Thursday, December 10, 2009

It's Cold Outside

Journal for Christa—
Gayla posted on Facebook, “BABY, it’s cold outside.” When it’s cold in Arkansas, it’s REALLY COLD in Colorado. Yesterday’s dusky landscape looked like a chalk and charcoal drawing with barren trees silhouetted black against a gray sky with fine, white snow swirling dervishly in the foreground. It was hauntingly beautiful and, because of the season, took me back to a Christmas letter written years ago—
It was frigid cold. As the man lowered his head and wrapped his coat closer about himself, he pondered over the events of the previous days and months. Strange they were to him, and now this: this trip, the cold. He glanced up at the woman. She leaned somewhat forward on the donkey. She stared ahead silently. “Could this be?” he thought. “It all seemed a dream. Yet the angel had said it was true. It was all so difficult to understand.” Why had his life suddenly become so overwhelming, so bizarre? “Could this possibly be God’s plan?”
They wound through the narrow street which funneled the wind, blasting it into their faces. A thousand questions came to his mind. Finally the street opened into a courtyard and the inn beyond. The muscles in the woman’s face relaxed. The man hastened his pace. “I’ll help you down,” he said. She was clumsy; she was silent.
“The inn is full?” questioned the man unbelievingly. “How could this be? Couldn’t there have at least been a place for them? The stable? Cold, drafty.” Burdened with such thoughts, he slowly shook his head and led the woman silently toward the stable door.
“At least the stable is shelter.” The man made a place for the woman. He wrapped a blanket around her. She was silent. He waited. He wondered about his God. He wondered about the child. He wondered about the woman, who knew nothing of having babies, and of himself who knew even less.
Far into the night the child was delivered. If the woman had looked pale in the street, she was paler now. The man wiped off the child and wrapped Him in strips of cloth. The woman looked intently at the man. Her pale face wore a faint smile. He smiled. All was silent—
Written about 20 years ago, this was a rather difficult piece to locate. That year’s Christmas letter ended with this paragraph: With the joviality of the Christmas season, perhaps, we sometimes forget the atmosphere of that first Christmas. This year has brought difficult times for many of our friends and relatives. This was written with those of us in mind who have at times sat and wondered about our God. We are not alone. Surely, Joseph, in his time, had moments he felt confused about his life and the God who directed it. 

Monday, December 7, 2009


Journal for Christa—

We watched Up last week. Billed as a children’s movie, it’s anything but. I saw a lot of people I’ve known in Up—people who desperately wanted children and couldn’t, people who passed away long before this world was ready to let them go. I saw myself. It’s really a story of life—the bad, the good, the fleeting.

It’s a story of promises made but not quite kept, of noticing the joy in the mundane, of rebounding when things just don’t turn out like you expect. It’s about the human spirit, a residual—I think—of being created in God’s image.

In story we sometimes get the idea that what makes life significant are the adventures—great vacations, important discoveries, changing the world; and we forget to paint a dream on the wall, to look at the person we’re eating with, to gaze at the clouds, and to dance around the room.
Up isn’t just about relationships, it’s also a story about letting go—of knowing when to move on from the past, the familiar, the comfortable—of when to grasp a new adventure.

Though it wasn’t what I expected, I liked Up, and my favorite part was when the old, childless man realized something the father never did: the immense value of sitting on the curb, counting red cars.
Chris, Stef, Flora, and Scout were here this week. We didn’t “do” anything. Jay and Flora ran the train around the Christmas tree, we ate tons of food, we visited with friends and lots of family. It was a wonderful week. I graded not one paper, only looked at French briefly, and took Flora out to the ponds to see the fish “sleeping.”

Now today, the train sits silently under the tree, and research papers sit in my gmail box. It’s time to move to the very ordinary things of life. But, Saturday we’ll go dancing.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

French I

Journal for Christa—
Taking French I with the ninth graders has been interesting…if not for them, at least for me. I think now that we’re three quarters of the way through the semester, they’ve decided that I really am going to stay. I think I decided that the day I covered my book. Research shows that the younger brain learns easier and faster than the—more elderly brain. I’m sure they’ve had their moments of thinking, “She’s so dumb; I can’t believe they let her teach here.” It makes me think of a time when I took a sign language class my senior year in high school.
The class was taught, I think, at the deaf and blind school. There was a lady in our church who had a passion to learn sign language so she could interpret the church services. I took it with her—just because, I guess. I had no passion. The class was designed for parents with deaf children who were learning sign language in school so they could converse with their children. Everyone there, to me, seemed old.
Sign language was easy. I didn’t study much, but was catching on faster than the others. I kind of wondered why it was hard for them. In my 17-year-old mind, I didn’t think much about parents working, keeping a house, and taking care of children. I was oblivious to the world. Our sign language class convinced the church lady that I was rather smart. Then I went off to college.
While in college, I forgot every sign I’d ever learned, save the alphabet. (I might actually even pull that off today.) Once on a visit home, I watched the lady (whose name I can’t remember) sign for the deaf at church. I was pretty impressed, especially considering learning it had been rather difficult for her. The thing I didn’t take into account was her passion.
Every once in a while, I surprise the ninth graders, but mostly they feel sorry for me. I don’t hear or speak French very well. But, what we see on the outside isn’t always the whole story. I understand every word I read, silently. I also study my French every night. I review right before I go to bed because I know that the brain puts information into long term memory faster if you review right before you go to sleep, and I need every edge I can get. I’ll also bring home a book this summer to review. I guess I have passion.
If we want to know what we love, it’s the things we spend time on. When we spend lots of time on the things we don’t love, it just makes us grumpy or burn out. Take a break and spend some time on your passion.
By wit and determination, I plan to close the gap between me and the nine graders this year. And, I hope when they look around on the first day of French II next year, they'll say, “Where’s Mimi?”

Thursday, November 19, 2009


Journal for Christa—
Just as most people I know, it always seems as though I need a little more time. What is it about time? I always want more. I think it’s a selfish desire, really—more time to work, more time to play, more time to get so little done.
I want more time when some people have so little, like the child from Joy’s old school who died in a senseless accident last week—only a kindergartener—with so little time.
Whether surging on at break-neck speed or passing a day in leisure, I always want just a little more time. And why? Why should I get more time?
Maybe time moves so fast to me because I’m old. Sometimes I think it moves so fast because I’m comfortable.
How long is a day for a child who’s hungry? How long for a man or woman in despair? How long for the lonely or those in pain?
Yet, how many nights do I go to bed and not even know where the day has gone? I live like a machine, and I fear that’s the true legacy I’m passing on to the people I influence.
Time—or the desire for more of it—is the idol. Some days it rules my soul. But, not today. Today I refuse to be a machine. Today, I’ll live.

Thursday, November 12, 2009


Journal for Christa—

When I was young, I used to think about what it was to be gracious—a gracious woman. Perhaps it was because we lived in the South or because it came up as a topic in our women’s Sunday school classes. My vision of a gracious woman in those days was always someone older, always someone naturally nicer, and always someone calmer than me. I haven’t thought about graciousness in years. Maybe not many people have since I don’t recall anyone talking about it in ages. But, the thought resurfaced this week when Kim posted on facebook about the annoying notes people will leave in the tight living quarters they share in Germany.

Sometimes I like looking at magazines on “gracious living.” They always include scenes from wealthy, fancy houses decked with expensive furnishings, fresh floral arrangements, situated on acres of luscious gardens. That would be the life, but I don’t think that would make me gracious. And, knowing a little of history, the people who often occupied such places were anything but gracious, especially to the domestic help who kept it all looking so gracious to begin with.

I think to meet a gracious person today, woman or man, would be an anomaly. Indeed, we seem to admire the heavy handed, self asserting, making it to the top type woman today; and they are rarely gracious. We live in a rather self absorbed world. Now don’t get me wrong: I don’t think graciousness is door mat weak. I just think it’s different from how we naturally respond to people in situations. I think it would have a certain mystique about it, an eye raising appeal, a strength that people can’t quite put their finger on. I think I would like to be gracious.

I still don’t know exactly what it is to be gracious, but I kind of think it would be slipping the annoying note in your pocket to toss in the trash later, to smile at people as if you know something about life they don’t (because you probably do), and to walk in a stance that expresses God is working in your world, and you’re confident in His work.  And although I don’t think it would have to be someone older than me, I still think they’d be naturally nicer and definitely calmer. I haven’t thought about graciousness in years, but I think I’ll ponder it some. A gracious woman—just what would that look like?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Cinderella after Midnight

Journal for Christa—
We talked to Breck and Helen in Germany on Skype yesterday. Helen had gotten a new doll, which she lifted to the computer screen to show us. “Did you name her? What’s her name?” we asked. In Helen’s “nearly 3” expression, it was apparent the doll was nameless; but with a short glance at the doll, she looked back up, nodded, and stated emphatically, “Yes. Princess!” But of course, no other name would do.
Flora, too, after given a stash of hand-me-down princess dresses, has joined the craze. And even as we dined in Disney’s Castle, Joel slyly looked over at Kim and said, “Every girl, even big ones, wants to be a princess.” I suppose that’s so.
While vacationing at Disney World, Kim, being practical, had purchased Helen a Princess Belle nightgown to wear to the castle. Helen wore it to bed that night. The following morning Jay and I were preparing to take the kids over to Epcot, but Helen refused to shed the gown. So, being a granny who doesn’t choose many battles, I put on her sandals and off we headed for the bus. Helen wore her princess gown all day long. (How Kim ever got it off her that night to wash is beyond me.)
On the bus that evening, Jay held the sleeping Helen. She’d worn her gown for almost 24 straight hours. Stained from spilling Ranch dressing on herself at lunch, dotted with a few chocolate smears, and missing a rosette, Helen’s gown looked more like Cinderella after midnight.
I guess, though, most girls finally pack up their princess dresses and hand them down to a smaller girl. However, I’ve kind of felt like that princess after midnight lately.
Cinderella—standing on the curb. Her hair’s a mess; the gown smudged and torn; one foot bare; bewildered and confused. And worst of all—her mode of transportation is a fat orange pumpkin! Where is that fairy woman when you need her?
I don’t think the story tells us how Cinderella got home, but we know she did because that’s where she was when the prince arrived, toting the glass slipper.
I guess it’s good to know, while standing on the curb in the shadow of a dark and lonely castle, that you’ll find your way home—

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Being Green

Journal for Christa—

Kermit the frog sings, “It’s not easy being green.” As little Kermit croons his ballad under a harvest moon, he isn’t talking about saving the planet; he’s talking about being different.

It’s often easy to identify women of other faiths. You can tell by how they look—what they wear, how they’ve marked themselves in some way. But for the 21st Century Christian woman, I am—quite frankly—pretty indistinguishable from the masses around me. And I’m okay with that. I don’t think I want the identifiable label to be a mere outward adornment. But, if not that, then what is there to see?

I hope there’s something more—more than just another nice lady who lives in the blue house. I hope it’s something deep within that bubbles out, something that makes me unabashedly honest in my conduct, something of strength in times of trouble, something that I can’t change, something that people do see.

I like frogs, and years ago when there were more of them around, we sometimes had a frog or two in the ponds. They were reclusive little creatures, but you could hear them croaking at night and occasionally catch a glimpse of one sunning on a lily pad. But, the natural world has not been nice to frogs; and where they were once in abundance, now it’s pretty hard to find a plain old happy bullfrog. Maybe that’s a little true for Christians as well. Maybe Kermit’s right. “It’s not easy being green.”

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Little Things

Journal for Christa—
As much as I long to see the beauty and pleasure in the small things of life, I realize that it’s the little things—the mundane things—that often do me in. I came poignantly face to face with this truth a few years ago when Joel was in Iraq.

It was a regular day at school. I needed to run some copies for the following class during my planning period. It wasn’t a last minute job. I’d tried to run them the night before after a faculty meeting, but the office had been running the parent newsletter—hundreds of copies. I expected the copier to be free on this particular morning; but alas—once again the office was running the newsletter—hundreds of copies. I stared at the number in disbelief and thought, “How many hundreds of copies do they need, anyway?”

I clutched my pile of papers and headed up to the middle school copier. Then, in my haste and agitation, I tripped on the stairs.

As I lay sprawled across the stairs, papers strewn about, and thankfully—totally alone—the realization struck me: “People are dying every day in Iraq, and you are angry about papers? What is wrong with you?”

Yes, it is the little things, the insignificant issues, the inconveniences—that are, in reality, quite manageable—that do me in. And so it has been today. Oh, I wasn’t sprawled on the stairs, but I might as well have been. So, what is a woman to do with a stinky, no good perspective?

Sometimes, I vent to a friend at work—another woman who’ll listen—so Jay doesn’t have to catch the full magnitude of my frustration. Today, I took a walk, kicking up autumn leaves, relishing in the late afternoon sun that’s even more precious because it’ll soon leave for the long Colorado winter. For years I’ve written journals—reflections stated just the way I want to say them. But, probably most of all I give myself “a talkin’ to.” If I can see myself in the scheme of the whole wide world, I know that my mundane is petty.

Anne Graham Lotz says, “The whole world is unraveling, and we have the answer.” If I have the answer, should I be unraveling too?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Hand of God

Journal for Christa—
Did I see Your hand today
In the simple, natural ways,
Amidst a world of clamor and despair?

In the darkness of their woe,
Masses wonder toward the Foe,
Blinded by distractions and their fear.

Let me see the hand of God
In this murky, muddy, flood
To penetrate the noise and bleakness here.

Did I see it in your face?
Did I respond with words of grace?
Was it in the single rose
Cloaked in thorns, as this life goes?

Did I see Your hand today
In the simple, natural ways
Amidst a world of clamor and despair—

In his sermon a few weeks ago, Pastor Mark stated, “We miss God in the details, so we miss Him in the big things.” That struck me, prompting the poem. I wonder, as I rush through a day how often I miss the touch of God?

I think I did see it a few times this week: when 2-year-old Flora softly said, “Granny, Papa give me this?” and when 9-month-old Elliott (at the table unattended) smeared Callie’s birthday cake frosting totally over herself in ultimate culinary delight. I think I even sensed it vicariously through Kim as she wandered the misty, rainy streets of Heidelberg.

The hand of God—
It is everywhere.—not just in joy and solitude—It abides in every storm, every mundane task, every retching pain.
              But, I do not see it there.

Oh, how weak are mine eyes!

Let us open our eyes and see the hand of God—so close—so real—that we feel His very Breath upon our weary souls.

Monday, October 12, 2009


Journal for Christa—
I’ve been writing reflections for a long time. Most of them have been displaced in stacks of paper or on old floppies—back when floppies were really floppy. But a few months ago, I ran across one while cleaning out some old folders. Here is a journal from the trenches—
A mother continually straddles the very fine line between reality and insanity. Our world consists of a cross between Barnum and Bailey and the Revolutionary War; you know, the one known for the colonists pouncing on the mothers, I mean the British, from behind bushes and trees. I hadn’t become quite so acquainted with this concept until Happy came into our lives and home. Happy is the firstborn of Grandpa’s Candy and Aunt Lora’s Sam. She is a beautiful Sheltie—on the outside.
The time in which we decided to get a dog is still somewhat in question. I suspect it was first conceived on a thirty-acre farm in southern Illinois in the mind of my dad.  “Why, everyone knows that kids need a dog.” I had agreed with that, but with our eldest child age 4, the middle one 2, and the baby a few months, I still had some reservations about the sanity of such an idea. But, alas, we were notified that Candy was pregnant; the decision had been made.
In September Dad was holding back two pups of the litter for us to make a choice. We picked out the friskiest for the dog’s own self-defense. Our home became Happy’s home. With the homecoming I lost a piece of my redheaded toddler son’s heart, the carpeting, and an old white tennis shoe. Happy had settled in.
Then came the day when Happy needed a shot. I called around for the cheapest vet. The cheapest fortunately was the nearest, and we had to be there by 11:30. The eldest dressed herself, the middle one tried, and the baby cried. Shortly before 11:30 the children and I and Happy casually walked into the vet’s for what I thought would be a ten dollar visit. But Happy hadn’t had her rabies shot, needed to be wormed for worms she did not have, and was given a bottle of vitamins to make her feel better. (Actually, I thought Happy was fairing better than the rest of us.) After paying the bill of $35, we started off to the Humane Society to get her tags. On the way I thought it would have been cheaper to have taken her to the pediatrician as the children had suggested, and she threw up her worm pill, plus. This last event caused quite a commotion and upset the eldest who is extremely organized, a characteristic inherited from her father’s side.
At the Humane Society the eldest carefully held Happy’s leash while Happy licked the shoes of the man in front of us; the two-year-old lay down on the floor, and I wrote a check for five dollars while balancing the baby on one hip. The clerk said, ”thank you,” and that the dog was beautiful and so were the children. We left.
On the return trip home, I thought that I’d surely gone off the “deep end” to find myself in such a position as the present; the eldest reminded me that we needed to clean the house, and the dog vomited again as we rounded the last corner.
As I pulled in the drive, I said, “and this is motherhood.” The eldest said, “This car stinks!” and the toddler said, “I’m hungry.”

Thursday, October 8, 2009


Have you ever given much thought to Solomon—the Solomon whose life started out great and ended up pathetic? Solomon was smart. As he took the throne, he asked for wisdom—wisdom to rule God’s people. Even God was impressed, and He gave it all to Solomon. Not only did God give Solomon wisdom, He gave him everything else—wealth, fame, glory, all the worldly desires of mankind.

God blessed Solomon, and he started out great; but when we find him at the close of his life, we see a man filled with regret. He looks back on life and sees it as futile.

There’s a warning for us in the life of Solomon. He asked for wisdom to rule a people. Instead, he built a kingdom. And what became of that kingdom? Shortly after his death, the nation was divided and eventually carried off into captivity. The glorious temple was burned; the opulent palace has long since crumbled to dust. When Solomon was building a nation, he should have been building a people. And therein lies the warning.

When we are old and lift up our eyes, what do we want to see?  —a monument of stone or the smile of a faithful disciple? Solomon took God’s gifts, and he built a nation, leaving his people in spiritual confusion. 

Melody often feels like Cyclone Callie has ripped through the house. I recall so many years filled with repetitive tasks in which I often mused, “I clean this up now and it will look just like this again in an hour.”  There are probably many days, or years, that you don’t feel like you use any of the gifts God has given you. And it is true that anyone could wash those clothes and clean those floors, but no one else would stop in the middle to play peek-a-boo. No one else has the magic to heal a hurt with a kiss, to discipline in love, to sacrifice for the other’s good. No one else has so much at stake.

So, take heart for today: it is weighty work you do. The old do not take joy in palaces of stone but in the walk of the feet they’ve shod, as little ones when they toddled along.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Estrogen (written on June 19, 2009)

Molly and I woke up at 1:30 this morning. I think we were both hot. She drank her dish dry. I refilled it in the darkness, and she drank and drank and drank some more. Even though Molly’s an old dog, the culprit for her was her fur. I was hot because I miss my estrogen. I never appreciated estrogen when I was young while it coursed through my veins and every cell. I believe I had an abundance: It started and stopped periods like a well maintained clock every month for decades. The thought of missing estrogen then seemed ludicrous. I associated it with the curse.

Since menopause I’ve done some research into estrogen and have made some interesting discoveries. There’s a lot more to estrogen than PMS and the cramps. It keeps skin tight and supple, creates the curves, and makes one look up from her book when her husband saunters by. It also does a bunch of other stuff for the heart and bones, among other things. But, I didn’t know back then.

I was thinking this morning that estrogen is like some people I know. They’re estrogen people because it’s just so easy to only focus on the thing about them that bugs me. That makes it really hard to recognize their good qualities. Years ago, I worked for a principal who once told me, “Debbie, you have to love the whole person, not just the parts you like.” I’ve always considered that one of the great truths bestowed to me. From that point, I regarded people differently. It’s a maxim I’ve tried to put into practice; but, I must admit, it’s often a matter of discipline, rather than desire.

Is there an estrogen person in your world today? You might have to study her more to find the good things about her—or him. But they’re there—things you haven’t yet discovered. Look deeper. Search harder—and remember the good when you think of her.

This morning, I finally just got up about 3:30 and wrote a grammar review sheet to email my honors students working on summer reading. I would rather have been sleeping. I can remember getting up and tending to a baby or child like I was sleepwalking, falling back into bed without disturbing one sleep pattern sequence. But that was years ago—back in the days when I had my estrogen.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Starting Over

Journal for Christa—

Sometimes you just need to start over. One of my favorite quotations is from Anne of Green Gables. Anne is having a terrible time of it. She has dyed her hair green and most recently broken her slate over the ornery Gilbert Blythe’s head. As she and Miss Stacey, the quintessential teacher, stroll down the lane, Miss Stacey smiles on her and states: “Each day is fresh with no mistakes in it.” I love that.

This is a period of new beginnings for many in my world. Today Breck starts school. Joel starts a new job. Kim will set up housekeeping in their small apartment in Germany. Melody has launched her new online bow business, Melody’s Bowtique. And, last year’s AP students are scattered at various universities across the nation. New beginnings are often adventurous and a little bit scary. Then, sometimes new beginnings are not exciting. They’re caused by pain, illness, or even death. Those beginnings can be really scary, but they too are times we need to start over.

One of the things I like about teaching is that every August I get to start over: new students, new MLA books, a chance to do it better than the year before. I like having a job with an ending and new start each year. Sometimes I just need to start over. Most beginnings are due to a set of circumstances; but some days, like Anne, I’ve made a mess of things. I just need to start over. Maybe that’s why the sun sets each night, so that when a new day dawns, it’s “fresh with no mistakes in it.”

Monday, September 28, 2009

You Start with What's in Your Hands

Journal to Christa—

 Anne Graham Lotz was speaking on how to start a Bible study. “You start with what’s in your hand. What’s in your hand?” She gave an example of a tennis player who started a study at her tennis club.

I wasn’t thinking of a Bible study, but I was thinking of my hand. “I don’t really have anything in my hand.” But I knew that was a lie. I knew it every time I said it to myself. 

“Use what’s in your hand. What’s in your hand?”
“All I have in my hand is a pen.”
“What’s in your hand?”
“Just a pen and this journal… and I send these silly words to Christa each week
—then to Shannon and the girls and others…”

They are just words—my journals to Christa—but I love writing them, and I don’t know why.
Maybe… I think I would have liked getting something on pretty paper each week when I was young. Papers that say:
“I know you, and you are special to me.”
“I care about you and how you feel today.”
“I see you, even if you think no one else does.”
I have a pen in my hand.
What’s in your hand?

Thursday, September 24, 2009


Journal for Christa—

Life is, in some ways, like a five-day stay at Disney World with two preschoolers. It isn’t perfect—that’s Heaven—but there are magical moments along the way. I heard a lot of toddlers crying this week. One little girl was so beside herself, screeching, “I want my candy!” that I actually walked over to get a visual. (It’s the teacher in me, but my kids would say that I’m just nosey.) She was not alone; her dad was standing some distance away. He did not make eye contact. And I’m sure, for him, “magical” was far, far away.

Helen is afraid of the dark; Breck detests loud noises. Many of the rides were quite unmagical, and the fireworks…well, let’s just say it wasn’t like in the movies. But there were lots of magical moments: the kids’ reaction when they first opened the adjoining door between our rooms and found us behind it. Or seeing every Disney worker smile down at Helen in her princess gown and say, “Hello, Princess.” (They train them so well at Disney.)  

Helen saw that all her Disney princesses are really real, and Breck had a very serious chat with Prince Caspian while I snapped pictures. Lunch with Jay at the Grand Floridian felt miles away from Main Street, and the parades generated all the excitement that parades were created for in the first place. Disney was fun. But what made it fun wasn’t where we were but with whom we were.

Life can get nasty at times. That’s just the way it is here. I suppose we should expect it, and it may be one reason why hordes of folks flood Disney every year searching for the magic. But it seems to me that it’s during the “nasties” that we must hunt down those magical moments and be grateful for them. We may feel like most of life is lived in Plan B, but B is better than D or E, and we’ve all had those days.

Since we’ve been back, there have been many moments I wished we were back at Disney with Joel and Kim and the kids, but we aren’t. There are papers to grade and a house to clean, French to learn and meetings to attend. But the roses are gorgeous, I have great friends, and Jay and I are on the same page. And that is magic.

Monday, September 21, 2009


Journal to Christa—(from May 22, 2009)

Everyone has regrets. I wish I hadn’t’ spent so much time worrying about money when I was young. I could stir up money worry as fast as the Santa Ana winds can fire up a fury—an inferno of anxiety that climaxed the first two years we lived in Colorado Springs. I wish I hadn’t wasted so much time fretting over maybes.

While in our 20s, Jay had one of the better unskilled jobs in Chattanooga, at a local food distribution center. He began picking orders, then drove a forklift, and finally ended up in middle management, which was perfect in those days because the pay wasn’t too shabby and he was still hourly, getting time and a half for his 15-20 extra hours a week. That allowed me to stay at home.

The spring, soon after Chris was born, someone at Red Food decided to cut all overtime. Jay, being rather innovative, bought a second old used lawn mower and decided we would mow yards to make up the difference. We started out with five yards. Each week as Jay packed the lawn gear into his old Datsun truck, I packed babies (Chris just 3 months old) in the car. We deposited the babies at Maxine’s on the way and proceeded to our mowing.

Soon it became apparent that Red Food couldn’t function without the overtime. So as the overtime returned, thankfully our customers dwindled—all except two older widow women who were neighbors. They probably weren’t nearly as old as they seemed to me. Youth has a way of viewing age through its own unique lens. But they were dear ladies.

Jay laughs about the pine cones flying through the mower and across the yard. One of the ladies always insisted that I take a break with a glass of ice water at the concrete table and benches that Jay hated weed eating around. Since Tennessee evenings are hot and muggy, it wasn’t my favorite job, but their yards were flat and square, and the mowing was easy. Amidst the hum of the mower, it gave me time alone to think, and thinking is good. That summer and into the fall, we mowed the widows’ yards, relieved when the winter clouds and rain, I so despised, finally brought our obligation to an end.

By the next summer, with Jay’s overtime secure, I was again great with child and spent most of that summer in the air conditioning. I wish in my thinking I’d decided not to fret so, but some lessons take longer than a mere summer. 

Thursday, September 17, 2009


Journal for Christa—

Some mother images are set in my mind as clearly as a meticulously scrapbooked photo. One such image is of three-year-old Joy with curly red pigtails turning and waving at me from the back window of Dave and Maxine’s blue Volkswagen bug. She was going to the carnival with Angela, and it was her first real excursion without me. She was in good hands, for Dawsons were and are as close as true relatives, but I still recall a tiny pang at our first parting.

I used to listen to Dobson years ago, and one thing I recall is that our goal is to raise children that can leave us—not in the sense that they never return—but in the sense that they are grown up and independent. That requires a series of good-byes.

Good-byes take on a menagerie of feelings: some are necessary—leaving for college; some exciting—mission trips and adventures; some exuberating and hopeful, like the embarking on their honeymoon. Others are terribly prideful, as seeing Chris in his first youth pastor’s job, Joel’s commissioning, and Nate in his policeman’s uniform. Then some are just hard—putting Joel, Kim, and baby Breck on the plane just short weeks before his Iraqi deployment—leaving Melody with two tiny babies, knowing they’d get word of Angie’s death just days away—

So, once again this week we’ll say good-bye: this time to Joel, Kim, and the kids as they leave the States for three years in Germany. This good-bye is filled with excitement—excitement for a new job and the adventures of experiencing Europe—filled with apprehension because they’ll be so far away.

Unlike some other good-byes, I’ll stretch out my hand for the Sovereign Hand that scripts all our fates, resting in the old familiar Touch—a Touch I’ve known from that very first toddler wave, framed by a VW bug. 

Monday, September 14, 2009

Bridal Showers

Journal to Christa— (from April 26, 2009)
Joy, being the self-proclaimed family historian, places these journals each week in a book. I give them to her on Sundays, so they don’t have fold lines. Today as Shane and Jay moved a grill to their back porch, Joy said, “I was going through some things and found this letter I saved that you had written me in college. It reminded me of your journals.” I do remember the letter, but for the life of me, I have no idea whom it was written about (which is probably a good thing); but I thought it would make you laugh this week.
To Joy—
Went to the shower today. I knew I needed to bring a good gift, so I did. It was very formal—at least compared to the jeans I’d worn. I had thought the sweater would dress up the jeans enough. Wrong! Most of the women were in hose and dresses. The bride’s mother was quite nervous; and at one point, I looked around and wondered how I’d ever, years ago, fallen in with such a group. Had they changed? I changed? Or had I been a misfit all along? It really didn’t matter. My Midwestern countrified upbringing on occasion rears up within me. I suppose I refuse to be something I’m not and insist on being proud of what I am, whatever that is.
Everything was, well—very organized. Nobody seemed quite touchable or real to me. I felt appreciative that they’d thought of me but couldn’t quite figure out why they had. It was an interesting morning, but I’d say that—
Bridal showers should definitely be in the summer, preferably where there’s no air conditioning, and I would definitely slouch—
…because marriages are not to be cold, stuffy, or formal. A marriage should be filled with laughter and comfort—like Great Grandma enfolding a small child’s frame into her rather corpulent self.
And the bows on packages should droop, just a little; and it wouldn’t hurt for the bride to have to lean back and wipe away a prickling of sweat from her brow from time to time—
…for marriages don’t come neatly packaged: They’re each a unique and, sometimes, not such a pretty bundle. And, you can’t fully know what’s in the box until you hold it in your hand. Right from the start, it takes some work—sometimes a little, sometimes a lot—but always enough to brush up a little sweat.

And all the guests should wear shorts and kick off their shoes at the door: and there should be lots of people—so many that some would have to sit on the floor—
…for marriages are made up of relationships with lots of folks that simply can’t be ignored. And at times the only way to do things is a little unconventional and laid back. And you just can’t worry about it all—
And there should be music—happy music that makes little kids want to twirl around and round until they all tumble to the floor in a profusion of laughter—
…because in marriage there must be joy—sometimes the frolicky kind, sometimes just the mellow understanding of care. But always remember: the joy must come from within, because you are satisfied with who you are and what God has made you. Joy can only bubble up from a soul of contentment. (It never really comes from the music at all, but from the listening.)
And each wrapping should be fastly secured, so that with sober commitment the bride can open each gift—
…for each day with her beloved is a gift unmeasurable, as a package to be opened with constant resolve. And each gift must be taken out—whether it’s good or it’s bad—and grasped, and transformed into a token of God’s grace.
And so, what should the bride wear to her bridal shower? A business suit, her gardening clothes, or a dress for a ball? Who knows and who cares, but I definitely like showers in the summer—and I think the bride should slouch!
So, Joy, what a morning it was for your dear mother; but you’ll be proud to know that I primly crossed my leg over the stain I noticed on my jeans and sat up quite proper.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


Journal for Christa—

Regardless of how well people know each other, once married there are always surprises. When Jay arrived at my grandmother’s, days before our wedding, I was quite taken aback upon discovering the entire back floor of his car inhabited by various potted plants he had acquired for our small efficiency apartment. I remember thinking, “Oh my, I guess he likes plants. I had no idea.” I think when I mentioned it to him, he responded something like, “You didn’t know?” and really I didn’t. I’m sure there were surprises for him on my part too.

Jay has a green thumb; I don’t. He was very organized. I’m not. He knows a lot about science. I don’t. I know a lot about literature. He doesn’t. I think out loud. He thinks internally. How interesting the surprises of learning a marriage partner—

Over the years we began to change. He isn’t as organized as he used to be, and I keep better track of a few things. I discovered if I would listen, he would talk. Basically, we learned how to take care of each other.

Now, after 34 years, we pretty much know what the other is thinking. It’s also nice that, more often than not, it’s the same thing; but every once in awhile, he’ll tell a story about himself I haven’t heard before or make a comment that causes me to look over and say, “Really?” Even though we’re alike in so many ways, my thumbs never turned green. Once a student’s parent gave me the cutest little houseplant. He stared down at it sitting on the counter and flatly addressed it: “Poor little plant. What cruel way to die—” 

Monday, September 7, 2009

12 Whatevers

Journal for Christa, (from Feb. 23, 2009)

Back in the day, Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses on the church door. I distinctly remember the moment I slapped my 12 whatevers on the kitchen cabinet with Scotch tape. Ironically, I don’t remember even one of the edicts. I also don’t recall what purpose I thought they’d serve since Jay and I alone inhabited a house, much too small, with four illiterate wee people and a dog. I doubt they made a splashing impression on Jay either when he came home from work. But, it felt good when paper in hand smacked the cabinet door!

We think of Martin Luther as a great man of accomplishment, and so he was. But even for Luther there were long years of waiting, pondering, and growth— How often in solitude did he contemplate his purpose in life?

Four degrees between us (3 were Jay’s), we spent the first ten years of our marriage waiting to “do what we were called to do.” Many things happened during those years that only distance brought to light. They were significant, foundational years under the ministry of Dr. Martin. In those days we went to church three times a week, not to mention Sunday school, training union, and choir practice. I heard so many of his sermons, I could quote his illustrations verbatim. Though a seminary professor and scholar of the Word, he was immensely practical. He had made marriage a focus of his ministry, weaving it into every sermon, laying a foundation to last us a life time. One of his illustrations was about a newly-married man who thought he loved his wife too much, so he sought the counsel of his pastor. “Do you love her more than Christ loves the Church?” the pastor questioned. “Of course, not,” replied the man. “Then you do not love her too much,” stated the wise pastor, “for that is your standard.” Husbands, love your wives as Christ so loved the Church and gave himself for it.

The most important relationship between people is the marriage relationship. And under the careful tutelage of the Martins’ ministry, we became “one flesh.” Oh, there were other things, like his annual sermon on anger or his sermon on how to handle criticism. All in all, they were not stagnant years, as they often seemed to be. They just may have been the most important years of our lives, for they dictated how the subsequent years would be lived. As for the “12 Whatevers,” that’s just a blank page—a day of frustration embedded in years of waiting, pondering, and growth.

Thursday, September 3, 2009


Journal for Christa—

One thing I remember about being a teenager is that I didn’t do anything that I was afraid I couldn’t do well. So, even though my junior high ninth grade English teacher insisted that I must take French when I went to high school, I didn’t. I was afraid. I’ve found that French would have been quite helpful, being an English teacher, and I’ve always regretted not heeding her advice. So, I have said for many years now, “Someday I’m going to learn French.”

I’m not teaching AP this year and was looking forward to the lighter grading load, when I discovered that French I was scheduled for my classroom during my planning period, and there were only 11 students in the class. Our French teacher is quite good and seemed rather excited at the prospect of my joining her class. Knowing the sadistic side of teachers, I think Madame Voss thought teaching a 55-year-old brain French might lighten up her life a little. (I do catch a twinkle in her eye when she looks at me.)

I had to skip the first day. (It is my planning period after all.) But the second day I slipped in and sat at the end of a row behind a nice girl—who unfortunately (for her) has ended up my practice partner—and whom I think will do quite well in American literature later on. So, our lessons commenced: Madame Voss says, “a bientot,” and the smart little ninth graders parrot back, “a bientot,” while I stare at the white board thinking, “aahhhhh…”

Yesterday Madame Voss finished a few minutes early so I slipped out and headed directly to the library and Shannon, my eternal encourager. “I’ve made a terrible mistake,” I blurted, “but I can’t quit. They’ll all be in my American lit. class in two years. And besides, I’ve already covered my book!”

It just reminds me of what Anne Graham Lots says about witnessing, “If you’re scared—well—then just do it scared!”

Monday, August 31, 2009

Lift Up Your Eyes

April 21, 2009

Journal for Christa— (from April 21, 2009)

I will lift up my eyes to the hills—
Where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
The Maker of heaven and earth
Ps. 121: 1 & 2

When I walk the greenway, I have a tendency to look down toward my feet, which isn’t totally foolish considering some of the old, uneven pavement. But, it’s not unusual to be half way across the north end of the soccer field, on the return trek home before I think to look up at Pikes Peak and the surrounding mountains that flank the west side of Colorado Springs. I often look at those mountains and recall the words in Psalm 121:1&2.

Sometimes “the peak” is framed by a sky so blue
only someone who’s gazed into the Colorado sky could imagine it.
At times a cloud hovers over the top in such a way
I wonder if the Israelites saw something similar
while Moses communed with God on Mount Sinai.
I’ve seen the setting sun reflect off clouds
that painted the whole horizon in brilliant pinks and oranges
amidst the majesty of that peak.
Then again—a front can settle in, rendering it totally invisible.

Resting my eyes on Pikes Peak reminds me of God—strong, majestic, awesome and fierce, “the Creator and Sustainer of all things,” whether I can see Him or not.

These days I’m making a conscious goal to “lift up my eyes,” whether I’m winding through the Village 7 greenway or treading this path of life.

—Take a look at the Peak today—

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Summer Showers

Journal for Christa—

I love the summer afternoon showers in Colorado. Maybe I love them more because we’ve gone through a lengthy drought cycle and I’ve missed them. But I think I love them because they come like a refreshing draft after a hot day, whisking away the heat, with clouds breaking apart to clear blue evening skies. The showers and Jay’s diligent hands have turned the yard into a verdant haven—a place of beauty and rest.

Oh, rest my troubled soul
As cooling showers of day—
Wash away the cares of life;
Renew my foot, upon Your way.

May I sense refreshing
In Your sovereign hand—
And help me see the beauty
As no other Master can.

And when the heat of noontime
Bears down upon my breast,
May the thought of evening showers
Bring comfort, peace, and rest.

Deb Borkert ‘09

Wishing you abiding rest in His garden of grace today.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Blue Heron

Journal for Christa, (from July 3, 2009)

The blue heron sits on the neighbor's roof—
waiting, patient, stealthy.
The curs`ed bird.
The fish have stopped their spawning.
How do they know he's there?
They've sunk to the bottom—
motionless, waiting, waiting.
I watch from the window—
I, too, waiting...

Jay says the blue heron is the most patient animal God created; one can also consume a 10 inch fish every 3 minutes, according to his Internet research. We had backyard ponds for years and were never bothered by them. Maybe it was because we had a real dog, a sheltie, not the little Molly dog of our old age. Regardless, a few years back, one discovered our sanctuary.
The large and majestic blue heron. He quite reminds me of a bad habit—one you really need to get rid of—but just when you think you have it licked, there it is again.

One year we netted the ponds through June, and that seemed to work; then he was back— so has been our saga with the big bird. Last year Jay meticulously strung rows of monofilament (fishing line) from the deck to the house. We were surprised that most people didn’t even notice it overhead. Then in May this spring, I opened the sliding door to catch him perched on a support board that held the winter netting. There he was, again, much to my dismay.

Everyone has a blue heron. They vary—things we shouldn’t, but do—things we should but don’t. Things we thought we had a handle on and then, when we least expect it, there it is—our personal blue heron.

Blue herons are beautiful creatures—and to see one spread its expansive wings and lift into the air can almost take my breath away…but, not if he has my fish in his throat. We can’t give up fighting our blue herons, whatever they are. Every time he appears, Jay threatens to “throw in the towel,” fill in the ponds, and be done with it. But, next morning, he always has a new plan.

In the book of Esther, King Xerxes had a garden with hangings of blue and white linens. Jay has one with hanging trellises of monofilament. King Xerxes was only interested in making impressions; Jay’s looking after his fish. I think it’s best we watch after the fish.

“Let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”
Galatians 6:9 (KJV)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Bean Snappers

Journal for Christa— (from July 30, 2009)

I’ve been snapping beans to can this morning. I had planned to snap them out on the veranda, but it was cool and rainy, so I sat at the dining room table where I could watch the hummingbirds instead.

Snapping beans doesn’t take much concentration. So much of my world requires focus. That’s probably why I don’t really mind snapping a few beans. My thoughts can wonder and snapping beans takes me back.

I imagine my midwestern grandmothers sitting on the porch, looking out over fields of corn, snapping beans in a slow, rhythmic cadence. Feet and legs tired from standing all day, they rest their eyes on rolling hills in the distance, hoping to catch a breeze on their faces—all the while strong fingers snapping off the ends of beans.

Different times bring different challenges. These women rose early, for each day held so much to do, and a summer’s day often ended in snapping beans. I wonder what they thought about. I wonder what they said to the other bean snappers.

Yet, so many things would be the same—a husband to know, children to tend, a God to wonder about—I wonder, if they could snap beans with me today, what would they tell me? I think they’d say,
“People today have too much stuff—
You need to let the Lord take care of that—
Snap them beans a little smaller.”

Monday, August 17, 2009

My Epiphany

Journal for Christa-- (from 2/2/09)

I’ve never concerned myself much with mammograms. Having very dense breast tissue, mine always come back “inconclusive.” So, putting one off six months until it was more convenient in the summer wasn’t even given a second thought. I even cancelled and rescheduled in June.
My sisters and I had gone to my mom’s for a week. Mel and Callie had flown out for a few days. We took a four generation picture and put it in the paper for Mom’s 75th birthday. An 8x10 hangs in Callie’s room.

The day Mel flew home, Jay called. Penrad had left a message. They wanted a diagnostic mammogram, which simply put means more pain than you can imagine. That took two weeks to schedule. They gave us the results there. They wanted two biopsies. Now we were bearing down on the start of school.

Angie, Mel's mother-in-law, had told Mel over July 4th that her cancer was stage 4 and to prepare herself. We decided not to tell the children. Mel had enough to worry about. In fact, we only told those we felt like we had to, and Joy and Shane only days before the biopsy. We missed the first morning of school, a Tuesday, and made arrangements for me to return early from senior retreat to go in for results the following week.

On Wednesday Mel called. Angie’s cancer was back. They gave her 4 weeks to 3 months, maybe. How could that be? She seemed fine, except for her eyes weren’t blinking as they should.

Thursday afternoon my cell vibrated in my pocket. Stepping into the hall, I took the call. My results were in: They were negative. It seemed surreal. “Are you sure?” I questioned.

We were leaving for retreat on Sunday, and Friday was a nightmare. One issue after another, the day dragged on. Later that evening while undressing for bed, I thought, “I’m so glad this day is over!” Immediately, my thoughts flew to Angie preparing for bed in Arkansas. Was she gazing into the mirror and sighing, “One of my days is over”?

Then came the epiphany: No day is so dismal to be wished away; no day so bleak we cannot find joy—

Each day that comes to a close in which we find ourselves still living is a day to be grateful for. For me, every day now is a good day. I don’t think I will ever again look at a day as simply a day—at least I hope I don’t.

Each day that we live and breathe and can reach down and touch the faces of little ones or gaze up into the eyes of those we love—that is a day to cherish—
--a very fine day, indeed.

Wishing you fine days…

Thursday, August 13, 2009


Journal for Christa—

Beth follows the blog. She emailed me this morning and said, “Could you write about a family vacation or a road trip... with all those kids?!?!? I tend to have high and unreasonable expectations for Norman Rockwell family moments...”

It doesn’t take children to turn an expected wonderful time into something else, so I responded as follows:

How's your summer winding down? We came to this camping "resort" to get away, just us, before we go back to school next week. We should have realized that "resort" and "camping" don't really make a good word combination. But I really can get Internet if I sit on the porch of the check-in place. It's quiet and that's nice. Jay's creek fishing this morning, so I hope he's having an enjoyable time. I think he left his hat in the trailer though, so he'll probably be sunburned on top. We also left the 2 toiletry bags on our sink upstairs at home. That's been interesting. In this little store, they did have one contact solution bottle and a couple of toothbrushes and toothpaste. I scrounged up some soap in the back recesses of the trailer. Shampoo and a comb would have been nice. I'm just going to use soap on my hair after I swim this afternoon. As for make up, well, I wouldn't exactly call this place a resort. I think I fit right in. We'd planned to go home tomorrow anyway. There will be no pictures posted of this trip on facebook.

Expectations just have a way of messing us up. I can’t help but have them, but often expectations and reality don’t match up—sometimes because my expectations were too unrealistic and sometimes because life is, well, just life. Life has a way of forcing us to be more flexible, a characteristic that’s supposed to be good for us according to longevity researchers. I guess all one can do is try to find the good in the situation she’s in.

I really did finally find the advertized Wi-Fi on the porch of the check-in building. The Jacuzzi is out (It has plants growing in it—real dirt and all.) But the view from the porch is nice and the bathrooms are clean. We had fun playing miniature golf and might try our hands at shuffleboard (heaven knows we’re old enough). It’s quiet and restful. So, when you expect a resort and end up in a campground, try not to miss what a campground can offer.

I’m trying. I seriously am trying—among all these flies and ants!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Helen Is a Princess

Journal for Christa— (from April 22, 2009)

Helen is a princess. If you don’t believe me, just ask her; and she will smack her palm against her two-year-old chest and state in no uncertain terms, “Yes, me, Helen, princess,” while nodding her head in affirmation. I blame Disney and those cute princess dresses (one of which we bought her for Christmas) and Joel for this misconception. And, when we do go to Disney World this September, we will eat in the castle with Helen and the OTHER princesses. I expect Helen to bring her crown.

But, the reality is that we often live in a world that feels more like Cinderella—cooking the food, scrubbing the floors, and dressing the other princesses. Do you ever look in the mirror and wish you had a fairy godmother?

Dreams put on hold... Expectations that never panned out… Life has a way of snaking in directions we didn’t expect or intend. But one thing I’ve learned is that those roads have a way of opening up to something good, not that they’re easy, because often they aren’t.

Would Cinderella appreciate the banquet had she not burnt her fingers on the stove? Would she be so gracious to those who serve if she herself had not served? Would she cherish life had she not touched death?

So, one day too, Helen will see that the road to being a real princess isn’t the fairytale one. But it will be a good one all the same because it was planned by the King just for her. But for now, I can’t imagine the meltdown that would occur if someone was to tell her that there hasn’t been any nobility in the Borkert family since William the Orange—and he lived a very, very long time ago.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Haman's Bane

Journal for Christa—

I’m a wimp. I always have been. I’ve thoroughly bought into the consequence concept and the idea of your sins “finding you out.” I hate pain and suffering. I’d do most anything to avoid it. I manage to get into enough trouble without asking for it. So, I think that’s one reason I especially like looking at people in the Bible, characters in classic literature, and people in general. When Jay and I are in an airport, he’ll open the laptop and log in; I, on the other hand, like to watch people and conjure up all kinds of wonderings about them—men meeting women with a bouquet of flowers, soldiers coming home, college students returning for Christmas—I like watching them all.

This summer I’ve been reading Esther with a group of women from church. I like the book of Esther. I always have. Because it was smaller to haul around than my current Bible, I picked up an old one I used years ago. Though the binding cover is missing, the pages naturally fell open to Esther, where I discovered several comments in the margins. I’ve always found Esther an interesting woman, but this week the focus was on Haman. Half way through the story, the natural place for the turning point, the tables unexpectedly turn on Haman—the man who had found favor with the king.

Important people. They seem so un-American to me, in the land where everyone is supposed to be equal. But there they are—the beautiful people, the important ones. Important people live in a different realm than I do. I suppose their worries and concerns are far different from mine. Sometime before the narrative opens, Haman had found favor with the king. Perhaps he’d been in the inner circle for some time. One thing’s for sure, he felt pretty comfortable there. There should have been warning signs for Haman concerning Xerxes, the man who had forever banished the queen from his sight in a crazy drunken stupor and who had agreed to exterminate an entire ethnic group on a whim.

Haman, a man others likely envied, fell from favor as swiftly and smoothly as turning a key in a well-oiled lock. How different in character was Mordecai, Esther’s cousin. He simply did his work at the gate, which was not likely a shabby job. Perhaps he’d studied the king closely and knew his ways. After being honored so extravagantly, the narrative states he returned to his work at the gate. Mordecai did use his influence through Esther to accomplish what was right, but he didn’t seem to think so highly of himself. Remember his admonition to Esther? …that if she refused, the Jews would be saved through another avenue? Unlike Haman, Mordecai used his influence to help others. And though God is never directly mentioned, Mordecai put his faith in something bigger than important people. I hope I do the same.

Monday, August 3, 2009


Journal for Christa—(from January 25, 2009)

My mom used to call me every week. All the biblical training aside, I think my best teacher on parenting was, and probably still is, my mother. My mom is just an ordinary lady, living on a farm in southern Illinois.

Oh, how I dreaded telling her I was pregnant with Mel, and Chris not even a year old. No telling what she said to my dad when she got off the phone, but she’s always had the attitude of taking life as it comes. And she definitely was then, having just finished chemo.

So, on the first anniversary of her cancer surgery, she was dressing Joy for kindergarten in a green dress she’d brought with her. She’d come to take care of us: Mel had just been born. My mom came with every baby. That’s how she spent her vacation days from work. Dad would bring her down and come back for her in a week.

Once when Jay told me I should just make a schedule in order to get everything done, she told me in a nice, tactful way that with four small children that really just wouldn’t work and that there were some things men just didn’t understand.

It seems strange now to fill that role with the girls. I hope I do it as well as she does. During the dark days when Mel was dealing with the imminence of Angie’s death, I told her, “If you can’t get a hold of me, call Grandma. That’s who I always call.”

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Seventh Year

Journal for Christa—
Dr. Martin, our pastor when we were first married, used to hit marriage long and hard in his sermons. One of the things he would say, if I remember correctly (which is a caveat I need to make considering how little I remember from that epoch), was that the 7th year of marriage was thought to be a difficult one.

Because Joel’s job will change and they are moving to Germany for 3 years, the close of their 7th year feels like the ending of an era for them. I suppose it became more pronounced when we met Kim at my parents last week to visit shortly and take their dog back to Colorado where he will spend the next 3 years with my canine loving sister. On facebook Joel reflected on the struggles and milestones of their first 7 years that Fritzi had been a part of.

As for me, there was no closure event to mark our 7th year of marriage. I was perceptive enough to note when our children were born, which seems to be the gauge of my 20s. Our 7th year began with Chris being 6 months old and ended with the birth of Melody just 2 weeks later. I don’t recall anything much about our marriage, just that Jay worked an incredible number of hours, and I changed and washed an incredible number of diapers. The only specific thing that stands out that year revolved around a tragedy that our friends experienced; perhaps that’s because it was much larger than Jay, me, or us.

It makes total sense that the 7th year would be a challenge. At 7 years people have lived together long enough to learn most of their mate’s foibles. Work has become just that, work. Then there are diapers, enough disposables to reach the moon and back at least 23 times. Fading are the idyllic visions of adult life. Young love is moving back stage as old love is moving toward the center, as it must.

Earlier this year, because of the twists of Mel’s world, Mom and I were discussing married love. Mom said, “Mel is just thinking of young love. Old love is different.” Old love is birthed through struggles and trials and the dailyness of life that each couple decides to take on together. They are often things not chosen or planned. They are things that are.

Monday, July 27, 2009


Journal for Christa— (from June 1, 2009)

When I graduated from college, Jay figured it would take him two years to finish his Master’s. I think that is where the concept of “two years” came from. In two years we would move out West and become teachers.

But, before two years were up, I was pregnant with Joy; and the caveat of teaching, we knew, was that I would have to work as well. So, after Joy was born, it was “two more years” and we’d move out West and begin teaching. But once again, before those years were accomplished, I was expecting, and we stretched—very slowly—two years into ten. Those were often discouraging years.

It wasn’t that we were unhappy. The years of babies are never regained—mirrored in grandparenting somewhat—but never regained. And it wasn’t that we felt “out of God’s will” because we weren’t. But, out upon the horizon, just beyond our reach, beckoned the ideal image of changing lives forever. And it so seemed it would never come.

The spring after Melody was born, Guy and Terry (friends who were co small group leaders with us) insisted that we go off for a weekend. Childless at the time, they packed their bags, came to our house, getting a weekend crash course in insanity.

Jay and I went to an inn isolated in the rolling hills of north Georgia. We played tennis, swam in the pool, and mostly sat in rocking chairs on a wrap around porch, which looked out over serene views of the Great Smokey Mountains. We were reading and editing a book Jay had written, totally engulfed in our own world.

One afternoon, with typed manuscript in tow, we were descending the few steps from the porch when two older ladies passed us. They stopped and inquired, “You two are teachers, aren’t you?” Taken aback, we both blurted, “yes,” having never taught a single day in our lives beyond student teaching, but we were teachers.

Now, after teaching almost 25 years, that memory makes me smile. For there was plenty of time—days, months, and years, stretching out into weariness—if only we had then known. Youth has a way of rushing things: always seeking the next phase, peeking around corners, anxious as a toddler, certain it’s missing something just beyond its fingertips. It is the great myth of youth.

Do not get discouraged in the days you seem to be marking time. The days of each life are numbered, and there are just the right days to accomplish God’s purpose. Live and wait—for when the time is right, you will know it—and that path, too, will open up before you, like the first rose of spring—fresh as the new day it is…

Thursday, July 23, 2009


Journal for Christa, (from June 15, 2009)

It seems like there’s always someone in every literature class who just can’t wait to see how a novel ends. So, in the quiet privacy of her room (I say “she” because it’s always a girl.), she flips to the back of the book and reads the ending. I usually give her a hard time, and nothing makes the others madder than for someone who’s read ahead to reveal a crucial element before the rest are there.

Tonight we started a Beth Moore Bible study on the book of Esther. Beth referred often to Esther’s destiny… and ours; but having read Esther several times over the years, the burning question I always wish I knew is— “What happened to her after she saved a whole nation of people from the wicked Haman?”

I’ve read that some think she may have died soon after her story, since her life from that point on falls silent. I don’t know. I suppose if one were to create a blockbuster, the beautiful Esther, shrouded in Persian opulence, would breathe her last in the devoted arms of King Xerxes. To me, that seems too simplistic and not the way life generally turns out. I somehow see her cloistered in a harem, soon forgotten, replaced by another voluptuous form. How hard would it be to fall from queen to harem girl? Now, that’s an Esther who intrigues me. What did she do then? Did she seek the face of the God who had saved her? Or, as the great deed receded farther and farther into the past, did she grow old, regretful, and bitter? We may never know.

Another woman in the Bible whom I would have appreciated more information on is Abigail. It sort of seems that David took her as a wife out of gratitude or obligation. It wasn’t like he really knew her. The foolish Nabal dies, and then comes David to bring her home with him. Have you ever wondered just where in the palace she was the night David called for Bathsheba? A woman mature and wise, what did she know? And did she say anything—or deem it wiser to keep silent?

Women. Women who made a splash on the pages of Scripture, but afterward are never heard from again—living in obscurity—where mostly the rest of us live everyday. I wish I knew how they lived there. People seem to have the capacity to do great deeds when great deeds are required, but most of their lives—and ours—are spent just doing regular things. We cook dinner. We clean house. We haul kids around and feel lucky to check facebook. Often we get to the end of the day and feel like we’ve done nothing, but that is not so. We all have a world we touch, and only eternity will reveal significant deeds that may not have seemed so at the time.

I look forward to our study in Esther and think I’ll learn many valuable lessons because that’s the part of Esther’s life God wanted revealed. I’m not sure how Beth Moore will sum up the end of Esther, but I don’t think skipping to the last chapter will tell me all the things I wish I knew.

Monday, July 20, 2009

--to be a whole world

—To be the mom of a little one is to be a whole world—

I guess you sort of lose your identity in motherhood in a way. I sometimes thought about that, when I had time to think. As toddlers Joy and Joel were a bit of an attraction in the grocery store (the only place I really went) since they both sported brilliant red hair. Old ladies constantly stopped to chat with them in the grocery cart. Then they always turned to pregnant me and stated emphatically, “Enjoy them. They grow up so fast!” It wasn’t that I didn’t believe them; it’s just that the years from birth to kindergarten seemed so long. And I did enjoy them—everyone.

In many ways they were years I put away myself. I think I spent a lot of years afterwards searching for myself, only to realize one day that I’d always been, and I was just me.

I’ve also come to realize (now that I’m one of those “old ladies”) that the role of motherhood is a most fulfilling one after all—far greater than any class I’ve ever taught or any recognition anyone has ever given me. Beyond the diapers and the endless housework, beyond listening to little ones learning to read, beyond all-day Saturday wrestling tournaments and band concerts and choir concerts await a clean house, pressed clothes in the closet, weddings to people as precious as your very own kids, Sunday dinners (with adult children), and the sound once again of tiny, busy feet.

Of all the things Jay and I might accomplish in our lifetime, the one we’ll always feel most blessed about is our children. I guess when we became one, we really did lose our identities. Then we became 6, then 10, then more. And now, I wouldn’t want to be anyone else but who I am. I am a mom, and to be a mom is to be a whole world.