New Normal


This photo was taken at one of my favorite places in the Sandia mountains behind our home. I would run up the trail with our dog, Max, and at this turn-around spot I’d give him some water before heading back down. Max’s ashes are there now…placed beneath a scrub oak where he would seek the shade from the hot New Mexico sun. Now I run up the same trail with Dixie and Ruby. The first time we took that route, both of them went straight to Max’s spot to enjoy the shade and cool sand. It was a powerful and precious moment. I wept.


Max left us two years ago at Easter. Kirsten and I are still adjusting to the “new normal” without him. For us, he was the perfect dog. We loved him…and still do. Dixie and Ruby are sweet dogs. They are fiercely loyal and keep me company on my trail runs. They sit at my feet when I’m in the Mancave writing at my laptop. We love them, but they’ll never replace the sacred space in our hearts and minds that Max fills to this day. They have a place that is uniquely their own.

dixie and ruby

Kirsten and I have adjusted to many “new normals” through our nearly forty years of life together. Becoming parents for the first time and then parents of twins, moving from place to place as I accepted new calls to different congregations, transitioning from a house full of lovely daughters to empty nesters, hitting our sixties in full stride after some challenging health issues in our fifties, mourning the death of our dear sister, Karen…these are some of the changes that have come our way.

Last month, yet another “new normal” appeared. I was diagnosed with “late onset” retinitis pigmentosa (RP). I’m legally blind and have been for many years according to my retinologist who looked at my medical records. I didn’t know I was “blind” when I went for those runs with our dogs. I didn’t feel blind hiking in the wilderness, competing in archery contests, driving my truck to remote trailheads or stalking deer and elk in the mountains. Truth be told, I don’t feel blind now. Just yesterday I went for a five mile run with no problems. Even so, my field of vision test indicates that I have only 20 degrees of vision. New Mexico requires no less than 120 degrees to have a driver’s license.

Kirsten dropped me off at the coffee house where I am now writing this blog. I used to come here fifteen years ago to get away from the interruptions at my office to write my sermons. That came to a halt when people found out they could find me here and stop by to ask “a quick question.” The questions were not quick…they never are. I now write my sermons at home where the interruptions are fewer.

Here I am again…legally blind. I needed to get out of the house and come here this morning. There is something strangely energizing in this joint. The sounds of conversations all around me…the servers taking orders and bringing food and drinks to each table…the music in the background ranging from pop songs I’ve never heard to the rock and roll tunes of my youth. The vibe is good. Better yet, I’ve not been interrupted once.

I’ll be writing more often now that my normal has changed…again. It’s good for the soul. I was motivated to start these reflections years ago by the wonderful writing of our daughter, Melinda, and a different affliction that rocked my world. It helped me through that difficult time. I’m hoping it will do the same now that I know I’ll be seeing less and less as the years go by and my retinas slowly degenerate.

Thanks for reading this. God bless you as you face the “new normals” of life that are uniquely your own. Don’t let any diagnosis define you. I may be “legally blind,” but I’m going to break that law by going for a run later today.

I’ll stop at Max’s grave and thank him again for all the love he poured into our lives.

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