September Turning

children spill from houses

bearing big new backpacks

hurrying to board yellow school buses

bronzed sunrise spreads

bringing light to see

one scarlet crepe myrtle leaf

among skittering dried oak leaves

crimson blossoms top pineapple sage and salvia

hummingbirds hover for sweet nectar

then continue their journey

lemons ripen, heavy on sagging branches

I prick my finger on a thorn

blood drop rolls down yellow fruit

I hear a call of geese heading south

September turning


In our front yard, there are two large crepe myrtle trees, likely planted when the house was built about 14 years ago. One is on the corner by the front sidewalk where I walk out to the driveway. Long stretches of peeling bark now decorate the lower trunk. There is nothing wrong with the tree. Bark shedding is normal, a process that occurs after a crepe myrtle has reached full maturity. Mature trees are often prized because of the coloration that shows up on their wood after the bark is shed. Since it is a deciduous tree, it sheds all its leaves in the winter, leaving behind the unusual bark with colors from cream to cinnamon to red, fading to gray-green or dark red. When the tree blooms, it droops with heavy lavender blooms that are beautiful. This year the blooms are late probably due to heat and drought. But we have beauty in this peeling bark.

One more time, garden grace teaches me to embrace the change that comes with growth and passing years. And also to watch for wonder in unexpected places.


Right now I am unable to take walks in the yard or neighborhood that provided my opportunities for photography for so long. But I did spend time on our back porch and I watered the Christmas cactus starter plant that my sister in law gave us when she downsized to an apartment. Since neither of us travels now, this connection of memory and gratitude is precious. As the water trickled into the plant’s dry soil, I remembered the buds and blooms that delighted us before Christmas last year. It is almost a Thanksgiving Cactus. So I practice the reduction mentioned in the words below. I may miss gathering flowers to bring inside, digging and planting and harvesting in the garden. But my needs of the spirit as mentioned in meaning, purpose, and friendship are met. In tending this one small succulent plant, I find those things. I did photograph the first beginning bloom last year. I can watch for the buds that will come later.

.”It is said that the longest journey begins with one step. So it is with simplicity. There is no one place to begin, but as good a place as any is to simplify our desires. Both our emotional needs for things and our actual physical needs can be simplified. Learn to know the difference between real emotional needs and addictions. The complexity of our lives is directly related to our material desires. Most of our real needs are of the spirit, such as meaning, purpose, and friendship. By simplifying our material desires our lives will become less burdensome…”

~ Arthur Gish

Lost and Found, a Mother’s Day Reflection

This photograph and part of the following narrative was posted for Mother’s Day 2 years ago in a different blog, one that is a family story keeper.. I read the comment I made then and am flooded with both memories and new learning. In those comments I said “This branch of rosemary leans into the bloom of an Amaryllis that still grows from a bulb that many years ago bloomed in Mother’s room. Rosemary stands for remembrance. The Amaryllis reminds me of perseverance.” I am still reminded of those important things, but in a different way. The following winter both the rosemary and the amaryllis fell victims to a killing freeze, one that was called the Valentine freeze which wiped out many plants, even those considered hardy in Southeast Texas. I am glad for the picture, which helps me remember the qualities they reflected. I am learning perserverance and endurance in new ways.

As I said in that post, writing is healing for me. At that time I was healing from a back injury. Since then I have had 3 hospitalizations and a major lung surgery. I needed to be reminded of my resolve to live in the moments of today, knowing I cannot add anxiety or fear for the future to the load. I am thankful for many things, among them all the things my mother taught me, including endurance that leaned on faith. Here is a late Mother’s Day tribute.

For Opal

she played the first piano notes I ever heard,

loved all the old Baptist hymns plus

Rustic Dance and I Love You a Bushel and a Peck

took me to piano lessons and made sure I practiced

when I played my piano today, it was a tribute to her

she found the prettiest cloth to make my dresses

smoothing fabric on her bed, laying the tissue patterns, cutting with care

sitting for hours at her Singer

in front of the window where Hawthorne bloomed

pinning and fitting before hand-stitching hems

and teaching me that, too

she brought me yellow roses when I was a young mother of 3 sons

Tyler roses, tight yellow buds in a bunch

in her last years there were petals of yellow sticky notes

to remind me she loved me

I miss her laughter,

the magazine and newspaper clippings she used to send in letters

she had the most beautiful handwriting

I miss the way she loved coffee

the way she smelled of face powder and Tide

I miss sitting by her,

her wrinkled hands clapping with joy or clasped in prayer

clinging by faith until it was by sight

A Star

An 8 point star quilted by Mary Clyde Terrell (1887-1977)

Today is a day for Solstice musing. A day containing the moment of turning, the marking of winter, the promise of returning light. I want to dwell on that promise and write about darkness and light – but I am drawn to a Crazy Quilt made by my maternal grandmother.

I often bring it out at this time of year because it reminds me of her, of a country Christmas, a scraggly fence row cedar cut for decorating, of homemade gifts and family coming back home for Christmas. As I spread the old quilt out, I admire once again all the love in the repeated patterns and random pieces. I love the briar and feather stitches adorning patches of fabric scraps left from sewing clothing or even the pieces of old clothing. A Crazy Quilt usually uses the fancy cloth from an old church dress or something worn for a special occasion. Some of these quilts have silk or velvet or satin. Grandma used what she had.

So I will use what I have as well. For the first time in all the years I have had this quilt, I am seeing a new message in the pattern. If I only look at a few patches at a time, I miss the bigger picture – the pattern of the 8 point star. Stunned by a new perspective, I am called to the symbol of this star. An 8 point star is the symbol of a compass. It speaks of navigation and direction.

This fourth week of Advent, I feel the cadence of pounding hearts and plodding feet – Joseph and Mary on their way to Bethlehem, the wise men who saw a star that was so different it sent them on a distant journey. I imagine their desperate need for direction and how they sought it. Grandma’s 8 point star reminds me that I have a compass, that I will be given the navigation I need for Advent, for Christmas, and beyond.

One Stitch at a Time

My niece, Sharon, made this warm scarf for me and mailed it from Colorado. Not this year. A few weeks ago she had a stroke. I am thankful she had good medical treatment and am told she should regain lost mobility and speech. She will work intentionally on all that is required to do that, just as she knit these pieces of vividly colored yarn into a whole piece, one stitch at at time. One piece at a time. One color at a time. The result is lovely, wrapping me in soft reassurance that I am loved.

Advent is like that. One stitch at a time in what seems an uncertain plan. Busy days when stitches get dropped or I feel unraveled.. Changes in the way I thought things would look. A row of different color. But I know that stitch by stitch, step by step, the gift is coming.

“Lead, Kindly Light, amid the circling gloom,

Lead Thou me on!

The night is dark, and I am far from home –

Lead Thou me on!

Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see

The distant scene, – one step for me.”

John Henry, Cardinal Newman

Advent Candles and Carols

We have finished lighting the 2nd Advent candle, the candle of Faith. Mary believed that although she did not know or understand the mystery, she trusted God. I placed the book of carols I first wrote about in 2009 on the piano. Pain prevents my sitting for very long to play right now but I want to make these beloved familiar songs real with my fingers again. What music speaks to your Advent longings?

The Carols of Christmas

Posted on 

Each year during Advent and Christmas I enjoy many of the same carols I sang when I was growing up. But I also love learning new ones, which are mostly really old! I have a lovely Christmas songbook given to me by my son, Ben. In it I find the traditional favorites as well as many that have become well loved if not as familiar. The following is one of those. The origins of this old carol apparently lie in the southern part of France. I am strangely attracted to it, and like to think that my French great great grandparents might have taught this to their little girl who later came with them to the United States and was my great grandmother. Although she died when I was a baby, perhaps she even sang it to me and rocked me. I feel it so.

Whence comes this rush of wings afar,
Following straight the Noel star?
Birds from the woods in wondrous flight,
Bethlehem seek this Holy Night.

Tell us, ye birds, why come ye here,
Into this stable, poor and drear?
“Hastning we seek the newborn King,
And all our sweetest music bring.”


These months of not writing have not been time without keeping stories .. There are many, some tucked away only in my mind, a few kept as drafts, waiting for time to bring them out to finish and post. This is one of the latter. As we open boxes to begin putting on our home’s Christmas dress, this picture and comment call me. I labeled the draft “for Christmas 2021.” That is a hopeful label. Into this second year of pandemic, I see that on June 18, 2021, I left one small paragraph and the photo.

. The manger was empty for over a week . Now the baby has returned. Our littlest angel, Oliver, likes to hide him in all the decorations. There is a story or two there. This morning the profound reminder to me is that Jesus didn’t stay in the manger. And that he comes to me in every way I need and is coming back in ways I can only imagine.

The speaks of hope because in the middle of a difficult time, I looked forward to the expectant waiting of Advent and Christmas.

I last posted here at the beginning of Lent. Now we have already gathered around the table for Thanksgiving and Advent begins. Tonight, we stood together to light the candle of Hope. Nora placed the first Advent figure, a little shepherd boy, on our old wooden Advent calendar. Our thoughts turned to the word “hope” and why we need it. Oliver, who just turned 5 on Friday, blew out the candle. The story begins again.

As Lent Begins 2021

Snow, Ice, and Roses. This Peggy Martin climbing rose is rightly nicknamed “Survivor Rose.”

At the beginning of this week, our Monday morning began with 14 degrees after a night of freezing rain and snow – very unusual on the South Texas Gulf Coast. I took this blurry photograph from my window, glad for the reminder that we too can survive, even bloom in hard times. That day ended for us with no power, no water, and unreliable cell phone service. We were cold but thankful to be in our home with our son and his family, with a gas cooktop that allowed us to cook. Our power outage lasted 24 hours, unlike the case for so many across our state. But closed roads contributed to severe issues as deliveries for keeping stores and gas stations stocked came to a halt. Almost a week later we are beginning to warm and dealing with broken pipes, boil water alerts, and shortages for prescription supplies. It has been just over a year since the beginning of the Covid 19 pandemic. As Lent begins, I am keenly aware I am not the only one who is praying this prayer.

Dear God,

In this season of Lent, we’re reminded of our own difficulties and struggles. Sometimes the way has seemed too dark. Sometimes we feel like our lives have been marked by such grief and pain, we don’t see how our circumstance can ever change. 

But in the midst of our weakness, we ask that you would be strong on our behalf. Lord, rise up within us, let your Spirit shine out of every broken place we’ve walked through. Allow your power to be manifest through our own weakness, so that others will recognize it is You who is at work on our behalf. We ask that you would trade the ashes of our lives for the beauty of your Presence. Trade our mourning and grief for the oil of joy and gladness from your Spirit. Trade our despair for hope and praise. 

We choose to give you thanks today and believe that this season of darkness will fade away. Thank you that you are with us in whatever we face and that you are greater than this trial. We know and recognize that you are Sovereign, we thank you for the victory that is ours because of Christ Jesus, and we are confident that you have good still in store for our future. We thank you that you are at work right now, trading our ashes for greater beauty. We praise you, for you make all things new. In Jesus’ Name, 


Prayer written by Debbie McDaniel

Finding Joy

Instead of resolutions each new year, for a long time now I have chosen a word. One word. A word that will help me focus, reflect, center, and enable direction in all the challenge a year’s days can bring. It usually takes me awhile to choose a word, but I have always understood why it was a necessary and helpful word by the end of a year. Last year my word was Savor. I will be honest in saying that I understand now why that word was crucial for me in 2020 – a year of worldwide pandemic and social isolation that included friends and family dear to me, changes not ever before imagined, further loss of Joe’s vision, serious illness and hospitalization for me, economic and political deterioration, wildfires and hurricanes. I needed to pay attention, focus on savoring the immeasurable blessings in my life that include dear and constant caring as we live with our youngest son and his family and receive reassurance and encouragement by phone and media from our other two sons and their families. This year with all its roller coaster experiences, I felt some resistance as a new word kept coming to mind. The word is JOY. At first I had some thought that this was because the word is everywhere at Christmastime. But slowly I realized I must choose Joy.

Practice Joy. Receive Joy, Scatter Joy. In my morning reading, I have been using Jan Richardson’s art and words. This morning, this poem was my gift from her writing.


When your weeping
has watered
the earth.
When the storm
has been long
and the night
and the season
of your sorrowing.
When you have seemed
an exile
from your life,
lost in the far country,
a long way from where
your comfort lies.
When the sound
of splintering
and fracture
haunts you.
When despair
attends you.
When lack.
When trouble.
When fear.
When pain.
When empty.
When lonely.
When too much
of what depletes you
and not enough
of what restores
and rests you.
Then let there be
Then let there be
Let there be
laughter in your mouth
and on your tongue
shouts of joy.
Let the seeds
soaked by tears
turn to grain,
to bread,
to feasting.
Let there be
coming home.

Used by permission from the author, Jan Richardson