Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Ultimate Backup

"Life is a grindstone. Whether it grinds us down or polishes us up depends on us. -- Thomas L. Holdcroft

Having just come through the trauma of a fried computer, I couldn't help but think, what if my brain were to crash like my hard drive? Wouldn't it be nice to have a full, recent backup? Well, sure. I can picture the scene:

Me in my comfy computer chair, USB plug planted firmly in ear, waiting while data whirred from brain to external backup DVD/CD drive. I'd carefully label each CD--probably date by decades, since I'm pretty old --and file the collection in a padded CD storage case on my office shelf.

Imagine the valuable info I'd retrieve: names and dates and people. Details of every event in my life. Clear images of moments that brought joy, tears, challenge, and regret. (On second thought, let's skip the regrets. I'll delete those.)

The ultimate backup would ensure me that no matter how hazy my brain gets, no matter what the age on my driver's license says, I would always be able to access the precious parts of life that make living worthwhile.

If you could make a backup of your brain, what would you save first?

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Best Response

Anderson Cooper is a stand-out journalist. I admire his tenacity, and his hunger for story. He seeks out truth and doesn't rest until he finds the bottom line. I ran across a feature on his blog today, which describes lessons he learned while volunteering in impoverished West Africa. Midway through the article, this jumped out at me:
When confronted with hardship, gratitude is the best response. I travel a lot these days, and sometimes things go wrong. When I leave my iPod in the back of a Peruvian taxi (last week) or nearly get deported from Saudi Arabia (this week), I try to think back to the challenges faced by people who live on less than $1 a day. It’s all a matter of perspective — something I acquired many times over during those years in West Africa.
It impressed me even more because I shared a recent conversation about how spoiled most of us are, yet how often we complain. Stand in any line long enough and you'll hear the complaining begin. Or, ask ten people how they're doing and watch how many mention their gripes first. I needed to read his post today, because Cooper describes West Africa in a way that makes me ashamed for the times I've looked at my glass half empty instead of half full.:

Travel writers struggle to describe the region without the clich├ęd contrasts," writes Anderson. "Hope, despair, joy, sorrow. That’s what you get when you combine a poverty-stricken area with some of the world’s happiest people.
Read his entire post here.

Saturday, July 4, 2009


Freedom has its life in the hearts, the actions, the spirit of men and so it must be daily earned and refreshed - else like a flower cut from its life-giving roots, it will wither and die.

~Dwight D. Eisenhower

Friday, June 19, 2009

My Son John, by Kathi Macias

My Son John, by Kathi Macias
Sheaf House Publishers, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-9797485-4-7

It's easy to trust God when blessings are pouring in, and life is struggle-free, isn't it? But what happens when a worse case scenario strikes? How would your faith measure up against a terrible tragedy?

Author Kathi Macias has woven a story so raw, so candid, it leaves one wondering, How would I fare if one of my loved ones were murdered—not by a stranger, but by a family member? Would I limit God’s ability to heal my broken heart? And could I ever find the strength to forgive the person behind such a horrific act?

My Son John is a chilling exploration of tragedy, grief, and the hard work of unconditional love and forgiveness. While Liz Peterson grapples with the news of her elderly mother’s brutal murder, I thought of Psalms 46:1: “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” The unthinkable had happened, and her Christian faith would be tested in ways she could not have imagined.

As the story progresses, though, the Peterson family receives even more devastating news: their son John has been arrested for his grandmother’s murder. Will God’s grace be strong enough to hold them together? Is His strength truly “made perfect in weakness,” as the Bible assures us?

My Son John is a captivating read that I won’t soon forget. I found myself thanking God for his limitless grace, and asking myself how I would respond in such a horrific situation. Untested faith can often grow stagnant, but this book is a reminder that none of us knows what a day may bring. Our very lives are in His strong, capable hands. What we do with that knowledge will determine how we react, should tragedy land on our very own doorstep.

View the My Son John book trailer
Author’s website

Friday, May 15, 2009

Gardening: What's NOT to Like?

The best place to seek God is in a garden. You can dig for him there. ~George Bernard Shaw, The Adventures of the Black Girl in Her Search for God, 1932

I spent part of my morning out back in my garden. It's interesting how people react when I mention that I'm heading outside to the garden. Some automatically translate it to mean a vegetable plot, and ask when I can expect a harvest. Others picture their own own flowerbeds, and initiate a chat about all they need to do to whip it into shape.

No matter what kind of gardening one likes, I think we can agree that there's nothing quite like the sun on your neck and a gentle breeze cooling your forehead. That's part of the enjoyment. Before I had flowerbeds, back when we grew grass that required mowing, my flowers consisted of 6-7 containers for the patio. I hadn't caught the gardening bug yet.

Gardening is a taskmaster. No ignoring it, or the weeds will creep up to my bedroom windowsill. It's a commitment of time and resources, but once it's established, watch out. I never expected this much enjoyment three years ago, when I decided to dig up my backyard . I just figured I'd change the look. Whoaboy. Did I ever.

When I was a kid, I hated to weed. I complained that weeding was a big waste of time, because weeds always return (like dust). Funny what we learn when life ambles a few miles up the road.

I like how Mirabel Osler sums up the wonders of growing a garden: There can be no other occupation like gardening in which, if you were to creep up behind someone at their work, you would find them smiling.

Today I'm smiling. Are you?

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009


He is happiest, be he king or peasant, who finds peace in his home. - Goethe

I admit, I'm a big fan of Divine Design, HGTV's hit show hosted by designer Candice Olsen. I've seen her transform a cluttered basement into a comfortable escape for a mom in need of relaxation. And her kitchen makeovers--it's incredible what that imaginative woman can do with cramped space and outdated furniture!

But that word - outdated - has become so overused in our must-have, instant-gratification world, that if any of us blink a few times, everything will be deemed outdated. Life moves on. Trends change like the direction of the wind. Today's latest-greatest will soon be tomorrow's have-beens.

I hate to drop a bombshell, but I'm perfectly happy with my laminated kitchen countertops instead of granite. It's ok that my kitchen floor is still linoleum and not Italian tiles. Sure, I see changes I'd like to make, but those plans don't keep me awake at night.

Outdated isn't important to me. Contentment is.

I found myself cheering for this elderly woman on a Saturday makeover show, whose grown kids were trying to coax her into redoing her living room in a style she absolutely hated. "I like it the way it is," she said with a shrug. "It's my house, not yours."

I'm blessed to be married to a man who respects my opinions and supports my interests. I'm doubly blessed that together, we are content. It's a good life.

Image ©Bonnie Bruno 2007 All rights reserved worldwide

Friday, May 8, 2009

If Wishes Were Horses

"If wishes were horses
Then beggars would ride."

This quote has surfaced several times lately, and although it's never attributed to anyone specific, it seems to be something many are dissecting these days.

Truth is, we can't live on wishes.
Wishes don't put food on the table.
They don't change a terminal disease.
They don't mend a friendship or launch a new business.

Wishes are the dandelions of a lawn. They're temporary escapes - a fun diversion while they last - but not the solid building blocks of life.

It's in the doing, not the wishing, that we're stretched. Today I'm wishing us all the kind of "doing" that makes our hearts celebrate the here and now, temper our concerns about the future, and focus in on what matters most.

This moment in time is a priceless gift from God.
How we approach it is our sacred choice.

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Thursday, April 30, 2009

An Unexpected Blessing

However many blessings we expect from God, His infinite liberality will always exceed all our wishes and our thoughts” - John Calvin

Today I learned that The Young Reader's Bible hit the CBA Bestseller's list again. First published in 1992, it later underwent a redesign in 1994. In these past 17 years, it has surprised me repeatedly by making its way back to the list.

This was one of my favorite writing projects, because I hadn't written for children that young before. Writing for young children involves making each word count. I had the most wonderful editor, who would encourage me, then add, "Try cutting back another few words per sentence." At times, that seemed impossible, yet the stories always came out stronger because of it.

My last post on this blog was "Stuck in a Rut?" How fun that a day or two later, I received good news like this. It arrived on the same day my husband's job officially ended, and our adventure in unemployment begins.

Life is made up of so many peaks and valleys. It's good to remember that the sun still shines behind the clouds even when we can't see evidence of it.

More about The Young Reader's Bible

Friday, April 24, 2009

Stuck in a Rut?

A couple of years back, I remember reading a story about a Wisconsin driver whose impatience prompted him to go around a road barrier and make his own rules. A long line of cars backed up behind him did the same thing, blindly following him as if he knew what he was doing.

On the other side of the barrier was a newly paved roadway. The report read:

As many as 10 vehicles drove around barriers and onto freshly poured concrete on a busy thoroughfare during rush hour. "Once someone goes around the barricade and busts through the tape, others follow," Sgt. Tony Restivo said

Maybe this driver believed in Hannibal's brand of leadership:

We will either find a way or make one!

I laughed my head off the first time I heard that story, but the truth is, it's not funny. I recognize that impatience all too well in myself. Sometimes I'll step off the beaten path before giving it enough thought. In my impatience, or driven by creativity, I take off on my own course and end up stuck in gooey concrete. Then I dig myself out and begin again.

What are you stuck in this week? Ambition? Problems? Deadlines? The expectations of others? Take a deep breath, and if you dare...ask God to teach you something in the process. Whenever I take my time instead of forging ahead, I often recall Psalm 46:10, one of my favorite Bible verses: "Be still and know that I am God." I like my own personal paraphrase even better:

Be still and know that I am God...and you're not.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Making an Impression

When my children were toddlers, their main goal in life was to travel from point A to point Z fast. So they'd run from room to room, as if time were running out. It was a sweet brand of impatience as curiosity led the way. Like a garden brimming with promise, each day presented new changes. Life was carefree and silly, filled with adventure.

Eventually, though, they learned when to accelerate those little legs, and when to wait; when to shift into a higher gear and when to stay put. Life involves a lot of hurry-ups and wait-your-turns, and those lessons are best learned early.

Some of us never quite get the waiting part, though, like the obnoxious forty-something guy we met on the interstate yesterday. We were approaching a mountainous stretch, and when we rounded a corner we found a long line of big rigs blocking the right lane. Naturally, we pulled into the left lane to pass them.

A minute or so later, a white sportscar sped into view from behind. He must have been doing 75 mph, and apparently didn't want to have to brake. So he used his horn instead. It was obvious that we had no options--nowhere to pull over, with that solid wall of 18-wheelers inching uphill--but he was a man in a hurry. He had important places to be and a passenger to impress, so every few seconds, this moron would blast his horn and offer us the international peace sign.

When we'd finally made it around the trucks and could pull back into the right lane, he passed us...but not before he leaned across his passenger, stuck his hand close to the window, and offered that peace sign once again.

We ignored him, which made him madder. Just so we could appreciate his IQ in all its glory, he continued that peace sign in his rearview mirror until he crested the hill.

Yep, he made quite an impression.

"A thousand words will not leave so deep an impression as one deed." - Henrik Ibsen


Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Message on a Bumper

A modern British LED Traffic Light (Siemens He...Image via Wikipedia

I love bumper stickers, don't you? A few months back, I created a Squidoo lens called Bumper Sticker Central , where visitors can leave their bumper sticker sightings.

The very act of sticking a bumper message on a car says a lot about a person's character--what they treasure in life, what motivates them, how they view their world. I've sat behind more than a few cars at red lights and read "Back off!" type stickers. I've also been blessed by encouraging snippets of wisdom.

Yesterday, though, a bumper sticker made me think. I couldn't shake its message, and I thought about the person who placed it there. I wonder if they realized the impact it would have on people like me, who sat for a few brief minutes at a traffic light, waiting for the light to turn green. If I'd arrived five minutes earlier or five minutes later, I would have missed it. If I'd taken a shortcut to the post office instead of driving that route, I would have never seen it:

It is more difficult to praise rightly than to blame. - Thomas Fuller

Interesting, isn't it, how little incidents like this aren't really so little after all? It reminded me of the weight of my words, and how easy it is to lift someone's spirit--or to crush it.

Bumper stickers...gotta love 'em!


Friday, April 3, 2009


Spring has brought days of rain, so when sunshine broke through this week, I ventured out to clean up some of the winter debris. My backyard would horrify a perfectionist, because I let everything go during the cold months. All the plants that bore beautiful blossoms last summer now stand brown and bare.

But the birds loved them. They didn't know they were pecking at lowly debris. They swooped in to gather leftover seeds like decked-out diners at a formal dinner. It was my way of caring for them, plus it bribed them to stick around.

This word, debris, captured my attention and sent me on a word-origin chase. I discovered that debris in its literal sense means "garbage" and "broken refuse." It didn't show up in the English language until 1708. But get this: According to Charles Hodgson at Podictionary, debris has an older English parent word that came from the French of the Norman Conquest 900 years ago. "The bris meaning 'broken' had a more subtle tone to it than just something that was broken; the mode of breakage was by crushing."

Debris is also related to the word "bruise." I know a lot of folks these days who are feeling bruised and broken by job loss, serious health issues, and an uncertain future. One woman is dealing with her son's bone cancer. He has two young children, and is not expected to make it. An elderly couple are buying their groceries by credit card. A friend is caring for her 89-year-old father, who has Alzheimer's disease.

My mom had a small framed plaque that sat on her dresser. It now sits on mine. Its words are as soothing to me today as they were the first time I read them as a young child:
Before you go to bed, give your troubles to God
He will be up all night, anyway.


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Gardening Thoughts

The best place to seek God is in a garden. You can dig for him there. ~George Bernard Shaw

Spring has arrived, and I couldn't be happier. I'm spotting hints of new growth at the base of perennials in my backyard, where I replaced lawn with flowerbeds a couple of years ago. It was a big step, doing away with all that grass, but one I've never regretted.

The new version of my backyard requires more work, though. That part is inescapable. There's an endless supply of weeds to pull, which requires that I know the difference between true flowers and sneaky plants like binding weed, which produce pretty pink flowers everywhere. At first, I didn't recognize it as a weed, and by the time it had criss-crossed half my yard, it was well-rooted and energetic, taking over areas where I didn't expect to find it.

I do a lot of thinking in my garden. There's something about busy hands and sunshine-on-the-neck that flips my brain switch to a low, steady hum. It's relaxing. Fulfilling. Some of my best photography work has taken place between my back door and the back fence, too.

After every gardening session, I come away feeling that I've spent my time doing much more than weed-pulling and flower-feeding. Gardening criss-crosses my life and grows me in new directions. I can't think of a better place to untangle stress and solve problems. This quote says it best:

In my garden there is a large place for sentiment. My garden of flowers is also my garden of thoughts and dreams. The thoughts grow as freely as the flowers, and the dreams are as beautiful. ~Abram L. Urban


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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Life's a Revolving Door

A revolving door in Turkey (counter-clockwise ...

Picture a classic scene at a busy airport. Travelers being dumped off curbside, hurrying inside with their bags so they could stand in line and wait. I was heading to Florida for a conference, where my publisher had scheduled a booksigning.

Where's everybody going? I wondered. I imagined them traveling to reunions, business conferences, or home to visit a sick parent, as I'd done countless times. I spotted a few who were dressed for fun. But one traveler was late--a grouchy-looking guy with permanent frown lines whose wife and young son were trying their best to keep up with his long stride.

Suddenly, a giggle broke loose midway up the line. Then another. And another. Heads turned right to take in a hilarious scene, one that most parents had probably experienced themselves at one time or another. That little boy had fallen in love with the revolving door and would not leave it. His dad had marched on in total oblivion. Mom was trying her best tricks to get Kid out of the door.

Finally, she waves a big red notepad at him. "We will NOT draw pictures on the plane if you don't come out of that door THIS INSTANT!"

As far as I know, that kid is still stuck in the door, deliriously lost in childhood while the world marches on. Life sometimes feels like a revolving door, but how sweet it is to stop everything now and then, to simply live in the moment.

Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is youer than you.
- Dr. Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel)


Image via Wikipedia

Monday, March 9, 2009

Life in Measured Steps

The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph... I love the man that can smile in trouble, that can gather strength from distress and grow. - Thomas Paine

I was coming out of Joanne's Fabrics, where I buy my polymer clay to make beads for jewelry that will eventually end up in a shop at Etsy. I should have stayed put that day, but I needed a certain shade of brown to complete a project. So, I ignored a nagging headache and headed out in the wind and rain.

The store was crowded, and everyone seemed to be trying to beat the next storm. Good! They had several shades of brown, plus lots of other light Spring colors, all on sale. I grabbed a handful of clay blocks and headed for the checkout, where six or seven people waited their turn in line.

Nobody talked. Nobody made eye contact. The store was eerily quiet, except for the approaching tap-tap-tap of an elderly man's cane. He walked in measured steps, holding his wife's arm, gently guiding her to the door.

They walked as one, like a couple who knew their place in this world, and loved the rhythm of their dance together. I'm not ordinarily a gawker, but I couldn't look away. He reminded me of my grandpa, who passed away when I was 19. The way he wore his tweed hat, the way his eyes crinkled at the corners. I hoped he would glance up, and he did - just in time for me to catch the upturn of a radiant smile. This was a face that smiled from chin to forehead. That smile is unforgettable; tatooed in the silver lining of my memory.

Life is walked out in measured steps. I hope when I'm their age, I'll remember to walk in gratitude and to pause long enough to give away smiles to strangers. I hope I never forget the blessing of being able to move about, even with a cane, and to share moments like that with people I'll most likely never see again.


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Saturday, March 7, 2009

Keep Hope Alive

We live in interesting times.

I overheard a clerk telling a customer that she could hardly drag herself out of bed in the morning. "Not much to get up for except for this crappy job," she muttered. "Stupid place, stupid people. Pay scale's in the toilet, too."

A few days later, a young father of two told me he'd given up his dream of flying helicopters. "I was ten hours away from getting my pilot's license, when my managerial job folded." No longer able to afford the flight school, he dropped out and was happy when a clerking position opened up at Wal-Mart. He smiled, and quickly added, "This isn't my dream job, but I figure I can always finish flight school later. Right now my family needs an income."

Two people, both struggling, yet I came away feeling different after each conversation.

Emily Dickinson got it right when she penned,

Hope is the thing with feathers
that perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all.

To everyone who struggles today, I wish for you peace in the midst of your storm, and a hope that will carry you through whatever tomorrow brings.

Find rest, O my soul, in God alone;
my hope comes from him. Psalm 62:5


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Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Assignment

Several years ago, my pastor challenged us to ask God for an assignment, then watch what happens. It was going to be risky, for sure, because it would upset my carefully laid schedule and might even nudge me into doing something I wouldn't ordinarily volunteer to do.

I went home enthusiastic, but I grudgingly asked for an assignment. In my heart, I hoped he wouldn't answer, because my week was already full with deadlines and appointments. Of course, God knew my thoughts and he's the best reader of my motives and intents, too. So he must have gotten a good laugh out of my halfhearted attempt to open myself to an assignment I didn't really want.

That afternoon, it arrived in the form of an envelope addressed to someone named Bob McKinley. Five houses down from us lived an older couple I'd never met. Oh, I'd waved to them as they passed, if I happened to be outside weeding flowers or getting in or out of my car. Didn't know their names, though. Who has time for names of people who live halfway down the street?

The envelope sat on my kitchen counter for a couple of days, until I felt that unmistakable nudge. So, are you going to complete your assignment? God whispered into my thoughts. You did ask for it, you know.

That afternoon, I took the envelope to the address on its label, and knocked on this stranger's door. I had every intention of handing over their mail and heading home, until a sweet eighty-something woman opened her door and greeted me with a wide grin. "Well, well, well! Look who's here, Hon'," she called over her shoulder.

A male voice responded with, "Come on in!"

Their names were Bob and Miriam. Nice old couple whose children lived several states away. Bob's words came in measured doses, and an oxygen tank sat at his side like a spare leg. We talked about trips they'd taken, and hobbies they'd grown to love. At one point, Miriam motioned me into the kitchen to help her pour tea for the three of us, but she really wanted to fill in the blanks. "He has cancer," she whispered. "Terminal." A retired oncology nurse, Miriam had been caring for him there at home. Her first husband had lost his battle with cancer, and she said she was thrilled when she and Bob had found each other five years later.

"Bob was my high school sweetheart. Can you imagine? Seventy years later, we reconnected. Both of us had lost our spouses." Her eyes clouded. "And now this," she said, patting my arm. I thought I was going to cry.

We visited for well over an hour, and when it was time to go, I promised to return in a few days. Sunshine warmed my neck as I walked home, and I found myself thinking, If Bob's mail hadn't been delivered to the wrong house, I would have missed meeting this dear couple.

Three days later, I learned that Bob had died in his sleep. His passing made me more aware of the world outside my door, and how little it takes to make someone happy. Stranger or friend, neighbor or internet acquaintance--everybody needs a touch every now and then.

God knew I needed that specific assignment, and I'll be forever grateful.


Friday, February 20, 2009

One Swift Act

In November, 2005 a terrible tragedy occurred in my community. I sat down that evening and the following words poured out. Looking back, it's hard to believe that over three years have passed. Life inevitably moves on past every sad occasion, but sometimes it's good to retrace steps and remind myself that life is precious and can be 0h-so-fleeting. When I catch myself lamenting the little things that don't matter in the Bigger Picture, or when I forget that each day is a sacred gift, this story always stops me in my tracks.

November 8, 2005

Sometimes I read about an event so tragic, it makes me shake my head and ask why. A few days ago, my local paper reported the death of five siblings in a car accident. Their father was driving the car, when another vehicle crossed the center line and hit them head on. It is one of those stories that sears the heart.

The children ranged in age from 12 down to 2. They were riding along, happy to be picking up their mother soon. Both the driver of the approaching car and their dad were seriously injured.

I searched my brain for an answer, but kept coming back to three words: God only knows. And that's exactly what their pastor spoke at the funeral, where five little caskets sat in a row. God only knows. For a reason known only to him, he called all five siblings Home on the same day.

In today's paper, I read about their mother, who is expecting her sixth baby next month. She has already visited the hospital room of the driver who was responsible for the accident, to see how he is faring. She wanted him to know that because of her strong, deep walk with God, she is able to forgive him. Not just in words or through numbed tears, but wholly and completely.

And that's the real answer, I suppose. Through one swift act, a horrible tragedy has left a family and several communities reeling. Yet, in another swift, unselfish act, a gracious, grieving mother reaches out in concern for this man's welfare, to wish him well both physically and spiritually.

Faith doesn't produce any better than that.

"Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven."--Luke 6:27


Thursday, February 12, 2009

A Simple Solution

Lightnings {{es|Tormenta el├ęctrica.Image via Wikipedia

One of the things I love about children is their innocent assessment of any given situation. Three and a half years ago, when my oldest granddaughter was six, our conversation turned to storms.

"Grandma, are you scared of thunder?"
"Were you scared of it when you were a little girl?"
"No, because you can't have thunder without lightning. And I really, really liked a big lightning storm, especially when the electricity in my house went out."

I explained how my mom would gather plain white candles from the cabinet above the refrigerator, light them and place them on a high shelf at each end of the living room. Shadows would dance across our faces as the candles flickered. We'd huddle together and tell stories or munch on snacks, and after each lightning flash we'd count to see how long it took the sound of thunder to reach our ears.

I sighed at the memory, because my mother had passed away recently. "But then the storm would pass and suddenly all the lights would pop back on. I was always disappointed when our together-time had to end."

My granddaughter's blue eyes brightened. "Well Grandma, why didn't you just switch the lights back off?"

"Simplicity is the glory of expression."--Walt Whitman


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Friday, February 6, 2009

Turning Life's Corners

The Corner album cover

ave you ever sensed that the road of life has turned a corner? It's a knowing, the way you know when you've witnessed something beautiful, or met someone special who touched your heart, like the shopkeeper in my last post.

Sometimes our corners are sad, and catapult us down the road a ways on a grief detour. Sometimes they're introspective, and help us to evaluate our priorities and goals. Sometimes they make us grin, for the sheer joy of grinning.

And sometimes, like the corner I rounded recently, they make us realize that time marches steadily on. Maybe we're not as young as we think or feel.

I was coming out of a store, about to head across a parking lot entry lane to my car, when a boy stopped me. I'd chatted with him briefly just seconds before, as I checked out with my stuff. He was about to turn ten, and I patted him on the back and said how I remembered my first double-digit birthday.

So he steps up to me and says, "Let me help you across the street."
Excuse me?

The kid wanted to help me across the street, as in, "May I help you cross the road, you sweet little ol' lady, you?"

Yep. That's what he meant. And he took it a step further. He actually stepped out into the road, held up his hand like a well-trained Boy Scout, and stopped traffic. For me.

So I did what any little old lady would do (did I mention I'm still in my fifties--not exactly ancient, but not in the hoola hoop stage anymore). I slipped my hand around his carefully crooked arm and let him lead me to my car. Thanked him profusely, wished him a happy birthday again, and collapsed in a hysterical heap behind my steering wheel.


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Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Everybody Has Stuff

Chevron bead and Indian glass bead strings

I met someone new yesterday, at a little bead shop where I stopped to have a look around. I've been designing jewelry lately, combining elements from vintage pieces (circa 1930's) with new beads and charms that fit in well with the overall look I hope to achieve. I hoped to find some unique beads to work into future projects.

So I met a woman there at this cute corner shop. She appeared to be in her early forties, and her smile was so contagious, I'd have never suspected she was wrestling with sadness. She greeted me with a friendly handshake, introducing herself by first name the moment I entered.

As I wandered around the shop, I saw her handing out the gift of time, lingering over customers as if each person were the only one there. One lady had a question about a broken pendant, and she showed her how to fix it. Another admitted to knowing zero about jewelry crafting. The shopkeeper encouraged her with, "Everyone starts somewhere. Let me see if I can teach you something simple to begin with." And she did.

When it was my turn to check out, we chatted about gardening and life and family and beading. In a brief few minutes, I learned that she'd lost her dad and her best friend all in the same week, just last month. I shared how I'd lost both parents within a couple of years, and how it sent my life into a tailspin as I worked through my grief.

As I drove home with my package of pretty handpainted beads, I felt as though I'd made a new friend--an unexpected sparkle that God had dropped into my day. And with that sparkle came a thought that has stuck with me:

Everyone carries a load of secret Stuff.

It's true, you know. Too often people go about their day, shouldering a secret burden so as not to dampen someone else's mood. We've all been there, haven't we? We become experts at wearing a happy face and we greet each other as if we're fine, just fine. And when we hear the same from people around us, we accept their words at face value.

Once in a while, though, we experience an invitation to step into someone's real world. That's what happened in that little bead shop on the corner, and I left feeling as if I'd been handed a rare gift.

It's a beautiful thing when we're the target of someone's trust. Wouldn't it be wonderful if every day held a sparkle like that?


*Image via Wikipedia
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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Life on the Grumble Track

Funny how little grumbles often turn into big gripes. Big gripes turn into major complaints. And major complaints can turn into chronic dissatisfaction.

Tuesday found me complaining about my cold garage, where my washer and dryer live. This time of year, when night temps reach into the 20s, it's not the place I want to be. Never mind that I don't have to haul laundry to a stream and scrub it against rocks. Never mind that I just have to push a couple of buttons and return in an hour to retrieve fluffy, dry, dewrinkled clothes.

When I'm feelin' grumbly, stand back.

So I sorted five loads of laundry in piles, and decided to get to it early the next morning. As I stepped back into the warm house, I revisited the same old thought: Sure would be nice to have a laundry room inside where it's warm! (In Summer, I grumble that it's too hot out there: Sure would be nice to have a laundry room inside where it's cooler.)

Fast forward to the sound of rushing water. I had stepped out into the garage to get something from my freezer, and discovered water gushing from the top panel of the 50-gallon water heater. It must have flowed for at least three hours, because when I discovered it, the garage was flooded 2-3" deep. After my initial panic, I was able to turn off the water and survey the mess. And you know what I thought?

Ohmygosh, imagine the damage this would have caused if it had happened inside! It's much easier to deal with a flooded garage (read: concrete floor) than flooded flooring and carpet.

Sometimes it takes a watery detour to pull me off the grumble track.


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Are You a Lighthouse?

"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle." - Plato

I toured a lighthouse a few summers back, not intentionally, but because the tour guide happened to spot my husband and I during a lull in visitors and coaxed us inside for a look around. We climbed a dizzying number of stairs while he gave us his usual spiel--how supplies for the structure had been transported by ship around the cove, being careful to avoid the dangerous currents and rocky shore. He went into detail about the light itself, and described the fellow who weathered forty-something winters at the assignment.

I thought about life on that damp hill, and how the beautiful view must have faded in time, like every scenic wonderland does, once you see it a few times too often. And I wondered, what would drive someone to give all those years to sending out a signal to people he'll never meet? Was he ever tempted to leave and become a farmer or a plumber or an elevator service man?

Anyone who would stay that long, season in and season out, had to be committed to something greater. He must have found his calling in warning ships and fishing boats away from storm-churned inlets. He felt purpose in the results of his labor. And maybe, just maybe...he saved a life or two without even knowing.

Lighthouse people are like that. Maybe you know a few yourselves--special folks who look after your well being without lording it over you, like the neighbor who shares her garden vegetables just because, or the friend who checks in on you when you're sick. It could be someone who has lived several decades longer than yourself, who leans forward in her chair by the window to share an experience that may help you bypass a serious mistake. Could be a teacher or coach...a parent or protective older sibling.

And could it be that you're a lighthouse person, too, and don't even realize it?


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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Dixie-Cup Love

"A kind heart is a fountain of gladness, making everything in its vicinity freshen into smiles." -- Washington Irving

I've toured 15th-century castles in Europe, where royal families dined at thirty-foot-long tables surrounded by gilt-edged mirrors and wall murals. I've enjoyed catered conference meals with groups of writers, and shared a plate of peanut-buttered crackers with a contented 97-year-old widow who didn't realize she was poor.

I've had the pleasure of touring the White House, as well as the Catacombs in Salzburg, Austria, a dark cave on a hillside where early Christians buried their dead and also gathered secretly for worship services.

Both appreciation and misunderstanding have visited my life. Happiness and sorrow. A quiet peace, and room-pacing worry. I've been on the receiving end of beautifully wrapped gifts, but have been equally WOWed by a Dixie-cup bouquet of wildflowers from a granddaughter who loves me unconditionally--no strings attached.

Life is a myriad of experiences, a hilly road that meanders across uncharted territory, through blind intersections, and around sharp corners. None of us knows what a day will bring, but I do know this: A little Dixie-cup love goes a long way, anytime.

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Adam Bender Story

It's easy to grumble about little inconveniences in life. Life is often difficult and unfair.
Then along comes a story like Adam Bender's, a little boy who was born with cancer, and all the petty annoyances and inconveniences dissolve.

This video blessed my heart. It's a good reminder of what's really important in life, and how we can rise above anything, with God's help.

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