Thriving in an Unfamiliar Life

My great-grandma was a woman of summer. She kept a garden. She grew the flowers and vegetables that graced her table. She picked the berries that topped our ice cream. Every once in a while, I helped her in the garden or the berry patch and it always shocked me when she showed up wearing pants. The garden was the only place I ever saw her dressed that way and even there she wore a dress over them, with a long-sleeved shirt and a wide-brimmed hat. She was dressed to work. Right here are four important lessons Great-grandma taught with {Continue Reading}

Do You Need to Turn Around?

It was one of the first hikes we took together, my husband and I. It wasn’t long—only a few miles, but the first stretch—and the last—was steep. The descent wasn’t bad. The destination—a steel suspension bridge spanning a canyon in the middle of wilderness—was worth the trip down and even back up. Still, that thigh-burning return trip reigns in my memory, especially when we consider taking any trail with the word “steep” in its description. Draped across the slope like twinkle lights on a Christmas tree, switchbacks supposedly moderated the mountain face into a more manageable grade. I trudged up {Continue Reading}

Winter Gifts and Graces

Regardless of what the thermometer reads today or tomorrow or next week, winter is winding down. I’ll just repeat that, mostly because I need the reassurance. Winter is winding down. I need the reassurance because I believe something that isn’t true: Everything will last forever. Whether it’s the balmy breezes of a green spring that will be taken over by the thousand percent humidity of high summer or the crisp afternoons of a colorful autumn that will fade into the bone-brittling subzero temperatures of deep winter, every season eventually ends. Because I find hope and help in the cycle of the {Continue Reading}

For When We Find Ourselves Waiting

  Bundled against the sub-zero temperatures, we left the cozy warmth of our cabin to brave Yellowstone’s deep winter chill. At twelve below zero, the temperature was up seven degrees already that morning from the previous afternoon’s negative nineteen. After fumbling over my own thick, clumsy fingers to fasten snowshoes to boots, I wondered what kind of people would take their children into the woods in such weather. My husband and I, apparently. We set off across the expanse of barren parking lots and abandoned roads toward the pines on the other side, snowshoes slapping the ground under our feet. As {Continue Reading}

The Spiritual Discipline of Expecting Delays and Great Scenery

Because of the invisible cord that ties writing to life, it is with some trepidation I acknowledge that my anticipated writing topics for the coming months center around a theme which can be summarized by a road sign, especially a road sign in a construction zone bearing this kind of verbiage: Expect delays and great scenery. Oh, I’m all about the scenery.  I’m just not fond of delays. I don’t want to wait. For anything. That the roads we wander will need repair is a given. That there will be delays, an inconvenient fact. That they will occur at nearly {Continue Reading}

What Gives Her Away

  Elyse was four when she first showed us how brave she was—and what mattered enough to bring that bravery out. We’d moved, pulling into the driveway at a new house after dark on a Sunday night and popping out for a pre-school visit at nine the very next morning. During our tour she cast clandestine glances at the other children and when they invited her to stay for their Valentine’s Day party, she smiled and took a chair at their table. It was her smile that gave her away. Elyse is known for her smile. It’s ready and open {Continue Reading}

Look at the Pretty Lights

Our headlights cut through the blinding darkness of the December night, illuminating the country highway as my littlest girl and I made our way home from church. “Look at the pret-ty lights, Mom-my,” she called from her car seat in the back of the van. “Do you see the pret-ty lights? I like the pret-ty lights. Do you like the pret-ty lights?” Like them? Yes. See them? No. At least, not like she did. She, days shy of her fourth birthday, saw twinkly lights on the horizon and deemed them worthy of attention, of affection, of conversation. I, days past {Continue Reading}

Bridges Between

One fall, when I attended the University of Iowa, I went a few weeks between visits home. When my parents drove me to school, the fields were full and green. When they brought me home, the fields stood empty. Even the combines and trucks had gone home. Growing up in rural Iowa, I’d never experienced fall without seeing the harvest, that gradual dismantling of the familiar, fertile landscape one field at a time. It was unsettling. I’d seen empty fields before, with the stubbly shave they wore between fall and spring each year. The problem wasn’t how they looked. It was {Continue Reading}

Because Winter is Inevitable

Once, long ago, before babies and moves to houses in new communities, I picked up the beginning of an understanding of the seasons—their rhythms, their tasks, their hard realities. Learning to be a mom to three babies while finding my way in three different towns left room for little else in my brain. I traded a loose grip on the concept of seasons for the clutching fist of survival. It was not a good trade. I forgot that seasons really do change. That whether delightful or dry, balmy or bitter, fertile or fruitless, they don’t last forever. That there is {Continue Reading}