In Memorial

Today is Memorial Day in this country. I don’t think most of us have any idea of what that’s all about. We see snippets of war on movies, news clips, and TV shows, but for the majority, it never hits home.

My friend Ane Mulligan posted this video on her blog today, and it’s rather moving. I’d like to share it with y’all.

All those who have fallen in the line of duty; all who have lost loved ones who served; all who have been touched by their sacrifice: this one’s for you.

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Taking Sides

Cretaceous ClayI’ve been making good progress on my WIP this week, and that makes me happy! The last chapter of my first draft draws near at long last, and I’m experiencing that burst of energy that comes when the finish line is in sight.

But I thought I’d pause for a moment and whip out a quick blog post. I ran across something interesting this morning in an e-book I’ve been reading and wanted to share it before I lose the note I jotted it on.

The book is has the interesting title of Cretaceous Clay and the Black Dwarf. Just released this spring, it’s written by a Twitter friend I met a few months ago, Dana Allan Knight. And it’s a little hard to describe.

Kind of a mix between the Jetsons and Sherlock Holmes (except the detective wears a trench coat and fedora like Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer) with some elves, dwarves, and biotic creations thrown in, along with a little magic and supernatural intrigue. I can’t decide if it’s intended for a Young Adult audience, but it’s clean, containing no sex, graphic violence, or profanity.

I also can’t decide if I like it. I enjoy certain aspects of it, but the writing isn’t all that great and I keep editing it mentally, which tends to distract me from the story.

Amazon has it listed under “religious fiction,” and I’m not sure of that, either. It does touch on some important themes, though I wouldn’t call any of it religious. This morning, however, I ran across a sentence that seemed to describe solid Christian doctrine—but I’m not at all sure the author Screen shot 2013-05-25 at 5.11.07 PMhad anything in mind beyond the immediate, and inconsequential, context. The sentence hit me between the eyes, though, so I hopped up, grabbed a pencil and piece of scrap paper, and wrote it down.

Here’s the setting: the protagonist (Clay) has opened his home to some of his friends who are temporarily displaced. The guests included two little children, Hope and Faith, along with their mother. The girls shared a bed with another guest, Clay’s fiancé, Jasmine, and they kept her up much of the night with their thrashing around. As Jasmine (who’s eager to marry Clay and have a dozen children of her own) described how they couldn’t lie still, she said, “Faith forced me to change sides, but it was a great night.”

All the statement meant, of course, was that the girl kept moving onto Jasmine’s side of the bed so she had to get up and go to the other side; and despite all the interruptions to her sleep, she had fun sharing the bed with the little ones. But—probably due to the frame of mind I was in as I read—I saw it as an allegory. That is, when we come to Christ in faith, he takes us out of the devil’s domain and places us in God’s kingdom; our faith requires us to change sides.

How about the other half of the sentence? Again, I’m sure I manufactured this subtext because of my frame of mind. But it made me think of the scriptural truth alluded to in 1 Thessalonians 5:1-8 and elsewhere, that the time we currently live in is, spiritually speaking, nighttime. Of course we look forward to the time when the Sun of righteousness will rise with healing in his wings (Malachi 4:1-2), but while it’s still night, we can rejoice in Him. Dark though it may be, we can have a great night.Screen shot 2013-05-25 at 5.11.41 PM

Until I ran across this statement more than halfway into the book, I’d thought the whole story rather silly. Maybe it is all rather silly, and perhaps I just imagined the awesomeness. But I’ll be looking for other awesome things to jump out and grab me as I continue.

Have a great night.

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Thinking About Grass

IMG_1094Okay, be honest: what was your first thought when you saw the title of this post?

The word grass can conjure a number of mental images, from the summery scent of a freshly mown lawn to the giddy feeling that results from smoking a different kind of grass. When some homeowners hear grass, the first thing they think of is work. I suppose the impression that first comes to mind depends on your personal interactions with the stuff.

As for me, I’ve never had intimate communications with the smoke-able variety and so can only reminisce about the mow-able type. Some of these memories were imprinted as recently as yesterday (when these pictures were taken), so this would more accurately be called contemplation, I suppose, not reminiscence.

When I was a kid, my dad mowed the lawn with a gasoline push mower. I remember him catching the clippings in a deeply chlorophyll-stained canvas bag attached the mower. He’d empty the bag into a wheelbarrow, then dump the wheelbarrow at the back of the yard, where the piled clippings rotted with earthy green smell.

My grandpa, as I recall, had an electric mower, but he didn’t have as much grass to cut. All he had to mow was the tree lawn in front of the house and a tiny area in the backyard, as most of the back was taken up with my grandmother’s extensive flowerbeds. Not much mowing to do, but a lot of weeding! Yard work was fun in those days, because we kids got to play while someone else was doing the work.IMG_1099

I’ve done a little mowing, but I usually leave it for the menfolk because I don’t do well with power equipment. If I use a hungry machine, I’m afraid it will end up eating one of my feet, or at least a few toes. For the same reason, I prefer to hand-weed the garden rather than use the rototiller.

Here, Craig mows close to an acre. A large portion of it is weeds rather than grass, but we use the general term grass to describe the lawn; it’s all green, and that’s all we care about. This time of year, when everything alive is excited about the warming temperatures and lengthening of the days, the grass grows quickly. Not only does it need to be cut more often than it does in midsummer, but it’s heavy and lush. And so we rake it.

Raking an acre of grass isn’t as bad as it sounds, because Craig blows it into windrows with the mower, like a farmer does when he cuts a hayfield to be baled. So, rather than raking the whole yard, we only have to gather the grass from long strips. I’ll sometimes let Craig get half the mowing done, then go out and start raking. By the time he’s done, so am I, and it works out nicely.

IMG_1095So what do we do with all this fragrant, fresh-mown grass? Mulch the garden with it, of course. Since we don’t use lawn chemicals, it’s the perfect solution. Putting the grass to good use makes the effort of mowing it seem worthwhile.

One small problem: in the spring when the grass grows quickly and we have to rake, we don’t have much in the garden to mulch; but once the weather is warmer and the bulk of the garden is in, we don’t have enough grass clippings to make raking worthwhile. Now, however, the grass is abundant and the garden is in its toddlerhood, and we mulch everything in sight, like these little onions in their snuggly bed of grass. What clippings remain when everything’s thickly mulched, we spread on the garden to be tilled in at planting time.

I love the sweet, green, summery smell of grass. I also love a warm evening when the lowering sun casts long shadows. The rest of these photos aren’t about grass, necessarily, but they give a glimpse of the homey beauty of our freshly-trimmed yard in the slanting rays of an evening sun.

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Family History

Screen shot 2013-05-07 at 9.47.32 AMI’m not saying I was born to be a writer, but…

I’m told that when it came near time for me to be born, my parents wanted to include the birth announcement in their Christmas cards. Problem was, I stubbornly refused to be born on schedule. So they took a picture of my older sister and brother gazing into a bassinet and made copies of the snapshot, then waited for me to be born so they could hastily print up the particulars to include with the card. I no longer have a copy of the photo that went with it, but I do still have one of the announcement, which you see here. And all things considered, it’s fitting, don’t you think?

My husband and I are preparing to sell our home of almost 30 years (we moved in on March 1, 1984). Last week, we cleaned out the attic. Lots of stuff up there, even after the cleaning. But at least now it’s sorted out. We know what’s there and are making plans to redistribute it hither and yon.

One of the boxes I found contained some things of my dad’s. He lived here with us from May of 2004 through September, 2007 (passing away in February, 2008), and I thought I’d already distributed all his things. But one box, apparently, got missed. It contained an eclectic assortment of things, including a few photos.

Have you ever thought about all the generations who passed through history before there were cameras? Some of the wealthy sat for portraits, but billions of common people came and went with no likeness being made of them in any form. (And still do, in many parts of the world.) Family photos are a recent invention, historically, but what a treasure!

We often comment on how my second daughter, Shelley, was born tScreen shot 2013-05-05 at 5.05.08 PMo be a mother. From the time I brought my third child home from the hospital, she’s been obsessed with taking care of little ones. In that box of my dad’s things, I found some photographic evidence: check out these pictures taken at my parents’ house on Christmas of 1987, when our youngest was five months old. See how Shelley (the little girl with the braids who’s half cut off on the right edge of the photo) has her hand on the baby in this shot…

Screen shot 2013-05-05 at 5.05.20 PM… and is clearly practicing to be a mommy in this one.

(In the photo above, you’ll also see my brother Stan, my brother-in-law Frank, whom the photographer saw fit to decapitate, my husband Craig, our son Art in his daddy’s lap, and me in my pre-gray days. In the shot on the left, that’s my sister Holly sitting on the floor, apparently being scratched behind the ear by my brother’s second wife, Paula, who may have thought Holly was a cat. I’m really not sure what was going on there, other than Shelley commandeering the baby, as usual.)

Funny how when we’re kids, we think the world revolves around us; when we haScreen shot 2013-05-05 at 5.04.30 PMve kids, we think the world revolves around them. Then they’re grown, and we get to see the whole thing play out all over again. The baby in pink in the pictures above is my baby, Rustie, now 25 years old. Here’s a picture of my mama’s baby:

 

Daniel family autumn 2012And Shelley, the one who always wanted to be a mama herself? She is one, five times over. It’s sad that the newest additions to the family, Mikaiah and Zuri, will never know the history of their birth families. I pray for their birth mamas (if they’re even still alive), that God might comfort them with the reassurance that their precious babies are safe and loved and cared for. I’d love to meet them someday. Better yet, I’d love for them to be able to meet their children someday.

I appreciate my family history and am happy to pass down the memories and memorabilia to succeeding generations. I have a vase (no picture, sorry), that for a long time was stored in a box labeled “Great Grandmother Rex.” For the past 15 or so, it’s resided in my curio cabinet. There’s no manufacturer’s stamp on the bottom, but there is a date scratched in: 1796. One day, I expect my heirs will get that vase; but for now, I’ll hang into it.

The family artifact I value the most is a Bible that belonged to my mother’s uncle (who adopted her when she was three months old). It’s well worn and has notes written in it, so I know he loved it and used it. I’m also told that he sometimes stayed up all hours of the night praying for a wayward son.

Now that I think about it, it’s not my uncle’s Bible I value; it’s what it represents. The invisible legacy of faith, the fragrance of all the prayers. That’s what I want my children to inherit and to pass along to their children. It’s an inheritance no one and nothing can take from them, and it can be theirs regardless of the circumstances or place of their births.

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