Mar 14 2018

Books & Birds

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The glorious sunshine we have had the last couple of days has been invigorating ~ it gives me the hope of spring! Of course we still have snow on the ground, so while we were outside exercising in the sunshine, the kids were throwing little shovelfuls of crystally snow at one another. I was hauling scrap wood from random places into one pile, and kept rubbing my hands into the snow at my feet to clean them off. And when I got hot, it was wonderful to grab a hand full of the crunchy snow and drop it down the neck of my shirt. Cooled my sweaty shoulderblades right off.

So as we are transitioning from winter to spring, praise the good Creator above, we are decidedly working on springtime plans! We have chicks arriving in ten days, which is super exciting for our family. The last time I got chicks was for my fifteenth birthday, and it would not be polite to tell you how many years ago that was. My children are truly ecstatic in anticipation of these precious little fowl. We are getting eleven, and are hoping at least eight of them will survive as dependable layers.

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And then eight days ago I got a random text from a friend asking if I was interested in duck eggs. For a moment I thought she was offering to bring me some to cook up, as she was going to be visiting for lunch the following day. But then she mentioned that she was pretty sure they were fertile, and that she would bring me an incubator as well. I jumped at the opportunity in faith, figuring homeschooling for the win! For sure.
So we have dedicated our kitchen half-bath to the babying of these sweet little eggs. It is about time to figure out if there is life inside, and my kids are wild with anticipation of candling them to check for veins with a flashlight. We have been reading blogs and books to get ourselves up to speed on all things duckling.

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And yes, this means that there will be a coop in the making. I am quite excited. At first, we thought to use the coop my brother built me on my parents’ property when I got chicks the first time… thinking we could include exercise easily in the daily routine that way because it would essentially include a mile walk every time we visited the coop. But as I pondered it further, I realized that is not very realistic and way less fun. I want to have ducks and hens toddling around my own property, where I can see them from my kitchen or my patio, and where I can usher them in to eat weeds and bugs around my fruit trees and garden beds. Also, who wants to haul food scraps and baskets of eggs for half a mile at a time twice a day? Hm.

In addition to the more educational type of poultry sites and books that Gabriel and I have been studying together, we have a pile of bird-themed books from our trusty library. Have I mentioned lately that we now have four library cards in our family? At fifty books allowed per card, I just want you to envision the armloads we come home with every week. We actually do get some pretty funny looks sometimes from people. And I am not sure whether it is positive or questionable that the librarians all now seem to know us by surname, and Gabriel by firstname. In another life, I maybe would have been a children’s librarian. Actually, I might be partially turning into one in my own home. Just check out my growing collection of books and bookcases. No really: ask my husband.

But I need to share a few things with you before I can call it a night here, because these books have already brought us so much joy.

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This is just the bird stack. We also have an Easter stack ~ and since you can only get five holiday books at a time per card, it’s great to have four cards maxed out simultaneously! And a just for fun stack where lots of precious picture books get read and reread and reread ad nauseum before we return them. Here is a closer look at some of these lovely picture books:

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The most basic of the books here is a wordless (but for some numbers, as you count the chicks as they hatch throughout the book) boardbook that is beautifully sweet. Simeon delights in counting these days, and he is super excited about ducks and chicks, so this is right up his sweet little alley. (What book isn’t, though?! I mean, really.)

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Then we have some more nitty-gritty books that are more serious and farm-informational-centric, which the kids find less fun and they definitely look at those as “school” rather than “reading” ~ I know, I know… But anyway, it’s true.

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But I think my personal favorites are the ones that strike a fun balance of informational and simply beautiful. The artwork is stunning and the stories are personal. And they throw in some fun details that I want my kids to learn, but don’t try to fool them into thinking this is “school” because, oh no ma’am, this is just for reading.

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The books throw in wonderful words like incubator, pullets, and coop. Things that my kids need to know here pretty soon!
Sonya’s Chickens even throws in a poignant plot twist where a fox carries away one of the little girl’s hens, and the girl is calmed & reassured by her father’s explanation that the fox is simply looking out for the care of his kits ~ and that it wasn’t a personal affront to her, but a strong provider caring for his family in the best way he knew how. Considering all the predators we will have to contend with out here in the country, I think this storyline is an excellent preparation for the hearts of my own children.

So we will keep reading. And growing our hearts a couple sizes bigger until these precious little poultry babies have pecked their way into our hearts. Oh ~ and if you can’t find me in all the usual places, I’ll probably be reading this stack of books with my kids by the woodstove, out back building a coop, or in the kitchen half-bath babying my duck eggs.

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Feb 28 2018

Hungry for Healing, Part II

Hungry for Healing, Part II

For almost as long as I can remember, two physical features have been identifying features about me. Someone might ask, Melissa? Which one is she? and in a room full of people someone would simply have to say, she’s the skinny girl with the long red hair.

Those two terms have been about as defining to me as my homeschooling, my love of books & music, and my Christian faith. How’s that for a slippery position?! Skinny and redheaded. Because now at 34 years old, I am no longer skinny and the number of greys in my locks increases regularly (just ask my tweezers – we can’t quite keep up anymore).

How is it that I have allowed secular media and modern American culture to speak so broadly into my life?
Why is it that I have not been able to overcome this temptation, this struggle, this idol, this sin?
Where in the world did all of this hurt and pain and shame stem from in the first place?

The first time I viscerally remember feelings of shame surrounding my body was in a ballet class I adored, standing at the barre in front of the wall-sized mirror. Rather than my usual teacher, Miss Tammy, who was soft, sweet, and relaxed, the studio owner was teaching my class that day. I don’t even remember her name, I just remember the feelings of stress and shame I felt when she walked near me or gave me directions. On this particular day that stands out in my memory, she was adjusting my posture and probably some position, but all I really recall is her finger pressing into my abdomen and saying getting a bit chubby… I was eight years old. Eight.
After that, I remember really paying attention to my mom’s exercise routines and Jenny Craig diets. I picked up on the fact that she ate differently than the rest of us did – she ate “diet food” but cooked “regular food” for the rest of us – and I came to believe that that was a goal to tuck in my pocket for womanhood. Skim milk and diet soda were the norm, and the reasoning behind it in my head was to stave off fatness. My grandma always called me her “skinny granddaughter.” These were not things that happened out of purposed negativity – it was simply my life, and they are the things I remember about my childhood.
Then in my teen years I became entangled with a boy. A boy who wanted to be a man and continually fell short. Who manipulated me into believing him when he made compliments like, “you look pretty today – pretty and skinny.” I literally have journals full of these manipulative comments. Sneaking notes to each other in homeschool classes or after church, gigglingly talking about turning 21 someday so we could get married, me listening to turns of phrase that I did not even realize at the time were harmful, manipulating, controlling. It brought me multiple levels of shame and suffering which still infiltrate my life on a regular basis. Not the least of which is the skinny factor that he pressed into me. And as I felt more controlled and manipulated by him over the course of about six years of secrecy, the feelings of being spun out of control turned into actions of grabbing for control over the only thing I thought I could grab with both hands – my body. If I could not control anything else in my life, I was brought low enough to think that at least I could control the number on the scale and the size on my clothing tags.

While I don’t honestly know when I really gave in to letting the spiral control and pull me under, the seed was planted when I was eight, it was watered and fed in my preteen years, then sprouted and cultivated between about 14-18. By the time I entered college the temptation and struggle had taken root enough that I can now say it became a besetting sin and garnered enough of my focus to be an idol.

There are years of my life that are basically gone from my memory banks. I don’t know if it’s from a lack of nutrition and sleep or PTSD or a lethal combination thereof.
My tendency toward anxiety and OCD grew. I cared about a facade of perfectionism, straight A grades, and size 2 jeans. Maintaining the physique that would draw people toward my pretty clavicles, hip bones, wrist bones, and long red hair. Eating just enough in front of people so they wouldn’t question my habits. But flat out refusing to eat when I could, and coming to the point where I would eventually just forget to eat. Even now, I could definitely go 24 hours without anything but coffee before noticing it (and that’s only because I can’t get away from the comfort of holding a warm mug of aromatics). Old habits don’t die easily.

I was telling someone recently that it absolutely astonishes me that as a conservative Christian woman I am flabbergasted by some of the bad words I let take over my life. Want to know what those bad words are? Old and fat. That’s right: three letter, commonplace words that are as abhorrent as ugly itself.
That is where I have allowed our culture and mainstream media to infiltrate my worldview, to my own destruction. And I will be hogtied and hamstrung if I allow it to go on to the next generation and hand it down for their destruction.
In biblical culture – heck, in much of all culture, historically speaking – old and fat are words of goodness, blessing, prosperity, honor.
I want to see through that lens. I want to embrace that worldview.

In Rachel Stone’s book, Eat With Joy, she says, “it doesn’t help that images of extreme thinness are everywhere. Even the most seemingly mundane objects show the trend: the girl on the Morton salt container or on the bottle of White Rock water is thinner than she was twenty or thirty or fifty years ago. My children’s Candy Land game (made in 2010) shows highly idealized, thin female characters and muscular male characters, whereas in the 1984 version I grew up playing the characters were, if anything, a little chubby.” (p90)

Where are the role models for my children to show them the beauty of a wheat-heaped belly? that your navel is beautiful when in a rounded bowl rather than sunken between two jutting pelvic bones? that Song Of Solomon was right in praising the rounded beauty of the beloved bride?

Song Of Solomon 7:1-2
…Your rounded thighs are like jewels, the work of a master hand.
Your navel is a rounded bowl that never lacks mixed wine.
Your belly is a heap of wheat, encircled with lilies.

And here is what I realize now. I am their role model. It must begin with me. It must begin with the things I bring to them. And it can’t just be the words I say, the books I read them, the videos I let them watch. It also starts with my very own body. This physical set of flesh and bones and blood and fat and freckles that God has given me, where I grew these children in my belly, where I nursed them on my breasts, where I carried them on my back, where I cradled them in my arms; where I still snuggle them tight, hug them, kiss them, lift them up; where I teach by example what health, beauty, and loveliness are.

“The words we use to talk about food and bodies matter, as well, because they nourish and shape and feed us — or poison, warp and starve us — every bit as much as food does. Who can eat gratefully and joyfully while thinking, I’m an ugly pig who doesn’t deserve to eat? I couldn’t. Who can eat with real pleasure when the table talk centers on dimply thighs, flabby bellies, calories, cholesterol, and what’s ‘healthy’ or ‘unhealthy’? No one can and such talk actually fuels disorder…” (Rachel Stone, Eat With Joy, p101)

My children make me hunger to be whole, to find healing, to shed the shame.
They make me long to love and embrace things like getting older and getting softer around my corners.
want to stop plucking out my grey hairs. I want to stop worrying about my muffin top.
I want to focus on truth, goodness, and beauty.
And this is my next step along the path of how I pray to get there.

“As Christians dealing with human hurts,
we have to remind ourselves again and again
that we are not called to be successful,
but to be faithful.
Our first directions come from the way Jesus told us to live,
not from what we think will work.”
(Doris Janzen Longacre, More-with-Less)

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Feb 26 2018

Hungry for Healing, Part I

Hungry for Healing, part I

First thought in the morning,
last thought before falling asleep at night,
forefront of my mind every time I prepare a meal or feed my family,
choking me when I catch a glimpse of myself in a mirror,
paralyzing me when it’s time to get dressed or put on a nightie,
making me close my eyes when I have to undress – don’t look down – keep the lights off…

I’m fat and ugly, which translates to worthless and unlovable.

Processing through the written word has long been a healthy tool for me, and I have often thanked God for it. Throughout my life when I have dealt with something big, heavy, hard, complicated, or grievous, I have found my best healing through writing. When grandparents died, when romantic relationships broke my heart, when I struggled through endless miscarriages, when depression and anxiety gripped me ~ I wrote.

Often the writing happened in journals, tucked away for nobody’s eyes, but simply for the use they were in helping me process the burden God had placed upon me, the dark road He was leading me through. Occasionally, I have processed by writing letters with friends, working through a common issue or simply receiving the blessing of their listening ears (or reading eyes). When it has come particularly to my processing of the deaths of my babies and my physical problems resulting in miscarrying, I have been specifically open and honest in sharing my process through the medium of this blog. Of course, it helps somewhat that I have little-to-none as far as readership goes. Perhaps it sounds quite easy to be open and honest when you aren’t actually sure if anyone reads what you say to begin with. But I have not yet shared anything here that makes me feel ashamed. Perhaps I have delicately tiptoed across the questions of depression and anxiety in the past, rather than jumping in up to my neck. But I have had enough real-life relationships where I am comfortable sharing and discussing those struggles that I have not been pushed to the edge of needing to process through a version of public writing. Until now.

This morning as the kids were eating their breakfast and listening to an audio Bible before we packed up for a busy day at our homeschool co op, I was exercising in the back room and streaming a short podcast episode from Jamie Ivey on the subject of if you only knew which is based upon the premise of her new book by the same name.

Jamie shares,

 For so long, I was so afraid that if you only knew the mess I am so good at creating in my life, then things would be different. In many ways, my greatest fear was what you might think of me if you only knew the whole story.

As the chore of guarding the stories of my past got more and more difficult, I found that I wasn’t just hiding my poor decisions, I was robbing others of the beauty of God’s grace that had redeemed these moments.

And I realized that I have preferred to spend nearly twenty years now hiding in shame rather than share my brokenness with you. I have concealed chaos in my life in order to put on a good face and put my best foot forward… but this, in turn, has caused me to present a facade that only shows part of what God is doing. I have not arrived, but deeply hunger for healing. I feel starved for truth regarding goodness and beauty.

And I am not doing any good to anyone by covering up the raw realism and gritty facts.
All I am doing is choking myself with the struggle to maintain the facade and present only the portions I want you to see.

I stumbled upon a rich book a couple months ago called Eat With Joy, and I finally finished it. Today. It was a good read, but sections of it were downright challenging. I have a deeply paradoxical relationship with food, particularly with eating. To say that it is a love-hate relationship barely tosses an ice cube on the tip of that iceberg. This book prodded and picked and peeled at all the right scabs. And I began to bleed.

Backing up about two months prior to finding that book on my library’s shelf, I was hosting a mom’s night for the women who participate in our homeschool co op, and while I was serving up cheesecake and putting together the ooey-gooeyist-most-delicioso caramel chocolate chip cookie bars you can imagine, 0ne of the women mentioned in a haphazard way that she had spent the better part of her life recovering from an eating disorder… but that while you can learn to control the habits, the mindset often remains with you for the remainder of your life…

…and I melted into a puddle of tears.
Those me too tears that authentic familiarity recognizes immediately.

She does not go around sharing that part of her story with everyone, but for some reason God put it on her heart to open up to me that night and show me the beauty of what God has done to redeem that part of her life; her relationship with food, her body image, her fight against what good things God could bring from her life if she would relinquish herself to His hand.

And now I feel lead to do the same thing.
Because I have long hidden in my shame, struggling with self-loathing and a distorted body image that has claimed focus and happiness and health from my heart for twenty years… I have fretted within myself if they only knew, wondering who would blow me off, look down on me, or pat me on the head with a Bible passage while patting themselves on the back for solving all my problems with a Christian snippet.

But I am hungry to heal.
I am ready to reveal the redemption God has slowly been working in me.
I am starving to share my suffering and Christ’s satisfaction.

And if you find yourself thinking, oh man, me too! while you read this ~ as I did when my friend bared her heart in my kitchen, or when I read that book, or when I streamed that podcast ~ send me a note so we can walk this road together.

This is only part one of what I am hoping to share.
But the beginning is this: I am recovering from a tedious, troublesome journey with bulimia mingled with anorexia.
It is by God’s grace that I can hit publish on this post, and share with you that I am following Him through to the other side of the tangled web of eating disorders.


If you or someone you love needs some beginning resources, I found these additional links a good place to begin:

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Feb 16 2018

little creator

Published by under Life,Thoughts

If only I could create ex nihilo, using nothing but logos. My image-bearing of the Creator is quite marred, as it ought to be since I am a daughter of Eve. But my deep vein throbbing to create using hands or using words or using breath is a crying out of my soul to imitate my threesome God.

I long to imitate the Father. I long to take dust and mold it into something beautiful. I long to gather together a piece of my own creation to make something fat and sweet and dimpled. To see my image done over again in a new way.

I long to imitate the Son. I long to use words to create life and fill with meaning, to reorient souls and bring restoration into broken places. I long to create healing and relationship and beauty out of written words and shared thoughts, common experiences and extravagant moments.

I long to imitate the Spirit by breath and wind. Song and speech.


What I find myself creating are meals that fill bellies, messes to wash, piles of laundry to be stacked in drawers. I create restful spaces and warm rooms and drinks to swallow that nourish tongues. I create order out of chaos. I create sounds out of noise. I create lesson plans and to-do lists and stacks of books and bins of art supplies.
I am creating well-rounded people with my body, my words, my breath.

How can such an enormous work ever be enough? How can I ever be enough for it? I cannot be. I need oh so much grace. I need more energy than I ever knew was necessary. This enormous, endless work is simultaneously more than I can comprehend doing every day for the rest of my life and everything I ever wanted to be putting myself into. The largeness and smallness of it all fills me with every sort of feeling every hour of the day.
To be needed is such a gift.
To be needed every two minutes
so that I can not actually spend any cohesive amount of time doing one single thing
is… indescribable.


I am getting ready to pour myself into a garden.
I am getting ready to pour myself into a wee flock of chicks.
I am getting ready to pour myself into more artistic creative endeavors than I could actually tell you just now.

But it’s kind of like I am trying to pour myself into these things because there is a hole here than I’m trying to fill. And I’m not sure these are the things that are actually able to fill it.
Like filling up a pothole with chocolate pudding instead of cement.


I am a creator. Made, marred yet molded, in His image.
The Creator’s.

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Dec 28 2017

Holy, Lowly

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Christmas swept into our midst again in its quiet, slow, lowly way. It began to seep in around the edges right after Thanksgiving, as it does, and it simply grew – the days more pregnant with glory and hope and sparkle and holiness after each subsequent night. Advent was minimalistic for us this year, out of happenstance rather than purpose, but in its own lowly way that too showed us the beauty of Christmas Day itself and the glories of this holy week following that holy day. With simple chocolates each night and reading Advent Scriptures & stories when I managed to sneak them in, with a small amount of baking and wrapping of gifts little by little – suddenly it was Christmas Eve. Worship on Christmas Eve morning was bright and sweet, joyful and peaceful. Being on this side of the story gives so much joy even in the here-but-not-yet atmosphere of a day like Christmas Eve. We know what follows on the heels of the Eve.

We spent the day with our church family, eating pizza and cookies and popcorn, ice skating on a hilltop in a backyard rink that made something simple utterly glorious. That evening came with our annual “webcam Christmas” of opening gifts and sharing joys across the miles through the gift of modern technology, followed by watching a movie as a family and flitting around accomplishing last minute touches on food and gifts for the following day.

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Once I had four little ones tucked into bed with books and flashlights, and strict instructions not to leave their beds until 7 o’clock the following morning, we filled stockings, sprinkled chocolate coins around the coffee table, and piled festive gifts around the base of our Christmas tree.

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The tree that is topped with a star, reminding us to follow the light of Jesus wherever it leads. The tree which reminds us of where our story began with Adam & Eve, and where our story will end with the Tree of Life. It reminds us of the fig tree, of the cross on which our Lord was crucified. It shows us so many things. The abundance of pretty packages simply a tiny foretaste of the abundant grace our Holy God pours upon us each day as His lowly children.

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And in the morning: cinnamon roll bread, reading, singing as a family (in three part harmony!!), opening gifts, sharing joys and generosity with one another, words of thanks and humble gratitude spilling everywhere, innumerable hugs and indomitable laughter.
When we said that it was time for presents, and our two year old ran to the tree and started grabbing for gifts and handing them to his siblings, Steven and I looked at each other: there is holy glory here in these joyfully lowly moments.

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I am a rich woman, given tremendous treasures. I am a lowly steward of incredible jewels. There is a holiness here as we celebrate the birth of our King, as we recall one of the earth-shattering events in history that God used to alter both time and creation. The dichotomy of holy and lowly, glory and gore. In a conversation with our children on Christmas morning, we mused about the idea of delivering a baby in a stable… the place where animals lived, ate, shed, and made all imaginable messes. No wonder Mary chose the feeding trough for the baby’s bed! At least it was only the animals’ mouths that frequented that spot! But even our little children, when thinking about it conversationally, could see the lowly humility Jesus willingly enfleshed. The Word Himself, going to sleep in the manger after growing within the body of a human girl and pressing into the world of oxygen through all the pain of a birth canal.

Our Jesus.
Our King.
The Holy Baby.
Savior and Servant.


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Dec 27 2017


Psalm 30:2, 4-5, 11-12
O Lord my God, I cried to You for help, and You have healed me.
Sing praises to the Lord, O you His saints,
and give thanks to His holy name.
For His anger is but for a moment,
and His favor is for a lifetime.
Weeping may tarry for the night
but joy comes with the morning.
You have turned for me my mourning into dancing,
You have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness,
that my glory may sing Your praise and not be silent,
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever.

There are few things God has entrusted to me which I treasure more than my children.
In fact, I can not think of a single tangible thing more treasured.
Even my husband, because the children God used us to create are part of him.
So in my treasuring and cherishing of them, he is included at least in a large part & portion.
I guess you could say they are, in fact, my treasured possession (in the vein of Deut 7:6).

Perhaps the largest struggle of my life is contained in my pursuit of motherhood.
Those who know me well, or even those who know me much at all past the truly superficial, know this.
But it isn’t easily contained in something like a sentiment or photograph.

It is such a big part of me that it takes a lot of time, conversation, and heart to deeply know this part of me. I realize and recognize that. I have grown enough through this that I now understand that not everybody is equipped or desirous to take part in that. And that is okay. In fact, that’s probably good and healthy. It is a huge part of who I am and what my life has included, but it is not all there is.


All of this notwithstanding, I’ve long yearned for an opportunity to capture an aspect of all thirteen of my children in a family photograph. And recently, a friend of mine from church offered to take family portraits for us, and asked what kind of creative aspects we could bring to the table (or the field, as it so happened). I mentioned wanting to do something in honor of my babies in heaven, and Sarah embraced the idea. She so kindly and gently photographed my family with nine white balloons to represent our nine children beyond the veil. My treasures in heaven (Matt 6:20-21).


And she also photographed me with my nine treasure boxes cradled on my lap. Little wooden boxes my father devotedly created for nine of his grandchildren, most of them cradling the wee bodies left behind from the souls that were escorted by angels to the heavens; all of them waiting to be buried with their mama so we can burst forth from our graves together at the final trumpet sound when our King returns.


These are sacred moments which perhaps only my own heart could treasure in such a tangible, tactile way. But here I share them with you, because so many of you have watched me walk these roads of tears and terror. It is my honor and my joy to share with you that there are treasures for me along this journey as well.

Revelation 21:3-4

“Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

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Dec 04 2017

Grandpa’s Hands

When I was a child, it was your hands that were getting down and dirty, scraping the barbecue, planting seeds, trimming rosebushes, stopping my spinning chair at the kitchen table. I remember watching your hands place toothpicks in the petals and stem of delicate passion flowers so they would stay open. I remember your hands holding the tiny paring knife, standing at the kitchen counter, every morning as you prepared a mound of fruit to top your bowl of mixed cereals. I also remember your hands opening the lids of multiple salad dressing bottles as you mixed dressings to top your salads at dinner.

I don’t remember you playing games, I don’t remember you reading books aloud, I don’t even remember you often holding my hand or holding me on your lap. I guess those weren’t necessary ways for you to show me your love. You brought me alongside you, and allowed me to follow you around, as you did your work. I remember reading the funny papers and watching America’s Funniest Home Videos on your tv on Sunday evenings. I remember sitting on your left side at the dining room table every Sunday night for our weekly family suppers. I remember you always saying supper, rather than dinner. I remember you holding your fork in your left hand, while I held mine in my right and tried not to bump into you over the table corner.

There were years, my most formative years, with a thousand miles between us where I did not get to much practice the art of being a granddaughter. As I look back at it now, with more perspective and wisdom on the subject, I can see that those were also the years where the Alzheimer’s was settling in to your cells and beginning to take over little by little. I remember you coming to visit, especially for Thanksgiving and November birthdays. I remember your addiction with little dogs and the daily newspaper.

The years I was in college, the early years of my marriage, the time I have spent in the trenches of young motherhood, I do not have lots of memories… but I missed you. I remember missing you.

I remember going to California to see you eleven months ago. It was my first time seeing you in a wheelchair, seeing you in “an assisted living center,” seeing your eyes deeply while knowing without a doubt that you don’t see me back. I remember bringing you a gift my children and I had made: a fidget blanket to keep your hands happy. I remember you loving it; in fact, you loved it until just a couple weeks ago.

I remember you moving here in May, and the delight it brought my soul. I remember bringing my children to see you; the newness of that first time, and then the normalcy of seeing you multiple times each week. I loved holding your hands, rubbing your shoulders, scratching your back. The way our eyes connected sometimes made it feel like you knew me deeply and truly: but then I would wonder if, instead of seeing me, somehow your brain saw your wife of years gone by in my visage. It brought my heart so much joy to look into your eyes connecting with your soul, while my body leaned close over yours. I knew your wrinkles, your grizzly whiskers, your long earlobes, your wild eyebrows. Your hands would sometimes let go of your fidget blanket long enough to reach out and touch my face or grip my hand. I loved how your hands would pat my children, rub them, hold them. Both of my youngest children loved to sit on your lap, Simeon especially asking for rides on your lap as we pushed your wheelchair around in big circles in the backyard, crunching yellow leaves this fall. Asher, my special boy you always had a unique connection with, would stare into your soul through your eyes as your hands wrapped around his back. You would smile for him when you wouldn’t smile for anyone else.

Then it happened: every part of you grew suddenly tired, massively weary. I brought you ice cream, I fed you bites of cold caramel creamy goodness when we could not get you to swallow anything else. It was the last thing I fed you, except for the apple cider mixed with Ensure I gave you in a syringe at Colin’s house the week before you died.

That was the day we gave you a living memorial. We sat you on the big brown leather couch, propped with some pillows, your foot on a little wooden crate. Grandma held one of your hands, Mama held the other. I was kind of wishing you had a third hand I could hold. I sat near your feet, sang toward your face, rested my hand along your cheek, and let my tears fall on your lap as I sang to you of day’s end, death’s disrobing, and being in God’s loving presence. My daughter danced for you. One of my boys read Psalm 90 for you. We sang hymns on end following your birthday songs, with Psalms sprinkled in.

And then the days grew long as we felt the night of death draw near. We rotated sitting at your bedside so you would not be alone. We sang to you, read to you, held your hands.

There were times when you would squeeze my hands when it really seemed inexplicable.
And then you raised your hands. Your body was as wasted away as I could imagine, so I have to believe it was your renewing spirit that was lifting those weary bones and drying skin into the air with praise.
When Mama read you Ephesians 1, your hands were raised in a strength that was clearly not your own.
When we sang you hymns of faith and psalms of hope, your hands would raise – it made us want to keep singing!

Oh Grandpa. Your hands.
I love those hands. I held your hands tight and told you how I could never look at lemons, blueberries, passion flowers, or cherry tomatoes without thinking of you. I also think I will never see tired old hands without remembering yours.
The last week of your life, I got to spend a lot of hours at your bedside, and I hated the time when I couldn’t hold your hands because they were being held by other people instead.

There was a wish inside me that I could be holding your hands when your body was delivered of your spirit. Rather, I held your hands often during the laboring of your body while your soul waited on the Lord for the full renewal of being called Home, and it was my own daddy whose hands held yours and whose voice you heard as the angels escorted the real you away from your body’s shell.

I did not come see your body after your spirit passed away beyond the veil. I heard that your wife and daughter held your hands and kept them warm until you were taken away. I saw a picture of Mama’s hands holding your hands as you lay in your handsomely wrought casket at the funeral home in California two days ago… it was the part that broke my heart. Your hands.

Today I saw a picture from 62 years ago, you holding my mama in your arms. I saw your young, healthy hand holding her chubby little toddler thigh. I cried. I never saw your hands like that. But they were the same hands. Those hands that held my mama in your youth are the same hands I saw working in the garden twenty-five years ago, and are also the same hands that rubbed my babies’ backs this summer, the same hands that I held while I sang to you on your deathbed, and the same hands I saw with no warmth or blood or life as Mama held them in hers two days ago.

Now your hands are crossed across your body, which wears a suit many sizes now too big, as you rest in your coffin of wood beneath the layers of earth, dirt, sod, and California sunshine. Grandpa, my memories of our life together are scattered and incomplete. But as I scatter these words through my fingertips at your memory, please just know how completely I love you. How thankful I am for you. How I will not forget your hands.

You made it to the finish line with valor and integrity. I trust your hands are still raised in victory, praise, and joy.
I love you, Grandpa. xo

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Dec 02 2017


There are some days that, while filled with nothing but the ordinary, feel truly extraordinary nonetheless.

In the liturgical Church year, incidentally, today is the last day of Ordinary Time prior to tomorrow launching this year’s Advent season. Well, perhaps it is less than incidental: in fact, it may be the precise reason I thought of this in the first place.

One of my friends is at the hospital in labor today with her first child, after years of longing to be given the gift of motherhood.
One of my friends, who I babysat & taught piano to for years and then who was a flowergirl/maid in my own wedding, is getting married this afternoon.
And my one and only Grandpa will have his bones laid to rest in a couple of hours.

The intersection of some of life’s moments of highest pinnacle!

And here I am at my home, living in the very ordinary routine of my life.
Dishes, laundry, feeding my people, changing diapers, loading up crockpots, listening to a podcast while I walk around in circles between my own needy little people and my weary old brown boxes of Christmas decorations that I’m trying to unload into a semblance of celebratory beauty around my home.


But just because it is ordinary does not mean it has no value. Some of the most monumental and majestic of events rely fully upon those who are holding down the forts in the world of the ordinary!

And so as I chop onions for chili and cut fat into flour for pie, as I transfer laundry loads and sweep up pineneedles from the family room rug, as I interact with my children and scatter Christmas decorations around my home, I wait for my ordinary little phone to buzz. I get updates from my friend waiting for her body to be delivered of her tiny son. I get updates from my mama who is waiting for her father’s body to be laid to rest. I watch the clock as I anticipate the covenant-making of my friend as two shall become one.

This is ordinary yet it is majestic.

On this last day of Ordinary Time prior to Advent, I am thinking about the power of the ordinary.
Ordinary things like life, birth, death, marriage, parenthood, homes, food, tangible, physical things.
And tomorrow when Advent bursts onto the scene, I anticipate one friend’s arms will be filled with her little son; another young friend entangled with her husband; and my grandpa will be planted in the earth awaiting the harvest of the Resurrection.
I will go to worship, partake of communion, sing, pray, and rejoice because the majestic King of creation came to earth in the ordinary form of a baby with human DNA just like me and lived a life full of ordinary, tangible, physical things.

Maybe it is the ordinary things, after all, which are the true pinnacle of the majestic.

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Nov 17 2017

Final Lap of The Race

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Acts 20:24
“I consider my life worth nothing to me;
my only aim is to finish the race
and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—
the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.”

I’m not a runner. I may have gone through a short stint a couple years ago where I gave it a try, but it’s quite arduous and painful… so let’s just be doubly honest here, I am not and never shall be a runner. And yet as image-bearers of the Creator, we all do run ~ He is the one that determines and establishes our every step (Proverbs 16:9), He is the one that prepared our good works for us to walk in (Ephesians 2:10). Each step I take is of Him, for Him, by Him, through Him. Some of us run races faster than others (ahem, remember I’m just a walker?).

But I know what it is to run.
I recognize various parts of the race when I see others racing.
I can see the difference between the sprint, the endurance lap, the uphill grind, the downhill blitz.
Known as an encourager, I guess you could say I know something about standing along the sidelines and cheering others on.

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And have you noticed that the beginning and ends of the race are where the most stands are filled?
So much energy and exultation happens when the race begins.
In the middle, when things seem smooth and easy, sometimes there are stretches where there is nobody cheering; simply the occasional medic or someone handing you a water bottle. At other points in the middle when the hills are steep or the terrain dangerous, there may be more people gathering around to make sure you survive the toil and they cheer for you as you make each stride.
But it’s at the end of the race, in that final lap, where the cheering and rejoicing and clapping is most obvious. Even moreso than the energy expended at the outset. It is then, at the end, when you will see so much egging on, encouraging shouts, jumping up and down with loud exults, coming into downright cacophony nearing the finish line.

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Hebrews 12:1-2
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses,
let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely,
and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,
looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith,
who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross,
despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

My children and I have been spending hours every week at the elderly care home where my grandpa lives. So many of these people are finishing the ends of their races without coaches and cheerleaders. We have even semi-adopted two older men there who are bedridden, and we bring joy to them as they continue on these laps near the ends of their races.

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But recently it is Grandpa himself who has needed the cheerleaders amping up. For him, the final lap has begun. The finish line is getting closer. It can be so tempting to plop myself down along the sideline and just bury my head in my arms. I don’t have the best relationship with grief, I have probably a good bit of PTSD associated with it in fact.

This is not the time, though, for me to take a breather and leave my faithful runner alone on the path.
This is the time to cheer him on the most.
He’s almost there! He’s almost finished! That fullness of joy is nearly within his grasp!

Psalm 16:11
“You make known to me the path of life.
In Your presence there is fullness of joy;
at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

So here I sit, here I stand, here I’ll commit to staying ~ cheering on my grandpa as he rounds the final bend in these final laps. He has run with endurance. The finish line is in sight. His faith will be perfected, it will become sight, and soon he will see King Jesus face to face.

Grandpa! You’re almost there!
I may cling to your weary, wrinkly hand with all my might right now,
but I would not ask your soul to tarry.
Run. Fly.

Finish strong.
You have lived well. You have run with grace.
We will rejoice with you when you step at last
into the victory lap, joining the cloud of witnesses across the finish line.


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Oct 28 2017

The Printed Word

The five hundredth anniversary of the Reformation in Europe is kind of a big deal right now. As in, I feel like I have seen it pretty much everywhere online, I attended a conference themed on it, I know local churches with Reformation Day parties this year (even ones that wouldn’t normally have gone to the trouble), etc. It is pretty amazing. Now, while I was trying to focus on United States history with my kids this year, for a two week period (last week and this coming week), we are putting it all aside and replacing it with a unit study on the Reformation. What a great time we have been having! Our focus in this Reformation unit is primarily art and literature, which necessarily includes copywork and theology and singing and other such wonderful things. Yesterday my children and I sang David Erb’s version of Psalm 46 (which they had learned at music camp in the summer), and then Martin Luther’s famous Mighty Fortress. And I think, especially for the big boys, it really meant a lot to them, having known more about the history of the music and the words and the musicianship represented there.
We are essentially jumping in deep with these books for our unit:

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I introduced the subject, era, and keynote people with ABCs of the Reformation and some excerpts of The 100 Most Important Events in Christian History. And the kids each had books on Martin Luther they read on their own. But as the kids asked questions about the “whys” behind the Reformation, we ended up leaving the theological men and their stances of the mid-1500s behind and stepped further back into the world of Johannes Gutenberg. We very much loved Fine Print and are currently enjoying Ink on His Fingers as well, plus some other little snippets on him, his life, his work that have simply repeated & filled out what we found in those books.

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Undoubtedly the most stunning thing we realized, though, is that my family has a unique bookcollector right next door… my father collects old Bibles… he has studied them, loved them, researched them, worked with other collectors, learned some dying craft of mending pages and bindings, and he has even traveled in order to acquire or restore Bibles. So I asked him if we could take a peek at one of his early copies. Not only did he allow us to take a peek at it, but he dropped it off so we could fully explore its pages at our leisure. What a gift! This particular copy was printed in 1549, using the sort of mechanisms, leather-over-wood binding, goldleaf, moveable type, handmade ink, etc. that Gutenberg himself created and implemented.

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The kids took turns gently turning pages, smelling & feeling the cotton paper, examining the old inks, following worm holes through sections of pages, fingering the thick embossed leather on the cover. This particular copy was not printed until 1549 (let’s be honest: that’s pretty old!! And to have it in the family, where we don’t need to wear special gloves or keep it under glass, etc. is a special gift we don’t take for granted), so the kids wanted to figure out if someone like Martin Luther or John Calvin could have touched this book. They wanted to know if this would have been chained up to keep it from being stolen; if it would have belonged to a church, a common family, or an elite; they wanted to know about the gold leaf & the leather – where would they have come from? While I don’t have specific answers to most of those specific questions about this specific copy of God’s Word, it was really fun to talk about and imagine and ponder. Who else has held this book and read its pages and had their soul fed in the last 468 years?!

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We then spent an hour over lunchtime yesterday watching this video, where Stephen Fry walked through a lot of Gutenberg’s footsteps and recreated his craft and science and system of creating the printing press which changed the world. It has been really fun to learn, through books and the video, about the process of setting the type. I love the odd spellings and letters in the old English copy here!! I read Psalm 23 to the kids, which even Evangeline knows by memory in the ESV, and had them all follow along with it in this book… which doesn’t even have verse designations… and they were impressed by the difficulty of discerning the words because of the spellings and the spacing and such. The video really touched on that too, so that was a helpful nuance.

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What a contrast I noticed… little Simeon had just received his own little tiny pocket-sized Bible this week… which I picked up for 49-cents when I was grabbing another armload of used children’s books at Goodwill… and this little thing has no real monetary value, no big dramatic story behind it, it was probably printed with very little effort along with thousands of identical copies… yet it is a treasure to this tiny boy who now walks around with it tucked in his arm, and sets it beside him while he plays (such as here, below, when he was playing in the little toy kitchen)…

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And it is the Reformation that makes this kind of thing possible. Where there was chaos, God brought order. Where there was unrest, God brought peace. With a family so deeply in love with books and written words, this is a unit study that hits home deeply. It makes me speechless and just boggles my brain. The world had only manuscripts reproduced by scribes and owned only by the truly elite. The “paper” (vellum from calf skins) was even hard to come by, let alone inks and reeds, and then the immensity of time it took to copy it all! Wow. It’s utterly phenomenal how God brought Johannes Gutenberg to the apex of art & science to bring us the printing press.

I guess I’d say personally speaking, the internet and the printing press are the two biggest things that I think God created through mankind to change the world. And while I am not ready yet to wrap my head around studying the history and creation and implementation of the internet with the kids, I am absolutely stunned by the breathtaking world of the printing press’s creation.

The printed words brought us the printed Word.
What better gift could the Reformation have brought us?!
And then, because this 1549 copy of course is in English, we have so very much to be thankful for in the Reformation fight for Scripture in the vulgate too. We get to worship in our native language, we get to have more copies of the Bible than we even need (and we even carry it around in our pockets, thanks to places like OliveTree!).

The Reformation was a tool our King used to give us these gifts.
As for me my household, we are grateful.

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