gravel road girl

Archive for the category “Life changing”

A Million Little Things

A million little things.

That’s what I did today. Because I couldn’t decide on one big thing–a thing that would really matter–I did a million little things.

Little things, that in the scope of my life, probably won’t matter or even be remembered. But for today, little things were all I could tackle.

I picked tomatoes and pawed through the pole beans that weren’t supposed to be pole beans. I know how to garden. I planted bush beans, but alas, I have pole beans. Pole beans planted in rows don’t work very well.

I picked some beans.

I stopped to pet, hold, and talk to all three of my ‘barn cats’–Marty, Libby, and Theo. I don’t have a barn, but ‘garage cats’ just doesn’t sound as quaint.

Libby, the ‘barn cat’

I sprayed my black Aussie/border collie dog, Bonnie, with the hose because she likes it, and it’s Iowa-August hot outside. I was supposed to be putting the sprinkler on the garden.

I put the sprinkler on the garden.

Did I mention I’m doing all of this in my pajamas? It’s o.k. I live on 3.5 acres surrounded by derecho-flattened cornfields. It is sad, and I will miss the dry rustle of harvest-ready corn across the Iowa countryside this fall.

I gave my potted fern a trim. She had a lot of brown, poor thing, and reminded me of me when I need a root touch up. It was tedious, but I felt sorry for her.

That’s the thing about a million little things: they’re often tedious. That’s why we don’t do them.

They don’t really matter, and they’re tedious. But after I trimmed Fern, I felt just a little better. She sits on my front porch. Who wants a scraggly fern as their first hello?

I washed my soap dish.

I know, you’re thinking that’s a bit extreme, maybe OCD. Who knew a soap dish needed washing, right? They do. They get soap-grunge. Trust me.

As I washed my grungy soap dish, I pondered the practicality of said soap dish. Everybody uses liquid soap and hand sanitizer now, right?

Do I really NEED a soap dish?

I do. Because this soap dish was given to me by a friend who I don’t see nearly enough these days. And it’s special because she knew me well enough to know that I  would like it. Not every simple gift is so well thought over.

I put my clean soap dish back on my freshly cleaned sink.

I put my flower frogs back in their scattered places.

Yes, these are flower frogs. All 15 were borrowed by my niece to display table numbers at her wedding. . . on Aug. 1. I’m not sure why it’s been such a chore to disperse them back onto shelves and window ledges and coffee tables where they hold postcards and shells and feathers. It just was.

I wandered about and placed them. And I felt better for doing another little thing.

I hung white laundry on the line.

Even as I hung it, I looked at some grey clouds that tempted rain–maybe. “Are you lying?” I thought thoughts at the clouds. Clouds often lie in August. Oh well, I guess if it rains my whites will smell like sun and wind AND rain. There are much worse things.

I took my clothespin bag inside, hung it up, and petted Marmalade, the ‘house’ cat.

Marmalade is old and fat and sleeps wherever the fancy strikes her. Again, there are much worse things.

I took luggage to the attic.

We had only just used it this past weekend, so there was a sense of victory at the minimal-procrastination factor. It was tempered, though, by the fact that I quickly stuffed it into the dark, oven-like attic and raised the steps–no “putting things in their proper places” today.

Today was a day of little things, not attic cleaning.

I wrote a birthday card to friend who is miles and states and hills and valleys of memories away. Writing a card is a BIG little thing. We are all out of the practice of writing. . . with a pen. . . legibly. We are out of the practice of thinking purposeful, gracious thoughts and pondering sweet memories worth telling.

This was my biggest “little” thing today. I’m pretty sure it was worth more than my other little things.

I sipped A&W Diet root beer while I cut some fresh zinnias. The zinnias were much needed to replace the dead ones gracing my kitchen windowsill. A small ‘little thing’ that makes such a happy difference when at the sink.

The A&W root beer was a nostalgic choice. My grandparents took me to the A&W drive-in in Buffalo Center, Iowa, when I was old enough to go for a visit but still young enough to be home sick. The root beer float was a diversion tactic. I don’t recall if it worked, but I do remember the frosty mug of vanilla ice cream and icy root beer.

I enjoyed the memories and the cicadas and the root beer while I cut zinnias.   

Sometimes, on days–in seasons–like these when all you can tackle is a million little things one day, one moment, at a time you find that ‘little things’ are what keep life real and precious and particularly simple.

“You have succeeded in life when all you really want is only what you really need.” –Vernon Howard

Monday Poetry: Contrails & Headwind

Photo credit: William Seidle, Unsplash

Photo credit: William Seidle, Unsplash



Stripe the sky like pink clotheslines

Pulled taut to the setting sun.

Like tattered lavender shirts,

Clouds are tethered to dry

In the cool, night



Photo credit: Annie Spratt, Unsplash


I opened the door to
this new year
and stepped into the brightness
of January.
It took my breath away–
So still, hopeful,
Crisp and untrodden.
I stood,
sheltered and expectant,
weighing the options
of my journey.

Four months now,
walking into a headwind,
eyes down, jaw set,
I only allow momentary
toward a distant horizon.
Biting questions
whip at my mind
and make my eyes
Press into it.
To stop would be
to go backwards.


“The years teach much which the days never new.”  –Ralph Waldo Emerson

Empty Nest?


I’ve been asked several times these past few weeks how I like being an ’empty nester.’ I’ve hesitated to answer because, if we’re going to continue this analogy, technically, I have hatched four birds in my lifetime and just recently nudged the last one out hoping, with all my bird-like instincts, that he’ll take flight never to return.

I realize this sounds a bit snarky, and ’empty nester’ is a simple handle for saying, “So, after 28 years of having kids under foot, what’s it like to have an empty, quiet house and all that time on your hands?”

Yeah, ’empty nester’ softens the blow, I guess.

But is there anything more sad than an empty nest? I mean a literal empty nest. I have several empty nests that I’ve picked up after storms have knocked them out of trees on our property. Often, they are spring nests–delicate, unfinished, routed out of the tree by a blustery March wind. But sometimes in the golden aftermath of a gusty October day, I’ll find a round nest, heavy with mud and well-used. Perhaps a feather leaves a clue as to its long-gone occupants. Most likely a robin or a blue jay. Cradling it in my hands, I wonder how many eggs once clustered there? How many happy, little chicks took flight from its twiggy edge? Did the parent birds sigh wearily as the last awkward chick cautiously dropped off the edge only to reappear in the next tree over? Probably not–just my odd imaginings.IMG_5992A favorite childhood book of mine and also my children is P.D. Eastman’s Are You My Mother? In the book, a mother bird leaves her nest briefly to procure a worm for her soon-to-be-hatched baby. In her absence, the baby bird hatches and, perching on the nest’s edge, looks for his mother. Unfortunately, he tumbles out of the nest and down, down, down (so the story goes) to the ground below. Unhurt but unable to fly, the little chap wanders the countryside asking all sorts of animals and machinery, “Are you my mother?” With each answering, “No,” the little bird becomes more desperate in his search. Finally. . .

Well, because I hate spoilers, I won’t share the dramatic yet satisfying ending. You’ll have to read the book. But as I considered this simple story, I realized a few things–

1. The kiddos need to be prepared to leave the nest. Obviously, this little guy
wasn’t. Mine, thankfully, have–mission accomplished.
2. The nest is a great place to come back to, but there’s a big world out there–
people to meet and places to see. They were meant to be a part of it!
3. Finally, my nest isn’t my world, and it’s not about me. The empti-ness is not
about me. Step up. Step out.

I watched a compelling and convicting video by David Flood, a former trouble-maker turned teen-advocate and speaker. It’s worth the five minutes it will take you to watch, but in it he shares these words, not necessarily profound but certainly true, from his 82-year-old mother, “Your life’s not about you.  .  . It’s about your family, your friends. . . Stop thinking your life’s about you. . . Your life’s about all the people around you. That you can teach and touch and impact.”

For 28 beautiful, hard, life-changing, God-trusting, prayer-filled, glorious years, I got to teach and touch and impact the lives of those most dear to me–the children who were simply gifts from God. They’ll always be my children–you never stop being a mom! But it’s time for them to teach and touch and impact their own piece of the world. And it’s time for me to shift my focus, not to me and what is missing, but to who God will place in my path now to teach and to impact for Him, for His glory, and for His kingdom.

For several years now in anticipation of this season of life, I’ve been prayerfully asking God, “What’s next?” And as is usual of my prayers, He did not send me a text, an email, or even a verbal whisper. But in the richness of His Word, He said, “For [you] are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that [I] might walk in them.” (Eph. 2:10) As one who knows Christ as my personal Savior, I rest in the promise that He has a purpose and direction for my life, and that purpose is for His glory and for my good. (Being mindful that “His good” does not always look good to us.) I also know that plan won’t be revealed in one fell swoop or in some grand unveiling. So, I will continue to pray like David in Psalm 5, “For to You I pray. In the morning, O LORD, You will hear my voice. In the morning I will order my prayer to You and eagerly watch.”

I’ll pray and eagerly watch with expectation for who God brings into my life, and what circumstances prompt me to step out in faith and in action. Now that my “nest” is empty, I’m pretty sure it’s time for me to look beyond it and step out trusting God for the next thing.

What is pushing you out of the nest? How are you being drawn out of your comfort zone and into a place where you can teach and impact others for good?

“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”   ~Corrie Ten Boom






wood 2

The rough spots catch me–

Piercing painfully, I

Draw back quickly and inspect the wound.

The sliver is easily seen, easily extracted.

It’s a good sliver—

if there is such–

obvious and intrusive,

simply plucked from beneath the skin.

But the bad sliver—

Deep and small—initially unnoticed,

but festering with time and avoidance–

too sensitive to touch,

too painful to ignore.

It affects the whole body despite its size.

I must tend to it.

Silly, how small it is

Yet it can distract me from the most important things.


I have slivers in my heart, too.

The pains of my youth have,


been plucked—though not painlessly.

They were obvious and ugly.

Garnered from rough choices and youthful ideals.

Now the deeper slivers, though less obvious,

Reveal themselves.

Slivers of fear,

Shards of discontent,

Slender slips of doubt that resonant

the hurts of why, the aches of when.

In the wisdom granted in the asking,

He shows me the painful changes He needs to make.

Extracting the invasive slivers of selfishness.

Gently, yet firmly, working out pride, fear, worry.

They are so deeply imbedded

I have almost become accustomed to their pain.

But He reminds me,

“They distract you from the important things.”


 Watch over your heart with all diligence; for from it flows the springs of life.

Proverbs 4:23


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