Category: Family


I stood behind a woman in church the other day that reminded me of Nanny. My mom’s mom, my grandma, but who we’ve always called Nanny. She’s in heaven now, but as I age I think more and more about her. And who she was to us grandkids.  Nobody has a perfect family, and every memory is full of emotion; some good, some bad.  But it’s family.  And it’s who we are.  And this is what I thought about during that service.

I couldn’t quite put my finger on WHY this woman reminded me of Nanny.  I think it was a combination of things.  Her coat, which was a London Fog-type of raincoat, which she kept on throughout the service.  She stood both proudly and a little stooped at the same time.  She had a young adult granddaughter with her, who was emotional.  I could tell that this woman was worried about the granddaughter because when the younger woman left the service, the Nanny-person kept looking back to see if she was coming back.  This woman’s face, though, had the most impact on me.  Her skin was gentle but wrinkled, her smile was quick to appear and transformed her face, and her worry evaporated when she smiled.

Although I cry at lots of stuff these days (so it’s not all that unusual), tears stung my eyes as I murmured the words of the praise songs the congregation was singing.  The tears started because I watched this woman worry about her grand child even while she carried on with the business of worship.  I could tell she had a vested interest in the girl, and wanted her both at church and by her side, because then she’d know she was safe.

All this makes me miss my Nanny.  I miss her little laugh that could turn into almost a cackle of delight whenever we grandkids goofed around.  I miss her cooking with love – which she did to show us she loved us.  I miss her little rain coats, which she usually kept on whenever she left the house.  Some of you may remember her black shoes; she also had a tan pair.

Bags of Weaver’s chips, tupperwares of chocolate-covered peanut butter balls, that weird toast they used to make.  It was like thin-sliced bread and some brand that we never bought in Hastings.

Thanksgiving dinner with a bunch of us.  At the stretched table at 4400 High Street.  Thanks, Nanny; I love you.

Shall We Gather At The River

No hymn causes my eyes to sting with tears faster than this old classic.  My Aunt Kathy sang it once for a recording, don’t remember where, and whenever I even see those words in print I hear her voice lining those words.  Moving water hypnotizes me, and water that flows right by where God sits (“that flows by the Throne of God”) brings bright hope to even the most dreary of days.

Music, in one phrase, can remove the dry wood surrounding my heart and replace it with living, vibrant, hopeful spirit.  It readies me to face the day and raise my chin with assurance.

Geographical Amendments

Over a year has passed since I had the heart to visit this blog, the place where I would do more than journal, more than catalog, more than recount what’s important in my life.

We’ve moved far enough in our world that the landscape LOOKS different.  When you hike somewhere without a trail, it is wise to turn around and look backwards from time to time.  Otherwise, the trip back turns into getting lost, rather than retracing steps.  One side of a mountain pass looks way different from the other side, is all I’m saying.

We are out of youth ministry.  We’ve left our church of 14 years.  We’ve found joy, peace, solace, understanding, acceptance with a new set of friends.  Not like we’ve given up on all our existing friends, but some new ones have risen in our awareness, while others have faded into “used to be”.  It’s ok. Some days it’s a huge deal, others it feels good to travel light.

A new day.  A new map.  A new hilltop to stand on to look at where we are.

I Need Lunch Money

That is how my teenagers tell me that they love me and still need me in their lives.  It isn’t easy for them to speak the truths of love, feelings, appreciation, validation, need in conventional ways.  My wife and I now know that if we push too hard, they just want more distance from us.  If we lay off, and step back, eventually they wander back into the room and ask us “what’s up?”.

As a matter of fact, sometimes they need my help.  I totally get, now, why my Dad is always happy to help me with dumb car stuff, or dumb house chores when he comes to visit.  It is fulfilling and heartwarming to do simple things with my nearly grown sons.  Check the oil, crawl around under the car reattaching that plastic thing that protects something, changing a tail light, driving in one of their cars to go get the pizza.  It’s ALL FUN!  I get to love them (not allowed to SAY anything about it at the time), and enjoy them being part of the world.

There is just no down side to that kind of interaction.  I’ll gladly pay for lunch.  All they had to do was ask.

That’s My Boy!

Today is my son’s birthday!  JB is 17 years old; we watched him drive off to school this morning, basically an adult.

He was born on a Monday morning in Santa Maria, California.  Angie said, around 7 am, “You’d better not go to work today”.  By 8:30, we’d left for the birth care center, (doctor’s name Tad something), and he was in our arms by 12:30.  Just past lunch, and Angie had a friend bring Burger King – which she was eating by 1:30.

Jake hated his first bath.  His favorite way to take his nap was in our arms.  He didn’t like to be alone in his crib, and he liked the slanted way he rested while we held him. 

I loved him from the moment I saw him.  Still do.

Happy birthday, JBL!

What We Hide Under

Sometimes people are desperate. 

They may be hanging on to something, or trying to hang on to something, or upset, or angry, or in despair.  If this person is private, or not able to communicate this desperation, then we don’t get what is happening with them.  All we notice is that our ‘subject’ is off in some way. 

This is the point where we need to have even more compassion and grace than ever.  You, as the friend or observer, MUST notice the difference in their general attitude, demeanor, “way”.  If you miss it, you will just think your friend or family member is being… well, pick one:  awful, a jerk, insipid, traitorous, faithless, back-stabbing, hurtful.  We usually find out later what is really wrong with our person.

Please don’t underestimate what your little push of grace back at them will do for them.  Sometimes only a little nudge will push them back on course, and sometimes only a small bump pushes the comet out of harm’s way.  After all, you can only do your part; love, cherish, save.

I don’t get Job’s decision

Even though he actually came out ahead, Job still had to lose absolutely everything.  He loved a wife, and he loved his kids.  He lost all of them.

Even though he ended up in a new relationship with new kids, didn’t he still mourn his first family?

I pray that God will help me develop that kind of faith in Him.  I know, it should be easy, but my spiritual IQ stays pretty low.  And no, it has nothing to do with being a Husker Fan!


Sometimes life just plain defeats me.  I don’t get so much of why this world is so complex, relationships need so much energy, forward motion takes so much fuel.

I do know all the book answers; I just…

It’s like if you are playing tennis, and your opponent hits the ball way to the other side of the court, for the 50th time, and you didn’t get to the ball the other 49 times.  You know you SHOULD run for the shot, but, well, doggonit, you probably won’t get to the ball in time, and it will be his point.  You know how your feet feel at that point?  Should I run or shouldn’t I?

Or, running in a road race,  and you just gotta walk at the water table around mile 4 with 6 to go.  Why bother making your body start running again?  It takes, sometimes, more mental toughness than our conscious minds have.

So, ignore yourself, and keep working.  It will be worth it.

Saturday morning

Three things, all for filing under the Life is both hilarious and tragic, almost at the same time.  Many times we have had to stop doing the ‘life-changing stuff’ (My dad has concer, for instance) to take care of the mundane (I need lunch money, for instance).  The cool part of this is that we CAN shift gears back and forth – that is what makes life so fascinating!

The first thing – hilarious.  The Wichita Eagle (11/15/08, page 6A) had a blurb from Hormel about how popular Spam is now that economic times are tougher.  Apparently Spam is a great buy, when money is tight.  Spam is vacuum-sealed in a can and does not require refrigeration, and can last for many years.  Because of those qualities, Here is what Hormel said, “it’s like meat with a pause button.” 

I never knew you could PAUSE MEAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Second – tragic.  Also from the Eagle (11/15/08 news in brief) 3 high school students drowned in Illinois when they snuck out at night to take paddle boats out on the lake.  The camp management had already removed the floor plugs to winterize the boats.  They were on the last day of an 8 day leadership camping retreat.

I think about how quickly the normal can turn tragic for all of us, but especially us parents.  All the stuff our kids go and do and come home safely from, but that the potential for disaster is always there.  Talk about releasing our worries to God!

Lastly,  Krispy Kreme with my daughter this morning.  What a great day!  She ordered a plain, a chocolate glazed, and a ‘fall’ sprinkles.  Since I was there ANYWAY, I got a bold coffee (she made a fresh pot, after I whined that it wasn’t hot enough) and, uh, well, uh, ok TWO really tiny donuts – sour cream and pumpkin spice.  If it helps any, I didn’t really enjoy the sour cream one.

What we owe each other

As our kids grow up, and we grow together, my wife and I were just wondering out loud to each other, “What do we get out of these obligatory relationships?”  We are crazy about our kids, crazy about each other, and even crazy about all of our relatives/extended family.  Really!  We are truly blessed to avoid almost all of the awful stories you hear/read where families just scream at each other.

Still, it takes a LOT of WORK to keep a family moving in a direction that is healthy.  After we (meaning me and Ang) get through our ceaseless chore list and are reasonably certain that the house won’t fall apart/burn down/get repossessed/rot/flood/mold, we STILL have relationships to foster.  If we give our best effort at work, and the kids give their best efforts at school, what do we come home to?  What do we have left when we finally get to the house, pull up the drawbridge, and lock ourselves in our castle?  This world is exhausting!

My almost constant prayer these days (and believe me, I’m no holy man deliberately setting an example), is that we five people who live in this house can just LOVE each other.  So simple but it takes a mountain of resolve and a pile of good intentions and a vat of grace to see past each other’s unvarnished humanity and take care of us – better or worse.

Is it just us or is it tough for everyone?

P.S.  Remember the story from The Mexican?  Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts?  “How much is too much?  When do you say enough and that the relationship is over?”  “NEVER, Never is the answer.”  (or at least something like that)