Author Archives: Rachel

Resources on Waldo Canyon Fire

Update: For an accurate news account of the most disasterous portion of the fire, see the Denver Post The only inaccuracy is in ignoring the Creator of the universe and instead bowing to “mother nature”.

When I got out of work today, it felt like I was in a movie. The entire sky above my head was surreal with sickly-yellow-before-black clouds. So thick you didn’t know how or where the smoke began or ended. The lot across the parking spot had earie fluorescent blue windows glowing.

The fire is scary!

I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who cried on the way home when we heard the radio say the first houses across at Flying W. had gone up.

Trying to stay updated, I gathered this set of resources. I hope this collection is useful.

Accomodation  Updating with options that have available rooms

Map of shelters (note the Springs Church in the North was not available for overnight stays)

Mandatory Evacuation Map Note: official evacuation maps are on Springs Gov website below, however that site isn’t the most usable format.

Alternative Map Views

Register for reverse 911 calls 

Twitter (Finally, it is actually useful!)

Official City announcements

Official Incident (Note: 6/26 this website was down for a while, possibly due to unexpected increased traffic.  Today (6/27) it is back up.)

News Channels

American Red Cross service to notify people that you have got to safety (again, stay off the cellphones…):

Search google news by date (use the press down arrow):

Accessing pictures

Search google images by time (last hour/day)

  • Bottom left, click “show search tools”, then select time desired.

Nasa satellite images

Sample of images

Donations and help


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Posted by on Tuesday, June 26, 2012 in stewardship


The wiles and wonders of the emotional world


Photo thanks to rexquisite

Ever felt like you are going crazy? Then run with me on this one. Tell me if you can relate. How have you viewed the period of your life afterwards? What helped get you through?

Emotions aren’t always fair. Sometimes, like this week, they don’t come remotely close to reflecting the reality of my life. And… despite my knowledge of this, there are times when the extremity of our situations seems to throw things rather off balance. Not even in the direction of our choosing.

Would I be emotional?

So, yes, you’ve guessed it… I am crying my eyes out right now!

Yet there is nothing I am actually sad about. And this is the funny part. Usually I am sad about something or other. (If I want to admit it and talk about it, that’s a whole ‘nother story… but having the sadness-thing is usually there!) Ok, there’s one or two things that have upset me, but not enough to take over my whole sleeping schedule and Saturday thoughts…

Being sad about something makes sense. Being sad about nothing makes no sense. Especially when there are many things to be happy about.

I can only put it down to purely an overflow of stress… Being pushed over the edge, and then pushed and pushed and pushed…

This last ten days have felt like a dream. A fabulously exciting dream… my dream, logically, but someone else’s dream sensationally.

Many good things to enjoy – unbelievable!

This week, I should be brimming with happiness, at any number of blessed changes, that I have enjoyed and excited me:

  • I am an aunt for the first time: welcome to the world, James William Macleod!
  • Both my dear sister, and the new baby are doing great! Daddy has just graduated. Just brimming with celebration and thankfulness.
  • One of my best friends is in town this week. I got to have dinner with her, and spend time with her and one of her best friends.
  • I still have a job, despite the company financial planning leading to my job duties changing.
  • I got some weighty compliments for my ability to communicate this week: one, from a respected colleague who repeated two days in a row, in front of different people, that I was an exceptional writer. (You all know that, right!) But I still love to hear it. And then I won not one, but TWO prizes at Toastmasters for my public speaking abilities. Me, public speaking, you gotta be kidding! And I just done it on the spot with almost no prep time or anything.
  • One of my good friends and work colleagues got an exciting promotion. I’m intrigued to see how that will go, and create new job opportunities not only for him, but also filtering throughout the organisation.
  • I reconnected with a colleague from Scotland – a more senior colleague, who I previously believed knew nothing about me or my work, yet was eager to re-establish our conversation, and raised the topic of a pet hobby horse I was known for having in Scotland. I’m curious.
  • I got to attend the PPA graduation ceremony, and even got to sit next to two very dear friends of mine from church.
  • I finally got round to stopping off to try a new coffee shop – they even have gluten free menu choices! I sat in a comfy leather chair and did some writing.

Out of body, out of mind?

All in all, this is a pretty incredible week. I mean, every single one of these things would ordinarily be enough to keep me going with warm fuzzy for days, weeks even. And the new baby, for much much longer!

Yet I still feel as if I’m in a dream…. both the ups and the downs of the week just don’t seem to be real life. That, or they are happening to someone else and I’m not even part of them, I’m an invisible spectator with no say in how or why or when anything happens.

No say in contributing anything positive to the conversation.

The goal of my actions

But I want to say good. I want to do good. I want to bless others. It is not enough to sit watch this funny person live their life. It is making me frustrated to be so far away, so disconnected.

So, what is the matter with me then? Where am I, with all this happiness surrounding me?

The stark reality

  1. Six weeks ago I knew I was burned out. Very burned out. I knew I had some significant duties on my plate, and I knew I had to find a way to face those duties with enough determination to see my way through them. So I took a long weekend. A fabulous weekend, no less wonderful because it wasn’t enough to obliterate burnout.
  2. In the intervening weeks, I have accomplished those remaining goals that were significant life requirements (financial; legal – immigration). This is a pretty major achievement.
  3. Then I have also accomplished other unforseen goals that landed on my plate, some of which I can talk about, others of which I cant…
  4. I have accomplished a very short term work project (2 months total), with all the normal craziness of a release, all intensified into that schedule.
  5. Four or five new friends have turned up in my life all at once, and I have invested time and energy to make them each feel welcome. I’m so blessed to have them in my life, and I want them to know that.
  6. I have worked the longest, most intense work schedule that I’ve ever done in my life. Including a last-minute loss of an entire Saturday, due to a manager request. As any working person will know, the loss of a Saturday is Immense, especially when it is unplanned.
  7. I had no opportunity to cook on Saturday, so I’ve been cobbling together meals all week. I’ve *almost* eaten properly, but not quite… No doubt the lack of proper bodily sustenance does not help good psychological balance. And I’ve not gone “above and beyond” to give myself that extra physical boost of cooking something special and different one day, or having extra snacks at work, etc, etc.
  8. I’ve kept up with my exercise schedule most days, but let myself off a couple of days when I was so physically drained I didn’t even know how I was going to make it through the day. The lack of exercise is felt by the lack of energy and warmth that I ordinarily get when I do exercise. While I don’t doubt it was wise to take a break, at the same time, it still has consequences.

And I’m not done yet. Even more unexpected items have come up in my life, not least of which is transitioning yet again to a new job role. Thankfully that’s not immediate (although some of the planning is pretty immediate).

Where next?

So now I’m figuring… if I was burned out BEFORE this last six weeks, what am I now? About to disolve the last remaining charcoal in a puddle of tears?!

Those special effects should be worth watching from my corner-of-invisibility!! So long as I have popcorn. And kleenez… don’t, my dear friends, let me go anywhere without kleenez!

My hope

Of one thing I am certain. Though I cannot see the pattern the Divine Weaver is weaving, He has reasons to link all these different-coloured threads together. He knows what He has been teaching me – oh, blessed truth! Not only the last six weeks, but for months altogether, He has been revealing more of Himself to me through a particular confusing Providence, and I can’t but revel in His goodness to me.

His Protection over me, in the days to come, will be surely manifest as in many times of old. To Him be the glory. The thanks for the safe arrival of James, and the care over my dearest special wee sister and her husband.

Can you hope in God today?

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Posted by on Saturday, June 16, 2012 in -not-ready-, encouragement, stewardship


New firsts

Do you rise to every challenge that comes your way? Do you go through every door that opens?

Are you prone to sacrifice old goals for new endeavours? Or sacrifice basics to go out your way to help someone else? How do you know when you are fully booked? I still haven’t figured this one out! 🙂

This week I got a challenge. I did not accept it, because it seemed crazy and unwise for me to attempt – not because it was really that difficult, but because I really am that busy right now.

The challenge:
Do one uniquely new or different activity every day. It should be fairly significant, not something trivial/silly like “first time getting up at 7:02am”.

My quandry
Throughout the week, I was thinking about this in the back of my mind, realising how I really didn’t have time for it, but in some ways I had actually met some of the goals. So now the week is over, I thought I’d do a retrospective.

Was it feasible? Was it going to happen anyway?

Assessment of results
I thought I didn’t do too bad, all things considered. Though I must say I didn’t exactly plan out all these happenings, I’m way too busy to plan for “bonus features” right now! I think this just illustrates that.

My results:


  • First time in California
  • First time hiking to a fun spot to do devotions (with Janine in Sabino Canyon)
  • First time loosing a boarding pass for a plane


  • First time to Peyton (small village outside of the Springs)
  • First time attended an event to support my friend M (Technology night at Peyton)
  • First time eating gluten free at Wendys (baked potato+chives+sour cream AND it was only just over a dollar!)
  • First time being asked if I’d be willing to speak to a school class! Uhhm… yeah, what would I say!?


  • First time speaking on the phone to my new UK accountant
  • First time having snacks for prayer group that I prep-d 10days beforehand (crazy, I know! but hey, that’s the nature of my schedule/burn-out right now…)


  • First time writing a Junit performance test.
  • First time encrypting a pdf file with a password.
  • … First time this week I got a chance to breathe…!! That’s what it felt like 🙂


  • First time doing a significant code refactor to a new API switched out by a colleague (normally we would work in different areas)
  • First time having sunburn peel (first time sunburn properly hurt for days and got crusty+peeled)
  • First time I saw baby David go for his bottle to drink without it being given to him first.


  • Being laaazy. No really, that is a first! 😉 Ahem (Mum, don’t see this!)
  • First proper phonecall to the UK that wasn’t Skype-to-Skype. (We chatted for well over an hour, and I was paying… thankfully not too bad, around $3)
  • First blog post with a totally random unconnected picture

Did I suceed? Are some of these too easy? I think they should all count 🙂 except for the obviously silly ones.

Beyond the simple exercise, the psychology of doing the exercise had me in knots all week.

When is it helpful to be creative and have a different way of thinking about things? When do you need to buckle down and just power on through. When you’re buckled down, how do you wake yourself up again to come out blinking into the sunlight of the ever-changing world out there?

How do you properly assess needs of others, and sacrifice for them, when you are maxed-out on your current responsibilities. When should you say “No” to some responsibilities, when you have other opportunities you are more suited to fulfill by the position God has given you in the world? What about responsibilities that need done, but are a disproportional effort?

More questions than answers this time… 🙂 I would love to be growing in wisdom, yet all I see is bigger vulnerabilities.

And remember
In the midst of all, God is good. He comforts in distress, encourages in weakness, corrects when we go astray. He never leaves us nor forsakes us, especially in our most trying times.

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Posted by on Saturday, May 5, 2012 in encouragement


blessings of death


My Opa and I

Western society is now more isolated from death than it has ever been.

We have great luxuries: infant mortality rates have plummeted; death during childbirth is almost unheard of and life expectancy has stretched enormously with modern medical advances. (Not quite pre-flood life spans, of course, but a significant majority reaching the commended seventy years of the Psalms.)

And these are luxuries. Death itself is ugly, nauseating and hardly to be revelled in. It is not without reason that Death is personified as “The Last Enemy” of the Christian.

Yet, despite all our modern progress, it is worth meditating on the place that death plays in our lives. It is not to be taken lightly, and even less so with the almost clinical isolation that we manage to concoct around it nowadays.

The blessing for acquaintances of the deceased

God is speaking, loud and clear. There is no ignoring, shirking or pretending around the reality of death. It is final, it is complete, and it is in full accordance with God’s will.

Few things are as certain as the fact that we will all die one day. It is a kindness from God to be reminded of this periodically. We can become complacent. We can lose perspective. We can forget God. He is good not to leave us in that self-centred place and remind us simply that He IS.

What a privileged to have the God of all mercy communicating with us. Warning, yes… but so tenderly-intentioned for all those He wants to bring home to Himself.

The blessing for loved ones of the deceased

It is heart-wrenchingly difficult to lose a loved one.

There is comfort when we know our loved one is with the Lord. We do not mourn as those without hope. It is a balm to know that their suffering in this world is over. That their joy is complete. That their sanctification has been perfected. We are told to covet the best gifts, and almost we could be jealous of the wonderful completion of the race that God has acted out in their lives.

(I cannot begin to sympathise with an alternative reality, of a loved one who does not know the Lord – I’m thankful in God’s mercy to me that I have not had to experience that agony. Rather than spew out some meaningless platitudes, I’m not even going to address this.)

Beyond their joy, for ourselves the reality of death is being brought home to us in a personal way. A way that cannot but prompt an exploration of deep soul-searching questions. Along with our friends, we are being brought to our senses in keeping a perspective on the transience of life. And we are challenged by the personal aspect to consider whether we have our house in order. “Will I be next?”, “Who will mourn for me?”

More than anything, we are being shown the disgusting wretchedness of sin. That sin should be the cause of this great evil disturbing our lives and happiness. That sin is against God. The same God currently sustaining and comforting us in our grief. I know of no more visible and tangible demonstration of the ugliness of sin than coming face-to-face with death.

The blessing for the deceased

O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? 1 Corinthians 15:55

It is not easy to enter into Apostle’s ejaculatory comment: to understand and be willing for God’s glory in this, the lonliest of all trials. God gives grace for dying only to those about to die, so it is hardly surprising that such revelation may almost be terrifying to a young Christian. Awe-inspiring at least.

Yet we have hope. Death, though an enemy and a fierce one at that, is the last enemy. (John Donne captured this most elegantly in one of my favourite poems.) No more sorrow, no more sighing, No more tears. It is enough, it is the end.

(4)And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. (5)And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. (6)And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. Rev 21:4-6

May my dearest Opa R.I.P. ’til the resurrection.

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Posted by on Saturday, April 21, 2012 in encouragement


Who are you?

Question mark

Photo thanks to Marco Bellucci

Recently a friend posed the question of what defines us, and I was reminded of one of my favourite descriptions. Please meditate and enjoy.

The Happy Man

The happy man was born in the city of Regeneration in the parish of Repentance unto life. He was educated in the school of Obedience. He has a large estate in the county of Christian Contentment, and many times does jobs of Self-denial, wears the garment of Humility, and has another suit to put on when he goes to Court, called the Robe of Christ’s righteousness.

He often walks in the valley of Self-Abasement, and sometimes climbs the mountains of Heavenly-mindedness. He breakfasts every morning on Spiritual Prayer, and sups every evening on the same. He has meat to eat that the world knows not of, and his drink is the sincere milk of the Word of God. Thus happy he lives, and happy he dies.

Happy is he who has Gospel submission in his will, due order in his affections, sound peace in his conscience, real Divinity in his breast, the Redeemer’s yoke upon his neck, a vain world under his feet, and a crown of glory over his head.

Happy is the life of that man who believes firmly, prays fervently, walks patiently, works abundantly, lives holy, dies daily, watches his heart, guides his senses, redeems his time, loves Christ, and longs for glory. He is necessitated to take the world on his way to heaven, but walks through it as fast as he can, and all his business by the way is to make himself and others happy.

Take him all in all, in two words, he is a Man and a Christian.

From Lachlan Mackenzie, “The Happy Man”, Banner of Truth. (Thanks to this site for the text.)

Who am I, or whose am I? It is a priveledge to answer this question with joy.

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Posted by on Friday, April 13, 2012 in devotional, encouragement


Oh, to be constant… in season and out of season

Consistency is one of the hardest nuts to crack.  We can all try and improve in small steps in different areas, but sticking to a particular plan with regularity for months and years is not easy.

Today, I read an eye-opening related article by Barry Hill* on “to-be lists”.  He explains the concept very nicely himself, though I summarise here for context:

Executive summary of “To-be lists”

It adds onto the familiar Todo list concept.  Items related to goals should firstly be listed.  (We forget easily!)  Secondly, prioritization of goal-oriented tasks should be significant.  For example: “spend quality time with my family” can be given a task such as “spend time one-on-one with each of my children every week”.

The problem: One Todo list to rule them all?

In my quest for competence and professional integrity, I admit I have fallen into the trap of being ruled by my Todo list at times.

My puzzle: how to both remind and motivate myself of all my commitments in a balanced way.

I’ve spent nearly two years logging into RTM on a daily basis.  (My Todo list tool of choice.)  With some personalised GTD implementation, of course – for those of you time-management geeks out there.

For the goals I had, I added them to my Todo list as repeating tasks.  Functionally, this reminded me on the correct day what needed to be done.  I prioritized liberally, processing thousands of reminders during my moving-country transition to only around fifty outstanding today.

And this worked.  It was good enough at the time.

What went wrong?  (Ahem… the D in GTD?)

Prioritization was, and is, fluid.  As a result, my regular goals could slip up or down a notch, relatively speaking.  Yes, I tried, and many days I checked them off faithfully.  But not every day.  Other high priority items could crowd them out and regular priorities could get de-emphasized.

Consider a one-off task with a deadline of today.  I’d push myself to get it done… but it is a lot harder to have the same motivation for a regular slot of chore-clearup, when I know I can always catch up the next day if neccessary.

Is there a better solution?

I have started using the don’t-break-the-chain system to help me keep track of tasks to be done regularly in order to satisfy a long term goal.  (These have tended to be forming new habits around my goals, or breaking bad habits that are preventing me from meeting my goals.)

Why does it work?  (The better-known benefits)

  • The satisfaction of crossing an item off the list
  • Consistently remembering that priority day after day adds up to a bigger achievement. The longer and stronger your habit gets, the bigger your motivation gets – in proportion – to avoid that break!

What makes it ideal for high level goals?  (Some bonus benefits)

It is insightful to be able to review your track record over time on that one specific task: answer questions like “Am I consistent only on weekdays?”, “Do I keep slipping up on one priority in particular, and need to have a mental refocus on it?”

As Bruce already recommended, Michael Hyatt has an additional useful podcast illustrating why incremental changes matter – they do add up!

So where can you start?

  1. I use I like the visually pleasing and functional interface: it gives a satisfying feeling to tick the days off.  (And sometimes the icons change after a week for an added feel-good feeling!)
  2. I add a chain for the next steps on my goals
  3. Each chain should be a Baby step. (As FLYlady reminds us!)  It has to be small enough to that you can do the whole thing the first day (no marathons, no heroics!) and every day after that, without making something else *POP* out of your schedule on the other side 🙂
  4. I keep around 4 chains live at any one time.
  5. Every month, add in a new chain for the next step on my goal.  They say it takes 28 days to form a new daily habit.  If this holds true, it is a reasonable schedule to cycle through new/next endevours, stepping ever closer to the end goals.
  6. As new habits become part of your regular life, put those chains at the end.  (You can still update them to make sure you’re not dropping anything, but by archiving these ones, you can focus on your latest set.)

The only drawback I’ve found with this technique, is that not every habit can or should occur on a daily schedule.  I’ve therefore redefined these tasks to work to their own schedule.

E.g. I always take Sundays off exercising. Rather than breaking the chain for this, I’ve defined my chain as “Excercise to my schedule”, so for days when I don’t exercise (deliberately), I still continue the chain.

Will it work for you?

Of course this is not a silver bullet.  (Chains do not replace a Todo list.)  It is yet another useful tool in our arsenal in striving for greater consistency in our lives.  With faithfulness, it can prove helpful.

And we need God’s grace to provide for us in even the most basic matters, providing us with the health and strength to do what we set ourselves to.  We can only do our best, with His blessing.

*Thanks again to Barry for his article!  While my system has been working well for the last month or so, his discussion helped me clarify my thinking on exactly why it is working.  It is helpful to have a distinction of terminology, and a clear boundary to help me decide what belongs in my Todo list, and what I need to chain.

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Posted by on Friday, April 6, 2012 in discipline


Re: complaint

Thankyou, dear Sir, for your recent feedback.
It was good of you to expose our lack
Of sufficient service to you, dear Sir;
when, from your money, we have gained our hire.

Some criticism has a place, for sure
And we do indeed accept our frailties.
However, in this case, we were quite right,
and so resented being condemned with might.

It is with the deepest regret, my friend,
that I will inform you in the end
of how I cannot consent in your aim
despite your insistance that you will gain.

“What!?” You may say in indignation.
Yes. Truly, such detraction bewrays you.

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License

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Posted by on Tuesday, January 17, 2012 in poetry