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    The Wonder of Womanhood

    There is something about a new baby that draws out the truth in us. It’s the frailty of infancy that is disarming, I think. All walls and barriers break down in the presence of a pure and vulnerable newborn. Not more than 24 hours old, Eliza slumbering in her plexiglass cradle, her presence evoking an unexpected tumble of words from a stranger. “My daughter really wants me to have another baby,” the young nurse says. “I wish we could give her one.” More words. More story. Her brown eyes search carefully over my baby as she moves the stethoscope around the tiny chest, listening to the chambers of the heart opening…

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    Empty Buckets

    There is spring and then there is spring in farm country. While nature everywhere is resurrecting in brilliant form, the countryside possesses a particular shine. It seems the farmers have barely scraped their plows through the expectant earth when the green bounds up behind them. Everything is emerald. My Irish eyes like to pretend this happy valley in the middle of Illinois is my Ireland away from Ireland…the place my great grandparents left long ago. How gracious is my God who led me to this little plot of land with a valley that resembles an ancestral homeland. My husband brought home a calf this week. It was an impulse buy…

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    Facing the Upside Down

    I had a pretty unusual reaction to the sight of my kid on roller skates for the first time. Surrounded by flashing lights, loud music, and laughter, what came throbbing out of my throat was nothing less than a sob. From the depths of my stomach. From the depths of my soul. My oldest boy bravely trying….oh, he was trying. But those slick wheels paid no mind. They spun and he flopped. So. Many. Times. I watched from across the rink with a baby on my hip, unable to reach him. And my biggest fear at that moment was not a bone-splintering kind, the kind I felt in my own…

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    Sister Spheres and the Space Between

    When you’re ten years older than your little sister, you leave for college and she is only nine. When you move away from home to start a new job and a new life she is only fourteen. So, in your mind, she stays fourteen and it is an impossibility that she could grow into a woman and do grown-up things because when you left, she was your little sister and little sisters do not grow up. Despite all Maggie’s own accomplishments away at college and as a teacher post-graduation, in my mind I often catch myself thinking of her in the same place I left her more than a decade…

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    Groundhog Days, Groceries, and Gospel

    What’s that they say about the Ides of March? Beware… This middle of March when Spring flirts with our hearts, but Winter stabs us in the back. Things that shouldn’t feel so difficult, do. Even a grocery store trip can be insufferable, especially when it seems I have tiny conspirators working against me. Oh, my kids know how to topple me. It’s not like they even intend to; it’s just that they have ideas, and needs, and demands, and emotions. And my own emotions instruct me to climb back into bed until Spring and the Sun make some kind of commitment to remain. I’m outnumbered and my patience and strength…

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    Our Only Hope in Life and Death

    It’s so unrealistic and unnecessary – this anxiety I feel when I ship the kids off to the grandparents’ house. The furnace is broken. So the month of March feels the same inside as it does outside. Cold and hard. The cracks and crevices betray this old house’s aged bones. Of course the kids are better off in the warmth of my parents’ home. But I’m sitting here wrapped in fleece waiting for tomorrow’s furnace repair, and this silence that I was sure I craved feels hollow and unnatural. As soon as they’re gone I miss their noise. Silly. They’ll be home in no time. But the silence allows time…

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    Of Crackers and Crosses

      It is always over a math lesson. My son’s existential crises always start there. First it’s, “Why? Why do I have to learn this? Why do I have to do this work? Why does this matter?” And it often escalates to, “Why? Why does any of this even matter?” And, I, being just as sanguine as my son, often respond in not so helpful, heated ways to the first questions and then end up staring helplessly at his wet freckles as the tears follow. Why does any of this matter? I feel panic rising within as my small, nine-year-old son asks big, grown-up questions. As his stubbornness and rebellion collide…

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    Living Water

    I spent most of my life living next to the beautiful Lake Michigan. A vast infrastructure of pumps and pipes delivered fresh water to the tap in my childhood home. I never worried a day about water shortage. Lake Michigan links to its majestic sister lakes, Huron, Superior, Erie, and Ontario. They’re deep and they’re wide. And millions of people draw from them. Now I live a few too many miles from those shores to drink lake water. Our little farmstead has a well. This concept took some getting used to for me. Suddenly my reservoir of water changed from a blue expanse that stretches between two horizons to some…