Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Vessels that Bloom Beauty

"May all your wanderings this weekend, good friends, make all the dark spaces into vessels that bloom beauty." Ann Voskamp 

She had a cat named Pyewacket and a wounded heart. Her house was just a block or two from our elementary school, and we sometimes walked home together part of the way. She never spoke about the pain, how her father just disappeared one day, how her mother sought solace in smoke, a bottle, and an endless line of boyfriends. Even if she had, I wouldn't have understood. Three little girls left fatherless.


We did understand the fun we had in girl scouts all through junior high and beyond when it was no longer "cool" to wear your uniform to school. Her older sister "dropped out" and moved away, her younger sister moved in with family friends, and she and her mom moved to an apartment.  I taught her how to drive a stick shift Renault, the same little car that a classmate totaled by ramming it with a huge American car. She says that accident taught her early that automobiles were deadly weapons.

We became fans of Peter, Paul and Mary, and spent many a weekend listening to their albums, trying to wrap our fingers around the chords and our voices around the harmonies. I always admired her independence and intelligence, her wacky sense of humor, her vulnerability and her strength. I never saw the darkness in which she walked, the fear that was her constant companion.  The emptiness.  The longing for safety and love.


We lost track of each other after high school. I visited her and another friend once while they were away at a junior college, and envied the year she spent with a German family. She was a free spirit, stretching her wings in Europe, and I was stuck at home, a college commuter.

Last weekend we got together again. She was as beautiful as she was in high school decades ago. As we shared our journeys, I became aware of how much of her story I had never known, of how miraculous was her resilient soul. She was accompanied by a little dachshund named Sara. Loving, independent, brave, compassionate Sara. Just like her human friend.

We briefly laughed through our senior yearbook, watched Sara chase disbelieving cows, and visited a delightful garden and event center nearby.


We both love flowers, and she brought some from her garden. That gift still makes me smile when I pass by the table they adorn. 


She has seen so much more than I, much more of the bad, and survived with sensitivity and humor, turning the hurting into healing by working with foster kids who have outgrown the "system",  tending them as carefully and lovingly as she tends her garden.

In the process she has learned how to make her dark spaces into vessels.


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Vessels that bloom beauty.

Counting with the Community of Gratitude: 
324. friendship that survives the drought of time together
325. color
326. blooms
327. well tended gardens
328. well tended hearts
329. time to sit in silence
330. time to share
331. Sara's bounding love
332. God's grace
333. a cool breeze
334. a beautiful weekend
335. weekend words
336. vessels
337. beauty
338. laughter
339. acceptance
340. migrating monarchs
341. walking the pasture
342. the gifts we are to each other
343. memories
344. the road ahead

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Texas Engine-uity

Those of us of a certain age fell in love the first time we gazed at its shiny chrome. And now that we are older, a lucky few are living the dream.

Those recessed headlamps....
the iconic round rear window....
that mythical logo....
the stuff of dreams and legends,
the Ford Thunderbird.
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But wait a minute. Those aren't typical appointments of such a grand vehicle. Those are...cable ties holding up the license plate!!
Cable ties!!?? Really?
Sam, our auto critic and resident gearhead, says it's back to the drawing board. But he gives it a 4 paws rating for engine-uity!

Monday, September 12, 2011

In the clouds

My head was in the clouds--both figuratively and literally...



Actually, all of me was (along with all of Principessa and my Dear Professor).  After the packing and the unpacking, the driving cross country, and the settling in, we were bound for Sprittles territory!


And so my head was in the clouds.

The Preacher (our eldest son and Daddy to the Sprittles), accompanied by Matt Matt (who has grown too big too fast), picked us up at the airport for the hour something drive to the Sprittle house.  Miz Feebs called at least 3 times for an update on our progress.  The last time, Daddy said she was standing in the front window anxiously awaiting our arrival with big brother and Beautiful Mommy.

When we finally walked into the house, Miz Feebs and her big brother Drew jumped out of hiding in the living room to surprise us.  Their youngest sibling, 3 month old Anna, had greeted us at the door.  She's our new Sprittle on the block.


Isn't she sweet?

There was a a lot to do during those precious days--early evening walks in the rain,


a tour of the secret neighborhood paths (there be barking dogs there!),


tea parties with iced tea and powdered donuts,


and glorious clouds above us.



We collected leaves. . .and memories.

How precious are grandchildren!  What a blessing and privilege to be given the responsibility of loving them.  What a thrill to have their arms encircle your neck with their love.


And what a sorrow at parting.

The time went by so fast.  We had just turned around and were boarding a plane again for home.

If home is truly where the heart is, mine is somewhere in North Carolina, enjoying a walk in the heat of a summer evening with 4 precious babies who will be grown too soon.


A prayer for our grandchildren,  from Bob Hostetler:

"Grant to my grandchildren your grace, most merciful Jesus, that it may be with them and in them now and to the end of their lives. Grant that they may always desire and will those things that are most acceptable and most dear to you. Let your will be theirs, and let their will ever follow yours and agree perfectly with it. Let their willing and not-willing be in complete unison with your will, and let them not be able to will anything but what you will, nor will not what you will not, in Jesus’ name, amen. (Based on a prayer by Thomas Aquinas)"

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Where Hope Grows

I peer over the headboard that was already old when I was using it as a hobby horse so many years ago, and through the window screen to the rain gauge.  It's brand new, and has yet to be baptized in heaven's bounty.  Too dry.  Too hot.


It is so dry that we are using drip lines to give long drinks to the live oaks around the house. The trees are hardy, but they have been tested through too many dry summers. 



The pond is empty and cracked.  In Texas, you call a pond a pond if it has fish in it, and a tank if your livestock drink out of it.  Nothing is swimming or drinking out of ours.

The cowbirds that stopped in every morning last summer looking for breakfast are somewhere else these mornings.

The chaos caused by too many boxes in too tiny a house is easing a bit.  There are more and more oases of space as the boxes are emptied and places created for the contents.

A few days ago I was walking through a store and my eye was caught by a decorative box in the shape of a book.  Curious that, as the bane of my existence right now are the boxes of my and my Dear Professor's books still waiting for a home.

But this was different.  More than anything it was the words that drew me.  "Where hope grows."


I carried it with me as my daughter looked at chairs and my sister-in-law hunted rocker cushions, and the words echoed in my heart, "where hope grows."  

Hope needs a place, a place to be, a place to grow, every bit as much as those books in boxes.  Every bit as much as my Dear Professor and I need a place to be and to grow.

I am a plant uprooted, torn from 20 years of soil fertilized and watered by loving hands, and hardened by grey Pennsylvania winters.  I am transplanted in Texas gumbo clay parched by the sun.

 I need hope like that clay needs rain. 

The train whistle blows and the coyotes howl, and my heart howls for hope.  How can any of us live without it?  My heart is such a tiny space, so quickly cluttered.  Is there room for the important, or has it been squeezed out by the urgent?

"What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important."
Dwight D. Eisenhower

As we approached the checkout counter, I put the box back on the shelf.  The box was just a reminder.  A love note from the heart of the One who is hope.  I don't need another box.  I just need to let go of the unpacking and the chaos and the worry and the "what ifs".  Clear them away to make room for hope.

Clear them away to make my heart a place "where living hope grows."

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade."  1 Peter 1:3-4 (NIV)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Coming Home

(In the packing and the leaving, the traveling and the arriving, the family wedding and the birthday, and the connecting and the settling, I have been too long from this space.  So long, in fact, that blogger changed the editing interface and I had to relearn how to post!  Oh, the stories I have to tell...)

It is called a common dayflower (Commelina) because its bloom lasts that long.


Only a day.

But that day is long enough to give me hope and welcome me back home after 28 years of wandering.  It is a curious thing to return to a place that is home, and yet is so unfamiliar. A few weeks ago, I looked up from the unpacking to browse my pictures and realized they were all Pennsylvania skies and fields.



They made me "homesick".

Twenty-eight years is a long time.  The dream of return, the dream that seemed as far away as the place of dreaming, has become a reality. The lush green and frozen white of Pennsylvania and New York have been replaced by the drought dust and brutal heat of a Texas summer.



But the friends we made in those years of exile, the friends who loved us, welcomed us as family when ours was so far away, and laughed and cried with us, still dwell in our hearts.

And always will.

They are Tolkien's "gold that does not glitter", the intentional wanderers, "the old that is strong (and) does not wither", the "deep roots. . .not reached by the frost."

They are as beautiful as the flower that blooms in the dust,


and as warm as a Texas sunset.


sunset at old glory ranch


Thursday, June 9, 2011

When Least Expected

When snow was falling and ice was on the ground, I took it home, a green plant with beautiful flowers. It was a grocery store special. Given my history with living things (our three children and the cat excepted), my hopes were not high that it would live to see the spring. But it was cold and frozen and grey that night, and my heart cried out for something beautiful, something alive.

The price was right and I took it home, carefully sheltering it with a plastic bag as we rushed through the cold of that winter night twice, from the store to the car, then car to home. It was placed on the green marble lazy susan in the middle of the kitchen table. The blooms continued to grace the table for some time, then, one by one, they fell and were gone. I cut back the bloom spike once it had dried and shriveled into grey. The green leaves remained. Waiting. Breathing in the dark under the mulch, absorbing food and water, and preparing for what was to come.

I waited too, gathering courage from each day the leaves remained green.

Along the way I sought advice from a friend whose orchids I had photographed a few years ago. They decorated her piano and windowsill. I followed her instructions as best I could, trying desperately not to under or over water the plant.

The weeks ran into months.

Spring slowly crept in as the snow withdrew from the landscape. Snowdrops appeared followed by dandelions, then the grass shot up. I can't remember when the new spike appeared, I do remember how happily I greeted it, watching as it stretched toward the light, then started budding.

Last week the first bud opened.


A few days later there was another,


then a third. There are four more buds to go.


It's a phalaenopsis or moth orchid, and from this angle, the blossoms look like moths in flight.


They make my heart take flight.


They remind me that there is wisdom in the counsel of a good friend,


and that good things are often formed in the dark.


Good things that bring forth joy when least expected.