Thursday, March 30, 2006

she knits

She's knitting!

It's been a long time in coming. I first tried teaching Tera to knit about a year ago. We didn't get past "But, Mom, I don't want to have to roll my yarn in a ball first." I tried to explain the whys of that little pre-knitting ritual, but she became so despondent over that thought that I figured casting on would be a real nightmare.

On our next effort, several months later, she dug her heels in on having to hold the needle with finished rows in her left hand. "That's going to be awkward for me," she said. "I'm right-handed." As if I, her mother, didn't know that. We decided in the interest of maintaining a pleasant mother-daughter relationship to shelve the needles for a day when she felt less resistant.

Today was that day. Although she made it clear that the slightly more complicated casting on method I favor was not going to work for her, she took immediately to the regular thumb-loop cast on. And before either of us knew what was happening, my daughter was knitting. I shot this picture when the rhythm of the thing had finally settled in her bones. If you can't tell from the photo, her tongue is firmly planted in the corner of her mouth. She's knitting with intensity ... but she's knitting.

"How many rows will it be?" she asked of the scarf she decided to knit for Boo, her Build-A-Bear bunny.

"I don't know yet. We'll know when it's finished." This exchange highlighted our contrary personality types: Tera, the Beaver, likes to know today--this minute--what we're having for lunch on May 3rd, 2008. I, the Otter, prefer to just wing most everything I do.

She dropped a stitch. I showed her how to fix it. While I was out of the room, she then gained a stitch and decided that the best way to correct that blip was to just slip it off the needle. I didn't discover this little plan of hers until that extra loop was sticking out one side about four rows down from where she was now knitting.

"Can I help you fix that?"

She handed me her work and I saw her eyes widen as she watched me rip out those four rows.

"It's okay," I said. "You learn to knit by making a lot of mistakes and then fixing them."

She brightened. "Kinda like life, right?"

Yes, O Wise One. Kinda like life.
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Some of you know that I started a blog, Chicks With Stix, for the women knitters of my church. Well, we've now spun off a blog for the knitting girls of Calvary Chapel Marysville. When you get a minute, why don't you run over and say hi to Tera, Jessica, Arielle, and Jaimey at their very happenin' site: Chicklets With Sticklets.

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Sunday, March 26, 2006

felt me

I'm in love with felting. I mean it. You tuck in all those frayed, sad-looking ends, grimace over all those curled, raggedy edges, and cross your fingers as you toss the mess into a pillow case and into the washer. And then ... and then ... the timer dings and you pull it back out ... and it's unbelievably smooth and un-messed.

I ran my hand over the place where I knew I'd worked that teeth-clenching Kitchener stitch, but I couldn't find it. The felting had erased my not-quite-there stitches and made everything all nice and muted.

I was staring at the finished product last week and I said to Dave, "I just know there's a spiritual illustration here somewhere."

Without even blinking, he said, "Yep. All you need to erase a lifetime of mistakes is a good washing."

That's why he's the pastor.

Speaking of washing, we're having a baptism out at Lake Stevens today after church. If you're in the area, meet us at Lundeen Park at 1:00 and we'll watch Dave and Steve shiver together.

One last word about the bag ... it's not quite as spacious and echo-y as I'd envisioned while working on it, but I'm still enamored. I know there's a tiny loaf of ciabatta and a mini bouquet out there somewhere with my name on them.

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Thursday, March 23, 2006

stick with me

I've been reminded this week of a few of my favorite treasures.

One came to me 34 years ago when, fresh from my mother's divorce to my second father, I opened the door to our new apartment and stepped out onto the complex's playground. I know my heart was hurting. I'd said another goodbye, left a home in Arkansas I'd grown to love, and endured yet another upheaval--one in a long series. I was only ten.

The gift walked right up to me--that very first day--and took me in. "I'm Andy," he said. "Wanna play war?"

The thought had never crossed my mind, but I jumped at the offer of friendship. Our circle eventually included two others. We were the imposing team of "Bobby, Andy, Annie, and Shanny"--and no one messed with us. We claimed the field behind the complex and spent hours and hours perfecting war. We didn't fight each other; we fought invisible enemies. But we always won. I have vivid memories of arguing with Annie about which of us got to be hurt. "You were hurt yesterday, remember? You had a broken arm. I get to be hurt today."

Before long, we formed a "band," which meant that we spent long hours lip-synching to the Partridge Family. (Andy--who was then David Cassidy--went on to have a music ministry.) Most summer nights, Bobby would spend the night at Andy's--which was one floor down and kitty-corner from Annie's. I'd stay at her apartment, and the four of us would sleep out on our respective balconies. How the neighbors politely endured all that middle-of-the-night giggling and object-throwing, I don't know.

I haven't seen Bobby or Annie for many years, but Andy is still my friend. He emails me all the strangest and silliest stuff he can find. And now my gift has expanded. I so adore his wife, Patty, that even though they live another state away, we try to see each other as often as possible. And in a few weeks, she's coming up to lead worship for our women's retreat. I can't wait to hug her.

This week, I spent time with another gift--one I've enjoyed for 32 years. Stephanie came to me when I was twelve and living in yet another apartment complex. This time, I got to play Andy's role. I watched Stephanie, her mother and three siblings dragging boxes into the elevator and made an offer. "Wanna come over?" I asked. She did. And we were rarely ever apart after that.

She was a beautiful gift during a very turbulent time. In the period that we lived in that apartment complex, my mother would remarry and divorce again. Life was a perpetual question mark, but Stephanie was my haven. I could be serious with her, I could be goofy, I could be adventurous. One afternoon, just because it sounded interesting, we took our overall-covered selves down to the parking lot and rolled around in a giant mud puddle. We still laugh at the memory of our mothers' faces when they pulled up together after a shopping trip and found their preteen daughters covered with mud.

Yesterday, I met Stephanie in the Chuckwagon restaurant in Everett for a "quick" cup of coffee. She's up from Oregon to support her mother, who just had back surgery. We'd planned to meet for an hour; we stayed three. There was too much life to translate for one another. We talked about our particular challenges, our favorite memories, and the lessons God has brought through our latest trials. I was a mixture of sadness and gratitude when we hugged good bye--sadness that she was leaving, gratitude that I know her at all.

And then this morning, my 30 year-old gift wrote to me. "I've been trying to explain to a new friend how I came to love tea," Ken wrote. "See if this jogs your memory." He went on to explain to his friend about the state of mind he was in after a hard break-up in high school. And then he wrote this:

When I went home from Christmas break that year, I went by to see my old friend, Shannon. She was very aware of the state of my heart, and we also talked a fair amount about life and about love. But, she was also there for me, just as an escape and a place to be safe.

Early in the time of that break, Shannon asked me to take a day and go with her to the Market Spice Tea shop at the Pike Place Market in downtown Seattle. It's a magical place. The original Starbucks is there (after the back of the station wagon became too small). And so much else is there. I had to completely trust her, as I'd never been in downtown Seattle before. I was scared, but also enchanted. We wandered through bookstores, heard the fish market men barking out orders, shared a pomegranate, and absorbed the Market Spice Tea Shop.

l never forget walking into Market Spice for the first time. You are bombarded with a thousand different smells. Beyond teas and coffees, every spice imaginable (and many that are unimaginable) is sold in that store. An ancient building, with wood floors and earthy employees, the small little store was row after row of big glass jars of all types of treats.

Shannon and I found our way to the teas, and breathed. We each picked out a tea ball and a mug. And we picked up several little plastic bags to start putting our selections in. 1/4 pound of spearmint. 1/4 pound of Market Spice blend. 1/4 pound of this and 1/4 pound of that. It was such an adventure!

Now, you have to remember that, to this point in my young life, all I'd ever had as a cup of hot tea was Stash's spearmint tea. I knew that I was in for a wonderful treat. And I was right.

We left Market Spice that day in December, 1978, and drove back to Shannon's home. She put on the hot water and broke out the backgammon board. And we sampled. I'll never forget that evening. We played whoknowshowmany games of backgammon. We tried every tea that we had purchased that day. We talked and talked and talked.

And Shannon Southard (now Woodward) became one of the most treasured friends that I've ever had.

Ken lives in Raleigh with his wife and two daughters. Though we're thousands of miles apart, he keeps the friend-fires burning. He remembers my birthday. He remembers Dave and my anniversary. He sends me pens, and packs of notecards printed with his fantastic artwork, and sometimes, tea--all just because he wants to remind me that I have a friend on the other coast.

The world is tumultuous and fast-paced. Everything is quick-cooking, disposable, forgettable, replaceable. In this life, we don't hold on to anything for very long. How grateful I am, this morning, for my friends.

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Monday, March 20, 2006

forgive me

The father was wealthy; the son was both restless and rebellious. For whatever reasons, they clashed and struggled and fought until the son concluded, in the end, that he couldn't live at home anymore. Without word or warning or explanation, he disappeared.

It didn't take long for regret to steal over the father and clear his vision. He saw that he'd been wrong. He'd pushed too hard. Yes, the son had erred against him in hurtful ways and said things no son should say to his father. But he was still his son, and no offense could numb the ache caused by his absence.

The father searched. He looked down alleys and walked through the marketplace and checked places he hoped his boy hadn't ventured into. After five months of searching, he made one last, desperate effort. He went to the largest newspaper in Madrid and paid for a full-page ad, which read:

Dear Paco,

Meet me in front of this newspaper's main office at noon on Saturday. All is forgiven. I love you.

Your father

On Saturday, in front of the newspaper office, over 800 Pacos showed up ... each looking for love and forgiveness from their fathers.
*    *   *

The world is full of Pacos looking for forgiveness. We who have already received ours need to share the message that freed us from our shame and guilt.

For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people's sins against them. This is the wonderful message he has given us to tell others. We are Christ's ambassadors, and God is using us to speak to you. We urge you, as though Christ himself were here pleading with you, "Be reconciled to God!" --2 Cor 5:19-20 (NLT)



Friday, March 17, 2006


It's been a fast week.

Dave left for Texas Monday morning to take a training course from Gospel for Asia. Sometime this next year, he will likely take himself--and that training--to India to assist the local pastors there.

While he's been gone, I've been holding down the fort and (literally) keeping the home fires burning. In between the extra wood hauling, goat feeding, and garbage-taking-outing, I've been studying. This afternoon, I'm heading two hours south to Lacey, Washington, where I'm teaching four sessions at South Hill Calvary Chapel's women's retreat.

So all of that to say, my posting has been slim this week ... but I'll be back Monday. God bless your weekend.


Tuesday, March 14, 2006

the real Jesus

Last November, when I had a bit more time for such things, I spent an afternoon visiting some of my favorite blogs and came upon this amazing painting by Forrest Kaiser, which I believe he entitled Christ 2. The power of this portrayal struck me. Clearly, this man suffered.

As it happened, that same afternoon I went out googling to find an emergency substitution for evaporated milk so I could whip up a pumpkin pie. It was a bit early--just weeks before Thanksgiving--but what else do you do when your husband drags himself about the house with a need-pumpkin-pie-now look? You bake.

Not long into my search, I came upon a message board with a lot of survivalist information, including the needed evaporated milk substitution. I copied the recipe and then scanned some of the topics. It dawned on me, after reading just a few, that I'd stumbled on a "white power" site. Appalled, I moved my cursor to the top of the page to click off, but just before I did, I saw a thread entitled, "How many people in here still think Jesus was a Jew?"

I stayed. I clicked. I read. And as the words sunk in, I fumed. The message poster--bent on believing lies and determined to take a handful of the gullible with him--quoted a fake document he would only attribute to "a writer from the third century" which described Jesus as a tall, blue-eyed Fabio twin, with curly blonde hair falling upon his beautiful, broad, Aryan shoulders.

How idiotic.

Jesus was Jewish. Only someone completely determined to ignore history could believe otherwise. Doubtless, his eyes and hair were brown. He likely wasn't a tall man, nor was he handsome. The Bible tells us there was nothing about his appearance that would cause anyone to take a second look at him ... except I imagine onlookers stole second and third and fourth looks as he pulled his bloodied, beaten body down the narrow Via de la Rosa that Friday morning, on the way to his crucifixion.

And speaking of the crucifixion, we need to eliminate all those pictures and statues of Jesus wearing a slightly pokey, but not too uncomfortable crown of dullish thorns, and sporting a pristine, white robe. The thorns dug deeply. The blood flowed freely. And the garment was long gone.

I dug out my notes about the ridiculous Aryan site and Forrest's powerful portrait--and the connection I'd made between the two--because in mid-May, Hollywood will premier yet another soundtrack-cushioned lie. The Da Vinci Code will soon be slinking its way to a theater near you. Before you run out and unload your wallet to sit through this movie, let me remind you of the truth:

--The Bible is not a product of man, but is a God-breathed, Holy Spirit inspired love letter.

--Jesus' followers did not view him as merely a "great prophet." You don't go to your own death because a great teacher is being maligned. They were speared, clubbed, beheaded and crucified because they wouldn't back down from what they knew to be true: God had come to earth in the form of a man, sacrificed himself, and raised himself--for them.

--With all due respect to Da Vinci's artistic talent, he simply wasn't there in the Upper Room. His Last Supper is nothing more than an artist's rendering. Whatever Leonardo may have believed about the partakers of that meal, we can only chalk up to imagination.

--As to Jesus and Mary Magdalene marrying and creating their own blood line? Please. God did not leave the throne of heaven to establish a cozy home for himself on earth. He came for an eternal Bride--the Church.

If you like mystery, if you like the idea of secret codes and hidden meaning, all you have to do is pick up your Bible. It's living. No matter how many times you read it through, your next journey will yield new riches. And the code within--when cracked--will unveil a love that's sure to startle, astound, and woo all those who find it.

Oh, how impatient I am these days, how restless. I find myself scrutinizing signs and scanning the clouds and uttering feverish pleas.

Will the real Jesus please stand up?



Friday, March 10, 2006


He's home.

I watch him walking toward the house and I can tell immediately what kind of day he's had. It's been a battle. I don't yet know the what's or who's, but I know he's been out there with that shield again, deflecting barbs and blows, trying to block out just a small, safe place where he can catch his breath before the next assault comes.

Though he has a sword, he's loathe to use it. He's not that kind of man. But that just means those who sense those sorts of things know he's unarmed. That vulnerability makes his attackers fight all the harder, using whatever weapons of offense they favor--pebbles of criticism, the sharp thrust of slander, or stinging arrows tipped with accusation. I know my warrior. When those attacks rise up, he doesn't fight back. Instead, he stands his ground--with nothing more than that shield.

He's tired now, and hungry. He's tired of defending himself. He's hungry for a soft word and a quiet space, and maybe a bowl of soup with still-warm bread.

Come inside, husband ... and leave your shield outside. You'll find no battles here.

My beloved put his hand by the latch of the door,
And my heart yearned for him.
--Song 5:4 (NKJV)

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Monday, March 06, 2006

rescue me

That Felix.

If he were a human boy, he'd be losing himself on hikes in the mountains, or falling into wells, or ever-working himself into creatively dangerous tight spots. But he's not human. He's a cat.

And so he shadows Dave like a bobcat, following him into the shed and out back to the wood pile, and down to the car that doesn't run anymore. When Dave opens the door and rummages in the glove compartment to find whatever he went looking for, Felix hatches a plan and motions to Mittens to follow his lead. They slip unnoticed into the back seat and press up against the darkness, pretending they've found themselves a cave. It's all great fun for twelve minutes, and then Felix thinks, Rescue me.

It takes Dave four days to narrow his search to that burgandy cave, but it's his hand that opens the door, finally. And after the desperate duo emerge and slurp their fill of water and eat themselves sick, it's Felix who plants himself at Dave's feet and licks a thank you on the hand that saved him.

On another day, he imagines himself a jaguar chasing prey across an African plain, and bounds his little black and white body across our front yard, eyes gleaming with hunt-thrill. When the imaginary prey takes a left at the end of the driveway and shoots up the cedar trunk, Felix follows ... and follows ... and follows, until the mirage disappears and he finds himself to be nothing more than a very lost, very un-jaguarish teenager cat--stuck in a tree. Rescue me, he thinks.

Dave hears. He calls and coaxes and climbs--the ladder, first, and then a dozen tree limbs. Felix is content--purrfectly so, actually--to ride a humble descent in the folds of Dave's jacket. He's content to be carried into the house, and petted, and eased to a carpet spot in front of a mellow fire.

And Dave, I notice, is content to watch the object of his rescue. When he stokes the fire, he strokes the cat. When Felix turns occasionally to check if he's still there, Dave smiles and speaks his name in a tender voice. I watch the encounter, and watch the way Dave's eyes return again and again to that warming black blob on the floor, and I have to wonder.

Was this how you felt, Lord, when you rescued me?

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Thursday, March 02, 2006

sunday joy

She starts dancing somewhere in the middle of our first song. As the worship team settles in and focuses and begins to practice "There is Joy," Aliya walks in front of us and proves it.

I try to concentrate on the words.
There is joy in the Lord
There is love in His Spirit
There is hope in the knowledge of Him

But that tiny girl has begun spinning and jumping right in front of my microphone, and I can't take my eyes or my thoughts off of her.

She's wearing a green corduroy jumper and white tights and tennis shoes. Her strawberry blonde hair, secured in the front with five miniature clips, hangs in springy tendrils past her shoulders. As she spins and dances, those curls come alive.

She dances us out of that song and into the next.
You are the Lord, the famous One, famous One
Great is Your name in all the earth
The heavens declare You're glorious, glorious
Great is Your fame beyond the earth
And for all You've done and yet to do
With every breath I'm praising You ...

I want to be Aliya. I want my praise of God to bubble up and spill over in every breath, every movement.

We move on.
Blessed be Your name, in the land that is plentiful
where Your streams of abundance flow, blessed be Your name

She twirls, and raises her head toward the sky, and smiles.

Blessed be Your name, when I'm found in the desert place
though I walk through the wilderness, blessed be Your name
Every blessing You pour out I turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord, still I will say
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name

Watching Aliyah, I bless His name.

And then I see Hannah walking through the foyer. She marches like a girl on a mission, straight down the center aisle and toward the worship team and her father. She, too, has living curls, captured (barely) in two springy blonde pony tails that swing in frenzied spirals as she marches. Under one arm, she carries a red book.

"Daddy!" she squeals, in a tone that is one part insistence and three parts pride. "Look at my Bible!" Corey is singing and strumming, but he still manages to convey his approval. She grins, spins, and retraces her march back down the center aisle, pausing at every familiar face to repeat her Bible show-and-tell.

I want to be Hannah.

After worship practice ends and we pray for the service, I look toward the foyer again and see my friend, Noelle, walking through the door with her mother. I make a beeline for her, because we have a routine, this girl and I. She's never said much to me beyond "Shannon!" and "Bye!" but we have our own language, nonetheless. When she sees me, she grins, drops her mother's hand, and starts our shimmy. I mimick her, shaking my waist, laughing, and running through a couple of movements we've added recently. As Noelle performs our "hello" dance, the thin, silver butterfly clipped to her hair shakes as though it might take flight.

She fills my heart, this girl. I watch the pure delight on her face and the joy visibly energizing those little arms and legs, and I want to be Noelle.

Make me a child again, Lord.

Then Jesus called the children over to him and said to the disciples, "Let the little children come to me! Never send them away! For the Kingdom of God belongs to men who have hearts as trusting as these little children's. And anyone who doesn't have their kind of faith will never get within the Kingdom's gates." --Luke 18:16 (TLB)

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