July 11th, 2014

Simple pleasures


This week, my mind was preoccupied with the news of the world, including the story of the 50,000 children who are trying to get into our country and all of the politics involved in that. No matter how one views immigration policy in the U.S., the question remains: Who is going to care for them? How can 50,000 children be at the mercy of us? 

When I had Liesl eight years ago, I didn’t think that I was bringing my firstborn into a world that was better to be avoided. I don’t think I felt this with the birth of my second born just five years ago, though certainly I knew the world had its troubles. But I feel that now, and I feel the acceleration of change, and it disturbs me. In fact, the world and its ills is not a subject I can meditate on too long before a bit of anxiety begins to creep in. Better to meditate on Jesus.

I saw a friend yesterday, and during conversation she related how she told her nine-year-old that throughout life, we have to partner with people we don’t always agree with. She said she used to think she could do things on her own and avoid these difficult partnerships, but no longer. This, for many reasons, was a seminal reminder for me to hear.

The Thinks’ photographic challenge this week had a word prompt for lately. I took a silly picture of a prank the girls had set up (they’ve lately been trying to play tricks on Charles and me), but the truer lately is that lately I want to return to a simpler time in history. (Please don’t burst my bubble and tell me such a time never existed).

In any case, last weekend we departed from normal routine and went to the late church service and got beignets beforehand. This weekend, the schedule is packed, but I’ll look forward to as many quiet moments as it brings.




July 1st, 2014

End-of-month miscellany (a day late)

This morning presents our first summer morning when we have had nowhere to rush off to. June saw us through three summer camps and cloudy and rainy days that kept us Austinites in amazement. Only yesterday did it heat up to the higher 90s with full sun. 

Summer, in a new way, has seemingly begun.


I wish I could say that I’ve been thinking a lot. We’ve been watching the World Cup at pubs and at home; reading has been sparse; screen time — as the kids call it — too plentiful. Yesterday, I finally attempted to sit my children down to some summer schoolwork. They called me Miss Geiger and raised their hands sweetly. It was like playing school for them.

In thinking what to do with them, I happened upon a Beatrix Potter study, and I’m going to attempt to lead them through lessons centered around her life and writings. She was a scientist (something I never knew), and her children’s tales about Peter Rabbit and the others came about initially because she wrote the tales in letter form to a sick child she knew. I’m imagining we’ll study some fungus (as Beatrix liked to do), sketch animals, read her books and write about them, and tend to our little herb garden in the back with Peter and Flopsy and Mopsy in mind. We’ll see how much I — the mother who ever comes up against her limitations, ahem! — can actually pull off these next few weeks. My vision may be grander than my execution.

There is one thought I’ve had, and it’s something from a book I’m reading too slowly but enjoying each time I pick it up. In Cider With Rosie, a man (Laurie Lee) reflects on his childhood in England at the end of the war. He describes the village myths about characters and places that haunted him, and I feel nostalgic for the kinds of demons that live in bedtime shadows rather than the layers of trouble I see in the world now: rapid change, troubled politics, cultural wars, and a general lack of understanding that makes parenting in this day feel so hard to navigate.

Lee writes also of being awakened by heavy rainstorms at night only to have his mother give all the children a broom to sweep the rushing water away from the flood-prone house. He writes of the war’s end, “Peace was here; but I could tell no difference… . It brought no angels or explanations; it had not altered the nature of my days and nights, nor gilded the mud in the yard… . The garden still offered its corners of weed, blackened cabbages, its stones and flower-stalks. And the house its areas of hot and cold, dark holes and talking boards, its districts of terror and blessed sanctuary.”

I marked this passage because it speaks to me of being sanctified, I think. We are here among our four walls inside, the chipped paint, the ailments of the body; and outside the corners of weed wherever they grow press on in districts of terror and blessed sanctuary. Still, grace calls for pleasure and enjoyment — a gift — and that’s where I try to file my prayers these days.

Liesl on the last day of string camp, dressed as a toucan

Mathilde, too

World Cup hope — go US national team!

A bouquet from the wild, untended garden

June 27th, 2014

We keep going, sometimes in tears


Earlier this week on a morning when we had no groceries in the pantry, I got the girls dressed and took them to Quackenbush’s for a breakfast treat. After eating, we dropped Liesl off at her string camp nearby, and Mathilde and I decided to wander a bit. We thought we’d make our way to the park but didn’t because the mosquitos got to us a bit too much by then. I enjoyed Mathilde so much. When she is feeling full like she was that morning, she could charm the whole world.

She surprised me last week when she spoke in a new way of the jealousy she feels for her older sister. When Liesl was being doted on for a bee sting she’d just suffered, Mathilde let out: "I don’t want any sweetness! I don’t want my birthday. I don’t want my birthday presents. I don’t want all that. I just want the smallest crumb. I don’t want pretty things. I don’t want my lemonade. I don’t even want a crumb!"

It was a lament so tearful and full of sorrow that it brought me to my knees after she’d kept going on with it. In the end, we cried together, and I told her that I want her birthday. Her birthday matters to me. And I want her to have sweet things and beautiful things.

In all the ways I pray for Liesl that she will know the freedom she so much desires, I pray for little sis that she will be full of the Lord and know that she is loved. This, because of her tears. What two little people they are, but how big are their heart-needs. Mathilde’s emotional honesty is so great that I will cry worse if the day comes that she masks what she feels. 

I came to Psalm 126 recently at the behest of a friend. And as I read the psalm this week, I noted that the streams that the people seek are like desert streams. Negev means dry. I don’t know if it’s just a little bit that the people want (for how plentiful could water in the desert be?) or if the request is asking for everything (for even a little water in dry deprivation would make the difference between life and death). Either way, the Israelites are asking God to take them to a place where, in trouble and tears, they knew what God had done and how he was the rescuer.

In tears we abide. And from tears, as Charles Spurgeon has noted, “Here the truster becomes a sower.”

When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dreamed.

Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy.
Then it was said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.”
The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.

Restore our fortunes, Lordlike streams in the Negev.
Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy.
Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them.

A few photos from our morning follow. 









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