There was nothing to say, but plenty for the hands to do.  I cut vintage fabric, lace, and paper into long strips and wrapped them around rough-cut bars of soap, finishing with jute or sea grass tied in a simple bow, the ends dangling over the side.  I cut the craft paper labels and affixed those.  Piles and piles of “dressed” soaps, tucked into paper bundles, swaddled in bubble wrap, and sent to all over the United States.

And just like that the weeks passed with the smell of hot glue and essential oils, with the continual littering below my drafting table of paper and fabric bits.  With the baby continually sniffing at the soaps, crinkling his nose with delight.  And my soap shelves grew bare and sparse and I marveled at it all; this unexpected provision from a hobby gone madhouse.

image1-6 image2-3 IMG_2728 Though we were unable to establish an online shop yet, the email orders came flooding in.  It was good timing; I’ve been ordered to rest and all but my hands have obeyed.  I sat at my drafting table and worked and worked without tiring out my heavily pregnant body.  And it’s been a good distraction from counting down the weeks until baby’s arrival.

It’s quiet and fulfilling work and it feels like a gift.  There’s flexibility and variety and creativity, and remarkably, a profit margin.  Usually my work in this world brings every good thing except a paycheck.

I was surprised as the days passed that I had no words for here; I had my quiet work and a quiet heart.  The snow is falling outside, the children playing there turning it all into a magical blank canvas upon which to create.  The baby sleeps deep and the turkey bakes with the smell of orange zest and rosemary.  And my words are few, but come from a grateful, quieted heart.


When God Says “See?”

I am the queen of wet hems.  I lived for six years in a climate rainier than Seattle without ever buying the most practical of footwear for said conditions:  boots.  I’d see those classy ladies in their slick knee-high boots, all cozy in those leather tubes of dryness and elegance.  Meanwhile my jeans would have a creeping margin of damp crawling up the ankle, causing the heavy fabric to pool and scuffle along the dirty sidewalks as I tried to avoid the deeper puddles.

I tried to shop for some boots, but every time I was repulsed by both the price tags and the hard-won knowledge that footwear sold in Chile was often poorly made unless it was an internationally known brand, which threw it up into the untouchable price range for a missionary gal with damp hems.  Fast forward to life in the United States, with it’s fair share of damp and snow and I trudged through four years more with wet hems after several failed attempts to locate used boots at thrift stores.

It’s funny the things you think about in the shower.  It was Saturday morning and I was thinking through what to wear on my feet for an outdoor wedding in November that evening.  It was to be cold and I had nothing that fit into the categories of both warm and formal.  “Man,” I thought, “If only I had some boots.  It always comes back to boots.”

Why didn’t I just go buy some?  Well, because our tenant left us $4,000 behind in rent along with a $400 unpaid water bill, and we just paid school taxes on both properties, that’s why.  I can’t even go to the grocery store, much less buy footwear.  We don’t want credit card debt, so we just sort of doggie-paddle to keep afloat by living from our freezer and pantry and the food I’ve canned.

So I prayed for boots.  Why it doesn’t occur to me that God cares about me being perpetually soaked each rainy day is perplexing.  If I, sinful and small, make sure my children are cared for and properly attired, how could I think that God would not wish to care for my needs?  I prayed for boots to walk into my life and dethrone me as queen of wet hems.  It felt silly to pray for such when there’s things like starvation and disease and natural disasters wreaking havoc, but I did.

Twenty minutes later I was settled into our faded blue wing chair with my laptop checking Facebook.  I had a message from my husband’s cousin’s wife Deanna, written about seventeen minutes previous:

“Hi Sarah, What size feet do you have? I have a lovely pair of black boots and I am trying to find a good home for them.”

Folks, you just can’t make this stuff up.  I replied:

“Oh my word. This is too funny, because even if the size isn’t the right one, I just prayed when I was in the shower that God would help me to have some boots for winter (we’re broke at present and I don’t own any boots). I am a size 7 1/2 or 8. I am smiling at God’s hilarity.”

I had the most startled and grateful feeling warming my heart.  God was there, right there in the shower hearing my words and He was moving.  He wanted to bless me, surprise me, remind me of his loving care and kindness.  He wasn’t going to make all our problems go away, but He was going to add a sweetness in the trials, a gift.  Deanna wrote back:

“Well, this is perfect. Now these are not work boots, but they are tall riding like boots which are pretty snazzy and without a tall heel. they look like they have only been worn a few times and they are size 8. We got them out of one of the storage units we cleaned out. We can drop them by after church tomorrow and we can leave them at your door if you are not there. Will that work?”

IMG_2766I came home from church the next morning to these lovely Ann Taylor size 8 leather boots which fit like they were made for me.  Alongside was a whole box of size 2T boy clothes, something else I had been praying for as Henrik grows.  I gathered my kids around me and I told them this new story in our family history, about boots and prayer and a God who listens to His children with stunning compassion.  How God is not a cosmic vending machine who doles out nice things if we insert prayer, but rather, He is a surprising, loving Father who likes to remind us now and then in special ways that He sees us, loves us.

And yes, Father, I see You, I see Your kindness to me in this special gift of boots, of dry hems, and renewed hope.  Thank You.

Doctor’s Orders

Doctor’s Orders

“I have confirmed white coat hypertension,” I said with all seriousness as the young lady slid the blood pressure cuff around my arm.  It’s one of those things, like blushing, where one can see an emotion triggering a physiological response.  I fear that my blood pressure will read high, and so, it obliges me by doing so.  The numbers on the screen cause eyebrows to lift.

One brilliant nurse two weeks ago had lowered her eyebrows and told me to close my eyes.  “Where’s your most relaxing place?”, she asked.  “My family’s cabin in Montana, right down by the Dearborn River.”  “Okay, I want you to hear the water, see the mountains, imagine the trees and just be there.”

I felt silly and couldn’t keep a smirk off my face, but I obeyed.  I looked at the picture in my mind, heard the river’s gurgling song, saw the light catching on the ends of pine needles.  She took my blood pressure then, and the numbers came back perfect.

So this week after the high numbers had alarmed once again they told me to lay on my side and rest, taking the reading again afterwards.  Perfect.  The doctor looked me straight in the eye and said, “You need to rest more.  You are working your body too hard.”

I knew it was true.  I had been overworking my eight months-pregnant body trying to keep up with the demands of life with four littles.  Lots of cleaning, lots of laundry, lots of cooking and baking.  The pre-winter chores of pruning the trees and roses.  Organizing baby clothing up in the attic.  The stuff of life that simply needs doing.

_MG_6397_MG_6350IMG_6369But as the last of the birthdays has been celebrated with gusto (and a cooking class per Reuben’s request), and…

IMG_2707…the bees no longer need me puttering about (and my suit is maxed-out anyhow), it’s time for more of…

_MG_6382 …letting other people help out…

_MG_6346 …and doing more of this:

IMG_2688…doctor’s orders :).


Scarves, And Dark, And Glitter

I wrap my black wool coat around my protruding belly.  The top buttons close of course, but a gap opens wide just below and it always sort of looks like I’m a lady shoplifting a basketball.  I reach for my scarf, all it’s soft houndstooth goodness hopefully bringing some visual distraction from the fact that my coat does not close.

It’s the morning dark and I gather it as evidence that Christmas is in the air and I’ll be having this baby soon.

I am not one who minds the Christmas Creep; you know, the emergence of Christmas music and decor in the stores right after All Saints Day.  I love the coziness and sparkle and magic of Christmas and the longer my eyes and ears get to feast on it the better.  But this year I am particularly motivated to deck the halls; see, baby is due December 25.

IMG_2720 Salt dough ornaments painted and be-glittered.  image1  Up-cycled used ornaments glued onto a thrifted wire wreath.pomander Pomander.

Christmas music has been playing, glitter has been sprinkled liberally, and the hot glue gun is getting a workout, and I need these signs that birth is about to happen, just nearly here.

This little one within strains and kicks and pushes and my hand is only an inch away, and how I long to hold and kiss those feet that rest on my ribs.  I long to know, do I have another daughter?  Another son?  Who are you, little wiggler within?

I have grown to scorn the pumpkins and mums and dried corn and all things Fall.  Enough orange, bring on the red and green!  Bring on the snow and the sweaters and the mittens and the cookies (ahem) and the cozy dark which wraps our houses and makes our windows little squares of warm light.  Bring on the infant tucked warm and secure against me under a handmade quilt while the wild winds blow outside.

I think of Mary.  Of traveling and stress and the stable and giving birth alone, far from her mother and friends who could give her support.  Looking into a newborn’s eyes for the first time is breathtaking enough; how would it be to look down into the face of God Incarnate?  Immanuel, God With Us.  Oh, Mary, how was that?

I ordered a most special thing this year (and told my husband that it was my Christmas present from him, how thoughtful of me, hmm?).  It is a handmade Advent wreath made by Caleb Voskamp, and it has 24 candle holes to mark each day of Advent in a wooden spiral.  A wooden figurine of a pregnant Mary on a donkey accompanies the inward march of the candles.  It has an extension too to observe the 40 days of Lent, with a wooden figurine of Christ bent under a cross.  It’s quite beautiful, and I can’t wait to light the candles day by day as I anticipate a birthday and a birth.

_MG_4776And I hope I wait well.