Thirsty work and trees

The water had been boiling for a time. A long time. Longer than I had anticipated. Much longer than I was prepared for. And ridiculously long for an early morning. 

The window pane for my ideal Instagram of camping coffee in an understated PNW mug held in my hand over a snapping campfire with the morning sun rising between beyond blurry tall pines and cedars was rapidly closing. It was about to hit my fingers.

Hard. I felt something like panic, I had to get this, now.

“Can I please borrow your phone camera?” I pleaded. First, with the manners.

Then, when my son wasn’t fast enough, “Give me your phone! I don’t have mine! It’s somewhere polluting Granite Falls! I need to take this picture. Again. Because I lost the first one and all my other pictures!!” 

“Ok, fine Mom.” Perfect eye-roll with unaffected teen response, I noted. Nice work, Haden.

It felt like an imposter. The whole setup, picture, timing, but in the end I got the shot. Just not the one I longed for.

Instagram has only heightened and deepened my love of all things outdoors since I signed in with my first picture. I joined fairly early on, and expected it to be only for serious artists. So I played by those expectations. It’s still what I love best about it. But along the way others joined, saw it’s potential to fill an unmet need in the social community conversation, and it changed.

Still. It took me time to adjust. Now I just navigate around a little bit differently than before, follow my passions, skip over the accounts that aren’t speaking to where I’m at, and find my own community among similar minds. But I can appreciate some of what others use it for.

Some days I get so discouraged. I have so many things to say, to write, to have someone interested to hear and talk through with me. But what I may want or need for those desires to be filled isn’t always available, or available when. 

Other things come first, second. Others need too, and not at convenient times for my plans. I’m aware I cannot meet all of their needs, or even be who or what they require, but I can’t ignore their presence. That’s not the way I’m built.

While camping that morning I was content for some time to watch the steam rise around the pot of water, to listen to the flames.  But when I was ready for my cup of caffeine, finally checking on the water only to find it still and cool, that calm morning content flamed to white hot urgency. What I wanted most was going to be delayed. 

I like, no love, to watch a really engaging, well told documentary. I finally watched “Barista”, which follows several baristas and their journey to the National Brewing Competition. I had resisted watching it for some time, putting it in a ‘to watch on a night I can’t find anything else’ category. Partly because I like to think I know about coffee, and I have a former barista in the family, so, you know, I’m an expert.

What I expected to be potentionaly uninteresting, brewing a cup of coffee, was transformed when viewed through the lens of the people brewing that cup. Different brewing produces different coffee. Different water produces different coffee. Different vessels for drinking also, guess what. For real. A coffee is a coffee is not true.

Of all the factors, grinders, beans, and water, the key was passion. For these few, this is well beyond interest or income, it is a calling. They found a way to express their creativity with their gifts, and for them, whether or not they might get around to indulging their passion this week or next is a non-issue. This is their life, to give life to something they see a bit differently than the rest of us do.

I have had thoughts brewing-taking as long to percolate as that pot of water. Time and struggles had taken a toll on my ability to put those cramped and begging words on paper.  

It can be an unfamiliar thing to share those thoughts-those brewing, flavorful thoughts that hold such promise, like the aroma of coffee over cracking campfire.

But they wouldn’t leave me alone this time. The words woke me up, dragged my body to sharpened pencil and open page, stood behind me, raised eyebrows and said, “Now.”

Those words, like the brewed coffee, may not always be as rewarding to pour out, or after awaiting a welcome sip, lips on a mug testing the temperature, to find an unexpected taste…more acidic or bold, maybe grittier than meant. 

What I started writing this morning has turned out to have a message all its’ own;  it was written in pieces, some from pages scribbled on my camping trip journal, some when I was feeling confident, sassy and like a writer, and others came in slow rolling spurts, after scouring my mind and spirit with a steel wool pad of reality. 

I like that, having the taste altered from my daily blend grind.

I did finally get that cup of coffee at our campsite.

I found that while the flames were burning bright and wide, they weren’t reaching up to make contact with the metal of the pot. Once I built a firewood tent, the new flames caught on quickly and within seconds were licking the water into boiling bubbles.
All this coffee talk is making me really thirsty.

I’m going to need to satisfy this craving.

We each used to independently call our own shots, but then we entered into a large and integrated life in which HE has the final say in everything. (This is what we proclaimed in word and action when we were baptized.) Each of us is now a part of his resurrection body, refreshed and sustained at one fountain. His Spirit–where we all come to drink. The old labels we once used to identify ourselves-labels like Jew or Greek, slave or free are no longer useful. We need something larger, more comprehensive. I want you to think about how all this makes you more significant, not less…….1 Corinthians 12:12

Camp(ing) People

This week I’ve been to summer camp in North Idaho twice. Well, sort of.

Last Sunday, the one before, you know, yesterday, my family and I set off in our heavily loaded PNW van for Priest Lake, Idaho.

This is what usually happens by August in our “family summer planning”.  I look over the compiled lists of activities that my boys (13, 10 and almost 8) really thought sounded fun in June. I then wield my sharpie and in as kind and yet seriously burnt out mindset as possibly I can muster, cross of swaths of things that we (kind of) completed.

That means that I have for the ‘nth year running started the summer as amazing cool summer mom, piled as much summer fun as I could into the first eight or so weeks to make the boys think we are doing a ton, and then, having reached the deadline of about three weeks before back to school, curse, and then quick plan (throw together) the last top three things I promised we would get to this year.

We didn’t get to go “real” camping last summer due to across the west wild fires, so that was going to be a thing. Also, a day at Lake Coeur d’ Alene, a sweet idea begun when the boys were small and sweet that meant an hour at the waterfront in the sand before packing everything back up to go the hour back to Spokane, and now means an afternoon at the lake and a trip to Pilgrims Natural Foods obstensibly for groceries, really ice cream.  And then, last and least (fun, cost effective, and/or worth my time) Silverwood Theme Park.

It was driving me crazy for a few days when I couldn’t fit the puzzle pieces that were our days left before Mark went back to school (teacher) and days open at (any) North Idaho camping lake.  My oldest had requested a lake this year, the two or three times we’d gone before had been at Bowl and Pitcher, Riverside State Park on the Spokane River, one of the most beautiful spots I know. He had a point, though, and convinced me quickly by saying they and the dog would have way more to do with a lake to swim in “all the time”.

I put much time and effort and heart into most anything I do, as well as some major unrealistic expectations or never-going-to-happen-dream/thought sequences in my head as I plan and pack and pack some more. So you can imagine what it felt like for me to hear not once, from my husband, but twice, then repeated by my teen,

“Why did you pack so much stuff? Are we going to be gone for a week??”

I was still floating on the reserves of the picture perfect beach day we’d managed two days ago to Coeur d’ Alene, so was remarkably able to still talk myself into going on said camping trip with family instead of, at that point, staying home while they plus dog embarked on a trip to remember.

Once I’d finally Tetrised our August into place, a peace settled on me. Kind of like the calm before the storm.

Priest Lake Luby Bay campground won because of key words like “family friendly”, at least until my family arrived; “dogs allowed”, at least until our dog arrived; and “fishing available”, but only apparently if you have a boat. And we do not. So, yet again, inexperience killed Haden’s life long dream of being a fisherman.

I’d like to say that tent camping and cooking over an open fire pit is special bonding time. So, I’m going to say it. And it was, after the fact, everything I had hoped to have my children suffer through. Those times make the best stories.

And by those times I mean as follows; moments of sleep night one in between dog chasing shadows, nosing his way out of tent and winding himself around several trees-more than once; my teen finding that indeed our campsite had adequate wi-fi, thus ending my ‘little house on the prairie’ dreams (which Haden said sounded like a boring, stupid show); finding zero fishing spots for Haden, because all sites on the side of the lake we were on did not have docks; and me not finding the cooling burn pads I packed after looking for a half-hour when Liam roasted his fingers on the marshmallow skewer, and then finding them the next morning, inexplicably under the van??

The second, and last, night of camping, our boys tired enough to sleep, I found time to read in my tent by the light of my headlamp, that sweet enveloping of the night around me like a blanket.

I tried to fall asleep after but so much had happened in the hours of daylight behind; and every time I closed my eyes I saw across the tent flap door shadows playing with light, a flashlight to the ceiling and animals made with small fingers and hands dancing across the screen above my littlest boy Finn’s sleeping bag.

Awake, I dug for a pencil and found my notebook to write out of my head the story I had been trying to tell all day long-only in the deep dark of forested night did I begin to wonder if this story was telling me something.

The place I most longed to see on this trip up north turned out to be a place that saw me in a rather stunning turn of events.

The Roosevelt Ancient Cedar Grove leapt out at me while reading up on where-tos for our journey. Ancient trees? Old growth forests? And Teddy’s name as part of saving this bit of land? Be still my National Parks/Forests heart! The other spot, Granite Falls, an upper and lower waterfall, with the trailhead only 365 feet from the waterfall? I knew my boys could get behind that kind of hike and I could soak in the water, sun, forest with nominal complaints and whining to pack out with us.

When we arrived at the Roosevelt site, we quickly discovered that this was a two for one deal-with a bonus of two signs telling of the HISTORICAL IMPORTANCE OF THIS PLACE.

Our thirsty pointer-black-lab led my boys up the trail before I realized we were already upon the lower Granite falls, the sounds only a few steps up the hill reeled us in, the bait, bubbling, rushing, gurgling, gorgeous water tumbling gravity’s course. Handing my husband Rudy’s leash, I quickly, but carefully followed my three boys.

We were all joy, mountain-goating up and over rocks, across logs, climbing wildflower filled cracked stone and jutting granite walls. I met my boys in various stages of nimble climbing and discovering, and continued up, I hoped, carefully treading my own precipitous path up the irresistible further.

Snappy quick photo-ready shots of impossibly angled walls that had pushed and ground against plates to stand still then for eons, an echo of such violent becoming became my inspiration. And that sky! I climbed as far up the falls to its almost source as I dared before turning around; was it around the next rock? Tree? Where is everyone?

Realizing I had pushed to my knowledge-edge of this wild place, I knew I needed to retreat to what was waiting for me down the falls instead of the never going to end prone to wander and ponder beyond.

Just one more picture, to try and capture the wild beauty of this place I didn’t want to leave.

Balancing my IPhone in one hand, then tiptoeing as closely to the slick rock edge where water meets my shoes to capture the perfect rushing pulsing glacial torrent just beyond my feet selfie, and while I turn to spot the tree behind me to grab and inch to safety, I see tiny pine cones to grab in picture form, and proceed to execute a hand to hand transfer of my IPhone to secure the shot–

That was where my creative wings flew too close to that brilliant sun shining so alluringly through old growth limbs, casting an ethereal light on boulders and moss, plucky and brave flowers standing strong in their aloneness….the thing is, while these thoughts fly through my head, my body takes a slow motion downward spin, and grabbing the not quite adult tree to keep from tumbling down the upper falls, I see, not quite believing, my IPhone leave my opening hand and disappear in a particularly stunning and strong flow of whitewater falls.

In that instant, my emotions all jumbled, my senses heightened from my body’s fight or flight response, my thoughts tried to reconcile with my stunned brain that all the gloriously conceived and realized photos of the past 14 hours of our trip were gone.

I took in a quick breath, and with it, the messy cluster of situations that was now my story.

It must have taken half a second, but in that speed of light moment, all I knew was that what while I had saved myself a fall down the falls by grabbing the tree I had wanted to capture an instant memory of, my other hand was grasping the space where a literal second ago most of my recent memories were held.

Trudging down the granite I found that surprisingly I wasn’t angry or all that upset-at myself, or the water, or my lack of luck. In fact, I was so strongly affected by how the beauty of the falls made me feel, at peace, it almost didn’t matter that I’d just lost a piece of my day to day.

Reaching my boys first, I told the story, they relayed it to Mark, and I took Rudy on his leash back to the lower falls, took off my shoes and gave my feet to the freezing tumble of water. The water sparkled, Rudy splashed, my boys climbed with new muscles.

Today we were camp people again. This time at a camp on the old Marine Route, Mica Bay, on Lake Coeur D’ Alene, Idaho. It is a place that often many people, and myself, have only managed to describe as “there’s just something about this place.”

I saw that something fleshed out today in a family of about 700 plus people, gathered at the top of camp to celebrate seventy years of campers, counselors, staff members, family and friends.

The wind that blew there today was much calmer and more playful than it was the blustery, determined day before. It picked up voices singing together on it’s breezes, carried conversations and laughter to share across camp, and encouraged bubbles and quilted flags to dance in the wind.

Pictures were taken of people reunited, and reunions were created over photo books of pictures spanning seventy years of a lifetime of this place. I found a few pictures that told part of my story, and learned some new stories by listening to people who found photos of theirs.

Camp Lutherhaven is one of my favorite places on earth, and today it made it my heart full; with the joy of spending time with people I was blessed to be with, and with real sadness for not getting to spend time with some I’d hoped to.

That is what camp and camping is, though. A place to be. A place to build up. To connect to others, to connect your dots, your stories.

To share and love and forgive and still love after all the messiness of being human. To learn again to hope.

I’m forever grateful for the way that Lutherhaven is that compassionate and accepting place, living love out loud.

And that is often what my summers end up being when August winds it’s way down, and the sun burns brighter but goes down a little earlier each day, and rises a bit later each morning, bringing with it a cool scent that carries change.

We do some things we’ve planned, scrap some ideas that don’t come together, finish the hard things we’ve started, and hopefully have more of what matters most, side by side time, longer conversations, space to breath, a place to rebuild hope.

The bookends of my week reminded me how much I love being a camping person and a camp person.

And while I didn’t get to say goodbye to my IPhone (though I did say a lovely eulogy before we left Granite Falls, as well as apologized for contaminating the pure waters), I hope that I never really have to say goodbyes to either the places I camp, to the Camp I love to be at, or especially the people in my paths on my journeys.

Those are conversations and doors I hope are always open.

dark light


There is a valley in the deepest part

Of the lonely road where we must end and start

Tell me you are there and I will come to you

This is where He makes all old things new


He is…..He is…..


Even in the dark He is there with you

Let me shine a light so you see too

God you are my last chance of this day

I will spend the night on my knees and pray


He is….He is….


I can’t find my way out of here

Blinded by tears and pain and all these fears

I could not begin to count your thoughts of me

Any more than I could count the sands of the sea….


He is…..He is…..


With you in the night I’m immersed in light

Let me rise with you in the morning bright (repeat)


You are…..You are….

You are.

-Hollie E.

Words written 4/20/16

music written 4/20 & 5/16/16

Psalm 91

April Fool’s Day (no joke)

I wrote this 365 days ago. Happy April, and may your pranks be few!


I’m really a fun person. Funny, (at least I think at times), fun, almost always up for fun, love to laugh, love watching (what I think are) funny movies, tv shows, etc. and love kids because they make me laugh every day.

I put in that disclaimer, because what I am about to say will seem to contradict myself.

I just don’t like April Fool’s Day.

Well, to be precise, I like some of what occurs, and dislike most of what happens.

And the dislikes I have far outweigh the likes.

Maybe I haven’t seen or been party to a good enough prank.  This is not an invitation.

When I was a junior in high school, my friend and math tutor, Neil, always liked to pull this one on me.

“Hollie, did you know that guillable isn’t in the dictionary.”

Me, being trusting and sweet and believing in my friend would say, “Oh, wow, I didn’t know that.”

I’m pretty sure this only happened once. Except I think it may have happened twice.

Whatever.  That may have been the extent of my experiences on April Fool’s.

Yesterday afternoon, I took my three boys (all strong supporters of pranks to other people) to get frozen yogurt.  My sister and nephew met us there. As we ate our cool concoctions, I said, as a caring, kind mom,

“Oh yeah, you guys better be suspicious of all of your ‘friends’ tomorrow!”.

And then my middle son, who is a third grader, said, “Oh, man, I was hoping Haden wouldn’t remember it’s April Fool’s Day!”

And then my oldest son, who is a sixth grade, said, “Oh, I totally forgot tomorrow is April Fool’s Day!! I’ll have to pour water on their heads (two younger brothers) at midnight!”

My youngest, a Kindergardner, and my nephew, two and a half, continued to scoop out their frozen treats and talk in a language I wish I knew, innocent to the next day’s looming and annoying possibilities.

Well, Haden’s midnight prank didn’t happen, thanks to the fact that Haden is a pre-teen and sleeps deeply.  And I hope Liam slept okay.
I said nothing this morning as they headed to the bus stop.  Also, I forgot that it was April 1st. I was reminded when I popped onto FaceBook this morning, and saw a couple of posts: One was clearly a hoax post; another was a birthday wish from her sister to my neighbor, Jen.

And guess what, I didn’t trust that it was her birthday.  Because I know her sister.

So I just asked Jen at the bus-stop, “Is it really your birthday??”  She acknowledged that it was.  And she said in essence, it stinks having a birthday on April 1st.

I. Can. Imagine.  If you take any kind, trusting and generally sensitive person and prank them on every birthday, you’re going to get a girl (or boy) who dreads their birthday.  Nice job family and friends.

“Yeah, I’ve gotton cakes made out of real sponges, birthday presents filled with bricks; I’ve been anxious for two weeks, telling my husband I don’t want a surprise party!!!”

She’s also half way through her pregnancy.  So, people, have some compassion.  Not all of us like your stupid jokes.

I ‘d never looked up the origins of this ‘faux-olidy’ (try to say it, I’m not sure it works, but if it does, I want credit).  So that’s what I just did.  I googled and visited three sites, all of varying authenticity (yep, I didn’t even trust the sites) and found that in general, April Fool’s Day has been ‘celebrated’ worldwide for about forever.  And there is no real evidence of the origins.

So, five minutes I could have instead been on Pinterest, wasted. That research didn’t clear up anything for me.

The sites did list some of the major all time hoaxes pulled by companies etc.  And then shared a few time honored traditions in some European countries.

In Italy, France, Belgium, and French-speaking areas of Switzerland and Canada, 1 April tradition is often known as “April fish” (poissons d’avril in French or pesce d’aprile in Italian). This includes attempting to attach a paper fish to the victim’s back without being noticed. Such fish feature prominently on many late 19th- to early 20th-century French April Fools’ Day postcards. (
That was the one that ended my fledgeling look into April Fool’s.  And reinforced why I still don’t have a fondness for France.  That is the lamest prank I have ever heard of.

After extensive soul searching and exhaustive research (doesn’t take much for a useless holiday), I have decided:

That I still hate April Fool’s Day.

I’m glad you may enjoy this day, that you find humor in different places than I do, and that you may make the best of it by making elaborate faux-food food that you found on Pinterest. (I’ve pinned a ton).  Just know that not everyone shares your enthusiasm.

So, I offer you some unasked for adivce. Consider your audience, or consider pulling a nice prank (is that possible?), after all, it’s not the sixteenth century anymore. And remember, it’s the prank puller, not the victim who looks like a fool.

I will leave you with a podcast of someone who makes me laugh (and helped me laugh last week in the hospital), John Oliver of Last Night This Week. (rated R for language.  Still makes me laugh).

April Fool’s Day #noprankpledge
Since I cannot in good conscience wish you a Happy April Fool’s Day, I instead wish you Happy April 1st, that is alot like yesterday and probably mostly like tomorrow too.

And Jen, Happy Birthday!  I hope all of your wishes are granted, and your birthday shines brighter than a stupid antiquated tradition.  You’re worth it!!

Not In Love


It is February 4, 2016.

I am laminating loads of conversation heart papers for my preschoolers to use next week to give them an opportunity to work on their colors, letters, counting, and most likely, eating their weight in “Be mine” and “UR Cool”.

It’s a very soothing and satisfying, slightly mindless activity, laminating, which led me to my first love-Pintrest. Checking out my boards, I found a blog post from last year, and started reading.  Looking at my home page, it appears that I haven’t blogged since November, which can’t be true, but it is.

I have written a year’s worth of posts in my head, in snippets and lines, most forgotten before I found paper, pencil, I-Product. And when I have had the clock time to write, words have been nowhere I could find them.

So, to get a post up, I am sharing what I wrote a year ago. Even with a small edit, and though I am a year changed,  I still find my heart beats in the space of these words.


You might think, if you knew me, that Valentines Day would be my favorite. Hearts, love notes, sonnets, pink, cute puns, a day dedicated to expressions of love?

Well, it is not my favorite. And, in fact, Valentine’s Day is the worst.

There were two Valentine Days I could say were perfect; I was perfectly happy, perfectly settled, perfectly content.

Eighteen years old. 1991. Secure in myself, no pressure romantically or socially, that day was just one of those charmed days when my mind didn’t mess with me and my heart was beating steady.

What I remember from that day? Coming home from school earlier than my sisters (somehow), popping in a VHS of The Little Mermaid, swiveling the newest model wood encased TV on its base toward my seat,and singing along with my girl Ariel. Also, the sun was streaming through the slider doors, just as it should have.

At eighteen I was still the definition of a hopeless romantic, and Disney, much less Hollywood, did NOTHING to disabuse me of this state.

Thirty three years old. 2006. I hold a snapshot in my head from that Valentine’s Day of me holding my two month old sweetheart Liam (he really is a sweetie), an almost three-year old Haden with a mischievous smile and holding a heart balloon (he really is mischievous) and my parents smiling, holding Haden, with the humming of the coffee shop filling the background.

We were all smiling, laughing at some forgotten something one of us said. And I am happy. Blissfully content and happy. At thirty-three, I was still a romantic, perhaps not hopeless, since life and time and love will dull the shiny exterior that lures us to the fantasy for sale.

I’d then been living with a heart filling new kind of love for three years, that of the love of a child, and that love, it’s all-consuming and you don’t come out the other side of that unchanged.

Those other forty Valentines days?

Of course I remember decorating shoe boxes with construction paper and stickers to catch classmates scribbled Valentines. And I remember plenty of hopeless without the romantic part teenage and early twenties Valentine’s Days whiled away watching Say Anything, Sleepless in Seattle, When Harry Met Sally and consuming cheap chocolate by the pound.

Also, chocolate. Chocolate has always been a part of every Valentines Day. And can I just say, what did I do before sea salt and chocolate exchanged vows?!? Now that’s a perfect union.

There have also been some pretty awful Valentines Days. I can confidently claim that each of those was due to crazy unrealistic and/or dreamy expectations. Expectations fueled by A. Sleep deprivation. B. Love languages lost in translation. C. Comparison, the root of all discontent. D. Depression/Anxiety/PMDD/PPD.

I can see that now, it’s always clear when you have your bearings and are on the other side of the storm. But those are the Valentines Days that I look at with the most love for…me.

Many of the others are love notes that fill my shoe box full, of people and stories gathered along the way.

But those painfully sharp, and foggy hazed Valentines days? Those are the times that pushed this heart to its very borders.

And then, stretched it.

I love cards, typography, design, a clever turn of phrase; thus, I have an extensive (slightly expensive) collection of perfect cards for every occasion. I learned about writing letters and cards from my grandmas, who sent them to me. And from my mom, who sent them to anyone who needed one.

So in my love/hate relationship with the holiday, if there is something that still attracts me to Valentine’s Day, it would be the words.

Words. In the wrong hands, they’d can be weapons wielded, and we all know the stinging wound that an unkind word or turn of phrase can leave. Or often, the even more painful cut of word unspoken.

But in the right hands, well. The perfect words spoken or recieved at the ideal moment can change the course of our heart’s trajectory.

There have been many ways I’ve tried to fill in the blank space that my heart became every February 14. And with all of the usual suspects.

Flowers are beautiful, but they lose their blush, and wilt and die in a couple of days. Not really an effective illustration of true love.

Chocolate is sweet, but it’s heady pleasure melts as quickly as a birthday candle, its absence felt all the stronger.

Love stories are heart warming and meaningful, usually to those invovled. I do so love a love story.

But if not careful, I become hugely disappointed at the ending because while “they” get to have a happy ending, literally, I am left frustrated and feeling less than by comparison. I become entangled in the pages and scenes on the screen and buy into a narrative that is not my own.

And then there is Cupid. Cupid is creepy.

Yes, I know the St. valentine connection. And that is what gives this holiday hijacked by humans with hearts of varying shapes and sizes any chance to survive.

I shared my confused heart with my husband and a few close friends this fall. I decided to give up. It was clear to me, even in my crisis, that I did not know how to love. I love this person too much, and this one not enough. That one so well and then that one so wrong.

The question for me has never been, Am I capable of love?”

The answer to the equation I had been working for all along was, “Am I worthy of love?”

You can get so caught up in playing the game of love, so wrapped up in the X’s and O’s of the game plan for relationship, that you can become completely unaware of who you are playing for, who you are playing with, of your very own heart.

The decision to give up on Valentines Day is one of the best choices I’ve ever made.

Will I decorate with hearts and send cards to all the different people I love in unique ways?

Will I hunt down and consume the best Sea Salted Chocolate I can find?

Will I put on a Throwback Thursday Epic Love Song Spotify Playlist?

Are we seriously even debating any of this? Time After Time. After Time.

The simple and completely confounding truth is that I found Love. I’ve always known about Love, my whole life in fact. I’ve invited Love in to live with me. Have even had times in my life when I loved the way Love does.

But the thing is, that was on my terms, kept just far enough away with cleverly constructed boundaries so that I couldn’t fully feel True Love.

If you can’t, don’t, will not fully let Love in, you will suffer.

You get hurt in life, yes. People will miss the mark, misunderstand, misinform you.

You will hurt, let down and do the opposite of love to others.

Human love is finite and has a limited vocabulary, and many broken hearts lie on the path to Love.

But come closer. and listen to my voice very carefully. Love. Found. Me. Love. True, unbound, wild, all consuming, undeniable, pursuing, translating, relentless Love found me. Knocked down my flimsily built barriers, took away my weak resistance, and made me look in the mirror and open my eyes to see…Love.

When Love captures you, and you surrender, it feels nothing like losing, and everything like winning.

All those lonely years, waiting on someone to rescue me from my castle tower, I thought that winning love, being loved had to do with my effort. My beauty. My perfection.

And when I finally, finally, last autumn, walked myself out of that fortress and bravely stepped out into the open wide light and laid my weapons down, and gave up-I found out that I had had the equation all wrong.

It wasn’t about me being In love. It never was.

It was, is, and always will be about this-whether I love well, love enough,have happy endings or not, Love never fails.

And finding yourself at the end of this search, this Love story only means that you are at the beginning.

So, give up.



A Disaster, Naturally

It’s not so much the encompassing dark. Or the bitter cold that seeps into every crevice and bone. Beyond that, it is the uncertainty that steals in with every breath and drags behind with every step.

It is Thanksgiving. And nine days ago, my city, and surrounding areas, was devastated by a wind storm with hurricane force winds that would not release their grip until nearly every street and neighborhood received its fair share of destruction.

The weather forecast said high wind advisory, and at a cursory glance, which truth be told is what many of us have time for, it looked like we’d be in for a gusty and cold November day, best spent at home cozy and cuddled with family and pets.

I didn’t have time to waste, and so after leaving my classroom, I ran my errands to the grocery store and then headed to the library to look for a few books to capture my boys attention, and one for me to fall into.

I don’t know who else in the library knew the storm was growing ferocious in its hunger, I only know my first clue was when the power flicked off and then on again. But that happens around here. Or at least, the way it used to happen was that the Inland Northwest would get storms, here and there, punctuated every decade or so by a major storm, worthy of claiming a “name”.

We had a system. And it was predictable. If you were one who grew up in one place, let’s say in the decades from the 50’s to the new millennium, you experienced the environment and seasons, and through most of those formative years, you could safely assume that you were in general, an expert on your climate.

Having the picture book perfect equivalent of four seasons framing my childhood most certainly formed me, and while spending my traveling twenties with my feet on places other than this soil, spoiled forever the notion of landing permanently anywhere else but here.

Cities and geographic spots on the map give a point of reference for where and maybe, what a place may be. It is the people who dot that landscape though who write out the definition for how and why and who.

People on the east side of this state and the basically extended-by-marriage-family in the adjoining panhandle may possess many characterisitcs, but do not forget this; when “it” comes down-they are hardcore compassionate and passionate community.

We used to be able to claim that we here in the Inland Empire, as we referred to ourselves, had no natural disasters. No earthquakes, no tornados, hurricanes-please. Far enough from mountain chains and coastal reaches, we won “Mr. Predictability” hands down, for decades.

Until the earth shook and rolled that title away. In the late nineties, we had what I could recall was our first felt earthquake- and it woke me up, out of bed. A few years later we had our very own baby tornado roll through the West Plains, not far from where I grew up.

In Spokane, it is a fact that there is only two degrees of separation between aquaintnaces. In some parts of town, that narrows even further, and the longer you live here, or are from “around” here as we lovingly like to say, you learn to be careful what you say to who.

However, When it comes to comparing weather events, in an effort to make sense of what we’ve just lived through, this closeness of contacts is a shorthand to friendship and neighborliness. Ice storm was in ’96, right? We’ve confirmed with each other. And firestorm was – ?, right?. I remember we were, or I was, or they were during that ten day power outage, snowed in during that storm, evacuated during that fire.

We need to know in the midst of an unbelievably destructive event that we’ve done this before. Someone has made it through. Years have softened the sharp memories of dark, cold, fire, fear.

What I’ve been struggling with this week, has as much to do with my personal identity as my community identity-and I can see how much one is of the other. Our power went out around 6:30 Tuesday evening, by then we realized that this storm was bigger than we knew, and bigger than us. I was in bed, in blankets already, and soon after, my three boys were there with me too, which was sweet and cozy for about 10 minutes, when we needed to conserve our phones and tablets and flashlights batteries, and so tucked everyone into their own beds for a restless nights sleep.

What happened in the late afternoon that day and into the dark early evening was the worst of disasters that Spokane has seen in remembered history. It became clear in the weak late fall light of morning that all was not well, and as we searched the neighborhood, as others searched their homes and streets and roads and parks, that this storms toll was on a scale unlike any we’d ever measured on.

I went back to bed shortly after I came downstairs, dismayed and sick by the scene of our neighbors home, five trees laid across their home, fence, shed and property like a cruel game of giant pick up sticks.

I felt helpless. It took until days later, after the power was on and a warm talk with my sister by a fire lit purely for cheer to dredge out the complex emotions that had weighed me down, numbed me and accompanied me as I took our three boys and bags of food up to my parents home of refuge for two nights and two days.

I cleared the debris; the branches of powerlessness (electrical and spiritual); of countless pine needles of guilt for not knowing how or who to help, pricking every step I made; fallen trees as heavy as my fear of the shadow of evergreens fencing my back yard became menacing when all was dark; and the panes of glass painted with dust and ash and rain as clouded with uncertainty as my thoughts were: about when would our power return, why did this happen to my city, my people, who was suffering worse than I, how safe would my husband and our dog be in the deep dark, sleeping by a fire stoked to keep the pipes from freezing, while people sick with whatever drove them were breaking into homes down my very street.

That Tuesday night, after the storm, I looked out my window, scanning our completely darkened street. No street lights, no house lights, no windows warm with a glow from within. The only light was in the clear sky. Clouds had been pushed away by the winds, and all that was left was a twinkling landscape, a sight for eyes already weary of dark.

As homes regained power, in a patchwork quilt as seemingly as random as the outages spotted our city, slowly the story began to emerge. This is the place we live now, in this time- where our dependency (and in so many ways, posotive) on our technology has found a place in every meaningful part of our days. You discover this when you are cut off from the grid that powers your life. The stark and bare reality is that the sources for our power simply are exceeded by our demands.

Some families just had their power restored Tuesday evening. There are still homes, at least 5,000 by last count, without. At one point last week, nearly 300,000 homes in this area were without power. Our city’s population was either staying with someone who had power or hosting someone who had lost it. Information about places further than a mile from where you lived seemed irrelevant. Every neighborhood was struggling with what they could bear. Every family was doing what they could to cope or help someone else to cope.

Everyone did the best they could.

That was the grace I finally allowed myself the day after our power was restored. You see, people in this place feel much for others and not always much for themselves. Those who never lost power have some measure of guilt. But they didn’t choose to get to keep their lights on. None of us got a say in what homes would be damaged, our how long our spaces would uninhabitable. Still, the guilt persists. We still have much of our hard-working, physical-demanding, Midwest-demonitonal, settler-hero-history-past mentality that dogs us.

And while that has seen us through countless storms of ages ago, we are not the same city as then. Whatever we carry and treasure as methods of coping, or traits of resiliency can be powerful tools to carry our community from this storm. Because things are not the same.

Now, I live somewhere that has natural disasters. Maybe yearly. Maybe cyclically. My four seasons aren’t predictable anymore and the climate isn’t one I can count on.

Two weekends ago, my parents took my two oldest boys to buy them new bikes for early Christmas presents. When they returned, they left my boys happily changing gears and braking around our cul d sac. While my mom and dad were sharing their adventure (and any shopping trip with my boys is just that), she said after I thanked them,

“Well, we figured it was as good a time as any to get their bikes so that they can ride them during the winter.” She paused and looked out the window. “We”, she glanced at my dad, “we never used to even dream we’d ride our bikes in the winter. There was always snow. Too much snow for that. Things are different now.” We all settled into the moment, in the small space between past and present and future. And while for me, and maybe them, it was sad to lose what we knew, I felt a flicker of warmth and comfort because we shared it together. In common.

In community.

Why Am I Doing This Right Now??

-I clicked on my MessyJoyfull blog for the first time in a couple weeks, and was greeted with a Happy Anniversary! So it’s today, I had thought it was coming up soon, and here it is! So to celebrate my blogoversary I decided to take it easy and repost my very first post on Messy Joyfull. Thank you for reading one, two or all of these posts, this is one of my favorite places to be☕️.

I had a blog already, actually two, on a different site, from a different time.  I’d given up to tell the truth.  The first blog was for business, and I learned that I loved writing that way.  I’ve never been conventional, so having a (blog)spot to write what I wanted in my own way, that was liberating.  

The second blog, it was an attempt to move on from my first foray into the blogosphere, which being so overhwelmingly large it scared me a bit. Actually a lot.

You see, on the second blog, I was completely free to write from my own perspective, without editing for business, for who was reading, or for what I needed to be very careful of: expressing anything too edgy or crazy.  It was hard and painful. I wrote haltingly, still trying to figure out who I was after I gave up my business, my identity.  And what in the world I was going to do next.  

Eventually during that year-ish period of time, I fell into a deep, dark place, and when it swallowed me, I had no words left to write.  So I gave up.

Now, I have unwittingly started a new blog.  That’s not to say I haven’t been jonesing to write, itching to get the words out of my head and onto~somewhere for the past half a year.  I’m not a super disciplined, scheduled, productive sort of creator.  I like to think that I am, however the past year has taught me to take a real look and embrace who I am, not who I think I am supposed to be. 

All this to say, I put off doing what I really wanted to do because.  I’m scared.  You know how when you love something or someone with all of your being how it can make you mind-blowingly panic-stricken to express it?

The way I started writing this, today, at 8 p.m. on a Saturday night, doesn’t really surprise me in retrospect. 

During the past week I hung out at a summer camp, a phenomenal one at that.  I really needed to be there to make sure my eleven year old son had safe food to eat for twenty meals, without burdening an entire camp staff.  He has two categories of life threatening food allergies and three others that are still high enough to cause a bad reaction.  So all the while getting ready, purchasing, packing, and planning, I assumed I was going there to help him, and then in my free time help everyone else there.  

Cue the music, this is where I would find out that I was completely wrong.  Wrong about my good intentions and assumptions, again.  In the back of my brain, I knew I was burying some painful stuff under the “very important and big project” I was taking on.  But that’s the thing about burying, you can forget where you tried to hide it.

What happened?  I found myself, not for the first time in my life, or year, stunned by God’s grace and mercy.  There is no way I could have held it together under the incredible barrage of goodness, love, joy, peace, caring, and kindness that assaulted me while I was there.  There are times God works His truth into me gently, and I get it right away.  But that’s when I’m transparent and open, and I was not both of those when I arrived at camp.  

I cannot condense a powerful week into a paragraph, I’m not sure that I need to yet.  What I do know is this.  God used every weapon in his arsenal to convince me that I am of worth

Regardless. Without condition.  And if you have ever truly felt that, even for a fleeting moment, really sensed your value to the Creator, then you know that it is about much more than just self-confidence, or purpose, or an item checked off of a very unattainable “be a good Christian” list.

Just about an hour after leaving camp, turning onto the last major street that makes it way to my neighborhood, I started crying.  A deep welling up from everywhere, can’t hold back the tears cry.  I tried to do it silently, since my son was in the back seat, ready to be home, already please!  As I put the van into park, I told my husband that I needed a minute.  And then the rains fell.  I just cried it all out.  While putting the food away. And showering the lake out of my hair.  Then, while trying to journal all the moments from the week that God gifted me with.  I fell asleep at 6:30 and slept until dawn, held in the arms of my Father.

Am I all fixed up? Is everything back to “normal”?  No way.  I’m not even sure where to begin sorting out the pile of emotional debris that appeared after my walls crumbled into dust.  

The transition from awesomeland to home wiped me. I was whole body tired today.  It was a good pajama day.  But restlessness joined the party by mid-afternoon, and knowing my son was missing camp too (another gift),  I told my husband that my son and I needed to be by water and trees, with our dog.  

That time was the healing balm to my day.  The rushing river drowned out the pressing voices of my emotional to-do list.  The trees gave my heart shelter, in a way that no house can.  Seeing our dog and boys play in the river brought laughter back to my lips.

So, how did I end up here, making up a new blog name and writing a post? 

During the week at camp, I was super gifted with new and new again friendships, so I agreed to get back on Facebook to be able to continue to connect.  As checking Facebook goes, I started reading a WordPress blog that found written by one of those friends.  I didn’t even know it existed, and it’s really good. All I wanted to do was press the teeny, tiny star “like” button on a couple of the posts, which I couldn’t do seemingly, without becoming a WordPress girl. Technology and I have a difficult relationship, so I figured I was motivated when I continued to press on, despite many do-overs and then, an ill-timed thunderstorm and power outage… 

What had seemed like a quick storm turned into a hail throwing, rain driving, wind gusting thunderstorm that left most of Spokane, especially the north side, again, with a forest of pine trees down and without power for the second time in as many weeks.  I’m starting to think we live in the epicenter of some major ancient storm meeting place.  Thankful I hadn’t the energy to unpack, I pulled out my flashlight and reading light, and went to sleep early.  Kind of like being on camp time.

I woke to the pale light of dawn (I know, I’m becoming so in tune with nature now, right?), disoriented without the sounds of modernity humming all around, and by 8 a.m. I found my way back to this place to finish what I started.  

Which I actually didn’t finish until now, almost 12 hours later.  Power is back on, all systems go. In the made up stories in my head, this week and last two days are not what I had drafted.  I’m not sure I even remember where I was going, but God has used all of this (seeming) unpredictability to get my attention.  

I can’t pretend to even guess at the extraordinary ways or hows that God works to speak to my heart.  I just know that He does.  And if He speaks to me, and gets my attention through all the noise, then I know He does to all of us.  

The miracle?  The lengths that He will go to make sure we hear.

“Where can I go from your Spirit?  where can I flee from your presence?”~Psalm 139