A Shopping List

I shop at a “Low Price Leader” grocery store, and I love going there.  You can see the world at WinCo—people with very limited means, the well-off wanting to save a buck, people from many countries and ethnicities, and the in-between folks like me.  I’ve shopped there long enough to have made great in-store relationships with many of the long-term employees and I look forward to seeing them when I go to the store.

I have experienced some really fine, life affirming moments at Winco.  A few times I’ve been able to quickly and quietly help someone who was in immediate need, and other times people have said something to me that either made my day or put a beautiful balm in a sore place in my heart.  Tanya, who works in the deli reminds me every now and again that, “You look just like a movie star—you know, that one in Waking Ned Devine.”  Seriously, a movie star?  She’s the only one who thinks so, but it makes me smile every time.

Being a student of people and a lover of words it’s no surprise that one of my top shopping thrills is to I find a grocery list that someone left behind.  Last week I made a quick after-work stop at WinCo and as I walked through the entry I tugged at the front of the next available grocery cart and was surprised with a slightly crumpled piece of paper taped to the handle of the cart.

I love that this piece of paper was so purposefully put where it would be most useful.  This person had practice, years of practice. (How many people take tape to the grocery store?) Not only were there groceries to buy there was also a list of things to do, and with the completion of their shopping trip washing the car would be the only thing left to do.  The words on this piece of paper show many good things about this person. Without knowing anything about life details we see someone who is organized and methodical, someone who takes pride in their home and belongings, and someone who has a well-developed work ethic.  And, someone who might well be preparing for a BBQ in their backyard.   

Winco list 2The thing about the grocery store is that the act of gathering food, for survival or celebration is a common denominator of humankind  It is a task of dignity and care.

A Fascinating Life


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Petroglyphs, Lava Beds National Monument


In the last months between May and August I feel like I’ve been around the world several times without ever leaving my geographical area.  I’m sure most people feel that way at some time or another, and these last few months have been my turn.  It’s not been all bad by any means, but it has required terrific amounts of stretching and growing, praying and trusting, and the courage to do the next right thing when I really had no idea how things were going to turn out.

A friend recently said, “I am so fascinated to see what goes on in your life—I’m very glad it’s not my life, but I’m learning so much from watching you, from hearing the stories, and seeing the God-things happen.  Thanks for letting me be a part of it.”

I said, “You’re welcome,” but it gave me pause (again), thinking about why and how we all experience life so differently even though we live side by side, or at least in fairly close proximity. Some of us seem to be magnets for challenging circumstances that apparently come either to help us grow or to benefit someone in need, but that sometimes make no sense at all.

I believe that some of this has to do with calling.  This morning I watched a video that wrapped up an 8-lesson book study.  The conclusion was that your life calling is usually more than one thing—it’s more about having a portfolio life, different experiences, a variety of strengths—different ways of using your abilities. Like someone who checked in during the class said, “My calling is to be an encourager and a truth-teller.” Or, based on my recent on ongoing experience it could be, “I’m willing to put myself on the line to help people through difficult situations.”  Same thing, different terms.

Much of my encouraging and truth-telling happens around my dining room table, or while working in the church kitchen, or in helping my elderly friends and clients and their adult children.  Gentle work on the whole.  But over these last few months that life calling to encouraging and truth-telling led me to stand directly between two raging professional co-workers who let the racial tensions of our country spill over into the workplace. It was loud, ugly, and frightening; I literally stepped between them before further damage could be done.  It took weeks of searching prayer and careful, hard, wise work to help them find their way to reconciliation and to encourage them to peace.  It’s continuing process of growth and challenge for all of us.   

At the same time, I was working through a few large faith-and-patience-producing issues of my own that involved a serious health issue and the decision to move forward in buying a home without any money of my own.  Off my feet for over a month I had time to pray and work through these challenges and to tell my thoughts and resultant God-stories to anyone who came to my kitchen to listen.  And that part, I believe is just as important as doing the actual hands on work.  Telling the story makes people aware of things they may not have experienced or even considered, telling the story offers truth in a very authentic way when people can hear about struggles and doubts and then become part of the process that searches for God and watches for answers. Telling the story leaves markers and signs for others who will need to know and be encouraged.

In the end my life may be fascinating only because I’m willing to tell it.  

It’s May!

I love this month; I think it’s the prettiest of the year.  There is so much hope and excitement blooming everywhere one can’t help but feel optimistic and cheerful, even in the face of uncertainty.

On my table and everywhere in my kitchen:  DSCN1239.JPG

Wonderful, magical, sweet scents of English roses and ripening fruit.  The roses smell like a mix of luscious berries to start with, then add multiple flats of strawberries, trays of apricots, pineapples, and melons mellowing and sweetening before the wedding on Saturday. The rest of the array, bright red cherries and various colors of grapes are chilling in the extra refrigerator. This glorious fruit is still a precious commodity this time of year, but at least we’re far enough along in the season for all of it have been harvested in California and Arizona—not as bad as shipping it from South America.

Beginnings:  This weekend, a wedding!  The bride, a young woman in our Family of Friends, raised alongside my own children and loved as much.  I’m not catering the whole reception but I am gifting them with beautiful fruit trays designed to round out their afternoon dessert buffet reception.  Happiness abounds.

Next up to read: Plainsong, by Kent Haruf.  It is a book that was highly recommended to me last year.  I had it on my wish list but had not made plans to buy it until summer.  Then I went to Minnesota….

On a very cold clear day in January I was on a walking tour of downtown Redwing with a longtime friend.  She steered us into her favorite bookstore, Fair Trade Books on Bush Street. It was such a relief to get out of the cold wind, but then it’s always a relief to go into a bookstore, especially one with old wooden floors, big windows, interesting displays and that paper-and-ink smell.  My friend introduced me to the owner and I looked around while they visited.  I wandered back at the end of the conversation and the bookseller said, “I almost forgot your book—I always give a book to first time visitors.  What do you like?”  I looked at my friend and then back to the man and said, “I like what she likes and I’m a poet. I like thoughtful literature.”  The only catch was that the owner would choose the book, and that I would recommend the store to someone else.  That sounded like a win on multiple levels so I continued my wandering while he perused the shelves deeper into the store.  It wasn’t too long before I heard him coming back and he had Plainsong in his hand.  It was a heartwarming surprise which left me wondering, how did he do that? (And no, my friend had never read it either.) If you go to Redwing, Minnesota drop by Fair Trade Books (www.fairtradebooksredwing.com). Maybe he’ll find something great for you, too.

Writing: I am working to stay faithful to my journal which is a challenge during my own very uncertain times.  I feel like I put so much careful work into doing the things I have to do that I forget to write about it, too.  I’m finding that bulleted lists of short paragraphs are working well.  I also wrote a deeply considered letter to the author of a new book, his first.  I loved his book and felt like he’d written with me in mind—he seems to be my kind in thought, experience, and use of language.  I told him so and thanked him for writing it.  Extra points for mailing the letter.

Endings:  First names and lines from three recent obituaries.  The lines made me smile and I thought about these people for days.

Larry, who was a proud grandfather and random conversation artist… an honored husband, father, grandfather, brother and son.

Sybil, who took her coffee pure and undefiled, spoke Cat fluently and knew German, French and some Russian.

Shirley, who in lieu of flowers would like everyone to have a slice of pie and a cup of good coffee with friends and family.

Thanks to these three for their thoughtful lives and to those who wrote so carefully about them.



My world looks different than it did a few weeks ago.  My sidewalk, street, and neighbors have disappeared.  Branches, nests, power lines and roof ridges are disappearing as well.  The leaves are back; they are lush, beautiful, and full of life but they obscure the view of what lies beneath and behind. I forget and then am surprised at everything that is revealed when the leaves go away in the fall.


The idea of things being hidden and later revealed fascinates me every spring and fall.   (Sometimes I feel like a small child staring at her hand, turning it over and looking from every angle.  Stopping to look intently and getting a glimmer of something different for just a little while.)


My life has recently taken some big turns, and the heavy leaves of newly changed circumstances make it impossible to see what lies beyond.  I can only trust and pray as I move forward, because I can’t see a thing. A poor analogy, perhaps, but it helps me remember that circumstances are usually temporary (like leaves), and that things have not really disappeared, I just can’t see them.

As I think about the immediate future I know for sure that there are some very challenging times ahead in my personal life and in my work.  But I also know that I need to make room for the good things—for God’s blessings as they arrive, because they surely will. 

I chose a word to help me watch and wait: ANTICIPATION.  I printed it and put it above my desk at work and I have it at home as well.  A quiet watchword to remind and encourage while the leaves obstruct my view.DSCN1178

Extravagant Signs of Life


Even though buds and blossoms always come in the spring, every year I marvel that these delicate, fragrant signs of life come from something that looked dead a short time before.  Beautiful blossoms in colors from pale to vibrant emerge from living plants that are usually bare, sharp, and covered in rough, scarred bark.  It seems so unlikely but we expect it, and know with certainty that it will happen.

I wonder at the picture of it—the cycle of extravagant flowers bursting out of bushes, shrubs and trees remind me that hard, desolate, dormant times can produce surprising beauty in us as well.   Shouldn’t we then expect, encourage, and celebrate it in ourselves and those around us?



My Easter, as usual, was a carefully planned, hardworking, my-work-is-my-worship kind of celebration. For weeks I’d been planning the breakfast that was the pre-service gathering of our church, and planning for members of the local community who might, or might not accept our invitation to join us. Close to 500 new apartments have recently opened down the street from our building and we sent invitations to the whole complex. Breakfast first, candy hunt for children next, then worship and teaching time for kids and grown-ups.  Busy morning.  The menu needed to accommodate several kinds of dietary needs, it needed to be visually appealing, and it needed to be served and attended to with grace.  I have several deeply held thoughts about the beauty of people sharing food around a table, about the holiness of it.  And just as there is holiness at the table, it is also present in the preparation.  It’s a privilege to prepare the food that will bring health and strength, joy and delight to those who gather, either around my table at home or around many tables somewhere else.

The prep crew on Saturday and the cooking/serving crews on Sunday enjoyed working together and were happy to see not only the enjoyment of all the people but the true success of their work.  It was a good day for all of us celebrating the resurrection with joy.  One of my favorite things was watching young moms and grandmas coloring eggs together.  It was a very happy time and a beautiful picture to watch, and to listen to as the stories and laughter flowed.

I had my own special day of reflection on Monday when a friend and I went to the tulip fields for a quiet walk.  There weren’t many people there, the air was cool but dry, and the colors in the rows and rows of tulips were absolutely glorious.  It looked to us as if all creation was singing a song of joy. 

It was all good.




Another Week

On my table this week

On my table: Composition book for daily pages and exercises from The Creative Call.  I’ve just finished Chapter 6, and although a good part of the discussion does not pertain to my situation I’m enjoying they journey, as they say.  I am still looking for that secret door that will open the creative, word-stream of my writing mind.  I may be getting closer.

The Message, a fresh and helpful look at scriptures that have been familiar all my life.

The Face of the Deep, a brand-new and totally unexpected surprise. It was nothing less than a thrill to meet and listen to the author at a writer’s meeting last week.  This man is my kind, in language, spirit, and faith. It was an altogether remarkable experience. After his talk and reading there was dead silence, then a collective sigh and we came back to life again. I will admit my disappointment when the questions started—people wanted answers about the technical and practical aspects of producing the book.  I wanted to stand up and say, No! Let’s talk about what he wrote and the language—let’s talk about the words!  But I didn’t. I have much to think about.

Poetry, March 2016. My one-year subscription, a generous gift of my daughter who also encourages me to find the secret door to my writing mind again.

Invitations: Over the last week, on separate occasions I invited three people into conversation with me in an effort to develop a deeper and clearer understanding of what we’re doing together, and what we could be doing better.  In each case I could have, and probably would have told them what I needed to say but I prayed, and worked to find a creative and authentic way to be in partnership with them. I am grateful for the outcome in each case.

Serving: This morning I said yes to the opportunity to walk into the suffering of another person. It was a nearly a fearsome thing to recognize the opportunity and know the call that came with that recognition.  And then to go. To bring practical help in a small envelope, to sit side by side with raw grief, to offer no answers, to listen, and to hold her tight.  For today it was what I was supposed to do.


It was a beautiful mercy to come home to an empty house after work this afternoon. To pray again for the woman I was with this morning, to build a fire to chase the chill from a damp spring day, to watch the birds and the rain. To be still.