African Christmas Eve

Pictures from Uganda.

Today we talked to Andrew at length. All 5 of us huddled around the phone and heard him quietly talk about
his battle with malaria, killing a cobra,
riding on a two story bus at crazy speed, killing his first chicken for dinner,
seeing elephants and giraffes up close,
living in a hut,
and for Christmas he will be bungee jumping and whitewater rafting on the Nile River.

(Left: Christian, Andrew, and Evan.)

In all of that, something was evident. He is being deeply changed. He has words to say about God that I don't even recognize as his own. He says that life in Uganda given him a new understanding. His voice came out of the tiny speaker on the phone, and Andrew said, "I know what it means when God says, 'I've got my hand on you -- you don't have to worry.' And I don't have the same fear anymore." He went from asking "Why am I afraid? If God promised, why am I afraid?" to saying boldly, with a new sort of freedom "If God wants me to die, I will die. If He doesn't, I won't."

Hmmm... maybe I need to go to Africa and learn those things. In any case, today's phone call was the perfect gift for a far-away Mom. Here are a couple pictures of their adventure.

Merry Christmas Eve.

Their Hut Home @ Canaan Farm (below)

Christian and Andrew teaching a Bible study on the book of John, with friends.

African Sunset.

Word at Christmas

Finally. Word from the other side of the world! Andrew and the traveling team are in a new spot in Uganda, and connected to Internet again. His quick Facebook words made my day. Many days of long hard African silence, were finally ended. I had written this message, and it sat on Andrew's wall, waiting for a response:

Merry Christmas Andrew Leigh!

Your red stocking is up by the fire... and you are on the other side of the globe... and that is exactly as it should be this time, but it still feels strange. There's a big gaping hole in the place where you fit here. And I have come to hate that song "I'll be Home for Christmas" because you won't be. But, it's also a huge delight to think about all the things you are doing and seeing. And I am so amazed and proud of all that God is unfolding for you, with so many great people, all around the world. Everybody in this house thinks about you every day. I pray for you, and love you, every picking day, of every picking week.

You are loved and missed and celebrated.

"Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given..."

Merry African Christmas! Celebrate well!


Then... word out of the silence onto my Facebook wall (excerpted) :

"Hey Mom!

i miss you all a ton. we are living with five Americans in a house with running water, flushing toilet, and electricity. a Christmas miracle!

God is so good and is keeping me well i hope everyone is good at home. there is so much to say ... i love you mom talk to you soon.

God bless. Your loving son,


Those words felt like getting good news from the moon! And lately, communicating with Andrew on the other side of the world makes me thinking about astronaut wives who literally sent husbands to the moon. In the early years of the Space Program, Apollo missions were sent out into uncharted frontier. Loved ones watched their husbands and sons propel into the unknown. Then, they waited; no pictures, no discoveries, no new insights, no news. Just waiting. And it's not nearly as historic or dire, but I kind of relate to the unknowns and absence.

There are other people, like astronaut wives, who understand the launch of departure and long absence better than me. I have friends who are seasoned mothers. They are wives and mothers of soldiers deployed to Iraq; mothers of lost and homeless children; empty-nested mothers who have adjusted to permanent absence. And my perspective is put right by my friends who live waiting for reunion with a child who has left the planet permanently. The lives of wiser friends help me keep my reality in check. My son is just gone until March. In better moments, I get that. But the dull void of absence, and waiting, is still there to be reckoned with.

On the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission, astronauts actually moved into the darkness, shut down all power, and floated with the moon's small gravitational pull, until they were thrown back into sunlight. On the far side of the moon, there was no radio wave -- no way to speak back to Earth. When the ship miraculously powered up and was able to sent word back to Houston, the teams and families exploded with joy. The travelers were still alive and well!

It's not the same exactly. My son did not go to far side of the moon. He went to the far side of the world and there weren't any explosions. Ours was a calmer "lift off." But, given the last weeks of 'radio silence' from Africa, I have gained empathy for astronaut wives and mothers separated from children. In a new way that is similar only in the tiniest sense, I get it. I now feel a small part of what it means to wait in the silent in-between during necessary journeys. And, I now know the joy of a son's word that comes home.

In this place of letting go, a larger story lingers with me. It is a familiar tale, and true. But I have different empathy for it now. It's that one about a Father who released his son to go far away, into a dark world. He intentionally sent his baby son, into a dangerous land; into harms way, for a universal & sacrificial good. It's the story of an unlikely hero, who saves humanity in the largest way possible. It's the story that floats around this time of year. And, if I really stop to take it in, I remember how much that story changed mine. It's the story of Jesus morphed into flesh and sent to this world. And the part that freshly resonates with me this year, is the letting go; the Father's release of a son to live out his God-ordained purpose on the planet.

Christmas was launched with angels singing to shepherds, and stars, and kings, and an eternally cosmic new frontier for man. But it was first birthed with a release, and a dull-void; a painful absence ... and waiting ... waiting for The Word to come home.
"And the word was made flesh and dwelt among us..."
John 1
"Unto us a Child is born. Unto us a Son is given."
Merry Christmas Friends.

"A Blue Christmas without You."


The other blog. It's up and running ... finally, after sitting stale for, like, 2 years.
Godspot is a very specifically focused blog. It is all about accessible Christian Spirituality. Faith. It is the result of several years of doing conversation and groups with spiritually seeking people who don't typically choose to go to church but want to check out Jesus.
It's important to have engaging conversation about faith. And it's really hard to find resources and places to check out faith, that aren't also somehow doing a very hard sales pitch.
At the beginning of a new group, I ask this question: "How do you feel when someone starts talking about faith?"
Holy Cow, when non-churchy people have a chance to answer this question honestly, they let it rip. And consistently, there are some answers that are full of hurt or anger. Somewhere, sometime, a well-meaning 'Christian' has let them have it. The floodgates have opened and hell and damnation came pouring out. Or, often spiritually seeking people will say, "No one has ever ASKED me about what I think... they just talk AT me." Or, they will describe conversations that sound exactly like the aggressively political conversations that I absolutely avoid like the plague. For a lot of genuinely seeking people, faith topics are like politics and are to be avoided like the plague... because faith is sometimes really hard to talk about.
So ... Godspot.
It's plain talk about pursuing faith. Nothing coercive or threatening. Just reasonable discussion about how to choose faith, and what Christian Spirituality is all about. Which, bottom line, is a lot of talk about Jesus.
If it's relevant to you, or someone that matters to you, please go check it out. Click on the link below. Bookmark it as a resource. And definitely shoot me some feedback! That'd be awesome!
GODSPOT the blog:

A Game of Many Days

"It's all about what goes on the outside of the box." But they don't have a box yet. "World Dominion" is stretched out across my dining room table. This is day three. It started at Steve's parent's house, on Thanksgiving, was disassembled, and moved 30 miles up Ute Pass with us, as we traveled back home.

The game was invented by Isaac, and his production team -- Steve, Isaac & Lucas, and a whole host of people who happened to stop by and ended up helping paint the map on its 3ft by 5 ft. board (Christian Outlaw helped paint Africa).

What is 'World Dominion'?
Isaac says, "It's a combination of the 3 longest games there are -- Risk, Monopoly, and Settlers of Catan." The objective is to wipe out the other players empires. Through the roll of dice, and small movement compasses, armies and ships, each player amasses resources, cities, and ultimately world empires. The resources are piled up in the middle of the board (the dining room table) like the spillage from a junk drawer; hundreds of seemingly unrelated little pieces of beans, rocks, wood, leather, stone, and tiny ships in one big mound. Over the course of the game, the pile gets doled out and becomes orderly little piles on each country and continent. Each day civilization takes place -- then war begins. Day One took 6 hours; Day Two, 3. And today, who knows?
This is the first time the game will actually be played to the end. It's only been through a couple of unfinished test runs.

Because of the time it takes, "World Dominion" is turning out to be a vacation or tournament game. It is day after day of conquest and acquisition. It looks like Lucas is in the lead at the moment, with an entire empire and huge resources gathering in South America. But, Ty is making progress in North America and a lot can happen in a day.
As Production Administrator, Steve has been infinitely patient and faithful helping Isaac see this concept from idea to playable reality. It started over the summer and has meant hours and days of planning out the board, painting pieces, hunting down pieces, writing out the rules, and tweaking the procedures. Ty has had a lot to say about how trade and conquest would work. This morning, Isaac is designing cards that "make you feel more like you're 'living' the game, than just 'playing' the game."

What has been the hardest thing about designing a game? "Working it so that it actually does work -- getting all the kinks out of it and making it flow better." He would like to get the game to a company that would buy and mass-produce it. "But it needs a cool box, because that would attract people's attention. It's all about what goes on the outside of the box."

The best thing about the game? Isaac says, "The board and the compasses. The compasses are the movement. It's different from any other game. " Steve says, "The ships and the sea trade. Because it feels real."

Isaac also graphically designed and printed out currency for 3 different international banks. And every player starts with a bag full of colored pieces that represent their villages, cities, barracks, shipyards and ports. All of which, are acquired and placed on the board, throughout the game.

Currently, he is drawing and generating new maps on his desk in his room. He'd like to redesign this game with a different map of fantasy lands, and original resources. So, maybe "World Dominion" is just a prototype for the next 'better' board game. And, maybe that board game with go to Parker Brothers ... there's no knowing.
One thing is certain, as the snow is falling, and the fire is cracking in the fireplace, on this last weekend of Thanksgiving break, all of the 'world dominators' will be battling it out here at our house, for hours.

Turns Out, It's Not About the Pilgrims.

I always thought Thanksgiving was started back with the pilgrims. Embedded in my mind are construction paper cornucopias and crayon handprint turkeys that go with "Indians" and "Pilgrims" and big-buckled shoes. But, I just found out, after 43 family Thanksgivings, that this holiday didn't start with the Plymouth Rock, or the Mayflower. It started during the Civil War.

Thanksgiving was officially started by Abraham Lincoln in 1863. His proclamation to pause and be thankful was issued while our country was in the middle of the devastation of the Civil War. It was a request that our nation 'with one heart and one voice' remember God's providence and "the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy." From the past, Lincoln petitions us as a nation, to have one voice, to join in remembrance of God's character, ask for deliverance, and do it with 'humble penitence.'
And while my eldest son is traveling the world, it is fitting to mention Mr. Lincoln's words about those overseas:
"I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens." (The full original proclamation is posted below)
There is no mention of pilgrims in Lincoln's words; No pilgrims, no turkeys, no parades. He simply prods us to remember our God, and be thankful. Today I find that comes more easily than past holidays. This is our first Thanksgiving without Andrew. There is much providence of God in the fact that he is in Uganda. There will be no turkey on their African table. The Team had goat instead. But they are thankful, and so are we. Here is their description (from the V-Team blog:
Goat: The New "Turkey"
"For Thanksgiving, we woke up and milked cows. Gross. And later we picked a goat and slaughtered it. Francis did most of the work. He "daisy-chained" the intestines which is a method we do to our rock climbing ropes. We saw it from start to finish- the slitting of the throat, skinning,dismembering, cleaning the stomach, and cleaning it all up. Then over a bar-b-q we ate our goat. We had just named him Frederick. So we ate Frederick for lunch. For dinner on thanksgiving we ate the daisy-chained intestines too. We were very thankful, on Thanksgiving, for Frederick."
So, today, I am also thankful for Frederick. And, for a small group of three young men, who by God's providence, are safe, and thriving. In these most uncertain times, I am thankful with one heart and voice with Andrew, Evan, and Christian for 'the gracious gift of the One High God' to His people, all over the world. We'll jump in with Mr. Lincoln's mandate to be thankful for the "bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come."
Grateful "... to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God."
~Happy Thanksgiving.
"By the President of the United States of America.
A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.
By the President: Abraham Lincoln

A Day at the Zoo

It's Thanksgiving break... vacation days from school.
So, yesterday, we all piled in the car and headed out to the Denver Zoo. It's a sweet little zoo. It was good to get away for the day and do the simplest best thing; just hang out together. Isaac spent a lot of time watching ducks. Of all the exotic things to see, that's what he loved first and most. Now that we don't have human toddlers to push in strollers, and herd, and feed, and protect, the zoo is a whole different family experience. I still pack a huge backpack with lunch, and extra stuff. But it's less than it used to be. A trip to the zoo used to be an exhausting expedition. Now, with self-sufficient long-legged sons, there is something calming and grounding about wandering around and watching animals. I'm not sure what it is. But it's true.
During the winter, there are colored lights strung in trees throughout the park. As the sun sets, the light come on and slowly change color. It feels otherworldly. It makes me want to camp out in the zoo and stay overnight with our family, and the animals. Sadly, at 5:00pm, the zoo guards made us leave with everyone else. It was a very good zoo day.

The Leighs Top Five Favorite Animals at the Denver Zoo:
1. The Mossy Frog
2. The Arctic Fox
3. The Elephant Shrew
4. The Otter
5. The Snow Leopard

Free Days @ the Zoo in 2009 :
January 10 & 19
February 14 & 24
October 7 & 25
November 8 & 11
Questions? Contact:


A random sketch of a fly, and the difficult flight of faith.
Written, April 2006
Beyond the windowsill, Pikes Peak looms large, immovable, dusted with snow and pink light. On the windowsill, the same pink morning sun bathes a big clumsy black housefly. The pink makes me think it’s a she. “She” is flipped on her back, wings buzzing, frantically attempting to right herself. Legs kicking upright in the air like a big beetle. She is fighting to flip over and fly.

She is a pink fly, fat and boxy. And, she is very close to falling off the edge of the sill. Thrashing wings and kicking legs, then resting, she is teetering closer and closer to a large drop. I lean in closer and squint at her many large fly eyes, “What got you in this spot? How does a fly land on her back?” Poor judgment, I decide.

She rests, and then begins the flailing struggle again. Each panicked jolt moves her closer to a fall. She is trying to save herself from her own poor clumsy choice. And, from my comfortable chair- turned- box-seat, I begin to see that her only saving option is over the edge. She needs to quit struggling and fall. One helpless trusting freefall is her only hope. She can stay there, baking to a dry death in the beautiful pink sun, or she can choose to have faith over the falling edge. And the falling edge is her best option. Because clearly, when a fly falls, flight happens.

This is obvious from a box seat. But it’s less clear as a fly on a windowsill. And, as she struggles, I realize. I am that housefly; awkward and clumsy, such an unlikely candidate for flight.

That pink fly is a picture of my gawky upside-down struggle. She is a perfect picture of the struggle to live a Christ- Following faith.

I bought a lie early on that has continually landed me flailing on my back like the fly. It has to do with control. It has to do with inner personal strength, and being all put-together, and having the right answers, and doing the right things.

I used to think my faith needed to look like a walking advertisement of Christ-given self-sufficiency. But I’m starting to understand the lie for what it is. It’s not Christ Following. It’s controlling.

There is very little control in Following Jesus. There is no self-sufficiency. I’m only supposed to follow; no matter how bad I might look in the process. Sometimes I hate that part. But, once I had a little gathering that altered my perspective.

I am a recovering clothes slob. Every few days I have to conquer the pile of clothes that accumulates at the foot of my closet. If left unattended, over the course of a week or so, a long mound of clothes and laundry begins to spread like cancer. My husband and I have to trip and step over and around it to get into the bathroom. That’s the truth. But I don’t want everybody to know that.

I spent an hour or so of fast hustling to get my house clean and looking perfect, so, that I would seem perfect for the small group of women who arrived at my house. Everything was perfectly in order. This was a new group of women friends. I wanted them in a home setting because I wanted to start off right. There were all sorts of issues to worry about. And I wasn’t meant to be in charge of any of them. God set me straight.

Before the little meeting, every part of my house was spotless, except for the malignant mound of clothes around the corner in my bedroom. It was hidden from view. Nobody would need to use that bathroom. Nobody would have to climb over that laundry mountain. Nobody would know. Or so I thought.

One woman brought her 6 year old son. He wasn’t feeling well. When he realized that breakfast was coming back up for a visit, the guest bathroom was occupied. So my friend, and her son, in a panicked pre-vomit rush, ran into my room. My mound of clothes slowed the sick boy’s run. He threw- up all over my clothes.

There were many things to learn from that.

The bigger lesson wasn’t about laundry. It was about weakness exposed. I’m not supposed to control and eliminate the appearance of weakness. I came to realize later, of all the women that came that day, Nikki most needed to see that one very imperfect thing in my house. It matched her own weakness. She needed to know I don’t have it all together. She needed to know how I would love and accept her, even if she entered my vulnerable place and her children vomited there.

She needed to see that. I really didn’t want her to. I didn’t make a noble obedient choice. That choice wasn’t left to me. But God used that vulnerable vomiting moment to reveal something a better sort of love in me. And He began building a relationship with Nikki in a way I never could have known. In that, I unpeeled new understanding of letting go of control: I have to learn to follow, even when it feels like falling. Because, God reveals Himself powerfully in those vulnerable moments.

This way- of -being plays out in many harder ways; ways that feel like being upside down with our legs scrambling in the air; ways that feel like death; ways we have to choose daily. They are the sorts of choices that land me on my back and make my pride flail on the window sill like the gangly Pink Fly.

These are the crisis choices of surface struggle when the world chooses to loudly question God’s goodness. These are the circumstances which scream that God is not to be trusted. These are the moments when we steal back the control and flounder on our backs:

When a job is evaporating,
or suicide is beckoning,
or addiction returns,
or a child is abused,
or chronic illness goes unhealed,
or a spouse is betrayed,
or a house is burned to the ground…
Whatever the sin-cursed issue, in these moments of choice the most obvious need appears to be an all out surface struggle. But, something counter- intuitive must be chosen, and the fly has it.

Faith isn't lived by sight. Sometimes a spiritual life has to choose in opposition to physical evidence: even if it means looking foolish,
even if it all looks hopeless,
even if all my weaknesses are exposed in the process,
even if I end up with vomit on my clothes.
This beautiful Way is still Life, even when it feels like falling and dying.

I want to learn to embrace faith in God’s control. I want to quickly flip my flailing into graceful falling and trusting flight. I want Jesus to be evidenced in my upside-down-life on this right-side-up planet.

But fact is, I still buy the surface lie. I still see the physical world first. I still control. I still doubt. I still want to look good. And I certainly haven’t figured out how to embrace dying- to- self in a way that feels more like flight, and less like the clumsy pink fly on her back trying to right herself. It takes practice to be otherwise. It takes time to be transformed.

This brings me back to the window sill. I wish every daily choice were always as obvious as the fly’s struggle. From the box-seat, it is clear. But, she doesn’t see it. Even though that fly has 1000 eyes, her physical sight is of little value. She doesn’t see that she must choose a helpless freefall. She needs to skootch all the way to the edge of reason, and choose a blind leap of faith in order to fly again.

Maybe her surface struggle is a necessary means to knowing flight. And for me, maybe the physical struggles of this planet are the best access to truly seeing and knowing the one Saving God. I feel like that fly; because, a lived faith is often accompanied by a clumsy, falling, dying sensation. Like her, my best option, is usually to quit struggling, stop, trust, and just fall.

Or maybe she’s just a clumsy Pink Fly who found her way to the window’s edge, and flew away. And I’m making way too much of it all.

“If anyone would come after me,
he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.
For whoever wants to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for me, will save it.”
~ Jesus

Hummingbirds, Shooting Stars, and Lightning.

We measure the things we care about. Be it body weight, interest rates, age, or days to departure. I remember measuring out my pregnant months until delivery; days and hours counted down. Then after each birth, I would pay attention to the moments until each boy reached 9 months old. After that point, it all becomes a slow climb away from me. Every day after nine months is the marking of a son's life lived longer outside my body than inside. At nine months, independent life overtakes the gestation process. The process of weaning begins ... and never ends. All of life is a constant pulse of gestation and birth, nursing and weaning, embrace and release.

There have been too many times that I have lost the pulse. I have been too distracted when attention was needed; nursed when I should have weaned; released when I should have held; over-protected when I should have let go. For all the times I have missed the mark, regret reminds me. It is a relentless companion that I constantly fight to silence. And, last summer as the days to Andrew's global departure counted down, I measured the moments, and fought regret.

Firstborn children carry the privelege of age and the affects of their parent's inexperience. So, as Andrew was packing and checking off his last lists before leaving, I felt the weight of many failures. Thousands of frightening and beautiful moments slip by in motherhood. I had sworn to capture them; to remember, to document, and share it all. Funny quotes, pictures, life-events, vacations, sports, music, you name it. And, I couldn't capture it as it all sped by. For several months before he left, this was just one regret that constantly followed me around the house like bad weather. I'd feel it creep up and settle in. But a certain grace recently came to me. It helped me silence regret and loosen my clenched grip on the past.

We have a hummingbird feeder by our living room window. One brown and orange 'Rufous' hummingbird arrived late in July and claimed the feeder as his own. In so doing, he became "ours." Rufus was possessive and mean. He would run off any visiting hummers, including a humming mom and small baby. We came to learn his only fear was large bees, and the cat. Rufus was strikingly brilliant in speed and color. To catch sight of him drinking at the feeder would always make me gasp and involuntarily point, "LOOK!" to anyone in the room. This motion would inevitably startle Rufus and he would take flight. Over and over, my finger was left pointing at an empty feeder. My sons would gasp and point. My husband would gasp and point. Like a flint spark, Rufus would disappear before the experience could be shared.

This past summer, all six of us went on our first backpacking trip up into Holy Cross Wilderness in Colorado. We stopped in transit. Traveling under a black sky in our big old Suburban, Steve pulled over. Steve, Ty, and Isaac got up on the roof of the truck and watched a meteor shower. I craned to see out the window while they shouted and admired, "LOOK!" Each time, before I could locate the shooting star, it would be gone. Isaac saw three meteors fly across the sky, and I did not see one of them. Those were his moments of wonder; not mine. Shooting stars are very hard to share.

Back home, in my front yard, the warm sun was setting just right. It was breaking in beams over the mountain and trees, down into my garden. Certain flowers were being spotlighted from the sky. I grabbed my camera to capture the poppies, glowing red on tall wiry stems and swaying stiffly in the breeze. I caught their tall papery poses in high definition. As the camera clicked, the mountain backdrop became dark and stormy. The breeze went cold. I turned to get an image of the imposing clouds. At that moment, a huge bolt of lightning struck the top of the Peak. My finger was ready on the shutter. But, I missed it. Too fleeting to be captured, that moment of lightning was mine alone.

There are moments of childhood that are hummingbirds, shooting stars, and lightning. A toddler pulls himself up to stand, smiles, and falls; a nursing infant looks up at my face, and stops to touch my nose; a tiny son stops and signs "I love you" when he gets out of the car to go to kindergarten; my guitar player or drummer, up on stage, looks out and catches my eye, down in the crowd. Adrenaline rushes deep with joy, one second, and it's gone; too fleeting to be shared; no way to catch and keep; no place for regret, only gratitude. Gratitude, instead.

For me, this was a truth full of grace. As I counted down the days to releasing Andrew out into the world (literally), as his departure approached, some of my regret lost its power. For me to pine away over how something should have been, is to miss what is, right now, in front of me. In this life, we are given breath-stealing moments; unmerited, and untethered from future burden or past regret. They are the hum of a bird wing, the flight of a star, a streak of lightning in the sky ... or a loved one, home until he leaves. Afterward, our fingers are left pointing at an empty feeder, or poised on an unclicked shutter. They are joys and sorrows, not meant to be kept or possessed. We can not hold it all, or clench it tightly for the future. The moments we measure are meant to be lived fully, and let go. The waiting of gestation always means a moment of birth. Birth and release.... and release ... and, release again ... sometimes to the ends of the Earth, and back again.

V-team Departure: Denver, Sept. 2008



Rufous Image

Shooting Star Image from:

Poppies & V-Team Images from ... my camera. :)

Boys on the Table.

I am absolutely not a 'scrapbooker.' But I secretly admire their quirky ways. Scrapbookers belong to their own sort of underworld. They gather together in hotels and lodges, sometimes for days on end. They stay up all night and day, surrounded by snacks, stickers, scissors, photos, and archival albums that are meant to last for generations. Sometimes I suspect they even have secret handshakes or rites of passage. At their heart, scrapbookers are historians. Like most in the scrapbooking species, my friend Lois has gorgeous dark-bound books lining shelves in her living room. It's a special sort of library -- a thing of beauty. It contains future proof of past years. It's to be her legacy. Sadly, it will not be mine.

Obsession & Neglect. For me, organizing family photos is like reading fiction novels. There are two options -- neglect, or obsession. There is no in-between. When I read fiction, my whole life goes on hold and my house goes to hell in a handbasket. I could learn self-discipline. But that's just not going to happen. So I don't read fiction. In the same way, I'm certain if I became a scrapbooker, my creative OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) take over, and ruin what little balance I have in my life. I'd cloister myself away and start making albums. My house would implode. The boys would start wearing the same clothes everyday -- for months. My friends would wonder if I'd moved away. Steve would grow a long beard and wish for a better wife. So, scrapbooking is not for me. But I sure can see the value in the history of it all. I long for some permanent order in our photo 'archives.'

Put it on the Table. When Lois told me that she and my other friend, Adina, were going to start a new business, I was excited. In the past, they have collaborated in designing and painting backdrops for the Thin Air Theatre Company, at the Butte Theatre in Cripple Creek, CO. They used to spend hours in an abandoned casino, painting realistic scenes, doors, and walls for the stage. One time I went to go visit them while they were working, and found myself surrounded by old casino bling, and the props of Dr. Jekyll's laboratory. Anyhow, their new venture was an answer to my scrapbooking angst. They offered a home to several random boxes full of our family baby and boy photos. I gave well over 100 photos to my artist friends. They took the pictures, loaded our old coffee table and music cabinet in their truck,
and got to work on the project.
"Brothers." Both pieces of furniture were painted in an aspen/leather theme, and contain all things 'brothers'. They capture the years that our sons have all lived together. And that is precious, escpecially since Andrew is now on his way out the front door, into adulthood. Our years of daily togetherness under one roof, are gone. But the furniture will stay. The furniture is full of brother quotes ... and a small history of pictures.

Some of the Brother Quotes:

  • "We few. We happy few. We band of brothers." ~ Wm. Shakespeare
  • "Let brother help brother." ~Plato
  • "Brothers, our love must not be a thing of words and fine talk. It must be a thing of action and sincerity." ~ John. The Bible.
  • "Let brothers agree, no fortress is as strong as their common life."
  • "Sons of one father."
  • "Ye are brothers! Ye are men! And we conquer but to save."
  • "The highlight of my childhood was making my brother laugh so hard that food came out of his nose." ~Garrison Keilor.

I don't have cool scrapbooking albums. For good reasons, I probably never will. However, in the living room, everyday, we have the faces of small babies now grown, and sweet great-grandparents now gone. They are smiling at us; quietly reminding us of younger times. From now on, there will always be brothers on the table at my house.

Thanks, Adina & Lois.

The Real Clay Jar

But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us.

~The Bible (II Cor. 4:7)

This sacred quote sums up my life. It paints the clumsy picture of Spirit packed in flesh vessels; explosive power in fragile pots. My lived experience with God is exactly this: I'm just the container. And usually, if you are able to see any supernatural contents, it's because there is a huge crack in my life. Just ask my husband or sons. They'll quickly agree I'm cracked.

Over time, I've observed that anything supernaturally 'shiney' in my life is usually seen escaping through a broken place; a crack in my clay jar. God-evidence usually shows up in seasons when I have landed soundly on my knees (either by choice or tripping) in need of answers, peace, or rescue. His love and power predictably shine out of my life's biggest weaknesses and hardships. Anything significant that I have to offer in life usually comes from the content of hope that spills in and out of my broken places. Ultimately, there isn't much that speaks hope, survival, and repair better than a deep-incision that has turned into a well-healed scar. Those are the places where God's Spirit proves its presence in a weak container.
A clay jar life is freedom ... and always boils down to one quietly repeating theme. This all-surpassing power isn't from the fragile jar, but from the God inside it. It's a crazy clay jar paradox and the source of my Kleigh Jar Spillings.

The Spill Factor

Written: March 2006

Stuff falls out of my car. I pull up to the curb of a school in the large maroon buffalo that is our GMC Suburban. A son gets out, and a stray object will tumble out with him. Empty water bottles, school papers, mittens, paint balls, cups, wrappers, plastic army guys – whatever the object -- they group together, settle by the doors, and wait to come spilling out. It’s either the physics of our vehicle, or a conspiracy of objects that creates this phenomenon. To an extreme, it makes me feel like there is a flock of molting birds inside our four-wheel drive. The door opens, and a cloud of wayward ‘feathers’ blow out like storm.

It’s only a mild bother to me. But, depending on the day, and whether the escaping object bounces, flies, or rolls out, the spilling can be an embarrassment to any one of my four sons.

This unpredictable ‘spill factor’ is most disconcerting to a middle school son; less so, to a high school son; and even less, to a grade school son. A middle school son will typically retrieve the object, roll his eyes at me, and hope nobody has seen this awkward moment. Grade school sons simply run and grab the runaway item, bring it back, toss it in, and wave, “Bye Mom!!” High school sons just ignore anything that falls from my car. Unless it’s something of value, they just keep walking. Today, my freshman and junior sons, Andrew and Ty, got out of the Suburban, slammed the doors, and started laughing to each other. They turned and looked back at me. Confused, and wanting to know what was so funny, I silently mouthed to them through the windshield, “What?”

The last time this happened, they were laughing about barn flies. We pulled out of our driveway on a bitterly cold morning and realized that about 50 flies were temporarily frozen to the ceiling of the car. We had been at a friends’ ranch the night before. It had been a warm fall day, but was cooling down fast. The small swarm was apparently seeking heat and came in through the open sunroof. In the dark night, they had all frozen in suspended animation. That morning, it was creepy to look up and see a bunch of motionless flies clinging upside down directly over our faces. But the ride to school was short. So we just looked at the stiff little creatures and talked about how odd it was that flies should behave this way.

The guys got out of the car, tossed their heavy backpacks over their shoulders, turned around, looked at me, and started laughing. That time, they didn’t respond when I mouthed, “What?” They just waved at me lovingly, and headed off. Later, I found out they were guessing what I would do when all those flies woke up. For the record, there was no screaming when they warmed up and woke; there was some wild flailing, and dangerous driving, yes – but no screaming.

This morning, however, in answer to my silent windshield question, my two handsome man-children chuckled, and pointed under my car. They silently mouthed back to me, “A pot-a-to.” It was easy to lip-read. Today, a potato fell out of my car.

I didn’t expect the potato. There weren’t any other potatoes in the car. It was alone. I had no idea it was there, lurking by the door, waiting to tumble out. The rogue potato was a surprise -- to me, and the people who watched it roll across the parking lot only to be kicked away like a soccer ball, by Andrew. And, that unexpected brown russet got me thinking. This sort of spilling-out isn’t specific only to my well-worn Suburban. A lot of unexpected things spill out of daily life.

Yes, it’s usually humbling to me, and causes differing responses in my sons, when people see our life-stuffings and trash fall out, roll away, or blow around freely in the wind. But today’s errant baking potato experience has value, because I’m making a link. Lately, it’s apparent to me; life inevitably exhibits something that looks exactly like this ‘Spill Factor’. My life, lived in context of family and community, usually has something unexpected tumbling out of it. And today, that potato caused me to pose a question, “What typically spills out of the contents of my life?”
I don't know. Hopefully, it's something better than a potato. But this I do know, when something is spilling, it merits attention.