A Little Laundry Art

This….


Is how you know your Youngest and Middle Child both have had enough time doing nothing and are now ready to start the school year. Can you see her? The girl holding a bouquet of red roses and walking her Teacup Poodle? Yep, we have finally achieved enough solid Boredom Time that school is sounding not-so-bad. We’re doing half-days this week and will be full swing next.

Goodbye, Summer! You were too short.

Hello, School year! I look forward to what you hold!

More from the Novel I’m Not Writing


I’ve been thinking about writing lately, dusting off my keyboard and working hard to pull myself out of the writing crash I experienced about a year ago. To be honest, there have been setbacks and struggles and I have not felt like writing on many days that I have…written anyway. On days when I feel like I can’t write anything of worth I have decided not to try to write anything of worth. I just write something and carry on in hopes that the next day I might have something more interesting to say. Sorry if you, dear reader, have been a victim of those posts I’ve written on bleh-writing days. I beg your forgiveness…just know I’m trying here, I really am :o)

I have spent a little time messing around with an attempt at fiction, and since LL is leading this “Not Writing” idea I’ve found myself thinking more about it. So, here’s a little more from the Novel I’m Not Writing…it’s not chronological with what I posted earlier, but it’s part of the same effort.

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Salome’s slim figure darted between the rugged bulk of working fishermen. Along the shores of the Sea of Galilee she wove, pausing only now and again to stand tip-toed in the warm and pebbly sand. Stretched tall, slight and slim like a river reed she paused, her hand shading frantic eyes that scanned the shoreline. “Zebedee!“ she called, the white sleeves of her fine-cut robe flapping like flags around thin brown arms as the wind pulled at her. She called once more, her voice carried only a moment on the wind before fading into the lapping waves and the raucous conversation of those busy workers on the shore. Then she was running again. Running with one hand atop her head to keep a light blue shawl from slipping, spinning, floating away on the stiff sea breeze.

The fishermen looked up to see her and quickly looked away, turned to grunt quietly or shake their heads. These stocky pillars of men shied away from the unusual sight of a woman among them, all the more so when the woman seemed distraught, unrestrained. As she passed, they returned to twisting flax through wounded nets, mending rips with quick and calloused fingers. As Salome neared the shore she passed men pulling ropes from sea-slicked boats, floating nets of fish in shallow water to wait for market’s measure. Still, she did not see the familiar shape of her husband. Her rising panic drove her to run faster, frantic, the wind whipping her robes and tugging at her hair, stinging her eyes. As she passed a group hauling in a net, sloughing off weeds and water and teeming with fish, one gnarled trunk of a man caught her eye. He motioned with a jerk of his head as his hands continued to reel in line. Her eyes turned in the direction of the nod, darted over the sun-hardened faces to find her husband’s familiar one not far away.


In the Eye of the Beholder

Youngest child stroked the cat’s short fur, leaned back on grass and sighed. “I don’t see how anybody could throw out such a beautiful cat,” she said, shaking her head. I bit my lip, nodded, scratched behind the cat’s ears. I smiled at her, the little girl with the big heart. The cat just lay there, eyes half open, soaking in the warmth of the sun. My three children fell in love with this creature the instant they found her in our garage. They are brimming with praise for the stray who adopted us.

She’s a pretty good cat…she uses a litter box, she’s street-wise, and she knows how to handle our dog–who has quickly learned to give her a wide berth. She does have fantastic green eyes. But beautiful? I must admit, the first time I saw her…cuddled in Eldest’s arms and looking like she hadn’t eaten in…about a year….Beautiful was not what I was thinking. Mangy was more like it. Ratty. She was bony and gangly and filthy with neglect. Upon closer inspection, her coat did not actually have mangy patches…her fur just naturally looked like it did. The best thing a person could say about her coat was that in the Spring, when the Box Elder trees drop their little round confetti seeds and the cat lay on her side in the driveway…she blended in perfectly with the concrete. Honestly, I don’t know when I’ve seen a more homely cat.

But beauty is in the eye of the beholder, isn’t it? And, as my grandmother used to say, “Beauty is as Beauty does.” In the weeks since we’ve adopted her, Roam (as she was affectionatly dubbed) has proven to have her own kind of beauty. She likes her new family and enjoys people, but she doesn’t demand a lot of attention. She comes inside and hangs out, but is happier outside…where she has decimated the rodent population and proven more effective than any number of clever traps. She is the sort of cat that you love to have around…just affectionate enough, but not high maintenance. Not long after she appeared in our garage, I looked out the window and saw this:


And I knew we had ourselves a cat. Roam somehow knew that Youngest needed some company, and lay there patiently while Youngest told her one story after another. She’s good like that.

Not long after, we discovered that the weight our new adoptee was putting on was not due only to our feeding her daily. Several weeks ago we increased the cat population at our house by six! I am not as thrilled about this development as the kids are, but it has been a lot of fun. And Roam has proven to be an excellent cat-mother. The kittens are predictably darling.


This morning, as Roam sat by and contentedly watched the kids play with her kittens, I thought about what I saw when I looked at the cat versus what the kids saw. I saw a scrubby-coated, skin-and-bones, scrappy little mouth to feed, they saw the potential hidden under the neglect. They saw the possibilities behind the surface, while I only saw…well, the surface. The little kittens climbed over each other, making their way into the kids’ laps and stumbling over their own feet. Middle child laughed as Roam nudged a stray kitten back into the pile of mewing fur. I smiled and stroked Roam’s speckled, bony back. As I left the room I said to the kids, “You know, she really is a beautiful cat.”


Lord, help me to see through the ugliness that sometimes presents itself, to the beauty that You mean for us to see. Help me to see the potential rather than the surface, and to appreciate it! And thank you, Lord, for looking through the ugliness in me and seeing instead the beauty you intended there to be.

Like a Child


Do you ever wonder why there is so much difference in how a child sees the world and how and adult sees it? I mean besides the obvious fact that they are viewing the world from different heights. Why do kids seem so excited about everything? Why are they so interested in everything? Why do children seem to find so much joy is the smallest of things? How is it that children seem to bounce out of bed the instant the sun rises, dash off the second their feet hit the ground, dart from one thing to another and choose to run rather than walk all day long….and even when they’ve been in such a hurry all day time, for a child, seems to drag on so? How is it that one child-hour is like an adult day, and waiting for a week for a child seems to be equal to waiting for six months for an adult?

It would be easy to assume that it’s all in experience. The child has had little experience with the world, and therefore everything she sees is new and novel. That’s why they stop to examine every single flower along the garden path, why they delight so much in the feel of mud between their toes, why they revel in the smell of lilacs and stand there inhaling, transfixed by the experience, until they run out of breath and start to wobble on their little feet.

But is that really the reason? Botanists say that there are over 270,000 species of flowering plants documented in the world today. Each one is different. I know for certain that I, for one, have only examined the petals of a very small percentage of those! I’ve seen a thousand sunsets, but each one is completely different. Each type of rose in my flower garden has a different, unique and compelling scent…but it’s been years since I went from one plant to another, enjoying their fragrance. There is an endless variety throughout creation, endless possibilities for us to enjoy, endless variations for us to get excited about. And yet, somehow, as childhood ends…we seem to stop noticing that fact.

I’ve reveled in the scent of a desert primrose the instant dusk coaxes it to unfurl its delicate petals…and I’ve walked by the same plant with complete indifference when there were more “important” things on my mind. I’ve even yanked the plants up without a second thought because they started to look weedy.

I’ve been thinking about the difference in how a child sees the world and how an adult sees it, about the way that time now seems to fly by, to slip through your fingers when, as a child, the minutes seemed like hours. I am starting to think the difference is simply this:

Appreciation.

The child is appreciating every moment of the day. They notice things, they stop and look and really get a picture of the amazing nature of everything in our world. They pluck a Dandelion gone to seed and rather than seeing a noxious weed ready to spread itself all over the lawn, they notice and appreciate the tiny details God graced on even this most lowly of flowers. They see how each seed is shaped just so, how the surface of each is rough and gray-brown, how the fragile-looking thread that connects seed to beautiful silken parachute seems so delicate, yet is strong as steel. They smile with wonder as the seeds lift from the flower and drift by on the wind, dancing and flashing as the sunlight catches them. They see the moment, they live the moment fully, and they appreciate the moment for the beautiful gift it is.

I notice that when I make an effort to see the world as a little child, I get so much more out of it! When I make the conscious decision to slow down, to really let what I am seeing and feeling and thinking register and sink in, joy seems so much easier to find. When I decide to notice and take note of the beautiful things and people and feelings that God has graciously bestowed on this world, when I walk through my day with gratitude on my mind and when I focus on that…on appreciating and being thankful for all these amazing blessings that are found everywhere I look…then I notice something amazing happening.

Time seems to slow. Grace takes the pace of time down and although I am taking the time to notice, the time to really see and feel and appreciate, some kind of miracle occurs. The time spent in gratitude does not take away from the hours in my day, the limited minutes I have in which to complete the “to do” list. Somehow, spending that time like a child seems to add to the hours in the day, seems to help me accomplish what needs to be done and gives me the gift joy in doing it, too.

My hope for this day, for you and for me, is that we can live it like a child, with appreciation of each detail and joy in each beautiful moment.

I found this fun writing prompt over at Bridget Chumbly’s blog, where she offers a “One Word at a Time” challenge. I’m so glad I did, because it helped me focus this morning and I needed the reminder to appreciate my day like a child! Go and read some other posts by bloggers who are writing about what comes to mind with the single word: Children.

Cheesecake samples, and the novel I’m not writing

New York CheesecakeImage via WikipediaI found this over at LL’s place, and I thought it was a great idea. Sometimes we get caught up in the serious-ness of writing and forget that it is fun. LL claims she is not a fiction writer, but the snippets of fiction that I have read on her blog make me beg to differ. LL’s fiction samples make me want more!

It’s like skipping lunch, then around four-o’clock you’re in the supermarket, and as you’re feeling that deep growl in your empty belly someone in a white apron and a hairnet offers up a Dixie cup with a tiny sample of New York cheesecake. Just as the piquant zip of that morsel of sweet-tart delicacy is melting off your tongue, you’re hit with the burning desire to eat the whole piece. Your tastebuds are teased and then you find yourself realizing you’re starving, and Cheesecake is the only cure for your affliction. Actually, I want the whole darn cake! LL, please? Consider digging out that spring-form pan and giving it a whirl?

And then, this morning, I found another sweet sample being offered by A Simple Country Girl. I came, I read, I went away with my appetite whetted for more (and, oddly, with a Janis Joplin song inexplicably playing in my head). These savory little morsels of fiction are like the finest of imported cheese, rich and creamy tidbits skewered with a toothpick and offered on a tray, leaving you wanting to buy a box of Table Water Crackers and a beautiful wedge of goat-brie. I did that once, you know. And I’m lactose intolerant. But that sample left me wanting more, as Country Girl’s sample left me longing to know more about her Wrangler-wearing, pickup-driving protagonist.

Come on, girls. Don’t leave me hanging!

So, with that, I thought I’d better join in the fun. If you can’t eat a whole wheel of double-creamy goat brie, then I guess you may as well set up your little folding table, cover it with a white paper table cloth, and set out your own sample in Dixie cups. So, grab a spork and enjoy (or, push your shopping cart one-handed as you desperately seek a trash can in which to toss the Dixie). Here is a bit of the novel I am not writing, and have not been writing for nearly a year now.

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An hour later, John sat tall on his Abba’s shoulders. He had already told his Ima how sorry he was. He hadn’t meant to worry her. She was so pretty, and when she was worrying it seemed like she was little and he was the grown up, wiping her tears and comforting her. He liked to comfort Ima. He had been playing off in the green fields with some new lambs, in the stone sheep pen where the woolly sheep lay hot and lazy in the late afternoon heat. The lambs were little and soft, so much softer than the big sheep, and one of them had suckled his fingers when he put them in its mouth. It tickled and felt so strange, because the lamb had no teeth. Its mouth was bumpy on top, its little tongue had curled around his fingers and it had sucked hard, greedy, with funny smacking noises.

His Abba had whipped him for going off to play with the lambs without telling Ima first. But he had not whipped him very hard, John had not even cried and Abba had seemed proud of that. Now Abba was taking him back to the sea to check on the boats, the fishermen would be working again once the sun went down and the air cooled off. John knew that Abba was the best fisherman on the lake, his boats were the best and biggest boats and he had many men who fished for him in the proud, dark, wooden bodies that cut through the waters of the lake. John loved riding on high on his Abba’s strong shoulders, looking at all the boats and the lake, seeing the men on the shore stop to nod at Abba with respect. He chanted to himself, with the rhythm of his father’s footsteps, “John ben Zebedee! John ben Zebedee!” He was high enough to see all the boats, tied and bobbing by the shore and even a few still fishing out on the lake. There weren’t many fishermen left working now, most were already home for dinner and the shore was a delightful open expanse of foot-churned sand. When they had first left the courtyards of home he could smell the dinner-smells of fish and bread and onions on the warm wind that always blew over the lake, but now they were closer to the water itself and the smells of the village were covered by the live-wet smell of the water.

Hands clasped in his Abba’s thick, warm hair, he turned his small face to the sun. Low and gold and warm, it was sliding slowly down the horizon. The light seeped through his closed eyelids and he saw crimson and breathed deeply the tangy lake air. The air made John happy, it woke up something excited in him, made him sit up tall on Abba’s shoulders and bounce. His legs wanted to run. He bounced harder, up and down and up and down as Abba walked towards the lake, until Abba laughed and let go of his legs and reached up with his big, square hands, swung him off his shoulders and set him on the warm sand of the shore. Feet on the ground, John turned and hugged his father’s leg with all his might. His father was so big, so strong that his little arms couldn’t squeeze hard enough. He laughed, a sweet sound that mixed and tangled with the lap of waves and the burbling trill of Sandpipers calling from the scrubby growth that bordered sandy shores.

Dashing away, John picked up a twisted stick of driftwood that caught his eye near the water’s edge. Oh, the fresh air! The wind ruffling and tugging at his hair, the golden light that glinted on the water and seemed to pour warmth over his head and shoulders, the laughing-loving eyes of his father following him. It was too much and not enough, all at the same time! He sprang with joy at the lapping waves, swinging his driftwood-sword at the water with all his might. The driftwood struck the waves over and over, smacking with a satisfying, wet sound as he charged and jumped and charged again. The driftwood sword flew through the air and crashed into the water, the muscles in his thin arm sang with the resistance as he pulled the stick through blue-green waves. The water was an enemy, the water was an army, the water was Goliath in bedtime stories about king David, and John was the king himself diving it back, back.

Along the waters of the Sea of Galilee, Zebedee stood apart from his son and felt the same wind breathe over him. The sun was beginning to set in earnest, throwing sparks of fire…orange and red and gold…off the choppy surface of the lake. He stood watching the boy swing at the waves, saw him parlay and retreat and strike forth again. The beauty of his son, the abundance of life in him, the gold light that etched his small shoulders in warmth and made the boy seem gilded, made Zebedee’s love a hard and solid thing. A hot stone burning in his chest. He wondered, with the sweet detachment afforded parents of the very young, what John would one day forge as his sword, at what waves would he advance.

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Just around the corner


The start of the school year is just around the corner! I have alternately been trying hard to ignore this fact (where-oh-where has summer gone?) and working hard to prepare for it. Shelves must be cleaned and dusted. Books must be gone over, sorted, boxed or shelved. Supplies must be purchased and then a place for them must be found. I’m feeling alternately excited and overwhelmed!

I found a little inspiration over here at Ann Voskamp’s, I love the book shelves that keep books facing out so that kids can see the covers. In fact, I love everything about Ann’s homeschool room. One day, I hope to have a room large enough that most of our school happens there. For now, I have a Homeschool House.

The end of the summer is coming too fast, I’m hoping that in the next few weeks I feel a little more rested, more able to start something new. For now, I’m trying to find ways to gently and joyfully transition into the school year.

Gratitude Journal…Beauty speaks for itself

I know that we are in Summer’s last days when we pull over to the roadside, jump out of the car and feel the air brush cool against our skin. We have to hustle to keep warm, although it’s still hot in the valley below. The grass is tall, taller than Youngest in some places, and dotted with more wildflowers than I’ve seen all year. The trail winds upward, steep and narrow and in some places we look down on the tops of trees. Even so high up, we see other peaks waiting to be climbed. The glory of it all is overwhelming, humbling. Who could doubt the touch of the Master, when wandering in His hills? There is beauty all around and it endures, whether we choose to notice it or not. Words are optional, and sometimes they get in the way. Today, I will let beauty speak for itself.

323.
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Align Center
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Count your blessings, too! Please visit Ann Voskamp’s beautiful blog, Holy Experience, to join the Gratitude Community.

What I’ve been doing


We traveled to this place, the town where I grew up. Our little house there is going on the market…the house where my husband and I met, the house where we brought our newborn son home from the hospital, the house that has been in my family for thirty-something years, the little house on the street where I grew up. I know every inch of those sidewalks like they are an extension of my anatomy, know each tree that lines the street as though it were an old friend.

Saying goodbye is hard, harder than I imagined.

I know it’s time. I know that God has us here in the Big City, many miles and hours away from the home where my heart feels comfortable. We had a chance to move back there, years ago, and God said “No”. We felt so strongly…and still do…that we have work here in the City, this place is mission territory and I know we are called to be here. And most days, that’s exciting and it brings me joy. And some days, I just want to return to the cool, quiet, slow life that my hometown offers. Some days I just want to go to church on Sunday, and forget about it the rest of the week. There, I’ve admitted it.

But I know how long that would last…I’d go crazy after a few weeks. God’s pull is too strong, His plans are so much better than that. Even as I cried for leaving the town where I grew up, as I said goodbye to the little house that pops up so often in my dreams, I was already missing the faces of the people I love here, in the City. I was missing the music my husband and son make in worship bands here, the children who I teach on Sunday morning, the faces of neighbors and friends and even, just a tiny bit, the bustle of the city. The harvest is waiting, and this family’s fields lie miles from the sleepy college town where I grew up.

But oh, Abba…sometimes it hurts so much to lay it down for you.

More kitten cuteness


This has been the year of baby animals at our house! First we raised a litter of labradoodle puppies. Then, we ordered salamander eggs from a science company and raised salamanders. Now, we have a litter of six little cuties nesting in our basement. The mother cat is a stray we now seem to have adopted, and the kids are loving all the kitten cuteness. On top of that, my dad had a litter of kittens at his house when he visited! Kittens, kittens everywhere. These little ones are just over a week old…