A Word About the Weather…


A Word on the Weather by Robynn

Nothing serves to highlight the differences between where I used to live and where I now live more poignantly than the weather.

In South Asia the weather is a static reality. It rarely changes. For ten months of the year it’s hot. Overlay two months of monsoon rains midway through those ten months and it’s now wet and still hot. Two months of the year are noticeably different. December and January are cold (not cold cold but certainly colder than hot). Sweaters, shawls, socks all come out smelling like mothballs from their hot hiding places and are worn out of pure necessity. The cold demands fashions accommodate a sweater-vest, or an accompanying shawl.

Imagine my shock at the weather here in Kansas! It remains a source of constant surprise. Locals like to joke, “If you don’t like the weather– stick around…” It’ll change, sometimes dramatically in one day! We’ve even experienced three different seasons in one single day!  I’m amused by Kansans and their fixation with the weather. Everyone always knows what the weather will be today and for the remainder of the week. They listen to the weather forecast religiously. They check it on the internet. The weather app is a part of every smart Kansans smart phone repertoire. Most Kansans have emergency weather alarms, weather accommodating houses. Kansans keep t-shirts and shorts; sweaters and jeans out all year long! To be Kansan is to be weather savvy.

Weather serves as a memory maker and life marker for a community. Here in Manhattan, KS they remember the Great Flood of 1983. Some still talk about the Great Flood of 1951. People drinking hot cocoa in warm houses with the glow of lamps lit and overhead lights on still reminisce about the ice storm of 2007 where the electricity was off for two weeks in the middle of December. No one here will ever forget the recent tornado of 2008. These things serve to bind a community together. Neighbours reach out to neighbours. People help one another. Sleeves are rolled up, debris is sorted through, extra soup is made, access to hot showers is shared. In the face of the wild side effects of weather, humanity remembers her heart and reaches out with kindness to those around her.

There is a rhythm to the weather’s seasons here in North America: spring, summer, autumn, winter. A whole collection of winters and summers, springs and autumns all joined together like beads on a rosary. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen. Day in, day out. Month in, month out. Year after year the weather marches on across the continent.

However, the newly arrived, the foreigner, the immigrant may not immediately connect to these predictable patterns. They can’t necessarily relate to the seasonal cadences. To them the weather serves to isolate.

Severe winter storms make for lonely cold people. Spring winds taunt the memories of warmer breezes. Hot summers set off sparks of wild homesick fires. An autumn that bids trees, all the trees at once, to fall their leaves is unsettling to the uninitiated.  A friend teaches in the ESL program here at Kansas State University. On a day when the thermometer reached 50* F (10*C), a shivering student asked her, “Does it get much colder than this?” Last week on a day when the warmest it got was 14*F (-10*C) I wondered after that poor student.

I will never forget that first winter back in North America, years ago, when I had returned to college on the Canadian Prairie. That first winter took my breath away. It sucked all the life out of me. I remember one forlorn day in the middle of January, that year, looking out the window, to more snow, more cold, more wind. The tears were falling down my face faster than the flakes were flailing from the chilly heavens to the frigid earth below. I closed the curtains and crawled back into bed—where I stayed for nearly a week. Winter sealed in my despair. Any morsel of remaining hope I had was piled under the shifting snow drifts outside my Saskatchewan window.

At boarding school our life was mostly climate controlled. When the winter snows began to fall in the Himalayan foothills, they broke up the school year to allow us to winter in a more temperate region. Kids and chaperones, bedrolls and trunks, suitcases and footlockers were dispersed by train or plain or jeep or bus to the far flung corners of Pakistan, where a more mild winter had settled. In the spring when the sun had regained her heat, we were allowed to escape back up to the cooler mountains, where, hopefully the snows were beginning to melt. We never had to endure the severe extremes of Pakistan’s weather. It was one thing that they tried to protect us from.

Winter has already arrived with stamina and severity to Kansas. The weather viciously turned on us a couple of weeks ago. The skies are bright and the sun is deceptively chipper and yet one step out the front door and your breath is plucked from your lungs and your extremities immediately begin to question your rational decision making abilities. It’s hard for me to maintain my emotional equilibrium in the face of such cold. I battle bitterness and bitchiness. I struggle to find joy and hope during the endless winters here. I find myself longing for other places, more temperate spaces.

I know my war on winter is petty in light of huge global issues. But it’s my honest struggle these days. Faith, hope and love are not dependant on the weather. The Holy One and the fruit he bears out in our souls (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness) is not thermostat controlled. His power can permeate frozen hearts of stone. He alone can transform those frigid heart-blocks into warm beating; life pulsing hearts of soft flesh.

I’m asking him to melt my icy attitude to the world outside. I’m asking for the courage to try on cheerfulness.

I’m asking him to make me aware to where life and warmth thrive, to where he is busy melting and moving, to those sacred hearths where he invites me to join him.


Lessons from Kansas on Living with Storms

Tornado warning

Today’s post from Robynn is one of those posts that offers life-lessons that go far beyond storms. Enjoy!

1.Know the lingo!

One Sunday afternoon, during one of our visits back to Kansas, I was washing dishes and listening to National Public Radio. Suddenly I heard the word tornado. This is foreign stuff to me. I was nervous. I went quickly to the bedroom and woke Lowell. “We’re having a tornado!” He calmly rolled over and sat up. He then sauntered quietly into the bedroom where our 18 month old was sleeping. Lifting Connor up, Lowell continued on down the hall and down the steps to the basement. About half way down, Lowell, still very calm and collected, turned to me and said, “Wait a minute….! Did they say Tornado Watch or Tornado Warning?” I didn’t have a clue. All I had heard was tornado and the name of our county. It didn’t seem to make a difference to me. A tornado is a tornado! But when I racked my brain I vaguely recalled the words Tornado Watch. Lowell quietly pivoted on the steps and started back up them. He ambled back down the hall, gently returned Connor to his crib and wandered back into our bedroom where he laid back down and resumed his nap.

The language of storms matter. Listen carefully. Hear what’s really being said.

2. Expectations matter!

When we first returned to the US, Bronwynn was five years old. One day she came home from kindergarten full of joy and excitement. They had spent the afternoon preparing for the big tomato! I wasn’t sure what she was referring to. It seems a very large tomato was going to come to the school and they had to get ready.She was so excited!

Still baffled, I asked her how they got ready for the tomato. She said they went into the hallway, they had to be very quiet, they sat on their bottoms against the walls and put their heads down between their knees. Ahhh! They were practicing the tornado drill, they were preparing in the event that a tornado might hit the school. Our tomato loving girl was so disappointed.

In the event of a storm, it’s good to know what you’re up against. Expectations matter! It’s time to put the salad forks down!

3. Consider the Source–You can’t believe everything you see!

We hadn’t been living in Kansas very long when friends of Lowell’s invited us to join them for a movie. It was the first double date we had been on with close friends of his. It was their way of welcoming their dear friend’s new bride to town. We went to the movies! Looking back on the event, I question the wisdom in our movie choice! Twister, released in 1996, starring Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton, tells the traumatic story of storm chasers who race across Oklahoma tracking tornadoes. It includes falling telephone poles, flying cows and soaring semi-trucks and trailers! Dramatically ridiculous, it probably wasn’t the best way to be introduced to tornadoes!

It’s important to know that not all information is good information. Be informed but take care in how you form what you believe about storms and tragedy and flying cows!

4. A local resident’s face is better than a radio snippet

Once, flying from Calgary, AB to Hamilton, ON, I was seated next to a woman who was extremely anxious about flying. The moment the engines roared into life, her face flinched, her hands clenched the arm rests, her knuckles turned white and she had to stop talking to focus on breathing. I asked her the obvious, “Are you nervous?” She was terrified! It turns out she had only flown two or three times in her 30 some years. She was a wreck. I told her to watch my face. I’ve flown my whole life. I first boarded an airplane when I was eight years old and I’ve completely lost count of how many times I’ve traversed the globe. “If I get nervous, you get nervous…but if I’m calm you can relax!” She was so grateful. We had a lively conversation across the Canadian Prairies. Several times she’d interrupt the chatter to ask if I was nervous. I shake my head, No, I was just fine. Her shoulders would lower, her grip on the arm rest would loosen. Through a turbulent time, her eyes were glued to my expression. As long as I remained peaceful she was fine. When we disembarked in Ontario, she gripped my hands in mine. She was so profoundly grateful.

That’s exactly how I survive storm season. I keep my eyes on my favourite local’s face. If my husband Lowell, who grew up in Kansas, is relaxed I’m relaxed. And he’s usually completely nonchalant about the weather.

Of course there was one time last summer, when Lowell very peacefully, took all of our important papers downstairs. Then he made sure each of us had a really good pair of walking shoes in the basement. He checked the batteries in the flashlights and he filled water bottles. All of that went to the basement. And then, just as I was beginning to panic, he crawled into bed (upstairs –in our bedroom) and fell asleep.

It’s good to watch those who have weathered storms before. It’s good to see how the react. They’ve been down this path before. They have experience.

5.There is healing and hope ahead

Last Sunday afternoon the skies were ominous. There were layers upon layers of clouds, dark clouds, swirling clouds, clouds of strange colour and texture. I felt the nerves begin to quiver in my stomach. We left a high school graduation party at the same time as some good friends of ours: Mike and Mary. Mike and Mary and their family lost their home in the tornado that struck our town in 2008. Most everything they owned was rendered rubble while they clung to their children in the safety of their basement. As we walked across the parking lot I asked, assuming I already knew the answer, “Do you guys hate storm season?” They both laughed and shook their heads. Mary grew up here. She loves it. Mike is resilient. Both of them acknowledged their youngest daughter Linda, 14 or 15, is still afraid. But the family laughed about that too and then they got in their van. And Linda got in the driver’s seat. Mary’s face flinched in fear at the prospect of letting her daughter drive. Mike just laughed.

I marveled at their strength. I stood amazed at the healing they had experienced and the joy the exuded. They’ve endured a lot of storms (and perhaps the tornado was the least of them) but they walk in healing and hope. I find that evidence that there is a God.

6. The storm you have is better than the storm you don’t

Four or five years ago we visited Florida. As I showed my driver’s license to a shopkeeper she shook her head and said, “Kansas! I could never live in Kansas!” I was in the throes of culture shock myself and was inclined to agree with her but I suddenly felt a wave of defensiveness well up. Why not? She explained that she couldn’t handle tornadoes. What about hurricanes? She threw back her head and laughed. Hurricanes weren’t bad. They gave you lots of advance warning. Hurricanes were gentle compared to tornadoes. Given that the infamous Hurricane Katrina had just been through three years before I was shocked. She was insistent though. I said I could never live in hurricane country. She looked at me like I was nuts, shook her head and finished checking me out.

We are given grace to live with the storms we have. It’s a mystery but it’s true.

People in Kansas are fixated with the weather. They check it compulsively. I have found that odd in my cultural adjustment. But now I understand. The weather matters here.

Ultimately, the Holy Weather Maker, still has final say.

And yet  – we do well to ready our homes, our hearts for the storms that will come. Perhaps no amount of storm preparation can fully fortify us for what’s ahead but we can gear up with an inner calm and joy and laughter and with a profound sense that there are clear skies ahead. These are some of the things I’ve learned from Kansas about living with storms.

Deep Roots

I was washing dishes and I saw a truck drive by with the words, Deep Roots, written on it. Deep Roots. I like the sound of it. Stable. Immovable. Secure. Wind worthy.

I married Deep Roots. Before when people would ask me where I was from I would hesitate. How could I begin to answer the question? The answer demanded a certain basic understanding of world geography, it required a little time and a little thought. Sometimes I changed the answer (not exactly lying, just modifying the truth slightly) depending on who was asking the question, how interested they seemed, how much they knew.

But then I married Lowell.

Lowell has roots. He’s connected to this land. He was born in Michigan and when he was in 1st grade his family moved south to Kansas. They first landed in Wichita but five years later they moved north and settled outside Junction City on Humboldt Creek Road. It’s where they’ve been ever since. Lowell attended Junction City junior high school and high school. He worked at the Junction City Newspaper. He got his first job at the Apothecary Shop on 6th street. Their family attended Highland Baptist Church at the top of the hill.

I married roots. Deep roots.

English: Konza Prairie 2005 photo by Edwin Ols...

Lowell is decidedly from Kansas. When I married Lowell, I married Kansas. I married Humboldt Creek Road, I married the Flint hills, the Konza Prairie, Kansas State University. I married roots, community, belonging.

The truth is I don’t have deep roots – but I have now seen and vicariously experienced Deep Roots; I married an answer to the question.

I married Lowell and can attach to his roots, resting in the security of his love, his family, his place. More so, I now have a metaphor to better understand what roots look like. For in my faith tradition I am called to Deep Roots – I am called to be rooted in Christ and grow deeper into those roots.

Roots that go far beyond prairies and creeks, hills and universities, far beyond Kansas. 

Now I know where I’m from.

I’m from Kansas. Because Lowell’s from Kansas.

Because I married Deep Roots.


**As you might have guessed, Deep Roots, it turns out, is a landscape management company. They pride themselves on being “Your one stop landscape installation and maintenance provider”. Apparently their “…work is excellent, (their) price fair, and (their) service is the best around”! Now you know where to get Deep Roots if you need them!

When Fear Proves Love

What if the fear we sometimes feel for our kids is what we need to remind us we love them? Great post this Friday with Robynn.


The Kansas River near De Soto, Kansas.

My son Connor and his friend Barnabas went on an adventure. Late Saturday afternoon, February 9th, they loaded up two kayaks and pushed off into the Kansas River. They searched out a sandbar where they set up camp and spent the night.

It would be good to keep in mind that Connor is not quite 16. Barnabas is 14. It’s winter time here in Kansas. Although it could have been worse, the temperatures did dip to 40 degrees Fahrenheit on Saturday night. The forecast called for a 60% chance of rain. There was a blustery wind that blew all night long. The adventure involved water, sand, boats, tents and fire.

For the record I was against the adventure from the start. I didn’t think it was a good idea. But Lowell, the Dad was keen, and even excited, for Connor to plan such an event. He was supportive, helped Connor track down the supplies and the gear.

I kept wondering aloud if this was such a good idea. No one seemed to listen.

I kept suggesting deferring the adventure for another time, or maybe eliminating one of the components. What if they just went kayaking? Or what if they went winter camping? Perhaps camping in April would be a good idea? They kept talking and planning and ignoring. I remember reading that dad’s exist to slowly separate moms from the child. I remember reading somewhere else that dads encourage adventure and risk, that moms want safety. Or maybe I made that all up…but it kept me quiet. I didn’t, and I could have, put my foot down and adamantly stomp out the whole crazy idea.

And so the boys went camping in the winter rain. When Lowell dropped them off it started to hail!

When Connor was first born in faraway India nearly 16 years ago I was completely overwhelmed. Hormones, fatigue, and lack of support structures pushed me into a deep agonizing place. Those first months were not pleasant ones. My expectations for me as a mother were dashed. I thought I’d be amazing. Instead I was tired and sore, empty and emotional.  I even wondered if I had any affection for this baby boy that cried, that interrupted my sleep, that disturbed my roles, that disrupted my ideals.

On Easter Sunday that year we took a tiny baby boy out to the village to worship with one of the village churches we had come to love. The women, girls, and grandmothers all descended with exuberance on this little, very white, bubba! They scooped him up. They doted on him. They loved him enthusiastically! At one point one of the Aunties took him next door to see another Auntie. When they brought him back several minutes later they had put kajol on him. Kajol, charcoal (sometimes in pencil form, sometimes straight from the fire place) is placed in the eyes of baby boys as a primitive type of eye liner. It serves to confuse the gods. Perhaps they’ll think this baby now made-up is a girl and they won’t harm him. It also protects the boy child from the evil eye. A large black spot is usually applied on the forehead or cheek to make the baby seem less than perfect. That way the “evil eye” won’t be jealous, or won’t want to do its part in harming the child.  It’s also used simply to accessorize the baby…like the large flowers that moms attach to bands that wrap around new baby girl’s heads…just for pretty!

Thousands of babies in India have kajol applied all the time. It’s a mark of love really, born out of a desire to protect. But when I saw it on my small Connor I freaked out. I smiled and masked my panic but it was there nonetheless. I imagined blindness and eye infections. I was horrified. But I’m well versed and trained in crossing cultures and I kept it together until we got home. And then I cried. And cleaned gently the coal from my Connor’s eyes. And pleaded with Jesus to protect my baby.

I realized, in my panic, that I loved my baby. I was so relieved. The monster mama bear that rose up within me to protect my son was an unexpected guest. I was so happy to meet her. I was so pleased she showed up. My fear somehow, in a slightly twisted way, proved I loved my son. Anxiety mysteriously affirmed my affections!

However I knew I couldn’t live in paranoia and panic. In a deeper place, past the panic, I knew I wanted to be truly at home in India. I wanted to relax and let India love my children. I wanted my children to know India and to be completely at home there. I would have to face my fears. I turned to the only Person I know who specializes in Peace. I poured out my heart to Jesus. I asked him if he might help me to relate to Connor as a mother relates to her 10th child. I wanted to be laid back and relaxed as a mother.

I wanted to be like Mary Jo Hawkinson.

Mary Jo is an amazing mother. At the time of Connor’s birth she had birthed 10 of her own babies. She’s made for it. She loves completely. She nurtures deeply. She was made to mother and she’s embraced that calling with energy, with a mellow manner, with mercy. Mary Jo mothers well. I prayed to be like her.

And I think God transformed my heart that Easter Sunday years ago. I became comfortable in my parenting. I’ve been quite laid back ever since. I don’t freak out often. I’m relaxed.

Saturday night Lowell and I were talking about Connor and Barnabas. We wondered how they were doing. Lowell was more anxious than he thought he’d be. I was worried too. We no longer need the reassurance of fear to convince us that we love Connor. We’re crazy about the kid!  As we talked I remembered that prayer I had prayed years before, the prayer to become like Mary Jo, and I chuckled.

Chuckled because that prayer, prayed in desperation 16 years ago, had come full circle. My first-born was out camping with Mary Jo’s baby. You see Barnabas is Mary Jo’s eleventh and last child!

Connor came home exhausted but impishly victorious! Both boys agreed they’d like to do it again but maybe they’d wait for warmer weather–I applaud that idea.

I saw Mary Jo at church. As you might imagine she wasn’t at all worried. She did admit she might have had second thoughts if there had been bears! But we don’t have bears in Kansas.

On Mentoring

Fridays with Robynn!

Be careful who you get to mentor you

I meet every 3 weeks with Candice. Originally she asked me to mentor her, but I don’t really do that. I don’t know what it is. I don’t want someone to have expectations that I can’t meet. I don’t want to disappoint.

So Candice & I meet every 3 weeks for a cup of conversation and a coffee. She’s young and keen. She takes me seriously. She wants to learn about faith and life and boys. I make suggestions, she makes changes. She listens to me. Candice is an artist. She loves people. She loves colour, details, texture, bugs, critters. She loves God’s green earth. God meets her in her studio, on her bicycle, in the flower shop where she works part-time.

This past weekend she and a friend went to Topeka. Candice and I had coffee on Friday. Together we wondered, hypothetically of course, what it would be like to draw someone you didn’t like—a personal enemy–or perhaps a public enemy. What would it be like to draw people who society hates? This idea took root in her. She decided to talk to someone at the Topeka Correctional Facility. It was a long shot but she wanted to try. So early Saturday morning she and her friend headed to Topeka.

After driving and walking around the prison the guards began to be a little suspicious and asked them to leave. They decided to go get lunch. Ever the adventurers seeking art they ended up in an entirely Hispanic community. They were the only white people. They found a restaurant—a hole in the wall, really—with bars on the window. No one spoke English. Their waiter was elderly and diminutive and full of smiles. He too spoke no English. Candice managed to ask him through sign language and pointing and gesticulating if she could please draw him. He agreed. After a spicy lunch Candice pulled out her sketch pad and began to capture the waiter, the moment, the experience on paper.

The next day I met Candice’s mother at a birthday party. She and I are friends. We’ve been friends a long time.

She was horrified that Candice was thinking to sketch prisoners! Had I suggested that? She was freaking out that Candice had ended up in a questionable neighbourhood; in a restaurant with “bars on the windows”. She told me to please stop encouraging Candice. This wasn’t safe. Candice is naïve and doesn’t know what she’s doing. She listens to you Robynn. Please stop encouraging her.

I was so fascinated. I had been so happy for Candice and her friend to have had this crossing cultures moment. They had such a great time. It was a day time adventure, an experience they’re not likely to forget.

And then Candice’s mom made it more personal in a last-ditch attempt to sway me, and she said, “If your daughter, Adelaide, does this in 7 years you won’t be happy either…will you?”

But that’s just it! I’ll be thrilled. Cross cultural living is such a high value for me. I grew up in the dusty streets of Layyah, Pakistan. My favourite sounds were the sounds of the tube wells beeping their deep relentless song, the camel bells across the canals, the call to prayer. I went to school with the united nations! We were from everywhere and we lived together in a sacred somewhere so very far from here. I long for these types of experiences for my children. It was my worst fear that we would have to move back to the US and that I’d have to raise them here in a country where most everyone speaks only English, where  airplane travel is rare and many haven’t even left the state of Kansas!

So if Adelaide ventures in to the darker side of Topeka in 7 years and has lunch surrounded by Spanish speakers–I’ll be so excited. I’ll beg her to take me with her the next time. I’ll ask about what she ate, and how she ate it. I’ll want to know details and descriptions. I’ll laugh at her stories.

I’ll tell her that I grew up in a house with bars on the windows and we frequently ate in restaurants with bars on the windows,where no one spoke English. I hope, and pray that my kids get to do the same!