Too Many Notes…

The noise of the day is really loud these days.  Sometimes I wonder how much is actually getting in, and how much capacity I really have to hear it.

I recognized that I might be in overload when I realized how many times I say “huh?”  or, more politely, “Excuse me?”.  Either I am truly losing my hearing or I’m at the outer edges of my ability to take in even one more thing.

Last night I stopped in to see a friend mid-evening.  Within minutes of my arrival, he was looking at me sort of curiously and gently saying “Shshhhh”.  In other words, it’s OK…take a breath in. Breathe out, and maybe even sit down.  It was a nice reminder that my pace is exceeding my skill to run that fast, speak that much, listen that closely.  So I snuggled into the sofa, had a glass of wine, and tried to put my smart-phone down.  That is reallllly hard.

Years ago, my then husband and I loved the movie “Amadeus”.  The line that has stuck with me after all these years is when Mozart and the King are speaking after an intensely beautiful concert given for the King.  The King’s critique?  ” It had….just….. too many notes!”

On any given Saturday back then, my list of to-dos around our house was enormous.  My former would look at the list, STARE at me, and say:  “Susan, seriously?…too many notes.”  He was right.

This is what I long for…lessons learned that span time.  I want to live sans too much of everything and not enough of being.

Maturity Milestones

It wasn’t all that long ago that this phrase popped into my head.  It likely has to do with the passage of time, the compilation of experiences, and clarity concerning both things.

For awhile, I didn’t consider time.  Frankly, I often still don’t.  Despite the awareness that I am no longer a young woman, that knowledge doesn’t derail me.

I like this time.  This present time.  Today. This moment has a lot going for it.

Most of the time, I’m undeterred…not entirely unstoppable, but not easily swayed off course.  I know who I am and generally speaking, I know what I need and want.  By the way, those are two very different things; needs and wants. And that is a maturity milestone if ever there was one.

I know that I can visit a place that I love and not have to live there to be happy. Content where I am or consider moving. Either one, but not desperately unhappy where I am because I saw something better.  The first time I ever went to San Francisco, my bags were packed in my mind. I still do not live there. Maturity milestone.

This reminds me of a related subject.  It’s possible, and even likely,  to fall for the wrong person at some point.  Maturity knows that and thinks as well as feels.

I think it takes a lifetime to figure out a lifetime.  We just don’t do everything with grace and we are so very often not at all sure-footed.  We feel instead of think and wind up lonely.  We spend instead of invest (emotionally and spiritually,  as well as the obvious), and wind up without reserve. We speak before thinking, and end up with regret. But the learning that accompanies the falling?  Now that’s just mercy.

I also think it’s amazing to watch my kids reach their own mile markers of maturity.  It’s happening before my eyes, and quite without my constant supervision. Hmmm….another maturity milestone for me.

I need them

All of my life I have had something I’ve only recently come to fully appreciate.

There is a strong set of memories in my mind of my mom saying things like “Don’t hit your sisters”, or “That’s your sister.  You need to love your sister.” My favorite, though: “She’s your sister.  She’ll always be your sister”.

My mom was absolutely devoted to doing whatever she could to encourage loving relationships between us.  I love my mom for that.  She longed for us to be dear friends, really longed for that.  She just wanted us to be each others best friends.

Guess what? We are dear friends.  Best friends.  Friends of the right hand.  How I love the look on my mom’s face when all of us are together laughing.  Her face is a mixture of pride, love, and just pure joy. Magic. Thank you, Mom, for your wisdom and rightness of desire here.

I called one of these incredible women last night, which I do when I need to share a secret or I need a hug from far away. I needed to hear her voice and I needed to talk and have her listen.  She just does that so well.  No judgement, but if I really think about that, judgement isn’t  necessary.  She knows me so well that there isn’t anything I’m going to say (or not say, for that matter) that would truly surprise her.

So much has been written on sisters…the relationships, the connection, the mystery of those ties. Not much, though, has been written on my sisters.

I have one sister that I can still make giggle out of control at a glance.  It’s ridiculous that we still do that, but we do.  I think, for me, it’s that I simply love the sound of her laughter. She makes her children laugh, which is a legacy they will always remember.  Filled with light, that one.  Another is elegant, well traveled, sophisticated , and yet would(and did) drop her life for another the moment of need. She did it for me, and I’ll love her forever for that.  She is selfless and kind, devoted and understanding, and above all utterly trustworthy.  The third? She has everything that we all want: beauty, grace, wit, the love of friends far and near, but above all, by far her finest attribute is her undying loyalty to those she loves. When you are on the receiving end of loyalty, that gift is absolute grace.

I love you, girls, and am so very glad to be #4.

Mercy in Disguise

I mentioned in a recent blog that I struggle with a disability.  It’s a true statement.  I do struggle with that sometimes.

Another truth is that this disability that I have is a permanent part of me now.  Unless miraculous further healing comes, this is me now, and likely me until Heaven, when I believe I will be fully restored and freed from the limitations I experience here.

My heart is so lifted to God through music.  I’ve mentioned that before too. God must have put that music-heart in me as one of my love-languages, because nothing, NOTHING, touches my soul more than music. There are artists that simply lift my heart up and heavenward the moment they open their mouths.

Laura Story is one, Audrey Assad another,  Matt Maher a third, and then of course Kari Jobe…but there are dozens of others, and not just Christian artists.  David Wilcox, Michael Johnson, Liz Story, Diana Krall…aaah.

When I doubt the loving kindness of God, on a particularly hard day, I usually run to my journal, my bible and my earphones, and remind myself how good God is.  He always can be found.

Laura Story has a new release that nearly perfectly describes the blessing of my disability.  I keep listening to it because it’s just one of those lift my heart to God songs.  Makes me thankful.  Reminds me that God is good, even when circumstances are hard. Even  when  it is  hard.

Don’t misunderstand.  It IS hard.  But when I choose to focus on the blessing, my perspective shifts.

I look forward to the day when I am free from my body’s limitations.  I do. But for today, I choose joy.


We pray for blessings
We pray for peace
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
We pray for healing, for prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering
All the while, You hear each spoken need
Yet love us way too much to give us lesser things

‘Cause what if your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

We pray for wisdom
Your voice to hear
And we cry in anger when we cannot feel You near
We doubt Your goodness, we doubt Your love
As if every promise from Your Word is not enough
All the while, You hear each desperate plea
And long that we’d have faith to believe

‘Cause what if your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near
And what if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

When friends betray us
When darkness seems to win
We know the pain reminds this heart
That this is not, this is not our home,
It’s not our home

‘Cause what if your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
And what if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near
What if my greatest disappointments
Or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy
And what if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are your mercies in disguise

Capture my gaze

I admit it.  Words are some of my favorite things. Always have been.  Just love ’em.  Silly stupid over words :-)

There are certain words that I especially love, in no particular order….capture, profound, gaze, dwell, colloquialism, share, chilly, worship, buzz, baby, perhaps – I truly look for times I can say “perhaps” !  Perhaps there will be an occasion during this blog post that I can insert some of my favorite words.

I must also admit that  I’m drawn to people who love words and language as much as me.  Not just verbal processors, or the perfectly grammatically correct, but people who can and do express themselves in either the spoken or written word.

I’m drawn, for example, to a number of blogs that I read regularly.  Well written, certainly, but words are used exquisitely to draw the reader into their world.  My friend Sally writes a blog nearly every day on how their family is dealing with Alzheimers. I cry often as I read her posts, but I also laugh.  She paints and helps me feel, all with what she writes. I read Ann Voskamp’s blog  as well.  She uses words and photography to help me just love God…more.  These women capture my attention, and almost always my heart’s affection.  Amazing thing…words.

A friend of mine told me recently of a weekend that takes place in North Carolina (hmmm, maybe that’s right.  Can’t remember) in October every year, where storytellers and audiences sit before each other and words become tales, then  tales become memories. He could recount for me a story that he remembers from several years ago at this festival.  I think that’s a surprising thing, but words making memories is a powerful thing.   I guess I’m not the only person in the world who thinks a weekend in the mountains listening to storytellers would be heavenly.

Tonight is my book club, where I get together with a group of other women like me who dearly love words, books, and talking about such things. This gaggle of girls is fun beyond description, but also tender and insightful, intellectual and inclusive.  Some months, I hesitate to admit, this gathering is the most fun I have, because laughter infused into conversation overwhelms the book discussion, and we dissolve into some other topic altogether.  Other moments are serious and deep, a room filled with friendswho can and do trust each other.  How astonishing.  These women, talking, laughing or weeping, capture my heart’s attention.

There may be so much more to say, but I’ll let a couple of those that have gone before me (us) speak now:

  • “The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do.”
    – Thomas Jefferson
  • “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”
    – Nelson Mandela

Orchids and girlfriends and juice pops

The late afternoon sun is drifting in the window, and I’m convinced it’s almost Spring.  One of my dogs moves around the house these days, trying to find the sun and snooze with its slow, lazy walk from room to room.

I’ve been able to witness both the sun and the dog because I’ve been home sick this week, banished from work until I’m no longer a threat.  Although that sort of hurts my feelings, I’m obediently staying put, napping and reading.

I called a dear friend last night, frankly to complain about my condition. The thing about dear friends?  They care about our “conditions”, good or bad.  This particular friend?  This friend has seen me through far more than the flu.  This is the kind of friend that has walked with me through the end of a marriage, a health scare, an actual medical crisis, children challenges, dating re-entry, weight gain and loss, and everything else less and more important, from God to clothes to hair. This is the friend that doesn’t go away, no matter what I do or say. I can’t scare her off. I love her.  And she loves me.

She loved me today by coming over before 9AM.  That meant  I had on glasses and no makeup, yoga pants and a t-shirt.

After she plopped on a nearby sofa and we talked for awhile, she went home.  What she left behind?  An orchid plant, juice (with electrolytes, because she said I needed that), bananas, and frozen juice pops.

I’ve been sucking on frozen juice pops and looking at that orchid all afternoon.

My friend knows me.

Unexpected Loss

So lately I’ve been thinking about loss.  Destruction and devastation in Japan is constantly in my mind’s eye…the images of heartbreak linger, don’t they.  A friend  shared with me of a sadness in their family…the loss of expectation is so heavy  And today, I read Molly Piper’s recent blog, where she spoke of sharing a friend’s sorrow and grief over the death of that friend’s baby.

Molly is so very wise.  She shares about entering in another’s pain, whether you can fully understand it or not; whether it exceeds your life experience.

“Imagination is what will take you closer, even when you feel very distant from the situation.

I think we underestimate imagination. We shut it down too quickly, afraid we’ll either presume too much understanding or that it’ll just hurt too much.

Real love gets into the trenches of grief and suffering. It imagines. It lets it’s mind’s eye linger. Real love will not avert its eyes. It won’t say, “Your disaster is too much for me.”

I think there may be a message there for me.  Not only because I sadly admit to averting my eyes to another’s pain far too often, but because it’s so very difficult to let others IN mine.

I struggle with a physical disability.  I don’t always struggle, but sometimes I do.  In dealing day to day with the challenges that presents, the sweet imagination of others presses up to me in ways that I welcome, and in ways that hurt my pride.  The effort to understand, to reach in, I know is more often than not just pure kindness, or good manners, but my ability to receive those gestures with any grace at all is unpredictable.

Allowing someone to help me has never been my thing.  Add a  physical disability into the mix, and that independence only got magnified.  “I can do it myself” became my mantra.

A friend pointed this out to me not very long ago.  The funny thing is, many people have pointed this out over the years.  This time, however, when he brought my own behavior to my attention, I got it.  I actually got it.

What I see and sometimes understand is far lengthier than a blog post allows, and I am clearly still in process but there are some key things.

I have the ability and can do most things for myself, but my stubborn refusal to allow someone to make something easier now and then really demeans me , exactly the opposite of making me appear capable and independent. Until quite recently, I think there was a part of me that thought if I accepted help, then that meant  I really couldn’t do it alone. I t’s so very caught up in self: self-concept, self-image, self-esteem.  I get so tired of self-focus.

So I’ve come up with a phrase that I use quite often, like when someone holds a door open for me, or offers their arm on a slippery walkway:  ” Thank you so much.  I can do it, but it’s easier with help”.  That’s it.  It’s just easier with help.

What it takes…

Sometimes I go back in my journals to see where I’ve been.  Lots of journalers don’t do that.  They write, then throw the used up binder in a box somewhere for their kids to find years after they are gone.  Not me.  I like to look back.  I like to see if I’ve changed.  It gives me hope, and quite honestly, courage to keep at it.

I looked back the other day, when I was thinking about some changes in my life, and found an entry from almost one year ago.  Here it is:

March 30, 2010

“I remember you. I do. You were the one that told me that this doesn’t happen overnight. It takes the energy of effort and work and will and the peace and stillness of time.

You were a source of great irritation to me then.. I wanted FAST. Quick, complete, and restored, thank you very much. My way would be fine, and no need for alternate opinions.

I already knew what I needed to know…except of course, that we never know what we don’t know. We think we are ready for what we aren’t nearly prepared for. I thought I knew what I wanted. More than that, I was sure I knew what I needed. Turns out that a willing heart is only developed through experiences that show how totally unprepared we truly are for what we so desperately may want.

What I know today, but truthfully still struggle against doing, is that I can only tell you what my way was like…how I got to today…not how you should get here. My path had days that seemed like I was going down when I wanted to be climbing. My story has days of learning to take accountability so that I understand my part in the storm. My sadness has moments of hilarity and twisted humor that few can understand, but it carried me. And even on the days when I thought I had finally achieved wholeness, I would be reminded that there were new steps to take, which were scary and made me mad.

Getting healthy isn’t pretty. Often it’s quite ugly. Getting “backstage” takes some guts.

By the way, still working on this. Process is process is process is process……

My dearest friends and family know how grateful I am for my unique walk (pun intentional :-)). Such a reminder.

My hope is, when my children find my journals someday and read through the pages…the heart and thoughts of their mom…that they will discover nothing new.  They will realize that they already knew me, and that the transparency I so longed for in my relationships was there all along with them.

Who do I look like?

I  know that I am a combination of beautiful things, and some not so very beautiful.

I know that my nose, for example, in profile looks just exactly like my dad.  To me, that is lovely.  I wouldn’t change my nose for anything.  Lots of people would.  Not me.  I like that I look like my dad. It says that I came from him.

I am developing a very worrisome crease between my eyes with each passing year.  This crease is exactly the same crease my sisters either already have or are getting.  We share this and we all detest it. We call it “the crevice”. This crease worries me more with each year which is probably why it is getting deeper. I think there is a spiritual lesson there somewhere.  Sigh.

I love getting together with my sisters for a million reasons, but one is because we all four share a common history, and we understand each other with a glance, a touch or a hug. I know these women and see them often in the mirror when I look at myself.  And yet, despite the fact that we all share the same parents and we all grew up in the same physical house, we are such different women, with remarkably different stories, different loves, unique views and personal experiences.

My thirsty heart longs for the God of my creation, to find why I am here.  I’m always on that search, and He is always clarifying for me.  Even in the smallest of ways, I am learning more and more to recognize that Voice that I love so much, speaking to my heart.  I long for a heart like His, and I want my story to be one that is a  beautiful series of moments that show me in step with my Father. Ultimately, I just want to look like Him.

Remind me…lest I forget

“Tell me again, lest I forget who I am.  I need to remember the story, of how I fit into His plan. How He makes my  failures  His Glory…remind me.”  Abraham, David, Moses… Did you really wonder if the promises of God are true?  I see myself in your stories.

I’m listening to that Michael Olson song , as Sara Groves takes the harmony  and makes it heartbreakingly beautiful .

Prone.  That’s me.  Prone.  Prone to forget.    Prone to wander. Prone to listen to those who never knew.

I think that’s why I journal, and likely why I am here. I must remember, and sometimes that’s about reminding myself.

Music is the memory for me.  Music for me is like smell is for others.  What I hear is tied to experiences, so that when I listen to that song or melody again, even years later, the moment, even the feelings, return.  My journal is always in my lap, but never without my earphones in my ears.  I know that I feel God through the music, and I think I hear Him too.  My heart does anyway.

Of course I have my favorites.  We all do.  Cellos grip me every time.  Duets too.  Anyone who knows me well knows that duets will melt me almost immediately (note that I referenced Sara Groves singing with Michael Olson above). Musical scores from movies are often unforgettable.  So powerful is this way of speaking to my soul.

I heard a lullabye recently “All through the Night”, and was instantly transported back to my daughter’s rocking chair, with her safe in my arms in the middle of a cold Minnesota night.  Thank you, God, for memories long forgotten, where I can feel her baby skin and cuddle her in my mind.

Amazingly, I can often sing in prayer as well. Fluid, easy, effortless, draws me closer.  Vicky Beeching sings “Search Me O God”.  When I sing or hum along, I get it.  I just do.  And I can remember You.