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This is where I talk about the books I read and the books I write. It's also were I explore, record, and share the life that is my legacy.

Weeds, Age, & Beauty {A Pondering Post}

I spend a lot of time in my wildflower garden and in the ditch where there are wildflowers others might call weeds. I’m not weeding or working the ground. I’m pondering. God’s creation. Jesus. The Spirit’s power. The Word of God. Love. Life. Fear. Beauty. Knowledge. Wisdom. Prayer. Dreams past and present. Sorrow. Happiness. And age.

The day before my tenth birthday, I cried. Because from that point on I would always have two numbers in my age. My mom held me, and my dad tried to cheer  me up by saying, “Unless someday you have three numbers in your age.” I cried harder, and Dad through his hands up in the air.

I liked my single digit years, and they’d gone so fast. That night I cried myself to sleep in the dark.

What I didn’t know is that I was a beautiful bud.

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In my twenties, I worried myself sick. I believed I was not good enough and was absolutely not beautiful enough. So, I dieted until I got fat. (I’m NOT kidding!) If it was in style I did it to my hair, wore what others (who were not my husband) thought was appropriate and should have bought stock in Enjoli because if I was going to bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan, and never, never let him for he was a man, I was going to need more than one spritz!

What I didn’t know was that I was a already radiant blossom.

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And suddenly, I was fifty and in a crisis because I’d failed far more than I’d succeeded, and I worried that life was winding down, and time was running out.

Old age comes on suddenly, and not gradually as is thought. ~Emily Dickinson

In a few months, I’ll be fifty-seven, which my great-niece Grace tells me isn’t old. But my knees and spine are singing a much-different tune. (Plus, I’m older than all of her grandmas!) My skin is softer, and parts of me are headed in the wrong direction. And because I’m only 3 1/2 years away from sixty, I no longer worry that time is running out, I know it is. And the knowing is better than the worrying.

I’ve been doing an in-depth inventory of my life – my dreams, failures, successes, faith, and stuff. Big stuff. And I’m being brutally honest. Because  it’s time. Some days it feels like I’m peeling callouses  off of my heart. I’m admitting to my brokenness, that I’m worn out by lies I’ve allowed to be the truth, am bruised by the losses, and I’m strangely exhilarated by the possibilities God and I have ahead of us in the time that is the rest of my life.

There is more gray than gold in the hair on my head and what was gold is more of a tarnished color. For years, I threatened to dye it. Which leads to me to a story. One day I was walking at the Mall, and a young woman came up to me. She was full of tats, piercings, and her hair was jet-black and she wore the same color on her eyes, lips, and fingernails. The only color other than black in her clothes was a streak of blood-red here and there.

And you know what? She was beautiful. And she made a huge impact on my middle-aged life.

“Your hair is beautiful. How do you get it that color?”

Let me be completely honest with you – my hair is a painful part of my story. It is not only graying and thin -  it is gone in places. Yes, I have bald spots, and they are especially visible in the food courts lights and open-to-the-sky ceiling.

Astonished, I blushed (it could have been a  hot-flash, but let’s go with blushed), thanked her and said something like, “God gave it to me – all you have to do to have this color is get old like me.”

I know – classy right?

She looked closer and said, “It’s really beautiful. I wish you could see the way it shimmers all gold and silver in this light.”

Okay, so you might be thinking she was on something hallucinogenic because of her appearance (someone I told this story to actually said that!), but please put away any prejudice you might have. I looked into her eyes. She wasn’t high – she had a kind and beautiful heart.

She left before I could say another word and the noise around us filled in the space between us.

I pushed my bangs back and felt the front bald spot and thought to myself; she probably caught the glare from my scalp is all. But for some reason, my self-loathing couldn’t undo the good she’d done or steal the gift she’d given me.

Because in the just-past-blooming-phase of my life I didn’t know, I shimmered. And it wasn’t until recently I realized she was right – I do.  

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Not long ago, Conner (who is seven) and I were taking a Gator ride, and I stopped to look at a thistle blossom in the ditch. Because that’s what I do, and he’s used to it. When he saw a stand of worn out wild yellow goat’s beard releasing its seeds, he said, “That’s a mess!”

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He moved on to grasshopper watching, and I stood mesmerized by the glorious tangle in front of me, knowing God had something beautiful for me there. It reminded me of a bunch of great ideas or spiritual gifts or stories ready to take off.

It reminded me of me. And the coming years. And that I’m not done. Not even close.

Because, before the flower that is my life is spent, I have books to read, my faith to share, love to give, love to accept, coffee to drink, prayers to say, answers to receive, songs to sing, dances to dance, and so much more. I want to love God deeper, kiss Jon more, honor my parents, remember with  my family, laugh harder, cry easier, learn to speak Spanish, take better pictures, practice yoga, and walk many miles.

And I have stories to tell and books to write, poems to write and photographs to take. Lots of them.

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.~Maya Angelou 

I used to think the best of times of our lives were in the bud and blossom stages of the season. I now know that the whole season of one’s life is beautiful and even in the middle of the shimmering glorious tangle, I am beautiful. My life is beautiful.

Someone once said, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” I admit to my beauty and the beauty in my life, not because of how I look or who I am. But because of the One (Jesus) who beholds (sees, searches, and knows) my heart. And the more I believe in His love for me, and immerse myself in it, the more I believe I am beautiful. (It’s taken a lot of callus peeling to get to this point!)

And as long as God gives me breath, although there are days I am undone, I am not done. And although I’m stunned by the aging process, I’m not too old.

In the last days of her life, Jon’s mom lived in a nursing home. It was depressing for her and us. For a day or so she felt like giving up. But one day she made a decision: she wasn’t done living until God said, and she was going to spend the rest of her days living there for Him. She did everything they asked her to do to get well. The lady tried hard.

The day she passed from here to there, her doctor, nurses, PCAs, the workers in the kitchen, the activity director, and house cleaning staff wept with us. They whispered their good-byes, and I love yous through tears. They wished, like us that they could have more time with her. They cared for her almost emptied out body with incredible tenderness. They held us closely. And shared memories of her stories, jokes, acts of kindness, and of her deep and abiding faith. And as the last seeds of her glorious tangled mess left, I saw the ones she’d planted in our hearts and the hearts of others take root. She was only there a few months, but she was beautiful, radiant, and shimmering to the end as she did the work God gave her to do. And she spent every seed He gave her.

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Many believe – and I believe – that I have been designated for this work by God. In spite of my old age, I do not want to give it up; I work out of love for God, and I put all my hope in Him. ~Michelangelo

The life of this beautiful wild goat’s beard (considered a weed by some) is almost past. It leaves behind a legacy far greater than the seed it came from as it releases its tiny offspring into the breeze to be carried away to other places to bud, blossom, shimmer, and share their full season of beauty where God plants them.

A weed is but an unloved flower. ~Ella Wheeler Wilcox

You are beautiful, radiant, and shimmering too. Really. You are.

Until Next Time,

Joy

Someone once said, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” I admit to my beauty and the beauty in my life, not because of how I look or who I am. But because of the One (Jesus) who beholds (sees, searches, and knows) my heart. And the more I believe in His love for me, and immerse myself in it, the more I believe I am beautiful.

The Boss of That {A Mama & Me Post}

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(Some times mornings with Mama are a combination of thorns and beauty.)

Mama was not happy with me this morning. Her fingernails needed clipping. We got all but three of them done, but today is not the day to finish the job.

What’s a daughter to do? Honor her. Today and every day.

When I was a child and memorized the 10 Commandments, I took the honor your father and your mother one very seriously. (Exodus 20:12) Perhaps it was taught with additional emphasis. It wasn’t until I was much older that I read the same advice in Ephesians 6: 1-3  and realized there was a promised attached to the commandment. I remember thinking, “That’s cool.”

And it is. Even today.

Sometimes dementia causes Mama to behave differently – like a child – a naughty child. She doesn’t just resist things that are good for her or important for her to do – she resists them. The first time this happened, I stepped back and looked into her eyes because we had ceased to be able to communicate verbally.  What I saw made me want to cry. Confusion, frustration, and fear were driving her to respond in anger.

I went into the other room and asked silently, “Lord, how do You want me to honor her on days like this? Getting after, correcting, or forcing her to do things against her will feels so wrong. Please – help me!”

After a few deep breaths and a sip of cold water, I poured two fresh cups of coffee and returned to her. She didn’t remember why she was angry with me, but she was still pretty ticked. Instead of pursuing that conversation, I said, “I love having coffee with you.”

“Well, I love having coffee with you too,” she said. Then she asked, “Am I still mad at you?”

I smiled and said, “Nope. We are over that.” And we were.

When she rested her head on my shoulder, the way I used to rest my head on hers, I begged God again – to help me respond in a respectful manner on our not so very good days.

Sitting in the quiet of the moment, my heart squeezed tightly in an overflowing of love for her. She lifted her head and asked, “Honey, what’s wrong?” Even in the haze of her disease – she sometimes knows.

“Mama, I love you so much.”

She smiled and said, “I know you do.”

Our coffee was cold, but we were good.

The temptation is to mother my mother, but that’s not my role in her life now any more than it was before dementia. I am her daughter and part-time caregiver. Nothing more and nothing less. As a child, she disciplined me because it was part of her job to help me become an adult. She did a great job – my maturity failures are my responsibility. But it is NOT my job to raise her; it’s my job to respect her. Always.

On my mornings with Mama I realize that most of the things I do with and for her are important, but they are not essential (Daddy takes care of those things). And she has so few choices left, that allowing her to say no and respecting that, is still honoring her.

So today I said, “Okay Mama, we’re done. I’m going to obey you.”

She gave me the look (you know the one I mean – all mother’s have one) and said, “You had better!”

I giggled and then she said, “But you always did.”

I laughed out loud. Because I was a naughty, strong-willed, stubborn child. But the thing is if that’s the way she wants to remember me, that’s cool. Way cool.

She laughed too and pushed her cup toward me saying, “I need a refill. I can’t stand cold coffee.”

When I set her cup in front of her, she was looking at her hands, and she said, “One of these days you’ll have to clip these nails.” Then she pointed to the three she hadn’t let me do. Then she put her hands under her armpits and added, “But not today.”

I agreed with her, “Okay, Mama. Not today. You get to be the boss of that.”

She un-hid her hands, reached for her cup, and said, “Thank you,” before taking a sip of her coffee.

I let that heart squeeze thing happen again, grateful for another opportunity to honor her. Because she is still the mama, and that makes her the boss of this and so much more.

Until Next Time,

Joy

In times like this I will say, “Because she is still the mama, and that makes her the boss of this and so much more.”

The Bully in Me

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My heart is a tangled mess of old and new emotions today. Because of something that happened forty or so years ago.

It’s easy to write about when I was a good person, and although it’s not easy to write about my hurts, it’s easier than this. So much easier. Although it’s never far away, this memory came back to me loud and clear on a recent walk around Silver Lake.

When I was a child, there were times when I was seriously naughty, strong-willed, and stubborn. I could talk back, tell a lie, or stomp my foot – fast! As a pre-schooler, if I had a choice between doing something that would lead to a spanking, I often chose the spanking.

Have you ever wished you could erase a moment in your life away? And out of the heart you hurt? I do.

Her name was Diane. She was always the underdog. The bullied one. I remember standing in the gym or on the playground beside her at team picking time. She and I were never the team captains, but she was the next to the last picked for the teams because at least she could hit small white balls and run. I couldn’t so she was chosen before me. It was the only time she wasn’t last. Part of me hated that for her. Sometimes I’d hide and cry for her – it got that nasty.

Through the years, I tried, but I wasn’t always kind to her either. I went to her house a few times to play Barbies, and a few times, we met at the park to swing, but it didn’t go well because she was so terribly angry and carrying a burden of pain I couldn’t imagine or understand. In those times of trying, she did the only thing she knew to do – she gave me what she got. Her mom would gently send me home in tears for both of us.

I don’t remember all the details of the day, but a single icy moment stands out crystal clear. Somehow several of us girls from school were playing in the park on a wintery Saturday afternoon. Even Diane. She and I had enjoyed an especially fun time together.  Then, it happened. Without warning one of the girls challenged us all to make ice-balls and throw them at Diane. At the same time. Someone handed me one, and I figured since I was a terrible thrower, I’d miss her by a mile and could be done. On the count of three, four things happened. Diane and I looked into each other’s eyes, that the hard-packed ball of ice left my mittened hand, and it hit her hard in the eye, and we both burst into tears.

In shame and sorrow, I ran home as fast as I could. I stumbled in the back door, a mess of slush, snot, and jumbled words. As quick as I could, I told on myself. I couldn’t bear the guilt alone. Mom cleaned me up and took me to Diane’s house to apologize. We walked there in silence, but she held my hand. Her mom answered, but Diane wouldn’t come anywhere near me. Who could blame her? Not me. So I said I was sorry to her mom – I said it loud because I knew the girl hiding behind the door could hear me. And I needed her to hear me. I needed all of heaven and earth to hear me.

Even after apologizing the burden of my action, was heavy in my heart.

Monday, the other girls, met me outside the school building. Word was already out that my mom knew,  and they told me if I told on them, I’d get a lot worse than Diane had and that they’d hate me forever.

She came into our classroom a little bit late with a banged up eye, scrapes on both cheeks, and other bruises on her face. I put my head down on my desk. That swollen black, purple, green, yellow eye was from me.

The principal called me to his office, and when I got there, my mom and her mom were also there. Although the cruel incident had happened after school hours and off the school property, it was still sort of a school issue.

When the principal asked me what had happened, I told him I’d thrown the ice ball that injured Diane’s eye. When he asked me who else was there, I was silent. He asked again and again. Finally, I looked into his eyes and told him I wasn’t going to tell him who else was there. I admitted again that it was my fault she had a black eye and that I’d hurt her, and I was very sorry, but I wouldn’t tattle, and I couldn’t be sorry for what someone else had done to her. He wanted more from me, but my mom and hers agreed with me.

Diane and I didn’t see a lot of each other after that although we went to the same middle school (junior high back in the day). I never forgot what I’d done, but even after I came to Jesus, and told almost everyone I knew about my salvation, there was one person I didn’t tell. Diane. She still lived a few blocks away. I thought about taking that walk and convinced myself that someday I would. But I didn’t. I told myself I had all the time in the world.

Life got busy with church, family, work, friends, and a boy named Jon DeKok. In the quiet moments of life, I still thought about her, and wished that I’d been braver and kinder that day and every day she’d suffered. I confessed those sins to Jesus, and I prayed for her, but stayed off her front steps.

That boy asked me to marry him, and I said yes. On the way to Lake City to celebrate with his parents, we saw a car in a ditch completely engulfed in flames. Firefighters and the ambulance crew stood around helpless to help whoever was in that car. It was a gruesome scene. I didn’t know it that night, but it was Diane.

Suddenly, there was no more time. It was too late to walk to her house. Too late to try to be friends again. Worst of all, it was too late to tell her about Jesus.

I saw her mom a few years after her death and apologized again for everything. She offered me grace and  told me I’d been one of the nicest people in Diane’s life. That still makes my heart ache to this day. Because I know, I could have been nicer. I could have been her real friend. I could have said I was sorry to her face again. I could have told her about Jesus.

I will always regret that moment in the park and all the moments I could have had and didn’t. Because they might have mattered. Because Jesus loved her and I never told her. Because I let time slip away until there wasn’t anymore.

When that ice ball left my hand, I didn’t feel a surge of power, or excitement, or pleasure. Instead, I instantly knew how cruel my decision was, and I felt ugly and evil. I didn’t think she was stupid the way the kids who bullied me did, but I knew I’d just done one of the dumbest, meanest things of my life.

Instead of saying no, the scaredy-cat bully in me threw an ice-ball at her. Because I thought I couldn’t hit anything even if I tired, for some reason that day I couldn’t miss her.

I’m forgiven by God, and her mom, but still, I wish…you know? Somethings just can’t be undone. Or unremembered. Or unregretted.

Until Next Time,
Joy

I Quit

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Over the past few months, I’ve struggled against a deep fatigue. I’m told it’s a combination of the diabetes, one of my meds, stress, and too many years of not taking care of me. I was urged to get off the current life path I was on for a better one. Someone mentioned I was “wound too tight.”

I tried to ignore the taking care of me part. For some reason, it felt selfish. Self-centered. Wrong. Honestly – couldn’t taking my meds, eating mostly right, and walking when I had time be enough? Nope.

A medical professional told me I had to take the stress thing seriously, but even more, the self-care. That my sugar numbers were too high and too low because I wasn’t listening. I needed to cut some things out of my schedule, rest more, and then I’d feel better. And walking two blocks wouldn’t send me straight to bed exhausted and in pain.

I doubted. And silently sarcastic, while I nodded as if in agreement, I said to myself, “Yeah, right. What things can I cut? Ha!”

The fatigue deepened, and I did an inventory of my life. I would not give up helping my dad take care of my mom. That meant other things had to go. Like my clients.

I prayed. I cried. I grieved. And I decided. Honesty and self-care would come first. Otherwise I wouldn’t just burn-out, I’d burn up. So, I quit my social media business. And I shared my circumstances with some friends.  Neither were easy for me, but both were essential.

The result in just a couple of days has been amazing. Yesterday I walked farther on our land than I have ever walked in the seven years we’ve lived there. Walked. Without the John Deere Gator. Just me and my Vibrams.

Me & My Vibrams

This morning, I woke up from a very good sleep. Early. So, I went to a place I used to enjoy as a kid: Silver Lake in Rochester, MN.

Where I used to ride my bike, swing, and feed the giant Canada geese stale bread, old popcorn, or corn.

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Where at 7AM, the water is still and the city is wide awake. 

lakepics2.jpgWhere later in the day families will  picnic, and children will play.

geese1.jpgWhere the giant Canada geese don’t mind if you come close and where some even nap on the path. Because they can. Where I walked around them, and the one never even opened his lid-covered eyes.

lakewalk13Where a bridge like the one where Jon kissed me one starry night stands. (It’s in the same place, but was replaced.) Where I smiled. Because it was a very nice kiss.

lakepic3.jpgWhere feathers adorn the grass, dew drops splash on the leaf below, and flowers blossom.

Where other walkers and some runners smiled and wished me a good morning, and I wished them the same. And we meant it. Where two older-than-me ladies walked with dignity, purpose, and at a speed I hope to attain one day soon. Where dogs I don’t know wagged at me.

lakebenches.jpgWhere benches that honor those gone too soon beckoned me to reflect and ponder and remember. So, I did.

And where I walked farther still!

Because those wiser than myself were right. Where with each step, I accepted the truth that self-care and selfishness are two vastly different things.

Until Next Time,
Joy