Monthly Archives: November 2014

Frost Speaks

Moses cartoonDivine tablets. Right there. Up close and personal. I’ll bet Moses didn’t have any trouble figuring out that God speaks.   The Voice from Heaven commanded his attention. He got the message loud and clear.

And he listened.

God used angels with Mary and visions with the Apostle Paul. Samuel, Isaiah and Elijah each heard a voice in a dream. So did Daniel, and Ezekiel, and the Apostle John.

Job listened carefully as a still, small Voice of the Presence of God ministered to him in the midst of trial. David enjoyed that Voice while communing with nature.

Many people choose to believe that God communicates in special ways and only with special people, but I don’t believe it.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning says in Aurora Leigh:

every bush afireEarth’s crammed with heaven,

And every common bush afire with God;

But only he who sees, takes off his shoes,

The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries,

And daub their natural faces unaware.

I have ‘taken off my shoes’ at a ‘common bush afire with God’.  Yes, I have.  More than once.  Let me tell you a true story. 

Our first days in Russia filled with drama: witnessing the parliamentary takeover attempt in Moscow live from our hotel room, enduring a 54-hour Trans-Siberian train ride to Novosibirsk, and, then, setting up a temporary home in a small flat before our permanent residence became available.

During this ‘interior camping’ experience, our seventh day in Russia, Andre fell into a four-foot cement window well in the dark on his way back to our flat after taking out the trash.

He somehow managed to get out of the window well and stumble back to the apartment building, climb five flights of stairs, and collapse in front of our apartment door.

All he said was, “Call an ambulance.”

At that time, I spoke no Russian and I didn’t know anything about Russian ambulances, hospitals, diagnostic equipment, or doctors.

I did know how to call our Russian friend, Tatyanna, who called the ambulance and who rode with Andre to the Siberian hospital that dark night. They wouldn’t let me ride along, so I left the kids in the care of another friend and took off for the hospital.

I didn’t have a car and barely knew how to navigate my way to the bus stop, but I did both, paid the fare and found a place to stand near the front left side.

My mind was as foggy as the frosty window I gazed through. Myriads of shocking questions and unknowns crowded together becoming restless and uneasy as my body relentlessly squished itself between two large babushkas, all of us jerking awkwardly toward somewhere with every bumpy turn of that slowly moving bus.

At that moment, I didn’t know how serious Andre’s injuries were.

I did know that he thought he’d probably broken at least four ribs and that he was quite sure he had a punctured lung and maybe other internal bleeding and injuries; so I also knew that I needed to prepare myself mentally.

Maybe he would die?

I prayed to God for a Promise and a Hope.

Our town was carved out of huge, dense evergreen forests. This is the forest primeval, I thought, pondering numerous, heavy thoughts. They weren’t about Longfellow’s Evangeline.

As I watched the deep, dark trees and paths drift by, Robert Frost’s words from Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening came to my mind.

I quoted them to myself from the beginning to the end.

Then I understood.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.

But I have promises to keep,

And miles to go before I sleep,

And miles to go before I sleep.

God told me thru Robert that Andre would be all right.

And indeed he was.



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The Goodbyes are Harder Than the Hellos

goodbye to fallDear Leaves,

I know it’s hard to say goodbye, but we must. With 25° weather, you just can’t make it. So, we release you. We will see you next year young and full of life. Thanks for the beautiful fall.


Your (not so secret) admirer,


Ah, yes. The ‘goodbyes’ are harder than the ‘hellos’.

My friend’s words ring true as we bid adieu to the most gorgeous Minnesota fall season ever. Some changes, like this one, from a gloriously vibrant kaleidoscope to a barren, frozen landscape, are harder to take because of the even harsher realities that loom in the wings. Ice. Snow. Blizzards. Wind chills.

In the fall of 1993 our family picked up lock, stock, and barrel and moved from our cushy, custom-made sofa-life in the United States of America to a ragtag of ill-fitting, hardened chairs in Akademgorokok, Russia.   We left our jobs. Sold our home and cars. Sorted and disposed or stored most of our possessions. We left kindred and kin.

New language. Culture. Religious background. Government. Weather. Infrastructure. Transportation options. Educational options.  Rules to learn—written and unwritten— about how the system works and the people interact.

We chaffed and squirmed trying to make many a square peg fit into a round hole.

We changed the known for the unknown in every category of our high stakes Jeopardy game and were well aware that the losses would probably outweigh the wins. At least in the short-term scheme of things.

It was at our summer orientation camp in Colorado just before our departure that the stark realities of foreboding change sank in deep and wide. Part of our orientation consisted in various simulations to allow for emotional encounters of the third kind. The most powerful of these was the balloon game.

The children gathered outside our meeting room on a brilliantly sunny afternoon. Not a cloud in the sky. No ill winds blowing or chilly temperatures or dampening rains. Just clear blue sky. Everyone was silent. Waiting for an unknown something to happen.

At that moment several of our orientation leaders appeared seemingly out of nowhere bearing colorful, huge helium filled balloons on strings. The children’s eyes lit up as the leaders gave each child a brightly colored balloon. The delight radiated from young faces.

Once the balloons were all distributed the leader began to talk to the children about the concepts of change, loss, gain—leavings and cleavings–goodbyes and hellos.   It all seemed pretty abstract until the end of the talk when the leader summarized by saying, quite matter of factly, “The ‘goodbyes’ are harder than the ‘hellos’.” He let the words sink in.

Then he gently asked the children, “ Who is willing to let go of their balloon?”

You could have cut the thick air with the proverbial knife. Some said, “No way.” Others began to openly weep. Some hung on tight and looked anxiously at their parents. The minutes seemed like hours.

child releases balloonFinally, one brave, thoughtful child spoke. It was our dear seven year old, Claire Marie, who shocked us all.

“I will let go of my balloon,” she said.

And so she did.

It slowly rose into the air and out of sight. Several more balloons followed.

The lesson became crystal clear. Tears flooded my vision as I held little Claire.

Embrace the pain. The loss. The sadness. The suffering. The holes. These new unseemly friends will come and they are part of the package.

After all, Jesus said in Matthew 16:24-25:   “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.  For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.“

Lord, help me to let go of my balloon.


Opening letter and picture courtesy of Staci Carroll, Minneapolis, MN.

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