12. Surprise

All I’ve been able to think of since I saw the prompt yesterday are a few lines from Emily Dickinson’s “Tell all the truth.” Other starting points failing, I’ll start with them: Too bright for our infirm delight / The truth’s superb surprise.

“Infirm delight.” As if our power of enjoyment is sick, weakly, housebound, perhaps, or easily tired.

And that makes me think of C. S. Lewis’s much quoted observation in “The Weight of Glory,” that “our desires [are] not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

Infirm delight, indeed.

Last night our oldest asked what we meant by “false gods” in the story of Moses in Egypt. We illustrated by suggesting he call a toy airplane “Daddy,” and see if it would help him get some water. He spent the next five minutes going around the room, calling various objects “Daddy” and trying by begging, bartering, singing, to persuade them to give him a drink. Even with his real father calling to him to come and get real water, he persisted in the game, illustrating better than we could have anticipated the futility of idolatry.

I thought of the Lord’s call in Isaiah 55:

“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread and your labor for that which does not satisfy?”

Come to Jesus, who gives water of life freely to those who thirst, who can heal infirm delight, strengthening us to receive the infinite joy He has on offer: the superb surprise of God’s grace.

©️Stacy Crouch 2020

11. Ponder

It’s a verb that mostly means “think about,” but its roots — I looked it up — are Latin words dealing with weight and weighing. Thus, its English relatives ponderous — heavy — and pound — sixteen ounces.

(Ponder those words and realize that a pound isn’t very ponderous.)

My biggest little boy is in a constant state of pondering: What is water made of? Where do bobcats live? Why do we live in the world and where would we be if we didn’t?

Mundane facts that I accept without question are for him mysteries to be discovered and treasured and repeated: the name of our town, the name of “our” airport, the fact that my parents have a bumpy gravel driveway.

The Bible says that it is the glory of God to conceal a matter, but the glory of kings to seek it out, and I ponder how our God gloried in building a universe full of mysteries and treasures to be sought out, that we might glimpse and adore our Creator.

I pray that my boy’s pondering leads him here: that his busy tongue will be busy with the glory of his God.

©️Stacy Crouch 2020

10. Experience

White spirea reaches through our backyard fence, and the yard is mud. But not flooded, and today I drove past houses up to their eyes in water, so mud is a welcome alternative.

Cold and warm fronts are preparing a clash this evening, and the meteorologists say the cold one will win. For now, it’s just grey skies, humid air, and a gusty wind that keeps our back-porch chime chiming.

My city was giving away trees last week, asking citizens to plant them as an aide to water management. Our yard is well-treed already, and I look up at them, realizing for the first time the water held suspended above my head in the arching branches, considering how live wood bends and springs back, and how dead wood cracks and splinters.

My boy asks how people make trees, and I tell him people don’t make trees. We plant them, but God makes them and makes them grow. As, similarly, He makes us and makes us grow.

But we can plant and water, as my parents did for me: teaching me of the blessed ones who walk not in the council of the wicked, nor stand in the way sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers; the ones whose delight is in the law of the Lord, who are like trees planted by streams of water.

And teaching me to build upon the Rock, not sand, so that when the rain descends, the winds blow, and the floods come and burst against the house, it will not fall.

The Lord gives growth, builds us as living stones into a house on Christ our rock, carries us secure through floods, and promises, since He is with us, they will not overwhelm us.

©️Stacy Crouch 2020

9. Learn

Today we drove past our local Bass Pro Shop — a veritable wonderland for my little boys — and my oldest piped up from the backseat: “Can we go to Bass Pro Shop?”

My husband told him we couldn’t, and my son wanted to know why.

“Because we don’t need to buy anything there today.”

“But we could look at all the stuff!”

I thought about it: in his mind it was an altogether enjoyable option, and we were literally just driving past with nothing better in view than a nap on a dreary afternoon. Why would we not take this easy path to pleasure?

And it occurred to me that a huge part of reaching maturity is learning to say no to many immediate enjoyments for the sake of the necessary mundanities of life.

But also, it involves learning to enjoy those mundanities. I still don’t always think they’re terribly fun, but it’s a good feeling to sit down and know that the laundry is both folded and put away, as tonight, for example, it is.

For me, that was worth skipping Bass Pro Shop.

©️Stacy Crouch 2020

8. Explore

This morning they took a rocket to the moon — which was purple, as it turns out — and then jumped together through the living room doorway, off the edge of the moon, and into outer space. The littler one drove the spaceship to the Other Mars.

I love the size of adventures these days: we go “exploring” at our town’s visitor center: thrilled by two wooden bridges over a drainage ditch, a non-operational fountain slightly larger than a bathtub, and four or five picnic tables beside the parking lot. I suggest we go home: “No, Mama, let’s explore a little more!”

But ordinary at-home things are terribly exciting, too: the contents of the Kitchen Drawers, the items Atop their Daddy’s Desk, the things Under my Bed. They carry magnifying glasses into the backyard and examine the undersides of rocks and fallen limbs. They study a ladybug in the windowsill with rapt attention.

And they ask all the questions:

“Is the sky real?”

“What is rubber made of?”

“Why do rockets blast off?”

“What are peanuts made of?”

“Why? What? How?”

We get so busy feeling world-weary and cynical, but have you noticed what a wonderful kind of world it is, where peanuts grow underground and almonds grow on trees, ladybugs’ feet tickle when they crawl on your arm, and days of rain leave puddles ideal for splashing? Real rockets have blasted out of our atmosphere and real people have walked on the real moon that orbits in our real sky. And not one atom of all this was accidental.

©️Stacy Crouch 2020

7. Enough

child photographer

Motherhood chronicles: How many times is enough times to patiently respond to a repeated, often painfully obvious, question?

“Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.”

So there’s that.

I don’t have enough patience. Kindness is often so far from my tongue.

But Christ’s blood is enough for these things, as well, and His divine power has granted to me all things that pertain to life and godliness.

And haven’t I been asking Him the same silly questions on repeat as long as I can remember?

And hasn’t He dealt tenderly with me?

©️Stacy Crouch 2020

6. Community

Child of a Navy officer, I’m accustomed to being the new-comer, the outsider; it got to be a habit. But it’s been fourteen years since the regular moves stopped, and I’ve lived in this particular house longer than all but one other house in my life — still less than four years.

I’m realizing, somehow, that I’m not the newcomer any longer. I recognize friends’ vehicles passing on the street outside the house. We have friends around the corner either direction we choose to walk. I see them in the grocery store; have watched their children learn to walk, talk, read; watched tentative dating relationships grow into sweet marriages. We’ve laughed and wept and prayed and celebrated together.

No longer a newcomer, mine is a house where newcomers come. And here, over hundreds of pots of coffee, dozens of bags of tortilla chips and bowls of salsa, over Bible study and hymn singing and prayer, over side-splitting laughter and bitter tears, with babies learning to dance in the middle of the floor and red beans simmering in the crock and books loaned and returned and always more dust in the house than I’d prefer, newcomers become regulars and regulars become amazingly dear.

I thought perhaps I’d never have community like this. I thought one had to be born into it. But I was born here — this kingdom of elect exiles, this family of adopted enemies-made-heirs. We were born and born again, and this is a gift indeed.

©️Stacy Crouch 2020