Dear Clayton,

I have written many letters about what I hope for you, advice I want to share, and prayers I pray for you.  In a way, this is no different, but I do want to acknowledge my specific sentiments for you on the occasion of your graduation from college! (And, I am sure it won’t be my last letter to you!).

I remember when you started school at Westlake Christian Academy.  We walked into the classroom and you held my hand tightly as you shyly surveyed the situation. Mrs. Wright came over and introduced herself and showed you around until you reticently let me leave. It was not long until you made friends with all the “Erics” and enjoyed going. The next year when we walked in the door to Mrs. Need’s classroom and you saw the crayons at each table, you burst into tears because you hated to draw and color! She was quick to give you a different job and soon you were helping all the kids in the class, since you could read and they couldn’t! That was a long time ago. You had some special opportunities in your education both in Illinois and in California; the memory highlights for me include the years I homeschooled you, Project Discovery and the field trips, Destination Imagination, and having the teachers at Beechwood tell me you “talked” too much in class! Then, there was the time your sister did the artwork for your AP history assignments because you hated the drawing part! I love the choices you have made, the friends you have chosen and the laughter and fun that been accompanying you all along the way.  One thing is clear: you are ineffable, intelligent and insightful!

You are wrapping up your college years and your formal education for now. While you are busy packing in the last minute adventures and packing up your apartment and coursework, I am packing away my memories and storing them in my heart! Additionally, I am busy reflecting on my failures as your first teacher and cataloging my regrets. So, one of the things that is difficult about parenting is when to step in and when to step back. My responses and over-reactions really have nothing to do with you and everything to do with wanting to make sure I have life under control for you (and your sister) each time you have entered uncharted waters. I regret that I often take my issues and make them yours! I also want to apologize for any times when I have co-opted your successes. I wish I had paid more attention, written down every cute thing you said or did in a notebook, scrapbooked all your adventures and videotaped more of your dad and his magic tricks. I taught you things, sure, but I am sorry for the things I never got to teach you but should have.  And no matter what I taught you, you have taught me more. You have no idea what it is like to watch someone grow up before your eyes, and be better than you in every way, but I hope that you get that privilege someday!

Before you cross the tassel over to the other side, I want to be the first to say, “Congratulations!” This is one of the big moments in life and I hope you will always cherish your college experience. I also want to remind you that no one is necessarily grading your work anymore but moving forward one day at a time, taking care of yourself, your stuff and the people you love is still part of your responsibility! Even more, studying God’s Word is no longer part of your coursework but it is hopefully a happy habit that you will continue all the days of your life. Stay in the learning mode; never stop learning and applying that knowledge. Most people do not finish college debt free; it is a rare gift. Learn to live below your means as it creates options, especially for generosity, and additionally it shows that you believe that God will always provide for you.  You learned to give 100% as a soccer player and as a teammate who thinks about the needs of others – that is essential all the days of your life! You learned to use your gifts and talents for the Lord and I pray you always will! Additionally, even though attendance is no longer required for a grade, show up anyway! Show up for people. Show up for worship. Show up each day. Be there. Dare to imagine your best self and expect that of others. Be fully present. Be decisive. Play to win (but sometimes let others win too).

It is hard to believe that you will soon be walking across the stage at Biola and receiving your college degree! Maybe every joy carries a bit of sorrow. That is definitely the case when I think about how proud your dad would be and how sorry it is for us that he is not here to witness this event. (I am sure he would have planned something magical as you cross the stage!)

Sometimes it is hard to realize that you are no longer my little boy who always wanted to be by my side (or your dad’s) and that now you are a polite young man who knows how to gracefully deflect his prying parent! Some things are still the same about you – you are brilliant, beautiful, talented, kind and mysterious! You have worked hard and I am unspeakably proud of the man you have become inside and out. More importantly, you should be proud of yourself! It was ALL you! I am honored that God chose me to be your mom. I am blessed by the ways that you are growing to be like your dad (and your heavenly Father too). I am inspired by the things I have watched at which you excel. I know you will go far in life and that you will take others with you!

I truly, honestly, deeply love you Clayton. Always. Never let go of this fact as you brave uncharted waters and bravely bring light into dark places. Life is short and full of wonderful memories and opportunities. Now you begin a new journey and I believe that God has many amazing things planned for you! No matter what is thrown in your path, no matter what happens good or bad, NEVER EVER take your eyes off Jesus!

As you leave home I say, “go with God…” (And you respond…”because God always goes with me!”





Ears to Hear Ex. 18:9-12

When God does amazing things in my life I am usually quick to share it within the household of faith. After all, it is worth celebrating! I am not usually so quick to share it with people who don’t know God in a personal way. I can give all kinds of excuses for why I don’t give God the credit He is due for the many blessings I have experienced. It is easier to share with those in the household of faith, because they won’t argue or negate the hand of God as quickly as I think the non-believer will.

Moses was a witness to His father-in-law, Jethro. Did Jethro believe in Yahweh? (After all, he was religious, a priest and his given name, Reuel, means friend of God). Did he think Moses was crazy to go back and face Pharoah in Egypt? (After all, he had spent 40 years with his son-in-law, hearing stories about the one true God, and about life in Egypt) Did he understand the issue with circumcision and his grandsons? (He may have known about the practice since he too was a descendant of Abraham).

I am so tempted to speculate about Jethro and his faith, but the reality is that we simply do not know! What we do know is that when he showed up in the desert, bringing his daughter and grandsons to join Moses, he heard about God’s miraculous deliverance, provision and power. Moses takes the opportunity to influence his non-Jewish family. He “declares the praises of Him who called [him] out of darkness and into His wonderful light (1 Peter 2:9). Jethro could see God’s good works and praise Yahweh (Matt. 5:16). When Moses shares all that God had done, Jethro’s testimony demonstrates faith. Oh, that I would always prepared to give an answer for the hope that I have (1 Peter 3:15). And that, like Moses, I would lead others to righteousness, joyfully giving God credit and worship He alone deserves.


Hougham the Bear







Happy Anniversary! #3

When Emily was little she had a very strong attachment to a teddy bear named Hougham. It was a gift given at a baby shower, along with countless other items she could have latched onto. We cannot say why she chose what she chose but when she was old enough to express her preferences and opinions it was Hougham! She took him everywhere and there was more than one time when we had to track him down, or had to drive out of our way to collect him when he was misplaced, or have him cleaned when he got in the way of sick germs. Emily loved Hougham and I often thought about the story of the Velveteen Rabbit. There were other toys that Emily cared for but nothing compared to her love for that bear! There was no real value in the bear, but it is safe to say that it was the most valuable thing Emily owned! It is also safe to say that if you loved Emily you loved Hougham. Some things are loved because they are valuable and some things are valuable because they are loved.

For me I am like that teddy bear and his friends. I am valuable because I am loved. So are you!

1 John 4:7,8. Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.

This verse says that God is love. Love that is indescribable, unconditional and complete! It is the kind of love that creates value in the object it loves. It is love that is dependent on the character of the lover and not the performance of the beloved. There was nothing inherently worthy about that stuffed animal and there is nothing about any of us that the God of the Universe should know our name let alone die on a cross for our sins! Romans 5:8 says that while we were still sinners (inherently unworthy), Christ died for us. That changes everything about who we are! The core of our identity is not based on who we are or what we have done. We have earned love in spite of our unworthiness because of the character of the Lover and not on our own performance!

We live in a broken world that constantly whispers that we will never be worthy or loved. Yet, God also whispers. We have confidence that his love for us is deep, endless, unfathomable because of who He is. Love is not one of God’s many activities; rather, it defines who He is so that everything he does permeates love!

The movie, Shall We Dance, has a great quote about the reason people get married:

”We need a witness to our lives.  There’s a billion people on the planet, what does any one life really mean? But in a marriage, you’re promising to care about everything.  The good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things, all of it, all of the time, every day.  You’re saying ‘Your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it.  Your life will not go unwitnessed because I will be your witness’.”

I would add to that. “I will give you value, because I love you”. In marriage we get a little taste of that unconditional love for which we were created. Even more, this is the kind of love that it takes to make a marriage work! Marriages are made of flawed people and neither are worthy of the love they are going to receive from the other. Marriage is a picture of the gospel. Just as we are sinners who are loved, forgiven, valued and accepted because of the One who loves us, so our life partner is valuable because we love them.

It might have seemed like loving your spouse would be easy when you got married, as it was a match made in heaven. But it didn’t take long to be reminded that thunder, lightning, hail, and tornados are also made in heaven! I am not telling you anything new when I say marriage is not easy! Love is not easy when it is based on the performance of the one loved. We let each other down all the time! Instead, we are asked to model love that creates value in the object of our affection. Decide to love in spite of performance. I am so glad you committed to love each other with a love based on your own choice and not the actions of each other. God will continue to work in and through your lives and someday, at the end of it all, the legacy of your marriage and ministry will not be tied to how well you loved each other, but how well, together, you loved everyone else! Together you will create more value in the objects of your love than you ever would alone.

May your marriage continue to grow to be defined by the same kind of love that Emily had for Hougham! And May you be valued because you are loved well by each other.

PS – Hougham’s best friend is Hollister!

PPS – Hougham is pronounced Huffum! Animals were named after the people who gave them to us (Thanks to Anne Hougham, Heidi Rayment and Laurie Waddell)

When I first met the Degraffts I was a newlywed, or about to be.  It was a serendipitous moment when the church (DFB) bought the “promised land” and we became neighbors.  God always knows what we need and he met that need beyond anything I could imagine in Earl and Connie. (and that is a good thing)
We gained a family as they generously welcomed the Mohler’s into their lives and home. We shared a yard and garage and many hours together, eating, playing games, gardening and becoming family.

Over the past 40 years we have exchanged gifts. Recipes. Letters. Ideas. Photos. We traveled together and to see one another when we moved apart. We have laughed and cried, prayed and played,  celebrated  and grieved together. We have grown in our faith, learned generosity and a multitude of skills because of Earl and Connie. They could pretty much do everything! Our family has been blessed and become who we are because we were de- grafted into your family tree!

I think about all of their abilities and their hands were used for others through so many many years! What can hands tell you about someone?  They can tell the stories long after one’s voice is stilled.  For Earl and Connie, they have been holding hands through life for 70 years.  That is quite a legacy! Having a long marriage is rare these days but having a great marriage is even more rare. Like a Unicorn. Their hands tell the story of the life and the adventure they have shared. Their hands tell a love story of their love for each other and of their love for the Savior.

Their hands have created.  Connie has sewn and stitched and crafted so many things physically and spiritually. Earl too has gardened and planted, growing both greenery and people (literally and figuratively.)

Their hands have served other and cared tenderly. They have lent a hand many times. Their hands have kept people safe. They have used their hands to bless and give and share. Connie has cooked and cleaned with her hands for her family and friends. Earl served and saluted in the Navy to protect the freedoms we enjoy in this country.  They both have carried out the mundane everyday tasks with their hands with love as they have cherished those god has laid in their hands.

These are hands that have played: Games. The guitar. The piano. With grandkids, pets and friends. Their hands have played in other countries around the world!

Their hands have prayed.  They continue to carry people and needs to throne room as they pressed their hands together and have talked to God each night. They have uplifted and blessed and held hearts with tenderness and trust.

Their hands have loved.  They have hugged and tended and held others well.  They have a hand-le on it now!
Gotta hand it to them. Not everyone’s hands tell such a love story. Nor do they look like they have worn so well! Let’s give them a hand!

So people think that I have a lot of connections; I don’t really.  But, I am related to someone who does.  I could tell you story upon story of being somewhere random and running into someone who knows my mom and/or dad.  It truly is amazing at the number of people who my folks have befriended and adopted and ministered to all over the world.  Here is the latest story:

Yesterday I went to Disneyland to meet up with Natalie Hazelrigg, a college friend.  I really wanted to see her but it was raining and she had laryngitis so I figured I wouldn’t go.  Eventually the argument in my head that favored going won and I went. We had a nice visit, got caught up and even avoided some of the rain!  When we decided go on a ride, we had no idea we were about to have a God-ordained appointment.

We decided to ride Soaring over the World in California Adventure and we were in line behind a woman with 3 little girls.  She looked tired and a bit frazzled.  The girls were very squirrelly and were creating fun as they waited in line. We were chatting and even though she was not trying to eavesdrop, something one of us said made her realize that we must be Christians, so she interrupted our conversation.  As we talked with her, we realized she too was a believer. She shared that one of the girls was hers; she was a single mom who had adopted her girl from an orphanage in China. Since Natalie was also adopted, we shifted our conversation to that and even engaged the girls in our visit.  The line was moving along as we made more and more connections.

When we all exchanged names, I was asked if I was Jewish.  I laughed and said no, but I was born in a Jewish Hospital and had a very Jewish sounding name and that my maiden name was Moses. (Here’s where the reality that EVERYONE knows my mom happens). Since we had already discovered that Janice was a former missionary in Russia and China with Crusade, by mentioning my maiden name was Moses sealed the deal.  She knows and has ministered with my parents! Yes, the world is small;  Yes, my parents have friends and connections everywhere. Yes, God has amazing timing and a great sense of humor!

By now we were at the spot in line where you tell the cast member how many are in your party and in unison we all said 6.  Within 20 minutes in line we had been joined together as the family of God.  By the end of the ride we were hugging. taking photos and exchanging numbers so we can stay in touch.  One chance meeting that was meant to happen is the reason I went to Disneyland yesterday.  One sister in Christ that needed encouragement met 2 new friends who committed to pray for her and her beautiful little girl. God is so good.  And He blessed me with amazing parents.  Now I have a new friend to pray for – Janice and Hope.

  • So my son likes rap and instead of a note or card, this year I did a rap.

A Wrapped up Rap for Clay
Here’s EXTRA just for you
Tryna wish you a GOAT 22
It may not be tight yet fire true
Still gonna drop it
I’m makin’ it legit

Clayton is my homeboy
Always really mellow
He is chill yet a lit fellow
Book smarts street smarts Hundo P
Dead – can’t even – He slays me

Like his dad Clay’s so fly
Bible-dude -it’s certified
I’ll stay woke. Life’s a rhyme
He’s wig ‘n jiggy all the time

I’m not cray – You snatched/on-fleek
Set squad goals –  always low key
Zooted on Jesus – that just savage
Living for Him is your adage

Keeping it real;you’re so trill
Ain’t got FOMO to say you’re dope
Turnt up to give you peace and hope
Love you son – you da’ bomb
Floppin it out  – from your mom

gotcha shooketh?!

Billy Graham

Well Dr Graham went home to heaven yesterday and everyone seems to be sharing their memories and stories of this amazing evangelist, known as America’s Pastor.  I too have stories!

My first remembrance is when I was probably 4 years old.  We sat really high up in the Coliseum in LA and I remember that when everyone started singing “Just as I am”, people got up and went way down onto the field.  I was very fearful that those people would get lost (when they really were getting found!). I have memories of other times growing up when we would watch a Crusade on TV.  I can still hear (in my mind) the comforting sound of the lilt of his voice and its familiarity with so many of my relatives from the south. I have read some of his books. I prayed for him as he counseled presidents and world leaders. I participated in crusades as I got older, most notably Orange County 1985, when I got to shake his hand. I visited the Cove in North Carolina and the Billy Graham Center in Wheaton.

I can think of people who have had a powerful impact on my life: my parents, Jim, Jerry Martin, my friends, teachers, among them.  I can list famous people I have met or seen in real life: Lucille Ball, Shirley Temple, Julie Andrews, Sonny & Cher, Mary Tyler Moore, Steve Garvey, among others. I can name people I want to meet when I get to heaven: CS Lewis, Sheila H. Mohler, Abe Lincoln, Peter, Ruth and Miriam. Of all the people in the world, Billy Graham is one of those that I am humbled to have been alive to see, learn from, and who lived a life worthy of the One who called him. I can’t wait to tell him thank you for all he did to advance the Kingdom.

Valentine’s Day Thought

“What do you do for Valentine’s day?”  This question comes up every year, as do the other holiday traditions that well meaning people ask every year. Traditions change for the empty nester, as they do when your life partner dies, but Valentine’s Day is a bit different.  People don’t like to hear the words”Nothing” and the response usually elicits pity. But, for the record, I probably said nothing when Jim was still living!

We did exchange a thought or a card and occasionally flowers or chocolate, but mostly the day was too busy or expensive and felt contrived.  Valentine’s Day, like carrying Christmas in your heart, is to be celebrated every day of the year. If there is a day to pull out all the stops it should be anniversaries!

Saint Valentine of Rome was a priest who was persecuted for performing weddings for soldiers who had been forbidden to marry, making him the patron saint of love!  The day (like so many other special days) is so much more than what we have reduced it to in the way of heart shaped candy and Cupid. The day is meant to celebrate sacrificial love; the kind of love that is lived out when it is really difficult like when the kids are sick, the budget is tight, and there are pressures at work. It is the lifestyle that models servanthood and consistent commitment all the days of one’s life, through the busyness, the brokenness, the ugliness.

My husband knew me better than anyone else and saw me at my worst yet he never stopped loving me, relentlessly prayed for me and faithfully served as a model of the love that Christ has for his bride. It is about building romance by reflecting God everyday. It is about bringing out the best in each other, putting others first, honoring your family, being thankful and learning another language, the love languages, that you learn to speak fluently.

This is Us is Us!

Grief is part of the landscape of life. It made itself at home long ago and yet I realized its presence in a profound way when my life partner left earth. It is always there and I ignore it in the same way that I function with a low grade headache or keep eating popcorn when I am already full.  Yet sometimes it still startles me.

I was first captivated by the television show This is Us because of the well-written script that captures the complexity of grief as it provides a fresh glimpse at the ongoing part that such sorrow plays in life.  Every time I watched over the last two seasons I have resonated with this depiction of family life and the reality of grief that changes over time but is still part of their lives.

I love the way that the life of Jack Pearson continues to impact his family and friends.  Perhaps the irony of Jack’s death is that he dies in a fire.  Grief is like fire; It is all consuming, terrifying, and immediate. It is a refining force that transforms perspective and faith.  The smoldering embers of a fire, the emanation of heat and the wisps of smoke that linger are a reminder of the fire’s intensity just like the impact of the afterglow of a life well lived.  This television show paints a realistic portrait of grief and every time I watch I feel like I am watching a great depiction of the life I live; this is us!

I am Gomer…

The one character in the Bible that I do not ever want to be identified with is Gomer.  Ok, well there are several others, but no matter how much I think I am different than Hosea’s wayward wife, it does not take more than a few seconds to realize I am not – different, that is!

The book of Hosea is quite overwhelming.  The thought of this guy going out and marrying a prostitute just because God commanded him to and then to keep chasing after her every time she leaves him is crazy!  If God told me to do something so bizarre I am sure I would dismiss it as not really something God would ever ask anyone to do, let alone me!  I wonder how clearly the Lord revealed this to Hosea! (just like the instructions to Isaiah to go naked and barefoot for 3 years). Really?!

But as I read the story I am stunned by the reality that I am Gomer.  I am the wanderer that Jesus is continually chasing after. And I am so grateful for Hosea’s obedience because thousands of years later as I run after the things of this world, Jesus keeps coming and finding me and redeeming me, bringing me back home as faithfully as I am faithless. Jesus keeps loving me No.Matter.What. Amazing love –  how can it be?

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