Surrender – I Hate It.

I hate words like surrender.  I hate actions like surrender.  I hate to surrender.  And what I hate I’m attempting.  And don’t like it.  It’s been two years and a few months living a jellyfish status.  A new me brought on by a total thyroidectomy February of 2015.  A self I have never known. 

Weak.

Sloppy walking. 

Buzzing head. 

Awkward.

Clumsy. 

Fumbling words. 

This past week I hit my limit.  That same day I heard a talk on the radio about a famous swimming champion Michael Phelps who kept a paper calendar.  Each day he swam, returned home and with red sharpie cut a line through the day.  He was determined to keep an unbroken chain of red marks on the calendar, and did so for many years.  His collection of medals show how effective his unbroken chain of swims had been. 

His story inspired me.  Inside I’m an athlete.  Yes, an athlete who never was, but still inside I house the drive and dreams and the planning of one who is driven by such things.  I have a hard time walking much at all these days.  Still, down in the bones I tear through brush to the top of grand mountains.  I run and run and run some more. Bike till I’m in shreds.  Swim till I’m gasping.  I want to be all that, and can’t.

And so this week, I decided to start an unbroken chain of movement.  I have moved plenty in the past 2 years, with no results.  This time I decided to take the advice of those who help people with my condition for gaining momentum.  I decided to force myself to not overdo.  What that looks like for me right now is to swim 20 minutes per day, six days a week, with one day of palates and hula and stretching, the other 6 days lap swimming.  Just 20 minutes. 

Kind of like eating 1/2 spoonful of ice-cream when my body wants the bucket.  Because although 20 minutes is all I am able to manage the first week, my core is screaming at me to swim that – times 20.  To push myself.  To count laps to a mile, two, and then three.  Kind of a strain-the-body junkie.  An acceptable addiction in this culture, but damaging, nonetheless. 

Which brings me to surrender.  Surrender what I want to do for what just might help me get my health back.  Surrender the fix for what heals.  Surrender looking lazy, old and lame for what my body needs.  I don’t care for surrender.  In fact I hate it.  Will following direction and doing what is best for me prove beneficial?  At this point, I’m 30 pounds over.  I sleep more than I would like.  Am foggy brained and weak and limited.  I’ll keep you posted as day after day my calendar takes on a sharpie mark.  I pray for an unbroken chain. For a stronger body.  And a newly discovered contrite spirit. 

1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy,

to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice,

holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.

2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world,

but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. 

Romans 12: 1 and 2 (a)

Song Writer

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I’ve been writing songs since I was fairly young.  I remember stretching my 14 year old back over the bathtub.  Cleaning, scrubbing, singing a little chorus I had thought up, humming, singing it over and over ….

“I was walk’n down life’s road,

trying to push through a crowd.

I was tryin and tryin,

but I couldn’t do it by myself.

And then Christ did it for me,

that’s why He died on Calvary…..”

By Lisa J. Boyl

On and on I’d work the song while I worked the scum off the tub walls. A simple ditty for a 14 year old girl who was trying to push through the croud of life, needing God to do it for me.  Other songs I wrote.  I had them all sketched onto the Bible I packed around. My odd brown song file, dilapidated covers taped together for preservation, I’d write another, and another. Sometimes scrawling sideways up the margins to make room for one more song. The summer I worked at Camp Berkshire upstate New York, my Bible went it’s way, never to be seen again, and gone were all my songs. Most I can’t recall.  Lost, my heart in words and rhyme.

College gave me other opportunities to continue writing songs. The best came to me when I was covered in dirt and sweat.  Working grounds, digging holes in packed soil to plant the colorful petunias, lines would come to me, and then the tune.  I’d sing it to myself and loud, out there alone on the arid college grounds of the eastern Washington.  Alone, most of the time.  If I remembered, I’d keep a short pencil and scrap of paper in my shorts pocket for when an inspiration would hit. Sometimes I’d hurry across the lawn to the ladies room, pull down a paper towel, tear off a corner and scribble out the line I’d been singing to myself, hoping to not forget. I have never learned to write a score, and can play piano only in the key of C, so after work, I’d hurry with my after work routine and rush over to a vacant chapel on campus where I’d play out the song, reading the lyrics off the wadded up paper, over and over I’d play it until I found the chords I had heard in my head, and until I had the song down.  There were friends who could make sense of the songs I’d written, and would put them to music, able to play them in the key that made the most sense for a singer.

There were week of prayer theme song contests.  Both years I decided to participate,  they choose my song.  That felt great.  Hearing my whole college sing my song for a week straight I found rather unnerving and special at the same time.  I loved it and also wanted to hide.  But I did love the challenge of being given a theme and writing a song that worked with the topic.   Both theme songs chosen belonged most of all to the planting of the petunias.

Some might say that being like you is too much to ask….

…You are the power inside me…

That’s the only way to be all I can be.

By Lisa J. Boyl

Another summer of groundworks, and another song.

Is the Jesus that you know

a kindly Man from long ago

A picture in a splintered frame

slanted on the wall

Has the Jesus that you know 

been forced into a plastic mold

A God who only loves the good 

the children and the old

If you knew the Jesus who turned my life around

And answered questions of my searching soul

You’d throw away the plaster And the statues made of Him

And come to love the Jesus that I know

The Jesus that I know.

By Lisa J. Boyl

One autumn day I met a boy who took to walking around with my heart, leaving me in quite a state.  I’d known the pain of love before, and one afternoon alongside a busy college street, waiting for the next bus, saw an old station wagon pull up and wait for the light, and from the interactions in that car I wrote

Wrinkled and baggy, frowning at each other

‘Stickin it out’, but only for the kids

On family occasions they fake some warm affection

And back at home they only show contempt

Does time always mangle a love once true?

Does it twist and tear a promise once forever?

And what about friendship, does that die too, in time?

Can I share this heart of mine?

By Lisa J. Boyl

 

That was the final song – before love rushed in, and marriage, college, babies, bills, career, house building, cancer.  Not enough stillness and digging alone deep into packed hard soil for finding songs.  For 30 years.  Then one morning, wedged between arm of overstuffed chair and a giant pile of clean laundry waiting to be processed, there I found a bit of unexpected stillness.   Reading the book of Acts, overcome with all the goodness of God and what His Spirit manages through us, His voice in heart elbowed me.

“Pick up a pencil”, said the nudge.

“What?”, I snapped.

Not audible but as clear as if the words had been spoken, He said to me.

“Pick up a pencil, I want you to write a song.”

The pencil just picked up shook in my hand. Tears slipped down unto Act 2. Slammed pencil down onto my Bible and tears.  Cried a long time. God had taken away my songs. Not once (by the flight of the little brown Bible) but twice (years of no space to sing my songs).  I’d not written anything since college, and now almost 50, past the age that anything I’d write could ever be relevant, God asked for a song.  Mad and sad, I was, and still I picked up pencil.  In five minutes, Holy Wind was etched.  Next day, Frozen Worship the same.  Both songs on God’s Spirit.

Music can bring out a territorial jealousy and disgust.  A kind of fire hydrant/dog ownership of ‘I’m the star, out of my way!’.  And so when the music pastor of my church was interested in listening to the songs, and interested in the idea of church members contributing to the music of the church, the tears, they came again. Car full of family heading home from service.  Wrong time.  No matter.  Tears dripping across the songless days that has passed.  Dripping off my chin for the nights of being awakened, hungry, no starving for music. Tears for songs long withheld for the harder tasks of life.

Although floundering some, I’m adjusting to writing songs again.  A new song rushes at me like a cartwheel.  I don’t go to it, it comes to me and flings me round until I’m upright again. A cartwheel arrives with a wide space of green grass.  Songs need their space, too. Relevance has been reserved for the young.  My songs are relevant to a life that has simple rhyme, hard times and beauty all mixed together.  I don’t quite understand God’s timing, but how foolish to push away what I’ve wanted for so long because it’s taken so long to arrive. Song writer. Starting over, like the awkward 14 year old.  Heart in rhythm and rhyme has begun to beat again.  And I like it.

Cancer is Not Cancer; The Agony of being Dependent.

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This was written when I was still quite sick a number of months ago.  I was too low at the time it was written to post it.  I’ve decided to post it now.  I  share it to truth-speak about how painful cancer can be. Sharing what it was for me, as a way of being a voice for those who have not words to share.  This rant of sorts is not an attack on any one person, but a broad-brushed painting of the reality of what it is to be sick and dependant on others.

Cancer is not cancer. It’s not breast cancer or thyroid cancer. It’s strokes, heart attack activity that isn’t, doctors treating you like a hypochondriac while functioning slips away.  It’s skin that peels, clothes that don’t fit anymore, potassium levels so low that legs throb through the night.  It’s not recognizing yourself in the mirror.  Foggy mind half the time not remembering what I’ve said, what you’ve said, what we were talking about.  It’s family sweet as can be, and condescending sometimes too.  It’s having to listen to people “Oh you look like you’re feeling better” while the entire left side of body is numbed out, can’t hear from the left ear, do laundry for five minutes before having chest pain and doctor saying “you’re heart is in great shape”.  It’s your little six year old daughter telling you that you get first place for being the meanest one in the family.  The mean mom that gets tired of the denigrating remarks when trying to get kids to do their chores, one by one the entire family decides they are going to be sicker than Mom today – until their pals come over and off they race across the yard, Nerf and laser guns a-blazing, and once again, when they return to the house, asked to pick up coat, or feed the dog, the sudden illness takes over and death is at the door. 

It’s the doctors passing their job off to another doctor.  Oh it’s the endocrinologists job, no the oncologists job, no the primary care, … .on it goes, while the mystery symptoms that take away my ability to take walks, swim, drive, to care for my kids get worse.  The computerized diagnosis is last word, with physical problems all hovering in the “rare” category, no one bothering to dig deeper while symptoms hold me in place, so much piling up around me, and I must be still. 

Cancer is having all the kind persons who have pitched in to help become judgmental of the way my life looks, judgmental of what happens in this house, condescending of who I am.  It’s having to receive help from others who don’t respect me because they are incapable of helping and empathizing at the same time.  The most empathetic person is the world can flip a switch when doing another a good turn.  It’s watching them lose respect by the day – each and every act of kindness they provide decreases the peer to peer relationship – me having no alternative but to receive it. 

Cancer is not a surgery and missing body part.  It’s the loss, week by weakening week of clients, and eventually a career.  The destruction of a business.  The death of a dream.  It’s not rosy and romantic.  It’s ugly – creepy … the stopper of life.  And I’m stuck between.  Alive and not at all.  Stuck receiving support, care, favors, errands, driving kids to school, with bitterness in the doer, irritation of the helper, and shame at being the taker. 

The part of cancer I can do quite well is walk into the hell hole of the chopping block.  I can tolerate physical pain.  I can usually manage being mangled.  I can’t handle the shame I feel receiving assistance – the baring all – the inside scoop on our junk, irritably of the one doing all the favors due to their superiority and my shame. 

Cancer could be the most ideal way to go if it weren’t for all that.  Known outcomes, time frames, managed symptoms until death.  What makes it awful is loss of dignity (relationship) with people I care about most due to my neediness at the end, and their inability to give and maintain respect for the person they are giving to.  A few of us can give without shaming – most of the time, a few can receive without feeling the shame, but most can not.  We call it being “stewards” of our time and money by nosing into others lives when a need arises.  ‘If she hadn’t let herself go, he’d have never looked elsewhere.”  “There are consequences to slacking on the job”.  “Live and learn”.  We have all said things like this – or thought them.  It’s obvious it’s wrong to give cash to a meth addict.  We take this reasoning further and do harm – judge – while extending a helping hand.  I tell you from the receiving end, it helps more to not help but maintain a relationship of respect then to help with judgment.

Most of us have ZERO BUSINESS being involved in another’s crisis, because crisis is a HOLY PLACE.  It’s where God hovers.  It is SACRED.  Anytime we have all the answers, we do harm.  Anytime we can’t give without judgment, we harm.  Anytime we get inside the disaster of each other’s life and can’t set judgment aside, we hurt each other.  I’m getting to feel it, first hand.  No one means to harm.  They just want the system to work better.  Just want routines in place that make things better, but that’s not how it feels to the one is on the receiving end.  If I ever get beyond this cancer mess, I vow to God and to others that I will NEVER HELP SOMEONE UNLESS I CAN HAVE A SOLID CHECK ON MY ATTITUDE. 

Do I resent helping my kids with things they need help with? 

How does that make them feel? 

Do I resent making supper. 

Giving a gift and resenting the giving DOES HARM. 

Do I resent helping a friend, I HAVE ZERO BUSINESS HELPING UNLESS I CAN HELP FROM A PLACE OF EMPATHY. 

Cancer is not cancer. 

Cancer is everything else – but one thing. 

Cancer is not Boss, God is. 

God is the only one out there I know what manages disasters and love all at the same time. 

If i’m well enough to work again, I’m working for Him.

The Id of Prime: How to Prevent Destroying the Best Years of Your Life

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It’s a familiar pattern.  Man at the top of his game at work, making the most he will ever make, married to the most beautiful adoring wife, envy of us all decides it’s time to engage in a seedy fling, starts shooting up, embezzles money at work.  Beautiful woman happily married, finding success at work, finally a publishing a book, living in a community of friends who adore her and she decides to have an affair with a teenage druggie down the street, decides to quit work, starts to drink, it’s all over. 

The reasons given are many:

He’s afraid of responsibility 

She wants to sabotage her life because of guilt that it’s going so well

He wasn’t respected enough by his wife 

She could never get over harm done to her as a child 

His testosterone made him do it 

Her hormones were out of whack 

And what I say to that is “Why now?”  Why didn’t his wife’s disrespect cause him to act this way two years ago?  Why didn’t her painful past kick in long ago? His fear of responsibility cause him to steal at work, to use drugs, to cheat before now? 

The safest people in the world seem to be unsure of themselves.  Awkward teenagers, trying to understand where they sit at the table of life.  Young adults struggling to get through college.    People at any age who have not made it in life.  Aging folks who have lost..  Had their heart broken.  Buried a parent.  Been abandoned by a spouse.  Lost a child to drugs.  Lost a job.  Been through bankruptcy.  12 step boot camp en route to sobriety.  These people unsure of life itself seem to be the ones much less apt to do harsh things to others in their journey up the proverbial ladder.  It is my view that the id is most commonly enlarged at prime.  At the place in life where things are going the best.  I am amazing, I will protect this amazing persona of myself, and others better see me this way.  If they don’t I will throw it all away. 

Brene Brown’s research shows that wholehearted people, those people who do the best in life, are the ones who embrace their own vulnerability, and with an authentic style of living, share their real selves with others around them.  Which really is the best antidote to the Id of Prime.  Much different from the need to convince others that I’m OK in my quest to belong, I set out to develop a habitual view on myself starting young that embraces me as flawed and valuable even-though.  When I embrace my flaws, and let you know mine, I am inviting you to own and state yours, and together we can care for each other as imperfect, challenging each other along the way, to garnish strength from the other when I need it, which is all the time. 

When I am in a state of awkward insecurity, why would I be more authentic and vulnerable?  Simply put, in my reaching for answers, I am in the position of teachability.   To be teachable is to be vulnerable.  I am saying there is something you know that I don’t know.  And this makes me much safer than the position of ‘I have all the answers and you should be lucky to be in my presence’. 

The self made culture celebrates the exact opposite of teachability and neediness.  Regardless of how brazen we are to proclaim ‘I’ve got it’, this is not reality.  Like it or not, we are needy.  Consider getting through college.  Say we earn our way through college by getting good grades, 100% scholarship.  Someone in a dark room surrounded by stacks of papers, using red pen, sweat and coffee is also getting you through college.  Someone wearing hairnet and gloves is making food in a cafeteria.  Someone is cleaning the toilet, furnishing toilet paper to the stalls, applying bleach as needed, lysol, elbow-grease.  We are our brothers keepers.  We are not islands. 

Working in an Emergency Room for 19 years, one dynamic showed itself over and over.  Didn’t matter if I was dealing with a brilliant Microsoft manager, a rich elderly banker, a well known pastor or a street drug user.  He or she open and vulnerable over time with some close loved ones was the winner.  Sometimes the ‘professionals’ were the ones in real trouble.  They had face to save, a reputation to maintain.  Would rather crack then look like a mess.  Every human being goes through crisis.  We may think we will skirt crisis by keeping distance,  not ‘bothering’ anyone with our problems.  Eventually we come to the end of ourselves, and those of us who have been real with others are the ones to get better.  On the other hand, isolated we can find ourselves pulled under by relatively small setbacks, because we are lacking skills of teachability, flexibility (able to flex even thought it puts me in a poor light), vulnerability and authenticity.

The id of prime. 

An avoidable destruction of me as I practice:

a heart position of reaching toward learning from someone who knows more then me

practice honestly with myself about my weaknesses and deficits

choose to not fake who I am with you

reject the prideful prison of self protection

These practices set us up for deep abiding relationship, whether it be in marriage, with our kids, in the workplace, with our bodies.  Id of prime that walks away from it all is walking away from pretend.  It’s not walking away from intimacy real and raw and deep. Let the best years of our lives honor The God who knew what I was about and gave the prime of his life for my eternity anyway.

Weight Loss

Summer and Fall 2013 179
The writer and butterfly.

I use to be who I am now

Fat and covered in cellulite

Always hiding sloppy me

I didn’t the match the girl inside

And as I prayed and struggled on

Appeared, one day, just what to do

A friend I’d make

The one I hate

And over time

The change it came

Inch by inch

and

Size by size

I finally matched the girl inside

The years went by

most all was well

And then a cancer came to tare

And ripped the breast from off my chest

And choked my trust

And froze my bounce

And once again the hiding came

I didn’t match the girl inside

And still I prayed and struggled on

Appeared one day just what to do

A friend I’d make

The one I hate

And over time

The change it came

I grew to love

the one breast me

18 months of

all is well

And then a cancer came again

This time to claim

my thyroid gland

And spill around throughout my nodes

And throw my body balance off

I use to be who I am now

Fat and covered in cellulite

And now I know just what to do

A friend I’ll make

The one I hate

And over time

The change it comes

I grow to love

the one breast girl

fat and covered in cellulite

And as I friend away the shame

The outside me

it starts to

match

the girl I’ve always been

A Cloudy Bootcamp

This was written last May for my professional blog.  I’ve decided to share it here today as my niece Annalee is joining the Marines same day she graduates from h.s., which is two short days from now, and has 12 weeks of bootcamp awaiting her.  I know God uses bootcamp of all shapes and sizes, and I know he has a plan for her as well.  Blessings to my niece.

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Profound thoughts, for me, seem to show up in the middle my mundane.  It happened yesterday as I was tackling a task called ‘cutting lawn’.   When I say I was out cutting the lawn, please don’t picture a postage stamp turn-about.  Picture a rolling random football field that never ends.  Now picture a rather tottery set of legs, pasty lady, gloved fists all trying hard to shove forward another shaved swath.  As the lush green blades shot sideways, so did my glee at all I was getting done.  I found myself irritated at the moisture, so soppy-damp, that even with the shocking arrival of sunshine, warm on my shoulders, I was still unable to use the bagger for more than a couple feet without it clogging into a spongy ball of clippings.

The last few months have been, shall we say, un-fun.  Just recently I have taken on the challenge to act on the belief that God inhabits praise, and to praise God, even when my circumstances aren’t praiseworthy.  And so atop the roar of the mower, there in wet grass I started praising the Lord for His goodness to me, for His goodness to the land around me. For being the God of provision.  That He provides cloud and drizzle in “*$#@*%!! FREAKING EXCESS….. GOD OF SUCH GRAND GIFTS, GOD, YOU MAKE SURE THIS SPOILED ROTTEN SUPER SIZED PIG OF A YARD HAS ALL IT EVER WANTED – !!!!”.  Ya, sometimes even my praise sessions turn earthy.  God being the father of many, He’s use to fit-throwing.  From me, anyway.  Well, as I kept up my praise service out there in the back 400, my heart started experiencing an actual shift.  Praise for God became real.  God hovered nearby.  And all around me.   The grey cloud that had dampened my spirits, and over-dampened the grass, was now warming me, it was noticing me.  On slippery hill downward, with mower in race to the bottom, it steadied and strengthened me, giving balance and protection.  ‘I’m cracking’, I think to myself.  Grey clouds do not warm peoples spirits.

And then I remember the story.  The Israelites had, by the thousands, been led on foot away from a country in which they had been enslaved.  A land where they were unable to function fully as humans.  They had been rescued from a meaningless life of being used.  From a death unnoticed.

And for the journey, God used a pillar of cloud to guide them for their daytime travels.  A cloud to guide and protect?  Why not a bucket full of sunshine?  Couldn’t God have used cut crystals hanging on ribbons from heaven?  If He’d have asked me, I would have suggested rainbow shivers for really freaking out the bad guys.  But He didn’t.

Toward a better place, the Israelites were routed through misery.  With intention, God arranged a journey with healing opportunities in mind.  Each hopeless situation, a desert march with no water, no food, power struggles, snakes, belly aches, each cloudy trial offered one opportunity after another to build trust in God, learn to love, learn to trust less in what is seen and more in who God is.  The journey was to provide deep healing for these rescued slaves, and for generations after them.

I ponder these ideas, row by row, grass looking better by the hour.  I think of all the ways the grey of life has protected me, and brought God near.   The deep depression and anxiety as a little kid.  Would I have known God as early as I did, had I not hung on for dear life during those early suicidal times?  What was I protected from while hiding in the black hole of pain, hiding next to God?

The eating disorder.  Would I ever have know the freedom of an addiction if I had never experienced one?  Would I have misjudged others who struggle with addiction if I had never had to fight for years with something bigger than my own smarts?

The struggling to read.  What kind of evil could I have perpetrated onto others if there had been no struggle to recall what I read, requiring me to read the same materiel over and over again, even throughout college?  Would I have been condescending to others who struggle to understand if everything about learning came easy to me?

Early Miscarriage.  Would I have had opinions about others pain which I knew nothing of if I’d never had one, let alone six?  I can never say that the loss of a child would bring a blessing.  It is a pain I have never experienced, and pray I never do.  And still, each of us, in our own painful travels, notices the Lord near by, even in the cloud.

Marriage Pain.  Would I have even found the time – busy with life, four kids, work and all, to pray, if my heart had not been raw so much of the time?  Would I have ever discovered on a knowing level what PTSD looks like, and how healing occurs if I’d never been in an intimate relationship that rattled the cage of monsters past?

Would I have anything of substance to offer my clients if my understanding was exclusively derived from a book?  Trust me Lord, I prefer not knowing beyond course work all of what a human is capable of suffering from and experiencing.  I thought I’d throw that out… just incase you decide to read this:)

Allergies.  Would I have learned to let go of the toxic nature of being a “pleaser” if I had not been forced to impose, irritate and annoy others using the boundary of “no thank you”, otherwise embarrassing myself by way of anaphylactic drama?

Cancer.  Would the reality of the brevity of this life have been as real as it is now, if I’d not had my breast cut off my body, my thyroid cut out, my body scanned and scanned some more for a look at where the cancer has traveled?

Stroke.  Would I have laughed at the way God took the pain of the bone on skin where breast used to be, and with one quick stroke, remedied by TPA all deficits but left-side numbing, removing this irritation, just because He wanted to?

Brain Fog.  Well, this is the other stroke deficit still remaining.  It has turned up the brain fog dial that already existed.  Remembering paper-work kinds of details, remembering names, reading manuals, working computers.  Would I know God was always hanging about, following me throughout the day if He didn’t have to constantly help me in my pathetic state, over and over and over.  I’m talking about getting lost driving to some location I’ve driven to a dozen times.  Loosing the car keys today, my shoe the next.  Forgetting we make kids lunches every day, remembering to go to bed, remembering to pay the bills, remembering to wear my prosthesis, remember to stop singing when I’m in the Costco public restroom.  Would I find myself too special to love others who struggle with the details?

Step, and another forward, the mower moving on ahead, I recall my own clouds, and the clouds of others.  It’s obvious that God works to rescue each one of us from the meaningless life. Ask someone to tell you their story.  If you have a heart to hold what they tell you with care, you will hear the pattern.  That of God intentionally routing one, then another and another along a personalized bootcamp journey. All challenges personally designed to remove each one of us far from anything that would prevent us from being fully human, and fully alive.   The gloves are still gripping, but lighter.  Stride steady.  I praise God for being the God of the Cloud. Hovering near, He and I, we cut another line of hearty green grass.

“The LORD was going before them in a pillar of cloud by day to lead them on the way, and in a pillar of fire by night to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night.  He did not take away the pillar of cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people.”                                                                Exodus 13: 21 and 22

Lisa Boyl-Davis, LICSW