Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Into the darkness

I have many stories to tell of God's goodness and our hope and joy through him in this world. But somehow the darkness overshadows that goodness right now and my life is caught up in the grief of others. This time it is another friend of mine. I cannot tell of the details because there will be a trial coming up and I would not want the information to get into the wrong hands.

To support my friend, I offered to go to juvenile court with her yesterday. From 9am to 2pm, a small waiting room was filled with people--all with the same court time of 9am. What a system we have. What suffering in that room. Families broken and parents waging war over custody. Two scruffy young boys doing their best to wait patiently, their lives in the hands of a judge who hasn't had time to preview the case and has to make a snap decision on the information he has. A teenage girl in some sort of trouble writes furiously in a diary the whole time we wait. Her life in the hands of an overworked, very young caseworker.

I saw evil in the eyes of fathers. Fathers who have not been fathers, but have selfishly pursued their own pleasures and in the meantime have destroyed their children's lives. Children who have been neglected and mistreated. Children who act out their rage with crimes against the society that produced them. This room, this place, is a culmination of our sick and perverted culture. This was one day in one county in this country, reproduced thousands of time across our nation on any given day. Lord, have mercy.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Sushi in the car

On Sunday Liana had a playdate with a friend who lives on the other side of church. Arielle and I didn't want to drive all the way home and then go back out again. So we had three hours to spend together. All week we were thinking about what we would do with the time, but we had no definite plans.

First we went to a fabric store and I picked out a couple more colors to add to my quilt. Arielle wanted to look at the new Webkinz in the gift shop. She almost bought one but it is hard for her to spend her own money. (She likes spending mine though!) We also had to to to Trader Joe's for bread and we walked around there for a little while, sampling the free coffee and soup. By now it was lunch time. I had intended to take Arielle out to eat somewhere. We have so little time alone together. Then she noticed the sushi in Trader Joe's refrigerated case. Could we get some? I reminded her we would have to eat it in the car. No restaurant would allow us to come in and eat our own food. She was fine with that. So many choices for sushi! California rolls, vegetable rolls, chicken, shiitake, crab. Finally we each chose one and then found a couple of 49 cent bottles of water. At the checkout the clerk asked if we wanted chopsticks to go with our meal. Helpful man!

Arielle got in the front seat of the car (special treat) and we ate our sushi with the chopsticks. We've never tasted better nor had so much fun eating it. As we talked, I got a glimpse of the lovely young woman Arielle is growing to be and the easy companionship of mother and daughter that I hope will characterize at our future years together.

Laughing, with our teeth full of spinach and sesame seeds, we headed for Barnes and Noble and promised not to smile if we saw anyone we knew.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Why we like March

We almost always have a late winter snow and March definitely came in like a lion this year. March 1st into the 2nd a blizzard blasted through and it was the bigggest storm of the season. But the best thing about March snow is that it melts quickly. Five days later it was almost 70.

Liana had her best friend over to play and suffering from spring fever, they donned Easter dresses and ran outside barefoot, despite some snow still on the ground. I caught a glimpse of them out the kitchen window sliding down the hill on the sled. Their joy is contagious!

On a warm March day you can enjoy being outdoors without sneezing from pollen or swatting at bugs. Since there are no leaves on the trees we can see old bird nests and watch the migrating birds returning to them. We can hear again the chatter of a thousand voices coming from our bamboo grove now that the little birds have come back from wherever they go in the winter. We also noticed a new flock of huge aggressive crows chasing the squirrels away from our neighbor's deer feeder. The time changed! I always love when we have more daylight hours in the evening, and as an extra bonus, at dawn the full moon rose bright and beautiful from my western window.

Fred made what was maybe one last fire in the woodstove as the temperature dropped below freezing last night, but spring is on its way. That promise makes us restless and longing to be free from the the confines of the house. But it was a good winter. This morning I thanked God for all His blessings on us these past few months and asked Him for another winter to enjoy.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


Sometimes the sorrows and tragedies of this world can be overwhelming. Sometimes just trudging through our daily routines and the ordinary battles of day-to-day living can steal our joy. We need a break. It came for me unexpectedly.

My girls were invited to a birthday party at a paint-your-own-pottery type place. They were very excited. After all that happened the last couple of weeks, I saw the invitation as another task to do on an already busy Saturday afternoon. When we arrived my friend and the mom of the birthday girl said, "You're going to paint something too, aren't you?" Well, no, I hadn't planned on that. I am no artist and lack any imagination to design a project. I even lack the fine motor skills needed to paint. Reluctantly, I agreed. What else would I do while I waited?
All the children happily took a piece of pottery and chose their paint colors. Arielle began painting a purple piggy bank and Liana chose a vase and immediately knew what she wanted to do with it. I looked at every piece in the store over and over. What to choose? I am practical. What would I actually use? Finally I selected a sugar bowl. What color? What brushes? Oh, the decisions to make. This was stressful. The girls and I had been studying Van Gogh and we admired his use of bright colors, so my bowl would be turquoise blue highlighted with yellow handles. And, of course, sunflowers should adorn the outside.
The children settled in to their painting, talking quietly among themselves. My brush swished back and forth, washing my pottery in color. You need at least three coats, my friend said. It took a long time, but no one seemed to mind. Then it came to me. What was this feeling? Relaxation? Peace? A week later my friend returned our creations and we were delighted with the shiny, colorful finish that emerged with the glazing and firing.
Another friend invited me to join her for a quilting class. I have time for that? But I do love quilts and I had been missing my friend, so I thought it would be fun to spend time with her. And it was! We went to a cute little quilt shop not far from home and for two hours our teacher explained the design and new techniques we would be using. Afterwards we browsed the shop looking at the beautiful fabrics. I couldn't sleep that night because my brain was racing with ideas.
Several factors were at work here: friendship--the easy, relaxing kind when you can be yourself without feeling judged. What a gift friends like that are! Second, time away from routine, especially to learn a new skill. We all need a break and brain stimulation. Third, the act of creating. (Even when you don't think you are the creative sort.) We are made in the image of God and He is the Grand Creator. So we are also creators by nature on a very small scale and it brings us joy to fulfill these very human yearnings. Even the children, these little women, relaxed and found pleasure in creating. I hope you would find many refreshing days ahead.