Monday, October 29, 2012

Cattails and Happy Thoughts

It's lunchtime and the boys and I are walking. Sissy, our greyhound, stays by my side and the boys pound ahead. The air is crisp but the sun is full. It slips over our shoulders as we wind away from city blocks toward the trees that stand stripped but strong.

The boys laugh.

And I listen.

They run. They stop. They plunge into the brush for an acorn or a walnut or a leaf they can't pass by.

It's precious to see their hearts go free. There are sticks for poking. Rocks for kicking. Ground to cover and energy enough to spill over it all.

Now the boys are bolting down the curvy road again. Sis and I can keep up. She's made for running and I'm used to chasing boys.

"Look," Gabe calls. "It's a cattail. It's beautiful. There are two. Let's go!" Three blond brothers are knee-deep in bramble. I stroke Sis's head and wonder how two cattails will satisfy three boys.

"Hey! Over there," Zay calls as the two cattails pluck free. He points across the road. There's another cattail. It's smaller, like him. He claims it as his own.

Soon we're traveling down the road again. The boys are carrying cattails and I count the seconds until they become swords. One. Two. Three. I'm right.  Now there are jousts and jabs. They're laughing and fencing as we walk down the road. I listen and I'm grateful and I tell them to be careful. But I'm waiting for the fun to turn hard. Moods can shift fast. A misplaced jab. A harder poke.

I've seen the wild fury of a boy with a sword.

I'm walking.

And waiting.

Thinking it will all break loose.

I'm still waiting for the demise when Zay discovers if he presses against the brown velvet of his cattail, hundreds of cotton-white seeds fly free. They dance and drift in the breeze. The boys think this is cool and soon the air is thick with white whispers.

"It's snowing," Samuel calls.

"A blizzard," Gabe says.

"No," says Zay. "They're happy thoughts. We're sending happy thoughts on the wind."

The boys agree and sing together. Happy thoughts. Then they're running again, hands held high. They're twirling with the seeds and laughing.

The sun is still warm on my back. Sis is at my side in an easy stride. I ponder, for the millionth time, about how their minds turn.

Happy thoughts.

Carried on the wind.

I'm in wonder.

And it sounds good to me.

As I write, Sandy is lashing against the coast. We're going deeper than happy thoughts. We're lifting heartfelt prayers....

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Lasting Love

I'm sitting in my van. In Mom and Dad's drive. I'm waiting for my sons to load in. Two are charging down the hill. Two are coming from the side yard. One has yet to show.

And Mom and Dad are on the porch. They're above me. They're smiling and waving down.

I smile and wave back. Something about seeing them standing there tugs my heart. It's something about the normalcy of it all. It's something about the everydayness of today. They're standing there, a lifetime of commitment and love, standing close, lives melding into one as they have for years.

And the everydayness peels back.

 And I'm touched deep by the beauty of that longstanding love.

Mom and Dad recently celebrated their fiftieth anniversary. To prepare for their celebration, my sisters and I looked through stacks of photo books from Mom's cedar chest. There they were. Mom and Dad. Peering back at us from pages gone yellow from age. Their early years. Dad in military uniform. Mom in their first house, her belly big and round with me. Then there are tiny girls nestled in arms. Jumbled on laps. First one. Then two. Three little girls. Then four. There were birthdays and Christmases and Easters with white bonnets and lace.

 But there were ordinary days, too.

And I understood, looking through those books, that those ordinary days weren't really ordinary at all.

It's not that they didn't struggle. There was a war. A broken steel industry. Prayers to pull a child through dark nights.

But they made it.

They were solid.

Through it all they held tight.

Through it all they danced.

The last boy arrives and climbs right in. Seat belts snap and there's a van full of noise. We're settled tight and ready to go. I start the van and back down the drive.

But I glance at Mom and Dad one more time. His arm slips around her. She shifts and presses in. They're not waving anymore. They're talking. Something gentle passes between them.

What they have is beautiful.

It's extraordinary.

It's a blessing that belongs to them.

But today, like always, I carry it with me, too, as I go.

Andrew Petersen - Dancing in the Minefields

Monday, October 22, 2012

Growing Pains - Growing Peace?

The family is gathered. There's a fire, and we're circled close. We're all here, and there is joy. It's peaceful and easy, being together. Autumn has thrown a ground cover of gold and the air is thick with the season.

I look at the faces around the circle.

My heart is full.

And I no sooner whisper a praise of thanksgiving when the sadness begins. It's my signature struggle. It's sadness and worry and fret that everyone is growing too fast. Time is spinning and my boys are changing and it's suddenly as though sadness has pulled up a chair and joined our family circle. I feel the beat of time in my heart. I see it on their faces.

I love growing these boys.

I love growing closer to the man God gave me.

But I love it so much that I'm tight-fisted. I love it so much I don't want to let go. I love it so much that fear of losing it has come to steal my joy.

When we moved to this big, old house, Sam was still a babe. I watch him now, steadying his roasting stick above the fire. He's chatting with an older brother. It's a grown-up sort of chat. I'm lost in watching them. Listening. It's beautiful But it's happened too fast.

There's a rustle behind me and Zay's found the marshmallows. He's jumping and rushing and charging around for another stick. He finds one and someone tears the bag open and his small fingers push the treat over the point. He's fast and he thrusts it into the fire, deep into the flame. It catches fire and burns black. Lonny takes the stick and blows away the flame.

"Let me show you," he says. "We'll get it golden brown."

There's a new marshmallow and Zay stands in front of Lonny and both of their hands are on the stick. They hold it into the heat, above the flame. Lonny guides him to turn it and Zay's safe in his arms.

It's a gentle teaching.

Lonny's guiding him along, teaching him something new, letting him learn in the safety of his strength.

Just like I'll teach you, I believe God whispers. I'll hold you close and teach you when it's time to learn something new.

Raising these boys is what I know. It's what I love. But watching this love and learning pass between my husband and son, I understand.

"I trust you, God. I trust you to teach me, too."

We sit around the fire for a long time. Night wraps around us. The laughter and chatter grows quiet as the flame grows smaller, too.

We're all here.

There's joy again.

And a slow, warming peace.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Gettin' Ready (Hands-Off Learning)

We're crazy-close to being late. As usual.

And Zay is buttoning his own shirt.

His tiny fingers work with might. He tries to push the shiny, white button through with his thumb. Then he pulls with the fingers and thumb of his other hand. His chin presses into his chest and his hair falls forward. He pushes and pulls and has two buttons through and it's then that I notice he's mismatched. The buttons and the holes aren't properly aligned.

"You're off, guy," I say.

His hands drop to his sides and he examines his work. He sighs and begins the process in reverse.

And it takes every restraint to not fly my own fingers over the buttons. I want to button him up and shut lateness down and dash out the door because we have other things to do.

But he's getting ready.

He's learning.

Sometimes the best way to be hands-on with teaching my boys is to be hands-off.

These boys won't be here forever. I've witnessed, in fact, that it goes pretty darn fast. And the moments start small. It's buttoning a shirt. Tying a shoe. Completing a chore.

I'm getting ready, too...

ready to someday send him into the world. And the readiness? It starts with baby steps.

Like buttoning a shirt.

So I stand close and watch. I pull my hands back so his can succeed. Hands-off can be tough. It means letting him take the time to learn something new. It means giving him the allowance to make his own mistakes because often this is how we learn.

Someday he'll be way beyond these buttons. He'll go into the world. He'll have his own work, work God has set aside for him, in advance, to do.He'll have his own family. He'll need to provide and protect. He'll do his own thing for the glory and the kingdom of God.

Most of his life will be beyond these doors.

And it's my job to get him ready.

When the job is done, Zay looks up and smiles. I smile, too.

Today it's buttons. Tomorrow the world.

Way to go, Zay!


Monday, October 15, 2012

Simple Giving

Logan is home for the weekend. It's been a couple of months. He's home to celebrate my parents' fiftieth wedding anniversary.

But the joy is mine.

"I found this," he says. "At the library's used book sale."

We're standing in the kitchen and he's fresh in the door. My eyes wander over him. He's thinner. His hair has grown. But he's solid. He looks good and he's strong.

He pushes the book into my hands and I'm surprised, again, that the hands that once folded into mine now belong to a man. I feel the weight of the old book. The cover is ruddy and loved and worn. It's John Steinbeck's short novels. One of my favorites. And he knows. We read together over the summer when the days weren't numbered and time wasn't short.

"There's this, too," he says. And he opens his hand.

There's a rose on his outstretched palm. It's red and gold and a gentle shade of brown. It's been created. Twisted. Rolled and turned and made lovely from autumn leaves.

My son smiles at me.

"It's beautiful," I say. And I try not to cry because things like this, these simple things, were almost lost last spring.

I take the rose and look at the boy and I could break from this easy love.

He gives me a hug. I know that these moments must last for months. And I know, too, that his friends are on the way and he'll be out the door again soon but this moment, this here and now, is mine.

"I love you," I say.

"I love you, too."

My son's come home to celebrate a precious family event.

But with simple gifts and kind, sweet love he's celebrated my heart, too.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Mercy Moments

                                    We find them in the woods on a warm, dusty path.

                                                               Mercy moments.

                                     The boys run ahead and their laughter rings clear.

There's a show of strength
and a still moment for rest.
The struggle and's removed today.
And this quiet place fills.
It fills with whispers of praise.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

He Loves Me

We're walking along, down the country road, and it feels like we're pulling weight.

And we are.

It's the not-getting-along. The sharp words and fast fists. It's this cloud of character grit that's settled hard.

The sun is warm. The sky is the deepest shade of unbroken blue. Fall colors burst bright around us.

And we're mumbling. Grumbling. A brother steps on a brother and we're brawling in the road.

I feel like giving up. Throwing it in. The fruit seems far and these behaviors are new and I'm not sure why they're here or how to make them go.

Maybe it's me? Am I distracted? Too hard? Too soft? Is it them? What am I missing?

I thrust my hands into my pocket, more out of frustration than a need to be warm, as we stalk down the lane.

And I find it there.

A tangible reminder of love.

It's a walnut shell. A half-walnut shell. Zay had given it to me months ago. It's been in the pocket of my sweatshirt. All while the months were warm.

I pull it out. But I already know the blessing.

It's shaped like a heart.

When he'd given it to me he'd said, "For you, Mama. I love you. Remember."

But today when I hold it in my hand, I hear something else.

I love you, Daughter.  And I've promised to never leave. I'm here and I love you. Remember?

So we walk on and I hold tight to the half-walnut in my hand. After a bit I slip it back into my pocket.

I still don't know what's up with the boys.

Is it me?

Is it them?

I don't know.

But it's okay.

Or it will be.

Because He loves us.

And He's right here, too.

Monday, October 1, 2012

A Prayer for Wisdom from Heaven

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness. James 3:17-18

 May Logan, Grant, Samuel, Gabriel and Isaiah grow in the kind of wisdom that is from heaven. May they sow in peace and raise a harvest of righteousness...