A Psalm of Trust after Small Disasters

When I say “small” disasters in the title, I really do mean small. Nothing life-threatening. But you know how after a series of things go wrong, you start to expect things to go wrong? I want to do some resetting and remember that I trust God to protect me from actual disasters.

Let me grumble first about the series of small disasters.

It began over a year ago in the middle of the night when I heard a crash that I honestly thought was something crashing through the wall of my house. It turned out to be that a closet shelf had collapsed, with too much weight on one side, it had ripped out of the wall. Or that’s what I thought was the problem. I eventually moved all my clothes out of that closet, unsure what to do.

A couple weeks later, I stepped into my bathroom on a Saturday morning — into a puddle of water. There was water dripping from my ceiling. Long story short, it was from a leak behind the shower in the condo above me — and it was also going into that very same closet. The shelf had probably given way because the wall was wet. The good part was that I’d already taken almost all my clothes out. And my insurance gave me a new bathroom (they’d torn down the ceiling) and put the closet shelf back up. Of course, I had to reorganize everything in both my closets so as not to put so much weight on the shelf. And pay the $500 deductible.

The next water adventure was about a month later – when a storm with wind in an unusual direction had water pouring into my bedroom from the window. And water dripping in from my office window. I ended up getting new windows for both those rooms for thousands of dollars.

And the rest of the mini-disasters were mostly financial. Was told I needed two new dental crowns, $600 each. Switched from a CPAP machine to a dental device for $900. Need new glasses $700. (I know, I should have found a way to get them cheaper, but they’re progressives.) And there was more that I’ve forgotten.

Then there were the medical things. Got hit with vertigo that sent me to the hospital to be sure it wasn’t another stroke. It wasn’t, but the dizziness lasted two months. My eye disease (Fuch’s Dystrophy) has gotten worse, and I may need surgery. I was diagnosed with prediabetes. My blood pressure is high. My two big toenails have been messed up since I went on a super steep hike in Maui a year and a half ago, and I was told they need to come off so that the new nails will grow in correctly. Turns out, that hurts. Will they heal in time to do lots of hiking on my upcoming trip?

They’re all stupid little things — but if I don’t pay attention, they can all build up to worrying and fretting.

I’m going to go on a 60th birthday trip to Germany next week, and it’s easy to fret about details for that, too.

So I want to pause, take a deep breath, and pray a psalm of Trust.

I have written a book about Psalms (still seeking a publisher) and the key concepts in Psalms of Trust are:

• Trust
• Refuge
• No Fear
• Vindication
• Guidance
• Deliverance
• Faithfulness

So let me pray one now. As always, I offer these examples partly to encourage people that they don’t have to be very good! I think I’ll use Psalm 27 as my model.

A Psalm for Carrying On after Small Disasters

Lord, you are my castle –
Why should I worry?
You are my provision –
Why should I fret?

When my plans crumble before my eyes,
when the walls of my home don’t do their job,
you give me strength to deal with it,
help to carry on.
You bring the right professionals into my path
and supply what I need.

Father, I didn’t want to deal with those things;
my first reaction is always catastrophic,
but again and again, you bring me through.
You help me take the problem piece by piece
and come to a solution.

Lord, I trust you.
Your love and faithfulness are eternal.
I’ve come through disasters before,
and you’re not going to abandon me now.

I don’t want to be thinking about the difficult details –
those will all get taken care of.
Help me see past them to the joy
of blooming irises,
of a great blue heron,
of silly posing turtles,
of bright blue skies and white puffy clouds.

And a birthday coming up, going back to a place I loved,
reminding me that you have been faithful in my life for sixty years.

Thank you — the disasters are small
because you are big.

I remain confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the Lord.

Eclipses I Have Seen

I got to see the Total Solar Eclipse on April 8, 2024!

For ten years now, I’ve been meeting on Sunday afternoons at the home of Alexis & Chris to play Eurogames — and Alexis has an uncle and aunt who live in Cleveland – and they invited us all to come! So Five of us climbed in their van, drove out Sunday, and Alexis’s aunt put us all up, with another aunt and uncle, too! On Monday, we went to the Arboretum. It was sold out, but that was because of parking. The grounds weren’t crowded at all, and it was a beautiful place to see the total eclipse.

What is it about a total eclipse?

I’ve seen others, but this one still blew me away. Something about the uncanny darkness, the temperature drop, the exclamations of others — it’s a great big shared humanity experience.

This time, it lasted almost five minutes, and probably the very coolest thing was seeing a red spot at the bottom – which turned out to be a solar flare we could see with our naked eyes. I also loved it when everybody on the grounds cheered as the sun came back.

And that got me thinking about other eclipses I have seen.

The very first one was actually just a lunar eclipse. I know my family lived in Kent, Washington, at the time, and research reveals that it had to have been on April 12, 1968, so I was only three years old, almost four.

At the time, there were four kids in our family, and one or two families of five or six cousins came over. And I remember lots of running around and yelling and running up to the attic to watch the moon change shape. And I got to stay up late to watch the moon and I know they told me it was an eclipse and it made a great big impression on me.

But — later on when I learned that the moon changes shape over time, I was a very confused little girl. Because I knew the moon changes shape. And I’d watched it change shape that one night — so my conclusion was that the moon must do that every night. I know they told the three-year-old it was an eclipse, but I don’t think the three-year-old understood how that was different from a normal night.

Yes, I know I’ve seen other lunar eclipses in my life, but none ever made such an impression!

The next eclipse I remember was a partial solar eclipse we saw in Illinois. We took my oldest out of Kindergarten to watch it together in the early afternoon. Research shows that must have been May 10, 1994. It must have been only a week or so before I went on bed rest with my second pregnancy. What I remember about that eclipse was being enchanted by the crescent-shaped shadows made by the leaves.

And then we got to see a total solar eclipse in Germany in August 1999!

I pored over the eclipse totality maps. Our home in Sembach was somewhere right around the line. Being so close, I wanted to see totality! They were having a Fest in Kaiserslautern, about 15 minutes south of us. If they were having a fest, they were sure about totality. So I took off work, and our family went to the Fest and met with friends Jeanine and Nick there.

Things were clear right up to the last minute. We enjoyed the crescent shadows. Then about half a minute before totality – clouds covered the sun and it started raining!

It still got dark. I remember that we were on a hill above the city and it was awesome when the street lights came on because it was dark. It was still incredibly cool. However, I was all the more frustrated when I learned that my coworkers at Sembach had stepped out of the library and gotten a good view of the eclipse!

So then when one was coming in 2017, I wanted to do it right. My friend Marilynn moved to South Carolina a few months before, so I invited myself down to see the eclipse. We ended up viewing it from her friend’s yard, with neighbors in adjacent yards, and it was another joyful and amazing time.

With all of them, there’s such a feeling of wonder and of Wow, we’re experiencing this together!

And then in October 2023, I was in California for my dear friend Ruth’s 60th birthday – and we got to enjoy a partial eclipse.

The crescent shadows on their garage were especially striking.

So yes, those are the eclipses I have seen. Definitely worth making the effort to see, reminding me I’m a small part of a great big solar system along with all us other humans here on earth together.

Bluebells and a Creation Hymn

My as-yet-unpublished book, Praying with the Psalmists, is about using patterns from Psalms in your own prayers. I want to make a habit of praying that way, using different types of Psalms.

On Good Friday, before singing in a wonderful cantata in the evening, I walked among the bluebells at Bull Run Regional Park in the afternoon.

So this is a perfect time to write a creation hymn.

Creation Hymns in Psalms use the following key concepts:

  • God’s Glory
  • God’s Sustaining Care
  • God’s Knowledge
  • Creation’s Joyful Response

You’ll find them in Psalms 8, 19, 33, 65, 95, 96, 104, 139, and 148.

The key concepts give us an idea of what to talk about. I’m going to write a creation psalm about what a wonderful time I had out in God’s creation.

Lord, I love the bluebells so much,
the first flowers on the forest floor.
Each one has small beauty,
rewarding a zoom lens with a glimpse of perfection.
But the fields together
give sparkles of color as far as the eye can see.

I love the way these flowers are wild,
not cultivated like hothouse plants,
but exuberantly filling every bit of ground
overflowing a space that tree leaves normally shade,
bursting forth before the leaves come back,
proclaiming with their brightness that Spring is on its way.

And you gave me a glorious day to roam the trail,
to stop and stoop to capture one flower’s portrait.
Sunshine streaming through the bare branches,
blue skies shining high above,
air brisk and clear,
a perfect day for a ramble.

And with the cantata choir to come,
songs of your love go through my head.
And can it be that I should gain
an interest in my Savior’s blood?
And can it be?
And can it be?

No humans tend these abundant blossoms,
they fall under your tender care.
And if that is how God clothes the Spring blossoms,
that appear only for a few weeks,
how much more will my Father in heaven
care for my needs?

Lord, it’s hard to worry or fret
when walking the Bluebell Trail.
With the river calmly flowing past,
the small flowers dancing in the breezes,
the brisk air filling my lungs,
the happy children spotting critters,
the sound of birds chirping in the trees high above,
it easy to imagine they’re all singing your praises.
And I can pause my busy life to join in.

That’s the idea. Mind you, I’m partly posting this so you know your own psalms don’t actually have to be very good!

Try it at home! If you’re really brave, post one you’ve written in the comments!

Challenging Assumptions about Psalms

I’ve written a book about Psalms called Praying with the Psalmists: Open Your Heart in Prayer Using Patterns from Psalms.

I’m currently looking for a publisher, and one of the publishers I’m planning to query asks for a list of ways your book challenges assumptions. They want a dozen or more ways. I’ve come up with a disorganized list, and I thought it would be fun to post them while trying to make some kind of order. So enjoy!

Challenging Assumptions in Praying with the Psalmists:

  • You might think that Psalms are ancient literature and have no relevance to today, but human emotions are still the same centuries later, and we can learn from Psalms about opening our hearts in prayer.
  • If you think the God of the Old Testament is judgmental and angry, it will be good to immerse yourself in studying Psalms, where we see, again and again, that the Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and rich in love.
  • If you think poetry has to rhyme, you might be surprised to learn about the Hebrew poetry of Psalms, where the form used is mainly parallelism — a form about the content of the lines rather than the sound of the lines, which has been translated beautifully into thousands of languages over time.
  • If you think that only gifted writers can write poetry, you may be surprised at how easy it is to copy the parallelism the psalmists used, and how it can slow down your thinking, make you pause, and help you open your heart.
  • You may have heard you should follow a formula when you pray such as ACTS (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication), but the 150 Psalms in the Bible fall into ten different types, and each type has a different form or set of key concepts. There are many ways to pray, and studying Psalms can deepen your prayer life.
  • If you’ve been told you should pray specific requests so you will notice when God answers, you will find it interesting that the psalmists go into great detail about their problems, but make their requests to the Lord in generalities, trusting the Lord to figure out the specifics.
  • If you think you could never memorize a Psalm because you’re bad at memorizing, you need to know that no one is bad at memorizing Scripture. Memorizing a Psalm might take you longer than someone else, but you got to spend more time with the passage, so how is that bad?
  • If you think it’s not okay to question God, take a look at the angry and despairing questions in some of the Psalms.
  • You might think Psalms are all about joy and praise, but there are more Laments in the Bible than any other type of Psalm.
  • On the other hand, you might think Laments are depressing to read or write, so you may be surprised to learn that along with detailing their troubles, the psalmists who wrote Laments also include a section about trusting God and a section about how they’ll praise God when God answers.
  • If you’ve heard that Messianic Psalms all point to Jesus, you may think they are not something we could write today.  Yes, they foreshadow Jesus, but the psalmists who wrote them didn’t necessarily know they were prophesying. The Messianic Psalms make a good model of how we can pray about injustices in society or government.
  • If you think the book of Psalms is too long to go through them all or that some Psalms simply aren’t interesting, then you’ll enjoy my 12-week Reading Plan to cover all the Psalms and show how they all fit into ten types.

There!  What do you think?  The publisher who asks for this says it helps them determine how your book gives new views on old questions.  I’m not sure my statements are as “provocative” as what they’re looking for, but I do think they give you a feel for what I’m trying to do with it.  I’ll polish up some more before I send the query, but I think I’ll work with this list.

Why Psalms?

I’ve written a book called Praying with the Psalmists.

My book is a complete study of Psalms, showing you how you can deepen your prayer life by using patterns from the ten types of Psalms in your own prayers. I illustrate the types of Psalms by telling my own story. But why Psalms?

Why Read Psalms?

Psalms is a book of emotions of humans in relationship with God. Did you know that there are more Laments in the biblical book of Psalms than there are Psalms of Praise? God can handle our emotions, both positive and negative, and you’ll find them all in the Book of Psalms. These emotions are timeless and the Psalms still touch our hearts today. I’ve got a Reading Plan for reading all the Psalms in 12 weeks, reading one type of Psalm each week.

Why Memorize Psalms?

I’ve memorized all 150 Psalms (beginning in childhood, when my parents paid me), and I’ve found that the brain exercise of memorizing a Psalm helps bypass your brain and bring it straight to your heart. Have you ever memorized a piece of music and found that once you memorize it, you can focus on musicality and meaning? “Hiding God’s Word in your heart” by memorizing a Psalm will help you feel the meaning of that Psalm all the more powerfully. (If you don’t believe me, try it!) I’ve got a chapter with some tips on memorizing Scripture in my book.

Why Study Psalms?

Looking deeper at Psalms, you can see the patterns the Psalmists used — and use them in your own prayers. This is the ultimate goal of my book: To give you another tool to use in prayer and to help your prayers reach your heart.

The book is a 12-week study of all 150 Psalms. You’ll read the Psalms of each type, hear how those Psalms touched my life, and see patterns in each type so you can try it yourself.

After all, sometimes you need a Lament.

Where am I in my book journey?

My book is written, and I brought my own small group through it in 2023, with the help of a co-leader.

In 2023, besides working full-time, I was on the Morris Award committee, so that was taking most of my free time. I did send the book out to some agents. But the feedback I got was that I need to grow my platform before I would get enough interest for an agent or large publisher.

So, in 2024, I’m going to try to grow my platform, as well as try some small publishers. If all else fails, I may decide to self-publish.

How can you help?

You can help my platform grow by subscribing to this blog. I’m going to try to post something about Psalms at least once a month. And I’ll post updates about my book journey. This is my personal blog, so if I find other pressing topics about faith or my life, this is where I put them. You can find out about everything else in my website on my About page.

Why Psalms?

Because if you give them the chance, Psalms will touch your heart.

Christmas Letter 2023

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and Happy Holidays to you!

When it comes to Christmas letters, I love the tradition of looking back on my year and reflecting on its joys. I also love the tradition of using that to connect and reconnect with friends. Now that I post the result electronically, it’s become a meditative tradition added to my Christmas celebrations — and we’re talking Christmas in the “Twelve Days of Christmas” sense. So I hereby declare this isn’t late, since the twelve days of Christmas aren’t finished. You’ll have more time to read it after the 25th anyway, right? I certainly have more time to write it.

Another result of posting electronically is that I’m no longer confined to one page. I’ll still try to keep my text short, but I’m going to fill the post with some of my favorite pictures I took in 2023.

As I look back on 2023, it feels like the year I didn’t quite have time for all the things I wanted to do. Just slightly overdoing it. And what that was all about was totally worth it: Serving on the 2024 Morris Award Committee! The William C. Morris Award honors the best Young Adult Debut book of the year, with the year defined as November 1st to October 31st. So we are done with our reading, have chosen our Finalists, and are scheduled to choose our winner on New Year’s Day and announce on January 22nd.

So, yes, I was reading young adult debut books all year long. When I was on the Newbery committee in 2018, I cut back drastically on any other commitments. But I didn’t do that so much this time, which is why the crunch. And while I had a joyful and busy year, I’m ready for a break now and happily reading adult books. Well, as soon as I finish chairing the groups choosing the Cybils Awards for the Young Adult Speculative Fiction category and facilitating discussion for the Birth to Five group of Capitol Choices and reading the remaining books for the 2024 Mathical Book Prize. The truth is, I didn’t even give up other award committee participation this time. (But I love it all so much!) And yes, I’ve been trying to keep up with posting reviews on Sonderbooks as well. (If you’re ever wondering what to read, do take a look!)

I was telling a friend about all of this and she asked, “But what do you do for fun?” Make no mistake about it, reading is what I do for fun, and that award committee participation is not work but volunteer joy. And I love it, though I may need to take a break from any more year-long committees for at least, say, a year.

Though yes, my job is very much related and also my idea of incredible fun. I am in my second year as Youth Materials Selector for my public library system where I’d worked as a youth services manager since 2008. I get to select the books and other materials for kids from birth through teens for all twenty-two branches. And I still believe it’s the absolutely perfect job for me. It’s not necessarily the perfect job for too many other people, but it’s completely suited to me. I love working with spreadsheets and budgets, and I also love keeping up with what’s being published and the best books for children and teens (see all that award committee fun).

But that’s not all I do! Once a week, I get to play online Dominion with my kids Zephyr and Tim, who are adults living on the other side of the country. And we Skype while we play, so I get to talk with my kids at least an hour a week, and I love that. (My kids are doing great, but I won’t post too many details publicly – ask me privately if you want to hear what they’re up to lately.) I also continue to attend the Sunday gaming group that my friend brought me to almost ten years ago on our second date. We didn’t keep dating long, but we’re still friends, and I still say that ten years of that gaming group is a great big win for online dating.

And that’s not all! I’ve been attending Floris United Methodist Church for over four years now and singing in the choir adds joy to my life every week. For a year and a half now, I’ve also been co-leading a Monday night ladies’ virtual small group, which is another lovely way to connect with people. At the start of the year, we went through my unpublished book, Praying with the Psalmists. I was able to polish it up, and I think it’s ready to be published — but finding an agent or publisher was where I dropped the ball this year. I’m planning to continue pursuing that in the new year. (You can follow the Praying with the Psalmists category on this blog to get a small taste of what it’s about.)

Now, besides all those great things, 2023 was the year of two major leaks happening in my condo — the first into my master bathroom and bedroom closet from the condo above and the second from the windows in my bedroom and office. I ended up with a nice newly-painted bathroom, slightly less cluttered closet, and brand new windows – but come to think of it, all that was a big part of why I felt behind this year. (I’ve almost finished cleaning up all the stuff I moved in response to those leaks.) Those windows still frame an awesome view.

But 2023 also held two big trips that brought lots of joy. In May, my youngest sister Melanie got married in Oregon. I flew out and spent a few days with family in Portland (sisters and brothers and nieces and a nephew), then took my two kids and spent a beautiful, peaceful week at the Oregon coast, then drove back to Portland for even more family time at my sister’s wedding, now with aunts and uncles and cousins, too.

Stayed with my sister Marcy’s family for a bit.
Incredible view from our vacation condo.
So good to be with my kids!
It took a week to play through all 50 missions of the cooperative card game The Crew.
I dragged them on a strenuous and gorgeous hike.
The happy couple
With Tim and Zephyr

And in late September, family came to me! My sister Wendy and her husband Jim were visiting his family in Connecticut, so we split the difference and met up for a day at Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania, for a lovely day together.

Then in October, I flew to California with my friend-since-3rd-grade Darlene to celebrate our friend-since-7th-grade Ruth’s 60th birthday. Ruth has early-onset Alzheimer’s. So it was painful to see the difficulties she’s having, but beautiful to see her as well as her adorable grandbabies. She is surrounded by family and surrounded by love, and she’s still my incredible friend who always has something to smile about. Darlene and I also connected with some more school friends, which was such a joy.

With Ruth and Darlene
With Darlene and Abby
With Darlene and Daphne

So that was my 2023: Lots of reading, writing, singing, playing games, and enjoying people. Oh, and taking pictures of the great blue heron that visits the lake outside my window. Yes, I’m still taking walks by my lake, and I still am not tired of those beautiful birds.

Wishing you abundant joys in 2024!

— Sondy

A Psalm for Alzheimer’s

Last week, my friend Darlene and I traveled to California for our friend Ruth’s 60th birthday. It was a lovely trip. We had a great time together.

But Ruth has early-onset Alzheimer’s, and I am all torn up inside about it.

Explanation for this post: I have written a book, Praying with the Psalmists: Open Your Heart to God Using Patterns from Psalms in Your Prayers. This book is not yet published. But the premise is that we can use patterns from Psalms in prayer to open our hearts to God when things trouble us.

The book may or may not ever get published, but I’m trying to model praying with the psalmists in my own prayers when things are heavy on my heart. [You can follow along with the blog series “Praying with the Psalmists.”] At this time, Alzheimer’s is so heavy on my heart.

At first, I thought I’d write a lament, as I did in “Lament for Leukemia.” But despite the situation, Laments generally are more for prayer requests — bad situations where you are asking God to come through. My friend’s Alzheimer’s is a horrible situation out there in the world, and I can’t help wondering how God allows it. Why is this happening to someone who loves God? I just hate it. So this is a situation for a Wisdom Psalm.

Now, the trouble with writing a wisdom psalm myself is that I don’t particularly think I have wisdom. So I think of the ones we laypeople write as Pep Talk Psalms — reminding ourselves what we know about God, reminding ourselves that it’s worth it to follow God, reminding ourselves that we actually do trust God. Some Wisdom Psalms in Scripture that I love are Psalm 1, Psalm 34, Psalm 37, and Psalm 73.

In my book, I cover five key concepts from the biblical Wisdom Psalms: Blessings, Teachings, Consequences, Oversight, and Perspective. But maybe you’ll get the idea from the example and the biblical examples. I’m going to attempt to use parallelism and dive in and write a psalm about this. I’m going to start with the situation, but then remind myself what I know.

A Psalm for Alzheimer’s

Father, I hate Alzheimer’s
with every fiber of my being.

First, my mother had it,
starting in her early sixties.
It started kind of cute:
holding hands with Dad in new situations,
not understanding mirrors,
proud of getting a puzzle piece in,
telling my Dad they should get married.

But every time I saw her,
she was much worse than the time before.
I just got a memory on Facebook about the time
more than a year before her death,
already on hospice,
when she fell out of her wheelchair
broke her nose, cut her forehead,
and had to remain bedridden
for the last year of her life.

When I saw her two months before her death
at my Dad’s funeral,
she couldn’t talk,
couldn’t smile,
couldn’t sit up,
couldn’t feed herself.
People asked if she knew me,
but how would I even know if she did?

I really hate Alzheimer’s.

So now my friend Ruth has it,
about ten years younger than my Mom started.
Yes, she knows me.
Yes, she can still talk,
with a little trouble putting thoughts into words.
Her frequent “Yeah, uh huh…” reminded me so much
of my mother for a while saying constantly “okay… okay…”,
though Ruth is working to engage in conversation
at least in that way.

She’s happy!
She laughs a lot.
Her husband does a wonderful job
of keeping things light,
laughing with her,
making her failings foibles.
She’s got grandbabies nearby,
living in both homes where she spends her time.
She’s not thinking about the future
and what it will hold for her.
She’s enjoying the present.

She did hike with us,
her husband leading her by the hand.
I tried — and failed to get her past the spot
where she needed to put her foot just there —
because she’s not looking at her feet.

We looked at pictures
from junior high and high school.
She knew who people were
(or at least said she did)
when we could get her to look at the TV
where they were showing.

In the old pictures, in every single set
there’d be a picture of Ruth
perched atop a swingset or boulder or castle wall or tree.
She can’t climb any more,
and I hate that.
In fact, she has trouble sitting down
in an ordinary chair.

And I hate it.

I know it’s only going to get worse.
Though Ruth isn’t thinking about that.
She’s enjoying her husband’s care,
her children and grandchildren,
and wherever she finds herself.
She enjoyed our visit,
and I’m so glad we got to be there for her.

But I hate Alzheimer’s.

[Crying break.]
Lord, why did this have to happen
to someone so vibrant, so alive,
so sharp, so kind,
so always full of mischief,
always literally climbing on boundaries?

Now I’m home,
no longer putting on a brave face so Ruth won’t see my distress,
and my 7-year-old niece is getting
a stem cell transplant for leukemia.
A high school friend’s husband, a pastor,
just passed away from a brain tumor.
Thousands of innocents were recently murdered
in terror and war, both Israelis and Palestinians.

And, Lord, it all seems so hard.

But whom have I in heaven but you, Lord?
I’m not going to decide you don’t exist
because terrible things happen in the world.
I’m not God,
and that’s a good thing.
But I don’t understand.
And that’s okay. I’m human.

What do I believe?
I believe you bring good even out of terrible things.
I believe that mankind is fallen,
but that you redeem.

I believe that my mother is in heaven now,
and all her suffering is not even worth comparing to the glory she now faces.

I believe that my father shone so brightly while he cared for her,
as Ruth’s husband is beginning to shine now.
[I still don’t think it even comes close to outweighing the evil of Alzheimer’s,
but, yes, good comes out of it.]

I believe that because Alzheimer’s and leukemia exist,
humans are exercising their ingenuity and brilliance
and discovering cures.
The stem cell transplant is a much simpler process
than the old bone marrow transplant.
Immunotherapy shows great promise
for many kinds of cancer,
and research for Alzheimer’s treatments
is making great strides.
We have come so far in medical science!
May it continue, may lives continue to be saved and prolonged.

And Lord, above all,
I believe you are with us.
You became a human,
Emmanuel, God with us.
You took up our infirmities
and carried our diseases.
I believe you know our suffering
and carry us.

Sometimes you calm the storm
and sometimes you guide us through the storm.
You love Ruth, your precious child.

Thank you for her life,
thank you for her friendship,
thank you for her laughter,
thank you for her love.
Thank you that you are always with her.
Thank you that she’s been my friend
for almost 50 years.

Thank you that despite awful things,
there is still joy in this world.

Thank you that we were able to bring some of that joy
to our friend Ruth.

Grant her husband and children
grace and perseverance.
Be with them all on the journey that follows.
But thank you that Ruth herself is living in the moment,
still trusting you.

And you are faithful.

Ruth and Darlene in 2014.

Okay. That’s my psalm. I think it helped. The fact is, I still believe that God is good. I don’t claim to know higher meaning for Alzheimer’s. But I choose to believe that God is good and God is loving. And God brings good out of even this.

Hey, anyone reading this — I’d love it if you tried writing your own psalms, too. You can tell by my example that they don’t have to be very good! But use the comments if you want to share.

Ruth in 1975.

Lamenting Leukemia – Again

Last week, I wrote a Lament for a Leak. This week I got much worse news, so it’s time to write a Lament for Leukemia. Except wait — I already wrote a Lament for Leukemia.

Yes, this is about my same niece, Meredith. Now she’s seven years old, and she’s still dealing with leukemia.

I remember the Lament form using the ACCESS acronym:

Address to God
Confession of Trust
Sureness of Help
Subsequent Praise

[If you’re interested in reading a book about writing your own psalms, subscribe to this blog or to my Sondermusings substack, and I will definitely let you know if/when I find a publisher. You’ll also find out some things along the way. Let me encourage you to try the lament form and post your own examples in the comments.]

For now, another lament for leukemia:

[Address to God]
Lord, we don’t know where to turn
and so we turn to You.
You love us and care for us,
you hear prayer,
but we don’t understand
how children can suffer so much
in this world you’ve made.

Meredith was in remission!
She did so well with immunotherapy!
No side effects!
Out of the hospital on the first possible day!

Our hopes were high.
Our hearts lifted to see her
dancing ballet,
learning Parkour.
(Parkour seems to be navigating obstacles with strength and grace —
may she navigate these new obstacles with strength and grace.)

But only a couple weeks later,
her b-cells are back.
The reengineered t-cells are no longer
protecting her from leukemia.

We don’t want to be ungrateful.
Her big sister is a match!
But the stem cell transplant process
is hard,
is risky,
is scary.
And we’d gotten to hoping she could do without it.

Lord, she’s just a kid!
Seven years old, with years of painful and uncomfortable treatments
behind her.
She was doing activities,
going back to school,
learning new things,
even growing her hair back.
Now it’s time for six more weeks in the hospital (at least).

[Confession of Trust]
Lord, we know that you do see trouble and grief.
You consider it to take it in hand.
You will be with your children
every step of the way.

Lord, have mercy!
Grant Meredith health and healing.
Uphold her family.
Grant them all grace and peace.

Give her sister peace and rest
as she donates her stem cells,
and transform her blood into
healing and salvation for Meredith.

Lord, we don’t even understand fully how it works,
but turn her sister’s blood into good medicine
that gives Meredith new health and new life
and many years of thriving.

[Sureness of Help]
Thank you, Lord, that you do hear our prayers.
Thank you for the amazing developments in medicine
that have produced this cure for leukemia.
Thank you that you have been with this family for years already
and you’re not abandoning them now.

[Subsequent Praise]
Lord, help us dare to celebrate again
when the stem cells do their work.
Let us look forward to the day
when her blood has been renewed
and she is cured.
We look forward to singing for joy
at the healing you bring.

Lament for a Leak

I’m upset over something that happened yesterday. And I feel stupid for being so upset. The something is that in a rainstorm, I discovered my bedroom window is leaking badly. My office window is also leaking.

I feel like that shouldn’t upset me so much — and then my mind keeps spinning over reasons why it does.

And that gets me thinking about Psalms.

You see, I recently finished writing a book about Psalms, Praying with the Psalmists. I don’t yet have a publisher, but my premise is that you can use the patterns from Psalms to write your own prayers.

And I want to try a Lament for this Leak. I think it will help me calm down my catastrophic thinking.

I learned when studying Psalms that God wants our honesty. The psalmists seem somewhat extreme in their complaints. So if I’m extreme in what I worry about regarding this stupid leak — well, that’s okay. God can handle it.

I’ll use parallelism, and I’ll use the ACCESS form of a Lament:

Address to God
Confession of Trust
Sureness of Help
Subsequent Praise

Here goes! I’m going to sit down and write this now and try not to edit it too much. This is my prayer.

[Address to God]
Lord, I’m coming to you about this leak,
I’m telling you my worries and fears
because I want to trust that you care about me;
I want to believe that you listen to my concerns.

This one seems too petty for you, God.
I’m a grown-up, shouldn’t I deal with it?
But let me come to you like a child
because as a father has compassion on his children
so you have compassion on those who follow you.

A situation like this makes me miss my father,
miss someone to turn to,
miss not having to be the most responsible one.
So it’s time to turn to You, Father.

It’s just a window!
But I’ve been afraid of this.

When my air conditioner went out and pulled me back into debt,
my friend said, “What’s *really* expensive are windows.”
Just a couple years ago, our condo association sent out a notice:
Replacing windows is now the responsibility of the homeowner.
Because they’re all getting old,
and the association can’t afford to replace them all.
They had us vote on it,
but what could I do?
We don’t want our fees to go up,
but neither do I want the expense.
Had a feeling it would be relevant,
but hoped I was just superstitious.

Many months ago, I noticed a leak
in the window in my office.
But it didn’t happen again
until yesterday.
I’d hoped it was a fluke.

For the same months, I’ve been noticing a wet, rotting wood smell
near the window in my bedroom
every time it rains.
But never saw any water.
Maybe I’m imagining it?
After all, if I don’t actually see a leak,
how could it actually be there?

Then yesterday it was spitting out.
My head got sprinkled when I ducked in to see where it was coming from.

The rug was wet next to my bed.
Then I saw splashes on the things under the window.
I moved those things next to the piles
removed from my closet months ago.
I got a step ladder and found the water was coming
from the wooden casing above the window.
The paint is cracked, and water was coming out
randomly all in a line,
all along the top of the window,
falling all the way down
not in a stream I could catch in a bowl,
but spreading out and spraying.

I put down plastic,
wiped it down.
The office window was leaking too.
(Usually wind drives rain the other direction
— that’s the one good side.)

Four months ago, a bathroom leak from the condo above me
destroyed my master bathroom and closet.
I still haven’t returned everything to the closet,
trying to sort through the boxes of books.
I’ve only just recently finished cleaning the dust
from the reconstruction.
I still haven’t gotten back
the $500 deductible,
because the problem didn’t originate within my unit.

So I don’t want another project.
I haven’t put my house back together after the last one!
Problems are supposed to wait their turn!
Aren’t they?

And money!
Ten years ago, my Dad gave me the down payment to buy this place.
A few years later, a home equity loan allowed me to pay off
heavy debt from my divorce.

Then the water heater broke…
then the air conditioner…
and always, God provided.

In a few months, I’ll have my car paid off,
and I was already daydreaming about saving little by little
to buy one more car – without payments –
before I retire.

I’d got it in my head that at last I’d go back to visit Germany
where I lived for ten years,
but haven’t seen for eighteen years.
I’d go next June for my sixtieth birthday.
What better way to celebrate?

Now I feel like who am I
to dare to plan for something special like that?
Who am I to think
I can be out of debt for more than a few months at a time?

And, Lord, I know it’s so childish!
It’s expensive to own a home.
My condo already saved my financial situation.
At worst, surely I can get a home equity loan.
But I’m still complaining!
This is the part about all the thoughts going through my head:

How dare I think I can have nice things?
I’m on the Morris committee!
How can I possibly find time to have people come through my home
open up a wall
rip things apart
and put in a new window?
And how will I ever find time to clean up after?
Why can’t I just ignore the problem
and hope the wind won’t blow that direction with rain ever again?

And where do I start?
Who do I call?
(The condo association.
Maybe they can tell me where to get windows that match.)

Okay, that’s the start of my complaint, Lord!
It’s a big mess of money and time that I for sure
do not want to spend right now.

It childishly doesn’t seem fair
when I haven’t even put things back together after the other leak.

It all seemed like more when I was stewing.
But those are my complaints, Lord.
I’m not looking forward to dealing with it.
I’m not looking forward to paying for it.
I’m not looking forward to having people fix it.
I’m not looking forward to moving my furniture to make it happen.
I’m not looking forward to the disruption of folks working on it.
I’m not looking forward to cleaning up after it.

And I keep hoping the problem is just a fluke,
but yesterday was enough water
that I think the time for ignoring the problem
is long past.

[Confession of Trust]
Lord, thank you that writing all that out
isn’t nearly as bad as what was spinning in my head.
Thank you for this home
and how it solved my credit card debt.
Thank you that you provided
after all the other repairs and after dental crises and other unexpected expenses.
Thank you for that $3000 award that came
exactly when I was $3000 in debt.

Father, by now I should have learned that you can meet my needs.
And you help me deal with things I don’t want to deal with.
And you help me find professionals who know what they’re doing.
And I can really do this Grown-up stuff!

And yes, I can trust you, Lord.
And no, this isn’t a disaster.
And yes, I have so many resources
and should probably be ashamed for how upset this got me.
Because you will be with me, Lord,
as you have been with me before.

Lord, be with me
as you have promised!
Grant me wisdom
to figure out who to call,
to find trustworthy professionals,
who quote me a good price.
If I need a home equity loan to pay for it,
help me through that process, too.
Make me thankful for my cozy and beautiful home
as I invest in it something in return
for the shelter it has provided to me.

Be with me in this process, Lord.
May it not cost as much money and time
as I fear.
And provide for my needs,
as you always do.
Help me not to fret;
eliminate my disaster thinking,
and grant me grace as I carry on.

[Sureness of Help]
Lord, already I feel more calm.
I know that you see me
and you will help me
and you keep me from disaster.

[Subsequent Praise]
When it’s all done,
when I have brand-new windows
with a lovely new window treatment
(because why not?)
and my house put back together —

It’s time for me to have a party
and tell my friends:
I was so worried about this;
I felt sorry for myself dealing with it on my own,
but the Lord helped me through.

Okay, that’s my psalm of lament.

It’s childish, it’s silly. I’m making a fuss over something people deal with all the time.

But you know what? I feel better after writing that. More equipped to figure out what needs to be done, and not panic about what it will take to do it.

For you, reader, it’s not that I want to make you listen to all my petty worries. It’s that I want to share that we all have petty worries. And yes, we can pray about them! And for me, the Lament form really helps.

May the Lord bless you and keep you.

Thoughts on Trust and Shame

Sunset behind clouds off the Oregon coast.
Just a pretty picture from my recent Oregon vacation.

Several seemingly disparate things came together this weekend, and they all got me thinking about Trust – and Shame.

1) First, before the weekend, I’d been thinking it was time to write another blog post about Psalms.

I’ve written a book called Praying with the Psalmists, and I’m trying to find an agent and/or publisher. In the book, I show people ten types of Psalms and how we can write our own psalms for prayer.

I’d love to end up with a website where people can post the psalms they’ve written. So why not start with blog posts? I’m trying to increase my blogging in order to build a platform — and in my Praying with the Psalmists posts, I would love for people to post their own psalms in the comments.

But now I’ve finished going through the book with my small group, so what type of psalm should I try to post? I decided my next post would be about Psalms of Trust.

I am going through a relatively stable time in my life. I don’t feel the need to write a lament. I don’t currently have a big deliverance story to put in a psalm of thanksgiving. However, I’m feeling a little unfocused, a little frustrated with the day-to-day trying to get things done and not getting enough sleep and having occasional odd health issues and just feeling a little out of sorts. So a psalm of trust might help me focus. (We’ll come back to this.)

2) Last Tuesday, I wrote a blog post about the terrible AI-produced children’s book I mistakenly purchased for the library and had to take out of processing so that it would not go on library shelves. This weekend, it got lots of attention, because on Thursday Betsy Bird, a librarian who writes for School Library Journal read it and tweeted about it. She said, “It begins. Librarians, warn your selectors. AI is making its way into our libraries by sneaky means.
@Sonderbooks has the scoop:” I’m not talking going viral, but as of Sunday evening, her tweet linking to my blog post has 24.7K Views, 108 Likes, 62 Retweets, 17 Quotes, and 18 Bookmarks. Which is a lot more than my tweets usually get.

3) At the same time, I read a tweet on AskAubrey, whose Twitter feed I’m unduly fascinated with and always shows up at the top of my “For You” Tab, showing terrible posts by men on dating sites or Reddit. The one I saw Saturday morning was posted by a woman. Her husband is obviously cheating on her with the “friend” he’s “renting” a room to. But she still believes him that they are exclusive. People are mocking her cluelessness, and I felt compelled to respond like this:

Oh, honey, I’m so sorry. I believed my ex-husband, too, when he told me he wasn’t having an affair with the woman he’d gone to watch movies with at midnight. He’s lying to you. You’re a trusting person, and he has exploited that. The shame is his.

By the next day, this tweet has gotten 14.5K Views, 158 Likes, and 2 Bookmarks. One reply said, “Glad I wasn’t the only one.”

4) Most of the responses to Betsy’s tweet have been positive. Well, aside from the shock and horror that such a book got published. But one library selector responded that this isn’t “sneaky” at all, and if we do an actual good job with collection development, we won’t let such things get past us.

And that response revived my shame.

But it also made me realize how the two popular tweets were similar.

In both cases, I should not have trusted, but I did.

In both cases, there were red flags, but I trusted anyway.

In both cases, I felt deep shame for trusting.

Let’s start with the trivial case: I ordered a truly terrible children’s nonfiction book about rabbits. It was masquerading as a series nonfiction book from a publisher that had more than 500 titles listed on our vendor’s website. But there were red flags, and I truly should not have ordered it. And I think of myself as a very good youth materials selector for the library – but trusting that particular publisher (“Bold Kids”) was a truly bad decision, it turned out. And I was deeply ashamed.

It took about a day for me to even talk about it. (It helped tremendously, I’m afraid, that another selector whom I respect fell for another one of their books at the same time.) But when I acknowledge that I am not perfect and I did, in fact, make a mistake — then my reaction is: Wait a second, who’s the one who should be ashamed here? “Bold Kids” is a scammer masquerading as a publishing company, and they are the ones who deserve the shame.

5) And that made me think of scammers on dating sites. When I first started trying online dating, I allowed a couple of men to email me off the site — and they turned out to be scammers. (Here are a couple of posts I wrote later about some tips for spotting them.)

When my friend helped me figure out one of those guys emailing me was a scammer, I hadn’t sent the scammer any money — but I felt very stupid and ashamed. And it left me feeling foolish for getting my hopes up. Did the scammers think I was so desperate that I’d fall for them? Who was I to think that anyone but a scammer would be interested in me?

So yes, even though they did not get my money, they did harm.

But going back to shame: Who should be ashamed of that? Not me! Shame on the scammers for preying on people’s trust.

And that brings me back to my ex-husband.

I was deeply ashamed when I found out he was actually having an affair.

But that’s backwards. Ashamed of trusting my husband?!?! He looked me in the eye and told me, “I’m not having an affair.” Twice!

We’d been married 18 years at the time, and I didn’t know of any reason not to trust him.

But I am not the one who should be ashamed. He is the one who should be ashamed of breaking my trust.

Now, I am the first to admit that I’m a naive and trusting person. That ties in with another thread:

6) I recently watched the “Shiny Happy People” documentary series and wrote a blog series in reaction, “Shiny Happy Childhood.” I think that authoritarian organizations like Bill Gothard’s seminars put lots of emphasis on trusting and obeying authority. I grew up in that, and I am a very trusting person.

However, I don’t believe that trust is a bad thing!

After all, I never intentionally lied to my ex-husband — so that’s a big part of why I didn’t suspect him of lying to me. I’ve grown up around a lot of good people, so I tend to think of people as good-hearted.

But it all depends on where you place your trust.

And when it turns out that we put our trust in a bad place, our first reaction is shame — when they are the one who should be ashamed.

7) As if those Twitter threads weren’t enough, yesterday morning I hit this daily reading in Melody Beattie’s book The Language of Letting Go, titled “Learning to Trust Again”:

Many of us have trust issues.

Some of us tried long and hard to trust untrustworthy people. Over and again, we believed lies and promises never to be kept. Some of us tried to trust people for the impossible; for instance, trusting a practicing alcoholic not to drink again.

Some of us trusted our Higher Power inappropriately. We trusted God to make other people do what we wanted, then felt betrayed when that didn’t work out….

[I for sure did that for years, praying that God would bring my husband back to me. I finally realized that I wasn’t really trusting God — I was telling God what should happen and gritting my teeth to believe it would, like a magic vending machine — instead of trusting that whatever God allowed to happen, God would be with me and would bring good even out of a bad situation.]

Most of us were taught, inappropriately, that we couldn’t trust ourselves.

The reading goes on to say that yes, we can learn to trust appropriately – trusting myself, God, and others. We are not foolish to trust, but we may need help with it.

8) And then today I was reading in Katie Porter’s book I Swear and saw this point in her “Guide to Consumer Protection”:

Never feel ashamed.
They cheated YOU! They are the bad guys. Would you report a burglary? It’s no different when a company rips you off. Expect them to make it right.

So Yes! I will resist being ashamed of falling for the scam that Bold Kids “publisher” is running. They are the ones who should be ashamed!

9) But coming back around to Psalms of Trust:

In my book, I put 21 Psalms in that category, so they are a big part of the Psalms. And one of the key concepts I found in the Psalms of Trust is Vindication. I used vindication as a positive way of saying the prayer that comes up again and again, “Let me not be put to shame.”

When we place our trust badly, the natural reaction is to feel shame.

And may I trust the Lord in such a way that I will not be ashamed. Because the Lord is good, and God’s love endures forever, and God’s faithfulness continues through all generations.

So, after all those musings, let me try to pray a short psalm of trust:

Lord my God, I trust in you;
let me not be put to shame.

Teach me to trust truly
rather than trying to control.

Take away my shame for being imperfect
and give me grace to warn others
and learn from my mistakes.

Grant me rest
as I trust that I am doing enough.

And I give you my endeavors:
My work at my dream job,
my writing,
my website,
my reading for award committees.

Let me trust that it’s not all up to me,
that you love me as the person you made me
and my value doesn’t come from what I do.


There. A hodgepodge of thoughts about Trust and Shame. Does that bring up any thoughts for you? I’d love comments — don’t worry if they go off on tangents, because this sure did.