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.”