For 18 Years Now (a poem for Jeffrey’s birthday)

In the young light
this morning, when
I stepped out on the porch
with Bon, a perfect half-
moon shimmered its
luster over the edge
of day

And I thought of
how we’ve had your
luminous heart for
eighteen years
now

how you
shine light into the
moments; how you shimmer—
give to us a piece of
the sky, burning our
half-moon days into
full, silvery bloom

Be Happy (A Giveaway)


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This morning when I stepped out on the porch with Bonnie, a flock of geese cut through the newly born blue of the sky above—honking the day into awakening. They were so low I could hear the swoosh of air pushed underneath wings, almost feel the breeze of the passing. I spun around to watch their flying V move across the sky, until they soared out of sight. I could hear them long after they disappeared over the horizon, cradled the memory of long-necked grace amidst receding trumpet blasts.

On Tuesday we saw our son off to his second year of college; drove for hours, helped him unpack and organize all the stuff of life, and then left him in his dorm room. This was an easier departure than last year’s, for we all knew a little more what we were doing. Last year we drove away from him with a sinking feeling, fear in our gut. This year his roommate had driven down from New York all by himself—no parents, no entourage. The young man’s confidence in his solitary travels gave me pause. When we pulled away I wondered aloud if this would be our last year of dropping our boy off in this way. We’ve talked about sending him with a car next year, and if that’s the case, it’s unlikely we will tag along. This thought added a new dimension to my musings and I studied the landscape more intently as we drove toward home.

A century ago, the Anglican Bishop, Phillips Brooks told his ministerial students to study three “books”: the book of books, the book of the Bible; the book of nature; and the book of mankind. I find this sound advice for the span of a life—both for the college sophomore and the mother driving away from him. Life itself is the best of schools if we pay attention. I know I cannot hold all of his life in my hand. There is only One who can do such a thing.

This is the natural way. Kids grow up. Life changes. We roll with it. But every once in a while something inside of me rises up and says, “hold on, things are moving too fast here.” I want to memorize the moments, hold on to them as they pass.

Somehow I think driving away from our boy will never be easy. It has been a long, hard summer, with his grandfather’s illness, and he was a big help on that front. The memory of his face lighting up when his friend came into the room lingered with me on the trip home. I could still see his smile long after we were gone. He was happy. Happy to be back in school, to have a purpose, to see his friends.

And because he was happy, I was too. I am learning that happiness doesn’t have to be a complicated thing. In her book, The Happiness Dare Jennifer Dukes Lee says,

“You are the imago dei. You carry the DNA of your happy and holy God. … God is the inventor of happiness and the chief spreader of it. When you desire happiness, you …  are responding to something built into your soul. Your desire to live happy is not a flaw. It is your soul’s memory of the original paradise, etched and alive in you.”

I think I would add that your desire for your children—for all of your loved ones, in fact—to be happy, is a God-designed thing. Opening the hand in this way requires a trust I don’t always feel. There are so many things in life that pass out of our vision but still remain strong in our hearts and minds—the trumpet calls of love.

Last year, in honor of Teddy’s first year of school I hosted a giveaway of some good reads I’d been enjoying. I think this is a nice tradition. This year, I did a little shopping at the school bookstore (one of my favorite things about the campus). In this happy giveaway package, one reader will receive a copy of Jennifer Dukes Lee’s new book The Happiness Dare, one pair of Natures Precious Gems hand embossed natural brass earrings, one pinkhouse handmade scarf, and a sweet little Be Happy bag from naturallife.com.

Just leave a comment by Sunday 8/28 at midnight for a chance to win! Winner will be announced on Monday 8/29.

Garden Notes: Seed Changeling

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Yesterday, one of the goats slipped through the fence and when we returned from graduation practice late morning, she was standing in our back yard—perilously close to my garden. I called our neighbor, the goat-man, but he wasn’t picking up, so all I could do was stand guard with a little poker stick and prod at her every time she took a bite of my greens. Each time I did so, I felt so bad that I gently scratched her course-haired nose immediately after. My discipline had little effect. She looked up at me with those vertical pupils—something like adoration on her sweet, kale-stealing face.

We still had a lot of preparation to do for the graduation ceremony that evening. My mom was driving down and I needed to put clean sheets on her bed. Teddy’s slacks still needed ironing, and his gift wasn’t wrapped, not to mention he needed to practice his speech. Time was slipping through my fingers and here I was, goat-sitting.

I walked along the fence line to see if I could find the escape spot. Maybe I could gently urge her back through to the other side. I ran inside and plucked an apple from our fruit bowl. She followed the apple and me along the fence, softly bleating. But I could find no open door through which to coax her. It looked like she had somehow squeezed underneath the already bowed out metal fence. I tried to lift the skeletal remains up and tempt her back under with the apple, but her kindred on the other side caught wind of my fruity treat and came running in a cloud of witnesses. I was soon in danger of having a herd of goats in my yard.

I put the graduate in charge of the poker-stick and drove up to my neighbor’s house to see if anyone could come and retrieve this errant goat. There I learned the goat-man was on his way and when I returned upon the scene he was making the last strides through the meadow to assess the situation. Meanwhile, Miss Goat kept stealing little bites of kale as Teddy ineffectively poked and reprimanded.

The goat-man walked the fence adjacent to our yard and was as mystified as we as to how she had slipped through. He was apologetic, but wondered if I could just lift her up and over to him, then he would inspect the fence for the weak places.

Pick up a goat?

Hilarity ensued. Miss Goat somehow knew we were going to put an end to her adventure and managed to deftly elude us from all sides. At one point, I was possessed with a fit of giggles so pervasive I thought I was going to have to give it up. Finally, we had her cornered by the garden and when she took a bite of kale, I pounced.

Pygmy goats are small but compact and it felt like I was picking up a small Volkswagen. But I handed her off to the goat-man without incident. She joined her other goat friends gladly and soon I was left standing alone, surveying the remains of my kale.

She hadn’t done too much damage, and the greens are nearly past prime anyway. Already the summer squash seeds I had pressed down in between the leafy greens were poking up through the dark soil. I needed to harvest the rest of the lettuce and spinach, pull up all the greens and either use them or feed them to the goats. It is time for the garden’s second wave of crops. The tomatoes and peppers are looking good. My bean plants are nearly four inches tall and looking for more room to vine up and out. I studied the beginning of their twinings and noticed how the remnant of the seeds still clung to the sides of their stems. I gently touched the soft, yellow half moons of the broken pods in wonder.

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How do these growing things begin as one thing and change into something entirely different? Beautiful and fragile all at once?

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I knew I needed to harvest the kale very soon. But the sheets still needed changing and the slacks pressing. And my boy was waiting in the house, filled with anticipation for the evening.

I took a last look at the goat-nibbled greens and headed back inside.

Playdates with God: The Beauty of First

We awaken this morning to a fairy land—the world outside covered in a glittering filigree.  A fine dusting still sifts down—covering over the mud of last week’s rains, dressing up the browns of the dead grasses in the meadow.
On the way out to pick up flowers for his winter formal date Saturday afternoon, my youngest asked me about my first school dance. How old were you, he wanted to know. And who was the boy? Did I like him?  It seems a million years ago that I sat with the boy next door on his car port, dangling legs over the cool concrete edge and falling headlong into my first case of puppy love and my first broken heart. But my little man doesn’t want to know the ins and outs of the infancy of my love life—he’s only trying to make sense of all the feelings surging up inside of him.
So I tell him the good things, the happy memories; and for a moment I am young again—fresh as the snow falling outside my window right now. He gives me a gift by asking for a story and the remembering helps me to hold his story-in-making more gently. Will his son one day ask him about this night? This first?
Suddenly, the wind is knocked out of me as all the “firsts” he must experience come reeling over. And the newness of it all is a sparkle in his big baby blues. My tired eyes catch the glimmer of all that new—mercies new every morning—and I hold on to this: God still has a lot of “firsts” left for me too.
So I open my eyes wide.

Have you had a “first” this past week?

Over at The High Calling today, writer Shawn Smucker is talking about music. I love the way Shawn weaves a story. Will you join us?

How do you embrace the God-joy? Every Monday I’ll be sharing one of my Playdates with God. I would love to hear about yours. It can be anything: outside, quiet time. Maybe it’s solitary. Maybe it’s loud and crowded. Just find Him. Be with Him. Grab my button at the bottom of the page and join us:


The Playdates button:

By Faith: A Mom’s Journey


Second day of school. 2013.

On the first day of school my sixteen year-old sleeps in and his baby brother gets ready alone. The freshmen will have the high school to themselves the first half of the day and he is brimming—about to overflow.
“Your baby is starting high school, mom,” he says to me as he bends slightly at the knee to wrap his arms around me. “I know, baby,” I say. “You’re growing up.” “I have a mustache,” he grins, and I swat him away. “Hush!” I say, closing my eyes to that soft down below his nose.
I put the cinnamon rolls on the table, along with a bowl of strawberries—dusted lightly with sugar. But then I must go, time for me to get to work. All day long, I think of them. “It’s the first time EVER,” I tell my co-workers. “That we haven’t gotten a first-day-of-school picture.” I feel at loose ends, far away from them. 
It’s like this every year, but I always forget. Until I must remember. After companioning them through the long days of summer this breaking away feels a little like birthing them all over again—they move out of the warm circle of my embrace and into their own physical space. Each year they become more and more their own persons. 
This year we enter a new season. Now that Teddy is driving, these two precious ones no longer need their parents to drop them in front of that big brick building. Each morning they will pull away from the curb on their own. And though I know better, this morning as I stand in the driveway and wave them off, this backing out into the street feels like a pull away from me. 
And since this is a new beginning, I turn the pages of my Bible to Genesis. I read the story of Abraham—his call and the way he wandered with all that belonged to him. I flip over to Hebrews, to that great “hall of faith” and it says this: “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.” (emphasis mine).
I can’t help but notice that everywhere Abraham went on this faith journey, the first thing he did when he arrived was build an altar. So that’s what I do. I build an altar out of books and words and coffee. The candle flickers and I do not know where we are going.
 
Buy I obey. And go. Letting faith lead, worshiping along the way.