Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Magnificat

My kids drew these pictures to help me share a children's message at church on Sunday. So this first one is by Trevor. If you look past the stripes on her shirt you'll see a face. So this is Mary with baby Jesus in her belly. I asked Trev, "What are those blue things?" He said it was her arms.

Tamara drew these next two:

The rich queen is on top because from a worldly perspective she is the most important whereas the sad poor person is just a nobody. As I see it, the bottom picture represents anyone who is an underdog whether that be because of social exclusion, mental illness, addiction or lack of money.

But let me tell you about Mary. She's pregnant and she sings a song about how the coming of Jesus flips everything around. God pours love and compassion upon the sad poor person and she gets moved to the top:

Whenever we show love and compassion to someone who is downtrodden, we participate in the Kingdom of Jesus. It is the upside-down kingdom. It runs contrary to the way society tends to categorize people. All this is to say that, in Christ, the poor person is just as important as the so-called successful person.

Mary's Song reads as follows:

My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.

His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud
in their inmost thoughts.

He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.

He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
to Abraham and his descendants forever,
even as he said to our fathers.
Luke 1:47-55

*Note - When Scripture speaks of fearing the Lord, it doesn't mean being frightened. It means reverence or honor.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Mr. Spark

These past two Wednesdays after the school's final bell, Tamara and Trevor hung out with Michael and Julia in Mr. Spark's office. I've changed his name slightly to protect his identity, though I can't imagine him objecting to my writing here.

He's warm and kind. The first time we met, he asked me a bunch of questions in between interactions with the children while they sat around the table drawing pictures. Do Tamara and Trevor play outside much? Do they get along at home? Do they play minecraft? and so on. There was absolutely nothing in his manner to indicate malicious intent, but I felt sheepish and unprepared to answer his questions. I fumbled through some responses and discovered he was accepting and encouraging. And, as the expression goes, that's just my cup of tea.

At one point his cell phone vibrated. He glanced at the call display, promptly put his phone in his pocket and said, "You know you have a good friend when you can hang up on him."

And the following Wednesday everyone seemed more relaxed than usual. The children were comfortable in Mr. Spark's presence as he handed them candy canes and watched them make Christmas drawings for his fridge. "I love Christmas!" he kept saying. Julia, an affectionate one, put her head on his lap. He seemed a bit surprised, but he just rolled with it. "It's been a while since my own kids were this young," he said.

I guess I could share more details with you but I think this will give you a good enough idea of why the children love to spend time with him.



Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Mess of Colors

Joleen is passionate about art. She loves looking at it. She does a wee little bit of mess-making herself but her paints are apart. The pink is nearby and blue is a couple rooms away. Her blue paint has a flaw called anifozicks.

She gets frustrated with pink. It's a supportive color, in its own way, when she puts it next to her primary colors. But, really, she doesn't enjoy playing with pink.

Just like the blue paint, one of her crayons has anifozicks—the orange one. She loves that one a lot. It has its own place, but needs care even though it works fine. If she doesn't wrap tape around it regularly, it rolls into figments and phantom colors. She can tell when it hasn't been taped. One time they couldn't find it. She was terribly frightened, but it turned up in the drawer among the toothpicks. She hopes her orange one never vanishes like that again.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

My Kitchen

I have my own personal chef. Lately he's been frustrating me because he's been serving meals on the gold-plated china when I much prefer the casual dishes—the ones that have the pictures of cartoon felines on them.

Just now he's offered a genuine apology with a reassurance that he doesn't want to hurt my feelings. "I see the destructiveness of the gold-plated dishes," he said. "I'll inform the rest of my team so that if any of them need to fill in for me, they'll know to stay away from those."

I'll be honest. My kitchen is not especially clean. Sometimes it's hard to find things. There's an island in the middle. The salt and pepper shakers got stranded inside a cupboard in there. Parker and I put them there because we wanted to keep them away from the mangoes. Then he left to play poker all night and I got preoccupied with trying to find my preserves. I think I had them out in the open for a while but various catastrophes meant they had to be put in a much less obvious location. I believe my chef might be able to help me find them.

The dishwasher's helpful. I haven't always had one. The sink is so deep that when I put my hand into the sudsy water I can never be sure if I'm going to cut my hand on some sharp knife or broken wine glass. I'll probably make some astonishing discoveries in my sink. It's the depth of it that makes it amazing and frightening at the same time. There's a decorative mirror above it now that I hope will somehow help me find more things around my kitchen.

And from my kitchen I can see the television. When the Super Mario Bros. cartoon comes on it brings negative effects.

Before all the disasters my kitchen seemed wealthier, full of vigor and shine. Now it's different, but I'll just have to work with what I have. I think making it more Christmas-oriented in here is an exquisite idea.


Friday, December 12, 2014

Pen Pals 3

Dear Sharon,
You did it! Thanks for carving another bum and sending me the picture. I got the two inch fire hydrant, too. Keep up the hard work! I want to reassure you that your eggplant carvings aren't offending me. I hope you carve some more bums. Elves, too! I know they're difficult to do, but they're awesome at the same time.

If you like, you can send me one or two close-up shots of the bum carving. If you try it and it's too blurry or something, that's okay. All of these things take practice.

Are you ready for learning (ouchie!) and adventure?

Just as a side note, I asked my buddy, Carson, if he could drop off some roses at your front door because he lives in your area. I hope you got them.


Dear Waldo,
I got the roses. Um, thanks, I think. I don't like the thorns, but that goes without saying. I could tell the one yellow rose was artificial. That's why Carson took it out right when I was opening the door. I'm not stupid.



Thursday, December 11, 2014

Pen Pals 2

Dear Sharon,
I got the recent photos you sent. I'm so thankful you haven't given up! I think you are the most courageous person I know right now because you have lots of fear yet you're choosing to share parts of yourself with me. Bravery is incredibly beautiful.

I hope you realize the depth of my care for you. If you have trouble accepting it, then it could be that I'm misunderstanding you. But it's just as likely you're misunderstanding me. That's okay. Sometimes that happens because of the barbed wire fences.

I have something to ask you. It's important. Next time you carve eggplants can you do a darker one? Preferably another bum? The great thing about bums is they can be ugly or funny or even just plain weird. And I suppose they can be sexy, but that's not what I want to focus on right now.

You might be surprised when I tell you I think carving bums will help the entire process move along in a healthier direction. I only know this because I've carved plenty of bums myself.


Dear Waldo,
The barbed wire fences make me upset. People need to know that I'm not a cow. I just want some respect! Maybe I'll carve a bum, or maybe I'll carve a fire hydrant. You'll find out.


Tuesday, December 9, 2014


I will lead the blind in the way that they do not know, in paths that they have not known I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before them into light, 
the rough places into level ground.
These are the things I do, and do not forsake them.
Isaiah 42:16

Monday, December 8, 2014

Pen Pals

Dear Waldo,
Mr. Shanks has given me so many eggplants I've started putting them into the upstairs bathtub and desk drawers in my office. I remember your suggestion of choosing any which one and carving it. I tried a few. I wanted to make them funny so I carved one into the shape of a bum, another into a fire hydrant, and the other into a stoned Christmas elf, but I was terrified Edgar would find them and think they were stupid. I emailed photos of them to you. Did you get them? Maybe the stoned elf was too offensive. Please delete that photo if you got it.

I've thought about carving more eggplants but the last time you wrote you mentioned you didn't like paring knives, so I feel like if I use a paring knife it's going to irritate you and you'll stop sending me letters. You're my friend and I don't want you to stop writing to me.

I haven't been to the art studio in months, except on a Wednesday in November to pick up a mother-and-child figurine they wanted to trade me for the origami booklets I gave them in the Spring. I saw the Hildermans there. I'm worried they're mad at me for not attending their classes regularly. I'm quite certain they think I'm a bad person.

I hope you can forgive me if I don't carve anymore eggplants. It scares the hell out of me.


Dear Sharon,
Mr. Shanks continues to give me eggplants as well. If you don't carve them and give them away, you might run into some problems since there are only so many places you can store them. I liked the photos you sent. My favorite is the elf. I didn't find it the least bit offensive! In fact, I hope you carve more elves. People can't tell when I get your photos. I like to keep them to myself and pray for you. That can be our little secret.

It takes a certain kind of bravery to carve an eggplant. You did the right thing when you made those ones in the photos. It doesn't bother me if you use a paring knife. It's only that I don't like to use one myself. Different people use different knives, but you've probably already noticed that.

Don't give up. And my hope is that you'll push through your fear and take a risk—that's what bravery is, after all. Your photos are safe with me.



Sunday, December 7, 2014

Fallen Feathers

I pulled a box closer, grabbed hold of the flaps
"Wait!" thought the wing-broken bird when it opened
but there in the corner it trembled, it begged
for some kind of solace or rescue or way
to fly out of the box in front of my face
to show me its pain without leaving a trace

No, not just any pain, no, not just any—
There was more in the box: a bracelet, some keys,
a coffee stain under the feathers that fell
when the bird tried, yet failed, to cheep chirp for help
The failure was due to shoddy reception,
the kind that spoke only frowns and rejection

I reached in and fondled the feathers that fell,
gathered them, placed them inside my large conch shell,
then the colors of courage started to drip
from that sad broken wing—what beauty, what grace!
All changes begun in a color-filled whirl
to nudge the bird out into wide open space

(Also published at The Checkerboard Collective Issue 49)

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

art project 49

the all-knowing Who

O Lord, you have searched me
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you know it completely, O Lord.

You hem me in—behind and before;
you have laid your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.

Where can I go from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths,
you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.

Psalm 139:1-10

Monday, December 1, 2014

Stuff Breaks

I've been noticing the brokenness. Our washer went on the fritz and a new one's coming. Hopefully it will arrive within the next few days, but in the meantime I've gotta wear socks that don't match. I've no need to get riled up about socks, though, because I think I can trust the promise that we'll be getting a new one.

When I was in the Walmart parking lot at High Street two days ago I discovered a broken tail light on my golden chariot. Honestly, it's a Ford Explorer, but calling it something else is what gets me places. Do you know what I'm saying?

Anyway... tail light. Broken.

My garage door opener hasn't been functioning for Who knows how long, so today I stopped at the hardware store to ask about replacing the battery. The cashier fiddled with it for a moment and said something like this: "You just have to take a screwdriver and pop this open and do that..."

While she worked on it with admirable confidence, a woman behind me leaned harder on her cane and said in a slightly sarcastic and jovial tone, "Don't you just love it when the ones with expertise say 'here's all you gotta do' as if it's the easiest thing?"

I decided not to compare myself to the cashier. It would only make me upset. After all, she's been practicing this often—probably for years—because of her various customers looking for battery replacements. Of course she's going to excel at it!

Besides, I'm different from a cashier. Being a stay-at-home mother is just as honorable and well worth practicing.