Gray Day Blues

A spate of dull gray days with icy cold rain leaking from dreary skies have made things a tad on the gloomy side here. Walking around downtown Colonial Williamsburg last week Virginia (the person) saw a light silhouetted by tree branches.

In a way the branches reminded me of a wishing bone. Pulling wishing bones as children whoever ended up with the largest side won. Not sure exactly what we won – maybe the opportunity to make a wish? (Duh, Virginia, that’s why it’s called a “wishing bone?”)

I do remember exerting extra effort to win the pulling contest. And that brings us to the relevance of wishing bones and funky tree branches silhouetting lights on a gray day.

On gloomy days we face a choice: to let God’s light shine in us or succumb to gray day blues. Are we willing to exert extra effort to keep shining when all that’s bleak around us pulls us toward despair? (There’s plenty in our whacked out world to despair over!)

Or can we let God’s love strengthen our resolve to keep shining no matter what?

grace, peace & gray day blues


“I cannot feel that all is well, when darkening clouds conceal the shining sun; but then, I know He lives and loves; and say, since it is so, Thy will be done.” S. G. Browning (from Daily Strength for Daily Needs)

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Whole Hearts Overflowing with LOVE!!

Today is the second Sunday of Lent – and my younger brother Dwight’s birthday! The caboose of our family: #5 of 5. We are celebrating the gift of his life. Dwight’s life is rather miraculous. Born with a hole in his heart, doctors told my parents he might not make it to 10 years of age.

The Woodwards circa 1970 (Dwight is in middle)

Papa often recounted what happened once when Dwight and I were toddlers. We woke him up with terrible croup coughs in the middle of the night. Due to the hole in Dwight’s heart, Dr. Dewalt said, “Bring the littlest one in.” After a few days in the hospital, Dr. Dewalt called Papa, “Come get your son. He’s causing a ruckus over here!” Dwight was pushing a chair up and down the halls giving extemporaneous drum performances for everyone.

Dwight was hospitalized several other times as a child due to concern about his heart. But the hole closed up, miraculously, and he ended up taking care of our bedfast quadriplegic Papa for 13 years before Papa passed.

Dwight & Papa in matching shirts

My brother is so humble. He has a heart of gold, solid gold. He may have had a hole in his heart to start with, but I always knew he had the biggest heart. He inspires me! He is steadfast. Generous. Talented. Tenacious. He has a zest for life and does joy all the time. His infamous puns contribute daily doses of Holy Hilarity.

His infectious humor lifted us daily during Papa and Mama’s caregiving.

Dwight & Mama

Life is a gift. We often take it for granted, but birthdays provide an opportunity to be grateful and celebrate (although we can certainly be grateful every day.) Yes, it’s Lent. We don’t focus as much on joy. But this whole season is about the love of God, which surely is something to rejoice about: whole hearts overflowing with love!

“Birthdays are important. On our birthdays we celebrate being alive. We should never forget our birthdays or the birthdays of those who are close to us. They remind us that what is important is not what we do or accomplish, not what we have or who we know, but that we are, here and now. On birthdays let us be grateful for the gift of life.”  Henri Nouwen, Bread for the Journey


grace, peace & whole hearts

Virginia : )

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On this Saturday of Lent here’s a quote from Catherine de Hueck Doherty, one of Virginia’s favorite spiritual writers:

“Lent is a sea of God’s mercy, warm and quiet and inviting for us to swim in…but we say to ourselves, ‘if I enter into that sea of mercy and I am healed, I will be sort of bound to practice that which Christ preaches, His law of love… It will mean that if I seek mercy, I will have to dish out mercy; I have to be merciful to others.’

…Lent is here to remind us that the mercy of God is ours, provided we embrace that which He has given us to embrace – His law of love – provided we realize that it’s going to hurt and hurt plenty, but the very hurting will be healing. That is the strangeness and paradox of God: that while you hurt, you heal.”  Catherine Doherty (Grace in Every Season)

Here’s to entering the seas of God’s mercy this Lent with hearts open to be healed, hearts ready to share God’s merciful love with others.

grace, peace & merciful LOVE

Virginia : )

Photos: Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

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Facing the Darkness

“I’ve seen too many stars to let the darkness overwhelm me.”  Sr. Macrina Wiederkehr

We’ve all been through dark patches in our lives. When everything is dark around us, we need to look up to see the stars. Sometimes – who am I kidding, most of the time – looking up requires courageous faith.

If we take our eyes off the darkness and focus on the Light, the overwhelmingness of the power of darkness dissipates a notch or two… then more as our Heavenly Father strengthens our hearts with stars of His love, mercy and grace.

I know what it’s like to be terrified by dark circumstances that throttled me. But in the darkest nights, I said these verses over and over:

“The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?… One thing I have desired, that I will seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord and inquire in His temple.” (Psalm 27:1&4)

By God’s grace the darkness did not overwhelm me. Instead the Bright Morning Star (one of my favorite names for Jesus) filled me with courageous grace to cope and hope.

May the Bright Morning Star fill the darkness in our lives with the Light of His love, mercy and grace this Lenten season – and every day of the year.

grace, peace & HOPE

Virginia : )

Photo Credit: A Rose Made of Galaxies NASA’s Hubble, 17 December 2010

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Peace Within

Virginia realizes she has previously shared this quote – possibly several times – from her favorite saint. But, such a good quote deserves multiple shares!

“May today there be peace within. May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be. May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith. May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you. May you be content knowing that you are a child of God. Let this presence settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love. It is there for each and every one of you.” Saint Teresa of Avila

On this Thursday of Lent (and every day for that matter) God’s peace is available. In these turbulent times our internal peace thermometers may skew high with angst and worry. How do we maintain peace within?

Saint Teresa lays it out for us. First, we must TRUST GOD. That’s a biggie. Then we need to accept where we are, yet remember faith opens doors to infinite possibilities. We are also meant to use our God-given gifts and serve as conduits of God’s love.

God’s love flowing through us tends to lift our focus from me-stuff to others. When that happens our me-stuff usually undergoes a perspective adjustment touched by God’s love.

Understanding how precious we are in God’s sight is another peace booster. You are a precious child of God. I am a precious child of God. We are beloved. Resting in that truth engenders contentment – not complacent contentment but the kind that acts and does peace from a place of joyous acclamation.

As we allow God’s presence to swallow up our fears with peace within our hearts, our spirits can sing, dance, praise and love.

grace, peace & peace within

Virginia : )

p.s. Asking God straight up for extra doses of peace every day is also a good idea!

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Ups and Downs Journeys

“The journey is essential to the dream.”  Saint Francis of Assisi

Lent is often described as a journey. We start with ashes (and good intentions) and wind our way for forty days through a few mountains (and perhaps a few valleys) until Easter. Mayhap we get halfway and discover several spiritual good intentions have gone by the wayside.

We may fall – splat – in the murky mud of not-so-good intentions. One of the things Virginia gave up for Lent reasserted itself on her plate on DAY TWO of Lent. (Talk about lackadaisical intentions!)

Ups and downs are part of Lent, just like ups and downs are part of life. The point is, God is with us in the ups and the downs. Good intentions or not-so-good, God doesn’t leave us.

“Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil; for You are with me.” (Psalm 23:3)

As we continue our Lenten journeys there’s no reason to be afraid.

God is with us always, always, always.

It is God to Whom and with Whom we travel, and while God is at the end of the journey, God is also at every stopping place.” Elizabeth Elliot

grace, peace & ups and downs journeys

Virginia : )

Photos: Western Cape, South Africa

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Speaking Words of Grace

Words. Words. Words. More words, less words – the dilemma of the day.

The other day this challenge in a daily devotional jumped off the page into my heart:

“You have the chance to extend the grace of God through what you say and do. You are a pipeline, an aqueduct through which God keeps meeting needs of the moment in the lives of others…Your encouragement becomes grace that is strengthening, enabling, empowering for others. Don’t miss it… don’t forget to speak that word of grace.” Joni Eareckson Tada

I thought of the many people who have encouraged me with words and gestures of grace, sometimes at critical moments when they had no idea what I was going through.

Words of grace go a long way when hearts are hurting, discouragement looms large, and despair permeates the air. Words of grace lift, like God’s love lifts. Sure, we all fail and screw up at times. But words of grace let God’s mercy flow. Words of grace let healing grow. Words of grace let God’s love glow.

The counterchallenge: our words can also be detrimental. When we lash out in the heat of an argument, put others down, or disempower dreams with negativity.

So what will it be? Will we speak words of grace or gracelessness?

grace, peace & words of Grace (with a capital “G”)

Virginia : )

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Unsinkable Rainbows (of God’s Love!)

One of Sunday’s Scripture readings covered Noah’s ark emerging from the flood.

Go figure the animals partied when they hit land!

But there’s more to the story: rainbows and covenants. After the massive flood destroyed everything in Noah’s time, God symbolically placed a rainbow of hope in the sky and promised never again.

“God said: “This is the sign of the covenant which I make between Me and you for perpetual generations: I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth…between Me and you…” (Genesis 8:12-15)

A rainbow is a sign of hope, a sign of God’s covenant with us, a sign of God’s love.

Maybe we haven’t endured end-of-the world floods of apocalyptic proportions, but there are other kinds of floods that submerge us. Take grief, for instance.

Our precious Mama died a year after Papa. The year she died my brother Dwight and I could not bear being here at home for Thanksgiving without both of them. Instead, we spent that week traipsing around sunny Florida.

On Thanksgiving Day we plopped chairs down on a deserted stretch of New Smyrna Beach. Teary from the wind (yeah, right) talking about Mama and Papa, suddenly a rainbow appeared over the ocean.

A Rainbow on Thanksgiving (iPhone handy)

It’s a strange thing how that rainbow lifted our spirits. We weren’t thinking about Noah, but it seemed like God’s banner over us saying: “You are going to be alright. I’ve got you in the palm of My hand. I AM bigger than the flood of tears swirling in your heart. Let the covenant of My love comfort you where it hurts. Trust Me, and do not be afraid.”

The next time you encounter a rainbow, remember God’s unsinkable Love that gives us courage to hope no matter how ferociously storms howl and tears flood our souls.

“Be still, my soul: Thy God doth undertake to guide the future as He has the past. Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake; all now mysterious shall be bright at last. Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below.” (Katharina von Schlegel)

grace, peace & unsinkable rainbows

Virginia : )

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Navigating Spiritual Deserts

Not sure how your Lent is going (it’s only been a few days) but don’t be dismayed if you end up plodding through a spiritual desert. It happens. Sometimes we go through dry spells when our usual spiritual streams succumb to sandstorms of indifferent inertia. Our spiritual thermometers become brittle. Water seems far way.

But in arid circumstances, a drop of water goes a long way.

“Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live…” (Ezekiel 37:4-5)

To find our way out of the desert, we need to let the breath of God infuse our dry bones with courage, clarity and confidence to keep on going.

We might want to give up – it’s hot in a desert – but we’ve got to keep at it. Keep praying. Keep seeking. Keep trying. Even if dust storms cloud the horizon, we need to open our hearts wider to Jesus and let His love guide us when we can’t see (or feel) the way.

Maybe we are waiting on the Lord. Sometimes waiting stretches out to what seems like forever.

“Waiting is a dry desert between where we are and where we want to be.” Henri Nouwen

It might also be a good idea to ask God for extra doses of spiritual patience (peace would be good, too) and streams of wisdom and understanding. Most important while navigating spiritual deserts: TRUST GOD, AND DO NOT BE AFRAID!!!

grace, peace & desert faith

Virginia : )

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The Duty of Delight

On this first Saturday of Lent, Virginia is contemplating delight. Do you ever think of delight as a duty? I usually think of delight as a bonus joy brings to the table. But, come to think of it, delight is a choice. Delight is also a fruit of joy.

Sowing seeds of despair does not yield delight. (Sowing despair tends to cultivate painful things like ulcers, whereas sowing seeds of joy yields things like delight.)

“How necessary it is to cultivate a spirit of joy. To act lovingly is to begin to feel loving, and certainly to act joyfully brings joy to others, which in turn makes one feel joyful. I believe we are called to the duty of delight.” Dorothy Day

Dorothy Day spells it out for us: we are to cultivate a spirit of joy. Cultivating something requires effort, energy, and careful tending. As we cultivate joy (carefully and tenderly) we must root out weeds of frustration, anger, and fear that choke our growth as doers of delight for the Heavenly Kingdom.

Lent is a good time to have a go at internal weeds choking our joy, so we can be about the duty of delight.

“Finally, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” (Philippians 4:8)

grace, peace & duties of delight

Virginia : )

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