What Makes You Weep?

This morning I have had everything from moist eyes to full-out sobs.

The first tears came as I was reading material for my message on Sunday. I am continuing my series on “Continuing the Work of Jesus, Simply” by focusing on Jesus’ compassionate invitation to learn from him the “unforced rhythms of grace (Peterson’s translation Matthew 11:29 in the Message). During my study this morning, I came across this quote: “But they had limited evidence. They did not see the end from the beginning. They drew their conclusion only from what they saw, not from the infinite wisdom of God. And, even so, they looked at the evidence through prejudiced eyes. The Christ must behave according to their own pattern, or else He was not the Christ. It is no wonder that they came out with the wrong answer.” (An Exposition of the Four Gospels Matthew, Herschel H. Hobbs, p. 141)

How like today? We still don’t get it. Tears.

Then I read a Facebook post from a high school friend. Yesterday was her birthday. Two weeks ago one of her dogs died right in the middle of playing out in the yard. This morning they had to put their other dog down because they discovered bladder cancer. My heart broke. I sobbed. (Typing this now even a couple hours later, I wept all over again.)

How like today? Sorrow, disappointment, aching. Tears.

I had just gone back to reading when Mom tapped on my door. She brought me a section of the paper. The USA Today published an insert, “Women of the Century, 100 Women Who Changed the World.” In January they invited nominations of notable women. Then a committee put the list and bios together. As a woman who felt a calling from a very young age to a predominately male occupation, christian minister, I have experienced prejudice, nastiness, and discrimination for forty years. I shed many tears and sometimes begged God to remove this calling from my life. But I have also been supported by other women clergy who understand in multiple denominations. I have been encouraged remain faithful. Reading over the names and bios, seeing their pictures, reminded me that I am not alone in this battle, and there’s still much work to do. Work I have been and will be given to do.

How like today. We are still fighting: to be heard, to be recognized, to make a difference. But we do not fight alone. Tears.

Tears. Why do I cry this day?

I cry because some days I still don’t understand the “whys” of my life. Why I’m here and my husband there. Why I had to quit the one job in my life I loved like no other. I don’t want to come out with the wrong answer. But I will lament…release…and keep seeking to serve even when I don’t get it.

I cry because loss is a part of living. I cry because sorrow can blindside us. I cry because losing the things I treasure, value…love hurts. And to say that it doesn’t is a lie. To hurt indicates that we had something special and now it’s gone. How fortunate we were to have those things. But that doesn’t mean something else, possibly more perfect or valuable won’t come along. Grieving, acknowledging what was lost, enables me to keep living—treasuring the memory and making room for whatever is next.

I cry because others have to struggle. Being gifted, intelligent, and motivated doesn’t guarantee an easy road. The prejudice of others, the insecurity of others, the selfishness of others can throw painful blocks, detours, and frustrations in our path to fulfilling our callings. But clearly, we do not walk this road alone. Others have gone before us. Others walk alongside us. Others are placing their trust in our faithfulness.

This morning I wept. And oddly, I feel a clarity and strength, a desire to keep on. I’ve laid that burden down. And look ahead.

Continuing the Work of Jesus: Simply, Part 1–2020

This month I begin a series on the Simply component of one of the banner statements of the Church of the Brethren: Contnuing the Work of Jesus…peacefully, simply, together.

In today’s blog I’m going to invite you meditate on a scripture and then ask you to consider a question. The goal of this activity is to set your heart and mind in the right direction for the week—a good exercise for a Monday morning…don’t you think?

So here’s the text: (and I’m using The Message unapologetically so that you could read the text with fresh eyes)

“Has anyone by fussing in front of the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch? All this time and money wasted on fashion—do you think it makes that much difference? Instead of looking at the fashions, walk out into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They never primp or shop, but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them.

“If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. (Matthew 6:27-33, The Message).”

Here’s what I saw:

I looked at the text with my American 21st century eyes. Is that where you start?

Tomorrow, lets look at the text with the eyes and ears of those who were living with and listening to Jesus.

Erasing History…Or Just Your Version

I’m getting tired of people who are saying the people who are protesting and demanding that white supremacy monuments are trying to erase history.

They aren’t.

Unless you believe that yours is the only version of history that matters. 

The more I listen and read, the more I realize the history I was spoon fed in school was whitewashed—cleansed of the rich heritage of others. BIPOC history, with all it’s richness, was swapped out for a misrepresentation or ignoring of how land was gained and jobs got done. Assimilation was the mandate. 

As we discussed this over breakfast, my mother made a comment that was insightful. She said that white supremacy didn’t start once people landed on these shores. Nope. I came on the boats. And our founders didn’t stray far from their roots. They may have tried to hide behind the words in their documents, but they didn’t mean that everyone was created equal, or deserved life, liberty, and happiness. No. That was reserved for those whose skin was like theirs.

What if instead of being afraid of what really happened—or continues to happen—we truly educated ourselves on what transpired, on what has been denied or ignored. What if we read…and listened. What if we made room for others. 

Maybe we really could learn something from history.

But God!

(This article appeared yesterday in the Ashland (OH) Times-Gazette.)

I came to Phoenix, Arizona in January for a women’s clergy gathering. As is often the case, the experience was blessing upon blessing. My spirit soared. My faith was enriched. I made new friends—and not just the “pad my Facebook numbers” kind. I looked to the heavens and said, “But God, I don’t want to leave yet.”

Instead of coming right home, I figured I couldn’t visit Arizona and not visit my mom who lives south of Tucson. During my visit she became ill which resulted in a diagnosis of pneumonia and five days in the hospital. We opted to continue her recuperation at home with in-home health care. To describe this time as difficult would be an understatement.

During her convalescence, my mom asked if I would be willing to stay with her—permanently. This is a plan we had discussed the year prior during another illness. Because of that conversation, my husband and I also had a series of talks. We began to make plans: I would take care of my mom and he would stay in Ohio to take care of his. 

On paper and when we spoke, these things made sense to us. Even still, Mom’s request felt like a punch in the gut. I hadn’t expected it. I still had things to do in Ashland.  I looked to the heavens and said, “But God, I don’t want to leave yet.”

I have enough Bible under my belt to know when we say, “But God…” we are in essence telling him, “No.” Not a smart move. Telling God no negates all he wants and can do for us. The petulant child comes out of us. We stomp our feet, and pitch our fit. We tell God all the reasons why his plan isn’t good enough. 

My mom is the queen of pithy statements, homey proverbs. When she wanted to cut off our childish rants, she would say, “But me no buts.” I did a little research. That phrase has been around since 1709 when Susanna Centlivre coined it in the play, “The Busie Body.” These four words were used to cut off all objections.

In my experience, God has been good at cutting off my objections. When he nips my protestations, he uses my own words to redirect me to his power and plan. My whiny “But God…” becomes his “but GOD!”

A quick search through scripture shows how Abraham, Moses, Joseph, David, Jonah, and even Jesus knew the power of “but GOD!” Joseph puts the truth quite clearly when after suffering injustice upon injustice, he finally ends up being Pharaoh’s right hand man, which puts him in the perfect place to provide for the brothers who left him for dead. “You meant to do me harm, but God used it for good (see Genesis 50:20).” 

The Apostle Paul understood this too. In his letter to the Romans he writes, “But God proves his love for us in that while we were sinners Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).” When he writes about this to the Ephesians he lays God’s plan out quite plainly: Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins (2:1); But God is so rich in mercy and he loves us so much that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life through Christ (2:4); Therefore, you are not strangers, neither guests, but inhabitants of the city of The Holy One and children of the household of God (2:9).  

These are difficult days. Dealing with isolation, illness, financial devastation, can definitely bring out our worse whiny case of “But God…” Perhaps God, though,  is leading us individually and as a faith community into new situations that push us far beyond our comfort, far from where our own plans would take us. If we will surrender our plan, we open ourselves to power that is “but God!”

Imagine if you could interview the people I mentioned above, and ask them if they thought it was worth it to surrender their plans to God. They would probably tell you the journey wasn’t easy—but it was the best choice they ever made. 

Daily I’m learning to surrender my whiny protesting for my way so that I can find the power of “but God!” Need some extra power? Need a better plan? Check out what God can do when we but Him no buts.

Soggy Pages

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“They” tell us to bleed on the page. That somehow if we will let our pain ooze out onto the pages we write that we will draw readers in—because everyone is bleeding and looking for healing. If we bleed, our words will release a relatedness that will draw others in.

I have no blood today…but I have lots of tears.

This morning my husband video called me. He was on his way to a friend’s house with our little dog. Our lives are in such a state of upheaval with me here and him there emptying our home of years of collecting, that the pup wasn’t getting the attention he needed or deserved. We came to the painful decision that he would be better off in a more attentive home. So Nelson called so I could say good-bye.

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I haven’t been able to stop crying.

The lesson I continue to learn: what’s best is not always easy. (The second lesson is to keep a tissue/hanky close by because tears aren’t the only thing that leaks.)

I came out to the patio to read and write after I ended the call with Nelson. I could barely see the iPad screen through my tears. My heart was aching and I just wanted pick up the stones in the yard and just start throwing them.

But I knew I couldn’t. Mom would have a cow. My mother cannot tolerate or handle intense emotions. I guess I know where I honed my skill at encouraging people to move beyond pain to healing. Like ticking items off an emotional checklist. Can’t let them get stuck in the anger…or the grief. Move along. Keep moving.

But today no amount of self-taught and practiced platitudes is unsticking me. I’m tired of rushing myself through hurt to healing.

I read a bunch of scripture. Nice as it was to know I wasn’t alone, that I could trust God’s presence and his promise, it just didn’t bring me the comfort I hoped for. The ache didn’t go away.

I feel the need to apologize here. I’m not meaning to be a Debby-downer (and sorry to all the Debbys in the world—you don’t deserve that moniker). I guess I’ve just realized that I had been pushing down all the hurt. Ignoring all the grief. Doing other stuff to keep from acknowledging how mad I am that I have to be the one making sacrifices…again.

Everything inside me wants to delete that last paragraph…at least the last line. It sounds icky. It feels selfish. I don’t want to be a petulant child, pouting about not getting my way. I realize being a servant comes with sacrifice. Today just brought it all to the surface as I saw that scruffy little face being driven out of my life.

I bristle when I hear people say, “God doesn’t give us more than we can handle.” I don’t believe it. I don’t agree. In fact, the Bible teaches just the opposite. There are two passages I need to be reminded of when life gets painfully soggy for me.

First, Paul writes to the Corinthian believers a very clear lament. You will find it in 2 Corinthians 1. He tells them that life was so bad, that he was “crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it (2 Cor. 1:8b-9).”

Of course the main reason Paul was writing this was to share the lesson learned: that we are not to rely upon ourselves but God who will continue to rescue us…again and again and again.

In our pain, loss, and overwhelming times God is with us, he is reliable, he will rescue us.

But even if he doesn’t…that leads me to the second text. It’s tucked away at the end of Habakkuk’s prophecy. In Chapter 3 we find God getting good and mad. The prophecy scared even the prophet. But in the end his faith enables him to go to difficult place. He says: “For even if the fig tree doesn’t blossom and no fruit is on the vines, even if the olive tree fails to produce, and the fields yield no food at all, even if the sheep vanish from the sheep pen, and there are no cows in the stalls; still, I will rejoice in AdonaiI will take joy in the God of my salvation. Elohim Adonai is my strength (Hab. 3:18-19)!”

Even if everything I hope for is gone, or doesn’t happen, I will rejoice int the Lord. Several translations insert a “yet.” It’s the same concept as nevertheless. That’s what Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego said when they faced the fiery furnace. They fully believed God would save them, but even if he didn’t they still believed, and wouldn’t change anything. It’s the same way Jesus prayed in the garden: “Is there not another plan? Nevertheless, not my will but yours be done.”

These are overwhelming days. Loss comes in waves. We will have our soggy days. We don’t have to ignore or deny our hurt. Jesus felt the pain in the garden so intently that Luke says he sweat drops of blood. Jesus never faked “fine.” When he was sad, he wept. When he saw injustice, he got angry.

Feel the anguish…but keep your “nevertheless” (and a box of tissues) close. That’s how we find healing. That’s how we keep from being stuck.

Out For A Run

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Way back when I was in college, during my sophomore year, I decided I was fat and needed to lose weight.

Okay, it wasn’t a new thought…I remember feeling fat from when I was 12.

Here I was at 12–along with the friends who helped me celebrate:

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That’s me in the bottom left.

I remember a time when my mother announced I would weigh 140 lbs. when I turned eighteen. I was mortified. That number loomed over my like an indictment: I was going to be fat forever! (Incidentally, she was right!)

So there I was in my second year of college feeling totally pudgy and ugly. I had put on the “freshmen 15” and then some. I went to my family doctor on break and begged for help. He put me on an eating plan, gave me a diet pill, and told me to run a mile a day.

What? Pill, no problem. Food sacrifice, not crazy about it, but I figured I’d manage. But run a mile? Who are you kidding, doc? I didn’t think I could walk a mile, let alone run one. This might be impossible.

My roommate and I figured out sixteen laps of the gym was a mile. This was handy for the rainy, snowy, or cold days—so I wouldn’t have any excuse to not get my mile in. (I’ll save the whole cutting corners thing for another blog.) I also mapped a half mile on the back road to the college and struggled to “run” out and back on nice days.

I never timed myself, but I got pretty good at getting it done. I did everything I was supposed to and actually got down to 125 lbs. I got smaller clothes and a few looks from some handsome young men.

Fast forward forty years. The small clothes are long gone. I know there’s no magic pill worth taking. I’ve tried a zillion eating plans, and while they work for a while, I can’t stick to them (bars and shakes, shakes and bars). Why? I like food, and I’m addicted to sugar.

The only thing I’ve stuck with for longer than a blink is my dependence on my Fitbit. I used one hit or miss for a few years, and then in 2016 I got serious. Paying attention to my steps, stairs, sleep, and exercise has become routine for me—a healthy obsession. I like know what I’ve accomplished (someone else tracking), but I’ve also learned how to use it gracefully. I can take a day off and not freak out.

I’ve learned something else, too. I can run more than a mile. Ok, it may not look like “running.” It’s something between a fast walk and a jog: a wog, or jalking. But I get my heart beat up beyond target and I pass people as I go. I am 63, I feel good about it…about me.

How much more than a mile, you ask? Depends on the day and how much time I have. I’ve done as much as five miles. And every time I do, I punch “impossible” in the face.

What have you deemed impossible that might actually be doable? What things have you let other people decide are true about you, for you? What is in your heart that you have longed to do, but been afraid to try and fail? I didn’t wog five miles my first time out. I built up to it. It’s like the old saying, “how do you eat an elephant?” One bite at a time.

Typically we reach our goals, one step at a time.

What will your first step be?

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In the Midst of the Storm

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I came out to the patio to write. I swept the patio. I fussed around the table. I decided to work on worship music for tomorrow’s online service.

I was doing everything but writing.

I pulled up the song, “Fear No More by building 429.” I found something to write about. I love this song. It fits my current situation. The lyrics of the song contain an image of Jesus holding us in a storm not of our own choosing. “This isn’t what I planned…” Chaos is all around but Jesus is with us in the storm.

As I listened my mind drifted to the passage where Jesus and the disciples are in a boat and a strong storm happens. Mark records Peter’s recollection: On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” 41 And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” (Mark 4:35-40, NIV)

Jesus is not holding the disciples when the storm crashes in on them, and they are terrified they are going to die.

Jesus is there. He’s been there all along. He has the power to still the storm around them…and within them. Their fear brought them to Jesus, but not for an answer. They came accusing him of not caring. They are angry because while they’re consumed with and by their fear Jesus is curled up, cozy on a cushion. They are infuriated at his selfishness: this is no time to sleep, man! Do something for us. NOW!

In Mark’s account, Jesus rebuked the storm. What an object lesson. Storm, be at peace. Be still. Jesus may have addressed the storm, but his message was for the disciples. And it’s for us also.

Do you feel like there’s a storm all around you? Are the walls closing in? Do you fear for your life…or your way of living?

Here’s my confession: I’ve been really mad at God. Life was going pretty sweetly for me. I was achieving goals. I was about to start my D.Min (or finish it). Nelson was finally getting some of his medical issues addressed. We were happy. It was sort of like a Sunday boat ride on the lake on a wonderful summer day. Weather perfect. Floating along. Cozy. Relaxed. Happy.

Then bam. And nothing was comfortable. I couldn’t find happy anywhere on my radar. Ripped from the familiar. Life as I knew it…as I wanted it…was gone.

And this isn’t the first time in my life. I don’t want to re-rehearse the litany of what I saw as injustices perpetrated by God upon me. Why give it to me just to yank it away?

Selah. (Period of reflective silence.)

Job: shall we take the good and not the bad?

Paul: I have learned whatever situation I am in to find contentment.

Jesus: I’m right here. Be at peace. Be still.

Paul again: God puts us right where he wants us. (1 Corinthians 12:18)

Me: okay. I will trust that you are with me—even in the storm. I may not be in school for my D.Min, but I have a lot to learn. Right here. Right now. (That’s my prayer, so Amen.)

Pleasing My Father

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I went out to get the mail. I knew it probably wouldn’t be there, but I needed some fresh air…and steps…always steps.

It wasn’t there.

I wasn’t ready to go back into the overheated house. (One of the challenges of living with an older person with no insulation on her bones.) I knew that older people kept their homes warmer. I just wasn’t ready to be in a house where the furnace ran most of the day. The air was warm and sometimes hard for me to breathe.

Fresh air would do my brain some good. I sat in my chair and soaked in the sun and bird songs around me. My eyes closed in a moment of sweetness.

As soon as my eyes opened the sweetness was gone. No longer did the bluest sky fill my vision. Nope. All I could see was the dirt and debris. And the song of the birds was replaced by my father’s voice. I was transported back to high school, I found Dad in the garage cleaning and grousing. Dad took great pride in his well manicured lawn and clean garage.

The image barely passed and I found myself looking for a broom and dust pan. Items found, I quickly set about the task of sweeping the garage, porch, and front walk.

Sometime around my third pile of sand and stuff, I thought, “Dad would be pleased.”

My dad died in 1989. I never felt like he was proud of me. Not proud that I was fourth runner up to Miss Teenage Columbus. Not proud that I was a First Class Girl Scout. Not proud that my class elected me to student council as I was entering High School. Not proud that I graduated in the top 10% of my class of over 30. Not proud of anything I did, or who I was.

Once he told me I’d never write anything anyone would ever want to read.

And yet, here I was sweeping out a garage in a house he never lived in…hoping he would be pleased with me, with the job I had done, that I’d even thought to care.

When I was all finished I sat back down in my chair. I felt a brief wave of sadness flow over my heart. But just as quickly as it was gone, I felt a warmth—the warmth of a smile. In that mysterious way of knowing, I knew it wasn’t a smile from my dad. This smile came straight from my Holy Father. The One who knows me, loves me, walks with me, stays right by my side. The One who created me, sustains me, encourages me, strengthens me. The One who is always proud of me.

My name is written on his hands.

So is yours.

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Second Glance, Second Chance

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I read a post this morning by my friend Tammy Whitehurst (look her up on Facebook, she’s an awesome communicator). It made me cry. Happy tears. Finally, I found someone who’s Easter experience resembled mine.

Most of what I’ve been reading since yesterday is more lament. Sadness over what we missed: big choirs, lots of celebration, surrounded by a warm sense of community, family feasts—all the good stuff Easter evokes and offers.

I had very little of that. But what I did had touched my heart deeply. Please don’t miss the blessings that came while you pine for what wasn’t.

The message that was laid on my heart to share from the Easter story was the word of the angel to Peter…including Peter. The Easter message is a message of hope and restoration. Peter’s story is our story. Peter, after his pathetic personal performance (aka betrayal) was being offered a second chance.

Don’t miss the second chance you’re being offered.

It seems to me that when the people of God have gotten too comfortable, God shakes up the pot. Ask Job. Check with David. Look at Paul. And don’t forget those wandering former slaves who just couldn’t get it right…take another lap around Mt. Sinai.

Before this current pandemic went down. Before you were ordered to stay home. Do you remember wishing you had more time to read your Bible? Do you remember wishing you could have more time to dig deeper, move deeper spiritually?

How’s that working for you? How much TV/movies etc have you binge watched? I’m not saying it’s bad but I wonder how good it is for your spirit?

Confession. I found I was reading “news” articles on line far more than I was reading things that would encourage my faith and spirit. I felt myself sliding down a slippery slope into cynicism and despair.

Fortunately, after a long conversation with a friend (face to face and safely distanced, thank you Louise Waller) I was able to pull myself out of the nose dive. But I’m going to tell you, it was like what you see in the movies when the pilot is pulling back on the control with all their strength—not sure if they’re going to make it.

I made it.

You can too.

But second chances, like what Peter got, like what God has for each of us, are a gift we have to receive. Intentionality is involved. Want to is mandatory. We may not be able to choose your circumstances or situation, but we choose our response.

Peter could have heard the message and not believed it could be true. “Yeah, right. Maybe for someone else—not me.” Or like the rich young ruler in Jesus’ story (see Mark 10:17-31) walk away empty handed, empty hearted.

If all we see is what we didn’t have this Easter…then we walk away empty handed.

What did I learn? You take away all the trappings. All that is familiar and comforting. All that I count on. And I can still find so much to be thank-full for. So much room for praise. And a joy this world cannot take away.

What blessing did you receive in this unusual, but very special holy season?

Birthday Reflections…

My birthday celebration began with my mom coming to the breakfast table singing Happy Birthday. For as many years as I can remember she has called me early on my birthday and sung to me. It was quite special to hear her in person.

After breakfast I took a 15 mile bike ride. I miss the smooth, trafficless paths back home, but I was blessed to ride under the bluest of skies with the best weather anyone could order: perfect temp and just the lightest breeze.

Now I’m playing Scrabble with Mom. We play two games in the morning and two in the afternoon. We set the limits because more than two games without a break leaves Mom exhausted.

This is not how I saw my birthday unfolding as 2019 drew to a close. I imagined eating out with my husband and having special time with friends. We would watch baseball and I would tease with my grandson. I would revel in the blessings and treasure the moments.

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Last year when I felt led to adopt  “Go further” as my mantra and motivator for 2020…I had no idea where it would take me, or what it would mean for me—or my family.

The impetus for this motivator came to me last summer when I pushed myself to ride 30 miles. For me it seemed like an unlikely, if not impossible goal. But I decided to try and I achieved what never though I could.

What else could I accomplish if I decided to try instead of believing I couldn’t? What would it mean to go further?

Do you know what the hardest part of a long bike ride it? For me, it’s not the steep hill at the end of the ride. The hardest part for me is getting out the door. I can find countless reasons to not do something. I can put up the best arguments…in my own mind. And to often, I’m my own strong excuse.

So this morning, I decided no internal argument was going to keep me from taking a birthday ride. The sky was gorgeous and the recent strong winds were completely absent. I headed to the shed got on my bike.

Recently, I increased my distance from 11 to 13 miles. In the winds lately, that was a chore! But today a voice whispered my ear, “Go further!” The battle began. Why? Why not? I was getting a little saddle sore. Would I have to walk up the hill? Why not stick to the known? Why not stretch? You can! But should you even try?

I rode right past the road that would have taken me home in 13 miles. I approached the hill I had told myself was too steep. If I had to walk it part way, fine. But I was going to try. I was going to push myself further.

That hill proved to be easier than the one I normally chose and struggled through. I used my gears. I had plenty left in my tank to finish the last mile strong.

The first quarter of this year has been a challenging time, especially with the COVID19 crisis. But the challenges for me began before I ever heard of the virus. I came to visit my mom in southern Arizona after I finished at a clergy women’s retreat in Phoenix in early January. She came down with pneumonia. I’ve been nursing her back to health ever since.

Here’s something I have learned: don’t make a promise unless you intend to keep it. I told my mom if she every felt she needed me to come and care for her I would be there in a blink. I assumed somehow that referred to a physical need. I hadn’t considered the power of an emotional need. My mom buried her second husband two years ago and subsequently went through two major health events alone. The pneumonia broke her independence. She doesn’t want to face life alone.

So I’m here.

My husband and family are in Ohio. He will be moving before the end of the year to live with his mom who needs him.

Our belongings are being sold. Our home will be sold. Our marriage will be tested by distance and change. But it’s making us aware that life is always moving further forward and we can fight it or we can figure out how to adapt and find purpose and joy.

So today I am 63. And I’m going to figure how, in this new normal, I will continue to move forward—Go further!