Monthly Archives: January 2013


Yesterday as I was on the return leg of my morning walk, in and among the students hurrying to class at American University, I saw an elderly woman.  I noticed she had on a heavy sweater, as well as a coat and a raincoat – much too much for our unusually spring like day.  Her white hair was escaping from the tightly tied scarf around her head and was blowing across her face in the gentle breeze.    She walked right up to me and put one hand on my arm to stop me while she managed her escaping hair with the other one.  I thought she was going to ask me for directions, but she leaned close and whispered to me instead, “Borders, language, culture!  We have to be in the middle to know someone’s boundaries.”  2012 Dec 27 w Ben at art 062It was as if she were sharing with me the secrets of the universe or the secret to world peace.  She repeated the phrase again, lest I should ever forget it, squeezed my arm in some kind of symbol of importance and then went on her way.

I reflected that I was walking past the School of International Relations and she just might be some brilliant mind who was on her way to lecture.  But, what could her secret possibly mean?   Perhaps it was just some wild rambling.  But I continued to think about it all day.

What does it mean to be in the middle of “borders?”  Or, in the middle of “language?”  I can guess that being in the middle of culture might put one in a spot of relative safety as one wouldn’t be to the “right” or “left” of any particular thought or action.  But how would such a stance allow us to know someone else’s boundaries?

2012 Dec 27 w Ben at art 020It’s a conundrum.  Yet, as I’ve reflected, I have thought about how certain we tend to think we are, without regard to another point of view or experience.  So, perhaps being “in the middle” gives us the possibility of opening ourselves to another’s outlook, or experience, or “borders, language, or culture.”  Maybe it’s a start.  Maybe it is the secret to world peace!

A graced moment from a woman who looked to be too out of place to be listened to.  But her words remain with me still.

Decisions and Doors

2013 Jan 19 & 20 Gettys & Inaug 013The decisions have been made!  All the information we are going to get has been shared.  All the time we need has been taken.  And, after a brief flurry of negotiations from his department to try and encourage him to stay for a bit longer, my husband has put in his papers for retirement.  After 34 years of government service, we are closing the door on that period of our lives.  The years have been good, but we are not sorry to be looking at the other side of the closed door.  The time is right.

2012 May 19-31 trip San Fran & Seattle 836And so, another door will be opening – and it offers us the grace of time and space and a future filled with unknown and exciting experiences.  We can’t wait.  This will end our wonderful time in D.C., but we both feel the pull to be home.  We want to return to the Pacific Northwest and nestle ourselves in among the Sound and the Mountains and gather our family around us again.

That door to the future opens on Friday, February 1, which will be my husband’s last day at work.  Then we will have new horizons to explore and new graces to discover.  But, we will begin that time remaining here through D.C.’s beautiful Spring and begin our journey West around the first of May.

While we never planned for these dates, they have been revealed to us and all is grace!  What new journeys await you?  What grace is lurking behind the next door for you?


We never know when we will be surprised, do we?  The trick, I think, is never closing our minds to the possibility of surprise — so that we can be surprised by the most ordinary to the extraordinary of occurrences or experiences.  Surprise brings with it grace, and that’s hardly a surprise!

So it was quite a surprise yesterday when driving through our neighborhood at the D.C. maximum speed limit of 25 mph, that I saw out the window a couple walking arm in arm.  Lovely, I thought to myself.  It was the first mild 35 degree and sunny day in a week.  It was a lazy Sunday afternoon.  It was a route we regularly drive and one I often walk.  And I realized that I recognized the couple!  I had just seen them on TV last Monday, his hand on her shoulder as they talked to others before the lunch following the inauguration.

It was Former President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton!  They had a small dog on a leash and two Secret Service men walking at a respectable distance behind them.

And then we were past. But I was thrilled to have seen them!  No pictures to corroborate my story, however, but none needed.  There wasn’t time anyway.  And sometimes the picture we capture in our memory is perfect, such as it was yesterday in my D.C. neighborhood on a grace-filled Sunday afternoon in January.

Moving Forward

How do we  move forward, carry on, propel ourselves forward over the holy ground of decision making when we don’t have all the information we need?  It’s like walking the razor’s edge; or a high wire, with no safety net visible.  It feels like being dangled over the crevasse of the Grand Canyon, and being asked just when we think we would like to drop – or, would that additional information really be all that helpful in this situation?

Sedona 156When others hold information that would be beneficial to us in making a decision, it can be excruciating.  We desperately want to make a decision, but someone holds essential puzzle pieces that would complete our picture and we are immobilized until they can share their information with us.  It complicates things to realize that we are never quite sure if the puzzle pieces they are holding actually belong to the puzzle that is the picture of our life.  So it becomes an exercise in waiting and putting our trust in God.  Then acting, regardless of what we thought we still needed.

Some days, I’ll admit, it sounds much easier to just roll over, pull the covers up over our head, and wait for someone else to tell us what to do.  But, life is never that easy.  And, we must continue to move forward, knowing that whatever decision we make will bring a grace and a future that we would otherwise never have known.  Go ahead.  Move forward.  Grace awaits us.

Snow Day

Mother Nature has supplied DC with its first snow of the season!  And, snow can be a grace, too!  So, we are tucked in tight and reading books today in our little apartment with the winter sun shining through the window.  It’s not a lot of snow, mind you, but enough to celebrate a Snow Day.  It is cold, though, with a -2 windchill.

2013 Jan 24 woody 013Along with reading we are listening to the rhythmic pecking of a tiny woodpecker who is making a hole in the wooden facing of our building.  I managed to capture him at work through the frosty window.  What a sight!  What a grace!  What a gift!

Just a day to slow down – even more – and enjoy!  I pray the same for you.


2013 Jan 23 frosttiny 003I just learned something about myself this morning – if I didn’t know it or want to admit it to myself before.  I am truly addicted.  Being completely out of my drug of choice, I just walked 3.3 miles in 7 degree windchill to replenish my supply of – diet Pepsi.  Yes, embarrassing as it is to admit, I must be – I am – addicted to diet Pepsi.

2013 Jan 13 Navy Yard 015And, all I could think of during my frigid walk was what Admiral Perry must have felt like conducting experiments at the South Pole.  We had just seen his fur mittens and seal fur coat as well as a reconstruction of his original cabin at the Naval Museum.  And, here I was complaining that it was cold this morning as I went out to feed my addiction.

But, perhaps our addictions can drive us to ulterior goods.  For me, I got a walk today that I might not have taken had I not been completely out of Pepsi.  For Perry, the South Pole may never have been explored or experiments conducted if not for his addiction to adventure, daring, and the search for knowledge.

I guess all of this to say that even addictions can bring grace.  But we do have to be honest with ourselves about what our addictions are and then be willing to see the good they can bring out in us.


This past three days was an exercise in trying.  That is, we tried to be part of the inauguration ceremonies and celebrations.  And, while we wanted to go – there were so many things that caused us to stop and think twice.

2013 Jan 19 & 20 Gettys & Inaug re 050So, on Sunday, while we were still considering and just as a dry run, we decided to go down to the Mall and scope things out.  To make the story short, it took us four and a half hours to drive downtown and back home!  The traffic was – there is no other word but unbelievable!  I did manage to jump out of the car and take a couple pictures of the capital building and a shot down the Mall, but the crowds and fencing were so obstructive that it hardly made it worth the effort.2013 Jan 19 & 20 Gettys & Inaug re 051

Exhausted, we returned home and watched the proceedings yesterday on the TV in the comfort of our living room.  After today, I knew more than ever that it was the right choice.

Because this morning I jumped out of bed and bundled up for the 20 degree weather and 4 degree windchill to walk the mile over to the National Cathedral where the President was due to arrive for the prayer service beginning his second term.

2013 Dec & Jan - tiny 019I waited on the walk with several other neighbors, the Secret Service, FBI, and Metro Police while the roads were closed off and helicopters flew watch overhead.  Blue and red lights flashed, security staff moved and shifted, and then all the traffic was allowed to pass and everything went on as normal.

As everyone on the street stood in disbelief.  We all surmised that the President had been whisked into a side door somewhere beyond the public eye and that everyone was now inside reverently praying!  So much for my attempts to see the President – or, even as my hopes had let me imagine – his car.2013 Dec & Jan - tiny 018

But, still, the trying – on both Sunday and today were grace.  Without trying I wouldn’t have such colorful memories, nor these pictures to share.

What grace has trying something brought for you?


How many decisions do we make in a lifetime?  That’s hard to calculate when we can’t even really catalog the decisions we make in a single day!  Come to think of it, life is really just a series of decisions.  Do I do this or that?  Do I go here or there?  What to wear? Who to see? What to say? What to give?  Sometimes it startles me that we can become immobile with a single decision when all of life is a series of decisions.

Making light of such serious considerations, I remember reading in a history book once that someone in the British troops in North Africa during WWII capsulized the dilemma of rationed water with:  The decision each day is whether to make tea with the shaving water or to shave in the tea.  It seemed hilarious at the time and I’ve remembered it all these years!

So, what is our dilemma today?  What decisions must we make that will affect our days and nights?  Our futures?  Our families?

2012 Sept 29 Mall 167For us today, nothing so serious as all of that, I’m afraid.  We can’t decide whether to go out to the Mall on Monday to see the inauguration or not.  We are here.  We could go.  But . . . 1) it will be freezing; 2) we’d have to walk most likely several miles to get into the area; 3) there will be millions of people doing the same thing; 4) no backpacks or camera bags allowed; and 5) we will be standing for hours . . . to voice a few of the negatives.

But, we are here – and it would be the chance of a lifetime.  And, I’m sure it would be a grace simply to be there among so many people supporting and witnessing history.

We just have to make the decision.


I was just reading and praying this morning and can’t help but offer today’s reflection through Henri Nouwen, that great spiritual writer of the 20th Century.

2010 -6-13 to 7-1 nik 90 IA trip 757From the moment we claim the truth of being the Beloved, we are faced with the call to become who we are. Becoming the Beloved is the great spiritual journey we have to make.

As long as “being the Beloved” is little more than a beautiful thought or a lofty idea… nothing really changes. What is required is to become the Beloved in the commonplaces of my daily existence and, bit by bit, to close the gap that exists between what I know myself to be and the countless specific realities of everyday life.               – Henri Nouwen, Life of the Beloved


Is there something in the human condition that yearns for perfection?  I wonder sometimes if it is only me and my “retreat time” that has allowed me to think so much about perfection.  Yet, I’m tempted to think that others must have some of this drive for perfection, too.

You see, for the past nine months or so I have been working on writing a short story.  Just a simple, fun, out of the ordinary (for me) story.  And, I’ve finished working on it, oh, about four different times.  Yet, without the deadline of a date to stop me and no other priority that takes me away from it, I’ve continued to think of new little nuances or phrases or additional scenes that I think could only improve it.  So, is this a drive for perfection?  Or, is it simply someone with nothing better to do?

2009 6-6-09 039I want to think it is some kind of effort toward perfection, but I also remember a professor of mine who said that in this world all symphonies are incomplete.  In other words, there is nothing in this life that will be perfect.  Nothing we do will ever be truly finished and complete and perfect.  Nothing we accomplish in this world will truly leave us thinking we have actually mastered something.  Because we have to be able to live with a little uncertainty and the knowledge that some things are simply mystery and are beyond our mastery.

How true that is.  And, yet, the effort toward perfection can sure be fun!  Just working toward a little perfection can be a grace.  And, hopefully, it makes a better story, too!