Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Tank

"So do you think I should get it?" I tilt my head, squinch my lips. Jane and Lulie sea-saw a red basket with black wheels back and forth, skitter between racks of clothing. Jack grabs at the basket's black handle. Rosie squeals from Craig's back.

"Craig? Craig, do you think I should get this?" I wave a steal colored tank his direction and frown at Janie mid-whirl with the red basket. "I want it but," I grimace, "it's kind of expensive." Jane yanks past Lulie. "Craig?"

"Yeah?" He glances my direction.

"Do you think I should get this?" I give the tank a shake.

Eyebrows raised, face a mock-grin, "You decide."

Sigh. Furrowed brow, "I like it," Lulie wails for the basket, "oh, but it does seem like a lot to pay. Craig?" I beg, "What should I do?"

The children squirrel that basket like a merry-go-round between out stretched hands and squeals and wild swipes to capture the handle. "Decide now," Craig annunciates the words with his lips and aims a stern eye at Jane who lets Big Red sail past and lodge under a row of dresses. Jack and Lu lunge for it.


"Whatever you want, dear." He blinks.

I sigh, rub steal gray tank between thumb and forefinger. Janie's pigtail swings past my elbow. For a moment I see it, the trade: the steal gray tank or the sway of hand in hand, fingers laced and feet in step as we rollick from rack to isle, parking lot to car. Suddenly, the tank is just a tank and the day swells, larger than the moment, it pulses: now, now, it happens now, here in thrift store isle, here between husband and children and red wheeled basket, here.

And so the tank falls away, sloughed off like old skin. And I arrive in the nick of time, steps and fingers interlace. Thrift and fashion blow away, steel tank, chaff, just chaff in the wind.


996. The smell of fresh sheets.

997. Music, a whole collection of new songs from my brother.

998. Baby Rose graduated to big-girl bunk bed.

999. Swim lessons from Auntie Libby.

1000. Sparring with son over the truth of his story only to find the far-fetched tale TRUE. His stout heart.

1001. BBQ with Pete and Rose.

1002. A visit to the engineering office all my brothers and dad work at, their camaraderie as we jaunt through each office.

1003. Chatting with Ceris while she tore armfuls of grass, dead sod out of her vegetable garden.

1004. Swimming with four children while Craig works late.

1005. An Itoh Peony, yellow and huge, from Craig.

1006. The Rose Show and Craig's mom flushed with excitement at all the people. The pleasure of being related to her.

1007. How Lucy pats me with her wide three-year-old hands when I whisper in her ear that she makes our family fun.

1008. How my mother navigates the world of the poor, careful to know them and empower them, not just blindly give. And her statement, "It occurred to me this morning that God, at times, could be looking at me and my prayer lists the way we look at the Kenyans holding out their lists to us."

1009. How I wonder all week if my relationship with God is just all lists. And how I start to wonder, do I even know what God's personality is like, what He is like? I feel like I'm learning to pray all over again for the first time.

1010. The garden weeded in shifts, at least partly weeded.

1011. Blueberries, fat, crisp, juicy.

1012. Sidewalk chalk. Huge scribble drawing, arrows and flowers and faces.

1013. A new book on the founding fathers of the United States, a glimpse into another world.

1014. The baby weaned.

1015. Chocolate chips, fat ones the size of pinto peans.

1016. How Janie is starting to have grown-up ideas about things like patience and perseverance.

1017. How Craig models these things ceaselessly.

1018. How our pastor preaches a little farther through the sermon on the mount each week.

1019. How Jane traced her hand today, cut it out, and wrote, I love Mom and Dad, on the palm.

1020. The steady realization these past 11 years that Craig loves sacrificially, lays down his life like Christ lays down His life for the church.

1021. How I am humbled beyond words.

holy     experience

Monday, June 20, 2011


"So how many years do you think Daddy and Mommy have been married?" I cuddle Rosie in the crook of my elbow, rest my feet on the coffee table. Jack turns a puzzle piece, pokes and jabs and presses it at every angle. Then he reaches for another, fingers an azure triangle along one edge.

"How many years do you think Daddy and Mommy have been married?"

He blinks. A furrowed brow, "A hundred and fifty," he states, his fingers already on the next piece.

"Almost," I say. "Eleven."


He pauses as if my raised eyebrows and cheerful grin should evoke some significance. Unfettered by adult pleasantries he stares a second then reaches for another puzzle piece. He rotates, presses and pokes, discards, plucks another piece from the pile. Again. And again. And again.

We let the time flutter by in the soft brush of piece against piece. I watch him hunker over the coffee table, match and mismatch color and shape. He mimics Craig.

Every stroke the silhouette of his father, he sets aside a thin piece, grabs one with four long clover arms. He rotates, repeats, rotates, tosses it aside. The gentle toss aside and tussle for a new piece, it's a liturgy, a map, a stride in Daddy's footsteps. He could toss and tussle for hours. He does.

I'm captivated by the rhythm. A chunk of afternoon slips away as I watch boy pretend to be man there at the puzzle. Rotate, toss, tussle.

Eleven years. All these hundreds of puzzles stacked in our basement, hundreds of uneven boxes. thick cut, wonky shaped puzzle pieces in box after box, and now I see it: the gentle, unflappable,unquenchable force of rotate, toss, and tussle. It's the rhythm of our life. It's Craig. Eventually all pieces fit -- all eleven years worth.


974. Craig. Eleven years. The solid weight of eleven years in our pocket.

975. How the whole day children pepper in and out from dates with Gramma and then we slip away, just the two of us downtown for dinner.

976. How Lulie tucks stray hairs behind my ear when we talk nose to nose. Her huge eyes and soft breath.

977. Peanut butter and strawberry jam sandwiches.

978. Salted chocolate.

979. Calibrachoa in coral red.

980. How Lulie's eye patch matched her Sunday dress perfectly today.

981. Discipline. Follow-through. The relentless, never-ending, ceaseless training, teaching, investing, loving. And how it grows love between us.

982. A nugget of wisdom at church today: happiness comes from being able to enjoy things without having to possess them.

983. A birthday party for my dad and brother and the round-robin dessert where we all say what we noticed about the birthday person this year. How our true riches always show, unmistakable, and how every single time I leave proud and humbled to be related to these people.

984. A dear friend's final changed to another day so she could come over with her girls and relax, let the kids whooped it up out back.

985. Pizza and at least three different desserts all at once with a flurry of friends and how when Jack fell in the hot tub fully clothed he made the best of it.

986. Fig basalmic creme.

987. Janie in a Sunday dress made mostly of pink tule.

988. How Craig is nearly impossible to offend.

989. The realization that I'm not.

990. Tuesdays at mom's with my sis-in-laws, the camaraderie and refreshment, the delicious food, the rollicking of cousins, the comparing notes and recipes and advice, the famly-ness of it.

991. Little boy who tip toes into my room this morning to ask, "Momma, when are you going to wake up?"

992. Rosie up on all fours and scouring the house for rocks and erasers, paper clips, marbles, and anything else small enough to hide in her mouth.

993. How our children are turning out to be people we like to be around.

994. A stack of puzzles left on my door step.

995. Tomorrow slated for sun.

holy     experience

Sunday, June 12, 2011


"Janie, Jane!" I bellow down hardwood halls. "Jane, where are you?"

She flits out on soft feet, pads into the living room.

"Honey, Jane, where were you?" I raise my eyebrows, slide a leggo to Rosie with my toe.

"I was hiding under the bed," she looks at my feet. I pause. "Because every time I looked at you," she says, "I just wanted to cry." A glance and she peers up through lashes long and dark.

My words, harsh boulders of words, roll back to me, sag my shoulders. For a crippled umbrella, a flop-armed, splayed on the lawn umbrella, I had crushed my children. I'd furrowed my brow, flung words like gravel, harsh and heavy over my shoulder. Oh, the weight of my will as I tilled and planted and foraged out the garden all in a huff -- she hid.

I suck air into my lungs, bend knee and meet eye, "Oh Jane, I'm sorry. I shouldn't have talked to you that way. Will you forgive me?"

Later, we bum it down on the farm. Lulie and I chariot out to fetch Great-Grammie for fried chicken and triple berry pie.

We unload in the driveway, and Jack encircles Great-Grammie with sun-browned arms. She kisses the crown of his head. We stroll inside.

Jack walks barefoot over gravel and calls after Great-Grammie, "You are just a precious, precious, precious girl," he says and grabs her at the waist. Into the old farm kitchen we go. All six, seven, eight, nine of us precious, precious, precious we go.


947. Baby Rose who puckers her lips all pouty and pink for kisses and how she says, "Mmmm-uh," on cue.

948. Lulie who kisses the back of my neck when I carry her piggy-back.

949. Children who trounce through the house all morning quiet as a mice when I awake with a migraine.

950. Jack who somehow writes Janie's memory verse out in four-year-old script while I sleep, and then presents it, "I wrote Jane's verse so I can go to her class."

951. Jane who tells me every church class is just better than the last and how if she just had know about that next one she would have been wanting it since she was born.

952. My children's friends who visit and play and whoop it up in the yard while us mommas, sip coffee and visit, eat pretzels and work another sprawling Springbok puzzle on the living room table.

953. Pete and Rosie safe home from their Hawaii honeymoon.

954. Stunning, brilliant, outstanding pictures of their wedding posted by the photographer.

955. Farm fried chicken, broccoli salad, mashed potatoes, gravy, home-canned beans, tripple berry pie, romp and tromp through fields and gardens, and the never ending bond of family.

956. Garden pots planted.

957. A rosemary plant, a bush actually, to replace the dead one from two winters ago.

958. How we tiddle and twaddle and visit on and on over the wedding at Mom's.

959. Dinner with my parents and dear friends, and how we all slowed and lingered to break bread, share time together.

960. Nephews who apologize for killing their Momma's tomatoes, and how their momma hauls them over to our house, still clad in pajamas, to apologize to us too.

961. New plants!

962. Rockie's spica cast off and her rollicking and laughing and all the plans to take her swimming this summer.

963. How her daddy bought her a stripey green swimsuit.

964. Jane and Jack who still as angels with me at the gallery meeting.

965. A night out in my new wedding wedges. And how funny if feels to be completely taller that everyone at the table.

966. A slice of the darkest, thickest, most heaviest melt in you mouth chocolate pie with black crumble crust. And the fresh coffee and conversation we share with it.

967. How I try to poke fun of Craig and tell Janie that he's good a communicator because he has a big face. And how she furrows her brow and nods and says, "Yeah! You BOTH have big faces." And we laugh and laugh, and she feels so grown up, and we just laugh harder.

968. How when we ask Lulie if she wants to get chickens at our house someday, she nods and nods and declares, yes, we should go to Costco and get some chickens for Gramma to COOK. And how we all think it's a splendid idea.

969. The light feeling of a headache gone.

970. A baby watermelon.

971. A note on my coffee maker from Craig set there for me to find.

972. How in a flash he takes me back to the day we met.

973. How still this day is better yet. How every day, with the full weight of all this hard earned love is better and better than each day before.

holy     experience

Sunday, June 5, 2011

A Toast

"First let me just get one thing out of the way." All tuxedo and broad shoulders, father of the groom, balances microphone and notes. He slices the air with his hand, "The thing we're the most proud of with Peter and Rosie," he says, "is that they have relentlessly kept themselves pure until their wedding day." He pauses. "In this world, that's remarkable." Father of the groom gazes at each of us, smiles, eyes earnest. "And so what I'm saying," he sweeps the air, "in case you had any doubt, they have saved themselves for this day."

We laugh; we can't help it. Smiles pull and curl at the corner of our mouths as if drawn up by a relentless spring. Our cheeks round and red, we wait, glasses poised to toast. Bride and groom smile long and wide, wider than all. She sways her shoulders as if the day had rhythm all its own. For just a moment it does; her elbow touches his. They smile and beam and hold the crowd as if the sky itself were open, heavy with blessing. I notice how she leans her shoulder light on his chest and waits.

"I mean think about it," father of the groom continues, "how often does that happen?" He spreads his arms, "We'll just let that sink in for a minute." And it does, a marvel to behold. "You won't regret that," he says. "You'll never regret that the rest of your life." And we toast.

And we dance and dance and watch. We can't take our eyes off them. They capture us, joy irrepressible. We sneak peaks out of the corner of our eyes, try not to stare. While I caper and twirl, promenade and cavort, in heels and barefoot, I sneak closer and closer just to watch, to watch them unfurl the day.

923. Peter and Rosie married -- the promise, the purity, the joy, pure joy.

924. A new sister for me!

925. The sea of family who travel from near and far to celebrate with us and witness with us the birth of a new family.

926. How when I watch Pete and Rose, I see it, every good and perfect gift truly from above, and how it resounds from the hilltops -- worth it, worth it, worth it.

927. That my parents taught all of us kids to cherish purity.

928. It's lavish display at the wedding.

929. New shoes, wedges with gold shimmer.

930. How we dance and dance and Lulie keeps saying, "Dance faster, Momma. Dance faster."

931. Slow dance with husband.

932. How Lulie, the flower-girl, flops in the green grass half through the ceremony but still manages to exit with the bridesmaids and ring bearer on cue.

933. How each of my sister-in-laws is a perfect fit in the family. How I finally have sisters!

934. Shoe shopping and great, great shoe advice from one sister.

935. Rhubarb recipes from another.

936. A book of poems from still another.

937. How we linger with relatives new and old soak in our family.

938. How Janie gathers extra bubbles to make sure Jack and Lulie get some.

939. How Myra Rose sacks out on the dance floor, limp on my arms.

940. How Jack tells me all he really wanted at the wedding was for me to sit next to him.

941. How Craig's parents gather our children and feed them yummy wedding food.

942. An afternoon breeze that rolls in to cool the tuxedo clad men and guests.

943. Husband in a tuxedo.

944. Kissin' him.

945. How the girls and I all wore flowers in our hair.

946. The birth of a new family

holy     experience