Friday, December 24, 2010

not ready

Moxie is a Jack Russel Terrier puppy who's breathed the free air of this world for approximately three months now. For just so long, she's also been a resident of the Erwin home, and will probably continue to be so for as long as she continues to successfully breathe said air.

Moxie barrels in from the snowy wilderness and scampers through the kitchen, coming to a halt in front of the baby gate that bars her progress into the living room. Usually it's closed. If it's open, she trots through, and then someone grabs her, puts her back where she belongs, and secures the neglected gate.

Moxie stands bewildered, wagging her tail a little and whining, gazing into the forbidden room, sticking her nose through the bars. The kitchen tile is cold and hard. The family is in the living room, and there's carpet and a fireplace. Why does she have to stay out here alone? She doesn't get it.

I am a girl twenty-one years old, and for just so long a resident of the previously mentioned home for Erwins. I breathe the free air with relish or contempt, depending on the day, my circumstances, and my current level of sleep-deprivedness. I ride the waves with the unsteady hand of one trying inconsistently to learn consistency on a choppy and uninviting sea. I fall in a lot.

I am not married, but most of my friends seem to be. Sometimes content, sometimes disconsolate I peer through and wonder a little, why I'm here and where I'm headed. Why are you not out there, waiting for me? I sometimes ask the void. But then I think, you know, that's a silly question. Maybe he is, after all, how would I know? And maybe he doesn't even exist, and then how could he be waiting for anything, let alone for me?

I am a liver of a quiet life. (This does not mean that someone killed a quiet life out in the forest, and cut out its liver, and there I was. If you can't figure out what it does mean, I'm just very sorry, and that's all I have to say about it.) Anyway, I live a quiet life. Blessings shower down on me in mind-blowing abundance, and opportunities of unforeseen vibrancy have littered my path. And I'm stunned when I think of it, and thankful. Still, there are things I want to do - big things, lifelong things, things that aren't just for me - but the baby gate is fastened shut.

I don't get it. It's cold out here, and sometimes it's lonely, and sometimes it's dull. I can hear the laughter on the other side, and the crackle of a warm, happy fire. There are good things happening over there, and I want to join in. Why won't He open the gate?

But Moxie isn't ready. And maybe, I think, neither am I. Perhaps by so feverishly desiring all the goodness that's to be had right now, I desire what would really not be good at all for me or for the rest of the world. It could be that, like our precocious but incontinent puppy, I have to first master simple skills - like refraining from peeing on the floor - before I'm ready to move on to further depths of service and fellowship. Maybe the living room isn't even what I think it is. Maybe if I went in I would find joy indeed, but of a character entirely unlike my expectation. Who can say?

In either case, the great question is, Why does it matter? Wondering endlessly about the future won't bring it here any sooner, and it will only rob today of its gladness and use. He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much, we're told in Luke 16 - but the least has to come first, and it may be that the much won't look like what we expected. 

For now, I will live on this side of the fence and wait with inconsistent contentment. I will learn to be happy where I am, and to appreciate the goodness of other lives without wishing they were mine. I will learn to sit and to stay and to pee outside and to come when I'm called. Maybe I'll learn to sniff out drugs, and since I'm just a puppy I won't even know that this is more useful than rolling over and playing dead. I'll learn to obey, and that's the thing. 

One day I know my loving Master will open that mysterious gate and welcome me through, because I don't believe He would have shown me a better room if I were intended to stay in this one forever. On the other side what will I find? You know, it doesn't matter, because He's already promised it will be good, and He can't lie. He is Good.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

lovable tuesday #1

A lot of people dread Mondays. I don't mind them, actually - after a (usually) restful Lord's day, most Monday mornings find me about as fresh and not-yet-overwhelmed as I ever am. Starting a new week isn't so bad, is it? It's empty and exciting and hopeful - with what shall we fill it?

It's Tuesdays that get to me.

They're just so busy. Today, for example, went like this: Wake up (late, I admit); Skip shower (no time); Breakfast in the car (bread and bananas) after leaving at 8:30 for music lessons (1 hr there, (3) 1 hr lessons for the sibs and me); Wal-Mart run while we're in town (grab something cheap for lunch, and 50 lbs of apples for $0.30/lb - yayeah); Pick up three largeish boxes of meat from the locker on the way home (~30 minutes out of our way); Frantically unload car upon arriving home (don't bother removing coat or shoes); Drive younger brother to work (~30 minute round trip); Stop home to switch vehicles (1.5 minutes); Drive to town to play with Landon (hour and a halfish); Teach two piano lessons a couple blocks away (supposed to be an hour, always goes over); Run to Casey's and fill up the dangerously low tank on the Vue (grab supper inside - dessert pizza, Pringles, Arizona "tea" - convenience stores = bad); Drive to the grain elevator and eat a leisurely half-hour supper before commencing to spend 3 hours cleaning the offices (keep the music loud and forget about being kidnapped); Finish Pringles in the car, and arrive home at 11:00 p.m. Except for the detour to the meat locker, the cheap apples, and sometimes taking Keegan to work, that's pretty normal.

The point is - I was thinking the other day about some of the million kajillion things I love about this world and my life and my God, and how as long as I'm blogging anyway I should really make a habit of expounding on these innumerable blessings. And I chose Tuesday to try and kick-start this habit, because that's when I need to focus on what's good in life, instead of on how long it's been since I saw the inside of my house or took off my shoes. We'll see how many Tuesdays in a row I can keep this up. (My list is long enough to last the rest of my life; consistency in thinking and writing will be the challenge.)

So, today I love ...

... cold weather.

Is this true? In a weird way, it is.

I hate being cold. Some of the other things I plan on writing about in the near future are sweaters, blankets, boots, scarves, hot tea, soup, lattes, and fireplaces. Cold is isolating, hopeless, alone. Warmth is home.

But that's why I love the cold. I don't typically feel a lot of charity toward it when it's invading my immediate environment, but I love that it exists. Because there's just nothing like going out (for whatever useful or frivolous reason), getting thoroughly chilled, and then coming back in to get warm. Pink cheeks, cold and a little hard to the touch, softening and drinking in the heat; stiff fingers coming to life; the tension of survival easing into a warm, happy coma. Pull it into your heart and cherish it - did you understand before how good it was just to be warm?

It's the same reason I'm thankful for dirty jobs and the showers that follow; for aches, pains, and illnesses, and the new-found appreciation afterward for good health; for long periods of crazy-busyness so I can see the beauty of a quiet, normal life; for arduous journeys to come home from; for pain and then comfort; even - and especially - for death leading to life.

That got deep in a hurry.

Unfortunately, it's also gotten late in a hurry, and I must flee. It seems to be Wednesday now, thus indicating a failure on my part to even get out of the gate with this "habit" without falling behind. Man ... I'm going to have to get better at this.


Tuesday, November 30, 2010


I found this in a folder called "August" while I was de-cluttering my computer's desktop. That must mean I wrote it in August. I don't know how I forget these things. Actually I do kind of remember writing this ... kind of.

  Ah, but you make it so small, he said. You say that the sycamore is only a leaf, when it means the whole tree, and the root system, too. Is language only these words we babble? Do we surpass the apes only in sophistication? God forbid that our minds should cling to these barren crags, when the heavens are open to our exploration!
  I make no jest and I expose no lunacy when I tell you that we all speak the same language. It is only our speech patterns that are dissimilar. What a curious thing, wasn’t it, when God reached down at Babel and stirred up the syllables of communication, forming canyons between man and man, scattering the nations across the planet. To this day we spit out the sounds of our expression in different orders, and conjure up myriad ink lines to express on paper the vibrations we make in the air. But do you notice something? We’re all telling each other the same things. 
  Every man knows in his heart the sensations of love and hatred, obedience and rebellion, of fear and curiosity and rejoicing; and every man is compelled to attempt some description of these invisibilities to his neighbors, to form some mutual understanding of their natures. We give names to the things we find around us in the world – tree, candlestick, antelope, electron – and special names to one another. We tell stories and ask questions. We reach our groping hands out into the darkness and try to remember why we are here.
  “When is breakfast?” “I think it’s going to rain.” “Get out of my house!” “I love you.” Forming different sounds in the air across the globe, we’re all saying the same things.
  We are the image of God, walking immortal through time, living or perishing beyond the fate of this world. This is the scope of language; this the expression of divinity.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

I might be starving to death...

...just in case anyone feels like being concerned about something.

All I've eaten today was an English muffin with melted cheese on it at nine this morning, and a few handfuls of corn chips shortly after lunchtime.

Why? I wasn't hungry before, I guess.

But now I AM.

I've been working on canning chicken and making tomorrow's dinner for-almost-ever, but it all has raw meat in it, so I can't even munch while I work.

I can hear Mom making popcorn downstairs. So there's hope ... a little bit of hope ... shining in the darkness...

But it's going to take a lot of popcorn to fill this girl up.

Since when did popcorn constitute a meal, anyway?

Ohhhh well.

I might live ... and if I don't, you know what they say-

"Ohhhh well."

Friday, November 19, 2010

my pet dragon

"It's so fun!" they told me. "I love it! You'll love it!"
An alarming number of them offered to come on over and teach me themselves.
Thanks, guys, I love you, but, you know.
My mom taught me instead, and I ... was not good at it.
I think Mom might have been scared for her life.
I know I was.
Then my dad taught me, and I was a little better, but not very much.
It was a beast, a wild animal. It had a mind of its own.
Could I control it? That was always the question, teetering on the edge of a knife.
And if I couldn't - death and destruction loomed.
So I left it at home, safe. I was safe, it was safe. Everyone was happy.
Except the people who saw me without it all the time.
"Are you still afraid of that thing?" they asked, and they laughed, and they poked me.
Maybe they didn't really poke me.
But they poked me with their eyes.
Anyway, they said, "Just do it! It's not nearly as bad as you think."
I know, I know. I will. Sometime. You know. When I'm ready.
I almost did it once. I walked up alone and looked at it. I almost did it.
But it glared at me and bristled, and I drew back my hand.
I remembered how long it had been, how much I'd probably forgotten.
Another time, maybe.
I knew I had to do it. It was starting to feel weird. Ridiculous.
Then people started threatening me, and I really knew I had to do it.
I asked Dad for one more lesson.
It went a little better.
I thought, maybe, maybe, maybe I can do this.
I'll do it tomorrow.
Sweaty-palmed, tomorrow I did it.
Nobody was watching. That was good.
Slowly at first, then gaining speed until we flew - together, and not dead.
That was good, too.
All the way there, and around to this place and that place, and safely back home again.
I alighted, a full foot taller than when I left.
I was Master.
The beast was conquered.
Wild and ravenous, but under my gentle iron fist it became a lamb.
It is sleek and black, quivering with power.
I will call it Toothless, and it will be mine. Really mine.
For I am Master.
Master of the manual transmission - the Saturn Vue.

Thursday, November 18, 2010


And we all hurt each other, she said,
and we didn't mean to.
We didn't see,
didn't know,
didn't understand.
We're all stumbling down
this same winding road
and not one of us really knows
what we're doing.

We've got the light,
but we keep it under baskets.
We've got the guide book,
but our eyes find its characters strange.
We've got everything we need
to walk a straight line,
but the glass is still dark looking through.
And yesterday's clarity
takes on a shape unforeseen,
and our dance steps are cluttered.
Red ink on manuscripts
screams of misjudgments,
but too late:
the presses are already running.

The story we're telling
isn't the one we wrote
in our heads
in our youth
in the shadows.
It was neat and clean.
It had a happy ending.
We weren't always tripping on our feet,
looking back aghast
at priceless, shattered vases
and hearts.
But here we are;
and where are we?

We never meant to hurt each other.
We wielded swords without wisdom,
too much asleep,
clinging blind to selfish folly,
not understanding,
shedding blood

Oh, forgive each other-
forgive, and be healed.
Lay quiet before the mercy that raised us,
and tremble to do otherwise.
Be still and remember
what we are,
and why.

We shed His blood,
but He gave it to free us from darkness,
And we stand speechless,

by love unmasked.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

Beauty finds us in strange places. And sometimes truth is almost too horrible to bear understanding. Through the eyes of a child caught between two views of the same awful world, "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas", with strokes of paradoxically gentle incomprehension, paints a picture of such stark horrors that, were it not true, we would condemn the imagination that dreamed it.

I don't know that I'll be able to watch it again. Like the unimaginable history the film portrays, there seems to be more reverence in remembering than in re-living. But fallen man is prone to forgetfulness - so if you need, as I did, to be reminded of the brutality and the blackness of sin, of the depth to which each of us would fall without God's restraining mercy, and then (indirectly, but ultimately) of the unfathomable magnitude and glory of His grace - then I think I could recommend a thoughtful viewing of "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas."

The only thing I felt it really lacked was a touch of hope at the end. Not a 'happy ending.' Just a reminder, however subtle, that evil did not, will not, and can never triumph. It rages and gnashes its horrific teeth, but it is a foe vanquished. Any story that ends on a note of unqualified darkness fails to bear witness to the whole truth, however honest and powerful it may be up to that point. Still, if gut-wrenching remorse is seen as the hopeful first step toward repentance and life, perhaps "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas" doesn't fail entirely even here. 

It is against the deepest blackness of night that the stars shine brightest, even though we are still too far away to see more than pin-pricks of their real brilliance. It's all we can handle for now. 

Too deep, she thought. And her mind boggled.

That man should fall so far ... so far. So far. 

That the seed of this monster lurks snarling in every beating heart. 

That it is only love holding me back, love from without, and not from within. Love that breathed life into my long-cold lungs. Love that slays the monster. 

Do we even know what we are, what we would be, unleashed? We recoil when we see it; we don't recognize it. We call it inhumanity - we can scarce believe that such things could be - but it is exactly humanity. Nothing good. Unrestrained. Godless.

It happened not long ago; we know the story well. We know the red flag and its barbed black spider; we know the horrors behind the cold walls; the shaved heads and the filthy striped pajamas.

Children of men, eternal souls walking in time, stamped with the image of their Creator - herded like cattle by their earth-formed peers, shattered and beaten and starved, murdered each day by the thousands. For what? For being born.

Who did worst: the one that commanded it done? The one that carried it out stone-hearted? Or the one that felt remorse, and did it anyway?

It's happening now. We know the story; but do we?

Children of men, eternal souls beginning their voyage through time, new-formed in the image of their Creator - carried helpless by their earth-formed guardians, broken and stabbed and torn to pieces, murdered each day by the thousands. For what? For not yet being born.

Who does worst: the one that makes it law? The one that does the deed? Or the one that turns away, overwhelmed ... and does nothing?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

it's not too late

Psalm 24 is beautiful. Verses three and four, for instance:

Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD? 
Or who may stand in His holy place?
He who has clean hands and a pure heart, 
Who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, 
Nor sworn deceitfully.

Oops. Wait. Stop. That's not me.

I'm sunk.

I just did a cursory online concordance search, looking especially at Proverbs, for words like fool, wise, righteous. Scanning these verses, beautiful and true as I know them to be, the same refrain still echoes in my mind every time I read them. This is what I see on the page:

The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable, 
But the mouth of the wicked what is perverse... (Prov. 10:32)
The desire of the righteous is only good, 
But the expectation of the wicked is wrath... (Prov. 11:23)
The thoughts of the righteous are right, 
But the counsels of the wicked are deceitful... (Prov. 12:5)
The wicked flee when no one pursues, 
But the righteous are bold as a lion... (Prov. 28:1)

And I know I'm on the wrong side of all these equations. Do I know what is acceptable? Do I desire only good? Are my thoughts right? Am I bold as a lion? Not even close.

In my sin and faithlessness, it's so easy for me to stop right there. So easy. Look at this mess I've made. Just look at it. And look at it. And look at it.

But is it too late? Am I beyond grace? Will God finally throw His hands up in frustration and kick me out?

Not even close.

And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Cor. 12:9)

My grace is sufficient for you. 


That exemplified man, described in Proverbs as "righteous," wasn't born with that label, and he didn't work his way into it. He didn't deserve it. It belonged to his Savior, like it does to mine.

This past Sunday I stood and marveled at the call to worship, so familiar, so seldom really heard. 

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I just looked it up to find a reference, and was amazed at how often this astonishing greeting is repeated. I counted 17 occurrences in the New Testament, including a few slight variations on the theme in letters not attributed to Paul. 

Seventeen times God holds this promise out to us: Grace to you and peace. You deserve forever death, but I've given you life without end, bought with My own life. You were dead when you received this gift, and now you live only because of My Spirit within you. Stop trying to earn it.

Seventeen times: Grace to you and peace. No matter what you've done, no matter how often you've spit in My face, no matter how often you deny Me hereafter. The blood of My Son is sufficient to cover it all. Repent, and still believe.

Seventeen times: Grace to you and peace. The price has been paid. Be free.

Friday, October 29, 2010


When Mom took me out yesterday to teach me how to drive my blasted stick shift, that seemed like the obvious thing to write about next time I had time to blog. I mean, can you really imagine anything funnier than me trying to ... yeah. Probably not.

Then I went to work this morning, and in the quiet of the first couple hours, something else profound hit me square between the eyes, and I knew a different essay must be written first. (Incidentally, I can't remember what it was. That's how those things go for me.)

Driving through town on my way home this evening, inspired by the swarms of costumed children wandering the streets in search of candy handouts, I decided that perhaps Halloween would make for a more timely subject. I started developing a few themes in the back of my mind.

But ... then I came home, and Mom was making pizza, and she and Dad and Sam and I watched Duma. And I changed my mind. I have to write about this instead.

How many movies have you seen, how many books have you read, whose storyline revolves closely around a person (usually a lonely child) who develops a deep and lasting relationship with a wild animal they've raised since it was a baby? Whatever else happens in the course of the story, how many of them don't culminate in a climactic, emotional scene where the child finally has to let the animal go free?

Alaska. Free Willy. Fly Away Home. Kaavik. Hidalgo. Big Ben. These are just off the top of my head. The list goes on. And then there's Duma.

I was about as excited to see Duma for the first time (tonight was the second) as I generally am to hear that we're having salad for lunch. (Which isn't much. Salad is not exciting.) Oh boy, I thought, another movie about a boy and his pet cheetah. Watch me recite the whole thing by heart before I even see it.

But it surprised me. It was beautiful.

Unlike most of its stereotypical counterparts, Duma has its own story to tell, and it tells it with grace and honesty. The writing is careful without being contrived, and its execution is breathlessly subtle. The plot is simple; the characters are real; the music and camera work are gently and effectively understated. Told by a child who's recently lost a parent, perhaps the story's most striking trait is its absolute failure to qualify as melodramatic.

The story is good enough to go out without makeup. That's all there is to it.

Near the end of the film, as Xan (the film's ~12 year old protagonist) prepares to leave Duma (his cheetah) behind in the wild, my little brother Sam attempted to retain his composure in the midst of obvious distress.

"I'd really 'preciate it," he said, "if he'd just ... get Yuma, and ... go home, and ... yeah."

"Duma wants to be free," my dad said wisely. "That's what's good for him. Even Xan wants him to be free."

"He does?" said Sam, plaintive and unconvinced. "But he isn't smiling. Why isn't he happy?"

"Well, because he'll miss Duma," Dad said.

There was a long pause, and then Sam burst into tears.

"It isn't fair," he said over and over, after the movie was finished, as Dad tried to reason with him about the story's justice. "If somebody has a aminal, they shouldn't have to let it go." Why? "Because it was their aminal."

(Yes, I spelled 'animal' that way on purpose. That's the way he says it, and it's precious.)

Part of me wishes I still absorbed stories and drank them up the way a child does. Sure, I love a good story. Yes, my throat got tight more than once before Duma's credits rolled, even though I'd seen it once already. But to feel Xan's loneliness so acutely that I begin to sob as he leaves his friend behind forever? I've closed the door to that kind of feeling; it's just a window now, and I can see to the other side, but I don't dare reach through. The waters are too deep, and there's too much pain, too much joy, too much of everything. I can't feel all of it. I have to protect myself from drowning.

But why?

Monday, October 25, 2010

The trouble with cars... that Tierney is dumb.

When people start talking about cars, I space out. I can't help it. Especially lately, when we've recently spent so much time hunting for a couple of new vehicles for our family. This topic of conversation has never interested me even remotely, and now I'm so tired of it, I take its recurring advent as a personal invitation to LaLaLand (one of my favorite places). Not that I mind - I'm just saying, if you're ever talking to me and suddenly notice that my eyes have glazed over and there's a little bit of drool at the corner of my mouth ... you might consider checking the content of your conversation for anything to do with motorized vehicles.

Still, our recent adventures in the world of Car Buying have actually given us occasion to witness some delightfully humbling provisions from God. Even I can see that.

Our previous vehicle situation was ... difficult. We had four licensed drivers and three working vehicles (well, kind of working). Our minivan's doors wouldn't open. My dad's car smelled like exhaust inside. My car was made mostly of plastic, and floated on top of snow like a rubber duck in Jell-O salad. (That means I got stuck a lot last winter, in case it's unclear.) (Growl.)

So my dad and my brother, being the heroes they are, took it upon themselves to solve this rather vexing problem. They scoured the internet for reliable information; they talked about pros and cons; they constructed game plans; they unearthed further research, and revised the game plans; they scoured the internet again for used car ads; they emailed back and forth, talked and talked, researched and researched.

Mom pitched in and did her (good-sized) bit as Chief Telephone Operator and Asker of Many Questions.

The rest of us functioned primarily as dead weight. Um, well ... kind of. Partly. Mostly? Sorry, guys.

But God blessed their dogged efforts, and they found what we were looking for.

A silver 2002 Hyundai Santa Fe for the new family vehicle - complete with sunroof, CD/mp3 player, heated leather seats, a thermometer stuck on celcius, and a little digital screen thingy on the ceiling that says today's date on it (we're not sure yet why this is useful, or why it typically rolls over to the next date in the middle of the afternoon - but it's nifty, so we like it).

And a shiny, sleek, and generally shnazzy-looking black 2004 Saturn Vue for me. It's not as spiffy on the inside as the Santa Fe, but it's plenty good for a town this size, and I feel as much affection toward it as I ever have felt toward a car. SUV. Whatever. Plus, it's got a manual transmission - so, as of today, I have no idea how to drive it.

Or, maybe, some idea ... but definitely not enough to do so safely.

(And yes, I know, if you're a guy, I'm sure those are the stupidest car descriptions you've ever read. I'm a girl, ok? Cut me some slack.)

For now, we keep the van and Dad's car, and Cami inherits (read: buys) mine.

So, back to the Vue - I can't drive it, right? So it's sitting in the garage at home when I have to leave for work this afternoon, and all the other vehicles we own are in use - all except our dumb old minivan. I flatter myself that I could probably remember enough of my one experience driving a stick to survive a ten-mile commute.

...But I don't try it. I drive the van.

Well, unbeknownst to me, the fuel gauge in the van has recently given up the ghost, and now considers itself to be in a perpetual state of Emptiness. Ungrateful wretch. But I call Dad to see if I can make it to work without stopping to fill up, since I don't have time anyway - and he explains all. Better put in a couple gallons before you head home, though, he says. Just in case.

Four hours later, do you think my mind is still dwelling on the defective gas gauge? Yeah, you guessed it. I forget to stop for gas.

Yeah, you guessed it. Halfway home, I run out.

Oh, Tierney, I say to myself. Oh, Tierney, Tierney, Tierney, you are so dumb. You amaze me with your dumbness. You have a head - why don't you use it?

Thankfully ... the van conks out near enough to a gravel road that I can pull over there, instead of right on the shoulder.

Thankfully ... of all the things that are broken in the van, the flashers aren't one of them.

Thankfully ... an older couple pulls over and asks if I need help (people never do that anymore! shame on us, cell phone happy generation), and warn me that my battery might perish if I leave my flashers on too long.

Thankfully ... my dad is pretty much the kindest, most forgiving person in the whole entire universe.

He comes right away when I sheepishly call and confess my transgressions. He comes with fuel, and a smile, and all kinds of cheerfulness and understanding. He says it's not a big deal, and he probably would have done the same thing. (Yeah right, Dad.) He says to follow him to the nearest gas station, and he'll fill the van up for me.

My dad is a hero. Suitors of the world, beware: he wears big shoes.

So, yeah. The problem with cars is that I'm sometimes the one driving them.

While we were waiting for the van to fill up tonight, though, Dad did show me how to check the oil - that's something, right?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

ha ha. ha.

I just called to cancel a dentist appointment I'd forgotten I had scheduled for Monday morning. Obviously they're not open at this unearthly hour, so I left a message - but when I was almost finished yammering, an arm (Mom's, as it turned out) reached in through my bedroom doorway and started fiddling with some papers on my dresser. That was kind of weird. My mind doesn't do the two-lane thing very well, so my message ended something like this:

"Um, so yeah ... if that doesn't work, why don't you give me a call back. Otherwise ... um, thanks! Bye."

No, I didn't leave my number.

They probably have it on record somewhere.

Oh, brother.

where my heart sings

Well, the votes are in, and the consensus is unanimous:

I abso-freaking-lutely love being home (to borrow the colloquialism). Make of that what you will.

Just kidding. I'll explain.

Over the past couple years, since graduating from high school, one of the (numerous) great questions I've wrestled with has been, what shall I do with my single years? Pretty sure I'm not the only one, but the only life I've ever experienced from the inside is mine, so here's how it's gone for me.

I decided not to go to college (that's a topic for another post). I'm not married or 'in a relationship' (so is that). If (hopefully when) God does bless me with a husband, a family, and a home of my own, that's where I want to be - I don't want a career (that might actually make a more interesting post than the idea preceding). So in the intervening space of time ... what to do? And how to go about doing it?

For the first school year after I graduated, I worked full time at a local Christian grade school. This experience had its blessings and its tribulations. I learned, grew, and changed through it, and I'm glad I walked that path for awhile; but ultimately I found that the life of the full-time employee is most emphatically not the life for me. I knew it before, but in a way it was good to know it from experience.

After deciding against a repeated attempt at the afore-mentioned venture, I found that the quite un-directed life was also rather difficult to manage. I wanted very much to be useful, but more from an over- than an under-abundance of ideas of how to achieve this goal, it was hard to know exactly where to go next.

Well, God blessed me with plenty of opportunities, and I took some of them. I've ended up with quite a variety of little odd jobs, almost all of which I really rather enjoy. I like being flexible, tied to many rearrangeable schedules rather than a single concrete one. I like being available when people ask for help with things, or want to go do something fun together.

The problem is that, as I've gradually taken on more and more of these little commitments, my calendar has, naturally, gotten fuller and fuller - less and less flexible - less and less time at home.

And I don't like it. Home is where I belong. When I'm always away, nothing's quite as it should be. I'm out of touch with my family, too far away, too much scattered, too autonomous. My whole foundation has a stone under one edge, and all my dancing turns into stumbling, and I forget which way is exactly up.

It's a gradual thing, and I don't always notice how lonely I am for home, until I get a free day or two to spend there. I had that this weekend, and it was like sunshine from out of a heavy fog.

I think that's at least partly why the completion of yesterday's horrid paperwork thrilled me so thoroughly - because, all that misery behind me, I still had a whole, entire, uninterrupted Saturday to spend at home.

I spent it almost entirely in the kitchen. It was amazing.

No, I'm not delusional enough to think that every day spent at home will of necessity be comparably happy. Life has its hills and valleys, no matter where you spend it. But I'll be revising my schedule in the near future (by which I mean, not clearing completely, but scaling back significantly in most corners). I think I've found my footing back again.

And my heart is remembering a little song it used to sing all the time. It's a good song.

(p.s. I know "abso-freaking-lutely" isn't actually a colloquialism. That's the point.)

Friday, October 22, 2010


I haven't been this giddy-happy in a goodish longish while.

After passing through very great quantities of dreading, loathing, procrastinating, distracting myself, spacing off, doing other things, emailing Dad, talking to Mom on the phone, buying cars, writing irrelevant essays, checking facebook, checking email, (finding nothing), making pizza, hunting for lost camera cables, flipping through old sketchbooks, forgetting about cello, and making a general nuisance of myself to the world...

I say, after all this, I am absitively, posolutely thrilled to announce that the paperwork, so hatefully described in the post below, has been finished.

Thirteen long, freaky, lifeless, detailed pages of it.

Let this be a lesson to me, never, ever, ever, ever, ever to allow myself to get this far behind again.

Let me always, always remember that, no matter how yucky that one page of misery looks at the end of each day, it is incalculably more bearable than the overwhelming stack that will await me at the end of the month if I don't do it right away.

Oh, happy, happy me, to have that woeful task in the past instead of the future (or, worse, the present).

This is probably the dumbest thing you've ever read, huh? Oh, but share in my glee, even if you have the presence of mind to see that it's mostly unwarranted. Everyone should be this happy at least once in their life.

Yes. Yes. Yessssssssss.

that's good, that's bad

So the bad part is the paperwork.

On the one hand, I am grateful (really) that, of my numerous little part-time jobs, only one of them has really required me (after the initial bustle of getting on the payroll and stuff) to hand in any paperwork.

On the other hand, this paperwork that they do require is of a nature so truly obnoxious that I often find myself hard-pressed to make myself fill it out at all, let alone to do so cheerfully.

My job description is "Respite Provider." Basically, I get paid to play with my pal, Landon, after school, and help him with his homework. Landon amazes me. He is an absolute sunbeam, and he'd laugh his head off if I told him that in so many words.

Just yesterday, I told him he could play with trucks until 5:30, and then we were going to do something else for awhile. Being at least as ornery as your average 12 year old, naturally he didn't believe me when I told him it was 5:30 (possibly because I accidentally said first that it was half past 10:00). So I helped him stand up, pointed at his digital clock on the dresser, and said something like, "What, you don't trust my clock reading skills? Look! It says 5:30 right there. Five, dot dot, three, zero. Five thirty." And he giggled almost uncontrollably for the next three minutes.

He's happy, funny, quirky, naughty, opinionated, smart, and absolutely goofy. We have so much fun. At least, we usually have fun; sometimes homework gets the best of one or both of us. But I love him, and I love his family. If I had to pick a favorite "job" (it seems dumb to get paid for some of the things I get to do), this would be it.

So that's why I hate the paperwork. Thanks to our very concerned government, I have to fill out a paper for each day that I spend there, describing in some detail "what we did ... and Landon's response to the activities." Here are some of the guidelines (word for word off the Documentation Review sheet, whatever that is):

- Use more objective language: Subjective words like "did great" don't really describe how well someone did.
- Write "Mary cried and made whining noises" instead of "Mary was fussy."
- Write "Mary seemed to have a good day because she was smiling and laughing" instead of "Mary had a great day!"
- Instead of saying "Mary chose not to listen to directions," try writing "Mary did not stop when staff asked her to stop."
- Bad: "Mary looked both ways for cars and correctly identified that it was safe to cross the parking lot. She held my hand as we walked." Good: "I gave Mary 1 verbal prompt to look both ways for cars, and she did. I then asked her if it was safe to cross; Mary said, 'yes.' I held out my hand and Mary put her hand in mine as we crossed the parking lot."

Those words are dead. Absolutely dead.

I love writing about my little old life. I like to try to find words that will make people see what happened, the way it really was - not because it's that important, but because it's wonderful and joyful and hard and it hurts - because God made this beautiful world, and here we are alive in it!

But I cannot stand looking back at each day and accounting for my every move in a calculating, clinical monotone. I hate writing as if I'd spent the afternoon observing some mysterious amoebas in a plastic tube, instead of playing with one of my favorite people in the whole world. It's like painting a sunset in black and white, and being told while you're at it to make it look as much like a dead raccoon as you can.

And why is it that I feel compelled to stew and mutter about this at such length? Because it is this self-same paperwork (on which I have, explicably, gotten behind) that is taking up an absolutely inordinate percentage of one of my very rare full days at home. Small price to pay, right, for a wonderful life? And it is. But my insides still recoil.

And why is it that "inexplicably" is a word, but "explicably" is not? That's ridiculous.

One of the other things I accomplished today, though, was buying a car. That's a happy thing. Out with the Camry, in with the Vue.

Alright, well, I'm going to go make some pizza crusts, and then finish the last of these wretched papers, and then take out my remaining fury on my thus-far unsuspecting cello. Enjoy your Friday evening, or whatever it is when you read this.


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

regarding those small canines

...Blaaarrghle nawdle zous...

I just attempted - twice - to compose a blog post of medium length and stunning wit, in answer to people's concern over those puppies that were being born that one time when I wrote, and my ensuing failure to follow up on that one promise to provide an update.

But midway through - both times - I accidentally deleted beyond recovery everything I'd written so far. (I've just come off hours of researching and contemplating a theological matter of some controversy, you see. I'm not in school, but I know how to cram. I'm not a fish, but I know all about glassy eyes.)

Anyway, I'm taking this as a sign that my intended blog post is just not meant to be.

Or maybe I'm just petulantly ignoring the try, try again part of that mantra about not succeeding at first.

I don't know. The point is, there are five puppies - all fat, healthy, rat-like little creatures. (No worries, their degree of cuteness increases as they age.) Three boys and two girls.

Or else three girls and two boys. I don't know.

Two are white, one has a patch over one eye, the other two are kind of nondescript.

And that's all for now. If I write any more, I'll delete it all somehow, and then I will pull all my hair out.

I'll write about paedocommunion and classical education another time.

Good night.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

little pebbles for tripping over

The other day, on my way to pick up a friend to spend the day together shopping and stuff, I found myself in dire need of sustenance (breakfast wasn't ready at home when I left). There's this little coffee shop in my minute little town - it's been there for several years, but I stopped in for the first time ever that morning. I got a latte, of course. And off their (rather limited, I confess) breakfast menu, I chose a ... muffin top! I'm so culturally sheltered, I had never consciously heard of such a thing, and it just seemed like the most darling little idea ever, I had to try one. Never mind that it was pretty much exactly the same amount of muffin material as if it had been just a regular old muffin. I'm such a sucker.

Two days ago (largely in consequence of the above-mentioned shopping expedition), I noticed my car was running a little low on fuel. Oh well, I've still got a quarter tank or so, and in the meantime, I've got places to be. Last night on the way home from work, the needle hovered near E. But I want to relish every moment of being home early. Stopping for gas would spoil it by at least ten minutes. I had to go back into town for groceries almost immediately upon arriving home. Mom probably needs these things right away so she can make supper. I'll get gas another time. Cami and I went to a piano concert (Gershwin) with Grandma later that evening. Afterwards, I thought about fueling up... But it's so late, I'm exhausted to death, all the stations will be closed, and Dad doesn't want us to use the credit card unless we really have to. After dinner today, leaving for work just on time - I look down. Yeah, my tank is pretty much empty. I stop for gas. I'm late for work.

This evening, as I was filling out paperwork to justify to the government my hours spent working as a respite provider, I wondered why the day I was writing about felt so familiar. Almost finished with page one, I looked up at the calendar. Small wonder ... it was still on the September page. October 1 had been a Friday, not a Thursday. I already filled out a paper for Thursday - and sent it in, even.

What, common sense? I have common sense coming out of my ears - what are you talking about? It took a lot of training to get it to do that. My next goal is to make some of it stay in my head.

On a more solemn note, Chariots of Fire is a simply spectacular film. That's all I'll say for now. A blog post on this topic may be coming soon.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

deep thoughts

I am a creature easily killed by monotony, but even I will readily admit there are some habits worth having. I have a few myself.

For example, when I'm driving I always stick my gum wrapper (if I have one) under my right leg. I'm not sure when or why I started doing this, but I'm glad I did. It saves me the trouble of interrupting whatever train of thought I might be riding when it suddenly occurs to me that my gum has lost its flavor, and wondering, "oh great ... where'd I put my wrapper?"

I just reach subconsciously under my leg and there it is, always. I recommend habits like this.

It may or may not interest the general public to know that the thoughts which initiated this missive were originally scrawled on the back of an unpleasant letter received weeks ago by the author (and long since resolved), while barreling down the highway at just about exactly 70 miles an hour. The letter had been haunting the interior of her purse for long enough, she thought, and anyway, she didn't have any other paper handy.


Keegan's dog, Shilo, is having puppies. Right. Now!

Two so far.

I'll keep you posted.

Ahh, new life. Nothing like it.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

cheap thrills

Tuesdays aren't always my favorite.

I mean, I like the things I do on Tuesdays ... I just do a lot of things on Tuesdays. Towards mid-afternoon, I generally start wondering, will this day never end?

So I've decided it will be a good idea to start looking for the happy little things that poke out at me from the midst of the frenzy that accompanies the third day of my week.


In spite of my failure to either find or make much time at all for cello practice during the preceding week, my lesson went off without anything quite exactly like a hitch. Good thing I have a patient teacher.

While waiting for my dear, indecisive sister to pick out a pair of sunglasses at Wal-Mart, I discovered a display in the midst of their usually-tacky cheap-jewelry-section, containing some necklaces I actually liked, for (only?) $5.00 each (they came with earrings). I bought two. Happy birthday to me, or something. One of them has a key and a heart on a longish chain. The other (which I really like) has an empty bird cage, and hooked a little higher on the chain, a bird in flight. It made me think of the verse from which I derived the title of this blog. Yeah, I like it - even though the clasp is really quite stiff.

The grain elevator is so busy right now with harvest getting underway, they asked my fellow cleaning girl and me if we'd mind coming half an hour later than usual this evening - which left me with a full fifty minutes (as opposed to the usual ten) free after piano lessons. (I know, the math doesn't work out - I'm usually running late, and I wasn't tonight.) I sat at the park, eating my convenience store supper in a leisurely manner, and reading Douglas Wilson's "Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning" as the sun sank behind the trees. It was a blissful oasis of stillness and solitude.

A few people were still working at the elevator when we got there, in spite of the recalculated start time. So we got out our supplies, started in the back corner, and cleaned all the offices in the opposite order from what we always, unfailingly do otherwise. (My fellow cleaning girl is a much more systematic soul than I.) Have I mentioned that I love variety? Yeah ... I might be a little too easily amused.

On the radio driving home (at last) around 10:00, yet another hair-rippingly desperate, grief-stricken Daughtry song was immediately followed by the station's deep-throated mantra, "Iowa's best variety" - and then some unidentified number comprised mainly of perky, honking vocals and carnival noise. I laughed.

(meditative pause)

You know, I titled this post "cheap thrills" - but they're not cheap. They're costing me my life. Each one in succession finds me with a little more time behind me, a little bit less ahead. Oh, let me use what's in between for good!

(No, I'm not moody. Definitely not moody. Why would you say that?)

Monday, September 27, 2010

Oh, what do you do...

...when life jumps out from behind a corner and bites you in the foot for no good reason at all?

...when you're tired in the morning, but not at night?

...when every last thing on your schedule seems to be vying for top priority?

...when you feel like the lone nincompoop in a world of experts?

...when fear holds you back from joy, and you're afraid to break the chains?

...when the day is too short and the list is too long?

...when all the voices of reason disagree amongst themselves, and you can't trust your own compass?

...when you know what you want, and you know that it's good, but you know you can't have it, or at least not yet?

...when you want to just trust everyone, but it turns out you can't?

...when you're tempted to just not trust anyone, but it turns out you must?

...when your heart says one thing, and your mind says three more, and your actions make up a pantomime of their combat?

...when you want to please everyone, and can't seem to please anyone, and know all the time that you should only really care about pleasing God?

...when all your good intentions just sit there and look at you, like what, were we supposed to do something?

...when you know you're supposed to be happy, but you just can't remember how?

What do you do?

And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
(2Cor. 12:9)

Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!
(Psalm 46:10)

"These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."
(John 16:33)

I think you should sit down for a moment, and read passages like this, and drink up the promises, and remember.

It's not the end of the world, after all.

And if it is - well, hallelujah!

Friday, September 24, 2010


To anyone who's met me in person, it probably goes without saying that I err on the quiet side. Depending on my mood and how much sleep I've been making myself get, sometimes far on the quiet side. I often find this extremely vexing. I envy people with vibrant, bold personalities - people who stand up for things and speak their minds. They make it look so easy, so natural. It can be so hard for me - hard to remember, hard to do.

All this in spite of the fact that I know a personality switch on my part would change only the particular nature of my sins - not their pervasiveness or gravity. These things are rather easier to accept in theory than to really, truly believe.

But this morning in the quiet at work, somewhere between the cinnamon rolls and the lattes and the chocolate chunk cookies, something struck me.

I thought, what if God is letting me show myself initially to the world as a timid people-pleaser, so that as He grants me grace to learn courage (as I believe He is, a little and a little at a time), it will be only that much more evident that none but the hand of God could do this thing.

He used a runaway prince with a speech impediment to lead His people for forty years.

He used fishermen and tax collectors to lay the foundation of His Church.

He used a talking donkey once, for Pete's sake, to keep a man from destroying himself.

He can do something with little old me - and I hope and pray that He will.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

notes on a scandal

(or: a few things I've discovered in the more recent portion of my brief stay on this queer planet)

There are better and worse ways to make chai tea at home.

In spite of my thus-far non-habit of using them, I really like aprons - chiefly because they allow a cook to wipe her hands off on herself without a second thought.

It's delightfully acceptable to wear fuzzy socks to church, if you also wear boots and a long skirt to cover them up.

I guess my sister eats chocolate chips under stress (current example: Chinese checkers with Keegan).

Even I have my competitive moments.

According to Keegan, the only difference between himself and Justin Bieber is that he (by which I mean Keegan) doesn't have any recording contracts.

I hate changing clothes. One way to decrease stress on a Sunday afternoon is to leave on most of your church clothes - exchanging, perhaps, a skirt for a pair of jeans - and then making the minimal switch back to decency in time for the evening service.

I also hate brushing my teeth. (Don’t worry, I do it, I just don’t enjoy it.)I have yet to come up with a good solution for this problem. It’s possible there isn’t one.

However, I actually kind of enjoy washing dishes. I find this a little peculiar, but convenient.

Dark chocolate-hazelnut lattes are pretty good, too.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


The trick: not to require it myself, yet not to neglect showing it to others.

Too bad it's so much easier to get it backwards.

Pretty much amazing that nothing is impossible with God - and He's on my side.

Or rather, I'm on His.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

pleasant places

So I had expectations regarding our first family vacation in probably twelve years (if I'm counting right).

So they weren't all met with any phenomenal degree of precision (a few came pretty close).

So I struggled for 2/3 of an afternoon with disappointment and general disgruntlement about the content of the above two sentences - and subsequently got over it.

So what?

It was a splendid time.

One thing I noticed on our last day at the cabin was what a seeming overabundance of cell phones our family posesses (that word has way too many s's in it). We recently discontinued our subscription to the conventional practice of using a land line - investing instead in a new total of five cellular communication devices. (So if you've been trying to call our home phone ... that's why it hasn't been working.)

At home it really is the next thing to a necessity to have so many, with all our various jobs and errands and projects and whatnot.

At the lake, it seemed superfluous. We were all together. Why these piles of phones? They mostly lay useless on the desk all week.

Part of me wishes we didn't need them. I wish life could go back to how it was when we were little, when if one of us went somewhere, all of us went somewhere. Simplicity - that was the word.

But our vacation this year wasn't just good because it was good to be together and relax and rejuvenate next to a beautiful lake. It was fun and lovely while it lasted, but to my surprise, when it was over I was ready to go home. I realized how much I love my life - how incredibly, out-of-this-world-amazingly God has blessed me.

With strange delight, I find that I'm not dragging my feet as I return to the real world. I'm excited to get back into giving piano lessons, taking cello lessons, cleaning elevator offices, working at coffee shops, playing with my favorite kids, trying new recipes, spending time with friends, even cleaning our perpetually messy house - not to even begin to mention all the projects I really should be working on, and haven't even started yet.

And I think that's what a vacation should be for. To step back, breathe easy for a few days while you take a good look at how good you have it - and then dive back in, all rested up and ready to go.

I sat in my car for a few minutes after I got home from work tonight, listening to the last track on Judy Rogers' Psalms CD. The moon was sliced in half in the dark September sky, grey clouds drifting across. So beautiful. So unearthly beautiful.

And then I noticed that the half-moon looked like the head on a body made of clouds, and I laughed because the beauty transcended my trivial, comedic mind, and encompassed it and embraced it, and laughed with me - and I was only an echo - only a happy echo.

O LORD, You are the portion of my inheritance and my cup;
You maintain my lot.
The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places;
Yes, I have a good inheritance.

(Psalm 16:5-6)

Saturday, September 11, 2010

lesson learned:


Don't try to paddle a canoe all the way across Lake Okoboji, and back again, on a windy day.

On the other hand, praise God for super-friendly people who help pull stranded canoes out of the water, and let Sacagawea-wannabes use their cell phones to call in the rescue squad.

Thank Him for strong, forgiving dads and brothers, too, who constitute the majority of said rescue squad.

We live and learn. At any rate, we live.

Ode to How Much Better I Feel When I Get Enough Sleep, and Take it Early

You stayed up late again last night.
This was not wise - you knew!
You wandered off to find your bed;
You changed your mind! Oh, silly head!
A Chopin film was on instead-
A choice you surely rue.

Remember back to days of yore-
It happened once or twice-
When sleep you found at early hours,
You dreamt of butterflies and flowers,
And woke with strange, refreshing powers-
Oh, how unearthly nice.

The grass was green when you arose;
The birds with vim did sing;
The sun might shine, or hide its face-
Small consequence, in either case,
For glad contentment found its place,
Whate'er the sky might bring.

With energy your tasks at hand
Were swiftly made complete.
You felt alive with each exhale,
And smiled to both succeed and fail;
Your foes ran off, their faces pale,
Full swathed in sore defeat.

Oh, go to bed on time tonight!
Forget not what you learned:
The night is dark and made for sleep-
You cannot sow and fail to reap-
These fleeting hours you cannot keep.
Be from this folly turned.

Your life will not be always bright-
The waves will still crash in;
But God made man to need his rest,
In order to be fully blessed
With strength to fight and live the best,
And find his rest in Him.

Sleep, sleep, beautiful sleep!
Sleep of the evening,
Beautiful sleep.

Friday, September 10, 2010

precip at the lake

I like rainy days.
I love thunderstorms.
I like eating waffles and fried ham for breakfast with my family.
I enjoy walking to the lodge in the rain with Cami, skipping out on our intended mission of asking for a key to the "rec check" building, and having an impromptu, possibly illegal piano concert in the abandoned auditorium.
I like spending three hours on a 550-piece puzzle with the above-mentioned sister.
I sort of like listening to the multiple episodes of "Bonanza" playing in the next room, and laughing because ... well, what else can you do?
I rather enjoy building a chain of dominoes across the dining room floor with Eli, even if we have to do it three times because someone keeps prematurely setting it off.
I get an inordinate amount of pleasure out of looking forward to eating freshly caught fish for supper.
I like the grey of the sky and the wind in the trees.
I like the angry, restless water.
I like the lush green, and everything wet.
I like my family a lot.
And I like peaches.
Not that we have any.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

day one, and bad kitchens

So here we are on the cation. So far the weather is perfect, and our cabin is quite nice. The boys are buying fishing bait with Dad, Mom is out for a run, Cami's eating a muffin, and I'm sitting on the couch (one of three actually) with a mug of coffee, a stack of books, and a laptop with no internet. What a life.

Apart from Keegan's dog inconsiderately breaking her leg shortly before we were supposed to leave (I'd like to say that's the last time she'll try to climb a six-foot fence, but that may be giving her intelligence more credit than it deserves), and a couple of friendly neighbors dropping by to chat and, incidentally, bump our intended departure time back by an hour or two (we love our neighbors, don't get me wrong) - anyway, apart from those things, yesterday went surprisingly according to plan. By early evening we were all here; we unpacked most of our vast supply of . . . supplies; we ate supper at Perkins (so much for all that food we brought); some of us watched a tennis match until midnight (miracle of the day: thanks to Dad, I think I actually understand the scoring system!); we slept like logs.

There's a stack of magazines on top of the fake fireplace here, that Cami and I were looking at while we waited to leave for supper last night. Most of them seem to be resources for the modern woman, anything from Oprah, to Country Living (ha ha, right?), to Home Decorating. Home decorating for millionaires, that is.

I found myself staring at a large photo of a beautiful designer kitchen at one point, trying to figure out why I hated it so much. It wasn't that I didn't like how it looked. It looked great. Excellent taste, excellent design. Quite lovely.

Then it struck me (I call myself Captain Obvious) that it was because that kitchen was not meant to be used. The framed photos at the back of the countertop, the bowl of fruit in the center of the island, the absolutely clean aura of the place - was not to be disturbed.

Frying hamburgers? Canning tomato juice? Kids running around? Nuh-uh. No touchy-touchy.

I flipped a few pages over to a similar spread, displaying a perfect living room. Same sensation. Perfect. Untouchable.

The very function and life purpose of a house is to be a home - to be used - to be lived in.

The kitchen was invented for cooking. The living room was invented for fellowship. The bedroom was invented for rest. The bathroom was invented for . . . well, you know what bathrooms are for.

To me, I guess the foundational problem is that these designer homes defy their created purpose. At the core, they're just not true.

Kind of like us, huh? Created for God's glory, living so often for our own? Small wonder that we can't find peace, can't rest, can't live. But praise be to God for seeing fit to gradually redesign us, to return us to the truth.

Ouch, when He breaks in pieces that expensive designer couch that kept me from inviting real people to come in and sit awhile. But - oh, hey! This is kind of nice . . . this is right . . . this is what I'm here for.

What a weird thing to write about the first day of vacation. Oh well.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

the cation

Family vacation: an American tradition, right? Maybe even somewhat of a Planet Earth tradition. But for one reason and another, our family hasn't gone on one since probably 1998 (I'm bad with dates), when all the aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents on my dad's side of the family gathered for a week at a camp near Lake Okoboji. Back in those days, I was a freakishly skinny string bean whose sense of fashion and decorum (judging from old photos, anyway) was even more prehistoric than it is now; my sister Cami was the sweetest, cutest thing you ever saw, and never said a word (some things never change, huh?) (just kidding - love you, Cami!); and my brother Keegan (now fourteen) was a chubby toddler, infamous for his absolute refusal to part with his beloved cowboy boots, and too small to understand that "vacation" was all one word - hence the invention of "the cation." Keegan made up a lot of words when he was small.

Anyway, the point is, we're going on a family vacation this year! We just decided to do it a few weeks ago, and we're going to the same lake as before - which, since we moved, is a grand total of thirty minutes from home.

But a vacation is a vacation, right? It'll be just our family, and none of us will have to go to work. We can swim, if by some weird chance it's hot out. We can sit in the sun and read, if the sun shines and books are handy. We can fish almost no matter what. We can play games and sing and read together if it rains (which it might). We can eat and take walks and photographs, shop a little and borrow our neighbors' canoes and kayaks. We can talk and be quiet, and just enjoy each other's company for awhile.

Who cares if it's September, and we're only half an hour from our house? I'm excited.

And now, since we're leaving in four hours, I should go pack.

Saturday, September 4, 2010


Up before the sun, cold morning.
Sweatshirt and slicks, hair pinned up.
(Why? Home day! Why not?)
Snuggle up recliner,
giggling four year old lap warmer.
Reading Spurgeon...
Sam doesn't get it.
Explain in small words:
Song of Solomon,
Jesus died for us,
He loved us first,
now we love Him.
Maybe Sam gets it now.

no milk, two eggs, no bread.
Cinnamon, apples, raisins, honey.
Warm bowl, warm hands;
shivering shell of a body,
cinnamony-warm from the inside.

Kitchen table observatory.
Gentle sun kisses cold air,
reaching across low from the horizon.
Green grass, green leaves-
but not for long.
Sky is piercing blue, clear into forever.
All the world breathes deep.

Welcome back, September.
I missed you.

Friday, September 3, 2010

John 16:33

Possibly my new favorite verse (if one should have favorite verses, which one probably should not). Anyway, I love it.

"These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."

But be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.


Thursday, September 2, 2010

for those times when I don't do so well...

I don't know - maybe it's a firstborn thing. Maybe it's a girl thing. Maybe it's just a sin thing - but I've discovered in myself a strong (yet shockingly inconsistent) compulsion to always do everything "right." Or at least to feel unreasonably guilty when I don't. People-pleasing, I think they call it.

It really bothers me when I get to the end of the day, and all I can say to myself is, "Tierney, you just ain't done so good today." (Why bother with good grammar when everything else has already gone to pot?)

Sadly, this feeling gets to me most acutely over simple mistakes and blatant, visible sins - instead of the thousand times each hour that my heart was behind closed doors, kneeling before its own throne. To my shame, I'm often more perturbed by my mask falling off from time to time, than by the fact that I'm even wearing a mask in the first place.

Except when I stop to think about it . . . then they both bother me.

Today was kind of one of those days, at least in terms of "oops" moments.

I was blessed last month to start working for the most wonderful woman at her most wonderful little coffee shop, and I just love it. The harsh reality, however, is that this sensation of filial affection has so far done very little to abate my periodic episodes of startling ineptitude. I'm a newcomer to this gourmet scene. And I'm just kind of a spacey, distractable individual, prone to forget things that matter when they matter most.

I left home this morning just barely on time, only to get stuck behind an elderly driver in an elderly Grand Marquis, waiting in a no-passing zone for an approaching vehicle half a mile away to get past before making his left turn (I love elderly people to death - they just scare me a little on the road); and then again behind a semi-truck that took almost two miles to get up to speed (my love for semi-trucks, however, was slain in its infancy, if it ever existed at all).

Nobody is ever at the coffee shop right away when it opens; but I was still five minutes late, and as the sole employee of the day, that was just not Step One as it was intended to be taken. Lesson learned: just leave early.

I got what I'm pretty sure was my first-ever customer complaint today, which made me 1) panic; and 2) realize that I take life way too personally.

Later on, I made not one, but two trips to the grocery store because I forgot the first time that I was out of not one, but two ingredients for the frosting I was supposed to be making. Good thing I was working just a block or two from the store.

I think I accidentally charged at least one lady tax on an item that didn't need it. . .

And I came home to a letter in the mailbox, putting one of my other jobs in potential jeopardy due to past disorganization on my part, of a more technically serious nature than I had heretofore been aware. . .

And I didn't have supper ready until almost 7:45 (waffles might not have been the best of all possible choices). . .

And now my left knee hurts, probably because I've hardly worn anything (on my feet, silly) but flip-flops all summer.

But you know, it could have been worse. I think. And anyway, God will use it all for some kind of unimaginable purpose. And it's good for me to fall down, to fail sometimes. The confidence that comes from satisfactory performance is mostly fake, and in any case has its foundations set in play-doh.

So here I am at the end of the day, and all I can say to myself is, "Tierney, you ain't done too good today - but your God sure is good, and He's forgiven you, and tomorrow's a new day."

That's alright. I can live with that.

progress report

This one's for the record books:

So far I'm liking this "type" of blogging a lot better than my former approach. Of course, one hopes that I will periodically comment on subjects of a depth slightly greater than what is inherent in furniture and cement bricks; but we'll get there, hopefully.

In the meantime, I find it strangely liberating to let go of what (I can now see) was becoming an idol to me, with regards to my writing. Both the writing itself, and the feedback of other people. I am so needy - practically every time I would post something on my old blog, I would check obsessively for comments, and lose a significant portion of my self-worth when none were forthcoming.

"All that work, the best I could do - and still, nobody likes it? Oh, woe is me, the scum of the earth!"

Yeah, it was time to let go.

My challenge to myself with this blog is to look for the joy in the ordinary things of life, and to just write every day about something.

At present, three of the four posts I've posted have exactly (0) comments on them - and I could hardly care less. Quite possibly this is at least partly because I haven't poured hours of work and most of my heart's blood into their creation.

I've also discovered that I write, perhaps not best, but at least most easily, under two particular conditions:
1. in the morning;
2. when I've been reading good writing.

Good endings are so difficult. So important.

This post just isn't going to have one.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

caffeine, furniture, joy

First things first: in spite of my dismal prediction, I did survive all day yesterday without a drop of any form of caffeine. After writing that I surely could never do such a thing, I became very miffed with myself for unnecessarily creating a situation from which I could not emerge alive without the aid of artificial stimulants, and decided to give myself a lesson in Not Being Stupid.

I also thought, hey – maybe if I let myself suffer the full, un-medicated consequences of my rather foolhardy behavior, I’ll finally decide it’s just not a worthwhile habit to keep up.

Smart, huh? Only took me nearly 21 years to figure it out. Einstein would be so impressed.

I’ll be coffee-shopping tomorrow, though (by which I mean, working at a coffee shop – not shopping for coffee beans), so I probably won’t escape un-caffeinated. Some things just aren’t worth trying to resist.

Funny the things a person will come up with to dream about. I have big, impossible dreams coming out of my ears, but the thing that's really been gently tugging at my heartstrings lately is. . .

. . .a desk.

Yep, a desk, to sit at and write, to put books and maybe a picture frame on, and to keep things in the drawers.

I like to think that I'm not fussy, but I guess I kind of am. It has to be a simple desk (not a roll-top), but not super plain, and definitely not ugly. Inexpensive, and not too big (but not super extremely small, either) Maybe a slightly beat-up one, with some ornament and character to it, that I could refinish or paint, and make my own.

And it absolutely must set under, or at least very near to, a window - preferably one with a decent view. A stunning view would be even better, but you can't have everything.

Realistically, would I use a desk enough to make it worthwhile? I thrive on variety, so chances are in favor of my using it a lot at first, during its brief stint as a novelty, then abandoning it for large chunks of time while I root around for new crannies to sit in.

But right now, it sounds perfectly lovely, and I want one. It would be a fun project, anyway.

In fact, the place where my dresser is would make a nearly perfect writing spot: cheery yellow walls and a south-facing window, plus it's in my bedroom, so it wouldn't invade anyone else's space. Maybe I should throw out most of my clothes, junk the dresser, and buy a desk to put there instead.

I was at a thrift store this afternoon, and found this wonderfully amazing solid oak dining table – with six chairs, even – for (drum roll, please) only $150. It is, admittedly, in need of a certain amount of TLC. But it’s so beautiful, and I’d love to learn to refinish furniture – I am so tempted to buy it, I’m almost positive I’ll have to choose between doing it, and hating myself forever for not doing it.

And what, I suppose you’re wondering now, would I ever do with a huge dining room table and six chairs? For now . . . I haven’t got the foggiest idea.

But that’s not the point, now, is it?

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Later same day

(Waiting for the shower.)

I think I may have sleep-walked - or, rather, sleep-jumped for the first time last night. Er, early this morning. The only comforting thing about this is that the only other person present at the time was, I'm pretty sure, fast asleep; so there's no real point trying to verify my suspicions. (Oddly enough, uncertainty can be a good thing.)

So, after writing the previous blog post and stewing a little longer over page design, I finally went back to bed.

Around four o'clock, I realized that it was not my overactive brain that was keeping me awake any longer, nor was it my weirdly rearranged surroundings. It was the ceiling fan.

Some other time I'll write about ceiling fans; I am sadly ungrateful for them for a significant portion of the time.

For now, though, it's only really worth noting that I did nothing to remedy the situation, and eventually fell anyway into something resembling sleep.

At some point in the darkness, I have a vague recollection of looking up and seeing this shelf a foot or two from the ceiling directly above my bed (I sleep on the top bunk, so the ceiling isn't always as far away as I'd like it to be); and this shelf was wavering precariously under a motherload of cement bricks.

I'm pretty sure I really did leap in a panic from my bed, and I'm almost positive I really did stand there next to it for some time, slowly realizing that there was no shelf, and definitely no cement bricks.

I wonder if this means I'm losing my mind, or just that it's a bad idea to stay awake past 4:00 A.M.

Unfortunately, we'll never know, because the shower is open, and I must seize this window of opportunity before someone else does. One of the limited number of drawbacks to having a mid-sized to largeish family.

I will not survive this day without caffeine. Just saying.


Today was an interesting day for me - in a dozen small ways, and no big ones. I like days like that.

I started out by sleeping in, which wasn't particularly bright, but I guess I needed the rejuvenation after the busyness of the weekend. Our house was in need of major rejuvenation as well, so I started out sort-of-right-away by cleaning and organizing my room.

Cami's and my room. I need to remember that. Particularly before moving all the furniture around.

Maybe next time.

Anyway, that took awhile, what with all the papers I had to sort, and all the other distracting things I found to go through and dream about. It was rather satisfying when it was finished, however, even though I kind of think the previous furniture arrangement was somewhat superior. The way I see it, monotony is a curse more terrible than most of its remedies.

I wandered around for the rest of the afternoon, starting something, noticing something else nearby that needed done, abandoning my earlier occupation to start that, running something downstairs only to be distracted by something else . . . somehow a mountain of laundry got folded in the midst of all that, and I showered and the second half of a truckload of dishes got washed (Mom did the first half).

Life went on, I answered a couple of emails, ate supper, cleaned up. Then I sat down to work on snazzing up a new blog I was designing, and got distracted reading other peoples' blogs.

(What? Ritalin? Where? Oh, look! Asparagus!)

I know a number of people who write really beautiful stuff, and several of them see fit to share some of their treasures with the world by blogging. I've blogged myself (sporadically, and usually minus the beauty factor) for a few years - first on xanga (those were the good old days), and more recently on blogger (and sometimes facebook, too).

Some blogs make me think - like those written by older (not old) sisters in the Lord, or mature, godly peers. Essays and poems, reflections on life, insights.

Some blogs make me think a lot - like the ones pastors write, or people with lots of education and strong opinions. Theology and politics, worldviews, applications, conundrums.

Some blogs don't make me think at all - grade school journal types, mostly about how it's been awhile since I posted, I don't really have anything to say, more next time.

But tonight I stumbled upon a blog that didn't just make my head think - it inspired my heart to hope. Not in a big way, but in a dozen small ways. Not because of an epic post highlighting a truth that had never before reached my consciousness, but because of dozens of ordinary posts, each one a little beam of light reflecting off another facet of a life transformed by grace.

And I realized, this is the sort of joy I want to spill out into the world. I've seen it before, but I really needed it tonight, and there it was - like moon shadows on the carpet - delight where I didn't expect it.

So that's why I'm back downstairs at 2:00 in the morning. I've decided to try really hard to reform my erratic sleeping habits - but tonight there were too many thoughts, and I absolutely could not sleep until I'd written some of them down, for fear of losing them before dawn.

It might have something to do, too, with the fact that things are in all the wrong places in my room now, and even in the dark it feels weird.

In any case, it's good I came back down, because on the way through the kitchen I saw that Mom's rice pudding had gotten left out on the counter (I plead only partially guilty).

So I put it away.

But anyway, that's what this new blog is supposed to be - the hopeful chronicle of one girl's journey from guilt through grace to a life of gratitude, and one day, on to glory. (I can't stand alliteration . . . why did I say that?)

Better yet, it's the story of my slowly becoming what I'm supposed to be, carried along by the power and love of the God who is. Maybe writing here will help me see things more clearly in the long run. Maybe it will help you somehow. Maybe you can help me. I hope it glorifies my Lord.

Come with me on this journey. We don't have to travel alone.