Why I am thankful: a look back to 1986

Pixie grazing

Thanksgiving 1986

Snow flurries drifted down.

I woke up alone in a four-bedroom house. It had never been a home. I had only lived there 13 months.

The house was going to be sold and the proceeds divided however the divorce court decreed my parents should split them.

I peered in the fridge for some breakfast. A plastic gallon container had only enough milk to cover the bottom. I poured it over some stale raisin bran flakes.

I crunched the mostly dry cereal.

I put on jeans, a sweater, a hat, mittens and my coat, a wool Russian military jacket I found in
a used clothing store in Minneapolis.

I had nowhere to go. I walked the streets of the subdivision. The houses had packs of cars parked in front of them. Inside bodies moved across the yellow lights shining out. Blue TVs flashed and every so often I could hear the murmur of crowds from inside the houses. Families filled the homes.

I had no family like that. I had no home like that.

I walked on.

I walked past the gas station, closed on the holiday. It had a vending machine for bait. “How Minnesotan,” I thought.

The grey sky drooped over me. I walked along the frozen lake. Snow twisted and untwisted in swirls from the wind gusts.

“I will always be alone,” I thought.


Thanksgiving week 2016

The light spread long warmth over the field. I grabbed my camera, a combined surprise gift from friends on my 40th birthday.

“I’m going out to get some pictures,” I told my family.

I sat in the pasture and the pony came close to me to graze the still-green grass. It had been a warm fall.

Out of all the acreage, she chose to be close to me.

She had been starving when she was rescued. The horses in the herd with her had died. But she survived. The people at Longmeadow brought her back to health. Then we adopted her, skittish and shy though she was.

Over the past five years with us, her friendly, confident self bloomed.

I sat with her and listened to her eat. The sun set.

I came inside, inside my home with my husband and son.

My son helped me pick the best photos and edit them.


I am thankful for my home.

I am thankful for my memories of no home because now I know what I have.

I am thankful for my family.

I am thankful for my memories of being alone because now I know what I have.

I am thankful that ponies can forgive and learn to love.

I am thankful that people can forgive and learn to love.

I am thankful for today.

I am thankful for today.


Wherever you are, may you know the presence of God and feel the peace that transcends understanding. I wish you a Thanksgiving full of enough to eat and a heart full of hope!

Pixie grazing

Pixie grazing

Pixie grazing

Pixie grazing

Pixing grazing

Pixie grazing

Last quarter: the quarter that counts

My son Derek #73 goes for a tackle. Photo courtesy of Erin McGruder.
My son, Derek, #73, goes for a tackle. Photo courtesy of Erin McGruder.

I’m an ignorant football mom. Supportive but ignorant. Although it’s the second year of my son playing football, I have barely more knowledge than I did at the beginning of his football career.

A friend who understands football asked me what my son plays. “He has a new role this season,” I answered.

“A new role? Don’t you mean position?” he asked.

“Yeah, that’s right. New position,” I said. “I don’t remember what it’s called, but he’s on the line.”

“On the line” means something, although I don’t know what. They all seem to line up on both sides, except for the quarterback. Maybe they’re all “on the line” except for him?

On the line. Photo courtesy of Erin McGruder.
On the line. Photo courtesy of Erin McGruder.

I learned there are people who hold exclamation point-type markers attached with a chain to show the distance the team needs to move the ball. They might be called the chain gang?

Realizing the distance was marked made the game much easier for me to follow.

Staying strong in the last quarter. Photo courtesy of Erin McGruder.
Staying strong in the last quarter. Photo courtesy of Erin McGruder.

Even with my self-confessed obliviousness, I know the last quarter is the most important quarter. Teams can make comebacks and last-minute turnarounds.

The game is won in the last quarter.

When this year started, you had dreams, inklings, whispers, desires, questions and hopes. Find them again. Follow them again. Feed them again.

This is the last quarter of 2014. This is the one that counts.


Lord, bless us with bravery and trust when we hear your calling.
Bless us with patience and trust when we don’t.


Tell me your thoughts!

How will you revive a dream you’ve let slip?

How to thrive after a midlife crisis

With my brother and sister and a birthday cake

With my brother and sister and a birthday cakeToday’s my birthday! I thank God for the gift of my life.

I don’t always recognize what a gift it is. Ten years ago, I asked, “What am I doing with my life?”

I was hungry to learn. I read self-improvement books from the library, one after the other. I don’t remember which author offered this idea, but it stuck with me:

A plant doesn’t grow by positive thoughts. It has to receive light and water while planted in good soil.

This thought made me realize that it wasn’t enough to change my attitude. I needed to change my environment. I applied—multiple times—and found a job at the University of Missouri. It has been my place to thrive professionally for the past ten years.

These are the five things that helped me over my mid-life crisis.

Lead yourself and learn

Become the leader of your own life; have a vision. Where do you want to be? It’s up to you to guide your life where you want it to go.

I wrote down a description of what I wanted to be—a PR specialist—and that is close to what I do today.

I furthered my education and got my master’s degree. My degree helped me professionally and personally. I made friends in grad school I treasure to this day.

Decide on your destination, and lead yourself there.

Keep your eye on where you want to be, not on what is stopping you

I explored my vision and kept my eye on it.

My years of riding lessons make for great life lessons. When you’re riding horses over jumps, you can’t look at the jump. You look where you want to go. If you look down at the jump, you won’t get over it. I can hear the yell of my riding instructor, “Why are you looking at the ground? Is that where you want to be? Eyes up! Look where you are going!”

Keep your eye on your destination. If you keep your eye on the obstacle, you will feel overcome by its size.

There is no obstacle you can’t find a way around. Keep your eyes up!

Feel everything

Change involves discomfort. It hurts to grow and let go of old attachments or familiar ways of living. There is no escape from our feelings if we want to come out the other side.

I believe God reaches us most easily when we are at our lowest and most broken. That’s when we realize how much we need God and others. As social creatures, we can never be independent. We have to live in love and in community. The past ten years tested me. I lost a high school friend and my brother to suicide, and my mother to lung cancer.

I let grief change me; I gave myself over to mourning. The feelings were a wall of cold water crashing on me. My skin felt numb and raw at the same time. My eyes hurt from too much crying; my lids were made of sandpaper. I could go from angry to melancholy to blank to hysterical laughter all in the same five minutes.

As I grieved, I prayed to God with an intensity that I wished would never end. I felt an answer in a new-found closeness to the holy presence. Christ healed my heart.

I believe you are never alone in your suffering. Peace will come. Hard times will change you for the good if you let them. Keep breathing.

Go for it

Go for what you want!

It might not turn out. I’ve had some failures! With failure, you have a story to tell. Failure is easier than regret.

I took a risk to try writing publicly in 2013 on this blog, now I’m a published author. Thank you, my beloved readers, for being a part of this adventure!

Nurture a heart of gratitude

“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:18

I give thanks for turning 45 today!

People complain about aging. I tell you, to be alive at any age is a blessing. When I think of my beloved ones who haven’t reached the age I am today, I know growing older is a blessing. We might gain an ache or two along with our wisdom, but life is precious, joyful and holy.

Have you noticed how older people appreciate the moments? There is such happiness in seeing the beauty of small things: a child’s smile, the way an iridescent blue fly drinks from a horse water trough, snuggling with your spouse in the morning before you have to get up, watching snow fall, playing string with a cat, the sound of waves on the beach.

May God bless me to be an old woman. I’m going to make a great one—puttering around to make hot tea with a small dog underfoot! I might stick my finger in my 80th birthday cake and help myself to the icing before it’s served…

Tell the truth…to yourself

The practice of compassionate honesty with yourself and God will give you peace and wholeness. Like confession in the Catholic faith, or taking an inventory in the fourth step of 12-step groups, the act of looking at yourself with a kind and neutral eye will free you.

Think of something important that happened to you. When you tell a story about it, do you leave out the complications and dead ends, the hurt feelings and the confusion, and focus only on the success? Do you portray yourself as friendly, knowledgeable, calm and in charge?

Clean version, messy version

Tim, Gen and JennySaturday I had the good fortune to go to dinner at the Claysville Store with some people I hold dear, Tim Carson, Jenny McGee and her husband Dave, my husband and my son. Over fried chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans with bacon, coleslaw and the best applesauce I’ve had in a long time, we traded stories about life before we knew one another. Did I mention the biscuits—and the chocolate banana cream pie?

Before I started in on how my husband and I met, my son asked, “What version are you going to tell, the cleaned-up one or the messy one?”

I laughed and said he would just have to wait and see.

When we tell our own stories, it’s easy to embellish who we were. We can make ourselves smarter, cleaner and stronger in the retelling. The cleaned-up version often makes us feel better. Why wouldn’t we slant our own stories in our favor?

Accept yourself, accept grace

Telling the truth about yourself and your experiences strengthens your well-being. How can God reach me if I’m caught up in myself?

Only in letting go of the good and the bad can I make space for grace, instead of grandiosity.

Honesty brings us closer.

You made a mistake? Accept yourself as human.

You had feelings of jealousy, anger, pettiness, lust, shame or fear that you wish you could deny? Accept yourself. Give your burden to God.

The truth is many times in my life I’ve seemed like a mess, a hairball looking for a drain to clog. The drain I clogged was the flow of love and positivity.

Through honesty to myself, to my journal and to God, I’m able to embrace all the parts of myself: the mess, the conflicting feelings and the memories.

I don’t always tell the messy stories. I have to choose my audience. But I tell the messy stories to the people I love.

So far, they haven’t rejected me. They might even love me more for it.


Lord, give us courage to be real with you.
Give us strength to admit our weakness.

The real stories might be painful;
you can heal us.

The real stories might be messy;
you can clean us.

You make in us a new life.
Let’s rejoice and live it!


Tell me your thoughts!

What story do you have in your life that has two or more versions? (If you appreciate messy stories, keep an eye out on this blog for news about my upcoming poetry book, Turn. It’s in the final stages of editing and design right now!)

What I’m learning about facing my dog’s death

Portrait of Mercy

Portrait of MercyA stray on the edge of starvation, she slept with her body pressed against the chain link door of the kennel. Dogs barked, children yipped at the sight of the dogs barking and the parents followed the children, their heavy sighs seen but not heard from being drowned out. Such a tumultuous place and the spotted white dog slept.

I stopped at the door. “Look at this one,” I called to my family. “She looks nice.”

It was the beginning. We didn’t know it. Beginnings can be so subtle that they are as quiet as a sleeping dog in a kennel of 80 others barking on a Saturday morning.

We took her home

My seven-year-old son named her. “We should call her Mercy,” he said. “Because that is what we’re showing her.”

Her name quickly changed to Merfect. Companionable, she is loyal, friendly and tender, always happy to meet new friends.

“Mercy is the best thing we’ve got going,” we say.

She is such a good dog she even went to church

mercy-with-boysWe needed a dog to promote our annual pet blessing event last fall. With her calm patient manner, Mercy was the merfect choice. She walked up the aisle with a wag. We gathered beneath the cross for the children’s moment at the front of church.

A dozen small children gathered around her. A toddler kept touching her eye while another tugged her ear. A boy fascinated with her wagging stub tail tried to hold it. She accepted all the clumsy pats as the show of affection they were.

For ten years, Mercy has greeted us. A docile dog of little demands and much affection, she is as easy as sitting outside on a sunny spring day. Her mouth is so soft that she once caught a sparrow. When we told her “drop!” she opened her mouth and the bird flew out unharmed.

This week, her doctor told me that she has cancer. I hung up the phone and prayed the Lord’s Prayer. I reached out to friends. In grace, prayer and community, I felt God’s holy hand of comfort. I know I will be sad, but I will not be alone. I will not avoid my grieving. It is proof of love, proof of life.

Grief honors the beloved

This might be her last spring. I don’t know if she’ll live to see the pet blessing in the fall. This is the end. We know it. I hope it will be a quiet ending, quiet as a sleeping dog surrounded by the ones who care about her.

I will treasure her as long as she is with us. I will love her after she passes from this life. I will remember her as Merfect, the stray who made a home in my heart, the dog who made my home more welcoming.


Mercy with Chase the catLord, thank you for the blessing
of animals in their feathers and fur,
bright eyes and open faces.

Let us care for the wanderers,
the neglected, the abused by cruel hands.
Make our hands kind,
make us the good stewards
you ask us to be.

Above all, let us love as dogs love,

As if each reunion is the best,
as if each homecoming matters.

Tell me your thoughts!

Have you had a beginning or ending recently? Do you have a story of an animal who welcomes you home? How has grace touched your life this week?

Changing my story, one memoir at a time

potentialI’m not the person I used to be. Thank God!

I finished the first draft of the memoir this week. After thousands of words and hundreds of hours revisiting the past, I ended my trip to the old days.

It was uncomfortable going back into devastation. It would be tempting to slant the story and describe my character with a positive history. But healing requires honesty.

It’s important to tell your real story. Shame is a heavy burden to carry. When we tell someone the worst of ourselves, we open up our lives. I was once in a prayer group when a woman confessed that she wasn’t the mother she wanted to be. She regretted her harshness. Did we attack her and feel superior? Not at all. We could all relate with ways we had failed as well. Her confession released an honest conversation for the group.

What it feels like

I feel light with my story out. Lighter than when I started writing. Lighter than when I lived it.

On describing the past, I had to pick which scenes to describe. Would I bring up the awful things, or stick to the more palatable? How to narrow down years into pages?

Writing the memoir was like a spring cleaning for the mind. I aired out the shadowy memories, like opening a door shut long ago on a stale room.

Next steps

I am old-school and still like paper; I went to the copy shop to print off the first copy. As the clerk ran off my 225 pages, he asked me about the title, “Broken hand to pray with.”

I explained it was a story about my youth and how I broke my hand. He said he broke his hand on a car window that his soon-to-be ex-wife had bought with his credit card. After she had been sleeping with his best friend. Can you relate? Perhaps not in detail but in heartbreak!

That is the power of telling the truth about the worst of us; we all know the shame of stumbling. By giving it to God, we can start clean. As long as we hide our weakness, we separate ourselves from one another and stop the Spirit from working through us.

The memoir looks substantial printed out. Now that the draft is done, I will let it rest—like letting bread rise—as recommended by Stephen King in On Writing. Then I will punch it down and form it into a readable book through the magic of editing.

I’m so thankful for all of you supporting my writing process. Your backing goes a long way to give me confidence in my writing being public! What worth is a writer without a reader?


Lord, bless us with the strength to tell our truth
to each other. Lift the shadow of shame from our shoulders.
Forgive us for failing and help us
let go of wintery memories.
May the warmth of your love melt our frozen blocks so
your goodness can flow through us.

Some days we don’t have to win. We just have to finish.
Lord, let us endure.
We can look back and tell our story.

We can walk forward with honest steps.

Tell me your thoughts!

Is there a story in your past that would be healing to tell? What trusted friend would be willing to listen?

A wish for Christmas ponies everywhere

Pixie in the lightThe small flaxen chestnut pony had only known life for a little more than a year. There had never been enough to eat. She was part of a neglected herd.

She was forgotten, or ignored, or impossible to feed due to hard times.

When Longmeadow Rescue Ranch rescued her, she was sick and starving. She weighed half what she should, light as a fairy, a skeleton of herself. They named her Pixie.

The horses that had been with her died.

Death spared her. The vet gave her more medicine. The staff and volunteers nursed her to health. They believed in her. She gained weight and got healthy. In about six months’ time, she was ready for adoption.

It was a cool day in December when we drove to the farm. We had four ponies to see as potential companions. She was the first we saw. Young, I thought. Skittish.

We looked at the others. The second and third weren’t suitable. The fourth was trained and grown. I thought he would be the best choice.

I asked my family, “Which one do you think?”

They both smiled in agreement. My son said, “We like the first one.”

I sighed and asked if we could see the first one again. I walked in the stall.

The young pony stood in the corner, shy and hesitant. I bent down. She took a step toward me and nuzzled my hair.

“Aww,” said my husband. Although I couldn’t see his heart, I could tell it was melted like butter on the stove.

I had my doubts. This pony was only a long yearling and seemed flighty. I would have some training work in front of me. On the plus side, I could tell she was intelligent and curious.

Then he said the clincher, “This is the face I want to feed every morning.”

That sealed it. The final consideration in getting any animal for us was always picking the one we wanted to see every day. We want our animals to be a source of joy.

Pixie in the snowThe week of Christmas 2011, my generous friend with a horse trailer agreed to drive the 120 miles to pick her up. She even brought one of her ponies so our newly adopted Pixie pony would have company and feel more comfortable on the long trip.

Once home on our land, our Christmas girl Pixie has blossomed. She’s grown calm, confident and sociable. She knows our routine and flourishes in it. Far from a wraith, she stays in good condition, fuzzy and fun.

She nickers every time she sees us. She follows me along the fence line even if I am just out to adjust our horse Miko’s blanket, and it’s nowhere near mealtime. She knows I can’t resist giving her a treat! I always duck in the barn to get her a little something.

Her fuzzy lips stroke my palm as she takes the carrots. Even after two years, I feel giddy to have my own pony.

She is an everyday delight.

My Christmas wish

May all the little girls who wish for ponies get them, and may all the little ponies get the care they need.

May the hungry be found and fed.

May the cold be brought in, and the forgotten remembered.

May the grieving be embraced.

May the oppressed be lifted up from the mire to a life of clean air, clean water and justice.

May the lonely be given as much laughter as they can hold until the light of joy burns away their shadows.

The night is cold. Crystalline stars shine. Somewhere a young woman is outside, overlooked and turned away. Her newborn baby is wrapped in cloths.

Let us be the ones to welcome God inside.


Way to go, you! Do this now for a better new year

party with balloons and confetti

partyImagine you’re the boss of your life and you’re preparing a report for yourself. You’ve been working hard. Now’s the time to revel in your progress!

The best way to get ready for the new year is take a flyover and see your existence from a distance. Pull back and reflect on what was most meaningful.

Write down your top five things accomplished in 2013.

Beyond the obvious resume-type accomplishments like graduating or getting a new job, what did you learn? Do you have a new skill like juggling, baking bread from scratch or dyeing yarn?

How did you affect people?

Is your life in a better place than last January?  Was it a good year for you? If not, what is in your power to change for next year?

Think about aspects such as faith, relationships, home, health, money, career and creativity.

Ideas about what you might have achieved (any of these true for you?)

  • I got socks and shoes on my young children every day. (Any parent will appreciate that this is a major accomplishment!)
  • This was the year I flossed.
  • I made the bed in a semi-regular way.
  • I let myself daydream.
  • I let my passion breathe.
  • I let myself laugh.
  • I let myself grieve.
  • I opened the door just a crack for hope and joy to sneak in a little.
  • I found meaning in my faith.
  • I trusted the Lord even when I didn’t understand everything that happened to me.
  • I forgave myself for losing my patience.
  • I experimented with a new way of doing things!
  • I was willing to change.
  • I wrote poetry.
  • I made art.
  • I sang, and the music carried me.
  • I read a book that changed my thinking.
  • I read the Bible and let the Holy Spirit infuse my life.
  • I built an afghan rack.
  • I lived life with a sense of humor.
  • I enjoyed strong, nourishing and stimulating friendships.
  • I remembered to say “thank you” for the marvelous gift of being alive.
  • I loved my pony as if I were a little girl. (Did you guess…this is one of mine!!)

Why celebrate?

Celebrating your accomplishments energizes you! Completion gives us a sense of joy and fulfillment.

When you discover what gave you the most satisfaction this year, you can bring more of what nourishes you to your life.

Remind yourself of how you’re thriving!

Put your list up on the mirror for the next two weeks.  Rejoice in your successes! Acknowledge how much work you’ve done.

We live in a future-thinking culture that makes to-do lists. January 1—the big day of resolutions—is around the corner. Why not look back for a moment? Looking back and defining your values will propel you forward in the direction you want to go.

Know what matters to you and what you’re capable of so you can plan where you want to go in 2014. This is your time. Use it!

Take it to a friend

My sister and I enjoy sharing our lists with each other. Telling another person about what you’ve done is a powerful way to deepen your sense of purpose.

What is your favorite accomplishment of 2013?

Let’s hear yours, and how you managed to achieve it in the comments below!

Goodwill or bust!

Making our own adventures in ordinary places

A secondhand cat in a secondhand basket. Love them both!
A secondhand cat from the humane society in a secondhand basket from Goodwill. Love them both!

I found my vintage wedding dress in a thrift shop. A heavy satin from the 1960s, it cascaded down in a shiny ivory pool over my feet. I liked that it came with a history of success. If it had worked once, I figured, it would work again.

The dress held mystery. Who had worn it before? I imagined stories about her. Had her wedding been simple, a get-together at her parents’ house with cake and punch? Was it a formal affair in church with hundreds gathered? When she grew old, did she spend her time crocheting?

With a mom married in a second-hand wedding dress, my son came to thrift store shopping honestly.

I’m an adult convert. I never went thrift store shopping as a child. I grew up going to department stores like Lord and Taylor, Macy’s and Neiman Marcus that smelled of women’s floral perfume and men’s leathery cologne. Everything was new and had been advertised in Vogue.

I remember an early thrift experience when I was 21 and living in Santa Cruz. My housemates took me to a warehouse called Bargain Barn. We waited outside, milling around with other people before it opened. Inside, the workers dumped clothes and shoes on long tables with slight edges to keep the items on top. The mounds reached up to eye level. A bell rang and the doors opened. You paid by the pound for the clothes you bought, whether they were leather or cotton.

We squeezed through the door like a mass of human tooth paste. Frenzy and adventure electrified the air. Everyone moved with speed and determination. I bumped up along the first table and looked over the large number of clothes assembled in front of me as people next to me flung them past.

One of my housemates brought me a pair of white go-go boots. “These would be cool on you,” he said.

They looked authentic. Thick heels and stretchy white vinyl with tall laces. A treasure!

I bought them and was transformed into a secondhand store shopper.

Family vacation destination

One summer, two family vacations, three states, four different Goodwills. Whichever town we are in, we check out the Goodwill. The first trip was up to Minnesota to visit my parents. While we were out running errands, my parents asked if there was anywhere we wanted to go.

“Yes! We’d like to go to the Goodwill,” we said. They looked surprised, shook their heads and humored us.

We walked into the Goodwill in St. Paul and stopped in awe when we got through the front door. Organized by color, the racks were rainbows through the store. It was colorful and full of action. Dozens of red sweaters changed to pink to yellow.

I like to search for three main things: handmade sweaters, baskets and afghans. I started with sweaters while my husband and son peeled off for the men’s section. I found a sweater in my size crocheted with three types of yarn in a Catherine wheel pattern. Fantastic!

The basket section was loaded with different sizes and materials. If I hadn’t been limited by the size of our car trunk, our suitcases and our long drive home, I would have picked out five. Or ten. Or, if I’m being honest and my family didn’t talk me down, 15. But I limited myself to one.

We could have spent the afternoon in the St. Paul Goodwill but out of respect for my parents, we pulled ourselves away from the extravagance.

Our second trip was to Illinois to visit my childhood friend. For this trip, we mapped out our drive so it included a stop by the O’Fallon Goodwill. What a great store! Friendly people. My son found a t-shirt with trained and certified Dating Consultant written in script across the front. I picked out fluffy blue towels, brand-new.

Once in Illinois, we stopped by the Goodwill in Alton. I chose a fancy Christmas dress for my friend’s daughter.

Our home store is in Columbia, Missouri. We like to drop off donations and then shop. A perfect circle.

Used spirituality

What are we in God’s eyes? More like department store items chosen carefully by professional buyers, clean and unused?

Perhaps you have a few worn places, a small hidden stain, or a torn place that can be mended.

All we need is the willingness to hang on the rack, and let God take us home and make us a new creation.

God has a use for you.

A deeper understanding of people and their stuff

Like modern-day cultural anthropologists, we learn about people by looking at stuff. What was thought worth enough to be given away instead of sent to the trash? What did the employees consider good enough to put out to sell?

I appreciate seeing people with disabilities both at work in Goodwill and shopping there. Too often, we arrange our lives to avoid those with differences.

Sometimes we work hard to keep an image of perfection going. Secondhand is all about practicality, utility and getting the most out of what you have. As I walk in the store, I smell the earthy scent of fiber, baskets, stuffed toys, furniture and dusty electronics. It’s the smell of human culture. So much stuff flows through our lives. How good to let it flow instead of clot up for too long! I’m grateful to everyone who takes the time to donate instead of dump their stuff.

As a family, we have fun exploring and shopping. It gives me a sense of reconnecting. We see the trends that were, the items that sold a staggering number and then were discarded. Remember the singing wall fish? Cabbage patch dolls? Beanie babies? My son found a Fushigi magic ball in the Jefferson City Goodwill. If we keep looking, I think we might find a pet rock. Or a troll doll.

My son and I both enjoy tchotchkes. All three of us love bargains. Goodwill was made for us. As a family, we can buy mass quantities of clothes and knickknacks but still walk out only $40 lighter.

As someone who takes months to make a single afghan, I appreciate seeing handmade afghans in Goodwill. I take heart that people respect handmade crafts and donate them, rather than trash them, even if they’re in rough shape. I have adopted three afghans for our house.

I ask my husband to tell me the story of who made the latest afghan I brought home. He humors me and says, “This rainbow afghan was crocheted by an older woman while she crossed the U.S. in a hippie bus.”

I wonder if she wore a heavy satin ivory dress in the 1960s.

 Are you a fan of secondhand? Tell me more in the comments!

Why I decided to “look less tall”

new hair

new hairHave you had a day where you have no idea what you will look like at the end of it? I have. I call it, this past Labor Day.

I woke up on Labor Day morning, happy for the day off. My husband and I had worked on Saturday so it was great getting an extra chance to sleep in and not worry about being late for anything. Like work. Or church. Or 6:30 a.m. drop-offs at school for my son.

I luxuriated over a cup of Ceylon Orange Pekoe tea (thank you, Laura and Justin!) and made slow movements toward getting ready.

I picked up the cinnamon pecan muffins that I had made the night before and went to my friend’s house up the road for breakfast. She made a fresh pot of coffee and we sat on her back deck.

Ferns under the pine trees gleamed green while a hummingbird zipped by. It was just my kind of morning: friendship, caffeine and eating outdoors with a breeze and sunshine.

We talked about a little of everything, such as the dysfunctional relationships our pets can have. Her kitty jumps at the pet snake in its enclosure then the dog barks at the kitty. They seem to be driving one another a little crazy. The kitty could ignore the snake and break the cycle. But where is the fun in that? Don’t we all have something we could ignore, but we choose to get involved with instead?

What stood out to me was her haircut. She’d cut her hair short. “It’s so great! I just wash it and it dries in two seconds.” It looked cute but also daring. It was hair that was ready for anything.

As I drove home after a morning of ponies and laughter at my friend’s place, I thought, “Why do I have long hair? I don’t do anything with it. I always want the focus on my face so I keep it pulled back.”

“For more than a decade, I’ve thought of myself as a person with long hair. But what if I’m not?”

“Why do I need this hair?”

I realized I didn’t need long hair anymore. The afternoon of Labor Day, I had it cut off. (The last time I cut my hair short was 2000, in sympathy to my sister when she was losing her hair because of chemo. She’s been cancer-free since, hallelujah!)

Most interesting comment about my new hair so far? I look “less tall.”

What should we hold on to? Only the most valuable things. What will still mean something to you ten, twenty years from now? At the end of your life?

In my life, I’m an expert at holding on but a reluctant amateur at letting go. I have come from a proud line of keepers. Art, broken electronics, books, stuffed animals, cheap cubic zirconia jewelry, china, photos, assorted “things that might be useful/worth a lot of money someday”. Each of us cared about different things and kept what we found valuable whether anyone agreed with its value or not.

In the end, it’s all stuff. Stuff that has to be dealt with after the person collecting it is gone. The remaining family members try to sort through it. Is this piece of paper valuable? A decision is made. Good. Only one thousand more to go.

What should we do with this furniture, this painting? It exhausts people to have to organize a deceased loved one’s belongings during the midst of grief.

To have and to hold, to let go and be bold

As I learn to release, I’m working to be someone with an open hand who can let go with joy. Life  and death, gain and loss, health and illness will happen, no matter how much I own and how many things I have surrounding me.

I want my clothes, my belongings and even my hair to reflect that I trust in God’s goodness.

Even if I’ve held on to it (grown it out!) for years, I’ll practice letting go of what I don’t need.

Long hair, old identities, habits no longer needed, unhelpful relationships, things that don’t matter (be they resentments or excessive material goods), all that can go!

From now on, I’ll just be a person, instead of “a person with long hair”.

I’ll ready myself—empty myself—so I have space to receive the good things to come.

I’ll travel light. Do you want to join me?

What will we keep? Visits with friends.

The next blessings coming our way.

We can collect moments of kindness. Let’s hold on to hope and faith! We’ll see what that brings us.

I suspect it might bring peace.