Even The Grays

It has been a week of clumsily wrangling table cloths and bedsheets over my flowering peach and nectarine trees in a futile attempt to save them from freezing into fruitlessness.  It has been a week of hunching over an old kerosene heater at midnight in the greenhouse trying to coax some robust heat out of it to keep the seedlings from certain, cold death.  It has been a week of washing poop out of underpants with a toddler who has no interest in potty training.  It’s been a week without a single order for soap and all the questions that can kindle.

It has also been bright.

Mr. Mango, our beloved parakeet, has begun making word-like utterances, much to my over-the-top delight.  Tobias has learned how to grin mischievously.  My daughter comes home from her long bus commute with a handful of poems she writes on the way; often springing from topics she’s learned about that day in history class.  Sunflowers, dahlias, and coxcombs are coming up in the seed trays, lifting their leafy hands up to the sun.  My boule bread has been turning out quite good, and we’ve cut down on our food bill via creative means.  My bees are still alive.

My daughter was asking me about hair dye.  She wanted to know why I rarely use it (I highlighted my hair in Chile, oh, six years ago or so).  I fanned out a handful of my hair in my hands.  “Look at all the colors.  Browns, blonde strands, copper.  Yes, gray too.  I don’t want to miss this, from bright to dark, even the grays.”

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It may not be a fashionable look; I may look older than I otherwise would, but I find some delight in looking my age, my thirty-six years of life under the sun.  I make no argument against dyeing of hair; just saying that I like to watch the march of time of browns and blonds and grays, right on my own head.  I don’t want to miss what the transition between youth and middle age looks like; I do not want to look perpetually young in anything but my childlike delight in life.  I welcome my years; would that I could kiss God’s feet in gratitude for all they’ve held.

As regards these days of both trials and blessings, I feel the same.  It is me, yes, bent over the toilet, swishing feces out of underpants for the third time in one day.  It’s me!  It’s also me that gets to hold my dear son, all cleaned up, and teach him the names of colors, and hear him mispronounce them, and smile all the way out to my ears.

I’ll take these days, these bright ones, and grays too, with great gratitude from a full heart, for God has dealt kindly with me.

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Bread, Butter, Coffee, Joy

broken4It never takes all that much

to fill the soul to over-brimming

spilling joy

if levels be near the top; if the depths have risen.

But to that one

with empty cavern yawning

all good things fall soundlessly

to an imperceptible bottom.

Swallowed without digestion.

Oh, dear one

here I glory in my bread

butter

coffee

and baby’s sounds

while your tears fall on a sunny day right steady.

I would tilt my overflowing heart

and spill it into your famished one

but it doesn’t work that way, does it?

No.

Knees hit the floor and the ache in them is a holy pain.

“Fill, Father, where emptiness

and misery

and darkness reign.”

When He fills, dear one

you’ll know it

from

the startling green of an everyday leaf

the song that water sings meandering into the gutter

how the wind glides over your bare arms

as a caress

the shock of joy over simple bread and coffee

Almost like an assault upon your senses

the world in all it’s common beauty

smells, scenes, faces, all

is lit within, see it?

We were meant for such living, even

East of Eden

Even through a glass darkly.

Such is His signature, see it?

Joy.

The Management of Blessings, or Monday To-do’s

Monday is looking at me.  There is laundry to do and fifteen pounds of apples on my counter wondering whether they’ll ever be made into sauce and canned, and there’s a whole basket of quilt patches that want to be a baby quilt sometime before the baby comes or before my belly is too big to allow me to reach the sewing machine.  Both bathrooms need to be thoroughly cleaned, and more tomatoes need picked and processed before they drop and rot in the garden.

I can’t help but smile.  See, most of my work involves the management of blessings.  How about that.

_MG_5079_MG_4736 IMG_1632 IMG_1915I am blessed, blessed beyond measure.  And here goes my Monday-List-Of-Praise…

God, thanks for….

-the laundry piles; evidence of Your provision of clothing.  How grateful I am that my children have shoes and socks and underwear and pants and all they need.

-the dirty dishes in the sink; clearly we are eating each day and being satisfied with good things.  So many do not have that daily joy.

-the canning and preserving workload; how You have overabundantly blessed us and the work of our hands in the gardens.

-the dirty bathrooms; that we even have two of them to take care of, that we have ready access to sanitation and cleanliness, clean water to wash with, thank You.

-the little children that need my care seven days a week; I don’t have words, but You, Lord, can read radiant, heart-bursting joy in my soul.

I say nothing new here; I repeat what I’ve said before, and what countless others have said, and said better than I, before.  But I remember hearing that we don’t so much need to be always learning new things, but instead bringing back to our minds the things that we’ve forgotten.  Like God’s daily goodness and being thankful.  Like rejoicing in all things at all times.  Like knowing that God gave work as a gift before mankind fell.

These things I remember this Monday morning and I smile and head to the laundry room.

Thirty-four Reasons

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Surprise birthday party in Peru; one of the most festive-heart warming-delightful birthdays ever.

Thirty-four years, 1,000’s of reasons why I’m ever so grateful, but let’s go with thirty-four, eh?

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1. My parents, Sharon and Richard, who love one another unpretentiously, simply, and well.  Their strong marriage made for a secure and loving home for us kids.  Speaking of us kids…

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Photo Credit:  Amy Miller Coe

2. My big sister Michele and big brother Ricky.  These.  Two.  Oh, the shenanigans.

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3. Best friend of all time, Kristy Plummer.

4. Finding God and falling in irreversible love with Him.

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5. A year in the mountains with these people where a heart-held faith grew strong.

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6. Marrying this man, this very good man.

7. Friends in Canada, friends in Pennsylvania, friends in Montana, friends all over the world…too many to list.

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8. My babies, my dear babies.

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9. Family.

10. Fresh salsa.

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11. Life in Costa Rica.

12. The simple pleasure of playing board games with the closest of friends.

13. Playing in the ocean….for….hours.

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14. Big, old Mexico and how much I’ve gotten to see of it.  And taste of it, mmm.

15. Living in Chile for six years…are there words for that sort of gift?

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16. Silver medal in women’s lightweight doubles in the 2009 Chilean Rowing Nationals with my friend Carmen Gloria Bustos.

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17. That dear Carmen Gloria, who taught me to push through the wall of pain.

18. Avocados.

19. Snorkeling with bright fish.

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20. Flying through the water with a massive wing span in gorgeous Chile for years and years.

21. Teaching the Bible and seeing God move in people’s hearts; glory.

22. Every. Mashed. Up. Dandelion. That my children give to me with love all shining in their eyes.

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23. These ladies, these Hostetter ladies, and our many memories together, including going to an observatory in the desert in the middle of the night, pictured here!

24. Parmesan, gouda, cheddar, mozzarella, pepper jack.  All cheese.

25. Bazaala Mubili Anania Kiggundu, our Compassion child in Uganda, who is a blessing to us.

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26. Road trips, like this one above, to Torres del Paine, to the Strait of Magellan, to the….

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27. The uttermost part of the earth, Ushuaia, Argentina, most southern city in the world.

28. Backpacking, camping, hiking, ambling in the woods.

29. Banana splits.

30. Good, deep reads.

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31. Honduras and waterfalls all-out-of-proportion.

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32. Cusco and all that terra-cotta magic.

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33. Machu Pichu, a dream fulfilled.  And that none of my children fell down the cliffs.

34. This life, this imperfect and holy and beautiful life.  Ah, God, thank you.

It Was Bound To Happen

A post about cloth diapers.  Yes.

Well, more than that, but it started out there, while I drove to a stranger’s house to divest her of eight whiz-bam-mercedes-benz-of-all-cloth-diaper diapers.  They were a craigslist find, being that these particular cloth diapers cost $18 new (each, holy moly).  I was getting all eight, plus a ton of absorbent inserts for $40.  And this had me quite giddy.

This won’t make sense to you if you’re familiar primarily with disposable diapers.  Maybe you even complained about changing diapers, even with those paragons of ease!  Well, before I had these big thick rectangle ones.  You tuck the middles in and position under the baby and fold the top edge over to fit the baby.  Then you either pin them shut without skewering the dear baby or attach these hook-like rubber grabber thingies (that was articulate, wasn’t it?).  By now the baby has gained a bahooney the size of Texas, but you aren’t done.  Then you must wrestle these plastic covers over the whole hot mess too.  Baby is now shaped like a pear.  Unfortunately, modern baby clothes don’t have ample diaper areas like in the old days when everyone had a pear-baby.

So, my friends laugh at my bootie babies.  Especially if they’re wearing those snug jammies.  Hilarious.  But, I’m saving the planet and all, so there’s that.

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So, these cloth diapers; they are like luxuries for me…all you do….is snap them on.  Wa-laaaa!  Done!  Baby still has a booty, but not a mega-booty.  And they’re lined with soft flannel that keeps the moisture from sitting right next to their skin.  Lovely.  Now I’ve lost you; I’ve indulged my delight in cloth diaper-related minutae; sorry.

Here’s my real point, well, okay, right after this picture here…

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That’s one filthy, happy little boy.  So, yes, my whole point, what I was bound to really say:  it’s the simple pleasures.  Like not having to fold and pin and stuff a diaper into plastic-y pants.  Like having your feet in the mud and your mama all delighted about it, no matter how much wash she needs to do afterward.

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Eating by candlelight.  Kissing a baby’s smooth cheeks.  An inopportune toot (and all the suppression of giggles and mounting mirth in everyone’s faces).

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Playing badminton in your pajamas.  Being smacked in the hind end by your sister while you play badminton in your pajamas.  Did I mention, in the front yard?  It’s the little things.

Can you feel it?  God’s smile?  We know about His glory, His grandeur, His perfection, His justice, His grace, His awesomeness.  So too we should know His smile, His treats, His gifts a-plenty.  The longer I’ve walked with Him, the more I see His delight in giving, in blessing.

I had a bald eagle land four feet from me in Alaska, where I was clam-digging in the wet tidal flats.  Bent over as I was, we were about eye-level.  He was eating the broken clam that I had tossed to the side of me.  I couldn’t breathe.  He was so majestic and so immediate.  Glory.

The gifts are assorted.  But they are all of them messages of love.  Oh to think of it, God, so thoughtful, so kind.  What gifts, small or large, has God sent you today?