Friday, October 24, 2014

The Weeping and The Willow

"I wrote a poem about that tree."

I said it thoughtfully as I watched the men clean up the fallen willow.

It weeps no more.  Or it weeps even more.  Who knows how the willow weeps when it's gone?  When its leaves, always reaching for the ground, find themselves lost among it?

The day before, I watched one of my very best friends drive away from my house, into the sunset it seemed, on to new horizons.  Her husband took a job far away, or perhaps not that far, but too far for sledding or painting or leaf-jumping or knitting.   The children, desperate to stay together that day as long as possible, asked us what we wanted to be when we grow up.  They know us.  They anticipated  a very long, drawn out, philosophical conversation during which they could run through the yard and become elusive as mice.  But we just laughed.  And then she thew her arms open wide and yelled it loudly, in the street, "I'm going to be the best friend there ever was!"

And I knew it was true.

The painters work hard outside, re-painting and re-doing all that has been lost to the weather and the midwest temperatures.  I make them cookies, the one with the beard and the one with the toothless smile, and I remind them the dogs will eat the cookies if they do not eat them first.  They laugh.

I wonder how I'll get it all done, and why I do it at all, and a little girl crawls into my lap and I know her childhood is rushing past, faster than I can fathom.

Then I remember.  It all falls apart.  The house deteriorates, the willow weeps its last, the child grows, the friend moves on, and what's left is a shadow of what was.  A silhouette...a still shot of the past, outlined and hazy from years of wear.

A poem of our life bound up in memories and leaves and I wonder about the poetry of days yet to come.

I stare at the place where the tree stood and hope they plant another in its place.  The painters pack up their things and move on to the next house, weathered and beaten down by life.

My friend  leaves in three days and I smile as I think of her new adventures, the poetry she will bring to her new town and the silhouette she leaves here.

It's the past we love or hate, for which we yearn or that which we abhor.  Usually, for most of us, it's a little of both.  But it's the embracing of all that has passed, of loving our today because of those who have made it, that is, perhaps, our most important endeavor.  Whether it's the willow that weeps us into life or the friend that loves us to a place of weeping, may we always love our story, the poetry of life knitted together with words and leaves and experiences cradled deep within us.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Coffee Cake, Mythology, and Misgivings

Every day at around ten a.m., you can find us eating a snack and taking a little break from our lessons.  

On this particular Monday, the break took place indoors, as it was raining outside. We had some coffee cake that had been sent over a few days prior because my husband's grandfather had passed away after short battle with cancer.  I consider my children blessed to have known their great-grandfather, a dedicated man to whom my husband was very close.

Cake is not usually my snack of choice in the middle of the morning, but this day, I made an exception.  They were beside themselves with joy and asked if I would please read to them from our mythology book while they ate.  As if continuing our story of Baucis and Quicksilver would be the proverbial icing on their literal cake. 

I was touched in that moment.  

I was surprised to also find myself a little concerned.

I want to raise educated, cultured children.  I really do.  I am thrilled when they
ask me to read.  

But this day, I took a look around, watched them eat coffee cake while digesting Baucis and I began to feel as though they like were leading some kind of fairy tale life.

What about all the warnings of overprotected children I had dismissed?  Was there merit to this notion that things could be TOO easy?  That mornings spent mulling over mythology were ones not to be experienced in the "real world" and thus detrimental to their fate as contributing members of society?

I began walk down a path of ill contrived panic.  Questions tumbled over one another as the weeds across sand.  

Will they be too sheltered and wonder what in the world this world is made of when they meet a society of people who eat coffee cake for dinner and curse Philemon?  What will they do when they have to walk in the rain when they've been sheltered from it under the roof of a liberal education and a doting mother?  How will they apply the kindness of Philemon and Baucis to the lost in this dying world, when their world was always made so alive?

But this is our story.

Our story, while not perfect, does, in fact, involve a lot of cake and a plethora of words.  Our story involves running in the rain and seeking shelter from the same.  Our Author plans our story, writes it, and smiles as their mouths fill with cinnamon and their minds a sweet story created by another piece of His creation.  

We are all connected through words and food and maybe that's why He called Himself the Word, His flesh bread, and His blood wine.  Did not the disciples that fateful night, as the Servant-Savior washed their feet and their souls and fed them a feast of wine and bread, feel as though they were living a sort of fairy tale?  Rescued, brought to high places, and made new, they relished in their newfound lives.  

Only to turn around and lose it all in a matter of hours and gain it all back at the words of a woman loved fierce and a tomb found empty.  

Fairy tales turn into real life whether we ask them to or not.  The question is never if things will fall apart.  It's a matter of when.  And was the washing of their feet by the lovers of their souls sufficient enough preparation for the grime-encrusted path that awaits?

The days following cake and mythology were spent remembering my grandfather-in-law, a man who lied about his age on an application to a packing plant as a teenager so he could work on the kill-room floor.  He was sent overseas and back again where, eventually, he owned the plant.  He retired at fifty-five and took trips to Europe and I suppose his story, with the blood and the sweat and the mopping, was fairy-tale-esque.  Did he always think so?  Aren't all fairy tales laced with blood, sweat, tears, and a few strategically placed villains?

Don't we all live a fairy tale?  At some point in all of our lives, we are either trapped in a tower, harassed by a witch, or scorned by a family member.  In the end, redemption weaves our story together and, for us, if words being poured over the top of cake is a refuge for the harder days to come, I'll take it.

At the end of our myth, the one about Baucis and Philemon and the Miraculous Pitcher, the hero and heroine get their dying wish and become trees under which the visitors of the land can rest their weary legs.  They become a shelter for the weary, the lost, the deserted, and the broken.  

Maybe my children, having spent their childhood resting in the boughs of well placed words and perfectly portioned ingredients, can become a sort of shelter themselves.  For the weary.  The lost.  The deserted. The broken.  

Let us rejoice in our story, whatever it is, for all stories are His story and the Author, I hear, is one of the best.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Doughnuts, Messy Counters, and Redemption

My daughter was listening to Farmer Boy this morning and, always, what stands out to us is the FOOD these people ate.  She ran downstairs claiming she wanted apple pie, doughnuts, and pancakes for breakfast.

Um, no.

BUT, I did look up a quick recipe for homemade doughnuts and I fried up some gluten for breakfast this morning.  She was in charge of the powdered sugar and, by "in charge," I mean she dumped gallons upon every doughnut hole that came out of the grease.

Exasperated, I wailed, "You are making a huge mess!"  To which she replied with a deep and powerful truth.

"Yes, but it's a gooey, delicious mess."

She didn't refute the mess or deny its presence.  She simply saw it for what it was - messy, gooey, and...delicious.

I could use some of that perspective.

Day in and day out, my life is, quite simply, a MESS.  The house gets messy, the laundry gets messy, my words get messy, the schoolwork gets messy, my attitude gets messy.

But what's the alternative?  Perfection?  Neatness?  Everything piled up nicely in a row in our quiet little ordered lives? (Yes, Tia, that's exactly how I was thinking I'd like to live.)

But...really?  I mean REALLY?

What if everything always stayed in its place and we lived a life of....of what?  Of sipping lattes?  Of freshly fried doughnuts void of sugar, or, worse yet, covered with a pre-measured portion that was...perfect?  What is our life if it doesn't get a little messy from time to time?  Boring?  Predictable?

No thanks.

Once upon a time, a Man was born in a dirty, filthy, MESSY stable.  He dined with messy people who led messy lives and He made a mess out of their rules and He reached down into the mire and arose a redeemer.  He walked up a hill carrying a mess of wood, bleeding and broken and arrived only to be nailed, thrown in a hole right beside two men - whose lives were a mess.

The cross is messy.  Redemption is messy.  LIFE is messy.

He didn't come to eradicate our mess...He came to redeem it.

He came to rescue the fallen, to hold tight to the wailing, and to whisper loudly to the world His voice of reason and righteousness.  He didn't promise a life of order.  He promised a life of carrying our own bloody cross up a messy hill and dying to the mess that is our flesh.

Will I give thanks for the morning and the counter dusted with flour and the little girl inspired by a book and the sugar all over the plate and the doughnuts piled high with snowy white? Will I see it all from the perspective of a Father who loves me enough to live the mess, give me the mess, and call it all delicious?

I like to think that the more messy things become, the more I'm being molded into the image of a Creator who used dirt to do molding and arrived incarnate in a stable.  I want to be just like a King who sat down with the thieves and whores and wasn't afraid of their mess or the men who hated it.

I'm sure He wouldn't have minded a little extra powdered sugar.

I needed today.

I needed a little girl to dump sugar merrily, call it gooey and delicious, and remind me that this life, this home, this family, this task to which we are called, this living joyfully amidst the messy, it's Kingdom work and it IS a mess.

We are all a mess.

"Yes," says the brown-eyed girl, standing tall on the black chair in the messy kitchen, sprinkling triumphantly, "but it's a gooey, delicious mess."

And her mother laughs.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Under Construction!

It's finally done!

The blog is moved, the new year is beginning, and I'm turning over a new leaf.  Or maybe an old one.

With the hard work out of the way, the easier task of writing and sharing can once again begin.  I am still in a bit of transition, so some things to watch for:

(I thought this photo was cuter than those of construction hats - it's a puzzle being put together...under construction...get it? This is why I don't typically add pictures to my posts. I choose something odd, then spend a bunch of time talking about it.)

1.  If you are an email subscriber, you may receive another confirmation email this week as I move everyone over to the new...server? host? site?  I don't know.  But it's all being MOVED, so be ready to confirm your subscription (again.)

2.  If you experience any kinks in any area of this blog, please send me an email and let me know so I can fix it ask my husband to fix it for me.

3.  If you are not yet subscribed via email, now is a great time to do so!  I am not a great Tweeter or Facebook page updater, or Instagrammer (yes, I had to double that m), so the best way to stay caught up with my posts is to simply sign up to have them delivered directly to your inbox.  Funny how email is starting to seem old-fashioned.  I don't post super often, I never share your email with anyone (no offense, but no one is exactly banging down my door begging for your email address), and I never email offers (because I don't have any) or anything else annoying.  (Well, you may be annoyed by my rants, my lamentations, and my metaphorical ramblings, but if that's the case, you probably aren't reading this in the first place.)

I use parenthesis, commas, series, run sentences, and fragments when I'm excited...can you tell? It's the cutting up and stretching out of sentences, the obsession with the English language, and the intentional refusal to conform...even to grammar rules, apparently, which are usually something about which I can be rather picky.

So I'm a hypocrite, too.

Welcome back, welcome for the first time, glad you are here, and hello 2014!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

It Was Enough

I took my daughter to Target.  All by herself.

We are a homeschooling family, which means we do everything together.  Everything.  This has its perks and is one of the reasons we chose this journey in the first place.  But sometimes I think it means we get a little less one on one time...maybe we have to fight a little harder to get a child alone.

Of course, maybe with drop off, pick ups, and after school practice, it is a challenge for all of matter our choices regarding education.

Either way, this moment, for us, is somewhat of a rarity.

I had noticed my oldest was crying more than usual and seemed a little overwhelmed with life in general.  She asked if we could please go somewhere alone.

I knew what she meant.  I know a little something about overwhelmed.

So we headed to Target.  She needed stickers for an art project she wanted to complete and I, personally, think Target is a joyful place.  For whatever reason.

We purchased hot chocolate, shopped for stickers, rifled through clearance notebooks, and conversed about nothing in particular.

That trip was hard for me.

I wanted to say so many things.  I wanted to tell her how proud I was of her.  That I know it's hard being the oldest and bearing more responsibility than you feel should be yours.  I wanted to ask her if she was okay.  If I was doing anything right.  I wanted to drill her about her lessons. Does she like school?  Is it too hard?  Too easy?  What books would she like to read next  year?  I wanted to break down her ever-present walls and march straight into her heart.

But she's not that kind of girl.

She is quiet.  Contemplative.  She'll talk to you about what she wants to say...when she's ready.  And if you pry?  She clams up.  It's too much...all the asking and prying.

This is the child who, weeks after they are over, shares stories of hurt and confusion with me.  Usually in the dark.  She needs time to process life before discussing it.

She is exactly like her father.

I've had to learn, being a woman of loud and abundant speech, that souls like these are precious.  These are not hearts into which you can rush with your questions and encouragement and verbose professions of love.

You say it once.  You say it clear.  And you let them be.

So we just went.  We went for the sake of just being with no motive on my part and no expectations placed upon her.

As the trip came to an end, we marched into the open air, longing now for the comfort that is home.  There, in the descending dark, swirling swiftly and magically, the last snowstorm of the year fell upon us.  We rushed about, catching snowflakes on our tongues, looking for the car that I always lose and she always finds, and played together in the moisture-laden night.

We didn't have an earth-shattering conversation.  We didn't discuss Scripture or life or love or happiness or any matters of the heart.  I didn't pepper her with questions or gush about how wonderful she was or lay my insecurities at her ill-prepared feet.  I refused the well inside me that was bursting forth with lamentations and praise about life and about faith.

We went to Target.  We walked together.  We chased snowflakes in the dark.

And it was enough.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Joyful Change

So, I was thinking this week (here we go again...)

Something hit me.  Something I didn't see coming and didn't even know was on the horizon.  My self-righteous-all-about-me-sinful-self didn't see it.

She wasn't looking.

The ancient Spartans were do-ers.  They DID horrible things like leave weak babies to die and they esteemed brute force as the only force to be reckoned with.  Their neighbors, the Athenians...they esteemed culture.  Pictures, books, and intellect.  It was said of the Athenians that they "knew" all the right things but did not "do" them.  They were hearers and not do-ers.  Spartans?  They were just plain mean.  But no one ever accused them of not doing anything.

I do not wish to be like the barbaric Spartan.  But the hedonistic, hypocritical Athenian?  I don't want to be her either.  It's time I took myself seriously.

I began to ask myself this question: Do I believe that my attitudes and actions will impact the long-term health, growth, and spiritual well-being of my children?

Well?  Do I or don't I?

I saw a video this week about a woman who threw herself in front of an SUV.  Her children were inside and heading towards a cliff.  The car ran over her and she is now paralyzed from the waist down.  But her body slowed them down just enough that the grandfather was able to jump inside and pull the emergency brake.  Her sacrifice saved the lives of her children.

Do I believe that the sacrifices I make will save the lives of my children?

If I do...if I believe that being here, every day...washing feet and teaching grammar...if I believe these sacrifices to be life-changing, life-giving, life-saving...

Then I must stand tall and refuse the lies the enemy throws at me.  I had better stop complaining and wallowing. I must learn to take the good with the bad and gives thanks for both.

Mothers make different kinds of sacrifices every day.  Every.  Single.  Day.  Somewhere, a mother spends her days in a wheelchair because of the sacrifice she chose.  Me?  I just get to spend ample time with precious souls.  Hardly seems like sacrifice.

Why does it feel so sacrificial at times?

It has to be that I am selfish and self-absorbed.  That I care more about my day and what I need than about  those around me.  God placed me here in a state of always-giving because He knows that giving must come harder for some of us than for others.  For me?  The ever-giving is what is maturing me (slowly.)  I want to be her.  The person Jesus is trying so desperately hard to make of me.   A woman who gives.  Gives freely and abundantly.  Without reservation.  Without self-seeking desires creeping up at every turn.  I want to get out of the way and just be clay.

It's hard to be clay when you are a rock.  Albeit, a  teary, Athenian, book-loving rock.  But a rock non-the-less.

I wrote to a friend today that I want to shove my selfish endeavors under a rock and sit and bask in the sun.  Or the Son.

As another day winds down and my heart feels lightened by the words that burdened it all week, I pray for the strength and resolve to lay down my life joyfully.  That I might live abundantly.  And that I may walk in the knowledge that the sacrifices I make today will change the tomorrow of the souls with whom I've been entrusted.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


I woke up, sleep deprived, to two sick kids, school to be taught, and a mess of a headache.

Maybe I should have just stayed in bed.

Malfunctioning toilets, smoothies-all-over-the-floor, math-crying (you know, the crying that accompanies math on days when everything else is already falling apart), fevers, Kleenex, a mommy-run-down, and only one lap to house it all.

I poured myself out today...completely and totally.  So much emptied that, by bedtime, I wasn't even surprised when the dog peed in her kennel.  My voice barely held inflection as I assured my six year old that the smoothie would clean out of her shirt.

I sent my nine year old upstairs to do her nighttime chores while I prepared her younger, under the weather, sisters for bed.  As I finished teeth brushing, nose blowing, and medicine giving, I climbed into bed with them, one on each side, and fell flat onto my back.


The word floated through my aching body.

When days run into nights and sleep comes in patches, squeezed between two fever-ridden bodies...this is when the mother breaks.  When she is emptied.  And just as He filled the jars of the widow, and healed the ear of the soldier, so will he mend us. Bring us back to full.  And it's  only here...when there's nothing left...that His healing seems most miraculous.

As their breathing becomes slow and they drift off to a deep slumber that I pray will soothe what ails them, I close my eyes and breathe deep.  One more day.

I help the big sister get to sleep, then head to do the only thing I know to do when I have nothing left.

I grab my pen and my Bible and start copying.  I am writing through books of the Bible right now...mostly because it's the most effective way I know to meditate on the Word of God, even when I'm too tired to do so.

My breathing slows as I write methodically, eternal truths burning into my soul as they are etched onto paper...and the filling begins.

It takes a whole lot of faith for me to admit that I can handle no more.  It's  hard for me to come to the place where I throw my hands in the air and admit that I am void of any more giving.  But this truth...that I am a broken vessel empty of anything worthy to true even on my best day.

Today is really no different...but it's always the mess, the crying, and the tired mama, that sends me running straight for the cross.

I thank God for days like today...the ones that put me in my place.  Humbled, brought low, muddling through with the sinking realization that I cannot keep going.  I love it when He shows up, picks me up and keeps right on walking.  Straight towards holiness.