Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!

...We had the Minnie Mouse costume all laid out... Pink and white polka-dot (or pocket doughnut, as Aud would say) dress... puffed sleeves... eye-lit bloomers... and, in the remote possibility that it actually got chilly, striped stockings to go underneath... but when it came time to change Aud would have none of it... "I not like it, Mom! It's too scratchy!" it was Nanny's brilliant idea to just leave the stockings on, add a few freckles, and call her "Pippy Longstocking."

I, on the other hand, was in "costume limbo"... intending to dress as a gypsy fortune teller... but looking more like a hippy wearing too much make-up... Dutch didn't mind.

Trick-or-treating at La Encantada was the best... when was the last time you walked into Tiffany's and the man behind the counter offered you a sucker?

Friday, October 30, 2009

And so it goes...

Dutch and Audrey spent all morning clearing the back lot... At sunset, after naps, he came inside and said he wanted to show me something... we wandered down the makeshift path, past dozens of purple prickly pears, palo verde and mesquite trees, and scattering 4 or 5 quail who were meandering through the brush until finally we arrived at a thirty by fifty foot patch of fresh dirt, soft and fine as powder.

"Here it is," Dutch said. "This is where the house will be..."

I shook my head, half-amused, half-dismayed.

He showed me where the dining room and bedrooms would be... From the kitchen there would be a view of the Catalina mountains... from the living room, a glimpse of the sun as it sank behind the Santa Ritas.

"It's pretty," I said. "It's just - such a big project."

"I don't ask you to stop writing stories..."

"No," I said. "And it would be cruel of me to ask you not to express yourself creatively... It's just, I don't exactly ask you to live in my stories."

"Oh, but you do, in a way."

I burst out laughing. "I see there is no use trying to reason with you."

"Hey!" Audrey suddenly interjected in a shrill ecstatic whisper, "Guys. Daddy gonna build a castle!"

"You want Daddy to build a castle? Here?"

"Yesss. For Nanny."

"A castle? For Nanny?"

"Yess. Daddy gonna build a castle and Nanny gonna come and live here."

Ah, the world through a 2-year-old's eyes. It gave me a boost of something like inspiration. Or perhaps consolation. Or both. "Now," I said, "that would really be something."

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Sunday Dinner

Just before dinner, Dutch and I were walking home after witnessing a spectacular sunset. We had missed the first part and I was feeling regretful. “Heather,” he said, “relax. There will be another one tomorrow!”

I was quiet for a few moments and then I said, "Have you ever stopped to think how amazing it is that God arranged the universe in such a way that the sun rises and sets every 24 hours? I have been thinking about how repetitive everything is... and I don't mean just because I am taking care of two babies! The repetition is woven into the fabric of the universe, you know? Day follows night follows day, and so on. We wake up hungry and thirsty… so we eat and drink and eat and drink and drink so more. In ten or twelve hours we are so tired we have to lay prostrate for eight hours - or in our cases, five - " I nudged him, smiling, "just so we can wake up and do it all again..."

"When you think about it, it is so obvious," Dutch said, "that God made us to be dependent..."

"Yes, it's as though He ordered everything to remind us that, just as our physical person needs nourishment, so does our spiritual person… But still I spend the better part of every day resisting the obvious. I wake up a tabula rasa - running around trying to accomplish things… and forgetting to take time just to sit at His feet, listening." I sighed heavily. “I don’t know what it will be like in eternity, but I sincerely hope that abiding in Christ won't be such a struggle…”

“Well," Dutch said, “in eternity there is no night. Christ is the sun and He illumines everything…”

His matter-of-fact application of what has always seemed, to me, an ethereal Scriptural passage caused every hair on my head to stand suddenly on end.

"The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp."
~Revelation 21.23

**For dinner we had steak and Ina Garten's Roasted Shrimp Cocktail**

AZ Pumpkin Patch

Monday, October 26, 2009

It Is Finished...

"Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her."

~Luke 10.41-42

When, as a child, I had the rare privilege of visiting Chuckey Cheese, my favorite game involved a foam hammer and a bunch of alligators in a Louisiana swamp. Remember this one? You slotted your token and their heads began to pop out of the water in dizzying succession. The more heads you hit, the faster they kept popping up and down, and the longer the game went on...

I got a rush out of it every time.

Twenty-odd years later, I realize I have adopted this attitude toward daily household chores.

Like most people, I get satisfaction, even a certain sense of security and worth, out of crossing things off my to-do list… I often loathe "mundane" tasks - like bed-making, dishes, and gathering all the toys back into the toy chest… And yet they give me a fleeting rush of satisfaction, a momentary assurance that life is "okay" and "under control."

A lot of days I wait until the last possible moment and then make a game of seeing how quickly I can “get them out of my life:” Eight minutes until Daddy's home! And, GO!

But just like the alligators, they keep coming back. Every morning the bed sits begging to be made, the sink quickly fills with dishes, and before I am even dressed the toys have once more been scattered across the living room floor.

I aspire to be like Mary; and yet I identify with Martha… with that persistent voice that always tells me if I just finish X then I can sit down and rest at the feet of Jesus. But X will always be there. In fact, the moment I hammer it back down three others crop up in its place.

So what must I do? I have tried either extreme: ignoring the daily tasks entirely as well as throwing myself into them so wholeheartedly that I have time for little else... Neither works… both ultimately leave me feeling undone …

I have come to realize that God made life to be constantly filled with this kind of endless ‘clutter.’

I believe He made it this way for at least two reasons: first, to make me dependent on Him; and second, to reveal my desire for completeness, wholeness, and perfection. What I really want, after one of my harried, crazy cleaning binges, is to be able to say, “It is finished…forever.”

And perhaps therein lies the secret, the deeper/truer reason behind and answer to all my frenziedness. For there is One who has finished for all time the most important, life-giving work – and that is the work of salvation. Christ accomplished this on my behalf and those three words – IT. IS. FINISHED. – were not only the last he uttered on this earth, they are the reason that I can be free to go about the daily tasks of my life... with my hands engaged but my heart at peace… “Always working but always resting,” as Tim Keller says in his great sermon on rest.

I should still seek to do my best. But I can be at peace even in the face of those tasks that remain perpetually ‘unfinished’ – like laundry, dishes, bed-making – because my worth and security are no longer contingent upon my perfect completion of these things.

Perhaps most exciting to me, I can free myself to spend time doing things that might otherwise seem reckless, like spending the whole morning in my scrubby clothes on the lawn … with my Bible and a can of bubbles open, while Audrey does circles around me.

I can be grateful for the enormity of what He did at great cost to Himself; and what little, by comparison, He requires me to do.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Friday, October 23, 2009

Mistle Thrush

Mistle Thrush (aka Storm Thrush or Stormcock. Latin: Turdus viscivorus). 1. A songbird with gray-feathered wings and a black and white spotted breast. Builds small round nests that can hold a large number of eggs. Though not usually aggressive, it is a ferocious protector of home and offspring and is known to battle birds of prey. Unlike other birds, which fall silent as storms approach, the mistle thrush has a peculiar habit of singing. Its solitary call can be heard through the worst of gales as it faces the fury and sings boldly.

**I want to be like this bird.**

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The mother of all backhoes...

Approximately six weeks ago Dutch was up late, in bed, working on his laptop. When I look up from my book and sleepily peer over to see what he is doing, he closes the screen quickly, but not before I am able to read this snippet from an ebay advertisement:

At 18 feet this mother of all backhoe loaders will get any job done…”

“Dutch," I say, suddenly wide awake, "Are you looking at buying a backhoe?”

“I might be.”

“What for?”

He is quiet for 45 long seconds. Then: “Wouldn’t it be cool if instead of entering our driveway in its current location we could enter it ten or fifteen feet due north?”

Now I am the one who is quiet. Finally I say, “That would make absolutely no difference."

Silence. (Since marrying into a Dutch family I have discovered that silences are most often pregnant with meaning and may be interpreted in a myriad of ways, depending on the context. In Dutch's case, silence usually means either: 1) the answer to my question is yes and/or 2)he has already made up his mind and there will be no further discussion.)

"Dutch," I say, "You just want an excuse to dig up the yard, don’t you?”


"But what about Audrey? You know she's going to want to be out there with you?"

"That's the whole point. It will be good bonding for us..."

"Good bonding? Reading a book is good bonding. Or trimming the trees. Driving around in a backhoe is dangerous! What if she were to fall under the wheel?"

"You're so dramatic."

"Dramatic is one word. Seasoned is another."


Subject closed.

Several nights later I awake in the middle of the night to find Dutch sitting up in bed again, his laptop open. He is chewing his bottom lip the way he always does when he is concentrating… when he sees me he quickly closes his computer…

“Babe,” I say, “What are you looking at?”


“Show me.”

He sheepishly flips open his laptop and I am shocked to discover that he has been looking at… pictureson the internet... from a website called: Italian Villas dot com.

“Are you looking at property in Italy?”

“No,” he says. “I want to build a house.”

“A house? Where?

“In our back lot.”

“But I like the house in our front lot. We haven’t even lived here a year.”

“I know. But I want to build a house. I want to tinker.”

“If you want to tinker why don’t you build a tree-house?”


Fast forward several weeks. We are lying in bed... it is late… and when I say late I mean it is 9:30.

We don’t normally go to bed this early but tonight we are extra tired because Dutch has been in Los Angeles doing business… and I have been home helping Audrey do her business.

If you know what I mean.

I say, “Dutch, you don’t really want to build an Italian villa on our back lot, do you?”


I stare at the ceiling and imagine what it will be like to live ten feet from a construction zone. (We renovated our last house while we were living in it and swore afterward we would never do it again.) The sounds of a grinding machine, a nail gun, a chop saw, and a back hoe beep-beep-beeping in reverse all coarse through my brain like pebbles through a vacuum cleaner.

“Dutch,"I say, suddenly frantic. "Think about it. That would be so stupid.

Silence. Then, “You’re mean.”

It’s then I realize how attached he is to the idea. I am suddenly remorseful.

“Oh,” I say, reaching for him beneath the covers, “come over here…”


“But Dutch. Just tell me why you want to do it so I can understand?”

“I have four letters for you. In no particular order: E-R-E-F. You figure it out.”

“Hmmmmm,” I say. “REEF? FEER?”

“No. Keep guessing.”





“There are only 16 possible combinations. Are you really going to go through them all?”

“I’m tired, okay? I give. What is it?”


"And you call yourself a literary genius.”

Then several nights ago Dutch and I were sitting around a dinner table at a nearby restaurant… It was a business dinner and there were four other couples present. One of the wives, a good friend of mine, leaned over the table and said to me, “Sooo…I heard about Dutch’s latest purchase…”

My eyes widened to the size of saucers. “Dutch!” I said, loud enough for everyone at the table to hear. “You didn’t!?”

Silence. A wry smile.

“The mother of all backhoes???”

“…is ours.”

*And on its way here from Illinois this very moment on a flatbed truck.*

A little bit of splendor in the grass...