Sunny Blossoms | The Ultimate Kindness

“Kindness” by Martha S.

Today’s Kindness blossom came from my pen friend, Martha S. She painted the sunflower [with a nod to the Ukraine] for International Women’s Day/Women’s History Month. It was refreshing to see a card that simply reminded us of kindness. 

If we think about it, it all comes down to that. Doesn’t it? If we were more compassionate and thought as highly of others as we think of ourselves, women’s rights wouldn’t need to be a thing!

I know that sounds simplistic. Social structures/constructions are complex, and for some reason, humans have an almost innate suspicion of those who are not like them; furthermore, in many cultures, men have been conditioned to see women as inferior to them. These attitudes seem to be at the root of all unkindness—even in our “smaller” interpersonal interactions.

I wish I could pinpoint the moment where [some] men decided that women were inferior to men. Some point to Eve’s disobedience in the Garden of Eden or Scripture in general, but the argument is not supported in Scripture. What Scripture does uphold is that we are created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27); we are part of a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9); and God desires an abundant life for all of us (John 10:10b). And, the best part–His mercy, grace, and salvation are available to all!

That is the ultimate kindness. 

Sorrow | The Butterfly [Tattoo] Effect

Butterfly-3 wm

I have been fixated on butterflies most of the week, reworking butterfly photos into watercolor photo art. I didn’t realize why until, while scrolling through my camera roll Thursday evening, I came across a picture of my son and parents that was snapped last summer. In the picture, I could clearly see most of my father’s butterfly tattoo. 

Ah! That explains it!

In addition to the intangible qualities and gifts, there are certain tangible items that I associate with my father. Among them are his ruby ring, his hearing aid, his jazz collection, and his butterfly tattoo. Only one of those was buried with him, and I was miserably grieved that I had never managed to intentionally photograph the tattoo while he was living–neither had my photographer brother nor any of the other photographers in the family!

The tattoo was simply a part of my father; he had gotten it when he served in the United States Air Force. It had been there all our lives—so we never thought about taking a snapshot. Until he was gone. I combed through image after image and could see parts of the tattoo, but never enough of it. Furthermore, the quality was diminished in attempting to enlarge any photo enough to really see the tattoo. Failing to capture the tattoo troubled me for weeks after his passing, till I finally convinced myself to let it go. I did so grudgingly and with the hope of eventually finding someone who had a good shot of that tat. 

I don’t know how I’d missed it in the photo referenced above! I think it was waiting to be found when I needed it most. With my father’s birthday approaching [today], I guess, the butterflies settled into my spirit and provided a way for me to connect with my father’s memory that was soothing for my soul.

Daddy Butterfly Tattoo wm

Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Matthew 5:4

Sorrow | Lessons from Grief

Butterfly-2 wmLoss and grief are inevitable parts of life. We know this, but that doesn’t make it easier to manage. In fact, the inevitable is often a source of anxiety for some. Despite how ab-so-lute-ly awful it is, grief teaches us many lessons about life, love, and ourselves. Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned.

  1. Love is more powerful than we can ever find words for or even imagine. We continue loving long after the person is gone.
  2. Grief is a journey for one. Others may grieve the loss of the same person, but not the same loss. Every loss is personal and the journey to healing individual.
  3. There is no “getting over” a loss, but eventually the wound will heal. As with all wounds, there will be scars.
  4. Grief stays with us. It morphs and shape-shifts until it settles into our beings.
  5. Eventually, we learn to live with grief, but our hearts may never stop aching.
  6. The gaping, person-sized hole inside never gets filled. We miss the person for the rest of our days on earth, but mingled with the pain will be fond memories and laughter.
  7. It is important that we find space to express ourselves and talk about our loved ones.
  8. We should never apologize for grieving, even if it makes others uncomfortable.
  9. The Divine draws closer to us when we grieve (Psalm 34:18).
  10. We learn how to sit in the dark and still believe in Light.

What lessons have you learned from grief?

Scripture Mail | An Encouraging Word

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Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. –1 Thessalonians 5:11

Scripture mail might be my favorite type of mail to send and receive. There’s something about opening a postcard or an envelope filled with scriptural goodness that fuels the spirit.

Whenever I receive scripture mail, it seems the senders listened for Divine direction on which Bible verse(s) to include. The card above represents a “case in point.” Shortly after returning from my father’s funeral, I received the card with the encouragement below tucked inside from LadyJo, a member of the group Christian Friends on swap-bot. She had no way of knowing about my father’s passing, but inspired by 1 Thessalonians 5:11, she sent timely encouragement my way, and it did much to hearten me.

Scripture mail can take many forms–store-bought postcards and notecards, stickers, “pass it on” cards that can be purchased for as little as a dime, bookmarks, coloring cards or pages, a page or two from a devotional book, handmade cards, photo cards, and even index cards with scripture written or typed on–with or without other embellishment. There are countless possibilities.

Sending scripture mail is a great way to support an individual who might be facing difficulties. We don’t always have the appropriate words to comfort or answer life’s problems, but we can usually find a Bible verse that offers peace and hope.

Or, like, quote mail, scripture mail can be sent to let individuals know you’re thinking of them. There are many verses that can be used to just say, “Hi!”

It’s easy-peasy, of course. You can jot a few Bible verses into any card you have available. If you don’t have cards, stationery or notebook paper will suffice. Just slip the verses into an envelope and send them on their way. It truly is the thought that counts!

Side note: I do advise you to make sure the receiver will not be offended, particularly if you do not share the same belief system. I send scripture mail to encourage, uplift, or inspire, not to proselytize or get someone to convert to my religion or denomination. I am particularly drawn to sacred texts, so just as I am inspired by texts outside of the Judeo-Christian tradition, I’m sure that non-Christians find wisdom in the Holy Bible.

If you want to get a little fancy, watch for my next scripture mail post. I’ll share and talk about how to make simple scripture mail.

Until then…

Scripture Mail | The Bible That Has It All! [And Giveaway Winners]

bible

Thanks to a busy week and fatigue, this blog week did not go as planned—with a first post on the fundamentals of scripture mail followed by some of the encouraging scripture mail I’ve received. I’ll back up to those post in a few of days. But today, I’m sharing the ultimate in scripture mail—The Holy Writ itself! 

Have you ever received a Bible in the mail? I have many times, usually because I ordered them. 🙂 I love having different translations and Bibles that serve various purposes. The Young Women Love God Greatly Bible, which I arrived via snail mail a couple of weeks ago, is an exciting addition to my devotional life. I received a complimentary copy of the Bible as a member of the Bible Gateway Blogger Grid. 

I opened the pages of the Bible and was pleasantly overwhelmed by its offerings. At a whopping 2200+ pages, the Young Women Love God Greatly Bible has everything! It presents the Bible in the traditional format that most are used to—from Genesis to Revelation–and offers many, many features that make learning and studying scripture appealing and enjoyable:

  • Memory verses for each book of the Bible
  • Brief introductions for each book of the Bible
  • 50 reading plans
  • 10 topical reading plans
  • Personal testimonies and insights from women all over the world, including country profiles for each woman
  • Reflection questions
  • Challenges for further study
  • 100 devotional thoughts
  • 10 maps, featuring the world of the patriarchs, the Kingdom of Israel, Jerusalem in Jesus’ time, and the journeys of the apostles
  • 10 detailed timelines
  • Infographics
  • 25 letters from a woman of faith that addresses life’s challenges and questions
  • 25 heroines of the Bible
  • 25 heroines of the past (Christian history)
  • 32 God’s “heart for the nation” scriptures
  • and much more

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The Bible, published by Thomas Nelson this year, was edited by Angela Perritt and Melissa Fuller, who were driven by the “battle cry” to love God greatly. The Bible was designed for young women, which [chronologically] I am not, but at heart very much am. As a dean/professor at a faith-based institution, I use a lot of biblical materials geared to the young adult set, so I am über excited about introducing this Bible to students! In fact, I was so excited that I snapped shots of some of the features and sent them to a few students who oohed and ahhed as much as I did. 

Leafing through this Bible is a pleasure! At every turn of the page there is something that captures my attention and makes me what to just stop and take note—even if I am just flipping through and not intending study. For deep scriptural study, the editors have included instructions for the SOAP method of Bible study (Scripture, Observation, Application, Prayer), which works for Bible study newbies as well as seasoned Bible scholars. 

The font is just the right size, not too tiny, not too large. Plus, teal (?) subheadings break up all the “gray” and give the eyes moments to rest. Minimal sketches/drawings throughout the Bible serve as invitations to slow down and consider passages while coloring. There’s ample room in the margins for Bible doodling or journaling or (my favorite) making copious marginal notes. Oh–another favorite—there’s not one but two ribbon page markers!

The Young Women Love God Greatly Bible features the easy-to-read New English Translation (NET), which may make the Bible easier to understand for some.  As mentioned earlier, this Bible has more than 2200 pages of goodness, so it is pretty thick and heavy. It is not the Bible I would take to church, but it is certainly perfect for those long study and prayer sessions in the comfort of home with a tall cup of tea, pretty pens, and a Bible journal. It is also suitable for group Bible studies. 

I would love to tell you more, more, more about this Bible, but I think you’ll have to check it out for yourself. You can find it at the FaithGateway store or on Amazon.


Screen Shot 2022-06-16 at 10.30.49 PMWeekend Giveaway Winner: I let the wheel decide, and our weekend giveaway winner is How I’m Living with KB253! Congratulations, KB253! Be sure to use the contact form above to send me your address so I can send your goodies. And…since I appreciate all of you, I invite the other five participants to send me your addresses too! I’ll send a happy note or two to each of you this summer! Have joy!

NPM | Black and White | Joyful, Faithful, Patient

butterfly joyful in hope

For this third week of National Photography Month (NPM), I am sharing some of the monochrome photo inspiration “cards” I made during Sheila D’s September 2021 Creative Gathering. I divided the month of creativity into thirds—days 1-10, abstract photo art; days 11-20, doodle art; days 21-30 black and white photography. The common thread was scripture. I shared one of the photos for a #ThursdayTreeLove in January.

In light of the recent racial violence committed by one individual against Black citizens in Buffalo, New York, I am sharing images that feature Bible verses that can provide solace and hope. I will not comment (much?) on them. Sometimes the world is so absolutely crazy that I am convinced we need only the voice of God. Everything else is just…noise.

 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. –Romans 12:12

Two Poems for Your Monday

Agape Review published two of my poems last week (yay!), so I’m dropping in to share them with a just little background on both.

Unlike the Musings from My Younger Self I share far too infrequently, these poems were written in my adult years.

I wrote “Word Made Flesh” in 2017 after an exchange with a student in which we talked through the intense grief of losing our sisters. A third student entered the conversation halfway through and offered comfort and her own insights on life and grief. Though the interaction occurred four years after my sister [Karlette’s] death, it was the first time I had ever expressed my feelings over the loss so vulnerably. The title of the poem comes from John 1:14:

And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

The second poem, “God, You Are,” was written about 20 years ago. I scribbled it on a notecard and tucked it inside one of my journals. I rediscovered it a year or two ago, typed it, and added it to my “works in progress” poetry folder with the intention to tweak it. However, I made a split second decision to submit the unpolished version of the poem because that raw expression felt poignant in the moment.

Click the links below to read each poem:

Feel free to leave a comment there or come back here and comment. I look forward to your feedback!


About the Image: The photo art above features a moment of solitude and reflection at Green Mountain this past weekend. If time and energy permit, I’ll share more photos later in this week.

Daddy’s Gifts

Daddy by Darius T

“Daddy Second Lining.” Photo by Darius T/Tapman Media

Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.  —John 16:22

My dad passed away February 12, 2022 at 86.5 years of age, and I have been struggling to put my thoughts and feelings into words. When my own words fail, I go to poetry. Having endured so much grief, the poem that speaks to my heart in this moment is Mary Oliver’s “Heavy.”

I adapted the poem for my purposes, but you can read the original poem here.

That time
I thought I could not
go any closer to grief
without dying

I went closer,
and I did not die.
Surely God
has his hand in this,

Still, I am bent,
and my laughter,
as the poet said,

is nowhere to be found.
Then I remembered my father:
“It’s not the weight you carry

but how you carry it –
books, bricks, grief –
it’s all in the way
you embrace it, balance it, carry it

when you cannot, and would not,
put it down.”
So I’ll go about practicing.

One day you’ll notice.

the laughter
that comes, now and again,
out of my startled mouth.

How I linger
to admire, admire, admire
the things of this world
that are kind, and maybe

also troubled –
roses in the wind,
the sea geese on the steep waves,
a love
to which there is no reply.

This poem speaks to me not only because of my own grief, but because as I read it, I thought about the fact that my father had a lot of hurt in his life. To look at him–to even know him–you wouldn’t see it. Every now and then, it would eke out in small ways. He’d tell us about a painful memory from his childhood, a hurt that stung all his life. He wrote in the autobiography he started about being told the word “no” so much that he did not want his wife or children to hear that word. Despite the pain and disappointment he endured, my father found his way to joy. And his very soul was steeped in an infectious joy.

He never forgot those painful moments from his childhood. I believe he carried them with him his whole life, but “it’s not the weight [he] carried, but how [he] carried it, how [he] embraced it, balanced it, carried it when [he] could not, would not put it down.”

He parlayed all of that weight into beautiful gifts for his wife, his children, his grandchildren, and for generations to come.

They’re found in the music he gave us, the Sunday morning listening to everything from jazz to blues to ballads and everything in between that makes much of the stuff churned out nowadays intolerable.

The gifts are in the lessons about grit and hard work and striving for excellence, about making no excuses and owning our mistakes and allowing them to prod us toward growth.

The gifts are in the sometimes uninvited–a little too straightforward–but sound counsel that pushed us to do right and be better.

They’re found in the celebration of the good that life offers in all its forms, in the beauty of a deep, abiding appreciation for life and grace and a recognition that everything we have is gift and grace.

The gifts are in the joy in spite of circumstances.

The gifts are in his many unanswered questions about God and eternity, questions for which he left us to find the answers.

The gifts are found in the love with an answer, the way he loved and did life with our mother, a love not superficially crafted for social media, but one with deep roots and the abiding presence of the Divine. That autobiography I mentioned earlier, doesn’t start with “I was born.” It starts with “I began to live when I married my wife.” While I am incredibly grateful for my father’s joy, I know the love for our mom is the greatest gift he could have given his children. That love–that love with an answer–has made all the difference.

Sleep well, Daddy. We look forward to the “loud command, with the voice of the archangel and the trumpet call of God” that will reunite us for eternity.

Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words. –I Thessalonians 4:13-18


Written 2.22.22 for my father’s memorial service. Shared here for those who have asked for copies.