be

WE can each make a difference, as who we are, where we are. YOU matter. We ALL matter.

A word. A touch. A smile.

Tip the domino of kindness and watch the pattern spread, beautifully.

Magnificently.

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Answer

Quietly at bedtime, alone, my children each often ask me questions. It is not to stall off bedtime, but because the questions come at night. We all know this well.

In their dimly lit rooms, another day behind them, I think it is not just an answer they are looking for, but the sound of my voice, owning the question. Owning it beyond the place it has taken in their mind. In the glow of the nightlight they search my eyes, reach for my hand or press their bodies closer to mine, lying beside theirs to read before bed.

Sometimes it requires a scientific explanation as to why something occurs or what might happen next. More often, they are deeper questions about a feeling or reason for something that lies outside of our logic. When it is so, I tell them I do not know. I share what I think about it and ask them to share too.

In the dance of sleepy dialogue our whispering voices try to make sense of what we don’t know. For a moment, in the journey from innocence to growing up, with the backdrop of their babyhood stuffed animals mingling with their growing collection of big kid interests, there is our fascination with one another’s thoughts on the question.

Our answers are discovery and faith and the uncertainties of life. Courage and hope. There are tears. There are hushed giggles. A hug. A finishing place for now.

These questions teach me about my children and teach me about myself.

“I love you,” I say, bless them, and give them a kiss on the forehead.

Sometimes these questions sit heavy on me when I leave their rooms, and I know that our finishing place and hug has not lifted it from them either.

Tonight, I thought of the concrete (or seeming concrete) answers we look for in books (or maybe Google) and the ones that we look for in other people, seeking out others’ perspectives as the water to run through us. Like my children at night time, have we not all wanted to reach for someone’s hand, so they could own the question with us, even when there was no solid answer to be found?

Can’t we, in each interaction, hold our questions together – the smile on the sidewalk, the eyes that meet ours in the check-out line? With warmth, we can be the answer.

I offer you my questions, willing you peace for yours.

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A Good Life

Pete Seeger said, “The easiest way to avoid wrong notes is to never open up your mouth and sing. What a mistake that would be.”

I offer you my “wrong” notes, perfect in their try, and deep desire to live a good life. My hope is you hear the message beyond any critique. 😉

Here’s a pretty rough review recording of “A Good Life,” from my July/August writing set.

As I have sought healing and clarity, the importance of the NOW has been a repeated focus. We wait. We seek. We reflect. We often miss the fullness of the moment. Each breath is an opportunity to change that.

My love and prayers to you all.

I’ve been waiting for this life,
And  I didn’t even know it.
All the falls I took were just
My future growing.

I’m ready for the good life

Those nights I felt was losing,
Led me here and now I’m choosing
To take it one day at a time.

Oh, oh, the good life

It feels so right,
With open eyes
And a smile.
I lift my hands
With faith inside
To walk the good life.

There’s still so much more to see,
Inside of you and inside of me.
So we each take it slow,
‘til we find our own way to go,
To go – to the good life.

What I’m doing doesn’t need a name,
All we need is to live in today.
And if this is right where I stay,
I will make it the good life this way.

It feels so right,
With open eyes
And a smile.
I lift my hands
With faith inside
To walk the good life.
The good life.

  • July 2015

Yellow

Amidst the weeds I find you,
Little yellow flower,
Thriving in the morning lightness,
Your subtle swaying in the breeze,
You smile at me.

I have found you,
Little yellow flower,
Up through the rocks growing.
Wild. Quiet. Beautiful. Humble. Yellow.
I smile at you.

You have found me,
Little yellow flower,
In my weeds and rocks,
Breathing to thrive,
Swaying.

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Anyhow

Noting that my playing needs a lot of work and the song perhaps some refinement, so I ask you to try to hear beyond that, I’d like to vulnerably offer you one of the songs I wrote this month. I just did a quick play through so I could play for myself, and the spirit moves me to put it out there, as I have done before with what maybe could have waited to be said.

This song is one that comes from within my journey; it is about making it onward. Aware my deep feeling and open sharing in general are a challenge, for me and others, I know that I will get on the other side of this and have grown immeasurably and maybe have helped someone else.

We needn’t be ashamed of our struggles. They are who we are. This darkness will lift.

Life can be hard.
I’ll make it anyhow.
You’ll make it anyhow.
We’ll make it anyhow.

Prayers for you all.

I was always the girl a little naïve,
who gives too much and wears
her heart on her sleeve.
Tried to live and learn
with every turn,
but I don’t seem to be changing.

I feel things deeply,
share completely, and
always want to believe.
And there’s something in me
that seems unable to be
just a few steps down.
But I’ll make it anyhow.
I’ll make it anyhow.

I’ve been blessed from above,
with so much love,
from my friends and family.
They soften the pains
and the trying days.
And remind me I’m amazing.
Yes, we’re all amazing.

I feel things deeply,
share completely, and
always want to believe.
And there’s something in me
that seems unable to be
just a few steps down.
But I’ll make it anyhow.
I’ll make it anyhow.

We’ve all got weakness,
but our completeness,
does not come from perfection.
It’s living true, in all we do
that brings the greatest blessing.
Bring the greatest blessing.
Yes, we’re all amazing.

Sometimes you’ll feel things deeply,
share completely, and
always want to believe.
Sometimes you’ll see
that you’re unable to be
just a few steps down.
But you’ll make it anyhow.
I’ll make it anyhow.
We’ll make it anyhow.

  • August 2015

35 months

It is almost three years, since I posted a reflection, one of my favorites, on my then deemed “totaled” 4Runner – https://onthispath.com/2012/09/13/my-10-year-truck-where-to-next/.

I thought of the 35 months as I tossed 20 bags of mulch, some tools and plants into the back of it last week, alone at Home Depot. We’d plodded onward, the truck and me.  It’s lost a few more parts. I’ve got a few new scars myself.  What it lacks in aestheticism I think it makes up for in grit. It fits with my sometimes awkward, ever vulnerable honest self.  It’s rust is still there to be seen.  It goes onward.

I parked it in my yard, an assistant as I toiled gloriously in grace, seeking now.

IMG_20150817_172503624bMy scratched from yardwork arms and hands are wont to show in my business casual top, as I work to make the money that buys the bags I toss in the back of the truck and spread, getting dirty and scratched.  They seem to say all of me is professional.  All of me is real.

They have used the hedge trimmer.  They have lifted stones.  They have carefully placed a baby bird in its nest.  They have swung in runs along the road, held fast to handlebars in seeking health and serenity.  They have cared for pets.  They have cooked meals.  They have organized data and created process documents. They have taken many pictures and pulled me through many waters. They have embraced my children and my parents. They have cradled a guitar and a broken toy to be fixed. They have held me at night as I have rocked alone on my porch swing, the very porch swing where I wrote my first post and sit now in pajamas in the late morning summer weekend breeze writing these words.  They have been lifted up in prayer and longing.

They have closed the truck door and driven home with tools and soil  and mulch, to work to renew, to plant three mums to grow together.wpid-img_20150823_112722.jpg

I couldn’t part with the truck, for its usefulness, better value with us keeping it, and its affection from two children who had only ever known it as our vehicle.  For almost two years after that, it remained our main mode of transportation. School drop-offs and pick-ups, groceries, to the hospital. Strategically placed bikes and boxes to fit it all in. A job interview – sneakers on with business attire for driving, heels on the floor.

Now it shares the garage with my leased Prius C.  Less grit, but gas mileage delight, the little car, “Silver Star,” does not seem strange to me parked next to our “Blue Pearl”.  They both have purpose and highlight the value of the other.

In the almost three years that have passed since I was hit from behind and had to contemplate replacing the truck, it has seen a whole lot more of those highs and lows of its first 10 years.  Now, our tank, our go to for the muddy days at the park, camping, bikes and trips to the store to pick out flowers – to plant together, six knees side by side in the dirt, the truck is a reminder that “broken” things carry on.

There has been the loss of more people, the discovery of new places, laughs, heartaches and sandy feet with sticky water ice hands.

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This past winter I drove it with very…very low air in the tires to the gas station, where the air pump was coincidentally broken, to get gas for the snowblower.  There and back, slowly, feeling the familiar curve of its steering in my hands, though wobbly with low tires and snow.  Cautiously.  Then it sat, dripping in the garage, the only witness to my driveway clean-up in the cold, dark night.

This summer, our family’s annual trip to New Jersey, was one that was a challenge for me, as I struggled through a reality about my fragility, my not being as grounded as I thought I now was and from recent choices and experiences that had jarred something in me painfully. I concentrated steadfastly for the 3 hour and 15 minute drive to the campground, trying to will the ick away. It wouldn’t budge.

I frustrated through the inability to feel the smiles I gave to my children as they lived and loved summer. I gave them laughter like a preciously packaged gift. I flip flopped to the camp store with them to create memories and purchase in the moment cherished items to hold onto on the ride home. I observed curiously their zeal for the moment when we squeezed in 20 quick minutes in the pool, making it just before its closing. 20 minutes of swimming bliss for them and admiration from me, in awe of these last two to climb up the steps of the pool for the day.

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…undefeatable to their imagined enemies. Dauntless.

I looked up to them with their jubilant enthusiasm with the lake, the pool, the beach, the train, the game room, foamy waves and sand toys, and as they stood near the mighty Atlantic in their bathing suits atop a sand mountain, their envisioned Minecraft world, undefeatable to their imagined enemies. Dauntless.

Their laughter brought smiles as people passed by, watching the plastic trucks race down the pathways we’d made on the big, tall, wonderful pile of sand to the bottom, where my parents sat. They pulled out diamond shells and golden rocks and celebrated their discoveries. They giggled as I climbed and slid with them. They waved at us below, their captive audience.

Sun-kissed and weary we left the beach. We spotted the truck’s dent standing out in the parking along the promenade, where we tossed our sandy toys, towels and selves into its waiting places.

It was then. It is now. We live on. We take our graffiti hearts, marked with all we’ve felt and breathe.

I am the intrepid, sturdy truck still going. I am the tiny silver car, seeking efficiency.

My 20 year old mountain bike, also blue, its top 3rd set of gears not working, brakes in need of adjustment, slid into the back of my truck, to go meet my brother for a ride of healing on the rail trail the day after Home Depot. We’ve got this old friend, the truck and bike seemed to say to one another…and me.

And we do. I do.

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Little Sea Star

IMG_20150808_092123Sea stars have always been one of my favorite gems of the ocean. On childhood trips to the ocean, we would walk under the piers, or out along the rock jetties in low tide, looking for the sea life that appears when the water is down. Sea stars were one of our favorite finds, latched against a rock or pier, this fragile and persevering animal. If we could, we would gently hold it for a moment, appreciate the way it felt, the different types. We might come across one that had been injured and was missing a leg or already starting to grow it back. They made no sound. They barely moved. Just by their existence, they were impressive. After exploring it, sharing it for a moment with others, we would quickly and carefully replace it where we’d found it, that the water could bring it moisture. Sometimes too we might find one already dried out on the beach. We would bring it back to the campsite with our collection of shells, stare carefully at the simple and brilliant creation.

Those memories are one of the reasons I love them.

There is a also a story about a man walking along the beach where many sea stars had washed up on the beach from a particularly rough surf. He was picking themIMG_5255 up and tossing them back into the ocean. Another man on the beach asked the man why he bothered, when it would not make much of a difference with the large number that had washed up and it only being a sea star. The man held up the one in his hand and said, “it matters to this one,” and continued returning the ones he could to the ocean. That story has been poignant to me because of the impact I hope I can make with each seeming small gesture and the awareness I have of the gestures that have been done for me.  They matter.

Then there is the remarkable ability of many sea stars to regenerate an arm/leg after it has been torn off, generally as long as its central disc system, which functions as its form of brain and heart, can be salvaged.  This allows these creatures, who are sensitive to light and touch and can be easily damaged, to be remarkably resilient at survival.  wpid-img_20150808_110226.jpgMy mother bought me a necklace as a reminder of this, that no matter how many times it may feel there has been a hard pull at who I am and my passion, purpose and patience, I have kept going, and always will.  Seeing the sensitivity and intensity that I have in my children, I purchased them starfish keychains and explained that we need to keep remembering that as much as it may seems gets broken away sometimes, we have the central system of God, of our family and friends and of our own faithful hearts to keep going.  We can hold onto those keychains as a symbol of that and a reminder of the love that unites us.

This past few days I have been thinking of sea stars as they relate to certain parts of our life.  Perhaps our ability to trust in a specific way, for example, may be damaged to that central disc, the core part of us that has trusted, and been potentially irreparably damaged. Though much of us remains strong, it is one sea star that will not be tossed back into the sea.

I went onto a trail today with my tired eyes and walked amongst the collections of flowers and trees, a pond, the croak of the frogs. On a bench I contemplated the sea stars that make up who I am. Right now. The ones I have kept going, the ones that have had a hand from others. The peculiarities of being me. The things that feel changed and lost.wpid-4515697a-646c-4bcb-a1db-765ea189e714.jpg

And I wrote. Why do I write these things or anything I write and post? To somehow comprehend me? Yes. With the hope that someone will learn or be touched by something I write? Yes.

To toss one more word out into the ocean.

Images: https://onthispath.com/gallery/leamings-run/

Breath

May we lift one another up in prayer. Let us learn from all we experience, grow when we feel loss. Be kind. Be honest. Give generously. Receive graciously. Have courage in hope. Persevere through despair. Believe in goodness, no matter what. Recognize value and worth in the mirror and in one another. Seek justice. Accept mistakes. Apologize. Forgive. Deliver words with prudence and compassion. Listen discerningly. Be anchored. Be adaptable.

Let us be mindful of the very gift each breath of life is, painful or joyful, easy or hard. We have in each one a chance to LIVE fully, truly and gratefully from each one forward.
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Restoration

Age is an interesting thing. This number that adds up how many calendar years we’ve been out of the womb.

That number is a reminder of how much has come before the now and how much or how little is yet to come. In childhood it is measured against charts for growth and developmental milestones. Developmental ages are given. In adulthood, though less numeric and specific, it is measured too – how much we’ve accomplished of our goals, led a meaningful and purposeful life and/or achieved what various people, depending on their journey, might have expected we have.
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Just before turning 7, my daughter determinedly wanted to stay 6 and stop growing up so fast. She wanted me to always be able to lift her up and swing her around. She wanted to always be able to snuggle amongst her stuffed animals and dolls . These days, she proudly proclaims AND A HALF at the end of 7 each time she is asked how old she is, because it makes her that much closer to 8. I can still lift her. She still snuggles with her stuffed animals and dolls.

At 10, Ephraim carries the first double digit age and its comparisons. He owns his moments of personal achievement with a smile of pride. Walking side by side I feel is hand reach for mine and then, in a moment, he gently pulls it away. Yes, 10 means change.

But 39 and four and a half months, what of it? It is certainly more than the compilation on my résumé or any social media site. It is more than what I’ve written or is captured in pictures. It is more than what I have earned or spent or own…or lost.  I can close my eyes and see vivid replays of some of my highest and lowest times. I can also see those moments in who I am now. I wonder sometimes how to just BE. And it’s something I sigh deeply about.

We visited the zoo and my sometimes sensory reluctant son said he did not want to feed the goats. That was okay I told, him but he “had done it before and was really happy afterwards.”  He sat on the bench and watched. I got some food and told him I was going to do it with his sister, and he could watch, or try one piece. I found his hand slowly sliding under mine to catch the food. And he fed the goat. With goat saliva on his hand,  people bustling about, his sister still leaning down feeding one, the heavy, hot air, he smiled with a tender joy and said, “I did it. You told me I would be proud and happy. I am.”

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There are no charts that mark when one should be able to feed a goat or do something that they are a little afraid or concerned about. I don’t need one to measure the look of pure joy on Ephraim’s face.

I watch him later as he speeds through the campground on his three wheel bike, now able to enjoy the freedom of biking. This same day he reminds me I am in love with God when he overhears something I say to my mom about too many love songs playing everywhere we go. That insight and compassion outranks so much of what he has struggled with.

He and I will keep helping one another through life, one piece of goat food at a time.

His sister creative, confused, and sometimes timid, sometimes tenacious, jumps right in to feed the goats. The moment won’t last forever, though. And change is hard for KIra. When we leave the zoo, she says what a wonderful day it was, a look of longing forming, and then she apologizes for complaining earlier in the day. She is measuring the day up and thinking of what she could have done differently, but now can’t. She is mourning the ending before we’ve even reached the exit. I get it.

Once she is in her bathing suit and sifting through sand for each magnificent and unique pebble she finds, that struggle fades. She is immersed wholly in the moment. This is something that she does so well. I watch her carefully look through the sand, feel the water run through her fingers, and study each rock with fascination before she runs out of the lake to deliver it to me with pride, describing the color and the smoothness of its water worn shape. It is added to the collection for us to admire. It will keep the moment for us, as I do with pictures and writing.

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There is such complete enthusiasm in her whole being right then that I wish I could return that to her when the frustrations of life overwhelm her. When making a decision renders her in tears or the desire for perfection pulls at her, I wish I could bring her heart back to the place where sand drips through her fingers and that is all that matters. Standing above me on the beach, she leans down and kisses my head, smiles at me and tells me I am beautiful. And so I am.

While these moments will define memories of their ages right now, they will also very much be a part of the adults they will become, some day turning *gulp* 39.

They hug me with sweet abandon, not caring too much about where I am in life other than being their mom.

Will 40 be much different for me? I will still be in love with God and beautiful, no matter what unfolds around me.

I went to the lake alone, in the duskiness of the day. The kids settling into their bunks in Nana’s and Papa’s camper. For air. For beauty. My journal stayed beside me in the sand. I thought of the goats I’ve fed and the sand and water I’ve let trickle through my fingers.

I laid back against the beach and listened to the sound of water gently lapping at the edge, the distant laughter of campsites, the ducks feeding, soft music of hope in my ear, and the pounding of my heart. The sand slid through my hair, and brushed down inside my shirt, on my day worn body. Unkempt hair, no make-up, damp clothing. The faintness of a fading day and fatigue. Of my own sometimes fading self.

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I have done well for my life. I have worked hard, loved hard and tripped hard. I have embraced goals. I have faced some painful experiences and realizations. I can count my many blessings of success and purpose.

39 feels neither whole or incomplete. It is just an age. But me? I am learning daily how to be in the now as much as I can. I have always been drawn to nature, to stop to appreciate it and consider its perfect magnitude. There’s nothing to make sense of. I need to do that with myself.

They are currently doing a beach restoration project at the ocean beach near the campground. Huge pipes stretch down the beach and machines work to pump sand further down the shore line. When we crossed the dunes to see it, I was both saddened by the broken view and appreciative that the beach is being saved for my children to see at 39, as I saw it at their age.

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With the backdrop of the ocean, waves and seagulls, the hum of sand can be heard being pushed through the pipe to a place where it blasts out of the end of the pipe filling in the beach. Intriguing contraptions and construction equipment mimic something similar we might have set up with sand toys. The beach looks strange as it is repaired.

That’s what we must do with ourselves sometimes. We must look beyond what makes up what we’ve been for so many years, to the chances we have to restore ourselves, as strange as the process may be. Nothing needs to be discarded, just repurposed to fit with our… developmental age.