Category Archives: family

holding hands

creek

Let’s take a walk to the creek, I said…

and all three said yes.

So, we played in the magic of a late afternoon- in mud and in sunshine and in peace. We played until the breeze turned cold and the sun threatened to disappear… and then we turned toward the Blue House again.

The littlest called out to me from way behind,

Wait! Wait. I want to hold your hand! I just like to hold your hand.

And so I waited while her little barefoot feet inched their way over rocks and sticker-weed, finally making their way to me. And, I held her hand.

I love you, she said. I love you because you hold my hand even when it is dirty… even when I am dirty and muddy and messy, you hold my hand.

And that, dear ones, that is as close to the Gospel story as you will ever find here in this broken world.

Oh, what grace to have played a part in it.

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what she said

She was not surprised to find me crying. After 9 years in this house, Rylie Joy knows her mamma cries at commercials and when she’s mad, when she’s hurt and when she’s laughing too hard to breathe. Basically, every day. I cry for world justice and shelter animals every day.

But this was a sad and silent cry- I had just learned that Ry’s friend had lost her dad over spring break. I was overcome with grief for the family’s loss, with anxiety for the sweet children at home, with thanksgiving for the teachers who showed up on a terrible day to stand with their student. For 800 reasons, the tears came.

And so, I explained to Rylie that I was sad for her friend. I asked her if she wanted to talk about it, but she shook her head.

She left to find her shoes but stopped with her hand on the doorknob…

And in her broken prose she said,

HARD. 

And I said, “What, honey? Hard to know your friend is hurting?”

Mom, she said.

Hard to 

KNOW

what 

to do.

And then she left.

If there had been any hope of me collecting myself before that conversation, it was gone now.

My God, my God,

Yes.

It is hard to know what to do.

And I still do not have the answers.

I do know this: she must see me grieve. My children must see me cry and question and fight and cheer and worship in every kind of circumstance. I do not want them to be afraid of being unsure, of being sad, of being small in such a big, broken world.

One day they will come up against that shadowy world without me, and I do not want them to be surprised. I want them learn and practice and know that there is life on the other side. I want them to understand that THIS, this hard-to-know place, THIS is where it gets real. Only in this place can they see the necessity of the Gospel.

If we could right every wrong, if we could heal every wound, if we could explain every mystery… we would have no use for Christ. But we cannot.

There are actually things we cannot fix, and it is a terrible realization.

I will not accept an education from the news or video games or fairytales. No, they will learn about heartbreak and salvation from me. They will learn that the process is messy and inconsistent and wild and dumb. But they will see a real person live a real life, and they will know it is possible to trust God even when we have no idea what he is doing.

Let them apprentice grief by walking through it with me, in the safety of a transparent village.

Let them meet an unexplainable, unforgivable wrong…

Let them stand in the fury of a heart they have willfully hurt…

and let the process be familiar because they saw me do it, too.

And it was hard and beautiful and too, too long.

But it was possible.

world


beautiful mess

cactus

I’ve lost my words.

And, that’s scary for this girl who… well, nothing is real until she is able to think out and write it out and see it out in front of her.

My little family’s life turned upside down last month. I don’t want you to worry- we are all absolutely ok, and we will be ok. I think this season of Lent is particularly appropriate for us as we carve out new expectations and a new home and new normals. It is an incredible story of grace and redemption in progress… but, that’s just it. It’s in-progress and unstable, which makes my brand of therapy (writing) more difficult.

This little space here has always followed some quiet rules of etiquette… truth being the first and foremost consideration. Whether topics be difficult or silly, they are always true. To ignore my life the past 2 months here at Apple Pie, Anyone? would feel untrue, so I want to acknowledge it. But, as with most of life, a story is so very rarely ONLY yours. No, it’s often tied to this person, who’s bound to the next, who brushes up against the next. That’s what makes a village a village- the connection and the sharing at different levels. And because there are so many strings and hearts and unknowns attached, this will have to be true but silent. For now. Some things are simply not meant to be coached through the internet.

I need to give myself permission to let this space wander a bit, to be irregular and unpredictable. Maybe even a little boring. I say this only because, as I mentioned before, it’s not real unless I write it… and whether 1 person hears it or 527, I need to say it out loud. There may be more menu posts and more Blue House posts for a bit until I can get my heart to make words and think out loud again.

For now, I am supposed to sit in the beautiful mess of our life.

The story will come.

It always does.


COME GET ME

AJM and the bunny

She is yelling at me.

She is always yelling, in her way… our Little General. It is how she can be heard above her brother (who has never met a sound effect he didn’t like at full-volume), her sister (who has trouble with syntax but not chatter), and every other large and small distraction on this farm. She is loud and succinct.

COME GET ME.

“ABBY,” I say, calmly but with the aggravation of a mother who has nothing left to give. “ABBY. WHAT DO YOU NEED?”

COME. GET. ME.

Now, Abby is short. SHORT. And, we are all constantly reaching and lifting and leaning her in the direction she wants to go… to get wherever she is certain she needs to be. She bellowing from the bathroom, so I assume she cannot reach the sink (again). Or cannot get off the counter. Or the potty.

“COME GET YOU WHAT, dearest? WHAT do you need? Can you ASK me instead of yelling at me?” I lecture as I make my way down the hall.

I turn and stand in the threshold. She is sitting on the side of the tub- fully clothed, unharmed, and unfazed.

“Why have you been yelling for 5 minutes? You’re fine. What do you want?”

I jus’ wanted you.

“You wanted me to what?”

I jus’ wanted YOU- to come get me.

I want you to hold me.

And so, I did.

Habit has convinced me that I am no more than a longer pair of arms or the one who knows how to zip the coats. That I am the cook and the driver and the finder of lost things. The go-between. The chaperone and mediator for this little girl and this great big world.

The link… to everything else.

But, sometimes… SOMETIMES… I am the very thing she wants.

And, that is sunshine on the grayest of days.


zebras

Mom, who is that guy?

(We are watching football.)

MOM. Who is that GUY? With his arm up? Who is that white guy?

(I blink quickly but do not move.)

That guy is the quarterback. He throws the ball to the other guys.

Oh.

Well, who’s that black guy?

The what?

That BLACK GUY! What does he do?

(I physically flinch. I am not ready for this conversation. I reach in my mind for conversations from my childhood to guide me, but there are none. NONE. Sixteen years of military dependency, and most of that isolated on 2 small bases overseas, offered plenty of opportunities to discuss country politics, rank, and branch loyalty. But color? Everyone was the same color: green camo. It’s not an excuse, but it explains why I am unprepared on a Saturday afternoon to talk about this particular brand of diversity with a four-year-old. I am simply not ready.) 

He’s the receiver. He catches the ball the quarterback throws.

(I watch him as he tilts his head.)

I don’t like him. He’s weird.

(And here, my heart sinks.)

Gideon! Bud. He’s not weird. God painted us all kinds of different shades of colors in this world. Sometimes it tells us what country our family is from. Sometimes it tells us we’ve been in the sun too long. But someone’s skin never tells us anything about whether they’re weird or smart or scary or nice or anything like that. Do you understand?

It’s his SKIN?!

Yes.

Why God did paint him like a zebra? That’s WEIRD.

(I look at the game again. I walk up to the tv and point.)

Are you talking about this guy? In the stripes? 

Yeah.

That’s the referee, Gideon. He makes sure everyone is following the rules.

Yeah. He’s weird. I would NOT want to be him.

Well, I think a lot of people agree with you, Bud.

And I don’t want to be the white guy, either. 

Who do you want to be?

I want to be the blue guy. 

(I look at the game again.)

You want to be on the team that wears the blue pants.

Yeah. They’re awesome.

Not the white pants… the “white guys.”

Yeah.

YOU’RE awesome.

I know. And I am FAST, Mom. So fast.

There will be more conversations, I know… about weight and race and railroad tracks and religion and faith and tattoos and all those millions of feelings (learned or innate or bestowed) we must individually filter and hold up to the Light throughout a lifetime in the broken world. There will be so many more conversations. 

Please, Lord, remind me to ask twice as many questions as may be obvious, to listen more than talk, and to be thankful for the dialogue. And, please- when it is time… every time… give me words that build and expand, not diminish. Give me actions that care and affirm my words. And give me a heart that is not afraid.

Prejudice is a learned trait. You’re not born prejudiced; you’re taught it. • Charles R. Swindoll


WHAT IS THIS LIFE

Dearest Abby June,

Today, you have completed 3 cycles around the sun. If you aren’t the best thing to ever happen to this little family, I’ll eat my hat.IMG_5655

You are 34 and a half inches tall… not yet to where Gideon and Ry were when they turned 2. TWO! Our little Half Pint. You’d be lucky to break 25 pounds, but you carry a quick right jab to make up for anything. You are painfully shy with strangers but fearless with frogs, 4-wheelers, trampolines, hills, tractors, busses, candy, chickens, ornery yearling calves, and wood stoves. Brave. You are brave. You are potty trained (again). You know your colors and your numbers and most of the make and models of our neighbors’ cars. You eat only pancakes and noodles and cereal (nothing has changed since last year… your word is CONSISTENT). You will not wear dresses and have to be in a good mood to wear shirts without pockets. You can dress yourself, including zipping your coat. You are, we have always said, the Little General. You are the child I worry the least about. You have largely raised yourself… I cannot take credit for the awesomeness we see on a daily basis.

IMG_6106

Thursday last, I left a choir concert early with your sister (You won’t remember this, but she puked. SHE PUKED AT HER CONCERT). We were sad to miss the live nativity, and I asked you to sneak the miniature donkey into Dad’s car on the way home. The next morning we had this conversation (keep in mind that I, your 37-year-old mother, am in red and you, still clinging to 2, are in black):

Did you bring me my donkey?

No, I did not.

Why not?!

You haft have money and buy one.

I don’t have any money!

Then you needa ask your dad.

But my dad is not here!

Well, he will be on Sunday.

Child, you have the craziest handle on language this family has ever seen. You’ve been talking for a year, and are fluent in humor, sarcasm, and passive-aggressive suggestions. Our conversations have become the stuff of legends online and certainly brighten the Michigan gray around here. I am constantly forgetting that I am speaking to a minor.

You are an unapologetic fibber. A liar. A student of the untruth. Abby! I say, Do you have chocolate in your mouth? Is that brown candy dripping out of your face at 7am in the morning? And without hesitation, you will answer NO every time. Every time, Child.

IMG_6263I just cannot get enough of you.

I do love you. What’s more, I like you. I would hang out with you even if you weren’t my child. A hundred times a day, Girl, you save me.

Love,

Mom

Abby is 2. (my favorite)

Abby is 1.

Abby is born.


Ry is 8.

Ry's native language

There are few ways to deal with fire, Child. You can douse it with water, but this may leave the area both flooded and burned. You can smother the flames, which is quick but you risk serious injury and are still left with damaged goods.  Sometimes, sometimes… the safest way to deal with a fire is to let the flames burn out on their own. It is beautiful and horrifying, but it purifies. And, it is the only way some flowers will ever see the sun.

These are the FIRE EPHEMERALS, or fire followers. They emerge only after devastation. Their seeds only open in extreme, intense heat… and they will wait 40 years if they have to. Some will not even attempt life if it’s been less than 10 years since the last flame. What kind of beauty is this? That which demands such a display, such destruction, before showing its face?

I am only just beginning to understand.

tarweed

It is the rare, the quiet, the high on the hill, the least sought after, the unique, and off the beaten path, the beauty from ashes kind of life.

I am only just beginning to know a God who would hide treasure among dust, who asks for obedience rather than results, who craves a relationship more than a receipt. He, himself, is a consuming fire, and there is no way through it but through it. 

This God did not give me a child the world wants to ‘fix’ in order that I might lead her and myself to a better life.

He gave me a child that I might love as He loves me.

There is no end to this journey, I find. Each time I reach a crossroad, a bench, a peak, a valley… each time, the road continues on into the sun and there is nothing to do but keep walking.

I have never been so broken or so full at the same time.

There is no end, but I am not doing it wrong. 

I am only just beginning to understand.

LUKE

You, my girl… you are eight.

You can say HAPPY BIRTHDAY this year. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, I AM EIGHT. It is a miracle and a testimony to your relentless spirit of indifference. I am convinced you still do not know nor care that your voice comes out differently than most of those around you. I (still) have more questions than answers at this point… and so I expect God desires this conversation to continue.

Ry, you are 51 inches tall. You weigh 50 pounds. You want your hair to be long… long, like Ms. Julie’s. You wear a medium/8 and a 3 in shoes. A THREE. Gas costs $2.75 and bread is $2 a loaf. Gideon is 4 and Abby is closing in on 3. Dad is 36 and I (mom) am a month away from 38.

You love to ride horses. You love to write: lists, letters, words- WORDS! You can read! You can do simple math. I am convinced that wonders will, truly, never cease. You’re in second grade with Mrs Burgess, and you love to ride the bus. Your best friend is Kaitlin, and she is one of many in your sweet circle of friends (and adults) that love you and pray for you and watch over you and look forward to you. I am so grateful for the beauty God has grown in the dessert of special-needs. What a community of kind and honest people we share life with, Rylie! Fire followers, all of them. And more vibrant because of it.

You do not ride a two-wheeler or tie your shoelaces, and we do not care. Your temper is fierce. You need a plan, you like to see the next thing, and you thrive when you have a task, a job, a purpose.  You want pizza every day. You can name all of our cows by sight, and you pack your own lunch. We are so incredibly proud of you, Ry. For how hard you work, for how honest you are, for how quickly you forgive.

You are a new creation. A beautiful, new, growing, ever-changing creation. A fire-follower.

You remind me every day that fires are not the end… they are the beginning.

I thank God for the beauty that is you, Girl.

Julie and Ry

Love you so much,

Mom

Past birthdays:

Ry is born

Ry is 1.

Ry is 2

Ry is 3

Ry is 4

Ry is 5

Ry is 6.

Ry is 7.