Sunday, January 15, 2017

A Luncheon





"And I had Betsy's plate in one hand and mine in the other, and her plate actually started to BEND in HALF," Jane says. A paper plate, a scoop of fettuccini, a line of other volunteers behind her, I picture her story. "And Lauren was behind me," she says, "and grabbed the plate before it spilled all over."

"Oh, yeah," I say. "I seem to recall you telling me about this a minute ago, but I didn't hear the end."

"Yeah," she says. "How come that person came up and just started talking over me?"

"Oh," I say. "Is that what happened? I guess she didn't realize."

"'Cause if I did that I would get scolded," Jane says.

"Yeah. That's true," I say. "Do you know what you do in a situation like that?"

"What?"

"Be gracious. Just be gracious."

"Oh," she says.







"You know, Jane, it's really good you are noticing stuff like this," Craig adds,"because the things you learn while you are young are the things that stick with you your whole life."

"Huh," she says.

"Yup," I say. Your whole life. Small habits are actually a destination.

Conversation moves on, a story about the flu shot, Jane a repository of facts and figures and pearls of mirth. I watch how she traces the moves of conversation, interjects herself yet pauses to acknowledge other players. The choreography, it's like learning to jump double dutch and just as mesmerizing.

I make a mental note: Pay attention. Be present. Notice when people interrupt.









Gratitude:

6214. "I feel like I am going to explode with tiredness and emotion," Jane says before bed. "I'm not happy. I'm not sad. I'm just BOTH," she says.

6215. Betsy strokes George's face. "Don't pick his nose, ok?" I say.

6216. Myra offers to make Joe toast. "Wellll, just don't burn it, ok?" he says.







6217. Spiced pecans.

6218. Craig finds a documentary on the harpy eagle and plans a family night around it. "Well," Jane says, "crocodiles are my favorite animal, but now harpy eagles are my second favorite."

6219. I finally give Jack and Joe haircuts. It's like shearing sheep.

6220. The children organize the literature books for our next two units.

6221. Craig plans a field trip to go eagle watching.







6222. We begin to learn the limits of what we can plan in a day and realistically get completed.

6223. Raspberry leaf tea.

6224. I find a houndstooth button-down shirt for Jack. "It's just the right thickness, Mom," he says.

6225. We get into a routine of hard boiling eggs. Perfect timing, perfect yolks.

6226. The writings of John Newton. All I knew of him was Amazing Grace. So. Much. More.







6227. I continue to search for what God is doing each day that I might join in.

6228. I find joy and strength as unexpected results. Illusive when I pursue them directly, they reside happily in my peripheral. I suppose they were never meant to be the point of my life.

6229. The children another week older, I feel like this is all going so fast. I still the moments to memorize as many as I can.



Sunday, January 8, 2017

Keys





"Oh no, where are my keys?' I say. Macy's entry way, Lucy, Myra, and me, the three of us stare at my hands. Just a wallet and house key.

"Wait, look in the pockets," Lucy says, and we and feel for the invisible zippers of my coat. Agates, chapstick, quarters, a brass button, sand at the bottom, "Ugh, no. It's not in there." I finger through a wad of receipts in the other pocket.

"Are you sure? I thought I heard them," Myra says.

"No, that was just some change and a button I have in there." We stare hard at my paisley wallet -- wallet, house key, and beaded-pull all clipped together with a carabiner. Resignation finally falls across our shoulders. We retrace a tiny circuit of steps.

"Did you have any keys turned in?"

"Here let me look." Tic, tic-tock, a sales associate paws through a small box. We wait, try not to stare. "No. No we haven't," she says.

"Oh. Ok."

I sigh. A phone call to Craig, the words, I feel like such an idiot, the realization that he can't find the spare key, a ticking clock gonging each second as I measure the minutes until the baby's next feeding, the baby at home, the minutes ticking until Craig leaves for work, it's all a tic-tic-tic, tic-tock, the amount of time it would take him to come get me, the impossible fact that we can't take our car if we can't open it, tic, tic-tock.

We trace and retrace our steps. Down an escalator, the children's department, intimate apparel, linens, back past linens, bed and bath. We stop at activewear. Again.

"Did you have any keys turned in?"

"No."

"Ok."

Between desperation and dreamlike non-reality, we finally pray. "Jesus please help us find our keys. We can't make it happen. Can you help us?"

"Jesus we don't know where the keys are, but we know you do. Will you help us find them?"

Jesus, Jesus help, we pray in varying approximations. Help.

All that warm light and white tile, slate gray grout, we trace and retrace. Again. And again. I picture the white laminated tag on the keys, the one from when we bought the car that says the make and model of the vehicle. I wonder if someone would steal our car, and it feels like free fall. Lucy and Myra follow me. Their blinking eyes take in and measure my anguish.

Back past each shirt and sweatshirt, the tank tops on clearance, past the leggings space-dyed pink, past the purple shirt with the open back, past a rack of long underwear, there -- there, just a tiny triangle of white under magenta folds, there, the laminated tag and the KEY.







Relief gushes, waves almost like nausea.

I pluck the key like an agate on the beach then squeeze it in my palm. "Oh. Good," I sigh. Then splayed on all that white tile, we pray.

"Jesus, thank-you for helping us find the keys. Thank. You. We know you did that for us. Thank. You. Amen."

Thank. You. Our souls ring like bells of gladness.

"I'm so happy I'm almost crying," Myra says. I open my eyes and there she is all watery and grins. She wipes her eyes with the back of her hand.

We practically sprint to the car, the key still pressed into the palm of my hand and snow falling in huge clusters. As we chariot home, the car encircles us. I watch the road, but some part of me stares at the baldfaced relief there in the car. Jesus we don't know where the keys are, but we know you do. Will you help us? Myra's simple obeisance washes over me.





Gratitude:

6205. Keys. We found the keys.

6206. Aloe vera. Skin soothing aloe in this dry, dry weather.

6207. Craig and the kids brine and cook a turkey. I make garlic mashed potatoes and gravy. We have a second Thanksgiving meal.

6208. Sledding.







6209. Jack continues to provide our family with homemade pizza and pancakes. Jane makes buckets of popcorn.

6210 Lucy buys a chocolate bar with her own money for her and me to share.

6211. Leggings for running in bitter winter cold.

6212. We pick up playing chess again.

6213. I pray for the Lord to make me gentle and kind. I remind myself that like all virtues kindness and gentleness are best measured when they are hardest to give.

6214. I pray that the inevitable adversities of life will bloom with kindness, gentleness, and the character of Christ.



Sunday, January 1, 2017

Bread





"Oh no, Lucy forgot to make bread," I groan. "Did Lucy make bread, Jane?"

"Oh, no," Jane groans. She wipes the table in soothing circles captures crumbs in the folds of a rag. "I don't think she did," she says.

"Rrrrats!" I say.

"'Scuse me, 'scuse me," Betsy shoves emphatic against my leg. "Bed, bed, bed," she says. She lopes around a kitchen counter, and like Lassie, looks back for me to follow.

"Ok," I say.

There in the sunroom, she points. The bread maker open, a loaf. No one took it out. The warming feature just hot enough, I head back to the kitchen for heat mitts, Betsy, already there, drawer open, more emphatic pointing at the heat mitts.

Finally, loaf turned out on a cooling rack, I reach for the bread knife. Knife drawer just taller than Betsy's head, she can barely reach the handle but can't reach in, The drawer's open and waiting, her grinning.







"It's SCARY how much she knows," Jane says.

"I know," I say.

"It seems like just a second ago she was a tiny baby, and now she has a MIND of her own," Jane says.

"Yes," I say, "exactly."

So it is, Betsy has a mind of her own and Jane a gentle grin of appreciation. We smile, the electricity of growing up there between us.





Gratitude:

6205. Snow. Buckets of snow pour down over our city. We sled and then cozy up next to the warm fire.

6206. George sleeps a long stretch most nights now and settles into an eat-play-sleep routine. I can feel him gaining weigh. He nestles like a huge lump on my chest and drifts to sleep.

6207. He starts to smile, first a grin at Craig, then big grins at me, the kind that raise his eyebrows and wrinkle his scalp.







6208. Craig and the kids organize the hand-me-down storage.

6209. We wrap up all the meaningful Christmas celebrations. They tuck into the folds of memories like feathers under wings.

6210. Jack makes pancakes and whip cream, cinnamon rolls and frosting, and deep dish pizza all from scratch to celebrate the new year.

6211. We settle back to enjoy the gentle assent of another year. One day stacked on another, we collect a few disciplines to practice every day. Mostly we settle back to watch the Lord work. We pray worship defines the minutia of each day. To God be the glory.



Sunday, December 18, 2016

The Steps





"I don't mean to be like people are stupid," I say, "but with math and science and history and art, any idiot can learn it if they do the steps." A felt ornament in hand, I pull embroidery floss through it's wool surface.

"I know," Jane says. I'm checking her school work. Paused at a cache of sketches, we stare at the latest installment of daily practice. "When we started art with Grammie," she says, "it was HARD. And I was like, I'm not gonna be any good at THIS."

"Yeah," I say.

"But after hundreds of hours, I mean HUNDREDS," she leans toward me. "That has some WEIGHT," she says.

"Yup," I say. "You're probably coming up on 400 hours."

"Yeah, WOW," she says.

"After hundreds of hours," I lean in and whisper, "any idiot can learn it."

"It does help to have IQ," she says, "but most people with a high IQ don't want to stoop so low, which is actually standing TALL." She shrugs.

"Yup," I say.

So it is. Practice makes easy. Hundreds of hours and suddenly, there, in the palm of your hand: skill.









Gratitude:

6198. George Lewis. Our newest additions grows strong and healthy. Big boy, over 10 lbs. by now.







6199. I get the blessing and privilege of having a dear, dear friend as my doula at George's birth.

6200. Jack meets my every possible need the weeks recovering from delivery. He cooks the meals, cleans the main living areas, does dishes. With nary a hint from me, he serves from his heart, every action pure love.







6201. Dear friends and family send us meals and treats and gifts. On top of the gift of a child, we find love and help there reaching out to us.

6202. We celebrate Christmas over the weekend with extended family. Peace settles on the whole clan of us out at my parents. Something more than us, something I can only describe as the presence of Christ encircles us. Christmas truly.







6203. I still struggle to keep the house tidy, and struggle to respond with the perfect combination of strength and grace when things go sideways, but even there, even the worst moments are fill with purpose. We encircle each other with grace and spur one another on in love and good works.

6204. The new geography of our family adds depth to each of us.



Sunday, December 11, 2016

George Lewis





George Lewis
9 lbs. 6 oz.

Thanksgiving morning. Two and one half hours labor, and the all natural birth I'd dreamed of gave way to a beautiful baby boy. All the imagining in the world couldn't have prepared us for his resplendent face. Bliss. We raise our hearts in a song of joy, thanksgiving the air we breathe.







He eats and sleeps like a champ. The children encircle him with love and curiosity.

I take each slow moment for the gift it is. They run through our fingers like water.



Sunday, November 20, 2016

Gingerbread





"Don't turn around, okay Mom?" Jack says. "I'm making a surprise." I hear dishes slide across the counter.

"Okay," I say. My fingers tap-tap across the computer keyboard. I flutter numbers and dollar signs into our family budget, flex my mind around the herculean effort of reconciling numbers. Like all great efforts it requires hours more than expected and yields peace. I gather a lay of the land and memorize the mountains and valleys.

When I turn around, finally: a sierra of gingerbread boys.

"It's a surprise for you," they say. Best of all they polish the kitchen to clean perfection, floors and all.

Peace settles over the house. It's not a sigh of having everything, but the long exhale of having all that matters. One by one we wrap our tired arms around each other and head to bed. Sleep holds us, gentle arms of strength encircle us.









Gratitude:

6183. A dear friend surprises us with a visit, gift in tow.

6184. A neighbor passes on bags of used books.

6185. I continue the quiet repetition that is knitting to smooth the evenings. I finish a baby hat and start a sweater.

6186. I finish my original knitting pattern.

6187. Lucy plans out Christmas gifts and sets to making them.

6188. Jane too.

6189. Jack makes gingerbread boys with an army of helpers.

6190. Myra and Joe build forts in the sunroom and clean them up when they finish.

6191. Mom and I compare notes on all things Oswald Chambers and theology.

6192. A fresh pot of soup: meat and sweet potatoes. Mmmmm.

6193. Craig and Jane stack a chord of firewood.

6194. We roast a turkey for on hand when the baby is born.

6195. We watch with mirth as the baby's due date comes tomorrow and yet no baby.

6196. I take note of how each of our children is so different from all the others. I can't imagine how one more can yet be so different. It will be like unwrapping a gift each day.

6197. And we wait.



Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Stew





"This onion is undeniably spirited," Jane says.

Me, shored up on the couch, I hear her load the crockpot with meat and vegetables: stew. Her, the first one to emerge healthy, fills our kitchen with wonderful food and cares for us. Nourishment comes, a fountain, a wellspring, manna to fill our bellies.





Gratitude:

6176. My mom brings over a knitted blanket and a handmade quilt for the baby.

6177. Jane makes stew.

6178. We start the audio book of The Lord of the Rings.

6179. Jack makes chocolate chip cookies.

6180. A long headache finally abates.

6181. I find a dutch oven thrifting.

6182. We anxiously await the arrival of the baby, the anticipation an even all it's own.

6183. We continue to watch the state of our nation post election. It's like a page turning novel. We continue to pray God will bring revival, then turn our hearts to him for it to begin here.