Archives for May 2014

Remembering Her — Kathryn Ruth Byer Trautwein, January 3, 1916 – May 25, 2014


It was a strange feeling to walk out of that room for the last time; it had been her home for the last five years, with just enough space for a few personal belongings, a private bath, and a small view of the lovely patio outside. Yesterday afternoon, we closed the door of Room 80 at the memory loss center where she lived, where she died.

We picked up the last of the furniture, filling both of our cars to do so; some of it will go to her eldest great-grandson, who will soon be setting up his own place.

It was a graduation weekend, you see. In every sense of that word. 

We got the call on Friday night. The Hospice nurse, who had been so faithfully checking on my mother-in-law each week for the last two and a half years said, “Something has shifted. This is the weekend and I just wanted you to know.” An hour later we were there, and it was true. There is a ‘look,’ an other-worldly sense that someone is not long for this plane. And we saw it.

We felt it. 

I took out my small prayer book, the gray one that I carry in my car at all times. The one with the beautiful prayers, the particular scriptures, and I made the sign of the cross on her forehead and I read the words I love so much, to this woman that I love so much:

Into your hands, O merciful Savior,
we commend your servant, Kathryn.
Acknowledge, we humbly beseech you,
a sheep of 
your own fold,
a lamb of your own flock,
a sinner of your 
own redeeming.
Receive her into the arms of your mercy,
into the blessed rest of everlasting peace,
and into the 
glorious company of the saints in light.

May her soul and the souls of all the departed,
through the 
mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.
– The Book of Common Prayer

And the next morning, we made the 140 mile drive south to celebrate Ben’s graduation from Chapman University, Dodge School of Film and Media Arts. And we congratulated him on winning Cinematographer of the Year and a lovely grant for his next project. We hesitated about going, but decided that if Mama were able to talk it over, she would say, “Go! Celebrate. Give Ben my love.”

And so we did. We gave him her love.

So much love.


Kathryn with her first born, Richard, 1942

We have lived such a blessed life. We have surely had our share of pain and struggle; we have endured wildfire and near-flooding, burglary and accident, disease and death. 

But we have had so much love.

Our children were the only ones in their circle of friends who had all four of their grandparents still living and active while they were students in college. At the time of her death, my MIL had fifteen great-grandchildren, one of them named for her, many of them with stories to tell about her great laugh, her delight in them, her fabulous cooking skills.

We know how rare this is.

And what a great gift.


On a warm summer evening in 1968, soon after that first born,
his wife and infant daughter returned from two years in Africa.

I suppose on the strange and twisted scale of celebrity and fame that captures the minds of so many, Kathryn Trautwein was not a ‘big’ name. She never caused a scandal, she never made a ‘name for herself,’ she never wrote a book. From the outside, there wasn’t much that seemed the least bit big or celebrated about her.

But she was big in the hearts of her family. She was big in the hearts of her many friends. She was big in faith, big in love, big in laughter, big in commitment and joy and service. 

She was a remarkable mother-in-law. When it became clear that her son was getting serious about this younger student at UCLA, she called, and made an appointment to meet me. We had tea together in the living room of the small Christian sorority to which we both belonged, and she asked me some good questions. I think I was 18 years old when we met.

I passed muster. Because from then on, I was included in every family gathering – and there were many family gatherings! – and assumed to be part of the tribe. I was never criticized for anything, even though I’m sure she must have had a lot of questions about decisions I made and the way I raised my kids. 

They lived 5 minutes from us, she in the house she shared with her husband for 62 years, we in three different homes, the first of which she found for us. The only time I can ever remember her saying ‘no’ to me about anything, was to a house I was considering that had a pool in the backyard with no fence around it. She never learned to swim and hated getting wet, and she could not imagine her grandbabies surviving such danger!

I’m glad she said ‘no.’ I trusted her judgment and God had a much better house in mind for us, one where we raised our three for thirteen good years. A house she loved and enjoyed, too.


 Mama & Papa with our son, 1972, in the house that she found for us.
It was his surprise arrival, bringing our brood to three, that pushed us into house-hunting again.

If I needed help with the kids, she was there. If I needed advice about cooking (NEVER about sewing!), she was there. If I needed advice about gardening, she was there. And she was there for a long list of other people, too. She was intelligent, well-read, loved crossword puzzles, made the world’s best short ribs and a magnificent 3-layer cake.

She was an active volunteer at their church and at Christian Women’s Club, where she taught and mentored younger women, and she helped with the Women’s Auxiliary of Fuller Seminary, where I later became a student. That was probably the decision of mine that caused her the most inner anguish. She did not come from a tradition of women in ministry and she wasn’t quite sure about it. But she never doubted God’s call on my life and after my installation at Montecito Covenant, she said the most interesting thing to me: “Now, you belong to the people here.”


 At our daughter’s wedding reception in 2011, one of her last outings anywhere, with Dick’s sister Jean,
on the patio of Montecito Covenant Church. Such a happy day, but she struggled to be there.

And she was right. For fourteen years, I belonged to those people, as one of their pastors and as a kind of through-line during a lot of challenging transitions. 

But I also, and always, belonged to my family. And she was such a central part of my family, such a central part of me. I will be forever grateful for her love and encouragement. And I will miss her until the day we meet on the other side.

DSC02027 Dick & Mama

On Mother’s Day this year. She died two weeks later.

Driving into the driveway at 11:00 on Saturday night, after the graduation festivities and the long drive, we called to check. “She’s still here.” “Good,” we said, “we’ll be there tomorrow.”

And so we kept vigil all day Sunday. What a privilege to sit in such holy space, to wait while the angels gather, to greet family as they come to say good-bye, to say ‘thank you, thank you’ to the amazing aides who loved her well during her time in this place.

Our nephew came and brought his three young children. Our daughters made the long drive and brought their husbands. Our son had been there the day before. All of her ‘local’ grandchildren came by to say farewell. At 5:00, we checked out for the evening, gathering good Mexican take-out food, and eating it on our patio with our girls and their men. Just as we finished, the phone rang. 

“I went into her room to check on her . . . and she was gone.”

Just like Mama, to leave quietly, no fuss.

We returned to that space, met my friend Sherry, who is the chaplain at The Samarkand Retirement Community, said a few more prayers, picked out some clothes to send with her body, talked with the hospice nurse who made everything official.

Scanned Image Kathryn 141500000

THIS is who she was – a beautiful, caring, faithful woman of God,
who loved her family and lived well.

Kathryn Trautwein was a true gift to this world. A brave woman, a strong one and a good one. She loved us well. We are grateful for her long life, and we are grateful for her release from it. I find myself saying ‘thank you, thank you,’ just under my breath; drifting off to sleep at night, waking in the morning, these are the words in my heart and on my lips.

She will be buried on Monday, in a crypt in Ontario CA that she will share with her husband of 64 years. Jean, Dick and I will make the long drive and I know our rich memories will carry us all the way there.

Like her father before her, she was an occasional poet. These are two of my favorites, ones we will include with her memorial folder at a service of celebration in the Chapel at The Samarkand Retirement Community in Santa Barbara on Sunday afternoon, June 8th, at 2:00 p.m.


How like God to have His 
lamb be born in a stable.
Be announced to and first
worshiped by shepherds.
Be dumb before His
accusers then be
sacrificed for me and
be risen as my Good Shepherd.
Now I the obedient sheep do
follow him!
–  Kathryn R.B. Trautwein

Potter’s Ware

I am God’s
    signed, named, original
    not cloned with many likenesses,
    one of a kind,
made in His image,
    treasured by Him,
    valuable in His sight.
A simple earthen vessel but
Indwelt by eternity.
— Kathryn R.B. Trautwein

Chartreuse Cape in My Closet — SheLoves

It’s always a joy to work with the grand people over at SheLovesMagazine. This is a small story about an old friend, who taught me a thing or two about living with flourish . . .DSC01291

My online dictionary gives two distinct definitions for the word ‘flourish.’ One has to do with thriving in a particular environment; the other has to do with colorful, sometimes startling, ‘ta-da’ gestures.

 My granddaughter is flourishing in the small Catholic school she attends.                                                                           OR
 My friend Nancy always adds a feather boa when she wants to say something  with a flourish.

At first glance, the verb and the noun seem to have little to do with one another. To flourish is to bloom, turn toward the sun, become more of who we’re meant to be. A flourish is a more momentary thing, maybe even a flashy thing – a gesture, a brightly colored piece of clothing, a pose.

When I did a little looking, however, I discovered that they are actually very closely related. The verb form is older (about 800 years old!) and came into English from an old French word meaning to blossom; the noun came later and used to mean a blossom.

So, I wonder . . . what does it mean to blossom? What does it mean to add a blossom to what we do, what we say, how we live?

My friend Kathy helped me understand both meanings of this word.

I first met her almost twenty years ago, soon after my husband and I moved to Santa Barbara. She was in her early 80s then, full of life, and living that life out loud and in full Technicolor. Tall, statuesque, with brilliant blue eyes, she moved with a dancer’s grace and spoke with verve and good humor.

She’d known my husband before I met her and when she discovered that I was a pastor, she wasted no time in asking if I ever preached. “About 8-10 times a year,” I told her. And the very next week, she called the church office, asking for a preaching schedule and for immediate notification when my name came up in the rotation.

And every time I preached, from that day until a few months before she died, she came to hear me. She’d leave her expensive home at the golf course, driving her beat-up, 20-year old Ford station wagon into the church parking lot. I could always see her coming into the back of the gymnasium where we worshipped in those days, and I’d watch as she would gently genuflect and cross herself  before the large wooden cross that hung at center court . . .

Come on over to SheLoves to read the rest of this story . . .

Trial by Fire – No, Really – TRIAL BY FIRE – A Deeper Church

As we’re celebrating our new look over at A Deeper Story, some of us got to double up on our story-telling. Today, I’m on the Church Channel . . .


There were days in my pastoral life when I wanted to chuck it. Days when politics and personalities joined forces to quench the Spirit, when trivia took up more space on the calendar than truth, when frustration and fatigue invaded body and soul. No doubt about it, parishioners (and pastors) can be difficult, demanding, prickly and pervasively apathetic.

The church is not a perfect organism. How can it be? It’s made up of human beings!

But sometimes, those very same human beings can rise to the occasion. Sometimes they can look and act like exactly who they are as members of The Body of Christ. And when that happens, all you can do is take a deep breath and watch as miracles unfold.

Just over four years ago, I was privileged to watch such a miracle during a time of deep crisis in our community, a time when grace showed up, despite all kinds of reasons why it could have called in sick!

On a late November Thursday afternoon, the wind blew hot and wild. I had just said goodbye to the last of a dozen women gathered in my foothill home for a planning session. As I tucked her into her car, I looked around and said, “I hate this kind of weather! It’s too hot, the wind is too high and it feels eerie.”

Just minutes later, the phone rang: “Fire in the next canyon! Get ready to move out!” That very morning, the senior pastor had flown east to conduct a family funeral. I was now point-person for a terror-filled emergency in our community, and our own home was in the line of fire.

So was the church.

Staff who were still on campus evacuated a few things and then were sent down the hill by police and fire personnel. Members of our congregation who lived in the faculty housing for our neighbor, Westmont College, were forced to leave everything behind, fleeing for their lives to local hotels and over-crowded homes and shelters. My husband and I drove south a few miles to sleep at our son’s for the duration, and I began trying to gather church leadership for prayer and planning.

Throughout that long first night, it became clear that we had been hit hard . . .

Please follow me over to A Deeper Church to read through the rest of this story . . .

A Delight, Not a Duty

We flew the coop yesterday.
Took off for parts north, ready for a break in the usual,
needing some beauty to refresh, to encourage,
to ready us for what comes next.

Worship was exactly what we needed,
a good send-off for four days away.
We have clearly moved into summer mode
at Montecito Covenant Church, 

with a more relaxed feel, a slight decrease in 
the numbers as college students return home, 
and vacation season begins.

Pastor Jon talked about hospitality,
about creating welcome,
about being the gospel for one another.
And about how our Good Book
paints a long series of pictures
to try and help us understand what it means
to be one who welcomes.
And every one of those pictures
centers on a table,
on shared food and drink,

on feasting and partying and living life fully.

DSC02040The delightful altar piece brought back strong memories.
In the 1980’s, I served as the first chairperson of a newly created

Worship and Arts Committee at our home church in Pasadena CA.
And for a similar service about hospitality,
I had created a table scene for worship,

and that was almost 30 years ago now.


I am so grateful for those years,
for learning and growing,

for the freedom to try new things,
sometimes succeeding, sometimes failing,
but always hearing words of gratitude and encouragement. 


Those dear friends in that dear place welcomed me,
they lived out the truth that Jon spoke in and around and throughout

his excellent sermon yesterday morning.
The truth that,

“Salvation is not a task to be done,
but a meal to be shared and enjoyed,
a delight, not a duty.”


It is so easy to forget this,
to fall into the sinkhole of works righteousness,
or to forget to be on the lookout
for ‘angels unaware,’
as our text for the morning reminded us.


We lunched with “The Moms,”
our practice on Sundays,

smiling and soothing,
encouraging and entertaining.
These good women are among those
with whom we try to practice hospitality
these days. 


And then we began the drive north,
enjoying what’s left of the green-up brought

by rains in April but fading fast in the
extraordinary heat of May. 


There are almost as many vineyards as oak trees now,
covering the hills with their sinewy spring growth,
their geometric precision in such sharp juxtaposition
to the wildness of oaks and chaparral.


This is a favorite drive, bringing to mind
our monthly treks north for me to meet with Abbot David,

and how much I miss that man. 

We both acknowledged that
this a trip we needed to take.
I can feel the tension flowing out my husband’s fingertips
as he steers the car on these familiar roads.

And as we lug our stuff into our home for the next few days,
we are reminded again of why we do these things,
why we love to travel together,
why getting-away-from-home,
even a home we dearly love,
is good medicine.


We sink with gratitude into the deck chairs
on our small balcony,
breathing in the salt,
and the sea,
and the shoreline.

And we remember.
We remember that marriage is also
a delight, and not a duty.
That traveling through life,
with all its circuitry, its ups and downs,
is richer because we do it together.


We watched the sun setting on the sand,
enjoying an order-in dinner,
settling into this space-away,
welcoming one another.

And it was delightful.

 Joining this one with Kelli Woodford, who has kindly taken over from Michelle DeRusha’s weekly check-in, with dear Laura Boggess, and with Jennifer Dukes Lee’s Tell His Story, and for the first time, with Holley Gerth’s link up, which I just discovered.

And one last time with the wonderful Jen Ferguson and the Soli Deo Sisterhood.

On the Edge – A Deeper Story

 I’m writing for A Deeper Story today, talking about sharp edges. . .

DSC01163 mission gate

The sharp pieces are poking me rather a lot these days. I’m feeling my own edges in just about every way I can think of during this spring of 2014. It seems to be a season of pricking, marked by painful reminders of age and infirmity, all of it triggering deeply embedded insecurities and anxieties.

Can’t say I like it very much, this edginess. I’ve never been one to be on the cutting edge of anything, always a little bit behind the zeitgeist. And generally speaking, most of the time, I’m not an ‘edgy’ sorta character. Yeah, the sarcasm can flare on occasion. And the temper. But all in all, I try to let the more mellow parts of my personality rise to the top.

But right now? Not so much. I’m too quick to take offense, too unwilling to extend the benefit of the doubt in any direction, most especially toward myself. And I’m feeling weary, right down to my bones.

Do you know these deep feelings? Do you wind around these curves in the road, try to match your steps to this unwelcome rhythm of uncertainty and guess work, of fear and resistance?

I’m guessing that most of us find ourselves wandering down this spiky kind of path at some point. And if we live long enough, we’ll walk it several times, not one of them welcome.

Well, I have certainly lived long enough, so this unstable territory is depressingly familiar. I’ve waited for a loved one to die before, and hated it every time. I’ve had health issues at different points along the way, none of them enjoyable. And I’ve had my feelings hurt and walked through existential doubt and suffered broken appliances and lost keys and I know the truth of, “It never rains but it pours” and “Bad things come in threes,” and any other superstitious truism you care to mention. . . 

Please come on over to the Culture Channel at A Deeper Story today to read the rest of this post . . .


The Silence


There is a silence that stills and calms, that builds and creates. A stillness that makes space for the Spirit, for the self, for the tender work of undoing, for the plowing under of tired ideas. Yes, please. I want to sign on for that kind of silence, the one that opens and releases.

There is also a silence that kills, whether by intention or not, it kills. We went to a matinee yesterday and saw a truly magnificent film called, “Railway Man,” starring Colin Firth, Nicole Kidman and Stellan Skarsgard. Rarely have I seen such a powerful depiction of the kind of silence that kills than the one we saw in this moving true story about the power of forbidden memories to permanently cripple the human spirit. Only when he looks hard at the past is the railway man free from it.

The past few days, I have been brought low by a different kind of silence, this one the silence of neglect and privilege and a profound unwillingness to look at what is truly ugly in this world. On April 14, nearly 300 young women, living at a boarding school in Nigeria, were kidnapped by a terrorist military group, taken off into the night, most of them never to be seen again. The western news media, at least on our continent, was silent. 

There has been a lot of noise about Donald Sterling, some of it deserved. There has been a lot of coverage about the downed Malaysian airliner that will not be found. There has been a lot of deafening silence about these girls, the hope for the future, the brightest and the best. They were taken because they had the audacity to try and grow, to learn, to become fully human. They were taken because they are girls and therefore ‘deserve’ nothing better than to be sold on the open market. Until the last few days, there has been not one word about any of it.

And yet, we spend so many words on old men with foul mouths, on ‘beautiful’ people with way too much money and way too little intelligence. We — and I mean ME — don’t hear what we don’t like, don’t see what we don’t want to see, and try to protect ourselves from the terrible truth that humankind is capable of immense evil, and that such evil, left unremarked, will destroy everything and everyone in its path.

Yesterday’s matinee was a reminder that the underbelly must be looked at, reckoned with and walked through if there is to be hope for wholeness. So some of us are choosing to highlight this truth by doing a small act of . . . silence.

In honor of these young women, remembering that each and every one has a mother desperate for reunion, several of us who blog regularly will go silent on Mother’s Day. This blog is one of those, and it will not be accessible for those 24 hours. Instead, there will be a link to a magnificent post written by Deidra Riggs (and made available through the technical and empathetic abilities of Lyla Lindquist) which outlines why we’re observing this silence on this day. 

Silence in the blogosphere does not mean silence in our hearts, in our minds, even in our mouths. So, I encourage you to pray, to sign petitions, to speak the truth in love and bring these girls — and all those who are captive — to freedom, to home, to hope.

The Turning Point

It was Wednesday yesterday.
Mom day.

We made the walk from her room
across the campus to the new cafe.
As always, we moved slowly.

Very slowly.


The day was warm and breezy,
sun shining, sky blue.
And the view is delightful.


Well, this view is delightful.
Mountain profile, green trees, red tile roofs.


This one is a bit more sobering.
It is a retirement community, after all.
And there were several old children,
visiting older parents this day.


My mom has had a rough month.
A bad, bad cold,
followed by a nasty case of shingles,
all of that taking its toll on her,
physically and mentally.

She is not eating much these days —
barely made it through half a hot dog,
one of her favorite lunches.

And the Diet Coke cup seemed to
freak her out this week.
She couldn’t understand why her 
hands were wet whenever she
held her sweating cup.


But she smiled sweetly for the camera,
loving my company,
enjoying the day.

Making conversation is harder and harder to do.
She starts,
and I try to fill in the blanks,
but I can no longer guess
where she is heading.
There were a few moments
of remembering her childhood,
and a few wistful wishes
for more traveling.

But most of it was frustrating
for both of us.


We sat there for a good thirty minutes
after she had given up on eating anything,
just breathing together,
enjoying the warm sun
and the blue sky.

This last picture shows a weakness of my new camera.
It sometimes doesn’t know quite where to focus.

The woman in the background is crystal clear.
My mama?
Fuzzy, indefinite.

A perfect representation
of who and where she is right now.

Walking back to her room, I got a little ahead of her.
This is easy to do, as my stride is long
and even with an injured foot,
I walk a great deal faster than she.

So she said this:

“You may be older than I am, but you sure do move quicker.”

I was stunned for a minute, but came back quickly:

“I’m not older than you, Mom. How can I be? 
I’m your daughter.”

I didn’t know that!
Are you sure?

You didn’t live in our house, did you?”

“Yes, Mom. I lived in your house for twenty years.
And then I got married.”

Tears began to brim, but I cut them off.
She was so deeply confused,
and she did not need my grief to intrude
on her own.

My name she still knows.
My closeness to her she also knows.
Our blood relationship?

She no longer has a clue.

And I am bereft.




Surprised by YES – A Book Review: “Rhinestone Jesus” by Kristen Welch


I need to tell you something about me: I am a skeptic by nature. Those of you who know me are not surprised to read this, are you? I have a suspicious streak a mile wide and there are certain trigger words and names that can send me running down that mile-wide road very quickly indeed. 

I am not a fan of prescriptive writing, of anything that smacks of “Just 5 Easy Steps to . . . Anything You Care to Mention.” I’m likely to cringe if the language on a blog or in a book gets either too preachy or too syrupy. And I really, really, REALLY resist slogans.

So I will admit to more than a little bit of trepidation when I began to read Kristen Welch’s new book, “Rhinestone Jesus.” There was a quote from John Piper early on. There was some Jesus-y language that made me squirm a little, and I began to fear the guilt trip I was pretty sure was coming at me any minute now.

But I kept reading. Why? Because I believe in the ministry of Mercy House, a home for pregnant young women in Kenya, a ministry which Kristen and her family helped to birth and continue to encourage. Even though it was decades ago, I have lived in Africa. I know the need is great and what I loved about this ministry is that it rose from — and was staffed by — African nationals. For me, that is a huge positive, so I wanted to know more about how it all happened. I was also a blogger and a financial supporter for the wonderful group fund-raising effort for this ministry sponsored by (in)Courage and Dayspring in 2013.

Kristin comes from a Christian tradition and a part of the country that are both very different from my own. She’s a Baptist from Texas, I’m a Covenant pastor from California. She is a more regimented parent than I ever was (although we both agree on the central role of a shared family meal every day), and she is also a dreamer of Big Dreams.

Now I believe in dreaming. I believe in Holy Spirit-planted desire, that thing that gets you moving in a certain direction, that calls your name in the wee hours of the morning, that makes your heart go pitter-pat with both joy and fear. Nothing wrong with dreams at all. But Big Dreams? Sometimes I find myself getting defensive, even resistant, when there is too much talk about those.

It is true that we serve a big God,  yes, we do. And sometimes, God calls people to do big things. But most of the time? Most of the time, God calls us to be faithful, wherever we find ourselves. To be constant, to be committed to living out the great commandments, to go deeper in our faith, to walk the talk right here in the neighborhood. So my skeptic-hackles were vibrating a little as this book began to veer in the direction of those Big Dreams.

It was with a huge sigh of relief that I moved into the closing chapters of this book. Because here, it gets really real, really fast. All of the hard work that made this dream come to fruition — and continues to make it grow — has been hard work. Kristen is not afraid to say so and she admits that she feels overwhelmed on a regular basis. She also admits to occasionally falling off that fine edge between obedience and works righteousness — always a danger when we become immersed in the production end of anything. 

She also carefully reminds us all that anything we do as an act of worship and obedience can be a way of living out God’s kingdom dreams, right here on planet earth. Tending toddlers, running photocopies, answering phones, providing meals, offering hospitality to the neighbor’s kids — each of these is an opportunity for kingdom work and for personal growth. All that is required is for us to say ‘yes’ to whatever it is we’re being asked to do. 

It’s that ‘yes’ that is key.

The ministry of Rehema/Mercy House is a strong and vibrant one, the lived reality of a dream planted in the hearts of the Welch family and their African partners. It really is a Big Dream, and a fine one.

But the ways in which God is working in that place are remarkable precisely because so many people are saying their ‘yes’ to a small act, a small gift, a simple prayer. Big Dreams do not happen without a whole lot of small things coming together in just the right way at just the right time; and I believe that is exactly the way God designed it to work.

Because following Jesus is about individual acts of obedience that are offered in concert with the body as a whole. In truth, there is no small, there is no big — there is the ‘yes’ that is repeated over and over around the globe. And there is the ‘together’ that happens when we each offer our ‘yes,’ no matter what size it is. That is how Kingdom Come happens. This story is a beautiful and moving reminder of that powerful truth.

I received an Advanced Reader’s Copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. This is it. You can purchase your own copy at any of these retail sites:


Barnes and Noble