Recently I was in physical therapy three times a week for three months and needed something to do while my legs were packed in ice at the end of each session. I started taking my iPad so I could work puzzles, read books, or listen to podcasts. I’d return home exhausted and sore, ooze my way out of the car, and hear “prink!” Now it’s become a habit to have my iPad with me, and whether I’ve been to the doctor, grocery shopping, or running errands, as I get out of the car I hear “prink!”, and I smile.

You see, my iPad makes that sound when it connects to a Wi-Fi network. It makes the same sound no matter what network it connects to, but if I connect to the Wi-Fi at the doctor’s office, car dealership, or wherever, it’s not the same. In any of those places I have to decide to connect, go to the settings menu, choose the right network, click, be taken to a webpage requesting I click on something to prove I’m not a robot, maybe enter a password, and then I’m connected. But home? It knows me. My iPad and my house know each other. The connection is there, waiting. I don’t need websites, decisions, or permission. I don’t even need to actually be inside. As I step out of the car, the connection reaches out and says “Hey! I know you!” and my device says, “Hey! I know you, too!” And they connect. Isn’t that what home is all about?

That “prink!” only makes me smile when it connects to the Wi-Fi in my house. It’s the sound that says “I’m home”: the sound that says the work of interacting with the world is done. No decision to make. No permission to seek. Just instant connection. Deep breath. I’m home.


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Marriage: In Sickness and Health



Recently I met an elderly lady shortly after she had back surgery. Three times a week, Ellen’s husband Bill was faithfully taking her to physical therapy. I watched as the therapist patiently sat her in a chair and set a timer on the floor in front of her. “OK, Ellen, lean over and push the button, then put your hands on the floor until the alarm goes off.”

Ellen leaned forward, reached for the timer, and put her hands on the floor. “Did I hit the button?” Ellen asked. The therapist assured her she had. After a couple times of being coached through the exercise, Ellen assured the therapist she understood and the therapist moved on to help the next person. Confusion washed over Ellen’s face as she tried to do the exercise on her own. Bill saw what was happening and moved quickly from his chair a few feet away and sat on a chair right in front of Ellen.

“Lean forward and push the button, Ellen,” he coached gently. “Good. Now put your hands on the floor.” When the timer went off Ellen kept her hands on the floor, but raised her head to look questioningly at Bill. “Hit the button again and sit up straight. Nice and tall now,” Bill said.

When they had finished this exercise the required number of times the therapist came over and taught Ellen the next exercise. “Put your arms straight out in front of you, like you’re sleep walking.” Ellen struggled to understand, first putting her arms out tentatively to the side, then over her head. The therapist patiently helped her get them into the right position, then instructed Ellen to keep her arms straight out while going from sitting to standing, then back again. Once again, as the therapist moved on to help someone else, Ellen blanked on what to do. This time, Bill was close by, ready to do what needed to be done. I watched as Bill sat in the chair across from his wife, made eye contact with her, and raised his arms straight out in front of himself.

“Put your arms straight out,” he instructed Ellen, carefully keeping eye contact. “Now we need to stand up. No, keep your arms out. Good job! Now we need to sit down.”

I watched as, in unison, Bill and Ellen did the exercise. Arms straight out, holding eye contact: stand, sit. Stand, sit. Stand, sit. Occasionally Ellen would say, “I already did that.” Bill would assure her that yes she had, but she needed to do more. I saw confusion on her face when she heard this, but it was quickly replaced by trust. If Bill said she needed to do it, she’d do it.

As I watched this unfold day after day, my heart was moved. This is marriage. The real kind. You know that part of a wedding where you say “in sickness and in health”? This is that. I’m sure decades ago when they promised to love and cherish, for better or worse, in sickness and in health neither of them thought that Alzheimer’s was in their future. It’s not the kind of thing you think about when you’re young and have your whole life ahead of you. You think of hearts and flowers and babies and sunsets. But this. This is something more beautiful than hearts and flowers. This is real love. Love that stands the test of time. Love that is patient and kind, that is not selfish and does not demand its own way. Love that is not resentful. In sickness and in health.


**While I used Bob and Barb from my Life of Bob blog in the accompanying photo, this is about a real life couple I met while in physical therapy. Names have been changed for privacy reasons.

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Do the Unthinkable

In light of everything that’s been in the news lately, a couple weeks ago I decided to do the unthinkable. I called my black friends to talk to them about race.

As a white person, I was taught that you don’t discuss race. It’s rude. It might offend, so don’t talk about it. What pushed me over the edge was that I keep seeing African American people on TV talking about what white people think and how we act, and they have it wrong. I’m not like they say we are, and neither are my white friends. It’s frustrating to keep hearing accusations of what people like me think or feel, or what our life experience is like and no one seems to care if it’s true or not. One day I realized, if they are misunderstanding me so much, it stands to reason I’m misunderstanding the African American experience and thinking just as much. So I called. I was scared, but I did it anyway.

They weren’t offended as I feared they might be. In fact, I was thanked. I think I got that response because I didn’t call to explain my point of view or give rebuttal to what’s being said on the news. There are plenty of people doing that in the media and social media. I called to find out their experience, their perspective, and their thoughts. Everyone wants to be heard.

I believe that’s a big part of the racial tension in our country right now; everybody wants to be heard, but no one wants to listen. Making matters worse, it’s the people on the fringe that get all the press. Remember the bell curve from math class? It looks like this:

bell curve

The point of a bell curve is that, given a large population dropped into a situation, the distribution of that population will fall in this pattern. In the current situation the people on either end of the continuum (as pertaining specifically to race issues) are the ones that are most outspoken, and therefore that we see most on TV and ranting on social media. That’s a total of 5% of the population (I’m estimating here) talking loudly while the rest of us, of all races, are just trying to keep our heads above water and understand what the heck is going on. Think about that. 2.5% of the population shouting “White people and cops are evil and trying to kill off black people!” and 2.5% of people shouting “Black people are criminals and don’t contribute to society!” while the rest of us know there are good and bad in every group, and most of us are trying our best to do what’s right.

So what’s the answer? Have the conversation. As a white person, I learned a lot listening to my black friends. I had no idea there was as much prejudice as there is because I’ve never heard anyone talking about it, except the ones that are screaming that I’m evil because I’m white. (OK, they don’t say I’m personally evil, but that’s what I hear when I hear them screaming because I’m human, and we take things personally.) I learned a lot, and I’m glad I made the calls.

I’m encouraging my white friends, call your black friends and have the conversation. If you don’t have any black friends, take a minute to think about that. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not calling you a racist. It’s a statement about our culture that it’s possible to live in a country that is something like 12-14% African American and not have your circle intersect with theirs. There’s a lot more to be said about that, but that’s for another day. For now, have the conversation. Ask the questions, and listen. Be humble, and don’t accuse, don’t defend, just listen. Don’t make the excuse that you don’t know them well enough to ask, either. One of the friends I talked to is someone I’ve only known for a few months, and she was willing to talk to me and appreciated that I asked. We’ve had a couple conversations about this, and I’m continuing to learn.

I firmly believe it’s time the majority in the middle take back our country from those who are screaming. Let’s learn that they are the fringe and reclaim our culture, not to what it has been, since it is definitely flawed in race relations, but to something better, grown out of mutual respect and understanding.

Do the unthinkable. Have the conversation.


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On Being Authentic

“Hi, I’m Barb. I’ve been married 45 years to Bob. We have 4 kids, one of them’s a doctor, and 7 grandkids. The youngest one is starting 1st grade this year.”

“I’m Sarah. I’ve been married 25 years to Mark. We have 2 kids. The youngest one started college this year, and we’re so excited!”

And so it went around the room. All 18 women, in their 50’s to their 80’s, introduced themselves in this same manner. I was stunned. I now know about their husbands, including some of their names and professions, their kids, and their grandkids, along with various details about names, ages, accomplishments and milestones. What I don’t know is anything about any of these women. I don’t know if they’ve had careers, hobbies, or accomplishments. I don’t know what they like or what they don’t like. I know nothing about them as human beings, except that they are wives and mothers.

As I sat and listened I realize this is not a phenomenon unique to this group of women. I think these roles are so overwhelming and all encompassing that it’s natural, at least to a certain extent. However, I don’t want to be that. I don’t want my friends to be that. In the topical discussion that followed the introductions, I learned little things here and there about some of the other women,  including two of them that have careers. I only learned that because they had to leave as soon as the meeting was done to go to work. What??? Why did you not say that before? What do you do? Are you a doctor? Do you sell Avon? Are you writing the next great American novel? Why do I not know this???

What if we all decided to draw a line in the sand? To stand up and say, “As of today, I’m me. I have accomplishments and dreams. They include a marriage [or not, as the case may be], and great kids and grandkids, but they also include…” Do you think we might have less loneliness? Do you think we might have less depression? Do you think the church might start looking more like The Church? I do. If I knew how, I’d start a campaign. A campaign to help people see themselves as more than their relationships, more than the accomplishments of their family. A campaign to help people reclaim their own identity and accomplishments.

What do you think? Are you brave enough to stick your neck out and introduce yourself as you really are? As who you really are? I think it’s time you try.

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How to Save a Country

As we are being daily bombarded with the latest antics of people who think they are qualified to be our next president, I’ve about had enough. It’s months before anyone gets a chance to cast a vote, and I’m over it already. This has led me to consider how we could improve the whole system, making it less tedious to live through and possibly even give us a better president in the end.

I propose we hold our politicians (and politician wanna-bes) to the same standards to which we hold our children. Get caught name calling? Go to time out. When you think you understand what you did wrong, come tell us about it and we’ll give you another chance. Continue the behavior and the consequences will get worse, ultimately ending with you being expelled from the group. Get caught passing notes when you’re supposed to be doing your work? Go to time out. When you think you understand what you did wrong, come tell us and you may get another chance. Lie about not having passed notes, or blaming others for the notes? Sorry, you’re in time out for a very long time, and will probably get expelled. Blame others for things you have done? Time out. Lying about what you have said or done? Time out. Tell the truth and act in a civilized manner? You get a gold star and possibly our vote.

I think this might work. What do you think?

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More Kisses

Last week started with a personal disappointment. Not life altering, but still… However, less than 24 hours later God sent me yet another kiss.

A couple years ago my son got me hooked on soccer. I have two favorite teams: Sporting KC and Chelsea. (I’m allowed to favorites because they are in different leagues. I’m sure that’s an official rule!) The afternoon after the disappointment I got a call from Brian. He asked if we had plans for the next evening, and I said, “No, why?” He said, “You wanna see some futbol?” I said, “Well, I guess so…” No, I tell a lie. I believe I said “Heck yeah!” Then he told me it was the International Champions Cup, being played in DC between Barcelona and Chelsea. Double heck yeah! I asked how much it was going to cost us, and he said, “Nothing.” Someone had bought some tickets for the game then decided not to use them, so they were giving them away. Hot dog!

The fun magnified when I found out where the seats were. I took a couple pictures. This is the section we were sitting in: 


Yep. The  seats were so good they are in the “Dream Seats” section. Here’s a pic of how great the seats were:

20150728_191829 sm

So, yeah. The week started with a disappointment, and God turned it around. Did we have to see a match? No. Did we have to see Chelsea? Nope. Did we want to? Oh, yeah… And God knew. It was a whisper in my heart, that I never spoke out loud, because what’s the realistic chance of me getting to see an English soccer team play? With God, all things are possible. Thanks for the kisses, Lord. And if it’s OK to ask, keep ’em comin’!

A bonus photo: this is how I felt the whole night.

20150728_203735 sm

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Kisses from God- Part 2, in which I am reminded He loves me

Brian wasn’t the only one that got Kisses from God while we were in Alaska. I got several, as well. (You can read about Brian’s here if you missed it.)

In order to understand my kisses from God, you have to know a little about me. I’m a photographer.  It’s about more than having a camera and knowing how to use it; it’s about experiencing life in pictures, to the point of thinking in pictures at times. While most people are distracted and pulled out of an event when they taking pictures, I am actually more immersed. I’m watching for that one, defining moment among everything that’s happening. Where is that one vignette in the midst of all the activity that best captures the feel of the moment? When is that one split second when something happens that captures the glory, fun, or whatever, of what is going on around me? I take photographs not just to record, but to remember and to communicate to others that aren’t there to experience it all first hand. This matters to my story, because without knowing this what happened to me won’t sound like much. It may not anyway, but trust me; to my heart, these moments were huge.

The first kiss from God came while we were at Hubbard Glacier. The cruise ship pulled into Disenchantment Bay and pulled as close as it safely could to the glacier and parked for a while so everyone had a chance to stare in amazement at the splendor. And stare we did. I of course stared mostly through my camera lens. I had mentioned to God that I’d love to see the glacier calve, something we didn’t see on our last trip. This time I was looking through my camera’s viewfinder, clicking like a crazy person, when all of a sudden, right there through my lens, I saw movement. A huge chunk of ice, about 250 feet tall, broke free and tumbled into the bay! I clicked like an even crazier person and managed to capture five or six photos of the event. During our short time there, we saw the glacier calve repeatedly in several different places, and I was able to capture a couple different sequences with my camera. My little photographer heart was soaring!

The next day we were in Juneau, and I got to fulfill a lifelong dream: to stand on the blue ice of a glacier. It was a three hour expedition that included several short helicopter flights, a dog sled adventure, and a walkabout on the icy surface of Herbert Glacier. My photographer heart was concerned because we weren’t allowed to take any bags with us. That means I had to strategically stuff extra batteries and cards, along with my wallet and other necessities in my pockets and hope for the best. Changing batteries and cards is not a big deal, except in the cold, with cold fingers, while whizzing across the snow on a dog sled, digging things out of your pockets, or wedged into a tiny helicopter… Yeah, could be interesting. In spite of my usual clicking like a crazy person (see above), both battery and card made it through the expedition. We had just returned to the airport and were waiting for the shuttle to take us back to the dock, and I started reviewing my photos on the back of my camera. I had only looked at about 10 images when my camera went dead. I started to cry. My battery lasted.  As in, there was JUST ENOUGH power to get me through. If it had died on the glacier, or in the helicopter, meh, it happens. It’s a pain, but it happens. But God kept that little battery running, making my expedition simple and carefree. For me. Because He loves me. That my friends, is a kiss.

The final kiss (at least that I’m going to write about here) happened in Hoonah, Alaska, the site of our whale expedition. As usual, I was (say it all together now!) clicking like a crazy person. I got photos of sea lions, sea otters, bald eagles, and whales, whales, whales. For three hours I clicked. The captain announced we had to return to the dock soon, so we would wait just a couple more minutes to see one final surfacing of the whales. This was the closest encounter we had yet with the beasts; they were close enough we could see the scratches and scars on their skin. Then, with a flick of their tail they disappeared for the final time and the captain returned to the wheel to head back to the marina. I looked down at my camera, and saw a flashing message on the LCD screen: CF CARD FULL. Yep. The card held exactly the number of photos I took of the wildlife! The EXACT number! A coincidence? Meh. I say a kiss from God.

So what do I believe God was saying through these kisses? These little things that I could have lived without: things that wouldn’t have destroyed the trip had they not happened? “I love you, daughter. I enjoy they way you experience My creation through your art. Go for it!” My heart is singing, and I still get a big goofy grin every time I think about all this. Little things that mean so much. He loves me. He really loves me.

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