30 Years Together, Part Two: NYC and Points North

Today we hit the road to celebrate “30 Years Together – Part Two.”

Part One was the body-punishing first attempt at cross-country skiing back in February – a satisfying trip in terms of character and accomplishment. Pain is good, we assured each other. And the woodland trails were lovely.
30 Years – Part Two will be different in that our destination is not the working man’s Midwest, but the working man’s East – NYC and Queens! And while we will hike our feet to nubs and our joints to arthroscopic anguish on the concrete trails, it still won’t hurt like falling on cross-country skis. I know this.
So here’s the plan:
We will leave Dixieland on Sunday, September 30, after church. Andrew will preach and I’ll teach and then we’ll load the CRV with probably the most wrong-headed clothing for October in the the upper East, and we’ll drive as far as we can along the spine of Virginia. Our camp stove will supply the coffee that beggars all others including that Seattle liquid. Behind a Circle K or at a rest stop picnic table, a cup of our coffee is like a drill instructor setting the cadence. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b65RQtL4H3Q
And then, Monday, October 1, my happy birthday, we’ll make that giddy trip over the Hudson River into Manhattan right at Midtown and over the East River to Queens and check in to our Airbnb in Long Island City that has parking included!! Perks, and whatnot.
We look forward to Asian, Italian, Jewish, and Middle Eastern food in Queens.
A visit to our son-in-law’s high school, St. Francis Xavier, near Union Square.
Time with Ben and Kim Kaufmann, kin and friends.
A visit to the Cloisters up Riverside.
Another walk along the High Line because it’s really awesome.
And then!
We’ll leave the teeming city and visit the campus of the United States Military Academy at West Point, for Andrew. Once we get there, I’ll buy the T-shirt and really be enthusiastic about it, because I’ve always wanted to be a hero on the battlefield, ‘stomach of a lion’ and all that. But my heart will be feeling the call of the next stop which is for me.
Stillmeadow in Southbury, Connecticut. Home of Gladys Taber, a soulmate author and homemaker who lived, wrote, and homesteaded in the early years of the 1900s. Her books are little oases of pleasure in undistracted things.
And then!
We will continue north to Pine Plains, NY, and Fat Apple Farm. A Farm to Table Dinner in October replete with butchered meat demonstrations and yoga classes and art opportunities. Since I read Washington Irving”s “Legend of Sleepy Hollow” in American Literature I’ve dreamed of visiting the Hudson River Valley in October. Irving’s lush descriptions draw me: apple-mouthed swine on platters surrounded by every root vegetable known to New World pioneers, pies, gravies, and all the denizens of the barnyard converted to plump Sunday dinner. Add Sunday morning worship in Kingston, NY, at a reformed church plant, and what more could you ask from a 30 year anniversary trip??
We will keep you posted of highlights along the road. And we declare ourselves to be unworthy of all the blessings which our Lord showers on our heads.

~30 Years In: A Tableau~
I’ve been sewing in the dark for the last few days because the switch for the lights over the big table shorted out and died its death. We’ve discussed it a few times and so today I casually said, “I put in a call to So and So Electrical to get on their schedule.”
Understand, I had no manipulative motives here.
Him: “Oh, no. I can do this.”
Me: “Ok, but I thought when you went up into the attic you discovered that the wire has no play on it and without electrician’s tools (whatever those are) you can’t replace the fixture.”
Him: “Well, I’ve thought about it and I think I can do it.”
Me: “How?”
Him: “I don’t know yet, but I know I can.”
Me: “Okaaaay.”
Him after work last night and three trips to Marvin’s: “Ok, come stand over here one more time and holler when this wire wiggles.”
And wouldn’t you know, he did it.


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:
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.

Reflections On A Second Alabama Wedding

Glorify the Lord with me! Weddings are a blur of color and emotion. Occasionally, the blur lends up a still shot. Here are a few still shots, all out of order.

Zinnias. Filling garden and vases, zinnias from Don and Judie did their thing all over the place.

Christ Covenant Presbyterian youth on the dance floor. Close to heaven is the sight of young ones celebrating music and summer and God’s good plan for a man and a woman and the sweet knowing that their turn will come.

The groom’s father, Roger, ended the rehearsal dinner with the doxology, “Praise God from Whom all blessings flow!” Someone write this down in the ‘wedding traditions’ book. It was a profound benediction.

Sandy Jurgensen’s smiling face. She doesn’t know how many times in my life her smile has buoyed me for the task ahead. Deep lesson here. A friend doesn’t even have to do anything but be there and smile. It steadies the feet and anchors the ship. *Note to self.

Post-wedding laundry. Andrew’s cousins lived in Zaire during their childhood and tell of the ‘washjack,’ or the laundress. I felt for the washjack as I washed, dried, and folded every towel and sheet for two whole residences – ours and the house where the groom’s party stayed. Thank you, Brad and Sue, for use of your little slice of heaven on Smith Lake. On that note, our favorite part of the whole wedding event was two days later, swimming in the lake and falling sound asleep on the dock, no towel, hot decking beneath our backs as the final laundry tossed in the dryer. Bliss.

The wedding dress, all lush and white and laced with girlhood, hanging ready in that girl’s room in the dreamy calm before the first arrivals.

The obligatory ER visit on wedding day. I woke that morning to find Andrew gone. Two hours later he was still AWOL. Finally he wobbled in, covered in blood, six stitches in his right middle finger, and a circus balloon for a hand. He had pitched forward on a downhill part of his run, split and bent backward his finger, crept into the house to get his keys without waking the bridesmaids slumbering on pallets wall to wall, and taken himself to the ER.

Doing the Electric Slide at the reception with Peaches. Peaches is the groom’s aunt, or ‘auntie’ pronounced ahn-tee, his mother’s baby sister. She patiently tried to teach me her smooth, fluid, yes, even elegant, dance moves. The spirit is willing but the flesh is white.

Carter James, the three year old ring-bearer, in a tiny blue suit. Seeing that little man walk head-up and unafraid, downright interested, through a sea of happy faces, made the solemn groom smile big.

Two young girls I raised alongside their mothers, my daughter’s best friends. Callie and Leah. Callie, artistic and lovely; Leah, loyal and 5 weeks from delivering Cindy’s second granddaughter. These girls are women now and how they stepped in to do women’s work! One of the unexpected blessings of growing older is to watch that sacred baton pass and to see how ready the next runners are and to know God did it and will continue to do it.

My sibs! Walking out of the bride’s room a half hour before the ceremony, nerves and adrenaline like cicadas at twilight, I see my fam and I know, Ahhhh, I can do this because they are here.

Grant Mallard, Baby G, a mere 8 weeks old, with his sweet restlessness and his little perfection managed to distract me from the nerve song and to lend a measure of life perspective as I awaited Denise’s direction to seat the mothers.

Instagram. Thank goodness for Instagram. I love social media. Without intruding on the tender early days of them establishing their marriedness, I got glimpses of the groom singing love songs to his bride on a Miami night. Goal-post hands!

No one will ever hire me as an event planner. I ran out of water at last year’s wedding and seating at this year’s. Oh well, let them eat cake.

And my daughter, in ivory lace, coming in to How Great Thou Art, going from my child to a man’s wife in a blink. No gradual processing when your child gets married. Nope. You basically get the length of the church aisle to let her go. Later at the reception someone said, ‘Wow, your son-in-law can dance!’ My son-in-law. I have another son. No wonder it has taken me all week for my brain to relax. This is no small thing.

The wedding folder has run its course and is as retired from duty as this Mother of the Bride. Next wedding for us will be the smile-and-be-quiet kind.
Praise God from Whom all blessings flow!







Song To Keep On Walking This Side Of Heaven

Your statutes have been my songs

in the house of my sojourning.” Psalm 119:54

Yes, Lord, that your word would be my song, 

That I would sing your word as I quarter in this house, 

That your word would last longer in me than even I do,

That you, your name, would receive bright glory 

As your words are sung in notes over the reaches of the earth.

That those who grieve with tears today

Would find those very tears turn to healing ointment,

Filled with You.

That doubts would be exposed as the enemy’s 

Faulty weapons, dulled and off-mark.

And may your words be my songs

In the house of my sojourning.

Another Great Thing About AirBnB (And Beanie Babies)

Two blonde buttercups from
Topeka stopped in last night,
Ages Two and Four,
With all of life’s accompanying
Highs and Lows. Bless it!
This adult home rang with
Little beings, who wanted salad
And didn’t want salad,
Who followed their hearts and scampered
Diaper-free for a little minute,
Who intuitively embraced
The magic in a bag full of
Beanie Babies – my one ace to help
Them through their 5:15 dinner hour.
The bag held frogs, rabbits,
Fish, bears, puppies, pigs, and
Species indeterminate.

Two hours later, while we dined on our
Thai curry to saxophone covers,
And Topeka Mom and Dad had
Wilted into bed, done for the day,
A little popsicle-pajamaed
Inquisitor came exploring.
Golden hair awry, carrying her pink ‘wee,’
She simply materialized, a personality,
A being intact,
And sat on my lap and discussed life.
Memories, voices, of my three dark-haired
Loves who
Rode their own highs and lows
Within these walls.
And Oh, their babies yet to come.

Time is a trickster. All is gone so quickly,
And all is just ahead.

When the buttercups headed out
To see Grandma at the beach,
And I went back to clean the rooms,
Beanie Babies,
Each to their kind, reposed
In rows
Against the pillows.

Such thought
Went into their placement
I want to leave them –

Beanie Babies ordering their world.



Watching The Cross

Not often, but stunningly when it happens,
I see a minute of Jesus on the cross.
My grief for Him is limited because
I am not gripped as He was with
The joy set before Him.

And as for God watching His Son
Bleed and tremble and anguish,
That does get me closer to
What it cost Him.

I had a dream last night that the
Bad Guys of Dreamland (you know them)
Had come and cut off Will’s fingers.
He was kneeling
On the kitchen floor, bleeding,

And somehow as I absorbed his pain
Into my heart, this weird dream knit
Me together with my Heavenly Father
As He willed and watched the cross.

And it made me love Him.

What It Is To Be A Mother

On becoming a mother
I contract to:

Exchange my nerves for your peace;
Give my body to yours;
Lay down my time to decorate yours;
Day-labor for your future so it’s ready when you get there;
Feed your heart with Truth, and your mind with Good,
And your body with health;
Stay awake when you are sick in body, or soul;
Wait restlessly for your whispered ‘Hey, I’m home’;
Sleep lightly when you sleep;
Feel every one of your slings and arrows first, for you,
Dream for you when you don’t know how to,
Understand you always,
Learn to listen to you,
Cheer for the smallest big accomplishments,
Toddle beside you and laugh and cry,

And to feel like all of this
Is the best present I’ve ever received,
Better than a day spa,
A lottery win,
A title,
An honors stole around my neck.

Thank you. For being born.