Sunday, October 31, 2010


I was doing very well with my emptied nest this fall, until I broke my arm! The combination of pain and physical limits has overwhelmed my innate hopefulness, and I am just plain sad. On Facebook I wrote today's status in this way... "the empty nest doth sucketh."

So what is to be done with loneliness? Where is the blessing - or at least the lesson - in this heart-sickness which does not go away? For 15 years it has been sneaking around the corners of my heart, and there have been moments, even a few days, of heartache. But those moments did not last long. I was able to chase the lonely back around the corner, out of sight and out of mind. Because I had my children close at hand - I had the joy and the challenge, the focus and the energy of raising, loving, and thoroughly enjoying my kids.

Now, they are off on their own young adult adventures. And it seems the loneliness will no longer be satisfied with the corners of my heart. Try as I might (with shopping or television, with puppy or phone calls, with work or artwork) I cannot seem to push it back around the corner or send it out of sight and out of mind.

Maybe that is the point of these days, the lesson of this particular ache: sometimes I have to just let the pain be present. Perhaps if I can find the courage to simply rest in it, and with it, it will not last forever. Perhaps an exploration of all the pain involves - giving it a voice, honoring its wisdom, accepting its truth - is the only way to let it go...not just back around the corner, but away beyond my heart.

Friday, October 29, 2010


“Tools” have become very important to me recently.  The dictionary defines a “tool” in this way … “a device for doing work; a means to an end; something used for a job…”  All of those definitions have taken on new importance in my life since I fell and broke my arm.

There are thousands of moments each day when I find myself frustrated or at least temporarily inconvenienced because I only have the full use of one arm and hand.  (Thank God it is my dominant hand that lives outside the sling!)  But the gift, in these days of recovery, is the chance to re-discover creative problem-solving.  Even simple tasks like brushing my teeth, washing dishes, walking the dog, typing this article require me to slow down, think a little, and improvise.  Sometimes I find there is a tool that can extend my dexterity or control.  It may be a stepstool placed beneath a cupboard to hold the stereo in place while I detach it and remove the screws (okay, that was probably my most ambitious one-handed project to date).  Sometimes the best “tool” for the job might just be another part of my body (legs are handy tools for holding jars while opening them … and teeth!’s amazing what teeth can do!)

Don’t get me wrong.  I would be thrilled to turn back time and recapture the moment just before the dog tripped me and avoid all this experiential learning.  But since that is not the way of this world, I might as well learn a little bit in this moment.  I might as well find the blessing in creativity born out of necessity.

I think the same might be true for most of us in one way or another.   While we may not have been tripped up, we certainly have experienced frustration, or at least inconvenience as the world around us has economies struggle and communities turn inward, as globalization brings the world closer while fear pushes us further apart.   For some the challenges have felt almost overwhelming, while others have managed to find some new tools to empower dynamic, vital expressions of life.  What is the difference?  Why is it that some individuals and communities flourish while others give in to decline and despair?

I think it goes back to finding the blessing in creativity born out of necessity.  This is a time for every one of us to re-discover creative problem-solving.  It is a time to slow down, to think a little and pray a lot, and to improvise.  That may mean finding new ways or times or places to work.  It may mean finding new means to the end of building real relationships of care for those beyond our closest circle of family or friends.  It may mean developing new structures and empowering new leaders to get the most important jobs accomplished.

And the good news is, we can do this.  The apostle Paul encourages us to risk learning in this very moment, when he writes:  “For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints. I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of God, having the eyes of your heart enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which God has called you…”  (Ephesians 1:15-18a)

That we may know the HOPE to which God has called us… that may be the best reason yet to learn to use a few new tools!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

"Rock, Paper, Scissors"

Just a few days ago I was surprised to find a friend who had never played "Rock, Paper, Scissors". Seriously - she asked to learn something I thought everyone already knew. I thought everyone had played this silly childhood game at some point in their lives. Discovering this "newbie" in our group naturally caused us all to question "Just where did Rock, Paper, Scissors come from?"

So this morning, waiting for inspiration to strike here in the blog-o-sphere, I turned to my old friend Google. There I found this posting from a newspaper column that goes by the name of "The Straight Dope"...

"You might think that "Rock, Paper, Scissors" is just a kid's game, but the fact is that some people take it very seriously. Too seriously, I'm starting to think. As is the case with most games that are primarily played by children, the exact time and place when the game was invented are unknown. There are theories, however. Geez, are there theories.

First, for the three people in the country who may be unfamiliar with the game, a short description:

"Rock, Paper, Scissors," also known as roshambo (I'll get to the reason for this presently), has been around for a long time, and most civilized people have at least a passing knowledge of the game. It is most often used to decide small matters between two people--who'll drive to the burger joint, who has to take out the garbage, etc.--but it can also be played to decide larger matters, as part of a tournament, or simply as a diversion.

The basics of the game consist of each player shaking a fist a number of times ("priming") and then extending the same hand in a fist ("rock"), out flat ("paper"), or with the index and middle fingers extended ("scissors"). Each of these is referred to as a throw, and which one wins is dependent upon the opponent's throw--paper wins against rock ("paper covers rock"), rock wins against scissors ("rock crushes, or dulls, scissors"), and scissors wins against paper ("scissors cut paper"). If each player makes the same throw, the round is a stalemate, and must be replayed.

Back in January of this year, someone in the Edmonton area had the same question as you've posed, Scott. The woman apparently was unfamiliar with our illustrious Unca Cecil, so instead of coming to the Straight Dope, she called local radio station CBC 740 AM, where morning host Ron Wilson runs a segment called "The Good Question" each morning. Mr. Wilson went to the same source that I went to for information, namely the World Rock Paper Scissors Society (hard to believe, ain't it?). The telephone interview that he conducted with a Society member by the name of Doug Walker, which I'll summarize here, can be found in its entirety at

Mr. Walker claims that the earliest known written record of the game is from around 200 BC in Japan, where the game was (and is) referred to as "Jan-Ken." I found the existence of the Japanese version of the game corroborated elsewhere, although I have yet to find any corroboration for the 200 BC claim. Mr. Walker goes on to suggest that the game migrated to Europe in or by the mid-1700s, where it for some reason came to be associated with one Jean Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur, Comte de Rochambeau. If this name brings back unsettling memories of high school history, it is because Jean Baptiste was none other than the French general who was sent to command an army in support of George Washington during the American Revolution. Why this game came to be associated with the "Count of Rochambeau" is a mystery, but it certainly calls into question the means by which Washington secured Cornwallis's surrender in Yorktown. In any case, it does explain the name often used for the game, namely "rochambeau," or, more commonly, "roshambo."

This isn't the only theory about the origins of the game. A guy who goes by the handle "Master Roshambollah" on the bulletin board of the World RPS Society website ( lists two common theories about the origins of the game besides "the Asian theory": "the African theory," which relies on the creation of tools by early man in much the same way as the Asian theory, and "the European theory," in which RPS was either an early Scandinavian pastime which spread to Europe, or a traditional Celtic game that spread to Portugal and then to Europe. The European theory is advanced by another poster on the board who calls himself "Joao V de Portugal": "Current research undertaken at the University of Lisbon by Baltasar Rui Delfim, soon to be published in Nature and Time, has shown that the origins of the game of Paper, Scissors and Rock (Pihedra, Papelsh e Tijhera) can be attributed to Celtic settlers in the northern regions of Portugal, near the Portuguese/Spanish border, around the 6th century BC. . . . It is believed that the game spread to the rest of Portugal in the 3rd century BC and to the rest of the Spanish peninsula over the next 50 years. Roman invasion of Hispania in the 1st century AD made the game popular in Gallia and Italia. However, the Romans did not introduce the game to the UK because they believed that the game could make the UK colonies rebel against the Senate and it was not until the Portuguese armada of 350 AD came to England that the game was properly introduced in Britannia."

"What", you may ask, "does this have to do with anything?!" Believe it or not, I do find a connection between this fascinating trivia and the process of Re-birthing. Or at least, there is some wisdom to be gleaned from the trivial pursuit itself! It occurs to me that if there are people who do not know about "Rock, Paper, Scissors" - something I thought everyone had grown up playing - that there may be a whole universe of wisdom I can learn from others. My world view comes from my experience of the world. And that may be vastly different from yours. The only way I will find that out is if I stick around long enough, trust enough, listen enough, and CARE enough to learn. In this way perhaps you can act as a midwife to my birthing, and I can return the favor for you. Thank God for different experiences, different perspectives, and the richness they bring... whether I choose rock, or paper, or scissors!

Friday, September 10, 2010

"Bumps in the Road"

One of the most irritating realities of human life for me is the way in which we are formed - and transformed - by  our wounds.  I can accept the fact that it is the bumps in the road which give the journey its variety, even its beauty.  I can appreciate the growth of spiritual and emotional muscle which occurs as we exercise the spirit.  What I really don't get is why the bumps and bruises persist!  How long, O Lord!  

How long do any of us have to work on healing?  How long - how many times - must the same bump trip me up in my road?  It seems such an inefficient way to grow!  And, such a human experience.  

So here I am, putting down more muscle, building up more strength as I revisit the bumps in my road.  My hope is it will be a brief visit this time around.  And that one day I won't have to trip over this particular bump.  One day, I'd like to just notice it and go on.  I am reminded of a little bit of wisdom I found several years ago:


by Portia Nelson


I walk down the street. 
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk 
I fall in. 
I am lost ... I am helpless. 
It isn't my fault. 
It takes me forever to find a way out.


I walk down the same street. 
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. 
I pretend I don't see it. 
I fall in again. 
I can't believe I am in the same place 
but, it isn't my fault. 
It still takes a long time to get out.


I walk down the same street. 
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. 
I see it is there. 
I still fall in ... it's a habit. 
my eyes are open 
I know where I am. 
It is my fault. 
I get out immediately.


I walk down the same street. 
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. 
I walk around it.


I walk down another street.

"The Wings of Grace"

While on our Hawaiian adventure we decided to go to church the second Sunday.  The service was rather disappointing and the congregation a little depressed.  And yet, as always, there was a kernel of blessing for me.  I found it in one of the (very old) hymns we sang, "Praise to the Lord, the Almighty".

The song felt chosen for me and my daughter, especially when we got to the last verse:
"Praise to the Lord, who doth nourish thy life and restore thee,
fitting thee well for the tasks that are ever before thee.
Then to thy need, God as a mother doth speed,
spreading the wings of grace o'er thee."

What a great image as we begin a significant transition in life - she to college and me to myself.  We both have great lessons to learn.  We both have new environments to inhabit, new teachers to trust, new friends to find.  It is good to be reminded of the life-giving and life-restoring nature of God's love.  And it is great to recognize those "wings of grace" spreading over me.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

"Wailea Wonder"

Please bear with me for one more reflection from Maui. This one comes from Wailea Beach (considered by some to be the best beach in the US!). We had gotten there early in the day, had laid down our mats and had even taken the first swim before the beach started to fill. As I let the sun dry the saltwater off my body I began to people-watch in earnest.

Soon my attention was centered on the neighbors to our right, who appeared to be enjoying a family reunion. There were about 6 or 7 adults and an equal number of children between the ages of 5 and 12, all boys. While the adults chatted, sharing morning coffee and family memories, the boys ran into the water. They splashed and wrestled, laughed and swam with abandon. And all the while, they were watched.

One by one the adults in that family took turns providing safety and security for the children. They took about 20 minute shifts, and everyone - aunts, uncles, moms, dads, grandparents even - took their turn. If the wrestling got a little too wild or the teasing too intense, the guardian would shift the play. If someone ventured a little too far from shore or became a little too oblivious to their surroundings, again the guardian would caution and correct.

As I watched I got to thinking: "Every child should be so loved and protected." It is true - every child deserves the kind of safety and security - the kind of love - which those boys undoubtedly took for granted. It was a wonder to watch.

Later that same day the surf grew and the current intensified. The boys were still in the water, and it was time for a guardian shift change, when the youngest child fell off his boogie board and was hit by a wave. First he was smashed into the sand and then the current picked him up and dragged him out to the line of the next cresting wave. You could see the panic in his eyes as he struggled against the surf. I was just about on my feet when another neighbor - a stranger to the family - reached the boy, scooped him up and brought him back to safety on the sand.

Of course everyone was a little shaken, and grateful for the quickness of the neighbor. And I thought to myself: "Maybe it is possible for every child to be loved and protected. It is possible if we remember we all are neigbors." What a wonder that would be - in Wailea, in the whole wide world.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

"A Woman of Substance"

Vacation was FABULOUS this year - 10 glorious days on the island of Maui, just me and my youngest daughter. It was not only a great time to rest and relax, but also a time for each of us to prepare for our next steps in re-birthing... she to college for the first time, and me to new freedom with both daughters out in the world and just puppy left at home with me.

Most days were the same for us on Maui - wake up around 6 am, have breakfast on the lanai by 7, then hit the beach by 8:30 or 9:00, to swim in the ocean and bake in the sun until we grew hungry for lunch. After lunch it was either go to a new beach or swim in the condo's pool, maybe do a little light reading or some very light shopping until supper time, after which we would try our best to read, watch tv or a movie... and end up falling asleep by 9:00. It was a great routine!

One day, we drove out to Kaanapali beach, some distance from our Kihei condo, and in a much pricier neighborhood, judging by the Hyatt, the Marriott, the Westin and the like. After a few hours on the beach, we strolled through the resort grounds and even snuck into one of the ritzy pools (don't tell anyone!) On the way back to our much more modest digs my daughter surprised me with this comment: "Mom", she said, "I'm glad we're not rich."

Clearly that is a subjective statement, for "rich" depends upon one's context. I know there are many for whom a trip to Hawaii would seem like the height of wealth, and there are countless for whom my home, my car, my lifestyle, my children's college educations can only be pipe dreams. And yet, walking through the opulent resorts, past the meticulously groomed gardens and the amazing water features, we felt significantly out-classed.

When I asked my daughter what she meant - who wouldn't want to be rich? - she replied, "I'd much rather have a mother who is a woman of substance than a woman of means." She went on to thank me for values imparted which focus on what she identifies as "substance" rather than on money.

I am grateful for that perspective. Grateful, and a little bit humbled by my daughter's wisdom. It is easy to mistake possessions for power, to confuse money for value. And while I rejoice in blessings both personal and material, I hope to live in the perspective that says "substance is more important than means" least until the next time I sneak a swim at the Kaanapali Hyatt.