FRIDAY FIVE: Blooming things

This week I’m hosting the Friday Five over at RevGalBlogPals. You’re invited to play along in the comments if you’d like. :)

We often encourage each other to “bloom where you’re planted.” I like the symbolism, but realized that RevGals and Pals hail from all over the world! What blooms in Maryland may be far different than the flowers in your part of the world. So, to celebrate our diversity, show us five plants that bloom around your home or neighborhood. I’m looking forward to seeing the wide variety of beauty we have among us!

Right now in my back yard, there’s …


This peony bush is from a start that was one of my grandmother’s. I love the way the blossoms open so wide and full. They attract all manner of bees, ants and hummingbirds.

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Grandma’s Peony


The Chicago Peace rose is a tea rose. It starts with a dark pink bud and the leaves turn from pink to peach and the blossom opens. This bloom is from last year… this year’s blossoms are just beginning to open!

Peace Rose

Peace Rose


We have a pergola that shades our back patio from the summer afternoon sun. The wisteria vines are slowly beginning to grow over the top and across the rafters now.

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Wisteria blooming on the pergola


More flowers from my grandmother! I’ve been dividing and moving the rhizomes as they are rapidly outgrowing (and overcrowding) their flower bed!

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Grandma’s Irises

and Clover!

I have the kind of yard that sprouts crabgrass, dandelions and clover. Obviously, our latest tenants in the warren out back are partial to clover! I love that they nibble off the stem from the plant, and then slowly chew down the stem until the flower is consumed last. (I guess it’s the rabbit’s version of slurping spaghetti?)



Fields of Grace (and dandelions)


A carpet of dandelions covered the fields. It was stunning. Field after field with the rich spring green grass and dots of yellow blossoms.

I have never really minded dandelions. They are bright, cheerful and persistent in growing and blooming. I will dig them out of my flower beds but I don’t kill them off in my yard. For many seasons, there were many little bouquets of dandelions, violets, and clover, carefully collected by small hands, and proudly displayed on the dining room table. Now, of course, it’s hip to let them bloom because they’re good for bees. 

Years ago, a former neighbor spend many an hour walking back and forth across his yard, trying to zap every single dandelion with weed killer. Then a windy day would re-seed his yard with the seeds germinated in mine.

He scowled at me one time and said, “Wouldn’t you like to grow some other kind of flower?”

I just laughed. Dandelions in small, chubby hands are a sweet gift. I’d never kill them off.

Now those hands are grown up and the dandelions are a weed of choice by the rabbits who have taken to using our yard as an extension of their warren. One evening I sat and watched a pair of rabbits hop from blossom to blossom, nibbling up the long stems to the sweet flowers. (Saving the best for last, I guess.)

I love my roses, wisteria and clematis. I savor the first peep of my snowdrops. I enjoy seeing the flowers from my grandmother’s garden, the peonies, irises and lily of the valley, when they reappear each year.

But yes. I’ll keep the dandelions, too.

A Riverside Chat: Or How The Reverend Crankypants Got Her Groove Back

I took a break from a staff retreat today and headed down to the Potomac River. It’s been many months, but I knew that getting a chance to sit near the water would do my heart good.

I was a long ways from the riverbank, when I could hear the rapids. I found a rock and sat and breathed deeply. The rushing of the current over the rocks was so loud it pounded in my chest. All the “stuff” that was annoying me, making me sad, and giving me all kinds of heartache melted away.    In the presence of such power, I found some perspective.


There are no obstacles in the presence of such power. Even a large rock or branch will not stop the river’s flow. It moves on, works around, pushes, smooths, and travels past.

So God and I had a little Riverside “chat” and I agreed to listen, bend and be moved… and not impede the Spirit’s flow. As a result, I had a better afternoon. (Though, I will be honest, there are things that should be best experienced with a pitcher of margaritas. Like karaoke. Just sayin’.)

I Held a Hand

hand Photo Credit: © 2014 Carodean Road Designs, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

I Held A Hand

I ended my week
in a quiet space,
music softly playing
and the afternoon sun
playfully dancing on the walls.
Sleepy, drowsy,
my patient slept,
unaware that I sat
praying, singing, reading Scripture.
I held a hand,
not knowing if my presence registered
at all.

In the quiet,
the soft light,
the songbirds outside
sounded like trumpets.
Eyes opened, blinked,
“I hear the birds!”
A smile crossed my patient’s face.

“Yes!” I replied
“I think it’s a robin!”
“Robins! I love to watch them hop!”
Just as quickly,
The recognition faded,
eyes grew vacant,
the body relaxed.

I sat beside my patient
softly praying
and waited for that next glimmer
of the person that was.
And still is.

FRIDAY FIVE: Whatcha Hauling?

This week, I’m hosting the Friday Five over at RevGals! Play along if you’d like!


My coworker looked over with amusement at my purse. It was stuffed to the brim so that I had both hands free to carry a large vase of flowers. We both began to chuckle as I kept pulling out items I needed: communion wine, computer charger, hiliter, tissues, rescue inhaler, and finally my phones (yes… I carry TWO!) It felt like I was carrying Mary Poppins’ carpetbag!

Sometimes, as pastors, chaplains, moms or just itinerant workers, our purses and backpacks do become “carry-alls.” So this made me wonder: what are you carrying around that perhaps you could unload or set aside? Please share:

1. Physical: What do you ALWAYS carry in your purse/wallet/coat pocket/backpack?

I always have tissues and my inhaler. (And my wallet and phone, of course.)

2. Whimsical: Is there a surprise inside? What’s among the unusual items?

My husband got me a “multitool” that is on my keychain It looks like a crazy kind of spork. It is a screwdriver, bottle opener, thread cutter as well as other functions.

Practical: As a chaplain, I always have some breath mints and tissues. How about you?

YUP. ALWAYS have a mini box of Altoids.

Spiritual: Share a question or lesson from your spiritual life that you’re puzzling about.

I continue to wrestle with why human begins try to kill each other to the point of genocide. It makes no sense to me. I worry about the fact that we have yet to learn that this is not the way we are meant to treat one another.

Virtual: Anything you’d like us to help you carry? Or maybe you have a picture, quote or story to lighten another’s load? 

Winter was a long time leaving but it has indeed FINALLY left! here’s a picture of our back yard this week, full of green, flowers, and SPRING! Hang in there, your season of life will change. And all shall be well.


Blog Tour: There’s a Woman in the Pulpit

It’s hard to believe, but almost ten years ago, I began a journey towards becoming a pastor. At that time, I had only met a handful of women pastors, and NONE of them were in my denomination.  I learned from them, laughed with them, cried with them… And they challenged ME to consider becoming a pastor too.

I was a little surprised. Pastors are wise. They have mumbo-jumbo-big-words Bible knowledge. They prepare all those sermons with Greek and Hebrew and quote commentaries. They handle public speaking, difficult questions, and emotional life events. They didn’t get vomit-inducing stage fright. (Guess who did?)

I called myself “a worker bee.” Though I avoided ministry areas like teaching children’s Sunday School, I had served on worship teams, sang in choirs, planned large events, organized service projects, created devotional guides, and organized small group Bible studies. I was busy serving God and I loved it. There were no women pastors in my church. There were “directors” and “leaders” who were female. But no “pastor” titles for what I thought were clear, God-given reasons.

And then the Holy Spirit got a hold of me. And She nagged. Reminded. Shoved possibilities under my nose. Made me laugh, cry, and worry that I was “doing it for myself.” Alienated me from friends and their families because I was “going outside of God’s will” for my life. pheeto

Still I pressed on. I cared for my family and household, kept writing and serving. And kept blogging. I finally did an internet search for “women in ministry” and “women pastors.” And I stumbled onto a blog ring in its infancy, RevGalBlogPals. There was humor, heartbreak, support and a huge welcome. I started as a “blog pal,” and slowly but surely made my way a few years later to “Revgal.”

In the early stages of my blogging, I was moderately anonymous, as were most of the Revgals. Slowly, as my pastoral identity took shape, so did my public identity as a blogger. I began to meet people who said, “Oh! I read your blog!” (And yes, I did wonder why… but I did as my parents taught me and said, “oh, thank you!”)

Last week our RevGal book, There’s a Woman in the Pulpitwas released. After a busy Sunday, I stopped for a pedicure (a self-care practice I learned from my RevGal compatriots) and started reading. Faces that I had “met” on Facebook came alive with their stories, reflections, prayers and humor. I felt again a surge of thankfulness for their authenticity and vulnerability.

The book is a collection of vignettes around the common themes of ministry: calling, sacraments, death and dying, church administration, families, and life in the “real world.” More than once a lump rose in my throat and I brushed away tears. I chuckled and commiserated. These are my sisters-of-a-different-mother. I am so grateful that their words are published for you to read, too.

We are so very different. We serve in small churches, large ones, in church administration, in hospitals and hospices. We are robed and non-robed, liturgical and free worship, lectionary preachers and topical preachers. We are a collective voice that reaches far beyond what we know. We inspire one another. We challenge each other. We bring a prophetic voice to the conversations around race, politics, class and gender identity.

As our public identity grows, so does our clout. The book reminded me again that our visibility in the world, beyond the church, in the marketplace, homes and hospitals, means that “pastor” and “preacher” are no longer a male-only words. We are role models, and perhaps we are just beginning to realize how that makes a difference for our children.

Last weekend, I officiated at a funeral for one of my hospice patients. The small gathering, just a  few dozen, shared stories and came together around a sweet, sad memorial service. There were several children present, and their noise really didn’t bother me. I reassured each parent that not only was it OK that they were there, but that their presence reminded us of the legacy we leave. We metoodemonstrated to them how we support one another in times of celebration and times of grief.

At the end of the service, one of the girls ran up to me and gave me a hug. She beamed at me and said, “When I grow up, I’m going to be a preacher, too!” With her mother’s permission, we did a quick selfie, and I felt the warmth of God’s approval flowing gently around my shoulders.

This future preacher reminded me that it is our presence, as women, as pastors, as role models, that contributes to the sea change towards women in leadership. As I grow in wisdom and understanding, may I never forget… I stand on the shoulders of women who blazed the trail ahead of me. And I help define the path for future women in ministry to serve, God willing.

Disclaimer: I have written one of the essays in this book and received a free copy as my compensation from being a contributor. Otherwise, I receive no financial reimbursement for my efforts.

There’s a Woman in the Pulpit: Christian Clergywomen Share Their Hard Days, Holy Moments and the Healing Power of Humor. Edited by Rev. Martha Spong. Foreword by Rev. Carol Howard Merritt. ISBN 978-1-59473-588-2 Available on-line from Skylight Paths or via the RevGalBlogPals page.

Here’s to Mud on Your Boots


PRE-mud on my boots!


Winter is over. The sounds of birds singing (and the gardener sneezing) fill the air. Time to set up the water feature in the back yard, clear away fallen branches, attack the early crop of weeds, and think about the growing season.

The hours I have spent raking, hauling and pruning are part of the groundwork for the lush flowers of late spring and summer. I remind myself that it’s worth it… At one point, I stopped to rest, stretching out in the sunshine, reflecting on the seasons, each with their unique challenges.

Last month we still had snow to shovel and windows to scrape clear. This week I navigated pot holes and downpours. In just a few weeks, I’ll be swearing at the mosquitos and humidity. Each season has it less than lovely moments. But each one also brings breath-taking beauty, memories worth celebrating, and moments of sweat equity.

So here’s to mud on your boots and a tissue in your pocket. It’s (finally) spring!

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Holy Week: Walking Towards the Resurrection

It’s Holy Week. One of the busiest times of year for pastors (and chaplains), and one where I so desperately need some strength and rejuvenation!

IMG_7819I was reminded by a Wise Woman to be intentional in my Holy Week activities, busy as I am. I was exhorted to keep the space around my heart and my mind refreshed and clear.

So this afternoon, with laundry piled high (isn’t it always?) and chores to do, I took her advice.

I sat in the chilly spring air, and stared at blue sky, and puffy clouds, and noticed the maple buds swelling.

I watched the chickadees and cardinals go to the feeders, flitting back and forth to the trees and bushes. I listened to a woodpecker drumming on the dead apple tree branch. And I heard the sound of branches creaking in the light breeze.

I breathed deeply. Chores can wait. Books will gather dust. Essays and charting and blog posts even will get done… or not.

IMG_7813What I really needed to do was be IN Creation. To jettison the expectations I put on myself, and to remember… to pray… to reflect on this Lenten journey, soon to be ending with the celebration on Easter morning.

I sat on a bench in the sun, drinking it all in. I walked the labyrinth in the back yard and realized it needed attention. It was time to clean away the deadfall of branches and rake away the leaves. To stop and look around me and see the change coming and relish it. To see the traces of winter, the places where the ground is still hard and cold, and also the places where the grass has begun to grow.

I sense the stirring. I know that the songs of the Resurrection are coming. But first, I wait and walk and wait some more.

IMG_7817I noted this old fencerow on our property. It is part of an old orchard road where, generations ago, the apple trees were planted and the fence strung up to prevent livestock from getting in the orchard. It reminded me that the echoes of generations past gave me life and purpose and fire to keep going, keep growing.

This is the work of the Spirit in my life. She leads, suggests but never presses. She points out the fenceposts and reminds me of the paths of the faithful. She highlights obstacles and suggests a way around it. She breathes life into my tired, cold, wintering-over heart.

And I realize, with a kind of dull and slow awakening, that even in the days where I felt it was pointless, and basically “phoned it in” at work and home, God was working. Through me. In me. In spite of me. From the pile of dead branches to the leaves that blew in across the fence, God has been and always will be at work, behind the scenes, underground, in the coldest, driest, hottest or iciest days.

Joan Chittiister wrote:
“Everywhere I looked, hope existed – but only as some kind of green shoot in the midst of struggle. It was a theological concept, not a spiritual practice. Hope, I began to realize, was not a state of life. It was at best a gift of life.”

IMG_7802Wherever I go, in my next steps and moments, I walk with a little more confidence and faith in the God who walks with me.

In the struggle, there is peace. And there is surely growth.

Walking towards the Resurrection this week – may you experience the encouraging words of the Spirit.


Photo-A-Day: Meditate

One of questions I was asked at my boards last week was, “What do you do for YOU?”

What they wanted to know was how I cared for myself. As one board member said, “Chaplains last about 2-3 years  in a hospice position. What are you doing for your career’s longevity?”

I answered, “Pedicures!”

The men looked confused. The women on the panel laughed knowingly.

Chaplains are on our feet for several hours a day. Our feet take a lot of abuse. I quickly learned to leave my pride at the door and wear comfortable shoes with good support. I also learned that “preechin’ shoes” are not the same thing as “chaplain shoes.” I can stand for hours in my chaplain shoes. I can only stand for a few hours in preechin’ shoes.

But a pedicure is also a kind of meditation. I can zone out with my feet in a massaging foot bath. With the massage chair humming (key of B-flat) and the jets swirling water around my ankles… Ahhhhhhhh…

Or should I say “Ommmmmm…”