Friday, September 23, 2016

Poetry Friday: After Apple-Picking

(Photo courtesy of Free Images)

I didn't get a post done before we left this morning for our field trip at an apple orchard, but "After Apple-Picking" now seems the thing to turn to. A poignant thing, given my chat with the owner of the orchard, a kind and lovely woman who gave every child there today a bag and invited everyone to pick apples from all the varieties of trees she introduced us to. ("Free?" some moms asked. "Yes," said those of us who had been there before, "they always do this. Isn't it wonderful?")

As I was buying additional apples (so much apple crisp, just begging to be made) I asked her if the orchard would stay in the family, if any of her children would take over when she and her husband retired. No, she said, they all had other jobs and no one wanted it. And her husband, she told me, has cancer, and his treatments are so tiring....

I was so saddened by all of that -- the illness of that sweet man from whom I'd just bought the most delicious cider, the loss of the tradition of the orchard, that so many things no longer seem to last for generations. But I was heartened, too, by the kindness and generosity of these people ... the cider they poured for us all, the apple slices they'd prepared and chilled for the children, the leading of tours even when one is sick, and tired, and probably wants nothing more than a drawn shade and a soft, comfortable bed.

One of my favorite things about last year's Cinderella movie from Kenneth Branagh was the highly quotable quote, "Have courage and be kind." Those words came to mind this morning, after apple-picking.


After Apple-Picking*
Robert Frost

My long two-pointed ladder’s sticking through a tree
Toward heaven still,
And there’s a barrel that I didn’t fill
Beside it, and there may be two or three
Apples I didn’t pick upon some bough.
But I am done with apple-picking now.
Essence of winter sleep is on the night,
The scent of apples: I am drowsing off.
I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight
I got from looking through a pane of glass
I skimmed this morning from the drinking trough
And held against the world of hoary grass.
It melted, and I let it fall and break.
But I was well
Upon my way to sleep before it fell,
And I could tell
What form my dreaming was about to take.
Magnified apples appear and disappear,
Stem end and blossom end,
And every fleck of russet showing clear.
My instep arch not only keeps the ache,
It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round.
I feel the ladder sway as the boughs bend.
And I keep hearing from the cellar bin
The rumbling sound
Of load on load of apples coming in.
For I have had too much
Of apple-picking: I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired.
There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch,
Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall.
For all
That struck the earth,
No matter if not bruised or spiked with stubble,
Went surely to the cider-apple heap
As of no worth.
One can see what will trouble
This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is.
Were he not gone,
The woodchuck could say whether it’s like his
Long sleep, as I describe its coming on,
Or just some human sleep.


*in the public domain. 

~~~~~

The Poetry Friday round up is at Reading to the Core

Thursday, September 22, 2016

"When They're Older...." (For my friends with young children)

(From the archives: When I first wrote this, Anne-with-an-e was 12, Betsy was 10, and Ramona was 4.) 

~~~~~

I got to thinking about something last night, just after I settled a dispute between Anne-with-an-e and Betsy (or was it between Betsy and Ramona? Or had Ramona been annoying Anne? Ahem. You get the picture.) I was tired, and when one is tired, even the littlest irritations loom large. A few tiny disagreements suddenly feel like near-constant bickering, picking-on, finger-pointing and tattling. Oh, my, the behavior of children. I mean, it's so ... immature.

I felt a little overwhelmed (did I mention I was tired? So much depends on a good night's sleep ....) Yes, I thought, this is the stage of life at which I'm currently parked:

My children are walking, talking, reasoning (well, mostly), sharp little tacks who delight me but are also capable of draining my mental energy. They're all quite verbose (exquisitely so on the good days and "Do-you-ever-stop-talking?!" on the bad) and that's what can get me. It's not a physical exhaustion, but it can feel like one. It's mental fatigue: the dragging of a mind forced to think of 17 different ways to say, "Be kinder," the sluggish tongue that must -- one more time -- wrap itself around the words, "Go tell your sister you're sorry." It's the ambushed brain that can't take one more joke that involves body parts or functions.

This is where we are, I thought. But when they're older ....

"Uh-oh, stop right there, missy," I told myself. "Don't start playing, 'When they're older,' because it's a lose-lose proposition."

"When they're older" is the trap that entices you to long for a different stage of life. I sometimes fall into it, but it's not a good place to live. Because if I live my entire life in the "When They're Older" trap, before I know it, they'll be older. And they'll be gone.

It goes something like this, looking back to infancy:

When she's older, she won't wake me up every night.

(But she also won't coo and gurgle in that delicious way. She won't linger at nursing and enclose me in her eyes, telling me I'm her reason for being.)

When she's older, I won't need to carry her everywhere, so my back won't ache all the time.

(She also won't be portable enough to be cuddled, held, and snuggled no matter where we are or what we're doing. She won't fit neatly into one arm and I won't be able to scoop her up to celebrate that she just mastered skipping.)

When she's older, I won't have to listen to "Why? Why? Why?" all the time.

(She also won't have that same awed look on her face that she got when she saw her first penguin at the zoo. She won't study caterpillars and ants for extended periods and she won't be delighted by pointing out water towers, having just learned what they are. She won't have that squeaky voice that personifies "ironic" when she says "Awwwww, look at that babeeee! He's so cuuuuute!")

When she's older, I won't have to listen to body function humor.

(Well, I can just keep hoping on this one.)

When she's older, she won't pick on her sister. She'll be too mature for that.

(And she'll be too mature to sit on my lap, play hide-n-seek, wear her hair in ponytails, jump rope, get that incredible shine in her eyes when she kicks a soccer ball and she'll no longer be more delighted by my company than anyone else's in the world. She'll have discovered there are other things and other people who are important to her.)

When she's older, she won't be so moody.

(Oh, wait. That's a woman-thing. That'll continue. That's okay.)

I've always found "When They're Older" to be counter-productive. Oh, sure, it might seem to comfort me at the time (and don't get me wrong, there's a place for the "This too shall pass" philosophy) but most of the time, "When They're Older" is the opposite of comforting -- it's agitating. It forces us to live in and for the future. And when we do that, we miss so much of today. This Moment.

Rather, I must embrace that my children are just that. Children. They're going to be childish. And my ambushed brain has to steel itself to take one more joke, one more poor choice, one more tattle. I have to remind myself that bad days make it feel as if this happens all the time, but I know that it actually doesn't. Because on the same day there's been tattling, a poor choice, and a joke that only a daddy can appreciate, there have also been cuddles and hugs and beaming looks of love. There've been discussions that run deeper than I thought a ten-year-old could handle and insights so moving that I've gotten a glimpse at the woman my daughter will become. There have been tea parties and read-alouds, girl-talk and cookies in the oven.

There has been the delight of "I'm so glad they're this age. I'm so glad for now. I'm blessed by today. I'm so in love with this moment."

Today, I won't fall into the "When They're Older" trap. When they're older, they'll certainly be more mature.

But they won't be here.

And I'll miss them. So very, very much.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Recent Reading



I honestly didn't know what I was getting myself into when I picked up The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman. It was far more beautiful than I'd anticipated. It was a sad, gut-wrenching tale about choices, secrets, and consequences, a tale that could only end badly and yet I came away from it glad that I read it, glad that this book is in the world. 

~~~~~


I really wanted to like The Awakening of Miss Prim more than I did. (I hate it when that happens.) I don't know if it was the translation I read, or what, but I just never fully entered into it, despite the premise involving librarians, loads of books, and quirky eccentrics. A lot of people seem to like it, so maybe it's just me. 

There was this beautiful passage in which a character describes conversion as: 

...my touchstone, the line that's split my life in two and given it absolute meaning. But I'd be lying if I said it's been easy. It's not easy, and anyone who says it is is fooling themselves. It was catharsis, a shocking trauma, open-heart surgery, like a tree torn from the ground and replanted elsewhere.

Oh, my, yes.

~~~~~



Is there more relaxing bedtime reading than Betsy books? 
Methinks not.  

~~~~~


No.
Just no. 
This was not necessary. 

Monday, September 19, 2016

Bits and Pieces of Our Days: The Avatar Edition (Plus Jane and Pete)

Our current mom/daughter shared TV show is Avatar: The Last Airbender


The fun! The adventure! 
The laughs! The character development! 
I love me a good redemption story, too, so I'm enjoying the unfolding of this one with my girls. (They've already seen the whole series, so they are indulging me, watching it again.)  
~~~~~

Jane! Where have you been all our lives? 


Ramona and I are loving L.M. Montgomery's Jane of Lantern Hill. So good! Why did I wait so long to read this one? Oh, Superior Jane, you are our current favorite literary heroine.

In Avatar terms, this is how we feel about Jane: 

~~~~~

We went with my parents a couple of weeks ago to see Pete's Dragon. We all thought it was lovely. I generally don't have to write movie reviews since Steven Greydanus reads my mind so handily.

His review is here, at Decent Films, for your (and my) convenience.

In Avatar terms, Pete and Elliot did this to us:


~~~~~

But back to Avatar! 
Here's what I thought when I saw the episode about Appa's lost days:


I could do this all day, but I really shouldn't. 
I need to get some sleep so I can read more about Superior Jane (I particularly like doing voices for Dad and Grandmother) tomorrow and gear up for some final battles. And there'll be leaf juice to be made! 

Friday, September 16, 2016

Poetry Friday: An Original One This Week


This week's poem comes to you courtesy of an actual Facebook exchange with a friend this week. 
Happy Poetry Friday! 


Hospitality
by Karen Edmisten  

My friend said she had 
"hospital dinner guests" coming over. 
I pictured invalids on gurneys
being wheeled up to her dining room table.
This is not what she meant at all.

She, a doctor's wife, meant 
that another physician, one who was 
planning to move soon 
to our area, was coming for dinner while 
in town on a house-hunting mission. 

Still, I like to picture the gurneys 
around my friend's table. 
I hear her broad and joyful laugh, 
as she chops, stirs, and shares a meal with any, 
with all, who would be wheeled.  

~~~~~

The Poetry Friday roundup is at Today's Little Ditty

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

On Morning Air tomorrow, Talking About Miscarriage

I talked with John and Glenn, on Morning Air on Relevant Radio, last week about miscarriage.

We talked about my own experience with loss, about After Miscarriage, and then we had two callers who moved me deeply as they shared a father's perspective on losing children.

If you'd like to hear that segment, it will be aired again tomorrow morning, at 7am ET (6am CT).

If you can't tune in then, but would like to hear the segment, you can find it in the audio archives on this page. Scroll to Hour 3, on September 8th.

Revisiting the Pirate Prayer

Because it's worth revisiting, on a regular basis, don't you think?

~~~~~

(This explanation of the value of "A-R-R-R" prayer first ran in 2009.) 

I really need to be accountable. That's why I have Atticus. And children. And a cat. And a scale. And a best friend. And a spiritual director.

This weekend, I got to see my best friend and my spiritual director. I saw Atticus, the children and the cat, too, of course, but you hear about them every day, so let's move on. The best friend and the director live in Omaha, so I don't see them as often. Saturday, I had the chance to see them both, so it was a good day for accountability.

You don't really need to know, and you probably don't care, about the things I was struggling with. Like most of us, I have the same things arise again and again. My spiritual director compares God's work on these issues -- anyone's issues -- to an onion. God peels away a layer or two at a time, helping us to get closer to the core.  My best friend has always compared it to an upward spiral: our struggles keep coming up, repeating themselves, which can be discouraging. But we are being pulled upward.

Both analogies work on the same level: we're making progress, but it's slow. Sometimes painful. Sometimes we don't feel as if we've gotten very far.

When I was an atheist, I assumed that people who had conversions were all like St. Paul: instantly different in every way.  What I've learned, as a Christian, is that some things are instantly different (let's face it, to become a Catholic is to adopt some rather dramatic changes in one's life) but other things are lifelong learning experiences. Core sins or ways of being take time to change.  Most likely, though the substance of the struggles is the same, the accidents, or the way in which those struggles manifest, is very different when we are 30 or 40 or 50 than it was when we were 15 or 20 years old.

I like to take the spiral analogy and visualize it even further. I picture the spiral as something very tightly, painfully wound at the bottom -- wound so tightly it can barely be moved or untwisted. But, as God' work begins, the spring begins to loosen. And as it is unwound, the spiral opens, and widens, and moves ever upward, widening our perspective of it as well.  So, as we move upward on this spiraling, expanding path, we get a better view, a clearer and wider sense of the things we're untangling and dealing with.

I share this because if you are ever discouraged by the fact that you seem to revisit the same sins or the same patterns of behavior repeatedly, I hope you won't despair. Compare yourself to where you were five years ago with the same sin. What about ten years ago?  Do you handle it differently?  If you're striving to seriously live your faith life, my guess is that you do handle it differently. A particular temptation or inclination might still be there, but you're probably approaching it in new and better ways all the time.

Does an alcoholic stop wanting to drink? Usually not. Does a recovering alcoholic stay away from alcohol? Yes. It's the same thing with all of our sins and temptations. We're still the same people, but the ways in which we live and behave do change, with God's grace. Sometimes we even stop wanting the drink, the sin, the temptation. God can transform us that completely.

Having said all that, I'm rerunning something that I need to revisit regularly and so I'm assuming you do, too. It's what my director called the "A-R-R-R" method of prayer, and what I then dubbed pirate prayer. All you have to remember is "ARRR" (but you don't have to add "Matey" or do anything that makes you feel really foolish. You can even eschew my silly pirate label and call it something respectable, such as "a method of prayer for those of us who enjoy acronyms.")

ARRR stands for:

Acknowledge
Relate
Receive
Respond

These steps in prayer are especially helpful to me when I'm responding to something with a great deal of emotion. At times, I find (or my spiritual director oh-so-gently points out) that I've intellectually sifted through a problem, but I'm still reacting strongly to the situation. Intellect is not enough. It's time to take it to God in prayer, and "ARRR" helps me in this way:

Acknowledge

Acknowledge what I'm feeling -- what I'm really feeling, not what I think I should feel, what I wish I could feel, what I think God wants me to feel. Acknowledge -- to myself -- my true feelings. No matter how irrational, unjustifiable or unpleasant they may be.

Relate 
Hand those feelings over to God. Tell Him everything -- tell Him what I've honestly recognized in myself. Lay it down at His feet. Give it utterly and completely to Him.

Receive


Receive what God has to offer me in return. Is He calling me to forgiveness? To healing? To action? To grieving? Be open to what He offers. (This may not come right away. Be patient.)

Respond

This is self-explanatory. What did I receive from God, and how will I put that into practice, into action?

These steps don't always occur as neatly as I've spelled them out. The "Acknowledge and Relate" stages may stretch out over many moments or sessions of prayer. Sometimes I find that I have to acknowledge over and over again what I'm really feeling about something before I'm ready to move on. So, the "Acknowledge and Relate" stages may include tears or times of simply pouring my heart out to our loving God. Because I have to empty myself of my self before I'm ready to receive anything from the Lord.

But, I also have to remember that I can't get stuck in the "Acknowledge and Relate" stages. Reminding myself that I'm in the middle of a process is so helpful. When I've really and truly given up to God all that I've been holding on to, He will pour out new graces that I'll then be ready to receive. Knowing that I'm only two steps into a process wards off despair and nurtures hope. And it keeps me from stagnating in self pity or sadness.

I know that there will be gifts to receive, and that He will give me the strength to respond to them.

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." (Phil. 4:13)

Friday, September 09, 2016

Poetry Friday: Fall, by Edward Hirsch


On Facebook yesterday, I posted this picture, a sampling from Atticus's garden, and I said: 

I'm not a gardener. But on a cool September morning, when I'm picking vegetables, feeling grateful for my husband's love of growing things...there's no place I'd rather be than in that garden.

The calendar may still call it summer, but the season is changing here. I'm reminded of Emily Dickinson (As imperceptibly as grief, the summer lapsed away) and Edward Hirsch knows it, too. 


Fall
by Edward Hirsch

Fall, falling, fallen. That's the way the season
Changes its tense in the long-haired maples
That dot the road; the veiny hand-shaped leaves
Redden on their branches (in a fiery competition
With the final remaining cardinals) and then
Begin to sidle and float through the air, at last
Settling into colorful layers carpeting the ground.
At twilight the light, too, is layered in the trees....

(Read the whole thing here, at The Writer's Almanac.)

~~~~~

Friday, August 26, 2016

Ask for Chesteron on Dickens, and You Shall Receive

On Wednesday, I mentioned shopping my bookshelves for Ramona's upcoming school year reading list. Then, my friend Liz (over on Facebook) said I "should definitely read Chesterton's book on Dickens." I made a mental note and had another cup of coffee.

This morning, my girls and I were at a used book sale. You know that's always dangerous, but I promised myself that this time, I'd buy only books I truly love or truly needed, because otherwise, what was all that summer book decluttering for?

I was doing quite well. I had in my hand a Beverly Cleary that we've never read. (I didn't know such a creature existed! But it does! Muggie Maggie!) We'd also grabbed an Andrew Clements book that has long been a favorite of Ramona's. Anne-with-an-e found some Ray Bradbury, and Ramona and I thought that a science book that explained why penguins feet don't freeze was probably within our guidelines of "need." And since we don't own a copy of the Cary Grant/Audrey Hepburn movie Charade, I told Ramona she should definitely grab it. It was only 50 cents, after all, and Grant and Hepburn fall into the "truly love" category.

And then what to my discerning eye should appear?



We paid for our reasonable handful of books, escaped without spending the month's food budget, and we are all happy. No teetering, homeless piles of books this time. 

(Remember the last used book sale foray? Our spoil looked like this and my shelves were already overflowing:) 


Of course, the absence of teetering stacks after hitting a book sale also makes me a little sad, as it should any true book lover. 

Sorry, Marie Kondo, but that's a fact of bibliophilic life.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Poetry Friday: Emily Dickinson's To-Do List


With a new school year approaching, I'm in list-making mode, much like my beloved Emily Dickinson in Andrea Carlisle's take on the Belle of Amherst's days.

Now I am off to decide what to wear, what to bake, and what to hide.


Emily Dickinson's To-Do List
by Andrea Carlisle

Monday
Figure out what to wear—white dress?
Put hair in bun
Bake gingerbread for Sue
Peer out window at passersby
Write poem
Hide poem

Tuesday
White dress? Off-white dress?
Feed cats
Chat with Lavinia
....

(Read the rest here, at The Writer's Almanac.)

~~~~~

The round up is at My Juicy Little Universe. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Shopping My Bookshelves

Time to start thinking about what my year with Ramona will look like. Time to start shopping my own bookshelves. Hmmm...where to begin? Some initial thoughts....



There will definitely be art. 
Claire Walker Leslie's Keeping a Nature Journal is full of sketching inspiration. Pulling that one off the shelf for sure. I think I'd like to pull Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain out, too. 

~~~~~


This is one of my favorite shelves in the house. Ramona has read most of these, but I think Jane of Lantern Hill is going on the reading list for her. A read-aloud, I think. We haven't yet read the second Calpurnia Tate book! Must remedy! 

~~~~~


Some Shakespeare this year, of course. Romeo and Juliet?

~~~~~


Is there any Louisa May that Ramona hasn't read yet? Maybe Rose in Bloom. Thinking I'll wait on Cather's My Antonia for a year or two, for fuller appreciation. 

~~~~~


She's reading Emma with her big sister, so I'm leaving the Austen to them. I think we'll read Dickens this year, though - A Tale of Two Cities

~~~~~


I see some Ray Bradbury here, but where is my copy of Dandelion Wine? I guess I need to check another shelf. That's definitely another read-aloud. Also adding Fruitless Fall to her list, and some of Silent Spring

~~~~~


I see some good stuff here by Mike Aquilina and Peter Kreeft. (Is there any other kind of stuff from those two?) 

~~~~~


Alan Schreck's Catholic and Christian is like a mini-catechism, and I love it. Will choose some selections for Ramona to read. 

~~~~~


Oooh, I need to look more closely at some of the goodness on these shelves. 

~~~~~


Clive Staples! This is Ramona's year for The Screwtape Letters

~~~~~


Here's a small section of our poetry collection. Poetry Friday, anyone? Maybe I'll have Ramona do some of the picks this year. 

~~~~~


Ah, homeschooling books. 
This shelf is for me, when I need a boost.  

~~~~~

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Zoom Out: It's the Big Picture That Matters

The other day in a Facebook group, a friend linked to this great, old post from Sarah McKenzie, and a few of us then talked about how important it is to keep the big picture in mind (and that applies not only to homeschooling but to parenting in general, and to life.)

I'm a big fan of the big picture. Bad days have a way of tricking us into thinking the picture is minute, localized, and doomed. Sarah's post reminded me of an old post of mine, so I shared it with my friends, and am sharing it here today.

~~~~~

Does Happy Homeschooling = No Worries?
(I originally posted this October 18, 2010 -- my girls were 16, 14, and 8.)  


The short answer is no. The long answer is a blog post.

I am a happy homeschooler. But "happy" is not equivalent to slaphappy or to sporting a perpetual smile.  I was thinking about this today as I batted a few worries around in my happy head. I wasn't feeling particularly chipper as I thought about:
  • math
  • ACT scores
  • teaching cursive to an eight-year-old
  • balancing my unschoolish approach with my husband's English teacher ways
  • a daughter taking online classes at the community college
  • a daughter who suddenly cares about a grade
  • a daughter who rightly and admirably cares about her grade
  • a daughter who isn't 8 years old anymore
  • needing bifocals (me, not the daughter)
  • trying to be everything to everyone every day
  • feeling that there's never enough time for all my roles and that I want to hire a stunt double
Let's be clear: homeschooling is not perfect. It can inspire cloudbursts of anxiety, worry, doubt, insecurity and fear about the future. (I suppose parents who send their kids to school could say the same thing? That any parent could say the same thing of parenting?) Homeschooling sometimes feels overwhelming, and then I begin to  wonder if I'm up to it, if I can give my kids all that they need.

Then, I remember that we are to pray, "Protect us from all anxiety." And so that's what I pray:

"Protect me, Jesus, from the fear that I can't do it all. Because I can't. That's why I need You."

As Scripture tells me:
Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
-- Philippians 4:6-7
It also helps to have a husband who listens, friends who listen, a confessor who listens. St. Francis de Sales knew that:
The heart finds relief in telling its troubles to another, just as the body when suffering from persistent fever finds relief from bleeding. It is the best of remedies, and therefore it was that S. Louis counselled his son, "If thou hast any uneasiness lying heavy on thy heart, tell it forthwith to thy confessor, or to some other pious person, and the comfort he will give will enable thee to bear it easily."
                            -- Introduction to the Devout Life

St. Thomas Aquinas also apparently knew a few homeschooling mothers:
Sorrow can be alleviated by good sleep, a bath and a glass of wine.

Being a happy homeschooler does not mean I'll never feel sorrow, anxiety, worry or dread. I have. I do. I will.

It does mean knowing where to turn when those spectors try to haunt. Jesus gives -- and He is -- the best of advice.

Happy homeschooling for me is not a mood or a mindless game or a steady, even course. It is a way of living, though -- of trusting, and of getting up each day and starting again, knowing that I'm not in charge.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Poetry Friday: Wendell Berry


This lovely, short Berry poem is speaking to my heart today. 

Be Still in Haste 
by Wendell Berry 

How quietly I
begin again 


~~~~~

The Poetry Friday round up is at Dori Reads. 

Thursday, August 11, 2016

School Supplies, Serendipity, Ice Cream, and Tears

Last night I told my sister a story she'd never heard before. We were talking about the ways God sometimes seems to drop someone into your life at the right time, and about how beautiful and surreal it can feel, how it often leaves us speechless.

The following story is from ten years ago this week. Anne-with-an-e was 12, Betsy was 10, and Ramona was 4.

Enjoy ... and cry ... and hold very close someone you love:

~~~~~



Yesterday we went shopping for school supplies. After picking up a few essentials, and because we were celebrating the fact that none of us had any cavities (this was a known fact, not just a guess, as we'd been to the dentist in the morning) I decreed it to be an Ice Cream for Lunch day.

We stopped for our treats, and settled down to enjoy them. As the girls were slurping their way through Oreo and Reese's Peanut Butter Cup-laced concoctions, an elderly man approached our table.

"I just wanted to say," he said rather slowly, "that you just have some very nice girls there, and you all remind me of our family a number of years back. We had three girls, too."

I responded with something like, "Isn't that nice?" and said it was kind of him to compliment the girls. Then he went on to say, "I've got kind of a sad story, though ...."

Oh, no, I thought, who are you, and what's coming next?

"We, um," he said, looking troubled. "We lost our youngest daughter to cancer."

Oh, my. I was jolted, but managed to relay my shock and sympathy. I asked when it had happened, thinking it must've been years ago.

"Just last month," he said, tearing up. "She was 41. I was there when she died. And it just ...."

He trailed off, as tears filled his eyes. (Mine too.)

"I'm so sorry," I said feebly. I looked at Anne, who was also tearing up.

He continued. "She had the Lord as her Savior, and she told me that. She said she wasn't afraid ... so, you know, that's my consolation. But," he choked, "it just tears you up inside."

"I can't even imagine," I whispered.

The surrealness of this scene didn't occur to me at the time. Somehow it seemed perfectly right that I was sitting here, listening to this stranger who stood next to my table as he shared his grief with a family who was willing to listen.

He shook his head, as if to collect his thoughts, and said, "I just ... I really wanted to stop and say something to you, because I just saw that you look like such a nice, happy family. I saw your three girls talking and laughing, and I thought, 'Why there's Suzanne and Maureen and Ginger!' Just like my girls ...."

He shook his head again, and since I seemed unable to say anything at that point, he finished up by saying, "I just wanted to say that you all just reminded me of our family, and I could tell that you have somethin' special. You know, not everyone has that these days ... it's a rotten world, and not everyone has what you have ... and so, I just wanted to say that."

Through a few more tears, I thanked him. I told him again how sorry I was that he had lost his daughter, and that I appreciated his kindness at taking the time to stop and talk to us.

"God bless you," I said softly, feeling once again that my words were sorely inadequate.

When he left, Anne-with-an-e was crying. I comforted her, and said that although his story was a sad one, and that he missed his daughter very much, it was comforting that they had their faith (and that we have ours.) I told the girls I was glad we were there -- glad we could listen to a man who needed to talk about the daughters he loves so much. But, also, his little visit to our table was a blessing for me, I said. I was touched that he could see how much we love one another, and touched that he took the time to say it.

When we got home, I told Atticus about it -- about how it felt as if an angel had stopped to talk to us. This angel reminded me of our abundant blessings, our abundant love for one another ... of all that's really important.

Then, Atticus said, "Do you remember that last phone call we got for the Rosary Crusade? It was about a month ago. They asked us to pray for a couple who had just lost their 40-something daughter to cancer."

I had forgotten, but Atticus was right.

Though I can't know for certain, this stranger -- this "angel" -- who had felt compelled to approach an ice-cream-eating mother and her three daughters was quite possibly the man for whom I had prayed anonymously last month.

And once again, I feel awed by and unworthy of the love and mercy of such a God as we have. He intertwines our lives in ways we cannot predict, often do not see, and most certainly cannot fully comprehend on this side of heaven.

Serendipity? It's such a lovely and whimsical word for grace.

Friday, August 05, 2016

Poetry Friday: Genius, by George Bilgere


George Bilgere today, just because he's so much fun. 

Genius
by George Bilgere

It was nice being a genius
worth nearly half-a-million dollars
for the two or three minutes it took me
to walk back to my house from the mailbox
....
(Read the whole thing here, at The Writer's Almanac.) 

~~~~~

The round up is at A Teaching Life.