Tuesday, May 31, 2011

To Linger in a Moment

The last piercing bubble of sunlight has vanished beneath the treeline, taking with it at least ten degrees of heat and leaving an otherwise clear navy sky splashed with wild zigzags of pink. Wind chimes sway without sound in gentle evening breeze as I sit in the front porch swing, its creaking rhythmic at the furthest edge of the arc before slicing back to center again.

The sound soothes building anxiety over nothing in particular but everything colliding together. Husband could tell you the past few days, I am a pendulum swinging hard, foot-propelled wind whipping escaped strands of hair at the edge of my face.

Beyond the porch’s edge, a three-pronged sprinkler waves in a lazy circle to three children who burst forth in laughter, tiptoe-dancing ‘round just beyond water’s reach. They are truly free.

In darkened treetops, I can hear the hum of locusts newly arisen from a seven-year stay in dusty tombs. Wyatt found one just the other day and brought it indoors to watch the miraculous rebirth, pointed wings of kiwi green pumping dry and full for a mere week of flight before death.

Their singing rises and falls as the scene before me is veiled in deep shadows, reminding me that bloodthirsty mosquitoes are on the move and will soon be out hunting in force.

For now, though, this moment is paradise, is God-soaked creation at its best.

I know it’s bath time, that tomorrow’s activities won’t allow sleeping in…but I don’t want to leave this moment. I feel Him in this beauty, in the simplicity and quietness that is all too often interrupted by all that is life.

Like Peter, I want to stay here in communion, build a tabernacle above, exchange my life of clouded ceiling for this purer one above with clouded floor beneath my feet.

If I keep swinging, keep listening in the moment, maybe that life filled with unending laundry, children’s bickering, looming deadlines, and just constant reminders of old or new pain...won't it just go away? Can't I, too, dance around the sprinkler without the back-of-the mind nagging of tasks needing to be done?

And so I linger as the moon rises, pendulum slowing until it is at rest. I feel His peace and send forth a prayer of thanks for this moment.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

More Tween Lit in a Toddler Household

Growing up, comic books were rare in my household. While I consumed several forests worth of books with the currency of my blue library card, comic books cost actual, green money...my money. Probably for that reason, the comic books stationed eye-level by the National Enquirer were unconsciously relegated to vacation-reading.

Unlike the kids behind me in Wal-mart yesterday, my brother and I didn't bother begging my mother for whatever impulse item the store dangled before our eyes while we stood and waited. If we wanted it, we paid for it. With only a $20 a month allowance throughout high school, it was a big deal for me to stand in line at the check-out counter and actually buy something there.

Each summer, though, I would loosen the very tight purse strings and buy a comic book with Betty, Veronica, and Archie, something to help fill a several-day drive to visit some distant family member. Then came a travel game to play with my brother, and finally, a bag of M&M's that I would pour into an empty peanut butter container. Somehow, they tasted better that way.

Somewhere along the way, I left Archie for the classics illustrated in comic books. My first was Charles Dickens' Great Expectations. For a literary kid, I was in heaven.

That's close to how I felt last month when I reviewed G.P. Taylor's second book in The Dopple Ganger Chronicles graphic novel series. I couldn't stop talking about it because it was genuinely the neatest literature to come across my desk since my childhood when I discovered literature redone as comic books.

However, Taylor's second book, The Secret of Indigo Moon, had some problems. I loved the whole concept of a graphic novel done in the vein of C.S. Lewis's Narnia series, with characters representing an angel (Madame Raphael) and God the Father (the Companion), but the book was very hard to get into for two reasons.

One was that Taylor's text-to-comic ratio was a bit off. Some ideas/actions he tried to convey through blurbs in comic frames just left me a bit confused. Secondly, as one who had not read the first in the series, I found the book a hard sell as a stand-alone novel. Granted, a series means "must read in this order," but still, a book should be able to stand on its own binding.

Thankfully, Taylor's newest third novel in the series, The Great Mogul Diamond does not suffer from these two flaws. In this third installment of the series, twins Sadie and Saskia Dopple along with Erik Ganger and private eye Dorcas Potts must help writer Muzz Elliot figure out who is recreating her novels in real life. If they don't, she could end up in jail...or worse. The plot is just as nicely fast paced as the second novel, but this time, it is much easier to follow from page one and works quite well as a stand-alone graphic novel.

While Taylor doesn't beat the reader over the head with Christianity, this book does a fairly good job of demonstrating what it means to have faith in God through difficult circumstances. I don't want to spoil the plot, but in one scene, the angel reveals what Erik should do next, and he must act on faith, even when such an action seems crazy in human terms.

In this third novel, the reader is also introduced to a new character, "The Man of Good-Bye-Friday," a neat nickname for Jesus. When Jesus is first introduced, Taylor gives the reader a Moses-like experience on holy ground, with Erik being told to take off his shoes.

While it bugs me more than a little that Christ is depicted as a tall, thin, long-side-burned guy in a pinstripe suit, I'm not sure any depiction of a comic-drawn Jesus would not give me pause. Even so, I love that Taylor focuses the dialogue on the scars on His hands and the loving warmth He exudes so that Erik never even needs to ask who the man is--he knows, and so does the reader. In the novel's end, he even has the angel asking about Christ's sacrifice on the cross even for people who get it wrong and Jesus saying, "It was worth it."

Simply put, by this third novel, G.P. Taylor seems to be well settled into this type of literature and focusing more on (1) creating a novel that stands alone as well as fits into the series and (2) emphasizing the Christian elements, both while staying true to rapid, interesting plots for a tween reader.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

If No Roof is Overhead

Husband loosens nails, reverses screws' direction to peel rusted tin from the barn's roof. I give the all clear, and he flings another weather-pierced sheet like a frisbee so he need not abandon his ridge-pole post.

I've lost count as to what step this is in our endeavor to re-purpose his Paw Paw's old chicken coop turned workshop into a garden house for me..."playhouse" if you ask the children. As for my part, I'm stuck in the middle of a paint job until I force myself to make a decision about coating the last side in redwood.

Until then, though, I sit and watch, finding joy in simply watching husband work, visible sweat drops on his face gathering and succumbing to gravity under an already 90+ degree Louisiana sun. The grounded one, I am charged with keeping track of the children and occasionally climbing up an eight foot ladder to deliver a drill bit or hammer. What I want to do, though, is be up there with him, working side by side at our married best.

From the outside, there's not that much difference--just a missing roof. But once I walk through the door, this one-room building that has always seemed so very dark to me...I'm amazed at how different it looks.

Light streams through open rafters, illuminating the cypress' warm reddish coloring where before, everything had seemed so drab and brown. Even the rough-hewn floorboards look more rustic than dirty.

When I look upwards, my breath catches. The beams crisscross at right angles, serving as simple picture frames for the priceless God-created art living and breathing just beyond these walls.
Looking out a roof is so different than looking out a window. Maybe it's the lack of separating glass. Maybe it's the nakedness. Whatever it is, I know its beauty.

While I'm not about to rip the roof off my home so I can gaze in wonder upon the stars each night, I do wonder how much we miss by closing everything in.

What if we let a little more of His light into our lives? What would He show us?

What could He transform?

Friday, May 20, 2011

Why Death Always Seems Wrong

Eleven days. That's all we were given. Eleven. But it was enough to weave a web between our hearts, one whose fragile strength was enough to leave us tender with its breaking.

Last week, a three week old kitten was dumped at our farm. Even not knowing whether he would live or die, I vowed to see him like my children did, as a beautiful, created blessing--for as long as the Father loaned Him to our family.

In a tense visit to the vet, I played the role of the naive new mother, discovering that I was overfeeding in my fear of him dehydrating. A wolf worm removal later, she pronounced him an otherwise healthy kitty. Such a diagnosis spoke hope to the tune of five days of 'round the clock two hour feedings, his paws searching hard for resistance against my hands as he drank from the syringe.

Well-fed and worm-free, he began to play like a kitten should-- pouncing, toddling after the children, and even befriending our other grown cat, Jonah. By this week, he had learned to lap up the milk himself, but still, each time I picked him up, he rooted, searching like my own babies did for nourishment.

We thought we had made it past the conversations about death and whether or not cats go to heaven. And so we named him--Micah.

There's something about the act of naming that makes it personal, an attachment. It's a point of no return for a relationship.

Yesterday evening as I flooded squares of sod, saplings, and full-blooming rose bushes, my in-laws' rat terrier came from her end of the farm to mine, sneaking around to the back porch where Micah lived and played with us during the daytime.

I never saw her come, but her exit was all to obvious, my scream piercing the deep country silence as I stopped her thievery mid-hay field. It was too late. Micah's hind legs were already paralyzed, all the symptoms I'd seen in a cat just a few years before when I was round with twins.

We are farm people where cats and dogs seemingly rain from heaven, especially in the summertime. My heart and mind couldn't even go to battle over the possibilities of driving to vet after hours, taking x-rays, or raising a disabled kitten. A farmer's wife already knows the outcome is instant at the end of a shotgun.

I knew, and with that knowing, my chest strained to breathe against the vise placed round it, whole body sinking to the floor, praying it was possible to go lower. Then, all I could hear were my own choking sobs against a backdrop of my eldest son's screaming repetition of self-reassurance, "Don't cry, Mommy!!!! I know you're sad, but you'll see him in heaven!!!" until he, too, was curled on the couch in understanding tears of loss.

We had poured out all we had to give until that pouring out left an emptiness.

This being born and dying--they are the only two sure things about life. I will live. I will die. Surely, such certainty should not be met with such anguish and mourning but practical understanding that death just is.

And yet, we fight against and mourn the swinging sickle...for one reason. Even in this fallen world, our sin-cursed strands of DNA know we were not made for death. Somehow, we just know we were created for eternity.

Ann @ Holy Experience has been encouraging her readers to learn how to live this side of the tomb, to take our place in the kingdom as true Easter people, children of the resurrection--fighting against selfishness and bitterness while sharing love, grace, mercy, and forgiveness.

To live this way requires opening oneself up to hurt, pain, loss, and rejection--and I'm not talking about relationships with animals here. It's the only way to show the world how to overcome the curse of death that we know just isn't right. It's the only way to live in the light of redemption and the resurrection.

My eldest son has rebounded much faster than his mama, 24 hours later rejecting the sorrow of death and, instead, focusing on life...finding another kitten to give his love to. And what can I say to this, me the mother who preaches we are built with hearts big enough to love all God's creation--brother and sister, neighbor, cashier...kitten--all, both big and small?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

When Reaching a Desired Goal is a Bad Thing

For the past eleven weeks, I have hiked upwards through a springtime blizzard of digital wood pulp and cyber ink to reach my own North Pole. Today, I planted firm feet on the top of the world and stabbed my flag in frozen tundra as if to say I made it!.

Were my life a Hollywood creation, I would then raise both hands above my head and grin through the sweaty exhaustion. I would feel the victory coursing through my veins as people cheered my accomplishment.

But, this is definitely not Hollywood. Nobody would find my accomplishment worthy of cheers. And most importantly, I don't feel any sense victory making my heart thump faster.

Upon reaching my North, I feel loss, sadness. After achieving one's goal, there's nowhere else to go but down...well, that's what one poet said anyway. In his early poem "90 North," a disillusioned Randall Jarrell said "Turn as I please, my step is to the south."

This morning, gathered around the nearly-immovable table, my ladies' Bible study met for one last hour before summer break. There was no discussion, no interpretation--just the five of us reading aloud the book of Revelation's twenty-two chapters, feasting on the Word and being blessed by its reading.

All wiser than me by at least thirty years, these ladies are my spiritual think-tank. Several people have come and gone in our group throughout the years, but the core has remained the same--open to the Spirit's revelations, open to the continued mystery of God's Word.

Early this spring when our group finished the last study of ten in a series about the Old Testament kings and prophets, I expected to feel jubilant. Look! We reached a goal five years in the making!

Much like today, all I felt was a sense that I was a tall glass not even full enough to argue whether it was half full or half empty. What had happened to the gallons of living water I poured in? Did they just evaporate? Had I sprung a leak? Or was I really so helpless that I used that much volume so quickly?

In the cold days of January, I fought this feeling of my goal being worthless. Now, I understand it better.

As one who longs for more of Him, I can't possibly be excited at completing a Bible study. Completion marks an end. An end to learning about the one who is my heart song--now that's depressing.

No matter how many Bible studies I complete, no matter how much I learn of God the Father or how much I come to love my Jesus through His Word, it will never be enough.

It's not that I'm leaking or using up what He gives me so that His word hid in my heart can't sustain me when calamity hits. It's that the glass keeps growing taller, wider to accept more of His kingdom that He is willing to reveal.

This past Monday, my mother phoned to ask if I wanted to do a study with just her over the summer.

With no thought to my other commitments, all I could think and say was Yes.

Unlike what the poet Jarrell believed, achieving one's ultimate North isn't possible here on earth. As a result, just because I reach a major goal on my path to becoming like Christ doesn't mean that everything from that point is South, is downhill. No...it just means that I need to look around for where the straight and narrow path is headed, because when I find it, my feet will be pointing North again.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Good Book for the Vacationing Beach Bum

Just the mere act of flipping the calendar from the plump, juicy strawberries of April to the purple dripping wisteria clusters of May makes me feel a sudden urge to give my brain a break...to be lazy.

That plus a head-thumping, intense Bible study, and I wanted something lighter to fill the gap before lights out. Phil Callaway's newest book, To Be Perfectly Honest: One Man's Year of Almost Living Truthfully Could Change Your Life. No Lie fit the bill perfectly.

Set up in a diary-like entry format, Callaway humorously narrates his year-long experiment with telling the truth in all situations. No little white lies.

It was pretty much what I expected, no surprises. Yet, it did make me smile a good bit, chuckle occasionally, and laugh out loud once or twice.

Even in the humor, though, the text addresses some serious issues regarding a follower of Christ's commitment to being honest and how far that honesty can go before being just plain rude. What I found most convicting is Callaway's relating honesty to his problem with confronting someone in love, as Christ commanded in Scripture.

While this isn't high brow literature, I found it easy to pick up and put down without having to backtrack and find out where I was--perfect for a summer read.

**I receive no compensation for my review, merely a complimentary copy of the book.

Friday, May 13, 2011

If Life Were Without Difficulty

Water pours from my garden hose, its impact creating a puff of dust. Just yards away, children play on the dirt pile, two of them using pointed trowel as chisel until their buckets are filled with handfuls of the loose dirt, wispy spirals slipping through fingers in a wind-blown cloud of brown.

It’s been like this for a few weeks. Standing in the yard with the wind at my back, I know I must look like the Peanuts’ character Pigpen, billows of dust rising beneath my feet as I cross parched earth, cracked from water’s long absence.

I offer a splash of life to the grass, roses, blueberries, and saplings planted last winter. With temperatures already in the 90s, it’s a process I must repeat several times a week just to maintain.

By the time I reach the front yard, a late-afternoon shower is building to the north east. I ask out loud for God to reverse a rumbling cloud’s direction and send its wet darkness to me. I remind God of Wyatt’s l-o-n-g, heartfelt prayer from the backseat last night: “God, can you please send us some rain? You used to send some, but now you’ve just stopped. And the plants and trees need some rain. If you don’t send rain, mommy has to water the grass and flowers………..and that’s hard work.”

With our combined prayers, I work expectantly, waiting to feel the soft, cooling touch on my skin. But the drops don’t come.

This desire for more water isn’t what is making nationwide headlines. Here in Louisiana at the Mississippi River’s mouth, people are already preparing for its estimated peak on May 22. I know of several who have moved out all their furniture and dug up a yard-full of plants in anticipation of the Morganza Spillway being opened to divert flood waters down the original path God intended.

Four weeks of flooding is what the meteorologists are saying. When I look at my backyard, it’s even harder to fathom the bulk of water rising a mere half hour drive away.

Everywhere I look, though, I see struggles, suffering, pain, loss. Even in my own life, I fight against wanting all my prayers answered now, against wanting everything to be easy like it once was—a secure career, a steady stream of money, a future anyone would label successful.

Then, I pull the hose to the cedar tree and find God’s surprise just for me. Four brightly colored ladybugs wait, scarlet striking against the verdant branches. I shouldn’t be surprised, though. God knows I’ve been thinking about ladybugs ever since Jennifer @ Getting Down With Jesus wrote this week of these creatures and their link to faith in her own life, believing when we don’t see.As an avid flower gardener, the ladybugs speak a little differently to me, a sign that there are likely aphids on my tree—trouble in paradise. I saw some of those liquid-sapping destroyers just this morning on my asters.

My mother in law has said before that you won’t see lady bugs in a garden unless there is ample food to make their stay worthwhile.

In other words, if my garden has no problems, I will miss out on the beauty of something as simple and majestic as a ladybug, her wings that can beat 85 times per second tucked beneath glorious, hard red and black cases.

This is the thought that I have dwelt upon since Monday, one God through His creation just confirmed as being not my own…comfort for weeks like these when I wonder why and struggle with the circumstances He’s asked me to live through in victory.

What beauty…what joy…what of God would I have missed out on if He had answered those oft-repeated prayers and made my path easy, perfect? It’s a sobering thought.

I could have missed the ladybugs.

**Saturday Update:Praise God, He sent us an inch of rain last night! Ten minutes away, my parents only had 1/4". I am thankful for this grace.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Learning to See Beauty in the Imperfect

The office calendar confirmed this was my last week of green highlighted "oh my goodness!" dates, proof that I was five short days from surviving my toughest semester yet with every shred of my sanity intact (we won't talk about gray hairs gained).

A quick check of all three work email accounts showed nobody in too high a state of finals' week panic, so I slid on my running shoes to squeeze in two miles on the treadmill before the usual morning Tivo'd episode of Curious George ended and children yelled up the stairs, "It's done! Are you finished, mommy!?"

My new one-penny (literally) refurbished i-phone interrupted, its obnoxious ring tone turning me back towards the desk. "Daddy's cell." Both eyebrows raised; it was awful early for an Opa call.

On his morning walk, Opa had found a Mother's Day end cast off--white plastic Wal-mart bag full of now motherless weak, gray kitten. Eight lives left and still meowing after not smothering in loosely-tied bag. Didn't I want him to bring it down?

No. Not now. Not this week, anyway. No again.

Half an hour later, three jubilant children and I traipsed across a ripe hay field to find wobbly-legged kitten stumbling around his truck bed playpen.

One look, and I knew I was in trouble.

"Isn't he cu-ute!?" Wyatt exclaimed with drawn-out Southern syllables.

Amelia's eyes lit up as she raised both arms heavenward. "Ooh! A kitty! Can I touch him?"

Four other hands raised in agreement.

My heart fell. I've had very few kittens in my adult life, but it didn't take a veterinarian to know this was trouble. He was obviously too small to be an orphan on this morning after celebrating motherhood. But, the children were already in love, and husband and I had agreed we wanted an outdoor playmate for Jonah, so I had to try.

After picking up all 8 ounces of fluff, the mewing begin. That's when I noticed the snake bite on his neck. My jaw clenched. Not a big deal, said my father in law, blowing off my concern. Lots of cats with snake bites. Tux regularly wrapped around our legs, strapping proof of that.

Wrapped in a towel, he dozed in my arms as we carried him back home, where google proved him to be three, maybe four weeks old. Right then, I began preparing the children for his death. "He is a very sick kitty. He might die."

Wyatt bounced beside me, as close to the kitten as he could be without sending us both flying face first in the dirt. "Will he go to heaven or hell?"

Here we go again. "I don't know. God's Bible doesn't say."

Obviously, though, if mama didn't know, that meant he could create his own reality...and so he did. For the rest of the day, he repeatedly asked, "When is the kitten going to heaven?"

When the kitten failed to lick milk from a bowl, failed to suck from the mini bottle we'd all four made a special trip to purchase, and finally slurped hungrily at the teaspoon-sized syringe stuck in the back of his mouth...before peeing all over my porch--"When is he going to die, mommy?"

That was Monday. I sit here two days later, having syringe fed maybe 3 ounces of milk to him throughout each day...enough to where he's now alert enough to toddle after the children and scratch at me with his claws of frustration when he's swallowed a teaspoon to cut the immediate hunger and decides that's enough.

"He thinks we're his mommy and daddy," Wyatt says, protectively guarding him from stomping twin feet.I wish I could enjoy this small creature before me. But the worry overwhelms the joy of seeing how fascinating God's small creations are. I can't even bring myself to name him. All I can think is he could still die. What if I'm just staving off the inevitable? Why did you send him here, God?

But Amelia looks at him and says, "He beautiful, mommy."

Yes--it's a problem I've been working on this year, learning to see beauty in each moment--even those moments that aren't Kodak-worthy, aren't perfect, aren't certain.

I know a kitten's life is so small in comparison to the huge, earth-shattering heartaches in the world around me, but my Father said to cast all my cares on Him. And it's not like He doesn't already know the concerns of my heart.

So, this week, I'll add a kitten's well-being to the prayers I send to the throne room of heaven and try a little bit harder to appreciate the beauty in His craftsmanship...for as long as the Father loans Him to our family.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

How to Live Naked and Exposed

Several months back, a half dozen doors on our new kitchen cabinets started to look like a photograph left in the car during the heat of summer, panels curling upwards and outwards into a U shape.

I was upset but hesitated before calling the cabinet maker. As a realist ("pessimist" teases unrealistically-optimist husband), I anticipate that people won't make things right, and seven times out of ten, I'm not disappointed...especially when it's a man trying to play me as some air headed female who knows nothing about construction.

You wouldn't believe the lines I've been told, that something is fine when I know it's not or that something can't be done when I have seen it done that way before. "Well, the AC isn't cooling because you don't have curtains up yet." or "No, they don't make that kind of stain."

I want to scream, "Don't you know I am a farm woman!?! I know Home Depot as well as I know Wal-mart. I wield a hammer, axe, shovel, level, and power drill more than my husband does!" But I don't. I usually just nod my head silently, then call husband in teary frustration and breathlessly spill over an entire paragraph in five seconds, ask him to fix it.

Husband finally tired of my moaning and made the call, himself. When the cabinet maker walked into the kitchen, I cringed, just waiting to hear him balk, "oh, they're not that bad." But after I pointed, he pulled a screwdriver out of his back pocket and simply started unscrewing the bad doors.

"Yeah. That's pretty bad. They're not supposed to do this."

I was floored. "Does this happen often?"

He handed the first door to his helper and started on the second one. "I've never seen the panels warp like this after being hung in a house. Sure, they do this on the floor of the shop, but not afterwards."

Once he left, I looked back in the kitchen, amazed at how exposed I felt with the doors gone. Take away a few smooth rectangles of wood that covered a multitude of sins and all the inner contents became visible, some spilling out onto the floor with a little toddler help.I flushed, naked as I imagined visitors coming in, my intimate thoughts and preferences exposed.

The disorganized"redneck Tupperware" and empty peanut butter jars revealed extreme thriftiness and lack of time spent doing housework. The shelves stuffed with tightly stacked cake mixes, marshmallow cream, and cocoa showed a penchant for right-to-the-hips sweets that I consume more often than the food pyramid says I should.

This nakedness--I sometimes feel it when I write here about my less than a conquerer life of struggles and all-too-frequent failures. But truthfully, I have felt naked since the day seven years ago when husband's name showed up on newsprint in bold face type presenting a fairytale that cast him as the crafty, deceitful villain. With one woman's lies placed as a yoke of public shame on both our shoulders, our problems were exposed to the world.

Not in that moment, but only much later have I learned the freedom of nakedness.

To live an exposed life meant I didn't have to worry about someone "finding out" about our past. It meant I no longer had to live with the silent shame and heartache of infertility problems, with the fear that someone would be disappointed in me if they learned I wasn't a perfect wife, mother, or daughter.

Modern Christianity sells an enslaving lie that the redeemed are supposed to have it all together, its nose-high-in-the-air haughtiness over others' problems that "must be" the result of sin creating a church of strangers. Our houses, our church faces--so perfect on the outside...while everything that reveals our struggles, unspoken fears or problems--hidden, tucked away in lidded boxes, behind closet doors, or within our locked-cabinet minds.

Such a life of deception is a self-made prison. But opening oneself up, exposing one's frailties?

It allows us to connect with others who are also silently suffering, thinking they're alone and that no good Christian should have X problem. It frees us to see problems as trials from God sent to draw us closer to Him and sanctify us versus some punishment we should be ashamed of. And most of all, it gives us freedom to be able to ask for prayer for anything because we are not held captive by fear of what people will think.

Such freedom...such joy--to be real in this journey.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

A Study in Crimson

I bought the paint during the winter--three gallons of the good stuff on deep clearance for less than I'd planned to pay for the cheaper kind. This was one of those miracles where God provided exactly what I needed, a guaranteed one-coat color that matched the original rusty red I'd grown to love.

When the lady helping me took a Q-tip to paint on the weathered cedar board I'd lugged into Wal-Mart, I had to squint hard to find where the old color ended and the new began. Amazing--an off-the-shelf perfect match to the color used almost a century ago.

Since then, I have been itching for good painting weather. During the past two months of high winds swirling hibernating creation back to life, husband replaced the barn's front while I removed cobwebs and a mouse skeleton from the inside, bleaching away its past.

Friday dawned dry, cloudy, and not quite so gusty. I spent several hours painting the new boards on front, fresh lumber slurping up the covering by the gallon. By Saturday, I had developed a comfortable rhythm of pressing the roller up and down the planks as I balanced high on the ladder, trying not to spill myself and the paint onto the hay below. Then, I went back with stiff bristled brush to paint the seams a roller couldn't reach.

My oldest, Wyatt, even helped for a little while, painting more grass than boards while I worked eight feet above at the peak. Then, husband took a brush to paint alongside me.

I was mid-afternoon into a really good blister when I made it back around front to paint the door jambs.

Constant noise from children had ceased with nap time. Even the swallows that had swooped back and forth at me only hours before had now been hushed by the shoulder-burning sun overhead. The only sound was the stiff bristled acrylic brush swishing loudly, left to right across the top lintel, then up and down the side jambs.

Maybe it was the jarring sound against the silence combined with the deep crimson color this close on the heels of Passover. But in that instant, the red paint on door post turned to blood, and I could envision the outstretched arms of men (and maybe women?) centuries ago, making those same strokes left to right, high to low...except not with Dutch Boy paint and brush.

With each audible swish of their hyssop brush, the blood would have run down and covered more than just the door posts, its thin viscosity splattering the one doing the painting, dripping from overhead and splashing at the painter's feet onto well-worn sandals and dust-covered toes.

With this latex paint, but more importantly, with His blood spilt once and for all time--I am covered.

In speechless gratitude, I whisper thank you.