Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Might listen

K took Sputnik to school to share with her class of 9 fifth graders. Sputnik is the larger of our two cats but his meow is precious: high pitched and tiny, as you'd expect from a newborn kitten. He missed his sister and wasn't sure what to think of the car ride in a crate by himself. He let us all know how he felt by his dramatic vocalizations.

K responded quickly and gently, "I hear you, little kitty. I'm listening with all of my might."

May more of us respond this way to the people we encounter every day.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Time Travel

The pianist strikes the opening chord and words appear on the overhead screen. My breath catches; my heart swells; tears of recognition sting my eyes. 
This song is a portal to a place in time past—a place cemented in my mind. The place is unchanging as time pulls me farther and farther away. This is a place where my grandpa plays the piano in a little chapel amidst the pine trees. He plays for the sheer joy of it—all alone except for the audience of his God. Except I’m there too, drawn by the notes rising through the mountain morning air, but he doesn’t see me. Grandpa’s presence, especially Grandpa’s presence at the piano, seems as constant as the stars. It is no trouble at all for me to recall the words to the melodies he plays in his boisterous way. They come as naturally as the names of any of my boisterous family members. Those same family members sing every time we gather no matter the occasion. My past self sneaks in to listen. I am in college and possess all the vitality and curiosity of a young adult unsure of her future and simultaneously excited for it to arrive.
And now it has arrived. I stand among hundreds of women on a Monday night, in this future. We sing the familiar words and that is all it takes for me to be transported back in time through the portal of an unassuming hymn. Ambushed by the music, I’m powerless to stop the tears as they well up and roll down my face. Here I am, standing next to my daughter in this good future, marveling at the path I took to get here and grateful for the blessings generously strewn along the way. I look back on my past self with wistful tenderness. I ask her to hug Grandpa, to sit a minute longer in the back of that little chapel, receiving that timeless truth sent ahead to me by the song’s author and strengthened by those who entrusted it to me by repeating it often enough that I can sing it entirely from memory.
I carry the song forward into the future again. I look down at the blonde head of my daughter as she sings. I wonder, will it one day transport her as it did me?
I can’t read the future but I can sing the song and hope. 

I know not why God’s wondrous grace to me he hath made known, nor why, unworthy, Christ in love, redeemed me for His own. But I know Whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I’ve committed unto Him against that day.

Friday, September 30, 2016

The prettiest sounds

Just before Christmas in 2014 Elaine went with me to the music store and we came home with the tiniest violin. She was five. One morning in the spring of that year, she woke up asking for violin lessons.

"Why?" I asked.

Her response was always the same, "They make the prettiest sounds."

I waited to pursue lessons for her because she was FIVE and if this was going to be a passing fad, I didn't want to jump on board, much less throw money at it. But in the fall, as she began kindergarten, she still bugged me about violin lessons.

She turned six a month after her first lesson and her teacher said, "I've never seen a more beautiful bow hand on a child so young. And her ear? She's a natural."

I wasn't going to argue. Melodies have always come quickly and easily to Elaine. She is a deep feeler and deeply expressive. The violin is a perfect fit.

Elaine's love for the violin does not (always) translate to a love for daily practice. I insisted upon it. The money spent on lessons would NOT be wasted! We clashed. Finally I told her that if she still wanted to quit violin lessons at the end of the school year (by now she was nearly done with 1st grade) then I would let her quit. Until then, however, there would be absolutely no discussion.

June arrived. I approached her hoping I had read her correctly those few months back.

"Well Elaine," I began, "school is out. What do you think about violin? Should I tell Ms. Nancy that you want to stop lessons?"

She thought. While she thought, I thought. I had done something pretty risky, leaving it up to her, but I also knew this was necessary. She had to own it. It's so much more rewarding when you own it. Plus, if she chooses it, then she can't be so bitter about me "forcing" her. This would be HER decision and I wanted her to make it herself.

She cocked her head and looked up at me, as if trying to read my thoughts about this whole situation, "Wellllll..." she finally said, "I guess I'll keep going." Ah-HAH! I thought in exuberant victory, Mom wins again!

But really, she's the winner.

She's seven now, and can play all the songs her elementary school band (plus strings) plays. And band is only for 4th and 5th graders.

Tonight she asked to listen to music at bedtime. I picked up my iPad and prepared to pick a kids music station.

"Actually, Mommy," she said, "can you look for something with violins?"

I certainly could.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Good, better, best

Sometimes I have a day in which many wonderful, good things happen and many awful, terrible things don't happen. I move through the day's hours and reach the close without "real life" ever seeming to catch up.

Today was a day like that.

I slept in; I ate donuts for breakfast.
My husband volunteered to take both kids back-to-school clothes shopping while I took my new MacBook Air to the library.
The weather is mild and a baby cucumber is growing in my garden.
I had sushi for dinner.
Now I'm watching the olympics and eating ice cream.

Thursday, August 20, 2015


A counselor I know says depression is the opposite of expression. I don't know. I have expressed quite a bit while depressed. I think he meant expression of the whole, healthy "true" me. Depression is truly me sometimes.

I can feel it come over me, like a mask, over the space of a few hours. My face hardens and becomes like an outer shell; it's me by default but feels completely disconnected from me. All 42 of my facial muscles settle into a stoic expression that I force into more socially acceptable expressions with great difficulty (and varying degrees of success.) It feels like only my eyes move, and even then it's not without considerable effort and concentration. 

If I manage to prevent myself from falling deeper into the black hole of depression, then I usually end up with raging discontent and irritability coupled with highly negative self-talk. 

I usually don't write things like this until I have some positive spin to wrap up with, but this time the positive spin hasn't arrived before my desire to write.

I think I'll go play the piano.

Friday, August 14, 2015

the least of these

For the past few years Val and Elaine have helped me make what we call "homeless bags." We go buy a bunch of things that may be usefull to someone living on the streets, pack them into ziplock bags and then put them into our van. That way we'll be ready to hand one over to whoever we come across. 

We saw a guy yesterday on our way to Smart & Final. "Aw man," I bemoaned, "we're out of homeless bags."

We drove on and turned into the parking lot. 

"So?" Elaine said, "we could still buy him something at the store and take it to him." 

I said nothing. I didn't really feel like it. I had a system, and it was true that system was down due to my lack of oversight, but I didn't feel like going out of my way. It wasn't part of my plan for that day. So I'm fine with doing God's will only when it fits into my will? Is that it? I think that's it. Crud.

"Yeah," Val agreed, "let's get him something. Probably like water and a snack like chips or something."

"I don't know..." I said doubtfully, searching for reasons why giving something to a homeless man in broad daylight wasn't a good idea. Nevermind that it was JESUS' idea. "We'd have to drive around again out of our way to head the right way past him." I protested weakly. Am I really doing this? Trying to talk my kids OUT of being Christlike?!?

They regarded me curiously. Elaine spoke, "Mom. We could just go park on the parking lot side and walk up and hand it to him and not be on the street side." Yes, children, apparently you do need to refresh my memory on how cars work. 

Ugh. Even more of a personal investment and interaction. Walking up and talking instead of handing something out the window as we drive past.

We went into the store and got our things. Val tugged my arm in the check-out line. "Gift cards! We could get him a gift card, that way he can buy exactly what he needs instead of us guessing the wrong thing."

Okay fine. We got the giftcards (there were two homeless guys, working different parts of the same corner.)

I pulled the van into a parking space near the man and got out. I hate awkward situations even with people I know. This wasn't at all comfortable for me or something I'm a natural at. (As if God only asks us to do things we're comfortable with - hah.) Many of my family memebers live for this kind of conversation, but I don't. 

I smiled and held out my hand, "Hi! I'm beck. We've seen you here a couple of times." He shook my hand. His name is Ryan. I held out the gift card. "I hope this helps." He thanked me.

Next time we drive by Ryan I hope I'll have a better attitude and a more willing spirit. Thanks, kids.

Monday, August 10, 2015


The good people of In N Out can be depended upon to ask how you're doing before they take your order. I've always thought it big of them and usually attempt to return the favor. As if either of us will say how we really are. It's a question I've answered with varying degrees of honesty; sometimes strangers can't handle the truth. (Or they look at you oddly for honestly communicating it.) Tonight at 9:58 pm, I wanted to respond, "mentally worn out and completely empty" but instead I smiled and placed my order. (Number three with onions, ketchup instead of the spread with root beer for in the car.)

Arriving home thirty minutes prior, after four hours of intense interaction with people, felt like a bombardment of needs. Superman wanted my opinion on which clothes to donate. Val wanted to talk about her chapped lip. Elaine wanted me to sing her bedtime song. I met the needs as best I could and then met a need of my own by driving away by myself. I didn't listen to the radio.

I didn't even play Ingress.

I wouldn't trade the two groups I'm a part of on Mondays for anything, but man they can take a toll on me. I'm ON ON ON (all GOOD GOOD GOOD) but when I get home I seriously need some OFF OFF OFF time.


Our family is looking for a new church home. I've always enjoyed observing people but I find observing people at church particularly interesting.

I know the observing goes both ways, especially in smaller gatherings, like the one we attended yesterday.

I tried not to care too much when Elaine spent most of the opening singing time with both fingers firmly (and not inconspicuously) planted in her ears. When I leaned over and quietly inquired as to the reason for her turning two deaf ears, she met me with a violent scowl and proceeded to say (loudly, so as to be heard over the song) "I'm mad because no one gave me breakfast." I was off the hook because I left the house before she was awake, but I wondered what else she told the Sunday school class teacher about her morning (which apparently had not gone well!)

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Once upon a time...

...I had a blog. Turns out, I still do and I still pay for my domain name, as I was recently reminded via an email that informed me payment is due again.

I told this guy (http://bobhamp.com) (what, I can't hyperlink in the Blogger iPad app?!)  that I wouldn't ignore the urge to write whenever it next struck, and, although I've technically remained true to that I've also kind of cheated and used Twitter. 

I was reading back over my blog and I miss writing. It's very worthwhile, for my own sake; if others happen to get something out of it as well, all the better, but it's primarily for me. My creative outlet.

I'm a bit rusty.

I hit the ground running (the couch, dragging) this morning at **checks Jawbone UP data** 6:23 am when a tremendous THUD announced to everyone in the house that Val was awake and had exited her (top bunk) bed. Within minutes I heard voices from the guest/computer/sewing (read: only remaning) room which announced to everyone in the house that EG and ED were also awake. They had the luxury of being driven to our house late last night while they slept. Their father had the UN-luxury of driving (and not sleeping) AND waking up early with them.

I followed Val out to the family room and whisper-pleaded with her to please quietly watch Jelly Telly until her sister and cousins woke up (praying they were still mostly asleep.) Val had an understandable mini melt down (as I'm sure any bonafide morning person would understand) saying that she hates being the only one awake and she's so lonely and why can't anyone BE with her?! I gazed out into the darkness and sighed.

We compromised and I snuggled with her under a blanket on the couch. She watched Jelly Telly and I devoted myself to looking as asleep as I possibly could, hoping to trick my body into actually resting.

Five minutes later we were joined by two cousins and two minutes after that I surrendered the blanket and got up to make breakfast. 

My phone failed to alert me (I failed to turn on the sound after turning it off so I could more-sneakily take pictures of cousins making memories) to observie Pi Day proper, so we assembled a minitue or two past 3/14/15 9:26:53 for some silly selfies commemorating the event.

The dads bicycled 67 miles of winding, winding roads and returned red as lobsters and exhausted.

We spent much of our day driving those winding roads to meet them at the half-way point with water, gatorade, watermelon and oranges.

Had I known the extend of the winding and how long it would take us, I would have asked for someone else to deliver rest-stop essentials. EG sucummbed to carsickness on the drive back. Elaine had a few close calls, but managed to keep everything down. 

Everyone was more than happy to play outside upon finally arriving home. We ate dinner outside and enjoyed ice cream cones for dessert. 

The cousins left and I said a prayer for their exhausted father who, once again, had to drive instead of blissfully pass out out in his car seat. (Adulting is no joke!) I rounded up my journal, Bible, pack of pens, and knitting, said goodbye to my exhausted husband and tired girls as they began their Saturday-night "Daddy Daughter Night" tradition. I walked a mile or so to Panera Bread. There I sat, doing absolutely nothing, for close to fifteen consecutive minutes. 

As my energy returned, I got a text from someone who is planning to tattoo my arm tomorrow. The crazy thing is I have yet to see exactly what he came up with, mostly because he hasn't exactly come up with it yet. This is very much not at all how I am accustomed to making permanent decisions, and I told him so, but I'm curious to go along and find out whatever I find out tomorrow, step by step. If everything is a go, then I will. If it is not, then I will not. We have been talking for weeks and I have seen his sketches so I'm not completely in the dark, but still. It kinda feels like it.

Another of my artist friends has a painting of which I exclaimed, "there is nothing I don't love about this!" I hope that's my reaction to the tattoo sketch I see tomorrow. It'll make things a lot easier.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Late night lullaby

This girl just staggered out of her room in a sleepy stupor, held her arms out to me, and said, "can you sing to me?" 

So I did. Because who can tell if I'll ever get another opportunity like it?

Seven years of mothering this pure gift from God. She's all knees and elbows but we still fit, and always will. 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Philippians 2:13

I've been ignoring this dumb feeling in me, to write. I'm calling it dumb because I'm not so happy with myself, currently. 

Ignoring it because it's already late, and I'd have to find the keyboard and remember how to connect it via Bluetooth to the iPad (which I did manage to do, part way through this sentence.)

Ignoring it because I've already messed up my evening. Shall I elaborate? I shall. First, I got the kids to bed and then fumed at their restless, wall-banging appendages and their giggling and further propensity to be NOT QUIET. Second, almost an hour at the piano, ready to chop off my fingers for their ineptness, choking the music with my impatience and frustration. Third, despairing at the sight of the kitchen and nursing a feeling of entitlement--it's my anniversary! Surely someone ELSE should have to do MY daily responsibilities (entitlement grabs at any excuse, no matter how lame)--I turned around and plopped on the couch with a book. A good one, but reading feels better when I'm not using it as a means to escape reality.

The problem is that the reality I'm trying to escape is IN me. Bother.


Today in the parking lot at Sprouts I hugged a friend before she realized who I was. My hair is red now, and I keep forgetting. She was gracious, even as she was being accosted by an unknown redhead. She's pregnant with her fourth and her oldest is Elaine's age. How different my life could look. I have days when I'm perfectly content with my life and I have days when I'm perfectly not. 

Like maybe today. Restless discontentment eats at me.


Yesterday Superman crawled around in the attic, collecting birds' nests. He filled at least two kitchen trash bags full. I think each year they remake a new nest next to the old ones instead of just using the old ones. Maybe the old ones have bird cooties. Today I could hear the birds (they enter through the un-covered vent holes, under the eves) hopping and scratching away up there, tweeting indignantly. Alerting anyone who would listen that their world just changed without their permission and they weren't happy about it. Tesla climbed the ladder we used to access the attic, perched on top, and stared intently at the ceiling, perfectly still, her little cat brain probably full of ideas centering on how to acquire a whole pile of flapping, indignant birds to play with. 


I flopped onto my bed and tried to figure out what my deal is. Tomorrow seemed promising and hopful. I can start new tomorrow. Yes, tomorrow I'll be different and better, I'll make sure of it. But then the thought came, why wait? Are God's mercies new only in the mornings? Is it me or God that has the power to change?

Maybe I'd rather stew in my grouchiness until tomorrow. Maybe I'd rather be in control. 

Pondering my grouchiness brought another thought: it's God's will for me to be thankful. I laughed right out loud the first time I read, really READ that verse in Thessalonians. Am I willing? I checked. Nope. 

Instead I sighed and went looking for the Logitech keyborad. And now here I am.

Things to be thankful for:
1. A Logitech keyboard with fully-charged batteries. 
2. Spell check.
3. A soft black and white puppy named Daisy (not mine.)

I once told a whole room full of recovering people how hard it is for me to be truly thankful. I can't escape this feeling that I SHOULD be thankful and so dutifully begin listing the things that I should be thankful for, whether I actually am, or not. That's lying to myself, so I try to stop, but then my mind sits and spins, looking for something I am genuinnely, in that moment, thankful for. I told the room full of recovering people that I've learned that no matter what happens to or around me I can always always ALWAYS be thankful for Jesus.

And I am. 

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow (and even the next five minutes.) Beacuse He lives, all fear is (or can be) gone because perfect love casts out fear. Because I know He holds the future, life is worth living just because He lives. I suppose I could live it grouchily if I wanted, but I don't want. 

He came that I might have life, and that more abundantly. It is for freedom I have been set free, not so that I can return again to the bondage of slavery. There is no condemnation for those in Christ, so why am I insisting on it? 

It's been an off-kilter kind of day and since I'm gradually begining to accept the idea that I'm fully human and not a perfect robot, off-kilter days are okay. I may even be a little bit thankful for them. 

Thankful because they alert me to who I am instead of who I'd like to think I am. Thankful because they bring into focus all that is not in my power. Thankful because they sometimes result in my writing until I see a solution that feels much better, much cleaner, than grouchy resentment medicated with a book instead of a Presence.