Life is a . . . Bowl of Cherries or Chair of Bowlies?

Do you remember Mary Engelbreit? The vintage artist who shared images and quotes decades before it became a thing? I loved her art and phrases as a teenager. A few of my favs were

When life shuts a door, open it again. It’s a door. That’s how it works.

Bloom where you are planted.

Whatever you can do or dream, begin it.

All that I am or hope to be, I owe to my mother.

And my all time favorite:

Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.

There is a theme here. Think about that for a moment. Realistic Optimism laced with Gratitude?

On the other hand, there were a few phrases I didn’t quite get as a teenager.

This morning, as a series of thoughts and connections flooded through my mind, one of her quotes came to mind, and finally made sense: Life is Just a Chair of Bowlies

What the heck does a seventeen year old know about the balancing act that will ensue as a young, optimistic woman grows into a working woman, married woman, mother, adult friend. Not that much, I think.

The best I could do at seventeen was figure that I liked cherries and maybe lots of bowls of them in my future life would be a good thing.

At almost forty-seven, the image of the chair holding all the bowls represents my mind holding all the thoughts.

What will I do with all these bowls, she thought?

What will I fill them with, empty them of?

How will I organize them?

I have one life to live. One God to serve.

Dear Mary E. Dear Jesus. Will you help me with this?

This week, I am holding a lot of bowls. I am suffering from some sadness, raw emotion and old shame this week.

The verse that comes to mind is

Be cleansed by the washing of the word.

Ephesians 5:26

I authentically share with you because, in community, sadness morphs to meaning and intertwines with joy. Raw emotion finds its place among strong hands and wisdom. Old shame curtails its way to truth, redemption and hope.

I am sad because one child is on the springboard to adulthood. He is my primary source of compassion and lives out deep kindness towards me. How will I move forward without that present in our home come summer and Fall?  

I have some old shame that rises again. This shame points towards regret regarding my career choices. I have always felt that I could have used my intellectual gifts in other areas of the law. In some ways, my gifts have been underutilized in my particular career. That has led to comparison and a narrative of “less than/not enough.”

I realize that I have not fully recovered from the trauma of being seriously ill with Covid last summer.

I have some regrets about my parenting. Did I unknowingly let them see too much when I fell into the darkness of depression? Did I say too little about what was happening on the inside?

Bowls and bowls. Bowls and more bowls.

The point of communal authenticity is to morph raw emotion into meaning: My son growing up is not the end of God’s expression of compassion and kindness in my life.

To pursue wholeness is to enter into joy, warmth and wisdom: Life’s journey is not over even in death. Some of the best things are yet to come here on earth and on the other side in heaven. That even includes gifts and career regrets.

Seeking truth is to redeem shame.

Hope is the gift of Jesus.

Finally, I have one more bowl to share with you.

I am reminded by God, my friends and the Word that we are more than our many bowls piled upon bowls.

We are the image of our Father. Our identity is in our Father. Our Father takes great joy in us. He is among the bowls. Pouring out. Pouring in. Offering to organize and prioritize if we let him.

May this be inspiration for your life.

May this letter be evidence that you are not alone with your thoughts. Not just because I too am thinking bowls of thoughts. But because your Father lives among you and in you. Your Father is the author of good things. Every good and perfect gift is from him. James 1:17. All of your bowls lead to good gifts when you pass them to him.

As my beloved friend Trina says (that’s beautiful Trina up above), He is not just the giver of good things, He is the giver of good things that just keep getting better.

My love to you always,


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