Sunday, August 13, 2017

Work





"I'm gonna tell you something that motivates me," Jack says.

Across the tiny kitchen, I look up from a bowl half filled with fried oatmeal, scissors and a dried banana paused in my hands, teapot bubbling at my elbow, tug-tugging my immovable attention toward a poised pour-over coffee filter awaiting the water.

"Oh?" I say.

"Us working side by side," he says. His eyes squint reflexively, affection drawn up in the apples of his cheeks.

"Yeah?" I say. He nods, a half smile pulled gently from the corners of his mouth. "Hmmm. Me too," I say.

We nod, a half nod, a quiet acknowledgement like a stone rolled gently into the pond so as not to break the glassy surface. Then, we work, that special bond of creating order out of disorder. It's more like dancing, like playing piano with both hands than the 1-2-3-4 daily grind of chores.








****



"Wow, it just feels like we are drowning in all this," I find myself saying.

Now in the Niagara Falls of a kitchen remodel, whole walls torn down, floors peeled back, cupboards splintered and removed, dust-drywall-and-insulation mixed with crumbs from the toaster the kids hauled back into the kitchen for breakfast -- there I stand, hard deadlines a police state upheaving the whole house.

There at the front door, just heading home, a long day trailing after us, Daniel nods.

I nod. "Thanks so much for your help," I say. He and the whole extended family, the big rescuing army had been pouring over plans, wielding coils of wire, outlet plates, hammers, tool belts, saws, a shop vac, sledge hammers, nails, screws, drills, I'm speechless. Thank-you, thank-you, thank...







"Yup," he says. "You bet." He nods again, that same smile drawn up in happy nonchalance. "You're in good hands with Craig," he says.

Hmmm, good hands. Yes. And the simple statement frames the whole day, frames the whole house, laces through the walls like wiring. Fishes and loaves multiply before my eyes, provision arrives when we most need it and can least supply it. Speechless gratitude, humble adoration of Christ ensues.

It's a lozenge of hope, soothes the throat, the heart, and drips glucose into the blood.








Gratitude:

6246. Family comes to help us tear apart and re-mantle our home.

6247. Betsy sprains her ankle; Jack gets pink eye; Lucy gets food poisoning; and still, somewhere, strength appears to carry us through.

6248. Then lunch arrives. Yup, un-beckoned, it appears in picnic form. All the fixin's, lunch jests at block party, then everyone returns to the work.


6249. Each time we almost catch our breath something else happens, something else lunges through the fray and grabs us by the neck and squeezes. Then somehow, even so, we take a deep breath and step through to the other side.







6250. The house is a cacophony of miscellaneous demo, reconstruction, supplies, tools, and regular life. The kids begin wearing safety glasses and earplugs like stocking caps and gloves in the winter.

6251. In the middle of it all, the post office looses a package I mailed to Mexico. Then, as if by miracle, PayPal offers a refund to replace the missing package.

6252. We attend a conference at church. Each day Mom and I pool resources to make a yummy grown-up lunch then discuss the pros and cons of each session in detail. The children listen and join in.

6253. Salted chocolate.

6254. Betsy's supposed to get her splint off tomorrow.

6255. I resolve to enjoy this season. So many permanent memories concentrated in one season, I set my mind to make them good -- not tidy, or easy, or maybe even fun, but good.



Sunday, August 6, 2017

First





"Feels weird being served first," Jane says. Jack's birthday and a tower of pancakes circles the table, Jane first.

"Well, that's probably good," I say. "It should feel weird."

"I usually just shoot for the middle," she says.

Off to her left and just louder than an evening breeze, "The first shall be last, and the last shall be first," Jack says.

"Well, you'll be in the middle in heaven then," I laugh.

"Even if I'm last, at least I'll be in heaven," she lilts.

"Haha, so true," I say.

So it is, joking and banter takes on new nuance. Subtlety weaves the fabric of days.









Gratitude:

6237. The kitchen remodel begins. Demolition starts. And we sell the old big desk. A lovely couple from Switzerland takes it. Such sweet people I don't mind seeing it go, much.







6238. A neighbor brings us homemade banana bread cupcakes to celebrate the summer birthdays in our family.

6239. Family and neighbors stop by to contribute brawn and/or expertise to the remodel.







6240. The children while away hot summer hours flying kites with cousins, riding bikes, and splashing down the slip 'n slide. Finally the afternoons feel sufficiently long, like real summer days.

6241. The children continue to impress me with their ability to cook for themselves while we are busy working hard. Jane proves her stripes on the grill barbecuing burgers for the family.







6242. Joe recovers from a bee sting.

6243. I work through a bout of mastitis. Misery. Finally gone.

6244. I finish the autobiography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. My abhorrence of evil and earth shattering adoration of Christ and his goodness ensues.

6245. At each turn God brings people into our path who love Him. Even the most unlikely places find us surrounded by those who carry His Spirit. I find this a great kindness.



Monday, July 31, 2017

Myra





"I'm actually LIKING learning to read," Myra says. From my pillowed beachhead, sprawled horizontal, right foot propped on a pillow tower, I nod, my neck corralled in a quarter of it's normal movement.

"Hmmm," I say.

"It gradually gets funner and funner and FUNNER." She grins as if seeing a sunset, her shoulders risen as to push, push, push the corners of her smile up the white acres of her face.







"Hm," I say.

"Joe is going to reeeeeally like it when he learns to read," she chirps, red hair in curlicue staccatos around arching eyebrows and blue eyes.

Beached in leg surgery's long recovery, I smile the slow long drawling smile that unrolls quietly like afternoon sun, like all the warm comfort of laying in these slow moments.

"You just have to decides to like it, then it gets really fun," she says.

"Yup," I say. She flops on the bed, book in hand, and narrates my recovery in slow and savory sentences.









Gratitude:

6223. The children make me breakfast each day after surgery -- fried potatoes, fried garden beans, fresh peas and tomatoes, pour-over coffee and my usual granola on the side.

6224. Four of the children get the flu. They rest far enough away that I stay well.







6225. Craig leaves for camp one day post-op and we fare just fine what with all the delicious food and hours and hours of beloved audio books, the children scattered on or around the bed, sunlight rolling through the window like the river at flood stage.

6226. Just as the kids begin to fatigue in the kitchen, a friend brings us a meal. Another friend offers another meal if we need. Such comfort and kind care in the body of Christ.

6227 Joe plays me countless games of Uno.







6228. Dear friends barbecue burgers and make an old fashioned picnic for our family. We talk all things literature and politics, history and the repeating of history. We nod. Yup. So many things to memorize and take note, bear witness.
6229. Jack receives a new cookbook. Illustrations bloom across the pages, vibrant art.

6230. A new salad bowl finds its way to our home. I christen it with chocolate chip cookies, a new recipe. Blissful results.

6231. We round the two thirds mark in an extensive biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.







6232. I turn 39. The perfect day to turn 39, the children give me bouquets of handmade gifts. Craig, and I take an afternoon date. He barbecues two chickens for us. We glide into the evening slow and easy.

6233. I get a polkadot skirt.

6234. I practice the discipline of patience. An antidote. I hold it like an unruly child in my arms until when I least expect it, I find peace resting quietly on my shoulder.

6235. I look deeply into the eyes of my children, pause my reckless work to memorize their faces, and hold still, just stop. So many good moments, they run through my fingers like water.







6236. The kitchen remodel begun, disorder and broken routines, I set myself to be the inventor of good memories in this new set.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Annoy-able





"I guess I should probably be praying to not be so annoy-able," Jane says, "instead of praying that everyone else would stop BEING so annoying."

"Huh," I snicker. "Yup. Me too."

"It's not really that tap-tap-TAPPING is so wrong. Or that Joe or whoever is thinking, I know, this will drive Jane CRAZY, which IS what I think. But they probably just really feel like doing it."

"So true," I say. All these days of praying to become patient and kind and now this.

Conversation turns along unseen curves. How to hear the Lord? We trace this anatomy.

All these millions of disciplines -- Bible reading, devotions, praise, worship, hymns, theology, prayers in secret, thoughts and ideas we train to march in time to, to something. And then there we are left waiting. Just waiting. In the end waiting is the biggest deference of all, the loudest statement, the one that actually bows my heart in complete adoration of Christ. We wait on those we prize. Hm. Proof.







Jane and I trace these turns as if completely blind. Textures of ideas memorized by the invisible hands of the mind.

"It's sort of like we climbed on the slide at the YMCA," she says, "and now we just get to let gravity and God do the rest."

A laugh unbidden climbs out of my mouth. Gravity and God. Indeed. May it be so. May we trust God and all he has put in motion.











Gratitude:

6215. We celebrate a birthday in the park with the type of friends that all our children ask to see and always bring peace and joy. Smack dab in the middle of a crazy afternoon, it still does. I marvel at the stillness and slow meaningful celebration.

6216. We visit Craig's grandmother. One hundred two years, white hair and perfectly lovely, she closes her eyes and soaks in Holy, Holy, Holy as Craig, the kids and I sing to her.

6217. Craig, the kids, cousins, and Auntie all head to the farm for raspberry picking. Bliss. Forever memories.

6218. A trip to Trader Joe's and the simple joys of mustard, ketchup, heavy whipping cream, just the essentials.







6219. Jack harvests a few potatoes that dried out and died, then fries them up for Craig and me. They are the creamiest, richest, most smooth and salty morsels. Ever.

6220. I plug away on the chores of life and convince myself that the three drawers I cleaned out of the desk are better than none at all and all the slow attention to waiting a good investment.

6221. In the middle of seven audio books, I relish them all.

6222. I prepare for a surgery on bad veins in my legs. Elated that the painful condition can be remedied, I dread/anticipate the procedure.

6223. I begin to think of waiting as a currency to be spent, a song sung without words, a free-fall proof of love. Let it be so.



Monday, July 10, 2017

The Desk





"You cleaning out the desk?" Jane says. Crouched over a bin of hand-me-down shoes, I look up at her too-tall twelve-year-old self perched there in the stairwell making her even taller. I smile, the sloppy grin of tired endurance.

"Yep," I say. "I finally cleaned out a drawer."

"Huh," she says. 

There at the shoe bin, stapler and office supplies sprawled at the perimeter, I wonder how life can be such an intertwining of circles -- shoe bin, sewing table at my wrist, book with the torn dust cover leaned against bin, three-hole-punch littering tiny white dots at bin's edge. And somewhere there up the stairs, the old herculean desk I'm trying to empty and sell, tasks shattering down, thunder claps of urgency.

"I finally decided I just need to clean out a drawer a day," I say. "I've been so over whelmed I just can't even start."






"Yeah," she says, "better to just do a drawer a day than to do nothing at all and keep reproaching yourself."

"Yes," I say. "Just, YES. I can't seem to get a purchase on it, so -- a drawer a day."

"Good job, Mom."

"Hmm. Thanks, honey." We smile, that softness that releases crinkles at the corners of the eyes. And then we sigh, but really it's more like the very beginning of the next breath, and it's long and deep and patient endurance fills in all the cracks.








Gratitude:

6309. We celebrate the birthday of our country and all the blood shed on our behalf with lovely picnics and family and friends.






6310. I steal away one lunch hour to meed a friend and visit as if heaven itself had opened to to invite us in.

6311. Craig and I enjoy a lovely dinner with a local pastor and his wife.

6212. I catch coffee and errands with my momma, errands really just another word for long streamers of conversation cast across the morning according to whatever the mood will lead. We both end up with wonderful finds at an estate sale.

6213. A dear, dear friend from college visits us with her mother and two children. She brings all the fixings to turn our pleasant picnic into a jaunty feast we will long remember. The children play, and we visit as if 20 years had not passed between us.

6214. I find breadcrumbs of encouragement in each conversations and more as I visit with the children and better yet with Craig. Somehow nourishment fills all the cracks and even burdens and urgencies fail to crush me with their weight.



Sunday, July 2, 2017

Lettuce





"Here," Joe says. He flutters a green lettuce leaf on the sling-back lawn chair. Lettuce, from his garden, "Here," he says.

"Oh," I say. I turn in the rotisserie sun and glance squinted eyes at the lace leaf. "Thanks," I say.

"Yeah," he says.

I pluck winglike green between finger and thumb and crunch the chartreuse stem as it hits my teeth. Bitter. As if the waters of the deep have let loose, sour astringent wriggles rootlike fissures in my mouth.

"Wow that is bitter," I say. "Yikes. Here." I pull it from my lips, the broken stem still a mixture of lime, peacock, and beryl.

"Oh," he says. My hand upraised, he scoops the lettuce from my fingers, and completing a circle, places it in his mouth. "Mmm," he says.







"Does it taste bitter to you?" I say.

"Only a little bit," he says. "The rest is good."

"Oh," I say, the daybreak of his face more radiant than sky.

"I think I might make a salad later," he says.

"Oh," I say again. A salad later. This. Just this. Maybe I'll make a salad later. May all my trials always only ever be a salad later.









Gratitude:

6300. Hot summer greets us the way I always remember it, crinklingly hot where sprinklers splash with only stupendously cold water.

6301. We get the wrinkles ironed out of our insurance policy.

6302. Jane and I take an adventure, the two of us trying new things.

6303. I meet one of my life heros, the brave Dr. Suzanne Humphries. It's like talking to an old friend. "Mom," Jane says as we walk away, "she seems like someone that we would be friends with if she lived here."

6304. I catch up on sleep by acquiring a headache that eclipses half of two days.

6305. I listen to more of CS Lewis' The Problem Of Pain and then just sink back into the logic of it all.

6306. A friend stops by to retrieve her sunglasses, and we visit.

6307. Face cream, a simple luxury that feels like a universe.

6308. Sunday settles like quiet mist. I can't wait to fall into bed.



Sunday, June 25, 2017

Stronger





"Lord, make us stronger," Jane prays. A spruce, gargantuan stake half down the lawn, covers us with cool shadow. We pause, small in it's elephantine height.

"Hmm," I sigh, an eyes-open-prayer between us.

"Don't make the task easier," she says. "Make us bigger to handle it. Amen."

Amen settles, a invisible barrier, a hush.

"Amen," I whisper.







****







"Here, we better hurry outside," I say. "Everyone is waiting for us."

"Oh," Joe says, urgency absent from his face.

"Huh?" Jack motions over his shoulder, forehead creased, "What?"

"Hurry, come on, we have to get out there," I motion toward a door at the front of the offices. "Tell the girls to hurry up in the bathrooms," I say.

Jack jaunts two or three steps to the back and calls to them. Hand lightly on Joes neck, I steer him forward.







Finally we emerge in blinking bright sunlight out the front door, a small assembly gathered around the organic farm tour guide.

"Wow," I say, children gathered beneath my elbows like feathers. "That was an adventure." Myra nods, emphatic. Jack sloughs a grin in farmer fashion. "That road, wow," I say. Six miles of the lowest grade dirt road, drained and washed away to ruts that could swallow our whole car. "I wasn't sure we were going to make it," I say.







"I was gripping the handles on the booster with both hands," Jack says.

"I was actually praying to God," Myra says.

"A chance to be brave," I say.

"Yep," Jane says.

And yet a retreat ensues. There on that windblown mountain top of a farm, we let the hours scroll by like braille on our finger tips.

Later Jane leans in and tells me, "Ya know," she says. "It was actually so spiritually relaxing there. It was a chance to be brave and a chance to get away from this inferno." She nods toward the living room, but I see the giant pine out front, and see it's more than the room. It's all the hard assignments.

We nod, quiet observation a bond between us.









Gratitude:

6292. Rotisserie chicken. And twice in one week.

6293. A last minute field trip to a lavender farm.

6294. Dear friends join us for dinner on the lawn and Badminton. Gems of friendship.

6295. We take evening walks as a family.







6296. We mow the lawn and weed the gardens and harvest the first row of radishes.

6297. I save up to buy something special, have it bought out from under me, and then find a different treasure I like more.

6298. Craig finds a new used bbq to be our oven until the kitchen is remodeled.

6299. One by one we settle into patterns of joy. Sometimes it's the hard work of choosing happiness. Other times, and more often than I would even hope, small moments of joy find us and we take them by the hand and enjoy them.