I Thought About You Today

I’m sitting at my discount store pseudo country table positioned in front of two windows right off of the tiny kitchen in my Manhattan apartment. In my eyes this table had the old farmhouse feel I had wanted at the price I could afford for I was no longer at the jewelry magazine serving as editor in chief. I was now freelancing and preparing to enter into seminary to begin…what? I really didn’t have a clue yet what I was preparing for.

Why did I put the table in front of the windows? The view is of the backside of the other apartment building next to mine. I strain my neck to look up at the patch of blue sky. I guess the bits of sun and snippets of life beyond brick walls are worth having the table there.

I’m sitting at my discount store pseudo country table in my Manhattan apartment sipping coffee on what is a deceitful January morning in which the cooing of pigeons makes it sound as if it is warmer outside than it really is.

I’m sitting there…right now, this very moment.

That’s the beauty of memories.

Quiet yourself long enough and allow your heart to revisit that which might bring a tear to your eyes and you can be anywhere at anytime once again.

I’m risking the unbearable ache of the heart by rewinding many years back so that I can remember a colleague and friend, Cindy, who died suddenly and died way too soon.

I am rewinding the memory tape so that I can remember—and hopefully finally learn—a lesson she taught me on one deceitful January morning that was not as warm out as it seemed. The lesson of love and healing that was in one simple phrase she spoke to me:

“I thought of you today.”

That’s what she said on the other end of the phone when I picked it up. I was surprised to hear from her. I had been out of the jewelry industry for a year and it was clear to me as well as to others that I was slipping away, not planning on making writing about jewelry a way of life but rather as a means to get me to whatever my what next was going to be.

Was Cindy thinking about me today for a writing project?

As a freelancer I always felt like I was a squirrel scurrying about trying to gather enough nuts to get me through a desolate winter. And so one more writing assignment was one more nut stored away for the day I would be immersed in theological readings with little or no time to write about the world of jewelry.

“It’s good to hear from you, too, Cindy,” I said, waiting to hear what the “assignment” was. “So why did I come to your mind today?”

What came next surprised me.

“Well, this is not business related. It’s more personal,” Cindy said.

“Oh,” I said not quite sure what I was bracing myself for, but bracing I was.

“I’m not sure if you’re dating anyone or even if you’re opened to dating anyone right now, but I have someone in mind for you,” she said.

“Oh,” I said slowly processing what I was hearing.

Cindy was just one of hundreds in the jewelry industry who knew of my tragic loss. I reflected on the death of my boyfriend in an editorial, writing about the power there is in jewelry and the stories of life—lived and lost—that is in each piece of precious gems and metals.

I wrote about all the coins from the various countries he was traveling to that he had left behind on my pseudo country table before heading off to what would be his final trip to Africa. In a second, in a freak jeep accident, his life was gone.

I wrote to my jewelry family in that editorial that while my boyfriend never bought me jewelry—how could he, I was in the jewelry industry and so I knew jewelry better than he did—I would one day take those coins and make a charm bracelet out them. And that bracelet would be the most precious piece of jewelry ever for it told our story.

Yes it had been a year and no I wasn’t dating anyone yet. Was I really ready to? Not quite.

That’s what I told Cindy. She understood and we talked a bit more, caught up on jewelry gossip and shared a laugh before saying good-bye.

I hung up the phone and sat at my table sipping my coffee feeling as if I just received a huge, warm hug.

Cindy called not seeking anything for herself. The call wasn’t business related. Cindy simply picked up the phone to call me because she was thinking about me—a year later—in my time of singleness and still-heavy grief.

“I thought about you today.”

The memory tape has stopped playing. I’m sitting at a real country table made out of hearty Maine pine. It is yet another deceitful January morning in which the birds chirping can make you believe it is warmer outside than it really is. It’s been years since I was that jewelry editor and gone are those “side of a brick building” views. They have been replaced with beautiful Vermont country views.

Yet I can still feel that warm and loving hug from a woman who in her busy life thought about a colleague who would soon be no longer active in the industry she loved and an industry who loved her back.

I’m sipping coffee on the day in which Cindy will be laid to rest. Thousands of tears will fall from others who I am sure heard those same words I heard that day so long ago.

I sip and gaze, remember and cry, and whisper to the memory of a selfless, loving woman, “I thought about you today.”

And always will.



Living Water

There’s a marshy piece of land behind our little red house that is overgrown with tall grass, burdocks and goldenrod. On occasion a wildflower—or two—will peek its pretty head out from the overgrown tundra that has become its unexpected home, thanks to a bird dropping a seed en route in its flight south for the winter. Mostly, though, this marshy piece of land is made up of tall grass and weeds.

When my husband and I first moved in, we tried mowing this area so it would blend into the surrounding landscape. It was not to be. Even in the driest of dry spells the mower would sink down into the still wet and muddy earth beneath.

“It’s just useless,” my husband would say, noting the look of disappointment on my face.

“Really? Perhaps I can try?” I offered.

A look of fear washed over his face. I knew what he was thinking. He would come home one evening from work to find his wife and his beloved riding mower sinking quickly into the marsh. I tried my best to assure him I wouldn’t do anything stupid, at least, not attempt anything stupid when he wasn’t home to help rescue me—and his mower.

Still I was not ready to give up on my vision of an unmarred rural New England landscape, one that would rival those pictured in a Country Curtains catalog.

As a teen I would bypass all those teen-cult magazines talking about how to zap a pimple or get a cute guy to notice you. My reading pleasure was a Country Curtains catalog. I would stare longingly at the pastoral views that were pictured beyond the multi-paned windows draped with material hanging on rods. I wondered what it would be like to live with views like that? (I now wonder now how many curtains did I buy from that catalog all due to my intoxication with the view and not the curtains per se?)

I no longer had to wonder. Each window from our little red house looked out upon rolling hills, cornfields and the green mountains of Vermont. And everyday, no matter how the day was going, whenever I looked out the windows, I smiled and thought, “Wow. I have my very own Country Curtain views.”

All except for that darn piece of marshy land right in back of our house. It was an eyesore to me.

My husband suggested we could turn it into a pond. Perhaps. But until then, every time I sat on the back porch there it was right before me—tall grass and weeds blowing in the wind with only the occasional pretty wildflower—or two if I was lucky—peeking out to cheer me up. I soon began to wonder why was that little piece of land always so wet?

One day as I took our bumbling Bernese mountain dog, Sofie, for a walk on our sprawling five acres, I got my answer. There up a ways from the marshy piece of land was a tiny steady stream of water flowing and feeding down into the weeds and tall grass. I walked along the stream of flowing water trying to find its source. Was there a larger stream? A pond somewhere I didn’t know about? A brook? I kept walking…and walking…and walking. I found no such bodies of water that were feeding this steady stream that nurtured my marshy piece of land. Perhaps there was an underground spring of sorts.

It was time to turn back to the house as the sun was beginning to set. And so we walked, me with my feet on dry ground and Sofie, of course, with her paws happily prancing in the tiny stream of flowing water.

As we got closer to the little red house, I saw something I had never seen before. There in front of me was the most beautiful tall grass blowing in the wind. There in front of me were these goldenrods made ever more golden by the sun’s setting rays. There before me was not a marshy eyesore I so badly wanted to get rid of. There before me was something beautiful created by living water coming from an unknown source feeding the grass, the burdocks, the weeds, and yes, even the occasional wildflower—or two.

Jesus talked many times about offering us living water—water that quenches what is dry and parched and brings life and hope back. Living water was a metaphor those in Jesus’ day would understand for out in the wilderness, after the much needed rains would come, water would be “alive” flowing on its own power bringing the relief those who were thirsty needed. The flowing water was viewed as powerful, mystical, sacred…and beautiful.

We all need living water. Water that not only quenches are deepest physical thirst, but living water that flows in our lives with a mighty God power, carrying us and leading us to all that is lush and all that is truly beautiful.

I looked down at Sofie still with her paws in the living water we had just discovered on our property, when all of sudden she assumed a hunting position with nose pointed forward, one front paw extended with one of her hind legs reaching back the other direction. I held more tightly onto her leash so she couldn’t lunge forward to get the beautiful red winged blackbird that swooped in and landed on top of the tallest pieces of grass swaying in the marshy piece of land that I had once thought was an eyesore. It was no longer that. I now saw it for what it really was. It was a sanctuary for God’s creatures—a sanctuary created by living water.

Life can’t be an unmarred pastoral landscape. We try to create such, but it just can’t be. Life needs a marshy piece of land with weeds and tall grass and burdocks and goldenrod and that occasional wildflower or two. A place touched by the power of living water which then becomes a blessing to those all around.

And so the marshy land still stands behind our little red house looking prettier than any Country Curtains view I could have ever hoped for.

It stands as a testimony not only to the power of living water on our property. It stands as a testimony of the living water I know that flows in my life, the only thing I need when my soul is parched.


The marshy piece of land, fed by the living water on our property, sits to the left beyond our old stonewall. It’s no longer an eyesore, but a beautiful sanctuary for tall grass, burdocks, goldenrod, the occasional wildflower or two, and yes, even weeds. And the birds love sitting on top of the high grass.

And the Nominees for Best Picture Are…

The convention center fell silent, a noteworthy occurrence as just minutes before the room reverberated with the deafening sound of thousands of youth laughing and chattering away.


Silence. Complete silence as the speaker on stage of the Christian youth rally shouted out questions he knew he could not answer.

“I don’t know why your parents had to divorce?”

“I don’t know why your grandmother died?”

“I don’t know why your best friend killed himself?”

“I just don’t know why?” he shouted with a sound of defeat in his voice as if he was letting these thousands of teens down. Soon, though, the defeat turned to hope as he gave the answer I was waiting to hear, for how many times have I preached such a sermon on trying to understand why tough things happen in our lives?

“This I do know. God takes what is ugly in our lives and God makes something beautiful out of it,” the speaker announced with many an “amen, amen, amen” coming not only from his lips but from those like me in the audience who knew how true that statement was.

God knows the answer to our whys. God turns the ugly in our lives into something beautiful. God is doing His best work in our darkest times, the theme of the very first sermon I ever preached. What a great message, I thought, for these kids to hear.

What a great message for we adults to be reminded of as well for how many times today have you asked God, “Why…” insert the problem or the conflict or the failure or whatever.

But this I know, with God there is always hope. There is always redemption. There is always resurrection—life springing forth from what seems to have died.

The silence in the convention center broke with thundering applause. I wiped the tears from my eyes as the lights went on and soon our coats were on and the kids from the church and I were heading out for an afternoon of laser tag followed by lunch before the afternoon session of the youth rally began again.

Three teenage girls were in my car and as they chattered away about this and that—more that than this it sounded to my ears—the “co-pilot” as I nicknamed the teen who got to sit upfront with me, tried hard to find a rap station on the radio.

I know they were excited for laser tag and lunch, but I was quiet, still thinking about the sermon we had just heard.

Since no rap station was successfully found, I seized my opportunity to share with the three teens in my car.

“So, what did you think of the sermon you just heard?” I asked.

“It was really good,” girl 1 said, with girl 2 agreeing.

“It wasn’t just good, it was powerful,” said girl 3.

“What did you think about the fact that God can basically make all things new in your lives?” I delved a bit further.

“Awesome” and “cool” were the typical teen comments.

“Hey, did you try this station…there should be some good songs there?” girl 3 instructed girl 1, better known as my co-pilot.

My window of opportunity was closing quickly and so I jumped in before Jay Z or Rihanna or Taylor Swift or whatever music sensation of the day could steal my thunder.

“Some of you don’t know my story of how God made something ugly into something beautiful. Let me tell you…”

Silence fell over the car as I shared with the girls my story of going from Manhattan magazine editor to pastor and how the strength to leave my on the surface glamorous career for what looked to be a far from glamorous job of pastor came about when my boyfriend was killed in a freak jeep accident in Africa.

As I spoke I told them how it was God who gave me the strength and courage to venture into the unknown—leaving the security of a job and a paycheck, going back to school, moving to a rural area where my cute heels were definitely goners during mud season—and how it was God who wiped away my tears of loss and heartache not just once, not just twice, but hundreds of times. Yet all those tears shed did indeed water the ground to some pretty beautiful things in my life, among them, meeting my husband during mud season in the rural area I served as pastor.

Girl 1, my co-pilot, stopped her search for music on the radio and just stared at me as she listened. Girl 3 I couldn’t really see as she sat right behind the driver’s seat. Girl 2, though, I noticed in the rear view mirror was listening intently.

I pulled into the parking lot of the laser tag place and the excited chatter about who will be on whose team began. Intense listening moment had ended.

Oh well, I thought. As I held the door open for the girls, girl 2, who was new to our youth group, stopped before racing in to join the others.

“You know, Pastor Donna, your story would make an incredible movie,” she said with a look on her face that expressed thanks for me sharing with her.

I smiled and told her if that happened she could play me in the movie, but she would have to wear a blond wig to cover her dark brown hair. She laughed and soon she was with the others getting ready for laser tag.

I sat and thought about her comment. I have heard it before, many times from young and old. There was even a moment when I met someone who knew of someone who was a producer for a TV network and remarked I should get in touch with said person. I never did. For with God, don’t we all have amazing stories to share?

“Your story would make a great movie.”

It would for God is one awesome writer of all of our scripts. God is one incredible producer, casting director, sound person, you name it, God turns all of our lives into one of the best motion pictures ever. That is, the movie of hope realized and faith rewarded. The movie that has the same ending for us all: redemption and resurrection.

Pastor Donna, your life would make a great movie.

And so would your life.

And the nominees for best picture are…





Where’s the ‘Happy’?

A new year always brings with it great expectations. Expectations of a new you, a new outlook, a new start, a new…insert here whatever “new” you might be hoping for. And so when the hopeful infant days of 2016 are plagued so soon with what I basically call “life”—bills to pay, deadlines to meet, meetings to attend, etc., you wonder, “Where’s the ‘happy’ in the Happy New Year?”

As I sat here this morning wondering where the happy was in this the new year, a cartoon crossed my desk. It was a sketch of a Christian martyr standing in the middle of a Roman stadium, eyes fixed on heaven above, a calm look upon his face, and arms stretched out in prayer. In the foreground was the lion making its way out from its den, eager to “introduce” itself to this Christian. My friend’s commentary on the cartoon read, “Being a Christian doesn’t take away your problems.”

I laughed a knowing laugh and remembered then that the “happy” in a new year is found in the knowledge of whom it is that we belong to. We belong to God and as God’s beloveds there is nothing to fear nor is there anything to get down about, for God is there.

The psalmist proclaimed it the best when the question, “Where does my help come from?” was asked at the beginning of Psalm 121. The reply: My help comes from the Lord, maker of Heaven and Earth.

The “happy” in a new year comes from knowing deep in our hearts that there is a helper, a guide, a comforter and a friend in our lives.

So why fear? Why fret? Why cry or worry when we can smile and be set free to enjoy all that God has for us? And when trying times do hit (as they will), why lament?

The “lions” in life might be waiting to pounce but eyes focused upward and hands stretched out in praise, helps us all to stand tall.

And so, where’s the happy in the new year? It’s right there in the knowledge of knowing that no matter what, there is nothing to fear, for we belong to God.

May we realize this day and always that there is a divine message shining in our lives as well that whispers to us, “Be not afraid.”