Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Papa's Ranch

It reminds me of my childhood. Horses, tractors, cattle, hiking, climbing, exploring... I love taking the kids to Papa's ranch because they get to experience life at a slower pace, a purity and peace that city life can't touch.
For so long I tried to get as far away from the country as possible. Now, I obsess about it. The DNA is inside me, and it compels me. It's like a dinner bell that continues to call me home. The desire in me to get back to my roots - so to speak - gets stronger and stronger everyday.
We'll see what happens...

It never seems to turn out like the vision in my mind...

I have been planning our Christmas photos for a couple of months. Darkish, Gothic revivalish, band-photoish, grey, black and silver hues.
For some reason, I was not able to capture the vision in my mind.
Could it be - - hmmm - - that I have a 5, 4 and 2 year old with whom I am trying to communicate my artistic vision? It's ok. Actually they did great. We got some great pics. My kids are freaking awesome.
I was hoping to get outside right at dusk. Alas, it was too cold. We ended up in the gallery at the Lawrence Arts Center. Its a great warm space, a blank canvas. We just migrated around the gallery for an hour - taking snapshots of the family. It was surprisingly calm and quite fun.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Our first big snow of the season

While I watched from my back door window, cozy and warm inside the house, I sent my kids out in the cold to burn off some steam.
Actually they requested this arctic adventure. I bundled them up with so many layers that I could almost audibly hear Randy from 'A Christmas Story' (Ralphie's little brother), as he waddled to the door and objected, "I can't put my arms down!"
I giggled just watching them. Canon stashed a storehouse of snowballs. Whitby expressed her creative self with one-of-a-kind, designer snow-angels. Cosmo wandered around the yard on a search and rescue mission for frozen footballs and frosty frisbees.
As for me, I tip-toed out about 4 times, just to capture these moments (which I did not personally attend) into photographs.

Snow Babies

Seeking Sugarplums

I read a book to my kids tonight in which the main character "Just couldn't wait for Christmas!" I chuckled and wondered, "At what point in our lives does the season of Christmas become such a hassle? (Just let me know if I am the only one out there who feels this way.)
Right around Thanksgiving, when the first Christmas song comes on in the elevator, I start to tense up as visions of disharmony dance in my head. Rather than anticipation, I feel apprehension. Christmas cheer becomes Christmas fear. I dread spending too much money (and boo myself for waiting till now - and not working on it all year). I agonize about what specific gifts to get each of the 13 adults and 15 children in our family. Traveling is a nightmare. My poor children are strapped to a chair for 8 - 10 - 12 hours at a time. That's abusive! But we do it... and we are expected to.
All that before we even reach our destinations! We get all out of whack. My family doesn't eat right or get enough sleep - no wonder EVERYONE is cranky! I worry that people might not get along or that one of us may offend someone. I stress my kids out because by golly, they must have perfect manners - in fact, they must be perfect. They must be seen and not heard. Let's just press pause on being a kid till we get back home, is that cool?
I am wracking my brain to summon a Christmas in the last 12 years in which no one got hurt, no one got in a fight, no one swore they would not be back next year.
Maybe things will be different this year. We can all don our gay apparrel. All will be calm, all will be bright. Bells on bobtail will ring. I will bring a dish. Everything will just be sugarplummy (that's christmas for "peachy").

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Bring a dish...

I meet with 8 other women in a mom's bible study on Monday mornings. I truly learn so much from these women. I learn about being a better mom, a better citizen, a better volunteer, a better wife, a better cook. Who am I kidding, I can't be a better cook. I am not a cook at all.
A few weeks ago one woman was telling about the breads she was making and the yeast that was passed down to her by her grandmother's yeast...collection...pile...clump??
Others chimed in about baking, and tips were shared about chopping nuts and freezing bananas and drizzling drizzle on top. I sit in suspended animation when they talk about such domestics. I feel exposed - someone is surely going to discover that I am clueless - yet I just smile and nod. But last week, they smoked me out.
Someone mentioned the advice her grandmother gave her about staying in-good with the in-laws. "Just give 'em a little squeeze and always bring a dish." All present, agreed with amusement but I stared blankly. "A Dish?" I blurted out.

This was an aha moment for me.

Last year, at Creighton's big family Christmas gathering, I noticed - I swear for the first time - that the other sisters-in-law had ALL brought a dish. How did they know to do that? I never got a memo about bringing a dish.
That's it. There IS no memo. Bringing a dish is just advice that is passed down like yeast from your grandmother's collection...pile...clump of "vital tidbits every wife and mother needs to know".
My life would be so much easier if someone could just compile these elusive tidbits into a simple, step-by-step manual. I could study it before I face the Moms on Monday morning.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

My Kids Need A Puppy.

All three of my children have been through the phase of pretending to be a puppy. The crawl around on hands and knees on the floor - even in public - the mall - the grocery. They eat pretend food from off the ground and lick my face. You know, normal everyday stuff. They play fetch. They will literally fetch for as long as I will throw. While they can't wrap their cheeks around a tennis ball, we do find other great items to fetch - socks - lincoln logs - veggie tale characters - sometimes even an actual stick. Yes, it looks exactly like a game of fetch with your own dog back home. I say, "Ready Puppy? FETCH Puppy!" and they take off (on hands and knees). The advantage they have over the K-9 is their ability to pick the item up with their hand and place it into their mouth before returning it to me. I pat their head and say "Goooooood Puppy!"
Sometimes they pant and sometimes they bark. Other times they roll over so I can scratch their tummy.

I'd say it's time to give in and purchase a dog.

The Conversations I Get Into...

How do you answer the question, "Do you believe in hell?"??
Is hell an actual place or a metaphorical concept? Is this a "lake of fire", or a place of "outer darkness"? Is it a place of eternal punishment or a place long forgotten? Is it "Sheol"? Does one hear only "weeping and knashing of teeth"?
I actually like anwering questions with questions.
What do you think? Is there an eternal nature to humanity? Will we exist in some form after this life? Will we be conscious of this existence? If so, will we exist in the presence of our Creator? Is there a choice we must make in this life which will determine how we will spend eternity? Or is the choice eternal (thank you C.S. Lewis)? Do we merely die and decompose? Is heaven an actual place? Is heaven simply another word for eternity?
Does anyone even buy Eternity by Calvin Klien anymore? Or was that a '90s thing. Remember those sensual black and white Eternity commercials starring Christy Turlington and some lovely man + two perfect kids playing on the beach in white, breezy clothes? P.S., wasn't Christy Turlington in a Duran Duran video back in the '80s? Notorious, I believe. How old is she?

Friday, October 12, 2007

Feeling a tiny bit naked.

It is amazing that hair, which is nothing more than an outgrowth of protein (Keratin, long chains or polymers of amino acids) atop a person's head, can be such a source of security.
I recently removed 10 inches (roughly 3-4 years) of hair. My reason for doing so was noble. I have always wanted to donate hair to locks of love, and did so with a great sense of do-gooder accomplishment.
The strange thing is that once it was all said and done, I started to feel a true sense of loss. I felt myself mourning this part of my body as if it were an amputated limb. And I wonder, is my identity and self-image tied (or twisted in a clip) to my hair? Not sure of the answer, but I am sure of one thing. I wish I could call and get my awesome braid back.
Not to over-spiritualize, but this experience reminded me of a couple of scriptures. One is the 1 Corinthians passage about "her hair" being "her glory" and head coverings and issues of praying and prophesying in church. The other is the admonition in 1 Timothy 2: 9 in which women are urged to "adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments..."

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Do we reincarnate?

Sooo, the disciples talk to Jesus in Matthew 17 about Elijah (after the Transfiguration) saying, "wasn't Elijah supposed to come again?". Jesus describes how - yes he was to come again and he did come again and was not recieved and was treated poorly and killed.... The disciples realized, and I quote, that he was talking about John the Baptist. What is going on here?
Either Elijah reincarnated as John the Baptist, or the essence of Elijah was in John the Baptist, or John resembled Elijah and Jesus was simply pointing out the similarity between the two. This is, however a tad confounding.
Elijah is mentioned a lot in Matthew. I know he was a famous Hebrew Hero. John is also mentioned a lot in Matthew. I am interested in the connection. But truly curious about the "John is actually Elijah" scenario.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007


I just realized that it has been two months and some change since last I wrote. Feel the need to make up for it with two posts in one day. Wow, I just have been SOOOO busy. Umm, walking my son to and from kindergarten, cleaning my house, calling my sister 4+ times a day, oh, working, planning for Cosmo's 2nd birthday party 9.29.07 (which was a smash), landscaping our backyard (which looks so fine), going to meetings, watching Design Star on HGTV, oh, reading the bible and praying.... Of course there has been some complaining mixed in there, feelings of discontentment, probably some pre-mid-life crisis frustrations. But for the most part, these last two months have been largly uneventful and pleasant.

John the Baptist

We have been reading through the book of Matthew with our Life Groups at Wesley. I am so captured by John the Baptist is Matthew 11. Here this man has given everything, his whole self and whole life in the service of Jesus - everything seems to be going great. Then out of the blue, he gets thrown in jail. I imagine this is unexpected. I mean, when we are giving selflessly and serving God, aren't we supposed to be blessed and have success? Well, he gets thrown in jail. John the freaking Baptist of all people gets thrown in jail.

I would have been protesting like crazy, "Umm, excuse me. Maybe you don't know who I am. I am the forerunner to Jesus, I'm kindof a big deal. That song Prepare the Way, they wrote that about me. There is no one born of women greater than me."

Instead, we hear John simply human, "Are you the One we have been waiting for or should we look for another?" I am struck by the beauty of this raw, authentic expression of weakness and doubt. John the Baptist has doubts. Just like me. That's refreshing because it seems like every other day that I end up asking the same thing because of my circumstances or my mood or my frustrations or expectations.

Matt 11: 2 - 6
2 John the Baptist, who was in prison, heard about all the things the Messiah was doing. So he sent his disciples to ask Jesus, 3 “Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?”
4 Jesus told them, “Go back to John and tell him what you have heard and seen— 5 the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor. 6 And tell him, ‘God blesses those who do not turn away because of me.”

Jesus responds to his cousin whom he loves with a word of hope. "Tell John about all the miracles. Tell him he has not labored in vain. Oh and p.s., tell him that God blesses those who do not turn away because of me."

We just can not know what the outcomes of our labor for Christ will be. And we are not promised success or prosperity, awards or fame. We simply are asked to be faithful.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Campus Ministry in Kansas

I am sitting around a table with all the campus ministry directors in the state of Kansas. I am quite surprized, this is really refreshing. It is beautiful to look around the group and hear where these people were born - to listen to their joys and their struggles. I am moved by Daisy from Uganda, a professor, a mother of 5, a campus minister at a small university. I want to invite myself to her home for dinner. I love that our TX friend, Matt Stone has moved to KS and is serving alongside us in campus ministry - even though it is at our rival school, K-State. I am thankful to see Katie Trinter, a student of ours from our time at SMU who has ventured to the heartland, exploring and exercising her innate gifts as a pastor. I am inspired by Steve, a religion professor at a Methodist college in Kansas. Such a humble person, yet he is intimately acquainted with Wesleyan theology. The other Steve is a jolly fellow, open and relational. As for Ashlee, I discovered that we know some of the same people from the seminary we attended. She and I are now friends on Facebook. Then there is Kurt, who knows every United Methodist person in youth and college ministry throughout the state; Natasha, who arrived in Topeka a month ago; and Linda, who in her 4th year is still learning but starting to experience the fruit of her discipling.
Creighton invited our friend Gregg Taylor to come share about his ministry at University of Arkansas. Wow, I love this man. I learn so much from him when I am around him, in conversation with him. Thing is, I have to pull it out of him. He does not force himself or his thoughts on people - but when asked, he just pours forth wisdom.
He challenged our paradigms.
Think, in the context of your ministry, about how you would answer these questions:
Where are we (what kind of world do we live in?)
Who are we? (What does it mean to be human?)
What's wrong? (What is the fundamental problem with the world?)
What time is it? (Where are we in the biblical story - God's story?)
What's the remedy? (What will fix the problem?)

God I pray for each of these campus leaders today. I pray they will be inspired, motivated, challenged, moved and strengthened by this weekend together.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

My husband is a badass.

With his bare hands and from scratch, Creighton constructed the coolest fort in the neighborhood. He set the posts in the ground - 3 feet of concrete. Friends, right angles are tricky. He actually got everything straight.
The Alamo is complete. And to top it all off :) we ordered a custom-made red and blue Texas tarp (which, for the good people of Lawrence KS, cleverly doubles as KU red and blue).
3 cheers for my man.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

How about Venus?

I want to use proper language with my children when describing genitalia. With boys, it's easy. It's a penis. Plain and simple. With girls, a bit more tricky. There is a urethra, a vagina, a vulva - - and so much more.
I want to give my daughter the correct lingo, but what is the correct lingo?
So I decided to make up my own correct lingo. I am going to call it Venus. Adequately describes the mystery and complexity of the whole system. Merely a bonus that it rhymes with penis.
I know no one will ever read this - that is why I even felt the freedom to write it. :)

Friday, July 20, 2007


I tevo'd Discovery Channel's "Planet Earth" episodes. Just getting around to viewing them. Absolutely breathtaking. As I watch, I shake my head in belief. Intelligent design is an under-statement.
Something is happening to me as I witness all the perilous and glorious wonder occurring around the globe.... I am starting to care.
Maybe there is some sort of subliminal messaging system between frames, brainwashing me at a subconscious level - I am not sure. But there is a stirring within me to actually make myself aware of my consumption and waste, my consumerism and apathy. For many years I have paid lip service to "green" efforts and conservation. I have even had seasons of recycling and choosing paper over plastic. Aren't I special?
Not to discount those things, but that is the bare minimum we should ALL be doing - ALL the time! There are a multitude of things beyond that we can participate in. has lots of ideas about how we can make a big difference with just a few minor adjustments to our lifestyles.
Recycling is so simple. Just google "recycling" and "Lawrence" (or your own city), and whaddayaknow - - lists and lists of drop-off centers, city efforts and even curbside services (for a small fee).

I want to challenge you as I challenge myself, to take just one step toward preserving the awe and beauty that exists around God's creation.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Random Stemware

I'm sipping on a half-glass of wine (little penguin merlot, vintage 1 year ago) in a crystal goblet my mom gave me. She started a crystal goblet collection for my sister and I when we were in our twenties. She found great deals on single goblets, so now each of us has a montage of 10 or 12 random stems. I love it. Even for practical reasons -- when people come over, they will not be confused as to which goblet is theirs. Mainly I love my collection because my mom gave it to me. She was always on the lookout for a stemware steal.
We have a cousin named Kathy. Mom attemped the collection for her as well. Kathy's mom, my Aunt Vicki, a T-totaller (nothing wrong with that) forbade my mom from buying her daughter any item that would encourage the use of alcohol. So my mom started Kathy a crystal candle-holder collection instead.
I wonder if tonight, my cousin Kathy is sitting in her living room on her laptop starting her blogpost with, "I'm lighting a votive in a crystal candle-holder my aunt gave me..."
Just a little thing, a memory of my mom that makes me smile.
Sweet dreams.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Remembering Pamela Whitby Strong

It has now been 5 years since the fabulous Pamela Whitby Strong lost her life to that murderous s.o.b. - cancer. She died when Canon (my eldest son) was 5 months old. I have photos with the two of them together. It seems like an eternity ago, yet sometimes only yesterday.
We have a ritual of remembrance which we observe twice a year. Once on her birthday, November 18 (1946) and once on June 21st, the anniversary of the dark day of her death. We dine at the Cheescake factory. Mmmmm.
In the spirit of the Passover Sederists who set out a special goblet to be filled with wine for the prophet Elijah, we order a Cosmopolitan and set it at the end of the table. I don't drink the cosmo because I don't like to drink liquid fire with a cranberry twist. But we take a tiny taste and giggle, wondering what she ever saw in that beverage beside fact that Oprah introduced it to her.
We order anything we want for the main course, but when it comes to dessert, the white-chocolate rasberry truffle cheesecake is a must. Mom and I used to split it. Unfortunately I will never branch out to a new dessert at the Cheesecake Factory, for that would feel like betrayal.
Sometimes, I bring pictures which jog memories of cherished days gone by. Sometimes others join us, particularly if they miss her too.

I grieve for you Mom. My heart aches for you. I miss you so much. I can't believe you were stolen from me - my children have been robbed of a relationship with you. There is a hole in my life that will never be filled.

You made me who I am today - well, the good parts anyway. I am grateful for the 30 years I had with you. Please come visit me in my dreams.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Did I seriously go there?

We took our 3 little kids to the pool today. Canon, the 5 yr old is learning how to do all sorts of fun things like jump off the diving board and slide down "that giant, giant, big blue swirly slide". There is a fun, challenging activity where a person, holding onto a net overhead, attempts to get to the other side of the pool on "lilly pads" which are flotation pads connected to the bottom of the pool by a single chain. My son and I were having a great time until the strangest thing happened. Canon fell off the first lilly pad, so instead of making him go back to the end of the line, I helped him out and put him back where he had just started.
Suddenly, from 20 feet away on the side of the pool I hear, "HOW DOES THAT WORK?!" A teenage girl was shouting at me to make Canon go back to the end of the line.
I was actually being bullied by a teenager. This has not happened to me since, well, since ever!

I lovingly walked Canon back to the end of the line and told him to wait there. I then walked calmly over to the young woman to -ahem- express my heart.

I actually got into a mouth-off with a teenager! I couldn't believe it. I won't share the exact words, but I have to say I was holding my own. I had some real zingers. The Nikki of the distant past would have been so proud. Then when she started talking ungly about my son, the mamma bear came out in full force.

While getting into a pissing match with someone half my age was pretty invigorating, I thought about this strange interaction the entire rest of the night. I told my husband about it and after we had an awkward laugh, we began to pick apart the conversation and discuss the situation like real grown-ups and the nerdy pastors that we are.
I asked, I wonder how I could have handled that in a more pastoral way.

I think about that girl and what it would have been like to meet her under different circumstances. What if she showed up at my church or youth group or campus ministry? I wonder about her family life. I wonder if she acts like a bully so that she can protect herself. I wonder if there is any softness there that could be nurtured. Is there anyone singing her songs of love and trust and goodness and peace? I wonder how she views herself. Does she even see her beauty? What messages has she been given her entire young life? Is she a wounded cat in a corner, having to fight just to survive?

What is my excuse?

Friday, June 8, 2007

Chipotle shares the love.

We barely got in the door. The last people in line because we jimmied our way in as someone was exiting. Hey, it was 9:59.
As we inch our way toward the front, we have time to breathe in the smell if grilled peppers, fajita meat and corn tortilla chips. I declare my love for Chipotle. I can't believe that there for a few months I got drawn into claiming Freeb!rds as my favorite. Chipotle surely felt betrayed, but has welcomed me back with open arms, no hard feelings.
The line was out the door because Chipotle (nationwide) spent the day giving away free burritos to anyone who brought in a canned food donation. They do this kind of thing all the time. And the brilliant thing is that their marketing is largely done by the general public - word of mouth! Know how we found out about the canned food donation give-away? Someone at our university started a facebook event this afternoon alerting all friends of this free delicious dish.

We could really learn a lot from Chipotle. For one, their website is amazing - it's creative and clever; a whimsical journey of pure goodness. Second, they advertise in unique and fresh ways. They have somehow mastered the art of creating a buzz, so that they have to do very little advertising - - we do it all for them! Campus ministers, let's figure out a way to do that! If any of you have tapped into buzz marketing in any successful way - please share! And finally, "free stuff". We have heard the manager at our local store say multiple times humbly, "It's free food. People always come out for free food." It is so fun to give away free stuff! And with just a little effort, you can often get your free stuff for FREE! Should we bribe people into the Kingdom? Absolutely.