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The Book Thief
One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are
On Gold Mountain
Bread & Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter
City of Tranquil Light: A Novel
The Distant Land of My Father
The Paris Wife
Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy
Fall of Giants
World Without End
A Stolen Life
Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption
The Pillars of the Earth
Sacred Rhythms: Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation
The Road
Trials of the Earth: The Autobiography of Mary Hamilton
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook, a Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayal
Cutting for Stone

Gigi's favorite books »

the pit

A deep black hole breathes behind me. I can feel the frigid air on my calves. The magnetic pull of the vacuum nearly drags me in and I brace myself steady. I am tempted to turn and at least look at the vortex calling out like a siren. It promises relief, comfort and understanding.

They don't call it a pit for nothing. Self-pity is a pit yelping out promises empty and vein as the best politician's. The banks are slippery and one look back could cost me.

I sat among friends last night with Matt. They asked some probing questions. This is the army of lovers I mentioned in the previous posts. You don't serve someone dinner, do their laundry, clean their house and take their Christmas down without a measure of love. This is our season of "Yes. Thank you." Yes, I need you to bring me coffee. Yes, would you take that to the dump? Yes, having Sam to play would help out a lot. These are the people asking the questions and hearing my yes and Matt's yes.

I confessed how most folks start the New Year with resolutions, goals and dreams. It has been strange not to participate in this ritual that I have known for 46 years. I said to them, in contrast, I am starting this year off literally on my ass. Powerless, dependent and desperate at times.

This morning I read Isaiah 6. The Bible study I am doing right now gave me the context. "In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw The Lord," Isaiah writes. I didn't know the context before now. Isaiah had never known another king besides Uzziah. In fact, Uzziah probably was a boyhood hero of Isaiah's. You see Uzziah ruled Judah for 52 years and during most of that time he followed The Lord. He rebuilt towns, fortified walls, lead an army of 307,500. He became powerful and famous.

Pride became his downfall. Eventually Uzziah entered the temple to offer incense to The Lord, a job reserved only for priests. He raged when 80 priests tried to remove him. Leprosy broke out on his forehead immediately as he stood in the temple before the incense altar censor in hand.

Pride says, "I got this, God." Pride fuels me to find life apart from God and I see millions of little ways I do that every day. Pride leads to a downfall - every time.

Self-pity is pride turned inside out. Self-pity licks the wounds of pride and fantasizes of self-protection. "Next time, I will..." Self-pity is self worship.

And so, here on my ass, I put down the pen poised to write resolutions, goals and dreams - for now. He has me here. Never before has He lead me somewhere and deserted me. Always trials have taught and shaped me. Every single time.

I want this to be my prayer:

In the year I broke my leg and tore up my knee and Matt broke his collar bone, I saw The Lord. And He was splendid in His beauty and perfect in His provision. And He was exalted above everything. Creatures never before seen by my eyes surrounded Him chanting worship and attending Him. And I saw my pride and my unclean lips. And I fell down dead - a part of me dead. And when He asked me, "whom shall I send?" I answered, "send me."


more broken bones

Two weeks ago I was skiing down a gorgeous mountain drinking in the beauty and fell on my knee. The femur (big bone in the thigh) crashed into the tibia (shin bone) and cracked it. Also, the meniscus (pad between femur and tibia) tore. I skied down, barely walked to the car and have not walked on it since then. I had surgery Friday to repair the meniscus. The ACL was bruised but not torn. The tibia is healing and did not need pins. 

One day you can be walking down streets of gold and the next it all turns to ash. This is a paraphrased quote from Lady Mary of Downton Abby. One perk in all of this includes an introduction to this PBS series. Most of the world is watching it. I thought my friends had gone mad pronouncing downtown like a Brit. Then I fell in love with the series and learned the place is called Downton. We are just beginning Season 2. 

Of course my real life at present is much like a soap opera. Who would even believe that a couple could have two broken bones from two separate ski accidents? Two surgeries in one week - who could make this up?

I hinted at the idea that there is more to the story than where I left it. Matt dropped me off at the ER at 8:00 a.m. on December 31, 2013, the last day of the year. Julia greeted us at the front door with a wheel chair. She assured Matt they would take good care of me through a genuine smile. The day ended up as I thought - a lot of waiting. The staff took excellent care of me and lived up to Julia's promise. 

That night we settled the boys down early switching around sleeping positions. Matt and I slept on the sofas in the den. The boys all three piled up in the king-sized bed. We dozed off well before midnight. I awoke to Matthew breathlessly reporting that Sam had thrown up all over him and Joshua. 

Sam came in to sleep beside me. Josh and Matthew showered and  fell asleep on the  other couch. Matt spent the next several hours in the laundromat downstairs. At midnight the fireworks pulsed through the blinds of our condo. I hobbled over to the wall to wall widows and watched the brilliant explosions through sheets of snow. I mused out loud what on earth would 2014 hold for us. 

The morning  brought ten inches of snow and the first day I ever saw of 2014 shimmered like a blanket of crystals. Clean. Bright. New. 

Later Sam and I sat in front of the fire still in our pj’s. I called my dad to tell him of my injuries. “Things cannot get worse,” I said. “But I never say that.” About that time Matt beeped in. 

“I’m going down on the ski patrol stretcher,” he said. 

“Right,” I said. 

But a few minutes later he showed up covered from head to toe in snow. Joshua and he told me their tale. He was building up speed to manage a flat spot. In ten inches of powder, skiing is a different game. He planted his entire weight on his shoulder. I took one look at him and said, “You’ve broken your collar bone.”

About five minutes after that as we sat there gawking at the broken bone and brainstorming about what to do, Matthew came through the door. “It’s awful out there!” he said. Both of us charged him, “Are you ok?” “What is wrong?”

“I lost my iPhone and wallet,” he said. 

We just groaned in relief that he wasn’t hurt. Matt went for x-rays. His collar bone lay in two pieces and his pain roared. We tried to no avail to find the iPhone and wallet. It may surface in the spring. If so, LifeCase will have a new advertisement.

The next day we drove to Denver under sunny blue skies. I had two good arms. Matt two good legs. We made a perfect match. 

Next stop security. The wounded get wheelchairs and go to the front of the line. Twenty-two year olds without ID’s get questioned by the TSA. Matthew fielded about 85 questions and finally passed. We fought our way to the front of line at the Southwest gate. 

Our layover in Kansas City turned south when they announced the need for a pilot. “We are looking for a pilot,” the announcer said. Hmmmmm. How does one round up a pilot at 7:00 p.m. on a Thursday. Apparently one does not round up a pilot. We spent the night there, and it was a quick one. Back at the airport by 5:00 a.m. Matthew went in for round 2 of questions. He flew past this one in flying colors.

We landed and went straight to the orthopedist office.   At home the next day, our friends descended upon us and have nursed us back to health since then. Meals, taking down Christmas trees, running errands, dropping off kids, cleaning ceiling fans: nothing is out of reach for this army of lovers through actions. 

I cannot fathom what 2014 could hold that could outdo this but I am not saying “it could not get worse.” No sir, I am not.

Matt had his surgery Wednesday and can do more with one arm that most folks can with two. We are healing up and feeling loved. My mother who just turned 70 is here nursing us both. She can run circles around us. Her good southern cooking is mending all of our broken places - body, mind and spirit. 


broke leg

I sit in front of a wall of windows watching a mountain wake up. On one side is a fire warming me. On the other, I feel the chill of the winter emanating through the glass.
We are in Colorado - the whole of us. Five McMurrays under one roof, and we are drinking up all Colorado has to offer in the form of snow. b ooooonnnnn
nmnnnnnnnn nnnnnnnnnnnnnnn nbbbbbbnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn

I typed the above paragraph early on the morning of December 30. Then my "n" key on my iPad keyboard began to stick. You would not believe how many words have “n” in them. 

So I abandoned the post for later. I skied out into a day that would change everything... for a while at least.

This was our fourth day in Colorado. We stayed at the base of Copper Mountain but explored several other venues.  This day we skied Breckenridge. By the end of the day, we confidently made our way to the new peak 6. 

Mentally I took snapshot after snapshot of our boys mastering a sport Matt and I love. Granted, Matthew sported a snowboard. But seeing them enjoy the Rocky Mountains  grew mountains of pleasure in our hearts and souls. Gladness energized my body and kept me going even when fatigue threatened to down me. 

Our boys are spread out at ages 22, 13, and 8. Few activities engage all of us at the depth skiing provides. Matt and I relish the mountains and skiing. Of course we had frustrations, bickering and split ski pants. We had fights over driving directions and what channel to watch. 

And so I began that post writing about how life holds both things: warmth and cold. Although I am remembering it through a haze of hydrocodone and leftover anesthesia; this is the muse on my mind as I skied out into a day that would wreck my knee, end my skiing and disrupt our happy scenes on the mountain. 

I cannot blame conditions or difficulty of the run on my fall. My right ski simply hit something and went wonky. My knee bore the brunt of my fall and I rolled down the mountain in a ball of ice and snow. I deferred a call to ski patrol and foolishly skied down the mountain. 

Matt and the boys finished up with a few more runs while I took stock in a warming hut. Deep down inside I knew I was done and my knee fried. Denial is a hard friend to deny, however; and I held on until the next morning hoping it was only a sprain. 

The night did not bring relief only pain and tears. At daybreak I said to Matt, “You will need to drop me off at the ER. If we leave now, you can make it back by the first run.” I did not want them to miss a minute of skiing. 

I will bring this to a close and continue the story on another day. You will want to hear how Matt broke his collar bone but before that rang in the new year at the laundromat washing linens until 2:00 a.m. 

One thing I am holding on to is this truth: Life has both pain and intense joy. One minute you can be walking on streets of gold, and the next they turn to ash. I have no bow to wrap things up. But I am holding to my faith and God’s promise never to forsake.



silent night?

Christmas 2005 with the Elrods All is calm. All is bright.
‘Round yon virgin, mother and child
Holy infant so, tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace.

Bright, we got that covered. Calm, well not so much. 

Last night we read our Advent devotional book, and the shenanigans that surrounded the reading could have reached the heights of the angels rousing the shepherds in the meadows on the night of Christ’s birth. Matt and I were not as entertained, however, as the shepherds. 

“Stop it!”

“Don’t hit your brother.” 

“Move to the other chair, now!”

Maybe tonight we should begin with a few laps around the cul de sac before reading. 

I’m wondering if maybe it wasn’t so calm on the night of Christ’s birth. A lot was going on and I’m guessing some panic may have been charging the air. 

What! No room! 

A manger, really, Joseph?!

Please move the ox over so I can put the baby down!

And yet, PEACE must have flooded in with the entrance of the Prince of Peace. And so all the buzzing about focussed on this baby. A swaddling of vulnerability sent to change the world. 

And so we re-direct. Can I tell you the story of how God killed the first animal in Genesis so that Adam and Eve could have clothing? Did you know the shepherds were the poorest of the poor? The wise men followed this star all the way to Bethlehem... What do you think it smelled like in the cave where he was born? 

My mother tells the story of singing Silent Night growing up in Sunflower Methodist Church. She would sing, “Round John Bert, mother and child.” Her only context for that line was her neighbor John Bert. She didn’t know what a virgin was. Nor did she care that John Bert could not have been there at the birth some 2,000 years ago. She sang the song that made sense to her.

And so we go on filling in the gaps... sharing the story... giving context. This baby, well, He really did change the world.



If I am to realize that the light of Christ shines within me, I must also see my darkness. 

Yesterday a funk overcame me. Often during this time of year, I can feel the tentacles of darkness wrap around me. They come in the form of the elephant sitting on my chest when I think about getting the shopping done. They call out to me in the voice of hyenas when I sit parked in gridlock on Mallory Lane. They appear to me as blindness when I cannot see the sun for several days during gray Tennessee winters. 

And yesterday they got the best of me. I will spare you the details but suffice it to say that I did not love well. My best moments were when I closed my mouth and did not speak. And I did not recover until this morning. 

Friday mornings are becoming a sanctuary to me. I have a chunk of time to sit and listen to silence, to the Shepherd’s Voice, to the truth about Christmas. The Advent book I read every hear has several meditations from authors who were martyred in WWII. Perspective.

Today I have been challenged to muse JUSTICE. I can tell you that I know nothing of it here on this earth. The only picture I have of it is the baby in the manger.

When Mary sounded off her magnificat, she said that God had bared His arm and showed His strength. She spoke of tyrants being knocked down off their high horses. Victims are pulled out of the mud. The poor, she said, sit down to a banquet while the callous rich are left out in the cold. Luke 1:51-53

And several months later, she gave birth mostly alone on a dark night in a dirty stable to a baby. I cannot miss the contrast in her song and her reality. 

Meditating on the baby who will accomplish all that is written in Mary’s Song has softened my hard edges. 

His light overshadows my darkness. He shows me through weakness, through vulnerability; I find My Strength. 

The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. John 1:9