The Mud and the Stars

The Mud and the Stars

Once a year, at Christmas time, I hear from a dear friend. This year, when I first got her letter, I waited to open it. I knew it would be full of good news and I didn’t want to envy her. I wanted to be happy for her with a heart that was full of pure intention

This morning, I read and responded to her with a happy and open heart. I’m convinced that it required a grace that I don’t posses on my own.

I found myself taking a clearer look at the circumstances of my life as I wrote the letter. I am sharing some parts of the letter here because I feel it is important.

This isn’t about me, although it seem it is.   I know how hard it is to find the good in others or in bad situations and I’m sharing why and how I struggle with this to encourage others.   If I can manage this, I’m pretty sure most people can. I’m not all that strong, or kind.

So often I hear people complain about money and all that they don’t have. All of them have a lot more security than we do. Poor people don’t usually complain a lot. They are too busy getting through the day.   Many people have sat in judgment of me, or us. Andy and I are often blamed for our own bad situation.   While I know that our choices or lack of effort is our responsibility and that it can have a negative impact and that it has a negative impact, we are human and we are struggling with challenges that threaten to crush us and to especially crush our spirits. Given this, I think it very important to appeal to hope, to faith and to our capacity to love. Life isn’t a dry run. It is the run. It’s the test. All this practice is part of the test.   Find joy where it is given. It can be hidden. Find it.

I had to find my joy before I could respond. At first, I felt small and jealous. I was missing the point. In time, I grew beyond my small edges. This is what I share today. It’s raw and honest and I am grossly uncomfortable sharing it. Here goes:


Dear ……….,

You’re letters help make the season bright! So happy to hear how well life is going and that you await the joy of more grandchildren.

We soldier on. Most days it feels more like battle than a joy but I’m beginning to believe that God gave me what I could handle and that there are lessons here that I need to learn.

Foreclosure is a long and painful process. As of yet, I have not solved the problem of future shelter. Hoping to be able to get through the winter and the worst of the weather before contemplating a tent in a nearby wood.  

Dear God, please send me some options. I’m taking a beating down here and am starting to lose it. Yesterday, I had several moments when I acted from my broken pieces, I didn’t rise above the fray but contributed to it. I’m sorry. I want to be so much better than I am.

I frequently label the fray, the mongrel hoard. Usually, this is done in the caverns in my head.   It’s those petty moments of retaliatory thinking that make me shed a light on the depth of my resentment. Wow, is that an ugly thing!

How I prefer cooperation over conflict, kindness over cruelty, generosity over selfishness.   How I long for unicorns, pink castles, lottery winnings, pigs that fly, an end to all war and the whole world singing as one. “I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony.”

Real is often dirty, rude, messy, some times heartless and cruel. I can be all of those things.

I sit in the mud puddle of life and I look up at the sky and the stars. Their beauty makes me cry. It also helps me get out of bed in the morning. It boosts my spirits and drives me to paint a smile on my face and create fun morning songs for my children. 

Yet, there are days or moments when I forget about the sky and the stars. All I see is the mud and the other people sitting beside me and I hate all of us. I question the whole Christian premise that “Christ died for our sins.” Really? Honestly? What was God thinking? We’re not worth it. We’re a disaster 

It’s a really good thing I’m not in charge. It’s time to leave philosophical/theological questions to greater and better-paid minds. My energy needs be applied elsewhere.

In this darkness, my children are another very bright spot in my life. ….

And my dear husband, Andy…this last year we’ve watched as numerous couples in our circles have split. It frightens both of us. We know how stressful troubles can be, how easy it is to blame the other, to not work together, to grow apart.   We don’t always like each other. Our communication is less than perfect. Single life can beckon like a beautiful yet deadly siren. Together, we are better than when we are alone. I said, “for better and for worse, for richer for poorer, for sickness and in health.” I have a commitment to honor.   He is also one of my best friends. That is another blessing.

While I can’t judge the relationships that split, I still feel shaken and sad. They may have the best reasons for parting.   It isn’t the path I want to travel. Life in the mud puddle is hard enough without losing my partner and a dear friend. This can be easy to forget.

From my mud puddle, I see the sky and the stars. My life is a mess. That sky and those stars remind me that it is also beautiful and that there are blessings right beside me in the muck and mire. The beauty overhead gives me hope and something to reach for. This is a good life. There is much be to learned and much to do.

At the end, I can say, “I did what I could. I didn’t give up without a fight. I fought to find the good in others and in myself and in situations that looked like hell.”

God must love this broken person very much to give her so much. I am blessed.

It just doesn’t look like much from the outside. 

I love you. Your letter forced me to sit down and write out my heart and soul and I’m so grateful for what you inspired in me. You are a treasure. Your letters are a treasure. Enjoy those wonderful children and grandchildren. I am so happy to hear from you and to know that you are doing so well  

Take care!

Have the Merriest Christmas and a New Year full of miracles!




Up on the Rooftop

Dec. 7, 2014 Sunday afternoon: Time to give Santa some competition.

Donning a stocking cap and a bright pink anorak with large front pocket, I shove a hammer in said pocket and climb up the ladder.  Slower and less agile, I am surprised by how carefully my feet move up the rungs.  Then, I reach the roof.

As a child, I was small, agile and quick.   As an older adult, I am none of those things.  A nasty case of shingles several years ago, affected my balance.  Up on that roof, I suddenly appreciated the loss of that balance in a new and profound way.

“Oh, Lord!”  I say out loud.

Inside, I’m praying like mad.  “God help me find the strength and courage to be able to do get this tarp tacked down over the bad spots in the roof.  Make my feet swift and sure. “

I remember the story of the devil tempting Jesus to jump off a great height and have angels come to save him.  I start praying for angels. . . principalities, cerebrum, seraphim, arch angels, the guy next door with a head band halo…

Closing my eyes, I will my fear away or at least to insist it hide for a time.

Soon, my husband joins me.   I’m so glad I’m not alone.  “Breathe in courage.  Exhale fear.”

“Oh, Lord.”

Months of inactivity and overeating suddenly take an obvious toll.  Flooded with regret, I close my eyes and tell myself that self-loathing can come later when I’m on solid ground.  Self-loathing on rooftops is a really, really bad idea.

I close my eyes and swallow my fear again.  Fear is like cud.  It keeps coming back.

Together, my faithful spouse and I awkwardly crawl up to the crest of the roof.    Huffing and puffing, the side of my leg is raw from scraping across the roofing.  I thought yoga pants were a good idea.  I cling to the peak of the roof and look at what I now need to climb down.  An expletive leaves my lips.  I didn’t count on that.  It’s the fear talking.  Damn fear.

I close my eyes.  “Oh, Lord, Oh Lord.”

Since the roof has been leaking for some time, we know that the sub roofing may have been compromised.  I insist on being the one to cross the uncertain terrain.  Slowly scuttling like a half-boiled crab with a leg and claw missing, I begin to enter the potential danger zone.  Taking the hammer from my pocket, I hit the roof before me in the most awkward position possible.  The people passing on the ground below are being entertained.  The young neighbors down the street who are the secret stars of my imaginary reality show entitled, “Hillbilly Mechanic”  pass the house on a slow walk several times.  Their amusement is payback for my creating an imaginary show for them in my head.    (I learned of their interest later from my son.  I was too busy hanging on, hammering and praying for safety to notice what a spectacle we were.)  Maybe it’s time for a new imaginary reality show called, “Hillbilly Roofing Repair.”

Ah, but I digress.  I’ll do anything to sidetrack that fear thing from rearing its ugly head.  Even if its trying to rear its head in memory only.

Together on the roof, we unfurl the first tarp and discuss a plan of action.  I add nails to the hammer in my front pocket and we begin tacking down the tarp and then hammering slats down over the tarp to help secure it against the wind and rain that will come.  I rest a lot.  We lose a lot of nails.  They tumble pell mell down the roof and over the side.  Husband pinches his best bass playing finger and has a lovely blood blister to show for his efforts.  He lets out a weird howl at one point.  I expect to see him go over the edge.  Instead, he’d sat on a roofing nail.

Most of my injuries are covered by clothing in places my swim suit covers.  Fortunately, my gluts were a counterweight that helped keep me on the roof as long as I kept them in close contact with the roof’s surface.  My poor gluts.

After huffing, puffing, clinging, shuddering and almost crying, we finish.  I lay against the roof eyes closed and breathe.  Finally, I feel strong enough to head for the ladder.  Fear is absent as shaky calves find the rungs.  The ground is in sight.  I almost kissed it with genuine joy and gratitude.

Roofing is for the young and the thinner.  Santa, I’m afraid my little adventure shook my belief in you.  Up on a rooftop, going down chimneys, you’ve got to be kidding me.  In your dreams, Santa.  God, on the other hand and a bunch of angels were working overtime.



The urge to put words to paper often overcomes me.  Then, I remember how uncomfortable I became, how opening oneself up and putting it out there for the world to see put me at risk and contributed to what was to follow.

Not everyone liked what I wrote.  Writing and sharing made my world less friendly, more hostile.  Yet, I opened myself up to it knowing what was likely and was still surprised when the inevitable happened.  Maybe, I was looking for a reason to stop.  I had begun to feel as if I had nothing to say, nothing of value to suggest.  If I made others responsible for not writing, I didn’t have to face what I felt about what I was producing.  Writing had become a way of making myself feel better at a time in my life when so many things were falling apart.

At this extremely challenging time in my life, I have learned a great deal about human nature.  People who I expected to be loving and supportive are not.  I had to process the hurt, the grief and find hope.

I, who can easily sit in judgment of others found myself at the end of others poor opinion.  I was blamed for my own problems, given loads of advice and experienced rejection and anger when I wouldn’t do what others thought I should.  Since, I’m not exactly new to this earth, you would think I’d have been better prepared.

I am the first to admit that yes, humans, me included, often create problems for ourselves and then invest lots of energy into maintaining them.  Problems become a mantel we don’t break through.  We allow problems to define us.  They give us reasons to stop striving, to stop reaching beyond ourselves, to stop growing.

For a long time, I’ve been stuck in trying to figure out why others outside the problem have such an emotional investment in it.  As interesting as the answer may be, it really isn’t important.  Their reactions are their responsibility.  I have enough on my plate.  I allowed my problems to become excuses.  Problems can be reasons but when they become excuses something is wrong.

My limited readership is most engrossed in what I write when I write honestly about the nuts and bolts of my life.  While I prefer distant, philosophical fluff, it isn’t nearly as interesting.  I’m afraid to write about the real and maybe that is the only reason that I should.

My writing is imperfect.  I am often embarrassed by it but I can write moderately well and I feel drawn to do so.  I know what it’s like to be me.  I spend a lot of time thinking.  I spend a lot of time finding ways to cope.   This is something I know a lot about.  This is what I will try to share in the days and weeks ahead.  The world is often a cold and hostile place.  Some times that hostility and indifference comes from those close to you.  As painful as this can be, it provides an opportunity for growth, a chance to rise above.  It can open a pathway to being a more loving presence in a world desperately in need of redemption and love.

Violence begets violence.

Hate fuels hate.

Negative talk creates negative thoughts and feelings.

Love is the only force that can heal.

Love can be tough.  It may not look like love.  Love may create boundaries and say “no.”  People may accuse you of being unloving, of not doing the right thing.  They may tell you that you’re wrong or selfish.   They can be wrong.  Dead wrong.

It’s time to face my fear and begin again.

(Now, to tackle my fear of falling through the sub roofing and get up there with Andy to see if we can get some tarp to cover the roof where the rain is pouring in.  Welcome to my world.  There is rarely a dull moment.)


I am the person behind the words printed here. I write because my heart will not allow me the option of NOT writing. It has taken me half a life time to discover this basic truth, but now that I have, writing is as natural as breathing. This is where my breath takes the form of words.


I am reading

The Miracle Morning: The Not-So-Obvious Secret Guaranteed to Transform Your Life (Before 8AM)
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