May 31, 2017

In Memoriam

Posted in Faith, Just Life at 10:02 pm by catsinboxes

My grandmother, Jan Toole, died at 3:15 am this morning.  She was 81 years old.

Grandmother was a wonderful woman.  From some of her features to her sense of humor, I am her granddaughter.

My earliest memories are of energetic grandparents.  Grandmother —letting me balance on her shoes & walking me along the grocery store aisle.  Grandmother, her yellow lab in tow, surprising us with a visit.

These and other glimpses and impressions all include the memory of fun.  Grandmother was a grandmother who played.  She understood and loved children and that colors my earliest memories.

Grandmother was a teacher.  Raised ahead of her times by a father who encouraged his daughters in their pursuits, Grandmother was fiercely independent.  She was an elementary school teacher in Europe for the Department of Defense. During school vacations, Grandmother and her friends would take her car and travel across Europe.  While teaching in Europe, she met my grandfather, an Army Officer.

Grandmother was a storyteller.  But whereas Granddaddy could spin a fictional yarn, Grandmother’s stories always stuck to fact.  Camp adventures from growing up —swimming in a lake with cottonmouths.  Travel adventures —visiting towns in Europe where Americans had never visited.  Teaching adventures —helping difficult pupils understand math and teaching migrant workers at the racetrack. And last but not at all least, animal adventures —often featuring dogs she had known and loved.

When Grandmother told a story her eyes would light up.  She’d fix you with bright, brown eyes which would glint with humor even as her face quirked into a half-smile at some memory.

Over the years though, the light in her eyes began to fade.  Parkinson’s began to replace brightness with bewilderment.  Humor remained for a while, but it was often superseded by petulance.

Grandmother was a proud woman.  It was hard for her to let go of things, even as my grandfather gently learned to cook and took over running the house.

Grandmother loved fiercely and kindly.  She loved the hurting —gently and tenderly.  She loved the weak and guarded them carefully.

She loved my grandfather, faithfully, and told him goodbye three years ago.  Despite Parkinson’s, she was present enough to tell him she loved him, and it was alright for him to leave.

The last time I saw Grandmother was the summer before that.  Granddaddy was in Normandy for D-Day’s anniversary —it would be his last visit.

Grandmother’s health was at the point she couldn’t live on her own.  So I stayed with her, cooking and helping around the house.

She was still herself part of the time.  Sometimes she was irascible and petulant, but still, overwhelmingly, Grandmother.

I think we both knew it was the last time.  The last time I’d get to see the Grandmother I knew . . . .

Everyday she’d give me long, long hugs.  As she hugged me in a strong bearhug, she’d whisper, “I love you.”

I’d hug her back, trying not to cry, and whisper, “I love you, too.”

Grandmother left a legacy of love to her children, grandchildren, and to the countless others whose lives she touched.

As I look to her life and death, I’m haunted by the words of Job.

The Lord gives and the Lord takes away.  Blessed be the name of the Lord.  



June 4, 2015

Settling in

Posted in Blogging, Cats, Faith, Just Life tagged , , at 8:05 am by catsinboxes

He’s curled on the bookshelf by the window —napping and feigning oblivion. It’s a sham. I know he’ll be up soon: bustling into the bedroom if I spend too long in there before returning to the living room. Or, he’ll start patrolling the apartment: pacing from room to room and vociferously complaining when I don’t let him out or refuse to fling open a window to give him a better view.

Oliver. The cat I didn’t want. God certainly has a sense of humor. This cat has more personality in the tip of his tail then some cats in the entire sum of their lives.


“I think he has some Oriental Shorthair in him; he has that look.” —Says Mary, our regular mail carrier and a fellow cat lover.

So, while he was in rare form one day, I looked up “Oriental Shorthair” and read their personality.

The Oriental has a . . . colorful personality. They are closely linked to the people they claim as their own and desperately want to share their lives with you. In the busiest moments, your Oriental will find a way to interrupt your activities.

They usually bond with one person and become extremely devoted and dependent upon their chosen human. Expect them to be at your side, in your lap, and at the door to interrogate you about where you’ve been.  (Cat Fancier’s Association &  Petfinder Breed Profile)

This explains so much, and it’s Oliver to a T.

And I didn’t want a cat . . . hah! God knew better.


March 11, 2015

Four Years Later

Posted in Blogging, Faith, Favorite Quotes, Japan, Just Life tagged , , at 9:13 pm by catsinboxes

There are some dates you will never forget.  Today is one of those dates.

*Originally published on March 11, 2011, at the LEX Language Project blog:

It started with a faint rumbling. I could feel the floor vibrating under my feet. Around the office, people stopped work; there were exclamations, and then everything really started shaking. Within a few moments, I was sitting under my desk and listening to the sound of cabinets and everything else in the office being shaken by the earthquake.

This was my first earthquake in Japan. I knew Japan had earthquakes, so I was a bit surprised when my supervisor told me I should let my mom know I was okay. Wasn’t this a normal earthquake?

In the hours since then, and one powerful aftershock later, I have come to understand that this was much more than a standard earthquake. In fact, this was the largest recorded earthquake in the history of Japan . . .

I was in Tokyo when it happened.  It doesn’t seem like four years ago.  In many ways, it feels like only a short time ago.

Then, and in the following days, God was faithful.  Just thinking back brings a rush of memories.  Listening to Praise You in the Storm and not getting it, on my way to work that morning.  Listening to it the next day, and understanding.

Reading Isaiah.  Remembering Isaiah 41:10.  Remembering God’s promises, and though I was scared, not being afraid.

Singing You Raise Me Up in Japanese with believers that following Sunday, joining hands and praying.  The power in that calm moment.  “Do not be afraid; I am with you.  Be not dismayed . . . I am your God.”

Four years later, and all these memories can slip, but they come rushing back.  They come on March 11.  They come at other times.  So please, take a moment, and do not forget.  Remember Japan.  And say a prayer because, 4 years later, many people are remembering this day.

June 6, 2014

The Love of a Good Man

Posted in Faith, Just Life, WWII tagged , , , at 8:55 pm by catsinboxes

70 years ago, today, a young soldier landed on Omaha Beach. He arrived in a later wave, not one of the first waves, waves that were mown down by machine gun fire.

Charlie - Dover - April 1945

Later, he would remember and tell his grandchildren about the dead rabbits he saw. Since the Germans had blocked the beaches, the rabbit population had thrived, but the initial allied bombardment had killed many of the rabbits. He never mentioned the bodies, just the rabbits.

He was 18 years old the summer of 1944, the son of a Georgia sharecropper. He had wanted to join the war and fight for his country, and he was glad when he was drafted. His employer was not glad and quite upset to be losing such a fine, hard-worker.

In the days following D-Day, the young soldier’s unit moved across Normandy. He remember these days and would tell the light-hearted stories . . .

The time he hit the ground during machine gun fire, only to find himself in a bed of the most delicious strawberries. . .

Or, sober stories:

As a forward observer, his pack got tangled and his buddy, Private Walter Moore from Chatanooga, TN, was trying to loosen it. Moore had just given up when a German round, probably a mortar, exploded right next to them. Moore took the full impact of the explosion.

Years later, after the war, the young soldier took a train through Chatanooga. He wanted to stop, to find Moore’s family and talk to them, but he was not able to do it. Like many soldiers, he would be haunted by the question, Why him and not me?

Only God knows the answer to that question, but I know the rest of the young soldier’s story.

Charlie at Siegfried Line, Germany March 1946

He served in Europe through the rest of World War II. After the war, he became an officer. He returned to Europe during the postwar years, and also served in China until the Communist take-over.

While in Germany, he met a young, American school teacher. He returned to the United States, but a correspondence blossomed. He proposed in a letter, she accepted, and they were married.

Charlie and Jan in front of Chapel - July 14, 1962

He served in two more wars: Korea and Vietnam.

He was the father of four daughters and, in time, the grandfather of 11 grandchildren.

Charlie with Holly - 10 weeks

Last Sunday, he went home to be with the Lord. He was 89 years old.


He loved God. He loved his family, and he loved his country.

He was my grandfather.

His story is not unlike the story of many other men whom we remember today, yet for me it is so much more than a story. It is a life well and fully lived. I am proud to be his granddaughter.


May 21, 2014

Wordsworth Wednesday

Posted in Bible, Creative Writing, Faith, Favorite Quotes, Just Life, Poetry tagged , , , , at 7:31 am by catsinboxes

No, this has nothing to do with Wordsworth except that it has something to do with poetry.  Also, in light of the popularity of Wordless Wednesday, and since in the English language there is not a day of the week to lend alliteration to poetry, I will get creative.  I am not very familiar with Wordsworth, and though I would like to better my acquaintance, I will not quote him at the moment.  Instead, I will share my own poem.

Today, I read D.A. Carson’s commentary on Hebrews 7.  In closing, he urges his readers to meditate upon verses 23-25.

The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever.  Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him , since he always lives to make intercession for them.

I love those words.

Sunset on Superior

Praise His name, the Son of David,

Praise His name, the reigning King.

Praise His name, He saves the broken,

Praise His name, He intercedes.

Praise His name, He reigns forever,

Praise His name, He saves the lost.

Praise His name, He is returning,

He vanquished death upon the cross.

August 1, 2013

A Story

Posted in Blogging, Faith, Just Life, Ukraine at 9:11 pm by catsinboxes

Let me tell you a story: once upon a time, 16 years ago, a baby boy was born in Eastern Europe. Remember him, he is important. At that time, on this side of the world, there was a young family with 3 children. Well that family grew. They grew and they grew and they grew. They were a happy family, and they loved God, and they knew they had been blessed, blessed with 7 beautiful children. And that was good, but it was not all. No, not the end of the story in the least but only the beginning.

You see, this family loved people, and they loved bringing people into their home. They had one exchange student, and then another, and then another, until soon they had hosted a dozen times. And that was good, but it was not all. Because God had a plan for that family, a special plan. He slowly opened their eyes, and He showed them a need: a need written in the faces and names and lives of thousands of children around the globe, a need for love.

They heard it, and their hearts broke a little, and they knew that they must do something. So they prayed, and they helped others bring children home. Then they brought two brothers into their home for a month during Christmas. This was a different kind of hosting, a Christian hosting program for orphans from Eastern Europe. And their hearts broke some more. They loved these boys, and learned more about God’s strength during that month than they could ever have imagined. It was grueling, it was draining, but at the end of it, they were ready for more.

Then God directed their hearts toward another country in Eastern Europe. And he showed them a 16 year-old boy. Remember him? I told you he was important. They decided to host him for 5 weeks in the summer. They looked forward to his arrival, and they prayed for him every day. When it was time for him to arrive, they were so excited. They didn’t know what it would be like, but they knew that God was good and sovereign over all.

Five weeks passed. God showed himself good and loving and sovereign in more ways than the family could ever have imagined. When it came time to say goodbye, it was one of the hardest things they had ever done. But they knew that God was good.

They know that God has an amazing plan for this 16-year-old, and they know that one way or another they will see him again. They trust in that. They are a happy family, and they praise God, and they know they have been blessed, blessed with a bunch of beautiful children.


I don’t know what the next chapter of this story holds, but I’m excited to see it unfold.

June 5, 2013

What’s So Great About Aaron?

Posted in Bible, Faith, Just Life at 9:54 am by catsinboxes

Currently in my Bible reading, I am moving chapter by chapter through several books of the Bible including Leviticus.  And in the past few days, I was really anticipating getting to Leviticus 10 though I couldn’t quite explain why.  It definitely has action and conflict, and it’s shocking to say the least.  Yesterday, I finally reached it, and ended up spending my whole Bible time focused on that chapter!  As I finished up my Bible time, I thought “I should write a blog post with some of the notes I’ve made”, so here it is!

Something I didn’t realize until today is that Nadab and Abihu were probably drunk when they offered profane/unauthorized fire.  I inferred that while reading and confirmed it in the footnotes.  The point here though is that God is jealous for His glory, and “will not allow his holiness to be violated, not even by members of the high priest’s family.”  (ESV notes)  Their installation not even complete yet, and two of the priests –in the vernacular– screw-up with deadly results.

You know, I don’t know why people like the name Aaron so much!  He could speak, sure, but he succumbed easily to peer pressure, he lied, he didn’t always support Moses and he had 2 sons who couldn’t even make it through the priestly installation process!  You can’t judge a man by his offspring, but a look at them will tell you a lot about that man, and I think this holds true for Aaron.   His sons had seen their father not always follow the rules; goodness he heard the 10 commandments and then made a golden calf!  Why shouldn’t they try something different, too???  Being drunk surely wouldn’t have helped their logic either!

What can we learn from Aaron?  In God’s words to Aaron (v.8-11) we see the “three major rules” of the priesthood.  –And this is the only time God speaks directly to Aaron.–

The priests were (courtesy of the ESV footnotes for the breakdown)

  1. To distinguish between the holy and the profane
  2. To separate the clean from the unclean
  3. To teach the people the laws of God

It was a holy calling and one that no Levite could fulfill perfectly.  Aaron couldn’t, his sons couldn’t, none of their children, or children’s children could, until one day a child was born with Levite blood from his mother’s side.  He was the Christ, the anointed one, perfectly fulfilling the roles of prophet, priest, and king.

And that is why I could like the name Aaron, because Aaron, in all his fallibility, pointed toward something –rather, someone– so much greater.  Aaron stands for me, for you, for each of us as we live and sin and screw things up.  We can’t make it on our own, but by God’s grace, there is a way.  A way though the ultimate, perfect priest whose sacrifice made it possible for all of us Aarons to come to God.  Because of Him we can draw close without fear to a most Holy LORD and even call Him, “Father.”  How great is our God!

May 20, 2013

Things I Love –and Don’t Love– About Mornings

Posted in Blogging, Cats, Faith, Humor, Just Life at 11:24 am by catsinboxes

Mist in the Morning

Mist in the Morning

Definitely a LOVE here.  It might be the hundreth time, but mist always makes me happy!

The green that follows rain

Green Leaves

It stormed last night, so this morning there is a freshness and greenness everywhere that only follows rain.  And besides all the poetic, natural beauty, there is also the little things to love.

  • Bright-eyed children up at 6:15 and ready to go hunt for bugs
  • A happy golden retriever who’s still dozing & then comes wagging up to greet you
  • Encouraging comment from a FB friend concerning my writing; thank you, Cindy!
  • Birds singing outside (okay, poetic and natural, but whatever, it’s a little thing that I love!)
  • Hungry cats chirruping and petitioning to be fed
  • Happy children –also hungry– back inside to eat and read

What I don’t love:

  • Not being awake until my morning coffee kicks in
  • Being uber-auditory during Bible time:  “STOP shuffling those books in the other room, this instant for my sanity’s sake!!!”
And that’s about it because I really do like mornings, I do!  Even when I’m reading my Bible, and I get to the part in Leviticus 1 where it says –concerning dove and pigeon offerings–
“Bring it to the altar and wing off it’s neck . . .”
I stopped, interested, with a sudden vision of Aaron, dressed in all they made at the end of Exodus, energetically doing-in a pigeon or dove.  Oh, it said “wring off.”  Nevermind . . . I need to finish that cup of coffee.
I love my morning coffee!

I love my morning coffee!

And I love morning blogging, especially with the help of some tea and bagels with Biscoff.
Oh, and I love Twitter, too!

I love Twitter, too!

May 19, 2013

A Full Week and a Fight

Posted in Blogging, Faith, Favorite Quotes, Just Life tagged , , at 9:28 pm by catsinboxes

Today marks what I do believe is a first on this blog: since last Sunday, I have blogged every day.  For me, that’s a milestone!

The past week has been good, definitely full and busy.  All along, I’ve been planning ahead, and I knew what I wanted to write about on Sunday.  I wanted to blog about a fight.  Not a physical fight yet one that is occurring continually all around us.  I love how God makes everything work together, so I can’t say I was surprised when I sat down in church today to see that our sermon’s title was: “War Time Mentality.”

Wonder what that means?  Here’s a great quote from John Piper that Pastor Greg used to begin his message:

Thousands of Christians do not hear the diabolic bombs dropping and the bullets singing overhead. They don’t smell the hellish Agent Orange in the whitened harvest of the world. They don’t cringe or weep at the millions who perish every week. They don’t reckon with spiritual hosts of wickedness in heavenly places and the world rulers of this present darkness. “In fact, it is not dark,” they say. “It is bright and comfortable and cheery. Just look at my home and car and office and cabin and boat, and listen to my new disc player.”

As Christians we should be aware that there is a battle raging at this moment, and, in the words of J.C. Ryle, “If we would be holy, we must fight. . . . True Christianity is a fight.”  J.C. Ryle goes on to clarify what he means by “true Christianity” in a passage I found very convicting to the state of Christianity in modern America:

There are thousands of men and women who go to churches and chapels every Sunday, and call themselves Christians. . . . They are reckoned Christians while they live.  They are married with a Christian marriage service.  They mean to be buried as Christians when they die.  But you never see any “fight” about their religion!  Of spiritual strife , and exertion, and conflict, and self-denial, and watching, and warring, they know literally nothing at all.  Such Christianity may satisfy man, and those who say anything against it may be thought very hard and uncharitable; but it is certainly not the Christianity of the Bible.  It is not the religion which the Lord Jesus founded, and his apostles preached.  It is not the religion which produces real holiness.  True Christianity is a fight.

This begs the question: fighting what?  Each other?  Bickering over theological thimbles and splitting hairs over secondary or tertiary doctrines?  No!

The principal fight of the Christian is with the world, the flesh, and the devil.

We have to realize that the moment we become Christians, we have an enemy who is doing his best to take us out, and the best thing we can do for him is to be complacent and unaware of our own danger.

Is being a Christian easy?  No, it is not!  There is a fight, and there are times when we are wounded and brought low, times when we are besieged by doubts and paralyzed by worry.  At times like these, it can be so hard.  You can ask, “What am I doing wrong?  Why is everything bad happening that possibly can?”

There can be times when that question is helpful.  But another helpful question is to ask the opposite, “What am I doing right?”  Because if you’re stepping out in faith, if you are striving to grow closer to God, if you are trying to weed that particular sin out of your life, then you are a target for the opposition.

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.  (Ephesians 6:12)

It’s a terrifying array of forces, all with more power than most of us can comprehend.  –Our sermon was on Daniel 10 today, in which a demon, ‘The Prince of Persia,’ manages to keep an angel from ministering to Daniel for 3 weeks.  If these forces can take on an angel, what about me??–

It is daunting, but at the same time, I am really encouraged by the fact that, when we –Christians– feel an “inward fight and struggle . . . It is the invariable companion of genuine Christian holiness.” (Ryle)  Often, when life just seems to keep throwing us curveballs, I’ll look at Mom and say, “Well, I guess we’re doing something right!”

Because this fight isn’t one we should be afraid of entering; no, it is a fight that has ultimately already been won.  We’re battling a foe who was already defeated at the cross.  Not only that, but we have weapons (Ephesians 6) that are not of our own craftsmanship, but made by the King.

For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.  We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ . . .

Another Sunday is past, another week is beginning.  Fellow Christians, let us not be complacent to the fight that is waging at this moment.  The stakes are eternal, and victory is certain.


Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.  -I Corinthians 15:58

*All J.C. Ryle quotes taken from Holiness: Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties, and Root

May 16, 2013

C.S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien on Hobbits, Wizards, and Invisible Cats

Posted in Blogging, Cats, Faith, Favorite Quotes, Humor tagged , , , at 8:08 pm by catsinboxes

As an admitted C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien buff, this post is definitely an indulgence.  Still, I know there’s a lot of us out there, so I hope some of you fellow Lewis and Tolkien lovers enjoy it, too!

Light and trees

If you take nature as a teacher she will teach you exactly the lessons you had already decided to learn; this is only another way of saying that nature does not teach. . . . Nature never taught me that there exists a God of glory and of infinite majesty.  I had to learn that in other ways.  But nature gave the word glory a meaning for me.

In any mind which has a pennyworth of imagination it produces a good attitude towards foreigners.  How can I love my home without coming to realise that other men, no less rightly, love theirs?

Image of a stack of books

The truly wide taste in reading is that which enables a man to find something for his needs on the sixpenny tray outside any secondhand bookshop.  The truly wide taste in humanity will similarly find something to appreciate in the cross-section of humanity whom one has to meet every day.



A belief in invisible cats cannot perhaps be logically disproved, but it tells us a good deal about those who hold it.  Those who cannot conceive Friendship as a substantive love but only as a disguise or elaboration of Eros betray the fact that they have never had a Friend.




Wizards after all are wizards.




And what would you do, if an uninvited dwarf came and hung his things up in your hall without a word of explanation?

John Howe, Bagend

He had a horrible thought that the cakes might run short, and then he –as host he knew his duty and stuck to it however painful– he might have to go without.

Goodbye then, and really good-bye!” said Gandalf, and he turned his horse and rode down into the West.  But he could not resist the temptation to have the last word.  Before he had passed quite out of hearing he turned and put his hands to his mouth and called to them.  They heard his voice come faintly:  “Good-bye!  Be good, take care of yourselves –and DON’T LEAVE THE PATH!”

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