Thursday, December 30, 2010

Christmas is Over

Journal for Christa—

Untrimming the trees, taking down garland, grading the papers I’ve put off until the last few days of break…Christmas is over. And so we leave, historically, Mary and Joseph to raise the baby born in a manger in silence and unwatched. In the length and dailiness of raising children, I wonder how often they wished for an angelic visitation. Did the years grind by ever so slowly that all those incarnation events didn’t even seem real?

We, too, raise our children in much the same way. After all, Joseph and Mary were just ordinary people. It seems to take so very long, and we feel that people don’t know the work we’re putting into it. Kim asked the other day while we were Skyping if our kids were “as bad as Breck and Helen.” I kind of laughed because it just takes so long to raise kids—a lot longer than 4 to 6 years.

Even though it was long after our children were grown, in devotions one morning our principal shared something he’d read on a blog from a pastor he follows. I don’t remember at all who he said it was, but I thought at the time he’d captured the essence of childrearing clearly. Though not a direct quote, here is basically what he said:

There are two things we need to make sure we teach our children: (1) that they are not the center of the universe and (2) that you and God love them more than they could possibly imagine. 

I believe that is true, and I believe that takes a long time. Babies do come into this world thinking it should revolve around them. I also don’t think the method in how we teach them is so important. Maybe that’s what it means to “train a child in the way he should go.” The key is that they get it. The happiest, most contented people I know are those who are unselfish and know that God and others love them.

With only one brief glimpse into Jesus’ childhood, we again pick up His story after He is a grown man—at a wedding, celebrating one of life’s happiest events. The day after Christmas, our niece, Anna, posted on Facebook a picture of a shiny diamond ring embedded in a red rose.

So, as we close the Christmas story and the last few days of this year, we too look forward to the next year with weddings and joy. We look forward with hope because we know that God is the center of the universe, and He loved us so much He took on humanity to bring us salvation.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Time is Out of Joint

Journal for Christa—

At the end of Act I, Hamlet states that “time is out of joint.” That’s kind of how yesterday seemed to me. We had a big Christmas this year with children, grandchildren, my mom, sisters and their families. We did Christmas early—on Monday. Then, after the cars were packed and the kids left yesterday, Jay and I went to Target to get out (and avoid cleaning). At Target everything seemed wrong. The toy section was packed, Christmas music filled the air, and we kept wondering: “Where are all the after Christmas sales?” Things did seem out of kilter.

It made me wonder how Joseph and Mary might have felt on the real Christmas. Bethlehem was crawling with people, mostly descendants of David. They were there for a census; Joseph and Mary were there for the birth of the Savior. The masses were probably a mix of people: some excited to see relatives, some just perturbed for the inconvenience. People everywhere, but Joseph and Mary didn’t totally fit in.

I suppose Christmas really should be a reminder to Christians that life is supposed to be a little out of joint. We walk with our feet squarely in this world, but we should also be quite aware of another. 

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Godly Girls

Journal for Christa—

Tomorrow is “Tasty Tuesday.” That's what the Godly Girls (aka: The Making of a Godly Woman class) decided to call our end of the semester party. It’s our last regular class period before the final final, literally—right before Christmas break on Friday.

Someone suggested we invite the godly men, but we nixed that right away. It crossed my mind to invite our guest speakers we enjoyed, but in the end—it seemed right to share a meal together, just ourselves.

So, I took in the sparkling cider today to stick in the refrigerator before I left. And, if someone forgets to bring something tomorrow, it won’t matter—we’ll make do. As that’s kind of how we’ve often stumbled through this semester—girls sometimes seeking what they knew not—with a teacher often at a loss in so many ways. Some days were boring; some ran smoothly, and some days God showed up. Those were the best.

Tomorrow, we’ll spread a tablecloth over desks we’ve shoved together, slap paper plates on silver chargers, and dine on lasagna and enchiladas with plastic utensils and cloth napkins. It’ll be kind of eclectic—kind of like our class—kind of like life.

I hope the girls have decided that godly women come in all shapes and sizes. That they all have gifts unique to each individual—gifts to honor God and to encourage each other along life’s way. I pray they’ll value God’s word all their days—that they’ll always remember the ear of God is only a prayer away—

As for me, I’ve gained a new appreciation for those who attempt to teach us what it is to be godly. The task is far harder than any English class I’ve ever taught, because it’s far more important than writing a good paper.

There’s something wonderful about eating with people. So often it’s where we laugh, where we share, where we love. So tomorrow, I’ll sport a skirt and arrive laden with silver chargers and cloth napkins in glass rings. And, we will party—the godly girls and me.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Blind Man

Journal for Christa—

An interesting story takes place in John 9 after Jesus heals a man from blindness on the Sabbath day.

They brought to the Pharisees the man who had been blind. Now the day on which Jesus had made the mud and opened the man’s eyes was a Sabbath. Therefore the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. “He put mud on my eyes,” the man replied, “and I washed, and now I see.” Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” But others asked, “How can a sinner do such miraculous signs?” So they were divided. (vs. 13-17, NIV)

They were divided—caught up with their rules…disputing whether or not to discredit the miracle because of their rules. Wouldn’t it seem that people would just be impressed with the miracle? After all, the man had always been blind—“from his birth.” Can you imagine his wonder? To see, really see, all the things others had described to him over the years…his hands, his feet, the sky, the mud on his fingertips as he washed in the pool. What would it have been like to see him? But, the Pharisees were focused on the rules and missed the miracle.

I wonder how often I’m focused on traditions—my daily activities—and miss the miracle when it’s right in front of my face.

Now, I ask: Just who really was blind?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Reflecting Today

Journal for Christa—

When our kids were little, I never thought life would ever change. Each day was a seamless continuation into the next, and often I was just weary. But, we weren’t far into April when I knew that change would be a theme this year, at least for me. And as the year comes shortly to a close, I’m reflecting on some of the changes in me—and the people I love:

My friend of over 20 years fell in love with her soul mate. (Some things in life are worth waiting for.)
Joel and Kim’s Germany assignment took us to Europe for 3 weeks last summer. (Some things in the world are just fun.)
Joy is pregnant. (Sometimes God answers our deepest prayers.)
Friends have found new jobs. (Sometimes good comes out of pain.)
We got a new grandbaby! (Some things you just can’t get enough of.)
I’ve taught a Bible class for girls. (Sometimes God uses you in spite of yourself.)
I think I’m finally starting to quit just learning about God and starting to listen to Him. (Sometimes wisdom does come with age.)

And then for the things in life that haven’t changed:
—a God who’s always good, even when we don’t understand Him
—a family, which I love and loves me back
—seeing you, often from a distance
—and Jay, a dance partner who’s never let me fall

I hope you can find a little time to reflect back on your life this year as well. Christmas is coming—when God changed the whole world forever. 

Thursday, November 25, 2010


Journal for Christa—

Some of my favorite memories in life are of Thanksgiving. As a child we spent most of our Thanksgivings in southern Illinois with my grandparents. Coming from a large extended family, I was always surrounded by lots of relatives—baby cousins to cuddle, older ones to envy, uncles and grandpas to tease you, aunts to hug, and my grandmas could whip up more food than an Army cook.

When we were first married, living away from family, Jay worked at a food warehouse where the hours surrounding Thanksgiving and Christmas were plenty and required. So, my friend Maxine and I built our own extended family of friends on Thanksgivings. We packed our houses with people, love, and food. And neither of us will ever forget the year that a neighbor dog ate the platter of dark meat right out of the back of Carol’s hatchback car. When Carol whipped back into the house with the two turkey legs in the untouched pan and sliced the meat off to make it look like more, I learned a valuable lesson: If two legs are all you’ve got, then two legs will have to do.

Once we moved out West, Thanksgivings were always Borkert celebrations, giving our children the same sense of love and belonging that I experienced so many Thanksgivings ago. Some piece of every wild game had to be saved and cooked on Thanksgiving. One year Jay’s poor mom dressed and cooked the most pathetic looking little squirrel that Joel had shot (I wouldn’t touch it), and his dad would eat a slice of every piece of meat and brag on how great it tasted. Those were bountiful years, even though Chris once convinced the parents on the wrestling team that we only ate potatoes the week before each payday, which was not true.

Of all my Thanksgivings, only two have been quiet. One was my first year of college. I was so homesick when I called Grandma’s and could hear all the voices in the background. And this year—but today, I simply feel thankful. While others were stuffing turkeys and running around their kitchens like one, I rolled over at 5:30 and went back to sleep. Instead of baking cinnamon rolls, I ate a few graham crackers to hold me over until we go to Joy’s for breakfast, where she’s making the rolls as I leisurely write. This year, I’ve taken time to gaze up at the mountains, envision all my children in their festivities, note what a good man Jay is, and been thankful. This afternoon Jay and I will join my sister at Mimi’s CafĂ© to eat their very good turkey dinner and come back here for pie. (I still do pie better than any restaurant—just sayin’). Though different this year, it’s a good Thanksgiving and one I’m thankful for.

Then Sunday, everyone will be back in town, and I’ll rip that old bird out of the frig and stuff it in the oven to cook while we’re at church. And again, with the house full of friends and family, it too will be Thanksgiving.

Christa, wishing you a most wonderful Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Time for the Groomer

Journal for Christa—

Molly dog has been standing at the top of the stairs and barking at us all morning. Finally, as I stared up at her from the bottom of the stairs, I had a moment of understanding. She doesn’t want to walk down the stairs because they’re clean. (I just ran the carpet cleaner over them yesterday.)

Cleanliness disturbs her. She prefers her world stinky dirty. Since she stinks, I guess she thinks the rest of her world should too.

Maybe that’s why I often feel more comfortable navigating this world rather than my spiritual walk. I think it’s time to schedule an appointment for both of us with the Groomer.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Taking the Time

Journal for Christa—

While walking this evening, I was reflecting on how very impatient is our nature. I have a student in AP who wants to meet over lunch. She’s so anxious to write an 8-9 timed writing right now. If I could tell someone over lunch how to do that, I’d publish it, get rich, and quit grading those timed writings each week. I’ve learned from teaching many years that writing at that level comes slowly. She may or may not ever write an 8-9 paper, but I’m fairly certain it won’t happen this week or even the next. But writing this week and the next will make her better—closer to her desire.

I also teach a class titled “The Making of a Godly Woman.” It sounds like such a fun class—but the reality of it is—when I talk too long about how to do more in-depth Bible study, many of the girls lose interest. Yet, there are so many things in life that don’t come with a quick fix. The very quality of it demands time—and often, much of it.

Years ago I used to sew, and I was pretty good at it. I would carefully measure the pattern to the straight-of-the-grain, meticulously cut out each piece, and sew each pinned piece, pressing open every seam. I never sewed very fast, but I did sew well.

Yet, I clearly see in myself that same impatience—I too desire depth with a cursory reading of Scripture. From right living to fulfilling relationships, I want it now. It isn’t that I don’t want to work at it; I just have that grand ol' American feeling that if I work hard, it’s my right that it will come fast. Because of that, I wonder how often we give up too soon—on a paper, on a godly life, on the things we truly desire.

My friend Beth told me once she’d seen an old couple waltzing and it was beautiful. You can’t waltz beautifully when you’re old unless you’ve been waltzing a long time. Some things are worth working hard at for a very, very long time.

So, take heart—keep writing, keep reading, keep waltzing—

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Welcoming Change

Journal for Christa—

For some reason this year, I felt like welcoming fall. Many people look forward to the changing of the seasons. For me, though, I’ve often wished I could live in perpetual summer—some place like maybe Hawaii—

Maybe I lament the coming of fall because it’s usually so much earlier. But, here we sit with the first quarter finished with barely a frost—unbelievable. But when the recent coolness blew in over the mountains, I knew for certain—the dream is over—change is on the way.

There have been a lot of changes already—new classes, new grandbaby, but there’s still that itch—some longing—a mystery—. And, as sure as the hint of frost is in the morning air, change is on its way. It’s funny how sometimes you can just tell.

For Chris and Stef, recently, it came in the package of a new baby. (I wish I’d been there.) For Helen, it was her first day of German school (I wish I’d been there too.) For Callie it was flying a kite on her third birthday. (And again, I wish I’d been there.)

Often change scares us, like the dread of a long, cold winter. But, change can be as adventuresome as a new baby, the first day of school, or flying a kite. Does it sound like I need a change?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

A Serious Journal

Journal for Christa—

This is a serious journal because I’ve been thinking for some time now—thinking about marriage and what happens there long term. Why some people make it and others don’t. I suppose this mulling over was prompted by people who just walked away—just walked away after years—30 years, maybe 40.

I heard one person say, “There’s someone else; there always is.” But somehow I don’t think so. I’m more inclined to think that at that point it was more of a desperation—a thought of, “I’m not spending the last 15-20 years of my life like this.” I don’t really know. I didn’t know them well.

But that prompted another question. Why would people in that much trouble for all those years not realize their train was headed for a cliff? And if they knew, why would they ever keep barreling onward toward certain destruction, unless they just didn’t think it was certain?

Then that led to a decision—the decision that before I could write such a journal, I needed to make certain where my train was headed. Maybe I shouldn’t make assumptions. So, waiting for the timely moment, I just said to Jay, “Now is there anything about me that bugs you? Because I don’t want you thinking in ten years you can’t deal with it anymore and walking out. Just tell me, because if there is— I will fix it!”

My drama gets little response from Jay, so he looked up from the couch where he was lying and simply stated, “Not a thing.” But, our conversation continued as so: (While reading, remember that I’m rather passionate about marriage and am very expressive; Jay is also passionate about marriage and is as calm as a placid lake on a windless day.)

“How could people not know? Really! How could they not know there were issues?”
“They knew.”
“But why? Why would they ignore that for all those years? That doesn’t happen over night.”
“It was dead long ago. They quit having fun together… a long time ago.”
And that ended the conversation.

So, these days I’m thinking about fun. And you can believe that afternoon, about an hour later, I took up my dancing shoes and headed off to lessons—for two solid reasons: Kathy’s lessons are cheap. And Kathy’s lessons are fun!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Scout's Glow Worm

Journal for Christa—

When we stay at either Melody’s or Stef’s, it’s hard—nearly impossible—to tell what time it is in the mornings. The bedroom windows are heavily draped to trick the baby and toddler brains into thinking it’s still quite dark outside and way too early to get up. I don’t know how well it works with the kids, but it’s pretty effective with us.
New baby, Timber

During our recent visit to Kansas City to see the new baby, Timber, and to visit with everyone, we shared a room with not-quite-two Scout, who’s been sequestered to the pack n play, as he can now crawl out of his crib.

When Scout settles in for the night, he goes…prepared. One puzzle, a book, a menagerie of cars, the pile of little peoples we’d brought him—and most importantly…his glow worm. (Actually, the glow worm just stays in the pack n play.)

You can imagine our surprise and delight when he awoke in the darkness our first morning there and continually pushed the glow worm in order to see to put his puzzle together. Totally unaware of our presence in the guest bed, he continued to “light” his world by the glow of his toy—looking at his book, playing with his toys and talking to himself. Such is how Scout occupies himself until people begin to move about.

As I watched Scout’s routine each morning, it occurred to me that sometimes in reality it might not really be as dark as it seems. It was also interesting to watch his confident routine of waking in the dark. He simply reaches for his glow worm to light his world.

Sometimes, I need a “glow worm” in the darkness—
Oh yeah, I have Him…right here inside me.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Autumn Sunsets

Journal for Christa—

After rising early this morning and driving back from Kansas City, I’m looking at the most beautiful Colorado sunset—stripes of bold pink splashed across the tops of the front range, with trees filling in the foreground like shadows. Scenes like these make me wish I were an artist.

Colorado greeted us with a bite of coldness that awakened the realization that winter is not far behind. So, with my ten dollar off coupon, I bought a pair of pants at Kohls today. I like winter just through Christmas, but you know a Colorado winter is just gathering arctic winds at that point. That thought alone can send my spirits downward, but the long winter is not here yet. And the faint orange glow over the peaks beacons me to focus on the things I love:

Newborn baby yawns
Big toddler eyes that say, “I love being with you!”
Baby babblings with the words “Granny and Gampa” tossed in
The last research paper graded
Facebook news from Germany
Skypes from the girls in Texas
Seeing you on Sundays
Crawling under my mom’s handmade quilt with Jay at night
Seeing splashes of pink and orange across the evening sky—

Even though winter will come, tonight I’ve turned on the heat, the Ipod, and chose to think instead of the things that bring warmth to my life. 

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Party

Journal for Christa—

I went to a baby shower this afternoon. I’d invited myself. (You know you’re postmenopausal when you invite yourself to someone else’s party.) It’s a friend of Joy’s, and I kind of expected the party would be given by her friends. It wasn’t. It was mostly family. (So—not only did I invite myself to someone else’s party, I invited myself to someone else’s family party.) And, I’m glad I did.

It was a shower for a twice wanted baby—an adopted baby. Through Joy, I’d traveled the journey of medical procedures and disappointments, the adoption process, the waiting, and the call for a baby, born six weeks early—a baby in distress—the fears, the long out-of-town hospital stay—the homecoming.

As kind of an outsider, I relished in the story from the neighbor who shared they (the neighbors) all thought she’d left her husband because she was suddenly just—gone—and her mom would come by for stuff during the day when her husband was at work—

The story of when she sent announcements to the neighbors and the one who said, “I told my co-workers I was such a bad neighbor because I didn’t even know you were pregnant.” “Oh, I wasn’t!” quipped Joy’s friend.

Watching the grandmas hold him and stroke his baby face. The piles of clothes the great aunt had bought him (mostly saying how much he loves his aunt). The high school friend from out-of-state, and of course the close friends that included Joy. And then—there was me—because I’d invited myself to the party—the party that had seen the pain, joined in prayer, laughed in joy.

I don’t always invite myself to parties, but maybe I should more often.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Un Stars

Journal for Christa—

Peter, James, and John—they were the stars, often referred to as Jesus’ inner circle. Take them away, and that leaves nine. Take away Judas, the betrayer, and that leaves eight. Eight disciples who walked with God, saw the miracles, and went on to live lives of service after Jesus’ ascension. Little is said about some of them—not more than the mention of their names on the list.

There is, though, a brief conversation (recorded for us) among Jesus, Philip, and Andrew preceding the feeding of the five thousand. Jesus asks them where they’ll buy bread for so many people. Philip says that it would take “eight months salary,” and Andrew mentions the “five loaves and two fish,” but dismisses them as well.

In thinking about Philip and Andrew, I have to admit I’m very much like them in this regard. Philip basically says, “We don’t have that kind of money.” Andrew, perhaps somewhat more optimistic, points out what’s there. (Maybe he’d been wondering about food since he’d already taken notice of how little there was.) Regardless, they weren’t expecting much. How foolish of them. How foolish of me.

Jesus can work miracles, but just because He can doesn’t mean he will. And because he doesn’t always, perhaps that’s why I rarely look for them. It’s interesting that Jesus brought the whole thing up to begin with because He “already had in mind what he was going to do” (Jn. 6:6).

I tend to worry about all sorts of things from people to situations. I know Jesus can and does work miracles. I’ve seen some of them. But, in the daily routine of life, I’m not usually looking for them.

But, just what if—
What if something really breathtaking is around the next curve—
—because God already has in mind what he’s going to do?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

"I'm Gonna Be Sick"

Journal for Christa—

This summer we spent three weeks in Europe with Joel, Kim, Breck, and Helen. One thing I learned about three-year-old Helen is that when she’s overwhelmed and doesn’t like the situation, she’ll emphatically state, “I’m gonna be sick!” And, as often as not, she’ll make good on it.

Last week was kind of a sick week for me. I even told people I felt sick because I did. I—like Helen—felt overwhelmed, and I didn’t like the situation one bit. One night I moaned, “I’m not going to make it.” Jay just kind of gave me the look. I don’t know exactly what “the look” says, but it isn’t bad. It isn’t scolding. It’s just the look.

Then, in chapel an old classmate of Joel’s presented a ministry he works with that feeds children in very poor countries. He found me after chapel, and as we chatted with another teacher he’d had in high school, he suddenly burst into laughter, shook his head, and stated, “I can’t get over how much Helen looks like you!”

That’s not the half of it—cause I’ve been sick!

Strolling under forests green,
In a land for which I long,
Where rest and solace comfort me,
And love’s rich hand grows strong—
Where azure oceans kiss the sky,
And children’s laughter sings.
The gentle rhythm of the tide—
The distant church bell rings—

Take me back to God’s expanse
And let His Spirit fold me in
If only in my mind.
Behold! Upon awakening,
A petal—left of Thine.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

But Mary Pondered

Journal for Christa—

“Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”

Pondering. What does it take to ponder? I wonder when Mary pondered. Was it as she washed out garments by a stream or as she ground meal for bread? Did she sit by lamplight mending a tunic for our Lord—her Lord? And when she pondered, I wonder just what she was thinking—what was she wondering?

To ponder—when do we ponder? I don’t wring laundry out in a stream; I toss it in a machine. I wouldn’t know how to grind meal if it was expected of me; my homemade bread is kneaded in a bread maker—dishes stacked in a dishwasher, and the notion of walking to a market would never ever seriously cross my mind.

I think Mary pondered as she went about her daily work—perhaps a much more productive multitasking than what we attempt to engage in today. I fear we’ve lost the natural inclination to ponder, to wonder, to think, to evaluate.

When I was a young mother, I think I pondered while nursing babies, while vacuuming and folding a mountain of clothes, while washing supper dishes. But, today I am rich, historically speaking, and I don’t really do many pondering tasks. I walk and that is good for me.

Pondering—a lost art of our culture. I wonder what would happen if this weekend, instead of assigning reading, I told my students to change and make all the beds in the house, to mow the lawn, to clean out a flowerbed—all without their ipod buds in their ears. I wonder what would happen. Would they ponder?

“Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” Mary had much to ponder—and so do we.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Just One Inch

Journal for Christa—

I wish God had made me just one inch taller—

I don’t know what it is about the beginning of school that makes me feel like I ought to clean—Jay says it’s because I don’t want to grade papers. I think it may be that the list I made at the beginning of summer is somewhere on my desk upstairs. Whatever it is, it’s Labor Day—so it seemed a good day to labor. And, if I were just an inch taller, I could have reached the top of the cabinet doors with my Mr. Clean sponge. I could also have reached the top corner of the dining room window on the ladder outside, but I couldn’t. I needed one more inch.

Unlike today’s activities, for the most part, I think people ought to spend most of their time laboring in their areas of passion.

I have a neighbor who’s crazy about drama. She amazed me when I worked with her 20 years ago, and she amazes me still. She directs a few plays every year—with her church and with the homeschool group she works with. I don’t think she ever gets paid money for her labor, but she loves it. She loves seeing a vision become reality; she loves the rush; she loves the opportunity to give her plays a spiritual spin. And, when kids and parents appreciate her, that’s just kind of extra. It’s her passion. People often get tired working with their passions, but they rarely get weary.

But—today is Labor Day, and cleaning house is NOT my passion. One can’t always only do the things she loves. Some things just must be done. They are responsibilities. As much as I like my house, I’d never spend all my time cleaning it. That would just make me weary. I have, though, often thought, when cleaning the freezer chest—

If God had just made me three inches taller…

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Surprised by Love

Oh, Christa—

Today, I would speak to you of love, as I have seen love unfold before my eyes this year—not the often fickle love of adolescence, but love that’s rich, deep, selfless and most fulfilling—love unlooked for. If C. S. Lewis were writing of it, he’d have called it—Surprised by Love.

Often during the dark and confusing days of last spring, my dear friend—a kindred spirit—fell in love, with all the solidity that comes with maturity and all the freshness that comes with youth.

How many Monday mornings did she lift me from my malaise with her joy—her glow, her smile, her exuberance? It’s as if love suddenly awakened something in her, and it spilled over, out, and touched us all!

It is beyond expression to watch love spring forth. It’s magic—a miracle. And, I can’t help but wonder—

Did Adam so dance with Eve through Eden’s expanse?
Did Rebecca’s heart so leap in her chest when she first saw Isaac crossing the field?
Will Christ so greet us at Heaven’s gate?

There are many facets to love—sometimes quiet, sometimes iron strong. But this day, I would focus on love in its playful form—the part that makes us laugh, the part that makes us really live, the part that makes us burst forth in joy.

Today, Christa, I would have you see love—
                                         … such love as this!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Calm

Journal for Christa—

It’s early Tuesday morning after a night of rain, and I’m at retreat with the seniors. Sitting here under a gazebo with a cool mountain breeze passing through—and not a kid in sight—I relish the silence, the only sounds—the fountains in the pool that run continually to cool the hot spring water.

I need places of calm. We all need places of calm. But, where to find them in our noisy, busy world? I’m convinced that I’m often way too busy about insignificant things. We fill our lives with noise that distracts and hides the calm. I want to find the calm—not just this morning, but where I live.

Down in the Springs, I can see Cheyenne Mountain from my kitchen window. When I look up from the sink, it often reminds me of Psalm 121:1 & 2. I like it best in the old King James because it’s more poetic and beautiful—

I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth.

On this overcast morning in Colorado, I’m reminded of God who created the hot spring that feeds this pool, the chalky white mountain behind me, the rushing stream across the way—and the calm.

Today, and the days beyond today, I will lift up mine eyes from whence my help comes from.

Thursday, August 19, 2010


Sometimes “getting there” is no easy journey—whether it’s a job long sought after, a baby carried to full term, or a long awaited space-a flight to half way across the globe. Good things often take a little pain, sometimes a lot; but maybe that’s good. Maybe the anxiousness forces a relief and gratitude we wouldn’t experience any other way—the feeling of “Yes, we are here. We finally made it.”

And then it’s also not unusual to experience, once we’ve “gotten there,” that we’ve only stepped from one journey into another. The first two years after arriving in Colorado Springs were some of our hardest, even though we were so excited to be here.

It’s never easy to start over. Exciting? sometimes. Energizing? usually. Easy? rarely. New babies need a lot of attention, and they rarely sleep all night.

So, let’s enjoy a new baby’s preciousness. Let’s kiss the ground we’ve longed to step on, but I don’t want to let the next step discourage me. Dr. Martin used to say, “Don’t doubt in the dark what God revealed in the light.”

So, during the dark watches, let’s envision that call of acceptance, that baby’s first cry, the embrace of one so longed for. Journeys end and journeys begin. Let’s not forget those first feelings of elation. They’ll help carry us through to the morning sun.

Thursday, August 12, 2010


Journal for Christa—

School starts tomorrow, not kids, just staff. I know that when I wake up tomorrow, everything will change—no alarm clock, eggs for breakfast, leisurely looking over facebook, etc. and etc. It will all be rush, rush. Every year I promise myself that things will be different. “I will schedule my time better. I will figure out a way to grade essays faster. I will not get stressed,” etc. and etc. I’ve never succeeded.

Last year was a difficult time for the school. People said, “We just have to get through the year and things will be better.” People often just say things; this year will be no different. I anticipate that our meetings will inform us that we must work even harder with even less and be happy for it.

People get tired. It’s bad to be tired before you even start. I wonder what could happen to change things. Sometimes change is good. Sometimes everything being the same is not good. It might be familiar; it might be comfortable, but it’s not always good.

When people get old, they sometimes are afraid of change. They like things the way they’ve always been. It’s predictable and predictable is comfortable, even if it’s hard. I think it’s better to be willing to change. But, change just for the sake of changing isn’t good either. Change is not always the answer.

This has been an enjoyable summer, one that you’d never want to end. We’ve seen all of our children and grandchildren and have two grandchildren on the way. We traveled 5 of the 10 weeks off. We didn’t do any “big summer projects.”

…To change or not to change? I guess, that is the question—a question that should be answered by another most important question: What is the right thing to do? When our kids were small, Pastor Mark would often say, “It’s always right to do right.” That’s the thing that makes people persevere through a tough season in their marriage, in their life, in their whatever.

So for me what seems right is—today I will clean the house and buy groceries; and tomorrow—I’ll eat a bowl of cereal and go to work. 

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Plan

Journal for Christa—

Sometimes I wonder what fish think—if fish think at all. Fish are fairly low maintenance pets. We enjoy them all summer. They sort of go to sleep in October, and all through most of the school year we don’t even feed them. Then, long about April when winter begins to remove her frosty hands, they stir.

Though their cognitive level is fairly low, they do sense when something is awry. They seem to know if a blue heron is perched on a neighboring roof. And today, as well, they seem to know that catastrophe awaits, and they are distressed. It’s hard to explain, but we can tell by how they swim if they’re happy or not.

Today, they are distressed. Furthermore, what I’m sure they don’t at all realize is that there is a leak in their pond (not the fishless triangle pond or the smaller upper pond, where the fish are swimming peacefully under and among the lily pads, but the large, deep middle pond that houses the koi.)

So, the water level continues to drop and Jay’s placement of a seining net (which they avoid at all cost) have them moving about the deeper level distressfully. Poor fish.

What there is no way to communicate to them is—“the plan.” “The plan” is (once the water level gets low enough) Jay will catch them (oh, they hate that) and move the koi and some of the gold fish to the upper pond and some to the triangle pond. He’ll then, hopefully, locate the hole, repair it and return most of them to a safe pond. (A few will find new homes from Craig’s List.) But, they do not know and cannot know; therefore, they are distressed.

It’s a good reminder to me—that when I’m distressed, there is a plan…and, not one with quotation marks around it.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Magic Bags

Journal for Christa—

Melody carries a large bag-type purse in which she packs around all sorts of necessities, including a fold-up Dora potty seat. So, this summer as we and all the Stateside cousins enjoyed a trip to a Kansas farm, Stef asked Flora several times if she wanted to go potty. Flora, being far more interested in cows than the potty, shook her pigtails and simply said, “no.” After awhile Mel bent over, opened wide her bag, and said, “Look, Flora, Aunt Mel has the Dora potty seat—Do you want to go?” To which Flora lifted her big brown eyes from the contents of the bag to Mel’s beckoning face, nodded, and said, “yes.” And off they went. It was almost like magic.

Oh, what I’d give for a big magic bag. For years I used to wish for Mary Poppins’ carpetbag, and Kim once coveted Harry Potter’s Hermione's purse. What woman couldn’t use a magic bag?

When the kids were little, I would have whipped this house into shape and stacked graded essays in a neat pile seconds after they were turned in. Today, I’d pull together drifting relationships, give my students a desire to learn, spend every weekend at a different grandchild’s house, and heal Claire.*  But, there are no magic bags, and the only magic I have are Granny kisses. (And they only work on “skinned knees” that aren’t really hurt.)

So, when the avalanche of this world’s pain finally settles, and I crawl out from under the debris—where will I find myself and those I love? I hope at the end of a prayer.

It isn’t magic, but sometimes it can almost seem so.

*Claire is my former students’ daughter who has progressed significantly, but is still in a near coma state. You can check on her at

(Philippians 4:6-7) Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Charm Bracelet

Journal for Christa—

The charm bracelet was gone. I had expected to find it in my jewelry box which houses all sorts of trinkets, from my high school class ring and NHS pin to a broken string of beads that my grandmother once made me, which I intended to restring and never did.

Life got busy, as life often does. Somewhere amidst raising kids, working, and going to church, I had lost the charm bracelet. I’m sure it was grieved and then forgotten as so many seemingly significant events are played out.

It might not have mattered, except we’d just been to Europe and Kim had said that people were beginning to wear charm bracelets again—that I should wear mine. So, I thought I would—and purchased several new charms as mementoes of our travels.

But, it was gone. I looked in a few other places, knowing quite well that if the bracelet wasn’t in the box, it wasn’t anywhere. When I told Jay, his response was logical—so like a man—“Well, you’ll just have to get a new bracelet. You’ll have to start over.”

I didn’t want to start over. Charms I hadn’t thought about in years and never anticipated thinking about again suddenly became very important, and I wanted them. I wanted the charms I’d bought in Europe 33 years ago—and the charms that represented all the things we’d done in between. I wanted them. I wanted them all, right down to the plastic heart with a cross in it that was all scratched up—that I’d told myself in Europe I’d replace when I got home. How many charms had I bought? Four? Five? So few compared to what I used to have.

So, here I sit—knowing that unless I’ve given the bracelet to one of my daughters, yet certain I haven’t, the bracelet and all my charms are gone.

However—if I’d remembered I’d lost the bracelet, we wouldn’t have searched through all the charms in the little shop at Cinque Terre to find the one with the most colorful houses on it that overlooked the Mediterranean; we wouldn’t have looked in Paris for just the right Eiffel Tower, and Jay wouldn’t have said, “Hey, here’s one of the Coliseum. You should buy it, even though we’ve already been there.”

So, sometime this week I’ll hunt for a bracelet for my little charms, and I’ll wear it too. I figure it will look something like the old one, just minus a lot of charms. :/ But, Jay is right. I can start over—and I will. And though the old charms are memories that I’ve always had, maybe the best adventures are still ahead. (I will certainly have plenty of room on my bracelet for their charms.)

Thursday, July 15, 2010


Journal for Christa—

The principal I’ve worked for the past few years has moved to Missouri. The thing I’ll miss most about him is his devotions each week. He’s incredibly transparent and encouraging. I had thought his last departing message to me was the week before graduation. I was wrong—very wrong.

Graduation is an exciting time. Some years I’ve been quite involved with graduation. But, this year I was just a spectator, and happy to be one. Graduation went as graduations tend to go—filled with joy and anticipation. As the speakers looked toward a bright and romanticized future, I pondered the fact that I’ve taught long enough and kept up with enough graduates to know that life rarely delivers on high school dreams—or college ones either for that matter.

To peek over into the adult world seems to be rosier than what people actually find there. Not that life is dismal; it isn’t—but life is also often hard—sometimes lacking the people you need, sometimes dealing with the people you need, and often just not knowing what you need. For some reason this year in particular, my mind wandered to such thoughts, and I wondered how well they were prepared for what they’d find on the other side.

Then, at the close of the last prayer, the last presentation of the class, the music started and out the graduates marched, proud with anticipation. I stood waiting with the rest of the faculty for the cue to file out behind the dignitaries on the platform. And, as I paused, this principal—a living example to me—directed the others to proceed without him. Then as the music played, he turned and began picking up caps that’d momentarily been tossed in the air. When the graduates returned to retrieve their caps, they would find them neatly placed on the tables instead of scattered about the floor.

I don’t know if he stayed to chat or if anyone paused to thank him—thank him for the caps, for all he’d done for them, for his example before them. This one final act was the last thing he would do for them. He could have walked out of the auditorium and out a side door, as I did, but he didn’t. He chose instead to pick up hats—not rushed and purposefully, but slow and methodically—as if each cap was a symbol of the individual graduate who possessed it.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

When in Rome

Journal for Christa—

Kim says that “traveling on your own in Europe is filled with adventure and mistakes.” Mistakes also usually cost more money than you’d planned. We got to do both in Rome.

To save money, we had taken a 4-hour train to Rome in the morning. A four-hour cheap train is less than ideal. Just about the time we were nearing Rome, the long train ride had lulled us asleep, which might have caused us to be less alert than we could have been when we arrived. Trying to save time later, we attempted to purchase return tickets before we parted ways—as Jay, the kids, and I were headed for the Coliseum—and Joel and Kim, to the Vatican. We discovered that the ticket people were on strike. Italians are often on strike, and we should have continued to our destinations without worry; but there was that little deal about being back in Pisa before 10:30 or the car would be locked in the parking lot until the next morning— We decided to leave anyway, which was a good thing.

Joel and Kim made sure we’d purchased the correct Metro tickets and directed us to the right train where we got a flash lesson on where to put the ticket to get through the gate. Then they disappeared. We would meet them at a gate near the Coliseum at 5:00. We boarded the Metro with hoards of people, and Helen had her first and only 30 second meltdown when she realized I would hold her getting off the train among the masses. (I was grateful that she looks somewhat like me— and that as she repeatedly screamed, “NO!” she also threw in the word “Granny” every now and then.)

Rick Steves became our hero as we jaunted past the huge line to get our tickets at the less obvious entrance. We ate terrible tasting pizza from a vendor and decided Americans had made a vast improvement on it. We looked at remnants of palaces dating from the foundation of Western "civilization" and kind of wondered why the Romans get credit for that, since I had the unique and brain stretching task of explaining (to a five-year-old) what the Coliseum was and why people would go there to watch lions eat people. Being rather altruistic, Breck kept asking, “But where were all the good guys?” Jay leaned over once and whispered, “In the arena.” On the lighter side, we entertained all sorts of passersby as Breck attempted to eat his large chocolate gelato before it melted.  

Now, there was the matter of getting separated from Joel in the train station, having to purchase expensive tickets on a fast train back to Pisa, Jay crossing the threshold of not caring what anything cost (impressive, since I’d never seen that before), and the great discovery that ticket machines never go on strike.

As we sped toward Pisa with McDonald’s in tow, I thought the adventure had certainly been wonderful. Of course, there was the incident of Helen spilling her whole orange juice in Joel’s lap, but that was his adventure. Kim is right about adventures and mistakes, but adventures are worth it. Sometimes just go for it!