Wednesday, September 17, 2014

{While Shopping}

I don't love grocery shopping. It's something, in my opinion, that one does out of necessity. As Mary Poppins would say, "If we must, we must." Well, we must.

Earlier this week I had to pop into WinCo to grab a few things. The sun was bright and cheery and I had Aidan at my side. For some reason, this combination caused me to slow down. I didn't feel rushed or anxious, and the chore became an enjoyable outing. 

I realized that my slowing down that day allowed me to see things more clearly. Except for the time that I left my cart in the middle of the bulk foods aisle while waiting for the almonds to be ground into almond butter. But that ended up being kind of fun. The woman I was blocking kindly popped her head into my line of sight and said, "Excuse me, please."

I came to my senses and laughed. "I'm sorry! I'm just in my own little world over here!" (Almond butter oozing out of a machine is fascinating.) I scooted my cart over and we exchanged smiles as she passed.

Aidan and I then headed toward the bulk granola bins (oh, blueberry flax seed, how I love thee) and the woman approached me once again. "I'm glad I found you! I was wondering what you do with almond butter." I thought it was sweet that she was looking for me and that we -- two strangers -- could have a little conversation right there in the bins, even if it was just over almond butter. She wondered if I use it in my rice . . . which I don't . . . but the suggestion was one of those moments of clarity. My way (almond butter spread on toasted Dave's Killer Bread) isn't the only way. Huh.

We went our separate ways. Aidan continued to hover at my side, eagerly running here and there to add something to the cart, write the number on the bulk food tag, or cross something off the list. I glanced down the next aisle and saw the woman I was sixteen years ago. She had her baby in the cart and was absolutely in love with that child. She kissed his bare toes and looked ready to gobble the creature on the spot. I remember kissing baby toes. I'm pretty sure I did so with practically every diaper change. Sweet babies. Sweet toes. Sweet memories.

Aidan and I started checking out, and I caught another glimpse. This time, it was my son. I was loading the groceries on the conveyer belt and didn't want to leave my purse unattended. I asked if he would mind standing next to it. He stood guard for a minute and then, grabbing my purse with one hand, he started to unload groceries with the other. He couldn't just stand there and watch me work. He wanted to help. Sweet boy. Becoming a man. 

And then the last hurrah. Our checker -- a woman in her sixties, I'm guessing -- had adorned her hair with fresh lavender. She merrily ran our items across the scanner and commented on the bright fall leaves. That did it. I knew she was kindred. I told her that I loved the touch of lavender and she beamed. "They were in my yard and they smelled so pretty!" And so into her hair they went, fragrant and whimsical.

Funny, the things that happen when we slow down and look. We see things differently. Or we just plain see things that we might otherwise have missed in our haste. We may see a new way of doing things, we may see a life that brings back fond memories, or a life that is developing right before our eyes. And if we're wise, we'll stop and pick a sprig of lavender. Because we just never know if our pause might bring joy to someone else. 
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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

{Gold Coins}

Last night as I closed up the living room blinds, my eye spied a glimmer of golden light peering through the distant, inky black evergreen trees. My breath caught and I had a sudden inspiration. "I need to go to the park." Jamie was sitting nearby and I appealed to him. "I don't want to go alone . . . ."

I looked again, the golden orb slowly climbing into the night sky, drowned by the distraction of streetlights and lit windows. The park would be dark. It would be more visible there. He smiled, knowing how I adore the moon. "I'll go with you." He grabbed his flannel (the evenings have that lovely nip now), and my inspiration evolved and expanded as I rounded up the befuddled kids. And the dog.

A few minutes later, the six of us -- and our little dog, too -- were padding our way quietly down the sidewalk toward the neighborhood park. We approached the entrance, hushed and expectant. It was completely, eerily dark, save that golden sphere, suspended majestically in the eastern sky.

The kids were tempted to play because, well, that's what one does at the park. But when it's pitch black, one looks at the moon instead. A good trade. We gazed in stillness for a bit and eventually found ourselves sitting in a row on the footbridge.

As we admired the golden coin and the vast, limitless expanse overhead, I thought of the many other golden coins I'd collected over the years. Moons and moons worth of memories and moments spanning just about thirty-nine years now, each one saved, tucked away in my pocket. I felt the richness of it.

* * * * *

Earlier this week when Jamie and I had our Sunday date night, we decided it would be fun to watch You've Got Mail. It had been years since we'd seen it, and it just seemed like a perfect "welcome fall" kind of movie. Bouquets of sharpened pencils, "don't you love New York in the fall," and so on.

It was delightful to revisit the familiar classic, but I wasn't prepared for the flood of nostalgia that would come with it. When we first saw the movie, it was in the theater. (We ran into our dear friends, Jason and Tobi.) The year? 1998. Drew -- our sixteen-year-old -- was a wee babe.

There were numerous scenes that I found myself watching with different eyes this time around. My favorite aha moment? When Kathleen Kelly recommends the series of books to Annabelle in the book store. You see, the 1998 Julianna didn't know about Betsy and Tacy. But the 2014 Julianna has two daughters who've read and loved the Betsy Tacy stories. (In fact Bethie and I just plowed our way through Betsy's first high school book this summer -- what a lovely lark.) I felt rather tingly and misty-eyed over it all.

As we watched Joe and Kathleen fall in love once again, those years of memories -- gold coins of experience and understanding and relationships -- added a fullness to the evening. And yes, I felt the richness of it.

* * * * *

We lined the footbridge, no one really wanting to be the one to say, "We should probably go home. It's a school night." But it happened anyway. We came to our feet, glanced back at the moon, and slowly made our way down the street.

As we did so, my mind wandered back to another, very similar golden moment. I gathered my girls close, walked more slowly, and shared about the time my Nanee and I had gazed upon a harvest moon in that very same neighborhood, the time we gathered a very similar gold coin. I was about Bethie's age. Hand in hand, my grandmother and I had walked in the stillness of the night, the moon so low on the horizon that it was unnaturally large, tinged just the color of the changing birch leaves. Squeezing my hand, she said, "Juni, we'll always remember this night." 

She was right.

Our family of six -- and our little dog, too -- approached the welcome glow of our own front porch. I was content to follow in the wake of my husband and children, contemplative and quiet. Entering the warmth of home, I closed the door softly behind us, another gold coin in my pocket. 

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Monday, September 8, 2014

{Billy and Betty}

It started in May, the day God took me by the shoulders, looked me in the eye and said, "Yes, that."

I had been in a Women's Bible study at our church, going through Kelly Minter's book, Nehemiah: A Heart that Can Break. Throughout the study, the author encouraged us to be seeking the Lord, to be open and vulnerable for that which might soften, open, reshape our hearts.

About halfway through the study, Minter invited us to journal some pretty specific stuff. Stuff like, "Is the Lord asking you to say no to something so you can focus on what He's asked you to say yes to? If so, what?"

I pretended like I didn't hear. "La, la, la, la, la!" I don't have anything to say no to, Kelly Minter! So there! Fingers in my ears. "La, la, la, la, la!" But I heard it anyway. I could almost feel the Lord's strong hands on my shoulders, His deep, kind eyes looking into mine: "Full time homeschooling."

Wait. What? No. I can't say no to that. It's what I do. It's . . . it's . . . who I am.

But the Lord continued His work. I asked friends and family to join me in prayer. In faith (and in fear and trembling), I enrolled the kids in an alternative learning program, just in case that's really what I was supposed to do (and because those things need to be taken care of in May -- I could decide later. Because probably I wasn't hearing the Lord properly anyway).

I wrestled all summer long. I agonized. I just couldn't release my grip.

But the more I thought about it, the more I prayed and sought His Word, the more I came to see the root of my problem. 

It was me.

I wasn't determined to homeschool full time because I thought this was the best possible option for this year. I wasn't determined because the kids were begging to stay home or because I saw red flags when we considered enrolling them in school.

I was determined because I wanted to say, "Look at what I did!" And I needed to let go. I needed to live up to what I always verbalized to others but never actually had to carry out in a way that felt contrary to my longings: that we'd take education one year at a time, one kid at a time, and seek the Lord for the answers all along the way -- even if those answers came in the form of a brick building with desks and new teachers.

And I realized that I was hearing the Lord properly, after all. It took me the whole summer, and it wasn't until the very end of August that I finally unclenched my hands and said, "Okay. Even this. Yes."

I asked my friends and family to pray for peace, and it came. My spirit settled and the horizon continued to be free of red flags. We bought school supplies. And last week, they started.

You know what? They love it. And as I've attended meetings and become acquainted with the teachers and staff, I've continued to be impressed and even downright enthusiastic about our choice. (Drew and Bethie were there last year, so I was already familiar with the middle and high school programs.) The kids attend classes for two days a week, have classes at home on alternating days, and have the option to take enrichment classes on Fridays.

I still get to be very involved in my kids' education and I look forward to incorporating many of the aspects I love so much about homeschooling. My kids get to have the classroom experience and the interaction with peers that has, up until now, been somewhat limited.

I also get to wait and see what the Lord has in store for us -- what the "yes" is for this school year. I'm pretty sure He gave me a little clue on the first day of school when I was in 1 Thessalonians 1:8 and read,

"The Lord's message rang out from you . . . ."

This morning as I drove a very eager Little Miss and Big Brother to school, I reminded them, "Look for Billy and Betty!" They grinned, "We will!"

Billy and Betty are the imaginary children that can be found in almost any gathering. They're the kids on the edge, the kids who might need a friend, the kids who are too shy to jump in and start a conversation.

I often remind my kids -- and myself -- to be looking for Billy and Betty. I'm sure there will be many Billys and Bettys as we begin this new venture. And it is my humble prayer that the Lord's message will ring out from these Lawson lives. That Billy and Betty, as they brush shoulders with our awkward, faulty selves, may see a glimmer of Light and Truth, and that they might know how much they are loved.


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Thursday, August 28, 2014

{Some River}

About every other year we pack our van to the gills and head south. As we meander through the Mount Hood forests and eventually emerge in the vast desert lands dotted with pine trees, my breaths deepen and my spirit soars. Time slows here. Family gathers -- sometimes quite a crew, sometimes just the six of us -- but no matter who happens to be there, vacationing in Sunriver feels like coming home.

It was my nephew Evan who first called it "Some River" several years ago. He just figured that the family was headed toward some river and he -- as always -- went with the flow. He was thrilled when he learned that not only was "Some River" a specific place, but it was a place where we could stay. Overnight.

This year my cousin suggested a family reunion, and the Sunriver tradition joyfully expanded to include extended family members. The Italian numbers were substantial, so we knew the food would be good. My mom and aunt treated us all to an amazing culinary experience called Bagna Caulda (or cauda -- there's some disagreement as to the correct term -- but I won't even go there). Vats of simmering oil and garlic await our skewers of bread, meat, cheese, and vegetables, and we just hover and go for it while the wine glasses are replenished. Did I mention Bagna Caulda is amazing? Delizioso!

Of course we must bike for miles and miles to work off those calories, but it's worth it. And Sunriver is definitely the place to bike. One afternoon I joined my parents for a ride, and boy can they pack in those miles.

The kids get in lots of rides, too. I always love it when we have a whole crew lined up -- sometimes as many as fourteen of us -- winding our way "over the river and through the woods."

Dancing is also a good way to work off vacation food. My sister and I resurrected our circa 1990 routine to Five Hundred Miles and taught the intricate choreography to Mom and Auntie Cher. ("Intricate" as in there are Three Whole Moves.) It wasn't long before the kids peeked around the corner to see what on earth was going on. It was likely my sister's frequent, emphatic reminder to "Pivot!!!" that grabbed their attention. They couldn't resist, and soon a full-on dance party was under way. (Alas, I have no pictures. You'll just have to take my word for it.)

This year's trip also landed close to Avery's birthday, so we decided to celebrate early. She chose hot dogs for dinner and Goody's ice cream in the Sunriver Village for dessert, followed by a spin on the bumper cars. It was a lovely final evening.

We woke up early on our last day in order to sneak in a ride to the stables. My friend Lisa had recommended that we try to arrange to see the horses when they're led from pasture to the corral. The morning air was crisp, laced with that bittersweet tang of fall which hints at a dying summer. I wished for another layer of clothing and a tissue or two as we pedaled toward the fields. The kids were drowsy and hushed, rosy cheeks with drippy noses. Pedal, pedal, sniff, sniff. My dad timed the ride perfectly for us. There they were.

The horses grazed quietly in the distance, ears perked for the call of the wrangler.

We lined the barbed wire fence and waited . . . and then the subtle thunder of hooves, dust rising to meet the sky.

A new day had begun.


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Wednesday, August 20, 2014


A couple of weeks ago I was driving around a delightful small town near our home when Aidan shouted out from the back seat, "Mom! The sheep dog trials!" I whipped my head in the direction of his pointed finger, and there it was. The border collie skipping across the banner, announcing the upcoming Lacamas Valley Sheep Dog Trials.

When we lived in Camas, we tried to make it an annual event. In fact one year we even had our picture added to the website. It's still there. I want to hold and squeeze that little toddler in the hat. She's almost nine now:

Sometimes we went with extended family and sometimes it was just a few of us. It was especially fun to top off the weekend with a family movie night featuring Babe, the amiable pig who has a knack for herding sheep.

Seeing the sign once again and hearing Aidan's enthusiasm inspired me to suggest that we head out again this year. It ended up that only a few of us were available, but I figured that half of a family was better than none.

The day was perfectly blue and warm. Avery was eager because, well, "We get to sit on hay bales and pet border collies!" (We have a thing for border collies since our doggles -- we think -- is part corgi, part border collie.)

The crowd was bigger this year than any I've seen in the past. It was fun to sit with such a varied group of spectators. Some sat with binoculars, shaking their heads at the scores. Others balanced paper boats filled with hamburgers or fish-n-chips, and many had whistles around their necks and dogs at their sides. We perched atop the highest hay bale (of course) and the unmistakable aromas of golden hay mixed with the dairy cows at the host farm made me long for cowboy boots and a ten-gallon hat. (Instead I flipped off my sandals and sunned my legs for a bit.)

It was easier to watch this year since the kids are older. It's the kind of place where one tries not to frolic and yell, lest one disturb the dogs at work. The dogs have eleven minutes to bring the five sheep through the course, which includes a couple of gates, a shedding ring and the final pen. The handler uses a series of mysterious whistles and commands to guide the dog through the course. "Away to me!" "Come-bye!" "Get Back!" I always like it when they shout, "Lie down!" because the dogs get all hunchy-sneaky and just creep toward those sheep. It's rather difficult to herd the wayward sheep into the final pen, so it's very satisfying when a dog successfully rounds them up and the handler triumphantly swings the gate shut.

On the other hand, it's also somewhat amusing when the dogs who are fairly new to this whole herding-in-front-of-a-crowd gig decide that they'd rather sit in the nearby dog pool to cool off for a bit. Or when the sheep wander dumbly to the corner of the field because they like the corner of the field. (It becomes painfully apparent why we are often called sheep.)

We stayed for a couple of hours, Aidan and Avery eagerly downing forbidden fruit, each of us taking turns thumbing through the program, exclaiming over the clever or sweet names of the dogs: Java, Coal, Floss, Kate, and many others. The sun grew hotter and we finally decided to call it a day. Brushing the hay from each other's backsides, we tumbled down from the bales and said goodbye to the 2014 Lacamas Valley Sheep Dog Trials.

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