Saturday, October 21, 2017

Glorious Autumn

There are times when I lay on the floor of my bedroom, curled up in a patch of sunlight, half delirious with the brightness of fall leaves and half suffocated by the suffering world around me.

There are days when I spend hours outside in glorious autumn, planting bulbs, brown, egg-shaped personifications of hope.

There are 43 autumns behind me now, lived out in Alaska, California, England, Oregon and Washington. Yet every single autumn I am surprised by the beauty of this world.

I have spent 43 years watching God move in my life, seeing His goodness, testifying to His grace. Yet every single time He shows up I am surprised by His love.

Last night I said goodnight to the kids at the bottom of the stairs, I turned and quickly walked through the dark office to get to my own much desired bed. My mind was on Saturday's dress fitting for the Nutcracker. Obviously absorbing. The next thing I knew something slammed into me. Hard. I flew back several feet and landed flat on my back with a force that brought a scream and sob simultaneously.  I was stunned and in pain.

After Dave got me to my feet (ah I could still use my legs, good sign) I realized that I had run into the half open door. The solid wood had pushed my glasses into my now swollen eye and propelled me backwards with the same force I had been moving forward. I had walked into a door...don't only old people do things like that? My tailbone took the brunt of it and is now officially elderly.

God has this same effect on me. I move through life swiftly, thinking, planning, organizing my days, and I run into the God of the universe. Sometimes He stops me gently, and sometimes He's a door in the dark. Sometimes I lay on my back longer than I need to, insensible to what's going on. Other times, I'm up and thankful for the direction, for the halt. Maybe, like last night, I hobble to bed wry and bruised and humble. 

But the overwhelming fact is God shows up. He cares enough about our lives and our circumstances to interact with us. He is unpredictable, yet consistently faithful. 

Tonight, the rain rolls down the windows of my home. The trees drip leaves of red and yellow. Avonlea plays the piano and sings and a gray cat walks into my room. I am again overwhelmed by the beauty of life. But the heights reflect the depths and I also think of the suffering of the world, of people I love, and of my own burdens and I lift them up to God. I remember that I am not an exception. This good God who shows up and guides and helps me will also be present in the lives of those in need. 

To live hope is to take a prayer, an action, a word and bury it, bulb-like, in the hard ground; to revel in the glory of autumn is to prepare for the beauty of spring .

Monday, August 28, 2017

Avonlea's Graduation

When it comes right down to it, I'm a sentimentalist. I don't try to be, I just am.

So I approached Avonlea's high school graduation with fear and trembling. Granted, Avonlea's personality doesn't encourage sentimentality. She is silly and quirky and a bit of a bubble but STILL she's my first born and she was graduating. Sniff, gulp. 
She had a really hard time with the tassel making her cross eyed. Bubble.
We decided to do a home school graduation where Dave and I would talk to her on stage for several minutes and then she would respond to us. There were 11 graduates total and I knew that this had the potential for a full out sob fest. 

Avonlea with four of her graduating friends. I had just said something funny.

When my friend Dayna moved to North Dakota I gave a little talk at her farewell party at the church. I made it too nostalgic and got teary and promptly forgot the end of the speech. (Which, unfortunately, was the best part). So I learned my lesson and knew that if I got emotional I'd end up not saying what I wanted to. So we decided to make it funny.

Lord knows, with Avonlea, it wasn't too hard. The hard part was trying to narrow down her exploits to mock. I wrote out both my part and Dave's and he added his own personal touch at the end. The result was laughter and a memory of joy. 

I thought I'd include our talk here so that everyone one who wanted to come, but couldn't, could laugh with us.

Our Graduation Talk to Avonlea.....June 10, 2017

Me: Avonlea, I've never told you this before, but your dad and I established certain criteria to determine whether or not we should keep you.

Of course there were the general baby qualifiers, big eyes, fat thighs, etc. But what it boiled down to was " Will this child make us laugh?"

So since you had the eye/thigh thing going on we kept you around to see if you produced mirth.

Dave: Do you remember when you were seven and I took you up to your grandma's attic? I told you not to step on the insulation. You were obedient and you didn't step on the insulation, but you did sit on it. You went bottom first through the ceiling I lunged and caught you by the ankle. Your only comment was "Now I have something exciting to tell my children!"
You were expensive and destructive, but you were funny.

Me: And when I took you into the dressing room with me at a nice clothing store and in the quiet of concentrated shoppers your little voice popped out, "Wow mommy! Your legs start out so small at the bottom and get so big at the top!" I grinned and admitted that though you were embarrassing, you were funny.

Dave: When you took your first communion at church and before we could stop you clicked plastic cups with us and said "Cheers". You were sacrilegious, but you were funny.

Me: And when our house was filled with your music, when the days were lived to the melodies your fingers produced on the harp and the piano, When your harp music would coax the animals to you and you'd play with a parakeet on your shoulder and a cat in your lap. You were talented, but even in your talent, you found a way to be funny.

Dave: When you spent the majority of adolescence in the woods seeking birds' nests and strange fungus. You'd come home with your twigs and moss sticking out of your wild hair and burrs stuck to your camo. We'd look at you and say, she's crazy, but she's funny.

Me: So the decision was unanimous.

Dave: And we've never regretted it.

Me: Thanks for all the laughter Avonlea. Homeschooling you for the past 17 years has been a joy to me. Your have taught me more than I taught you. Thank you for being my guinea pig and allowing me to try eyery conceivable curriculum on you. You are scholastically well rounded. Thank you for staying patient and loving me even when I was a crazy wild woman. Your sweetness always calmed me. Over all the achievements that we celebrate today is the core that really matters, you love Jesus. We thank God for the gift of you Avonlea. We love you.

Dave: From the day you were born I committed myself to being the best father I could be. And though I failed many times I thank God for His help in raising you. He has truly blessed me beyond measure to see you through the last 17 years become increasingly more responsible, independent, and most importantly have a faith in Jesus Christ you have called your own. May your faith in God grow and flourish becoming fully dependent on Him in all circumstances. May you follow Him with abandon not based on feeling but based on commitment in the God you trust. I am proud of you and love you very much.

Avonlea is going to be around this year working. She was accepted at Capernwray Bible College in New Zealand for the 2018-19 school year. So I'm still able to keep my chin up and tell myself I have her for 11 more months. 
We were at a light. Pretty sure.
I'm so thankful to all of our friends and family who have contributed to Avonlea's life these past 17 years. So many of you have demonstrated Jesus in tangible ways and she is close to Him because she was close to you first. We were so blessed by everyone who celebrated with us through presence and presents. Thank you.

And now we move into the next chapter....(I can feel the sentimentality starting to tingle) Bible school, then marriage, and finally grand-children...and it seemed only yesterday she was toddling around in diapers...I need to go blow my nose.

Monday, June 19, 2017


I like loops.
Roads that begin and end in the same place.
I like leaving and I like coming home.
I like continuity.

My first loop experience was at Capernwray where you left the castle door with a chum or two and came back to the castle door with an enlarged worldview or a poetic twist on your common ideas.

Along the loop you'd see things like this:

And this:

The beauty of the journey shaped my soul as much as the conversation enlarged my thoughts.

I have recently experienced another type of loop. This month, Dave and I celebrated our 20th anniversary. Since we met in England we decided to loop back to Europe to toast our twenty. So in May, Dave and I spent a week in Switzerland.

The Matterhorn
We spoke of our own 20 year loop as we looped along mountain passes and waterfalls. We let our eyes feast on the beauty and our souls feast on the faithfulness of God through the long, winding years. I had time to look at my husband and say, "Thank you. You have been a faithful, loving husband to me for 20 years. I appreciate it. You are more than I deserve. God has shown me His goodness through you."

Tolkien's inspiration for Rivendell. Valley of 72 waterfalls.

Dave had time to tell me a hundred times a day that he thinks I'm beautiful and that he feels very blessed to be my husband. I had time to agree with him.

He took my hand when we crossed the street and he put me on the inside of the sidewalk when we walked. Dave took care of me loving and it reminded me of all the times he has sacrificially cared for me.

We are starting out from the castle door again. A new loop with new views and hopefully another 20 years journey to look forward to. There will be steep hills and deep valleys and graves by the roadside. But I wouldn't want to walk it with anyone else.
A ruin/graveyard I saw from the town and felt compelled to explore.

Our hotel served afternoon tea every day and I loved it!!!
We can see some things on the horizon. Avonlea, our first born, graduated from high school three weeks after we came home. We have our foster care training in August. Rowan starts junior high in the fall. Rose got promoted to the next level of her ballet training.
You don't think of the Alps as being blinding, but they were! We could barely open our eyes without sunglasses!

But there are lots of bends and dips in the road that we just can't see. But we know who we're following and we know we will walk next to each other. So we trust and we set out.

I like loops.
Roads that begin and end in the same place.
I like leaving and I like coming home.
I like walking next to you.


Saturday, April 29, 2017

Our Week: Ducks, Morphine, and Photo Shoots

Rowan is again making the headlines in our home.
He has become the proud possessor of a duckling. He owns a black duck named Swift and Rose has a yellow quacker named Popcorn. Super cute and fun, Until Rowan didn't wash his hands well enough after cleaning the cage and came down with salmonella poisoning.
Our week, consisted of trying to determine why he was so sick and encompassed, one urgent care visit, one doctor visit, two ER visits, and finally hospitalization in a children's hospital. They checked for a huge array of diseases and infections which left us reeling from potential scenarios for our future and Rowan's future. Salmonella poisoning isn't usually hailed with glee, but in our case, it was.

Cutest culprits of infection ever

There were some beautiful gifts given in the process of all of this chaos and confusion.

Prayer. So many texts from so many dear friends telling us they were praying. Rowan recovered so much faster than anyone expected given the seriousness of his case, but I knew it was because he was covered in the prayers of God's people.

Bonds. As Rowan lay writhing in pain on a stretcher he kept calling for his brother. He burst into tears when Dave showed him a recent picture of them together on vacation. He kept repeating over and over, "God's got me. Dad and Mom have got me. Grant's got me." It blessed my heart to see how much he loves his brother.

Education. We had a nurse ask in the ER if Rowan was home schooled. We said yes and then Dave asked what gave it away. The nurse explained that most 11 year olds don't quote the entire Gettysburg Address when in duress. Right. Rowan also quoted the 24th Psalm and discoursed for a bit on his favorite civil war battle (Chickamauga). He was delirious with pain but what came out was what he had worked so hard to put in.

Our very sick little boy waiting for his CAT scan
Faith. Rowan wanted to listen to music in the ER while we waited for the results of a CAT scan. He chose to listen to Bethel's "It is well with my soul". A nurse commented that he doesn't hear that one much in the ER. We met some wonderful nurses and doctors who serve in a really hard setting with really sick people, yet they do so with such compassion and wisdom.

Pleasant surprises. On Friday we were told that our nurse, Jody, had won a nursing award. She was going to be featured in a magazine and have her picture in the lobby of the hospital up on the wall. She would be photographed with a patient and she chose Rowan. Rowan miraculously stopped writhing long enough to smile up at her while she took his temperature and stuff. He's truly my son and photo shoots are not to be passed up NO Matter What.

Drugs. A shot of morphine gave Rowan much needed relief. He really liked the morphine and was later a bit irritated at the nurses who only offered ibuprofen and Tylenol. I woke up in the hospital Friday morning to Rowan's eyes boring into me as he stated, "I want more morphine." It was a good thing we had a lot of time together in the hospital because I was able to tell him every horror story of drug addiction I had ever heard. Pretty sure I got my point across as he refused Tylenol and ibuprofen after our hours long discussion.
Rowan in his hospital room contemplating escape

Home. We had some vague promises that we could go home from the hospital on Friday so when the doctor came in and said  Rowan's levels were too high for her to feel comfortable letting him go, we were both disappointed. But as soon as the doctor left the room, Rowan was more than disappointed. He was crushed. "I want my home. I want my dog. I want my brother. I want my bed. I want to go home." I tried to comfort him but he'd had it. He packed up his stuff and he told the nurse, "I am completely better. I want to go home." She listened to him. She talked to the doctor who agreed to do another blood draw. She found his levels so decreased that she was surprised and allowed him to go home. His face when he got here. His arms around his siblings. His hands on his dog. His smile and happiness and thankfulness filled my heart to overflowing.

So somehow, out of this crazy wild week, I emerged encouraged. Rowan slept 12 hours last night. He woke up weak and scrawny but so happy to be surrounded by the people who love him best. I hope all my kids always feel like that. That they know they have a place in something bigger than themselves and that our family also has a place in a bigger picture. I'm encouraged that even in the midst of all this mess God has got us, and my children know it. Praise the Lord.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Stretching my Borders into China and beyond....

If you were to ask me the top things that I dislike in life (only pertaining to myself and not having to do with slavery, hunger, etc.) I would state the following: hiking uphill, being cold, critical people, competition, and arguing.

Seeing how I hail from Alaska and married a mountain climber, the first two are unfortunate, but I've managed to cope and wear long underwear. Critical people, I've learned to spot a mile away and shamelessly run. My family knows that mommy doesn't compete, even when we play games, so we play them nicely. "I'm sorry I had to send you home but that was the only move possible," is commonly heard. As for arguing, a kind answer truly does "turn away wrath".

Unfortunately, my children not only did not inherit my particular set of dislikes but they claim their own. Which makes for an interesting dinner table. They also possess their own particular likes that don't always parallel my own. Take, The Three Stodges for example. But I endure. Rowan, in particular, is passionate about things that I have a hard time getting excited about. He's a huge history buff, he collects instruments (and plays them), he wants to be president so he loves politics, he is constantly asking questions and debating my answers. But I love him. Love every freckle on his little nose. So I try.

Several weeks ago he asked if he could be on a debate team. I told him I'd look into it and contacted someone in charge of our area's speech and debate team for home school students. She said the best way to be introduced to their team was to come to the speech and debate competition, and since I was going, would I judge at it? (!!!) Every freckle, every I say yes.

This my friends, is how I end up with so many stories. I say yes with NO INFORMATION.

Thursday morning, Rowan and I go to the school where the competition was being held at 7:15 am. I am told I will judge a debate on US trade policies with China. I will be the only judge and will pick a winner and rate the speakers from best to last. I try not to cry. You may realize that I just entered into a world in which the last three things on my list are first and foremost. I have to criticize people. I have to engage in a competition and listen to people argue (don't tell me debating is different). Not to mention: TRADE WITH CHINA. Which I know nothing about, nor have a any desire to know anything about.

I come in the room and sit at a table with the person who is timing on one side and Rowan on the other. I have a ballot in front of me. Each team has two contestants and they all come and shake my hand. Then one guy speaks up and asks, "We would like to know the extent of your judging experience and what you want to see today."

This my friends, is raw. Everything I've just written here flashes through my brain but all I say is, "I have no experience." Then I answer the second part of his question 'what do you want to see.' I refrain from the truth, which is, I want to see my bed and a cup of tea, and answered, "I want to see clear points with good support." God help me.

The debate is over. Everyone shakes hands. My eyeballs hurt. An hour and ten minutes of my life has passed. Rowan and I go to the judge's room and he tells me how to fill out the ballot and who won. He has clear points with good support. He says, "I love this Mom. I can't wait to do this." Every freckle, every freckle...

I then went on to judge literature interpretation which took two hours. The kids who performed weren't arguing and most of them made me laugh so that wasn't so bad. One of them made me cry, she got first place.

I came home five hours later laughing and thoroughly exhausted. How stuffy and confined I'd be if it weren't for my husband and children. They have stretched the borders of what I think and do until I almost don't recognize my own inheritance. The love I have for them is always growing, and in its expansion, I also expand. This isn't always comfortable but it's so worth it.

And if I'm going to enter the world of debating, I need to find the equivalent of long underwear.
Maybe earplugs?

Saturday, January 7, 2017

A Quiet Life Where People Talk Angrily


Ah, the country.
Neighbors sprinkled sparingly like salt. A little friendliness makes everything more flavorful, too much and you gag.
We met a few of our neighbors over the summer. Nice, quiet, peaceful people.
Then a man tried to build a road adjacent to our private country neighborhood road to construct a house on, and the country got angry.
I was texted.
I was called.
I was visited.
The evil of this act was explained to me and it had something to do with CCNRs. I tried to get a word in edgewise to explain that I didn't know what those were. But no, my words were not to be. I signed something and my new neighbors left happy.
In parting they said, "We're sorry you have to be involved in this when you are new to the neighborhood."
I responded, "Well we used to live across from government housing so you guys are a step up."

About 5 days later, I was headed out alone to the store when I was intercepted on our road. By a man in a fuzzy gray robe with dangling earrings. He stopped me and introduced himself as Junior. He was about 50 years old. He was angry that the man was building his house in the mornings when his dad was trying to sleep. His dad is 87 years old and this house building is threatening his life.
I had already heard from the other neighbors that 2 of the senior citizens on our street had to be seen by a doctor because they were so upset about the illegal road activity, but this was new news.
Junior went on to tell me all the nasty things he planned to do to this builder if he didn't stop threatening his father's life. A couple of times he stopped and looked intently at me to see how I was taking it. I think he could tell I was stunned because he said, twice, "You look like a very nice lady." To which I nodded acquiesce. I finally just started driving slowly away, he walked beside my car, still talking for a bit.

I take back what I said about a step up. Sure there was a shooting, several drug dealers, and brawling in the old neighborhood,  but I never once saw anyone in their bathrobe.

I don't know what is going to happen next but I hope that everyone it involves is fully clothed.

Speaking of clothing, I went out warm up the car to take Grant to school on Thursday morning, and found the car already warm. It was running. It had been running since 11:30 am on the previous day. Almost 21 hours of my car running but not going anywhere. This is my mom's fault. She is in Pennsylvania visiting my brother and I am all too obviously co-dependent.

Thanksgiving is this week and again, despite absent mothers and fuzzy robe clad neighbors, I am so thankful.
Thankful for the breath that fills my lungs every morning.
Thankful for the people God has given me to share life with.
Thankful for the Truth that is interwoven into the trite, making all of life meaningful. (I know you're thinking bathrobe here. Stop.)
Thankful for laughter that knits my family together through everything.
Thankful for the interesting people that live in the country. Who knew!

Growing Still

Thanksgiving drifted into Christmas and Christmas slid into January. The weather up at the cottage was just how Dave likes it...cold and snowy. We took full advantage of it with downhill skiing, cross country skiing, ice skating, snow shoeing and sledding.

The first day of January fell softly like the snow out the window.
It's newness reminded me of birth, of a wrinkled wise baby waiting to grown into itself.
We spent time together as a family, dedicating the baby year. Asking God to grow it strong and healthy and hopeful.

Then we came home and I moved back into the comfortable, happy rhythm of school and life with my husband and four children on the path toward adulthood. The familiarity of schedule is good, but there's a deeper good underneath it. I know I am growing. There have been years spent just trying to maintain sanity. Years when growth was, I thought, only what the children did.

Rose bringing in the New Year with Elijah and Annaka

Maybe it had something to do with an impulse I had right before Christmas. Our family initiated our new house with a game of sardines. We used to play it in our old house but just hadn't gotten around to it here. All the lights were out except the Christmas lights and we hid and found and frolicked. Then, inspired by the levity of the moment, I popped in a video of myself (previously unviewed by the kids) dancing and singing when I was 14. My children were shocked. I was obviously not stage shy. I danced with full abandon. After watching that video I had an epiphany. I am growing. I wasn't that same girl shimmying across the stage. I had grown demure.

Once I woke up to the fact, I saw other evidences. I could keep my mouth shut for longer periods of time. My devotions were consistent. I kept my temper with Rose during math (this is meant to be a general statement). Growing is present tense. I'm still in the midst of it. But it's there, and it's good.

So the year started and I recognize it as a journey, a single stair, a stepping stone.
Another opportunity to grow along with it.
So I dedicate myself again and I ask God to make me strong and healthy and hopeful.
And nice.
And sensitive.
And forgiving....good thing I'm only in my forties!
My niece Saylor

I try to remember that this is where we all are. In process. Being born. Growing up.

Happy baby year to you....may it be full of growth and joy....may it live up to its potential.


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