5 Minute Friday: Beautiful

Joining with Lisa-Jo Baker and the crew once again to write for 5minutes without editing on a prompt. You really should check out the wide variety of responses to these weekly invitations — truly mind-blowing, so come on over and see what I mean.

Five Minute Friday

Today’s prompt: BEAUTIFUL

GO:

I am so far from perfection, it ain’t even funny.
Just ask my husband.
Just ask my children.
Just ask my grandchildren.

I get a whole lot of things wrong.
I am opinionated, tend to be bossy, sigh too much and am impatient with
lots of people, starting with myself.

But I’m here to tell you,
I can celebrate special occasions with the best of ’em.

Yesterday was the fourth of July.
Tomorrow is my mother’s 92nd birthday.

So we had a day-long party.
It started with tennis for some,
food and beverage arrangements for others,
and Lego-Building for the youngest two.

Fortunately, the weather cooperated beautifully,
and the typical morning gloom hung around long enough
to play tennis without bright sunlight,
and then rolled away like the proverbial carpet
just in time to allow for cooling off in the pool,
enjoying lots of good food al fresco,
and eating birthday cake,
with homemade ice cream, no less,
all of it with a gaggle of people we love a lot.

It was a beautiful day.
We shared laughter and stories,
fresh corn on the cob and barbecued salmon for the meaties
and portabellos for the veggies,
and we leaned into it really, really well.

Like everything else in life, it was not perfect.
My mom is still facing the continuing losses of dementia,
and the ongoing realities of living with the  loss of eyesight and hearing.
Our eldest grandsons are still feeling their way to
full adulthood and responsibility,
and at the end of it all,
my husband and I were fighting to stay awake.

But all those ‘negatives’ only serve to give sharp, bright edges to the positives,
and woven in and around the worries,
there was this underlying truth:

we are family.

We love each other, no matter what;
we are there for each other,
in good times and hard times,
and life is better when we live it together,
even if the REAL together is only once in a while.

STOP (90 extra seconds!)

A few extra pictures from the beautiful day we shared:

5 Minute Friday: In Between

It’s that time again — linking up with Lisa-Jo Baker and her incredible blogging community to write for 5 minutes, without editing. It’s always intriguing to see what comes when you let the fingers loose!

Five Minute Friday

Prompt: In Between

GO

We’re right there again, aren’t we?

In the middle, in between.

For most of our marriage, that’s where we’ve been — married younger than many of our friends, traveling far from home during our earliest years together, having children almost immediately.

We were the couple with the kids. . . all the kids . . . so close together.

And then, two decades later, we were the couple with the grandkids. And they just kept coming, didn’t they? A 20 year age span and we love ’em all.

But now. . .

. . . but now. . . we’ve got these aging mamas, both of them frail and forgetful. Confused — one combative, one paranoid — both lost to us in so many ways.

And here we are . . . in between.

In between a rock and a hard place a lot of the time and getting older by the minute our own selves. How do we wisely and compassionately divvy ourselves up? How do we best love our moms AND our grandkids? And somehow, also care for ourselves and do those things we’ve waited a lifetime to do?

Very carefully, it seems. Planning vacations long in advance, lining up family members to pay visits to 90-year-old grandmoms and great grandmoms, trying to cover every base.

And in between, saying ‘thank you, thank you, thank you’ for the riches that our ours, trying never to let discouragement win, asking for grace to find the beauty in the midst of the broken, the happy truth that we’re both still here, relatively healthy and enjoying the wherewithal to do the things we are able to do.

Even if spontaneity isn’t always easy!!

STOP

On vacation in May (and going again in July!). We’re heading into the last leg here and trying to do it well. 

5 Minute Friday — Rhythm

It’s been a while. Lisa-Jo’s got such a good thing going with these Friday prompts and I’m trying to make room for doing them more and more often. If you hop over to her blog, you’ll see lots of folks’ 5 minutes of unedited reflection on the prompt for the week.

Five Minute Friday

The prompt for today is — rhythm

GO:

Sometime, it feels like we should all be dancing —
all the time.

Everything about this earth of ours is marked
by rhythm of one kind or another —
the seasons,
the years,
the rising and setting of the sun,
the ebb and flow of the tide.

The beat of our hearts,
the changing tempo of our breathing,
the swirling of our thoughts —
how do we keep from tapping our feet?

Why are we so often mired in the monotony of stability?

Don’t get me wrong — there’s nothing wrong with steadiness.
But even steadiness has a beat to it, right?

I sit beneath a slowly circling fan,
listening to a bubbling fountain just outside our bedroom door.
Occasionally,
I hear a frog-song,
a bird-song,
the wind soughing through the trees.

And I want to jump and shout,
I want to sway these hips,
these old, child-worn hips,
and swing my partner,
even if that partner is imaginary.


LIFE is rich and good
and sings a siren song of joy-in-the-moment.

Come and dance with me!

STOP 

Bare: A 5 Minute Friday, Embellished + A Photo Essay

I have a love-hate relationship with the wind.
It’s a California weather feature that no one talks about very much.
You hear about the sunshine. Or the smog. Or the fog.
But the wind?
Not so much.

But it’s here and it’s sometimes huge.
When it comes in the dark of night, howling through the canyons,
I detest it.
Sleep becomes impossible, yard furniture tumbles across the lawn,
tree branches click against the windows, power flickers,
often going out for hours.
Demons can loom large in such weather.

When it comes in the light of day,
and the day is hot and the season is dry,
I fear it.
Wildfires are endemic to this climate and they are terrifying.
Massive damage in moments,
families displaced, memories lost, even lives,
if it’s bad enough and fast enough.


But when it comes in the middle of winter,
as storms are brewing and blooming,
the wind is an entirely different thing.
It’s a friend, a welcome, bracing blast of cold, clear air.

And I remember what it felt like when I was an early adolescent,
old enough to be taller than almost everyone I knew,
but young enough to allow a rich imaginative life.

We had a back porch that was nothing more than a steep staircase with a landing.
We had milk delivered to that porch, twice a week,
and I often put the empties out in the case
to be picked up in the morning.

When the wind blew in the wintertime,
I would go out to check on the bottles,
imagining that they might be lonely or frightened,
and I would tell them that everything would be all right.
And I would stand up tall, spread my arms,
lean my head back and close my eyes,
and present myself to the force of that wind,
standing bare before it, willing it to blow me over.

And it never did.

Instead, it reminded me that there was much in this life
that is so much bigger than I am,
and beyond any feeble ability of mine to control.

I was reminded of that feeling yesterday,
and it was wondrous.

I took a walk on the bluffs, following the paths to Coal Oil Point Reserve.
And the wind was blowing mightily.
My jacket zipped to my chin, a brimmed hat holding wispy hair
firmly in place, I walked in wonder,
dressed from head to toe,
yet bare before the beauty.
Bare.

I’ve been feeling overwhelmed by my life of late,
trying hard to control all the pieces that are coming together
in this month of February.


I am back at work for three months,
something I never planned, nor even thought about,
to tell you the truth —
yet here it is.


My mother will move to my community next weekend,
and various family members will help me make that happen.
That’s not something I planned, either,
even though I have done all the legwork,
checked out the options,
taken my mother to see them all.


Still, I didn’t plan to have to care for her in these late years of her life.
I didn’t plan for her to have dementia.
I didn’t plan for her to lose her eyesight,
her son, her self.

But here we are.

Why, I wondered, did I say ‘yes’ to this job right now?
Am I crazy?
(Don’t answer that.)


I’ve been laying out Lenten services for the last couple of weeks,
enjoying the feel of it, not sure about the weekly commitment
of leading them all, but pondering, with what I hope is an open spirit.
Yet I haven’t felt any strong confirmation that
this decision was one I should have made,
thinking only it is one I have made.

Yesterday’s walk opened something in me.
I guess that’s what being bare can do, isn’t it?
Standing on the edge of a cliff, the wind blowing wildly all around you,
staring off into the wonder and beauty and complete untame-ability
of this world — well, that can strip away a lot of things.

So, as I got in my car to drive home,
after taking these pictures, and saying, “Thank you! THANK YOU!!”
with my arms outspread, my head bent back, my eyes closed —
after that. . .
I drove down the ramp to the 101 Freeway,
I thought about the intense privilege it is to be
asked to pastor anyone, anytime, anyplace,
and tears of gratitude spilled.

I GET to do this.
I am invited to do this.
I am welcomed to do this.
I do not, in any way, have to do this.

I cannot put into words what a gift that experience was to my roiling
spirits and troubled heart.
What’s happening in my life right now
IS beyond my control. It just is.
But it is not beyond God,
it is not beyond hope,
it is not beyond wonder,
it is not beyond joy.

It is gift.
ALL of it.

Thank You. 

Joining late with Lisa-Jo’s community over at the 5-Minute Friday link-up. Five minutes took me to “beyond any feeble ability of mine to control.” Another ten minutes took me to the end of the words. The pictures and the techno stuff with formatting?
Well that took another 45 or so. 

I just read this through, after plowing through HTML to figure out why the font keeps shrinking every time I insert a picture. Finally, the preview matched the draft. And as I read, I wept again — grateful for the windy day, even more grateful for the ways in which God chooses to reveal love and grace to me, despite my anxious heart and control-freak nature!!

Five Minute Friday

adding this tonight to the Monday crowd – Michelle, Jen, Laura and Ann – with thanks for the invitation to think about how God is working in us, how we’re learning through play, and how gratitude changes everything.

Five Minute Friday – ROOTS

It’s Friday and I’ve taken a day off from all this writing this past month.
So I sat with Lisa-Jo’s prompt all day and we’ll see what comes out.
Join the fun by clicking over to her site and linking your own
five minutes of unscripted, unedited response to the prompt: ROOTS
Five Minute Friday

GO:

They go down deep into the dusty soil
of southern California,
pushing their strong tendrils
between the valleys
San Fernando and San Gabriel,
finally winding their way
up the coast
to Santa Barbara.
My parents were transplants,
one from the south,
the other from the north.
Together, they built a family
out of love and dust
and work and creative energy.
There was music,
Oh! there was music.
There was laughter,
lots of laughter.
Raucous, earthy, rich with
insight and sometimes tinged
with sarcasm.
Sunday was for church.
Every day was for faith.
Friday night was for popcorn
and giant Hershey’s with almonds
and Bubble-Up,
all of us gathered around the TV
or the puzzle table,
or the game board.
There was never a lot of money,
but that did not matter.
With a dad who knew how to fix things,
a mom who could sew anything,
and a desire to enjoy life,
learn,
grow,
celebrate –
life was a party.
Except when it wasn’t.
There were sad pieces.
A younger brother who struggled,
a family-wide battle with anxiety,
some hard history
going back a generation.
But mostly,
there was solidity,
security,
there was home.
Thank you,
thank you,
thank you!

31 Days in which I Am Saved by Beauty – Day 20 AND 5 Minute Friday – LOOK!

Every Friday, she pulls one out of the hat.
A word or a short phrase.
And we’re supposed to set the timer
and free-write in response to that prompt.
Lisa-Jo Baker is dang good at this prompting business
and a couple of hundred people join in the party
each and every week.
I’m late this week . . . but I’m here, for the first time in several.
Hop on over to her website and check out a few:
Five Minute Friday
Today’s prompt?
Look . . .

GO:

Idou –
a tiny Greek part of speech
that imitates an earlier Hebraic one.
A small word that modern translations
don’t even bother with, 
but oh! SUCH a good word.
It means . . . LOOK AT THIS!
And it’s usually translated, “Behold!”
Think about all the places in scripture
where you’ve seen that word!
“the handmaiden of the Lord,”
and “I tell you a mystery”
are the first two that spring to my mind
in these five minutes.
The Incarnation
and the Resurrection,
bookends, in a way,
of our faith,
of our story.
And what a beautiful,
mysterious,
glorious story it is.
And you know what?

I think there are evidences of these ‘beholds’ 

all around us, every dang day.

We are invited to be the incarnate Word
in the lives of our families,
in the neighborhoods in which we live.
We are encouraged to be Easter People,
shining forth hope
of better things ahead.
And if we stop,
if we slow,
if we open our eyes,
and loose our ears,
and tune our minds —
we can not only look,
but SEE.
The Glory of the Lord
is present in our world,
and in every one of us.
Imagine!
Look!
Behold!
Idou!

STOP

 Yes, I thought about this for more than 5 minutes. But I did not write for more than that.
And here, in these pictures, most of them taken with my not-so-smart phone
are some real-life examples of the glory of God made real in this world of ours.
LOOK. SEE. BEHOLD.

A lone young woman, journal in hand, sitting on the wide sand, looking. Looking.
Off in the distance, a cruise ship – 
. . . a reminder that sometimes we might feel invaded
by uninvited tourists making demands
upon our time, energy and resources.
But.
Every person on a cruise ship is also made in the image of God, whether they know and acknowledge that or not.
So maybe I need — in general — to be more welcoming,
and gracious to those who feel to me like. . . interlopers?
And sometimes those might even be members of 
my own family?
A wide stretch of sand
on a beautiful sunny day. 
Behold! The goodness of God.
Friends, neighbors and strangers —
out for a walk, just like I am.
Can I be a grace-filled, smiling co-conspirator
in the joys of life?
And that water, lapping on the sand?
Pure refreshment,
reminder of all things good and lovely.
So, hop on board,
set your sail into the wind,
and see where Ruach* takes you next
But never forget that sometimes
the very best adventures of all
happen under a striped umbrella,
alone on a wide beach,
reveling in the beauty around you.
LOOK!

*Ruach is a biblical word for ‘wind’ or ‘spirit.’ 
I use it here for Spirit, Holy Spirit, God’s Spirit.

5-Minute Friday: GRASP – A Photo Essay

I am sitting on a porch, in a beautiful wooden rocking chair, overlooking the Frio River in the Hill Country of Texas. Gathered at a Writers’ Retreat are about 70 people, here to learn more about the creative process, to eat well, watch a little rain fall onto a drought-prone stretch of chapparal, and to marvel at the goodness of God. I am at Laity Lodge for the second year in a row, delighted to be among such good company, with time to laugh, converse, think–even to write. So, this week’s 5-Minute Friday will look a little different than most. I’ll write first and then give you a 
brief photographic overview of our trip out to the canyon yesterday. 
 Please come on over to Lisa-Jo’s fine blog, where over 200 folks join in the party each and every week. We are to write for 5 minutes, no editing, no over-thinking -just whatever comes out of our fingertips. It’s great fun and often more than a little revealing.
Five Minute Friday
GO:

It’s hard to get from Santa Barbara CA to San Antonio TX.
It requires an overnight stay near LAX,
getting up at 3:45 a.m.,
going through airport security before one is fully conscious,
flying one hour to Phoenix,
walking miles through the airport to another terminal
to board another plane for 2 hours to your final destination.
Then you wait for your van-load of compatriots,
some of whom you actually might recognize,
and drive for 2 hours away from civilization
to this amazing place.
I’ve been here once before,
so I know what to expect.
It’s an enriching, challenging,
welcoming experience to land in this space.
And I cannot quite grasp the words to say why.
We’re singing with a a grammy-winning worship leader,,
listening to a PhD in neuro-biology tag-teaming with 
a film critic, learning how to write a good sentence
and just sort of spreading out on the inside of our souls.
Funny stories, serious questions, shared struggles – 
all of it makes for an enriching, encouraging experience.
There is freedom in this place,
there is welcome.
There is beauty, silence, companionship when desired.
And there is a sense of God’s smile everywhere you look.
I sat on a bench by a jogging trail early this morning
and just listened for about 5 minutes.
Do you know what I hear?
Nothing.
Only a far away bird song.
THAT’s what this place provides that 

so few places on this earth can – 

the sound of good silence.

STOP

Driving away from the airport.
The contrast of brilliant light and pouring rain off in the distance seen 360 degrees around in Texas.
What you might expect to find in Texas actually can be found in Texas.
Something about these mailboxes seems representative of the wide open spaces and ranch land of this part of the world.
Turning off the highway to the dirt road leading down to the HEB Foundation Camps.
A lovely harbinger of good things ahead.
Reaching the river road that leads to Laity Lodge
This is the only way in and it’s remarkable.
The rainbow almost spanning the canyon carved by the Frio.
Looking out over the Frio right after our arrival at about 6 last night.
Hopeful reflections of beauty to come. Thank you, Lord.

5 Minute Friday – Focus

Five minutes. That’s the rule. Five minutes for free-writing, whatever comes into your head, whatever the prompt elicits. And it’s crazy fun. Come on over to the Gypsy Mama’s website – though she goes by Lisa-Jo Baker nowadays – and see for yourselves:

Five Minute Friday
Somedays, I think I look at life like this – just a little bit cock-eyed and slightly out of focus.


Today’s prompt: FOCUS

GO:

For me, photography has become a kind of sacramental act. I have a camera with me at all times and frequently annoy my family by poking it in their faces at the most inopportune moments. 

Mostly, however, I use my camera to notice things. 
To pay attention. 
To look more closely, 
     see the details, 
          the angle of the light, 
               the wonder of a baby’s laugh, 
                    the cobweb, backlit by morning sunshine, 
     the power of a breaking wave. 

The camera becomes an extension of my eyes, allowing me to slow down a bit – forcing me to slow down a bit, encouraging me to savor, sift, concentrate, focus. 

Looking through the lens requires me to double check and see if things are lining up straight or are slightly askew. Focusing that lens means taking the time to choose where to look first. 
To see this family playing in the water, I had to disarm the auto-focus on the camera because 
it wanted to see the bushes clearly. I did not. I get to choose what I see most clearly.

There are lessons here, lessons beyond the extended ocular sensitivity that my camera provides. Because focus is important in all of life . . . choosing where I’m going to look first. 

Will I look at the Truth or the lie?

Will I look at the Good or the not-so-good?

Will I look at and for the spark of the Spirit in each person I encounter during the day, or will I forget, and allow myself to be distracted, to intentionally turn away? 

Today, I choose to look, 
     to look with intention, commitment, focus. 

Maybe tomorrow, too?

STOP

About one minute over – pictures, captions and formatting added later.

5 Minute Friday – Graceful

Late to the party, but hopefully, not too late. Lisa-Jo issues a weekly 5-minutes-by-the-clock writing prompt and I’ve loved joining in whenever I can. This weeks prompt has been sitting in the back of my fuzzy, aging brain for 24 hours now and maybe, just maybe, something might come out these fingertips as I let my mind go. It’s always fun to try this, so I encourage you to hop over to Lisa-Jo’s beautiful, encouraging blog and check out the other party animals – there’s a whole lotta them.

Five Minute Friday

GRACEFUL

GO:

I used to think about gracefulness like this:
delicate,
beautiful,
breakable,
fragile,
hold-your-breath-watch-in-awe.

But the longer I’ve lived, 
the more people I’ve come to love,
the wider my world has become,
the less those words seem to apply to what 
graceful
is really all about.

My husband plays tennis,
really, really well.
And he is graceful when he does.
Strong,
swift,
accurate,
powerful,
concentrated.

My grandchildren play a wide variety of games,
engage in fascinating conversations with one another,
and broaden their thinking and their horizons with
every passing year.
They are
open,
eager to learn,
generous with their encouragement,
quick to laugh,
lit from the inside with life.

So I wonder.
All my life, I have felt entirely graceless.
I am physically uncoordinated,
cannot play a sport to save my life,
am large and carry too many pounds,
and feel like an elephant in
most situations.

But maybe, maybe…
grace is not about how I move
or even how I look.
Maybe grace is about
strength,
courage,
adaptability,
openness,
honesty,
commitment,
being able to laugh out loud
at myself,
at life,
at the wonder of it all.

And if that’s true,
then graceful
is attainable.
Graceful
is
gift
and
reward.
Graceful
is how we grow in life
in faith,
in wonder,
in delight,
in the fear of the Lord.

STOP
 My husband inadvertently interrupted me, so this might have gone about 1 minute over the time…




Things Change. . . A Mixed Media Post

Life has gotten interesting of late. And I haven’t had as much opportunity to join with Lisa-Jo as I’d like. But when I saw this week’s prompt, I went to my draft pile and pulled this one up. I started to write it a week ago, to note what feels like a great, big, massive change in our lives – our youngest grandchild will no longer require our weekly care.
Gasp. She begins pre-school next week. How can this be??
So, you’ll see where I began the timed part of this post – and I surprised myself with where I went from there. Isn’t that always the way with 5 Minute Friday?? 
(Pictures added both before and after the 5 minutes!)
Five Minute Friday

Lilly – one-hour old
About 10 months old.
Feeding the bluejays with Poppy.
Tough girl pose – 15 months.
Playing doctor, 18 months.
Sweetness at 22 months.
Just a little uncertainty, also 22 months.
A series of wild-hair shots. Oh, my – yes. About 2 years old.
At her 2nd birthday party.
Under some semblance of control with Aunt Lisa, just past her 2nd birthday.
Lilly at 2 years, 6 months – how can it be?
A little dress-up play, three weeks ago.
Perhaps a cell phone would have been simpler for this little jaunt??
Every Wednesday since June of 2010,
she has come to our house to play.
And eat.
And sleep.
She was four months old when we began,
and I was just weeks out of the hospital,
and more tired than I knew.
So when nap time came,
I would put her down on the bed next to me.
I’d run the TV softly to create a little white noise,
 and sit next to her while she slept,
my computer on my lap.
During those first months,
I would do email,
research for teaching or preaching,
and wonder what the looming world
of retirement would be like.
Since the end of that year,
I’ve used Lilly’s nap time to
read blogs,
check Facebook,
think about posts,
write posts,
and watch her while she sleeps.

START:
Two days ago marked the end of an era for us,
an end to babies.
First there were our own three,
each of them remarkable,
unique,
full of fun and curiosity and determination.
Then those three grew up,
met some pretty amazing partners,
and started having babies of their own.
Three boys from daughter number one –
one, two, three.
Three boys from daughter number two – 
one, two, three.
Loud, rough-and tumble,
some more than others –
wonderful promise of sturdy men to come.
Then, just one month after that last boy,
our boy and his wife had a GIRL.
Glory be.
And nearly four years and one miscarriage later,
another girl.
And now, they tell me, they are done.
Their family is complete.
So.
Will I live to see great-grandbabies?
It’s within the realm of possibility –
our eldest is 21.
But I’m not sure it’s within the realm
of probability.

Everyone waits theses days.
We married young,
had kids while we were kids.
Not so much anymore.
There is education to be gotten,
jobs to be found,
houses to be bought,
lives to be lived.
And that’s all wonderful. . .
but . . .
I wouldn’t change a thing about our journey.
I loved growing up TOGETHER,
hanging on by a shoestring,
having babies before we had the money for them,
and loving every (well, almost every!) minute of it.
So,
change comes.
And we?
We roll with it,
or
it rolls right over us.

STOP.

Maybe I won’t miss this mess every week  . . .

. . . and maybe I won’t miss this weekly menagerie as I tried to get a very sleep-resistant girl to acquiesce . . .

But this?

(at 15 months old)

And this? (last week)

And yes, THIS (two days ago) I will most definitely miss.
She now covers almost the entire bed . . .

. . . and sometimes adjusts herself to make contact, her head on my leg as I type.
Sigh.