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South for Tulips

Because the crowds tend to gravitate north in search of their tulips, we went south to find ours. To Mossyrock. The place that people ask you to say twice to be sure they heard you right. “Mossyrock?” Then they shake their heads. “Never heard of it.”

Because…where’s Mossyrock?

Well. Despite Mossyrock being right off Washington’s Highway 12, you gotta be deliberate to get there, passing other tiny towns on Highway 7 that show up as specks on the map, places like Elbe and Morton.

And even then, if you’re not looking out the window, there’s a chance you could miss Mossyrock’s tulip field.

But we found it. Waiting for us, as it were, on Saturday’s overcast morning.

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Rows and rows of tulips.

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Pinks and yellows.

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Yellows and purples.

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All of them waving in invitation for us to join them.

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And when it’s this pretty…

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This solitary…

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This exquisite…

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The soul’s desire is to be among the flowers. To walk the rows in admiration.

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To pause at the ones unmasked in the crowd…

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And think, “God, you are the coolest.”

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To bend and sniff tulip after tulip and claim with wide eyes that they smell delicious, a title reserved, perhaps, for roses or lilacs or lillies. But that hardly matters.

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Our thrill is being right here, in these rows, immersed in God’s painting, in his pinks and reds…

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His whites…

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And his confetti.

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It’s as if in the stillness of the flower bed God is whispering, “I love you.”

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Which is why our hearts already have plans to come back. To Mossyrock.

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That place where tulips grow on Highway 12 and where the soul has room to soar.

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Little Boy Big

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He is eight today. Eight today and nine tomorrow. Ages that do not define his soul.

Because he has always felt. Always intuitively sensed, like a cat, when someone wasn’t well. Always prayed from the depths of his heart for healing and peace over his family. And for more duct tape.

He has cornered his sister this morning, whispered in such serious tones that he can’t be serious. “Be good for mom today,” he says. He gestures in my direction. “She’s not feeling well.”

Yesterday, he is walking from the car to Costco with half his sweatshirt on, struggling to find the right way to put on the arm that’s still inside out. Only this isn’t the bother. “I’m just sorry,” he says. He leans into my side. “I’m just so sorry you’re sick, mom.” He holds his breath, then sighs. “I just…I just don’t know the words to say to tell you that.”

And that’s when we press into each other like broken trees in a windstorm, his head against my stomach, my lips in his hair. As for a moment our souls…our souls–without words–connect.



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Food for the Soul

It doesn’t look like much. Like a big picnic maybe. Over gray skies.

But it’s more than that. More than boxes of food on tables. More than people in line with thin jackets and bent umbrellas.

It’s hope. And it’s love.

And for some of the people in line, it’s what they’ve come for more than food–a little piece of hope.

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What’s here is the food bank. The Angel 1 Food Bank in Puyallup, WA.

And every Friday of the year from 3-5pm–except Black Friday when people would rather stand in line at Walmart–the food bank sets up outdoors and feeds 60-75 families and twice that at Christmas.

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This Angel 1 food bank is the vision of Pastors Jocely and Jennifer of Shalom church. But alongside them are those of us who volunteer. And those of us who keep coming back Friday after Friday to volunteer. Because there’s something remarkable about this place that blesses both the giver and the receiver.

Here Jennifer explains the numbers for the food before we start.

Since food donations are different each week–some Fridays there is an abundance of frozen turkey and eggs–other Fridays we’re swimming in lettuce or oranges, someone has to physically count the number of each food item. Then that number is divided by the average number of families coming through the line. If there are 220 small yogurts, each family will be given 3.


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But bread is different. Often, there is such an abundance of bread that  each family is invited to have as much bread as they’d like.

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When it’s time to start, we load up our arms with grocery bags and we find a buddy, if we can. Because the bags get heavy. And when the bags get heavy, it makes better sense to have two of us carrying six bags, than one of us clinking canned food against our shins alone.

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The folks in line here have been here for hours. The guys in front often say that they’ve been here since 10 a.m. holding their spot.

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Then this is what it looks like. Volunteers putting food into bags for other people, as together they all shuffle down the line.

Sometimes there’s even a rainbow.

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And sometimes it simply rains and you can forget the rainbow, and it looks like this. People in hoods and rain jackets putting food into bags and shuffling down the tables.

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And sometimes some of us improvise…

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Until, in some form…

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We figure out how to keep the water off our head.

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I suppose it’d be easier for people if it was a drive through food bank, where you honk and somebody runs a bag of food out to your rolled down window. But that’s not how we do it here. We want to shake hands with every Mike, Bob, Jim, Will, Shelia, Shirley, Ricardo as they reach the front of the line.  And then we want to walk with them down the tables filling their bags with food. Could they lug their own bags? Probably. But we want to serve them by carrying their bags to their car or their bicycle or by loading their suitcase so they can drag it to the bus stop.

And  then, because we know that it’s Jesus that changes people–not us, not the food–we ask each person if we can pray for them.

And so huddled outside their car, in a bowed triangle we thank God for his healing power, his gift of food, his favor…

And sometimes we hug. And sometimes we wipe our eyes. And always we wave.

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And then we walk back to the front of the line, to meet the next Bob or Sue or Sonya still waiting beneath a big umbrella. Or a borrowed one. Or a baseball cap.

And we shuffle down the line together.

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Always in the back there is Bill and his little food stand…

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And always there are hot dogs and hot soup, hot chocolate and popcorn free for the taking.

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But truly, whether dry…

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Or completely soggy…

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Ain’t nothing but a blessing to be a blessing at the food bank!

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Tea for Two

They want to know if they can have a tea party.

And at my nod, they are squirreling away for the tiny chairs and the tiny table and hauling a stool to the bookshelf where the even tinier tea set has waited a year or more to be remembered. And here one of them totters in socks on top of the stool and then passes the tea pot down to the one holding his breath and his arms above his head.

And then, as if on script–from the first tea party to this one and to every one in the middle–she whispers something into his ear–and the two of them beat feet upstairs, like they’ve been called to dessert. Gone are all signs of her pajama pants that hung like old balloons at the knees and his orange shirt that hadn’t had hope of making it on the right way today.

Because in six or seven minutes, we’re filling reservations for two in fine dining. He is sitting at the table, voluntarily, in a button down, better than we could do at Christmas. And already she is fixing his collar and adjusting her hat. And though nobody notices, I am backing away under-dressed in yesterday’s sweats and last decade’s sweatshirt.

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He has never been happier to see shortbread on a plate.

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Nor she to sit across from his ever-moving shadow.

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For thirty minutes they agree on most things. The flavor of the tea. Whether the tea is hot enough or just right. That we should have enchiladas for dinner. How soft the cat is.

And I listen to childhood, as it were, in the clinking cups, the oopsies, the savored nibbles, the hiccups from laughing so hard and small talk.

I’m privy to her pinky finger as she sips her once-warm tea and to his straw strategy as he wins the non-award for tea-drinking efficiency.

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And I realize I wouldn’t–I simply wouldn’t–want to be anywhere else but right here. Fully present in this moment.

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Seventy Times Seven

It’s this forgiveness thing. It’s hard. Hard especially when the same feelings resurface for the thing I just forgave. I think, “how can I still be angry–how can I feel like screaming over this? I just forgave it.”

It’s as if I don’t know how to forgive. Don’t know how to let go, even when I understand and desire the true healing that can only come when I let go. When I forgive. In excess, I’ve heard how my unforgiveness doesn’t limit the other person like it does me, doesn’t stop him from having a great day or smiling while he eats Cheetos. And how my unforgiveness darn near suffocates me. Right. Got it. All true. Only I fake-nod my understanding. “Easy for you,” I think.

In Matthew 18:21, the bible says that Peter came up to Jesus and asked him, “Lord how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me?” Then Peter generously suggests. “Up to seven times?”

And Jesus answered him, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” Or as the New King James version of the bible says, “up to seventy times seven.”

In other words, every single time. And then some.

Jesus isn’t saying that we are to keep asking the Lord for forgiveness for the thing we’ve already asked forgiveness for. Because when God forgives, his forgiveness is complete. That thing…it is forgiven. God doesn’t have repeat emotions over our forgiven sin. He says in Isaiah 43:25, “I…am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.”

For his own sake. All of it. Gone.

It’s like he’s saying, “What good could it possibly do–to me or you–to remember your sin?” None. And so he doesn’t.

Which is great. Unfathomable, really. God forgives completely. But what about me?

Well. Jesus knew. Knew that unforgiveness can kill us from the inside out. Knew that even when we forgive, a part of us can still choose to hang onto the hurt, can still choose to cradle the crap, or to justify our disguest at the injustice or begrudge our own forgiveness, as if it was ursurped from us and not freely uttered.

We want to forgive, have tried, even, but could never completely forgive. Not that hurt. Not the memory of those words. And so the root lives. But since even God forgives us, as he says, “for his own sake.” It seems that for ours, we ought to as well.

And so what can we expect when we walk in forgiveness?


And so the revelation isn’t that we must not have forgiven correctly the first time when we thought we’d forgiven. It’s that freedom comes as we continue to forgive. That same thing. That same person for the same thing. We’re to keep releasing. Keep letting go. Time and again. Seventy times seven, if we have to.

Because it is in our forgiveness that Christ begins to heal us. It is in our forgiveness–again–that the knots in our stomach loosen and disappear. That our anger is like mist and then no more. And we can sleep, by God, we can sleep. It is in our forgiveness that God supernaturally heals.

And one day, when we utter,”I forgive you,”even to ourselves, for the uncountable-eth time, we can know that it is done. We can know that we are free.



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We did not see him for an hour. In which time he’d found a drill, enough screws and scrap boards to rejuvenate his yardsale skateboard into…

Into this.

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And then because it had been raining the entire day except for these four minutes and because the size of his eyes convinced us all that we had to uncurl from whatever comfortable spot we’d had on the couch or untie the apron from around our waist and toss it on the counter, it all ended up like this. A sister. A rope. And a brother with a grand idea.

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From the stop sign to the driveway…

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She pedaled and he wahooed.

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And it went like this…pedal, wahoo…

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Pedal, wahoo!

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Until her legs couldn’t turn another stroke and his knee caps were vibrated clean through and the rain…the rain had returned.

But… (their faces tell me)…

Today ain’t got nothin’ on tomorrow.

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When Faces Fall

It’s my boy, sitting shotgun messing with the camera on my phone. He takes a picture of his big teeth with even bigger braces and waves it for me to see. We both laugh. Then he says, “smile!” And I cheese with both eyes still on the red light, my profile catching the lens.

I cannot stop myself, as I reach to see the picture, reach for affirmation in the least helpful place.

It is indeed me with a black rain jacket zipped past my throat, both hands clenching the wheel as if I’m laying on the pedal at 80 mph and not completely parked at a traffic light. Only it can’t be me. This person has eight chins.

My son is sympathetic. He looks at me. Looks at the screen. Then says,”I think it was because I was moving the camera.”

But already my hands are on my face, studying the lines with my fingertips, feeling the looseness of the skin on my cheeks, skin that folds up like a child’s paper fan when I smile.

The rearview mirror confirms the camera. And in disbelief I say again, “There’s so many chins…”

It is his attempt to help, and so my son says again, “Smile, mom!” And I grin just as I had.

But he cannot help this time. “Yeah,” he says, “you’re right. They’re still there.”

The light is green. And though I drive past cars with a rainy windshield, it is my mother’s face I see, creased and lined, and before hers, my grandmother’s, deeply etched. “I love you,” I tell my son. I grin wider and huger with my falling face. And my boy leans in, “I love you, too.” he says.


Because that’s what faces do. They fall. And they love.



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The Gift of Light

It happened in our neighborhood–that thing we think happens just in other neighborhoods, in other towns, in big cities with big buildings and in the pages of a book.  Things we only read about. Only we woke to broken outdoor lights. Smashed in by someone less happy than ourselves, someone looking for a flicker of joy in a place it can’t be found.

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And so for two weeks it would seem that darkness reigned down our street. That busted lights and shattered glass had stamped its name on our driveway. And that fear had found a new porch on which to rest.

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But on Tuesday, our neighbor knocked. His frozen fingers fumbled with a box from Home Depot and his voice said gently, “I can replace your lights for you, if you’d like.”

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And so our neighbor who is our neighbor from around the block dismantled our mangled metal with his own tools.

While he worked, the rain turned to sleet, turned to snow. And an eight year old boy said to himself, “I want to be like this guy.”

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In minutes, what was once dark…

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Became bright again. Became whole.

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And what might have happened–an exchange of dollars for labor or even dollars for lights, never did.

It was one neighbor saying, “Merry Christmas!” to the other. And the other knowing they’d been blessed.

Thank you, Mr. Eubank, for this gift of light.

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When the Night is Silent

We had stopped flinching when it got too quiet. We’d kept sprinting to the sound of no noise, and the kid was either playing with Legos or in the coat closet on his typewriter. And so last night when too little noise was happening, no one threw down the book he’d almost started reading and asked between gasps, “have you seen Silas?” We were too out of practice.

Which was why kneeling in pine needles to tuck our boy in last night seemed unexpected. Twenty pine fronds stuck out beneath his mattress and five thousand pine needles had been sprinkled over his carpet. “I just love the way it smells,” he said.


This morning our boy is vacuuming with the fattest smile. “Listen,” he says. He pushes the hose and it sucks up enough needles for a small tree. “That crackling sound. I just love that, too.”

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How Daddy Loves

There are things she learned from me. Like how to raise your voice when you’re falling a part or can’t find your phone, your phone’s charger or a pen that works. And how to stir the bread dough with a wooden spoon until you’re out of breath.

But to crochet? No.

Heavens no. Something this good came from a friend who poured into our girl. Who poured in week after week and patiently praised and calmly kindled the coals of our girl’s efforts. Until digging for crochet hooks in the couch cracks and idly stroking the yarn in the aisles at Joann’s became routine.

Then it was, “I bet I could make a hat.” And she did. A green one, imperfect and pointy. And she wrapped it for her daddy for Christmas last year. And he wore it–because he loves her–day after day after day.

It’s just…she’s making hats again. Better hats. Hats for cousins. A hat for brother.

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And yet, she need not think twice…

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To know that this guy–the one who’d wear a sack if she made it–is still her biggest fan.

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