Wednesday, October 31, 2012


I told my husband,
as silly a girl as I am...
would he please, please be open to taking the long route?
There was, after all,
all this history along hwy 8.
Not a straight shot, abandoning GPS,
but surely abounding with pieces.
Of me.
He smiled.
He knows.
The heart of this girl?
Watered, nourished.  Over the years.
With the trees, with the quiet...
of the Northwoods.
I gushed all ten-again,
how we always knew we were close to the cabin
when we saw it: the mystical-parting-of-the-trees.
Like waters bowed up on either side of a secret passage to peace.
Parted just for us.
And then--like a storybook come-to-life,
we saw it.
Open and just as secret and divine as ever I remember it.
There at the intersection of hwy 8 and H.
My childhood began unfolding.
Then there's the bend...
And then the highway that slips right between two glorious, unadulterated lakes.
You can see that highway from my childhood pier.
The one I sat on every. single. summer.
As we slipped our way right along that highway-between-the-lakes...
I could not understand,
I was trembling and crying.
Trying to look out the window and hide tears from little boys
who would wonder what-in-the-world-had-gotten-ahold-of-their-momma?
That place, it is tied to me.
Like a deep, old friend.
It is the very clay from which I am made.
That little cabin with the wooden sign,
right there at the edge of its driveway.
Or at least that's where it once stood,
announcing to us that no matter how far we'd come,
or what the year had brought us,
THIS--this place,
It was where all the memories of childhood could be heard,
Seen.  Touched.
Like an envelope waiting.
And it was.
When that little cabin went up for sale, $5,000 and needing to be moved offsite?
I was renting an apartment, a brand new wife.
And I swore that no matter what it took,
we just had to find out if we could buy those walls.
The only thing is....
It's very backwards to buy a cabin before your first house.
And before we knew it?
We found out how much we could borrow.
We learned about mortgages.
And we bought our first house.
We bought this house that I am sitting in,
because of that cabin.
Of course,
we had to let the cabin go...
Because life is the story of sometimes having precious places
Right off the map.
I stood at the edge of that purest water.
I wondered if it remembered me.
Stood there, unmoving.
Letting the memories wash right over me.
That water brought ghosts.
Time is this current that sweeps and washes and moves and never stops...
You can look into it and see backwards...
Faintly hear it swishing forward.
Even as you are desperately clawing and trying to get it to stop.
For just a moment.
Can I go back?
Remember the water slide...remember my sisters in diapers...
my dad running into that water fast and splashing and oh-how-we-begged-him-more-more-more.
The minnows in schools and moving all together and me running away.
Wondering how, how could that bravest sister of mine, just a few years my younger...
how could she swim out to that floating dive-deck with all those FISH down there in the deep?
Mom and her laughter, always smiling,
Planning adventures.
What treat would we find today?
Would we rescue stray dogs with porcupine needles in their chins?
Maybe play the 101 Dalmations game up in the loft...
Tucked there on those shelves, where we each claimed a slab as our space?
Catch a chipmunk with a jump rope and a box?
Would Muriel be there, and Gordie...
Would she show us how to sew little bunny crafts?
Would we make it across the entire lake today in the paddleboat?  Just sisters?
I am young again, little.
My future yet unwritten.
This family, this place ~ it is my everything.
When did I grow up?
When did that happen?
The air, is frigid.
Snow threatening.
The trees, they are changing colors all around and the smell of change ~ fills the air.
Somewhere between that little girl,
And this 32 year old standing here...
Life happened.
Only I cannot remember exactly how.
Just that I'm back,
and somehow I'm still that little girl?
The water remembers, I am sure of it.
It whispers eternal.
No wonder Jesus is compared to living WATER.
The very essence of life.
It is mind boggling to remember yourself as a little girl,
and turn around to watch your OWN babies playing.
It was my mission, you know.
To bring them here.
To seat them down at this grand table, the purest feast...
And have them eat it up.
And never be the same.
And always want to come back.
And bring their babies.
Suddenly I was overwhelmed with gratitude that my parents,
despite the investment of time and finances ~
they made this place a top priority.
Every year.
We only missed one summer.
But we made up for it the summer that we came for TWO weeks.
We started coming the year I turned five...
and our last summer was the year I was 22.
That adds up to 18 weeks of my life spent on Lake Hilbert,
give or take.
What a precious gift.
More than any other vacation, place, or memory.
More even that my childhood home on Madison Street.
This place formed me,
taught me peace.
Helped me deeply know the heart of God.
How to hear Him.
I still have trouble finding peace in the city.
I just reach out and wrap myself in it.


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Halloween's gift of perspective.

Why do people put up pictures of skeletons at Halloween?
What is so scary about a skeleton?
We all have them!"
Questions of a seven-year-old,
who has been taking this journey with his mother.

I smile inside.
He is getting it.

The Bible is filled with this scripture cannot escape it,
or help stumbling upon it.
Over and over.
And fearlessness.

Around October, as the leaves are dying and the grass is browning,
We can all see and smell it:  death.
We feel the chill in the air.
And there is a holiday, typed permanent on the calendar,
at the death of October.
The hours of its very last breaths,
dedicated to one thing:  fear.
Scary pictures start to adorn every store, the windows of homes...
Haunted this and that,
Pictures associated with death:  spirits, ghosts, skeletons...

Only in Christ?
None of that scares.

It sure scares the world.

Halloween at our house is a time of prayer for the scared.
Because the scared?
God is chasing us with abandon.

Ever stopped to wonder....
how is it, that if we are truly just winners of the survival-of-the-fittest race...
evolved from big bang soup...
WHY...why in our hearts do we think eternal?
Why is it that we spend most of our lives feeling that we will live forever?
That somehow ourselves, what makes-us-us...
it couldn't possibly just up and vanish.
This feeling doesn't assist our fittest-survival.
Often it causes us to do silly things.
Like teenagers behind the wheel, power at their stern.
Causes us to outright give up our lives.

We spend our lives wondering, searching for the eternal...
as if it was a compass, put there to point us somewhere.
Are we listening to it?
Or are we muddled with noise.
Avoiding listening to the quiet that unsettles us.
God place eternity in our hearts.
He placed His Image there.
The Eternal.
Hear it?

I often think about how this survival-of-the-fittest theory
has one big unanswered conundrum:
The fittest?
The top of the chain winners at current?
We are ruining our planet...
We are destroying all things good, all the time.
The air.  The trees.  The water.
We are on a one way mission to destruction, all the time.
And death can be scary to a culture who knows deep-down that it will live forever.
That its choices have eternal value.
Only what forever looks the scary part.
And where the Halloween images come to play.

Halloween wasn't always this fearless around our house.

Gabe was five month old.
I simply had-to-have-it.
That little costume.
The peapod one.
So I beelined for the Halloween store.
I darted my eyes among the grotesque and morbid,
eyes glancing FAST and trying to avoid dwelling on an image that would
haunt me.
I have always had a tender spirit.
I see something awful, and it dwells with me.
I wished they would separate that store into sections...
for the easily-scared, like me.
in the very back.
And the
in the front for those of us timid.
I found that little peapod,
paid way too much.
Got outta there.
Put it on my son on Halloween,
snapped a TON of pictures.
Didn't think twice about it.
It's what people do, on Halloween:  the routine.
Even dressed up the dog.
Handed out candy to the cute travelling door-to-door kids.
While holding back the crazy, barking dog....
who wanted to lick those kids...

That was my first Halloween as a mother.
Going with the flow.

Then the mind, it got to pondering.
The muddled ponderer.

I have always battled with a spirit of fear.
When I was a little girl,
our home was targeted on a few occasions
by those wishing evil.
They left blood in the snow, with an upside down cross.
Because my mother had been writing Jesus poetry for the local paper.
They banged on the door hard another time,
when we were home alone with mom.
We thought they were breaking in,
the police were called, and the neighbor came running.
I think I shook for hours straight.  Pure fear coursing my veins.
It never left.

A few years later, a dear friend of mine had rabbits in a hutch outside.
Little sweet ears floppy and soft little snugglers.
Momma and babies all tucked in for the night.
And someone got ahold of them and murdered them.
Laid them out in a circle on the lawn.
Exists, everywhere.
We cry about it when we hear it on the news.
When it erupts in our cities.
Yet one day a year the country worships the idea of it.
Evil suddenly becomes funny, trivial.
How to make that leap?
I will never understand.

I wondered if society realized what they were celebrating?
Or was it more about the dress up and candy...

And I fought myself hard on this one.
Because I wanted my son to be able to dress up and get loads of candy.
Like I did, when I was a kid.

But then I realized,
If I send him out there and we step foot...
how to explain that it's okay to dabble in evil, as long as it's done lightly?
In a world where there is no longer a line in the sand between good and evil...
just wavy, just skewed, just choose-for-yourself grayness.

I chose to stop and make a line in the sand.
To make it easy for them to see it right there,
to avoid any confusion.
When I drew that line, initially, it was in fear.

It's a journey.
A journey littered with mistakes,
but one that grows me.
More than my kids.

I know the stories about Halloween,
its roots, its traditions, its evil.
A little googling on the net?
And one can be scared right outta their wits about it.
I know loving, honorable parents who still do the trick-or-treat thing.
But I've always been a black-or-white kinda girl.
Always thinking about the motives just under the surface.
Not wanting to wishy-washy.
Never doing a single thing just-because...
and always knowing that choices have cost.
Both sides.  Of every choice.

Over the years of not-celebrating-Halloween,
avoiding all the yucky of it...
I came to realize that I still feared it:
And that as a proclaimed Christ-follower I was missing the entire point:
Of not celebrating Halloween.
This year God is growing me.

What man intends for evil, God uses for good.
We nailed him to a tree.
He turned right around
and CONQUERED DEATH in our name.
He rose again, redeemed us.  While we still hated Him and His love.
We screamed we hated Him...and He screams back, "I love you."
It's great to have a holiday to remind every one of us,
that we all share one universal finale: death.
And what we choose to do with that reality
makes all the difference.
In wether a skeleton scares us,
or reminds us that we are fearfully and wonderfully made.
By an intentional Creator...

My family has a line in the sand.
We stand on the side of the line that says,
And we celebrate death daily...

    "But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness.   And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.   Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation--but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it.  For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, ""Abba," Father."  The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children.  Now if we are children, then we are heirs--heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory."
Romans 8:10-17

"Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?"
1 Corinthians 15:55

I know there are those that avoid pumpkin carving,
the historical paganism of it.
I get that.
If it blurrs the line for you, makes things grey...
dispense of it.
The line?  It's a glorious dance between you and God.
I decided that I'm just not going to let Halloween claim pumpkins.
We gathered this year with family and we picked out perfect
round, little pumpkins.
And all the little ones decided upon how to decorate them ~
with glitter glue, stickers, markers....

I faced my fears head-on this year,
handing the knife to my seven year old.
Despite eyes wide all around...fearing....
my own heart racing.
But it was time.
Time to hand him something dangerous,
and see what he would do with it.
To let him know, in a little tiny way...
that his mother?
She trusts him.
She is aware that he is growing into a young man.
Only a parent knows when this time arrives.
When the first autumn will be...
when we bravely hand over the carving tools.
Ready for the outcome...
wether it be artful and beautiful,
or a trip to the emergency room.

And then there's Quinn,
who does all things whole-heart.
Who was the last one decorating his pumpkin at that table.
Covered that thing in pure black permanent marker.
Didn't stop 'til it was covered.
And his hands showed it, covered too.
Little tongue out,
in his 'concentration' mode.
I love the way his tongue does that...
Thank you, God, for carving Quinn the way that you did.
For the tongue-thing.
Icing on the cake.



Sunday, October 21, 2012

Family Gathering.

The older we get, the harder it is to get us all in one place.
I said to my husband once, long ago:
"There will be a time.
A time when my sisters will be older,
And they will have lives that are bigger than now...
And I won't have as much time with them.
So right now?
Right now I am just going to be with them.  As much as I can.
Whenever I can."
I had them visit me wherever I went,
college dorms, first apartments, my first "home" as a new wife.
I often picked them up halfway between my life and theirs.
One hour, one way, to tuck precious bags in my car and steal them for a weekend.
Four hours roundtrip driving for a weekend of sisterhood.
The distance, I swore, would never weaken us.
My sisters all now have lives bigger.
Bigger than before.
We are all out there, playing house realtime.
And days like today....
when we all are gathered in one place?
These are the days when time stops.
It just stands still, for a bit.
I watch my oldest baby playing with my sister's oldest baby.
Running around, tossing leaves.  Like we used to.
I watch my dad ~ the world's best grandfather.
Running and chasing and making fun.
I cherish how my sisters have chosen the most wonderful men to add to this family.
The loves, it just multiplies here.
Family just gets richer with time.
My babiest sister ~ is expecting her first baby.
When she told me,
I screamed right into the phone.
I am sorry, niece or nephew, for the fact that your momma will be deaf on one side.
But I couldn't help myself.
The hardest part of loving all these,
is saying goodbye,
until we meet again.
It's funny how souls who lived within the same walls for years,
suddenly find themselves saying,
"See you in four or five weeks!"
And it becomes normal.
Yes, the drive away from the day, from the leaf tossing and the giggles
and the delight....
that is always hardest.


Wednesday, October 17, 2012


I cannot describe the way the soul needs rest.
To remove from all the normal.
The regular.
And just...empty, and refill.
Last week we spent time at our emptying place.
We took all of our stress, our burdens...our schedules...
We took them and sank them deep into the lake.
We cast our lines...
We cast our cares upon the Lord with abandon.
My biggest excitement was to be able to sit:  on a pier.
Like I did when I was a little girl.
Feet dangling down skimming the water, listening to it ripple and wave,
reflecting on life.
To worship there.
That was really it, my one main destination:  the pier.
When we arrived Up North,
just past the middle-of-nowhere...
snowflakes were swirling in the air.
The trees were GLORY.
Splendor, afire.
I was overwhelmed with grattitude, Lord.
I was overwhelmed that this penniless-me,
pouring her soul and her precious time and energy into raising babies...
teaching babies...being a goodwife...
This penniless soul, LAVISHED with gifts.
Like a cherished daughter.
Lavished, unashamedly with unspeakable beauty at every turn.
Who am I, to deserve to even behold?
The thing with God?
He doesn't ever give us what we deserve.
He gives us ~ unmeasured more.
Just pours it out.
I have been searching.
Searching for exactly:  what am I to you, Lord?
Because this world says that if you're not a specific size,
or have beautiful curves and flawless skin...
you lack.
You lack beautiful.
You are less.
And a soul can get pretty worn down hearing that, seeing that.
So I ask, and wonder...about biblical beauty.
How a meek and quiet spirit is of great beauty to the Lord.
But doesn't get you very far here in this place.
And I wrestle with God about His love, and how sometimes it feels far.
And I wonder my worth.
And then,
 He just pours.
"Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart."
Psalm 37:4
The true desires of the heart...are rarely things.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Beautiful mess.

Sunshine across warm floors....
There is something about sunshine falling across wooden floorboards that transforms me.
Lifts me right up out of the tyranny of self-inflicted schedules.
Into the beauty of living.
There's a portion of a verse that keeps speaking to my soul today:
I get that.
The pondering of the heart.
Maybe that is the lifeblood that motherhood is made of.
I love that scripture included this verse.
In the tale of the Saviour's first days.
Our society today is all about fast.  All about keep-up with.
I guess I never have been one to fit in?
I am often all-in-my-head.
Often slower than the rest.
I get muddled easily, so I like to keep myself in the simple.
I am always always pondering in my heart...
The muddled ponderer.
Autumn is amazing to me.
The world is just set ablaze in glory.
I started the day full of self-defeat.
Exhausted from children waking in the deep of the night.
The time and space where our bodies recharge
becomes unpromised in motherhood.
Hitting the pillow never knowing if the rest will be available.
If tonight it is for the taking?
Or maybe next week.
When will I grasp that rest?  Wrestle it to the ground?
If a mother's heart never pondered and treasured,
a lonely, exhausting life it would be.
Standing at the kitchen window...
knowing that just a room away I have the most glorious schedule.

in pure Managers of Their Homes style.
Oh, it makes me smile.
That grid, lined up there...little rectangles and structured colors...
naming the stuff of our lives.
The fun and the not-so-fun-necessary stuff,
so that nothing gets missed.
So that in theory, somehow I keep this home all together. Running.
And mornings like this,
the rectangles run together and blurr and skip over each other.
It whispers to me...why can't you ever stay ahead?
Why is it that you can MAKE a schedule so pretty,
and abandon it daily?

Self-defeat is sometimes my middle name.
I looked out the kitchen window as I poured sour milk from a sippy.
Thinking how I wished for clean.
For order.
For rest that comes in a package and doesn't eat up my rectangles.
Right there, outside my window-of-work.
beautiful, brilliant leaves falling like confetti.
Just there.
How beautiful life is.
How beautiful this messy, unplannable, chaotic life of mine is.
The only tyrrant here?
Is me.
It sometimes takes a great deal of pondering to clear the self-defeat fog from my eyes.
God makes beautiful of messes.
The leaves we try to rake up in neat piles and send away on city trucks?
I love those messes.
I am sad when we rake up the mess of leaves God showered.
I love the way they announce movement on the sidewalks.
The way they sound as the wind whispers throught them.
A symphony for the soul.
What would life be like, all tidied up and perfect?
We left the mess today, the tyranny of the undone.
And we went right out there to the thick of beauty.
On a whim, when really we had other things beckoning.
I don't want my children to remember their youth with rectangles always.
But with chasing beauty,
and embracing messes.
And giving the mind space to ponder in the quiet,
away from the noise of self-defeat.
The noise of perfection.