samedi 10 septembre 2016

A Year in a Grateful Life

The willows are shedding faded leaves that scatter in the wind, and the bean fields are flecked with gold. I'm not ready for this summer to end, to cover up arms that have felt the warm winds flowing over them, to put socks on the feet that dug into sand and kicked through unsalted Great Lakes water in this good season. Autumn rains loom a couple weeks down the road, and September holds its breath. I'm holding mine a little, soaking in the memories.

The summer has brought unexpected gifts and changes, the foundational one being joining with a man who brings only good, righteousness, delight, and brightness to my life. He is a gift I run out of words for, I could write hundreds of words on him himself, but of the gift of him - too deep. I end by just being grateful and undone by my fortune.

We have soaked in and wandered these past 8 months or so. A Florida cape, Lake Michigan storms and grasses, Seattle ferries, Chicago's river and shouldered towers and Wrigleyville, Indiana back roads, Joshua's trees in the western desert. We have written and spoken thousands of words to each other, driven hundreds of miles, run countless steps, and rejoiced in weaving two main households and 9 satellite homes (children, in-laws, parents) together.

He also brings...grandchildren! Two independent, smart, funny girls, and a boy on the way. The boy will carry two of his three names, as my boys carry all of MB's three names in various combinations. It is a new reality for me this year, that something of both of them are tangibly on the earth and will be for the next 100 years or so. Of course the genes are there...but the names go before and express an identity to others that genes don't show explicitly.

And I wonder, what will accompany the names? What identification do my children (and grandchildren?!) have with MB, with MV, with me? What of us and our lives are they taking with them into the next 80 years? I have some guesses, I have some wishes, and I have 40 years left (please, God) to refine the partially planned, largely serendipitous impressions of childhood and youth into a measured, wise partnership in adulthood. I do feel we are now partners, as they bring their lives, experiences, and tools, and I add mine as needed and wanted. I have loved every phase of motherhood (loved in faith during the 12-year-old years!) and this one just as much, possibly even more. I can't decide: it's hard to compare the joy of small arms and bodies wrapped around mine 10 and 20 years ago to the deep satisfaction of the conversations and man-hugs I get now. I will take them both and be so, so grateful that I can be blessed with them and continue sowing and reaping.

vendredi 18 septembre 2015

Life with Carnivores

Tuesday I rolled out of bed and did my regular morning check under the futon for dead animals. (The cats have decided this makes a good lair.) Ack, yep, there was a headless mouse, not only dead but with innards drying to the rug. I pulled it off and clomped out back in my rain boots to throw the poor fuzzy guy in the bushes, sprayed the rug with 3% hydrogen peroxide, dabbed, et, voilà. Done for the morning.

Except that when I moved into the bathroom, Mr Chipmunk was lying on the rug, getting stiff. He was a big one that I had tried to save the night before, but he had hidden in the garage and was impossible to find. He joined Mr Headless in the bushes.

I used to wrap them in plastic bags and put them in the garbage can, but we started seeing maggots when we rolled it out to the curb. Not having that.

My mornings have routine. After I feed the cats, I head down to the basement to empty the dehumidifier into the drain. I moved the cover from the drain...and a big frog hopped out! How did he get there? Did a cat carry him in, and he escaped under the cover with no sign of entry? Did he come up the drain through the screen, also with no sign of entry? I have no idea. But there he was, hopping confusedly and fairly slowly around the basement. This one I could save! I grabbed our "mouse" cup (which we use to capture live things or transport those we don't want to touch), scooped him up, and took him down to our little creek, which is really a drainage ditch. One happy frog. And a decent ending to the caravan of cat victims.

My other companion these days is a human carnivore. We could easily split right in half a plate of a normal person's dinner: he would eat all the meat and maybe some of the carbs,
I would eat all the vegetables and the rest of the carbs. I might take a bit of his meat, and we would have to share dessert. We're getting along just fine.

As I left the house Tuesday morning, Silverstein came trotting quickly toward me from the field, tail high in the air, with a lovely field mouse dangling from his teeth. He dropped it for me guessed it, throw in the bushes and headed toward his cat food. He is in cat paradise.

mardi 8 septembre 2015

Big & Small

It's been a summer! The middle of it felt like the end, when we were registering for school in July. The end of it feels like the middle, as oven-like as July on September 8th.

 In the house, the grown-up children visited, the almost-grown child went to his boarding dream at college, the youngest-grown expanded to both bedrooms and blossomed at the Civic Theatre. 

On the acres, seeds were sown, a few things will be reaped, many trees were trimmed - although they made barely a dent. Grass was mowed (after the first two months of rain). In my brain and heart and soul, facts and ideas are expanding me, experiences are forming me, and life continues to be rich, painful, sweet, exhausting, beautiful.

One of the stories that has formed my approach to life more than many is the one that shows the servant of Elisha overwhelmed by an enemy army in II Kings 6.

When the servant of the man of God rose early in the morning and went out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was all around the city. And the servant said, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?”
 He said, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Then Elisha prayed and said, “O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.” So the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha."

Our lives become so small so easily. My car, my house, my children, my job, my church, my block, my comfort, my walls that I becomes all about my little world. I have never been comfortable with that. It makes me (Amplified Version) disgruntled, testy, discontented, crabby, displeased.

Look up. Look outside of ourselves. CONSIDER. 

Consider the lilies of the field, that they are taken care of and are beautiful and bring pleasure without effort or worry. Consider the invisible world, where God's powerful, majestic, tender-hearted angels battle over our darkness. Consider that each person's experience informs their perspective, and that only a very few are, in fact, "wrong." 

Look outside of ourselves, so we don't shrivel to fit our little boxes.
Learn from the people who are different than we are, so they don't find themselves pushed away.

Romans 14:17: 
"For the Kingdom of God is not eating and drinking (the little things that we want to create all the rules about), but righteousness (the purity of our relationship with the blindingly good, hurricane-powerful, butterfly-gentle Yahweh), peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (freedom, security, abundant help, strength, wisdom)."

Consider. Let His big world trickle through and expand you.

jeudi 7 mai 2015

një e enjte në maj

Yorktown smelled like lilacs at sunrise this morning.

I realize there are infinitely more wonderful things awaiting us where we go after this world, but this is darn good. I think I will stay here as long as I can. So much to give out and breathe in before we go.

My first day off was mindless. Wonderful and mindless. I sweated, a lot, learning how to pull out a stump after a 5-mile run. I was outside as much as possible.

Today, I suddenly remember I am in the middle of a class. Theoretically, during my 10 days off I am going to work ahead in this class so I survive it plus a new, full-time job. If it were February, that would be no problem. But in May?? I don't think this will happen.

I did run this morning, but now on to the computer work...while the outside sends its siren song in through the windows. Maybe I'll bring the computer to the screen porch....

vendredi 24 avril 2015

Kicked Out of the Nest

I had a farm in Africa....

Just kidding.

I sit in a booth every day. It's a large-ish booth, roomy, and I can roll my cushy desk chair around to grab binders or pull tobacco out of the drawer or find the biggest towel in the pile. Everything I need for work is in it, and those things don't amount to much! A button to push, some papers to write on and pens to write on them with. Outlets for the laptop. A space heater. My Bible, most days. And the bed sheet (the list of the current residents), which really is the most important thing there.

I have watched a lot of things happen from that desk chair. Today I saw a man and his adult daughter meet for the first time in 5 years. (It was very good.) Once I watched a young man leave on a Friday, pulled down by a restless, scrupulous other (that one still makes me furious), and by the next weekend he had died of an overdose. I have heard roars of laughter from the kitchen, watched a suction-cup ball fall from the skylight after months of hanging on, seen tears of fear, relief, gratitude and heartbreak.

(photo via

I don't want to leave it. For someone who has become a bit of a vagabond, leaving anything feels like just another layer of losing. One more time letting go things that have become part of me. In this way, the leaving isn't really about my booth; it is about all the leavings I have had. In another way, though, I feel this leaving specifically and deeply. I am fiercely jealous of whoever sits in the chair next, that they will be able to see James and Dustin and Steve and Scott and Dave and Fred and Mike fight through their next phases in the program. They will see the dark days, when these men walk by the desk without looking, and they will see the light days, when the ribbing and pranks are an outlet for the freedom they are feeling. They will be able to pray for them in the dark and the light. (And they'd better!) They will smile at them, joke with them, listen to them and hear those spectacular and those almost invisible miracles happening.

It's also about seeing men as desperate as Mark was but willing to ask for help, to receive it, to be truly humiliated to the ground so they can rebuild. That means there is hope, that God still does work, that men still do choose His ways over what they can understand, that change can happen.

I have sat in this nest long enough to know that I want to do more than sit. I know my role has been important. But it has been limited; I have had to hold back from asking the questions and doing the listening that could really help change someone's direction. So it's time to go. I know I will learn skills, make connections, and be more usable eventually if I leave, so that someday I can be even more a part of those miracles. And, theoretically, I know that I can't stay there forever, knitting scarves and eating Friday doughnuts and reading books and not really moving forward emotionally and mentally.

But. Many days I just want to.

God, I love these men.

mercredi 22 avril 2015

laughing at the desk

Mr X (wearing a white t-shirt and jean overalls) to Mr Y, when they met in the lobby: "Mr Y."
Mr Y to Mr X: "Mr X. You need some better fashion choices."

Also, maybe the best quote of the day in reference to haircuts happening today: "I rock the mullet."

As I told my co-worker (who I will miss dearly!), sometimes it's hard to answer the phone because I'm laughing so hard.

dimanche 19 avril 2015

Both True

Psalm 18:25,26
With the kind, Though dost show Thyself kind,
with the blameless, Thou dost show Thyself blameless.
With the pure Thou dost show Thyself pure, and
with the crooked, Thou dost show Thyself astute/twisted/tortuous/contrary/tricky/shrewd.

I have seen this.

And yet,

Ezekiel 36:26
And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

I have seen this also.

We see Him as we expect to, and He can live up or down to those expectations. But He sees the heart, and He can change our crookedness.

I love how He brings us to Himself each in our own way, and He is the same in all of it.