Sunday, December 18, 2016

The Steps

"I don't mean to be like people are stupid," I say, "but with math and science and history and art, any idiot can learn it if they do the steps." A felt ornament in hand, I pull embroidery floss through it's wool surface.

"I know," Jane says. I'm checking her school work. Paused at a cache of sketches, we stare at the latest installment of daily practice. "When we started art with Grammie," she says, "it was HARD. And I was like, I'm not gonna be any good at THIS."

"Yeah," I say.

"But after hundreds of hours, I mean HUNDREDS," she leans toward me. "That has some WEIGHT," she says.

"Yup," I say. "You're probably coming up on 400 hours."

"Yeah, WOW," she says.

"After hundreds of hours," I lean in and whisper, "any idiot can learn it."

"It does help to have IQ," she says, "but most people with a high IQ don't want to stoop so low, which is actually standing TALL." She shrugs.

"Yup," I say.

So it is. Practice makes easy. Hundreds of hours and suddenly, there, in the palm of your hand: skill.


6198. George Lewis. Our newest additions grows strong and healthy. Big boy, over 10 lbs. by now.

6199. I get the blessing and privilege of having a dear, dear friend as my doula at George's birth.

6200. Jack meets my every possible need the weeks recovering from delivery. He cooks the meals, cleans the main living areas, does dishes. With nary a hint from me, he serves from his heart, every action pure love.

6201. Dear friends and family send us meals and treats and gifts. On top of the gift of a child, we find love and help there reaching out to us.

6202. We celebrate Christmas over the weekend with extended family. Peace settles on the whole clan of us out at my parents. Something more than us, something I can only describe as the presence of Christ encircles us. Christmas truly.

6203. I still struggle to keep the house tidy, and struggle to respond with the perfect combination of strength and grace when things go sideways, but even there, even the worst moments are fill with purpose. We encircle each other with grace and spur one another on in love and good works.

6204. The new geography of our family adds depth to each of us.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

George Lewis

George Lewis
9 lbs. 6 oz.

Thanksgiving morning. Two and one half hours labor, and the all natural birth I'd dreamed of gave way to a beautiful baby boy. All the imagining in the world couldn't have prepared us for his resplendent face. Bliss. We raise our hearts in a song of joy, thanksgiving the air we breathe.

He eats and sleeps like a champ. The children encircle him with love and curiosity.

I take each slow moment for the gift it is. They run through our fingers like water.

Sunday, November 20, 2016


"Don't turn around, okay Mom?" Jack says. "I'm making a surprise." I hear dishes slide across the counter.

"Okay," I say. My fingers tap-tap across the computer keyboard. I flutter numbers and dollar signs into our family budget, flex my mind around the herculean effort of reconciling numbers. Like all great efforts it requires hours more than expected and yields peace. I gather a lay of the land and memorize the mountains and valleys.

When I turn around, finally: a sierra of gingerbread boys.

"It's a surprise for you," they say. Best of all they polish the kitchen to clean perfection, floors and all.

Peace settles over the house. It's not a sigh of having everything, but the long exhale of having all that matters. One by one we wrap our tired arms around each other and head to bed. Sleep holds us, gentle arms of strength encircle us.


6183. A dear friend surprises us with a visit, gift in tow.

6184. A neighbor passes on bags of used books.

6185. I continue the quiet repetition that is knitting to smooth the evenings. I finish a baby hat and start a sweater.

6186. I finish my original knitting pattern.

6187. Lucy plans out Christmas gifts and sets to making them.

6188. Jane too.

6189. Jack makes gingerbread boys with an army of helpers.

6190. Myra and Joe build forts in the sunroom and clean them up when they finish.

6191. Mom and I compare notes on all things Oswald Chambers and theology.

6192. A fresh pot of soup: meat and sweet potatoes. Mmmmm.

6193. Craig and Jane stack a chord of firewood.

6194. We roast a turkey for on hand when the baby is born.

6195. We watch with mirth as the baby's due date comes tomorrow and yet no baby.

6196. I take note of how each of our children is so different from all the others. I can't imagine how one more can yet be so different. It will be like unwrapping a gift each day.

6197. And we wait.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016


"This onion is undeniably spirited," Jane says.

Me, shored up on the couch, I hear her load the crockpot with meat and vegetables: stew. Her, the first one to emerge healthy, fills our kitchen with wonderful food and cares for us. Nourishment comes, a fountain, a wellspring, manna to fill our bellies.


6176. My mom brings over a knitted blanket and a handmade quilt for the baby.

6177. Jane makes stew.

6178. We start the audio book of The Lord of the Rings.

6179. Jack makes chocolate chip cookies.

6180. A long headache finally abates.

6181. I find a dutch oven thrifting.

6182. We anxiously await the arrival of the baby, the anticipation an even all it's own.

6183. We continue to watch the state of our nation post election. It's like a page turning novel. We continue to pray God will bring revival, then turn our hearts to him for it to begin here.

Sunday, November 6, 2016


"No, no, not like THAT," I say. "Here," I extend a hand to Jane, snatch carrot and peeler, and stroke the long neck of a carrot down to soft orange flesh. "Like THIS."

"Oh. Ok," she says.

Company arriving in 15 minutes we scurry from cutting board to sink to counter top. I sigh.

"Are you mad?" she says.

Sigh. "No," I say.

"It just seems like you sort of are on edge," she says.

"Oh." I sigh again. "I guess, I sort of am. Sorry. You really are a huge help."

"Thanks," she says. "You are doing a ton too."

I sigh again, this time as if finally rolled over and ready for the backstroke. As if in tandem we work as each other's right hand.

"You two just keep talking to each other," Craig says. From the living room, he and Jack race the clock, competition gas in their engine.

Jane and I grin at each other, companionship better than a clock.


6169. Dear friends join us for dinner. Their heritage from half around the world, we marvel at how our lives overlap.

6170. I make lotions, deodorants, and toothpastes all week to stock up.

6171. Taco soup. All week. All the fixin's. Including finely chopped red bell pepper and full fat sour cream.

6172. We all get sick. A family of eight. So we lay around, listen to audio books, and take turns taking care of each other. Nourishment sprouts up between us.

6173. Craig's ears get cold from being sick. He settles on an old toddler hat that covers the ears just right.

6174. Pork loin soup to fill in the cracks.

6175. The election plods to conclude this Tuesday. We await with curiosity. We pray God will give us a better leader than we deserve.

Sunday, October 30, 2016


"I just like this song so much," Lucy says. Blue jeans, worn baggy at the knees, a black T-shirt and ponytail, she's at the piano. She strokes the keys, soft, like a newborn's face.

"Yeah?" I say.

"I don't really know why," she says. The why elongates as she matches her hands to the song's position.

"Well," I say, "it's more powerful than regular words because it's TRUTH and worship."

"Huh," she says. "Yeah." She changes from the smooth caress to confident stride. Melody effuses from the sound board. A couple of days and she's unfurled the full right hand part.

"What's the name of that one again?" I say.

"Rejoice, the Lord is King," she says. "I didn't really think about what is actually happening when you play until a couple of days ago," she says.

"What do you mean?" I say.

"Like that you are actually worshipping," she says.

"Oh," I say. "Yeah."  Actually worshipping. A simple bowing down. I watch her there at the piano. She bows like a tree, a gentle swaying in submission to the breeze.


6156. Jane and I spend the afternoon making three gallons of taco soup and watching Bible commentary.

6157. Betsy climbs in the chair behind me and leans on my back.

6158. Jack gets up early and cleans the whole house before I get up.

6159. Lucy learns a new hymn on the piano.

6160. I finish putting all the snaps on the newborn diapers.

6161. I find a sticky note with a flower crumpled in the garbage. "What's this?" I ask Joe. "That's the one that didn't turn out." Before bed I find a flowered sticky note next to the bathroom sink. The sky is filled with the word MOM.

6162. Myra falls asleep on the couch snuggled under Craig's arm.

6163. Jack unearths a stump stubbornly wedged at the new greenhouse site.

6164. I finish knitting an afghan started two years ago.

6165. "You can always tell that if you are having a hard time reading what you wrote," Lucy says, "you probably spelled it wrong."

6166. I meet with a friend and we talk all things birth. The next three weeks seem short. Short, short.

6167. I begin to unravel the strange mystery of trusting God. Trust. It's the raft we ride.

6168. Jack and Lucy haul another stump put front.

6169. Craig wraps our world in affection and confidence. We gladly lean on his shoulders.

Sunday, October 23, 2016


"I woke up at 5:30," Jack says, "and couldn't sleep."

"Yeah," I say, "I heard you get up. I'd just got up to get a drink and couldn't fall asleep." Saturday-morning-family-breakfast, I'd spent the night with a headache. Jack like usual, made the big breakfast, with little additions from everyone else.

"Well," Jack says, "I came out -- and made apple crisp."

"Aw, really? Thanks," I say, his face radiant.

"I sais I would yesterday, but I was too busy making dinner, so I thought I would make make it now."

"Seriously," I say. "Thank. You. So much. I wondered about the cinnamon smell, but now that makes total sense. Thank. You."

He nods. I think about last Sunday him saying, Dad, can I ride with Mom? Ya know, so I can protect her. Protect and provide, it courses through his veins.


"Running errands with Dad is so different than running errands with you," Jane says. Most of Saturday-morning--breakfast cleared and cleaned, we sit at the table bench, back against the table.

"Yeah," I say, "how so?"

"Dad is just like zip-zip-zip, grab this, grab that, in - out," she says. "He doesn't really dwell on things." Gray jersey tee, french braid, loose with sleep, jeans and cowboy boots, she looks like a farm girl.

"He doesn't dwell on things much, huh?" I say. I watch her assemble shoulders and elbows into adult gestures, limbs so much longer than even six months ago.

"He doesn't dwell on them AT ALL," she says. "It's like he can't even see the stuff we didn't come to get." Her eyebrows raised, a pleasant grin mirrors their arc. I laugh. No wonder he's so fast.

"Yep," I say nodding, a grin pulling at my mouth.

"I mean I don't want to look at EVERYTHING, but he doesn't pause AT ALL," she says. She shakes her head, but her face is all pleasant enjoyment. So different. Craig, me. Jane, Jack. The simple bearing witness, sings melody and harmony.


6142. Pictures with a dear, dear friend of Craig and me and my growing belly.

6143. "Your belly just gets more and more prominent each time," Jane says.

6144. "Jack has mastered the art of snarling like a beast where it echoes," she says.

6145. I get a sinus headache that is quenched with saline nasal spray.

6146. Les Miserable and The Singer, The Song, and The Finale, more thrift books for the library.

6147. A new (to me) iron skillet!! Bliss when it comes to cooking a full family breakfast, fried sweet potatoes and all.

6148. We watch the last presidential debate and note the passing of this political season.

6149. Betsy and Joe snuggle while we listen to an audiobook.

6150. The world's floppiest, scruffiest, softest stuffed bunny for baby boy.

6151. I figure out that a little apple cider vinegar can tart-en up apple crip just perfectly.

6152. Myra loses her first tooth.

6153. Leggings, black, the perfect pregnancy-wear.

6154. Darning needles. Sometimes nothing can sub for a good darning needle.

6155. The continual drip, drip, drip of art lessons from my mom.

6156. We take the blessings and the trials one by one. Melody and harmony, we weave them. Faithfulness in the ordinary, the unappreciated, the humble daily grind gradually rises to the surface. We eat it's bread.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

More Dishes

"Why are you COLORING in your Bible?" Myra says. My breakfast half gone, her there at my shoulder, I look up to a wrinkled forehead and blinking eyes.

"She's NOT," Lucy says. "She's circling things that MEAN something to her that day." Lu reaches around and my elbow to grab an empty breakfast plate scattered with cinnamon sugar.

"Like what?" Myra says.

"Like how Caiaphas said that it was better for one man to die for the people than all of them die," I say. "He was actually saying the truth about Jesus even though he didn't realize it."

"Oh," she says, a mental note, an asterisk at the bottom of the page. The day flurries on.


"You can get kind of tired doing that," Jack says next morning. Even before breakfast, a whole box of kindling, he'd chopped it with chisel and hammer. Now we're doing dishes.

"Yeah," I say. I corral spoons sloshed in an overflowed mug, guide them to the dishwasher.

"But if you can sing a hymn while you're doing that, it's not that bad," he says. He slides cheese and eggs and into the fridge, half a loaf of bread into the cupboard, and then back to the fridge with half a gallon of milk.

"Yeah, that's true," I say.

"I just find myself singing when I do stuff like that," he says. Lucy circles back, a bowl under one arm, skiffs of apple inside, the butter dish in hand, butter knives dangling.

"Yeah," she says, "I do that too."

Singing. He finds himself singing.


"Everyone take care of your dishes," Jane shouts. The tail end of breakfast fluttering into the 9:00 hour, we rally the ranks to clean up. Saturday morning and Craig's heading to Costco, kids that are ready can come.

"I can do the dishes for you," Lucy says. She pokes her head out of the kitchen, red plaid rag in hand.

"No," Jane shakes her head, "I KNOW you want to go with Dad too," she says. It's the girls' day for dishes.

"No. No, I can do it," Lucy says, an offering, a small reaching across a chasm.

"No, Lucy," Jane softens her face, countenance, tilts her head.

"Nooo," Lucy galvanizes. Eyes like a surgeon, she searches Jane's face, memorizes terrain beneath the surface. "No, I don't want to go with Dad," she says. "I'll do it." She raises her eyebrows.

Jane smiles. "Are you SURE?"

Lu nods. Jane freezes, then grabs an aqua parka and black goulashes and heads to the door, Craig just out front.

"What about the laundry?" I call after her.

"Oh." She pauses. "Um. Can I just have an extension until I get back?"

"Um," I pause, the perennial laundry pile there on the couch.

"I'll do it!" Lucy shouts. "No, no I'll do it."

"Lucy, you're SPOILING me rotten," Jane says, voice thick. She pauses, eyebrows arched. Their faces open, full like moons, they smile. Something better than affection, Lucy has opened a gate. Trust flows in.


6130. We continue to pray for the baby to not be breech. The children join us.

6131. Jack learns how to start a fire in the fireplace.

6132. Green tea kombucha with melon juice.

6133. Apples. Pears. Buckets of apples, boxes of pears, from the farm, and this after after Gramma's fried chicken.

6134. I continue to sleep exceptionally well for the end of the pregnancy.

6135. The garden finally freezes hard and finishes off most of the harvest. Strangely, the peas and cabbage continue to thrive. I had no idea they were so hardy.

6136. The kids and I meet a group Craig is mentoring at work. They are lovely people. They even thank us for his time.

6137. I finish last minute blankets and diapers before the baby arrives. Jane helps me.

6138. Ham soup with black beans.

6139. We continue to grow in sacrificing and affection. Surprisingly counterintuitive, each gives birth to the other.

6140. We continue to pray for the direction of our country. We pray for revival. We pray for God to give us a better leader than we deserve. We pray to submit and please our Lord. And then, we wait.

6141. Your kingdom come, your will be done.

Sunday, October 9, 2016


"Is it the girls' night for dishes?" I ask.

Chicken soup for dinner -- the kitchen engulfed in pyrex bowls, onions scraps, stock pots, bell pepper cores, chicken bones, and drips and daubs of stock bubbled and smeared around the stovetop, a ladle sideways on the the stove -- Jack and I comb the landscape with our eyes. The dishwasher, mouth yawned open with clean dishes, we both sigh.

"I'm gonna empty the dishwasher for them," he says.

"That would be nice," I say.

"Even though I know I could get away with not," he adds.

At family breakfast he'd marshaled an enterprise of eggs and sausage, apple slices, toast, oatmeal and toppings, the kitchen fired up to capacity. And then he'd done dishes, stroke by stroke, with Myra and Joe.

Work. He unravels it. He dismantles disorder. He takes it one dirty dish at a time and sets the house with cleanness. But, quiet and striking like deadpan humor, he doesn't seem to wait for applause. Something like honor ensues instead.

"I love that about you, Jack," I say.

He smiles, the clank of silverware gathered in his hands.


6119. Craig and the kids bring back bags of apples from his parent's orchard.

6120. The kids keep leaving special bowls of sliced apple for me.

6121. I dress up for a baby shower of a dear friend. "Mom, did you hotten your hair," Joe asks, fascinated that the flat iron can smooth my hair.

6122. Everyone loves the fresh pot of chicken soup.

6123. Betsy fully embraces the trundle bed: night sleep, naps, everything.

6124. I finish a couple more baby swaddling blankets.

6125. We divide up extra house chores and all organize a part of the house.

6126. The kids make plans to bake apple crisp and make cider vinegar.

6127. We spend three out of four nights listening to an audio book by the fire before bed.

6128. We continue to cultivate the truth that serving is the greatest honor.

6129. We continue to take joy in the quite lull before the baby arrives. Six weeks and counting.

Sunday, October 2, 2016


Dear Momma, 
I really love you.Thanks 
to you I think I am getting 
into a groove with my 
school work. I am looking 
forward to a freetime 
infested day tomorrow 
where I work hard then 
I play hard. You are the 
best of mothers.

P.S. I enjoyed talking politics 
with you today. I love 
you. Sleep Well!

Emma Jane

Dear Daddy,
I really enjoyed watching
the debate with you. As USA 
citizens I feel people have
an obligation to vote, or
at least inform themselves,
and many people skip both.
If only God gives us a better 
leader than we deserve...

Dear Momma,
I really enjoyed watching 
the debate with you. I
have no idea how people
will vote for a person
who is mean to people
and will not answer critical
questions. I feel sure the
devil is laying another trap
for our nation. I feel 
like people should at least
inform themselves. As to people
who will not vote, I feel they
must be either acting stupidly or
wickedly. I love you.

Emma Jane

So it begins, the girl is old enough to talk politics. Opinions bloom. And she shares. Most nights we find a note tagged to the bathroom counter, a token, a small vulnerability. Each says the same: Who am I in the world? We watch, trade secrets, and hold tiny pieces of each other like agates collected on the beach.


6112. Jane's notes.

6113. We celebrate the birthdays of extended family. The party, it's where we share stories that have encouraged our faith. Something greater than the stories springs up between them.

6114.  Aunt Rosie takes family pictures of our great big family. Somehow, the whole day comes together with tranquility uncharacteristic of getting eight people properly dressed and smiling pleasantly.

6115. Friends come over to share an evening. We visit and have our favorite things: delicious food, a library of books, the love of Christ, the ebb and flow of small children, conversation that fills in the cracks. They even bring pie, TWO. Blueberry. Bliss.

6116. My parents visit dear, dear friends in Minnesota for their 40th wedding anniversary.

6117. Nighttime temperatures dip and threaten to freeze. The children traipse to the garden between dinner dishes and bedtime and pick it clean. 

6118. A long week ends with everyone on the same page and tired but content, jewels of our home.