I have done this before

16 03 2020

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I have done this before.

Not the part about being a pastor during a pandemic, deciding if spiritual care justifies driving during a state of emergency, or how to encourage a congregation of 80 in gatherings of ten people or less.

I have worked late into the night after kids are asleep to get housework done because the day was full of helping them learn, getting healthy food into their bellies, and showing them how to be kind.

I’ve risen early, almost every day, to get my heart on straight before little feet hit the floor and run to where the food is already on the table.

I’ve escaped into the bathroom for a few minutes of sanity between question #98 and #107. (I ignored #99-106, feigning being unable to hear above the sound of the toilet flushing.

I’ve wondered if there was any life our identity outside of being mom—a homeschooling mom.

While schools are closed and moms and dads who also have jobs and responsibilities outside the home now being done IN the home, I thought it might be comforting to know there is someone who has some understanding of what your life is. You can run a full-scale company overhaul but can’t access the part of your brain that learned how to multiply fractions.

It’s going to be OK. You’re going to make it through. I promise. Life will be tough, sure, but some of what makes life hard is also going to be the glue that will weather future storms and hold you all together better than a perfect spring break trip.

I didn’t intend to teach our boys at home for more than a few years, but it turned into a K-12 season. Maybe some of what I discovered will encourage you in the weeks to come.

  • Getting an answer correct is not as important as having a right attitude—and that starts with the parent/teacher. You probably don’t remember how to multiply fractions and a lot of other things you learned in school, but I’m sure at least one character lesson from your childhood continues to shape who you are today.
  • Having a schedule communicates expectations and provides a safety framework. If everyone has a basic idea of what needs to happen when, instability fades into ownership. This may take a week or two to figure out but keep working on it—you will find your family’s rhythm.
  • Comparing yourself, your children, or your family’s experience to others (who seem to be nailing it) will make you feel inadequate and prove to yourself you are a failure. Don’t compare yourself to the glowing social posts of your friends’ incredible moments! They do have great days—and their own unique struggles, which they probably won’t memorialize by taking a photo, never mind by posting it.
  • Being flexible communicates grace better than an apology after an angry explosion. Your kids are trying to find their new normal just as much as you are. They need your firm guidance, and loving understanding. These are not mutually exclusive. Check your short fuse at your front door. Use coping strategies to tone down your emotions. Someone must be the parent.
  • Making it through the day is a world-class achievement in this season, and a season always gives way to another. Get through each day and a new season will come. I promise.

You are amazing – and you have great kids. They are some of God’s most precious gifts, and he gave them to you. With his help he knows you can do this. Because I know that is true, I believe in you.

If you want to chat, I’m here.


The Flu v. Covid

14 03 2020

IMG_2025 Broad Ripple Library

We are all touched by COVID. Its effect is everywhere whether the virus actually is or not.

But in the US, it’s important to remember we don’t have an outbreak yet. You don’t have to live in fear that touching your face that one time you forgot and scratched your nose is going to kill you.

What we are doing right now is PREVENTION.

Yes, wash your hands. Yes, keep your hands off your face (as much as is humanly possible.) Yes, use social distancing (stay six feet away from people, avoid large group gatherings, stay home.) These do two things – they greatly reduce the spread of the virus, especially by those who are carriers and don’t know it, and they are good practice if an outbreak occurs.

The measures the CDC recommends have worked in the past. The flu epidemic of 1918 was greatly reduced by using social distancing.

In addition, the (very) recent past confirms that without taking precautionary steps, COVID spreads quickly. Think China. Think Italy. By studying what happened in these two countries, we see their choice to ignore the virus led to great suffering and many deaths of their people.

Some have countered, “COVID isn’t that big of deal. The death rate for the flu is much higher!” That is true, but that is not why schools are closing and the NBA suspended the end of the season.

This virus spreads from person-to-person quickly, and after the 14-day incubation period the virus is aggressive within an infected person’s body. Many more people than those with the flu need hospitalization to get well as the initial minor symptoms quickly give way to pneumonia. So far, the death rate for COVID is lesser than for the flu. However, the greatest threat of the virus is overloading health care systems. In Italy, there aren’t enough hospital beds, ventilators, or doctors to treat the severely ill. The triage process has become a morbid exercise as patients are rated by the likelihood of recovering—those patients are the ones who receive care by exhausted nurses and respiratory therapists in a system that is completely overwhelmed.

This is why government officials are recommending canceling large gatherings. This is why schools are closing. This is why we are being asked to stay home.

Some people will die from COVID in the US, but an epidemic in the US is preventable. As some have already said, if quarantine measures are successful, critics will say they were unnecessary. Tell that to the families in Italy who have watched loved ones die who could have recovered with good medical care. Our inconveniences will be worth it if those, hopefully few, people who will need critical care are able to receive it. If it helps to think of the ones close to you who are at risk, comply for their sake.

Should we be fearful? Or should we be concerned and diligent, complying with recommendations? I choose the latter and encourage you to do the same.

In addition to measures recommended by governmental officials, these are some practical things I will be doing:

  • Staying home and developing new habits of connecting with family, friends, and neighbors.
  • Reaching out to those who will struggle more than I will—the list is a long of those who will both continue to work and won’t be able to work, for the good of us all.
  • Praying—specifically for those I know who are struggling, and generally for the situation. And also for God’s wisdom for myself to know what to say and do.
  • Shopping responsibly, not hoarding.
  • Sharing ideas for how to bless others.
  • Communicating stories of how people have taken adverse constraints and turned them into opportunities.

Join me?

The irony of four score and seven years ago

29 05 2017


I may be wrong, but I think Lincoln stated more than just giving context to the beginning of his speech dedicating the cemetery at Gettysburg Battlefield in 1863. Four score (a score is 20 years) and seven years ago from his perspective was 1776 – the year of the Declaration of Independence. Such irony! Lincoln wasn’t just pointing to the date Read the rest of this entry »

Don’t give it away

20 01 2017


Don’t give it away

This weekend a president becomes a former POTUS, and a president-elect takes office. Very few Americans have an ambivalent opinion about the change. Hysteria reigns on both sides.

There is, however, a massive group of people who won’t be affected by this changing-of-the-guard, even if people in it have strong feelings. These are America’s Read the rest of this entry »

Crocus Strong

12 04 2013


crocus-2Spring is having trouble booting in the midwest this year. My bulbs came up in sunshine and warmth only to be covered in ice twice and snow three times.

The little golden patch of crocus keeps trying. When the sun comes the buds are glorious and open, petals outstretched as arms embracing the hope of newness. When covered in ice or snow (or both), the buds are shut tight. Patient. Protected.

My crocus (or is it crocuses, or croci?) are resilient. Even after every type of weather dumped on them from confused clouds, they endure.

My little gold-buds contain wisdom. The perfect time for blooming is built into their bulbs and they obey the instructions without complaint or frustration.

My spring heralds are hope-harbingers. They are pretty, however the joy they deliver is also due to the promise of the new life they signal– spring returning after death and harsh barren cold.

My returning friends are delicate as butterfly wings and as strong as sub-zero ice. Their beauty is powerful and their strength is radiant.

My tiny droplets of colorful hope lead the entire garden community, sleepers still, waiting for safer days. The others are not strong enough to be a crocus.

I wonder if I am.

I Know Too Much

7 07 2012

I know too much.

And I have too much.


What I don’t know, I can find out.

What I don’t have, I can save for and buy.


I like to learn new things.

I like to buy new things.


What I could know used to be limited by my personal and local library and newspapers.

What I could buy used to be limited by local stores and the Sears catalog.

Now both are as unlimited as the Internet and as vast as Google’s search tentacles.

I have more new books (thank-you Amazon!) than I can possibly read this year; and more decisions on what to buy when I have extra cash (thank-you wishlist-enabled vendors!) than I care to evaluate.

I know too much; I have too much; and I shiver in my flip flops, for “to whom much is given, much is required”.

The Internet is only partly to blame (if guilt needs to be assigned).  A stack of conference notes and booklets begs to be reviewed and summarized.  Books I’ve finished recently wait their turns to be skimmed one last time (especially the underlined sections) before shelving.  Seminar CD sirens call to me through a growing layer of dust, hoping to wreck my urgent to-do list resolve on the jagged rocks of taking a listening break.

I don’t think I’m alone in my over-saturated paralysis.  But I may be a product of my pre-Internet generation.

I’ve noticed that my younger friends who grew up on computers and cell phones aren’t bothered by not being able to weigh all the options.  They don’t miss the daily paper (because they never had one to read) but get their news piecemeal from blogs and Internet news digests.  They look until they find an answer (sometimes verifying their findings with a supporting source) and move on.  They take what they need and leave the rest.  And there is a LOT of “the rest”.

My brain cries out for rest.  My soul longs for it.  How much more do I need to know?  Especially since I don’t have time to act on everything I know.  Just getting “do unto others as you would have them do to you” keeps me busy.

So why do I need to know more?

To be kind to myself, New is fun and energizing.  But the rate of New coming at me is morphing fun into high walls— killing fun and keeping real life out.  Ignoring email and Facebook for a day floods my inboxes that have become unmanageable with 100’s of messages as I write this.

I really don’t need more.  More has become paralyzing.  I need order—or at least a survival plan!

I have been looking for a plan this year.  My One Word is simplicity.

THAT is something I need more of!


How about you?  Do you struggle with this?  Have you discovered strategies or coping skills?

One that I have been trying out is acting on what I know instead of consuming more info.  More about that next time.

The Other Half of Me

30 06 2012

I have my mom’s slight frame, her sister’s smile, and her great-grandma’s eyes.  My sister’s daughter looks like me when I was her age, and my brother’s daughter looks enough like me to be my daughter.

For all 49 years of my life I have seen myself as my mother’s daughter.  I’m not a prude – I know I wouldn’t be here without my dad.  It’s just that I’ve never identified with him or his side of the family.  We didn’t spend much time with them when I was younger, and I don’t resemble anyone on that side of my family tree.  And he and I didn’t have much time together; he died soon after my 16th birthday.

A recent conversation has redefined how I see myself.

I was sitting outside at dusk on a picnic table talking to friend who was asking questions about my photography background.  His questions reminded me that my dad was a newspaper photographer before I was born.  “I never made the connection until now that we both enjoyed taking pictures,” I wondered aloud as the sunset yielded to the first stars of the night.  “We never got to share our interest.  My dad died before I bought my first camera.”

That got me thinking.  Dad had also been a staff writer at the newspaper.  I vaguely remember him congratulating me when I won an essay contest in junior high, but we never really talked about liking to write.

And this week my mom added another surprise to my already churning thoughts.  She mentioned that Dad kept a detailed scrapbook of his published stories and photos.  My dad a scrapbooker, too!  Maybe I’m more than just my mother’s daughter.

I started making a mental list, tracing photography, writing, music, love of nature, playing practical jokes, long walks in the woods, the quest for a simple life, doing what’s right (not popular), back to my dad’s influence.  How did I not see that before?

Unconsciously, I defined myself through a filter that didn’t include an important half of who I am.

Lately, I’ve been enjoying getting to know my dad— and myself— through the interests we shared.  At every stage of life I have grieved not having him around.  Now I find myself wanting to ask him how he would have framed a shot.  And I would love to know if he would have made the jump from film to digital.  I wonder if he would have had a blog; or at least subscribed to mine.

The dawn is putting out the stars as I finish writing in the quiet of a summer morning.  Looking out the window at the rain, I am mourning that we missed each other, like the two ruts of a forest trail—both going in the same direction, but never meeting.   And yet in a sense, as I turn to focus a shot, there he is, smiling beside me.

I am my father’s daughter.


A grade school photo of my dad


20 06 2012

Why does it take you so long to vacuum?  I’m glad you asked.

Get vacuum out of closet, unwrap cord, and plug in. 30 seconds.

Notice dog nose smears on window, get rags and cleaner, clean window and windowsill.  3 min.

Notice other windows have dog smears including the back patio door, continue cleaning all windows within reach of dog nose. 5 min.

Notice plant by back door is dusty and in need of trim.  Find scissors, trim and rotate plant. 1 min.

Back to vacuum.  I am now 10 minutes into vacuuming but haven’t turned it on yet.

Notice couch is frumpy and in need of a detox.  Lightly spray couch and pillows… and dog’s chair while I’m at it (WIAI).  2 min.

Notice end table is sticky when setting spray bottle down.  Get a clean rag out and wash/dry table.  Clean light switches WIAI on the way to drop the now-sticky rag into the washing machine.  5 min.

Start vacuuming, ignoring the light globes that need washing and the black entertainment center components that are a dusty shade of gray, but not the piece of Christmas wrapping paper peeking out from behind the couch.  (“How long has that been there?” I wonder, in a dazzling display of mental duh-ness.  “Since Christmas,” I answer myself, giving myself a mental headslap, since my hands are holding the vacuum handle and the shard of wrapping paper.)  Living room floor is vacuumed. 10 min.

Now I deal with the light globes and dusty entertainment center. 15 min.

Standing on the dining room table removing the light globes, I notice the couch spray on the table, so I flip the cushions, vacuum them and under them (such a lot of crumbs for a couple who don’t have a lot of parties!) and spray the whole thing again.  18 min.

One hour later, I am pushing the vacuum through the kitchen into the family room.

There are four more carpeted rooms in my house.  My husband can vacuum them all in 30 minutes.

This is one of the few times I wish for male-pattern blindness.

The Pleasures of an Ordinary Life

7 11 2011

By Judith Viorst


It’s been awhile since I’ve posted.  Too busy enjoying my ordinary life, I guess!  I found this little poem in a book my mother gave me for my birthday earlier this year.

Some people have commented that striving for ordinary is a cop-out.  I disagree.  The Ordinary Life is full of adventure, great joy (and pain), and mystery.  But only to the one seeking to be truly present and to not miss the treasures (and pleasures) on an ordinary life.


I have had my share of necessary losses,

Of dreams I know no longer can come true.

I’m done now with the whys and becauses.

It’s time to make things good, not just make do.

It’s time to stop complaining and pursue

The pleasures of an ordinary life.


I used to rail against my compromises.

I yearned for the wild music, the swift race.

But happiness arrived in new disguises:

Sun lighting a child’s hair.  A friend’s embrace.

Slow dancing in a safe and quiet place.

The pleasures of an ordinary life.


I’ll have no trumpets, triumphs, trails of glory.

It seems the woman I’ve turend out to be

Is not the heroine of some grand story.

But I have learned to find the poetry

In what my hands can touch, my eyes can see.

The pleasures of an ordinary life.


Young fantasies of magic and of mystery

Are over.  But they really can’t compete

With all we’ve built together: A long history.

Connections that help render us complete.

Ties that hold and heal us.  And the sweet,

Sweet pleasures of an ordinary life.

Rapture 2011

20 05 2011

I’m not a prophet, but the end of the world is here.

Tomorrow, May 21, 2011, is the day Jesus will come back according to Harold Camping, and the world will be destroyed five months later.  Some have spent crazy amounts of money helping to spread the news so that no one gets left behind.

Most people familiar with the Bible know there is a verse in which Jesus states that no one knows the hour or day when time will end except Father God in heaven.  So it seems more than a little presumptuous that any minister of the Word of God would be bold enough to name a time.  More than a little!

However, think a little longer with me about this.

Walk down a theater ramp, suspend your disbelief, and listen to the movie theme rising as the house lights dim.  About 15 minutes into the show disaster erupts and people are dying all over the place without a hero in sight.  Tension builds as plot lines intersect until the climax, when civilization is rescued (just barely) by an average guy who cares so much about those in harm’s way, he takes on almost super-human strength and qualities.  An emotional domestic scene wraps up the loose ends as lovers, and former enemies, put pettiness behind them for what truly matters.

Now step back into reality with me, trading daylight for the imposed darkness.  A little shift has occurred in my mind and heart; I am not the same as I was before I entered the theater.  How about you?

So, what if tomorrow is our last day together?  How would that change today?  What pettiness would become unimportant, and what priorities would become clear as metaphorical dust settles in slow motion through sunrays?  Statistically, a pretty big group of people will exit life’s theater tomorrow into eternal reality.  I could be in that group.  So could you.

Dates and equations, histrionics and drama aside, maybe Rev. Camping isn’t as crazy as everyone is saying he is.  And maybe I am a prophet.

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