Home Again


Returning Home Again

And the world cannot be discovered by a journey of miles,
no matter how long,
but only by a spiritual journey,
a journey of one inch,
very arduous and humbling and joyful,
by which we arrive at the ground at our feet,
and learn to be at home.

—Wendell Berry



“The great thing is, if one can, to stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions in one’s “own” or “real” life. The truth is, of course, that what one regards as interruptions are precisely one’s life.”   ~C.S. Lewis

I am a list maker.  I make a list of at least 5 things I am grateful for every day. I keep a calendar where I list all commitments and appointments.  I make a menu list every week and grocery lists after that.  I have a list of things which must get done today, and a list of important matters which need to get addressed ASAP.  I have lists of projects I want to do someday and ones I intend to do this month or “for Christmas.”

I once kept a list (read journal) of meals I served for entertaining when we lived in Indonesia which included notes of foods which were favorites or those someone disliked.  As you see, some of these are lists for keeping and others which need to get checked off and discarded (replaced by new ones, of course.)

I have learned that lists get changed, rearranged, simplified.  I have learned, as C. S. Lewis says so well, that things happen which are not planned and are not on my list.

And I love that God, in His infinite grace and patience with me, has taught me that I don’t know all that I will face and need, and so to practice living with grace as the unexpected, and sometimes unwelcome parts of life occur. That (with the hymn “God of Grace and God of Glory” humming in my mind) I am given both the wisdom and courage for the living of this hour, which is precisely, my life.

Pay Attention

“To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work.”   ~  Mary Oliver, “Yes! No!”

Joe and I attended the same highschool in Jacksonville, Texas . Over fifty years later, we talk about how grateful we continue to be for good teachers who taught us well, expected much, and by their example and instruction gave us more than knowing how to construct sentences, write paragraphs, solve equations, and appreciate art,  history,  geography, music and sports.  Lois Boles, Frances Childress, James Everett, Mr. Mosely, Signora Mullinix,  Jerry Robinson, Bill Ingram spring to mind quickly.  But a spry lady we called Miss Kate (Kate Stadler) who taught typing, used an expression so often in her classes that we still use it.   “Pay Attention!”  Miss Kate demanded attention to detail with expected results in skill and accuracy.  I am pretty sure she didn’t intend application beyond keyboard skills or think that as years went on, paying attention would be a skill that would become something to live by.  I am certain that I did not understand the phrase as more than a requirement until much later.  In its simplicity, there lies a risk of underrating its scope and impact. But it has become a compelling imperative, one that helps me see the intersection of faith and creation and art. No surprise, my favorite Mary Oliver quotation expresses this well.

“Instructions for living a life:

Pay attention…

Be astonished…

Tell about it!”              ~  Mary Oliver, “Sometimes”

Thanksgiving for Seasons

 This display at our local garden center is created to be a “living wall”.  As I enjoyed all the color and texture growing on this one spot, framed by the thoughts of a living wall, I was thankful for the lessons seasonal loss and gain teach me.  True, there are no daffodils or spring green tree buds here, but oh, the richness and variation of autumn color.  In the autumn of my life I am thankful for colorful change. Just as surely, winter will come.  Then, too, I can draw strength from the one in whom we are rooted,

“There is a winter in all of our lives,
a chill and darkness that makes us yearn
for days that have gone
or put our hope in days yet to be.

Father God, you created seasons for a purpose.
Spring is full of expectation
buds breaking
frosts abating and an awakening
of creation before the first days of summer.

Now the sun gives warmth
and comfort to our lives
reviving aching joints
bringing colour, new life
and crops to fruiting.

Autumn gives nature space
to lean back, relax and enjoy the fruits of its labour
mellow colours in sky and landscape
as the earth prepares to rest.

Then winter, cold and bare as nature takes stock
rests, unwinds, sleeps until the time is right.

An endless cycle
and yet a perfect model.
We need a winter in our lives.
A time of rest, a time to stand still.
A time to reacquaint ourselves
with the faith in which we live and breathe.
It is only then that we can draw strength
from the one in whom we are rooted,
take time to grow and rise through the darkness
into the warm glow of your springtime,
to blossom and flourish,
bring colour and vitality into this world,
your garden.

Thank you Father
for the seasons of our lives”

written by John Birch, Methodist Lay Minister in Wales


Most of us think of budgets when we think of what we spend. Current news reports are filled with dire news about our nation’s spending habits, all referring to a national budget and its imbalance. But there is a more critical balance – that which is created by daily choice and lifetime impact. How will I spend today? How will I spend my life?

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” ~ Annie Dillard

Feathering Nests and Floating Hope

  “Hope is that thing with feathers

 That perches on the soul

That sings the tune without the words

And never stops at all.”    ~Emily Dickinson

For many years now, I have believed that when I find a feather, it is a reminder to me that little things are important, and that I am kept in the shadow of God’s wing.  I have found feathers in the most unusual and unexpected places, when I wasn’t really looking.  When my mother was dying, I went out to the car to drive back to sit with her.  When I got to the edge of the lawn, I had to step over the median.  When I looked down, I found a large black and green duck feather sticking straight up out of the grass. A wisp of a feather floated by and stuck on my windshield on another occasion when I sorely needed the reminder.

I had a little feather that was a wonder to me for years.  I don’t remember where I found it or exactly when, although I kept it in a little birthday reminder book that was given to me in 1987, the year we moved to Indonesia.  I put it there in the beginning because on that page there is a drawing of that same feather, right down to the size (tiny) and colors and markings (black and white).  I was amazed at that.  Usually the process is different…you find the object, then obtain or make its resemblance.

The other special thing about that feather was that it lived between the pages of the birthday calendar book where my oldest son’s name is written, January 13, his birthday.  And that it was still there, through 2 moves in Jakarta, an international shipping, and the busy household shuffling of my kitchen desk every day.  Feathers usually don’t stay.  They drift in and blow away.

But this little feather stayed between the pages and always caused me to smile when I came upon it.  It reminded me of joy in small things, of hope … of lines of poetry and scripture, and that gifts can come when you open your hand and heart, and sometimes, the door. I gave the feather to my son on his birthday last year, telling him I hoped it would serve as a reminder of the same things for him.  (This story was posted in the blog last September.)

I still find feathers.  And they are still reminders for me of joy and faith…and that I am under the shadow of His wing. A favorite author, Leigh McElroy, likes finding feathers too.  She reminds me that God may wink or whisper in the way He reminds me of His presence, and that He delights in delighting me with the littlest of things.  The opening scene in a movie loved by many tells a story of a feather found and kept. 

Sundial and Delphinium

Hours and days mark Lent’s  journey.

Wilderness days, nights of shadows –

Shaping time, shaping me.

Gathering grace, forging fortitude.

Wilderness days,  nights of shadows –

Grow green, moss.  Bloom, bluest Delphinium.

Gathering grace, forging fortitude

Kaleidoscope of green and blue.

Grow green moss!  Bloom bluest, Delphinium!

Shaping time, shaping me.

Kaleidoscope of green and blue,

Hours and days mark Lent’s journey.

~Mary Ann Parker

In the form of French Pantoum, this is one of a set of Lenten poems.


I am thinking of the Paperwhite Narcissus that I set into pebbles and water every year the week after Thanksgiving which thrust thick white roots down and produce  green stalks shooting with nodding clusters of fragrant white blooms. These bulbs are forced, and most of the time will not grow and bloom again even if buried in the soil to grow naturally. I am wondering if sometimes our own efforts are forced in this way, rushing to provide results, never acquiring the patience for God’s timing.

Message in Moss

Walking in my winter garden, I see some things I might not notice when the drab palette comes back to green and growth. This mossy stone ball reminds me of an organic global map and prompts me on this Valentine’s morning to love all my neighbors, including those beyond my daily shores. I am called to widen my view, open my mind. I pray to know more, in order to better love.

“Love follows knowledge.” ~ Thomas Aquinas

Inner Landmarks

In the long way that we take, in our growing up, in the vicissitudes of life by which we are led into its meaning and its mystery, there are established for us, for each one of us, certain landmarks. They represent discoveries sometimes symbolizing the moment when we became aware of the purpose of our lives; they may establish for us our membership in the human frailty; they may be certain words that were spoken into a stillness within us the sound thereof singing forever through all the corridors of our being as landmarks; yes, each one of us has our own. No communication between people is possible if there is not some mutual recognition of the landmarks.

Howard Thurman in The Inward Journey