Saturday, December 20, 2014

My Thorny Rose

I am used to waking up when I want to. In other words, I'm spoiled.
This fall, Avonlea started public school. She had to be awake by 6:30am.
That meant to spend time with her in the morning, I had to be up by 6:30am.
That meant that if I wanted to exercise, I had to be up by 6:00am.
That meant OUCH.
But my daughter is more important than my sleep so up I get.
So sleeping in is reserved for an occasional Saturday and the sacrifice is so worth it.

But....last Friday.... I had nothing to be up for. A vast, unlittered morning to relax in bed with my Bible and maybe even breakfast. With a sigh of contentment I snuggled back into my warm bed and opened to the book of Luke.

That must have been some kind of cue, because in to my bedroom blew a Rose.

"Hi mommy. Do you want to snuggle?"
"Sure, come on up. Mommy's reading her Bible right now."
"Cool. Is Jakob coming over today to set up Rowan's drum set?"
(Jakob is the 16 year old son of my friend Natalie)
"I can't wait to see his eyes light up when he sees me."
"Um Rose, he's 16 and you're seven. You're like his little sister."
"No, I'm like his wife." She tosses her head and retorts, "Besides, I'm old for my age and tall for my age and some people think I'm eight."
I close my Bible.
She continues, "AND I have all my children named." She cuddles closer to me, "My first girl's going to be Annie."
Before I can express my gratitude for this honor, she rattles off the names of half a dozen other children that may or may not be a reality one day.
"Those are beautiful names Rose but you'll have to make sure your husband, whoever that may be, agrees with those names."
"No I won't. This is what's going to happen. I'll get married and get pregnant and then my husband will go to war, and I'll name all my children whatever I want."

Suddenly, sleeping in lost all of it's appeal. I was out of that bed with an energy I didn't know I possessed at that early hour.

I'll take 6am exercise to talking to Rose about marriage any day.
She is scary.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

What Stays Up

It's my birthday and I sit with a cup of tea and listen.
And I hear men and chain saws.
Ahhh, not what I was expecting either.
Six men to be exact with multiple chain saws going at once.
It is alarming, but necessary.
We have to clear the area for the garage/apartment that is going to be built. Something new is coming. But, oh, the trees.

When we first saw this house we were so excited about the possibility of buying it. I called my sister Amy and told her all about it. She was skeptical. "It sounds too expensive for such an old house."

So I took her to see it. She glanced at the house and then caught sight of the grove of trees behind it. Maple and beech and oak and locust. She hurried to check out the trees, calling back over her shoulder, "Buy it."

When Dave told me earlier this fall that the trees had to come down, I was stunned. I mean I knew we couldn't exactly drive through them to get to the garage, they're not the Redwoods, but still. Really? Down as in not up anymore? As in no more branches stretching beauty towards the sky?

Today is my birthday and I sit with a cup of tea and listen.
And I hear things changing.
It's alarming, but necessary.
New things are coming. But oh, I will miss the beauty of what was.

Several weeks ago, when I was driving home, I looked in the rear view mirror and I saw a hand.
Ahhh, not what I was expecting either.
A worship song was on the radio and my little daughter in the back seat was raising her hand in response.
There will always be change, always old things coming down to make room for new things, always years falling like leaves.
But by the grace of God, always that hand upraised, no matter what else comes down.
Always the upraised hand stretching beauty towards the sky.
By the grace of God, I want to always see the hand when I look in the rear view mirror.

My babies giving me presents. They're so generous with Ma Glo's money.

Dave was so sweet to me and gave me lovely gifts and a card with a pouty princess on it that looked just like me.


Monday, November 24, 2014

Waiting Thankful

Rose loves an outing.
A trip with Ma Glo inevitably means candy or a coloring book. Or both.
So she skips in to ask if she can go to the store with her Grandma and I nod a slow yes, prolonging her anticipation.
Ma Glo tells Rose that she'll just run down to her house to get her car and then she'll drive up to get her.
Rose gets her shoes on and slips out to wait on the porch.
I get lost on the Internet, reading someone's story somewhere about something. It obviously impacted me deeply. I was interrupted from that memorable something by a tragic faced child.
Her three words gnashed.
"She forgot me."
And then silence while I gasped for air and her eyes pooled.
"She never came for me. It's been so long. She forgot me."
Instinctively I knew that this was more than coloring books and candy, this was the longing of humanity, to be remembered. To be worth remembering.
And I spoke the words I needed to hear, "Rosy, Ma Glo loves you. She would never forget you."
"Then where is she!"
On cue came the sound of an opening door, "Rosy! Are you ready?"
Rose ran.

This Thanksgiving I am thankful for a God who doesn't forget us.
I am thankful that when I doubt this I can resource His Word that tells me, "Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;"  (Isaiah 49:15,16)
I am thankful that He promises, "Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you."
I am thankful that I was reminded by a little girl, that when my eyes start to pool and doubt gnashes deep, a Hand is already on the door knob waiting to open it.
And when He opens that door,
I will run,
because I have been waiting a long time.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Our Vast World

The fire blazes every night.
In front of the fire sits a grey dog, and bookish children with their bookish mother. Their active father is working hard and is often absent into the night.
The house smells like ham stew and pears in the food dehydrator. Wood fire. And dog.
A cat perches on the back of a chair.
And this world that overwhelms me with its vastness, is condensed. Corseted into an eight by eight section of rug.
I read out loud.
The Long Winter.
All of a Kind Family.
Charlotte's Web.
Escape From Mr. Lemoncello's Library.

Daddy surprises everyone by getting home early and his round of books begin.
The Hardy Boys.
The Warden and the Wolf King.

I could never count how many books I've read over the years to these kids or how many times I've gone hoarse.
It's beyond calculation.

This is our winter world.
Curled in front of a fire, lost in the vast world of story with several animals joining our travels.
All this glory on an eight by eight section of rug.
And outside, another world waiting.........

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Stories Together

I've been amazingly blessed with car time this fall.
Inevitably Rose starts off this time with, "Tell me a story Mommy."
It is not a request.
So a few weeks ago, I decided to turn the tables.
As soon as I heard her seat belt click into place, I said, "Tell me a story Rosy."
Silence indicated that she was contemplating this turn of events.
"All my stories are your stories Mommy."
And I blinked hard, because she was correct. All the stories she has heard and lived have been with me. Everything that has happened so far in her short life, has happened with me. I love that.

So here is our last month in pictures. All the stories we've lived together.

The frogs that my three younger children consider family.

The "all boy" camping trip out to an island for Rowan's 9th birthday.


Dave's Aunt and Uncle gifted us this boat this spring. So sweet!

Pensive Grant

Eager Rowan

Picking pears at the cottage.

Rowan asked for a pair of overalls and a push lawn mower for his birthday.

The boy's dam and the resulting pond

The kids made themselves breakfast down on the island.

Rowan had to get creative with where to put the pears!
This fall has been a beautiful reminder that the stories we are making right now, will be retold to other little children someday. So I can laugh at the odd, embarrassing, silly things my children (not to mention their parents) do, because someday.....those very things will make a great story.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Days That Pass

"I stopped there in my field and looked up. And it was as if I had never looked up before. I discovered another world. It had been there before, for long and long but I had never seen nor felt it. All discoveries are made in that way: a man finds the new thing, not in nature but in himself."
-David Grayson
I learned a lot this summer. And as summer revolved into fall I grappled with my knowledge, trying to own what I knew, desperate to apply it.

One life change led to another. Avonlea gone for two months became Avonlea home but at school every day. We don't blink at her gone for 7 hours a day because her mission trip accustomed us to life without her. The tragedy of seven hours absence is quelled in comparison to two months. She is her own responsible, independent, mini adult. That change was birthed on the mission field for her and for myself, it was birthed in an orchard.

Avonlea at the Colosseum

All summer long, I walked the orchard every night that we were up at the cottage. It was therapeutic to walk down row after row in prayer and praise and communion with the Maker of nature's fruit. Up one aisle, down the next. The kids would either be in bed or occupied when I slipped away, but sometimes they weren't. Sometimes they'd ask to come and I'd resist, I'd been with them all day, I wanted to be alone with the Lord. But they only learn what they see, so sometimes I'd take one of them. We'd take turns praying aloud. Up one aisle, down the next. And my heart would break wide open in the blessing of this. My child and I, side by side, talking to the God of the universe like He was walking next to us. A new faith was birthed in that orchard, a far costlier fruit than the pears that hung thick.
Dam building at the cottage
There was pain this summer. Physical pain. My mom fell down the stairs at our house, while we were gone, and broke her tibia. My husband had a tooth implant that got an infection that spiraled him into unbearable pain for 12 days. My mom and my husband, my support system, knocked flat by pain I was completely helpless to alleviate. I felt it deeply, my daughter was gone beyond my help or influence, my closest loves were suffering intensely, and I had no control. At one point Dave woke me in the night to pray...again...sleep was intermittent at best for over a week and we were both exhausted. I pulled myself up and told Dave, "God is sick of my voice!" But He wasn't. He isn't.

My voice calling out to Him in every situation is exactly what He wants. I experienced the truth that though circumstances made me feel out of control, I was exactly where He wanted me. That I am never so well provided for, so perfectly centered, as when I am out of my control and in His. That any time I feel in control, I am being hallucinatory.

So we swing forward into the next season and I struggle to live this every day. To teach it to my children. To make sure they know that no matter what, God's got them. They are His, He will never forsake them. Sometimes my love for them becomes my driving force and I have to mentally go back to the orchard. Walk with them, teach them to pray, remember the fruit.

 My life will never look like it did before this summer. The birth of one thing requires the death of another. I've known that before and now I know it again. This summer birthed a new era of our family and there is mourning sometimes for the era that is past. But my husband's mouth and my mom's ankle are healing, growing strong again, and I know that we will too.
And until then, He's got us.
And when we're thriving in this new now, He'll have us still.


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Building to Last

In 1908, when our house was being built, the owners put up a little, temporary house to live in.
It didn't have a foundation or a real roof.
It was never meant to be lived in long term, only until this house was built.
But somehow, it was sold, and for the last 60 years a married couple lived in it.

About 3 years ago, we were given the opportunity to buy it, as it adjoins our property.
We couldn't believe the conditions that the elderly couple had been living in.
Looking in from the front door.
These pictures were taken last fall.

Every floor was crooked. Ah, foundations do matter.

The chimney had fallen in without a proper roof to hold it up and withstand moisture. Ah, the roof is essential for protection from the elements.

When we asked HOW? WHY? this couple had stayed and lived in this hovel, the wife said,
"It was all we knew."
Living in a place that was never meant to be lived in. Staying, because it had become familiar.
I sympathized.
But I knew there was potential for more.
So this June, we did it.

Because sometimes you just have to start over.
Start right.
Put in a foundation that lasts.
Put up a roof that protects.
Build for life.
So we are reclaiming this property.
We break ground in a couple months on a garage/apartment.
We are building a shelter to last.
And then I'm going to decorate.

Friday, August 8, 2014

A Letter to my Aunt

Dear Aunt Karen,

Thank you for coming to visit my mother, your sister. You make her so happy.

She has had a bad couple of weeks of pain. As you know, she fell down my steps and broke her foot.

She was actually using a walker which aged her considerably. I told her to stop using it because when I was with her, it also aged me. I can not possibly be old enough to have a mother who needs a walker.
But when you came, the walker was tossed aside and she walked blithely.

My children loved you because you bought them books and called them "normal" (a word I've certainly never called them).

They also loved you because you called their Grandma "Tootypants".
Which is accurate.
They loved that you showed them pictures of your funny, beautiful grandkids.

I loved that you are an easy laugh. I loved that you probably disagreed with 75% of what I said, but you didn't let on that you did, (except for that slip about the rapture). I loved that you only wear cotton or linen and that you have Hebrew words around your neck.

I loved that before I took this picture you ran off to "put on your lips". Which is something that is apparently only done in your home state of Texas. Mom and I thought you were going to come out with wax lips or maybe a Mr. Potatoehead smile.

Ma Glo and Aunt Karen with her lips
My mom finally got her desire for a little sister when she was nine years old. You made her very happy. Except when you wet your pants. I am sorry she made you wash out your panties even though you were only three. It was cruel. She deserves to be called Tootypants. And apparently I deserve (for reasons known only to yourself) to be told that story every time I see you. To quote your favorite movie, "let it go" Aunt Karen.

You still make her very happy. Even though you ran out of my house claiming you were about to wet your pants. I wonder what she would have done if you had. We may never know. Although there will be other visits and your not getting any younger.

Again, thank you for coming Aunt Karen.

Thank you for flirting with the waiter at the pizza place to make my mother laugh.

I'm sorry my tea gave you hot flashes.

Your loving, laughing niece,

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A Time to Say Yes

I'll admit. There were times when the concept of "18 years" overwhelmed me.
Not at first. Not when I held their soft, wet bodies for the first time.
But later. Around one and a half.
Eighteen years stretched out before me as a vast uncharted sea inhabited by diapers, Prom dates, pink eye, shaving, hide-and-seek, bubble baths, Algebra, and Barbie.

There were nights I remember falling to sleep with one prayer repeating itself over and over in my mind, "Oh Lord, tomorrow, let me be nice."
Because sometimes I felt that I had reached the summit of insanity by having four young children and attempting to educate them. And feed them. And keep their bodies sanitary. (Note I didn't say clean).
And the number kept me numb, eighteen years, eighteen years with each of them, on this uncharted, unpredictable sea.

I survived.
I learned to use a compass. I learned to notice trade winds. I became the essence of "nautical".
And I loved it.

Then Avonlea left for her 2 month mission trip.
It felt as if I had gone to bed 7 months pregnant and woke up not pregnant anymore. I knew my daughter existed, that she still was, but I had no tangible proof of it.
I felt like I had taken my 14 year old daughter, who legally I had until 18, and prematurely sent her off in a life boat alone.
I panicked.
What in the world was I thinking?
 My preemie was adrift.
Were her lungs developed enough; could she breathe on her own?
What if a storm came up and she was alone?
Her skin, was it ready to protect her little body?
Could she manage her oars, she only weighed 93 pounds?
Her eyes, were they ready for light?
And I couldn't know. Not for sure.
I got several letters and they only served to increase my doubt.
"Joel is so hilarious mom. He makes the funniest faces."
How do I interpret that? Is Joel a cute boy or an orangutan?

Then there was the letter who's back was covered only with the words to the whole song of "I love you a bushel and a peck." which I haven't sung to her since she was approximately four.
Was she telling me that she too, remembers. Was she letting me know her life jacket was on, that she was coping with the sea on her own?
The hardest part about all this was that I shouldn't be whiny or bitter (this is not saying that I'm not, just that I shouldn't be).
These babes watched me as I floundered in the sea of "many little lives". They saw my failures. My sea sickness. My dismay at being caught by storms I should have seen coming. They heard my prayers. They met Jesus through their Daddy and I. And they fell in love. With us first, and then with Him.
Because the Love of Christ compels.
So when my daughter said, "Can I go serve the Lord?" it would have been rather inconsistent to plead eighteen years.
There were times for "no". But I knew it was time for "yes".

So she left, went forward to tell people about Jesus, to help those in physical and spiritual need.
And I felt the vastness of silence.
I learned that the most terrifying sea is not always the sea in storm, but the sea in silence. Vast and lonely and stagnant. No shore in sight.
But there is a shore, I just don't know what it will look like, I can't see it.
She'll come home in a little over a week.
She'll have sailed alone, on her own. Without me.
She'll describe to me her experiences and I will employ every ounce of my imagination trying to experience them, too.
The same baby that metamorphosed to missionary in my arms, I will hold again. But differently.
Giving her space to splash about with her oars. Space to learn adulthood like I learned motherhood.
Space to grow up.

Grant told me recently that he's praying about going on a mission trip next summer.
"Would you be okay with that?" he asks me timidly. He's watched me all summer. Praying for Avonlea. Missing Avonlea.
"Absolutely Grant. Always go when God asks."
Because whatever boat He puts you in, He will teach you to maneuver.
Because whether the sea is stormy or stagnant, He is faithful.
Because I trust Him with this life's most precious cargo, my children.

Many years ago I stopped falling to sleep praying, "Oh Lord, tomorrow, let me be nice."
It has altered to, "Oh Lord, may they all love You, may they all love You, may they all love You..." It's the lullaby of faith, the splay of water on the hull, the heartbeat of new life; soft and wet.

Monday, June 16, 2014

First Gleam

Every morning we meet.

These 4 kids and their weary mommy. We spend an hour or so reading God's Word, memorizing scripture, praying for people, reading a  missionary story. Because years ago, when trying to define the purpose of home schooling my kids, I realized that the most important thing was that they left this house with a strong relationship and consuming love with/for Jesus.

And this morning, again, we met. Again, we opened God's Word and prayed and then we talked about inside obedience vs. outward obedience. And we prayed for our missionary. And today, it happened to be their sister. Avonlea is leaving this week to serve the Lord in the capacity He has called her.

Avonlea and her friend Gabrielle will be gone for two long months.

God has been so good to so faithfully lead our daughter. We are so thankful for the music and laughter and joy that she has blessed our home with. Oh we will miss her!

But we are so excited for this new adventure. For the path that God has called her to walk at this time. Just like all our treasures, we hold her with an open hand, knowing well how capable and trustworthy our God is.

"The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn,
shining ever brighter till the full light of day."
Proverbs 4:18

Wednesday, June 4, 2014


Lovingly, I watch them grow. Often with sorrow, more often with joy.

In January of this year I had to put Avonlea and Grant in an Algebra 1/2 class. I couldn't figure out the problems, I couldn't help them. They needed what I didn't have, a mathematical brain, to guide them. I found them a class on Wednesday mornings and all was well.
But Tuesday nights were tough. There were problems they couldn't get on the work they had to turn in on the morn.
Finally I told them, "Why don't you show each other the problems you don't get. Your brains are exactly opposite each other's so you can probably help."
Sure enough, every problem Avonlea didn't get, Grant did, and vice versa.

They worked together at the kitchen table. An hour passed and the sun descended.
And I realized that they had both surpassed me. They could help each other because I could no longer help them. They can diagram sentences that I can't fathom the mechanics of. They have both surpassed me in musical ability and can sight read way better than I can. They eat more than I do.
And as I watched them working, I felt as though I had nothing to offer them.
I lit the candle on the table. I lit it as light for them. I lit it just for the sake of beauty.

The paradigm shifted and I saw that this is always all I had to offer them.
The Light of the world resides in me, shines through my inadequacies, and illuminates the path my family walks.
If I think I have anything more than that to offer, anything higher to live up to, anything necessary that I lack, I am mistaken.
When I doubt myself, I remember the Light, and I aim for transparency.
Because He is always enough.


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