happiness is ... (take two)

an afternoon walk ...
 to a place called Lilac lane ...
with a boy who brought his scissors (and a feather-collecting box)...
that led to lilacs on my mantel.
And I love the lilacs, I do. But even more, I love it that my kids eagerly go collecting feathers and lilacs. I love it that Finn wants to wear his own bouquet--that he fills his pockets with flowers, and then stuffs them in his sweater's buttonholes. I love it that Willa will sit for hours in the dirt, tasting, drawing, sifting, exploring. And I love it that this is normal for kids--this is just what kids do. I want my children--all children--to love this world, to experience it as grace, a gift from God. I want them to walk on sturdy feet, knowing that they belong here and won't just float away. Finn said the other night, in his nightly prayers, "God, I like this world. Can you make more of it?" Indeed, I want them to know themselves as co-creators with God, participating in on-going creation. One of Finn's favorite preschool prayers goes "God pushed up the mountains, and rolled out the sea. He painted the skies and then made me." But we do it in the present tense at home--God pushes up the mountains, God makes me.

Of course, classic Christianity asserts that this world isn't our home, that we are but passing through, and that we shouldn't let our affections get tied up here. This theology, taken wrongly, can lead to all sorts of problems with wasting our resources and not caring for creation, but holding too tightly to this world leads to problems too.

Last week, a dear college friend came through town last-minute, sharing lunch with us and bringing morels. I didn't take many, since Matt would be away and I assumed my mushroom-shunning children wouldn't have anything to do with them. Finn, however, was intrigued with the idea that Josh foraged for them in the woods, and couldn't wait to try them. The smell drew him right up to the stove, and then at the table, he couldn't stop eating them, exclaiming over and over how delicious they were. And they were--rich and earthy, scented with a little garlic and a little thyme and a little dirt. At one point he stopped and said, "Josh must really love us to give us something so delicious."

More than anything, this is what I want for them: to know deep inside that God really loves them, to give them something so delicious as this world, and at the same time, to trust God enough to be able to let it go when the time comes.


happiness is ...

...a boy newly confident on his scooter ...
...who will hop off said scooter at the sight of flowers...
...and then carefully pick and arrange those flowers into a bouquet...
...a bouquet not for his mama, but for his scooter.


crazy days

Last Wednesday at 10:09 am:
Last Wednesday at 5:56 pm:
I know this isn't really abnormal for spring in the midwest, or many parts of the US, for that matter. It was more fun than anything--waking up to snow, rushing through breakfast in order to get out before it melted, warning my son that there wasn't enough snow for a snowman, being proved wrong. And then, of course, coming out into the blessed sunshine after naps, taking a walk in the suddenly mild weather.
But the day still called to mind one of my favorite compline prayers, a prayer for those of us who live where not only the weather can turn in an instant, but our lives can too.
Be present, O merciful God, and protect us through the hours of this night, so that we who are wearied by the changes and chances of this life may rest in your eternal changelessness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
And that is my prayer this day, knowing that many of my friends (and us too) are facing changes both good and bad: new jobs, new homes, new babies, new classes--but also knowing that even good changes can be wearying. May we rest in God's changelessness, friends, knowing we are not alone. May it be so for us. 


right now

Right now, I am :

:: remembering Easter a year ago, spent atop Doi Suthep, a magnificently gold temple outside of Chiang Mai, Thailand, and the fun and beauty we found in clanging the long row of prayer bells.

:: remembering also the Easters of our first married years, spent at a church in Pittsburgh, and particularly the tradition of bringing a bell to the service. These bells were muffled and quiet until after the Easter proclamation, and then were rung with abandon during the first hymn. Especially after the long vigil service, with its readings and darkness and quiet, the wild ringing was such a visceral way to experience Easter, exploding the sanctuary with joy.

:: refraining from stopping my boy from clanging the Easter cookie cutters I hung from the mantel, remembering that he, too, needs tangible ways to express joy and excitement.

:: hoping that our friends do indeed make it onto their flight from South Africa to visit us this week.

:: yearning occasionally for the lightness of our Hong Kong life, a lightness that didn't come from HK as much as from our transience, and a lightness that left more room and time in our lives for experiences, since there was so much less stuff.

:: thankful for the ways our life here is stabilizing and deepening: the little projects around the house, the growth of friendships, the occasional sighting of someone we know around town.

:: dreaming of, and planning for, a garden this summer! full of food to can and otherwise put away for next winter: tomatoes, cabbage, potatoes, carrots, onions, garlic. And a bean tent for fun. And chickens!

:: delighting in the sunshine of this Easter weekend, even if the temperatures didn't quite match the sunshine, and the colors surrounding me everywhere I look.

:: looking forward to leftover grilled lamb sandwiches for lunch.

:: listening to my boy sing sweet, made up lullabies to a new stuffed bunny.

:: wishing a happy Easter Monday to you all!


we could go for a hike

I was standing in the kitchen, furiously wiping the counter and listing off all the tasks I had yet to complete that day: bake a cake, take a shower, go to the store, clean the bathrooms, and about twenty more I can't even remember, that's how non-essential they were.
Matt listened, then calmly said, "Well, we could go for a hike."
And after I finished laughing and muttering something sarcastic about how helpful that was, I realized he was completely serious. And that he had already started packing a bag and putting together a picnic.
So with more than a few misgivings, I went. I went, knowing that philosophically speaking, this was a good thing. After all, I believe in going for hikes even when there's a lot to do. I believe in getting outside. And I definitely believe that we should look back at spring break remembering more than how many tasks got done. But I didn't really want to go until my feet actually hit the ground and fresh air hit my nose.
And it was great. Of course it was: scrambling over rocks, climbing on fallen logs, navigating new terrain. When Finn was a baby he didn't cry a lot. But when he did, if we had any trouble soothing him, we took him outside. Something about the fresh air just calmed him right down, and it still works today, for him, for all of us.
Here I am now, Sunday night, just a few precious hours of break left. I'm thankful for all we did over these last few weeks--visited grandparents, celebrated Finn's birthday with cousins, saw lots of old friends, hosted new friends in our home. And yes, lots of tasks got done too. But mostly, I'm thankful for the time outside: the hikes, playing in the sandbox, running around my parents' backyard, planting radish and spinach seeds. I'm thankful for the sun on our faces, for the dirt on our fingers, for the sand in the hair. I'm thankful for the treasures that come home with us, for Finn's newfound love of foraging edibles, and Willa's newfound love of pockets. I'm thankful for the way that physical space seems to give us emotional space too--breathing space--and how this can help tricky relationships be just a bit easier. Thanks be for this beautiful world, and all that it gives us. And thanks be for those people who help us remember to get out there and enjoy it.