Vacation Part II

Dear Father,

I learned more about Jeff today and I think I have a better idea of what I’m doing here.  I’m going to try to talk to him more this evening when he gets home.  If You could maybe break a pipe or zap a wall outlet so I’d have a reason to enter his apartment, I’d appreciate it.  0:-)

I think I left off at Wednesday in recalling the camping trip.  It was Laura Ingalls Wilder Day for us.  Jessie was thrilled to see so many of the places and things that were important to one of her favorite authors.  We had to tell the kids to be careful, though, because I was leading our tour and sometimes they’d make comments that raised some eye brows like “Andrew, did you ever have an assignment as a teacher in a one room school house like Laura?” or “Did you ever take any of the Ingallses Home?”  I got more than a few chuckles out of it.

Then we had lunch at a cafe and that was sure interesting.  The waitress seemed to think all the kids were Laja’s and that I was their father.  I quickly set her straight but not quickly enough for Laja to become bothered and Owen very amused.  The waitress made a comment about Laja’s ring at which point I realized it was in the “someone has my heart” position instead of the single one.  I never understood the claddagh thing until Monica explained it to me a few years ago.  I don’t know when Laja switched it and I guess it’s nothing I don’t know but it was jarring for a moment.  But there wasn’t much time to dwell on that with kids needing to be fed.

We ate dinner around the campfire that night.  You know, I think the dogs got spoiled having so many little hands feeding them people food!

Thursday we did some souvenir shopping for our friends.  I think I found a little something that will be appreciated by everyone.  I was most impressed by the little ones.  The Tunnel people do a great job of teaching them that it’s the thought that counts in a gift, not the money that went into it.  And we also did cheese shopping, too.  0;-)

Since it was our last day in Wisconsin, we broke into smaller groups so everyone could do the things they loved best once more.  I was in the fishing group with Shelby, Asher, Portia, and Persephone.  Then we made sandwiches for dinner and hiked up our favorite trail and had dinner on the hill.  It was really a wonderful moment that I won’t soon forget.

Friday morning we left to visit Raquel.  Between stopping for lunch and at parks for the kids, we didn’t reach her house until shortly before dinner.  After that, Owen and Portia took the kids outside so Raquel, Laja, and I could talk.  That’s when she told us the big news about her pending marriage!  Thank You, Father, for bringing someone into her life.  I know Raquel’s been very lonely since Dawn died and while we try to do our best by calling and visiting, she needs someone to share her life with.  So thank You for Capt. Leo!  I can’t wait to meet him and share in his and Raquel’s special day.  Laja and I were both resistant at first to their hosting everyone on the cruise ship but Raquel insisted that she needed us there so we’re going!  I hope everyone can make it.  She said she’s inviting Monica, too.  It’ll be nice to see her again.

Saturday Raquel took us all around town to the children’s museum, the zoo, and other places she thought the kids would enjoy.  I think it did her good to be surrounded by so much excitement and joy and gratitude.  I enjoyed it myself although being back there and walking around town made me remember that assignment.  It also made me want my friends there with me again like they’d been last time.  Laja seemed to feel the same way.  I think it was a good thing we went home the next day.

It was hard saying good bye to Raquel again on Sunday but it was important the kids and Owen, Portia, and Laja spend Father’s Day with Vincent and Father.  And I know we’ll all be seeing Raquel soon!  That’s… wow… that’s just really great.  The miracles You’ve worked in her life are amazing, Father.

Thank You for giving me a couple of days back in Dyeland after the trip.  I tried to get in touch with everyone there and at the Phoenix and Tunnels to let them know I’d missed them.  I hope I can do the same when You decide the time is right again, Father.



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Vacation Part 1

Dear Father,

Thank You for all the wonder and beauty and love You’ve allowed me to see, especially lately.

It’s been an amazing few weeks.  On the 8th Laja got her way and we showed that frog movie.  0;-)  Maybe it was still a little embarrassing but seeing and hearing my friends laugh made it worth it.

And then two days later we packed the kids into the van and were off to Wisconsin.  We set out from Nebraska on Friday morning… June 11th, I guess it was.  Poor Persi got a little carsick.  I forget how novel a car ride is for the Tunnel kids.  We were all grateful she adjusted quickly.  Shelby and Jessie kept the kids’ from getting bored by playing “I Spy” and word games they must have learned Below.  It was great just to hear them playing.

To break things up for them, we stopped at every used book store we passed.  Sometimes I see children bent over cell phones and those handheld games and it makes me wonder what their futures will be like.  Will they be able to imagine and invent as much as previous generations who had less?  But seeing those kids’ excitement over plain, old books… it restored my hope, Father.

They went to bed early that night after I sang “Tender Shepherd” at Shelby’s request.  It seemed to have an effect on Laja.  At times I wondered if this trip was the best idea for her but by the end I was sure it was.  Mostly because she told me but I also don’t think You would have allowed me to go if it would hurt her.

Since everyone rested so well the night before, the 12th was when we got our first hike in.  Evan found a dead squirrel which made some of the younger kids cry.  Owen, Portia, and Laja seemed to think I was the best one to handle it.   I suppose maybe I was.  I told them that everything lives and dies but how death is never, ever the end.  Shelby held my hand for the rest of the hike.  I think she was thinking of her parents.  I know in the future she’ll have more questions.  Please help me to give her the answers she needs, Father.

On a far less serious note, poor Laja was really having a time of it.  I guess she took my concerns about her caffeine intake to heart and decided to quit coffee during our vacation.  Big mistake.  I found her outside Saturday night holding her head and I thought she’d had a seizure.  It turned out only to be caffeine withdrawal so I started the 13th with a run to the nearest cafe.  I’m not sure if she was happier to see me come back or see the blended iced mocha with a shot of coconut that I was holding.  0:-)  Sometimes I think she worries a little too much about what I think.

We spent the rest of Sunday at one of the lakes and ended it around the campfire.  There were shooting stars and something about that prompted Asher to ask me about You so we all talked a long time about You and Heaven.  Children often seem to have a better understanding of You and Home than adults, I’ve noticed.  It touched me so much to hear them talk.  They built on what each other said and never criticized.

Homesickness seemed to hit us all in unison Monday.  While I still felt close to You, surrounded by all the wonders You created, I did miss my friends back in Dyeland.  The cell phones were used a lot that day with calls back and forth to Dyeland and the Tunnels.  To keep the kids minds off that, we played football and softball and tag and Hide and Go Seek.  I think the kids definitely had the advantage on the last one.  I couldn’t believe some of the tiny places they got themselves into!

Tuesday was a very laid back day.  We did more hiking and swimming and fishing.  That night we toasted marshmallows and told stories around the campfire.  Since the site of the fire gave us full view of the cabin door; Portia, Owen, Laja, and I stayed out and kept talking while the kids slept.  Persi had fallen asleep on my lap so she stayed with us, too.  Somehow we got to talking about some of my past assignments and I found myself opening up to them more than I usually do.  I kept looking down at little Persi and thinking of all the children and all my friends and praying that bad things never come to them.  But I know that even if they do, You’ll be there with them always.  As much as I love them, I know You love them more.

After a while it was only Laja and me so we just sat quietly, listening to the owls and watching the stars and the bats.  Suddenly I felt more strongly than usual that this part of my life… it won’t last forever.  Laja must have sensed something of what I felt because she reached for my hand then.  I think You probably heard from us both that night.

Jeff just got back next door.  Please help me to find the right words for this assignment, Father.



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Starting over

Hey there, everyone,

Years ago Laja set this up for me because she thought I needed a place to share my thoughts.  I suspect she just wanted a place to read them.  0;-)  I had a great time with it but after a while stopped using it.  Then I started using it again but only for writing to the Father when I needed to.  Now I’ve decided to do both.  So occasionally you might see something here.

I have a few minutes before I go meet my assignment so it seemed like a good time to start this.  I guess I’ll just start writing about what’s been happening.

That last week in May I was away from Dyeland working an assignment as an IT security specialist.  The Father sent me to help someone get through a trying time and I know hearing about His love really helped her.  The assignment shook me up a little but between praying and spending a couple days in Dyeland, I’m feeling much better about everything.

And, you know, I’m pretty proud of myself for succeeding in banishing viruses, adware, and spyware off several computers.  0;-)  All those years of de-spamming the main Dyeland email account really paid off!

I missed everyone in Dyeland and the Sibling Cities.  But it was great to be back and check in at the Cafe, the Phoenix, and Below.  Sometimes I can’t believe how large our once small circle has grown!  It’s… wow.  Just really great.

JABB 300 happened.  It was a good excuse to look back on all we’ve experienced together. I had a great time reading Laja’s and Vincent’s and Mick’s and Willy’s and Nigel’s and Yva’s memories.

Memorial Day was really special to me this year and I’m thankful to all of you for that.  Not only did it mean I got to come back to Dyeland after being away (for which I thank the Father) but our picnics are always a lot of fun.  Cooking out, hiking, joking, hearing the little ones play so happily and carefree, reliving good memories together: it doesn’t get much better than that!  And it meant a lot to go with Mick to pay our respects to the men and women who served their country.  Sometimes the time we spent with them doesn’t seem so long ago.

Next week Laja and I are headed to Wisconsin and Missouri with some of the kids.  I’m really looking forward to that.  I haven’t been camping in a while.  Or fishing.  Hey, if any of you are reading this and want to come along, we still have room.  Just let one of us know.  Owen’s driving a second van.

Also, we’re planning for a movie night Tuesday night.  Laja has a film she thinks you all need to see.  I say you should never see it but I’m deferring to the lady.  0;-)

Now I need to head to the call center.  Take care, everyone!

Your friend,


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Dear Father,

I feel much better than I did when I last wrote to You.  I still feel sad when I think about what happened in Denver but You’ve let me see so many great things since then.  It helped to spend time with people I care about, too.

Around the middle of last month, Laja had her bad bout with her allergies.  I was sorry she felt so awful but it was nice to be there for her.  I feel like they all spent so much time watching out for me last winter and I want to do the same.  And if that meant watching Little House on the Prairie then I wanted to do it!

Mick, Josef, and I took to the new golf course for the first time.  I had a great time with the two of them.  Sometimes I suspect they don’t feel as much a part of us as we wish they did but that evening out on the green, I think they felt it… even if Mick couldn’t believe I came in second after Josef.

I found myself with a lot of time to think during my assignment last week.  Maybe that was Your plan.  I have to admit that for a while I wondered what I was doing there.  Installing virus protection and removing adware from computers just isn’t the typical angel of death gig.  But then when I found Kristi’s suicide note on her computer, I understood.  I’m glad I could reach out to her and help her find a reason to live.  Sometimes I have a hard time understanding how something as beautiful and blessed as love can leave such a dark, frightening void in its wake.  Her sadness and her struggle to find hope really hit me.

I don’t ever want to be the cause of a void like that, Father.  I don’t usually have to concern myself with what people feel for me.  Just that one time with Erin.   I thought about her when I confronted Kristi.  And I thought about Jordan, too.  Erin and Kristi found their way back.  And I know Jordan found his way to You.  But I still think about that night sometimes.  Did he do it because he didn’t want to face a life without Molly if the worst happened?  Was he thinking clearly or was there just a moment when his dread drove away his sanity and in that moment he made the decision?

How can a person be sure that they’re there for their loved ones and at the same time help them to know that, even without them, they’re strong people who have so much to give and who can lead a full life?  That’s what I’m praying to understand.  I think it’s important I know.  Please help me.



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Apathy and betrayal

Dear Father,

I wanted to write earlier.  Speaking to You always helps but sometimes I need to sit down and write it out, too.  But first I wanted to thank You.

Thank You for a child’s understanding and curiosity.  A few weeks ago Shelby came to my place because she wasn’t picking up on counting money and wanted my help.  Thank You for letting me help her and thank You for the help she gave me.  It seems funny that one little girl and one shiny penny could cheer me up but they did.

Thank You for all the women in my life.  Yesterday at their Mother’s Day lunch, one of the kids at the Phoenix asked if I had a mother and I told them about You, in a way.  But it made me think about how I’m surrounded by so many women who bear the qualities the kids were listing off when they spoke of their mothers.  The unconditional love, nurturing, patience, creativity, and strength they all have and share with all of us is amazing.  I hope my small gesture helped them to know how much I appreciate everything about them.

Thank You for the dedicated people who serve and protect those in their community.

That brings me to my last assignment.  It was a complete change from the Spanish tutoring assignment in Georgia.  I think I really helped people there.  But in Denver… I’m not so sure.

Normally I love being a caregiver.  It’s how I met Cora and I’ve had so many other memorable assignments while working those cases.  I guess this is another memorable one but not for reasons I want and I know it’s not what You want, either, Father.

Why would someone take advantage of and scam elderly, sick people who relied on them?   Who trusted them?  How could they hurt or neglect them instead of taking time and the resources entrusted to them to see to their needs?  How could someone be so cold that the hurt they caused didn’t seem to impact them at all?

I thought Lana seemed like a really nice lady.  But then when I spent more time working with the people she was supposed to be watching over…  One lady, Mina, cried whenever I left and I thought it was just the dementia.  Why didn’t I know Lana was hurting her?   Sometimes I don’t understand why You tell me some things but not others.  I’m not doubting you, Father, but it is so hard.

Now  Lana has been caught and she’ll pay for what she did.  And I hope she makes restitution for all the money she pocketed instead of used to help the people she was designated to watch over.  But even if she does pay it all back, she’s caused so much confusion and pain and guilt in people who trusted their parents, grandparents, patients, etc. with her.  Before I took him Home, Gordon told me he was worried his daughter would beat herself up over what happened.  Please help her to know she couldn’t have known.  Lana put up a good show.  I even fell for it.

I know one thing.  I wasn’t doubting my decision to age alongside my friends.  But if I was, this would have stopped all those doubts.  As long as You allow it, I’m going to.  I want to be able to be as present as possible for my friends.  I hope I can protect them from people like Lana.  I have to.

For right now, I’m happy to be in Dyeland, surrounded by them.  I think I’ve laughed more in a few hours with them than I did in that entire two weeks I was away.  I hope they always know how much I love them.

I hope the people I left behind in Denver will be surrounded by just as much love as they heal and learn to trust again.



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Attack of the Killer Frog People from Planet Z

Dear Father,

The subject line says it all!

As You know since You sent me, one of my first assignments of April was as a Media Studies professor.  That was a learning experience and not just for the kids in the class.  TV has really changed, hasn’t it?  Or maybe I only think so because I never cared to watch much.  I wonder how much violence people would write if they actually knew and had to see what actual violence can do?  And I wonder if the students I was sent to help would feel less hopeless if they saw more inspiring, uplifting stories?   I hope I gave them the hope You wanted them to have. Maybe one day they’ll be the ones creating those hopeful stories.

Before I led the class, I had a great time getting prepared with my friends… even if it did mean Laja seeing me as a Killer Frog Person.  I remember how I complained when I got that assignment!  But I ended up having a great time with Harry and I even had a great time watching the film with Laja.  And listening to music with Rose and Yva and talking about movies with them, books, etc.   Looking back at my younger self in the movie, I found myself feeling sorry for him but also very grateful for the amazing friends I knew were in his future.  Then I was awed thinking that as I was acting in that, You already knew that one day I’d be sitting on a couch with Laja, watching her laugh with delight.  Thank You, Father.

I’m also very grateful for the last couple of days in Dyeland and NY.  It was great to see Crystal and everyone at the Phoenix.  And I missed the children Below so thanks for giving me that time with them.  

I need to grade some Spanish papers but we both know there’s more to it than that.  Please help me to get through to Kyle before it’s too late.  And please give me the words to help his bullies know how hurtful they are not just to him but also themselves.



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Notes-February through Easter

Dear Father,

Because I haven’t always been able to get on a computer, I’ve been keeping notes.  Here they are:

Remainder of February- After Valentine’s Day I had my assignment in Alaska and that was great.  It made Dyeland seem even warmer when I returned!  I spent most of the week of the 21st meeting with my friends there and talking with them about what I decided.  Thank You for giving me that time with them.  I didn’t want anyone else to find out by accident and I know You didn’t want them hurt like that, either.

March-That was an interesting month…  And not just because I worked the check out lane at a Target and people say some very interesting things to cashiers.  On the 16th Laja’s grandmother gave me her “dowry.”  I know she was joking but Laja was pretty livid.  I’m glad we were able to talk after that, make a couple good things come out of it, and then the party distracted her, I think.  And she wrote me a top ten.  That’s always fun.  Please help her to be at peace even when family pressure become strong.

We celebrated my 10th anniversary in Dyeland on St. Patrick’s Day.  Lots of decoration, lots of food, singing, dancing, boating, star gazing, and the best part: lots of friends.  It was great!  That You’ve given me these ten years with them is something I’m very, very grateful for, Father.  Sometimes I still wonder what Your plan is with Dyeland and me but whatever it is… thank You.

And from boating and dancing I jumped to sky diving.  0:-)  That was a really fun assignment.  I hope Tony and Samantha remember that adventure is good but not to be too reckless with the precious lives You’ve given them especially now that they’ll be parents.  They’re gonna have one brave kid, I imagine!

Shortly after I got back from that, Laja confided in me how upset and confused she was by the scandals in the Catholic Church.  I hope what I told her was what You wanted her to hear.  I’m so used to Your voice guiding me when I’m on assignments.  I hope what I tell my friends is just as true as Your words.  I know You’re with everyone who is hurting.  Please help them to know that.

The 25th brought about a much happier occasion!  Rose’s birthday!  I had a great time hiding the clues for the scavenger hunt that led to her gift.  I hope she enjoyed it, I think she did.  She deserved a wonderful birthday and I hope she got it.

On the 26th, after her classes ended for the day, Laja and I drove to Missouri and stayed with Raquel for the weekend.  It was difficult in some ways.  We were both reminded of Dawn very often.  But I was thankful to be there and to be able to help Raquel with her garden.  I hope her loneliness decreases soon.  I know nothing will ever fill the hole left by Dawn’s death but I hated leaving her alone.  I know she’s not really alone.  You’re there, as always.  But someone to hug, someone to share a meal with… I want that for her.

Shortly after our return to Dyeland, I hosted a Seder for Passover.  I wished we’d thought to do that previous years.  The Tunnel children were all very interested.  Most of them aren’t Jewish so had never attended one.  I think it’s great that they’re so eager to learn about others’ cultures and religions.

Easter was a lot of fun.  And no robot bunny surprises this year!  It was a beautiful day and perfect for an egg hunt.  The kids loved being out in the sun.

I better get ready for star-gazing later.  I’ll get to April soon.  I wish I kept up with this better but I kind of like looking back over a month or two and remembering all the miracles You’ve let me see, all the people I’ve been blessed to know, and all the love You’ve given us.



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Valentine’s prayer

Dear Father,

Thank You for the many wonderful, heart-warming assignments You’ve given me lately.  Thank You for Austin’s selfless dedication to helping the people in Haiti.  Thank You for letting me witness joyful reunions.  Thank You for giving me the chance to help people take better care of themselves before it’s too late… even if Laja did think I made for a problematic cardiologist.  Thank You for this past week.  Being able to help reunite a family before it was too late was a real joy.  I pray they make the most of the time they have together.  And for the assignments that were difficult… thank You for welcoming them Home to Your love.  And thank You for being with me and for giving me people to help make those memories a little easier to bear.

Being able to spend Valentine’s week in Dyeland was very special to me.  I always enjoy hearing about what people love, what they’re passionate about.  And this time… this time You pushed me to express what’s in my heart.  You know I’ve never been very good at that.  I’ll admit that I wasn’t thrilled about it.  But I know You were right.

Now I’m praying that You’ll help me know when the right time is to change.  You know it’s what I want.  But I want it to be on Your terms.  So, please, lead me, Father.  You brought us together, help me to know when I need to do what I need to do to keep us together.




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Incredibly loved

Dear Father,

It feels great to be writing to You in this way again.  I jotted short notes while I had the cast but it wasn’t the same.

I don’t know where to begin.  I promised to meet some of the girls for some coffee since I’m leaving tomorrow so I don’t even have much time.  But I did come up with two words to sum up what I’ve felt since Thanksgiving: incredibly loved.  Not only by You but by my friends and even by people I didn’t know two months ago.  I’ve gone from feeling cast out to feeling so much love that sometimes I find myself smiling for no apparent reason.

I can remember oh… You know how many years… when I considered myself a loner.  I had You, I had my assignments, and I was happy.  When I met up with friends, I rejoiced in that.  But then it was back to working on my own.  Then You had me work with Tess and Monica and then Gloria.  I know sometimes we had disagreements and hurt feelings but I was even happier.  Then that ended.  I never really gave much thought to how I was growing closer to the Dyelanders at the very time I felt greater and greater distance from Monica and Tess.  Now I believe with all my heart that You planned that.  You knew better than I did that I was never meant to be a loner.  These past two months have proved it.  I won’t ever take my friends for granted.  Thank You.



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Headed out

Dear Father,

Laja just left.  There’s something going on Below.  It’s not like Vincent or Jacob to call a meeting like this.  Please help them to face whatever this is.

Soon I’m going to the Cafe.  I’m looking forward to spending some time with the ladies before I leave.  They always put me in a good frame of mind to begin an assignment!  So You won’t tell me where I’m headed?  It’s OK.  I trust You.

Thank You for letting me go to KC with them and spend Halloween here.  It was great!  OK, maybe not the dungeon part but everything else was.  I loved spending time not just with my friends but also the Tunnel kids.  We all had a great time and it meant a lot to spend time all together… playing with farm animals, drums, dancing, enjoying great food, listening to great music, and so many things I didn’t even realize they did at Renaissance Faires.  It seems like we haven’t had as many chances as usual this past summer to be together and I hope that’s changing.  Starting now.  The Cafe is calling.



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