Sunday, February 12, 2017

Folding





"You know," Jane says, "it really works if you FAKE it." She shakes a turquoise sweatshirt free of wrinkles and drapes it over her knee, creases it, folds it, folds it again in half.

"Yep," I say. A floodplain of laundry deposited across the couch, I watch her reach for another shirt.

"When we came out here I was like THAT'S SO REPULSIVE," she gestures to the gully of laundry and plucks a stack. "But now it's like not that bad." Her face awash with a smile, she sits in a small crevice between the clothes and the couch arm.

"That's called fake-it-'til-you-make-it," I say.

"Huh," she says.







In steady increments she folds, stacks, and puts away. She excavates the living room one shirt, one pile of laundry, one library book, sock, shoe, blanket, and broken bow and arrow at a time.

"Ok, how's that?" she says.

"Hmmm," I scan the room. "Not quite," I say. She follows my eyes, a couple of blocks and towels at the end of the couch.

"Oh, the towels?" she says.

"Everything," I say, "down to the last nub."

"Nub?" she says.

"Everything," I say.

"Ok," she says.







Without thinking, we nod to each other, a sort of tipping of the hat, an acknowledgement, appreciation. And then she makes another pass, combing the corners, cracks, and crevices for any remaining detritus.

So there it is, all huff and bluster not thirty minutes ago, now she commands a sense of order. Order, that is the gift. By how she's thrown her shoulders into the work, I guess she took it at face value: grumbling means you need MORE chores, and boy do I have a list.





Gratitude:

6261. Friends invite us to dinner, the whole nine of us. White chili, bread, and caramel pears, it's the perfect matrix for visiting and fellowship.

6262. An afternoon blooms in conversation when friends stop by spontaneously. Joy greets us.

6263. Fajita soup with cocoa and all the conversation, laughter, and genuine life-giving stillness that surrounded it.







6264. We try something new: we practice silence. Dinner dishes still splayed around us, empty and enjoyed, we close the meal with total silence. We ponder God. I practically cry from the profound refreshment.

6265. Two thrifted sweaters, the kind that look nice even if you forget and slouch a little.

6266. Jars. Glass jars.

6277. Popcorn. Butter.







6278. I'm gradually settling myself to not rush and not worry. In the frenzied moments I slow, be intentional. I'm realizing a mistake of slowness is better than a mistake of meanness.

6279. Jack and Lucy prepare popcorn and lay out a game board. We pause to play together. In the rushing river of days, we still the world to play and make memories.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Soup





"No, honey, that soup is for people who go poop in the potty," I say.

"NoOOooOo," Betsy groans.

"That soup will make you go poop and poop and poop," I say. Ham bean soup. "That soup is for potty goers."

"NooOOo," she says, forehead wrinkled, mouth curved in perfect upside down semi-circle. I grin; she drives her eyebrows deeper. Soup. She LOVES soup.







"I know what she's thinking," Jane says, "THIS IS RIDICULOUS. I'M GONNA GO ASK JANE."

"Yup," I say. "She sure is." Jane shines a smile from the far end of the table. We grin across the plane of Betsy's will, weightless affection for that two-year-old reverberating between us.









Gratitude:

6248. "You have to watch Betsy really close," Jane says. "She's at the age where she hasn't really developed the muscle of self-control really well, but she's really capable."







6249. Books. Someone passes on a bunch of books. It feels like Christmas.

6250. Silicone trivets, the kind that store in concentric circles.

6251. A couple of new sweatshirts to update my everyday work clothes.







6252. We watch the super bowl. Joey keeps calling it the super ball.

6253. At halftime we can't help but stare at Lady Gaga. Finally I click the tv off. "My first thought when she came out," Jane says, "was WHY IS SHE WEARING A SWIMSUIT IN THE FREEZING WEATHER? That was ridiculous, appalling, and laughable."

6254. George continues his career as a smiler. We all melt.







6255. The children become obsessed with the Laura Ingles Wilder books and consume them like starving people seeming to memorize every single farming detail as they go.

6256. Chicken dinner with asian salad, rice, chips, and pleasant conversation, better than a restaurant.

6257. We celebrate Craig's birthday.







6258. I find great joy in reading a daily devotional of John Newton.

6259. I make whipped shea butter.

6260. Though I feel ensconced in household chores. I cherish the company, and set my heart to enjoy the tasks at hand.



Sunday, January 29, 2017

Time





"Hey. GUYS," Jane shouts. I slip out of the kitchen and sidle past the table, laundry in one arm, coffee in the other. "GUYS," she says, "there is NO way we can be on time now. No. Way. Everyone just come on and TRY." She slouches, sits on the ottoman, shoulders sagged at the end of a long sigh.

I make a break for the hallway. Jane addressed the kids, but there I am still in my pajamas, time expired and ticking out our lateness. I reach the corner of the piano, escape from scrutiny half a stride away. I stop, turn back to her.

"Jane, thank-you so much," I say. "I'm having a hard time managing my time and all with adding the baby in too." I smile, my forehead wrinkled up in apology. "I know we're late, but you have to understand that this is 15 minutes earlier than I was last week. Thank-you, honey, I'm so grateful for your help."

"Oh," she softens. "Here, do you want me to get shoes for Betsy?" she says.

"Yes," I say, my eyes pools of gratitude as I turn to scamper down the hall.

A cross between circus and the cogs of a clock, we soon trundle out the door, keys, coffee, and a water glass all in orbit, baby slung over one arm. I snap babe in the backseat and circle back to lock the front door.

"I think Dad will actually be really proud of you," Jane says as I double back again to close a backseat car door.







"So I guess I won't be quite as much a repulsive idiot as I was before," I say, the words out of my mouth before I can reel them in.

"What?" she says. I freeze.

"Oh," I say. "I actually am really ashamed of being late," I say.

"Oh," she says. "It's ok," she says.

I sigh another long breath, and she and I fold into the suburban with everyone else finally ready to chariot on to church.

"How about I drop you guys off this time," I say. "Jane, would you and Jack mind running upstairs with Joe? 'Cause it's going to take me a bit to unload George and Betsy." We're rounding the last turns, blue sky arresting and huge. I swallow lukewarm tea, golfball sized gulps, and plunk the mug back in a cupholder puddle.

"Wellll," Jane says, "I think actually, have Jack take Joe, and I'll stay here to help you with George and Betsy." Crinkles of relief at the corners of my eyes, I smile.

"Oh Jane," I say, "that would be great. Thank-you so much. Jack," I glance in the rearview mirror, "are you okay with that?"

"Yeah," he says. "Yeah, sure."

"Thank-you," I say. "Thank-you guys so. Much."







I feel the flex of something between us, tender tissues, the flesh of kindness. Loyalty like air, I breathe in, something stronger than being lovable: love.

"Ok," I say, "let's go."

And we do. Confidence finds us like earth beneath our feet.  Relegated to the peripheral, confidence solidifies just in time for each step.





Gratitude:

6238. "Jesus, please help us to communicate the Truth to people," Lucy prays. "And please help Donald Trump to be a good president."

6239. Betsy turns TWO.

6240. My brother helps us draw up a kitchen remodel plan since replacing the oven will require cutting into the cabinets on either side.







6241. "My garden will be pretty fertile when I grow up," Jack says.

6242. George starts smiling and smiling, his face awash with recognition each time. "Mom," his adoring eyes call out.

6243. I get to catch up with a friend, an afternoon visiting, berry crumble and tea included.

6244. I get to talk theology with a group of friends. Theology, so rarely the topic of discussion, and yet it undergirds everything. I note it's invisibility and yet importance.

6245. Jane and I have a strange experience shopping together. Another customer at one store is chatty and overly and weirdly interested in us. We both feel uncomfortable. In the car we pray about it, pray for safety and deliverance. Immediately we both feel completely different. It's almost as if something evil were punctured and disarmed. "Wow," Jane says, "Jesus really is the ONLY way."







6246. Craig's dad falls and breaks his leg. Surgery and rehab should fix the problem.

6247. Life gradually eases into a predictable and familiar rhythm. Old and cherished routines re-emerge. The perennials of life, I embrace them. Like my favorite peonies coming up each year, they fill my life with happiness.



Sunday, January 22, 2017

Running





"I'm really looking forward to running with you this summer," Jane says. Just home from a run, we recline at the big brown table.

"Me TOO," I say. The roads melted off just enough, me, fresh out of the chutes of pregnancy, we ran as fast as a man walks.

"It's just so fun to talk and run," she says, "and open your spirit and enjoy God's creation." I nod, each mile interlaced between us, a latticework, a netlike weave, almost alive. "And there are no interruptions," she says.

"Yes," I say. "I love that too."

We begin another season of running. We soak in the real-live-world, the sun spiking off puddles, trees velvety green, the air piercing cold, unadulterated, the real-live-world. Life increasingly eclipsed with screens, the real-live-world arrests us, soothes our tired eyes, and knits us together.





Gratitude:

6230. Lucy hums while she plays piano.

6231. Jack and Jane go thrift shopping with me.







6232. Betsy starts to dabble in potty training.

6233. Cheese, chips, and chocolate, the perfect Trader Joe's run.

6234. Joe peruses a Montana Outdoors magazine. He stops at a hunter removing the horns on a freshly shot elk. "They are cutting the beak off that deer," he says. "Oh, they are KILLING that horse," he commentates on the next picture of a deer.

6235. Gypsy cream.

6236. I try a baby sling for the first time. I had always just assumed they would hurt my neck.

6237. Another full week before us, we set our minds to enjoy each day.



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.