Friday, May 30, 2008

Big Questions in Life

photo: $5 framed print

I am busy rearranging my whole house today after last night's sneak-peek garage sale at my neighbor's (including a Pottery Barn coffee table, World Market French country desk, bell jars from Arhaus!, etc. etc. etc).

Q: How is it that I'm able to single-handedly carry very heavy furniture and various and sundry other nesting items all by myself (I got that upstairs all by myself!), but when my husband asks me to help carry drywall or some other boring thing, I claim it's too heavy?
(Little ole me, carry that?)

Off to find my easy-moves.


Thursday, May 29, 2008

Doing the Hard Thing

photo: climbing high

I just bought a book for our daughter (and me) called Do Hard Things. The summary states that the book, written by brothers Alex and Brett Harris, gives readers a tangible glimpse of what is possible for teens who actively resist cultural lies that limit their potential. The title alone sold me on the book because I have experienced the most joy and satisfaction in life after pushing past my fears and doing hard things.

Doing the hard thing is visiting my eccentric, lonely neighbor who is unable to keep up with her dogs and housework (if you catch my drift). Yesterday's hard thing was trying to think good thoughts during a meeting (about a woman who gets on every last nerve in my body). Everyday hard things include dying to self when the clock strikes 3 and the kids come home from school.

I sometimes think the "hard thing" is global mission work or preparing and giving a well-researched presentation at a church retreat. But, in reality, the very hardest work for me is closer to home with those closest to me.

When I see signs in my life saying Hard Thing Ahead, the enemy whispers "take a detour...there's an easier way just around the bend." I love easy! My middle name is "instant gratification".

But I will choose to listen to the voice of Truth (oh, how I love that song). And reach out for the hand behind the Voice and begin the climb. Because when I take the easy way, I'm on my own.

But when I choose to do the hard things, I get to hold the hand of God. And that makes doing the hard thing not so hard after all.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Green Grass Grew All Around

You cannot imagine my excitement when, waiting for the Thrift Store cashier to ring me up, I notice this lovely beauty sitting on the floor behind the register. I had seen one at the Pottery Barn outlet (be still my beating heart) and it was close to $50. Simiar ones at Home Goods were about the same. This one? $8.99.

I am so thrilled to have found my bargain grass that my heart is racing as she rings me up. I feel a woman standing next to me and turn to look. She is touching my grass! Over and over, she is moving her hands through my grass! I am a bit of a germ freak, so her hand dance in my grass is freaking me out. But I am at the Thrift Store so I try to put things into perspective. For all I know, the help could have laid on my grass and stared at the ceiling lights before I walked in. I won't even begin to think about the possibilities of the previous "grass owner" having a dog...

I love to shop at stores like Nordstrom and Anthropologie, but I think I'll never give up thrifting because not only are the prices good and the hunt exciting, the people I meet keep me humble. Case in point, my new friend -- as I was paying the cashier for my decorating piece-de-resistance -- offered this before she walked away.

"What is this? To wipe yer dirty boots on?"

I thought about telling her about the door I hung on the wall, but figured explaining grass as an indoor decorating accessory was enough for one day.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Memorial Day

photo: American Merchant Mariner's Memorial, New York City

They stood up this morning. Many stood slowly and with hands gripping pews. But one by one, they stood. The soldiers among us. Our clapping lasted so long that some began to sit down before we stopped. Heroes uncomfortable with our attention. I think, had I let myself, I would have just sat there and bawled.

Later, as I explained the poem below (Mrs. Holub made us memorize it in 1978) to our 14-year old daughter, I received an unexpected gift.

"Mom, I know it sounds corny, but when those men stood up in church this morning I about started crying. I mean, I see those men every single week and I have wondered 'what makes this one walk so slow?' or why does that man limp?' Now I know it's because they were fighting for our country. I'm about to cry now just thinking of them and what they did."

Memorial Day (or Decoration Day) was officially proclaimed in 1868 as a day of remembrance to those who have died in our nation's service. What a blessing to honor the living today. And a double blessing that my daughter gets it.

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row,

That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead.

Short days ago We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved, and were loved, and now we lie

In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields.

— John McCrae

[added later by Moina Michael]

We cherish too, the Poppy red

That grows on fields where valor led,

It seems to signal to the skies

That blood of heroes never dies.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Prairie Pining

I am meeting a good friend for lunch today.

She has raised her children and doesn't have any twitches that I can notice.

I'm going to ask her if she ever imagined moving her brood to a little house on a prairie at any time during their growing-up years.

I already bought an apron. And I think decorating a log cabin would be fun. I'm looking forward to my children telling me heartwarming stories about Miss Beadle (the original teacher in Walnut Grove) instead of "George taught me every single cuss word there is today."

But then I remembered Nellie Oleson and her mother, Harriet. And rattlesnakes. And having to wear a bonnet to bed because of the cold.

Hmmmm. Moving would be awfully expensive and I don't know if my husband could get a job at the lumberyard where Charles works....

I guess we'll stay put for now. But the next time the neighbor's dog barks, I'm closing my eyes and pretending it's Jack.

Lord, help us live a prairie life right here in the city. We are aliens and strangers in this world (1 Peter 2:11) and as my children age, I'm feeling increasingly peculiar and uncomfortable. And PS: please help my children keep all this new-found "knowledge" to themselves!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Chasing Chariots

The Spirit told Philip, "Go to that chariot and stay near it." Acts 8:29

Philip follows the spirit's leading and meets an Ethiopian studying a scroll of Isaiah. The Ethiopian asks Philip to ride along with him and after explaining the passage ("it points to Jesus Christ!"), the Ethiopian asks the chariot driver to pull over so that Philip can baptise him.

What chariot is passing you by? Who is your Ethiopian?

A neighbor? A friend? Your children? A colleague? The grocery store cashier?

One of my Ethiopians is a young woman I barely know. Her chariot passed me by more than 5 years ago, and the spirit, every so often, tells me to go follow it...again. I have fought with the spirit over this. I am too old for chasing chariots. Her chariot looks like it doesn't need chasing, to me. But the spirit is awful stubborn, and so I chase.

After catching up with her chariot a few months ago, I wanted her to know that it truly was not me chasing her. The spirit gave me these words and after sending them to her, my sweet Ethiopian's floodgates opened and her pain burst forth.

Oswald Chambers once said that we should leave the judging to God because there is always one thing more about someone that we know nothing about. I've learned that sometimes the most shiny and majestic-looking chariots carry the most lost travelers.

Chasing Her Chariot
--a letter sent to a fellow traveler

Her post reaches me in the sacred time of day as house creaks.
Snow falling gently out my window as moon lingers before break of day.
A response to my reaching out to say hello.

I didn’t set out to say hello. I am busy.
I haven’t taken time to call my own brother recently.
We are mere acquaintances, she and I.
Meeting briefly, years ago.
I am a middle-aged woman busy with the tasks of mothering and “wifering”.
She is a college student.
Busy with books, friends, activities.
We two are an odd pair, say I.
But we liked each other from the start.
Her wonderful ponderings and sincere questions always help me grow.

But recently, the nudges. The urges.
“Write her”.
“I wonder how she is doing?”
“It’s been a long time since I heard from her.”
“She would like this book.”
I tell my daughter, “that girl in the bookstore reminds me of her. Do you remember her?”

Where do these thoughts come from?
My path has crossed hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people since her.
So strong…these thoughts of reaching out to one in particular.

And so I do.
Alright, already.

You wanted to tell her you love her, didn’t you?
Oh, I know you tell her, and me, you love us a million ways through your creation.
But your love is personal. Intimate.
You wanted her to know.
You wanted flesh and blood to deliver Love.
You want precious, beautiful one to know that
You are good.
You are near.
You hold.
You comfort.

I love you, too, Yahshua.

Thank you for asking me to chase this chariot.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


photo: Carl in red, with Tommy and Teddy

“Cath, she’s here. You can give her the photograph now,” said my husband.

Standing in the back of a little church in a Yup’ik Eskimo village on the Bering Sea, I turn to see her.

Earlier in the week, we had stopped by her house to deliver the photograph, but she was in her steamhouse. So we had returned to our trailer, picture and chamomile lotion ungiven, and tension still beating in my heart…the tension of uncertainty and dread.

What does one say to a woman who has buried a child? A person never met, no less? Two women from two different worlds. Lord, how can this work? Regret fills my heart…I should have simply prayed for this woman and mailed her the photograph. This is too hard.

You’ve walked this road with your mother, whispered the Lord. You can do this, even though it is not easy. I will help you.

Crowds of people are leaving the little church, but as our eyes meet everyone else melts away. We stand…each on the other side of the chasm that exists between strangers. My heart begs God to give me the right words. Without hesitation, I reach across the divide to hug her. She hugs back, tentatively at first…than strong. And I begin to sob. She, too, begins crying and we stand like this for a long time. No introductions. No words at all. Simply two mothers mourning the loss of a son.

The great bridge builder has built a bridge suspended with our tears. And we have run across it into each other’s arms. Daughters of the King. We are sisters, she and I.

Today, the anniversary of Carl's homecoming, we are grateful for the bridge that is Christ... for we know that Carl's family, Your entire family Lord, will be reunited some day. And we each, at our appointed time, will run with joy across the last bridge, suspended not by our tears but by your precious Son.

Don’t worry about how to respond or what to say. God will give you the right words at the right time. (Matthew 10:19) Thank you Father for Carl. For Kathy. For hard things that make us run to you.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Three Presents

Mother's Day 2008

Friday, May 9, 2008

Morning Gift

photo: rooster at Slate Run Farm

Arriving at the working historical farm this morning, I am surprised to find myself alone. Sweet teacher has told me to meet the class at 9:30, but the only youngsters around seem to have fur and feathers. I discover the class is due to arrive at 10:00. Could it be? Just me? I spy a few solitary farmhands quietly doing morning chores. No rushing. No stressing. No conversing. Watching the people, watching the animals...I sense a rhythm...a dance of sorts. The Morning Dance of the Farm.

With camera in hand, I slosh around...first to visit the roosters and hens as they were the first to greet me as I walked up the path. Old Rooster must be confused as he keeps crowing. Perhaps he is trying to coax Sun out of her hiding place this morning.

Walking up the hill, I see the oxen having breakfast. Goats call to me from their pen. Geese saunter. Pigs, unseen, oink. I see a blur of creamy fluff out of the corner of my eye...lambs? Oh, I hope so!

Farmer calls to me. "Want to milk her?"

"Why, yes!" And a few moments later, I find myself straddling a little wooden stool ("will she kick?"), and milking gentle Miss Daisy.

I had no idea when I awoke this morning the gift that awaited me on a little farm just around the bend. Showing up expecting to herd children through the different aspects of 1880's farm life.

But instead, I got to dance. The Morning Dance of the Farm.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Abundantly Beyond

photo: flying over Alaskan mountain range

We prepare to return.

Who, besides you God, could have imagined we would return.
You began this work long ago. Imperceptible to me at the time...probably because I didn't even really know you back then. Shocking to all who know me when your plan came to fruition. Did you title this tale between us something like Hyatt to Honey Bucket? Tales of a Reluctant Missionary? Valleys Before Mountains? Did the heavenlies laugh when you told them you were sending me to the Last a village without flush toilets? To a village without antique stores, Targets or Panera?

If I'm very quiet, I think I still hear chuckles.

Looking back, the first visible sign that you were up to something was a wedding gift from one of our groomsmen. Wait a minute! That gift was from you, wasn't it?! Almost 18 years ago, I looked at that Ansel Adams picture of a big mountain in Alaska and desperately wanted to exchange it for another silverware placesetting. In the years that have followed, that picture has been in more Goodwill piles than I can count. But always, at the last minute, it has been plucked out and returned to its dusty dwelling place in the basement. You must have laughed everytime I muttered to myself "why do I keep this thing?!"

Today that framed poster of Denali decorates our bedroom wall. Just as Alaska decorates the walls of my heart. Have I told you before how funny I think you are? And how much I love you?

I like the way you decorate, Lord...even if it takes me a while to appreciate it.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008


"Let the refining and improving of your own life keep you so busy that you have little time to criticize others."

Lord, help me to remember to run to my mirror every time I begin to judge one of your children. For I am the "wretch" the song refers to.

Noble. Right. Pure. Lovely. (Phil. 4:8) May these be my thoughts today. Amen.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound. That saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now am found. Was blind but now I see.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008


photo: Iowa Cornfields

The story goes that a great theologian was speaking to a large group of graduate students.

A hand was raised and the question asked.

“Sir, if you could tell us one thing only, the most important theological point from all your study and research, what would you tell us?”

A hush fell over the room. Pencils were poised to write. The theologian thought for a moment. And then, breaking the silence in the lecture hall, he answered.

“The greatest thing I have ever learned? Jesus loves me…this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”

What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul! What wondrous love is this, O my soul!…To God and to the Lamb, I will sing. To God and to the Lamb Who is the great “I Am”; While millions join the theme, I will sing, I will sing; While millions join the theme, I will sing. Hymn composed by William Walker
Related Posts with Thumbnails