Thursday, October 29, 2009

people like us

People like us, we are all and nothing, more and less.

We choose to carry borrowed cargo:
Echoes of harsh words and silent nurseries
Scars from skinned knees and heedless wanderings.

We can't leave it be or keep still
Our bodies resting while our minds are
Tracing the well-worn paths we swore we'd stop walking.

People like us, we love to love too much, and yet --

We run headlong into burning buildings and come out smiling.
We blink into the black night and grasp for hands.
We open our hearts like they're not broken.

We laugh at nothing and the joy is real.
We cry at beauty and are not ashamed.
We sing our secrets to the listening world, people like us.

well, bless my soul

Somewhere in the course of the madness that is the life of a typical four-year-old boy, Nate got a scratch near his eye this week. I am a big believer in the placebo effect, so when he complained that it hurt I rubbed a dab of Vaseline on it and told him that would help. No dice. Plan B was to pray for God to make it feel better. (Really? Plan B? But isn't that always how it goes.) After the prayer, Nate gave me a hug and scooted off to play. God: 1, Vaseline: 0.

Today it was bothering him again, and being a slow learner I once again tried the Vaseline. He waited a moment to see if it would work. It must not have, because a second later he let out a loud, desperate, and tearful cry:

Mommy, you need to PRAY!

Oh my sweet boy.

Maybe this was how he got hurt? Who knows.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

fall(en) beauty

Down the street from us there is a little old couple with a big yard. For as long as anyone on our block can remember, they have grown dahlias and sold them in a roadside stand. I love seeing their yard throughout the year -- fresh green shoots in the early spring, beginnings of blooms in May and June, and brilliantly colored flowers through summer and fall.

But this day comes each year, after the leaves turn and before the first frost, when I drive by the house and it is over. No warning. I wanted a big sign in the yard last week -- "Attention: These flowers will be unceremoniously lopped off and piled along the driveway on October 24. Please say your goodbyes accordingly." But fall must come, and it does not ask permission.

For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. For,
"All men are like grass,
and all their glory is like the flowers of the field;
the grass withers and the flowers fall,
but the word of the Lord stands forever."
And this is the word that was preached to you. (
1 Peter 1:23-25)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

thin places

Places of Light 3, Krystyna Sanderson

Throughout life there are moments - times and spaces - where the distance between the physical world and the spiritual realm is barely distinguishable, where the kingdom of heaven seems to touch the soil of earth. In Celtic spirituality these are referred to as thin places.

Yesterday a string of circumstances put me sitting in a hospital room by the bed of a dear saint - a woman who has seen a lot of suffering in her long years and who is now in severe physical pain from a broken hip. Muriel was dejected, confused, and hurting. She had an oxygen tube under her nose, bruises up and down her arms, and hospital blankets pulled around her fragile frame, but her eyes were what broke my heart.

We read Psalm 103. Her eyelids lowered.

"...who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases... who satisfies your desires with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's... the Lord has compassion on those who fear him... from everlasting to everlasting..."

Her lips moved and her brow furrowed. Tears slipped down my cheeks as I watched her soak in the words, tasting them, feeding on them out of a deep hunger. In that moment there was nowhere else on earth I would rather have been.

I want to be in those places - in the space where God meets us in our utter helplessness and satisfies us. I need to be where people are needy - I need to see my own neediness reflected there, and eat with my fellow beggars at the Table of truth and grace. In the midst of a life so easily sidetracked by selfishness, I need frequent and routine reminders of reality -- that apart from Jesus Christ I am wholly without a hope or future, and without Him absolutely nothing matters.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Monday, October 19, 2009

stand-alone statement

"When it gets to the hard part, you just have to let go."

Who said this, and what did they mean?

Was it a philosopher? teacher? author? artist? pastor?

Is it about dealing with relationships? finding direction in life? working creatively? following Jesus?

This deeply meaningful, wise, insightful, and very true statement was uttered by my four-year-old son, and he was talking about toilets. Yes, toilets. [We stayed at a hotel last weekend and apparently the toilet seat had a mechanism that prevents it from slamming down. In trying to lower it himself, Nate discovered that it was best to let go when it got hard to push it down and it would go the rest of the way by itself. Thus, the gem of wisdom above.]

I am thankful to have heard Nate say this as he was walking into the room and, having no frame of reference, I was granted a moment to interpret it as a free-standing statement. (Unlike Jon, who was with Nate in the bathroom and heard it as a statement about toilet seats from the get-go.) It is true, about mechanized toilet seats and about many other things. Thank you, Nate.

Friday, October 16, 2009

they said it

[While snuggling in my lap at my parents' house, watching - what else? - a Thomas video.]

Me: Dexter, who loves you?

Dexter: Deeza.

Me: Teresa? (his aunt, who was standing nearby)

Dexter: No, Deeza.

Me (hopefully): Jesus?

Dexter: No, Diesel! And I love Thomas and Diesel.

Above: Dexter's beloved Diesel. Below: Dexter playing trains with Aunt Teresa & Uncle Chase.


A few weeks ago, Nate told me he wanted to be a bird when he grew up. Well, that was before Fire Safety Week at preschool. It's all about firefighters at our house these days!

Jon: Tell me about preschool today.

Nate: Well, Teacher K told us that she was in a store and a fireman checked her out... (pause)... kind of like a doctor!

[I checked with Teacher K and got the real story -- She was explaining to the class that firefighters do more than fight fires, so she told them a story about when she was pregnant and got very ill in a store. They ended up calling 911 and a firefigther came and made sure she was OK. The real story is not funny, but we got a good laugh out of Nate's version!]

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

they said it

Time to get the baby book out for a special milestone: Dexter's first lie.

Me: Dexter! Come here, buddy, time to get shoes on.

(he turns around and crawls up the stairs)

Me: (chasing after him and carrying him back downstairs to get shoes on) Dexter, you need to listen to Mommy. I know you heard me tell you to come downstairs and get shoes on.

Dexter: No Mommy, I was upside-down. I couldn't hear you!

I think he maybe meant to say he was upstairs not upside-down but either way it was most definitely a purposeful (though very cute) lie.

I didn't have a picture of him in the act of lying, so here's one of him being goofy at preschool.

Monday, October 12, 2009

the blind man and the burn victim

He gently pats her hand,
sensitively, he imagines.
Is she cold? he wonders, and
shrugs off his heavy jacket,
tucks it carefully about her slender frame.
She is tense.
What can he do? he asks.
She hasn't answered,
but already he is on his feet behind her,
kneading knuckles into neck and shoulders.

She can't tell him -
the agony of weathered skin on blistered flesh
has closed her throat -
a survival mechanism, she imagines.
Even the feather-light brush of
accidental contact is painful, but this -
this incessant squeezing and pressing and crushing -
it may kill her yet.
But oh! he means well.

Later she'll say that it's not his fault:
he wasn't flying the plane when it crashed
and left her like this.
He couldn't see; she wouldn't speak.
Even so, he can't help asking:

Did I not feel her skin slough away beneath my fingers?

Friday, October 9, 2009

october music & art


We Are A Forest Kingdom, Scott Erickson

Last summer 6 up-and-coming Northwest artists spent 2 weeks in Vancouver, BC. They worked, played, thought, prayed, and created in community, and the result was nothing short of amazing. The 25 unique original works that now comprise The Vancouver Project are currently on display at JKPC. For those of you who live in the area, come out tomorrow night for the artist reception, featuring a gallery talk from the creator of the project, Brian Moss, along with two of the artists (Matt Whitney and Jeremy Mangan).

artist reception: the vancouver project
10.10.09 (tomorrow)
7 pm @ john knox presbyterian church

Tara Ward, Revelations of a Blue Jacket. I would listen to Tara Ward sing the phone book, but this album is more than just other-worldly vocals: it's the whole package. When I read that this was a concept album about a girl named Cordelia who finds a blue jacket at a thrift store that changes her life... I'll be honest, I thought that sounded bizarre. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the whimsical story doesn't get in the way of the music, but actually adds wit, humor, and subtle depth to the album. It is available for free download, but if you listen and like please pay the artist what you can (click the "download album" link and it gives you the option to pay).

Justin Little and the Morning, Purple, Blue, then Yellow Fire. Of Justin Little, a fellow artist says: he's 40% Tom Petty, 35% John Mellencamp, 15% James Taylor and 10% Jars of Clay. I think that's a pretty accurate description. I should say that the only reason I listened to this album was that my brother Chase was the head engineer and producer, while interning at Martinsound Studios. Although I'm proud of my brother's fine audio engineering work, that's not what made me put this album on repeat all day yesterday. Listen for yourself, but again - if you like it, buy it and help Justin fund his upcoming tour!

Happy looking & listening.

Monday, October 5, 2009

know i don't

Sometimes I think I know a lot. Then I read Job 38 and realize I don't know squat. And I'm OK with that... sorta. Maybe a list of things I don't know will help me come to terms with my lack of omniscience. Worth a try.

I don't know...

who won the football game
when I'll get around to cutting my funky-looking hair
why they picked Rio for 2016
how long we'll wait to meet our next baby
why I wasted $4 on iced tea and fries at Jack-in-the-Box today
what it's like to lose a grandparent
how many more nights my baby will be up coughing
when I'll see my dear far-away friends again
how many kids we can fit in this house
what we're doing tomorrow morning
why I'm on the computer right now when I could be snuggling on the couch with my love.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

shifting gears

Jennie Young with Besufekad, adopted from Ethiopia through Adoption Ministries of YWAM

I have noticed that sometimes when we ask God what He wants for us -- option A or option B -- He likes to respond with something along the lines of "Neither -- let's go for option C." Isn't that just like Him.

Over the past six months we have been asking God which adoption path he wants us to take -- birthmother or foster-to-adopt. Finally, after lots of prayer and discussion, we have our answer:


In addition to handling domestic adoptions, the agency we have been working with (Adoption Ministries of YWAM) also operates several orphanages in Ethiopia, out of which they arrange international adoptions. We heard about the option to adopt from Ethiopia at our first orientation meeting with our agency, but until a few weeks ago we had not given it any consideration. For one thing, it is A LOT more expensive and a bit more intense in terms of paperwork. But over the course of the last few weeks we have begun to pray seriously about it and now believe that it is the direction God is leading us. In anticipation of some of the questions you may have about this, here is a little Ballast Ethiopian Adoption FAQ:

How long will it take? The agency estimates 9-12 months from the time you begin your application to the time you bring home your child. They told us that this is a rather high estimate - it could be faster if we do our part quickly. Keep in mind that there is NO wait time to get a referral (in adoption-speak this means that there are currently children who would be a good match for our family ready and waiting to be adopted). The 9-12 months is basically just how long it usually takes to do all the paperwork.

How old will the child be? We are asking for a child younger than 18 months. Our agency believes they will be able to pair us up with a child that age right away.

Will you go to Ethiopia to pick up your child? Yes. One of the advantages of adopting from Ethiopia is that, due to the way their government handles adoption, families only need to spend about 5-7 days in the country to complete the adoption. We will probably stay longer though, so that we have an opportunity to travel to our child's birthplace and see the orphanage where he or she lived.

How can we support you? I'm so glad you asked!! First of all, we'd love your continued prayers as we move through this process. Please pray not only for us and the process, but also for our child. He or she is probably either in utero or already born today, and we would love nothing more than to cover him or her in prayer. Later on down the road we may post about other ways to support us, particularly as we plan for the financial aspect of the adoption. We recognize that when a child joins a family, no matter how it happens, this child becomes part of a larger community. We are not adopting alone -- our extended families, our neighborhood, our friends, and our church are all adopting this child too. And we absolutely could not do it without you. Thank you!

they said it

Yesterday morning was rough. I'll spare you the details, but let's just say there were several crises that kept us from getting out the door on time, causing simultaneous meltdowns for all. Super fun. Anyway, by the time we were all loaded up to go to preschool I was feeling some serious Mommy-guilt for how poorly I had handled said crises, and felt the need to apologize to the boys.

Me: (a bit tearful) I am really sorry boys. I didn't mean to get so upset. I love you, Nate. I love you, Dexter.
Dexter: Ooh look, its a tractor!
Nate: Yeah, there's another one!

Clearly they were traumatized.


(rubbing his head) I'm a soft boy.