My Darkness Into Light

It’s true that when it rains, it pours.

Or maybe in the midst of great loss, when we are at our most raw and vulnerable, we feel things with greater clarity but less coping skills.

I don’t know.

But I can tell you that in this month of sorrow, life has gone on. Annie graduated Pre-K, which means come the Fall, I’ll have three kids in all day school, three kids doing homework, three kids playing sports.

I made a major job decision that requires 150 hours of licensing.

And two weeks from now, I am in charge of Vacation Bible School, a function of my asking the director of ministries at our church “Hey, why don’t we have VBS?”

“No one to run it, ” she said. Then she crossed her arms, raised an eyebrow, and waited.

That’s worth a reflection. Months and months ago, God told me to say yes to VBS, even though he knew that at this very moment, my heart would be broken. I am on the lookout for why. Be where you’re supposed to be when you’re supposed to be there and God will do the rest.

Which leads me to this post.

This is our third Spring in Oregon, the place we believe we were called to move. The previous two Springs have been pretty and worthy of note.

But this Spring? This particular Spring that has been so, so hard?

This Spring has been MAGNIFICENT.

The sound of the wind in the leaves outside the kitchen window.  The tulips and hyacinth that surprised us in April. The tree that leaved into a giant sentinel in the backyard.

The lemon balm that sprouted in the garden area, good for stress and anxiety.

The green hills and full creeks. Fields full of calves and lambs. Poppies. Dogwood. And sweet Mother, the roses.

Can I tell you how Sue loved her roses?

I didn’t even realize how much I was relying on the nature around me to soothe my heart until Saturday, when I was sitting at the winery five minutes from my house and this view brought me to tears.

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And then I thought about how many times in the last few weeks, Gabe has said “Mom, it is so pretty here.” Or Annie has picked some lemon balm and walked around the house, breathing it in. How the girls headed out to the backyard with their friend Sarah to cut fresh bouquets of roses for our families.

All of those things bringing simple and pure joy.

This Spring has sheltered and fed and lightened us, a bountiful grace for which I am thankful.

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This was filtered using Prisma, which is why it looks like a painting instead of a picture

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You, Lord, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light. 

Psalm 18:28

 

My Thumb is Chartreuse

The awesome news is that we have garden beds:

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The less awesome news is that for four straight nights, and after a robust imitation of Spring that caused all the trees to bud, we’ve had frost.

Good thing I didn’t transplant my sprouts.

Here they are, these precious babies that I planted six weeks ago:

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Don’t ask me what they are, though. When I first planted the seeds in little pots, I labeled them with cute signs. Then I repotted and my Annie wanted to “help oo” and I lost track of what plants went with what signs. So if you recognize any of my sprouts, feel free to comment. The choices are: cucumbers, tomatoes, lavender and snap peas. Good luck.

I have never started a garden from seeds before. In So Cal, we just went to Lowe’s the first weekend in April that was sunny and hot and bought six inch plants. But we’re in Oregon now and everyone else was buying tiny peat pots and planning out a planting calendar and it made me feel behind.

I asked my cool neighbor Julie, who grew up on property, for pointers. She suggested a grow lite or a grow pad or something. Or possibly both, because she grows her seeds in the garage. I didn’t listen closely to that part because I thought “I’m only growing four things and they can live on the dining room table”.

What I did not foresee was that in the roughly twelve weeks before planting, the seeds would outgrow the tiny little peat pots and need bigger ones. So I went from 36 two inch peat pots which took up minimal space, to 36 four inch peat pots.

Which take up more space.

I also did not reckon on—that’s right, reckon on—the fact that Lizzie the Hound would be uncontrollably attracted to the potting soil.

Which led to the demise of four pots and some ugliness in the dog run for about a week.

At first it was too cold for the plants to be outside at all. Every afternoon I just moved them into the sun spots in the dining room. Then we had a stretch of warm, sunny weather. So every morning I carried them out to the patio and every evening I had to remember to carry them back in.

Which I didn’t, not every time. Some awfully cold nights, I forgot about them.

On Sunday, my English mother-in-law, she of the genetically gifted forest green thumb, asked with a sly smile how my plants were coming on.

By the time I was done describing the last six weeks, she was chortling gleefully into her white wine. Then she slammed her hand down on the table, looked at me from under her raised eyebrows and said—you can only do this justice in your head if you hear an English accent mellowed by 36 years living on Maui—“Why on earth did ya start with SEEDS??? Just go ta Home Depot and BUY THE SIX. INCH. PLANTS!”

Yes, mum. Right away. Mahalo.

I’m not giving up on my seeds, though. We’re going to plant them in one of the beds and see what happens next.

Tra-La! It’s May! ~Dana

Whether you called it May Day, Beltane, Walpurgisnacht, Flores de Mayo, or simply another Thursday, yesterday was the first of May! When I was a child, I remember making May Day baskets at school to give to friends or neighbors when we got home. The tradition was to place the basket on the front porch, ring the doorbell, then run away. In other parts of the world, the first of May is a lovely spring celebration, complete with maypoles, folk music, dancing, and the crowing of a May Queen.  Why don’t I live in a place like that??

Whatever your beliefs, and wherever you are, we’d like to take this chance to wish you a happy May! It’s been such a tough winter for our friends and family back East and in Canada, and those of you in the Midwest and South are still struggling with some nasty weather. But we hope that sometime this weekend you’ll take time to honor this glorious season. Get out and go for a walk, soaking up some vitamin D. Plant some flowers, even if it’s just one pot with a little marigold. My girls and I planted sunflowers today against our back fence, and I look forward to sharing them with you when they’re in their full 10-foot-tall glory!  The sunflowers, not the girls.

And my favorite way of celebrating May is listening to the song, “Tra-La, It’s May!” from Learner and Lowe’s Camelot. Here’s a link to the video, in case you aren’t familiar. This song is especially fun. I’ll leave you with just a taste of the lyrics:

It’s May! It’s May! The lusty month of May,
That lovely month when everyone goes blissfully astray!
It’s here! It’s here! That shocking time of year,
When tons of wicked little thoughts merrily appear!

Happy May, everyone!

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My little May Queen, hamming it up.

The Nostalgia of Lilacs ~ Dana

This last weekend, Jen and her family went camping and on our Instagram account, Grace In the Details, she posted a lovely picture of a lilac bush in full bloom. Her caption read, “Can’t you just smell the lilacs?” And my answer was a resounding, “Yes!”

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When I was growing up in the 1970s and 80s, my great-grandmother, Nana, lived in a small house in San Bernardino, just two doors down from where my Grandma Betty still lives today. In Nana’s back yard was a big, gorgeous, super-fragrant lilac bush. Every time we came to visit her, we left with something: homemade banana date bread, a lunch sack filled with walnuts from her walnut tree, or when the lilacs were blooming, a bouquet of the delicate violet flowers with a wet paper towel wrapped around the stems, keeping them moist until we could get home and put them in water.

Sometimes I would get to keep Nana’s lilacs in my room and I can still remember falling asleep with their sweet fragrance ready to fill my dreams.

Fast-forward to 1997 and I found myself living in the beautiful city of Innsbruck, Austria. My first year there, we had a harsh winter with record amounts of snow. So when spring finally made its appearance, it was none too soon for this California girl. I had made good friends with Harry and Renate, an older couple who lived and worked near where I lived, in Ambras, a little village on the outskirts of town. One day, Renate brought me a huge bunch of lilacs from her garden and I thanked her profusely in my broken German.

That night, back in the room that I rented from Frau Päer, I was overwhelmed with emotion and wrote the following:

The bunch of lilacs that sit in a vase on top of my refrigerator fill my room with their nostalgic scent. As the sweet perfume encompasses my senses, my mind reels back 20 years. I close my eyes, take a deep breath and remember the feeling of the sand from the sandbox between my toes. I feel the chill of the cold water from the garden hose. I can hear the women’s voices from the kitchen, Nana finally calling me in for lunch. A kiss and a glass of red Kool-Aid greet me. I take three big gulps and I can feel the cold, sweet liquid flow all the way to my tummy. In the folds of her skirt, I find her hand and she leads me into the house. The kitchen is hot but the dining room windows are open and a gentle breeze blows over us. Mom and Grandma are already sitting down as I climb into my chair, taking my place as the fourth generation. In front of me on a deep green glass plate is my lunch of cottage cheese, peaches, jell-o with fruit in it with multi-colored mini marshmallows on top.

We finish everything and move into the living room, where the air conditioner blows in. I could turn on the TV. I could play in the bedroom. I could go back outside. But instead I lie in the middle of the floor and listen to the lady-talk. I move from woman to woman, letting each run her fingers through my hair, rub my back, or fan my face. We passed hours this way, and to me, time stood still. Now 20 years later, a continent away, what I wouldn’t give for one more hour.

I didn’t know we had lilacs in Austria. I didn’t know one tiny violet blossom meant so much.

As my older self, now a mother, re-reads these lines, I think, “I want this childhood for my girls.” Because folks, it was magical. And I remember that it was the little things that touched my heart the most: reading books with Nana, watching the fire in the fireplace reflect in Grandpa Art’s glasses, wrapping up in Grandma Betty’s robe on a chilly morning after I had spent the night, listening to the Beach Boys in Mom’s Trans Am, building bookshelves with Dad.

No tutu photo shoots. No themed birthday parties (although my 9th birthday party at Mc Donald’s was pretty freaking rad). Not that there is anything wrong with those things. Trust me, my girls have had some pretty awesome photo shoots. But I’m going to be honest. Those things are for me. I want to see them in tutus around a little table with a vintage tablecloth and silver spoons and cupcakes!

But what my oldest really wants to do is, “go to Grammie’s house and play on the bed.” Childhood is magical, not because of the big moments that we create for our children, but because of the everyday love that they feel. I want them to remember picking up tacos at Baker’s and taking them to Grandma Betty. I want them to remember swimming at Grandma and Grandpa Light’s. I want them to, someday when they’re off at college, smell orange blossoms and remember picking oranges with Grammie and Zha-Zha. I want them to remember dance parties in the kitchen with Mommy, and planting veggies on the “Fulwider Farm”, because those are the moments that I will always hold dear in my heart.

And maybe the tutu tea parties.

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