Margie Hord

Expat by Default

How I Almost Wrecked a Friendship and What I learned

A long-haired woman sitting on a dirt path in a misty forest

by Andrew Neel, Unsplash

Friend or Traitor?

I have a confession to make. Those who know me might not believe how nasty I can be. Years ago, I gossiped behind a friend’s back about her family, and she found out about it. All of a sudden, when I called her, she was curt, busy, stand-offish. Any suggestion that we get together soon received vague answers. It took me a while, but reality finally sank in. She knew what I’d done and saw me as a traitor more than a friend.

Now don’t get me wrong. She was not a petty person, the type that is easily put off, a fly-by-night friend. She had been an example and a spiritual mentor to me. Losing that trusting, open relationship was devastating to me.

At first I was on the defensive. It wasn’t such a big deal, was it? I hadn’t really lied, nor had I revealed any deep, dark secret. Why would it be taken so seriously?

Eventually the truth set in. I was embarrassed, ashamed, and repentant. I knew that waiting for things to calm down was not a solution. I had to ‘fess up if I wanted to save, If possible, our friendship. My husband accompanied me to make a visit, for moral support.

Friends? Confession

by Cristian Newman, Unsplash

Our unexpected arrival met with a lukewarm welcome. It was so long ago that I don’t recall the details, but I probably said something like “We need to talk”. My fears as to the reason for her aloofness were immediately confirmed. I made my confession and asked for forgiveness, hardly daring to receive it.

My friend oh-so-graciously accepted my admission and my plea for reconciliation. Trust did not blossom immediately, but took its time. The rift eventually became barely a crack, a distant reminder of hurt and healing. Over the years, our families shared dozens of gatherings and important life events together. Knowing that the relationship had withstood such a major shake-up made it all that more valuable. Above all, God had touched us both, humbling me and giving her the grace to forgive.

Words can Wound… or Heal

So what’s the takeaway? The fact that we’re all broken people is nothing new. I messed up big time, inflicting wounds on others. We’ve all been there, done that. Healing is not a given, but it’s up to each of us to initiate it… or not. When that takes years, the wounds fester and major surgery may be required. I’m glad I took action before it got harder.

Mister James, Unsplash

I also learned that something apparently insignificant can be a major trigger. That reminds me of that reference to the tongue being a spark or flame that sets off a fire, even “the whole course of one’s life”. Gossip (in spoken or written form) is one of those “accepted evils” that is seldom equated with immorality, and is practiced by those who seem to be pretty good people. Yet I’ve seen it destroy a church. Misunderstandings, a close cousin, have wrecked marriages. On social media, words have even led to suicide.

Again and again, I’ve had to review this lesson: When in doubt, shut your mouth.

Angels in Disguise: A Border Incident

Once in a while, you get into a muddle and it seems like there’s no way out. Sometimes the answer comes in the way of “angels” in disguise.

My story happened way back in the 70’s, so the details are fuzzy. I had gone from central Mexico way up to Brownsville, Texas to renew my tourist visa. Truth is, I was a student.

After finishing my paperwork, I bought a bus ticket back and was set to go… until I was asked for a certain amount of money (a few hundred dollars) to show that I could support myself during my stay in Mexico. Oops!

Though I had opened a bank account in Mexico, it wasn’t a good idea to explain that when I was entering on a tourist visa!

That was, of course, before cell phones and internet and rapid money transfers. Suddenly I felt stranded, at a loss as to how to proceed, in a city where I knew no one.

A middle-aged woman (angel?) nearby overheard the discussion and understood my predicament. As she was about to board the southward-bound bus herself, she quickly indicated that I should look up her daughter and son-in-law, and scribbled down their address. They would at least be able to put me up for the night.

Don’t ask me how I found the apartment, or how I finally got up my nerve to knock.

“Who is it?”

In a broken voice, I responded: “Someone your mom knows”… So convincing, of course! All in Spanish, by the way.

A few more questions were asked before the door was opened; they were undoubtedly surprised to see a young white woman at her wits’ end. Knowing myself, my cheeks probably showed a few tear tracks.

In the end, they offered me supper and a sofa bed, and figured out what to do. The next day was payday and one of them would pick up their pay and lend me the money to show to the person who wanted proof of my financial solvency.

As planned, the following day they accompanied me to the bus station. After I had flashed “my” bucks for the surprised official who remembered me from my first intent, I went to give my hosts a goodbye hug and slip them the money.

I’m quite sure I sent a thank-you letter to that couple at some point. It was truly a miracle that they had trusted me enough to offer me lodging, but even more so, to lend me a considerable amount and believe that I would return it!

In Mexico they’ve recently coined a word, “Diosidencia, something like a “Godcidence” instead of a coincidence. (The final “s” in Dios makes it work better and fit into “coincidencia”). It’s a term I love to use when God seems to be behind an apparently random occurrence, which is truly a godsend.

There’s a Scripture verse that reminds me that I too should be hospitable:

“Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.”

What’s interesting is that we speak of “angels in disguise” more as the doers, not the recipients. Perhaps you will be that person for someone, or perhaps others will appear on the scene for you. When you’re in the tightest spot, expect the impossible to happen!

Feel free to share one of YOUR “Godcidences” with me below.

65 Years Young, Redefined

A few months ago I shared a blog post about being 65 and not feeling old, and that in fact the OMS supposedly says we are still young. Jogging, feeling my life is good and not having any major health issues.

Don’t be misled; I’m no Dorian Gray. A five-year-old girl just had a look at my sagging upper arms and declared them to be “squishy”!

Another of my recent posts was about being scatterbrained, and that for certain has been more and more of a reality as the years go by. I’d be ashamed to tell you how many times I’ve forgotten my keys in the last little bit…

New Diagnosis

Then, wham! I learn I have osteoporosis. Oops, that starts with an “o” like “old”. I am reminded that one more disadvantage of being white or Caucasian is having a greater likelihood of losing considerable bone density. Causes are 70% genetic and 30% diet and exercise, mostly.

No more morning jogging! No more crunches! OK, at least I can continue with power walks. If I want to buy an exercise bike, I’m told, it’s best to find the kind with a back rest to take care of the old spine.

Another new no-no tells me I shouldn’t lift heavy objects, like the huge bottles we use for drinking water in Mexico. So what am I meant I do when I want to bring a packed suitcase downstairs?

Where to Now?

A brunette woman pointing out to the sky at Rancho Santa Fe

It’s just as well I’ve always been pretty good at eating dairy products and then taking calcium/vitamin D supplements for years. But now it’s time to be even more conscientious about all that. Of course, there’s quite a few other calcium rich goodies I can stock up on, too. (Note: In Mexico I find amaranth easy to find, in snacks and more. It seems to be harder to find north of the border.)

They say “it’s all in the mind”. Not exactly, but a lot of it. Then there’s the spiritual angle, and I just love the way Paul said it:  

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.

Yep, the inner self can be renewed or made “younger” daily, but we’ve got to keep the outer one in good shape as well as possible! So, that all-around workout means, for me:

  • Getting that good heart-nutrition with my daily dose from God’s word.
  • Doing a double check on getting my calcium and vitamin D with my diet and more. Watching the caffeine intake, as that can affect calcium absorption. A cup of coffee daily, or two, max!
  • Put on those tennis shoes to get a few kilometers under my feet, as many days as possible.
  • Get those arms in better shape with those little weights I’ve been less-than-faithful with.
  • Last, but not least, keep my mind and fingers busy, writing up a storm!

Here’s wishing all of you “renewed youth”, whatever young means to you!

A New Name on a White Stone: What Will it Be?

Imagen relacionada

Names have a fascination for us. Parents may spend months considering options for children’s names before they are born. The way they sound, their popularity and especially their meaning are often involved in their choices. In other cases, it may be the name of a parent, grandparent, or other well-loved person.

In some cultures, the definitive name isn’t given until parents have an idea of the child’s physical characteristics or personality, and then that’s considered, in terms of the name’s meaning. I knew of a very pale woman named “Blanca Nieves” (Snow White) in Spanish, and a redheaded friend was Robin.

How New Names Happen

Names or nicknames may be changed at some point in a person’s history. When my children were in Scouts, they were given names of animals from Kipling’s Jungle Book, which gave them a sort of new, exciting identity.

There may also be spiritually inspired names, such as those representing a religious conversion. In some cultures, for example, new Christians like to adopt Biblical names when they enter the faith.

In my youth, I asked to be called by the closest equivalent I knew of to my name in Spanish, Margarita, to identify with my having grown up in Latin America. It was also easier for Spanish speakers to pronounce, though over the years I began to invite people to call me by my birth name (Marjory/ Margie) again. One distinct disadvantage of the alternate name was that English speakers tended to relate Margarita with a popular cocktail, whereas in Spanish it means a daisy, a flower that is lovely in its simplicity.

Several of my family members have actually adopted different names legally; in one case, it was to reflect a family surname from the past.

Immigrants may find that their names are hard for those in their adopted country to pronounce, so that they choose an “easier” name, although they might not change it legally.

New Names in Scripture

Several Biblical characters were given a name change to represent a change in their lives. Abram (“Exalted father”) became Abraham (“Father of multitudes”) to reflect God’s promise of his descendants being as many as the stars in the sky, when it still seemed ludicrous. God tells him he will be the father of many nations, and that prophecy has come true.

Another Old Testament patriarch, Jacob (“Supplanter”), became Israel, He who prevails. He was in some ways an anti-hero, having gypped his brother out of his birthright and being exiled for years; much later, he returned to his homeland. After having wrestled with an angel on his way, his relationship to God apparently changed. He was reconciled to his brother Esau.

Simon became Peter, the Rock, much as his faith famously wavered three times before Jesus’ passing. However, this disciple’s faith had also meant he was the only one to walk (for brief moments) on water. Jesus himself declared that Peter was his new name! True to his new spiritual nature, Peter became one of the pillars of the early church. Once brash and impetuous, he became a powerful leader.

 “So we see that these different names are given to people as a blessing from the Lord, to signify that something about them, their nature or their life, has changed in some way”.

Future New Names

In the book of Revelation, we are told of several rewards that God’s faithful ones will receive one day. My favorite is the white stone, with a new name written on it!

“And I will give to each one a white stone, and on the stone will be engraved a new name that no one understands except the one who receives it”. (Rev. 2:17 NIV)

Without a doubt it will be better than any name we’ve ever had, very unique, perhaps very intimate.

There are different interpretations for that stone, but the color white often signifies purity. I think of our slates wiped clean when we give our lives to Christ.

One metaphor that may be hinted at here is that of a custom in Biblical days. The jury in a court used a small white stone for the verdict of innocent and a black one for that of guilty. So this this little stone may symbolize our freedom in Christ. The final verdict: our penalty has been paid and we are innocent!

(Unsplash: Timothy Eberly)

Perhaps our name will mean something like “Innocent” or “Free at Last” or “Warrior” or “Beloved Child”.  It will apparently be personalized and unique for each one of us, reflecting our new identity as children of God. It will be a special love-gift, a secret one.

Do you long to receive your new name some day? I certainly do!

The Tooth Fairy… or Mouse?

By Ryan Stone. Unsplash.

As many of you know, part of the focus of my blog is to discuss cross-cultural matters. Today it’s the tooth fairy’s turn.

The Tooth Fairy

What, isn’t the tooth fairy universal? For some reason, when we grow up in a particular culture, we often take for granted that everyone in the world has the same customs. It’s when we have the opportunity to live in other countries, visit them, or meet internationals that our eyes are opened to a wee part of the vast variety of customs that exist.

Some “folklore” traditions are seasonal and related to special holidays, such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter. One that is unlike them in that sense is the tooth fairy, probably invented to make the somewhat painful trauma of losing baby teeth more pleasant. In fact, little ones who haven’t gotten to the stage of losing any pearly whites will often be jealous of their older siblings and long for that rite of passage as well!

When I was a kid, it was a pretty simple procedure. Wash the blood off that freshly plucked tooth, leave it under your pillow at night, and wait to find the tooth replaced with some money the next day. Fairies do magic! (What in the world they want those teeth for, I can’t imagine.)

Anyway, much as in my childhood I left cookies for Santa and letters for the Easter bunny, there was no other rigmarole surrounding the tooth fairy.

A Bit of History

I just learned that, according to Wikipedia, there is an early reference to the tooth fairy in a 1908 “Household Hints” item in the Chicago Daily Tribune:

“Many a refractory child will allow a loose tooth to be removed if he knows about the Tooth Fairy. If he takes his little tooth and puts it under the pillow when he goes to bed the Tooth Fairy will come in the night and take it away, and in its place will leave some little gift. It is a nice plan for mothers to visit the 5 cent counter and lay in a supply of articles to be used on such occasions.”

This fantasy might be compared to those of Santa Claus and the Easter bunny, but as we see, a difference is that it can be helpful for the “refractory child”. Guess what? I had to look that up, just in case you are also wondering what “refractory” is: disobedient.

The Tooth Mouse

Now transport yourself to the Hispanic world: no tooth fairy! However, as of the late 19th century, “el ratoncito Pérez” took on the job of picking teeth up, or as in Mexico, “el ratón de los dientes”, the tooth mouse, with no Pérez surname. Okay, a little less romantic than a fairy…

Mice can be a little scary for some kids. One of my grandsons was rather fearful of mice, so asked if he could leave his tooth somewhere near his bed but not under his pillow. I don’t suppose many of us would like a mouse sniffing around our pillow at night, right?

Of course, modern commercialism always finds a way to take traditions and overdo them to do business. One can find special boxes for teeth, special miniature doors for the fairy to enter, and so on… even tooth fairy dust or a tiny wand for her to leave behind!

In Mexico and elsewhere there are now all kinds of special containers for the teeth that one can purchase. My in-laws make little felt mice with a pocket for the tooth. Yep, there are doors too, even “vinyl mouse holes” to stick on the wall.

Spin-offs for the Creative

Families can get creative, resulting in innumerable variations of the traditional customs. In my family it was the letters the Easter bunny wrote, for example. Well, this year my grandchildren got quite creative. Near the felt mouse with its tooth-shaped pocket they made a little bed for the mouse, cushioned with a pair of socks and toilet paper, and left him a miniature skateboard and a Cheerios snack. There was even a flashlight on, to light his way!

By the way, those kids now live in the U.S., but their Mexican ways have followed them.  Still, their messages for the mouse were in English! Their parents have learned, as I did, to “mix and match” the practices of two cultures.

Perhaps some of my readers have some other interesting family folklore or take-offs on different cultures that they’d like to share below… feel welcome to comment!

How Can Beauty Come Out of Evil?

Green Glass Sea

Dewey Kerrigan was almost eleven when she moved to Los Alamos, New Mexico in the 40’s to be with her Dad, a scientist at a super-secret location. He and some other scientists, including J. Robert Oppenheimer, were working on a project known as “the gadget”.

Not your everyday gadget, it was the atom bomb.

This fictional account by Ellen Klage builds up around a very real historical event, in the novel “The Green Glass Sea”.

Dewey’s Mom had disappeared when she was a baby, so she’s often on her own or with neighbors. Everything is hush-hush as they wonder whether “the gadget” will help them win the war against Japan.

Finally, the Los Alamos community gathers one night to see an explosion miles away, an eight-mile high, glowing mushroom cloud. It leads to celebration, to cheers, to drinking.

Until the end of the novel, one wonders what in the world the title is referring to. Much as I hate spoilers, this one is central to my topic.

Dewey joins the family of her friend Suze Gordon on an unusual birthday-celebration trip, where they drive out into the middle of nowhere, where it is impossible to imagine anything worthwhile seeing. When they finally walk out into the “flat, featureless desert”, first they come upon charred bushes and small scorched animals.

Suddenly, they discover a “huge green sea”, which instead of being water, is glass. It looks as if “a giant candle had dropped and splattered green wax everywhere”. Suze’s father proudly identifies “the first mineral created on this planet in millions of years”, Trinitite. (Yes, this mineral exists, as a result of those bomb tests!)

Dewey’s friend thinks it looks like kryptonite. Dewey herself puts her hand on the green, pebbled surface in awe, whispering, “Papa helped make this.” She remembers how her Dad’s voice used to sound when he talked about “how beautiful math and science were”.

Dr. Gordon uses a Geiger counter to make sure the girls don’t keep any pieces that are too “hot” with radiation, before they leave

After a bomb test of deadly proportions, beautiful glass!

How telling, that the author should seek to find meaning and beauty in the midst of a story which is ultimately related to destruction. The protagonist herself lives great personal tragedy, which I won’t go into to avoid further spoilers, yet this last memory speaks of hope arising from the ashes, like the mythical phoenix.

Beauty after Bullet Shots

Real life abounds in stories that show how ultimate meaning can come from what seems cruel or meaningless. Recently I read about the horrifying experience of Lisette Johnson of Virginia. Over the years, her husband’s violence had escalated, culminating in a shooting incident where she was left badly injured. Her diaphragm was ruptured; a bullet nicked her heart, and she nearly died.

A bullet is still lodged in her liver.

Lisette’s husband took his own life afterwards.

After such a traumatic ordeal, it is encouraging to read Lisette’s testimony:

“I have a great deal of joy and purpose in my life now. I’ve worked to help pass a law in Virginia that requires people who have a permanent protective order against them to give up their firearms. The law could have made all the difference in my case.” (Woman’s Day, Sept. 2016)

In addition, this survivor works with victims of domestic violence and trauma, helping them to find healing. Out of evil has come healing and help for others, as well as an important step forward legally for protecting potential victims.

Beauty after Loss

Finally, let me refer to two books by Nancy Guthrie that touched me deeply. The first one, “Holding on to Hope”, follows the author’s faith journey as she and her husband made the decision to let their child live after a diagnosis of a rare congenital disease, Zellweger Syndrome. The baby girl, Hope, was given less than six months to live.

The Guthries, knowing the illness could be repeated, decided he should undergo a vasectomy. To their dismay, Nancy became pregnant with a second child, who was born with the same syndrome and also died not long afterwards.

Another book by Guthrie, “Hearing Jesus Speak into Your Sorrow”, reflects on grief and loss in such a way that has surely helped many make sense of their suffering.

Much as I question whether I can classify illness as “evil”, it is certainly, for some of us, rooted in the coming of evil to this earth. Without denying the heart-wrenching pain involved in her loss and that of her husband, Nancy Guthrie recognized that good had come as a result.

“To experience and exude peace when life is crashing down around you, to have the lightness of joy when the weight of sorrow is heavy, to be grateful for what God has given you when you’ve lost what is most precious to you– that is God at work on the interior of your life, on display in your life. It is the light of God piercing the darkness of this world.”

Beauty at the Cross

Once I was watching TV at the home of a Laotian immigrant family, who hadn’t lived long in Canada. “Jesus Christ Super-Star” was on, and a young daughter was getting at least some of the story (perhaps totally new to her). Shocked at the crucifixion, she asked me, “Why did they do that? He was a good man!”

I was at a loss for words, particularly knowing that her English was barely functional.

Evil was at the heart of it, in a sense. Ironically, the “father of lies” hoped to destroy the “Author of life”.

However, God was in control and actually was not taken by surprise. He had a purpose in what to some was apparent “failure”, but was meant to save humankind. That sacrifice put the terrible weight of the sins of the world on Christ’s shoulders, to be taken off ours! Later, he burst the bonds of death and beauty reigned.

A sea of beautiful, stunning green glass… daring evil to have the last word and triumph!

 

Just Scatterbrained, or Do I Have ADD?

“If my head weren’t attached, I’d lose it!” Have you ever said that?

For much of my life, I have been known to be forgetful or absent-minded. Then there’s that funny word “scatterbrained”, defined as “disorganized and lacking in concentration”. Bingo!

More recently, as I’ve talked to other family members of different ages, they’ve said they suspect they have something like ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder). Years ago, most of us didn’t know about that terminology.

Scatterbrained over the Years

Misplacing things was a given. Fortunately, my Mum was “a good looker” (as she liked to say) and my husband too, sometimes finding things where I swore I’d already looked.

Over the years, I’m sure I’ve “lost” dozens of sweaters, Mexican “rebozos” (shawls), and umbrellas, often on public transportation. Once I lost a good new coat in an airport bathroom! In a taxi, I left a hymnbook. On a bus, I left school papers and grades, put up signs on several buses and finally got my bag back from someone who, of course, wanted an award. Absent-minded professor indeed!

One of the most memorable situations related to my carelessness was the time I left a passport on a Greyhound bus in the US. That meant I had to stay there longer than planned, and missed a semester of school in Mexico! Even so, there were blessings in that unexpected “extra time”, things that wouldn’t have happened otherwise.

Much later in my life, modern technology brought those amazing but all-too-small memory sticks. It’s so easy to forget them somewhere (despite their name), and often I did in classroom computers, internet cafés, and so on. Sometimes I was able to recuperate them, relieved that important information wasn’t lost.

As I reached my 40’s, I began to use reading glasses. In recent years, I was fortunate that my husband was often at home and could bring my glasses to school when I forgot them. Embarrassing, but he patiently took them quite a few times. Once I had to go to a nearby store to buy some new ones.

Another challenge is organization. Making to-do lists is one way I try to keep track of things. My family gets a laugh out of my little lists and post-its all over the place. Of course, I end up having too many, and not finding the one I need when I need it.

Scatterbrained as a Traveler

My mom, and later even my daughter, would remind me upon taking a trip: “Always check how many pieces of luggage you have with you, and count them whenever you move from one place to another”.

On a trip this month, I didn’t have all that much luggage, but I forgot to take that advice into account. In a major airport, after unloading everything onto the security conveyor belt (having left one piece at the bag drop already), I started to take things out of their trays on the other side.

Laptop in backpack, check. Watch on wrist, check. Purse in hand, check.

Then off I went, for what was easily a kilometer walk to my departure gate.

After a short wait, it was time to board the plane. Great, very few passengers, so it was quick.

Upon finding my seat number, I reached for my belongings and realized I had my backpack but not my carry-on suitcase! Too late to go back, but I was given the lost-and-found e-mail to ask about it and “pick it up on my return”. Sorry, I wasn’t planning to return anytime soon!

Fortunately, that happened in Canada; in some countries, that loss might have been permanent. However, it’s going to cost a pretty penny to get that bag back, with special fragile heirlooms included.

Scatterbrained or ADD?

For me, it would seem that extreme absent-mindedness can be related to an attention deficit. Now, as I wonder whether I have some degree of ADD or ADHD, I thought it would be worthwhile doing a little research. This page talks about some symptoms that adults may recognize in themselves.

Anyway, I decided to try a checklist to do a little self-analysis:

Considered lazy or stupid as a child. No
Poor organizational skills, lots of clutter Yes
Tendency to procrastinate For sure!
Trouble starting/ finishing projects Who read my mind?
Chronic lateness No
Frequently forgetting appointments, etc. So-so
Constantly misplacing things YES!
Frequently interrupt others Some
Poor self-control No
Easily flustered and stressed-out So-so (Hubby would say YES)
Low self-esteem and sense of insecurity So-so
Hypersensitivity to criticism Yes (afraid to read student evaluations)
Trouble sitting still, constant fidgeting No
Impulsive, overly talkative No

 

Okay, there are more characteristics listed online, mostly ones where I’d say “no”. Basically, I wouldn’t say I’m hyperactive (which isn’t always part of ADD), and compared to some people I know, I’m not as bad at procrastinating, or forgetting commitments. But as for misplacing or forgetting things, I could almost get a Guiness record! Perhaps I have a partial attention deficit.

So… unless I see a specialist (which I don’t plan to), the jury is out. What about you? If you identify quite a few of these characteristics, and especially if they are affecting your studies, work or relationships, do consider getting help!

Blind Curve: Expect the Unexpected

“Blind curve ahead, trail users exercise extreme caution”, says the sign. True, there are bushes in the way and you can’t see what might hit you if you don’t stay on the right side. Joggers don’t want to smash into speeding bikes, or vice versa! There might be other joggers, skateboarders, or even a coyote or bobcat… The asphalt trail is also open to maintenance vehicles, which would be more dangerous indeed. Caution is a must.

I’d never seen such warnings on a trail before, but I had run into them on highways plenty of times. All the same, it’s pretty obvious you shouldn’t switch lanes on a two-lane road when you can’t see whether traffic is coming in the opposite direction!

In the case of the road or path, a blind curve is a warning sign in itself, telling us to prepare to avoid an undesirable accident.

A curve in an asphalt road in the mountains

But what about those blind curves in life? Don’t you wish there were warning signs? A lot of times it doesn’t happen. Bam! You run right into things like “It’s cancer”, or “He up and died”, or “She left me”. Just in case, should we always “stay in the right lane”? It helps, but doesn’t guarantee zero accidents. Continue reading

Spring at Last

Winter’s snows are but a memory now,

yet their abundance fills

rushing rivers and springs,

their white foaming down waterfalls.

The first bright dandelions dot dirt roads,

and their cousins, the more daring daffodils

show off their frills

in gardens, on hills.

Bold birches bare their stark white bark

against blue skies flecked with clouds.

The wind whispers in the tall pines

and brings the occasional

whiff of spruce.

Hillsides are still

a mixture of dark ever-green

and light browns,

with pale spring greens

and dusky pinks

barely a promise

in almost-budding tree tips.

The new warmth hints of summer,

but winter seems to have been

only yesterday.

 

(Vermont, May 2018)

Reflecting on How to Answer When Told “You’re a Strong Person”

When my husband passed away after 36 years of marriage, several friends encouraged me with the words “You’re a strong woman!” In other words: “You can handle this.” Much as I was thankful for their trust in me, more than once I answered: “I’m weak, but I have a strong God!”

Strength Doesn’t Appear by Magic

When friends face tragedies, a common response is to console them by exhorting them, “Be be strong; have faith.” But strength and faith aren’t resources we can drum up as if by magic. They aren’t innate in us; the truth is that they grow in the middle of challenging experiences. In the long run, I’ve found, my true strength is God-given.  Continue reading

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