Sunday, October 30, 2011


"You like it don't you?"

Jane, bent over a three ringed binder, looks up, pencil poised.

"You like it don't you?" I repeat.

"Uh huh. I like writing sentences," she says then tilts her head, "but I like writing stories more." I smile at how she pushes her pencil into the next sentence.

"No, " I pause, "you like being the kind of person that can get something done fast and enjoy it, don't you?"

She looks up, straight ahead, then then turns direct to my eyes. "I'm glad you disciplined me," she says and nods as if the end point of all the struggle were suddenly obvious and pleasant.

With that, her pencil already entangled in the next sentence, she gains something more precious than the work: strength.

Discipline gives us strength.


1554. Lucy's prayer, "And God, please help us when we do something naughty to tell our mom and dad and not keep it a secret."

1555. Dinner with my brother and sweet sis-in-law, the six of us invited to their apartment for beef stew and Springbok puzzles, ginger snaps and all four kids playing ball with their doggies.

1556. Figuring out how to assemble the workforce in this house who makes most of the laundry.

1557. Jane's affectionate, "Jack is such a boy," as she looks out the window. "He's got a log [bat] up here and is whipping the ground." She grins, "He is such a BOY."

1558. How Rosie falls asleep on my shoulder and Jane comments, "That's so sweet. Shows that she trusts you enough to fall asleep on you."

1559. How at dinner she interrupts my thoughts with, "Lulie, I like your face. Your face is so pretty." I turn to see her holding Lulie's face between her hands.

1560. Eight solitary seeds, the remains of Jack's apple.

1561. How I listen to a sermon while I make dinner and Jane asks, "Momma, I was wondering if you could quit listening to that guy and just enjoy us like we enjoy you."

1562. And how we do; we rest and enjoy and get filled up being together.

1563. How when I say, "Time for lunch," Rosie starts pushing her hair to the table.

1564. A visit with my grampa in the Bitterroot Mountains of Montana.

1565. How we play cards late into the night in his cedar cabin, and he tells me stories like about when he and Gramma met -- how they rode bikes on their first date. And how he asked his friend if he thought Marge would ever go out with him again and that friend said, "Only way to find out is to ask." So he did. And she said she didn't want to go to the show he suggested, but how about that Metropolitan Art Show downtown? Details, the kind I can picture.

1567. How when I ask, Grampa comments without the least bit of hesitation, that he has no regrets in life.

1568. That he only ever remembers having one argument with Gramma in all those decades of marriage.

1569. How when we pack to visit Grampa, I catch Lucy strapping Myra Rose into her suitcase.

1570. The pleasant surprise that my uncle ends up at Grampa's cabin too, and we see him after years and years.

1571. How on the car ride home Jack demands, "Lulie why'd you poke me in the eye to wake me up?" and Janie pipes in, "She probably did it because she loves you so much and wanted to be with you."

1571. Rosie-Posie with her red curls in two of the stubbiest little ponytails you ever did see.

1572. How the kids and I volunteer in Craig's class, and Jack comments that the best part for him is being with Jane.

1573. Jack's proud announcement to one of our dear friends, "Halloween's the Devil's birthday."

1573. A fire in the fireplace, a good book, and a little girl waiting for me to come sit by the fire and read.

1574. The trickle of notes from my parents now in Ethiopia, their continued safety.

1575. A miracle, how I feel our baby move inside of me.

1576. An afternoon on the farm with family.

1577. How all the cousins play The Boxcar Children and Craig and his brother make us laugh until our sides hurt.

1578. How even though we can't stay for dinner, Craig's mom has soup waiting in the wings in case we might be hungry -- the epitome of a giving person.

1579. How my brother stops by after a meeting in our neck of the woods and has afternoon coffee with us. How it's just like old times.

1580. How I'm learning to give the next good thing in front of me.

1581. How it's almost always the right thing.

holy     experience

Sunday, October 23, 2011

A Sweater

"Lucy, maybe you should grab a sweater," pigtailed curls disappear through the kitchen. Lucy and three more sets of bare feet thump by.

"Daddy's outside," someone shouts.

As she rounds the corner, Lulie calls over her shoulder, "Mmm, I would like a sweater, but I will go without."

And as if the whole ocean could wash out in single wave, the house is silent for a moment. Daddy's home. The whole world tilts toward him.


1524. Lucy's determination that you can't get out of Hell because they have guards watching.

1525. Her reiteration twice in one week that she actually feels better after she gets in trouble for doing something naughty.

1526. Janie's nod, "Yeah."

1527. Little glimpses into the silhouettes of their conscience.

1527. How Lucy wears a winter mitten to burp her babydoll.

1528. How Jane peeks over at Jack in school, "Is there any way you could be self-disciplined right now, and get your math out?" she asks. "'Cause I'm not in charge of that so..." She trails off.

1529. Jack's patience.

1530. How when I make my pregnant self a whole plate of nachos, Jane eyes them and smiles, "Momma, that just looks so good. I'm glad you get that."

1531. How as we read more of Huckleberry Finn Jane bursts into praying for him one night and Jack adds, "Jane, that was a really good prayer."

1532. Lucy saying, "God gave me two eyes," as she peels her eyepatch off.

1533. Teaching the kids how to make leaf rubbings and Jacks exclamation, "Look! I made mine the color of mold."

1534. Janie whisked away for an overnight Gramma date. And how she sits in the back of Gramma's car as if royalty while we all come to kiss her goodbye.

1535. How she's walking on air when she comes back.

1536. Lucy's, "We miss Jane. I just love her."

1537. How we happen upon Lucy's little treasure trove of ABC gum and throw it away.

1538. Correction: apparently it was everyone's little treasure trove.

1539. How Lucy sings, "Bless me God, bless me God..." as she works.

1540. How Jack strips the sheets off his bed and Lucy's bed to help out.

1541. The absolute BEST family pics ever. Thanks Rosie!!

1542. Jane's moss green sweatshirt and matching owl tee, the soft brown shirt with five-petaled flowers.

1543. How Craig takes the kids outside to dig carrots while I make dinner.

1544. The gentle sigh of Myra's breathing as she sleeps.

1545. Lucy's conclusion as she leans on a kitchen cutting board, "GOD gave us TWO cutting boards."

1546. How it's just a small and superficial blood clot behind my knee.

1547. How my parents aren't anywhere near Kenya's unstable northern border. How their trip in the southern part has been so fruitful.

1548. George. The little boy we sponsor in Kenya, and how my mom brought him a photo book from us, and hugs, and miles and miles of love. The smiling picture she took of him.

1549. Janie's "Thank-you, Daddy," when he rousts her before dawn to volunteer with him.

1550. Listening to a sermon by my brother on itunes.

1551. Dinner with sis-in-law, food made for me, and friendship that makes you feel normal again.

1552. Craig's exhortation: You gotta remember, whatever the situation, you can handle it. Otherwise God wouldn't have put you there.

1553. How every situation looks a little different that way.

holy     experience

Sunday, October 16, 2011


"There's a girl in class that always says I'm out," Janie says from the back seat. "No matter how I hit the ball, even if I hit it perfect, she just says I'm out." Her feet bobble against my back.

"You should tell Daddy." I accelerate to forty-five and then ease up to four over the speed limit.

She watches pine trees swoop by. "No, I can put up with it," she offers. I lean slightly to frame her face in the rearview mirror.

"Why?" I say.

As if I asked her the color of the sky, she cadences out, "'Cause if I can put up with it, why get someone in trouble?"

And for a moment I see it, the long streaming trails of patience her father has cast across the sky all these years -- patience with me.

She leans an elbow on the armrest. We whiz past a reduced speed limit sign. I let off the gas, and we coast through a green light.

Patience. Long-suffering. No one does that anymore. I wonder how we all got so entitled.


1492. Jane's quip, "In the car you can't talk about things you don't want me to know, 'cause I don't usually really talk. I'm just listening."

1493. How Jack grabs my hand in Costco, "But you're nice," he says. "You're slow, but you're nice." I look up to see our rabble disappear around the next isle.

1494. Coffee with my mom in a small window of time before she flies to Africa for a month.

1495. How Myra Rose opens up her mouth and points inside when she's hungry.

1496. Her devotion to teeth brushing and toothpaste, especially toothpaste.

1497. Jack's, "Momma how did you get to be such a good driver?" when we play the question game at dinner and Craig's ensuing belly laughs.

1498. Lucy's determination, "I want to wash our jammies once a year."

1499. Her raised eyebrows when she vies for my attention, "Can you see me in the little corner of your eye?"

1500. Craig's list of 10 things he admires about me. And how each one is completely me, not some version of me that I wish I was.

1501. How Lucy sings, "Blessing God, blessing god. Blessing God, blessing God..." in three year old soprano while she works a puzzle.

1502. How she says her baby doesn't poop.

1503. How she kisses me when I tell her to be quiet in church.

1504. How she smells like the fall wind when she bounds inside.

1505. How she switches to, "Strong and mighty, strong and mighty..." in high soprano. "I'm singing like in church," she says.

1506. Family pictures with Auntie Rosie and Uncle Peter.

1507. How we all settle into our regular selves and smile our real smiles for Aunt Rose. And how we laugh and laugh when Uncle Peter plays jester with non-breakable camera equipment. The fun of good company. A pack of lifesavers.

1508. Uncle Don's 80th birthday party and the kids first ever restaurant buffet.

1509 How Ellin watches over our youngsters like a mother hen.

1510. Two library books returned on time.

1511. The playroom tidy enough to see the sea foam rug.

1512. A new pair of shoes, handed down from a friend, goldish-silver with a big flower on top -- perfect for Myra Rose.

1513. A whole bunch of darning needles at an estate sale.

1514. Three new suitcases, $3 each, and how Craig refurbishes the green one when one of the kids pulls it through dog pooie.

1515. Sitting in church with Craig, an arm around each kid. How they listen a little more each time.

1516. Bacon and eggs, havarti cheese.

1517. Huckleberry Finn and Jane's dropped jaw as I read about his dad saying he'll whip Huck for going to school.

1518. Teaching the kids about little lies -- how the little, teeny, tiny lies are the tell sign of people you can't trust, how you should never lie to make yourself look better.

1519. Thrift shopping and estate saling, eating out and spending a whole day together just the six of us.

1520. How Jack picked all the tomatoes out of the garden for me.

1521. E-mail updates from my Dad and Mom in Africa.

1522. Janie's response when I burst into anger at something small, "God probably wants you acting this way, doesn't he? He probably does."

1523. The humility that follows.

holy     experience

Sunday, October 9, 2011


"These guys are orphans," I sweep toward a long brown hallway. The children follow my fingers -- two foot tall prints of black children in the mezzanine of a local gallery, their eyes so shiny I see the photographer's reflection in one, his red shirt.

"That means they don't have any parents," I crouch down next to Lucy. "Can you believe that?" Irises round and blue, she blinks at me like a marble turning over. I glance sideways and see Jane's furrowed brow, Jack's raised chin.

"What would you do if you didn't have any parents?" They stare at those lucent brown eyes. Opening night and the gallery bustles at our elbows, still they gander and stare.

Lucy turns, "They gonna have to learn to pray by their own selves," she says.

We nod. "Yup." Snippets and tails of adult conversation settle like dust on our shoulders. And we stare. "Do you think you could do that?"

Lucy raises the rudder of her eyebrows, opens her mouth like a sail, "Nooooo," she whispers, shakes her head, ponies wobble side to side.

I mimic her wide eyes, trace out the moment. To pray -- if only we could learn to pray. For a moment I see the linchpin of the whole operation.


1450. Lucy's gratuity, "I don't mind if Rosie drools on my pillow. We can just wash it."

1451. And her prayer, "I pray that all the people at our house would love the food on our table and be healthy like us."

1452. A coral zinnia in a sea green bottle.

1453. Little brother and his wife for dinner and how no one minds that I catch the burgers on fire, except the screaming children, and how we visit late into the night.

1454. Jane's confession that she can fit through the small chicken door and down the ramp, "'Cause one time the other kids locked me in the chicken house and said, 'You can't get out; you're stuck in here,' but they forgot the other door was open. So, I just slid down the ramp."

1455. How we chase a big ol' black cat with a pink collar and tiny bell out of the chicken house.

1456. How Lucy calls, "Mom, look how I hold my baby," and tucks her under one arm and adds, "She likes me so much.

1457. Jack's reminder as I brew coffee and pour granola, "Mom, 'member, read your Bible first thing."

1458. Lucy all of three and overnight at Grampa and Gramma's for a date. Her decisive nod when I ask, "Are you sure?" And her incessant chatter over the highlights.

1459. All the details of a good date, mac-n-cheese, fries, a new bloomin' red shirt, stacks and stacks of stories, tractor pancakes, a cinnamon roll and candy for the road. And Grampa and Gramma's love.

1460. How when I hold the door for the entourage of her return, Craig's dad slips in to hold the door for me.

1461. How Craig's just like him.

1462. How Lucy whispers love in her babies ears and kisses their faces.

1463. Jane's offer, "I can crack the whip for ya, Mom."

1464. Her assessment, "Momma, Jack's starting to have that stubborn heart again where he won't let me correct him."

1465. How Lucy recites The Tiger by William Blake when I come to discipline her. As I come around the corner she chirps, "...and what dread hand, and what dread feet."

1466. Lucy in Jack's Spiderman nightshirt feeding Rosie frozen corn.

1467. A round of home baked cinnamon rolls when I return from my morning run.

1468. Jack's gentle, "It's okay if you burn 'em," when I make us plum toast for our date.

1469. How later he slips and enormous chartreuse ring on Rosie's finger and blinks into her blue eyes, "Wanna marry me, Rosie?"

1470. Rosie walking on wobbly legs.

1471. Just enough tufts of red hair on the tip-top of her head to make a teeny-tiny ponytail to match cousin Rockie.

1472. Lucy singing, 2-4-6-8-10-12-14... all the way to 20.

1473. How she stores chewed gum under her pillow, and it miraculously doesn't stick.

1474. That special moment when everyone in the family has clipped fingernails.

1475. Tuesday with my mom.

1476. More drawing class and time with the girls, a better-than-last-time self-portrait, and meeting Dad and Mom's house guest, the president of a nursing school in Kenya.

1477. Warm apple crisp with melty soft ice cream.

1478. Black grapes, crisp and juicy.

1479. Homemade cinnamon rolls rolled tight with spirals of cinnamon.

1480. A thousand piece puzzle of chalk sprawled on the coffee table.

1481. An invitation to the beach.

1482. Another ultrasound of our tiny baby, 13 wks, and how the tiny child rolls from back to tummy for our smiling eyes.

1483. How Craig fashions and attaches a nesting box to our hen house for the awaited first eggs.

1484. And how he teaches reading for me on Friday when I have a doctor appointment.

1485. A date! Craig and I go on a date, the kind of date where you walk in step all night, swing your arms, and feel light as a feather.

1486. Jane's note, Momma, I love that you teach me.

1487. Our big brown recliner that swallows me mid-afternoon on the days I'm too tired to even breathe.

1488. The gradual passing of seasons and how it mirrors the changing of my body with this baby inside.

1489. Learning every day to lead better with both discipline and love.

1490. How when Craig tells me to pray for more fruit of the Spirit it's actually and antidote to everything.

1491. Discovering that a lot of life's pat-answers that used to offend me are actually just sensible advice.

holy     experience

Sunday, October 2, 2011


"What sort of things was I saying when I was so mad this week?" I ask Craig.

He settles into the sunroom's brown recliner, heaves shoulders back, reclines, "That is a good question."

"You don't remember?"

He shakes his head.


And so it is. Amid slammed doors and crossed arms, stomping feet and furrowed brow, one image persists: Jack's voice heralded from the kitchen table.

In the building volcano of that morning, I staccato over hardwood floors, punctuate out irritation to pierce mountains.

And from the table he calls. "Momma, Momma," he calls, "I drew a picture for you. Did you know I drew a picture?" He calls, a trifling chirp in the back of my mind. "Momma, I drew a picture of Jesus dying on the cross for you."

The morning sways, a ship at sea. A sideways glance, Jack's drawing: all pencil scrawled, but little crayon-drops of blood on Jesus' hands and feet, his head. In small degrees we finally settle, pebbles at the bottom of the ocean.

Like surf rolling in, I build apology on apology, smooth our ragged shores.

It's three days later when I remember, Jack's call, Momma, I drew a picture for you, the eye of the storm.


1420. A phrase still ringing in my ears, "Well, -- really, you wouldn't be having any problem at all if you were completely unselfish." (Thank-you, dear friend!)

1421. And our children's wide eyes when I tell them these words, "She was right. She is a good friend to me. I was having a problem this morning because I was selfish."

1422. The gift of a pizza.

1423. Women friends who listen and empathize and remind me, showing respect is more important than getting what I want.

1424. How once an argument is settled Craig forgets it as soundly as God -- except for all the funny parts that we laugh over for years.

1425. How he mimics my antics, caricature complete, but never criticizes me at all.

1426. My father's words years ago, they resurface when I need them, "Men interpret respect as love." And how it's so true, great marriages hinge on unquenchable respect.

1427. A whole day out with my mom, my birthday present.

1428. How Craig says, "I just tried to make everything easy for you. I'm so glad you got to go out with your mom."

1429. New silver flats and tiny socks.

1430. Material for aprons.

1431. Jane, head bowed in prayer when I come to discipline her for disobeying.

1432. How Jack hops on one foot as he clears the table.

1433. Jack tugging at my elbow, "If you would like some of my SweetTarts I would love to give you some."

1434. Jane's prayer when we notice a broken part on the window of Daddy's truck. "Jesus, please help the robbers notice that part and change their heart and say, 'I'm not gonna break in.' Amen."

1435. Lucy's rendition, "Please help the robbers stay away, and please help them to be okay when we kill them. Amen."

1436. How Craig fixes the offending part.

1437. How Lucy tots out, a dolly wrapped in a plastic sheet. "Mom," she whispers, "I got a newborn baby." How she pats the stiff sheet, "She's got her blankie." Another pat and frown, "It's kinda dusty."

1438. How I probe to see what Jane looks for in a friend. "The fruits of the Spirit," she says.

1439. How my mom helps me to wrestle our sunroom into open spaces and small tasks.

1440. The boxes we donate to charity. And how I panic as the attendant comes to unload the car but feel light and free as I drive away.

1441. The intimacy of working side by side through exhaustion and chocolate with another person.

1442. How my mom knows what things I'll actually miss in 30 years.

1443. And learning to see through her eyes, the landscape of several paces ahead.

1444. Her trip to Africa.

1445. A birthday party, and how the gathering of family is still good, better than ever, after all these years.

1446. Reading The Help aloud with Craig, the folds of a good story, and how we laugh out loud as we read.

1447. A whole cookie sheet of roasted almonds.

1448. All the mercies of friendship and love, that catch me when I fall, a safety net.

1449. And how after a whole week of hanging on by a thread, I finally see it: apparently a very strong thread.

holy     experience