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 Separation….

Alamanos Sunset by Tomasz HuczekIt’s a cool, rainy morning, more like autumn than summer. Today is the day my daughter moves into her dorm at college, and we all begin the next chapter of our lives as a family together. I know of no other relationship where the goal is independence rather than increasing intimacy. So I was drawn to this haunting photo by my friend Tomasz, of a beautiful sunset beyond the cove. I love how the water and sky seem to be parts of the same whole, smooth and silky against the rocky shore. I can picture myself in his place, looking into the distance, at first seeing only the glory of the sunset, then glimpsing the tiny figure on the point. Up until today, we have talked and dreamed and reveled in the wonderful opportunities that await our precious daughter at university. Now all I can see is the distance this change will create, a change we have yet to fully comprehend. So I must remind myself that she is God’s child first, given to usas our daughter, to shepherd and help find the path the Holy of Holies has prepared for her. I must remember the Almighty, the God of angel armies, will send legions of warrior angels to guide and guard her, to bless and protect her. Most of all, I must remember to look beyond today, to the little that I can now see, to trust that rocky shore offers a long way home when she needs it. Yet that vision may be too small – more likely she will dive in and swim home, or even sprout wings and fly. Perhaps as a military family we meet today with more experience of separation, yet that experience does not prepare us for this separation. Today is a day to lean on the heart’s knowledge that prayer binds souls together in ways that time and distance cannot sever. The eye may perceive her from afar, but she will always be as close as my beating heart. Make time to savor the here and now, to store up a treasure trove of memories. Honor the children in your life for who they are, leaning on God’s strength and all encompassing power to grow into men and women with a passion for life and serving others. And always remember to hold them close, but not too close, making room for their path, rather than an extension of your own. Text by Connie Chintall ©2013, Photo entitled ‘Alamanos Sunset’ by Tomasz Huczek ©2012, to see more of his photos, go to

Reflecting on Majesty….

It’s a mild winter morning, a refreshing change from the weather in Pittsburgh last weekend. The journey winds through the Allegheny Mountains, with abrupt shifts in temperature and precipitation. So I was drawn to this beautiful photo by my friend Carole, taken on a similar road trip over the holidays. I love how the sun is setting just around the bend as the clouds are hugging the hills. The tiny headlights are barely visible in comparison with the vast light show in the sky. All of our human effort is but a speck when compared with the ultimate power and sovereignty of God. We limit ourselves when we only consider what is possible through our own efforts. We may become overwhelmed by the endless details and frustrations of our current situation. We may seek the quick, easy solution, or rush to make a decision, rather than allowing matters to unfold in God’s time. We may settle for the safe, sensible path ahead, rather than trusting that God has prepared more than we can imagine or hope for. Take time today to step back, to make room for God, to soak in the majesty and glory of our Creator. Turn away from the headlights that seek to obscure your vision of God’s path ahead. And remember, no matter how dark the valley maybe, the Son is waiting for you right around the next bend. Photo by Carole Buckwalter ©2012, used with her permission

Reflecting on the Calm After the Storm….

It’s a cold, clear morning, with temperatures expected to hover around freezing throughout the day. We’re expecting sleet and snow by nightfall, the sort of wintery mix that wreaks havoc with the traffic. So I was drawn to this beautiful photo of bamboo and bells at sunset by my new friend Sloop. I love how the sky is filled with a warm glow, silhouetting the hills and oriental feel of his garden. It’s hard to say if you are in the Caribbean or someplace even more exotic. I doubt Sloop has to worry about sleet, or traffic for that matter. Although St John’s doesn’t experience our winters, a single hurricane can devastate whole communities. This peaceful, serene setting can be easily transformed by a howling, raging storm. In years gone by, I frequently traveled to the panhandle of Florida for work. I experienced more than one hurricane, and was surprised by the force of the storms. Rain worked its way through the seams around the windows, leaving standing water on the floors. Picnic tables were blown over, bending umbrella stands like toothpicks. Newly planted landscaping simply vanished in the wind. Yet the next morning all was calm and peaceful, as if the entire world had been washed clean. Take time today to give thanks for all that life brings you, the storms and the calm. Pray for the storms to wash away the old bark and dead wood, to make room for new growth. Allow the rain to wash your heart and soul, let go of old hurts, make room for new love. When your own words fail you, say the prayer of St Julian of Norwich, ‘All shall be well, all shall be well, all manner of things shall be well’. And remember, even after the worst hurricane, there is always the calm after the storm. Photo by Sloop Jones,

Reflecting on Connection….

It’s another misty morning here in Virginia. On days like this, it’s easy to understand why our mountains are called the Blue Ridge. So I was drawn to this amazing photo taken by my friend David. While the sky clears and the sun sets, fog still clings to the rolling hills. Our area is bisected by tall towers that carry power to Pennsylvania and beyond. The towers raise more than a little controversy, and most folks mention their presence with disdain. Yet David entitled this photo ‘Electric Angels’. In what others find a nuisance, he finds reassurance. He is not alone. Another friend, Bryan Jacobs, sings ‘Jesus on the Mainline’, as the last track of his blues album ‘Remington Steel’. Both men express our deep seated need to connect. Our hearts crave connections to one another, and to God. When we lack that connection, we don’t just lose God, we lose ourselves. The tiniest frustration becomes devastating, and we are paralyzed by the smallest setback. Yet all it takes is a single sigh, an upturned look, a muffled cry. Christ is always there, whether we know it or not, waiting for us to plug back in. We may feel as though we have been sidetracked, but Christ calls us back onto the mainline, the central artery of life. Take time today to tap into God’s power line. Call out to Christ and allow the Holy Spirit to fill your heart and feed your soul. Join Jesus on the mainline, and leave your blues behind. Photo by David Buckwalter © 2011

Reflecting on Beauty….

We returned home late last night after a good visit with family in Florida. Independence Day was hot and humid, so we passed on the fireworks, staying home and relaxing in the air conditioning. I have never been a big fan of fireworks displays. The noise always bothers me and it seems like a lot of work for a little bit of flash. My friends David and Carole stayed home and launched his own fireworks. While waiting for the sun to set, she took this amazing photo. Our fireworks pale in comparison to the beauty of the heavens. I love the mare’s tail clouds, with a curled or hooked appearance. These clouds are made of ice crystals at high altitudes, and frequently signal a change in weather. The wind shear caused by an incoming front curls the clouds into these whimsical shapes. Yet discussing the physics somehow diminishes the beauty. God could have made a world out of black and white squares, yet instead, choose to create beauty, shunning, awe inspiring beauty. Take time today to look up from your own fireworks, and allow yourself to become lost in wonder at God’s creation. When our daughter Tori was a toddler, she started the Lords’ Prayer like this, “Our Father, who does art in heaven, Howard is thy name”. We started to correct her, only to realize her mistake reflected a greater truth. Thanks be to Howard for the art. Photo by Carole Buckwalter © 2011

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