Monday, April 29, 2013

Jesus is better than a safari helmet

“Mom, Mom, look at dis!  See, dis is my shooting-gun, and you look through here, and the bullets come from out here and go eeeeurn, eeeeurn, straight, and you look through here and--” he presses the smooth end of the red plastic clamp for his HotWheels race track against my eye, “den you look out here and see the animals, and--- “  

“Bang, bang!” I offer obligingly with a giggle, poking him all over his chest… “I got the big scary tiger!”  He dramatically falls on the floor and clutches his three-year-old throat with his tongue out.  

“Oh no,” I gasp, “my Benjamin tiger is dead! What do I do?”

On the floor with eyes still closed, “Pray to Jesus!”

“Dear Jesus, please raise my Benjamin tiger from the dead!  Amen!”  

He waits, motionless except for his smile, savoring the suspense.  Then, slowly, he raises his head and flashes me a brilliant smile.  He comes over for a hug.  I put my book aside, pull him onto my lap, and we examine his shooting-gun together.

“Are you going to the jungle, Ben?” I ask.  “You better go get your safari helmet…” 

“No, I don’t need it.”

“But what if…” I pause for inspiration.  “What if a big snake falls on your head?”

He thinks briefly.  “Jesus!”

“Jesus will protect your head?”  


“Jesus is better than a safari helmet, isn’t he, Ben?”  

As if that was understood without needing to be stated, he jumps up again, “Mom, look, dis is my ma-chine - see, here’s the forehead, and here’s the head, and here’s the rocket engine at the back… ”  He makes a very convincing rocket-engine sound in the back of his throat and soars off in a circle.  

A fraction of a second later, pointing to a picture of James and I on the fridge, just after we got engaged:

Mom!  Dey's you and Daddy - and dey you have the nicest dress I evuh seen!””

Turning around, red plastic clamp still in hand, he discovers: “Mom, you can speak in deyr!”  He trumpets into one tiny hollow end of the clamp, and it makes a small echo around his voice.  “Doot-duh-DOO!  Doot-duh-DOOOO!  Mom, you try it!”  

I tootle obligingly, trying to keep from laughing.  

When I hand it back, he trots around to the other side of my desk.  “Mom, now I have needles in here for the animals, and dey’re very saahp.”  

It takes me a couple tries…. “Saahp?  Oh, sharp - your needles are very sharp?”

“Yes.  Dey can al-most get the bleed out.”

“Why do you want to get the bleed out of the animals?”

“Buh-cuz… buh-cuz dey’re a-sleepPyoo, pyoo -- “ he shoots an imaginary needle, “Deyr.  I got the bleed out for all the animals, and now dey’re all asleep.”  

“Whew!”  I say, feigning relief.  I’m feeling a bit dizzy.  

In the space of five minutes, one piece of red plastic has been a shooting-gun, a rocket-machine, a trumpet, and a tranquilizer gun.  In between, I’ve received my nicest compliment all week and witnessed Jesus’ supernatural power displayed to resurrect a man-eating tiger.  

Who ever thought motherhood was boring?

Thursday, April 25, 2013

growing green goodness

{This post from early March, just now finding its way to the light...}

My garden is calling to me.  

The moist, clean-smelling earth underneath the dead leaves and old, dried-up twigs of last year’s herbs and flowers.  I scrabble and scrooge (I think that‘s from The Wind in the Willows) with my hands under the dead stuff, and I find… green.  Living green leaves.  Mint.  Oregano.  Little chive spikes finding their way up to the light through holes in the detritus, reaching up bravely into the new year.  

I’m almost breathlessly eager as I unearth them.  Say hello.  Tenderly clear away around the base of each chive-clump, each curling tendril of mint.  Snip dead ends with kitchen scissors which I race madly into the house to retrieve from their drawer, and madly out again, not wanting to miss a moment of the green.  

Why is spring so exciting?

All this newness, all this freshness, compels me to be in it, out in it, breathing it in.  

I want it inside me.  

I want new, fresh spring life inside me, with the same vibrant array of possibilities for growth.  

Spring dirt is teeming with life.  It’s like the sleep of winter has held it captive for so many months, and the minute winter’s icy fingers loosen their grip, spring earth breathes a sigh of relief and releases the fragrances it’s been saving up all winter long.  

Aaaaahhhhhh.  You can almost hear the earth sighing.  Spring has come.  I’m alive.  Awake.  Growing.  Ready for seeds, for rain, for warm spring sun.

The sun gently caresses my back with warm hands as I bend over my herb bed, delighted with each new discovery.  I expected everything to be dead when we came back after seven months away.  I even brought back packets of all the same seeds, expecting to replant.  But no, out of five types of herbs, three are living!  And the long thin space for flowers at the front, empty now, I have lavendar goodness to fill it.  A long row of lavendar hedges… 

I ruminate on the front steps, sitting happy in the sun, inhaling the dusty fragrance of my pile of herb fronds.

Imagining growing green goodness.    

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

for all you fellow sparrows...

One of my favorite bloggers (you can probably guess who) posted about sparrows yesterday... and I thought of you.

You, and me, we're just two little sparrows, making nests, fluttering our wings, trying to find worms for breakfast.  We're both living in tents, dying a little every day, chirping back messages over our shoulders to others coming behind us - "Here's where the best crumbs are found!"

Come count crumbs today with me, and Ann, and a whole host of others...

...for daily worms... I mean, bread!

...for messages chirped back from those who've flown ahead.

...for Light to show us the way.

...for nests in which to lay our heads.

...for feathers to keep us warm.

...for the One who holds each of us in the palm of His hand.

A gift from one sparrow to another... give this music as a special Mother's Day gift?  Click on the album cover on the sidebar to preview snatches on iTunes...

{If you prefer a physical CD, just click the "Buy Now" Paypal button on the sidebar, and my own loving mother will slip one in the mail to you...}

{Email readers, feel free to forward this post to a heart you think would love some gentle new music this Mother's Day - maybe your own mother, or someone else's, or a young mother who needs encouragement as she tends her own flock of little sparrows?}

Monday, April 22, 2013

songs for heavy hearts

{With hearts still heavy for Boston, I humbly offer these songs as, maybe, a balm for sore spirits?}

She’s listening, and she says she feels better.

Both our hearts are heavy today for a mutual friend.  Already this morning I’ve prayed aloud with tears, the words stumbling slow, while she drinks belated coffee and tries to summon enough appetite for a banana.  She says she's just not hungry.  What if it were her babies in the hospital?  

What if it were mine?

Even after praying, the burden remains for both of us.  I cut up vegetables for chicken stock while I lift up every thought as a prayer.  

I’ve told her she can borrow my iPod whenever she wants, that she can listen to whatever she wants.  Today it happened to be set on these heart-songs when she arrived, and when I offer to change it, she says she likes it that way.  Says my voice is comforting, even though she doesn’t understand the words.  

She asks for my earbuds, plugs one in, leaves one dangling.  Connected to both worlds at once.  She wears the earbuds and my blue cap with the silver spangles out to turn over the garden.  I see heaven covering her head.  

I make chicken stock, and watch her spading earth through the window.  The stock simmers, and I join her, pick up a spade, shove it in heavy ground and lift.  The sun warms our backs.  I ask her: how does she feel now?

She says she's feeling better, listening.  Smiles, glances at me over the top of her spade handle.  

This music, almost all in a language she doesn’t understand… somehow, she feels my heart beating through these songs.  Somehow, God’s peace is filling her ears, her heart.    

This dear friend, she is sound as a good apple - sweet right through to the core.

It’s her ordinariness that rescues me from thinking too highly of myself.  She’s like a solid oak tree whose very presence is reassuring.

It’s her humble, laughing acceptance of the hardships in her life that humbles me, prods me into contentment.

I don’t know what I’d do without her friendship.  She is the rock for me in this strange land.  Even though I have had to learn her heart language to communicate with her heart,  sometimes I think even if we couldn’t speak a word to each other, we’d still be friends.

And yet, she doesn’t know.  She doesn’t know what I know.

She doesn’t know where to find that welling up of joy, that spring of peace that flows in any circumstance.  She doesn’t know where to find wisdom that actually works, love that is tender and intimate, romance that surprises.  

She doesn’t know how much she is Loved.  

I am here to tell her.  

Thank You for this music.  Speak through it, through my stumbling tongue.  Fill me with timeliness, and courage.  Help me wait patiently until the moments are ripe, then help me speak boldly when You nudge.  

With all else wonderful that she is, she is not yet my heart sister.  

This I long for.  Every. day.  

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Grandma Ruby's Zinfandel of Beef

The other night, I made my grandma's recipe for beef stew.

It. was. delicious.

So delicious that at the end of dinner (after two helpings each), our dishes looked like this:

Will's comment when he came in from outside and smelled it cooking was, "Wow, Mom!  That smells good!"  Yes, I am raising boys, and they like to eat.  I'm afraid to imagine the teenage years.

I felt a warm glow of pride that my family was so happy with my cooking, and also a kind of domestic thrill that I have preserved this special recipe from my grandma... I know it will be feeding our family for many years to come!

In case you're craving a warm, hearty stew one of these chilly spring evenings...

Here, for your cooking pleasure, is Grandma Ruby's Zinfandel of Beef.  Enjoy!

3-4lbs beef stew meat, cubed
2 cups onions, sliced
2-3 cups potatoes, cubed
2-3 cups carrots, cubed
2 cups celery, chopped (I left this out and it was still yummy!)
2 cups fresh or canned tomatoes, chopped
7-8 cups liquid: 2 cups hearty red wine, 5-6 cups beef stock
6 T butter, melted
4-6 T flour

Simmer beef for 2-3 hours in the wine and beef stock.  Check for doneness.  Add vegetables, simmer 30-40 minutes until tender.  Remove beef and vegetables from pot.  Melt butter, stir in flour a little at a time.  Remove from heat.  Whisk in broth a little at a time until a smooth paste forms.  Reincorporate paste back into the remaining broth, add meat and vegetables back in, heat until bubbling.  Serve with crusty bread and sliced cucumbers!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

holding one miracle, begging two more...

{This, as we continue praying for Boston... 
for hope in the midst of horror, and grace in the midst of grief...}

Her twins are in the hospital.  One smaller than my hand.  

She’s already lost two babies.  Saw them born, late-term, saw their little bodies unmoving.  Laid them in the ground.  She cried when she told me.  I cried too.  She said she nearly lost her mind the second time.  That she went nearly wild with grief.  I feel wild just listening.  

Then, finally, after months of trying, another pregnancy.  

A miracle birth, God’s hand turning this third baby at the last minute from breach to normal, her little daughter sliding out, incredibly, headfirst.  Uncomplicated.  Perfect.  

And now, this.  The doctors misdiagnosed, said one baby was a baby and the other was a growth.  Gave her “strong medicine” for a month to dissolve the excess tissue… which was really her other daughter.  And then, one day, another ultrasound - two heartbeats.  

The shock-joy of it!  

But then, her blood pressure rises.  Stays high too long.  She’s admitted to the hospital, where they tell her she'll stay until the babies are born or until her blood pressure drops.  It stays high too long, and there isn’t enough fluid in her womb.  

They do an emergency Caesarean section, lift out her two tiny daughters.  Oxygen tubes, monitors, incubators.  

She expresses milk every three hours, the nursers feed the babies, but her girls don’t grow.  The tiniest one drinks and swallows, her sister throws everything back up.  The doctors try everything.  

Their tiny lungs develop pneumonia… 

I feed my baby girl in a room full of late afternoon sunshine.  The only sounds are her sucking noises and her little sighs as she fills her tummy.  Her breath feels warm on my skin.  Her little hand clutches my shirt.  

My eyes trace the curve of her cheek, tiny pink veins under her skin.  She pulls off and turns her head to stare at me, reaches up her hand to touch my cheek.  As if making sure I’m really there.  

I hold my breath.  Slowly turn my mouth to kiss her palm.  Motionless, we stare at each other, her big blue eyes blueberries dusted with sunlight.

With another little sigh, she turns her head back to milk.  I close my eyes.  Feel the warmth of sun streaming in past green and gold curtains.  

And I pray.  Every time I feed my daughter, now, I close my eyes and beg God for another miracle.

Two more.  

God, you turned one breach baby girl at the last second.  Make these new babies thrive. Please!

At bedtime, I stand a few long minutes holding Ruby by her bed, her sleepiness nestled into me.  I savor the heavy warm weight of her, her little body fitting the curve of mine, her quick-slow sleep-breathing.  

I bury my face in her soft neck, smell her baby goodness.  Rub my cheek against her whisper-fuzz hair.  I can’t bring myself to put her down.  

I’m floating in the dark with her, swaying back and forth together, all the universe wheeling overhead and underneath.  My own miracle.  My baby girl.  

I never want this warm, weighted moment to end.  This gift of her, warm and breathing in my arms.  

The next day, I hear from a mutual friend that the babies are gaining weight.  One grew 7 grams, her sister 10.  

I breathe a little easier.  Kiss my baby girl, hold her a little tighter.  

Thankful for grace.

(photos of Ruby Grace, growing)

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

setting up the pins...

Life with small children sometimes feels like weaving a braided rug.  I pick up a strand of one color - dishes, laundry, a cup of tea - only to have it interrupted by another color - the baby crying, a scraped knee, a knock at the door.  The days tumble out in no particular order, my best attempts to build a routine crumbling around my feet.  

My favorite song at the moment is by Sara Groves, from her album Fireflies and Songs.  It’s called “Setting Up the Pins”, and there’s a bit in the middle that goes like this:  

Everyone, everywhere, someway, somehow,
Settin’ up the pins for knockin’ ‘em down…
It can feel simple but it’s really profound…
Settin’ up the pins for knockin’ ‘em down…

Rent-a-tent, build-a-stage, throw-a-party, get-a-gown,
Buy-a-ticket, rent-a-car, pack-a-bag-and-leave-town.
Cook-a-dinner, clean-the-kitchen, hit-the-light,
Brush-your-teeth, read-a-book, say-a-prayer, good-night!

That’s what my days feel like… and I love Sara’s song because it ends like this: 

My grandmother had a working song
“Hum-diddle-oh” all day long
Sing for the beauty that’s to be found
Settin’ up the pins for knockin’ ‘em down

There is actually beauty to be found in setting up the pins every day, just to knock them down again.  There is Beauty to be found, and His name is Grace, and I can find Him just by opening my mouth, my heart, in thanks.  The minute I thank Him for the moment, the dirty diaper, the crying child, the potatoes boiling over on the stove, He’s right there with me.  

He was already there, I just didn’t have eyes to see.  

Thanks weaves the sacred with the mundane in a daily-unrolling tapestry of grace, where dirty diapers come right before softest snuggles, and crying children give way to laps full of stories.  Crusty dishes mean three growing bodies ate nutritious food, and piles of laundry mean healthy kids played in good clean dirt today.  

It’s all in how you look at it.  

Thank you, God, for...

...a breezy, blustery spring day.

...clothes drying on the line.

...a surprise visit from a friend.

...a clean bathroom sink. sweet-smelling, soft-cheeked baby daughter. blue-eyed, blond-haired dynamo three-year-old son. thoughtful, studious, mischievous five-year-old son. hard-working, loving husband.

...Your love, unending.

...Your grace, that covers all.

...Your Presence, all the time.

The best moment of today?

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Christ is Risen! {Multitudes on Monday: an Easter photo journal}

He is risen indeed!

our Good Friday {Five Minute Friday: Broken}

{Every Friday, Lisa-Jo Baker posts a prompt, and we write for five unedited, unscripted minutes.  This Friday, the one we call "Good", the prompt is Broken...}


It was when Jesus’ toothpick arm snapped while I was putting him on the cross this [Good Friday] morning that I felt it in my heart: the twinge of new understanding, a fresh glimpse of His pain for me.  

It was when my five-year-old remembered at lunchtime, he who can’t even remember what he had for breakfast - it was when he remembered that he whined on the way to the shop, and that he should put a thorn in Jesus’ crown because of that small sin.  That he remembered his sin.  That he called it sin.  That he quietly took a thorn and stuck it into the grapevine wreath, and understood.  

Jesus was broken for our sin.  For his sin.  My sin.  Yours.  

Broken, body broken, blood spilled out… and it was that my five-year-old was understanding this that broke me this year.

Somehow, I’m living it all over again through them.  The moments when understanding first broke through into my consciousness, when I first began to understand the depth of  Jesus’ brokenness for me.  The layers of His love go deep, and as you live you unwrap depth after depth of brokenness, and you love Him deeper and deeper the older you get.  

That little toothpick arm that snapped?  Jesus’ whole body writhed in agony on that tree, for me.  For William.  And it was our sins that held him there - love for us, and love for His Father.  I’m glad my heart is broken, and I’m even more glad for William’s deepening understanding of brokenness… a simple crown of thorns, a new tradition, a sweet-sad moment with my son.  

Blessing upon blessing welling up from His brokenness, healing ours.  


Five Minute Friday