It was just a year ago that we were preparing to leave for Michigan to celebrate my mom’s 80th birthday.  We had planned a surprise open house for her.  Eighty years was something to shout about!  And the “icing on the cake” was that two months prior a scan revealed no evidence of the ovarian cancer that she had been battling for months with surgery and chemotherapy.  It was a happy day filled with love and gratitude.  I smile when I recall HER  smiles that day.  And that she wore that silly paper birthday hat the entire afternoon!  It looked quite smart on her new short hair.  And the twinkle was back in her eyes that day.  But, the best was her smile.

I remember her and Dad’s laughter while growing up.  And them singing some of the craziest songs in the car!  I remember the house full of company on weekends – such good times – and laughing ’til our sides hurt.  I remember a rough patch when the stresses of jobs, and money, and who knows what else, brought fewer smiles.  But I remember them getting through that.  We all did.  And we smiled again.

I also remember getting on her wrong side.  And hearing her stories of other people who had done the same.  She was not hard to understand in those moments.  A friend recalled some times during his youth when she showed him what he referred to as “influential love.”  Translation: Big Trouble.  No smiles.

I remember her smile on my wedding day, and the days she and Dad came to meet their new granddaughters.  And watching her as she watched those granddaughters grow.  And how she attended each high school and college graduation.  Watched them become brides and grow into wives and mothers.  I watched her meet her great-grandchildren, the hugs, the kisses.  I remember all of her sweet, proud smiles.

I remember a thousand other things that made up life with my mom.  All of the things, good or bad, easy or hard … all the blessed mess of real life.

I remember her voice on the phone.  Especially the day last fall when she called to tell me the cancer was back.  We had all suspected, and now it was confirmed.  There were no smiles that day.  Just tears.   I remember her strength and confidence as she went through the next few months.  More chemotherapy.  More time.  One more Thanksgiving together.  One more Christmas together.  And more smiles.

And then on April 1st I found myself returning to Michigan, to a hospital room, rather than a birthday party.  There were doctors and nurses, and questions, and prayers.  And no good answers.  And on April 2nd she left us.

And just like that, in a moment, what is left is memories.  Just the sweet pain of remembering my mom.  And her smiles.

I love you, mom.  Happy birthday.

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In memory of Zelda Mae Gill
August 8, 1932 – April 2, 2013

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‘Tis a gift

‘Tis a gift to be simple, ’tis a gift to be free

tis a gift to come down where we ought to be

and when we find ourselves in the place just right,

’twill be in the valley of love and delight

(Shaker Song)

ImageTo be simple.  To be free.  To be where we ought to be … in the place just right.  This old Shaker song, its words and its melody, captured my attention many years ago.  I wish I could tell you that I easily adopted this, and adapted my life accordingly.

Umm, no.  I’m not that quick.

What I can tell you is I’m working on it.  And I’ve had glimpses of that place just right.  Here are some things I’m learning about simplicity.  Notice I said “learning”, not “learned.”

1.  The more “stuff” I have, the harder it is.  The bigger the house, the more it can hold – and the more demands on me and my resources – financial, physical, mental and emotional.  Stuff takes my time, and my energy.  (My family will kindly keep quiet about my books!)

2.  Knowing my life purpose, my values, my beliefs – and being SURE of them, settles some things for me, and makes many decisions simple.  Not always easy, but simple. The sooner you can decide your values and beliefs and discover your purpose, the closer you will be to the gift of simplicity.  These are things that will determine your goals and set your direction.  You will still have decisions to make along the way, but these serve as boundaries for your navigation, the larger path for your next steps.

3.  The busier I am, the less simplicity and freedom I experience.  If I am rushed and every moment is packed, and this pace continues for too long, it’s not pretty!  In my late twenties I wanted to pack my life, and my schedule, with as much as possible.  OK, admittedly I was younger and had more energy!  But this attitude led to years of over-commitment in volunteer work and always feeling stretched to take care of my family and home, maintain meaningful friendships and just keeping all the plates spinning.  ‘Twas not simple.  I’m not advocating a perpetual vacation.  I am advocating a reasonable pace and time to breathe.

4.  I need daily time just to listen.  To listen to God, to listen to my heart.  Just time to be still.  From this calm and His peace, grows simplicity.

5.  And the flip side to that manner of listening?  Listening less to all of the other voices that clamor for my attention.  Fewer news shows on TV, fewer magazine subscriptions, less time on Facebook.  I have not eliminated all activities; just scaled back because I realized they can easily consume more and more of my time.  I also have turned off all of the alerts on my phone, except for actual phone calls (imagine!) and texts.  I had email, and ads, and games and all sorts of alerts going off, and was constantly checking my phone.  Now, I check those when I want to, not when it beeps.  Being a little less plugged in is a good thing.

And so, I keep on ..

To turn, turn will be our delight,

Till by turning, turning we come ’round right

(Shaker Song)

May you come ’round right, friends.

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ImageAll my life’s a circle;
Sunrise and sundown;
The moon rolls thru the nighttime;
Till the daybreak comes around.

All my life’s a circle;
But I can’t tell you why;
The Season’s spinning round again;
The years keep rollin’ by.

It seems like I’ve been here before;
I can’t remember when;
But I got this funny feeling;
That I’ll be back once again.
There’s no straight lines make up my life;
And all my roads have bends;
There’s no clear-cut beginnings;
And so far no dead-ends.

I’ve found you a thousand times;
I guess you’ve done the same;
But then we lose each other;
It’s just like the children’s game;

But as I see you here again;
The thoughts runs through my mind;
Our love is like a circle;
Let’s go ’round one more time.

(by Harry Chapin)

 So goes the song by Harry Chapin.  And so goes my life.

I thought of this song as I was thinking about My Rooftop and how long it had been since I had shared anything here, and the desire to come back, to come round.

There have been sunrises and sundowns, beginnings and endings, seasons coming and going.  Some of the mundane moments of life and some of the milestone moments.  Bends and turns along this journey.  And here I am back on my rooftop.

Go ’round one more time, friends?

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Celebrating home

My absence from the rooftop has been filled with all of the meetings and tasks of starting in a new job and schedule, as well as a road trip to Michigan to be with family.  The weeks have been filled with the excitement of looking to the future and the sweetness of remembering the past.

My brother and I with Mom.

While in Michigan we celebrated my mom’s 80th birthday with a surprise open house for her, attended by many relatives and long-time friends.   The first guest to arrive was a woman who has been friends with Mom since they were in 3rd grade!  They’ve shared so much life together – growing up, marriage, children, grand-children, the deaths of their husbands and their own health concerns.  The smiles, the celebration, just the joy of being together was magnified, it seemed, from knowing some of the “real living” that we had each done prior to this day.

Stories were told and re-told, memories shared.  It is especially good to spend time with people you grew up with.  People who knew you even when you didn’t really know yourself.  And it is especially good to have relationships that have endured, in spite of the miles and the time and all of the living that have separated you.  Perhaps it is this season of life, but I felt that the hugs lasted just a bit longer this time.

Going home means being filled with gratitude.  Not because it was, or is, perfect.  But because it was the foundation, the beginning.  It is where I’m from.  An important part of my story – who I am today, and who I am becoming.  And I’m thankful.

It is good to go home.

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Gardening Update

Well, in spite of this heat, we are enjoying more and more from the garden.  We have been enjoying cucumbers and green peppers and Paul dug the potatoes a few days ago.  Our few plants gave us about ten pounds or beautiful potatoes.  We are finally seeing some tomatoes on our very tall tomato plants.  In spite of my trimming efforts, they seem to be more prone to growing “plant” rather than producing fruit.  (I’m thinking there just might be application there for some areas of our lives?  Hmmm.)  And I am now beginning to offer basil and cilantro to everyone I talk with.  I’m sure they’re all glad we didn’t plant zucchini this year!

Enjoy your weekend!  If you won’t be tending a garden tomorrow, why not go to a farmers’ market and enjoy some fresh produce?

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Back to School

I have always loved the back-to-school season.  During my childhood it meant a new notebook and a fresh pack of paper and pencils, a new pair of shoes and some new clothes.  In high school it meant a new locker, a new schedule of classes and Friday night football games.  Each semester in college brought a new stack of textbooks, profs and more late nights talking with friends.

Other than the promise of cooler weather (eventually!), there are two reasons I love this time of year.  First, it is a return to the familiar.  A routine, a schedule.  As a mom I always loved when school ended and we could enjoy the relaxed days of summer.  But by the first of August, I was always ready to restore the school schedule.  It is a time to catch up with friends, reconnect after all of the vacations and travel.  It is a time to settle a bit.  Second, this back-to-school season is a fresh start.  It signals the beginning.  A new adventure, challenges, learning and growth are ahead.

This week is a back-to-school week for me.  I will begin work with the Urban Scholastic Center (USC) in Kansas City, Kansas.  Over eight years ago this organization was founded by Executive Director, Chuck Allen, to serve Wyandotte County.  Today, four staff members and over 60 volunteers are committed to “develop leaders who will value education, have a high regard for authority, desire to earn a living and live responsible and generous Christian lives.”

Here are just a few of the USC initiatives:

  • Since 201o the USC has placed 15,000 books into the hands of urban youth – everything from picture books for pre-K, early readers, and young adult books for middle and high school students
  • USC mentors serve in two local elementary schools to help students achieve academic success
  • 48 pairs of shoes and 24 pre-game meals were provided for teams from three public high schools during the previous school year
  • 4th and 5th grade students can attend Life Enrichment – an after-school discipleship and leadership development program

One of my passions is to encourage and develop leaders and I will have the privilege of coaching and serving beside the USC staff members.  In addition to staff development, I will help organize the day-to-day operations and scheduling, and work in the volunteer application and interview process.

And so, back to a familiar routine – going to an office four days a week, coaching leaders, meetings, and organizing and planning.  And, a fresh start – new friends, a new neighborhood in which to serve, new ministries and programs, new discipleship and mentoring opportunities.  This 57-year old grandma is grateful for this back-to-school opportunity.  What about you?  Regardless of your season of life, will you join me in making a fresh start? Taking up a new challenge?  An adventure awaits!

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For your weekend

Well, it’s Friday and my week has gotten fuller with each passing day.  Gardening, new books to read, an attempt at a new knitting project (and I don’t knit!?), a new coaching class (with homework), and prayers, planning and preparation for new work at The Urban Scholastic Center in Kansas City, Kansas.  I’ll share with everyone next Monday about this new adventure.

For now, I’m just sharing some of my favorite animal photos from our time in South Africa.  Hope they bring a smile as you begin the weekend!

Rhinos at Kruger Park

We finally saw a leopard on an early morning game drive, Kruger Park

And we found a North American tree climber! Also known as Josh!

Giraffe at Madikwe

Male lion at the Rhino and Lion Park

Mama and baby, Chobe National Park


Zebra, KwaZulu Natal


One of my favorite times – riding and then feeding the elephant; Zimbabwe

The End




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