Tuesday, December 15, 2009


Rain drops caught on tips of twigs
where yester-summer's leaves grew.

The harmonious havoc of a hundred green things:
Green ferns, and green stream and
Green moss - drooping, tumbling down tree trunks
And falling loose from slippery branches.

A dozen worlds staring out of a dozen puddle mirrors.
Freckled mirrors, when the rain’s falling.

I see music when it’s raining in the woods.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Jimmy's Here!

Jimmy’s here! It’s delightful to introduce him to my world. It’s good to catch up on the last few months and any other issue we choose. After church we went to the coffee shop and debated the benefits/disadvantages of technology on our society. Then we walked along the river and talked about his job. I love to see him here. And watch him interacting with the people who have come to mean so much to me. Yesterday night, though, at dinner a gloom settled over me. Jim’s coming means the beginning of the end.

Dr. Bauman’s last class has come and gone. I’ve said hundreds of goodbyes to good friends. But it’s different with Dr. Bauman. Very different. How do I express my gratitude to someone who has challenged and shaped me so much? Who has invested so much into influencing me. And not only me. But thirty other people. That’s the problem. I feel like just one more person saying the same thing. And it seems so routine and inadequate. In the end all I can say is “Thanks, you’ve made a big impact on me.” I think he understands. But I wish I could say more.
With Thanksgiving on Thursday and graduation on Friday it’s a full, full week. Looking forward to it, I’m already exhausted. This last week was full of meeting with girls and organizing the arrivals and guest rooms for the 60+ extra people descending upon us for the festivities. My desk and my mind have been chaotically full of mentoring, guest rooms and arrival dates.
And all the other goodbyes are looming up. I’m sad to see the end of good times with people who have become so dear. I always figure that the tougher the goodbye, the better the friendship was. So I can’t help but consider what a unique privilege these few months have been. I am very, very grateful.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

i like my girls.

With each small group, each conversations, each interaction, I’m realizing that I just love these beautiful young women. As relationships deepen, I wish this were the beginning and not the end.

There’s something so gutsy and idealistic in the way a young person begins to wrestle with God. Trying to figure out how to trust Him, how to see life in His light. I’m glad for the experiences that bring me to the present. But I almost envy the energy, the hope, the life of those first battles. I find myself trying to catch up to my girls. Instead of being a step ahead, I am encouraging them with all the things I’m presently telling myself. In speaking of the greatness of God, I look at Him again.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


We started with John 18:36. Russell couldn’t get further than the word ‘now’; I was stuck at ‘if’. The conversation was animated. We worked ourselves across the room to the book shelf for resource (and leaning against). He waving the entirety of the Bible in front of my face every time I demanded a definition for love; periodically thumbing through the dictionary or the book of I John; then cheering whenever he scored a point in the conversation -which happened often. We didn't just travel across the room, we traveled from pacifism, to authority of government, to love as the basis for every ethical decision, to the relationship between truth and love. His biggest beef is how utilitarianism has crept into Christian thinking (or shall we properly say un-Christian thinking). Greatest good for the most people vs. love, justice, truth, hope, faith….

My mind is mulling on the conversation -
Where is the place for making decisions based on the greatest good for the greatest amount of people?
How is it different to be a citizen of God’s Kingdom and a citizen of the U.S.A.? Have we loyalties to both, or only one? Are there are different sets of morals and standards for the government than there are for people? For example, I’ve always believed that the government held a right to terminate the life of a murderer, but that individuals do not. Is that inconsistent?
Has modern Christendom thrown open the doors to reason-without-faith, allowing the wolf of ‘ends justify the means’ to creep through clothed in the fleece of ‘for the sake of love’?
Is Christ’s message counter cultural because it calls us, not to a different approach or shifting of the rules, but because he calls us to a new way of life altogether?
Ought we weigh our decisions in light of consequences, or by how they measure to the example of a new life and new spirit in Christ?
Have we lost the power of the Spirit, by relegating him to the realm of the Church and worship, adopting secular ideas for the realm of government, job, and ‘real life’?

Friday, October 30, 2009

snow fun

Wednesday morning I peeked through the curtains, and yes! It had snowed! More than two inches of beautiful, cold, sparkly, clean, cold, wet, invigorating, cold snow! I ran outside - I love the powdery freshness of early morning snow, with only a set or two of tracks in it. Wendy and I were the only ones out for a while. Then I had to go wake Evelyn - she’s never seen snow in her life. And then Mike and Sam and Dano came out and we sledded until breakfast.
Snow was still falling in the afternoon when the cooks went shopping. The most fearless [insane?] of us trekked out to play volleyball. Until we saw Shelly and Amanda done with shopping, trudging back up the hill without the van. We all ran (slid) down the hill and formed a brigade to transfer groceries from the van to the jeep. Then a dozen students loaded into the van, while the rest of us firmly positioned ourselves against the back door and heaved. Pushing a fifteen passenger van up hill, while your feet are slipping on the ice is no joke. But in fine company, it’s good fun. The van fought back mercilessly. It fishtailed back and forth trying to pitch us into the ditch. The tires spewed mud, rubber fumes, and slush. Thirty feet - and about as many minutes - later, we got it to a wide spot in the road where other vehicles could get past. We trudged back up hill. Good humor, good snowball fight, good times.

Tomorrow we leave for an ‘art’ weekend in Santa Fe. We’ll explore Canyon Road - art gallery after art gallery after art gallery. And we’ll tour the Site Santa Fe - a museum dedicated to post modern art and pushing the limits - should stimulate some opinionated conversations.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

let it snow!

First thing every morning I peek through the curtains to see if the hillside is white with snow. Every morning it’s still brown. Today, though, the clouds were pink, and I smiled to myself, thinking: “Red sky in the morning, the sailors take warning.”
When I checked the weather report, it declared eighty percent chance of snow tomorrow. I know that snow means mud, and cold feet. But I love to see powder sugar white on all the mountains, and I can’t wait until the ponderosa pines are capped with snow. And I’m looking forward to watching Evelyn - she’s from Louisiana - go crazy with delight. And I can’t wait to pitch a snow ball at Rob - I owe him one.

Life has been full, and mostly uneventful. But I’m enjoying the little pleasures that brighten ordinary moments. Like this weekend, good friends from last semester came to laugh and reminisce and visit. And last Thursday was the great and long anticipated Staff vs. Students volley ball competition (we won). And I finally beat Russell at a game of ping pong - I’ve been working at that for almost a month. Class picture on Friday - little baby Elijah routinely spit up all over me for the hour proceeding the shot. And I experimented with small group by squishing everyone into my room instead of meeting in the class room. We loved it and laughed over the highlights of our week. And I love how conversations become more straightforward and comfortable after building for two months.

I love to call my family. When I hang up, I usually sigh. I miss home. But when I stop to reflect, I can’t help smiling at the good memories that are being built. God is very good to me.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

welcome, dr.williams

Since they happen to be such a big part of my life at the moment, I thought I'd add a picture of the amazing staff I'm working with. Nate and Russell, on the left, are the guy's mentors. Suzanne and I are sandwiched in the middle and our increda-cooks, Amanda and Shelly, are on the right. It's an awesome group. I love how the friendships between us deepen and grow.

Dr. Don Williams is here for the week. He is such a one of a kind... I despair even trying to describe him. He's what an English Professor ought to be. White beard, big glasses, and constantly switching between Old English, Elvish and quotations. He lives in old literature. I drove van number three to Church this morning. He rode shot gun. Looking back over his shoulder he conversed with the students.
Rosey: "You might be interested in knowing, Dr. Williams, that we're going to do a Lord of the Rings movie Marathon."
I can't repeat Dr. Williams emphatic response. But it made me laugh and comment on his strong opinion. He almost glared at me.
"Opinion?! I never have opinions. I speak facts! ...opinions? as if I ever gave an opinion!"
I laughed and he added:
"-William Kirkpatrick."
In between his recitations about stars and fair ladies' white faces, Rosey and Emily warned him about Slavish, who likes to wear a sarong to class - just to see what the teachers will do. Dr. Williams asked how they recommend he respond:
"Shall I skirt the issue... or give him a dressing down?"

People who do or tell are common enough. It is rare to find people who are . Perhaps that is why he is so engaging. He so thoroughly loves literature, and stories. He delights in English as a channel to glorify God. His verbal encouragement to love these is weak compared to his obvious revel in them. It makes you curious. Curious and eager to find what secret treasure he has unearthed. And you wonder if you've missed something wonderful.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

half way

I don’t think I’ll ever get reconciled to the speed of time. We’re half way through the semester already. Is it possible that the days are passing quicker this year than they did last? Or maybe I’ve just forgotten.

And life has been full. The inevitably drama of 19 females living under one roof provides plenty to keep Suzanne and I busy. I feel pulled in nine different directions as I get to know these women better, and wish there was two of me just so I could spend more time with them.

Last weekend, Charissa came for the weekend. We worked together in the kitchen last year and I haven’t seen her since. Russell (her boyfriend) and I have been eagerly anticipating her visit since the Semester began. She and I laughed all weekend remembering the good moments from last Semester. Last year we kept a score board running on pieces of masking tape above the kitchen door. They’re still there: the biscuit-head competition, lighting self on fire, oversleeping, throwing pies…. Our cooks this year are doing a fabulous job. But I confided to Charissa that I don’t think they’re having nearly as much fun as we had. The students listened curiously as we spun colorful stories about the bread wars and potato tosses of last year.
And life isn’t very fair. Life can be full to the brim and still it mercilessly piles on more. Beyond Summit, other relationships, and personal questions and decisions seem to be stacking themselves higher and higher. Chars' visit was perfect timing. I hadn’t realized that I’d been wanting an ear until we went for a long walk. It was delightful to speak freely with her.

Monday, October 5, 2009

culture questions

Over the past week the hills have flamed out in vibrant orange and gold and rust. The aspen leaves are quivering like sheets of pressed golden. I think the mountains are dressing up to celebrate my birthday. A few years ago I tried to persuade myself that as an adult, there’s really no need to get worked up over a birthday. I failed. This year I’m just looking forward to it. When the package from home came, I stacked the parcels up on my little shelf. And every few days, when Post Office Box 3787 benevolently bestows another little package, I add it to the stash. That little shelf, laden down with thoughts and good wishes from people who love me makes me smile.

I’m a bit nostalgic, too. This time of year always makes me pensive. Six crazy, long years ago I left home for the first time. Perhaps It’s even more in my face as I watch so many other young people at that point in life. It makes me remember where I’ve been.

Speaking of where I’ve been, culture class at BBTI is front on my mind. We have a guest speaker this week, John Stonestreet. He’s been assaulting us with questions about a Christian’s place in culture: how we should respond to it; influence it; create it. He keeps saying, “Write this question down…” And so I keep writing and the list gets longer:

If we are concerned about the next world, than what difference does this world make?
How should we be involved in this world?
Is Christianity this-worldly or is Christianity other-worldly? What’s the difference?
Are we to be good Christians or are we to be good humans? What’s the difference?
Do we learn to have faith so that we can live in the world? Or do we learn faith by living in the world?
Biblically what is the goal of human culture?
How should reconciliation and redemption impact human cultures?

Lot’s of new thoughts. Lot’s of old thoughts. And good conversations. Jonathan -a student with a similar background and a head full of brilliant red hair - and I have been hashing out what it means to rightly live out counter-cultural convictions. Especially in Christian circles. When is it good to fight hard for high principles? When do you hold your peace? How do you choose which battles to fight? What hills to die on? I love the accountability that stems from such conversations. I love the provocation of other’s thoughts and convictions. I love to live with people, learn from them, and be challenged with them.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

just pondering

They say that mothers run where angels fear to trod. My role here is certainly not mother. So I sometimes wonder what kind of a fool I am.

It’s fun to watch our community take shape and personality. When you slap together a group of random people, from random places, with random experiences, the community that evolves is very individual. The first week, you see faces and hear names and associate people with the color or their sweater or glasses they wear. But time and conversation reveals history. And you realize that people aren’t products of the moment, but came from somewhere. And you learn their stories.

Last Wednesday evening I drove back from town with Evelyn, listening to her story. To her dreams and ideas and dramas and opinions. I find myself suddenly a character in her story. I’m supposed to say something. To come along side. To be involved. But who is equal to answer REAL questions? To give answers that could influence the course of someone’s life? What kind of a fool am I to leap right into the middle and trudge beside someone for a mere three months?

More than once, though, I’ve been amazed at how God is using my own experiences. Even up to the recent heartaches of this past summer. Several of my girls mirror parts of my own story. And I can’t help but remember God’s guidance through those seasons. And when I share pieces of my life with them, I marvel to watch -again- how He wrings purpose out of my experiences.

Love is a funny thing, isn’t it? Where you have no right to enter, it opens doors. When you should tremble to speak it sets you on a soapbox. And where you ought to hesitate, you plunge forward like a fool.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

back to the bottom

As I insinuated, the six-hour drive to the Sand Dunes last weekend was fairly uneventful. Our day was exhilarating, tiring, awesome, but uneventful. For me anyhow. One of the other drivers had his own little adventure. From the driver’s seat of Van 1, I merely laughed and murmured to Jonathan-riding-shotgun, “Oh good. now I’m not the driver at the bottom of the totem pole anymore!”

We decided to keep this last weekend low key. So yesterday we loaded up into a couple of vans and went on a gentle hike - just over a mile - to Opal Lake. After 30 minutes of wash-board gravel roads, we piled out at the trail head.
“You want to lead?” Eric looked at me.
“I wasn’t here when we went last year. I was sick. …but I guess can anyway. Is the trail well marked?”
He nodded. And assigned Shelly (the cook) to the front with me.
“I’ve never been here before,” she echoed. But she was game. And we struck out. How hard is it to follow a trail?

And what a fabulous mountain side! The aspens grew so straight and white and close together. And I don’t often see grass growing in a forest. But in between the trees, it was green. A very different kind of lushness than in Oregon. It had rained the day before, so the mud was slick and slurpy and beautiful. We wandered through meadows, stopped to climb up fallen trees, laughed and slid up and down the trail. For about an hour. Until Mae finally piped up “How long is it to the lake?” Shelly and I looked at each other and shrugged. There had been only one real fork in the road. The trail sign had fallen down. But we’d followed the arrow pointing to “Opal lake”. A group of us had gotten pretty far ahead. Why turn back now? So we plodded on. Finally a ridge grew up in front of us. We could see the trees ended.
“I don’t want to get anyone’s hope up, but that’s probably it.” Rob remarked quietly. Expectantly we scrambled up the hill and looked down. Not a bit of water in sight. But valley. And more mountain. Then we glanced behind us. Eric and Jonathan came jogging up the trail trying to catch us.
“You missed the trail head about a mile and a half back.”
Shelly and I looked at each other. And then out over the valley in front of us. We had a hearty laugh at ourselves.
“It’s a beautiful view from here, though.”

“Of course,” grinned Michael-who’d-been-in-the-run-out-of-gas-van, “It’s always an adventure when I go anywhere with Naomi.”
“I’d say you’re back at the bottom of the totem pole!” Jonathan teased me.

Oh well. We retraced our steps and got back to the right trail in time to meet the wiser ones already on their way back to the vans. Hurrying past them, we ran the few hundred yards to Opal lake and scarfed down our sandwiches on it’s shore.

It was a lovely excursion. After all, what’s a three mile detour? Especially in such beautiful country side. Seriously, it was gorgeous. If anyone doesn’t believe me, feel free to come see for yourselves. I’d be more than happy to lead you up to the lake. It’s a short hike, I hear. Pretty easy. We could get there and back in an hour, honest….

Sunday, September 20, 2009

two weeks down

I feel much more settled at the beginning of this week than I did at the beginning of last. Last Sunday I led our first small group. Nine girls watching me. And then throughout the week I tried to pull each of them aside to get a little one on one. Nine seemed like a lot. But now that I’ve gotten a chance to connect individually I’m excited. I love to observe different personalities. I love to ask questions and try to understand how someone thinks. And it’s pretty cool to be able to pull out the “I’m your mentor” line and ask any question I want to. Including: “What are you REALLY thinking?” I feel so privileged to walk along side them as they ask questions and build foundations for beliefs. Privileged and sometimes very small. I love the challenge and pray for wisdom.

Last night Libby and I walked down the driveway. (side note: I’m finally getting used to the dreadful lack of oxygen at 7,000 feet. So trudging up the hill isn’t quite as breathtaking an experience as it was last week.) The sun was just setting through the aspens. We had to stop and just marvel. The leaves were almost translucent with the sunbeams shining through them. I wonder if that was the inspiration behind the very first stain glass. The mountains around us are turning gold and red. So subtly that you hardly notice what’s happening until the color has already changed.

And for those of you interested in round two, it was a six hour drive. I won.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

van vs. naomi

Betsy and I used to laugh that Rebekah is competent and I am confident. Confident and charge ahead. It usually serves me well. And even when I fail, that indomitable buoyancy always pops right back up, and I hear myself talking just as big as last time. There was one time, though, when it failed me: learning to drive. It took several timid, faint-hearted years before I got my feet…..er, wheels… under me. But that’s the past. The almost forgotten past. Now I zip along with all the natural pluck my license allows. At least in small cars. Because a daunting nervousness still settles in the pit of my stomach when I take on a fifteen passenger van. As a driver. With a full load of students. All the sudden I’m green, raw, young.

This morning a handful of students slept in, as sane, ordinary persons do on Saturday mornings. But the rest of us headed to the annual rummage sale at the community center. We had to be early because class started at nine. So when or alarms sounded, we rolled out of bed and stumbled into the kitchen for coffee and cheerios. Suzanne handed Amanda and I each a set of keys, and we loaded into vans 1 and 2.
We careened gently down the hillside and through the gate.
“This really isn’t so bad, Naomi. You should just stop dreading driving these monsters and just be okay with it.” That’s what I said to myself. Half way down Blue Creek Road, however, Emily said something very different.
“Uh, Naomi, your gas tank is on empty.”
“Huh?” I glanced down. Sure enough. We were in the red. But I figured we had enough to make it into town. No low-gas light was on. Not even the smallest beep.

I’ll keep the story short. Suffice to say we didn’t make it to the rummage sale. Eric, bless his soul, came to our rescue. The wise students were still breakfasting when we pulled back home. We settled on an alibi: We’d just say the rummage sale had consisted fully of such uninteresting articles as doilies, tablecloths and large furniture. Bless Suzanne’s soul, too: she assured me the sale wasn’t nearly as interesting as it was last year.
I dropped the students off at the lodge, drove down to the gas tank and filled up van #2 (which I mentally renamed “Van of No Mercy”), and went to brew a pot of coffee.

So I guess the white van won the first round. But there's still eleven weeks to go....

Sunday, September 6, 2009

the beginning of the beginning

That last blog was written on Thursday. But this is the first chance I've had to be on the internet (oh fabulous technology!). And yes, the edge of the ledge DID provide adequate reception.

And yes, all the students did arrive. The hill is just brimming with bright unfamiliar faces. I chuckle to myself as we stand around in awkward groups, asking eachother polite questions. I love to see friendships forming and personalities coming out. Last night Suzanne and I walked around the girl's rooms. We poked our heads into the different doors to say goodnight. Libby joined us. Then Emily and Sterling, and soon we were a troop knocking on doors and laughing with eachother. Getting glimpses into their bedrooms - and their lives. Stopping to check out Rebbekah's hat collection - who knew you could enter hat collections into the county fair? Or oooh and awe over Rosey's hot chocolate maker.

A semi-normal schedule starts tomorrow. I think everyone's looking forward to getting into a routine.

where AM i?

After a long day of travel, I met Suzanne outside the Durango airport. How delightful to see her! And what a difference it makes to know people here. I compare this arrival with last years. So much gentler for me. There are a few new faces. But the familiar ones are so sweet to see again. To pick up right where we left with last years jokes and experiences. I feel at home.
I admit, though, that as I write this tonight I’m a little homesick for my home people. We don’t have internet yet. And I have yet to find a place that my cell phone gets reception. Russell - one of the other mentors - told me there’s a ledge on the edge of the mountain next to the lodge that gets a signal. Maybe I’ll get a chance to explore tomorrow.
Tomorrow will be full, though. A handful of students are here this evening. But most of them show up tomorrow. So we’ll spend the day giving tours to curious parents and shuttling from the airport.
We had several staff meetings today. It’s good to have Eric leading us again, in his quiet, laughing way. And what an interesting group we are this year! There are some very strong personalities amongst us. But I think we’re going to work well together. And as I glance around at them, I look forward to this next three months.
Browsing through student forms, getting to know my teammates, brainstorming about small group with Suzanne - I’m getting excited!

Friday, August 28, 2009

ramble before dusk

Did you ever wander out into a field with your little sister? Each of you grabbing a recorder and playing “Swing Low” in harmony while following goat paths through the forest and bramble. And poison oak. And through the barbed wire fence and across the gravel road. And into your neighbor’s big open field.
Did you ever stop and try to pick blackberries with your lips? One needs nourishment when one is out on the open road. And you can’t pick with your fingers because you have poison oak on your hands.
Did you ever finally make it back to the pavement and find a puddle - a perfect mirror of trees and blue sky - and jump in, trying to find the door into that other world?
Were you ever far from home and starting to itch? On your neck and ankles. And you aren’t playing your recorder anymore - because it probably has poison oak on it too. But you can use it to scratch that hard to reach place between your shoulders.
Did you ever stop right before going inside to see the secr- I mean, to vow secret silence to never reveal the…. Well, the thing that was revealed to you but you ought never to reveal to anyone else?
And then did you ever use a hose to wash each other off? With shampoo on your faces, and your eyes twisted closed, trying to squirt each other clean?
I did.