My Hometown: A Place of Beauty and of Brokenness

Sinking into cushioned warmth and comfort of my favorite cottage rose patterned damask covered chair this morning, the first grace of the day came from the hands  of my husband as he handed me a steaming hot cup of coffee he'd brewed before I even got out of bed.  He greeted me with a gentle good morning kiss.  The next grace came from Boston as he came to sit by my side.  Soft, throaty sounds came from him as he patiently waited for me to stroke his neck, his ears, his head.

I am blessed.

Still dressed in my pajamas and an old blue hooded fleece jacket, aka my morning robe, and wearing worn and rundown looking Ugg slippers, a gift from many Christmas's ago, I left the safety of my home to retrieve the morning paper buried and nearly hidden under three inches of snow.  Before I bent down to pick-up the paper, my eyes scanned the quiet, snow covered,  peaceful looking place where I live.

Such beauty.
This world has such beauty.

Then my mind was again assailed by the events of the previous day.

Such brokenness.
This world has such brokenness.


The day after Thanksgiving, I'd been tempted to stay home and read and write all day.  I wanted to avoid all places where shoppers would be frequenting.  An early morning phone call to a dear friend ended by us making plans to meet in an hour at the health club so we could do water aerobics together.  

The warm water in the therapy pool provided us with the perfect place to move our achy joints and catch up with each other on our latest news and thoughts about life.  After class we headed to the hot tub for more conversation while soaking to ease those same achy joints.  

Showered and dressed, as we headed to the front door together to leave the club, still talking and laughing, we decided we weren't done visiting yet, so we headed to the comfortable looking couch in the lounge area.  

Not long after we'd situated ourselves for a bit more conversation, the instructor for our Monday Zumba Gold class leaned over to ask us if we'd heard the news of the shooting yet.  "What shooting?" "There's an active shooter on Fillmore," she said.  "Where on Fillmore?"  I asked?  I looked up at the television screen overhead, and saw the news crawl across the bottom of screen.  "Not again?  Here? We have a mass shooting here today???"  Then, my phone rang.  It was my sister in San Diego.  "Where are you?  Are you ok?"  She'd just seen the news of the shooting.

Girlfriend time and conversation ended abruptly with this sobering news.   Quite honestly, I didn't didn't want to remain in a public place at such a time.  My thoughts went to Columbine, and 9/11.  I'd been in my classroom and responsible for lives of my students when the news of these senseless acts of violence occurred.  Then there was the time a shooter went into a local church and started shooting.  I remembered being in my kitchen on Sunday morning when I heard that news.  I was at home in my kitchen when I heard of the Aurora Theater shootings.  I'd been mopping the floor in the laundry room when I heard of Sandy Hook.  Now, I was sitting and enjoying the company of a dear friend at our health club when our feelings peace and safety were sent flying end over end.  "No place is safe." I fought thinking those thoughts.  "Has the world gone completely crazy?"

We decided to head home.  It was snowing quite hard as I headed out of the door.  I checked my phone for the latest news on Facebook.  My cousin lives near the place where the shooting was taking place.  I called her to find out what was going on.  I wanted to see if my access to home would be blocked since I live about eight miles from the shooting.  She told me which streets were blocked and caught me up on the news that was being broadcast on live television.  It appears the shooter was targeting the Planned Parenthood building located near a very busy, one of the busiest, intersection in Colorado Springs.  There is a large shopping area across the parking lot from the PP building that houses small shops and large grocery store where I most often do my grocery shopping.  Next to the PP building is a medical building where I have visited a gifted neurological doctor.  Jim has gone to the eye doctor in that same building.  

As the day and evening progressed, we'd learned that three individuals, one a police officer had been killed in the shooting spree.  Nine people were injured.  Five of the injured are police officers.  The shooter had surrendered.  He was in custody.  


By the time I went to bed last night, I'd learned that the officer killed was a University of Colorado at Colorado Springs police officer.  He responded to the call of a shooting by leaving the campus and going to assist his fellow officers across town.  He was a former ice skating champion and devoted husband and father.  He was also a devout Christian, an elder in his church, a song leader, and a teacher of the Bible.  He showed valor and bravery as he went to do battle with a man intent on doing bodily harm to whomever stood in his way of accomplishing what ever his senseless mission might have been.  

My heart is broken because of this senseless tragedy that occurred in my hometown.  I, like so many others, try to make sense of it all.  No one can make sense of those actions that are senseless.  I know that, but human nature wants me to try to make sense out of the darkness that fills the souls of those whom participate in such acts of violence.

Last night, I prayed for those harmed in the attacks before I drifted off to sleep.  I prayed for the wife and children of the slain officer.  I prayed for the families of the two other victim killed in the attack.  I prayed for those who suddenly found themselves victims of this tragedy just because they happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. 

 I then prayed for my ninety-nine year old mother.  She'd sounded terrible when I'd called her earlier in the day.  She had a chest cold.  I called her again in the evening and lectured her about not ignoring her symptoms and urged her to get medical care if she became worse.  As I prayed for her, I questioned why she had to be exposed to such violence when she turned on her television and saw what was occurring in the place where she grown up and raised her family.  


This morning I read the morning news, which not good; it only gave more details about yesterday's insanity.  I then called to check on Mother.  She sounded much better and was quite chipper as she said, "Good morning."  I thanked God for answered prayer.  We talked about the news.  We talked of the beauty of the snow.  We talked about the brokenness of this world.  We ended our conversation by discussing the new shoots of growth coming from our orchids.  

Yes, even on a day of cold, gloom, and sorrow, there is still hope for new beginnings and even future beautiful blossoms, 

I think as I check on the orchid in dining room window.  It is good to discuss such things with my mother, the one with such a green thumb, who continues to teach me much on life, faith, and gardening even on the darkest of days.  

Yes, thankfully, I have my mother on days such as today to ground me and remind me of fundamental truths about life.  She gets up every morning and checks to see what happened outside while she was sleeping before she makes her one cup of coffee, fries her bacon and eggs, and makes a piece of toast.  She reads her morning devotional and Bible passage before she reads the newspaper.  

She's seen much in her century of life.  Much.  She is connected to the world and interested in it.  I think that is why she is still going strong. She tends to her occasional chest colds, but rarely gets sick.  I learn so much from watching her as she thrives in her aging process.  Even though she will be 100 in a little over a half of a year from now, I can't bring myself to describe her as old.  She trusts the Lord for each day that she is given.  In the end, despite the evil all around us, she continues to trust in the goodness of the Lord.

I ponder the dichotomy of the world in which we live after I hang up from my morning talk with Mother.

We have been placed  in a world of great beauty, but we have also been placed in a very broken world.  In the brokenness that surrounds me, I pray I will not turn to bitterness or fear.  

It seems everyone wants to have a platform these days to spew forth whatever hatred, rancor, and division fills their hearts.  Acts of violence fills our newspapers, news feeds on the computer, and the daily evening news.  We are seeing insanity at every turn.  

I wonder what people group will be the hated other this week.  Last week it was the Syrian refugees we were all supposed to hate and fear.  Before that, we were told to hate the illegal immigrants from Mexico.  Before that it was those publicly speaking out against the war in Iraq whom were target for hate attacks.  We constantly judge each other and attack each other in the media and even in small groups who gather around dinner tables to celebrate Thanksgiving, or even in our church meetings, or school buildings.  There seems to be no sensible discussion of the events and problems of our day.  Does our generation not know how to discuss differences of opinion? 

This week, will it be that we are told to hate the so called religious fanatics that picket against abortion?  Never mind that we don't know whether or not the shooter in Colorado Springs was a religious fanatic or not.  His name has already been linked to those who picket against abortion in the daily news as if he is one of those people.


Today, I will continue to seek understanding and grace.  I will lift my eyes unto the hills, gazing at my beloved Pikes Peak, the mountain that lived at the end of the street where I was born.  When I look at this peak, it will be the same solid mountain that lived at the end of the street where I grew-up.  Pikes Peak, my mountain, still lives at the end of the street where senseless violence killed three innocent people on Halloween.  This purple mountain majesty, on a day when it was shrouded and hidden behind dark clouds, was still standing when it provided the backdrop for a place where incomprehensible terror and mayhem left a stain of blood from a brave police officer, a man of God, on cold snow covered concrete on a day after the day when when we gather to give thanks for all of our blessings.

Today, when I lift my eyes unto the hills, I will see the beauty of the place where I live, but I will also see our shattered broken world at the feet of America's mountain.  

Despite the brokenness, my hope for the future is not shattered.  That mountain, and all the others surrounding it, will still be standing long after I have gone.  If, for some reason, the mountains should be moved, if that which seems impossible should happen, I will continue to hope.  I  will continue to hope because I trust in the One the Psalmist wrote about in one of my favorite Psalms: 

Psalm 121.  

I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills,
from whence cometh my help.
My help cometh from the Lord,
which made heaven and earth.
He will not suffer thy foot to be moved:  
he that keepth thee will not slumber.
Behold, he that keepth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord is they keeper:
the Lord is thy shade upon they right hand.
The sun shall not smite thee by day,
nor the moon by night.
The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil:
he shall preserve they soul.
The Lord shall preserve thy going out and they coming in from this time forth,
and even for evermore.


I know of no way to live in this place of beauty and brokenness except by trusting in the One who made the world and continues to hold it together even as it seems that all sanity and peace is being shattering and tossed in all directions.  


After Christmas, the two red amaryllis blossoms that had sprung forth from a bulb planted in just stones and water, died back.
Those brilliant red blossoms that brought brilliant color to the drab days of winter eventually faded and began to die.
If I had known nothing about bulbs,
or if I had known nothing about amaryllis,
I would have assumed the spent looking appearance of what was left of blossoms meant the the plant’s day had come to an end,   
I then would have tossed the plant out.

I cut the flower stalk back to about three inches above the bulb.
I then took it downstairs to a cool dark closet that seldom gets opened.
I thought I’d check on it again in the fall.

Mid-March, I was looking for something in that dark, unused closet.
Not wanting to knock over the glass container containing the rocks and the bulb, I looked to see exactly where it was hiding in the closet.

Imagine my surprise when I saw a new green stalk shooting out of the bulb.
On the end of stalk was a bud.

I brought it upstairs, 
gave it a big drink of water
waited to see what time and light
 would do for it.

Thankfully, I had not read the fact sheet stating that amaryllis planted in rocks and water without soil
would not re-bloom.
The photo below proves they will re-bloom.
There was a rebirth.

Now the Christmas plant has bloomed for Easter.

Last week, my daughter sent me a text with a photo of daffodils attached.
Daffodils are my favorite flower.
They are a beautiful symbol of hope and rebirth.
She had made an arrangement with the flowers that combined springtime objects that gave her sweet memories.
One item in the arrangement were the salt and pepper shakers that once belonged to our dear Julie.

This next week will be a hard one for us.
Easter is a mixed occasion of joy and grief for me.
The last time I saw Julie was on Easter of 2010.
On April 8, Julie would have turned 39 years old.
Easter 2010

If I knew nothing about life, and death, and about faith in a God in Whom I can trust,
I would have completely been undone when my daughter died.
Many, many years ago I came to faith in Jesus Christ.
I went down paths that led away from my belief,
But I did not remain on those misleading paths.
I returned to faith.
When I needed that faith in the most,
My need was met by Jesus, the one trusted as a young girl, with grace and continued healing.

Easter brings me joy and hope.
Tomorrow, I will raise my voice in joyful Hallelujahs of praise for the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
I will join others around the world when it is announced 
He is Risen
By saying,
He is Risen Indeed.

A few day later, on what would have been Julie’s birthday,
I will remember Julie with these words penned by C.S. Lewis as an epitaph for his beloved Joy:

“Here the whole world (stars, water, air,
And field, and forest, as they were
Reflected in a single mind)
Like cast off clothes was left behind
In ashes, yet with hopes that she,
Re-born from holy poverty,
In lenten lands, hereafter may
Resume them on her Easter Day."

Have a blessed Easter.

Unpredictable Seasons

In life
much is unknown.
I once thought I would navigate only smooth waters through life.
Now, why would a mountain girl think that she would sail through life?
I know nothing about the water.
I didn't grow up around it.

I know the mountains.
I know the seasons in Colorado.
I know that mountains can be tough to scale.
 I know that at any time a storm can blow in over the mountain bringing rain, sleet, and snow,
all in one day,
no matter what date is on the calendar.

Pikes Peak from Garden of the Gods
April 21, 2013

Early in my life, before I went to school, I would step outside to look at my beloved mountain,
this very mountain, Pikes Peak, that lived at the end of my street,
to see if I needed to wear a coat to school.
Silly me.
In the morning, I might have seen blue skies behind this peak,
and so I skipped off to school without a coat.
By afternoon, I walked home shivering in the snow I had not seen coming.

Living in the mountains makes you tough.
The air is rarified.
There is not as much of it up here in my neighborhood.
Living in the mountains has taught me that one is not in control of the seasons.

This season of my life has not been an easy one.
Certainly, I never could have expected that when I turned 65,
Celebrating my 65th Birthday
a day I had long looked forward to, (that was because I would no longer have to COBRA my insurance.), that my life would turn upside down just three months later when I lost my dear daughter.

Since that time,
I've needed all the lessons I ever learned in life to take me through this season of grief.
I've learned that grief, like the weather, is very unpredictable.
I've learned that it can make you question everything you ever believed about

I've learned that you find out who your friends are.
And, I've found out that I have many.
From my friends, the true ones, the ones who have prayed for me,
walked with me, cried with me, and laughed with me,
I've learned what true
and mercy look like.

I've experienced the grace of God in ways I could never have known if I had not suffered such great loss.

Loss has taught me that
life is precious
and I hope to live it victoriously.

Loss has taught me that faith is the only thing that gets me through the day,
and the only way I will live victoriously is by faith.

I've learned that while there is life, there is hope, but mostly, I learned that
as Rick Warren recently Tweeted,
Optimism is psychological.
Hope is theological.

I've learned that love means a whole lot more than I ever thought it did.
I've learned that I love my children, all of them, more than life itself.

Keicha, Jon, Julie, Mom, Amy, Ryan
Jim's Retirement 2007
I've learned that I never would have made it through these last three years without the love of one person.  That person is the man I married.
He has carried me through it all.

The love of my life

This journey has take a toll on my dear husband,
but he is faithful,
and kind,
and loving.
Thankfully, he has his best friend, the other one besides me,
to one who never asks for anything,
the one who never gets bogged down by grief, loss, sadness, or illness,
to comfort him and bring a smile to his face.

Jim & Boston
His buddy and best friend
And so, in this season of life,
the one we thought would be filled with retirement dreams,
my dear husband and I are experiencing day by day struggles with illness, pain, all those other physical side effects of aging.

The seasons of life are unpredictable.
That is certain.
Since one can never really predict the weather, or the aches and pains of aging,
on good days,
we take off to enjoy the beauty of nature around us.

Jim & Boston walking in the Garden of the Gods

The skies are sometimes threatening, and cloudy, but that does not keep us home.
We are blessed to have such great beauty just several miles from our home.
We've learned that you can't wait for the perfect season, or the perfect day, one must enjoy each day as it comes and give thanks for it.

As a native born mountain girl,
I am taking the lessons I've learned about the seasons to heart.
Spring does not always come when the calendar says it should.
On the 30th of April, we had blue skies, and warm sunny weather for our walk in the neighborhood.

On May 1, I ventured out on the deck to take a photo of our bird bath covered in snow.

One just never knows what to expect from one day to the next with the weather in Colorado!

I am optimistic about the weather.  That is a psychological term that I am applying to the coming days.
I know we will soon have blue skies, and sunny, warm days.

I have hope for the future.
I know I can't predict the future any more than I can predict the weather.
But I have hope.
I have hope because I know who holds my future.
He is the very same One who has held me through all the seasons of my life. 

Birthday Reflections

a time of reflection
a time to explore identity
a time to contemplate the future

Who am I?
I am not a baby boomer.
I was born while the world was at war.

I was born during a time when there was much uncertainty in the world.  My father, drafted into the army at age 29, left for his initial processing into the service the day I was born.  My father did not see me during the first year of my birth.  My mother cared for me and my brother by herself during this difficult time.  I treasure the photo snapped of the four of us on the occasion of my father's homecoming.  We celebrated Christmas in February that year because that is when he came home. 

 Who am I?
I like to identify with my Welsh ancestry the most.
I was born the day before St. David Day.  St. David was the patron saint of Wales.
Photo taken in Keukenhof, Holland
May 2010

When I think of my birthday, I think of daffodils.  Sometimes they are poking their heads out of the recently frozen earth on my birthday; other years, they are not.  Daffodils, the symbol of rebirth and new beginnings, are nearly always given to me by one or more of my children on my birthday.  (Click for last year's birthday blog post.) Each year I look forward to my first bouquet of these flowers that I have long claimed as my symbol.  I look forward to the reminder that spring is coming, winter is nearly over, and the rebirth of those long dormant flowers and trees will soon be seen.  I love these flowers because remind me to never give up hope.

Who am I?
I am a mom.
The greatest gifts I've ever received were not given to me on my birthday.
My five greatest gifts were and are my children.

The night before my birthday, my husband gave me a gift certificate to have my nails done a fancy spa.  He brought home a beautiful cake which we ate from the daffodil plates I display for Easter.  We celebrated early because I decided I wanted to celebrate my birthday with my daughter Amy.  I got up early, packed my bags, and headed north to her house.  We had lunch.  She made me a wonderful dinner of her new healthy taco salad.  She provided a yummy carrot cake for dessert.  She gave me a bouquet of daffodils buds.  She could not find any bouquets in bloom.   

Who am I?
I am a gardener.
I love to tend to my flowers. 
I learn lessons on life from the garden.

Was this bouquet a reminder of life?  Sometimes, the flower we are has not fully bloomed.  Sometimes, we are buried under six inches of earth that is still frozen.  

The gardener plants bulbs with great faith in the fall.  The gardener does not have the reward of seeing the beauty the bulbs bring until spring.  The bulbs are protected even in this frigid environment during those long, dark, cold, dreary winter days.  Once those days are over, the bulbs cannot help but break through the earth, grow, and bloom.  Even those bouquets that are picked too early, and cooled so they will not bloom before the public sees them, will bloom.  They will bloom because that is who they are.  They are daffodils.  

This morning, when I first got up, I was blessed by a beautiful sight.
Given a little warmth, the daffodil buds were beginning to open up and bloom.
I will remember this bouquet for a long time.
I will remember it as a reminder that after long winters of darkness,
the soul longs to bloom.
Sometimes, a bouquet is gathered too early, but that doesn't mean those buds won't bring beauty.
Thank you Amy, my beloved, for this special birthday gift.
May you always continue to grow and to bloom.
We all need an extra dose of love, warmth, and support in our lives to be fully who we are.
Thank you for being that special someone to me so many times in my life.
So many times, you have had the perfect word for me when I needed it most.
So many times, you have supported me when I needed it most.
So many times your wisdom spoke to me when no one else seemed to have the wisdom I needed.
You truly are my beloved.
Your name, Amy, beloved, fits you perfectly.
Thank you for letting me be that special someone to you.
I will always be here for you.

I love you.

Beautiful sunset

This evening I sit in my favorite chair gazing out of the window of the family room onto my snow covered yard.  I am filled with peace as I admire the soft orange, purple and bluish gray hues of the sunset.  It is early, not even 5:00 p.m., but the sun is setting for the last time on 2010.  I am truly blessed by the beauty outside my window.  The rose bushes are wearing their fluffy white winter coats.  The undisturbed snow blanketed yard is a reminder that Buster is gone.  I  miss my dear golden retriever friend.

We've had many losses this year.  Christmas was much more difficult than I ever thought it would be. Many times,  I found myself sensing that something was really wrong with the day because it seemed incomplete.  I was surrounded by my children and grandchildren.  For that I am so grateful.  We had such a great time, but this mother of five kept counting heads and kept coming up short.  I don't know if I will ever get over the counting and being shocked anew that one is no longer with us.

The great hole in my heart and in my family will never be filled, yet in the waning light of this day, as the sun sets on 2010, I am grateful for much.  I have known more love than I ever thought possible.  I have experienced grace that has expanded my soul and deepened my faith.  Many loyal friends have been there for me.  My family has kept me sane as they laughed and cried along with me on this journey as we try to adjust to our great loss. I look forward to the dawn of a new day and of a new year.

Happy New Year!  May the new year bring each of you hope, joy, and many blessings.