Saturday, September 24, 2005

pike place

Four potted raspberry vines stared accusingly at me, but I managed to ignore them as I made my way to the car. I needed a break. I needed to lay off the cooking, baking, cleaning, planting and harvesting and steal a few hours of walking, shopping, talking and laughing. So no ... I didn't feel the least bit guilty as I walked past those pots. The raspberries could wait.

Pike Place Market is a forty-minute drive from our little farm. I spent that time sipping a latte--even though I knew my friend, Sandra, and I would probably grap a cup as soon as we met up. And that's what we did. After no less than six phone calls back and forth ("Where did you say you're parking? Isn't that the place that charges $10 for two hours? ... I'm on Virgina and 2nd. Pike is south, right? ... No, I'm not near the pig. I'm on the north end of the cobblestones" ...) we found each other, hugged hello, and ducked into the first pastry shop we could find. How I wish I could enable a scratch 'n sniff button for you (as brilliantly suggested by Christie, while commenting on my last post). Try to imagine a room full of warm, just-from-the-oven bread ... and rolls ... and tarts ... and quiche ... and puff pastry. Add to that the aroma of French Roast and espresso, and the sounds of frothing milk and chatter and chairs scooching toward tables. Bliss.

Sandra ordered something twisted, glazed and nut-studded. As I'm not a "sweets in the morning" person, I ordered a Swiss-cheese encrusted square of puff pastry--a concoction so light, so tender, it shattered into flaky particles with every bite. I could have eaten twelve.

We asked for our coffee in real cups, not paper. Sandra took hers black, but I ordered my signature latte. And oh, how superior that latte was to my usual Starbucks cup. I feel deceitful even thinking such a thought, let alone writing it, but how can you not 'fess up to something so blatant? The froth was so thick, it coated the sides of my cup. Each movement of my wrist created a new pattern of cream and brown swirls. I suppose with very little effort at all I could devote this entire post to that one perfect latte, but there's so much more to tell.

Sandra and I met two summers ago when we both taught at the Oregon Christian Writers' Conference. We connected almost instantly, and furthered that connection when we both taught at the Seattle Pacific University's Writers' Recharge this past June. Because both our husbands are in the ministry and we both write (she's the author of 30 children's books), we never run out of things to discuss. With several months of catching up to do, you can imagine the animated scene at our table. We talked first about writing, and the projects we're each mulling over, and the difficulties of balancing family needs and contracted writing obligations. I told her I'm questioning whether I really want to write during this season of my life; she understood. We shared the happenings at my church and at her husband's retirement center, and discussed the particular bittersweet nature of being pastor's wives, and about our strong desire to model grace to the women we minister to. If you had gathered up our words at the end of that first hour, and squeezed the breath from the conversation and distilled the heart of those syllables into one essential drop, that drop would be Jesus. What is Jesus asking of us at this point in our lives? How can we give those who are watching us a clearer vision of His grace? How can we offer Him more of our hearts?

Had we parted after that first hour, it would have been enough for me. I would have had the gulp of fresh, courage-endowing air I'd come looking for. But we didn't part. We meandered through the market comparing the bouquets of statice and just-cut lovelies that adorned about every third booth, sampling glossy Chukar Cherry chocolates, listening to the street musicians, watching the fish handlers toss salmon back and forth and enjoying their jovial bellows. We ogled at people (a market meandering must. Years ago I passed a boy on the cobblestones who was holding and eating a snake--a real, honest to goodness snake) and ogled the jeweled mounds of fruits and vegetables. My first purchase was a pound of Brussels sprouts. Don't make that face at me. You'd have bought a pound, too, if only because of the clever display. Same-sized, bright green orbs sat in pencil-straight rows, and near the top, a green, lifelike-looking gecko sat perched and staring, with a thin slice of a Brussels sprout clenched between his teeth. A sign at his feet said, "Don't even think of disturbing this display." When I gave my order to the guy behind the counter, I admitted to a strong urge to run my hand through those green balls. The look he gave told me he thought that was really, really funny. To mend our relationships, I asked for three pounds of creamy gold Yukon potatoes, too.

Sandra bought a jar of sour cherry jam, a half pound of picked red onions, and five Southern-fried chicken pieces which she vowed to save for dinner. I selected an autumn bouquet of burgandy Zinnias, butter-yellow Lilies, orangey-red something or other, and golden Black-eyed Susans. On the way out, I picked up a warm sleeve of Epis (braided rolls), which balanced my arms nicely.

The time went too quickly, but we promised to find another day soon for more of the same. I felt refreshed as I drove home, and thankful. God is good. I'm thankful I live in a place where I can sit in public and talk about Jesus. I'm thankful He's filled my life with kind, loving people. And I'm grateful for the sweet moments of fellowship He arranges for me, just when I need them most. It's good to sojourn together with a kindred spirit--if only for awhile.

My companion and my friend ... What fellowship we had, what wonderful discussions as we walked together ... --Ps 55:13-14 (TLB)

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Saturday, September 17, 2005


The cat formerly known as Loose-y has regained the original spelling of her name. In fact, now that she's retired from baby-making, we could almost change Lucy's name to Prudence, or something equally puritanical. She's not happy with me. Seems she really enjoyed having four litters of kittens back to back. So to show her displeasure, she promptly let loose all over the laundry room the morning after being spayed. How she managed to hit the washer, three walls, her blanket, and a good portion of the floor and not get a single bit in the litter box is beyond me. I think she's gifted.

I smelled her message before I saw it. Emerging from our bedroom, I headed straight for the coffee maker, but before my hand touched the handle, my nose wrinkled in disgust. "Lucy ... you didn't." But she did. I nudged the pocket door open and peeked into the laundry room. Lucy sat back on her haunches, dusted her front two paws off, and sneered at me with a look that said, "There's a little 'Thanks for the surgery' gift--just for you."

Now, Lucy's not known for her love of the litter box. She's never had a kitten who didn't leave the womb knowing exactly where to squat, and for that, I'm grateful. But she herself has exhibited a great disdain for all-things-clumping. So I've cleaned up my share of presents. But yesterday morning, I just shut the door. I knew Dave would be up in a matter of minutes, and I was going to ask him a great big favor. Because yesterday morning, I faced a full day of cooking. A friend from church, Heidi, is recuperating from foot surgery, so I'd planned to make a double batch of everything and bring half over in the afternoon so Corey wouldn't need to finagle dinner when he got home from work. That meant two chicken pot pies, two Caesar salads, and a big pan of peanut butter bars. In addition to that, I planned to make and freeze a week's worth of breaded Italian chicken fingers for the kids' lunches, and if I could sneak it in after that, I wanted to blanch and shuck a big bag of corn another friend gave me Wednesday at church. So knowing I was going to be handling all that food, I couldn't, in good conscience, handle Lucy's mess. There's not a paper towel in the world thick enough to keep your hand feeling clean. And no amount of scrubbing afterward would remove the feeling of filth. I couldn't get past the "Ew" factor. You don't jump from poo to pot pie, you know?

Dave was wonderful. Sure, his shoulders sagged a bit, but I think the experience was balanced slightly by the knowledge that he'd have chicken pot pie for dinner. I saw him in there swiping a bit and grabbing the grabbable chunks with a piece of toilet paper. But all too soon--much too soon, for my comfort--he trotted out the back door to check out the doings down in the goat barn. I could still see partial Lucy residue on one section of the laundry room floor, and though I hoped he'd be back, Dave spent a good long time down in the barn. By the time he returned, the look on his face told me he'd managed to erase the distasteful episode from his mind. He had no intention of going back in there.

Fast forward to the afternoon (an ironic choice of words, isn't it? Have I ever "fast"ed anything in this blog?). Tera came home sad. I will definitely write another time about her experience in school this year. Suffice it to say, fifth grade girls can be snotty--and my girl was on the receiving end of the Queen of Snot's attention yesterday. To cheer her up, I suggested she ask her best friend, Jaimey, to come spend the night. Jaimey, of course, said yes. So Tera and I loaded the car with Corey and Heidi's dinner, made the delivery, visited there awhile, and then drove down the street to Jaimey's. When we pulled in, Tim and Kari were out front talking to a strange man (strange to me) in a van. So I said hi and walked up to the house to collect Jaimey. When I pulled open the back door, the most wonderful smell rushed forward and wrapped itself around me. I stood in the center of Kari's kitchen drawing in breath after breath. It wasn't food. It was the smell of "clean."

Tim came through the back door and noted the rapturous expression on my face and my curtain-ruffling intakes of air. "What?"

"It's that smell. What's that wonderful smell?"

He sniffed. "Who knows? Kari's been swiping stuff."

It was a husband-proper description; the gender equivalent of what I'd say if someone asked me how Dave fixed the car. “Oh, you know. He twirled some metal stuff and squirted goo on top.”

Kari came in.

"Kari, what is causing that heavenly smell?"

She pulled a bottle of Lysol All Purpose Cleaner (lemon) out from under the sink and gave me a quick commercial. "I just fill the sink with hot water, dump a generous amount of this stuff in there, and wipe everything down."

"I have GOT to get me some of that," I said.

She walked over to a cupboard and pulled out a second, full bottle. "Here."

I squealed and clutched the purity-endowing liquid against my chest. "Let me pay you!"

"No," she said. "Let me bless you."

I love my friends.

All the way home I delighted in the knowledge that Kari's smell would soon permeate my house. I couldn't wait to squirt, swirl, scrub and sniff. And later, while doing just that, I thought about how wonderful it is to be given the free gift of purity. Someone else paid the cost ... and handed me the solution to my mess ... and said, "Let me bless you."

Thank you ... Kari and Jesus.
*    *    *    

"Come now, let us argue this out," says the LORD. "No matter how deep the stain of your sins, I can remove it. I can make you as clean as freshly fallen snow." --Isa 1:18 (NLT)

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Friday, September 09, 2005

checking in, checking out

We did it. We traversed 1500 miles, went through two boxes of granola bars, a jar of salted peanuts, a Costco bag of jalapeno potato chips, and three tins of Altoid gum. Not to mention the many, many stops at KFC (nephew Nathan, along for the ride, likes only chicken.) We took about a hundred pictures. I started a heart-shaped rock collection with the four I found on the Going-to-the-Sun road through Glacier National Park. We got within touching distance of four wild mountain goats, and within spitting distance of a two-year old grizzly. Of course, he was on a hillside above the road, not caring about us gawkers below, and as long as the bush he was after didn't run out of huckleberries, we weren't in much danger.

We had a wonderful time. On the way to Montana, we stopped at our friends', the Isaacsons, in Couer d'Alene and spent a day at Silverwood with them. Stopped again at the 10,000 Silver Dollar tourist trap just inside Montana, where Nathan latched onto a sword and knife. We suggested he wait until the return trip to buy them. Stopped in St. Regis and visited with a nice volunteer from Frankfurt, Germany, at the tourist center. She advised us to watch for grizzlies in Glacier, as a hiker had just been attacked a day earlier. Went through Kalispell and Whitefish. Landed, finally, in our KOA camping cabin, where we spent four nights. On one of those nights, we made an unplanned stop at the Montana Raceway Park, where we each picked our favorite drivers and sat through every heat of the races. (I could easily become an official stock car fan if they would consider putting in a nonsmoking area in the grandstands.)

The hardest thing about this particular vacation was that it coincided with Katrina. It was incredibly difficult to try to glean information from the radio, as the reception was spotty and the radio waves had an irritating habit of fading away just as the most pertinent information was coming through. My heart broke at what I heard, and later saw in newspapers and on the KOA television. I was glad to see that Lori Seaborg was taking an active role in the relief efforts, and even happier to learn that several of you had contacted her to donate toward that effort. Up there in Montana, I felt like we may as well have been on the moon. We were a world away from all that activity, all that suffering. I haven't felt that disconnected in a long time.

Once home, we've been catching our breath, assessing our home, and realigning our priorities. Maybe it's the change of seasons, but I've felt a powerful "batton the hatches" urge these last few days. I've been scrubbing floors, filling water containers for the animals (with icy winter days in mind), baking bread and harvesting the last of our fruit. It's felt good--so good, in fact, that I don't want to stop. And here's what I've concluded. I need to free up more of my time for such activities. Between writing books, blogging, teaching at writer's conferences and women's retreats, and all my other assorted activities, I haven't given enough of my heart to my home. I don't mean my family--I couldn't love them more than I do. I mean our physical dwelling. I mean those drawers that never get purged, the paperwork that multiplies on my kitchen counter, the quilts that sit half-finished in the closet. I have an unignorable hankering to be the mistress of my home again. I want cookies cooling on the counter when the kids get home from school. I want afghans forming between my knitting needles. What does all that mean? It means simply this: I won't be blogging nearly as much as I have been. I toyed with the idea of shutting down my blog altogether, but I couldn't do it. I've met too many wonderful people here, and I couldn't imagine losing touch. But something has to change if I'm to bless my family more, if I'm to be more available to the women in my church, if I'm to have more time to spend at God's feet.

I'm imposing a sabbatical for myself. But I'll check in now and then.


Thursday, September 01, 2005


I don't get cell reception here in Glacier Park, Montana, but I did find internet access. And for the first time all week, I've been able to read news of the disaster along the Gulf Coast.

Isn't it easy to feel helpless? I know I've felt that way all day. I pull my eyes from the towering pines filling the picture window in front of me and stare again at the images on my screen, and it's hard to believe so many people are suffering on such a beautiful, green and blue Montana day.

My first blogger friend, Lori Seaborg (and the person who helped me get into blogging in the first place) happens to live along the coast. I trust her. I've been reading her posts for months now and I know her heart. If you're wanting to help in any way--big or small--I urge you to contact Lori. She's promising to physically hand whatever you send her to the people who need it most.

Visit Lori's site and read a few of her first-hand reports. Then see what stirs within you.

And in the meantime, say a prayer or two.

Until next week,