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!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Such a Creator

Journal for Christa—
(written June 17)

The world we live in is truly amazing. This morning we left the house and Molly dog in the good hands of Joy and Shane. After we checked our bags, we Skyped with Mel and the girls in Texas as we waited for our flight in Colorado. After a delay in Dallas (to fix the A/C) we boarded a plane that in just 9 hours will land us half way around the world where we’ll see Joel, Kim, and the kids for 3 weeks, roaming around Italy, taking in Germany, and hitting France a couple of times.

No wonder man thinks himself invincible—capable of all things—most divine. What would my grandparents have thought of the world we inhabit? And if it would astonish them, what of the ancestors who ventured to a new world, leaving the familiar behind to cross a sea of giant waves and trek nearly half way across America? Or people of the Middle Ages and beyond? Is it any wonder man feels so confident, a worker of wonders?

And so we stand—often blind to the reason why—giving little thought to the Source of such awesome capabilities. Is it not that we are created in the very image of God? And if all that we accomplish is wonderful, spectacular—is it not a mere shadow of its Source?

We gaze at the wonders of creation and stand amazed, yet even that too is surely only a shadow of who He is—One who knows all things at all times—One who provides salvation and whose very nature is aware of each idle thought of every soul at any moment. Does not the accomplishments of men only illustrate even more the wonder of such a God—a God who would create such a creation?