration and failure and offered us an approach to caring for our babies that we desperately wish we had known from the very beginning.  He was calling us into freedom.
  • Freedom to follow His lead first and foremost in our parenting.
  • Freedom to trust in the example of God’s Father heart, Christ’s call to servanthood, and the Spirit’s constant presence as we care for our babies.
  • Freedom to extend grace to those who parent differently, knowing that our Lord leads us individually, according to His flawless will and timing, to answers perfectly suited to our families.
  • Freedom to fail – understanding that perfect parenthood is unattainable, believing that God’s redemptive grace covers our missteps, and seeing our insufficiency as opportunity for our surrender and His refinement.
It was a rocky road, learning to live out what He offered.  But as we began to let go, we gained something unexpected:  a deepening perspective on the glorious, mysterious paradox of dying to self and gaining abundant life.  As two control-loving, perfection-seeking new mothers each woke from a fear-driven haze, we discovered that the cost of our new freedom in parenthood was not at all what we’d expected. 
Where once we believed we would find spoiled children and splintered marriages in the wake of our decisions to turn from the loud-and-popular advice, we found instead our own expectations and desires bowed low.  Where we once held fast to the notion that the “right” methods of baby-care would bring success, we learned that releasing our expectations gave us the freedom to truly follow the Spirit’s lead in every area of our lives.
It’s an approach that welcomes an often messy journey.  One that comes with sacrifice, as is always the case when we pursue a life of serving God and others.  It may mean less predictability and more time.  It may bring the uncomfortable realization that you are parenting off the beaten path, if that path where He has led some is not where He is leading you.  It may mean laying down that precious sense of control. 
But what if as that first year of babyhood winds down and a toddler stands where your baby once lay, what if you looked in the mirror and realized that the one who has grown by leaps and bounds in the past year is you?  What if you could see that in most every situation you encounter, your first response is no longer selfish retreat, but rather selfless embrace?
Would it make you smile with humble gratitude to recognize that in each moment you chose to approach your baby with a heart filled by the Spirit, you were able to more closely relate to and identify with your Lord Jesus Christ than you ever had before?  If you found, for perhaps the first time, that you were truly free in Him? 

– Spirit-Led Parenting, page 54

Living and parenting in freedom is a daily – and often difficult – choice.  We have heard from countless new parents through the years at different points in the journey, and believe that safe and honest discussions can encourage one another along the way.  Will you share your thoughts here today? 
What aspects of parenting in freedom appeal most to you, and which do/did you find most uncomfortable or hardest to embrace?  How has God used your role as a parent for your own spiritual growth, or how do you suspect He may want to do so?

We are deeply honored to share in this space today, and look forward to hearing from you! Find us tomorrow with a post at Narrow Paths to Higher Places

Spirit-Led Parenting is the first release from authors Megan Tietz and Laura Oyer. Megan writes about faith, family and natural living at SortaCrunchy and lives in Oklahoma City with her husband and two daughters. Laura blogs her reflections on the real and ridiculous things of life at In The Backyard, and makes her home in Indiana with her husband, daughter, and son.

A Season for the King

We were late to church yesterday morning.
Lots of travel last week,
all of it good, fun, comforting, interesting.
But . . .
we were tired
and moving very s-l-o-w-l-y.
The sanctuary was full as we snuck in the back door,
so we sat in the balcony,
which provides an unusual view.
The large chandeliers that took on the look of a double crown in the photograph.

 It wasn’t until I looked at the photo 
that I saw that our view was remarkably apt
for this particular Sunday in the church calendar:
Christ the King Sunday,
the last one in the liturgical year.
Next Sunday is the first Sunday in Advent, 
the turning of a new calendar page.

But yesterday. . .
yesterday was a celebration of the Cosmic Christ,
the One who sits at the right hand of the Father,
the One who will come again in glory,
the One who intercedes for us,
who reigns on our behalf,
and the One for whom the stars sing.
 In the northern hemisphere,
this Sunday comes in the midst of Autumn,
the time of dying,
dying in full, vibrant color.
 It feels fitting to celebrate Christ as King
in this season of the year,
perhaps because it also feels a little bit upside-down.
Wouldn’t the bright pinks and purples of spring or summer
be better suited to this kind of recognition?
 Christ is surely King in any season of our years,
but somehow the Fall feels ‘right’ to me,
a good season to make special note of this truth.
After all, Jesus did not become the kind of king 
that people were anticipating.
He shattered every preconception, every expectation,
every dream that was built on the power structures of our world.
In ways that are deep and profound,
Jesus of Nazareth did not become
Christ the King until
the cross,
the empty tomb,
the ascension into the heavenly realms.
Is there any more backwards way to become
a person of royalty than his way?
The way of death,
and resurrection,
and ascension?
 So as the days get shorter,
and the hours of darkness grow;
as the leaves turn brilliant in their farewell address,
as the flowers dry on the stem
and the shadows lengthen on the lawn,
this is the time,
the perfect time,
to remember and to honor our King.
The One who was with God and who became a human person,
taking that long and winding downward journey,
living a more fully human life than any other ever has.
He died an ignominious death,
and by that death and the resurrection
which followed it,
brought us the gift of Full Life
in fellowship with the Triune God.
Only then, did he return to his rightful place
on the throne.
So YES, this season seems about right.
The season of dying in full, vibrant color.
 On this Sunday, we celebrate that the King is for us.
We remember the greatness of our God,
we acknowledge the Glory of a Savior
who is much grander, fuller, more all-compassing
than any Being we can imagine or dream.
Lord of the Harvest?
Surely so.
 Grand Creator of the universe in all its richness and variety?
Yes and amen. 
The One who is above all, around all,
through all and in all?
Yes, yes, yes and YES.

So we sing, “Holy, Holy, Holy,” and
“Crown Him with Many Crowns,” and
“Creation Song,” and “Revelation Song,” and
any other hymn of praise that rises to our lips
as we recognize the Bigness of our God.

Next week, we celebrate the Littleness.
Isn’t that amazing?

Joining this with Laura Boggess and Jen Ferguson and the Sisterhood, with Cheryl Hyatt Smith and Ann Voskamp this week.
Doesn’t quite fit any of their themes exactly, but. . . this is what I’ve got.


Breathing in the Beauty – 2008 – Archive-Diving

This post was originally written about four years ago and was probably the first time 
I wrote about the restorative qualities of time spent at Butterfly Beach.
I kept personal posts off of the blog until the beginning of 2011 and am now 
editing a few of them as I prepare to transfer my blog to a new site.
You’ll note that we were both still working at this point in time.
You’ll also notice that I write about some of the very same themes today.

Last week, the weather turned warm and balmy. Dick had been in southern CA working from Tues-Thurs and it was Friday, with an afternoon off for both of us. I came back from errand running and said, “Let’s drive down to the beach!”

We each picked up a book to read, drove the two miles straight down the hill and parked on the slope of Channel Drive, just above this old cypress tree. With both front windows down, the moon-roof open and the seats leaning about as far back as we could get them, we slowly sank into the beauty of this place in which we are blessed to live.

Winter is the best time of the year at the beach in Santa Barbara. No tourists. No crowds. The sun sets directly over the water, the dolphins and sea lions come in close to the shore and the birds hang out in droves.

We are both tired, the kind of tired that seeps into your bones. The kind of tired that has little connection to how much sleep or exercise you’re getting. It’s the kind of tired that builds up over many months of watching people you love suffer greatly. It’s the kind of tired that comes from grieving the death of someone dear, and the related losses that come with that: the death of dreams and hopes and plans.

We know where this deep tiredness is coming from and we know it cannot be avoided. It’s part and parcel of living to have to deal with grief and it cannot be gotten around, only walked through. But last Friday afternoon, we were so grateful for a chance to just sit and breathe in the beauty of God’s world for a couple of hours.

Dick napped a little, I read a lot, and I just sat and looked out at the ocean a lot. The sight, sound and smell of the ocean is like medicine for what ails me – it truly brings healing and comfort. And a reminder that there is a bigness to God and to God’s creation that can handle all the pain and struggle we suffer in this life. Perhaps even more powerfully true than that, it is a reminder to look for the beauty around us, wherever it can be found. And to take a little time to savor it and let it speak.

“A Light Shining” – A Book Review

I have absolutely no interest in the Twilight series and I’m not into zombie television, either. What I am into is good story-telling about interesting characters who are struggling with real life issues, trying somehow, by the grace of God, to be the best people they can be. 

That’s why I love Michael and Sarah Kent-Hughes. When “The Dancing Priest” was released at the dawn of 2012, I wrote about it in a post describing the power of a good romance. And that book was indeed a most excellent romance, filled with powerful plot twists, intriguing characters, and a happy ending. That’s where I met Michael and Sarah and as I finished that first volume of their story, I heaved a happy sigh.

And almost immediately, experienced a deep longing for more. More story, more surprises, more intrigue, more romance. Happily, I soon discovered that Glynn Young, the outlandishly talented and prolific author of “The Dancing Priest,” was not done with Michael and Sarah’s story, either. 


Well. Volume 2 in the continuing saga releases on Kindle TODAY, and is available at Amazon now.  If you have read the first book, go out there and buy this one now. If you have not read the first one — it is FREE until midnight, so download both of them tonight and have a rich reading experience over the next few days! 

“A Light Shining,” is a very different book from, “The Dancing Priest.” Yes, the same characters are here and some fascinating new ones, too. Yes, there is, once again, cross-continental travel in this saga, as well as glimpses into Michael’s everyday life as an Anglican priest. But from the very first sentence, you know that we are most definitely not in Kansas anymore. There is something ominous afoot, a threat that hangs heavy over every page. 

Initially, I found this almost 0ff-putting. I love these characters and did not want anything terrible to happen to them! So as the story began, I was cautious. However, I was very quickly drawn into the unfolding of this drama, once again a willing and happy prisoner of the strong plotting and wonderful characters. I will not go into that plot in this review because I actually think that sense of dread is important to the reading of this particular story. Rather than romance, this story is filled with mystery and intrigue, hooking you early and well.

This much I will tell you: not one of us knows what the future holds, even what the next moment might bring. Perhaps we’ll have some old questions answered in amazing ways (one character finds a family he never knew). Perhaps we’ll meet someone who will become dear to us, becoming part of whatever family we have (a couple of those turn up in this story). Perhaps life will be turned completely upside down in a matter of minutes, with the outcome decidedly uncertain and deeply frightening (yes, that happens, too). 

It’s all here and it’s all worth reading, believe me. You will be surprised, frightened, amazed and teary-eyed – the full spectrum! The central character of both these books is a priest, so be aware that people pray, talk about God a lot and even have their lives dramatically changed as they open themselves to God’s good work within. The story ranges far and wide and heads in directions that readers of the first book may find surprising. And as it ends, there is an open door, pointing to more story to come. May it be so!

Girls’ Day Out – Fall, 2008 – Archive-Diving

It was raining Saturday. Enough to keep the windshield wipers in full-time swish mode for the entire drive from here back through the hills to Ojai.

My two daughters, my daughter-in-law and I climbed into my trusty blue Honda Pilot and braved the elements to visit the world-famous Spa Ojai at the Ojai Valley Inn.

A most interesting experience – not something that we do with any frequency at all (a first visit to the place for 3 of the 4 of us) – and one that we enjoyed.

The place was busy, busy, busy. No sign of economic crisis here! Literally dozens of people, all wearing white spa robes, sitting, resting, hot-tubbing, sipping cold water with sliced cucumber and mint or warming up with hot herbal tea. In the women’s hot tub area, every single chaise lounge was filled with a white-robed, resting female.

One exception to the white robes was a mother daughter pair, there to celebrate the daughter’s 21st birthday, dressed identically in hot pink tank tops with gold sequined hearts spread across the entire front.

I must admit to some hesitance in disrobing in a common locker space, no matter how elegant. It’s been a while! All of us remembered high school gym class and the mixed emotions of that entire experience. But as I allowed myself to relax, I began to notice that there were all kinds and types of women around me – every decade, every size, every shape. Not a ton of racial or ethnic diversity, but a little. Most were there to unwind, to step away from the swirl of daily life for a few hours, and that’s a very good thing. Too bad it’s such an expensive thing – at least at this particular place!

My recently widowed eldest daughter Lisa had received a loving gift from some family members in the form of a gift card for the spa and she wanted to treat us all to a pedicure. We did it in twos, and I must say it was a lovely, indulgent, softly sensuous experience.

As you can see by the delightfully scrubbed, trimmed and painted toenails above, we all chose different colors, but ended up with the same affect: rested bodies and spirits. I also had a massage – in a beautiful small room with its own small fireplace and a heated massage table. Bliss.

Then we dined in the spa restaurant for a late lunch, enjoying the outing and the time together. The drive home was rain-free and absolutely gorgeous. Rolling green hills and a leisurely water-side mile or two along Lake Casitas.

We arrived in time to freshen up, join the men/boys and then dine out together at Piatti’s to celebrate our eldest grandson’s 18th birthday, returning home to yet another intense sensual experience – chocolate cake! – homemade with love and skill by our daughter-in-law. Dark cake, dark ganache, nutella on one layer, hazelnuts on the outside edge and chopped up Skor bars in the filling. Oh my, my, my.

Overall, it was a very delightful and relaxing weekend together – despite a few bad colds and one very sick 3-year-old who coughed so hard, he had to go home from the restaurant to clean up and recover before rejoining us just in time for dinner – which he devoured. Can’t let great homemade mac and cheese go to waste!

I am more grateful for the gift of family than I can possibly put into words. Each of these women is a remarkable individual – caring, smart and beautiful. We have walked through an intensely difficult time together and will continue to try and find our way through this wilderness territory called grief, dependent on God and one another to make it to the other side.

And freshly painted toenails are their own strange and wonderful therapy!

“When I’m 64…” – 2009 – Archive-Diving

Well, in 95 minutes, I will be.

Who woulda thunk it? How is it possible to feel every age I’ve ever been – but this one, least of all?

At some points, my 14 year old self is just inside my skin – especially when I feel naive, gullible, misled.

At other points, my feisty, unnecessarily self-confident 22 year old self pops up and surprises me with her strong opinions and readiness to express them.

There are even those rare moments when a tall-for-her-age 5 year old shows up, filled with joie-de-vivre whenever the sun is shining and the water is clear.

Sadly, the 64 year old shows up when I have to stand up after sitting a while, or climb stairs that are uneven, or try to read the really fine print. And yet…there is something to be said for age. Not much, but….something.

Perhaps the best thing is that every age I have ever been is still available to me at a moment’s notice, that what I’ve learned at each of those ages is usually pretty close to the surface when needed, that I know that the reservoirs of love, affection, commitment developed over a lifetime are deeper than I could have imagined at 5, 14, 22 or even 45.

I am deeply grateful that my partner of 43 years still chooses to love me, ‘when I’m 64.’

And overall, life has been good; through it all, God is good.

My restless, often rebellious nature can still trip me up from time to time, but one good thing about 64 is that I have learned to be just a little bit more patient with those parts of myself, sometimes even grateful for them.

Restlessness can lead to dissatisfaction with the status quo and a willingness to make changes when needed.

Even rebelliousness has its plusses, for asking questions about seemingly foregone conclusions can keep the fires of curiosity burning. And I never did believe it killed the cat!

Happy Birthday to me. I am glad I was born, I am grateful for my life, I hope it lasts a while longer.

Light and Dark – Spring, 2007 (Archive-Diving)

I am about to undergo a blog ‘makeover,’ so I’m looking things over around here. And I’ve found a few draft pieces that never got published. From time to time over the next month or so, I will publish them, but I will note that these are from a time long past. Those of you who have followed this blog in the last two years will recognize the two babies featured here – they are now active, bright, fun and fearsome 7-year-olds, and we have added another little girl to our family circle. Mark died about 18 months after I wrote this piece and three years later, our daughter re-married. (Their engagement and wedding story are told here, here, here, and, finally, here. I have not yet been able to write very much about Mark’s death, but there is one post about our final good-bye to him to be found here. )

Despite the pressures of a remodel gone terribly, terribly wrong; despite the gnawing concern about my son-in-law’s health and my daughter’s intensive education program; despite my own recurrent struggles with overeating and under-exercising, with my own idiosyncratically strange mix of laziness, drivenness, self-doubt and grandiosity – despite the various stresses and messes of my life and my family’s life and my community’s life…this has been a Holy Week filled with gratitude and grace.

Our immediate family of 15 had a sweet afternoon together one week before this week began. Dick turned 65 and we all gathered together at a tappan restaurant in Thousand Oaks on a Sunday afternoon. We had two super samurai chefs, with their slicing and dicing and volcano-making skills dazzling us all.

We laughed as Dick donned a strange looking headpiece and bright blue kimono for a birthday picture. Then we traveled to Lisa and Mark’s home to enjoy birthday cake and babies. These two beautiful gifts of God have lightened and brightened our family gatherings for 18 months now, reminding us, even in the midst of all the pain and uncertainty of Mark and Lisa’s struggle, that life is a glorious gift, no matter what. They are living reminders of all that is good and beautiful, fun and fragile about this world.

Griffin is 18 months old, full of vinegar, climbing all over everywhere and keeping his mom awake most of the night. He is comical, loves to giggle, babbles to himself constantly – complete with inflection – moves around as quick as lightning and his smile lights up the room.

Gracie is 17 months old, loves to dance and sing, and recently, she too, is busy babbling to herself. Very soon now, they will both burst forth with full-fledged sentences and stun us all. Put them together in the same space, and the real fun begins. Whether stacking colored, wooden rings or banging out harmonies on the piano, they are quite a pair.

Life is such a bittersweet experience, filled with wonder and grief. How very grateful I am for these two precious reminders of all that is wonder-filled and glorious about the human experience.

Quiet for the Weekend – November 17-18, 2012

“Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, 
for God can be trusted to keep his promise.
Let us think of ways to motivate one another
to acts of love and good works.
And let us not neglect our meeting together,
as some people do, but encourage one another,
especially now that the day of his return is 
drawing near.”
Hebrews 10:23-25, The Message

Oh, kind friends, may you enjoy the privilege of meeting together for mutual encouragement and for holding onto hope, tomorrow 
and through the week ahead.
Please know that the ‘meeting together’ we discover
out here is a gift to me, from you and from the God 
in whom our hope is found.

Joining with Sandy King and Deidra Riggs and their invitation to quiet and rest.

Of Sunshine and Seasides and Hope – A Photo Essay

See that girl in the pink?
She is the best medicine in our lives just now,
and we had ourselves a good, healthy dose yesterday.
Last week’s visit to my mom was hard,
and the road ahead will continue to be so. 
This end-of-life journey will be fraught with 
confusion and loss
and I will hate it.
A lot.
I am talking to God about it,
often yelling while I do,
but also coming back round to center,
remembering that no matter how lost
my mother feels to me,
she is never lost to God.

So. Yesterday was a school holiday for our girl,
and we were given the gift of being with her.
She sprang through our door about 8:45 a.m.,
dressed from head to toe in HOT pink,
complete with sequins lining the pockets of her fleece jacket.
A new outfit from Target, picked out by herself. . .
and of course, it had to be pink.
And not just pink, but PINK
We pulled out the Lego bins, filled with
colorful bricks that once belonged to her dad,
and she dug in with gusto.
Almost three hours for this 7-year-old
of creating, disassembling, re-arranging
and fun. 
I sat at the table, 10 feet away,
reading blogs and email,
 enjoying her easy company and occasional conversation.
Then we piled into the car about noon,
and headed out to the wharf.
It was a stunning day.
Crystal clear, about 60 degrees, 
with warm sun on our shoulders.
We went to the local Sea Center,
a small marine museum, featuring exhibits
about the creatures which inhabit these coastal
waters in the Santa Barbara channel.
This is a very bright girl,
eternally curious and actively engaged with 
whatever is going on around her.
From tiger sharks to sea stars,
from restless Garibaldi to the breathtaking view 
out the back wall,
she explored it all.
In the ‘wet room,’ where buckets are dropped 
directly into the ocean through a large hole
in the wharf,
she watched, intrigued,
as several students older than she
put the contents of a bucketload through a 
sifter and then a microscope.
Upstairs was a small exhibit of jellyfish,
those brainless creatures of grace and transparency.
You can just make her out to the left of
the observation window, 
momentarily entranced.
Against a very dark wall, there was a slide
of moving shapes and colors
and Gracie wanted a picture in front of it.
A little bit too dark, however, 
and the flash obliterated the slide on the wall.
In the upstairs gangway, there was a small puppet theater,
which enraptured her. 
She had such fun entertaining us with
each and every one.
One look at this sweet girl’s face
and all the sadness just sort of lifted
away like a cloak,
dropping to the floor around me.

This guy apparently inflicted some pain!
But the dolphin was sweet as could be.
We took her to lunch at Longboard’s about 90 minutes later.
She loves the peanut barrel there,
where you can scoop up as much as you want,
eat as much as you want, and —
wait for it! —
toss all the peanut shells right onto the deck!
How cool is that??
We finished our adventure with a trip to the
ice cream shoppe –
single scoop of Cotton Candy on a sugar cone, please.
It even matched her outfit.
She ate every last bite, too —
without spilling a drop on her new outfit —
until that very last bite, when the cone
broke. . . and there was a bright blue
spot in the middle of all that pink.
As we sat in the sun, enjoying our ice cream,
this catamaran came within about a stone’s throw,
gliding through the sea,
loaded with inquisitive tourists,
eager to view the coastline and enjoy
their afternoon on the water.
I took a deep breath, trying to capture the moment.
A beautiful grandchild – one of eight such
magnificent gifts in our life.
A spectacular day – in a magnificent location.
And we get to live here,
fifteen minutes from this girl and her sister.
The older kids live one to three hours south of here,
so these are the kiddos we see most often
and are graced to care for from time to time.
This, this is gift.
And I am grateful.
And for a while, as the sun shone down,
and the water sparkled,
and the glory-girl grinned her toothless
grin at me while her Poppy watched with love —
for a while, that hurting place in my heart
was healed right over.
Thank you, Gracie, for being you:
God’s gift to all of us.

Signing on with Michelle DeRusha, Jen Ferguson, Laura Boggess and Ann Voskamp. Sad to say good-bye to Seedlings in Stone this week – but trust that Laura Barkat’s fine work will continue to show up in some other sparkling setting – I know it will show up at TSP!


Of Rainclouds and Wildfires

 It rained on the way south this week.
Nothing dramatic,
but a welcome sign that the season is finally shifting
into true Fall.
 I remember that rain is a good, good thing–
when it comes at the right time,
and in the right amount.
Just a few short days ago, this was our view
for about 75 anxious minutes.
 That day was hot–over 90 degrees,
and this fire was close enough to see flames
and to evacuate dozens of homes at the top of our hill.
 But a bright-red-bird brought gallons of sea water
up onto the dry hillside,
and a deep-bellied tanker dropped red dust
all down the fire line,
and this time, we were spared the fury of a wildfire.

However, there are all kinds of wildfires in this life.
And we’re in the middle of one just now.
My mother is enduring a kind of fire 
for which there is no antidote, short of death.
No red-bird-miracle-water-drops,
no magic dust.
And of all the wildfires our family has survived 
in the past half dozen years, this one is, 
in some ways, the worst one yet,
at least for me.
Because, you see, my mother knows she is ablaze,
that she is being slowly but surely ravaged,
that all that has been lush and green is now turning to ash.
She knows it.
And that is the hardest part of all.
We will have to make some difficult decisions 
in the next few weeks. 
And she will be terrified 
and she will feel betrayed 
and she will wonder why. 

So today, I am praying for wisdom.
And grace.
And I am searching for ways to be grateful
and mean it,
for ways to link my lament to praise,
for the strength and will 
to relinquish my own fears and grief. 

Many weeks ago I submitted an essay to Rachel Held Evans’
Women of Valor series. 
I wrote one about my mother,
and how hard it is to see her struggling at this end
of her long, good life.
It will be published as the last in the series on December 8th. 
On that day, I will come back here and give you a link
to Rachel’s website,
and I hope you’ll follow it over to read my heart.
I will not write further about her now,
except to say this much:
I love my mother very much,
I am more grateful for her than I can possibly
put into words.
Our relationship is long and complicated,
filled with so much good–
and a few things that have taken therapy to sort out!
But if I were given the privilege of choosing my mother–
I would choose her, in a heartbeat.

Although this particular reflection does not fit any of these themes, I will join this one with Jennifer Lee, Emily Wierenga, Duane Scott, Cheryl Smith and Ann Voskamp.