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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

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Entries in ebb & flow (5)


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.




I’m writing this post with a precious 7-year-old head resting on my shoulder. We are lounging on the couch. Sam’s body is covered by a UT snuggie. (Side Note: two things I would never have dreamed could be in my life: UT orange and a snuggie.) Cartoon Network blares in the background. A softer sound emits from my iPhone: the sound of hold music from Apple. My iPhone 5 is smarter than I am. I need help conquering it. 

Every now and then Sam fires a toy gun with an annoying electrical bullet sound. He could be a Storm Trooper. It also has a sound for cocking as well as firing.

Occasionally my phone gets a text. Mama had surgery yesterday. I am staying connected to her by some thin phone wires and cyber stuff that I cannot understand.

So much stimuli. 

Sam has a stomach virus, hopefully the 24-hour variety. Yesterday he swam his first ever IM in the swim meet. The IM is the Iron Man but it actually stands for Individual Medley and consists of all four strokes. It is a rite of passage and I’ve seen many young swimmers exit the pool in tears from exertion and exhaustion. He won’t let me out of his sight.

Here I sit tethered by a computer cord and an invisible but just as real umbilical cord. Mothers sit by their sick children with bowls and cold wet rags. We mop foreheads and kiss fearlessly praying that we won’t get the bug.

This morning as I sat on my patio and watched the sun rise along with the temperature, I read familiar words. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. II Corinthians 4:18

My reading this morning shifted my focus from the seen to the unseen. The seen, it says, is temporary. The unseen is eternal. Why do we do this? Verse 16 says it: so that we do not lose heart. 

I read that and in about 10 seconds my focus is right back on the now and the things jangling for my attention. I need to come back to it again and again throughout a day. What is unseen?

Our souls, our spirits. Relationships. The forces in spiritual realms. As we live like this, grace reaches more and more people. Thanksgiving overflows. And we start all over agin. Unseen. Grace. I’m not losing heart. I see it. Unseen. Thanksgiving. Grace.



Ever need to be refreshed?

I do. And the beach is the perfect place for it. Sometimes we get clogged up or weary. Sometimes the soul is tired from carrying things it is not meant to carry. Sometimes the body gets exhausted. 

Even God rested. Surely I can admit that I need to be refreshed. 

Six days do your work, but on the seventh day do not work, so that your ox and your donkey may rest and the slave born in your household, and the alien as well, may be refreshed. Exodus 23:12

The verse above uses the Hebrew verb napesh and it means to be refreshed as if by a current of air. I’ll add a gulf breeze.

It can also mean to take a breath and it is a close relative of the verb in Genesis 2:7 “to breathe” describing the moment when God breathed into us life and deposited our souls. 

Soul and breath are inseparable.


my rhythm

rhythm: noun; a strong, regular, repeated pattern of movement or sound : Ruth listened to the rhythm of his breathing.

Every year growing up, we traveled to Destin, Florida, early in the summer to the finest, whitest sand known to man. Now, as an adult, I feel incomplete if I don’t get to the ocean at least once a year. And such is my rhythm.

And so this year after the City Swim Meet on July 23, our sweaty and smelly family of five loaded up our van and turned south. This kind of traveling requires commitment and stamina. Thank goodness Matt has the stamina. You put him behind the wheel, and kind of like a bull, he will get there or bust. We got there at 2:00 a.m. For an hour, we came alive and took in our little condo on the 22nd floor. Then we collapsed in the beds for a few more hours of sleep. Most of us had slept in the car too. 

For a week, we enjoyed the beach, the fresh seafood, the view, the ocean and body surfing, the quiet. We unplugged. We rested. Another rhythm. Since returning last night, I have concentrated on finding a new rhythm: re-assembling our home after the madness of re-entry, re-stocking the fridge, re-establishing a daily routine of meals. Re-orienting myself to normal daily life helps me find my rhythm again.

In Sacred Rhythms, Ruth Haley Barton suggests some practices for helping us keep our lives on a path of spiritual transformation. She addresses topics like solitude, reading scripture through lectio divina, prayer, self-examination, discernment, sabbath and establishing a rule of life. The rule of life helps us answer two questions: Who do I want to be? How do I want to live?

At the beach, I spent some time contemplating what I want my rhythm to feel like. Silence must be part of my days. I’d like to intentionally make Sabbath more about rest and play. My Bible will become more of a love letter and less of an instruction manual. Undoubtedly, a yearly trip to the beach is something my soul and spirit must have.



ebb & flow

This morning when all the children were sleeping, I padded into the den to find Matt reading his Bible. He said we had a minor emergency in that no coffee was pre-prepared the night before. Like the stellar man he is, he got up and ground the beans stealthily in the garage as to not awaken anyone.  A few minutes later he brought me my coffee and stood above me and he said:

“I feel like you have pulled away from me and I am hurt by it.”

I needed a drink. Of coffee, that is. And I stalled a response by gulping in some much needed caffeine. I had felt distance the night before and wondered about it. In a marriage there is ebb and flow. It is to be expected. Natural. But a healthy marriage will note the ebbs. A courageous partner will confront the distance.

Matt and I began a heart to heart conversation about how we had arrived at this spot of distance in our relationship. I am grateful for this courageous partner and his servant-leadership. 

And so, I began pondering the ebb and flow of life. Ebb happens in our relationship with God. Recently I made a quick trip to the Mississippi Delta where I grew up. The trip threw my routine off. I usually spend some time in the mornings connecting with God. I lost my rhythm. Ebb.

Before that I had flow. Something I had been confounded over in my spiritual journey came together. Like the last puzzle piece falling into place, God delivered a message into my spirit and it gelled. It all started in Ezekiel. Zeke has a lot of ebb and flow. 

This is what the Sovereign LORD says: “On the day I cleanse you from all your sins, I will resettle your towns, and the ruins will be rebuilt. The desolate land will be cultivated instead of lying desolate in the sight of all who pass through it.  They will say, ‘This land that was laid waste has become like the garden of Eden; the cities that were lying in ruins, desolate and destroyed, are now fortified and inhabited.’  Then the nations around you that remain will know that I the LORD have rebuilt what was destroyed and have replanted what was desolate. I the LORD have spoken, and I will do it.”

Listen to the contrasts. Sins. Ruins. Desolate. Laid waste. Destroyed. In contrast with Cleanse. Rebuilt. Cultivated. Like the Garden of Eden. Fortified. Inhabited. Replanted. I hear ebb and flow in that. For me that passage represents all that He has been about in my life over the past five years. He has rebuilt my ruins. Yes, He has. He has rebuilt my ruins. Areas of desolation have become like the garden of Eden. And I am acknowledging a large FLOW of the Spirit.

In regards to the ebb, little e, of last week; I found my rhythm again by going back in my journal to get in touch with what He had been doing in my heart before the ebb. 

St. Ignatius called this ebb and flow desolation and consolation. Consolation refers to the times we sense God’s spirit. It is the sense that all is well. Desolation, then, is the loss of a sense of God’s presence (Ruth Haley Barton, Sacred Rhythms, p. 112). We may feel off center or even rebellious. 

In the last few years, I have been encouraged to notice, simply notice, these ebbs and flows. What gives me life? What drains me? What has brought me back in the flow? What has blocked it? In noticing, I have been able to choose things that put me in the flow and try to avoid the things that block it. Certainly, I cannot always choose the flow, but in noticing I can search like a blind woman feeling her way for what will bring me back to the flow of the Spirit. 

I am grateful for the flow, and I don’t much like the ebb. I wonder how much I would appreciate the flow without the ebb, though. Even in the ebb, I can believe and trust that God is there. I may not feel him or know where He is exactly; but I can trust that He is with me. I trust that because His Love Letter to me tells me that. He will never change. He will never leave me.

As for the ebb in my marriage, we declared a date night. We ate at Whole Foods and went to see Midnight in Paris (****). We remembered what it was like when we were in the flow of relationship. We recently visited Paris. Flow. And seeing the images on screen took us there for a brief while. 

In marriage and in my spiritual journey, I am like an attentive gardner noticing the weeds, the dry patches, the rich soil and the delightful sunlight and cultivating the fruit that comes from walking with the VineDresser.