Monday, October 10, 2011

on being a garden

Not tender care, not careful tending.

Not water or sun or food.

Not knowledge or wisdom or experience, nor the putting into practice of such things.

Not gardening.

Just seed and scattered intentions, met by a hull-bursting, ground-breaking, stalk-raising Force

Neglected and abandoned, but a garden still.
Forgotten, overgrown, unweeded, unwatered, unkempt--
and a garden still. Fruit-bearing, even.

Beauty besting death, a harvest of grace.

Come and see what the Lord has done,

taste his goodness,

walk in abundance,

and run in freedom,

a garden still.

[for WCT.]

Saturday, September 17, 2011

an LA girl's guide to seattle


The Drive-Thru Coffee Stand: These are everywhere here because no one wants to get out of their car and walk into a store to buy coffee in the rain. The coffee is cheap (I see $2 for any drink any size advertised often), but typically not terrific - you get what you pay for.

The Snobby Organic Fair-Trade Artsy Independent Coffee House: The cups are made out of compostable plant materials, there's probably not a menu, and the baristas may or may not shower weekly, but the coffee is awesome. And expensive.

S.tarbucks: I was not a big fan of the *$ before moving up here, but it is such an institution in these parts that one has to make a conscious choice to resist or else be sucked into its gravitational pull. I looked around the room at a meeting last week and there were 7 S.tarbucks cups at a table of 11 people. It's part of the culture. I'm OK with it (i.e brainwashed).


People in Seattle are nice. We are polite and we mind our own business. We will let you ahead of us in line at the grocery store if you only have 3 things in your cart. We smile and say hello to each other. However. We are fiercely independent and private and not very good at forming deep and meaningful relationships with each other. Consider yourself warned: it can be a hard place to make close friendships and build community. Not impossible, just hard.


The drivers here will make you bonkers. We are too nice (see above), to the point of actually being dangerous. We slow down to 40 mph to let you merge in front of us from an on-ramp when the surrounding traffic is going 70. When you put your blinker on, we will actually let you in. Don't freak out! This is normal here. You should also know that since we are a bunch of tree-huggers, lots of people choose to bike, bus, or carpool to work. For some reason the rush-hour traffic still sucks though.


Compared to LA, the overall 'feel' of Seattle culture is chill. There is still a lot going on and plenty of things to do, but everything is just dialed back a few notches. The music scene is fun - there are always plenty of live shows happening and tons of big artists make Seattle a regular stop on their nationwide tours. Even though our weather sucks, we are a city that likes to be outside. You can tell who the tourists are because they are using umbrellas -- locals just tuck their hair into their North Face jacket and tough it out. The little subcultures of the different neighborhoods here remind me of certain parts of LA (if a bit scaled down): West Seattle's packed real estate and beach-front shops are reminiscent of Hermosa, Wallingford's hipster yoga moms would fit in Silver Lake, and the combination of industrial areas, low-income housing, and beautiful waterfront neighborhoods makes Renton a sister city to Torrance.


I am not sure I'm very qualified to speak on this subject since I'm not exactly Ms. Fashionista and these days I barely ever interact with people who don't have spit-up on their clothes... but I'll give it a shot. I think Seattle 'fashion' (using that term loosely) varies a lot depending on the neighborhood and demographic. In some ways it is more casual than LA (i.e. you will not find very many Jimmy Choos walking down 5th Avenue carrying Bloomies bags), but in other ways it's not (we do
not wear daisy dukes, bikinis on top... ugh, I love to hate Katy Perry). Jeans with Ugg boots (or Costco knock-offs, in my case), a hoodie or cardigan, and maybe a cute scarf thrown in would be considered a decent outfit. Also, whatever you would call a "jacket" in LA can only be worn on the nicest of Spring days here, and you'll probably still be chilly. Don't bother buying a coat until you get here or you'll just end up buying another one by the end of October.

I'm sure there's plenty more to say, but that's all I can come up with for now... For what it's worth, I did love LA... but I adore Seattle and now I can't see myself living anywhere else. Welcome to Rain City, ladies!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

big enough

Two strong convictions have been steadily building throughout my journey of faith:

1. There is only one way to God the Father, one way to salvation, one way to freedom, one way to life as it was meant to be lived, and that is through the person of Jesus Christ: his life, death, and resurrection.

2. There are as many ways to pursue, experience, and receive the person of Jesus Christ as there are people in the world.

My sister is soaking up his grace through Dani Johnson's teachings about success.

I am drinking him in through Wendell Berry's words about failure.

He is more than big enough to be revealed in both.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

labyrinth stories

I have a thing for labyrinths. We came across this one on Orcas Island last weekend and I sat in the grass watching my kids, snapping dozens of pictures on my phone, feeling full in my heart. They are not high quality photos, but I dare you to look through them and not hear all the stories they tell. Crawling, walking, waiting, resting, watching, crying, disappearing, turning, chasing, carrying each other: this is us.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


My garden has utterly
run amok.

Then again
other things have been tended carefully
and are coming right along.

Friday, July 22, 2011


Just before dusk I am out to pick the raspberries. They are barely tamed, teeming with fruit and tangled in heaps over heavy-burdened lengths of twine. They are mine.

But they're not, because I am almost nothing to their thriving lives: not the seed-sower, not the grower, hardly the keeper, only the blessed reaper am I.

Fat with juice, a tap to loose a ready berry and it bounces happily from hull to bucket bottom. I crouch in the rich old soil, thankful.

The carrot seedlings fed the evening rabbits, though I tried to tend them faithfully. Theiving crows snatched up the sunflowers before a single sprout could see its namesake. My hands' good work, a feast for scavengers and nothing for it.

Nothing for it, but a bellyfull of raspberries.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


I am on a two-night streak of making dinners that are A) not pizza or hot dogs, B) made from ingredients (not frozen, canned, or boxed), and C) enjoyed by the whole! entire! family! Sadly folks, this is blog-worthy.

Last night I made this pasta salad and we took it up to the pool. Jon declared it one of his favorite meals I've ever made (granted, the poor guy was starving because he worked late and ate lunch early). The kids ate every bite, it kept well for leftovers, and it was crazy easy to make: definitely a keeper.

Tonight I made Pioneer Woman's Marlboro Man Sandwiches. Quite possibly the first time I've made beef and not just tolerated it but actually loved it. (Perhaps it was the stick of butter? PW is the Paula Dean of the internet, love that woman.) I have a feeling that with a houseful of boys, this recipe will serve me well over the years.

What are y'all eating these days?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

a letter to my imaginary frenemy

Dear Madame,

I am breaking up with you.

Now before you get all angry, let's remember that I made you up. You are not real. You are a composite of all the best characteristics of all the women I've ever met at the park, or seen at Target, or stalked on the blogosphere. You have recently washed hair and cute shoes. Your children stand quietly in line at the post office and have never watched Disney Junior. You always return phone calls, you never raise your voice, and your pork chops are delicious. I hate you.

But for all your sickening perfection, you have a fatal flaw: You are a liar. You tell me I am frumpy and lazy. You once said I was a bad mom, and even hinted that my children couldn't help being wild with such an incapable role model and teacher. You are wrong.

Oh, and don't even try to blame the wonderful ladies you are loosely based upon. Sure, they are beautiful and talented and lovely, but unlike you they have all the weakness and frailty and wonder that hums inside each human being. Maybe I haven't seen it all, but that certainly isn't their fault.

Since you are a figment of my imagination, the beauty of this break-up is that you are gone forever. We won't run into each other awkwardly at the grocery store or end up at the same parties of our mutual friends. We're done, and I couldn't be happier.

Goodbye forever,

Monday, July 4, 2011

independence day?

I am going to try to write a post that is not a list. I know, I know, you're so impressed. Well don't be, because it is going to be a jumble of partially processed thoughts based on questionable data and a dash of privilege.

Today is the 4th of July and I am feeling weird about it. Don't get me wrong, I think there are a lot of pretty great things about America and I am thankful to be American. But the textbook story of our country's beginnings has slowly lost its glory for me year by year, not because of what is said, but because of what is often left unsaid.

The 4th of July, or Independence Day, is the day of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, the day that the 13 colonies became independent states and America emerged from under the heavy hand of Great Britain. "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness." What an amazing sentence... except that in 1776 it didn't really mean what it said.

I do not understand how slave-owners could have signed this statement. I do not understand how men who sanctioned the massacres of Native Americans could have signed it. I do not understand how so many beautiful truths could have been written at a time when so many atrocities were being carried out. "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free..." Oh, unless they are black, in which case they are no longer humans and are now property. Oh, and if they already lived here before we arrived they are just a nuisance to be eliminated so that our Manifest Destiny can unfold as God surely desires. ?!?

I know there is a lot to celebrate today, but I also think we need to be real about what didn't happen on the 4th of July. Liberty and justice for all? Nope. Land of the free? Only if you're a white man. I'm not saying we should all mope around and be depressed about these things, but pretending that American people have been equal and free since 1776 is ignorant and offensive. And, whether most white people want to admit it or not, the bigotry and inequality that characterized our country's beginnings has left deep wounds which time alone will not heal... but that is a subject for another post. For now I'll just wish you all a Happy Let's-Keep-Working-Together-To-Actually-Live-Out-The-Declaration-of-Independence Day!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

when you're away

I stay up too late.

I eat strange things for dinner.

I usually have a sick kid on my hands.

I hit up the drive-thru.

I think I'll get lots of things done. (But I don't.)

I pray more.

I let the kids play in the bath until they are prunes.

I run the dishwasher before it is all the way full.

I get creeped out by every little noise I hear at night.

I wake up when your alarm is supposed to go off.

I eat ice cream out of the carton.

I miss you so very much.

I am not quite my whole self.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

an ode to those making homes with boys

We buy band-aids in bulk.

We manage to look amazed (and not even a little grossed out)
when a worm is dangled under our nose.

We pick up Lego pieces invisible to the naked eye.

We make rules like
'No throwing boogers'
and 'No swords at the dinner table.'

We do eleventy-hundred loads of laundry a day.

We are terrible at car crash sound effects
(but we make them anyway).

We pretend to be dragons
and dinosaurs
and knights
and pirates
and big scary sock-eating monsters.

We kiss milk mustaches.

We know the difference between
a 'we're just having good loud fun' noise
and a 'someone's about to go to the ER' noise.

We find pebbles in the dryer.

We sneak into their rooms at night to stare at them
because it is the only time
when they are quiet and still enough to let us.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

they all start somewhere

Above are the opening 2 chapters of N's first novel.

Things I love about this:

1. The author, who turns six later this month, wrote it without any help.

2. Almost every sentence is exciting! enough! for! an! exclamation! point!

3. All CAPS on the dramatic last words of the sentences. Despite repeated attempts on my part to ascertain the source of this unusual writing technique, the author refused to divulge his influences.

4. References to flora.

5. Mom was not burned after all [sigh of relief].

Monday, May 2, 2011

what i would say to you (if you were not me)

Dear friend,

It's OK. It's OK to be useless. It's OK to be sad. It's OK to need help.

Who gave you permission to say those things about yourself? You are God's beloved child, created for his glory and redeemed by his grace. He delights in you. Yes, even now, when you feel you are at your worst, when you feel like a failure, when you have nothing to offer, even now - he delights in you.

This is a hard stage. That is just facts, it has nothing to do with your efficacy or skill. It just is, unequivocally, a tough stage of motherhood.

You can only be what God made you to be. You are only as useful as the grace he gives you at any given moment. If you find that God is pleased to render you useless sometimes, don't despair. Rest.

Nothing you do or fail to do can change the love of God for you, his child. You fight this, and if you're honest, you don't really like this about God. Surely, if you do things right, he'll love you just a little more. But his love does not fit in your hand. You are thinking in teaspoons about a love that floods the oceans. Toss away your measuring cups and drown in it.

The Me I Am To Everyone Else

Sunday, April 24, 2011

the middle

I guess I unintentionally gave up blogging here for Lent. But now, as my son wrote in his notebook this morning, He is risen! and I am back.

I don't have much to say, really. [I get most of my free therapy blogging done here these days.] I'm writing anyway today because sometimes it's good to hear the middle of the story.

We like to wait to see where our stories are going before we start telling them. We're not afraid to admit our mistakes and stumbles as long as we can keep talking, as long as we can explain just how they all got fixed and how everything happened for a reason.

What about the middle? What about the times when we aren't sure how it will all turn out? Why are we afraid to open our mouths in those moments?

It might be because opening our mouths when we're in the middle can sound a lot like whining. It can sound like lack of faith. It can even sound like disobedience.

And maybe it is, I don't know. Maybe we have to whine and doubt and disobey our way through the muck until we see how God is making castles from our mud cakes. I still think it's OK to talk about it.

Thursday, March 10, 2011


It was a strange Ash Wednesday for me this year.

True, I did spend the usual quiet evening hour in stillness and intermittent soft singing... but I wasn't at church. I was in a dark bedroom, trying to lull my strong-willed son into the sleep he so desperately needed.

Instead of ashes across my forehead I got scratch marks across my cheek. He's a fighter, this one.

I haven't been thinking about what I'll give up for Lent. I've been wavering between self-pity over the sacrifices of my current season and pure wonder at the joy of it.

I think I'll allow myself the creature comforts this Lent - facebook and coffee and such. Lord knows I'll have enough built-in loneliness and exhaustion in these 40 days. The task, then, will be to turn to Jesus in all of it -- to let it be a joining in his loneliness, his aching bones, his fear and confusion and desperation. He walked those roads to lead me in them if I'll let him.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


Noticing is a good habit, I think. It can be a remedy for self-obsession... unless, of course, you only notice things about yourself. :) Anyway, here are some things I've been noticing.

The light pink rhododendrons are blooming.

My boys, 27 months apart, are sharing clothes. (Can't decide how I feel about this.)

Reheated rice is not that great.

Board books hurt when they are chucked point-blank at the back of your head.

The grass is growing again.

My children are some of the most forgiving individuals I have ever met. Thank God.

The laundry needs to be folded.

The scent of newly-opened cherry blossoms can drift a long way.

Nothing important seems to happen when (or how) you think it will.

God knows what he's doing.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

they said it


Me: Dexter, are you all done with your cereal?

Dexter: You're a moose fur bagel dog!


Preschool Teacher: Wow, you're smart!

Dexter: Smarty, hearty, party!


[in the car, out of the blue]

Dexter: Only bees are on facebook.



Nate: Mommy, I kind of like that show that's not a kid show where the people sing and the three people watch them.

Me: Oh yeah?

Nate: Yeah. Is that in Hollywood?

Me: What?! You know what Hollywood is?

Nate: Yes, I know what Hollywood is.

[Duh, Mom.]

Me: OK, what is Hollywood?

Nate: It's when you get the yellow paper.

Me: [cracking up and remembering that I let him watch a few minutes of American Idol with me last week] Yep, you're right buddy.


[during prayers last night]

Nate: Please Jesus, help the people in Ethiopia have a good meeting so that Zeke can come home soon. Because I really want Zeke to come home soon.

[Amen to that, son.]


Thursday, January 20, 2011

in which i rant SNL-style about individualism and success-worship

I usually steer clear of parenting magazines, but the other day I grabbed a free copy of Parent Map at preschool. I picked it up for 2 reasons:

1. I just started reading a fascinating book called "Conceiving Parenthood: American Protestantism and the Spirit of Reproduction" and chapter 1 was all about the underlying messages about race, class, and culture in parenting magazines from their inception (around the 1920s) to now.

2. The cover story caught my eye; the title was "Are We Born Racist?"

The bulk of the story was what I expected: a surface-level treatment of racism, a "startling" revelation that the "color-blind" approach to racial differences is ineffective (duh), and some basic but helpful prompts for how to talk to different ages of children about race.

A bit superficial and behind the curve, but not offensive... until the last section entitled "Why It Matters." Here is a quote from that section of the article:

"Living in an increasingly diverse society - in any kind of multi-ethnic society -- if you hold intolerant beliefs or are fearful of the 'other,' that is going to be deeply stressful," says Marsh [Jason Marsh, author of a book entitled "Are We Born Racist?"]. "Research suggests that that kind of stress can take a toll on your psychological and physical health." ... Also, Marsh says, egalitarian people tend to have more successful careers.

And now it's time for a spin-off of my favorite Saturday Night Live skit, "Really?!!" with Seth & Amy.

REALLY, James Marsh and Parent Map??!! Really, that's why parents should talk to their kids about race and try to eliminate racial prejudice? Because otherwise THEIR precious little child might experience stress or an unsuccessful career? Really? I mean, obviously parents these days can't be bothered to think about how their child's racial ignorance might harm ANOTHER person's child, I mean that's just silly because who cares about other people's kids, right? I mean really. Parents these days just don't have the time and energy to teach their kids things like dignity, kindness, respect, humility, and decency... UNLESS it will also help their particular special child to achieve a less stressful and more sucessful life, because my child's PERSONAL INDIVIDUAL SUCCESS is all that matters, really!!!! Really.

OK I'm done. What do you think (really)?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

go play

Last week Jon was off from work and we took the opportunity to engage as a family in the spiritual discipline of play. OK, so I've never seen 'play' listed as a spiritual discipline, but I think it should be. As far as I understand them, spiritual disciplines are practices which help us take on the person of Jesus Christ in our bodies and minds in order that we may be transformed more and more into his likeness. In my experience, this can happen when we study scripture, pray, fast, serve, confess, and yes -- play.

[These pictures are all from one epic day of play last week -- Lincoln Park, Vashon beach hike, hot chocolate stop at the cabin, and Bellevue Garden D'Lights.]