Crossing Boundaries on Mt. Hefty & Thoma Lookout

Mount Hefty on the Montana/Canadian border.

45 years ago, I gleefully & boldly – as every five-year-old does – illegally crossed the border at my grandpa’s border patrol site in Eastern Montana. On a recent Saturday, still without a passport, I did it again at the opposite corner of the state – with some very fine friends – new and old!

Ember really pushed the limits of border security and went for bird – in fact the whole hike for him was one big grouse fest!! I held back a few feet across the border – straight and narrow as I am, you know – somewhat daunted by the vast wilderness before us. Nothing but mountains filled with bears, big cats, wolves and other wild things as far as the eye can see.

Not only did I cross physical boundary lines, but I also let go of a few mental ones too. The sense of freedom from letting go of my literal fears of falling and failing that have held me back since my hip replacement surgery and the confidence I gained in holding my own with some of the best mountaineers out there is huge. We covered 13.5 miles and climbed 2 mountains with 9400 feet of elevation gain – much of it off trail in under 6 hours!!! I just might have my mountain goat groove back!

I also realized – ironically while in that wandering place of mind you happen upon in the wilds – that I feel “at home” again – after years of feeling placeless- unsure of where home was – despite my stuckness. I’m not sure what this means beyond this moment in time – but it feels good.

Thank you, God – for moments of wonderful wonder and reflection in your grand creation!!! This stanza from In Christ Alone sums it up perfectly:

“In Christ alone my hope is found
He is my light, my strength, my song
This cornerstone, this solid ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm
What heights of love, what depths of peace
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease
My comforter, my all in all
Here in the love of Christ I stand.”

Yes, right here, in the love of Christ – I most surely stand. He is my home, my solid ground – no matter where I wander.

Let your light so shine!!

My Third Chance at Life

Today marks 55 days since my total hip replacement! I haven’t felt this good since 2016. This weekend I rode 50 miles on my bike and walked 30 miles over two days. No pain. I have shed so many tears of complete joy – giddiness does not begin to describe my emotions! My new hip is more than a miracle – it is giving me life again.

I am no longer a pill-popper!! For the last 6 years I grew increasingly dependent on my 8-pill a day Tylenol- Advil cocktail while covering it all with a smile and grit. I became the Martha Stewart of pain management – my drawers are filled with capsaicin creams, heating pads, ice packs, strange looking body rollers, tennis balls, TENS therapy units, etc. Have pain? I WAS your go-to girl!!

My life has been a bit chaotic in those 6 years – my mother died, a long term relationship ended, my father died, I bought my first house, I finished lay school for ministry, I met a wonderful man, we got married and then we were “annulled” in a courtroom. Within weeks of that courtroom scene we were plunged into a pandemic and I survived all by myself – really – all by myself. I broke my foot, and then my hip finally gave way. Through it all – extreme runs and workouts were what “kept me sane.” My life revolved around working out and managing the pain afterwards. Like I said – “It kept me sane.” It was the only way I knew how survive. The only thing I didn’t know how to do anymore was live.

Having this downtime after surgery and being forced to rest and “deal” with my life I have a whole new appreciation for who I am, and who I can be. I want to be more than running and conquering the next mile.

I am loving long walks with my dog and pain free bike rides on the back roads of the town I live in. I love not being crazed if I don’t wake up at 4am to get my 3+hour workout in before work. I love waking up when I wake up and seeing my faithful companion’s tail wagging ready for our time together. I love reading and playing the piano again – sometimes for hours!! Heck, I am even enjoying cooking and baking again – because I have time to do so! And then – there are the people I “didn’t have time for”. I think that is what hurts the most now – the realization of the relationships lost, broken, or unrealized because of my wayward focus.

I have missed out on so much life because I was just trying to manage my physical and mental anguish in ways that were not helping me in any way. Not every one gets a second chance at life – this will be my third. They say the third time is the charm. I’m not going to waste it!!

Let your light so shine!!

Aligning Life

“I want my inner truth to be the plumb line for the choices I make about my life – about the work that I do and how I do it, about the relationships I enter into and how I conduct them.”  — Parker J. Palmer

I first heard the term “plumb line” when I was about 9 or 10 years old. My dad was in the process of finishing our basement – building out a bedroom for my then college-aged brother. It made no sense to me then what a purple fruit that little Jack Horner pulled out of his Christmas pie had to do with construction! 

The next time I encountered the term “plumb line” it was in a completely different context. I had just turned 43 and a family friend who was also a personally influential pastor told me about his week-long “Plumb-Line” seminars and how they changed people’s lives. I had not yet started my in-depth studies of the biblical prophets for my Lay Pastoral Associate program nor had I furthered my construction career past hammering my thumb, so this idea was still a fairly new concept to me. I’ve now reached a point in my life where I’m ready to be “plumbed” and once again encountered the concept in a recent reading of mine.

In the Old Testament of the Bible, the prophet Amos spoke of God establishing a plumb line by which the people of Israel would be measured. (Amos 7: 7-17). “See, I am setting a plumb line in the midst of my people Israel; I will never again pass them by; the high places of Isaac shall be made desolate, and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste, and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword.”

A plumb line – for those of you who may still be wondering – is a tool used by builders to find the true vertical using the force of gravity and a weight hanging from a cord.  A plumb line ensures the wall or structure you are building is at a perfect right angle to the earth. The plumb line Amos spoke of God setting served three purposes: construction, testing what is built, and destruction – or the casting down what cannot stand. God has always had a plumbline in his hand. God is not a careless creator.

The above message comes to Amos at a time of prosperity and peace – when it seems everything is right; but in reality, all is not well – not well at all. The “wall” is crooked and will fall. Just as his listeners were then, people can be manipulated into believing all is well, but the plumb line – the standard of good – cannot be manipulated and God’s justness cannot be manipulated.

Whether you are aware of them or not (like me for the first 43 years of my life), we all have multiple plumb lines in our lives. The values, qualities, beliefs, and priorities that guide our lives all serve as plumb lines. As a modern-day level shows us when our lines are not straight, our plumb lines serve as minders when our lives are out of whack and off kilter. They help us focus on what really matters and offer us strength and stability.

Plumb lines don’t just apply to or matter to the individual. As with the Israelites in the book of Amos, plumb lines are also communal in nature. Our communities, states, and nations have plumb lines in the form of laws and constitutions.

The plumb lines we set for our lives matter not only for us as individuals but also for our communities and our relationships. At their highest purpose, they serve as relational guides, promoting life and human dignity. In the hands of our flawed humanity, they can also diminish life and human dignity – individually and communally.

I wasn’t ready to hear about the plumb lines of life when my pastor friend shared what his plumb-line seminars entailed. I had just uprooted my life and moved at the time; and frankly, I couldn’t handle any more change in my life, nor did I have the will or the time to examine it – though in hindsight that would have been the ideal time to do so.

Sometimes we choose to reset the plumb lines in our lives. We sense that something just isn’t right – there is a gnawing restlessness bothering our souls. So, we make an effort to change – get away for a while – take a break – perhaps seek counseling – and reassess. Other times we don’t have a say in the matter. Other times events, circumstances, or experiences – pivotal points in our lives – start the plumb line swinging and we are forced to rethink everything. It’s as if there is a reset on everything, including our plumb lines.

Our country, our world, is at one of these pivotal points – just look at any newspaper or news program or social media feed. Grief; suffering; immense loss of purpose, place, and life; chaos and confusion; distrust and insecurity reign. The U.S. Supreme Court alone has provided a wealth of material in just the past few weeks while Congress follows in fast pursuit. Live video feeds capture the consequences of continued gun violence, followed by modern day “prophets” spouting words that are no less destructive. The plumb lines of our country have been swinging wildly and crashing into each other as our ideals and traditions are challenged. From mass shootings and civil & political unrest to economic instability and ecclesial division, who among us today doesn’t feel like he or she is having to reset the plumb lines of life?

But this is nothing new. Resetting plumb lines is a part of every life in every place and in every time. It is how we grow and evolve. Done well, a reset enlarges life – done carelessly it defeats it. Will the standards to which we align ourselves equate to common flourishing, personal responsibility and personal authority or the forces of control, power, economy, affluence, and narcissism?   These are the questions our nation faces in the coming days, weeks, and years.

As anyone who has found their life in complete chaos knows, you can’t do much when the plumb line is swinging wildly about. It would be nice and convenient if we all had the same plumb lines – our world would be a much more peaceful place.  But as it were – we do not.  We might think we share common ideals but our alignment to them will always be unique and even in conflict at times.  Setting and resetting plumb lines is a process  that takes time. It takes reflection, listening, hearing, experiencing, thinking and then, even more thinking. We aren’t, however, left to our own devices and thumb-hammering ways. There are numerous sources offering guidance to wondering souls, but I have a favorite recommendation.

The Bible provides us with adequate plumb line words of wisdom – perhaps the simplest and most concise advice for life in Jesus’ response in the parable of the Good Samaritan. (Luke 10:25-37) Jesus resets the plumb lines of the lawyer (and us!) who inquired about what he must do to inherit eternal life. The plumb line is revealed in the lawyer’s question, “And who is my neighbor?” It’s a polite way of asking, “Who is not my neighbor?” “Who is not deserving of my love?” “Whose life is not worthy of my time and effort?” “Who can I ignore, denigrate, hate, or pass by?” The plumb line Jesus resets declares, “No one.” (Levine, Short Stories by Jesus, 93). No one. These are good plumb-lines to live by and if I may opine – govern a country by.

Our plumb lines reflect where our focus is, where our hearts find succor, and what matters to us. They reveal our aspirations and our fears and they direct the course of our lives. Is your plumb line swinging about? When you look in the mirror, what do you see? What questions are you asking? What answers do you seek? What do your fears reveal? What is number one on your to-do list? As you look back on your life, what used to matter and what matters to you now? Are you enlarging life with each passing day, week, month and year or finding it diminishing?

I’ve been posing these questions to myself of late.

Healing from major surgery has given me the opportunity to quit swinging wildly about, to slow down, and to rest. Both by choice and due to critical circumstances, I’ve had to reset what has gotten out of whack and way off kilter in my life. My desire is for a more meaningful and more purposeful approach to living the second half of my life.

Both endeavors are incredibly hard work! 

Healing from a hip replacement is complex. It requires lots of rest as well as exercise. It requires good fuel and incredible focus – one wrong step and I could mess the whole thing up!  It’s the torture and heaven of physical therapy. It is discipline and grace. It is the constant challenge of knowing your limits, but also not being afraid to test them.

However, the arduous work of excavating one’s life down to its foundation and doing a “reset of the plumb lines” in all honesty, is the most painful, critical and promising work of all. This “new life” of mine won’t just be a replay of my past mistakes.

It’s not all gut searching and wrenching work though. At times, it’s as simple as listening to the bees quiet down as the sun sets on another day. Grateful for nature’s little reminders of the proper order of life and the simple serenity of a quiet summer evening.

Let your light so shine!

O Happy Day!

I cried… but just a little. The smile and wind on my face wouldn’t let those tears of joy win!!

The last time I rode I also cried – it hurt so bad. I couldn’t even pedal without turning my right leg 45 degrees out and had to lay the bike on the ground to dismount because I couldn’t lift either leg over the bar.

Today, I felt like I was 10 again and trying out my bright blue brand-new Schwinn 10-speed for the first time!!

I didn’t even hurt getting on or off!

I kept it easy today – partly because I forgot to put air in those tires and partly because I still have what feels like a chalkboard eraser in my upper thigh which made pedaling feel a bit weird. But I will take weird any day over the nausea inducing pain of yore!

Keeping with the theme of TEN from above- I walked TEN miles yesterday (over 2 walks) and today my surgeon released me to live again – but take it easy, girl – my new hip is a PERFECT TEN – and he’ll see me in TEN years for a checkup!

O Happy day, calloo callay!!😁😁😁

45 days post total right hip replacement.

Let your light so shine like a 10-yr old!!!

The Bees Know

Healing is complex. It’s the torture and heaven of physical therapy. It is discipline and grace. It is the constant challenge of knowing your limits but also not being afraid to test them.

For me, it is also the arduous work of excavating one’s life down to its foundation so this “new life” of mine won’t just be a replay of my past mistakes. That I might have a fighting chance. This might be the most painful work of all, but it is also the most promising.

At times, though, it’s as simple as listening to the bees quiet down as the sun sets on another day. Grateful for nature’s little reminders of the proper order of life and the simple serenity of a quiet summer evening.

Let your light so shine.

Healing is Hard Work

The road is long.

Today marks 28 days of being a hippie – the titanium variation. I have literally made great strides in the last 4 weeks – remarkably so when I look back on those first few days. I felt like a newborn foal on wobbly legs, uncertain of every step and amazed that I could even take one! The initial pain and brain fogginess have subsided and now acetaminophen is the only medication I take – to ease the soreness and the zingers shooting down my leg from the thigh muscles and nerves that were cut. This is good pain. It serves as a healthy reminder that I am still healing – and I need to be reminded. I am only 1/3 of the way through the initial healing process of a total hip replacement and I have a good ways to go. My mind thinks otherwise and my body takes the brunt of lessons learned the hard way.

The body has an amazing ability to heal – if we allow it to.

In the initial stages of recovery, this is not such a difficult feat. I was exhausted and physically could not do anything other than eat, sleep, move as prescribed, sleep again, eat again and sleep again. Gradually the need for sleep gave way to the need for more movement – a sign that I was reaching a stable state and my body was at a point where I could start challenging it to resume daily activities – like changing the bed linens, vacuuming, walking with less and less equipment assisting me, and returning to work. In this stage, I would quickly learn when I had done too much because my body would quit on me – right then and there – and I would give it proper rest. I often felt frustrated and defeated. I despaired at the level of fitness I had “lost” overnight. Mind you this was days 14-21. A mere 2 weeks out from my surgery!!

But now, here I am at day 28 – officially 4 weeks from the day my femur met the saw blade and my hip socket met a reamer. I have established a new routine and returned to work full-time. I walk in the morning and the evening and take short jaunts around the parking lot throughout the day to keep my hip from getting stiff. I do my balance work and resistance band exercises twice a day and I am making good progress. This is the first time in years I have been able to stand on one leg and hold that pose for a solid minute! BUT, I have always had a more-is-better mentality and this is where I struggle. This is when the healing process really gets hard. I want to push myself to go farther – to do more – to get rid of of the ants in my pants!

My patience for recovery is wearing thin. I’m tired of runners sprinting by me on my walks and bicyclists passing me by. I long for a mountain summit now that the rain has stopped, the sun is warm, and the wildflowers beckon. The urgency of now is the bane of my current existence!!

My mind remembers my 17-mile runs, my twice daily 6-8-mile walks, and my HIIT & strength training routines of just 2 months ago and craves the activity. Celebrating walking 4 miles twice a day just seems so – so miniscule – such a physical diminishment. And yet – my body is doing something greater than pumping iron and setting personal bests – it is healing the largest bone in my body, it is becoming one with titanium, it is recreating and building cut muscles and finding new nerve pathways. Why do I struggle to celebrate these amazing feats? Why is is so hard to let the healing process happen? Why does this slowed down present time feel like an eternity when it seems like just yesterday I was waking up to a wonderful new reality?

There must be truth to the old adage “Time heals all wounds,” or it wouldn’t have stood the test of time. It is a hard lesson to appreciate in the urgency of now but I know my future health and happiness depends on it.

“But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” – Isaiah 40:28-31

Too Far Afield

Day 22 Post-Op.

Last night I went out for my evening walk. It was a beautiful evening and I started out strong. I am using walking poles as I walk alone with my dog (he has an e-collar and heels like a good boy!) and a my PT reminds me every session – falling is about the only thing I can do right now to mess this up. Having walked in the morning, I had planned to do 4.5 miles max tonight. At just under mile 4, we met this beautiful collie. I know her well – she is about 11 years young and the most docile dog I have ever met in the field. Ember, my dog, loves her too. The only problem was she was without her owner and seemed very anxious. Being the dog-lover I am and not having her owner’s phone number but knowing about where she lives, I decided to take the Collie home – it was only another mile – or so…

Ember & I got her home safely – at least I hope so as the owner was not home but she seemed happy to stay in the yard – and it is a secluded house – you can barely see it from the road. Ember and I turned around and began to make our way home. And then I realized I still had about 2 miles to go. 2 miles too many.

To admit that was crushing. I used to run 17 miles without blinking. I never gave in – I even ran after falling on the ice and hitting my head because I didn’t want to cut my workout short. I ended up with staples up the back of my scalp and a concussion as I didn’t realize I had split my head open in the fall – but I got my 12 miles in that morning! But that was another time. My perspective has changed.

And yet, I was adamant that I was not going to call someone. It’s a JUST A WALK after all. Who can’t walk two miles, I said to myself. I was mad for letting this happen. My hip was starting to get tight and hurt. I knew I was going to pay for this. And then out of the blue, a car pulls up next to me and I hear – “Hey there, friend! How is your evening going?”

It was a dear friend of mine who walked with me in my early post-op days. I had tears brimming but not yet falling as relief washed over me. I heard myself starting to say, “Great but I am a bit tired…” and she stopped me right there and said “Get in. I was just coming home from bible study and saw you out later than normal. Let’s get you home…”

Fortuitous timing, no? She was definitely a Godsend. Perhaps my earlier good deed had warranted an angel on my shoulder?

I iced my hip and went to bed.

I feel a bit worn this morning. My upper thigh is quite tight – but nothing aches – thank God. I walked a shorter route because it felt good to move, but I definitely crossed my limits last night. The hard things is – you don’t know you have until – well – you have already gone too far or done too much.

Trying to return to normal is such a process and a craft I have yet to master.

Embracing the Slow

Morning quiet

“Now, looking through the slanting light of the morning window

toward the mountain presence of everything that can be

what urgency calls you to your one love?

What shape waits in the seed of you

to grow and spread its branches

against a future sky?”

– From “What to Remember when Waking” David Whyte

It was one of those magical mid-June mornings in between the typical 4-day long rains of June and the Great Rain of 2022. A brilliant sun broke over the cloud-enshrouded mountain causing my rain-soaked lawn and leafy trees to shimmer just a bit. A few birds continued their morning song while the rest of the world rested. Including me.

I gazed at this foreign wonder before me. Unable to rush off to church or get on with the endless chores of landscape maintenance or go for my once twice weekly 17-mile long-run – I realized that in the last 6+ years my parents died, I bought my house, my marriage came and went, I completed 2+ years of theology studies and began my role as a Lay Pastor while continuing to work 40 hours a week but I have not once done this – just sit and take things in. Just rest.

And as I gazed upon this scene, I realized that I really do love my yard now that I am not a slave to the constant mowing of it (I had to hire someone for this summer as I recover) and I actually look forward to tending my garden beds rather seeing it as yet another invasion of my busy scheduled life.

And oh, how I love Ember – my now 4-year-old Brittany. He is such a light in this unsettled world. Just watching him amuse himself is a joy. Even at 4 years old he discovers everything anew with such gusto! A leaf on the grass, his chewed-up tennis ball, a piece of bark, not to mention the starlings teasing him – all were a feast of joy for his eyes and induced exuberant frolicking.

We played fetch and he brought the ball back willingly about 8 times. Remarkable! On the occasion he decided to do his own thing I laid back in the chair and dropped my hand down and closed my eyes.  After a minute he walked up and dropped the ball and laid his head on my lap and looked at me with the most adoring eyes.  It just about made me cry. I sadly realized I had never made time for these moments before, or at least I can’t remember the last time I savored the simple pleasures of a quiet Sunday morning. I felt an ache inside at the realization of what I have not only missed, but lost.

And why? For what reason?

For years I have been plagued by an inner restlessness that has yet to be soothed. I always have to be doing something – even if that means pacing back and forth before moving on to the next must do. I live by the principle of work before pleasure at all times and my form of pleasure was always something highly active and results oriented. I never rested. I never balanced the go with the slow.

It saddens me how much our culture encourages constant doing and striving and achieving. It is all too easy to get tangled up with everything – the demands of life, the inner must-do’s, the expectations of others, the rigidity and comfort of routine.

It seems like the right thing to do – even noble – to be constantly working on something and never take breaks. I’ve heard myself make the same excuse over and over again for not taking time off – doing so always creates so much work before and after. It’s easier to just keep plugging on and letting life slip by. Keep going – go faster. Don’t be the slow car in the fast lane and while we’re at it – blast that slow car in the fast lane!! How can anyone drive slow like that – oblivious to the world racing by?? 

But now I wonder how can anyone sustain a lifestyle that is all go and no slow? How did I do it for so long and how unsettling it is that it took major surgery to make me realize this!

All of this serves as a reminder that we need to pay attention to balance in our lives.  Too much pleasure and free time can be as detrimental as too much work and too much structure.  Constantly punishing workouts will weaken the body as much as being a couch potato.  Constant striving will at long last bring us to a place where there is no meaning to our endeavors and nothing left of us to enjoy our achievements once realized.

It’s up to us to determine how to balance all of the parts and pieces, people and places that contribute to us having a healthy and satisfying life.

There is a wonderful opportunity awaiting all of us in the very next moment. Perhaps it is a brilliant sun breaking over the cloud-enshrouded mountain causing a rain-soaked lawn and leafy trees to shimmer just a bit and your heart to sigh. Maybe it is the final chord of the morning birdsong. Perhaps it is just a quiet stillness waiting for you to gaze upon its foreign wonder and rest.

Let your light so shine.

2 Weeks – a.k.a. “Learning when to say when.”

May be an image of tree and nature

It’s hard to believe today marks two weeks since my surgery!! At times it has felt like eons – especially the not being able to drive part and not seeing anything beyond my little circle in the neighborhood. I am also very tired of being tired. But then, I was tired and in pain all the time before my surgery, so I am happy as well to just be tired now!

Yesterday was a big lesson in pacing myself. The “if it feels good keep on doing it” rule has its limits or so I am learning.

My wanderlust has reached a frightening level – but I am escaping via Norwegian literature and my newest obsession – Danish/Norwegian TV dramas!! 😃🤩🤓

Grand treks are in sight though as I am happily walking up to 3 pain-free miles at a time with walking poles at just a minute off my pre-surgery-with-a-limp-and-nauseating-pain pace – so I am pleased!💪🦵🙏

Today was my second half day back at work. I finally felt like my brain was clicking again and I could type complete sentences. The computer still bothers my eye/brain happiness – but that is gradually improving too!

Tomorrow, I have my first post-op appointment. I am praying for a good report and permission to drive as I have been off all pain meds except for Tylenol for a week!!

I wish my brother could see me now. His immediate care was integral to my progress now. Thanks for carrying my initial distress with grace. It’s not fair just being a part of the yucky stuff and not seeing the end results! I love you, big brother. ❤

“Let me hear of your unfailing love each morning,

for I am trusting you.

Show me where to walk,

for I give myself to you.” – Psalm 143:8

Let your light so shine!

Progress is Progress!

10 days post-op! I toddled around my neighborhood three times yesterday for a total of 2.27 miles. This morning I woke up – shall we say – definitely feeling every one of those steps! I did my PT exercises, took 2 Tylenol, and decided to hold off on the Tramadol – just to see. After a deluge of rain all morning the sun peeked out over the mountain so Ember and I hurried up and headed out with my walker for a morning toddle thinking this might be it for the day. The longer I walked the better I felt! 1.5 miles later – no Tramadol and I am feeling good! Progress! (Mind, movement, and mediation over medication!) 💪🙏🦵🌞


I can’t believe I am where I am compared to even 5 days ago. I thought my world had ended because of the pain and extreme fatigue. I have been doing the comparison thing to some of my FB Group Athlete Hippie-mates- much to my detriment. I know I will not be in a CrossFit gym rowing, squatting, lunging or doing weighted deadlifts anytime soon!! I know I won’t be running 6 weeks post op. However, I am responsible for making my recovery a success and I have been extremely focused on doing my PT exercise in spite of the pain, regular icing as much as I detest it and elevating my chicken legs! I am eating lots of protein (which was not something I did prior to surgery), inflammation-fighting fruit, berries, and veggies, and giving in to those moments when I just must rest (this too is completely contradictory to how I normally operate!! 🤪)


I know I will have hard days ahead. Learning to balance my need for freedom and speed and the reality of where I am at in recovery is going to be a battle. Thank you all so very much for your support and continued prayers. I am feeling more and more like a better version of my old self!

“But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” – Isaiah 40:31

Let your light so shine!!