All was Well


It’s 5:30 in the morning and the street is quiet, save the birds who are singing their morning song with joyful abandon. I hear the sounds of distant traffic, because this is the city and the city never stops.

It is now warm enough to sit outside in the early morning light, surrounded by soft noise of morning. My coffee is in my hand, my thoughts in my head, and I am at peace. What is it about this hour of the morning that comforts and assures me that all will be well? 

It has been a full weekend. On Thursday and Friday my husband and I attended a colloquium called “Orthodox Christianity and Humanitarianism: Ideas and Action in the Contemporary World.” We were humbled and challenged by all we heard. The brain cells alone were staggering, but they were combined with front line responses from those involved in the ongoing struggles in Ukraine, Syria, and Gaza. The need is indescribable and the challenge undeniable. Though our world moves on, these needs have not gone away. But first, every speaker affirmed that we do this because we are made in the image of God, and we have a responsiblity to see both the image of God and potential in each person we encounter. I am humbled realizing that I can often do this with refugees but struggle to do the same with my neighbors.

The rest of the weekend was full of chores and family. Mother’s day – that socially constructed holiday that I love – was warm and lovely, with two of my five children home to celebrate with me. We ate chicken korma and goat curry, sauce dribbling down our chins, our noses running from the deliciousness of it all.

Last night we sat on our porch until late in the night. My friend Heather is a new mom and brought her baby. We got to hold eight pounds of perfect, watching his little mouth scrunch up into a subconscious smile in his sleep. We laughed, knowing he is probably dreaming of a giant breast full of milk.

And now it is Monday. The world has woken to a new day, and I am a part of it. I know it will be a busy week, I know that I need all God’s strength and grace to work well. But right now, in this early morning hour with all the colors of spring surrounding me, I think of the last lines of the Harry Potter series and I smile. “All was well.”

These Things I Believe


These things I believe….

That street and subway musicians deserve our spare change.

That you should always buy lemonade from kids who are selling it on street corners.

That the stranger should be welcomed.

That love is better than safety.

That those who know how to grieve also know how to comfort.

That kids need ice cream for dinner occasionally.

That friends are worth fighting for.

That grilled cheese sandwiches and dhal and rice are comfort foods.

That you can rarely be too warm.

That envy will kill your heart and generosity will fill your soul.

That we react too quickly to social media and end up swallowing our words so they choke us.

That international terminals are the best.

That a walk by the ocean can ease a heavy heart.

That everything tastes better at the beach.

That our world is to be explored and enjoyed.

That the old deserve our care and respect.

That decorating Christmas cookies is necessary wherever you are in the world.

That white lights make everything a little better, and a lot brighter.

That babies and earthquakes are the only real surprises left.

That home, poetry, and picnics are necessary.

That most conflicts are more complicated than they may seem.

That life is too short to hate family.

That man has always tried to make God in his image, forgetting it should be the other way around; forgetting the glorious image that was stamped on man from the beginning.

That marriage is worth the risk and the fight.

That it’s better to be kind than right.

That life is far too difficult to go through it without God.

That there is enough grace to go around – enough for everyone. If we’ll take it.

These things I believe. What about you? 

Enjoy the Journey

Lighthouse PEI

Enjoy the Journey – by Robynn

I know it’s a horribly cliché title….but it came to mean something very significant the other day when I was on my way somewhere….!

Tuesday, September 23, I spent the entire day traveling. Departing from Manhattan, Kansas I made my way to Prince Edward Island on the far eastern side of Canada. This is a dream destination for me. Ever since I was little girl and was first introduced to Anne of Green Gables I have dreamed of going to Prince Edward Island. I never in a thousand years thought I would ever get the chance to go. But here I was on Tuesday traveling to a dream come true! I was so excited!

Early in the morning, while the house was still sleeping and the daylight still dosing, I crept downstairs to make coffee. I showered quickly and begged my hairdryer to whisper. I gently woke Lowell, my driver, slipped on my shoes, picked up my purse and headed out the door. I wanted the day to past. I wanted to be in Prince Edward Island. I wanted a glimpse of those childhood green gables!

I urged myself to sleep on that first leg to Chicago. Experience has taught me that sleeping through things makes them pass painlessly and quickly. I awoke as the plane kissed the tarmac. Jumping out of my seat I deplaned and set off determinedly for terminal 2. Let this day zip by…. I was a woman on a mission!

As I sat at my gate, sipping my coffee, I got a text. “Are you home?” I chuckled to myself as I casually texted back, dropping Prince Edward Island subtly into the short message with a smile on my face. The response that came flying through the cell phone waves hit me like ice water in the face. It was a death text. A dear mutual friend’s son had committed suicide. Tears leapt to my cheeks. I put a hand over my mouth to stifle the sobs. Suddenly life slowed. I saw people faces. I wanted my own children. I wanted to tell them a hundred things. Suddenly everything meant something and simultaneously everything meant nothing all at the same time. I called Lowell. We cried together. We prayed for the boy who is gone now. For his family. We prayed for ourselves. For our three. We sat quietly he in Kansas me in Chicago O’Hare.

And I wanted to live slowly. I wanted to slow the day, the coffee, the lay over. There was no longer any urgency to get there. I breathed out grief and breathed in grace.

Eventually. Gradually. Slowly. I arrived in Prince Edward Island. My friend Corinne mets me. It was a middle-aged reunion of old stories, old friends. Within the first several minutes Corinne told me the way she loves to vacation. She loves to take breaks. She loves to turn on little side roads and see what lingers there. If she sees a sudden light house or a splendid view she delights in the freedom to stop and see it, live in it, capture it on camera. She wanted to enjoy the journey. I looked at her. I knew what she meant. I wanted that too.

Suddenly I wanted life to quickly slow down. I longed to live present to the moment.

Enjoying the journey changed significantly in meaning from the dawn of that day –bursting with joy and expectation—through the shadow of death to the dusk of my arrival. It certainly changed my island experience and I hope I’ve brought it back with me to land locked Kansas. I want so badly to live slower, to linger with my children, to love my Lowell more intentionally, to listen to my mother in law’s stories.

How about you? Do you long for life to slow down, to live in the present enjoying the moment? 

Buy your copy of Between Worlds today! Have it already? Pick up an extra copy for your friend, your child, your dentist (they for sure live between worlds – between the world of teeth and not teeth.)

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A Forgotten Anniversary and a Tribute from a Granddaughter

“That’s where I first saw your dad.” says my mom. “I was looking out my dorm window and there he was!” 

We were beside the old campus of Gordon College, now Wheelock College in the Fenway area of Boston. We had stopped the car on the street and my mom and I got out so we could take a picture of her by her old dormitory window.

I love hearing these stories, picturing my parents as the college students or young adults they once were. They lend another dimension to the parents I know, help me to realize that I know only certain parts of their lives. They are a reminder that before I came along, before my brothers entered the world, it was the two of them. The two of them with all the hopes, dreams, idealism, and faith that those ending college and embarking on a life together should have.

Yesterday my parents celebrated 63 years of marriage. Beyond the guilt I feel for forgetting their anniversary (fully blaming the fact that I didn’t grow up with Hallmark to remind me to buy cards, a lame excuse for sure) is the hope and gratitude I feel for who they are and how they have lived.

Three years ago – on their 60th anniversary my daughter Stefanie wrote a tribute to them. I went back and read it this morning and want to share it here. They are the words of a granddaughter growing up in a different era than her grandparents, an era where marriage seems more like a commodity than a commitment. Her thankfulness to her heritage shines through and echoes my thoughts.


“Sometimes, when conversing among friends or strangers, I get deep enough into the conversation where not just my immediate families history pours out, but the history of my parents’ parents pours out. I remark on the fact that two separate people, from two different families, joined together in marriage and by this, you changed generations and generations of individuals.

When you listened to God’s calling on your life, you changed all of us, even the little ones that can’t even speak yet. When you took that boat to Pakistan, you  set a fire in the souls of all your children, making them passionate about different cultures. You set a fire that dwells in me. The uniqueness of your story gives me great hope to know that two people, who listened to God’s call, affected their five kids, who, in turn, affected their kids (17 kids!) and now, some of us are affecting spouses and even grandkids!

You sparked inside all of us an appreciation for a good curry and a deep sense of belonging in airports. You may not see your commitment to Christ as such an inspiration, but your marriage truly is incredible and what you did, even through the difficult times, is a testimony to God’s amazing hand on each of our lives. You persisted and remained dedicated, allowing all of us to explore the possibilities on this earth, the possibilities of traveling and seeing different ways of life. Thank you for sparking an eternal flame in my heart, and the hearts of all my cousins. You changed generations of people.

Love you so very much and so glad to call you my very own. What a beautiful relationship you have and I hope one day I will celebrate my 60th with someone as amazing and funny as Grandpa!
Infinite love and Congrats!
Stefanie S. Gardner (#16)

Happy Anniversary Mom & Dad! 




On Midwives and Breathing Through the Pain

faith journey brene brown

“I thought faith would say ‘I’ll take away the pain and discomfort’. But what it ended up saying was ‘I’ll sit with you in it.'” Brené Brown in Jesus Wept

My first baby was born with a midwife by my side. I had labored all night and the baby was posterior. My labor had to reposition the baby in order to give birth — and it hurt. The contractions became harder and more difficult. They were in ‘couplets’ – I would have a strong and long contraction and then almost immediately a short, not as difficult contraction. It is an inefficient way to labor.

And it hurt.

But my midwife and my husband were there by my side — all the way through 12 plus hours of intensive labor. I didn’t have an epidural. I didn’t have any medication. I had something that was ultimately better– a midwife sitting beside me coaching me to the finish line. And that finish line was the birth of a baby. A midwife helping me to breathe through the pain and come out on the other side; a midwife who told me when to push, when to stop pushing; a husband who held my hand, watching the monitor that showed the strength of the contractions.

They call it labor for a reason. I had never worked so hard in my life – nor been rewarded so well.

But it hurt.

So when I recently heard Brené Brown talk about faith – how it’s like a midwife – I knew she was on to something.

“I wanted faith to work like an epidural; to numb the pain of vulnerability. As it turned out, my faith ended up being more like a midwife – a nurturing partner who leans into the discomfort with me and whispers “push” and “breathe….Faith didn’t make my life less vulnerable or comfortable, it simply offered to travel with me through the uncertainty.” ~ Brené Brown 

Because that’s what faith has been like for me. It sits with me through the hard, encourages me to push harder, reminds me that the reward is so much bigger, so much greater than the difficulty of the now. Sometimes this journey of life is a complete joy, full of sun and peace. Other times it’s a grey fog of doubt or a sea of fear, still more times it’s a step in the dark.

And I want it to be easy – oh how I want it to be easy. I want it to be easy for me and I want it to be easy for those I love.

I don’t want the struggles and the doubts. I don’t want the painful self-reflection and the recognition of wrong. I don’t want the work of faith. I want an epidural. Me. who birthed 5 children with no pain medication, no epidurals. When it comes to my journey of faith – just give me the epidural, let me numb the pain, let me have it easy. 

Because it hurts. 

But I know this – no where was I ever promised a life free of discomfort and distress. At no time was I told it would be easy. Never was I given a false expectation that life would be absent of pain. That is true for child-birth, that is true for faith.

Through labor I learned what it’s like to put forth intense effort and think you can’t go on, only to be encouraged that you can and you will continue to do what you have to do until that baby is born. Through labor I learned what it was to have a trained midwife by my side who knew what was going on, who knew when I was supposed to push and when I was supposed to breathe. Through life I learn the same thing; that I will continue to do what I have to do, faith by my side encouraging me on, through words of truth, through the people of God, through the Church.

What about you? How has faith been like a midwife to you? Or maybe it hasn’t – maybe instead faith has been like a doctor that pushes their own agenda and doesn’t let you breathe. I would love for you to join the conversation in the comments.

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Keep on Rowing

You can see the concentration on their faces — this is not a spectator sport. They care not whether there is an audience, whether people are cheering on the side.

They just keep on rowing. 

The wind comes up on the Charles River and you can see the ripples of current in the water. The way their hair blows back tells you that the wind is going against them, making it harder to row fast, harder to move forward.

But they just keep on rowing. 

The coxswain, small from the stern of the boat, yells out instruction and pacing. She is there to guide the boat, to keep rhythm, to encourage. It’s important for the team to keep to the course and the coxswain is essential for this. She steers the rudder if they begin to go off course, she watches for technique and safety.

And the others? They just keep on rowing. 

The team is unified in purpose, they clearly know each other’s style and strength. The goal is to make it to the finish line, increase your time, row well, do your best. So many metaphors for life that your brain freezes and you wonder why you have to analyze everything. But you know no matter how much you’re enjoying the event, you will keep on pondering, writing things in your head. It’s who you are, how you were made.

Signs for Regatta 2013 are high on light poles, vendors under awnings either sell their wares or give out free products, the gold and red of the Autumn season is at perfection and the sun shines bright. The wealthier gather on the other side of the river under a large, white tent — undoubtedly enjoying the fruits of their wealth through food, wine, and conversations about Yale, Harvard, and Princeton.

But you’re lost in the importance of rowing, because even though you don’t row, you know how hard it can be to keep on rowing, keep on going. You know that it takes every ounce of will and strength, that you need your coxswain, your people who encourage, to help keep you on track, to guide when needed, to watch for your safety.

It’s Monday morning and the week will greet you with all kinds of unknown, but you know you need to keep on rowing. And so you do. 





Triple Booberry MuffinsMonday muffins: These muffins make me wish I had small children again. Well….for a minute anyway. Stacy says this about these ‘Triple Booberry Muffins’: “blueberry muffins with blueberry yogurt, frozen blueberries that have blueberry jam mixed through them….they turn out a wonderful purple color and I thought they might be nice as an alternative to the usual overly sweet things folks make for Halloween parties.  Or to make for breakfast the morning of, for those who enjoy the holiday.”  Click on the link above or the picture to get the recipe!

The Last Child

Today is packing day.

Packing up Rockport.

Packing away summer.

Packing off our two youngest to head early Monday to colleges in New York City and Brookline.

Like most parents I feel a mixture of pride, nostalgia, and relief. We’re given our children as gifts with no guarantees and no exchanges. I’m grateful for this– I’ve no doubt my parents would have traded me in for a better model several times over.

There are times when you feel in your marrow that you’re failing your kid, when you stay up late into the night pleading for mercy and grace. There are other times when you’re downright cocky thinking “I’ve so got this parenting thing covered!” only to fall flat in the next breath.

The last child gets the parent who picks the pacifier up from the floor and pops it in baby’s mouth, hoping no one sees them but pretty sure they wouldn’t care even they were seen. They get the parent who is weary of curfews and just wants their child to be quiet when they sneak in at 2am; the parent who looks at them and softly admits they wish they had tried pot in high school. They get the parent who knows that every picture their child paints is not a Picasso masterpiece, but can still look at it and say “my, isn’t that a lovely shade of blue?”

They get the parent who knows more about grace than they could have ever imagined and can say without hesitation that parenting is “but for grace…”

An opinion piecein the Washington Post written by Michael Gerson eloquently articulated many of the emotions I feel.

“Parenthood offers many lessons in patience and sacrifice. But ultimately, it is a lesson in humility. The very best thing about your life is a short stage in someone else’s story. And it is enough.” From “Saying goodbye to my child; the youngster

So there you have it. I am but a ‘short stage’, a blip if you will, in the life stories of my kids, but a blip who loves them with a fierce, protective, God-given love. A blip ordained by God to share in the awesome and terrible responsibility of parenting.

So the sun sets on the stage where I see my son most every day. Where life is lived in family–in the morning through shared coffee and silence, in the evening through shared meals and discussion.

In all of this I am reminded of the Father who loves with an everlasting love, a love “utterly trustworthy and completely unpredictable”. *

And the best thing I do as I pack them off is place them where I have placed them countless times before — in the arms of the Father. The Father who does not walk, but pulls up his robe and runs to greet his children.


*a phrase used often by my sister-in-law, Tami

That Holy Ache

Spring 2017

I awake with that Holy Ache.

If there is any time I feel this acutely it’s on Monday mornings, where I try to move between a resurrection Sunday and the real-world Monday. Where I move from the weekend rest and peace, to the week day chaos and problems.

We who are human know this Holy Ache. It is something that transcends cultures and generations, something that will be part of us until our life on this earth is complete.

It’s the one that reminds us that we are in between. We are in the not yet; the messy middle. That place where we know what we see is only a fraction of the real story, yet we ache for that real story to be revealed, to come to fruition. We are ‘between the lost and the desired’.

A Holy Ache.

That ache we feel when we read or hear the news and our hearts stop with the horror of it all, the longing to make all right, to gather up all the orphans, the widows, the sinners and show them the love of God. The holy ache that acknowledges we are capable of so little in comparison to the great need. That ache we feel when we are at a funeral of one we love, knowing we will never see their faces, hear their words, hug their bodies again. That ache we feel when the rich thrive and mock while the poor struggle to survive. That ache we feel of injustice and wrong and all those things that remind us we are in the between.

It used to be that the holy ache would direct me to despair. It’s all too much, I thought. It’s too hard. Seeing through a glass darkly is not enough. But lately I have embraced the holy ache as an integral part of my faith journey – a critical part that brings me to a greater love and desire for God.

Yesterday our priest said it well. We are caught, he said, between irrational joy and sorrow.

I have embraced the holy ache as an integral part of my faith journey

Irrational joy and indefinable sorrow.  Waking to the smell of spring, knowing we are alive, seeing new buds coming out on trees and bushes fills us with joy, even as we face the sorrow of a world that is not as it should be.

So welcome to today’s Holy Ache – may we walk in faith that aches will be redeemed and in the middle of Holy Aches we may know Holy Joy.