Peace on earth, Good-will to men

We got our Christmas tree yesterday, and got it up in the house this morning.

img_3306Brian is preaching on peace tomorrow morning. “The fruit of the spirit is… peace.”

This fall has been one with many changes, and at times, repeated times, it has not felt peaceful, at least for me and at times for Brian. Chase has felt it too, I expect. Figuring out a new normal is tough. Finding the different schedules of the family to be rather fragmented has created a level of frenetic and disconnected that has been challenging both practically and emotionally. We miss being together, and the easy communication and logistics that we enjoyed among ourselves even as we juggled all our different balls. We don’t anymore get the full breath of just being together and figuring it all out in the same space.

img_3305Most recently, in contrast to most of my fall, I have found myself thankfully aware of a growing sense of peace in the midst of it all. Simultaneously, however, I think Brian’s sense of peace underwent a decrease and I was reminded yesterday, by the sweet grace of the Holy Spirit I am sure, that I need to pray more for Brian, and for the boys, and our family. Specifically and continuously. A verse from my window-sill, Isaiah 26:3-4, came to mind, and I did my best to pray it all day. You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.”

Then this morning, after waking up early but slowly, together, after a good night’s sleep, Brian told me about Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem “Christmas Bells” which he had discovered this week as he studied. I broke out my 1886 Longfellow book (which I had found in an Edinburgh book store with my Grandma Kay in 1990) and found it there. Brian explainedimg_3321 that Longfellow wrote it in 1863 after two devastating events.
Just two years earlier, in 1861, his wife had died of burns when her dress caught on fire and despite all his efforts, including throwing himself on the flames, he couldn’t get it out fast enough. Then, in March of 1863 his eldest son had left home without warn
ing to join the Union Army.  In early December of that year, Longfellow received word that his son had been seriously wounded, but in the next few days, was
given a more optimistic report that he would likely (and did) survive without paralysis. On Christmas Day 1863, he wrote the poem that since has become a favorite carol.  As I read it this morning from that old book, I found myself teary in appreciation for what Longfellow expressed about the peace God has given us in Christ. He beautifully portrays the easy agreement we that we sometimes are able to give, then expresses the dark and doubt-filled days of grief and adversity, and finally pronounces the peace of God as a fact rather than an emotion, as the everlasting rock that remains, that does not sleep, nor change, nor fail, regardless of our surroundings and circumstances.

I heard the bells on Christmas Day/ Their old familiar carols play/ And wild and sweet/The words repeat/ Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
And thought how, as the day had come,/ The belfries of all Christendom/ Had roll’d along/ The unbroken song/ Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
Till, ringing, singing on its way,/The world revolved from night to day,/ A voice, a chime,/ A chant sublime/ Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
Then from each black, accursed mouth/ The cannon thunder’d in the South,/ And with the sound/ The carols drown’d/ Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
It was as if an earthquake rent/ The hearthstone of a continent/ And made forlorn/ The households born/ Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
And in despair I bow’d my head;/ “There is no peace on earth,” I said;/ For hate is strong/ And mocks the song/ Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
Then peal’d the bells more loud and deep:/ “God is not dead; nor doth he sleep!/The Wrong shall fail,/ The Right prevail,/ With peace on earth, good-will to men!”

I am thankful that in his grace he is helping me learn that his peace, like his love and grace, his hope and joy, are everlasting, true, and ever present, available, no matter what is swirling around in our changing circumstances.



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Two Years

Two years since my last look at this site, but I opened it up last night (inspired by my new journalism exploratory’s need for a blog), and it made me cry.

I have thought of posting, knowing that I will be glad some day to have taken the time to preserve the little moments. But I have also been too keenly aware of how devastatingly fast it is all happening and going, and I have found that I don’t have words or ways to capture it- the bitter-sweetness, the relentlessness, the combination of joy and laughter mingled with the regular angst that fills the days as the boys become young men and the days keep going and don’t stop to let me hold on to them.  And honestly, sometimes, most times, I don’t want to stop and reflect and write it down because it just is too sharp on my heart.

But my soul is softened more when I make myself stop and put it into words now and then. And I will be thankful- both now and later, I suppose. So I’ll try again to post more often.

Two years since my last post. So much has happened and yet a breath.

10 days ago we had a rainy weekend (worth celebrating!), and after church Brian wanted to go see if we could find snow in the Los Padres. Jesse and Liz and the Gardeners came with us and we headed up the 33 to Ojai and to the hills behind. We hadn’t been up there in probably two years and we remembered the first time we went up: to find snow, when the boys were little… img_3154

It was genuinely cold and crisply beautiful, and we all walked out across the bone dry Sespe creek, and out to the Piedra Blancas, the boys and Jesse running ahead, shooting the BB gun, cracking jokes, hiding and climbing and scouting, all still little boys, just in bigger bodies (and with funnier jokes).
My heart was full to the brim. And to top it all off, everyone was happy to take a family picture. And it is my favorite. My heart is full and overflowing.

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A Week in December

It was a full week- full of goodness, full of richness, full of the normal magic that characterizes my days. And I am thankful that God gave me the eyes to see the magic of his grace and these moments that make up this sweet life he’s given me.

IMG_3133We planned the Christmas party. I counted sign ups, Laura ordered the food truck and kept revising our head count, my mom helped me find centerpiece inspiration, my dad gathered pinecones, Brian cut mini-stumps with his chainsaw, I gathered my sweet old books in boxes.
Laura and I met at the property Saturday and tried our ideas on tables and hung ropes from trees for lanterns and made lists for appetizers and details. After church Sunday we had lots of help with setting up tables and moving chairs and dispersing books and candles atop the tables and in the trees; and then a few lingered and helped with details- my dad spread greenery, Finn sprinkled cranberries, my mom fine tuned each centerpiece, Chase hung lanterns and jars and carried boxes and carried drinks. Time for a quick trip home to gather appetizers and utensils and then back for final details and setting out drinks and appetizers. My mom chopped apples, my dad lit candles, Laura labeled spreads, the Lobos Truck made it,  and people started arriving… so many good people- neighbors, kids, old friends, new friends… 

IMG_3155Food and friends, carols and candles… a sweet night.

Monday night was time for Christmas trees- and shopping for Chase’s Casa Hogar orphan- with the gang.  One of our best traditions is this one.  Even El Pollo Loco afterwards is extra fun this night. Finn picked our tree this year- a little guy that he couldn’t leave behind. It’s perfect.Christmas tree gettingThen Tuesday, Chase’s first CCS basketball game. He looked great, as did all the boys- what a crew they are. It’s a great group of athletes and boys and it’s awesome that Chase gets to play with them. Mom and Dad brought dinner and stopped to eat with us at our house after the game.

IMG_3310Bedtimes have been sword drills… the opitome of the boys right now- sweetness, competition, sass, truth, love, spit… all together.  They are brothers through and through and the sword drills are brilliant- Brian laying with Kadeo, me keeping score from Chase’s bed, Finny ruling the roost from above…

sword drills

sword drills

Thursday night into Friday a second good rain in a week to lead into middle school community service day where Brian took the 8th graders to the VA, Chase packed and served lunches at Hope of the Valley Rescue Mission, and I served cocoa and cookies with my advisory at URM. Such a tremendous place- and a priceless experience for the kids. I wished Chase had been with me, but I think he had a really good time at his place too.IMG_3248Then the weekend! Chase’s city game Friday night- the early game this week- went well but not a victory this time. And when we got home Finn was green and shivery so a thermometer in the arm pit showed a solid fever and led to a solid couch presence for the duration of the weekend. Photo (39)

Brian and I went for a hike up Busch fire road Saturday afternoon before the boys’ game. Just the two of us. Crisp and cool and clean- and so nice to get to talk a little and breathe together.IMG_3313

The cheering crew came out for Kade and Finn’s game Saturday night and having been feverless most of the afternoon, Finn played a little too.

And Sunday again was good- I got to sit in for the sermon- Laura had Sunday school and my dad went and sat with Finn at our house. Brian talked about the peace and joy Christ brings but that eludes us when we seek it on our own. Again, I was struck by the sweetness of our church and of the husband God has given me and of the grace of Christ to live in.IMG_3286


The weekend came to a sweet close with carols at the creche with a gaggle of our Gathering folks and a troop from OLM leading the songs… IMG_3309Dakota and Lucielle hung with the big kids, and it was so great to see old friends from earlier Malibu days: the Jacobson’s were there and Jean Bozarth too.

A sweet week- full of moments special and normal… realizing the blessedness of a normal that is brimming over with magic.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory… full of grace and truth… And from his fullness we have all received grace upon grace. John 1:14,16

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Sabbath Weekend

Brian didn’t preach Sunday- Beau filled in.  And that gave Brian, and therefore all of us, a sabbath type of weekend.

Brian is good at making the most of his weekends off from preaching. He is good at resting in the best ways.

Friday after school we went downtown to Union Rescue Mission where we helped deep-fry turkeys for their feast on Saturday. What a place that is.

It was rainy and cold out. A tough -tougher- night to be on the streets. And there right on San Pedro Street, outside their kitchen, under pop-up tents on the sidewalk, close to 20 deep-fryers and their propane tanks, sizzled and popped, cooking up turkey after turkey.

They had started at 4am and would work through the night to cook around 700 turkeys which would feed 4000 or more people Saturday. They let us help for a couple hours.

The boys, armed with meat thermometers, oven mitts and “hook grabbers,” wove through the steaming fryers, peaking under lids, checking for doneness.  As the birds reached shimmering golden tan, the boys would hurry over, Kade with the oven mitt would lift the lid, Chase with the “hook grabber” would heft the turkey up, and Finn would poke the thermometer in. All three heads would lean close to read the temp and discuss readiness or further cooking.


Various passers-by stopped and watched, asking some questions, lingering in the residual warmth and inviting smells. We got to invite several to join the feast the next day. During the moments when the turkeys just needed to cook, we stood and watched. Thinking. Wondering. Waiting. As one of these pauses ended, and he headed back into the steamy frying zone, Finn turned and said to me, “I am having so much fun doing this.”

Saturday morning, we hit the road to adventure to a new spot Brian had read about- the potential of trout in a new creek in unchartered (by the Kellys) lands.  We drove up the coast to the 126, through the Santa Clara River Valley to I-5 and up the grapevine to Hungry Valley.

We crossed through the valley, crisp and clear, with cheerful boys and happy dog in the back, ooo-ing and awe-ing at the 4-wheel drive trails ribboning over hills and through the brush, with hillsides above freshly dusted with snow.  Hoping the road would stay open, we climbed up the winding mountainside, marveling at the increasing snow and the vistas of the valley below. Soon we were in a winter wonderland with every pine needle and twig individually frosted with crystal, glistening white.

At the top we got out and frolicked in whiteness. Didn’t take long for the cold of the white to hit snowball making fingers, but we savored the quiet, perfect winter on a little walk together, listening to the muted crunch of our feet and wondering at the crystal details of each twig and 4

Piling back in the warm car, we headed back down the hill, to explore the creek, where instead of the pristine white, we were umbrellaed with blazing oranges and yellows and reds. We climbed over and along the rocky banks, blazing a trail, catching glimpses of trout. boys in valley 2

Up and across, over and through the boys so big and strong now, mountain-goated over the rocky banks. The boys and I have switched roles already on these hikes: I am the one they wait for and offer a hand to as we climb hills and rocks. With sweet gallantry they offered to carry the camera for me or make sure I knew where to put my foot.boys and dog (1) 2

And then, after hitting a steep spot in the rocky canyon, we turned around and found our way back to the car, where Chase took the wheel for a little driving practice. I was in the co-pilot seat and Brian hung on the side, next to Chase’s open window.  Chase maneuvered around the dirt parking lot like an expert following his dad’s directions- laughing and making us laugh.  Chase drives 1

With Brian back at the wheel we made our way back to the 4-wheeling trails and put the land cruiser to the test up a couple crazy, rocky, straightup hills- Mom and boys squealing- I even had to close my eyes- and even Brian  even admitted that he was a little nervous on one of them.4-wheel1

After hours of grand adventuring we headed back toward home- needing and wanting to make it back in time to watch the Mulder kids so Scott and Laura could celebrate their 11th anniversary. We had a sweet night with our sweet friends, tired from a great day filled with all the best things in life.

Sunday dawned bright and busy as we had the annual Thanksgiving dinner in the evening so lots for me to do and organize.  I piled and organized stacks and boxes for all the trappings of a usual Sunday along with all the decor for the party, before heading over to the property. Church was sweet as always, and I got to sit in for Beau’s sermon after running home during announcements to put the turkey in the oven.

After church everyone helped set up chairs and tables, and a sweet gaggle of ladies helped sand and candle the jars and set them on the tables. Hannah stayed with me as everyone left and we finished the sanding of jars, hanging of lights, arranging of food tables etc.  Two Kelly boys and two Mulder kids played in the quiet with us.  Hannah wrapped silverware in napkins, I hung lights and string for thankfulness cards, and the kids chattered and played in the still afternoon. The kids gathered beautifully colored leaves and berries from the ground and littered them on the tables and they wrote thankful cards and hung them up.  It was quiet, and peaceful, lovely and comfortable quiet.

And after a bit of time at home, making green-bean casserole while Hannah studied for her test and I graded TKAM tests, it was time to head back.  A little time all by myself at the property, candles to line the driveway, snacks for ahead of time, more lights, dusting chairs, adjusting candles, thinking and praying for the sweet people that would come soon to this place.  The people God has given to me and my family- thinking on the sweetness of getting to do these things- to make a lovely night for them. A night where they could breathe and know that God had provided a family and a place for them. Where they could think on Him and thank Him for His grace and goodness.

IMG_1804People and dusk arrived together, candles lit, lights glowing, golden in the growing darkness- warmth and light beckoning amid the night. Food and people, laughter and talking and eating and gentle true friendship.  It was lovely. All of it. Sweetness and life, truth and grace.

IMG_1808I was tired by the end of the night when we got home. A deep tired in my bones. But my heart was full.

It was Brian’s weekend off from preaching- our sabbath weekend- and if you’d asked me how I  wanted to spend it ahead of time, I would’ve said by doing nothing but hanging around. I wanted to just rest. But I’m glad that we didn’t rest that way. I’m learning that rest can come in different ways.  I found rest in doing the work and activity God had orchestrated for me, in savoring in the family and the friends He has given me.  Even in busyness was rest. Even in tiredness my soul was rested, and filled with the beauty of the family and body He has made me a part of.

Resting in the best ways on our Sabbath 3

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Fall: mind and peace

Romans 12: 1-2  

I appeal to you, therefore, brothers by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Fall at church

Fall at church 

Philippians 4:6-7

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Chase- final cross country meet of his first season

Chase- final cross country meet of his first season

Colossians 3:1-2

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.

sunset session

sunset session

Isaiah 26:3-4

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.

Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord is an everlasting rock.

fall low tides and golden sunsets

fall low tides and golden sunsets

Romans 8: 5-6

…those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.

to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.



Fall has been with us now for awhile- bringing it’s usual contrast of the familiar and the new. In the bustle of the early school year, new faces mix with old friends, new classes follow familiar routines. At home, the same boys carry new responsibilities and think new thoughts, the same hearts fill bigger bodies. Crispness creeps into the morning air, but the afternoons hold summertime warmth.   The places, vast ocean, twilight hills, skies and sands together have lost their summer busy bright- instead now still and fall quiet, the golden slant of autumn sun glowing peacefulness.  Steady in the rush. New and old, the passage of time, the moment here and now and the longevity of years and truth. 



Brian’s been teaching at church on Romans 12.

I’ve been thinking of Philippians 4:8

Mind. Setting it- on the Truth of God’s love, mercy, gentleness, holiness. Thinking on these things. It changes my heart and life- willing sacrifice, emotion and decision- love, sacrifice, thanks, humility. 

And the God of peace is with me… life and peace, kept and guarded.

Sunset stillness

Sunset stillness

 Philippians 4:8

Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things… and the God of peace will be with you.

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This gallery contains 16 photos.

We went on a quick fishing outing Monday and Tuesday. The unique beauty of the Owens Valley paired with boys, dog, worms, fish, and thunder storms made for a great couple days. The plan had been to camp and fish … Continue reading

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Where I Am From

I am from MacDermids, Taymouth Castle and Kilin, families strong, devoted, honest.  I am a Thomas from Wales, a great-grandpa with a yellow house near a park who wanted to curl my little girl hair. I am from the Jennings and the Dennys, pioneers, stoic, proper, hand sewn, strong, jelly beans in a crystal bowl. I am from Jefferson Beach Road and Greenwood Place North after ferry rides and bridge crossings. I am from the prayers of my mother, from the prayers of her mother who dedicated her daughter to God before she was born and allowed God to hold her to it. I am from Calvin Presbyterian, scarlet purple, stained glass, Grandpa in the choir, potluck dinners in the fellowship hall with friends and family entertwined. I am from parents brave: venturing with little kids to the Amazon jungle, then leaving kids behind for Kenya, walking steadily. I am from my Grandma Kay’s kisses of greeting, junk drawer of surprises, and tree swing in the back, and my Grandma Thomas’s welcoming kitchen, beautiful gardens, and walks down the hill on the beach.

I am from evergreen trees, gray skies and drizzle, and snowy mountains peeking out behind clouds, from the top of Peabody hill, the little red school house, Canyon Edge Dr. cul-de-sacs flying on a red bike, dashing with friends through the old lot, house to house. I am from getting up to change the channel, VCRs as new inventions, and phone numbers with no area code, from Gilligan’s Island, Little House on the Prarie, Anne of Green Gables, and NBC’s Wild World of Sports.  I am from Star Wars and a new car called a Honda civic. I am from walks and tennis and A&W rootbeer, Mozart in the gym with my dad, the warmth and love of my mom as my biggest fan, the glue, unyielding in her love and perseverance. I am from a set dinner table and people stopping by, pulling up a chair to join us- cloth napkins and napkin rings. I am from looking things up in the dictionary and reading the Bible together after dinner, from being tucked in every night, and unconditional love frequently expressed.

I am from mills and log loaded trucks, majestic mountains, mighty ocean and salty, hard working families.  I am from flannel shirts, sheep-skin lined jeans jackets, chewing tobacco, rock and roll from live bands at pep dances. I am from basketball and volleyball teams for the Roughriders, and a whole town coming out for Friday night games. I am of the county road crew, driving truck and patching potholes for four tens all summer long.  I am from a brother determined and kind heading south to play and then to stay, a new sister-in-law, a friend, and beautiful girls of their own that I get to share.  I am of classrooms filled with bright young eyes, hearts filled with thoughts and questions, ideas struggling to find words, and words on pages that speak and teach and move hearts with beauty and truth and tragedy. I am of a husband’s love and faith and faithfulness, and the unimaginable joy of baby boys who are mine and yet God’s and who grow and spark and change too fast, my heart running around outside my body.  Stories at bedtime, a messy house, eyes brown, blue, green that look at me with love, to me for love, for help, for truth, for worth.

I am from God’s Word and faithfulness lived out by generations, and I pass on this legacy, full of grace and truth. I am from grandparents and parents who loved and let go and kept loving and I am learning that the letting go of motherhood is hard and beautiful at once, loving whole-heart-filled but slowly letting go.  I’m passing on high expectations buffered by grace. I will continue to look and speak gently finding there is much in every heart.  I will pass on the hard work and putting others first, the love of learning, and the acceptability of asking questions that I have been given. I am passing on sunrises together in the car and road trips through the night, good enough just to be together. I will be further gracious, further thankful, recognizing showers of beauty in the moments of the days.  I will remember that I am a river flowing, growing, changing myself and all those that come by, come through, come after.   I will remember with delight and cherish what has come before, what is now, and with joy flow onward in faith.

Inspired by:

Lois Lowry’s Newbery Award Acceptance Speech 

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