Tuesday, May 28, 2013


Twenty-five years with this guy.
Every year on our anniversary, I'm a bit of a crank.
This year we have a thousand tasks to finish before Julia's open house,
and he left for the day.
He's not working today.
There is a chance he's making me a gift.
So I'm trying to be gracious.

I would have thought, 25 years ago, that by now our marriage would be a sheltering tree.
On Mackinac Island, in Michigan, the lilac trees are the oldest in North America.
Their trunks are gray and strong.
Beautifully trimmed,
they curve over sidewalks,
shading passersby with heart-shaped leaves.
They bloom at the proper time.

This morning, as I hacked away at our messy lilac tree,
I thought that our real-life marriage needs constant tending,
constant trimming,
in order to create that tree of shelter.
Sometimes, marriage feels like a big scary weed.
The little foxes are the shoots and bolts
that threaten to take over.

I imagine if we ever move away from here,
that in 50 years,
this lilac will have become a giant shrubbery.
Somewhere deep inside the heart of it,
old scars will remain
of the branches that I cut away.

One year, I cut down so much of the lilac
that the entire family was mad at me.
It looked like a skeleton of a tree.
You'd never know it now.
Lilacs are tough.

We've had some bad years,
years that left cuts and scars.
We have seen that waiting, and forgiving, and praying,
and laughing, and staying in the mess together,
brings, eventually, all kinds of healing.
This life doesn't look the way we expected it to.
We are rich in children, but not in much else.

Considering how cute we were,
we hardly have any good pictures of our wedding day.
It was the worst $800 we ever spent.

Here is what I would tell these two, ahem, children:
Be kind.
Forgive quickly.
Do what is needed to be healthy and whole.
Enjoy your kids, but don't ignore each other.
Be a sheltering tree, first for each other, next for your offspring, and then for everyone else.

After decades of listening to Dr. Dobson, I only remember one thing he said.
It was for children, but it applies to marriage as well.
I paraphrase:
Look out the window.
The world is a big, hard, scary place.
Plenty of people out there will hurt you.
Here, in this house, we will not have hurt.
This will be a place of safety.
Here you will find love.

Every marriage ends in grief,
one way or another.
But today I claim joy,
I grind the enemy under my heel,
and I choose to love with a whole heart.

Saturday, May 25, 2013


Julia's class graduated from their small charter school yesterday.
Fewer than fifty students, and nine of them have been together since kindergarten.

For the first time since 1997, when Caleb was chosen in the lottery to attend this school, my husband and I don't have any children at PACT.
It's such a strange feeling.
The waiting list is around a thousand students, so there is no guarantee that Anna Kate will get back in.
If she's not there, then Malachi won't be on the sibling preference list, and he probably won't get in for kindergarten.
That's why choosing to home school Anna Kate was so momentous.
This has been a very good school for our children.

And she's off! (for a business degree from Northwestern University of St. Paul)

I'm thankful that the Lord knows our future.
I have too many kids, in too many phases of life, to worry about details.
We drove home through the rain last night, with a tired baby in tow.
Malachi went in our bed, as usual.
Through the night, Julia texted me, just as I asked her to.

The night was a blur of texts and a baby fussing next to me.
I feel like the only member of a tiny club, consisting of nursing mothers
with high-school (and college!) graduates.

10:36 p.m. "Bowling now."

1:09 a.m. "Leaving bowling...we're heading to a party at someone's house now....then the Lundstroms."

2:53 a.m. "Leaving for the Lundstroms now...."

3:05 a.m. "At Grace's."

So at last I could sleep....at least until 6:00 a.m. or so, and then it was up for coffee and solitude before Malachi woke up.

What a lovely, memorable night.

And congratulations, Julia Jordan-Rose.

You're going to have a beautiful life.

"Thou wilt show me the path of life;
in Thy Presence is fullness of joy."
(Psalm 16:11)

Sunday, May 19, 2013


 Interlude: an intervening episode, feature, or period of time.

Whew. Busy is what we are. Yesterday was Caleb's graduation from Northwestern College in St. Paul (my alma mater). I was a bit of a wreck. I started crying on the way there and didn't dry out until late in the day, after many events had unfolded.

Caleb and his baby brother, who does not seem a bit impressed.

 Maybe that's because this is how I remember our son. Just a little curly-headed two-year-old, who even then knew how to play hard and work hard.

I've been following a blogger (in my sidebar, Summer Harms), who just mentioned as a parenting goal To not check out. I think that's how she put it. An excellent goal. Because if you check out you will find that after about three weeks have passed, the kids are completely grown. That's how it feels sometimes. Like a blur.

 Our back yard, as green as God can make it.
So after yesterday, which included the graduation, a reception where we met classmates and professors, and lunch with Caleb's grandparents, we rushed home and my husband and I hied ourselves to a wedding.

A lovely wedding, with one of the best wedding sermon's I've ever heard, but oh my was I ever tired by the end of the day. (It is impossible in our own strength to be as perfect as Scripture commands. But God gives us the Holy Spirit, who equips us to love each other in a way that is supernatural).

Malachi Jude admiring the rain

And here's our interlude.
We have one week before our daughter graduates high school.
Today was rainy, a steady, nourishing rain.
The kind that makes pulling weeds almost a pleasure.
All the crab apple trees awakened, pink and white.
The bleeding hearts arched like delicate balloons on a string.
We rested.

Here's the poem that came to mind as the rain fell and fell and fell today.

by Robert Louis Stevenson

The rain is raining all around,
It falls on field and trees,
It rains on the umbrellas here,
And on the ships at sea.

(If you have a young child, try to find A Child's Garden of Verses).

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Good News, Bad News

 Mom and Malachi and me
This has been a week full of good news,
make-me-cry, wake-up-happy-in-the-night, prayers answered kind of news.
And a week of terrible news,
That also made me cry, and wake up in the night, full of worry.
Life is like that sometimes.

One day this week was so windy and cold that I about froze my fingers off,
wrestling with these sheets on the line.
I was determined to have line-dried sheets.
They took longer to dry than I expected,
but that smell, oh that smell, makes the extra work worthwhile.
Fresh, clean, grassy.

 Caleb passes to Isaac. (University of Minnesota med school! Yes!)
We spent Mother's Day at Peninsula Point Park in Anoka, where the Rum River flows into the Mississippi.
I got to be with all five of my kids.
Here are the guys playing football, while the girls and I hang out with the baby.
It was just about perfect.

 Fast asleep on line-dried sheets
The next day, my husband of 25 years finally shaved off his weird, Founding-Fathers-style mustache.
Our daughters told him that he looked like an angel.
Every morning I get to wake up to this.
A creamy little baby boy,
sleeping soundly (usually between us).
When he stirs in the night, I can sometimes calm him down just by breathing deeply next to his face.
I think, that's how Jesus calms me down.
When I am disturbed, anxious, restless.
I need to listen for Him.
Breathe on me, breath of God.

Nate's folks and the baby and I, with the mighty Mississippi behind us

What's your news?
Is it happy or sad, or like mine this week, an onslaught of both?
"Until we die our lives are on the mend."
(Richard Hugo, poet)



Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Reflecting on May 2012

One year ago this month, we called Julia's former teacher Amber, who had offered to take Senior pictures of Julia, and set up a time and a place.
The place was perfect, a farm with an aqua truck and weathered outbuildings.
We all tramped about in the tall grasses, bothered by the thought of wood ticks,
while Amber took beautiful images of my daughter.

We knew the photos would be good, because Julia was relaxed and happy with the whole process.
The photographer/teacher, the setting, the boots, the hat. The truck, better than all the ones we'd been scoping out over the previous months.
All of it just right.

And we loved the pictures.
Even more than we thought we would.
And now that it's been a year, I am eternally grateful that Amber also
snapped some photos of Anna Kate and me.

My friend Mary, owner of The Vintage Pixie in Cambridge, Minnesota, is the lady of the farm.
She made the sign we're holding, and Amber spotted it as a prop.
I remember holding this, flanked by my daughters, believing in my heart that the baby I was carrying would be a dream come true.
But deep inside, I wondered.
I didn't know for sure that he was healthy.
I was frantically uncomfortable, with stabbing pains in my ribs that intensified as he grew.
I loved my baby wholeheartedly,
but I was beset by fears on every side.

Malachi was born about a week later.
These two girls became "Nanny One" and "Nanny Two."
It's been a glorious year.
And because God and life do not allow us to settle into anything too mundane,
we have to face change yet again.
When Julia goes to college in the fall,
I expect to fall apart.
At least slightly.

This month is ramping up as our busiest May ever.
We have a college graduate, a high-school graduate, an impossibly huge yard to defeat before it defeats us.
Nate and I celebrate our 25th year of marriage on the 28th,
a week before our baby turns one.

All of these milestones bring up memories.
I remember the frustrations of early married life, the loneliness of new motherhood, the laughter woven through those years (humor saved us). 
I want to shout, or maybe whisper, to anyone who is overwhelmed by the unforeseen sorrows of the day,
that your future is secure.
The lines will fall for you in pleasant places.
And if the wolf is at the door,
and your peace is devoured,
and the snake of fear is wound about your neck,
you will not be destroyed.

You dwell in the shelter of the Most High.
You rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
Here is the promise that should be spoken aloud:
"He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust."
(Psalm 91)

One year can bring a whole new life.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Field Trip to a Round Barn

Every time we drive by this house, I'm the one rubber-necking to get a better glimpse of it.
I'm not posting a close-up of the house.
Because as it turns out, this house that I thought looked so perfect from the outside,
didn't live up to expectations on the inside.

The barn, though.
The barn, we loved.
It's not in the best shape.

Here's the inside of the barn's ceiling.
Is that right? Barns have ceilings? Whatever, the inside of the roof.
I imagine brave carpenters doing all this work by hand, with no power tools.

This barn has a downstairs.
Or a basement of some sort.

A big part of the roof is damaged.
Maybe that's why Nate and Malachi look so sad.
As we drove away, Nate commented that he wished the owners had put less money into the house and more into saving the barn. 
Once it's gone, no one's ever going to build another round barn there.

We are looking at houses with some acreage, because Nate's folks may need to move near us due to Dad's Parkinson's.
Changes like this are not easy.
We think about options, we wonder what the next year will bring,
and we hope for better days.