Category Archives: from my heart

We are kinda like Jesus’ pets

“We are kinda like Jesus’ pets.” declared 5 year old Oliver as we drove home from school recently. Quicker than a heartbeat, 7 year old Elliot always the epitome of precociousness responds with clear disdain, “NO! He is the shepherd. WE are the sheep.” “That’s what I just said!” Oliver all but yells with clear exasperation. I had to jump in. Not so much because I have something worthwhile to add but more to head off the proverbial I am right and you are wrong thread I see coming.  I was marveling in Oliver’s analogy wanting to just sit with it. But it was more important that they know they were both correct. Yes, Jesus cares for us as we care for our pets. Yes, Jesus loves us beyond measure as many of us love our pets. So far so good. Where I lost ground, going too far, was attempting to once again explain metaphor to Oliver. Oliver and I visit the metaphor discussion frequently. As an avid conversationalist who likes to have the last word as well as make stuff up he frequently hears me say “You are pushing the envelope.” Unlike Elliot who often recites some random obscure fact which provides no room for conversation as I have no idea what he is talking about. Oliver seems to question everything. Elliot not so much.

I don’t know if it is Oliver’s age, personality, or that he just thinks out loud, my guess is it is a combination of all of these but lately he has become the family theologian. It is not uncommon for Oliver to state with authority as we drive either to or from school  seemingly out of no where “God is always with us!” or “God keeps his promises!” Likely our driving by the littles church as part of our regular daily route helps bring Sunday school and all that goes with it to mind.

As thankful as I am for the rich opportunity Oliver’s declarations provide for further examination and discussion of God and Jesus with my grandsons, he has no idea the depth he provides me for challenging theological reflection. Thanks be to God.

I am not listening to you, Nana

Most weekday mornings when I arrive at the littles home they are in the midst of their breakfast. The older two seated at the kitchen counter, the youngest near by in his high chair. Usually my initial task is to straighten up the kitchen while chatting with them about what the day has in store for us. That was the conversation this day, when the four year old, out of nowhere declared, “I am not listening to you, Nana.” Oh, brother did I ever have to bite my tongue on that one. How hilarious is that? Where did this come from? I had not directed nor corrected anyone. Our conversation was routine and predictable. As tough as it was, I did my best to ignore this declaration. After all, if someone is not listening, why continue? I wondered if he was perhaps telling me that this was going to be the tone for the day. If it were it would be a first.  This kid can be challenging like any of us but we have never had a day of no listening. This kid is clever, imaginative, and entertaining. He is excellent company. I enjoy him far more than many adults.

Our day together was unremarkable. There was regular listening and interacting all day. What the “I’m not listening” was about I have no idea. What did result for me was hearing “I’m not listening” over and over and over in my head.

Listening is the most powerful thing any of us can do. Listening has the potential to be our most precious gift to another. True, deep, genuine listening is rare. There are people that seem to be natural listeners. My mother in law is one of those people. When I want to be truly heard, she is one I can always count on.

Listening is fundamental to all our relationships and interactions. Listening is inherent and simple but far from easy. And, it seems genuine presence to another is getting more rare and more challenging. Somehow the insidious technology some of us choose to surround ourselves with serves only to undermine our ability to be present which is the basis for all listening.

Sadly, I experienced the most unpleasant reminder of this recently. I don’t recall if my complete failure to listen was pre or post the littles declaration nor does it matter. What haunts me is that unlike the little who was clear that he was not listening, I thought I was listening. Maybe I pretended to be. I fooled myself that I was. But I was not. Not even a little bit. The worst part is I responded. I could have kept my mouth shut. Oh, no, not me,  that is hardly my strong suit. I responded with words that I can not retract. Not angry or profane words. This was far not a heat of the moment situation. It was worse. My words were unfeeling and dismissive. I shared facts that although they are likely accurate they are unimportant. I entirely missed what was being said. Oh, I heard the words, but not the feelings behind them. Not the importance. Not the  significance to the speaker who just happened to be my life partner.

Again and again I learn from the littles. If, and this is a big if, I have learned this lesson, the next time I sense that I do not have the capacity at a particular time to be genuinely present and listen, I will not pretend. I will have the honesty to say gently, I am not listening. Or, at least keep my mouth shut.


None of us are good guys

“OK, Nana! I be the good guy and you be the bad guy.” My response was an emphatic. “No, I will not be the bad guy! I am a good guy!”

As Nana of this dear, hysterically entertaining, almost four-year old I cannot possibly be the bad guy. I have to be the good guy, because I am a good guy. All of us know this exchange. Everyone plays good guys/bad guys growing up. There is nothing the least bit remarkable about this typical childhood stuff.

This brief conversation became most significant, actually shaping my first season as full time caregiver of my littles, giving birth to this blog.

Walking away from the corporate world that I had known for over thirty years came quickly. The birth of our third grandson in May 2014 coinciding with his mom being offered a full time teaching position she so wanted to accept raised unexpected questions. How to make this work best for our family? The idea of caring for the kids always appealed to me. But, leaving the regular paycheck? I couldn’t do that. The money and health insurance, I couldn’t just quit.

But I did. I quit. No real plan as to how it would work because I knew it would. It was the right thing to do. Putting my family first, honoring the most precious gifts of my life, how could it not work? I became Nana on duty, caring full time for an infant, a three- year old and a kindergartener before and after school.

Days filled with Legos, books, super heroes and various other toys. Trips to the library for story time and music class. And no television or “shows”. I established that rule from the get go. Nana shows up and the television goes off. Lots of good guy/bad guy, insisting on being the good guy because I am.

One Sunday morning last spring, puttering around the house getting ready for church, NPR is playing in the background. Listening with one ear, I stop as I hear something that truly took my breath away. The guest, hip-hop Christian artist Lecrae is being interviewed.

“Everyone, once something like Baltimore or Ferguson happens, they need to draw meaning out of it. And in order to draw meaning out of a circumstance like that, you’ve got to create a narrative, and that narrative needs to have a protagonist and an antagonist. I think some people quickly say, “Oh, the police are the antagonists and the black community is the protagonist.” Or the black community — they’re the “thugs” and the antagonists and the police protect and serve; they’re the protagonists. At the end of the day, the real antagonist is the brokenness of humanity. We’re not good guys. None of us are the good guys, right? So if we can’t come together and have conversations and understand our biases and understand that none of us are really the good guys here, then we’re just going to pick a bad guy. And that’s where a lot of the problems come.”

These powerful words overwhelm me, resonating like no other. You bet. I want to be a good guy. I want to be a loving, kind presence in this world. I want to see Christ in every person I encounter. But do I? Oh, how I fool myself. How dishonest am I?

And so the lessons from my littles began and will continue. Stay tuned.



Love Wins

This first published on May 23, 2015

Today is the day to begin this heart lead journey. My heart overflows with gratitude, gratitude that has to be shared. This is a lesson from a little, a most significant little, lee&daisyalthough not one of the littles that I plan to write about. This little is no longer part of my life on this planet.

This is Memorial Day weekend in the United States. This is a day when we reflect on those who have gone before us. For many, much recognition is around lives lost in military service. It is with deepest respect and gratitude I too pause and give thanks for these lives. Military service runs deep in my family.

There are lives I remember on this day that have no link to military service. Lives most close to me. Lives that walk with me everyday. But, there is one life like no other. One person I miss far and away more than any one else. My brother Lee died of AIDS October 31, 1988. Lee was 30 years old. Lee was four years younger than I. Lee was my first little. And, I loved him dearly. He was my best friend. Lee and I shared some pretty galvanizing childhood events.

But there was something that Lee shared with me, a remark he made in passing, a comment that stung and stuck. Stuck like a tick. It was at my wedding to Dennis Brown on August 15, 1981. Lee said, “You know weddings are the saddest day for us.” To which I lamely responded with just a stare. Lee continued, “We can never get marred”. I felt like I had been punched in the gut. Of course not, he was gay. But, I had never thought about it. It had never crossed my mind. And, I felt like a heel. I have felt like a heel for a long time. I didn’t get it.

So on this day that Ireland votes overwhelmingly for same sex marriage, I remember Lee. As Tillamook for Love was birthed this week, I remember Lee.

Love wins. Love wins every time. I give thanks for God’s work in the world.



If you or anyone else had told me a year or so ago that I would consider sharing my heartfelt thoughts and feelings in a blog my response would have been hysterical laughter.
Actually, in the not too distant past I wondered why people blog. Sure, there are those who blog to promote their book, or business or product. But, writing a blog to simply share your life journey, why would people do that?
So what has changed? Why am I writing this? Why do I have a nudge telling me that I am to do this?
Stay tuned as I examine these and life’s other persistent questions in this space. I am big on questions. I like questions. Actually, it seems questions often hold more truth than the proverbial answers we receive.