Sunday, July 5, 2015

Books





"If you read one particular book a lot of times," Lucy says, "it seems like it's shorter than all the other ones." She smiles, leans her head toward me. She quints her eyes. We nod.

CS Lewis said you only know the true essence of surprise and satisfaction after you've read a story many times, many many times, traced the silhouette until it's memorized. So it is, we memorize the stories, silhouettes of surprise.









Gratitude:

5473. I make it through the first vein surgery. Serendipitously, I find the surgeon a fellow Christian and philosopher.

5474. Craig and the children wait on me hand and foot.

5475. I knit up a storm to pass the recovery time.

5476. Craig plays me countless games of Chess.







5477. Jane accepts my offer of Kitchen Manager for two weeks (modest salary included).

5478. Craig shows up with a salted caramel chocolate bar. For me.

5479. Joey tries to wash chicken poop off his flip-flop in the kitchen sink only to be discovered and shooed out.







5480. "I know there are sharks in that water," Myra says about a river in town. "That's why I'm not gonna swim in there."

5481. The Fourth of July comes and goes. I pray our country doesn't relinquish our freedom in the name of "safety".

5482. I listen to a sermon my brother preached, then listen to it again with Jane. Why do the wicked prosper? He answers this question.

5483. When I am able to do less, the love of my family means even more. Unconditional affection, this is a true marvel. I am so rich.



Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Garden





"Hey Mom, maybe when we get home can we go look at the garden together?" Jack says.

"Maybe," I say. "We'll see." Craig gone all week, Jane there with him, Arts Camp, long trailing ends of exhaustion whisp through the car. The showcase opening tonight, we all previewed it. Jane toured us. She glowed with satisfaction, bubbled really as if carbonated. Some indivisible quality of her surfaced, an immovable cornerstone, confidence a symptom of it.

Jack had carried my bag, tagged along, swept in the gap when I needed help, waited while I visited, made conversation himself. Foreman of the minutia, he was just there when I needed him.







"Okay," Jack says. "I just really want to."

Oh yeah, the garden. The garden. Even as I sigh, an engulfing sigh that seems to go on and on and on,  I hear the invitation in his voice. Together, he says.

"Well, Betsy, peed out of her clothes," I say, "and there is food to be made, but maybe. We'll see. I do love looking at the garden."







"I know," he says. "It just always changes. Even over half a day it seem like a plant has moved." He memorizes the plants like faces in a classroom.

"I know," I say. "I know what you mean." I picture the sprawling garden, rolling-green over green over forest-green. Jack the gardener knows every leaf, every turn of a petal, every reach and strive of stem. He bunches the earth up and pulls it open and smooths it flat. He cultivates a showcase of his own.

He takes me to his gallery.









Gratitude:

5464. Friends invite us to dinner. We show up on the wrong day, ten minutes late, and unannounced. Still, they invite us in, the eight of us, and encircle us with hospitality. The evening lingers on their back porch, drawn out slow and delicious.

5465. Kefir water. I try something new. Jack and Lucy help me brew it.







5466. Jane spends a week at work with Craig. The tight cords of their bond grow thicker.

5467. A live and huge basil plant to replace the ones I forgot to plant this spring.

5468. I prepare for varicose vein surgery later this week. A little more grace than usual finds its way to me.







5469. I almost beat Craig in chess, then lose badly the next many games. I try to remind myself that this is the way you get better.

5470. I do the budget. Something of a scowl takes over my face. "Mom, you're doing a good job managing the house," Jane says hand on my shoulder. I smile the scowl smooth.







5471. "Hey Mom," Jack says, "I'm reading my Bible over by Betsy, and I whisper the good verses to her, and she tugs on my ear."

5472. And I whisper the good verses to her, I take this in and hold it like a deep breath. The good verses, they give us life. Let us bow and worship before our King.



Monday, June 22, 2015

Out And About





"For once I found a really good restaurant to go to," Jack says.

The two of us on a date, he recounts the end of school. Final test, then Craig had taken Jane and him to a Mexican place.

"Uh-hum," I say. I navigate traffic. Yellow swaths of sunlight, the sapphire sky, Jack's face fresh as a green-tufted field, the day unfolds in metered time.

"'Cause I haven't really found restaurants to be that good," he says.

That good. I smile.

"I mean like compared to some of your soups," he says.

"I know what you mean."

All those passes of sunlight there on us, we slip through the afternoon. Jack and those clear blue eyes, I memorize that perfect iris. Something quite the opposite of fear traces each line of his face.

Confidence unbidden grows up in the soils of discipline. I watch and marvel.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Candy





"It woooould be kind of nice to break the burden of candy," Jane says.

There at the kitchen table, I lean on an elbow. One child pounds piano scales; another sketches flowers; Joe brushes crumbles of brown sugar from tabletop to palm; Myra leans around his shoulder; but I stare directly at Jane. Those blue eyes, that white face, I just look right at her.

"What do you mean?" I say.







"Oh," she says, "like when you have candy, just thinking and thinking, I hope, I hope I get CANDY. I just want CANDY." She moves her head opposite each shoulder as if marking time. "And you think, Let's try to be nice to each other so we can have CANDY. Wait, you're making me mad: PUNCH." She pops an air-punch at an imaginary person.

"I know what you mean," I chuckle, candy, the siren allure.

"It's kind of nice to just share it and be done with it," she says. A pleasant smile, she's stilled her bobbing head. The whole world a tide around us, we smile, soft and happy into each other's eyes.







"Yeah, it is." I say. There like stones in a river, we part the water's of time, force it to move around us. I take in her face. She takes in mine, all the while searching for something. Someone pulls my elbow for attention, but I look just a moment longer. Tiny crinkles form at the corners of her eyes. Loyalty and affection weave a net around us.









Gratitude:

5949. Shampoo, new shampoo!

5450. We trim Lucy's hair.







5451. A fresh mascara waiting in the wings.

5452. Dinner with Craig's parents.

5453. Hairpins, new ones that haven't swiveled-sideways.







5454. Mom brushes my hair out. Luxury.

5454. Jack and I plant cucumber plants together.

5455. We attend another gallery opening as a family. The children spot the elements of art in the work.







5456. I accidentally sleep in when Betsy wakes up late. An extra hour of sleep fuels me with inexplicable energy.

5457. "These pawns are actually powerful," Myra says as she holds a pawn up for us to see.

5458. "I see a move," she says. Sure enough. "Dada, can take you with his rook," she says to me.







5459. Jane learns how to run the espresso machine.

5460. Our small group starts summer barbecues.

5461. Lucy's contact falls out twice, and we rescue it both times.







5462. I mark the beginning of summertime fun by running through the sprinkler with the kids.

5463. As another week draws to a close, I find myself taking longer to enjoy the moments. A whole world of demands, but I find myself living deliberately.



Sunday, June 7, 2015

Today





"Today was a happy day," Myra says, "'cause everyone was serving other people." Standing on the bottom bunk, she grasps the top-bunk rail and leans forward. She sways out into the room, her arms pulled backwards, fingers looped around the rail.

"Um-hum," I say. At the dresser-turned-changing-table, I flatten a cloth diaper under Betsy. By muscle memory I change her without even thinking.

"Like Jane made my bed when no one told her to," Myra says as she swings through my peripheral. "Everyone was doing things for other people. That's called SERVING."







"I wonder why," I say.

"I know," she says. "No one even told them to." She pauses mid arc, a slow blink of those blue eyes as if a whole library were unfurling in her mind. "They're not like being MEAN and hurting each other."

"Yep." I snap the legs of Betsy's pants together.

"They're not like that. They're SERVING. The Bible ACTUALLY says you're supposed to be serving other people," she says.

"Yep," I say, a moment of clarity.

All this dogged intolerance of bickering and attitude, selfishness and apathy, a regular crusade, and we here we are. Intolerance is actually cultivation. Here we are with serving poured into our laps.









Gratitude:

5935. Coral flour sack dish towels, a set of four.

5936. We plant rows and rows of tomatoes in the garden. One hundred twenty tomatoes planted.







5937. The last one is the biggest, grandest black krim I've ever seen.

5938. We get the last of the kids' winter clothes switched out for summer wear.

5939. The children plant their garden.

5940. Saturday morning the kids get up and make a family breakfast. Eggs and toast for everyone. They even set up three chess board as part of the meal.







5941. Craig fashions math contests and competitions. The children jump-jump-jump to meet his high standard.

5942. We visit Lucy's optometrist. He has her start new eye therapy and order bifocals.

5943. We attend a high school graduation party. The little red-head down the street has turned into a lovely, lovely woman.







5944. Lucy makes bread, and Jack and Jane water the garden plants all before church.

5945. Oranges, a whole box of them. Oranges make the best dessert.

5946. Chicken soup. I boil homemade stock and make four gallons of chicken soup, Jane's favorite.







5947. Betsy laughs uproariously when I change her clothes, her ribs unbearably ticklish.

5948. We continue to peel back layers of attitude and intent to find what truly motivates our children. We glimpse the DNA of identity and marvel. We are fearfully and wonderfully made.



Sunday, May 31, 2015

Pizza





"Okay," I call to Craig. "I'll plan on showering right now."

Eighty degree heat, perched atop the new arbor, Craig revs the electric drill. He almost nods, but crossbar in place, he anchors it with undivided focus. Extra screws between his lips, he lines up another crossbar and then anchors it too.

"I'll pop the pizza in the oven after that," I say.

He nods. Jane, at the other end of the yard, looks up, her chin and eyebrows raised in tandem.

"Couldn't you just put it in the oven and then shower?" she says. She glides across the grass on tip-toe.







"Yeah," I say, "but I'm afraid I'll burn it, 'cause they don't cook very long."

"I could do it," she says.

"You mean put it in the oven and everything? You have to be able to get them in and out yourself."

"I will," she says. She tilts her head, her smile slightly more pronounced on one side.

"Oh, and make a salad too," I say.

"Okay," she nods staccato.







"Are you sure you don't mind?"

"Oh, no," she says.

"Oo-kay," I say. We smile to each other, something gentle and happy, like the rocking of a boat, between us. "Okay," I say.

We head inside, but I feel it again, that gentle pulse of love, a thrum-drum of rightness. I watch her learn to lay down her life and rise up in strength.

Each day we loosen the reigns a little more.









Gratitude:

5924. Black licorice from Lynn and a fun time for Jack bringing back treats with her.

5925. Chips, salad, and burgers. Barbecue is a highlight of the week.

5926. Lucy gets a watch.







5927. Her glasses come in.

5928. And then she pulls 2000 weeks to win a contest with Aunt Libby.

5929. Craig finishes the arbor.

5930. We plant vegetables in the garden.







5931. Betsy has her four month appointment and is doing well.

5932. I score my first ever win against Craig in chess.

5933. Jack discovers the Hardy Boys books from his cousin.

5934. We continue to live in joy.



Sunday, May 24, 2015

The Boy





"Joey, could you kill that for me?" I say.

I gesture with my elbow to a gangly-legged spider on the sill. Betsy in arms, she nurses through the jostle. If Joe were a puppy, his ears would be perked straight up. He furrows his brow, zeros in on the spider.

"Yeah," he says. Two strides to the window, one bear-ish swipe, and he smooshes the arachnid. "Did it," he says. He pinches up the leggy remains. "Gonna throw it away," he says.







"Thanks, Joe." He's half way to the kitchen, stalled out studying the black crumple. I call after him. "You are brave," I say. He frowns, looks up, cocks his puppy head.

"'AM," he says, the monosyllable a boulder clunking from his mouth. With the seriousness of a knighting we nod.







"Yeah," I say, but really I'm just keeping time to the synchronous nodding between. "Yup," I say. That masculine matrix resounding, I memorize that face, courage unfettered.





Gratitude:

5917. Craig makes waffles for breakfast.

5918. Joe fills his M&M wrapper with Play-Doh.

5919. Coral chair and hand-me-down-yarn.







5920. We celebrate Great-Grammie's 100th birthday. Everyone sings her favorite hymn: How Great Thou Art. Ribbons of harmony encircle us. I've always wished I could sing harmony.

5921. Yellow scrubby dishrag yarn.

5922. The mind is the lackey of the heart. I mull over John Piper's words on my morning run.

5923. We buckle down on chores. Everyone strains against the reigns of discipline and then embraces the freedom.