The Little Green House

I bought a house.

I know, I’m surprised too.

Actually it’s more of a cottage. It has a certain vibe that I really want to keep. The flowers spill out across rock edges and various herbs grow in patches. The floors are all hardwood and the kitchen has the loveliest old-fashioned metal sink.

It needs a bit of work. A new bathroom floor, some cupboards in the kitchen and lots of painting and weeding.

But I’m so excited! I have for a long time been watching for a piece of land. I thought I would buy bare land because mainly I wanted a small piece of earth to claim as mine.

Instead I have 720 square feet of house that I can do whatever I wish with.

So many possibilities!

Dad likes to make jokes along the line of “David and Susan at the Little Green House” (a book title from my childhood) My brothers all freely give advice on house repairs and mom and my sister have offered me all the things they don’t want for their houses (🤣) so I’m well on my way to having a livable house.

My cousin said it looks like all it needs is a bunch of cousins.

Another cousin said it looks like it should be filled with books, and tea, and cats.

Merging the two ideas, I think I would settle for books and tea and cousins.

The cats might have to find a different home.

Of Masks and Mankind

I spent my evening sewing a mask. Six months ago, this is not how I planned to be spending my time. By now I should just be finishing school cleanup and making sure everything is ready for next year. Right now I should be experiencing the euphoria of the end of school freedom.

Instead I’m feeling sad. Also a bit cheated out of those last days of school. It’s worse because I’m not teaching next year. I miss the kids already.

Instead of taking my kids on a springtime hike, roasting marshmallows with them over a fire, and doing science outside surrounded by spring I’ve spent the last 2 months checking homework, working at my brother’s madhouse of a bulk food store and sorting pallets of canned goods at our family cannery.

While thousands of Americans are out of a job, I have three.

I’m thankful for my jobs. Although my summer isn’t turning out remotely how I’d planned, I have nothing to complain about.

Ok, I might complain about the mask. How do I wear a mask and glasses at the same time? It doesn’t work! My glasses fog up with every breath and so I end up alternating between not wearing glasses, which makes me feel weird and half dressed, and wearing my mask under my nose which completely misses the point of wearing a mask in the first place.

I don’t know how to do it.

But that’s really not anything to complain about. We’re having church again. Sitting 6 feet apart and not having Sunday school. It feels oddly normal. Like somehow this is how it should be and I am amazed at how quickly humans adapt to new behaviors and how quickly something can be normalized. Already it feels like it would be strange to go back to before. Strange to interact with another person without any restrictions.

It’s a strange world we live in.

And of all the things that are wrong, here I am, complaining about that mask.

What is Love

“I love you,” he said, gathering his lunchbox and stumbling out of the van. “I think so anyhow. I mean, no one really knows what love is, but I think I love you.

“Well we at least know it’s a chemical reaction in our brains,” I answered lightly ” I love you too.”

“I’m pretty sure I love you,” he says, and walks away with his feet halfway into his boots and his head down. He climbs the stairs to the apartment and doesn’t look back.

I blink back tears as I drive home. Thinking of the little boy alone in his bedroom. He plays video games for hours or watches “Ben Shu-Pie-ro”

“How many people died from the coronavirus now?” He asks. Or “what year did they first make Nickels? Or “Is there any proof that God exists?.

So many, many questions.

“Do you ever think about it that you were actually created?” He asks one afternoon. “I mean people really shouldn’t commit suicide because if God created them that must mean that God actually wants them here.”

“You’re a good thinker,” I say, hoping he’ll remember his own words five years from now because some days I feel sure he will be the one committing suicide.

“I hate you!” He yells the next day. “I hate God! I hate everything!” And he yells until he cries and when he is finally done crying he can finally talk.

He doesn’t mean the words he shouts at me. He doesn’t have words to say the things he feels or he doesn’t say them for other reasons. I am not sure which. I do know it isn’t me he’s angry at. Nor is he angry at God, really.

He holds so much inside himself.

So much potential.

So much love.

What is love? I don’t know if I can tell you.

But I can tell you this:

I love this child so much.

Already Written

He’d told them the end of the story. They could have known that death was temporary, that Christ couldn’t stay dead. That he would be back.

He’d told them three days. They had talked about this.

But they didn’t know. Somehow the message hadn’t penetrated. Death is final and finished. There is no second chance.

But this was not an ordinary man. This man who could raise others to life would also rise by his own power.

He cannot stay in the grave.

Resurrection is not a surprise.

He must rise again.

The ending if your story is written as well. He’s told us the ending. Although once more it is an ending that we cannot understand.

Death is never permanent. Life will always triumph.

My Favorite Things

This is my personal version of the song from “The Sound of Music”

Berries on mountains
and wild honeysuckles,
Climbing the mountain and boots with big buckles,
Hiking and walking and birds on the wing,
These are a few of my favorite things!

Ocean waves crashing and footprints on sea shores.
Sunshine and blue skies and freshly swept floors,
Cherry trees blooming early in spring
These are a few of my favorite things!

Freshly baked brownies and hot chicken pie
Adventures and rainbows and new things to try.
Summer and Autumn and all that they bring
These are a few of my favorite things.

When it rains all day
When my heart sinks
When I’m feeling sad.
I simply remember my favorite things
And then I don’t feel so bad.

A Life in Gray

Storm clouds piled upon my mountain.

Familiar walls surrounding me, asleep.

Bold and threatening…

Calm and soothing…

One?

The other?

Or both?

Memories of play in a childhood barn,

An aunt’s wedding,

A first car.

Gray is supposed to be gloomy

And boring.

But gray with shininess added

Becomes silver

And beautiful and valuable

Shiny gray

Is happy gray.

Alone

Photo credit: Sharon Vendley

Lost girl

Wandering the desert of this life.

Your throat parched.

You eyes caked with tears and dust.

You must have water

Or you will die.

There is no water ahead

It is only a mirage

Your tired, swollen feet will only find miles and miles of sand.

You must go back.

Back to the place where you started

The place you left because you found the water bitter.

That place.

You must go back, hew down the tree and trust that God will use you to sweeten the water.

You must follow your own footsteps back across the desert.

But the wind has flattened the sand.

There are no footsteps now.

Only miles and miles of sand

You are lost.

It will take a miracle for you now

And you could have a miracle

If only you would ask.

But you do not ask.

Instead your footsteps cross the desert

On and on

And on…

Photo credit: Sonya Miller

Permanent Record: Book Review

I didn’t even have a phone when it happened, nor was I exactly interested in news stories generally but I remember when the news broke that a whistleblower had released secret government documents. I followed the story as well as I could through newspapers and magazines and for some reason I was fascinated.

I’ve always sort of enjoyed discussing conspiracy theories. I have relatives who believe everything from the flat earth theory to 9/11 conspiracies to the Sandy Hook school shooting being fake and they have all the “facts” to back up their claim. I don’t really take a strong stance on most conspiracies but I do enjoy hearing the theories.

But government surveillance is not a theory. It’s a fact. And Edward Snowden has given us the proof.

Permanent Record is his memoir.

I was most fascinated by being able to peek into the extraordinary mind of someone who spent their entire life in a world of computers, programming, and software.

It is, in many ways, the story of an accidental life. A life that turned out completely unexpected.

No one plans to be stuck in an airport for forty days or spend a lifetime exiled in Russia. No one wants to leave behind loved ones who have no idea where you are for weeks.

And it it was a chosen life because he could have stayed silent. He could have walked away. He could have kept his comfortable life.

Instead he did what believed was right for the world.

He put others quality of life above his own.

It is the story of a hero.

It should be read.

When Love turns to Hate.

It bothers me most when Christians say it. I think I know what they mean and I don’t want to be the judgy person who always picks other Christians apart.

But.

I think we should stop saying it.

I don’t think it’s helping.

I think we, as christians, should have known better all along.

And yet everywhere around me I see it. In books, in movies, on posters, from podcasts. The message is everywhere.

Love yourself.

It directly contradicts Jesus who said “If any one would follow me, let him deny himself”.

I understand why. Suicide is now the second highest cause of death for teenagers in the USA.

It’s well meant. Just wrong.

Because we were created to serve. Humanity finds fulfillment in sacrifice, in giving, in service.

Giving in a way that costs something.

We have forgotten how to serve. That is our crisis. We have forgotten that the hero is always the one who sacrifices something.

This is why we are now all victims. It is why our divorce statistics are so high, why all of our teenagers are committing suicide, why abortion rates are climbing…

Because we thought that loving ourselves meant being selfish.

And instead we have hatred for our selfish little selves.

And that, I think, is the crisis of America.

Oh The Words I Would Write

Most of the time I write exactly what I feel like writing but every now and then I come across a topic that I badly want to write about but for some reason or other I don’t. We all tend to have opinions about things that we don’t have experience with and I try to not write about those things because I know that reading and knowing is not the same as doing however here are 10 of the topics that clog my brain and why I haven’t written about them.

1. Vaccines: Spoiler alert. I haven’t been vaccinated against anything ever. Two of my 8 siblings got their baby shots and reacted badly to them. They have struggled all their lives with allergies and asthma. None of the rest of us has ever had a single health problem or been admitted to a hospital. I am not necessarily anti-vaccine but I am anti the current vaccine schedule and I feel like science and quite a few doctors are on my side. However this is such a hugely controversial subject and I’m just not sure I want to fight about it.

2. Salaried Pastors: I feel like this is such an obvious thing that mennonites like to ignore. I don’t think Pastors should have a salary neccesarily but I do think that if you use a but of common sense it would be obvious that if you think your pastor should be doing more than he is, the obvious solution would be to help him out financially so that he doesn’t have to worry about that and can spend more time and use more headspace concentrating on the church. I haven’t written about it because I’m a preacher’s kid and it just seems like it would be wiser to let someone else discuss this.

3. Things teachers would like to tell parents. I am sometimes amazed by how parents blatantly disregard things that seem to me to be obvious. Do you want your child to do well in school? Teach them to be respectful to other adults. Send them to bed on time. Minimize screen time and maximize creative play. Read to your child and read to your child and read to them some more. These are things every teacher will tell you and honestly are all things that are fairly easy to do and yet many parents ignore them. There’s more but I don’t want to be the teacher who complains about the parents because honestly I have some awesome, supportive parents to work with. And I’m not a parent. I don’t have any business telling parents how to raise their kids.

4. Things I would like to say to moms who have small babies. Again, I haven’t written about this because I’ve never been a mom and I don’t like when people who have never been teachers tell me how to be a teacher or people who aren’t preacher’s kids tell me what it’s like to be a preacher’s kid so I will refrain from telling moms how to be a mom. There are moms out there who are doing it right. Please find a mom who raised happy well-adjusted kids and learn from them.

5. Meditation. I simply haven’t researched this enough and I’m not sure how I feel about the spiritual aspect of it. I read The Untethered Soul and was absolutely fascinated by the idea of shutting off the voice in your head but I haven’t achieved that and until I do, I’ll wait ti write about it.

6. Dating. I’ve never dated so I am completely inexperienced. I do think, however, that there has got to be a better way than the current trend of 8 months of infatuation followed by a stressful wedding.

7. Money. I have rather strong ideas about money and how it should be used. I realize that everyone wastes money in some way or another and we all have our justifications of why we do. I’m still rather young to be to opinionated on this and I’d rather not put my foot in my mouth.

8. Things I think are stupid. It’s pretty obvious why I don’t write about this. I love people who do the stupid things and I want to stay their friends.

9. Homeschooling. I am not anti-homeschooling but I’m also not pro homeschooling. I would like to write about why but it’s a very delicate subject and I don’t know if I could do a good job of it. I will say, if your options are homeschooling or public school, please choose homeschooling.

10. The place of creative people in the Kingdom of God. I feel like the church often wastes its valuable resources when it comes to using people effectively. Especially people who are intelligent and creative because they tend to do things that are controversial and try things just for the sake of trying them without much thought about the consequences. I also think that intellectual mennonites tend to not educate themselves to the level of their intelligence (Jordan Peterson Alert) and thus end up as bitter people. This is a huge subject. One that would take a book to explore properly and I am a blogger not an author.

Just curious, which of these are things you have strong opinions about as well? Which ones have you never thought about? Please let me know in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you!