Put it on my tab.

“You want to join?”

My husband was attempting to pay for our first round of golf at the ‘country club’ located 4 miles from our new home. The gal behind the counter/bar in the club house was trying to convince us that a membership to the club was the most fiscally responsible thing to do. The amount we would pay for one round for each of us would more than cover a month of membership fees. Our entire family of five could enjoy unlimited golf for less a month than the two rounds we were about to play. But…. I’m in sales – I know how this works and I wasn’t about to jump into a long term commitment. We are in the most expensive years of parenting – called the college and wedding years- and I keep a pretty tight lock on our budget. A Country Club membership sounded excessive. My immediate response was a firm, “No thanks.”

My husband wasn’t so easily convinced that this was a bad idea. He loves to golf.

Loves it.

He will go play a quick round as a form of stress relief. A walk on the golf course does wonders for his attitude. I, on the other hand, need to be pretty happy and relaxed before heading out to play. If I am stressed or pre-occupied, attempting to hit a little white ball is that last thing I need to do. We stood at the counter – he formulating his sales pitch and me running some numbers to prove him wrong. In the end it actually did make sense to make the jump into Country Club life. Membership would also give us unlimited access to a pool – a nice perk during our hot Missouri summers. The extra special touch is that our names have now been engraved on a brass name plate on display for all to see on the club house wall.

After almost 5 years of enjoying our membership privileges this past summer we were granted an upgrade. I guess we have proven our trustworthiness because we have now been given access to ……

A Tab.

You know, the thing that allows you the privilege of enjoying some type of food or drink without actually paying for it at the time you consume it? You order and simply say….. ‘Put it on my tab.’ You can sit around with friends after 9 holes, enjoy a cold one and say – next round is on me! Yep – just put it on my tab. It feels free, and fun and important. It shows you can be trusted. It announces to the world that you are part of the community…

and isn’t that what we all want?

To know that we belong?

I’ve been told that I will never get over the feeling of being ‘new’ in my small town. I have friends that were born, raised and now are raising their own children who are also raising their own children here. All in the same place. It’s something I will never understand. It does not mean it is wrong. It just means its not my experience. They know they belong because this is all they know. They have a lineage that goes back generations. Their good old days happened right here – not some far away place with even farther away memories. The difference between their life experience and mine feels vast.

Until.

Until I start asking questions.

And I start listening.

It turns out that no matter what path of life you have meandered, you can still….

Find your forever soul mate that becomes your spouse.

Enjoy great success in your professional life.

Fill photo books with countless happy memories.

Fill hearts with deep hurts from loss and regret.

Endure both financial windfalls and financial ruin.

Receive a cancer diagnosis.

Lose a child.

Get voted High School homecoming Queen.

Save up and buy your first car, your first home.

Struggle with the choices of your children.

Feel the void that comes when all that the world promises to offer keeps falling short.

When it comes down to it, we are all really more alike that different – in the most humbling way.

We all, no matter where we’ve lived or where we havn’t lived, all have a need to be filled. A need for completion. A need to feel loved. A need for peace. A need for forgiveness. A need for redemption. A need to belong.

I’ve just started a 10 week journey with a group of friends through the book of John. It’s one of the four gospels – or accounts of the life of Jesus. If you are not familiar with his life and mission – some time in this book is a great place to start. If you are familiar – this is a great place to re-visit. In just the first 34 verses of chapter one I have been reminded of the gift that he was and is to me and all that chose to follow him. I’m reminded that from the creation of the world he was. I’m reminded that when man blew it, the plan was for Jesus to come and clean up our mess. I’m reminded that Jesus was a light in our darkest places and that he did his most profound work outside of church walls.

At a wedding.

With a parent whose child was dying.

In a crowd of hungry people.

He touched people whom others shunned.

He dined with the scum, the forgotten, the sinners.

When entrance into eternity held a price tag large for us to pay,

Jesus came to pick up the tab.

Pick.

Up.

Our.

Tab.

My tab.

your tab.

He walks into the clubhouses of our lives and covers it all. No matter what we add to our bill, through poor choices, past regrets – he promises to cover it all. He wants you to know that you can belong.

That you can be loved.

That you can be redeemed.

He’s got you covered – for eternity.

It’s on…..

Him.

To God be the glory.

“Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples that are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” John 20:30-31

Sunset at the Country Club: Membership has its privileges

Know Your Audience

It’s one of the most important pieces of advice for speakers, writers, teachers, communicators of all sorts….. get a good read of the room before you open your mouth, or pickup your pen or open your lap top. The opening story or joke one may use at an orthopedic surgeons conference my fall flat at a similar event for dentists. Two groups of people with different experiences, skill sets and possibly personalities. Knowing your audience – its key to connection and It’s a skill, dare I say it, I own. I believe it was developed over a lifetime of watching my father start and grow a church in the suburbs of Detroit. It continued as I moved into full time ministry with my husband and then for the last 18 years have built a business with hundreds of team members and customers…I’ve honed my people reading skill.

Or at least I thought I had.

This past summer I had the wonderful opportunity to connect with many people both personally and professionally. After a year of needing to intentionally disconnect, the summer of 2021 was full on – meet the people. I spent one week rekindling relationships with business connections around the state of Michigan. I stayed in 5 different homes in 7 days. I shared space with some of my favorite humans on the planet. My love language is coffee and connection (or as Gary Chapman Author of “The 5 Love Languages” would say – Quality Time) thus, my cup was filled. I took several long road trips with my 18 year old daughter and later in June our entire family travelled to Utah for a week with 80 + members of our extended family. My husband and I ended the summer with a trip to Indiana to watch our oldest daughter receive her Specialist Degree in Education, a full on graduation ceremony, in person. It was the cherry on the top of a really fantastic summer.

Any place I go with this crew is amazing… but Utah ! Wow!!

In this return to travel, and people, and gatherings I found myself needing to dust off some skills that had gone dormant since spring of 2020. Booking hotel rooms or scheduling Air bnbs. Checking schedules of friends to see if they would be home when I would want to visit. Budgeting for gas and food. Reading my GPS when rerouted in crazy Chicago traffic in the rain. Planning extra travel time for road construction. Packing appropriate clothing for weather changes and a variety of activities.

There was one skill, the one I thought I had down, that I discovered was most important. It required much time and patience. I learned it first in college so many years ago – that people really don’t care how much you know unless they know how much you care. I remembered that before I speak I should listen, listen, and listen some more. I had to Know my Audience. And what I learned is that my audience is diverse, and passionate and caring and concerned about our world despite the glaringly vast differences of opinion on everything we are all currently navigating.

As I sat over numerous cups of coffee, or dry red depending on the time of day, I listened to the concerns of my people. I asked questions about what their last year of life had looked like. I worked hard to get a read on their level of peace or lack there of. We struggled together to answer questions that seem impossible to understand. We laughed over crazy things we had done to pivot on a daily basis, we cried over the loss of both our normal routines and also actual human beings. We prayed for the future of our world and often we agreed that on some issues we may need to disagree. In many cases I realized my audience that I thought I knew so well, had changed. And I guess, so had I.

And thats the real rub isn’t it? The one we all may be trying so hard to ignore. The fact that people we know and love and trust have chosen an opposing side to our own. We read peoples social media posts or watch their face covering activity ( or lack there of) in an attempt to understand. We then quickly make value judgements and form opinions that feel heavy and yucky and divisive. I’m watching my two college students navigating a list of written and unwritten rules now that they have returned to campus. The struggle to understand simple daily activities and relationships continues.

This past week I was with a friend that was sharing a news headline about a current hot topic. Her tone was one that communicated she had bought in to the “evidence” of the writer and was wanting my ‘Yes and Amen’ but I couldn’t give it because just the day before…

I had listened.

Twenty four hours earlier I had a conversation with another trusted friend on this same topic. She had shared data that completely opposed the information in the article my first friend had shared. I asked lots of questions to clarify and later went home and did my own research. When I shared my findings we were then able to have a healthy conversation about the issue – neither of us coming to a firm conclusion on the topic, but agreeing that there is usually always more to the story.

And that is the lesson I am taking from the summer of 2021 – that there is always more and getting to the “More” takes time and listening, and more time and more listening. After the time and the listening and the More time and the more listening there may come understanding but (and this is important) there might not come agreement.

You may not agree.

You.

May

Not.

Agree.

And it’s ok. It really is. It has to be. At least it does for me.

If I’m going to continue showing up in my work, my friendships, my faith community, my grocery store….

I have to come to grips with the reality that I may not see eye to eye with people I deeply know and deeply love.

As I walk out of my house today I look to the one that I’ve always looked to for wisdom and guidance and truth. Jesus. He rocked the world of many as he lived his short life with one goal in mind – to pay the price for the mess humanity had made of the perfect world his father had created. He was ok with disagreeing. He met people where they were at, not ignoring their issues, but loving them in the midst them. He broke rules, he listened to the questions of doubters and answered with love, grace and blunt truth when appropriate.

He was so willing to carry out His ultimate mission – to die on a cross – a perfect human in the place of imperfect humanity for one reason….

He knew his audience.

He knew they were desperate. He knew they were hopeless. He knew they were beautiful creations of his Father that loved them deeply. He knew them because he spent his lifetime correctly reading the room through countless hours of listening and answering questions and loving .

And the good news is… he still does.

He knows us.

You and me – members of the current audience, the ones filling the room of this stage of history.

He understands our questions.

He feels our sorrow.

He mourns the evil and the pain.

He sees our splintered relationships….

and he promises to walk with us in it,

through it.

He promises to bring peace, and wisdom and discernment.

It’s the hope I’m holding on to today – how good to know its available for you as well.

Good conversation takes time… thankful for many of these moments in summer 2021.

A guide to ambiguous college decisions

Today we welcome Brooke Lange – special guest contributor to the fire. Her decision making wisdom grown from her recent college choice process is helpful for all of us making any kind of big or small life decision. She is a regular contributor to her college blog and this post was recently featured. Enjoy more of her work at http://www.cune.edu

Published by Brooke 2 weeks ago on Thu, May 13, 2021 4:41 http://www.cune.edu

My visit to Concordia began and ended with little drama. I talked to people, I toured the buildings, I observed people doing college things. The day was entirely normal, which was the issue.  

I got coffee with my mom and contemplated and went for a quick run and contemplated more and ultimately continued living my life.  

After a while, I decided to accept Concordia University Nebraska into my life. It was about the spring of my junior year. For me, it was because of my major. There were few colleges that offered a quality English as a Second Language program, and Concordia was one that was not ridiculously expensive, and conveniently located in not Hawaii.  

When I would tell Concordia alum and some of my own friends why I made the decision to go there, they had the tendency to ask me with wide eyes and bated breath, “Didn’t it just feel like home?”  

It did not. It did not feel like anything.  

As an ardent lover of pros and cons lists, Freakonomics, and the phrase, “based on past experiences,” the notion of choosing a college based on how it made you feel really perplexed me. There was no reason! There was no system! I felt simultaneously justified and unjustified in my college decision. Justified because I felt I had logic on my side, unjustified because I did not have this P(S)aul on his way to Damascus type revelation that everyone was speaking of.  

So, I thought, and I concluded that people are diverse enough to make decisions using a variety of methods. Crazy, I know.  

Maybe you’re like me and you’re choosing a college based on what you believe to be logical reasons. When I was making my college decision, my main goal was to be an ESL teacher and work overseas. I had a clear picture of what I wanted my future to look like, and in my mind, Concordia was the most logical way to get there.  

Despite what I might want to think, this absolutely could change. I could have arrived at Concordia and realized that I hated teaching, (has not happened yet, I will keep you posted) or that there were better opportunities for me somewhere else. We can use logic and reason as a means to get to the ends we want, but sometimes those ends change.   

Maybe you don’t really have a specific plan going into college, but you visit, and you like the campus and the people, and truly, you just want to be a part of it.  

This can also change. Although there are lovely people at every college, you might eventually find that your goals and aspirations don’t align with the university or the community you’re surrounded by. Emotions are also important in making college considerations, but let me tell you, those also change a lot during college.  

Essentially, you can make your college decision in the way you are comfortable. But saying that you have made the absolute right decision when these big decisions and changes in life occur can be pretty limiting.   

The summer before my freshman year of high school, my family moved from Michigan to Missouri. It all seemed very sudden. The high school I was planning on going to was such a big part of my life. My dad taught there, my siblings went there, and attending high school basketball games and plays was a staple activity in my house. I already knew a lot of the teachers, coaches, and I had a vague outline of a friend group. When we decided to move, my future at that school, so seemingly meticulous in the making was gone. 

  The high school I attended in Missouri had a sizable percentage of international students, and during the summer of my sophomore year, I went on choir tour in Europe. These opportunities I had to connect with  people from other cultures made me realize that I wanted to be able to help people to make these connections. It was then that I decided I wanted to teach English as a Second Language. 

I was truly on the cusp of living an entirely different life. My life in Michigan had all the trappings of being happy and successful, but for whatever reason, the fabric of my life changed. 

However you make the big decisions of your life, or perhaps, have the big decisions made for you, do not limit yourself to simply what appears to be the right choice. Our brains are a maze of discovered and undiscovered passions, aspirations, and talents. The world is similarly complex. It is honorable to bloom where you’re planted, but please do not believe you are incapable of growing anywhere else. 

Brooke

About Brooke

Halloo! I’m Brooke, welcome to the blog!
I’m a freshman education major who enjoys encouraging my plants, watching The Office to destress and great movie soundtracks.

Read more from Brooke

A guide to ambiguous college decisionsSome Helpful…And Not So Helpful College Purchases

Space for you

I see you.

You, the one reading these words.

The one who woke up today.

The one thats been given another day to live, breath, work, play, rejoice, mourn….

and write.

One of the unexpected gifts of creating this space for friends to gather and share stories are the handful

of new friends that have quietly asked if they could share as well.

One request came in an email.

Another with a friend in a conversation we enjoyed over lunch.

and one more in a late night ding to my facebook messenger app.

They all shared the same thing…..

“Beth I think I have a story to share around your fire.”

They did.

And they shared.

And many were blessed.

Friend – you, the one reading these words.

The one that has been given another day to live, breath, work, play, rejoice , mourn and

write.

I believe you have a story as well. If you’re alive – you have a story. And if your heart is beating a bit faster

right now at the though of putting it in writing and sharing with our fire….

It may be a sign that you should.

Friend – your story, your reflection on the crazy or simple ways God has or is working in your life

is important.

And there is space for you…..

Here.

This is your invitation ( if you havn’t picked up on my subtle hints yet:) to send me an email, ask me to join you for lunch or send me a late night FB Message .

There is an open seat at the fire……

for you.

Is it time to share YOUR story?

The way I see it

“I can think of 10,000 other things I can spend $30 on that would be more fun than this.”

It was hot. We didn’t have water and I didn’t know what I was doing- or actually I wasn’t good at what I was doing. The most logical response – whine and complain and quit. And so we did. We walked off the course on the 5th hole because I was done, with a capital D.

Golf or anything that costs money that results in frustration, discouragement and silent rides home in the car with your spouse feels like an exercise in futility. At least it did 27 years ago when my husband was trying to convince me that this sport would be something we could do together for the long haul. I was perfectly happy with our rhythm of playing tennis. We both enjoyed it. I felt like I got a good workout and occasionally I would get a shot past him. I understood the game, had a decent serve and could hold my own. Tom reminded me that as much as we enjoyed tennis the likelihood of us playing into our later years was probably not going to happen. Golf was easier on the body and there was always the option of taking a cart. So, Tom was all in to improving his golf game, investing in equipment and lessons and I was all out.

Somewhere along the line of our 27 years of marriage – my perspective changed. It may have had something to do with the women’s golf league I joined. We affectionately called it “Golf and Giggle.” The swings of the club were secondary to the conversations we had as we met each Monday, rain or shine, for our girls night out. We didn’t keep score ( I still don’t – important golf hack for all you newbies) and we cheered each other on in only the way girls can do. This experience opened my eyes to the joys this sport can bring. Tom paid for golf lessons and I now feel like I understand the rules, the reasons for the club numbers and when to use them, and also when to pick up my ball and throw it ( without shame) when needed. We have enjoyed many rounds of golf in some beautiful locations and even enjoyed a 3 day golf trip in northern Michigan – something I would never have agreed too early in our marriage. This shared enjoyment of the sport had us imagining the fun of possibly living on a golf course. You know, the homes that back up to a green or fairway. The ones that have extra homeowners insurance covering the cost of broken windows due to a stray ball going off course.

Someday, we would say.

Well, 4 years ago – that dream became reality. Not only do we live on a golf course but we are proud members of the Tri- City Country Club located in Emma, MO. Heavy emphasis on Country. $60 a month gives us unlimited golf for our family. We have several friends that are members and we will often join them for a round. Last summer we worked to make every Friday night a golf date with another couple in town. We are living our dream. Our backyard sits on the edge of the fourth fairway. It’s really glorious.

our backyard

I posted a picture of our course side view on facebook last week and asked the question “What do you see?” What is interesting is that out of the 100 + responses to my question not one person said – golf course. Our friend Jim and golf buddy of Tom’s from our days in Michigan was closest when he said “Look’s like a nice day for golf…” My quest to prove a point that I hope to make by the end of this blog (I’m getting there) poked some deep emotion that I did not expect. Some of the responses made me laugh and others brought tears to my eye. Here is a sampling of just a few.

Horizon

Peace

Endless possibilities/opportunities

The coming storm.

The calm after the storm. Clarity, peace.

Freedom.

Clouds.

Stairs leading to a mystery in the sky.

Rollin’ Rollin’ Rollin’

Emptiness. A vast nothing awaiting something.

A shark.

God and love.

Hope.

My question was inspired by a quote from American poet and essayist, Henry David Thoreau ,

“The question is not what you look at…… but what you see.”

Not what you look at but what you SEE.

As I read each response I imagined each person taking a moment to not just look at the picture but to see it. I was so pleased that so many paused even for a few seconds to take in the view and offer me a different perspective. I also loved that not one person saw what I did – an important reminder for me today.

When I look at that picture I see a water tower. If you squint your eyes and look to the right side of the picture – under the clouds – it is there. That water tower proudly displaying the name of the small town of Emma, sits next to the fourth hole of the country club where Tom and I belong. Did I mention our names are engraved on a brass name plate and mounted on the member board in the club house? Yes – we are all that and a bag of chips;). The water tower, on the 4th hole is visible from the deck in our backyard. Thus the logical conclusion that we are indeed living our dream of living on a golf course. This picture and this reality makes me so happy. I also love that between us and our golf course are fields of either corn or beans. I know the farmers and their families that work these fields and their addition to our golf course living makes it even better.

In contrast – this is what I don’t see (but I could).

I don’t see the field mice that storm our house each fall after harvest. I don’t remember the pain of job loss that was necessary to move us across the country to need this home. I don’t see the 4 miles that separate us from the 4th hole of the golf course. I don’t see it because I choose not to.

When this blog posts I will be far from this backyard view of the 4th hole of our country club. I will need to decide what I see when I take in the circumstances around me. I will choose to write the story of the picture in front of me and this will make all the difference. I will wake up on Thursday in Texas – in the home of my parents. Odd for me since I was there just 10 days ago. My quick journey back was inspired by my moms recent cancer diagnosis and my desire to be with her during her chemo treatments. I will have many decisions to make during this visit on what I see.

Will I see moms hair loss or the opportunity to shop for fun hats and scarves?

Will I feel the effects of travel in the middle of a busy month in my business or will I celebrate the fact that CO-VID has forced me to work 100% virtual and I can work anywhere life takes me?

Will I see the challenge of my sister and I living thousands of miles from our parents or will I see the incredible local support my parents feel with caring neighbors, friends and church family?

Will I see the stop on my flight home in Orlando (the opposite direction of my home) as an inconvenience or the opportunity to do some fun Disney shopping in the Orlando airport?

It’s not what I look at…

It’s what I see.

The skeptics out there – I see you and honestly sometimes I need you. The ones that are thinking I’m to polyanna – ish. The ones wanting to shake me and tell me to join the “real” world – the ones saying …..

“Beth – you don’t live on a dang golf course. “

To you are I say – “You’re right.”

To you I say,

“But so am I.”

My hope as I look at my surroundings – wether its my backyard or the hospital with my mom – comes from a God who promises to give me eyes to see the good. He promises that he will never leave or forsake me. He promises that he uses all things for our good and for His glory. He promises that even in the hard he will reveal his perfect gifts. It is His power that changes my perspective. It is His promises that gives me peace. It is His love that prompts me to pull up a deck chair, prop my feet up with a cool drink on a hot day and imagine I see the great shot by a fellow golfer on the 4th hole.

Living the dream.

Living His dream

And that’s the way I see it.

The gallery on the 6th fairway – We love the Country Club life:)

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 abeuschel.wordpress.com.

“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….

now?

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!!!

a weary world…. rejoices.

Post first shared on http://www.justbeth.blog

“Would you like a double – shot today, Beth?”

Why yes – yes I would. Yes I would like 2 doses of strong espresso in my simple almond milk latte.

2 shots….. yes, a double.

Indeed.

I love our towns little coffee shop. It’s open 3 days a week and serves breakfast, lunch, coffees and dessert. The limited availability keeps my appreciation up for what has come to be a weekly treat. A Simple Almond Milk Latte often with a muffin or danish on the side. Sometimes I pop in for a quick to – go order and other days I meet up with friends to linger with our coffees and good conversation. I love that the owner knows my name. I love that if I’m not visiting with her at the coffee shop I may see her at the Veterinarians offices on the other side of town where she works on the days when the coffee shop is closed. It’s one of the many treasures of small town life. The knowing of the people.

The day Debbie asked me for a double , I hadn’t even considered that option. I had actually never had a double shot in a latte before. It always felt like it would be too much.

Too much caffeine.

Too much money. ( you pay for that shot- unless you’re a character in a Hallmark movie where it feels like the coffee is always “On the house.”)

Too much of a splurge. A latte was one thing but a double shot latte… just felt excessive.

But on that day, the day she offered… it sounded just right.

Perfect actually.

It was my way to take my weary soul and rejoice.

You see, the night before I had received more disheartening news. It came when it was too late for conversation and the only action I could take was attempt to sleep. The night was long and restless. The day ahead felt daunting as my body felt the effects of the rest – less night before. The weariness felt extra that day. I added the news to a long list of energy drainers from this year.

Weary…… from rule changes.

Weary…. from job loss or pay cuts.

Weary ….. from cancellations, re- schedules only to be cancelled again.

Weary…. from what feels like lots of talking but far to little listening.

Weary…. from all that 2020 has dished out.

But… on this day… the day of the double shot… I made a decision.

SO yes – double it up Debbie.

It was in the sipping of my delicious treat that the words to an old Christmas Hymn dropped into my soul. The tune is not one of my favorites so it was odd that was pulled from my memory. The words though… the words.. that describe the event that many of us will celebrate this week… the birth of Jesus – Our Savior… the words…

” A thrill of HOPE… a WEARY world…… REJOICES”

A

Weary

World

Rejoices.

God saw my sleepless night. He knew my Spirit, soul, body and mind were overwhelmed and he reminded me…

Beth…. You are Weary

AND

You can rejoice.

The weariness does not have to cancel your rejoicing.

The shifted holiday plans do not have to defer your hope

The questions that remain unanswered do not have to steal your energy, your focus, and the gifts of the present moment.

Yes – You are Weary.

and yes, You can Rejoice.

December 25 marks the beginning of the 12 days of Christmas or Christmas Tide. It is a segment of time in the Church calendar when we pause to celebrate the birth of Christ. We Rejoice that our Savior had been born, the Savior who has come offering…

HOPE for ALL people.

PEACE for ALL people.

JOY for ALL people.

LOVE for ALL people.

He came in to a Weary world and he invites us to REJOICE.

That day last week, the day of the double shot. It was important. It shifted me. It reminded me that my weariness is legit but my rejoicing can push through. I can say yes to simple pleasures that come my way. I can open my eyes to the gifts of this season. I can live, love, serve and celebrate.

Let’s do it. Let’s expectantly walk through these 12 days of Christmastide with eyes ready to see light in the darkness and let’s agree to be the light for those that just cannot see.

Oh my weary friends… Let’s rejoice. Shall we?

1 Peter 1:3-6

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of his great mercy he has given us NEW BIRTH into a LIVING HOPE through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you. You are being GUARDED by God’s power through faith for a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. You REJOICE in this, even though now for a short time, if necessary, you suffer grief in various trials…”

Join me over at http://www.justbeth.blog where I’ll walk through Christmastide – committed to finding a reason to rejoice each day.

This sits in the corner of my kitchen counter… Rejoice!

I saw her.

Oct. 22, 2020. It finally happened. My first real tears inspired by COVID-19. I was one day into a new decade of life, one I had looked forward to in the way a 15 year old looks forward to the freedoms that come with their sweet 16. Many dread this milestone – but I was all in. One of my husbands students recently referred to someone this age as elderly. Whatever – I was Excited with a capital E.

I turned 50 – 18262 trips around the sun. I have lived some life, tackled many mountains both personally and professionally. My faith in a loving, providing God is solid. I’m now looking forward to the stage that provides opportunities to mentor young women who are on the journey I have previously traversed. I even feel fairly confident I can continue to walk the road of the challenges of 2020 with hope and expectation as well as bring a bunch of people along with me.

I love birthdays!

But then it happened. I had made it 7 months before allowing this nasty pandemic to push me to face the emotions I’d actually been feeling all along. Time and time again I had wanted to pause, to feel, to honor the sadness that just kept coming. I never did. Each day required a new thought, a new skill, a better attitude, a brighter outlook to just keep going. But that afternoon, sitting in my office after having made yet another decision that would keep us and others around us safe, I cried.

Really cried.

Crocodile tears, loud nose blows, cried. Me, alone in my pink desk chair, feeling the unexpected weight that comes with loss. I was overwhelmed with the reality that COVID had not only hit our town, our high school but now our family. I was feeling decision fatigue as my husband and I evaluated how to handle our situation. I longed for the day that being sick didn’t involve the health department, contact tracing and the intense opinions of others.

And then I saw her.

It was on this day, this day that the disappointments that fueled so much anger and sadness broke through, that I happened upon this loved one. The kind of person that knows you well. The kind of person that has seen you in some things and can speak the words your heart needs to hear.

It was just a glimpse, but a I saw her.

The lines surrounding her eyes spoke of years filled with both laughter and tears that had taken a toll on the sensitive skin that is the first to show signs of age. ( I sell skin care – I know these things.)

I saw her.

The nose shared by her mom and her sisters. The mouth quick to smile unspoken words of encouragement.

I saw her.

The sigh that accompanies deeper thoughts that most likely would not be shared with anyone but herself and her journal. The desire to see the bright side.

I saw her.

Her face was one I’d seen a million times. It was familiar, it brought comfort, it held wisdom that only comes from living many days on earth.

I saw her.

What I love about looking into the eyes of someone you know well is that entire conversations can be had without ever speaking a word and I could tell – she wanted to tell me something. It’s a sweet gift God gives to those that share a heart connection. That is what happened to me in this one, chance sighting.

In those brief moments as we looked at each other I heard her say…

Good Job.

You are Loved.

You are ready.

God’s still got you.

Nothing is too hard for your God.

You are fearfully and wonderfully made.

God has great plans for you.

As I turned from her face I was filled with a hope that comes from a deep knowing. A peace that is rooted in truth. I shook my head as I moved my eyes from her gaze because it was one that should have been impossible to share. This face, the one that told me so much, belonged to…

my mom.

She lives hundreds of miles away.

The surprise was that she was no where close when I caught her gaze,

but all of a sudden…….

I was looking her

square…

in the eyes.

This wonderful, telling meeting between my mothers eyes and mine – it happened ..

in my bathroom.

As I stood looking in the mirror.

I saw her. Her wisdom, her love, her compassion, her grace…. things that show up with those fine lines around your eyes, I saw them…..

in me.

Heres to 50 and all the gifts it brings.

my momma and me – she’s taught me so much.

I have a friend….

I have a friend that leaves me text messages that make me laugh out loud.

I have a friend that says things so profoundly that I want to record every word she speaks.

I have a friend that always remembers my birthday and is able to mail a card at the exact moment so it will arrive on my actual day of birth.

I have a friend that makes the most incredible cupcakes. They melt in your mouth and are the envy of all the bakers in our town.

I have a friend that reads more books than seems humanly possible. She is quick to recommend the perfect book for the situation I am in.

I have a friend who’s husband was unfaithful but she found another love and is now enjoying a new marriage and a new lease on life.

I have a friend who is battling cancer – one of the really tough ones – in a pandemic.

I have a friend who’s son is taking a gap year between high school and college.

I have a friend who’s daughter is staying home to do online school.

I have a friend who just moved her son into a dorm.

I have a friend who is planning her daughters wedding for the 3rd date since they were first engaged.

I have a friend who’s decided to home school her children this year.

I have a friend that is angry she is being forced to wear a mask in public.

I have a friend that has sick parents and she is angry at all those who choose to not wear masks in public.

I have a friend that just lost her battle with a malignant brain tumor.

I have a friend wondering how she will keep her class of kindergartners socially distant.

I have a friend who is experiencing back issues due to 12 hours of sitting at her home office chair for the last 5 months.

I have friends hoping for refunds for their Big 10 football season tickets.

I have a friend that believes there should be stricter regulation on sanitizing in her childs schoool before she allows her children to return.

I have a friend that is concerned that too much bleach on her daughters skin due to increased sanitizing efforts will reduce the germs necessary in our systems to create stronger immunity.

I have a friend the believes our family wasn’t being safe when we attended our daughters high school graduation with a couple hundred other parents.

I have friends that believe we were extreme because we chose to wear masks at the above mentioned graduation ceremony.

I have friends that will vote democrat and belive they have picked the best candidate

I have friends that will vote republican and believe they have picked the best candidate.

I have a friend that has posted hateful comments about their friends on social media.

I have friends that are believing this season will result in positive change for the future.

I have friends that are paralyzed by fear.

I have friends that are looking at each challenge as one in which they can see God provide in miraculous ways.

I have friends that are doubting God’s ability to bring any hope for our future.

I have a friend whose son just married another man.

I have a friend that wouldn’t have attended the wedding of my other friend.

I have a friend who just had her best year ever in her business.

I have a friend who is questioning her ability to lead and is contemplating ending her 20 year career.

I have a friend whose plane ticket home – to Hong Kong – just got cancelled.

I have a friend looking forward to her 14 day quarantine on her military base in Japan after 4 months in the US.

Oh my list of friends. They wouldn’t all want to be invited to the same party. Some that used to be close have now drifted due to too much time away from each other. Some are closer as they rally behind their belief system and what they currently deem “Right.” Some share many of my same beliefs and some just a few.

As I think through my list one thing becomes clear. The battle to maintain my relationships with these people is real. Every day I could make a list of ways I could be offended or ways I have possibly offended others. I question every post and every picture I share on social media with the simple motivation of giving a glimpse into what I am currently grateful for. It seems as if it is impossible to work, relate or play with anyone who isn’t 100% on the same page as us. This makes me sad, discouraged and dare I say it – apathetic. This digression to “not caring” about people – even our friends- is one of the most dangerous currents we can allow to take us away.

As I look at the fire pit sitting quietly in my back yard, waiting for cooler weather before a fire is lit, I remember the friends that have gathered around it since the summer of 2016. Many of these people are mentioned in my list above. They gathered and met others for the first time. They were open to connection despite their differences that showed up on their election ballots or their religious affiliations. The goal of our backyard campfires was connection and community and creation of both. These evenings under the stars brought laughter and healing. Stories were shared and bridges were built. Some nights the conversation was lively and others were quieter as we just sat side by side united by the orange and yellow glow of the flames in the center of our circle.

Oh…. it seems high time for some fire building. Some gathering of friends that have let the embers of their relationship grow cold. We need to tighten our circle – to look to the master fire builder – as our source of hope and answers. In John chapter 21 we see Jesus – freshly risen from his death tomb – standing on a beach next to a fire he has prepared. He calls his people, he encourages them to sit and eat. They are weary, they are worn, they are hungry. They have been up all night working, fishing. They are diverse. They are human. They are you. They are me. They are flawed and sinful and a mess. This man, this savior … he invites them in. He is inviting you and all your friends…

All.

of.

Them…… as well.

I have a friend…… His name is Jesus.

gathered around the fire pit – too hot for an actual fire #augustinmmissouri