Pictures of growing

Here are some pictures of what we’ve planted in the backyard. As we’ve planted, I have purposed in my heart that these growing things honor Lucy’s life, a testimony to the joy her growing brought to us. I will tell you what plants have been gifts.

This is a line of roses. The Baumann family, Nancy Cooper, Cathy and Bart Pate, and Lucy’s Aunt Bean all gave us a rose bush in her honor. There is room for one or two more at the end, where the flamingos stand now. Several of them are blooming astonishingly for being new-planted.

In the back beside the metal shed we planted different kinds of herbs. Mixed with them are perky little orange French Marigolds. (The smell of marigolds makes me think of my mother planting tomatoes – she taught me that marigolds will discourage bugs from eating your other plants.) This is our “Cloister garden”. In medieval times, monks would plant an herb garden beside the kitchen area for medicines and flavoring food. I’ve been told that sometimes a Monastery was the only place medieval serfs could go for medicines and treatment of wounds. A hospital supply buried in an 8′ square plot of ground. James and I saw a model of a Cloister garden when we visited the Cloisters Museum 4 years ago in New York City.

These are Abbey’s Wisteria Vines planted in honor of Lucy. In Lucy’s favorite movie, Gnomeo and Juliet, wisteria vines, roses, pink flamingos, and garden gnomes feature prominently. James constructed the trellis for us from three separate pieces. He’s handy that way. These Wisteria were given to us by the Noltie family in honor of Lucy.

This little bed was made entirely by Lucy’s Aunt Amy. While I flopped helplessly and wept and searched for a dress online to wear to the funeral, she took the kids and dug out the grass, bought plants and soil at Walmart, constructed sides from old bricks we had piled in the corner of the yard, and created a space unique to her in honor of Lucy. There are tomatoes and herbs, with more of the little French Marigold spread around. The tiny pot is an offering from Amos that he made with his Aunt Faith’s help. Every day we’ve been outside, Amos pulls a little branch off one off of something and “plants” it in the pot. We’ve talked about plants needing roots, but he remains hopeful that one morning he’ll go outside and a full-blown bush will have spring from his three-leaf arrangement in the 2″ clay pot.

This is a line of Lantana (sometimes called butterfly weed) leading from the trellis to the herb spot. I chose the lantana because it attracts butterflies and bees and is hardy in drought. It blooms in three colors: yellow, orange, and red. Cheerful colors like a cheerful little girl.

This is the surviving garden. Feathery tall dill, red snapdragons, floppy petunias and straggly proud azaleas that made it through the mild winter unscathed. It is the bed that blooms to please itself, and I feel grateful seeing it. As if the Lord brought me an unlooked-for bouquet. Behind them, where I unfortunately did not take a picture, is a Gerber Daisy from Bob and Darlene Cates in Lucy’s honor. It arrived covered in pretty red blooms in a ladybug painted pot.

Look! That is a single dill flower. I’ve never had an herb that grew anywhere close to this robust and bushy. If you meet any medieval serfs in medicinal need of dill, send them to me.

Now we wait, watch, and water. Breath in and breath out. – Katie



Living into the dirt

Leonard Cohen says in his song Show Me the Place: “The troubles came, so I saved what I could save;
A thread of light, a particle, a wave.”

Every day this past week I have rolled out of bed, found missing shoes and uniforms, shoved freezer waffles into the hands of people walking out the door for school, and headed into the backyard. Helen, Amos, and I put on muddy shoes and get the shovel and start digging.

The air is soft and spring-cool in the morning, sometimes a little breezy. As I turn over one spadeful of dirt after another, Helen and the cats pick their way across small swaths of bare crumbly dirt, stooping to bite or pick up panicky uncovered insects. (Usually Helen is not biting them, but it does happen. Hoping pill-bugs are non-toxic.) Outside is easier than inside right now.

In a strange way I feel closer to Lucy touching the earth. Her ashes are on the mantel right now inside, waiting to be respectfully interred along with a new-planted oak on the grounds of our church, Water of Life Lutheran. The box is surprisingly small and heavy, the size of a large potato but carrying the weight of three years of being.

(There is no way to say what it feels like to have your own child’s ashes put in your hands. No one should have to do this. But I know I am preceded by countless mothers before me who have held out shaking hands to receive what we would refuse.)

The soil grinding painfully underneath my nails is hopeful. A physical, squeezable essence of my own body and Lucy’s small one – the soft bed that will one day receive all of me that may rest there with her, while all of me that can will hold and love her again in person. So much of me is broken and empty, held together by Leonard’s threads of light (underneath are the everlasting arms) but the ground is real and true and solid. What IS mingling with what WAS.

I have been reading things lately about living INTO the space where you are – respecting and being grateful for what you have by using it fully. This covers things like backyard gardening, raising chickens or goats or bees on your property, eating foods grown locally, knowing your neighbors and having community with them. Things everyone knows about but it helps to focus on it now and then.

I read a story from a magazine called “Taproot” about a woman named Uva Turnbull who collected dirt. One spoonful at a time collected in glass jars over her adult life. Soil from France, Ohio, the bottom of a well, the top of a relative’s grave, a silver mine. Without order or purpose, she simply kept 159 bits of what she walked on as she moved through her life.

In the article there was a quote from Walt Whitman, a sacred secularist if there ever was one. I will put it here as I saw it in the magazine.

“Whitman ends his poem ‘Song of Myself,’ the big hymn in Leaves of Grass with:

I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love. If you want to find me again, look for me under your bootsoles. You will hardly know who I am or what I mean. But I shall be good to you nevertheless and filter and fiber your blood. Failing to fetch me one place keep encouraged. Missing me one place search another. I stop somewhere waiting for you.

– taken from One-Hundred-Fifty-Nine Spoonfuls of One Soil, text and photos by Julia Shipley, in the magazine Taproot

Carrying Lucy’s life inside my own head and my own heart, I am living into the place where I am. One little plant and shovelful of dirt at a time.

Kristyn Getty sings a prayer in the song Still, My Soul Be Still:

Lord of peace renew a steadfast spirit within me to rest in You alone…– Katie

You, therefore, give thanks to God in our stead.

Tho nearly 470 years have past, the grief expressed by these parents who lost one of their 6 children  gives voice to our own.

The beloved child, Magdalena, is sick. Her portrait, painted by Cranach, is seen still in the room where she was lying, a lovely child, with large eyes, clear and deep. Near the bed is now Luther, he prays: “I love her a lot, but good God, if your will is to take her, I will give her to you with great pleasure. Then, addressing her: My little Magdalena, my little girl, soon you will not be with me, will you be happy without your father? The tired child tenderly and softly answered: Yes, dear father, as God wants. Soon, we put her in the coffin. Luther looked Ah! Sweet Lenchen, he says, you will rise again and you will shine like a star, yes, like the sun! I am happy in the spirit, but my earthly form is very sad. You have learned, he wrote to Justus Jonas: I believe the report has reached you that my dearest daughter Magdalena has been reborn into Christ’s eternal kingdom. I and my wife should joyfully give thanks for such a felicitous departure and blessed end by which Magdalena escaped the power of the flesh, the world, the Turk and the devil; yet the force of our natural love is so great that we are unable to do this without crying and grieving in our hearts, or even without experiencing death ourselves. The features, the words and the movements of the living and dying daughter remain deeply engraved in our hearts. Even the death of Christ… is unable to take this all away as it should. You, therefore, give thanks to God in our stead. For indeed God did a great work of grace when he glorified our flesh in this way. Magdalena had (as you know) a mild and lovely disposition and was loved by all… God grant me and all my loved ones and all my friends such a death – or rather such a life.

Hendrix, Scott H. (21 October 2010). Martin Luther: a very short introduction. Very Short Introductions. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-957433-9, p. 76 (quoting Luther’s Table Talk in pertinent part).

God is always good, and we are in his hands. +james

Magdalena Luther

Martin and Katie Luther lost their thirteen-year-old daughter Magdalena to serious illness in September of 1542. F. W. Herzberger, great-grandfather of one of our parishioners, wrote Luther Songs and Ballads to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the Reformation. He wrote songs about the most important events in Luther’s life. Here is the text he wrote about Magdalena.

“O God, my God, I love her,
This little girl of mine,
This sun-beam of a daughter,
My winsome Madeleine!
And fain, fain would I keep her,
Yet, Lord Thy will be done;
I know Thou has redeemed her,
She’s Thine in Thy dear Son.
O Madeleine, my darling,
Tho’ thou wouldst stay with me,
In heav’n a better Father
Is calling now for thee.
Dear heart, thou wilt be ready
To go to His behest?”
“Yes, father, if God wills it,
His will is always best.”
“Farewell, farewell, my jewel!
Thou lovely star that shone
So bright for me, far brighter
Shine there at Jesus’ throne!
Of this sad world I’m weary
As this world is of me;
Soon shall I leave its turmoil
To rest, my child, with thee.”
God is always good, and we are in his hands. +james


In a magnanimous gesture of love, Helen’s Grandmother bought her a kids wooden kitchen from IKEA. There are no surprises like Grandmother surprises.

Helen loves it.  Very focused love.

She grudgingly allows Amos to play with it.

The problem, according to Helen, is that those BIG ones keep coming home from school and MESSING with it. Her kitchen! Her favorite, favorite kitchen!

Life’s hard when you’re 1. – Katie

11 years old

In fine pastor’s family fashion, we squeezed in a family birthday dinner between after-school soccer practice and Wednesday evening Lenten service.

Abbey turned 11. Mothers say this all the time, but – I can’t believe it’s been 11 years!

I could only scrounge 7 candles from the back of the kitchen junk drawer, so we “shaped” an 11 with them.

Even in 45 minutes we covered Abbey’s faves – lots of family, lots of carbs, and lots of books!

She tells us that 11 is the first year you can start at Hogwarts… if she gets in I don’t know how I’ll cope without her…

Abbey’s birthday falls on March 21st, and Lucy was born almost exactly 8 years later. You would think this might cast a pall over birthday season, but Abbey, who has a sweet heart, came up with a wonderful birthday idea.

“Mom”, she said to me earlier in the week, “since Lu’s favorite movie was Gnomeo and Juliet, and there’s a big wisteria vine as part of the story, why don’t we plant a wisteria and have a picnic out beside it for her birthday each year? We could pick somebody who needs something, like those farmers in Africa that Second Grade bought fruit trees for, and give THEM a present for Lucy!”

I said cheerfully, “Oh, Abbey, what a good idea!” And then burst into tears as soon as she left the kitchen.

I told one of our friends about this idea, and their family liked it so much they bought two wisteria for us. We just need to plant them. More on that later.

The name Abigail means ” Father’s joy”. She is her father’s joy and her mother’s strong right arm. And the bossiest, happiest big sister around. Happy birthday, Abbey! – Katie