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 Redemption….

Junco2 by Karen RussoIt’s a cold, wet day here in Virginia, with snow and ice clinging to the trees. On days like today, the slate colored juncos gather in the evergreen just outside our front window. So I was drawn to this amazing photo, patiently taken by my friend Karen at her bird feeder. Karen captures the beauty of our area, offering glimpses of the small creatures we so easily overlook. When my daughter Tori was little, she called these juncos ‘ink birds’, saying they looked like someone held them upside down and dipped them in ink. The junco has a black back and is white on the under belly, where he is most vulnerable. We must look closely to see that white belly. We must be face to face, vulnerable to one another, willing to be seen as well as to see. The guarded stance reveals little of our inner workings, only offering the dark cloak on our backs. How often do we yearn for redemption, yearn to let go of regrets or sorrows that weigh us down? We want to let go, to move on, if only we could avoid that difficult first step. God knows everything, so why bother airing out dirty laundry? Why not fast forward to the best part, safely entrenched in our respectability? It’s a great temptation to remain as we are, yet when we risk nothing we gain nothing. Make time today to allow yourself to be vulnerable, to make room for grace, to be open to the goodness of life. Like these little birds, let your spirit shine through, despite the frustrations and setbacks that seek to soil the soul. Cast off the heavy burdens that hold you back to make room for the lightness of redemption. And always remember, when we let go of our weakness to God, His strength and power fills our hearts and soothes our souls. Text by Connie Chintall ©2013, photo entitled ‘Alert and Aware’ by Karen Russo ©2013, all rights reserved

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