Archives for September 2012

5-Minute Friday: GRASP – A Photo Essay

I am sitting on a porch, in a beautiful wooden rocking chair, overlooking the Frio River in the Hill Country of Texas. Gathered at a Writers’ Retreat are about 70 people, here to learn more about the creative process, to eat well, watch a little rain fall onto a drought-prone stretch of chapparal, and to marvel at the goodness of God. I am at Laity Lodge for the second year in a row, delighted to be among such good company, with time to laugh, converse, think–even to write. So, this week’s 5-Minute Friday will look a little different than most. I’ll write first and then give you a 
brief photographic overview of our trip out to the canyon yesterday. 
 Please come on over to Lisa-Jo’s fine blog, where over 200 folks join in the party each and every week. We are to write for 5 minutes, no editing, no over-thinking -just whatever comes out of our fingertips. It’s great fun and often more than a little revealing.
Five Minute Friday

It’s hard to get from Santa Barbara CA to San Antonio TX.
It requires an overnight stay near LAX,
getting up at 3:45 a.m.,
going through airport security before one is fully conscious,
flying one hour to Phoenix,
walking miles through the airport to another terminal
to board another plane for 2 hours to your final destination.
Then you wait for your van-load of compatriots,
some of whom you actually might recognize,
and drive for 2 hours away from civilization
to this amazing place.
I’ve been here once before,
so I know what to expect.
It’s an enriching, challenging,
welcoming experience to land in this space.
And I cannot quite grasp the words to say why.
We’re singing with a a grammy-winning worship leader,,
listening to a PhD in neuro-biology tag-teaming with 
a film critic, learning how to write a good sentence
and just sort of spreading out on the inside of our souls.
Funny stories, serious questions, shared struggles – 
all of it makes for an enriching, encouraging experience.
There is freedom in this place,
there is welcome.
There is beauty, silence, companionship when desired.
And there is a sense of God’s smile everywhere you look.
I sat on a bench by a jogging trail early this morning
and just listened for about 5 minutes.
Do you know what I hear?
Only a far away bird song.

THAT’s what this place provides that 

so few places on this earth can – 

the sound of good silence.


Driving away from the airport.
The contrast of brilliant light and pouring rain off in the distance seen 360 degrees around in Texas.
What you might expect to find in Texas actually can be found in Texas.
Something about these mailboxes seems representative of the wide open spaces and ranch land of this part of the world.
Turning off the highway to the dirt road leading down to the HEB Foundation Camps.
A lovely harbinger of good things ahead.
Reaching the river road that leads to Laity Lodge
This is the only way in and it’s remarkable.
The rainbow almost spanning the canyon carved by the Frio.
Looking out over the Frio right after our arrival at about 6 last night.
Hopeful reflections of beauty to come. Thank you, Lord.

To the Penny…

Circle round, friends. I have a sweet story to tell.
And that open chest, filled with dress-up clothes 
is what inspires its telling this night.
It’s a bit circuitous, but truly rich with 
wonder and grace
and it happened at –
well, what can I say?
It happened at exactly the right time. 

I had been at my job as Associate Pastor for about eight months, 
when I overheard an off-hand remark
made by our Senior Pastor,
 a man I greatly admired and
was delighted to be working with in my first-ever
paid ministry position.
And this is what he said:
“Well, all the stats tell you that you’ll know a new
hire is a good hire if you can see that
they have ‘raised’ their own salary
and it shows up in the general budget funds
by the end of their first year.”


Earn my own salary? 
Have it show up in the budget?
By doing what, exactly?
I was scrambling to learn who people were,
how they worked together – or didn’t work together.
I was preaching a few times,
teaching a few times,
making lots of house and hospital calls,
planning small groups,
meeting with individuals and couples for counseling.
How was any of that
going to raise money for the budget? 

And then . . .

One afternoon, a favorite client of my husband’s,
a truly beautiful, older woman who was
self-confident, gregarious and very out-spoken 
called him up and said:
“What’s this I hear about you making a move to Santa Barbara? 
You know I’ve just moved up here, too, don’t you?
Tell me all about this please!! 
Why are you here?

So he told her.
“Well, you see, it’s like this…
my wife is a pastor.”
“She is what? A pastor, did you say?
Does she preach?”
“Sometimes,” Dick said.
“She’s an associate and she’s part-time, so
it’s just a few times a year.”
“Well!” She bellowed. “I want to know the next time
she’s up in the pulpit, because I’m coming myself
to check her out.”

And come, she did.
All 5 feet 10 inches of Pasadena socialite that she was,
garbed in a bright chartreuse wool cape,
straight from the runways of Milan.
She had been active in an Episcopal parish
in Pasadena but hadn’t yet found a church home 
in this new community.
When she came to hear me preach, 
she walked into the back door of the gymnasium 
we were using as a worship center, 
looked at the beautiful wooden cross 
we had mounted on the long wall 
(between the basketball hoops), 
genuflected, crossed herself, and sat down in the back row. 
Like any good Episcoplian would.
And she did that every single time she came.

That first time, she came up afterwards,
effusive in her praise, just delighted
that her financial advisor’s wife
was a preacher.
She introduced us to a few other people in her social circle,
and went out of her way to be kind and inclusive. 

“Whenever you’re up there,” she said, 
“I’m gonna be down here.” 

And she was.

She called the church office, and got the schedule.
And just about every time I preached for the next 10 years,
she was there, sitting in the back row. 

But here’s the strange and wonderful part.
Are you ready?
That first Christmas, 
on the first anniversary of my very first day of work,
she called her investor guy – that would be my husband – 
and said something like this, entirely of her own volition:
“You know, I would really like my annual gift this year to
go to that Covenant Church where your wife works.
That’s a great group of people over there
and I’d like to support what they’re doing.”

Can you guess what happened?
Her gift, 
to the penny
was the exact amount of  my salary –
for the entire year.
And for every year that she lived after that.
Can you imagine how encouraging this was
to a very wet-behind-the-ears,
brand-spankin’ new pastor? 
To this day, I give thanks to God for this
gift of love and grace in my life.
First of all,
for this delightful, loving and faithful woman.
And then for her serendipitous generosity.
Her gift came at exactly the right time,
and was exactly the right amount.

And I had forgotten this lovely truth until one night
last month when we entertained several small girls.
They opened the dress-up chest,
and floating out of it came some of this 
loving friend’s beautiful clothes. 

When she died, I had also become acquainted
with one of her sons – had married him and his wife,
in fact. And one day, as we were driving back to 
Santa Barbara from a time away, my phone rang.
He said, “Mom’s in the hospital, and it doesn’t look good
at all. But don’t come – because I know she would not
want you to see her looking like this.”
Gently, I assured him that I would be there,
and we headed straight to the hospital before going home.
That time of prayer and anointing and farewell
was one of the most beautiful experiences of my pastoral life.
And the two sons who were with her were
more grateful than they knew to have
the prayers of the church prayed over their mom as she died.

After her service,
the son and his new wife brought over a truckload 
of her clothing and costume jewelry,
donating it to a rummage sale we were having
to raise funds for student ministries.
I bought some of her beautiful and brightly-colored clothes,
including that chartreuse cape,
and put them lovingly in the dress-up box for my grand-girls –
who were yet to be born at the time!

Because, somehow, 
I just knew they would love them. 
And every time, they wrap themselves in
one of her diaphanous gowns,
I smile.
Both of our girls are going to be quite tall, you see.
Both of them are blessed with dramatic,
confident personalities.
And one day soon,
I’ll tell them about my friend,
the one who blew through my life
like a gift on the Wind of God
and graced me with her love.

OF COURSE, I’m joining this one with Jennifer Lee’s God-Incidences meme,
and also with Ann, Duane and Emily – whose amazing book releases TODAY.
If you love someone with an eating disorder, this book is one you should have on your shelf – it is terrific. “Chasing Silhouettes,” by Emily Wierenga


An African Journey: Post Six – The Gift of Sight

The Call to be Wise – A Prayer for Worship

It’s been a while. Twenty two months, to be exact. Twenty-two months ince I’ve prayed in public, in a Sunday morning worship service. I am rusty, and I am nervous. Really nervous.

We’ve been studying the book of James this fall, trying to discover what this small book might teach us about living the life of a disciple, a disciple who makes disciples. This small epistle is part of the lectionary readings as we cycle through the last weeks of Ordinary Time and this week’s reading is from chapter 3, verses 13-18 – words on wisdom, true wisdom, godly wisdom. And, of course, the kind of ‘wisdom’ that is far from godly.

The gospel reading in Matthew 10 includes the words of Jesus, sending the disciples out on their own for the first time, encouraging them to be ‘wise as serpents…’ Oh  – and we’ll be singing, “Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise,” just before the prayer. 
Will you join me as we pray together this morning? 

It is good to praise you, Almighty God.
It is good to sing loudly, tapping our feet – at least
on the inside – joining right in with those angels,
the ones who are adoring you,
the ones veiling their sight.
Because even the angels cannot look directly
at you, O Lord of Glory.
They cannot behold your splendid and radiant Being,
because you are just  . . . too much.
Too much for them,
and surely too much for us,
“frail children of dust” that we are. 

It’s hard for us to even begin to wrap our minds around 
the Truth that is you,
the Immensity of you.
You are the Wild and Untamable Source
of all that is beautiful,
and powerful –
in this universe;
on our planet;
in these bodies, which we treat with such casual neglect;
this natural world in which we live – 
this world that speaks to us of 
your creative genius and
your overwhelming attention to detail.

And yet . . . you are the very same God who 
guides the likes of us, day by day,
and who invites and encourages us 
to join you in the ongoing renewal of creation. 

So, YES!!
It is good to praise you,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
God of Immensity,
Son of Humility,
Spirit of Comfort and Conviction.
Help us to do this always,
to offer our songs,
our words,
our hearts
in joyful thanksgiving for who you are,
and how you are working to revive and restore and refresh
all that you have created,
most especially each and every one of us. 

And some of us truly need to find that refreshment this day, O Lord. 
We’re wondering what’s coming next –
feeling overloaded at school,
maybe worried about our jobs, or our children, or both.
Some of us are waiting on doctor’s diagnoses,
some of us have already heard hard news.
Some of us wonder if we’ll have enough money to cover the month,
some of us have plenty of money, but not much joy in it. 
Some of us are young and curious, 
often thinking we know more than we actually do.
And some of us are old and failing, 
not sure if we know anything at all. 
Some of us are worried about a lot of things,
and getting plenty sick of worrying.
And some of us are just plain sick.
Sick and tired of all kinds of things and wondering
where you are. And even there, Lord God,
even there, it is good to praise you.
Maybe even especially there. 

So, Only Wise God,
will you help us to become wise people
who know how to praise you well? 
Because wise people are people who know how to say thank you,
even when we have to stretch pretty hard to do it.
Wise people are people who do good deeds,
even when that’s the last thing we feel like doing.
Wise people are people who don’t give in to 
bitterness, or cynicism, or sarcasm,
but choose words that honor, and uplift and encourage.
Wise people are naturally generous,
offering what they have to others,
sharing the gifts they’ve received.
Wise people are people who look like the folks Jesus is
talking about in our Gospel lesson for the morning. 
People who are ‘wise as serpents, and innocent as doves.’ 
Yes, Lord – that’s exactly who we’d like to be. 

But we readily admit that we are not all that wise a lot of the time. 

So, will you remind us to say we’re sorry,
to admit our frailties and flaws
and to consistently seek to grow into the people
you have in mind for us to be? 
O Lord, if everyone in this world who says they are a 
follower of yours would do this –
if we would all admit we’re far from perfect,
if we would ask for help when we need it,
and if we would seek to be wise –
what a different place this old planet of ours could be! 

So, begin with us, will you, please?
Soften our hearts,
open our wallets,
give us words of peace to offer,
wherever we go, whomever we meet.
And we’ll end right where we began,
by praising your Holy Name,
O, God Only Wise.

Joining with Michelle’s Sunday invitation and Jennifer’s sisterhood:

The Talisman: a Writing Prompt

I am a person who wrestles hard with major transitions in life.
I never want to move too quickly, to make big changes
in the routines and patterns I am used to
without a lot of thought, prayer, and discussion
with trusted friends and family.
I surprised myself when our senior pastor was hired in 2005,
midway through my time as associate pastor.
I thought I would retire; that had been the plan.
But then . . . he came, with his high energy,
and his working style that was so different from anything
I’d ever experienced before,
and he knew so much about the liturgical calendar,
and, and, and. . . 
I realized I could learn a lot from this man,
things I hadn’t done, in ways I hadn’t done them,
so I decided (and he graciously agreed)
that retirement would go on hold for a while.
 By July of 2009, it was becoming increasingly clear 
to me that my time as a member of a church staff 
was coming to and end. 
What, I wondered, comes next?
Who am I without this title, 
this role, 
this connection to the 
community of faith 
I’ve worked alongside all these years?

So, I took a leap of faith – gasp! –
and enrolled in a post-graduate learning
experience, this one in Chicago,
to see if spiritual direction might be what the Lord
was moving me toward in this last stretch of life.
I flew to Chicago for a very intense week.
A good week, a rich week, an exhausting week – 
“Like trying to drink from a fire hose,” 
is how I described it to my friends.
And at the very beginning of that week,
we spent a day on retreat, in silence,
with periodic worship times spaced 
throughout the day.
I took a walk around the grounds of that retreat center,
discovering a small gift shop with jewelry for sale.
Almost immediately, I spied this Jerusalem cross 

(second from left above) and snatched it up. 

Somehow that small, silver ornament became a

picture of God’s promised presence amidst all the
things that were shifting in my life.
I wore it daily for the rest of that year.
It became a sort of touchstone,
a reminder that I was not alone as I
navigated the changing scene before me.

And I began adding other symbolic pieces to the chain.
The small bee, which says, “just be,” on the reverse
and the beautiful spreading tree,
with, “free spirit,” on the back.
Both of these, plus the charm with my first initial,
reminded me – as I caught sight of them 
in the mirror or fingered them while
reading or praying – 
that my deepest need is for stillness,
for practicing the presence of God,
for sitting in the silence, 
in the Mystery.

About a year later, six weeks after my retirement
became official, my husband and I took a 
lovely trip to Hawaii,
a place of my heart for the last 32 years.
So I added the heart with the palm tree on it. 

That summer,

after being too ill the previous year to continue
the program in Chicago with my own denomination,
I stepped into training with the
Such a gift. 

So the last piece added was the medal
of St. Benedict.

Taken all together,
this set of charms,
of talismen,
speak to me of who I am becoming,
of where I am finding space and gift and grace now,
without the title,
without the role,
but with a life. 
A rich, wonderful, Spirit-graced life. 

During the hardest months of

this time of change – from about October of 2010
through May of 2011 – I took it off only to shower.
Somehow, the weight of it called to mind
the immensity of this time in my life,
this move from active ministry
to a more quiet and quotidian way of doing life. 

Gradually, this way of living became the new normal,

and as it did, the necklace sat on the counter more and more often.
I still love to look at it. 

And I still tend to wear it when I’m 
feeling uncertain or anxious.
I wore it every day during my

last two weeks in community with the Benedictines
in July and August. 

And I’ll likely wear it every day that I’m on 
retreat at Laity Lodge.
But I don’t wear it to bed anymore.

I don’t wear it every day or even every week. 

Because I’m here.

I’ve settled – as much as it is possible for
a person of my personality to settle anywhere!
And I am grateful,
so, so grateful for what I’m learning,
what I’ve been invited to do,
how God is working through me
and in me and around me
even here, even now.

I’m glad I took that particular route as I walked around 
the grounds of that retreat center in 2009.
And I’m glad to have this tangible reminder
of God’s faithfulness in the midst of major life changes.
It’s just a necklace.
But it’s also a story, an Ebenezer of sorts,
a marker of how the LORD has been here,

right through the shifting sands of change.
I look at it and say,
“Thus far, the Lord has helped me.” 
And I say, “Thank you. Thank you.”

My thanks to Amber Haines and her new writing prompt each week. The word this week was ‘necklace.’ I cannot write in poetic majesty as she does, but I very much enjoyed thinking about this one. So, thanks, Amber. You can click on this sentence to find her beautiful reflection and to find links to others who have taken up her challenge.
I will also link this to Jennifer’s, Emily’s, Duane’s, and Ann’s gatherings tonight.


Psssst. . . A Sneak Peek at Something Grand!

Have you ever had a dream?
A crazy, wild, hold-your-breath,
kind of dream?
One that you’re pretty sure came from God,
but sorta scares you to death?
My friend Deidra Riggs had exactly that 
kind of dream . . .
and she is doing something about it.
Beginning October 1st,
Early-Bird registration will open
for a wonderfully-wild-and-wooly retreat designed
to encourage women of faith in the blogging world.
It will be held April 19-21, 2013 just outside of Omaha, Nebraska
This picture header from the new retreat website 
doesn’t really fit on my blog page,
but I think it will give you an idea of some of the folks
who are going to be there.
And they’re going to be there in order
to encourage all who come to dream big dreams.

If you’d like to take a peek at the website (currently under construction), just click on this sentence and head on over to look around!

As the website nears completion, here are some important details to keep in mind as you think and pray about attending. Details like – dates, cost, and a peek at the retreat center. Clicking on that sentence up there will let you read about the speakers/leaders and the Big Dream ideas that will be the thematic thread of our time together. I am excited! And I’m honored to be there as a Pastor-in-Residence. Any opportunity to become Real Life Community is a gift. And this one is a doozy.

  1. Early bird registration will begin October 1 and run through October 6.
  2. The retreat will take place April 19-21, 2013.
  3. Early bird tickets will be $249 and will include a retreat pass, two nights lodging, and five meals.  
  4. Regular price tickets (purchased after October 6) will be $299.
  5. A day pass will also be available for those who may live nearby and choose not to stay at the retreat center. The cost for a day pass is $99 (early bird) and $139 (regular price)  and will include lunch and dinner on Saturday.
  6. Ashland, NE is a 30-minute drive from the Omaha airport. We will provide a shuttle from the airport to the retreat center.
  7. The retreat will be held at the Carol Joy Holling Conference and Retreat Center. Here’s a link:
  8. Optional “Be Brave” activities will include the ropes course and zip line, under the supervision and direction of Retreat Center staff members. Participants can add this activity as one of their breakout sessions for an additional $10.
  9. The event is designed to be casual, cozy, and small — we’re planning for about 60 overnight participants, with a possibility of up to 100 total (including those who choose a day pass)

Quiet for the Weekend – September 14-16, 2012

“This is what the Lord says,
he who made a way through the sea,
a path through the mighty waters . . .
‘Forget the former things,
do not dwell on the past.
I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up,
do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness,
and streams in the wasteland . . .
to give drink to my people, my chosen,
the people I formed for myself,
that they may proclaim my praise.”
Isaiah 43:18, 19-21.
Join me in proclaiming the LORD’s praise this weekend,
even if we do it quietly?

Joining with Sandy and Deidra, dear friends who invite us all into the quiet as the weekend dawns.

5 Minute Friday – Focus

Five minutes. That’s the rule. Five minutes for free-writing, whatever comes into your head, whatever the prompt elicits. And it’s crazy fun. Come on over to the Gypsy Mama’s website – though she goes by Lisa-Jo Baker nowadays – and see for yourselves:

Five Minute Friday
Somedays, I think I look at life like this – just a little bit cock-eyed and slightly out of focus.

Today’s prompt: FOCUS


For me, photography has become a kind of sacramental act. I have a camera with me at all times and frequently annoy my family by poking it in their faces at the most inopportune moments. 

Mostly, however, I use my camera to notice things. 
To pay attention. 
To look more closely, 
     see the details, 
          the angle of the light, 
               the wonder of a baby’s laugh, 
                    the cobweb, backlit by morning sunshine, 
     the power of a breaking wave. 

The camera becomes an extension of my eyes, allowing me to slow down a bit – forcing me to slow down a bit, encouraging me to savor, sift, concentrate, focus. 

Looking through the lens requires me to double check and see if things are lining up straight or are slightly askew. Focusing that lens means taking the time to choose where to look first. 
To see this family playing in the water, I had to disarm the auto-focus on the camera because 
it wanted to see the bushes clearly. I did not. I get to choose what I see most clearly.

There are lessons here, lessons beyond the extended ocular sensitivity that my camera provides. Because focus is important in all of life . . . choosing where I’m going to look first. 

Will I look at the Truth or the lie?

Will I look at the Good or the not-so-good?

Will I look at and for the spark of the Spirit in each person I encounter during the day, or will I forget, and allow myself to be distracted, to intentionally turn away? 

Today, I choose to look, 
     to look with intention, commitment, focus. 

Maybe tomorrow, too?


About one minute over – pictures, captions and formatting added later.

An African Journey: Post Five – The Very Best Part

There we were, minding our own business,
getting to know this new country,
these new friends,
this new work . . .
and then the world shifted.
Well, maybe not the entire world,
just our tiny corner of it.
And it took a while to sink in, too.
On the 4th of June, 1967, 
I wrote to my mom and dad and said this:
“I have been feeling lousy the last 2-3 weeks.
Attacks of nausea at odd times, extreme sleepiness
and a late period. I am going to see the doctor next week
to find out what the trouble is. Will let you know the results.” 

What can I say?
I was young and . . . naive? 
Let’s just say it . . . 
I was plain old stupid about the process of reproduction.
Yes, thank you very much, I did know how it happened.
I just didn’t have a clue what happened when it happened.
So . . . stupid?
Yeah, that about covers it.
My mother just laughed hysterically when she read that letter,  
and her diagnosis arrived about the same time the doctor’s did:
you are two months pregnant.
About four months along, sipping a Coke on the Garden Route in South Africa.
My husband’s parents and younger sister came to visit us and took us on a wonderful three week trip to game parks and other beautiful places south of our home. I will write another journal entry about our travels to other parts of Africa while we lived in Zambia.
About 6 months along in these two faded black & white photos.
So. We were pregnant.
DEEP breath.
And so, the thinking and the wondering and the planning
and the gathering began.
My doctor was an American,
a member of the denomination with which we served,
and his work and his hospital were 40 miles away,
over a very, VERY bumpy dirt road, out in the bush.
I saw him three times during my pregnancy.
My everything- you-wanted-to-know-about pregnancy reading was limited, 
to say the least.
A friend who was a nurse had an old ob-gyn textbook,
filled with pictures and descriptions of 
all that can go wrong in pregnancy and delivery.
Fortunately, there were women living in our 
neighborhood who had borne babies before.
In fact, over the next four months,
four other women announced that they, too, were pregnant.
It was an epidemic!
Those of us who were newbies learned from the old hands,
and somehow, we muddled through.
Our baby was due on January 9, 1968,
and I worked as a teacher through the end of the term in
mid-December, grateful for papers to grade,
students to love and exams to prepare.
We found treasures to be repaired and painted,
I created curtains out of fabric bought in our town,
friends sent me maternity clothes and baby clothes
from home, carefully folded into 9×12 envelopes.
Over the next few months,
the reality began to sink in:
we were going to be parents.
January 9th came and went.
January 19th came and went.
My 23rd birthday on January 23rd came and went.
I lay on the bed, weeping, convinced that I would have this oversized basketball in my body for the rest of my life.
At about 6:30 in the morning on Sunday, January 28th,
I woke up with a strong back ache.
I went into our bathroom/laundry room and
sat on the edge of the tub, folding clean towels.
I remember being overwhelmed with
the realization that my life was going to change
by the end of that day.

I was, however, still stupid.
I stood in the middle of the lawn at about 9:30 a.m.,
watching my stomach ripple under my dress,
begging my cross-the-street neighbor 
(who was pregnant with #4) 
to tell me if this could possibly be labor.
She just looked at me and said,
“Diana, get yourself into the car and drive to Macha.”
So that is exactly what we did.
If you ever find yourself wondering how you might speed things along in early labor, I have a suggestion for you.
Find yourself a very bumpy dirt road and drive on it for about an hour.
I guarantee that things will pick up nicely.
We arrived at the hospital about 10:30 in the morning, went to a very nice room with a bath and my husband proceeded to talk to me about our travel plans for the summer, 
when our term of service would be ending.
I think I may have thrown the notebook in his face, 
but I can’t be certain. 
It’s all a bit of a blur.
At about 11:45, they wheeled me into the delivery room. 
Only, it wasn’t really a delivery delivery room,
it was a surgical suite.
The doctor was a thoracic surgeon and he did a whole lot of chest surgery out there in the bush.
They didn’t have a delivery table as such, 
just a surgical table,
and that sucker was hard.
His favorite nurse, who happened to be his wife,
gave me a small mask to put over my face with each
pain, a gas called Trilene.
I had no other medication.
At 12:12, just after noon on a glorious sunny summer day,
Lisa Ruth Trautwein entered the world,
a thick head of dark hair and a great set of lungs
announcing her presence.
And I distinctly remember sitting up on the table and
shouting, “This is fabulous! I want ten of these!”
As I said, stupid.
Winnie Worman, the doctor’s wife and an excellent nurse, holding our 1 day old daughter.
I stayed at the Mission until Thursday, eating in their home. Dick spent the first night with us both and then returned to school on Monday morning to greet his students.
The doctor himself (Robert Worman) with our beautiful girl.
With Winnie and Lisa, outside my room. The government asked them to add 5 private rooms and I got to be in one of them. The entire birthing experience cost us about eight dollars.
We had a rocky first night.
Because my husband was with me, the nursing staff left the three of us alone that night. I very quickly learned how much I did not know about mothering, 
and, once again, how much I did not know about being a woman who carries babies and gives birth.
My baby cried non-stop. Nothing would soothe her.
 And I was more than a little bit weak and wobbly from very normal blood loss that scared and surprised me.
Because, as I’ve said . . . I was terribly uninformed . . . 
Yup . . . stupid.
By 6:00 the next morning, 
I greeted the nurse on duty like a super-hero of some sort. She took one look at our girl and said, 
“Oh, this one loves to suck. I can see it. Try this pacifier.”
Glory be! It worked. From there on, it got easier.
In the picture above, Lisa is about 22 hours old.
I’d been up, showered, shampooed, curlered and combed out, (there were no portable hair dryers in the entire country of Zambia!) and in this picture, I am figuring out how to bathe an 8 1/2 pound human person.
Fortunately, she loved it. . . and so did I.
We brought her home and introduced her to our room and to the space that would eventually be her room.
Dick and I were both ecstatic, overwhelmed with gratitude,
sometimes anxious, but basically simply delighted
to be living with this entrancing creature.
She was, of course, the most precocious child in the history of humankind, smiling at 10 days, laughing big at two months, growing blond hair with dark tips.
Our African students adored her. I think she was the only newborn baby they had ever seen who had longish, straight hair, 
and they loved to touch her, to hold her, to stroke her head.
A Zambian friend loaned me her baby carrier and I used it as a pattern to make this one for Lisa and me.
There were no Ergo carriers in the 60’s.
In fact, American and European parents 
knew nothing about carrying babies on their bodies.
I learned about it from my African friends 
and I used this sling all the time.
From the time of Lisa’s birth until the time we left five and a half months later, I was called Bina Lisa by my African colleagues, most of whose first names I never really knew, as they were always called Bina —- (insert the name of their first-born child). I have been unable to find even one picture of Lisa with our African principal and his wife or with the students who earned pocket money by helping me with my ironing twice a week. (Remember ironing??) They are among a small set of pictures that we haven’t been able to locate as we’ve been scanning old memories into our computer.  But I have strong and happy memories of their warm acceptance of our baby and of the gigantic leap of respect our becoming parents engendered in the attitude of our students toward us.
This was Lisa’s favorite position, hanging upside down, sucking vigorously on that pacifier.
All five new babies near the end of our time in Zambia. 
Lisa was the only girl.
Our next door neighbors, Rosemary and Harry King, holding Lisa at a staff gathering. Harry took the black and white photos you see in this and other of these African Journey posts.

The Kings were from Virginia. Millie and Dave Dyck, our neighbors on the other side – and the parents of Michael, born 2 weeks after Lisa and pictured above and below, were from Canada. He went on to become the head of the Mission Board of the Mennonite Brethren Church in that country.
Michael must have been teasing Lisa to make her pout like that. 
Mom and babe on Easter Sunday, 1968. Is she not the cutest thing ever?? 
(Until her sister and brother were born, of course. To say nothing of all the grandkids…)
We did take a trip on the way home.
But by the time we actually left in June, that trip
had been shortened considerably.
We spent one week in Kenya, visiting some friends who were teaching there, then about 10 days in Switzerland (pictured above) and Germany, visiting my cousin and some friends from UCLA.
We were so smitten with our girl that we wanted to get her back to the arms of our loving families just as quickly as we could. And she was a great traveler, too . . . until our very last flight. From Copenhagen to Seattle, she cried almost the entire way, then settled down as we made the last leg into LAX. 
That little one was just plain done with airplanes.

We were greeted at the airport by grandparents, a great grandmother and a small horde of aunts, uncles and a smattering of cousins. 
It was a deliriously happy time and
I think we brought home the very best souvenir imaginable, don’t you? 

 Becoming a mother changed me in ways that are profound, 
in ways that I cannot articulate.
Carrying, birthing, nursing and tending three small persons is soul work, 
down deep living-life work, sometimes terrifying, always gratifying heart-work.
Meeting Lisa was my introduction to that work
and that meeting took place a long way 
from the only home I had known to that point.
There is a very real sense, however, that birthing her in that wonderful place cemented in my spirit, 
my heart, 
even in my body, 
this truth:
home is not a geographical place 
so much as it is an emotional space,
a spiritual point of connection and commitment.
All of her life, Lisa has been able to say,
“I was born in Africa.”
And we have been able to say,
“Africa was our home.”
And those two things go together.

I will happily join this long story with Jennifer and Duane:
And one week later, this will be my first entry in the Parent’Hood synchro blog, joining through Joy Bennett’s blog:

Dear Me. . . a letter to my teen-aged self

Emily Freeman is one of my favorite writers out here in blogland. And she’s just released her 2nd book, this one aimed at teen-aged girls. It’s called “Graceful.” So as part of that celebration, she has invited others to write a letter to their teen-aged selves. Here’s her button – and you can get any one of 17 versions of this over at her site. 
We’re all linking up on Friday at Emily’s blog, Chatting at the Sky.
graceful for young women

Hello sweet girl,

Somewhere between this fresh-faced 11-year old, on the cusp of the dreaded junior high school experience, the one with the barrettes in her hair and the sweet smile on her face . . .

. . . and this curly-haired (how on earth did that happen??), Peter-Pan-collared, 16-year-0ld high school student who is wearing just a little too much lipstick, I think maybe we lost a few things. 

And here, I am, on the other end of this long life of ours, trying to help us find them again. 

So to you, my just-barely-pre-adolescent-self, the one in the barrettes, I want to say this: your family moved that year, the year right before Junior High school, you moved to a brand new community, a brand new school. You left behind the only school you’d ever known, the one on Strathern Street in North Hollywood. The one where you had two outstanding teachers who were men. And the one in 5th grade? Mr. Naismith? Yeah, that one. He told you and your mother, when you were both standing there together at the school open house, he said that you were a writer. A really imaginative, gifted writer. 

And you didn’t believe him. 

You felt shyly proud, but you really couldn’t quite grab hold of it.  So hear me, please: believe him. And write like crazy, will you? Because if you don’t, that piece of you will be lost for a long, long time – the imaginative piece. And that, my dear, was one of the best parts of you before that move, before adolescence hit like a hurricane and made you disdainful of all things fanciful.

And you up there, the one with the artificially curly hair? The one in the collar? I see that face that can’t quite look into the camera, and I know how much you hate so many parts of yourself. Really, truly hate them. And that is because you’ve seen how your mother frets over you. And all her worries, her fears, her misguided thoughts, her anxiety-based worldview – that’s all becoming part of you. And it’s going to take you years and years to try and separate yourself from all those pieces of self-hatred. 

What you don’t know is this: all that angst you soaked in through your skin, the stuff your mom fairly breathed into you? It was really, truly about her and not about you. It was her own deep-seated insecurities that made her hover and wring her hands and give you home permanents that never worked right, and tell you not to walk like a duck, and drag you from doctor to doctor trying to find a remedy for your congenitally difficult skin, and then when you were sixteen and absolutely perfect (yes, you were — look at the pictures!) she took you to a ‘diet doctor’ and put you on pills, for heaven’s sake. 

She never meant it to happen, but it did. You were screwed up for the rest of your life in some ways, sweetie. Metabolism messed with, your relationship to food permanently corrupted, and really life-twisting anxieties taking stubborn root inside. 
This is a portrait you had taken right after you started at UCLA at the very tender age of 17 because your actual senior picture from high school was dreadful, even after two sittings. Did you see yourself well when you were this age? 
Not very often, I don’t think.

So I guess my number one bit of advice to you at sweet-sixteen is this one: move out from under your mother’s fears and just be yourself, your own weird and wonderful self. Proudly!

You are a smart girl, kiddo. You know that with part of yourself. You’re in the gifted classes and the other kids think you’re a bit of a nerd. And you are. 
Doing something silly for a church event, because that’s where you always, always were as a 16-year-old – at church, doing all kinds of things. And occasionally, some of them were silly.

But believe me, that smart stuff is really going to work out great for you. Yes, it is. In fact, I’d like to encourage you to relax into it. It’s a gift of God, one you don’t fully appreciate and that your mom is a little afraid of (“The boys won’t like you if you’re smarter than they are.”) But it will serve you well. 

There is this, though: being smart is not all there is. In fact, it’s not even the best of all there is. And there is a very big piece of you that knows this truth, too. In fact, that’s why you decided to join all those choirs in high school, even though you had to audition and that scared the bejeebers out of you. 

Because in those marvelous choral classes, you got to be one of the singers, not one of the brainiacs. And that was a very good thing for you to experience. So good that you’re going to do it for a whole lotta years and every one of those years will be rewarding and rich and will touch the part of yourself that is creative and artistic. So, sing loudly when asked. Say yes to the duets and eventually the solos. Because it’s really good to do something that requires you to face into your fears. Something that helps you learn just a little bit more about trust. 

Because, dear girl, that’s going to be the center of your journey for a long, long time: learning to trust. Learning to trust yourself and your instincts, learning to trust your husband and your children, and most of all, learning to trust that God is for you, not against you. No.Matter.What. 

You’re going through the motions so well, dear one. And you’re learning so much in that head of yours . . . so much. You’re a leader in your church youth group, you fervently read your Bible and pray for a long list of people. You help at home and never break the rules. You are a very, very good girl. 

But you’re beginning to experience some pretty deep questions about life and about faith, about relationships and about family. And if I could tell you anything, I would tell you this: lean into all those questions. Keep on asking them, without fear that you’ll fall of the edge of the earth and into some sort of cosmic lake of fire. Because this is the truth: God is so much bigger. SO.MUCH.BIGGER than you can think or imagine. 

God is way bigger than your doubts, your fears, your inhibitions, your insecurities. And this? THIS is what I truly want to say to you — 

                                   God believes in YOU. 

Yes, you heard me right. God made you, crafted you with love, calls you by name. God will walk with you through all that is to come – all the great stuff and all the terrible stuff, all the beautiful and all the ugly, all the terrifying and all the satisfying. So . . .
          write it all down,
               come out from under your mother’s fear-soaked shadow, 
                     don’t be scared of all the Big Thoughts you’re having,
                             and, most of all,
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart….” for God will “direct your paths.” 

And you are going to be SO surprised where God’s path takes you. 

Love to you from . . .

YOU, all growed up at age 67

P.S. Some of those pathways God will take you down? They’re going to be grand fun! 

FRIENDS: If you’d like to know more about Emily Freeman’s book, click on this line right here to read all about it.

I’m also joining this with Emily Wierenga, Ann Voskamp, and the SDG at Jen’s place, if it’s not too late: