Hitherto: Part Two

Wasn’t that Post yesterday soooooo beautiful??? I do love this book, Streams in the Desert by Cowman. I was first introduced to it during a friend’s grief process. i think what really sings (not speaks) to me is the unique communion of beauty with the bane of life in Christ. I’ve literally lived/camped out here since I received this via email from a friend. I’ve been under “the green boughs of mercy” and the “strong pillars of lovingkindness and faithfulness which bear up my joys.” I have not wanted to budge an inch!!!

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Here’s my hitherto. . . One of most precious memories, I was on weekend retreat and we had free time. I took a quilt and pillow and lay down under an aged, twisted Oak Tree. It was one of those rare weather-graced days: Puffy, dream-laced clouds in an azure blue sky, a cool breeze caressed the sun’s warmth in tune to a prefect touch. I had often looked up into the sky through the trees, but never lay down in a posture open to the etherial expanse of sky.

I lay down, feeling the moist ground come through the quilt, but was soon drawn into the “boughs of mercy” and I could feel this tree bearing “up my joys.” Peace, I found that day.  The canopy of tree and sky immersed me in it’s framework of majesty. I felt so very much “me” in this sanctuary of space in God’s Land of the Living. I relaxed into quilt-circus-and-pillow-620x465 an intimate embrace that eased me into a deep sleep.  I woke sometime later on my own. I lay there for a few minutes not wanting to break the “magic of the moment.” I did eventually get up, reluctantly, but I gathered myself together. I felt like I was spread out everywhere. What sweetness, Lord!!!

  • It was one of those experiences that defines one’s faith and solidifies one’s identity in Christ.
  • It was one of those experiences that is forever etched on one’s heart.
  • It was one of those experiences that is bookmarked in the story of our lives.


Hope: Reflections

This Post is dedicated to Rodger H. Elofson, Sr. “Buddy” and Dr. William Smith

Hope Defintion:

a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.
“he looked through her belongings in the hope of coming across some information”
synonyms: aspiration, desire, wish, expectation, ambition, aim, goal, plan, design; More
a person or thing that may help or save someone.
“their only hope is surgery”
grounds for believing that something good may happen.
“he does see some hope for the future”
synonyms: hopefulness, optimism, expectation, expectancy; More
antonyms: pessimism
a feeling of trust.
verb: hope; 3rd person present: hopes; past tense: hoped; past participle: hoped; gerund or present participle: hoping
want something to happen or be the case.
“he’s hoping for an offer of compensation”
synonyms: expect, anticipate, look for, be hopeful of, pin one’s hopes on, want; More
intend if possible to do something.
“we’re hoping to address all these issues”
synonyms: aim, intend, be looking, have the intention, have in mind, plan, aspire More

late Old English hopa (noun), hopian (verb), of Germanic origin; related to Dutch hoop (noun), hopen (verb), and German hoffen (verb).
Translate hope to
Use over time for: hope

Romans 5
New International Version (NIV)
Peace and Hope

5 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we[a] have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we[b] boast in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we[c] also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

This was my father-in-law Buddy’s favorite Bible Verse which I just sent to my niece, in Navy Cadet School. My husband’s favorite concept is perseverance.  Bucky’s dad, living with significant heart issues and pancreatic cancer for eleven years (the doctors told him his life expectancy was  one year, at best three years!), is an impressive role model of hopeful perseverance.

My Uncle Billy (my mother/Melba’s, youngest brother), has inspired me with his hopeful perseverance through difficult trials with health issues and death. I asked him to write to me about his hope and here is his email.

Dear Tracey,

I’ve not thought of myself as being inspirational , but thank you for the compliment

When I think about hope, I also think of faith. To me, hope and faith are intertwined. you can’t have one without the other. I have a small placard on my desk, right by a photograph of Gay, that says: With faith, all things are possible. That is an excerpt from Matthew 17:20:” I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.” Shannon gave the placard to me after Gay’s death.

I was a patient at the Lake after being diagnosed with esophageal carcinoma. The treatment protocol was for a month of combined therapeutic radiation and chemotherapy prior to surgery. I chose a vascular surgeon who had performed the surgery for my abdominal aneurysm. On September 11, 2001 (9/11) he came to see me and said, “Bill, your chances are not good.”, and with that he made the sign of the cross and marched out of the room with his cute little nurse. I could hardly believe he had said that. I knew that my prognosis was poor when I read in the Merck Manual that the five year survival rate for patients with esophageal cancer was ten percent, but to offer no hope, I thought was inexcusable. I called Gay, and that’s the only time I ever heard her call someone a s.o.b. I then saw Dr. Benton Dupont. After reviewing my record, X-rays and MRI, he told Gay and me that my prognosis was excellent because my malignancy was Stage I with no evidence of metastasis. He was embarrassed when I embraced him. He gave me hope.

Faith and hope got me through a bad time when Gay was desperately ill with a post-operative staph infection following low back surgery. She developed septicemia with fever as high as 105. I went to the hospital chapel and prayed for her survival and help with five children and a medical practice to care for. Your mother came to stay with the children until things got better; that’s the kind of person she was. She gave me hope.

I still struggle with grief and depression over losing Gay. When she was terminal, one day she said to me,”Bill, I’m afraid.” I reminded her of the hymn at church: Be Not Afraid. The lyric says “Be not afraid, I go before you always, Come follow Me, And I will give you rest.” I know you are having a bad time in your life, and I wish I could do something to help. I keep you, Bucky, and the girls in my nightly prayers.

I know Melba and Merle are watching over you, so try not be not afraid.

Love to all,

Uncle Billy

Strong Bonds: A Tribute to God-Driven Masculinity

I am highly intimated, by a sensitive nature, by strong masculinity. So for me to wake feeling inspired to write this. . .

Well, let’s just say, it’s a God thing!!!

I woke up this morning, thinking about the men in my life.

God gave me a vision of this strong linked chain. I heard Him to say:

 “The men forge strong links that bond life in families, communities and His Kingdom. The women love into the links, lubricating them to move smoothly and cleanly in families, communities and Kingdoms. One cannot work without the other.”

Let’s share some personal examples without names, with exception of my dad and my husband. I’m going to do my best to honor these examples with “less words are more.”

*My Father linked his passionate love and seeking of excellence to me. Dr.Merle Flagg Warren.

*A science teacher in middle school told me I was working below my potential and challenged me to up my academic efforts.

*A family member brought me to the circus.

*High school boy—friend gave me the security of his friendship during a pivotal time in my life.

*A family member gave me freedom with my first car and sorority dorm life.

*A veterinarian took care of my first babies and furry babies to come and enriched our family life through pet care.

*A carpenter worked his way into my heart through ceiling beams and prayers.

*A young man lived with us for a while, and lived into his faithfulness to us and my daughters.

*A teacher/student leader brought one of my girls through her challenge on the mountain.

*A teacher/student coach lead our family through peer challenge and conflict with faithfulness.

*Two family members stepped into conflict (instead of out of it) and kept our family strong.

*New Christianity sparks grow of true God-given masculinity in a loyal friend.

*Test messages link strong bonds.”

*Neighbor trusts.”

*Husband, Dr. Rodger H. Elofson II, purposes his strength to link our weaknesses into a chain of God’s healing and goodness.

 Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love. 1 Corinthians 16:13-14

Men: The Choice is Yours:

Link Lives With Your Strength or Break Lives With Your Weight:

Broken Chain

If you are single woman, God’s Best for you, is worth the wait. Accept nothing less. . .

If you are a married woman, God isn’t finished with your husband yet, Your husband is worth the wait. . .

If you are a single man, live to touch a woman’s life so you will make her heart list. . . .

If you are a married man, live into your destiny. What are you waiting for. . .

Mother’s Day: Dear Hope, Ashlyn, Megan and Kathleen

As if I ever had you lined up in a straight row? Ha! In my dreams only! mom

As if I ever had you lined up in a straight row? Ha! In my dreams only!                      Image Found: www.artistshelpingchildren.org

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On Mother’s Day: I’m thinking now of the baby ducks we raised and how they peeped like little birds until they grew into their adult-like “quacks.” The way the ducklings patterned each of you as their mom and followed you all over the back yard. How they quacked and quacked and  quacked at the back door with separation anxiety. How the three of you cried with abandon when the  first lake we released them to did not work well and you made your daddy gather all the full grown ducks back up in a flurry of panic and we drove all day until we found them a lake-home that agreed with your heart wishes for your babies 🙂

Dear Hope: You were the first to break my heart with my love for you. It was the first time I loved so “big” that it ached all the way to my toes. (not to mention the birthing soreness ;)). I had some sense of what was coming because my heart became so sensitive during pregnancy with you, the slightest touch of tenderness brought me to tears. After your birth, I did not think love could grow, until you left me for Montessori and I sat in the drive way and cried, until Ashlyn cried louder and we drove home. How you loved little ‘fuzz head duckling” with all the love in your little heart until he died. I did not think love could grow until you went on your first date, and I stood with my back against the front door, eyes closed, praying. I did not think love could grow until you made a decision against my better judgement, and I let you go willingly into free will. I did not think love could grow until, I hung up that last high school sweatshirt to dry in the laundry room and felt the weight of the world on one small hanger. I did not think love could grow, until we both climbed into heights of challenge. . .Different mountains but within sight of one another. . .And we both struggled to breathe the thin air of our lives. I did not think my love for you could grow, until I waited to hear from you and all that I knew, pressed in deeply to emboss my heart in prayer for you.

Dear Ashlyn: You were the second to break my heart with the white crown of blonde hair on your head. You came with a rush of power, and I was not officially registered as a patient in delivery before you were presented. The big love re-cycled with you to my toes and within. As with all of you, I hated to close my eyes, in the hospital for fear of missing one precious breath, one stretch of hand or one gasp of need. I did not think I could love you more,until I saw you and Hope together and watched her eyes flood with mommy inklings to come. I had to count on the Holy Spirit to pray for you at night, because I was so exhausted trying to keep up with you, that I was fast asleep before my head hit the pillow, only to wake with a start to hear the shower curtain crash to the floor! (You weren’t sleeping. You were still swinging into the twilight hours. Soon came gymnastics! I did not think I could love you more until I told the the Story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears for the hundred time. I did not think I could love you more until you struggled with that floor routine one more time before a meet. I became adept at holding my breath through a routine. (Blue is not becoming on a mother’s face!) I did not think I could love you more, until you too went head strong where I dare not tread and I went to my knees with you in God’s Hands. I did not think I could love you more until you turned at the threshold of your Bama Girl life, hesitated just a moment to look at me and you were gone, taking all of my love with you. I did not think I could love you more, until the  first time you came home.

Dear Megan: You were third to break my heart yet again. Love re-cycled through the experiences of Hope and Ash, only to find as new fragrance in you. Your little system was easily overwhelmed with feeding and stimulation so I bought the best baby pouch on the market and you went to school functions for Hope and Ashlyn everywhere with me. I did not think love could grow bigger until you were so close to me the top of your sweet head was always damp with warmth, but it was there the cries stopped and you found comfort. I slept with you more than any of the others. Prayers for your peace (and mine) were non-stop and you entered toddlerhood gently and quietly. You had such a quiet presence about your play in our world. I did not think love could grow bigger until I was forever checking on you, because I could not monitor your play by your sound! I did not think love could grow bigger until I had to trust other’s heart contact with you and you too went through Montessori and into the thrill of big girl school with your sisters. I did not think love could grow bigger until I watched young girlfriends wax and wan and saw you brave your way through finding the world of books to companion you. I did not think I could love you more until we could cook shoulder to shoulder without words, because you could read my mind. I did not think love could grow bigger until I saw you find your own excellence and knew you were asserting your self. I did not think love could grow bigger until you started talking about college. . .

Dear Kathleen, I loved the honor and God ordained privilege of all my pregnancies, but yours was extraordinary because I knew it was the last one. My mommy love found closure as well as new beginnings with you. I did not think my mom’s heart could stretch another hair until your sister’s loved on you and I saw God complete the circle of love He was weaving for me as as mom. It became hectic with four of you, but I was determined for my love to cover your infant hood. I would protect your babyhood at all costs. So Ms. Pauline came into our lives, as I would not leave for the grocery store or carpool until you were down for your nap. I wanted every waking moment with you! Love covered your nap times. I did not want you napping in a strapped in carseat with the disturbances of traffic and our stop and go life. Love covered your growth spurts as your sister’s put up with you, “into their stuff.” Love grew to cover and wait for you to finally learn to ride a bike. (You thought your training wheels were just fine! And frankly, so did I!) Love grew to cover the day the crib came down and we had to bar Hope outside the hall because she just was not having any part of you growing up. Love covered the transition from Montessori to Big Girl School and by now the whole school was awaiting the new sister’s arrival. The school now had it down now: Each sister was totally different in their own unique personhood and this learning community was an extension of family for all my girls. It made it easier for my growing mother love to give your days away with a trusted embrace for the whole child with all of you at ONE school: body, mind and spirit. My mommy love is still growing to cover coming events, like boy/girl dances and summer Pine Cove Camp. Love covers paths tread by previous footsteps in sisterhood more smoothly and completely. You walk a well-worn pathway of love tried and true which will see us through as my love keeps growing to cover the unknown with and for you. . .

So dear Kingdom Girls, today is about you. Precious Banes all of you! You are all brilliant, beautiful, creative, competent, and deeply caring young women (I have no bias here. Ya’ll use to say to me, “Mom, of course, you have to say that, you are our mom!” 🙂 You have taught me more about Godly love than any word could express. You have driven my heart into the sweetest of places. You have broken false expectations to reveal the best my love has to offer yesterday, today and tomorrow. Today: I want only the simplicity of seeing you, touching you, reading your tired faces, breaking bread at home with you, snuggling with you and watching a wholesome movie that will nourish you, mind, body and soul. Just to be with the ones who taught me to love with sacrifice and reckless abandon is the greatest gift of all, for Mother’s Day. It’s Daughter’s Day. Thank you, lovies! God uses each of you in the largest of Kingdom Ways, to shape my love into something that will one day resemble His in it’s offerings to you. . .And love continues to grow with the opportunities God gives us and I embrace each one for all it’s Kingdom value into our morrows! XO Forever to each one of you! My four ducklings 😉 Much love, mom

I offer to you, Ann Voskamps’ Blog on mothers. It expresses, big love, deep love and a mother’s heart that covers the life of her children in God’s Hands.

Welcome Readers: Switzerland 🙂

Rick Reilly: Chy Johnson and her boys – ESPN.

Rick Reilly: Chy Johnson and her boys – ESPN.

This post is dedicated to our dear friend and school football coach, teacher and mentor of young men raising them to a Godly standard: Thank you Curtis for who you are in our school community and with our family. Your impact is a legacy for our Lord.

Thanks, Ashie for sharing and so now you have it. One choice at a time, changes our would. Here we see young men implementing, the last shall be  first and the first shall be last. Mathew 20:16 Best to be said. . .AMEN!

Lost and Found

Carry Me by Kathleen Carnali

This portrait cries out to me.It just shatters my heart!  My heart wants to come right out of chest, in all it’s broken pieces! . It’s more than about this precious child of God. It’s about me. May I gently, suggest, it’s about you too?

We were on family vacation in Ixtapa, Mexico in a resort. I was sitting nursing Kathleen, while we were waiting for dinner. Megan was 4 years old. Bucky stepped around a large white column and she was gone. Every parent’s worst nightmare. Lost in another country! It was rapidly getting dark. Water everywhere: ponds, pools and the ocean. I was beyond terror. They closed the whole resort down and assured us they would find Megan. They called all personel into the search. Bucky went off to find her, and Hope and Ashlyn went as a pair  heading back to the hotel room. I stood alone, holding Kathleen, 6 months old, screaming Megan’s name. It was all I could do. Megan was learning to swim but not competent. Every moment was like a day of darkness. I could not breathe. One mom came to me and said, “I will stay with you until she is found.” Hope and Ashlyn returned, no Megan. Bucky returned, no Megan. I don’t know how long time was. . .I was in some kind of holding pattern that would not allow time to tick. The darker it got, the higher my terror rose. I could not stand the idea of her being lost in the darkness afraid. I felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest. Within 10 minutes we saw our neighbors walking to dinner with Megan. Air, filled my lungs and my knees went weak with relief. Megan, at 4 years old had turned the column and not seeing us headed back to the hotel room. We are talking a 20 minute walk, through twisted, complicated paths with many turns. We had no idea how she even found her way back. Our neighbor family found her sitting at our locked door and she looked up and simply with complete calmness, said, “My family is lost.” And so our Megan was found. Needless to say, Bucky and I could not eat dinner. We just kept looking at each other and at Megan with relief that has no words, but only a presence that attempts to take hold again.

As “adults,” We are pretty good at the part. Acting out the found? What do you think? Aren’t all of us lost at different  times in our lives? And there might be an element of “shame” because as adults we are “suppose” to have our sense of direction. We don’t get “lost?” Right? Wrong!

This is so not about me, it’s about freedom in His arms to be in the lost and found. Yes, every day, my heart weaves in and out of a lost terror and a found comfort. It just is what it is. . .I don’t believe this is about maturity. I hope not? It’s about authentic honesty in our humanity. Murphy Toerner, “It normalizes our humanity” to be honest in safe places. My blog is a safe place for us.

Lost? It’s a frictional place because, you look around hoping no one will notice you are “lost” and at the same time hoping, beyond hope, someone will find you. Now that is misery, right? Ugh! I get lost within myself. Let’s be honest, I crawl up into the lap of Jesus and I still feel lost. It’s not about my Jesus, it is freedom to be where I am, and who I am with Him. I know, that I know, that I know (another Murphy Toerner) that “found” is coming. It may not be in that moment, on that day, but He is coming within to move me from the lost pile to the found. . .

Lost cries through the bleak abyss hearing only it’s own echo circling back to bounce off the walls of it’s solitary confinement. Found comes softly, not to startle the isolated senses, with an embrace that reaches beyond arms’ boundaries into external holdings that anchor the wavering heart.

In the waiting, accept the lost feeling of our humanness (support and give unconditional love) and expect the joy of being found in our Lord. “Found” is where you and I belong. Found is the destination of our desires. Found is His will for each and every one of us.

Parable of the Lost Sheep: Luke 15

You found me!  I love you!

Welcome Readers in Serbia and Mali. Hope you are blessed and encouraged 🙂

Bound or Boundless?

www.youtube.com/watch?v=p7p4coF7Tf4 (Click to view inspiration for his song, “One Day”)

03 One Day by Mark Schultz

This post today is dedicated to my daughter in medical school, Hope. Hope sent me this youtube and this song. I am so deeply touched by her insight and processing, that I feel moved to write a post on it.

We are all bound. We are bound by disappointments, anger, resentment, bitterness, arrogance, pain, betrayal, abuse, loss, fear, broken dreams, stress, pride, numbness, hurt, lost hope. . .the list is endless. All of those are our “physical realm/flesh responses” to our circumstances. . .And it is normal, understandable in the broken world in which we live. I know pain, loss, fear, broken dreams, numbness, lost hope, disappointments. . .circumstances far beyond my control in which I am bound to in the flesh. I stay numb much of the time. I’m just being honest, I could not function daily at the depth of my emotions. Authenticity, even when it takes me outside my comfort zone, empowers my journey for others? Right God? I’m counting on you to show up here?!!! My daughter, Hope reaching out to me broke through that wall of a numb existence into my world bound by ALS, and opened me back up into where the Spirit is and where freedom lives.

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 2 Corinthians 3:17 NIV

That amazing story Mark shared about the boy in the wheelchair during his concert. . .strikes clearly, wheelchair bound and it strikes clearly on the boundless hope of healing. He will one day run freely into the arms of Christ and the wheelchair will just be a small part of his journey.

We are created, meant, destined for boundless. What a beautiful example that boy is of embracing His boundless destiny from his bound circumstances. I’ll share a personal story with you. . .I am one of private worship. I experience it deeply into my bones, but find it hard to express it outwardly. I’m just reserved.  Well, one sweet opportunity to share part of my journey, I found myself on “stage” with a group of women in an audience posture. (And an audience of ONE! My Lord).  I felt so at home, so embraced and so alive in Him at that moment in ministry. . .And I heard Him say, “How many times have I prompted you to raise your arms up to me and you’ve denied me? The time may come when your arms will not raise high in praise? Will you praise me with abandon now that you still can? Will you lift your arms to me?” I had only worshiped with arms held high in praise one other time. . .At the beach alone, on one of “our walks.” (This is so intimate, I feel it in my toes!) Standing on the sandy shore, with feet washed in saltwater warmth, and face turned toward the close of day. . .My arms went up in to express my gratitude for His beauty there and the calling to His Horizon. Even then, I’ll admit to just “you” that I felt, self-conscious. My heart posture was so sincere, but I was still bound by awareness of “me” and anyone that might be watching “me.” We are interesting creatures, aren’t we?

This time on stage was completely different, My arms felt feather light and up they went, in what felt like “reckless abandon” to my love and praise for my precious Lord. Bound by ALS, had given me freedom in boundless praise and worship. Everything about that moment felt so right and I felt the Lord’s delight with my response. To many of you, it seems small. But for me, it was a moment to embrace freedom in praise and swwwweeeeeet adoration of our Lord.

I feel so proud of this young man, we will never know. Mark wrote a song for him it so moved his heart to tears in concert. He sets an example for all of us, in the circumstances that have us bound to our “flesh” responses when we are called into the Spirit of the Lord, to know freedom. I hope and pray. . .

Dear Lord, we are bound in ourselves but boundless in the Spirit of Who you are. . .without you we have no hope of finding freedom. In you, through you and with the Spirit of Who you are, we can experience freedom, despite our circumstances. We take everything to which we are bound and bind it at the foot of  Your Cross. Your Son came to set us, the captives free from fear, despair, bitterness, loss and pain into the Freedom of Your Truth, Light and Love. May each and every one that reads this, feel the call to freedom in You. May each and every one that reads this respond to Your call to freedom. May each and every one that reads this experience, beyond the circumstance that binds, a new freedom in YOU. Amen

I’m going to challenge you, look into the mirror today and say, “I am set free in my Jesus.” Say it like you know it to be True with confidence that reaches beyond your circumstance. I’ll not ask you to do anything, I won’t do. . .so it is my challenge today also. It will not be easy. I do not like looking in a mirror at myself in a wheelchair. (This cannot be my life?!) It will not be easy for you,  if you allow yourself, to see into the things of the flesh to which you are bound.

To which we are bound, is not “pretty” but to which we are boundless is beyond beauty.

At this moment, as I write to you, my friend and artist, Sue Hodges is inscribing His Truth on my bedroom wall to remind me of The Life of His Spirit in me and my freedom to experience it.

Sue Hodges, Paints