Saturday, December 12, 2009

Up In the Night

Nearly always when I pray with individuals or families, groups, colleagues, I pray that we will sense God's presence. Whether in worship or going about one's daily rounds,sensing that one is not alone, but accompanied, feels important to me, and, I sense, to those with whom I pray.

I'm up in the night tonight, praying for and thinking hard about those with whom I had close contact today. I'm aware that the day didn't bring miracles or even peace, and that they and/or their loved ones may also be awake this night, anxious and fearful.
Affirming that God is present and experiencing it are two different things.
Still, it's a heartfelt prayer, that we will sense God's abiding presence, and it's a prayer for all who watch or weep this night.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Fragile Time

It's been a busy morning of pastoral care and pastoral visits.

Three hospital visits and one nursing home visit later, and I'm keenly, keenly aware that many people are fighters (in the resilient, look-life-straight-in-the eye sense) and that still and yet, life is fragile and changes in a heartbeat.

We make plans... and a lab report can rearrange everything.
We have an agenda...a schedule... and a pulse rate, a fainting spell, a suspicious blood pressure reading can set that agenda on its ear.

It's been a morning and afternoon of good, intentional conversation about what matters most to folk. Some of the news is good; some of the news is hard; all of the news reminds me of this quote by Jon Kabat-Zinn:
Perhaps it is time for us to own the name we have given ourselves as a species, Homo sapiens sapiens--the species that knows and knows that it knows to own our own setience and literally and metaphorically come to our senses while there is still time.

Life is fragile. Time is fleeting. God is present.

Photo from here.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Want To/Have To

I'm working on an e-course by Lisa Gates of Craving Balance called Fifty Two Times Two. I'll be creating a good practice of addressing two goals per week, which should lead to some pretty amazing results.

The process of selecting goals to address has left me thinking about "want tos" as opposed to "have tos" in our lives. I'm great at addressing "have to" items, but not so great at making time for myself. I'm guessing that I'm not alone in this...

To what extent is postponing personal goals in favor of the needs of others gender-based? How much is it informed by a good ol' Protestant work ethic and self-deprecation?

What informs your goal-setting and how well do you achieve your goals?
Inquiring minds want to know...

Balanced Stone image found here.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Keeping it Simple-Friday Five

Sally asks us to list five things you won't be doing to prepare for Christmas.

We won't be doing outdoor decorations, except for a wreath on the front door.
We won't be having any out-of-town family with us for Christmas this year.
We won't be having an open house for the congregation because we did so in November.
We won't be sending as many Christmas cards this year.
We won't be making those little quick breads for last-minute gifts.

Oooh....we sound like Grinches. I hope we're going to be asked what we will be doing....

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Another perspective

I live right down the road from an order of the Congregation of St. Joseph. They are persitent advocates for peace and justice and have a ministry of the arts that is inspiring. This comes from their most recent newsletter:

The mention of Advent always stirs thoughts of waiting. . .
waiting for Christmas.
We Theologians always speak of reflecting on the three ways of Christ's coming: in history in Bethlehem,
in the daily events of our lives, and the second coming in the future.

I've been thinking that we've got it all wrong. We need not wait for God. God is always present, always with us. That's what the name Emmanuel means: God-with-us. And, that's the primary truth we hear in the Scriptures. God created us, and calls us into relationship. God is indeed present with us, and especially in the person of Jesus the Christ.

No, this Advent, I've come to see that it's GOD who waits for US. . .

. . .waits for us to notice that we are indeed created by God.
We are born with unique gifts and qualities
as well as deficiencies and lack of qualities.
God only sees our goodness, and waits for us to notice too.

. . .waits for us to notice the myriad ways
in which God is with us, always.
We know the Creator in the beauty and amazing capacities of creation, both earth and human. We know the Creator when we experience love. We know the Creator when we can not explain or understand mystery.

. . .waits for us to notice when we observe people acting in the image of God: in covenant with one another, both those known and unknown, both those alike and those very different.

. . .waits for us to notice the emptiness in our hearts
that can only be filled by God's own Self.

. . .in the season of Advent, as Christmas approaches, God waits for us to notice the wonder and innocence of little children. How God must long for us grownups to be more like them, without guile.

It is true that in Advent we wait; but really, it is God who waits for us.
May we savor and revel in that reality.

Sallie Latkovich, CSJ

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Anybody home?

FBC got home last night. She brought two darling friends and the laughter and easy fun began immediately.

SBC is one busy athlete, doing impressive things as a second year wrestler. I'm not crazy about watching wrestling, but it does provide some great knitting time when I can't bear to watch.

DH seems to have recovered from a bout with a flu of undisclosed variety.

Blogging seems to have taken a way back seat to work, Thanksgiving planning, tweeting and more. I'm working on a little thing for National Novel Writing Month, and am trying to exercise more. So many practices, so little time...

Happy Thanksgiving to you. I'm grateful for my blogging friends, even though I'm consistently inconsistent in my practice.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Noro Silk Garden and Worship Alive

I've found wonderful yarn to make a scarf to give as a gift this winter. It's a treat to work with and is creating a lovely stripe that's very pleasing.

I'm grateful to have this project to work on as I sit indoors on this blissfully beautiful fall afternoon. Our congregation co-sponsors a series of workshops on fostering creativity in worship. This afternoon, Mark Miller from Drew Theological School in New Jersey is our guest.

Should be a nice, productive afternoon.

Friday, November 6, 2009


SBC was part of a benefit concert last night for this group. It was a great evening of music for a great cause. I was so proud of his poise and commitment and my mama's heart was delighted to hear him sing and play songs I'd never heard him perform before.

Unfortunately, I feel too weary to blog.

I am so tired of energy-sapping stuff at work, in the world, in life.

I'm way out of kilter. As wonderful as last night's event was, it's not enough of an offset for all of the yuckiness and the pervasive feeling in my gut that keeps me stuck in sadness. Breaks from sadness are nice, but it's so hard to keep returning to a place that is furnished with loneliness and joylessness.

Time for something different, but I don't know what that might be.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Traveling Mercies

It's been a full, busy week here. The congregation I serve has a new partnership with a sister congregation in Cuba and their pastor is here visiting for a week. She is a delight--a second career pastor who had previously been a veterinarian (waving at Purple!)and is doing a great job of working on her English while she's here. She is warm and animated and we've had a wonderful time getting to know her. We've had a steady stream of meetings and visits and it's been a truly fun week and has prompted us to think in new ways about our parntership and how wonderful it would be to send another group to Cuba before too long. We had a pair of people visit a year ago..She'll be preaching on Sunday while my gang heads to Ohio for Family Weekend. She leaves on Monday for Atlanta and Miami before returning to Cuba.

I am particularly excited about this weekend because my in-laws will be joining us for the fun. DH's parents are the best--we used to live just blocks from them for 7 1/2 years (what a gift of time that was!) and my mother-in-law became one of my best friends. We haven't seen them since Christmas for more than a day, so this will be a nice treat. I know that FBC is looking forward to showing off her dry-witted grandfather and sprite of a grandma to her pals.

I have books to read in the car and a strong desire to visit here and here and here while we're there. Additionally, we'll be attending this and this and this.

Can't wait!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Blog Action Day

The Climate Project offers presenters for groups and great ideas for sharing the urgent message that our planet is in peril.

The Regeneration Project is a great resource for green products for faith communities and their members.
The resources page contains particularly useful materials for faith leaders.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


I am most blessed to have such a fine cadre of blogging friends who check in and care and offer prayers and send virtual hugs. Thank you so much.

Monday turned out to be a very quiet day. I spent some time at home and some time at the public library. Tea played a prominent role in the afternoon.

I'm reading a number of books for fun and with an eye toward some of our study groups:

The Faith Club makes a great contribution to interfaith dialogue and would be especially interesting to read with an interfaith group. A Thousand Splendid Suns is a very compelling story, and An Altar in the World is another book worth discussing with others. I'm getting read to read Acts of Faith. I think Eboo Patel and Interfaith Youth Core make an enormous contribution to interfaith understanding.

logo is from Interfaith Maine

Monday, October 12, 2009


I try hard to take Mondays off.

On this cold, crisp Monday morning, I'm going to take my usual walk, do several loads of laundry, read, write and knit. It will be a relaxed day, hopefully, and the time will go by quickly.

Positioned for gratitude, I'm going to be open to pleasant conversation, intriguing reading, birdsong, hot beverages.

Anything to move out past the lonely, quiet house and a heart that still mourns other losses in addition to a good, good dog.

Friday, October 9, 2009

This Too Shall Pass

It's rainy and overcast and cold here again today in Chicago and my spirits are much the same....dreary and overcast. I officiated at a wedding this afternoon and had my game face on, but it was hard work. Tomorrow's memorial service will provide a similar kind of challenge.

No need to respond.
Just a quick post from the Slough of Despond.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

A dreary day, a dreary post

It's a little tough to be gentle with oneself when the next twelve weeks are ridiculously full. The fall financial campaign for the coming year is in full swing, a significant shortfall in this year's giving has created stress for weeks now, a major church celebration is brewing in November, high holy days are on the horizon. A full, full church program schedule and a ton of pastoral care all lead me to wonder if I'll ever get any time to myself for the rest of the year. It would probably be therapeutic, but doubtful. Sometimes I wonder if this is the life I would create for myself if I felt as if I had any say at all.

I told someone that, right now, I feel like a poorly constructed paper towel...neither strong nor absorbent. Everything makes me tear up-- planning adult education, thinking about meetings, meetings, meetings, meetings, meetings. I'm very adept at crying.

Tuesday was sort of a perfect storm of events-- realizing that Chase was too tired and sick to go on and having to drive FBC back to school and being the Queen of Hormones (too much information?) have left me weary and rather shredded. FBC loves school, is happy, healthy, doing well. I give thanks. But it's still hard to drive for 6.5 hours in one direction, drop her off and head for home. She's so fun to have around and provides a lovely change of pace from the endless conversations about sports that frame DH and SBC's dinner table conversations. No daughter at home. No dog, either.

Upon returning from Ohio yesterday afternoon, I was confronted with how different our daily routine is. No big dog to greet us at the door. No walks with lots of stops for sniffing trees and lawns. No jingly dog collar creating a good sound in the house. No need to prepare special food, or any dog food, for that matter. We have fifteen extra minutes in the morning.

I'd give up that extra time in a heartbeat.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Good Dog Chase

We are dog people. DH and I have had dogs all our lives.

Chase was our 13 year old golden retriever.
We adopted him as an eight week old puppy when our children were seven and three. He was a very spirited pup and an active dog for nearly all of his adult life. He was a big guy; nearly eighty pounds at his biggest, and he was spry and loving. He was good at chewing and playing tug, caught tennis balls and Frisbees like a pro, and was especially adept at forcing his big head under an unsuspecting hand or arm to demand petting.

For the past six weeks, Chase had been struggling. First he was off his feed, then we started noticing slowness and muscle weakness. The vet became a regular contact. He had lost a significant amount of weight. DH and I prepared his food from scratch for the past month-- rice and boiled chicken, ground beef and pasta, anything to get him to eat. He seemed to rally just a bit, but only for a week or so.

This past weekend FBC was home for fall break, and Chase seemed to grow worse daily. He stopped eating anything significant on Friday.
FBC stuck close by him, trying to feed him by hand, and resting on the floor next to him, petting him and even praying with him. It was a beautiful laying on of hands.

By Sunday, Chase needed help up and down the stairs. On Monday, he had some trouble walking back to the house after a short walk outside. Yesterday morning, he could not support his own weight. Tearfully, FBC and I had to leave in order to take her back to Ohio to college. DH and our good friend took Chase to the vet for his last visit. Now we are mourning the loss of a family member, smelly and sweet and so, so loving.

We miss him so much. He was such a good dog.

This is not Chase, but someone who looks a lot like him.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Friday Five- Holy Thoughts

Sally, having had a remarkable experience, invites us to ponder these questions:

1. A place that holds a special memory?
I love the beach, and spent summers growing up here. DH and I spent the first three years of marriage living and serving in a beautiful place. As a baby, SBC took his first steps here. The sound of the ocean and the feel of sand in between one's toes is evocative for me.

2. A song that seems to usher you into the Holy of Holies?
Et Misericordia from Rutter's Magnificat. Does it every time. Here's a link.
3.A book/ poem/ prayer that says what you cannot?
The invitation to communion in rite A of the Wee Worship Book published by Wild Goose. If it's not familiar, here's a link, and you can find it if you scroll about halfway down.
4. How do you remind yourself of these things at times when God seems far away?
Music, walks in nature, quiet time,reading, and I keep a file of notes and letters and anecdotal things that speak to nearness when it's hard to feel or describe.

5.Post a picture/ poem or song that speaks of where you are right now in your relationship with God...

Blue Rose picture from here.

Thursday, October 1, 2009


Despite the sad lyrics meshed with a boppy tune, Bette Midler was right; you've got to have friends.

I'm grateful to those who shore me up when the emptiness I feel is not so comfortable. I'm grateful for my family, for although I'm such a goofy work-in-progress, they refrain from banishing me to some dark corner. I'm grateful for amazing work colleagues who are authentic and trustworthy and care deeply. I am grateful. Empty feeling, but still quite aware of all that is of good report.

Fall break begins tomorrow afternoon for FBC; she'll be home before midnight and we'll have four whole days with her. I think I speak for many when I say that she's sunlight. Can't wait!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Thinking Out Loud

So many of my friends are grieving losses, are anxious about life and work, are struggling with work-life balance, feel victimized by the world around them.

I feel at a loss, because words seem so inadequate. I visit, I call, I stop by, I e-mail, I write good, old fashioned notes, take casseroles, and listen, listen, listen. I wonder if people expect more. Sometimes I sense that they want answers. What is God up to? Where is God? Is God? I don't have answers that feel right. I believe, but I also know about feeling very far-removed from God. Sometimes I sense anger directed toward me because I can readily affirm that life is messy, and sometimes that is all. Words seem

And I feel like a empty-handed crafter, a inarticulate spokesperson.

Empty vessel from here.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Passwords with meaning

For some reason, my computer demanded a newer, stronger password. Because I've long used a memorable (to me) password that has no real meaning, I decided to select a memorable (to me) and meaningful password. I've been using it for about a week, and it's becoming a bit of a a practice or discipline.
Now, instead of typing some random letters and numbers, I type myself a recurring message that invites mindfulness and stress release.

And think of the possibilities! If I wanted to, I could reinforce all kinds of things with passwords such as:


or the mantra I'm repeating to myself when I or others utter words that really don't help achieve world peace:


Monday, September 21, 2009

Taking the Time

A new program year in the church brings with it all kinds of challenges. Yesterday, these were mine: how to entice new participants to give Sunday School or Adult Education a try; trying to fit in lunch when the day is already full with teaching, preaching, pastoral care and attending important events like our chancel choir director's marvelous two piano program and a wiffle ball event sponsored by our parents of young children's group; taking time for worship myself.

Nestled in the day for me yesterday were two gems: our morning edition kick-off was a readers' theatre production of Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury and a showing of the award-winning 2007 film Silent Light. In each, we were offered the opportunity to slow our pace, to reflect upon minute details, to see the world from the perspective of someone very different, and not unlike ourselves at all.

Whether watching eight amateur actors adopt the beautiful words of Ray Bradbury as he reflects upon his childhood in the summer of 1928, or watching first-time actors in the compelling film about a Mennonite man in north Mexico and his tormented life, both offered the chance to be still, to be observant, and to be mindful. I left each so thankful for the blessed opportunity to pause, (for every day is busy and packed), and to recall the essence of beauty, the power of redemption, and the complex nature of very simple things. It was worth all of the rushing around yesterday to take the time to slow down-- twice! And from the feedback, it sounds like others who attended one or the other or both agreed.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Up and Down the Staircase- a Friday Five

My friend Jan reminds us of a classic A.A. Milne poem, which I've loved forever and asks:

"Thinking of your childhood as a stairway, when did you feel (and how did you feel then)

1. at the bottom?

2. at the top?

3. halfway?

4. At this point in your life, where would you place yourself on your own stairway?

5. Identify a place for you that "isn't really anywhere" but 'somewhere else instead.'"

This morning I dressed for work and put on one of my mother's rings and her gold charm bracelet, which is jingling even as I type. Since her death in April of 2008, I've worn some piece of her jewelry nearly ever day. It's a connection with her that means a lot to me. FBC does the same, and that makes me smile. My mother and my daughter play a big part in where I place myself on my stairway.

As an only child who grew up in the same household with my mother, my grandmother and my aunt, I was treasured and nurtured in ways that have served me well all my life. I grew up in this old Victorian home, which became the model for this. It has a huge staircase that was great fun to bounce down, stair by stair, as a small child. I felt like a top-of-the staircase kid, dearly loved and cherished, surrounded by affirmation and the mantra that I could be anything I wanted to be. The women in my life were all successful in their careers, and I grew up knowing that families may not all look the same, and that what was most important was love. I can't ever remember feeling as though I was at the bottom of the stairs as a child. I do remember leaving for college at a time when my mother had remarried, my grandmother was growing older and less healthy, and my aunt had physical and emotional challenges and certainly feeling as though I was halfway--neither up nor down--- and exhilarated to be heading of to college, happy for my mother, and worried about my grandmother and aunt.

These days, I'd say I'm still in the middle of the stairway, but happily so. I'm happy, fulfilled in my work, my family is in a great place, and I'm treating this year as an opportunity to take good care of myself, form new goals for my personal and vocational life. I still miss my mother every day, but there is much in life that is blooming and growing and it's a joy to bear witness and to participate in creative ventures with delightful people, including FBC, SBC and DH, colleagues and friends at the church I serve, and family and friends far and wide.

As for a place that "isn't really anywhere" but 'somewhere else instead,'" I'd choose my daily time of meditation. I'm really, really enjoying taking a class on meditation and discovering a very helpful practice!

Staircase is in the Braemer house, Edinburgh, Scotland.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Easy come, easy go

These are busy days, and they're fraught with angry voices.

A friend talked with me today about her call process, noting that her presbytery of care had written all candidates a note saying, in effect, "Times are tough. Are you sure you want to be a minister? Have you thought about other possibilities?"


The health care reform debate seems to be granting people permission to be rude and uncivilized in their conduct. What are we modeling, as adults, when we name-call, accuse, form an opinion before allowing another to speak, are hostile and unbending?

One friend calls it a culture of discouragement. Another writes of a climate of incivility.

Surely the church can play a role in offering a different voice, a different climate a stance that befriends the weak and helpless, that tries out grace and finds it to be a roomy path.


Flikr photo

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


I'm back from a wonderful long weekend away with my family, completely refreshed by the pleasure of their company, lovely weather and a relaxed pace.
Now, as we start a new school year, a new program year at the church, I am grateful for renewed energy. A friend at a women's luncheon read a Sarah Ben Breathnach quote about September resolutions and about how sensible they are. She writes elsewhere that "Gratitude is the heart's memory."

I have been mired in grief for so long. I know others who are, and healing takes a lot of time. I am, however, finding it so helpful to pray and I see all sorts of good things springing from prayer and keeping track of that for which I am grateful.

I am grateful for much. I have wonderful, healthy children who are thriving. I have a supportive and loving spouse who has meaningful work. I serve a wonderful community of faith and have remarkable colleagues. I am grateful to have the opportunity to befriend myself, and I am grateful to Jon Kabat-Zinn for that phrase.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Long Weekend Celebration

DH and FBC have birthdays this week. We're celebrating those and the long Labor Day weekend by resting from our labors (we're so glad that we have labor from which to rest!!) and from school work (SBC has had a very impressive first two weeks of 10th grade) by heading to see these folks (and our girl) at their first home football game (FBC is one of the marching band managers):

Have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

An important read

I think this post by Brian McLaren is a timely and important read.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Friday Five: Affirmations

Singing Owl at RevGalBlogPals writes:

Lately I seem to be encountering many people who have a very difficult time finding anything good to say about themselves. They are able to extend grace and forgiveness to others but find it difficult to extend that same grace to themselves.
With that in mind, let's share some healthy affirmation today! Tell us five things you like about yourself!

1.I'm a good listener.

2.I'm a quick study.

3.I'm emotionally flexible. (Physically, not so much.)

4.I am good mediator.

5.I make a fine cup of tea.

Images from here,here,here,here,here, and here.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Friday Five: The Rules

Jan offers today's thought-provoking Friday Five on rules and expectations. As a parent raising teenagers, I'm reminded on a daily basis of the norms, spoken and unspoken, of family/communal life.

Here are her questions and my thoughts:

" about writing about rules in your families and workplaces? Choose one or more for each category, especially if one seems odd or funny to you now."

1. Formal rules in family of origin
I grew up in a family full of women. My mother, aunt and grandmother raised me. We made lots of mistakes, certainly enabled some less than desirable behaviors, but mostly lived by the rules "Don't let the sun go down on your anger" and "Love makes room" and...
Put your napkin in your lap.

2. Unwritten and unspoken rules in family of origin
Don't be passive-aggressive. It's unattractive and unloving.
Call before you visit.

3. Formal rules in current family or workplace
Come have fun at the February staff Christmas party. (We work for the Church. Who has time for a Christmas party in December? Or January, for that matter?)

4. Unwritten rules in current family or workplace
In my workplace, all of our office doors are open, unless we're in a private meeting. Either way, always knock and pause before entering an office.

5. When was a time that you became aware of different rules in different places/families than your own?
The family into which I married lives by drop-in visits. That was new to me.
I learned to like it... (kind of...)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Responsibility vs. Blame

A number of women authors keep me honest about work-life balance--- or a phrase I prefer: work-life harmony-- and I am grateful for their sensitive, warm and humorous observations.

I've already written about my admiration for Patti Digh. I enjoy Jennifer Louden's writing and Victoria Moran's as well.

For about a month now, I've been attending to nutrition and exercise diligently and with good results, some behavioral and some physical. I'm losing weight like crazy, I'm working on the Couch to 5k program, and best of all, I feel so much more sane. I am happier, have more energy,and am far less prone to mood swings.

In one section of Moran's book, Fit From Within, she writes of the importance of taking responsibility rather than placing blame and the profound difference between saying, "I take responsibility for my life" versus "It's all my fault." I'm thinking a lot about those words as I consider my own habits, newly forming and reshaping, as well as the difference blame and responsibility have for our society and our world. At home, at work, in our communities of faith, in our interfaith conversations, in the political realm...oh, such a difference between responsibility and blame.

It's food for thought...and prayer...and dialogue.

Great graphic from here.

Friday, July 31, 2009

The Last Day of July

Summer feels like it's galloping by. Our kids are busy (work and mission trip), a giant three day concert comes to town in two weeks and they are psyched, and then it will be time for FBC to head back to college. DH completes his first full week of work (again, we give thanks)and I have a wedding for a delightful couple tonight.

I've read some terrific books lately: Autumn Gospel and Winter Grace by Kathleen Fischer and Sin Boldly by Cathleen Falsani have all made me think. I could not put down The New Jew by Sally Srok Friedes, her memoir of converting from Catholicism to Judaism. Right now I'm reading purely for fun: The Wildwater Walking Club, Home Safe, and Prayers for Sale. I'm hoping for some quality time this weekend to sit outside and read.

Hope you have some dog days of summer time on your calendar, too.

Image found here.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Feels Like New Year's

Today's an exquisitely beautiful day here in Chicagoland. It's sunny, warm and the sky is cloudless. DH is at his first day of his new work, FBC is at her job, SBC is on day 2.5 of his first mission trip. He and sixteen others from the church I serve are in Eastern Kentucky with Appalachia Service Project.

Today is the first Monday I've had off in quite some time. I began it early, by taking DH to the train. "You seem really excited about this," he said, and I realized I was. I grew up in a suburb of New york City and commuting on the train was a really big part of my family's life. I remember the fun of waiting for my family members to return home on the train, signaling the beginning of evening and family fun. Less romantically, I'm pleased that the new job brings some stress relief without an hour-long drive each way. When DH is in the city, it's a quick, twenty minute train ride and a short bus ride, or a longer walk, from Union Station to his new office on Michigan Avenue.

Today feels like a fresh, new start. It's so nice to having DH off pursuing meaningful work again. It's so nice knowing that our kids are off doing meaningful things as well. Today has been a good day for life-work balance, for sitting quietly, for taking a good thirty minute walk and reveling in some new itunes, for having time to plan a delicious dinner for the family when all return.

And I'm going to meet a 6:04 p.m. train...

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Happiness and Relief

It is such a happy thing to be able to write this:
DH is newly employed!
We know that there are folks who've endured a job search for much longer than six months and continue to struggle in this struggling economy. We know that there are folks who've had both family members unemployed at the same time. We have been very fortunate to have an income, a home to live in, and a supportive community as he has searched.

We're happy that it's a job he will enjoy and to which he feels called and will keep us in the same community.
We're thankful that we can begin again to be responsible parents as we save for our second child's education.
We're thankful that the future, once again, has focus and clarity.

We are so thankful.

Saturday, July 4, 2009


One of my goals during this year of being 50 was to prepare polenta, which I accomplished this evening. I used an Alton Brown recipe from the Food Network (see below). It was pronounced delicious by all who partook.

I wonder what took me so long to try this? I was intimidated for some reason, but it turned out to be an easy, kind of soothing recipe, with great results. It was a special treat, and comments ranged from "I'd bathe in this!" to "I hope you'll make this again."

Here's the recipe:

Savory Polenta
Recipe courtesy Alton Brown, 2004
Show: Good EatsEpisode: True Grits

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for grilling or sauteing if desired
3/4 cup finely chopped red onion
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 quart chicken stock or broth
1 cup coarse ground cornmeal
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 ounces Parmesan, grated
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large, oven-safe saucepan heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the red onion and salt and sweat until the onions begin to turn translucent, approximately 4 to 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to low, add the garlic, and saute for 1 to 2 minutes, making sure the garlic does not burn.

Turn the heat up to high, add the chicken stock, bring to a boil. Gradually add the cornmeal while continually whisking. Once you have added all of the cornmeal, cover the pot and place it in the oven. Cook for 35 to 40 minutes, stirring every

10 minutes to prevent lumps. Once the mixture is creamy, remove from the oven and add the butter, salt, and pepper. Once they are incorporated, gradually add the Parmesan.

Serve as is, or pour the polenta into 9 by 13-inch cake pan lined with parchment paper. Place in the refrigerator to cool completely.

Once set, turn the polenta out onto a cutting board and cut into squares, rounds, or triangles. Brush each side with olive oil and saute in a nonstick skillet over medium heat, or grill.

Friday, June 19, 2009

I enjoy being a muse...

Wow! My friend Jan offers today's Friday Five. What an occasion for smiling! She writes:

Jennifer recommended this book, which I got because I always value Jennifer's reading suggestions. The author of Life is a Verb, Patti Digh worked her book around these topics concerning life as a verb:
Say yes.Be generous.Speak up.Love more.Trust yourself.Slow down.As I read and pondered about living more intentionally, I also have wondered what this Friday Five should be. This book has been the jumping off point for this Friday.

1. What awakens you to the present moment?

2. What are 5 things you see out your window right now?

3. Which verbs describe your experience of God?

4. From the book on p. 197:
Who were you when you were 13? Where did that kid go?

5. From the book on p. 88:
If your work were the answer to a question, what would the question be?

Bonus idea for you here or on your own--from the book on p. 149:
"Go outside. Walk slowly forward. Open your hand and let something fall into it from the sky. It might be an idea, it might be an object. Name it. Set it aside. Walk forward. Open your hand and let something fall into it from the sky. Name it. Set it aside. Repeat. . . ."

Thanks, Jan!

My responses:
1. I awaken to the present moment by breathing deeply, moving slowly, listening carefully, and loving wholeheartedly.
2. Out my window: lush greenery (so much rain here!), torrential rain, a mallard duck, a swing set and the swing is blowing in the wind, a clap of thunder!
3.Verbs that describe my experience of God: to love, to mourn, to comfort, to dance with joy, to play with abandon, to live with intention.
4.I was an outspoken,loving, musical, curious, long-haired teenager. Where did that girl go? She's still present, and I catch glimpses of her in some of my daughter's actions.
5.What is the most challenging, frustrating, rewarding, fulfilling, tiring, energizing part of your life?
Bonus question later....after the rain.

Flickr photo from here.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Different Voices

I don't think I've blogged about the Interfaith Women's book group that got started this spring through the congregation I serve. We've been sniffing around for some ways to seek greater understanding, and a mosque in a neighboring community received an invitation to come and chat about ways to collaborate. We've attended each others' worship services and some ceremonies, and out of those gatherings friendships are forming, and a group of women decided it would be a joy to read together.

So, off they went. They're getting reading to meet for the second time, having read and discussed Sharon and My Mother-in-Law by Suad Amiry. The book they will be discussing next week is The Lemon Tree by Sandy Tolan.

There's more in store-- I've heard about the beginnings of plans to engage in service together, and they've met for a picnic. One of these days, they might broaden even more and involve women from yet unrespresented faiths. Exciting!

Peace and understanding through reading and sharing. Make sense to me....

logos is from

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Life at fifty

Life at fifty is pretty wonderful, despite the fact that the start of this year has been a little on the "terrible, awful, no good, very bad" side, at times.

We're still waiting for DH to land a new job. Gotta say that we didn't think that we'd still be in search mode after six months. Nevertheless, there are hopeful signs, second interviews, nibbles here and there. It's been challenging for our family, but we are getting through this, and we will have learned a great deal about what matters most, how to be patient with one another,living with less, and recognizing that abundance is still a word we use and understand.

I've had six visits this week with members of the church who suffer from dementia/Alzheimer's/other memory loss. It's been fourteen months since my mom died, and the waves of grief persist, especially when I've spent concentrated amounts of time with older adults with memory issues. Much sighing...

One of the most noticeable parts of my healing (or lack of healing) around my mom's passing is the visceral reaction I have to visiting folks in ICU. My mom died in a hospital hundreds of miles from here. I have not visited it since her death and may never visit it again, but I have occasions to visit ICUs with some frequency, and entering and staying is a very great challenge. I hope I overcome this...

We've had some particularly challenging times this winter and spring with difficult pastoral care issues. It's been pretty hard work to think about good news, in light of what I'm invited to know. Perhaps this is a symptom of a need for a vacation. Perhaps it's just the reality of living with the reminder that everyone has a story, and often it is poignant and personal. I need to work on being more of a sieve and less of a vase.

Nevertheless (how I love the hope this word conveys!) it is good to be fifty. All manner of things shall be well, and often are. I am a brand new fan of Teavana teas, thanks to a lovely birthday gift, and I'm working my list of things I'd like to accomplish and enjoy this year. They provide a nice antidote to the stress of sermons and pastoral care and job searches and stuff.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Life is a Verb- 50@50

I've just begun reading and working through a marvelous book called Life is a Verb by Patti Digh. On her website, she includes a list of fifty things she plans to do this year.

I turned fifty last week, and, I must say, it's pretty fun so far.
Nothing's changed radically, but it's a good place to be and there's lots more great stuff on the horizon.

With gratitude to Patti Digh for an endless storehouse of inspiration, here's my list of fifty things I'd like to do or learn this year:

1. wear contact lenses (mission accomplished: 6/2/09)
2. prepare polenta (done! 7/4/09)
3. finish a quilt
4. make pottery
5. effectively keep ahead of weeds in my garden
6. plan sabbath time gracefully
7. not allow mean-spirited people to rent space in my head
8. prepare excellent Asian food
9. play tennis every week this summer
10.walk a good distance every day
11.outfit a great craft area
12.catch up on reading Harry Potter
13.teach my kids to cook
14.become regular at Praying in Color a great prayer buddy
16.learn ballroom dancing
17.journal regularly a better blogger
19.resume sending birthday cards
20.take all my vacation/con ed time
21.connect with a great new project
22.learn to really live healthfully, finally
23.use the labyrinth regularly
24.keep in touch with Clarie by mail when she's at school
25.turn walking into jogging
26.lose 50
27.practice yoga
28. listen more closely to what people are saying
29.listen more closely to what God is saying
30.enter and complete a 10K
31. learn to take good photographs
32. play the guitar more regularly
33. become a wine taster
34. drink a martini
35. learn to bake bread well
36. repot all my plants
37. grow confident in decorating
38. eliminate paper napkins from our dining table at home
39. get Christmas gear organized
40. learn to knit socks
leaving these blank for now....for future inspiration....

Thursday, May 7, 2009

One of the reasons I have felt called to ministry for all these years is that no two days are alike and that being invited to stand close to folks at all sorts of different times is a great privilege. My colleague is preaching this Sunday, so I have the luxury of several extra hours to do some different things. I've paid several visits to folks, lingered a little longer than usual during hospital and nursing home visits, worked on worship planning for the summer, and straightened up my desk. I like the serendipity of experiencing different rhythms to each day and even different weeks. It works for me, although I'm always tired at night....

Today I have a couple of community meetings, am getting a haircut, and have a wedding rehearsal for a weekend wedding. The charming couple whose wedding is this weekend have chosen to include e.e. cummings' poem i carry your heart with me
i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

I feel glad to have a call, which is like a heartbeat, with me through these interesting days.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Like riding a bike...

I don't know if I remember how to blog after all these weeks!
I hope it's like riding a bike....
It's been a month of racing around, and although it's still busy and hectic, it feels important to reconnect with my blogging friends.

Illness, a seemingly endless winter, DH's job search, and the first anniversary of my mom's death have all converged and having me thinking hard about my own personal goals for the near and foreseeable future. I think it will be wise to spend some time dedicated to goal setting.

I've been intrigued and inspired by Kathleen Fischer's book, Autumn Gospel: Women in the Second Half of Life. Containing articles of great interest interspersed with blessings, prayers and biblical reflections, Fischer (a theologian, counselor and spiritual director) writes with warmth and gentleness.

For instance....

"Endings are often a return to the beginning."
"In the practice of awareness, we allow ourselves simply to be and observe without the need to judge and change."
"Bodies have a tenacious memory of what has happened to us in the course of a day or a lifetime, how we have received and stored it."

I am grateful for this author's words.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

I'll be back...

These past three weeks have been filled with family visits and work;
some joys, some frustrations, but mostly a steady stream of people leaving or arriving. It's Lent, of course, too, and we have a great deal going on at church.
I'm writing a series of Lenten devotions at another blog (here) so there seems to be little time for the personal reflections I'd been getting better at posting here.

I'll be back, one of these days.
In the meantime, I'm wishing you well and keeping you in my grateful prayers.

photo from here.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Waiting and Hoping

Waiting and hoping are so similar.

This Lenten journey of waiting is fraught with hoping for the residents of my home.
DH has been without employment since the end of January. His resume was scooped up by a potential employer earlier this week and he's at an interview this morning.
SBC packed his gym bag for baseball practice and will learn before school is out if he made the freshman team. I'm waiting for my father's flight to arrive from Denver, anticipating a lovely six day visit from him. They're little things in a global context, but they're pretty monumental in the lives of those interviewing and trying out and heading to the airport.

For those who wait without an end in sight, for those who wait for an outcome that might be fatal, final or unchangeable, waiting is agonizing. For me, it is a reality that I do not wait alone. I am convinced that I am accompanied on this life's journey, and I become more, not less, convinced of it over time. I am grateful in my bones for knowing this and for how real it feels.

This lovely picture is from

Thursday, March 5, 2009

I've yet to spend any significant time this Lent in any extended time of quiet reflection. I have a lovely quiet fifteen minutes in the morning with a cup of tea and Radical Grace, Richard Rohr's great devotional. It would be wonderful to have some longer stretches of time for prayer, meditation, praying in color. Instead, here's what's happening in my little corner of the world:
* show the new near neighbor pastor the way to the hospitals and nursing homes this afternoon
*meet with our two seminarians about their plans
*finish writing Sunday's sermon
*await results of SBC's freshman baseball team tryout (75 kids trying out for 15 spots on two teams...)
*pick up my dad at the airport tomorrow
*lead a presbytery workshop on Saturday for new elders
*enjoy a fun evening Saturday night with the confirmation class and their mentors centered around a game show theme: Are You Smarter than a Confirmand?
* preach and lead worship on Sunday
*enjoy a new members' class
*head off to Indianapolis for Spring Concert I of FBC's college concert choir tour
*return late Sunday night
* enjoy concert II in Chicago on Monday night with two of FBC's friends spending the
night with us.
*play day with all of them on Tuesday

and so on.

Good times.
graphic from Praying in Color.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Monday, Monday

It was an action-packed weekend. Chaperoning the dance turned out to be a startling, yet fun evening. I was an excellent coat checker and refreshment refresher, but it was a little bit harrowing to wander around the actual dance. A thousand kids in a gym with music that made our insides vibrate was nearly as daunting as the gyrations of the masses. I've been living in a bubble... Our SBC reports that we were not at all embarrassing. I think we've fulfilled our obligation for the duration of his high school career.

Worship yesterday was a quiet beginning to Lent. Our wonderful organist played subdued music throughout the service, reminding us all again of the profound influence the music and the musicians have upon the entire worship experience.

I spent the early part of the afternoon with our More Mature Members group, out to brunch and am pleased to report that I made healthy choices therein. I made hospital calls and bought healthy snacks at my favorite grocery, Trader Joe's. In the evening, we had an evening educational program on addictions and resources to help individuals and families find help.

Overnight we had a small snowfall and today's day office promises some fabric shopping and more preparations for my dad's arrival.

So, with thoughts from the weekend swirling in my head and looking at the texts for next Sunday's lectionary, I'm pondering God's covenant with Abraham and Sarah, how congregations reach out to people living with addictions, and whether or not we should paint the upstairs bathroom the same color or change things up. So many decisions are made in crisis or at the point of transition. I find that's true in my own life. How interesting it would be to experiment with that a bit in Lent, and seek help or wholeness because it's a free choice, unaffected by an ultimatum or a catastrophe.

Flikr photo

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Just an ordinary day....

This is a weekend of manageable things. Some short hospital visits, some needlework, some close attention to great, healthy meals. I'd like to get a good,long walk in,and do some organizing in the basement. The weather here is cold and not that inviting for outdoor pursuits. In the evening, DH and I are chaperoning SBC's high school dance.

I'm reading a silly book by Bill Bryson called The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid. it's a happy diversion in the midst heavy Lenten reading and study.

The discipline of WW is paying off well, with ten pounds gone. My friend Alison has also signed up and is positively inspiring. My goal this week is to track everything under the sun. I hadn't been tracking exercise, and doing so should be a good practice.

We're excited about a visit from my dad later on this week. We've not seen him since this summer. It will be great to have him here and to get ready for FBC's concert tour. We're able to see attend two of the concerts, in Indianapolis and Chicago Heights. Can't wait.

Photo from here.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Friday Forks

Singing Owl asks the Friday five question at Revgalblogpals:
What five people/events have been fork-in-the-road occasions? What a thought-provoker!

In no particular order.....

Feeling called to attend this seminary, rather than another. I received a wonderful education, but also met people from all over the world and several who became best friends for life.

2. Accepting a call to this church:
It was not my first call, but it was a watershed one for me, in that it was the first call where I felt my gifts made a critical difference in the life of the congregation.

3. Marriage...
I was busy pursuing adoption as a single person, with the blessing of the congregation I was serving when courtship and marriage arrived in my life like a snowstorm in August. Not at all what I was expecting, and certainly life-changing.
And, like the song from "Wicked", "Who can say I've been changed for the better? But because I knew you, I have been changed for good."

4. Upcoming fork in the road: job search for DH. What will it bring? What will it mean?

5. Eventual fork in the road: retirement location. We're fifteen years away, but nonetheless...where to? What to do?