Small, but Never Alone

Along the Way Graphic Template (1)

Gentle Reader,

Look up and see!
Who created these?
He brings out the stars by number;
He calls all of them by name.
Because of His great power and strength,
not one of them is missing.

– Isaiah 40:26 (CSB)

I grew up on three-and-a-half acres of rented land, close enough to town that a trip to the store was no big deal but far enough away from everything that I could hear the crickets chirp during the twilight hours. The soft neighing of horses floated across the dirt road, changing to excited whinnies as they began to run and play. Sky-high, skinny pine trees bent and waved in the wind, never breaking but coming perilously close to it in my eyes. A bullfrog lived near the water spigot, competing with the owls for noisiest nocturnal creature. The neighbors’ big black-and-white dog would lay in the middle of the road, always confident that cars would go around him.

We didn’t have air conditioning, so summers were brutal. If we weren’t at the beach or the library, my brother and I would sprawl across the living room floor, on a sheet my mother misted with water, underneath the ceiling fan buzzing at full blast. Fudgecicles melting quickly, we watched episodes of “I Love Lucy,” cracking up at the antics of the goofy redhead. Our dog was always close by, ready to catch any chocolately goodness we missed, but mostly just looking to find a cool spot.

Dinner, after my father got home from work, was usually something cold – salad, sandwiches, occasionally cereal. Sometimes, after eating, we would run through the sprinkler, giggling and competing to see who could do the best jumps through the streams of water. As the oldest, I of course always won, though my brother probably thinks otherwise.

On the hottest nights, when nobody could sleep, we would lay on an old quilt in the front yard and look up at the stars. Nobody said much. Just gazed at black velvet, decorated with sparkling diamonds. The wind in the trees, the frogs and owls and crickets singing, the horses playing, the stars slowly moving, as they do, across the sky. I felt very small, and oddly alone, in the midst of that.

I still feel that way when I stand out on my back porch of an evening, only now I know the proper label to attach to the emotion: awe. The stars remind me that He is interested in every detail, no matter how small. He creates only beautiful, good things. He is continually active and present in every aspect of life.

I think of the uncounted prayers that have been whispered, under the cover of darkness, with moon and stars as only witness. Of the animals who know it’s time to sleep, without anyone telling them, when the sky shifts from blue to black. Of the God who has ears to hear every cry and hands large enough to hold all His creatures close.

And I am small in the midst of that, very small. But nowhere near alone.

Who am I, that the God who breathes fire into the stars above, should notice me? Love me? Save me?

What an incredible God!



Sketches: The Beatles


Gentle Reader,

I’m writing this before I head to the Oregon coast for a vacation/anniversary trip, because I have no doubt that my brain will be mush when I return. That’s the thing with vacations – you need a vacation from them. Takes awhile to settle back into the normal routine, especially when you have a body as finicky as mine. I’m not anticipating sleeping very well while we’re gone, which always leaves me a wreck, but perhaps I’ll be surprised.

So, let’s talk: The Beatles. (Prompt submitted, once again, my my own brain. I watched Ron Howard’s documentary Eight Days a Week and have been on a Beatles binge).

There’s nothing I can say in this brief post that hasn’t already been said in the dozens of thick, heavy books that have been written about this legendary British band. I’m hard-pressed to think of any other group that has been as analyzed, scrutinized and emulated as the Fab Four. (The Rolling Stones might come close. Might). John Lennon was a huge jerk but also a genius. Paul McCartney has more edge than people realize. George Harrison was underutilized and underrated during his time with the band. Ringo Starr is a truly great drummer. The four of them together created one of the greatest groups in music history. They opened doors, broke ground, paved the way for others to follow.

Instead of offering up yet another article wondering why Lennon left his wife Cynthia for Yoko Ono (but seriously…why?) or attempting to pinpoint exactly why the band broke up, allow me to share with you some of my favorite Beatles songs:

5. Twist and Shout

This is a cover of a song first made famous by the Isley Brothers. Recorded at the end of the Please Please Me sessions, Lennon, sick with a cold, tears his voice to shreds. It’s awesome.

4. Dizzy Miss Lizzy

Another cover, this one written by Larry Williams. The Beatles made no secret of their love for African-American musicians. This was recorded live at Shea Stadium, where 56,000 fans gathered on a hot summer night in 1965. The fact that the screaming was so loud that the band couldn’t hear themselves, yet they produced this, is amazing.

3. Ticket to Ride

The harmonies. The first, tentative steps toward a psychedelic sound. The sweet lead guitar solo. Yeah, man.

2. In My Life

Was there ever a more nostalgic song? Do any other words really capture the moment when you come to understand that you can’t go home again?

1. Don’t Let Me Down

The rooftop concert. The last time the four would play together live. (They actually recorded Abbey Road after the Let It Be album, though it was released last). In the middle of all the fighting, they look like they’re having fun just playing together. Poignant.

Bonus: Tomorrow Never Knows

This song is weird. I know it’s weird. It’s not theologically accurate in any way. I’m not claiming that it is. I love this song precisely because it’s weird. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to find a good YouTube video, so you’ll have to go hunting yourself.

Extra Bonus: Layla

Not a Beatles song. Eric Clapton wrote this for Pattie Boyd, who was married to George Harrison at the time. Eventually Boyd and Harrison divorced. She married Clapton, Harrison was at the wedding and they all remained friends until the end of his life. That’s rock ‘n roll for you.

George Martin, the man who produced all of The Beatles albums, said (and I’m paraphrasing, because it was in a documentary and I’m not sure I can find it again) that their music was simply fun. Even toward the end, when tensions mounted and things got difficult, at the end of the day these four men enjoyed making music together. That comes across in every song. While they aren’t my all-time favorite band (that honor goes to Creedence Clearwater Revival), The Beatles make me happy.

I think we’ve forgotten how to sit back and enjoy art. It all has to be heavy, has to have a message. That is appropriate sometimes, but there’s also space for frothy pop songs and rock that exists only because guitar shredding is cool. It’s okay to do the Macerana or the Floss. It’s okay to jam along with a song you’ve heard a thousand times, fingers flying across your air guitar. It’s okay to smile, even in the midst of all that’s wrong in the world.

Really, you know, you should be glad.


For all posts in the Sketches series, go here.


Sketches: Star Wars

Chewie & Han

Gentle Reader,

My mom has chronic intractable migraines. Fancy doctor-speak for severe headaches that last for days and don’t respond to treatment. She once had one that lasted nearly a month. I’m amazed that she continues to be able to handle life.

Every so often, I get a little taste of her experience. Yes, I get headaches on the regular, and have had more in the last couple of years than I ever did before, but for 8 days now I’ve been sliding along a pain spectrum from “wow, this really hurts” to “please, just let me die.” Yesterday, it settled behind my right eye. Hasn’t left yet. I don’t really want to do anything, and stayed in bed as long as I could today, but there comes a point when the misery makes me restless.

So I pruned my roses, pulled some weeds, dusted the house and painted my toenails.

Now, let’s talk: Star Wars. (Prompt submitted by my husband, Chris, via our many and varied conversations about these movies).

Aged Roughly 10

It was a muggy, overcast summer evening. We’d gone to the library as a family that day. Either it was a weekend or my dad took some vacation time, because he was with us. He’d spotted a VHS copy of a movie that he’d loved as a young adult and brought it home. He was still sporting the fantastic mustache that he brutally shaved off a decade ago, the mustache that my brother, my husband, various friends of mine and I have been trying to convince him to grow back ever since. (He has resisted our pleadings. I believe this is out of a desire to simply be contrary).

That movie? The Empire Strikes Back.

“A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away….” flashed across the screen. The first chord of John William’s epic theme played. I sat there on the green-and-white checked couch, wearing a big t-shirt that served as a nightgown, the humidity causing little hairs to curl across my forehead and the back of my neck. Pretty sure the big, orange Tupperware bowl was full of hot, buttered popcorn, because Dad always made popcorn when we watched movies. (I have that bowl today). Always in an air-popper, never on the stove (as it should be).

I was immediately hooked. It didn’t matter that I hadn’t seen A New Hope. I got it: Darth Vader was bad, Luke Skywalker was good, Princess Leia and Han Solo were meant to be together, Chewbacca and Yoda were cool. Lando Calrissian, how could he betray the good guys? He’d better get it in the end! How could they put Han in carbonite? He’s going to die! Would Luke really become a Jedi?

Still my favorite movie in the entire franchise.

Aged 17

A bunch of my friends made a Star Wars fan movie for a drama class project. They spent hours on that thing, crafting a story, figuring out how to do make-up so that a few could be aliens, rotoscoping all of the lightsaber scenes. A real labor of love. I wasn’t in the movie (I don’t remember why), though I heard about every detail, every bickering match, every moment of fun and wonder.

Candidly, I got annoyed with the whole thing. The boy I was dating at the time was involved and every spare moment was given to finishing the project. I don’t consider myself clingy, now or then, but what teenage girl is going to be happy when her boyfriend spends no time with her, particularly at the end of Senior year? Of course, now I know that those boys did a great job (and that the one boy was nowhere near worth the stress and pain).

I wonder who has a copy of that movie now? It’s been years since I’ve seen it.

Aged 21

Chris and I, dating for six months at this point, stood out in the rain, in line for the midnight premiere showing of Revenge of the Sith. I have never gone to another midnight showing and I probably never will, not only because I turn into a pumpkin after 8:00 p.m. but really because that night was special. It can never be duplicated or equaled. Everyone was happy and excited. Complete strangers were delighted to share their theories about the movie with each other. There were a few super-fans dressed in costume. It was all very fun.

At last we settled into our seats in the theater, eager for the show to begin. The “please, silence your cell phones” screen stretched out before us for what seemed like hours. Finally, nothing but blackness before our eyes. Yes! We were ready! Then…nothing. For a long time.

A guy in the back of the theater shouted, “Bring back the cell phone screen!” To this day, Chris and I quote that to each other when we go to the movies.

The movie did eventually play – technical difficulties and all that – and we loved it. By far the best of the prequel movies.

Aged Almost 34

I don’t know why anyone is complaining about the Solo movie. We saw it a week ago and have no complaints. It was a light, entertaining few hours. I felt the same way about The Last Jedi, a hugely divisive movie within the fandom. But here’s the thing: Any time I watch a Star Wars film, I am, for a moment, transported back to that summer night, eating popcorn, my dog Petey stretched out on his side, panting in the heat. It’s good guys and bad guys and feeling tense but knowing that the good guys will surely win in the end. It’s fun. That’s all it has to be.

I mean, really: Star Wars is a space opera. Nobody needs to be looking for deep messages. Just enjoy.


For all posts in the Sketches series, go here.