Wednesday, April 26, 2006


Over the years, I used to dream about them.

When they first left our church, I dreamt frequently that she and I were together in their home, finishing a Bible study or finishing lunch, laughing--and always, that sound mingled with the noise of her two girls, who played at our feet.

Sometimes, I dreamt that I saw him on the street, and he wasn't angry anymore. I found just the right words, in those dreams, to tell him how much we loved them both ... and how much we missed them. I woke crying after more than one such dream.

Once I actually saw her driving behind me in their family van. I caught her eye in the mirror and waved. She waved back. Her husband--in writing--had forbidden me to talk with her, even threatening to sue me if I ever made contact, but I couldn't help but turn and mouth through the back window, "I miss you." She mouthed it back, and the tears came before I could stop them.

When my husband learned, through the freely given admission of our friend, that he was contemplating and taking steps toward a disastrous decision--one that would jeopardize if not outright destroy his marriage and the security of his children--Dave acted. He responded to the pleas of this man's wife and stood in the gap between our friend and his desired choice. My husband's firm action infuriated our friend. The last time he stood in our church, it was in the doorway of my husband's office, where he raised his voice and yelled, "I could line up a hundred pastors, and not one of them would have done what you did." But my husband had simply obeyed God ... and helped save a family.

The choice had been halted. The family stayed together, and stayed in our town. They changed churches, obviously, but maintained a few mutual friendships. Sometimes I'd hear news about them, such as when their third child was born. The news was always bittersweet. I'd be happy for them, and grieved for us--grieved that our church family was missing out on joys that should have been ours.

I must have stopped and prayed a hundred times over the years, "Please, Father, help him to know that Dave acted because he loved him."

Sometimes, God says yes.

Not long ago, on a Tuesday night, Dave came home from the church office and gave me a look that promised he'd brought news. "I want you to read something," he said.

He opened his laptop, navigated to his mailbox, and brought up an email. I began reading--first the name of the sender, and then the words, "Dear Pastor Dave." The tears came so fast and so hard that I couldn't keep reading. I had to stop first and let six years of sadness run their course before I could take in those healing words.

He'd written four pages. What it all settled down to, was this: I've known for many years that I needed to say this to you. I was wrong to pull my family away from people who loved them, and who they loved. We've missed so much because I did that. I created a gap that shouldn't have been there. Pastor Dave, will you forgive me?

I don't remember ever feeling so light. We closed the laptop, put our shoes on, and drove off. Within five minutes, we turned down a road I'd missed, pulled up to a house I'd missed, and knocked on a door I thought I'd never approach again. He answered, and swung that door open. There wasn't time enough for surprise to register in his eyes, because my husband didn't hesitate. He reached first to take our friend's hand, and then pulled him into an embrace. I stood behind, and watched six years of regret melt away. The intensity on our friend's face, as he accepted and returned my husband's embrace, is a look I will see forever.

"We never stopped loving or missing you," I said, as I accepted my own hug. And then his wife was there, and I got the tearful reunion I'd prayed for and dreamt about.

Our God heals silent wounds and secret longings and dreams that seem long past mending. He whispers words to those who no longer hear us. He nudges hearts, and opens doors we're powerless to open.

And sometimes, He surprises.

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Wednesday, April 19, 2006

someday ...

Zac was in his usual spot this morning, standing in front of the giant mirror in our living room, checking himself before he left for school.

"Mom, you know what I want to do once in my life—before I grow too old and die?"

I looked up from my laptop. "What?"

"I want to get up in the morning and put on my t-shirt, and boxers, and sweatshirt … and walk out the door … and forget my pants."

Obviously, I laughed at that. “You mean … and not realize it until you got to school?”


“But why would you want to do that?”

He grinned. “I just think that would be the funniest thing ever.”

It's good to have life goals.

Hopefully, his will change at some point. I know mine did. When I was little, my one goal in my life was to grow up and have a Volkswagon Bug-shaped car made entirely of purple plastic coils with metallic flecks interspersed throughout the plastic. That happened to be the color of my bike seat at the time, and I happened to really like coils for some reason. In kind of a serendipitous, Reese's peanut butter-smashing-against-chocolate collision, my two favorite things merged together into an image of the most awesome car ever seen. Not only would it be made entirely of purple coils, but the glove compartment would have a steady, never-ending stock of bubble gum.

I never got the car.

But that turned out to be okay. I grew into a woman who would have felt a bit odd driving around in purple coils. By then, I had a new goal--one I nurtured for years. My dream was to raise my own sheep, shear their wool myself, clean it, card it, dye it, spin it, and knit a sweater out of it. I didn't know how to knit back when this goal was birthed, but seeing as how Dave and I lived in an apartment at the time and owned nothing wool-bearing or bleat-enducing, my lack of knitting ability was the least of my obstacles. Eventually, we left the city and bought a farm. A half-dozen sheep joined us swiftly. I couldn't wait for that first spring, when I could come at them with a pair of sheep shearers. I practiced my snipping, and read up on dying techniques. A kindly someone caught wind of my goal and gave me a beautiful spinning wheel. And then ... a prowling cougar put an end to our sheep-raising. We had no hooved animals for several years, until, needing something to tackle the blackberry bushes encroaching our meadow, we switched to goats. Then--finally, when it didn't matter anymore--I learned to knit.

I suppose I could beg Dave to run down to the auction with me and pick up a couple of sheep so I could start my goal again in earnest. But somehow, it’s not as important to me as it once was.

My goals these days are simpler. They're "by the end of today" goals. By the end of today, I hope to have crossed a few tasks off my list. I hope to have made a nice dinner for my family. I hope to have laughed with one or two of my friends. I hope to have included God in all my conversations.

I don't think it's that my dreaming abilities have waned ... I think I'm just more realistic. All I have is today, but it's plenty of time to accomplish what matters.

Which includes making sure my son leaves the house with his pants.

Seventy years are given us! And some may even live to eighty. But even the best of these years are often emptiness and pain; soon they disappear, and we are gone . . . Teach us to number our days and recognize how few they are; help us to spend them as we should. --Ps 90:10, 12 (TLB)

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Wednesday, April 12, 2006

when life was easy

Tera was cleaning her room not long ago and came downstairs with a bag full of recycling stuff. I almost had her take the bag out and distribute it herself, but at the last minute, I took a peek. And there, tucked behind an empty juice can and a rumpled piece of cardboard, I found my treasures: 21 Kismet score sheets.

Kismet is a step up from Yahtzee, in case you don't know. The dice in Kismet are colored, which adds a whole other dimension to the game. And these 21 score sheets represent an untallied, but high number of hours of my childhood spent trying to out-throw my grandmother, and others.

Tera didn't know. To her, it was just a pile of paper that needed to go. But to me, it was a link to an easier time.

I carried them to the couch much the way you would carry a Faberge egg, or a tripped grenade, or anything else you didn't much care to drop. With the pile and my tea, I set to remembering.

The first name I saw, written on the top right side of the first sheet, was Mickey. And there she was again, sitting at her kitchen table rolling the dice, and giggling with ungrandmotherly delight at all the sixes that have settled between us.

"Another Kismet, Grandma?" I imagine myself saying. "How many do you need?"

The brought-to-life woman gives me a steady look. "I believe I have two more in me."

I scoff and she laughs again.

Looking down at the sheet in my hands, I see her beautiful 2s, with the curl at the top of each, and her precise 7s--the slant of which I could never get right, despite all my practice. I remember days when "Old Arthur," as she called her rheumatoid arthritis, got the better of her hands, and she'd have to grip the pen between tight, grimaced fingers. Even then, her numbers looked elegant and queenly.

Her name is on the top right of several sheets--Max on a day she felt feisty, Maxine H. on another more formal afternoon. Interspersed are other names I haven't seen in awhile--Rose, my grandmother's sister--and the Great Aunt I remember visiting in her house with the tilted floor and few groceries. Grandma and I would bring in bags of food--always with extra, nonessential delights for Aunt Rose's three boys--and after a good, long visit, Grandma would kiss her sister and slip her a $20 bill. Aunt Rose has been gone a long time now, but her name lingers on one Kismet sheet.

My cousins are there--Lisa and Robin, and my sisters--Megan, Tarri and Nancy. No doubt, some of those names hit their sheets as we crammed together on a balmy summer evening in the travel trailer we liked to pretend was our home. We'd bring chips and onion dip out with us, and grease up the dice.

Our husbands are there--but clearly before they were our husbands. Dave W. reads one, back when the W belonged to him alone, and not to us. Dave R. reads another, when he was just my sister's boyfriend.

And then there are the silly names--the ones which freeze our then-moods for all time. Sassy I see, in my own handwriting--and Lulu, Wildflower, Animal, and Stud Muffin in others. If I'm not mistaken, Animal was Grandpa. Should have been, anyway. He got such a kick out of beating us, he once sat me purposefully in front of the sliding glass door while we played Old Maid, just so he could see my cards in the reflection in the window and not grab the spinster out of my hand. I can still hear his laughter when finally, after exaggerating his peeks for my benefit, I turned and figured out his strategy.

I love all the names, all the people, represented on those thin, 4 by 6 sheets of paper. I skim them once again, remembering faces, and comments, and the sounds of laughter ... and a time when life was much, much simpler than it is now.

But then I go back to Mickey, and sit awhile with my friend ... and the person I'm most missing today.

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Thursday, April 06, 2006


Oh, how I love spring.

How can you not? I don't care where you live, spring looks like the earth yawning and stretching its arms. It smells like hope, and new beginnings, and the promise of soon-to-be-cut grass. It tastes like a long-awaited picnic. It feels like bright yellow fluff. It sounds like the peep of two-legged babies.

That's what's filling my ears right now ... the sound of chicks trying out their teeny vocal chords. Yesterday was "chick day" at the local co-op. Dave and I trotted down there and picked up a half-dozen Golden Sex Link chicks. Supposedly, they've been bred to only produce females, but I don't quite follow the logic (or feasibility) of that. All I know is that they're adorable ... and very noisy.

We tried hooking them up with an adoptive Banty mother, but the two hens we tried didn't cooperate much. Both ignored the chicks huddling in one back corner of Larry's outgrown dog carrier and tried to beat their way out by flying repeatedly into the wire mesh. We took pity on both and let them go, but that left the dilemma of how to keep those six chicks alive through the night. The only reasonable thing to do was to invite them up to the house.

When we first brought them inside, they shivered together in that same back corner. But Dave's crafty. He rigged up a 100-watt bulb and shone it down on the front half of the wood chips. In two seconds flat, those chicks had tippy-toed their collective mass over to the lit side, and basked in that 100-watt delight.

There's a lesson there. We're good together, we humans. Scrunched up tight, we might even eke out a bit of shared body heat. But there's nothing like gathering together under the Light. His warmth goes straight to the bones, perks us up, and makes all our fluff stand on end.

I reached in to snap a close-up of the noisy brood, and as soon as I came at them with that camera, they turned, retreated to the dark side, and gave me the cold shoulder.

But when I left, they went right back to their sun-bathing.

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Monday, April 03, 2006


I caught Lucy taking a nap in the hen house yesterday. She was so snug in that little woodchip-lined box that she could barely budge herself when I entered to snatch a few eggs for the brownies I was about to bake. She didn't even have energy enough to look properly guilty. And she hadn't even changed positions when I returned a few minutes later, camera in hand.

I can relate to that feline. I've got a yawn or two of my own lurking at the edges right now. Outside, the rain is dropping fat pellets upon my skylights. Inside, we're warmed by the woodstove and the heat from a crockpot full of beef bones simmering away. Every once in awhile, the lid burbles and tips slightly, sending a thin wisp of beef-scented steam into the air. Before nightfall, that soup stock will be full of carrots and potatoes, bits of leftover roast, barley and herbs. Can't decide yet if I want to make dumplings, or just butter some thick slices of the wheat bread I baked yesterday (from a combination of just-ground hard red and soft white wheat berries). You can't imagine how good that is with butter alone, or maybe a generous drizzle of the honey I picked up from Jay, the Honey Man, out in Granite Falls.

I'm in thick cozy socks. A single candle flickers on the mantel. Tera is reading, Dave is working on his laptop. He and I spent a morning running errands and an afternoon putting up our greenhouse. So now, I want to do nothing but read, or knit. I'd like to write something thought-provoking, but I don't have enough energy left to say much more than this: Tonight, I'm content, and warm, and feeling lazy.

Tonight, I'm Lucy.