The best decision I have ever made in my life, other than my response to God’s grace, was to ask Karen Koch to marry me, while kneeling on the brown, indoor/outdoor carpet of my apartment in the University Religious Center at the University of Santa Barbara. I’d made us crab-stuffed sole with what would have been a great cheese sauce, had I not forgotten to put in the cheese (!). But even with that omission, God be praised, she said “Yes!” There were lots we didn’t know then about the journey ahead, and it has been an amazing ride, but I began to see that year: In a beautiful way, Karen is a learner. She researches life.
Just yesterday, more than 35 years later, she came home from Costco with an item we had talked about purchasing online, and she began to say, “Well, I did some research…” I had to laugh, for I knew what was coming. She had found a deal! Looking back, “research,” that’s what Karen has always, wonderfully done.
She researched wedding planning, got books and organized the day.
She was a better student of scripture then I was back then, inspiring me to become one as well. She lives a deep, vibrant faithful, prayerful relationship with God, from which I continue to learn.
In July 1984, I remember calling from my office as a travel agent in downtown Santa Barbara to her private phone in her school classroom to give her “the news.” The doctor had done “the test” and the results had come to me, then I was to call and say “yes” or “no” and she was just to receive this information, in her classroom, students present, and go on teaching her 9th graders. Yes, it was a brilliant but oh so naïve plan.
She answered the black, dial phone in her classroom (remember those?).
I said, quietly, on my end, not to be overheard by my office mates: “Yes, you are pregnant!” And she got so excited!
“Really?” She asked, squealing.
“Really!!!” I said, laughing in response.
She caught herself realizing students were listening in and couldn’t say anything more, but those kids knew what was up! She could hardly make it through class.
That afternoon on her way home, she stopped by the library and picked up six books on pregnancy and delivery, and when I got home later, Karen had already begun to read them.
That was a precious night, our small group met and we held close to our hearts this secret of a new life growing within her. She learned about the ways to best bless this growing child, and ate and exercised accordingly.
It was her desire for health and vitality that has led the way for both of us over the years being students of life both physically, spiritually and emotionally.
After that first daughter, Anna, arrived, followed in rapid order by her three sisters over the next seven years, Karen became a student of them as well. Having read many books on parenting, of course, but one that really influenced her was Olive Alexander’s book, Developing Spiritually Sensitive Children. Therein Olive spoke of making a house not “childproof” but “child interesting.” Olive had crawled around her own home to see what life looked like from the ground up and put colorful, interesting things low down and Karen did the same with ours. She became a student of our children, and taught me to be one as well, to seek to see life through their eyes, and help them love learning as well.
Karen was a learner alongside them as she homeschooled them all, and when others in our community discovered the treasure evidenced in Karen, they began to ask her to homeschool their children as well. One year, we had 10 students in our “one-room schoolhouse.”
She has been a student also of her own emotional/spiritual healing, a path that required 20 years of intense therapy, honesty, warfare and prayer. This opened her to deeper understanding of her own psychological wiring, which led her to become a student of the enneagram, collecting and reading many books on that approach to personality.
We’ve walked through many different approaches to eating over the years, as she has searched for the best means to good health. We’ve ground our own wheat to make bread, been vegetarian, vegan, organic, and gluten-free, you name it. Every one accompanied by research and study.
When Karen got ill 18 months ago, she continued as a student of her own body, researching the symptoms and learning what was going on. She learned how to massage her ileocecal valve, which I did not know existed, but that she discovered was getting stuck open in her! And she found ways to exercise her psoas muscle, again, I couldn’t have told you that existed either! She researched foods and discovered the fodmap diet which helped her gut heal. She researched and mixed essential oils to aid digestion, and sought the wisdom of a naturopathic doctor, a massage specialist, a physical therapist and her own MD, and through them all has found healing and is in the best health ever, on every level. On the flip side, each of them has been blessed to get to know her!
Still she is bringing home new books, researching the best ways to pastor and lead in her congregation, while staying as fit and healthy as possible to achieve her goal, which now, ultimately is this: to be able to get down on the floor and play with our grandchildren!
I’m the lucky guy who gets to live with this amazing person day in, day out, learning to be a learner alongside her.