Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A Beautiful Day in This Neighborhood

I love living in Camas, especially in the warm days of spring when friends and neighbors spill out of their homes, blinking at the brilliant sun like the delighted Mr. Mole. I love bumping into a familiar face at the post office, calling the librarian by name, and following garage sale signs, only to discover that they lead to the home of a friend. I love hearing a friendly honk as a car drives by our Little Brown House, and I love spontaneously exploring our very own "Hundred Acre Wood" just up the road with my friends and their children.

Today I loved Camas because I took Aidan and Avery to the weekly storytime at the library. After selecting our books, we brought our lunch through the back door into the hushed courtyard. There, under an arching canopy of bright pink rhododendrons, we had our little picnic, and for a moment, time stood still. Avery, unleashed, cast aside her shoes and skipped across the stones to the merry rhythm of the fountain, while Aidan remained true to his feast, swinging his feet from his perch on the stone bench. We lingered and found rest, there in our happy little spring haven.
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Sunday, May 24, 2009

Please Talk to Me!

In an attempt to instill in my children a healthy respect for authority and a sensitivity to the hearing of those around them, I've requested that they not yell at the top of their lungs when seeking my attention. Rather, they should actively look for me while calling "Mother, dear!" with cherubic-like hope and anticipation. This rarely happens, but I remain sanguine.

While frantically packing our things for the mass exodus from our Sunriver home last week, Avery forgot this mandate and ran up and down the stairs shouting, "MOMMY!" with considerable force and volume. I waited patiently for her to find me so that I could sweetly say, "Yes, dear?" in lieu of yelling back a response. It didn't happen. The child was flustered and finally pleaded, "Mommy, PLEASE talk to me!" Now, Avery is only three. She needs to know that her mommy can hear her, especially when away from home. So I answered back (with considerable force and volume) and she was relieved to finally burst into the room that revealed her elusive mother.

After addressing Avery's need, I pondered her request. It was not the typical, "Where are you?" Instead, it was an unquenchable desire to hear my voice. She knew that if she could just hear her mamma's voice, she would eventually find her mamma's arms. So I ask myself, how often do I run frantically to and fro, shouting for the Lord's attention? How often do I cry out, "Please talk to me!" without realizing where I am? My Father hasn't gone anywhere, and He hasn't chosen to be silent. He beckons me, that I might be comforted by His voice and calmed by His presence. It merely falls to me to ascend and embrace.
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Friday, May 22, 2009

The Rhythm of Home

There's something exciting about staying in a rental house for five days. As soon as we pulled up to Woodland #1, the children spilled out of the vans and pressed eagerly toward the front door. The natural explorers were determined to find and appoint bedrooms to all family members, and did so with amazing swiftness. The men hovered around the vehicles unloading suitcases and tinkering with bikes, while the women were instinctively drawn to the kitchen. Each one fell into their natural rhythm.

Mom, Sister and I wasted no time in preparing the kitchen to our liking. Especially there did we find rhythm, for in rhythm there is familiarity, and in familiarity dwells comfort. The same blood coursing through each of us carried a pulse that dictated when we should move forward, when we should move aside. In this waltz tempo we stepped and swayed to the gentle beat of domesticity. One, two, three . . . one, two, three. Daily we were drawn to it, though it mirrored the work at home from which we were taking a brief vacation. Peeling potatoes, step. Slicing bread, swing. Stirring soup, sway.

Likewise we found pleasure in making the beds each morning: one, two, three . . . tossing a load of towels in the laundry each afternoon: one, two, three . . . scrubbing little brown bodies each evening: one, two, three . . . (four, five, six . . .). But somehow it was different here. It was work that was done
together with little heed given to the hour -- or even the day. There was no need to rush. We had no appointments to keep, no deadlines to meet. Just the rhythm of living each moment. The living waltz that gently stepped and swayed, with all dancers delighting to take part.
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Friday, May 15, 2009

Half the Fun

The countdown officially began 51 days ago. It was then that our calendar was inscribed with the words "Family Retreat!" and we made plans to haul the Stevens clan down to Sunriver. It's hard to manage children who must wait 51 days for something, especially a something that involves "the cousins." Nerves have been raw, patience has been tested and obedience has been . . . shall we say . . . lacking. It was with great relief and satisfaction, therefore, that we woke up this morning knowing that the children could now finally say: "Tomorrow's the day!"

The promise of Sunriver is a great motivator. As we went through the day, I found it quite convenient to casually refer to every chore in light of it's relationship to helping the family get ready for the trip. I've never seen Drew and Aidan vacuum the van so eagerly and Anniebeth so devoted to the care of her little sister. Their favorite chore, however, was the one that most directly related to going on vacation: packing their clothes. I asked them each to clear off their beds and lay out the clothes they'd like to take. Shorts in one pile, shirts in another, and so on. They busily pulled their things together and then ran outside to play.

A little while later I went to their rooms and smiled at their interpretations of my instructions. The girls had each article of clothing folded in nice, neat piles, while the boys apparently started out with the best of intentions, but somehow fizzled out in the process. Aidan, the dear, was quite ready to skip ahead to the end, and I caught him heading out the front door with a bulging plastic bag. I suggested that we could probably go ahead and use a suitcase instead of a Safeway bag. He was thrilled with the prospect and proceeded to transfer his belongings to a suitcase with impressive zippers, clips and snaps (every one of which he tested) and endless secret pockets and compartments (not one left empty).

They say that getting there is half the fun. Well, the kids are having a blast just looking at their suitcases. I'm not sure that I'm prepared for the level of enthusiasm that will accompany us when we actually leave. Children are so good at delighting in their surroundings, and their eagerness is contagious -- I am indeed looking forward to our little excursion. But right now, I've got some serious packing to do.
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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

. . . And Self Control

It's late. The kids have finished their goodnight list and are finally dropping one by one into their beds. Once again, I'm more exhausted than they are, yet they are the ones who get to go to sleep. (Do they know how lucky they are?) As much as I'm tempted to cut the bedtime ritual short, I simply cannot release them to slumber without blessing the four little heads. And so I pray. First with the girls, and then with the boys. And I never regret it.

Tonight, as always, I prayed that the Lord would grow in my little ones the fruit of His Spirit. The children know the list well by now, and since "self control" always comes at the end, it always raises the most questions. They have a hard time waiting through the rest of the prayer, and the minute my lips utter the final "amen," the pent-up questions are released.

"What does self control mean?" wonders Avery. (I challenge you to define that one in terms that will speak to a three-year-old.) I quickly tried to mesh theology with the pre-school word list and came up with something rather trite like, "Self-control is when we try to make sure that our bodies do the right thing." Her mind is fast. She's got it, and would like to prove it by way of an example: "When someone pokes their tummy on the top of a mountain, their tummy will have BLOOD." Perhaps my definition was a little misleading. But if not, woe to the someone who lacks self control.
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Monday, May 11, 2009

I Dream of Italy

"Mommy, I want to go to Italy someday," Bethie dreams as we work together in the yard. My mind wanders, and I picture candlelight dinners, amazing architecture, a gondola ride . . . . "I'd love to go there someday too, honey . . . ." I join her in dreaming. Her desire, however, is apparently prompted by a slightly different image of Italy, and I'm jolted from my reverie. "Papa says you can force the pigeons to come to you." Not exactly what one envisions when thinking "Italy," but I suppose we can chalk it up as an attraction nonetheless.

Photo credit: John Stevens, a.k.a. Papa
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Sunday, May 10, 2009

A Posy to Share

She shyly enters the kitchen, hoping I'll notice. Her eyes are intent on the floor as her scuffed tennis shoes shuffle absently. This is my cue to set aside the dish towel and kneel in anticipation. The little hand violently thrusts a bouquet into my face. "Are these for me?" I ask. She nods, still without speaking. "They're beautiful, sweetie. Thank you so much!" I kiss the dear, dimpled cheeks and find great delight in receiving her offering. She breaks into a grin, pleased that her gift is a success.

As we search for the perfect vase, I can't help but notice that the posy is made mostly of weeds and that the hand encircling them is rather sticky. Does this make her gift any less precious? Of course not. If anything, it makes it that much more appealing: her only goal is to please me. She isn't distracted by convention.

I wonder if I'm able to give a gift like that. Can I impulsively share myself with someone? Or do I focus on perfecting my image and my gift, feeling that only then will it be acceptable? So many times I've missed opportunities to share, simply because I feel like my life has too many weeds. But wait a minute. Don't we all have sticky hands, chipped nail polish, and maybe a few dandelions here and there? And might it not actually be a relief to let some of those imperfections show? Maybe this week I'll follow Avery's example and gather a few posies to share. And if a weed shows? I'll just humbly stick it in a vase and smile.
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Saturday, May 9, 2009

The Mother Tongue

Mothers often find themselves saying the most unusual things to their children -- things that would never come up in adult conversation. Our mother language becomes so common and daily though, that we don't usually stand back and appreciate the hilarity that accompanies our work. This dawned on me last night as I called out the kitchen window with as much grace as I could muster, "Boys, let's not lie down in the street." Hmmm. What a strange thing to say. So I grabbed a piece of scratch paper and chronicled the next hour of impromptu mother-tongue:

"We shouldn't put paper towels in the toilet, dear."
"Did someone drop the computer?"
"Is this dirt or poop?"
"Have you been playing in the tar again?"
"Did you put the salad spinner on the tricycle?"
"Are you scratching your back with your bread?"
"Please don't rub the butter in your hair."
"You may not stab the table."

Oh, the delights of motherhood. But even more delightful are the little words that come back to us in these moments of living life. Words like, "This is just an eensy-weensy early Mother's Day gift for you," that announce the arrival of a lilac bouquet. Or "These are for you, Mom," as a boy's brown hands proudly shove forward the strawberry plants he selected with Daddy.

Sometimes the words that come back to us are so unexpected, though, that we wonder at the children before us. Such was the case this morning when, with burning curiosity, I brought up the subject of lying down in the street. I was indeed unprepared for the explanation: "We were trying to attract vultures, Mom." And what, pray tell, is a mother to do? Her busy tongue is suddenly tied, and she just laughs.
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Friday, May 8, 2009

A Son's Heart

The children were rather reluctant to come in this evening. Sunlight lingered a bit longer than usual, and Aidan, my "little fiery one," relished the softly approaching dusk. "It's so splendid outside," he said with a sigh as he closed the garage door gently (for a change) behind him. "It's so sweet to hear the birds singing as they fly by . . . ." And his last wistful glance cast out the window toward creation caused my heart to ache. Like Emily of New Moon, I needed to savor this glimpse into my son's poetic heart: "It would hurt her with its beauty until she wrote it down." And so I pause to write it down, assuaging that tender ache that only beauty can elicit.
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Thursday, May 7, 2009

My Provider

The delicate blue vessel caught my eye. It lay there so still, so patiently quiet in a hushed corner of the porch. Although voiceless, it spoke volumes. It attested to the fact that somewhere, perhaps in our very own maple tree, a new life was preparing to take wing. I called Bethie to my side. She breathlessly cradled the cracked shell in the palm of her hand, and together we marveled that somewhere nearby, a little robin life had just begun.

A few days later, we noticed a saucy robin parent parading across our front yard looking for food. The children took great delight in watching the bird challenge an unlucky worm to a duel. Alas, the lesser fellow lost and was skillfully prepared for the nest as only a bird can prepare a worm. (Emily Dickinson so poetically phrased it for us: "he bit an angle-worm in halves." Yipes!)

I, although not delighted per se in the rather gruesome scene, couldn't unglue my eyes from the drama. For here before me was life happening. Here was creation shouting out (in the form of triumphant chirps) that the Lord is Jehovah Jireh. The One who provides. Yes, the One who provides, even for our little robin.

Standing back, days later, I ponder the weight of it. Of course I acknowledge this and claim to find comfort therein, but does my life really reflect the truth of His Name? Do I worship Him and embrace Him daily knowing with confidence that my Father will provide? It's a promise, you know. He will provide when the bank accounts suffer. He will provide when our health is uncertain. He will provide when jobs are scarce. He will provide. Yes, He will provide.

I believe that I shall keep this little blue shell on my kitchen window sill as a reminder. A reminder that my Lord will provide. For all of His little fledglings.
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