New York, Day Four: Bigger Things

Ichabod’s woods are indeed
Haunted.
He was right, though ridiculous,
To jump at every eddy.
Haints and witches abandon a
Gorse-grown stoney field
And melt back in to old, old
Woods,
To titter at our cluelessness.
On a wet stone we stand,
Once a top step.
Who stood on that stone,
Home and
Relieved at road’s end?
The almost-home stone.
The Woman’s respite stone,
Work half done, her eyes
Drank in the pond downhill,
Thistles and thorns and damp.
She saw the bigger things.

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Back Porch Devotions in September

Wing-whir and squeak
Of the resident hummingbird.
Mr. with a band of white at neck and tail –
A collar and tennies. His four-spouted feeder,
He says,
Is three spouts too many.
Scritter and crunch of two squirrels.
Brothers. Frenemies.
Chasing each other for
Possession of one pecan among ten
Thousand, in figure eights around trunk
And limb-split. Siblings obviously.
Dove whoo. Shell pieces dead-fall
Onto the tin porch roof
As the siblings truce to tap open and eat
Pecan meat.
Silent things add their inhalations and
Exhalations to the glory chorus;
Butterflies catch the early sun-slant on orange
Wing and light on a taller zinnia.
Chipmunks hug the ground, never looking up,
Intent on the earth.
Silent, too, are birds in flight, a feather ruffle on landing.
But from their tree-y houses, though lip-less,
They opine with
Consonants and vowels:
Chee-chee
Screet-screet-screet
Kack-kack
Kitter-kitter-kitter
Caaaaw,
Answering one another
Impatiently, mothers with a work day ahead.
Cicadas trill on a sleepier key than they will
This evening. It’s early yet.
~

Teacher, What Would You Rather Be?

What metaphors do you think of to illustrate a teacher’s job? I recently came to see my teacher-self as a doorkeeper.

A doorkeeper gives entrance, opens doors, to what lies inside. What lies inside is desirable, even splendid, enough that there is a door in front of it. All splendid objects lie behind doors. One does not wander in and handle a relic like produce at an open market. There’s a door. And there’s a keeper.

Students then are knockers. As such they must themselves knock and walk through the door. Whether they know to value what’s inside or not, they have to summon the courage to knock and the resolve to walk in and take up the values of those already inside. The keeper does not do any of this for them. Perhaps the keeper models by her very presence at the door the abiding preciousness of what is inside. But the keeper only opens. And then perhaps takes the knocker’s hand and says, “Look!” 

Maybe a doorkeeper does a little more than this. There is the word ‘overqualified,’ and perhaps an experienced teacher might be called overqualified to be a mere doorkeeper. But who better than a master of the treasures inside could so deftly make a door attractive? Who better than a friend of the owner could convince busy people, young or old, to pause and consider that what’s inside is worth their time? 

Have you ever made a list of desirable attributes in a doorkeeper? I haven’t. If I were hiring a doorkeeper, what adjectives would I look for? Alert. Eager. Sensitive. Unprejudiced. Listening. Glad. Strong. Passionate. Prompt. Expert. Active.  And attributes I would avoid in a doorkeeper? Pushy. Selective. Wheedling. Bribable. Arrogant. Lazy. Nonchalant. Unaware that though he is a keeper of this particular door, he is a knocker himself at many others. If I am applying to be a doorkeeper, this list is an interesting self-analysis. And if I want to be a teacher, a good teacher, then this list is a thought-provoking twist on the usual items on a resumé. *As an English teacher, I cannot help picturing, and laughing at, the bawdy, hungover doorkeeper in Macbeth 🙂 

This morning, I ran across this verse, “For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.” Psalm 84: 10.

 I would rather be a doorkeeper. 

Discussion Questions: (I would love to hear your thoughts!)

How, or would, you tweak this metaphor for elementary, middle, high school, college, or adult students? Special needs students?

As phrased above, the doorkeeper gives entrance, that is, the doorkeeper does not block entrance or select who enters. The job is opening, not guarding. Do you agree? Disagree?

Ponder the phrase from above: ‘ . . .and take up the values of those already inside.’ What are some of those universal values? Specific values? Unifying values?

What attributes would you add to the lists of desirable and undesirable doorkeeper qualities?

Explore the idea that every doorkeeper is also a knocker.

How broadly can this metaphor be stretched? Could it apply to anything from children’s Sunday school to workplace meetings to lectures and even to instructional writing?

Is a doorkeeper still necessary in this day of ‘everything at our fingertips’ internet access? If so, what exactly does a doorkeeper do that the knocker can’t do on his or her own?

Is there really a door? If so, what constitutes the door? How does this idea of a door resonate in our current era?

One Month ‘Til Wedding – Tips for My Friends

Abigail Grey Photography

We are in the home stretch toward our second daughter’s August 11 wedding and trying to keep it all in perspective and learning as we go. If you have daughters or sons and can benefit from this little reverie, good.

I am daily remembering to enjoy the process. Because. . .

Planning a wedding is an orchestra of art, economics, theology, relational dynamics, and Pinterest. I decided going in that I would roll with it and enjoy each of these facets individually.

Because I only have two daughters. I only get to do this twice.

And declare as I might that I will be frugal and that the budget is the budget and so on, there is really no getting around the basic seven or eight realms of a wedding.

Thus, I find myself managing all the realms like the CEO of a company, weighing options, one eye on the artistic vision, one eye on the bottom line, moving notecards around the design wall when suddenly out of nowhere I remember my wee daughter is about to become a WIFE for goodness sake. And I stand still for a second. Ah. These are the pains of childbirth Genesis foretells. They last as long as motherhood does.

She will call me on the way to her first big-girl, pre-wedding doctor’s appointment, and I’ll say, ‘Bless your heart, my child.’

As the CEO, wedding planning is like setting up a temporary company. Very important, very urgent, then very over. As one husband said to the giddy women in the aftermath, ‘I think people have moved on.’

If that beloved daughter wanted to get married in less than 8 months, I would tell her the truth: “I’m sorry, dear; it can’t be done.”

If two of my children want to get married within a short period, it can be done, but it’s way off the charts and only those with nerves of steel can manage it. (Sue? Donnette?)

I remind myself of the only point of all this preparation: a ceremony that glorifies the Lord Jesus, that centers on Him and the union of this man and this woman in Him. This simplifies and un-Pinterests the whole thing beautifully and bears writing large on the cover of the wedding planner. Which is a good gift idea for friends with daughters.

A second goal is that everyone in both extended families feels honored and thanked for coming. A wedding is all and only about the people, the families and dear friends and traveling guests and the pillars of local friends without whom the whole event absolutely would not happen.

And on that note, the process is so very humbling. I look at the RSVPs and think, Wow, you’re really going to drive all this way?  You’re really going to spend hours in church shoes, for us? Thank you! Here, have a canapé!

A second child’s wedding will be a little more expensive than the first child’s. This is not out of partiality but out of fatigue. The jet-lag is still fresh on my mind from wedding one, so this time around I know to hire it done. I can’t do it again. I don’t feel guilty. The first child will understand sooner or later.

And in so doing, I will meet people like the incomparable Judy Pitts of Top of the Town who, with a few tweaks and suggestions, turned a floundering mother of the bride into someone who felt like she had a handle on things. And turned a detailed planning meeting into spiritual encouragement. And advised peanut butter sandwiches for the children. A master of her trade.

I have learned, too, that starting at about 3.5 months out, I will need to do something every day. Big or little. Put the hotel info on the wedding web page, or buy Spanx and break them in, every single day must be some degree of forward motion toward The Date.

Because The Date functions as a little BC/AD on the family calendar. It divides time like a cleaver. For several months before The Date, a thousand home-improvement projects, from obscure to stains-on-the-ceiling, are hit and accomplished with vigor, and the Pinterest dreams are grand. And then there comes this critical tipping point at which they are all seived through the practicality sifter. Completion looks doubtful. Then the operative phrase becomes, “Ok, that will have to be after the wedding.” And progressively the project list dwindles to a reasonable goal of sweeping the back porch.

The list of the big 7 or 8 realms mentioned above? I say ‘realms’ because each has its own bubble diagram of lists, decisions, choices: Date. Venue(s). Invitations. RSVP method. Dress. Color Scheme. Wedding Party. Wedding Party Apparel. Director (you canNOT do this yourself, seriously, you think you can, but you can’t). Music and Musicians. Flowers. Photographer. Program. Reception menu. Reception Decor. DJ or Band. Playlist (no bad words, and include some awesome 80s dance tunes). Cakes. Cake Topper (not important to everyone but definitive for me). Hair decisions/Appointments. Hostess gifts. Hotel and lodging for travelers. People’s Needs and Feelings. A Thousand Odds and Ends. This is just a quick sampler. So maybe it’s not 7, or 8, but 78.

And like the five points of Calvinism, these are all interdependent; individual parts cannot be plucked out and discarded. One depends on the other which defines the next. It’s a system of all or nothing.

It is irreducible complexity. And even here in the home stretch, awash in to-do lists, it is totally worth it.
~

 

Freely Rejoicing In Your List – One Woman’s Journey

Home from Walmart
Laden and bagged.
Paper work I had
Asked Andrew to take to the
Church sat forgotten on the
Kitchen table.
Same instant, snap!
I realized I had
Forgotten to buy trash bags
He had asked for.
A wry little moment as forgettable
As the paper work and trash bags
Themselves. But, I thought:
‘Wait, this is deep!
His list was not my list,
And my list
Was not his.’ Couldn’t be.
Extrapolate.
Lists are the just the
Endnotes to the soul’s
Manifesto; they are as distant as
Capillaries from the heart, as
Chores thrice removed from
The great goal.
Revealing, though.
And we each possess our very own.
What a personal God we serve!
I don’t write your list or
Calibrate your
Passion.
Humbling, that. Instead,
Freely, I can
Rejoice in
Your list.
What peace will
Break out then!

Prayers On The Eve Of Hard Things

 

Lord, I call out to your steadfast love,
To the honor of your name,
To the might of your arm,
To the rebuke of your enemies,
To your love that leads through deserts,
Foes, floods.
I look to your face as you see my distress,
To your ear as you hear my cry,
To your heart as you remember your covenant,
To your arms as you enfold me in steadfast love,
To your skin, very skin, of compassion, of pity.
You, O Lord, are the Amen and the Holy, the
Holder of Tomorrow. In those same hands,
Cup my thankful praise of
Your goodness.
~