Monday, May 22, 2017

Tomato Plant Sale

"Hey, you have a customer, Jack," I say.

"Oh, okay." The slow smile of a farmer, all freckles and deep dimples, Jack strides, slow gate and straight back, toward a man in sunglasses, two kids slack at his elbow. A nod. "Right this way," he says.

He points to a flagstone path alongside the greenhouse belly and hops along each stone, the dad and kids two steps behind. I watch through the plastic panel as he points to a rack of cherry tomatoes, a rack of slicers, and a long table of sauce and canning tomatoes. He hands the man a homemade catalogue and settles in. Unhurried, content, I watch advice and instruction mime through the plastic panel.

A box of fresh tomato seedlings in one arm, the man and two kids come out to pay. Lucy and my nephew make change and visit, shade the sun from their eyes, and nod in time with conversation. Then the man and his kids stroll off.

"You guys are doing a great job," I say. "There's only one thing I think you could do better. Wanna know what it is?"

"Sure," one of my five member staff says.

"Just make sure you take the time to look at your customer's eyes," I say.

"Oh," one says. The others nod.

"Ya wanna know why?"


"Because looking at each other is how we exchange emotion. It's how you show you care and you're glad they came."

"Oh," they say. They nod, practice being reserved, professional. But they do. They stop to look at the people, look full in the face, speak affection right alongside the plants.


6267. Dear, dear friends invite our whole huge family for dinner. The most heavenly pasta and nourishing conversation unfold like carnival rides but the kind that money can't buy and planning can't ensure. We leave full and blessed.

6268. We wield the family plant sale all together, each contributing and taking up slack where needed. It flows far easier and more natural than I would ever have expected as if deep reservoirs of affection, levity, and endurance had been waiting there all along.

6289. I forget to plunge the toilet after one of the children flushes a toilet paper roll. A kind plant sale customer discovers the problem and helps clear it up.

6269. Warm, summer-hot sun finally breaks into our spring.

6270. We find great joy, those hours in the greenhouse, the time with friends, the fresh seedlings passed between us, as if health and affection could be distilled down to the newborn green leaves we pass to them.

6271. We celebrate belated birthdays for Craig and other family members. We circle the table and speak life and encouragement to each other.

6272. Jack and Jane make me rosemary whole wheat rolls.

6273. I breathe a long sigh, long enough to encircle the whole day, this whole last season, so frenzied and scheduled. The all powerful arm of Christ has been guiding us, holding certainty, invisible, along our path.

6274. Trust. I trust Jesus more. The invisible garment of love.

Sunday, May 14, 2017


"I don't really mind that it's 7:32," Lucy says. The night before her birthday, we sit in the fading light, pajamas on, teeth brushed, the feeling of almost-nine-years-old there thick between each molecule of air.

"Hmm," I say.

"It does mean that I CAN get up at 5:32, if I want to," she says.

"Hmm," I say.

Every year we wake the birthday child with singing. Happy Birthday to you... Except. Lucy gets up at 5:32, well, when she heads to bed at 7:32 she does.

"I have a lot of books on my bed," she says, "I might just get up and read until 6:30, or whenever..." She trails off, a half shrug, soft affection toward the one of us that isn't a morning person.

"Hmm," I say. "Sounds good."

But the good, the best part, is how she snuggles under my arm, leans into my torso, and closes her eyes. An exchange of warmth, a stilling of the whole room, it's better than a birthday. The mingling of our two worlds settles until we're breathing the same cadence. She does this, brings stillness to all she touches, a gentle lulling of peace.


6261. Spices, a fresh restocking of kitchen spices.

6262. A huge stock pot full of soup.

6263. Time at the park with a friend and our children.

6264. The kids continue to prepare for next Saturday's plant sale.

6265.  Lucy turns nine.

6266. The children all turn another week older. We bear with each other's flaws, ask forgiveness when we mess us, and carry on as ones who carry each other's burdens.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Almost Home

"So what can I pray for for you?" I say. The glow of two miles flushed on our faces, Jane and I make the turn onto our street.

"Well," she says, "kind and gentle, to be kind and gentle."

"Me too," I say. "Jesus," I pray right there, eyes open, the gentle cadence of our steps marking witness to our words, "I pray that you would do this thing inside of Jane and inside of me. Please grow up this fruit of your Spirit inside of us. Please help us to be gentle and kind."

The steps mark out a lull there between us, a gentle meter to hold our words, netlike, invisible, as comforting as a heartbeat.

"Yes, Jesus," she finally says. "I pray you help me to be gentle and kind and not be like: You were mean to me so SMACK on-the-side-of-the-head, I'm gonna be mean to you because you must LIKE it. I'll show you what it's like. Help me not to do that. Help me to be gentle and to be kind. I love you, Jesus. Amen."

"Amen," I say.

We walk up the steep, steep driveway, let the slackening pace carry us, coast us home. We slide in. My arms encircle her almost-woman-self.

"Love you," I say. A kiss planted on the top of her head, I memorize this slow and conscious turning toward each other, the miraculous wings of independence fluttering there behind her.


6251. A dear friend surprises me with a box of the most lovely, resplendent, hand-me-downs. It's such a big box, I can't believe she mailed it. Joe splits his face in half with a smile.

6252. Dear sisters-in-law continue reach open arms to me, bless me with their children, and their love.

6253. Yarn, brown sweater yarn finds its way to our home.

6254. I exchange texts with a soul sister until we can meet up for reals and compare notes on the world.

6255. My small group of 16 years has a mini-reunion.

6256. My mom and I exchange writing, Buoyed along on words and images, meter and lyric, we compare our measurements of the long, long circle of the horizon. We smooth out renderings of life and pass them back and forth.

6257. Myra turns 7. The miracle of 7 unfolds there before our eyes all red hair and easy smile. I pull up a dusty seven year old inside of me, shake her off, and try her on for size. Yup, still carefree and light-footed. Makes for a lovely date with Myra.

6258. Summer comes racing in, hot enough to pinken cheeks, and fill the greenhouse with life-giving humidity. It's been long in coming. I just want to sit super still and soak it all up.

6259. I feel the anticipation of my children taking flight over the next decade. There before me, I set my heart to this new way of being, this careful opening of my hands to let the children become adults. Terrifying and exhilarating.

6260. I count the continual presence of Craig next to me a great joy and comfort.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

The Audiobook

"That is SO loud," I say. "It is GRATING on my ears." Furrow deep between my eyebrows, I reach over Jane and turn the audiobook down, staccato obvious in my arm.

The nine of us folded like origami into the Suburban, Jane and I sit elbow to elbow in the front seat, she between Craig and me.

"Here, let me just turn it up," Jane say. Before I can crane my neck enough to bore that furrow into her, she's clicked it up a quarter turn.

"WHat?" I say. "WHY did you do that?"

"Do what?"

"Turn it up."

"It was hard to hear," she says.

"But I said NOT to."

"No, you said it was loud and turned it down, so I asked to turn it up."

"No, you didn't," I say, my scarf and sweater suddenly weltering rags dampening my neck.

"Yeah, I did," she says.

"No," I say, "you said, here let me turn it up."

"Oh," she says.

"Why would you do that?" Exasperation bloomed into something like a room without very much air, me leaning into some sort of winning move, I deepen that furrow as if my whole face could pivot around those eyebrows.

"Well," she finally says, "I guess it's because you are normally so good at reading my mind."

"Huh," I say. "Well, there's that." A grin, ticklish at the corner of my mouth, pull, pull, pulls those eyebrows loose and consummates into an all out laugh. "I guess you're not in trouble," I say. And something shared lets loose between us, slack, as if a tether has just grown both longer and stronger.

Longer and stronger. This seems to be the order of the day. Something adult begins to stand up inside of her as if this lovely child were just the breathtaking shell of a magnificent something. I await, abated breath, and pray to honor the passing of this season.


6345. We take a trip to the ocean. A holiday at the sea. The memories page out like stories from our favorite books. The peace and comfort of family and extended family nourish us body, mind and soul. 17 children, 10 adults, and 5 days, we weave the fabric of family.

6246. Craig nearly completes the new greenhouse. 800 baby plants grow, grow, grow up toward the sky.

6247. We make the long, long drive to the ocean and enjoy the time of no expectations. We unroll the hours at the slow pace of ones whose schedules rarely leave time to just sit. Just. Sit. The slowness speaks peace.

6248. I work daily to cultivate kindness and gentleness in my replies. I note that hurrying makes me mean. I work to right this wrong, grow strength where I am weak. Be kind always. This is not too tall an order. I meditate on this truth.

6249. I note that when I take the time to apologize when I fall short all other things bother me less. Contentment finds me. Endurance and self-discipline sidle up inside of me.

6250. I pray to be diligent and attentive, never missing a moment or detail that God has appointed to me. Let the obedience and beauty ensue.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Resurrection Day

"We are cased up in vehicles of clay, and converse together as if we were in different coaches with the blinds close drawn around. We see the carriage, and the voice tells us that we have a friend within; but we shall know each other better, when death shall open the coach doors, and hand out the company successively, and lead them into the glorious apartments which the Lord has appointed to be the common residence of them that love him. What an assembly will there be! What a constellation of glory, when each individual shall shine like the sun in the kingdom of their father! No sins, sorrows, temptations; no veils, clouds, or prejudices, shall interrupt us then."

~John Newton (wrote Amazing Grace 1779)

So grateful for the precious gift of salvation from my risen Savior.

"And Jesus, thank-you for Daddy that he is stern and kind. We love you, Jesus. Amen." Jane prays. She spools out gratitude for each member of our family and ends on Daddy. And so we close out the best day of the year, the day we celebrate our risen Savior. 



Salvation, the unspeakable gift there in our laps. I am undone with gratitude.

Monday, April 10, 2017

A Date

"Here, just a minute," I say, "I have to throw this away." Suburban door yawned open, there in the driveway, I scoop two candy wrappers out of the door trough. "You get in," I call. I flutter the wrappers into the trash can.

"Ok," Jane says.

I slip in behind the wheel, she in the passenger seat. Belts snapped, the cottony quiet of no other children clambering for attention, I draw an extra long breath and sigh long and trailing.

"Ya know," Jane says, "when you read your Bible in the morning it makes the in-between moments in the day feel peaceful, like when you're just sitting and waiting."

"Yes," I say. And she smiles, a gentle rolling-hill of a smile. "That's so true," I say.

"It's just peaceful," she says, "not like from a drug, but peaceful." She spreads her hands as if to trace that peace horizon. "It's not like the hard things are smaller," she says, "but it's like you are bigger."

"Huh," I say, nudged up against that peace.

Bigger. And bigger too, that quiet rest there between us, between the words, between each breath. Nourishment, a communion of quiet, we breathe, just breathe, there in the warm afternoon sun.


6335. Craig roughs in greenhouse walls and plans the kitchen remodel all in his free time.

6336. Dan and Cerissa come over in the middle of date night to help.

6337. Jack continues to cook delicious pastries in the roaster over. It will be strange (and wonderful!) to have a working oven, one day, not too far off.

6338. Two friends loan me wraps, the beautiful luxurious kind, to play with with wrapping George.

6339. We meet up with old friends for afternoon dessert.

6340. Joe turns five.

6340. Monday afternoon, resplendent sun, we play with friends in the backyard, chickens out, swings up, mamas visiting amidst chatter and chirps.

6342. Peanut butter, walnuts, seaweed, treats and staples.

6343. The children while away out hours and hours in the fort out front playing with cousins.

6344. A new basketball finds its way to the kids.

6345. And somewhere in the middle of it all, I realize I am distracted, busy, and unseeing. I pray to stop and see, really see each child, my husband, and the arresting miracle of each day.

Sunday, April 2, 2017


"I think she looked into it," I say. "I'm not really sure. I'm just guessing by other things she has said."

"Oh," Jane says. It's a damp lunch hour, the two of us slipped out for a run. Wet gray, high-hung clouds, still no sun, the air licking across our faces, we run.

"I didn't really want to ask," I say.

"Oh," she says.

"Just didn't seem my place."

"Deception," she says, "it's like the worst thing in the world."

"Yeah," I say, the quiet roll of our tennis shoes over wet blacktop an invisible heartbeat between us.

"It's like using the truth to tell a lie," she says.

"Yes," I say. "It. Is." I turn this over in my mind. The truth. Thinking you have the truth is the greatest barrier to you finding it. Or it can be.

This time, marking out miles together, we map the world, trace that red thread of truth, see it go subterraneous, and watch for it to reemerge.

Miles and minutes marked out, condensed and timeless, we suddenly reemerge at home. The route come full circle, there we are. Time, compressed down to a molecule of air, had floated between us, unseen and unspooling. Then without warning we are suddenly home.

"Time," she says, "it's the most expensive thing. It's like there's never enough to do everything you would like to do."

"Yup," I say. Never enough. And there behind us, whir-whir-whir, time unspooling, unwinding, looping around us. Like stationary pinpoints it cascades over us like a waterfall.


6326. Thrifting yields a new quilt for our bed. Like a wing of faint blue it settles on our bed.

6327. We continue to treasure hunt books for the library. A visit to the bin store, the last stop for thrifted goods before they are burned, Mom and I treasure hunt. Whoopee!

6328. I continue to make friends at church. I marvel that this liturgy of friend making follows us our entire life.

6329. A friend with 11 children invites me, our 7 children, and another mom and kids over to play. So many children and yet such a peaceful time.

6330. Jack, now out of wrestling, splashes into Saturday with gusto. Cinnamon rolls, eggs, fresh jam, a pan of brownies, another pan of blondies, he's a baking bonanza, and he's still fresh to work in the yard and spend hours outside playing with cousins.

6331. "Basketball, for those that aren't very good, is really just a game of chance," Jane says.

6332. I try my hand at making a baby wrap. "Before we know it," Jane says, "you'll have a loom and some sort of spinning wheel."

6332. Craig continues to plan and build the greenhouse for flats of fast sprouting plants. We sit down together and plan the cornerstones of our spring schedule.

6333. And somewhere in there I squeeze in a few rows of knitting. It's not everyday, though I wish it were, but it's many days and enough.

6334. As we work to organize and care for what God's given us, we quiet ourselves to contentment. Somehow it's always there, just below the surface, if we only look.