I kissed my husband goodbye before he drove away to work a couple Mondays ago. I’ve heard somewhere that this will prolong his life. Or maybe it only prolongs his departure. Either way, he didn’t seem to mind. Before he reluctantly drove off, he asked, “Did you get pictures of the blueberry blossoms over the […]
I don’t always spend a Saturday with my husband at home and the sun shining warm… but when I do, it involves something like planting a hundred gladiolas, lilies, hibiscus, and bleeding hearts… and, of course, a walk around the farm to see how everything is doing. We found a newborn calf this morning. While […]
I took a series of photos this morning… Post-Thanksgiving unwinding… I’m naming it: “Justifying Skipping Church” The number of photos is directly proportional to the level of guilt. 😉 “Hello Winter” “With a Bow on Top” “Tinsel” “Sideways Tree in a Gale Storm” “Tree with Hay Bales” “You First” “No Really, I’ve Been Sitting All […]
“Hey, you have to come outside and see this!” my husband burst through the phone from 30 yards away. Last spring, he happened to see sweet potato slips at a feed store. He planted 20 of them (roots with a little bit of leaf), right next to the tiny, spring version of the annual fall […]
Ever since my younger sister, Annie, learned to talk, she has been paving my way to adventures I never would have attempted on my own.
I remember when she called to invite me on a trip to Ireland.
“What??!? You get a trip to Ireland for graduation?” I shrieked through the holes in the now-obsolete receiver. “Mom and Dad only got me a ring!”
“Well, now you get a ring and a trip to Ireland!”
Annie just makes practical sense like that.
My tendency to overreact might be one reason she neglected to tell me she would be using our radial arm saw when she came to visit a couple days ago.
On her way to my house, she picked up Rigo — one of my husband’s younger brothers. He’s pretty good at keeping all of our extra “help” occupied.
Annie has always jumped into projects feet first.
I don’t ever do that.
If I needed to use the radial arm saw, I would need to plan time to read the manual first. Without step-by-step directions, I could possibly make a Mistake!
Although I restrained myself from looking for the manual, I did ask her to please not cut off any fingers…
“Change of plans, Rigo,” my sweet sister said.
“We will not get to cut off any fingers today after all.”
After Annie had roughly cut some 1x2s as borders for her St. Patrick’s Day sign, she spray painted the wood.
Chalkboard paint for the face of the sign…
And green paint for the border…
While we waited for the paint to dry, Annie fixed sandwiches for the kids. She asked what I wanted.
“A Southwest chicken wrap with minced onion, tomato, cilantro, and guacamole,” I joked. I didn’t have a recipe for that. I hadn’t added those ingredients to the Shopping Plan.
That’s the difference between me and Annie.
We picked an Irish proverb that I liked. Annie used a chalk marker to start writing on the sign (freehand, of course).
(Tip: Brushing on an extra coat of black chalkboard paint – from any craft store – helps the chalk marker not to bleed. It’s also nice for correcting Mistakes, if you’re like me and feel more brave with an extra contingency plan.)
Add a little wood glue on the frames, and we’re done!
Then it was time to chat.
Because out in the middle of nowhere, we roll like that.
After our bizarre experience last week, our family has been set on our feet again.
My kids are more aware now that “bad” people exist — people who are inexplicably mixed up, selfish, and twisted.
That was just a stranger, though…
The capacity to inflict much deeper hurt lurks inside even the “best” of us, even when our intentions are only to be loving.
Normal people, I think, have at least a vague awareness that others around them carry unseen burdens. When an injury is easily identifiable — visible and straightforward — it can be a doorway to enter someone’s life in a good way and wrap them up in some extra love.
The last several days, people have crawled out of the woodwork to meet this ripple in our security with incredible acts of kindness…
just remembering to check on us.
It helps with the less visible injuries, too.
Even with the support, I’ve needed to wash this all away somehow — the cigarette the thief left on the van floor, the empty wrapper of my son’s Twix bar that our fugitive took from my purse because he was hungry, and the memory of police dusting my stuff for his fingerprints.
My poor husband and sons have watched our house get washed over in an uncharacteristic abundance of pink, frilly, ruffly, sugary hearts and flowers.
Pure Valentine sweetness. It’s not so bad after all.
Gracious words are… sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.
(Proverbs 16:24 NIV)
“Don’t avoid the things that make you feel afraid…”
Where there is no guidance the people fall,
But in abundance of counselors there is victory.
(Proverbs 11:14 NASB)
“Go back to the Ezra study…”
…turn your ear to my words… they are life to those who find them and health to one’s whole body.
(Proverbs 4:20-22 NIV)
From the fruit of their mouth a person’s stomach is filled…
(Proverbs 18:20 NIV)
“…and your appetite will come back.”
Without consultation, plans are frustrated, But with many counselors they succeed.
(Proverbs 15:22 NASB)
“It is not clinically diagnosable…”
“…to think coincidental events might be spiritual.”
Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.
(Proverbs 12:25 NIV)
“Don’t let opposition stop you…”
“…but get back up and do what you’re called to do.”
Light in a messenger’s eyes brings joy to the heart… good news gives health to the bones.
(Proverbs 15:30 NIV)
Exploring ancient history and the riddles of long-dead prophets seems like an interesting hobby, and harmless enough.
Lately, though, I feel like Indiana Jones, and I’ve just disturbed the rubble over the Lost Ark.
A thief entered our home Saturday. My kids and I were home, although we were spared the trauma of ever seeing him.
The past few days have been full of the details of recovery.
…like phone calls, paperwork, errands
…like finding one or two things — right among the scattered bits — that he left mysteriously, carefully tucked in their places
…like gingerly removing a few of the thief’s leftover things to plastic bags for the police to pick up
On my other site, I’ve been writing about Ezra. Actually, I’ve been using Ezra as a jumping-off point to write about things like:
— the Ark of the Covenant
— the visible signs of God’s glory
— and I would have written about the Builder of the future temple next…
I had doubted I could post every single day, but (with one exception) I had done it!
That Saturday morning, I had just finished a post. At the end, I added a few comments about the Olivet Discourse (a teaching Jesus gave on the Mount of Olives; see Matthew 24). I had just read the part where Jesus says:
“…If the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into.”
(Luke 12:39 NIV)
Within the hour, a thief broke into my house.
That passage is about the return of Jesus:
“…you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”
(Matthew 24:44 NIV)
I don’t think about Jesus’ return very often, at least not in the sense of watching the sky for His appearance. I know Jesus clearly said no one knows the time or day (Matthew 24:23-27, 36).
I was surprised to find verses that hint about the place of Jesus’ return:
Then the LORD will go out… On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west…”
(Zechariah 14:3-4 NIV)
That verse and similar ones were in my Saturday morning post.
I have felt scared, after this incident, even though God very clearly protected us from significant loss. I’ve felt angry that my children were in any danger at all.
Reading that verse right beforehand has shaken me up. And there were other things that shook me up, too, starting Friday afternoon and lasting through Monday.
I paused the Ezra study… I might try starting it up again soon, cautiously.
But I think I’ll leave the Lost Ark behind, for other explorers.
“In those days… people will no longer say, ‘The ark of the covenant of the LORD.’ It will never enter their minds or be remembered; it will not be missed, nor will another one be made.”
(Jeremiah 3:15-16 NIV)
Yesterday my husband and I woke, weak and bleary-eyed, to a dusting of snow that had settled over our house, like a halfheartedly apologetic attempt to cover the events of the day before.
The day before, a virus from the underbelly of hell had knocked us on our backsides, wrenching our insides to the outside. I can’t remember ever being so violently ill before.
When I ventured a few wobbly steps out of the bedroom many hours later, I was greeted with the kind of destruction that can only be wrought by four young kids who had enjoyed unbridled freedom in the house for a full day. (When they got sick, they maybe threw up once — on the carpet — and continued on their merry ways. This was a blessing, I know.)
How do you begin tackling chaos — any type of chaos — when you’re so weak you can hardly stand on your own? And who even wants to think about making New Year’s resolutions in the middle of that?!
Welcome to the book of Ezra… and to my new goal for a new year!
The little book of Ezra is about the return of God’s people to their homeland after foreigners had knocked them on their backsides with far greater evil than I can begin to imagine. Beloved family members had been slaughtered. The capital city was destroyed. Their splendid, holy temple was reduced to rubble as if God had never visited there.
Now their exile has ended, and they are allowed to return. Their job is to put their home back together — and somehow, in the middle of the work, to resolve to be better than they had been before. Their efforts seem so small in light of the powerful forces that still rule over and threaten them. But they have no idea the incredible significance that their simple search for God will have in the Big Story.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times… it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us…”
– Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
So much potential… so many ways it could go wrong…
I’ve never done anything like this before — posting my way daily through a book of the Bible. Right now everything inside me is screaming that it won’t work, and don’t do it!
I hate pressure.
I hate programs.
I hate introducing that I’m about to do something.
My entire body hurts from being sick.
I want to curl up in a ball and bawl.
But I do feel like this is what God wants me to do right now, so I’m following, and we shall see what comes of it.
You are more than welcome to follow along with the study, too, if you don’t mind a to-the-point, non-entertaining format! This is a daily exercise for me, but others might benefit from it. There is no better resolution than to seek God with the whole heart, and there is no better way to seek God than to get to know His Word, which is alive and active (Hebrews 4:12).
I’ll be posting about Ezra on a different site:
Here is how I hope it will look:
– I plan to post every day.
– Posts will be short, probably can be read in less than 10 minutes – less than 5 if you’re quick!
– I have never been quick… and since I’m using Ezra as a springboard for learning all kinds of fascinating things about the Bible, it could take a few months to check this book off the reading list. I am thinking of it like savoring a rich dessert, one glorious bite at a time… There are treasures in every verse!
– Comments are turned off over there, to keep it low maintenance.
– I might post some highlights every week or two here, on Letters from the Loft. Feel free to use these posts to leave questions, corrections, additions, benedictions, donations, cheesecake (plain, New York style… I’m just realizing I’ve hardly eaten in three days…)
I’m using the first couple days for introducing Ezra. I’ll start by dusting off an ancient prophecy that brings us up to date with the events of the book. The first post today is especially for people who might be a little rusty on Old Testament history. Click here to go there!
Hope you have a happy, healthy New Year!
“…Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be as white as snow…”
– the prophet Isaiah, pleading with God’s people to end their violent, oppressive ways and accept forgiveness before their city is destroyed (Isaiah 1:18)
“I see a beautiful city and a brilliant people rising from this abyss… I see the lives for which I lay down my life, peaceful, useful, prosperous…” – Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
I doubt Mom anticipated the production of a sea-faring vessel when she brought out the craft box for my begging daughters Saturday.
Boat building is always on the agenda for my dad. We just didn’t realize the condition was genetic!
The girls had moved on to other distractions, while my oldest boy kept toiling away at his sail-equipped canoe, probably inspired by the ship paintings and models scattered throughout the house.
Mom and I were taking pictures of what we thought was the finished product…
…when Dad walked in.
If there is anything my dad is better at than building boats, it is building a love of learning. It rises to the top of his to-do list as soon as he sees a spark of interest or a bent toward giftedness in a specific area.
It takes time to invest in a person this way, but even a little can go a long way.
The two builders were soon engrossed in adding “shrouds” to the boat.
I checked Wikipedia: The ropes — shrouds — supporting the mast can be formed as a triangular net, like a wedge from a spider’s web. I guess they might look like shrouds of clothing — or ghostly wraps on a ship gliding across a misty sea.
Mom and Dad met each other in Riverside, an old, scenic neighborhood in the city where I live. My dad’s family moved next door to my mom’s family, and the rest is history.
Although my dad had a rough childhood, one of his best memories was building sailboats with his dad. They navigated them down the river, apparently right through town. What a great memory to keep of a dad who died early, leaving six children and a pregnant wife behind!
That was the image that naturally came to mind Sunday, August 5, 2012, when our lead pastor told the story of the little boy who spent his summer building a toy boat. It seems longer ago than that, when I was just getting comfortable attending church regularly again. I’d had the wind knocked out of my sails, and my faith still appeared as a ghostly vessel, even without supportive shrouds.
The little boy, the story goes, spent weeks and weeks perfecting his boat. Then he spent another week getting the paint just right and letting it dry.
Finally, it was ready.
He gathered up his creation and took it down to the river to watch it do what he had made it to do.
It was a beautiful day, and the boat floated just as he expected! He was feeling satisfied, when suddenly the wind picked up and caught the little sail. It sent the boat out of the boy’s reach, out into the current. The boy tried to retrieve it, but it sailed around a bend. When he followed it, he could not find it, even though he searched and searched.
Sadly, he went home. In the following weeks, he kept his eye out, always hoping to spot the boat on the bank or maybe in a neighboring child’s hands.
A few weeks later, the boy walked into a pawn shop, and there on a shelf was his boat! He examined it, easily recognizing the carefully designed details. He caught the owner of the pawn shop and pointed out the boat, saying, “That’s my boat! I made it! It’s mine!”
But the pawn shop owner said, “I’m sorry, kid. It’s my boat now. If you want it, you’ll have to pay the price on the tag.”
The boy reluctantly left the pawn shop and ran home to count his money — not nearly enough. He spent the last few weeks of summer working as many odd jobs as he could find, earning the rest of the cost for the boat that belonged to him.
One day he gathered all the money together and ran back to the pawn shop. He was relieved to see the boat still on the shelf. He handed everything to the owner, who lifted down the boat, saying, “Here you go, kid. It’s yours now.”
The boy walked out of the shop, tightly holding his boat. As he reached the street, he shouted happily:
“Yes, you are mine! You are twice mine! For first I made you, then I bought you.”
I’m sure a couple rivers of tears had made their way down my face as the sermon wrapped up.
First He made me…
“…we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10)
Then He bought me…
“…you are not your own … you have been bought with a price…” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
It wasn’t any small investment — He gave all He had to seek out and buy back what was His.
“…he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant… he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:7-8)
“For God so loved the World that He gave His one and only Son…” (John 3:16)
“…the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10)
And this is what I was designed to do:
“[He] comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”
(2 Corinthians 1:4)
“Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you. I’ve called your name. You’re mine.” (Isaiah 43:1)
I happened to catch the end of this, as the sun was going down…
My husband had decided to give the older two kids an impromptu horseback riding lesson.
My daughter was just slightly thrilled…
In case you didn’t catch that…
My oldest (and he does have the oldest child personality, even though he’s only the oldest by twenty fear-fraught minutes, during which the obstetricians yelled “PUUUSH!” and the anesthesiologist turned up the epidural, in case they needed to surgically extract my second-born and administer oxygen)…
Wait, where was I?
Oh yes — my firstborn handled the horses like a pro.
I took pictures of him…
…but unfortunately for him, he doesn’t have hair that streams like a blaze of fire against the setting sun.
In case you didn’t catch that…
BLAZE OF FIRE.
This mama’s heart was pounding with every hoof beat. I have one question:
Where is her helmet??!
I didn’t spend 8.5 months having my abdomen distorted into Escher-ish proportions, only to lose her for failure to locate a hat.
And that’s that.
Camping in the back orchard with four young kids means…
… letting our oldest son be a big kid by getting the bonfire started (with the garden hose ready and mom trying not to hover)
… lots of dancing and yelling around the flames when the roasting sticks are produced (and mom trying not to hover)
… turning normally-repulsive (to me) foods into flame-charred delicacies
… suddenly seeing, now that we have a chance to sit down, that some of our kids look older than they did the last time we really saw them (and mom trying not to hover)
… then remembering how little they still are when they complain that “it’s cold” and we tell them to scoot closer to the fire — “but the fire’s hot!”
… staring at the mesmerizing flames
(dude has just been filled with the Holy Spirit…)
… realizing, in the middle of eating s’mores, that wipes would have been nice
… peeling ourselves away from the warm fire for a drive up to the house, because we’re not prepared to teach four little kids how to rinse their toothbrushes with bottled water (or to wipe… but you get the idea)
… hearing four (maybe five) screams of exhilaration as dad races the open Gator through the biting cold
… putting kids to bed immediately upon returning, because they’re that excited about sleeping bags
… learning, three minutes later, that we won’t get the campfire to ourselves after all, because sleeping bags have limited novelty (to them, at least…)
… telling the kids things we wouldn’t talk about during normal bedtime stories, like the reason King Saul went into the cave where David was camping out (never mind that the point of that story was how David showed respect for the anointed king…)
… listening to a 7-year-old’s version of a “scary campfire story”
… hearing dad completely freak the kids out with an impromptu tale about a black panther with glowing yellow eyes
… putting the kids to bed for real this time
… feeling only slightly guilty that my husband let me have our sub-zero sleeping bag, and gratefully zipping it around myself like a blue cocoon
… wishing we had a double cocoon
… waking up every single time the “guard geese” might have detected movement within a one-mile radius
… crawling out of the cocoon in the morning feeling more like a moth than a butterfly
… getting frost all over my fingers while unzipping the tent
… glaring at the guard geese on the drive back up to the house
(that should teach them!)
… serving hot cider to a pack of happy kids
… hoping we get to do this again before the weather turns colder and the kids turn older
I finished the post below on Monday (except adding pictures).
I had tried to veil how frustrated and disappointed I was, because life has become incredibly busy recently. It seemed like the sensible thing to do was end the blog.
It has been confusing to sense God leading the exact opposite direction!
God specializes in impossibilities, and He is able to make His purposes clear, when He decides it’s time. He has done that in the last couple days: We’re moving forward!
I left this post exactly as I had written it (except adding pictures), but there’s more coming…
Can it really be four years ago that I clicked “publish” on my first blog post ever, in September 2010?
This blog and I have seen plenty of changes in those years…
Every once in a while it bothers me that I still haven’t decided what I’m going to be when I grow up. The indecisiveness has been well-documented — thanks to the blog!
There is one theme that has repeated itself through the varying interests, though:
I am a mom.
As you know, this wasn’t a guarantee for me — being a mom. At times, I thought I might never be one. But I already detailed that story, during the phase when I posted about navigating the infertility maze.
The blog started as a challenge to learn photography while I was stuck near the top of a giant pile of rocks (our house was at 7,250 feet) in the arid mountains of NM. Sometimes I was very literally stuck, as several feet of snow made our long, craggy road impassible for two-wheel-drive vehicles — for weeks and months at a time.
At the time, our four children ranged in age from 3 months old to 3 years old. I didn’t venture out very often!
Even from the beginning, as I set out to learn photography, our theme surfaced:
I am a mom.
Over time, when the buttons and dials on my camera became less intimidating, I started posting about homeschooling and children’s activities. These posts screamed the theme:
HEY! LOOK! I AM A MOM!!
Two years into blogging, we moved back to the blessed fields of Kansas, where this long-displaced “plant” was able to burrow roots deeply into native soil and respond to the boundless sky that calls for stretching and growing, upward and outward.
I wrote a little about my struggles to settle into farm life — and during the heaviest harvest, I gave up homeschooling.
But even then, don’t you see how I loved the way my kids experienced these things?
With all of this farm produce, I recognized that I needed to learn to cook — for real — with whole, raw, unprocessed foods.
I think this new challenge lasted two or three posts. I’ve often said, echoing Nixon, “I am not a cook.” (I hope that, like Nixon, my words will be proved wrong someday.)
Even through that brief phase, the pictures made it clear where my heart was:
I am a mom!
Then… for the first time, God started tugging strongly at my heart about something He wanted me to do… the only real, solid “calling” I’ve ever experienced.
I tried to write about this, but I couldn’t. I didn’t have enough to say yet. There was no shape or form to the task. I tried for a few months…
Then I took a year-long break from the blog.
This burden is still inside me, but even coming back to the blog this past year, the task is formless.
I feel like a mom again — a pregnant mom, in the third trimester, longing to give birth to this watermelon that I’m always carrying with me. The time drags on slowly… Is it time yet? No, not yet. We’re still gathering, growing, developing, taking form. Will it ever be time, or will this be just another “thing” that I don’t end up doing?
Meanwhile, the theme continues:
I am a mom.
Right now, being a mom means driving 12 to 16 hours per week –just driving time alone. It means feeling housebound by a mountainous avalanche of laundry. It means entering everything — everything! — into my reminder app immediately, so the loose ends don’t unravel us entirely. It means supporting the growing interests and hobbies of my family and occasionally shedding tears because every minute that I spend on my own interests (writing, studying, photography, running, music) is stolen from my family’s needs.
It also means reminding myself that I would never in a million years trade these few tears for the bitter, hollow monsoons I shed before I became a mom. This is what I had longed for, and I will not forget that.
I’m just not sure how to juggle motherhood with the growing “watermelon” — this specific weight on me for people outside my immediate family.
I remind myself: A seed doesn’t make itself grow.
“…neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.” (1 Corinthians 3:7)
If this is what God wants me to do (and if it’s not, I don’t want anything to do with it), then everything I need will be provided at the right time. There is plenty of intense learning happening right now — gathering knowledge, discipline, experiences, relationships — even if I can’t synthesize and communicate it very well just yet.
Meanwhile, I’m sure I’ll keep posting about being a mom, when I can steal away time. I don’t want to look back and see that I failed to soak up the gift and privilege of this calling, which is abundantly clear.
“He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents…” (Malachi 4:6)
“…He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young.” (Isaiah 40:11)
“Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’” (Matthew 19:14)
“Moses spent his first forty years thinking he was somebody. He spent his second forty years learning he was a nobody. He spent his third forty years discovering what God can do with a nobody.” – Dwight L. Moody
“Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, ‘Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.’ He took a little child whom he placed among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, ‘Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.’” (Mark 9:35-37)
“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10)
Sometimes I get some facts written down and some “shoulds” listed, and I completely overlook the Spirit in a circumstance:
We have a tree producing spring blossoms in September!
I wrote a poem about it — how the bagworms ruined the summer foliage (see my last post), and how the tree is recovering.
It’s an unpolished poem, and I wish I would aim these poetic tendencies toward song lyrics… someday. This is as much creativity as I have time for, in this season.
On to the poem, if you will bear with me…
September’s Gardener has tricks up his sleeves.
Summer struck and the leaves vanished;
The ravaging parasites drew off green life,
as Full Season succumbed to the mites.
Pervasive evil must end in due course:
What appears to be dead may be none the worse.
The Master Gardener, who knows his own trees,
has removed the cocoons of next year’s disease.
Still the year wanes — but to produce
a September remembrance of youth:
Stripped branches are vibrant with green,
and Fall welcomes blossoms of Spring!
“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”