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BARBARA CAROLE is the author of

TWELVE STONES: Notes on a Miraculous Journey

12 Stones Cover Lt 4x6

Photo by Anne Hilling



DaisiesLook for the presence of God, they told us in the women’s Bible study group. It is all around us, not just in great miracles, but in the most mundane moments. The session ended. I pulled on a sweater and rushed out to my car. Lots of errands to run today. Lots to do. My eyes kept to the ground; I didn’t want to trip.

And there it was.

Between rows of parked cars, a thick cluster of white and yellow daisies had pushed its way through the gravel and asphalt, creating a joyous strip of sunshiny color in a place they should never have grown. No soil. No watering, except for when it rained. No one to cultivate them as a garden. But there they were. A powerful drive to live created this wild oasis of beauty in an ugly parking lot. If daisies could bloom in asphalt, could shed happiness on passers-by, could I do any less in a world of troubled souls? The hearty daisies infused my spirit with love and energy and a desire to touch others with white love and yellow kindness. They brought to me the presence of God.


Seven years old and beautiful. Dark curling hair, dark eyes radiating intelligence. She walked with a straight back, emanating determination. I watched her. Every Sunday I watched, as she walked down the church aisle, glancing over her shoulder to be sure her younger brothers followed. Seven years old, and she was the head of the family. Her mother, a sweet and devoted Christian woman, had mental issues serious enough to prevent her from mothering the children she loved. Her father, well meaning, but handicapped, was not much help. The girl child took it on.

I fell in love with that little girl. I would have scooped her up and taken her home and tried to give her the world. That being impossible, I simply watched. And wished I could do more.

The church nurtured her, gave her a social life and friends in the youth group. She did well in school, despite beyond-the-normal burdens. As she entered her teen years, I sent an occasional note:

“I’ve been praying for you for years, rejoicing in how well you are doing in school and in life. I want you to know that I am here for you. If ever there is anything you need, anything at all, please call me.”

She was serious about her high school courses and about preparing for college. I knew she had no room of her own and assumed there was no quiet corner in her chaotic home. I wrote again.

“It is very quiet in our home and we have an extra office with a computer you can use to study. You don’t need an appointment; we’ll give you a key to the house if you want to use the space.”

I assured her we were serious; she could come anytime and as often as she liked. She smiled and thanked me. But she never came. I continued to pray for her well being.

Several years passed. She dated a young man for a long time, but people who knew them better than I felt the relationship was not good for her.

My husband and I moved away to another state and lost touch.

Until we connected one day via Facebook. I don’t remember who contacted whom, but her message was warm and intimate and seemed to know how much I cared. She’d met someone new and moved a thousand miles away to be with him. Ah, I hoped, hoped, hoped he was someone good for her.

And then… we received an invitation to her wedding. We wanted so much to attend, but we were in Europe at the time and had to settle for photos on her Facebook page. Sometime later, she wrote to say she and her husband would be visiting his family in Seattle. Could we get together?

Could we!

We spent a glorious day together at our home and around town. It was a special joy to see how well she was doing… how happy she looked… how well her job in a specialized field was going … And especially, it was wonderful to meet her young husband. She sure picked a winner this time; he is a prince of a man! A super fine person and obviously devoted to her. I rejoiced in this union. A union that now has created a baby.

The dark-eyed little girl has grown up – despite the almost impossible circumstances of her childhood – and God has blessed her in every way. But what blesses me is how, without my having actually done anything, a friendship was created through prayer. Somehow, those prayers communicated my care. She knew. She reciprocated. Through her, God enriches my life.


Airport security lines. In major cities, like New York, they are long, almost a mile long, winding around the vast lobby. We stood. We inched our way, one step at a time, or two… it was almost two hours before we began to snake around the black ropes near the security check booths. Tired, by that time, backs aching, still moving an inch at a time and pushing our carry-ons ahead with our toes. Short conversations with the young guys ahead of us, also tired and afraid of missing their flight, didn’t alleviate the boredom and fatigue.

Behind us, snaking along the black-belted aisle in the opposite direction, a young woman balanced a baby (maybe 10 to 12 months old) on her hip while she searched her purse for the required identification. Her stringy blond hair was pulled back in a pony tail, slim legs in tight jeans. Having found the papers she needed, she turned to her blond, blue-eyed baby, bouncing him and laughing at his giggles.

Her face was alive with joy. Speaking and cooing to him in a language I didn’t recognize (probably Hungarian or Finnish), she bore a beaming expression unique to mothers doting on their young. Even lovers, gazing with adoration at one another, do not have this particular expression. It is a mother-to-baby look, and it is the very same, common to every country, every nationality, every economic class, every race.

Watching her radiant joy made me smile. Their communication filled me with a happiness that effaced my exhaustion and annoyance with security procedures. And I sighed with unfulfilled longing. This loving exchange between a mother and her child is probably commonplace to most people; they expect it, consider it normal. But it isn’t there for everyone. My mother never looked at me like that. She did not cuddle and coo and delight in my infantile presence. I never knew that with her. She was dutiful and responsible and took motherhood seriously, but she never knew the joy of it.

I soak up that joy whenever and wherever I can find it. Watching my kids with their kids, seeing people at the zoo, in supermarkets, or standing in an airport security line. I absorb it, love it, and pretend to have known my own mother’s tender, devoted caress. I didn’t. But I thank God for the child He gave to me and the opportunity to experience that particular joy with my own precious little boy.

A&B in Vezubi sm

FLYING SOLO October 18, 2014

They are dropping like flies.  Husbands and wives disappear, leaving frightened, disoriented spouses flailing in despair, drowning in loneliness, and seeking purpose.  For some, it is a sudden, unexpected departure.  For others it follows a long, terrible time of nursing a suffering loved one.  But fast or torturously slow, couples transform into singles now with a frequency that makes my head spin.

“Well,” you might say, “it’s perfectly normal at your age.  People get old, their bodies fail, and they die.”

Sorry, but that’s just too easy.  I watch vital, intelligent people who participate fully in living, people making a real contribution in their retirement years, applying their experience and expertise to creating a richer, more satisfying world.  I see people who make art and music and theater and who engage in intellectual inquiry and impassioned discourse suddenly become helpless, ineffectual, and inert when illness and disease infiltrate.

Overcome by pain and fear, passively enduring myriad medical procedures, they wither.  Eventually, they surrender, leaving us to wonder: why does it have to be so hard?  Why can they not just drift off in peace when their time has come?

And the surviving partner?  Some curse their misfortune.  Others give thanks for the blessed years of sharing they’d been given.  All are floating, without compass, in a void.

Family gathers.  Reunions after years-long absences where conversation skips past superficial niceties to catch up on emotional and personal news.  We can do that: we are family.

The house is not empty yet.  Children and their spouses, grandchildren, neighbors, cousins fill it with supportive love.  They are there to help with funeral arrangements, legal matters, and disposition of property.  But they have lives to manage – work and home and community obligations.  So the house is empty now.  Fearfully quiet.  The bed is far too big.  The surviving spouse is faced with the foreign state of Singleness.  That’s the part so hard to imagine.

Until it happens to you.

Dancing in the Rain – August 8, 2013

“Life is not about waiting for the storms to pass . . .                 It’s about learning to dance in the rain!”

I am now dealing with a recurrence of cancer… we thought we had it beat two years ago, but it sneaked back into my body.  Okay, we’ve dealt with it once before, we’ll deal with it again.

A friend asked how I’m doing, and I replied, “I’m learning a lot.”  But he persisted and asked, “What are you learning?”  And ah, that turned out to be a difficult question. 

Many people with a life-threatening disease will say, “I learned to appreciate every moment,” or “life has become more intense,” or “I learned to say I love you to family,” and a things like that.  But I have had the gift of living all my life “in the now,” with an intensity of awareness of every moment.  I always live in a state of appreciation.  Every time I drive home (several times a day) I say, “Thank you God that I live in such a beautiful place.”  I look around and never take the extraordinary beauty of the forests and lakes where we live for granted.  It is my nature.  So, while I haven’t “learned” those things from the cancer that is attacking me, I do continue to live that way.

*   *   *

One thing I’ve learned is that I have an astonishing support system.  First, my husband has been my rock.  He can’t do enough for me and, believe me, a protocol like this demands a great deal from a mate. 

Then, during the first bout of lymphoma, my son and his wife made the decision to move to our town because they felt they couldn’t get to me quickly enough in an emergency (there were other reasons, too, but they said that was primary).  That taught me something about the depth of their love! 

              And in our community, oh my gosh, people have done so much for us!  Meals come in several times a week.  People walk and feed our dog when we have to be away with medical stuff all day.  One friend lent me a laptop so I can continue to write and do client work while in my various hospital stays.  Others offer to drive us to Seattle for special treatments, even when sometimes we have to be there at dawn!  (Most treatments are close to home, but for some, I have to go to Seattle.)  Others have come to do our yard work and tend our garden.  One friend actually flew up from California to be at my side for what was the toughest week.   What an unforgettable gift!!!

              Really, it’s overwhelming, the expressions of care coming from so many.  So, I guess I’m learning that I am loved!

 I’m also learning about how God works with us through situations like this… how he shows that he is with me in so many different ways, so I don’t feel alone.

 And… this is interesting:  I’ve learned that my happiness does not depend upon my circumstances.  I have a terrible disease, but still I feel joy and happiness.  Would I prefer not to have it?  O, yes.  There was an initial stage of disappointment when the cancer came back, a slump in my spirit.  But even then I never got into the “Why me?” nonsense.  I look around.  At friends.  At the church prayer list.  At the news on TV.  And I see so many people – so many! – suffering much more horrible things than I am.  Stuff happens.  Why should I, or anyone, be exempt? 

Then, after a short while, there came peace, and a return of my natural spirit.  Fear subsided (fear is a living death) and I feel alive again.  I feel joy and happiness.  How?  I can only surmise it is a gift from God.  He is with me in this.

  Today, it’s a glorious sunny day and I wish I were walking outdoors, around the lake, but instead I’m writing from the hospital where I’m getting another cycle of chemotherapy.   Oh well, I’ll walk next week.

 While we’re on the subject, what have you been learning lately? 

07 Dec I 3


              “Youth is beautiful!” the saying goes. And some of it is. The physical form and shape of youth is a pleasure to behold. The exuberance and energy are wonderful. But inside, the feelings can be tormented, twisted, painful.
Everything is complicated when we are young – at least, when I was young. Everything was ambiguous, embroiled in questions, the clouds of divergent philosophies. I drove myself nuts and allowed things that should never have been allowed.

               Aging is not my idea of fun, but I love that it has brought a lot of clarity and simplicity into my life. And it turned a lot of my vision upside down. For example:
               Brilliance, intellect, and expertise are admirable, but they are nowhere as valuable as kindness, wisdom, and generous service to others.
                It doesn’t matter what the reasons that drive someone to be hurtful or mean, I don’t have to let them cross my boundaries or expose myself to it.
                Our faith is not defined by rules; it’s defined by our personal relationship to God and the people around us, and by how we relate to this world.

               Some of us are fortunate to have learned the important lessons early in life. They don’t have to agonize about finding “meaning” and ultimate truth. They are kind and compassionate and giving and they surround themselves with people who can love.

              For our grandchildren that is my prayer: Learn everything the world can teach, exercise the brilliance you were gifted with, but don’t let intellect overshadow wisdom.