Blessing upon blessing

I was standing in a local thrift shop sorting through 50-cent coffee cups. My husband had asked me to grab a half-dozen or so for his office so that college students who come in to grab coffee can take one ‘to-go’. I visit this section often — not only to stock the student life office, but also to replace the many cups that I break or absent-mindedly leave in my path. I was picking out some sturdy looking cups for the students when a beautiful floral pattern caught my eye — it was a little small for my taste, but it was so lovely I decided to put it in the basket with the others and make it my own. Only when I got to the cash register did I realize that it had scripture written on the inside of the rim.

….one blessing after another…

Sometime in the months since I brought it home, I made an un-official decision that this cup will be for special circumstances only. It’s not to be carried out the door in the morning rush, clutched through rush hour traffic, and plunked on my desk at work. No, this cup is for the lingering pondering cuppa. It’s for sipping while sitting and savoring. It’s an object of beauty that I’ll use when I need a little encouragement, a little healing, a little celebration, a little recognition of the grace that has poured out one blessing after another.

I’ve got it in my hand right now.

I’m by myself in my little house by the river for 48 hours of self-imposed solitary confinement. My husband is out of town, so I am seizing the opportunity to be quiet, forget about the clock, take care of a couple tasks, make a few long-overdue phone calls, and spend some time reflecting.

Regular doses of solitude heal and restore me.

So what have I done so far? I’ve practiced yoga, done some writing, read a few chapters in Michelle Obama’s Becoming, slept until I woke up — twice! — and watched six episodes of Queer Eye (a delightful show with a message of healing and hope).

I’ve done some cleaning and organizing, paid some bills, folded some laundry, and worked on a puzzle. I’ve spoken at length to both of my parents and to my parents-in-law. I’ve eaten when I’ve been hungry, lounged on the couch in yoga pants, and sipped several cups of tea.

My dog has been following me from room to room, plunking down wherever I plunk, and occasionally standing in front of me, staring me down, until I remember that it is time to walk around the yard.

It’s on these kinds of days, when the agenda is fluid and my expectations for productivity are low, that tucked away thoughts and feelings jangle loose. I’ve poured a lovely cup of tea to enjoy while I observe them.

I’ve been thinking about the visit I had with my breakfast club girls last week. We got together to celebrate my recent birthday; they showered me with gifts and treated me to dinner. As we chatted and laughed, I was struck by the contrast between this birthday celebration and the one we had last year, when I’d been been buried in grief and had cried as they’d leaned into my pain. This year, I was filled with gratitude for their partnership in my suffering, for their unconditional love, and for willingness to acknowledge and celebrate my blessings.

I’m also looking back at my weekend away with one hundred or so pastors’ wives. I pulled out my notes this morning and remembered our time in Bible study where we sat around tables using pens and colored pencils to draw visual reminders of what we were learning. I heard our voices singing together — both in worship and in fun. I saw friends who I only see at this conference, smiling and saying, “We missed you last year!” I felt the compassion of a soul sister who pulled me aside, probed gently, and let me share just a bit; she bore some pain with me and then shared in my gratitude.

I’m scrolling through thoughts of dinner with my godparents, laughing with friends until my sides hurt, and car rides with new and old friends. I’m relishing in the realization that unlike the last time I gathered with these women, I didn’t need rest breaks, or pain medication — not even when I stayed up way past my bedtime.

Blessing upon blessing upon blessing.

I’m spending this weekend alone so that I can reflect on these blessings. I said no to a few people (probably disappointing at least a couple) and chose solitude. And because I did, I’ve had the time to notice each of these jangly thoughts as they’ve settled down beside me. I’ve had opportunity to look closely at how I’ve been blessed, and I am now restored so that I can step away from my solitude.

It’s a new way — a new rhythm.

Toward the end of the soldiering years, I remember my husband, who was also trying to slow his pace and find a different way, telling me about a rhythm of sabbath. The idea was to pause daily, weekly, and yearly — to intentionally plan for space to pause. I remember thinking, “That’d be nice, dear, but you do see that I’m busy here, don’t you?”

And somehow, after almost five years in this little house by the river, we have joined this rhythm. Each day the two of us wake up in the dark — before we see our people or do our things — we each take a time of reading, writing, reflection, and intentional movement. On Sundays we extend this rhythm by continuing on to worship with our community. Each year, we’ve miraculously been able to get away for a week or two alone to put our phones on silent, to forget about the clock, and to read, write, reflect, and rest.

This is one more realization that just floated down and snuggled in next to me. I never would have believed we could live this way, and here we are.

I’m going to make another cup of tea and savor every last moment of this solitude, this sanctuary, this sabbath. This in itself is one more blessing.

Ten out of ten would recommend.

Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.

Mark 6:31

Dayenu, re-visit

I first wrote this piece in April 2015 after attending a Seder meal. Tonight, my husband and I are hosting one. As I mark my blessings in April 2019, I remember that any one of them would have been enough.

On Maundy Thursday, we attended a Messianic Seder. We have, in the past, been privileged to attended an authentic Jewish Seder in the home of  friends. During the Seder, the story of the Passover is retold around a table where participants taste foods that signify the journey of the Israelites out of Egypt. The matzah reminds us that the Israelites had to flee so quickly that they didn’t even have time to add yeast and allow their bread to rise. The bitter herbs remind us of their suffering. The salty water reminds us of their tears. The lamb shank reminds us that the blood of the lamb was placed over their doorposts so that the angel of death would ‘pass over’ and not kill their firstborn sons.

Traditional Seder

I grew up listening to the story — as though it were mythical, as though it didn’t really happen. As though it didn’t have anything to do with me. As though I hadn’t been rescued, too. But I have been rescued from my own personal Egypt. I’ve been to real-life Israel. I recognize that the story is no myth, rather, it has a transcendent power that resonates with me.

The Jewish celebration of Passover, written in the Haggadah, includes a section titled ‘dayenu’ which literally means, “it would have been enough.” The leader of the family says, “If He had brought us out of Egypt,” and the family responds, “dayenu.” It would have been enough.

He says, “If He had executed justice against the Egyptians,”


“If He had split the sea for us,”


“If He had fed us manna,”


The sentiment, of course, is that God did so much more. He did bring the Israelites out of Egypt after hundreds of years of slavery. He did execute justice against the Egyptians — killing many with the rushing waters of the Red Sea as they pursued the Israelites who had made it safely to dry ground on the other side. He had provided manna so they never went without food. He rescued them. He provided for them. He made their descendants many. He took them to a land flowing with milk and honey. Any one of those actions would have been enough to elicit the thanks of the Israelites, but God did so much more.

Our Passover Seder on Thursday was different than the Jewish Passover we attended years ago, but very familiar. We shared the matzah. We ate the bitter herbs. We enjoyed the charoset — a sweet mixture of nuts, apples, honey, wine, and cinnamon. Those parts were just like I remembered. The difference was that our pastor highlighted all the areas of the Passover that pointed to the Messiah. Just as the matzah is broken and hidden away to be brought out later, the body of Jesus was broken for us, hidden for three days, and brought back. Just as Moses led the Israelites out of slavery to exacting task masters, Jesus has offered us freedom from slavery to sin and the need to earn God’s favor. Just as the blood of the lamb protected the Israelites from the angel of death, the blood of the Lamb covers our imperfections and protects us from our punishment — our death.

When we got to the ‘dayenu’ portion of our Seder on Thursday, I read along with the others from the Haggadah, but in my mind, I was thinking,

“If you had just rescued me from my own intentions,”


“If you had just provided for my physical needs,”


“If you had just given me a husband who is a partner,”


“If you had just provided me with children,”


My sentiment, of course, is that God has done so much more for me. He has saved me, and that would have been enough. But He also has blessed me beyond what I could have ever asked or imagined with family, friends, community, meaningful work, and so much more.

Blessed are You, O Lord our God, King of the Universe.

The Israelites, the Jewish people, demonstrate intentionality in marking their thankfulness for their rescue. They remember where they once were, and they have chosen never to forget who rescued them and by what means.

Having seen, we can go and do likewise.

Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church, and in Christ Jesus, throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen

Ephesians 3:20