Chocolate

Reflections on Shuffle-Play (the thing where she writes a reflection based on a song from that morning’s run)

Sweet days.

This life has had a few seasons that were so sweet. Days when I couldn’t wait to wake up in the morning because there was so much joy seeping into the hours.

The first summers I worked at camp: Late 80’s glory. Those lakeshore days flew by in a haze of suntan lotion, The Cure, laughter, and green-apple scented shampoo.

Springtime in West Africa: it was 1994 and I was young enough to have everything in front of me, but old enough to be sure I was going nowhere. Surrounded by the coolest people I knew, everything I owned in my backpack, life was a gorgeous, tortured cornucopia.

The summer of 2001: I was in New York at my first church and planning my wedding to my favorite person. Every meal was the best meal, every song that came on the radio was my favorite song, every day was sunny. Good fortune seemed to smile every single place I looked.

The spring of 2014: I was living in Texas and preparing to go on a reality show in Norway. After living through the deaths of my parents, and the deaths of my husband’s parents, and severely questioning my call to ministry, I won a free adventure in Norway. I told my church I was going (and thank God they gave me their blessing because there was no way I was going to miss out on this adventure) and spent my free hours studying Norwegian, running, drinking tequila with lime on ice in the Texas sun, and learning every skill I could think of to help me in the reality show competitions (how to shoot a gun, how to swim, archery,  – none of these skills proved to be helpful, however, at least for the show). While I didn’t get very far in the show, preparing to go was an absolute blast. It was such a joy to think about something so lighthearted after years of dealing with death and sadness.

The beautiful thing? There were those sweet days and so, so, so, so many more. And I am grateful.

Chocolate

by the 1975

Hey now call it a split ’cause you know that you will
Oh you bite your friends like chocolate
You say, we’ll go where nobody knows, with guns hidden under our petticoat
No we’re never gunna’ quit it, no we’re never gunna’ quit it no
Now we run run away from the boys in the blue, and my car smells like chocolate
Hey now think about what to do, think about what to say, think about how to think
Pause it play, pause it play, pause it
Oh we’ll go where nobody knows, with guns hidden under our petticoats
No we’re never gunna’ quit it, no we’re never gunna’ quit it no
Yeah we’re dressed in black from head to toe, we’ve got guns hidden under our petticoats
No we’re never gunna’ quit it. no we’re never gunna’ quit it no
Now you’re never gunna’ quit it, now you’re never gunna’ quit it, now you’re never gunna’ quit it
If you don’t start smoking it, that’s what she said
She said we’re dressed in black, from head to toe, with guns hidden under our petticoats
No we’re never gunna’ quit it, no we’re never gunna’ quit it no
Hey now we’re building up speed as we’re approaching the hill
Oh my hair smells like chocolate
Hey now you say you’re gunna’ quit it but you’re never gunna’ quit it
Gotta get it, gotta get it, gotta get it, gotta get it, go!
And play it cool
Oh and you said we’ll go where nobody knows, with guns hidden under our petticoats
No we’re never gunna’ quit it, no we’re never gunna’ quit it no
Yeah we’re dressed in black, from head to toe, we’ve got guns hidden under our petticoats
We’re never gunna’ quit it, no we’re never gunna’ quit it no
Well I think we better go, seriously better go
Said the feds are here you know
Seriously better go, oh oh, well I think we better go
Said the feds are here you know
Said Rebecca better know
Seriously better go
We’ll go where nobody knows, with guns hidden under our petticoats
No we’re never gunna’ quit it, no we’re never gunna’ quit it no
Yeah we’re dressed in black, head to toe, guns hidden under our petticoats
No we’re never gunna’ quit it. no we’re never gunna’ quit it no
No no no
Well I think we better go, seriously better go
Said the feds are here you know
Seriously better go, oh oh, well I think we better go
Said the feds are here you know
Said Rebecca better know
Seriously better go

 

 

Finish Line

Reflections on Shuffle-Play (the thing where I write a reflection each day on a song from that morning’s run)

My husband’s parents died in 2007 – his father, Butch, in January and his mother, Dottie, in August.  Our eldest, Owen, was just one year old then and our baby, Jesse, was born in June of that year.  The last time we saw Dottie was at Jesse’s baptism on August 5th.

It was a warm afternoon when Chad got a frantic call from his sister that their mother had died suddenly.  In the days to come it was surmised that her death had occurred from an accidental overdose.  There had been some leftover medication in the house from when Butch was on hospice care and apparently Dottie had told a neighbor she wasn’t feeling well and was going to take something to help her sleep. A tiny bit of liquid morphine and she just never woke up again.  One tiny sip of an incorrect dosage and she left behind her children and a whole bunch of grandchildren who had planned on a lot more time with her.  She never had to suffer as she slipped peacefully into death, but she left behind a family to suffer – a family who still just can’t quite believe she’s gone.  Forever wondering why she was so careless, or if there was something we missed?  Was she sadder than we thought after Butch’s death?  Was there a part of her that wanted to sleep eternally or was it truly just a horrible error?  Then, finally realizing that every question will always remain unanswered.

We went down to New Mexico to help clean out their house and Chad and his brothers and sister hobbled around the house in shock making piles and going through papers while I tried to chase Owen and hush Jesse.  I led the funeral service and wanted to do such a good job but I didn’t.  I didn’t know the perfect words to say for a loss like that.  I know better what to say for strangers than for my own family.  I have found this to be true again and again over the years.  I am unable to blur the lines in my roles.  The same thing happened when Butch was dying and Dottie called to say he wanted to have communion one last time and could I bring it to him?  We were coming down to see them in a few days.  I was happy if I could do something for him but I felt sick at the thought of how in the world to do this?  How could I knit together words to pray a prayer out loud for my beloved’s father in his last hours?  I felt like I just barely knew how to be a daughter-in-law – I had no idea how to be pastor to him, too.  Butch was family, real family to me – I loved him.  That was the problem.  I knew I would weep sharing the sacrament with him.  I knew I couldn’t put on my ‘pastor face’ for him and be any sort of calm and comforting presence because I would just keep thinking about how sad I was for me and for Chad and for our boys and just everyone that we wouldn’t have him around anymore.  It would be too real, too close, too deep, too much.  I called the hospice chaplain at the facility where he was hospitalized and asked her to bring him the sacrament.  I told Dottie that I was worried we wouldn’t get there in time.  She said she understood.

My pattern of wanting someone else to be the pastor when it comes to my family continued.  Right before my mother had her final heart surgery just weeks before her death, I spotted a hospital chaplain in the hallway and dragged him into her room in ICU.  There was a good chance mom might not survive the surgery. I demanded he pray for her right then.  I bowed my head while hot tears flowed down my face and onto her bedspread.

All the prayers I have said by hundreds of hospital beds but I could not pray aloud for her.  I knew the silent prayers I kept lobbing toward heaven were incessant, but to speak those words aloud, if she were to hear them – I would have been undone.  Not that I was very composed as it was – but I knew I was only capable of being her daughter, not her pastor.

When my children were baptized I put the water on their heads but had pastor friends do the rest of the service.  I only said the words, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit” and it was all I could do to squeak those words out.

I can’t even think about what their confirmation day will be like.

Their weddings?  Oh dear God.

It’s not that I think pastors shouldn’t cry.  Ask anyone in any of the congregations I have served and they’ll tell you I am a crier.  I’ve cried with widows on the anniversaries of their husbands’ deaths.  Tears usually slip out at every baptism and it isn’t strange for my voice to be choked when I’m blessing the confirmation students at the altar rail along with their parents on confirmation day.  In fourteen years as a pastor I have openly wept three times during sermons – during my final sermon at both my first two calls and when I preached at the nursing home on what would have been my mother’s 80th birthday.

I’m not ashamed of any of those tears.  I’m grateful to have work that moves me deeply.  But even so – there are parts of my life when I cannot be the pastor because I need a pastor.  There are times I need someone else to be saying the prayers and administering the sacraments.  There are times I just need to hear someone else speaking the holy and precious words of God to my grief, my joy, my life.

I remember in seminary when I worked at a hospital in the Twin Cities and a priest who worked there as well was recalling his mother’s funeral.  He had done the entire thing himself.  Back then I thought to myself how brave and wonderful it was to be able to do such a thing.  How great that he could do that final thing for his mother.  However, now I see a different perspective.  I feel sad for him that he couldn’t just be a son grieving his mother.  I feel angry for him that probably every significant moment in his family’s life together he couldn’t just be there to enjoy it but rather he probably was expected to say the prayer, do the wedding, speak at the wake, give the last rites.

It’s a blessing to be with people during the most significant moments of their lives – it’s one of the best parts about being a pastor – but we can’t do that for ourselves or for the people we love the most.  We cheat ourselves out of feeling everything that must be felt and being fully the many roles God gives us to fulfill.  I’m so thankful at my parents’ funerals I simply sat down and listened to the preacher speak.  And when my children get married, I want to just be the mother of the groom, slipping the pastor a nice honorarium.

Finish Line

by Train

I thought I knew it all
I’ve been through the highs, said all my goodbyes
Learned to run before I learned to crawl
It’s not worth fighting for if one of us is sure
And one of us is dying, trying to find loves cure

I have waited all my life to paint these cities red
Thoughts I’ve always had here are stuck inside my head
It’s not worth waiting for if one of us wants more
And one of us is dying, trying to find love’s door

When we learn how to fly
We forget to how walk
When we learn how to sing
We don’t wanna hear each other talk

Here we are at the finish line, ah
Here we are at the finish line

And you, you really thought you knew
Everything to do
With holding onto me and holding on
This time is making me slip right through your hands
And now you don’t understand
Trying to find love all yourself

When we learn how to fly,
We forget to how walk
When we learn how to sing
We don’t wanna hear each other talk
When we know what we want
We forget what we need
When you find who you are
You forget about me

Here we are at the finish line, ah
Here we are at the finish line, ah
Here we are at the finish line

Ah, ah, ah

Nothin’ on Me

Reflections on Shuffle-Play (the thing where I write a reflection inspired by a song from that morning’s run)

I do not have high standards when it comes to movies. Basically, I’m content if there is a happy ending. However, I was watching a made-for-TV movie the other day that was so unremarkable I simply couldn’t finish it. There was one scene that has stuck with me, though: the sister of the main character was discontent with many things in her life and tended to blame the people around her for her dissatisfaction. She repeatedly grew angry at her husband for the big brown patches on their lawn, “Why can’t you ever water the grass?!” She kept yelling at him for not taking care of the lawn until one day she decided to go out and water the grass herself. She smiled as she did it – a smile of great satisfaction – as she realized that she didn’t have to wait for anyone to make her life better. She could do it herself. Her whole demeanor changed as she stood there with the hose in her hand, watching the water cascade over the grass. The viewer could see her embracing her power right then and there – and sure enough, before I changed the channel she had already begun to make other changes in her life. All it took was a shift in her perspective. Instead of putting her energy into blaming others or her circumstances, she put her energy into making it better.

I’ve thought of that so often in the last few days. How can I water my own grass, concern myself with the solution rather than the problem? That shift in perspective might seem slight but in reality, it makes all the difference in the world. I can see everything as a problem I have, or I can see everything as a solution I am finding – and I am never alone as I look for that solution. I think this may be one of the greatest lessons life teaches us. A long time ago, I used to feel like so many problems were insurmountable. If I didn’t know what to do immediately in any given situation, all was lost, and I was surely a failure. Despair set in easily back then. It took me a very long time to realize that it was okay to not know the answers, and it was great to ask for help.

Are you upset with a situation and finding yourself blaming others or outside forces? Is there something you could do today to address the problem directly? Can you water your own grass?

Nothin’ on Me

by Shawn Colvin

Well I don’t tell jokes
And I don’t take notes
You been sayin’
There ain’t much hope
You got nothin’ on me
I got friends uptown
And they don’t talk down
They be keepin’ me safe and sound
We got somethin’ to be
So in case you hadn’t noticed
I’m alright
Not like it was before
Things used to be so hopeless
But not tonight
Tonight I’m walkin’ out that door
I’m not gonna cry
When wavin’ goodbye
And I know this time
You got nothin’ on me
Well it ain’t that tough
Just more of the usual stuff
One heartache is more than enough
There ain’t nothing to see
Nothing
I got friends uptown
And they still come ’round
They be keepin’ me safe and sound
We got somethin’ to be
So don’t you try to save me
With your advice
Or turn me into something else
Cause I’m not crazy
And you’re not nice
Baby if you do
Keep it to yourself
I’m not gonna cry
And I’m wavin’ goodbye
And I know this time
You got nothin’ on me.
(No nothin’ on me)

 

Sunday Morning

Reflections on Shuffle-Play (the thing where I write a reflection based on a song from that morning’s run)

I didn’t lead worship today. I get a few Sundays off each year and while it is nice to have a Sunday now and then to not extend the mental energy toward preparing a sermon and not be “on” for a Sunday morning, it is equally nice to have the opportunity to worship somewhere else. This morning, I chose to worship at a larger church in a town nearby. I chose this particular church because I like the pastors and because I knew I would be relatively anonymous there. It isn’t a church that typically does a lot with my own so I can slip and out without being noticed by many of the parishioners.

It is important to worship other places because it helps wake up my mind to what other churches are doing. When I spend each Sunday in my own church and focusing on the way we do things, I forget that there is a whole other world outside full of different ways of thinking and doing. I usually come away from other worship services feeling both inspired to try some new things, yet also finding that there are also things I prefer about my own church. Today was no different.

I liked the bright and airy sanctuary, the touches of tradition along with the touches of modern. They recently went through a renovation, so while the outside looks very traditional and a bit cold, the inside is warm and welcoming. The pastors are great – whip-smart, with easy smiles and demeanor. They are both younger than me and have young children, so while I was there I found myself remembering the unique challenges that come with trying to balance all the demands of being a full-time pastor along with all the demands of being a full-time parent to little ones who need you so much. It’s beautiful and hard and precious.

Before we had our boys, I remember thinking parenthood would be a lot like regular life, just with these extra little people around. It was my job to feed them and clothe them and raise them, but it was their job to fit into my world, not me fit into their world. I didn’t realize, because there is no way you can realize until you go through it, how much children alter the world as you once knew it. Nothing was the same anymore. Going out to eat was no longer the same leisurely experience because it became a race to see if we could even get a few bites of our food eaten before one child or the other was in a meltdown. Going to movies was different because for a very long time the kiddos only want to see cartoons or superhero movies – gone were the romantic comedies, dramas, and suspense films. Having a conversation with one’s spouse was immensely different – rather than being able to talk to each other in peace and quiet at any hour of the day, instead we had to cram important conversations into the crevices of our days. There was hardly any room for each other because the children took up so much space and energy. During the worship service I found myself thinking about how quickly the years have passed and so much of early parenthood just felt like trying to keep my head above water. Did we do the best we could? Did we make the most of the time yet savor it as well? What will our boys remember from their childhood?

It was a welcome surprise that part of the worship today was a service for healing. Anyone could come up if they wanted and receive prayers for healing. I wondered if anyone would go forward as sometimes Lutherans can be terribly tentative about things like this – but most everyone in the congregation went forward to receive prayers and anointing. Before they began, one of the pastors said simply that all of us need healing in one way or another. He talked about how it is a flaw in our culture, and particularly in Christianity, that we feel like we need to put on a perfect front. It’s okay to need healing, it’s okay to admit that we hurt and would like someone to pray for us. He spoke those few simple words and a whole church full of people came forward one by one to receive prayers. It was healing for me, too. I’ve done healing services before but usually as something apart from Sunday morning. I’ve never before seen it done like it was done at this church today – and I loved it. I look forward to stealing that idea as soon as possible.

My youngest came with me to church this morning. He sang along loudly with the worship band. Then, we went out for lunch at a Chinese restaurant. On the way home, we saw the fish houses and ice skaters out on the lake. We sang along to classic rock and talked about making cookies this afternoon. It is an unusual Sunday, but a good one. A chance to see the world, worship, and my own life from a new perspective. Thanks be to God.

Sunday Morning

By No Doubt

Sappy pathetic little me
That was the girl I used to be
You had me on my knees

I’d trade you places any day
I’d never thought you could be that way
But you looked like me on Sunday

You came in with the breeze
On Sunday morning
You sure have changed since yesterday
Without any warning
I thought I knew you
I thought I knew you
I thought I knew you well, so well

You’re trying my shoes on for a change
They look so good but fit so strange
Out of fashion, so I can complain

You came in with the breeze
On Sunday morning
You sure have changed since yesterday
Without any warning
I thought I knew you
I thought I knew you
I thought I knew you well, so well

I know who I am, but who are you?
You’re not looking like you used to
You’re on the other side of the mirror
So nothing’s looking quite as clear
Thank you for turning on the lights
Thank you, now you’re the parasite
I didn’t think you had it in you
And now you’re looking like I used to!

You came in with the breeze
On Sunday morning
You sure have changed since yesterday
Without any warning
And you want me badly
Because you cannot have me
I thought I knew you
But I’ve got a new view
I thought I knew you well, oh well

On Sunday morning
And I don’t want it
Sunday morning
I thought I knew you
Sunday morning
Oh you want me badly
Can have it
Sunday morning
Sunday morning
Sunday morning

 

Tripping Billies

Reflections on Shuffle Play (an exercise in which I write a reflection based on that morning’s run)

I wish I kept count of all the times that people talked about calories, points, diet, or weight over the course of our Thanksgiving festivities.

It was the first Thanksgiving of my life I was feeling comfortable in my skin and content. I had neither starved beforehand to prepare for the onslaught of calories nor was I intending to exercise more than usual the next day. I wasn’t afraid of the challenge of all the enticing food, just happy to be sharing a good meal with people I loved. For the first time, I could really focus on all I am thankful for: my children, my husband, the beautiful weather, living near enough to family to see them on the holidays, good health, the list goes on and on.

And because my vision was clearer this year and I wasn’t so distracted by my war with my weight and the scale, I was able to observe what a toll the weight-loss war takes on people. I observed how easily people talk about diet and weight, how often people called themselves “bad” for this indulgence or that. I observed it with compassion, because this is a journey all of us are on and it wasn’t long ago at all I was joining in on the poisonous self-talk. Furthermore, the ghosts of my life-long battle with food still loom large – even though I was feeling comfortable with the food in the room and my ability to trust how much my body wanted to eat, I still scanned each picture that was taken yesterday to see if I looked, “fat”. I may not be able to help doing that as long as I live. All of these habits are hard to break.

I think dieting is fine if it really makes a person feel better, however, I found after enough time and energy devoted to it that the benefits did not outnumber the costs. There were still small joys in it: being told I looked good, fitting into smaller sizes, etc., but I found it made my world feel very small. I began to resent the mental energy it took, the time it took. It made me feel boring.

When I was stuck in diet mode, there was always this sense of “just you wait and see.” If I felt bad about myself or incomplete, I thought, “just wait until they all see me after this next diet. I’ll look so good and everything will be so great.” When I stripped that away, I had to be okay with offering myself just as I am to the world. I had to be ready to be happy now, to be content now, to exist in present tense rather than future tense.

I found I like present tense.

However, there are still so many triggers that exist and I have to be careful when they appear. When I hear someone talk about so and so who just lost forty pounds, when I overhear someone mention a new diet they are starting, when I see a “before and after” picture, when I am having a day when I am not feeling so beautiful – any of these things can trigger the feelings that it’s time to change myself. I’m obviously not good enough as I am, time to shift, morph, become, alter.

But instead of giving any energy to those triggering feelings, these days I remind myself to counter all those feelings with the thought of, “maybe you are just fine the way you are.” It’s a small but oh-so significant shift in thought. When I focus all my attention on who I am rather than who I might become if I just change this or that, then I realize that the time is NOW to do all the things I love and care about. Do the writing NOW. Share the writing NOW. Take your kids out for a fun day NOW. Go out with a friend for coffee NOW. Live your life NOW.

So today, I had pecan pie for breakfast because it is delicious. Then, I ran for 30 minutes because it makes me feel amazing and accomplished as I start my day. These days I only use my fitbit as a timer for my runs, otherwise it sits on the little shelf of my treadmill. This Black Friday there is no trace of regret for the cheesecake I ate yesterday, no plan for starting over with a new healthy eating plan on Monday, there’s just me, happy. Now that is something to be thankful for.

 

Tripping Billies

By The Dave Matthews Band

we were above
you standing underneath us
we were not yet lovers
dragons were smoked
bumblebees were stinging us
I was soon to be crazy

eat, drink and be merry
for tomorrow we die
’cause we’re tripping Billies

we’re wearing nothing
nothing but out shadows
shadows falling down on the beach sand
remembering once,
out on the beaches we wore
pineapple grass bracelets

so why would you care
to get out of this place
you and me and all our friends
such a happy human race
’cause we’re tripping Billies

we are all sitting
legs crossed round a fire
my yellow flame she dances
tequila drinking oh our
minds will wonder
to wondrous places

so why would you care
to get out of this place
you and me and all our friends
such a happy human race

eat, drink and be merry
for tomorrow we die

 

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Day is synonymous with so much, 
Family, football, food and such, 
And we often pause during the course of the holiday 
To give thanks for the blessings that have come our way. 

It’s only right and it is only fair 
That we should stop and think about God’s good care 
Of us and of others, abundance filling our lives 
With love and treasures that make us thrive.

But the truth is that while we might be blessed beyond reason 
There are some (maybe even you?) who are in a sad, dry season. 
Perhaps a death or illness or loss of work, 
Loneliness or depression – you’ve lost your perk. 

What do we do on Thanksgiving Day
If our spirits are dismal, bewildered, or gray?
If time has been rough and luck has been slim 
Aren’t we allowed to keep feeling grim 

And let this particular holiday pass us by 
And observe it another year when our spirits are high?
Because truthfully when we look at this world all around 
So much sadness and hardship abound. 

Life might be grand here in our city or block 
But what about in Afghanistan or Rwanda or Iraq?
I planned that this little rhyme would simply be lighthearted 
But that happy illusion quickly departed 
When I thought about Thanksgiving and what it’s really about 
It’s time to be clear and leave no trace of doubt!

Let me begin by saying it is this time of year
memories of a woman I once knew draw near
Her name was Maria and she had one twenty-year old son 
He came home for Thanksgiving, his usual vitality gone. 

He was tired and pale and she took him to the physician 
They found cancer – a rare kind – an untreatable condition. 
Maria sat stunned with her face in her hand 
This couldn’t be right, she couldn’t understand 

How her beautiful son – her boy, her firstborn! 
Could possibly from her life be torn!
Maria went home and she howled in her grief. 
She screamed and she cried and there was no relief. 

Her husband, concerned what the neighbors would think 
He shut the doors and the big window over the sink. 
As she continued to yell and to cry so loud 
She felt like the whole world hid in a evil, dark cloud.

The next fourteen months passed in a haze - 
From specialist to herbalist they flew in a craze 
Her son took vitamins and changed all the things that he ate 
He took treatments and pills and tried to keep up his weight

But the cancer raged– like fire it spread 
The son moved back in with his folks – back to his old bed 
And his parents kept watch over him day and night 
Praying and hoping and telling him to fight.

They kept believing so much that he would be healed. 
But within time, a different outcome was finally revealed…

For most it was a Saturday like any other 
The morning he died in the arms of his mother. 

Her baby boy, her only son 
Just like that…he was gone. 
She kissed his cheek and brushed the hair off his brow 
His suffering, his pain was over now.

But she knew that hers had only started 
Now that she remained after he departed. 
Empty and pointless the world had just become… 
She was certain she would die too – she was completely numb…

Years went by, she stumbled through the seasons 
Searching for answers, searching for reasons 
And none ever came, just an ache that grew stronger 
But one day she couldn’t stay away any longer.

On a quiet weekday she wandered in to a church down the street 
The sound of the cold floor echoed under her feet 
Unable to pray, she wandered through the Sanctuary 
Finding herself stopping at a statue of the Virgin, Mary.

And all the pain that had frozen her heart like a stone 
The hurt that had kept her life chilled to the bone 
It found words as she stood there in that quiet place 
Looking at Mary, her serene marble face

“How could you do it?” her voice trembled then… 
“How could you let go of your son and ever breathe again?” 
“How could you love him and hold him and then see him die… 
Oh Mary – you were a mother, too…can’t you please tell me “why”?

The “why’s” continued to tumble out of her now 
Why when he was so young and so special would God allow 
This to happen to him? He never did learn to wash his clothes right, 
He sometimes still forgot to eat, and never turned off the lights…

“He still needed a mother, Mary – he needs one there, too – 
I don’t understand – but as a fellow Mom, I entrust him to you.”

And something in that moment was filled with grace 
Though she knew time could never erase 
Her memories of her son…she began to breathe again
And she found herself humming old hymns now and then.

Hymns of comfort she learned years ago 
Hymns that helped her begin to let go… 
Not of her son, but of the pain… 
And hold onto the good –the words washed over her like rain…

Abide with me fast falls the eventide
The darkness deepens, Lord with me abide
 When other helpers fail and comforts flee
 Help of the helpless, oh, abide with me…

When Maria told me this story, I had no response at all
I only sat and looked at her as my own tears began to fall.
She ended by saying, “Do you know what the mystery is, Ruth?” 
“The mystery is that it is possible to be comforted. That is the truth.” 

“Though I’ll always miss my son, his laugh and his way
I just give thanks – such thanks - that I knew him – 
and I’ll see him again someday.”
She wrote to me last just a few years ago… 
She said, “Life goes on regardless of pain – I want you to know! 
This spring my daughter, Rose, the middle one 
Gave birth to my first grandchild, a son.”

Maybe it is simple, maybe it is plain… 
Maybe it is too easy or goes without saying… 
But life is so full of ups and downs 
Life is replete with smiles and frowns 
But in the midst of it all, what better gift can we bring
 To God, to our Lord, than our Thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving especially when times are trying
Thanksgiving especially when our hearts are crying…
Thanksgiving when like the lepers we’ve been healed
Thanksgiving when the good is yet to be revealed
Brothers and sisters, may your Thanksgiving tables abound
With good food, good friends, and family all around.
May your blessings this year be too many to number
May your nights be full of peaceful slumber…
But when hard times come as they often will 
And when the going seems mostly uphill 
And you’re sad more than happy and glum more than glad 
May your heart trust there is still joy to be had. 
You’ll find it when you least expect 
God will reveal it perhaps when all seems most wrecked.
Like Maria you’ll find solace in a statue or a place
An old song, a memory, a warm embrace
And it will remind you that you are not alone – you’ve never been
God is with you, always was, always will be. Amen.

(I wrote this in 2006 and the rhyme is original, although it was inspired by
a story I heard elsewhere, but I don't remember where the original thread
of story came from. If it rings a bell for you, let me know.)

Losing My Religion

Reflections on Shuffle-Play (the thing where I write a reflection inspired by a song from that day’s run)

Dieting is so much like a religion. Think about it:

It’s common in religions to have lists of actions that are permissible to do and not permissible to do. Diets are entirely made up of those kinds of rules.

Religion often uses the language of “clean” or “unclean” – dieting has begun to take on this language as well with the rage of “clean eating.”

Religion speaks of sinners and saints. We often refer to a decadent dessert as being “sinful” or call ourselves “bad” or “good” depending on how well we have followed our dietary rules on any particular day.

In fact, dieting has become a religion, at least in American culture. A religion that many people strive after and fill countless hours pursuing and perfecting.

I freely admit that long before I ever memorized the Small Catechism I knew the calorie values of most foods.  I pored over exercises in magazines that might give me the legs I wanted. I devoured book after book that filled my head full of information about this eating plan or that one.

And I found community within the dieting culture, too. It’s like a language that most women have all learned how to speak: “Oh, I shouldn’t be eating this.” “No, I’ll have a diet coke.” “I lost five pounds!” “Can you believe how she let herself go?” “Ugh, I feel fat today.” On and on we speak the dieting language – adding some new terms now and then: Whole 30, Cauliflower Rice, Pilates, FitBit, etc. – but it really is all some new lingo for the same old thing: monitor, restrict, try to shrink, rebound, binge, repeat.

I’ll admit as well that I’ve let the lines between dieting and religion get blurry – especially during the season of Lent. So many years I have decided to fast during Lent and have told myself it was for spiritual purposes, yet knowing that I was very excited about the idea of what the Lenten fast might do for my figure.

Some people find comfort in strict religion, just as some find comfort in a strict diet. In fact, when you consider some of the most popular religions, the ones which teach a prosperity gospel (just do this and this and this and God is going to bless you so hard!), they bear a striking resemblance to the most popular diet plans (just eat this and do this and you will look so good!). People like the prosperity gospel preachers because they give an easy recipe for how to live your “best life now!” But eventually reality sets in and people realize that life is full of ups and downs and no amount of faith or good works or good attitude is going to save you from the hard times. Rather, what is life-giving is faith in the One who is with us when times are good or bad, the One who loves us when we are good and when we are not so good.

I guess in the same way, I’ve realized that every diet plan is just another version of the prosperity gospel – full of empty promises, oftentimes repackaged or re-worded, but all just the same. I’ve put my faith in countless diet gurus and exercise moguls: Denise Austin, Bob Harper and everyone from the Biggest Loser, the P90X guy, the group leader at Weight Watchers – I wanted to trust in them and their advice. I built big dreams on their promises, but at the end of years and years of my efforts to fit myself into their tiny molds, I realized my salvation was not in trying so hard to follow someone else’s path. My salvation when it comes to me and my body is just to accept myself the way I am and listen to my body.  It is saying “no more” to dieting.

People get very nervous about the idea of getting off the diet treadmill, because as with any deeply ingrained belief system, it is painful to realize that something you once put a lot of faith in is smoke and mirrors. By the time I was ready to let go of dieting, it just felt like sweet relief, but I can tell that there are many others who aren’t yet ready to call it quits. “It’s all about health,” they say. “I want to live as long as I can so I have to lose weight and be healthy.” That’s all well and good, but I question how much life is really in the life of a dieting person. When I was in the thick of a diet, I was constantly thinking about food, anticipating the next meal or regretting the last meal. I couldn’t really enjoy going out on a date with my husband because the food was full of a land-mine of calories. I couldn’t eat with my children because they would never eat the bland, awful things I allowed myself to eat. My days were marked with checks and numbers on my calendar, calculating my efforts for the day. I was either rigidly eating just a few different “safe” foods each day, or I was in the depths of an all-out binge and absolutely hating myself, planning to get back “on track” the next day.

I grew so sick of tomorrow.

I grew so sick of tomorrow that I realized the only way out of it was to dedicate myself to today.

To be happy today.

To be good enough today.

To allow myself to eat today.

To believe that just as I am, I get to savor everything life has to offer – and I don’t have to wait until I lose those twenty pounds or until my pants are looser. I can have it all today: happiness, joy, movement, love, freedom, food, peace – all of it. NOW!

See, God gave us our appetites and our bodies. I’ve never been rigid when it comes to religion – because I know God is all about grace. So no wonder it has felt so alien all these years to be so rigid about my body. I was supposed to be loving it and treating it gently, not constantly trying to bend it to my will and shape it into something else.

If you are still on the dieting treadmill, it’s okay. I just want to tell you how good it feels to be off of it. I weigh no more now than I did when I was dieting, I just like myself a lot more now. Once I stopped dieting, the binging stopped and that has been life-saving. That isn’t to say that there aren’t still days when I want to eat my feelings, and sometimes I do, but I work especially hard then to be kind to myself. I don’t punish myself with exercise for hours, I don’t starve myself the next day to try to make up for any excess the day before. Instead, I eat and I move and I do things that make me happy. I treat myself grace-fully.

I feel healthier than I have in a long time and I eat better. I eat real food. I eat all kinds of food! I love my appetite and I love eating with my husband, my kids, my friends. I look forward to holidays finally after dreading them most of my adult life.

The religion of weight-loss proved to be a false god for me. The times I was thinnest I was so unhealthy – starving and smoking my way into smaller and smaller sizes. My life had no life. I was too hungry and self-absorbed to think about much else. If there is anything I have done that has been detrimental to my health, it has been the constant cycle of going up and down the diet rollercoaster. It’s been detrimental to my physical health and my mental health. So much anguish and energy and time I frittered away at the altar of diet culture.

I have a Facebook friend who is currently on some weight-loss regime and every few days she is going to her weigh-in place and then she posts online how much weight she has lost. She is so excited to see the scale go down. I have such compassion for her because I have been there so many times. I’ve felt that exhilaration, I’ve felt the envy of the people around me as I shrank, and I’ve been drunk on the feeling of power it brought. And who knows, maybe she will be one of the 5% who is able to keep off the weight with militant attention and self-control, measured portions and a couple meal-replacement shakes a day for the rest of her life. God bless her. It’s not for me. I took that road a thousand times and it never led anywhere good. This road, though? This road of being comfortable in my current skin, content in my current life, joyful in eating what sounds good to me, and the scale stashed securely in a back closet? It’s a journey I hope to continue for a long-ass time.

Losing My Religion

by REM

Life is bigger
It’s bigger
And you, you are not me
The lengths that I will go to
The distance in your eyes
Oh no, I’ve said too much
I set it up

That’s me in the corner
That’s me in the spotlight
Losing my religion
Trying to keep up with you
And I don’t know if I can do it
Oh no I’ve said too much
I haven’t said enough

I thought that I heard you laughing
I thought that I heard you sing
I think I thought I saw you try

Every whisper
Of every waking hour
I’m choosing my confessions
Trying to keep an eye on you
Like a hurt lost and blinded fool
Oh no, I’ve said too much
I set it up

Consider this
The hint of the century
Consider this
The slip that brought me
To my knees failed
What if all these fantasies
Come flailing around
Now I’ve said too much

I thought that I heard you laughing
I thought that I heard you sing
I think I thought I saw you try

But that was just a dream
That was just a dream

That’s me in the corner
That’s me in the spotlight
Losing my religion
Trying to keep up with you
And I don’t know if I can do it
Oh no I’ve said too much
I haven’t said enough

I thought that I heard you laughing
I thought that I heard you sing
I think I thought I saw you try

But that was just a dream, try, cry, why, try
That was just a dream, just a dream, just a dream
Dream

 

 

You’re My Best Friend

Reflections on Shuffle-Play (where I write each day inspired by a song from that morning’s run)

I’m not at my

Shiny

Glittery

Most excellent

Very Best

State of Being

Today.

Not even close.

Pretty sure if I were to step

On the scale today

It would say

I weigh

One thousand pounds.

I don’t want to care about that

Yet, I do.

I care that I feel cumbersome

XXL

Taking up too much space

Uncomfortable.

Last week I felt great

And I did nothing differently

Than I have been doing this week

Yet I blame myself today

I must be living wrong

Eating wrong

Doing wrong

To feel so crummy right now.

Because why else would I feel so icky?

It must be my fault for feeling

ICKY

Icky is the word for it.

Bloated

Crabby

Pudgy

Icky.

A massive zit

A zit the size of a newborn

adorns my chin

It greets everyone before I do

When I walk in the room

At the age of forty-seven

My zit the size of a small village

is nestled in the midst of my wrinkles

Looking out of place

But determined.

I ran this morning – even faster than usual

But felt heavy with every step.

I have a cut on my thumb.

The small red pepper I was cutting up

To go in my eggs

Was tricky to cut.

My thumb was not.

It sliced and bled so easily.

And hurts like hell.

The band-aid is obtrusive and

Wants to type its’ own words.

Dear sweet baby Jesus

I hate all my clothes –

They are unflattering and

I blame them for

Being so…

Plain

Ill-fitting

Dark

Hot

Itchy

Blah.

And my hair!

My hair is weird, dry, and flat.

And decidedly gray.

Not a shimmering silver.

Not arctic blond or nearly snow-white.

Just gray.

Cloudy, rainy day-gray.

When will I ever

Get it all together?

I’m drinking my water

I’m eating my vegetables

Getting plenty of sleep

Nary a drop of alcohol
But still.

This day, I feel

Hit by the ugly truck

That hit me once

Backed over me

And hit me again

And then parked on top of me.

Overnight.

Why oh why

Oh why oh

Why

Are some days

This way?

The only thing to do

Is take good care of me

And gently, softly say

“Tomorrow will be better.”

I remind myself that

looking good

And feeling good

Every day

Is not the rent I have to pay

For being a woman in this world.

Some days you will feel like a rock star

Some days you will feel like crap

But every day, you are valuable.

Every day, you are worthy

Of love

Of nourishment

Of joy

Of being treated well.

On the days you feel less

Than your most excellent, perfect,

Shiny, shimmering self

Remember to be extra kind

To yourself.

Some days

Are just this way.

Be kind to you.

Maybe ask yourself what you need

Right now.

A nap?

To be quiet with a good book?

To go for a walk?

A movie?

Whatever it is –

Be sure you are looking for ways

To bless yourself

And not punish yourself.

Punishment is never the way

To treat someone when they are feeling down.

Love

Nurturing

Sweet words

Gentleness –

Give yourself these things

You deserve them.

Especially on days like this.

Be your own best friend.

 

You’re My Best Friend

By Queen

Ooh, you make me live
Whatever this world can give to me
It’s you, you’re all I see
Ooh, you make me live now honey
Ooh, you make me live

You’re the best friend
That I ever had
I’ve been with you such a long time
You’re my sunshine
And I want you to know
That my feelings are true
I really love you
You’re my best friend

Ooh, you make me live

I’ve been wandering round
But I still come back to you
In rain or shine
You’ve stood by me girl
I’m happy at home (happy at home)
You’re my best friend.

Ooh, you make me live
Whenever this world is cruel to me
I got you to help me forgive
Ooh, you make me live now honey
Ooh, you make me live

You’re the first one
When things turn out bad
You know I’ll never be lonely
You’re my only one
And I love the things
I really love the things that you do
You’re my best friend

Ooh, you make me live.

I’m happy, happy at home
You’re my best friend
You’re my best friend
Ooh, you make me live
You, you’re my best friend

Fancy

Reflections on Shuffle-Play (where I write a reflection each day inspired by a song from that morning’s run)

I was doing some cleaning and organizing at church and kept coming across items that had been tucked away in closets and corners.  Churches can end up having a strange assortment of odd stuff for a few reasons: first, people are often hesitant to get rid of anything at church because what if someone’s family member donated that item three decades ago? They might get upset if we just get rid of it, so let’s store it until there are no longer any living family members left.

Second, churches often end up with a bunch of weird stuff because when people no longer want things at their houses, they often decide maybe the church could use their weird stuff. A couple days ago, someone brought me a huge bag of books to donate to our church library. Now our library has a pretty good variety of books and it is a “little free library” – people can take a book and return it or take a book and keep it. I encourage people to donate books, however, I do monitor what gets donated. When I went to look in the bag, it was filled with books by a particularly offensive television evangelist. I would NEVER allow these books to be displayed in our church as the kind of theology they spout is dangerous! While it’s difficult for me to imagine destroying any books, I’m not convinced it is best that I even make the effort to bring them to the thrift store. I may simply make the effort to bring them to the dumpster.

Old typewriters, ancient mixers, boxes full of cloth and yarn from the house of a life-long smoker, old Christmas trees with branches missing, pieces of candles, you name it, I’ve seen it donated to the church because, as the usually well-meaning giver says, “maybe you can use it for something.” The worst was when I was at a church with a food shelf. It was frankly jaw-dropping to see people drop off boxes of food, near or well past its’ expiration date. It wasn’t hard to tell that they had been cleaning out cupboards and gave the church what no one in their house would eat for the last year. “Maybe the church can use it for something.”

It’s safe to say that if you don’t want it and it is worn out enough that you either can’t use it or get money out of it, the church can’t use it either. If it is a valuable item, please take the time to sell it yourself and then give the church the money instead. The church doesn’t have time or energy or people-power to be a dumping place for unwanted items. We’re thankful when people want to give, but I’m still learning how to say “no, thank you” when cumbersome, unneeded donations come our way.

It’s a skill to learn how to say “no, thank you” because I was always taught to just be grateful for any gift or request and to accept it with a smile. As time has gone by, however, I’ve come to learn that this all-encompassing kind of gratitude, this never-ending cycle of unquestioning acceptance, is exhausting. So, in time I have learned to say “thank you” but still stand firm. “Thank you, but no, I can’t preside at that wedding because I have a vacation already planned for that time.”  “Thank you, but no, the church doesn’t really need your mother’s collection of 50 nativity scenes.” “Thank you, but no, the couch that is too ugly and threadbare for your house is not something we are just dying to have in our youth room.”

If you want to give something to your church, please consider first exactly why you are getting rid of it. If it is tattered, expired, desperately out-of-date, it’s not likely to be of much use to us either.  If you genuinely want to give something to your church, ask your council president or pastor what is needed or donate funds to be used as needed.

In the same way that you want your home to have a pleasant appearance, churches want that, too. So, the time will come when we have to get rid of the books in the library with titles such as, “The Godly, Obedient Woman”, or the “1946 Directory of Lutheran Churches in America.”  We’ll need to get some new art on the walls, brighten up the dark brown paneling in the conference room that was added in 1970, and maybe even throw out some stuff to make room for the new.

As part of my reorganizing, I have been clearing out some space in my office at church. All the furniture I had was in there before I arrived and I’ve finally gotten to the point where I am tired of looking at so much in there I did not choose. So, I moved the little red couch and the oblong coffee table out and soon I’m going shopping for something new, something I like.  I’ve never done that before. In my 18 years as a pastor I have just made do with the castoffs of prior pastors and well-meaning parishioners. It honestly never bothered me – I’m not terribly fussy. However, maybe there comes a point when even the simplest pastor just wants to have some furniture that doesn’t look like it belongs on a frat house porch. I guess that day has come for me.

Fancy

by Iggy Azalea

First things first, I’m the realest (realest)
Drop this and let the whole world feel it (let them feel it)
And I’m still in the Murda Bizness
I can hold you down, like I’m givin’ lessons in physics (Right)
You should want a bad bitch like this (Huh?)
Drop it low and pick it up just like this (Yeah)
Cup of Ace, cup of Goose, cup of Cris
High heels, somethin’ worth a half a ticket on my wrist (On my wrist)
Takin’ all the liquor straight, never chase that (Never)
Rooftop like we bringin’ ’88 back (What?)
Bring the hooks in, where the bass at?
Champagne spillin’, you should taste that

I’m so fancy
You already know
I’m in the fast lane
From L.A. to Tokyo
I’m so fancy
Can’t you taste this gold?
Remember my name, ’bout to blow

I said baby, I do this, I thought that, you knew this
Can’t stand no haters and honest, the truth is
And my flow retarded, they speak it, depart it
Swagger on super, I can’t shop at no department
Better get my money on time, if they not money, decline
And swear I meant that there so much that they give that line a rewind
So get my money on time, if they not money, decline
I just can’t worry ’bout no haters, gotta stay on my grind
Now tell me, who that, who that? That do that, do that?
Put that paper over all, I thought you knew that, knew that
I be that I-G-G-Y, put my name in bold
I been working, I’m up in here with some change to throw

I’m so fancy
You already know
I’m in the fast lane
From L.A. to Tokyo
I’m so fancy
Can’t you taste this gold?
Remember my name, ’bout to blow

Trash the hotel
Let’s get drunk on the mini bar
Make the phone call
Feels so good getting what I want
Yeah, keep on turning it up
Chandelier swinging, we don’t give a ****
Film star, yeah I’m deluxe
Classic, expensive, you don’t get to touch (Ow!)

Still stunting, how you love that
Got the whole world asking how I does that
Hot girl, hands off, don’t touch that
Look at that I bet you wishing you could clutch that
It’s just the way you like it, huh?
You’re so good, he’s just wishing he could bite it, huh? (say what what?)
Never turn down money
Slaying these hoes, gold trigger on the gun like

I’m so fancy
You already know
I’m in the fast lane
From L.A. to Tokyo
I’m so fancy
Can’t you taste this gold?
Remember my name, ’bout to blow

Who that, who that, I-G-G-Y
That do that, do that, I-G-G-Y
Who that, who that, I-G-G-Y
(Blow…)

 

Beautiful Day

Reflections on Shuffle Play (where I write a reflection inspired by a song from that morning’s run)

Helga sat in her wheelchair in her room at the nursing home.  This was where she liked to sit in the afternoons after lunch – by her window that overlooked the mountains.   She had been living in this same room for nearly five years.

She hadn’t been excited to move in Sunny Gardens but she knew when the stroke happened that there weren’t going to be many other options for her.  Her son, Ben, and his partner had offered to move her out to Seattle and she could stay with them but she knew that they were busy and she didn’t care to be a reason for any additional stress in their lives.  Besides, he barely had time to visit her – how could she expect him to take care of her?

So she stayed in Colorado.  She lived there all her life and she wanted to die under the same shadow of the mountains that had watched over the comings and goings of her life all these years.  Her son came out to help arrange her move into the nursing home.  Sunny Gardens Living Center was in the neighborhood her home was in – on the same street she knew so well from each decade of her adult life.

She had walked with her husband, Martin, here on this quiet avenue in the evenings when they were young and courting.  This was the street where they had ridden on bicycles with their son.  The street where she taught Ben to drive a stick shift and where the scar on the aspen tree in front of their house remained from when he ran into it with their old Dodge.  The street where she and Martin stood holding hands as they watched Ben drive away to his first year at college.  Then years later her eyes frantically searched up and down that street as she looked out the window – waiting for the ambulance to come when Martin collapsed in the living room.  She knew he was gone as soon as he fell. Not a sound.  Certainly no parting words.  Just like that and their journey together of 45 years was over.

It was a hard time – but Helga had done pretty well weathering the years since he died.  She tended to her house and her garden.  She met her friends for coffee and had been active at her church and volunteered at the library.  She visited Ben in Seattle quite a few times and went on a cruise with some cousins.  She enjoyed the golden years – even if she spent them without her Martin.

But in the months and years since her stroke there had been a lot of time to sit here in this wheelchair and look out this window.  Honestly, there was little else she was able to do anymore.  Her eyesight was too poor for the card games that many other residents played each day.  Her hearing was now not good enough to appreciate the singers or pianists that came in to perform.  Her body too frail to even think about getting up to walk around or even get herself in and out of this wheelchair.

She had visitors now and then – her pastor stopped by earlier today and one of her son’s best friends made it a point to come by once a week.  Her son wrote her letters.  But she was used to most of her days being very quiet now – filled with nurses and doctor visits, some meals, some naps, this wheelchair and this window.

Helga knew that if someone saw her sitting here each afternoon by this window they might think she was sad.  The nursing home chaplain, a young man seemingly always coming around trying to get the residents to bare their soul to him seemed to think so.”  He’d come in her room with a sorrowful expression and say, “Helga, how ARE you today?”  Helga thought to herself that if she did have something to share she was quite certain it wasn’t going to be with this young fellow.  He wore tennis shoes for pete’s sake.  She couldn’t take a pastor seriously if he wore tennis shoes and that was that.  She knew she wasn’t being reasonable but she figured that after nine-plus decades on this earth she could be unreasonable if she wanted to be.

She sighed.  Well, she knew she couldn’t blame the young chaplain.  When she was younger she might have assumed the same thing if she had seen herself sitting here alone each day.  “Poor old lady,” she would have thought.

But the truth was that Helga was fine mostly.  Happy even, she thought.  It surprised her to think about it.  But here it was, the truth.  Sure, there were seemingly innumerable things that time had taken away but even on the most difficult days, Helga didn’t despair.

She was peaceful and pretty good – because a strange contentment washed over her each afternoon when she spent that time by those windows.  A strange contentment that she was thankful to have known every day since the stroke.

She couldn’t explain it and she didn’t care to.  All she knew was that when she stared out the window at the mountains she loved, every beautiful memory from her long life played in front of her eyes like a slide show.  Memories that maybe hadn’t even seemed so precious when she was living them – but now she could see them in all their vivid color and magnificence.  Now with the passage of time, and with her ancient eyes, she could finally see how beautiful it had all been. Today was no different because as she sat there, the images began.

She saw Martin, young and strong, sitting with her on the front porch of her parents’ house.

She saw them struggling to pay their bills when they were young, but laughing and being happy together regardless of their simple meals and meager vacations.

She could see herself huge and pregnant, waddling her way into a shop downtown to pick out some things for the baby’s nursery.

She saw Ben playing with blocks on the kitchen floor and crying for her attention as she prepared supper.  Oh how tired she had been those years when he was young!

She saw her best friend Miriam across a table from her at their favorite café, talking endlessly over her coffee and camel lights.

She saw all their neighbors gathered together for Fourth of July barbecue in the park.

A million lovely memories played through her mind each day.  And if it was quiet enough and the sun was shining on the peaks just so, sometimes she could still feel how she used to feel when Martin smiled at her, or how the breeze felt in her hair when it was still long and blond, and how Ben’s voice sounded when he was a toddler.   Sometimes she almost felt as though she was living it again.  And she was certain – beyond certain – that even though she might forget many things, she would never forget these important things.

On this side of life there were certainly things she would not experience again.  Her body would never be young again, so many things had changed and could not be healed – and yet there was a solace, a comfort, a peace that washed over her so completely when she sat in this place.

She whispered to herself, “I lift my eyes to the hills, from where will my help come?”  “I lift my eyes to the hills…”

Helga was smiling when the nurse came in to help her into bed for her afternoon nap.  The young nurse, Ashley, had been having a long day, which wasn’t helped by the fact that her newborn had kept her up most of the night before and she had bickered with her husband on the phone over her lunch hour.  Helga didn’t hear Ashley come in – and Ashley paused as she approached Helga sitting in the sunshine, her eyes seemingly fixed on something outside, and the purest smile on her face.

She touched Helga’s shoulder gently but could still feel her bones underneath the layer of blouse and sweater she wore.  Helga looked up at her as her smile faded a bit.  Ashley could tell that she had roused Helga out of a dream of some sort – a dream that she wasn’t quite ready to leave.

“Are you ready for your nap?” Ashley asked.  Helga said, “sure, sweetheart.  Thank you.”  And Ashley began to move the wheelchair away from the window and over to the bed.

“What were you thinking about when I came in?” Ashley asked.   She gently helped Helga shift from the chair to the bed.

Helga grimaced as she gingerly maneuvered onto the bed.  “Ah,” she said.  “I was just thinking about how beautiful it is.”

“The mountains?”  Ashley asked.

“Life,” said Helga in her thin voice.  As Ashley plumped the pillow quickly before Helga laid down her head upon it fully.  “Life is so beautiful.”

The smile had returned to her face as she said it.  Ashley moved the wheelchair back to its’ spot, picked up Helga’s lunch tray, and by the time she glanced back at Helga, she was asleep.

Ashley went over to the window, not sure what she was looking for – but wanting to see whatever it was that Helga had seen.  But she saw what she expected to see – same old Pikes Peak in the distance, some cars in the parking lot, too much traffic on the street below, the weather too hot, some litter on the sidewalk.

She sighed as she left the room and muttered to herself, “beautiful, huh?  Poor old lady.”

But Helga slept peacefully.  Her sleep full of dreams.  Dreams of a beautiful life here and one that was yet to come.  Healing dreams that were a gift from God and able to mend so much that nothing else possibly could.

Beautiful Day
by U2
The heart is a bloom
Shoots up through the stony ground
There’s no room
No space to rent in this town
You’re out of luck
And the reason that you had to care
The traffic is stuck
And you’re not moving anywhere
You thought you’d found a friend
To take you out of this place
Someone you could lend a hand
In return for grace
It’s a beautiful day
Sky falls, you feel like
It’s a beautiful day
Don’t let it get away
You’re on the road
But you’ve got no destination
You’re in the mud
In the maze of her imagination
You love this town
Even if that doesn’t ring true
You’ve been all over
And it’s been all over you
It’s a beautiful day
Don’t let it get away
It’s a beautiful day
Touch me
Take me to that other place
Teach me
I know I’m not a hopeless case
See the world in green and blue
See China right in front of you
See the canyons broken by cloud
See the tuna fleets clearing the sea out
See the Bedouin fires at night
See the oil fields at first light
And see the bird with a leaf in her mouth
After the flood all the colors came out
It was a beautiful day
Don’t let it get away
Beautiful day
Touch me
Take me to that other place
Reach me
I know I’m not a hopeless case
What you don’t have you don’t need it now
What you don’t know you can feel it somehow
What you don’t have you don’t need it now
Don’t need it now
Was a beautiful day