When my friend Jenny was getting ready to host a party celebrating her daughter’s wedding, she cleaned her farmhouse top to bottom, even washing all 24 of the ironstone tea cups stacked in her dining room cupboard. Ridiculous! I thought, helping her. Who’s going to check her china closet?
“Antiques,” the flaking wooden sign advertised, hanging over the closed double doors of an old church planted on a rural Maine hillside.
Driving past with my husband, I had just enough time to glimpse the overgrown grass and darkened windows before the church faded from view. “How sad,” I said to Dana, who sat behind the wheel. “But also how appropriate.”
Juggling a lot this summer? Me too. For the past month I’ve been immersed in an intense graduate education course. My husband thought this would be a good time to demolish the back of our house to replace the rotting windows. And – thanks to a determined rodent – I’ve had to replant my vegetable garden. Twice.
When we bought our house, one of the first things that attracted me to it was the light. It streamed through our four giant south-facing windows like buttery-warm happiness. Unfortunately all four of those windows were damaged. The wood sills were rotten. The double-paned glass had separated, creating a milky-white fog. And some refused to open.
Everywhere I look – on social media, television commercials, slogans printed on T-shirts and pasted on signs – the prevailing message today seems to be about achieving greatness, thinking big, striving for the maximum measure of success.
Feeling exhausted? Me too. Falling-asleep-on-the-couch-at-7-p.m. exhausted. Muscles-aching-like-I-just-ran-a-marathon exhausted. Snapping-at-my-family-over-missing-lunch-boxes-and-Who-ate-the-last-piece-of-cake? exhausted.
Several years ago, when my family moved up the river from Bath, one surprise that came with our new home was a tenacious apple tree. Despite the tall grass and thistles that threatened to choke it and a deluge of water that had loosened its roots, causing its trunk to grow sideways, it continued to bear fruit.
If you’ve caught me wandering around town on one of my infrequent escapes from work or home, you might’ve noticed the dark crescents shadowing my eyes or the stringy weight of my unwashed hair. For most of the past year, I’ve been dragging myself out of bed before dawn to sit at my laptop and write a novel about three children who try to stop the emerald ash borer from destroying the world’s ash trees.
Saturday would have been our daughter Ruth’s eighteenth birthday. Instead, it marks the ten years she’s been gone. What more is there to say? Except that I am still unable to comprehend her absence. Not a day goes by that I don’t imagine how she might look, what hurdles she might have overcome, what goals she might have held for her future.
In the corner of the window above my kitchen sink, sits a box of tea, about the size of a pack of mints. ‘AZAWAD,’ read the letters printed across the front – a region in northern Mali and apparently one of the world’s earliest tea brands. Below, camels trek across a faded desert.
One year ago in February I was so sick that for two weeks I could do little more than sleep. For most of that time I lay on the couch with a fever that topped 103 degrees, coughing so violently that I lost my ability to talk. Anything I managed to eat tasted like sulfur. My oxygen level was low, and at one time I was wracked by chills so severe I nearly lit my clothes on fire, trying to warm myself by the wood stove.
Years ago, the leader of a parent’s support group I was in led a guided meditation. “Close your eyes,” she encouraged us.
Five years ago I eagerly shared with readers that internationally known Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias was speaking in Bangor. The event, Why Jesus?, sold out, packing the Cross Insurance Center with 6,755 people. Among them were a load of high school students I’d wrangled onto a bus.
We've all missed a lot this past year, but one thing I've missed the most is gathering together for worship. While it isn't always possible to get together in person, I'd like to celebrate Lent by looking at Jesus through this eyes of one of his dearest friends, the...
When you are just that tired. When all you want is to curl up with a book by the fire and wait for all of the other fires in the world to go out. When day turns into night, which turns into day and dishes demand to be put away, the laundry washed, the lunches packed, the bills paid, appointments made, and it feels like you are the maid. Only instead of getting paid to clean this mess you get dressed and go to work just to find all of this other work still waiting when you get home.
I thought it was a joke when a pastor at a church I attended said that he was starting a “God and Guns Club.” When he announced it from the pulpit during Sunday morning worship, many in the congregation laughed. This was the same pastor who declared his plan to take over Maine’s Fort Knox, a granite fortress on the Penobscot River, should the church ever need to defend itself against a hostile government.
The choice before me seemed impossible. The risks, amplified by the pandemic, too high. The uncertainties too many. To say that I was in agony is no exaggeration. For months, it was all I could think about – weighing my family’s options in the face of incalculable unknowns. Whichever way we chose, the outcome had the potential to affect our family for the rest of our lives, and I was terrified of making the wrong decision.
Growing up on a farm in rural Oregon, my brother and I often had a second-hand Christmas. The gifts under our tree were toys that our single mom found at yard sales or Goodwill and wrapped in humble, ordinary newspaper. The tree itself she cut down from the side of a road and hauled home in the back of our truck.
In a year rife with moral failures by Christian leaders, I read with grim curiosity last week’s New York Times article describing the firing of Carl Lentz, the celebrity pastor of Hillsong’s East Coast church, who recently acknowledged that he’d had an affair. However, the affair was the least of what surprised me. That Lentz admitted to cheating on his wife seemed trivial compared to the rise of a church culture that appears to have courted megastars until the pastor became one.
Listening to Maine Public Radio this week, I heard a report that one-third of us are carrying so much pandemic-related stress that we are tossing and turning in our beds at night, unable to sleep. While sleep comes easily to me, I too feel the weight of worry caused by the COVID-19 crisis.