Thursday, February 28, 2008

Baby Laughter

When I was a child, I loved Peter Pan. The Mary Martin version shown on television was an annual ritual, but its influence lasted throughout the year. I was the strongest and always chose to be Peter. The eldest of the family down the street was Wendy, and we forced our little sisters to play Captain Hook and Tiger Lily. I was plenty old enough to not believe in fairies, but I still lay in bed staring at the window, willing it to be flung open and Peter to fly into my room to take me off for adventures in Never Land. (It was very irritating that the window slid sideways instead of opening outwards to the stars and my bedroom was partly below ground, screened by bushes in a split-level. How pedestrian!)

In James Barrie’s play Peter tells us that when the first baby laughed for the first time, the laugh broke into a thousand pieces and that was the beginning of fairies. Now that I am ever-so-much more than twenty, that theory is still easy to believe when I hear my granddaughter, Bella, laugh. She hasn’t learned to smile politely at appropriate times. There is never malice in her laughter. No one is ever the brunt of her joke. The giggles and chortles and squeals of delight that spill out of her represent nothing but sheer joy.

I hear it when a tower of cardboard blocks tumbles down. I hear it when Mommy turns her upside-down to kiss her tummy. I hear it when she can hardly hold still long enough to get her clothes off and come into the hot tub with us or when her pink snowsuit appears and she knows she is going for an outing.

And whenever I hear it, I think of fairies.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Lunar Eclipse

“Wednesday night, February 20, between 9 P.M. and about 9:55,” the newscaster said. That’s an hour that even an old lady like me can handle.

My daughter Katie and I put on our boots and down jackets over our pajamas and went outside about 9:15. We felt our way down the steps, not wanting to ruin our night vision by turning on a light. Katie’s shape was no more than waving darkness against the slightly paler black of the snow. Stars sparkled like jewels, undimmed by the lights of any town, and the moon hung over the bare branches of our woods, full and round.

I have never seen “The man in the moon.” The face I see in its mountains and valleys has always seemed to be that of a woman—a gypsy woman in a long black cloak, or an Iranian woman with her chador swirling around her. The expression on her face is one of concern. I used to imagine she was searching for her children. But tonight her face was veiled. A pinkish-orange shadow of our world obscured hers. Katie and I spoke in awed whispers as we watched.

Eight below zero (or -23 Celsius) is too cold to stand outside for long even with a warm coat. We came back in to get warm, talked of the image of God and of space ships and aliens, then returned to check the progress of the earth’s shadow on the face of the moon. We made three trips into the frozen night before we put away our coats and went to bed, satisfied with the shared moments.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


Homelessness is a relative thing. Last week I was feeling sorry for myself. I am preparing to leave my retreat in northern Wisconsin and return to Johannesburg. The housing we anticipated has not come through, and we will stay in a self-catering guesthouse for a month (more living out of a suitcase) before moving into the house of fellow-missionaries going on home assignment. Although we plan to use our own linens and dishes, it will be their house, their furniture, and their gardener, at least until our South African visas run out in August. Next week I will leave behind my roll top desk, my blue stoneware and the Sri Lankan tablecloth Steve gave me for Christmas and go back to improvising.

This week I traveled to Nashville, Tennessee, to meet with my agent. We went over my manuscripts, discussed possible markets and met with a publisher. Etta showed me a bit of the town, including the lovely Bicentennial Mall State Park, built to commemorate Tennessee’s two hundredth anniversary of statehood in 1996. With its lawns, carillon, spray park and 1,400-foot time-line etched in a polished granite wall, the Bicentennial Mall makes a delightful outdoor learning center.

As we entered the park by the farmers’ market we were met by a man in a bedraggled gray jacket. He dragged an overflowing shopping cart behind him with an upside-down, upholstered dining room chair poking its polished mahogany legs into the nippy February air. A pair of shoes dangled by their laces from some other carefully guarded possession.

Suddenly my ‘homelessness’ took on a new perspective. I have far too many possessions to fit into a shopping cart and kind friends who have graciously stored the boxes for me. When I get off the plane in South Africa, I will not only have a roof over my head, but a very nice roof with a comfortable bed and cooking facilities. I won’t have to cart my belongings from one place to another (as we did for fourteen months back in 1984-85 when we moved to Mozambique.) After the first month, I will have a three bedroom house to stay in for as long as we need.

I do plan to enjoy my Wisconsin fireplace while I may. And next week I will do what I can to make my temporary quarters a home. But hopefully the memory of that crazy upside-down, upholstered dining chair in a shopping cart will remind me not to complain about my cushy version of ‘homelessness’.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Psalm of My Life

Writers are famous for contemplating the "meaning of life." I wrote this psalm several years ago as I thought about mine. You may want to adapt it or add verses that reflect your own work and hobbies.


Psalm of My Life

Praise God with your pen.
Praise Him with the creativity of your mind.
Let stories well up which glorify His name;
Choose words that guide children in ways of truth.
The Lord is your Theme and Climax,
Your Beginning and your End.
Give Him praise as you sit at your keyboard.

Praise God on the ice.
Praise Him with movement and grace.
Praise Him with your blades and with the discipline of skill.
It is He who made your body
And planted the thrill of music in your soul.
All beauty comes from the Lord,
the Creator of heaven and earth.
Give Him praise as you glide and spring.

Praise God with your wealth.
Praise Him with offerings and wise spending.
Use His gifts on what will last,
Your riches to bring Good News
To the homeless and women in crisis,
African scholars and Asian evangelists.
Praise God for His goodness and delight in passing it on.

Praise God in your home.
Praise Him at the sink and with the mop.
Open your home to His servants
And to those who hunger to know Him.
Make it comfortable for your family,
A safe place for those you love.
This house is but a building God has entrusted to your care,
Its rooms and its lawn to be kept for His use.
Your family is His gift to love and enjoy.
Together you are a team to give Him glory in your neighborhood.
Praise God in your home.
Let all of life praise the Lord.