Thursday, July 29, 2010

Gratitude


With dinner done, the dishes in the sink, the woman practically stumbled toward the child's room to say a hurried prayer. She trudged past half a dozen unfinished chores - the floor half-swept, the broom still out, three dozen unmatched socks strewn out across the floor, but she trudged past them nonetheless, like a grim-faced soldier, intent on doing her duty... Sliding tired legs between cold sheets and laying head to pillow beside the toe-headed child, she felt, all at once, the hurry pour out of her like the last drops of water go slurping down the drain. They read "The Story About Ping" by Marjorie Flack and afterward they started counting blessings...

God, thank you for blowing out candles in ball jars, and for strength and health to dance to the records of patsy cline; thank you for the rocking chair pressed close up to baby sister's crib, and for singing goodnight songs like "baby mine don't you cry..."; thank you for daddy who always fixes things, even water pipes, and for Uncle Ry-Ry who just finished the bar examination; thank you for flower girl dresses and white ballet slippers; for turtle suits and "boinkin' it up" on the diving board, for jam without bread and 'utella on a spoon; thank you for ribbon banners and ribbon wands and for learning new words, like "desticable," which may be applied generously to the behavior of others, but never to ours.

The woman became so carried away with gratitude that she even thanked God for the 'tarantuler' which her husband had found squatting in the cement planter beside the rose bush that evening.

No, you can't do that, interrupted the girl, 'tarantulers' are bad... when my daddy caught one you got really mad!

Yes, said the woman, you're quite right, but now I feel a little guilty because, after all, God did make tarantulers...the same as he made you and me. (But really, we're not the same; no, not at all.)

Is there anything else? said the woman. What have we forgotten?

Love, Mommy, the girl whispered, we halfta thank him for love.

Yes, said the woman, of course: for love. And that reminds me of something I've forgotten.

What is it? asked the girl.

Why, it's the most important thing of all: you.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Thursday, July 22, 2010


"For in thee, O LORD, do I hope: thou wilt hear, O Lord my God." ~Psalm 38.15

“She asks too much for whom God is not enough.” ~ Hannah Whithall Smith

In my post of July 14th, 2009 I expressed a desire to write with greater regularity, and committed to doing so. Now a year has passed, and I find myself fighting to suppress the urge to ask myself questions of progress or find some way to “measure” the movements my soul has made. Let me see, a year ago I was there; now, where am I?

In this, as in many other things, my concerns are not so different from those of the three-year-old who, just the other morning, clambered into bed beside me, her brown eyes caked in sleep, and asked, “Oh, where’s Nanny, Mudder?”

We took the colored globe down off the shelf and tripped into the hallway, in our pajamas and our bare feet. We sat down on the floor, the globe between us like a magic ball, and set it spinning: the swishing lulled us into silence as we watched oceans and continents pass by beneath our fingers like scattered pieces of a puzzle. I pointed first to Arizona, then to Washington. I folded my palms into the shape of an airplane, hoping to evoke whatever feeble understanding of geographical distances Audrey has absorbed on our many flights across the country, but she only looked at me quizzically and repeated her question: “Oh, but where is she?” “When is she coming? “Why is she not here?”

Where, when, and why – they are questions which, I imagine, rise from the depths of the human soul even before we have acquired language to utter them; and which, from the first moment we are capable of speech, preoccupy so much of our time and attention that few of us ever really venture beyond them.

But fumblings with rulers and scales do not bring me any closer to measuring the distance my soul has traveled; or weighing the balance to determine whether there are differences in quality and substance. Try as I might, I cannot locate my position, on this or any other map. And all attempts to reflect backward and string the circumstances of the last year together into a coherent drama, where each narrative detail follows naturally and logically from the one preceding it, end in disappointment.

And so I throw up my hands and say with the apostle, “I do not even judge myself but keep entrusting myself to the one who judges justly,” replacing monosyllabic questions with monosyllabic words: ‘faith,’ ‘hope,’ and ‘love.’

I don’t know where, precisely, He is taking me; or why it so often seems the path of most resistance. I've no idea when He will bring about the answers to the questions that burn inside my soul; though I strain and squint I see nothing on the horizon – but I have faith that He knows. Christ Jesus is my hope and my soul’s anchor (Ps. 38.15, Heb. 6.19), supplanting, for a time at least, my need to understand the ‘why’ behind life’s deepest complexities and pains. Even if I don’t know when the prison doors will be flung open, setting free that which, in me, remains bound and broken, I know that nothing can separate me from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8.35-39). And it is this love that sustains me.



“O, Lord, I am tired,” said the woman. “I feel I have labored to no purpose; I have spent my strength in vain and for nothing” (Isaiah 49.4).

“That is because you do not understand My purpose, child, which is infinitely higher than yours. You forget that, just as the rain comes down from heaven and does not return to it without watering the earth and bringing forth buds, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”

“I accept this, Lord, but I must confess that this wisdom is beyond me. I do not understand what you are seeking to accomplish. All I know is that I feel forsaken.”

“I know what it is to be forsaken, daughter. I was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hid their faces I was despised and without esteem. If this is the path by which I accomplished the salvation of mankind, can you expect your own path to be so different?”

“No, Lord, I only want your voice and your presence to light my way. But all around me there is darkness – as if I have been covered by a shroud."

"You must be patient, child. Remember, it is out of darkness that I bring forth light; and out of death, new life is born."

"O, Lord, I am so impatient."

"Impatience breeds discontent. When you strain toward the past or future you fail to live in the present; and the present is the only place where you may experience the joy of my presence."

"I long to live in the present! Forgive me for failing to meet you there... but I feel so often that you have forgotten me.”

“No, Daughter, it is you who forget.”

“Me, Lord? What have I forgotten?

“You have forgotten all my benefits. I am he who healed all your diseases and redeemed your life from the pit so that your youth is renewed like the eagles. I have taken out of your hand the cup that made you stagger; from that cup you will never drink again.”

“O, Lord, this is true. Forgive me for failing to be grateful.”

“I created the heavens and the earth; I gathered the waters together into seas and set the glittering stars into place. I, even I, formed you in your mother’s womb. There is not a hair on your head that is not numbered.”

“Such knowledge is too wonderful for me. It is too high, I cannot attain to it. Forgive my presumption and my unwillingness to wait in silence for you to answer."

"Stand at your watch. Station yourself on the rampart. Do not stop looking to see what I will say. The revelation awaits an appointed time. It will not prove false.
Though it linger, WAIT for it. It will come. It will not be delayed."

"Lord, I will wait and look and listen. Forgive the lying thoughts that told me you had forgotten.”

“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast, and have no compassion on the child she has born? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!

“Lord, I believe you; but how will I know?"

“You have no need for more knowledge. Knowledge is wearisome. Instead, you need to know me. Come to me when you are thirsty; come to me when you have no money; come, buy and eat! Listen, listen to me and I will delight your soul with the richest of fare. Come and I will open your ears and instruct your tongue to know the word that sustains the weary.”

"It is so tempting to conclude that you are merely speaking spiritual words in a spiritual language - a language which will never be expressed in the temporal realm.”

"You will see my goodness in the land of the living... Wait on me: be of good courage, and I shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say."

"But waiting is so hard. Isn't there something I can do while I am waiting?"

"Waiting is what I have given you to do. It is an active and not a passive occupation."

"It sounds like such a small thing, but it takes more strength and energy than I possess."

"I will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land. I will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail."

"Behold, I am your servant. May it be done to me according to your word."

a litte light reading

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Mommy One and the Audrey One




Nutella and glitter: few things are better - or better together.

Monday, July 19, 2010

A Tender Mercy


~Luke 1.76-79

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Saturday, July 17, 2010

I remember it this way...


“I will give them singleness of heart and action...” ~Jeremiah 32.39

“Not by might or by power but by My Spirit, says the Lord.” ~Zephaniah 3.6

The sky was gray when we began the long drive west toward the Long Beach Peninsula. I remember our jubilance as we left the city and the suburban ugliness behind in favor of blue skies and rolling green hills dotted, now and then, with apple trees. We crossed the bridge and headed up the peninsular coastline, past Seaside and Oceanside into Klipsan Beach. We were getting nearer… Over Willapa Bay, flocks of seagulls swooped and sang, riding just above the surface of the water; and on the banks of the bay, in the fading sunlight, the tall grass glistened and swayed in the breeze.

Heaps of oyster shells – heaps, as big as elephants! – announced that we we had reached the outskirts of our destination: Oysterville – the town that had beckoned to me since the day I’d gotten lost there several years before; the town where we would be married three days hence, in the little village church, at one o’clock in the afternoon.

Founded in 1854 by two men who were told by an Indian chief of tidelands covered in succulent oysters, Oysterville had once been a booming metropolis, exporting bivalves up and down the western coast. Local historians say that when oyster schooners arrived to pick up their cargo, they often paid in gold; and because the village could not boast of a bank there was often more gold in Oysterville than in any other town on the West Coast, save San Francisco.

But I didn't know these stories then; all I knew was the way the sky looked as we drove down the deserted highway leading through the middle of town, past the General Store and the cluster of houses whose faces looked wistfully out at the bay as if waiting expectantly for something extraodinary to appear on the horizon. The town itself seemed like something from another world, let alone another century – as if it had washed up out of the mind of God and fallen instantly out of memory, like a sea glass bottle swept onto an undiscovered shore – and I knew that I wanted to be swept up with it, woven into its history and hidden behind its weathered doors.

This is how I remember it on July 3rd, 2002 when a dark-haired girl, riding in the passenger seat of an old Volvo four-door, began waving excitedly to the boy behind the wheel, directing him to turn off the small main road onto an even smaller one, called “School Street,” that was canopied in trees.

I remember how the colors glided by my window – streaks of green and gold – until my attention settled, finally, on the weathered gray slats of the schoolhouse, nestled shyly at the end of a long wooden fence, like an actor standing on an empty stage.

And beyond it, behind a square picket fence, stood the church, standing like a secret that had just been breathed, upon a quiet stretch of lawn. At the sight of it, we held our breaths as we crunched slowly down the gravel road. It was an effort to get out of the car, windblown as we were, from driving four hours with the windows down. But we were too full of excitement to let anything like exhaustion register its presence in our bones. It was our wedding weekend! And here we were, at last, standing humbly in front of the very church where our futures would be fused into one future, our separate lives into one life.

We rapped on the door of the ramshackle residence across the street and Sydney Stevens, the silver-haired woman whose great-grandfather founded the town and built the church, led us on a haphazard tour of the tiny, one-room sanctuary.

We don’t allow much in terms of outside decoration, she said.

Oh, but that’s fine! we replied. It’s lovely, just the way it is.

Sydney shrugged. Some folks, you know, want to bring in a lot of other stuff.

Well, we said, but we aren’t like other folks!

Yes, she said, I can see that. And we hoped it was a compliment.

We followed her down the wooden steps to the lawn, turning to examine the brass bell that hung inside the faded red steeple. Sydney loosed her glittering gray eyes upon us and apologized profusely that summer plans had prevented her husband from applying a fresh coat of paint.

We don’t mind, we said. In fact, we rather liked its look of age. The chipping paint and weathered siding says it has been through things; it has endured.

In fact, she said, it has. There was a storm way back that knocked it to the ground but my father, he rebuilt it, slat by slat. Gave it a better foundation; and it has stood solid ever since.

There, we said. That is just what we mean! But though we joked and laughed about the metaphoric significance of getting married in a church that had once been bowled over and rebuilt, we remained naively confident that our foundation was secure.

Indeed, where our future marriage was concerned, we had the highest of expectations; our hopes were brighter than the brightest fireworks which we watched explode, the following evening, in multi-colored fragments above the frothy ocean waves.

On the morning of July the sixth the sky was clear and blue above the softly murmuring ocean waters. Fears of rain and clouds were all dispelled: the sun shone, but not too brightly. The breeze blew, but not too strongly. And on the little knoll outside the schoolhouse, clusters of wildflowers bloomed in shades of yellow gold and tangerine.

Creation itself seemed to be rejoicing with us! The clouds had parted; the flowers bloomed! And we took it as a sign that God’s hand of favor had descended upon us…

In his wedding sermon, looking down at us with shining eyes, our brother seemed to share our joy: “I have huge expectations for your life together,” he said. “And I want to be able to say that I was there when it started. I was part of it right from the beginning, standing next to them when they said, ‘I do.’” His words gave a certain simultaneous affirmation of our hopes while at the same time suggesting that God's definition of greatness would inevitably bear little resemblance to our own.

And indeed, if our story were mine to write, I would have set us soaring on a perpetually upward scale. Bigger, better, and more beautiful - these would have been the words to mark the movements that we made.

But God, whose story we are in, spun it differently. In His words, "...[T]he vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter's hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do" (Jeremiah 18.2).

In the last eight years He has shown us what, on that glittering July day, we thought we already knew: that His ways are not our ways; neither are his thoughts our thoughts. Instead, they are higher and better, if, at times, from our extraordinarily limited vantage point, more humiliatingly painful.

"The vision is not a castle in the air, but a vision of what God wants you to be," says Oswald Chambers. "Let Him put you on His wheel and whirl you as He likes, and as sure as God is God and you are you, you will turn out exactly in accordance with the vision."

It is a messy business, but if we trust Him to do the reshaping, we will, like the bud that bursts forth from the ugly brown bulb, come up ever fresh and green and new.

A Swell Party


We went to a friend's house and had "Breakfast for Dinner"... it was a group of us, actually, and we all brought something: soft scrambled eggs, homemade granola, bacon, fruit, orange juice and champagne for mimosas.

Audrey spent most of her time playing with Sebastian, the cat, and hunting for "baby dinosoars." Her meal consisted mainly of eggs and an enormous slice of french bread that had been slathered with Nutella.

When we got in the car, she sighed, and, borrowing a line from Grace Kelly, said, "That was a swell party."

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

One Fin-al Farewell

Sadly, Goldy was not long for this world... He was discovered belly up in his tank yesterday morning, thus driving a final nail into the coffin of our vacation-that-wasn't. We received the news with equanimity; gave it a few moments to sink in, and then promptly headed to Petsmart where, in the spirit of Goldy, we welcomed a new finned member to our family. His name is Lucy; and as Audrey said so eloquently during the car ride home, "We can't feed him too much, Mudder, be-cuz then he'll get dead and there will be no more Lucy!"

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Monday, July 12, 2010



Sunday, July 11, 2010

Something Borrowed



Pennsylvania Prose


If, to borrow a quip from Harriet Beacher Stowe, the pictures from our Pennsylvania vacation are a slice of poetry, the reality was decidedly prose. For months we had been looking forward to seven days of delectable dinners, game-playing, and inspired conversation... what we got was less inspiration and more persperation.

What we got, in short, was a heat wave - the hottest in the Northeast since 1901. The children, half of them, did their part in turning up the heat by contracting a blistering (literally, blistering) virus so that temperatures both outside and in hovered just below 103 degrees.

We adults got about as much rest as one might expect while crouching in the prow of a small boat on the open sea in the middle of a wind-storm for days on end. By the end of the week I considered having t-shirts made up for the four of us that read: My Idea of Fun is Sleeping.

Still, we managed to capture some photogenic moments… and to enjoy one another in the process which, for those who have ever been severely sleep-deprived, is a feat in itself.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Now you are six!

video

Now you are six! And I have but one wish -
that twenty years from now -
(when you’re no longer a girl,
when you’re out in the world) -
you might wistfully recall ,
what funny and silly and lavish and pretty spectacular things we did
to celebrate your birthday,
the day that you turned six.

Your mother made the cake; your father hung the streamers.
You ate your birthday breakfast on the plate with curly letters.
For lunch we went to Isaac’s, to eat a colored sandwich,
And wondered at the butterflies, speaking their butterfly language.
We watched the fish swim to and fro, to get one was your dream;
You ‘specially liked your twisty straw and straw-burry iced cream.

At home we blew and tied and clasped balloons ‘til we turned red;
‘til floor and ceiling, couch and chair, were carpeted with them.

For dinner we ate pizza, elbows tight around the table;
We talked and sighed and smiled and laughed as much as we were able.

And when we sang your blue eyes shown; your smile lit up the room.
Compared to you the candles seemed a secondary boon.

But more than cake and candles, more than strawberries and cream,
We hope that you remember just how much, to us, you mean:

For Adelin-ey, soft and sweet,
You're more than just our niece:
you're a golden-haired girl with the heart of a Pearl
And the soul of a heavenly queen.

MFEO


I never imagined I would wind up with someone whose qualities stand out in such stark contrast to my own ... but God did (Isaiah 55.8). So we did. Eight years ago today.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Hello, Goodbye


We are off to spend the fourth of July in Pennsylvania with cousins Adeline, Everett and baby Asher. Audrey not only remembered to pack her toothbrush and a batch of flags - but all three of her tutus. I hope three is enough to last all week... one never can tell.

Words from a Prison Cell

From a Nazi-run prison in Berlin, Deitrich Bonhoeffer wrote these words to his niece, Renate, on the occasion of her wedding: “Most people have forgotten nowadays what a home can mean though some of us have come to realize it as never before. It is a kingdom of its own in the midst of the world, a stronghold amid life's storms and stresses, a refuge, even a sanctuary. It is not founded on the shifting sands of outward or public life, but it has its peace in God, for it is God who gives it its special meaning and value, its own nature and privilege, its own destiny and dignity. It is an ordinance of God in the world, the place in which - whatever may happen in the world - peace, quietness, joy, love, purity, discipline, respect, obedience, tradition, and with it all, happiness may dwell. It is the wife's calling, and her happiness, to build up for her husband this world within the world and to do her life's work there.""

"...a place in which - whatever may happen in the world - peace, quietness, joy, love...may dwell."
What a glorious vision, an inspiration and an elevation to 'home-makers' everywhere; and yet how old-fashioned, even "degrading," it sounds to post-modern ears. Haven't we "progressed" beyond such provincialism? Haven't the feminists succeeded in liberating generations of young women to dispense their talents in a far more meaningful way upon a wide and waiting world?

I think Lily Allen's song, "The Fear," provides an incisive, if comically depressing, answer to this question... Give it a listen, if you dare, but wait until the children are asleep.