"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. Ghir.a.dell.i 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.