fresh air

This January my husband and I made lists of achievable, yet challenging, goals that would push us beyond our limits in a good way. I loved the process and I am seeing progress.

One of my goals is to bring more joy and slower satisfaction to my morning by using my french press daily (instead of the Mr. Coffee percolator). On quiet mornings I clean out the previous grounds and measure in the days’ coffee while waiting for the water to boil on the stove: a slow and awakening process. Ideally, with a fresh steaming cup of joe, I sit down at the kitchen table to read scripture and journal for thirty minutes before the children amble down the hallway, hungry and talkative.

Midway through January, my toddler set her internal alarm clock to 4:45 a.m., turning my gentle mornings into groggy automation. Like poorly placed dominoes, my first actions of the day clinked haphazardly instead of creating beautiful ordered patterns.

The downward spiral leached into other parts of life as well, and my goals and dreams suddenly felt bossy and restrictive: run more, screen less, read more, shop less, listen more, talk less, be more aware, whine less, wake up earlier, complain less, play more, be less distracted. Although worthy strivings, the breathe-in in breathe-out script started to feel as overwhelming as groggy trips to the refrigerator and halfheartedly wiping smeared banana off the wood floors.

My ache for caffeine still throbs in chaos, and stubbornly I refused to put Mr. Coffee back on the counter, so the morning coffee routine survived.

Eventually, our mornings evened back out, but it wasn’t until then that I realized the gift of fresh air. It isn’t an inductive Bible quiet time, a three-mile run, or a sun salutation yoga routine. It’s two minutes tops of stepping outside in my pajamas and unceremoniously dumping coffee grounds onto next spring’s flower bed with unbrushed hair and half-open eyes. But, I inhale deeply of the fresh morning air and praise God for the goodness of a new day, a tiny bit refreshed and ready to return to the madness. It’s not perfect and it’s not a magic pill. It’s a gift that I embrace wholeheartedly.

This is free grace. An unexpected grace. I didn’t research the importance of fresh air in the morning and budget time out of my day to make it happen. I simply realized I liked the taste of french press coffee best and was too lazy to take care of old grounds before the morning, and God took care of the rest.

This is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us and gave His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. This is amazing grace: a beautiful fresh breath of air that carries us through, lifting a weight off of our shoulders we didn’t even know we carried, sitting in the old air of a house shut-up in the winter. Lost in our chaos. While we were still sinners, Christ died for the ungodly, adopting us as sons and daughters. The most beautiful, precious gift of fresh air.

On Watching

Welcome special guest to the fire Amber Beuschel. Amber is a free lance writer from souther Indiana, mother of 5 and a member of a writing community I recently joined. If you want to read more from Amber you can find her at Higher Thoughts and Other Things

“Mom,” my oldest daughter cried out. “I just saw a huge branch fall!” Her finger was pointed at something I couldn’t see through the front room window. A large branch from a tree over our house had dropped from the weight of ice.

I opened the front door and five sets of feet pattered out onto the porch, despite the freezing rain driving against their faces. Fascinated with the ice storm, they stood, unfazed by the wet, the cold, and the slippery.

After coaxing them back inside, they decided to set up a watch. This after a full day of eLearning activities. I was impressed. Their goal was to watch and see. What else might happen? Would other branches fall? Would they see a car slide? Would the wintry mix change over to snow? The possibilities seemed endless to my brood.

Watching their faces I was struck by their joy in the waiting. Why can’t I be more like that? I think it’s because I don’t start off attentive in the first place.

My daughter doesn’t normally position herself in front of a window to watch for twigs and sticks to fall from the sky. But today there were new things happening, and she wasn’t going to miss the chance to see just what else the sky might bring.

I want to be more like that, to listen, to anticipate, to watch.

We have a finite number of moments and minutes anyway. Many of them are dedicated to doing. But some of them should be given over the watching.

Maybe it’s a twig I’m watching for. Maybe something more, less, worse, or better.

What can I gain from watching?

Attentiveness. I notice more when I watch. Like the 9-year old, when I take time to observe, I make space for both the familiar and the new. Aware of these things, I am prepared to adjust, accept, respond to the changes around me. I am focused.

Alertness. With better focus, I see what is happening around me. Not only that, I am primed to act. Ready, I can move. I can do. How often do I find myself thinking about how I could act better after a matter? When I am focused to begin with, I begin to act better beforehand. That’s a skill I wouldn’t mind to have sharpened!

Appreciation. My attention and response in sync, I receive a third gift. I get to enjoy a moment. I was prompted by my daughter’s attention to the single branch to notice the entire backyard, to take in the sight of dozens of shrubs and trees coated in ice. We sat watching cardinals dart from tree to tree, wondering if birds ever slip. We judged the speed of cars entering and leaving the neighborhood. Wasn’t that too fast? Or wow, look how slow! The appreciation for how ice impacts nature, human behavior, and our entire day was at the front of our minds.

We might have checked off the 24 required eLearning activities today, but the one that stood out above all the rest wasn’t an assignment at all. It was simply the observation of a child, and it gave me plenty to think about. Plenty to watch for. 

I’m definitely setting aside more moments and minutes to watch tomorrow. 

Walk them home.

We live two-ish blocks from our residential high school. The majority of the student body lives in dorms, including my two youngest, the first year we lived here. After we found our permanent home our kids moved back and our house was often filled with students needing a break from dorm life. I loved it – all of it. Going to bed to the sounds of teenagers laughing over a movie or a game. Waking up to empty cookie containers and cups on the counter. So good. One of the other things I loved was that because there is a strict curfew in the dorm – I knew the moment that all would go silent. As much as I enjoyed the house full – I also liked knowing when peace would resume. It was a fun season.

As the clock ticked closer to the daily locking of the dorm doors kids would scramble to get shoes on, find the right coats to make the quick trek back to campus. There were shouts of ‘Thanks for having us Pastor and Mrs Lange – we had a great time’ and off they would walk into the night. Now there is absolutely no reason for us to be fearful for these kids walking back to campus at 11 p.m. It is 2 blocks past houses of everyone we know and then they hit the back entrance to campus. It’s well lit and safe. But most nights, as the kids were readying to leave, my son would be as well.

“I’m just going to walk them home.” he would say.

It was sweet and chivalrous and most likely an attempt to stretch the night just a few minutes longer. Some nights he would stay and chat – sometimes its just so hard to say good- bye. After they were safely inside the dorm he would walk home with the satisfaction of squeezing every moment out of the time he had with friends.

Makes sense to me.

Even more so in a season of my life where I am literally watching friends attempt their own sort of Home walk with people they love. Their loved ones are in their last stages of life, some that feel like they are just steps away from the final home resting spot. Just yesterday I cried with a friend over her father in laws recent passage to home. To call it rough is an under statement as he succumbed to his battle with covid. We were thankful that his sons and wife we able to be with him in his last moments. We all know friends for which this has not been the case. I have another friend that is working hard with hospice workers to help her husbands walk home more comfortable. As Tom and I grow older our parents do as well and the conversations about our own home walks with them grow more frequent. My lense for life has been brought into sharp focus as I realize the importance of how we choose to walk our people home. What has also become clear to me is that it is not just my cancer ridden friends and family that are on their home walk but every single person we encounter, every single day. Each of us is on a journey to our final eternal resting spot in our home that is being prepared for us – even as we take our next breath.

Two years ago, on a snowy day in February, I began to build this virtual fire. I had been inspired by a conversation with my sister in law and memories of the summer our family built a backyard fire for 28 days in a row. Each night our backyard was open to ANYONE. We enjoyed fellowship with friends from all factions of our life. My favorite nights were when we were able to introduce new friends and watch the connections grow. Each night stories were shared in the safe warm glow of the fire, under starry Michigan skies. This collaborative blog that celebrates its Two year birthday this month is an attempt to bring a space of pausing and sharing and listening to our weekly rhythms – like the feel you may have when snuggled around the warm glow of flames toasting marshmallows on long sticks. I’m so grateful for my friends that said yes to the invitation to join me here. I have learned so much from their perspectives on life and the way God meets them in simple everyday moments. He has used each writer to share the words I needed at just the right time. He is so good like that.

As I look back to that day when I spent hours snuggled up in our over stuffed living room chair building the framework for this blog I realize there was so much I didn’t know. There were a gazillion reasons to not start. First, I didn’t know if anyone would say yes. Maybe my friends would think I was crazy, maybe they would not want to take the time. Second and the harder for me, the logistics part. I’m not wired for detail ( which is sometimes apparent in my typos that linger because I’m just so eager to share my words). I’m a painter – I want to create a beautiful landscape with words – not take the time to learn the ins and outs of how to actually create a domain name, drop and drag pictures, format and so many things involved in this type of project. Finally – I would be committed. The idea that would be fun to do “someday” would now be a space to which I would dedicate hours from my weekly calendar. I’m really good at starting new things and getting a team on board – its the maintenance thats hard – the continued walk home – if you will- that gives me trouble.

Despite all the obstacles -we did it! We began and now two years have flown by. The weekly campfire posts are days that many of you have shared you now anticipate. I know I can speak for the rest of the writers when we express our deep appreciation and gratitude for the time you have taken to read our words and share your encouragement.

A few years ago when another friend was walking her husband “Home” she shared some deep bitterness she hoped he could reconcile before his earthly journey ended. He held shame from a life filled with regret. Things he wish he had not done and things he wished he had done. It’s the ‘wished he had’ part that I want to end with today. What is on your “someday” list? What skill would you like to learn? What book would you like to read, or write:)? Or even who do you want to invite to lunch and you keep saying, “yes someday when things settle down – we will make that happen.”

Might I suggest you do it….


I am so grateful my posse of campfire writers said Yes. I am so grateful we didn’t wait for a ‘less busy’ season. Two of our team have had babies since we started – their life certainly is not any less. I realize that the last two years could have passed without the gifts of these people being shared. No one would have known and the dream may have slowly faded into the passing of our busy days. And that makes me sad. I believe what has been created around our little fire has made many of your home walks, or daily life, better. I also believe that you, the one reading these very words, may have something to contribute to the world on your walk towards home. For some it may be starting something new. For others it may be giving some things up so your life is free to invest in loved ones or strangers you have not yet met that need what you have to offer. I’ll leave you to your own evaluation of how you spend your time but know that if you need a cheerleader as you attempt a crazy idea – I’m your girl.

Friends – thanks for showing up. Thanks for pulling up a chair, pausing and listening as we’ve told our stories. Thanks for making us a part of your own walk home. It has been an honor and a privlege.

And to my campfire writer friends. Thank you for being an early adapter. Thanks for bringing your best and most heartfelt words. Thanks for getting up early and staying up late to hit your deadline. Thank you for your vulnerability as you’ve shared pieces of your lives and the way God makes a difference. My continued walk home has been better – because of you.

Welcome to the fire and year 3….. We’re so glad you’re here!!!