Showing posts from February, 2010

A Blanket of Stars

(A loving tribute to Elsie Mae from her  granddaughter Bethany) No warning came to ease my pain, Not enough time to understand, Things will never be the same. The night and day. They have been so cruel. A blanket of stars covered and took her away. And morning light robbed me of her soul. They took a piece of me. And left me wounded and unwhole. The wind could be kinder. If it would only impart a gentle reminder. If only I could hear her voice, Echo so softly in the wind. My pain ever slightly to rescind. Autumn brings its colored leaves. Falling down to earth, Back to dust the very earth grieves. Earth grieves death, Colorful, orange and gold, Deaths brutal sting. In spring comes lifes new breath. The colors, pieces of her life. They fill me. Human, imperfect, failing. I am broken I see. I wonder if Earth cries out... In pain would I hear its shout? Earth will not hold her. To the heavens she traveled. A journey up as human life unraveled. Unfold

Patchwork Intimacy

When I was a college student, I worked at the Center for Research in Social Behavior on the University of Missouri campus. I needed a work-study job. They needed someone to do some clerical work. I would work with a social gerontologist. I was planning to go to grad school in sociology. I was interested in gerontology. This was perfect. I applied. They accepted me. I loved it. They were some of the first people who took me seriously and thought I had potential. I was single welfare mother with three small children trying to “make something” of myself. Single mothers were more of a rarity then. Most people saw me as “low-life.” The doctoral student working for the social gerontologist was my “boss.” She had an apartment somewhere but usually slept on the floor in her office in the old Tudor-style building on Stewart Road. She had a hot plate surrounded by cans of beans and spaghetti-o's and lots of peanut butter. I often wondered if she really did have an apartment. She was work

Morning Has Broken

How wonderful it is when a new day breaks. When I first moved to Tennessee in the cool of the new day I would marvel at the sunrises. I had never lived on a farm and to see the sun come up over the river left me spellbound. This morning there is no river or farm, only a suburban raised ranch on a large lot. I have this habit that annoys my husband. I like to open windows. I prefer open windows to air conditioning. Even on a cold morning in Tennessee like today, I fling open the only window I can open, the bathroom window. It looks out over part of our driveway. Just beyond the driveway is a wooded area. Yesterday as we returned to our home, there was a beautiful male cardinal in the yard. His red was different that the cartoonish red you sometimes see. This red had a tinge of blue in it. He was magnificent. A good story would be to tell you that my mother loved cardinals. That in seeing this bird it was a reminder that she was watching me. The thought of your mother watching you i

A Stepping Stone

When I graduated from sixth grade in Brooklyn NY I had an autograph book. Once upon a time those things were very popular. It was sort of a bit like signing a yearbook although we had that too. I remember it was white. I asked my mother and father to write on the first pages. Three years later when I graduated from Pershing Junior High School in Brooklyn, I had an official PJHS autograph book. It was blue and gold, had the school emblem on the front and closed with a zipper. I asked my mother and father to write on the first pages again. I think my dad wrote first. He wrote: Only one life will soon be past Only what’s done for Christ will last My mother wrote: Isn't it strange  t hat princes and kings,   And clowns that caper  i n sawdust rings,   And common people  l ike you and me   Are builders for eternity? Each is given a bag of tools,  a  shapeless mass,   A book of rules;   And each must make- Ere life is flown-   A stumbling block Or a steppingstone. I have alw

Peculiar People

So many thoughts whirl around in my head. I think it is because I don’t have anyone to talk to right now. My husband says we are like the Democrats and Republicans. In their case, they both have the good of the country at heart, but they see things very, very differently. In our case, we are all thinking about my mother and yet our thoughts couldn't be more different. In my romanticized view of how family should be, I see us clinging to each other as we allow our loved one to go to the one she loves the most, her Lord. Rather, some cling to a life that is nearly over. Their desperations want some heroic measure to snatch her from the jaws of death. If it were possible, I would too. I, as the lone member of my political party, silently pray for Jesus to hasten to come to her aid and snatch her to her eternal home. I dare not utter my feelings because I feel outnumbered. The practicality of my personality is viewed as cold and indifferent. Nothing can be further from the truth. I

The Teacher You Dread

Death is a great teacher. I am sure there is someone quotable who said this. Certainly, they said it more eloquently than I. Death becomes like a magnifying glass. In its presence, as it begins to invade not only the body of the one on their final journey, but those who attend to them, relationships are examined under its lens. My mother is on her final journey. Death has come to claim her. She is breathing heavier but still aided by oxygen. Loving grandchildren crowd around her. Occasionally one breaks down in tears. They are tears of sadness about their loss. The one she shamelessly professed to favor refuses to leave her side.  She loving swabs her mouth with water. She refused to go last night for fear no one would swab her mouth. While she does not practice the faith taught to her by her mother or grandmother, she bought a Bible for her grandmother to keep at the Nursing Home. She even reads the difficult language of King James. There is tension in the room as nurses come


As I wait…wait…waiting is hard. I’ve waited for many thing in my life. I don’t like to wait. I’ve written before about waiting on another blog I author, you can read it here . Like the ordinary day I long to return, today is not ordinary waiting. In pastoral care class, we learned that there are two Christian views of death.  God rarely gives us one option. I sometimes wish God would be more absolute. It seems the saying that God puts comas rather than periods is true. One view of death is that it is the enemy that must be conquered. As we approach Easter, we will sing Up from the grave He arose with a might triumph o’er His foes . Our songs of triumph will echo Christ’s triumph over the death and grave. Healing, whether medical or spiritual, wants to prolong life and conquer death. From the search for the Fountain of Youth to late night TV infomercials we cling to life. From the latest advances in science to the latest book on how to receive healing, we challenge death. Death is a

I'll Be Praying For You

I’ll be praying for you Pastor. Simple words. I am sure many pastors hear those words from their parishioners. I have no parishioners right now. Even when I was a pastor, I rarely was called Pastor.  Somehow, I was always just Joyce. That’s okay, because I’ve never been much for titles. I am just Joyce. Where did these words come from today? They came on Facebook. They came from a person I do not know, have never met and know nothing about. I have many friends of Facebook. I have 500 of them now. Some are friends in the truest sense. I know them. They know me. We’ve had a relationship in real time and space. My dear friend and sista Barbara is a friend there. I have friends who met me in various stages of youth. Some continue to be close. Some I seemed to have picked up right where we left off 40 years ago. Other are nodding acquaintances from the past. Some are family. I have a niece that I never knew at all when she was growing up. It’s like that with my family. I guess we all ca


I wrote about ordinary days before but today I am appreciating them again. I think we should never take an ordinary day for granted. Yesterday was not an ordinary day. I knew it wouldn't be an ordinary day. What I didn't know was that the day would end with one of those phone calls that breaks into your life and changes everything. Two years ago we had one of those phone calls. It was our anniversary. We were in Florida celebrating at the beach. A call came from South Dakota with a job offer. That phone call broke into the celebration of the day causing joy for my husband and dread for me. I hate those type of phone calls.  It is like a sharp discordant sound in the midst of a flowing melody. They break into your life with such violent force. They turn everything in your life upside down. All of a sudden, you have new decisions to make. I had an interview for a doctoral program yesterday. That is not ordinary. I had to get dressed up and make sure my make-up was perfect.

I Am Dust

From ashes you came, to ashes you will return. What a sober statement. Usually you hear this phrase at a graveside. Even there it is not comforting. Facing death you do not find comfort in being reminded that you too would turn to ashes. I went on a quest after I wrote this blog yesterday. I felt an urging to find a place to have the imposition of ashes. There are so many paradoxes to my personality. I can appear very confident. I am not. To go to a strange church, especially on this holy day, is not easy for me. At the camp pool, we learned about the buddy system, it works well to conquer fears. I thought if I had a “buddy”, or knew at least one person at the church, it would be easier. Most of the churches that I knew or am known at here in Nashville do not observe Ash Wednesday. I considered Trevecca Community Church since I have a good friend that told me they were observing. While I suppose one should be thinking about sacrifice for Ash Wednesday, I didn’t want to drive through

I've Been Awakened

I guess everyone knows that I come from a Pentecostal background. While the church I grew up in was a rather staid version of Pentecost, nevertheless we were free from ritual and the trappings of formalities. We were not like those Catholics or even Lutherans. We were free. Over the last few years, I have developed an appreciation for all those things that I was told were wrong when I was a child. No, I’m not talking about how I can go to the movies or play cards. One of the biggest disappointments in my early life was my parent’s decision to not allow me to see Sleeping Beauty. I was eight years old when Disney released Sleeping Beauty. I had never been to the movies since in the views of my parents this was a worldly (sinful) activity. My best friend Barbara was going. I can remember lying in bed hearing my parents discuss the invitation I had from Barbara’s Aunt Eleanor to go with them to see the movie. The decision for the sake of my soul was that I couldn’t go. I was so disapp

Hold On

In a comment on another blog that I participate in, Kingdom Bloggers , someone wrote that I had a rich Christian heritage. I suppose part of that heritage is my knowledge of hymns or perhaps more correctly gospel songs. I love hymns. I don’t necessarily want to go to a church that has a steady diet of hymns. I rather like all the new stuff.  I understand why the hymns are taking a backseat. Yet it seems I return to the hymns often. I’ll think of a random hymn and won’t be able to get it out of head. I’ll find it on YouTube or elsewhere on the internet. Sometimes I’ll play it over and over and over again. I fear this means I am old. I guess it is a bit of nostalgia.  I also think it is that the hymns and gospel songs have a lot of theology in them. Today, unexpectedly, what is probably now an obscure gospel song came to mind. Hold the Fort for I am Coming It dates to just after the Civil War. It’s inspiration came from that war. I found an interesting history of the song; you can s

Rukhsanah's Little Sister

In the midst of sharing about Rukhsanah Israel, I didn’t share that another granddaughter had a birthday. Actually two of my granddaughters had birthdays within the last week. I wrote some about my granddaughter Iliana yesterday on Storehouses of Snow . I talked to her last night. Long distance grand-parenting is not that fulfilling. The other granddaughter who had a birthday is really on my heart and mind today. We had a little family party for her the end of last month while we were in Tennessee. Hands-on face to face, even though limited, is so much nicer than long distance. Officially, Maria Guadalupe Aren Duran, turned three on February 3 rd .  I call her Maria, others in the family call her Lupe. She is named for her paternal grandmother. She is beautiful, smart and delightful. If she meets you once, she will talk about you for months. She will probably never forget you. Maria is Rukhsanah’s sister.  She will never replace her sister. No one or nothing ever will. Her presen

One Hundred and Fourteen Days (Part VIII)

An Ending and A Beginning I am coming to the end of the reflections of the life and death of Rukhsanah Israel. I am sure I have much more to share. However, I think this reflection is ending. I have never written about her. I have talked about her many times, most of the time in snippets.  I am told that when I do talk about this and many other painful things in my life that I speak of them as if I am telling a story of someone I hardly know. They tell me that I am missing the emotion of the story. It isn’t that I don’t feel it, it is that I just am so good at compartmentalizing things. And of course, I am Norwegian and we are known for this. Today is the anniversary of the funeral. Funerals are supposed to bring closure. I am not sure that we had closure or that we ever will. However, while funerals are a looking back, they are also a looking forward. My church home was a wonderful place. We were small and like family. Barely two years before these same people had banded together

One Hundred and Fourteen Days (Part VII)

Birth and Death Collide It’s always odd how normal life creeps in during a crisis. On this day, thirteen years ago, as we huddled together as a family, we celebrated a birthday. Normally birthdays are happy times. The birthday boy was my oldest son. I hadn’t been with him on his birthday for many years. He had come for the funeral though, not for his birthday. I had a teacher in college who said to me once, it seems to be your family’s tradition to marry young and have children young. I don’t think we planned it that way, but it seems to be somewhat true. Here I am now a great grandmother because of a sixteen-year-old father. I was seventeen when I became a mother on this day forty-one years ago.  (Okay, I know you are doing the math and while I hate to admit my age, I am 58. Anyone who wants to email me and tell me how shocked you are would make me very happy J .) Nathan was born at 5:30 p.m. on February 9, 1969. I was seven months pregnant. The day before, my mother

One Hundred and Fourteen Days (Part VI-ASK)

I heard a sermon one time by a man named Booze, an odd name for a preacher. He wasn’t very skilled, educated or articulate. I heard him in a storefront church in the tiny town of Auxvasse Missouri. The church had become a hotbed of Charismatic activity in the mid-70’s. Why I remember him and his sermon I don’t know? He preached about a pendulum. He said that the pendulum of Christian expression swings. He cautioned that while we were experiencing renewal and freedom, we would eventually return to a more subdued expression of our faith. He didn’t want us to lose our zeal. I was young. I thought I would never lose my zeal. He was wise. Zeal eventually is tempered by the realities of life. At times, I long for the days of zealous enthusiasm and exuberant expressions of faith. I have been tempered by the harshness and tragedy that life brings all of us. To leave this part of the story out would make the story incomplete. I find myself concerned to tell it. I have never been concerned be