Friday, March 30, 2012

Into the depths courtesy of Earl Scruggs

A banjo rolling; the sounds of crickets; the women chattering; the children screaming and laughing; the banjo rolling; the guitar G runs; the mandolin chortling; the fiddle tying it up; the tenor reaching the full moon; the banjo rolling.

My dad played Earl Scruggs style; he would sit and play over and over the above album; he would listen to the licks; he would work them and work them. Then during the afore-described music parties, he'd roll his banjo like Earl. We kids would be in someone's yard playing Red Rover or Chicken or lay-in-the-ditch-and-jump-up-when-a-car-comes-by-and-wave-and-scream. The women would be talking about us in the living room, our problems and stages. The men would be beating their tapping feet on the kitchen, instruments and ears poised, smiling, smiling, singing, singing, diving into the root depths, plunging, swimming, swimming.

It would get late. The moon would be high. We kids would have eaten all the cookies allowed; we would have played all the games imaginable; we would have started drifting indoors, hoping our fathers would notice, hanging on the edges of their circle. But, they would remained sitting with fingers flying and smiles smiling, and Earl Scruggs licks zipping. Finally, a guitar player would slow it down and begin to wail, "You spurned the love, I gave you darlin'. A love you once was proud to own . . . ." A midnight desire made public, crying confession; our feet would sink into a chair or a carpet space; our eyes would fight and suffer as our Dad would not notice us. He was overboard now in slowed down songs, the sadness of lost love, stabbed love, love of blue eyes now with someone new.

Finally, once we were fully slumped, the sound of chairs scraping, instrument cases being clicked shut, heavy footsteps caused us to break sleep's beginning stage, and we would sleepily go to him with all the men teasing us without our shy care: "Can we go home now, Dad?"

Time for the long hilly, curvy ride home.

But, on the way, in our ears, in our lives forever more, the banjo rolled in sound grooves, in the ancestral depths of plaintive and frolicking standards, in our blood, in associations, in love.

Good night, Earl Scruggs. Play one for us in the kitchen of the Angel Band. Thanks for the full moon and the bluegrass memories.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Precarious courses and loving eyes

In this faraway small shot stands two of my most precious worldy accomplishments. They stand precariously, especially the boy who is just learning to snowboard from his sister who stands victoriously as she has learned the skill and now flies down mountains. I am sitting on a coat by a conveyor belt which carries little ones up the gentle learning slope. I am older and sickly (from a bad cold) and take the role of watcher, cheer-er.

This morning, I went through a scrapbook I made for my daughter, covering birth through high school. How could I ever doubt our relationship, my intense efforts to make up for gaps, to funnel love, to direct in good directions? It floods every page. I do not have much more than the usual parent in the way of regrets, rather I was an exceptional parent. Yes, the high school years were brutal. I look at her pictures with friends she found, with boys, and I feel again the loss of who I wanted her to be.  Yet she is her own person always -- independent in one way, vulnerable in others, and beautiful. I worry, like a normal good parent will do, but I really have done my best even in some difficult circumstances. I'm always there encouraging, cheering, and redirecting even through precarious courses.

In the scrapbook, I see myself as a young mother, not knowing, not knowing, all that it would take, all that it would give. Lord, have mercy on a young parent. Flood our world with your loving guidance and rest to grant us all. Thank you for my ability to see my two children grow in maturity, with familial love, and with Your grace throughout all of our lives. Amen.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Generation gap and bridge

My last post was rather sad, but it captured a feeling and a regret and a hope. This weekend, we're going to be traveling to see my daughter, and I'm looking forward to that quite much. She is such an independent and private young lady -- which makes a mother worry. I'm glad I have God helping me with my anxiety and helping me recognize His work in her life. May she receive and be blessed with peace. She deserves a full dose of a loving and trustworthy Father in her life.

I've been reading Chronicles in the Bible, and the opening phrase when introducing a new king:  "He did right in the eyes of the Lord" is powerful. If a king does "evil in the eyes of the Lord" then ruin and problems happen throughout the entire kingdom. What I can't understand is when a God-seeking King, like Hezekiah who was rewarded both in wealth and victory for his devotion to God, has a son like Manasseh who did "evil in the eyes of the Lord, following detestable practices . . . ." Was he not properly trained by his father? Was he blinded to the work of God in His kingdom? How can the foundation of faith established with the priests, etc., during his father's reign be altogether rejected by the son? I just can't fathom it, yet time and time again, this pattern of good-to-evil happens from one generation to the next. Sigh -- it doesn't bode well for the rest of us. However, other places in the Bible, like in Proverbs, tells us to raise a child in the way they should go, with expectations that they will choose to seek God. And, lots of evidence points to the fact that children continue on with the faith of their parents.

I simply pray that my children know that I seek God and am rewarded with hope, relative peace, and love. I pray that those fruits will be ones that they also desire to open their hands to receive. Amen.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Children are strangers

"Children are their parents' guests. They come into the space that has been created for them, stay for a while - fifteen, twenty, or twenty-five years - and leave again to create their own space. Although parents speak about 'our son' and 'our daughter,' their children are not their property. In many ways children are strangers. Parents have to come to know them, discover their strengths and their weaknesses, and guide them to maturity, allowing them to make their own decisions." Henri Nouwen

"In many ways children are strangers."

I don't like that statement, but it's true. It was especially true of my daughter (and still is).

From watching excellent mothers at my school, I live vicariously through mother - daughter relationships which are good. Based upon mature parenting and wise choices, unwavering biblical foundations, tremendous engagement. I stare and am happy and am sad --  always happily sad that it's possible, and it's happening for some.

I was always there for my daughter, yet complications and forces grouped to batter.

I have many wonderful, close moment-memories of my sweet, shining star. Early on, we were a loving, inseparable pair, engaging and holding on. For what I could offer, I offered. Good choices, solid, foundational, guided my love for her.

Yet I did not parent perfectly, correctly. My hands were tied in some cases.

In other cases, I underestimated and underused my hands.

Some people say that you stop maturation at certain moments of abusive crisis. I wonder if I remained at 23 and 24 too long.

I wonder if I learned anything beyond my parents.

I look at those teenage daughters who do not run away, do not, do not, do not, and I see who I was at their age. Loving, God-entrenched, parent-respectful. I see expectations of unrealistic duplication given her circumstances.

I wonder what happened, but I know, and much was as it is. A wandering child. A pit and a climb. Both.

Now my daughter and I love each other, but there's a span of hurtful years, and there's a divide, and I wonder did I learn anything beyond my parents, beyond mistakes and pain? Is halting remedy enough.

I don't think she wants to know me truly and really. Maybe she isn't capable of that yet. Are any of us? Will she learn beyond her parents, beyond mistakes and pain?

God has been a parenting anchor for me even though the sail has whipped in the wind. Even through my inadequacies and blunders. Even through remedial rewiring. Even through, even through.

Bless this relationship and her, dear Lord. Thank you for new doors of grace and understanding and repair. Fracture happens but you, O good Father, restore beautiful light for shining.


Wednesday, March 07, 2012


I see teaching books around my desk within my grasp but outside my digestion. Superb classroom teachers are simply born -- there's a gifting given, developed, pronounced. Some gifted teachers make it in the classroom, others don't. We have a gifted teacher at our school.

Today, I was especially critical about my own teaching ability. I was feeling insecure like a 12 year old. I moped and sputtered inside; I felt like quitting immediately and running away to play my mandolin under an Osage Orange tree, where my unfettered mind could wander from one jumping grasshopper to the next within the crest of a thick summer humid-wave during August in the Ozarks where I would soon die anyway and be buried by my ancestores to finally rest in peace away from student life of any kind. Ah. I was feeling tired, weary, underappreciated. Wail!

As I walked across the parking lot to an appointment with a friend at a local cafe, I immediately decided then and there to just resist. Resist the temptation to compare and to despair. Resist the temptation to lump a feeling into a reality. Resist stupid acceptance of falsehood.

I decided to accept that I am human with limitations. I decided to accept that my sporadic outstanding teacher moments make up for my fair or even poor days. I decided that my qualities of giving love, appreciation, and encouragement to each individual student (whom I truly love) are enough. At the end of the school year, there will be accolades for our gifted teacher as usual which he deserves because of his care and love for students. But, inside, I will be applying accolades to myself and other teachers who do the day to day with hope, care, attention, without much mention.

I do receive rewards, notes, comments from my students from time to time. Those matter tremendously. But, after all is said and done and the last chapter is closed in the literature book, I work mainly for the approval of God showing his way of individual love for each learner (of all ages). I hope to learn all I can from his loving encouragement of me.

Amen and amen.


It's 6:16 in the morning, and I should be tying up the fabric of my day's lessons plans.

But, my throat feels rawed by sand paper, and I'm in a tired-sick stupor.

If I can't focus now with these minor symptoms, I wonder how someone can who is really sick, who is chronically sick.  Yesterday I read an article about Ed Dobson, a once (well-known) pastor who's now chronically ill. He said that he found it hard to pray at all, to access that common devotional life which girds us during the day. Yet he's managed somehow to weakly walk the path (and to write a book about it with the help of his son!).

I, rawed-throat-only, believe in the challenge.

In so many aspects, it must be a difficult thing to have one's health taken away. I pray that those sick today can be, even if vaguely cognizant, aware of the following oft-repeated biblical promise:

"God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble." Psalm 46:1

Ever-present sounds like a feathertop mattress we can ride upon the turbulence.


Tuesday, March 06, 2012


A spring snowstorm of papers flew from my son's backpack last night as I attacked. He wandered the periphery coming when called, working on his Huck Finn paper, being generally an obedient teenager in the midst of the parental gale. I e-mailed teachers too; I'm contacting his learning specialists. I'm basically being the parent who ya-deal-with, a nice version, yet still life is busy in the building, and there's an attitude that parents should remain on the periphery. They say that a student who is a teen must make his/her own independent decisions.

Yes, we all should encourage that, however, there's a sense in the high school culture that parents should stay out of the learning process with the student. Sure, if parent wants to bake for the faculty appreciation day, or volunteer for the hog roast, or do concessions, then involvement is good. But, if they're buzzing like a fly around the school day, then where's the swatter? I've been there as a teacher. Yet I also know that the squeaky wheel gets the grease. I also know that most IEP students don't have parents who are trying to improve their lot. I know that the teachers forget about kids with learning challenges in the rush of the mob who's needing them at the moment. Some teachers are resistant to any different kind of help. So, I'm squeaking for some greasin'.

Plus, I think we have it wrong. I think we should encourage the parent to be involved in the classroom, to be communicating. If a student fails, it's easy to blame the parents for that, but the culture of stay-away-for-independent-growth at the secondary level also encourages lack of involvement, apathy, disengagement with parents. One hand beckons, one hand halts.

It's a balance, but I believe that parents aren't enablers if they get involved. Personal responsibility is important, but the parent should be there encouraging and simply requiring it.

Squeak, squeak. Okay, I feel better now.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Creating a Home Together

Creating a Home Together

"Many human relationships are like the interlocking fingers of two hands. Our loneliness makes us cling to each other, and this mutual clinging makes us suffer immensely because it does not take our loneliness away. But the harder we try, the more desperate we become. Many of these "interlocking" relationships fall apart because they become suffocating and oppressive. Human relationships are meant to be like two hands folded together. They can move away from each other while still touching with the fingertips. They can create space between themselves, a little tent, a home, a safe place to be.

True relationships among people point to God. They are like prayers in the world. Sometimes the hands that pray are fully touching, sometimes there is distance between them. They always move to and from each other, but they never lose touch. They keep praying to the One who brought them together."

- Henri J. M. Nouwen

The above was written by Henri Nouwen -- how true, how true. I confess being interlocked destructively in the past; it's quite difficult, even as a God-following person, even when wandering away, even when you're just coping with the world at large to not want to cling, especially when you've found a person (or people groups) with whom you are compatible. However, yesterday I was truly thinking about how my husband has become my best friend. We laughed at church; we laughed at my son's soccer game at our jokes; we've truly advanced to that stage where, even with girlfriends, my husband is my true and constant, and yes even fun!, friend. I admit that in many stages of our lives that wasn't the case. God truly had to push us closer to one another. The final big push came about four years ago -- it was a painful push, off a cliff of feeble constructs, but, at the bottom, we clung to one another. I'm grateful for that time. God does care about how we love those closest to us -- he wants us to be safe and cared for; he wants to teach us how to love well back. We mirror him the most in this capacity. True relationships, as Henri says, truly do point to God.  Amen.

Saturday, March 03, 2012


"The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him." Lamentations 3:25

We read Shelley's "Ode to the West Wind" this week in class, and a blowing wind does typlify the recent movement between my ears. I must remember that at times I'm prone to being a tumbleweed. So, this morning, I thought about all that's making me roll across Kansas in Jayhawk territory when I should be at home planted in Missouri in lovely Tigerland.

Here's the list:

Career => what-to-do-be. But, I got out the yellow pad, and I'm cheered with my analytical findings. Some roots based upon wise choice -- to think!

My house => scattered yet this morning tidied. Some people in Indiana wish they had a house in one piece right now. But, mine looks good, and my husband will be happy when he comes home. I will probably get a thousand kisses while in the kitchen. Ajax is part of his love language!

Bad news => a local girl jumped off a cliff; tornadoes spiked and rumbled over all in the Midwest, killing 30; friends' struggles; a family all killed in a car accident; three kids shot at a school. God, fragility reigns, but here we are still to gather strength to fight off what we can. To fight. To run after the powers of bleakness. To chase it out the hallways, which a school coach did to the shooter before more were hurt. Heroic response instead of despair and indifference.

Faith => all the above unsettledness caused me to sway, sway. And, I realized that I was unsteady. I realized that even though I have an inner strong personal belief in God, something was frittering away at me which I needed to push back on. Then I found the above verse, and others concerning seeking God. Each of them promised reward, a finding, to those who seek God, who hope in him. Rather than doubt and sway, I was reminded to choose the footing that these words offer. It's all about choice, right? And, it's all about acknowledgement. I am choosing to recognize. To be firm and to chase away darkness.

The verse above => I like how the plural pronoun those becomes replaced by one. There's some dividing to be done; a singular, individualistic direction to make as one chooses to look, hope, and find the treasure to be found in God.

Amen. The Saturday ticks on.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

The larger loaf

I have lots of thoughts rumbling around in my head, particularly about faith.  My last post made me think quite a bit about cognitive acceptance of faith and what that's like. But, the day after my post, I became aware of another factor in faith cognitive acceptance:  bad news. Tornadoes, car wrecks, sickness all greeted me as e-mails or headlines. Many were calling out for prayer, comfort, higher love. When faced with such a thing, we tend to forget the questions which are flattened like apples in a driveway. We need support. We turn to God. Sure, there are questions lurking in our head like:  Will I hold your lack of help against you one day? Or, will you actively help and will I recognize it? Or, please, are you there? But, there we go instinctively and with hope and with offers of trust. We hold onto Bible verse promises (those of us who know to do so). We approach. We receive comfort if we're not too angry to be blinded. We feel as if we're actively engaging in a process of relief.

And, we are. Questions shouldn't pre-empt our natural inclination to travel down a path to find God who can comfort and embrace. A God who can offer an eternal perspective. Our minds will just have to quit nibbling at small crumbs of a much larger loaf. Quantifying can only go so far. Our western mindset in that regard is just limited.

Father, help those who are suffering. We all turn to you in time of need and trouble. That is a huge Signifier in itself. Thankful.