Well-Lived

Stoic
He stands
In the center
Of the forest-
Looking
From behind
The years of
Weathered ware
Show clearly
So much so
A passerby
Might question
Whether or not
He was still alive
Unless they
Keep walking
Circling
The forest floor
And spot his
One good arm
Outstretched
Hand waving
His face in
Full view-
Grandfather Tree
With his welcoming
Well-worn smile
I’ve got my fishing pole.
Are you ready to go?

Another cool and breezy day in Vermont. A morning hike and an afternoon winery visit. A yummy maple creemee. Not looking forward to the Oklahoma heat!

Pockets and Pebbles

We drove under a canopy of trees. So thick in stretches, we wouldn’t have been able to see the sun even if it had been shining. Winding switchbacks took us to the top of Mt. Mansfield. We marveled at the beautiful views.

Some of us closed our eyes and held on tight at certain turns. Well…one of us did, anyway. But that was not the thing that caused me to gasp. Instantly feeling like a little kid. Any guesses?

Giant rocks!

Boulders with great veins of quartz running through. Some were standing solitary. Others were stacked, forming small caves. Even others with trees growing against their faces. Those might have been my favorite.

Standing in the shadows of these giants, the kid in me wanted to fill my pockets with pebbles. No, I did not. Managed to rustle up some restraint.

Instead, I stood in awe of these majestic formations. Felt the embrace of their cool breeze. Accepted their invitation to climb, stand, and sit. And finally, to walk away feeling confident, steady, and grateful.

Hold Hands…Follow Me

Walking through an airport can be a tad overwhelming. Where is my next gate? The restroom? Starbucks? Ok, so maybe not Starbucks. But the level of activity and the sheer number of other people…can feel a bit frantic.

Today while walking through Chicago O’Hare airport, I heard the sweetest phrase.

Hold hands and follow me.

When I glanced across the walkway, I saw a mom standing with a baby on her hip and two other littles standing close by. The words I heard were her message to the kids. They listened, grabbed each other’s hands, and followed her.

What a precious picture. Yes, mom looked travel-worn. Her responsibilities were many. I don’t know where they were headed, but they were going together.

This scene caused me to question. Is that how God talks to me? Does he say, Look! Here are your family and friends. Just grab a hand and follow me.

Or perhaps, if unable to reach out, pick me up. Carries me like the baby on the mom’s hip. Leaving the hand-holding and following part to family and friends. Either way, I am never alone.

Side note: I really was traveling today. 😊 Spending a few days in beautiful Vermont. More to come…

Blog Anniversary!

Yesterday marked four years since my first Piano Girl blog post! I continue to be thankful for this WordPress family. I look forward to reading your words and continuing to find new connections.

A lot has happened in four years. Not the least of all, living through a pandemic. Times of sickness, death, isolation, masks, and vaccinations. Challenging does not begin to describe.

And yet, good things pushed their way through the muck. Extended time with family. New friends connecting across the miles thru zoom. Resilience tested and proven within so many. I even had my first book published!

No, those things do not erase current events distress from the wars in our world and gun violence in my country. They do, however, encourage me to cherish the connections I have, old and new. They remind me of the importance of loving, even when we disagree. They give me hope.

Here’s to year five! Prayers for peace. Actions with intention. Words to encourage. Stop by and say hello!

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. I Peter 4:8

Remembering

Today, I am sharing a previous post in honor of my friend, Shannon. This marks seventeen years since she lost her battle with breast cancer. She is greatly missed.

Instant Friends

Have you ever experienced an instantaneous friendship?  You meet someone for the first time, yet it seems as if you’ve always known them?  That’s exactly what happened when I met Shannon.  Both of our husbands had new jobs which brought us to Liberal, KS.  She was the wife of a pastor and me the wife of a high school assistant principal.  We both had young children and were navigating a new place, far away from old friends and family.

If you’ve never been to Liberal, well…there is an actual edge of town. You can see nothing but fields for miles and miles in all directions. The town had a Walmart, a few restaurants, and a small shopping center. We would drive an hour and a half to Garden City, KS just to eat at Applebees.  Needless to say, it was quite an adjustment for both families.

Our move to Liberal was the second big move we’d made in nine years of marriage.  Memories from previous moves brought images of tear-filled goodbyes with many dear friends.  Some of those goodbyes turned into lifelong friendships, but in that actual moment of leaving it felt like our world was falling apart.  As for me, the tears often continued as I adjusted and searched to figure out my place in a new location.  Looking back now I understand that those lonely times strengthened our marriage and brought our family closer together, but oh were they hard.

Soon after we settled in our new home, I heard an advertisement on the radio for a MOPs (Moms of Preschoolers) group meeting.  I’d never been to one of these before but was excited at the prospect of meeting other moms with small children.  There was also a weekly storytime at the library.  My two oldest would be starting school soon, so that would give Ryan (my youngest) and I a fun outing.

It’s funny looking back now, I can’t remember if I first met Shannon at the library or MOPs.  I definitely noticed her at both events with her young kids.  She had such a welcoming smile, maybe we would become friends!  We introduced ourselves, and it wasn’t long before we had traded phone numbers.  At least now there would be a familiar face at storytime and our MOPs meetings.

Not long after school started, Shannon asked if I’d like to go for a walk after we dropped our older kids off at school.  Our youngest kids were the same age, and still enjoyed short stroller rides.  That first walk remains etched in my memory.  We chatted about our families, what had brought us to Liberal, our future plans.  And then Shannon shared the most amazing thing.  From the time they knew they would be moving, she had been praying that God would send her a friend.  I will never forget her words, “I think you just might be the answer to my prayers.”

From that point on, we were inseparable.  Playdates, family dinners, babysitting for eachother…things all young moms desperately need. I’m not sure how I would have survived that year without her.  It felt like we had known each other our entire lives.  She would even laugh and say she must have named her daughter Kelli after me before she even knew me.  And to make the year even more exciting, she soon discovered they were expecting their third child!  So much to plan and celebrate!

Telling Shannon that we would be moving back to Oklahoma for the following school year was not easy.  I dreaded making that phone call.  We were in Oklahoma for the interview and she was in Kansas, having just given birth to their sweet baby.  Terrible timing, but I knew it couldn’t wait.  Always gracious, she understood.  Moving would eventually be part of their future as well.  There were tears and promises to keep in touch.  Despite having experienced this kind of goodbye with friends before-it was not any easier.

Although Shannon and I had become close friends in such a short time, I had no idea the lasting impact she would have on my life. After our move, there were regular phone calls in those first months and even a visit despite the distance between us.  But our communications quickly took a different tone as Shannon was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer.

How could this be possible?  A young mom of three, healthy, no family history…the wife of a pastor.  She fought so hard.  Surgery, treatments, more surgery…and so many prayers.  I witnessed the outpouring of support from their family and friends past and present.  There were also a few misguided individuals who thought if her faith was just strong enough, she would be healed.  Most certainly they did not truly know Shannon.

If ever there was a time in life where I questioned my own faith, this was it.

I had the privilege of spending a week with Shannon and her family shortly before she died.  Oh, my sweet friend-fighting with courage and grace I had never witnessed before. Her cancer had spread once again causing tremendous pain and weakness.  But she was determined we would go shopping, and we did.  She had also planned an outing for us at a lovely tea room, and we went.  I watched as she pushed through, insisting on serving dinner and giving attention to her family-she loved them so much.

Shannon’s kindness as a friend, patience as a mom, and unwavering faith in the face of terrible tragedy continue to impact my life. We may have only lived in the same town for one year, fifteen years ago, but I miss her. The grief that she is not here with her family remains. I keep a picture of the two of us on a shelf in my closet. When I look at this sweet photo, I think about the power and importance of friends. And remembering our instantaneous friendship, I am grateful. 💗

Pause and Wonder

In the shapes
Of clouds
In the leaves
Of trees
In the feathers
Of backyard birds
It is everywhere
But do we recognize it?
They say…
It is the spice of life.
Maybe there is more to it than that?
In the colors
Of our skin
In the traditions
Of our cultures
In the songs
Of our hearts
Variety draws us in
Gives us cause
To pause
And wonder
Encourages us
To embrace
Our differences
Before showing us
How very much
We are the same

Hydrangea blooms. All from the same plant.

The Whole Story

I wish I knew the whole story. How your life began. The circumstances surrounding your birth. How your big sister played with you. What you were like as a toddler.

When we first met, you were bossy and tall for your age. But you had a big smile and beautiful long, dark hair. You loved flying high on the playground swings. I’m glad for those moments of joy in your life.

Schoolwork did not come easy. You worked so hard. No matter what we tried, letters and numbers couldn’t find their way into your memory banks. Not long-term, anyway.

You enjoyed listening to stories and spending time playing pretend with your friends. Somehow, unphased by the lack of remembering academic details.

Traveling between Mexico and Oklahoma seemed to be the pattern. You, your mother, and your older sister. That must have been stressful and scary. Not knowing how long you would stay in one place or where you belonged.

I wish I knew the whole story. Why the older you grew, the less care you seemed to receive. Understanding there must have been challenges in raising a child with disabilities. But still, you deserved to be cared for and loved.

What love there was somehow faded with the birth of a new baby. Slowly turning to neglect and abuse. My heart breaks over what I do know.

You are unable to tell me your whole story. Only bits and pieces. Maybe I shouldn’t wish to know it. One thing I do know is you will always wear the scars. Yet, you still manage to smile. You give and receive love. And just maybe, that is the whole story. ❤️

Our sweet friend, Marie. So glad she is part of our lives.

Simply Sunday

Optics

From a distance
The distance
Between them
Seemed
Unremarkable
A series of
Ups and downs
Over rolling hills
Around sharp curves
Always maintaining
The appearance
Of connection
Perhaps it was
The alternating
Each taking a turn
In the lead
Until rest
Was required
And a graceful
Exchange
Occurred
One-hand
Reaching forward
The other back
No need for even a glance-
I suppose distance was
Never really a factor
As their hearts
Always seemed
To precede
Their hands

Quick to Dismiss

You and I have
A difference
Of opinion
As far as
Differences
Of opinion go
Since an opinion
Is quite often
Not completely
Based on facts
Perhaps we could
Put this one aside
Yes, it seems
Important now
Emotions heightened
With every discussion
But is it worth dismissing each other?
Flesh and blood
Heart and soul
Isn’t it worth attempting a connection?
If our hands could
Briefly touch
Surely our hearts
Would follow

President Biden spoke last evening concerning the epidemic of gun violence in our country. His words expressed sadness, compassion, and anger. His call to action was passionate as well as logical.

So many lives were lost. Families destroyed. Are we so stuck and stubborn in our thoughts and opinions? Is there no room left for compromise? I refuse to believe that is true.

Foothills

One glance
Then a second
Wrinkled brow
Curious smile
Where do the mountains end?
Where do the clouds begin?

A closer look
Would perhaps
Provide answers
If answers are
What I seek-
On third glance
I choose to simply wonder
At how this
Humble horizon
Takes over my thoughts
Leaves me dreaming
Of sitting
At the foothills
Longingly
Looking up
Toward the highest peak
Where questions cease
And peace overcomes
With the passing of a gentle mountain breeze