iPhone Journaling: Just Write


For years I kept prayer journals, the only kind of journaling I’ve ever really done. I have never enjoyed handwriting, and now increasing joint pain makes it difficult. All the writing how-to books say you have to write longhand to get to the heart of things, however. Clearly, that is not working for me. So, I’ve adapted to technology just a little bit and have occasionally used the microphone system on my iPhone to get my musings written down. This is the most recent of those musings. Joining this with Heather’s JustWrite linky for the first time in months.

I watch them, has they wield their strollers past my car. Young, strong, beautiful. One stroller with two babes inside, maybe nine months separating them in age. Another with a single ten-month old.

They’re smiling at each other, laughing as they push their beautiful burdens up the hill. It’s funny how I don’t remember laughing very much as a mother to very young children. I’m sure I did. My children were delightful, smart, and funny. And much of that time in my life was, indeed, joyful.

But mostly what I remember now is the fatigue. And the doubt.  And all the questions about whether or not I was enough. I don’t remember having very many friends who had babes in strollers at the same time I did. I remember feeling alone, very alone.

We’d been gone for two years, So most of our college friends had moved on, going in other directions. I had one neighbor with young children, but she worked. I remember joining the food co-op, getting a weekly delivery of fruits and vegetables. And out of that group, a babysitting co-op grew, and there I did connect with others who were at the same stage of life.

Maybe that’s why I have a hard time relating to so many of the young moms who write in the blog-o-sphere, those who connect at a heart level with other mothers of children the same ages as their own. That kind of connection was very difficult for me to find, and if found, for a long list of reasons, very hard for me to continue.

What is it about me that resists friendship.? I have a lot of “friends” but how many know my heart? Thankfully, there are some. And at this juncture in my life story, I am finding it easier to connect via the internet than in real life. Why is that?

I’m sitting at the ocean, trying to sort through the mass of mixed feelings going on inside me right now. I carry my mom around with me most of the time. I carry my children, and my grandchildren. I’m looking at some fairly minimal, but still invasive health issues, and I always find that wearying and worrying. I need a Spiritual Director, and I’ve been looking for over a year. Pursued several different avenues, none of which have worked out thus far. Lord, whom shall I see? Who would you have me work with?

Today as I stare at the sea, this is what I see:

The ocean is relentless. It keeps coming. The waves roll, whether small or large, but they roll. The surface today is relatively calm, and the kelp beds are not moving much. Very few waterfowl today, either. I keep looking for pelicans, so far I see none.

I wonder if the dolphins will peek through the water with the tips of their fins; they always bring a sense of hope and a spirit of playfulness to my day. I think I could use a good dose of both right now.

Another day, another doctor’s visit. This one for my mother, she has a nasty bruise on her lower right calf and now, a low-grade fever. So we’ll go back to the doctor – we were just there five days ago, And two days before that. And in between her medical visits, I have my own. It’s funny how these medical events seem to come in seasons.

Make that ‘funny peculiar,’ not ‘funny ha-ha.’ There’s not a lot of ha-ha-ing going on just now. All of it together creates a sort of low-level sense of anxiety, sometimes for days in a row, and I always find that wearing.

I’m grateful for this parking space, and the sound of the waves. Now I see three pelicans, the holy trio winging their way further out to sea. No dolphins yet, but I remain hopeful.

The undulating water somehow centers my spirit, and calms my heart. I can feel my breathing slow down, and my muscles relax. This morning, everything is thick with fog, something I usually dislike intensely. But today, it suits my mood.

There’s something womblike about it, soothing, calming, Like a balm to my wounded self. Henri Nouwen talks a lot about wounded healers, and I believe him. I just don’t much enjoy the wounding part. I wait, with some sense of restlessness, for the emerging part of this process.

To emerge from the woundedness is a good and important thing. On the other side of this season of sadness, I look forward to offering words of hope and healing to others who find themselves where I am now. In the meantime, I will continue to drive down our hill, turn my car around in the middle-of-the-road, and park on the edge of the bluffs. I will roll my window down, push my seat back, and stare out at the sea.

And I will wait. I will wait for the movement of the Spirit, I will wait for the stirrings of hope. I will wait for what comes next.



Foggy Morning: Ruminations & Photographs

I spent Thursday morning at the Goleta Slough last week,
and I spoke into my phone as I sat there.
This is the transcript of that speaking. (Pretty much!)
I’m thinking this was an artist’s playdate of sorts. . . 

Cormorants, beautiful black and sleek, yet they wreak such havoc.
The trees above these birds are sticks now.
Ashen, dead.

I sit, staring.
The tide ebbs and flows, the horizon fades away.
An occasional gull, tern, cormorant, or duck flies by.
I can hear the chatter of children far down the beach.

And the, low  guttural tones of the men who drive these weary motorhomes.
What must it be like to live like this, day after day?
Chatting in the parking lot, slugging back a six pack.
Suddenly a dolphin surfaces very close by.
Oh, have I ever told you how these creatures speak to me of God?
I see he has a companion.
Somehow life is better with a swimming partner.

Summer must truly be here, a lifeguard walks by,
carrying his bright orange rescue pad.

Summer in Santa Barbara is often gray,
as the heat from the central valley of California rises,
it sucks the fog up to the beach along the central coast.
But today, instead of feeling suffocating, this cool, moist blanket is soothing.

My husband is flying to Chicago, once again attending meetings.
He gets so nervous before he travels, and so do I.
Neither one of us likes to travel alone anymore;
I’m not sure we ever did.
We have surely done it often enough,
and once we arrive at our destination, most worries dissipate.
But travel days are hard — and the days leading up to travel days.

47 years is a very long time.
We’ve had adventures, raised children, cared for grandchildren,
moved several times, each dealt with the stresses of our own individual careers.
And we’ve done all of it together, growing up together,
growing into marriage together.
So separation is both good and hard.
It’s good for us to remember that we are separate.
Each of us is an individual, with different gifts and interests,
and those gifts and interests need nourishment,
encouragement, outlet.

Yes, we still need
to do those things which nurture us as people as well as a couple.
But the other reality is this one: everything else in life is better together.

I just saw a plane take off in my rearview mirror, perhaps it was his.
He flies first to San Francisco, then on to Chicago.
Meetings all day tomorrow, half a day Saturday, then home again Saturday night.

I look forward to his return, but I also look forward to some space and time alone.
Taking an hour to sit and stare at the ocean is something
I find more difficult to do when I know my husband is at home.
Why is that, I wonder?

I think I still carry a lot of baggage from my early life.
I still hear the voice of my mother in my head,
the one reminding me to be ever present and careful,
to look out always for my husband’s interests above my own.

I have come around intellectually and on some emotional level to the belief that
each of our interests and gifts are important,
that decisions are made mutually,
that God’s call is unique to each one of us
as well as unique to our marriage relationship.

But I still hear my mother’s anxious questions.
“Does Dick think this is okay?”
“Are you keeping your husband happy?”
And I still remember, clear as a bell,
her words about one of her very best friends,
after her husband betrayed her with a member of his congregation
and left their marriage.
I still remember these words:
“If only she had taken better care of herself.
If only she weren’t so smart.
If only she had kept all that intelligence in check.”

It makes me physically sick to write those words.
Yet this is what my mother believed, and this is what she raised me to believe.
How sad is that?

The cars are starting to pull into the lot now –
it’s a summer day at the beach.
People will be here in droves.

My clue that time is up.
What will this day bring next?

It brought a lot of loveliness and a fair amount of pain, actually. Leisurely shopping for the first time in ages; lunch out, every bite delicious, while reading a favorite author on my Kindle; time at the beach at the other end of town as the sun was setting. Unfortunately, on my walk there, my ‘bad’ knee acted up fiercely, requiring a trip to urgent care the next day. Three x-rays and 1 shot of cortisone later, I am much better. Undoubtedly, this relaxing day helped to move that recovery along.

Joining this with Laura, Michelle, Jen and Ann:

A Book Review: When Mockingbirds Sing by Billy Coffey

So I get this invitation in an email, less than a week before leaving for Europe. It’s from a blogger and author I greatly admire, though we live on opposite sides of the country and probably have wildly different political views. There is something in his writing, in his direct approach, and his honest, soulful face that draws me in. To say nothing of his faith commitment, one that has withstood difficulty and time, one that sings with hope, sometimes despite evidence to the contrary. His name is Billy Coffey.

And Billy said he’d like me to read his new book, to help with Launch Week. I quickly said, ‘yes,’ fussed around a bit getting his publisher to put it into something approaching Kindle format, and loaded it just hours before taking off from LAX.

And there was so much to see in Europe, so much to do. And I wanted to do it all, too. . . and I pretty much did. But over and around and in between, there was this book. This story about a sweet little girl, a shy girl who stuttered. And her mixed up parents who love her but feel defeated about how to help her. And her feisty, loyal new friend in their new town, the town that isn’t quite sure what to do with these folks from ‘Away.’

I loved these people, almost immediately. Loved them, even the pastor who’s just a little bit too full of himself. And I found myself squeezing them into over-crowded days, just to see what was happening next. In between bus tours and museums full of glory from the past, and extravagantly beautiful natural beauty, this story would not let go.

I’m not sure I land on the same page as Leah, that little girl. I’m not sure I’m as . . . what is the word? Deterministic? Maybe that’s it. She believes that every single detail of her little life and the lives of those she loves is planned out way in advance. She believes that because. . . she has an ‘imaginary’ friend she calls the Rainbow Man.  He shimmers with color, he sings when he speaks, and he has sharp edges. He also tells her things before they happen.

That is one dude I want to see someday. And you know what? I think I will.

This much I know: God is bigger than anything we can think or imagine. I also know that God has a tender spot for small, shy, stuttering girls. God has always been a friend of the littlest, the least, the lost. And this book? Well, this book paints that picture in ways that are stunning, funny, sad, thought-provoking, touching and sometimes profound. Leah has a tough row to hoe, and hard things happen in this story. But ultimately, it’s a story of redemption and provision. I will not reveal anymore of the story line because I’d really like it if you read it yourself. And TUESDAY is launch day.

Billy says there will be at least two more stories from this small southern town.

I can hardly wait.

I was given a free advance copy of this book. The opinions I express are entirely my own and I received no other remuneration for this review. Click right here to order your copy. You will not regret it. This man is a storyteller, first, last and always. (Order NOW – the supply is low, but more are on the way.)

Timing Is Everything — Just Write


That’s what they say, right? “Timing is everything.”

Well, if that’s true, I’m feeling about everything’d out just now.

For two years, I’ve been working on this writing thing, posting several times a week, writing comments all over the place, finding a lovely community of friends and comrades on the way. I often wondered why. And then, I remembered . . . God asked me to do it.

Sounds weird, right? Well, it is a little. He asked this about seven years ago. And it took me five to believe it — and then, of course, retirement happened, which actually opened up exactly the kind of time and interior space that I needed to do the work.

So, I’ve been writing. And reading lots and lots of other people’s writing, too. Spending inordinate amounts of time doing all of that, actually, but learning a whole heckuva lot in the process. Like so many out here in cyberland, I struggled with the reality that not many people would ever read what I write, with the increasing pressure from all sides to be about things like ‘platform,’ and ‘SEO,’ and tweeting and creating an author page at Facebook. I worked through those peripheral issues (and for me, they are truly peripheral at this point) and gradually came to peace with writing when I could, saying what seemed good to say, and being grateful for whomever would care to stop by and leave a kind word or ask a question.

Then I got invited to write at another online spot — a magazine I loved. Wow! Cool! And then, I was asked to write for another one that I loved. Amazing! What a surprise! And then there was the Bible study series at another site and then a call for an essay at the place I long dreamed of writing. What? How did this happen? I have no clue.

And during all of this writing time, there has been our poignant and painful journey with my mom, the loss of cognition, the increasing confusion, the slow fading. Then it seemed right to us all that she should move closer to family. So we packed her up, we gathered the family love-team, and we moved her nearby. A lovely gift and a difficult reality, all at the same time.

Spiritual direction fits into this line-up, too. I stepped into training as my pastoral role was winding down, wondering if anyone would ever want to come and sit with a 68-year-old novice at this ministry. And just today, I added number seven to the list. Seven souls to meet with once a month, to listen to their lives, to listen to the Holy Spirit together, to discern where God is moving and prodding and transforming.

And then, of course, there was the completely surprising invitation to step back into work-mode again, doing worship-planning and leading, being an up-front presence for three months, after 2 years away. Also a gift. Also a puzzle to me.

Because ALL OF IT is happening Right.This.Minute.

Excuse me, Lord? Really??

Somehow, I think God is smiling smugly right about now. (Can God be smug?) “See, woman! This is what I made you to do — all of this. And if you open yourself to my grace and power in a new way, you might be surprised at how it all stitches itself together in lovely ways.”

So, I’m prayerfully (and tiredly) looking for the embroidery God is doing in the midst of what sometimes feels like the ragged hem of a garment I cannot quite see, trying to trust that the work being done in me and through me will come together. I’m looking for the silvery sheen of that thread from moment to moment some days, trusting that maybe, just maybe, I’ll catch a glimpse of what the Stitcher is up to.

Quietly joining this with Heather, Laura and Jennifer tonight. . .

Just Write — How Have I Missed This??

I’m not sure how I’ve missed this the last couple of years, but my writing companion from A Deeper Family, Heather King, has a lovely meme each Tuesday called “Just Write.” We are invited to sit and write out whatever is happening, whatever rises to the top. So, here’s what rose tonight:

It’s a gray day here, and a blue night. The fire is crackling in the corner — a gift of love from my husband every winter’s night.

And I am feeling the ache, the physical weariness of lifting, toting, sorting, sifting. And the emotional ache, too.

The frightened look on mom’s face when I got there on Friday morning. Confusion reigns in Mom’s world during times of stress. My brother noted that she was much like my dad was eleven years ago, when we moved them to that retirement community, the one we were moving her away from on Saturday. The one dad never wanted to go to, the one we hoped would bring my mom some respite from the never-ending care he needed back then.

But that rest never came. She did it all, finally hiring a strange little man to stay with dad for two hours once a week so she could grocery shop. And breathe.

She never really recovered from all of that. The exhaustion, the grief, the missing him.

And then, she began to lose her sight. And then my youngest brother died.

Now, I can see in her face, hear in her words, intuit from her body language — now she is the lost one, the one sunk beneath anxiety with a capital “A,” the one who can’t remember what you told her two minutes ago, the one who wants so badly to do it right, to understand, to ‘get it’ . . . but she cannot.

So tonight, I am in recuperation mode, remembering her silence on the long ride up here, hearing still the strangled question: “Have we been this way before?”

Yes, Mom. We’ve been this way many times. Many. But this may well be the last time, sweetheart.

Yes, it may well be.


Beginning Again – 2009 – Archive-Diving

This post marked my re-entry into the blogging world after a break and I want to salvage it to remind myself to be careful with what I share here.

For anyone who might possibly be reading this blog, you have probably noted that there is a long gap between entries at one point – from June of 2007 until early January of this year. There’s a reason for that, and that reason is deeply entwined with the very nature of public blogging sites.

I learned, in a very painful way, that whatever I write in this space needs to be as free from reference to other people as possible, even when those others have a dynamic impact on my own life. I learned this particular lesson the hard way by unintentionally causing pain to people I care about a great deal, so I am trying to be much more circumspect with what I write, keeping things as personal and ego-centric as possible, mentioning others only rather peripherally and with great care.

That’s hard for me. Because writing has become my primary means of processing a whole lot of what happens in my life.

With words, I can wrestle and muse and ponder and rage.
With words, I can sing and shout and praise.
With words, I can think more clearly, find answers more readily, be more comfortable with the times that answers don’t come.
With words, I can more easily locate the center – of a problem or a puzzle or an indescribable joy. Words.

But I also love pictures, photos, actually.

Taking them, studying them, pondering them as I remember where I’ve been and where I’m going. Last December, I very tentatively began to open this site again. At that time, I tried to post some newly shot photos, taken at the beach that has become my refuge, my home-away-from-home, my centering place, my reminder that the universe is an immense place, that my worries and fears – overwhelming as they are at times – are so tiny in the grand scale of God’s creative genius and love.

But it had been a long time since posting anything and I forgot how to get those photos into the essays – in fact was stunned to see them show up as computer geek language rather than actual pictures, at least on the draft page. But now, some two months later, I’ve finally figured out that that strange language on one page of the blog magically transforms into pictures on the actual site – who knew??

So, I’ll try and post those beachside photos from last fall here, toward the end of winter, as I joyfully and gratefully approach the beginning of longer light each day. Hooray for daylight savings time! (A couple of these have appeared in posts between the first attempt at this one and today’s second attempt.)

This is where I most often park my car – to be quiet for a few minutes or to eat my lunch or to read or…

It’s at Butterfly Beach, 5 minutes straight down the hill from our home, across the street from the stately and beautiful old Biltmore Hotel. This view is looking south and to the east. (That’s right, we have south-facing beaches on our funny peninsula here in Santa Barbara.)

This view is still looking south, but more directly to the west – where, as the two photos below will attest, you can actually see a sunset during the winter months.

Looking in the same general direction as the daytime photo above.

Close-up of a beautifully striped sky.

Word Candy. . . Some Sweetness and Light

There’s a wonderful new app out there that allows you to pick from a wide variety of fabulous, short quotes and then set that quote against either a photo (all of which are way cool) or a colored background. You can do amazing things with these Word Candies:

     …post them on your wall at Facebook
     …send them in an email to a friend or two. . . or three
     …tweet them to a friend (or several)
     …put them up on your blog
     …use them as a springboard for a poem or a post
     …cheer yourself up on a blue day. 

This one pretty much summarizes why I blog at all — no one else can tell my stories. And no one else can tell yours, either — only YOU.

You can get there by clicking on this line. You sign in using Facebook or Twitter and then – let the fun begin!

31 Days in which I Am Saved by Beauty – Day 15

So there are some days in which
beauty takes you by surprise.
I had a doctor’s appointment today –
not usually something that comes
even remotely close to being beautiful.
But for just a moment,
I spotted it.
“You look really good today,”
the cardiologist told me
when I went in to see him 
for follow-up to a change
in blood pressure meds.
“Your numbers are exceptional. 
I’ll see you in a year.”
That was a spot of unexpected 
beautiful news. 

And I had about one hour
after that appointment,
and before my next one.
I chose to spend it
in my second ‘office,’
reading through a couple of days
in a new devotional guide,
recommended by my friend, Nancy Franson,
and prayerfully pondering future writing
themes and projects.
This is “my” spot on the bluffs, overlooking Butterfly Beach.
From the front of my traveling office space,
this is the view.
Shifting just slightly to my right,
brings in this one, which is a little bit less dramatic.
And this is the view to the rear of my work space.
Not too shabby.
We have been blessed to see some of the most beautiful
coastlines in the world –
the Garden Route in South Africa,
the Amalfi Coast in Italy,
the Italian Riviera,
the north Atlantic seaboard,
from Connecticut all the way up to Nova Scotia,
the Caribbean shores of St. Thomas and Mexico,
the Pacific coast of Costa Rica and Baja,
and the entire Pacific Coast of North America,
as far as Alaska and the Yukon.
And this right here?
This is at the top of the list. 

And I can drive here in five – count them FIVE – minutes.
Thank you, Lord. 

I will admit this about being surrounded by such beauty –
I can easily be distracted.
Take today, for example.
This was a day for boats,
a subject about which I know very little indeed.
though I doubt these photos will give her enough
info to identify what type of boats
I was watching today.
This one was very purposeful,
heading toward waters down
the coast. (You’ll note that I did not say
heading south down the coast. That is because
our funny peninsula here faces south
rather than west, so it gets a little weird
if you say you’re heading ‘south.’)

This tiny guy, however, was content to just drift a bit,
taking in the sights,
enjoying the beauty of a suddenly balmy day
after a tender taste of real fall weather late last week.

 Then a bit bigger boat came into my sight line,
looking sleek and intentional.
Again, he was heading down the coast.

Suddenly, the meandering mellow guy
began to rev up the engine, 
and before I knew it,
I had an interesting shot –
the islands in the distance,
the oil derricks in silhouette,
and two ships, passing in the daylight.

And just before it was time to move my office
to a parking spot in front of a favorite restaurant
(yes, lunch with a friend is an appointment, right?),
one final flourish from a small craft heading up the coast.
Perhaps this was the first guy heading home?
Perhaps this was boat number 4 in 40 minutes?
Perhaps it was time for me to put the camera DOWN,
and write a bit? 

I did grab a few ideas here and there,
and quite possibly some of those will 
show up here or at 
A Deeper Story/Deeper Family/Deeper Church.
Who knows?
All I know for sure is this:
today’s office visit(s)
were rich with reminder
that I am – truly – 
being saved by beauty as I walk through each day.
O Lord, may I have eyes to see!

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

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?
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.


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.

The Talisman: a Writing Prompt

I am a person who wrestles hard with major transitions in life.
I never want to move too quickly, to make big changes
in the routines and patterns I am used to
without a lot of thought, prayer, and discussion
with trusted friends and family.
I surprised myself when our senior pastor was hired in 2005,
midway through my time as associate pastor.
I thought I would retire; that had been the plan.
But then . . . he came, with his high energy,
and his working style that was so different from anything
I’d ever experienced before,
and he knew so much about the liturgical calendar,
and, and, and. . . 
I realized I could learn a lot from this man,
things I hadn’t done, in ways I hadn’t done them,
so I decided (and he graciously agreed)
that retirement would go on hold for a while.
 By July of 2009, it was becoming increasingly clear 
to me that my time as a member of a church staff 
was coming to and end. 
What, I wondered, comes next?
Who am I without this title, 
this role, 
this connection to the 
community of faith 
I’ve worked alongside all these years?

So, I took a leap of faith – gasp! –
and enrolled in a post-graduate learning
experience, this one in Chicago,
to see if spiritual direction might be what the Lord
was moving me toward in this last stretch of life.
I flew to Chicago for a very intense week.
A good week, a rich week, an exhausting week – 
“Like trying to drink from a fire hose,” 
is how I described it to my friends.
And at the very beginning of that week,
we spent a day on retreat, in silence,
with periodic worship times spaced 
throughout the day.
I took a walk around the grounds of that retreat center,
discovering a small gift shop with jewelry for sale.
Almost immediately, I spied this Jerusalem cross 

(second from left above) and snatched it up. 

Somehow that small, silver ornament became a

picture of God’s promised presence amidst all the
things that were shifting in my life.
I wore it daily for the rest of that year.
It became a sort of touchstone,
a reminder that I was not alone as I
navigated the changing scene before me.

And I began adding other symbolic pieces to the chain.
The small bee, which says, “just be,” on the reverse
and the beautiful spreading tree,
with, “free spirit,” on the back.
Both of these, plus the charm with my first initial,
reminded me – as I caught sight of them 
in the mirror or fingered them while
reading or praying – 
that my deepest need is for stillness,
for practicing the presence of God,
for sitting in the silence, 
in the Mystery.

About a year later, six weeks after my retirement
became official, my husband and I took a 
lovely trip to Hawaii,
a place of my heart for the last 32 years.
So I added the heart with the palm tree on it. 

That summer,

after being too ill the previous year to continue
the program in Chicago with my own denomination,
I stepped into training with the
Such a gift. 

So the last piece added was the medal
of St. Benedict.

Taken all together,
this set of charms,
of talismen,
speak to me of who I am becoming,
of where I am finding space and gift and grace now,
without the title,
without the role,
but with a life. 
A rich, wonderful, Spirit-graced life. 

During the hardest months of

this time of change – from about October of 2010
through May of 2011 – I took it off only to shower.
Somehow, the weight of it called to mind
the immensity of this time in my life,
this move from active ministry
to a more quiet and quotidian way of doing life. 

Gradually, this way of living became the new normal,

and as it did, the necklace sat on the counter more and more often.
I still love to look at it. 

And I still tend to wear it when I’m 
feeling uncertain or anxious.
I wore it every day during my

last two weeks in community with the Benedictines
in July and August. 

And I’ll likely wear it every day that I’m on 
retreat at Laity Lodge.
But I don’t wear it to bed anymore.

I don’t wear it every day or even every week. 

Because I’m here.

I’ve settled – as much as it is possible for
a person of my personality to settle anywhere!
And I am grateful,
so, so grateful for what I’m learning,
what I’ve been invited to do,
how God is working through me
and in me and around me
even here, even now.

I’m glad I took that particular route as I walked around 
the grounds of that retreat center in 2009.
And I’m glad to have this tangible reminder
of God’s faithfulness in the midst of major life changes.
It’s just a necklace.
But it’s also a story, an Ebenezer of sorts,
a marker of how the LORD has been here,

right through the shifting sands of change.
I look at it and say,
“Thus far, the Lord has helped me.” 
And I say, “Thank you. Thank you.”

My thanks to Amber Haines and her new writing prompt each week. The word this week was ‘necklace.’ I cannot write in poetic majesty as she does, but I very much enjoyed thinking about this one. So, thanks, Amber. You can click on this sentence to find her beautiful reflection and to find links to others who have taken up her challenge.
I will also link this to Jennifer’s, Emily’s, Duane’s, and Ann’s gatherings tonight.