Tuesday, September 27, 2011


My daughter sees beauty.  Her mind and heart want to express it and so I get these tiny pieces of paper from her sporadically that she refers to as “poetry” and so I read it as poetry.  I understand the looking for words, the words to capture what you see only the way you can.

When she was in first grade, she gave me this slip of paper at the lake.

It is evening.
The sky is pink and orange.
It is night and all the lights are out.

Three years later, that sky is still capturing her.  I got this one a couple of weeks ago.

The sun is shining,
Bright and clear;
Red and orange,
Day is here.

In her 9 years, she has seen more sunsets than sunrises, but it’s His creativity that she remembers.

In my looking for words, I sometimes see Scrabble tiles, all jumbled like on the tray in my guest room, and on rare occasion, I see words and phrases, that work in recreating the picture I see.  My heart swells when I read Julia’s simplistic words, arranged in stanza, communicating a sight that isn’t forgotten~ a picture that came to mind while trying to fall asleep.  She’s learning about beauty.  His beauty and the life, the joy it brings as we experience it.  To me, to us, beauty is big.

{The author reminiscing his childhood}  He remembered as though it were but a few days ago that winter night, himself too young even to know the meaning of beauty, when he had looked up at a delicate tracery of bare black branches against the icy glittering stars:  suddenly something that was, all at once, pain and longing and adoring had welled up in him, almost choking him.  He had wanted to tell someone, but he had no words, inarticulate in the pain and glory.  It was long afterwards that he realized that it had been his first aesthetic experience.  That nameless something that had stopped his heart was BEAUTY.  Even now, for him, “bare branches against the stars” was a synonym for beauty.
~ Sheldon Vanauken  {Severe Mercy}

My room was on the second floor of my childhood home.  Who knows how many hours, tucked into my bed, I spent staring out between the pine trees relishing the nights of seasons I could see the moon sparkling on the water?  And around 11pm, the train would go by across the road and cause the water to shimmer even more.  Always I notice sun or moon on the water.  Anywhere.  Jewels dancing and disappearing and reappearing.  It’s one of those things that can’t be photographed or painted..... well.  In that room, I had no words for what I saw at night.  Julia sees it too.  But she has words.  Praise the Lord, she has words.

Another tiny piece of paper decorated in red pen:

The water looks like diamonds,
Blue and sparkly.
So pretty it shines,
With the sun.

I want to see beauty.  In the ugly, in the sink, in the suffering, in the daily, in all the days before I die, the moments before I sleep.  Isn’t beauty what we yearn to burn with before we die?  What else so ignites, hot flame?  Beauty is all that is glory and God is Beauty embodied, glory manifested.  This is what I crave:  I hunger for Beauty.  Is that why I must keep up the hunt?  When I cease the beauty hunt, is that why I begin to starve, waste away?
~ Ann Voskamp {One Thousand Gifts}

Without knowing it, I hungered for beauty when I was younger.  His creative image within me carved out a place for it.  He nourished me with it even when I didn’t realize I was looking for it.  I notice it now~ sometimes better than others.  Brother and sister deciding it’s more fun to be nice to each other and the laughter that follows.  Leaves falling outside.  A melody that makes me stop.  Remnants of imaginations hard at work.  Forests of trees.  Children while they sleep.  “Fall” scattered through our home.  Naturally, Julia seeks it.  Never does she glow more when she is out looking, experiencing and finding.  His beauty gives her dreams and hopes to build upon.  One of her Kindergarten dreams was to live in the woods in a log cabin and play the guitar.  Because I know her, even now, that’s not so far-fetched.  She’d be awfully happy.  And I’d love visiting her.

What more, you may ask, do we want?  Ah, but we want so much more--- something the books on aesthetics take little notice of.  But the poets and the mythologies know all about it.  We do not merely want to SEE beauty, though, God knows even that is bounty enough.  We want something else which can hardly be put into words-- to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become a part of it.
~ C.S. Lewis {The Weight of Glory}

I am not so “prose-y” that I get that, really.  See, I am not a dreamer.  To “bathe” in beauty or “to pass into it” seems a little mystical to me.  But “mystical” is just other- worldly, right?  And this world is not my home.  Beauty that we’ve never experienced lies just on the other side.  His side.  Where He dwells.  I can dream about passing into that and being united with Him.

In all of Julia’s looking and seeing, I want to be a part of it with her, to draw it out, her thoughts, her words about what she sees and how His beauty all around makes her feel.  And in her most earnest seeking, I pray she finds the Source of all the things she sees, of all the beauty she finds.  It’s Him.  It’s always been Him.

One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek............all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord, and to seek Him in His temple. {Psalm 27:4}

762.   new mercies every morning

763.  park days for boys

764.  Julia’s independence on the sewing machine

765.  pastor’s race characterized by long-faithfulness, running even longer

767.  action figures reminding me of my childhood {Is it possible to have a soft spot for a robot or is C3PO a droid?  He was such the gentleman.  I think his parts were made in South Georgia.}

768.  Emily, who finished up the school day

769.  Brighton’s good choice {finally}, making all the difference in how he plays ball

770.  sussies on my doorstep

771.  The Sound of Music

772.  worn out books and time for creativity

773.  starting a new book with Julia

774.  hopeful conversations over Asian noodles

775.  Monday, an antithesis of the last

776.  “Mom, I don’t mind those writing assignments.  I kind of like them.” {B}

777. Mom’s searching for the best over the good

778.  Julia’s poetry on tiny sheets of paper

779.  Beauty

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Jesus and Farm Chores

Well, I am needing me some lightness.  Something other than the stuff that keeps me up at night or the things that create in me a need to meditate, to write, to think or books with paragraphs that make my brain hurt, taking half an hour to digest one page or blogs that make me question my entire existence or things that cause me to search the pantry for sugar.  I ate Mambas the other day for crying out loud.  Twenty years, maybe?  I don’t know but a very long time.  A friend spied my book, “Severe Mercy” setting next to me and put her head in her hands, doubling over like someone had just punched her in the stomach.  “Are you reading that right now??”  Life seems heavy right now so allow me to infuse a little helium.

We started week number five of school yesterday.  After four days in Anson, planning out the school year, I said I would re-evaluate after a month.  When I thought through some things on Sunday, it took all of 2 seconds for me to conclude, one some issues, that “tweaking” was a wishful thought.  Tweaking just wasn’t going to cut it-- most “issues” were inbred personality traits that will take a lifetime to figure out.  All three of us.  But remember, I am clicking on the light side today.  On to the things that are going well.

Over the last several years, I have seen people move out of our city proper and onto a “piece of land”.  Contrary to what you might think, “piece” used in this context means large, not like a piece of chocolate.  It is acreage.  And in some cases it comes with pasture land, four legged things that need attention, creeks, barns, trails etc. We’ve seen some people acclimate perfectly and their families are thriving beautifully.   And we’ve seen some people run back to Fort Worth as fast as they could find a rental near the country club while waiting for their “piece" to sell.  Oh, I get it.  I’ve had those thoughts too.  I grew up in the country.  I know how amazing it could be for our children, our family.  I have lists in my head ~ the why’s and the why not’$.  There is something attractive about country living, down on the farm, back to nature sort of living.  The appeal to me, and I think to most, is more about my family and the hopes of experiences and memories we would have.  I don’t necessarily think about all the work.  All the driving.  All the “I know it’s far out” when I want to have people over.  All the work.  All I’d say “no" to “in town”.

I digress.  Again.  Helium.

So Jeff thinks about this idea, the vision that people have about this living on the land, doing the farm thing and comes up with the most brilliant idea of his lifetime~ and he’s had some doozies.  Good ones, but this one.....  “Farm Chores”.  I can’t even tell you how happy it makes me to type those two words.  Even my city boy understands the pull to the country.  He proposed the idea that even though we live five minutes from anything, that we do “farm chores” .  Oh, girl, just wait.  It’s really good.  No, we don‘t have chickens to feed, rambling porches to sweep, gardens to plant or cows to milk but we do have a dog to feed, a house to dust, a yard to mow and blow, and food to prepare.  

Here is what it looks like.  Every morning {Monday through Friday} after the kids walk Gabriel, we meet in the mudspace where our lists hang, do a little silly thing and crank up the music.  {See end of post after pictures.} I set the timer for thirty minutes and approximately two hours of work gets accomplished by all four of us working.  I told you it was good.  We do everything from typical house chores like dusting, emptying trash cans, cleaning bathrooms to food prep for dinner, grilling meat to freeze, honey-do tasks, cleaning outdoor furniture... and the list goes on as custom as you wish.   I do feel there is a “magic bullet”, though, for every thing you try and in this case, ours is Jeff.  He came up with it, he drives it and he participates.  His enthusiasm makes all the difference.

This summer, about a month in, I was looking around my house, like on a random Wednesday and was shocked that the system was actually working.  I even pulled back a curtain in the den to look at B’s windowsills.  No dead insects.  Hmm.  I texted Jeff, “Farm chores have changed my life.”  Jesus and farm chores.

Back to the music.  I am not a singer nor a musician of any kind, but I love music and in my non musical opinion, I think music makes EVERYTHING more fun.  From farm chores to road trips.  Every event needs a playlist-- a GOOD playlist.  For this, you’ve GOT to have fiddle music and songs that just make you happy.  So here are my favorites from our “Farm Chores” playlist.  

On My Way Back to the Old Home- The Bluegrass Band Album
Home Sweet Home- The Bluegrass Band Album
Do Everything- Steven Curtis Chapman
Good Mornin’ Life- Dean Martin
Another Day, Another Dollar- Wynn Stewart
Ain’t We Got Fun!- Renee Olstead
This Will Be (An Everlasting Love)- Natalie Cole
Rockin’ Robin- Bobby Day
Come Fly With Me- Michael Buble
We Are Family- Sister Sledge

My city boy holding his own
743.  skipping rope

744.  birthday surprises, from home, from across town, from Georgia

745.  kids measuring each other on tippy toes

746.  my sister-in-law, Tricia

747.  “I love seeing your face every morning.” (B)

748.  sleeping an hour later on my birthday and waking up to B picking out “Happy Birthday” on the piano

749.  being celebrated by Jeff

750.  pumpkins

751.  her joy displayed in helping me at home

752.  colors only He could have imagined

753.  friends, willing to enter in

754.  silly under the table hair {school?? this and #757 have nothing to do with the other.....}

755.  young women in my den speaking from their hearts and from the depths to which God has already taken them

756.  time for an evening picnic {in between the stuff}

757.  quiet night after school day tanked

758.  September 19th, One Year Bible reading {reading down memory lane~ Thank You, Father for those Words.}

759.  husband, understanding what I cannot put into words

760.  faking Paris,  for an hour

761.  farm chores {!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!}

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


Wednesday night when I returned from work, Jeff said that Julia had come down for a while after tuck in.  After finding what she needed in her Daddy’s arms, a few timid questions came.  Jeff, an expert in heart conversing, listened and answered compassionately and as completely as he could.  Origin questions.  Genetic questions.  Good questions.

Thursday night after our neighbors left, she, with dishes from the table, stopped me on my way to help her and asked if she could talk with both of us.  Conscious of the time, we almost put her off until morning.  As the dishwasher hummed, we settled into chairs, her, wearing an old high school camp shirt of mine, curled up, not looking like the tall 9 that she is.  Questions came from a tight throat and a sober face.  She had a few, but her most simple question was, “Why?”  Why does adoption happen?  How long had she rolled those words around?  How many days, months had she wondered and not asked?  What prompted it?  Who had been asking her questions, making her feel “funny”?  Who was the friend that kept asking her the same questions, making her feel she couldn’t explain well her wondrous story? Where had she heard, “real Mom” and “real Dad”?

Long eyelashes holding back a dam, she confessed real, hard thoughts, “It’s those times when adoption doesn’t feel all that special.”  Dam broke.  Parents’ hearts aching.

She had gotten it out.  She had come to us with what hurt.  She had trusted us-- that we could handle it.  We spoke freely as we always have, answering her questions matter of fact-ly and straight from our hearts, desiring to see her LIVE confidently and contentedly in her non-traditional, but absolutely planned, beginning.  We pray it be so.

As she remained curled up, with a kind of resolve in her voice, though her quivering lip threatened, she said, “I am PROUD of being adopted. I just want other people to understand.”

Parents’ heart swelling.  God will use this, surely.  She will help other people to understand.

As she straightened out from the chair, she comes to me with one of those awkward 9 year-old-in-my-lap hugs and with these words for my ear,

“I love you, real Mom”.

She had them for Jeff too.

{Father, You hold the keys to her heart.  May she sense Your Presence in all her wonderings and all her questions.  I pray YOU and the influence of YOUR Word would make her paths straight as she walks these unfamiliar roads.  Jeff and I trust You as You are ever present with her and all knowing about her.    Thank You for her.  She has been and IS a delight.}

721.  calls from Blake

722.  the smell of cool mornings and open windows

723.  a Tuesday

724.  His reminders in the spinning chaos of the pharmacy

725.  pseudo-Starbucks in the quiet part of the day

726.  obstacle courses in the garage

727.  freckles I hadn’t noticed all summer

728.  husband, being invited to hunt, twice

729.  hostess gifts

730.  little girls’ front yard “shows”- begging parents to watch

731.  walks after dark

732.  gifts for which there are no words

733.  field trips

734.  Groupons (!!)

735.  clean kids’ rooms

736.  girl happy to be in curlers

737.  boy happy to be in uniform

738.  online history class with a real live teacher (!!!)

739.  seekers, strangers, His body in my den

740.  laughing from upstairs

741.  having the thought, “Right now, what can I be thankful for?” {not normal}

742.  that she came to us with the reality of her mind and heart

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Carving Out

Thursday night, as we unpacked the car and loaded down the little cabin which rests high above Eagle Mountain Lake, I thought, we’ve missed this.  This summer, our family has missed this.  We should’ve done this weeks ago.  We’ve had lake days but no good ol’ spend the nights in the bunk beds, with the night sounds, with the critters, to the sound of the overworked a/c unit, in the close quarters, and the waking up together.  The kids were packed Thursday morning before they came downstairs for breakfast.  Their first question, asked several times that day, “What time will Daddy get home?”  School was torturous with thoughts of the lake at the end of the day and when we finally arrived, the kids’ energy just oozed all over the country.  What we usually do once a month got cut to once this summer.  I don’t remember it being a deliberate decision but I guess it was.  We didn’t carve out the 2 night, 3 day stay.

I ordered the book Soap Carving a month or so ago.  I thought Brighton might enjoy creating something three dimensional with something other than paper and tape or Legos.  And at the beginning of summer, I imagine {in a moment of delirium} that I have too much white space on my calendar squares and I will have time to do things like carving and sewing doll clothes.   I carried the book around for weeks intending to look at the supply list and make that stop at Hobby Lobby, which is not on the way to the pool, nor Sonic.  I don’t remember it being a deliberate decision not to stop but I guess it was.  I didn’t take the time to research soap carving.

So then I resorted to that shooting the two birds with one stone thing and put the book in the box that was going to the lake.

I remembered from the Amazon reviews I read, we needed popsicle sticks and glue.  Oh, and Ivory soap.  After a few too many stops on our way to the lake looking for popsicle sticks, it turned out that what I had purchased either we didn’t need or I bought the wrong kind.  After enjoying the lake on Friday, we loaded up and went back to Hobby Lobby.  Thinking, again, I knew exactly what we needed, I headed straight to the wooden craft aisle.  Thinking outside the box, Jeff meandered around looking up and down every surrounding aisle.  Of course, he found something better, cooler and cheaper.  And WAY easier.  Wooden pottery tools.  Perfect.

Anticipation had been growing all summer for the moment we would dig into those fresh bars of Ivory soap.  Sitting around the painted wooden table in folding chairs with bunk beds on one side and a little kitchen counter on the other, we laid everything out.  We cut out little pieces of newspaper the same size as our soap, drew simple shapes on them and cut them out.  We then drew the outline of the image on the clean bar of soap with a Sharpie.  Then the real fun began.  Soon the room’s fragrance brought images of the home my Daddy grew up in. Ivory must have been MaMaw and PaPaw’s choice of soap.  Jeff, not to be outdone by any of us, started with an owl.  Julia decided on a flower.  Brighton chose a tree and the only thing I thought I might could draw was a simple bird.  All went pretty well.  Only Brighton’s carving experience took a few turns, which didn’t surprise me in the least.  He always keeps me guessing.  His tree began to loose its upper limbs, so he decided on a fish {guppie}, and when the guppie started looking malnourished, it turned into a rocket.  His next attempt was a cross which turned out much better especially after Jeff detailed it.  Of course he did.

Three regrets:

First: that we didn’t do it outside--or at least on newspaper.  Soap carvings get messy because they stick together and get INto rugs, not just on top.

Second: I somehow deleted all of our carving pictures.  Yes, I know, I still have the nauseous feeling in the pit of my stomach.  I can remember what I saw through my lens while I heard crickets and frogs doing their nighttime things ~ the sweet little hands awkwardly holding the soap and skinny tools, the sun kissed faces in deep concentration, the little tongue peeking out from pressed lips, the mounds of shavings and the proud smiles with finished products in small hands.

Third:  that we didn’t do all this sooner.

“All this” doesn’t just happen.  I know that.  When Jeff and I are fully present with Julia and Brighton, they are bathed in contentment and joy.  It replaces any fears and insecurities they might be feeling.   I believe it loosens the temptation of rebellion.  It reminds them of their place in our family.   It gives them the feeling of being delighted in and enjoyed.  And most importantly, their hearts rest in our love as we consistently encourage them to rest in their Father’s Love and Presence.  In Him, they will always find contentment and joy.

Sure, we get windows of that in our home but even then it must be carved out.  Reading on the couch after dinner, carved out.  Playing Sequence before bedtime, carved out.  Making rock crystals, carved out.  Throwing the ball with B, carved out.    Supervising cookie baking, carved out.   Spending two nights at the lake, carved out.

My deliberate decisions are weighty~ either way. I have to remember these empty spaces Jeff and I claim for our family can be life changing.  Those chosen spaces of time together, when, by His grace, are infused with His presence, provide sure footing for them as they put one foot in front of the other on their way from childhood to adulthood.

Order the book, put Hobby Lobby on your list of errands and start carving.