milk and pencils

for what it's worth

Cimms and punks

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M: Daddy, at your new work will they still say you can stay home on Saturdays and Sundays?
D: Yeah.
E: And will they still say that Mom-Mom can come on Fridays?

* * * * *

If we re-use the pickle juice, it’ll be decaf water.

– Micaela

* * * * *

Cimms and punks.

– Emeth,  asking for cinnamon and pumpkin spice in his coconut milk

* * * * *

He washed us white as snowman,
He makes us Crosty [Frosty] Snowman.

– Annie, singing while we make play-dough

* * * * *

D: Look at the sky!
R: It’s so beautiful!
M: I see blue, yellow, orange…
E: And beach color!

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Bring-backs, butterballs and brussels

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Don’t worry, don’t worry
You’ll be alive all the time of your life

– Spontaneous song by Micaela and Annie

* * * * *

Why do the neighbors plant flowers but mow the flowers in their grass?

– Emeth

* * * * *

Context: When daddy makes burgers he is faithful to weigh the mass, then divide it by six, so everyone receives an equal share. 

E: Daddy, maybe next time you make hamburgers you could do four grams.
D: Four?!  I did ninety grams each.
M: Gramma Robins is ninety.

* * * * *

There’s a lot of ‘bring backs’ in that song.

– Micaela, after singing My Bonnie

* * * * *

This [is] mommy and daddy singing!

– Annie, while listening to Sufjan Steven’s, Greetings From Michigan

* * * * *

E: Caela, can you come upstairs with me to get my sweatshirt?
M: Sure! Annie, you wanna come too?
A: Sure!
E: Let’s all go so then we won’t be afraid!
M: Yeah, then we could all be happy together!

* * * * *

Daddy, when it’s just you singing by yourself without mommy, I can still hear her singing.

– Micaela, singing before bed while mommy was running errands

* * * * *

Context: Conversation at the dinner table. To Annie, cute and small are synonymous.

A: I hear a sweeper last night.
D: Yeah? Outside?
A: Yeah. [pause] Why I choke on a bwussel spout [brussel sprout]?
D: I guess it was too big.
A: I not choke on a cute bwussel spout.

* * * * *

How come Caela can’t curl her tongue but I can, even though she’s older than me?

– Emeth

* * * * *

Moose-me.

– Annie, saying ‘excuse me’

* * * * *

This is how God makes the moon – he just lights a candle!

– Emeth, on creation

* * * * *

I wear that when I get small.

– Annie, about Talia’s dress

* * * * *

Context: Middle of the night, Emeth running a 102 degree fever, laying on the couch in and out of sleep.

E: Why are there animals in here?
D: There aren’t any animals in here, bud.
E: But what’s that?
D: That’s a pillow.
E: Oh… wait, why is the living room outside?

* * * * *

Mommy! My favorite nuts is butterballs.

– Annie, chiming in with the other children on what her favorite ‘nut’ is

Garden of dreams – If you cook it they will come

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I was standing in line at a fast food restaurant.  I had put my order in and the despondent employees behind the counter were acting like they’d never done this before.  They would walk away and out of sight, then come back a few minutes later to put the next ingredient on, as though they had to ask their father superior permission before each step.  The line continued to grow.  And we, the patrons were growing restless.

I banged my fist on the counter in a sudden rage.  ‘What the h— is going on here!’ I demanded.

No one was behind the counter at this point, but when they heard the commotion, one employee rushed up to the abandoned burritos.

‘We’re sorry.  We’ve got a big catering order to fill for the R-‘s that’s slowing us down.’

‘Whadaya mean, son?!’ I yelled back.  ‘I’m going to the R-‘s house!  You think I came here because I don’t know how to cook?  I came here because I’m in a hurry!’  By this time I was yelling loud enough for the whole store to here me.  ‘I’ll get back there and fill your d— catering order with my left hand and make burritos for everyone in this line with my right in a minute, if you don’t hurry it up, kid!’

* * * * *

I walked into the supermarket for a tomato.  Just a single tomato for our salad.  Rachel had forgotten to pick one up a few days prior on her food shopping run.  The cold air blasted me as I entered through the sliding doors.

To my surprise, the local produce section was bare.  ‘What’s the meaning of this?’ I asked the person passing behind me, pointing to the empty shelves.  ‘Isn’t this the Garden State?’ I asked.

She didn’t say a word, but just shoved a newspaper in my face.  The headlines screamed.

 *NJ farms unable to grow food*   *Worst soil in America*   *Get out while you can*  

‘So it’s finally coming true,’ I said to myself.  I was afraid.  I wanted to scream but couldn’t find my voice.  I felt like I was unable to breath.

Then I woke up, head buried in the pillow.

* * * * *

I keep saying it again and again to Rache, ‘How in the world can you grow one of these things from a seed!’ while holding up a stunted carrot or rutabaga.

‘I’ve got the bug,’ I told a friend at lunch the other day.  ‘I can’t stop.  I’m dreaming about weeds now.’

Yesterday I thinned out the rutabagas.  I noticed there were a few growing too close to one another, so I uprooted them and rinsed them off.  Some of the arugula was going to seed, so I salvaged what I could.

rutabagasOurs is on the right.  The one from Whole Foods on the left.  As you can see, a little guy in comparison.  I picked a number of these though, and put them all together in a mash.

Sometimes people ask me, ‘How do you cook so healthy on a budget?’  The age old question, with a variety of answers based on one’s food convictions.  I think one of the most important principles, though, is innovation.  Cookbooks can be helpful, but only so long as they feed your imagination.  The worst thing is opening a cookbook, looking at all the deliciousness, then closing it again because you don’t have coriander.  Well, who needs coriander?  Skip it.  It’s nice to get to the point where you can just look in your fridge and see three elements of a meal come together in your head.

Last night it was…

  • 1/6th lb beef burgers with sautéed onions, kale and garlic, cooked in bacon fat
  • Freshly picked arugula salad, supplemented by store bought romaine, onion and carrots, with olive oil / balsamic dressing
  • Mashed rutabagas from the garden, supplemented by potatoes and daikon radishes

farm fresh dinner

The picture doesn’t do it justice.

Why 1/6th lb?  Because there are six of us.  I like to get out the kitchen scale and divide the final weight by the number of eaters, so as to ensure perfect fairness.  (Nothing is ever really fair with children, though.)

* * * * *

I had picked some kale in the afternoon.  Rache had been out for the morning, so, thinking she’d be hungry when she got back I fired up the cast iron pan to medium.  Once hot, I poured a generous tablespoon of bacon fat on, left over from breakfast.

I chopped a sweet onion, then let it simmer for a few minutes while I washed and chopped the kale.  (Kale, also from the garden.)

Once the onions started to brown at the edges I added the kale, stirring regularly so as not to let it burn or stick to the pan.  Once the kale started to crisp up, I crushed three cloves of garlic in, stirred for a minute, then turned the pan off.  Salt, pepper.  Done.

She ended up eating some other leftovers when she came home.  What to do with this delicious saute?  I tasted it.  Burgers.  Of course!

* * * * *

1 lb of ground beef in a mixing bowl.  Add in the sauté with some more salt and pepper.  Place in fridge to keep fresh while you prep the mash.

Wash rutabagas, potatoes and daikons (DIE-kon).  Peel the ruties and daiks.  Take out the bad spots in the tatoes.  Chop into cubes.  Place in pot.  (I also added leftover broccoli stems.)  Add 1 cup of bone broth.  Cover pot and bring to a boil.  Lower heat and let simmer.  Let the veggie cubes cook and soften.  The goal is a mash.

Wash and chop the lettuces and arugula.  Add diced sweet onion and shredded carrots.  Pour a generous amount of extra-virgin olive oil on top with a splash of balsamic vinegar.  Oregeno, fresh basil from the garden, and marjoram.  And of course, salt and pepper.  (Everything good ends in salt and pepper.)

Now form those burgers up and slap them on a hot skillet with a little fat.  You won’t need much, especially if you have fatty meat.  Let them cook till just before they char on each side.

Now that your vegetables are soft, take the lid off and let some of the broth boil away.  You don’t need to, though, depending on how thick you like your mash.  Stick blend the sanity out it all, then add a stick of butter.  Or, if you’re using Kerrygold, a half stick.  (4 oz.)

Do I need to say salt and pepper?

Garlic, too, if you’re feeling up for it.

*News flash*   *NJ family grows their own food and makes delicious meals from it*   *Get it while you can!*

Slow growth

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IMG_2923Last November we started our first legit garden.  Well, I didn’t know it would be legit at the time.  I assumed it would fail miserably, as had all my previous attempts at gardening.  I don’t have a green thumb.  The only kind of thumb I ever developed growing up was a calloused one from playing too many video games.

I had read the books.  But now it was time to get my hands dirty.

We expanded what was the landlord’s vivacious tomato garden, into a 15′ x 21′ straw patch, hoping it would be a good winter cover.  But again, what do I know about this stuff?

In the above picture you’ll see little Anna Belle, crying miserably because straw was getting stuck in her boots and gloves and coat.  Her first thorn in the flesh.

Here’s an up close shot.

IMG_2930Poor child.  Face red-stained with tears.

* * * * *

I can sympathize with you, child.  I’m an adult now.  But sometimes, no, often, I feel like wailing.  I want to throw in the mittens because they’re just getting so ragged from work.

You’re a tough bunch, you kids.  Love for family is fierce, though strange at times.  We need one another to survive.  Well, really, you need me to survive at this point.  We get married and start having kids, having no idea what we were getting ourselves into.  ‘Yeah, I got this.  I’ve seen it done.’  But no.  We’ve got nothing now.  And with each passing, I’ve got less then nothing than the day before.

‘I don’t know how you do it, between this and raising four kids,’ a co-worker said to me the other.  ‘I’ve learned to just expect that I’m going to be a failure at everything, and that seems to make it all okay,’ was my response.

A failure in the most loving, and gracious way possible.  No one really tells you what it’s like to be an adult, let alone to be a married adult with four children.  I guess the fact is, no one really can tell you.  For if they could communicate the depths of joy and sorrow that just raising a family would bring, your brain would pop like a latex birthday balloon.  No one has the capacity to understand such a role until they live it.

* * * * *

Here We Go ‘Round the Mulberry Bush, second to last time.  I’ve been letting them each make up the next verse.  Caela, Annie, Emeth, Caela, Annie, Emeth.  ‘This is the way we…’ and I pause, and they add whatever insanity comes to their little child-mind’s.

‘This is the way we eat your beard!’ Annie says, coming at me with chomping lips.  I lose it with laughter.  I am tired, and I want out.  I want to be left alone.  I have nothing more to give.  But this song-game is starting to loosen me like red-wine.

* * * * *

How do they do it, these children of mine?  How do they split my sides with laughter, and make my head spin, all within thirty seconds?  Was I like this?  Did I play with mom and dad’s emotions like sand, sifting them through plastic play-things?  Was there ever a time I had not a care in the world but to be fed, clothed and loved?

* * * * *

I stared at Emeth on the see-saw.  Four year-old boy.  Lanky arms, bright eyes and an explosive smile.  He looks over at his mother and sisters on the other side of the playground, lost in some momentary thought.  Then we lock eyes.  Just for a moment.  My little boy, before you go trotting off to meet them, and I follow.

In that moment I saw not the little baby Emeth that you seemed to be yesterday, but a shadow of who you will one day become.  Of course, I don’t know for sure.  No one can.  But you just seemed so mature.  So old, when I still look (and act) like a child myself.

* * * * *

Micaela is six now.  Last night she was at mom-mom and pop-pop’s for a sleepover, celebrating.  A dinner of her choice (steak and potatoes), then a night on on Passyunk.  Rachel and I took the opportunity of having one less in the house to do some much needed organizing and cleaning.  Carla and Emeth each have an ‘artwork drawer’ on the shelf.  I hate throwing their artwork in the recycle bin, but due to place constraints, I sometimes force myself to go through their overstuffed drawers and decide somehow which art is worthy of retaining, and which is less-worthy.

Each child seems to go through themes and phases in their work.  Annie started with wide scribbles, followed by smaller scribbles in the imitation of handwriting, and has recently moved into the drawing people phase.  Little oblong heads with some semblance of eyes and mouth, and little feet that jut out like a tadpole.  The beginning of her drawing evolution.

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Emeth really takes a theme and runs with it.  For awhile it was the daddy/Emeth truck series.  Endless pictures of him and daddy driving in the truck that daddy doesn’t have on the way to his ‘four birthday.’

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That endless pre-occupation with the number four.

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Then he started adding words as he learned to spell.  His uncanny ability to write his name backwards: hteme.

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Then there was the scooter phase.  And now, it is the beloved Emeth with a blanket on his head underneath his baseball cap, riding on his doggy, Tuffy, or walking next to it.

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As I went through Micaela’s drawer last night, I noticed a vast collection of religious and spiritual work.  Drawings or paintings with phrases like:

GOD LHFS ME [God loves me]
Jesus is GOOD to ME
Jesus Love ME
Jesus is MOY LORD [Jesus is my Lord]
Jesus is GOOD
GOD is GOOD
GOD is GRAt [God is great]
GOD MiE FiHR [God my Father]
GOD lam GODS [God lamb Gods]
GOD taks Ar Af ME – GOOD GOD [God takes care of me – Good God]
GOD LHf ME – PLES LHf ME [ God loves me – please love me]

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Pictures with a cross in the middle.  Pictures of home, garden, family, and even  of her and her future husband.  Pictures full of love between God, herself, and those around her.

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Yes we read scripture together as a family, but I often wonder if they are even listening, distracted as they are by one another.  But the Spirit blows where he wills, it seems.  Bringing growth and understanding of mysteries too deep for words.  ‘God love me, please love me.’  Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief.

* * * * *

The garden is in full bloom now.  We started these beauties from seed.  (All except the tomatoes in the back.) IMG_3736  IMG_3737

IMG_3738I never knew you could eat rutabaga greens.  But they are the crown glory of the garden so far this year.  We’ve sautéed them a few times in butter with onions for breakfast.  The radishes haven’t faired so well.  I think we had three good ones.  The rest were duds.  It’s very possible that all this beauty is in the greens, and that the actual roots won’t do so well.  We pulled up one of the four beets that came up, and it was a baby compared to those rubies at Whole Foods.

* * * * *

This morning I woke up at 5:30.  More rare these past few months.  I didn’t know what to do with myself, so I made some coffee and went outside to the garden.  The air was cool, and it had rained overnight, so I didn’t need to water.  I started pulling up weeds in the back squares.  Within minutes my hands were covered in cold, wet soil.  I looked at my filthy fingernails and tried to imagine all the microbials crawling in and out of me.  Fresh soil, gentle breeze, and caffeine running through your system.  There is nothing so life-giving.  So invigorating.

* * * * *

The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field.  It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches. (Matt. 13:31-33)

* * * * *

‘What is all this business about waiting, Lord.  I don’t like waiting for my food to come up out of the ground, or for my children to grow up into maturity, or to wait for the desires of my heart.  But you keep telling me to wait, to delight myself in you, to not be anxious, to pray.  To be still.

‘But how can I be still when there is so much to do?  So much to think about, and process?  If I don’t do it, who will?’

Then, of course, how pathetic I feel.  Like a child not trusting his (perfect) Father to give him his sustenance when he needs it.  ‘If you are a good God, you would not withhold anything good and necessary from your children, would you?’

God taks ar af me.  From the mouth of babies and infants.  Why can’t I rest in your arms, O God, as my daughter rests in mine?  God loves me.  Please love me!  Help my unbelief.

To fall into the earth and die

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It feels silly to confess this, but I’ve always aspired toward ‘greatness’.  A vague term, but to me, meaning: being well-known, having a deep and lasting influence in the world, leaving a legacy.  Simply put: to be famous.

Of course, this desire will never be fulfilled in my lifetime.  (How could it?)  There is no amount of fame or recognition that would satisfy me indefinitely.  Which is, perhaps, why such a longing leaves me lifeless and breathless, forever panting after something immaterial.

While I wish that scripture always had immediate power to change my attitude and perspective – or perhaps, a better way of putting it is – while I wish I was always self-aware enough, and in tune with the Spirit of God speaking to me through his word, I am not.  While words like, “Whoever loves his life loses it,” should lacerate my pride, I am, rather, anesthetized under the knife.

Thankfully, God has not given up on me.  He speaks in a number of ways to get my attention.

* * * * *

Recently, in reading a book called A Different Kind of Luxury, By Andy Couturier, this concept (losing life to gain it) was rekindled.  He relays the story of Atsuko Watanabe who lives in on Shikoku island in Japan with her husband and two daughters.  They live a simple, quiet life, providing for their basic needs, while also fighting for social and environmental justice.  At one point, the author remarks,

I remember that she once told me she wanted to be like plants are, producing an uncountable number of seeds, or like wildflowers in a meadow, not thinking of herself as so unique and special.  “I admire how they simply sacrifice themselves, hundreds of thousands of seeds, and only a few grow into plants.  I’d like to be more like that myself.”

What a release of self-important, I think to myself. (p. 76)

This reminded me of that same passage in the John’s Gospel, where Jesus says, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies it remains alone.  But if it dies, it bears much fruit.”

To produce thousands of seeds, and only a few bear fruit.  Often, that thought scares me.  To work for a lifetime and not see the fruit of my labors?  For most of it to lie dormant?

I wonder if previous generations struggled with this as much.  I wonder if the digitization of everything causes me to feel that all must be recorded and praised (or liked).  Every dinner I make must be posted on Pinterest.  Every moment with the children captured on Facebook.  Every memory written down and capsulized for eternity.

In other words, there is constant temptation for me to capture or capitalize on every moment.  It can be very difficult for me to ‘just be’ with my children.

* * * * *

Sunday mornings are stressful because daddy needs to get to church on time.  The morning is ruined because of my sour attitude, and our hearts not prepared for worship.  (One of many examples showing that the clock has me wound around itself.)

* * * * *

Another over-familiar Jesus saying that has, to some extent, lost all meaning for me is, “Do not resist the one who is evil.”

Again, I saw this in fresh perspective in reading about Kogan Murata in the same book.  Murata, after saving up enough money to travel, spent a number of years in India, people watching, eating, and learning Hindi.  Murata says:

“At first I would get angry so quickly.  It’s hot there, right?”  He’s looking straight at me across the table.  I know what he’s talking about now: the constant battles with taxi drivers or shopkeepers, each attempting to get more money than was initially agreed.

“Oooh,” he says, using one of my favorite Japanese idioms, “my stomach stood up!”  Murata growls, “I got so like this”; demonstrating, he crunches up his face, all the muscles red and tight, squinting with one eye, the other one wide open with the eyebrow up over it, and his hands in fists above his head.

“And I started to think, ‘This is pointless.’  And I got tired.  Incredibly tired… I must have lost twenty pounds in my first month there.  So then I decided, ‘This is a total loss.’  After all, the argument was usually over five or ten rupees, I figured, ten or twenty yen [about 10 – 20 cents].  So I decided, ‘Forget it.  If they overcharge me, I just pay it.’”

“Really?!” I say, leaning back in disbelief.

“Yeah, they’d raise the price, and I’d give it to them, and buy them a cup of chai too.  We’d talk for a couple of hours.  And then,” he says, with a satisfied grin on his face, switching to English, “Everything is getting peaceful!  I was relaxed, all the time.  Can you imagine letting you head and heart get like that? ‘You bastard, you lied to me!’ and all that.  So I’d give him the money, and then go and get tea for him.  ‘Drink some chai.  Take some time.  Drink, drink!’  Really, it’s an incredible coincidence to meet this rickshaw driver.  And then he would say ‘Thank you’ to me.  That’s better, isn’t it?  I just thought back to my old way, fighting with them all the time, and I thought I was just such an idiot!  Ten or twenty yen!”

“But if the motor rickshaw driver charged you twice the price, you just gave it to him?!”

“Sure!  I’d say, ‘You want it?  OK, here it is.  No problem.’”  Murata’s voice is now utterly sunny and happy.  “Over something small like that, getting all…” he makes his face of mock fury again, eyes bulging out… “like that, it’s just a bad bargain.  So I changed.  My way of thinking turned all the way around.” (p. 109)

Interestingly, in letting go of control over the situation, and ‘turning the other cheek’, he stopped getting so angry, and was instead peaceful and happy.

In the words of the author, Murata espouses “the gospel of taking it easy.’

As I read his story, it occurred to me, that I am not much different than he in regards to my children.  It’s not just getting to church on time.  It’s doing everything on time.  I have the American disease of hurry, hurry, hurry through every moment of the day just to go to bed and do it all over again until you go on vacation for a week.  Everything from making breakfast, to taking a walk, to putting the kids to bed becomes a headless frenzy of short answers, scarfed food, and toothbrushes jabbed a little too far into the back of a child’s throat while barking out orders.

* * * * *

These stories have been ruminating in my head, along with those words of Jesus, over the past several weeks.  They’ve inspired me to conduct a little experiment this past weekend, called Not Looking At The Clock And Just Enjoying The Moment.

Hypothesis: If Jesus words are true, then I should 1) experience much more peace of mind and joy if I pay less attention to my own agenda, and 2) simultaneously have time for what is needful, as well as the things that God has given me desires for.

Goal: To be less like headless Martha, and more like submissive, worshipful Mary.

Here were the four, loosely laid out rules:

  1. Don’t look at the clock or your phone as much as possible
  2. Don’t think about the next thing but be fully present
  3. Let the kids (reasonably) interrupt you
  4. Say yes as much as possible
  5. Don’t take pictures

It started Saturday.  A leisurely breakfast, then several hours spent outside putting up a fence and building a door for the garden entrance.  Rache took the girls out to look for shoes, while Emeth stayed with me.  When it’s just he and I, he talks almost non-stop, alternating between conversations with imaginary drivers of his cars, and questions to me about everything he sees or thinks of.

After cutting off a few ends of a board, Emeth asked, “Are these for me?”

“Sure, bud.”

A few minutes later he came back with the pieces piled on top of one another, “Daddy, can you nail these together like this?”  He wanted to make a ‘car’ out of them.  So, I stopped what I was doing (though I desperately didn’t want to), got some nails out and started hammering.

Then, seeing some spare washers lying in the hardware box, I asked, “You want some wheels on here, too?”  (Thinking of, ‘And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.”)  And proceeded to screw on some shiny ‘wheels’.  This process went on for a little while as more pieces dropped onto the ground, and as he’d run back and forth, to and from the sound of the circular saw.  Little boy was happy as a bee in spring.

Rachel and the girls got back late from shopping, and went inside to prepare lunch while the kids played outside.  I think we ate around 3pm.

* * * * *

Sunday.  Called The Best Day Of The Week by one of my pastors.  I prefer to think of it as the Most Challenging And Anxious Day Of The Week.  The day I am supposed to slow down and rest.  Something I find nearly impossible.

To complicate things, we were going to visit the in-laws church about an hour away.  We are already usually ten to fifteen minutes late to our ten o’clock service (on a good day).  Their service starts a half hour after ours, so we had some wiggle room.  But we also had to pack extra supplies of food and clothing.

I didn’t set my alarm the night before.  We woke up sometime around 7 am.  Exercised, then showered.  When I finished, Caela and Emeth were awake.  Oh no!  No time to just sit, read and drink coffee.  “Can you read to us?” Caela asked.  I’d prefer to make breakfast, I thought to myself.  Instead, with my eyes lowered so as not to see what numbers the clock hands were on, I grabbed the hymn book and Bible, and we sang and read.

We went through our morning routine of food prep, packing and modest kitchen clean up, got into the car, read to Rachel on the way up, interspersed with yelling answers to inquiring children in the back seat, wind blowing through the wide open windows.

I finally checked the clock when we arrived.  Just a little before 11 am.  Not bad! I thought.  We arrived happy and peaceful.

* * * * *

The rest of the day, more or less, went on like that.  Attempting to be fully present, undistracted by all of the things tugging at my mind, enjoying the slowness and beauty of it all.  I think we arrived home around 8:30 pm.  The kids were (understandably) hungry since they were distracted playing with their cousins all day.  (Food, a distraction from the real fun.)  I laid down the law: No Food Later If You Don’t Eat Your Food Now.  I intended to enforce it, but realized (again) I was trying to control time, wanting to get the kids down as quickly as possible so I could go to bed as anxious as possible and with my stomach in knots.

Whether or not I did the right thing by going back on my word, I do not know, but the evening was peaceful and full of laughter as Rache and the kids sat around the dinner table, drinking milk, snacking on nuts dipped in butter and salt, while I washed up the remaining dishes.

Typically, on those late nights, I’ll rush through the bedtime routine as a last resort to save some time for myself.  My tendency is to lay down more rules to keep order in the bedroom, but it usually turns to chaos.  (Everyone, get in line!  March up the stairs!  Lay down!  Blankets on!  Quiet!)

Instead, that night we let them sit or lay wherever they pleased, or for Annie, to walk around with her blanket tied around her head, arms lifted as she sang.

By 10:30 pm, the kids were down.  Rache and I were tired, but not frazzled.  Again, we felt peaceful.  We spent a little time reading in bed, then, to sleep.

* * * * *

I tried doing the same thing this week, as I prepared breakfast and got ready for work.  Usually the last ten minutes are an insane whirlwind of scarfing food, abbreviated ‘shower’, getting dressed, packing lunch and snacks, and deciding which book(s) I want to read on the train.  Usually I forget something crucial, like deodorant or a wallet.  Instead, I kept my eyes off the clock, did everything I needed to, kisses and hugs, walk to the train, etc.  I got to work on time Monday, and was even early the rest of the week.  (I usually get in at the last second of the last minute of the ten minute grace period they give us.)

* * * * *

It seems that in everything Jesus said, he is trying to turn my perspective upside-down and inside-out, helping me to see that there is more to reality than I can calculate.  While I didn’t do much different this past week, while the events were nothing short of mundane, I was happy and peaceful.  My attitude was different, and I fought less with the kids.  I wasn’t anxious.  Perhaps because I was continually reminded to relinquish control over things I have no control over.  A way of letting God build the house, or watch over the city (Psalm 127:1-2).  Walking the line between lazy trust, and laboring in vain.

Perhaps this is just a taste of what it means to walk in step with the Spirit.  Not rushing ahead, but also not lagging behind.  Is this what God means when he says, “Cease striving, and know that I am God”? (Psalm 46:10 NASB) Or to fall into the earth and die, like a seed, that I might bear fruit?  Is that when I will begin to experience true life?

* * * * *

There is a phrase Murata wears around his neck while alms playing, “Without existence, without extinction.”  I think there is some wisdom to it.  Jesus continually taught that I should not be aware of myself or my needs.  Do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.  Pray in secret.  Do no be anxious about what you will eat, drink or wear.  Give to the one who asks of you.  Do not exact revenge, but turn the other cheek.  All of it, a call to continually die to myself.

Does not experience and observation tell me that living like that is more joyful than always pushing for what I want?  Am I not happier when I don’t hold a grudge, or exact revenge?  Does not my marriage thrive more when I don’t grumble and complain when I feel our responsibilities aren’t evenly divided, or when I let go of what I think I deserve?

* * * * *

I fear dying, it’s true.  But only when I fear being nothing.  But Jesus calls me to be nothing.  Not to not exist, but to take no thought of my life.  To be like the flower that disburses thousands of seeds without caring how many take root and bear fruit.  Maybe this is another dimension of the parable of the sower.  Disbursing seeds upon all types of soil.  Some is choked, some eaten, some thrives.

* * * * *

Father, you have made me in your image.  You are the Creator.  I am the created who loves to create.  You have designed intricate beauty at the depths of the sea, at the microscopic level of the earth, and in the farthest corners of the universe that man will never see.  You care not whether it is seen and worshipped.  May I not care whether my creations, my seeds of sacrifice, my investments of time, love, and energy bear any fruit at all.  And if it does bear fruit, may I not care whether anyone is even aware that I was the one who cast the seed.  Make me unaware of myself.  Make me nothing, just as Jesus was made nothing.  Empty me of myself.  Amen.

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