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Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday by Louis Untermeyer : The Poetry Foundation.

Ash Wednesday
By Louis Untermeyer 1885–1977



Shut out the light or let it filter through
These frowning aisles as penitentially
As though it walked in sackcloth. Let it be
Laid at the feet of all that ever grew
Twisted and false, like this rococo shrine
Where cupids smirk from candy clouds and where
The Lord, with polished nails and perfumed hair,
Performs a parody of the divine.

The candles hiss; the organ-pedals storm;
Writhing and dark, the columns leave the earth
To find a lonelier and darker height.
The church grows dingy while the human swarm
Struggles against the impenitent body’s mirth.
Ashes to ashes. . . . Go. . . . Shut out the light.



And so the light runs laughing from the town,
Pulling the sun with him along the roads
That shed their muddy rivers as he goads
Each blade of grass the ice had flattened down.
At every empty bush he stops to fling
Handfuls of birds with green and yellow throats;
While even the hens, uncertain of their notes,
Stir rusty vowels in attempts to sing.

He daubs the chestnut-tips with sudden reds
And throws an olive blush on naked hills
That hoped, somehow, to keep themselves in white.
Who calls for sackcloth now? He leaps and spreads
A carnival of color, gladly spills
His blood: the resurrection—and the light.

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The sun has now set on this Holy Saturday. The last darkness of Lent is upon us and when the sun rises tomorrow, the celebration will already be well underway. I can feel the anticipation building as I prepare for the Easter Vigil, which begins in just a few hours at church. The joy in my heart is building.

Twelve years ago today, I held my newest baby girl in my arms. She was born in the middle of the night at my home, in my bed, surrounded by more love than I can comprehend. Her daddy and her big sisters were there, both of her grandmas were there, one grandpa, and two dear friends of mine who remain my dear friends still (one of them even became her aunt!). The night that she was born, I truly carried the cross and bore the weight of sin and followed my Lord into the desert. And joy came in the morning. Oh, the joy when I was finally delivered from that pain. I knew pain with that third birth much more than the first two. But oh, the joy when I beheld her face. Oh, how we exclaimed over her precious dimples. Oh, how I remember waking up to that beautiful little blessing of love, nestled in between her father and me, just a few hours after falling asleep with her between us in the exact same place where she took her first breath.

Today, twelve years later, I feel like I am awakening to new life once again. This Lenten season has not been easy. I have followed my Lord into one of the most barren deserts I have ever known. And I have not carried this cross well. I have heard Lent described as a bright sadness. Tonight, I know it. For while I stumbled under my load and found that I could not go on, He continued on. While I entered into one of the most debilitating depressions I have ever known over these last couple months, the beauty and the blessings of a world that is being redeemed has continued upward and onward toward the Easter Feast. And I am thankful beyond words that I was able to seek help for my depression. And in my seeking, I found more than I even asked for.

Tonight, as I sit in my house surrounded by love, I listen to my middle daughter play a hauntingly beautiful piano concert. The notes fly around this house that has been blessed over and over and over. The music only continues to lift it heavenward and we wait. All of us, waiting. My oldest daughter cleans her room and hangs up colorful lights and sings as she rummages through drawers looking for extension cords. The birthday daughter puts her newest picture frame together, after a day of swimming in her new backyard blow-up pool. Even though the freckles aren’t as noticeable as they used to be, she definitely got a few new ones today. And those dimples are still just as precious as they were in those first few moments after she was born, twelve years ago today.

Tonight, we all feel satisfied after a birthday dinner at her favorite Italian restaurant. And tonight, in just a few hours we feast again.


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My Husband, the Deacon

What a special service we had last Wednesday night. I have only time for pictures, no words. And even if I had time, I still think I would have no words. Here are some pictures from the reception afterward…











This Ember Day

IMG_4162Chris is being ordained as a deacon at our church tonight. This makes all my senses on heightened alert. It may also be the sleep deprivation that has plagued us both for the last couple months. But I don’t think so. These last couple months have been hard. And when I say hard, I can only leave it at that. There are no words to describe the hardness. But it’s the hardest hardness I’ve ever known. Between his job, my job, three girls with very busy lives and multi-faceted needs, school, homework, church, driving all over kingdom come and beyond, not to mention all my mumble-jumbled emotions… 

It’s been hard.

 But I am so proud of him and how he’s persevered through the hardness and how he loves God and people truly and deeply and how he’s gently led our family through these hard times.

It’s kind of weird to be excited about something that in reality will only make things harder, but I think I am actually a little excited today! I don’t have any delusions about things getting any easier now. But it feels like we’re getting somewhere. And it feels like I’m slowly getting used to the hardness. I don’t know if I’ll ever have skin as thick as leather. But it might be a little more like paper that can go in a printer now as opposed to the tissue paper that it was, crumbling easily and breaking at the slightest puncture. Maybe it’s good that my heart is soft and mushy anyway. May the hardness never reach it.

I love you, Honey. I am so thankful that God has given you to be my husband for these past almost-twenty years. And I am thankful that you are now being given to the ministry of his Church. This life is good and I am thankful.

ALMIGHTY God, the giver of all good gifts, who of thy divine providence hast appointed divers Orders in thy Church; Give thy grace, we humbly beseech thee, to all those who are to be called to any office and administration in the same; and so replenish them with the truth of thy doctrine, and endue them with innocency of life, that they may faithfully serve before thee, to the glory of thy great Name, and the benefit of thy holy Church; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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Unexpected Grace

Every beat of my heart pumps the desperate plea of escapism through my blood. And every vein carrying the blood through my body just presses back toward home. The need to escape and the burning homesickness flowing firmly together. Not gently, but like a raging river. Coursing on to battle.

The sun rises unexpectedly in my rear view mirror. A ball of flame, glowing red hot and orange, sitting there as though it’s normal for fireballs to sit there, in between sky scrapers, as wide as each of them and a million times more beautiful than either. The imposing architecture of these majestic structures reduced to objects that merely frame the only object around that’s suddenly worthy of any admiration; their stunning, mirrored glass paling in comparison to this thing from outer space, making it’s own light (with no need for mirrors to reflect some other light), invading our world with a magnificent display of power each and every morning.

My sixteen year old daughter leans over unexpectedly during church, puts her arm around my neck and kisses my cheek affectionately.

My priest gives me an unexpected birthday blessing at the communion rail, after placing the body of Christ in my hand, waiting to be consumed. “Watch over thy child, O Lord, as her days increase; bless and guide her wherever she may be. Strengthen her when she stands; comfort her when discouraged or sorrowful; raise her up if she fall; and in her heart may thy peace which passeth understanding abide all the days of her life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.” Then he makes the sign of the cross, firmly upon my forehead. And I know that I am covered. I am covered, I am loved and I am filled as I eat the bread and am nourished and drink His precious blood and am enveloped in His grace.

Sometimes I cry so hard I pop blood vessels in my eye. Sometimes that happens on my birthday. Sometimes it can take a week or longer for the bright, red, bloody eye to go back to it’s normal white. So I remember the blood that covers me and I try not to care that people cringe when they look me in the eye. Here I am in all my glory, paling in comparison to the glory I reflect.

I have so very much to be thankful for.

Every beat of my heart longs for tenderness. And every vein in my body courses firmly on.

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The Saturday Before Hawaii

I got up and made chocolate chip coffee cake this morning. It had cream cheese in it and a crunchy, cinnamon-sugary topping. I ate two big pieces of it for breakfast, along with two cups of coffee. The entire house was filled with the smell of warm, home-baked goodness wafting throughout. As the kids sauntered out of bed, one by one, somewhere around ten, they all sort of looked at it on the counter, bent over it with confused, sleepy looks on their faces, then smiled sweetly and nodded slowly at Chris as he said, “Isn’t it nice having Mom home on Saturdays?” Then they proceeded to open the freezer and make themselves frozen Eggo waffles for breakfast. Every last one of them.

I was really thirsty just a little bit ago. Sometimes I just really don’t want to drink water when I’m thirsty. It’s my way of sticking it to the man. I think the man is off his rocker with how much water he tells us we should drink every day. The human race has survived a long, long time with most people in most times not drinking 64oz of clean drinking water every day of their life. Silliness. We don’t even let ourselves get thirsty these days. We just flood our already oversaturated bodies with bland-tasting fluid they don’t need, making our bladders work overtime. That’s my humble opinion for the day, free of charge. So anyway, when I was really thirsty just a little bit ago, I went into the kitchen and cut open the watermelon that was sitting on the counter and sucked down a couple pieces of it. Watermelon never tasted so good. Ah. Satisfaction.

Then I got in my one hundred and fifty degree car to take my sixteen year old daughter to her babysitting job. She’s almost ready to get her license and I am not afraid, I am not afraid. Maybe if I say it one hundred and fifty more times, I’ll believe it. I’ve done a lot of scary things in my life, but I’ve never known fear like riding in the passenger seat, talking her through all the million things that I forgot you need to think about when driving. Somehow other families just seem to be able to get their teenagers driving. I don’t know how they do it with what appears to be such a minimal amount of effort. I think most things are harder for me than they are for most other people. But that daughter of mine sure brings joy to my life sometimes. She’s hooked on the band Mumford & Sons these days, which is fitting for her, I think. There’s something light and happy about them, with an underlying driving, purposeful beat.

On the way to that babysitting job, we passed a church sign that said, “Youth is not a time of life, but a state of mind.” Now, I know that I may not be the brightest bulb in the flower patch, but can somebody please explain to me what that has to do with the Church? Or Christianity? Or Christ? Or anything at all? Even if that sign wasn’t representing a church, I can’t see how it’s helpful. If I saw it scrawled on a wall in a subway tunnel, it still wouldn’t be helpful. It’s a stupid thing to say and that’s all there is to it. Obviously, I have anger issues. But as long as I’m admitting that I have issues, I’ll take it a step farther and admit that I’d really like to take my chainsaw out there and cut that sign down and cut through every single letter of every single word of that stupid, unhelpful saying. And then I’d like to take what’s left of the remnants of each letter and stuff them inside a cannon filled with fireworks to shoot into the sky a couple nights from now.

But alas, I don’t own a chainsaw.

When I got home, I was still thirsty so I ate three more pieces of watermelon since it was still sitting on the counter.

Speaking of the 4th of July, my lens that I rented for my camera for Hawaii came early! Just in time for me to get plenty of fun fireworks pictures. I rented it from I tried to take a picture of it, but it’s kind of impossible to take a picture of your own lens unless facing straight on into your bathroom mirror, so you can’t really see the side of it:


But you can still see the big, ole, honking front of it, right? I’ve never had such a big lens. I have to say, I am really excited about it. And I can’t believe how easy it was to rent. I reserved it a couple months ago, and they shipped it not only on time, but early! So I have time to play with it before my vacation.

Here’s somebody else’s picture of the side of it:


Oh, the fun I am going to have. I think I might take a lot of pictures in Hawaii. I also think I might never come home.

I’m going to go get a drink of water now, because I’m still thirsty. Don’t tell the man.

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Time Eternal

Last night, as I was driving (half-asleep) to pick up the last daughter of the day, I was struck by the beauty of the twilight sky. Half-asleep because a) I don’t sleep more than two hours at a time anymore at night, thus rendering me tired always and b) I had just done an all-day yard sale with friends in 100 degree heat on a June day in Dallas.  And yes, picking up the last daughter of the day does indeed imply that there were many other daughters that needed picking up and dropping off at other times during the day. Probably somewhere around twenty or so. I lost count after two. I can’t remember the exact number of daughters I have anymore. It’s a lot – I know that.

But back to the twilight sky.

You know how when it’s almost totally night, but the very last remains of light from the setting sun are still there, down near the bottom of the sky? It glows a very faint orange near the horizon, but as your eyes travel upward the color changes from orange to pink to blue to black? The color at the top of the sky and the color at the bottom of the sky have absolutely nothing in common with one another. They’re not even remotely the same color on any level. And yet they blend into one another somehow. And try as you might to find that place in the sky where you can see one color change to a different color; you just can’t. It’s a seamless transition.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the colors of life. My grandma is in her last days, possibly hours, right now as I write. My grandma who loves to play games as much as I do. She is competent and competitive. A force to be reckoned with. She made good food and put lots of fun toys in our Christmas stockings when we were little. My brother- and sister-in-law are moving across town next week. I know it’s not far and I know it’s good for them, but I’m still feeling sad knowing they won’t be just down the street anymore.  My life is filled with the sound of music and giggles and tears and the sight of limbs everywhere (Seriously, teenagers have the most unbelievable limbs. Legs that go all the way up to their necks and arms that can wrap themselves around their bodies twice. When we’re all on the couch watching TV together, there are limbs everywhere, like aliens have taken over our house. It’s a little freaky. Enough limbs for forty daughters, even though I’m pretty sure I only have about twenty. I think it’s the definition of “gangly”.) A few weeks ago one of our daughters was really getting very upset trying to understand why people still die if Jesus conquered death. And the past just keeps bleeding into the future. All of it’s important. All of it.

The colors are now green at church. I find it very soothing after the long, difficult purple of Lent and the just-as-long, glorious white and gold of Easter. Ordinary time is here and it’s nice to just breathe for a bit.

We are not here in this color without the color that came before us. Different, but the same. Redeemed but not yet fully getting it. And the next color will surely come.

twilight sky

(Photo by Thierry Lombry from The Venus Transit 2004)

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