What I Never Expected to See in My Daughter’s Homework Today

“I’ll let you hold the broom, Mom,” she smirked as we strode across the parking lot. A deep white bucket in one hand, I crossed the blacktop, balancing a long-handled home-made ladle in the other. Tenth grade Morgan stepped primly beside me, laughing and pretending to ignore me.

Photo: Bill Benzon, Creative Commons cc license

We exchanged smiles, and hoisted our items for a better grip. She carried her biology notebook, a mechanical pencil, and a plastic box of colored pencils. I watched the plastic soup ladle we had taped to the end of the kitchen broom bounce at every dip in the dirt path.

“This’ll be fun,” I convinced her, cocking my eyebrows at her.

Disappearing down a side path by the library, behind the community gardens, and into the woods, we slipped into a sunlit forest.

“I remember this path from when I was younger,” Morgan noticed. “It seems so much smaller now. It’s about the same for you, though, I bet, since you’re still short,” she quipped, smiling at me.

Several minutes later we rounded the corner to our spot. Straddling the sandy path was a small green algae pond, cattails dipping in the breeze.

Starting a two-week-long biology micro-organisms experiment, we labeled glass jars, and splashed in water from the deepest layer of the pond. Seaweed and green slime dangled from the black handle and slopped into our jars. After collecting all the water, Morgan and I arranged plastic bags on the wet path to sit on while she annotated her specimens.

Cirrus clouds raced by overhead. Yellow aspen leaves quaked and shimmered. Tiny willows leaned low. Flecks of green plant growth floated on quiet swamp water, and I closed my eyes in the warm autumn sunshine. A distant dog barked, and Morgan’s colored pencils clanked for a moment in between hues.

The experiment? We are to feed four jars of invisible life, letting them grow in tin-foiled darkness, and observe them under a microscope after three to five days. The jars sloshed as we walked back to the car, green algae and black muck floating on top. Invisible potential simmers just under the surface. Not knowing what’s growing there, we’ll wait and see.

The last four weeks have raced by in a blur of hospital days for my dad’s cancer surgery and the resulting recovery period, youth group retreats, school, and a lovely women’s retreat, amid the unpacking from our move. What I have loved seeing, though, is the life that rises to the surface from murky waters below. Despite fears of major surgeries and sobering statistics, our family saw God’s sweet kindnesses every day. Sipping coffee from styrofoam cups in waiting rooms that grew familiar, we recorded moment after moment of God’s kind gifts to us, and it moved us. Life that simmered up from the darkness.

Typing here in quiet twilight, I can still see Morgan’s teasing eyes and raised eyebrows as she joked and walked confidently through the trees. And it brings me to silent gratitude. Our God who molds sons and daughters, who sculpts moms and dads, parenting us all, has made a daughter and it is beautiful to see. Life has simmered up from the surface below, and I can but stand and watch.

Our God is growing things invisibly deep inside of us. He is at work in our kids, our families, our marriages, ourselves.

Share this post:


  1. Bill (cycleguy) on October 15, 2014 at 1:16 pm

    That inside work just keeps on happening, even more so when we are actively involved in allowing it to. In spite of what is around us, what God often does inside defies the chaos. Still praying for your dad and your family.

  2. TC Avey on October 15, 2014 at 5:37 pm

    So often we are too busy and/or distracted to see the work God is doing in us and those around us. But He is ever present, ever working, ever creating new things.

  3. Alecia Simersky on October 16, 2014 at 9:03 pm

    Oh yes, even in the middle of a storm, it's always neat to see how God shows up in the little things, day to day.And after the storm has passed we can look back and see how He was working in the middle of our wondering. We serve a good God!

  4. Wise Hearted on October 17, 2014 at 1:31 am

    Jennifer, I love it when I see spiritual growth in our two children and grandchildren. It makes me aware of the process going on in each of us. If my heart is not right with Him what I view will be distorted and I will miss Him working through my family and friends. One good reason to stay in step with our Savior. Good post my wise sister.

  5. Cheryl Barker on October 17, 2014 at 4:41 pm

    Yes indeed, Jennifer, He is at work in us. So thankful for the kindnesses God is bestowing on your family during such a difficult time. I'm remembering you in prayer!

  6. Dolly@Soulstops on October 19, 2014 at 3:10 am

    This is so encouraging: "Our God is growing things invisibly deep inside of us."

    I'm sorry to hear about your dad's cancer surgery but I'm happy to read you've been experiencing God's goodness in the midst of this time. Praying for your dad and your family today…for continual grace and healing.

  7. Jennifer Dougan on October 21, 2014 at 3:04 am


    "What God often does defies the chaos" — what a great line and truth. Thanks, Bill.

    Jennifer Dougan

  8. Jennifer Dougan on October 21, 2014 at 3:06 am


    Yes, I agree! I love when he helps me see it.

    Jennifer Dougan

  9. Jennifer Dougan on October 21, 2014 at 3:13 am


    "And look back and see how God was working in the middle of our wondering.." — what a neat line. Yes! 🙂

    Jennifer Dougan

  10. Jennifer Dougan on October 21, 2014 at 3:16 am


    Yes, isn't it exciting to see God at work in our kids and loved ones in general? It's so easy to miss that too. Hmm, convicting.

    Jennifer Dougan

  11. Jennifer Dougan on October 22, 2014 at 12:00 am

    Thank you, Cheryl. I appreciate that and the prayer.

    Jennifer Dougan

  12. Jennifer Dougan on October 22, 2014 at 12:02 am

    Thank you, Dolly, for this kind note and for your prayer as it came to mind. I appreciate that.

    Jennifer Dougan

Leave a Comment