Monday, June 25, 2018

Trusty, dusky, vivid, true

She was 6 at her first piano recital.

I sat in our church sanctuary with my family and watched her pound out her simple song and I had absolutely no idea that I had just buckled my seat belt for a journey.
12 years later I am sitting in the same sanctuary listening again to her play.

There are differences. It's not a simple song and she doesn't pound. My dad is no longer sitting with us. Avonlea is taller and sweeter. The journey that I didn't know I started is coming to an end and there is an element of shock, as if a sudden stop informed me of how fast I had been traveling.

Avonlea leaves for Bible College in New Zealand in 2 weeks.

I will miss more things than I can chronicle, but near the top of the list is her music.

I can remember when we told her she could take harp lessons. She didn't gush but she came into the kitchen later and said, "I'm not saying much because my heart is in my throat." That's Avonlea's chronic state. The spoken word that solidifies her heart is difficult for her to express. Her fingers take the place of her vocal chords. She plays her heart on the piano and harp. It's always sweet and lovely and often playful. When I'm hurting or upset, her music is a hug and calm words. When I'm grumpy her music is cheerful and I can't help but caper. Her music draws cats onto her lap and people into the room.

Like Avonlea, her music has just always been there. Always, an important part of my life, my day.
My mother reminds me I'm building a legacy.
My pastor reminds us that we're building a cathedral, not just a square stone.
My mind reminds me that I gave Avonlea to God long ago and that this next step is natural and healthy.
But my heart doesn't acknowledge any of these things!
My heart just loves her and wants her near!!!

Last year when I was planting my rose garden, Dave brought home a rose for Avonlea. It is called the New Zealand Rose. It has more blooms than any of my other roses. The scent of it is amazing. Somehow, the rose bush is comforting me right now. I am allowing her to bloom somewhere else. Other people will be given the scent of her laughter and music and Avonlea-ness. I know she will bring joy and healing and wisdom to those she meets because she loves Jesus and follows Him with all her heart.

I know she will have adventures that she will bring home to our dinner table to make us laugh.
I anticipate the delight she will experience learning more about God's Word.
I want to see her bloom full and lush and velvety.
Even in the hurt of letting her go, gratefulness is greater.
I thank God for a daughter that loves Him.
I thank God for Avonlea.
These have been very precious years.

Avonlea and Grant June 2018 recital

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Living the Contradiction

"So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it."

-Wendell Berry
taken from Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

I thought of this poem many times in the last month. I've loved it for a long time. Loved the idea that we are not computers, that the very ability to do something that doesn't compute or make sense, is the very thing that makes us human. That our life can be a great big contradiction of sorts. A parable. 

So for years I've done things that don't make sense (I envision many nodding heads here). I filled my house with animals. I ran through every field I could. I danced when my feet hit sand. I drank out of china tea cups with four small children playing tag through my legs. You can fill in the rest.

But this year I took it to a new level. Our family signed up for foster care. I didn't feel like I could do much more than respite while homeschooling the kids so I thought I'd just get my feet wet. There is no such thing in foster care. Our first child came in November and was difficult and turned our family life on it's head. He was brutish and I decided we needed a girl next. 

So last month a little five year old skipped up my walk and threw her arms around me. 
Ahhh this is more like it, I thought. 

I wasn't thinking that the next day when she threw a peanut butter and jelly sandwhich at me. I wasn't thinking it when a water bottle brushed my head and she proclaimed, "I am little but I can throw hard." I wasn't thinking it when she screamed and spat and called me something to do with a donkey's anatomy. Nor when she laid her head on my counter and said in a little tearless voice, "My mommy hates me." Nor when I spent my nights stretched across the doorway into her bedroom so that Jason, Freddie, and Annabelle the murdering doll didn't get her. 

I was thinking, What am I doing? This was living a life that didn't compute with a vengence. Why would I bring this out of control, raging, terrified little child into my home? I have no experience with this. I have four children of my own. The only word that echoed in my exhausted brain when I asked these questions was "Jesus". The romance of living a poem worked very well when running through fields, but Jesus takes our gift of humanity, of non-computing, way further. I danced on the sand and Jesus walked on the water and that was the difference I was experiencing. 

The first 10 days she was here were long and hard for the whole family. But we all loved hard and gave generously and forgave quickly and we saw amazing fruits come from our little sacrifices. She started to speak the words that we were speaking. She joined in morning prayers with us, even asking if she could talk to God. She wouldn't let me out of her room at night without a Bible story. She hugged each of us many times a day (Rowan counted eight hugs one day, "And that's not including group hugs.") and told us she loved us. After 8 days the nightmares went away and I could sleep through the night in my bed again. She woke up on the ninth morning and said, "Last night when I was going to sleep an angel came in my room and hugged me and told me I wouldn't have anymore bad dreams." And she didn't. 

I don't naively think that we changed her life. Our home was a merely a stepping stone and she has many years of trials and healing yet to come. But we introduced her to God and His Son Jesus. We showed her what a life looks like that's been transformed by His goodness. We showed her ways to live that don't make sense. God goes with her where we can't. He is the parent that will never fail or abuse her. My prayers wrap round her instead of my arms now, and that's even better.

We don't always realize that each step in life is preparation for the next step. Running through fields and loving the children in my home and caring for others faithfully enabled me to love someone who, at first at least, was not very lovable. Years of chasing after God can land us in some interesting places, but it will always land us closer to God. 

She's living in a different foster home now with her two sisters. I miss her but know that she's where she needs to be. And I'm where I need to be, right here, preparing for the next thing God brings that doesn't make sense. In this world anyway.....

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Good Friday

Last night we celebrated Good Friday. We had a family meal together and read, the account in the gospel, of Jesus at the last supper with his disciples. Dave and I got down and washed our children's feet, encouraging them to go and do likewise. It always surprises me how some of us fight being served. One child refused to remove his socks. A Peter among us asked Dave to wash his hands as well as his feet. It's a vulnerable place. To hand someone your filthy foot and try not to anticipate judgement.

Five or so years ago Dave and I took the kids out to dinner for Good Friday. We had a large gift card to the restaurant so we let everyone order lavishly. Order, like they wouldn't have to pay for it. To our surprise, the gift card that we gave our waiter had never been activated. We had lived largely and had a debt to pay. Thankfully, Dave had money in the car and we were able to leave without washing any dishes. 

I'll never forget the the unwillingness of my child to uncover his foot.
I'll never forget sitting at a table and being told that what I thought would cover my debt, couldn't. 
I'll never forget the moment I realized I needed a Savior, my debt was discovered, my filthiness exposed. 

So we remember. 
A life full of moments that we entered into the life of Jesus, and He entered into ours. 
And we celebrate.
Because Good Friday, really is Good.

The world in resurrection!

Good Friday hike. Getting our clean feet dirty.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Life in the Oven

I woke at 4 am and thought, "I love baking. You always know what's going to come out of the oven by the ingredients you put in the bowl."

This may appear to be a random observation at 4 am, but it wasn't. It stemmed from the vastly different personalities of my children, all whom I have raised EXACTLY THE SAME.

The same ingredients went in the bowl, but let me tell you, I am pulling some interesting things out of the oven.

Avonlea rocked the boat a little as a teenager. Grant has capsized it.

It's not just a few scattered incidents, it's a constant state of incident.

Take this morning. I was in the shower. I was startled by a furious pounding at the door. I hear Grant yell, "I need help!"

At least he's admitting it, I muttered. I turned the shower off so I could hear him, "What's the matter?"

"I need a comb!"

"I'm sorry dear, but I am not getting out of the shower to get you a comb."

Real angst in his voice, "But I already put the gel in!"

I sensed tears were near so I jumped out, dripping, grabbed a comb and stuck it through the cracked door. Did I hear a relieved thank you? Oh, no.

I heard an exasperated Grant say, "Not THAT one!"

I think shock set in about this time and somehow he got his correct comb and I got my shower but I'm not sure how.

Recently, Grant had friends over for his 16th birthday. He told me that he gave them a talk about relationships. Okay....this was curious....what about relationships?

"Well, I told them there were two types of relationships, dominant and recessive."

I replied, "Aren't those gene types?"

"Yeah, well it works for relationships, too. Recessive relationships are shallow and don't last. (At which point he told me one of his friends shook his head and muttered, "I've had a lot of recessive relationships.") Dominant relationships have two characteristics; both people like each other and they are willing to wait a really long time."

I gathered my scattered wits at this eloquence and asked, "Where did you get this?"

He replied bitterly, "Experience."

Grant was running across the sidewalk the other week when his dog ran between his legs and sent him flying. He got up and ran after his dog. Comet is no fool and when she saw him coming she rolled onto her back and played dead.

I said to him later, "She didn't mean to knock you down Grant, you shouldn't have gotten so angry with her."

He replied, "I wasn't angry that she knocked me down, I was angry that she didn't come back to check if I was okay!"

At which point I laughed. Really hard. Because when you put the ingredients for scones into the bowl and pull pork and beans out of the oven the only reasonable response is laughter.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Remembering our Royalty

The days are dominoes. Slipping softly one after another or clanging loudly on top of each other aggressively. I am fairly passive in this process. My mold for each day, stuffing minutes like play-doh into the shape I want it to form, is gone. I tossed the mold at some point or maybe it exploded when the minutes became combustible. Entering the world of teenagers and middle schoolers has pretty much annihilated my game plan, and made me very very tired. I grab after laughter like ointment, the only thing that heals my chapped optimism, and I talk. I talk late to my boys. I see this world through their eyes and I feel the confusion and temptations that come with growing into manhood in this culture. I lay my time and heart out in mothering like I never have before and, yet, I can't guarantee anything. I pray for a faithful heart that doesn't grow weary.

Our new couch was a little bit bigger than I anticipated it being!
Earlier this week I found a few minutes to curl up on our new couch with a magazine. The door opened and I saw my mom come in. I continued to read until I sensed an undercurrent of excitement in the room. Now, I love my mom, but her undercurrents of excitement usually stem from things like discovering that peanuts are solely responsible for obesity in America. (MOM, what have I told you about clicking on those ads on the computer). So I hesitated to look up, finding the magazine much more safe. I lifted my eyes to see her fidgeting at the edge of the couch.
I braced myself but not enough.

"I just found out that we're related to King David."

Just found out? As in angelic messenger? As in an old genealogy hidden in a secret compartment in Grandmother's jewelry case?

"No, my sister got a new app on her phone that traced us all the way back. She just kept pressing the back arrow and there was King David!"

That's a lot of back arrows. I tentatively asked, "How can they know the lineage that far back?"

"Oh, they kept very good records of royalty." She swished back out the door and I could almost hear her purple robe trailing behind her.

I love this woman. I want to throw in the towel and howl and she's content with knowing that she's royalty. And she is, she is God's daughter, whole-heartedly, and she never forgets it.

She reminds me, that I too, am of the generation of faith. I have a cloud of witnesses who lived this life faithfully before me. I may or may not have the blood of King David running through my veins, but I do have the same Spirit, and so do my children.

So I smile and ruminate that the royal line wouldn't be intimidated by the tactics of the enemy.
I open my Bible, ready to form a new game plan.
I continue to lay my time and my heart out in mothering like I never have before and I have faith that the words and actions I lay on this alter of love will help shape a generation, one life at a time.

Later, I go upstairs to tuck in my little daughter and I can sense an undercurrent of excitement in the room. I try not to groan, but an undercurrent of excitement in Rose usually stems from things like telling me how many scoops she got out of the litter box that day.
So I braced myself, but not enough.

"When I start my period will you get me a bunny to celebrate?"

I tuck in the slightly shorter version of my mother into bed and get my royal self downstairs.

Rowan is Twelve and Skinning

Rowan turned 12 this October and has once again baffled me. His new means of intrigue is taxidermy. Remember when he wanted to be President of the United States and made me go and judge a debate so that he could learn how to out talk his opponents? Presidency and debating are things of the past and he now wants to pursue professional taxidermy. Meaning, he skins whatever animals he can get his little mitts on. Which right now means moles.

So for his birthday he got a pellet gun from us and he used his birthday money from his grandparents to invest in flesh scraping tools, scalpels, and de-greaser. The birthday money that usually goes into the bank for college. Apparently taxidermists don't have to go to college, but they do need sharp knives.

This hobby has once again rocked my world. Here's a vingette from this week.

Rowan walks into the house with bloody gloves on and says, "I'd have no problem being a doctor, this kind of stuff doesn't bug me at all."
My eyes light up. "Are you interested in becoming a doctor Rowan?"
"Nope. Do you think I could get a frozen bobcat to skin for Christmas?"
"I'll be in my room, please don't let anyone disturb me until the crying is no longer audible."

His birthday brought another unexpected change to our family. I bought Rowan the TV series, "The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew." They were filmed in the 70's and I had watched them when I was little (on Saturday right after Hee-Haw). We watched the first one as a family and almost died laughing. The only thing is...they weren't supposed to be funny. But they were.

The first result of watching several of these episodes was that people started getting paranoid. Rowan thought the mail was being pilfered by a strange man (the newspaper deliverer). Avonlea heard musical chords in the night. When I ran into the door in the dark, my first thought was that an intruder attacked me.

The second result is that we were exposed to the music of Shaun Cassidy (AKA Joe Hardy) and vibed with his groove.

Dance parties followed and I got my stiff boys loose and laughing. All of them.

Then I received a CD and call book for English Country Dancing which I used to make everyone dance. They endure my hobbies and I endure theirs. Rowan can dance with the best of them and I'm completely nonchalant about the mole skins laying on my sofa table.

This is family. The little strings that tie us tight together. Moles, dancing, and the Hardy Boys.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Glorious Autumn

There are times when I lay on the floor of my bedroom, curled up in a patch of sunlight, half delirious with the brightness of fall leaves and half suffocated by the suffering world around me.

There are days when I spend hours outside in glorious autumn, planting bulbs, brown, egg-shaped personifications of hope.

There are 43 autumns behind me now, lived out in Alaska, California, England, Oregon and Washington. Yet every single autumn I am surprised by the beauty of this world.

I have spent 43 years watching God move in my life, seeing His goodness, testifying to His grace. Yet every single time He shows up I am surprised by His love.

Last night I said goodnight to the kids at the bottom of the stairs, I turned and quickly walked through the dark office to get to my own much desired bed. My mind was on Saturday's dress fitting for the Nutcracker. Obviously absorbing. The next thing I knew something slammed into me. Hard. I flew back several feet and landed flat on my back with a force that brought a scream and sob simultaneously.  I was stunned and in pain.

After Dave got me to my feet (ah I could still use my legs, good sign) I realized that I had run into the half open door. The solid wood had pushed my glasses into my now swollen eye and propelled me backwards with the same force I had been moving forward. I had walked into a door...don't only old people do things like that? My tailbone took the brunt of it and is now officially elderly.

God has this same effect on me. I move through life swiftly, thinking, planning, organizing my days, and I run into the God of the universe. Sometimes He stops me gently, and sometimes He's a door in the dark. Sometimes I lay on my back longer than I need to, insensible to what's going on. Other times, I'm up and thankful for the direction, for the halt. Maybe, like last night, I hobble to bed wry and bruised and humble. 

But the overwhelming fact is God shows up. He cares enough about our lives and our circumstances to interact with us. He is unpredictable, yet consistently faithful. 

Tonight, the rain rolls down the windows of my home. The trees drip leaves of red and yellow. Avonlea plays the piano and sings and a gray cat walks into my room. I am again overwhelmed by the beauty of life. But the heights reflect the depths and I also think of the suffering of the world, of people I love, and of my own burdens and I lift them up to God. I remember that I am not an exception. This good God who shows up and guides and helps me will also be present in the lives of those in need. 

To live hope is to take a prayer, an action, a word and bury it, bulb-like, in the hard ground; to revel in the glory of autumn is to prepare for the beauty of spring .


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