“The more one judges, the less one loves” ~Honore de Balzac (1799-1850)
“If you judge people, you have no time to love them” ~ Mother Teresa 

(I’ve worked on this since the azaleas bloomed. It was wanting finishing before the snow trees come. So the zinnias and tomatoj plants are pulled up and the burning bushes trimmed back, and the morning glories are untangled and summertime is pulled out of the gardens, I sat down to finish my rambling azalea story poem.).

shadows on an azalea blossom

Innocent azaleas dressed in white sidle
next to antebellum snowballs,
whose only job is to separate its charges
from a soldierly column of raucous
purple-bearded irises.
blue African daisies daintily sway
to a cool wind in the shadow of grandmother’s
Spider’s Wort and evening primroses that daily close
their shops after afternoon tea time.

from my porch all I see
are the best of themselves
wearing the prettiest colors
basking leisurely in a spring

from my porch, I sit tangled
in spider webs and outside dust,
disorganized leavings of boys
in a rush, and the mess
of my own imperfection.
the view from this mess I’m sitting in,
is of all those living in my garden looking like
they’ve got it made, looking like
they’re living a garden variety

from my porch, I could think
how unjust
their advantage
a free privilege
to be created so effortlessly
lovely, so effortlessly
graceful, so effortlessly

I could think it
to be given more
abundant beauty
than others.
I could think it
my toiling
the weeding, the feeding, the loosening
of soil for optimum growth,
for they don’t appear
to really do anything
except live their daily in
a fairy tale existience
while I live a messy chaos
and cobwebs existence on my

I could think simmering thoughts
that whistle and steam
hot enough to burn
others if not handled with care,
releasing it’s-not-fair mosquita rants that reach
to my fingertips that itch
to tear my garden neighbors
out – all root, stem and purple,
yellow, and pink petals of them.
I sat there, watching,
all the while whistling, steaming, itching
Until one morning, I stepped
my porch

I moved, drawing close
close, close enough to capture
their garden glamour with
my camera.
closer, closer, close I moved
near to know,
really know them
to know them better.

I drew close and saw
petal skins creased
and shadows that marred.
I drew close and found
truth conflicting with
my self-inflicted
myopic perception
I saw because I spent
time seeking intentional
where they live.
I saw that my porch view
gulled me into unfair
or had my own jealousy
seduced me there.

All the garden flowers, not just
the azaleas,
had their own shadows to deal
with, marring their daily with heated
challenges, potentially spoiling
the impact of their God-designed
I wondered whether other
flowers talked among themselves,
if when the winds blew them
close enough, they saw
the shadows, too.

Did they come close, close
closer to betray confidence for
morning glory
spreading knowledge gleaned
of secret sufferings throughout
the garden like pollen
on a blustery day
or did they keep confidences safe
in comforting friendship
protecting, lifting up in a hard wind
or a down pour?

I thought back to
earlier on my porch
to the envious song humming from
my mind to my heart,
a deceptive humming of an envy song
an envy song that spread like morning glories
that creep up vining around unwary branches until bursting
into conquering purple blossoms, declaring victory
while destroying those who extetnded

I didn’t realize. . .
I didn’t know
until I drew close
close, closer still
not only to know my garden neighbors better
but to love not for glory but for love’s sake.
it was there my envy song changed into a
a redemption song of salvation, of blessing,
of a soul saving love song

“In judging of others, a man laboreth in vain, often erreth and easily sinneth; but in judging and examining himself, he always laboreth fruitfully” ~ Thomas a Kempis     

http://arabahjoy.com/ Arabah Joy
http://www.janiscox.com/ Sunday Stillness
http://www.spiritualsundays.com/ Spiritual Sundays
Giving Up on Perfect, A Little R & R Wednesdays, Mondays @ Soul Survival, Coffee and Conversation, Coffee for Your Heart, Sitting Among Friends, Nanahood, Moments of Hope, Family, Friendship and Faith, DanceWithJesusFriday and Wholehearted Wednesday, http://seespeakhearmama.com/ Give Me Grace

wreath22God’s love has no starting point and no ending. It always has been and always will be. What we do with that love makes all the difference in our lives. The wreath symbolizes that eternal, unending love. Where we place that love relationship in our lives makes all the difference, too – is it just on our front door? In all the rooms of our lives? Hidden in a closet? I want that kind of love relationship between the father and me emblazoned not only on the door to my soul, but in every room of my soul. How about you?

“And now to him who can keep you on your feet, standing tall in his bright presence, fresh and celebrating—to our one God, our only Savior, through Jesus Christ, our Master, be glory, majesty, strength, and rule before all time, and now, and to the end of all time. Yes” (Jude 1: 25).

(God still has me in a place of brevity – a sit long and talk little time)

Places where I link up during the week:

http://afieldofwildflowers.blogspot.com/     Small Wonder (formerly Unforced Rhythms)
http://www.thebeautyinhisgrip.com/    Sharing His Beauty
http://donnareidland.com   Mondays @ Soul Survival
http://www.richfaithrising.com/    Unite the Bloggosphere
http://purposefulfaith.com/     Cheerleading #RaRaLinkUp
http://hollybarrett.org/     Testimony Tuesday
http://www.messymarriage.com/  Messy Marriage
http://www.w2wministries.org/     Word-Filled Wednesdays
http://holleygerth.com/     Coffee for Your Heart



“A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones” (Proverbs 17:22)

My third son, the one I call the Freshness after the Storm, the one with the Joy of the Lord, came by the house a few weeks ago. Somehow we got on the topic about where his dad and I would be buried. I had pretty much come to the conclusion that it couldn’t be in his hometown or mine. Four out of five sons had been born in this little Tennessee town. We’ve been here over 24 years.

The banter in this conversation continued. It wasn’t a serious conversation. I guess they’ve learned by now that there’s no telling what their mom will bring up. Each is always relieved that it’s just not about the day they were born. Those stories can clear a room in less than 5 seconds.

I told my son about a cemetery I’d found out in the country on a drive I’d taken. It was beautiful, out in the middle of nowhere with real head-stones – not plaques. It had character.

He told me he knew where it was. “It’s out there by Crazy George’s Bridge, Mom. I don’t know if I’d come out there to see you if you’re by Crazy George’s Bridge. It’s pretty creepy at night.”

At which point, I laughed and said, “Well, I wouldn’t want you to come visit me at night. That would be pretty creepy. Just come visit in the day time.”

Laughter is good medicine. I’ve laughed over that awhile. Yes, my boys recognize my humor is sometimes a bit awkward, but it is my humor. I find my own kind of joy in it.

This has been a year where I’ve needed to laugh. I’ve needed to strengthen my body, to heal from the pneumonia and the hysterectomy. To find the passion for the next 50 years.

I remember lying in my bed, the day before being admitted to the hospital, looking around, thinking, “I need to get rid of some of this stuff or my boys won’t know what’s important, what to keep” if something happened to me.

God didn’t let me dwell there. He kept reminding me of my mission statement he’d put on my heart a long time ago, “to show my boys how to grow old loving the Lord.” This mothering gig wasn’t over yet. I wasn’t to give up. This is one of the greatest gifts I can give my children.

(Five Minute Mark – but I just can’t stop there)

This same boy came by a few weeks later. He’d just moved out. I looked at him and said, “It doesn’t matter that you don’t know what you want to do with your life. It doesn’t matter that you haven’t found ‘the girl.’ None of that stuff matters if you pursue God. When you pursue God passionately, you will find yourself living what you are passionate about. Pursue God.”

Every time, I see him now, I say those words. The other day, I looked at him and said, “What am I going to say?”

“If you pursue God passionately, you will find yourself living what you are passionate about. Pursue God,” he answered, giving  me a little saucy smile.

Soul healing comes from seed planting, whether it’s planting zinnia seeds, tomato and pepper seeds – or God seeds. While things like zinnia seed planting harvests blessing, planting the seeds of God things heals the body and soul so that we can fulfill the mission statement God gives us – and, in the fulfilling of it, God allows us our moments of our own little God-designed brand of humor.

(It’s been a while since I’ve sat long and written much, so thank you for reading to the end. Won’t you join me over at Kate’s Place for 5 Minute Friday? Sit down, pull over a cup of Wild Apple Ginger Tea, and see what everybody else is writing about the word . . . Heal.”


A soul without sabbath feels like a porch no one has time for or interest in. The sabbath, like a porch, is a place for relaxed, un-pressured , sit-long, talk-much hospitality, where shallow talk leads into the deep, where refreshing happens and room is made for the sabbath maker.

(Still writing mostly in miniature. God seems to have placed me on a sit-long-and-write-much sabbatical. Brevity has never been one of my traits. I guess God thought it was time to work on that! Shalom, friends!)

Linking up these places throughout the week:

http://seespeakhearmama.com/ Give Me Grace
http://lauraboggess.com/ PlayDates with God
http://afieldofwildflowers.blogspot.com/ Small Wonder (formerly Unforced Rhythms)
http://www.thebeautyinhisgrip.com/ Sharing His Beauty
http://donnareidland.com Mondays @ Soul Survival
http://www.richfaithrising.com/ Unite the Bloggosphere
http://purposefulfaith.com/ Cheerleading #RaRaLinkUp
http://hollybarrett.org/ Testimony Tuesday
http://www.messymarriage.com/ Messy Marriage
http://www.w2wministries.org/ Word-Filled Wednesdays
http://holleygerth.com/ Coffee for Your Heart
http://www.kristinhilltaylor.com/ Three-Word Wednesday
http://3dlessons4life.com/ Thought-Provoking Thursday
https://susanbmead.com/ The Shallow End

ColonialWilliamsburgPaintingc“Painting is a blind man’s profession. He paints not what he sees, but what he feels, what he tells himself about what he has seen” ~ Pablo Picasso

I’m that way about my photography, my writing and how I “read” my day. I am not satisfied with a photo until what I have shot captures how I saw it. How I saw it is not a scientific thing.  It involves senses, memory, a soul connection – and I strive to share not just what I saw but what I soul saw.

In graduate school, a fellow student contemptuously said I looked at life through rose-colored glasses. I’m sure my pink shades helped him come to that conclusion. I didn’t think then  – and I don’t think now that I look at life through a temporary filter, like rose-colored shades. I think I look at life through not just a God-lense, but a God-reality.

I think of people like Corrie Ten Boom, who lived under horrible persecution in a concentration camp, who watched her sister slowly die – and I think to myself that if she can find grace, forgiveness, love, strength, courage, hope, faith – and grab hold of the little joys in seemingly insignificant things – then I can, too. I would argue that Ten Boom looked at life through a God-lense.

Sometimes, it’s all about chosing what about my day is going to define me. I bet between you and me, we could come up with a huge list of irritants, things gone wrong, unfairness, chaos, challenges we didn’t ask for. The loudness of all that negativity can drown out grace, if we don’t look for it, find it, focus on it.

Sometimes I define one hour by 5 minutes. Once, in that 5 minutes, during a raucus storm, I took time out of the chaos to watch a summer storm, the rivulets like miniature rivers broke summer parched soil, loosening it, and it became a Holy Spirit ran when I invited God into it, thanking him for it. Another time, a winking sparkle of sunshine on a glass pane was a God message, reminding me He is there – and I thanked him for the lovely gift. Even the simplicity of a single sip of a cup of steaming blood orange tea in a chaotic morning has become a heart-warming moment –  a sip-long restoration that becomes blessing when I share it with the Father. I define single hours with moments like that.

Out of 24 hours, maybe that sip-long moment is the only moment worth keeping – and a moment worth defining my day. I refuse to define myself by want, by injustice, by  chaos, by the challenge. Yet, maybe, the chaos, the challenge is the honey to that cup  of tea. It wouldn’t have been as sweet if there hadn’t been the challenge – or God in it.

It is a choice to live as God’s child. It’s a choice to see life through a God-lense. It is my choice – how I “see” my story, how I tell my story. I choose to define myself by moments of grace, hope,  and blessing.

How will you choose to see today?  A mystery? A heroic adventure? A hopeless tale? A romance? A story of oppression or overcoming? Will you create something redeeming and inspiring?


http://arabahjoy.com https://susanbmead.com/ The Shallow End  http://sandraheskaking.com/ Still Saturday
http://www.janiscox.com/ Sunday Stillness
http://seespeakhearmama.com/ Give Me Grace
http://www.spiritualsundays.com/ Spiritual Sundays
https://susanbmead.com/ The Shallow End

flag“I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend” ~ Thomas Jefferson

The mission statement for my blog is “the faith, love and politics of raising boys to men.”   I’ve talked about bullyingbelief intimidation,  and the demonization of our young men. This isn’t a political post so much as it is about teaching my sons to stand up for what they believe in an environment that increasingly tries to silence their voices. Today, I want to talk about not just the dangers of silencing our beliefs (not just political but our faith-in-God beliefs), but silencing our beliefs due to oppression and suppression, and yes, how that looks in an election climate.

“All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.” ~ Thomas Jefferson.

A young college student stood at the back of the crowd, talking to some friends a few nights ago. Coolness wafted through a wall of humidity just before a storm front came through. A band played a set of Merle Haggard favorites in our small town amphitheater.

Some children danced with luminescents, grandparents, parents, young mothers and fathers sat in their folding chairs just enjoying a summer evening. It was a sweet evening in America.

The young man, though,  kept pulling his grey Indian-cotton short sleeved shirt close, as if to hide his t-shirt. I was standing, fidgeting. Maybe if I’d been snuggled down into those comfy sports chairs, I might not have noticed his t-shirt. But I did – and it looked like a Trump-for-President t-shirt.

It saddened me that he was trying to hide it.

As we turned to leave, I stepped a few feet closer and asked about his Trump-for President t-shirt – congratulating him on wearing it. I thought courage should be encouraged.

He said, “Yeah – it’s a Trump  for President t-shirt, but I’m wearing this shirt over it because I don’t want to incite anything.”

I told him about the t-shirt one of my sons gave me for my birthday and about how I was concerned to wear it out, even grocery shopping – concerned even to put a sign in my yard.

He said he had a magnetic Trump-for-President bumper sticker for his car because he was a student at the college. Magnetic, so he could take it off because he didn’t want anyone damaging his vehicle because of his presidential choice. I imagine he also didn’t want his college GPA negatively affected, either.

We talked for a few more minutes – and I left, saddened for both of us. Saddened about the fear and cost of freedom of expression and speech, even in our small town.

This fear-inspired hiding of a t-shirt is the result of A Little Tyranny. A Little Tyranny is made up of little persecutions, like a scratch on your car, a lower grade, intellectual condescension in the form of patronizing disdain, name calling, all of which is in contrast to A Big Tyranny, which negatively affects physical safety, the ability to keep ones job because of different points of view over constitutional beliefs, and ultimately, individual freedom. Little Tyrannies risk growing into Big Tyrannies.

Tyranny has trickled down to small-town America – and it is sad. It is sad that an American boy about to vote in his first presidential election feels the need for caution – caution, not because these beliefs do not belong or deserve to be broadcast, a caution developed from reading about, watching those who have acted nation-wide to shut down through fists, blocking streets, venues, shouting down speech to close down the freedom to gather peacefully for an exchange of ideas, for an exchange of speech, for an exchange of freedom they might not agree with.

Our revolutionary forefathers fought battles so its sons and daughters wouldn’t experience this. The greatest generation gave up much of themselves so its sons and daughters wouldn’t experience this.

Tyranny is an exercise of power over others with a rigor not authorized by law or justice. It is associated with cruelty and oppression. It can be harsh, unjustly cruel, oppressive. It seeks to take away the voice, the beliefs . . . the rights of each citizen.

Followers of tyranny use tactics of intimidation, physical and intellectual bullying, oppression and violence to silence opinions different from their own. It does not scoot over to make room for anyone thinking differently.

The enabling of tyranny is evident in the “safe spaces” created for college students because different opinions scare them. This type of intellectual enabling of students, a type of encouraged self-imprisonment, atrophies intellectual development, resulting in a myopic understanding of the world, their country, their state and even their neighbors. If differing opinions can’t be faced, how can students and citizens understand the objective history of differing opinions, why people have those differing opinions, why differing opinions existing together provide a healthy environment where freedom grows. If students and citizens don’t understand, then they cannot respect differences – and if differences cannot be respected, intolerance develops. Intolerance then leads to tyranny.

 “If there is any principle of the Constitution that more imperatively calls for attachment than any other it is the principle of free thought — not free thought for those who agree with us but freedom for the thought that we hate” ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., U.S. Supreme Court justice.

Followers of tyranny make no room for opposition. Those followers will shut it down any way they can – and when an existing government fails to protect the freedoms like those in our Constitution, then the environment will have been created out of which will grow persecuting intolerance – like Mao’s intolerance, Stalin’s intolerance, Hitler’s intolerance, Castro’s intolerance – all who imprisoned, tortured and eradicated millions and millions of people who didn’t agree.

I’ve always told my sons – and my college students, you need three reasons to believe something. In this election season, I have my three reasons for why I’m voting for Donald Trump.

  1. Non-persecuted Christianity can only exist under the umbrella of Capitalism. The umbrella of socialism/communism makes no room for Christianity. Where freedom for Capitalism exists, freedom for non-persecuted Christianity exists.
  2. Trump’s daughter is Jewish, and as such, will support Israel. “I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:3). I also believe that God has a history of using unlikely men to lead his people out of oppression into a fully redeemed relationship with him (read Judges).
  3. Trumps supporters/followers don’t resort to tyranny in order to shut down the freedom to express differing opinions. If a candidate’s followers make no room in a political debate for differing opinions, most likely that candidate will make no room, if elected, for ideological, religious or personal differences either – and what was once individual bullying will become government-endorsed bullying to ensure differing opinions won’t exist to challenge their use of power.

“If men are to be precluded from offering their sentiments on a matter, which may involve the most serious and alarming consequences that can invite the consideration of mankind, reason is of no use to us; the freedom of speech may be taken away, and dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep, to the slaughter” ~George Washington, first U.S. president

The America I know does not persecute its citizens into silence. The America I know does not persecute its people into hiding their beliefs. The America I know was created so that no one would ever need to build priest holes to hide their religious leaders or freedom fighters.

“Let us not give up in freedom what we would never give up  in persecution” ~ Nik Ripkin, The Insanity of God

Tyranny in a free country gives birth to government sanctioned persecution that seeks to silence differing opinions permanently.

My father-in-law used to say, “I can’t hear what you’re saying over what your actions are telling me.”

If you can tell much about a man by whom he surrounds himself, then surely you can tell much about a political candidate by who his followers are. If one man’s followers seek to shut down another person’s beliefs through fists, destruction and bullying, and the second man’s followers don’t persecute those who believe differently, though they disagree, I would choose the second man every time. The second man will uphold life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

 “Freedom of speech is a principal pillar of a free government: When this support is taken away, the constitution of a free society is dissolved,” ~ Father Benjamin Franklin



hydrangeabluewhitecWhen my husband sends me flowers, it’s his way of reminding me how much he loves me. God does the same thing. He brought me lilacs, then snowballs, then the baptisma, the tiger lilies and spiders wort.

Then he brought me the hydrangea blossoms in an outrageous display of his love!

As the summer ends, the pink, blue, yellow, reds and fuschia zinnias, black-eyed Susans, crepe myrtles and a second blooming of the lavender – and still the hydrangeas are blooming.

He didn’t just plant them. He designed them, created them, grew them, started it all years and years and years ago before our grandparents were born and their grandparents all the way back to the beginning, all for me and you – and our children’s children, too!

God loves us quiet and still, bold and outrageous! Are you paying attention? Look around! Do you see it? It’s right there – outside us and inside, too!