Fences and neighbors

I’ve been thinking a lot this week about fences and neighbors.

Earlier this week I got word that my next-door neighbor had been moved to hospice, and yesterday received word that she had died. 

Which made me think a lot about fences and neighbors.

I met her husband first. I’d come to look at the house that I was considering. It was in mid-flip, and as I was checking out the backyard he came over to introduce himself. As we talked he was excited to learn that I was a therapist because his wife was a social worker who also saw clients. although her primary work was as a teacher

That was my first introduction to Liz. 

I soon learned of her passion for her students and for her family, and that her family most especially included her dogs. Within months of moving into my house, I got my first dog, Oakley. At that time they had two golden retrievers, Ellie and Annie. As they were all meeting each other through the fence the dogs were barking excitedly, followed by...

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Note: This week I sent this email out to my subscribers. I received such a heartfelt response to it that I wanted to share it with a wider audience. If you want to subscribe (my emails are reflections such as this, announcements, and sharing things I think might be helpful to you), sign up here.


Do you feel it?

Maybe not you personally, but those around you.

Or maybe exactly you.

There is a weariness in the air. Weariness not just of parents and teachers trying to figure out school, but the weariness that comes with no longer being able to dodge the fact that school won't be "normal" for a long while yet. Weariness that comes from having to reinvent our work, our worship, our lives. Weariness because we just don't know. Weariness with the changes that come too often and weariness with the things that stay too much the same.

As some of you know, back in 2008 I fractured my pelvis in three places. (Technically, it was the car that hit me while I was biking that fractured my...

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A lake, a wetland, and our soul journeys

Just looking at it, you’d find it rather odd to be called a boathouse. This time of year mostly green leaves and grasses hide the small, shallow waterways winding through this patch of land.

There's a boathouse there because once upon a time it was a lake. 

R.J. and Katharine Reynolds were building a model country home. It was mostly Katharine’s project, seeing as how R.J. was running Reynolds Tobacco Company at the time. Down the hill from the main house several smaller streams fed into a larger one. The land between them was dredged to form Lake Katharine. The boathouse was built on its banks.

As generations passed the family gave the estate to the university next door, and dredging the lake ceased to be a concern. The slow-moving water left silt and sand behind, and over time the lake became a wetland and the trees and grasses returned.

One morning recently I sat on a bench by the boathouse and thought about the transformation of this patch of land. The first...

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Sifting, mixing and the blessings we carry

Graced with an unexpectedly free hour, I decided to bake cookies.

Because, you know... it's apparently what we do in a pandemic.

I bypassed the bakers' blogs online and pulled out my mother's church cookbook. Its pages are soft from wear, some of them a bit stained. Lots of the recipes call for Crisco. One of them helpfully shared where to find a certain ingredient, located on Aisle 5 at Mt Tabor Food Market.

That made me smile remembering a time when store layout was consistent enough to print it in a book and remembering a market that's been gone for decades.

I happened upon a recipe for ginger snaps. I'd never made ginger snaps before, but have indeed eaten them on more than one occasion. So I made them.

The task refreshed my soul. I enjoy puttering about the kitchen, and I certainly enjoy eating fresh, homemade ginger snaps, but more than that nurtured my soul.

As I sifted flour and spices, I turned the handle of my grandmother's sifter (the same sifter in the picture.) By the...

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Challenging times

(Note: I shared this with the subscribers on my email list, but wanted to share it with you as well.)

As some have observed on social media, who thought it was a good idea to revisit 1918 (pandemic) AND 1968 (riots for racial justice)?

Challenging times.

You may feel overwhelmed right now. You may be angry or sad or frustrated or wondering where the pause button is because you are tired of thinking so much. You maybe deeply grieving. You may be feeling all of the above daily. Or hourly.

Here are some thoughts for facing such a time.

1. Don't listen to your inner judge.
I team co-teach a Sunday School class at my church, and since we've gone to online services have been doing our lessons as a video (shared with the class, the church and my Heart Callings group.) I really enjoy doing them, and as is the case with anything that we do, some weeks are better than others. The other day I caught myself thinking that I just wasn't doing a very...

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Tired in the wilderness

At first, the children of Israel were ready for the challenge.

We'll flee from Pharaoh, dashing away from our homes (such as they were) before he changes his mind. And when he does decide to come after us, we'll try to outrace the chariots. It's a fools'a plan, but what else can we do? When they get stuck in the mud, our legs that trembled with fear start dancing with joy. We breathe deep the air of freedom and the promise of tomorrow. 

Until tomorrow seems too much like yesterday, all sand and steps and no way to know how far we've come and how far we have to go. Until tomorrow looks like yesterday, and we start to question the whole enterprise.

All of a sudden, Egypt doesn't look so bad. At least we knew. Maybe what they asked us to do was impossible, but at least we knew where we were and how things worked and what our place was in the midst of them. Even if it wasn't that much of a place.

I've been thinking about those wandering children of Israel lately. We've all found...

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How long 'til my soul gets it right?

How long 'til my soul gets it right?

This line from the Indigo Girl song, Galileo, has been going through my mind lately, although probably in ways that the Indigo Girls never intended.

I needed to rename my podcast.

The problem was, just a couple of episodes before I'd introduced my new podcast, changed because of a shifting focus in my online work. I was keeping this new focus (Christians who are seeking, struggling and sometimes straggling along) but my first title wasn't quite there.

It was right enough to get me started, but not quite right enough for the long haul. I liked the new name (Community of Holy Stragglers) very much. But I worried.

I worried what people would think. I worried that I'd be dismissed as flighty or unable to make up my mind. I worried that people would think that I screwed up with my first title, that I didn't get it right.

(I realize that none of you were losing sleep over my podcast name, but bear with me here.)

I finally realized that I had a...

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Does this dress make me look fat?

(Note: Each week I send out a Monday Morning Manna email to subscribers. Today I wanted to share with you this week's email.)

My friend is the queen of Selfies With Famous People. That’s why I wasn’t surprised when, as we waited for the program to start, she nudged me even as she was getting out of her seat.
"She’s over there," she said, pointing to an aisle on the opposite side of the auditorium. "Let’s go."
I tend to be a bit shy in such occasions, but my friend is a force to be reckoned with. Thanks to her, I met, got a picture with, and book signed by one of my favorite authors, Anne Lamott.
One of her books that I love is Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year. Lamott was not only a single mom but also a freelance writer, and her book is both funny and unflinchingly honest about her struggles.
In the midst of it her best friend, Pammy, is diagnosed with cancer. Lamott describes an outing...
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Death on our faces

She'd grown up in very traditional Baptist churches, long before most any Baptist church thought about observing the season of Lent. So it was only natural when she saw someone with a smudge of something on their forehead that she took tissue in hand to try to get it off for them.

It wasn't just a dirty spot, of course. They were ashes carefully smudged by some minister somewhere, a reminder front and center of what we usually try to push to the back.

From ashes we come and to ashes we return.

It’s a strange sort of thing if you think about it. People walking around in the midst of the workdays and school days and all the rest with signs of death right there on their foreheads for God and the world to see. 

Once upon a time not so very long ago dying patients were shuffled down to the ends of hallways lest they remind doctors of their failure to cure. In the United States in which I live, we still do a pretty good job of trying to hide death in our culture. When I ask...

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Sometimes you get what you need.

If you've been reading along in this blog or receiving my weekly Monday Morning Manna email.you know the the last months of 2019 were challenging for me. One of the very hardest challenges was going from a two dog household to a dog-less household in four short months.

Suddenly, my house seemed much too big and much too quiet. I was surrounded by the kind of support every grieving pet owner should have, but still, it was hard.

I told myself that it would make sense to get another dog In the spring.

You know how that goes.

I saw Bear's picture, following along with rapt attention while a little girl read to him. I talked with the owner of the rescue that had pulled him from the shelter. His short two years of life had been filled with the pain of abuse and the suffering of heart worm treatment.

And yet,, Bear just loves everyone. From the cashiers in the pet store to the children who live across the street, Bear approaches everyone with the same question: Can I love you? 


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