Sunday, March 25, 2012


"What's my husband gonna be like?" Jane leans on an elbow over a bowl of oatmeal. I slide scrambled eggs onto my toast.

"You should look for someone like your daddy," I say and rotate a triangular egg onto square toast.

"But what's he gonna be like?" Her spoon tings against the bowl. She tilts her head.

"Well," I prop one toast on the edge of my plate, pick up the other, "you can't know what he's gonna be like, but you can start praying for him." I reach for the plum jam and spin the silver lid. "I started praying for Daddy when I was just a little girl."

She wrinkles her forehead, "How little?" I notice how narrow her shoulder look in that jersey t-shirt, her careless mop of curls.

"I don't remember. Pretty little." We smile. I pop the lid off the jam. She carves a bite of oatmeal. The day carries on as if another pearl has not slid on an invisible string.

Then it's Sunday and I shout and grumble that we're late again. I jab the make-up puff at my cheeks and lean over the white bathroom counter, frown.

Lucy wanders in to use the toilet. There at my elbow, I hardly notice. Blue polka-dot and hand-me-down, she twirls her skirt. And then I hear, snippets of rolling monologue, her three-year-old shrug, "It's like you don't want to go to church." She flushes the potty.

The trip-trop of her black shoes and there I am, alone.

We haul to church, furrow still between my eyes.

And then we come to rest like toys left out. We swing our legs in the back chairs of the sanctuary, squeeze shut our eyes, worship. I peek at Jane. She doesn't notice, but there balanced on her knees, a paper. Half sheet crumpled and white: I've learned that Jesus is good. He takes care of us.

I press my eyes shut, gather the words, droplets of dew on a string.

He is good. He takes care of us. Someone like her father.


2040. Jack's observation, "The Devil is really powerful, but God is more powerful-er."

2041. How Myra thinks every book is a Bible.

2042. How Jane graduates to a young reader's Bible and tells me, "I love this Bible."

2043. How Lucy points to the blind man lowered through the roof to Jesus and says, "Is this how it will look in heaven?"

2044. Her running monologue as I sit next to her, "Jesus is God's son. And we love Jesus. And Jesus died for us."

2045. Her furrowed brow, "Do you think God has our last name?" And, "Maybe when we get there we can ask him what his middle name and last name are."

2046. How when I hug Jack he stands on tip toe and kisses my chin.

2045. How he leans on my shoulder, "I just really like talking to you."

2046. And when I ask him his favorite thing about Daddy, he doesn't even pause, "How he goes to work for us."

2047. How even a boy sees the provision.

2048. How when I ask if the washer is done he says, "You don't have to do it. I'll do it for you."

2049. Jane's prayer, "Jesus, thank-you for making us righteous. And help us to be righteous-er. Amen."

2050. How Jane continues on her Bible, "I kind of like that it's not a picture Bible 'cause then it has more details, and the other kids won't take it."

2051. Her sigh during laundry, "I'm practicing patience right now. It's not very easy."

2052. How she grins when I hand her a grocery sack of little booklets from Great-Grammie, "I know what we could do with these. We could give one to all the kids and they could write things that they enjoy in life in it."

2053. Lucy, her book in hand, "How do you write, I like that Mom snuggle me sometimes?"

2054. And how she calls, "Mommy, watch this!" and then jumps up and down and clucks her tongue.

2055. Jack with his booklet, "You can write names in here if you want as long as you don't write them in cursive." And his serious eyes, "Then you can take it to the hospital with you."

2056. Visiting with Jane during naps.

2057. A phone call from Great-Grampa.

2058. Prime rib stew and the hands that made it.

2059. Blackberry pie.

2060. Myra flying in the swing while Jane pushes her to the sky.

2061. Ginger cat cookies.

2062. Swimsuits for the girls.

2063. Raspberry jam.

2064. Bags of frozen fruit.

2065. A mug with a lid.

2066. Refried black beans.

2067. Dark chocolate.

2068. How Jack passes potatoes to Myra to pass to me to cut so even she can help.

2069. How when Craig vacuums dirt off the floor Myra claps her hand and shouts, "Clean!"

2070. Baby inside with hiccups.

2071. Myra outside barefoot chasing the chickens.

2072. A slow day where cousins play freeze tag and soccer, dig worms for the chickens and rally youngest to oldest.

2073. The presence of each of our children, a stamp on each day.

2074. Indulging in extra cuddles and kisses and blessings for each one.

2075. Being under the protection and leadership of such a good man.

holy     experience

Sunday, March 18, 2012


"Oh, no. What have you done? What have you DONE?" Before I can stop myself I say it again, "What have you done?"

"I tried to ask Lucy for help," Jane peers around the open fridge. I stare at an egg carton splayed across the floor, thirteen eggs smashed on the hardwood. Yokes ooze into puddles. She stares at me.

"Ugh." I punctuate my displeasure with groans. "Someone get me a roll of paper towels," I shout. "What do you mean you asked Lucy to help? You should have set the strawberries DOWN and THEN moved the eggs."

No one answers. I slop yolk and shell into the bungled carton, grumble and groan, wheel out paper towels, scoop gelled remains. "Here. Take this to the trash." I smash the lid on the carton, thrust it toward Jane.

The front storm door clatters. I sigh. Thirteen eggs. Thir. teen. eggs. What a mess.

My words still hang in the air, a stench like burnt stew. They linger. I stare at the streaked floor. I wet down my anger and stare, sag, sigh. Why am I making such a terrible template for them to follow? I feel the ugly words around me, inside me.

Jane slides onto the bench at the kitchen table, gathers crayons and paper. I slip in next to her. We sit. The moment bunches up around us.

"Jane, I'm sorry." I shake my head. "Did I make you feel bad about that?" I find her eyes. She blinks.

"No," she says. "You have to be pretty harsh to make me feel bad." She shrugs, "I don't usually feel bad unless I think people are really serious."

"Oh." I watch her eyes, guileless like her father. "Ok. Well, I still shouldn't talk to you that way. Would you forgive me? That's not a right way to talk."

"Yeah." She grabs a yellow crayon. I lean on an elbow.

Effortless as a crayon picture she smooths these frayed ends of pregnancy and stands on her own two feet.


2013. How Lucy wonders, "Do you think God will have picture Bibles in heaven for the kids?"

2014. And her furrowed brow, "Why does your skin get wrinkly when you're about to die?" And Jane nodding, "And then you start shrinking."

2015. Lucy's advice shouted to Jack, "If you sit on the toilet too long, your butt will start to hurt."

2016. Jane's encouragement, "You're being nice, Momma. Something has gotten into you, and you are just being nice."

2017. How Lucy keeps asking to go see Great-Grampa.

2018. How Jane recognizes her cousin Jude is an encourager, "Judo always tells me, 'Good job,' Mom."

2019. Two birthday parties in one week for cousins on both sides. How they make the simple things eclipse the big.

2020. Pancakes and fruit with friends.

2021. A camera lesson from a pro on how to use the camera's manual setting.

2022. Myra's new ploy to call, "Momma wipe poo-poo," anytime, night or day, she wants me to come running.

2023. Lucy's observation, "God's the BEST boss."

2024. How Jane explains, "I like to hear other people's ideas and think about how they are different than my ideas and play them over and over in my mind. And they just keep getting more and more different."

2025. Learning that a simple explanation is better than a mystery for a mind like hers.

2026. Lucy'e explanation for a red mark on her hand, "I put a little bit of my spit on one mark, and it came off."

2027. Catching Myra licking the honey lid out of the trash.

2028. Watching Jack wrestle, seeing that resolve to never give up, never give up.

2029. How Myra in my arms and babe in my belly come out unscathed when I stumble head first into the pavement en route to watch Jack's match.

2030. How the skinned knee and scraped ear, sore shoulder and torn tights, remind me the kids are ok.

2031. Knit fabric.

2032. A pie crust shield.

2033. How Lucy studies the fake trophy Ellin gave her and frowns, "Why did she write #1 on it," she says, "when I'm #3." And how we laugh with our third born.

2034. How Myra snuggled on my lap all through church today.

2035. Sleeping more and worrying less.

2036. Eating strawberries and ice cream almost every night.

2037. Playing Canasta with Craig until he's won one too many.

2038. Letting go of my expectations of this baby's delivery and taking it as it comes.

2039. And praying for what we should name this little boy.

holy     experience

Sunday, March 11, 2012

A Tolken

"Momma, I could make that go faster for you by helping."

Jack stands in the kitchen doorway, eyebrows arched. Striped footie jammies and still he looks tall. I clatter four plates into a stack, pull another four from the dishwasher. He waits.

I pause.

"Aw, honey, that's a nice offer, but it's time for you to get in bed." I nod while I talk, tilt my head.

He nods too. "Ok."

I hug him. He kisses my tummy. "Love you."

Footie jams scruff down the hall. I assemble stacks of white dishes in the cupboards, pile silverware, sort plastic plates and glasses.

I turn his offer over in my mind, picture the quiet serving side by side, how he says, "Here, Momma," and, "I can do that," when he helps. In the yellow light of the kitchen, I wish I'd said yes. A tolken of love rolls out of sight like a lost penny back behind the fridge.


1991. Lucy's new song, "Mommy Knows The Muffin Man".

1992. And her question, "What's God's middle name?"

1993. How Myra kisses my belly to copy the big kids.

1994. How Jane helps me empty the dishwasher during her free time.

1995. How Myra uses a hand towel to clean up when the pencil sharpener spills.

1996. Soup with cilantro, grapes, fresh bread.

1997. Children sparring over who likes black beans most.

1998. The chessboard of marriage and the continual reminder: We are on the same side. We fight a common enemy.

1999. Angel food cake and strawberries.

2000. Jane's solution, "If someone's sandbaggin' we just whisper sandbagger in their ear so they can just sort of get a sense of life."

2001. Her conclusion, "Birthdays are all about presents. The PEOPLE are the presents."

2002. How Lucy calls our fly swatter a SMACKER.

2003. How Craig cleans out the sunroom on his day off.

2004. Finding another shirt to stretch into a maternity shirt for a couple of more weeks.

2005. Jack's first little guy wrestling tournament and the clan of family that flocks to cheer and watch.

2006. How after Myra gets in trouble she leans in and kisses me.

2007. How I ask Jack what he would ask Jesus if he were sitting right here and Jane pipes up, "Like how long 'til this world is gonna be destroyed? And when are we gonna go to Heaven?"

2008. Her evaluation, "I think it's gonna be a while before everyone really accepts the new baby as part of the family and is nice to him."

2009. Figuring out how to sleep perfectly propped in pillows for the next few weeks.

2010. The gentle routine of each day and how it makes room for lingering conversations with our children.

2011. Learning that the best way to convince our children to believe like we do is to be completely convinced ourselves.

2012. How this somehow brings our days into balance.

holy     experience

Sunday, March 4, 2012


"So, I want you to read it out loud to me for a while." I lower my chin, nod into Jane's unblinking eyes.

"Why?" She tilts her head. We let the moment of correction turn, slow like a sundial's shadow.

"Because you broke my trust." I wait for the moment to be long enough. "I will always love you and appreciate you and want to be around you. But if you want me to trust you, you have to be very careful with my trust." I watch her turn this over in her mind. A blink. A nod.

And, small like a puff of wind, the moment ebbs. I hug her to my chest. "Just like I have to be very careful with your trust," I say, "if I want you to trust me."

We linger. She kisses my neck. I kiss her forehead.

And silently, like her warmth in my arms, authority circles back, makes a path of equal footing. Isn't this what always happens when we learn to submit to authority?

Night falls, and we're home late. We linger again, the whole car of us stopped at a red light.

"How come if it's a red light and no one's there and you see it's clear, you don't just go?" she wants to know.

Before I can weave a thoughtful answer, the words spill out, "'Cause," I say, "if we did that it would change us into the kind of people that disobey when no one's looking."

There again, that equal footing. The light flashes green, and we speed away home, another glimpse of the path ahead of us.


1962. The children peeking over shoulders and around elbows to see pencil sketches turn into watercolor painting. How they clamor for paper and paint and try to copy.

1963. A hot fire, warm coffee, salted chocolate and a photo to sketch.

1964. How I ask Myra how she slept and she responds, "BIG."

1965. How Jane tells me that when you read your Bible, you start to think what God thinks.

1966. How Myra makes her baby wave at me.

1967. How Lucy confesses to breaking six eggs.

1968. How Myra raises her hand to be like the big kids.

1969. How Jane, Jack, and Lu all help Myra sled in the backyard.

1970. A whole pizza and all the laughter that went with it.

1971. Myra leaned on the counter watching Craig make scrambled eggs.

1972. How the children have the entire living room turned into a bed when I get up.

1973. How Myra wears Lucy's shoes over her footie jammies.

1974. Jack's exhortation, "Jane, I like it when you clean."

1975. His admiration for Craig, "Daddy, you have fat muscles."

1976. A surprise date from Craig, how he and his buddy make our house feel like a fancy restaurant for an evening. And how it reminds me of the early years, back before kids -- but better.

1977. Lingering conversation with his buddy's wife.

1978. Feta and bacon stuffed chicken, seared green beans, red potatoes, ice cream and rum sauce.

1979. Craig's wild enthuasiam over his latest project: mealworms. And how he greets me Friday morning, "Wanna see my mealworms?"

1980. Noticing what beautiful hands my mother has.

1981. A blue wallet purse that even holds my keys.

1982. Waking up to "Oh, My Darlin'" on Jane's dulcimer.

1983. Jack's latest inquiry, "Will I have rubber toots because I swallowed my gum?"

1984. Meatball soup and apple crisp.

1985. A vintage cutting-board.

1986. Jack's admonition as waits patiently to feel the baby kick, "Shhhh, if you're quiet you can hear him kick."

1987. Three of the four kids poised, hands on my belly waiting for a baby kick. And how Myra tries to copy, her hand on Jack's shoulder.

1988. How when one of our chickens winds up dead under the little ramp, Craig handles all after death proceedings.

1989. Babe still growing in my belly and the calm before the storm of major life change -- birth.

1990. Taking each day in small measures and being faithful in the small things.

holy     experience