The Miracles We Sow

It was such a tiny thing, the maple sapling growing in my dad’s garden. Not more than a few feet tall, it swayed on every gentle breeze, its top nearly touching the ground in a graceful bow. Even though it had rooted itself smack in the middle of Dad’s sweet potato crop, our family didn’t have the heart to destroy it. For it represented something precious to us: new life, a sign we sorely needed after Dad’s death a few months before. He’d passed of a massive heart attack right in his back yard, just a short distance from the garden he had treasured so much. Needless to say, it was a shock to us all, and our only consolation was that Dad had been doing what he loved: working his soil, tending his plants.

I watched the little tree grow all that summer. When I needed to cry, I’d stand at the edge of the garden and stare at the lone maple, as if answers could be found within its infant boughs. The sweet potatoes flourished all around it. I began to wonder how and when we would harvest them, and if we could do so without uprooting the tree. Bob, the next-door neighbor, offered to help. That, too, was a place where new roots had taken hold. There had been words between Bob and my parents. Some long-ago dispute over the fence separating their two yards. Amazingly, they hadn’t spoken in years. But as we dug the potatoes together, as we shook away the errant dirt and stood admiring our bounty, that silly fence was all but forgotten. In gratitude, my mom gave Bob some of the potatoes. He appeared humbled by the gesture, and said that he and his wife would remember us at Thanksgiving. The potatoes graced our Thanksgiving table as well, a poignant reminder of Dad and the garden he had started, the garden we had finished.

The next summer, we had to let Dad’s garden go. Mom was getting up in years, and without Dad’s expertise and passion, without his tilling and planting and nurturing, maintaining a garden would be too much of an undertaking. Bob helped us seed the area, and soon there was grass where sustenance used to be. Still, though, the tree remained. We would let it grow tall. We would let it grow deep. We would let its roots burrow into the soil and its branches reach heavenward, at peace with the knowledge that it would somehow find its place against the bright blue sky.

Yesterday marked thirteen years that my dad has been gone. My mom has long since moved from that house where she lived for half a lifetime, where I spent much of my childhood. I often think of the little tree and the way it seemed so intent on making its home within that small, well-used plot of land. And I’m struck by the realization that we are all blessed with a certain measure of moments. What we make of those moments not only depends on how and where we establish our roots, but perhaps more importantly, on how well we tend our soil and mend our fences. That is the true miracle, as we, too, reach heavenward and find our own shining place in the sun.

Until next time,



Stitches in Time

While cleaning out my mom’s attic a few years ago, I came across some Easter bonnets my sisters and I once wore. There was a lavender-, a green-, and a pink-trimmed one, the last of which I’m sure was mine because my favorite color is pink, and I’ll just bet it matched a dress that my grandmother made. She was a wonderful seamstress, my gram, and every Easter, she fashioned identical dresses for my two sisters, my cousin, and me. I can still recall the smell of crisp cotton, the feel of new stitches and Gram’s fingers brushing against my skin as she secured pretty buttons and lace.

For this reason, among others, Easter has always been my favorite holiday (holy day). True, it doesn’t have the flash and sparkle of Christmas, but to me, it’s that very quality that makes Easter so special. It is a graceful holiday, a humble one, even though in a strictly religious sense, Easter is the cornerstone of the Christian faith, the most significant day in the liturgical year, a time of Resurrection and rebirth on so many levels. By all rights, it should shout its importance from on high, but then again, most meaningful things don’t need to shout to be noticed. What’s more, the spirit of Easter shouldn’t be limited to just this one day. Its essence is part of a bigger prayer, affording us untold chances for renewal the entire year through.

For when it comes down to it, we are all responsible for fashioning new stitches.

And like Gram, who created those lovely (and loving!) long-ago dresses, we must all piece together the disparate threads of our own destinies. By grace, and in communion with the Divine, we are empowered to build upon our pasts, to reach into our futures, and to begin our present lives anew.

IMG_0137Happy Easter, my friends, happy spring!

Until next time,



What’s Love Got to do With It?

img_6314On this day made for love, it’s easy to get caught up in all the hearts and flowers, in stories with fairy-tale endings and princesses in stunning gowns. There’s nothing wrong with any of these, of course, but they are only physical manifestations of something that’s often harder to define. It’s what we all desire as humans: to be cared about by another, truly, sacredly, deeply. Where we sometimes get confused is in thinking that love can be wrapped up all neat and tidy and delivered with a bow. True love is much more subtle. It resides in the partnership and mutual respect of two people in an enduring commitment. It is present in the give and take of friendship. It exists in the real and messy work of birthing a child, and then, over the course of a lifetime, in the dedication and everlasting concern of parenting that child. And occasionally, devastatingly, it is present in the loss of a child.

My daughter Holly called me a few years ago to make a strange request. She wanted to donate her wedding gown – the one for which we’d shopped together, the one that made her look like a fairy-tale princess, like Cinderella at the ball – to an organization that would cut it up, re-work its beautiful satin and lace, and fashion it into bereavement garments for babies. Babies who didn’t make it. They call them angel babies, and the garments are angel gowns.

It all started in 2014 when a woman in St. Louis named Janet started ALLISON’S ANGEL GOWNS in honor of her daughter, Allison, who died in 2012 at one day old. AAG was Janet’s way of not only coping with her own devastating loss, but also of helping other grieving parents who are dealing with the death of a child. Everything about AAG depends on the love and kindness of others, all done for free: from the gently used donated wedding dresses of strangers, to the infinite hours of the volunteer seamstresses, to the bereavement gowns themselves, which have graced the lives of so many.

“I guess I never thought about it before,” Holly told me that day. “A precious tiny baby. How would you ever get over that loss? And then to have to think of burying your child. I can’t imagine it, Mom. I know you and Dad paid for my dress, but I really want to do this. I really want to help.”

As Holly’s voice faded, I realized there were tears in my eyes. I take pride in the fact that all four of my children have kind hearts, but Holly’s sweet penchant for fixing every broken sparrow’s wing has always touched me deeply. Still, I needed a minute to process her words. I had to get that image out of my head of her beautiful gown all severed and cut apart. After I did, though, it struck me that she was making the perfect donation, one for which her dress seemed destined. Granted, it was a bit of a sacrifice, but then love – true love – often is.

Moved beyond measure, I posted about Holly’s dress that Valentine’s Day, and left a brief message on AAG’s website as well. What happened next stunned me. Janet found my Facebook post and reposted it to AAG’s Facebook page. Responses came in to my page by the dozen. The sheer volume amazed me, but the sentiments conveyed in them affected me more. Janet and some of her seamstresses expressed gratitude. Holly told everyone how happy she was to be able to make this small difference. Parents related their heart-wrenching stories, always ending with praise for the comfort AAG had provided. Nurses chimed in to relate how helpless they felt when someone lost a child, but how thankful they were to be able to deliver an angel gown in the middle of all that grief.

Love and more love. I could see it unfolding right before my very eyes.

It was a miracle in motion. It was kindness in action. It circled around and connected us all. It circled back and touched me.

A few months later, Holly came through my front door carrying a small package from AAG. We hurried to open it, and there, in her hand, lay the last lovely remnant of her dress: a tiny satin handkerchief for her to keep. The accompanying note read in part: “We’re so grateful for your gift. Your kindness allowed us to make five angel gowns.”

Just those beautiful words alone filled us both with joy.

Mother Teresa once said that anything can be accomplished through our will and God’s grace, and I firmly believe that’s true. Kindness, whether random or planned, is the force that sets it all in motion, for even in the face of extreme suffering and loss, when we receive and bestow kindness, our hearts change. Kindness lifts us up from our depths and gives us strength, stitching together people who might not otherwise have met, and when that happens, all sorts of miracles can grow. I saw recently that AAG is now shipping gowns overseas, so Janet’s mission is flourishing. And there’s something more. Inspired by this experience, Holly has started her own crafts business called Wish Upon a Bear, making keepsake stuffed animals from a child’s first sleeper, a loved one’s last shirt, a pet’s favorite blanket. In her own sweet way, Holly is sowing – and sewing – love.

And love, as they say, has pretty much everything to do with it.

I believe there’s nothing more perfect than love. The real kind. The deep kind. The sacred kind. The messy kind. In concert with God’s grace, love enables us to reach out and touch lives, which is the most precious thing in all the world.

For more information on AAG, you may visit their website: or their Facebook page:

For more information on Wish Upon a Bear, please visit my daughter’s Facebook page:

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Until next time,


To Resolve or Simply to Solve


In this season of New Year’s resolutions, what quickly becomes an issue for me is how to keep my shiny new goals in play. Usually by mid-January, the “New and Not Yet Improved Me” is already feeling that the “Old Unimproved Me” wasn’t so bad. At least Old Me didn’t have to live up to such high expectations! In fact, I’ve often found the whole resolution thing to be somewhat depressing. And it seems I’m not alone. I read an article recently that proclaimed today, Monday, January 16, 2017, to be “Blue Monday,” the most depressing day of the year. The purported reasons for this collective mood dip are: 1) having to go back to the routine of work or school after the long holiday break; 2) realizing the extent of holiday debt; and 3) – you guessed it – not being able to keep New Year’s resolutions.

Apparently, the date of “Blue Monday” changes every year, based upon a calculation that’s way over my head, but the validity of it has been debated since its inception in 2005. Some experts call it pseudo-science, and others say that the concept of one blitz of a blue day lessens the gravity of true clinical depression, which is certainly an important claim. While I’m not disputing that claim at all, I do think most of us indeed feel a bit blue when we acknowledge, if only to ourselves, that our really-gonna-do-it-this-time resolutions have once again fallen into the Land of Broken Promises, just like they did last year.

But maybe the problem isn’t in the making of resolutions. Maybe it’s in how we define the word.  

My trusty Webster’s Dictionary defines it this way. Resolve: “To decide on a course of action.” Notice that nowhere in this definition does it say anything about actually TAKING action. Compare this to the definition of the word “solve”: “To find an answer to, explanation for, or means of effectively dealing with a problem.” Notice the “finding” and “dealing with” here, the action.

Semantics, you say, but I do wonder if the way we approach our resolutions determines, in some small way, how we take action upon them. Here’s a case in point. I’ve moved recently, and have been cleaning out nooks and crannies that have somehow acquired their own nooks and crannies, but in my cleaning and sorting, I came upon a notebook from a writing seminar I took many years ago. The class was motivational in nature, and the speaker’s premise was that how we define and visualize our goals does indeed affect how we carry them out. He suggested writing affirmations with an “I do” or “I am” rather than an “I will do” or “I will be.” This puts the action in the present, right now, instead of at some nebulous point in the future. I called my affirmation list my “I Do” list rather than my “To Do” list, which, again, implies present rather than future action. When I reviewed the list upon finding it, I was shocked to see that most of what I’d written down over twenty years ago I had achieved. Imagine! I’d actually absorbed what I wanted to do back then and took baby steps, over time (and with setbacks, of course), to accomplish them. They were simple, general, doable goals, not “all or nothing” dictates. “I am a writer” rather than “I will be a writer.” “I am a person who believes…” versus “I will become a person who believes…” “I am eating healthier and exercising” instead of “I will jog ten miles a day.”

So, my friends, if you’ve fallen off the resolution bandwagon, no worries. As my daddy used to say, let’s dust off our britches and get back up on that ol’ horse again! Let’s revamp our resolutions with a little less RE-solve and a little more SOLVE. And while we’re at it, let’s let go of the all-or-nothing approach, which gets us into trouble fairly fast. Better to set realistic goals and be able to meet them, than to aspire to so much pie-in-the-sky that we don’t have a chance of succeeding. Will I ever have that stomach of steel or terrifically toned tush promised in the buff-your-stuff ads on TV? Nope, probably not. And neither will my chapter- or story-a-day writing goal happen consistently either. Yet there is something to be said for success by degree. Sure, the couple of paragraphs I wrote over the weekend didn’t equal a whole story, but two polished paragraphs still made me feel pretty okay. And while we’re speaking of stories, one of the many things I love about being a Chicken Soup for the Soul contributor is their motto: “Changing lives one story at a time.” What a simple goal, really; one line, one story, one reader at a time. But implied within it is a vast bigger picture, the loftier goal of “changing the world.”

Yes, when it comes to resolutions, we always do need a big-picture plan. And don’t get me wrong, goals are good. And resolutions are intentions made manifest. But resolutions alone don’t get the job done. If we change the way we perceive it, though, if we take away that extra step between “resolving to do” and “doing,” we might just make some progress. We don’t need resolutions to take action. And we certainly don’t need broken resolutions to feel bad about not taking action. We just need to act.

Oh, and one more thing: I’m not going to RE-solve to survive Blue Monday. I’m simply going to solve the problem by shifting how I look at it. So how about if we call it “Yellow Monday” instead? I know, I know, it doesn’t have quite the same ring, but I picked yellow since it’s the color of sunshine, or the sparkle in someone’s eyes when they smile. Because that’s what it’s really all about anyway, isn’t it? Being happy. So we’ll solve the problem of “Blue Monday” by simply being happy. By celebrating us, right here, right now, just the way we are. I like the way that sounds!

Until next time,





Hello, my friends, and welcome! I’m so happy you’ve found my website and decided to visit my blog. Since this is my very first post, I’ll keep it short and sweet, and simply invite you to come back for future posts, which I plan to do every other week, once I get the hang of things. We will explore any number of subjects, and as on my Facebook page, I’d be thrilled to have you comment. Speaking of Facebook, I’d love to have you visit, I do daily inspirational posts there, and I’m blessed with a community of warm, supportive friends. We would love to have you join us.

Thank you again for stopping by. I know there are many ways you can spend your time, and I’m so grateful you decided to share a bit of it with me.

Until next time,