Friday, December 18, 2015

A Love Story

Christmas always catches me not looking.
Like a baseball in the side of the head.
I'm absorbed in a million other thoughts and relationships and activities when suddenly I realize that one of these things is not like the other.
I sit in front of a huge sparkling tree. An attempt to decorate nature, which surely doesn't need my help. A frumped up version of God's simplistic beauty.
This is my incline.

I lean toward the covering. I am a daily Eve sewing the fig leaves together to hide the starkness of myself.

I learn again. And again. That God desires to do the covering that He tells us to "put on" love over every other virtue. He designs the clothes, He removes the self-made inadequate rags, He dresses us in love and a bevy of other good garments. This is grace. God's grace that I don't deserve. God's grace celebrated in the form of a naked baby, wrapped in swaddling clothes, provided by His Father. .

When the boys hit me in the side of the head with a baseball I get mad.
When Christmas hits me I get very sad, because it tells me that I wasn't looking in the right direction.
As the boys say in self-defense, "If you would have been watching us, you would have seen it coming." And they're right, where are a mother's eyes supposed to be if not on her children.
Or her Father.

But I'm hopeful. Jesus came and He brought us hope. I hope that one of these years, Christmas will catch me looking in the right direction.

And yet...
Even in my immaturity and inattentiveness...
He loves me and shows me His love in tangible ways.
Through my loving, prayerful husband.

Through my laughing, whining children.

Through divine protection.

Through the love and support of friends, far and near.

Through the quiet hours with books that reflect Him.

Through the celebrations of life.

Through the ability to serve others and the joy of doing so.

Through the gift of laughter.

Avonlea's latest crochet project.


I asked Avonlea how she liked one of the fiction school books she had to read this semester.
She looked at me with a frown and replied, "It's alright but there's too much love in it. It's about Robin Hood's men and they should be thinking about other things."
I laughed and replied, "Did you know the Bible is a love story Avonlea?"
She rolled her eyes and got out of the car. She knows a baseball when she sees one. As she ran into piano lessons I rolled down my window and yelled, "This whole life! Everything! It's all a love story!"
And there can never be too much love in any story....Christmas proves that.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Braving the Mosquitoes

I once read in a book a scenario where a young man longs for Venice. When his dream is finally realized and he is cascading down liquid streets in a gondola...he is nearly eaten alive by mosquitoes.

I cocked my head, golden-retriever fashion, when I read this at the ripe age of 20. Was it sarcasm or cynicism? I have learned some in the last 20 years and I don't think it was either. I think it was just life. Just this side of Heaven. Just a longing for a garden pre-fall.

I remembered this little book tidbit last week when my head was throbbing. My whole entire life I have dreamed of having a grand piano. When I realized that we needed a piano at the cottage so the kids could practice while they're up there, I had a GREAT idea, which I sprung on Dave when we were driving up to the cottage. Why not buy a grand piano for our house and move the upright piano to the cottage. Win/win. Dave tried to tell me that we could save our backs and our bank account by getting a keyboard for the cottage, at which point I broke into tears. "But I've always wanted a grand piano," sob. My strength is obviously subtlety. My good, dear husband turned the car around and drove to the piano store.

And the piano came. Glossy and black and beautiful and loud. Yes, loud. Loud as in I can hear nothing else but piano. All day. I am learning to read lips. Loud as in Rose's piano teacher gave her an Indian war song to play and I hear the drum-like chords pounding in my head for long hours into the night. Loud as in, I break a sweat at the thought of Christmas music.

The kids love to practice on it, and I smile wry at the realization of this dream. If I could hear anything at all, besides Indian chords, I'm pretty sure I'd hear mosquitoes.

As I've mentioned in a previous post, Grant is 13 with a vengeance. I noticed the other day when we had friends over that he didn't participate in the sword fighting. Asked about it later he replied, "I tried to keep the warrior in." I have spent whole Bible studies learning how to make my son a warrior. I have read several books on raising a knight. But the mosquitoes are hungry these days and for goodness sakes Let your warrior mature before he comes out to defend the innocent.

Rose and I home schooling together is another gondola moment complete with whining, bloodsucking insects. I love this child. I love home schooling. But something goes wrong when I try to combine the two. When Avonlea and Grant were little I used to ring a bell to begin school. They would come running down the stairs yelling, "Yay! School! What are we doing today mommy!!" (Completely legit here). This no longer happens. Rosy and I resemble wrestlers circling each other in the ring. I try to take her over her flashcards and she listens for "voices" which tell her the answers, giving math the atmosphere of a séance. The "voices" are more often wrong than not and I begin to lose my patience with the "voices". Why couldn't the "voices" belong to people who were good at math? Yesterday during flashcards as I inhaled deeply trying to keep calm and loving, Rose put her hand on my arm and said, "It's worth it mom." Mosquitoes galore in that moment.

Sometimes I can believe the idea that this life is all mosquitoes. But it's not. I actually made it to Venice. (Literally and figuratively) I love my family, my friends, my home. I love my God. There is beauty all around me. It's a little bit different than I imagined it would be, but that's what Heaven is for. It's foolish to think that life should be perfect, because if it were, what in the world would I laugh at?

And although it's humbling to hear it from my eight year old, Rose is right. It's totally worth it.

PS Rose passed "Little Indian Brave" and is on to "Beaded Moccasins".
I'm pushing for politically correct piano books.

Monday, October 12, 2015

On The Edge

When you are teetering on the edge of sanity it only takes a small thing to tip you right on over.

Last Wednesday, that small thing came in the form of a dead hamster. Now the hamster itself wasn't the tipper. Actually, I have been known to complain over the longevity of this very hamster. The thing that brought the tears, was the memory of getting the hamster.

I quote from 2014: "We all worked together to set up the cage and then the four of them sat down around the cage and stared that poor hamster down. Grant looked up at me, love radiating out of his sweet face and said, "This is the best day of my life."

The hard part to read there is that last sentence about Grant. Since that hamster moment, my son has turned 13. Radiant and sweet are not exactly the best adjectives used to describe him right now.

I recently brought him with me to North Dakota to visit our friends. As we walked toward our gate at the airport I said, "Grant, we get the whole day together." (Traveling to North Dakota is not for the faint of heart traveler). He replied, "I wish I had some kind of electronic device. Anything would do."

So I went weary to North Dakota, knowing that my friend Dayna would prop my feet up, make me some tea, and feed me yummy things. So I was a little surprised the first day to have Dayna say, "Let's go to the Badlands for a hike!" All instincts told me to STAY AWAY from anywhere called the badlands. Obviously the person who named the place was trying to tell us something. We spent the afternoon there hiking and waiting (while our kids looked for a rattlesnake nest) and it was lovely and a little creepy.

The next morning we ran a 5K. Dayna had asked me before I came if I wanted to and I said "sure!". However...1. I didn't know what a 5K was....2. I was in my jammies drinking tea when I replied.
So we ran/walked it. I enjoyed being with Dayna.

The next day we walked around at a lake. Monday before I left for the airport she made me take a brisk walk before taking me to a tea shop. Something of the carrot there.

When we got on the plane to go home, Grant looked at me and said, "I can't move." Dayna's boys played as hard as she did.

However....I did have plenty of rest and tea and Dayna's good, good cooking...she just made me work for it.

I'm sorry, that had nothing to do with the dead hamster.

I went upstairs as my boys prepared the body for burial and I mourned. Not the rodent, but the era when a hamster was enough to make my boy beam. For the days past, when hugs and kisses were the common currency between us. When we spoke the same language, laughed at the same things, and ate gluten together in secret.
I know this stretching, this change, has to happen. I know it's good. But I miss him.

After I got upstairs, I did fall over the edge. But it wasn't the edge of sanity, merely the edge of control. I have to get over myself, over the fact that he is now making his own choices, over the idea that change is bad and that growth means distance. I'm going to remember that Peter Pan needs to be allowed to leave Neverland.

I want to rejoice in this. To honor my son and my God as I help Grant transition into adulthood. But in all honesty, I'm struggling right now.

Discouragement brings with it so many voices. Exhaustion invites rude guests.

Today I fought the good fight, yesterday I didn't.

I don't know what tomorrow will bring.

But I know truth. So I strive to live it. To let my burden fall when I realize it's too heavy. To laugh upon slightest provocation. To turn a cold shoulder on self-pity. To take a nap. To spend time with Jesus and ask for His eyes and heart. To throw myself over the edge without waiting for something to propel me.

Rowan turned 10 this week. He is a wonderful boy. Sweet and loving and helpful and full of questions. I tell him I will never have all the answers to his questions, but I will always love him, and that will just have to be good enough!

And that's kinda that, my faulty love and God's perfect love, is all I have to offer them.
May love be what pushes them over every edge.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

A Risk Worth Taking

Rose wasn't supposed to be Rose.
I had my mind made up that my next little girl was going to be Quinn.
Quinn Anne to be exact and she was going to have dark hair and eyes and live the siren legacy I was bequeathing to her.
And then...years before I'd gotten pregnant with Quinn...Avonlea said, "I'm praying to God for baby Rose." I've never gotten to the bottom of where it came from. Did she like the flower? The carousal horse that she liked to ride whose name was Rose? Laura Ingalls' little daughter? I will never know.
By the time I did get pregnant again Rose was a reality that I couldn't shake. Avonlea had to live through another brother first (she broke down in the ultra-sound lamenting Rose). But finally, soon after Rowan (might I add EXTREMELY soon after) little Rose made her entrance.
Dave and I decided on a middle name and added with our last name, her initials were RSK. One letter away from a risk. That made us laugh and it felt vaguely naughty so we liked it because we never are really naughty so anything that even comes close has appeal.

We had no idea.

Rose is naughty enough for all of us and lives up to her initials.

I laughed out loud today at a memory. Rose was 2 and I was praying for her before she went to bed. My prayer was more a whine than a prayer as I was lifting up before the Lord all the terrifically terrible things my daughter had done that day with the intention of asking Him to FIX the child when I was interrupted by little hands across my mouth and big green eyes inches from my own and a little indignant mouth that said, "STOP TELLING DOD ON ME!"

So I have. I've stopped telling God about what was wrong with my daughter and started thanking Him for the little Rose she is.

I see a beautiful young woman emerging. She is loving and thoughtful and happy. She is loyal and scandalous and dramatic. She is a ballerina. She is an animal lover. She asks good questions and isn't afraid to let us know when our answers are unsatisfactory. She loves Joshua but rolls her eyes at Samson. She wants to be just like her mommy.

Summer is winding down and I will never live this particular one again. That's okay, because I've lived it fully, enjoying this family, my God, the beautiful world.... I let it go and look forward to the next season...

 Rose brought me out into the yard today to watch her throw up the soccer ball and kick it mid-air. She tried about 10 times, missed, and apologized for missing. Finally she said, "I know you don't have time for this Mommy, you can go."
I answered in all sincerity, "Rose I have all the time in the world for you."

Because this whole life is one big risk. Children, the greatest risk of them all. And since I decided to risk it I'm going to do so whole heartedly and love them with everything in me. I'm going to put my arms around them every chance I get. I'm going to make them laugh at every opportunity. I'm going to tuck them into bed and pray with them and share my heart with them. I'm going to listen hard. I'm going to say I'm sorry often. I'm going to kiss their daddy. And I'm going to do some serious talking with God about them (without tattling (much)).

All the time in the world is for right now, for these days.
I'm risking all I've got on them.

Please note, before you put me in league with Samson and roll your eyes at me, that school starts next week. We'll see how I'm feeling about all of this once I start trying to pound math facts in Rose's brain again.  Please remind me then of how much I like her right now.

Monday, August 24, 2015

The Usually Unusual

I believe late summer always finds me extremely random.

It's some strange combination of too much sun, too much time to think, and lots and lots and LOTS of time with my kids. Whom I love. Even when they whistle. Even when they whistle songs that don't exist outside of their heads. Even when they are 15 and still mispronounce "legend" by phonetically saying "leg end" and leave me thinking tibia while they are talking Sleepy Hollow.
See what I mean...random.

I have to record a story right now because it needs to take it's place in the halls of our family history. But I'm warning not continue reading if you are faint of stomach.
You may (or may not) recall that we went to Hawaii in April. Well we left a pregnant cat at home. With my mom. I gave my mom implicit instructions on how to deliver Persian kittens. Persians need help cutting the umbilical cord and delivering the placenta. I told her whatever she does, to NOT LEAVE the cat once labor started because they will let their kittens die if they don't have help. My mom took all this in with a half skeptical half terrified look. I assured her she's make an excellent doula and began to pray.

We got a frantic call in Hawaii that the cat was in labor and when Mom tried to help the cat bit her and broke skin. So she said something like this on the phone, "I'm bleeding. I hate that cat. I'm going to the store to get band aids. I hate that cat." And I wanted to say DON'T LEAVE THE CAT, RECONCILE, there are Band-Aids in the cupboard. But seeing as how I was laying on the beach and my mother was bleeding I wisely said, "I'm so sorry mom. You go get band-aids."
Let's fast forward over the part of this story where she came home to 2 dead kittens. She sent me a picture of the one live one and I had to ask..."Mom is that a dead kitten in the background?" Oops, 3 dead kittens. The good news was that about a week later she found another live one also.

Fast forward to last week. It was Grant's first week home from Trinidad and we celebrated by having friends over. On Monday and Wednesday, several groups of people came to play. Avonlea mentioned at various times during the week that people didn't want to play dress up because it smelled in the dress up area. Finally Mom commented that she thought the cat had pooped on a little pink costume. So later on Wednesday, after all our company left, I grabbed the offensive costume and had Avonlea throw it in the washer. When I opened the washer after it was done, I almost fainted from the smell. I took out the clothes and there was the poop, still solid after a round on sanitize. What had this cat been eating?? I scooped it up with paper towels and found myself looking at a kitten. Or what was left of a kitten. From April. Oops, 4 dead kittens.

Can I just say that this was one of the grosser moments of my life, and if you recall, I have four children, so that's truly saying something.

I don't really feel like writing (or eating) any more after that. But if I did...I'd tell you about my time on the hammock down on the island at the cottage. I took off my glasses and looked at the world, blurry and beautiful. Suddenly I felt like I was blurry, indistinct. I melded with the waving leaves and the laughing brook and the birds flitting all about me. I must have melded for quite a while because when my world came back into focus, I was looking at Rowan yielding a machete (it was actually a stick, I was still fuzzy). He said with concern, "You have been gone for so long! I came to rescue you!" Totally worth putting my glasses on to see each freckle on that precious face.

See I kept writing and I started eating trail mix, too, so that kitten story must not have been that bad.

On Sunday, the people who sold us the cottage came by it to meet us. I officially have new FAVORITE PEOPLE. It was amazing to talk to them and hear of God's faithfulness over the years and how He honors a Godly heritage. We were so encouraged and again recognized God's hand in leading us there.

Next time I write, it will be from a place of school and order and schedule. And I will live a whole year before I have the time to be random again.

This is a good thing.

Photos by Avonlea unless she's in the picture

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Whistling Boy Returns

He's home.
He's smelly, and tan, and laughing.
I got a kiss and a hug that lingered (in more ways than one).
My family is whole again.
And I'm happy.
His words come fast and furious and form themselves into sentences which are bullets of information and emotion.
Note the boots please.
Of course there were sentences that made me cringe.
"I changed my clothes every nine days."
"My bags were overweight so I didn't take my towel or washcloth."
"I don't want to go swimming right now, I'm not used to water anymore."

And sentences that made me cry.
"I was so sick for the first week. When I wasn't working I just laid on my mat and watched the spiders and ticks crawling up the walls."
"I burned so bad on the back of my neck, I was blistered and bleeding."

And sentences that made me proud.
"I asked them why I needed to know that word if I didn't plan on using it."
"The leaders left me in charge when they left the room."

This group of 10-13 year olds did a mighty big amount of work in Trinidad!
And sentences that made me laugh.
"They had a lot of dance parties at the church. I really cut loose on the last night."
"The shark tasted like aquatic chicken."
"I showed my leaders your picture. They all thought you were cute."

His tent at boot camp.
So he's home and he's bathed and healthy and whistling.
He's a vital part of our family and we function best with him here.

Thank you God for bringing my boy home!

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Growing Closer

I have been coping extremely well with Grant being gone.
The absence of his hugs and laughter is augmented by the absence of his whistling.
He is on a great team, with great leaders. He is working hard and eating shark. The only letter I've gotten from him was to inform me that I sent him with the wrong kind of clothespins and he had to (horrors) go and buy new clothespins at the camp store. Obviously this was worth a letter. I didn't really shed any tears over that correspondence. And did I whistling?

I have had great bulks of quiet (as in no whistling) time up at the cottage. Resting my soul and body but challenging my mind through the Bible, prayer, and good books. This is a beautiful combination.

Dave is absent this summer. He was forced to move out of the warehouse his business has been in for over 25 years. God provided a new warehouse right across the street. Literally. So he's been busy moving and I've had to reason and debate and process information with/by myself.

One of the thinks I've been thinking has to do with motives. Take this morning for example.

I woke up at 4am. I put on my robe and went downstairs. I was up for an hour. I couldn't sleep. Why? Was there something specific God wanted me to pray for? Or was it because I had on a new nightgown and bathrobe that I had just gotten in the mail from April Cornell. When I examined my motives in walking the floor in the middle of the night, and realized that I really liked the way my robe swished against the hardwoods, I went back to bed. It's easy to unthinkingly apply righteous motives to our movements. I've been surprised by the "swish" on a number of issues that I've examined. It's humbling.

picking blueberries with Rowan
Avonlea went to camp for a week in July and I had so much fun with just the "R's". They have gotten to be such fun companions. They play together really well too, and with Grant gone, Rowan has let Rose work with him in the shop. She proudly showed me the hammer he gave her and he smiled and nodded saying, "You keep working hard and next year I'll give you a screw driver set Rose." Ahhhh incentives. And later he asked, "Rose what time do you plan on working in the shop tomorrow?" Rose replied, "I'll be there at nine." He shook his head and replied, "The shop opens at eight Rose." He's already got her number. I love it.

Other times they barter over their time and it goes something like this, "Okay Rowan I'll work in the shop for 15 minutes if you play Barbies for 15 minutes first." They have a diverse life at the cottage.

Now we head into a few weeks of company and then Grant comes home and all introspection will grind to a halt. Because I'll be listening with all my heart to my boy's stories about stepping out of his comfort zone to serve the Lord. We will fill him in on what we've done in his absence and life will again flow towards the end of summer as a complete family unit. But we will all be a little bit bigger and different. Rose will know how to hammer. Rowan will have learned compromise. Avonlea will have gleaned from her 26 hours of lectures at WorldView camp. Grant will have served a church body in Trinidad and made countless new friends. Dave will be in a new warehouse and he will have a deeper faith in the Lord's provision. I will be more aware of my motives and will go to bed every night feeling lovely in my new nightgown.

We all grow and deepen into Him knowing we will never reach the bottom of His love no matter how many seasons roll by. But also knowing that each season brings us a little closer to Him and therefore a little closer to each other, even when we're apart.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015


I have my arms around the toilet when she says it.
It's cleaning day and my girls are scrubbing with me. Rose complains about this inconvenience to her plans.
I reason, "Rose, do you know how gross it would be if we didn't clean the toilets and the floors?"
She scours the sink and retorts, "I think we are going to think differently about some things in life."
I slow.
Yes, we probably are.

My mom lives next door to me. We think differently about quite a few things.
She's violently enthusiastic and I'm tentative.

This is what a violently enthusiastic person looks like

We hold differing views on lots of things, but we love each other and we know that we are God's good gifts to one another. We help each other, we offer perspective to the other.

This is good. This is the way God intended family to be. Not a collection of Russia stacking dolls, but unique, different, complimentary.

I need to remember this when my children stretch out of my box of comfort. I need to remember I am not trying to raise perfect little me's (which is in itself contradictory). I am trying to raise God loving/serving/fearing men and women who delight in the individuality of who God has made them.

Rosy sleeping with her babies.

Avonlea on Bald Butte overlooking Mt. Hood

Grant loving his dog

Rowan carries everything in his overalls
what I tend to think my children should look like

what my children actually look like
We explored the attic this week. Avonlea found an old dress of mine from high school. Rowan found the vest to my dad's first suit that I used to wear. They wore them. In public. On purpose. And they were completely themselves in them. They used my things as an accessory to themselves.

Someday, I may come across one of my mom's flags and maybe I'll give it a wave. Maybe Rose will decide never to clean her toilets but she'll love to write poetry while taking a bubble bath.

The possibilities are endless. The potential is amazing. Family is a whole lot of fun.

And one more of my babies will leave the nest next week. This is a video of Grant telling about his mission trip. However, he messed up and cracked us both up. This right here is what I will miss for the next 5 weeks. Please remember him in your prayers.

Sunday, June 7, 2015


I would like to tell you that 18 years ago I married my best friend. But that would be a lie.

Eighteen years ago I married a man I BARELY KNEW. Gracious I was young and incredibly trusting.

But it wasn't Dave I trusted in. Somehow, between the time I graduated from high school and married four years later, God took my self-confidence and people confidence and turned it into God confidence.

When Dave and I got engaged, I told him I loved him because God told me to. He looked at me and I learned to keep that type of information to myself.

And when we were first married and I tried on a new swimsuit and asked how I looked and he said, "Great, except for right here," which he accompanied with a point, I looked at him. He learned to keep that kind of information to himself.

So we jolted along over this road called marriage and somehow, somewhere in the journey, I fell in love with my husband. Not just because God told me to. But because when he messed up he was so humble and repentant. And because when I messed up, he was so forgiving and loving. He makes me laugh. He makes me groan. He is always ready and willing to sacrifice for all of us (except for when it comes to the last piece of pizza). He has logged impressive listening hours. He works without complaint, early mornings and sometimes late nights. He stopped whistling because high sounds make me vomit. I could go on.

So on Friday morning, when I asked him how his previous 20 hour work day had been, I shouldn't have been surprised at the information that followed. What surprised me was that it took him an HOUR to get to the good part. He's been married to me for 18 years and he still doesn't know how to separate Headline News from fillers. We need to work on this. Anyway, after an hour of small talk, he told me that he slid into a fast food booth at midnight with a taco salad. He quickly slid back out thinking someone had spilled something, because it felt wet. He looked onto the bench but didn't see any water. Then he felt his pants. Or what was left of them. There were two holes, one from outer thigh to crotch, the other smaller but wider. He had been all over the city in these pants, up ladders, bending down. He had no idea when it had happened he only knew his pants had been strangely comfortable all day.

As this all flashed into his conscious he could only think of one thing. He still needed salsa. So he kept to the walls facing outward (surely you've seen this in movies and can imagine it). This my friends is why I love him. It didn't matter that he'd been traipsing around the city all day, he was modest enough to slide to his salsa.

I'm not sure when he became my best friend. But we grew up together and we learned together to have God confidence and we learned when to keep our mouths shut. And we are still learning and God willing, we will have many more years and many more stories, and much more laughter.

Happy Anniversary! I love being your wife!


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