Saturday, October 31, 2009

of halloweens past

(you may remember this post, in which i mentioned my regret over not taking any pictures in the last six weeks of eliza's life. the anniversary of the start of those six weeks--and thus the anniversary of these last photos--is today.)

Monday, October 26, 2009

just one cotton pickin' minute

(please pardon this damn yankee while i expand my southern horizons...)

"the touch, the feel of cotton: the fabric of our lives," said the once-upon-a-time jingle. really? (tangent: i had a conversation with someone this weekend about the demise of the jingle. have the days of good jingles really gone the way of good sitcoms? sad. but perhaps a topic for another post, as this is not about jingles at all.)

i saw my first cotton plant today. well, i think it was my first. the first i remember, anyhow. did you know there's a hard seed inside that fluffy puff? it got me thinking, you i did some reading about cotton.

the cotton plant starts out with just leaves, then develops a beautiful flower. that flower has to wither and die in order to reveal the boll, a seed pod. that seed pod swells and swells until it bursts, revealing the soft puff of cotton that will become a t-shirt or sweater or blanket.

can our lives be described in this way? immature leaves, eagerly sprouting up and displaying showy flowers that wither and die as we mature. pods of potential, full of seeds just bursting to get out, which must wait and wait until just the right moment. something useful and comforting and soft, bearing inside it the residue of hard things, all at once the reminder of what came before the softness and the promise of future growth.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

even on day three of swine flu...

...he was still looking pretty handsome for his team photos, if you ask this mama.

(said sam today, as i cheered in the torrential rain on the sidelines: "you have become such a soccer mom, do you know that?" i explained to him that this is considered a derogatory term in many circles...but i'll take it in the complimentary spirit in which it was offered. go luke! i'll always be cheering for you...)

Friday, October 23, 2009

found while cleaning the kitchen

an excerpt from "a portrait," by christina rossetti
(sent to us by whom i can't remember)

They knelt in silent anguish by her bed,
And could not weep; but calmly there she lay.
All pain had left her; and the sun's last ray
Shone through upon her; warming into red
The shady curtains. In her heart she said:
'Heaven opens; I leave these and go away;
The Bridegroom calls,--shall the Bride seek to stay?'
Then low upon her breast she bowed her head.
O lily flower, O gem of priceless worth,
O dove with patient voice and patient eyes,
O fruitful vine amid a land of dearth,
O maid replete with loving purities,
Thou bowedst down thy head with friends on earth
To raise it with the saints in Paradise.

Monday, October 19, 2009

happiness and rejoicing

it’s terrible theology, really.
i’m inright, outright, upright, downright happy all the time.
since jesus christ came in and took away my sin,
i’m inright, outright, upright, downright happy all the time.
ever since i listened to my first toddler bible song cd with luke and heard those lyrics, i have been troubled by them. is this what we’re teaching our kids? if i believe in Jesus, i’ll be happy all the time? i’m sorry, but…what a lie.

don’t get me wrong: the christian life is full of joy. and the scriptures teach us--command us, even--to rejoice. paul exhorts the philippians to “rejoice in the Lord always; again i will say, rejoice” (phil 4:4), and the psalmist tells us to “be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, o righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart! (ps 32:11).

but rejoicing and happiness are two different things indeed.

merriam-webster's online dictionary (have i mentioned how i lament the loss of actual dictionaries along with actual thesauri and actual books, even? oh no, never a kindle...a topic for another post, maybe) defines "happiness" as "a state of well-being or contentment; a pleasurable or satisfying experience." meanwhile, the dictionary defines "rejoice" as "to feel great joy or delight."

there's a difference. no?

"happiness" is a noun. it is a thing that one has. that silly song promises that i will have happiness all the time if i have God. "rejoice," on the other hand, is a verb. it is something one does. as a verb, then, it is something i must choose to do. paul does not tell the philippians they have happiness. he tells them to rejoice. get busy doing something, not waiting for something to be given to you. the psalmist does not say you are happy. he says rejoice! shout for joy! do something!

in fact, the scriptures do not promise happiness but suffering. and in this suffering--get this--we are called to rejoice. it's all over the bible. "not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope" (romans 5:3). happiness does not produce perseverance; if our circumstances are all happy, what do we have to persevere for? i'll take character and hope over "a state of contentment" any day. "rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed" (1peter 4:13). rejoice in sufferings, so that i may be overjoyed. okay: i'll take "overjoyed" over "happy," thank you very much.

don't get me wrong: i love a happy occasion, a happy day, a happy moment. i'll take all the happy i can get. but i won't expect to be inright-outright-upright-downright happy all the time (inright isn't even a word, for crying out loud, and don't get me started on the non-words we waste time teaching kids) because that's not what scripture promises. i'll expect to be beyond happy--to be overjoyed--someday; and in the meantime, i will rejoice and persevere in hope and anticipation of that day. again, i say rejoice!

Friday, October 16, 2009

garden dedication

menorah park senior living community in syracuse, new york:

the terrace floor, home to forty-four residents suffering from dementia, who, thanks to my parents, now have a beautiful, secure, outdoor living space (decorated with many cardinals!)

some of what my dad planned to say:

The family is here today because of Eliza--our granddaughter and Luke's baby sister. Eliza was with us for just short of three years. She had a hard life, and we will never be sure just how much peace she ever experienced. When she died last December, Patricia [that's my mom] and I knew we had to do something in her name, but it would have to help others find peace and comfort.

And then [the Menorah Park CEO] came to our rescue. We had been thinking about sponsoring a garden somewhere at Menorah Park for families to have a place to be outside and to hopefully find some peace during what may be difficult times. She asked if we might consider rebuilding this space for Menorah Park residents and their families who, because of their particular illness, cannot walk the grounds freely and enjoy a sitting area. We think it is a perfect way to remember Eliza who struggled so mightily to find peace, while at the same time finding a way of giving our residents and their families an opportunity to also have some peace and comfort if only for the moment.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

abiding (and apple picking)

I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.

You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.

If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

--John 15:1-8

Thursday, October 8, 2009

of mini-hiatuses and gardens

still here, still thinking...just not much time for writing. but i've got a few things percolating...

in the meantime, we're heading to syracuse this weekend for the ribbon-cutting for a garden donated by my parents to a retirement home on the board of which my father serves. the garden will be dedicated in memory of eliza and in honor of luke. pictures to come next week for sure...

When spring came, the Nice Lady went out and bought a trellis for the seed.
A whole trellis for one tiny seed!
Then she took down the glass and ran a bit of water into it, so the seed could soak.
"This will make you soft and help you sprout faster," she said.
The Nice Lady went to her early spring garden and found just the right place for the trellis.
She put it deep into the ground by her brick wall. At the base, she made a tiny hole with her finger. Then she went inside and picked up the seed, which had grown soft from soaking.
She took it to the garden.
She put it in the hole.
She said, "Good-bye! See you this summer!"
Then she filled the small hole with dirt and patted it firmly with her hand.
Though being someplace soft felt nice for a change, it was dark in the hole. It was cold in the hole.
Don't worry, said the Earth. God has planned something beautiful for you. You will be a green vine with blossoms that scent the air with sweet perfume.
Though it had climbed all the way to the top of the trellis and started up the brick wall, it felt very disappointed. For it knew, at last, that the story about fragrant blossoms wasn't true at all.
Wait, said the Earth. God's timing for you is different.

--from The Trellis and the Seed, by Jan Karon

Friday, October 2, 2009


i realize now that it's kind of like the difference between barbie and playmobil. (ha! ready for this one? hang with me...)

i played with barbies a lot growing up. a lot. (even though my little sister liked to remove, switch, and even compact their heads, which is maybe another story for another time). now, i haven't seen a barbie in quite a while, so it's possible this is no longer true, but back in my day, barbies couldn't stand on their own. their very disproportionate, shaped-for-high-heels, itty bitty feet were useless, really (except, of course, for showing off those fabulous high heels). if barbie was going to stand--to steal a smooch from ken, perhaps, or to walk her little plastic poodle or to model her fantastic new dress--i had to make her stand.

barbie doesn't show up around here. i'm not sure if luke even knows she exists. but playmobil guys? they're everywhere. little policemen, little roman soldiers, little pirates (all with little bitty weapons left lying around everywhere) have overrun luke's room, my living room, my dining room. and they stand up all by themselves. before luke's fourth birthday, i never knew these guys existed. but even the playmobil novice can line up the soldiers or make the pirates walk the plank with no trouble at all. they're perfectly balanced with perfect little flat feet, and they stand up really easily.

the line that stuck in my head last night after choir rehearsal was this one: "I'll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand by My Hand." i fell asleep with those words ringing in my ears, thinking that although "how firm a foundation" is such a familiar hymn, i've never really heard those words before. they do not say that God will help me to stand; they say He will cause me to stand.

like barbie, with her silly little useless feet, i cannot stand (fancy shoes or no) unless i am caused to.

i decided, as i rehearsed this line over and over again, that i'm relieved to hear those words afresh. i am absolutely not responsible for holding myself up. in fact, i cannot. unlike playmobil guys, barbie is not going to stand on her own--even for a second--no matter how hard i work to get her legs positioned just right or her too-big top balanced over her too-little bottom.

but i'm standing. i am. and so i'm grateful. so i breathe a sigh of relief--it's not all my responsibility, after all!--that i'm caused to stand. i am made to stand by Him who made me, and not by my own strength, not one bit. i will lean into that Hand, then; I will rest in Him who causes me to stand.

(and i'm grateful, for sure, that here ends any comparison between myself and barbie.)