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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 Present to the Moment (22)


mature: 40 words in 40 days

My team of Built2Last ladies won the tower building competition with that genius of architecture pictured above. Strange games: it's what we do at women's retreats! Women bring adorable bedding. We deck out in our cutest pj's. We get really cool gifts (Tervis tumblers).

Our theme is shepherding. There are fluffy white sheep (and a few black ones) everywhere. We are to disciple to maturity. I needed to be called to this. In my flow of abiding in the present moment, I resist buying trouble from tomorrow or even this afternoon. That's good but I can forget where I am going too. I needed to be reminded that God is growing me up. Hebrews says, "solid food is for the mature who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil."

Oh! I can train my senses in conjunction with the Holy Spirit. Oh! I can learn to discern good and evil. My life has been marked by a destructive naïveté. Lately My Shepherd has been saying OPEN YOUR EYES. And GROW UP. This naïveté is not working for you anymore. It's not fruitful nor productive.

He is calling me not be sluggish in my thinking. He is calling me to crave righteousness and solid spiritual food.

He is calling me to mature.


anxiety vs peace

Anxiety is a black cloud that hovers and blinds. A vague feeling of dread hangs over the victim's head. Fear courses through the body without knowledge of the exact identity of the feared object. By it's very nature, anxiety is the fear of something. Problem is we don't know what it is we fear.
In the full throes of anxiety, the hands feel clammy with sweat and the chest feels like an elephant is lounging there. Blood is shunted away from the pre-frontal cortex (higher reasoning brain) to allow the body to perform more basic survivor functions. People often believe they are having a heart attack and run for the nearest ER to hear "anxiety attack." The fact is, an anxiety attack feels a lot like a heart attack.
In this anxiety ridden state, connecting with God is nearly impossible. Not impossible, you see, but it is difficult. Calling for help is a wise move.
Yesterday I entered my quiet time in just such a state. I opened Jesus Calling and read: Take a moment and sit with me. Let My Love surround you and fill you. I replied, "Uhhm. Having some difficulty with that one." I knew God was near. I wanted to feel it. Yet I had great difficulty feeling His Presence given my level of anxiety.
I opened the Word to Psalm 73.
Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
As I read these awe-inspiring words, God's Spirit excavated a song from somewhere deep in my soul. I learned the tune when I was eight years old. Every line of it came back to life in the black and white pages of my Bible.
The last line: The nearness of God is my good.
"When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood," says verse 16.
I didn't need to understand anymore because the Spirit of God communed with my spirit and peace flooded in.
Peace, the opposite of anxiety.


clear eyes

This shot is taken outside of Union Church. Allen Danforth, blue shirt, was the founder of WGO.When December arrives, we moms shudder. We know what’s coming: parties, Black Friday (named by a mother), lists, decorating, traffic, and holiday melt-downs. It’s easy to lose the meaning in the blown fuses and traffic jams. Then put the aspect of family dynamics and broken relationships on top, and it’s enough to bend the knees of the strong.

Living in a third world country did not inoculate me from being infected by the busyness of the season. We lived there from 2002-2006. One Sunday I sat in the pew at our church and realized it was the first Sunday of Advent. I began to jot notes down on the bulletin. These notes would become my Christmas card. I wrote about the heaviness of my heart and how I could not digest another sermon on Romans. Our pastor, gifted and eloquent, preached through Romans over the course of two years. 

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sense of place

Friday we loaded our van with three guns, two boys, six electronic devices and one frozen fish on board for his last ride to a taxidermist. We headed west then south to the land of my childhood - the Mississippi Delta. As we descended the last hill for miles, I rolled down my windows to smell the Delta and involuntarily my body danced to “Pride and Joy.” Stevie Ray Vaughn heralded our arrival home at sunset. 

As the blue moon rose over the flattest place on earth, I snapped photos of the landscape, cotton crops white in the fields and, of course, the moon. It felt like a blue moon since I had last put my feet on this flat ground of home. 

The first time I heard the phrase “sense of place,” I mopped sweat and took notes furiously in a southern studies class. Barnard Observatory at Ole Miss must have been the last classroom at the university to get air conditioning. I listened mesmerized for a semester as my professor told me things in words that my soul already understood. 

 Rarely does an academic truth ring so true in your bones. 

Yesterday as Sam and I rolled into the dove field on the gator driven by my step-brother Justin, these words came back to me and my soul testified. We motored by the house where I grew up and I was 5 again watching the cotton pickers from my playhouse window. We bumped along the banks of the Sunflower River on the dirt turn row where I practiced my long jump and took second place in fifth grade. A turn row is a dirt road where the tractors turn around. I pointed to the spot to show Sam where I had seen the alligator. He’s heard the story a hundred times. Now he could add the texture of geography to it.

We turned west away from the river and snaked through a labyrinth of dead sunflowers.  Row after row covered the terrain and called to the doves. My daddy had lovingly and meticulously prepared the field. Turn rows divided the dove field into plots. Hunters stationed at each plot sat above their kill on camouflaged stools and chairs. We rounded the corner, and I could hardly make out Joshua, 12. He mixed right in with the dead sunflowers. He and Matt had been hunting since sunrise. 

Something like satisfaction filled me up seeing my son and his daddy hunting so close to where I roamed as a child. We were nearly on the exact spot of my one and only duck hunt. My sisters and I had pestered my daddy so much that he finally took us. When we complained of being cold, my daddy had us sit on the dead ducks for warmth. We wished for the Schnapps that kept the men warm. We were cold enough to comply and tentatively placed our rumps on those poor ole birds. It worked, but we never asked to go again. 

In contrast, on this day we would’ve traded an arm for a cool breeze. The sun beat down and the doves skated in and out of the sunflowers playing a deadly game of hide and seek. When Justin came back with the gator, his daughter Ann Lamar had the wheel. I won’t divulge her age and tempt law officials to issue a warning. What age gives you the right to drive a gator? We piled back in and headed across the street from where I spent the first 17 years of my life. 

I lingered in the sunset playing with labrador pups and taking my children to see the river. The bridge in the distance saluted and I told them again of the shenanigans of my youth. Watching through the cracks in the bridge for the pigeons’ nests full of eggs. Riding bikes fast as we could by the fisherman. Playing in the abandoned house right across the bridge.

As I snapped the last photo of the day, I looked westward and noticed that the clouds seemed to form a path. My future awaits. Stories yet untold.



I stood at the sink washing dishes wearing rain-boots when I began to mentally recount the day with my mama. 

We found the rain-boots at Costco hidden behind men’s athletic shoes. I’ve been looking for three years for rain-boots. We bought soap and salmon, steak and raspberries that opened at the check-out and rolled all over the floor.

Before Costco we ordered the exact same spinach salad at 55 South. Then we paraded up and down Main Street in downtown Franklin. We remembered the Christmas parade 23 years ago one of our first outings here. In Avec Moi, I talked her into buying six gorgeous wine glasses. She had bargained with the owner to sell her four. “When do you ever just need four wine glasses?” I said. She acquiesced and I asked the owner for a commission. 

Just another day with Mama.

I am learning that nothing is guaranteed. I have no idea what I will walk into tomorrow. I want to open my arms to today and receive the gifts. 

In June this notion blinded me like a disco light from the 80s. Mama had gone in for a chest xray and wa diagnosed with pneumonia. A SPN - that’s single pulmonary nodule in medical speak - showed up as an “incidental finding.” My sisters, my stepfather, my aunts and a multitude of friends held our collective breath while we waited for results. We got the news days before leaving for the beach that it was BENIGN. 

Never have we danced on lighter feet than that week. Rosemary Beach may never be the same. My sisters and 8 of our children celebrated and milked the most from seven days of togetherness.

Saturday we learned that the nodule is growing. The doctors don’t really know what it is.  They are running more tests. 

And again we wait.

Meanwhile, we fight to enjoy every moment without letting fear and our imaginations get the best of us. I don’t want to take anything for granted. Rain-boots at Costco. Gorgeous new wine glasses. Lengthy conversations about books we are reading. 

Lord, please help me not to let this fear rob from me the present. Amen.

33. a day of play with Mama