Wednesday, March 31, 2010

It's God Who Makes Them Grow

We've had so much fun watching our little seedlings grow. I've taken a few pictures along the way, but unfortunately I neglected to write down the dates. According to our camera, all the pictures were taken on 9/20/2053, so that's no help.

They just keep growing...

Approx. Day 4 - Tomatoes on Middle Left, Cucumbers on Right

and growing....

About Day 7:
Column 1 Carrots, Column 2 Squash
, Columns 3-4 Tomatoes,
Column 5 Green Beans, Column 8 Pumpkin & Cucumber


Cute Little Tomatoes--Lola's Already Eying Them Up


Maybe Day 13. See How Tall the Green Beans Are!

Can You See the Little Beans Down Low On the Stalks?

There's still no sign of the cantaloupes, which I think sprout after 21 days; it's probably been longer than that already. But we're pretty sure we see a tiny folded over stem trying to break through in the peppers' column.

To show you what amateurs we are, Ethan and I both got very excited the other day when we saw something "new" and very big in column 1. Turns out it was just the pumpkins--Bill had rotated the tray to give the back rows more sun.

Everything is getting so big that I'm afraid the seedlings will die if we don't transplant them soon, but we're expecting a big storm this weekend, so Bill wants to hold off a bit longer. We can't wait!

Another Kind of Seeds
This morning I did a different kind of planting. At our second annual MOPS tea party, I shared my testimony with a group of about 30 women. It's hard to believe it's only been a year since the last time I shared my story. I was a bit reluctant to give my testimony again because about 40% of the ladies heard it last year. But it went really well, I think.

I was a little uneasy in the last few days because last year I had a crisis of faith two days before I was scheduled to share my testimony. I wondered what might happen to me this year, and I asked several friends to pray for me--for my protection and that God would give me the right words that could encourage someone.

It was around bedtime last night that I finally encountered some difficulty, in the form of awful indigestion, of all things. (Actually, that's not so unusual for me, but it really hit me out of the blue; I'd felt fine all evening.) I had planned to turn in early so I'd be well rested, but instead I was propped on a "wedge" pillow long after midnight, fighting severe indigestion and mild nausea.

When 1:00 came and went, I started to get alarmed. I reminded God (!) that I was giving my testimony in the morning, and that I really needed some rest. I guess it was around 1:30 that I pleaded, "God, if anyone is awake, please tell them to pray for me!"

Almost immediately, I felt a sense of peace--and delicious drowsiness--wash over me. Next thing I knew, it was 7:30 in the morning and I was hurrying to put my oatmeal cake in the oven. My stomach still felt a bit uneasy, but I figured it might just be nerves.

When I saw my friend Gentle at the meeting, she asked how I was feeling about the testimony. "Were you praying for me last night?" I asked.

"Yes. Well, actually I was praying this morning," she replied. "I think it was between 1:00 and 2:00."

I was thrilled and amazed. I told her about asking God to prompt someone to pray for me, and how I'd felt such a sense of peace as I dropped off to sleep.

"Funny, I was wondering at the time if you knew that I was praying," she said.

"Oh, I could definitely feel it," I assured her, and I gave her a big hug.

After enjoying a delicious brunch of my cake, Dara's popovers with real whipped cream, Gentle's ginger cookies and homemade shortbread with strawberry jam, Nicki's cucumber sandwiches, and Christina's deviled eggs and meatballs--washed down with Gentle's hot tea--I gave my testimony. I was wearing a tiara and a hot pink feather boa, but I forgot about all that as I got wrapped up in my story.

They only problem was that there wasn't nearly enough time to share all the amazing things God has done in my heart. I talked for 20 minutes and shared bits of these stories...

He Knows Me

Are You Sure You Have the Right Girl?
Streams on the Dry Ground
Forgiven Much

But I didn't have time to share this story:

Crossing the Veil


I told them how God has used ALL the experiences in my life (Romans 8:28) to transform me from shameful to forgiven, from fearful to trusting, from insecure to confident, from unloved and unlovable to precious, honored, and loved (Isaiah 43).

Afterward, a lovely young lady named Amber shared her testimony. It was awesome to see the parallels in our stories--themes of forgiveness and security--despite our very different life circumstances. I love how God works!

It was such a pleasure to tell of God's goodness in my life, and I pray that whatever seeds Amber and I might have planted today will take root and sprout--like the little pumpkins and green beans growing in my kitchen window seat. I know it is God who will make them grow.




Monday, March 22, 2010

When You're Having Fun

Thinking about my last post brought to mind a similar story about Ethan. I found it in his journal tonight, along with several other excerpts I had copied from my own journal. He was seven when these stories took place....

Excerpts From My Journal (and Ethan's Journal)
-7/26/04: Ethan said something so cute yesterday. He told us that he needs to bring his Bible to church each time, and also money for the offering. He said earnestly, "Jesus likes the quarters best." He is so sweet!

-8/13/04: Ethan feeds the turtles now. He is delighted with the way Tom, the big one, bites and pulls at the yellow food lid. I love to hear Ethan talk and laugh. Thank you, Father, for the joy he brings us.

Tom When He Was Tiny... Or Maybe This Was Jerry

-8/19/04: There was a tremendous thunderstorm this morning. The thunder crashed and rattled the windows. The lightning was brilliant through my closed eyelids.... Ethan came in and slept with us at 5:00. Once he was next to me, he seemed to sleep right through the worst of it. He felt completely safe and secure in our bed.

I want to be that way with you, Father. No matter what storms rage in my life, I want to know that I am safe and sheltered in you.

-8/23/04: Ethan said something today that warmed my heart. I had taken off work to drive him to a doctor appointment. He asked if time really goes faster when you're having fun. I told him it does seem that way. He said he was having fun right then, talking to me in the car, and it didn't feel like 20 minutes had passed.

Oh, Father! Thank you for the gift of Ethan's conversation. Help me not to take his attention for granted.... Thank you, thank you for this gift.

Ethan in 5/04 (Age Seven)

Six Years Later
Ethan is still a joy, and even at almost 13, he says the sweetest things sometimes. I am so blessed.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

I'd Rather Be With You

As you may recall, Allyson is not my favorite grocery shopping companion. So you can imagine my lack of enthusiasm this afternoon when she announced that she was coming with me to the grocery store. While I was upstairs searching for a kale recipe--today was our much-awaited second produce delivery from the organic co-op--Allyson was downstairs laboriously writing out a grocery list.

Steak, Eggs, Ranch, Gatorade...

Daddy dictated several items from the actual list, letter by letter. With his help, she also added an unauthorized item at the end: Dora popsicles.

When I was ready to go, she said, "I've got the list!"

"Oh, you're coming along?"

"Yes! I've got the list!" she repeated.

"Okay, then," I agreed, resignation in my voice. "Let's put on your shoes and your jacket."

When we stepped out the front door, the icy wind literally tore the breath out of our mouths. The fact that it had been in the 70s yesterday made the frigid air that much more shocking. Allyson whirled around so that her back was to the wind. "It's so c-c-cold!" she exclaimed.

"Yes, it is. Let's hurry and get in the car," I urged her, the wind whipping the hood of my jacket down over my face and back down again.

"The wind blew your hat!" Allyson laughed. But then she said, "Too bad we have to go outside in this cold wind."

I pounced on the opportunity. "YOU don't have to go to the store, honey. You can stay with Daddy if you're too cold."

She paused for a moment as she crawled into her car seat. "Well, I like to be with Daddy, but I really want to spend some time with you now, Mommy."

Her words warmed my heart even as my numb fingers struggled with the car seat latch. At moments like these, I wonder what I ever did to deserve this sweet child. I thought about the many times she'd been seeking my company today, only to be put off: "Just let me mop the floor first, baby.... As soon as I finish cleaning the toilet.... Sure we'll play a game, after I fold this load of laundry."

Bill and I did take time to ride on her choo-choo train, though. All the kitchen chairs were lined up in the living room, moved out of the way so I could mop. Allyson begged us to come for a ride, and we both relented after the 20th invitation or so. "You have to say, 'All aboard!'" I explained.

"All A-Board!" Allyson hollered, and then she covered her mouth with both hands in a gesture that seems to indicate both bashfulness and pleasure.

Allyson in Her New Bed--Almost the Same Gesture

When I asked her where to sit, she pointed me to the couch, next to the train. "Are you sure this is part of the train?" I asked, and she nodded emphatically.

"I guess it's the sleeper car," I said as I sank thankfully into the cushions.

"No sleepin', Mama!" she admonished me.

"Yes, no sleepin'," Bill agreed.

Noticing my black leather purse on the front seat of the train, I grabbed it and pulled it into the sleeper car with me.

"No, I need that," Allyson informed me. "The handle makes the train go."

"Oh," I said, handing it over obediently.

Amid Bill's shouts of "Faster! Faster!", Allyson took the train to dizzying speeds. She accomplished this by muttering, "Chugga-chugga-chugga" and pulling the purse handle up and down as fast as humanly possible.

It was probably the most fun I've ever had on a train ride. The grocery trip, however, didn't hold so much promise.

After I pulled into a parking spot, I sat in the front seat for a moment bracing myself for the cold. "I'll hold your hand, and we'll run up to the store," I instructed.

I clutched her warm hand, still small enough to be completely enveloped inside my own hand. Normally, I savor holding her hand, as long as she isn't twisting and fighting for her freedom. But today our hands swung wildly as we raced awkwardly for the door. Due to the height difference, it felt almost like a three-legged race. She was giggling with delight the whole way.

It was actually a very nice trip. Of course, there was no question whether she'd be riding in the cart, so she wasn't able to get into much mischief--other than begging for one sugary treat after another.

"Nope, it's not on the list," I answered each time.

How about the Dora popsicles? Yep, they WERE on the list.

She proudly showed her list to the checker, a quiet young man named Ledio. "Daddy helped me make the list for Mama," she explained.

"It's very nice!" he said, and she flushed with pleasure, both hands covering her mouth.

On the way back out to the car, her shrieks of laughter filled the air as I pushed the cart faster than ever before.

I've never had so much fun going to the grocery store!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A New Garden Adventure Begins

I've discovered the secret to perfect, robust, healthy produce: join an organic produce co-op!

On Super Bowl Sunday, my friend Donna brought the most delicious carrots I'd ever tasted--they were so good I didn't want to adulterate the taste by using any dip. She told me she'd gotten them through a co-op in our area.

After a couple of weeks, we picked up our first biweekly bin of produce from a lady just a couple of blocks from our house!


For $50, we got:
  • 7 kiwis (Ethan's favorite)
  • 1 cauliflower head
  • 3 lemons
  • 2 Haas avocados (Allyson's favorite)
  • 3 bunches of leeks (a giant, mild flavored green onion)
  • 4 navel oranges
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 2 red onions
  • 2 juicy, sweet red bell peppers
  • 10 Braeburn apples
  • 12 bananas (4 pounds)
  • 2 Granny Smith apples
  • 9 large carrots
  • 2 heads green leaf lettuce
  • 5 pounds of russet potatoes (we cut up a couple and planted them in a bucket)
  • 1 bunch of Swiss chard
  • 4 ounces local salad greens (Mizuna)


Everything was juicy and delicious, and it was fun figuring out how to cook it all. I sauteed the chard with garlic and onion and buried it in a delicious lasagna, and I used the leeks in a cream sauce over scalloped potatoes and sweet potatoes. I'd never dreamed I could get my family--or myself--to eat these vegetables! I can't wait for our second delivery this Saturday.

So does this mean we're done with the Family Garden? No, of course not! We had way too much fun last year to give it up. Thanks to some tips from my mother-in-law and my friend Helen--both highly successful gardeners--I have hopes that this year it will be productive as well as entertaining.

We've actually been preparing the soil for several months by doing our own version of composting. I tried to convince Bill to go to a composting class at a nearby farm, but he scoffed, asserting that he could figure it out on his own. All week long, we collect egg shells, banana peels, and little bits of veggies in a big coffee can, and then Bill buries it in the garden on the weekend. The only flaw with this plan is that, nine times out of ten, Lola immediately digs it up and strews garbage all over the lawn. Just as I'd suspected last year, the little wire fence is no match for her.

At least some of the compost must have found its mark, though, because this year there are far more worms wriggling in the rich, dark soil. Allyson is still fascinated with worms, but she's a bit more timid about actually holding them. She says, "I'm afraid they'll tickle me."

Last Wednesday evening, she got to help Daddy dig up some dirt and mound it into little biodegradable cardboard planters.


Allyson was thrilled with the opportunity to use the adorable pail and shovel she'd received as a party favor at her friend Grace's birthday. She discovered another fun use for the shovel today: digging up worms and grubs in the garden--which Bill fed to Lola (ugghhh!)


Ethan's contribution was making a grid to label all the little planters.

In Case You Wondered, Allyson Picked Out Her Own Clothes That Day

And my contribution? Taking pictures, of course. But soon I'll be on daily (obsessive/compulsive) weed control.

Now, we wait--and try to stop Allyson from doing unauthorized watering with her pink polka-dotted pail. The planters are soaking up the sun in our kitchen window seat for now, but in a few weeks we hope to transfer the young seedlings into the garden plot, which Bill is enlarging to make room for the cantaloupes and pumpkins we're adding this year.


The pumpkin seeds were another gift from Grace's party, and Allyson is already making plans for the pumpkins--like pumpkin oatmeal, our favorite.

Ah, the glory of spring!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Timberrr!!

This past weekend, Bill carried out a dream and fulfilled a threat at the same time. For months, he'd been talking about cutting down my beloved cypress tree--my favorite tree on our whole lot. He said the roots were out of control, and they were taking over the backyard. He was tired of tripping over the roots and then banging his head on the lowest branches. He was tired of the sappy stuff that gets tracked in every fall when it drops its leaves and those funny green balls that Allyson likes to feed to Lola. Most of all, he was concerned that it was jeopardizing the beautiful patio, on which he spent hours and hours pouring concrete and laying slate tile.



As determined as Bill was to get rid of the problem tree, I was equally intent on keeping it. It was the focal point of the backyard, the place where I focused my worshipful gaze during morning quiet times. It was the shade that sheltered Allyson's kiddie pool. It was also tied with memories of family gatherings, when we all lounged in lawn chairs under its shade for a respite from the oppressive heat.

The Only Picture I Could Find of the Tree Top (One of Allyson's Shots)

Ally Loved to Swing From the Low Branches

Gradually, Bill was able to wear me down with his cold logic. Or maybe it was all those little sappy stains that I still haven't been able to scrub off the tile and wood floors. In any case, I reluctantly agreed to his plan. But then it took him forever to get around to it, and I guess I thought maybe I'd get to keep the tree after all.

So it came as a shock when I found him on a ladder out back on Friday night, cutting off all the branches with a bow saw. I went back in the house because I couldn't bear to watch.


After he'd stripped all the branches, Bill called Ethan out to help him cut off the top third of the tree. Ethan rushed outside to hold the rope and direct the trunk as it fell. When I asked his friend Tin if he'd like to help, I was surprised at his uncharacteristic enthusiasm. I'd never seen a kid drop an X-Box controller so fast, and he ran down the stairs so quickly that he literally skidded around the corner at the bottom.

I sheepishly followed him out the back door, ostensibly to keep an eye on Allyson, but I have to admit that I did get caught up in the excitement a bit. Bill was high up in the tree, perched on two rather spindly branches. He clutched the trunk with his left hand and awkwardly worked the bow saw with the other, heedless of the gathering twilight.



Ethan was thrilled by the sense of danger, but I was really scared. "That looks dangerous!" I called out.

"Go back inside with your negative vibes," Bill replied.

"It's okay. I'm down here praying," I said.

Ethan and Tin eagerly held the long rope as Bill hacked and hacked at the hardy trunk.


At last the top of the tree feel with a muted thud. I'm sure Bill was anxious to complete the job, but by now it was pitch black.

He and Ethan were back out there right after breakfast the next morning. Before they began, Ethan climbed the tree one last time, and then Allyson joined him.



When Bill announced that it was time to get on with it, Ethan positioned himself in the same spot from the night before and held the rope, providing constant counter pressure while Bill ran the chainsaw. My husband was in his element: playing with ropes and power tools AT THE SAME TIME!



In the light of day, Ethan was much more conscious of the danger than he had been the night before. First, he had Bill take a break while he locked Lola in her run; he said he didn't want her running up to sniff the chainsaw. Then he made Allyson and me back up several times until we were almost against the side fence.

It took quite a while to cut through the slender trunk. Ethan followed Bill's directions impeccably, and the tree finally fell exactly where they had planned.

Can't Believe I Caught It Falling!

My heart fell a little with it. It was such a gorgeous tree! I loved watching it grow over the past six years, until it was taller than our house.

Now, this is all that's left of it:


Bill has injected a stump rot solution, and soon he'll dig down around the roots and cut them out. I doubt that will be such a fun job for him--or Ethan, if he talks him into helping. After that, we will plant another tree. But it won't be a graceful cypress. Maybe it will be a maple, he says. I suppose I'll love watching that sapling grow. But for now, I'm still grieving the loss.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Worth Waiting For

Have you ever had one of those weeks? The one where absolutely everything goes.... RIGHT? I had a week like that once. It was back in September of 2002.

It started with my car breaking down. Other than the fact that it broke down in rush-hour traffic heading into downtown, this was actually a good thing. You see, I'd been driving that old red Mercury Tracer for about nine years, and I had vowed to drive it until the wheels fell off. My brother Rick accused me of being eccentric--even though he once kept a Dodge Shadow until it literally started falling apart. My car was in awful shape: it had a hole in the back bumper, it pulled violently to the right when you let go of the wheel, and there was some brake problem that made a constant racket that could only be drowned out by turning up the radio to full volume. Still, no matter how awful it got, the appeal of a new car just couldn't compete with the joy of having no payments.

So it broke down one afternoon, and that gave me a reason to buy a new car at last. Bill and I went car shopping together, which felt significant, and we found a silver Nissan Sentra that had all those extras I'd been doing without, like a CD player (!), electric locks and windows, and cruise control. We got it for a great price, and it's been a really good car--we're still driving it after seven years, and I will probably keep driving it until the wheels fall off.

A couple of days after the car broke down, Bill and I headed to Chicago for a programming class (in Basic, if you can believe that). Of course, the first thing that came to my mind was that this would be a great place for Bill to propose since Chicago was where we'd met and fallen in love. When I was packing, I called Bill and asked, "Do you think I need to bring a nice outfit with me?"

"I don't know," he replied. "Why?"

Trying to keep my tone perfectly nonchalant, I stammered, "Well, I know we aren't staying over the weekend, but do you think we'll be able to get out in the evening for a date while we're there?"

"We might."

"So should I bring something fancy?"

"If you want to," he said with barely restrained laughter in his voice. I heaved a big sigh and said goodbye. Then I packed my lucky blue sundress--even though it hadn't proved all that lucky on our trip to Alabama five months before.

The next big event of the week happened while we were in class. I found out I was getting a big promotion to the next level of the tech support group I was with at the time. I'd tested on a whim, never guessing I'd have a shot at the job. It came with a generous raise, just in time to make the new car payments!

The class was also pretty fun. It was very challenging and mentally stimulating, and I took to programming like I was made for it. I loved putting my head together with Bill and troubleshooting each other's programs. We still do that sometimes now when one of us needs to solve a tricky problem at work, and I always find it exciting to team up that way. But I digress....

It wasn't looking too promising in the proposal department, though. I couldn't find the chance to break into Bill's hotel room and search his suitcase for dress clothes, so I still didn't know if he was planning a big date. The first four days passed without anything remotely romantic happening, and I was starting to lose hope.

On Thursday, our last night there, Bill asked what I thought about going to Long Grove for dinner. This was the little tourist town we'd visited on the Chicago trip when we'd had our first date. It was a fair drive from our hotel in Schaumburg, so I figured he must have something special planned if we were going so far on a work night.

I took extra care with my hair and makeup, and of course I donned the lucky dress.

Me and the Lucky Dress in Long Grove, July 2000

I knew as soon as we arrived that this was going to be the big night. Bill was clearly nervous, and even I was tongue tied (which almost NEVER happens). We browsed through several shops and pretty much retraced our steps from the previous trip. We finally ended up at the gazebo in the center of town, the one where we had kissed and kissed and then laughed ourselves silly as we set up the camera on a timer and took pictures of ourselves smooching.

One of Those Pictures


There wasn't much smooching on this trip because Bill had a terrible cold, and also swarms of mosquitoes were terrorizing us. Plus, there was a pesky family having a picnic, and they seemed blind to the fact that they were encroaching on the most romantic moment of my life!


When it became obvious that the family wasn't going anywhere, Bill turned his back to them and forged on resolutely. He gave me a hug, and I could feel his heart pounding in rhythm with mine. For a moment I felt tempted to deliver him from his nervousness and shout, "Yes! I will marry you!", but I forced myself to keep quiet.


Taking my trembling hand in his own sweaty one, he knelt on one knee and looked into my eyes. He told me loved me very, very much and hoped I would be his wife. I cried a little when I said yes, and then I gave him a little kiss which ended when his nose dripped. He pulled a Kleenex out of his pocket and blew his nose, and then he tried to slip a ring onto my finger. I had to help force it over my knuckle, which was enlarged from decades of knuckle popping.

I tried not to be too eager as I brought the ring up to inspect it. It was gorgeous! It had a white gold band and seven brilliant diamonds. "I LOVE IT!" I breathed, as relief washed over me. Even though I'd been excited about the idea of a surprise proposal, I'd been a little concerned about not having any input on the ring. What if he picked out something ugly? What if the diamond was microscopic, or so big it was tacky (not likely, but you never know)? Or worse yet, what if he didn't buy a ring at all since he knew I wasn't much of a jewelry person? Obviously, I needn't have worried.

We decided to walk over the restaurant then, at which point the picnicking family finally packed up their basket. They'd probably been watching the whole show, but that couldn't spoil my joy. I hooked my right arm through Bill's and held my left hand out in front of me, where it caught the last rays of the setting sun.

We discussed wedding plans over our barbecue. We agreed to get married in about six months, in March. We also decided we wanted a very small "destination" wedding, maybe with just the two of us.



Picture Taken at Same Restaurant on First Long Grove Trip (2000)

While we were eating, we saw an older couple dancing cheek to cheek. "Isn't that romantic!" I exclaimed. "Do you think we'll still be in love at that age?"

"Probably," Bill replied mildly.

For all we knew, the couple could be on their first date, but of course I imagined a whole 50-year marriage in my head.

It's been seven years now, and we're still in love. But I never had another week like that one.



WHAT'S YOUR PROPOSAL STORY? I'D LOVE TO HEAR IT.
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