Back Porch Seminary

I am a Christian.

And I am waiting for something.

To say I have no control over the situation is to say all.  The USPS and the airlines and the individual mail carriers on their good days and bad and the cars they drive and the wind and the rain and the butterfly wafting his wings in the rainforest have more to contribute to this than I do.

So I, the wait-er with no part to play in the delivery of documents through 14 hours of time zones on a firm and approaching deadline, sit in the seminary of the back porch and wait.


I tell God in our time together that I know He sees the documents in their dark and obscure mailbag in the hold of a plane that is somewhere in all of Asia.  The papers in their fat envelope, one of a million similar envelopes, are as lit up and on top of His desk as His angel itinerary for the day.  This is so true and so comforting.

And then without conscious choice, I forget that He, Himself, is the divine Mail Carrier who appoints delivery on a perfect schedule.  Instead I go sit in the what-ifs of three months from now assuming the documents never arrive and plan B is my responsibility.

Then His word calls me back.  And I read that His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom:
Your throne, O God, is forever and ever.”   Psalm 45: 6.
And His name and His praise cover this earth – this earth and this back porch:
As your name, O God, so your praise reaches to the ends of the earth.”  Psalm 48: 10

Pondering His absolute sovereignty, I look up at the pecan trunk that crumbled and collapsed in last night’s wind.  With it went the slumbering woodpecker fledglings and now daddy woodpecker, the beautiful one, is as distressed as Rachel who wept for her children but refused to be comforted because they were no more.

I also listen to this morning’s addition to the bird chorus – our neighbors’ adult grandson who is profoundly autistic.  When he comes to visit, he strides their backyard and screams incoherent distress to the heavens. He is part of the morning chorus.

And for a moment the lost documents pale beside the magnitude of the grand redemption story we are in.  Sorrow and glory always entwined, and glory triumphant.  With the certainty of the story’s end, there is no getting wrong this chapter about documents delivered or undelivered.  He will make right out of whatever happens.  How could it go wrong when the kingdom is an everlasting kingdom?

But the deadline is tomorrow, and . . .

His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom!

Even the tiny world of the back porch confirms this.


A Thousand Little Throats


This morning I was on the porch a little earlier than usual.

The sun had not yet crested the ridge to the east, so the thick trees and bushes and grasses were still shadowed and jade gray.  No gold showed yet; no beams came in low through little openings in the crepe myrtle, oak leaf hydrangea, and Japanese maple.


I didn’t catch the first ray pouring its thin line on the grass.  I only realized it had arrived because of the bird chorus.  A thousand little throats, just doing what they were made to do, what they couldn’t help but do – herald the morning and its Creator.  Such variety!  Such depth and width.  Such harmony.

Three kitten-cats chased each other through the greening dawn as if hired specifically to illustrate “Cat Siblings At Three Months.”


And I with my Bible and coffee, feet on the wicker table from my mother-in-law from her mother-in-law.


Thoughts lead to thoughts.

And I knew my friend Jill, whom I was meeting soon, was on her front porch with her Bible.  And my mother was on her back deck with hers.  And you were in your spot with yours.

And it hit me what a prayer-soaked hour that is when we are all doing the same thing.  What a powerful hour!  What praise and thanks are lifted up to God.  What petitions are made for those we love, for those in pain, for those who don’t know Him and we long for.

That hour must sound to God’s ears as beautiful and harmonious as the bird chorus that heralds the suncrest over the ridge.

Lord, use the unified song from a thousand little throats
in the early morning
to do your mighty kingdom work!


Whole30 – Day 24 And Still Truckin’

Remember Amway?

I am about to sound like their earnest followers of 1979 who claimed that “once they were into Amway, but now Amway is into them.”

If I acknowledge this up front, if I am aware of it, then you know I am still in my right mind and not trying to get you into a pyramid scheme.

Day 24 of The Whole30 and, in a nutshell:

I like it.

I like shopping the walls not the aisles of the grocery store.  I like eating food that God ripened to readiness, and all we’ve applied to it is a little heat and a fork.  I like the un-goopy feeling of eating meat, fruit, and vegetables.  And, as any woman will attest, the tiniest movement toward physical health wakens the possibility of beauty that seemed lost.  Crepe shirts and pedicures and ruby drop earrings, yes, I believe I will.  And stand up straighter and dip into the back of the closet and into the far regions of the jewelry box and out of the routine of one pair of denim shorts and the magnolia stud earrings I’ve worn for two years.  Honestly, who doesn’t want this, or need it at 49 and 2/3 with one child left in the nest?

We’ve gotten better in the kitchen, and it isn’t destroyed three times a day.  We even entertained a family of five tonight for dinner and never mentioned the Whole30.

The Whole30 travels pretty well, too.  The trick of Whole30 on the road is not in finding a compliant restaurant; it is in trying to be gracious, to order unobtrusively so that all the relatives at the reunion don’t hear your clipped, specific instructions to the waiter:  “Chris, I want a grilled chicken breast and some steamed asparagus.  Make it happen.”  This option is nowhere on the menu, of course, though it seems so simple to do.

But Chris has dreams of his own, and he wants a glowing review on the on-line survey offered at the bottom of the receipt.  So he calls your attention to it in the aw-shucks way meant to appeal to any mother of a son.  I am on to his wiles, but he manages to make a cameo appearance in our vacay video.

And he makes the grilled chicken/steamed asparagus happen, but it is expensive and, no surprise, doesn’t begin to fill you up after nine hours on the road and a thunderstorm on I-10.  So you have spent a lot and eaten a little but followed the plan.  And that’s pretty much the way each day on the road goes.  It is very possible, but more expensive to eat less, which is a little disgruntling. And you will be hungry a lot because some vacations are so busy with events and people that you can’t get to the store to buy fruit and nuts.

Oh well. You will live.

What about the reception buffet with sandwiches, pasta salads, and baked beans?  Eat the meat off the sandwich. Choose the slaw – yes, there is probably a little sugar in the dressing but one has to ingest something and I am committed to being unobtrusive in the food moment.  Select a pickle, one Swedish meatball to demonstrate your full-fledged camaraderie, to say “I’m over here killing these meatballs.  Anyone want to join this party?” And all the fruit tray you want.  See?  You have successfully avoided the pasta salad and the pound cake and no one has noticed.

At Day 24 it behooves one to begin thinking about what’s next.  Here’s what I’ve decided.  The only thing I will change is that I will allow myself more 2% milk in my coffee, and will happily reintroduce the scant 2 inches of dry white.  And popcorn, because looking forward to a bowl of popcorn is how I make it through February’s game 32 of a 50-game high school basketball season.  Is it just me, or is each game and the season itself longer and colder than a calving iceberg?  If I hashtagged, it would be #keeptheclockrunningformercysake.

Well, that about sums up Day 24.  I have bought the T-shirt, so to speak.  And, as an aside, I predict that Chris the Waiter’s dreams will come true.


The Whole30, Or Becoming Mrs. Patmore – Day 16 Update

Day 16 and the honeymoon is over.

Becoming Mrs. Patmore
A better name for the program would be The WholeDirty as that describes the current state of my kitchen.  Or at least what my kitchen would be if I didn’t slave at it.  Remember all the kitchen gadgets required?  Every crevice of them has puddles and splatches of frappéd organic matter.  Onion skins bond hydro-chemically to the tile floor. Peels and pith and stem ends of yesterday’s choppings tuck under the microwave and rot with vigor.  The Whole30 kitchen is a happy compost bin.

It dawned on me as I unloaded the dishwasher for the 1000th time that while I yearn to be a kinder more likable version of Downton Abbey’s Lady Mary, what I have become is Mrs. Patmore.


I am still committed and still enjoying feeling healthier, but this is a full time job.  If I am not chopping I am cleaning, and if I am not cleaning I am looking at the clock knowing that I am an hour behind on the next fresh original real succulent dish.  During the school year, when I dreamed of summer it wasn’t me standing at the kitchen sink.

Keeping the Stiff Upper Lip
All the old habits and conveniences of quick fix are deep, and breaking them incites actual anger.  Which is amusing because there is no one to get mad at, at least no one logical. I chose this myself.  And general undirected anger is a funny thing to watch, even in one’s own self.

I guess I could get mad at Melissa and Dallas, the cofounders of Whole30, but that’s like getting mad at the physical therapist for being stern.  “Do you want the use of your arm back after surgery? Then do the 15 supination stretches, or not. It’s entirely up to you.”  Well, if you put it that way . . .

I mentioned character building in an earlier post.  Character isn’t built with the first lean plate.  It’s built by continuing.

There’s the rub; Day 16 is about being grumpy with no one
to be grumpy at, but choosing to continue.

Plus I am accountable to you now.  I reached for the peanuts the other day and you were watching – all 5 of you, four of whom are my mother under different pseudonyms.  And the look on your faces said, “Seriously? After all your big talk?”  So I didn’t eat them.  Thank you.

No cravings thus far, even for a massive bowl of popcorn.  Like smoking (I assume), eating popcorn is more about the hand to mouth pleasure, rather than a love for popcorn itself.  So perhaps even as few as 16 days can break some of those habits.  That’s been one of the main benefits for me so far – interrupting bad habits long enough to recognize them and then to form better ones.

I do miss the occasional 2 inches of Pinot Grigio.  And I confess to succumbing twice in these 16 days.  The Whole30 creators say I must start back at Day 1 each time I do that.

How about we compromise?  I’ll add one day at the end for each time I show such appalling lack of character and self-control.

So at this point I am at Day 16 of The Whole32.

Believe me, having to add a day will be a very effective incentive to do things their way.  I repent!

I need to begin thinking about Day 33, or what I plan to do after this.

Meanwhile, I am off to a reunion with the ladies of our family in sunny Florida.  I’ll let you know how The Whole30 works on the road.   And if the media begin tracking a pod of frolicking porpoises off the north Florida coast, it’s just us.