Michael Card began his session saying,”Always lead with brokenness.” Then, he led us in a song.  I scribbled the chorus into my notebook as quickly as I could. I needed to remember the words.

Come lift up your sorrows
And offer your pain
Come make a sacrifice
Of all your shame
There in your wilderness
He’s waiting for you
To worship Him with your wounds
’cause He’s wounded, too.

I had left the house for Hutchmoot, a hard-to-describe homecoming/conference that I attend, at 5 AM last Wednesday morning. Just before I left, I had checked my email and found that Joan Jackson (see “I Prefer Substantive Discussion“), now going by the name Jay L. Richmond, had left another comment on my blog.

It was rambling diatribe full of personal attack. Here’s a snippet:

… Never let people see the real you. They would never believe the evil, delusional, egotistic, sociopathic person that hides behind [the mask]. … She has been a misfit all her life. Also, enough of the fat ,ugly, old looking pictures of yourself. You still don’t get who you really are.

I quickly copy-pasted the note to a group of trusted friends and asked them to pray for me while I drive. I didn’t want those words echoing in my mind when I needed to be concentrating on the road to Nashville.

And I didn’t. Dwell on the ugliness, that is.

When we lived in Wyoming, Bud and I stopped to see a little pine tree that had grown out of a rock in the high desert between Cheyenne and Laramie. The story goes that back in the 1860s Union Pacific engineers had noticed the little sapling and would lean out the window of the train to pour water on it as they passed.

I thought about that pine tree, now big, and the rock it grew from, now quite broken, as I returned home from Hutchmoot.

If I had to choose my theme for Hutchmoot this year, it would be brokenness.

You see, someone took a whack at me before I left, but instead of hitting me, it was as if they hit the rock instead.

And the wounded rock broke just a little more, so that, as the water of Hutchmoot was poured on me by so many passing engineers, my roots were able to grow just a little bit deeper.

Timidly I had shared my story with Leah over that first Hutchmoot meal on Thursday night. She grew quiet as she listened. Fear started squeezing my heart with its icy fingers.

Later, in the sanctuary, I asked Leah, “Do you still like me now that you know my story?”

“I love you even more,” she said.

Water on my brokenness.

So Joan Jackson or Jay Richmond or whatever you prefer to be called, thank you. And I mean that sincerely.

And dear friends old and new who spent the past weekend at The Church of the Redeemer, thank you, for all the water that is still making its way to my thirsty roots.

The Orchard

In 1968, I remember looking in awe at the catalogs with my father. The trees, heavy-laden with perfect ripe apples and pears, were low enough for the child in the picture to pluck them without standing on tiptoe.

When the trees arrived, I was even more awed. Surely these slender saplings would never – could never – look like the ones in the catalog.

The orchard in 1968

The orchard in 1968

Over the years the trees grew and yielded fruit. Small, imperfect, blemished fruit.

I grew in skepticism. Nothing is as it is advertised.

My father sometimes bemoaned the fact that he never sprayed the orchard. “We’re always in Myrtle Beach when I should get that first spraying in,” he would say, looking at the insect-ridden, blighted fruit.

It never seemed to bother my mother. She gathered the fruit, cut off the bad parts, and made apple sauce, pie, cake, crisp — you name it.

Over the years, I sort of forgot about the orchard.

Well, not really. I mean, it looks me in the face when I sit on the sun porch, which I do nearly daily. But you know how you see something so much that you just don’t see it anymore? Yeah. That.

This fall I’m seeing the orchard again. The trees are loaded with fruit. It is falling on the ground faster than anyone can pick it.

I’ve made some pies and crisps, but nothing like the production volume of my mother.

Bud gathers the rotting fruit off the ground so he can mow around the trees. Carts full of rotten apples are going to the compost.

Yesterday, I looked at the orchard and laughed. The trees are the very picture from those old catalogs.

I can reach right out and grab an apple — no device, no ladder, no step-stool.DSC05386

Their branches are weighed down with so much fruit.DSC05385

This morning I stood in the same spot my father must have stood 47 years ago and snapped this picture.

The orchard in 2015

The orchard in 2015

Bud cut up a bunch of apples for me yesterday. We are enjoying the fruits of his labor and my father’s so many years ago.

Apple crisp

Apple crisp

The skeptic in me has been silenced.

Perhaps that just it —

When I was a child I simply wasn’t patient enough or mature enough or something enough to see that the apple trees will eventually grow and bear fruit.

But the promises are true.


Leave Me Alone

“Where’s Mary?” I asked at lunch one day.

While my father was away, I took over  sitting with my mother at meal times. I loved the opportunity to spend time with her and to get to know many of the folks at her nursing home. I-can-do-it Mary has a seat next to my mother in the dining area. But when Mary was missing, I missed her.

“She has her blanket pulled over her head,” reported the aide. “Don’t nobody bother her when she’s like that.”

I peeked in Mary’s room, and, sure enough, she was in her recliner with her red fleece blanket stretched from her toes to over her face.

Mary had more and more blanket days as the weeks went by. Only at lunch time.

“She’ll eat a good dinner tonight,” staff would comment about her absence. And indeed she would.

“I learned the hard way,” one woman said, “to leave her alone when she’s got that blanket up.”

“Ah, the universal leave-me-alone sign,” my sister said when I was telling her about Mary.

Come to think of it, some of my children have done that — pulled a blanket up over their head when they want to be left alone.

Come to think of it, I’ve done that myself. I’ve stayed in bed and pulled the covers up over my face wishing the world would disappear, just for a little while anyway.

But the world doesn’t disappear.

The problems are still there when the blanket is removed.Magic happens under the blanket, though.  The warmth, the safety, the quiet retreat — somehow it all weaves together to fortify the blanket-hider.

We emerge to face the world feeling a little warmer, a little more rested, and a little hungrier from the missed meal.

Thankful today for red fleece blankets and people who understand us enough to give us both the space to hide and the grace to resurface.

Prayer for a Cold

A week ago today, when I woke up and looked in the mirror, my eyes were red and teary, my nose running, my head aching.

I hate being sick.

The worst part was that I was in beautiful British Columbia. I was going to meet Anna Brown in a few hours. I was going to visit the Othello Tunnels in the afternoon. All I wanted to do, though, was go back to bed.

I didn’t. Instead I began my morning routine.

For 2015 I’ve been writing a prayer every week. It’s something I do on Saturday morning.

I stared at the blank page in my journal, feeling more than a little frustrated that I needed to write a prayer. I was not feeling thankful. Or prayerful.

One of my favorite stories in Corrie ten Boom’s book, The Hiding Place, is when her sister, Betsie thanks God for the fleas. Betsie believed in thanking God for everything, and that included the fleas in the barracks at Ravensbruck. That story flashed through my mind as I was grousing about my runny nose.

This is the sort-of-prayer I wrote that morning:

When I have a case of sneezles
And my nose runs wild and free
I want to pray — I really do! —
But the words won’t come to me.

When my eyes, bloodshot and bleary,
Only focus on my woes,
Like this pounding in my sinuses
And the dripping of my nose

When I sit with wadded kleenexes
Clenched tightly in my fist
When I think I’m tired of fighting —
Can I lean into this?

Leaning in — embracing —
The challenges of life
Surely, Lord, You didn’t mean
This snuffy, sniffly strife

Surely, Lord, You didn’t send
This aching in my head.
Surely, Lord, I’ve things to do
And not just lay in bed!

Surely, Lord, You do not give
Coughs and headaches here,
Or bigger, worse diseases
To the people You hold dear.

Yet, O Lord, I’ll rest in You
And sip my cup of tea,
And thank You for my blessings
All that You have sent to me.

Then I went to meet Anna Brown.

And later visited the Othello Tunnels — where there really is a light at the end of every tunnel.

Othello tunnels

Othello tunnels

Walk With Me in Abbotsford

SamandDonnaI asked my friend Matthew Clark to write a song for Sam and Donna.

Shortly after they started dating, Donna’s mother was diagnosed with cancer and passed away. I can’t imagine. My mother’s dementia is a different kind of loss, a different kind of grief.

I wrote about Sam’s first Christmas with Donna’s family in my post called “Overlap,” which is something I wrote and read at their reception. Matthew references that in his song.

But my favorite line is “So walk with me in Abbotsford again.” I can picture that. Walking. Sam and Donna are walkers.

And Abbotsford — what an amazing city. Cross-cultural. A dairy farm in the middle of it. Busy roads and cul-de-sacs.

A cross-section of life and all it has to offer.

With joys and sorrows.

Love is still very much alive in what they’ve lost just as much as what they’ve found.

 What We’ve Found

by Matthew Clark

I remember Christmas morning with your Mom
How she held me like a promise in her arms
A promise I believe the Lord will keep

Homes are made of those who’ve loved us well
Hearts are rooms where those we’ve lost still dwell
And when the flood of grief tears what we’ve built to the ground
Love is still alive in what we’ve lost
Just as much as what we’ve found

So walk with me in Abbotsford again
Where we first dreamt of building our home
Neither of us could have known it then

See the light glance from the rings we wear
See the Lord has hid a treasure here:
Love is as strong as death, Love is as strong as death


Isaiah 56: 3-8

“Here’s the thing,” says God.
“Don’t you go saying that you don’t belong to My family,
And don’t you go thinking that because you don’t ‘produce’ I’m going to throw you out.
I don’t work like that.
At all.
If you love Me
If you embrace activities and ideas that please Me
If you hold fast to the promises I have made to you
Then I will give to you something better than any fame, fortune, or power you might receive from the world for something you did
What I have to give you is better than a large family or even one successful child
What I have to give you is a name —
A name that will forever tie you to Me.”

“And if you think you don’t belong in My family,
let Me ask you this —
Do you love Me?
Do you serve Me?
Do you help others because you know Me?
Do you set aside time
when you aren’t working
and just think about Me?
Do you lay in a grassy field on a Sunday afternoon,
look up at my blue sky, and utter a simple thank-you?”

“My door is always open to you
because you are family.
Mi casa es su casa.”

“You are family.
You are welcomed with great joy
and big bear hugs
(even though you say you don’t like hugs).”

Sit with Me in the quiet.
Whisper to Me.
I am always listening.”

“You may think that you’re an outcast,
but I am gathering you in My arms
and holding you close.”



Stuck in a Hole

Ryan North’s story of being stuck in a hole has been on my mind. If you haven’t seen or heard it, you can read it here: Storify, or watch it here: Global News.

Recently someone read me this story/poem from Portia Nelson’s There’s a Hole in My Sidewalk:

I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost… I am helpless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in the same place.
But, it isn’t my fault.
It still takes me a long time to get out.

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in. It’s a habit.
My eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault. I get out immediately.

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

I walk down another street.

We live in a world of holes.

Ryan’s problem in the hole wasn’t that there wasn’t a way out. It was that he needed to get both himself and his dog out.  He couldn’t climb the sides holding onto Chompsky.

I spent a lot of time the past few days thinking about Ryan and Chompsky in their hole.

Mostly because I’ve been feeling stuck, like I have no good options.

Like Ryan, I don’t want to leave anything behind in a hole.

So I sit there, lost and helpless.

But Ryan’s adventure changed my prayers.

No longer am I looking skyward and saying, “Get me out of this hole!”

Now I’m saying, “Okay, Lord, where do I let go — what do I put down — so I can get out of this hole?”

Letting go can be the hardest thing.

But it can also be the thing that helps the most.