Monday, June 23, 2014


“Where are you from?”

For some of us, that is a loaded question. Quite often, I answer with the town I currently live in and then the next question comes: “Is that where you grew up?”


The fact is, as a preacher’s kid, I grew up in several places. Most have good memories associated with them. One, perhaps because of the age I happened to be when we moved, not such pleasant memories. None are exactly what I would call home. Home has tended to be wherever my family was. I lack the sort of rootedness that my husband and my own children grew up with.

The funny thing is, there is one place that I never lived yet seems to feel the most like home to me. That place is south-central Iowa. This is the area where my parents grew up and where most of my extended family still lives. It is the place my parents always referred to as “home” on our many trips back there.

It is a place where I have always felt welcome. Always.

From the time I was a very small girl until just last week when I was in Pella, I have always felt like these people – my grandmas and grandpas, my aunts, uncles,  and cousins – are my people. They have known me my whole life. Not many others have. They are happy to see me and my family when we are able to drop by. In fact, they go out of their way to spend time with us, eat together, and talk together.

South-central Iowa is the place where I feel a connection beyond my immediate family. My people inhabit the various small towns around this area, teach in the schools, work in the factories and on the farms, and even rest in the graveyards, one of which offers a beautiful view of my grandfather’s farm. These connections becomes clear through the various casual conversations I had while I was in town.

‘Where are you from?’

‘Well, I never lived here but my family is from here…..’ And so the connections begin.

My roots are deep in rich Iowa farmland and I can feel that depth when I am here. And I love it.

Its funny, but I feel the same way when I walk into a Christian church. Maybe it is because church was the closest thing to an extended family that I had nearby while growing up. Or perhaps it is because the bloodline of Christ that connects us as Christians is richer and deeper than any physical connection, even the beautiful connection of a richly textured extended family in south central Iowa.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Remembering Those Who Served

A couple of weeks ago on Memorial Day weekend my husband and I spent a few days at our daughter's home in Virginia. She and her husband live in an area that has a population that is about 70% military or formerly military. In short, this is an interesting area to visit on a day that the U.S. remembers those who have served our country in this way.

One of the things we did that weekend was to take a boat tour of the Elizabeth River harbor. This is a giant harbor with numerous shipping yards and docks. We were fascinated learning about the industry and watching tugboats maneuver huge container ships in and out of the loading areas. The most fascinating area of the harbor however, is Naval Station Norfolk.

Naval Station Norfolk is the largest U.S. naval base in the world. It is home to more than 100,000 people. Our tour took us past numerous ships that were in port including four submarines that we likely would not have noticed had the guide not pointed them out. But my favorite ships by far were the two Nimitz Class aircraft carriers that were docked that weekend.

These ships are the size of small towns. They are propelled by two nuclear reactors, carry up to 6,000 crew members, and (if I am remembering correctly) ascend more than 12 stories out of the water. In fact, as we drive to our daughter's apartment we must cross the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel. On our first visit to the area, we came through at night and thought what we saw were the lights of buildings but they were the lights of the ships. Our guide described these amazing ships as "97,000 tons of floating diplomacy." Indeed.

Of course even as I write what the guide said I know that some people will be offended for any number of reasons. Some might even think that a statement like that is anti-Christian noting that Christ's power was demonstrated in the weakness of the cross.

Fair enough.

But last Friday was the 70th anniversary of D-day, the beginning of the end of Hitler's reign of terror in Europe. My uncle, who passed away some years ago, was one of the men on the beach of Normandy 70 years ago.

As I read the stories of the few remaining survivors of that day, I was struck by their self-sacrifice. These people put their lives on the line to free the occupied countries of Europe, an action that also brought an end to the brutal imprisonment and slaughter of men, women, and children whom Hitler had deemed not worthy to live. And of course, in the stories of the survivors I also heard the stories of those who did not survive that day.

I have lived in a time of relative peace. I am apt to forget the sacrifices of those who gave their lives in Europe, and the hardships of those who remained home to support them. What I do know is that while someday we will beat our swords into plowshares, that day is not yet here and will not be until Christ comes again. So until that day, I am thankful for the 97,000 tons of floating diplomacy, and all those who have served and are serving in our armed forces so that freedom can continue to ring in the country I call home.