I don’t like the word “eulogy”…

I don’t like the word “eulogy”. But like it or not, this is what this is. And if this is too long or feels too personal, please feel free to close this window right now. But if you’re interested, here it is. The things I said about my mom at her memorial service. Plus a few pictures…

How does one wake up and say, “thanks for this day” on the morning when one faces saying goodbye to one’s mother? 

I try to wake up each morning and have the first words out of my mouth be, “Thanks for this day and I give it to you” but I got stuck this morning on the “thanks for this day” part. But then I realized that I can say thanks for a life lived in light of eternity. Thanks for the example that one need not be perfect to be loved. By us. By God.

When Mom was three years old, she learned to read. Before she turned four, she came down with Rheumatic Fever and the doctor confined her to bed. She spent so long in bed that she had to learn to walk again. She survived the time by reading. Thus began a lifetime of devouring books. 

Several years after this event, Mom moved to a new town – one of many, many moves in her life. Starting out in a new school part-way through the year is neverfun, but it was made worse by the fact that a school program was scheduled to take place and all the girl roles were filled. So young Kathy was given a boy part to play. She was the only girl on a stage full of Junior High boys. She prayed desperately that Jesus would return so that she wouldn’t have to do this horrible thing. 

But God didn’t answer that prayer, for which I am thankful. 

Despite the fact that Dad was is taking photographs, there are some pictures of Mom that are only in my mind. 

Mom: walking into the living room and calling, “The Mountain’s Out!” We’d come galumphing down the hall and sure enough, there was Mt. Baker, peeking through the overcast haze. Mom taught me that views matter.

Mom: reading out loud with me up until I was 16 years old. We never did finish IvanhoeMom taught me that words matter.

Mom: at checkpoint Charlie, the border guards scrutinizing her passport, looking at it, looking at her; looking at it, looking at her. Apparently she looked itimidatable. All it did was make her cross. Mom taught me that there is a time and a place to stand up for yourself. Facing Communist guards is not one of those times. 

When I was small, there were a lot of things I didn’t understand about my mother. I didn’t understand her dislike of noise. I didn’t understand how her love of classical music could include Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition but so rabidly exclude Ravel’s Bolero. I didn’t understand her obsession with tea. Winter cold or summer heat, emotional turmoil, or mid-afternoon pick-me-up; tea was a necessity. She was Scottish, after all. 100%. First generation. Tea and shortbread and tartan and scones. Not scOnes…scawnes.

I also didn’t understand Mom’s enjoyment of “Ducks” having something to do with the “U of O”. But by the way she talked about it, I knew that I wanted to be a Duck because Mom was a Duck. 

Mom was a saver. She saved every single card and letter that Dad ever sent to her. Birthday, Valentine’s Day, Christmas, Easter. For six and a half decades. She kept ideas: for stories, for Bible studies, for crafts. And she kept recipes because she loved to cook. She especially enjoyed trying new recipes. They say that if company is coming over you shouldn’t make a new recipe. Mom didn’t ascribe to that philosophy. She taught me what it is to be fearless in the kitchen.

She also taught me to eat my vegetables. I’m fairly certain that every dinner she ever made – excluding Sunday night Popcorn, of course – 

included vegetables. Every. Single. Dinner. The next day, she could take a fridge full of those leftover vegetables and turn them into delicious soup.

Yes, Mom served us, and served God, with food. Up on Orcas Island, if a child broke a bone or was ill, she would call the kid’s mother to find out their favorite dessert and then she brought it to them, freshly baked. It was part of her firmly-held belief system, one which she called “Banana Bread Evangelism”. 

If a new person moved to their neighborhood, that person received a loaf of banana bread and a sincere welcome. Likewise, when Mom and Dad moved to a new town, she’d bake some bread – once the loaf pans were unpacked – wrap it in foil, and set out to introduce herself, to begin a relationship which, prayerfully, would later provide opportunities to live out First Peter 3:15. Mom was prepared to give an answer to everyone who asked her to give the reason for the hope that she had. And she did so with gentleness and respect. Because it wasn’t reallyabout the bread, it was about the message that went with the bread. 

The very day they moved from Silverdale, Washington, to Arlington, Washington, she and my son walked across the street to ask their neighbor, one last time, if she knew Jesus, because this might be the last chance she’d ever have to hear about God’s love. Mom taught me that if you claim to love Jesus, you talk about Jesus.

Mom loved a good theological discussion. To find a question in Scripture and debate the ins and outs, the why’s and wherefores. She had a lifetime of knowledge, but more importantly, a lifetime of love for the Lord.

Of course, that didn’t mean she agreed with you if you tried to convince her that Christian Rock music was a legitimate thing, or that drum sets belonged in churches. Choirs belong in churches. And if there was a choir, Mom would be in it. 

Another love Mom had was gardening. We had a large garden on Orcas. Every winter Mom and Dad eagerly anticipated the Burpee Seed Catalog; planning and refining their order for weeks. Then, once the seeds arrived and the conditions were right, all of our daily saving-of-the-coffee grounds-and-egg-shells-and-rotten-tomatoes suddenly made sense as Dad tilled in the compost and the dirt became rich and dark and perfect for those fortunate seeds. They planted, they watered, they waited and they weeded. 

Our mother, weirdly, loved weeding. Up until the end of her life. Weeding was a joy to her.

Finally, after all that preparation, came the first signs of buds, the growth, the harvest. And then came the canning, the freezing, the storing-up-for-winter. I had no idea what a sticky, sweaty mess that was until I tried it myself, years later. Once was enough for me. But every year her shelves glittered with golden peaches, purple plums, cream-colored pears, cinnamonny applesauce, verdant beans. 

I could have done without the beans. 

And let me tell you, if Mom could have preserved zucchini, she would have. 

If Mom wasn’t weeding or cooking or singing or dreaming of new ways to feed us zucchini, she was sewing. Dresses for us girls, shirts or ties for Dad, dolls or stuffed animals or Raggedy Andy’s or Ann’s. She sewed quilts from the leftover scraps and tied them with yarn in the church basement. She lived out Proverbs 31: we were clothed in scarlet and had no fear for the winter because she took care to make sure we were prepared.

She and Dad were a team. Sharing dreams and kisses and our best interests. Dad was gone a lot with the Air Force or with Pan Am or flying helicopters into snowstorms to rescue lost hikers, but Mom carried on; knowing Dad would back her up in her decisions. She knew he’d step right back in when he returned, she knew he wanted to be with us but also wanted to provide for us, and flying was how God called him to do that. And in the lean years, when flying didn’t always cover the bills, she stepped in; to substitute teach, to work at Darvills bookstore, to tutor or to help watch kids at the daycare down the road. 

Yes, they were a team. For 65 years. They barely knew each other when they got married, living as they did on opposite sides of the nation. But they knew enough to know that this union was right. So when Dad proposed over the phone, Mom said yes. “Yes” to whatever may come. “Yes” to living their lives in the presence of Emmanuel, God With Us. 

Mom is now with Emmanuel. Absent from the body, no longer present in their cozy home, reading her books and her Bible – I should say Bibles, plural. Underlined, worn, creased, cherished. Memorized. Sung.

She’s no longer up at 4a.m., praying. Praying for me, for Kris and Jenny, for our husbands, our children, and our grandkids – even the ones not yet bornPraying for all of you. Praying for missionaries, whom she felt she knew. Praying for – and with – Dad. 

One more photograph that is only in my mindMom praying before bed, years ago, when they lived in Wisconsin. I was staying with them for a few months. It was late in the evening, and I walked past their open bedroom door and there she was, kneeling at the side of the bed, like a little child, hands clasped together in prayer. I’d blundered into a sacred moment, but she didn’t mind. She opened her eyes, stood up quickly, and hugged me good night. 

She could stand up quickly then, 13 years before the cancer, before the stroke.

After the stroke, not too long before they moved to Arlington, we were visiting them in Silverdale. Mom was having a hard day. I don’t know what triggered it, but tears began to flow as we sat at the table. She was frustrated with her inability to sew and sing and serve as she had for so many years. 

All I can do is pray,” she finally managed to say.

“Mom!” I said, in the middle of the busy years where a quiet day when all “I could do was pray” was nothing but a dream. “Mom, that’s not an ‘all’! That’s your job now.”

But it wasn’t enough. She wanted to be doing. She did not go gently into her waning years.

But thanks be to God, she went gently in the end.

The heart of Christmas

My earliest Christmas memory — a memory I know is mine and isn’t just from family stories or photos that make me think I remember — is me, age 10, I believe, so impatient and anxious to get to the important business of unwrapping gifts but having to wait for my sister to get off of the ferry boat because she’d had to work the night before on the mainland and therefore couldn’t arrive home to Orcas Island, Washington, until Christmas morning. I must have been quite a pest because Mom sent me with Dad to drive the 35 minutes to the ferry dock to pick up Kris, knowing that the enforced hourish away from the beckoning Christmas tree would give her peace and me something else to think about.

I’m not sure that it did give me something else to think about because I remember pouting all the way there and all the way back, but then, finally, oldest sister returned to the fold, we were home, breakfast was ready, and we could get down to the agenda of the day.

I can’t tell you most of what I received that year. Books, for sure. Puppets, possibly. Probably some Lego. Clothes, handmade by Mom, and that could have been the year I received an Instamatic camera from my grandparents with film that was two years expired.

But I do know for sure, that was the year I received my dollhouse. I had been banned from the loft above the kitchen for weeks, knowing that something more than just secret sewing was going on as sewing machines didn’t make sand-paper noises, or require anyone other than Mom to shut themselves away for hours at a time. I imagined all sorts of things — a book shelf, a birdhouse (though why I’d have been receiving one of those I’m not sure) — anything to keep me from imagining a dollhouse because what if it wasn’t that and Christmas morning would come and I’d be heartbroken because my imagined house wouldn’t be there, waiting in all its glory beneath the Christmas tree.

But it was a dollhouse. Three stories high. A kitchen off to the side. Wallpapered with wrapping paper and inhabited by tiny people my mother made and furniture made from upholstered match boxes. It was all I had secretly dreamed of and more, even if it was incomplete. That just meant I was able to help put it together, which was also fun.

I kept that house for years, finishing some architectural details that the arrival of Christmas had thwarted, installing new furniture over time, adding dishes and doormats and plastic chickens. I borrowed baby Stevie from my Sunshine Family dolls and he lived happily in a second story bedroom. I finished painting the front railings just about the time we had to put it into storage, the year I turned 16. I knew I’d miss it in my new German bedroom.

Four years later, having left West Germany behind and returned Stateside, a truck arrived with Mom and Dad’s things that had been stored away for all that time. A huge box was placed upon the grass, DOLLHOUSE scrawled across the lid in bold Sharpie.

“Where do you want this?” the man asked, indifferently.

“Just leave it right here for now,” Mom replied, handing me a box cutter. I think she was as excited as I was.

We sliced the tape, folded back the lid, and there it was.



Literal sawdust.

Literal holes.

I turned away, unable to face the shock on Mom’s face. I brushed past oblivious moving men, went into the upheaval of my room and shut the door, flinging myself upon my bed. I cried that day. For far longer than one might think a 20 year old should cry for a broken dollhouse.

It had been a cherished hope. A wonderful surprise. A time-consuming art piece. A creative outlet. A miniature world. The one thing I had missed the most, and looked forward to with the coming of that great big van.


I wonder, sometimes, if that’s how God looks at His world. He anticipated it; He made it; He saw that it was good. He cherished it; He watched it; He set it up to succeed.

Yet still it fell. Still it failed. Still sin entered in.


And so He sent the angel.

So He sent His Son.

So He came to save us.

And as we fling ourselves upon our beds in our misery, we fling ourselves upon His mercy, and that wee tiny baby takes hold of our hearts.

“What shall I give Him, poor as I am? If I were a shepherd, I would give a lamb. If I were a wiseman, I would do my part. But what I can, I give Him. Give my heart.” – Christina Rossetti

(All photos curtesy of my dad. The angel is me, by the way, circa 1976?)

Oh, the humanity of Christian leaders

I was in early middle school the first time that I was terribly disappointed in a Christian leader’s behavior. I didn’t fully understand what was going on at church, but I knew that my parents were embroiled in some sort of issue with the pastor, and many other people at the church were, too. We ended up leaving that church it got so bad, and since we lived on an island — Orcas Island, Washington — where the only other church available was Episcopal, my parents and others started a new church which met in homes for a while and then in the local high school. Quite a few years later — maybe 20 — the two churches reunited, which was a lovely ending to the old hurts.

Though I saw the hurt that my parents’ suffered in that situation, it didn’t impact me a whole lot personally. I didn’t have strong feelings about the pastor either way other than I disliked him for hurting my mom and dad. A few years later, however, when I was in college, I experienced two separate hurts from Christian leaders who were closer to me. These weren’t moral failings, or even theological failings, as the situation with our pastor had been, these were personal hurts. I was hurt because, with one of them, she left the church — as in the extended, universal Christian church — entirely. I couldn’t believe it. How could she? The other hurt was because I expected too much from a person and was horribly saddened by what I saw as a personal rejection of me as a disciple of this person’s teaching. I wanted more of their attention but I was given less.

I learned several things through these three situations. I learned that my expectations of people were often wrong and possibly even ill-advised. But more importantly, I learned that Christian leaders fail us. They don’t meet our expectations of who they should be. They prove, over and over, that they are human. Whether through moral failure, rejection of the church, or failing to meet our expectations, they make their own choices and those choices don’t always line up with what we think they ought to be.

But the core truth that I learned is far deeper: people will fail us, but Jesus never will.

In all of those years when I felt disappointed in God’s people, never once did God himself fail me. In all of those times when I compared people to God’s son, felt cynical over human behavior and wept metaphorically or truly over my hurt feelings, never, ever, did Jesus fail to live up to what he promised to be.


It was good to learn at a young age that Christian leaders are fallible, because it has kept my eyes open and my heart more attuned to the infallible Jesus. A church — or a nation — should not be filled with people who are there only for the leader. That becomes a “cult of the personality”, a group there not for a higher purpose (that of serving God) but there because they think the leader is such a great guy (or gal).

Christians are called Christians because we are named after Christ. Not after any human being. Jesus is the only sinless one, the only perfect one, the only one worth following. He will not disappoint. He will not morally fail. He will not change like shifting sands.

The hymn “My Hope is Built on Nothing Less” came to mind this morning as I saw the headlines in the news. “My hope is built on nothing less that Jesus’ blood and righteousness: I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name. On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand: all other ground is sinking sand; all other ground is sinking sand.”

If your faith is built on people, it will sink.

When my faith was in people, even my very world seemed to crumble, but Jesus was solid. That was a good lesson to learn given that today, when the world truly is in massive upheaval, I know and have seen through 50 years of living, that Jesus is unshakable.

Set your mind on Jesus, friends. Build your hope, your faith, your life on His unchangeable love.

“Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.

Such a high priest truly meets our need — one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself. For the law appoints as high priests men in all their weakness; but the oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever” Hebrews 7:23-28

Barn Blessing


The Apple Barn

I’m a sucker for old barns. The kind that are barely standing, just waiting for a massive gust of wind to smack them down. The kind where the wood is gray with age and the last re-roofing took place in the Carter Administration. The kind where skunks are more liable to live than horses or cows.

I’m fairly sure that I know the origin of my love of barns. My dad, a semi-professional photographer when I was growing up, had the same obsession. If a barn on Orcas Island was picturesque, screaming for a photo shoot, he was there to oblige.

Several of those barns remain in my mind and, thankfully, in his files. There is one – most people called it the Apple Barn – which sits (yes, it’s still standing) in a small, often misty valley, not too far from my sister’s house.

We pass the Apple Barn on the way to and from the ferry landing whenever we visit. When we pass it upon arrival, I feel like I’m really there, back in Washington State. Home. When we pass it upon leaving, I feel like it waves goodbye. Like the benevolent apple-scented spirt of the barn ushers me off of the island and wishes me farewell wherever I fare.

We round the corner, and the barn disappears, and always, always, the loss that settled down upon me like a cloak as we braked down the hill from my sister’s house, releases like a wheezing balloon and for the rest of the drive to the ferry dock the tears I fight back are tears of joy. Joy that I grew up in this place. Joy that I have sisters and parents and family to love. Joy that God has given me this visit, this moment, this island to come home to.

 “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” Colossians 2:6,7 NIV

“Let the little children…”

Yep. That’s me. Age about 4. I’m in the empty field next door to the house I grew up in. Dad told me to pick some daisies and so I did but there was a bee on one that I reached for and that is the shot that Dad liked best. Me, a little tentative, holding my Bouquet for Mommy.

That’s what Dad titled the photo: Bouquet for Mommy. He enlarged it in his mysterious and malodorous darkroom and it lived on our living room wall for so many years that it faded to a pale shadow of its former self, leaving a rectangular mark on the wall the day we moved away.

“Let the little children come to me,” Jesus said. Let them pick flowers from my fields. Let them enjoy bugs. Let them find the wild strawberries just over to the left, close by the gate — just out of the shot of the camera — where blackberry brambles grow fiercely along the edge of the cliff and the eagles rest in the old fir tree.

Let them come. Let them learn to know me as they learn to know my creation. Let them fall in love with my world and let them fall in love with me. Do not hinder them. Do not call them in too soon.

Let them make mud pies and walk along the beach and skin their knees and wade in the water. Let them climb the rocks and climb into my lap and reach up to touch my face, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.

Let them come, and they will keep coming when they grow older. When they question who I am and when they need reassurance. And when, after they run away and rebel and call out to me in the reaches of the night, they will remember. They will see that I am the same God they found in the fields, the same God of the mountains and the daisies and the bumblebees, and they will climb again, into my lap. They will reach their hands, tentatively, needfully, desperately, to touch my face, and they will remember.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this first of the occasional photo-centered posts. I have hundreds and hundreds of photos of my dad’s that I am excited to share with you. I have a few decent ones of my own, too! So, from time to time, I’ll focus on a photo!

Enjoy your week, my friends.