Sunday, August 26, 2012


"What do you like about the book so far?" A bag bulged with blue swimsuits rests on the passenger seat. In a hollow of the afternoon Jane and I set out to return swimsuits. A receipt in my wallet secures a school book for us to pick up.

"Hmm," she says. I wait. The yellow air of late summer swirls past the car heavy with wheat dust and forest fire smoke. A chapter and a half in, I wonder what she thinks of The Hiding Place. "Hmm, I think," she nods, "I like how they are so trusting in God."

I nod, sip my black coffee. Trusting in God, I trace the wideness of her remark. Holland 1937, immanent invasion, occupation. Hitler. Concentration camps.

"I didn't expect you to say that," I finally say, "but I think that's what I like about it too." A hundred and fifty pages deeper in the story, I eddie at my bookmark. Trusting God, it still encircles the story.

We lull. The skein of conversation runs slack. I ease into the far left lane and round the corner. Autumn golden at the edge of the day, I pluck sunglasses off the top of my head, slide them on.

"One of the things I liked about William Tell," Jane tugs the thread of conversation, loops it through another story, another hero, "is how Walter was so trusting in God to let his dad shoot the apple off his head."

The Apple and the Arrow, I nod again. A feat of trust. Courage encircles injustice. We map this strange anatomy, memorize its bones, muscles. We let it sit between us, a spectacle, a masterpiece.

Our words slow, the golden air enfolds around us. Strands of words slow and turn, weave and interlace. I hold them light, reins that lead with the slightest touch.


3458. Lucy trots out of the sun room. "This would be a good picture: letting God go first on something," she says.

3459. A new nephew, Maxwell Jesse, arrives safely in this world. Eight pounds, one ounce, and a whole chorus of Hallelujah and amen.

3460. We celebrate Craig's dad's birthday with pie: pizza pie, peach pie, and blackberry pie.

3461. I find Jack asleep in bed with blue work gloves on.

3462. The kids roost at the head of our bed to watch Craig mow the lawn out a tiny window in the bedroom. When I go to bed a find an old red stool next to my pillow.

3463. "Bluey has sticky hands," Myra comments on her blankie.

3464. I eat Calamata pasta salad at Mom's. We ruminated on being prompt, how it's like a muscle and grows with use.

3465. Macbeth.

3466. Peanut flour.

3467. "I'm gonna have hotdogs tonight," Janie says. "'Cause I'm sitting by Grandad tonight, and he really likes that I have mustard just like him."

3468. Hamburgers and pineapple salsa outback with Dad and Mom on the coattails of summer.

3469. I ask Jane to make peace in the car while children squabble and posture, poke and prod. "That's gonna be hard," she says. Still, I exhort her, press on anyway. "Yep," she finally says, "that's the way we are in our family."

3470. Lamb chops and garden beans, tortellini and couscous, brownies, ice cream, strawberries and a wide open prairie walk: dear friends graft us into their family for a night.

3471. My dad's company invites us to the annual staff picnic. We spin the afternoon long in swimming and fellowship, barbecue from the local butcher, salads and sweets, pie and cookies, and a window into the lives behind their work.

3472. My youngest brother joins us for a night of cards. We laugh and laugh, humor effortless and unrolling at every turn.

3473. Furrowed brow and half-skip, Lucy jumps off the diving board for the very first time. "Jesus, thank-you that I was able to jump off the diving board," she says. "And I pray that I will be able to do a belly-flop. Amen."

3474. "Wow, it feels kind of weird to be organized," Jane comments on school the new year.

3475. "I have three blackberries," she sing-songs, homework finally finished up at the blackberry patch, "I'm gonna see if Great-Grammie wants them."

3476. We find Great-Grammie making zucchini bars, red carton of raisins in hand, her face a beacon of love.

3477. We scrape past thorny limbs of branches to pick buckets of blackberries down on the farm.

3478. "Dad, do you think Great-Grampa can fly 'cause he's in heaven?" Jack asks as we head home. "I think so," Craig tells him. "'Cause in the Bible," Janie adds, "it says something to the effect that our body will be like Jesus's, and he can fly." She shrugs. Jack nods. "Nothing is impossible for God," he says.

3479. Farm fresh honey.

3480. Corn on the cob.

3481. Jane finishes The Apple and the Arrow.

3482. My cousins, identical twins who played the flower girls in our wedding, head to college this week, just minutes from our house.

3483. I find a little rocking chair wedged in the pantry door when I tell the kids to get out a fresh pack of gum.

3484. Again and again I rein in the impulse to be too harsh on the kids this past full, full to bursting week.

3485. I encounter James 1:12, Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. I think on how steadfastness is a marker of love. Simple but true.

3486. As life bursts up against my rough edges, I think on James and face the challenges as if I were made for that moment.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Ledger

"Who were you talking to when I came out here?" Suited up in pink sunflower jammies, Lucy starts at my voice. I spy her perched at the top of the basement stairs.
"The Lord," she drawls and tucks her chin. We let the word roll out like a marble across the floor.

"What were you saying?" I step around our three tiered fruit basket, and the room opens up. Hardwood floors, an old beast of a desk shackled down with paper piles, the kitchen three steps away, and us, we meet.

She drops a shoulder, teeter-totters her head. "Please help me not be scared down here," she points down the stairs. A prayer. A tether to hold. She forgot baby Katherine downstairs in the dark.

"Good for you, Lucy."


"Mom, I'm trying to bless Joe." Lucy rifles through a tiny bank ledger no bigger than an envelope. She traces the empty lines with her index finger.

"What?" I frown at the booklet.

"I'm trying to bless, Joe." In red letters I read, The Bank of Baker, on the front of her book. She opens it to the middle, bends it back and forward.

"What do you mean?" I say.

"I'm trying to find money for him," she says, "'cause I know it would bless him." She clips a sharpie pen on the front half of the booklet and hands it to me. "Can you write I LOVE JOE in here for me," she says.

"What's that?" I flex the booklet, turn it over.

"My little booklet," she says.

"What's it for?"

"Stuff I'm thankful for." She pokes the cover, "I want you to write I LIKE THAT HE SMILES too." She cocks her head, blinks, "And I want you to write, I LIKE THAT HE ALMOST LAUGHS."

And so it is, in the book that's supposed to measure out our money, I write the things she loves about her little brother.


At bedtime, plopped like anchors around the room, we gather for prayer.

"Thank-you for George, Emmanuel, and Regina," Lucy tolls. "I pray they will wake up refreshed and healthy and have enough food to eat," she swells like surf. "And I pray all the people who know you, will know you more." She billows like a sail, her drawl slow and full. I nod in time to the words. "And," she says, "I pray you will help me to swing better. Amen"

The seesaw and sway of prayer gently rocks us to harbor.

"I love you," I whisper to Jack, his arms a tangle around my neck.

"I love you too." He jaunts back. "Will you whisper a prayer in my ear like you sometimes do?"

"Jesus thank-you for this boy you are growing into a man," I say, "I pray you will fill him with your Spirit. We love you. Amen." I break tether to go, smooth still his tawny arms.

I step around that great shoulder of a bunk bed. "And your hair smells good," he calls after me, a canzonette set to the wind.


3436. Myra props herself in Craig's brown recliner, Jane's old Bible upside down in her lap, "Momma, read Bible, you," she says. "You're reading your Bible like me?" I ask. "Yeah," she grins like a shoelace untied.

3437. Jane learns to make bread.

3438. The kids shine a mag-light into the bread maker to watch.

3439. Jack tries the bread. "Jane, you're a good cook," he decides.

3440. "It's just a pain to waste food," Lucy comments at dinner. Jane shakes her head. "I remember those days when I would never get full," she says.

3441. The Tuesday Girls gather again over at Mom's. We eat pineapple basil bleu salad and pray out on the lawn.

3442. I go to slip my flip flops on, and find Lucy's lined up next to mine.

3443. Myra frowns at birds in the garden, "Oh, no, BIRDS!" she shouts, "Jack SHOOT GUN."

3444. We talk about the consequences of lying. Lucy nods. "And trust," she says, "you break trust."

3445. "When God gets here," she tells me, "I'm gonna hug him."

3446. I push through a hard day, and it turns out to be a good day. Patience gives way to peace.

3447. Lucy puts on work gloves to fold laundry.

3448. We make fun at another barbecue with families from church.

3449. "Are you alright, Myra?" Jane chimes to her sis, wilted on the floor. "You learned a lesson that you don't hang on the dishwasher."

3450. "See Joe? See?" Myra points to the rows of pine trees as we walk home from the pool, her and Joe wedged together in the stroller.

3451. Myra traces my eyelashes when I tuck her in.

3452. The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom.

3453. Life of Fred Math.

3454. "I like your singing," I answer to Lucy's morning aria, and she plants a kiss right on my hip.

3455. Craig pokes fun of my morning antics. "She's is on a rampage," he chortles, "Quick, hide the men and children." I laugh myself to tears.

3456. Jane and I putter in the kitchen. I ask if she wants to listen to one of our favorite Bible commentators. "Yeah," she says, "He isn't like I'll come back to that because it's HARD; or we don't want to do THAT. He's like OK, let's do it NOW."

3457. Yes, let's do it now. Another week, and we step into the challenge.

Sunday, August 12, 2012


"Daddy knows practically everything," I say and shake out a fitted sheet. I try to fold it. It wags and flaps, folds itself into a rumpled ball. 

"Daddy knows everything," Jane adds and licks a blob of blackberry jelly off the edge of her sandwich, "except what he doesn't know." Reclined at the table, she licks a smudge of jelly off her finger.

"Yeah," Jack nods. He chatters with sandwich wadded in his cheek, "Like Daddy probably knows how many worms are in the whole world."

We nod and carry on.

"I went and checked on the bird," Lucy joins, "and his eyes were aiten out." She arches her eyebrows. I add a washcloth to the stack of towels. A sparrow split into our window yesterday, the sky-blue reflection a perfect match. "And there were ants on it," she adds. "I think the ants ate his eyes. I hope he went in heaven."

We nod, carry on.

We clatter the dishes to the kitchen, load the dishwasher, wipe the tables. 

"Momma, no pressure," Janie says, "but I could bring up some leggos if you want to play with them."

Play. "Sure." We scatter and bluster leggos over the black tabletop. We build an olympic swimming pool and pretend athletes dive and race.

Myra pees in her little potty. We cheer and gambol. I award a tiny chocolate chip, and she gives everyone a teeny tiny bite.

Friends return home, now five years gone in Europe. We encircle our dining room. Round scoops of peanut butter ice cream and melted chocolate sauce, roasted pecans, a harvest of children, we ebb and flow, trace the silhouette of friendship. 

"What did you like about each one," I catch Jane's eye as we wipe the counters and scuffle silverware and bowls away.

"Hmm," she tilts her head, squints, "I don't know, but I liked how their boys were so kind."

So kind. We nod again, share the slow curve a smile. 

We weave the day down to a tail end. Children plop into bed, a museum of pillows and stuffed animals, blankets of all sizes. They wait for prayer. 

"Me, me," Myra calls from her bed, "self."

"You want to pray yourself?"

"Yeah." We close our eyes. We wait. And wait. We peek at her squinted shut eyes, hands folded and burrowed into her forehead. "Jesus," she says. "Jesus." We listen. "Died for me," she plods, "Amen."

"Amen." We wind the day down to a single thread: amen.


3412. Joe turns four months.

3413. Myra eats a grape in 20 tiny bites. "There choco in there," she says.

3414. Apple hand sanitizer, I buy it for Lucy on a date. "Mom," she tells me, "I real quick before it ran out, added water to my hand sanitizer."

3415. Jane gets in trouble and explains, "I know why I didn't do it: 'cause I wasn't strong."

3416. Myra hugs me. "You 'pecial," she says.

3417. I ask Jane how she likes her World Magazine. "It was saying," she tells me, "that when the government prints more money, they are actually stealing from you."

3418. I read in a book about the Amish: You're only as rich as the things you can live without. I describe it to the kids. "Yeah," Jane says, "So don't tell Daddy if you really want something because he would probably buy it for you."

3419. "Momma, you pretty," Myra says.

3420. "Momma, you funny arms," she adds.

3421. We throw a baby shower for Libby over at Mom's. We shout surprise then linger under the big tree out front. I let down my guard and let it flap in the wind. We continue to entwine prayer week to week.

3422. We barbecue burgers and lick ice cream comes and round out the summer with Mom and Dad.

3423. Our niece babysits while Craig and I attend a conference together.

3424. She sticks to our daily schedule and delights our kids. They are calm and happy when we return. I see she has been a good leader. 

3425. We lunch with a cadre of Craig's volunteers. Conversation carries the day and we mingle over ideas like how discipline and creativity are interdependent.

3426. Godiva Chocolate Pearls.

3427. We join the staff of my dad's office at a local bistro. Over a burger that drips to my elbows, I take note of the rapport they have one for another and glean wisdom from their experience.

3428. I ask Jack how we could make the night wonderful. "We could bring cucumbers," he says, to Gramma's house, "so she doesn't have to pick any out of her garden. Maybe we should bring two."

3429. We eat dinner down on the farm with Ma and Pa and all the kids and cousins. Between food and conversation, the lingering between wheat fields, a bike ride, we leave full to the brim.

3430. If anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things. I ask Janie what the verse means. "If you think about things that are evil," she says, "you will start to love evil even though you are reading your Bible."

3431. Jack scares the birds out of the garden with his cap gun.

3432. Joe spots me from across the room and splits a smile.

3433. "God won't do what ya want sometimes," Lucy tells me, "even though you ask him. It's 'cause he does stuff that is way better."

3434. "Hard days are the best," Gabby Douglas says, "because that's where champions are made. If you push through the hard days, you get through anything." 

3435. Diligence. The wreath of champions. I gather the reins for another day and pray for diligence, faithfulness in the small that I may one day be worthy of more. 

Monday, August 6, 2012


"Momma, that's a verse I wish I had memorized first." Jane leans an elbow on the dryer, flaps a tattered paper as if it were a wing.

I negotiate coffee in one hand, saturated diaper in the other. "Uh, here," I flop the dipe on the top of the washer, pluck up the streamer-thin paper. "Why is that?"

"Because," she says, "it would probably be deeper in my mind by now, and I like that verse."

I uncurl the paper, pull it flat between my fingers. "That's true. That's good. Ok, why don't you say it."

She tilts her head, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds," she totters her head back and forth, stands on one foot, "because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish it's work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."

Not lacking anything. I force myself to slow, slow down. A whole rushing river of a day -- we pause.  Trials. Joy. I listen to the hymn of her voice.

"If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God," she continues, "who gives generously to all without finding fault." She grins. I hold on to her gaze. Without finding fault. Perseverance. I match cadence with the words. 

A full deep breath and a silent boom lowers. The day blitzes on. 

Perseverance, the crown jewel. I hold on tight.


"More, more, more," Myra chimes.

I glance up from our dinner prayer. I wrinkle my forehead, "You want to thank Jesus for more?"

"Yeah," she nods, punctuates with wide eyes and long blink.

"What do you want to thank Jesus for?"

She shuffles her shoulders, garbles, "Tus."

I blink, try to iron the word out in my mind, "Tus?"


I turn it over a couple more times, "Us?"

"Yeah, TUS."

"Jesus, thank-you for US. Amen."


"That sunflower is so BIG," Jack tussles over the lawn, a yipping puppy at my heels.

"Yeah, that sunflower IS big. When they're big, they're big," Janie says.

"When they're big they're big," I chuckle.

"I though it was sort of funny I had to clarify that." She giggles. Jack slaps his knee, shakes his head.


"So how's it been, Jane?" For the afternoon, we leap-frog from summer sale to summer sale, stock up on kids' clothes. Jane and I, we swing our arms, hold hands. We weave conversation as we go.

"It's been," she pauses. I peer at her in the rearview mirror, "good." I smile, wait, let the words work their way out. "It's been -- normal," she finally says. "But it's good. I really like the normal."

She nods. We let silence wash in, warm and soft.

The normal, me too. Perseverance, it makes a way for normal to be good.


3383. I show the kids Auntie Rosie's blog. "Yeah, that looks like her," Jane says. "It looks like how she would do it."

3384. Lucy tries to persuade Jack, "Jack, it's nice to let ladies go first, you know."

3385. We backyard-picnic with families from our church, the ones we do life with. We compare notes and spur each other on. We rise to this grand occasion of raising children and leading our family.

3386. I tell Myra she's a crack-up. "No, you crack-up," she pounces back.

3387. We take a long afternoon with salad and lawn chairs. Rose, Lib, Mom, and I linger in the shade of a big tree at Mom's. 

3388. Rockie blows bubbles in the pool, then demonstrates how her daddy does push-ups.

3389. "Jane, I'll tell you my best present at my party," Jack smiles, "my best present every year: people coming to my party."

3390. "Mommy," he says to me on his birthday, "maybe we can go to coffee together when we go on a date. I want to go to that place that has mints." And we do.

3391. Myra holds my face between her hands, kisses me on the lips.

3392. Jack turns 6.

3393. Lucy scrubs cucumbers at the kitchen sink. I interrupt the work to make coffee. "I just was being sweet 'cause I wanted to," she says.

3394. Joe smiles wide, splits the morning open. "Don't you like it when they look at you like, you are so AWESOME?" Jane asks and smiles at me as I beam at Joe.  

3395. Myra kisses my toes while I nurse baby Joe.

3396. Lucy wraps up the evening, "Thank-you that Jane gots the baby that she wants. And thank-you that we won't obey the Devil. Amen."

3397. I sip coffee with Mom and exchange whole spools of conversation. We marvel at how pride motivates almost every bad decision. 

3398. Toenail polish, cherry red.

3399. A new shirt, stripes and modern.

3400. We celebrate Jack with the big family barbecue. After a round-robin exhortation, Jack meets the eye of each guest and thanks them.

3401. Myra poops and pees in the toilet. Cerissa and I potty train Zeke and Myra side by side. Oh, how much lighter the work.

3402. Jane comments on Gramma, "She's one of those people that can read your mind before you even think it."

3403. Lucy punctuates the birthday season. "I like it that God's at my birthday every time." 

3404. "He knows everything you do. He knows everything you do. He knows everything you do..." Lucy sings Jesus-songs while she delivers fresh folded laundry.

3405. Joe hums while he nurses.

3406. I serve mismatched burritos and sandwiches, rotisserie chicken, black rice salad, a mosaic of leftovers and almost-meals. "Mom, you make dinner so well," Lucy says.

3407. We explain the passover to the children. "The lamb saved them," Janie exclaims, "and Jesus is sometimes called the Lamb of God. It all just sort of fits together like a puzzle."

3408. Jack prays before bed, "Help Great-Grampa turn to you. And thank-you that Great-Grampa never tells lies."

3409. We zip to church Sunday morning. "Mom, is it hard to stay in the lines when you are driving?" he says from the back seat.

3410. We talk about how sometimes bad people prosper, how sometimes doing wicked things can get you ahead for a while. But in the end you always lose. As we sit on the edge of my bed, Jane nods, "It's like, you may be ahead on points, but you're gonna get pinned here in a couple of minutes." 

3411. Pinned. When you're pinned being ahead doesn't matter. Every moment matters. I'm grateful and sobered.