Dear Kelsey,

These past four years have been good, but way too fast. I wish I had more time to compose my thoughts, but as I realize I have had time, it still would never be easier! I hate this part of my “job”! There really is no easy way to say goodbye to you. I am reminded of the last episode of the TV show MASH, where this mobile army surgical hospital gets the long anticipated good news that the war is over and they are all going home. The doctors and army personnel are so excited until they all realize that going home means saying goodbye to the community they have created in war torn Korea. BJ Honeycutt can’t bring himself to say goodbye to Hawkeye because it has such a sense of finality and he cannot wrap his mind around the reality that he will have to live without the daily friendship he has enjoyed for the last few years. Right now I can relate to BJ and his sadness and reluctance to utter those 2 words that acknowledge the end of a relationship and setting that has shaped the ministry of EvFree HSM and my life too. Kels, I don’t really want to learn to live without your presence in my daily life and rhythm.

Goodbyes are hard. This one feels even harder for me! I love the story of Elijah and Elisha’s friendship and hard goodbye. Elijah is being taken to heaven in a fiery chariot and Elisha the younger prophet is refusing to leave and calling after him. While I do not want to imply that we are even close to being compared with these two (although I might argue the point that you have done miracles) and it is in reverse of our story,  as I am not the younger and you are not being swept up into heaven, still, there are similarities to us and that story. Elijah and Elisha were partners in ministry, one adopting the other just as we have claimed each other! (You will always be “my daughter”) Those two traveled together and shared adventures. They cared about each other. They saw and felt God work in mighty ways. Goodbye was hard for them because ministry had been so good. Yet, God is faithful even in the midst of hard goodbyes.

By God’s grace our stories have intersected for the past four years as we have grown together, learned and ministered together, and as we have seen God’s hand at work. Sometimes you have been the teacher and sometimes the learner. On a side note, I do think you have given more to this place than we could collectively ever give back. You invited.  You welcomed. You listened. You taught. You shared. You laughed and played. You ministered. You were vulnerable with some of the inner and fragile moments of your life. You prayed with and for so many (me). et al. Even though I know that some of this will not change just because you are not coming to this office everyday, I do believe with all my heart that even though this goodbye is hard, it is full of hope. Although your job as a girl’s director is over, your ministry will go on and the stories and the history that include you will become part of the legacy that is student ministries at this church. It will continue to encourage and inform what we do here. It will linger as a fragrant aroma for a long time. Additionally, flames will flicker in hearts of many. As we entrust your next steps to the Lord’s care, I am confident that He who began a good work in you is faithful to complete it.

It was a long time ago that the 2 words “GOOD BYE” were shortened from the phrase “God be with you”.  Many use it to mean “the end” but that is not what it really signifies.  Instead it really is a word of hope and blessing. Every now and again the traces of original meaning of God be with you come through.

So, Kelsey, for me, goodbye means God be with you as you listen to what God has for you for the next chapter of your life and the ones after that. God is crafting an amazing and surprising story of grace and hope through your life. I am one of the fortunate ones who was included in one sweet chapter! And I am reminded of God’s incredible presence in our lives over the past four years together. Those adventures have included laughter, tears, meals, tea parties, baptisms, more than one lake, trips to ER, studies, travels, meetings to name a few. Those glimmers of God’s presence have shaped and will continue to define us both as well as forever connect us.

Goodbye means God be with you as you continue to grow in grace and knowledge of the Holy One (Eph. 1:15 ff)

Goodbye means God be with you as you advance the kingdom and remain trustworthy with the keys of the Kingdom. (Luke 16:10, Matt. 16:9)

Goodbye means God be with you as you embrace holiness and grow roots deep (Jer. 17:7,8)

Goodbye means God be with you as you are leading a life worthy of the Lord, pleasing Him and bearing fruit.

Goodbye is a prayer. Wherever you are and wherever you go, God’s Spirit accompanies you. God be with you.

AA Milne wrote, “If ever there is a tomorrow when we’re not together…there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we are apart…I’ll always be with you.” Jesus said the same thing as he left planet earth for heaven, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age”.

Kelsey, I say Good bye // God be with you. God go with you. Goodbye. Farewell. Amen. I love you!

With great admiration and joy,

Miriam <+><

PS I want to be like you.

PPS I will miss your handwriting as much as your laugh!


Counting on Earth

Counting to 10 using the Earth

1 earth – only 1

2 poles – only 2  (north & south) // 2 tropics  – Cancer & Capricorn

3 climate zones – only 3 (Polar. Temperate. Tropical)

4 hemispheres and 4 winds – only 4

5 oceans – only 5. (Arctic, Southern, Pacific, Atlantic, Indian)

6  atmospheric layers – only 6 (Troposphere. Stratosphere. Mesosphere. Thermosphere. Ionosphere. Exosphere.)

7 continents – only 7 (Asia, Africa, Australia, North America. South America. Europe. Antarctica)

8 planets – only 8 (Mercury. Venus. Earth. Mars. Saturn. Jupiter. Neptune. Uranus. )

9 peoples – only 9 (micronesian. melanesian. african. indic. australian. polynesian. american indian. asiatic. european)

10 cloud types – only 10 (cirrus – cirrocumulus – cirrostratus – altostratus – altocumulus – nimbostratus – cumulus – stratus – comulonimbus – stratocumulus)

When I retire

Now this is a subject I have not considered.  And yet 2 friends are retiring this month and 2 others are going part time in anticipation of retirement soon.  Is retirement a biblical concept? I don’t think so, but I don’t think that makes it wrong unless when you retire you actually retreat from the front lines.  In Numbers 9:24-25 there is a reference for the Levites to work from age 25 to 50 and then retire from serving in the temple.  I kind of hope no one reads this verse or applies it!  We do not need any more excuses from old people that they “served their time” or that they are “too old” to minister.  Nor do we need any young people to have reason to marginalize or devalue the generation before them. Actually, it is bad hermeneutic to base an entire theology on one verse. The only other verse I can think of is Prov. 6 which reminds us that the winter is coming and to look to the ant, who works hard to prepare for the winter (which I guess we could interpret for old age). Storing resources for the fall and winter seasons of life is smart and logical. The idea of retirement is really a modern benefit of the Social Security act and I cannot imagine that Charles Ingalls or any other working class person ever even contemplated the idea.

My parents are my heroes.  They actually chose to retire early so they could redesign their lives around ministry; they went back to school and then they went to the mission field.  They continued to advance the kingdom and not retreat from it! Now I am not a runner – I actually hate running!  But the idea of a marathon like life.  Paul tells us to run in such a way that we can win (1 Cor. 9:24) and a good runner knows that it is important to get off to a good start.  Similarly it is important to plan for later NOW! Then, a runner needs to pace themselves just like we have to plan and pace out our savings and spending.  To win a race a runner has to pick up the pace as they get nearer to the end and finally sprint to the finish line. Oh I hope I don’t ever stop running the race, but can kick it into high gear and sprint to the finish line!

I think I have some vision of what I think retirement will be like but from what most people say, it is nothing like the way they imagined it.  For example, I imagine I will have time on my hands.  I will no longer have a 45 minute commute to work.  I won’t have to put up with entitled coworkers who think that there is too much work to do and they have no idea about how easy they have it!  I imagine I will have time to exercise, read, scrapbook, learn a new language (or at least brush up on my Spanish).  I will retrain my musical skills with the guitar, piano and clarinet.  I will travel – a LOT! I will finally write that book.  I will throw tea parties and go the extra mile for all my friends.  Yeah – right….

Reality will set in and exercise will still be at the bottom of my priority list and I will still have pains in my joints and all manner of excuses.  I will miss my friends and colleagues and will wish I could interact and stay in their world and culture, even on the fringe.  I will still have books I need to read and pictures will still be in boxes, but now I will not have a reason to read the book and I will have no idea who it is in the picture! I will probably not travel because I won’t be willing to go without a suitcase and be unwilling to pay extra to take one! I will still brew tea, but no one will come to a party past 11 am because they can’t handle the caffeine and I probably won’t be out of bed until noon.  So much for that idea!  It will be easier to listen to my kids play instruments anyway. Well, I think retirement will be an adjustment, which is an understatement.



Sarah & Patrick!

So last week Sarah Noelle, my sister’s daughter, went on a vacation to Europe where her long time boyfriend romantically proposed in Paris in front of the Eiffel Tower.

It hardly seems possible that she is old enough to get married; it seems like only yesterday she was playing with American Girl dolls and having tea parties with Emily and Vanessa!

There are not enough words in the English language to describe all I want to say and all the emotions I feel.

Sarah, You gave your heart to Patrick a long time ago and now you two are moving forward with plans on making the dream of establishing a new family a reality. So many of those dreams and expectations will come true. Some will not be even close to what you imagined. They will be even better! There will be some pain and loss, but don’t let that pull you apart or away from God. I pray that you both will always lean in to trust God with every dream and every disappointment.

Life has a sense of ebb and flow, like the tides. But in spite of the low days or the high tide events, keep choosing to love. No matter what. Count your blessings and remind each other of all the countless ways God has faithfully shown His favor.

I am praying for you both as you prepare for this day but mostly for your happily ever after.

With much love,

Aunt Miriam

My Current Rant:

When I hear leaders who are barely out of college and with very limited experience, who are in a training position, comment that people in their mid to late twenties are too old to relate to students I feel even more marginalized than I am and how arrogant you are.

When I watch leaders treat parents with a lack of respect as I hear them discuss those raising the current youth in the church while rolling their eyes and thinking they know better than those entrusted with the job, I feel angry and defensive. Just wait until you try to parent well and you are maligned by those working with your kids.

When I see inappropriate posts on social media from those who are working with students, I am offended because you are undoing everything you say by your double life. Kids are watching you.

When I observe people who make more of themselves than Jesus, and live life with a poor work ethic, I am frustrated. How does that honor the Lord you say you love?

When I watch lazy pastors not care for the flock, it pisses me off. When they cancel events or do things half-heartedly or half-assed I am sad for what they are really teaching the next generation about entitlement and narcissism rather than putting others first.

I really used to think that I had a lot to offer. I spent 25 years in youth ministry focused on junior high students. I wrote curriculum. I trained leaders. I led trips. I answered God’s call on my life. But none of that matters today. Today I get up and go to work. I sit by and watch people make mistakes in ministry and yet I am not asked for advice or wisdom or accountability. I am stunned and hurt by it all.

I know things are different now. I get that the practices of ministry had to change but that does not mean that life is better now than it was before. It is only different. In fact, things done today would not have been okay back in the day just as some of the methods I used I could not use anymore. Styles of ministry need to stay relevant by adapting yet some things do not change. Jesus and the Word are always relevant. Stages of development are the same. Kids are kids and need boundaries and mentors. Everyone still cannot survive more than 3 seconds without hope. People are still dying with knowing God’s grace.

I am now irrelevant. I know on a personal level there are people whose lives I affect. However, looking at the bigger picture, I am increasingly convinced I impact nothing. It is difficult to find meaning in a culture where I no longer have purpose. I don’t want to “rest on my laurels”, reliving the days when I felt that I mattered, but it is lonely to feel that I no longer do matter and I am without a purpose. I am marginalized by my age, my race, my gender, my financial state, and sometimes even my marital status.

There are some things that no longer have a purpose: a palm pilot, a typewriter, a stenographer, carbon paper, message and fax machines, film, slide projectors, encyclopedias, et al.

Since when did it happen that heart matters more than ability and that training and education are no longer valued? Since when did experience and wisdom become a liability? Since when is it okay for sin and foolishness to be tolerated while speaking the truth in love is seen as unkind? Since when is it okay for us to look the other way and not hold each other accountable for the things we say and do?

I know that these thoughts run the risk of giving me the label “depressed” or “whiny” but I really am not. I am happy overall. Even though I am not withdrawing from life, it is withdrawing from me. My kids are leaving the nest. My career is over but the bills are not! There are few demands on my schedule apart from those I put there.

Relevancy is very rewarding and I am struggling to adjust to not being needed or important. That is harder for me (because I am not used to it) than all the stress of mattering and being relevant. So, how do I master irrelevancy? How do I learn to be okay with not having a purpose or goal? I can easily spend a day or two by myself, retreating from the world and its stresses but I am not sure how to manage for a year or for the rest of my life. And, I am open to suggestions!

While irrelevancy can lead to freedom to re-create and re-define a life, to take risks and work towards living authentically, it is not in my wheelhouse to not care about how or if my life impacts anything.

Lord, help me to learn to take pleasure in the activity and not the impact. Help me to learn how to celebrate purposeless interactions without guilt. Teach me to find pleasure in life without needing to fix anything, problem solve or prove something. I need you to help me to make a difference without any goal in mind. I want to live with open hands that allow you to bring the good from the bad, without my help!

 We all need a dose of humility from time to time. Growing smaller means He can increase! Feeling “less than” can actually be healthy. It helps us grow a perspective that is grateful and dependent. Diminished worth in the eyes of those around me does not change God’s value and purpose for me. 000 means reset; it means starting from today I stop looking back and I press on to win the prize for which God has called me.

Next time I will tell you how I really feel  but now I will go back to looking at everything with myopic glasses and my lips zipped.

Mother’s Day 2017

So I went to church and then Clayton and I went to see Grandma for Mother’s day!  We wandered around Roger’s Gardens.





After work, Emily and Connor met us for Dinner.


Mom, I just don’t understand the soap from a casino!  Odd, even from you!

Hellos and Goodbyes

Liam Elwood and I started a little game and it has grown.  It is the typical word exchange as he leaves my office and heads to the preschool.  Now Olivia is verbal enough to join in.  We have come up with several different rhymes to say hello and goodbye. Super fun!

Oh hi, firefly!//What’s the tale nightingale?//What’s the word hummingbird?//What’s the story morning glory?//What’s shakin’ Bacon?//What’s the deal lemon/banana peel?//How now brown cow?

See you later, alligator // After while, crocodile // Bye-bye, butterfly // Give a hug, ladybug // Toodle-oo, kangaroo // Adieu cockatoo // Toodles, Poodles // See ya soon you big baboon.// See ya soon raccoon.// Time to go buffalo. //Take care teddy bear.// Take care, polar bear //Have a good day blue jay. //Out the door dinosaur. //Hang loose mongoose. //Mañana iguana// Hasta manana piranha //Leaving now, woodsy owl//So long, King Kong// Be sweet, parakeet //That’s fine Porcupine//Cheerio Hippo // So long ding dong //Pip Pip catnip or spaceship// Adios Amigos or Hippos //Farewell, bluebell //Fare-thee-well, you gnu gazelle //Chop Chop Lollipop// Sayanora Striped Zebra// Can’t stay, Sting Ray. //Can’t be late, Primate.//Gotta run, Dragon or Skeleton//Gotta go, Tangelo //Gonna scat, kitty cat //Hop Hop lamb Chop// Till then, Penguin //Kick it Cricket //Head on out, rainbow trout//. Take it easy, Manatee//In an hour Sunflower//Maybe 2 Kangaroo//Ciao Ciao Brown Cow//Better Swish Jellyfish//Better shake Rattlesnake.

These are a few of the little bonuses of working where I work.  Happy thoughts! Fun kids! Blessings!  Understand rubberband?!



For Want of a Nail

There is a nursery rhyme that has a great message about the importance of details and ripple effects.

For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

Something of great importance may depend on an apparently trivial detail.  The rhyme is really a proverb in which some little detail can impact the entire war!  It reminds me of the books about giving a mouse a cookie.  The point is often described as the Butterfly effect.  This is the theory that one small butterfly flapping its wings can eventually have a far reaching impact on future events, perhaps even a tornado.  A very small change in original conditions can cause a very different outcome; a major catastrophe can be traced back to a small error which causes a domino effect of consequences.

Saturday I was using my trailer and the hitch was making an incredible racket as I drove from Downey to Orange County.  I figured it was the way the hitch was attached to the Subaru since I didn’t have any trouble with the hitch attached to the Toyota.  George Sopp backed up my car and said he thought the ball was too small.  Well, he was right!  Just 1/8th of an inch made all the difference.

This is what happened.  As I drove home the ball fell off and the trailer slid under the car in the middle lane on a busy street.  Fortunately, I was able to get the trailer off the highway into a parking lot before an accident happened.  Even more fortunate was the close proximity to a U-Haul dealer where I was able to get a new ball that was the right size and have help securing it to the hitch. Best of all, there is no more rattling.  Who knew that 1/8th” could make a difference?!  For the want of a nail!

Floods and Puddles

My mind flooded with thoughts of a woman I never met. Today would have been Jim’s moms 91st birthday.  How do I know that?!  Why can’t I let some of those little dates go?  Her only brother will be buried next week and I wonder if I should go and take some sand from Barbados.  Anyway, I wonder what it will be like when I meet her in heaven.  I am so glad that God “surprised” her with Jim; I am grateful for the ways she raised him.  I wish I could have known her in this life.

It is ironic that I am also showered with new thoughts and memories of my Jim.  My life has refreshing puddles of hope and joy.  Some are made by my tears of regret and sorrow but they are happy nonetheless.  Some are splashes that encourage me.

Tonight, I went to a reunion of the Downey High class of 1973 at Frantone’s.  I realized that I actually know more people from Jim’s graduating class than I know from my own high school.  And the stories! I loved hearing about Jim and how kind and real he was, even as a kid.  Friends from his elementary school, boy scout troop, band in junior high and high school, and church all raved about him (even though he was not the focus of the gathering) and kept stating that there was nothing but positive things to say and fun memories of the person who God chose for me.  I love that I was invited.  I have heard these names over and over from Jim and other spouses shared that they heard Jim’s name just as often in their homes!   He lived on as they shared their memories of growing up and doing life together.  I am so grateful for the stability and comfort of a place called Downey.

Flooded with memories.  Refreshing grace. Hope in the puddles of joyful face of Jim.

Hope is a Weapon

These are words I penned 3/21/09.  I wanted to add some new/more thoughts about hope so read below….

Happy Spring! The season of renewal and hope! Today Jim had several visitors and worked hard on his Physical therapy in the morning. After lunch we drove to LA for his planning session with the radiology department, where he had a mask of his head made. He starts 6 weeks of radiation next week in Ontario.

Tomorrow he heads back to LA for an MRI.

Everyday, in the midst of visits, new routines, upheaval and uncertainty, we cling to hope. One of my favorite lines in one of my favorite movies, Shawshank Redemption, is: “Never Forget. Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things. And no good thing ever dies”.

Emily Dickinson, a favorite poet, wrote:

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune–without the words,
And never stops at all,…

Someone once said that a person can live 3 weeks without food, 3 days without water, 3 minutes without air, but only 3 seconds without hope. (Perhaps 3 hours without a computer/phone – or is that pushing it!?) Biblical hope as opposed to optimism or wishful thinking is an amazing thing because it is certainty, a confident expectation, rooted in promise and a trustworthy God! So, we are full of hope and we are ready to give an account to anyone who asks of the hope that lies within us. We are singing about the best of things: HOPE!

We long to be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer (Rom 12:12). Amen.

Flash Forward to 2017.

Today I am reminded that Hope is a weapon.  The biblical definition of hope is not at all like human uses of the word.  Hope is a word that can be used over and over and not used enough.  It can mean anything like I hope the Dodgers win the World Series to I  hope you don’t lose your job.  Similarly, the word love in English does the same thing.  It can mean that you love ice cream or the beach to I love my spouse. Just as the Bible says that God is love (I John 4:7,8) it says that Christ is our hope (Col.1:28). (An interesting side thought is that the Holy Spirit produces faith!) the regular use of the word hope includes uncertainty. But biblical hope  does not convey doubt at all (as in I hope so), rather it means confidence, security, assurance. There is never a “so” after the word hope in the Bible.

Biblical hope desires something good in the future BUT it expects it to happen!  And even more, it is confident that it will be a reality! Hope is more than just logical or mathematical certainty, it also includes an assurance based on the character and will of the person.  For example, I have certainty/ hope that my son will graduate from college and I did not need to say “I hope he doesn’t drop out.” Of course I still might be wrong, but then again all the Muslims in the world might convert to Christianity this afternoon.  While both are logically possible, I am still pretty confident that the first will happen and the latter will not happen because of what I know about the human will. There is a certainty that comes from knowing about a person.  Similarly, because I am certain in God and his character and will, I can sleep at night.  I can make it through rough times.  I can say, “Hope in God and expect great things” and I do not have to add, “cross your fingers or don’t hold your breath!” Hope is only as good as what you “put it in”; when it is founded on the Rock there is no doubt!  In Hebrews 11:18 it says that Abraham, against all hope became the father of many nations.  I think that is because it was humanly impossible and yet hope looks away from man to the promises of God.  Paul tells us that Abe’s hopeful faith was reckoned as righteousness.

So how is hope a weapon?  Studies show that hope can be transformed into biochemistry. Attitude can directly be linked to how hopeful we are.  In fact our attitude can lead to a perspective on life that is either optimistic or pessimistic and that can also affect our health.  Hoping in God does not come naturally but the Bible says in Hebrews 11, the great chapter of faith which begins with hope, “now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we cannot see.” This carries the idea that all the actions of the heroes of the Bible were made possible because God honored their faith based on hope; all the confidence that comes from knowing for sure, without question, what we have been promised in God’s word as we lean into Him! Accepting the gift of eternal life means that hope is based on the entirety of God’s word, the entirety of God’s character, and the finished work of Christ. I can live with endless hope, while those who don’t know what I know live thinking that life has a hopeless end. It all boils down to this – hope is the full assurance of faith!  It is the part of faith that focuses on the future or faith in the future tense!

People who quit are people who hold on to defeats and setbacks.  By contrast, people who persist are people who see each experience as another opportunity. Often we have to wait for something we want.  If we purchase something online we have to wait for delivery. If we are going on a trip we have to wait with anticipation.  Hope is the same way.  If we have something we don’t have to hope for it.  But if we don’t have it we have to wait patiently. Billy Graham said, “I’ve read the last page of the Bible.  It’s all going to turn out all right.”

So hope sharpens resolve. It pushes back doubt and despair. It attacks grief and self-pity.  Hope increases victory by never failing, giving up, losing, or retreating.  Hope increases as we are grateful, through the Word, declaring and worshipping, remembering and leaning in.

Other thoughts:

Hope in God is a shield in life. It is a defensive weapon and protects us.  (Ps. 33:20)

As we remind ourselves of God’s faithfulness, hope grows and we are able to quiet a downcast spirit. (Ps. 33:18-22)

As believers we are called to give answers based on the hope within us (1 Peter 3:15) Hope is unending (Ps. 131:3)

Hope is to be fixed on Grace (1 peter 1:13-16)

Hope is built through trials.  It is made stronger as we persevere. (Romans 5:3-5) (James 1:2)

Hope defeats discouragement. It is like a reservoir of emotional strength.  It doesn’t disappoint (Romans 5:3-5) (Ps. 42:11)

Hope gives strength to repay evil with good. It acts as a shield against self pity.

Hope gives a second wind to keep going and not give up.

When I am tempted it is hope that helps me hold fast to the way of righteousness.

Hope is like a tank that needs to be filled daily.  Ps. 71:14.  As for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more. Praise and a thankful heart keeps the reservoir overflowing with joy!

Rom. 12:12 – Be joyful in hope!

As we rest in him without worrying about tomorrow since it is already taken care of by God Ps. 62:5.  We can be secure because of hope (Job 11:18)




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