Saturday, May 31, 2014

3 things we'll miss about itineration

Laughter, conversations, and memories
How we're looking forward to Indonesia. We'll be in language school, eat great food, and meet many friendly people once we arrive. (We experienced the last two several times and can't wait to return.)

Meanwhile, we've travelled a lot back home, raising funds to go.

Here are 3 things we'll miss about itineration:

1. People along the way. Tonight we'll have dinner and sleep at friends' who are coworkers in sharing Good News. We have a long association with them, including serving on an alumni board, shared ministry groups, and learning together in an accountability group. We'll speak in their church in the morning.

We've met many other people as first- or second-time acquaintances. We've loved speaking with you, as well as praying and learning together.

... and in fall.
We'll miss our courtyard in spring
2. The scenery. We live in a stunning landscape: within a few hours' drive, there are towering mountains capped with snow to ocean beaches to deserts to temperate rain forests.

Today we get to drive through those mountains toward the desert. This morning, I walked 4 miles in our neighborhood, inhaling spring fragrances and crisp morning air. I'll miss that.

3. The sense of partnership in moving forward. Our friends, family, and Family have donated funds, offered hospitality, and prayed down heaven for the coming venture. You are our partners as well as our companions on this journey.

A Washington volcano
We are often asked if we are afraid. We certainly feel uncertain about what we don't yet know. Life is about to change. But fear? Not really.

Every day seems to unfold within the mystery of God. Our loving, all-knowing Creator already has our path marked out. And he has you in his hands, too.

Several people recently asked me about options and choices. Do we feel we could we stay here and continue in comfort toward retirement?

I have to admit, "No, we don't consider staying. When you hear the Shepherd's voice, you move." After all, his rod is strong and his staff is long. He can corral us if we wander off and prod us when we are stuck in place. Because of that, we're not too worried about fatal mistakes.

We expect life to get uncomfortable at times. I'll probably cry once in a while, missing home. And we may be frustrated by customs we don't understand and a different pace of living. Those are common to anyone who moves to a new culture.

One month to go. Thanks for your prayers and connections, those times when we say hello, hug, and wish each other well. We appreciate this time of goodbyes ... and of looking ahead with you.

Read more:
*In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can
flesh do to me? Psalm 56:4 ESV

*With God we shall do valiantly. Psalm 60:12 ESV

*Jesus said, "Go and learn what this means, "˜I desire mercy, not sacrifice.'" Matthew 9:13 ESV

*For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord--who is the Spirit--makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image. 2 Corinthians 3:17-18 NLT

Moravian Prayer: Giving Lord, for us your blood was shed, for us the lamb was slain. Instill within us a spirit unfailing, that we may live for you always. Amen.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

3 things about good colleagues

Wikipedia: "Colleagues are those explicitly united in a common purpose and respecting each other's abilities to work toward that purpose. ... Thus, the word collegiality can connote respect for another's commitment to the common purpose and ability to work toward it."

We had dear colleagues and friends over tonight, sharing food, laughter, and stories of life and work. It doesn't get much better than this: a common calling, a shared profession, and a similar gifting. We were reminded of 3 things about colleagues:

1. Good workmates share the load. We're willing to pitch in, whether we're strategizing, working, or praying together. We're not afraid to be on the same team with the same goals.

2. Good workmates create a learning environment where skills can improve, resources are shared, and information is golden ... for everyone. We respect personhood and individuality, as well as the outcome of our work.

3.  Good workmates who become friends let their lives overlap. We applaud each other's achievements, grieve over each others difficulties, and boost each other to be "the best we can be." There's no rivalry; instead, we are glad when others succeed. We are proud of their advancement. And we hurt when others hurt.

W and I are grateful for the university and other work settings. Truly, we esteem our colleagues. We are thankful for the honor of sharing a united purpose and working hard together.

Read more:
*The word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart for you to observe. Deuteronomy 30:14 ESV

*The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation. He is my stronghold, my refuge and my savior--from violent people you save me. I called to the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and have been saved from my enemies. 2 Samuel 22:2-4 ESV

*Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and prosper for us the work of our hands—O prosper the work of our hands! Psalm 90:17 ESV

*Jesus said, "Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock." Matthew 7:24 ESV

*In Joppa there was a disciple whose name was Tabitha. She was devoted to good works and acts of charity. Acts 9:36 ESV

*But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. Acts 20:24 ESV

Moravian Prayer: Holy God, help us to build our faith upon rock. We ask you, Lord, that with our faith on solid ground the words in our mouths may speak directly from our hearts.

Gracious Lord, thank you for the hands with which we work and the feet with which we walk. May we use the gifts that you have given us to bless our neighbors. Amen.

C. S. Lewis, Mere ChristianityI find I must borrow yet another parable from George MacDonald. Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently he starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of—throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.

The command "Be ye perfect" is not idealistic gas. Nor is it a command to do the impossible. He is going to make us into creatures that can obey that command. He said (in the Bible) that we were ‘gods’ and He is going to make good His words. If we let Him—for we can prevent Him, if we choose—He will make the feeblest and filthiest of us into a god or goddess, a dazzling, radiant, immortal creature, pulsating all through with such energy and joy and wisdom and love as we cannot now imagine, a bright stainless mirror which reflects back to God perfectly (though, of course, on a smaller scale) His own boundless power and delight and goodness. The process will be long and in parts very painful, but that is what we are in for. Nothing less. He meant what He said.

Monday, May 26, 2014

3 things about water

We’re on our friend’s boat tonight, after celebrating our son’s birthday. The water is all around. Here’s what I love about water:

1. It’s versatile. A few wet sprinkles of rain trail from overhead clouds, scudding along a mostly sunny sky. The boat rocks on the lake, tethered to the dock with stretchy ropes. And my teabag swims in hot water in my thermos as I write. 

Water can be stored, whether frozen into ice or at room temperature as a liquid. It evaporates when heated to steam. How mysterious! (How did God think of such a thing?) We can swim in it and drink it (not at the same time, we hope)… even open the pores of our skin by leaning over a steaming bowl of water.

2. It’s useful. Water itself is not particularly interesting (at least not to non-scientists like me.) It's clear and conforms its shape to every receptacle. Pure water has no odor and little texture. While water itself looks unimpressive, it is a vehicle for things that happen in the world. 

We wash ourselves and our things in water. Plants and animals need water to survive. Blood cells are pumped steadily through our arteries and veins, blood’s water carrying nutrition, oxygen, and waste. Food preparation may require water for steaming, boiling, or rinsing. Water transportation is a vital part of moving people and goods. Water also acts as a mirror, reflecting its surroundings.

3. It’s soothing. Water lubricates. In a hot-water (or cold-water) bottle, it warms the cold or cools the hot. What would life be without the occasional soak in the tub? Ah, bliss.

When you think of water, do you appreciate it? Avoid it? Fear it? Can’t wait to jump into it? Why?

Today I thank God again. Don't you love his imagination and care for us? “Thank you, God, for water!”

Scripture tells us that we have been washed by Living Water, the Word who came to live among us. As the boat tilts on the waves, I’m amazed again by God and the world he made.

Read more:
*The words of the mouth are deep waters, but the fountain of wisdom is a rushing stream. Proverbs 18:4 NIV

*In the Lord’s hand the king’s heart is a stream of water that he channels toward all who please him. Proverbs 21:1 NIV

*Waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert. Isaiah 35:6 ESV

*For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. Habakkuk 2:14 NIV

*For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; ‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’ ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’” Revelation 7:17 NIV

*(John wrote,) Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. Revelation 21:1-2 NIV

Evening Prayer: Lord of Creation, turn our hearts to you. As we rest this night, let our hearts be still waters reflecting your goodness. In the morning, let our lives be like the brooks that carry living water to the thirsty. And all day long, let our longing for you be as broad and deep as the oceans, always moving, always seeking, always exploring new shores. 

Satisfy us in the days to come with the bread and water of life, through Jesus Christ our Lord. 

(Moravian Prayer) God of water, purify our minds. Today is a new day—may we enter the day with hope and love, spreading your word wherever we may go. Amen.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

3 surprises about "his and hers"

Alliums: the beautiful onion
W and I have had at least three surprises about assumptions on "his and hers":

1. On our documents, I'm the missionary. He's technically the "spouse." Yet God called us equally as children to cross-cultural life. (Admittedly, since I'm a year older, I probably got called first.) A prime consideration for our marriage and life together was that shared vision.

The assumption when we arrive at a church is an old paradigm: he speaks. She comes along but does things behind the scenes. However, there's never been reluctance to power up a second mike: the churches have been flexible, open to a new model, and welcoming to us both.

2. We love to speak and work together. W's honed his teaching gift in the classroom, based in a university office. I taught in multiple settings, from a home base of raising our kids. Both of us like speaking in public. Yes, we like it - our gut feeling is comfort, of "coming home," when we stand before people.

We started speaking together this year, trading off naturally. The positive reactions have been overwhelming: "It was so much more interesting than having one person stand up and talk," "How do you work together seamlessly?" and  "How do you do that?" We consider the ease of interaction God's gift to each of us - and to the Church.

3. God has given us complementary gifts. We've come to appreciate the overlap and breadth of our interests. 

W likes gathering and applying information. I like connecting new and old relationships, ideas, patterns, and resources. At our best, W explains complex things simply, so everyone can understand. He passes along what he knows - whether that's theology, technology, or practical know-how. And I link people, resources, and systems for interdependence. I'm happiest when people interact and become empowered in fresh ways.

Who knew? God is full of surprises. While I experienced some limitations while raising the kids and keeping house, I've had many opportunities to write, mentor, and speak over the years.

Our curiosity remains unquenched. Our interests are as broad as ever. And our vision for God-with-us is wider than before. We're looking forward to new surprises ahead!

Is your life full of anticipation? In times of change, do you expect that our creative God is able to keep you safe, thriving, and challenged? That He's enough to meet the needs of the day, even  (especially) when the hours unfold in unexpected ways? 

You can trust him. You can lean on him. And you may be astonished by how well everything fits together, considering who you are as a person and everything you have done until now. After all, God is never surprised by what's coming. He has it all planned out and under his control.

Thanks be to God.

Read more:
*And now, O Lord, what do I wait for? My hope is in you. Psalm 39:7

*Jesus said to the woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages, "Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well." Matthew 9:22 ESV

*Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. Romans 15:2 ESV

*[Hearing and Doing the Word ] Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger ... James 1:19 ESV

Moravian Prayer: God, what is it that you ask of us? Take our possessions, Lord. Take our hearts, our lives, everything into your hands and bless us today and evermore. Amen.

From C. S. Lewis, Voyage of the Dawn Trader
“When the lion said—but I don’t know if it spoke—‘You will have to let me undress you.’ I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now. So I just lay flat down on my back to let him do it.

“The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off. You know—if you’ve ever picked the scab off a sore place. It hurts like billy-oh but it is fun to see it coming away.”

“I know exactly what you mean,” said Edmund.

“Well, he peeled the beastly stuff right off—just as I thought I’d done it myself the other three times, only they hadn’t hurt—and there it was, lying on the grass, only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly-looking than the others had been. And there was I as smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been. Then he caught hold of me—I didn’t like that much for I was very tender underneath now that I’d no skin on—and threw me into the water. It smarted like anything but only for a moment. After that it became perfectly delicious and as soon as I started swimming and splashing I found that all the pain had gone from my arm. And then I saw why. I’d turned into a boy again. You’d think me simply phony if I told you how I felt about my own arms. I know they’ve no muscle and are pretty mouldy compared with Caspian’s, but I was so glad to see them.”

Saturday, May 24, 2014

3 things about family

A room filled with memories of family visits
This week I visited with a sibling, uncles and aunts, cousins, a nephew and a niece across Canada. I stowed a lot of great memories. Our tribe affirmed three things about a healthy family:

1. Family reminds us of where we've been. My uncle gave me a picture of Grandma and Grandpa, their 5 children, and the 5 spouses. I'm taking that photo along when we move to remind me that I fit in somewhere (for a day when my light skin, hair, and eye coloring will be the strangest thing someone sees). 

A visit to the cemetery to leave
flowers at Auntie M's gravestone
We heard stories about our grandparents, parents, and the extended family since we were little. Those stories remind us where we came from and who we were. They tell us of the plans that worked and things that were hard. Of gifts and talents. Places and journeys. These tales carve into our collective memory the past accomplishments, failures, work, and generosity of the clan.

2. Family reminds us of who we are. We inherit our personalities, physical shapes, the way we think and learn, and many other traits. However, the way we respond to the world with those traits determines our character. Our combination of genetics and developed character makes us uniquely important to the world.

The loving affirmation of family assures us we can do anything that God calls us to. Our wins are their wins: we don't have to worry that they think we're bragging when we share accomplishments. (How nice to be able to say, "Guess what I did! Be happy with me!") On the other hand, they don't humiliate us when we need help; we protect because we know each other's weaknesses.

Cousins and friends since childhood
With God's help and a caring family, we become big enough. Strong enough. Our support team is in place. When we stumble, family picks us up and dusts us off before pulling us forward again. 

3. Family shapes our future. The goals and aspirations of a family have a lot to do with our hopes and dreams. Parents interested primarily in material things teach their children that money and comparison with others are important. Others value sports and cheer their kids in games, investing a lot of time and money. BTW: my brothers and I never considered being sports champions. The family were musicians. Our musical bent and training rewarded me with 33 years of self-employment. (Bonus: few surgeries or physical therapy, unlike our sports-loving peers = music is easier on the joints!)

Our family values asking God for direction. We expect that God will lead and guide his Church so we serve in communities of faith. Praying with my brother and my uncle this week, I felt sheltered and affirmed. How many prayers we have already offered for each other - and how many more we will call out to God, regardless of the miles that separate us.

A casual pose with the kids 2014
How does your family affirm who you are and who God is calling you to be? If they cheer you on in scriptural principles and right living, you are blessed indeed. If they try to hold you back, remember that your Father in heaven and your Christian family is connected across the world. We're on your team - certain that God oversees every bit of our history and future accomplishments.

If your family is not supportive, who could help you reach your potential by boosting you in the right direction?

Read more:
*You have granted me life and steadfast love, and your care has preserved my spirit. Job 10:12 ESV

*Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Romans 12:10 ESV

*John writes to Gaius: Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, just as it is well with your soul. 3 John 2 ESV

Moravian Prayer: Merciful Lord, our lives are in your hands. Guide our hearts and encourage our minds to follow you all of our days. Preserve in us, Lord, the way of your light. Amen.

Monday, May 19, 2014

3 things about travel

I'm on the road again, this time to say goodbye to precious family in Canada. Here are three things that surprised me when I first began to travel as a teenager:

1. You take yourself wherever you go. 

The first time I went to Europe, I was shocked that I was the same person, whether showing up in Linz, Austria, southern Germany, or London. Though the surroundings changed, it was me standing in the landscape. I learned to show up with all my might to gain great enjoyment.

Visiting a Christmas market in Berne, Switzerland, with family
2. The way people do things works in their surroundings, even when it's not the way we do it at home.

We might think, "You could get more done ..." or "Why haven't you tried it this way ...?" or  -- ? In each community, people have figured out ways of living that suit them. Just because it works for my tribe in our setting, doesn't mean our way is "better" that what someone is doing elsewhere.

Eating parata with international students in Singapore
3. The world is a beautiful place. 

God made a gorgeous planet and put interesting people, astonishing resources, and diversity everywhere. We get to enjoy similarities and differences when we land on a new shore.

Exploring Israel with university students
What have you learned in your travels? What surprised you? Was anything just as you expected?

Read more:
*Bless our God, O peoples, let the sound of his praise be heard, who has kept us among the living, and has not let our feet slip. Psalm 66:8-9 ESV

*We, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory. Ephesians 1:12 ESV

Moravian Prayer: Fulfilling Lord, we pray for the day you will come in glory—we will shout and sing praise to you. May we lay down all that we have in your name, Lord. Amen.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

3 things about God

As another day begins, here's what I know for sure:

1. God is unchanging.

We can depend on Him to be the Same perfect Goodness, Kindness, Justice, and Majesty: yesterday, today, and forever. Big enough. Intimate enough. Dependable.

2. God loves us.

He draws us into his Story because he desires the best for us. No one wants our wholeness more than He does. His part is finished; our choices determine how we receive His provisions.

3. God surrounds us.

He knows what's coming and does not leave us alone or untended. He prepares us with grace, relationships, and resources so we thrive, close to Him ... no matter what this day holds.

I've just said goodbye to a group of women I love and admire. Through them, God has made himself known to me. They have been the voices, hands, and feet of God. Though we'll be apart, I look forward to hearing and reading about their adventures of life and faith.

May the unchanging, loving God surround them - and you - as the days unfold. I pray this blessing for those we leave behind and those we move toward:

The Lord bless you and keep you.
The Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious unto you.
The Lord lift up his countenance upon you, ad give you peace.
Numbers 6:24-26 RSV

Friday, May 16, 2014

3 things about motherhood

Mothers Day has come and gone. But a mother is a mother every day, so this is still something I'm thinking about.

1. Mothering is nothing like you think it will be. Few opportunities will make you happier and make you crazier than being a mother. Children are unpredictable trainers of their mothers. We acquire skills at a pace and breadth demanded nowhere else! Then, just when we think things are under control, we experience kid behaviors, character traits, and creativity that blow our minds and imaginations ... and drive us to our knees for insight and wisdom.

It looks so easy in photographs!
2. You can't know what kind of a mother you'll be ... until you are one. No one can tell you how tired you'll get, not sleeping through the night for months on end. No class can prepare you for the sheer scope of demands issued by an innocent-looking infant. No other experiences develop the same levels of patience, persistence, and grace that routines with children drive into us. And no amount of reassurance can ward off our hurt at being rejected by rebellious teenagers. (After all, weren't we considered fairly nice and smart person until they informed us how behind-the-times and clueless we are?) All in all, the experience and our responses are a surprise, one after another.

Pinned here
3. Nothing else will tap your strengths and resources like mothering does. Our kids talk about the things we did (besides French and Spanish lessons, visits to the pizza kitchen and fire station, learning to cook, clean, read, and do math). They also talk about weird presumption that didn't match cultural realities. Luckily for our 3rd and 4th children, we were on a steep learning curve. Just a few examples:

  • Our daughter wore a 'modest' skirt to gym class in Grade 5 - what was I thinking?
  • We let the kids lie around on their beds for homeschool. Seriously, a little more disciplined approach might have helped them laze around less in high school. 
  • We were willing to try almost anything once - which led to some interesting experiences. 

Sometimes God's excellent parenting brings me to tears. He gathers his children as a mother gathers her young, tucking us close to his heart. But he disciplines perfectly and does not overlook our flaws. His intentions are always good. The best of mother-moments are modeled after God's attitude toward us, aren't they?

Read more:
*Be exalted, O Lord, in your strength! We will sing and praise your power. Psalm 21:13 ESV

*Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts. Ephesians 5:19 ESV

*Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7 ESV

Moravian Prayer: Righteous God, you are the first and the last. May we serve all of your children equally in preparation for the entrance to your kingdom. Amen.

3 things about teaching

I've been a teacher since I was 13. My first piano student - a rowdy 8-year-old boy - had to be wrestled to the bench. After two years, his family moved to another city. He had learned enough that his teacher #2, an experienced musician, complimented his progress and asked who his excellent previous instructor was. That surprised me, made me happy, and encouraged me to work even harder with my students.

I taught music for 33 years, and in my 20s, began to write and teach a variety of other subjects in churches and colleges. One of my dearest friends and I met in a class I taught at Lk Washington Technical College. W and I love teaching and have enjoyed meeting people from all over the world in our classes.

Here's what we've learned about teaching:

1. The best teachers are continual learners, willing to be taught. Student assignments are sometimes our best curriculum: Students rework information in surprising ways to teach us new things.

Curiosity and excitement in learning keeps growing. The more a good teacher knows, the more we realize how much there is to master.

We've always loved learning!
2. Researching and presenting ideas are excellent ways to learn. You have to stay far ahead of students to handle unexpected questions and understand the links between facts and possibilities. Presenting papers at conferences or writing for peer-reviewed journals is a satisfying challenge, too.

A healthy learning community makes learning more fun. Peers who love students, do sound research, and continually improve their skills make the process more exciting and rewarding.

A few of the colleagues who have inspired our research and teaching
3. Everything is connected. Whether we suddenly join the dots between seemingly unrelated data or realize that one person knows another (sometimes on the other side of the world), life becomes more and more integrated and interwoven. We look forward to expanding our connections as we teach in coming years.

Each wonder ties to another. Truly, God's work among us on this planet is an unfolding mystery and pleasure.
Students become friends: this Sri Lankan student
appropriately has the initials VP
Do you remember a favorite teacher? What was the best lesson they taught you?

Read more:
*Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit. Psalm 51:12 ESV

*Woe to the foolish prophets who follow their own spirit and have seen nothing! Ezekiel 13:3 NIV

*Jesus said, "On that day many will say to me, "˜Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?' Then I will declare to them, "I never knew you.'" Matthew 7:22-23 ESV

*May mercy, peace, and love be yours in abundance. Jude 2 ESV

Moravian Prayer: Giving Lord, we thank you for all that your hand has provided. We thank you for sending your son, Jesus Christ, so we may know you better and be closer to you.

Lord Jesus, teach us your ways and show us right and wrong. In times of doubt and troubled minds, may our hearts lead us down the path which you have created. Amen.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

3 things about "normal"

Are you normal?

Have you ever exclaimed, "That's not normal!"

What does that even mean? This morning, I'm proposing 3 things about "normal."

1. We often say "normal" when we mean "expected." Our ideas of what will (or should) happen may determine what we think is normal. Others may have other expectations, so their "normal" may be different than ours.

What do you think of when you see this cup? Does it seem normal to you? Is being a good (mom/ dad/ friend/ doctor/ teacher/ worker/ helper) enough?

Mothers Day gift from my daughter, as a reminder of my
own mother's encouragement when I felt overwhelmed:
"You are a good mom."
2. It's sometimes more fun to do the unexpected than the normal. I'm not having a normal breakfast, but ohhhh, does it taste good.

Lamb gravy on spinach and gnocci: it's what's
for breakfast this morning. Yum.

3. Children seem to have more fun before they learn what is normal - or expected. Some of us might be happier if we were more childlike in embracing the "non-normal"s sometimes.

Granddaughter K loves her duck
towel and feels beautiful in it
Where is God asking you to expand your "normal" to be more creative and free in His wild and wonderful world?

Read more:
*May the Lord cause you to flourish, both you and your children. Psalm 115:14 NIV

*See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. 1 John 3:1 ESV

Moravian Prayer: Heavenly Father, you have built your church's foundation on a rock. Although doors close and steeples fall, we your people shall always stand strong upon the rock of your church. Amen.

Monday, May 12, 2014

3 things that probably will never happen

Saturday's event may have been W's last NU graduation as full-time prof of 29 years. He'll be teaching online courses and doing other educational things but this is the end of an era for him. It's been fun for me, too. When we first came, I coordinated the women's group for faculty, staff, and spouses. I've been alum director, art chair, and taught off and on. When we lived next door to NU, the campus lawns and ponds were our kids' playground.

Looking forward to new adventures, we don't know what's ahead. But here are some things that I bet will never happen: (Photos below from

1. I'll never be a world-class artist (like Walton Ford, for example). That's ok. I like dabbling in watercolors and other artistic endeavors. I'm a happy amateur at a lot of things.

Paul Kasmin Gallery, NY: Walton Ford exhibition
2. I won't ever be an astonishing athlete. Being fit enough to function works. At a checkup yesterday, the doc smiled at me and said, "Doing good. See you whenever." That's fine with me.

A Sydney tournament: Swans vs Hawks

3. I doubt I'll ever be a "pet parent" or let a dog lick my face. Among the things we're letting go of here is dog ownership. I'm miss my dog, but he's one of the things we leave behind. Who'd put an animal in a long quarantine? We like him too much for that... 

Dortmund, Germany: dog show

I'm okay with all of the above. 

What aspirations have you left behind? What accomplishments of others don't matter to you? 

Aren't you glad to be who you are, the person God designed for this time and this place and this adventure? Thanks be to God.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

3 things about endings

Opa and his girl
How do you handle transitions? Do you easily leave the past behind and get excited about the future? 

Is your life filled with happy memories? Or do you have many regrets?

Today marked the end of 31 years at NU for W and me. Three things we talked about today:

1. We are astonished by God's goodness. You can't plan a life as wonderful as God gives. No one could solicit such favor; it is God's gift.

2. We enjoyed every minute, knowing it was for the last time. We want to remember, to appreciate, and to savor.

3. You can be happy and sad at the same time. We were so proud of the graduates and the participants in the ceremony, but it was bittersweet - this phase of life is almost over.

We sense the new season rushing in. To God be the glory and thanks for the past, present, and future. Thankfully God is the same in each - we are anchored to his unchanging love and compassion.

Read more:
*I lift up my eyes to the hills—from where will my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. Psalm 121:1-2 ESV

*Jesus says, "I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture." John 10:9 ESV

*Thomas said to Jesus, "Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?" Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life." John 14:5-6 ESV

Moravian Prayer: Loving Shepherd, may we enter life through you. On days when we are alone and lost, we know you will find us and bring us home. Amen.

Friday, May 9, 2014

3 things about Angela's book

For more info, click here.
She appeared before a room full of women, dressed in a tiara, tutu, and sash, waving a stick topped with a star (oops, a magic wand). Angela protests that my imagination is making up the tutu and sash. But to a person who hates dressing up (me), I remember thinking she'd dressed like a fairy godmother.

Actually, she was just making announcements at the women's conference, but she was brave, funny, creative - and dramatic. She offered a new perspective, while giving information and direction.

Her book - How to Love Your Crazy Family: 52 Quick Reads for No Ordinary Days - similarly engages our attention. She writes about her own family, full of gifting, quirks, and serious challenges, just like yours and mine.

Here are 3 things I liked about the book:

1. It's practical. If you have a family - especially one with special needs or disabilities, you'll learn important basic principles and practical advice. How to love by serving. How to nurture and encourage. How to show up with all your heart, to help your family grow. 

2. It's easy to understand. With good organization and plain language, Angela makes you feel hopeful about caring for our imperfect families. Whenever life feels crazy, it's possible to gain perspective, pick up the pieces, and move forward.

3. It's creative and funny. Angela's big heart and humor make this book is easy to read. You'll fall in love with her family and your own. You'll think deeply - while laughing aloud and empathizing with the Howard household and treasuring the people God's brought together - around her and around you!

I recommend it for anyone wondering if they'll survive the challenges of marriage and parenting. Angela shows us that where there's love, there's hope. Where there's life, there's potential. You'll enjoy this read, whether as a once-a-week meditation or if you pick it up whenever you need a lift.

Get to know the woman behind the smile:

Angela Howard

Read more:
*With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. Isaiah 12:3 NEV

*Let eve . ryone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift. Revelation 22:17 NEV

Moravian Prayer: Lord God, help us to live the life you have set before us. Although we do not always know of your plans, may we place our faith solidly in your hands. Amen

Thursday, May 8, 2014

3 things about rain and sunshine

The rainforest outside our door
With sunshine a memory of earlier in the week, the rain is pelting Seattle. What to do?

1. We acknowledge that we need rain as well as sun. Unlimited sun produces a hostile desert environment. Unlimited rain floods its surroundings. These lush forests of the Northwest need lots of water. And they get it, mixed with occasional and glorious warm sunshine that unfolds the leaves on the trees and opens the faces of dandelions.

2. There are tools for sun and rain. A wide-brimmed hat for sun. A wide-brimmed umbrella for rain. Lucky us.

3. Some of us have weather amnesia. When it's sunny, it's hard to remember the rain. And when it pours, sunshine is a distant memory. Let's be grateful for each day, whatever the weather.

Read more:
*They rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest. Isaiah 9:3 ESV

*Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NEV

*You have tasted that the Lord is good. 1 Peter 2:3 ESV

Moravian Prayer: Heavenly father, good news is ours to tell. Let no one fail to hear. May we serve the prisoners and feed the hungry, for love shows no choice or preference. Amen.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

3 signs you're getting ready to leave

How do you know when you're almost ready to move?

1. Minimal is a good word.You stop buying food because you have to eat up what's in the pantry. Extra clothes = giveaways. Less is better. "Just enough" is enough. Of everything.
2. Non-essentials stop: shopping, visits, and appointments. You've got to do what has to get done; so everything else goes out the window.
3. Your calendar of "last things" is crammed. It may not be a pretty list, but the squares are full.

  • Dental checkup
  • Dr./physical
  • Vaccines at Bartell's
  • Open cabin for the kids
  • Final writer's critique group
  • Accountability group meeting
  • (And the strangest entry of all, July 1) "Goodbye to everything"
We must be nearly ready to leave.

Read more:
*[When love of God and care for others is our priority:] Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. Isaiah 58:8-9a NIV

*If you do not stand firm in faith, you shall not stand at all. Isaiah 7:9 ESV

*Jesus said to Simon Peter, "I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail." Luke 22:32 NASB

Moravian Prayer: In days of doubt and in days of certainty, we pray, Lord, that our faith will always rest in you. Strengthen our hearts and our faith, trusting Lord. Amen.

C. S. Lewis in Mere Christianity
Teachers will tell you that the laziest boy in the class is the one who works hardest in the end. They mean this. If you give two boys, say, a proposition in geometry to do, the one who is prepared to take trouble will try to understand it. The lazy boy will try to learn it by heart because, for the moment, that needs less effort. But six months later, when they are preparing for an exam, that lazy boy is doing hours and hours of miserable drudgery over things the other boy understands, and positively enjoys, in a few minutes.

Laziness means more work in the long run. Or look at it this way. In a battle, or in mountain climbing, there is often  one thing which it takes a lot of pluck to do; but it is also, in the long run, the safest thing to do. If you funk it, you will find yourself, hours later, in far worse danger. The cowardly thing is also the most dangerous thing.

It is like that here. The terrible thing, the almost impossible thing, is to hand over your whole self—all your wishes and precautions—to Christ. But it is far easier than what we are all trying to do instead. For what we are trying to do is to remain what we call ‘ourselves’, to keep personal happiness as our great aim in life, and yet at the same time be ‘good’. We are all trying to let our mind and heart go their own way — centred on money or pleasure or ambition—and hoping, in spite of this, to behave honestly and chastely and humbly. And that is exactly what Christ warned us you could not do. As He said, a thistle cannot produce figs. If I am a field that contains nothing but grass-seed, I cannot produce wheat. Cutting the grass may keep it short: but I shall still produce grass and no wheat. If I want to produce wheat, the change must go deeper than the surface. I must be ploughed up and re-sown.