Wednesday, May 29, 2013

To My 18-Yr Old on Your Last Day of School

I remember chubby hands grasping thick crayons, and us singing your name to the tune of "Bingo was his name-oh."

I remember reading The Sign of the Beaver and building teepees and soft leather moccasins.

We've painted medieval family crests; flooded mini Nile Rivers; constructed mud ziggarats; embalmed and  mummified toys; and chipped chicken bones out of frozen dirt like archeologists.

Our countless hikes in the woods on leaf and nature hunts were as much fun for me as for you, and I love the songs we made up to thank Jesus.

I remember the butterflies' curling proboscis tongues (they liked cantaloup best), our panic in remembering that frogs can't swim nonstop once they're no longer tadpoles, and your instant rush home from the party to give them land.

We discovered that goldfish can jump higher than we thought, and sadly practiced subtraction. Ants crawled through blue goo, caterpillars hung upside down, and we moved from fungi to a cell's plasma membrane, from dissections to differential equations.

History timelines marched across our living room, dining room and kitchen, and you and your sister and I read for countless hours on that couch throughout the years.

I'm so proud of the man you are, and are becoming. I see your love for Jesus, and for your family and friends. I see the way you interact respectfully, kindly, and confidently with others, and I see your intentionality. You are a man of schedules and watches and punctuality; a backpack-carrying, purple-cabbage-eating, consistent Bible reading, water-bottle-swigging, guitar-playing young man, with grass-stained toes.

We love you. We're proud of you, and we're cheering you on in this next chapter. You're going to love college.


Monday, May 20, 2013

Between the Rains

"We'll have to buy our wood before the rain comes," he mused, carrying in bags and unpacking their tools. Wood saws, buckets, and gangly narrow planks--reverberating at each step-- stacked into the garage or across the hot asphalt driveway. In-laws from the north drove down this week, kindly tackling work projects with us.

Humid air hung heavy and deliciously hot after an April winter. We piled into multiple cars, and snaked the aisles of a home repair store, our list and pencil calculations in hand. We were building shelves, for the garage and for downstairs. In the downstairs family room, years of homeschooling books and textbooks perched in precarious piles, waiting for the three long bookshelves to be completed.

Over coffee and decaf Earl Grey, we worked, sawing, gluing, nailing, and drilling. When the rains came, we inched into dry rooms and continued. Dads, a grandpa, and sons worked. Moms, a grandma, and daughters worked. We younger ones watched carefully as we followed orders, taking mental notes, seeing selfless grace and a hard work ethic. The shelves grew taller. And when the rain came again, we sank into couches for a generational movie night, dusty, sweaty, and proud.


Friday and Saturday, I helped at a garage sale fundraiser for our France senior high missions trip. In between the rains, we stacked shoes and clothing, and arrayed toys and lawn chairs. Rain glittered on sparkly red glitter shoes, and melted cardboard boxes. Under a damp white awning, we talked with strangers, neighbors, and church friends. Teens, siblings, and family members served side by side, next to slippery rain tarps and dripping eaves. In between the rains, we dried items, sold items, and then loaded four trucks of items to give away.


This morning, I ground espresso coffee beans, and washed up the last dishes before my parents arrived. Rain fell heavy on the deck and yard. Soon two flood pools reflected back the sky in streets and yards.

Knocking and entering, my parents slid off shoes, passed out hugs, and pulled out seeds. "I brought the strawberry plants around to the back," Mom said, bending low for a four year old's conversation. My dad's shovels, rakes, and buckets lay ready on the front steps.

We drank black coffee, catching up on news, snacking on peanut butter-topped celery and oreos. Sunshine crossed the yard, splashing on to the deck and railings. We drained our coffee, grabbed hoes, and set out across raindrop-tipped dandelions. My mom planted strawberries, transplanted white shasta daisies, and weeded. My dad and I gathered shredded bark, rolled back faulty weed liners, and reinforced weed barriers in the landscape beds.

Hours passed quickly, and black dirt clung to our faces, knees, and hands. At one-thirty, under chilled grey storm-clouds that darkened the sky, we raced raindrops to finish. In seconds, we lost and, grabbing tools, ran laughing to the door. Later, we peered through wet windows to see beautiful garden beds and new life emerging.


Emerging now after our last rainfall, I snap photos and crow excitedly over each new life. Tulips shine rain drop jewels next to swelling alium buds, pregnant with life. Radish buds crowd in lines, elbowing each other. Pea pods emerge tiny and curled, barely noticeable in the cracked earth. Mint plants weather fierce rains, slipping up to the light. And the ones that get me most? Vivid green raspberry leaves burst from dead twigs chomped to the ground by hungry deer and gophers last fall. The green life amazes and thrills me, surging unexpected from dormant sticks and hidden underground roots.


Rains so often seem to halt activity, yet it is after the rains that I see the most vivid life.

Between the rains, life grows. From the rain, life grows.

Linking with Ann at A Holy Experience.

Monday, May 13, 2013

How to Be the Mom They See

Lemon and cherry tulips stood in vases tall when I walked into the kitchen, gifts from my man and my look-alike man-child too. "We biked to the store since you had the car," they breathed heavily, grinning, hair tousled by the gusty wind.

"Can we play a game of Speed Scrabble together?" my socialite son asked, dumping plastic tiles across the scuffed table top.

Four year old Daniel had carefully guarded a smushed cupcake and hand-print flower art-piece since nine am Sunday School. Pushing it into my hand now, he offered it to me.

"But Daniel, this is your special cupcake. Are you sure?"

"Mmhmm," he nodded, "It hurts my feelings, and I don't want it anymore."

The red frosting licked off, a chocolate cupcake peeked through inside the zip-lock bag. He must have meant that he didn't want any more of it. I grinned and thanked him. He smiled, and rocked back and forth proudly.

"Mom, can I serve you?" she asked, my willowy daughter, shiny hair bobbing at her chin and catching the light.

"Wow, thank you. That feels odd," I admitted. "Thank you. What do you have in mind?"

Her handwritten card offered babysitting as we took a nap, and then a hand massage and manicure. Later that afternoon, I followed her out to the back yard where towels marked off a lounging area in the grass. Nail polish, moisturizing coconut oil, and manicure items were arrayed nearby. Shyly, I sank back into terrycloth, closed my eyes, sought out the bird calls amidst the sound of passing cars, and slipped into peace.

"I love you so much, Mom," she stated quietly, grinning self-consciously.

"I love you too, Morgan. I am so thankful to be your mom. I'm so sorry for the times I don't do a nice job at it." We talked more.

Silence fell from a pure blue sky. The wind and robins blew, and passing cars hummed.

"God, make me worthy. Make me how they see me, help me to be the best mom I can be, reflecting you." Prayers dripped from a humble heart, seeking Him. Gratitude counted gift after gift, increasing my eye to see, and learning to name them anew.

To be the mom they see --to be the mom they need-- drives me to prayer, humility, joy, and to my Father's heart. 

Linking with Emily at Imperfect Prose, and Ann at A Holy Experience.

Monday, May 6, 2013

It's the Doing It That's Hard

It's the doing it that's hard.

Not the dreaming it -- that comes easy.

It's the stepping up, picking up pen, shutting down facebook or the streaming movie, and setting aside the laundry expectations. Picking up pen or pulling close the keyboard, I type keystrokes, then words. Sentences follow, haltingly.

Twilight falls, blushing in the darkness before slipping quietly out of sight. Waiting for inspiration, for an intelligent-feeling brain, only leads to more time passing. Days trickle by, waiting for inspiration, and I remember the words of Jeff Goins and others to write, simply write. Show up to the keyboard, and do the time, do the work, the great ones say. Write. Every day, write.

I've been researching the ancient book of Nehemiah, a Jewish political exile in Iraq, who returns to his homeland. After a clandestine horseback ride through the city, following the line of collapsed walls, squeezing through on foot when the ruins were too extreme, he returned to speak to the people. In a broken-down world, surrounded by the rubble of their ancient lives and city, he calls the people to action, knowing that God can rebuild lives and situations. We can do this, he urges his people.

It was the doing it that was the hard part for him too. Dreaming it up after time in prayer was easy. It was the stepping up, grabbing architect plans, masonry tools, and a bullhorn that was the hard part. It was the day two and three, and forty-seven, that were the hard parts.

But he stepped up. They stepped up, grabbing mallets, stones from the rubble, and mortar. And as twilight blushed into darkness, they kept working, strapping on swords when needed, and toiling into starlight hours.

I love hearing from you. What do you need encouragement to step up and start this week? (Those in email can click here to join the conversation.)  

Linking with Emily at the Love Dare

Photo courtesy of Dvortygirl, Creative Commons, Flickr. 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Running in My Head Like a Memory

I have these verses that run through my mind. You probably have them too. They are the verses that I grab when my thoughts start to stray, or when sin habits rear up strong.

They are the verses I whisper to myself while plunging hands into soapy dishwater, staring out the window. The verses I speak out across the front lawn, past the robins, the blue jays, and into the bushes--lilacs with slow signs of growth--while absentmindedly scrubbing plates and bowls. The verses I write across journal pages, tape to bathroom walls that curl up in hot steam, and tell myself often.

I call them to mind whenever I forget, or music grabs me, and the lies start.

Because all sin, really, is about lies. The lies we tell ourselves vary, but the themes are the same: this will fulfill that need; this is justified; this will be harmless; this has no effect.

So, in cadence, I stop, grab the truth and speak them to my heart.

"You were taught, Jen, with regards to your former way of life
to put off the old self
which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires..." 

(--Jen, don't be deceived... every good and perfect gift comes from above, from the Father of heavenly lights who does not change like shifting shadows." If it's not coming down from above, it's not yours, and you are being deceived and corrupted, my girl.)

"To be made new in the attitude of your mind..."

(Made new, grabbed truth. Legitimate answers to legitimate needs, dropped down by the Father of heavenly lights, but not deceiving myself. Retraining my mind, retraining my heart, my responses, my reactions.)

"To be made new in the attitude of your mind,
To put on the new self, 
created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness."

(Putting on a new self --not simply pulling on a new outfit to hide the old-- but a brand new start, created by a master Designer.)

"Created to be like God, in true righteousness and holiness."

These verses run through my mind. I grab them when sin habits creep in, or lies trickle into my consciousness. These are the verses I whisper to myself while plunging hands into soapy dishwater staring out the window. The verses I speak out across the front lawn, past the robins, the blue jays, and into the bushes.

My mom? Just this weekend, we whirred along suburban streets to carpool teens. Alone in the car, our talk turned to verses that were grabbing our attention lately. In gentle measured tones, my mom spoke words of truth from ancient Roman prisoners. Words inked on parchment to tiny churches in Ephesus and Greek Thessalonika fell into my car in cadence.The words spoke truth into our relationships, families, coworkers, and marriages. And the breath in me caught, as I shifted and changed highway lanes.

"You too?" I breathed. "Me too! I have verses that run through my mind that I grab and speak aloud..."

We recited the words that spoke truth and focus to us, eyes squinting at times to see them in our mind. I made a mental note to find hers and write them out, adding them to these.

I have these verses that run through my mind.

You probably have them too.

What are yours in this season?

 Linking with Emily at Imperfect Prose and Scribing the Journey. 

Photo credit here.