Wednesday, November 23, 2011


I see it at a glance and groan.
This had been Avonlea's art project. Under those vibrant pinks and purples, was a well thought out, perfectly centered and arranged, cluster of people in vintage clothing. Avonlea's specialty.

I called my girls to me to reconcile this offense. One big girl, one little girl. One dark, one light. One poetic, one prosaic. Sisters by birth, opposites by nature.

Avonlea's jaw dropped at the sight of the desecration. Rose hid her face. I was angry because something beautiful was ruined. I was angry because I hated to see hard work wasted. I was angry because....this situation felt all too familiar.

I lay my plans, work them out diligently. I make a sketch of tomorrow, perfectly centered and arranged. It's my specialty.
God has a specialty also, and it often resembles the vibrant crayon which annihilates my etchings.
Sometimes, in my humanness, this makes me angry.

As I talked to the girls I saw something emerge. Avonlea acknowledged, even in her disappointment, that her sister is more important than a drawing. Rose apologized sincerely, Avonlea forgave. More was gained than lost from the interaction. 

The plans of mine that lay lifeless....are more gain than loss. I don't see that now it it's fullness, but I'll tell you what I do see.
I see the signature of God on my picture.
Doesn't that alone make it a masterpiece?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


Mom was here the other day fussing over Dave.
She asked, "Have you been taking your ALIVE vitamins?"
Dave replied, "No, I'm taking something better now."
Not being able to resist, I teased, "Yeah, he's taking RESURRECTION vitamins now."
Mom rolled her eyes and went home.

One of the best books that I've read this year is Lilith by George McDonald.
Everything in it has metaphorical meaning (oh delight). Truth, wrapped in many layers of imagery and beauty. One of my favorite themes throughout the book is the idea of sleeping vs. death. The protagonist, Mr. Vane, is brought into a mortuary-like room where corpse-like people are supposedly not dead, but asleep. He is shown his slab and told to lie down and sleep his sleep so that he could get up and do his work. He hesitates.

"But these are all dead, and I am alive!" I objected, shuddering.

"Not much," rejoined the sexton with a smile, "--not nearly enough!
Blessed be the true life that the pauses between its throbs are not

"The place is too cold to let one sleep!" I said.

"Do these find it so?" he returned. "They sleep well--or will soon. Of
cold they feel not a breath: it heals their wounds.--Do not be a coward,
Mr. Vane. Turn your back on fear, and your face to whatever may come.
Give yourself up to the night, and you will rest indeed. Harm will not
come to you, but a good you cannot foreknow."

Page and her husband came for a brief visit this weekend. She's been my dearest friend for over twenty years. We sat in front of the fire on Sunday and talked, laughter sitting in the seat beside us. At one point she mentioned her wedding and the picture of us at it. Then she mentioned how weird it was that I was even at her wedding because we hadn't really talked for almost two years before it.

After being inseparable in high school we went our own ways for college. We lost touch and somewhat lost sympathy with each other. I got married and she wasn't at my wedding. After I had been married about a year I decided to try and get in touch with her. I did and her news was that she was getting married. I told her I was coming.

Our friendship laid down, went to sleep, and I didn't know if it was even going to wake up. But it did, and a good came of it that I could not foreknow.

I think God asks this of our friendships sometimes. I think He asks it of our talents. I think He asks it of our dreams, hopes, ambitions.
Can you lay this down and trust that I will resurrect it in My time?

There are times when I say "this place is too cold to let one sleep" and I run from the shadows of the mortuary. But I seem to always come back eventually and I have seen much resurrected. Sleep is not death, but sleep mirrors death in it's complete submission to the unknown. Sleep is the consent to sail uncharted waters. Sleep is faith.

On Sunday afternoon, as Page and I lounged in front of the fire, Avonlea played the harp. Talking soon ceased and breathing deepened and we traded out conversation for slumber. Somehow, those moments of repose meant more than thousands of words could have. Because we've learned that sleep is not death and that resurrection is joy and that He is in control of all the laying downs and rising ups and that the cold will heal wounds.

Resurrection comes to all who lay down.
There is something better than just being alive.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Shining Barrier

Sheldon Vanauken, in his book A Severe Mercy, called it "creeping separateness." It, being the inevitable pull of life and responsibilities that gradually dissolve intimacy. Sheldon and his wife Davy noted that however much in love a couple starts out, there is a marked drift after five years....ten years. Couples drift and families rupture and creeping separateness is a force as subtle as Satan and as strong as gravity.
But it doesn't have to be like that.
Sheldon and Davy built what they called the "shining barrier" around their love. Like a sapling, their love was protected by a metaphorical fence. Anything that wanted to approach the sapling had to pass the question, "What is best for our love?"
While engaged, Dave and I noted the wisdom in this and built our own shining barrier around our vulnerable new love. Our question did not appeal so much as to what was best for our love, but what was God's will for our love.
So we got married, our shining barrier grew strong and secure, our sapling gained strength. But, as the years rolled into decades, creeping separateness took it's toll. Long work days, four kids, allergies, numerous other trials, and our barrier showed signs of wear. Crafty serpents slid through barely perceptible cracks and infiltrated the sacred area called family. Almost before I understood what was happening, my life had turned into a whirlwind.
I'm busy. Dave's really busy. Even the kids are busy.
Barrier control slid down the priority list.

Last weekend was our first time to stay all weekend at the Parkdale house. As Dave and I spent time together, and with the children, I thought about something. The main flaw in the idea of the shining barrier is the assumption that all evils have to penetrate the wall in order to enter. No matter how diligently we guard our sapling, predators can still mutilate. Mold, fungus, disease, can cut short the life of a tree. Selfishness, greed, pride can attack from inside the fence.
I watched this weekend as our family put our arms out toward each other. We offered a hand to grasp, to steady wavering steps. Struggles were so much more perceptible with out the noisy, busy background to distract. Against the beauty of God's earth, the gaps in the wall and the fungus within grew very clear and obvious.

We know for our family tree to benefit others it must grow strong and healthy. In order to shade and shelter, it must branch out in confidence. It must bloom out in beauty to encourage and inspire. It must grow tall, to make people look up.
So we call a retreat.
To slay creeping separateness.
To mend the shining barrier.
To protect our family tree.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Super Dave

"Super Dave!" Jon, Dave's brother, shouted it down the hall at Benson high school.
Dave was a freshmen peon entering high school and Jon was a Senior with status.
There are many names a boy can give his brother. Pest. Loser. But Jon chose to call Dave super, and his friends followed suit.

I thought about this in the last 24 hours. I thought about it on Tuesday night when I told Dave I needed a new dryer. The heating element had been dying a slow death, but it was officially, legally, dead.
Dave looked up at me, a stack of book work on his lap, and said, "Let me see if I can fix it for you."
He set his work aside, looked up the problem on the Internet, and fixed the dryer.

The next night, he came home early to tackle that book work, and after making some headway, went out with the kids and raked leaves and helped Grant mow the lawn.

After we got the kids to bed he wanted to help me can applesauce. 14 quarts of applesauce. 45 pounds of apples. So I watched as he peeled and peeled and peeled, and on the second pot, it happened. Guinevere went into labor (our cat).

We stayed up all night and delivered kittens. At one point we dozed off and Dave jumped up and yelled, "We've got kittens!"
 She had two in a row and left them to die in their birthing sacs. Before I could even sit up Dave had the sacs ripped off. "You take that one, I'll take this one."
I rubbed the little lifeless thing a few times and it started breathing, gasping in air. Dave's was still limp.
"It's dead Dave, it's dead!" He spoke to it, urging it to life, rubbing it again and again with the towel. Long minutes later it sucked in air and spewed out fluid from it's nose and mouth. It lived.

I watched this man who does everything with such vigor. I thought about the tree house he built in the yard that has two stories and 3 skylights and four windows. I thought about sending him to the store for ice cream and him coming home with 19 half gallons. I thought about him dancing with me in the kitchen and laughing with me in the leaves. I thought about him reaching out to others in prayer and his generous spirit that is never done giving.

Once again, I'm reminded that our words echo. Jon named his brother, and the name still shouts down the halls of his life.
So this husband of mine in a 24 hour period, put my needs first, taught his kids to care for our home, helped me store up food, and doggedly willed life into a kitten.
Yes, he was named well.


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