One Thousand Gifts and Dragon of the Red Dawn

You might assume Ann Voskamp’s New York Times bestseller One Thousand Gifts and book #37 in Mary Pope Osborne’s Magic Tree House series wouldn't have anything in common…but you would be wrong.

This week I read Dragon of the Red Dawn to Rowan, in which the book’s main characters, siblings Jack and Annie, embark on a quest to 17th-century Japan in search of the “secret to happiness.” In the ancient city of Edo, Jack and Annie meet samurai warriors and sumo wrestlers, ride the terrifying Cloud Dragon and befriend the famous Japanese haiku poet Basho.

“What’s haiku?” Rowan interrupts as I read. I explain the basic concept, and Noah runs to his room to write one, while Rowan and I lie on the bed and give it a try. He recites his first line: “I love my mom.”

“That’s good,” I tell him, but I remind Rowan that the first line should be five syllables. “How about ‘I love my mommy’” – I count the five syllables out on my left hand.

Rowan nods. That will do.

“Okay, now what do you want to say?” I ask him. “We need the second line of the poem – seven syllables.”

“I love my dad, too.”

“Okay, that’s five syllables,” I say, showing the beats on my fingers as I say the line aloud. “Let’s add two more. “How about, ‘And I love my daddy, too.’ See how that makes seven beats?”

I admit, I find explaining the concept of syllables to Rowan rather daunting. This is why I am not a teacher.

“You have one more line to make your haiku,” I tell Rowan. “What do you want to add?”

Rowan stares up at the skylight for a few seconds.

“I love grasshoppers!” he yells suddenly, pleased with the perfect conclusion. A rather dramatic departure from the family theme, but it’s five syllables, so it works for me.

Noah returns carrying a sheet of paper. I read his haiku aloud as the three of us sprawl on the bed, and then Rowan and I oooh and ahhh over it:

Lava lamp bubbles
It glows a butiful light
I like waching it

Now…lest you assume I’m the kind of mom who spins iambic pentameter with the kids in my spare time, let me remind you: I’ve prayed to God more than once to help me be a fun mom. Yes, that’s right, I have to pray to be fun. The reason this haiku extravaganza worked at all was simply because it was a spontaneous, in-the-moment moment. If I’d planned a haiku-writing session with the boys, the result would have been poetry rife with excrement and bodily functions. But because we embraced the present, the moment became poetry itself.

At the end of Dragon of the Red Dawn, Jack and Annie realize that the secret to happiness isn’t found in the big, exciting, extravagant moments – like riding the Cloud Dragon – but in the small:

As Jack and Annie started through the chilly woods together, Jack noticed things he hadn’t seen before. He saw tiny blue wildflowers sprouting up from the winter-weary ground. He saw fresh anthills in the dirt. He saw leaf buds on twigs and green moss on a rock, bright in the March sunlight. “I feel like I’m seeing spring for the first time,” said Jack. “Me too,” said Annie. “Not just for the first time this year,” said Jack. “But for the first time in my whole life.”

In the end, it turns out, Jack and Annie reminded me of something my kids show me every day. The magic is in the moment.

“This is where God is. In the present. I AM – His very name.”
Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts

I love my mommy
And I love my daddy, too
I love grasshoppers
a haiku by Rowan Johnson


Lent Lapse

JAX Pictures, Images and Photos

Picture this: I’m lumbering through O’Hare laden with two McDonald’s Happy Meals, three 16-ounce Dansani Purified Water bottles at $2.99 a pop, three fleece jackets, my laptop encased in its svelte “SwissGear Laptop Sleeve” and my gargantuan purse brimming with a 95-pound Harry Potter novel, two Magic Treehouse books and enough DVDs to last through a nonstop connection to Borneo. At the same time I’m squawking at the kids over my shoulder to please keep up we have a flight to catch, yakking to my husband on the cell and fumbling into the far reaches of Mammoth Cave (i.e. gargantuan purse) for the ever-elusive boarding passes.

Suffice to say, I was a multitasking maniac more than once on my six-day trip to Massachusetts last week. Not only did I have a major multitask fast lapse, I entirely forgot about Lent altogether as I left God stuffed into the bottom of the suitcase, right next to my neglected running shoes and my gratitude journal.

Actually, my travel Bible made it out of the suitcase and onto the nightstand, where it sat unopened for the remainder of the trip. I also chose an omelet and greasy-good hash browns at The Chuck Wagon over church on Sunday morning, and didn’t crack the Lent devotional booklet once, even though it sat front and center on my parents’ coffee table.

In the past the guilt of these multiple transgressions would have weighed on me like a lead x-ray apron, but this time it didn’t. Instead, on the plane ride home, I vowed to begin anew come Monday morning.

So yesterday I swigged coffee and ate an English muffin with the kids for breakfast. My rear-end made physical contact with a chair for a full five minutes – an epic display of unitasking never before witnessed during the mid-week breakfast hour.

As I drove to work I hummed along to the sassy brass and soaring strings of a classical piece I didn’t recognize on NPR. I also caught sight of two Japanese flags hanging side by side from a Nebraska front porch, their red suns unfurling like twin beacons of hope.

Later at lunchtime, as I dipped a spoon into Yoplait Harvest Peach, I swiveled my chair toward the window and spotted a robin as she sipped water from a puddle on the roof. She looked at me as I swirled the spoon round and round, as if to say, “Aren’t you glad you glanced up?”

I’ve worked in an office overlooking that same flat, tar roof for nearly nine years now, and never has a robin hopped daintily by my window.

Or perhaps it’s just that I’ve never looked.

* Photo from photobucket

And linking up with Laura at The Wellspring, too, for her Monday Playdates with God...

And with Cheryl at CultureSmith Consulting, for her Simplify Journey:

The Simplify Journey


The Desk

It sat in front of the window in my grandmother’s bedroom. As a kid I would plunk into the wide armchair, the one covered in nubby goldenrod fabric, and comb through the piles of correspondence that spilled from every cranny. I loved that desk – the tiny drawers filled with stamps and address labels, erasers and nail files, hair pins and bracelet charms. The secret cubbies and slots for letters and bills and magazine articles clipped from Ladies Home Journal and Redbook.

A few weeks ago, finally fed up with the faux glaze my grandfather had applied to the desk decades prior, I spread drop cloths on the floor, pushed the desk into the middle of the sun room, hauled the can of Behr Cottage White out of the basement and got to work.

Pulling the tiny drawers from their slots, I bent to stack them on the floor. And that’s when I spotted them: two small boxes nestled into the back corner of the desk.

The square box was Tiffany blue, the white one labeled “G. Fox & Co.” On the lid of the white box “Dad’s 1st Communion Beads” was spelled out in my grandfather’s neat penmanship.

I stood in my paint-splotched clothes, Nora Jones crooning on the stereo, and lifted the lid off one box and then the other. Inside each, nestled beneath soft cotton, was a set of delicate black rosary beads. The First Communion beads were once owned by Elbridge DeRusha, my great-grandfather.

Tucked under a second slip of cotton was Elbridge’s obituary on newspaper worn soft and brown, along with that of his wife, Lena, and his son, Roland, my grandfather’s brother.

As I read through their terse obituaries I realized that I don’t know much about Elbridge and Lena. It never occurred to me, for instance, that my great grandfather was born in 1875, just ten years after the end of the Civil War. The yellowed newspaper indicated that Elbridge was born in Vermont – this I knew – but it did not say what he had done for a living. I realized that I don’t think I’ve ever known. It showed that "J" was his middle initial, but it occured to me that I don't even know his middle name.

In fact, I don’t know all that much about my own grandfather, Earl. I do know that he assembled guns for a living at the Springfield Armory. I also know that he doted on my grandmother and made delectable apple pie and loved to read and was good at math. I remember that he took my sister and me to feed the ducks at Forest Park, and sang Michelle My Belle while he flipped pancakes on the griddle.

But what else is there? There must be so much more.

The DeRushas aren’t storytellers. My family doesn’t pass down tales from one generation to the next or sit around the turkey and laugh over remember-whens. Maybe other families do this, but mine does not. My people, it seems, pass like wisps of smoke, leaving nothing but tattered snapshots and obituary clippings.

I wish now I knew more about Elbridge and Lena, and even about Earl, my grandfather. I want the facts, yes, but also the stories, the history and the beginnings, the joys and the sorrows and even the mundane in between. I want to weave them seamlessly into the fabric of my being, and then repeat the stories over and over to my children, so that the stories become part of their fabric, too.

A few days after I discovered the hidden boxes I pushed the freshly painted desk back into its spot beneath Janice’s watercolor. I tucked the brown clippings under the cotton, spiraled bead upon black bead, and rested the crucifixes on top of the coiled strands. I replaced the lids and set the blue and white boxes one atop the other, not back into the deep recesses of the desk where I’d found them, but prominently on the desk shelf.

Those two boxes on the desk will continue to remind me that it’s not too late. After all, there are still stories to tell…and I am still here to tell them.

Do you come from a storytelling family? How do you keep the rich traditions and history of your family alive?

Linking with Jen and the Tuesday sisters:

And with Emily for Imperfect Prose on Thursdays:


Hear It on Sunday, Use It on Monday Link-Up: Seeing

I get the kids buckled in, supply them with snacks and books and then settle into my own seat, novel in hand, scarf wrapped snugly around my neck. I open to chapter ten, intent on finishing the book before the plane touches down in Omaha.

“What are you reading?”

I turn toward the young girl seated to my right. She wears wire-rimmed glasses and grey and pink Nike sneakers. Acne dots her chin and forehead, and her blond curls frizz unruly and unkempt.

“It’s called Drowning Ruth,” I reply, smiling before turning back to the page.

“What’s it about?” she asks, nasal voice monotone and grating.

I sigh.

“It’s fiction, about a girl named Ruth,” I answer, averting eye contact and keeping my gaze on the page.

“Seriously?” I think. “Seriously? This is the way it’s going to be for the next two hours? Crammed next to a pain-in-the-neck chatty pre-teen traveling alone? Give me a break.”

“What chapter are you on? Do you like to read? What kind of books do you like to read? What are your favorite TV shows?”

She peppers me with questions and then, craning forward to peer at the boys across the aisle, she turns her attention to Noah and Rowan.

“What grade are they in? Where do they go to school? Do they like to read, too? What kind of books do they like to read? What’s the name of their teachers? What movies do they like?”

I’m irritated. I give clipped one- or two-word answers and continue to keep my book open on my lap. I turn pages, hoping she will eventually get the message that I am not interested in small talk.

She doesn’t.

It doesn’t take long for me to realize that Rachel has some sort of developmental delay. She asks too many questions, and her voice, the way she forms her words slowly and carefully, isn’t quite up to par for a six grader. She absolutely won’t stop talking.

I glance at the passenger seated diagonally behind me across the aisle. She raises her eyebrows and half-smiles.

Closing my book, I wedge it between my thigh and the armrest.

I admit, it’s not an intentional decision to engage in conversation with Rachel. I don’t want to. I make every attempt not to, even to the point the rudeness. But Rachel doesn’t notice my obvious disdain. She presses on, pointing out a photo of Taylor Swift in the Teen Magazine on her lap, mentioning twice that James Durbin is her favorite American Idol contestant, giggling at a scantily clad Carly and then quickly turning the page.

I surrender. But only because I have to.

By the end of the flight Rachel, the boys, Jeffrey the flight attendant and I are all friends. We’ve talked for nearly two hours about school, the weather, teenage pop stars, the Kardashians, our favorite Delta snacks – Rachel prefers the pretzels, I the spice cookies – Rachel’s Dad in Cincinnati and her mom in Lincoln and her little brother and how much she likes school. As we begin our descent into Omaha it finally occurs to me that I should ask my seatmate some questions as well, to show interest in her the same way she has to me. It’s taken me nearly the entire duration of the flight, but I am finally genuinely engaged.

I think about Rachel long after we wave goodbye to her and her mom at the baggage claim. And I think about her on Sunday morning, when I hear these verses about the blind man from John 9:

They asked, "Who healed you? What happened?" He told them, “The man they call Jesus made mud and smoothed it over my eyes and told me, ‘Go to the pool of Siloam and wash off the mud.’ I went and washed, and now I can see!’” (John 9:10-11)

And then I say a prayer of thanks to God for seating me next to a girl named Rachel who talked and talked and made me see.

“Staying put and doing the best we can to live in the present moment and being attentive to whatever is before at this moment is what makes listening and responding possible…I cannot be Christ’s hands if I’m not fully there to discern what his hands would do. ‘Let us open our eyes to the divine light that comes from God, and our ears to the voice from heaven that every day calls out this charge: ‘If you hear his voice today, do not harden your hearts.’” (Jane Tomaine, St. Benedict’s Toolbox).

Welcome to the Hear It on Sunday, Use It on Monday community. If you are here for the first time, feel free to click here for details and instructions on how to link up. Or, if you're easy-breezy, copy the code for the "Hear It, Use It" button in the sidebar to the right, and simply paste it into your post.

And remember, you don't need to write exactly about Sunday's reading or sermon; you can simply write about a verse or even a hymn that you've been pondering anytime recently. Also, you can come by anytime during the week to link up -- it stays open until Friday.


Giving God the Silent Treatment

Sometimes I give God the silent treatment. I ice him out, just like I used to do to my best friend in the eighth grade when she invited Sue Salsman and not me for a sleep-over.

It's easier to ice out God than it is a living, breathing human. I don't have to give him contemptuous eye rolls or wearisome sighs. To ignore God, I simply stop praying.

...I'm over at the Lincoln Journal-Star with my monthly column. Will you join me there? Let's talk about getting angry with God...


Grace and Peace...or Raving Lunatic?

“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now.” (Philippians 1:2-4)

Pastor Sara spoke at length about just two simple words in that salutation – grace and peace – and what those words meant to people living in Paul’s time and what they might mean to us today.

Toward the end of the sermon Pastor Sara asked some insightful questions: do you share grace and peace with the people – friends, strangers, loved ones – that cross your path every day? Do you exude grace and peace, shining the light of Jesus Christ on those around you in your daily life?

My answer? An emphatic no.

It was, frankly, not a good week. As temperatures in Lincoln plummeted to -15 degrees, and winds gusted to 30 mph, the public schools closed. For three days straight. The week following a 16-day holiday hiatus.

Rowan asked. “What can I do now?” in fifteen-minute intervals for three consecutive days.

Brad and I, still in post-Disney recovery mode, were in no mood to entertain. Non-stop. For three straight days.

My cabin fever culminated in a tantrum of epic proportions on Saturday morning. As my brand-new vacuum suddenly lost all suction power, I quickly spiraled. The kids, glimpsing the wild look in my eyes, scurried to their rooms like mice ducking for cover. I heaved attachments and hoses onto the couch, slammed the dirt canister over the garbage can, stomped back into the living room and cursed the Hoover to Hell.

It was so stupid – I can see this clearly now – but I was furious, absolutely furious over that vacuum cleaner.

“Don’t even bother,” I fumed to Brad, as he patiently detached the hose. “What a complete waste. It’s totally broken. My new vacuum is ruined. What a piece of crap. I can’t believe this.”

I ranted and raved, fuming as I tore off my cardigan in an overheated frenzy. Brad poked and prodded into the hose with a pencil, peered into the end with a flashlight, and finally fished out a motley mass of hair, string, Christmas tree pine needles and an acorn. Then he threaded the hose back into place, snapped on the canister and switched on the vacuum. It purred sweetly, full suction power restored.

Suffice to say, I did not, in fact, spread grace and peace throughout my home on Saturday morning. Chaos and unrest? Yes. Anxiety and stress? That, too. But “grace and peace from God the Father and Jesus Christ?” Not a glimmer.

I was pretty humbled sitting in the pew on Sunday morning -- ashamed by my childlike behavior and disgusted by my loss of self-control.

I’m not going tell you that I experienced a momentous epiphany in that pew. I didn’t see the light, or recognize the Holy Spirit descend upon me or even feel much peace slide into my heart. But I didn’t give up hope entirely.

We exited the sanctuary. I took a deep breath, picked up the kids from Sunday School, ate a donut hole (truthfully, three), and began anew. And the words of Paul to the Philippians, his prayer for them, rang through my mind:

“And this is my prayer for you, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you determine what is best.” (Philippians 1:9-10)

I prayed that prayer, that I would somehow, through the grace and peace of God, through his love for me, gain knowledge and insight to help me determine what is best.

Linking up with Jennifer in her Journeys series. Today she tackles self-control, one of the Fruits of the Spirit.

A repost from the archives as we wrap up our travels.


Running Toward Faith

Two svelte girls stretch a few yards ahead of me on the path and then take off running. They bound ahead in their sleek Lycra, quickly lengthening the gap between us. One wears thin-soled fuchsia shoes. They look like Aqua-socks. “How can anyone even run in those,” I muse as the bobbing ponytails fade to pinpricks on the horizon.

As I galumph onward I rationalize: I’m really not that out of shape. Those girls only speed ahead because they are so much younger than I am.

But just seconds later I am passed again, this time by a runner who bears a striking resemblance to Santa Claus, complete with white beard, red sweatshirt and a bowl full of jelly. As he lumbers by on my left he booms a jolly hello. “He doesn’t look like he’s moving very fast,” I puzzle. "How is he passing me?” There’s only one answer: I am shuffling even more slowly than Santa Claus.

...I am guest posting over at my good friend Kim Turnage's blog From Doing to Being today. Please hop over there and click around her place for a while. She is a deep thinker, a loving wife, mom and friend and a great nudger (she's the one who got me started on blogging!).


The Challenge: A Guest Post by Sara Spohr

I'm so excited to introduce my friend (and pastor!) Sara Spohr to you today. Sara embarked upon her own shop-not initiative a couple of years ago when she decided that she would only purchase items she needed (as opposed to wanted) for one year. Here's her reflection on the experience:

It was my stubborn side that accepted the challenge. Over coffee with a friend one day I dissed the author of a book I was reading at the time, about a couple who went a year without buying anything. In all honesty, I didn’t think the author had made her adventure difficult enough. My condescending review of the book came to an abrupt end when my friend said: “Sara, you could never do that.”

At that point belligerence must have taken over for arrogance because I heard myself blurt out, without having fully processed what it might mean: “Oh yes I could.” She challenged, and I accepted.

The time frame would be one year and it would start immediately. The rules would be simple, I could not buy anything that I did not need for one full year.

As one might imagine, it was absolutely not that simple.

I learned a lot of things in my year without shopping, perhaps the most important of which was the difference between a need and a want.

First, I learned that different people have different and definite opinions as to what qualifies as a need. I learned this the first time my tube of bamboo pink lipstick ran out. I milked that little silver tube far longer than I normally would have because I was having an ethical dilemma about which category lipstick should land under.

Is it a need? I wanted it to be a need...but I was pretty sure it was a want.

I asked my hip and stylish friend, who just happens to be a girly-girl, what she thought. “Need. Definitely a need,” was her response. But who am I kidding, I knew she would say that before I asked her. That’s why I asked her.

Next I asked a much more sensible, thrifty, and perfectly practical friend. She laughed at me. Her response was as definite as the first: want.

I remembered a conversation I’d had with my grandma when I was about 25. She asked me why I wore make up. I said because it helped me to feel strong, confident, and “put-together.” My grandma approved of this response, saying that if I had said it made me feel “more beautiful” she would not have approved. In some twisted way I manipulated my now-deceased grandmother’s words to offer her approval now to filing the lipstick purchase in the “need” category.

Which brings me to the second thing I learned about the difference between a want and a need, which is: A person can find a way to justify the “need” label on almost anything.

No, I don’t need to go out for supper with friends, but I do need a social life. I need to have fun with friends and enjoy those relationships. No, I don’t need to buy this nice birthday gift for my sister, but I want to go shopping and I am going to buy this gift for my sister and not feel guilty about it. I do need to recognize how important my sister is to me and this gift will do it. In my home budget, cable tv, internet service, and a cell phone are all necessary line items. Who would question that? I would. I did. I still am. They are wants and not needs. I hate admitting that.

In the end, I learned that the line between need and want is not as “fine” as I would like to make it. Obviously this challenge of mine came up in many a conversation. People wanted to know how I decided to do this. What was the motivation? Was it difficult? Eventually the question was always asked: how do you decide what is a need and what is a want? When I did not have the time for an in-depth conversation about on this point I would simply say, “It's a fine line.” To which the person or persons would nod their heads and agree that it really was.

It's not.

Truthfully I have everything I need. It actually took me a whole month after the year was over to purchase something as a pure “want,” because I came to know that I did not need anything. I need nothing. I’d love to say it changed my life, and now I am thrifty and live simply and examine each and every purchase thoughtfully and faithfully. The fact is, I was recently “snowed in” and that day I made two completely impulsive and unnecessary online purchases.

Whenever I do that, the real learning from my year of not shopping suddenly seems to appear in bold and flashing type face before me: you don’t need that. What I really need is a God who provides, forgives, strengthens, and sends. I know I already have this very God in my life, but the challenge now is to daily remember who God has asked me to be and be it.

Challenge accepted.


Thank you, Sara, for your hard, honest look at need vs. want. I'm so grateful to feature your wise words here today.

And for more stories in the Shop Not Chronicles, click here.


Hear It on Sunday, Use It on Monday: Tilling

Yesterday’s reading was Matthew 13:1-9 and 18-23, the familiar parable about good soil. I love this one because, as my pastor pointed out, it’s the only parable that Jesus actually explains. It’s like Parables for Dummies – which is perfect for me.

So…here’s the gist. When Jesus sows the seed – God's word – it lands one of four places: on the footpath, where it’s never heard and is eaten by birds; on shallow soil, where it grows into tender plants that later wilt in the sun; among thorns, where it’s choked by thistles and weeds; and on fertile soil, where it grows to produce a crop that’s 30, 60 and even 100 times more productive.

As I listened to the reading and the sermon, I wondered about the soil of my heart. Is it hard? Shallow and rocky? Thorny? Or richly tilled?

I choose E – all of the above.

For many years my heart was stone-cold metal. I doubted God existed. I didn’t bother to listen for his voice. I completely barred him from my life. During this long, barren time my husband, Brad, was the tiller of my heart, despite the fact that I didn’t offer any signs of softening. He married me knowing my conflicted beliefs, and slowly, gently, he encouraged conversation about God. It took more than 14 years of persistent tilling for me to engage in that conversation.

Even as a believer, though, my heart grows steely cold. Just last week, for instance, when I wanted to walk out of church, refusing to hear the message of forgiveness, I intentionally hardened my heart to God’s word. Only circumstances (tact, really) prohibited me from fleeing church. Thankfully, as I sat through the reading, hymns and sermon, my heart gradually opened to receive God again.

Most often I’m shallow, rocky soil. I have excellent intentions – I listen to God and receive his message with joy, all gung-ho and inspired in the pew – but then drop it when life presents a challenge. That’s me – I embrace a Biblical lesson with abandon at the outset, only to grow bored with it after the initial excitement wears off, when following Jesus becomes hard work.

Most recently the seed has fallen onto thorny soil, choked by other responsibilities and “more important” concerns of daily life. About two months ago I launched a morning Bible study. I vowed to rise early, before the boys got up, to read and reflect on a Bible verse. I started with Paul’s Letter to the Romans, and the plan proceeded splendidly. As I filled my suitcase for vacation, I tucked in my Bible, knowing I would have more time for reading without my household responsibilities.

You know what I did every morning on vacation? Slept as late as possible.

And you know what I did when we got home? Continued to sleep in every morning. After less than two months, I let my morning Bible study slide and replaced it with sleep and Internet trolling. Not exactly a spiritual swap.

Periodically the seed does fall upon good soil. But as my pastor noted, good soil bears fruit – the fruits of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control – and a simple glance at this list tells me all I need to know. My heart requires continuous tilling.

The fields are large and dusty, furrows long, tools rusty. Sometimes it feels like an impossibly long row, unfurling endlessly to the horizon.

It’s a good thing God’s got a hand on the hoe.

How's your heart-soil these days? Hard? Shallow? Weedy? Fertile? Or perhaps, like mine, all of the above?

* * A repost from June 2010. Traveling this week to balmy Massachusetts for spring break. Thank you for patience and grace as I pause from blog visits. See you next week...* *

: :

Welcome to the Hear It on Sunday, Use It on Monday community. If you are here for the first time, feel free to click here for details and instructions on how to link up. Or, if you're easy-breezy, copy the code for the "Hear It, Use It" button in the sidebar to the right, and simply paste it into your post.

And remember, you don't need to write exactly about Sunday's reading or sermon; you can simply write about a verse or even a hymn that you've been pondering anytime recently. Also, you can come by anytime during the week to link up -- it stays open until Friday.

Thanks for coming around today! And if you don't see me at your place, it's because I'm traveling to see my family this week. Taking a break from the computer...thank you for grace!


Spinning Toward

It always starts the same way. The calling, the creating, the idea, the ambition, the dream.

The “I have to,” the “I want to,” the “I need to.”

It always starts the same way. Small, tentative, fearful, breathless. Sweaty palms, pumping blood, voice pounding “no” like wild drumbeat while another softer one breathes faint yes.

And it grows. The idea grows legs, or wings, or wheels. And they lengthen and unfurl and unroll. Wobbling, weaving, stopping, starting, jerky clunky stumbling, just plain awkward.

It doesn’t feel right I’m never going to get this why am I even doing this.

Cautious, oh so cautious.

A sure hand, encouraging words, pedaling onward.

Confidence blooms slow, like a tulip pushing through cracked March dirt.

And then when you least expect it, the calling or creating or dream or idea explodes like fireworks. You smile broad, shout joy, spin into reality fast and furious and ever so slightly out of control.

And maybe you end up in the shrubs once or twice. And maybe you have to brush gravel off palms and sand off pants. But you feel it happening. 

And so you do it again and again and again.

And it is good.

Counting small joys as we mourn with a nation...
79 Little boy biking
80 Smell of spring in morning air
81 Eagle turning eggs on nest
82 Nun wearing backpack at the bus stop
83 Young woman old man walking slowly
84 Desk bearing hidden treasure
85 Frost flakes on car windshield


My Irish Eyes are Smiling

We celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with gusto in my extended family, a tradition I’ve continued with my own children. After all, we must balance that Norwegian stoicism with a bit of blarney, don’t you think?

Every year the kids and I make a loaf of chocolate chip Irish Soda Bread from a recipe handed down from Eileen Long, a dear relative who bravely sailed from Ireland to America by herself at age sixteen.

Mrs. Long, as we fondly called her, always had a twinkle in her eye, a lilt in her voice, a bit of sass in her replies. Always full of mirth and spirit, she exuded a contagious joy to those of us blessed to have known her.

So in memory of Mrs. Long and in honor of my dear Irish family (I’ll throw in the French and English relatives, too), I pray this traditional Irish blessing for you all today:

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

A repost edited from the archives.

All material and photographs copyrighted Michelle DeRusha 2012

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