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.


The Milk House Window

Across from my parents’ house a little building we called the milk house used to stand.  I don’t know that it was ever used for milking animals. We incorporated it into the pig pen at one point and later, when we had no pigs, used it for storage. The milk house was filled with shutters and windows and bee hives and rusty things and broken things and stuff.

And then the roof caved in.

My brother-in-law and my sister drove up from Florida with two carpet cleaners.  After cleaning some of the carpets in my parents’ house, Gil went to work on the old milk house. When they drove back to Florida, they left behind the carpet cleaners and had in their car a cast iron pig trough and an old gate. It was the family version of the trading-up game.

Three walls of the milk house are still standing, one with a window facing the road.

A lonely pane of glass remains in an upper corner, dirty and dusty, care-worn. It’s my new favorite place to view the world.

My window in the world

My window to the world

If it weren’t so close to the road, and if trucks didn’t drive past not following the speed limit, roaring like monsters and shaking the earth, I might sit on the bank for hours and watch the spider weave its web and the leaves change color through that window.

I’m quite sure that somewhere in that window is at least one deep spiritual truth.

The Trinity framed out.


The light pouring through.


Now I see through a glass darkly, but with a slight shift of my eyes I see face to face.

a darkened glass

The undeniable brokenness, no matter how neatly it is stacked.



What treasures lie in broken things!

My sister and her husband got a rusty pig trough which I have to admit was pretty cool, but I think I got the better treasure — a window to the world.

Life Preserver

I have some friends going through some challenging situations. I feel helpless.

And this came out —

The Life Preserver

IMG_7289I wish
I could throw you
A life preserver

I’m trained, you know,
In doing such things

Standing on the rope,
With my foot beside the knot,
Holding the coil of yellow polyethylene
In my left hand
While in my right
I hold the ring buoy


I know this isn’t a carnival game
“Ring the Drowning Person”

If I aim for your head
I may hit you

I throw past
And pull to

I call encouraging words:

“Grab on!”
“Hold tight!”
“I’ve got you!”

I know this works in water —
In pools
And ponds
And lakes.

I’ve practiced.

And been certified.

But the sea of life

I don’t know

What floats on heartache

My white
Bible verse
Isn’t meant
For throwing

It may smack you
In the head

It may hurt
Instead of help

While waves of hopelessness
And bitterness
And swell
Crashing into you

Filling your mouth
Your throat
Your lungs
With salty sadness
And surrender

So tired
Of fighting the fight

I have nothing to throw past
Nothing to pull to
Nothing to use for encouragement

Just trite words:
“Grab on!”
“Hold tight!”

I wish I had a ring buoy
For hard life events

All I can do
Is stand in my safety
And reach out
In prayer