Sunday, August 28, 2011

A Pebble

"Momma," Janie leans her chin out over the cutting board, "I'm wondering, how did the baby get in your tummy?" She tilts her head and squints.

I chop cucumber spears into tiny cubes and scoop them with my knife into a clear glass bowl. "You remember," I begin, "how I told you that when you're married and you lay together in a special way, Jesus takes a little bit of the mommy and a little bit of the daddy and puts a baby in the mommy's tummy?"

"Uh huh."

I scoop a handful of cherry tomatoes, pile them on the cutting board and slice them down the middle one by one, half, quarter, wobbly wedges. "It was like that."

She watches the wedges of tomato roll onto their flat sides before I sweep them together and swoop them into the bowl. "Do you and daddy know how to lay together in that special way?" She creases her forehead.

"Uh huh."

"Did you do it on purpose?"

"Yep." I scoop the last cherry tomato, toss it on top, and gather basil leaves into a mish-mash stack.


I chop the basil into thin strings of green then rotate the knife and whittle the basil down to tiny specks. Jane watches me crumble feta, sprinkle basil, and grind pepper. Cucumber and basil fill the kitchen.

"Jane," Jack calls from the back door. "Jane, wanna go outback and play?"

The moment fetters and slows, then plunks like a stone in a stream. "Ok," she says, and with that skips off, a whole pebble of new knowledge rolling around inside.


1249. The cross sticker Lucy expels from her nose when I tell her, "BLOW," before I dab her bloody nose.

1250. Sister-in-law's grace when two of our children traipse over to ask forgiveness for lying to her.

1251. How a couple from our church celebrates their 20th wedding anniversary by smuggling Bibles into China.

1252. Picturing tomato bisque and rosemary artisan bread as art and worship, the creation of nourishment, instead of duty and long hours.

1253. Learning to draw: the one line drawing.

1254. A note from Jane: to mommy, I like everything about you. I would not want anything to change. from: Jane.

1255. Pulsing babe in my womb, 3.5 mm and heart beating. "It would take seven of your babies stacked end to end," my doctor says, "to make an inch."

1256. Jane's tight hug when I ask her, "You feel that good feeling you have inside right now? That's the reward for working hard. No one can take that away from you."

1257. The bounce of her curls as she skips out to play.

1258. How Craig blanches 40 lbs. of peaches out over the barbecue so that we don't make the house so hot canning.

1259. Quarts and quarts of peaches. And dilly beans.

1260. Craig's cheerful, "Chill out girl-scout," when I huff and puff over Lulie's sheets still in the wash.

1261. A fabric sidewalk.

1262. A floppy orange zinnia in an old tiny brown extract bottle.

1263. Blueberry pancakes, peaches on top with a cloud of whip cream.

1264. The long drive up north to my cousin's place, miles and miles of forest and farm.

1265. Laughing to tears with her while husbands visit and our children play long into the night.

1266. Fresh garlic.

1267. Pizzas made by hand, salad gathered from lush garden rows, huckleberry ice cream, walnut brownie chocolate ice cream, pink strawberry ice cream all made with cream fresh from the cow.

1268. How our mouths gape and eyes widen when we make to load children and head for home under a wild starry blanket of sky. How those stars, that Milky Way, really need no introduction when you see them for real.

1267. How Lucy sings, "And God can hold the whole world on two fingers or one." And how Jane adds, "Or he can even hold it on one fingernail, Lucy."

1268. How my brother explains the difference between fission and fusion and it's one of the most engaging conversations all week.

1269. Baked potato soup bubbled to creamy perfection and dinner with brother and sis-in-law and a whole rabble of our kids.

1270. How in all the joyful rumpus we carry on long trains of adult conversation woven in through and around the children's please, thank-you, and excuse me.

1271. My parents 35th wedding anniversary and how we still all watch them to see if the marriage template they gave us is really all it's cracked up to be. And it is.

1272. Lavender honey ice cream and the hands that made it.

1273. Good doctors who care for Jane and Lulie, limbs swollen with bug bites gone wild and who see to Great-Grammie's health as she recovers from infection in the hospital.

1274. How life is just a little more dear every time I set foot in a hospital.

1275. The growing peace and rest I have each day in my Savior.

holy     experience

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Paper Airplanes

"Dat is Jesus." Lucy points at a black woman as we walk into church. The woman's bald head and long tunic look out of place. She swings billowing full arms as she steps down the walk. One arm has mesh netting up to the elbow. Her tunic rustles in the hot summer air. She smiles oblivious to us.

"No," I fumble, "that's not Jesus." We whisk past them. I tug Lulie's hand. "But," I add, "however we treat other people is how we treat Jesus. So, I guess she sort of is Jesus." We swing arms, and Lucy presses a big silver disc to open the handicap door for us. In we go.


"So what's God been teaching you, Jack?" I glance at him in the rearview mirror. He watches passing cars, searches for the ice cream store.

"Nuffin'," he says, "'cause I can't hear him." He cranes his neck, looks down the road for a big red ice cream sign.

"Did you think you were going to hear him with your ears?" I ask.


I signal right to switch lanes and ease in behind a black Honda. "God doesn't speak very often to our ears," I say, "but deep inside your heart where your feelings happen and ideas about right and wrong," I glance back at his blue eyes and red hair grown shaggy with summer sun, "if you listen there," I raise my brow, "sometimes God speaks in a still. small. quiet. whisper."

He wrinkles his forehead. "So I listen with my heart?"

"Yeah." I slow, round the corner, and glide in under the red ice cream sign.


We shift into park. "What do you think about that?"

"Like it," he says and nods.

I click the key to off. For the next hour we build an arsenal of paper planes there in the ice cream parlor. We lick vanilla and chocolate off our spoons and test fly airplanes over the checkered linoleum. Square ones, pointed ones, short and fat, one slides under a giant freezer.

With each crease of the paper and flick of my wrist, I teach him something I love: paper airplanes. As he mimics my hands and cocks his head, as he gives me licks of his ice cream and says, "Here Momma, you try it first," I wonder at how he detects my every whisper. He seems to even hear the breaths between.

As he sits at my elbow, the afternoon splays open, and I sit in a small window of time where he hears even the stillness and smallness of my voice. And so we fold another plane, loft our effort into the air, and pray it flies.


1226. Fresh garden dill. And how it takes me right back two years ago canning dilly beans, the African children's choir here for a week.

1227. A bushell of beans from the farm delivered by hand and 10 fresh pints of dilly beans.

1227. The grace that comes when you realize the next season of your life will be different than you envisioned.

1228. How we study dermis and epidermis this week and Jack comments, "I tried pulling some of my hair out. I didn't really work that good."

1229. How Jane calls down a Target isle, "THink about the man you want to be!" when Jack grouses that he can't see from the cart.

1230. How I get home from running and step into a Nerf war. Bullets pelt me. Children thunder 'round the kitchen, Rosie strapped into Lulie's dolly stroller.

1231. How Rosie skitters around in the dolly stroller all squeals and waving arms.

1232. How Jack suggests we hang the paper airplanes with string from the ceiling.

1233. How Lulie declares, "I might be really BIG in heaven."

1234. How Jane eats cherry tomatoes whole, pops them open in her mouth and tells me, "No way to ruin a good tomato."

1235. Her plan of telling everyone about Jesus using a packet of cross stickers she earned.

1236. How when Lucy and Jack spill a tumbler of water on the computer desk, and I call out my dismay, Jane suggests, "Maybe Momma can lay in the recliner and we can all gather around her."

1237. How Jack says, "Guess what I was just doin'? Prayin' that the computer isn't wrecked."

1238. Sudafed for sinuses. Tylenol for headaches.

1239. Jack's help clearing the table and his, "I've got little legs, but I worked really fast," comment when I thank him for his help.

1240. How positively unrelentless parenting is. How it never, ever lets up. The ensuing endurance that emerges.

1241. Craig's advice via Bugs Bunny (and Teddy Roosevelt), "Speak softly, and carry a big stick." Learning to let consequences speak for themselves.

1242. Learning the art of apology again. And again.

1243. Craig's, "Well, the Nazis wouldn't have got one by you," when I blather on about politics.

1244. A nugget of wisdom: Learn to let your work be worship.

1245. French braids, dresses in sherbet stripes, boys in collared shirts, cousin pictures down on the farm with a wheelbarrow and wheat.

1246. Craig's dad another year older, his sons still certain he could take them.

1247. My momma's birthday and the fermata of love it leaves in my week, a friendship grown deeper with time.

1248. Craig's never-ending kindnesses to me, and how again and again he proves it true: A gentle answer really does turn away wrath.

holy     experience

Sunday, August 14, 2011


"Momma, would you talk to Daddy that way in front of anyone?" Jane bonks a hard boiled egg on the counter, furrows her brow, and picks the shell away in pieces.

"No." We stand elbow to elbow. I smooth my fingers over the spongy white of my peeled egg. "I only talk about the things that really bother me in front of the people I trust."

"Oh." She steps over to the sink, swishes her egg clean in the water, feels for any debris left behind.

"I wouldn't want people to get the wrong idea," I add, "and think bad about Daddy when he's not. You know what I mean?"

"Uh-huh." She nods.

I rub my fingers over the prickly skin of a cucumber fresh from the garden. I slice it up the middle, quarter it into long spears. She bonks more eggs and picks them clean. I chop the cucumber into tiny cubes, hew chives, slice tomatoes, pineapple. The afternoon assembles itself into a salad and a row of hard boiled eggs. In my mind, I pour the whole conversation with Craig through a sieve of seven-year-old ears.

"Did you hear how I was being really ungrateful that Daddy was trying to talk to me?" I ask.

"Yeah." She makes her way to rinse another fresh peeled egg, slides it in next to the others. And though she hardly says a thing, I know she's ordering every word I say, lining them up like the fresh peeled eggs.

And so, when I hear Craig's flip flops cadence down the hardwoods, I call, "Hey, Craig!" And he comes, and I weave confession and gratitude into a blanket to catch us.


1202. Lucy's wet footprints on the driveway.

1203. Purple polish on three-year-old toes.

1204. Lulie's prayer, "Jesus, I pray that you will help all the people not to die in Hell. And I pray that you will help Momma mot to die in Hell. And I pray that you will help all the kids not to die in Hell. Amen." And Daddy? He's already a saint to us.

1205. How Craig and I hold hands together to make our children maintain a baseline obedience. And how in the end we all end up enjoying each other as a result.

1206. How we read together before bed. "See the next one? It says, Shoe Salesman for God," I say. "That guy is a shoe salesman for God. He sells shoes." And how Jack rolls over on his pillow and comments, "Pretty big shoes."

1207. Learning to lead by asking questions not just issuing commands.

1208. Jane's prayer, "Jesus, I pray that Sophie would choose you -- if she hasn't thought to choose you that she would. And I pray that Olivia would choose you and Claire and their parents. And I pray that everyone would choose you. I pray that that person who is going around our neighborhood stealing things will choose you. Amen."

1209. How Jack finds a penny on the washer and asks, "Can I have it for my college money?"

1210. Craig's faith, "Well Lord, not our will, but your will." And the blanket of peace he pulls up under our chins.

1211. How Lucy grins at me with a fist full of mint. "Open your mouf," she says.

1212. How a rendition of The Firey Furnace ends with Lucy squeezed into the old fireplace, Sunday dress not withstanding, and how we somehow salvage the outfit and smudgy face.

1213. How when I look in on the chickens, I catch Jack drinking out of the hummingbird feeder before he's really gotten good at it.

1214. A new screen door.

1215. Lava rocks for making artisan bread.

1216. Jack's commentary to me, "Everyday I like you more and more and MORE. I can't believe how much I like you." He grins and hops and then pokes the air, "But I like GOD more than I like you."

1217. Jane's request, "Jesus, please help us to get as poor as we have to to help the Africans. Amen."

1218. My cousins come to visit from over the mountains and how the loop of family closes for a moment, and we enjoy our friendship.

1219. Cherries picked fresh off Great-Grammie's old tree. And how Craig's dad just backs the pick-up there under the tree and loads the buckets.

1220. A new book of memory work.

1221. Magazine with a recipe entitled: Blueberry French Toast Casserole.

1222. Niece who babysits for us. And how Jane tells us later, "Ellin told me that she doesn't really babysit for the money. She does it because she loves to babysit." And how it makes her worth a million bucks to us.

1223. Lunch out with my dad's office and friends of his and how all the family and friends weave such interesting conversation. How humbling it is to be around so many wise people who treat you like an equal.

1124. Craig's avocado sprouted and forming leaves.

1225. Learning to do the next good thing in front of me and not think too much about the rest.

holy     experience

Sunday, August 7, 2011

A Letter

"Jane, could you give this letter to Gramma for me?" I gather diapers and blankie as we unload at the farm.

"No. I don't want to."

From the front seat, I lean around the console. "What?"

"I don't want to." Her face flat, she stares at me.

"Come on Jane, can't you just help me out?"

"No Momma." She tilts her head, "I don't want to."

I furrow my brow and weigh my options. "Ok," I respond, emotions reigned flat. We'll just let this come back to bite, I think.

The day unfolds in long petals of moments there on the farm. The noon meal all fresh peas and garden berries, baked bread and fresh stew; the afternoon all naps and slumber, Craig and his dad sacked out on couch and recliner; children buried in the raspberry patch, red juice in the creases of their smiles, buckets bumbling with berries -- the moments batten and curl back.

Evening, bedtime. The children circle from dresser to tooth brush, potty and bed.

"Momma, can you come lay on my bed? I'm done first," Jack trumpets. "Can you come lay on my bed?"

"Sure." I hollar, my voice a'tumble over hardwood floors.

Tired bones sunk in bottom bunk, I sigh. Little boy leans up on an elbow. "Can you please just tell me Nebakanezar?" He makes his eyes huge. I sigh. "Not Daniel in the Lions' Den," he adds, "but The Firey Furnace." I smile another sigh still pulling in my throat.

Even so, another revolution of trial by fire and the boy eats it up. They all do, now quiet on their bunks.

"Momma, why do you lay on Jack's bed and Lulie's bed and keep going back and forth, but not on mine very much?" Janie from the top bunk.

I pause, let the question unfold, wide like a parachute. "Jane, do you remember when I asked you to take that letter to Gramma this morning," I pause, "and you wouldn't 'cause you didn't feel like it?"


"Maybe I just didn't really feel like it."

"Oh." The moment pulls slack.

"Ya know there are two of us in this relationship. You can't just expect me to do everything."

Even as the words cast, long filaments of words, I see my dad. I hear how he would say, Come here, honey, and wrap his arm around my shoulder. And I wonder if I've ever felt he didn't want to be around me.

The night skitters on. I wipe counters and clean dishes, give Craig a haircut. As I snip and trim, I cogitate over that letter.

"If she's having a problem, at this point," I conclude, "I'm probably not leading very well. Don't ya think?"

"Noooo," he guffaws, and I laugh.

"But really?" I persist. "Really?"

"Yes," he coughs and grins, "You're not cutting a Z into the back of my hair now are you?"

We laugh, and I turn this over in my mind. I'm doing something wrong. What can it be?

Craig slips away to shower. I sweep and vacuum, furrow my brow. I slide the red footstool under our coffee table, then pad down hardwood floors to Janie's bunk. I scrabble up the ladder. She smiles a smile soft with sleep.

"I was thinking about it," I cuddle close, nose to nose, "I hope you learn to contribute to our relationship, but even if you don't I'll do everything so we can be close." I squint-smile, "That's what Jesus did for me."


We hug, and linger. I wonder if I have coffee breath. She laughs when I tell her I don't mind coffee breath because it reminds me of my dad. She doesn't mind it either.

"So why didn't you want to give that letter to Gramma for me?" For the first time I think to ask.

She blinks, "I was afraid that Gramma might think it was from me," she says. "And I thought about that special feeling when I give a letter to someone, and I thought," she says, "I wanted you to have that feeling."

"Oh." The day floods back, a sluice, a gush. "I thought you didn't want to because we were having a problem." I stammer.

She grins, "Oh!" and breaks into peals of laughter. They ripple the room, bell tower of grace.


1173. How Rosie falls asleep at the lunch table, face smooshed on her sandwich.

1174. The rise and fall of my children's chests when they sleep.

1175. Great-Grammie's thank-you phone call for the thank-you note.

1176. A nugget of wisdom from John Piper: In marriage, the covenant sustains the love -- not the love, the covenant. Duty. Some people are turned off by duty, but that's the ground in which the flower grows.

1177. How Jane and Jack perch in front of the new coop. How we find Jack inside, and Jane explains, "I'm holding the door open, and Jack's pulling the chickens in."

1178. How Lucy calls somersaults, belly-flops.

1179. How good it feels to rub my eyes when I'm tired.

1180. Ibuprofen, a luxury -- how small aches and pains fall off like rough edges.

1181. Paul's continual reminders that our trials are our glory.

1182. How Jack tells me he's going to save and save his money. And how when I tell him he'll be rich, he pauses, "What does RICH mean?"

1183. The covenant of marriage: a promise. And making love, how it really does make love between us.

1184. Learning to meet my children's needs before they ask. The continual giving of myself.

1185. Garden first fruits picked and given.

1186. Burthdees in July -- a party at my parents. How we gather with salads and bread, meat on the grill, chocolate cake, lemon pie, and how we give and give and give.

1187. Jack's announcement from the back seat, "Mom and Dad, God is bigger than the world."

1188. How Jane parses out, "People don't always do what they say, but they do what they believe."

1189. Jack running behind Craig's daddy-lawnmower with his kid-size one.

1190. How Rosie hangs onto Jack's shoulders when he carries her.

1191. How Jane tells me that the little bumps on the back of my arm probably mean I'm getting old, and we laugh and laugh. "Probably," I say.

1192. How Rosie's main words are YES. THIS. and LOOK.

1193. Ghiradelli Gems. Gems.

1194. How Lulie asks and asks for Janie's snake book, and I realize Jack gave her his favorite book for keeps.

1195. Jane's sleepy smile when I slip in to snuggle.

1196. How we peddle out a whole day in the care of Craig's parents and just relax.

1197. Jane's plea for more read aloud time, "Momma, how would you like it if you just got to sit and listen to stories about people who would die if they had to, to love Jesus? I like to just sit there and soak it in. Would you like that?"

1198. How Jack puts his hand on my arm when he talks. How he rubs my back when we pray.

1199. A little boy officially five now and the gathering of family that went with it.

1200. Tightening our budget. Learning the dance.

1201. How we are so happy right where we are.

holy     experience

Monday, August 1, 2011

On My Birthday

"Is that a horse track?" Lulie points out the window, her pointer finger up by her cheek. Wide green lawn swoops by: the cemetery.

"No." I glance at the grid of marble headstones. "It's a cemetery. It's where they bury dead people." I rest my hands on the top of the steering wheel, "The whole ground is just full of dead people under the grass," I say.


I slow for a light at the corner. "Do you know what happens when you die?"

"No." She stares out the window, then grins at me.

"Your body gets so broken," I say, "that your spirit, the part that makes you, you, leaves. If you've asked Jesus to forgive your sins and live in your heart, he takes you home to heaven." I glance at the hot summer sky, "And you get a new body that can fly and do other things, because it will be like Jesus."


I glance both ways for traffic, and round the corner. "If you don't have Jesus, you go to Hell and burn in fire forever."

She furrows her brow, "We don't like that."

"Nope." I glance at her round face in the rearview mirror. "Do you want me to pull over, so we can pray that Jesus will forgive your sins and live in your heart?" I ask.

"Yeah," she nods.

I accelerate to the next block. "When will we stop?" she chirps as I round the corner and ease in next to an overgrown shrub.

"There." I lean into the door and hop out, pull Lulie's door open and grab her pudgy hands.

I find her eyes. "If you pray and ask Jesus," I say, "he will forgive all your sins. Do you want to?"

She bows her head, pulls her hands up by her cheeks. "Please forgive me my sins. Amen."

She looks up. "When they nailed Jesus on the cross," I raise my eyebrows, "it was like he was getting all the spankings in the world."

She arches her brow, "Jesus got spankings?"

"No. It hurt worse than spankings," I stare into her eyes. "They nailed him on the cross." She demonstrates where they pierced his hands and feet. She knows the story. "He was getting in trouble for you," I say, "so when you die you don't have to go to Hell. You can go to Heaven if you've had Jesus forgive you!"


"If you ask him, he'll come and live in your heart." I watch her face. "Do you want to ask him to live in your heart?"

Again she bows her head and tucks her hands at her cheek, "Jesus, please come live in my heart. Amen."

She looks up. We meet eyes. "Now," I say, "he's living in your heart!" I smile into her eyes. "All the angels in heaven are having a party because you get to live with them when you die!"

She blinks. "And they're having a party?"


I finally notice the summer hot blacktop radiating up my legs. We smile, and I hop back in front seat, whirl off. Errands suddenly small, I chauffeur a new citizen around in my back seat.

"So how does it feel," I query from the front, "to have Jesus in your heart?"

"She watches the houses skim by. "Just, just good," she answers. We let the moment stretch long. "All those dead people under the grass," she adds, "they went to Jesus and had a party wiff him."

I grin. "Only if they had Jesus forgive their sins," I add. Capitularies of belief snake through new muscle and pulse.

She nods. "Yeah."

And so it is, a new child born into the Kingdom. Faith and understanding grow each day.


1136. Lulie's prayer for salvation.

1137. Her sing-songy, "You are hugging me, and I am hugging you. I am holding you, and you are holding me."

1138. Jane's date with my mom and how when Jane peppers her with questions about make-up, my mom explains it perfectly: Some women wear make-up so people will notice them, but we wear it as a way of showing respect, like dressing up.

1139. Uncle Peter and Auntie Rosie home safe from Ireland.

1140. Jack's observation, "Jane, if you put your head out the window and close your eyes while we're driving, it feels awesome."

1141. How when Lulie tries to snip baby Rosie's fingers off to see what would happen, it doesn't work.

1142. Yellow Clematis, dug fresh on the farm and hand delivered.

1143. Lulie's comment on setting the table, "I'm moving all the plates to enough room for the elbows we'll have.

1144. Jane's prayer, "Help us all to be long-suffering -- except for Dady because he already is long suffering and single-minded too. Amen."

1145. Morning runs with Jane. And her commentary on jogging, "It's kind of like I get a date with you every morning."

1146. How we pour over the race rag in search of a new race to run together.

1147. New running shoes for me!

1148. Pineapple upside-down cake, caramelized around the edges.

1149. Qdoba queso burrito, steak and mango salsa -- birthday lunch, knee to knee with husband, children at each elbow.

1150. How Jack dead-heads my marigolds and feeds them to the chickens, then pulls handfuls of yellow clover for them.

1151. A roof on the hen house. How Craig shingles it until a migraine hushes his labor and he rests.

1152. How Jack wants to call all the chickens Marigold. Or Poppy.

1153. Birthday cards, phone calls, and messages.

1154. Homemade Thai peanut sauce.

1155. How even though Rosie pukes all over the car seat two blocks from the chocolate store, nothing can stop Craig. He dashes in and emerges with 4 bars -- for my birthday. We drive home windows down and hope no one else smells the stench.

1156. The privilege of bathing and dressing Rose all fresh.

1157. How Craig fields the car seat.

1158. Coffee and chocolate, burnt sugar caramel chocolate, the kind that drips caramel down your fingers.

1159. Sleep.

1160. The foreign feeling of a whole week of full nights sleep. The obvious increase in my intelligence.

1161. Our children's prayers for drought relief in Kenya. How they don't understand when I say people will be dead by Christmas if no one helps. And so they pray.

1162. More sketches and drawing class, daisies and lilies splayed bold.

1163. A visit from my cousin and her four children. How she practically brings a whole farmer's market with her. Deep bedrock kindness, unmistakable, unquenchable.

1164. Pictures from Pete and Rose's wedding.

1165. How we settle and linger and tease the moments out long with family.

1166. How I learn what good, good men my brother are from spending time with their wives.

1167. My sis-in-law's new blog.

1168. How Jane carries a tiny bottle of water when we run in case she gets thirsty.

1169. How Craig's brother is a teacher so they conspire on chicken coop plans and projects all summer.

1170. Cards from my children, letters scrawled out like works of art.

1171. How I stumble across an old note jotted to myself two years ago. I ask Jane how she is going to change the world. "Have kids," she says as if it were as obvious as the sun in the sky.

1172. Me too. My greatest footprint in this next generation is with her. And Jack, and Lulie, and Rose. Influence untold, it's almost too big to see.

holy     experience