Sometimes Love Picks up a Rock

Sometimes Love picks up a rock, staggers with it to a structure that is being raised, carefully places it in the correct spot, walks back to the quarry for another boulder to repeat the whole scenario again and again. …And that is how a home is built to shelter from the storms.


Sometimes Love digs a hole, a deep and dangerous chore that requires days and days of patient effort until the sweet water rushes up. …And that is how an endless thirst is quenched.

Sometimes Love lifts the burden off a fellow traveler’s pack, shoulders it through rocky mountain passes with blisters rubbing raw and breath failing under extra weight in the thin air. …And that is how the longed-for vista opens up for not just one but two.

Sometimes Love plants a garden, seedlings placed in rows upon rows, freeing the place of noxious weeds, waiting for the sunshine and rain in their course. …And that is how the small and larger places are nurtured with goodness.


Sometimes Love wields a scalpel, cutting cleanly, carefully, where rampant growth swells wrong. …And that is how a cancer is removed.

Sometimes Love weaves a blanket, bright threads running back and forth in patient patterns across the darker weft. …And that is how the cold and lonely world gets wrapped in warmth.

Sometimes Love makes music, clear and full of light, winging out through the listening atmosphere with no particular destination, but just for joy of singing. …And that is how the jubilence of love spreads through the solitary darkness.

Sometimes Love walks alongside, pledging in a blaze of selfless abandonment to live in all these ways for the sake of another. …And that is how Love gets to live out its days.




Going to the Moon

Sometimes I dress up a little on ordinary days, just because it helps me feel better than wearing old stuff. Same with washing my hair even though I will just be home. It is no fun to look into the bathroom mirror throughout the day and see that I am having an awful hair day, nor to think, “We need milk, but there is no way I can walk into a store looking like this.” I still have not figured out how the pajama-clad folks at Walmart do it. I find I can’t even look. Not very long ago you got put into asylums for stuff like that.

This morning I dressed up a little because I knew I was going to sneak in a coffee hour with my sister-in-law at some point. The children usually notice the “going away clothes” right away. “Where are you going? Huh?” and if I reply, “To the moon. Wanna come along?” that’s our code for Mama is Going Solo This Time so Just Stop Begging.

Addy got to go along this afternoon. She was done with her school. Also she seems to be going through a scrappy streak, taking many things as personal affronts because she is the smallest child. The scrappiness comes out like a spitting kitten bristling its tail, and tends to degenerate quickly into howling cat-fights if there is no mother around. She is working hard at not getting her fur so knotted up, but there is a huge temptation for big brothers to stroke it wrong, just like a little experiment, not meaning anything by it, of course. I know now why my mom would ask my siblings and I if we even love each other. We would look at each other like, “Duh. Why does she wonder such a thing?”

I know now, too, why there were times when we had to sit and read and were not allowed to say one word until the timer beeped. Sometimes children at this house who spar constantly have to work together at a job like washing the kitchen floor on hands and knees, or doing dishes by hand, one washing and the other drying. Other times I make them play a game together. Occasionally they are not allowed to be in each other’s company at all until they miss the annoying sibling enough to be civil again. I don’t know whether any of these mechanisms are more effective than others. At least it makes me feel like I am being a parent, teaching them to value their siblings, but I have a feeling they think, “Duh. Why does she wonder such a thing?”

Well, that was a meandering trail. I got my groceries, including some highly processed food for our Valentine’s Day party tomorrow. We plan to have fun with the pretty dishes and sparkling juice in goblets. There will be finger sandwiches, Little Debbies cut up in tiny pieces, and some chocolate candy for each person. I like to include the children in this one; they are, after all, the direct result of Cupid’s arrows. Gabe and I rarely go out on Valentine’s Day, but we always do something nice for just the two of us; we are, after all, where this family started and it’s good to remind ourselves of that when the dust settles after the children go to bed.

I had two hours to drink coffee, eat a muffin, and just visit about life with my sister-in-law Rhonda. Our little girls played and we talked. It was a spot of quiet happiness in the day, and on the way home I reflected on how wonderful it is to have  friendships where I can walk into a house, pull my feet up on the couch, coffee mug in hand, just say whatever it is that is currently happy or sad in my life, and be completely accepted.

I told her I think I am writing mud these days, and she said it wasn’t that bad, so I will take her word for it. It’s a little weird to push through and publish posts that I am not excited about and that I know certainly won’t change the world and just possibly you are all terribly bored. My mind isn’t the strongest in midwinter. Also I am reading Jeremiah. And the children seem to get in each other’s space a lot.

I saw three road-killed skunks today. That means they are starting to stir out of their winter torpor, looking for love. That means baby skunks on the way and that means spring. It was a good sign, although I was sorry they died on their quests across the road.

Rita and I are growing little lawns inside the house. Here is mine.


A few adventurous sunflower seeds got mixed in with the potting soil, so they are pushing up sturdily as well. Rita has three different containers with grasses. She gives them haircuts with scissors when they get too tall. Gabe shakes his head, amused, but I told him we really can’t help it. Some of us are born with souls that need green and sprouting things. I cannot think of a worse plight than being called to live in the Arctic. I guess a cell would be worse.

Tonight was choir practice again, always a highlight in the week for me. I came back home to peaceful children, bless their hearts. They were listening to Anne of Avonlea on Librivox. Some were coloring up a storm and two of them were trying to braid as many little braids into each other’s hair as possible. Nobody had any troublesome tattles to tale, which I feel I should mention in all fairness. They really are “nice”, which is what our elderly neighbor used as the one all-purpose adjective for them. Sure, I had some kitchen cleanup to do yet, but all in all it has been a good day.

Tomorrow is the day to celebrate the people we love! Let’s pull out the stops and really bless them, how about it?


Praying Hands


Over 500 years ago, Albrecht Durer, a German painter and engraver, was commissioned to paint an altarpiece, and as part of the work, he painstakingly sketched a person’s hands raised in prayer. The sketch was done on handmade blue paper and the original still survives today, an image that is recognizable to most people.

There is a lovely tale, whether fact or legend it is hard to tell, about Albrecht. The story goes that he came from a large family, with no means to study art, although that was his deepest wish. Eventually he did start studying and painting. In order to survive, he and a fellow artist, possibly one of his brothers, decided to pool their resources and share living space. The two became so impoverished that they decided one of them would give up painting for a while to do any manual labor he could find in order for the other to have time to master his art and be able to sell his work.

It was decided that Albrecht’s friend would take first turn at the work, since Albrecht was more advanced in skill. For years he cheerfully did anything he could turn his hand to in order to keep the two supplied with daily needs. At last the day came when Albrecht had passed his teachers in skill and his woodcuts were selling for nice sums. The rent was paid for a considerable length of time, and it was now the friend’s turn to study painting.

Alas, he soon found that his hands had become too damaged by physical labor to perform the detailed brushstrokes of a master artist. Albrecht was filled with sorrow and gratefulness for the gift of great love that had come at the sacrifice of his fellow artist’s skill.

Some say that the famous praying hands are the same hands that worked so hard to care for the artist’s needs in his youth, and this is why Albrecht Durer put such painstaking detail into a preliminary sketch. Five hundred years later, we do not know who modelled the hands, but I love the story anyway.

Fleeting Things


And while you think on that, I would like to show you the art of David Zinn, who draws on sidewalks with chalk, knowing that it will wash away with the next rain. (If you have Instagram, go follow him. It’s a long gallery of fascination with what is obviously in front of me and what could be there, as well.) His townfolk of Ann Arbor starting noticing charming little creatures peeking at them from cracks in walls and the realistic “sky holes” he would sneakily draw underfoot. Now his work has become quite famous, due to social media and internet reports from people surprised by the unexpected, placed free, for their pleasure. From his website I quote:

“David’s temporary street art is composed entirely of chalk, charcoal and found objects, and is always improvised on location. ”

I love the impracticality of doing something enchanting just for the joy of doing it and bringing joy to others.

Love Is…

Today I needed to shuttle Olivia to a dentist appointment, so I took my Little A along too. I gave up on my audio book within a few minutes and just chattered with my girls. “I am SO GLAD that it’s not sloppy-floppy on Valentine’s Day,” Addy said. (She really does talk in CAPITALS.) We talked about love and marriage.

Olivia wants a house with a wraparound porch to entertain visitors, and a creek nearby for her children. That is, if she gets married, but maybe she will try a tiny house first because they are less work and everything is arranged so neatly.

Addy wants a humongous yellow house with pink shutters and golden doorknobs. Also ten horses, but if her husband isn’t rich, then just two horses would be fine. She kind of doubts that she will want to marry anybody, actually, when she really thinks about it. Besides, she is too little.

How can one girl and one boy fall in love and spawn 5 such opposite people? I thought opposites are just two things, like cold and warm, but it turns out that there are a lot more than two opposites when you start categorizing personalities. It can be a little disorienting to think you have a certain facet of parenting figured out, only to discover that you are back at base 1 with the next baby. But it’s never boring. Oh, no, never that.

I asked the children for help with a Love Is… list. I will start with Gregory (Alex was skiing, plus he wouldn’t have ventured a peep if he had gotten wind that I was gathering material for a blog post) and end with Addy, who spouted truisms faster than I could write them.


Love Is…

  • a penguin fasting for months while incubating an egg. -G
  • a chick nestled under its mother’s wing. -G
  • going on a date with Papa and eating pancakes every time. -O
  • when Mama gives me a cup of tea after my math lesson is done. -O
  • cleaning the bathroom. -O
  • throwing a stick over and over for your dog. -O
  • when a chicken lays an egg for your breakfast. -O
  • Mama showing me how to cook spaghetti and meatballs.  -O
  • a soft flannel quilt that you made for our bed. -R
  • helping me make a doll with fabric scraps. -R
  • my big sister making me a purse. -R
  • when we are allowed to play “rish-rosh” in the house.  -R
  •  a long story at nap time. -A
  • when Mama lets you light a candle by yourself. -A
  • kisses on your cheek. -A
  • when Papa takes me on a canoe ride. -A
  • being allowed to swim. -A
  • looking at the stars. -A
  • when I go along out to the barn to gather eggs. -A
  • Mama taking me on a special date (McDonald’s drive-through) while the other kids are on a field trip. -A
  • letting me pick my nose. -A
  • Papa tucking me in at bedtime and asking me if I had a good day. -A

My children appear to have very homely ideas about love. Houses, eggs, dogs, food, and being allowed to tear around or hone bad habits. And that flamboyant small one… Oh dear, but it is a thrilling ride to parent her!

Our Valentine’s Day was (mostly) that sort of loving. There was sunshine and bike rides in it! There was a supper that was a joint effort, with one person making salad and one setting the table and one cutting lemon wedges and spooning sour cream into a pretty dish, and one snitching bits, and one mother trying to keep her sanity and actually succeeding. We ended with stories and chocolate fondue for all. Also. A BIG ALSO, the man of the house is home this week, and I wish you could have heard how calmly bedtime went down.

Maybe we will get a date later this week, but at any rate we are happy to be doing life together, all of it, ordinary and thrilling alike.

The Feeling of Daddy


She was a very little girl in a great big world. Her mama had told her she could walk out to the farrowing barn where her daddy was working. Peeking in the barn door, past the rows of brood sows, she saw him beckoning her to join him. That meant there was probably a new litter of piglets that she could look at. But the aisle between the two rows of pens for the sows looked a mile long, and the pens themselves were higher than she was. Should she dare it? Walk between those rows of snuffling grunts all by herself?

“Come on, you want to see this,” he called, so she plucked up her small courage and started walking down the long trail to where he was standing. There were little peep-holes in the pens, where she could glimpse hairy backs and sometimes a beady pig eyeing her as she sidled past.

Then there was a cranky sow who was having a bad day and objected to short people walking through the barn. Just as the little girl was walking by, she reared up and scrabbled her hooves on the edge of the pen, woofing her pig breath out in a terrifying series of snorts. Panic-stricken, the child froze in place, not sure whether to retreat or fly past to the safety of her daddy. The sow woofed again and there was nothing for it but to abandon all dignity and wail for help.

Her daddy came running to the rescue, put his hands under her arms, and lifted her up, way up to his shoulders. She was far above where any old pig could reach. He comforted his little girl, wiped her face, and said, “Would you like to go see some new little pigs?” She sniffled, “Yes,” and looked down from her vantage point at a whole row of little pink bodies lined up beside their mama. She stayed there out of harm’s way on her daddy’s shoulders until they were out of the barn, away from all the scary things.

It was one of her earliest memories. She never forgot that feeling for the rest of her life. It was the feeling of daddy, and it was safe.


This is what I wrote for my dad instead of a card today. Because I forgot to buy the card in the busy rushing of the past week. I post it here for all the dads who are present, who care, who work and provide for their families day after day. You are the unsung heroes, but today is your day and we thank you!


It’s in the Air

I could hardly suppress my amusement as I stood in the Hallmark card aisle and shamelessly eavesdropped on a phone conversation the young man next to me was having. He kept pulling out cards, replacing them impatiently, talking to his friend, “So how much would that cost? Eighty bucks??? I don’t have that much with me!” There was a pause while his friend gave him further advice and he restlessly plucked out more cards and replaced them. “Look,” he said, “I have only been going out with her for five months. I don’t want to be all smarmy. And I only have like thirty dollars on me.”

At this point I had an urge to pat him on the head reassuringly. He was shorter than me. No joke. But he had a little beard, so I didn’t think I was old enough or he young enough for me to tell him what I was thinking, “It will be easier when you have found her, Sonny. When you have walked life together for a while and you know she hates coconut candies and loves vanilla anything at all.”


It’s hard to define love. Lots of people have done it well. I will just aim at one of my lists here. Love does things. Things like

  • buying salami and turkey for humdinger sandwiches so that he doesn’t go hungry his whole shift
  • stopping at Aldi’s for the stuff on her list, even though you are dog-tired and would rather just go straight home
  • plotting out the gardens and disagreeing about eggplant
  • clearing the coloring books off the couch so the other can sit to drink coffee
  • cleaning up the mess the dog made because it makes her really mad
  • buying sheets that don’t get pilled in the laundry because he hates how that feels
  • never eating pretzels in bed
  • kissing in front of the children
  • prioritizing some foods you don’t personally enjoy, like olives, for the other person’s sake
  • cleaning out the family car, even though she mostly drives it
  • dealing with the offspring’s issues because she is showing signs of strain from a day of too many spats
  • treating aching feet with peppermint lotion
  • listening without even laughing… at least until he/she thinks it is funny too
  • knowing exactly which books she will swoon over at the library sale
  • disagreeing kindly
  • remembering the hilarious things that happened throughout the day so that you can tell him about them
  • holding hands to pray

There. I wasn’t too smarmy, was I? 😉 There used to be these little gum packs with “Love is…” cartoons in them. I thought they were cute and terribly cheesy. But there was a lot of truth. Sometimes love really is a phone call in the middle of the day, just to say hi. There is so much ordinary life that fans the love affair of a good marriage. Gabe says his friends at work tease him about his lunches because they know I pack them, and I pack the best lunches I can because I love him. Somehow it all ties together, if you get what I mean. I want everybody in the world to see that this is my man and we intend to stay together all of our lives. Why not expend my energies to make it a pleasant journey?

And now, because one cannot have too much Pride and Prejudice:




Schlabach Family Camping

I guess it wasn’t actually camping. Since my siblings have all procreated fairly steadily in the last decade, we have given up on rough camping. We found a cabin large enough to accommodate our needs and converged there. This post will be mainly pictures, for those of you who know my family and are interested. Apologies to anyone else.

Here we have my parents, affectionately known as Pops and Mama. We are so glad they fell in love a long long time ago. We are even more glad that they kept on loving and raised us in a happy home.


Here is a line up of the offspring. It appears that we have now exceeded the bounds of one photo frame, so I have it in two. You can splice them in your mind right there by the little blue boy. There are five boys and twelve girls. Lots of drama in this family!

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I remember doing photo shoots like that when I was little. It was never as much fun for the children as the grownups. Oldest in our family is my brother Nate, who is turning 40 this year! Hi Nate! He and his wife are raising four lovely daughters.

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That’s Gabe and I with our crew in the second photo. Kenny is third in the line. We had the honor of meeting Jenica, the youngest of the entire crew, for the first time on this trip.

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Last, but certainly not least, there is Rachel and her family. She is turning 35 this year. Yup, that’s right. My Mama had four babies in less than five years. It was probably a lot of work for her, but it sure was a blast for us. For some reason Nate and I used to refer to Kenny and Rachel as “the little children” despite the fact that they were right on our heels. Probably that is why Rachel resented it so much when we called her the baby of the family.


I have one photo that deserves a spot as the most delectable meal I have eaten in a long time. Kenny’s wife Carma served us this plate full of flavors that were just delightful. I can’t remember what it was called, but it involved chicken and mangoes and cilantro, among other ingredients. Isn’t it so purrrty?


It was great to get away for a few days and just visit and eat and eat and visit. You know how it goes. It is also quite a bit more relaxing now that the most of the children play nicely together. The older ones found a game that kept them occupied for hours and hours. And the little girls… well they just kind of trolled around being mostly sweet.

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We are so blessed!

Be Mine, part 4


There was a weekend of quietness, of deep thinking. Those fears she had… if he really thought about how old she was, nearly 24, heavens! he would rethink his request to court her.

It was an irrational fear. She should have known him well enough to know he didn’t make impulsive decisions, but of all the things they had talked about after hours at school, they had never discussed marriage. That would have been too weird. When he assured her that marriage really was in his dreams too, and that she fit into them like she was created for the part, she was almost giddy with relief. She no longer thought of him as too young, but of herself as too old. He didn’t care a fig.

All right then! How about a date at Red Lobster? Sure. Tomorrow night.

She ordered the coconut shrimp, he got fish. Cheddar bay biscuits became for them the food of delight. They talked and listened and lingered so long that the waitress seemed unsure what to do with them. When the coconut shrimp were barely touched an hour into the meal, she asked if everything was all right. Oh yes, they said. Just more water, please. Eventually they left with most of the meal in a take-out box. She shrugged. Communication was more important than food, apparently.

It was important not to let the romance overshadow the work at school. They tried hard to stay as neutral as possible while the students were around, but as soon as the last one was out the door, the tea got brewed and the day got hashed over with the frankness of best friends rapidly turning into lovers. The upper grade teacher was engaged to his girlfriend, and all around there were a lot of heads in the clouds those days.

Her siblings rolled their eyes and trotted out those strong-minded phrases she used to say. The girl just laughed because she knew better now. They said she was sunk. She agreed and swallowed her words cheerfully. A friend suggested that it was just proximity, after all, that causes so many to fall in love. Well, thank God for proximity, she said, because she believed with all her heart that this particular case was arranged by Providence.

It was an exhilarating time. Soul mates, that is what they felt they were discovering about each other. They were definitely traveling the same direction! Made for each other! Love covered them in a blanket of bliss. It wasn’t that they were just infatuated, forging ahead. It was the joy of feeling the smile of God on them, His fingerprints on their story. They already had a strong groundwork laid. She knew what he believed and how he responded to life. He knew the things that she carried in her heart, how she wanted to live. They had similar backgrounds. There simply were no huge hurdles.

Six weeks of this brought them to a sunny evening in June, sitting on the porch of the family camping cabin, the sun slowly sinking toward the horizon. “Is there anything else you want to talk about?” he asked. “Because I have something on my mind yet… Will you marry me?”

“Yes! Yes, I will!” she said once she recovered from her surprise. There may be some details that would bore the general public, but that is the path that they walked from being two to becoming one.

The wedding day was just a few months more than a year after she had shown him those stacks of text books in the school closet. He was 20, she was 24. They came back from their honeymoon pretty much broke, moved into a little grey house, and had a bunch of babies. It hasn’t always been “happy ever after” but you didn’t expect that, did you?  Of course, they discovered some discrepancies, such as his preference for mayo instead of Miracle Whip, her aversion to onions that he ate in great raw slabs on butter bread, the temperature in the car, and a few things of more consequence. The promise was to love ever after. It has been a journey they have never regretted and they certainly hope to be granted the privilege to grow old together.

Want to see their engagement photo?




Be Mine, Part 3

Just friends. About six weeks before the school term ended, the girl was straightening her classroom, watering the plants by the window, mentally preparing herself to grade an enormous stack of worksheets when he appeared at the door.

“This is for you,” he said, as he handed her an envelope.

She sort of sagged against the wall, “Is this what I think it is?”

He seemed in a bit of a hurry, grinned, wished her a good evening, and left.

“Duh, duh, duh… Is it what I think it is? What kind of dumb thing is that to say? What if it’s a thank-you note?” She beat her forehead with her palm. Then she laid the envelope on her desk, did every bit of that grading, passed out the papers, prepped the next day’s lessons, and cleared everything away. Slowly she picked up the letter, studied the flourish under her name.

It wasn’t a thank-you note. In fact, it was a rather eloquent request for a deeper relationship focused on seeing if they were suited to get married. He did not try to assure her that he knew this was God’s will; he did not say that he had fasted and prayed for years; he did not even say that she was the only one for him in the world, etc. She appreciated the simplicity of his request. Apparently she made him happy. He liked her! He thought they were heading in the same direction in life. So let’s seek God together, how about it?

There had been a lot of pressure to discern God’s will concerning marriage before ever going out with someone, like you shouldn’t just get to know each other, but really know that you are supposed to be together for life before you ever take a step. The girl had been terribly afraid of making an error in judgement that would hurt another person. She had been afraid that she would never be certain enough about a guy to dare to be “in a relationship”. She had prayed many prayers that God would give her clarity concerning who she should marry, like when she was twenty-eight or thirty, preferably. Writing in the sky, maybe? She just never expected it to hit her like it did, all unaware.

She sat at her desk until it grew dark outside, thinking, thinking. So God knew just how scared she was of making a mistake. He let her fall for someone that she never even thought of in a romantic way until after they were good friends. He got past her prejudices about someone younger by letting it be someone so much younger that she hadn’t even considered him possible husband material. It was really kind of funny.

She went home and talked to her parents, who already knew about her letter, because the young man had done the respectful thing and asked her dad for permission to court his daughter. They had only blessings for her, no reservations, provided that she was clear that this was a person she was genuinely attracted to and could have confidence in. “A spark,” her parents said. “More than just feeling like it’s a good thing, there has to be a spark.”

It was customary to fast and pray and agonize over this sort of decision, but it seemed silly. She knew. There was a spark, all right. Deep in her heart she already knew what she wanted to say. There was just one thing that seemed big to her. How could it not be big to him? The age discrepancy.

She wrote a letter back, because writing was how she processed all the big things in her life. “What about your dreams of adventure, of travel, of higher education? I don’t want to go into a relationship that will cramp what you want to do with your life. I don’t want you to ever resent marrying young…” and more in that vein. She told him that she was honored, that she really did like him, but she put the ball squarely back in his court.