Sunday, June 25, 2017

Stronger





"Lord, make us stronger," Jane prays. A spruce, gargantuan stake half down the lawn, covers us with cool shadow. We pause, small in it's elephantine height.

"Hmm," I sigh, an eyes-open-prayer between us.

"Don't make the task easier," she says. "Make us bigger to handle it. Amen."

Amen settles, a invisible barrier, a hush.

"Amen," I whisper.







****







"Here, we better hurry outside," I say. "Everyone is waiting for us."

"Oh," Joe says, urgency absent from his face.

"Huh?" Jack motions over his shoulder, forehead creased, "What?"

"Hurry, come on, we have to get out there," I motion toward a door at the front of the offices. "Tell the girls to hurry up in the bathrooms," I say.

Jack jaunts two or three steps to the back and calls to them. Hand lightly on Joes neck, I steer him forward.







Finally we emerge in blinking bright sunlight out the front door, a small assembly gathered around the organic farm tour guide.

"Wow," I say, children gathered beneath my elbows like feathers. "That was an adventure." Myra nods, emphatic. Jack sloughs a grin in farmer fashion. "That road, wow," I say. Six miles of the lowest grade dirt road, drained and washed away to ruts that could swallow our whole car. "I wasn't sure we were going to make it," I say.







"I was gripping the handles on the booster with both hands," Jack says.

"I was actually praying to God," Myra says.

"A chance to be brave," I say.

"Yep," Jane says.

And yet a retreat ensues. There on that windblown mountain top of a farm, we let the hours scroll by like braille on our finger tips.

Later Jane leans in and tells me, "Ya know," she says. "It was actually so spiritually relaxing there. It was a chance to be brave and a chance to get away from this inferno." She nods toward the living room, but I see the giant pine out front, and see it's more than the room. It's all the hard assignments.

We nod, quiet observation a bond between us.









Gratitude:

6292. Rotisserie chicken. And twice in one week.

6293. A last minute field trip to a lavender farm.

6294. Dear friends join us for dinner on the lawn and Badminton. Gems of friendship.

6295. We take evening walks as a family.







6296. We mow the lawn and weed the gardens and harvest the first row of radishes.

6297. I save up to buy something special, have it bought out from under me, and then find a different treasure I like more.

6298. Craig finds a new used bbq to be our oven until the kitchen is remodeled.

6299. One by one we settle into patterns of joy. Sometimes it's the hard work of choosing happiness. Other times, and more often than I would even hope, small moments of joy find us and we take them by the hand and enjoy them.



Sunday, June 18, 2017

Just Plain Life





"Seems like Betsy's main objective is to go as slow as possible and look at eEEeverything," Jane says.

"Yup," I say. We tritt-trott past a neighbor's shag green lawn, humidity and the smell of dirt wafting off of it, Betsy lagging behind her hand, the one in Jane's grasp.

"And I pull and pull, but pretty soon, I'm going slow too," Jane says.

"Yep," I say, Jane's arm extended back like a fishing line.

"And then I give a tug and she catches up no problem." Jane shakes her head, affection at the corners of her eyes.

"Hmm," I say. "Yup." Sunday afternoon, a walk. We just walk together. Everything else folds into the steps.





****




"If I was really scared," Myra says, "know who I would go to?" Her face leaner than even six weeks ago, I look into blue eyes too large for the average face. She blinks at me.

"Who?" I say.

"You," she says, "or Daddy."

"Hmm," I say, her red hair a wild racket around her face.

"Or Jack," she says, "'cause he's really nice and really strong."







"Hmm. He IS really nice," I say.

"Yeah," she says, " SO nice."

"What do you like about him?"

"Well, lots of things," she says. "He's always so excited about his garden. And he shows me stuff." She blinks, pauses. "And he likes to play." A smile ripples over her face. Drawn at the corners of her mouth, it moves upward over her eyebrows. "And when Lucy plays tag," she says, "he's on my team."

"Hmm," I say. "He is really nice."

"I don't know why," she says, "I just really like him."

"Yup," I say.

"Yeah," she says. 'I'm gonna go see what he's doing."

"Ok."







The years tic on, tiny increments of time, pennies of time. The uneventful stroll down the street, the game of tag out back, this is where it happens. Such small installments, and then one day we wake up memorized and loved, the embodiment of those penny deposits.





Gratitude:

6287. Craig and I celebrate our 17th wedding anniversary. The children make us breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We talk gardens and plan the bean trellis. We visit a greenhouse, the nine of us. Then then Craig and I take a thrifting date. We talk less than I ever imagined we would, but we understand each other more. Devotion blooms. We settle under its wings.







6288. We tear grass out of a garden bed, weed the 500 square foot vegetable garden, plant miscellaneous annuals, and build the bean trellis. Saturday unfolds in gentle steps, each one time together.

6289. We take a walk Sunday afternoon. I spend the evening playing badminton with Jack, Betsy, and Myra.







6290. End of the year testing finished, we plan a summer liturgy. We weave chores, disciplines, and pleasures into routine.

6291. And life goes on, the clippity-clop of everyday things. Devotion in the small things. We work to live out faithfulness.





Monday, June 12, 2017





"Jesus, Jesus," Betsy croones. I watch her from my bedroom just down the hall. She reaches through George's crib and holds his hand. He chirps. "Jesus, Jesus," she sings, jesting at Jesus Loves Me. She pulls a clumped wad from her elbow, blankie, and pushes it through the bars. "Jesus, Jesus, Georgie."

There moored on my bed, the smooth blue quilt an ocean of comfort, I watch her watch George. It's grace, a small grace, and enough.



Monday, June 5, 2017

Just Joking





"Sometimes the other kids are like: Just JOKING. When their talking and trying to be funny," Jane says. She screws up her face, one shoulder drawn in a shrug. Our morning run done, once again, we lull in conversation, coast like marbles, our legs effortless glides, residual momentum ebbing as we near our driveway.

"Yeah," I say, our strides slowing in tandem as we pass the behemoth silver-gray pine holding down our yard.

"And I'm like: GUYS, if it were a JOKE, you wouldn't have to say JUST JOKING."

"So TRUE," I say, the corner of my mouth curled to match her shurg.

"In Proverbs it says if you have to say JUST JOKING," she continues, "You're a LIAR, worse than a FOOL." She arches her eyebrows, just barely shakes her head. "A liar."







"Huh," I say and suddenly there before my eyes, all those sophomoric attempts at humor, the embarrassing and horrifying attempts at town jester, the budding gyrations of each child trying to BE funny.  "So true, Jane." All that grasping punctured with a proverb.

Just be. And there we are, the two of us, just being together. A bond stronger than humor encircles us.

Later, as I page through my day a quote from CS Lewis comes to mind:

“There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations - these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit - immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously - no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption.”

And so the day carries on in merriment.









Gratitude:

6275. A friend brings us a basket of organic apples, watermelon, and chocolate. It's dew from heaven and we enjoy every drop.

6276. A new scarf. Blue, all the azure, cornflower, and cerulean you can weave into a scarf, white accents, perfectly soft.







6277. Swimwear. The kids match the lovely weather with swimsuits and sprinklers.

6278. Craig's Grammie turns 102.

6279. Time in the yard with friends. Swings, chickens, garden plants make all the props you would ever need. "Now let's talk about Jesus," one of them says as the adults visit half listening to childish play.







6280. We set up yard games and spend the weekend just being with the kids, let the weekend unroll as if we were really spending every moment.

6281. Jack and Jane make lemon bars from scratch, even squeeze their own lemons.

6282. I teach Lucy how to brush her hair out all silky smooth.

6283. I get the chance to pray with a couple of different people, the world paused, we bow our wills to Jesus. It's like stilling a storm.







6284. I let loose of some things I need to sell. Freedom ensues.

6285. Craig clears and plants 100 square feet full of potatoes.

6286.  Mostly, the days unfold full of flaws and missteps, but the music just keeps on. The tempo pulses on as if it could carry the whole song, as if just playing the next note were enough.



Monday, May 22, 2017

Tomato Plant Sale





"Hey, you have a customer, Jack," I say.

"Oh, okay." The slow smile of a farmer, all freckles and deep dimples, Jack strides, slow gate and straight back, toward a man in sunglasses, two kids slack at his elbow. A nod. "Right this way," he says.

He points to a flagstone path alongside the greenhouse belly and hops along each stone, the dad and kids two steps behind. I watch through the plastic panel as he points to a rack of cherry tomatoes, a rack of slicers, and a long table of sauce and canning tomatoes. He hands the man a homemade catalogue and settles in. Unhurried, content, I watch advice and instruction mime through the plastic panel.

A box of fresh tomato seedlings in one arm, the man and two kids come out to pay. Lucy and my nephew make change and visit, shade the sun from their eyes, and nod in time with conversation. Then the man and his kids stroll off.

"You guys are doing a great job," I say. "There's only one thing I think you could do better. Wanna know what it is?"







"Sure," one of my five member staff says.

"Just make sure you take the time to look at your customer's eyes," I say.

"Oh," one says. The others nod.

"Ya wanna know why?"

"Yeah."

"Because looking at each other is how we exchange emotion. It's how you show you care and you're glad they came."

"Oh," they say. They nod, practice being reserved, professional. But they do. They stop to look at the people, look full in the face, speak affection right alongside the plants.









Gratitude:

6267. Dear, dear friends invite our whole huge family for dinner. The most heavenly pasta and nourishing conversation unfold like carnival rides but the kind that money can't buy and planning can't ensure. We leave full and blessed.

6268. We wield the family plant sale all together, each contributing and taking up slack where needed. It flows far easier and more natural than I would ever have expected as if deep reservoirs of affection, levity, and endurance had been waiting there all along.

6289. I forget to plunge the toilet after one of the children flushes a toilet paper roll. A kind plant sale customer discovers the problem and helps clear it up.

6269. Warm, summer-hot sun finally breaks into our spring.







6270. We find great joy, those hours in the greenhouse, the time with friends, the fresh seedlings passed between us, as if health and affection could be distilled down to the newborn green leaves we pass to them.

6271. We celebrate belated birthdays for Craig and other family members. We circle the table and speak life and encouragement to each other.

6272. Jack and Jane make me rosemary whole wheat rolls.

6273. I breathe a long sigh, long enough to encircle the whole day, this whole last season, so frenzied and scheduled. The all powerful arm of Christ has been guiding us, holding certainty, invisible, along our path.

6274. Trust. I trust Jesus more. The invisible garment of love.





Sunday, May 14, 2017

Lucy





"I don't really mind that it's 7:32," Lucy says. The night before her birthday, we sit in the fading light, pajamas on, teeth brushed, the feeling of almost-nine-years-old there thick between each molecule of air.

"Hmm," I say.

"It does mean that I CAN get up at 5:32, if I want to," she says.

"Hmm," I say.

Every year we wake the birthday child with singing. Happy Birthday to you... Except. Lucy gets up at 5:32, well, when she heads to bed at 7:32 she does.







"I have a lot of books on my bed," she says, "I might just get up and read until 6:30, or whenever..." She trails off, a half shrug, soft affection toward the one of us that isn't a morning person.

"Hmm," I say. "Sounds good."

But the good, the best part, is how she snuggles under my arm, leans into my torso, and closes her eyes. An exchange of warmth, a stilling of the whole room, it's better than a birthday. The mingling of our two worlds settles until we're breathing the same cadence. She does this, brings stillness to all she touches, a gentle lulling of peace.





Gratitude:

6261. Spices, a fresh restocking of kitchen spices.

6262. A huge stock pot full of soup.

6263. Time at the park with a friend and our children.







6264. The kids continue to prepare for next Saturday's plant sale.

6265.  Lucy turns nine.

6266. The children all turn another week older. We bear with each other's flaws, ask forgiveness when we mess us, and carry on as ones who carry each other's burdens.



Monday, May 8, 2017

Almost Home





"So what can I pray for for you?" I say. The glow of two miles flushed on our faces, Jane and I make the turn onto our street.

"Well," she says, "kind and gentle, to be kind and gentle."

"Me too," I say. "Jesus," I pray right there, eyes open, the gentle cadence of our steps marking witness to our words, "I pray that you would do this thing inside of Jane and inside of me. Please grow up this fruit of your Spirit inside of us. Please help us to be gentle and kind."

The steps mark out a lull there between us, a gentle meter to hold our words, netlike, invisible, as comforting as a heartbeat.

"Yes, Jesus," she finally says. "I pray you help me to be gentle and kind and not be like: You were mean to me so SMACK on-the-side-of-the-head, I'm gonna be mean to you because you must LIKE it. I'll show you what it's like. Help me not to do that. Help me to be gentle and to be kind. I love you, Jesus. Amen."

"Amen," I say.

We walk up the steep, steep driveway, let the slackening pace carry us, coast us home. We slide in. My arms encircle her almost-woman-self.

"Love you," I say. A kiss planted on the top of her head, I memorize this slow and conscious turning toward each other, the miraculous wings of independence fluttering there behind her.





Gratitude:

6251. A dear friend surprises me with a box of the most lovely, resplendent, hand-me-downs. It's such a big box, I can't believe she mailed it. Joe splits his face in half with a smile.

6252. Dear sisters-in-law continue reach open arms to me, bless me with their children, and their love.

6253. Yarn, brown sweater yarn finds its way to our home.







6254. I exchange texts with a soul sister until we can meet up for reals and compare notes on the world.

6255. My small group of 16 years has a mini-reunion.

6256. My mom and I exchange writing, Buoyed along on words and images, meter and lyric, we compare our measurements of the long, long circle of the horizon. We smooth out renderings of life and pass them back and forth.







6257. Myra turns 7. The miracle of 7 unfolds there before our eyes all red hair and easy smile. I pull up a dusty seven year old inside of me, shake her off, and try her on for size. Yup, still carefree and light-footed. Makes for a lovely date with Myra.

6258. Summer comes racing in, hot enough to pinken cheeks, and fill the greenhouse with life-giving humidity. It's been long in coming. I just want to sit super still and soak it all up.

6259. I feel the anticipation of my children taking flight over the next decade. There before me, I set my heart to this new way of being, this careful opening of my hands to let the children become adults. Terrifying and exhilarating.

6260. I count the continual presence of Craig next to me a great joy and comfort.



Sunday, April 30, 2017

The Audiobook





"That is SO loud," I say. "It is GRATING on my ears." Furrow deep between my eyebrows, I reach over Jane and turn the audiobook down, staccato obvious in my arm.

The nine of us folded like origami into the Suburban, Jane and I sit elbow to elbow in the front seat, she between Craig and me.

"Here, let me just turn it up," Jane say. Before I can crane my neck enough to bore that furrow into her, she's clicked it up a quarter turn.

"WHat?" I say. "WHY did you do that?"

"Do what?"

"Turn it up."

"It was hard to hear," she says.

"But I said NOT to."

"No, you said it was loud and turned it down, so I asked to turn it up."

"No, you didn't," I say, my scarf and sweater suddenly weltering rags dampening my neck.

"Yeah, I did," she says.

"No," I say, "you said, here let me turn it up."

"Oh," she says.

"Why would you do that?" Exasperation bloomed into something like a room without very much air, me leaning into some sort of winning move, I deepen that furrow as if my whole face could pivot around those eyebrows.

"Well," she finally says, "I guess it's because you are normally so good at reading my mind."







"Huh," I say. "Well, there's that." A grin, ticklish at the corner of my mouth, pull, pull, pulls those eyebrows loose and consummates into an all out laugh. "I guess you're not in trouble," I say. And something shared lets loose between us, slack, as if a tether has just grown both longer and stronger.

Longer and stronger. This seems to be the order of the day. Something adult begins to stand up inside of her as if this lovely child were just the breathtaking shell of a magnificent something. I await, abated breath, and pray to honor the passing of this season.









Gratitude:

6345. We take a trip to the ocean. A holiday at the sea. The memories page out like stories from our favorite books. The peace and comfort of family and extended family nourish us body, mind and soul. 17 children, 10 adults, and 5 days, we weave the fabric of family.







6246. Craig nearly completes the new greenhouse. 800 baby plants grow, grow, grow up toward the sky.

6247. We make the long, long drive to the ocean and enjoy the time of no expectations. We unroll the hours at the slow pace of ones whose schedules rarely leave time to just sit. Just. Sit. The slowness speaks peace.







6248. I work daily to cultivate kindness and gentleness in my replies. I note that hurrying makes me mean. I work to right this wrong, grow strength where I am weak. Be kind always. This is not too tall an order. I meditate on this truth.

6249. I note that when I take the time to apologize when I fall short all other things bother me less. Contentment finds me. Endurance and self-discipline sidle up inside of me.

6250. I pray to be diligent and attentive, never missing a moment or detail that God has appointed to me. Let the obedience and beauty ensue.



Sunday, April 16, 2017

Resurrection Day




"We are cased up in vehicles of clay, and converse together as if we were in different coaches with the blinds close drawn around. We see the carriage, and the voice tells us that we have a friend within; but we shall know each other better, when death shall open the coach doors, and hand out the company successively, and lead them into the glorious apartments which the Lord has appointed to be the common residence of them that love him. What an assembly will there be! What a constellation of glory, when each individual shall shine like the sun in the kingdom of their father! No sins, sorrows, temptations; no veils, clouds, or prejudices, shall interrupt us then."

~John Newton (wrote Amazing Grace 1779)

So grateful for the precious gift of salvation from my risen Savior.







"And Jesus, thank-you for Daddy that he is stern and kind. We love you, Jesus. Amen." Jane prays. She spools out gratitude for each member of our family and ends on Daddy. And so we close out the best day of the year, the day we celebrate our risen Savior. 

HE IS RISEN.

HE IS RISEN INDEED.

Salvation, the unspeakable gift there in our laps. I am undone with gratitude.



Monday, April 10, 2017

A Date





"Here, just a minute," I say, "I have to throw this away." Suburban door yawned open, there in the driveway, I scoop two candy wrappers out of the door trough. "You get in," I call. I flutter the wrappers into the trash can.

"Ok," Jane says.

I slip in behind the wheel, she in the passenger seat. Belts snapped, the cottony quiet of no other children clambering for attention, I draw an extra long breath and sigh long and trailing.

"Ya know," Jane says, "when you read your Bible in the morning it makes the in-between moments in the day feel peaceful, like when you're just sitting and waiting."

"Yes," I say. And she smiles, a gentle rolling-hill of a smile. "That's so true," I say.







"It's just peaceful," she says, "not like from a drug, but peaceful." She spreads her hands as if to trace that peace horizon. "It's not like the hard things are smaller," she says, "but it's like you are bigger."

"Huh," I say, nudged up against that peace.

Bigger. And bigger too, that quiet rest there between us, between the words, between each breath. Nourishment, a communion of quiet, we breathe, just breathe, there in the warm afternoon sun.









Gratitude:

6335. Craig roughs in greenhouse walls and plans the kitchen remodel all in his free time.

6336. Dan and Cerissa come over in the middle of date night to help.







6337. Jack continues to cook delicious pastries in the roaster over. It will be strange (and wonderful!) to have a working oven, one day, not too far off.

6338. Two friends loan me wraps, the beautiful luxurious kind, to play with with wrapping George.

6339. We meet up with old friends for afternoon dessert.

6340. Joe turns five.







6340. Monday afternoon, resplendent sun, we play with friends in the backyard, chickens out, swings up, mamas visiting amidst chatter and chirps.

6342. Peanut butter, walnuts, seaweed, treats and staples.

6343. The children while away out hours and hours in the fort out front playing with cousins.







6344. A new basketball finds its way to the kids.

6345. And somewhere in the middle of it all, I realize I am distracted, busy, and unseeing. I pray to stop and see, really see each child, my husband, and the arresting miracle of each day.