Do you all know Seth Haines? He’s written one of the best books I read in 2015, “Coming Clean,” (reviewed here on this blog) He also writes an occasional Tiny Letter and was one of those who inspired me to begin writing my own version of that. In the last few of those letters, he has begun to do what he once did for a small group of email friends — provide inspiration for writing on a topic. Today’s letter inspired these thoughts and THIS  is what I need in my writing life right now. I’ve been tired, lethargic, uninspired for many months now. I’m sure that enervating fatigue is connected to the stresses of the last eighteen months or so, from foot surgery and recovery to emergency hospital stays, to a major move across town, interwoven with the continuing disappearance of my mother into the mists of dementia and the inevitable toll of a long life on the bodies and psyches of both my husband and myself. But today, his own reflection (which is stunningly gorgeous – go over to his blog and sign up for his letter right this minute!) invited me to just sit and reflect on the presence of God in the ordinary. My response to that invitation:


The clouds are low to the ground this week, hovering over our city like a pale gray shawl, hiding the view, softening the noise, slowing my breath. Today’s clouds carry water, gentle but steady, trundling its way down the drainpipe behind the bedroom wall, glistening on the ground outside the sliding door.

I’ve just come from a long lunch with a friend, someone I trust, someone I love. And I heard such sadness, sadness I knew nothing about. And my eyes well with tears for her . . . and for me, because I did not know. And I did not ask. Until today.

The gray dampness of the day seemed appropriate somehow. And the Beauty in the midst of that gray was her lovely face, sincere, concerned, honest, receptive. We talked long past the 90 minutes of free parking and I left a more generous tip than usual. Story-sharing costs us something, you know? It is never cheap.

When I returned home, driving up the winding hill with the wipers going full tilt, I shared the saddest parts with my husband. He, too, was hit hard. He, too, feels that pull to re-commit to friendship, to share the load, to pay something for the privilege of inclusion, even if it costs nothing more than time and empathy. Those are never cheap, either, are they?

I made myself some tea, a new flavor – Peppermint Chocolate – and settled into reading and writing for a while. But my eye was caught by some new blooms on the vine that covers our low-slung back fence, the one over which we usually have a soaring city and mountain view. The wide view is unavailable during this grayness, this shawl-covering season. But the narrow one is always there.

I took my camera out into the gentle rain and aimed it toward those gold and lavender throated cups that were pointing every which way along the rail. The drops of water somehow multiplied their loveliness and I gasped as I gingerly stepped from concrete to grass to flagstone pavers. I snapped the pictures and I remembered a truth I too often neglect or downright forget: there is Beauty everywhere. Everywhere.

Even on a gray day, even when friends are sad, even when I forget to ask.

Where are you finding Beauty in the midst of the grayness, in the humdrum of day-to-day life?

One of a Kind: A Book Review . . . Bandersnatch!


My friend Erika Morrison is one of a kind. Earthy, funny, stubborn, passionate, highly intelligent and filled to the brim with Jesus-love. And I thank God for her!

She has written a lovely, challenging, heartfelt book that is just like she is.

Bandersnatch — An Invitation to Explore Your Unconventional Soul, is 230 pages of alliteration, story-telling, question-asking (and answering), and thought-provoking ideas. It takes time to read this book, time to absorb it properly, and those questions she asks will stick with you for a long time after you close the cover.

Her basic premise is one I’ve been gently espousing here at my blog and in my work as a spiritual director: discover who you are, the one God loves, the one God designed, and become that person with your whole heart. Of course, Erika being Erika, she says it a whole lot better than that and she surrounds that central point with four lovely facets, each one offering a challenge to re-think who you are and how you live as a follower of Jesus.

This is her 4-part “A” list: Avant-Garde, Alchemy, Anthropology, Art — and she delves into each one with her characteristic verve and insight, offering personal stories and asking soul-searching questions from all four compass points. She borrows her title from a character in Carroll’s, ‘Through the Looking Glass:’ “A bandersnatch is . . . a rather untamed and frightening beast with unpredictable habits and unconventional attitudes, he is also good because his fierceness, his troublemaking, his nuisance-bearing disposition is . . . submitted to a better cause — the dominion of the kind and good white queen.” (pg. xii) 

She boldly calls us to become like that bandersnatch — submitted to the dominion of the Kingdom, sold out to Jesus, and in touch with who we are, how we’re wired and how we might best bring that Kingdom into the lives we live, the worlds we inhabit, the people we meet, and the families we create.

I would not call this book an easy read. But it is a good read, a challenging one and potentially, a life-changing one. I highly recommend it. It’s available through Amazon and Barnes and Noble and wherever Christian books are sold. 

31 Days of Aging Gracefully: Day 30 — Facing Death

Even to your old age I will be the same,
and even to your graying years I will bear you!
I have done it, and I will carry you;
and I will bear you and I will deliver you.
Job 12:12

This verse is a great source of comfort and assurance for me as I walk this journey toward the end of life. You know it’s there, don’t you? And you knew I’d have to talk about it at some point. The end of the road, on this side of glory, is the same for each and every one of us: d e a t h. The last breath, the transition from this life to the next, however and whenever that happens. I don’t begin to understand it, but I choose to belief that our last conscious thought on this side of the veil is of God, and our first conscious thought on the other side is not only of God, but in God — in a way we cannot now begin to imagine. 

That means that somehow, my body will be there, too, and that it will be at least partially recognizable by others who have known me here. Timing is irrelevant, whether immediate or at some distant date, as the scriptures seem to imply in all that talk about the end of time. NO clue what that all means, only that Paul assures us that we will be one moment here, one moment there. Of course, the whole concept of ‘moment’ doesn’t really fit into eternity very well, does it?

So rather than spin my wheels deliberating about when and how, I have chosen to rest in the promise of reunion, of transformation, of a familiar but intrinsically different way of being and living. And this photograph, taken almost six months ago, speaks volumes to me about what the writer of Job means in that verse up there. “I will bear you. . .”


This is our Lilly, in rapturous delight at her new cousin, Matteo, holding him tenderly and carefully and rhapsodizing over his deliciousness. I’ve written before about the revelation I received at the beginning of my training in pastoral work, that sense that dying is about being born, born into a new kind of living. So I relish this picture because that adorable infant reminds me of myself, and of each one of us, when we move from here to there.

And because Jesus himself told us to delight in little ones, to welcome them . . . indeed — to become like them, I have NO trouble imagining our loving and almighty God taking on the joyful demeanor of a young child, looking at me with the same kind of joy that Lilly looks at Matteo.

Can you see it? Oh, I hope so!

Imagine tenderness, delight, gratitude, acceptance, welcome. Because that’s who God is, that’s what God’s about, that’s what dying means. Glory be.

31 Days of Aging Gracefully: Day 27 — Enjoying Family



Birthdays are a great excuse to get together with family, don’t you think? Our oldest granddaughter turned ten this week and she picked the restaurant for a fun dinner out with both sets of grandparents.


Earlier in the month, we celebrated with these two — one turning 17, the other 10. 

We’ve also started something new this fall — SOCCER, with our youngest grandgirl. So most Saturdays, we’re there, on the sidelines, trying to be encouraging as five 5-year-olds figure out what to do with their feet on a 1/4 sized field. They’re so dang cute!


All but one of our eight were here at our new home to celebrate those two guys’ birthdays and I caught them all, just as the sun went down. I love the bare feet and silly grins. Each one is unique, each one is remarkable, each one is lovely, interesting, quirky. Maybe most important, they are all kind — to each other and to the adults in their lives, too. It’s a joy to be with them and we plan to take every opportunity offered to us to be together. The older two are moving out into full-on adulthood now, beginning relationships, jobs, making choices that could foreseeably impact them for several decades, if not the rest of their lives. Not sure how long we’ll be welcomed into their journey, but we want to be open and ready for whatever invitation might arise.


And, of course, central to all the rest of those family connections is this one — the one that started it all. And we want to pay attention to that relationship, too. Sometimes that gets harder to do as we age. We’re used to each other, sometimes stuck in ruts, not as likely to take risks or venture out into the new and different. But we’re workin’ on it. At our advanced ages, you do have to exercise a little caution, though, right??? Well, yeah. A little. Smile.

How are you enjoying your family these days? Is it easy to do or a challenge? 

31 Days of Aging Gracefully: Day 18 — Laughing ’til It Hurts

I’ll admit it right up front: I do not do this often enough. Laughter is the best medicine I know and one of my favorite things about my husband is that he makes me laugh regularly. But that side-splitting, almost-sick feeling of laughing until you cannot breathe? That needs to happen more often. And I’m not quite sure how to make it so.

Part of it has to do with my own attitude, I think. When I’m anxious, rushed, overbusy — it’s much harder to see the humor in anything. And just like yesterday’s post about looking for the small, I think we also have to be looking for the laugh.

Because I do believe there are things to laugh about all around us. As with so much of this life, it’s having the eyes to see, don’t you think?

Here is a short list of things that do make me laugh. What about you?


These girls are regular sources of delight! Here, they’ve just had their ears pierced — at the urging of the littlest one. Who knew?


Men riding bicycles in church, complete with helmets. (It was for an announcement.)


Story at the steps time on Sunday mornings. Almost always there is something said or done to make me crack up. Last week, Pastor Don asked, “What do you do when you feel scared in the night time?” And one of the kids said something almost unintelligible, but Don heard it as “Lie.” “Lie?” he asked. “How in the world does that help you?” The child corrected him loudly, “LIGHT!” Ah, yes. Light. It helps every time. Smile.

31 Days of Aging Gracefully: Day 17 — Celebrating the Small

You know what? It really is the little things. Those small spots of beauty and grace that make up our days. Moments, miracles, details. These are the things that speak to our hearts, fill us with gratitude, remind us we are loved, reveal the beauty that is beneath everything. Look for them. Speak them aloud. Say, ‘thank you,’ to God, to the universe, to whoever made that moment happen for you. It’s the best way I know to fully inhabit your life, to see it for the gift of grace that it is, no matter how bad your day may be going, how lousy you feel, how mad you are at someone (or at life in general!). If we can see the small beauties around us, then we can remember who we are.


Walking through Cost Plus, just lookin’ around, and nearly tripping over a strange little pocketed stand that had drawer hardware scattered throughout. Who knew Cost Plus carried drawer knobs? What I needed exactly, right there in front of me. Cracked turquoise glass ones and lovely soft green ceramic ones. One set for our new bedroom drawers, one set for the ones in my study. Gift, pure gift. And I wasn’t even looking for hardware that day.


Ditto this small side chair. We had a stuffed chair and ottoman that we moved into our living room. But it was too big and bulky for this new, smaller space. And my daughter could use it. So. . . what about something smaller? And there it was, well-priced, well-made, perfect color. And we love it. Score!


And, of course, the smallest of our grandkiddos, who also are the ones who live closest to us. They are constant reminders of the goodness of God, the beauty of childhood and the truth that only little ones can speak and live. This was the first day of school for them both — grade 4 for the older one, kindergarten for the younger. And this is their front yard — formerly our front yard — and only a 2 minute walk to their classrooms, after many years of a 15-30 minute commute from their former home. A big change made some small people very happy. And that is gift, too.


These lovely trumpet flowers pop up at the fence line in our new backyard. They begin life a vibrant purple hue and over the course of many weeks, slowly fade to white. All the while, they lift their heads to the skies and sing to me of beauty and grace.


One set of those drawer knobs, in place on my wonderful new files. They work perfectly: small gifts, small gifts.


Look closely now — it’s kind of blurry. But there is a very tiny bird sitting right on top of one of our new patio lights. It’s a hummingbird and this is one of their favorite resting places now. Lovely, small lights now lit regularly by our noisy, fractious, wonderful hummers. We have at least five who frequent our feeders and rest on our wires. I give thanks for both the lights and the birds!


Just one moment, a single minute of my early morning walk this weekend. Gloriously lit by the rising sun, palm trees silhouetted against the calm sea. Perfection in sixty seconds. Grace. Goodness. Beauty.

I will celebrate the small as long as I breathe.

Where do you find reason to celebrate these days?

31 Days of Aging Gracefully: Day 15 — Dancing (at least on the inside!) Through the Days


I mean, really. Have you ever seen such gorgeous color in your life???

Our days are marked by moments. Moments that often bring us glimpses of glory . . . if we have eyes to see — and feet to dance! (at least in our spirits, right? I’ve written before about how dancing is a thing of the past for me, but the spirit of dancing is available, always. Always.)


So today’s post is a compilation of some of my dancing moments over the past eight weeks since our move to this house. Yes, there have most certainly been moments of a different kind. Tired, cranky, worried moments. But these dancing ones? They’re the ones I want to remember, to hang onto, to breathe in like oxygen. Because that is exactly what they are. Sailboats just before sunset will certainly make me breathe more deeply.


Worship is a dancing moment for me, especially on Communion Sunday. I might even move my feet or my hips (very carefully) if the beat is uptempo.


A largish angel from my collection didn’t fit indoors, so my eldest daughter calmly walked her outside and put her in the birdbath. And I LOVE IT. Every time I look at it, I smile.


A beautiful succulent flower, new to me, seen on a morning walk.


One of the bunny family that share our backyard – sitting calmly while we were eating dinner.


And stretching up to nibble on the low hedge of ceanothus that borders our fence.


A gasp-worthy reflection in a neighborhood pool on a walk one morning.


Early morning cruise ship viewing.


Five-year-olds playing soccer.


An evening view from the dinner table.

A California icon, rising upward against the morning fog.


Egrets in flight.


A great blue heron stalking lunch.


A hummer circling round the feeder.

DSC05234The super moon, the night before.

These guys, playing cards on our back patio after dinner.


And these blurry feet – so precious to me and so small next to my honkers.

Yes these are things that make me dance inside. What about you? What lifts your spirits and makes your muscle memory think of dancing?

31 Days of Aging Gracefully: Day 11 — Singing for All I’m Worth

I am writing this on a Tuesday morning. And Tuesdays are now very special days. Here’s why: August marked the beginning of semester number two for me to sing with the local Concert Choir at our community college. I began last January, soon after that BIG birthday event, and except for those unfortunate hospital stays during the spring, I’ve been in that rehearsal room every Tuesday of the school year.

I’ve loved to sing for as long as I can remember. Joined the kids’ choir at our downtown LA church at the tender age of five and kept right on singing in choirs until I moved to Santa Barbara at the age of 52. Nearly 40 years of being in choirs!

And then I stopped. Why? Because our church did not have a weekly choir to join, that’s why. We did sing seasonally the first few years I was here, but even that dropped away about seven or eight years ago.

Then a talented and kind woman in our congregation formed a small ensemble that sang in worship one Sunday and I was simply overwhelmed with how much I missed that kind of music. Initially, I was not a part of that group — and that, I will admit, was more painful than I ever would have guessed. In truth, it was stunning how much it hurt not to be included in their number. And in earnest conversation with my pastors and my husband, I began to realize that choral singing was a piece of my own story, my own identity, that I had buried for way too long. And I was strongly encouraged to find somewhere to sing.

So I did a little online research and found this college/community choir. And I HAVE LOVED IT. One of the hardest things about that second hospitalization was that it forced me to miss our spring concert. I am bound and determined that I will be there for the Christmas one! We’re doing Durufle’s beautiful Requiem Mass and tonight, we’re supposed to get the music for Ralph Vaughn Williams’ Five Mystical Songs — settings for poems by George Herbert, who is a favorite of mine. Not exactly typical Christmas music, but it will be fun to work through. Challenging stuff — and I’m delighted that it is. My voice is not quite as steady as it once was, but I’m still a dang good reader.

It’s interesting how the pain of exclusion served as a huge wake-up call for me, forcing me off of my duff and helping me to do a little exploration of the possibilities. This choir is roughly 50% college students — and 50% old folks from the community. Pretty much exactly what I needed right now.

And then there was this lovely bonus: I was invited to sing with that church ensemble right after their first attempt last winter — and I’m loving every minute of that, too.

What do you love to do? Has it gotten lost, maybe buried under too many other things you love (or don’t love)? How can you help all the pieces of yourself to re-emerge?

Just Wondering

31 Days of Aging Gracefully: Day 8 — Looking for the Good


Let me tell you about my friend, Lucille. Please. Let me tell you.

We met in 1975 when my family began attending Pasadena Covenant Church, where Lucille and her then husband Harold had been leading members for decades. She was the head honcho of the woman’s organization in the church and she was GOOD at it! Gifted organizationally and an exceptional cook, she had vision and energy to spare. At this point, she was 58 and I was 30.

If you’re any good at math, then you’ve figured out that she is now 98 years young. She has some trouble walking these days, but overall, she is still amazing. In fact, I would say, Lucille is a real pistol! In the very best way.

God put this good woman in my life at precisely the time I needed to be inspired and encouraged. She saw gifts in me and she patiently drew them out over the 21 years we worshipped and worked together in that community. She always saw the good in me. Always. And she told me about it, in ways both direct and indirect. She was, in many ways, a third mother to me — my own mom and mother-in-law being the first two. And I even looked a little bit like her daughter (and like her, too). 

Can I just tell you what a gift it is to hear from another adult whom you admire that you are a good and gifted person? It is life-changing, as a matter of fact, and I will be grateful to her and for her until the day I die.

She now lives in assisted living at the same retirement community where my mom is located. Because my mother’s condition has been so demanding, I’ve had little time to visit with her of late, but I’m making an effort to change that. Why? Because I love her. And because I’m grateful for her. And because I don’t know how much longer she’ll be here for me to sit with and smile at.

When I went to see her new little apartment (her third in this place – she started in a HUGE one with her second husband . . . which is another beautiful story I will tell some day . . . and then downsized to a still lovely smaller one when he died. And just last year, moved into assisted living. Her same beautiful things are still there and that smaller space radiates her beauty and grace in every corner.

When I went to see her, she asked me to go get a box out of one of her closets and bring it to her. Inside were some lovely needlepoint zipper bags that she had made and she insisted that I take one. “My daughter is coming soon and she’s bringing me new ones to do. I love to do it while I sit and look out the window or watch television.”


Her beautiful handiwork sits now on my bedside table, a glorious reminder of someone I love who took the time and made the effort to see and speak the good in me. Thank you, Lucille. And thank you, Jesus.

So, where are you looking for the good in others these days? And who has seen and named the good in you?

Just Wondering

Giving Thanks, for All of It


I sit on our lanai, looking out over the bay beneath us, surrounded by tropical mountain tops, colorful flowering plants, and the gentle sound of doves.


This is a paradise, a gift to us all on this summer morning, and I am grateful. More grateful than I can say.

Those I love are well and happy, playing tennis or golf, doing jigsaw puzzles, playing marathon games of Monoply, taking hikes or bike rides, enjoying the warm, turquoise sea.



We’re heading out to a special anniversary dinner tonight, and we’ve collected a few things to share while we’re all around one table. A love letter from Dick’s mom to his dad, one of our loveliest discoveries while sorting through 50 years of accumulated stuff the past six weeks. And a letter from his dad, after our trip to this same island 35 years ago to celebrate their 50th. A small photo album from my parents’ 50th anniversary venture to this same place is in that pile, too, along with a letter from me to Dick on our 45th. We have small gifts for everyone to say ‘thank you’ for completing our family circle and to mark this time away together. Yes, we’re all feeling blessed, grateful, and glad to be here.


Not that it’s been an easy journey to this time, this place. No. Not easy. We lost someone we loved very much on this family journey, although I see him in his son’s faces, hear him in their inflections, their chatter with one another.

All of our parents are gone now, except my mom, who doesn’t remember ever being here — or ever being married, for that matter. Every one of us has had health issues of one kind or another over these years — it goes with the territory. But now, right now, we are well. And for that, we give thanks.

Not everyone we know and love can say the same thing this day. One friend has biopsies scheduled for tomorrow — brain tumors. Another is in ICU for the second week, recovering from a severe and terrifying health attack. One of my dearest friends is tending a scarily frail husband following a stroke. Another is recovering from radiation treatment, yet another facing into similar treatment very soon. One friend’s unborn child is carrying scary portents in his small body; another is living out the bittersweet reality of Downs syndrome. 

We are such frail creatures, and yet . . . Even bearing scars and infirmities, we are wonders, intricate and profoundly sacred. Image-bearers all, and so often those with the deepest scars are the ones who reflect the clearest image. 

So today, amid the blessings and the obvious gifts, I also give thanks for the scars, the wounds, the struggle. Because these things are what have formed and shaped us, like it or not. We are who we are because of what we’ve lived — all of it. The good, the bad, the beautiful, the ugly. And I will give thanks for it, with hands open and heart unafraid.

A small sparrow lands on the table before me, one talon missing. Standing on the tabletop, this creature is off balance, out of kilter. But as he swoops away, all awkwardness vanishes. And all I see is glory. Glory. GLORY.