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5.21.20 The Skipper

Throughout the course of the last many months, I give thanks for the kindly family and friends that have logged an hour here and there with our kids via Zoom. It has been a gift for the kids to see other folks (not just us!) and to learn about all manner of things from pet care to origami.

Up today: sailboats. Mr. Bob of our congregation met with us a month or so back to talk about his big trip to Antarctica. My son loves Mr. Bob and hearing about all of his big adventures. Mr. Bob had made him the most awesome video of his journey that my son still wants to watch at least once a week.

It was a grumpy morning at my house with my daughter trying to opt to stay in bed for hours in her pajamas and my son waking us up too early with the hungry announcement: “I’m all dresssssssed!!!”

By the time the appointed Zoom with Mr. Bob rolled around, I was pretty spent. And that was only 9:30 a.m. From the moment he was on the screen, the kids were at attention and loved hearing about all the sailboats that Mr. Bob had helped design.

My son announced: “As soon as the virus is over we are going to come sail with you, Mr. Bob!” The generous instructor didn’t miss a beat: “That’s right! And let me show you the kind of boat we’ll ride on!”

The kids soaked it all in and so did I. The tides changed in our house from there. We maneuvered outside, gathering weeds and chalking down to the nubbins. In anticipation of our call, earlier this week we had sketched out a little thank you for Mr. Bob. Later, we added a random assortment of sea creatures.

To all the people out there helping to ease the days of parents by talking nautical engineering, reading stories, or offering singing lessons, thank you. You can turn a string of mushy days into magic.

To Mr. Bob: thank you for serving as one of our vital skippers on the S.S. Pandemic. We cherish our joy-filled expeditions.

5.18.20 New Patterns

Can img_3163you see them? We knew it was coming. Last week marked the return of the golfers to the course…and thus ending our “free roam” status around on the greens. It means we won’t be able to be as attentive to our mandala.

It felt like an end to our initial little era of covid response. Now, as we settle into late May and the turn of summer, we seek to create some new patterns. New routines with activities and looking for new and ongoing ways to brighten up the community and find joy. Perhaps you are shifting, too, with some new efforts or motion.

I’ve seen some beautiful patterns out and about in nature: a recently cut tree and all the age rings exposed. The design of what I like to call “cabbage leaves” in abundance–big and brilliant not far from our home. And let me not fail to mention the giant, sticky cinnamon rolls that my husband made from our sourdough starter.

Let’s be honest. It’s his sourdough starter that he nurtures and cares for and we all reap the benefits.

 

Out on a morning run on the course, I was startled by an awesome sign that seems right up my alley! “Choose Joy!” I see you out there joy friend. I noticed that you had a lot of kid paraphenalia on your back porch. I imagine that you are stretching into these moments and working to find the love. Thank you! Now you’ve got me thinking about what we should have on display for the golfing crew that rolls by our view.

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Another bonus today was having the UPS guy delivery some packages. He was a kindly waver when I was out on the Vantage Point corner before covid. It was nice to catch up. I got to hear about life on the road delivering boxes in pandemic.

And here’s to new patterns and bright sparks for the next stages of being. Enjoy a bouquet we created from the flowers just outside our door!

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5.13.20 Silly Walk

Silly Walk PIcA friend, remembering the balloon waving I have done on the corner, shared this image on Facebook originally posted by Kara Andrews Shall. The invitation to Silly Walk Sign reads:

You have now entered the jurisdiction of the ministry of silly walks. Commence Silly Walking Immediately. ” And in smaller print: “We’re all in this together let’s have fine while we can!…(Don’t know how to silly walk? Google Monty Python Ministry of Silly Walks for inspiration).” Facebook: Yorkshire.Silly.Walks

There’s also an article about it on My Modern Met here. You can see all kinds of silly walking.

The images have stuck with me. I love the thought of folks breaking into silly kinds of walks. Whether I get to watch or not, just the thought of it can get me smiling. Today at the Kittamaqundi Community Church Sacred Garden, my kids and I got to chalking.

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May the silly walking commence in the Sacred Garden or wherever you are! It’s good for the soul.

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5.12.20 Mothering

This is the date of Mother’s Day last year. My mom reminded me that this was the day that she took my grandmother to the hospital before she died on May 14th, 2019. This past Sunday, I wore my grape pin in her honor–remembering her fierce determination and wondering what she would make of this pandemic. I give thanks that my family was able to fly South the month after she died to share in a time of memorial.

img_3128I continually hear about how the pangs of loss in this time have an extra heaviness. There is the inability to gather with hugs and the new formality of masks and distancing. What is already heartbreaking becomes more so with the additional loss of anticipated ritual. I hear from pastors who are muddling through trying to reach out to families in the midst of death and to take the best safety measures for everyone.

Mother’s Day under pre-COVID times is already a mixed day for many. This year, we have the collective grief of all that isn’t. I recommend Brene Brown’s podcast interview with David Kessler. I find myself wanting impossibly to skip ahead to the “meaning making” and find much wisdom in what I hadn’t heard in words: the need for grief to be witnessed:

“Grief must be witnessed. How do we witness it for each other? I am going to witness yours and you will witness mine.”

img_3147I enjoyed the Mother’s Day muffins this year. And the homemade cards. And worship. And the sunny afternoon bike ride when things got really cranky at our house. I could see my husband’s fatigue at striving hard to make the day different than our other days. To honor our cumulative exhaustion, we ordered takeout dinner for the first time in quarantine.

And after the kids were asleep, we sat across from each other at a quiet table. We didn’t say much. I taked about missing my grandmother. We talked of the earlier Zoom with his grandmother.  We talked about the summer family vacation that won’t be happening with our mothers. We ate pad thai. We witnessed to the grief. We embraced our blessings. Yours, mine, ours. We didn’t try to fast forward. We witnessed it together.

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5.8.20 Sabbath

Friday used to be my sabbath. As a pastor I work Sundays, and some Saturdays. Friday has been the day when–even though I often have found myself engaged in some aspect of work small or not so small–I also discovered some space to breathe, to read, to catch up on things.

And so my body and spirit long for that breath. Perhaps, you too, are missing some important space in your heart and schedule to let go. You feel it in some lost activity that you formerly had that now feels wildly luxurious.

And, oh, how much more intentional I find I must be in this time. How I am sinking when my soul is not tended. How hapless I feel when suddenly I have unexpected moments to myself absent from the requests of my children. If they sense that I am not available and they have a perceived need, they quickly resort to chaos.

By some miracle it took something like 55 days in quarantine, but finally my son shouted today: “You are the worst, rudest mom ever!”  And my sabbath self said: “Retreat. Go.” And my mechanical arms instead cut his little celery bites and spread the peanut butter with the little knife and sprinkled raisins because he loves to pretend they are ants.

And I write into the night. As the rain flows. I think back to the quiet moments walking I did muscle into the morning before my husband logged into work. I recall counting the nickels with my children. They determined how much they would spend on a new toy, and then they gave generously into their share bucket, ready to share it with the church.

And I realize that often my yearning for sabbath leads me here to the keyboard. As I recount the days, the joy moments…and as I listen attentively to what new wisdom from today I have not yet learned. I find that it emerges when I start to type.  I give my little bit of offering and lift it up to the Spirit. I open myself for the restoration of the Spirit.

I imagine you on the other side wading through your own worries. I imagine us together looking avidly for signs of hope emerging. I give over unto rest, hoping that tomorrow will come with a little more space to exhale. And I can truly imagine it for you and for me.

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“The Sabbath is the most precious present mankind has received from the treasure house of God. All week we think: The spirit is too far away, and we succumb to spiritual absenteeism, or at best we pray: Send us a little of Thy spirit. On the Sabbath the spirit stands and pleads: Accept all excellence from me …”― Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Sabbath 

5.5.20 Birthday Boat

 

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Quarantine Birthday. It started off with a massive breakfast fit for a little lion. And we’ve been revving into the day ever since. Four years old and always wanting to man the boat. Our son likes to call out: “I’m the boss!”–just yesterday the latest as he dictated what he preferred for dinner.

With Zoom calls and little boxes that have accumulated on our porch in the past days, I give thanks for birthday joy arriving. Each activity is punctuated with the shout: “Can I open another present now?”

And as ever, I marvel at his confidence, his volume, his readiness to tackle a project. “Check out my big submarine!” he bellows as he fills the path. And back at home a convincing argument: a slice of cake after lunch and dinner.

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May joy flow to our big guy into this most unusual season and year. What will he be saying next May about this day?

He’s not alone. So many are finding different and creative ways to live into graduations, birthdays, anniversaries, and weddings. Whatever boat you are in, may you have some good company close or far to split the cake, wave the balloons, and chart the way of celebration. And if you are feeling particularly alone or without comforts, may you discover the speed boat, submarine, or preferred sea vessel to see you through this season. There is an unfolding horizon to sail toward–led by the creative strokes of chalking children.

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5.4.20 Picnic Lunch

And so I cut up three peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and placed them neatly in tupperware. After a morning learning the difference between an alligator and crocodile, we were ready to spring into the glorious sunshine of the fourth of May. Just getting out the door was the biggest hurdle” Do you have your shoes on? Where is your helmet? Did you go potty before we leave? Where’s your jacket? You can finish that origami project when we get back! 

There were workers at the church’s Sacred Garden so we rode and found a grassy knoll up from the street in the little park down the street. We could see all kinds of dog walkers coming and going as we spread out our blanket. It was one of those moments when you can’t help remarking  numerous times on how beautiful it is outside and how very nice it is to be on a picnic together. “In the top 5” we all agreed of best picnics that we had ever put on. Little helicopters leaves spun to the ground as the winds took deep breath–the sky agreed with a sigh: this is just delightful.

I considered that I wouldn’t be sitting here if it weren’t for pandemic on a Monday afternoon. There were all the masks passing by. There was the closed Carriage House building with Lenten wreaths (!) still hanging.

And the Mama Duck, “Annie” that we had spied on last week was no where to be seen. We noticed the little divet of her nest in the mulch by the stone. There were small fluffy feathers lining the shallow hole. We hoped that Annie had hatched the eggs over the weekend before the torrential rain of last evening. We imagined the little goslings waddling to nearby Lake Kittamaqundi.

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Before biking home, we revived our chalking. This time, decking the front steps with dots.

It was worth it–all the corraling to take crunch carrots over looking Vantage Point. It so often is worth all the nagging and reminding and nudging to get to the next activity. And I look for ways to be less impatient, more trusting that we will get to where we need to go. There is just so much joy to be had when we emerge. Like today, the wind kept calling with Sister Sun: come out and dine with me!

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5.1.20 May Day

The skies were mixed on the first day of May. I could say the same of the emotional state on our Lane. We managed a may pole made of lingering Valentine ribbon, a wrapping paper tube, and a cadre of staples. My son proceeded to rip a ribbon off with his intense celebration. Our next door neighbors put out a lovely ribbon hanging as well as flowers in front of their home. The neighbors from across the way were so kind as to deliver a May Day cone of azaleas to our doorstep.

And then when we needed another fresh breath in the afternoon: a balloon “parade” down the block with Dad just to make sure we didn’t miss any other signs of the new month and coming of spring.

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We settle in for at least another month of quarantine, pivoting with each mood of the morning. We yawn into the afternoons, busy in the busy work of being student, pastor, and four year-old napper.

And we find inspiration in the verse of my father who has taken to Zooming from Tennessee to my church’s Thursday creative writing team. Sanctuary is needed to temper the news coming from “out there” and needed up close as well, in our up and down house. May the Spirit meet us everywhere in May.

By Mark

Nearby is the country they call life
Not a separate piece of geography
A space drawn closer to you
Closer than you can imagine
It is your home
Not a structure or address
But the lilting loveliness
Of I am Yours and
You are Mine

The lilting loveliness
Surrounds you
Not as a cautious cocoon
Not devoid of danger
But Spring-like
It invites you to enter
Enter and walk in Peace

Enter, walk in Peace
In the garden of Hope
Watch children playing
In sacred space
In Sanctuary
From woeful worry
From dire despair
In the whisper
All shall be well.

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4.29.20 Nested

After the rains of the weekend, water had settled on the course. This was the first time we’ve seen ducks nestled so closeby in these puddle ponds. We came across our friends reading as well, Eric Carle’s Animalia.

And then today…we had heard that a duck had nested at the church wall. My daughter wanted to go over to the Sacred Garden in order to check on the “Mama Duck.” So I toted the kiddos in the bike carrier. And sure enough, there she was–not even nestled away in a super private place–but right there by the brick and stone. She does know to blend in to protect her young.

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Otherwise, we took to the herb planter as the sun shone today. We hope that basil, chives, and parsley (thanks for the seeds, Terri!) will be good bedmates. We made sure the little seeds had a nice home just below the soil. I worked impossibly to get my son to scoop for a weed, but he was having too much fun digging in a bed of pine needles.

We also brought this new lady into being out on the greens.

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She helps in the joy department. As does a night that ends in ice cream. We do dessert at my house on Wednesdays and weekends. Extra special tonight with Howard County delivery from Charmery! Giving thanks for small businesses. Giving thanks tonight for my brood and the ongoing encounters and activities that fill our days. Love and joy from our nest to yours–

4.25.20 Hungering

I’m just back from dropping some food at the church. Frank was at the ready again this month to collection food and checks for the Maryland Food Bank *(you can donate here). I am grateful to some neighbors on my block for dropping off some additional items for me to take over.

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I hadn’t been over to the church at the Vantage Point neighborhood in a couple of weeks. You notice the little things. The flowers on the Vantage Point block corner have changed. The Senior Residences for Vantage House signs have all been updated. There are different flowers in blossom at The Carriage House.  We still have our Lenten wreaths on the doors.

One lady from Vantage House was over delivering food to Franks’ car and asking about the church. She asked, “Are you the one who used to wave with a balloon out there? There was some kind of story behind that.” I replied,  “That was me,” and answered some of her questions about the church. And I found myself missing my little spot there on the corner. I wondered if there would be some way to wave again. I probably chattered on more than I should have. I would like to have heard more of her story, but I think I am out of practice with in-person conversations–especially with mask constrictions!

It will be interesting to live into our socially distanced future. As much as people will be hesitant to gather and share physical space, my sense is that the hunger will be great for connection. I think back to March 9 and the last day waving the corner I had before we distanced and the eerie wondering about how long we might be operating in isolation.

On the homefront, we started with homemade pancakes (that my husband was able to make through the sourdough starter), Clean-Olympics (how much cleaning can we do!?), and a jaunt outside to visit and update our art patch.

I’m working on a sermon and connecting into the Revolutionary Love Artist Uprising Call to Action: imagining the world as it can be in the spirit of ubuntumy existence is wrapped up in your existence.

May those with bare pantries receive a new outpouring. May those organizations working to make sure that people will eat have the support they need. However you are hungering this day–in body, mind, spirit–may you be fed by earth, self-care, and community.

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4.22.20 Tame

This mask says it all. It was a roarrrr kind of day from both the kiddos. They seemed to take turns living out their frustrations. We watched some Earth Day videos and took a brief jaunt out of doors. I squeezed out time I could doing work and tending to what felt important. But the lions also make me stop, wanting to be noticed. “Watch me!” “Look at me!” “You aren’t seeing!”

And the noise made me all the more aware of the swirling chaos built up in rooms of our house:  pine needles collected on a walk, stray toy cars dotting the kitchen floor, and tiny bits of construction paper embedded in the carpet. “Roarrrr” the lions seemed to say. The actions from my children communicated to me–We’ve got all kinds of feelings that erupt as a result of being cooped up.

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And then, a breath came as it usually does– once the most vocal cat of the Jungle goes to nap. And a calm reenters. And I can better forgive the scraps of half-finished projects. I can believe that even though this morning felt disastrous that there are other, better moments coming. The big-pawed feet of pandemic means that some stretches are particularly unhinged. This unruliness mirror the outer realities–we don’t have the control we so desire over virus.

And my children are mine to tame up to a point. And they are also mine to love. They are mine to be exhausted alongside and to get angry with and to apologize to–all as I model how to negotiate the flux of emotions that are real and rumbling. They also tame me.

img_2928And another breath came at the close of the day around the dinner table. Wildlife made it’s way before us again. Earlier in the month it was the fox. Tonight it was the blue heron just across the green near the stream out our window. What long and graceful wings! What a different way and mode of being. She brought along a peace, ushering in grace and forgiveness. She brought hope that the lions won’t be quite so…active tomorrow. She was a lovely gift to behold at the end of the 50th Earth Day.

I think we will need the gifts of the tenacious lions and the agile herons to navigate our next steps into planet care and preservation. Each day must be Earth Day. We should have a lot of feelings about what we are doing to our planet and what we are leaving undone. How might we mirror for the our little wild cats how to tend and care for our only home?

4.21.20 Earth Day Emerges

My family took a windy walk tonight. We visited the mandala that the kids and I have been working on since Sunday. My daughter had the idea to “create the earth!” knowing that the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day comes tomorrow. We’ve been adding to the art incrementally-sharing new blossoms and tending to the terrain. It’s our little evolution of love.

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I tried to piece together Europe-Asia-Africa with a North and South American glimpse on the left. I think I was subtedly reminding the kids that we aren’t the center of the universe.

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The addition of extra leaves and ornamentation. Indeed, think of the signs of new life emerging in a time of pandemic when humanity is a little more hands off.

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A few more pops of color added at dusk. Lavender azaleas from our yard carefully transported down the greens today.

What state will the earth be in tomorrow? Our art is always at the mercy of the golf mowers and the winds and the rain. Seeing our little map on this open spot is a powerful reminder of the vunerability of our world.

Yet, we are amazed at how in tact our creations often remain even in dodgy weather and with numerous dogs and walkers about. In fact our little spot seems to stay more integrated than we do over the course of a day.

How many times do little dust storms– petty fights–send us in a tailspin? How many times do I find myself raising my voice and disintegrating into threats: “If you do ______, than no_______ (special treat).”  I wish it didn’t take threats in order for us to act with compassion and love to preserve our life together. I wish the same for our earth care.

This past Sunday, Sue from our church presented on a Tempestry Project. An interfaith group of knitters in Frederick, Maryland, worked hard to stitch 1900-2060 on a wide panel. The post-its in the below photo mark our current year, 2020. You will see a large black crack. With no substantial change, we head toward the lower half of the crack. With concerted efforts, we can head more slowly down the upper section with lessened red. What a stark visual for the challenges we face with our ever warming planet!

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Tempestry tempsAs we live now into the surreal elements of pandemic, we are in deep touch with the fragility of life. We are reminded of the temporal nature of our systems, and the shortsighted reality of our policies.

And also…how interconnected we are. How much the fabric of our destiny is wrapped up in our care and concern for all. How much a Spirit of unity can come even as so many isolate from one another.

And how much we must re-reprioritize now and ever the means for life over the means of war. The means of preservation over the means of pollution. The availability of life-saving measures over the constant fueling of weapons of destruction. That the beleagured wind, land, and sky might survive us. As we seek to survive this global pandemic, I pray, too that our earth would endure well pastime my lifetime.

 

 

 

 

4.17.20 If the Shoe Fits

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I sort of run a bit sometimes while my children bike. On our route this morning, I looked down to see that I had managed to put on two different running shoes. It feels like a rather routine comical thing…except that it also captures a rather skeltered reality I imagine many of us are encountering in our social distancing.

Blessings as you face the split of trying to imagine what will be in the coming weeks and months and wanting to live into each moment…discerning ever how to put the right foot forward. Maybe you are trying something you don’t really like (running?) in order to keep up the motion and keep up with kiddos charging ahead.

Two different shoes weren’t so bad. Turns out, I can slow jog into what’s needed with whatever fits. We are doing it on many levels already. Here’s to some more days of getting out there on the road one way or another. Giving thanks for the joy that can come when things are off-balanced–especially when they can produce laughs among the little ones: “Mom, that is the silliest thing that has happened today for sure.”

 

4.16.20 High Tea

I feel pretty zapped at the end of the day, but want to post. If nothing else, I want to speak truth about how tiring some days feel. I can point to the uplifting times, while also admitting that I can’t wait to feel the restoration of sleep. I violated a major rule: only one baking project a day.

img_2876After family tree art, morning lessons, serving snack, making oatmeal cookies, making double chocolate chip banana bread, serving lunch, cleaning classroom and playroom, setting up and having “High Tea” for my son’s Montessori Class Adventure, trail walking, dinner making, email checking, phone call with church member, church announcement sending, and worship readying…hmmm. Yeah, two baking projects are too many!

My phone cut out just when I was going to get the perfect picture of my kids with chocolate all over their faces. Please know that it was adorable until the sibling rivalry crept in. Here’s what I did capture today–another tree day at my house when we dressed in green for the ocassion.

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For now. Restoration. Stretching. Tomorrow: enjoying the baking leftovers. May there be many such leftovers at your finger tips, friends. Giving thanks for the full days of adventure followed by exhalation.

4.14.20 Family Tree

This week we are learning about our family tree. My daughter has begun to fill in both sides of hers. We’ve enjoyed conversations with grandparents learning about their parents and their parents’ parents.

Trees were on my daughters’ mind as we visited our mandala spot and she came up with this design. She brought over fallen pine branches. She took turns pulling off pine and constructing these goddess trees and jumping in a giant puddle with her brother: “Look at this big muck!”

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That’s about right–equal parts beauty and muck over here in stay at home week five.

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Speaking of family, my mother-in-law was gracious enough to make us all masks, including Bridget the doll. I feel a well of gratitude… and am also sobered by the image of my kids wearing theirs.

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They seem like eerie images from some future museum exhibit on the global pandemic.

Giving thanks tonight to be able to socially distance and take precautions. Lifting all those out there disconnected from family, those on the frontlines of this crisis, and those otherwise feeling isolated in the muck. Giving thanks for the cleaner air we are breathing, for the trees who aid us in our living, and for the elders that share their gifts so lovingly with us.

4.13.20 Squall

img_2824After hearing about the tornado activity down South, I reached out to my brother. They are okay, but I was sorry to hear that Easter Sunday brought such devastation to many in rural communities there–especially in the midst of the deep challenges of pandemic.

Here in Maryland, Monday brought a tornado warning that had us eating our lunches in the basement.

Later, my daughter and I were in the living room as a storm swept up and we watched it through the windows. She was frightened by the sudden thunderous rain and hail. She had just learned the vocabulary word squall in the morning and she got to see it in action by afternoon!

It left me feeling windswept– a reminder of  the gales of Good Friday when we took kites out on the greens. Fierce winds followed Saturday.

I preached on Easter about the kite stuck in the tree Friday. We got the kite down, and it flew rather miraculously, but the tail is still entangled.

We are changed by the big storms. We’ll be different from all of this. I’m trusting in the words of resurrection to meet the strange squalls–from Friedrich Buechner: “Resurrection means that the worst thing is never the last thing.”

The skies are gray now into dusk, but they won’t always be so. Thoughts flow to all those in the eye of the storm as another day winds down at the start of Eastertide.