Starry Night and Year 26

“Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust. Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.” Psalms 143:8

“If I could handwrite this in a beautiful script or paint a picture of our silhouette as we age with these words, I would. Instead, I am quoting Ann Voskamp, “There’s an old love that sees with a kind of holy double vision — that remembers a young lover in all their seeming infallibility and sees your aged lover in all their beautiful humanity.” That’s what I see in you and in us!” I wrote a few more words, hit send, and the message, bouncing off few satellite towers, reached my husband’s office. I sat pondering Ann Voskamp’s words in her latest book “Waymaker” and how they impacted my marriage. Hope flooded my soul as I recognized that we were safe in God’s loving arms.

Sunflowers by Vincent Van Gogh, Shutterstck

Terry and I celebrated our 26th Anniversary on Saturday. We went to the Van Gogh immersive exhibit in Washington DC with Indian food for lunch. Walking through the exhibit we learned that Van Gogh saw colors differently than the average person. Some have attributed this to a medication’s side effects, others believe it might have been a rare form of color blindness, and still others believe it was his understanding of color theory mixed with his genius creativity. Whatever the case, Van Gogh’s life was complicated with psychotic episodes, bouts of deep depression, and stays in the psychiatric ward. Despite these major setbacks, Van Gogh manage to paint some of the most vivid, masterful paintings of all time. His series of Sunflower paintings are arguably some of most recognizable art pieces in the world. The juxtaposition of the bright sunflowers in a vase with the ending of his life by suicide seems hard to understand. It is hard to hold all the brightness of the sunflowers with the darkness that was engulfing Van Gogh internally.

As he painted Starry Night, Van Gogh said, “I often think that the night is more alive and more richly colored than the day.” It’s easy to look at darkness and see no color. But if you let your eyes get acclimated to the darkness, shades of dark blues, greys and greens start to stand out. The flicker of any light source illuminates shadows with depth and complexity. Darkness no longer seems scary or flat. But what is even more amazing is when you see the dark fading away, and the morning sun slowly rises, painting the sky in hues of pink, orange, red, and violet. The dark night juxtaposed against the morning sky makes everything magical and full of possibilities.

Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh, Shutterstock

All marriages hit points where the bright glow of infatuation wears off. Marriage is two imperfect people with their own pasts and woundings trying to live together and create something new. Sometimes bright colors turn into an ordinary day where you are busy working, getting the dishes done, and crawling into bed, exhausted from child rearing and daily responsibilities. Sometimes marriage hits points of darkness where you can’t grope your way through, and don’t even recognize your hand before your face. These are the times when things seem hopeless.

Four years ago, Terry and I were in a place of darkness. We were still committed to marriage, but both felt hopeless and defeated. It was a place where we allowed our own past wounds to dictate our responses towards each other and towards God. We were tired of trying to fix each other and felt even more hopeless in being able to change our own behavior. The only place we could turn to was God.  It was in the darkness that we had created where God did miracles.

The Bible records miracles during all different times of the day and night. Our God is always available. But it is interesting to note the different miracles that happen in those early morning hours. It was in the early morning hours that God delivered Moses and the Hebrews at the Red Sea. It was in the morning Jesus walked on water during the storm. It was in the early morning hours that the broken body of Jesus left an empty tomb, whole and restored to life. These moments were precipitated by what seemed like impossible situations, and then God sweeps in with parted seas, walking towards his disciples, and resurrection! He leads people towards deliverance, safety, and hope.


I can look back and cherish our wedding day. Terry’s smile beaming at me as I walked down the aisle made me believe anything was possible. I can look back at the ordinary days of marriage when we were raising children with a smile, despite some mistakes we made. I can look back at the evening hours where we started to drift, where we got into a cycle of hurting each other with our words and deeds, and still smile because we had some real moments of happiness. And I can look back at the dark moments, grateful for God stepping in, healing us individually, and bringing us back together.

But right now, I feel Terry and I have entered a new morning in our marriage. We are still healing, moving towards wholeness. But right now, the morning light is illuminating a future that is full of mercy and goodness. And I see Terry’s great smile looking back at me, loving me completely in all my aged humanity, and I now know anything is possible!

Brain Fizz

“So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” Psalm 90:12

The sun was starting to rise in the sky as I popped in my Air Pods to listen to a podcast. As I was listening, I skirted around my kitchen, completing some daily tasks. I found the podcast so profound that I could hardly contain what I had learned. As Terry entered the kitchen, I took out my Air Pods and bubbled off some thoughts I had based on what I had heard in the past hour. After a few minutes of nonstop talking, I realized I had overwhelmed my slow-waking husband. I stopped and said, “I’m done.” Terry responded to a few of my thoughts, ending with “I think I’ve used up all my words for the day.”

Childhood summers in the early eighties were hot with window fans providing scant relief. Lunch menus included Wonder bread peanut butter and jelly sandwiches congealed in a gummy mush to the roof of your mouth, adding to the already sticky atmosphere. The drink of choice was often the sugary fake fruity Kool-Aid we made in a plastic red-orange Tupperware pitcher. Occasionally, my mom would splurge on assorted flavors of bottled Springtime Soda. My siblings would argue over who got the orange or the grape sodas, but I was always drawn to the cream soda. The vanilla fizzy drink was a welcome change from Kool-Aid. Drinking water in the eighties was unheard of, only when you were desperate, and the Kool-Aid canister was empty. I was the generation that grew up on MTV, jelly sandals, Scratch-n-Sniff stickers, and a growing consumption of soda. As my siblings and I entered our teens, soda quickly replaced Kool-Aid as our drink of choice.

As an adult, I no longer drink Kool-Aid and have the occasional soda in the form of ginger ale. I prefer coffee in all forms and tend to drink too much of that. I am trying to increase my water consumption and have found sparkling water a good transition. I like water, but the cucumber melon or black cherry sparkling water feels a little more exciting than plain old tap water. I love the little bit of flavor and the look of the carbonation bubbles as they dance in my glass. It somehow feels special.

In a recent podcast, I heard a woman share that her son had learned a new concept in a book. He was excited about what he had learned and said, “it made my brain fizz.” In my mind, I pictured a cartoon image of a boy with thought bubbles inside and outside his head, exploding with new ideas. The picture made such an impression on me, I thought about brain fizz for the next day.

Like the son, I, too, enjoy “ideas that make my brain fizz.” I have always loved learning, but when I started college, the concept of becoming a lifelong learner was starting to resonate with me. It led me to working in a residence hall that incorporated what was learned in a Freshman Seminar class to the living environment. It continued in my home education journey where I became curious along with my children about the natural world, history, and the arts. And as a middle-aged adult, it shows in the variety of podcasts, books, and documentaries I consume. In past week, I have learned that our bodies have brown fat, that keyhole composting is a good way to get rid of citrus scraps, and that Peru used to have sixty different varieties of potatoes. I am also currently doing research on childhood trauma and reading a poetry collection by Amanda Gorman that is opening my world to the power of chosen words.

I believe that keeping your brain active is an important part of aging well. Research has shown that, for both men and women, curiosity helps maintain the health of our central nervous system. It also increases longevity. Although diets, such as the Mediterranean diet and eating more fruits and vegetables, can aid in the ability to be more curious, I believe it’s more than a particular diet and steady consumption of kale and asparagus.

As we age, it’s common for us to get more sedentary, both physically and mentally. We are encouraged to take short walks to help us physically, but I think we can find ways to exercise our minds to increase the fizz in our brains. For me, it looks like reading a wide variety of materials including literary fiction, poetry, the natural world, history, and memoirs. It also includes me listening to different points of views, hearing the stories of others, and pondering big questions. It involves me searching scripture for both meaning and historical/cultural context. It also involves me learning new skills or crafts. I find the more I explore my world, the more I want to explore. It becomes contagious like the dancing carbonation bubbles in my fizzy water.

In preparing for this blog, I found this interesting article, “What We Need to Cultivate Our Curiosity”, on the Aging-Well Project. The article is not only adding new books to my TBR list but is also encouraging me to turn off my GPS when I explore new areas. One day this week, I plan to explore the downtown Carlisle on foot, with no agenda in mind.

Walt Disney said, “We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” As I age, I want to keep moving forward physically, mentally, and spiritually. I believe cultivating curiosity will keep my brain fizzing and affect all three of those areas, leading me to new places that I can’t imagine.

Chasing Fireflies

“Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4

“Their yard has more fireflies than ours, please Auntie, can we go across the street to capture some?” my nephew pleaded, holding his bug-catching basket. Between the sultry Nebraska heat and my bare feet, I could think of several reasons why this wasn’t a good idea. But he pleaded again with his huge dark brown eyes, and I said yes. We walked across the street, my bare feet not hurting as much as I expected on the hot asphalt. The neighbor’s yard sparkled with dancing lights across the manicured lawn. The lush grass enveloped my feet like a plush rug as we crept around the yard looking for fireflies.  A few minutes later, we chanced upon a one resting on some foliage. We captured it and placed it in his net. He skipped across the street, delighted to show his parents.

Fireflies, or lightning bugs, are a part of summer magic, finding their way into folk lore, photographs, paintings and even songs. A few years ago, the artist, Owl City, immortalized fireflies by penning the words to a catchy tune, “Because I’d get a thousand hugs from ten thousand lightning bugs as they tried to teach me how to dance.” That song always makes me smile with the desire to run across a meadow lit by moonlight and fireflies. These luminescent insects even capture the hearts of those of us who find ordinary houseflies disgusting. They simply are delightful!

Delight is defined as “a high degree of gratification or pleasure or joy.” It is heard when a child squeals at the sight of bunny. It is experienced when a husband and wife are dancing to Frank Sinatra, even though the wife has two left feet. It is tasted when you bite into the first sweet nectarine of the season as juice drips down your chin. It smells like newborn babies, fresh and clean like a perfect day. Delight is a feeling we can experience daily if we make consistent choices to look, embrace, or seek it. But all too often, I look towards my obstacles, embrace habits that provide false comforts, and find ways to fill emptiness that don’t delight. These choices often leave me unfulfilled and uninspired.

Right now, I face one major obstacle: we haven’t found a place to live in Carlisle. Currently, our lives are centered forty minutes north of where we live. My husband has a one-hour commute to work, and we are active in our church, which is in Carlisle. Moving to Carlisle would cut down on my husband’s commute, give us an opportunity to connect with the community in which we worship, and free up our time for ministry. In times past, I would be inpatient, maybe settle for a less desirable location, or be in a state of constant frustration. But Terry and I have decided to be still and seek God. For me, this time of being still doesn’t mean I don’t look for a place to live, but I don’t obsess over it. It also means I don’t pray for God to open doors, instead I am spending time learning more about the character of God and deepening my relationship with Him. It looks like listening to worship music as I clean house, spending time in His word, sharing with my husband my passions and dreams, and laying them before the feet of Jesus. It also looks like examining my motives, remaining humble and allowing Him to purify my heart.

Ann Voskamp , in her eloquent poetic prose, lays out the concept of the “Red Sea Road” in her latest book, Waymaker. She says, “I have no imagination for the ways of God. In my mind, there had been no island of new possibilities, no dry land of change, no way through to something other than what I’d already known.” She responds to this place of despair by saying, “Jesus knows turns you never heard of, makes roads you wouldn’t have dreamed of, makes miracles exactly where you never would have imagined.” In this crazy housing market, with rental prices creeping up, it seems like an obstacle that neither of us can see past. But we know a God who can!

Last night, Terry and I were driving the forty plus miles back to our home from an evening at church. Terry, exhausted, quickly agreed to my offer to drive home, while he sat back and relaxed. I turned on a podcast, listening to a woman talk about her passion for the people of Chinatown, New York City, where she has spent the last two years sharing their stories. Her desire was to bring to light the plight of this community and how the pandemic had shattered the livelihoods of so many people in the food industry. I thought about my passion for storytelling, my desire to listen well to others, and hear about their stories. These stories might be about their passions or where brokenness touches their lives. I want to be a safe place of refuge for those who feel marginalized in my community. I want to share with others our story and the work Jesus has done in our lives, providing people with hope. As I was thinking these thoughts, I glanced to side of the road. I saw fireflies dancing among the trees on the shoulder. I softly shared with Terry, delight in my voice, “Look, there are fireflies.”

In Psalm 37, David says, “Trust in the Lord, and do good, dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness. Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.” Trusting, continuing to do good, dwelling in the home the Lord has already provided, feeding on His faithfulness, and delighting in the character and nature of God is the place where I am abiding in now. It feels secure, safe, and full of wonder. And I know that, in the future, I will be able testify how gave us the desires of our heart! Meanwhile, I will keep looking for fireflies.


“And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done.” Genesis 2:2

I am sitting in my egg chair listening to the sounds of summer. The humming of the central air unit is a constant, while I hear five different birds chirping summer music in the background. Occasionally, I hear the rustling of leaves as a soft warm breeze floats by, keeping the sultry heat manageable. The buzzing of bees and flies also flits in and out as I close my eyes. I open my eyes to see a rare dragon fly whizz by, heading to another spot where she can sip sweet nectar. I look over at my blackberry bush and see a hint of red, a sign that I need to wrap the bush in a net to harvest the blackberries before the birds do.

Four weeks ago, summer sounds were replaced with buzzing chaos: hundreds of limes rolled to be juiced, fifteen heads of garlic peeled to be minced, and twenty-four blocks of cheese unwrapped to be grated. Wedding preparations were in full force while friends and family were helping me to prepare food for the wedding. The activity that was happening in my kitchen seemed mild compared to the activity swirling in my mind: did we have enough food, what about the serving dishes, had Terry polished his shoes, and what about the guacamole? This swirling was in constant motion, feeling like I had entered the land of “Heffalumps and Woozles” where psychedelic limes and avocados were chasing me.

The wedding was beautiful, and I had enough food and serving dishes. Terry was so dashing in his suit that we didn’t care about his unpolished shoes. And I did forget about the guacamole, but a new friend came to the rescue and fixed it while I remained clueless about my mistake, soaking up my daughter getting ready for her big entrance into married life.

The aftermath of the wedding was still a little chaotic, but I no longer had activity swirling in my mind. I soaked up a Sunday afternoon with friends and family that had come a long way to celebrate. I enjoyed two more weeks with my son and his family, watching my grandson play his guitar while looking for a substitute tuner. I then flew to Nebraska to spend a week with my niece and nephew, swimming, drawing, playing games, and reading countless books.

Last Monday was the start of a new week. I made an ambitious list of goals to accomplish.  But I was still wrestling with exhaustion. I fell asleep early, barely sneaking in a chapter of a book that I am loving. I managed to workout early at the gym a few days but chose to sleep in some of the days as well. I find myself in the egg chair with either a book in hand or my computer, occasionally drifting off for short naps. And now a week later, my list is less than half done.

Day 7 Rest

And, surprisingly, I am totally okay with that. I’m okay that I am spending my holiday accomplishing a few things, but mostly resting, reading, and relaxing. A few weeks ago, I wrote about activities I can do to bring some restoration in my life. But many of those activities involve “doing”: paddling in a kayak, hiking a trail, exploring a new town. Today would have been a perfect day to hike, but I honestly couldn’t scrounge up the energy to go. And that’s okay. After an intense, busy season, both physically and emotionally, I need the extra rest to refuel.

Last Christmas, Maggie found a small turquoise juicer on clearance. She thought it was cute and would help make juicing lemons and limes easier on my arthritic hands, with the bonus of being helpful with wedding prep. We ran this juicer nonstop for a few hours, juicing about eighty limes. And then it stopped. The appliance didn’t make any funny noises or smells indicating its demise. It looked as cute as ever, but no longer functioned. This little juicer was never meant to replace a commercial juicer, it was for the small home cook who occasionally need some lime juice.

In my exhausted state, I am reminded, that I am human. I am not meant to run at top speed for long stretches, crossing things off my massive to-do list. I was created in the image of God who, after a busy week of creation, chose to model a principle for His prized creation: He chose to rest. Not because God was tired, because He has boundless energy. Not because he needed to take a break, because he is all powerful. Not because he needed to escape, because He is omnipresent. Jen Wilkin says in “None Like Him”, “The God of the Bible is infinite-immeasurable, unquantifiable, uncontainable, unbound, utterly without limit. We cannot take the full measure of him no matter how hard we may try.” She continues later saying, “Our limits teach us the fear of the Lord. They are reminders that keep us from falsely believing that we can be like God.”

God modeled rest so that we would learn we are not God, and sometimes we need rest. This past week I rested. It gave me space to listen to God, to empty my head of psychedelic limes, and to remind me where my energy comes from. It comes from a God who is abundant in His gifts. And I am thankful.