Monthly Archives: June 2010

projects and the art of participating

I’ve just started Frances Mayes’ Under the Tuscan Sun, a summer gift from my mom who has fallen in love all over again after reading it for the second time.

I’ve never been to this area of Italy. The only Italy I’ve seen is Sicily. Steve and I took a military rotator flight over when we were living in Bahrain. With only five days to explore, we just stayed in Sicily and ate calamari and drank liters of red table wine. I have a snapshot-memory of Steve bodysurfing in the Mediterranean like a boy. Another of us rooting through tiles in a pottery shop. And then two dinners come to mind – one on a deck jutting out over the ocean and another in a courtyard walled in with an ochre wall that was perfect at dusk.

Mayes ushers me back to those memories. I love how a good book can do that.

She also makes me long for a farmhouse to restore, land to walk, old brick floors, stone walls, fruit trees, olives, and a vineyard. Imagine that being your life. Astounding.

I like reading about how she is fixing up this old home and its land, the restoration and resurrection of the property a metaphor for the transformation that takes place in the self when we put our hands in the dirt and stack stones and prune fig trees (figuratively or literally).

I love how taking on a project helps us feel alive, how it changes us in the process of getting the work done. Creating, beautifying, rebuilding are each such profound healers. So, in lieu of not having a dilapidated farmhouse in the wings, I think about the projects I do have, the God-given projects. I think about the things I need to sink my hands and heart into in order to stay alive.

The inertia of life can too quickly pull us toward numbness, paralysis, despair. I loathe that reality. So I try to push back in my own small ways. What has God given me to restore, beautify, redeem, remake, create?

I write a paragraph or two.  Nothing finished. Just something. The act of participating in my own life puts blood in my veins.

Priming the pump. Pruning the vines. Washing the windows. Digging the well. Perking the coffee. Breathing the basil.

May we all have the courage to participate in life in real and meaningful ways! May we all have the courage and vision to take the old, falling down farmhouses and turn them into mini-masterpieces.

Oh! Teach us to live well!

Teach us to live wisely and well!

And let the loveliness of our Lord, our God, rest on us,

confirming the work that we do.

Oh, yes.

Affirm the work that we do!

–Psalm 90


Alone, at last

Steve and I were able to get away – ALONE – for about 24 hours this past weekend. A true luxury. We didn’t have any plans or reservations, so we just drove up the coast a little ways and stopped in one of my very favorite beach communities. Carlsbad isn’t impossibly upscale like La Jolla or Del Mar, it’s not overrun and overpriced like Coronado, and it’s not this big scene like Pacific Beach. To me, it’s charming. Unique restaurants, eclectic shops, miles of beach. Thank you, sweet baby Jesus.

Steve and I decided to do something very healing for body and soul. We went to an oceanfront restaurant and shared a plate of King Crab legs. My kind of wellness program. I sat staring out at the dolphins surfacing in the ocean while he cracked and retrieved every last bit of crab. We talked about the future and how many things feel cloudy right now. We talked about the places in our life where we need to act and the places where we need to wait.

The next morning we went to a local joint for breakfast and Steve read to me while we ate chorizo and juevos rancheros. Steve was reading Donald Miller’s newest, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. I read it when it released, but I loved having it read to me over breakfast and being reminded of the importance of living a better story. A simple message with profound implications.

After breakfast we walked on the beach and talked about the future more, how we might add some life and risk to our story. I loved having time and space to really talk and process and consider with Steve. We talked about my writing career and what’s clarifying in that realm. We talked about the 50K race he’s running this fall (barefoot!). We talked about the Navy and how the remainder of Steve’s career might unfold.

We came home to Lane’s sinus infection. Isn’t that the way it works! Regardless of the mayhem that is our home currently, I’m still feeling very grateful for that little blip of time to disappear and walk on the beach and breathe a bit.

I’m entering into a summer lull of sorts, recovering from a busy first-half of the year and planning for the fall.  Thank you to those of you who invited me to your churches, organizations, and events over the last few months. It’s been amazing to talk with so many of you about life’s foreign places and the beauty that just might be waiting for us even in the most unfamiliar of landscapes. Thank you for seeking transformation and for desiring to live openly and authentically. We’ve had some valuable conversations, haven’t we.

I’m looking forward to what God may have for me in the fall. If you have a church or group near you who would like me to come talk about some of the themes in Found Art, please leave a comment or email me at

I’ll leave you with a short-list of what I’m looking forward to this summer:

  1. My family coming to visit in July.
  2. A beach vacation in August.
  3. Working on a proposal for book #2.
  4. Prosecco by the pool.
  5. Speaking at my home church, Flood, on July 4.
  6. Swim lessons with two 18-month-olds. Nuts.
  7. Reading voraciously.
  8. Celebrating the upcoming arrival of Tina and Amie’s babies.
  9. Spending some QT with my mom while she’s on summer break from school.
  10. Seeing E,P,L, the movie.

Of course, now you have to post your looking-forward-to list . . .