David After the Dentist

Small David just had dental surgery.  Over 25 million youtube viewers have watched this little boy's disoriented responses to his dad after anesthesia.  And I'm telling you right now, it's well worth your two minutes.  

Drying Out

The cat started to do that familiar gagging noise. He was right by my computer, hunched over in the middle of the only exit from my home office space. His hairball hurl was happening. I couldn't do anything about it. Some things just have to play out. Dogs need to be allowed to sniff each other. The diaper needs a couple more seconds to be completely filled. The broken sewer has to somehow stop flooding the basement.  Sometimes, there's nothing to do but wait helplessly and hope it's not going to be too gross.  

It was. The puddle of yellow drippy grassy vomit mess is now cleaned up. It took some doing.  It's gone. But, all day I have been stepping in or around that very soggy spot on the floor. I have no choice. The scene of the crime is in a high traffic area.  It's the only way out of my office. Everytime I step away from my computer, I step into that spot.  All day, I've been reminded about what happened. 

Today's Hurling Take Away
Spewage has a cost. I'm thinking about people-things that get spewed -- things like anger, withheld honesty, jealousy, insecurity.  Sometimes it doesn't go well. Involuntarily vomitting-up unsettling things can leave an unplanned mess -- especially if it happens in a place where we work and walk.  Try as we may to clean up the surface,   time needs to pass until every step isn't a soggy reminder of the incident.  I think grace and truth are the air that dries the spot.

There are some things in life that just need to come up,  be mopped up, and allowed some time to dry out.    It's true.


"Sometimes we have to stop and ask, 'Why do we do what we do?'
 ... God doesn't want empty ritual. God wants our hearts."

~Rob Bell
Nooma 004

Clouds with Attitude

Afternoon thunderstorms are common in the Front Range of Colorado in July.  The downpours are sometimes violent with hail & lightning, but and are usually short-lived. Mountain people make storms reason to stop and look out the office window, talk by the grocery store doors, or hang out at Starbucks for a couple extra minutes.  We unplug computers beforehand, and reset blinking clocks afterward.  Somedays it feels like we're a bunch of puppies being put in our place by a big growling dog. 

Steve and I were sitting on the lawn swing when this storm front (pictured above) blew in and made Pikes Peak look like a small hill.  


Crowd Prank

It should get old. 
I should stop laughing. 
'Not going to happen.

Maps & Shotgun

Shotgun. Not the weapon. The seat. You know what I'm talking about. It's the coveted passenger position in the car, next to the driver. Children jockey and argue for the privilege of sitting there. We have had many different ways of justly determining who gets shotgun. Finger shoot-outs like "Rock, Paper Scissors", or "Odds and Evens" seem most fair but take up a lot of time. "First One to the Car" can get dangerous as siblings rocket out of the house to be the first one to touch the passenger door. "Rotation" is a viable option. But it means keeping track.  And trading places each time we all get out and reload is a hassle because it's hard to remember who sat shotgun last. The race for the seat comes and goes. Sometimes no one wants shotgun at all. But, long road trips create the greatest tension and demand. (Please tell me our family is not the only one to deal with this.)

For me, it's common to have a son in shotgun.  Over the course of many years of road trips we developed a functional system. Steve drives, and I sit in back, managing spills, batteries, and books. It's not about being a subservient wife.  Sitting in the back has just plainly worked out to be more practical -- especially when the boys were little babies facing backward.  My backseat responsibilities have changed as we have grown out of tiny people in car seats into regular large-sized people with long legs.  Now, mostly I'm just another body sitting in the middle, between two iPod listeners -- because my legs are shorter than everybody except Lucas.  But, regardless of what develops in the back seat, in the front there has always been Steve, a son, and a map. 

Since they were very small, Steve has expected his sons to navigate. I remember four year old Andrew, sitting in his car seat, holding a huge Atlas, charting the course between Minneapolis and Chicago. Steve would keep one hand on the steering wheel, and lean back to point out the route, patiently showing the correlation between the abstract lines on the page and the world speeding by outside the window.

Later, Ty gained a passionate love of maps and traded into the role. Last month, on our last backpacking trip, he was the navigator with a topographic trail map. Thus, his  walkee-talkee code-name for that trip was "Scout." Over the years, each boy has taken the mapseat in shotgun next to Steve. Last summer, I had to laugh out loud when Andrew was driving and Isaac had the map seat. As we honed in on the last miles of a long trip to Illinois, they bickered like an old couple. It was a delight to sit in back, chuckling, with full confidence that they’d work it out and find our way.

They did work it out. We arrived at our destination because the boys know how to use a map. Steve has given them a love for knowing their course and direction --whether it is in a canoe on a river, on foot in the mountains, or in a car in the city. They enjoy seeing what water, terrain or exit we are about to encounter.  They value the map.

On trips over the years, the atlas has become rumpled, dog-eared and replaced many times over. My mind can quickly retrieve an image of any of the 4 boys sitting shotgun.  I can take that picture and morph it across our trips and navigation. Their growing sizes get larger and the map gets smaller in proportion. As they grow in the mapseat their hands get bigger, legs grow to touch to floor, and the seat skootches back. Heads progressively get higher until they sit above broad shoulders and tower above the head rest. Always growing, always traveling beside Steve, always with a map. 

I'm not as much of a map fan.  But I respect them.  Maps are dogmatic and unyielding. A map contains abstract truth about very concrete reality.  They are like human laws, or the Bible. They assume a true north. They allow us a satellite’s view, a bigger picture of common road blocks and natural barriers in our path. They help us see, “You can’t get there from here.” They show us when we’re lost. And sometimes make us feel more lost then we were before we got the map. They help us find our way back to where we got off track, and get us headed back toward our destination. 

That's my picture of fatherhood.  Steve has invited each of his sons to ride next to him in life. Over the miles of our family's ride together, he has chosen to talk a little and listen a lot. In the process, he has handed them the tools of journey. He has handed them the map.  It's  a Dad's job to explain what's happening outside the window, and what's up ahead.  He has to point to times when there is only a Dead End and quietly redirect when a chosen course goes amuck.   I have watched the very essence of Fatherhood happen because of the road atlas in the shotgun seat.  

We can't make our kids use the map.  We can't force them to choose the best course.  But, after a lot of miles of sticky seats and snacks, this I know for sure. Steve's sons have an understanding of life's True North, and the means to find their way.  He has given them a compass for literal asphalt highways, and the less visible path of faith.  And, they will all continue to grow beside him, until they step out on their own journeys and carry their own maps.  I'm confident, deep in their souls, even if they get really lost for a while and wander way off path, they'll always know how to find their life's true Way. 

And, for the record, when they all leave, I definitely get permanent dibs on shotgun. 

(The picture above is Ty.  Navigating Lost Creek Wilderness. 2009.)

Day of Lightning

Today is a day of remembrance for my family, and friends in our little mountain community. The following post is something I wrote three years ago -- one week after an amazing boy was killed.  My son and a handful of others were playing a pick-up soccer game when lightning struck the field, sent everyone to the ground, and took his friend's life.  It was a pivotal day.  A life-changing day.

Three years ago, the Yarger family stood before a very large audience and said goodbye to their brother and son with grace, honesty, and hope. Today, they will play their annual memorial soccer game on the 'lightning field' in healing celebration. This is a respectful nod to them.  This is my small and inadequate way to honor a bold life that impacted so many.  Today, we remember the boy who was struck down, but not destroyed.

Andrew Yarger


FYI -- A Note to Readers:   

Locate the kleenex. 

This is an emotional post.  

Don't read this if you're on your way out the door to make a big speech, or interview for a job. 

Also, this post is written very specifically from a Jesus Follower/ Christian faith perspective. I want to  acknowledge that issues of God, faith, and after-life are important -- and deeply personal.  

And we don't all  agree.  But I am always willing to enter a faith discussion. 

So, if this prompts  a response in you, go for it.  

I welcome any responses, objections, or questions. Really.  Feel free.  

You can email me kleighjar@gmail.com if you don't want to post a public comment.  

And as always, thanks for reading.  




7 Days of Eternity

July 2006

One week ago today, my 10 year old son was talking about the apocalypse.  A sudden downpour, and frantic swiping of the windshield wipers, made it difficult to hear him.  Eyes locked on the rainy blur of a car in front of me, I gripped the steering wheel, and raised my voice to ask, “What?”  

He repeated, “I think the Antichrist is going to have a sick beauty to him. Satan can mimic beauty but he can’t really create it.  At the end of the world…’" A series of spine tingling cracks of thunder interrupted him and I winced at the lightening.  He stopped to stare at me. 

“What’s the matter with you, Mom?”  

Silence.  “I don’t know.  This lightening is just awfully close.  It’s like I can feel it.”   

But, we hadn’ t even begun to feel the true impact of that lightening strike.

The kitchen phone rang as our family unloaded soggy grocery bags from the car.  My husband Steve hung up and spoke quietly, “We have to go to the police station.”  

Time stretches in moments of waiting.  The drive should have been quick, but the car seemed to crawl.  I wanted information.  “What did he say? How did he sound?” Steve was calm and quiet.  “He only said, ‘Dad this is Andrew.  I’m ok.  You need to come pick me up at the police station.’ ”

My mind raced forward and backward.  It strained forward to see why this group of soccer playing friends would be with the police.   Then it  involuntarily rewound to view my mental archive of my oldest son.  Sixteen years of snapshots and feelings randomly flashed on my brain’s screen; the shape of his round infant smiley face, the weight of carrying him on my right hip, his short 8 year old arms reaching around an overly large guitar, his diligence building snowforts with his 3 smaller brothers.  Reflection snappped back to the present.

We looked through the door’s small window into a conference room.  His friends were hunched over the long table writing, pacing, shaking in shock, or simply staring though red teary eyes.  Andrew was standing, wearing odd un- matched police clothes.  He had completed his official witness statement and was given a bag full of the wet clothes he had been wearing, before everything changed.  He leaned down to hug me, and my sobs made him cry.

At 5:30 pm, as Isaac and I were talking apocalypse, the group of 2 adults, and 5 teens decided to gather soccer balls and leave the field where they had been playing a pick-up game.  An odd pop snapped between Andrew’s shoe and the soccer ball.  A lightening bolt simultaneously hit with force enough to send all of the players to the ground.  When they all got to their feet,  the only sound was one girl’s scream. One by one they began to run toward Andrew Yarger, laying face up, on the field.  CPR was administered by Bryan, a former EMT, until the ambulance arrived.  The teens gathered around the trauma, and prayed, then watched as Andrew Yarger was taken away on a stretcher.

Just a few days earlier that same 17 year old boy had been jumping on our trampoline with Andrew, Evan, Christian, and Michael;  Grown boy-men friends, flipping full frontal and backward acrobatics;  Funny, strong, and indomitable.  They had all just been together with a youth team to Brazil two weeks earlier.   Video of that trip contained more of those flips, work with children at an orphanage, and Andrew Y. on the verge of swallowing a live gecko. They were all bold, and springing full of life.

But, on the field, that same bunch of bodies shared a different reality.  After praying around the conference table, parents, police and kids all left the Police Station and got the official word outside the Emergency Room.  The lightening had entered his shoulder and exited his leg into the ground where they had all fallen.   Andrew Yarger’s body was dead. He was eternally gone … in an instant. They had witnessed Andrew’s last living moment.

It was a jarring violation.  We couldn’t begin to understand the grief of the Yarger family as they came out of the hospital and filed into their large white van.  But Sibbi, Andrew’s Mom, was doused in something exceedingly spiritual;  God’s peace, grace, and a numbing shock.  She had just traumatically lost her son. He was sixth, and middle, of her eleven children.  But, her first question to those in the crowd gathered outside the ER doors, was about the boys that were on the field.  She was genuinely concerned for them.  I was genuinely awed by her.

Later that night, on the way home from the hospital, Steve and I were stunned and quiet; Exhausted from crying.   Andrew had a swollen bleeding hand, from an angry punch he gave to a  ‘No Parking’ sign in hospital parking lot.  The same cd that we had listened to on the way down to the hospital was repeating for a 2nd time. Creed lyrics were quietly flooding the car, subliminally asking us the same question they’d asked earlier, except they had gained prophetic weight:


Can you take me Higher?

 To a place where blind men see.

 Can you take me Higher?

 To a place with golden streets…

Lets go there, lets go there, 

Come on, lets go there, 

Lets ask, “Can we stay?” 

( Lyrics by Creed, All Rights Reserved.)

Somehow while that song beckoned for heaven, a peaceful work of God’s Spirit was happening in  my son. My Andrew started looking past the disturbing last glimpse of his friends’ dead body.  He started speaking remarkably calm truths about Andrew Yarger’s committed life, and new Life in eternity with Jesus.  Steve refilled the car with gas, as Andrew decided that it was the best way for his friend to go -- quick, and playing soccer.

He wanted to go back to the field.  

9:30 pm, and the dark sky was still echoing with quiet booms and distant flashes of lightening.  We arrived at the parking lot, and Bryan – the one who had tried to resuscitate Andrew --  was already there, sitting in his car with his wife.  No words were spoken.  As if planned, they both walked together, up on to the field.

We couldn’t hear what they were saying, or recalling, but they looked like two tall soldiers sharing a heavy & intimate war loss.  Floodlights shining across the field, from the shopping center behind them, backlit their sacred stage and cast them into shadow against the flashing sky.   We watched their dark forms stand together, then kneel by the depression in the grass where Andrew had been lying.  They prayed as the final lightening of the day … disappeared.

There is some sort of phenomenon that happens in days of shock and loss.  Time slows.  Events expand.  Art gains intensity.  God’s Word soothes. Music speaks. Touch causes tears. Waves of grief unpredictably blow through it all like weather.  And there is a constant ebbing flow from physical loss, to spiritual hope, and back again.  

Two days later, many teens gathered on the field to worship, and mourn; to celebrate their Christ -following friend’s place in eternity, and to cry over his departure.  My youngest son, Lucas, 8, didn’t want to get very close to actual death site.  He stood on the perimeter of the field with me and wept for the friend that had been playing ‘Dread Pirates’ with him the week before on our living room floor.  Then, he was lifted and held as he wept, by my oldest son. And then, he was picked up by Andrew Yarger’s older brother, Peter; in grief and comfort. Lucas’ legs dangled off the ground as he was embraced by the larger arms of family, brothers, and sons.  Later, he was freed enough to play around in the green grass by the site. Lucas' experience demonstrated a perfect paradox of realities -- life and death, seen and unseen, loss and hope,  all in one location.

The next day, the Yargers generously allowed our family to privately visit Andrew's body, at the funeral home.  It was the day before the large public Memorial Service of 700 people, plus news media.   In that place, we quietly felt the full weight of the departing.  A floodgate of sadness unleashed among all four brothers.  And, Isaac noticed something the rest of us missed.

Andrew’s Mom, Sibbi, had been holding a white handkerchief with small colorful flowers embroidered on its edges.  In an unceremonious moment, she leaned over the casket and quietly tucked her drying tears into Andrew’s front jean pocket.  She stuffed the handkerchief in, matter-of-factly, as though she were simply sending off a small runny- nosed child on his way outside to play.  It looked like she was sending him off.  But she knew, he had already left. 

The precision of the lightening bolt caused many to wonder if Andrew was picked off the field that day, for a purpose. But, who can reconcile the loss of a son too young to die? Where is hope or purpose found in physical life ended too soon?  

If our only answers are physical, there is no hope to be found in tragedy.  We simply live and die. End of story.  But over and over again, in large and small evidences this past week, we have been reminded otherwise. There is more to our bodies than flesh.  There is more purpose for our lives than death. Our answers to faith and hope lay in another dimension -- outside time and matter— in the 21 grams that all bodies apparently lose when they die; when a soul’s weight departs.  

Our faith finds hope in a loving God who longs to draw the life of his dying creation into a restored eternal dimension.  Because, as one teacher has said, “As Christians we are not citizens of this world trying to make our way to heaven.  We are citizens of heaven, making our way through this world.”

Seven days after the lightning’s deadly hit, I stood alone in the field, now beneath a clear blue sky.  Flowers are woven into a chain link fence in the shape “Andrew Y.”  I leaned against a square wooden picket fence, newly erected around the space where the bold-spirited, kind-hearted, muscular boy was struck down;  A small mound of flowers in his body’s place.

I looked up and squinted at the sun as it shone brightly, down from the center of our solar system, onto the tiny place of former storm. Since Andrew Yarger’s soul left this dimension that stormy day, this dying Earth has made seven daily rotations on its trip around the Sun.  I have watched with a Mother’s eye as my sons grieved.  And freshly felt with a Mother’s heart, the reality that for any one of the 4 men God has lent me to raise, any of these days on this ride around the sun may be the last.  Any day this week may contain one of their last 24 hours on the planet; a life’s apocalypse.  Any day.

That fateful day was one lightning bolt and 40 feet from being my own Andrew’s last. The exercise of that reality, and grief, has made these last seven days feel eternally long and the precious moments of life extremely short. But, the small mound of flowers were a reminder of my faith, and hope of salvation. Andrew Y. is the only one in this circumstance who has truly lived seven days -- of eternity -- with no gravity, or weather, or lightning.  He is the only one truly living right now.

It’s impossible to know by blind faith what our sight can not see.  Only God’s Word and Spirit give me true glimpses.  But I find delight in Isaac’s imaginings.  The day after Andrew’s memorial, he asked, “Wouldn’t it be great to be in heaven when Sibbi got there?  I mean, think about it.  Then we could watch Andrew reach into his pocket, take out her handkerchief, and give it back… and she wouldn’t need it.”

Andrew Yarger believed in Jesus as God’s gracious Way to draw him into eternity.  He had committed his life to that belief. 

And so he lives,

where acrobatics are extreme,

and handkerchiefs aren’t needed,

and blind men see, 

on golden streets,

with the Son. 

The Interviews.

Photo by, Olive Tree Photography, All Rights Reserved.
"9th Country -- The Interviews"

This week marked the last of "The Interviews."  Two nights of every week in my summer have been spent with V-Team. ( www.worldboundmission.blogspot.com ) They have been documenting their global trip.  I'm managing the project as the interviewer/ writer.  For each Interview, we'd sit in the living room, and record a session of questions and answers about each of their 8 homes around the world.  Evan's Mom, Carie always provided snacks. Often, visiting friends came and sat in to listen.  Sometimes the sessions are taken in video.  Sometimes Andrew had to sit out and let Christian and Evan do the session.  (A couple weeks ago, Andrew was diagnosed with both Mono and Malaria. The guys renamed it "monolaria.") Twice, Cassidy Nettles came and caught the sessions in photo (all the pix in this post are hers).   And always, every single time, I would be surprised by something that was read out of a journal or spoken from their hearts. 
It has been an immense privilege to listen in on their memories and insights.   I am sad to lose my weekly appointments with those three men.  They have made me laugh ... and listen.  I have been challenged to live my faith larger ways, by their words and lives.  They aren't who they were when they left on that trip. The Interviews have really captured the change.
Over the next two years, I will be taking their experiences and working them into a book.  The working title is "The 9th Country."  But that may change.  The market will be Juvenille/Teen Non-Fiction.   Contacts will be made with bands like Switchfoot and Thrice to see if they will partner with the project.  V-Team's host organizations will probably be included. Magazine articles will be submitted.  Excerpts of "The Interviews" will be posted on their blog.  And ... really... who knows what God has in store with any of those plans?  I surely don't.  And I'm open to none, or all of it.   We're just following this path to see where it goes. And, of course I'll keep you posted.
In the meantime, one large part of the 9th Country project has come to a close.  The Interviews will be transcribed and edited.  Each guy will have his own copy of the words and memories they all shared as they sat on the couch in our living room -- experiences they saved, before they all head out in different directions across the country, to make new chapters of their own.  Even if all those hours only amount to their own personal debriefing, articulating, and absorbing what they lived, then, to me, that's all worth it. 
It's been a joy. 


Skating Babies

Today's chuckle...

V-Team and the Olive Tree

Olive Tree Photography.  You need to know about it.  Cassidy Nettles is a gifted photographer. She's only 18 and I haven't ever know anyone her age, with an eye like hers.   She recently did a photo shoot for my son Andrew and his fellow travelers, Evan and Christian.  They are in process of writing their round-the-world experiences in book form.  So she came over to capture some face shots for the project.    She's an up-and-comer in photography. I can't say enough.  I follow her blog pretty faithfully to see what she's up to.  Cassidy is just one of those girls that everybody loves. Really. Sweet.
So, go check out her blog and see her stuff.  www.olivetreephotos.blogspot.com
And, here's a small peek at some preliminary pix from her shoot with V-Team.

Olive Tree Photography
All rights reserved.