Wednesday, January 28, 2009

"My Glorious Dish Towel" Redux and More

My Glorious Dish Towel
by Virginia Knowles in October 2007

I confess. I guess I am just sentimental about dish towels. This one came into my life 25 years ago, fluffy and fresh, bright with glorious rainbows, back when I was still a fluffy, fresh, and bright young college student. It arrived in a care package from my mother, nestled in with edibles and kitchen practicalities, and maybe an inspiring new book to feed my idealistic soul. My mom understood about such things (and still does). She always said that new dish towels could perk up even the dreariest kitchen, and that rundown apartment kitchen sure needed it! We had no dishwasher except the human kind, so that towel did daily duty at my sink. And each time I would hang it up proudly so everyone could see its glorious rainbows.

And here we are now, all these years later. I wearily plop a toddler on her little oak bed in my bedroom. My tenth toddler. In my bedroom still. Someday she will move out to another room, when my first no-longer-toddler-now-bright-fresh-idealistic-young-adult-daughter moves out of the house, but we are in no hurry for that, no hurry at all. Still, I am a tired mommy, a busy mommy. And even after this particularly long and tiring day, it is not time for me to go to my bed yet, except to sit on it and fold another mound of laundry, the foothills of Mt. Neverest, as I call my unending five-loads-a-day pile. And then a wave of melancholy washes over me. Even in the dim light of the go-to-sleep-sweetie-I'm-still-right-here bedroom, I can see this dish towel in my hand, this faded and threadbare dish towel, with its once bright rainbows barely recognizable. It is so thin I can see through it. How has it survived this long? In these 25 years it has done its daily duties for sure:

♥ drying dishes (imagine that!)
♥ soaking up the drips from the leaky air conditioner in that old apartment
♥ laying under fresh-baked cookies cooling on the counter in our newlywed apartment or our first little townhouse
♥ wiping away traces of morning sickness
♥ playing peek-a-boo with a baby
♥ soothing a fevered brow of a sick child, and another sick child, and another…
♥ cushioning china in a cross-country move to a bigger home for a growing family
♥ mopping up spilled apple juice, milk, and assorted unmentionable liquids from the floor
♥ covering a pan of rising bread dough made by an eager baker-daughter for a family Thanksgiving feast
♥ cleaning a soft young face covered with spaghetti sauce or peanut butter or blood or runny nose
♥ wrapping an ice pack to keep it from being so cold on a bruised forehead
♥ maybe even cleaning a hamster cage, though I hope not…
♥ and much more, much much more, over and over and over again

And between each time, to sanitize it for its next task, it is stuffed in a bucket with all of the other wet smelly kitchen linens, churned with bleach and detergent in the washer, and then shoved unceremoniously into the dryer with the heat and dizzying spin, sacrificing its lovely fluffy fiber to the lint trap. Then, after being crumpled into a clean basket, it is folded and crammed into the linen closet or the drawer by the kitchen sink, or, bypassing all of these, snatched right from the dryer and put immediately to desperate use again. It is needed, needed all the time. Like me.

And so the wave of melancholy, as I sense its metaphor of my own life. I feel like this dish towel. Old. Used up. Threadbare, with frayed fringes where neat hems used to be. Always in a spin. Like the faded rainbow, where have my once sparkling young dreams gone? I weep and wipe the tears with the towel. I hold it to my face and breathe in deeply. It is soft, so soft as it comforts me, as it has comforted others. It deserves dignity. I do not want it to be carelessly discarded by someone who does not understand dish towels and nostalgia, so I tuck it safely into an unseen crevice on my bookcase where no one can find it. I clear the rest of the folded laundry off of my bed and sleep. Oh, how I need sleep.

I wake in the wee hours of the morning, as I always do, like it or not. My mind churns, as it often does, thinking, pondering. This is not a bad thing in itself, because I love to think and ponder and dream awake, but right now I would rather sleep. And then it dawns on me, like a glittering rainbow as a shaft of sunshine suddenly illuminates a gray and drizzly sky. This is the glory of the dish towel, the glory of my life. What? What is the glory? Service. Being useful in the midst of constant need. Emptying myself of selfishness in order to fulfill my purpose. Love working itself out in humble and practical ways. This is why I'm here: in God's strength, serving my family in our busy life-filled home, where celebrations mingle with sorrows, and the momentous punctuates the mundane. This is the life I chose, preparing young hearts and minds to fulfill their own life destinies. It is a good life.

The recent words of another bright, fresh young woman flood in to comfort me: "Mrs. Knowles," Sarah Grace said, tapping me on the shoulder on a Sunday morning at church. "Mrs. Knowles, I believe the Lord wants me to remind you that your motherhood is a holy service to him. It is no waste. When you bow down to wipe up a spill from the floor, you are bowing in worship and service to him." Remembering these refreshing words, I rise from my bed and tiptoe over to the bookcase, quietly, so as not to wake the tenth toddler, who nonetheless starts to rustle in her bed, sucking her thumb furiously until her I'm-about-to-wake-up-breathing evens out into restful sleep again. I grope around in the crevice and my hand feels the softness of the towel, the esteemed towel. There are tears to wipe again, but this time tears of gratitude. I am thankful that, unlike my lowly and lifeless dish towel, I can be renewed and I will receive my reward.


"He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose." Jim Elliott, martyred missionary

"Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." Matthew 10:39

"Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, "Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them." John 13:3-5, 12-17


I wrote "My Glorious Dish Towel" over a year ago. I had just read Christopher DeVinck's thoughtful Book of Moonlight collection of essays the day before, and I know some of his style must have crept into my own essay. At any rate, this one essay elicited much heartfelt feedback from its readers; it is one of my favorites, too.

I had another of those days yesterday -- a combination of coming off of an exciting weekend teaching at Books & Beyond, then catching a cold that kept me home from church and co-op for two days. That, and my kids all seemed to be conspiring to irritate me. Despite my angst, I knew I had to go grocery shopping, so I printed off my master list (sorted by aisle) and started checking off what we needed. Melody, who is three, wanted to help. She checked off a bunch of things on her own, things we did not need. "What am I going to do with you?" I asked in an exasperated voice. "Cuddle with me!" was her mischievous reply. And so I did. But I was still melancholy, blue, in a funk. And I still had to go grocery shopping.

I loaded Naomi, Ben, and Melody (my three youngest ones) in the van and off we went to Super Walmart. I was exhausted, fighting for joy, trying to remember what a treasure these little ones are. At least they were being good, relatively speaking! Then, midway through the endless aisles of boxes and cans, an older lady touched me on the arm and offered sweet words of encouragement. She had raised seven; she knew. A few minutes later, another lady, a mother of six children, gifted me with even more words of grace. So I made it through grocery shopping, somehow even smiling. And I bought myself some pretty pink tulips, half price, and put a vase on the table and another in the front hallway. We all need a bit of beauty to feed the soul.

After a hearty teriyaki chicken dinner (which Rachel fixed, PTL), I spent almost the entire evening sorting hundreds of socks, divvying out clean laundry into baskets, folding some for my little ones. 

Motherhood is a blessing. It is also an extreme challenge sometimes. I need daily grace, encouragement, and vision from God. And he is always glad to give it.

Blessings to you and yours,

Virginia Knowles

Monday, January 19, 2009

Three Poems and the Stories Behind Them, Starting with a Funeral

Dear friends,

I'd like to share three poems and the stories behind them. The first poem, "Over Utah in January," is mine. The others, "Saturday" and "The Thief on the Cross" are by Dan Christensen.

A year ago today, I attended the funeral of my grandmother Margaret Driggs in Salt Lake City, Utah. I had little idea what to expect, since I had never met any of the extended family via her second marriage. (My dad's stepfather, Dr. Howard R. Driggs, was much older than Grandma. He was born in the 1870s into a polygamous Mormon family with 22 children.) And all I could think of, as far as Utah terrain goes, were the salt flats we had driven through way back in 1976 on a family vacation. I was in for a surprise!

On the airplane, looking down over Colorado and Utah, my breath was taken away by the gorgeous snow covered mountains. I took out my journal and started writing, and my poem "Over Utah in January" was born.

Over Utah in January 
by Virginia Knowles

I am in the sky looking down on
Vast speechless stretches 
  of frozen white
Curved round and round by
Slicing crevices and streams
And human roads 
  abandoned though they be
Foothills then soaring 
  mountains beyond
Majestic tall yet distant small
From the sky where I look down

Clustering pines 
  (wilderness steeples)
Defer to barren ground below
Shedding to it cumbering, 
  nurturing snow

Upright spires green
Evergreen over branches, trunks, 
  rough and woody brown
Rooted deeply into ascending slope
Yet as living arrows aiming high
To the sky where I look down

Up and over mountain towers, fly
Peering through mottled fog outstretched

Amid earthy upturned layers, variegated ripples

Shadow clouds now upwisping 
  sharply angled peaks

Oh! These are of no human 
  construct or design
Not even marked by 
  footprints in pristine snow
Just fingerprints, signatures divine
Where winter earth meets winter sky

Yet in the valley 
  I see manly habitation
In patterned rows, casual curves beneath the mist
Nestled in yet beckoned 
  to a deep and high communion

Only bold ones venture 
  beyond certain fringes
Strive upward, breathe hard, 
  ascending steep, behold
Some faithful cannot climb 
  but still lift souls to see
To know and long to know

Others seem content merely to stroll 
   in evenness beneath, below
Oblivious to wonder
I am in the sky looking down
Then gazing up in awe at Him
Who gazes down in grace on me below
On me, who sees and longs to know

At the funeral home that Saturday, I noticed a fiftysomething man who stood out from the crowd, partly because he is very tall, and partly because, in the midst of Mormon clean cut hairstyles, he had a long braid and a beard. I thought, "Either he is in the wrong room, or he married into the family." I was wrong on both counts. He is actually my (step) second cousin Dan Christensen. We chatted only briefly then just before the service started. Later, at the lovely luncheon reception in the home of another cousin, I heard music in the parlor. I walked upstairs and found my brother John playing the piano while Dan sang Broadway music for a small group of relatives. Afterwards, I asked Dan, "You don't look like a typical Mormon. Are you still a part of the Latter-Day Saints Church?" He replied that he was, and talked to all of us for quite awhile about what it was like to be a non-typical Mormon, an artsy freethinking actor and musician. As I left later, I handed him my card and said, "You seem to be the creative deep thinking sort of person. I wrote a poem the other day that I think you will like, and I'll put it on my web site in a few days."

By the time I arrived back in Orlando the next day, there was a note in my e-mail inbox from Dan thanking me for our conversation, especially that I had made him think. Several days later, he wrote again to respond to my poem:

Some of the images of your poem have stayed with me these past few days. I love the pine trees as steeples. That is so original and yet it seems so obvious now that you've said it. I think I've seen trees metaphored as "spires" but a steeple is more approachable, more homely, closer to the humans who live on this desert floor. This line is brilliant: "Just fingerprints, signatures divine." Reading the first half, I immediately see the texture of snow as understood from the air. Simple enough (love the word "just" here!) for those who have observed the recurring patterns of nature. Okay, so it's like fingers pressed the snow to the mountains. But, wait a second. Whose . . . ? Who . . . ? But it's too late. The literary fuse is lit. Igniting our understanding... We're observing Creation. The Play of Gods! The next two words detonate the meaning--but not with a linear thought. There are multiple explosions here. Perhaps always there during previous millennia but, as we begin this new one, we have problems to solve regarding ID. We're taking fingerprints for signatures! You chose an old word that is also as immediate as today's trip to the bank. It's a momentary derailment. One can't quite read it as a sweeping cosmic phrase without a hiccup and becoming aware of his own body. The placing and lifting of a finger. These snow-covered mountains are not the works of an anonymous god! Then, as if to soothe the reader, allowing the previous line to sink in, you follow with a simple rhythm--but pleasing and interesting--like when one realizes two children are twins: "Where winter earth meets winter sky." Well, I've gone on and on. You can see why I didn't start sooner. Thank you for making so many beautiful images and sharing them. On the day of the funeral, you mentioned there would be a poem. You inspired me to think about writing. A couple of days later I wrote the following. I find it interesting that your poem looks down from the sky while mine barely leaves the ground. Tell me your impression.


by Dan Christensen

I didn't wear practical shoes
although I knew I could make do
walking on cleared concrete
or across frozen snowpack
on the hard, synthetic soles
of the ones I chose.

My cousin must have dressed with the same thought
because she took extra time to back her car around
and into the lane behind the hearse.
We were still parking while the pallbearers
carried the casket and unpinned pink carnations.

I stood on stone cold lawn probably
made bare by whoever set the folding chairs
(and covered them with green fake fur).
The grass sank a bit during the prayer;
I shifted my weight from foot to foot.

There was a long silence after the Amen.
Then I walked along an astro turf-covered plank
beside the open grave. I wanted to locate
names on stones: My great-uncle
(whose wife lay in state today),
and his son who died before I was born.
The son's wife whose funeral I missed
not many years ago and their son
who committed suicide. Margaret didn't place
a stone here for herself
before she died.

After lunch I discovered mud
on one of my shoes--
just a little, on the edge.


And so began an e-mail conversation that continues (rather sporadically) to this day. We have primarily talked about theology, logic, and poetry. I think it has been eye opening for both of us, since he comes from several generations of Mormon heritage and I am an evangelical Christian. One of the web sites I sent him to consider is

For several years, Dan has written essays and poems for the quarterly anthology "sine cera" which is published by a community college in Salt Lake City. He submitted the "Saturday" poem, and not only was it accepted, but they named the entire issue for it! Later on, Dan excitedly told me that he had been invited to read one of his original essays at the Utah Arts Festival, which is a high honor.

In June, Dan wrote:

"I had the most remarkable opportunity yesterday. A non-denominational Christian organization is here shooting Bible films. I played one of the thieves beside Jesus on the cross. I'm still trying to figure out how to describe it without devaluing it with words. I'm happy to say I am changed by having witnessed what I did."


I would imagine so! I've always said that a heart can be reached so effectively with music, art, poetry, and drama -- and even more so when you are in the drama as an actor!

(The Christian organization is Crown Ministries, and the film was part of a series that was just featured at the San Antonio Christian Film Festival. You can see production photos from Dan's scene at Utah Day 5. Here is the only one I could download.)

I wrote back to Dan, "Could you pour your impressions into a poem?" And so, a few weeks later, in the midst of designing the set and playing Uncle Max in a local production of "The Sound of Music", he sent me "The Thief on the Cross."

The Thief on the Cross
by Dan Christensen

I stole a heart and broke it,
took time that wasn’t mine,
pocketed memories when other people
got distracted,
claimed happiness I did not buy.

I am a thief.
I know it. So does he who hangs beside me.
Even under pain of torture
unable to resist this nature,
I enlist my fellow felon in one last larceny:
The Perfect Crime.

He agrees.
And so we die common thieves
who steal my place in paradise.


I wrote to Dan a few weeks ago and asked if I could put "The Thief on the Cross" here on my blog on January 19, the one year anniversary of the funeral and the day we met. He happily agreed.

Here is the story as told in Luke 23:32-43.

"Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.

The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, "He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One." The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar and said, "If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself." There was a written notice above him, which read: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.

One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: "Aren't you the Christ? Save yourself and us!"

But the other criminal rebuked him. "Don't you fear God," he said, "since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong." Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom."

Jesus answered him, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise."

We have hope! Imagine paradise for a moment: the best thing about it is that God is there and he wants us with him!


Dan, I want to thank you for being patient with me as I've bumbled through trying to share my point of view, and for being so gracious as you have shared your own. Thank you, also, for the gift of your two poems!

Friday, January 16, 2009

To Bolivia with Love

To Bolivia, With Love
(A Bolivia, Con Amor)
by Virginia Knowles

To Bolivia:
Out of my ten, Julia is just one
But a full one she is
One full of life and love and laughter
One for you, from me

With bubbles and balloons for your little ones
And a Bible in her language and yours, side by side
(It speaks love in any language)
How beautiful are the feet that bring Good News:
She will walk in your mountains
(Lord, have mercy! Snakes, be still!)

And she will give hugs in your villages
Speak words of grace, too
And so she will love and listen and learn
Just a short while
Though it seems so long to a mother far away

And even if she leaves a part of her heart in you
Even if she empties herself for you
This is the paradox:
I know you will send her back full
From Bolivia, with love

How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, "Your God reigns!" Isaiah 52:7

Vaya con Dios!


My second daughter, Julia Grace Knowles, left today for three months in Entre Rios, Bolivia. It is her third trip there, but by far her longest. The other two times (in 2005 and 2007) she went for just a couple of weeks with the Mission:X construction and medical teams from our church. Her suitcases are totally stuffed, not just with her clothes and bedding and personal items, but with gifts for the children there: bubbles, balloons for making animal shapes, candy, Spanish language books, and more. There are also some Spanish language Christian books for the adults at the mission, who are mostly native Bolivians.

Many people have asked me if I am frightened about sending my 19 year old daughter to a poverty stricken socialist country where the mountain roads are horrible, there is rampant crime and disease, health care is substandard or non-existent in the rural areas, and rebels occasionally stage coups and take over airports. No, I am not frightened. The safest place to be is in the center of God's will, no matter where that may take you or whatever terrible thing may happen to you. She knows the risks and she's glad for the opportunity to take them (again) for the Gospel's sake. We took a walk this morning, just the two of us, and she thanked me for not freaking out about her going. I told her, as I have many times before, that I am so excited for her. This is what we have raised our children to do. Reaching the nations and generations is where my heartbeat is. So I send her to Bolivia with love and joy and faith.

I started thinking about writing the "To Bolivia, With Love" poem last night as I was drifting off to sleep, and got up a little early this morning to finish it. I read it to the family after lunch. (We fixed a large Latin American buffet with tortillas, black beans, rice, mojo seasoned meat, sauteed onions and green peppers, sour cream, shredded cheese, etc. For dessert, we had our traditional
volcano cake made of a brownie "mountain", cherry pie filling "lava" and whipped cream "smoke", though I forgot the chocolate chips "debris" this time.)

Anyway, back to the poem. Originally, one of the lines read "and give hugs in your villages," but I realized it came directly after the one "Snakes, be still!" I changed it to "and she will give hugs in your villages" because I didn't think anyone would welcome the snakes giving hugs in the villages. As I was reading it aloud, I remembered it and started laughing hysterically. We all laughed! By the time I regained my composure from that, I started crying. My baby is leaving me! So my oldest daughter Mary, who came for lunch with her husband Ryan, finished reading it for me. And I reminded Julia, as she left, not to go hugging any snakes, please! She assured me that she won't.

My husband Thad is driving Julia down to Miami as I type this. She will fly from there to La Paz late tonight, then after a brief layover, go on to Santa Cruz in the morning. Andreas, a German missionary, plans to pick her up in the mission's Land Rover (see picture at left) which he drove up to Santa Cruz for repair. So instead of taking a 10 hour bus trip down with Angela (who would have had to take one up to get her), she'll be in a car with just a few other people, including some kids. They should arrive in Entre Rios sometime tomorrow night. On Monday morning, a Vacation Bible School starts (it is summer there) with around 100 children coming to the mission for several days from many of the surrounding mountain villages. Some of the kids are walking a few hours to get there. Much of the rest of her three months there will be spent hiking out to the villages, such as Las Abras, with Angela, the only other American. They will minister to the children and train some of the older children to teach Sunday School. You can read about Angela in a blog post called "A is for Angela."

Julia has been working for a year and a half to be able to go back to Bolivia, but there is something that really spurred her on even more a few months ago. In October, Dave Harvey, a guest speaker at Metro Life Church, spoke on "The Audacious Claim of the Unstoppable Gospel." That message affected Julia so much that she listened to the CD of it at least 10 times. You can listen to it here if you scroll down to October 19. (Windows users, right click on the CD-shaped icon there to download.) When I asked her a week or so ago what she wanted me to load onto an MP3 player for her trip, she replied that she wanted sermons! I downloaded about 30 of them, mostly by John Piper, at her request. This will give her some English language encouragement in a Spanish speaking world! If you have a heart for the Gospel, I think you'll be blessed by listening to these, too. There is nothing in life that compares to wholeheartedly following Jesus Christ.

Julia is going to attempt to keep up her own brand new blog this summer, since there is Internet access in Entre Rios. You can check it out at She has already put up two posts, one with pictures, and the other explaining her trip in her own words.

Virginia Knowles

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Ecce Homo: Behold the Man!

Dear friends,

This morning I was reading in John 18-19 about Jesus' trial before Pilate. Pilate is trying to convince the crowd that Jesus is innocent and does not deserve to be crucified, as they are demanding for him to do. Finally, he brings out Jesus, who has been crowned in thorns by mocking soldiers, and presenting him to the crowd, cries out, "Behold the man!"
I decided to compare this account with the ones in the other 3 gospels. It was pretty interesting because Matthew, Luke and John each add a few things that the other ones don't. For instance, Matthew tells about Pilate's wife warning him about a dream she had just had, and also tells about Pilate washing his hands in front of the roaring crowd and saying that he is innocent of this man's blood -- not that this absolves him of his guilt since he was caving to peer pressure rather than standing for justice! Anyway, I liked getting a fuller picture of the scene from all four sources.
"Behold the man!" Look, for a moment (or a lifetime) at this suffering Savior. What does it mean? I am always glad to take the opportunity to meditate on what Jesus did for me. He who was completely innocent was judged by the religious leaders to be guilty so that we who are the truly guilty ones might become truly innocent by him taking that penalty for our sins and washing us clean with his blood.

I also remembered that the phrase "behold the man" is, in Latin, "ecce homo" -- and that I had two pictures with this Latin title on my computer. One is above, and the other is a scan of something I found tucked into the old Bible of my great-grandmother, Lillie Brazier, while I was visiting my parents this fall. The picture is made up of words, if you can believe it! The Ecco Homo page was on the backside of the picture, and tells the story behind the picture. You can click on the images below to enlarge them. If you zoom in on the Ecce Homo page, it tells a fascinating story.

"Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit." Romans 8:1-3

"But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." 1 John 1:7-9

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." 2 Corinthians 5:17-21
"Behold the man!"
Virginia Knowles

Friday, January 2, 2009

Morning Glory & Hope After a Stroke by Lisa Stump

"Morning Glory"
by Lisa Stump

Opening at the break of day
Her beauty steals your breath away
Bright purple trumpets seem to say
“Enjoy me for I’m here today”

The Day rolls on eyes turn away
No one sees her fade to gray
She bows her wrinkled head to pray
“Thank you Lord I’m here today”

Still shriveled she clings to the vine
She knows that she is past her prime
But there’s a seed pod down the line
There will be a new day

She marks the grave to remind you
It’s only temporary
This isn’t where your loved one stays
She reminds you that
You’re here today.
Lisa 2008

This poem was inspired by a spontaneous morning glory pictured below that bloomed in our garden this summer. I am a member of the stroke network a wonderful on line support group for stroke survivors and caregivers. They are having a creative writing issue coming up and this is one of the poems I am submitting and I thought you may enjoy it too.
My mother had sent me morning glory seeds at Easter. The girls and I planted the seeds in a separate planter in early spring and the morning glories bloomed and then withered. Somehow a seed blew over to the turtle garden. I thought it was remnants of a green bean plant we had in there before so I left it there and latched it to a twig to grow. Imagine our surprise when this beauty bloomed. When the seed pods formed again I transferred them back to their original planter and we have had several blooms again.
Morning Glories have special significance to my mom, my sister and me. We choose morning glories for my father’s grave marker when he died at 34. We were so scared. My mom was only 30 years old, I was 10 and my little sister was 7. The morning glories reminded us that after night comes the morning. We all look forward to seeing daddy again in the morning after our mourning.
The struggle since the stroke has brought me some dark, discouraging days. When I saw the beauty in the morning glory, it inspired me to be thankful for today. Sometimes the small gifts God gives are the best ones. I am so thankful for this moment and every moment I am here and can enjoy my family and God’s gift of nature.
God Bless, Lisa

This I recall to my mind,
Therefore I have hope.
Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
Lamentations 3:21-23

My friend Lisa Stump, whom I have known from years from the NHE home school group, sent this poem and photo to me. I knew immediately that I wanted to share it on my blog, so I asked her to give us all a little background on her stroke. (Three of my friends who are about my age, fortysomething or maybe even younger, have had strokes in the past few years. Remember, a stroke is not just something that strikes old folks! Be aware of the symptoms and get treatment as quickly as you can!)

Thank you, Lisa, for blessing us with this poem and encouragement.


Here is my summary of my stroke and recovery journey so far.

I had typical stroke symptoms but I ignored them. I thought the pain in my head must be another migraine. My right hand and leg weren’t working. Hmm, I must have pinched a nerve in my back. Maybe I just slept on it wrong. My mommy instincts told me to push past the pain. It was 6:30 AM, and I went back to bed to sleep it off.

When I woke up at 10 AM, I couldn’t speak right or stand up. My husband and daughter told me I was going to the hospital even though I insisted that there was nothing wrong. This would be a huge inconvenience to everyone and only mess up our schedule.

I made Madeline call her worship band leader to ask for a ride that afternoon. They told her to stay with me and started praying. When I went to sign myself in at the hospital at 12 PM, I couldn’t even hold the pencil to write my name.

I could have gotten the medicine that stops stroke within 3 hours. Instead I had waited 5. We can’t save ourselves – but God saves us. He did a miracle that day. I believe the Lord healed me of some of the worse defects, because by the end of the night, I could hold a pencil and talk normally again.

However the stroke destroyed part of the right side of my cerebellum. So I was left with severe balance problems. I still think I am a miracle because a stroke in this part of the brain can take away your ability to swallow or breathe on your own. So I was very blessed. The doctors discovered that the cause of my stroke was a hole in my heart called a PFO. 25% of the population has this birth defect.

A year and a half of physical therapy and a heart surgery later, my family has adjusted to a new kind of normal. But when you have a balance problem, every day is a struggle just to remain upright. My kids hear phrases like “don’t talk or walk behind me” and “don’t wave, rock, or jump in front of me.”

This is my effort to create an environment where I can be the mommy they’re used to: an environment where I don’t convulse and fall down, where I don’t become too exhausted to speak, or have to go and lay down.

As difficult as it is to create this environment in my home with two animated girls, it’s impossible to create outside the home. I can’t tell the guy next to me to “stop walking in my peripheral vision”.

Losing control has caused me to realize that God is in control of my life. Just as I relied on Him to get my orange juice from my fridge to my kitchen counter, I rely on Him to get from my car to my seat at church. It’s very humbling to fall over in a public place. But the Lord gave me this verse while I was still in the hospital:

Because the Sovereign LORD helps me,
I will not be disgraced.
Therefore have I set my face like flint,
and I know I will not be put to shame.
Isaiah 50:7

He is my helper, moment by moment, hour by hour, day by day.

- Lisa


P.S. from Virginia: If you are reading this in a Facebook note, via an automatic blog feed, you probably can't see the photo of the morning glory. You can see it by reading the original post at
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