Sunday, December 27, 2015


"Joe-Joe, have you ever seen Jesus?" Myra says. The car quiet between Christmas songs, Myra and Joe talk.

"Yeah," Joe says. Craig pauses the music.

"What did he LOOK like?" Myra whispers.

"Hairy," he says.

"Oh," she says. She pauses, "I think I could run as fast as this car or maybe even faster." She swings her arms.

"Yeah, I'm gonna go to heaven with out dying," Joe says.

"I bet I could go even faster. Look, I could go this fast," Myra says.

"Oh," he says, "yeah."

Craig rounds the corner to the nursing home. The suburban slides sideways. He rallies the engine. Tires spin, and we slurry up the road.

Christmas Day night and we visit Great-Grammie. She cries when she sees us. Joy. We linger, warm cafeteria lights soft around our large family. Residents gather for dinner. The children take turns hugging Great-Grammie again and again. Love, unselfconscious and full as the wings of a great bird, alights on their faces. For a short time our ages disappear, just a gathering of children, innocent, pure, nothing to offer but love.

"Have you ever seen Jesus?" I ask Joe later.

"No," he says, "I mean, yeah."

"You did?"

"Uh, yeah," he says, "when I was DEAD." He nods, tilts his head conspiratorially. I raise my eyebrows; he shrugs. "Then I comed back up to you," he offers.

"Oh," I say.

"You SAW Jesus? When?"

"Um, maybe on Christmas," he says.

"Was it a dream?" I say.

"One time," he says.

"What happened?" I say.

"Jesus had me take a nap with God," he says. He gesture shrugs, a nod of adult mannerisms.

"Oh," I say. He grins, trundles off.

Take a nap with God, simple, light as a down feather. Peace settles, soundless as feathers falling from the sky, quiet as snow. And I see now what Joe does. He trusts. God. Is. Good. Invisible as air, there it is.


5696. We celebrate Christmas again and again with family. We act out love as the story of Jesus, memorize all the notes and turns.

5697. We exchange gifts. We give. I watch the children explode in rapture when family opens the gifts they give.

5698. We receive far more than we deserve. Gratitude, bliss,  and humility enfold us.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

A Circle

"You should draw a circle around it," Craig says.

"I don't want to," I say, phone cradled to my ear. I look at a sore on my hand, shake my head. "I want to look pretty tonight and not have a big black circle on my hand," I say.

"Well, if you want to know for sure if it's getting worse..." he says.

"I know," I say, "I just don't want to." Coffee in the microwave, I flick the door closed and press 30 seconds.

"Ok, well..." he says.

We visit over loose ends, Christmas party planning. The timer beeps. I grab my coffee, hang up the phone.

"You'll always be pretty," Jack says. He taps my elbow, silent eavesdropper.

"Aw, thanks Jack," I say.

"No, seriously," he says. "You'll ALWAYS be pretty."

I stop, slow to look right into his eyes. "Thanks, honey."

"And even if you weren't," he shakes his head, "you'd still be pretty on the inside, and that's what really counts."

"That's true," I say. "That's what God cares about."

"That's what God sees," he says.

I carry his words inside, like a banner. I bend my identity around them, the truth. And I feel a tiny wave of shame at implying true beauty is so fragile.


5695. The birth of our savior, Christ the Lord -- we celebrate with my family. God's gift encircles us.

Sunday, December 13, 2015


"That's a nice shirt, Joey," I say. He clatters cowboy boots over the hardwood floors.

"Yeah," he says, "'cause it doesn't have pee on it."

"Pee, oh," I say

"Yeah," he says.


"Betsy shouldn't have that," Joe says. I pull toast from the toaster. He pulls a discarded jammie shirt from Betsy, her delicate fingers laced around the tag.

"It's ok," I say. " She can't choke on that."

"Mom," he says, "it's ok if she EATS it," he says. "I don't care, 'cause we have a GREAT washer. And a GREAT dryer."

"Oh," I say.

"So, yeah," he says.


"Ugh, I'm tired of picking this stuff up," I say. Joe had dressed himself. I grab a wadded blob and fashion it into a shirt -- shake, fold, toss it in the drawer.

"I'm tired of you making me obey," Joe says. He tilts his head, nods, shoulder cocked up to his ear.

"What?" I say.

"I'm tired of you making me OBEY," he says.

"Oh," I say. "Well that's my job."

"Yeah." he says.

"Yeah," I say.

A truce ensues, the kind that requires lots of testing. He obeys. I dictate, that constant grasp for approval always there just above his eyebrow. As we play the counterpoint, boundaries result, and happiness, a sense that all is right with the world.

And so it is. Fortitude and mirth result. We laugh and carry on, me firmly at the helm, him learning the high seas. Simple acts of submission grow him strong for adversity.


5686. I Christmas shop with each of the kids. We find simple gifts, wrap them with great love.

5687. New measuring spoons, specially tagged as mine (a notation for the many cooks in our kitchen).

5688. Egg nog.

5689. Betsy takes a liking to plain raw oatmeal soaked in just plain ol' water.

5690. "Mom, you're my favorite woman," Jack says.

5691. I start using my homemade apple cider vinegar.

5692. We have a fried chicken dinner on the farm with Craig's family.

5693. We visit his 100 year old Grammie. I watch him with her, his face resplendent with love.

5694. A good book, a fire in the fireplace, small delights fill our storehouse.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Hors d'oeuvres

"I've gotta do my job now." Joe says. Atop a stool, one knee on the countertop, he stacks coffee cups. Jack hands him a dinner plate, and he sets it in another clean stack. Work, its a bedrock.

Myra clears the dishes to help Jane. And I spoon pepper jelly over a cube of cream cheese. Sunday afternoon turns quietly like a babe in the womb. Children finish chores, and we gather in the kitchen.

"I'm so glad you set the timer for me," Jane says, "'cause I could have taken four minutes or TWENTY minutes to finish my job, so yeah." She nods. Around a countertop now peppered with hors d'oeuvres, she smears sweet potatoes on a thumbnail cracker.

"You are describing freedom the way the Bible does," I say.

"Oh, you have something on your shoulder," she says. She pats a white smudge across my shoulder blade. It disappears. "It looks like flour," she says.

"Huh, it does, thanks," I say. "Yeah, the things the Bible tells us to do actually LEAD us to freedom," I say, "like with your job. Get the work done and you are FREE."

"Yeah," she says.

We nibble hors d'oeuvres. Dilly beans and sweet potatoes, cream cheese and pepper jelly, olives, cheeses, bbq sauce, mustard.

You can have some of whatever you want, I'd said. Just don't go hog wild. And remember if something is expensive, don't eat too much of it. Tranquility ensued. Generosity envelopes us. Our appetites obey our wills. Work tempers our passions and improves our pleasures.


5676. Strips of fabric. I get the gift of new fabric for a quilt in rich blues and warm yellows.

5677. We get a new bread maker. And we make friends with the couple who sells it to us.

5678. Some friends in the Russian community invite us to a birthday party. I taste the best handmade cake of my life. Seven layers of cake, six layers of frosting, paper thin perfection, I can never go back.

5679. A Christmas sweater, the official verdict is in, one sweater has been named my official Christmas sweater.

5680. "I sent Myra into brush her teeth again since she was eating gummy bears in bed," Craig says as we sit down to rest.

5682. Some of the children catch a cold, then I do. We trace the familiar pattern of sickness turning into health, comfort.

5683. And we trace the old familiar pattern of messiness turning into order. We make the Herculean effort day after day, force ourselves to strengthen that muscle.

5684. We find humor an old friend. We laugh and let tight bonds become stronger.

5685. We rejoice again, Christmas is coming.