One Foot Ahead of the Other

Hope has holes
in its pockets.
It leaves little
crumb trails
so that we,

when anxious,
can follow it.
Hope’s secret:
it doesn’t know
the destination—
it knows only
that all roads
begin with one
foot in front
of the other.
~ Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer, “Hope” from  Hush

Stripped and stark —
if winter were the ending of all things,
there would be no hope.
There would be no sun shining on the hills
far beyond me to reflect the path before me:
what is, what will be and what has been.

When I am down to the bare and broken essentials —
bleak and muddy and the too-early dark —
I must put one foot in front of the other,
continuing to push forward.
I know this resting pause is not the end. 
Never has been. 
Never will be.


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Facing Forward to November

The wild November come at last
Beneath a veil of rain;
The night wind blows its folds aside –
Her face is full of pain.

The latest of her race, she takes
The Autumn’s vacant throne:
She has but one short moon to live,
And she must live alone.

A barren realm of withered fields,
Bleak woods, and falling leaves,
The palest morns that ever dawned;
The dreariest of eves.

It is no wonder that she comes,
Poor month! With tears of pain;
For what can one so hopeless do
But weep, and weep again?
~Richard Henry Stoddard “November”

Leaves wait as the reversal of wind
comes to a stop. The stopped woods
are seized of quiet; waiting for rain
bird & bug conversations stutter to a

…the rain begins to fall. Rain-strands,
thin slips of vertical rivers, roll
the shredded waters out of the cloud
and dump them puddling to the ground.

Whatever crosses over
through the wall of rain
changes; old leaves are
now gold. The wall is
continuous, doorless. True,
to get past this wall
there’s no need for a door
since it closes around me
as I go through.
~Marie Ponsot from “End of October”

I reluctantly bid October good-bye to face forward
into a darkening November.

Summer is mere memory now;
all color drained from
leaves fallen, dissolving
in frost and rain.

There’s no turning around now
that the clock has fallen back.
We commit our stumbling feet to the path
that trudges toward winter,
silenced and seized
by the relentless momentum of doorless darkness.
There appears no escape hatch.

Yet when the light rises on the hills, even briefly,
I feel a veil lift enough
that I am able to see
far beyond my reach.
The horizon extends on and on forever
and I only then I know
I will endure another winter.

He Accepts Us As We Are: Restless and Full of Longing

How often we look upon God as our last and feeblest resource!
We go to Him because we have nowhere else to go.
And then we learn that the storms of life have driven us,
not upon the rocks,
but into the desired haven.
~George MacDonald

photo by Nate Gibson

Everlasting God,
in whom we live and move and have our being:
You have made us for yourself,
so that our hearts are restless
until they rest in you.

There is a different kind of prayer without ceasing;
it is longing.
Whatever you may be doing,
if you long for the day of everlasting rest
do not cease praying.
If you do not wish to cease praying,
then do not cease your longing.
Your persistent longing is your persistent voice.
But when love grows cold, the heart grows silent.
If you are filled with longing all the time,
you will keep crying out,
and if your love perseveres,
your cry will be heard without fail.
~Augustine of Hippo from  Augustine’s Expositions of the Psalms

C.S. Lewis writes of his “inconsolable longing, almost like a heartbreak” experiencing grief after losing his wife to cancer. He describes “the stab, the pang” of such longing, a visceral sense of being emptied completely and hungering to be refilled.

God accepts our yearning restless emptiness as a prayer for restoration. He hears our ceaseless cry and He too weeps with us.

May we continue to long for the refuge, the safe haven, that only can be found in Him.

This year’s Lenten theme for Barnstorming:

God sees us as we are,
loves us as we are,
and accepts us as we are.
But by His grace,
He does not leave us where we are.
~Tim Keller

I’m running in circles
It’s a steep hill to climb
My own understanding won’t cut it this time
I’m feeling the pressure
Believing the lies
But I want to believe this life is not mine

I’m left undone
By the seas You have split
My fear-waging a battle, I’m left more equipped
It’s like we’re face to face
This heaven on land
Even when I fight, it’s from the palm of Your hand

Here’s my mountain
Now break down my walls
I am confident Your hand’s in every rise
And every fall

You shattered my scares
And drowned me in peace
I’m not tethered to fear, in Your presence they cease
My heart, it is won
You alone are enough
I am done with my searching, it’s You that I want

Here’s my mountain
Now break down my walls
I am confident Your hand’s in every rise
And every fall

I hear You in the whispers
And in the sonnets of the waves
How I love the One who carries
How I love the One who saves
I see You in my trial
When my pain turns into song
How I love the One who tells me
Not to stray but I belong

And just like the tides
It’s highs and it’s lows
I know You’re my constant,

You won’t waver or go
~Olivia Kieffer

We Wait Patiently

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
    and in his word I put my hope.
My soul waits for the Lord
    more than watchmen wait for the morning,
    more than watchmen wait for the morning.
Psalm 130: 5-6 from a Song of Ascents

Waiting is essential to the spiritual life. But waiting as a disciple of Jesus is not an empty waiting. It is a waiting with a promise in our hearts that makes already present what we are waiting for. We wait during Advent for the birth of Jesus. We wait after Easter for the coming of the Spirit, and after the ascension of Jesus we wait for his coming again in glory. We are always waiting, but it is a waiting in the conviction that we have already seen God’s footsteps.
— Henri Nouwen from Bread For The Journey: A Daybook of Wisdom and Faith

To wait is a hard sweet paradox in the Christian life.  It is hard not yet having what we know will be coming.  But it is sweet to have certainty it is coming because of the footprints we have seen: He has been here among us. 

Like the labor of childbirth, we groan knowing what it will take to get there, and we are full to brimming already.

The waiting won’t be easy; it will often be painful to be patient, staying alert to possibility and hope when we are exhausted, barely able to function.  Others won’t understand why we wait, nor do they comprehend what we could possibly be waiting for. 

We persevere together, with patience, watching and hoping; we are a community groaning together in sweet expectation of the morning.

For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
Romans 8:24-25

The Power To Break Rocks





“The violets in the mountains have broken the rocks.”
~Tennessee Williams in “Camino Real”
(These words became his epitaph)




Some beginnings in this life commence on inhospitable ground:
no soil, no protection, no nurture, barely enough water.

Here lies a drive to thrive and transcend: forcing through a crack in the pavement while exposed to relentless heat.

Such delicate beauty comes from nothing but a seed packed with the potential to transform its circumstances through perseverance.  We all are created with the potential power to break through rocks and change the world.

Forever and ever.








Lenten Meditation: Suffering produces perserverance

Romans 5:2b-3

And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;

At seventeen years old, I thought I had things figured out.  I had graduated at the top of my class, was heading off to a “big name” college, and felt confident about who I was becoming.  I had attended church all my life but my commitment to my faith was actually waning rather than strengthening.

In anticipation of college tuition bills, I took a summer job at a local nursing home for $1.25 an hour as a nurses’ aide.  My training was two days following a more experienced aide on her rounds of feeding, pottying, dressing and undressing, and bathing her elderly patients.  Then I was assigned patients of my own and during a typical shift I carried a load of 13 patients.  It didn’t take long for me to learn the rhythm of caretaking, and I enjoyed the work and my patients.

One woman in particular remains vivid in my memory 38 years later.  Betty was in her 80’s, bedridden with a painful bone disease that had crippled her for a decade or more.  She was unable to do any of her own self care but her mind remained sharp and her eyes bright.  Her hearty greeting cheered me when I’d come in her room several times a shift to turn her in her bed to prevent pressure sores on her hips and shoulders.  The simple act of turning her in her bed was an ordeal beyond imagining.  I would prepare her for the turn by cushioning her little body with pads and pillows, but no matter how careful I was, her bones would crackle and crunch like Rice Crispies cereal with every movement.  Tears would flow from her eyes and she’d always call out “Oh Oh Oh Oh” during the process but then once settled in her new position, she’d look up at me and say “thank you, dear, for making that so much easier for me.”  I would nearly weep in gratitude at her graciousness in her suffering.

Before I’d leave the room, Betty would grab my hand and ask when I would be returning.  Then she’d  say “I rejoice in the hope of the glory of the Lord” and she would murmur a prayer to herself.

As difficult as each “turning” was for both of us, I started to look forward to it.  I knew she prayed not only for herself, but I knew she prayed for me as well.  I felt her blessing each time I walked into her room knowing she was waiting for me.

One evening I came to work and was told Betty was running a high fever, and struggling to breathe.  She was being given oxygen and was having difficulty taking fluids.  The nurse I worked under thought she was likely to pass away on my shift and asked that I check her more frequently than my usual routine.

As I approached her bed, Betty reached out and held my hand.  She was still alert but very weak.  She looked me in the eye and said “Do you know our Lord?  He is coming for me today.”   I could think of nothing more to say than “I know He is coming.  You have waited for Him a long time.”   I returned to her room as often as I could and found her becoming less responsive, yet still breathing, sometimes short shallow breaths and sometimes long and deep.  Near the end of my shift, as morning was dawning, when I entered the room, I knew He had come.

She lay silent and relaxed for the first time since I had met her.  Her little body, so tight with pain only hours before, seemed at ease.  It was my job to prepare her for the mortuary workers who would come for her shortly.  Her body still warm to touch, I washed and dried her skin and brushed her hair and wrapped her in a fresh sheet, wondering at how I could now turn her with no pain and no tears.  I could see a trace of a smile at the corners of her mouth.  I knew then the Lord had lifted her soul from her imprisonment and He had rewarded her perseverance.

I rejoice in the hope of the glory of the Lord, thanks to Betty.  She showed me what it means to watch for the morning when He will come.  Immobile in bed, crippled and wracked with pain, her perseverance led to loving a young teenager uncertain in her faith.  Betty had brought the Lord home to me and she went home to Him.