April 15th, 2014

Rules of engagement


Trying to capture the moon at dusk

Mathilde has been sick since last Thursday, and she seemed better the last few days but broke out in hives yesterday, and again this morning. She went to work with me yesterday instead of to school, and we went off to church then for a Holy Week service where the pastor’s homily focused on the kind of battle that Christ does: merciful, forgiving, and sacrificial.

The middle of the night had her up having bad dreams, which caused a 2 a.m. wake up. Lucky timing, as I then got Charles and Liesl up to see the lunar eclipse. We sat out in the chilled but not-too-cold air just outside the back porch to watch the orange globe become slowly obscured by our own earth’s movement in front of it. My little photo does not capture its beauty, and my little mind does not fully understand such wonders of nature and science.


The moon, at 2 a.m.

Waking up a bit tired this morning, I tried to send Mathilde to school today so I could enjoy a day to myself (!). I’d planned to go on a long walk around the lake and do next to no house cleaning. But before I could go off on this kind of lovely but self-indulgent adventure, the school nurse called: Mathilde’s hives did not go away, and she was complaining of being itchy, so I needed to come pick her up.

Now, after a stop at the Redbox DVD carrier, and with Frozen and a Barbie movie in tow, we’re back home, and my walk will have to wait. Now, I might as well tend to the laundry.

Lent is coming to a close this week, and my final meditation is how there’s not much that we can claim as our own. I realized in church a week or so back that the liturgy we speak at the beginning of the service confirms that it’s not we who make ourselves, but God. I don’t think that this confession diminishes the gift of our wonderful humanity (yes, we are full of amazement and great creativity), but it’s maybe helpful to note that anything we hold on to is not really ours to begin with.

We started Lent with the acknowledgement that from dust we begin and to dust we return. But dust and dirt (though humble humus) is not only just. Humus, in soil science, indicates stability, richness, and maturity. Spiritually speaking, returning to dust (daily, sacrificially) exalts one much more than the best false pride. My husband re-tweeted something last week that I keep thinking of and which speaks to the rules of engagement:

The way you disagree with people illumines what you really believe.

In the best kind of battle, love covers sins; and the strength of the weak pays glory to God.


Mathilde signing into her class this morning (before going home)

April 11th, 2014

From the sky


imageMathilde got feverish on Wednesday night, and I noticed it in her eyes first. It’s funny how you can tell a child is sick just by looking.

We were home yesterday (anticipating a visit from a dear, old friend), and sometime in the morning a man in a white pick up truck stopped in front of our house just as we were getting out of the car from an errand. He had a warm face and asked if he could mow our lawn for pay. I usually turn away people like this (because we either do the lawn ourselves or let it get too weedy in neglect), but I accepted yesterday because I had a sense that I was in a position to help someone who seemed to be a sojourner.

He spoke almost no English and clearly was driving around neighborhoods hoping to eke out a living for that day. He introduced himself as Maurino. I said Suzanne, and then Susanna, my name in Spanish. And I worked alongside him for some of the time, raking up leaves and telling him which plants to mow and which to leave. (There is a great big bushel of sunflowers in the backyard that will soon bloom. I told him in fragmented Spanish phrases I remember from high school to leave those flowers un-mowed.)

Later in the day, our friend came for an overnight stay, and I put out a new candle and a bunch of flowers in the guest room; little things I could do that felt to me like an act of love.

Charles called this morning with some good news we’ve been hoping for for a very long time, and Mathilde now seems to have pink eye, so we are going to the doctor soon.

The earlier part of this week was so unsettling: Physically (as a result of allergies), and emotionally (as a result of persistent arguments with others).

Yesterday morning, though, I had the first sense of interior peace all week. There was a plane in the sky that I saw while we were driving home from the grocery store, before I met Maurino. The plane didn’t seem to be landing in a usual way but looked more like it was being gently lowered down from its high heights with extra provision or intention. That image is inexplicable here, maybe better suited for a poem:

a visual cue of things going along as they should, mercy that all of life ever works and doesn’t crash, that things can and are (sometimes or often?) good.



March 30th, 2014

End-of-month miscellany




Sometime before spring break, I got really bold and put my name in the hat for a blog series about living with children (in which the well-known blog author goes on a kind of home tour with the interviewee of the week).

Charles thought I was crazy when I told him that I’d entered myself as a candidate (and he was proved correct when she silently declined me), because all of the homes and people this blogger has profiled to date have had a very upper-middle-class quality to them. My boldness, then, came out of the way I reconcile a daily reality of seeing how our older home sometimes feels shabby or threadbare and in need of too much upkeep with my desire as wife and mother to create in it as much beauty and order as possible. So among the preview photos I sent to be considered for the series were a few that, though odd, feel representative of our home: a closeup of a Christmas ornament that hangs on our kitchen wall and always reminds me to hope, and a detailed shot of our kitchen window, upon the ledge of which is the limoncello bottle from our Italian honeymoon of almost 12 years ago. While I would’ve tossed that bottle out with the recycling years ago, Charles has always wanted to keep it. And it’s things like that in our home — rock collections, empty bottles that to me look like junk but are full of nostalgia and memory — that have the most story behind them and best testify that we four who live together come with such different hearts, struggles, and desires, and that the web of all that — when lived in love — is where the true beauty is. While there is nothing designer about our home, there is much that is spirit-designed and ordained. And that trumps any surface beauty and any surface mess; and the heart of our home (any home) is squarely with those we share life with therein.

And I loved how, the past week or so, Mathilde declared that she wanted to see God; and how, when she is afraid of monsters, I told her that her name means warrior so she can fight them (and so she did!); and how we rode the city bus downtown to the Capitol on a day when plumbers were working at our house and had given us a good reason to go on an impromptu adventure. This, just a few more months before she starts a five-day-a-week kindergarten schedule. Life with her at this stage is to be slowed down and preserved.

And how with Liesl, we experience her inquisitiveness, as she carries a science notebook and does field sketches and puts labels to what she sees in the world around her. She grows, too, but in a different way than her little sister. It’s her emotional world that is expanding, and she is in our orbit needing to be nurtured still and understood.

This month, too, Mathilde started crossing off the days on a calendar that she got from school. There are thirty Xs for the month, all made by her hand, and this is some kind of unique liturgy.

In Kathleen Norris’s words: "It is in the ordinary, the here-and-now, that God asks us to recognize that the creation is indeed refreshed like dew-laden grass that is renewed in the morning…"

Making Xs on the calendar, giving goodnight prayers and kisses, reconciling and counting all that is so.

Last, in the sermon today, the pastor said something to the effect that it’s not in ease where we’re known to be loving; it’s in persevering through dis-ease, through all that which is unlovely.

And there was something in Ephesians, too, Be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love. 




But I've got a girl in the war, Paul
The only thing I know to do
Is turn up the music
And pray that she makes it through.
—Josh Ritter