The Best Kind of Wrinkles

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Me with my Nana – she did not have an easy, pain-free life, and yet she taught me peace and joy like no one else. She was one of the most beautiful women I’ve ever known. And how about these snazzy outfits?

Our younger years are the time for practice, the time for sketching, but somewhere in middle age, the etching begins. In spite of our liberal use of sunscreen and moisturizing facial masks, the lines become irreversible and will eventually hold our older face in place.

If our face is regularly enlightened by wonder, lifted by gratitude, crinkled in laughter, surprised by joy, wisened by grief, and at ease in tender meditation, more lines will be etched from these positions.

Of course, we can also have faces etched by chronic worry, leaky resentment, sudden tempers and scornful scowls. I think we all know the difference when we see a face of 85 or 90 years. 

There is not one 20 year old supermodel whose face can hold a candle to a 90 year old face graced by years of compassion, love and tenderness. It is in these ancient faces, formed with kindness and wisdom, where the love of the universe is illuminated most clearly.

“It is lovely to meet an old person whose face is deeply lined, a face that has been deeply inhabited, to look in the eyes and find light there.” – John O’Donohue, Anam Cara

As my life turns the corner, I want to live not in the pursuit of perpetual youth, but instead in the pursuit of the best kinds of wrinkles. May my old face be an artist’s masterpiece that makes young hearts want to dance.

I might be in the autumn of my external life, but internally I find myself in the spring of my authentic, spiritual life – the beginning of the kind of vibrant living which has eluded me in my youth. My soul is drinking deeply from the well of life even as my physical body begins its inevitable journey towards the compost heap. I wouldn’t change it for anything.

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” 2 Corinthians 4:16

In some ways, I sense the harvest time approaching, especially as I begin to savor the friendships I share with my older children. But in other ways, I find that this is still a season for sowing. Only now am I coming into the full understanding of what it is I would like to plant. If this growing cycle exceeds my lifespan, so be it. Maybe the best harvest is the one that is left for the next generation.

“No matter the self-conceited importance of our labors we are all compost for worlds we cannot yet imagine.” – David Whyte, Consolations


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Photo by Edu Carvalho on

An Excellent Reading List, Revised

I read so many books last year, I had to update. Still would love to hear from any of you what you books you are loving!

100 or So of my All-Time Favorites

Sorted by genre, in no particular order…

Novels and Stories:

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Godric by Frederick Buechner

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett (whole Kingsbridge series)

Fortune Smiles by Adam Johnson

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck

Hawaii by James A. Michener

The Alchemist  by Paulo Coelho

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

Howards End by E.M. Forster

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (everything by Jane Austen)

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows

Elenor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas


Science Fiction / Fantasy / Mythology:

A Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

Wrinkle in Time Series by Madeleine L’Engle

Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

C.S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy

Cross Roads & Eve by William Paul Young

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

His Dark Materials series and Book of Dust series by Philip Pullman

Ender’s Game (whole series) by Orson Scott Card

The Passage by Justin Cronin

Circe by Madeline Miller

In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan

Leaf by Niggle by J.R.R. Tolkien

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis



A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson

The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean

The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert

The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery

A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking

The Fabric of the Cosmos by Brian Greene

Finding God in the Waves by  Mike McHargue (science and memoir)


Wisdom and Poetry:

Supper of the Lamb by Robert Farrar Capon

Devotions by Mary Oliver

Becoming Wise by Krista Tippett

Being Mortal by Atul Gawande

Daring Greatly by Brené Brown

The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison

Healing the Wounded Heart by Dan Allender

The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron

Teaching a Stone to Talk by Annie Dillard (and Maytrees)

Walking in Wonder by John O’Donohue

Lost Connections by Johann Hari

The Pocket Pema Chodron by Pema Chodron

Rumi: The Big Red Book: The Great Masterpiece Celebrating Mystical Love and Friendship by Coleman Barks

Life on Mars by Tracy K. Smith

Spiritual / Christian:

Abba’s Child by Brennan Manning

Telling Secrets by Frederick Buechner

A Grief Observed, The Great Divorce, and The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

Love Does by Bob Goff

A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken

Return of the Prodigal Son by Henri Nouwen (also The Way of the Heart)

Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer

Everything Belongs by Richard Rohr (also The Divine Dance & Breathing Under Water)

A Hidden Wholeness by Parker J. Palmer

Learning to Walk in the Dark by Barbara Brown Taylor (also Leaving Church)

Acedia and Me by Kathleen Norris

Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott

Disciplines for the Inner Life by Bob and Michael W. Benson

Orthodoxy by G. K. Chesterton

Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home by Richard Foster

A Way other than Our Own by Walter Brueggemann

How I Found God in Everyone and Everywhere: An Anthology of Spiritual Memoirs edited by Andrew M. David and Philip Clayton

Learning the Vocabulary of God by Frank Charles Laubach

Tattoos on the Heart by Gregory Boyle


History, Biography, Memoir:

A Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

Night by Elie Wiesel

Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs

On Writing by Stephen King

All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson

Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller

As You Wish by Cary Elwes

Educated by Tara Westover

If Women Rose Rooted by Sharon Blackie


Mystery series authors:

Dorothy Sayers

Agatha Christie

P.D. James

Patricia Cornwell

Scott Pratt

Louise Penny

Nevada Barr

Stephen King

Migration Celebration

The first of the migratory birds are showing their bold colors. Here’s a little poem to celebrate.


Kinglet with a Golden Crown

A bright stripe of gold pops through a grayish-blue day

     On cue, announcing your presence with careless joy

          Rightly judge me as slow and gentle –

               As a creature deeply tied to gravity


     In safety and laughter you jump ever faster

          From leaf, to limb, to trunk

               Pause on occasion to pose and show


           Your bold, lucky colors – even in winter

                You’re something to behold

Unready, Unsteady

I spent last week sorting through thousands of family photos, which explains this week’s burst of parenting poetry. As I told my Aunt Lisa, the writing keeps me sane. I’m posting as I write, so no doubt this will see some editing in the future. I write a lot about vulnerability, so I’m trying to practice what I preach and put it out there. Maybe there is a parent in the thick of it who will relate.


Unready, Unsteady

I wanted it, wanted you

Wanted to know

If I could love

If I could matter


The flutter surprised

A minnow released

In the quick changing bump

Of my young, nervous belly


Only thirty-six weeks

Not the forty they promised

I was unready – really

Who could be ready?


You took what I had

My time, mind, and sleep

What was left of my confidence

A trembly beginning


I did what I could

Did most of the things

Rock, sang, and fed

Did I love? Could I?


Worried and laughed

Tested and read

To understand need

To plan and protect


There is no place safe

In this world for a child

I watched them hurt you

Steal my favorite smile


Sat outside your door

2:30 a.m.

In a panic because

Your shell was too thin


Oh it was too thin

And your heart was too large

Your mind was too sharp

Taking everything in


You wanted to die

I understood why

I wanted to join you

My love was true


Love stays that hard

No relief, small reward

But most days we live

And most days we want to


~Alyson Hinkie, February 25, 2019


The Hive

Parenting teens is not for wimps.


The Hive

In close quarters of

The place you call prison

It is bound to happen


The wrong day, the wrong room

The wrong dress, the wrong face

A smile full of freedom


Angry hive, unattached, waiting

To land their desperate sting

A swarm with no queen to guide them


You stumble out

Alive but marked by

Fear and weak poison


Knowing tomorrow I will send you

To fly the same path and I

Will say ridiculous things




They’re only bees

Lost insects – no mission

Thinking their job is to sting instead of


Spreading beautiful things

And I’ll say to you, “Love them,” for one day

They will make honey


~Alyson Hinkie, February 24, 2019

We Don’t Know Much

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Bret and I finished watching the 2018 film First Man last night. What drama and cost of life it took us to land people on the moon! We haven’t been back since the year I was born because the expense is still astronomical. We know a lot more than we did 50 years ago about space, our own biology, physics, particle science – a lot of things. What grips me is considering what we don’t know.

According to World Atlas, humans have explored approximately 5% of our ocean’s floors and about 3% of the oceans in total. We have not seen 97% of our own oceans. Every time these brave divers go somewhere new – they find stuff that they thought would be impossible: molten sulfur pools at the bottom of the ocean (with creatures living right above them), underwater waterfalls, life where there should not be life.

Here is a fairly short video with some fun footage from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute: – they are traveling deep with new 3-D technology, and my bet is there will be some explosive discoveries in the next few years. ON OUR VERY OWN PLANET.

Away from our planet, things get really crazy. 2 spacecraft, Voyager 1 and Voyager 2, have left the protective bubble of our sun called the heliosphere and are technically in interstellar space heading towards the outer reaches of the solar system. The outer boundary of our solar system is the Oort Cloud. The spacecrafts will run out of power around 2025, but if they could be endlessly powered, they would reach the inner edge of the Oort Cloud in 300 years and finally get beyond it in about 30,000 years. Yep – that’s just our solar system.

Scientists have confirmed 500 solar systems in our tiny neighborhood within the Milky Way, and they estimate that there are likely tens of billions or even hundreds of billions more solar systems in our galaxy alone. With the fastest travel on the “near” horizon (ion propulsion), it would take a spacecraft 81,000 years to reach the nearest star. The Milky Way contains between 200 and 400 billion stars, and there are approximately 100 to 200 billion galaxies in the known universe.

Assuming there is an average of 100 billion stars in each galaxy (probably low), there would be an estimated 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (1 sextillion, if you’re wondering how to say it) stars in the universe. I know that number doesn’t even take an entire line of this post, but it’s big, people.

The next closest galaxy to the Milky Way is a mere 146,643,601,368,010,816 miles away.:) The farthest observed galaxy? It’s 76,254,048,000,000,000,000,000 miles away. Or it was. Since our universe is expanding and our visual information on said galaxy is 13.3 billion years old, well…

When I dip my brain in this sea of numbers, when I see videos of fish swimming on top of liquid sulfur lakes at the bottom of our ocean, it seems ridiculous to think that this universe is not teeming with life forms that far exceed our wildest sci-fi books. I suppose this makes me feel very small, but it also makes me feel a part of something very big. What about you?

Time to pull out C.S. Lewis’s Space Trilogy again.



Mama Bear Mary Gets Her Way


I spent some time with the story of Jesus’s first miracle last week. In several books I read last year, authors referenced Ignatian Contemplation, or Imaginative Prayer. Sounds fancy, but it basically means putting yourself in the story. I was reading through John, and was stopped in my tracks by the interaction between Jesus and his Mom at a wedding party, so I decided to give Ignatian Contemplation a go.

Jesus had left his home and had been out collecting disciples. I have some idea of how Mary was feeling with her first born son suddenly pulling away from their family. It was likely a wedding of family friends, since they were both invited and made the effort to attend.

Mary was already there, likely with the mother of the groom (the groom’s family would have been in charge of the after-party), then in strides Jesus with a bunch of ragamuffin new friends. I wonder if there was a sudden mix of pride and a little embarrassment at what her old friends might think. It’s also interesting to consider how much the people in that room already knew about Jesus if he grew up around them. We aren’t privy to those stories, but don’t you know there were some good ones?

Mary suddenly realized that her friends were about to face a significant embarrassment of their own – no wine at their son’s wedding celebration – what would that signal to the bride’s family and to the community? She got the social implications in a heartbeat, and from her human perspective, there was a lot on the line.

Then, somehow, she and Jesus were in the kitchen. I’m guessing he was summoned. At least one of his new friends came along (the end of the passage states that “his disciples believed”, so someone was in on it). Mary was in a tizzy – probably familiar to Jesus. Did he roll his eyes in playful respect? “They are about to run out of wine!” she said. He knew exactly what she wanted. “It’s not my time yet,” he calmly replied.

She was having none of it, turned to the servants and said, “Do whatever he tells you.” Now this is really something – because either Jesus didn’t know it was his time (unlikely), or Mary, in her motherly determination, changed the mind of the man who was God in the flesh. I wonder if that is why we are told so often to pray – maybe God really wants to know what is important to us – maybe it changes things sometimes.

All of the both/ands of God can be confusing. He is sovereign and we are free. On that day, his sovereign plan came up against his mother’s fervent and free desire, and the God-man was moved. The sovereign plan shifted. Wow.

I love that his first miraculous interaction is such a human one and that it involved a want rather than a need. He saw their desire to celebrate as a holy thing. Humans enjoying wine together to rejoice in community was holy. It was very good.

I also love that the first people who interacted with miracle-performing-Jesus were the servants. They were the nobodies in the room, and the miracle was dependent on their help. The servants were his people. He loved his Mom. He wasn’t afraid of women in leadership.:) He loved his friends. He loved their small, yet complex, human hearts. And he loved good wine. Cheers.

Moon Mysteries

Throwing it back to a couple moon poems from the past in honor of last night’s astonishing beauty.img_9265








Kinder Light

Pale silver blue light

From the smaller globe

Birthed by ancient earth

Broken off and perfected by

Fire and force

Lopsided like my mind

At rest reflects illuminating

Ebbs and flows from within

For death follows life and life follows death

Not weak or less — only other

Strong in softness, because of softness

Sourced waves move tight in formation

Hugging the curves

Boring deep into places where

The wide red waves skip by

See the forest clear-eyed when

There is time and quiet for

Eyes and soul to adjust

Still, hold, ponder


Exposing the path without

Blinding the wild imagination

Disappearing, reappearing

Pain and joy

Groaning and laughter

The kinder light of the moon

Shines on without burning



Night Sky Liturgy

I gazed upon the blood red moon

Hung bravely in planet shadow

Imaginations long grown fallow

The prophets of fear cry our doom

Words of desecration strewn

I brace my soul from their bellow

For though my deepest self may know

Lies oft repeated confound the truth

Spring free from the bitter minds

Grabbing power in others’ misery

Search fiercely for another kind

Whose hearts embrace the mystery

Poison words will make us blind

Tune fast to night sky liturgy

Connection in the Cracks

If I could give one gift to myself and all the people I love for the year of 2019, it would be connection.

A few days ago, my dear friend, Cindi, asked us to send her a word or sentence describing her husband, Len, in honor of his 60th. A lot of words came to mind, and I settled on “a man after God’s own heart” – or I could say “a couple after God’s own heart” when describing the 2 of them. I kept thinking about why I grabbed onto those words when I thought about them, and I think I’ve figured it out.

Len and Cindi are pretty amazing people. Most people would look at their lives and say, “Yeah – they are good people.” They probably didn’t spend too many days on God’s naughty list.:) But that’s not anything close to what I was thinking about.

When I go to their house, I always sleep well. I NEVER sleep well the first night I’m in any bed other than my own – except at the Woods’ house. It’s because I’m safe there. And I’m safe there because we are real. I described Len as a man after God’s own heart because of relationship. God is love, and God as three-in-one is relationship by essence, the ultimate definition of relationship. So in my book, a person who constantly seeks relationship, love, and connection is a person after God’s own heart.

Enlight174The best relationships are like a mountain. You keep climbing together, through all life’s challenges, over years of time, and the view just keeps getting better. Sometimes to get up a mountain, you have to climb a cliff. I’m not a good rock climber. Heights and upper body strength are not my thing, but I have done it enough to understand that the key to climbing a cliff is cracks in the rock.IMG_4601

Connections in friendships are like that – we connect in the cracks, the broken places. The cracks are the places where love has a way in. Vulnerability is the process of showing each other our cracks, scars, fears, and failures.  When we tell our stories and cry our tears together, we are shouting up the cliff face, “I’ve got you! You’re safely roped in, and your next foothold is about 2 feet to the left, 9 inches up.”

Our celebrity-drenched, social-media-driven society takes all those cliff faces and smooths them out. I LOVE all the Christmas cards I get every year, but I have to tell you – the filters just keep getting better. We show our smooth parts, our successes, who we want to be, who we think others want us to be, and often we leave no handholds for people to climb the mountain of friendship with us.

When we are struggling, there is a big temptation to cover it up with confidence and the veneer of achievement, but in doing that, we are shoving away the very people we need to connect with to help us in our struggle. What a vicious cycle!

I wrote an intimate song about connection after spending some time with a couple who met late in life and had no secrets about where they had come from. This is the kind of connection we want.


Completely uncovered, stripped down and unashamed

Unhindered affection in this sweet and strange late-life season

Not bothered by our yesterdays or scared of what’s to come

It’s just you and me darling – we’ve got love beyond all reason

C’mon and show me your scars now baby inside and out

Let me ease your darkened mind and lift up this burden of doubt

I’ll trace them with my little finger and fold them deep in my heart

It won’t erase our checkered past, but it’s a good place to start

You peel my layers slowly, with soft and tender care

My body worn and rounded I can safely bare

You don’t seem to mind – you need me a little bit broken

Old wounds begin to heal with deep mercy unspoken

So I’ll hold you tight with no desperation

And you’ll love me with wide open eyes

And we’ll walk this path together till the final fog

Laughing, grateful twilight lovers, you and I

Obviously, this involves romantic love, but I think that is beside the point. All lasting connections begin with love – love with eyes wide open for the friend or lover on vulnerable display. It’s knowing and being know. The lack of this is what is at the core of the political chaos, the spiritual divides, the loneliness that surrounds us.

I’m not sure what my exact steps will be when it comes to seeking and offering deeper connections this next year, but I am super excited about the views to come. If I get to any cool places, I’ll try to snap a photo and share it with you.:) I’m climbing alongside some precious friends these days.

And now… I’ll kick off the season of vulnerability by getting way out of my comfort zone and post the old, amateur, living-room MP3 of my song – if you’re interested. It’s not easy being vulnerable. I want to post the song sounding awesome, with a strong voice and better guitar skills. But alas, it’s a little cracked and weak in some spots, just like me, just as it should be.

“True belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are; it requires you to be who you are.” ― Brené Brown, Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone

The Old is New, Again and Again

unnamed (1)We shall not cease from exploration

And the end of all our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time.

Through the unknown, unremembered gate

When the last of earth left to discover

Is that which was the beginning;

At the source of the longest river

The voice of the hidden waterfall

And the children in the apple-tree

~T.S. Eliot “Little Gidding”

My list of all the places I want to see is far longer than the list of what I am actually going to see in my lifetime, and I have had the privilege of seeing some incredible views already. But I have come to find that my favorite views are in the land that is already mine. I claim any land as my own that is public and that I can get to, enjoy, and return from in 1 day. Fortunately for me, that includes coastline, urban parks, riversides, and diverse forestland.

How, when I’ve gazed down at the Grand Canyon and hiked 14ers in Colorado, could Hunstville State Forest and Brazoria Wildlife Refuge be my favorites? I found that answer in this poem. I never cease to explore, but at the end of my exploring, I always find myself back where I started. I am stunned to find that even if I have been to a place 100 times, if I get quiet and look with care, it is always like getting to know the place for the first time.

This is a beautiful picture of my cyclical life. History constantly repeating itself. When my shortcomings get repetitive, I can become scornful of my own heart. But we are all repetitive – with our histories and personalities and fears and habits. What if, when I find myself at a familiar crossing (or a familiar patch of mud where I face planted), I could get quiet and see the place as if for the first time? It is never the same, because even though my stumbles are familiar, I am always new – hopefully more steeped in love and grace!

IMG_0929RootedIMG_8068I certainly enjoy the spectacular and the new, but I love the subtle changes of places like my trail along Spring Creek as the seasons change and the years slide by. These places have infused bits of themselves into my soul and remind me that being my regular old self is enough. Some people might be like the Tetons or Niagara Falls. I’m good with being the neighborhood hiking trail, hopefully just as accessible – a comforting place for the other regular folks around me. woodduckportaflightIMG_1188IMG_0802 12-10-53-394