Sunday, August 25, 2013

Pie





"I can't believe you can be trained to make a pie already," I say.

We stand there, Jane and me, a lobe of dough there on the rolling mat. I press my fist into the soft ball, heel my palms into it until the form relents and slumps, flat and roundish.

"I put my heart into it," Jane says. I press the tips of my fingers along the circumference until the lump measures six inches across.







"Yep." Our eyes never leave the widening circle.

"If I like something, I put my heart into it," she says. "If I put my heart into it, it's hard to stop me."

I nod, the snag-pull of a smile at my cheek. "Here, see if you can roll it out to nine inches." I hand her the rolling pin.

"Okay."

I turn, swoop a lavender rag over kitchen countertops, gather measuring cups, straighten steel canisters, cipher a load of laundry from the annals of the bedroom, straighten the covers of our bed. Curiosity threads me back kitchen-ward.







"It looks good," I say over the horizon of her shoulder. "Here, you want me to smooth it?" I pat the center, "See how it feels a little fatter here, thinner here?"

"Uh, yeah."

The rhythm-rhyme of the rolling pin across pastry crust and we chat. A friend has a job she hates but keeps pressing on.

"Yes," Jane says. "It's very dangerous to drop a job if you don't have another one."

I pause the rattle metronome of the rolling pin. "How'd you know that?" I say.

"'Cause you say jobs are scarce and stuff like that," she says.







I nod, the natural extension of my words like grass growing between my toes. "Here let me show you how you drape the crust over your arm and put it in the pan." She leans in. I lean forward.

Suddenly, it's like learning to waltz, the two of us there, a butter crust draped over our arms, the feather touch as we rotate it into the pie pan. 1-2-3, we exhale and grin in concert. Nimble fingers ease the corners into place.

"I sometimes question what you do," she says.







"That's normal," I say. "That's how you learn to recognize good authority, by taking it apart." We trace the lip of pie pan, through the folds of crust, cut a fresh edge. "Even good authority isn't perfect," I say, "so you get lots of practice discerning right and wrong."

The crust smooth like a face without expression, we seal the edge, cut holes for steam, paint it with cream, and baptize it with sugar.

"There. Pop it in the oven."









We retire to the sunroom, linger over books. We recline, peaches and pastry wafting in plumes from the kitchen. We read God King by Joanne Williamson.

"When you love somebody," Jane reflects on the story, "it's like you look through them and see this faint image of their heart, and it makes them beautiful. You see it in everything." Her hands cupped the image fixes in my mind.

Then it's dinner and lawn mowing. Daddy out back chorusing the mower, us clearing dishes, we cut the first pie slice, cooled and gooey. We slide it onto a ladybug plate and the six of us tritt-trot down to Bertha's house. Bertha, she turned 94 on Friday.







We gather on Bertha's porch: Joey slung over a hip; Myra clutching my hand; Jane, her back straight and countenance easy, the pie balanced one in hand; Jack and Lucy perched and resisting the temptation to hunt grasshoppers in the shrubs. We wait, an elongated moment. The doorbell jangle, a dog bark, and swoosh there she is with her daughter Sherri.

The flutter of adrenaline and Jane hands off the pie. A gift. A gift of time. A gift of skill. First fruits. The evening dangling there before us, we swoosh it up, encircle it around our shoulders like a shawl.

We jolly back all full and blithe. ...to one of the least of these you did it to me. To Jesus, we gave a slice to Jesus. All that pie and the best part was the first slice.









Gratitude:

4759. Lucy makes family breakfast for her morning chore: custard oatmeal.

4760. "Did you know older people are actually not treated well by some people?" I ask Jane. "Why?" she splutters, "They are better than other people. They are wiser and nicer. I actually kind of like them better than other people. They're the ones that actually got spanked when they were young."

4761. Pizza, garden tomatoes, fresh basil, blackberry pie, and family, family encircles our table.







4762. "And Jesus, thank-you for precious Myra," I pray. Myra pops her eyes open. "What did you say?" she chirps. "Precious Myra," I say. "I like that," she says. "I like that too."

4763. Craig's mom drops off the belt he left there.

4764. "Why do you think it looks like really little seeds," Lucy squints at my eyes, "like really little dots of orange are in your eyes?"







4765. Dye. Lucy and Myra help me dye some shirts new colors.

4766. Craig and Jane and Jack go fishing with my brother and his two oldest. They don't catch a thing but enjoy the best adventure of all, good company.

4767. My mom and I go to get my driver's license renewed. Yup, got a great picture. Plus, we visited the whole time, just another vehicle for friendship.







4768. We harvest garden bounty with Miss Lynne.

4769. Raggedy Ann & Andy.

4770. Lucy gives Myra the extra honey stick when I ask her to divide three sticks between the two kids.







4771. We celebrate summer birthdays out at my dad and mom's. Once again the round-robin roasting of compliments and encouragement blesses me to the very tips of my toes, brings the whole world into focus.

4772. Birthday gifts.

4773. I listen to my brother's sermon on Exodus 10. I love his preaching.







4774. A thunderstorm moves through our area. "I love thunderstorms and watching them," Lucy says, "'cause it shows me how powerful God is. It just kinda feels like he's talking to me right then."

4775. I pause to wonder if I could hear that same voice and power when my life collapses into storms too.









Sunday, August 18, 2013

Blackberry Picking





"Mommy, Mommy, come look at the fish that are drowning," Myra titters, her willowy fingers spread like exclamation points. She waves toward the koi pond at the end of the veranda. "Mommy, look," she bursts.

I follow caught in her net of excitement.

"See, a RED one," she twitters.

"And a whitish one," Jack joins.

"And orange," Lucy shouts.







Conversation avalanches into bursts of color, a sluice of whoops and coos, jubilant cheers. The red one glides past a floating moss carpet. Alfalfa sprout green, vermillion red, I hurrah in time with their standing ovation.

I settle in, the last dregs of afternoon gossamer threads spooling up to the horizon. I collect towels, a whole alp of swimming towels meshed together in rhapsodic patterns.

We join in the clean up, amass memorials of our fun, a whole festival of dives and can-openers, the slosh soaked audience, distilled down to the gentle gathering of flip-flops, armfuls of miscellaneous t-shirts, a sock, lawn toys, pop bottles, crinkled plates with napkins smushed into the last smudges of food.







Myra marches back across the veranda. "That's the sun," she trills. "That moon up there is the SUN." She hops down the steps one at a time. "Grandad, that moon up there is the SUN," she clucks.

There we are in the middle of the moist green grass, a paper table cloth half-cleared, a full ice chest mostly emptied, cans sprawled on the lawn, and we stop. That moon of a sun all round and piercing bright, we take in.

The moment swells, encircles us, a meridian at our backs, as if the whole sky were holding us back, holding us down, holding us together, winging us around that big flying sun.







And then it's Saturday. We thump-bump up the old mountain road, the crumbling seam between crisp wheat fields and lentil fields golden with August. The ascending rivulet of dust, airborne and amber, I sling an arm around Joe. The shocks all but gone, the bouncing bench seat of the gray pick-up sways with each washed out groove. We rock in the lullaby.

Craig rests his hand on my knee. The older children perched in the pick-up bed, huzzah and laugh in leisure cadence, the valley like the train of a gown seamed together by old country roads stretches down, down, down to a swaying flatland.







"There's something really healing about beauty," I sigh, my eyes captive with the undulating fields of ripe gold.

And then in perfect cadence, Craig catches my eye. "I always feel that way when I look at you," he says. His silhouette there, all blue eyes and dark hair, whisker scruff, I laugh. We both do. We laugh and laugh for the good feeling between us.

"That's a good one," I say and swing my eyes over the wide valley. "That actually is a really good one."

The afternoon loops around and around, a spirograph of love unwinding around us.









Gratitude:

4738. We start school. The children beg me to start. What could I say?







4739. Mom mentions Lucy's eye at a dinner party and opens up a whole world of new possibilities with a new doctor.

4740. I read his research. Impressed.

4741. We visit the new doctor. "He has a great sense of humor," Jack says. "I like him," Lucy says. He all do.







4742. My dad's office invites us to his annual company picnic. All that humor and good fun, character and value, we feel special to be included.

4743. Miss Lynne arrives home in the middle of the night from travels and comes to visit the next day with travel gifts for the children. They bloom with felicity.

4744. We have dinner on the farm. Bountiful favor and goodwill. A table full of both food and family.







4745. Mashed potatoes.

4746. Swatsiban pie.

4747. 1/8 of a side of beef. We clean out our freezer and fill it up.

4748. Blackberry picking.







4749. Jack sustains a bee sting and recovers before we finish picking.

4750. We pick five pies worth of berries.

4751. "A deer just went across the road into the trees," Craig says as we descend the mountain. Jack cranes his neck and widens his eyes. "Deer can climb trees?!" he says.







4752. I ride shotgun with Craig in the old pick-up.

4753. Craig takes me on a date to coffee and a romantic stroll through our neighborhood.

4754. We meet up with old friends in the church parking lot.

4755 We end another Sunday with cousins at the pool.







4756. Jane cradles her new baby doll from Miss Lynne. "I squeeze her so tight sometimes," she says, "she just feels so little." She cradles the baby to her shoulder.

4757. Jane petitions to volunteer at all three weekend church services. She glows serving alongside her father.

4758. We settle in for a slow night before the second week of school. Routine, sweet, sweet routine -- we trace her beautiful sway.









Sunday, August 11, 2013

Myra





"Let's pray and ask Jesus to forgive you." I grab Myra's hands. Small and yielding they curl up like tangerines in my palms. She squeezes her eyes shut.

"Jesus, please forgive me for disobeying," her voice creaks like a violin half on key. "Amen," she squeaks, her hands balmy and aromatic with Jack's grass scented hand sanitizer, the one she stole right before meeting up with me in the bedroom for discipline.







"Did you know the Bible says when you say the wrong thing you did and ask Jesus to forgive you, he DOES?" I say. "He makes you all CLEAN. Do you you feel clean?" Down on my knees, eye to eye with my red-headed whirlwind, we hold each other steady. I peer at her out of the top half of my eyes, nod.







She nods back, frowns. "Is Jesus in my tummy?" she asks and strokes her frontside.

"No." I grin at her approximation. "But if you ask him, he'll come live in your heart."

And as if whispering to her neighbor, she bows her head and murmurs, "Jesus, live in my heart. Amen." Eyebrows up, she blink-blinks perfectly round dolly eyes at me. "There," she says. "Him's in my heart."







"You have to tell Him you're naughty," I blurt trying to figure out how to trace the red thread of doctrine in her spontaneity. "Do you know you're naughty?"

"Yeah."

"Do you want Him to help you?"

"Yeah."

"Tell Him. Tell Him, Jesus, I'm naughty."

"Jesus, I'm naughty," she says and clasps her hands together.

"Please forgive me."

"Please forgive me," she nods.

"Thank-you for dying on the cross for my sins," I say

"Thank-you for dying on the cross for my sins," she repeats.

"Please come live in my heart."

"Please come live in my heart."

"I love you."

"I love you."

"Amen."

"Amen!" A grin blooms across her face. The apples of our cheeks round and pink, the moment sounds, resonates like the lowest key on a piano, deep bass.







And we flutter up in treble. "Did you know the angels in heaven are having a party to celebrate you being a Christian?" I say.

She beams. She squints her eyes and leans in. It's the comma before a hug. I hold her in my arms.

Another step in the path, faith grows. It swells, burgeons, sends up shoots.

And all I can think is I'm so glad I decided to discipline her. The moment could have passed, unrealized before it even began. I take note of my high position.









Gratitude:

4719. Joey stands for 60 seconds. Jane times him. "I think he'd almost do anything to get everyone to cheer," she says.

4720. My mom takes Jack to bee heaven, an adventure. It's fields and fields, a whole farm of all sunflowers.

4721. Myra invites Jesus into her heart.







4722. Jane tattles on Jack disobeying the babysitter. "The reason I told on you," Craig hears Jane tell him, "was because I don't want you to make the same mistake tomorrow."

4723. The children love their babysitter. "She doesn't necessarily like everyone," Jane assesses, "but she does LOVE everyone."







4724. Even Joey likes her and has two pleasant days while Craig and I attend a leadership conference.

4725. I learn something new: the people that are best at holding others accountable are the ones with the lowest blame index. Blaming, a good way to undercut your authority.

4726. We have lunch with my parents and Stan Simmons, the pastor from my hometown.







4727. "I found a dead grasshopper," Myra announces. "Wanna see 'im?" She opens her cupped hands, a small carcass nestled in one. "Don't kill 'im," she says, "It's not a bug. It's a grasshopper." She closes her hand and trit-trotts into the sunroom, the grasshopper as real as a dolly.







4728. A neighbor give me a whole bale of fresh dill. The kids process it for me, snapping the heads into a huge pile.

4729. Jack ambles into the sunroom, four dill stems trimmed and bundled. "I like the fragrance of this," he jabs the air with his dill sword. "If I ground this up and put it in a candle, I bet it would smell really good. It would make the whole house smell REALLY good."







4730. Jane flops two banana peels in the kitchen garbage. "Ah," she says, "I guess I better take the trash out," and she does.

4731. We take communion with the kids.

4732. "Jesus, please help Jane's tummy feel better," Jack prays and hops off the bed to come rub Jane's arm. "And thank you for communion," he says.







4733. We attend a wedding of dear friends, you know the kind, where the bride and groom have been pure and chaste for their wedding day. We feel dizzy with honor. Wide rolling wheat fields golden and heavy, evening breeze, a gazebo, an old barn, and something electric and unmistakable: purity. Every color rich and deep, every moment pristinely in focus, the five children on our laps and all around us, we bear witness. Radiant, radiant purity. We can't take our eyes off of it. We memorize every moment.

4734. "It sounded like he had tears in his voice during the vows," Jane retells that night when we settle in for bed, their resplendent faces still aglow, flushed and pink from all the dancing and celebration.

4735. We meet the cousins at the pool. The adults lounge poolside and chat.







4736. Lucy sobs when I tell her to collect basil in the midday sun. "RACCOONS," she wails and hangs her head. She's petrified of raccoons. I make her pick the basil. She wins over the fear.

4737. I see her shoulders a little stronger, a little more tenacious and brave, her steady gaze all fortitude and confidence. I conclude it's true: courage gives us power over fear.

"We never feel more alive than when we are brave." ~BrenĂ© Brown










Monday, August 5, 2013

Of Road Work And Glory





"Ugh, this is taking forever." I crane my neck, mid-afternoon sun full and orange. A line of cars snakes around a curve, over a small hill, and out of sight. I sigh, reach for my water, formerly an old Del Monte peach jar that now fits perfectly in the cup holder. The first third quaffs down.

"Why does it take so long?" Jack queries from the back. Us out on a date for his birthday, he copies my craned neck and peers around the front seat.

"'Cause they're paid by the government," I frown. Another blinking light signals for me to change lanes with no actual road construction anywhere in sight. Me the daughter of a small business owner, I know all to well the impact of the government's best intentions.

"So why does it take so long?" he persists. We putt along at 30 mph. I try not to tailgate a blue Saab with a dented silver bumper but keep leap-frog breaking none the less.

"'Cause the government just keeps paying and paying and paying." We creep up on our exit. I spot the lanes opening up, still no sign of any actual road work.







"Why?" he says.

"Well, they're not very careful 'cause it's not their money," I respond. "They're giving away other people's money. They're giving away our money. That's our taxes. They're not careful with it 'cause it's not their money." I coast on the off-ramp, drink another sluice of the ice cold water, wipe the condensation on my skirt.

With nary a cadence pause, "I would be ashamed of myself if I did that," he nods. "Actually I wouldn't be ashamed of myself. I would be very ashamed of myself." Eyes, perfectly round, eyebrows flawless arcs, I sense the resolve.

"Yup."

Another piece of the puzzle slides into place: discernment. Something inside of him stands a little taller, steps a little closer, and cures like cement.

***





"So weather you eat or drink or whatever you do, you do it all for the glory of God. I Corinthians 10:31," Lucy chirps. Suited up in Sunday polka-dots, custard oatmeal  forgotten at her elbow, she reviews the memory verse.

My feet buttressed on the old pinewood chest, morning coffee only one sip down, I let a reflexive grin wash over my face. I regard her joyous blue eyes, effortless smile.

"I actually LOVE that verse," she reports. "It's just like my favorite story in the Bible, the one where Jesus dies on the cross." She's a collection of nods and round gestures, giggles rolling into clusters. "That's my FAVORITE story," she says.







I nod, "Yup."

"I told Jack what that means. 'I'll tell you what the GLORY OF GOD part means,' I said." She leads with her right shoulder as if every part of her body were attached to it. "Like whatever you do, make sure it's serving the Lord. Like help others, or give money to other people..."

The pearl string of example fades into my own thoughts.

I note again the daily progression from innocence to discernment. Discernment, this is the goal. Another brick in the foundation, everyday a brick: may it all be to the glory of God.











Gratitude:

4699. I turn 35.

4700. The children and Craig greet me with four chocolate bars birthday morning.

4701. Craig and the kids take me out for an afternoon lunch at the Olive Garden.







4702. "Do you need some help?" a nice college boy asks when we end the lovely outing scrambling to change a poopy diaper in the back of the suburban all the older children searching under the seats for something that could work as a wet wipe.

4703. We laugh on the way home that we should have taken him up on his offer.

4704. Raspberry cheesecake. Again.

4705. I meet Rosie at my mom's and we eat her perfect Peach Raspberry Summer Salad again.







4706. Rachelle and family make the trek to our house for a bbq, and it's a lovely soft landing to a long, long week.

4707. My brother, Jesse, turns 31.

4708. We enjoy another installment of birthday season with Logan and Zeke's party. Every year just gets better.

4709. I finish Lucy's summer cardigan. We pick out lime green buttons, the perfect wink of color against navy yarn.







4710. Miss Lynne makes ASL class a birthday party for Jane and Jack.

4711. I start knitting a tunic dress for Myra in robin's egg blue. Every day she asks if it's about done yet.

4712. "Did you know when I listen to Story of the World I usually side with someone in my mind," Jane describes. "The person I side with usually doesn't win," she says.







4713. "So what's the most important thing about being a leader?" I ask. We're on our date. Jack looks up, a cinnamon roll the size of a softball half unrolled. "Well, if you're a Christian, being able to actually tell people the right thing," he says. "Huh," I nod, "what's that?" He pauses to prop his fork on the plate. "God."

4714. We linger in the bakery coffee shop. Jack carves his cinnamon roll as if it were a science. He excavates enormous bites. Cinnamon sticks at the corners of his mouth.







4715. "Are you a leader?" I ask Jack. Still calculating the next cinnamon-y bite, he glances up. "For some people," he says and carries on as if the whole world were more about right and wrong than whose following you.

4716. We have the whole big family over for Jack's birthday and once again thank God for family.







4717. Family Camp. Our small group hosts our annual Family Camp. Huclkeberry-ing, picnics, wienie roasts, smores, tag, bug catching, devotions, capture the flag. We come in for a landing exhausted and full to the brim, struck again at the spiritual leadership God has entrusted to us. Astounding.

4718. I enter the next week humbled at the very good and enormous tasks God has charged me to do. May it all be to His glory.