One Thousand

This is my one thousandth post on this blog. The words have gathered, sliding innocent and God-breathed out of fingers to keyboard and finally to you, dear readers. Some days I drive myself to write, others I write six posts in an hour, all the things God is saying to me tumbling out effortless.

Please comment on this entry, and I will enter you into a drawing for a framed photo of your choice from Turquoise Gates. If you are unable to comment, but wish to be entered in the drawing, email me at And thank you for reading. I doubt I'd ever keep it up for myself!

Calculated risk

They clamber up the apple tree, my four and six year olds, all the way to the top where the ripe apples drip like ruby gems from the bowed branches. I catch glimpses of faces through foliage and try to avoid sounding too nervous as I ask them to come down a bit lower in the tree. Rosy is the monkey, clinging and swinging, branch to branch and apples rain down in her wake.

Finally the feed bucket is full - half green and half ripe apples for a corral full of horses eager for a bite. The kids get braver, holding hands flat to offer apples to the hungry mouths, only to be grossed out by horse spit on their fingers. And she, the quiet beauty I held moments after birth, 16 now and silent. She knows the sorrow in my soul but instead of talking about it, we dance through the dreamy moments of peace in the horse corral, as she tends my kids and lets me take pictures. How could I disappoint her so, to end my life??

It is pure love, children and horses. While healthy fear keeps them guarded, there are moments like these, when horse and child melt together in embrace and solace that can only be found in the pulsing warm bodies of people and pets. The amazing synergy to touch between beast and man.

The gentle spirit in the glistening eyes, the gleam of the sun off curried backs, the thrill of the bareback ride around the yard. It is a love affair, just blossoming.

Their love affair with me predates horses, all the way back to birth, strengthening with every moment at the breast when they were babes, every smile from mother to baby, and even now from the broken and bruised mama to the broken and bruised child. The youngest, my favorite boy in the whole world, clambers down the hay mow stairs, and I watch from above while Katy watches from below. No railings. Another scary moment for a mom of klutzy kids.

I saw it there, on the hay mow floor. The only thing rougher than aged barn wood is the rasp of a sturdy rope. It hangs in a loop and you could swing out the door on it. I feel it for a second, the thorny grip of the rope on neck, the leap out, the swing, the fall, the last crack of life shut out like the sliver of light as a door closes.

But I have finally, desperately, clung to life. When I think of suicide, I read about myths of suicide and the urge passes. I "turn my mind", a coping skill used in modern cognitive behavioral therapy, words so similar to the definition of "repentance", the Hebrew word  שׁוּבָה transliterated "shubah", meaning a return or a turning away from.

I return to my children, and I turn away from the ropes and the knives and all the other everyday things that could be my end. My end is already written in His book. As depression wavers in the onslaught of medication, I begin to dream of more horse-child love, the future. To daydream, not about how I'll hurt myself next, but how I'll build for the future.

God is doing great things.

Confessions of a former girly girl

I was six years old and the worst thing that had ever happened was the recent NICU stay of my youngest brother, who had pneumonia at birth. I wore my clothes appropriately fitted, wore jewelry whenever my mother allowed, and loved having my hair put up in foam rollers for the Shirley Temple look on the occasional Saturday night so I could look extra pretty for church the next day.

We grew up in the Midwest, not Texas, despite my brothers looks in this photo.
My best friends were my brothers and the kids at the farm down the road. Even there, I remember trying to wear my new red clogs instead of Wellingtons when I went out to the barn in the evening to help with the milking. I ended up barefoot in cow manure with my clogs safely stashed by the bulk tank so they wouldn't get dirty.

I remember being teased for my large hands and for being homeschooled. Back then, gender differences were still an expected and very noticeable part of every kids wardrobe. Girls wore dresses to church and boys were in khakis and polos. I remember getting my first polo at around this age, a pink one with the coveted green IZOD lizard still intact, the shirt a hand-me-down from my cousin Tracy, who supplied me with most of my clothes. (Fleet Farm supplied the rest, with the occasional outfit from the second hand store in Menomonie.)

I expected to be a wife and a mother, had aspirations to be a nurse, not a doctor, and started honing my homemaking skills at this tender age of six, my little brother a newborn and my mother shackled to the couch by asthma. I learned to make scrambled eggs, pancakes, and macaroni and cheese. I started doing the laundry in our earthy basement, while my mother folded and sorted while in her requisite repose in the living room. I changed diapers, helped potty train, and never thought a thing of it.

This is what was stolen by the tragedy of abuse. During the abuse, one memory sticks out. My Gloria Vanderbilt jeans, formerly a favorite, had to be forced on me by my mother for a 4-H demonstration night. From then on, it was baggy sweatshirts and even baggier pants, usually bought in the men's section. My first clear memory of the constant teasing that I was a lesbian occurred at around age 11, when I saved up to buy a frog green pair of men's Girbaud jeans. While other girls were wearing trapeze pants and neon pink, I was hiding the self I had begun to hate in an identity I created to make myself look stronger than I really was.

Slowly, surely, as an adult woman with children and a husband, I have felt the building confidence to be the woman I am. My shirts are getting tighter again, I pick florals over stripes (sometimes), and I am beginning to understand just what and how my true identity was destroyed in the 1980's.

Someday I'll make it full circle to my girly girl beginnings, and have a pink swimsuit to show off for all the world to see.

That same smile

Honeymoon, September 2002

ooh, baby, baby
Something’s just a little bit different in your eyes tonight
They look twice as bright
Oooh, baby, baby
Something’s changed that I can’t quite put my finger on
Well I’ve been rackin’ my brain
Wait just a minute
Hold on, now
While I get it

Love, love, loves lookin’ good, good, good on you
Well can you feel it, oh everybody sees it
How your sweet smile has a way of lighting up a room
Yeah you shine like diamonds in everything you do
Oh love, love, loves lookin’ good, good, good on you

Oooh, baby, baby
Isn’t it funny how we don’t need any money
Just a little luck
To look like a million bucks
Oooh, baby, baby
It kind of makes you think
That the stars were in sync on the night we met
There oughtta be a red carpet
Everywhere you go
Roll it on out
Hey don’t you know that

I knew right away from the very first kiss
That it doesn’t get much better than this
We fit just like a favorite pair of jeans
We just keep coming back for more
Like two kids in a candy store
Now I know what everybody means
When they say
Love, love, loves lookin' good, good, good on you
~Love's Lookin' Good on You, Lady Antebellum~

August 2011
Not much has changed in 9 years. Except that I love you, shy boy, ever so much more than I ever thought possible. You have made my dreams come true and your love and smile are so sweet to me.

Small fruit

Slow progress. I feel like that's what I'm making, up out of the deep dark pit that swallowed me whole in April. I see others making slow progress, too, and it hits me kind of like the sun on a 70 degree day. Slowly, the warmth builds and spreads, and yes, you will sweat just as hard as a hot day if you stay long enough. 

We planted a few tomato plants in a long-abandoned deck garden at the beginning of summer. They've been blasted with sun, never have seen a watering can, and are at the whim of every passing downpour or hailstorm. Yet there is some fruit growing on these vines. While we might have hoped for a huge crop - 20 tomatoes or so - we have seven. And we are thrilled with the seven who have survived the craziness of a in and out again hospital summer.

I know believers like these. Lots of them. They never will give a 20 tomato crop, but they are slowly moving toward the seven. It takes a lifetime for the fruit to be revealed. I've heard many Christians dismiss these believers, saying fruit would be more visible in their lives if they were truly converted. And then they refuse to stay around for the lifetime to see the drunkard, the gambler, the smoker, the adulterer slowly bear small fruit.

I spoke to my uncle the other day, and he talked about supporting his sons as they start their careers. He laments being able to be a help to his mother, now gone. He talks about continuing to pay down his debt of child support even though his sons are long grown. He has made many bad choices, and is plagued by their consequences, but He vehemently professes Christ and quotes the Gospel to you if asked.

Can a Christian be alcoholic their whole life and still make it to heaven? I think of the thief on the cross, the one to whom Christ said, Truly I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise. (Luke 23:43) WHAT? Someone entering paradise with NO fruit? Then again I think of James 1:27, which says that religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. An alcoholic might never be unstained by the world, but he can watch out for widows and orphans. (or divorced wives and lost sons)

What do you think? Can you judge salvation based on works? How long would you wait before condemning the person who doesn't give up their bad habits or start going to church?

Out of sync

A life raft made of spheres and oblongs, a handful of pills to chase away sadness, chase away the chaotic mind, smooth the anxiety out like wrinkles on a dress shirt, float me into peace at night and drift me out of flashbacks by day. I feel angry at these pills, angry at my need. I long for the day I throw the bottles out forever, when my personal demons are finally hushed to a whisper and the armor of God is once more light enough to carry.

I knew lament so deeply as a nurse working with terminal kids. The bereft, uncomprehending shock of the loss of a child. I heard from those parents that for a while the earth seemed shifted off it's axis, flowers blooming when there should be ice forming, sun instead of rain, beauty instead of desolation. Their souls in gray and unchangeablely out of sync with life spiraling around them.

I paint a gray wash for the background of my first oil painting. I have been in the hospital four days again, sequestered in the quiet routine and lack of temptation there. I ignore the screw in the mirrors with which I could scrape pain away like the rubbish on my kitchen island. I look past erasers that I could burn myself with. Then they say I am better, and I can go home, and home I go. A lovely, bright, pleasant place, filled with children's laughter and the busyness of making meals, cleaning house, bathing brown dirt covered bodies before bed. I feel alien, and retreat to the porch for quiet. But even the outdoors conspires against me, and I frown at the sun.

My prayers, too, are gray. But somehow there is still comfort there. He is a Man of Sorrows. He knows betrayal, he knows temptation, He knows the unfair physical pain and torture, and the anguish of mind it brings. He is my Brother walking hand in hand with me through the gray wash, supporting me underneath that raft of pills.

I was just a child, when I felt the Savior leading
I was drawn to what I could not understand
And for the cause of Christ, I have spent my days believing
That what He'd have me be, is who I am
As I've come to see the weaker side of me
I realize His grace is what I'll need
When sin demanded justice for my soul

Mercy said no
I'm not gonna let you go
I'm not gonna let you slip away
You don't have to be afraid
Mercy said no
Sin will never take control
Life and death stood face to face
Darkness tried to steal my heart away
Thank You Jesus, Mercy said no

For God so loved the world, that He sent His son to save us
From the cross He built a bridge to set us free
Oh, but deep within our hearts, there is still a war that rages
And makes a sacrifice so hard to see

As midnight fell on the crucifixion day
The light of hope seemed oh so far away
As evil tried to stop redemption's flow

And now when heaven looks at me
It's through the blood of Jesus
Reminding me of one day long ago
~Mercy Said No, CeCe Winans~

The joy-seeker and the griever

I have always been the joy-seeker in every flower, every butterfly, every fleeting moment of joy between people, every laugh, every warm bath, every cool of night. This is something that was in me as a small child and has never left me since. No matter how dark my mood, I am still on the joy hunt, the hunt for the ecstasy of discovery, beauty, or love. This habit has not been drowned even in a sea of depression and anxiety.

I have also always been a griever. The dead, the dying, the death of things beautiful. I look forward to grief and back on it, and that is part of how I was made. Perhaps it would be better to say I am a rememberer. I catch all the joys in my net, and mourn their passing. All the joy of a grandpa, for instance, still caught fluttering my net, but now remembered joy with no chance for more until I get to heaven with him. I grieve the little joys I miss because certain people are no longer in my life.

And so, you will find me crouched often in fields and forests, camera clicking, catching memories. The yellow butterflies drifting around on the orange cone of the purple echinacea thrill me even when my mood is grey.

I focus, for a moment, quite literally on these butterfly wings flitting, and click, click, click, my camera is capturing beauty. I leave the field with part of grief shaved off. Yet to have summer flying by so fast this year, me inside more than usual, losing out on the fun trips to town because I can't stand to be around that many people, missing out on pools splashing and kids hooting and hay being cut...I grieve summer's passing as I sit in my swing after dusk, admiring the sky.

She is "brown as a berry from riding the prairie", my brownest, Rosalie. I sit with her in the sun, I with a book, and her with her contemplation. We mourn the summer's passing together, she focusing on the pool now a light green from algae, I as I listen to the faint rustle through grass turning stiff in preparation for it's death in autumn.

In my chair last night, I watch headlights weave through the ground fog, autumn's chill squeezing down on hot summer fields full of hay bales. The early summer song of the frogs in the pond has given way to the the maestros of late summer crickets in their deafening symphony. I wrap a prayer shawl around my shoulders and try not to count the losses of the summer, only the gains. God grins at me through the Big Dipper, which has floated down from it's high summer position down low over the shadowy line of black hills demarcating the edge of our little valley. Soon the constellation will flip on it's back and look like a dipper again, all through the winter. The kids and I will again talk about the time Laura Ingall's family had cholera and how they got it from the contaminated dipper.

I tuck myself into my blankets at night, like a chrysalis, praying to emerge the butterfly I once was when I unroll into the cold morning. I grieve the person I once was, but also mine for joy as that person re-emerges. My therapist laughs a belly laugh and I know something is changing.

So I hang on a thread between joy and grief, a thread made of prayers and God's Word, the only strength holding me up now. I read Psalm 19, and the joy-seeker with the gathered memories remembers: Uncle Jim (no longer my uncle) and his raspy tenor waltzing through his yellow mustache as he and my dad sang a song from Psalm 19 late into the night in a narrow trailer where we packed seven children and four adults, all floors covered with slumber:
The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward. ~Psalm 19:7-11 KJV

Simply thankful

I get so sick of being depressed, I decided to do a yellow post.

Nothing dark, nothing dreary, no cries for help.

The truth is there have been more and more good days lately.
(minus the pneumonia)
Today I began a new medication regimen nicknamed the "California Rocket Bomb" by psychiatrists who have see the synergistic effect of these two particular drugs together.

While the word "bomb" related to my health care does not endear me to the treatment, I am hoping it does just what it is supposed and depression really gets under control.

Thank God for yellow houses with blue shutters and sea spray crust.

Praise Him for every bit of yellow that peppers my melancholy days.
Praise Him for waking up happy some mornings.
Praise Him for friends that really last.
Praise Him for life.

I can't remember the way home

The lights have gone off in the hotel. I barely make it out of the elevator before the power shuts off. "Isn't there a generator?" I wonder. I stumble down the hall. Fear starts to grip my stomach with his iron bands, and my hands are shaking a little. I can't remember which door is ours. I just want to get into my own space, a space with windows and a little light. Anxiety clouds my judgment further and I can't seem to recall whether we're on the left or the right side of the hall. Praying doesn't even occur to me. How I wish I could change that! Remember to tap into divine power and love in times like these. Crises. I don't handle them very well.

I go up the hall in the direction I think our room is, and keep trying doors. Key in, and there's no flashing light to tell me if it worked or not. Do keys even work when the power is out? Another unanswerable question. All the while, in my panic, I'm throwing a mental tantrum. Why do things like this always happen to me? Where is God when the lights are out? How am I supposed to find home? I stop with my hand against the wall. There is a red glow I hadn't noticed from the exit signs. Am I supposed to exit? Why is the power out? Is there a fire?

I'm looking for escape, but I what I really need to do is calm down. I don't have my meds with, there's nothing to focus on and calm down, just emptiness. Finally one door, and I try the key, and the door opens. Not because of my key, that magic credit card that opens it for me usually. The door was opened by my father.

This is an analogy of how post-traumatic stress feels. I feel this way ALL the time. Especially in large groups. I need to learn to cope differently. First, call out to my Father in heaven. Next, decide to accept things the way they are. Third, accept there is a cause for this, but it is something I cannot change. Then I need to let go, and remember that life can be worth living despite my despair, anguish, fear, anxiety, hopelessness, powerlessness. I don't have to feel that way, because my God is none of those things. He is joyful, accepting, fearless, still, the maker of hope and the most powerful of all.

What do you say to someone who feels like they've lost it all
over the edge with no one there to break their fall
and what do you say to someone who feels so unloved
giving themselves away a little bit every day just to be good enough
and what do you say to a hopeless soul who can't remember their way home
and everything is out of their control.

There is no valley, there is no darkness
there is no sorrow greater than the grace of Jesus.
There is no moment, there is no distance,
there is no heartbreak He can't take you through.
So before you think that you're too lost to save,
Remember there is nothing greater than grace.

What do you say to someone whose life is on the line
and they're unsure what happens after their last breath in time
what do you say to someone whose built a wall you can't break through
and it's so hard for them to hear the truth

There is no valley, there is no darkness
there is no sorrow greater than the grace of Jesus.
There is no moment, there is no distance,
there is no heartbreak He can't take you through.
So before you think that you're too lost to save,
Remember there is nothing greater than grace.

So don't lose hope, don't let go
don't give up, you are not alone

Sea grass

Seagrass holds the natural sand dunes that perform as dykes against the powerful ocean for seafront homes. It is illegal to harvest it. Unless you are Gullah, a group of African-Americans who have maintained their culture and language for over 300 years now. They speak Geechee, a creole language that developed out of African loanwords and the English vernacular of the 1700's.

I met her in the open air market that once served as a slave trade hall. She is quiet, and I admire her baskets (most priced over $100) and ask her if I can take photos of her hands at work. She nods with a toothless grin, and we muddle through a conversation in English and Geechee as she asks if I'll send her my photos. Sure, I can do that, I say. She takes one of her brochures and writes a name and street address on it. No e-mail for this relic from days past.

Her hands are weathered, but not calloused. A beautiful golden brown. I admire her scar-free hands and wonder how the little Gullah girls learn the art of braiding sea grass without scratches or scars.

I think back to my embroidery lessons with my Aunt Shera. If I had tried to embroider by myself, I would poked myself a million times with that nasty needle. But she showed me how to hold the sampler just right so I would never get that sudden and disappointing prick.

Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. (Titus 2:3-5)

Another basket braider sits back in her booth, only her feet and knees showing as she weaves at an amazing pace. I buy a trivet from the toothless friend I made, and she tells me how the tails of the sea grass left unbraided will release the scent of the ocean when a hot pan is placed on the trivet.

Always teaching. We younger women teaching our brood, older women of faith handing down wisdom and technique, saving us from some of the inevitable mistakes of motherhood. Timely advice is lovely, like golden apples in a silver basket. (Proverbs 25:11)

Looking over my photos, I am transported in awe to the market where fifty or so women, girls and boys weave every day. This women was simple, peaceful, setting her hand to her work with vigor. So today, with each dish put away and each batch of laundry safely in drawers, I follow her example, in the little things. Faithful in the little things. That He might give me much in days to come.

My thoughts wander as I go about my day. There is much to forgive, much to take joy in, much to lift in prayer. Help me practice the art of worship at work this day, Jesus. Only in You can I truly make the small things matter.


Try, try again

The hand clearly points to the desired action.

He tries rolling it there.

That doesn't work.

The hand decides to demonstrate desired action.

He tries to drop it straight in this time.

Now he takes another go at rolling it in.

Ugh, still no luck!

Maybe I should just give up.
Maybe putting my shoe in the hole is good enough.

Oh, I've almost got it! How invigorating!
Maybe kicking it will work?

Nope, that didn't work either. Shucks!

We do this ourselves, so often, especially in our relationships and with God. I often know what is desired of me, but I lack skill, confidence, or motivation to just do it. I end up running in circles around what's being asked of me, trying every human skill I have to reach the goal. I forget that the author and finisher of my faith is my ultimate golf bag of tricks. He knows exactly how I'm going to get that ball in the hole, and He asks me to seek Him for the things I need to accomplish it: strength, confidence, and motivation. My mental health issues of the past six months have made me feel weak and helpless. But in that very place, He provides, comforts, and shines His holy light.

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. (I Corinthians 9:24-27)

...asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:9b-13)