31 December 2012

come what may.

i'm sitting here with a plate of pillowy bread rained in honey, thinking back on the year. this is maybe not the best idea i've ever had, because now the day's agenda includes swabbing the sticky from my keyboard. still: so worth it.

it's been a full year, good and hard and ridiculous and beautiful. we've all grown up a little, often without enthusiasm or consent, and we've seen how grace and tenacity can hitch our hearts together.

little m is just fine. the great news is that he's happy and trusting and attached, which has little to do with our stellar parenting and everything to do with a history rich in nurture and security. we struggle with each other, and it's weird, because i was geared solid for grief and rage and fear--weighty loss-related stuff. but instead, much to our utter relief and bafflement, we're just experiencing some good old fashioned naughtiness.

by the truckload.

so the seven of us need patience with each other and skies of wisdom and we're all something desperate for the leadership of Christ. and last time i checked, that's pretty much humanity in a nutshell, so i think we're good.

the year ahead scares me a little. if God continues to call folks to pray and give, and if people continue to respond, we'll move to kenya come july. the only thing more frightening than going is not going, because somewhere along the way He planted a fire in our bellies for africa's people and most days it feels like i'm burning alive.

How deep the Father's love for us,
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure

Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom

whatever 2013 means, whatever it will bring and will cost us, God is already there, unrivaled and worth it all. let's do this.

25 December 2012

the Messiah.

we've been christmasing with vigor these past several days--circling trains with the cousins, packing stocky snowmen out back and filling paper cups with dippers of cocoa from the slow cooker. 

our eight and ten year olds made surprise gifts for the whole family (i'm wearing a neon pink ring as i type), and z has been baking up a storm. i adored mothering smallish kids, that magical era of toddler plump and chipmunk voices and skin that smelled salty-sweet. but it's a new and secret kind of wonder to get to know these same people as they ripen into adolescents and full-blown teens, with their own sense of purpose and humor, their own way of reckoning with their Creator. 

He has come for us, this Jesus
He's the hope of all mankind
He has come for us, the Messiah
born to give us life

that's been the very best part of this season. on sunday, pastor mark talked about our moral bankruptcy, and about God stepping large into this war for our souls in the form of the Christ child. and watching our kids ignite alongside us with love for a Savior who refuses to stand back and let us die--that's some kind of gift.

He has come for us.

12 December 2012


our oldest boy had a birthday sunday, and i'm still caught off-guard by the way fifteen years can gallop by in the span of three breaths. how is he this tall? and clever and mini adult-ish? unsettling, i tell you, but i love this kid to pieces and it's downright enjoyable to get to know him in all his teenagery wonder.

his birthday was a simple affair; B is classically low-maintenance and said whatever's easiest when i asked what sort of cake/birthday sweet he was hoping for. we settled on vanilla cake (the boxed kind), cream cheese frosting (the tubbed kind), chocolate sprinkles (these guys actually came in boxes too, intriguingly enough).

at barely fifteen, B is responsible and kind and funny and forgiving, and still kid enough to talk your eardrums off when placed in a moving vehicle with a slew of older teens. it's heartening (and sometimes convicting) to see him speak and move in a way that is clearly fueled by a well-watered love for Christ.

we're blessed beyond reckoning.

in other news, i have got to get with the program in terms of christmas. being out of commission for the two weeks following thanksgiving has wreaked havoc on my preparedness and gifting plans. i seem to remember a certain brother getting me a 7-eleven slushy one year for my birthday, being as how that was the only place still open. that particular idea is looking more ingenious by the minute.

so i am off, my friends. and take a gander at this. makes me restless in the best way.

30 November 2012

almost december.

once upon a time 6/7ths of us were steamrolled by a post-thanksgiving flu, and then just about the time i could stand without a perilous case of jelly legs, this oral surgeon stopped in and wrenched out my wisdom tooth.

or actually, i went to his place and paid to have it extracted, but the whole thing still feels crazy, like here, let me trade you $350 for a double helping of misery. with a side of nausea and swollen gums. and for dessert, nearly passing out.

i am on day three of empty socket pain, and i am possibly being a baby about it, but i'd have to say that on the outside i am quite stoic and respectable. you, however, dear blog readers, get direct access to the Inner Workings of my Soul, and in here it's all about the whining and the passing out.


in truth, i think the main problem is that i didn't expect it to hurt much. it's like when you go to watch a nicholas sparks movie thinking it's going to be sappy and horribly predictable, and then when it's halfway decent you're mildly dazed with how not-bad it was. (theoretically. i don't know that this has ever happened in actual real reality, but it could.) (ns fans everywhere, i'm sorry for my feelings on the subject.) so that. it's like that, but in reverse.

also, one more thing and then i promise i shall scoot along to greener pastures: it tastes like a sweaty lemon walked into my mouth and died. why is that? the percocet? the saltwater washes? it's unclear.

but moseying along.

it's that time of year to print your beloved a pair of tea towels, bake up some gingersnaps, or buy them a flock of sheep. it's also that time of year for me to have a christmas sale in my shop, so if you're hankering after a map print, do stop in.

shop sweetTea. sale code: MERRYANDBRIGHT

and while we're talking shop, etsy has a fresh batch of beautiful somethings this season. once in a while i find a gift that is just perfect for someone i know, but mostly my etsy sifting serves up inspiration to dig in and make that little something.

[links here]

okay, so most of those somethings? i probably couldn't pull off. but i could totally learn to make them, in an alternate universe with 60 hour days and a more talented version of me. either way, i'm excited that we've hit the season where i get to make people stuff, and they get to smile and say grazie (translation: what is it?) and wear it around town as if it's their favorite thing ever.

and mostly: i'm glad for the wonder thick around us. for the marvel of God with sinew, lips, elbows. for grace brought close to live with us and die for us.

It's still a mystery to me
That the hands of God could be so small,
How tiny fingers reaching in the night
Were the very hands that measured the sky

Hallelujah, hallelujah
Heaven's love reaching down to save the world
Hallelujah, hallelujah
Son of God, Servant King,
You're here with us

20 November 2012

good folks.

one of the bestest parts of my jaunt back home was the chance to see my long-time friend emi.

we met in preschool, where she jumped (fell? was pushed?) off the swings and i purportedly brought her juice. i remember none of this, but i come off looking pretty good, so i'll take it.

[i have no explanation for what i'm doing in this shot, but for the record, i was actually only three here. and i brought people juice. probably.]

em and i had a couple hours free on my last saturday there, so we took her kiddos to say hello to the sea turtles at lani's, then headed into haleiwa for some iconic shave ice. there's a rule about oahu and shave ice: they don't let you leave the island if you haven't consumed your fair share.

this was my only fifteen minutes on the sand, so don't be too jealous. you have full permission, however, to be jealous of my time with emi, because that girl still loves me after all those years of drama and angst and helmet hair. that's some serious friendship.

speaking of friendship, my girl hannah has just designed bunches of happy earrings and necklaces in her shop to benefit a couple missionary families (including ours!) and relief efforts. (click on her 'give back' section to find these guys.) God has heaped such good folks around me on this trek to kenya, and i'm grateful.

and you. every single one of you. what a gift to have such friends, both close and in far-flung corners of this giant ball of earth. i'm overflowing.

happy thanksgiving, dears, whether you're american or not. :)

01 November 2012

like home.

so i'm on oahu sharing about kenya with friends and church family and catching up on all that God's been up to in their lives. and mostly i feel like someone hit pause, because even the folks i haven't seen for a decade look exactly the same, except now they come with kids.

the first morning here as i looped out an early morning jog, something hulking on the outskirts of my vision startled me a bit. then a half-second later my brain caught up and i was like, ah. mountains. i do remember those guys.

also, can i just say that it is weird to be in your childhood home and constantly opening the wrong drawers or reaching for a towel rack that is no longer there. muscle memory is a stubborn thing, and maybe also my mom should keep the forks in the same place for all time so it doesn't take me three tries to find them. :)

i'm poured full right now--i've gotten to see so many school and church and family friends, people who have loved me through my growing pains, done life right beside me, made me so much of who i am.

and i'm in this muddled flux of missing my kids and the mister like crazy, but relishing the chance to be with my folks and my brothers and all the good people of hawaii. this place--with its red dirt sidewalks and eucalyptus and tanioka's sushi--this feels like home. the midwest feels like home. and soon east africa will feel like home. and i wonder if i'll always feel a bit stretched, like my heart covers so much terrain, and no matter where i am there's a bunch of precious somebodies i'm missing.

maybe so. probably so. but still, i wouldn't trade this life for anything.

16 October 2012


L turned eight two weekends back, and in lieu of a friend-party she opted for a day with mom&co. we baked early morning cinnamon streusel muffins, which she ended up not crazy about ('it turns out i'm not actually a cinnamon person'), then fashioned a birthday crown and took a trip to the farmer's market. our yield from the market: sweet rolls, peppers, a square of naan.

back home, we snipped and pasted fairy wings for the fall party at church, played a game of twins memory (where L creamed everyone) and kicked back with pizza and a movie, living-room-picnic style.

but back to the twins memory game for a second. i love the pieces, they're wood blocks printed in germany, but the game itself makes me crazy. for one thing, they're fraternal twins, boy-girl duos, and while most of the matches are obvious, with a few i can't tell who belongs together. so the whole time L is saying, ooh! i know that one! and i'm all, how on earth can i find this guy's match when i don't even know who he goes with?

so this is L, with her tower of matches twice the size of everyone else's. for the record: i did come in second. it was hard, people.

dear L,

at eight, you are a heap of personality. you're an expert talker, you love to sing, you have a robust repertoire of corny aunt kristin jokes. you've a flair for the dramatic and you sweep about the house belting out operas in full costume. you adore reading. crafts. baking and silly poems and painting rocks and making things.

you're the lone girl in a sea of brothers, and though no one ever bends to your mothering attempts, you remain happily undaunted. you're often quick to share, you love to help, and i see sprigs of kindness and courage pushing through. i'm praying you'll be so in love with Jesus you can't even see straight, and that this love will spill out big on the people around you.

you're SO much fun and i'm glad for the years i have you close.

also, you cannot date till you are thirty. or married. or BOTH, both is better.

i love you from here to ever,

11 October 2012

sneakery peekery.

so pretty much i am winding down my photo sessions, just finishing up those few i had promised folks way back. i'm sure i'll still be snapping like a (snapping) turtle in africa, but this fall is the end of an era and that's a wee bit sad.

i've gotten to photograph SO MANY gorgeous people. it's unfair, really. :)

saturday was quite likely my last senior session, and my but we had some rolicking times. hannah has been dear to my heart since practically 1962, and i'm not going to do her justice here, but she's got brains and talent and humor and compassion and i'd really like to hang out with her for the rest of my life.

i'm about halfway through editing her photos, but i know how hard it is to wait to see SOMEthing, anything really, so i promised her a sneak peek from the first half of the session.

while we were shooting we had this mindlink going on, which was super efficient, because i'd start to suggest something and she'd already be moving to do it. so mostly i said a lot of: why don't you try putting--oh perfect! exactly. it was great.

at the end of the day, we were both frozen and scooting off quick from some scary wedding party people. and i told her she was so perfectly hannah, which, when i think about it, is the best kind of compliment in my book.

i hope you have the bestest senior year, hannah. i'm itching to see how God will continue to weave your life into His beautiful story of redemption. stay humble and brave and hungry for Christ.

you really are so perfectly hannah.

05 October 2012


my mom grew up on a farm in amish country, her childhood skimming against a backdrop of chickens and sun-fed corn. and then it was bible college and falling for my dad hard enough to transplant the meaning of home to the bluest spread of the pacific.

she likes it there, i think, the slow baked rhythm of island life. but come october, i'll dial her voice soft over 4.5 thousand miles and she'll ask if the leaves are turning.

so mom, these tree shots are for you. (and, okay, a little bit for me.) i had to run out and snap like a mad hatter this past week; autumn is hitting quick and already the ashes out front are slipping clean.

when fall sweeps in, my menu planning is eighty percent soups and slow cooker goodness. i am ofCOURSE making this fellow again, but i'm hoping for some simple, hearty crockpot soup recipes. what makes you happy by the bowlful on a chilled october evening?

and while i'm in the asking mood, fellow seamstresses: what's your go-to longish skirt pattern? i'll need a small supply of those guys when i'm out-and-about in eastern africa, and i do still have that friendly fabric stash just waiting to hop up and become something.

hope your weekends are the best kind, full of flaming trees and bluster.


ps this weekend is homecoming 'round these here parts, which reeled up all sorts of fantastical memories. behold the helmet-haired glory of 1990:

high school, you are so much funnier in hindsight. :)

24 September 2012


i rang my dad this past weekend. he speakerphoned me as usual, and we filled a good ten minutes with daily miscellany, a thick layer of slack-key guitar in his half of the background. and somewhere around minute eight he mentioned how he checks my blog first thing every morning.

well, yikes.

that's like thirteen mornings of dashed hopes laced together--you could string half a crumpled lei of disenchantment right there.

so i've no idea what i'm about to post, but by golly i'm blogging.

this past week the older three kiddos spent hours of boyish bliss punching out and assembling these paper robots from aunt kristin. [for the record: i suggested craft glue, but the boys went with scotch tape, which is faster and unfailingly classy.]

the kit comes with a fighting ring and a pair of wind-up mechanisms that wheel the robots forward into battle, but i think the boys' favorite part was the careful construction and reading about each bot's profile in the combat manual.

ie super bot's strengths included 'mad public relations skills' and one of dozer's weaknesses was 'union mandated lunch breaks.' the boys read these to each other in their best television voice-overs, then dissolved in gales of hilarity.

i love it when my nerdish leanings rub off on the progeny. :)

then saturday morning bigger m and i rattled out through the backroads, searching for a particular cross country meet. we totally went to the wrong place twice but i didn't mind one bit: the day was all sky and gilded fields and sun winking down. and i know we live in the Dead Center of Nothing's Here, but sometimes the effortless beauty of this place can rake your lungs windswept and ragged.

grateful today:
for brisk, moody mornings
for hot chocolate with my younger littles
for giant pumpkins
for the wonderment of new parents
for friends who ask
and for a God with wide and steady hands.

ps good morning, dad. :)

11 September 2012

last week, and then some.

last week the mister zipped on over to kansas for some sweet time with extended family, and while i was glad for him, i was also a little mopey for me missing out on all those good folk and their gorgeous kids. oh, for a pair of ruby slippers.

meanwhile, we were enjoying our very own in-house drama production, a play in two parts: i'd rather not do my homework but thanks for playing, mom, followed by an award-winning rendition of slow pokiest kid in the western hemisphere. a note on part two: the four bigger kids have traveled by school bus for a combined total of 21 years, four months, and never once have they come close to missing the bus. little m has enjoyed bus privileges for four big weeks and has gone pelting out the door to barely catch the thing nine times now.

he dedicates special energy to snail pacing when it's me hurrying him along in the mornings, which means that last week little m tore across the lawn at 7:10 every single morning (while i prayed in the background 'oh please let his bus be late, please let his bus be late' so as not to have to make good on my promise of if-you-miss-the-bus-i-am-not-driving-you-to-school-and-you-will-be-stuck-here-with-me,-kiddo).

friday he made it by a few flimsy seconds, which means i Needed A Plan.

so this week, i am pulling him from bed an hour early each morning, explaining, in my best mary poppins voice, that clearly he needs extra time to get ready for school. this shall hopefully prove to be a giant dollop of genius because, at the ripe age of six, he is two-thirds teenager and loves his sleep. (next week we shall return to the normal waking hour, but should he not walk out the door with his siblings on time, we go back to a 5:10 bugle call.)

i'll let you know who caves first.

kristin & browning (the mister's sister and her husband) came in for the weekend, and in honor of the occasion we simmered up some tomato soup. note to self: fresh tomatoes make All The Difference in whether or not i actually like the outcome. and k&b maybe need to move closer, because pretty much we can't get enough of those guys.

also, i thought it important to photograph this cheesy potato soup for you. at first it was a sad starchy puddle of bland, but then i grated in some mozzarella and the world righted itself. when in doubt, add cheese.

also-also, 'twas my aunt's birthday saturday, and she's just one of those people who pours our lives full of goodness from afar. so i was really hoping she'd get my package in time, and God worked it out so it popped up all the way over on kauai in two skinny days. bless you, priority mail.

plus also, we got to celebrate a second birthday and i love our new neighbors & their seven-year-old twins and my uncle sent me pictures from kenya and our kids' passports just came in the mail.

sometimes there's so much good going on that my feet barely touch the ground.

now you: what all is making you sing these days?

29 August 2012


you would think that with all five littles combed and sneakered off to school each day, i'd have rivers of quiet space to do things like quilt and scour tubs and, um, blog.

so far this program has not panned out.

as it happens, missions prep is something of a pretty big job--one that's already yielded precious conversations and friendships, beyond our wildest reckonings, and one that's rooted my knees to the floorboards in prayer. at the beginning, middle and end of the day, it's all God carrying us every inch of the way to africa. but He lets me in on His work, and this thrills and exhausts me by turn, and in spite of the forces of gravity and introversion i find myself leaping at the chance.

then we have our soccer. i could wax ridiculous on my love of the game, but i'll spare the many of you who truly do not care and just say this: certain angles of our son's jv season have been hard on my patience and charitable organs. but it struck me again just yesterday that the main point of b on the team is not to get loads of playing time or quality coaching or the rush of winning a game. the main point is to make much of God, and that can be done in spite of--or maybe especially in--unfair circumstances.

i've so very much to learn.

speaking of learning: the first few weeks of school have gone swimmingly, by which i mean the kids all seem to love the place and little m has only gone off adventuring once (that we know of), and was thankfully rounded up in the parking lot. also, he has embraced the universal joy of scissors, and on more than one occasion he's carted home work from the day snipped apart all willy-nilly when it's pretty clear cutting was not a step in the actual assignment. i plan to attend the parent-teacher conference in disguise.

full today, from
-friends who know how to love
-fresh broccoli in our rattlesnake pasta
-funny, talented, beautiful brothers
-jasmine and chipati
-fifty-six degree nights
-leif enger
-unmerited favor for prodigals like me