Archives for October 2014

31 Days of Looking for the Little: Small Gifts

DSC02442 Addie's gift box

I have some delightful friends that I have yet to meet. That is the glory of this thing called cyberspace. And about two weeks after my surgery last summer, I got this little box in the mail. I had no idea who it was from and happily ripped into it.

The delightful contents shown above are what the box contained, but this was the first thing I saw as I opened it up:

DSC02443 box of sunshine

And it was exactly that: a little box of sunshine. Everything in it was yellow, from plush tea towels to boxes of candy to smiley face stickers. All of it, yellow.

And I laughed out loud from the joy of it all. In truth, I received a number of delightful surprise boxes from a lot of my internet friends — my deep thanks to each one of you. But this is the only one that came from someone I have yet to meet IRL. So thank you, Addie Zierman, for making my day back then. And thank you for inspiring me to do something like this for someone else someday.

It is the little things, isn’t it?

Just Wondering

31 Days of Looking for the Little: Prickly Things

DSC02143 cactus flowers

On a drive last spring, I got out and took a walk at Morro Rock, about two hours north of here. And right there, in the shadow of that great rock, I found this glorious thing. A cactus, in full bloom.

The rock is huge, but this plant was just a small thing, almost in its shadow. But I took a picture of it — and not too many of that rock. It was too big for my viewfinder for one thing. And it’s just a big ole rock, for another.

But this? This was lovely. From a distance. I had absolutely no desire to get up close and personal with it, no urge to see if the flowers had a fragrance or not (some cactus flowers smell heavenly). It was just big enough that I didn’t want to chance leaning in too closely. Because those spines? They can hurt.

There are some good things in this life that are best seen and experienced at a bit of a distance, aren’t there? I loved the vibrant color of these blooms, and the quirky way they popped right up out of the edge of those leaves. But looking on from 15 feet away was just fine by me.

There have been times in my life when I’ve thought something was totally safe and it turned out not to be be. It was still good or beautiful or educational or helpful, but it was not to be enjoyed too closely or too much.

Life does have prickly things, you know? And some of them are little.

Or at least, littler than Morro Rock!

Just Wondering

31 Days of Looking for the Little: Support

DSC02837 crooked tree

This is an old eucalyptus tree, down by the beach where I love to walk or sit and look. I happened to notice it a few days ago, while I was resting after a good walk. Do you see how crooked some of those branches are? And how the one on the bottom is sort of holding up the bigger one just above it?

I’ve looked at this tree dozens of times, but this is the first time that I noticed how gnarled it is. And how the branches are helping each other grow.

And I reflected for a few minutes on all the ‘branches’ that have helped me to grow over this long life of mine. My parents, my brothers, my extended family, my husband, my in-laws, my children, my grandchildren, my close friends, my professors, my fellow students, my parishioners, my directees. It’s a long list!

So when I got back home and looked carefully at this picture, I just took a minute to say ‘thank you’ for all the good, sturdy branches God has put around me.

Who has supported you along the way?

Just Wondering

31 Days of Looking for the Little: Focus

IMG_4097 blurry chandelier

It’s just a little thing. A ring on your lens to turn, or a button to push partially down. But it can make such a difference in your pictures!

Sometimes it’s fun to experiment. To turn off the auto-focus and see what effect you can get. I like this fuzzy picture of the two large wheel-like chandeliers that hang in our church sanctuary, and I intentionally shifted the focus to take this shot.

But sometimes, the focussing mechanism doesn’t work right, and that is frustrating. My newest camera is particularly difficult to manage and the pictures sometimes come out unintentionally blurry. 

Much like perspective, which I wrote about a few days ago, focus can really change your view of life, can’t it? If I find myself focusing on the wrong things, then everything gets kinda blurry!

But if I can keep the focus on Center, on Jesus and the work he is doing in me, then everything else comes more clearly into view. 

It ain’t easy. And sometimes, even after all these years of knowing him, I still forget to keep that focus sharp. How about you?

Here’s a picture of the same chandeliers in sharper focus – there’s quite a difference, right? (Both pictures are heavily cropped, so they’re fuzzier than I wish they were.)

IMG_4098 sharp chandelier

Just Wondering

31 Days of Looking for the Little: Special Places

IMG_3665 Jacob Maarse


When I know I’m going to be visiting our former hometown, I often try to find just a little space to make an extra stop. There is a florist in Pasadena that has long been a favorite destination for me. It’s called Jacob Maarse Florist, and is located in a huge warehouse-like building just off the main business thoroughfare in town. 

When my kids were in high school and beginning college, I went to a half day Dreaming Day at our church. A couple who did career counseling were there, and I had a fun time taking tests and reading booklets about possible things to do now that my children were leaving the nest. Out of that day came the desire to work more with flowers. 

So I decided to start a small business, primarily as an excuse to save a few dollars on the flowers for our eldest daughter’s wedding when she was 19. I would go to Jacob Maarse and hang out, watching the designers carefully, trying to pick up tips. I loved every minute of those trips!

And I still do. It’s a small thing, just a side-trip, but it brings me such joy and satisfaction to see talented people doing spectacular work.

Are there any side-trips that you like to take to special places, just little ones?

Just Wondering

31 Days of Looking for the Little: Surprises

DSC02769 pepper berries

I volunteered to be a spiritual director for some faculty and staff from a nearby college who were on a one-day retreat near where I live. I was both anxious and excited about this opportunity to listen to people I did not know and prayerfully see where God might be moving in their lives.

Because my recovery from foot surgery is still progressing, I was also nervous about the grounds of this retreat site. We would be meeting outdoors and I still have some difficulty navigating uneven ground.

When I got there, I soon saw that there was a small, concrete patio behind the retreat house, already waiting with two chairs and a small table. Perfect! Thank you, Lord.

One of the things I’ve been learning throughout this long recovery is that I must carefully steward my energies and stamina. So I signed up for two directees, in the mid morning slots. About six slots were available and I chose just those two.

Between my two sessions, I sat back in my chair and tried to breathe deeply and release all the pent-up anxiety in my body. And I began to look around this small space. Just to my left, I caught this glimpse of a pepper tree, berries in full bloom.

Something about those small red berries, hanging so beautifully amid the feathery pepper greenery brought such sweetness to my heart. I find them quite lovely and am always surprised when I discover a tree in bloom with them. Clearly, it doesn’t take much to make me smile. Just a serendipitous reminder that God’s good work of creation is ongoing and lovely. It’s the little things, you know?

Just Wondering

31 Days of Looking for the Little: Memories

IMG_0146 family xmas pic

This picture is about 35 years old. And it’s a fun example of one of my very favorite ‘little’ things of all: photographs. We have hired one of our grandsons to slowly scan all of our old photos (and believe me, this is a BIG job). And it’s been both fun and frightening to look back over the years.

I’m astounded at some of the things I wore over the last 50 years or so! And I’m saddened to remember how heavy I’ve been at different times of my life. Such a burden for me and for everyone who loves me. 

But mostly, I’m delighted to take a walk down memory lane. This was the only professional photo we ever took with our three children. They were about 12, 10 and 8, I think, and the photographer liked this picture so much, he had a huge copy of it in his window for a couple of years.

Those were good years. I’m not sure I knew that at the time, but I hope I did! Little things like photos can make a big difference in my life, helping me to recall past events, milestones, places we’ve seen. 

I had a very artistic friend once who told me that she didn’t believe in photos. She felt that the camera got in the way of actually enjoying the experience, whatever it might be. I gasped. To me, that statement was almost sacrilegious! Photos of all kinds are one of my greatest links with the past. Not only my own past, but my parents’ and inlaws’ past, too.

What do you think about photos? Are they important to you or can you get along without them?

Just Wondering

31 Days of Looking for the Little: Perspective

DSC01222 cruise ship

I know, I know. Just two weeks ago, I wrote about the HUGE cruise ship in our harbor. I was comparing it to the small shore birds that I find so fascinating.

And you’re right — it is huge. But here’s what I want to remember today. Standing on the ship, or next to the ship, or even across the harbor from the ship, it does look huge. And it is, indeed, very large.

But seen here, on the page, or from high on the hill behind my house, that huge ship looks tiny. Yes, it does. If you can get far enough away from it, and see it against the backdrop of the great Pacific Ocean, that thing looks tiny.

It’s hard to believe, but it’s so very true. The size of things can shift, depending on our perspective. This is something I am continually learning! I can too easily get stuck in a worry-cycle over things that require me to take a giant step back, and look at again. 

How do you remind yourself to change your perspective when things feel overwhelming?

Just Wondering

31 Days of Looking for the Little: Provision

DSC00943 loaves & fishes 2

I wrote about these small things in the same post I linked to yesterday. This basket is about two inches square. Two inches. And it contains seven items I chose myself, at a small store that features lots of miniature things.

Can you see what they are? Five loaves and two fish. Exactly the amount of food that the troubled disciples brought to Jesus when the 5,000 were seating themselves on the grass that late afternoon. 

Just a little lunch basket’s worth, that’s all. Five loaves and two fish. And yet . . . there was enough. More than enough.

I find myself feeling like those disciples way too often. Doubting the Lord’s goodness, doubting the Lord’s willingness to ‘feed’ me, doubting the Lord’s power and ability to provide what I need. Maybe you do, too.

I bought this little set just a few months into my job here in Santa Barbara. I was feeling overwhelmed by all there was to learn, all there was to do. And I needed a visible, tactile, small reminder that God is faithful. That little basket is one of my favorite possessions. God has used it to remind me, over and over again, that there will be provision. Maybe not exactly as I dreamed it or thought I needed it, but there will be. 

How do you remember the faithfulness of God?

Just Wondering

31 Days of Looking for the Little: Seashells

DSC00945 tiny shells

I have collected seashells all my life. And I’ve bought a few, too. They are all over my house. There is a basketful on the family room coffee table. There is another basketful on the window shelf in the same room. There are shells on the bathroom counters, and a row of four sand dollars on the living room table.

But if I had to choose my favorite set of shells, it would be this one. They are nestled in a half clam shell, on the desk in my study. And they were on every pastoral desk I ever worked at during my years as a pastor. I’ve written about them before, about how we took a spontaneous trip to the beach (when we lived over an hour away from it) right after a winter storm.

The beach was littered with these delightful, small things, and we gathered as many as we could, my middle daughter the champeen collector. I never tire of looking at them, of fingering their delicate outlines and admiring the creative genius that put shell-covered creatures into our great oceans. 

Do you have small things that you keep around your house? Things that remind you of a special time with your family or friends? Things that teach you more about God?

Just Wondering