Being Social

Life is weird right now.

The last time I didn’t have a job I had three children at home with me.  They were 8, 9, and 11.  The activities of my life were ordered around their needs and desires.  A typical day would have been structured around three meals at appropriate times, outdoor activities, reading, playing, caring for the house, and personal hygiene.  I didn’t have much wiggle room.  If I wanted to do something without children, I had to do some coordinating with my husband, who was very cooperative, or arrange playdates with friends.

It’s a whole new world in 2014.

Chester doesn’t demand much.  At the moment, he is curled up at my feet under the desk where I am writing.  He’s been feed and watered.  So, now the day is mine to do as I please.  Hmmm.  Interesting.

I have shared that I have established a routine to start my days.  My husband informed me this weekend, in his counselor’s wisdom, that ‘establishing routines is one of the best things you can do during a transition’.  Thanks, dear.  Most days include Bible study, blogging, exercise, reading, my favorite Netflix show, and some socializing.

In order to keep track of how I am doing medically, I have obtained an app that tracks my diet, exercise, social interactions, rest, and symptoms.  Each day I record all the data and the app charts my ‘self-management’ and the ‘arthritis impact’.  It’s actually quite fascinating.  The app has confirmed that I am doing some of the right things to minimize my symptoms, but reminded me that I could be doing more.

One of the most striking realizations from this app is that social interactions are very important to my well-being.  Who knew?  I realized that diet, exercise, rest, and medication played a part, but hanging out with people?  Casually?

For the past ten years, I have squeezed in some socializing on the fringes of my very busy teaching and parenting schedule.  In spite of my combat mode, God did bless me with some great people who met me where I was and endured the ‘current state of affairs’.  I am not sure they would recognize me at the moment.  I joke that I have gone from type AAA to a casual type B.  I used to be at school before 7:00 am, dressed and pressed,  in order to get my ducks in a row. Now it is not rare to find me still in pajamas at noon!  I may have already done my Bible study, blogged, and straightened the house, but I’m still not ready to greet the public.

But today is different!  Today I have not one, but TWO, social engagements!!!  I mean, I’m just trying to improve my health here!  This morning I am meeting a new friend to go walking.  This afternoon I am meeting a dear friend who I haven’t seen in ages!  I know, I know, I was supposed to go grocery shopping and mail a couple of packages, but, guys, it’s for my health!

In all seriousness, I feel so blessed to have this season of transition, this grace period where I have room to breathe, time to think, and freedom to socialize.  I am extra blessed that God has plunked me down in a space where I can connect with friends, new and old.  And, really, the groceries can wait.

I John 4:11

Dear friends, since God loved us,

we also ought to love one another.

Not just for women, but about women

When did the shift happen?  When did it become ok to portray women as competitors and even enemies of one another?  Do you know what I am talking about?  The images are everywhere — magazines, television, movies, books.  The idea that I need to be better than other women — thinner, smarter, more powerful, sexier, better dressed — permeates our culture in such a way that potential allies are turned into suspects.

I believed the lie for quite a while.  Very few women passed enough tests and criteria to be allowed into my inner circle of trust.  Once in, they were placed on an extremely high pedestal from which they will surely never fall.  But getting there took a pretty special combination of traits — honesty, humor, authenticity, strength, and the resilience to let my crap bounce off of them.  Few were chosen.

Many were kept at arm’s length for whatever reason — I could fabricate a reason in a heartbeat.  I missed out on the blessing of many female friendships because of my insecurities and the belief that I needed to be suspicious of the enemy.

That belief is a lie of the one and only enemy.

Women need one another.  

I knew I needed my inner circle  — I had a best friend all through elementary school who remains so high on the pedestal that the mention of her name brings me pause. I had a partner in crime through middle and high school whose name can still bring out the mischievous teenager in me.  I bonded with a dear friend in my freshman year of college who was so steadfast that though our time together was short, she remains on the pedestal today.  My dear friend from the rest of undergrad has earned the title of aunt to my children and godmother to my baby because of the way our hearts are knit together.   These women…they had a hand in shaping me.  I didn’t suspect their loyalty.  I didn’t question their motives.  They unconditionally supported me.

But I believed they were rare and that real women didn’t act that way.  Real women wanted to judge me and outdo me.  They were suspect and not to be trusted.

I was wrong.

We all need each other.  We need encouragement.  We need eye contact.  We need to be heard and understood.  We need affirmation and acceptance.  Unconditionally.  When we don’t get it, sometimes our claws come out.  We start thinking that others are the competition. We even behave as though we are trying to outdo one another.

I have been noticing a lot of women lately.  I have been noticing they aren’t out to get me.  They are reaching out to me: inviting me to lunch, or to go on a walk, or to visit their church.  They are encouraging me: through email, text, Facebook, and in person. They are befriending me.

I am beginning to believe that most women really want to be in relationship with one another, not in competition with one another. Is it possible, that our media is (gasp) giving us an inaccurate portrayal of reality? (It’s just a question, folks, not a political statement.)

I’m going to go out on a limb here.  Instead of trusting my long held and faulty beliefs, I am going to trust God and take a few chances on some women. I think they can be trusted.  I mean, they are taking a chance on me. 

Romans 12: 10…16

…be devoted to one another in love.  Honor one another above yourselves…

live in harmony with one another…

Love that lasts

During this time of transition, my husband and I are visiting many churches — some of them because he is speaking there, others because we want to get to know the area and find a church home, and still others because we want to learn where those we are serving with are worshiping.  Today was option three.

We worshiped with one of my husband’s coworkers at an area church that is focused on outreach — they are very intentional about connecting with the community in very tangible ways. Pretty cool place.

The message today was centered on how to have love that lasts — sure, marital love, but also love between friends, between parent and child, etc.

I will take a short commercial break to let you know that my husband and I, along with a half-dozen other couples, were asked to stand in the aisles of the church and dance.  It’s not what you think…the pastor had all the married couples stand like they often do at weddings.  Then he asked those who had been married five years or more to remain standing, then those who were married ten years or more, etc.  Finally, all the couples who were married more than twenty-three years were invited into the aisles. Music was played.  The couples danced, and then were invited to sit as the years ticked on.  You know the drill.  The final couple standing had been married forty-three years! What a blessing!

The pastor then suggested three methods for planning for a ‘love that will last’.

  • Worship God
  • Work on yourself
  • Serve your spouse

Three steps.  Should be easy, right?  Read them again.  Not so easy.

However, I have to say that after twenty-four years of marriage I have to agree with his strategy.  Although we are flawed human beings who have not always put God first in our lives, we did marry with the intent of serving God together.  I believe that this foundation is the sole reason that we are still together after all these years.  It hasn’t all been a walk in the park.  There have been some (very) difficult days, weeks, months, and even years.   The grace of God coupled with our commitment from the beginning to hang in there, no matter what, has held us together.

Now, I may have started this marriage thinking that both of us were perfect and that we were perfect for each other, but I have since faced reality.  I will admit that I noticed his flaws before my own.  Shocking, I know.  But I remember quite clearly one day, in a living room with sculpted brown carpeting, when I was very upset with my husband. He had the audacity to suggest that he was not the one who would ever make me happy.  What?  Well, then, why in the world did I marry him?  Amidst my fussing and fuming, he reminded me that the only one who would truly bring me contentment would be God, since He is the only one who is not selfish or flawed.  Well, then.

It may have been about that time that I began to look in the mirror.  Small glances at first.  A lot needed to be addressed; it would take a life time.  I’m still working on it.

As far as the third area that the pastor suggested, I must say that my husband has always been better at serving me than I am him.  In fact, it began on the night that he proposed to me.  He washed my feet, yes, literally washed my feet with a basin and a towel, and then told me that he wanted to serve me for the rest of our lives.  And, so far, he has done that.  Even during the ugly times, he has put me, and the children before himself.  He has gone without to make sure that we wouldn’t have to. He has stayed up late and gotten up early to make sure that we could all sleep as much as we needed.  He has worked his tail off to provide for us.  But most importantly, he has served us by serving God first.  We haven’t all always appreciated that, but it was precisely the right thing to do.

I don’t know if I will ever be as much of a servant to him as he has been to me.  I still get distracted by protecting myself, you know, kicking butts and taking names.  But, it is getting easier all the time to take care of him, especially when I realize how well cared-for I have been.

This morning was a good reminder of how blessed we have been.  I am glad that we have this grace period to pause and take stock. We are rich to have a love that lasts.

Matthew 19:6

…what God has joined together, let no one separate.

My journey

Have you ever plotted your life journey on a map?

I’ve done it a couple of times in the classroom.  My students and I were once reading a book about a girl who had lived all over the country with her job-hopping aunt.  We plotted her life, and then I plotted mine via GoogleMaps to show them the journey.

My St. Louis, Missouri students always thought I was making up the fact that I grew up in St. Louis, Michigan and that I went to St. Louis High School.  So, I always had to prove to them that it did exist.

This morning I was reading about the travels of Paul, Silas, and Timothy.  My Bible study had me combing through Acts to plot a portion of their journey on a Biblical map.  It’s pretty incredible, actually.  Their commitment to share the Gospel had them trekking all over the countryside with no help from Expedia or Hotwire.  And, often, they were chased out of town by a violent mob, or worse, tossed in the slammer for a while.

I wouldn’t say my journey has been that dramatic. I am going to try to share a link to a map I created this morning that shows all the places I have lived in my just under fifty years*.  There are twelve points on the map representing the different towns/cities I have lived in.  Within those cities and towns I have lived in multiple houses.

The point of the Bible study was to look at how God had nudged or shoved each of us through our decisions.  How he had orchestrated my life journey. So, I got a bit introspective.  I got to thinking that any little change along the way could have reconfigured my whole life.  Have you ever thought about that?

What if my parents had not divorced, and we had moved with my dad to Indiana? How might my life be different?

What if I hadn’t transferred from Michigan State to Concordia so long ago?

What if my husband and I had not resigned our positions and moved to be closer to our son?

What if we had chosen to not go to the Seminary with three school-aged children?

What if he had not accepted this call back to Michigan?

So much would be different!  With any of those choices or so many other decisions, the trajectory would have been altered dramatically!

But, God allowed this journey.  He placed me in a loving family that has now stretched from coast to coast. He gave me lifelong friends from each location along the way.  He shaped me through my experiences as a student, a teacher, a mother, a wife. He has led us from one step through the next, all the while shielding and protecting us.

And through all the moves and transitions in my life, I (and you) have been sitting right in the palm of His hand.  It is mind-boggling. I wouldn’t change one step.

Psalm 20:24

A person’s steps are directed by the Lord…



Well…it still looks a little pathetic, I know.  But you’ve gotta think of it as a symbol.  We’re in a process over here, folks.  We have certainly not arrived yet.

It started back in Missouri.  Our daughters objected to 1) chopping down a real Christmas tree for an environmental reasons, and 2) using an artificial Christmas tree for aesthetic reasons.   So, twice, yes twice, we purchased potted evergreens and used them for Christmas trees.  The florist assured us that we could transplant these trees into our yard come spring, “No problem.”

Well, the first one died.  We dug it back up and threw it away.

We tried again the next Christmas.  We eased the tree from the house to the garage, then to the patio, then to the yard.  Still, it all but died.  Our neighbor, an expert gardener, watched from afar shaking her head.  Sigh.  I believed, I really did, that the tree would live.  And sure enough, new growth started at the base of the trunk.  The neighbor, chuckling,  suggested we chop off all the dead stuff and leave that one little living sprig.  We did.  It looked ridiculous.  But it began to grow.

When we moved two years later (after using a cheap artificial tree for two Christmases), the sprig had turned, sort of, into a shrub.  Whenever we had guests, people would politely fail to mention this little bit of ugliness in the back of our yard. I mean, seriously, we don’t know how to landscape or place things in the right spots, but, doggone it, I wanted that tree to grow! (I’ve told the renters and the leasing agent not to touch it!  I want to see progress when I visit St. Louis!)

I must pause here to say that my Grandpa Meyer was an expert gardener.  His yard was his showcase.  Every bit of it was planted with roses, peonies, geraniums, lilies, gladiolas, tomatoes, tulips, daffodils,…My great grandmother was the same — she even had a pond full of water lilies!  I kid you not!  My brother is a landscaper, for Pete’s sake.  Me?  I am pretty excited by the fact that we have kept a Bonsai tree alive, through group effort, for over five years.

Anyway, when I moved into this little house by the river, I had to admit that the exterior looked a little bleak.  (You may have seen the picture of the overgrown beast that was there when we moved in.)  I really wanted to make it look a little more inviting before the students even moved in.  Well, I missed that goal.  But, folks, I am making progress.

On my way back home from my excursion earlier this week, I stopped off to visit my cousin and his family.   He had offered that he would share some Japanese irises that had come out of my grandfather’s yard.  Now that you know how sentimental I am about my grandparents, you know that I had to have them.  He gave me a bunch of irises, yes, but also, he gave me brown-eyed Susans, a hosta, and the healthiest rhubarb I have ever seen in my life.  He filled the trunk of my car with plants!

I don’t know much about gardening, have I mentioned that?  In the past, I have thrown things in the ground and hoped for the best.  This time I Googled it. Then I went to the store and bought gardening soil and manure (that was a first).  My husband was out of town, and we had left all of our substantial tools in Missouri with the house, but I was determined.

So I hauled those bags of dirt out of my car, slit them open and dumped them into the beds.  I mixed the dirt around with a hand trowel. (I am telling you, I am strong-willed.) I planted most of the items in those beds in the photo. I also put in some daffodil and tulip bulbs.  The rhubarb I put around back where it would get more sun.  (The grounds crew isn’t going to be too thrilled with the placement. Yikes!)

You can see from the photo that it still doesn’t look great.  The shrubs that were there are a bit misshapen.  The lilies are lying down pretending to be dead.  The brown-eyed Susans look a little weary.  And, I still am not sure if that hosta is going to work there.

All of life right now is a bit of an experiment.  I’m not working.   My diagnosis is pending. I am learning how to live differently. I’m sharing it all in a public forum.  Heck, I even Googled before I put the plants in the ground.

Things are different around here, kids.  Anything could happen now that we’ve entered the next chapter. 

I Corinthians 3:7

So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything,

but only God who makes things grow.

Lord, grow me, and, if you don’t mind, grow my plants, too.

Walking, part 2

On the heels of sharing the blessings of my aunt, uncle, and my grandparents, I read my Bible study this morning that focused on hindrances that keep us from doing what God has planned for us.

The study looked at three hindrances — others, Satan, and good old numero uno, that’s right, the person in the mirror.

If I’m going to be honest, and by now, you know I am going to be, my chief hindrance has always been … me.  Sure, I have faced human opposition.  Of course, I have experienced spiritual warfare. But really, Satan doesn’t have to spend as much time on me as he does on others, because I create my own issues.

You already know that my biggest hindrance is my belief that I am self-sufficient, battling through all obstacles, kicking butts and taking names. I prefer doing to being, and I often do so much that I don’t listen to others, let alone God.

In spite of this, God has managed to use me for ministry.  It’s usually like an out of body experience when a student or friend comes to me in the middle of my busy-ness, pours out her heart, and asks me for help or prayer.  I think to myself, “Wow, God kinda plunked that down right in front of me, didn’t He.”  He has to be very obvious to get my attention.  There are usually tears involved.  I am aware enough to notice tears. Or, a cluster of frantic teenagers saying something like, “Mrs. Rathje, you have to do something!”  Ok, ok!  You’ve got my attention.

But, in the spirit of the next chapter, I am trying to do things differently.  And, in the spirit of full-disclosure, I must remind you that God fully-orchestrated this next chapter.  He interrupted my busy-ness to bring me to this grace period.  He initiated the chain of events that led me to this Bible study.  He has provided my little house by the river.

And, you know, in the last two months (yes, I have been in Ann Arbor two months!) I have been noticing a lot more. I have been able to hear that still small voice, and have even been willing to listen to it.   I have been able to see the people around me, and notice what is happening in their lives.  I am embarrassed to say that this is a new experience.

When you are in your combat gear, moving at break-neck speed, everyone blurs together.  Yeah.

So, visiting my Uncle Louis and Aunt Margaret, remembering Grandpa and Grandma Meyer, and realizing their commitment to loving God and loving me, I am inspired to shift.  I see the blessings in fully-embracing this next chapter.  I am not sure what all God has planned, but I am willing to watch and see.  I am willing to toss the combat gear.  I am willing to walk into whatever it is that He has set before me.

Hebrews 12: 1

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses,

let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely,

and let us [walk] with endurance the race that is set before us.

On the topic of family….a Re-visit

This one goes way back to September of 2014, but Monday’s post about my mom got me thinking about my grandparents, so please indulge me as I reminisce.

I must mention my grandparents. I was blessed to know my great-grandmother, Elsa Laetz, until she died when I was twenty-four.  I knew my grandparents, the Meyers, until they went to join her when I was forty-one.  I could write for days about the lessons I learned from these three, but I think I’ll focus today on the importance of family.

I remember climbing into the car with my parents and siblings and driving literally through the woods and over the river to see my grandparents. As we we exited the highway, passed mansions in the historic district and then the Kroger and the Big Boy, my excitement would build. As soon as my dad slid the car into P for park, I would leap out and run to the front door to ring the bell.

I can still see my petite “Little Grandma,” as we called her, open the door and smile out at me. “Gramps” would be right behind her peeking over her shoulder. They would hug me, gush about how I’d grown, and welcome me in…

…right in to grandma’s kitchen. She could cook, and she always did — Cornish hens, leg of lam, ham, roast beef, mashed potatoes, stuffing, salads, fruit, you name it. She made it seem effortless to put a feast on the table for eight, or eighteen, or twenty-eight. Everyone would fit around tables in the kitchen, the dining room, and sometimes even the living room, filling and re-filling their plates until they couldn’t possibly eat one more bite.

Several times a year, my grandparents opened their home and had all of us over. What a crowd — my grandparents, my great grandmother, uncles, aunts, and cousins. In the winter we were up and down the stairs, playing, laughing, and I’m sure yelling. In the summer we were in and out of doors doing the same. Invariably, an argument or fight would break out among the children, and I usually ended up in tears, but there was always an extra-squishy hug and grandpa’s signature multi-move handshake before we climbed back into the car, after dark, to head home.

Now, I know that I view history with rose-colored glasses. I realize that it wasn’t as perfect as I remember, but even when I acknowledge that there were tense moments, misunderstandings, and insecurities, I can still say that everyone in the family was always welcome at the Meyers.

And you didn’t even have to be family. My grandpa was known for bringing home what I call ‘strays’ — the single guy who is new to town, the church workers who are far from home, the man whose wife passed away last year. And, if you came once, you were family from that moment on.

My definition of family stems back to the example of Grandpa and Grandma Meyer, their open door policy, their generous hospitality, and their willingness to welcome strangers into the fold.

Why? Because there is nothing at all like the feeling that someone has been peering out the window, waiting for you to arrive, preparing the best foods, and arranging the house in anticipation of your arrival. Nothing makes you feel more loved and more treasured than being embraced by someone who has been looking forward to being reunited with you.

And these gatherings I remember from my childhood — amazing as they were — are just an appetizer for what’s to come.

My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.

John 14:2-3.

Now that’s what I call a family reunion.

I imagine Grandma and Grandpa greeting me at the door with smiles and hugs.

I can’t wait to see them!

Uncle Louie and Aunt Margaret, a re-visit with much love

I wrote this post over six years ago, shortly after I’d moved back to Michigan. I was so excited to be back around extended family, and I had taken a trip to visit with some of them. I’m dusting it off today, because yesterday, my Uncle Louis died at the age of 92, on a Covid unit in a hospital. He was one of the sweetest men I have ever known.

I have been on a little excursion. I travelled to my childhood home on Saturday and have had one great moment after the other since.

It started with dinner on Saturday with my parents and my brothers followed by worship on Sunday with the whole family. After church, my niece and I saw a movie. I’ve eaten well, slept famously, and have had many walks down memory lane.

This morning was particularly special. I drove about an hour to visit my aunt and uncle — my father’s older brother and his wife. My godparents, Uncle Louie and Aunt Margaret, are the most precious of gems.

They have showed up for everything. Everything. My baptism. My confirmation. My birthdays. My wedding. My grandparents’ funerals — my mother’s parents, not just my father’s. None of this probably seems astounding, but let me tell you why it is.

My parents were divorced in the 1970s. Divorce was not very common back then, particularly not among ‘church folk’. In those days, when divorce happened, it was fairly common for the mother to get sole custody of the children and the father to fade into the background, sending financial support and visiting occasionally. This was way before shared custody.

To complicate matters, my parents divorced around the same time that my dad was relocating to take a new job several hours away.

My three siblings and I stayed with my mother, as was the usual course of events, while my dad moved. While I am thankful that during my childhood and adolescence we had the stability of one household and the ongoing involvement of the relatives on my mother’s side, I have been sad over the years because of the diminished relationship with my dad and his side of the family.

We saw my dad, but because he was several hours away, those visits were infrequent. We usually stayed with him in the summer for a week or two, talked on the phone regularly, and saw him around the holidays. Sometimes, when he came to Michigan , he would take us to see my grandmother, his mother, who for most of my childhood lived a nursing home, but of his five siblings, usually the only one we visited was my Uncle Louie, and his dear wife, Aunt Margaret.

Whenever we stopped by their house, Uncle Louie would pull out a cardboard box of toys that they kept just for our visits, and Aunt Margaret would magically produce some kind of sweet — cookies, cake, or maybe some donuts. They wanted to hear what we had to say. Aunt Margaret asked all the questions; Uncle Louis was pretty quiet, until he spoke in his soft bass voice. Whatever he said, he said with a smile and sparkling eyes.

Sometimes they told stories about their snowmobiling adventures, my Uncle Louie’s job as a postal worker, or my Aunt Margaret’s love for hand-painted china, but the best story they told was their love story. When they shared their ‘scandalous’ beginning, they both looked mischievous as they took turns in the telling, as though it were a scripted piece they’d been telling over and over for years.

The love story of Louie and Margaret began with a one-month courtship that quickly escalated one night right before they were both supposed to punch in for their second shifts at the factory where they worked. They were sitting in the car when Aunt Margaret suggested that they drive to Indiana instead of going to work. In Indiana, she said, right across the state line, they could get married the next day, without the waiting period required in Michigan. Uncle Louie, apparently no longer concerned about his factory shift, turned the car back on, drove home to borrow $20 from his mother, stopped to pick up two witnesses, and headed to Indiana. They changed into their wedding clothes in a cornfield and were married by the justice of the peace the next morning. They stayed married for 71 years.

They were always together, those two. They took lots of drives looking for antiques and visiting family. They had just one son who was a bit older than we were — he, his wife, and their three children were the lights of their lives, but they had space enough for all of us, too. Three out of four of us were their godchildren, although my Aunt Margaret always said, “I alway include your brother in all my prayers, too.” They took their role seriously, and weren’t going to drop off because of a divorce.

Instead, Uncle Louie and Aunt Margaret regularly drove an hour to come see us at our mom’s house. They said, “Your mom is still our sister; you are still our family.” It may not sound that remarkable now, but, believe me, it was very unconventional at the time.

They came to every birthday party and special event. They always hugged my mother when they came and when they left. They modeled for me how to treat family, even in the midst of brokenness. I never saw judgment or distance from them — just love.

When I grew up and had a family of my own, they would then drive two hours just to drop by and say ‘hello.’ Their big yellow Oldsmobile would pull into our driveway, and I would say, “What? You drove all this way?” They always hugged us — Uncle Louie with his big compression hugs — and said, “I love you.” Aunt Margaret wrote long letters and would share news from my dad’s side of the family, including family history that I didn’t know much about. I always felt loved and treasured by my godparents; I have been so thankful to have them.

As my husband and I have faced divorce and other brokenness in our own extended family, we have often referred to the example that Uncle Louie and Aunt Margaret set. While it is heart-wrenching to watch family members experience pain, it has given me some measure of comfort to know my role. My job is to show love, to give hugs, and to communicate belongingness, just like Uncle Louie and Aunt Margaret have done for me.

Of the many things in my life I am thankful for, Uncle Louie and Aunt Margaret are near the top of the list. I told them that this morning and reminded them of the special lesson they taught me.

since God loved us, so also we ought to love one another

1 John 4:11

postscript January 17, 2021: In the summer of 2018, my Uncle Louis fell in the yard, breaking his hip. He never returned home after that. He went from a hospital to a nursing home where he lived out the rest of his days, separated from the love of his life. It was a hard hit that came not too long after the death of their only son from cancer. My heart has ached these last two years watching these two gems finish their days apart, especially since Covid kept Aunt Margaret from sitting next to Uncle Louis for his last ten months. When he was admitted to the hospital a little over a week ago, Aunt Margaret said, I just wish I could hold his hand. Now I know she’s just longing to be with him again.


I love running.  I didn’t always.  It grows on you.

In my middle school and high school years the only thing I loved about running was when it was over.

But in college, when I was battling an eating disorder, I began to tap into the benefits of running — stress reduction, calorie burning, cardio-vascular health.   I found another benefit when I began to date my future husband.  We ran together.  On our after-school runs (we were both teachers), we would talk and laugh while letting go of the stress from the day, pounding out the miles.

Although I took a break from running while we were raising our children, I started up again when we moved to the seminary.  Again, I found it useful for exercise, stress-busting, and ultimately, bonding with my daughter and many students.  In fact, I was able to run two half-marathons and many 5k races before I had to sideline myself due to fatigue and pain.

Over the years I have connected with Scripture that uses running analogies, ‘they will run and not grow weary’ (Isaiah 40:31), ‘run that you may obtain the prize’ (I Cor. 9:24), ‘let us run with endurance the race marked out for us’ (Hebrews 12:1).  These were images I could relate to.  Running and not getting tired, running and winning a prize, running a race that had been chosen for me.

But to be honest, as you know I have to be, running was part of that soldier mentality that believed that I could do all things through me because of my strength. Yeah, that’s not really scripture.  I am aware.

Probably the knowledge that running would no longer be part of my daily routine was one of the first blows toward destroying that self-reliant attitude that could keep God on the sidelines.  That blow hit hard.  Running had become part of my identity.  I was the ‘teacher who ran’, the ‘mom who ran’, the girl whose heart rate and blood pressure were amazingly low, ‘because she ran’.

Transitioning to walking was a blow.  But ultimately it was the beginning of a slow-down that has changed my entire pace of life, of thinking, of being.

I used to rush to work, rush home, hurry to change so I could run, hurry home so I could make dinner, quickly wash the dishes, take a few minutes to straighten the house, make sure the kids had everything they needed, ‘sleep fast’, as my dad would say, and get up to do it all over again.  I was rushing so much that I didn’t really take time to feel, or process how anyone else was feeling.

I don’t rush very much any more.  I roll out of bed, stumble through my routine, work up to doing Pilates, saunter out for a walk, stop to talk to people in my path, write about my experiences, think, read, feel, rest, sleep. Rinse, repeat. Nothing happens very quickly, but plenty happens.

I have been thankful for this transition, while at the same time being a little sad about it. I mean, I was rocking the running routine.  Even if I was leaving the people that I care about in the dust.

At the moment, I’ve got nothing but time.  So, I am walking.  And this morning, in my Bible study, I was challenged by Paul, Silas, and Timothy to “walk in a manner worthy of God” I Thes. 2: 12. I was reminded that God Himself walked in the Garden of Eden, that Enoch walked with God, and Noah walked with God.  Maybe walking isn’t so bad.  I mean, I have noticed already, that I am not alone.

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children, and

walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us…

Ephesians 5:1-2

Time to acknowledge the blessings

It’s been two weeks since the nest has been empty. We are developing some routines.  Around the time my husband leaves for the office in the morning, I am stumbling through the morning ritual of feeding the dog, making my tea, and finding my office.  My morning is spent in Bible study, blogging, correspondence, and any ‘brain work’ I might have on my list.  Alternating days I either head to the gym for an hour or do a half hour of Pilates and then take the dog for a walk.

I may run an errand to the grocery store, the post office, the bank, or the gas station, then I almost always take a rest in the afternoon.  This rest may be watching Netflix, reading a book, or actually taking a nap.  Then, I decide what we are having for dinner, prepare it, and have a cup of tea before my husband arrives home from work.

Sometimes we take another walk before dinner. Sometimes he takes Chester on a run.  But we almost always have dinner together before we wind down for the night.

It’s really nothing to write home about.  Or to blog about. But, for me, right, now.  This is bliss.

We have had a few aberrations.  Tuesday we had a student and his wife for dinner. Wednesday I attended a board meeting over the phone, and tonight, we are hosting my husband’s office staff for snacks and drinks after the work week.

I get to do this.

The chicks?  Well, one has decorated the nursery and assembled the crib in anticipation of his firstborn. Another is settling into her house of five women on the north side of Philadelphia and getting ready to start her first week as a PE teacher. My soldier is in Louisiana doing intense training for thirty days.  And the grown-up baby is wrangling herself a job (or two) on top of being a full-time student in DC.

I’d say they are soaring.

Although I have always led a blessed life, I haven’t always had the luxury of sitting back and acknowledging my blessings like this.  I don’t know how long this luxury will be here.  So, I am going to soak up each moment.

Psalm 23:5

You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.