Friday, March 28, 2014

Only Connect

photograph by BeesKnees

"Only connect!.....
Live in fragments no longer."
(E.M. Forster, Howard's End)

The year I was pregnant with Malachi (yes, it felt like a year), my word was "fearful." I wanted a different word, and I prayed and wrestled to get past it, but when I look back, my journey during those months was marked by fear.
Then he was born, and although things were rocky at first, with extra days in the hospital due to severe jaundice, eventually we settled into a peaceful routine. The whole next year was marked by gratitude. Everything seemed too good to be true: the helpful big sisters, the beautiful baby boy, the relaxing schedule of home schooling. The wilderness of illness and joblessness that our family had wandered in for seven long years seemed to be coming to an end. I was tired, taking care of a new baby, but in a lot of ways that mattered, I was rested. Deeply rested. And the word that I most often flung up to heaven was, "Thank you."

Yesterday something happened, a small thing, but it made me stop and notice. I noticed a new feeling, one that's been sneaking up on me, but that I disregarded until now. The feeling was isolation. I explored it as one explores a sore tooth, tentatively, worrying it, nudging it. Drat. I am most definitely feeling isolated.

As I write this, my daughter is enjoying a day with one of her oldest friends. I'm the one who gets the ball rolling on these play dates. I've been concerned since she started home schooling that she wouldn't have enough time with friends. She's perfectly happy to be home with me, as long as she gets to see her cousin and her big sister every week or so. But friend time is important. Friends don't have to choose us. Around them, we learn to be a bit more careful, a tad more polite, a lot more forgiving. A friend cannot be taken for granted.

I remember 22 years ago, when we were frantic, frazzled young moms, my friend Michele asked in desperation, "Where are all the fifty-year-old women? Can't they help us?" Well, I'm not quite that age yet, but I'll tell you where they are. They're working. They're busy making money to pay for their kids' college bills. They're going to Bible Studies. They're exercising. In short, they're making up for the years they spent with young children, when they couldn't go anywhere easily.

So here I stand, with one foot in the Young Mommy Club, and one foot in the Older Mom Club. I thought I would belong to both clubs, and happily skip between my older friends and my younger friends, but that has proven a difficult dance. It seems like I'm in a club all by myself. My attempts to go to Bible Study at my church have been dismal, because I was too nervous to spend the money to put Malachi in nursery. On rare Tuesdays, I convince Anna Kate to come with me, and she plays with the baby for a half hour while I pop in on my small group and reconnect. It's not ideal. I feel guilty for taking her away from schoolwork, and I hardly get any time with my wonderful group.

I don't know what next year will look like. I don't know if we'll move, and if we do, if my friends will be willing to drive that far to see me. I do know that I'm learning a bit more about living life with eyes wide open, looking around to see if maybe there are others who are feeling the way I am. I'm sure there are, because we live in fragmented times.

Here's a song for you, to bless your friendships and your weekend.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

March Forward

It's been a busy month, busy in the way that life with a toddler keeps me on my toes all day long.
The days are slowly warming up (although today is a set-back, we're in the single digits again),
so in this picture, Malachi is sporting a new pair of shorts.

Our March has been both quiet and eventful, with stretches of boredom interspersed with warrior prayer sessions. 

~Our kitchen island is covered with a flurry of house plans. Nate's mom is a house designer, and she keeps reworking our ideas (she's so patient). Then Nate and Anna Kate and I peruse her plans and dream up changes. I haven't wanted to move. I love our location and I'm fond of our house. But as we pray about it, I slowly feel my heart softening. If we move, it will be about a half-hour north (farther from church, farther from friends, farther from Red Wing, farther from our kids' universities). That thought makes me feel lonely. But on the other hand, as Tevye would say, we could finally get a house that fits our needs. And that thought makes my heart soar.

~Caleb, our second son, asked his lovely girlfriend Krista to marry him. She said yes! They are planning a summer wedding. I am a fan of short engagements. It will be a small family wedding. Soon we will begin coaching Malachi on walking a straight line so he can be a proper ring-bearer. (Malachi lost out to Isaac for best man honors).

~We always have plenty to pray for, but right now the list is especially long. At the very top is our earnest request for healing for a close family member. If you want to pray with us, we are calling on the Lord to restore our nephew's health. He is very young and he has Type 1 Diabetes. Sometimes when we don't know how to pray, I remember the words from Jesus and I ask, "Make this on earth as it is in heaven." In heaven there is no diabetes, no fear, no dread that the other shoe is going to drop.     

~Malachi got a bed. Now this is a pointless bed, since he sleeps with Mommy and Daddy and probably thinks he always will. We placed it at the foot of our bed and covered it with a beautiful quilt made by our talented niece. He had so much fun watching Daddy and Anna Kate put it together. He keeps climbing on it and jumping on it. I know a day will come when he will sleep in this bed. In fact, maybe we will build a new house and he will have his own bedroom. Then I can decorate it with grays and blues pulled from the quilt, and maybe, finally, get a full night's sleep. I can't even imagine what that must be like.                 

(Quilt by Lisa, bear by Great-Grandma)   

This might be a reading nook, or a jumping place, or a cute little bench. It's certainly not where Malachi plans to rest his weary head every night.

Friday, March 14, 2014


My sister up and left me.
She went to Asia to teach conversational English for three months.
I told her if she had gone to France or Ireland, I would have figured out a way to visit her.
But I must admit,
the pictures she's been emailing have been beautiful.
Strange, some of them, to Western eyes,
but the tiled roofs, blooming flowers, green swards of park grass,
and sweet faces of her new friends,
are captivating.
It's another world
within our world.

The picture that really stood out was one she snapped inside a store.
It showed a bright yellow knit ensemble,
emblazoned with bold English words:   
Cherish This
Not Not
After recovering from our fits of giggles,
my daughter and I resolved to never wear unknown words on our persons.          

For some reason, in my labyrinth of memory,
(maybe it was the word "moment"),
the sequence of words brought a song to mind.
"Day by day, and with each passing moment,
strength I find to meet my trials here.
Trusting in the Father's wise bestowment,
I've no cause for worry or for fear.
He whose heart is kind beyond all measure,
gives unto each day what He deems best,
lovingly its part of pain and pleasure,
mingling toil with peace and rest."

(It's a Swedish hymn by a woman named Lina. What's not to love?) 

Now, of course there are days
when we cherish not not the moment.

Days when the trend is painfully original,
and we balk at change. 

Many years ago, I went on a field trip to Underwater World at the Mall of America.
Our school of four-year-olds and adults was herded into a back room
and taught all kinds of things that the general pubic doesn't get to hear.

We learned about starfish. 
A Spanish scientist, testing the regenerating capacity of the creatures,
took a starfish and blended it in a blender.
(Try not to shudder, they don't have brains. Still, kinda icky).   

He took the 300 tiny pieces of starfish out of the blender,
placed them in separate petri dishes,
and waited.

300 new starfish grew.
Perfect little starfish.

Imagine that.
Wonder at the power of life,
of regeneration,
of the truth that the broken bits inside of us  
(sometimes the tiniest shards) 
can grow into something whole and beautiful.

"Therefore we do not lose heart.
Though outwardly we are wasting away,
yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.
For our light and momentary troubles
are achieving for us an eternal glory
that far outweighs them all." 
(II Cor. 4:16,17)      


Sunday, March 9, 2014


"Keep to the present,"
Pascal says,
and nowhere is this simpler to obey
than when I'm on a white sand beach,
watching blue-green waves tumble onto the shore.

This was my Valentiine's Day gift to my husband.
I yearned to go,
but I knew I wouldn't be able to convince him
that a trip to the Gulf Shore of Florida,
in the middle of the longest winter,
was not only possible.
It was necessary.

It felt like an idea from God.
I lined up the dates with my friend and hostess,
bought the tickets,
and waited, nervously,
for four long weeks,
before I told Nate.

The gift went over like a lead balloon.
He had a job that week.
Everything would be delayed.
This was terrible timing.
Someone would have to go in his place.  

As you can see,
we went.
(And we brought a cute little chaperone).  

It was glorious. 

I am married to maybe the only guy in the world
who packs black socks and tennis shoes
as his footwear
for a beach vacation. 

Naples was our favorite.
I've been there several times,
but never to the pier.  
This is the western view off that famous, crowded, weathered pier.  

We were late to both of our sunsets.
And neither evening had the globe of sun,
flattening like an egg yolk,
pouring into the horizon. 
So all our sunset pictures are dark.

I was so happy to be there,
with my husband of almost 26 years
and our game little toddler,
I reveled in the moment,
even though it wasn't perfect.  

On our last day,
we went to the Edison and Ford Museum in Fort Myers.
The banyan trees are tangled gray giants,
weaving into the earth and amongst themselves.

A storm blew in, a bad one,
with a tornado watch,
so we hunted down a Peruvian restaurant
called "El Gaucho Inca,"
and ate one of the best meals of our lives.

We're glad we went.
We're happy to be home.
I hope my happiness is not dependent on the weather, but oh!
how lovely it was to stretch out in warm sunshine,
with my baby at my side, scooping his little shovel in the sand,
and for a few days,
forget about bitter cold and snow.

"The weather and my mood have little connection.
I have my foggy and my fine days within me;
my prosperity or misfortune has little to do with the matter."
(Blaise Pascal)