Sunday, April 24, 2016

Seaweed





"Can you play nine again?" Myra says. Nine, it's a hymn: Before The Throne Of God Above.

"Sure," I say.

En route to church Joe, Betsy, Myra, and I play hymns, a collection, modern but old. Before the throne of God above, I have a strong and perfect plea; a great High Priest whose name is Love, who ever lives and pleads for me... The words peal through the car like tiny bells, like pearls scattered across tile. We listen to them bound and ripple until the car is silent.

"Momma, can you play nine again?" The invisible seam between song and cerulean sky, drooped low through our car, snaps back.

"Sure," I say.

My name is graven on His hands, my name is written on His heart; I know that while with God He stands, no tongue can bid me thence depart. I weave perfect stitches through traffic. Myra in the back, me in the front, the music, as if alive, joins us.







"Nine, Momma," she says.

"Ok," I say.

Because the sinless Savior died, my soul is counted free; for God the Just is satisfied, to look on him and pardon me. The words encircle us with smallness and grandeur.

"You and me, Myra, we're the same," I say. "We like to listen to our favorite ones over and over and over again." I laugh. Those tiny glimmers of exactness, exact copies of me in tiny slivers, I laugh at the likeness.

"Yeah," she says. "It's sort of like the seaweed -- just one more, just one more, just one more."

We laugh and laugh. The seaweed. One afternoon I ate an entire package of seaweed that way. It was so salty and crisp, just one and another and another and the whole entire package disappeared. Delicious. It made me terribly ill, but such extravagance of repetition it's an engine. Myra sees the match. A whole roomful of possibilities and we see the exact same one.

Something tender and in perfect agreement springs up between us.









Gratitude:

5840. "Hey Mom, this needs new batteries," Joe holds up my watch. "Look, it burned out." Between Jane and I we used it until the battery died.

5841. Jack makes us a double batch of peanut butter cookies.

5842. A bag of groceries from Trader Joe's, bliss.

5843. Some new clothes. Spring treasures, a few new things, and we feel like kings.







5844. Craig opens a fb account for me.

5845. We end the week with 147 freshly transplanted tomatoes and change, 16 flats total.

5846. Craig's mom offers to babysit the plants for us. We have pizza and roasted brussel sprouts and homemade vanilla ice cream down on the farm.

5847. "Ya know," Jane says at breakfast, "Now that I know what the Cuban Missile Crisis is, The Cuban Muscle Crisis [a political cartoon in World Magazine] is a lot funnier."

5848. Each of the kids grows a little older, a little more different than each other. I see how they notice and recall events each with their own bent. The difference is striking.







5849. We start taking a family walk after dinner.

5850. We begin praying with the kids for "big" things, things only God can provide. We watch for His hand at work. Whether in the simple or the grand, His presence is everything.

5851. "This is so FUN," Joe says as he lays on a pile of pillows. Betsy squawks her agreement.

5852. "Betsy, where's your baby?!" She frantically searches under the pillows with Joe.

5853. The responsibilities of life lay heavy on us, but joy fills in all the cracks.



Sunday, April 17, 2016

Family Brekfast





"But Mom, it's like dripping in butter," Jane says. One toast in hand, the other leaned against her plate, she frowns. Family breakfast. Every Saturday Jack and Lucy cook eggs and toast for the family. All the rest of us have to do is roust our tired selves from bed.

"How much butter did you use, Jack?" Craig turns to the end of the table, Jack and Joe seated together on an antique toy box.

"Like one and a half sticks," he says.







"Oh," I say, "so 12 tablespoons, 14 pieces of toast, that's less than a tablespoon per piece. That's less than I use."

"Than YOU use?" Craig says.

"Yeah, at restaurants even they give you a tablespoon per piece," I say.

"A tablespoon?!" Craig raises both eyebrows, perfect arcs reaching all the way to the middle of his forehead.

"Yeah," I say.

"'Cause of all the times you've had toast at restaurants," he says. Something ticklish flits across his face.







"Yeah," I say, "you know that one that's shaped like a train, they used to do that. Oh no, they used that paintbrush to put the butter on and THAT was drench." I laugh. "That WAS a long time ago."

"A paintbrush?!" Jack says.

Conversation orbits. I notice Jane poised, toast still in hand.

"Yes, you still have to eat it," I say. She frowns with her shoulders. "You need to show appreciation for the time and the money that went into this."

"Oh," she says. With quiet deliberation she smothers the butter in jelly and slides the egg on top.

"That's actually pretty good," I say. "Jelly and egg on toast, yum."







"Yeah." She forces her manners to take the shape of quiet obedience. She nibbles the crust off, and in gradual turns eats toward the middle. We talk for longer than you'd think possible about that paintbrush in the butter at Frank's Diner. Something akin to resignations gradually ripens and becomes laughter around the table.

"Yeah," she says later, "it wasn't as bad as I though. I just sort of had a bad idea about it." The toast. Breaking fast together, the food is just a prop.









Gratitude:

5826. Our family suburban breaks down. Craig ferries us home in shifts in the little black pick-up. My dad has the car towed with AAA. And in defiance of our panicked emotions, the repair is less than $200. God is so gracious.







5827. Someone blesses us with a special dinner in the middle of the chaos. It's like manna from heaven.

5827. Craig and I make a date of retrieving the car from the mechanic.

5828. We have our garden topsoil tested. The results show almost no nutrient value. We strategize on how to correct it.

5829. Browned butter shortbread cookies in the shape of tin shoulders.







5830. Apple cider vinegar, turns out it can even cure diaper rash.

5831. Lucy gets approval for more eye therapy.

5832. Red bell peppers, black bean noodles.

5833. Lemon soap.

5834. Daniel, Craig, and the cousins tear out two jumbo shrubs at Daniel's house.







5835. Peter takes the big Professional Engineer Exam.

5836. We have a couple for dinner and completely rearrange the dining room in preparation.

5837. We continue to plant and tend seedlings.

5838. Everyone rallies to lift each other up. Immediate and extended family, we feel their loving hands reached toward us.

5839. In the face of true riches all else fades.



Sunday, April 10, 2016

Blood





"If you wash off blood it will come off really fast," Joe says.

"Yep," I say.

"'Cause I poked my finger with a stapler, and blood came out," he says, "and I went in the bathroom, and it washed off REALLY fast," he says.

"Oh," I say.







"But if you squeeze it, blood will STILL come out." He's in teacher mode, eyes round as the moon, his face slanted with the tilt of authority. I watch, perfectly facing his face.

"Yep," I say.

"And I WILL wash it off."

"Yes," I nod. I let his words roll across the room like rice at a wedding, the newness of discovery married to his bright face.









Gratitude:

5836. Craig and I plant two plum trees out front, one golden, one Italian.

5837. I make a new friend, a Christian. It's amazing how the Spirit of God resounds between Christians.

5838. I sprout 172 tomatoes and 54 zinnias. They come up long and leggy. I hope they will get their second set of leaves before I have to transplant.

5839. Our small group meets for our monthly dinner. Such good friends.

5840. Sunny weather continues to bless us, the children deep in the pleasures of basketball.







5841. I eat something I'm allergic to and fall into the deep well of a headache. A night and a day and I emerge. The absence of pain feels like bliss.

5842. A friend has her blood tested for food intolerances and is shocked by the results. I'm intrigued.

5843. Craig takes me on a date to the coffee stand down the road then we head to the greenhouse a little farther down.

5844. I continue to care for my husband and children and find each sacrifice an act of love.



Sunday, April 3, 2016

Basketball





"I can't do it," Lucy says. Basketball under one arm, she frowns an inditement over my basketball instructions.

"Sure you can," I say. "Like this," I position one hand under the ball, the other guiding, and then shoot. Swoosh. "Just practice," I say.

"But I can't do it," she says. She captures the ball and lobs it like a rock. It clatters against the backboard.







"Well, then practice," I say.

"I can't," she says.

"Practice and you will get it."

"BUT I can't do it," she says, her face impenetrable, as if the force of her will could redirect the force of gravity.

"You should probably quit then," I say.

"But I CAN'T do it," she says her shoulders squared up, a tear squeezing out, a huff splayed across the apples of her face, as if helplessness could be blackmail, as if I were a fragile shell of a person and her will could crumple me.







"Ok," I say. "It's time for you to go inside. Put the ball away. Set the timer for ten minutes. And after that, if your attitude is better, you can come back out."

"Oh." Sigh. "Ok." Something of taking the reins over herself, she chases the ball now three houses down the street, dribbles it up, and lopes in the house. Later I find her cheerful, buried in a book, and about half-an-hour of practice behind the other kids. A bur like that in her saddle, she'll be the first one out tomorrow.







It's not the smart or the strong or the clever who win, but the unusual soul who sets their mind to practice. Any talent can be captured by practice.





Gratitude:

5824. We complete our kitchen cooking set with the perfect pot to cook barley. Barley, it fills in all the cracks, makes any meal bigger, basically every large family's dream.

5825. New sewing machine needles. I broke five needles in my last project. The mei tei wrap turned out great, the needles not so much. Now I'm armed with jean grade needles.







5826. Bit by bit the family is finding our way back to physical health. The hacking cough, the terrible sinus and ear pain abating. Health never felt so good.

5827. Craig's brother puts up a basketball hoop, and our children discover they LOVE basketball. The whole neighborhood congregates around this new attraction.

5828. "You have to keep pushing down the ball or it will hit you in the nose," Joe narrates dribbling.

5829. Jane and I invent an ice tea recipe where you make it by the glassful. Delicious.







5830. The weather continues to warm up. The sunlight fills our days and makes long tasks seem light work.

5831. We play Bingo with the kids at the nursing home. Craig's mom runs the game. It's a memory to treasure. Great-Grammie sleeps through the whole thing, and then we visit with her.

5832. With wrestling over Jack resumes his weekend routine of cooking family breakfast on Saturdays.







5833. We continue to study and internalize the concept of practice. It makes me long for the hours I didn't practice piano. Even simple repetition is so pretty to me now.

5834. Practice makes easy. I find myself saying this again and again. A simple antidote, an impenetrable fortress.

5835. Another week, thank-you Lord Jesus.



Sunday, March 27, 2016

Oil





"I'm going to be changing the oil in the suburban," Craig says.

Old canvas coat and knee torn jeans, he gathers oil filter, catch bin, and blue shop-grade paper towels. Joe watches, mimicking Craig's long strides, his deliberate voice, his pleasant and expectant eyebrows, tallying them up as if numerals on an old adding machine, as if perfect execution could spit out an exact replica.

"Ok, I'll be out front if you need me," Craig says. Joe gallops over, bear hugs Craig's leg.

"Will it take long to put the frankincense in the car?" he says.







Frankincense. Having children is like this. We do the daily chores and to the children it's frankincense.

Craig laughs and howls, giggles and shakes his head, a squeaky child-like sound escaping between guffaws, tears forming at the corners of his eyes, the other children gathering to see what's the matter. Joe grins, as if now that everything were totaled, he'd hit the final button and instead of a replica of Daddy, he's filled the entire room with pennies and quarters.

Changing the oil, this is an event that must never be missed.









Gratitude:

5815. Resurrection Day the high holy day of the whole year. We quiet our hearts in deep, deep gratitude of Christ's sacrifice for us.

5816. Organic lotion bars. I try my hand at making these. They turn out perfect. I sell a couple and then perfect the recipe.

5817. New plastic lids for fermenting tea and vegetables.

5818. Iron on pellon.

5819. I start a new project converting a baby wrap into a mei tai carrier. I love a good challenge.







5820. Jack completes the wrestling season and final tournament with flying colors, 11-1. Still not 100% after being sick, he wins all but one match. I, of course, am exhausted just watching. Best of all: his character continues to grow.

5820. Motor oil.

5821. Frankincense oil.

5822. We attend church together as a family, all eight of us. Worship unfolds, dimensional in a way indescribable. While we have our own morning devotions, something special happens when we seek the Lord together.

5823. So we set our hearts in this new season to seek the Lord daily, moment by moment, to His glory. Amen.



Sunday, March 20, 2016

Sick





"Momma," Lucy says, "Momma, my ear hurts." Two in the morning and I hear desperation.

"Okay," I say. Stumbled from bed, "Just a minute," I whisper. I wrap in a warm robe, and we shuffle to the kitchen. "Let me check something," I say.

Olive oil infused with garlic. I check and read how to make it. Garlic crushed and warming in olive oil we sink into the couch. Time unwinds, unpeels, and loops around us.

"Does it still hurt?" I say.

"Yeah."

The dead of night unfurls in silent strokes. It encircles us. We wait.

Something more than the olive oil buoys us as we head to bed.










Gratitude:

5807. Glass headed straight pins.

5808. A new bug cage.

5809. Ball canning jars of the tiny variety for making organic face lotion.

5810. Lotion bar molds and new oils and supplies to fill them. The oils smell so delicious.







5811. Cheese cloth. I make ricotta cheese for the first time. Cheese cloth wins the day.

5812. Rilka's Book of Hours.

5813. Jane and I go to a local musical that her cousins are in. So fun.

5814. A long week and the kids ask for bike rides. I know they are finally starting to feeling better.



Sunday, March 13, 2016

The Sink





"Hey Mom, when can we order those coins?" Jack says -- the coin collector.

Sunday afternoon we each fix our own lunch, linger, relax, tidy up. Navy plaid and sleeves rolled to the elbows, Jack raises his eyebrows.

"I need you to clean the sink first," I say.

"I did clean the sink," he says.







"No, you have to actually CLEAN the sink," I say.

"Like what do you mean?" he says.

"Well, when you leave dishes sitting in there THAT long, since last night, everything gets all slimy so you have to CLEAN the sink."

"Well, I put all the dishes in the dishwasher," he says.

"Yup. Now clean the actual sink," I say.







Tears dribble out his unblinking eyes. "Well, I didn't know," he says.

"I think we might have to wait on ordering those coins for you," I say.

"Why?!"

"I'm not sure you have a right relationship with them if you cry when I ask you to do things."

"What do you mean?"

"When you act like I shouldn't have to do THIS, or She's just giving me more and more and MORE stuff -- this is so UN-FAIR. You don't have a right attitude."

"Oh."







"Let's just get this taken care of," I say.

"Ok," he sags his shoulders, grabs the baking soda and sprinkles the sink.

A steady spirit ensues. Bit by intentional bit, he wields his will. Something manlike comes over him.

"Your work looks good. How's your attitude?" I say.

"Good." Cheerful, the genuine article, he scrubs the gritty soda into stains.

"Alright," I say.







"Can you come check if this is good?" he looks up, a pleasant half-smile.

"Sure," we trace the remnants of stains. Revisit the dirty parts. "Looks great," I say.

He nods, almost shrugs. "I just was wanting to order the coins sooner because I thought maybe then they would get here before Tuesday," he says.

"Oh," I say.

"Well, we can talk about it tomorrow," I say.

"Ok," he says.

I note his correctable spirit. Submission to authority is a difficult skill. And yet, it's the opus magnum of the truly great leaders.









Gratitude:

5800. A dear friend sends us a package. Blessing unfurls. Smiles encircle the living room. Love from a distance, such a sweet thing.







5801. Turmeric, the golden spice, it makes everything yellow and delicious.

5802. Our super-scraper-pot-cleaner, the kitchen's MVP.

5803. A red basket for yarn. Red. I rearrange the whole yarn stash.







5804. Daily, I till the grounds of responsibility. Grueling toll. Like breadcrumbs on the path, I find small encouragements. Moments open up and I see, there it is, the truth: you reap what you sow.

5805. We work each day to sow habits and small obediences that make a life good in the long run.

5806. And in the process we know each other. Knowing, isn't that the point of everything? Maybe the long run is longer than we thought.