The Fervent Beachcomber

 Steve took me to Savannah for a few days
a sweet birthday gift, maybe the very nicest part of turning fifty.
We left our spectacular room at the East Bay Inn and made the twenty-minute 
drive to Tybee Island.
 The early morning view was jaw-dropping. We roamed the beach and found a small, live sand dollar. 
Completely engaged in watching its tiny bristles move in the stiff beach breeze, 
 we didn't notice her approach. 
A hat-wearing beachcomber leaned in like an old friend, wanting a better view of the sand dollar. 
In shaky, ominous tones, the older woman narrated the plight of the sea creatures around
 Tybee due to recent offshore dredging. Obviously concerned for the life 
of the sand dollar still bristling
 in my husband's hand, she testified that the best policy is to 
"throw it back into the waves, and give it a fighting chance."
 As she edged nearer, I got the idea that she planned to snatch the sand dollar  
from my husband's hand and run into the waves, alone on a daring 
rescue mission to return it safely to Neptune's bosom. 
So my husband threw it into the waves himself, saving her the trouble, 
and she walked on with a smile and a casual (but triumphant) wave. 


Fall Flowers & Family

The garden is starting to slide downhill in my Kentucky acre,
but it still has lots to offer.
The Coral Drift rose bush is turning cartwheels in a garden plot where everything
else is finished for the season. 

My garden true love, Heavenly Blue morning glory, finally reached the top of 
the tepee and is blooming like crazy. It's one tall, majestic cascade of sky blue.
But they're best appreciated up close. These lucky black bugs think so too.
More on morning glories from a few years ago here.

And as always, the zinnia is the hardy hero that saves the fall garden.
Zinnias bloom and bloom and bloom without any attention. 
Extra watering, deadheading, staking—it's just not going to happen in October. 

This photo was taken a month ago today. It was a Friday night, just before a backyard 
party. My husband arrived home from the vet with bad news—
our family dog only of fourteen years had very little time left 
and there was nothing to be done to help. 
"I want to get a photo of all of us with her."
My Middle Son put a hand on my shoulder and said, "Then we should do it now."
So we did. 
I stopped filling coolers and Steve put away the grilling tools. 
All the guys delayed their work/school/social schedules long enough to get this photo.

It's a keeper.



Look! It's my birthday ... weed. 
Let's face facts - not much is blooming in mid-August, 
except ironweed.  
Just before my birthday and just before school started, 
we took a desperate-to-hold-on-to-summer outing to Lake Cumberland. 
The boats were all rented when we arrived, so 
we took in the sights at the fish hatchery
where only a certain sort of person is admitted.
(But I got in anyway!)
The next day, we rented  the tiniest, fastest  little pontoon available; the weather 
was perfect for boating, floating, and sky-gawking. 
Not so much for fishing ... 
Is it wrong to pray fervently for fish to bite?

Look at my handsome husband out there, waiting for me with a float built for two.
He thinks I'm still able to dive in with hardly a splash
Such a funny guy! 


Just Get Away

When our guys were boys, we were huge fans of 
a well-placed Get Away. 
Because, of course, there was so much to  get away from, like: 

* Non-sensical bickering about who touched what first, and 
the never-ending argument about who looked at whom

* Dirty socks which multiplied, somehow, under the couch, and their companions ... 
dirty dishes, dirty sheets, dirty looks, dirty pets, dirty feet—DIRT.

* Conversations which started like these—
"You used my toothbrush for WHAT?"
"Please do not lick the door handle."
"Don't touch your brothers butt."
"That's too high. It's too high! Stop!"

Things are not the same, these days.
I won't say that we don't need the well-timed Get Away like we 
used to, because we still definitely do. It's just that the intensity of 
mid-life  is pressure of a different kind. We no longer 
 run (screaming) from our home trailing 
gummy worms and wet wipes. 

Now we struggle to make room in our over-stuffed schedules
and hatch complicated plots regarding the comings and goings of 
the other people who live here.
The same ones who used to lick doorknobs.

But it's worth it to enjoy soothing fountains like this one, 
 long conversations while holding hands, 
and antique mall smooching.

What's your favorite place for a Get-Away?


Summer Visiting

Guest posting is fun.
Check out my guest post at
Lindsey Brackett's blog

Lindsey is a wonderful writer friend and an earnest soul.
Browse around—you'll be glad you visited her blog.


The Pigeon Guy

Jesus Trashes the Temple Market
What a headline, right? Check out Mark 11:15-19 here. I love the verse that says He would not allow anyone to carry anything through the Temple. Imagine that guy who woke up late, grabbed his crate of pigeons and hurried toward his spot in the Temple market. Up the stairs he rushed, only to be stopped by the Son of God, overflowing with righteous anger. Was it in this guy's face that Jesus made His declaration? 
"My house shall be called a house of prayer ... but you have 
made it a den of thieves!"

As I read this passage today, the sun crested the tree line and beamed heat on the side of my face—9 a.m. and already hot. The July garden exhaled its heavy fragrance of peak season as the words of scripture sifted into my heart spaces.

We are His temple now. The temple market He trashed is long gone, trampled under Roman feet until not one stone remained upon another. But epistle writers say that His temple of preference is now ... in us. And how is that going? Am I using this temple I've been given as a holy house of prayer? Am I bringing the sacrifices of praise and offerings of self? How often have I abused my privilege just like the pigeon-carrying guy?

 So much to ponder on an early morning in July. 



Summer is buzzing along outside my doors.

Temperatures have been mild, so we've had lots of open-window nights.
The music of night creatures accompanied by wind in the chimes is a magic 
carpet straight to dreamland. Where I want to stay until morning. 

But ... now that I'm older, I have lots more time for pondering in the hours when 
the rest of my house sleeps. Maybe you can identify. 
These days, with no rhyme or reason, my eyes just flutter open and I'm awake.
Am I awake to pray? Undoubtedly. 
Am I awake to worry? Often.
Am I awake because I'm almost fifty? (sigh) That's what I hear. 

I love how Father Tim, main character of the Mitford novels, prays his way through 
the town of Mitford during his nighttime waking hours. 
Following his literary example, I turn the fan up a notch and settle back in bed to pray my 
way through the rooms of my home, for every beloved who comes and goes through these doors. 
Then I turn my nighttime prayer walk in the direction of my nearest neighbors.
Though still in bed, I stand in front of their homes and ask for blessing, mercy, wisdom.
In my mid-night prayers, I wander our church asking favor on those who minister there.
Sometimes, I even prayer wander to visit our missionaries on far foreign fields ... 
are you getting sleepy yet?

I wish I was.


Umbrella Lights

Umbrella lights that blink on just as the sky turns dusky-dark blue 
- dreamy!
I wonder what the fireflies think about 
this new backyard feature ...


On the Fringe

I was reading this morning in my favorite gospel, Mark, and found an interesting contrast. 
At the beginning of chapter six, Jesus is in his hometown of Nazareth. The home folks were familiar with him and the business he kept before the start of his ministry years. They knew his parents and his brothers and sisters by name. Read the account here.

Chapter six tells us that he, Jesus, the Son of God, the Alpha and the Omega, the bright morning star, could not do miracles there. Could not! And check out verse six—He marveled at their unbelief. Other versions say "he was amazed" and "he wondered." Is this the saddest account of familiarity breeds contempt you've ever heard?
At the end of chapter six, Jesus comes ashore in Gennesaret. The people there recognized him also, but not in the same way. These people "ran about the whole region" to bring the sick to him. Laying them in the market, they hoped for healing as Jesus passed by. Indeed, the scriptures say that as many as touched the fringe of his garment were made well. 
I don't know if you love missionary stories like I do. The stories of what Christ is doing over the seas and in far-flung points on the globe fascinate me, and I know I'm not alone when I wonder—Why don't we see these miraculous events in America? I think the answer might be in Mark 6. Is it possible that the American church is so familiar with Lord of the Universe that we lean, in fact, toward contempt? Maybe ... maybe not. 

What I can say for sure is that in my personal spiritual life, I can identify. I've known Jesus as Savior since I was a child. Through every joy and pain of adolescence, education, marriage, childbearing, disease, transition—all of it. Does this familiarity rob me of the greater works he wants to do in my life ... but cannot? Does he marvel at my unbelief? 

Today I'm repenting of thinking like an overly-familiar and contemptuous Nazarene. I'm holding out my heart and asking for a Gennesaret kind of faith. I want to run to him in expectation, knowing that one finger on the fringe of his garment is powerful enough to change everything. And not just for myself, but for those I love, too.

* Don Juan climbing rose



Through pure neglect, we enjoyed a clematis tower this year. 
In the fall, especially after a scorching hot summer, I find garden chores to be especially 
loathsome. So instead of cutting the year's vines back, we just left them to flap in the winter storms. 
Yep—I busied myself with all things pumpkin and never gave it a second thought. 
Until April. 
And then ... it was too late. 
You see, jackmanii clematis grows from the ground and sprouts from leftover old vines.
So by the time I approached it with my shears this spring, it was already hard at work ...

... making itself GLORIOUS. 
What resulted was a huge tower of dark-purple blooms—probably ten feet of jaw-dropping, 
breathtaking, botanical wonder.
Sometimes neglect turns out to be the best gardening strategy after all.

Side Notes 
* Tips on how to grow a jackmanii clematis here.
* Yesterday we celebrated Father's Day around the table with my parents. They live nearby, so gathering with them is not such an unusual event. Yesterday though ... something was different. I sensed an air of mystery overhead as the old stories were shared "just one more time" and old jokes were told from yet another angle. Childhood memories of visits to our grandparents' farm were re-examined, as one tests the frail fabric of hand-me-down table linens. And for the thinnest moment, I caught a whiff of that old farmhouse kitchen. For one second, right at the edge of my sense of smell, it was there—then vanished. Has this ever happened to you? 
* A marauding horde of tiny chipmunks devours every single sunflower seed I plant.    Every. Single. One.
And so I will not have any sunflowers this year. I hope you're growing some in your garden for me to gawk at.


Purple Blue

Who doesn't need a big dose of blue
For me, it's the most startling color in the garden. 
The color of the heavens so close to the dust of the earth—pretty incredible.

Are you saying to yourself—"Wait. That's not blue; it's purple!"
Oh, friends! Toe-may-toe ... toe-mah-toe!
Haven't you ever seen a sky so lusciously deep blue that it leaned toward purple? 
Of course you have. I'll bet you've even seen what my father-in-law calls  
"sky-blue pink" on the horizon, but you probably didn't know to call it that.

We learn something new everyday. 
This is the delicious purple-blue of Georgia Blue Speedwell.
It's widely available, and if you live nearby, I'm happy to share mine.

It's been a while since I gave you a Story Snapshot. Here's a quick one: 

 Fall Into the Blue
     Her nerves still thrummed with the energy of the concert. Joyce hated to leave the arena and return to her everyday life, but return she must. Following close behind Evan, navigating the crowded aisles was easy and she let her eyes wander over the other departing audience members. But soon the press of the crowd lifted them along with more urgency toward the doors. Joyce clung to the bend in her husband's arm, then moved to hold hands, and when the inevitable separation came, she did not allow panic to take hold. "I'll meet you outside, at the clock on the corner!" she called over her shoulder. 
     "I'll be right behind you," he assured, his voice raised but calm.
     In the crisp air outside the arena, Joyce slowed her pace as people surged past. Where's Evan? At the clock on the corner. The illuminated clock face stood tall and peaceful over departing fans. Joyce lowered her head and began to make her way across. "Excuse me. Pardon me. Just coming through..." 
  He sat on the sidewalk, right in the middle of the swirling throng, holding a sign: "Navy Vet. Down and Out. Need Help." Determined to reach the clock, she didn't see him in time to swirl past like the rest of the human tide. In awkward wedge heels, she tilted toward him, away from him, to the side, then inevitably, back in his direction. Joyce landed on both knees directly in front of the man, her hand on the shoulder of his heavy coat the only thing that kept her from rolling into his lap. 
     Of course time slowed to lengthen the excruciating embarrassment. The man's can of collected change rattled and threatened to spill. He lunged for it as she got one knee under herself. Then Joyce felt one of Evan's hands at her elbow and the other around her waist, his familiar cologne identifying him as her rescuer. 
    "I'm so sorry!" Joyce brushed dust from the knees of her slacks, glanced into the sitting man's face ... and gasped. His eyes! Startled and large, they pierced her through. His gaze, a dreadfully familiar vivid blue, locked on hers. 
     His voice croaked, "Joycie ... ?"                                            


What to Wear?

 I braved the ominous halls of the hospital today. 
I felt the unwelcome kinship of being one patient among hundreds—
maybe even thousands—of other medically unskilled souls 
seeking expert guidance and merciful assistance.

So of course, what to wear occupied my thoughts at bedtime yesterday.
I even pondered it during those wide-awake night moments.

My folks taught me to dress up to go to any medical appointment. 
Actually, I don't remember anyone actually saying, 
"Suzy, wear your best dress and shiniest shoes..."
But, even as a little girl, I noticed the details in the preparations my elders made 
when an appointment with a doctor loomed. 
It was an occasion to which you might wear your (fake) pearls. 

Have you noticed ... it's not that way anymore—not at all.

Today I learned that pajama pants pair nicely with any color tube top for a hospital visit. 

And that makes getting ready SO much easier, doesn't it?

These Stella de Oro daylilies are fabulous in container gardens. Blooming year after year, they return even in my metal washtub planters, surviving overwintering in near- and below-zero temperatures. The clumps of lilies multiply more slowly in containers, but still give enough increase to share with friends. While I haven't had much luck with the beautiful red cultivar, the yellow-gold standard type are a sure bet for any gardener.