Sunday, April 24, 2016


"Can you play nine again?" Myra says. Nine, it's a hymn: Before The Throne Of God Above.

"Sure," I say.

En route to church Joe, Betsy, Myra, and I play hymns, a collection, modern but old. Before the throne of God above, I have a strong and perfect plea; a great High Priest whose name is Love, who ever lives and pleads for me... The words peal through the car like tiny bells, like pearls scattered across tile. We listen to them bound and ripple until the car is silent.

"Momma, can you play nine again?" The invisible seam between song and cerulean sky, drooped low through our car, snaps back.

"Sure," I say.

My name is graven on His hands, my name is written on His heart; I know that while with God He stands, no tongue can bid me thence depart. I weave perfect stitches through traffic. Myra in the back, me in the front, the music, as if alive, joins us.

"Nine, Momma," she says.

"Ok," I say.

Because the sinless Savior died, my soul is counted free; for God the Just is satisfied, to look on him and pardon me. The words encircle us with smallness and grandeur.

"You and me, Myra, we're the same," I say. "We like to listen to our favorite ones over and over and over again." I laugh. Those tiny glimmers of exactness, exact copies of me in tiny slivers, I laugh at the likeness.

"Yeah," she says. "It's sort of like the seaweed -- just one more, just one more, just one more."

We laugh and laugh. The seaweed. One afternoon I ate an entire package of seaweed that way. It was so salty and crisp, just one and another and another and the whole entire package disappeared. Delicious. It made me terribly ill, but such extravagance of repetition it's an engine. Myra sees the match. A whole roomful of possibilities and we see the exact same one.

Something tender and in perfect agreement springs up between us.


5840. "Hey Mom, this needs new batteries," Joe holds up my watch. "Look, it burned out." Between Jane and I we used it until the battery died.

5841. Jack makes us a double batch of peanut butter cookies.

5842. A bag of groceries from Trader Joe's, bliss.

5843. Some new clothes. Spring treasures, a few new things, and we feel like kings.

5844. Craig opens a fb account for me.

5845. We end the week with 147 freshly transplanted tomatoes and change, 16 flats total.

5846. Craig's mom offers to babysit the plants for us. We have pizza and roasted brussel sprouts and homemade vanilla ice cream down on the farm.

5847. "Ya know," Jane says at breakfast, "Now that I know what the Cuban Missile Crisis is, The Cuban Muscle Crisis [a political cartoon in World Magazine] is a lot funnier."

5848. Each of the kids grows a little older, a little more different than each other. I see how they notice and recall events each with their own bent. The difference is striking.

5849. We start taking a family walk after dinner.

5850. We begin praying with the kids for "big" things, things only God can provide. We watch for His hand at work. Whether in the simple or the grand, His presence is everything.

5851. "This is so FUN," Joe says as he lays on a pile of pillows. Betsy squawks her agreement.

5852. "Betsy, where's your baby?!" She frantically searches under the pillows with Joe.

5853. The responsibilities of life lay heavy on us, but joy fills in all the cracks.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Family Brekfast

"But Mom, it's like dripping in butter," Jane says. One toast in hand, the other leaned against her plate, she frowns. Family breakfast. Every Saturday Jack and Lucy cook eggs and toast for the family. All the rest of us have to do is roust our tired selves from bed.

"How much butter did you use, Jack?" Craig turns to the end of the table, Jack and Joe seated together on an antique toy box.

"Like one and a half sticks," he says.

"Oh," I say, "so 12 tablespoons, 14 pieces of toast, that's less than a tablespoon per piece. That's less than I use."

"Than YOU use?" Craig says.

"Yeah, at restaurants even they give you a tablespoon per piece," I say.

"A tablespoon?!" Craig raises both eyebrows, perfect arcs reaching all the way to the middle of his forehead.

"Yeah," I say.

"'Cause of all the times you've had toast at restaurants," he says. Something ticklish flits across his face.

"Yeah," I say, "you know that one that's shaped like a train, they used to do that. Oh no, they used that paintbrush to put the butter on and THAT was drench." I laugh. "That WAS a long time ago."

"A paintbrush?!" Jack says.

Conversation orbits. I notice Jane poised, toast still in hand.

"Yes, you still have to eat it," I say. She frowns with her shoulders. "You need to show appreciation for the time and the money that went into this."

"Oh," she says. With quiet deliberation she smothers the butter in jelly and slides the egg on top.

"That's actually pretty good," I say. "Jelly and egg on toast, yum."

"Yeah." She forces her manners to take the shape of quiet obedience. She nibbles the crust off, and in gradual turns eats toward the middle. We talk for longer than you'd think possible about that paintbrush in the butter at Frank's Diner. Something akin to resignations gradually ripens and becomes laughter around the table.

"Yeah," she says later, "it wasn't as bad as I though. I just sort of had a bad idea about it." The toast. Breaking fast together, the food is just a prop.


5826. Our family suburban breaks down. Craig ferries us home in shifts in the little black pick-up. My dad has the car towed with AAA. And in defiance of our panicked emotions, the repair is less than $200. God is so gracious.

5827. Someone blesses us with a special dinner in the middle of the chaos. It's like manna from heaven.

5827. Craig and I make a date of retrieving the car from the mechanic.

5828. We have our garden topsoil tested. The results show almost no nutrient value. We strategize on how to correct it.

5829. Browned butter shortbread cookies in the shape of tin shoulders.

5830. Apple cider vinegar, turns out it can even cure diaper rash.

5831. Lucy gets approval for more eye therapy.

5832. Red bell peppers, black bean noodles.

5833. Lemon soap.

5834. Daniel, Craig, and the cousins tear out two jumbo shrubs at Daniel's house.

5835. Peter takes the big Professional Engineer Exam.

5836. We have a couple for dinner and completely rearrange the dining room in preparation.

5837. We continue to plant and tend seedlings.

5838. Everyone rallies to lift each other up. Immediate and extended family, we feel their loving hands reached toward us.

5839. In the face of true riches all else fades.

Sunday, April 10, 2016


"If you wash off blood it will come off really fast," Joe says.

"Yep," I say.

"'Cause I poked my finger with a stapler, and blood came out," he says, "and I went in the bathroom, and it washed off REALLY fast," he says.

"Oh," I say.

"But if you squeeze it, blood will STILL come out." He's in teacher mode, eyes round as the moon, his face slanted with the tilt of authority. I watch, perfectly facing his face.

"Yep," I say.

"And I WILL wash it off."

"Yes," I nod. I let his words roll across the room like rice at a wedding, the newness of discovery married to his bright face.


5836. Craig and I plant two plum trees out front, one golden, one Italian.

5837. I make a new friend, a Christian. It's amazing how the Spirit of God resounds between Christians.

5838. I sprout 172 tomatoes and 54 zinnias. They come up long and leggy. I hope they will get their second set of leaves before I have to transplant.

5839. Our small group meets for our monthly dinner. Such good friends.

5840. Sunny weather continues to bless us, the children deep in the pleasures of basketball.

5841. I eat something I'm allergic to and fall into the deep well of a headache. A night and a day and I emerge. The absence of pain feels like bliss.

5842. A friend has her blood tested for food intolerances and is shocked by the results. I'm intrigued.

5843. Craig takes me on a date to the coffee stand down the road then we head to the greenhouse a little farther down.

5844. I continue to care for my husband and children and find each sacrifice an act of love.

Sunday, April 3, 2016


"I can't do it," Lucy says. Basketball under one arm, she frowns an inditement over my basketball instructions.

"Sure you can," I say. "Like this," I position one hand under the ball, the other guiding, and then shoot. Swoosh. "Just practice," I say.

"But I can't do it," she says. She captures the ball and lobs it like a rock. It clatters against the backboard.

"Well, then practice," I say.

"I can't," she says.

"Practice and you will get it."

"BUT I can't do it," she says, her face impenetrable, as if the force of her will could redirect the force of gravity.

"You should probably quit then," I say.

"But I CAN'T do it," she says her shoulders squared up, a tear squeezing out, a huff splayed across the apples of her face, as if helplessness could be blackmail, as if I were a fragile shell of a person and her will could crumple me.

"Ok," I say. "It's time for you to go inside. Put the ball away. Set the timer for ten minutes. And after that, if your attitude is better, you can come back out."

"Oh." Sigh. "Ok." Something of taking the reins over herself, she chases the ball now three houses down the street, dribbles it up, and lopes in the house. Later I find her cheerful, buried in a book, and about half-an-hour of practice behind the other kids. A bur like that in her saddle, she'll be the first one out tomorrow.

It's not the smart or the strong or the clever who win, but the unusual soul who sets their mind to practice. Any talent can be captured by practice.


5824. We complete our kitchen cooking set with the perfect pot to cook barley. Barley, it fills in all the cracks, makes any meal bigger, basically every large family's dream.

5825. New sewing machine needles. I broke five needles in my last project. The mei tei wrap turned out great, the needles not so much. Now I'm armed with jean grade needles.

5826. Bit by bit the family is finding our way back to physical health. The hacking cough, the terrible sinus and ear pain abating. Health never felt so good.

5827. Craig's brother puts up a basketball hoop, and our children discover they LOVE basketball. The whole neighborhood congregates around this new attraction.

5828. "You have to keep pushing down the ball or it will hit you in the nose," Joe narrates dribbling.

5829. Jane and I invent an ice tea recipe where you make it by the glassful. Delicious.

5830. The weather continues to warm up. The sunlight fills our days and makes long tasks seem light work.

5831. We play Bingo with the kids at the nursing home. Craig's mom runs the game. It's a memory to treasure. Great-Grammie sleeps through the whole thing, and then we visit with her.

5832. With wrestling over Jack resumes his weekend routine of cooking family breakfast on Saturdays.

5833. We continue to study and internalize the concept of practice. It makes me long for the hours I didn't practice piano. Even simple repetition is so pretty to me now.

5834. Practice makes easy. I find myself saying this again and again. A simple antidote, an impenetrable fortress.

5835. Another week, thank-you Lord Jesus.