Sunday, July 29, 2012


"What you do, Jack," pajama clad and sprawled on a sleeping bag, Jane lilts in sing-song, "is listen and collect ideas." She scoops her knees up and hugs them to her chest. "Then," she says, "pretend like you are a grown-up and try to participate." Conversation, it's simple really: listen, pretend, and try.

"Yeah, that's it," I say. "Listen and collect ideas, then pretend and try. I think you'll be good at it."

The four older children, flopped like a field of overripe wheat, are a patchwork of sleeping bags and tired limbs. The snag of their dry feet on soft polyester lulls in the background.

They fidget and settle. I hug each one and press my face into the warm softness of neck. I whisper each a special prayer, one last flutter of wind as they slip into sleep.


3354. "Wuv you," Myra whispers in my ear.

3355. We traipse across the road to Auntie Cerissa's and play the morning away through the playhouse, over the bikes, 'round and 'round the mulberry bush with tag and good ol' shenanigans. All the while Ceris and I visit and visit.

3356. Couscous salad with mint and feta and sweet onion.

3357. Sisters-in-law, Mom, and I circle up in the front yard. We pray and linger, sip ice water. The children amble and gallop the afternoon long.

3358. "Mom, can I clean off our door?" Lucy asks. "'Cause it has oatmeal on it. Yeah, the bathroom door."

3359. We eat meat and potatoes down on the farm, a whole spread Craig's mom materializes. The children blaze a trail through mile-high raspberries and wander the garden.

3360. We return home, a whole farmer's market in the back of the car.

3361. "One time I thought my johnny-jump-up plant might have been dying," Lucy tells me, "when actually it was having babies."

3362. "Jesus," Lucy prays, "thank-you for dying on the cross and taking away all the bad things we have done."

3363. "Well, Jesus died for that," I tell one of the kids when they get in trouble for being mean. "It doesn't matter if it feels like enough. It is. He paid for it."

3364. "You've worried about more things in the last hour," Craig tells me, "than I have in," he shakes his head, "the last year."

3365. "Momma, you're just fun to talk to," Jane announces. "That's why we want to keep talking to you."

3366. I ask Jane what she wants to get Logan for his birthday and she answers, "I don't know. But, one thing I do know is most kids like things from the Dollar Store."

3367. We pack for a weekend vacation. I grow grumpy with every detail that goes wrong. "Momma, I don't mean to be disrespectful," Jane treads lightly, "but the way you're talking isn't very nice. I was just standing over here and thinking, Maybe she doesn't know."

3368. I humble myself to apologize and everyone leans in a little closer.

3369. "She looked for the longest chapter she could find: Mark 14." Craig tells me when I say Jane can read ONE more chapter before naps.

3370. We have a backyard barbecue with a dear family of four and linger until the night is cool. Italian sausage, baked beans, raw carrots, and fresh vanilla ice cream, even the seven children let the night slip by like water between their toes.

3371. All the children loaded up for a trip to the lake and Jane comments, "That little patient baby is sitting there grabbing his leg and trying to pick it up."

3372. We settle into a weekend with my brother's extended family. Hours and hours in the water, on the boat, tubing, water skiing, lounging, or swimming. Their generosity is a banner of love.

3373. A new pair of sunglasses.

3374. For the first time in more than a decade my Dad and I get to go on a run together. What a highlight. As we run along lakeside, I hardly notice the view for all the conversation. A father's love, there is nothing like it.

3375. I turn 34.

3376. We have the traditional round-robin birthday roast with my extended family. 'Round and 'round and 'round we go, they bury me in an ocean of encouragement.

3377. Gifts given with great love.

3378. When we finally arrive home, Jack makes dinner for the kids: melted cheese sandwiches.

3379. He puts his arms around Jane and Myra. "I'm sitting by two of my kids that I love," he says. "I'm sitting by two of my good girls."

3380. Jane showers off the girls, then steals away to read.

3381. Cousins. After a whole weekend with cousins we find our friendships deeper and fuller than ever expected, durable, fun, and so, so good.

3382. I see it again, my husband's steady hand and steady heart. Steady and unflappable, he comes alongside me again and again. 

**Special thanks to my momma for taking most of the pics for me.**

Monday, July 23, 2012

Sighting Day

"So what has God been teaching you lately, Jane?" Starbucks, a cacophony around us, I toss out questions. Today Janie turns eight. I study her face.

With a green straw, she sculpts a bluff of whip cream on a pink Italian soda. She cocks her head, peers up and to the right, past me, past the black sunshade on the floor-to-ceiling windows. She blinks, smiles just only at the corner of her mouth. "To be kind," she finally says, "to others, when they are in the wrong." She licks whip cream off the end of her straw.

"Yes," I say and nod. I sip my creamy black americano, "yes."

"And when I am in the wrong," she wrinkles her forehead, leans back in her chair, "to not just make it look like the other  person is wrong. You actually have to confess." She jabs her straw through the drift of cream and quaffs raspberry soda.

I let the "kind" comment settle in around me. You actually have to confess. Confess, yes this is true. Confession leads to intimacy. I turn this over and over as we volley conversation between soda and coffee, lemon bread and cream cheese danish -- confession leads to intimacy, like now, here, at Starbucks.

Then it's Sunday and we're all a-skitter to church, all six of us jabbed and lobbed into the suburban, Craig already off early before us. I wheel 'round the corner onto a four-lane oneway street.

"Jack," Lulie chimes from the back-back seat, "God can run faster than you."

"God," Jack retorts, "can run faster than anyone."

"Or, or, OR," Lulie tolls, pealing over Jack before he can finish, "God can make YOU run as fast as HIM."

"Yeah. God's the only magic man in the world," Jack replies.


Magic man. Confession, magic. And so it is, I watch for signs of confession and magic, of God. I tremble at how many times we see Him.


3331. "Mom look! Mom, LOOK," Myra holds up an unpopped popcorn kernel, "a roly-poly."

3332. "Hi, sweetie," I whisper in Myra's ear. And "Hi, sweetie," she whispers back.

3333. "Mom, I am so annoying at that rabbit," Lucy tells me before we catch him. "Aren't you so annoying at that rabbit?"

3334. Jane scrubs the kitchen sink and waits to see if I will notice.

3335. The kids fill our wading pool and then let it warm in the sun all morning. "This is about how warm Grammie's pool was but five times warmer," Janie gushes.

3336. We scamper down to the neighborhood pool with cousins and laugh and splash and visit the night away.

3337. Jane turns eight.

3338. Family from both sides gathers for a big birthday barbecue. We celebrate these past eight years with Jane, the treasure that she is, and the huge heritage of a good, good family.

3339. Lucy helps me pick out an outfit for the day then comments, "Do you think your tummy's getting back to normal even though it's still sort of big?"

3340. We finally catch the rabbit in our trap. Craig releases him down by the golf course.

3341. I roast eight pounds of carrots on the grill.

3342. Dear friends invite us for a barbecue. We eat a whole mountain of chicken drumsticks seasoned and turned to golden perfection and visit long into the night.

3343. Jane receives a winter nightgown, red plaid socked away in the closest for the dead of winter.

3344. Jack and Jane train for the SpoKenya Run.

3345. Jane makes the cut and we run the race together. We practice pacing and endurance, grow our muscle memory of what pacing and endurance feel like.

3346. Jack and the rest of the crew cheer big at the finish line. Then we all eat drippy ice cream cones together.

3347. Toasted pecans, cooled, two dark chocolate chips piggybacked on top.

3348. We experience the obvious collaboration between leftover cheesecake and toasted pecans.

3349. We share lunch with friends at our favorite burrito place.

3350. Jane comments after church, "It's really obvious who did the family homework when kids try to answer questions during class."

3351. I enjoy more conversation and advice from my mom, the fun of talking, the continual exchange of ideas, the invaluable: years of experience ahead of me.

3352. Baby Joe grows pudgier each day. He gives me long I-love-you blinks when we gaze at each other.

3353. Craig takes the whole bunch of us to lunch after SpoKenya Run. We push little cafe tables together in a group and encircle them with our family. We nourish ourselves on piquant food and good memories. The moments pass while we notice each one.

Monday, July 16, 2012


"Why do I have to contribute to our family?" Jack trots by the kitchen, a bale of laundry in his arms.

Over the sink, I shake water off a head of romaine, deposit the leafy clump on the cutting board. "Because it honors God," I say and cut up lettuce wings into to crinkly green streamers.

"Oh," he disappears 'round the corner a wadded sock sloughed off the bundle.

I rotate the bannerol of lettuce, chop it into green squares. "Did you know when I do something for you, I'm actually doing it for God?" He peeks around the corner. "But it turns out good for you," I say.

"Oh." Eyebrows up, he nods then disappears 'round the corner with a hop.

I sweep the lettuce off my bendy white cutting board into a clear salad bowl. Ok then, onward. A little knowledge here a little understanding there. I scatter the seeds.

I speckle the salad with cranberries and pecans, crumble the feta, toss it all with rosemary dressing. The morning moves on, the kaleidoscope of moments flit by.


3304. "Daddy's getting old," Lucy proudly announces, "that why he has wrinkly skin."

3305. "Jack, with his very gentle hands, didn't realize how strong he was pushing Lucy, and ERRR," Janie shares.

3306. I peek out of the kitchen and see Lucy trying to teach Joe to suck his thumb.

3307. Myra plays trains with Joe while I make dinner.

3308. Egg salad with bacon and corn salsa.

3309. Homemade ice cream with Thomas Jefferson's recipe, egg yolks, vanilla bean, whipping cream, and all.

3310. "I think the devil is stinky," Lucy philosophizes, "'cause he doesn't wear deodorant."

3311. "I think camping's gonna be hard but fun, like cooking," Jane anticipates.

3312. Craig takes Jane and Jack to Family Camp with my brother and his boys and another family we love. The men teach the kids about fear, how fear is the antithesis of faith.

3313. Trader Joe's Unexpected Cheddar.

3314. A salad made entirely of berries and jicama.

3314. Speculoo Cookie Butter.

3315. "Momma," Lucy asks, "why when God talks inside of you ya can't hear him?"

3316. "Myra looks like such a little mother," Jane comments as Myra lilts by with her pistol and stroller.

3317. Orange pop.

3318. A baggie of raspberries from Logan.

3319. Grumbling, rumbling thunder and the storm that came with it.

3320. Lucy's assessment, "When I saw that rain this morning when I was in bed it looked like the clouds were EXPLODING."

3321. We spot a bunny in the garden and solve the puzzle of what has been eating our plants.

3322. "Jesus help us to catch the bunny tonight 'cause I know you can do anything," Jack prays. And Jane follows, "Jesus please help us catch the bunny and relocate it. And make it have a good home somewhere else. Amen"

3323. Overnight Oats.

3324. Lucy fetches scissors and takes out trash when I clean out my art studio. I find an old friendship bracelet I made when I was ten. I give it to her. She likes it.

3325. Coconut milk, coconut oil.

3326. A manilla envelope from my cousin comes in the mail.

3327. I dye five shirts on my stove top, two violet, three teal. The result is perfect.

3328. I exchange prayer requests with my mom.

3329. The kids pine over learning to read as I devour more books.

3330. Summer waxes long as July envelops us like quicksand.

Sunday, July 8, 2012


"I like being down here just me and you." Jack nuzzles my shoulder.  I had sneaked downstairs to escape the heat, nurse the baby. Jack had creaked down the wooden stairs a few minutes later.

I flop my magazine down on the green couch next to us. "Me too," I say and kiss the top of his red mop of hair.

"'Cause it's kinda like a date," he says, "except we're not driving anywhere."


"Or getting out treats." He leans his five-year-old cheek on my arm, legs slung to the side as if I were a giant bean bag.

"Just being together is a treat," I say.

"We're getting out the treat of our love." He pats my arm.


He leans his cheek on my shoulder, then wipes a pool of baby spit off, rubs it on his shorts. "You smell all sweaty and good," he says.

I rest my cheek on his head, "Thanks." I fumble my magazine back open.

He points at words he can spell, pokes the and god and asks what w-r-i-t-e means. He tugs Joe's foot, strokes his toes. He checks between each toe and pulls out fuzzies. "I don't think you even washed this part of his foot since he was born," he says, wipes the fuzzies on the couch.

I stop trying to keep my place in the article and just listen to his voice.


3282. Jane reads her Bible and comments, "There's a lot of God talking in this part, that's why I like Matthew."

3283. Lucy plops down beside me and announces, "Fake teeth hurt."

3284. I burn a cookie sheet of pecans. "Other people might think they're disgusting," Janie comforts, "but we'll eat 'em."

3285. "What are the Smiths' last name," Jack wants to know.

3286. We attend an old time barbecue for the 4th of July with family and neighbors complete with a whole table of salads and field games for the kids.

3287. A dear friend brings her children to play and we catch up on a whole year of talking while the children shyly pal around.

3288. Jack takes a spill on our chain link fence, a puncture wound, blood everywhere, and despite terrible bruising, handles it like a man. I love that boy. And he's making a wonderful recovery.

3289. "You want your teeth as white as snow," Lucy warns.

3290. I tuck Myra into bed. "Where Blue are?" she says asking for her blankie.

3291. We take a day on the farm -- cowboy beans, crisp green salad, fresh strawberries on ice cream, visiting around the dinner table.

3292. Jack and Jane go fishing with Craig and his brother. They hardly catch a thing, but the kids play in the water and brothers visit and time stands still for a few hours.

3293. We gather with a small group of friends, eat barbecued hot dogs and more green salad, strawberry salsa, lemonade, let the strain of the week weave light and easy as we talk.

3294. I take Lucy on a date, "Black bears can punch ya in the nose," she tells me.

3295. She scoops a tiny bite of ice cream with a flat paddle spoon, "Mine tastes like red raspberries," she says, "when it's actually PINK raspberries."

3296. Myra calls, "WOOSY!" when she looks for Lucy.

3297. Lucy finishes a lollipop and holds up the stick, "I want to use this as a sword!" she says.

3298. Myra poops in the blue kiddie pool out back. "At first we thought it was just dirt," Jane tells me. Everyone bails out. We hose Myra down and march everyone to the shower. "Myra was laying down in the pool before we found out," Jane tells me later. Surprisingly, I don't freak out.

3299. I devour two novels, a biography, and miscellaneous magazine articles like a tall slices of chocolate ganache. The children watch the spectacle and keep asking what's happening in my books.

3300. Craig comments, "I think worry is a comfort mechanism for you, Bethany."

3301. I think on this and wonder if I can replace the worry with strength and courage.

3302. Craig decides to speak on fear at family camp. "Faith has to replace fear," he says. "Faith, it's where you know God is in control of all things. At some point you just have to completely surrender and give it to God."

3303. I feel the weight of his words and know this is what I need.

Sunday, July 1, 2012


"Why does God LET us lie?" Jane snaps her head from side to side. She frowns and wrinkles her brow, eyes puffy and red.

I sit next to her, planted on the edge of my bed. "Because," I say, and she stares into my eyes, "if he controlled us and MADE it so we couldn't lie, we wouldn't be able to love." She holds my gaze, her face all splotches and swollen. "We can only love if we CHOOSE not to lie. Love happens when we choose." I tuck my chin and smile into her blue oceans of eyes. She blinks. I sigh.

"Momma,"she says, "will you forgive me for lying?"

I let our gaze hold, long like a bass note. I sigh. "Yeah. Jane, I forgive you." I put my arm around her then pull her back to arm's length. "I forgive you completely," I say and before she looks away, "I can do that because Jesus forgave my sins. All of them. Completely."

"Oh," she says and we pause as if the moment were a comma.

"Kinda makes you see how even good people are wicked inside and need Jesus to forgive their sins, huh?"

"Yeah," she sags her shoulders, "even I need Jesus to forgive me."

"Even you need Jesus to forgive your sins, and I need Jesus to forgive mine."

I encircle her in my arms. She rests her head on my shoulder, my cheek on her curly mop. And for the longest time we just we sit and let that soak in.


Later we all bunch up on the little black couch. I nurse Joe. They perch on the arms and take turns squeezed in next to me.  Myra, a shifting sea of knees and elbows, washes up around Joe and me like high tide.

"Did you know I think you're great?" I say and grin at Jack balanced on the sofa arm.

"Did you know I think your eyes are pretty?" he spikes back, chin tucked and eyes bright.

"Your shirt is pretty," Lulie adds and pokes a black flower on my tummy.

"You're pretty all over, Momma," Jane slides off the kitchen bench all tall and shoulders square.

"I think your eyes are pretty," Jack chimes again at my elbow.

"I love you," Jane adds, "I don't love you 'cause you're pretty. I love you cause you're you." She smiles. We all do and let the moment roll by like leaves falling in autumn as if there were a thousand more to come.


3267. "Mommy," Lucy peals, "I have practiced swimming so much I can BARELY swim."

3268. Myra nuzzles my shoulder while I nurse Joe. "Can I nurse 'im?" she asks.

3269. "Daddy, thanks for working so hard," Jane greets Craig when he gets home. He catches her eye across the room. "Aw, I love to work hard to take care of you guys," he says.

3270. "I watered some worms," Lucy announces, "so they will grow longer and we can use them we we go fishing."

3271. "Everyday is beautiful," Jane tells me, "'cause it's a day that the Lord has made."

3272. Craig works long hours all week and my mom stops by to help me cut the backing for a quilt I started eight years ago.

3273. She listens while I tell her again and again all I love about each of the children, and I glean the fields of her wisdom.

3274. Two ferns that look like wings.

3275. Drop in company between Rose Show events from Craig's mom.

3276. Jane practices the writing process. She writes about worms and colors and bike rides -- starts to memorize the moves.

3277. Lucy trounces in from out back. "There's a yellow ant on me," she says, "It already fell off. Do you think they can bite?"

3278. I begin to rise early and start a new morning routine.

3279. Bean soup with corn salsa and parmesan. 

3280. The kids and I make a picnic with Jimmy John's day old bread and whole milk Greek yogurt.

3281. Lulie tries to play Uno with Myra. "When I win, Myra, we're gonna stop this game."

3281. I see again how the key to discipline is resolve, and then marvel at how these sweet children sense even the slightest waver in steadfast resolve.