Conscious Contemplations

Winter memories

Winter memories 

A Photo of DonnaAs I headed to the mailbox this morning, the crisp air of January met me afresh. The snow covering the once-green grass barely crunched below my feet, and I found myself walking on top of it rather than sinking in

My mind wandered back some thirty years. Arlington cemetery. Bloomington, Indiana. Grandma and me.

I took her to put flowers on my grandfather’s grave. Solemnly we exited the car and moved toward the grave on a brisk winter morning. She and I walked atop a frosted-over snow, slowly making our way to the grave. Bare, iced branches of the few trees standing amidst the many marble markers glistened in the midmorning sunlight.

We quietly ambled on. Then Grandma, attempting a smile, looked at me said, “I’ve never walked on top of snow before.”

I gripped her elbow as we approached the grave that had for the several months held the body of my grandpa, her husband of more than sixty years.

Sacredly placing the flowers gently into the urn beside the marble monument, she stepped away, reading the dates carved in the cold stone. Her name etched beside his with only a birth date and a hyphen loomed over both of us, an omen of days to come.

“I guess I’ll be there beside him someday,” she said. Tears trickled down both our cheeks as we stood in silence, staring at the stone that foretold life’s brevity.

Regaining composure, I said, “Well, we won’t think about that now, Grandma.” Empty, useless words to an 81-year-old who had heard death’s knock amongst friends and family one too many times.  

She might have stood there all day had it not been winter. My hand grasping her elbow, I urged her back to the car. “Come on, Grandma, it’s cold,” I said. “Let’s go home.”

Coldness comes and goes over time. Seasons change and life as we’ve known it no longer exists. We can never go back. People enter our lives for a season and then we must walk alone, seeking to understand life’s rhythm.

After lifting the little red flag on the mailbox, I turned back toward the house. The blacktop drive was bare and clean, providing a much safer path…but I preferred to move on top of the snow, step by step, pretending that Grandma was walking beside me once again as my hand gently urged her home.

Stillness in the Storm


A Photo of DonnaLast night my son Brandon and I stood outside and watched the storm disembark. Tall, slender and easily blown about, he ran out into the field and gazed up to heaven in awe. He threw his arms out, paralleling the ground, and twirled around. “Isn’t it cool?” he yelled against the bellowing winds.

What we experienced at that moment was the awesome hand of God moving about the earth, changing the south winds to north, blue sky to gray, stillness to ravaging storms. Often these storms direct us to God when we otherwise don’t notice He’s there.

As the small, nearly transparent, lighter clouds danced eastward beneath the looming gray billowing vastness, we settled on the porch swing, watching the heavens move above us, feeling the winds engulf us and smelling the fresh summer rain. The all-encompassing gray cloud sat above us as a toadstool in the forest, in a distinct circular pattern, casting a shadow on the gesturing green grass.

A memorable time with my son. 

God must have felt the same way as He read our innermost thoughts of His mighty and breathtaking power. We acknowledged His presence, His authority, His sovereignty. A memorable time with His children. 

“Makes you feel pretty small, huh?” I asked Brandon.


Knowing the storm could develop into something far worse than it was, we both lingered in the moment of God’s supremacy. Watching it pass, arrogantly taunting the earth, we felt respite at the inconsequential damage left in the storm’s path.

As it dissipated, allowing clear skies to peak through broken clouds, we sat, my son and I, basking in the presence of a mighty and wonderful God.

“Look!” he exclaimed. “Blue!”

And we find that’s how our God works. Storms come and go. Some loom above us, surround us, teasing us, warning us. Others hit hard, damage us, leaving us wounded and wondering, “What shall I do with this, Lord?”

But however each storm affects us, blue skies always appear, often leaving us wondering if the storm really even ever existed.

God’s promise is not that storms will not come. He doesn’t promise damage-free lives. He doesn’t say He will not allow us to be hurt.

He says, simply, “Be still, and know that I am God.”

With Autumn Comes Hope


Remember when the word senior conjured up ideas of high school graduation—young minds with great ideas, ideals, goals set before them?

What happens to our vocabulary as we age?  Now when we hear the word senior, we automatically think of AARP and wonder how much of a discount we’ll get on the state park pass when we hit those magic years. All of a sudden, women are no longer ashamed to tell their age, but actually shout it out as they near the cash register at the local Bob Evans. We envision our grandparents or parents in nursing homes, our children buying us hearing aids for Christmas, our knees creaking as we walk up the steps.

I like to think of entering senior citizen statehood as entering Autumn. Leaves turn vibrant colors; Indian summer is just days away; apple orchards offer the pick-your-own pumpkin fields; open windows in the night allow the curtains to catch the cross breeze and flutter in the shadows of the full moon; fodder shocks symbolize blessings of harvest. Of course, with all the good things, we must also face mice being run out of the fields into our homes; the cold quickly approaching; heating bills rising; blizzards and bleakness descending.

As in most situations, bad comes with good. But the most promising part of our lives’ autumn is the wisdom we have gleaned and the opportunity to digest the meat of the Word of God and share the milk with those who are babes. As Twyla Paris sings…How Beautiful the feet that bring the sound of good news and the love of the King….How beautiful the hands that serve the wine and the bread and the sons of the earth….How beautiful is the body of Christ…we are encouraged and blessed to serve.

How wonderful it is to give back to this world in need, to make a difference in the lives of those who still think that senior refers to an 18-year-old who never quits dreaming. How beautiful it is that as we look toward the future, we can, even in the autumn of our lives, have great ideas, ideals and goals! 

And what a great opportunity to be surrounded with young people with whom we can share all that He has taught us.

You old, Grandma?

Jessa Grandma
My precious granddaughter and I enjoy life together. 

A Photo of DonnaFriday night as I lay beside my baby girl on the air mattress at the foot of the bed in her small room upstairs, deep in thought, she began picking at my hair with her thumb and index finger, pulling it up, letting it go, pulling it up, letting it go, strand by strand.

"Why you got gray hair, Grandma?" she innocently asked.

"Because I'm getting old," I said, teasingly.

Her little face grew quite serious.

"I don't want you to get old, Grandma. Then you will die, and I will miss you," she said in a sad, whimpering voice.

Taken aback, I said, "I'm not THAT old, Baby Girl!"

"But I don't want you to get old, Grandma," she said. Forlorn, she put her little arms around my neck. "I don't want you to die, Grandma," she said again, pushing her face between my chin and my shoulder, as if in her not wanting it, she was willing that it would never happen.

I lay there in silence for a few minutes, holding her and letting my tears dampen the pillow. Regaining composure, and glad for low light, I said, "We all have to die someday, Baby Girl. Then we get to be with God in Heaven!"

"But I don't want you to be with God in Heaven; I will miss you!" she exclaimed.

"Well, Grandma plans to be with you for a long, long time," I said. "We're gonna run in the fields, swim in the pool, walk down to the creek and throw rocks in it!"

Lying there beside her, though, I realized that life isn't always what we plan. Just Wednesday, a beloved 21-year-old student died tragically and unexpectedly. Just today I visited my 80-year-old aunt as she lay dying from pancreatic cancer. So just now I'm realizing even more the brevity of life.

And, yes, life isn't always what we plan.

I have been blessed with an uncanny ability to envision myself no longer here. Saddened at the thought of leaving those I love behind, I fully realize that earthly life is a "skiff" (as my father would say) in comparison to eternity...we're withering flowers, fluffy seed hairs of milkweed tossed to the wind, autumn leaves soon covered by snow, fading into the ground. Life is a second in a decade, a year in an era, a century in eternity. It's short. So very, very short.

And, yes, we all age from the moment we're born. No choice in aging except to die an untimely death. No choice but to watch the vision blur, the hearing dull, the arthritis set in, the mind forget. No choice but to know the heartbreak from haunting hurts, the loneliness from lost loves, the wrenching despair from devastating deaths.

But those are realities of life well lived...for unless we are vulnerable and open hearted, we build walls to block pain. Unless we know and deeply understand others, we can't grasp the concept of loneliness. Unless we love with extreme love, we can't grieve in the depths of sorrow.

"You're as young as you feel," isn't necessarily the truth. For although I am akin to pain, I am very much the 5-year-old who climbed the path to Grandma's house, ever looking back to see if Mom was watching; the 12-year-old standing on the sidelines at my first junior high school dance. I'm the girl who swayed to "Color My World" in the arms of a good friend at my senior prom; the college student from a town of 500 on a campus of 30,000. I am the young bride who married right out of college; the 23-year-old who sat at her dying grandmother's side and reassured her that she was "good enough" for God.

I am the young mother who played guitar and sang "One Tin Soldier" to her toddler sons; the teacher who watches her students walk across the graduation stage year after year, wondering if those to come will be half as good as those leaving; the friend who strives to see and help meet others' needs.

We are who we are because of those segments in our passing lives, because of choices we've made along the way, because of people we've allowed to grip our hearts. And though aging brings pain and heartache, it also brings overflowing love and joy, which tend to keep our spirits young. Aging takes us a step closer to God and gives us a pressing sense of squeezing a little tighter, hugging a little longer, laughing a little more. It makes us turn to say "I love you" one last time before walking out the door.

Having an aging body doesn't mean giving up or giving in. It simply means I may move a little slower, think a little longer, grasp new concepts with a little more difficulty. It means I realize even more the importance of scooting a bit closer to this 3-year-old lying beside me, putting my arms around her and holding on like nobody's business.

Yesterday morning, I awoke with little fingers poking my cheek. "You old yet, Grandma?" her whispering voice asked.

"Not yet, Baby Girl," I responded, rubbing her nose with mine. "Not quite yet."