Thursday, January 27, 2011

Still Life

* * *

Stand in awe . . . 

Commune with your own heart . . .


and be still.

Psalm 4:4

* * * 

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Respite Wednesday

One Thousand Gifts arrived for me in the mail recently.

Guess what I am doing?

* * *

[L]ife change comes when we receive life with thanks
and ask for nothing to change.

~~ Ann Voskamp ~~

Thursday, January 20, 2011

A Note-able Love

When I got married, a lovely friend of my mother-in-law-to-be hosted a very special bridal shower for me.  In and amongst the piles of kitchenware, linens, and splendid refreshments, she devoted a few moments to remind me of the love that had brought me to this place . . . this time . . . this anticipatory portal in life.  She pulled out several anniversary cards her beloved husband had given to her over the years.  Despite the passing of years he never failed to fan the flame of pure, sweet love that captured the heart of his girl.

As the hostess read the melodious Hallmark poems set into brushstrokes of serene settings, my mother-in-law-to-be leaned over and chuckled to me, “You won’t be saving anniversary cards from Gary.  He’s not like that – not sentimental at all.  He’s just like his father.”  This little divulgence caught me off guard, because up to this point in our relationship Gary had showered me with cards, letters, and little love notes that she obviously knew nothing about.  (Why should she?)

She settled back onto her sofa spot, smiling with joy that soon I would marry a man as wonderful as she had (her son, of course) and would live much as she had . . . with plenty of love but no written record to pull out for show.

I never forgot her well-meant warning; but I filed it away, hoping for something different than she had experienced.  Knowing full well (or at least supposing) that once the vows had been sealed with a kiss the “courting” dance mellows to something more mundane, I nonetheless remained romantically expectant as I entered marriage. 

Having danced more than 26 years with my same beloved, I can giggle and sigh sweetly, knowing that my mother-in-law meant well, but has been proven wrong about the tangible record of love notes.  I have a “collection” of letters, cards, and hastily scrawled notes that I can hold, read, and remember if I so choose.  More importantly, my children can open this treasure trove and know their parents as they blossomed from “shy kids” to devoted souls.  The tapestry of our life includes pen and ink threads most revealing of a love designed and woven with our hearts and hands – in good times and in bad, though sickness and health, day in, day out. 

However, some of the BIG showy Hallmark cards of our first year dating will not be among the be-ribboned packets hidden away among the dedication booties and lace wedding slippers.  About a year into our “relationship” (I couldn’t think of a word to fittingly name those early days before you know you have found love) we parted angrily and painfully – it just wasn’t working out like we had expected, so we parted to find the “IT” we lacked.  Whereas I cried buckets and stored away all the mementos in a designated cardboard box hidden in my closet, he grabbed up all the cards and “stuff” and dumped it in the trash.  Done!  HRMPH! 

Fast forward a summer’s worth of graduation and travel and new horizons, to where you reach the late-summer reunion between two hearts that couldn’t heal apart.  Though she packed her car to travel hundreds of miles away to chase an educational dream, he pledged love – and promised to wait.  Miles apart they journeyed together toward “something” that they hadn’t found yet, but just knew had to be there waiting to be uncovered along the way.  And it was to be found: True love.

The road from there to here hasn’t been smooth or easy or even “romantic” every day, but it has been constant and real and true.  I have a heart and a memory and boxes filled with all sorts of reminders.  Just this last Tuesday as Gary rose before dawn to catch an early flight to LA for his “day away,” he jotted a note and laid it on the bed beside me, as he often does. Knowing my penchant for work rather than play, he sweetly penned:

At his prompting, I cast aside thoughts of dishes and laundry, choosing to spend my day working playing in the garden.  I had no fear that a sitcom-husband would arrive home at day’s end asking, “What have you done all day?  Where’s my dinner?!”  I knew my husband would return home weary from a looooong day’s work, but enter smiling as he walked past the newly pruned roses and tilled beds.   

“She had fun,” he would smile, sporting a mirror image of the smile she wore earlier as she dug away saying to herself, “He loves me.”

Some day, when I am long gone past the Pearly Gates I hope a great-great-great-grandchild will happen upon these tidbits and tassels that I have secreted away and learn more than a mere photo or a marriage certificate can tell of these two entwined lives. 

I hope they will sift through the dried flowers and broken necklaces, and bundles of letters to find the real treaure:

They lived.   

They loved.   


made up, 

and on and on the list goes.  

They did it all . . .

. . . over and over and over again . . .

. . . day after day . . . .   

And it was good.

* * *

Male and female created he them. 

And God blessed them . . . 

and, behold,
it was very good.
Genesis 1:27,28,31

* * *

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Respite Wednesday

All my springs 
are in Thee.
 Psalm 87:7

Monday, January 17, 2011

More Lessons in Serendipity

My sister called . . . and we just chatted. 

Sweet, serendipitous peals of laughter peppered our discourse as we flitted from subject to subject with abandon. 

A trip to Hawaii? 

A trip to The Biltmore in the Fall? 

Christmas together here at Wisteria Cottage? 

We talked of this and that and nothing in particular as our hearts savored the simple joy of just chatting.  Serendipity indeed.   

* * *

For over a month now my sister has been in the throes of a medical journey to discover the cause of an abrupt swelling on her leg.  Our natural flow of cell phone calls back and forth each week became littered with tears and fears and prayers as we tried to avoid talking about pending surgery and post-op recovery, of possible “C” word and chemo, of  . . .

of . . . of . . . of . . .

Many times the phone failed to ring, yet an email appeared – it was just too hard to say it.

“We’ll talk soon,” closed the short note.

And we did . . .

. . . but not about IT. 

What was the point? 

We waited.

We prayed.

I tried not to worry (and failed miserably, but kept trying – practice makes perfect for a looong month of practicing.  For me, at least.)

* * *

I jotted notes like:

Buy wicker bed tray and bud vase

Pack “X” and “Y” cookbooks

Order thus-and-so supplements to be delivered to her house

* * *

Tears flowed at each conversation's signing off, lacing the “I Love You” strings ever tighter despite the distance between Grass Valley, CA and Charlotte, NC. 

I tucked away some “airline money,” just in case, but felt a tug at my heartstrings over Christmas and sent it all away for poor families to buy farm animals.  Was I secretly hoping there would be no need?  My prayers and journals hold no clue to such hope, as I poured forth my fears at the feet of my Lord. 

“Whatever is true” I wrote firmly.  “Now stick to the truth – to what you KNOW and not what you imagine or fear.”

“Today I know of no cause to worry, so worry I shall not,” I forcibly told myself in print and whispers.

And then I would set off to wash and weed and pray and release again the burdens my mind sprouts with such ease. 

A writer’s imagination is not gift at times like these;
but a Savior’s soothing words provide perfect panacea.

Come to Me, 
all who are weary and heavy-laden, 
and I will give you rest.
Matthew 11:28

And which of you by worrying 
can add a single hour to [her sister’s] life's span?  
If then you cannot do even a very little thing, 
why do you worry about other matters?
Luke 12:24,25

* * *   

Time dragged its heels.  A cold wave took our town by storm.  Darkness filled the days with a frozen hue.  I clawed for serendipity and came up empty, for it cannot be summoned but only discovered.

I walked.  I wrote.  I prayed.  I cried.  I walked some more. 

In the gardens I found budding daffodils. 

In the coop the chickens broke their laying stay and gifted us with four eggs.

A forgotten CD of Hawaiian music + nature sounds transported a weary one to entertain thoughts of gentle beaches and washing waves in the quiet of an evening.

An email from a dear friend encouraged me to remember that waves may come unaware and sweep us off our feet if we are not careful.  A wave of sorrow had swept me up and tumbled me over and over . . . but I came up standing (though sputtering) and breathed deeply the serendipitous sweetness of knowing I can face whatever today brings my way – even if it should entail more loss on this side of Heaven’s gate – for I am not alone.

And he said unto me, 
My grace is sufficient for thee: 
for my strength is made perfect in weakness. 

Most gladly therefore 
will I rather glory in my infirmities, 
that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

2 Corinthians 12:9

I accepted the gifts of today and stopped fearing tomorrow.  I felt at peace.  I found that tiny wink of serendipity that had been eluding me,

and it was enough.

* * * 

And then the exuberant email came through:


No need for an unplanned trip out to oversee recovery and further treatment.

The culprit:  An inflamed lymph node cluster, most likely from an infected scratch. 

The solution:  Antibiotics and rest.  Nothing more.

* * *

I wept with relief.

She fumed that it had taken a month and several tiers of doctors before somebody thought to give her a simple antibiotic for the infection.

[My sis and I think on different waves.  Complementary, I’d say.]

* * *

 So now that I need not be packed and ready to jump upon a plane on a moment’s notice, we have cooked up a batch of “togetherness” plans for two more FUN visits this year, always holding out the hopes for three or four or . . . .

whatever serendipitous amount the future holds.

* * *

Is it only January 17th?  

Why does it feel like this year is much older?

* * *

Methinks it is shaping up to be a very interesting year.

Ahem . . . more serendipity, please, LORD.  

 Lots more! 

; )

 * * *

[And she leaves to rake leaves, 
hoping to find more pretty bulbs in bloom
this sunny, sunny day in January.]

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Sunday Wonder

But the wisdom that is from above 
is first pure, 
then peaceable, 
gentle, and easy to be intreated, 
full of mercy and good fruits . . .
James 3:17

Lydia's First Biscuits

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Gift of a New Song

* * *

I waited patiently for the LORD; 
and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry.
 He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, 
out of the miry clay, 
and set my feet upon a rock, 
and established my goings.
 And he hath put a new song in my mouth.
Psalm 40:1-3a

* * * 

The only way we can be of use to God
is to let Him take us through the crooks
and crannies of our own characters. 

 It is astounding how ignorant we are about ourselves!

How many of us have learned to look in with courage?

~~ Oswald Chambers ~~
My Utmost for His Highest
(January 12)

* * *

Blessed is that man that maketh the LORD his trust
Psalm 40:4a

* * *

This is the day which the LORD hath made; 
[I] will rejoice and be glad in it.
Psalm 118:24

Another business trip, another sweet note.  : )

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Respite Wednesday

My  Harvest from Yesterday.
 [Lemonade, anyone?]

It was true.  I was hidden in the secrecy of His protection.  He was surrounding me constantly with the work of His love, His wisdom, and His mercy.  And so it would be, day after day, year after year.  Sometimes I would be preoccupied with problems that seemed to be difficult and seemed to be great, and yet when it was all over the answers that I worked out did not seem to matter much anyway, because all the while, beyond my range of vision and comprehension, God had silently and imperceptibly worked the whole thing out for me, and had presented me with the solution.  To say it better, He had worked the solution into the very tissue of my own life and substance and existence by the wise incomprehensible weaving of His providence.

~~ Thomas Merton ~~
The Seven Storey Mountain
(p. 431)

* * *

And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, 

This is the way, walk ye in it,

when ye turn to the right hand, 
and when ye turn to the left.
 Isaiah 30:21


Tuesday, January 11, 2011



Being Broken

I Am Brokenness, Lord
                                                         . . . fix me.

I am empty, Lord
                                                 . . . fill me.

I am lonely, Lord
                                                . . . meet me

I am sad, Lord
                                                            . . . collect my tears

I am confused, Lord
                                                                     . . . “I Am that I Am”

I am
                                    . . . Yours, Lord.

* * *

The day broke early for me.  I tossed from one dream to the next . . . lost passport nightmares . . . ailing children nightmares . . . unrest.  I rose in the darkness and found a note from my sweet husband, whose LA-Tuesday business trips separate us by space, but not by heart.

“Have a relaxing day,”
he wrote.

I cry.

Oh, how I want to relax . . . need to relax . . . pray to relax.  But . . .

I think I lack the relax “app.”

Oh, how I long to shrug.  Yes, shrug – just let things fall away with a flick of the shoulders, a toss of the head.  Gone.  Next.  Aaaahhhhh.

My sweet son Andrew could never shrug.  His little shoulders and neck fused so painfully into solid little blocks.  He couldn’t even lift his arms.  His brain had so locked up those muscles in cerebral palsy’s firm grip.  Yet, the clever little boy learned to laugh.  And when he laughed he relaxed – and soared.

He sought and found a fount of joy that carried him beyond the straits of disability.  The unleashing came in great peals of laughter; laughter like church bells ringing across a bucolic valley for all to hear and celebrate with him.

I can still hear his guffaws.   
His belly laughs.   
His infectious giggles. 

I want to laugh and dance with him in my arms just once more.  I want to feel his velvety cheek next to mine as we twirl and spin and laugh.  I want to feel a butterfly kiss once again from lashes so long that strangers would stop to comment.  I want  . . .

. . . what I cannot have.

I awoke in darkness today.  I broke a teapot.  I smeared my journal with tears.  Is this a good day?  Am I defective?  Inadequate?  Broken? Are you there beside me, Lord?  Do you see what I see?  Do you feel what I feel?  Am I ready to relax?  Am I ready to let go?  Can I shrug and move along as some have suggested?  Do I want to?  Must I?  Will I lose something if I run from tears and sadness when I meet them along the pilgrim’s path?   I wonder . . . Oh, how I wonder . . . 

I am always wondering . . . 

and I call it prayer.

Some will never understand me, but those who love me do:  He who made me, he who married me, they who grew from that love, and those who have melded hearts with me along the way – these gather me to their hearts and love me in an understanding way.  My world grows by heartbeats, not shrugs.

I still sit here in this quiet, empty room but the sun has broken the dawn with a watery light that struggles through a wall of clouds.   

 The silence cracks with the stirrings of the newly-formed day.

My tears have dried, but my teapot lies beyond repair.  My arms ache, but my child lies beyond their reach.  My tension fades, but I remain unable to shrug.  I am created with needs beyond my abilities.  My brokenness cannot be repaired by my own hands or skill, but by His love.

To give unto them beauty for ashes,
The oil of joy for mourning,
The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;
That they might be called trees of righteousness,
The plantings of the Lord,
That he might be glorified.

Isaiah 61:3

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Words to Live By

Hello. My name is Debbie and I am a lover of words.  I love The Word (Logos), and I love all the lowercase words (logos) that run around spilling all over the place in conversation and writing and blogging (isn’t that writing?  Hmmm . . . sometimes I wonder . . .) and journaling (ditto) and reading – oh ever so much reading.

A friend recently remarked that she brings a dictionary when she sits down to read my blog.  Hmmmm . . . I’ve festooned my intro with some of my “key” words of late.  They keep cropping up in my reading and conversations and quiet contemplations.  As my current favorites, they deserve to dance with all of you in these fresh, new days of 2011.  So without further ado . . . I present Chiaroscuro, Serendipity, and Epiphany!    

* * *


“The interplay of light and shadow”

Origin:  Italian, from chiaro clear, light + oscuro obscure, dark

First Known Use: 1686

(from Mirriam –Webster Dictionary)

* * *


”The faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for”

Origin:  from its possession by the heroes of the Persian fairy tale The Three Princes of Serendip.

First Known Use: 1754


* * * 


“An illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosure.”

Middle English epiphanie, from Anglo-French, from Late Latin epiphania, from Late Greek, plural, probably alteration of Greek epiphaneia appearance, manifestation, from epiphainein to manifest, from epi- + phainein to show.

First Known Use: 14th century



The New Year dawned bright and sparkly around here with a fresh blanket of snow glazing everything in a wonderlandesque (made that one up according to my spell-checker . . . and I love it all the more for it) patina of surreal beauty.  What a serendipitous peek into 2011.  I stood at the window and marveled over the snowfall that the weatherman had not predicted, but had arrived anyway.  My New Year’s resolution of living in serendipity seemed so fitting, so magical, so perfectly illustrated . . . 

*sweet sigh* . . .

And then I went downstairs to find a storm-tossed kitchen. 

I gritted my teeth at the greasy, gunky, lacquered layer of dishes and glasses that I had so freely ignored during the previous eve’s celebrations, not wishing to miss a bit of the serendipitous fun

“Lord, this wasn’t exactly what I expected to find on this very first morning of Serendipity 2011.  What gives?”  (Yes, I had obviously forgotten the spectacular snow scene just moments before.)

I popped open the dishwasher in anticipation of a load of clean dishes that needed to be stowed properly before I could load the offensive ones in their place.  I stopped short as the door lowered – the hollow washer surprised me.  My dear husband had quietly unloaded the clean dishes while he tended the fire in the wee hours of the morn.  A smile broke out over my face.  *Serendipity*   [By definition the joy will be UNEXPECTED.] 

Only in the rumpled, tumbled, chaos of life will I find the serendipitous moments I have set out to find this year.  A tidy cottage filled with tidy people living tidily will not produce the knock-your-socks-off surprises that serendipity promises.  And I crave.

Oh dear . . . my knees began to quake, my hands to shake, and I had to sit down.  Was this quest for serendipity going to mirror the experiences I met with while praying for patience once upon a time? 

Long ago, newly married, idealistic, and a wee bit frustrated with my own lack of perfection, I set out to pray for patience.  In a VERY brief spate of time I received oodles of practice in waiting, with the pinnacle reached on one very cold and lonely autumn night wherein I had the opportunity to wait patiently by the phone to hear whether my husband had survived a fiery highway crash involving his car, his brother’s car in tow, and a semi truck.  I had gone to bed that night lonely as Gary had whisked off that day to rescue a brother whose car had broken down hundreds of miles away.  No cell phones meant an occasional call from a gas station saying, “Love you.  Miss you.  Be home as soon as possible.” 

Then the early morning hours were shattered by a call from my in-laws.  “There’s been an accident . . . fire . . . we don’t know . . . we’re off to the scene.” 

Stunned, I cradled the receiver and sat in the dark empty room . . . alone with God.  Patience.  I needed patience.  He delivered.  On that very long, dark, and oh so lonely night I patiently waited for a phone call – of news I could not dare to imagine.

Eventually the phone jangled and I grabbed it and held my breath – “Hi,” he said as calmly as if he had just called to ask if I needed anything from the store before he got home.  I wept!  He chuckled nervously and said, “I’m okay.”  And that was enough.

Patience.  I’d asked for it.  And I’ve never repeated that request.  Or have I?

As we compress Jesus’ first two years of life into a 12-day celebration showcasing stable re-enactments complete with gift-bearing wisemen, I tend to forget the timeline.  Focusing on the angel-catered moments of brilliance and joy and marvel leave me breathlessly happy each Christmas; but what about the dishes, laundry, fractious relations, glutted schedule, and all the rest?  Was there ever a day when Mary washed the soiled swaddling cloths and Joseph shoveled manure while relatives bickered in the background?  Was it a bother to move from stable to house between the miraculous birth moment and the epiphanous arrival of the Kings from afar?  And along those lines, did the Eastern seekers ever feel burdened, weary, foolish?  Matthew 2:10 remarks of their “exceeding great joy” at finding the star once again after departing Herod’s palace – serendipity, I presume.

In the real-life birth-to-wisemen experience Mary dealt with plenty of dust, dishes, and diapers.  The angels appeared in heavenly splendor and disrupted the sleepy shepherds on a hill covered in dung and sheep hair and prickly weeds and bleating beasts.   The wisemen journeyed long and far with all manner of discomfort caused by leaving their comfortable life and seeking something more . . . something calling from their depths . . . something promising . . .

Here at Wisteria Cottage we celebrated in grand style with feasts and festivities we have all come to love and expect at this most wondrous time of the year.  But . . . we also said goodbye to a beloved pet of 14+ years, endured comic-strip family drama, shed tears over the death of a dear man of God, prayed earnestly over a child suffering from frightening seizures, and . . . collapsed broken and confused into the sturdy arms of a Heavenly Father who lifted us and filled us with joy despite it all.  Pure, unexpected, unexplainable, make-me-laugh-out-loud gifts of sweet serendipity arrived when we least expected them (and needed them most).

I look back over the waning of 2010 and the dawning of 2011 and I see a chiaroscuro painting – light and dark, shadings and shadows filling the canvas with mystery and anticipation, drama and joy.  I have NO IDEA what 2011 holds, but I do know that it promises to be laced with serendipity, epiphany, and chiaroscuro because life is a mess.  I am a mess.  Underneath all the carefully chosen clothes and words burns a wanderlust of yearning not unlike that propelling the Three Kings to leave it all and seek.  I cannot explain it rationally.  I feel called, led, prodded into an unknown place – a place I’ve never been before.  A place I cannot keep from seeking. 

Thomas Merton’s words echo those ringing in my heart:

For it seems to me that the first responsibility of a man of faith is to make his faith really part of his own life, not by rationalizing it but by living it.

After all, these meditations are musings upon questions that are, to me, relatively or even absolutely important.  They do not always pretend to be final answers to final questions, nor do they even claim to face those questions in the most fundamental possible terms.  But at least I can hope they are thoughts that I have honestly thought out for myself, and that, for better or worse, mean something in my own life and in the lives of those I live with.

From No Man Is an Island (xiv)   

This holiday prelude to 2011 has taught me that serendipity lives in a hovel nestled in a dirty valley amongst grubby people and yet her smile brings . . . well . . . serendipity, of course! 

The wildflower abloom in a frozen meadow, the sweet breeze that blows in while one cleans the chicken coop, the treasured hug of a child in my arms weeping because they miss the child who has already flown to Heaven (six years and counting -- it never gets easier; it always hurts to be here while he is not . . . he is flown to better . . . so we weep still)  –  these be the portends of my 2011.  Thus I celebrate!

Happy Serendipitous New Year! 

May the Chiaroscuro of your life 
be filled with Epiphanies of great joy!