My life has changed in so many ways over the past few years. While the journey has often been painful, it is also refining, joyful, and rewarding. I pray the journey has made me a better person. Now retired and on my own, I have more available time, and I pray to use it wisely. And, because I don’t have cable and seldom watch TV, I read a whole lot of books.
I appreciate when others share books they have read and recommend, and so I like to do the same. Because I’m in school and currently writing a dissertation, many of the books I read might not be your preference, so I am offering a sampling of books that have richly fed me. If you wish to see the expanded list, which includes some fabulous readings on Restoration Movement history, Spirituality history, hermeneutics, and various other topics, I will be happy to send it to you. For this listing, I have narrowed it to thirty-something books that served me well this year (in no particular order). I am thankful for the time shared with the authors who have challenged my thinking, encouraged me, made me cry, made me mad, made me laugh, inspired me, and comforted me. I wish I had the time and space to offer a synopsis and quote from each book… as there is so much good stuff in them. Here you go:
“The Daily Audio Bible Chronological” (This is the first year I did a yearly chronological Bible reading and also the first time I used an audio version) This year I am doing the daily audio Bible (not chronological). Each day has an audio reading from the OT, NT, Psalms, and Proverbs. It’s an app called Daily Audio Bible.
Spiritual Formation: Following the Movements of the Spirit by Henri Nouwen with Michael Christensen and Rebecca Laird
Spiritual Discernment: Reading the Signs of Daily Life by Henri Nouwen with Michael Christensen and Rebecca Laird
Spiritual Direction: Wisdom for the Long Walk of Faith by Henri Nouwen with Michael Christensen and Rebecca Laird (Michael Christensen and Rebecca Laird, two of my professors, compiled this outstanding trilogy of Nouwen’s writings)
Love, Henri: Letters on the Spiritual Life by Henri Nouwen, compiled by Gabrielle Earnshaw (yes, I’m a Henri Nouwen fan.)
Unfettered: Imagining a Childlike Faith beyond the Baggage of Western Culture by Mandy Smith
Transformed into Fire: Discovering Your True Identity as God’s Beloved by Judith Hougen
40 Days of Decrease: A Different Kind of Hunger. A Different Kind of Fast by Alicia Britt Chole (I read this each year for the forty days leading to Easter)
Everywhere You Look: Discovering the Church Right Where You Are by Timothy Soerens
Saved by Faith and Hospitality by Joshua Jipp
A Many Colored Kingdom: Multicultural Dynamics for Spiritual Formation by Conde-Frazier, Kang, Parrett
Malestrom: How Jesus Dismantles Patriarchy and Redefines Manhood by Carolyn Custis James
Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation by Kristin Kobes Du Mez
Forming: A Work of Grace by David Takle
Awestruck: HowEmbracing Wonder Can Make You Happier, Healthier, and More Connected by Jonah Paquette PsyD
The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben
Notes on a Nervous Planet by Matt Haig
The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry by Mark Comer
The Longing for Home by Frederick Buechner
Speak What We Feel (not what we ought to say): Reflections on Literature and Faith by Frederick Buechner (I marvel at Buechner’s literary abilities)
Where the Light Fell: A Memoir by Philip Yancey
Soul Survivor: How Thirteen Unlikely Mentors Helped My Faith Survive the Church by Philip Yancey (Philip Yancey always speaks deep into my heart)
Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again by Rachel Held Evans
Everybody Always: Becoming Love in a World Full of Setbacks and Difficult People by Bob Goff
Listening to the Spirit in the Text by Gordon Fee
Surprised by Scripture by N.T. Wright
Open to the Spirit: God in Us, God with Us, God Transforming Us by Scot McKight
Fresh Air: The Holy Spirit for an Inspired Life by Jack Levison
Faith Formation in a Secular Age by Andrew Root
Bonhoeffer as Youth Worker: A Theological Vision for Discipleship and Life Together by Andrew Root
Spiritual Conversations with Children: Listening to God Together by Lacy Borgo Finn
The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything: A Spirituality for Real Life by James Martin
The Epic of Eden by Sandra Richter
The Heaven Promise by Scot McKnight
Get Your Life Back by John Eldridge
Playing God: Redeeming the Gift of Power by Andy Crouch
As I Recall: Discovering the Place of Memories in Our Spiritual Life by Casey Tygrett
Atlas of the Heart: Mapping Meaningful Connection and the Language of Human Experience by Brene Brown
And, for those who have experienced transitions of any kind recently (who hasn’t?), my newest book, What Now, God? Finding God in Transitions was published this year. I recommend this one as well 😊 And, for those dealing with grief, check out Roger and Marcia Lamb’s new book, This Doesn’t Feel Like Love, Either.
I’m beginning this year with John Mark Hicks’ newest book, Around the Bible in 80 Days:The Story of God from Creation to New Creation. Excellent. My shelf is already full of some outstanding to-be-reads. 😊Excited about the journey.
Most days, as I watch the sunset over the Connecticut River across the street from my house, I reflect on the previous hours of daylight. An ancient practice, called the Spiritual Examen, is a prayerful reflection of the events of the day to find God’s presence and discern his direction, finding His hand (and heart) at work in the bigger picture. This practice (at sunset for me) has added depth, meaning, and growth to my life. So, today, the day before the new year begins, seems a good time to take a yearly examen. It’s easy to forget things that happen over the course of a year, thus missing ways God is evident…along with times that feel foggier when He seems less visible. Outside right now a dense fog completely hides the sunset, but I know God is still alive and well. So, today I have journeyed through my electronic calendar of 2022 and my gallery of photos. As I reflect back on this year several thoughts come to mind. In 2022:
There was family. I feel grateful every day for my family. Wyndham is never far away in my thoughts and in so many ways, I see him live on. I see and feel God’s presence in so many experiences and feelings of love. 2022 family memories include birthday celebrations, soccer games, baseball, and of course the highlights of the baptisms of two grandchildren, Lexi and Micah, as their faith and desire to follow Jesus came to life. The family also
shared time at the CT coast over Labor Day, and finally got to be together for Thanksgiving and Christmas after several years of Covid and/or stomach bugs preventing holiday times together the past couple of years. A post-Covid regular event that I have also enjoyed all year is my ever-other-week Zoom call with my sisters. I’m the youngest of four girls, and I’m so grateful for these three amazing women. I also feel grateful for Wyndham’s wonderful sisters.
There were firsts. Never thought I would say this, but I got a tattoo this year. My wedding rings were loose, and while I know I am not married any longer, I didn’t want to take them off. I compromised and decided to get Wyndham’s initials, WTS, which he used to sign all his emails, engraved on my ring finger. I love it. When people ask if it hurt, compared to childbirth and kidney stones, it was quite all right. I also officiated my first wedding this year, which was deeply meaningful in so many ways and quite a God-story surrounding the whole time. God certainly showed up. Another first is that I bought the two-family house next door that had been in probate, had it renovated, and thus began a small rental business. I was certainly not planning on doing this, but the opportunity arose, and it seemed a wise move. And, I might add, I am surrounded by wonderful neighbors.
There were lasts. This year I lost several loved ones, including Wyndham’s (and my) dear Aunt Emma, my adventurous and kind brother-in-law, Roy, and my dear friend of many decades, Sheila Jones. I know many of you lost loved ones and continue to grieve. My heart is with you. Also, early this month Jacob moved back to MA, which was quite sad and yet also happy…because it was a good and right decision. So glad and grateful he is doing well in the Lowell condo.
There were books. I’m sure I officially qualify as a nerd if the term is measured by books read. I’ll share my favorites in a post tomorrow, but I had no idea until I put my list together that I read well over a hundred books this year. Many were about the Restoration Movement, many were about hermeneutics, and many were about spiritual formation. There were also various others that challenged my thinking and my heart, helping me to continually learn and grow. ( think there were perhaps one or two fictions in …well at least one.) I will share some of my favorite reads in a post tomorrow. Today, I finished the Daily Chronological Bible. This is the first time I did a yearly chronological Bible reading. Or rather, I listened to an audio version. I chose to do an audio version since the original Bible hearers heard the Scriptures read to them. This was a great experience though certainly required perseverance.
There were opportunities to learn. Along with what I learned from books, I cannot express how much I love my spiritual formation doctoral program. This new year marks the final year of my classes, which end in July. Also, a few months ago I began Christian coaching training, which involves a 26-week two-hour class to be followed by supervised coaching training. (I will be offering 4 people 10 hours of free coaching in the spring of 2023, so if you are interested send me a message.) In the fall once classes are over, I plan to begin a spiritual director training program. Somehow, I hope and pray all these will mesh together in a meaningful way to contribute.
I am grateful for all I was able to learn at the ICOC Teachers Conference in February, “The Art of Scripture Reading.”
It was helpful, and conversations with the teachers always help me grow. Expect an article soon with my thoughts on a speech from that conference that reached into some deep recesses of my heart (taught by Sherie Gayle). I look forward to this year’s conference next month. I also greatly benefitted from a 12-week “Forming” workshop excellently facilitated by Byron Parsons, along with several hundred brothers and sisters from around the world. This was an outstanding workshop. I loved it so much that I plan to facilitate a session, along with David Bruce from L.A., early in the year. (To accommodate the time frame needed for this request from overseas, it will be offered on a weekday afternoon. I’ll post more when I know more.) I continually learn from several groups I gather with on Zoom who are involved in Spiritual Formation…and also a group from the Common Grounds Unity Group. (Thanks, John Teal for organizing this). These feed and encourage my heart, refreshing me and calling me to grow.
There were opportunities to teach. I love to learn and love to teach. This year, I both participated in and taught several workshops on spiritual formation and taught in several teaching days on the role of women in the church for my local church as well as several other churches in other locales. (Thanks, Robert, for including me in many of these opportunities.) I taught a class on “Experiencing God” at the ICOC teachers’ conference and was blessed to teach various classes at the conference in Orlando on topics such as spiritual disciplines, still learning on the journey, adoption, caregiving, grief, and finding God (Hagar…a class for teens). I enjoyed participating in a few podcasts throughout the year as well. My studies in preparation for teaching teach me far more than I can ever hope to convey, I am sure. I keep praying for wisdom to know how to learn and convey most effectively.
There were opportunities to question. I’m forever curious so question many things these days, looking to see where I need to grow and change while digging deep to find answers. After talking with God, I always need to talk to wise, spiritual people about these questions. When I encounter compelling teachings different from the ways I have previously understood them I also read opposing views and critical reviews to help form my thoughts. I find this helpful. I also realize some things cannot be answered in this lifetime. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Is 55:9) This is actually quite comforting.
There were gatherings with old friends and new friends. There is nothing like time with old friends and also the joy of finding new friends. I have met and spent some good times with new friends like Jennifer, Mary, and Judy with whom I share some sad things in common, along with many new friends from church and from my new and surroundings in CT. I recently enjoyed memory lane visiting familiar places (where Wyndham and I first lived) in Raleigh with Jan. I love it when Susan and Joan pop by my new house and have loved the visits from afar with the Iiames, McGuirks, Kim E and Kim T., my sister and niece, and others that are likely slipping my mind. I loved spending time at the Orlando conference with many dear “old” friends.
There were opportunities to serve. While I still desire, pray about, and look for meaningful ways to serve more effectively, I have found several ways to serve that provide meaning. These, I will keep between God and me. From my readings this year, I have grown in my longing to serve my community in ways that I think I have not yet fulfilled. Lots of room to grow here.
There were opportunities to receive. I finally got Covid last summer before the Reach Conference. I realize that receiving is often harder for me than serving. I am learning more about the importance of receiving, so I am teaching on the topic “Reflection and Receiving” for a Spiritual Formation Zoom workshop on Jan 14. Participation is free but registration is required. Many excellent classes will be offered. The workshop is slated for 10:00am to 2:00pm PACIFIC time. https://forms.gle/bT124FmQdc1e2zoL9
There was nature to enjoy. A few visits to the mountains and the ocean refreshed my soul tremendously this year, but I need to walk in nature every day…to see, listen, and learn. I’ve also discovered that rain gear and layers of warm clothing, along with crampons (sounds like a very painful menstrual tool but they are actually spikes that fit on your shoes for walking in ice or snow) allow me to walk most every day. Sometimes I take “guided spiritual walks” which I love and will write about (hopefully soon). I also follow 3 animal sites on Instagram….a_puppy_and_a_bunny. (Cutest thing ever about the adventures of a golden retriever, a golden puppy, and a bunny named Smols.) And then there is the site piggy_patch_farm. Finally, there is chunk_the_groundhog. I realize you may have now lost all respect for me, but hey, I enjoy these, although the piglets are seriously interfering with my former love for bacon. Oh, and of course, I cannot forget the beloved sunsets and ever-moving river I so enjoy.
There is so, so much to be grateful for. I’ll end my musings by simply saying thank you. Thank you, God for loving me and never leaving me. Thank you for being my hope and my salvation. Thank you for being my friend. And thank you, my friends, for enriching my life in more ways than I can ever express.
At precisely this time, 48 years ago, I was running some last-minute errands in preparation for our wedding, which would be happening later at 3:00 pm, December 14, 1974. I was at the store with a friend trying to find a blue garter (what a stupid tradition that was). Wyndham was playing a game of flag football with friends. What else would a groom do on his wedding day? I had just finished my last final of the quarter the day before (the UF used quarters rather than semesters). I had little time for wedding prep, as I had taken a heavy load of 22 hours to finish my studies early to move to join Wyndham. I had seen him once since our engagement in July, as he had moved to North Carolina to begin a new ministry. Though we wrote to each other often, we talked every other week. Long-distance calls were costly. I was a student and he was making 7k per year. (No worries, we got an increase to nearly 9k/year after we married. 🙂 We had to be creative for sure.) This would be my last day ever living in Gainesville, Florida. I would marry and permanently move away from my hometown. Two days later, I would see my first snow.
As I reflect on the precious years I had with my beloved husband, the main emotion I feel is gratitude. So much gratitude. Life wasn’t always easy, but the love and life we shared were beautiful. The last painful years during Wyndham’s illness were rich and precious, though incredibly difficult and even traumatic. I hold them as sacred. Wyndham will always be part of me…it would be impossible for it to be otherwise, and I am grateful he is forever part of me. But life is now quite different.
Three words that best describe my current state of being are gratitude, curiosity, and Spirit. I feel grateful and in awe of the beauty of creation. I feel grateful for the gifts of love, joy, peace, patience,… These are gifts from God. I cannot manufacture them. And what amazing gifts these are. Who else but God can give these?! I am grateful for daily food and water (especially combined with coffee beans) and so much more…so many blessings. I am grateful for my family and my friends. The relationships with my children and their families fill me with inexpressible joy. I love my cozy home and a place to stay warm. I love water, mountains, and sunsets. I’m thankful for animals…especially my Golden buddy, Denver. I’m grateful for the senses God gives me and for words and books and imagination. (I hope next week to share books read in 2022 and gleanings from a few of them.)
I love to learn. I understand more than ever before how much I do not know and cannot ever understand, and yet I long to learn more. The more I learn, the more amazed I become with God. I learn through life experiences, reading, observation, conversations with others, remembering, mistakes, listening more closely than I used to, and by making space to hear and experience God through His Spirit in my life. I value and am thankful for my deep dive into spiritual formation as I enter the final year of my doctoral program. I’m also learning through a Christian coaching certification program. I’m amazed at all there is to learn. I am grateful for curiosity. More than ever, I am gobsmacked (I often think of this word for astonishment as “God-smacked”…in the best way….as if God is saying, “Hey, do you even see what I am doing here?”) that God not only sent Jesus as Emmanuel, God with us…But, gave His Spirit as God in us. A reality, not a metaphor. To know that God became human so I could share His divinity is mind-boggling. This transforming reality requires serious thought and meditation.
So today, I thank you, Wyndham, for our shared precious memories. Little did I know what would lie ahead 48 years ago, but there is no one with whom I would have rather shared 45 of those years. Thank you, God, for always being not only by my side, but inside. I hold on to precious memories, but today, though my eyes may mist a time or two, they make me smile in gratitude. And stay curious, my friends…marveling and relying on God within.
So, it’s that special time of year when we look forward to celebrating the incarnation…God in the flesh…the reason for hope. And what an incomparable gift this is. Hope is everything. To celebrate, we like to give gifts. Given that reality, I want to let you know about some books you may wish to consider. I really don’t like marketing (AT ALL), but I also realize there is no way to let people know about my books without… letting people know about my books. Even so, this is my least favorite thing to do that is associated with writing. Most of you know I write, but I continually meet people who don’t know. I do want to thank my readers, from the bottom of my heart, for your encouragement. Writing feels very vulnerable, so I am deeply grateful for your kind words and also your kind reviews. Authors deeply appreciate these.
If you are going through any transitions, I think this book will encourage you.
Many of my books are also available at Illumination Publishers, which is my preferred site for ordering…but either site works.
I offer several genres of books. As you can see on the back row of the photo, I have 3 children’s books. These have been “kid-reviewed-and-approved” and teach valuable lessons while bringing smiles.
I also have several devotional books such as Jacob’s Journey, My Morning Cup, There’s a Turkey at Your Door, When the Chicken Hits the Fan, and Every Day is a New Chance. My newest devotional book is my favorite, entitled, Wednesdays With Wyndham: Godly Wisdom for Everyday Life.
Spiritual Growth books include An Aging Grace, Spiritual Leadership for Women, The Sacred Journey: Finding God in Caregiving, and the new release on transitions mentioned above.
The View From Paul’s Window: Paul’s Teachings on Women is a biblical studies book.
I pray that these books will be encouraging and helpful.
Also…just to share something about my books that’s meaningful to me. Next Wednesday would be Wyndham and my 48th anniversary. On our 40th anniversary, he thoughtfully gave me a special bracelet with charms representing each of my books. My kids have continued this tradition since he has been gone.
If you are the type who likes a contest: Try to match the charms with the books (clockwise starting with the “40” which stood for the anniversary). I will send the winner a free book of your choice. I realize the positioning of the charms makes this difficult. (This challenge reminds me of biology classes of days gone by where we had to identify dissected parts of things. I don’t know why it reminds me of that…strange.) Anyway, I will get back to more normal blogs soon. Have a wonderful holiday. I hope you get some time to relax and to read. 🙂
Three of my granddaughters had just left our house. It was their bedtime, so their mom had taken them home. I did not know it would be the last time they would see their Papa alive, though I was well aware that every day was a gift. I then adjusted Wyndham’s medical equipment, kissed him goodnight, and slipped into the way-too-empty king-sized bed placed alongside his hospital bed, which had been his home for eight months.
I recounted the lyrics to the songs the girls had just sung to him. Not only did the words comfort him, but they also comforted me. One of the songs kept going through my head.
He’s got the whole world, in his hands.
He’s got the whole world, in his hands.
He’s got the whole world, in his hands.
He’s got the whole world in his hands.
As they sang more verses, they substituted the names of every family member, both human and canine, in place of “the whole world.” What a profound message of truth they sang.
That was three years ago. November 21, 2019. This would be his last day on earth.
Each year, I try to commemorate this day in some special way, always including some form of pay-it-forward. I still don’t know quite what I will do to commemorate the day, but that is okay. I do less planning and orchestrating these days, trying my best to stay in step with the Spirit. Three years later, God still has the whole world in his hands. Thankfully, he holds my hand in his as well.
More than any other emotion, I feel profoundly grateful. I feel thankful to have known, loved, and been loved by Wyndham. I am grateful to be loved by and to love…and to be known by and to know my Abba, Father.
A lot has happened over these last three years, not to mention the life-altering Pandemic we all endured. I try to keep in sync with the Spirit, all the while learning how real those lyrics are – the whole world is, indeed, in his hands. I never know what the new day will bring, but as each day ends I marvel that God holds me. Perhaps this is a reason why I love to watch the sunset over the river. Every day looks different, holding its own beauty. As the sun disappears below the horizon, God’s artistry never disappoints. I reflect on ways God worked throughout the day, sometimes in ways that astound me. I evaluate how I stayed in step or lost rhythm. Some ways he works can make me laugh out loud as his audacious, unimaginable weaving of situations is so remarkably covered with his handprints. These stories include a goose, an eagle, officiating a wedding, and so much more…all remarkable Spirit-involved happenings with crazy back-stories of God at work. Some days are seemingly ordinary, though I still get to breathe his air, experience love, and observe his beauty all around me. Overall, as I reflect on the last three years, several things I’m learning come to mind.
I am learning to make needed space in my life to better hear and see God as I observe and participate in the Spirit at work. It is as delightful as it is scary. I treasure God and my morning walks along the river. Sometimes I talk to him out loud, but mostly I just walk with him and listen. I might ask him how his day is going, as I cannot really imagine some of the emotions he must feel as he watches the world. I hope to bring him joy without not too much frustration. I definitely appreciate and rely on his grace and kindness toward me. I stand amazed that he calls me friend. How do I get to be his friend? I mean, people can’t even score tickets to a Taylor Swift concert, and yet I get to be God’s daughter and friend. Amazing.
I feel so thankful for the ever-presence of God’s mighty, loving hands throughout my transitions over the last three years. I felt him confirming, leading, and comforting me as I retired, sold my house, moved to another state, retooled retirement with a (very) small property business, began work toward a Christian coaching certification, and continue my passion for writing books. I love my new church home here in Connecticut. On the home front, I deeply enjoy my relationships with my kids and grandkids and stay alongside them in schoolwork, as I’m now entering the final year of my spiritual formation doctoral journey which is another definite God-thing. I do geek out sometimes, as full-out nerdiness arises from within because I so love to learn. Every step of the way I need and rely on his guidance, empowerment, and confirmation. I echo Moses’ words in Exodus 33:15, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.” I can’t and don’t want to do anything without him.
I still feel sadness, and I am sure that some form of grieving will always be close at hand. The whole world, though in his hands, is not yet made new. There’s a lot of bad and painful stuff out there. I’ve had other friends and family members leave this earth this past year, as have many of you. Even yesterday, I called a friend I have been getting to know since I moved here. We enjoyed deep talks about life and God, and she visited church with me many times. When I texted her, I learned my number had been blocked. I knew she would not intentionally block me, so I felt concerned. I Googled her name only to discover her obituary staring back at me. She had died suddenly a few weeks ago. Sometimes life stinks. In the stink, God still holds me in his hands. It feels safe there, as long as I don’t try to wriggle out.
Over the past three years, I have learned more fully that as a now-single woman, I am not one step removed from God. For this realization, I am deeply grateful, as I believe a distorted view affected me more than I knew. More on that another time.
There is so much God is doing, and I long to join him in his mission. I pray to see the image of God in each person. Tomorrow, as I remember the end of one era and the beginning of a new one for Wyndham and for me, I choose to be thankful. Thank you, God, for the amazing man who was Wyndham, the precious memories I hold, and the family and friends you have given me. Thank you that you will one day, when you return, renew the earth and our bodies. Meanwhile, I am grateful to be held in your hands.
He’s got you and me in his hands. He’s got the whole world in his hands.
Bob Dylan had this phrase right. Change happens all around us and in us all the time. In our world and in our circles of people, things just don’t stay the same. It is already the month of May. Perhaps you are graduating soon or have kids leaving the nest. You may have several transitions going on in your life. Maybe you are moving, finding a new job, or even getting a new pet. You may be experiencing happy changes or excruciating losses. But certainly, the times, they are a-changin’.
A few months ago, for reasons I don’t really know, I decided to write Wyndham a letter telling him things that have happened since he left this earth. It felt healing. I began by sharing something more light-hearted, but as I began recounting the changes my mouth nearly dropped open, realizing just how much has happened. The letter was long and personal, so am only including some excerpts:
So much has happened since you left here. I miss you and think about you every day. I mainly feel deep gratitude because of the kind of man, husband, dad, and papa you were…and I got to be part of it and you as your best friend. Those last few years were so hard I know…traumatic in so many ways. But we did it with the help of God. You stayed grateful, courageous, cheerful, and faithful and amazed me with that. You were quite something and you still speak though you are gone. Now you are free and with God. I’m happy for you and so inspired by your life and death. But oh, how I miss you.
When change happens, even little things…happy and sad things….you are the one I want to tell. You are the one I want to decompress with. Pray with. Laugh with. Sometimes it takes my breath away to realize I can’t do this even though I’m happy for you. There has been a lot of crazy since you left. Go figure. So many transitions.
Very soon after…Tom Brady left the Patriots. I know you would be interested in that. He won a super bowl for Tampa Bay. The Pats and Red Sox stunk the next season, so you didn’t miss much there. They both got better though. He recently retired and unretired. Drama.
And, of all things, we had a global pandemic. For two years!! It was crazy. We couldn’t travel and had to meet virtually for church for nearly two years. Life shut down. Schools didn’t meet and people worked from home. Across the world, we were isolated. We wore masks everywhere until just a few weeks ago, over two years later. You probably have met a number of people who succumbed to Covid.
Your whole family loves you so deeply it can’t be expressed properly. Emma graduated, and began the Northeastern honors college of nursing. She wants to be a nurse practitioner and is currently studying in London. Lexi just got baptized, which was so exciting, and two others are studying the Bible. You would be so proud of all your grandchildren and of our kids..Oh, and I should tell you that Kevin and Melissa are now serving as lead evangelist and women’s ministry leader for the Boston church. So many changes. I’m sorry to tell you that your sister Jane died last February, and Aunt Emma passed a couple months ago. I feel sure you know these things, but it helps me to say them to you. Oh, and sadly, recently Russia invaded Ukraine and it’s ugly and so sad. We had some meaningful times there. Shawn updates in a prayer time every day.
Kind of a big personal change is that I retired. It was a hard decision but the right one. Oh, and I sold our house and moved to Connecticut near Kristen. Real estate has gone crazy. Kristen was my realtor. She’s a good one, no surprise there. The house I found is perfect for me. Amazingly, the house has a studio apartment in the back where Jacob lives. His was a hard transition, but he is doing ok. You would love it here across from the river. I get to walk along the Connecticut River daily with Denver, which he loves. The boats remind me of you. I know this was a good move for me. God has been good to me. I just started a small real estate rental business. Didn’t really plan on that, but the opportunity came. Crazy, I know.
Also, I graduated before I retired. I felt your smile. I’m now working hard on my doctorate and loving it, as you know. You’ll also be happy to know that “Paul’s Window” got published. Since then, I had the opportunity to do some virtual teaching in several states and countries and was able to spread some of your ashes in Europe while teaching in person. Your encouragement stays with me. I wrote a book about wisdom I learned from you called “Wednesdays with Wyndham.” I love the cover with you and Denver on the boat. Next was a book on caregiving. I guess life experience lessons are good to share.
I’m doing okay, as I told you I would, but I miss you every day. A lot. It makes me look forward even more to eternity. I don’t know what it will look like for us, but I know it will be special. I would love to feel your hugs and I so want you to know always how much I love you. You gave me the most amazing 45 years. Whenever I am tempted to feel really sad, I remember the incredible blessing you are in my life. I try to make you proud of me, but I know I don’t need to because you love me for me. I realize more than ever our team of equals was quite something special. Thanks for the way you made me feel so loved and respected. I’m trying to reflect Jesus as brightly as I know how…and also your legacy. I wish I could know what you are doing now. If you are resting or fellowshipping and what it is like to live outside the body. Are there fish there? It’s another dimension I will never grasp here. I know one day this will be, in your words, a mere blip on the screen. Until then. I love you forever.
The times, they are a-changin’. Certainly, all kinds of changes are often difficult, but I believe there are many things to consider to help us navigate them well. Some of these things I have learned the hard way, but most have been through the urgings and workings of God. For a while, I have been taking notes on the topic of transitions, studying scriptures, and reading books in preparation for writing this book. I now offer it with the prayer that it will minister to and encourage you.
The book has seven chapters. The introduction and chapters include: God Is in the Transitions; Transition and Identity; Mourning Transition; Walking Through Candyland; Preparing for Transition; Raise Your Ebenezer: Marking Transitions; Transitions that Overflow; Courage for the Next Steps; Conclusion; and Appendix: Who God Says We Are.
Each chapter is followed by a different person’s transition story— men and women who share their inspiring stories of finding God in transitions. Though their circumstances and ages vary, they all navigate their challenging transitions with honesty and faith. This book would not be the same without their valuable contributions. Thank you Hannah DeSouza, Angela Christoffel, Adam Birr, Judy McCreary, Chris Condon, Alexandra Ghoman, Erika Walton Sitzberger, Amber Effner, and Pam George.
After each chapter, I also include questions and practices for further reflection and application.
I’m including below the back cover copy, along with a few very kind blurbs from early readers. The book can now be pre-ordered. Thank you for all the encouragement you have shown me with my writing. It means a great deal to me and helps me keep going.
In What Now, God? Finding God in Transitions” Jeanie Shaw digs deep into our hearts and lives using biblical, personal, and contemporary examples while offering wisdom and practical advice for navigating transitions of all kinds. Exploring identity, core values, and transitional habits, she offers insights into both grieving and celebrating change. While vulnerably sharing her transition journeys, she leads us straight to the heart of God, reminding us that we are not alone. After each chapter, voices of men and women, both young and older, share ways they found God in uncertain, transitional times.
Wow, everyone please read this book. As a therapist, I am always looking for books that could be helpful for those I support. What I found was that I needed to read these pages myself. And what an inspiring read it was. Transitions can bring many hardships, hence the diagnosis of Adjustment Disorder is in the diagnostic manual. Jeanie has provided a scripture-filled, Holy Spirit-directed, practical hand up to navigate these kinds of challenging times. And she made me laugh! –Dr. Jennifer Konzen, therapist, author, researcher, professor
Jeanie does a phenomenal job of helping the reader understand that transitions are not only normal and inevitable, but also offer amazing opportunities to receive God’s love, comfort, and support. Grief is often the overlooked component of our spiritual formation, but Jeanie outlines the very intimate way that God can use our pain from transitions to form and mature us, if we are willing. By revealing the Holy Spirit’s invitation to deeper connection, this book most certainly helped me to look at transitions from a fresh perspective and embrace even the most painful transitions in life.—Curtis Reed, Oviedo, FL, Grief Recovery and Transition Coach
In this book, Jeanie has beautifully put into words what all of us have thought, felt, and experienced. She does an outstanding job of showing us how to not just let life happen to us, but instead to let life and its transitions make us into the men and women God wants us to become. This book encourages, instructs, inspires, and comforts. Thank you, Jeanie! —Geri Laing, author of A Life Worth Living, Raising Awesome Kids, and Friends and Lovers
In this wonderful book, Jeanie has invited us into her living room and shared her heart, mind, and soul with us. In doing so, she gifts us with the wisdom that comes only through experiencing heights of joy and depths of sorrow while living in the hands of our ineffable God. Her journey through transitions and the lessons she shares with the reader are life-giving.—Robert Correa, Los Angeles, CA, MDiv
An insightful and excellent writer, Jeanie invites us to walk with her through all kinds of transitions as she points us to the identity we can know in Christ when transitions tempt us to question those identities. I was encouraged, comforted, and challenged…but most of all grateful for the practical suggestions offered to help us prepare for and navigate through transitions. I’m better for having read this book.—Guillermo Adame, San Diego, CA, Financial consultant, elder, former missionary
Do you remember God’s first recorded words to humankind? After their creation, Gen 1:28 records, “God blessed them and said to them….”
God’s first communication to His beloved was a blessing. Remember that.
Luke 24:36-53 remains one of my favorite accounts of Jesus. I try to put myself in the scene as two disciples, having just walked and talked with the crucified and resurrected Jesus on the road to Emmaus, now return from this transforming walk—hearts still burning within. They hurry to their friends, exuberant to let them know that Jesus is indeed, quite alive. During this conversation, Jesus slips in to join the crew in an almost comical conversation. I envision the disciples’ mouths open but speechless…looking at each other thinking what’s happening here? Jesus remains reassuring, vulnerable, and real…Guys…what do I have to do to show you it’s me? Go ahead…touch me…put your hands on my pierced hands and feet…and by the way, what’s in the fridge?It’s been a while since I’ve eaten. I’m really hungry.
The disciples, still flabbergasted, broil a fish and hand it to Jesus who, over said-broiled- fish recounts the entire God-story that Luke manages to record in four impactful verses. Tears fill my eyes as I envision the food and friendship-fed Jesus walking with His friends toward memory-filled Bethany. I can see the love in his eyes and hear the kindness in his voice as He turns to His friends, lifts His hands, looks into their eyes, and blesses them. While He is still blessing them, He ascends, returning home. The disciples’ mouths are again open but speechless. What is happening?
From the beginning to the end…God blesses.
So what were His last words?
His last words were a blessing.
We live in a blessing sandwich. Blessed from beginning to end.
Today is my 68th birthday, and on my birthdays, I take time to recount the contents of my life’s sandwich, held together from beginning to end with God’s blessings. God’s heart to bless feels profound, comforting, and strengthening because the pain of the fallen world also falls between and among the blessings. Ingredients of our “blessing sandwiches” include the joys of sharing broiled fish and friendship as well as touching each other’s scars and brokenness.
Even though my heart overflows with gratitude for God’s lovingkindness, I still wish I could celebrate the day with Wyndham. I feel deep pain for some dear friends who grieve. I feel the loss of my beloved Aunt Emma yesterday. (We spent our very first Christmas with her, and she showed us love again and again.) I wish I could have spent my birthday morning as planned with Kristen, but a rough case of Covid altered all her plans. I daily remember friends in Kyiv, whose homes I have been blessed to share while I was there, and who currently experience profound loss and trauma.
I can be tempted to put down my blessing sandwich amid such pain and even wonder if I should taste the blessings. It’s a strange contrast of emotions, but I know blessing is God’s intent even through pain. His only desire is our good and He offers blessing upon blessing. Even though sin and the world try to spoil the sandwich, I must continue to taste my blessing sandwich and pack extras to share. God has blessed me more than I could dare ask or imagine. The beauty of His creation, His precious promises, and His sacrifice are always before me as are my family and friendships, including you…blessing upon blessing.
In a few moments, I will put away my computer, get in the car and drive to Boston to witness a great miracle as my third grandchild confesses Jesus as Lord and is baptized. I could wish for no greater birthday gift. I live in a blessing sandwich, which God has prepared for each of us. Join me in sharing a piled-so-high-can’t-get-your-mouth-around-it blessing sandwich.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. (Eph 1:3)
I enjoy football, but to be honest, since I no longer have cable I have only watched part of one football game this season. I know this is heresy to some. However, as a long-time Patriots fan and New England resident, I shed a few tears while reading your retirement posts. And the tears weren’t only because you won’t be playing anymore.
Tom, you hurt my feelings.
I am happy for you and your family. Really. It’s the right move for your family. And I know that in the big (and even little) scheme of things sports will not follow me or anyone else to the grave or thereafter— but you still hurt my feelings.
Because over the past twenty years I routed for you, defended you through every gate, wore your jersey, and invested time and money in support of you. I bought my grandkids #12 jerseys. My husband loved watching you from his deathbed. He passed away right before you left the Pats. Our family came together and screamed and yelled during each Super Bowl. Thank you for being such a vital part of those times. And, for crying out loud, I even became a Bucs fan when you left the Pats, except for when they played the Patriots. As a grandmother, sometimes to me you were Tommy. I even had a grand-dog named Brady.
But Tom, I wasn’t acknowledged. I don’t mean “I” wasn’t acknowledged, but in your announcement our Patriots Nation, our football community that helped raise and support a goat… was dissed. I’m not angry…just hurt. I have no idea what has gone on behind the scenes but Tommy, we could use some love.
Acknowledgment matters. It’s kind. It’s humble. It’s also good business. I mean, TB12 lives in New England. So please, Tom Brady, if your feelings were hurt remember there are many of us who had nothing to do with that. Our feelings matter, too, and I know you can do better.
I moved to Connecticut in July. That is when I first met the goose who lived down by the river. I walk along the Connecticut River daily, and this goose brought me comfort each day. I can’t be sure, but I believe God put him there just for me. You see, he arrived the same time I did, perhaps even to the day. I am not sure. No one knew why he suddenly appeared by the dock at the river near my house or where he came from, but he loved to hang out with people there,
Years ago, I wrote a book about finding a place to belong, addressing issues of identity, loss, rejection, and grief that can often leave us feeling a bit “lost.” Throughout the book, entitled “Understanding Goose,” I inserted various anecdotal stories and facts about geese, based on the true story of a goose that had lost its mate and “adopted” my parents decades ago. Geese have a strong sense of finding their way home, and they also have a mate for life. If they lose their mate, they may “adopt” a human, as if they are looking for a place to call home. I felt like the goose was a hug from God and from Wyndham, reminding me that He knew I had lost my mate and needed a place to call home. I often thanked God for this meaningful gift, as it was comforting, a continual reminder that God was saying, “I am with you here. I know, and I know that you know.” The goose was there for my first three months of transition, and then it was gone. I heard that a woman who rescued wildlife took him to a safe place. He may have been rescued, but he was a safe place for me. I missed seeing him but knew he had served his time there, reminding me that I am never alone.
This morning, I prepared for a Zoom meeting with my doctoral advisor concerning the first chapter of my dissertation. My advisor helps me know how I am doing on my project, gives helpful input, and offers encouragement. In my talk with God beforehand, I told Him how I wished I could have a conversation like that with Him, where I could more concretely hear Him, His feedback, and His encouragement. I told Him how much I appreciate the encouragement He gives, but I felt the need to hear it more clearly from Him. I thanked Him for the goose and the way it had been a “voice of encouragement” to me. I concluded, that after three months, the goose had served its purpose. I thought to myself that it was time for me to fly, and asked God if he would give me an eagle today, for that visible encouragement. I have never seen an eagle on my walks, though through binoculars I saw this one way down the river this summer while on a boat ride.
As I neared the bank of the river, I stopped…just to check. Across the river, I noticed a large bird flying, and while I hoped it might be my answered prayer…I figured it was probably a more common bird, like a hawk. At that moment, the bird turned ninety degrees and flew directly over my head. It was clearly an eagle. I have no explanation why it turned from its path and flew over my head, except for God’s love for me and His encouragement. I could hear God telling me, “I am still with you in your transition, and it’s time to fly.” I then felt tears falling down my face and thanked God for His tender care.
He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. (Isaiah 40:29-31)
I often share about my lovely new town and the peaceful view of the river from my front window. I love to walk my dog through the field across the street, lingering along the shore. I stop to greet the goose that has been my friend since the time I moved here. I think God put that goose there just for me, knowing my affinity for a lone goose that lost its lifelong mate and adopted my parents years ago. This lone goose was to me like an acknowledgment hug from God, reminding me that He never forgets that I lost my mate and He is always with me. Along the way, I breathe in to capture the smell of the falling leaves and freshly cut grass on the nearby soccer fields. I enjoy meeting new people along the way. I love to watch the boats roll by, and in the evening I usually tear up with joy and gratitude as I view the sun setting behind the water. Twice I have seen an eagle on its nest. The serenity of God’s creation feeds my soul as I walk and talk with Him by the river. I count on the peace this walk with God brings me each day.
But, oh my…how quickly things can change! You see, last weekend the carnival rolled into town, across the street from my house. Literally, overnight, my view switched from sunsets and riverfronts to Ferris wheels, tilt-a-whirls, and pirate ship rides. Every time I opened my door my olfactory senses no longer processed falling leaves and freshly cut grass but instead confronted smells of foot-long hot dogs, fried marshmallow-covered-dough-filled-sugar-coated everything imaginable, cotton candy, and other undetermined scents. My new view seemed like full-fledged craziness. Lights and sounds continued into the night and then Sunday evening, it was all gone. I was reminded how in the twinkling of an eye, our surroundings can change from serenity to carnival madness and back again. However, even with the carnival’s departure, it’s not yet exactly the same. I notice remnants of craziness. The grass is now mud and the trash and commodes are yet to be collected.
Life is like this. We experience times of calm and then the big trucks come in and seemingly overnight, dump craziness in our proverbial front yards…Not in the forms of Ferris wheels and pirate ships (well, for me it actually was in this form :-)), but more often with illnesses, difficult news, family trials, disappointments, grief, conflicts, and little things like pandemics. We can have a hard time remembering what serenity looks like and face seemingly overwhelming smells of fear and doubt. Whenever the “life carnival” rolls in, I find I must stay grounded in the reality of truth. The beauty of God’s creation is true. God’s provision is real. His concern for me is real. His empathy with me is real. His promise of eternal life is real. His promise of a new heaven and new earth is real. His comfort is real. He never changes, even when my view does. The carnival, though crazy, is temporary. Even though it happens, He holds my hand as I ride the Ferris wheel. I need that since I abhor heights.
He reminds me that the river is still in the same place, it is just a bit hidden by the surrounding commotion. My identity in Christ doesn’t change with changing circumstances. I take “me” with me both to the river and to the carnival, and Jesus walks with me through both. When my identity comes from God, I can stay grounded whether at the river or in the carnival. Though the trash and commodes may linger awhile, the leaves will still fall, the grass will grow through the mud, the river will still flow, and the sun will continue to rise and set. I must simply remember, notice, and keep walking with Him as He guides me. Even when the carnival was in full force, I walked further, beyond the carnival, and eventually passed its craziness. I once again smelled the grass and saw the river. I just had to keep walking.
You may feel like your life is a carnival, where serenity has been replaced by crazy. My life over the last few years has been filled with difficult transitions that have at times “smelled” like stale foot-long hot dogs and left me spinning on tilt-a-whirls. That combination can prove challenging, believe me. However, I can stay grounded by noticing God in everything as I keep on walking past the carnival, visiting the goose, watching the eagle, speaking to passersby, and witnessing the beautiful consistency of the sunset. I stay grounded knowing that His words are true and that He gives me purpose and identity. I am confident that the peaceful river and the crazy carnival can coexist because God is with me through them all. There truly is a secret of being content. His name is Jesus.
Philippians 4:4-13 (NIV2011) 4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. 10 I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. 11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.