March 25, 2013

happily hating my sofa

Fourteen and a half years ago, my Farmer and I, flush with wedding gift money, set out to buy a sofa for our little apartment.  We wanted something well-made, durable to withstand the years, and Scotch-guarded to withstand the children we were sure to have.

In the second store, we found what we were looking for - a classic design, of sturdy construction, long and deep enough for even my six-foot-one Farmer to nap on comfortably.

We decided to place an order, with a wing chair on the side, and were presented with the upholstery book.

We flipped through the samples, trying to recall our research:  olefin wears better than cotton, a pattern hides dirt better than solid, blue fades first.  I admired my mother-in-law's sofa, and looked for something similar, a neutral background with a small embroidered pattern.  There was nothing quite like it in the book, but we found something not too dissimilar, in colors we liked, and placed our order.  There were three swatches of the sample, a small pattern, a medium, and a large.

I assumed the small pattern would dominate.

A few weeks later, the sofa was delivered.  I stared in amazement.  The lines of the sofa were familiar, certainly, but had we really chosen this upholstery??  Large, bold flowers?!  Prominent vertical bars and a diamond crisscross of vines?  Where was the discreet pattern of small flowers and dots?!

I looked closer.  There, on the very tips of the cushions, was my small pattern.  But the entire piece of furniture was dominated by leafy vines, framed by loud flowers the size of my hand.  What had we done??

And it was made to last.


Well, fourteen years, two moves, three daughters and a son later, and I'm glad I'm not in love with my sofa, for it surely will not last the lifetime we expected.  There is a definite sag under our favorite end by the lamp, and the {admittedly pale} neutral background has, er, developed a bit of a patina from all the Farmer naps and bare-footed children.

Should I have told them to keep their feet off the sofa?  Banned all bare skin or unclean clothing to spare the upholstery?  Kept jumpers on the trampoline and builders restricted to Lincoln Logs?

I used to feel a little guilty that I let my children jump on the sofa (up till age 3 is the house rule), build forts with the cushions, and gallop around the house using cushions for horses.  Sort of like I was lacking in the responsibility department of parenthood.  But I have fond memories of doing the same, and after all, childhood is short ....

... and the upholstery is ugly.

March 20, 2013

theological quips

Lil' Snip is playing Tinker Toys with Nice.  He sidles up to me with a "tower" and confides, loudly, "Jesus has a s'prise for me!"  [I'm not sure how it's possible, but sadly, I forgot the rest of this intriguing conversation.]

Later, I overhear Nice informing Lil' Snip firmly, "God doesn't like Satan."

Sugar overheard it, too, and brings it up at the table while we're eating supper.  "Mommy, [Nice] told [Lil' Snip] that God doesn't like Satan.  I thought God loves Satan but is disappointed in him."

Hmmm ...

Lil' Snip, sensing the conversation turning philosophical, contributes an important tidbit:  "Jesus keeps his salt in the refrigerator."

It's so nice to know they're picking up on the important things we teach them ....

weary & worn

{courtesy of Tenth Avenue North}

I’m tired, I’m worn;
My heart is heavy
From the work it takes
To keep on breathing.
I’ve made mistakes,
I’ve let my hope fail;
My soul feels crushed
By the weight of this world.

And I know that you can give me rest,
So I cry out with all that I have left:

Let me see redemption win!
Let me know the struggle ends;
That you can mend a heart
That’s frail and torn!
I wanna know a song can rise
From the ashes of a broken life,
And all that’s dead inside can be reborn ...
Cause I’m worn ...

I know I need to lift my eyes up -
But I'm too weak;
Life just won’t let up.

And I know that you can give me rest,
So I cry out with all that I have left:

Let me see redemption win!
Let me know the struggle ends;
That you can mend a heart
That’s frail and torn!
I wanna know a song can rise
From the ashes of a broken life,
And all that’s dead inside can be reborn ...
Cause I’m worn ...

My prayers are wearing thin ...
(Yeah, I’m worn)
Even before the day begins ...
(Yeah, I’m worn)
I’ve lost my will to fight ...
(I’m worn)
So, heaven come and flood my eyes!!

Let me see redemption win!
Let me know the struggle ends;
That you can mend a heart
That’s frail and torn!
I wanna know a song can rise
From the ashes of a broken life,
And all that’s dead inside can be reborn ...
Cause all that’s dead inside will be reborn!

Though I’m worn,
Yeah I’m worn ...

March 17, 2013


My Farmer taught from 1 Peter this morning in Sunday School.  We are sojourners, aliens, Peter reminds us.  This world is not our home.  We come from Heaven and everything here falls short.

"Write a letter home," my Farmer suggested, and handed paper around.  "Have you ever lived in another culture," he asked us, "even for a couple of weeks?  Pretend this, here, is that other culture, and write home to your Daddy about it."

I've lived in other cultures.  A winter in Baltimore, on the wrong side of town.  Eight months in Guatemala City.  Several semesters in a southern college town.  A summer in Georgia.  Two lonely years in Japan.

But lately I've been feeling more homesick than ever before in my life.  I don't have a death-wish, exactly, but I yearn for heaven, for a closeness to my Father that is unimpeded by earthly distractions and my own sin.  To be with him, to enjoy him, to know for the first time in my life the true depth of his love for me.  To be done with tired, and with tears.  That's what I'm made for; that's what my Home is like - joy, peace, authentic worship, unfettered communion with the Lover of my soul.

So unlike life here.

It was easy to write my letter.

Dear Daddy,
   I want to go home.  The people here don't know how to love.  They judge, take offense, are selfish and fearful and arrogant.  No one smiles very much, not like you.  No one seems to notice all the beauty you've made for them.
   It's all rubbing off on me.  I miss you - but I'm distracted with trying to fit in here - trying to belong. I find myself competing, wanting to be like them instead of like you.  I forget what you're like, sometimes.  I know you said I could call anytime, and I haven't lately.  I don't write very often, either, and although I read your letters when they come (thank you!), when I put them away, I usually forget what you wrote.
   I don't want to become like them.  I'm tired and confused and forgetful of my mission.
   Can you help me?

I went down to the service a little more raw than usual.  "Soon we will be coming home", we sang, and I couldn't keep back the longing tears.  The pastor spoke of Jesus' agony in Gethsemane and I cried again, to know that he, too, wanted out.  Yes, he chose obedience, but he so intensely desired to avoid it that he cried aloud and sweated drops of blood.  My God was human, too.

I am here on assignment, like Jesus was.  My assignment might look easy to you, but I am so weak that it seems hard to me.  I want to choose obedience, like Jesus did, but I long, some days, to give up, to be able to go back home to my Daddy where all is right again.

A lady at the grocery store this week struck up a conversation with me.  She mentioned working with music and I asked what she does.  "I sing for the dying," she said.  I could not imagine more beautiful work to do.  I told her about the time my daughters sang for me, and we both got goosebumps.

I would love to be sung right into heaven, into my Daddy's waiting arms, to hear him say, "There, there - it's all over now, you're home again.  You did good; I'm proud of you."  (that last I can hardly type; it feels like heresy to claim that for myself.)

But for now, I'm still here.  So are you.  Maybe you're homesick, too.

Sugar asked me one time - or was it Spice? - why God put us on earth in the first place.  Not why he made us, but why he didn't just make us and plop us in heaven, where we belonged.  Why subject us to life on earth, first?  I told her I didn't know (and I still don't) but that maybe it was because we appreciate something so much more when we've felt its lack, longed for it, and worked hard for it.

Maybe we can help each other, while we wait ... and maybe in the helping, we'll see that that's why we're here.

When we arrive at eternity's shore,
Where death is just a memory and tears are no more,
We'll enter in as the wedding bells ring -
Your bride will come together and we'll sing ... You're beautiful!
           [by Phil Wickham]

March 13, 2013


It's bright out, now, but *shadowless.  The children are all tucked up for Quiet Time - Lil' Snip asleep, Nice with her three books, and Sugar & Spice with mathbooks and a Bible assignment (to probe Proverbs for health wisdom).  I curl up on the sofa with the laptop and my carbs of choice (Cheez-Its today, and new-to-me Breton crackers), having left a message for a friend to call, vacillating now between my blog or Seinfeld re-runs.

[Blogging won, thanks to guilt, and yesterday's glut of Seinfeld.]

It's not quite overcast, and yet, not sunny either.  Something about the weather keeps me inside myself.  Even a phone call is hard to make.

Earlier, the sun shone - brightly, as if it meant to stay; as if spring were here now, and not weeks away - and I found myself jolted out of my inertia, and cleaning windows, of all things.  The fresh air invigorated, the glass sparkled, all was right with my world.

Now the sun is in, you can hardly tell a difference in those windows.

Will it shine again before they're spotted and dusty, to show off my work?

Thoughts come slow today.  Guilt is not a good muse.  And all those poems I read to my daughters (the Sonnets to the Portuguese is what we're on) shame my commonplace, contemporary, inadequate writing.

A week ago, someone stumbled on my blog, searching for Janet Gehman, who (whom?) I mentioned in a post about chocolate.  She was my English teacher, taught me about Shakespeare and possibilities; her crooked smile will always be one of my favorites.  I wonder where she is now, and who was looking for her, and if she knows how much she gave me.  I'd like to thank her, please her somehow, to give back.  I'd like to see that smile again.  She always seemed to have some secret delight for her fuel.

It's chilly here.  The pellet stove is burning but it has some catch-up to do, since the sun went in.  My Cheez-Its are gone and my friend hasn't called.

Maybe it's time for some Seinfeld.

*At a meeting for artists last month, David Nolt, a local painter, talked about a painting he did for a group of children.  The elements were all in place, but lacked depth.  He told the children to watch, he was going to make the sun come out.  I pictured, immediately, highlights, dabs of white and yellow, the way a landscape brightens when the bank of clouds rolls away.  Instead he said, "and then I painted shadows."

The shadows have stuck with me.  They're how you know the sun is shining.

March 5, 2013


I'm in one of those dry, battle-y spots where I keep waiting for the win,
so I can write about it.

But it doesn't come.

And here's what I decided to do:  write anyway.

There's been sickness.  Weariness.  Irrational irritability.  Hormones are suspect.  Flu viruses may play a part.  Brokenness, woundedness, yes.  And at the bottom of it all is the wondering, can I do this??  Really?

Love, I know, is a choice.  Someone told me that, once.  Or maybe I read it somewhere.  Poetic, isn't it?  Bracing in a pleasant, theoretical way.

But then there I am, folding his underwear when I am furious at him for being himself and not the implausibly perfect version of himself I've invented.  Cooking his breakfast when his touch makes me bristle.  Looking at him in the bathroom mirror, trying to smile ....

But look!  Just typing this is tilting the balance.  I can hardly think of what annoys me for the shaming flood of things I realize he does for me.  {And so, once again, the victory comes through a step into mid-air, by faith.  And gratitude, the footing for it all, shows up sturdy.}

He fills the pellet stove daily, to keep me warm.  
(and keeps it set higher for me than he would for himself).

He feeds the chickens in all kinds of weather, trading my kitchen scraps for their eggs.

He faithfully goes to work - on days when he's excited about his job, and on days when he'd rather be anywhere but there - to provide for us.

He prays for me.

He thanks me for breakfast, every day.

He snuggles close at my request, to keep me warm.

He purchased, cleaned, assembled & cleaned again, prepped & re-prepped a site, and cleaned yet again a pool "for the children" (when it was really me, maybe, all along, who so wanted a place to swim).
And he put it in the greenhouse so we could swim pre-season.

He comforts me when I am sad.

He counsels me when I ask his advice.

He encourages me to try new things.

He fixes my washing machine, my kitchen faucet, the wiring in the space heater, and whatever else needs to be fixed - not because he's experienced,
but because he loves us and can learn.

He loves me enough to let me grow, even by making mistakes.
Even when they affect him.

He forgives me.  And keeps loving me.

And there's the win I sought.  Gratitude brings it, as usual.

"Love never fails."

March 4, 2013


Until I have something of substance to say (or at least have the guts to write out my substance-less thoughts; the well is still so dry), I give you my children's words:

Lil' Snip, watching me dose our ancient bathtub drain with baking soda & vinegar:  "It's simmering!"

Nice, eating candy hearts left over from Valentine's Day:  "Mmmmm!  The green ones taste like leaves! .... April Fools!!!"

"Pine cones!!!" cries Lil' Snip exultantly, holding up an alphabet puzzle piece of three ice cream cones.  "You can have one.  I get two."

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