31 Days of Aging Gracefully: Day 3 — Slowing Down


Can you see those pretty things out there? They’re small from this view, taking up very little space on the horizon. Every Wednesday evening during the summer months, these little beauties sail out of the harbor and enjoy the long light and gentle breezes we greedily absorb here in Santa Barbara. 


They hold between one and four sailors each, and look so jaunty and graceful as they catch the wind and sail off.

The truth, of course, is that these small craft generally move fairly slowly, compared to larger, motorized boats. It’s also true, that on a good wind, they can dart around very quickly indeed. But overall, sailing is not done for speed, do you think? It’s done for the exhilaration of being out on the water and moving across it with agility. There is something to be said for taking the motor off, I think.

Big engines are important and have certainly changed our world, mostly for the better. We can cross oceans and continents in very little time these days. But sometimes, it’s good to sail rather than motor. Good to take a little time to look around, to pay attention, to feel the wind in your face or at your back. Sometimes, it’s good to slow down, just a little.

With age, comes slowing. It’s necessary and it’s good, though we tend to fight it pretty hard. Even if you work to keep in shape, if you eat well and exercise regularly, your body cannot move as quickly as it once did. And sometimes you even need a nap in the middle of the day! Imagine that. 

But there is a bonus to lessening energy and speed. Would you like to know what it is?

You really get to enjoy the view.

Like these small watercraft, you can look around at all the hustling, engine-driven boats and cars on the shore or in the harbor and you can breathe in and breathe out with joy and thanks. Why? Because you’re going at just the right speed. It feels pretty fast to you, in point of fact. It feels just right.

And that is a very good thing.

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Just Wondering

Report from the Front



The last 12 days have felt a little like I’ve been struggling my way up from the deep water, and awkwardly paddling toward the light, the air. It’s been a limiting, sometimes frightening, always exhausting experience.

It’s been a long time since I’ve had surgery* of any kind. A long time. And I knew this would be a rough one going in — there is no way to avoid the ‘roughness’ of being almost 70 years old, with a badly injured left foot, dealing with blood thinning medication from a previous event/insult to the body, and being told that there will be no weight-bearing for eight weeks.

No way around it. 

And, to tell you the truth, it’s every bit as difficult as I anticipated. Pain medications kept me foggy and slightly nauseated for ten days, the shots-to-the-belly required to manage blood thinners lasted two full weeks instead of 10 days, and trying to be a ‘good girl,’ obedient to the doctor’s instructions to keep-that-foot-higher-than-your-heart-for-as-many-hours-a-day-as-possible-for-the-first-two-weeks. Well, let’s just say that the word ‘boredom’ has taken on several new layers of meaning.

I thank God for several good gifts in the midst of the crush: my husband’s faithful attendance (much, much more is demanded of him than at any point in the previous 48 years!), my children’s kind visits and assistance, my prayer-group-friends boxes of good cheer which have been arriving with lovely regularity, and my new Kindle Fire, a Mother’s Day gift from our kids.

I have watched six seasons of “Inspector Lewis,” a six-part documentary on “The Celts,” and every Jane Austen film production my Amazon Prime account gives me for free. 

In the last three days, I have found the energy and focus to read again, and that has been delightful. I just began the “Anne” cycle last night for the first time in over 40 years, and am partway through both Emily Wierenga’s new memoir and a fun book sent by a prayer friend called, “Leonardo’s Foot.” Perfect topic, or what?

And then, of course, there is my new best friend.


This has since been tricked out with a little scooter bling by another of the prayer group friends. Tassels and a small bell.

This handy-dandy little 4-wheeled vehicle is called a knee caddy. A wonderful invention, but not without its flaws. LOUSY turning radius, requiring me to bodily pick the entire front half up off the ground to make a 90 degree turn. Still – it’s worth it. I spent the first three days hopping behind a 2-wheel walker, so this is a vast improvement. Our son-in-law built me a ramp to cover the two steps down from the master bedroom area to the living room/kitchen and I try to carefully maneuver that at least once a day.


I am both looking and feeling my age and am aware of some pretty deep levels of exhaustion and anxiety. By the grace of God, I am trying to remain open to the graces to be found, even here, even now. Giving up self-reliance is a huge monster of a thing for me. Just an ugly, hard thing. I like being competent and in control, even though I know that any semblance of control is always but a ghost of reality, a trick of the mind.

Because as it happens, there is very little in this life that we can control. Except, perhaps, for our responses to whatever it is life hands us at a given moment in time. I remain grateful that God invites me to partner in this life-course, daily choice business of discipleship. I am not a puppet nor is every detail of my day-to-day life mapped out ahead of time. I still get to choose. There are events, circumstances, illnesses and injuries that are beyond me, beyond any capacity of mine to change. But there are always choices. Always.

I can choose to say thank you to those who help me, who pray for me, who bring twice-weekly meals, who send love in a cardboard box, who pay a visit and offer a sympathetic smile.

I can choose to value my family, to appreciate their encouragement, support, assistance and great good humor.

I can choose to lean into the fear when it rises, to say the Jesus prayer whenever necessary, for as many times as it takes to slow my breathing and return my focus to the goodness of my life. Even here, even now.

I can choose to look for God’s grace and goodness, even when it hurts, even when I’m bored, even when I’m tired, even when I’m confused. 

I can choose to lean and to learn, to seek and to find, to listen and to look, to love and be loved.

I can choose.

And so I will.

In two days, we return to the surgeon. Hopefully the cast will come off, the stitches will come out and there will be early evidence of the bone beginning to heal, the tendon attachments beginning to take hold. Then I’ll go into a removable boot for the remaining six weeks, which I hope-and-pray will mean the ability to shower without a huge plastic cover-up over my left calf.

I’ll report again after that appointment.

*For those who do not know what this surgery was about – a brief synopsis Last summer, I injured my left achilles tendon while taking an early morning walk when we were vacationing in Hawaii. I began physical therapy when we returned home, with very good results. Near the end of those sessions, I had a firm massage from the therapist in which the outside of that foot was pressed against the edge of the massage table and I was instructed to resist that movement. In doing so, I somehow managed to rupture the pereoneus brevis tendon, which comes down from the back bone of the lower leg and wraps around the ankle before heading to the outside of the foot and attaching to the little toe. It runs adjacent to the peroneus longus, which takes a turn at the ankle, going under the foot and over to the big toe. After trying three different appliances from three different doctors in an effort to avoid this surgery, the orthopedic surgeon took an additional series of x-rays which revealed a congenital malformation of the heel bone, likely contributing greatly to the tendon rupture in the first place. So. In two different incisions, which I have yet to see, he went in and broke the heel bone, straightening it and pinning it upright with screws and he cleaned up the torn tendon and reattached it to the neighboring one. And  yes, it hurts about as much it sounds like it would.

31 Days of Giving Permission . . . TO TAKE A DAY OFF

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So, have you ever found a day?
Like a pearl in an oyster,
or a late rose in full bloom?
A day, appearing like a gift before you?

I had such a day yesterday.
A last minute cancellation,
and suddenly —
there it was.
An open day.

Well, I thought.
I could write ahead on my blog posts this day.
I could get some errand-running done.
I could start reading blogposts
until I go bleary-eyed.

But I didn’t do any of those things.
I chose to take the day OFF of the things I usually do.

It ended up being quiet, uneventful.
I had laundry to do,
so I did it.
And I actually enjoyed it.
(Sometimes, I’m weird like that.)

And I found a recipe for Crock-Pot Apple Crisp.
My husband thought that sounded swell,
and he set to work carving up our Granny Smiths
while I assembled the rest of the ingredients.
And the house smelled heavenly all afternoon.

I got a little bit caught up on some Tivo’d programs
while I folded laundry.
Felt absolutely decadent, too.

And then I ordered dinner from a restaurant!

Oh, the sweetness.

I had myself a day off.
Off from the usual,
off from driving around,
off from meeting with people,

Don’t get me wrong.
I love what I do.

But you know what?

EVERYBODY needs a day off once in a while.

How about you? 

31 Days of Giving Permission . . . TO STOP

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There’s never enough time to do all the nothing you want. 
~Bill Watterson,Calvin and Hobbes

Here’s to enough time to do nothing this weekend.
Because it’s the ‘nothing’ time that allows
the seed to grow,

the ideas to blossom,
the Spirit to be heard.

Blessed Sabbath, friends. 

31 Days of Giving Permission to . . . REMEMBER

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Sometimes, it’s good to remember where we’ve been and to look for the connections
between there and here. I was searching for a completely different document on my hard drive (one that I did not find, unfortunately) and came across a sermon that I had written six years ago, a sermon that for some reason did not get filed in the folder marked ‘sermons.’ (Don’t ask about my document filing system. It’s a mess and I don’t really know how to fix it.)
I actually enjoyed reading it, something that doesn’t always happen.
And I remembered where I was back then — in the middle of a family tragedy, in the middle of a massive re-model, in the middle of my husband’s retirement planning.
It was good to see that some things have changed significantly.
It was a little hard to see that some things (mostly inside me!)
haven’t changed quite enough.

Do you have ways to look back on your life and reflect on where you were and where you are? Scripture admonishes us to remember. Over and over again, we’re encouraged to remember the good and build on it, and to remember the not-so-good and release it. Sometimes in the busyness of our over-full lives,
we don’t give ourselves permission to stop long enough
to be reflective about our own journey.
Maybe something in this sermon will help you to do that.

Luke 24:50-53, Acts 1:1-11
Preached as part of the “God’s Big Story” series
Montecito Covenant Church
April 29, 2007
By Diana R.G. Trautwein

It’s been quite a week for me. How about you? Three long car trips — miscellaneous family woes, including some really scary and sad health issues for people I dearly love; the constant noise, dust and confusion of the re-model from planet weird, which goes on and on and on . . . making me more than a little bit crazy and cranky; navigating some tricky interpersonal waterways in my work week – not always terribly successfully; meetings up the wazoo; trying to listen attentively as my husband thinks out loud about some of the complications and decisions associated with his retirement in five weeks.

And then there was this sermon to think about — on the Ascension, of all things. Not something I think about a whole lot, to tell you the truth. Oh, I occasionally refer to it when we recite the creed together: “I believe in Jesus Christ . . . Who ascended into heaven and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty from whence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead . . . “ But it’s not a topic I tend to think about a whole lot.

Doesn’t seem to impact my life much — not like the crucifixion or the resurrection or even the story of Jesus’ birth or the various details of his ministry Nope. Don’t think about the ascension too much. So, adding into an already heavy-duty week the thinking and study required to piece together 20 intelligible minutes on that very subject seemed a daunting and even frustrating task.

But here’s what I want you to hear from me today, before you hear anything else – maybe even if you don’t hear anything else, please hear this: After a week like the one I’ve had – and maybe after a week like the one you’ve had – the ascension is EXACTLY what I needed to ponder, EXACTLY what I needed to wrestle with a little, EXACTLY what I needed to hear from God about.

And, as always, that came as a big surprise to me. Because it never ceases to amaze me that the sermons I preach are always, and I do mean ALWAYS, preached to me first, preached to me and in me – right smack dab in the middle of this messy, ordinary, sometimes glorious, sometimes trouble-filled life I lead. Whatever the topic of the week may be – whether I’ve chosen the text or it’s been given to me – it seems as though the first work of the Spirit needs doing in me before I can even begin to contemplate unpacking the word for others.

And this week, despite my fears and rather listless energy for the topic at the beginning of the week, the same thing happened again. I was reminded one more time, of who I am and who I am not, of who we together are, and who we are not, and, most importantly, of who God is and how Jesus continues his salvation work in me, and in us, minute by minute, day by day, week by week.

Because there are just some weeks when I need a whole lot of saving, a whole lot of shaping and forming and learning and stretching. I need a whole lot of hearing and reading and reflecting and reveling in the story of God’s love, God’s mercy and God’s power. And this week’s scripture just knocked me upside the head and made me say, “Thank you, Jesus!”  and “Help me, Jesus!” and “Lord, have mercy.”  And “Amen!  Yes. Yes. Yes.”

Will you hear the word of the Lord as it is recorded for us by the person we know as Luke – the author of the gospel that bears his name and the author of the book that immediately follow the 4 gospel accounts, the Acts of the Apostles.

Reading first from Luke 24 and then from Acts 1:

Luke 24:50-53:

   When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.

Acts 1:1-11

In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

    So when they met together, they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”

    He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

    After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.

    They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”

This is indeed God’s word for us today.

We have been looking this whole year at the story of Jesus, beginning last fall with the birth narratives and moving through his teaching, healing, disciple-making ministry, his trial and crucifixion, his death and resurrection. Today we arrive at an important point of transition in our 3-year preaching series which Don has entitled, “God’s Big Story.”

Book one of Luke – the gospel, the good news, the snapshot story of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ in 1st century Palestine – book one is finished. And book two of Luke – the Acts of the Apostles – is beginning. And this strange little story that reads like watching Jesus sort of floating off into the ether is the monumentally important turning-point – transition point – transformation point –  between the two.

In the opening words of Acts, Luke writes to his friend Theophilus that his first volume, his gospel record, was, “about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven . . . “ certainly implying that book two is about what Jesus continues to do and to teach as the story of Jesus, of salvation, of revolution is carried to Jerusalem, to Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

So, to summarize in a pithy way, the story of the ascension tells us these important things as we transition from one phase of God’s salvation story to another:

Jesus is moving on,

the church is being born,

the Spirit is soon to come.

And it’s all right here, in these words we’ve just heard.

First, Jesus is moving on:

“It is finished,” not “I am finished.” 40 days of ‘convincing proofs’ of his resurrection, 40 days of reminding them there was work ahead of them, important, life-changing, world-changing work for them to do. And how is that going to happen? Well, according to Acts 1, it will happen in two important ways: first by waiting, and then by witnessing.

And that order is so important – for those 11 gape-mouthed disciples on the hill near Bethany, and for all of us gape-mouthed disciples on this hill near Westmont. The first thing we must do – and the last thing we usually choose to do or even think to do – is to . . .


Don’t go anywhere. Don’t do anything Just WAIT.

For what? For the gift, that’s what. Hmmm…pretty broad category there. Pretty general statement. So Jesus gets a little more specific. Wait for . . . The gift my father promised, the gift you’ve heard me talk about, the baptism I told you was coming. And don’t wait for it all by your lonesome, each of you in your own closet. No, wait for it together.

Now, in a couple of weeks, we’ll look more intensely at the particular form of the gift that Jesus promises here in chapter one of Acts.  At that time, we will remember and celebrate Pentecost – that wonderful, awesome, strange and even scary visitation of the Holy Spirit on the early church.  That promised baptism that would bring power and the skills and gifts that would make witnesses of all those gathered in the upper room.

But, the witnessing will come later, it is the waiting that begins now.

And while we wait, even as they waited those centuries ago, we need to remind ourselves and one another of what we know, of what the ascension so magnificently reminds us : that God is God, that God is on the throne, that Jesus is now there with him, still wearing our flesh, and that Jesus continues his work of kingdom-building by praying for us, by whispering into the Father’s ears on our behalf, and by releasing, again and again, the great, unfathomable gift of the Holy Spirit, who comes in power and in love to fill the church and to continue the work of the kingdom of God through the church.

For the church, despite its flaws and foibles, despite its foolishness and feebleness, despite the pettiness and the entitlement and the one-upsmanship that can so often rear its misshapen little head in even the most mature of Christian fellowships – the church is God’s chosen vehicle, the church is Christ’s body in the world, the church is the recipient of God’s Spirit of grace and of power and the church is where the kingdom is caught in glimpses while we’re still on this side of heaven.

And there are three important things that the church is given to do, all of them either explicit or implicit in Jesus words to his disciples as he ascended to the Father:

We are to wait,
We are to worship,
And we are to witness.

The waiting is clear in our Acts passage for the morning, but you’ll notice from the lighthearted sense of Luke’s closing words in the gospel reading today that the most natural response to the ascension of Jesus is the worship of Jesus – Luke 24:52 tells us that after Jesus was taken up into heaven, the disciples who watched him go, “worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy.” Probably the earliest recording of a distinctively Christian worship experience. And it happened while they were waiting, while they were waiting together.

Wait, worship, witness. All of those ‘w’s’ are important – they each continue to play important parts in the kingdom work that the Spirit of Jesus is doing today, in and through and sometimes, in spite of the church. They need to be remembered, and they need to be practiced, and they need to be kept in sequence.

Because here’s the heart of it all, the thing that we so often lose sight of, that we so easily stop tracking with, that we too often fail to remember, or that we simply choose to ignore – here it is, are you ready for it?

It’s not up to us.

Did you hear me?

It’s not up to us.

Do you see that crown back there? There’s only one crown on that table, and there’s only one person who wears that crown, and it sure as shootin’ ain’t me. And it ain’t any of you lot either.

Jesus Christ is now ascended. Jesus Christ is now exalted. Jesus Christ, still robed in our flesh, is now with the Father,

Ruling in majesty,
Working in mystery,
Loving in perpetuity,
Praying in sincerity.
For us. For you and for me and for this world.

That’s what the ascension is about.

That’s why I can come to the end of a rotten week and say,
“Thank you, Jesus,” and
“Help me, Jesus,” and
“Lord, have mercy,” and
“Amen. Yes! Yes! Yes!”

So…as we come to the close of our time together this morning, I am going to ask you to take just a couple of minutes to WAIT, to wait together on the Lord. And then we’re going to worship with the singing of the last hymn. And then we can leave this place better prepared for all the messy, ordinary, sometimes glorious, sometimes trouble-filled life that we each are called to live. And we can witness to the mysterious, and revolutionary presence  of the kingdom of God, right here, in the midst of it all.

Will you wait on the Lord?




31 Days of Giving Permission . . . TO SEE

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“If you love me, show it by doing what I’ve told you.
I will talk to the Father, and he’ll provide you another Friend
so that you will always have someone with you.
This Friend is the Spirit of Truth.
The godless world can’t take him in
because it doesn’t have 
eyes to see him,
doesn’t know what to look for.
But you know him already
because he has been staying with you,
and will even be 
in you!

John 14:15-17, The Message

Give yourselves glorious permission to see the wonder of God’s creation!

Blessed Sabbath, friends.

31 Days of Giving Permission . . . TO SAY NO

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There are lots of roads to be traveled in this life.
Many of them are beautiful, enticing,
But you know what?

We cannot follow them all.
Choosing to go on a particular road usually
means NOT choosing to go on another one.
Like it or not,
we live in a one-road-at-a-time life.

And it’s a good thing, too.
Trying to drive on several different roads at once
is impossible and more than a little bit crazy.

Yet, we tend to do that in other areas of our lives
all the time. 

We fall into the trap of yes.

Don’t get me wrong – saying yes is central to a full, rich, challenging life.
We need to say yes to lots of different things over the course
of our journey.

But we don’t need to say yes to everything.
In fact, we simply cannot.

But sometimes, we believe we can;
sometimes we really think we should.

And sometimes, we simply forget how to say no.

I call this trio the Terrible Threesome,
because any one of them can threaten to undo us;
all three of them, working together,
can send us into burnout in a great big hurry.

We are not superheroes;
we are not saviors;
we are not drudges.

We are human creatures,
designed to live at peace with
God, others and ourselves.

Try as we might, we cannot do everything.
(Because God already has.)
We cannot save the world.
(There is only one Savior.)
And we must not work ourselves to death.
(We are meant to enjoy God, and glorify God,
not to assume responsibilities we were never designed to bear.) 

Do you believe this?
Do you really believe this?

Then begin today to try and live as if you do.
Give yourself permission to say ‘no’ when you need to,
when your plate is already too full,
when what you’re being asked to do is not
in your area of gifting, does not fit in your calendar,
does not add anything but burden to your day.

To do that, you will need to know what your yeses are.
And figuring that out sometimes takes a while.

But it is oh-so-worth-it.

When we know what our yeses are,
what the non-negotiables are,
then we can take a deep breath,
refresh our memories,
and say ‘no’ when we need to do so.

So, what do you need to say no to right now?
Where are your yeses being squeezed out?

And what are you going to do about it? 

31 Days of Giving Permission . . . to LISTEN

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Talk about a verb with many layers of meaning!
happens at many different levels, doesn’t it?

We listen to a speaker (which is so much easier to do when said speaker
is as listenable as Jennifer Dukes Lee!)

 We listen in a small group setting,
trying to sift out one voice from another,
opening ourselves to understand and be understood. 

But when it gets down to one-on-one,
an entirely different set of skills needs to settle in,
skills that require us to focus,
to listen without anticipating our own response,
to ask careful questions and make appropriate responses.

When one other person is telling us their story,
we are required to line up our head with our heart,
and to prayerfully look for nuances and unspoken truths.
It’s a complicated and important process,
this kind of listening.

And it is very, very important.

So today, I want to give you permission to make room
in your life, in your schedule, in your heart
for practicing good listening.

And you need to start practicing with . . .

listening to yourself first,
and then, listening to God. 

So, how can we listen to ourselves?
Life is full, there are kids to raise,
jobs to finish,
schedules to keep,
obligations to be met.
There is little space to breathe,
much less navel-gaze, right?

Uh, that would be a ‘NO.’

There is no other form of self-care I know anything about
that is more important than this:
carving out a few minutes every day to
listen to what our heart wants to say to us. 

Ten minutes. 
Just 10 minutes.
Find a quiet corner,
breathe deeply,
close your eyes
and listen.

Who are you in this moment?
Who do you want to be?
What are your dreams —
both literal and figurative?
(Remember that God works in our subconscious
as well as our conscious minds,
so dreams are often rich reminders
of what God is doing in us.)

Then take a big breath and offer what you hear
to God, to the only God who hears us when we cry,
the God of Hagar,
the God who sees and the God who hears.

If you have one, trusted, listening friend – you have a great gift.
Take what you learn in these short listening windows
and talk it over,
and maybe pray it over,
with that friend who hears you,
the one who listens.

I think you’ll be amazed at what you hear,
at how you grow,
at what you learn about God’s faithfulness,
and about YOU,
how you’re wired, who you are.

And that kind of listening can change your life. 

Quiet for the Weekend – January 25-27, 2013

This place is good for my soul.

It consists of row after row of large, rather ugly warehouses.
And one of those warehouses has a sliding door that opens
to this . . .

. . . and this.
Brilliant colors, exotic shapes, with just a hint of a tropical paradise somewhere.

Phaelonopsis (butterfly orchid). . .

some of them strange and wonderful indeed,

and some of them as familiar as that corsage you wore to the prom 40 years ago.

Just outside another set of sliding doors is the cymbidium garden,
larger pots, less expensive flowers.
And just over their shoulders are these up-and-comers,
mere shadows of the rows and rows and rows behind doors that don’t slide
all over this very large piece of property.

If your local Trader Joe’s stocks orchids, it is likely that some of them came from
warehouses in Santa Barbara and Goleta.
And all this glory is 15 minutes from my front door.

This is the time of year for orchid shows,
and these are some of the newer looking flowers I saw today.
These busy hybridizers are always creating something new and lovely to enjoy.

Just take a gander at this array of color – bright yellow, ivory, chartreuse, deep red.
Oh, my!
Thank you, Lord, for letting us partner with you
in the creation of lovely things.


“A woman loves orchids, because they make her feel like she’s floating on a cloud of possibility”.
— from the movie, “A Perfect Man”

Joining with Sandy and Deidra and their invitation to slow down and savor.

On Retreat – February, 2009 – Archive-Diving

A remarkably beautiful weekend away with women pastor friends, words and photos I want to save, memories that are precious to me.

Last Friday morning, my husband was kind enough to drive me to the Bob Hope Airport in Burbank on his way to work, so that I could catch a flight to Seattle.

Since the mid-1990s, I have been 1/6th of a group of women pastors ordained in the Evangelical Covenant denomination. Sometimes I wonder what sparks friendship, what bonds people to a commitment to one another. I think we found a certain commonality in our mid-life call to ministry, our shared experiences within the denomination and a rather off-beat sense of the absurd. (As a fine example of that last point, we called ourselves the Ya-Ya Goddesses. Yes, we did.)

About once a year, we tried to gather for a period of retreat – usually about a week long – with days spent in silence and solitude and evenings spent in conversation and community. We searched for someplace beautiful and quiet, some place that would allow us time to savor the goodness of God in the natural world while at the same time enjoying the conveniences of indoor plumbing and cooking facilities. Due to a long list of stresses in all of our lives, it has been almost 5 years since we have attempted to get together and now a weekend opened up for 4 of us and we grabbed it.
I met my friend Nancy in the Seattle airport, picked up a rental car and drove 2 hours north through rush hour traffic to the Stanwood exit, following lovely 2-lane country roads to one friend’s spectacular home and guest apartment on Camano Island.

Oh, my. 
      What a view. 
           What a house. 
                What a welcome. 

Because we have been unable to squeeze out travel time in these last five years, this year’s gathering was filled with catching up, story-sharing, lots of laughter and a few tears here and there – in addition to fabulous food, cooked by Diane and Vicki and cleaned up by Diana and Nancy.

Basically, we had 2 days together rather than our usual 4 or 5, as one whole day on each end was spent in travel. During these years since our last gathering:

     one of us has lost a daughter to breast cancer, 
     one has lost a son-in-law to the after effects of cancer 
               treatment many years ago, 
     one has survived (successfully) a drawn-out lawsuit and 
               built a new home, 
     one has endured terrible disappointment in her job 
               situation and has very recently both remarried and 
               moved from one state to another.

So there was LOTS to talk about.

And talk we did, until fairly late into the evening on Friday and Saturday nights. And on Sunday night? Well, on Sunday night….we ordered pizza by the boxload, enjoyed hot fudge sundaes AND watched the Red Carpet and the Oscars. What more could you ask for?

Diane’s home and apartment mirror each other architecturally and are both lovely to look at and live in. The apartment is dedicated to providing retreat/renewal space for weary pastors – what a glorious gift to offer the church!

When I went back to work on Tuesday, my boss asked me what I had gained ‘spiritually’ while away on retreat with my friends.

At first, I was stymied – this gathering was filled with more talk and less silence than most. But as I thought about his question, I was once again reminded that often very profound things can happen spiritually when you least intend it and seemingly don’t plan for it.

I went away this last weekend in a spirit of openness to whatever God might do with our time together. And it was so good for me to hear something of each of their stories — in order to make better sense — or perhaps to have a better sense — of my own.

For of the six of us, I am the last remaining pastor serving in a local church. Two work in retirement community environments, one teaches, two are ‘retired,’ though both are active in the parish churches they currently attend.

My pastoral role has been a gift to me, to my family and, hopefully, to the churches that I have served. And as I reflected on both the question I was asked and on my time away from the routines of life and work in Santa Barbara, I discovered (or re-discovered) these important truths about myself:
          1. I am a person who needs regular exposure to God’s beautiful creation to function well in ministry and in life.

          2. I am a person who needs some kind of regular interaction with long-time, hold-me-accountable, encourage-my-gifts, listen-to-my-crap friends, friends who know something about me in my local setting but are not a part of that setting.

          3. I am a pastor who is called to serve the Lord in the local church.

          4. I am a pastor who sometimes needs reminding that taking a break, setting a boundary and stepping out of the routine are necessary and important things to do from time to time.

          5. I am a person who, despite being in the throes of long-term, low (and sometimes high)-level-anxiety-and-concern-now-moving-into-grief – I am a person who needs to have some order around her. And that sense of order has just fallen off the cliff during these years of illness and worry in our family.

After seeing the lovely, quiet and restful spaces that Diane has created in her home, I am encouraged and challenged to make such spaces around me in my work environment and in my home office environment. Slowly, slowly, I am going to purge my book collection, get rid of extraneous paper and create workspaces that are conducive to reflection, writing, thinking and prayer.

          6. I am a person who will very likely apply for the next go-round of the Center for Spiritual Direction, offered by our denominational seminary and ministerium. It’s been on the back burner for a number of years, and I think the Spirit is nudging me to move in that direction NOW. (Applications are due March 31.)

So, yes, it appears that some things did happen spiritually during this time away. Thanks be to God – and to really good friends.

Nancy and Diana with Diane
Nancy and Diana with Vicki (Maybe next time, we’ll master that automatic picture-taking thingy.)