Autumn Reflection

I sat down in a coffee shop yesterday during a rainy afternoon.  I simply had time to be quiet, to reflect on this past year in various ways.  My predominant emotion as I scribbled several pages in my notebook was thankfulness.

My desire for stability is being heard and lived out as I step into each day.  I have almost worked at the Dyslexia Institute for a year (more than I’ve worked anywhere else since graduation!).  I have attended Dwelling Place for a year, and have been at my doctor for a little over a year.

These three facts seem simple enough, and yet they are meaningful to me. The past five years have been transition after transition, most of them completely unwanted.  And my prayer became more simple, “Let me rest and heal in a few places well.”


I started out working just a few hours a week with 2 students and now I work with 9.  Monday through Thursday I spend the some of my time flipping through a tattered purple-covered book that helps me find words to plan my lessons for my students, and then time actually with them.

I still go to my doctor every two weeks for an IV. Sometimes I go more than that to pick up supplements.  The staff know my name, know that I like to watch the Food Network when I get my IV, and the nurse talks to me about what her next haircut should be.  I’ve probably spent around 30 hours at my doctor in the past year, and I’m thankful to say it’s a place where I can breathe a sigh of relief.  I am cared for well.

At Dwelling Place, I’ve joined a diverse community of people that prizes both liturgy and relationship, and tries to let diversity of thought and action linger.  Questions are honored and that truly is a gift.

I look forward to continuing to sink my roots deeper in these communities.

To continue appreciating the uniqueness of the people I meet on a daily basis.

Downward Descent

My fastest 5K ever came on the first meet of my high school career.  I ran for two more years and never got faster–but in fact more sick, as symptoms of my Hashimoto’s began to surface.

I made the most money my first year teaching in Memphis.  It doesn’t look like I’ll make close to that anytime soon.

These two facts have made me ask important questions lately:

  • What does it mean to live a simple life?
  • What have I gained in giving up power and prestige?
  • How has my life’s course been redirected?

I now see the world from a different lens, than I did even a few years ago.  I’m more observant of human struggle, more likely to seek solidarity among the weak, with those who have a powerful voice, but that voice is culturally silenced. I’ve learned that the powerful only have one view of the world-and they try to perpetuate that view as correct, rather than simply as one view.

The weak and the vulnerable have an entirely different view of the world.  And theirs’ is the view I wish to know.  The one I hope to emulate.

Credentials do not mean that much to me now. I gave up the much edgier world of urban education where I wrongly believed that these kids needed me.  I now spend many hours in a cubicle without windows working with children one-on-one helping them to read.  It’s not a glamorous job, yet its a beautiful way to spend my days.  There’s a simplicity about my life now that I crave more and more of.

I’m free to speak softly to my students.

I’m free to look at them with tears streaming down their face and say, “You’re doing a good job.”

I’m free to see elementary students who struggle as having immense strength and courage.

I’m free to tell parents who wonder if they’ve failed their children that “You have done nothing wrong.”


I more readily believe that these one-on-one interactions are changing me. Yes, I help students learn to read, and help encourage their potential and I encounter students who encourage me to be brave and to embrace my limitations.

Ironically in learning to accept my descent downward, I have found my voice.  I hear it growing louder and louder, even as I live simpler and simpler. I desire to heal, not to be entertained.  I desire to be an active participant in my own life, not wish that I was living someone else’s.

Some people ask me if I run anymore.  I don’t.  Somedays I wish I still could, but I can’t make it more than a quarter mile.  Some days I care, but most days I don’t.  I entered a yoga studio last weekend for the first time in over a year, and I felt at home.  I was spoken to gently, and the movements were nurturing to my body.  I listened to my breath, rather than racing to see if I could win.

I now have the margin to pay attention and to enjoy my life and those around me.  This is the greatest gift.



“I’ve Learned That Everything Must Come in Stages”

I’ve been coming back to this thought lately.

As I continue to learn what it means to live with chronic illness, I am learning this particular dance of saying yes and no, of allowing myself be open to healing, but only in small pieces at a time.  The whole puzzle is too much to handle at once.

This summer as I moved twice and dealt with mold exposure, packing and unpacking received a big yes.

Writing and time with friends was minimal for awhile.  I had to be really careful of which buildings I went into.

I’ve increased my hours at work, and every week I check in with myself to see how I’m feeling.

Adding more work means I work later, and I do not go to many things at night.

I’ve craved solitude and reading time because of how crazy this summer was.  I’m devouring books, and yet probably soon, I will not want to read for awhile.


Grieving and not being able to write for a few months, means that now, paradoxically, I have more things to say.

Although I still love watching college football, I slipped out last weekend to attend a book signing.

I still struggle with insomnia some nights, and I scrap my plans for the day and let myself take a nap.

The complexity and multi-layered-ness (I think I just made this word up!) of my life can be traced back to my yes and my no.

It can be traced back to my willingness to be observant, to let the pace of my life match the seasons.

As fall hits and moves us closer to winter, I feel the desire to “hibernate” more.  I want to read, to have slow mornings, to wrap myself in a blanket and drink some tea. I would rather stay home than go out. I want to be still and watch.

I want to feel the extent of my fatigue and let my body make my next decision rather than run myself ragged.

(This statement itself is a decade of growth in stages!)

I’m healing in stages. Not how I planned, or how I wanted, but I’m healing.  It always comes in stages.

The Gates of Hope

I’m not going to write much on this post.  I’m slowly coming back to writing by reading poetry, taking walks, and some mornings of “doing nothing” after an emotionally exhausting month. 

An important question that has surfaced over the past year took on a nurturing quality: “Where do you hurt?” 

I gave myself space to acknowledge and feel my hurt at deeper levels, to talk about pain with those I trust, to weep. 

As I give enough space from my soul to warm up to how I actually feel, I’ve experienced that my sense of hope actually grows.  I allow all my emotions to have a voice, and this leads to both a hopeful and a lonely place.  

As you read this powerful poem may you know in your own experience that engaging in your personal struggles actualizes a deeper sense of hope.


The Gates of Hope


by Reverend Virginia Stafford


Our mission is to plant ourselves at the gates of Hope-

Not the prudent gates of Optimism,

Which are somewhat narrower.

Not the stalwart, boring gates of Common Sense;

Nor the strident gates of Self-Righteousness,

Which creak on shrill and angry hinges

(People cannot hear us there; they cannot pass


Nor the cheerful, flimsy garden gate of

“Everything is gonna’ be all right.”

But a different, sometimes lonely place,

The place of truth-telling,

About your own soul first of all and its condition.

The place of resistance and defiance,

The piece of ground from which you see the world

Both as it is and as it could be

As it will be;

The place from which you glimpse not only struggle,

But the joy of the struggle.

And we stand there, beckoning and calling,

Telling people what we are seeing

Asking people what they see.



Welcome Autumn


Written by William Stafford


You will never be alone, you hear so deep

a sound when autumn comes.  Yellow

pulls across the hills and thrums,

or the silence after lightning before it says

its names-and then the clouds wide mouthed

apologies. You were aimed from birth:

you will never be alone. Rain

will come, a gutter filled, an Amazon,

long aisles-you never heard so deep a sound,

moss on rock, and years.  You turn your head-

that’s what the silence meant: you’re not alone.

The whole wide word pours down.




In the Checkout Line

People waiting in line with shopping baskets at grocery store

My greatest learning of the week came simply; they usually do.

I went to Aldi simply to buy kale and tomato sauce and get back home quickly, so I could make meat sauce before going to work.

And in front of me in the checkout line was a man with down syndrome.

He smiled and waved.  He asked me my name and he introduced himself.  He asked if I wanted a hug or a fist-bump.

The simplicity of this encounter has lingered with me all week.  It was sweet, and it marked me.

This man exposed my desire for efficiency, so that I ignore the stranger around me.

He exposed my guarded-ness of the stranger, and my desire just to keep to myself.

A simple smile helped to break down my walls.

And this came from someone who came to Aldi with a care-giver.  He doesn’t have credentials or titles that the world considers fulfilling.

But he lives his life with the simple belief that a once-stranger can quickly become a friend.

As I was leaving, he giggled and said, “I made a new friend.”

I don’t think that it’s ironic that children and a man with disabilities has made me ponder how I think about friendship this week. They naturally cross barriers they don’t even know are there.  They do not worry about their reputation being tarnished.

And they’ve reminded me, that neither should I.

Rainy Day People-Watching

I love days where I have enough margin, that I can be quiet and observe.  I find myself smiling and laughing, remembering that life is full of abundance: laughter and tears and toddler temper tantrums.

Today I sat on a comfy recliner in the children’s section of Glendale library.  I watched a 3 year old boy, in his boredom, pull his shirt up and say, “Look at me, Mom!” She responded in a loud voice, “Pull your shirt down!”

I observed a “black male stereotype” get broken by watching a young African-American father read four children’s books to his two year old daughter.  I watched him smile as she ran back to the shelves, wanting to pick out more books.


I smiled as two boys: one black and one white shared a computer chair and engaged in dialogue, “You can come over here and share a seat with me.”

I listened to a young girl sing the ABC’s proudly, while the boy who pulled his shirt up, started singing with her from across the library.

Kids reach out without judgment.  They do not register being self-conscious or wonder how others will think of them.  They just want to play; they just want a friend.  Oh, how we as adults need to return to this childlike simplicity!

What if our adult yearning for friendship was acknowledged and the simple question was asked: Would you like to be my friend?