New Address



The Spill has moved down the street. 
It's just a hop, click, and a jump from here ... and it'll be worth the trip.
Come on over!


Microwave Suspicion

More thoughts from the microwave ...

Cutting Edge Technology: The Amana Radarange.

Last week, I wrote about Microwave Orphans and a trait my sisters and I inherited from my mother. We leave things in the microwave, beeping, and forgotten. When we're together for reunions or visits, our shared microwave forgetfulness becomes humorous. "Who left their tea in the microwave?" (Some of you admitted to the same tendency.)

My family had other microwave dysfunctions.

Our first microwave oven arrived in the kitchen of my childhood, in a cardboard box. My Dad unloaded it on the bright blue counter, next to the refrigerator. He plugged it in. We stared in amazement.

At that time, they were called Radaranges. I don't know why. 'Maybe because 'radar' sounded very space age?

An Accidental Discovery. Apparently microwave technology was discovered accidentally back in 1945. A self-taught engineer from Maine was doodling around building active radar magnetrons for his company when he noticed that a peanut chocolate bar in his pocket had started to melt. The radar microwaves had melted his candy bar. From there, the first food to be intentionally cooked by microwave was popcorn, then an egg, which as you can imagine, exploded directly in the face of one of the technicians. To verify his food heating findings, Percy Spencer created a high density electromagnetic field and confined the microwave power in a metal box. When food was placed in the box with the microwave energy, the temperature of the food rose rapidly. Years later ... we now have the microwave oven.

Our first microwave arrived back in the late 1970's. It had big dials -- no buttons. Each dial turned to set the cook time. ( I found this picture of the exact model, on Craigslist).

Kitchen Science. It was an unwieldy appliance and it took a while to learn how to use it without ruining food. But, wow, it sure was fun to sit and watch what happened when the heat got going. My sisters, brother and I alternately experimented with boiling water, melting marshmallows, hot dogs, bread, cheese, potatoes. Bread wilted and hardened like a sponge. Hot dogs split and puckered. Potatoes morphed into rocks and exploded. Eggs exploded, too. Cheese melted into liquid like the time lapse reel-to-reel movies they showed in 5th grade science class.

Not that we got to watch it all happen, directly. We saw the process only in 'before' and 'after' segments. Why? Because, when my Dad unloaded the rocket-ship radarange on the bright blue kitchen counter, my Mom also laid out her precautionary microwave instructions.

Stand Back. In order to use this new technology safely, we were instructed to load the food, shut the door, set the time, hit the cook button, and step around to the other side of the refrigerator like an x-ray lab technician who sets up a patient and steps behind a shielding wall. We protested and rolled our eyes at Mom's over-concern.

Her radiation worries floated around the kitchen. The power of the microwave wasn't fully understood. And maybe, just maybe, those radar waves could cause sterility or reproductive cancer in women. Maybe we'd end up barren. And, no one would know for years to come. So, in absence of a heavy leaded apron, we sighed about Mom's hovering caution and compliantly stepped around to the other side of the fridge.

With time and familiarity, all caution was lost. Eventually, we stopped stepping around the fridge. A couple years in, we got to stand and watch the cheese melt, start to finish.

The 21st Century Version. Now, as a mom, I have more compassion for my mom's concern about the radarange and our reproductive organs. Turns out, radarange cancer was a false alarm. Sure enough. 'Proof that it's hard to predict the dangers of new technology. As a kid, I didn't understand the fridge exercise. But now, as I watch a constant sea of evolving technologies whirl around my sons, I get my mom's issue.

Used to be, things like 8 track players, Atari or Intellevison would appear on the scene once every couple years, just in time for Christmas. Now, new tech possibilities flow through homes like electronic air current -- iPad, iPhone, wii, youTube, Facebook, PS2, avatars, google maps, Hulu -- electric gadgets and information are our society's constant clamour. They beckon for time and beg for our full attention -- like the melting marshmallow and exploding egg. And now, years after our first microwave was plugged into the wall, I have my own hovering concerns.

My kids roll their eyes at me, the same way I rolled mine at my Mom. And I'm left wishing it were possible to know, for certain, when it's necessary for my kids to 'step behind the refrigerator'.

Only time will tell.

Piercings & Scars

"But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed."
Isaiah 53:5

"Now Thomas ( called Didymus ) one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus appeared. So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord!" But he said to them, "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it."

A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!"

Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting. Believe."

Thomas said to him, "My Lord and my God!"

Then Jesus told him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen, and yet believe."
John 20: 24-29
The Incredulity of St. Thomas,
by Michaelangelo Carvaggio (1571-1610)

Good Friday and the Tire Swing

In honor of Easter and the holy possibility of new Life and new beginning -- I am reposting an article about a childhood friend, and the quiet business of becoming.

"Life is a Tire Swing" image by Pamela Murphy

Alleys and Backyards.
Andee Harty lived down the alley. She had long brown hair, an easy smile, and a golden retriever named Nugget. Andee’s real name is Andrea. We walked on concrete suburban sidewalks to Roosevelt Elementary school together, day after day, year after year. Sometimes, she had to carry her cello and we walked a little slower. We were in orchestra together, went to camp together, and drew a series of bubble people named “Herschel” in junior high English together. Her Dad had an enormous and ongoing boat project docked in their back yard -- which made him seem a little like Noah. I spent much time in that back yard, on the tire swing.

Jesus and the Tire Swing.
The tree tire swing was our Starbucks. We’d meet there, and spend countless words and chatter while swinging. Two freaky fridays happened on the swing. I’m guessing we were about 9 or 10 years old. It was Good Friday both times. Public schools were closed the Friday before Easter. It was a three day holiday. "Good Friday" is historically understood by Christians to be the day when Jesus was executed. I had just learned in Sunday School, that his approximate time of death was around 3 pm.

It was 3-ish, when Andee and I were spending our day-off by the tire swing. Sometimes I would sit on the top and she would sit in the middle hole. Other times we'd just push each other and take single turns. This time, I think she was laying in the grass and I was sitting on the top of the tire, holding the rope over my head, and not swaying much; just talking. I was telling her about the Jesus death-time, and feeling quite sad about it. As we were talking, the sky started to get cloudy and dark. A huge midwest thunderstorm rolled in and lightning cracked through our conversation. It was a black storm and Jesus death all at once. We both ran for cover.

A Yearly Miracle.
That very same series of events happened pretty much exactly the same way on Good Friday the following year. I decided I must have somehow missed this annual phenomenon. Apparently, every single year lightning cracked at precisely 3pm on Good Friday. The implications were miraculous. Right then and there, I came to believe that every year at the exact moment when Jesus had said “It is Finished” a big storm opened up and rained down on the world.

That stormy idea made me seriously question why everyone in entire the world wouldn’t believe what Jesus taught. It was a yearly miracle that no one was talking about. I was perplexed and amazed.

Obviously, the next Good Friday brought disappointing news. No 3 o’clock storm. No divine opening of the skies or booming thunder ... quiet instead. My wonder wasn’t a yearly miracle. But the tire kept swinging.

Swing Music.
Last fall, grown-up Andee and I stood reminiscing at our high school reunion. Andee asked me about a song we used to sing. We learned it in music class, in 2nd or 3rd grade, I think. 35 years later, all she had to do was sing the first line and it started playing in my head. It was an old english song, meant to be sung in a round. And we used to sing it around and around and around.

“White coral bells upon a slender stalk
Lily of the valley deck my garden walk
Oh don’t you wish that you could hear them ring?
That would only happen when the fairies sing.”

Yes, it’s a silly childhood song. But, as soon as she mentioned it, I could see the lines in the concrete sidewalks as we walked to school. And I could hear our small voices singing. In that moment of reunion, I was standing in one place as an adult, but in my mind,
I was on the tire again,
a pendulum swaying,
back and forth,

here, then there.

A Tree Metronome

the wonder days
of thunder and miracles,
the greening silence
of life and growth,
swinging beats


what we once believed
what we now know,

who we once were
who we are now becoming.


Today's Questions:

How have I changed?
Who am I becoming?



Tackle It.

Tackling the Mess.

The day of reckoning arrived. The hallway linen closet had gained a will of its own and needed to be tamed. Piles of towels and sheets had been displaced in the laundry room for weeks, waiting for their designated cupboard parking spaces to clear. Two full Goodwill donation bags helped clear the space and I won the battle! The closet is redeemed, for now.

There's something motivating about other people's before and after stories. Which is why I want you to see these pictures -- and be encouraged. Tackling just one closet or messy drawer can be extremely satisfying.

So, if you need a winter blues boost, take the Spring Closet Challenge with me. You don't have to conquer the world and put it all back in order -- just tackle one closet or drawer. And, if you're like me, you'll find yourself pathetically walking past the newly clean space just to stop to stare.
Somehow, it's an empowering simplicity -- especially when other parts of life are feeling a bit chaotic. So, go ahead. Tackle it.


Oh ... so, THAT's Why.

The apparent origins of maternal 'smothering.'

Claire/ Wife:
"You think I smother our children?!"

"It's not your fault, honey. 'Mother' is already in the word. You never hear of anyone 'sfathering' their children to death."

Quote from, Modern Family,
"Starry Night" episode.

Microwave Orphans

An abandoned mug and a beeping microwave. Today's reminder to respond to the quiet beep of our kids.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

The Beep. My microwave oven has a beep which usually goes unheard. I pop the lukewarm coffee mug in for one last warm-up. I hit 'reheat'. The familiar microhummm begins. I head off to do something 'real quick.' Often, the scalding hot coffee sits too long and returns to room temperature. Abandoned, it becomes a microwave orphan.

The microwave does it's best to remind me. It lets out a quiet little "Beep." A few seconds later, "Beep." No response. "Beep."

I'll be off doing whatever I was going to do 'real quick' and stop to wonder, "Now... where did my coffee go?" I'll even wander into the kitchen looking for my mug without any recollection of my supposed re-heat, until the "Beep."

"Oh. There you are." I say. As though the mug were hiding.

I inherited this trait from my mother. So did my sisters. It's a familiar family quirk. Nobody thinks twice about it until we're together for reunions or visits. Then, our forgetful similarity becomes humorous. We laugh about it. "Who left their tea in the microwave??"

Today's little beeping reminder got me thinking about things unattended. My kids used to beep in crescendos. When they were little, they'd do the common Doppler affect call. Like an approaching truck on a highway, they'd start quiet, then louder, and louder and loudest, then quieter, then quieter, then disappearance. "... mom... Mom... MOM.... MOM ... MOM ... mom ... mom ... never mind ..." The best choice is to respond as the call approaches, before it gains decibels, and well before abandonment. It's a mother's learned science and timing.

What is beeping for attention right now? Is it noise, or importance?

If my child is beeping loudly, chances are good, whatever else I'm doing should wait. Yes, there are times when it's just TOO MUCH beeping. True. Sometimes the beeping must be curbed.

However, more often than not, they are beeping because my attention has departed -- shifted elsewhere. It's hard to step away from the computer, or the deadline, or the phone call, or the neverending list. It is. A million 'urgencies' clamor louder than our kids needs. Truth is, most of our busy-ness can, and should, wait. The people in our lives need to be first in line -- before the busy junk.

Today's Lesson from the Microwave:
I need to get better at listening and responding, lest the important people in my life feel abandoned like orphans, and grow cold like my coffee.

Speaking of which.
I'm off to retrieve an orphaned mug ...

Calibrated Scales

Looking at my cheap bathroom scale. Step on. Step off. The needle slips back and forth, left and right of the benchmark mark. The baseline moves from 2 pounds to 299 pounds to 0. The needle lists away. I adjust it back to "0", again. How much do I really weigh?

Enemies and Allies. Depending on the day, I can believe what I want to believe about my shape. My clothes are like my confidants on the matter. They are my allies or enemies, fat or skinny. Fat clothes without waistlines drape and cover me like 'yes' men and let me believe whatever I want to believe about my condition. They blur the truth. Fat clothes are my soft peace-loving and codependent allies. Skinny clothes on the other hand, are like boney adolescent enemies. They tsk and whisper to my fears without any grace, "That zipper won't go up. It's time to embrace this plump pear shape. Forever." My clothes have an opinion. Like most women, all that I choose to believe about my shape on any given day is dependent on a lot of moody variables, and which clothes are talking louder.

[Enter the Scale]

Mine isn't working. It works just enough to give me a general idea. And honestly, that works for me because I go on how I feel in my body rather than how much my body exactly weighs. It's not the pounds, it's the feeling that matters most. That said, I do have a bottom and top target weight range. If I stay inbounds, it's all good. My scale works well enough for that. And lately it's apparent, I'm way out of range. 'Time to start back up with reasonable exercise, and some attention to the quality of what goes in my mouth. That's all. So be it. I know what to do. It's just a matter of choosing it.

This recent weight repentance has me thinking about the necessity of scales in another way.

It matters what scales we choose. If I choose to use a scale that doesn't really tell me the truth, there is still wiggle room for me to believe what I want. "Oh, the scale isn't working. That can't be right." I'll listen to my codependent fat clothes, instead. They still fit and feel good. "I'm fine." It's possible to have a scale that doesn't work, and still believe the numbers because it says what you want to hear. A scale like that won't transform my life for the better.

So, what about the things that matter way more than calories and pounds? I'm talking about weightier matters that involve the contents of my character -- things like trust, love, patience, devotion, fidelity, honesty, integrity.

What's my scale for these?

This sounds so dogmatic and preachy. I don't know how to say it otherwise. But lately, I've been thinking about my personal gauge, my moral compass. It's the contents of my Jesus faith. The numbers on my scale are Spirit and Truth. I engage with them in the sacred words of the Bible or in prayer. There's a deep and gently correcting quality in both -- if I choose to use them -- if I choose to "step on the scale". And, I go in seasons.

Out of Shape. Sometimes 'holidays' creep into the discipline of my spiritual days. And so begins an incremental accumulation of excess weight to my stride. I get slow and lazy. Procrastination creeps in. Discipline shrinks back. God's Spirit gets quieter. People's opinions get louder. Other things slide into the space in my day where meditation and study used to belong. I get spiritually flabby and out of shape. When I don't make the choice to weigh-in with something other than my feelings, I can indefinitely tell myself, "I'm fine."

Reality is, my inner shape impacts in the way I love God or people. Or rather, the way I don't.

Re-calibrated. Recently, I stepped back on my spiritual scale and re-engaged. My biblical compass tells me God's love is unconditional, regardless of what undisciplined shape I'm in. And that's gracious reason to exhale and engage. But dang, it sure feels bad to face the scale and start over. It's been like turning on the light in a dark room that hasn't been cleaned for weeks. Practically speaking, I'm compelled me to confess all sorts of crappy things to my husband and friends that seemed 'fine' only days ago: That one thing I said, that hurtful choice I made, the way I disappointed or angered someone due to selfishness or greed. It's like a reorientation -- re-calibrating to "0".

The weigh-in feels bad, initially. Pride hates a weigh-in. But, there's something cleansing and free about admission and repentance. It takes down my heavy self-absorption and resets me in a lighter learning posture. I call it 'hitting spiritual cntl/alt/delete'. And the hardest part is the simplest first step toward the scale.

So, in case you've got a little time to think, I'll leave a handful of questions:

  • Are there codependent 'yes men' (i.e. fat clothes) in your life that you turn to, instead of seeking truth about yourself? (If so, jot them down).
  • Are their judgmental enemies (i.e. skinny clothes) that cause you shame and self-condemnation? Who/what are they?
  • Where do you turn for trustworthy inner re-calibration?

Similar articles:

Grace's Weight

False Horizon

Necessary Space

Sarah Sings St. Francis

A Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;

Where there is hatred, let me sow love;

where there is injury,pardon;

where there is doubt, faith;

where there is despair, hope;

where there is darkness, light;

and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek

to be consoled as to console;

to be understood as to understand;

to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;

it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;

and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.




Hello, Biscuit

Dogs on the road. For no reason, one of my sons aquired a catch-phrase for car dogs. A dog traveler would pass by in the back of a pick-up, or pant at us out the window at a stoplight, and my son would say, "Well, helllooo Biscuit." All dogs were Biscuit, the same way comman man is named John or Jane Doe. It was understood among us, and always funny.
Jane Doe Arrives. A couple years ago, a cute little boxer arrived at our door. We didn't know where she came from, but she was wiggly, loving, and built like a midget horse. She wanted to come in. Her entire stump-tailed rump wagged, her mouth looked like she was smiling, and her ears were cocked like she was asking a silent question. "Can I come in?"
In that instance, the right answer would be, "No, you need to go home to your people." I didn't give the right answer. She came in and gallopped around the house like an ADD bull in a china shop. Hilarious.
Biscuit. I took her out on the front porch and sat down with her. I searched her tags for a number to call. To my surprise, the tag around her neck said, "Biscuit." So, just imagine the dog's reaction when minutes later, my son came out to see what was going on, and said, "Well, Hellloooo Biscuit." It was spontaneous boxer combustion.
Neighbor Friends. Over the years, Biscuit has become a familiar visitor. She makes us laugh and we enjoy her family. Initially, they were apologetic and embarrassed when she'd escape. The first few times she appeared, we would call, and they would drive up get her. Now, when they see she's gone, they just drive up. It's an unspoken understanding. Once they went on vacation, and their house instructions included directions to our house in case Biscuit got out of the backyard.
In order to curb the visits, I decided not to let Biscuit come in anymore. And, then, we didn't see her at all. Ever. I thought maybe she'd been given a new home. A couple weeks ago I saw her people at a high school meeting. Since it had been so long since she'd come for a dog visit, I actually asked if she was ok. Everybody chuckled. Yes. She was doing just fine.
That little stretch of absence is over. Yesterday, I pulled up the driveway and found a wiggling mass of muscles happily waiting for us. It's like a doggie playdate. She runs around with our dog until they are both ready to pass out from exhaustion. The picture (above) was taken a few hours ago -- our second visit in two days. I had just poured a cup of coffee and had to smile when her round face was peering in at me from the porch window.

My first words this morning?

"Helllooo, Biscuit."



Paved Paradise

Part II: Lessons from the Barking Lot

Pillow Talk. I was tired of carrying my loveseat pillow around the resale store. Turns out, the comforter I was considering as a match had already been sold. So, the pillow and I headed back out to the parking lot. "Where's my car?" Fatal error. I hadn't paid attention. My car was nowhere to be found.

Parking Lot Fail. There have been times when I have wandered around parking lots looking for my car like a lost child in a mall. I end up searching aimlessly while thinking about people who have althzeimers or amnesia. One time my friend Darla pulled up next to me at Wal-Mart. She saw me wandering. I told her I'd be fine. She was doubtful, but left me to find my way. A minute after she left, I found my car and realized another car had been following me; a friendly older man and his wife. The complete stranger rolled down his window, "Did you find your car?" I wondered to myself, "Dang. Do I look so obviously LOST?" I thanked him, waved goodbye, and sheepishly unloaded my bags into the trunk.

Dog Vertigo. On this particular parking lot day, the pillow and I didn't have concerned bystanders -- just dogs. For some reason, there were a lot of dogs in backseats and behind steering wheels that day. Barking dogs. I got a visual lock on my red Vibe and headed toward it. The barking got louder -- high pitched little-dog yips were coming from the same general vicinity as my car. The closer I got, the louder they got. Upon arrival, I discovered a schnauzer and a white poodle jumping wildly in my front seat, barking at me like I was a burglar. I stood, staring blankly, like Laura Ingalls Wilder in an Air and Space museum. Nothing was recognizable.
"What am I looking at?" I asked the pillow, "Where did these dogs come from?"

3 ... 2 ... 1.
Fog lifted.
"Oohhhh. Wait. This isn't my car."

People with greater parking lot competency would have picked up on that little dog nuance much sooner ... maybe even from a distance. Not me. Not that day.

Please tell me you know what I'm talking about.

They're Back.

Breakfast will never be the same.
(Another batch of unexpected refrigerator guests, compliments of Isaac.)

40 Something

"And in the end, it's not the years in your life that count.
It's the life in your years."
Abraham Lincoln

Pink Fly

A random sketch of a fly, and the difficult flight of faith.

Reprint Post:
Written, April 2006

Beyond the windowsill, Pikes Peak looms large, immovable, dusted with snow and pink light. On the windowsill, the same pink morning sun bathes a big clumsy black housefly. The pink makes me think it’s a she. “She” is flipped on her back, wings buzzing, frantically attempting to right herself. Legs kicking upright in the air like a big beetle. She is fighting to flip over and fly. She is a pink fly, fat and boxy. And, she is very close to falling off the edge of the sill. Thrashing wings and kicking legs, then resting, she is teetering closer and closer to a large drop. I lean in closer and squint at her many large fly eyes, “What got you in this spot? How does a fly land on her back?” Poor judgment, I decide.
The Struggle. She rests, and then begins the flailing struggle again. Each panicked jolt moves her closer to a fall. She is trying to save herself. From my comfortable chair- turned- box-seat, I see that her only saving option is over the edge. She needs to quit struggling and fall. One helpless trusting freefall is her only hope. She can stay there, baking to a dry death in the beautiful pink sun, or she can choose to have faith over the falling edge. And the falling edge is her best option. Because clearly, when a fly falls, flight happens.

This is obvious from a box seat. But it’s less clear as a fly on a windowsill. As she struggles, I realize. I am that housefly; awkward and clumsy, such an unlikely candidate for flight. That pink fly is a picture of my gawky upside-down struggle to live a Christ- Following faith.
I bought a lie early on that has continually landed me flailing on my back like the fly. It has to do with control. It has to do with inner personal strength, and being all put-together, and having the right answers, and doing the right things. I used to think my faith needed to look like a walking advertisement of God-given self-sufficiency. But I’m starting to understand the lie for what it is. It’s not Christ Following. It’s controlling self-preservation. There is very little control in Following Jesus. There is no preserving of self. I’m called to follow; no matter how bad I might look in the process. Sometimes I hate that part.
Hidden Mess. I am a recovering clothes slob. Every few days I have to conquer the pile of clothes that accumulates at the foot of my closet. If left unattended, a long mound of clothes and laundry begins to grow and spread like cancer. My husband and I have to trip and step over and around it to get into the bathroom. That’s the truth. But I don’t want everybody to know that.

One spring morning, my clothes mound was in full bloom, and I had a group of women coming over. I spent an hour or so of fast hustling to get my house clean and looking perfect, so, that I would seem perfect for the new friends who arrived at my house. We were going to meet to get to know each other, and talk about our spiritual questions. There were all sorts of busy hospitality issues to tend, in order to make myself look tidy and all 'put together.' In the end, none of those fussy perfectionistic things mattered. Not one.

Uncovered. Before the little meeting, every part of my house was spotless, except for the malignant mound of clothes around the corner in my bedroom. It was hidden from view. Nobody would need to use that bathroom. Nobody would have to climb over that laundry mountain. Or so I thought. Jane brought her 6 year old son. He wasn’t feeling well. When he realized that breakfast was coming back up for a visit, the guest bathroom was occupied. So my friend, and her son, in a panicked pre-vomit rush, ran into my room. My mound of clothes slowed the sick boy’s run. He threw- up all over my clothes.

There were many things to learn from that experience. The bigger lesson wasn’t about laundry. It was about weakness exposed. I came to realize later, of all the women that came that day, Jane most needed to see that one very imperfect thing in my house. It matched her own weakness. She needed to know I don’t have it all together. It was beneficial for her to know how I would love and accept her, even if she entered my vulnerable place and her children vomited there.
In the clothes mound, I found new understanding of letting go of control. It's important to embrace the moments that expose my imperfections, even when it feels like failure. The relational bond that resulted from unchosen barf on my hidden clothes is an important reminder. God has the ability to weave unexpected beauty and freedom into vulnerable moments of weakness.

Falling and Dying. This way-of-being plays out in many harder ways; ways that feel like being upside down with our legs scrambling in the air; ways that land me on my back and make my pride flail on the window sill like the gangly Pink Fly. These are the crisis choices of surface struggle; when false horizons scream that God's ways are not to be trusted.
When a job is evaporating,
or suicide is beckoning,
or addiction returns,
or a child is abused,
or chronic illness goes unhealed,
or a spouse is betrayed,
or a house is burned to the ground …
Sin-cursed issues like these force a choice. The first most obvious choice always appears to be an all out surface struggle -- self-reliance, self-preservation like the up-ended fly on the sill. But often, the best choice is a counter-intuitive trust in something other than self.

Fact is, faith isn't lived by sight. Sometimes a spiritual life has to choose in opposition to physical evidence: even if it means looking foolish, even if it all looks hopeless, even if all my weaknesses are exposed in the process and I end up with vomit on my clothes. This upside down Way is still Life, even when it feels like falling and dying.
Trust and Flight. I want to learn to embrace faith in God’s control and quickly flip my flailing into graceful falling and trusting flight. But fact is, I still buy the surface lie. I still see the physical world first. I still control. I still doubt. I still want to look good. And I certainly haven’t figured out how to embrace dying-to-self in a way that feels more like flight, and less like the clumsy pink fly on her back trying to right herself. It takes practice to be otherwise. It takes time to be transformed.
The Fly. This brings me back to the window sill. I wish every daily choice were always as obvious as the fly’s struggle. From the box-seat, it is clear. But, she doesn’t see it. Even though that fly has 1000 eyes, her physical sight is of little value. She doesn’t see that she must choose a helpless freefall. She needs to skootch all the way to the edge of reason, and choose a blind leap of faith in order to fly again.
Maybe her surface struggle is a necessary means to knowing flight. And for me, maybe the physical struggles of this planet are the best access to truly seeing and knowing the one Saving God. I feel like that fly; because, a lived faith is often accompanied by a clumsy, falling, dying sensation. Like her, my best option, is usually to quit struggling, stop, trust, and just fall into flight.

Or maybe she’s just a clumsy Pink Fly who found her way to the window’s edge and flew away. And I’m making way too much of it all.

“If anyone would come after me,he must deny himself and
take up his cross daily and follow me.
For whoever wants to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for me, will save it.”
~ Jesus


Image: "Pink Fly" logo from PINK FLY womens boutique and environmentally friendly products in Victoria, Australia.

Paved Paradise

Being twin-car-families with strangers in a small town can cause embarrassing wave mix-ups and serious parking lot confusion.

Lessons from the Parking Lot:

We used to have the same big old maroon buffalo ( a.k.a. GMC Suburban ) as another family here in town. Friends of the other family would mistakenly wave at me now and then. I didn't mind. It was funny to see the wavers suddenly realize they'd mis-waved. I'd smile and wave back anyhow.

Even though we never actually met, our families obviously had things in common. The other Maroon Buffalo family also had kids at Columbine Elementary School and they shared our tendency to go too long between car washes. In a moment of great confusion, I discovered one other coincidental similarity between us.

I had just dropped off a permission slip for Lucas' 4th grade field trip. On my way back out to the parking lot, I sifted through my pockets and fished out my keys. Completely on auto-pilot, thinking about my next errand and without looking down, I reflexively stuck my key in the hole and opened the door. It should have been immediately apparent. But I stood there, staring at the front seats like Laura Ingalls Wilder in a Simply Mac store. Nothing was making sense. Nothing was recognizable. "What am I looking at?"

Wrong interior. Wrong bucket seats. Wrong worn out console. 3. 2. 1. Fog lifted. "Hey ... this isn't my car." We even had the SAME KEYS as the other Maroon Buffalo family. What are the odds?

I immediately relocked and shut their door. While searching for the correct vehicle, I wondered if the other Maroon Buffalo Mom had ever done the same thing with our truck. She would have seen the goop spills -- or unidentifiable objects may have come tumbling out at her feet. Not to worry. Since we were living in parallel universes, I suspect she would have understood. We'll never know. One thing I do know, our twin key family could have really been a great scape goat for a whole lot of shoes, coats and assignments that dissapeared without explanation. "I don't know where that went. But, there's this family, they have a key to our truck ... " That handy little trump card might have been valuable, but, it went un-played.

With our twin Buffalo days now gone, I kind of miss having the other family's friends wave at us. But I must say, a parking lot is a lot less confusing when you don't have identical cars and keys in common with strangers.

Again ... what are the odds?!

False Horizon

A Floating Black Suitcase. July 19, 1999, Martha's Vineyard. JFK Jr. and his wife were still missing when the wreckage of their airplane started to appear. "There is always hope," said Coast Guard Lt. Gary Jones, "But unfortunately, when you find certain pieces of evidence, you have to be prepared for anything." U.S. Coast Guard officials confirmed that debris from the aircraft was recovered in the Atlantic Ocean about 200 yards off the Vineyard, along with a black suitcase. Evidence of lost lives had come floating to the surface.

Ashes. Four days later, hope abandoned, three brass urns were all that remained. In a shipside ceremony, the Kennedys and Bessettes released three loved ones into the sea, one by one. Next of kin scattered the ashes of John F. Kennedy Jr.; his wife, Carolyn Bessette; and her sister Lauren Bessette into the waves.

What happened? John Kennedy Jr. was an American icon. As the 'Prince of Camelot', the legendary son of a legendary president was regularly seen smiling on the covers of tabloids. His photos are a part of US history. Burned into our collective memory is the image of him in those red shoes, standing by his mom, saluting his father's passing casket. As his life-long audience, Americans wanted answers for John Jr.'s sudden crashing death.

Weeks after the fatal accident, the National Safety Transportation Board would investigate the accident and find no mechanical malfunction. The fatal error pointed to the pilot. According to the Washington Post, JFK Jr was what aviators call a "low-time" pilot; he had his license, but he had only logged around 300 hours in the air. He had broken his ankle playing sports the month prior. And he was at the controls of a high-performance Piper Saratoga after spending most of his two years of flying in a smaller Cessna -- a complicated plane beyond the pilot's ability or preparation. Experts said that "300 hours would have left Kennedy at an experience level when pilots often become overconfident and are not sufficiently seasoned to recognize dangerous situations."

With no mechanical or structural defects found, investigators determined that "Kennedy lost his bearings, and then control of the plane, while flying over a dark ocean in thick haze. Hundreds of pilots have died in similar conditions, without visual cues to up and down. "

False Horizon. There is a gauge on a pilot's panel designed specifically to indicate the true horizon. Certain cloud patterns or weather conditions can occur during flight and mix-up the line of horizon. The visual illusion causes internal disorientation. Sideways feels straight: upside down, right side up. Only the gauge on the pilot's panel says otherwise. This phenomenon is called a false horizon. In the midst of it, a pilot must trust the reliability of the gauge; not emotion.

The false horizon indicates a larger everyday-life reality. Whether legendary or ordinary, all people live under the same dark fickle sky. The world is full of misdirecting mirages that can cause us to lose our bearings. Sometimes sideways feels straight and the appearance of reasonability can't be trusted. Clouds converge in the form of temptation, deception, pride, intimate betrayal, unexpected death. Even the stalwart walls of Camelot can come crashing down; ashes to ashes, dust to dust.
When there is no visual cue of up or down; when things feel and appear one way, but in reality are another ... what do you choose? Times like these, a truly objective measure, a wiser form of direction is necessary.
We all need a 'panel gauge' that speaks the true horizon.
This idea raises a lot of deeper spiritual questions. If it's true that some directional circumstances can't be trusted. When gut feelings, over-confidence, or intuition are 'logically' pointing toward a destructive or even fatal path, then ...
  • How do you recognize false horizons in your life?
  • Do you have a trustworthy compass?
  • What is it?

False Horizon definition and illustration:
JFK Jr. Image: People Magazine.
News & Quotes:
Washington Post
"JFK Jr. Feared Dead in Plane Crash"
By Michael Grunwald Washington Post Staff Writer: Sunday, July 18, 1999; (Reuters).
"Kennedy, Bessettes Given Shipboard Rites"
By Barton Gellman and Pamela Ferdinand Washington Post Staff Writers: Friday, July 23, 1999.

This Too Shall Pass

If you haven't seen this video-gone-viral, check it out ...
(My sons keep me updated on stuff like this).

Burning Down the House

Oh, the irony.

There was nothing free about my last freelance job. I am now in a season of writing other people's projects and I have a lot to learn. The nuances of proposals and bids and time management are still clunky. I'm practicing the new juggling rhythm.

My last job seemed simple enough. It was a re-write. Take one article, re-write it four ways. The topic, how to create a relaxing backyard, was right up my alley. The clincher came after all contracts were set. Long story short, I ended up having to write 4 new articles; all original content -- not "re-writes." Four times more hours. Four times less pay. Same deadline. New level of stress. My poor family.

My disposition went sour. Little things set me off. Even the dog kept her distance. Ugly. Really. When I ran out of fresh ideas for relaxation, I had to start researching. In the absolute apex of my stress melt-down, my butt was in the chair and I was forcing myself to read and take notes on various ways to create a relaxing environment. I was finding insightful tips for building your own breathing space. Hammocks. Pathways. Bird baths. Meditating spaces. Flower gardens. Wind chimes. Deep breaths. Because, "Relaxation is a choice."

"Clunk!" The irony hit me between the eyes like a patio brick. I'm writing helpful hints about how to relax and yet, I am allowing this exercise to completely unglue me at the seams. Pay attention. The thing that is causing you the most stress at the moment actually may actually be the gift you need, right at your fingertips. "Relaxation is a choice." Duh. It became funny. I went downstairs to tell Steve and the boys.

They were all posted at the farthest part of the house -- a safe distance from my wrath. I walked downstairs and told them my calming epiphany. I think they were cautious, but relieved to see me smile. After I finished explaining, my son Isaac paused for a second and said:

"It's like letting a stress-free candle burn down the house."

Amen. A word from the wise.

So, next time you're being eaten alive by a stressful situation, think of the candle. We have options: Slow down, find the beauty, take a deep breath -- or burn the whole house down. It's always a choice.

Candle Image from Pottery Barn.
PB Pillar Candles available at


Our driveway is challenging. The truck guys that came to pick up some furniture weren't expecting the icey uphill turn ... it didn't go well. 'No 'furniture spill' to report. Everybody got where they needed to go. But, we all relate to the panicky sweaty feeling of driving too close to the edge.

In honor of today's driveway mishap, let me remind you to take it slow today. Nothing that crosses your path is worth sending you over the edge. Nothing. If there's something right now that has your stress elevated and your life in a tipping balance, stop. Breathe. Take it slow. Pray. Call somebody for help. Whatever it takes. Don't go over the edge.


Take My Life

This morning I randomly remembered. Triggered by a song, I was suddenly back in the water. My memory sent me back to my baptism. 5 years ago, standing up to my waist in water, in front of family, friends, community, I made a statement. It was about dying to my self and publically choosing a new Life. The watery submersion symbolized my commitment; like putting on a spiritual wedding ring. One life direction exchanged for another. An oath. A pledge. A merged course.

I am a Jesus Follower. If you're a Spill reader, this shouldn't be new news to you. Hopefully you've suspected as much. To me, it is news, the essence of Good News, the bottom of hope in this world. A few years ago life circumstances drove me to believe that truth in new ways. I had already believed for years. My re-baptism (word?) was a symbol of my re-started passion to follow Jesus. It was a statement of new understanding about how I am Loved. Forgiven. Morphed. Redeemed. Rescued.

And, in response, I am prompted to say, "Take my Life." Some days, I don't make good on that offer. I take my life back for myself. That's the truth. But, thankfully, the Spirit within me keeps prodding and nudging. And every day is grace to try again.

This song was playing after I took the plunge. It is a 130 year old protestant hymn with a face lift. I love every olde english word. And so, it's posted as my own meditation, memory, and plea.

May you find peace, this Sunday.


Take my Life
Original Text: Frances Havergal, 1874
Arranged: Chris Tomlin

Take my life and let it be
consecrated, Lord, to Thee.
Take my moments and my days,
let them flow in ceaseless praise.
Take my hands and let them move
at the impulse of Thy love.
Take my feet and let them be
swift and beautiful for Thee.

Take my voice and let me sing
always, only for my King.
Take my lips and let them be
filled with messages from Thee.
Take my silver and my gold
not a mite would I withhold.
Take my intellect and use
every power as You choose.

Here am I, all of me.
Take my life, it's all for Thee

Take my will and make it Thine
it shall be no longer mine.
Take my heart it is Thine own
it shall be Thy royal throne.
Take my love, my Lord I pour
at Your feet its treasure store
Take myself and I will be
ever, only, all for Thee.
Take myself and I will be
ever, only, all for Thee.

Here am I, all of me.
Take my life, it's all for Thee.


Humpty's Last Stand

Avoid eye-contact. Do what you have to do.

Egg Evil

Entirely Uneggspected.

You never know what may be lurking in the fridge. This morning I reached for a normal egg carton in order to make scrambled eggs and encountered this (pictured) posse of resistance staring back at me. I have my suspicions about which son was behind it.


In life's most loosely-woven and frazzled seasons, sometimes simple pleasures show up as gifts that sew themselves into the tangle. These days I have 5 new threads in the fray. A handful of things have brought unexpected relaxation and/or happiness to my frazzledom. Nothing profound. Just 5 little things. I'm sharing them.


1. Sage Tea

Steve and I stopped at a greek restaurant on Valentines Day. I ordered sage tea. It's earthy and herblike. There were actual sage leaves floating on the top. And I can't swear by this, I'm just telling you what happened: I was really grumpy when I started drinking that tea, and when we left the storefront, my mood was altered for the better. I don't know. It's suspicious. There may have been something else going on, but I'm blaming the tea for my mood lift.

So, yesterday, Steve and I went to "Taste of Jerusalem" down in Manitou Springs. I ordered sage tea; no floating leaves this time, honey instead. Delicious. I ended up asking the guy at the counter about how to make the tea and he told me that he's had so many questions and requests about it that he's had to make a sage tea side business. He made me up a little to-go box with fresh dried sage from the Middle East, and a mix of tea leaves. I felt like I was buying some sort of underground mood-manipulating contraband.

2. R5Sons Alaska
A reality show about a family with 5 sons, running a lodge way out in remote Alaska.

I stumbled on "R5Sons Alaska" during commercials for the Winter Olympics, and now I'm a fan. It is both a website and a cable tv show. You'll only find the show on RFDTV; A rural farming type of channel that usually has instructional programming about farm equipment and sheep husbandry.

I absolutely love this little show because it's an honest hour of real-life back-country adventure among sons. Great wind-down time.

3. Interesting Blogs.

I won't say much about them. They are just all good for different reasons. I check in with one now and then and find myself enriched by the honesty of each. You can go check them out if you get some time.

4. The Family Room Aquarium.

It's not new. I just cleaned the tank. Same difference.

We've had the same watery herd of silver dollar fish for over 5 years. I call them the "cows" because they are chicken egg sized version of large farm animals. They graze around the tank in wide-eyed ignorance. The Cows are oddly endearing and reliably kind to the other creatures around them. The catfish on the other hand, is just plain spooky. He started out smaller than a fingernail and is now as big as my thumb. He lives under the gnarly creepy log. We've named his cave "Apartment A". Sometimes we go without seeing him for so long I'm sure he's dead. Then, for no apparent reason, he'll come shuffling out at feeding time and I get spooked like he's an aquatic ghost or something. We also have invisible shrimp, gouramis, and a couple yellow guys that I don't expect to live long.

While I'm thinking about it, I may as well warn you: Don't ever get an aquarium crab. There's nothing relaxing about them. They are always trying to escape. We found our last one under our couch, dried up like a piece of popcorn. 'No idea how he got there. I still get the willies if I really think about it. Don't get a crab.

Anyhow, the aquarium makes my list of five because lately I find myself pausing by the tank and staring at the way those fish silently fly in the water. It's a good way to slow down and relax.

5. Books.

I have not ever had the discipline to be a reader. I tend too much towards obsession. My house falls to shambles when fiction steals my focus. Consequently, I don't read recreationally. It's like those people who just know they have a predisposition to be alcoholic even though they don't drink. That's me with fiction. I have the potential to be a ruinous addict. Sad but true. Until lately. Now that I'm writing aggressively, I'm reading. For some reason, this season is allowing me to read in manageable doses. 'Can't explain it. But it's enjoyable.

The Latest:
  • My Name is Asher Lev, Chaim Potok
  • The Gift of Asher Lev, Chaim Potok
  • Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art, Madeline L'Engle

There you have it. Take five.


Where have I been? Juggling.

I'm that lady in the picture, juggling worlds. There are seasons when days and weeks take on a familiar rhythm, like a juggler's constant catch and release. And lately, I've been feeling like some mean instructor has been tossing extra objects into my circle at an accelerated pace.

I usually think of my life in segments like classes in a schedule. In each, I am learning, growing. The schedule changes according to season. My current life-classes are:

Raising Sons 101
Music Appreciation
Practicing Christian Spirituality
Writing for Money
Communication & Intimacy in Marriage
College Scholarships
The Art of Home Management

Let's just say, those classes are balls. More specifically, those things that demand daily learning and attention are juggler's balls. According to my list, I have at least seven. That's the kind of juggling I'm talking about.

Life Juggling. It takes practice.
This much I know:
    Discernment. Over time, I'm learning to stop and set down some of my balls, because honestly, you can only juggle so much.
      Timing. Since I tend to be kind of obsessive compulsive, sometimes I'll hone in on one ball too long and everything else crashes to a halt. My laundry room and office desk are my barometers for this. When left in a holding pattern too long, they lose momentum and crash explosively into mounded piles of clothes or paper.
        Limits. Or, sometimes I overestimate my ability and let someone throw in one project too many -- like a tossed chainsaw or a bowling ball. This usually happens when I utter these words without stopping to think first:
        "Sure, I can do that for you, real quick."
        "No problem, just let me know when you need it."
        (Cue the toss of a huge dangerous object.) I can't juggle chainsaws or bowling balls. It's important to learn limits and balance.

        Like I said, this takes practice. And it matters.
        What we juggle takes our focus, attention, contact, time.

        For the sake of describing the abstract juggle of life, I did a little reading on the actual art of juggling. Maybe I'll fill you in on that sometime. But for now, some food for thought ...

        Think About It:
        What 'life-classes' are you juggling right now?
        What things takes your time, your heart, your focus?
        Is any one thing stealing too much time and causing you to drop other balls?

        Pause. Think.
        It's worth evaluating.