Catholicism, Faith, Family, Gratitude, Holiness, Jesus, Lent, Motherhood, Personal Reflection

Every Day All Day

“I want to be with God and receive God and have him in my heart every day all day.”

Annie’s 1st Eucharist is approaching and this was her note written at the end of yesterday’s retreat day for the 2nd graders preparing for the sacrament. Today when we came home from Mass, she and Tim were playing. In the middle of a Lego battle, Tim paused and looked at her.

“I’m so excited for you to receive Communion.”

Oh, the beauty of a child’s faith. That eagerness to encounter Jesus. These two little people have no idea how often they help renew my joy.

Dignity, Intentionality, Personal Reflection

Made For a Purpose

I found this box at a thrift store several months back. I loved it immediately but it has sat empty in this spot in my kitchen since then, waiting for its purpose. Then I finally made a decision for it a few days ago. Today, I came inside from the below-zero morning air and popped it open, smiling at its perfect fullness, and chose a cup of warmth to brew.

A little reminder that your real purposes are worth waiting for. They will bring joy and refresh your soul. Like a good cup of tea, perhaps.

Family, Motherhood, Personal Reflection

Playing Cards and Memories

On Wednesday night, one of my fifth graders asked how we still have so many stories and traditions from lots and lots of years ago. I talked about the natural passing of such things from grandparents and parents to children and grandchildren by living and sharing traditions and stories together, as well as other sources for passing on those pieces of life. We moved on with our class lesson then, but tonight his question popped back into my head

This is how it happens.

Playing Skip-Bo with my children for the first time and explaining how it was my favorite game to play with my Grandma Ebsch when I was a kid. Playing it with Grandma’s own set of cards, passed on to me after she died, I described how Grandma Ebsch adored playing card games of any kind and spent hours teaching her grandchildren the games too. Even as teens, we loved playing cards with Grandma, and I never tired of Skip-Bo.

Confiding these memories – smiling over it all and imagining how Grandma would be thrilled if she could play with us tonight – watching the two of them excitedly catch on to the game – this is how it happens.

We played Twister too, but that piece of entertainment affected my back more than my nostalgic heart.

Personal Reflection, Writing

New Notebook

I’m choosing a new writing notebook today. I am trying to think of the best way to describe this thrill. Picking this notebook stirs up anticipation much like a fresh adventure. I’ve felt it while packing for a trip to somewhere completely new. I’ve tasted it in the early morning preparation before running a race, and when launching my kayak into a new lake. It is laced with excitement, joy, and a nervous sense of responsibility to make the most of the experience.

This isn’t for writing my current novel WIP. It is the notebook for ideas and snippets that are born in any given moment of the day. It is hauled with me most everywhere and is missed when it’s left at home.

My faithful writing companion.

The last one held numerous unformed ideas, flash fiction stories, blog posts, and seeds and scenes of short stories. Meaningful moments were captured there. Characters were born there. The last pages hold the first draft of a letter that would change my life in a way I’d longed to see for years. There are still undeveloped ideas in it that I will try to turn into whole scenes or stories. It has served me wonderfully well.

It’s an important notebook, you see. I cannot wait to discover what will fill it.

Personal Reflection, Writing

Present Tense

I used to write in places like this one.

The cafe I’m sitting in is the sort of place I used to write in regularly. That’s what I thought about as I walked through the chiming door into the buzz of conversations and the invigorating odor of coffee.

I used to….

The past tense of the thought unsettled me. How else to change it then but by writing in this place? I promised myself that before I left this table at a picture window overlooking the downtown shops, I would write something. I’d write for the sake of transforming my statement to the present tense.

So, here I am, writing something in this small-town coffeehouse with delicious pastries, soothing teas, and busy tables. Just as I should be.

I’m currently living in a meet-the-needs-of-this-day mindset. It neither allows for procrastination of things to be done today, nor for anxiousness about days ahead. That’s not to say I’m free from procrastination or anxiety (wouldn’t that be a dream), but I’m trying. I’m aiming. Some days I land near the target and some days I lose track of it entirely. My brain and my emotions are in recovery mode currently and I find I only have the capacity – emotionally, mentally, physically – for what is truly needed for the present day. Rarely more. In low moments, even that much is questionable, but only in the low moments.

I’m discovering the words and actions that help me silence the anxious, speculative thoughts. There is no ignoring the tension I carry in my muscles from the moment I wake until I eventually fall asleep in the middle of the night. My heels are dug deep in self-awareness, constantly in tune with the ways my body and mind need to be supported. It is both transforming and exhausting. I am counting on the habits I develop now, in this less than ideal place, to help me thrive beyond this leg of the journey.

My personal journal was all I could pick up for a while, but I’m breaking back into the novel WIP and blogging in recent weeks. The energy that writing gives, plus the unshakeable desire to write much, much more, propels me forward while other pieces of life right now are pulling me down. Undoubtedly, writing will continue to be one of my most encouraging companions as I transition from crisis mode to adjustment and acceptance to thriving on a new path.

Living in the present, carpe diem, and all that jazz have taken on new meaning lately. They are less about taking bold chances and more about expecting both God and myself to see to the needs of this day. “Give us this day our daily bread.” How often I’ve prayed that one line in sporadic moments through the last few months. For strength, clarity, wisdom, grace, peace… just for today. Tomorrow is still out of my reach, and that’s probably for the best. Today has trouble enough of its own, to paraphrase Jesus.

So far the track record for that little prayer being answered is as steady as can be. He makes a way and, one day at a time, I try to walk it. Maybe that’s as much as I ought to expect of myself in any stage of life, not only the one I’m navigating at present.

My tea is gone and I’m going home. I’ll be back though because…

I write in places like this one.

Gratitude, Midwest, Personal Reflection, Photography

All the Beautiful Things

The nose of my kayak dipped into the dark water at five-thirty. The five mile drive to the boat launch was a friendly race with the first streaks of color. No matter how many times I watch a sunrise, I am surprised by how rapidly it passes through its succession of colors. When I launched into the lake, everything reached by the light was bathed in a pink glow.

The view as I launched into Little Elkhart Lake (Plymouth, WI).

The crisp air of the new day, the mist riding atop the warm water, and the sun’s processional march of color were a breathtaking combination. God makes beautiful places, I thought over and over again.

Little Elkhart Lake, Plymouth, WI

This lake is edged by several homes, a youth camp, and abundant forest. At that hour, it was silent on every side. I was the only person on the lake and, at least in the first stretch, hardly more than a few birds had yet to break the quiet. I paddled and drifted. Paddled and drifted. The mist was invitingly mesmerizing, but each time I moved further into it, I paused to cease even the noise of my paddle cutting in and out of the water.

Little Elkhart Lake, Plymouth, WI

The silence was magnificent.

As the pinks and oranges gave way to blue, and the sun crept nearer the tops of the tree line, the bird calls multiplied. When I sat still, I could hear the flutters of wings and creaks of branches as the trees’ residents stirred to life. Before the sun crested the trees, the shadows slid away from the top down.

Little Elkhart Lake, Plymouth, WI
Little Elkhart Lake, Plymouth, WI

Eventually, maybe an hour in, came another kayaker. When she spotted me watching something on the edge of a little island, she drew closer and I pointed out the Great Blue Heron standing among the lily pads.

Great Blue Heron, Little Elkhart Lake, Plymouth, WI

She was perhaps around 75, best guess, with a soft voice and smile. She asked how early I’d arrived and remarked on the goodness of enjoying the lake before it was busy with boats and the waves that follow them. She told me about the oldest heron nesting on the lake year after year, whom she calls Grandpa. We watched the heron on the island until it flew off with a whooshing flap of its blue-feathered wings. I wished her a good day as she moved on and I felt a vague sense of what it’d have been like to be there at that moment with my great-grandmother when she was the same age. Something in the woman’s manners had called my Grandma Walcher to mind right off.

Little Elkhart Lake, Plymouth, WI

I took my time skimming along the curves of the lake. Fish came to the top in clouds of bubbles. Turtles poked their triangle heads through the surface. The birds were musically relentless. Apart from the surfacing creatures though, the water remained flat and still. If I stopped paddling, even in the open spaces, the kayak barely drifted. Shining reflections doubled the views in every direction.

Little Elkhart Lake, Plymouth, WI
Little Elkhart Lake, Plymouth, WI

Around seven a.m., I told myself it was time to make my way back to the boat launch. I’d have time to drive home, unload the kayak, and shower before logging into work for the day. With a a bit of convincing, I pointed my boat in that direction.

From behind me, I heard a call of “Hooo! Hello!”

A soft shout coming from my co-kayaker. I turned around and we drew up beside each other.

“If you go back along the trees, there’s another heron. He’s on some dead branches almost all the way to the corner. They love to feed there.”

How am I to turn away from a tip like that one? Getting home could wait. I thanked my new friend before paddling where she directed. I wondered if asking to have tea and cookies with her later would be too odd.

Sure enough, he was exactly where she’d described. Perched, watching and waiting for more breakfast. He was beautiful.

Great Blue Heron, Little Elkhart Lake, Plymouth, WI

Amazingly, he didn’t mind me one bit as I floated closer. I stopped among the first of the lily pads and sat still once again. Birds called to each other unceasingly. A pair of cranes began making a racket from a distant section of shoreline. I wondered if he was Grandpa, here for enough years to go about his day without concern over the noisy business of others (including intrusive humans in kayaks). Perhaps he was Grandpa, because he didn’t even stir when the morning bugle song rang out from the opposite side of the lake to rouse the campers from their bunks.

Blue Heron and the Bugler

Leaving the heron to his morning meal, I did finally resolve to be on my way. That vocal pair of cranes and another heron provided more delightful distractions before I reached the boat launch.

Sandhill Cranes’ Chatting Over Breakfast
Sandhill Cranes, Little Elkhart Lake, Plymouth, WI
Heron (possibly Great Blue Heron morphing out of white phase), Little Elkhart Lake, Plymouth, WI

The bird life among the reeds and cattails seemed to double in my final minutes on the water. It was now a quarter to eight, the sun fully up and me due at my desk very soon. Even though I couldn’t stay to sit among more of those birds or watch more schools of fish pop up to the shimmering surface, my joy from the morning was overflowing. It bubbled out in a laugh as I pulled my boat out of the water. I shook my head at all the pieces of beauty I’d encountered in the last two hours. I laughed more, and thanked God again and again.

Faith, Hope, Personal Reflection, Prayer


“Cause you know just what we need before we say a word.”

I drove to Sheboygan today loudly singing songs in between talking to the Holy Spirit. I swear I could feel my sister praying for me from heaven. One of her favorites started playing, “Good, Good Father” by Chris Tomlin, and when these lyrics reached my ears, they looped round my mind a few times while the song continued on unheard. He already knows, I thought. He is in control.

It was a moment of surrender, which isn’t the easiest for any of us, I’d say, especially in the traumatic times.

Whether we believe in God as I do or the universe or nature or any other power above us, we all have a pull inside us to surrender. To give up an impossible attempt at being in control. We chase the relief of letting go. The peace of that surrender calls to us– peace that is oh so hard to make our own.

For a moment there, that peace rushed in and filled cracks and wounds and voids. Filled them whole. And even as that tide of healing slipped back out, it left all those places coated in the sweet holy water of real peace. And there was just a little more strength in me. A little more calm. A little more faith.

I am nearer to who I am trying to be, and even nearer to who I already am underneath the layers of alteration. I am nearer now than yesterday and last week and last month and last decade. That is all I’ll seek each day. That’s some of the daily bread I ask of my Father.

Some days it’s hard to feel any progress. Some days have me skidding downhill. Then some days the light down the path grows clearly brighter and bigger, and I know deep down that I’m moving toward it.