Reflecting on Unfinished….

Images that evoke strong memories always seem to be the toughest to contemplate. This memory is a very happy one, a memory of days long past when my daughter was young. We would often stop at Lake Brittle on the way home and even enjoy a picnic dinner if my husband was traveling. I would walk along the shore while my daughter ran, stopping when something caught her eye. The evening I am remembering now was quiet and still. The lake was a perfect mirror of the sky. My daughter knelt down to touch the water and created ripples in the perfect reflection. As only a toddler can, she burst into tears. As I caught up with her, she said, “Momma, I broke the sky”. As I drew her gaze upward, the crying turned into inconsolable sobs. “Momma, I wanted to touch the sky.” All I could do was sit down next to her and hold her. There were no words that I could offer as a new mother. Yet in my morning prayer time, often in my car in the parking lot before heading into work, that evening kept taking hold of me. At first I thought it was new mom guilt, the kind that makes you sure you will burn in hell forever. Then I realized that if I cared about burning in hell that meant I was a good mom. Bad moms could care less. And still that evening kept invading my in between time, time when I was no longer at home and not yet at work. Time I really wanted to just be silent and listen to God.

Okay, I know you are already ahead of me. I was listening and God was speaking to me. I don’t know about you, but for me, getting the message seems to take a lot of repetition. Frequently it also takes a kick in the head. Yet isn’t that the most important reason to set aside quiet time? In life, we are told success consists of 90% effort and 10% just showing up. With prayer, it is more like 90% just showing up and 10% attitude. Oh, and God will fix that attitude for you if you will let Him.

Over time I came to understand that sometimes words simply make things worse. Sometimes you just need to offer a hug. Sometimes all you can do is cry with your loved one. After all, even Christ cried with the sisters of Lazarus as they grieved. Then he brought Lazarus back from the dead. He consoled them before he sought to heal. He was present to them before he performed a miracle.

Fast forward to today. My daughter will soon be 26 years old. My hair is more grey than brown and I have more than my fair share of wrinkles. That is what the world sees. What God sees is my heart and soul, more vibrant yet more restrained, more willing to listen than to speak, more willing to learn than to teach.

As I look back on that memory, I realize words would have diminished that experience for my daughter. I probably would have tried to convince her the sky was not broken. Letting the experience just be allowed her to figure it out for herself and allowed me to learn as well. That evening wasn’t about the sky or the reflection. It was about how many times we start over to reach our goals. It takes practice to master the best of this life.

The Benedictines start their morning prayers with, ‘Today we begin again’. Each day we get another chance. We can learn from our mistakes and let go of them. We can continue to fall short until we can reach the sky.

All this came together listening to the young poet Amanda Gorman at the inauguration. She distilled the entire Gospel into one simple phrase. We are ‘a nation that isn’t broken but simply unfinished’. Make time today to listen to the Lord. Walk in the woods; take care of your animals, listen to your heartbeat as you breathe in and out. Allow the Holy Spirit to drench you with new beginnings, to rest and recover, to lean on God’s strength, to continue to run the good race. Let tears and touch speak what is in your heart and soul, trusting that we each are simply unfinished, not broken.

Text by Connie Chintall ©2021, All Rights Reserved

Photo entitled ‘Sunset over Whitesbog’ by Monica Cahill©2020, used with her permission, All Rights Reserved. To see more of her work and the bogs of the New Jersey Pines,  go to


Reflecting on Mist….

It’s a wet, grey day. The rain seems to be cycling through, alternating between drenching and a fine mist. Everything is shrouded in light fog, forcing you to look closely to see anything at all. So I was drawn to this photo of electrical towers by my friend David. I love how the base of the towers can be seen more clearly than the top. The part that is grounded is within easy reach, while we must take time to see the part that reaches for the sky. How often do we settle for what we can readily attain, without making the effort to dig deeper? The dishes and clothes need washing, the bills need paying, not to mention our work outside the home. We convince ourselves we are too tired to bother, that there isn’t time for anything else. Yet we can find time for the computer, or games on our phone, or the television. We tune out instead of plugging in to the true power source. Our God is vast beyond imagining, sovereign over all creation, more powerful than our meager efforts combined. When I first went to see Sister Louise, my spiritual director for many years, I complained about how everything was out of control, how there simply were not enough hours in the day. Gently, persistently, she encouraged me to pray, not using flowery words or a prescribed routine, but by simply emptying my mind to make room for God. On the next visit, I explained the best I could do was two minutes of silence. Twenty years later, I am still encouraged by her reply, ‘That is an eternity to God. The Almighty can do a lot with 120 seconds’. Take time today to be still and rest in God’s love. Plug into the true power source by unplugging from the busy-ness of life. And remember, whatever time you give, no matter how brief, is an eternity to God. Photo entitled ‘Vaporous’ by David Buckwalter

Reflecting on Risk….

The rain seems to be moving on, leaving behind heavy fog. This morning you could only see what was right in front of your face. So I was drawn to this photo of the Shenandoah River taken by Robert, a friend of a friend. The rocks and leaves jump out at you, in sharp focus, while the trees in the background are shrouded in mist and fog. I was particularly struck by the foliage growing on top of the rocks. These plants must be some tough stuff. I would imagine growing on a rock in the middle of a river is not easy, or particularly safe. Yet these plants seem to be thriving. Risk can be synonymous with peril, danger, jeopardy, or adventure, chance, challenge. When we assume risk, we take a chance on losing, but often a chance on gaining as well. We leave behind the familiar and assured to become vulnerable to the unknown. The most prudent risks involve the heart as well as the mind. We feel a need to step out, to give it a try, because we feel compelled to take a chance. My father was a good listener and wise counsel. I sorely miss him when facing big decisions. He asked questions, to understand where you were coming from and the choices you were facing. We would comb through what we did know, and talk through the possibilities. The questions varied according to the decision, but there was one question he always asked. Will you regret it if you don’t take the chance? I would picture myself as an old woman in a rocking chair, and ask if I would have regrets if I played it safe. When my heart and mind agreed, I would assume the risk, hoping to gain while being willing to lose. Take time today to consider taking a risk, becoming vulnerable to the unknown. Examine the possibilities with your heart, and mind, and soul. And remember what seem to be misty, far off possibilities will be in sharp focus when you take a chance. Photo by Robert H Clark © 2011 – Check out his photo blog at

Reflecting on Purple Haze….

The sun is a welcome sight after far too many days of grey, wet weather. The mornings are cool, and the afternoons are warm, leaving everyone to wonder what to wear. So I was drawn to this beautiful picture of a field taken by my cousin Diane. I love the purple haze, a marriage of the tips of the weeds with the morning dew. Even the weeds are wearing autumn garb, sporting the rich colors of the harvest season. Purple is a wardrobe staple for me, a color I wear year round. Wearing purple makes me feel special, lightening my mood and quickening my step. Yet in nature, purple is often a harbinger of turning inward, a warning of cooler days and longer nights. Soon the fields will fade to a dull brown, and frost will replace the morning dew. At first glance, it seems everything is dying away. Yet new life exists amidst the decay. Even as the trees shed their leaves we see the buds of next year’s growth. The winter snows will slowly drench the roots below ground. What was is past, making room for what is and what will be. Take time today to turn inward, to take stock of your heart and soul. Consider what needs to be left behind, allowed to wither away, to make room for new growth. Look for ways to nurture new beginnings, or ways to recreate the here and now. Let your spirit guide you to an unlikely pairing, like the purple haze, and allow the unexpected beauty to soothe your soul. Photo by Diane Brooks Myers

Reflecting on Steadfast Love….

Six of our old oak trees were felled this past week. I will especially miss the large tree close to our back deck, a tree that provided such welcome shade. Yet what was once a hardy oak tree had become a danger to our home. So I was drawn to this photo taken by my friend Leigh. She is an amazing quilter, creating art out of what others would consider simply scraps. This bunny reminds me of the book The Runaway Bunny, written by Margaret Wise Brown. This beautifully illustrated book was one of my daughter Tori’s favorites as a small child. Each time the bunny runs away from the mother, the mother responds “”if you run away, I will run after you”. Some consider the book a testament to a mother’s undying love, while others consider the story an allegory of the soul being pursued by God. No matter where we go, no matter how far we stray from the path provided for us, God will be there. This children’s story captures the essence of Psalm 139, in a way that all of us can understand. Many years ago, our parish made a quilt for our priest’s 25th wedding anniversary. Each of us made a block with scripture about love. In researching the Bible verses, I almost always found the phrase ‘steadfast love’. Steadfast means assured, continuous, fixed in purpose, unwavering. No matter what, God loves us. God’s love does not depend on our accomplishments, or our kindness, or loving God in return. Like the runaway bunny, we may seek to wander off, only to learn God has been with us all along. Take time today to rest in God’s steadfast love. For just a moment, stop running away, stop running at all. Pause to take in your surroundings, to simply be in the moment. In a world where nothing remains the same, allow yourself to be comforted by steadfast love. Photo and quilt by Leigh Hooper Darcy

Reflecting on Discernment….

Temperatures are dropping and we are expecting rain all this week. The rain has turned cold, and the ground stays wet even between showers. The leaves are starting to drop, helped along by the storms. So I was drawn to this photo of a turtle making his way across the damp ground. My photos of turtles usually look like a picture of a rock. Perhaps I am in too much of a rush, or too clumsy. I startle the poor thing into drawing back into its shell. Box turtles can completely close their shells to protect themselves from enemies. Without looking closely, the shell blends in, almost disappearing from sight. Perhaps that is why box turtles can live to be 100 years old. In this amazing photo, the turtle is looking straight at us, as curious about us as we are about him. It seems to me that discernment is a lot like being a turtle. We look all around for answers, chasing one clue after another. Or perhaps we stew over the difficult questions of life in solitude, losing sight of everything else. We are tempted to settle for an either/or solution, when the real way out means both/and. True discernment takes time, both time apart and in community. Just as our faith includes both public worship and private prayer time, discernment involves both public and private moments. When we seek God’s will, what we seek is the still, small voice, not loud, clamoring chaos. God is eternally consistent – we are never directed to violate God’s laws. God is persistent – forget second chances, God will give you more chances that you can ever imagine. God is community – His will for you is confirmed through other believers. True discernment requires us to slow down, to tread carefully, to listen to our own hearts and to others. Take time today to discern God’s will for you. Slow down and move deliberately, carefully listening for that still, small voice. Heed the words of others, even though the conversation may seem unrelated or trivial. And trust that in time, the answer will be looking straight at you, just like this turtle. Photo by LadyBugCrossing

Reflecting on Light….

The oaks in our back yard are gently swaying in the breeze. It’s pleasant for an August morning in Virginia, with less humidity than you might expect. So I was drawn to this photo of a picnic area in Connecticut, taken by my friend Carole. I’m always amazed at how trees in a forest space themselves, providing cover yet still offering dappled shade for the ferns and ground cover. In the woods, we find a balance and harmony that frequently eludes us in our gardens. The sun cascades through the branches, providing larger areas of brilliance than you might expect. The picnic table is just waiting for us to stop and ponder the wonders of creation. If we sat down at that table and failed to look beyond our immediate circumstances, it would appear we were in darkness. Yet light is all around us. How often is life like this scene? It is all too easy to dwell on our own circumstances, to feel that the world is about to end. Even when we look beyond our own lives, we may still focus on the darkness of life. Yet even narrow rays of the sun can blot out the darkness. Take time today to seek out the bright spots in life, to celebrate the new beginnings and add to the joy of others, and yourself. Allow another to bring light into your life, or brighten the day of someone who is grieving, or in despair. Even the tiniest ray of light can blot out the darkness. Photo by Carole Buckwalter © 2011

Reflecting on Wonder….

We walked around town while waiting for car repairs yesterday. The air was heavy with humidity, and before long it began to rain. What I would have given to be lost in a field of lavender like this young child! Lavender is like lemonade, lifting the heaviness of a hot day. My friend Deborah has a beautiful lavender farm, where folks can pick their own. My family took many picking trips when I was a child, usually berries or apples. I recall the smell of the fruit clinging to my skin and clothes. I can imagine how much more the lavender scent would envelope you, how easy it would be to get lost in smells and sights of this beautiful field. The way the lavender sways in the wind has an almost hypnotic effect, soothing the mind and soul. The liturgy of Episcopal church is like this field of lavender. There are sights and sounds and smells. The best services weave all these elements together, creating a symphony for the senses. We worship God with our all, soaking in the beauty through eyes and ears and noses. The beauty of the church enhances our worship and glorifies God, the same God who created us all. When it seems impossible to still the mind, to block out the woes of the world or the worries of our own lives, the liturgy breaks through, to free our hearts and our souls. Take time today to allow your soul to soar, in your own sacred space. Become like this child, lost in awe and wonder. Photo by Deborah Williamson, of Seven Oaks Lavender Farm.

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 975 other subscribers