Deathbed Conversion

I think that accepting Christ “at the last minute” isn’t a whole lot different than going to see someone because they are close to dying.

Sure it can be a little embarrassing when you think the effort someone had to go to get your attention (Really dear, you could just have invited me.  We’d have worked something out…), but I can either ignore the issue–

Perhaps out of a mis-guided effort to show that my previous M.O. was so justifiable that there’s no reason to change, even now.

Or I can rearrange my current behavior to better use the little time that remains.

As humbling as it is, this is all that remains, and I would rather do the little I can do now than to know latter I did less than I could have.

~ ~ ~

I wrote that down before dashing off to Anchorage three weeks ago.  This morning I got the call that said my Uncle’s body had given up on this world.  I am so thankful my children and I had that last opertunity to visit with him and cement pleasent memories of him in their young minds.


Why is “fixed-income” both spoken and received as “extremely-low-income”?

Weepy old lady in Incredibles: I can’t pay for this, I’m on a fixed income!

Aren’t most (or at least many) of us on “fixed incomes”?  I know we are.

The Decision

In my story “Sir” or Lord and “ma’am” or the title of Lady have been replaced by Frej (masculine) and Sarsé (feminine).  I’ve been asked why several times, and my best (if usually unsatisfactory) answer is that I find the variety of associations with the established words just too distracting.

A more acceptable answer to some might be that I like the quiet reminder alternate words give that you’re in another world.

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Two New Words

I haven’t post a “word” post in eons.  So here are two that I’ve recently fallen in love with.


Not as the dictionary defines it, necessarily, but as it was used in our “Cannon” class at church.

In that context it was used at the word that describes the inerrancy in scripture, not only in its content, but in the precise choice of words used in the original language to convey that content.

Jay leaned over to me after the Pastor read his definition and said, “That is your word.”

And he’s right.  I love the definition I heard because it encapsulates what I’ve tried to convey by saying there are better and worse ways to phrase things, even when the end result basically means the same thing.


The Hebrew word from the Old Testament, defined (by my teacher.  Again, I fell in love with her version before I looked it up myself): to hear intelligently with attention; attentive and careful listening and regard with the implication of obedience.

Naturally I could help but think of this in terms of storytelling.  And I started mentally playing with the idea that if I ever started an actual “business” to try and make money telling stories, it would be cool to me to try and use that word (for the first part of its definition) as part of the business name.

It added an interesting element to the idea when I googled the word and found (among other things) it is

A singing bird of India, noted for the sweetness and power of its song. In confinement it imitates the notes of other birds and various animals with accuracy.

Anyway, bringing up storytelling-as-a-business means I really ought to just make a post about the series of careers I’ve got “lined up.”

Not that I expect them all to happen, just (as I think I mentioned before) I am interested in more things than I can do at one time, so I number things out.  For… some purpose, it feels like.

But for now, there are two new (to me) words that I’ve enjoyed.

Does anyone else collect words?  There must be some…

Blessings on your day!

Subtext: We aren’t arguing about what we’re arguing about.

Our pre-marital counselor seemed both to be pleased we were getting married and feeling somehow we needed encouragement (being two youngish college kids?).

More than once he repeated (I think) to reassure us, “Two can live more cheaply than one.”

When he first said this I tried, tentatively, to correct him; pointing out that it might be cheaper per person, but it didn’t seem logical that two could together cost less than one.

He insisted, without explaining his reasons, sparking my resistance.

I protested then that while it may be true for some, it certainly couldn’t be true for us, as I lived (cost-free) with my parents, and Jay lived with 3 roommates who split costs of rent and utilities.

He seemed not to hear my arguments, and never changed his line.

I eventually let it go because it didn’t seem important enough to keep arguing about, but I never believed him.

Learning later about subtexts— the idea that what’s being said is not what’s really being said (*sigh*)— I recognized an entirely different argument could have been taking place: one our counselor felt strongly about and never occurred to us.

He must counsel many couples who fear the money-side of marriage; people who delay getting married until they think they can better “afford” it.

I believe now that he was trying to reassure us that we could do this marriage-thing (financially speaking), and when I suggested he was wrong, he objected strongly.

Perhaps he didn’t hear me objecting to his words, but to his message.

It’s made me re-think a number of disagreements since then.


I’ve read writing books that say the best stories are full of this stuff.  I can imagine it adds a lot for the people who are paying attention, but just now I still think it can’t be critical to the story.

I think it takes a measure of experience in the reader before subtexts are consistantly able to be decoded, so I appreciate dialogue that’s accessible the first time through.

These are the stories (that I like best) where you understand more and deeper when you read again.

Honoring my Mother

Well, in case you missed it, I was invited to give a 5-minute (re- and re-emphasized: Five-minute) talk about my mom at her church today. Mother’s Day.

I called the pastor to clarify his goals and was able to organize the following talk. It was really hard to begin, looking right at her and knowing how she dislikes being the focus, but once I started in with the actual words of the poem I was in control of my voice for the most part. Though I did have to pause a few times.

I’m here today to honor you.

I’m blessed to have this poem apply to my husband and dad, too, but this morning it’s for my mom:

These words are from the poem, “Love” by Roy Croft.

I love you,
Not only for what you are,
But for what I am
When I am with you.

I love you
For the part of me
That you bring out;
I love you
For putting your hand
Into my heaped-up heart
And passing over
All the foolish, weak things
That you can’t help
Dimly seeing there,
And for drawing out
Into the light
All the beautiful belongings
That no one else had looked
Quite far enough to find.

I love you because you
Are helping me to make
Of the lumber of my life
Not a tavern
But a temple;
Out of the works
Of my every day
Not a reproach
But a song.

[And then I must change it a bit to say,]

You have done it
With a touch,
With a word,

You have done it
By being yourself.
Perhaps that is what
Being a friend means,
After all.

© Roy Croft (1907 – 1973).

I am proud to say my mother is my friend, and I hope she is too. Beginning when I was young, my mother’s availability, acceptance, and ability to challenge me, shaped my assumptions of how friends take care of each other.

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Specialized Vocabulary

I am working on a short fairy tale to submit for publication (sort of a breather from the novel, you might say).

Naturally the language is how I would tell it.

So I went through it with my Children’s Writer’s Word Book checking the words I guess to be more challenging than the others.

I was thinking I was doing alright, those iffy words were all acceptable at a 3rd- or 4th-grade level (and I wouldn’t want to force it lower than that), until I got to enchanted.

As in, “enchanted castle.”

Enchant is designated a 6th-grade word.

I called Natasha over and asked her if she knew what the word meant.

“Um, magic?” Good enough for me. Naturally I added my own bit (“Generally magic controlling something, but good.”)

I told her, “This book says you have to be 12 to know that word.”

She looked at the ceiling and laughed quietly. (It’s nap time so the other kids are asleep.)

“You can be four too,” she said, obviously pleased with herself.

Natasha’s already asked for it to be read aloud 3 or 4 times (there are no pictures yet, of course) so naturally that makes my mama-heart soar.

I checked the rest of the manuscript, but it looks like that’s the most challenging thing in there, so I think this thing’s ready enough to start sifting through publishers to look for a match.

ETA:  This is the level of folktale/picture book I’ve been reading to my girls since the oldest was 3 or 4 (the little sis was still more of a “Mother Goose” girl at the time).

Now my 5-year-old reads them to her 3 1/2-year-old sister.

And the reads in the last paragraph is real, see-the-pictures-and-the-words expressive reading.  (Ask me how I know if you need to.)
Reading aloud to your children is a powerful thing.

The Trouble With Beauty

And the trouble with (little-t) truth, and (little-g) goodness: Too often it is so narrowly defined that only one thing at a time can fit the label.

Let’s see if I can explain what I mean.

Years and years ago, Chinese girls of all classes believed that tiny feet were beautiful. They believed this so profoundly that some maimed their daughters and endured their own inability to care for their households (or sometimes even themselves) with feet bound to convey the illusion of smallness.

There may have been many social and relational reasons for this (fascinating, but not the point of this essay), but the result was generations of women, primarily in the wealthy classes, who lived their lives in pain in order to appear beautiful.

Those too poor to be allowed the luxury of useless women still admired the unrealistic standard, forming their opinions on something as impossible to dictate as foot size.

Eventually the ideas of the “outside world” invaded and (if I understand correctly) Christian missionaries led the active campaign to end foot-binding. Remarkably, in a single generation the custom essentially died out, and the Chinese people themselves began to see the bound foot as distasteful and deformed.

The sorrow to me in all this, was that in the effort to promote a newer and healthy form of beauty, that which was formerly beautiful had to become ugly. The women who had endured years of pain and limited freedom for the esteem it bought them found that they were now the symbols of a barbaric and embarrassing time.


In the pursuit of beauty we can easily see this extreme polarizing. It also exists in our pursuit of truth or goodness. While, in theory, honest, useful debates can exist, in reality we’ve usually already made up our minds (with or without guiding reason) and reflexively villianized the views that don’t line up with our own.

I think this is where defensiveness comes from– either in an actual debate or in (compulsively?) explaining why you did something. Ultimately I think defensiveness comes out of fear, or worry: “Did I do the right thing?”

So we seek out like-minded people who made the same decisions, articulate defenders who shoot down the opposition, energetic promoters who put into words the reasons for this choice.

Homeschooling, birth control, large families, abortion, medical intervention, breastfeeding.

These and more come under attack and are vigorously defended.

For me the sad all-or-nothing discussion right now is the birth control vs. large families debate. (<–Though that link is an excellent “discussion” Jess posted on Making Home, and goes a long way to making a gesture of understanding for both sides.)


A little more than a year after I married, I hated what I saw hormonal birth control doing to me and what I was learning about it. The “question” as to whether it was abortafacient was the final nail in the coffin. I quit.

No godly woman had any reason or right to use hormonal birth control. Why does one need to be inoculated against children anyway?

Then, within six months of each other, I met two women with endometriosis, and was humbled to learn from one that the lining-thinning property of hormonal birth control is one of the most (some argue only) effective management option available for that painful condition. There is no cure. Yes there are other methods of living with it, but I had learned what I never expected to find: a significant, therapeutic use for birth control pills.

This began a process of opening my eyes. Not, I hope, to “situational ethics” where I can dictate right and wrong, but to the reality that God does not call everyone to the same kind of obedience in all things (1 Corinthians 8).

If there is one thing I’ve been learning this stint in a mom’s group, it’s the reminder not all goodness (e.g., good parenting) looks alike. I had been around enough… under-developed parenting I’d forgotten that. I had forgotten that not everybody needs my help, and I needed to be reminded that God has different ways of accomplishing his will in each of us.

Those of us who understand our vast freedom in Christ are warned not to hinder the faith of others in the exercise of our freedom, and I’ve been thinking of two different ways this hindering can look.

First, we shouldn’t affirm selfish behavior just because we wish to affirm the individual. By this I mean (for example) reflexively agreeing with a wife’s unexamined use of birth control, or a young mom working outside the home just because she can.

I believe either of these things could be legitimate, but we “older women” (such as we are) aren’t helping them learn to think critically if we agree with a decision they’ve made on merely cultural grounds.

I’m not suggesting we go out and lecture people. I’m referring to those who approach us, asking our opinion or seeking our approval.

Second, we should also be careful not to share our own stories as if they were absolute models– because we shouldn’t encourage anyone to think that by looking like us they will be obeying God’s plan for their lives. That could be just exchanging one set of prayerless assumptions for another.

Better than anyone we know our own imperfections, and I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t dare condemn anyone else to mine.

God has planted some amazing beauty and truth in my life, but I hope I never again assume that that beauty and (little-t) truth are the only things that can be called by those names.

Frequently, when I begin to feel sure of one small “fact” (Women who don’t breastfeed are a reflection of our selfish, me-centered culture.), reality will break in. God will gently insert an exception into my life to remind me that I haven’t got it all figured out.

It’s how he teaches me grace.


All this God also uses to remind me of himself, and my forever-insufficient understanding him.

My idea of God is not a divine idea. It has to be shattered from time to time. He shatters it Himself. He is the great iconoclast. Could we not almost say that this shattering is one of the marks of His presence? The Incarnation is the supreme example; it leaves all previous ideas of the messiah in ruins… But the same thing happens in our private prayers.

All reality is iconoclastic.

C.S. Lewis
From A Grief Observed


Isn’t it disappointing to disagree with people we love or admire?

Really, disappointing is the best word I can think of (it was Grandma’s word too). For me it somehow encloses both the bigness and smallness of the realization: adjusting to the sense of the bottom dropping out beneath me, and the simultaneous, honest, What’s the big deal?

Because I really shouldn’t have to explain everything, right? And yet I *want* to. I want to hear someone say, “You’re right, I agree with your choice.”

Isn’t that just about the most affirming thing we can hear?