For a little while now, I have been returning to the valley. Not for no purpose…and not even because I wanted to. Just knowing that I have unfinished business there…and that it is TIME…to stop procrastinating about matters that are so central to my heart, and living my life TRUE, that I will be deeply sorrowful if I arrive at SOMEDAY and discover that yes, it IS…too late…after all.

Two days ago, I received news that did not merely accompany me on my path to the valley…as though it were a newspaper filled with current sad events, as often greets me in the world news day by day…which I could peruse, add to my sad news pile, and then push away via the next moment’s distraction. No, this was news that STOPPED me…stopped, almost, my HEART…and HELD me…in a RIGHT NOW…this-is-happening-RIGHT-NOW kind of way…and all I could do was remind myself to keep breathing…PRAY…and yes, keep walking.

Today, this news, and all that it might have portended for the future…our future…my future…has been upended by unexpected, sparkling joy…NEW news…and not gradual…but arriving ahead of time, like an unexpected visitor, happily greeted and embraced at the door, and welcomed in, no matter that dust bunnies abound, and piles must be re-situated in a hurry.

But…and here, I pay attention to what waits in the shadows…now gentle…no longer harsh and foreboding…

                      This joyous moment did not arrive before the sudden reminder of life’s fragility had worked its mystery in my memory…of former times…when God began teaching me…long ago…about the necessary act of LETTING GO…not just of the little things to which I become attached…but which are, after all, things…and so, ultimately, of passing, if momentarily precious, consequence…

                    …but ALSO…and especially…of things that are NOT things…and of such monumental consequence that I dare not try to speak aloud of the deepest fear…mine…that awaits me at their loss.

I have (have I, really?) perhaps fancied myself ‘beyond’ the grasp of the deep abyss of inescapable pain…a ‘seasoned traveler’ on life’s sometimes-stony path…able to gather in my practiced equilibrium, even if not ‘to leap tall buildings in a single bound’, and walk, not unscathed…no…not at all…but even so, no longer shattered…

Well…Okay. No.

The lesson…not learned in theory…but in too-real, frightening, right-now, this-is-MY-life form, is that I cannot return to the valley with a been-there-done-that, ready-for-anything mentality. I can’t go in full-armor, sword drawn, ready to defeat the foes I may meet on the road, haughty in my ‘bravery’…

No. The valley road is not a memorized path, where I bring the road markers with me and set them in place. I must go there with my humanity unshielded, but for the One Who gifts me with TRUST, and that only moment-by-moment, and each moment new….and my heart OPEN…which means (true story) prepared to be BROKEN…again and again. Some call it being vulnerable. I call it scared…but willing…yes, willing to get up and go…because…YES, because I know the One Who walks with me. And He’s not getting ready to leave me alone.

This is His lesson….for me (and maybe for you?)…old…and BRAND NEW…yep, right here, TODAY! — Letting go doesn’t mean losing.

                                        …but letting go DOES mean letting go.

Into the abyss? No. (It only feels that way…sometimes.) Into His waiting and merciful, capable Hands.

Deep joy…happy gratitude…to our God…in this present, precious momentfor returning to me what (not a thing, but a who) I was not prepared to live without! And for returning me…to my heart…willing to be open…no matter what.

 “Weeping may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning.” Psalm 30:5.


A month ago I attended a Writing From the Soul retreat in Omaha, Nebraska. It was an awesome, transformational experience that left me determined to come home and LIVE what I had (re)discovered…about community…about the JOY of sharing my deepest longings and truest truths with like-minded others…and about being PRESENT to the gifts of each deeply lived moment I am given on my earth journey.

Toward the end of the retreat, we were given the assignment of writing a letter to ourselves, which we then placed in envelopes, sealed, and turned in…to be mailed to us 3 weeks later. We were told that between that time and the time our letter(s) arrived, we would have forgotten about them. In the filled-up feeling of the moment, I thought to myself that’s just silly…I’m not going to forget.

I did forget. And when I received my letter in the mail a few days ago, I was surprised…and felt like I was opening a letter the contents of which I did not know. Which, indeed, was the case, as I did not recall a single sentence, or even a fragment of a sentence.

As I am, today, feeling overwhelmed by the ‘demands’ of my outer world, I came here to be present…maybe only to myself…but for today, that’s okay. Today, that’s enough.

I want to keep my letter to myself in THIS PLACE…the place that represents my journey into living my own life…not separated FROM those precious people to whom I joyfully (albeit tiredly…some days…) devote most of my energy…but yes, AS a separate person.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Dear Barbara –

This special time is coming to a close. You knew, in your deepest heart, that you were supposed to be here, and this knowing has been confirmed in so many ways since Thursday evening — in the words and the silence, in the songs and the sharing, in the gifts of precious and powerful presence of all these beautiful women in this beautiful place. Most of all, in the joy of our Lord, given here in the little ripples of our own individual streams of life and longing…and received here in an ocean of glad and tender community, transformed now into deep and sacred unity.

I will go home and cross the threshold into the life for which all my years…culminating in these days and moments of dear connection…and gathered hope…have been preparing me.

Once again, I stand in awe at the ocean’s edge. I am ready now…at last…to embrace who I am…to no longer seek an-other, better (read: ‘good enough’) self. God gave me, not just life, but my life. And, along with the rest of His creation, He stood back and called it good.

I call it good as well. PTL!

Be God’s –
Barbara 🙂 PTL

“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you.” Philippians 1:3

And so it is…that there I was…and here I am. And am I ready to keep my promise to myself?

I am reminded, just now, of when my sister, our cousins, and I would play hide-and-seek when we were kids. When the one who was hiding her eyes was done counting, she would yell, “Here I come, ready or not.”

So…this little memory will henceforth be known as ‘my sign’! 🙂

Ready or not. I am crossing. Here I come!

007Bread crumbs…unsought, barely recognizable as guideposts to a holy way…lead me back…and back again…to my heart…to a quiet place that is often lonely and always true. Sometimes I long to share my thoughts and feelings with another person…just one person, who waits each day to hear the tumbling twists and turns of my day and is wishing, too, to share their own.

But other times, I KNOW…that THIS TIME in my life is one for which I have long waited…and which I have NEEDED…and that, despite my proclivity for moving from distraction to distraction to avoid the very thing I long for…

yes, the heart of the matter…

I would NOT, in fact, trade this little space in time…this precious path of gathering little pieces of memory….pressing together nearly lost fragments of meaning…into a WHOLE that can still only barely be imagined…while being at once wholly believed in…(I love paradox!)…

for anything in the world.

Just now I hear a train in the distance…a sound that, when I hear it from inside a building, always takes me back to my childhood, to a bedroom in a little stucco house on Oklahoma Avenue in Woodward, Oklahoma. Grandma and Granddaddy Perrin’s house. My safe place in the world.

It’s a big thing now, I think…the fact that it feels so often and so extremely as though the world we live in isn’t SAFE. And maybe it never was so very safe as we sometimes imagined, or as we compare to NOW, when all the world’s tragedies and unspeakable horrors are right HERE, in real time, on millions of computer screens all over the world, at the touch of a button.

This is one of the reasons it is so important for us to tell the truth while we can. It’s our best gift to the world, isn’t it? To tell the truth?

We don’t have to hurry. We really can be in this one…little…moment.

But it IS time also, I think, to set aside delay.

And maybe it’s true that the world isn’t safe. Not safe to go to a movie theater…or to send our kids to school…or to trust that a phone dropping a call does not necessarily signify tragedy on the other end…or to speak our deepest fears and longings…

But while we are living true…as true as we absolutely, possibly can…we are giving our gift of bread crumbs to a world that is so hungry for the precious, dear, holy fragments that we can’t CREATE, but that we CAN share…

The journey is the thing…

Be blessed. Be safe. Be true.

Be you.

And yes. Amen. Me, too! 🙂 PTL

When I pray, asking for guidance, these


I came here today, seemingly by accident, and this is how it happened. I wanted to start a new blog, I wanted to do it in WordPress, where my Emptynestmomma’s blog was (is), and I wanted the name of my new blog to be ‘gatherupthefragments.wordpress.com.’

So….I went to WordPress, and I tried to set it up, using that name, but I got a message saying that my e-mail was already being used. I knew that was me, my emptynestmomma blog, so I clicked on it, and it took me directly to this page. And the first words I read were, “Gather up the fragments…”

And just because I went to it, it changed the date to today’s date! So now I don’t know when I first wrote the above few words, but I do believe it was sometime last year (2010).

So…was this mere coincidence?

I don’t think so.

I believe this tiny series of events is confirmation that it IS TIME…

to gather up the fragments…

And it’s true, as I began saying above, that when I pray for guidance, these are the words that so frequently come to me. Come to me, I believe, from God.

The God of the universe. The God of my life.

After all, the fragments are the patches of life…right?…that many deem worthless…too small or insignificant to be of value.

But no. The little pieces…patches…fragments of life — whether these be fabric scraps for making quilts, or small pieces of bread, or fragments of humanity that have been cast aside by the masses — are not too small or insignificant to be a part of something beautiful. Something lifegiving.

And my prayer…on THIS DAY…in this present, precious moment, is that this will be…that this IS…true of me, too. That I am not too small, too insignificant, to be of use…

…to the Giver of all good gifts.

He is showing me…even right now…how to find my way back…

to the heart of the matter.

To my heart.

To His heart.


We are having a sad day today. My Little Beth and me.

But we are still here. Living. Breathing. Praying. Believing.

And loving.

Yes. Always loving.

“And when they were filled, He said to His disciples, ‘Gather up the leftover fragments that nothing may be lost.'” John 6:12

Baby Bird and Momma Bird at the Pacific Ocean

Redeeming the time…

Often I feel very much alone in this present valley, but today was a notable exception. Today I was given a gift — a gift of presence, a gift of affinity, a gift of space…for me…really and truly for me!

In a way, it’s strange, because I think sometimes we don’t know what we’re missing until it’s there…and then it’s like, oh…yeah…that’s what I’ve been wishing for…but didn’t know what to call it.

As I was growing up, I remember saying many times that I didn’t miss having a father. My mom was wonderful, and I just thought it’s okay that I don’t have a dad…I really don’t need that.

Then one day after I was grown, with kids of my own, I watched a commercial on tv about long distance telephone service.  A daughter was calling her father, and their conversation, which I don’t recall, was very touching. It made me cry. And that’s when I knew that I missed having a dad. When I thought I didn’t miss that, I was thinking about my father, and I was so grateful when he wasn’t there anymore that I guess I thought that meant I was happy not to have a father at all.

It’s hard to label a void. It’s hard to know what we’re missing if we just don’t have it at all. I had a father, and he was in my life for awhile…but I never had a dad.

That’s what it was like today. Not about having a dad…no…but having something that I had forgotten I missed so much — someone who spoke ‘my language’…someone who truly heard me speak of things that are powerful and present in my heart and mind…someone who shared my love of God and Church and books and ideas and ideals…

And I begin to see…how closed off I have become…to myself!

And yes! I do want to be returned, heart, mind, body, and soul, to the core of my life…to my purpose…

                                              to God’s purpose for me.

And He will show me…how to redeem the time — the time I have wasted…

                       and yet…no…I don’t truly believe anything will have been wasted. This time….this nearly a year since I have been home…not working at a job…is not wasted time. It is lying fallow time. And now…we stand on the threshold of winter. It is time to be strong…to be quiet…to stay warm…for the days ahead. Spring will come…and my heart and mind…

                                                   I pray…and I believe…

                                                                           will be ready.

I don’t know how to say thank you for this day…for the precious gift of powerful presence of one of God’s own healers…but I am grateful.

I am remembering…who I am…

                                             and I will….with the help of my Lord…

                                                                          redeem the time…

Praise God!

The fog doesn’t lift. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know who to talk to.

     It’s deeper than I knew. And there is so much now that I don’t…know.

Somehow it seems the sorrows that are the very deepest are the ones that are the hardest to verbalize.

I make lists. On paper. In my head. I tell myself I will do this.

                         And this.

And this.

                                        I will.


But tomorrow comes and I’m still immobilized.

I feel like I’m in a standoff.

               With who?

                      With what?

With a truth…that is demanding to be told.

I can’t make it go away…with any of the distractions…or with all of the distractions.

                                                  I remember…

                          I remember going to California…1988…with my Maudey (I need you back! Where are you?)…to see a man I thought I loved…and falling truly and madly in love with the ocean.

The Pacific Ocean.

And standing in awe at the ocean’s edge became my immediate and truest metaphor for the most profound moments of my life.

I need to trust my life again…myself again…my God again…enough to return to the ocean’s edge…

                                  metaphorically and really.

I can’t stand this dark stuck place much longer. 😦

I don’t know why I’m here tonight. I don’t really have any words.

They say (whoever ‘they’ are) that sometimes we just need to show up…and we will be given words…

                I don’t know.

                      Is that kind of like in the Bible where it says, “…the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words…”?          Romans 8:26

                                       I don’t know.


I think I keep trying, maybe half subconsciously, to avoid calling this valley a valley.

I know…somehow…that I need to commit to the words at a very honest level in order to be able to express my true, deep heart with them.

Well. This is…scary.

This valley…this new valley…is not a place I know.

And, to be honest (if this is, in fact, the point), it’s not a place I like. 😦

And let us make no mistake. My days still have moments of joy. My life contains many blessings, many people I love, love, love to the core of my being. I have much for which to be grateful.

And I am.

However. To the extent to which I avoid this present place…where I am…and this present work…which is mine…with those people and things who…and which…bring me joy…I do not honor them…or myself…or God.

And so.



                                         I don’t know. What.

This much…though…I do know. This aloneness I feel…right now…is not the whole story.

                        I am held. By Truth.

                                                          By Mercy.

                                                                          By Grace.

Amazing Grace!


        “Thou hast taken account of my wanderings; Put my tears in Thy bottle; Are they not in Thy book?”                Psalms 56:8



This is my yes.




For the sake of my theme (being an empty nest momma), I have all but abandoned my blog…

                       …which I don’t want to do. The whole concept of ‘abandonment’ feels sad and wrong, no matter the context.

My ‘little bird’ decided to live at home while starting to college at WSU rather than living in the dorm.

                                                            This was happy news for me. 🙂

And still…it is a happy thing for me…in that I am, physically, in closer proximity to her than I would be if she lived away from home.

However…emotionally…I speculate that the distance between us is as great as, or greater than, it would be if she were actually gone.

So… ’empty nest momma’ still feels valid. My ‘little bird’ is here and yet…not.


A few days ago, I saw a group of birds in flight on the west side of Wichita. They were flying in traditional ‘V’ formation (which I wrote about a couple of posts back), with one difference. There was one bird, clearly flying as fast as it could…trailing behind the ‘V’…trying hard to catch up…

                       I feel like that bird. Trying…in my own way…to come to terms…with so much…to keep up…to go forward…yet, for all the world to see, trailing behind.

                                      And in my head, I hear, as though from the distance of many years past,  Bob Seger’s voice singing, “…against the wind…I’m still runnin’ against the wind…I’m older now, but still runnin’…against the wind.”


I have to remind myself…again and again…that this transition…for ‘little bird’ AND for me…is about separation…individuation…moving forward…


                                                                                …and yes, moving on…


So, yeah. Wow.

I’m back.

                               And it’s good. To be here. 🙂

Well, between baby bird’s summer college session ending, my computer crashing, and leaving town for a retreat, I have been long absent from this forum…


Just a quick little (or not little, actually) story to share (but I will keep it short, even though it is NOT little)…

In the summer of 1988, God led me into the desert. I didn’t leave home, and it was only later that I named it, but it felt like the desert to me. I broke my ankle, and in the long, hot, painful months that followed, He taught me how to walk for the first time in my life.

                    I had 5 kids at the time…two were teenagers…three were still little…and pretty directly after I broke my ankle, my car broke down. Because I couldn’t walk the 4 1/2 blocks to the bus on my crutches to get to work, and we didn’t have the money for car repairs, I quit my job and stayed home. It was summertime Kansas hot, we did not live in an air-conditioned house, and to say things were difficult for us that summer would be a wild understatement.

What did I do during my desert summer? I wrote. It wasn’t simply that I chose to spend my time writing. I couldn’t stop writing. I felt like I was being carried along on a tidal wave of no-longer-repressed emotions — lots of emotions, maybe all of them. I would turn out my light at night after writing for hours…and then, seconds or minutes later, I would have a thought that needed writing. I was tired…I would tell myself — tomorrow…tomorrow I will write it down…but I knew, of course, that by ‘tomorrow’ the thought would be long gone, irretrievable…and so I would turn the light on, not once, but again and again, to write whatever seeming urgency it was into my journal…and finally, restlessly, in some dark and silent space of the long nights, I would sleep.

Now…this summer…21 years later…this same tender and amazing God led me into the desert one more time…this time literally. Three weeks ago, I piled my stuff into my trusty Mitsubishi (Can anyone who has known me more than 3 years just not get over the fact that I own a car I can title ‘trusty’?!) and headed for a retreat at Nada Carmelite Hermitage in the wilderness near Crestone, Colorado, a place I had visited before only in my dreams. And so it was to be, and did become, a dream come true.

Colorado, where I had only been before while on layover in the airport, was beautiful. The mountains moved me and scared me (yep, they did…but I prayed my way in and back out!). I got amazing photographs…I wrote…I prayed…I fixed food just for me (so strange…and no leftovers…) in my own little hermitage. And then I left 2 days early to come back home. Because I didn’t like it? No, not at all. It was just time. And I knew it.

I have long loved solitude, but I have never before experienced the level of solitude that I did at Nada. However, paradoxically, I returned home with a deeper sense, and stronger awareness, of my need for community.

It is time…I believe it is time…to find out where I belong at this stage of my earth journey. It is time to reach out…to give back…beyond the walls of my home, where my heart abides…and will ever abide.

Praise God for this gift of our lives. Of my life. Thank God for this present, precious moment.

                                   And thank Him for the gifts of the desert…then and now.

I have a lot of plans…ideas…dreams…

                   …yet in the midst of the moments of my day…as I’m living them…I am often gripped by an inertia that I feel powerless to push away.

My life still has purpose…and I feel that…I know it…

              …yet the details of that purpose…and my moment-by-moment place in that purpose…are shifting…

                                          …and I cannot clearly intellectualize that, as I do so many other things (one of my coping mechanisms, I’m afraid…).

There seem to be reverberations far below the ground on which I stand…like the deep-earth warning of an impending earthquake…except I think…I believe…it does not warn of destruction, but only of change

             …and the colors, the texture, the picture of that change…are not clear to me…yet…

And I wonder…are they mine to choose?…or only to discern?

            Am I to lead? Or to follow?

I think of the birds in the air…flying in formation…keeping each other going…taking turns being at the front…and I think yes!…I want to be part of that veritable, dependable V! 

It’s time…it’s time to find my community…my allies in this fight for flight! I don’t want to be ground bound!!

                It’s time…it’s time…to trust…to try….

                          It’s time…little bird’s momma…to remember…how to fly.