Sunday, July 24, 2011


"I'm wondering, at the store," Janie asks, "why do they have eyelashes?" She nuzzles her mop of curls on my shoulder. We cuddle on the couch, a pile of laundry, pushed to one side.

I wrinkle my chin, eyelashes? Oh, the fake ones next to the nail polish. "Did you think they cut them off or pulled them out of a person?"

"Uh huh," she nods.

"Ya know how your baby doll has eyelashes?" She nods again. "Someone made them, like those."

"Oh." We rest our feet on the coffee table, toes pointed up.

I blink. "People that have really little eyelashes," I add, "get them and glue them on." She watches my face as if I were a documentary. "Long eyelashes are considered pretty."

"Oh." She squeezes closer to me.

"Do you think they're pretty?" I ask.

She frowns, "Uh, not really."

"Probably never really thought about it, huh?"

"Not really," she shakes her head. "It's not not-pretty, and it's not pretty." Eyebrows raised, she shrugs, "It's nothing."


She turns, faces my green eyes, "Do you think it's pretty?"

I hesitate. And then, "Yeah, I like long lashes."

"Do you like to look at people with long lashes?" she probes.

"Yeah. I think long lashes are pretty."


The moment trails off. A simple exchange. The ironing out of an idea. She squints and tries to see it -- where the lashes fit in.

So we excavate a little more -- a little more each day. And at every turn, she watches, weighs, searches my every move, patient for clues.

Later we pray the night in.

"Thank-you that Daddy teaches us every good thing," Janie lilts, "and that he works so hard at work so he can take care of us and we all don't have to die. Amen."

While I breathe in their prayers, I marvel at weight we wield.


1110. How Jack crawls up next to me when I nap on the couch.

1111. How Lucy tries to wrestle Jane's running shoes on to baby Rose.

1112. How Jane and I run the whole SpoKenya Run together, all 4 miles of it.

1113. How she hated it when people passed her and how she furrowed her brow and spindled elbows and ankles to motion when I commented, "Ya can't say you ran the whole thing unless you actually jog the whole time - even if it's slow."

1114. This girl's will of steel. And how when I bump against it, Craig reminds me, lead, lead, LEAD her. His encouragement, she really does want to please you, just keep leading.

1115. How at the beginning of the race Auntie Libby asks Jane, "So, what's your goal?" And how Janie shrugs, and thinks, decides, "I want to run the last part of the race fast."

1116. And how I tumble that goal around my head for the next day and think, lead, lead Bethany. A goal. So simple.

1117. Jane's prayer, "And help us to love you. And thank-you for the SpoKenya Run. Help me to do a good job. Amen."

1118. Jack's, "And like Jane said, help her to win the SpoKenya Run. Amen."

1119. Baby fingers wrinkled as prunes.

1120. How I urge the children, "Think about what kind of person you want to be," when they misbehave. And while we discipline and talk and pray, they gradually get it. Think about what kind of person I want to BE. Me too.

1121. Craig back from work away from home, and how we chorus back and forth, "It's so good to have you home."

1122. Janie's assessment, "Daddy, the days you were home were good, but the days you weren't home, it felt like something was missing." So true.

1123. The weight of a Godly father.

1124. How my father still casts a long shadow in our life. How you never stop watching them.

1123. Jane officially 7.

1124. Family gathered to celebrate.

1125. A swim with cousins.

1126. A swim with friends.

1127. The children's bald-faced trust in me when I teach them to swim.

1128. Armfuls of lettuce delivered fresh from the farm by Craig's mom.

1129. Our chickies a month old and friendly.

1130. Dinner washed down with mouthfuls of cherries.

1131. My momma home safe.

1132. Hand-me-downs.

1133. BBQ with friends and all the love that went into those burgers patted flat and grilled up.

1134. A two and a half hour nap enfolded in soft sheets.

1135. The love of our children and husband's faith in me as their mother.

holy     experience

Sunday, July 17, 2011


"I might become a runner," Janie comments. We jog in step, my stride shrunk down to seven-year-old size.


"I have been wanting to since I was littler," she adds. "I just watch and think, that looks fun." She swings her elbows in time with the pad-pad of her feet.


"I try it," she remarks, "and think, it's not really my thing, but I watch you and you make it look so fun." We drum on, our feet in time.

"I didn't really like it at first either," I say. "But now I do. I do it as a way to practice long-suffering." I glance sideways at her gangly legs, springy step, "That way when I have to suffer to make things good for you, I'm not surprised that it feels like this."


We patter on, mark out two miles of strides. We huff and puff and sweat. Even the creases around my nose sweat. Her forehead beads up, braids flopping down her back. We make conversation, talk of races and dogs and lawns that need water. And we practice.


1080. Silver strainer of fresh strawberries and Gramma's, "I've got a surprise for you inside."

1081. Eaten plump right out of the strainer, strawberries, a pile of green tops. Strawberry shortcake.

1082. Rosie signing MORE, and how she flaps her arms like a bird.

1083. Craig's almost-accident with the rototiller and his fully intact foot.

1084. A window for the hen house and Craig's scaled drawings.

1085. Grampa's almost-accident with the backhoe and the subsequent rush of affection for him.

1086. A traveling book saleswoman who stays for lunch and the polka-dot sweater we give her for the brisk day.

1087. Jane up at the crack of dawn to make breakfast. How she assembles oatmeal and cranberries, almonds, powdered milk. Her confident, "The milk tastes like popcorn," in order to get the children to drink her thick substitute for milk.

1088. Our children circled around the chicks, picture books in tow and how they take turns showing them the pictures.

1089. How Lulie tries to use a toothpick at dinner. Her broad smile and, "Could you please throw this away," as she flops its mangled form in my hand.

1090. Sun hats for the girls.

1091. Janie's confident,"I want to do the Spokenya Run," and her, undaunted, by the 4-miler as we train together.

1092. Her early birthday gift: new shoes, running shoes.

1093. Dish duty, a different child at each meal and how they help each other.

1094. A nugget of wisdom, that the best way to build trust is to make promises and keep them. A tool. An art form. A rubric.

1095. Jane's comment at the hardware store, "That was a farmer. I could tell 'cause his hands are big." And how I picture her Grampa and think she's right.

1096. A chicken magazine from Auntie.

1097. Drawing class, a bouquet of daisies and lilies, and how we all try to wrestle them to the page with bold lines.

1098. Great-Grampa ok after a fainting spell and how he laid down when it started so he wouldn't fall.

1099. How Jack and Lu take turns in the jog stroller and then ride on each other's laps when we train for our run.

1100. A cool evening swim at the pool, four children paddling around me.

1101. How Jack lofts an enormous dandelion umbrella up into the breeze. How he captures and lofts it again and again.

1102. Rainer cherries.

1103. Fresh lettuce.

1104. Basil leaves.

1105. My apology in the church parking lot to our four children, the part about me not leading well enough for us to be on time.

1106. Our children safe against Craig's chest as they sail Grampa's four-wheeler over miles of farmland and dirt roads. The thrill of wind and rain and summer blown through their hair.

1107. A man who makes even common dirt roads a thrill.

1108. The five of us anchored, expectant, secure.

1109. God's provision.

holy     experience

Monday, July 11, 2011


"Oh, it smells like Bethany's house," she says. "I like the smell of Bethany's house."

Her mother tells me, they were about to baptize her, lean her back in the sky blue baptismal, and Savannah remarks, it's like Bethany's house.

From the back I'd watched dark curls and closed eyes swoosh below the water. They pulled her up, and water purled down ringlet curls onto soaked orange shirt and shorts. My Jane had watched and cheered. I whistled.

In the flurry of towels and hugs, cheers and song, they whisk by. They linger just long enough to tell me, Bethany's house, it smelled like Bethany's house.

Savannah's smile drawn wide and long, her brown eyes hold me. In the moment before I turn and smile to her mother, I see it: steady strength, endurance. Like an agate hidden in plain view on a country road, I see it. She blinks, tucks her chin, and the morning spindles back to motion.

They whirl by, a promenade of felicitation, but all I see are those steady eyes.

Eyes. At night Lucy traces my eyes and eyebrows, eyelashes.

"That is soft," she murmurs, strokes my brow. She rubs her small finger temple to temple, smooths my eyebrows.

"I like this part," she remarks and brushes her finger over and over my eyelashes. "And this part too." She softens on a tuft of eyebrow.

Then, gentle as a petal, she dandles a perfect circle on my eyelid. I wait and she traces again and again that same ephemeral loop. I pause, eyelids flutter.

"I do it to me," she offers and closes her eyes. I watch her trace the bump of her contact with that same caress. Circle, circle, circle, as if to stroke sight and sleep into place, gentle as the dawn, she circles it.

I marvel at her complete submission -- submission to that contact, the continual patching, the flat world with no depth perception. And she circles it, circles me.

I close my eyes. "Do it again," I say.

She does.


1052. How Lucy traces my eye.

1053. Savannah baptized.

1054. A trip to the pool with our four children and how when another girl wants to teach Janie to swim, Jane turns to me and whispers, "What do you want me to say?"

1055. Her submissive heart and burgeoning mind, a bliss of questions and lots and lots of time.

1056. Time with my mother talking and talking and mapping the world according to our friendship.

1057. How my mom and dad have found they like to bike together.

1058. Lots of conflict on many fronts and the sincere pleasure of watching Craig, completely impervious to public opinion -- kind, cordial, and fun, but impervious none the less.

1059. Being protected and provided for.

1060. An Independence Day BBQ with more salads than you could count and a bouquet of flags.

1061. Another BBQ just to eat up all the left overs.

1062. More swim lessons with Libby, the world's best swim instructor and pedagogy teacher.

1063. Rockie smiling and laughing at me.

1064. A whole day of slip-n-slide and blow-up pool and hoorah-hoorah play for the cousins while the grown-ups sip water with mint and eat corn salsa.

1065. Minted cucumbers.

1066. Learning first hand that truly, no matter how gourmet the bread recipe, if you forget to put the salt in, nothing will fix it.

1067. Salt.

1068. A new home for our dogs in Craig's home town with one of those salt-of-the-earth farmers.

1069. The nugget of wisdom that sometimes gentleness is more important than patience.

1070. My children getting to see people talk behind my back and then watch me respond.

1071. Daisies.

1072. How 120 grit sand paper, a little elbow grease, and 10 days can completely heal cracked heels.

1073. Reading a loud to the children an hour and a half past bedtime because the story was so thrilling.

1074. A phone call to my grampa.

1075. Chocolate covered pomegranate from Great-grammie.

1076. Six chickies still peeping away and plans for a chicken coop in the works.

1077. The epistles of Paul on repeat on my ipod.

1078. How since scripture is living and breathing it really does speak each time around.

1079. How I'm still surprised every time.

holy     experience

Sunday, July 3, 2011


"Ok, I have a question for you," Jane and I amble hand in hand. "I really want to know what you think, but it's kind of hard," I offer, "so don't feel like you have to answer right away." Our feet mark time on the street's blacktop.

"Ok," she says. We swing our arms, fingers entwined. We sip cool drinks in plastic cups and stroll home from the pool. Still wet in our swimsuits, the sun warms our skin.

"What have you been learning about God? What has he been teaching you lately?"

"Hmm. That is a hard question." Droplets of water form at the ends of our hair, drip down our backs.

"You don't have to answer right away."

A few strides, "Doing what you mean," she says, "not just what you say." Her drink wobbles sideways as we scuff in gravel at road's edge.


"Sometimes," she says, "I just want to do what you say and not what you mean 'cause then I think it is closer to my way." Her sentence unfurls, rests between us. "And I think I can't get in trouble 'cause I did what you said." We striddle under a huge pine. "But, that's not right."

Pine needles soft under foot, "Wow." We meander on, "That's a good one."

We glide hand in hand. I marvel at how we traipse to the pool, play chicken-airpane-rocket, motor-boat, share the tiny locker room shower, our long hot shower, how we wander home, drip-dry hand in hand, pace out a whole afternoon. We share time. Tentative and quiet, but in the end long streamers of sentences unroll between us. They flex and weave, interweave and entwine. Invisible sinew, tendons, tissue come forth, we weave corpuscles of love, gossamer fibers of affection. They interlace: a silken net to hem us in.


1022. Sunlight on our black couch.

1023. Drawing lessons. Six of us around Mom's square dining table and how we laugh and try to sketch eggs.

1024. How Mom gives us our own sketch books and new pencils and tells us the secrets of drawing.

1025. Coconut bread.

1126. Sidewalk art.

1027. Cousin Erin, another chair around the table on Tuesday at Mom's and how it feels like she's always been there.

1028. Auntie Libby who braves the blusterous day to teach 5 cousins to swim. And how they shiver and shake and take turns with Libby. And how we nearly faint at how much they learn in just two days.

1029. Honey yogurt, plain avocado.

1030. Pork roast cooked to falling apart perfection.

1031. Barbecue sauce.

1032. Broccoli slaw, bleu cheese.

1033. A bucket of ice cream eaten right out of the carton there on the car console, just Jack and me: a date.

1034. 5 peeping chicks.

1035. Fresh eggs -- in November?

1036. Dinner with friends and how we have so many children between us that we need two full tables. And how they welcome us into their stride of life and fill and fill and fill us with love (and Hawaiian chicken sandwiches). How the children talk and talk of that late night of fun.

1037. Grappling tomato plants finally tall enough for staking.

1038. Netting for the strawberries and how the children crawl under it and pick berries with even the slightest blush of red. And how they pile them on oatmeal, how they save them for friends.

1039. Black bread made with potatoes and molasses, coffee and unsweetened chocolate.

1040. Lunch with a friend and how our children squirrel around a patio table to eat PBJ while she serves me field greens with feta and bacon and olive oil dressing inside. The may years of our friendship.

1041. Rosie up crying eight or ten times last night and how I drag my leadened body to her and pat her leg and shush and kiss and tuck blankie in tight.

1042. How us kids gather at the farm anytime someone whispers, fried chicken, and how this time it's a picnic outside and the children run so long and happy through the fields that Jack's eye's swell huge with allergies and we have to bring him down with Loratadine and a shower. How he comes home in one of Gramma's t-shirts and how still we sigh any time we think about that chicken.

1043. Visiting with the sis-in-law I see the least.

1044. How Craig and I stack towers of things to pass on to other people and how each thing breaks us free of our stuff.

1045. A confrontation at the pool and how all those years of my dad modeling strong, graceful confrontation circle back in a flash and everything turns out to be no problem.

1046. Getting to have Cerissa there with me and how she is one determined gal, poised and direct. One of those moments where you get a clear picture of who these people are that are on your team and are so glad.

1047. July -- a little hole in the year where I actually rest and relax and let the days pass in one long slur.

1048. Independence Day 1776.

1049. Warm wind through open windows and doors.

1050. How Lucy traces my face at night before bed.

1051. How Craig is absolutely immovable on matters of decision. And how all this stubbornness turns out to be the cornerstone on which we build everything. Immovable, what a virtue.

holy     experience