Thursday, March 31, 2005

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enrage me

“ I hate the work of those who fall away;
it shall not cling to me.
A perverse heart shall depart from me;
I will not know wickedness.
The one who has a haughty look and a proud heart,
him I will not endure.”
~ Psalm 101:3-4,8 (NKJ)

Five of the eight men accused of murdering my young friend shuffle into the courtroom. I am in my usual place, sitting next to Rachel’s mother, third row from the front. Dead center. The bailiffs won’t permit us to sit any closer to the defendants.

I’ve lost count of how many trips we’ve made to this courtroom. Only four months have passed since this gang of men allegedly kidnapped, beat and murdered Rachel. They left her in a gravel pit, where her body lay for two weeks before we found her. Her voice has been silenced for four months, but I can still hear her laughter. Her ashes wait in a small box by her mother’s bedside for the day when Denise is ready to part with her, but I can still see her smile and the startling blueness of her eyes. Eighteen years were not enough time to drink in the beauty of Rachel.

And there, in front of me, are five of the men we believe to be responsible--the men who stole her from us. I fight the tears that threaten to hinder my vision. I want to see. I want a clear view of those men. I want to try to understand how any one person—-let alone a band of eight—-could treat a human being so inhumanely. I hope to see something in their stance, their gaze, their expressions that will answer for the frenzy they poured out upon her.

But I find no answers, and I don't see a shred of remorse. One orange-clad prisoner smirks in our direction. Another flashes an obscene gesture.

And I understand, then, why the guards keep us three rows back; why they won’t let us closer. I thought it was simply for our protection, but I understand, suddenly. The feelings that churn in me clarify the truth: They’re protecting the defendants from us.

O God, I am weary. Sin creeps among us, searching for fertile ground. It wiggles doorknobs and checks for unlocked windows and slips secretly into unguarded hearts. Once inside, if finds an obscure corner and nests there, unnoticed, while it schemes.

Your word says You hate wickedness. Can I do less? Infuriate me, Lord. Destroy my complacency, rouse me from my numbness. Fill me with intolerance. Make me see transgression with Your eyes. Give me Your heart, and make Your wrath burn in me.

Even the world fumes and rants at injustice. But they don’t rage against sin. They don’t recognize the seeds within themselves. They stop just short of honesty, just shy of self-scrutiny. But I am Yours, separated to belong to You. And what You feel, I must feel. Build in me a fierce hatred for sin—but one that goes beyond disgust at crime, at injustice. Take me further, Lord. Take me deeper.
Make me hate the sin within my own heart.

Enrage me, Lord.

* * *

After three back-to-back trials last spring, one man was found guilty of obstructing justice. Seven others were found guilty of the murder of Rachel Rose Burkheimer.


Tuesday, March 29, 2005


Last night, from the back seat, my nine-year old said, "You're a lucky woman to have that man."

I laughed. That's what you do when a child says something fortyish. "Well, yes ... I am. But why do you think so?" I glanced back and saw that she was watching her dad out the window and shaking her head, as if in disbelief.

"Look at him," she said. So I did. Dave stood in front of our church fence tossing wood scraps over and onto our property. He'd spotted the wood when we cruised the theater parking lot behind the church. Teenagers, no doubt, had stacked the pieces so they could more easily climb our fence on their way to and from the theater.

"Dad carries all your wood and stuff."

I didn't point out that it wasn't my wood he was carrying. No need to correct her, because she's right. At home, he carries in firewood for me, and groceries; when we return from a trip, he brings in all the suitcases. Tera sees that. At church last Sunday, he wouldn't let me stack the extra folding chairs, even though it was killing me to see them scattered about. Tera watched him take a chair from my hand and stack it for me. "You don't need to be doing that," he said. She heard.

The girl's right--I'm a lucky woman. And to think I almost missed it ...

Dave and I met the first week of college. We felt an immediate attraction. From his end of things, there was no reason not to pursue that attraction. But I was fresh from a broken engagement--an engagement I ended just three weeks before my planned August wedding. I had good reason for giving my fiance back his ring. You'll just have to trust me on that, because this post is about something else. But after I did that, I had a long talk with myself. I looked back and realized that for five years, I hadn't had a break in my dating life. I'd gone from one boyfriend to another, and it made me wonder if I was capable of being single, if I could get by without a relationship. The bottom line, for me, was that I needed to know God could be enough for me.

I didn't immediately tell Dave my thoughts. I played pool with him in the college game room, and let him walk me to and from classes, and accepted his invitations to sit in Tony's Coffee Shop and sip espresso and listen to beanie-clad flutists play Beatles songs. But after a few weeks, I had to stop. "I can't see you anymore," I said.

He asked for a reason.

"I need to know I can be content to be the bride of Christ," I answered.

Dave had been raised in the church, but he hadn't yet realized that God wanted more than a Sunday morning nod from him. I may as well have been speaking a foreign language.

"I have no idea what you just said, but I respect your right to feel that way," he told me.

Our walks and coffee shop dates ended. He watched for me; I avoided him. But he kept a journal during that time, a journal he showed me years after we married. He poured his heart out on those pages. He'd be in his apartment and hear me coming up the stairs to mine, and he'd write about wondering where I'd been and with whom. He'd see me on campus laughing with someone, and later that night he'd write that he wished I had been laughing over something he said. And every night--for six months--he ended his entry with the same prayer: God, either change her heart or take away my desire for her.

At some point that spring, I decided I'd proved my point to myself. A friend set me up with one of his friends, an older man who was already settled in life. He owned a house in Seattle and a boat on which he spent most weekends. He was a trained vocalist and an incredible pianist. He overwhelmed me.

One night, he took me to dinner at his favorite downtown Seattle restaurant. (I have to insert here that my track record with fancy restaurants is bad. A man I met and dated just after becoming a Christian took me to such a restaurant one night. I figured that was as good a time as any to tell him I couldn't date him anymore because he wasn't a Christian--and I had just learned that I wasn't to be unequally yoked. When I told him, he informed me that he had brought me to that restaurant to ask me to marry him.)

So I'm sitting with Piano Man, listening to a strolling violinist, and my date begins describing for me the kind of life we could have if we married. He pointed out that we could live in the country, but enjoy the city on the weekends. He was laying a pretty good case, when all of a sudden, God answered Dave's prayer. Literally mid-bite, with a forkful of pheasant nearing my mouth, I thought, I wonder what Dave Woodward is doing right now?

I don't remember exactly how I extricated myself from that near-proposal, but I do remember racing back to campus, where I "stalked" Dave for a day or two. Because I don't hide my emotions very well, he noted my change of heart and took action. Within two months, we eloped.

That was almost twenty years ago. In that time, Dave has taught me, loved me, forgiven me, and held me through the most difficult moments of my life. He's the most perfect example of Christ I've laid eyes on--and the best pastor I've ever had. He's gentle, patient and pure-hearted. And there are many, many days when I look at him and think, How on earth did I end up with you?

The answer, of course, is that God's ways are higher than our own. His plans are beyond our comprehension. And often--more often than we're aware of--he gives us what we don't deserve.

The fact is, I'm not lucky at all. I'm blessed.

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Monday, March 28, 2005


We run through the obligatory script, the way you do every time you approach a checker at the grocery store.

"How ya doing?" she asks.

"Fine. How are you today?"

"I'm good."

I assume it will end there; if often does. I'm tired from my workout at the Y and she seems tired of her task. Usually, when two tired people face each other over a conveyer belt of groceries, they both absorb themselves in making sure the food gets in the bag. But I tilt my wallet the wrong way and send change skittering all over the conveyer belt and check-writing counter and floor. It opens her.

"Oh, boy--I'm having a day like that too," she scoops up the change she can reach and hands it to me. The shopper behind me clears her side of the floor and hands me a couple of quarters and a dime. Now we three are friends.

"Have you had a bad day?" I ask.

"Yeah." She accepts the $20 I hand her and turns to the cash register. "Nothin's gone right today. And it all started with this nut this morning. I see this guy comin' down the main aisle, right? And I can tell he's furious about something and I'm just hoping like crazy he'll keep walking, but no ... he walks right up to me." She pulls out a couple of one dollar bills and hands them to me, along with a bit more change for my wallet.

"What was he so mad about?" the woman behind me asks.

The checker scoffs. "Easter."

I laugh. "What's to be mad about?"

She shakes her head. "He's got a greeting card in his hand and he goes, 'How come this is the only Easter card in the whole store that mentions God?'"

The woman behind me makes a disgusted sound and shakes her head. But my heart convulses. I need a second to think.

I have a choice. I can stick up for the checker, or I can stick up for the brother. Yes, he'd gone about it wrong. But I understand.

I'm tired of thievery. I'm sick of watching the world steal slow, incremental pieces of our holidays until they have enough pieces to form the day into their own. Santa kicked the baby Jesus to the curb. The Easter bunny climbed the cross and nailed a big pastel sign on top: Have a hoppity, sugary day! And we're supposed to not mind. We're supposed to smile kindly and scoot over and not say a word.

I'll try to make it up to the woman. I will. I'll choose her check-out line, every time, no matter the wait. I'll be pleasant. I'll show her Jesus. But right now, I have to side with the brother.

"Well, you know," I begin, as quietly and gently as I can muster, "God is the reason for the celebration."

The checker looks at me and I can tell our conversation is over. Sure enough, she ignores the script. "Thank you," I say as I take my bag from her. She's suppose to say "Have a nice day." It's right there on the bottom of the page; she'd see it, if she looked. But she's not looking. Instead, she and the silent woman behind me are staring at the floor. By the time I walk ten feet and look over my shoulder, they've started in together. I see them leaning in toward each other, mouths flapping, and I have no doubt they're talking about the nut who just left.

I don't belong here. And I'm okay with that.

But people who aren't Christians can't understand these truths from God's Spirit. It all sounds foolish to them because only those who have the Spirit can understand what the Spirit means. We who have the Spirit understand these things, but others can't understand us at all. -- 1 Cor 2:14-15 (NLT)


Thursday, March 24, 2005


Last October, Dave and I went to Israel. I can't even express how much that trip affected me. When I've had sufficient time to process all that I saw and heard and experienced, I'll no doubt write more about it. But today, I'm thinking of the tomb.

Two sites claim to be the burial site of Jesus. The one we didn't see is the source of much conflict. Six or seven churches have established shrines there and each will tell you, vehemently, that their little corner is the exact spot where Jesus died.

We went, instead, to a garden just to one side of a small hill, a hill on which you can see the indentations of a skull if you squint just right. It's not the enormous hill you picture when you imagine those three crosses. It's short enough that hecklers below could easily call up insults. It's short enough that a man nailed and dying could easily look down and see his mother's devastated eyes.

"We think this is Golgotha," our guide said. "Skull Hill." Whether it got that name because of the eye socket-, nose- and mouth-indentations on the side or whether it was because criminals were tossed over the side of that cliff and their bones left in a rotting heap, he didn't know. I shuddered to imagine the fear a condemned man would feel as he looked down on that pile of untouchable shame, knowing his bones would soon join the skeletons of those other sinners below.

When the group ahead of us had finished, we took our turn at the tomb. It felt surreal to walk up to the exact spot (I'm convinced) where they laid Jesus' lifeless body--the same spot where, three days later, the breath came back in his lungs and his fingers twitched and his eyes opened again. I'm still not over the wonder of it.

Our guide gave us some background about this particular tomb. "We know whoever owned this tomb had money. First, the cave contains two slabs. This meant that if there were two deaths in the family, they'd be prepared for both bodies." He told us that when we went inside, we'd notice that one slab had an area carved out for feet; the other did not. That indicated that only one slab had ever been used, and for whatever reason, after that one body had lain inside, they never finished the second slab.

From outside, he pointed to a small window above and to the right of the door. "That's a soul window," he explained, "and that's the second reason we know this tomb belonged to someone wealthy." Bodies were kept in tombs until the flesh rotted away and only bones remained. Those who could afford to do so often had small ventilation windows cut out so the odor of decay could escape.

The window, to me, is proof that this spot is the authentic burial site of Jesus. For we read this in John 20:4-5:

"So they both ran together, and the other disciple outran Peter and came to the tomb first. And he, stooping down and looking in, saw the linen cloths lying there; yet he did not go in."

John outran Peter. He reached the tomb but did not go in. And somehow, filling that small doorway--and blocking the light from outside--he was able to see Jesus' burial cloths lying on the slab.

The door to that tomb has been enlarged over the years. But if it were small enough then for John to have to stoop down to look through, he would have blocked the light from outside. That meant in order to see the slab, there had to be another light source.

When you stand in the doorway of this particular garden tomb, a shaft of light from the "soul window" pierces the darkness of that room and shines directly on that one finished slab.

I didn't cry when I entered that small room and stood and stared down at the empty slab. Instead, I thought, You're not here.

The bones of every prophet, every great teacher, every king and emperor and religious leader throughout history can be found right where they were laid.

But this room is empty. He lives.

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Wednesday, March 23, 2005


On my left arm and hand, I have two identical scars. I received both in the exact same way, doing the exact same activity ... two years apart. I know what you're thinking, but no, I wasn't bull-fighting. Nor was I bungy-jumping, sky-diving or knife-throwing, although when I want to impress someone, I claim to have done all of those things. No, I earned my scars during a different teeth-clenching, death-defying activity: teaching. Both times, I was teaching a history lesson about the Revolutionary period to a group of homeschooled children, and both times I dribbled hot wax on myself while demonstrating the safe and proper way to wax and seal an envelope.

My husband has since forbidden me to play with sealing wax.

Over the years, people have asked me about those scars. I'm always happy--almost eager--to share the stories of my near-death experiences. “See how much I love children?” I say, pointing to the proof. “See what I’m willing to suffer for the furtherance of their education?”

Scars are the landmarks of a life. They reveal something about their owners: you’re a dare-devil, or you’re accident-prone, or you’re reckless. Scars tell your story.

I have other scars, but these aren't physical and they can’t be seen by the naked eye. To see these wounds, you have to use your spiritual eyes.

One scar--one of my earliest--was earned when I lost a close childhood friend because she didn’t share my new-found love for Jesus. I had to make a choice; I chose my Savior. I've never regretted that decision, but I still miss my friend.

Another tells of a different, sister-close friend who rejected me over conflicting ideas about ministry. I cried long and hard while that wound healed over. It still throbs sometimes when I hear or see something that makes me wish I could sit in her kitchen and watch her bake; could still talk gardening and parenting and life with her.

Yet another was earned when, instead of responding to the false accusations of a woman leaving our church, I bit back my instinctive "you're wrong" response and wrote her a note that said, simply, “We’ll miss you … we love you … we pray God leads you to a church where you can grow.”

We try our whole lives to avoid scars, because we want to keep our hearts and bodies pristine and unmarked. We hunker in a tight ball with our face in a corner and our hands over our ears, trying to keep all the scary things at bay. But that's not how we're meant to live. That's certainly not the life of a believer.

Amy Carmichael knew the truth about wounds and those who earn them:
No Scar?

Hast thou no scar?
No hidden scar on foot, or side, or hand?
I hear thee sung as mighty in the land,
I hear them hail thy bright, ascendant star,
Hast thou no scar?

Hast thou no wound?
Yet I was wounded by the archers, spent,
Leaned Me against a tree to die; and rent
By ravening beasts that compassed Me, I swooned:
Hast thou no wound?

No wound? No scar?
Yet, as the Master shall the servant be,
And pierced are the feet that follow Me;
But thine are whole: can he have followed far
Who has no wound nor scar?

This will sound odd, but I’m going to tell you anyway: I hope you earn many unseen scars. I hope as you follow the path to eternity, you gather a collection of wounds that prove you spent your life walking behind the only One worth following. And when you reach the end of that path and he turns to greet you, and he surveys your arms and your hands and your heart, I hope he smiles and says, “You look just like me.”

"Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great …” Matt 5:10-12 NASU


Tuesday, March 22, 2005

infuse me

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?” - Matthew 5:13 (NASV)

I’d been around the table twice and had tried a bite of every offering: potato salad, macaroni salad, fruit salad. Little ham sandwiches. Barbecued beans. Jell-o. I’d even had a tiny, tiny slice of Mississippi Mud brownies. Enough was enough.

“Ready to go?” my husband asked. I nodded.

Our host, Scott, chased us down and blocked our exit. “Not so fast.” He steered us back toward the kitchen and pointed to a platter on the counter. “One bite,” he commanded.

I wasn’t hungry. Not even a little. If I’d wanted more to eat, I’d have circled the table again. Who leaves a potluck hungry?

But Scott insisted. “Come on. One taste won’t hurt you.”

So I obliged. I accepted one polite mouthful. And that one morsel, that savory, drippy, delectable nibble made me drop my purse and reach for a plate. The bite was moist and herby. Succulent. The juices slithered across my lips and trickled toward my chin. I became, suddenly, barbaric and mannerless; a she-Viking before a banquet, and quite shameless in my exuberance.

What was the object of such rapturous ramblings, such gluttonous ecstasy? Deep-fried turkey. I’d been skeptical when I heard of the unorthodox procedure, but that one bite won me over. A half hour in that vat of oil had fried the skin to crisp perfection, while the meat inside was beyond tender. I’d never tasted a turkey as good.

“How did you make it taste like this?” I asked.

Scott grinned and held up a syringe with a wickedly long needle. “Cajun spices, salt, garlic, herbs, butter. I used this and I showed no mercy.”

“More,” I grunted, thrusting my plate toward the proud chef. I ate until I couldn’t. And I’m not ashamed. I’d do it again, without apology.

Some things are just that good.

Lord, here I am--aware of my uselessness and in need of your touch. You’ve called me to a task. You’ve asked me to be salt and you’ve sent me out to woo and draw the lost to you. But I know my ineffectiveness. I am salt that has long since lost its flavor. I am bone-dry and tasteless.

Inject me, Lord. No matter the cost. No matter how I might protest. Do what you must to flavor me with your essence, so that all I meet will know that I’ve been saturated in your presence. Pierce me and fill me with your compassion, your patience, your mercy, your love. Make me a carrier of your goodness to a hungry world.

Infuse me, Lord.


and the winner is ...

Inconceivable: Finding Peace in the Midst of Infertility

I heard from my editor's assistant this morning--they went back to my original title. I am relieved and grateful! Thanks for all your input. I emailed your suggestions and comments along with my own, and I have to believe it made a difference to the marketing team.

And now ... I must go finish writing the book. :)


Sunday, March 20, 2005


My daughter was almost three before I first laid eyes on her. I'd gone to the home of a new friend to swap stories and get acquainted. Not long into our talk, Kari said, "Wanna take a peek at my new foster daughter?" I did, so we tiptoed upstairs and to the last door on the right. When the light from the hall burst into her room and over her little toddler bed, Tera lifted a head full of blonde curls and turned mischievous eyes toward me.

"Hey! You're supposed to be asleep," Kari said, but there was a smile in her voice.

I reached out and touched Tera's head, and the moment I felt her hair beneath my fingers, I thought, Lord, I would love for this to be my daughter. My reaction startled me. After thirteen failed adoptions, Dave and I had concluded that God was saying no to another child. We'd agreed not to try again.

But apparently God had not said no. Doors opened. After a few pounds of paperwork and a few months of classes and visits from social workers, we got our foster adopt license. Two other families expressed interest in taking Tera, but the state chose us.

In all that time, she never knew how hard we worked to ready ourselves and our home for her. She didn’t know about the hour I spent at the home improvement store debating between the bunny border and the one with the roses, wondering which one she’d like best. I settled for the bunnies--but worried all the way home that I'd made the wrong choice. She didn't know that.

Nor did she know how much my heart hurt each time I visited and she called me “Shannon.” I felt a desperate longing to be “Mommy.”

We were Tera's foster parents for fourteen months before we stood in a court and heard a judge declare us to be a permanent family. In Tera's eyes, it didn't happen with the drop of a gavel. It took her awhile to believe we were her family. And it was a long time before I stopped being “Shannon.” But I'll never forget the moment she slipped me a shy smile and whispered, “Mommy.” It was worth the wait.

Sometimes the Lord waits a long time for his child to realize he’s not just God, Creator, and Savior--he's also Abba. He's Father.

But he's willing to wait too.

“But you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ‘Abba! Father!’” Romans 8:15 (NASV)


Friday, March 18, 2005


I'm heading into the home stretch with my work-in-progress. The book is due to my publisher April 15th and everything's coming together. But I heard from the marketing team the other day and they'd like to change my title. Please read both and weigh in on which one would best grab your attention:

Finding Peace in the Midst of Infertility

(Take a break ... read the back of the cereal box or something to "clear your palate" ...)

A Journey through the Pain of Infertility

(Variation on the second: Inconceivable Peace. I could also switch subtitles.)

I'm interested in your specific objections to either or your reasons for liking one over the other. Thanks for your help! I'm sending my suggestions (and probably yours :) back to the marketing team before their titling meeting this coming Tuesday.


Wednesday, March 16, 2005

interview with herwryness

My new friend, Robin (a.k.a. HerWryness), kindly offered to interview me this past week. Feeling up to the challenge, I agreed to jet over to the Bahamas and sit in her beach shack and share life stories over big glasses of freshly squeezed mango juice ... or maybe I just answered her questions via email. I can't quite remember. Here are the highlights:

Robin: Why do you blog?

Shannon: Excellent question, interviewer Robin. I suppose I should confess that I initially thought the term "blog" was short for "blah-blah log." And I thought to myself, I can blah-blah with the best of them ... why not give it a go?

Once I started, the whole concept hooked me. For one thing, blogging is a more casual, forgiving venue than what I'm used to. I set the parameters for this blog. If I want to write a devotional, I write a devotional. If I want to address other writers, I do so. I don't have to read publisher's guidelines first or worry that someone else just published a similar thought. I love the freedom it provides.

I also love the immediacy of blogging. Traditional publishing is anything but immediate. For example, magazines can take a year or longer to publish your work--even after they've accepted it. Books take longer. My first took eighteen months from contract to publication; this next one, which I'll finish in the next month, will be somewhere around twenty months. That’s a long time to wait for feedback from readers. With blogging, however, you write, wait twenty minutes, refresh the page, and find a comment from a reader. It’s practically like having someone sit in your living room and watch while you type them a message.

Plus, blogging provides connection with old and new readers and with other writers. I'm so taken with it, I can't imagine ever not blogging. (Are you excited to know you'll one day read about my shuffleboard and/or pinochle exploits down at the old folks' home? :)

Robin: Are you ever surprised about where your writing starts or where it ends?

Shannon: Let me answer you this way: if I’m ever not surprised, I start over. Predictability is unforgiveable. With five senses, dozens of emotions, and thousands of words available to me, there’s no excuse to settle for dry, lifeless, predictable writing.

So partly, I work at surprising myself. But the other half of that equation is God. Secular writers talk about the "muse," and I suppose if you want to give a pet name to your creativity, that's as good a name as any other. But as a writer who happens to be a Christian, I know that my writing is a joint venture between the Holy Spirit and me. I love finishing a page, looking back over the words that found their way onto the screen, and thinking, "Now THAT'S interesting." Nothing gratifies me more than realizing that God joined me for my writing session.

Robin: What is your favorite nonwriting activity?

Shannon: Oooh, I'm tempted to rebel and give you five or six. If this were fall or winter, I'd have to say knitting, baking or cooking (I adore cookbooks and read them like novels ... sitting on the couch with a quilt and a cup of coffee or cocoa ... sigh.) But being that it's almost spring, I'll have to say gardening. Just this week, I planted eleven rose bushes and one hydrangea, pruned the grapevines around our arbor and the raspberries in back of the vegetable garden, and prepared a new bed for flowers. It's funny how a task I detested as a child (weeding) feels like a guilty pleasure to me now. I feel luxurious and indulged when I sit for a stolen half hour and clear the weeds from between my rosemary, mint and marjoram.

Robin: Could you tell us one thing about being a pastor's wife that we might not know?

Shannon: My answer might seem obvious, but you'd be surprised how few people seem to know this: I'm not the pastor. I'll frequently run into people who know my husband is a pastor, and they'll turn to whoever they're with and say, "She and her husband pastor Calvary Chapel ..." It makes me squirm. I'm very, very comfortable in my role as wife to the pastor, but I am not the pastor.

Along with that, I'd like people to realize that we try hard to be good examples, but we really are just women who are married to the pastor. We have all the same weaknesses, we're just as easily tempted or angered, and we make all the same sorts of mistakes as any other member of the fellowship. I love my people dearly ... dearly ... but I wish they'd let me climb off this pedestal! :)

Part of the danger of being up on that pedestal is people put you in a different category. "Well, sure, she has a quiet time every day (or loves the Bible, or forgives those who have hurt her, etc.) ... but what else do you expect from the pastor's wife?" That kind of thinking creates a double-standard. I want to come alongside you and walk together and share our mistakes and hold each other accountable. I don't want you to think I'm on an entirely separate path. We're on the same path together, and we have much to learn from one another.

Robin: Will you try your hand at fiction??

Shannon: Absolutely. Right now I have five or six novels plotted and two screenplays outlined. But I also have about ten other nonfiction ideas, so we're going to have to set up an arm-wrestling match or flip a coin. Whichever idea squeals the loudest will probably come out of the file first.

Robin: You have a beautiful way of capturing moments in life that many miss. What advice would you give modern women to help us catch more of those precious moments?

Shannon: First, thank you. And second, my advice is to take a second look or a second listen to the things that happen around you. Every single day, God is talking to us. He speaks through children, through nature, through odd situations, and even through mundane, ordinary moments. If we really grab hold of that truth, we'll start hearing His voice regularly.

When my son was about four, I found him sitting out on the giant rock that overlooks our pasture and creek. Beyond the creek, the road continues through the woods and up to the main road. Zac sat staring up toward the top of the driveway. I asked what he was doing, and he said, "Grandma said she might write me a letter. I'm waiting to hear the mailman."

Just a hint of a possibility of a coming letter sent him scurrying to a look-out post. How much more should we be looking and listening every day? Our Father wants to speak to us. All we have to do is look His way and tune our ears.
* * *

My thanks to Robin. Please take a minute to visit her website: herwryness. I promise--you'll love her wry perspective.


Tuesday, March 15, 2005


"I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back again." ~ Oscar Wilde

I’m just home from Starbuck’s. I went there early this morning to have a meeting with myself. Knowing I wasn’t going to take it very well, I first bought myself a turkey-bacon breakfast sandwich and a tall latte. That sort of blatant bribery always works with me. It put me in a better mood to receive the news I was about to firmly deliver to ... myself.

And no, I didn’t like what I had to say. Not one little bit. But I could tell that I had given it a lot of thought—a night's worth of thinking, actually—and so I had to respect myself for being willing to lay it on the line for me that way. You’re impressed too; I can tell.

What was the awful, must-buy-myself-a-treat-before-I-deliver-it news? I had to convince myself to delete an entire chapter—a whole day’s work. (We’re friends, so I’ll be truthful. The word ‘delete’ is for dramatic effect only. I mean, I’m not an idiot. I’ll use that chapter sometime, somewhere. So I first copied it to my “sometime-somewhere” file. But suspend your disbelief for a moment, forget I clued you in, and picture me lifting my hand and bringing my index finger firmly down on the bottom row button, right side, fourth from the end. Imagine “Phantom of the Opera” type music playing in the background while I do this.)

I even snuck my laptop into Starbuck’s with me so I couldn’t change my mind after I’d persuaded myself. Before I could back out, I made myself open the chapter and start again. It had to be done; the chapter simply didn’t work as it stood. I actually liked quite a bit of the content, but overall, it wasn’t going to accomplish what it must in that “Chapter 24” slot of this particular book. I need a transition chapter there, something to set up the next scene. Instead, I’d allowed myself to spend all day yesterday wandering a cerebral, prosy path.

One of my favorite writing quotes is by Robert Cromier: "The beautiful part of writing is that you don't have to get it right the first time, unlike, say, a brain surgeon."

Yes, Robert. It’s nice that no lives depend on me getting it right. But there’s very little that’s beautiful about deleting a whole day’s work ... except that it gave me something to blog about.

Happy writing today. And if, somewhere along this day’s work, you develop an uncomfortable suspicion that you may end up slashing some or all of your precious words—see if you can first get a goodie or two out of the deal.


Monday, March 14, 2005


“Use every piece of God's armor to resist the enemy in the time of evil, so that after the battle you will still be standing firm.”
~ Eph 6:13 (TLB)

A few years back, I came downstairs one morning before school and saw my then second-grader standing with her nose scrunched up and her head cocked to one side, a tip-off to me that she was thinking hard.

“This is Thursday, right?” Tera asked.

“No, it’s only Wednesday.”

She sighed and her face relaxed. “Good thing. That means it’s not my day yet.”

“Not your day for what?”

“To be chased at school. If today’s Wednesday, it’s Josh’s turn to be chased.”


“We all take turns at recess,” she explained. “Today’s Josh’s turn, then mine is tomorrow. Carleton gets chased on Friday.”

“So what happens when it's your day?”

“I run from the boys. If they catch me, I have to go to jail. If I can escape when they’re not looking--great. Or Jasmine can let me out.”

“How does she do that?” I asked.

“She has a pretend key.”

What a great little system, I thought. And then I thought how nice it would be if real life worked like that. Wouldn’t it be helpful to know ahead of time which days you most need to be on guard?

Unfortunately, life doesn’t work that way. Your next battle could come today, it could come tomorrow, it could appear next week--but you don’t get to know ahead of time. There’s not one pre-arranged day for all your attacks to occur. No discussion. No warning. So you have to be on your guard every single day.

Two key things make the difference between being prepared and being caught:

1) Armor

God describes your pre-assigned armor in Ephesians 6. If it's been awhile since you've been in Ephesians, today's a great day to brush up on that passage. Then--put it on.

2) Caution

Resist saying, "I'd never ..." We often find ourselves smack dab in the middle of a fiercely tempting situation simply because we thought that was one area where we'd "never." The moment you finish that sentence, you tip off the enemy as to where you're unguarded.

I pray you have a peaceful, easy week. But just in case this is your "Thursday" and trouble or temptation makes an unexpected appearance and lines itself up against you, I pray you hold fast and stand firm.


Friday, March 11, 2005

help my friend

A friend of mine is in desperate need of a home for his dog. He LOVES this dog and says it's well-trained and kid-friendly, but his wife insists he get rid of it. She claims that "it stares at her all day long" and says it creeps her out. Please, please, please ... just take a quick look at this puppy:

So ... will you take him?



on poking and gathering

My friend Nathan is a character. During his first real "out in the world" experience (otherwise known as kindergarten), he became enamored of one little girl, a girl we'll call Taylor Butler, because that's her name.

Every afternoon, when he made the pilgrimage back home and sat down to a snack and a debriefing with Mom and/or Dad, Nathan would share Taylorbutler stories. And that's how he said her name--all smashed together like it was one unseparatable word: "Taylorbutler." Chris and Cora learned all kinds of things about Taylorbutler--the colors she liked to wear most often, the fascinating way she held her crayons, which snack she'd eat first out of her lunchbox ... Nathan saw and recorded it all.

One afternoon, Nathan brought home a letter of concern. It seemed the teacher had caught him poking Taylorbutler. Cora decided that poking matters fell under "father duties," so she handed the letter to Chris.

"Nathan," Chris said, "did you poke Taylorbutler?"

Nathan nodded.


"Because I wanted to see if she was squishy."

An immediate question rose in Chris' mind. "Uh ... exactly where did you touch her to find this out?"

Nathan poked his dad right in the side, just below his rib cage. "Here, Dad."

Chris was, of course, relieved. "And ... was she squishy there?"

Nathan grinned and nodded slowly. "Oh, yeah."

I just love that kid. He has a quirky way of viewing things, and all these little idiosyncracies that keep me laughing. I especially like the way he phrases things.

Whenever he wants to make sure Cora doesn't forget something, say, a promised trip to MacDonalds or some other privilege, Nathan will instruct her: "Write that up, Mom," and she does.

Chris and Cora lead one of our church's home fellowship groups, which they host every other Sunday night. One Sunday afternoon, Nathan wondered if perhaps this was the night all his friends came over for home fellowship.

"Hey, Dad--is tonight home fellyshellygloop?"

What would we do without kids? They give us some of our best insights, and certainly some of our most colorful words. "Fellyshellygloop" is one of my all-time favorites.

It's important, you know. We're meant to fellowship together. We were created with fellowship-needs. Somehow, some of us have forgotten that. Not kids, though. Kids have an instinct that drives them to herd together and compare their owies and share their Skittles. They're always up for a get-together. Always. Have you ever known a child to say, "Nah. I'm not in a socializing mood?" Of course you haven't. My daughter once asked, while shivering despite her 103 degree temperature, "If I stop shaking, can Jaimey come over?"

We've much to learn from these short people. Herd together with someone this weekend--or lots of someones. Go to church! It's good for your heart to be among people who share your beliefs, people you can show your owies to. Find another couple to have lunch with afterwards. We'll be at Scott and Diana's Sunday afternoon, if you're looking for us.

This weekend, find yourself some good fellyshellygloop. You won't be sorry.

Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another-and all the more as you see the Day approaching. ~Heb 10:25 (NIV)



Thursday, March 10, 2005


Miss Scah-lett, I don't know nuttin 'bout birthing goats.

And YET ... yesterday I became a goat midwife. Here's the scene: I had just gotten out of the shower and dressed around noon yesterday (readying myself for yet another doctor's appointment), when my cell phone rang. It was Dave, who I knew would be coming home soon to pick me up. What I didn't know was that he was already home and calling from the pasture.

"She's having the baby!" was his greeting to my "Hello."

"Who is?" I'm still thinking he's at church. Perhaps some pregnant woman had wandered in ...

"The goat! Come out here!"

We'd been closely watching Whiney, the mama goat, all week. It was clear she was very close to giving birth, so we had fresh straw spread out for her in the goat barn. But she didn't go in there. Instead, for reasons known only to her, she found the most difficult-to-get-into brush in the whole pasture and settled herself there on the dirt.

When I arrived, the kid already had her face and two front hooves out. Mama had been on her side, so baby's little snout and mouth were covered in bark and dirt. I cleaned it off as best as I could and asked Dave to go get warm water, clean scissors and an unused, white cotton shoelace ... wait, scratch that. That wasn't this birth. That was a birth I attended back when I lived in that little house out on the prairie and my name was Laura ... No, I asked him to go get the goat book in the house. I'd remembered the camera, but forgotten the book, and since I have to try to hop over the electric fence to get in and out of the pasture and it scares the life out of me to do so and he has much longer legs and hops that fence like it's the curb on a sidewalk, he obliged.

Those hooves didn't look right snugged up tight around the kid's face. I worried that she wasn't getting enough air, and sure enough, as I stood there, her breathing became more labored and her little "baahs" turned to gasps. That really worried me, so I tried to push her hooves back in so they wouldn't strangle her. Whiney didn't like my plan. Even without a "Goat to English" translation book handy, I could tell her bellowing meant, "Knock it off." So I quit. I tried to maneuver my hand in past the kid's head to give a little tug on her shoulders--and did manage to pull her out another inch or so before Dave returned with the book.

He took over while I read. At this point, only the tips of my thumb and index finger on my left hand and index finger on my right hand were NOT covered in ... you know. We'll call it "goat birthing delight." This was just enough clean finger useage to turn the pages of the goat book and take pictures. Lucky for the goat AND you.

The book said that having the head and front hooves come out at the same time is what you want, so I felt simultaneously relieved and ridiculous. Dave talked Whiney through the rest of the process and, as you can see by the picture, helped to pull the baby out.

I'm just amazed at that whole thing. What's ironic, to me, is that just before my shower, I finished a chapter in my next book. For those of you who don't know, I'm writing a book entitled: Inconceivable: A Journey to Peace After Infertility. I'd reached the chapter where I had to describe the overwhelming grief I felt when we lost yet another adoption (we lost thirteen altogether). This time, I was holding the baby in the hospital nursery when the call came telling us the mom had changed her mind. I'd already bonded with that child, and I couldn't let go easily. At the end of the chapter, Dave had found some peace over the situation by being reminded that God is worthy of worship anytime He creates something, and that this child was a miracle ... just not our miracle.

Maybe because those words were so fresh in my mind, I found myself worshiping as I looked at that newborn miracle, wobbling there on its skinny little newborn legs. God had created something amazing, something with the instinct to pull her little hooves up close to her face to make it easy on her mama, something with the instinct to know where to go for nourishment, and the determination to nibble her way to just the right spot. (I'm thinking that if Dave and the kids approve, I'd like to call her Nibbles.)

If we humans put all our little pea brains together, we couldn't come up with one newborn goat. We couldn't make the dirt she was born on, or the air that filled her lungs, or even the brambles that surrounded her birthing spot.

Oh, God ... You are amazing.

The God of glory thunders; The LORD is over many waters. The voice of the LORD is powerful; The voice of the LORD is full of majesty. The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars, Yes, the LORD splinters the cedars of Lebanon. He makes them also skip like a calf ... like a young wild ox. The voice of the LORD divides the flames of fire. The voice of the LORD shakes the wilderness ... The voice of the LORD makes the deer give birth, And strips the forests bare;
And in His temple everyone says, "Glory!"
~ Ps 29:3-9NKJV

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Wednesday, March 09, 2005


Zac left this morning for a three-day trip to Mount Baker with the high school. He's been gone seven minutes, and I miss him already.

Last night, in preparation for the trip, he tried on a knit hat with ear flaps he bought in Canada last summer. Surveying his reflection in the giant mirror hung above our couch (and checking his pecs at the same time, that clever, multi-tasking boy), he thought only one thing could improve his look: a big dangling pompom.

"Mom, you know how to make one of those, right?"

Although some days, he acts as if I don't have enough sense to tie my shoes, he never, ever doubts my ability to find money in my purse ... or use the debit card ... or produce a chicken pot pie or big pan of beef stroganoff from thin air ... or whip up whatever else he's decided he must have that exact moment. No. When Zac gets a fancy for something he can't provide for himself, suddenly I'm Einstein and Martha Stewart squished together.

And of course I'm just prideful enough to rise to that expectation.

"Absolutely! Do you want ten? Would you like them in various colors and puff-thicknesses? Want me to figure out how to make them laugh, or light up? Shall I monogram each fiber with 'ZW'?"

He only wanted one -- one plain, silent, non-lighting pompom. And I just happened to be sitting on the couch knitting when he asked, so my basket of yarn was right at my feet. We found a color that matched his hat and I set to work.

I think you'd like the final product. That is, of course, if you could squelch the thought I managed to squelch -- the thought that ear flaps and dangling pompoms just don't look high-school-boy-worthy. I have a news flash for you: the fashion world has moved on without us.

According to my son, the pompom made the whole outfit. I'm deciding to trust him on that. Still, I had to smile at how little-boyish he looked to me.

And then this morning, he yelled down from the upstairs bathroom, "Hey, Mom! I haven't shaved in two days--wanna feel my beard before I shave it off?"

You don't turn down an offer like that. He galloped down the stairs and thrust his chin at me. "Feel right here. You gotta move back and forth."

I touched his chin. "Zac, those are two of the mightiest chin hairs I've ever felt."

He grinned. "Two?! I must have ten."

And then he was gone.

I'm glad he needed me for something before he left. I've always loved that part of mothering--the part where I'm needed. The part where he turns to me and says, "Can you ... " and I get to say, "Yes, I can."

That reminds me of a walk we took a long, long time ago. Here's the shortened version of that day, a version I wrote for a devotional. The much longer, much more detailed version is found in my book.

* * *

“You first.”

My two-year-old wasn’t being gallant. This was not a buffet line, or first crack at a plate of cookies. He wasn’t holding a door open for me. We were walking in the woods, and he had just confronted an enormous spider web.

“You first, Mama.”

I obliged. Where the brush was thick, I stepped and smooshed, clearing a path for him. Where webs crisscrossed between bushes and trees, I swung my mighty stick and made the path safe for little spider web-fearers.

He followed, carefree, like the young prince that he is. When he grew hungry, I pulled a granola bar from the mysterious depths of my pocket. I even took off the wrapper for him. When he thirsted, I gave him a swig from my water bottle. And when he yawned and slowed his steps, I picked him up and turned us both for home—despite all his crabby protestations.

How comforting to know that our Father has gone before us to clear the cobwebs, to straighten the path, to make a way for us in the wilderness. How good to know that He is there to satisfy our hunger and thirst, and carry us when our strength is gone. Though we are tempted sometimes to run ahead, it’s so much better to follow.

You first, Lord.

“I will go before you and make the crooked places straight . . .”
~ Isaiah 45:2 (NKJV)

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Monday, March 07, 2005

face to face

I'm busy today going over notes for a class I'm teaching tonight at a Seattle writers' group, Northwest Christian Writers' Association (NCWA). My class is entitled, "Fear Factor," and I'll be discussing five of the most common fears writers face. It's funny, because I only have one fear about this evening: I'm afraid of my Power Point projector. It's a finicky, wicked-bad projector; it can smell my fear the way a horse can and delights in making me sweat. So if you're of the praying sort, please pray that tonight, I win.

Not wanting to leave you post-less all day, I thought I'd give you one of the devotionals I wrote for A Passion for Jesus, a daily devotional compiled by Calvary Chapel pastors' wives.

* * *

Gabriela was visiting California from Peru when a couple she’d befriended decided to play matchmaker. Through their prayer group, they knew of a single father in Washington state who needed a wife. Introductions were made over the phone and Dale and Gabriela began a long-distance courtship. Though they came from different worlds—she’d been an engineer in Peru and he was a farmer—they had the Lord in common.

Weeks passed as they continued their phone relationship. They soon decided to meet. Gabriela felt both nervous and shy on the flight to Seattle. She had never seen a picture of Dale and worried that she wouldn’t be able to find him in the crowd at the airport. But when she stepped off the plane, she found his eyes immediately. In the midst of a room full of strangers, she knew exactly who he was.

“I fell in love with his voice,” she explained, “but I knew him the moment I saw him.” They married just weeks later.

We, too have a Groom waiting for us. We have only His voice to cling to now, but the day is coming when we will put a face to the voice we’ve grown to love. We will look into His eyes ... and know Him in an instant.

“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face . . .” 1 Corinthians 13:12 (NASV)


Saturday, March 05, 2005

the trade

The only things I can move right now, without wincing, are my fingertips. That's why you're getting a post.

If you watched me walk across the room this morning, you'd think I was trying to recover from injuries I sustained when I failed to jump my motorcycle over twenty brand new Mini Coopers down at Bellowin' Bob's Autos. Or at the very least, a mugging. But no. Mine are "exercise wounds," and lest we all forget--it's a "good" pain.

It's been a week of water aerobics, weight lifting, eliptical riding, walking and biking. No, I'm not training for the Iron Man. I'm trying to get back into my spring clothes.

I'd already had my belly full of exercise by yesterday afternoon, but Dave came home and said, "I brought you a surprise. Come outside and see." I followed him out to his truck and saw a new (to us) 14 speed, automatic shift bicycle--with shocks. It's really a beautiful bike, and I was so taken by his gesture that the words "Hey! Let's go for a ride!" popped out of my mouth before I saw the calamity coming.

He was all over that. "Yeah! Let's see how far down the trail we can get." Several months ago, a paved, 9 or so mile trail opened along our property. At any time of the day or night, you can watch a sea of roller bladers, bicyclists, walkers, and horse riders meander past our pasture.

Last week, an old shirtless guy with a Santa beard came riding up on his bike and told us there'd been reports of bear and bobcat sightings along the trail. I've never yet known a shirtless, Santa-bearded biker to lie, so when I went inside to grab my cell phone, I also grabbed my mace. Geared up, I headed back out and found that Dave had hooked up the air compressor and was filling the tire on my old bike. It was once beautiful, but the law of entropy has had its way with it. Parts of the shiny burgundy paint are covered with rust; the seat is somewhat moldy and ripped in one spot (the rip screams "Zac," but that won't hold up in court), and the kick stand wobbles.

I felt terrible that Dave was going to ride that old bike while I had this beautiful new bike, and I told him so. His answer? "I don't mind--I just like knowing you have a good, dependable bike."

He's like that. He'll take the dilapidated bike so I can ride the nice, new one. He was happy to take my old, simple cell phone so I could have the nice, new, picture-taking phone. He was perfectly content to take my old lap top so I could have a nice, new, faster model. He's very good to me.

So we had our ride. We went all the way to Lake Cassidy and then some. And sometime during the ride, maybe 50 minutes into it, I began to think about Dave's sacrifices and how often he puts me in mind of my other Groom--the One who was willing to take the punishment of the cross so I could have a new nature, a new name, and a brand new hope for the future.

I don't deserve to be this loved; I know that. But I'm glad ... and grateful.

The Trade

Mine was Your only sin
Yours is my only righteousness
Mine was Your only shame
Yours is my only confidence
You took all of me; I want all of You

Mine was the pain You bore
Yours is the healing I received
Mine was the nails and thorns
Yours is my life abundantly
You took all of me; I want all of You

I'm waiting here to feel Your touch
The weight of sin it seems so much
The freedom that You offer me is You

Mine was the the victory
Yours is the blood that purchased me
Mine is a blessed way
Yours is my love eternally
You took all of me; I want all of You

~ Brett Williams

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Friday, March 04, 2005

in the beginning ...

When my sister Tarri used to sit around the table with my mom and Megan and me, listening to tales of "the time we went there" or "the time we did that," she'd grow impatient to hear her own name.

"What about me?" she'd eventually ask. "Where was I?"

We'd exchange guilty glances. "Uh ... you were still in heaven."

That usually did the trick. As long as she was somewhere, she was satisfied.

We couldn't tell her the truth. We couldn't say, "Tarri, you weren't there. In fact, you weren't anywhere at all, because you didn't exist yet."

It's a bit disturbing to contemplate your own beginning. One moment, you didn't exist. You were nothing, nowhere, nobody. You weren't floating out in space, waiting for just the right time to make your appearance. You weren't anywhere. And then, suddenly ... you were. You existed.

It's an odd thought. But what's even more disconcerting, more alarming, more difficult to grab hold of, is the fact that God had no beginning. Think about that for a minute. There was never a time, never a split second, when God didn't exist.

My son wrestled with that fact at an early age. One afternoon, when he was about eight, Zac turned to me in the car and said, "Mom, think about it. God made himself. He did it all by himself ... nobody helped him."

I nodded.

We were silent for a few seconds, and then he shook his head. "Mom--he made himself!

Our minds just can't seem to hold that notion. God had no beginning--he just always was. We grapple with that fact because virtually everything else in our world had a beginning.

In a town near my home you can see a tree trunk estimated to be over 600 years old. A sign displayed nearby points out all the important events that transpired during that tree's lifetime: Columbus came to visit. Tax-weary rebels in Boston threw a tea party. Adventure-seekers tossed their possessions in rickety wagons and set off to find gold, or land, or just a new beginning.

When I touch that tree, I'm awed to realize that the wood beneath my fingers is so ancient. It doesn't bother me that my own life is just a pin dot on the map of history. But I also understand that at some point, a little over 600 years ago, even that tree didn't exist. One day there was nothing on that spot, and then a seed dropped and opted to take root. And just like that--a tree was born.

God was never born. He made an appearance once, for our benefit, through newborn flesh, but he wasn't reallly born in the sense that he was coming into existence for the first time. He's been here all along.

"In the beginning, God ..." Genesis 1:1

Take a moment today to meditate on that truth. And then let this thought sink in: that majestic, brilliant, beautiful Being--for reasons known only to him--decided to form your body and breathe life into your lungs and initiate the rhythm of your heartbeat. He set you in the exact place where you would most likely learn of and reach for him. He surrounded you with people who would mold you--through hard experiences as well as good--into the person you are today. He created work with your very name on it, and today he's beckoning you with a warm, inviting hand to join him in fulfilling his plan for our world.

Are you as awed by that as I am?


Thursday, March 03, 2005

something fun

I've added a guestmap. If you don't mind telling me where you're from, click the "Click here ... place a pin" button (the one with the globe), which you'll find on the right side of the blog, just under my "links" list.

When the map opens, you can use the "zoom" feature to more specifically define your area. Then hit "post," which will tell you that you need to define an area. A hand cursor will appear; use that to click on your space and you're ready to go.

C'mon. It's not that hard ... I figured out how to do it. :)


Wednesday, March 02, 2005

berry walk

When Zac was a little boy, we used to go out on "berry walks." I'd bring a big plastic bowl, he'd bring my two-cup capacity measuring cup--the one I use every time I bake--and we'd hold hands and head down the road. I can still hear, without much effort at all, the sound of his tiny black rubber boots skipping and hopping on the hard dirt road; can still feel his warm little hand in mine.

Blackberries grow abundantly on and around our farm, so much so that people often hike down our driveway with coffee cans and buckets to pick enough for jam. As a rule, Zac would eat all the berries he picked except half a dozen, which he would proudly dump into my bowl at the conclusion of our walk--his contribution toward the cobbler or pie I'd make after dinner.

All our best talks came during these outings.

"Know what, Mom? God doesn't care if we keep asking him the same stuff over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again. Isn't that great, Mom?"

"Mom, how do we keep going so long? Does God give us a battery?"

"We should make bread, Mom. Know how ya do that? You get some hay and put a little bit of water around it and let it sit a coupla days and it turns into bread."

He'd philosophize about life and best friends and why chocolate would forever taste better than vanilla. Sometimes he'd ask me questions about my childhood.

"Mom, when you were a kid, did people have money or did they just trade for things?"

If a thought entered Zac's mind, it found a way out his little mouth.

One late August afternoon, as we were heading away from a favorite patch with a full bowl, an older couple with two empty buckets walked down the driveway toward us. I smiled and they smiled back. They made a comment about the weather; I responded.

As we turned and took a few steps toward home, Zac reached a little hand up and patted my back. "Good job, Mom--you're making friends."

When I sat down this morning to write this post, I planned on using that comment as a springboard to mention how much I've enjoyed getting to know so many new people through blogging, and how this whole concept is very much like pulling your boots on and taking a walk. You never know who you might bump into out there.

I do believe and think and feel that. I do. But right now I'm still standing in the past, looking down at a tiny boy who thinks I have the answers to all his questions. I don't want to lose this mood. I think I might go look through a few baby books. And later today, if I can find a baggie of berries in the freezer, I believe I'll have to bake up a cobbler.

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Tera, Queen of the Hula Hoopers, at Heidi and Corey's annual luau.

Watch Tera hulahooping


Tuesday, March 01, 2005

photographs and memories

In a previous post entitled "writers & ritual," I fessed up about my own daily, pre-writing routine. For those who did not read that post and do not care (or have time) to click on the link in that first sentence, I'll give you the brief version: every morning, before I've composed a single word, I get myself coffeed-up and comfortable in front of my laptop and navigate to the online edition of our local paper, where I read the obituaries. I won't go into the "whys" of that ritual; for that, you're going to have to click on those blue words above. But now you know. I've bared my soul.

I've found the most fascinating information in that column. By reading through the life histories of the deceased, I've discovered plot ideas for my fiction, locations, and a wealth of names: Mozel, Maizie, Beulah, Winkie. I keep a file of these nuggets in a drawer out in my office. On occasion, I'll print out an obituary simply because the words written in that small rectangular space made me miss a stranger, made me wish I'd been a friend to that face and name.

While straightening my office yesterday, I went to put that file back in the drawer and a small square of paper slipped out and fluttered to the carpet. Picking it up, I saw the obituary of a woman named Lillian. She was nearly 100 when she died and she left a vast line of descendants behind her. But the thing that struck me as odd about that woman's memorial--both when I printed out the obituary and again yesterday--was the picture above the name and death date. Lillian sat straight and stared determinedly at the camera, with no hint of a smile or warmth of any kind, and held up ... a coffee cup.

I'm puzzed by Lillian's mug. What message was she trying to convey? What were her descendants thinking when they chose that particular picture for her obituary? I have to believe they had other pictures of the woman. What was it about this one photo that made them all nod and say, "Yup. That's Mom, all right."

I started thinking. If the paper put captions to these pictures, what might Lillian's say? "Lookee what I have here!" was the first thought to cross my mind. She looked fiercely proud of that mug. But after thinking of and rejecting a half dozen others, I've settled on this caption: "I'm sure gonna miss my coffee."

I felt kind of sad staring at that picture. I thought, "Aw, Lillian ... tell me your life amounted to more than this."

Listen up now, those of you in my life with photo-selecting rights: you're going to really upset me if you choose a picture like that for my obituary. I want no pictures of me holding the dice at Bunco, no pictures of me playing Spades on the computer, no pictures of me knitting or talking on the phone or petting the dog. Please ... catch me hugging a child or laughing with my family or reading my Bible or worshiping. Capture one of those moments on film, and you have my permission to attach that photo to my name and death date.

Your turn. What would you like us to remember about your life?

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