Monthly Archives: March 2010

Final Words

The final words I had with both of my parents before they died remain with me. In 1997, my mom died, after a long and painful battle with cancer.  I knew the day would come to say goodbye, but until the day came, I had no idea that I longed to tell her certain things or that I might need her to comfort me in that moment.

The door to the classroom opened and a woman walked to the front of the class with a note in her hand. The professor called my name, I came forward, and then left the room.  I needed to call home.  It was urgent.  So, I found a small conference room on campus with a phone.  And I called.  Dad answered and told me that mom needed to “say goodbye.”  Tears swelled in my eyes at the words.

My mind raced and the words spilled out. I spoke to her about how much she had meant to my life.  How I hoped I would be as good of a mother as she had been to me.  I listened as she told me all would be fine when she was gone and that she was grateful I had a loving husband and two beautiful children.  We parted with “I love yous” and hung up.

I hadn’t noticed that the conference room had a door adjoining the office of a professor and that the door was slightly ajar. The professor overheard my conversation and later told me so.  She said that she couldn’t help but overhear.  And, she said she hoped that she would be as poised when the time came for her to say goodbye to her mother. I’m certain she was.

Her words meant a lot.  And still mean a lot to me because they reminded me of the importance of sharing our hearts with those we love. I wondered why it took me to the end to say those words to my mom.  And, it made me wonder how I would feel today if I had not gotten the chance.

I wondered if my mom had prepared what she would say to me and whether she wondered why it had taken her so long to say those words.   But, perhaps she just knew she needed to comfort me at a time when I needed it.

As we walk through Holy Week, these thoughts come to the surface because Christ, in anticipation of the cross, spoke to his disciples during this time. As a fellow blogger noted this week, He prepared them for what he knew was to come. His words provided direction, comfort, and peace to the disciples.

Christ’s experience and foresight teaches me not only what He wants His disciples to know, but to engage in meaningful conversation and relationship daily. I won’t always get to prepare for and have those last conversations like I had with my mom.  But, I have today to spend time with those I love and those I meet along the way.  To reflect Christ, to share my heart, to comfort others, to love deeply.

Lord, help me to reflect Christ, share my heart, and love deeply today.

— Godspeed, Elizabeth


Finding Peace By Doing Less and Lingering More

As a teacher, I feel uncomfortable–or at least uneasy or slightly off-balance–in the classroom until I can look in each student’s eyes and call each student by name. I teach some large classes–from 40-85 students. The first day of class, when I enter the classroom, I feel distant and impersonal. In recent years, with laptops open and students sitting in auditorium style rows, I see only eyebrows and foreheads as I gaze toward the back of the room.  One of my colleagues calls this “teaching to eyebrows.”

I can’t teach to eyebrows. And so, I learn my students’ names so we can engage in class. I learn them so that when we pass by each other on the campus grounds, we can meet eyes and exchange hellos and engage in conversation. I learn their names so that, hopefully, they know, as individuals, that they matter to me.  It is up to me, as the teacher, to take the first steps, to create the atmosphere in the classroom and to enter into relationship with them.  It sometimes means that I teach less material as I engage the students more–but, as a brilliant teacher who I know once said, it is better to “teach less, better.”  The sacrifice of discarding some materials is worth the opportunity to engage students individually and, ultimately, more deeply.

The teacher’s podium, otherwise, is lonely. I need that relationship with my students. But, I imagine my students need the relationship with me, too. I know students sometimes feel invisible and distant, just as the teachers feel lonely and distant.  We need to connect and engage.

I imagine our pastors sometimes feel the same–lonely or distant–looking out on a sea of faces hundreds deep. They don’t have a seating chart like I do.  They can’t limit enrollment–nor do they hope to.  But, I imagine they feel lonely up there or disconnected from those they teach and lead in prayer.  I wonder if Christ felt that way too when He taught to the crowds of thousands.

As our pastor said yesterday, we need to “linger” in relationship and not worry so much about efficiency–not worry so much about getting things done. When I linger in relationship–with Christ and with others–and put aside my “to do list,” I find the peace that Christ offers. I do less–leave a few emails unanswered, a few dishes in the sink, a few weeds in the garden, a few chapters untaught.  But, I have peace, the peace Christ offers.  The peace the world of efficiency and tasks cannot offer.

I can’t teach to eyebrows.  I can’t find Christ or love or community in a “to do” list. Just like I need to “teach less, better,” I need to  “linger more, better” in my relationship with Christ and others.  There I will find Christ’s peace.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

John 14:27

–Godspeed, Elizabeth

The Fabric of Authentic Community

Sometimes we find authentic community where we least expect it. Last night I drove alone in the rain and dark to the home of a friend–a woman who I have known since I was 4 or 5 years old.  As I stepped out of the car, I heard two familiar voices–two voices I had  heard only once in 32 years.  We loudly and enthusiastically greeted each other. Hugs–held slightly longer than usual–given all around.  When we reached the front door, we let ourselves in and hollered a warm greeting up the stairs.  I felt like a kid on my way to a birthday party.

Others had already arrived and we greeted one another joyously–loudly, almost as though we were intoxicated. Eleven friends, all women, who had reconnected–on Facebook–after 32 years.

Those 32 years apart did us some good. We each remembered the stories a little differently. We laughed. We cried. And, we shared openly about the years after high school–the good, the bad, and the not so pretty–that had entered our lives over the past 32 years.

Grace poured over us. Our story existed not in the 32 years apart but in the 18 years that had preceded it–in the mess and joy of a middle-class childhood in the Pacific Northwest.  Eleven women of various faiths and household dynamics.  Eleven women who walked–or stumbled–awkwardly–through braces, training bras, puberty, first crushes, first kisses, and first loves.  Eleven women who had seen each other through it all during those years–suicides, eating disorders, abuse, and risky behaviors; love, bat mitzvahs, and confirmations.

Somewhere among the mess and joy of growing up, we grew into a community. We were knit together. Lives weaved into a beautiful fabric that, in our youth, we had not even realized or appreciated.  And now, that fabric, with all its flaws and beautiful colors and textures, enveloped us.

I smiled. So this is how authentic community feels. As I shared with those women last night, I understood God’s definition of  living in community. And, today, I realized how much  my heart has longed to know  that tangible, authentic, community.  A community that endured much and grew closer because of, or in spite of, what it endured.

And, I pause: where is that authentic community in the rest of my life–at church and in my neighborhood? I see glimpses of it.  Beautiful glimpses. But, not like the community that sprang from the innocence and openness of childhood. In authentic community, I know the beautiful, heartfelt moments. I know the laughter that washes over us and how we laugh until we cry.

In community, I know Christ. Those ancient, sacred words remind me,  “love one another.” In those moments I know fully what loving one another means.  My cup runneth over.

–Godspeed, Elizabeth

Finding God and Joy in My Perfect “Mismatched” Marriage

“Be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.  Try always to be led along together by the Holy Spirit, and so be at peace with one another.”

–Ephesians 4:2-3, TLB

This scripture speaks loudly to me in the context of marriage. If only I could say I consistently lived by these principles. As a Christian married to a loving, caring man who is not a believer, I have lived a range of emotions that don’t always reflect Christ well.

I sit in the pews of church–alone. As communion starts, I fight back the feelings–the longings. I watch as couple, after couple, after couple and family, after family, after family, walk together toward the table. They wrap their arms around each other and pray before the table. They drink from the cup and they break the bread of communion, together.


I ache.  I wish. I hope.  And, I think to myself, “If only . . . .” I take my eyes off Christ, and I think only of me. The jealousy and “if onlys” reflect what I want.  These feelings linger–sometimes barely there and other times more pronounced.  I think of what I don’t have, instead of the incredible gift that I do have–the incredible, loving, brilliant, hysterically funny man who God chose for me.

I need to fix my eyes on Christ. Because, more than my longing to stand before the communion table with my husband, I long for him to know Christ.  I long for him to know God’s grace and mercy.

And so, in the early morning hours as I wake, I roll over, wrap my arm around my love’s middle, hold him tight, and  pray. I pray for us–for the Holy Spirit’s presence in our life–and that we will be led together by the Holy Spirit.  I pray for my husband–that God will pursue him and prepare his heart.   And, I give thanks for the incredible gift of marriage–with all its mountain tops and valley floors and all the paths along the way.

When I seek Christ’s face,  I live the rich reality of my marriage with the man who loves me deeply, who makes me laugh, and who still calls me his bride some 23 years later. And I am at peace with God’s plan.

Instead of thinking,”If only. . .,” I breathe softly, “Amen.”

Note: In this story,  I hope to honor my marriage and show my deep love and devotion to my husband.  Perhaps those in Christian marriages will understand a little more about mismatched marriages, and know that our struggles are not so different.  And, perhaps by sharing my story, others in mismatched marriages will know that they are not alone.

The Rich Reality of Marriage.

“Be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.  Try always to be led along together by the Holy Spirit, and so be at peace with one another.”

–Ephesians 4:2-3

While change is difficult, marriage can amplify the difficulty. When two people come together to make decisions, two opinions, two approaches, two sets of feelings enter the conversation.

Often during my marriage–23 years and counting–I know my husband and I have failed to work together to make decisions.  One of us would just make a decision and bring the other along for the ride–cajoling, nudging, pushing, and even pulling at times.  Other times, we have thoughtfully walked through the decision-making process, together.

Sometimes, I want change for our life, but I feel held back because of where my husband is in his work or with his health or something else. I’ve thought, more often than I want to admit, “If it were all up to me, I would . . . .”  I feel frustrated or stuck. I feel helpless and impatient.

I let my selfishness suck up my energy and my vitality. Instead of appreciating the moments and the journey together, I waste my energy on wishes and hopes and desires that beckon me away from this life, this reality.

But, marriage is my “rich reality,” as Nora Gallagher calls it.  And, rather than live under the illusion of my readiness for change and my desire–I need to live in the truth of what marriage means. I need to see and appreciate the richness of the journey.  I need to live the story of our marriage that God has provided us.   I need the rich reality of this loving man that God has blessed me with.

Together, we need to be “led along together by the Holy Spirit” and to “be at peace.”  Ephesians 4: 2-3. We need to be led in this journey. So simple.  So much easier than nudging or pushing or pulling or cajoling.  I feel peace just at the thought of being led.

Godspeed, Elizabeth

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