milk and pencils

for what it's worth



Context: Bedtime conversation from last week.  Daddy was distracted in thought, and needed to share where he was at.  To unload a bit on the children.  This conversation ensued.

D: I had a hard day today.
M: Why was it hard?
D: Well, I guess because of my job.  I just don’t enjoy it, and there’s always too much work for me to do, and not enough time to do it in.
M: Maybe on your next day off we can go into the city and see if there’s any other places you could work at.
D: I wish it was that easy.  Now everything is digital.  I can’t just walk into a place and ask if they need any help.  It’s hard to find other jobs.
M: Why?  Will your co-workers not let you?
D: No, it’s more because it’s hard to find good jobs.  Jobs you like and that pay enough.
E: Some people have good jobs.
D: That’s true, bud.  Some do.
M: What kind of job would you like to do?  Have you thought about it?
D: I have, but it’s hard to know.  I thought I might like to be a waiter.  Then I could work around the corner at IndeBlue and be closer to you guys.
M: Or you could work at the little [convenience] store right next to it!

* * * * *

E: Mom, I wouldn’t want the man to butcher up my pets.

* * * * *

M: When I get married I want to go to India and China because they are right next to each other.  And maybe if M- still lives there we can visit her.

* * * * *

Context: Singing “The Lord is Merciful” before bed.  Two of the lines are, “The Lord is merciful and gracious,” and “He will not always chide.”  Emeth, in his sleepy delirium chose different words.

E: The Lord is somersault […]
He will try not to hurt us.

* * * * *

M: Daddy, does G.A.P. spell gap?
D: Yes.
M: What’s gap?
D: A gap is… a space in between.  Like, if one of your teeth was missing here [points to tooth] you’d have a gap in your teeth.
M: Why does it say GAP on Annie’s shirt?
D: Oh.  Well, it’s a company that makes clothes, too.

* * * * *

E: Daddy, in Sunday school we learned about Isaac and Aunt Becca.

* * * * *

E: Daddy, what can I do?
D: You can cut the mushrooms.  Can you wash your hands first?
E: Yeah! [runs into bathroom and turns the water on]  Daddy, what’s that noise?
R: It might be the refrigerator, or the kitchen light.  [turns off noisy kitchen light over sink]
E: [finishes washing hands and turns off water]  Oh.  It was the water that was making the noise!

* * * * *

M: How when people make hot dogs do they cut it into a circle, and why when they wrap it in the cow skin is the skin red?

* * * * *

Context: Reading Anne of Green Gables passage about the time Anne dyed her hair green.

E: Why did her hair die?

* * * * *

E: Why when you close your eyes really tight like this [closes them hard] do you see a lot of red and white christmas lights?

* * * * *

M: So the daddy’s sister is the daddy’s children’s aunt?
R: Right.

* * * * *

E: Daddy, I really wouldn’t want to have a lot of children.
D: Why’s that?  Have we made it seem burdensome?
E: Yeah.

* * * * *

Context: Listening to Sufjan’s All Delighted People EP

E: This sort of sounds like Stevie Wonder to me.

* * * * *

M: [pointing to NOV on wall calendar] Daddy, is this Novoctember?

* * * * *

M: How can it cool off more easilier? [in reference to her hot tea]

* * * * *

E: [calling from his bedroom in the middle of the night] Daddy! Daddy!
D: Yes, bud. [kneeling beside his bed]
E: It feels like my finger hurts, but it doesn’t.
D: Do you want me to pray for it?
E: Yeah.

E: [on another night] Daddy! Daddy!
D: What’s wrong, bud. [kneeling beside bed]
E: I forget.
D: Goodnight. [pulls blankets up]
E: Goodnight.

* * * * *

Context: Cutting and drawing at the little table.

E: [to Micaela] Maybe Talia would like to cut paper when she grows up a little bit.  But I don’t know if she’ll grow up to be as tall as me.

* * * * *

Context: Sitting around dinner table.  Annie requested to drink the beet juice leftover from cooking.  She sips, and two red lines mark her cheeks, running out from the edge of her lips.

E: Annie’s mouth got smilier!

* * * * *

Context: In car on way home from church.  Emeth is holding a stick.

E: It’s our stick!
M: No, its God’s stick.
E: Yeah, God made it.  […] God can’t walk because he’s holding up the earth.  He doesn’t drive.

* * * * *

Context: Sitting around the table, drinking milk.

E: A butcher doesn’t butch milk up.  It butches meat up.  Does raw milk come from cows?
M: If the cow is raw it does.

He comforts all her waste places


There are times, as a Christian, when all may appear to be well on the outside, but inside I am empty, desolate, lonely and lost.  It is as though you see my skin, my clothes, my moving lips and animated hands, but if you were to strip the surface away, you would see a wasteland.  There would be trees so dead that a mere breath would knock them over.  Sun scorched earth, cracked and parched, thirsting for just a drop of water.  Dry bones strewn across the horizon, not a sign of life as far as the eye can see.

It is a discouraging place to be, Christian or not.  Yet, I wonder if perhaps more discouraging as a Christian, because I have set up certain expectations for myself, thinking, I am not supposed to feel this way.  I have the Good News.  Supposedly nothing better has ever happened to me, or will ever happen, then meeting Jesus.  So why do I feel this way?  To have met the source of all life, and yet still feel like a valley of dry bones, leaves me feeling like I missed the last rest stop on the expressway, and I am plunging onward into the unknown with an empty tank and little reserves.

At moments like this, I can feel utterly hopeless and helpless.  I can feel that I barely have enough strength to get through the day, let alone, do anything to help myself out of the pit.

For the LORD comforts Zion;
he comforts all her waste places
and makes her wilderness like Eden,
her desert like the garden of the LORD;
joy and gladness will be found in her,
thanksgiving and the voice of song.
– Isaiah 51:3 -

“He comforts all her waste places.”  Who wants to go to a waste place and help someone in need?  There is one.  There is one who comes into our wilderness, and makes it into a beautiful garden; rich with life giving soil, sunshine, pure water, colorful plants of every sort and variety.  Tens of thousands of them, busy with the sound of pollinating bees, soil with more micro-organisms in one cubic foot than there are people on the planet.  Teeming with life, from root to flower.

Is it possible?  Is it possible that there is one who can come into my desolation, and not only lift me up, but make it so bountiful and sustainable, that I then can begin to give life to others?  That there could be joy and gladness and thanksgiving in my heart?  That when I can barely utter a word of prayer, he can eventually fill my mouth with song?

Sweet Anna Belle


If I don’t get up now I never will.  My sleep cycle has just ended, and I gently slip the blankets off so as not to wake up Rachel, groping in the dark for my sweatshirt, pants and socks.  I open the bedroom door, a few steps toward the stairs, then I descend, trying with all my morning intellect to remember if it’s the third or fourth step that creaks the most.  *creak*  Yes, it was the fourth.  I descend quickly, remembering it is a lost cause trying to avoid them all.  *creak, creak, creak*

I have grand plans for writing this morning, and I begin thinking about which idea I will flesh out.  But first, the morning liturgy.  Fill up the kettle with water, place on stove, put kitchen scale on counter, measure out 22 grams of coffee beans, hand grind them.

I finish grinding, then open my Bible to the morning Psalm while the water finishes boiling.  This is what mornings are made of.  And I begin to read.  *creak, creak, creak*

“Mommy! Mommy!”  I look at the clock.  5:46 am.  “Mommy! Mommy!” I hear from the top of the stairs.  I race up, barely touching the stairs with my feet.

“Hey Annie!” I try to sound excited in a loud whisper.  “Mommy’s still sleeping.  Do you want to come downstairs?”

“Yeah!” she says, holding her baby and blanket.  She is wide awake and alert.  I carry her down into the kitchen, and pull a chair up to the counter for her to stand on.

The coffee grinder is sitting to her right.  A small, wooden box, with a drawer that pulls out from the bottom, containing the freshly ground beans.  “Take a drawer out?” she asks, her hand already on the knob, looking up at me with with questioning eyes.  I nod.

She gently pulls it out, while I place the paper sleeve into the ceramic cone over the pre-heated mason jar.  She holds the drawer precariously by the knob, and I nervously watch her place it over the cone, then tip.  Only a few grounds spill onto the counter, and she begins to sweep them into her hand, most of which fall to the floor.

The water finishes boiling, and I begin to pour.  46 grams.  We let the off-gases rise for a moment, letting the water soak in its fresh coffee bath, drawing out the floral notes of this medium-dark Ethiopian roast.  We savor the smell, then slowly pour more water onto the grinds.  The water slowly makes its way to the bottom, through the filter, then *drip, drip, drip*  Soon, a steady bleed into the mason jar.

Annie crouches low to watch.

Annie, crouching low, watching coffee bleed into jar

Annie, crouching low, watching coffee bleed into jar

“Do you want some milk?” I ask.

“Yeah!” she exclaims.  So I pour her a glass, then pour the rest of the water over the grinds.  She takes a few sips.

I pull the hand blender out of the drawer.  “B’end it?” she asks, wanting to know if she can do the honor of blending daddy’s makeshift latte.  I add a tablespoon (or two) of butter, then a splash of milk.   “This one?” she asks, pointing to the low speed button.  Before I finish saying yes, she pushes it in, and we blend away.

I pour the foamy brew into my mug, and we drink together in the quiet of the morning.  Annie turns towards me, wrapping her arms around my waste in an overflow of gratitude, burying her head deep into my belly.

Annie milk, daddy coffee

“Why did you get up so early this morning?” I ask her.


“I guess God had other plans for my morning, huh?”

“Oh,” she says, reassuringly, then I ask her if she wants to read a book.  Which book?  The Snow book.  We head into the living room, grab Snow from the book nook, then pull a blanket up over us on the couch.  On the cover is a young girl, with her arms outstretched toward the falling snow, wearing a full-body snow suit.

Snow, by Cynthia Rylant

Snow, by Cynthia Rylant

“Daddy, wanna tell you some-ing.”

“What’s that?”

“That’s me,” she says, pointing to the little girl on the cover.

With each turn of the page, we repeat the same ritual.  Daddy, wanna tell you some-ing — What? — That’s me.  If there happens to be a boy or another girl in the picture, they become her brother and sisters.  The grandmother is, of course, grandma.

We finish reading.  She is yawning now, and my eyelids are heavy.  She slides down off my lap, and I look up at the wall clock, surprised to see it’s only 6:15.  The light from the streetlamp is shining into our window, and not a sound can be heard but our breathing, and the tick-tock of the clock.  She looks up at it with me, then I look at her.

She is still.  She is watching the passage of time, if it can be watched at all; unaware of its beating heart, its constant trickle, carrying us through.  She is present, only thinking of now.

This morning, sweet Anna Belle, you have taught me to rest.  But now, I re-enter khronos, feeling its tick-tock, as though it were tapping me on the shoulder, reminding me that there is breakfast to be made, dishes to wash, and work to be done.

“Do you want to lay on the couch for a little bit?” I ask.  She nods.  And she lays down to rest.

My life is 0.639 inches thick

Seize the Year

Seize the Year

The thickness of paper is often measured by caliper, which is typically given in thousandths of an inch in the United States and in thousandths of a mm in the rest of the world. Paper may be between 0.07 millimetres (0.0028 in) and 0.18 millimetres (0.0071 in) thick.


I love that my iPhone calendar can sync automatically with my wife’s.  Yet, at the same time it’s frustrating to only see a blip on a small square representing some event (or multiple events), of varying importance, that is/are occurring that day.  There is no Big-Picture-For-The-Year.  No Year-At-A-Glance.

Until now.

We recently purchased a wall calendar from NeuYear.  I love that it lays out the year in weeks rather than months (which seems more intuitive), making it easier to plan.  I love being able to see my week, month, and year at a glance.

Tonight, in preparation for the week ahead, I stood in front of this calendar for a few moments.  Micaela came up and asked, “Which day is Monday?”  I pointed my finger to the top-left, then ran it down the side.  A half-year’s worth of Mondays.

“This is Monday,” I said.  “And so is this.”  Running my finger down the second set of Mondays.  The other half-year’s worth.  Gone, in the swipe of a finger.

“Oh,” she said.  Then walked away.

Yes, just like that, I began thinking.  A year’s worth of Mondays, slid over with the tip of my finger, like I’m wiping dust from my piano.  This sheet of paper represents one year of my life.

Rachel thought it would be fun to keep this calendar, and to be able to go back to it in years to come, and remember what we did.  Yes, on Tuesday I had coffee with ___.  On Wednesday we went to the nutritionist.  On Sunday, ___ came over for lunch.

I began picturing in my head the end of this year.  Ceremoniously taking down this wall calendar, and replacing it with a fresh one.  Perhaps I’d role it up and put it back into its shipping container, and write the year on it: “circa 2015″.

Or better yet, to save space, perhaps I’d lay it flat underneath our bed.  I began picturing year after year, the same ritual, stacking the old under the bed, and putting the new on the wall.  Year, after year, after year…  How many would there be?

Let’s say I live to be ninety.  And let’s say these sheets are on the thick side.  According to Wikipedia, a thick sheet of paper is 0.0071 inches.  Let’s see.  0.0071 x 90 years is…

0.639 inches.  If James could see me now.  He may have written, “What is your life?  For you are a stack of calendars that appears for a little time under a bed and then vanishes.”

Oh, the brevity of life.

Emeth, singing “The Eyes of the Lord”


Every night, before bed, we sing.  Emeth’s favorite song to sing is “The Eyes of the Lord.”  A few weeks ago I asked him if he wanted to record it.  And this treasure of a recording was captured.  Enjoy.

The Eyes Of The Lord

Lyrics from 2 Chronicles 16:9

The eyes of the Lord run to and fro
To and fro, to and fro
The eyes of the Lord run to and fro
throughout the whole earth,
To give strong support to those whose heart
To give strong support to those,
To give strong support to those whose heart
Is blameless toward him.


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