Dinosaur Parks

A while back, my friend John thomas and I were discussing Dinosaur parks and that lead to the creation of several haiku about the topic.

Jt: Dinosaur theme parks
Stretching out from coast to coast
RV life is fun

Audrey: The highway ahead
Dinosaurs in the rear view
Warm sun on my face

Jt: Hey wait a minute!
These aren't real dinosaurs
I want a refund

Audrey: Don't make a big fuss
What were you expecting man
Real Jurassic Park?

Audrey: Hey! Don't get bummed out
We've got a fridge full of Ski
and a big RV

Jt: How could I forget?
That wonderful beverage
Has rescued the day

Haiku

Sometimes, just for fun, I’ll compose a few haiku about my day or my favorite things or just random thoughts. I thought I would share a few silly ones.

Coffee
Coffee, dark and strong
In the morning, in my cup
Such a lovely sight.

Stray Cats
Cats are everywhere
Looking through my window pane
You don't live here, see?

Squirrels
Sneaky, snacky squirrel
Spoken with a little lisp
Grab an acorn, quick!

Haiku
Haiku are such fun
Haiku plural is haiku
That's sure annoying

Huh?
What are you saying?
Such encrypted messages 
C'mon, speak clearly 

Pen Thief (Merlefest 2014)
You asked for a pen
I just happened to have one
Why did you keep it?

Washington, D.C. (2014)
Hop off the metro
Monuments are everywhere
Let's go find some shade

Big Stone Gap (Gathering in the Gap)
Cold, wet spring weather 
Doesn't bother me at all
Music fills the air

Dublin
Trudging in the rain
Where's the arch and Scythian?
Yay! Found them at last

The Irish Alley
A rainy, dark night
Happiness in the alley
Let's dance until dawn

Elisabeth

One summer at camp, I first heard the story of five missionaries who were martyred in Ecuador in 1956 by the Aucas. During our missions time we were told how Jim, Pete, Nate, Roger, and Ed so wanted to reach the Auca people with the Gospel that they gave their very lives to do so. After their deaths, Rachel Saint, sister to Nate, and Elisabeth Elliot, wife of Jim, went to live among the Auca people to share the Gospel.

I was spellbound. I clearly didn’t understand the forgiveness of God or the Gospel for that matter, because I wondered how in the world a woman could still care about a people group who had murdered her husband. Not only care about them, but take her young daughter and live among them in the jungles of Ecuador.

It wasn’t until I was in college that I stumbled upon one of Elisabeth Elliot’s books. I think it was her book on dating and I had a great interest in that; it was absolutely not what I expected. I found more information on my relationship with the Lord than boys. From there, I read nearly all of her other books and she became somewhat of a spiritual mentor for me. I loved her direct style of writing and her unwavering stance on the truth of God’s word.

After college I moved to California. Somehow I found out that Elisabeth Elliot was speaking on my birthday in what I thought was a nearby city. I had only lived in California for a few months and lacked geographical knowledge of the state. I checked with some friends to see if they could go with me and called to purchase four tickets. A few days before the event, only when I told my Californian friends where she was speaking, did I realize that it was 4 hours away. Of course, she could have been speaking on the moon and I would have found a way to get there. I mean, a chance to see Elisabeth Elliot on my birthday!

We ended up arriving early and walked into the lobby. I was sincerely surprised that people weren’t lined up out the door. I was prepared to throw a few elbows if it meant getting a good seat. Thankfully, it didn’t come to that since I think a tumbleweed passed me as I headed for the doors to the auditorium. I tugged, but they were locked. My friends sat on a bench to wait and I decided to go to the bathroom. I started walking down the long hallway when I noticed a lady taking a seat behind a long table of books.

It was Elisabeth Elliot.

I froze in my excitement. I turned to look at my friends, but they weren’t paying attention. I turned back, took a deep breathe, and decided I was going to go talk to her. I had years of thoughts that I wanted to share. I wanted to tell her how she had impacted my walk with the Lord. How her books had been a source of joy, sorrow, anger, and contentment. I wanted to tell her that I thought Jim Elliot was a real looker- although that probably would have been inappropriate. I also had a billion questions for her. How was she able to take her daughter and live with the Aucas after the murder of her husband and friends? What was her daily quiet time like? Would she be interested in being my new best friend?

A thousand thoughts went through my mind as I slowly walked toward the table. Once I got there, I acted like I was just browsing, thinking maybe I would buy a book or a two. I saw her out of the corner of my eye. I continued slowly making my way down the table. I was trying to act cool, like I wasn’t dying to just jump over that table, hug her, and tell her everything. It’s important to note that her face was plastered on several of the books that my hands were touching. When I was directly in front of her, I looked at her and said as calmly as I could, “Are you Elisabeth Elliot?” She smiled at me and said, “Yes, I am.”

I ended up sitting down next to her and have no idea what I said to her. Words fell out of my mouth in no particular order and at a breakneck speed. I ended with asking her to write a note to my friend who was serving in The Gambia who also admired her. I do remember that I told her that she had truly impacted my walk with the Lord. Elisabeth was everything I had imagined she would be. She was so very gracious and kind despite my excitement and word vomit.

I returned to my friends who were still sitting on the bench where I had left them. I don’t think they were as invested as I was in the whole situation, but they were really there to help me celebrate my birthday. I told them that I had met Elisabeth and it was going to be really difficult for any other birthday to match that one.

All throughout middle and high school I was very self conscious about the gap between my front teeth. I don’t know if someone said something or if it was just one of those things that I had decided I didn’t like about myself. I begged for braces, but my teeth were otherwise straight and I didn’t need them. I tried putting a rubber band around my two front teeth at night- completely forgetting that then I would have two gaps on both sides of my front teeth. I hoped maybe they would miraculously become friends and grow closer together. I would cringe when I looked at pictures of me smiling because all I could see was that big ‘ole gap in my teeth- not that I was having a good time with family and friends who didn’t care if I even had teeth.

In the auditorium, I found front row seats for my friends and me. Elisabeth walked out in her sharp looking blue dress suit; her hair pulled back in a bun. Somehow in having met her just minutes before and seeing pictures of her before that, I hadn’t noticed it. She smiled at the crowd and I saw that she had a gap between her front teeth. All those years of hating my smile faded into the background. I had something in common with Elisabeth Elliot. Suddenly, my smile was like a badge of honor.

My friend Pat also wrote in her blog today about Elisabeth Elliot. After reading Pat’s blog, I grabbed a few of my favorite books by Elisabeth and thumbed through, looking at the spots I’ve marked and highlighted over the years. Her writing style is so familiar to me that it’s like hearing from an old friend.

When I heard that Elisabeth had passed away, I was a little sad. But only a little because I knew that she was meeting the One that she had shared with so many others. I also feel so lucky because I had an opportunity to share with her, face to face, how much her writing had impacted my life.

Gold Boxes

All throughout high school and college, I would hatch escape plans in my mind for any situation in which I found myself. At camp, our cabins didn’t have locks on the door. I decided if someone broke in, I would figure out a way to hide in my suitcase. Like zip it and everything from the inside. On airplanes I decided I would slump over and act like I was already dead. I don’t know why I did this back then, the world seemed a lot safer and it was less likely that I would find myself in these situations. I worked in a pizza place and was often there late at night. I decided I would use the pizza bubble fork (a big fork at the end of a 5 ft wooden stick) or the dough docker (a pointy roller that was super heavy) to protect myself should the need arise. I never had to test any of my plans, but I figured instinct would kick in should I find myself in such predicaments.

The day I turned 30, I had to work. My birthday was on a Friday and I was working at the pizza shop. I requested the day off, but my manager Dusty told me that I had to work because Fridays were our busiest nights. I was a little frustrated because didn’t he know that turning 30 was a big deal? But turning 30 also meant I was well into adulthood and adults had to sometimes work on their birthdays.

I went in for my shift at 4 pm. The restaurant was full of employees so I secretly hoped that it would mean I could get off a little early if we were slow. Then we received a big order from a church- 100 pies. My manager asked me to go to the dough corner and start making skins. I started working quickly, if I worked slowly, that meant the pizzas were going to be late.

I was over in the corner, elbow deep in cornmeal and flour and pizza dough. My manager stood casually by, just chatting. At one point as I was working myself to death, I thought, “Oh my word, do something while you talk!” He continued joking around and I continued making pizza crusts.

Suddenly, everything went dark. Someone had put something over my head and was dragging me out of the store. I could hear muffled noises, but couldn’t make out distinct sounds. I was hoping this was a joke and not a for real thing. Before I could do anything or make any decisions, I could tell that I was in a vehicle. Someone was holding their hand over my eyes so I couldn’t remove whatever was over my head. I couldn’t decided if I should panic because surely this was someone I knew. Wouldn’t I hear sirens? I spoke to my assailants, but they wouldn’t speak back. That was incredible frustrating.

After about 30 minutes, the back of the van opened and I was released. My captors were camp friends that I had grown up with: Jeremi, Evan, and David. Should their current jobs ever fail, they would be really good at kidnapping.

It took awhile for my eyes to work because Evan had been pressing them into my skull for a good half hour. Even through crushed lashes and the blurriness, I knew we were at camp. My mom and best friend, Diane, were the masterminds behind the kidnapping. It turns out that I had been making pizzas for my own surprise party as I my manager Dusty pulled up behind us with a car full of pizzas.

The party was loads of fun. Family members and camp friends filled the dining hall. Mom and Diane had little stations that were themed with things that I loved. Dusty had rewritten, “My Favorite Things” and substituted MY favorite things. He sang the song in his deep voice, smiling the whole time because he had really gotten one over on me.

There was a table for coffee, a table with books, and other things. One of my favorite authors is Elisabeth Elliot. I’ve always admired her life story and her faith. I consider her to be one of my spiritual mentors. I didn’t know it, but Diane had written to her about my admiration for her and my upcoming birthday. Diane presented me with a tape of Elisabeth and her husband Lars wishing me a happy birthday and a card that she had written.

At the end of the night, Diane presented me with a shoe box, wrapped in gold paper. It was full of pictures and cards from friends all over the country- and some from around the world. My mom and Diane had spent so much time contacting friends and planning for this day. It was a great way to ring in my third decade.

I had tucked the memories of that day in the far corners of my mind. Dusty and several of my camp directors have since passed away. Camp friends have moved away or are busy with large families and work. Life has changed a lot since that day, but a lot has surprisingly stayed the same. Despite busy schedules, I know if we had an opportunity to get together, we would pick up right where we left off because camp friends are just like that.

I am still working on cleaning out my office closet. Today I looked up on the shelf and saw a box, wrapped in gold paper. I wondered why I saved stuff like that and honestly couldn’t remember where I had gotten it or what was in it. It just took lifting the lid and seeing familiar faces for my mind to flood with memories.

I walked into the living room and sat on the couch. I picked up each card and read the kind words that were written to me 14 years ago. I was overwhelmed by the Lord’s kindness. I don’t understand it, but I have been fortunate to know people who are nothing short of amazing. As I read their words, I would remember times that I had shared with each person and I would find my heart swelling with thankfulness. I have known some of the world’s funniest and most beautiful people. Some of their words made me laugh out loud. Others brought tears to my eyes. I wondered why the Lord allowed me to be so blessed.

Life can be so difficult, so confusing, and painful. But there is always hope as a follower of Jesus. One day I’ll get to stand with all those friends again, including though who have passed, and we’ll laugh about times we shared and we’ll worship the One who brought us all together- only this time it will be in His presence. And that’s one thing I love about the Lord. With Him there is always a gold box full of hope.

Thinking Outside

Today started out like every other day has for the last week and a half. After my normal morning routine, I ate breakfast and cleaned up the kitchen. Then I tricked Fluffy into getting into the cage to go visit my dad. I stopped by the McDonald’s, where they now know me, and got my dad a sweet tea.

He seemed to be doing well today. He was sitting up, wearing his blue shirt that makes his eyes look the clearest blue water. He was happy to see Fluffy and drink his tea, but didn’t have much to say, so we sat in silence; he would occasionally look over and smile. Fluffy and I could only stay for a little bit, so we left right before his lunch arrived.

I drove home on a mostly empty road. I was able to make the left turn out of the nursing home easily. Usually, I sit for awhile because I have to cross three lanes on a busy road. There is such a strangeness in the air with all of this. I don’t really feel worried or scared; I think I’m still trying to process what’s happening around me.

I came home, ate lunch, and began to answer the 10,000 emails and texts from school. Each asking a question or explaining a small task that needed my attention. I then posted my assignments for students. Thankfully, there is a lot of grace coming from administration because we are all trying to figure out how all of this is going to work.

Then it started. The grumbling and complaining in my heart. It started with just one irritated thought when my phone signaled I had received another text- and not a fun text from a friend- but a work text. That thought led to other negative thoughts about wanting to feel free to leave my house, to spend as long as I want with my dad without having to wear a mask, to maybe go to a coffee shop downtown to work without the distractions of my house. Small inconveniences, but it boils down to the fact that I want to live my life how I always have. My own selfishness because I know these measure are in place to keep everyone safe.

I looked outside and realized it was finally sunny and my grass was looking high. Several neighbors mowed their lawns this past weekend, so I have been feeling pressure to not be the only shabby house on the block. I decided I needed fresh air and sunshine to crack this mood. I’m thankful I made that choice because my grass was ankle deep. It makes sense because it has rained for 40 days and 40 nights, but I was still a little shocked at how much it had grown.

I was mowing for about two minutes when my sour mood lifted. There is just something about being outside and moving that works wonders for the soul. It was a day where it’s hard to tell if it’s late October or early spring. The sun was warm, but there was a slight chill to the air. I mowed and swept the driveway. Afterwards I put on my favorite summer sandals and sat on the porch. I listened to the birds singing their songs and closed my eyes as the sun warmed my face.

It was easy to think that nothing had changed in the world. I wondered if maybe I have been feeling more stressed than I realized. I know being outside won’t change reality, but I do think it will help me keep perspective. I was reminded of a Ray Bradbury story called, “There Will Come Soft Rains.” In the story, an automated house continues with it’s routine even though all the people and other houses were destroyed in a nuclear war.

Encouraging, right? What I take away from that story, and the Sara Teasdale poem he includes, is that life goes in cycles. We have good times, bad times, fun times, scary times, and uncertain times. Regardless of what’s going on with me or the world, the sun is still going to come up, the seasons will change, and the birds will sing.

While on the porch, I reminded myself that we are in uncertain, scary times, but I believe that good times will return. But then so will all the other kinds of times.

Mark 1:35 states, “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where He prayed.” Jesus knew of the hard times, mixed in with the good times, that were coming. And He took time to get away and pray. Since He is the Son of God, why in the world would I not follow His example- especially in times like these? I need to also step out of my house, get some fresh air, and pray. Despite all the uncertainty, we can rest assured that God is the same. Always.

The desperation I feel for the Lord reminds me of “Love Alone,” a favorite song by Caedmon’s Call that seems fitting to the situation that we find ourselves in.

Give me your hand to hold

‘Cause I can’t stand to love alone

And love alone is not enough to hold us up

We’ve got to touch your robe

So swing your robe down low

Swing your robe down low

The prince of despair’s been beaten

But the loser still fights

Death’s on a long leash

Stealing my friends to the night

And everyone cries for the innocent

You say to love the guilty too

And I’m surrounded by suffering and sickness

So I’m working tearing back the roof

“Love Alone” by Caedmon’s Call

Waiting Without Wiggling

I once heard that the difference between waiting and patience was that patience was waiting without wiggling. I’m not patient. I do a lot of wiggling while I’m waiting.

Today, I found out that I will be teaching from home for 5 more weeks, possibly longer. I decided that to avoid becoming a permanent part of my couch, I needed a regular work space. I have an office, but it’s really just a room where I put things that I don’t know where else to put them. I clean it up and it effortlessly becomes a disaster zone again.

I opened the closet, took a deep breathe, and immediately closed the door. I realized if I was taken down by the thought of cleaning out a closet, there was no way the whole room was going to get any attention. I opened the door again and decided to start with one drawer. I found a college mid-term, notebook paper journal entries from 1999, my grade book from teaching in Hungary, pictures of a trip I took to Maine, and an undeveloped roll of black and white film. I can’t even begin to guess what is on that roll.

This afternoon, as I drove down to see my dad, I stopped at Walgreens to have the roll developed. And now I wait to see what’s on it. It’s been two hours and I have to wait at least two weeks, probably longer with the pandemic, but I’m already wiggling.

There are lots of things for which I’ve waited. When I was in middle school, I couldn’t wait to be 17. I thought I would be so mature and all the Molly Ringwald movies I had watched would become my reality. Then I got to high school and realized I didn’t actually have any interest in prom, pep rallies, or the whole high school scene.

So then I couldn’t wait to go to college. The last three months in high school, every night I would look through the brochure of the college I had chosen. It was seriously a brochure, but I read each paragraph and studied each picture like I was seeing it for the first time.

I also waited a year from the time I decided to go to Hungary before actually leaving. I daydreamed daily about what life would be like in an Eastern European country and made plans as I waited tables. I bought cookbooks and tried out recipes. I listened to language tapes. I studied the history and culture.

The month before coming home from Hungary I couldn’t sleep because I couldn’t wait to see my family after a year. I would imagine our reunion in the airport and get so excited that a few times I hopped out of bed and called home.

Some of those times of waiting were with patience because I was excited about what was next, but didn’t want my current situations to end. Other times of waiting were with a lot of wiggling because I wanted so badly for the situations I was in to be done. Thinking about you, high school.

I have a few prayers that I’ve been waiting to see answered. Some days I’m patient because I remember that God tells me to pour out my heart to Him and I know that He knows best in all situations. He tells me to keep praying, to do so without ceasing. I know that He can see a situation from all angles and He knows all the details, so I need to cease striving and know that He is God.

Unfortunately, most of the time I wiggle while I wait. I worry. I fret. I try to think of how I can help (i.e., manipulate) the situation to work how I think it should. Some prayers are going on 20 years without an answer and I question if the Lord is hearing me or maybe I don’t really know how to pray or maybe I’m just not hearing or understanding.

Those moments typically bring me back to Truth, to what I know. The Holy Spirit reminds me of who God is and of who I am. He points me to Scripture.

Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. -Psalms 27:14

We wait in hope for the Lord; He is our help and our shield.- Psalms 33:20

I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in His word I put my hope. Psalms 130:5

I wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning. – Psalms 130:6

I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for Him.” Lamentations 3:36

But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently Romans 8:25

I guess we all have a lot of waiting to do these days. Waiting for stores to open. Waiting to go out in a crowd. Waiting for the rain to stop. Waiting to see my students. Waiting for the coffee to kick in. Waiting for inspiration and creativity. Waiting for answers to prayers.

I’m going to try to actively practice waiting on these things without wiggling, because I know the Lord. I know He is trustworthy and infinitely more wise than me. Sometimes I just need to give myself little reminders found in His Word.

A New Normal

In the last week, life has changed drastically. I left school on Friday after telling my kids to have a good Spring Break and to be safe. I brought home only a few things like my laptop, my favorite coffee cup, and a book I was reading. I thought we might get an extra week for Spring Break because of Covid-19, but today news broke that surrounding states are closing for the rest of the school year or at least until mid-May.

So, I have a new normal. Instead of waking up at 5 am, drinking coffee, and reading my Bible, I’ve not even been setting an alarm. I’ve been waking up at 7 or 8, then commence with drinking coffee and reading my Bible. I get to do all of this at a much more leisurely pace now. On a school day I always set an alarm for 6am to alert me to chug my last swig of coffee, get myself up off the couch, and get ready to be out the door by 6:30. Now I sometimes look at my empty cup and wonder why I didn’t make a bigger pot and think since it’s 10:30 am I should probably get up from the couch and maybe put on real clothes.

Today I officially ‘went back to work’. I completed my grades for the quarter, which meant I went online to our grading system, checked a little box, and then closed the browser. That took up 4 minutes of my day. I also called 28 parents to let them know our plan for online learning. About half didn’t answer their phone. Of those that did I had great conversations and shared concerns about the kids missing out on the rest of their year.

My first period class has zero behavior problems and all strive for good grades, so I rarely, if ever, talk with their parents. I always have a goal to do a positive call home during the year, but that easily gets buried under more pressing needs. I was thankful to get to talk with parents and tell them what I appreciated about their son or daughter and to reassure them that we would be there to support their children.

We are all adjusting to new normal. I can’t just waltz into the grocery store and get a dozen eggs. I can’t go to my school anytime I want, even though I have a key; I have an hour window tomorrow to get in, get my stuff, and get out so other subject areas can do the same. I have a lot more free time. There aren’t essays to be graded or bus duty or copies to be made or lunch to pack.

I’ve felt a little out of whack, like many people have. I’m not quite sure what to do with all this time. I can only visit my dad during visitation hours and I can’t sit for hours like I had been able to do. My house is super clean. I find myself debating if I should run a load of laundry with four articles of clothing or wait. I find myself wanting to mow my lawn if it ever stops raining.

It’s only been a week, but it feels like it has been at least a month. Or years. Despite my losing track of time- or having to back track so I can figure out what day of the week it is- I tend to think that this is a good thing. Not COVID-19 or people dying, but throwing schedules out of whack and finding a new normal.

Tonight I read the first chapter in the book of Mark. Talk about somebody ushering in a new normal! Jesus came on the scene and knocked lives out of whack left and right. First, He walked by the Sea of Galilee and saw Simon Peter and Andrew casting their nets into the sea. He said, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” So they dropped their nets and followed. He then saw James and John sitting in a boat, mending nets. He spoke to them and they too answered the call to follow. The Bible doesn’t mention them asking questions about what benefits were available and if Jesus offered a 401(k) plan. Just like that- these men had a new normal.

Jesus and his followers went into Capernaum to the synagogue and Jesus began to teach. His teaching amazed those who listened because he taught with authority. A man with an unclean spirit walked up to Jesus and was immediately cast out. Those who witnessed this event and the man who was cleansed from the spirit were thrown into a new normal.

After this, Jesus heals Peter’s mother-in-law, he healed various diseases and he casts out many demons, and then He healed a leper. So many people heard about what was happening and wanted to see for themselves so the Bible says in verse 45 that, “Jesus could no longer publicly enter a city, but stayed out in the unpopulated areas; and they were coming to Him from everywhere.”

I’m not a Bible scholar by any means. But it seems to me that it was a good thing that Jesus disrupted the normal and brought about change. He met the needs of the crowds. I wonder if Peter woke up the morning that Jesus called him and thought, “Today’s the day. My life will never be the same!” I imagine he didn’t. He probably woke up, went about his routine, and headed to his boat. Little did he know that his schedule was about to be forever changed and that Jesus had something big in store for Him!

I’ve said before that I get easily excited, but the thought of Jesus interrupting an unsuspecting life and bringing something new and wonderful and miraculous and healing is clap your hands worthy. I always imagine that in Heaven, we’ll get to see the video (or DVD or whatever format the past is kept on) of these events. I’d like to see the few hours before Peter was interrupted by Jesus.

I know I can get so caught up in a schedule and what I have to do that I can easily miss out on something else the Lord may have for me to do. As I adjust my schedule- almost hourly because I get an email or text about a new development every few hours- I want to tune my ears to the Lord’s voice. To prioritize what’s really important and what can wait. To step out in faith and follow immediately when He prompts me to do so. To be expectantly listening so I’m ready. To be ready because maybe one of these next few days will be the day my life changes forever and I sure don’t want to miss that.

My friends Tommy, Pat, and John Thomas have shared one of their family’s favorite verses and it fits right along with the theme of this blog post.

This resurrection life you received form God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike, “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children. And we know we are going to get what’s coming to us–an unbelievable inheritance! We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with him, then we’re certainly going to go through the good times with him!

Romans 8:15-17 (MSG)