The More Things Change

September 3, 2013 | 23 comments

I see it all with startling clarity, right before the last bit of daylight slips under those yellowing fields, all swaying like a lion’s mane.

I stand still, with my arms crossed, a fair distance away, watching my two daughters and a dozen other 4-H children out by the fence at a neighbor’s farm. The whole glad scene unfolds in silhouette against the sinking sun.

That’s when I see the truth of it: time has a way of folding over on itself.

Suddenly, I am the little girl, wearing a blue-plaid shirt with pearly buttons ringed in silver. I’m the brunette bending down to pick up pumpkins, helping fill the back of a pickup truck with bright-orange orbs, hoping I’m stacking things up right, but not quite sure, because I’m self-conscious and awkward.

And there I am again, over by the pines. My head tips back with laughter at a joke that my mother (hopefully) can’t hear, and someone scolds me a few embarrassing seconds before I touch the electric fence. Then, I’m wrapping my arms around my whole self as the autumn breeze wriggles through the trees, catching my still-tanned limbs by surprise.

And later, when the monthly 4-H meeting begins on the front porch of the farmhouse, my sister sits on the step next to me; we argue over who has more room. One sister calls the other a “dummy.” And just then, a boy—still getting used to his deepening voice—calls the meeting to order with the help of a gavel.

A hush falls over the porch. We stand to recite the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag, and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, under God.

I’m just a kid, pledging it all to that tiny little flag, flapping on a wooden stick in the breeze, feeling my young heart beat under my palm.  I feel like so much of my life is ahead of me. And I’m absolutely right about that.

And then the 4-H leader calls for nominations for president, vice president and secretary. I fidget nervously and smooth down that stubborn cowlick while trying to muster up a shred of courage. I stand up tall in that moment when, at last, she asks if anyone would like to run for the position of 4-H reporter. The winner will be responsible for writing news stories about the meetings for the local weekly.

I am surprised by how much confidence spills out of my mouth when my own voice explains why I should be the club’s reporter for the year.

I didn’t see it the first time around, all those years ago, but my sister—the same sister who called me a dummy on the concrete stair—she’s looking up at me like she’s never been prouder. I don’t think I ever noticed how she patted me on the back after I won the election, even though it was uncontested. Another thirty years will pass before I remember that one, when my two girls replay the whole scene in front of me.

And I’m 99.9 percent sure that I never, ever saw this. I’m not altogether certain she was even there, because I wasn’t paying attention. I never noticed the woman in the back, my mother. I never saw the way she was sitting with her chin resting on her hand, watching the way a child finds untapped bravery and the way a sister lends quiet support and the way that time creases in layers, until two generations are no longer a span of years, but a stretch of mirrors.

And no one could have seen this: How the same mother gathered it all up, like a long string of memory, like she wanted to double-stick-tape it to the folds of her soul, so she wouldn’t forget that in a world filled with change, some things stay remarkably the same.



reposting from the archive


This song? It would make a beautiful soundtrack for any of us discovering that time has a way of folding over on itself. It is written and performed by Iowa native, Rachel Rhodes, the daughter of a dear friend of mine, Ann, who I’ve come to love through our work together at a spiritual retreat here in Iowa.

If you like the song, you’ll love to know that it’s FREE, right here!

You can also purchase the whole album, entitled Heartland, by clicking here.


So, what’s your Story? A #TellHisStory is any story that connects your story into the story of God.

For details on the #TellHisStory linkup, click here: Be sure to find someone (or two) in the link-up to encourage with a comment. Come back on Friday to visit our Featured #TellHisStory, in the sidebar.

Your words matter to God. They matter to people. And they matter to me!


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by | September 3, 2013 | 23 comments


  1. Dea Moore

    With the opportunities I have had to travel to many places in the world, I will say that we all share so much in common across cultures and through the ages. What your mom wanted for you and your sister and what you want for your girls is no different in Haiti, or Cuba, Moldova, or Costa Rica and the list could go on and on…to only notice it…so thankful you did.

  2. lynndmorrissey

    It was beautiful the first time, and beautiful again. I’m glad you unfolded the story again, and I know your mother is reading, her head resting upon her chin, proud all over again at her lovely daughter and now, two precious granddaughters.

  3. Amy

    It’s such an incredible gift when we see as in a rearview mirror, isn’t it? SUCH a gift. It reminds me then that nothing is wasted and all is purposed for His glory. He takes those tiny moments and makes them big for us. This story is so personal and even your words couldn’t capture the heart of it all for you, deep inside. Yet, He knows the intricacies of it all. And for you to see your girls the way you do, it really helps you to bend low and love more fully, eh? What gifts! Gifts upon gifts. To Him, glory be.

  4. Kris Camealy

    I love this perspective, Jennifer. Your words remind me to look, to observe from the back of the room, and remember these days… This is beautiful, my friend. So glad you re-posted, as I am not sure I read it the first time around. ((hugs))

  5. Lisa notes...

    This is so beautiful, Jennifer. I remember being in 4-H too. I was probably just as oblivious to my mom’s support in the crowd, but I know now that she was always there.

  6. Kim @ Kim's County Line

    I don’t remember this one, so I am delighted you reposted. So much in common … I, too, was a 4-H reporter, and I was then the Mom who sat in the back of the room as my children were elected to positions of leadership. Life – it keeps on circling, doesn’t it? You describe life and motherhood so beautifully. Thank you, Jennifer.

  7. Sandra Heska King

    I loved this the first time. I love it again. I double-stick-taped it to the folds of my heart. And I love this song!

  8. Karrilee Aggett

    Simply beautiful – to slow it down and drink it in and stay right here in the moment… to notice how the circle continues on – our mothers in us…. us in our girlies… and Him all in with each of us! (Beautiful song too!)

  9. Dolly@Soulstops

    Oh…love this…”double tape stick to my soul”…so precious, Jennifer 🙂

  10. Sheila at Longings End

    Beautiful story telling as usual, Jennifer. And whenever you mention anything “news related” well, I can relate, having been trained and having worked for years as a reporter/magazine writer. Now writing stories from my heart to touch a heart and hopefully help heal a soul. Thanks so very much for your weekly link up. Blessings to you, my sister…

  11. Deb Anderson Weaver

    Your words and heart cries are beautiful, Jennifer. You have a way of sharing a story that pulls others in and enables them to see it through their own experiences and sends them off encouraged. Thank you.

    Hoping to sharing my appreciation for you in person at Allume!

    Deb Weaver

  12. livingrealblog

    Thanks for coming by and reminding me to return and comment on this awesome post. I read it earlier, joined the linky, and forgot to leave a word or two. I wasn’t in 4H, but was in FFA, and have some wonderful memories, like winning the tri-colored ribbon at the fair for my Lemon Cake (actually my Mom’s recipe and her help in baking it). It was auctioned off for $40. I was so disappointed because I had to leave it at the fair, and didn’t get to eat any of it. Like Dolly, I love this; ”double tape stick to my soul”!

  13. Jennifer Camp

    Oh, your brave heart–and yes, how is all circles around. Just beautiful. Your tender words make me slow, inviting me to look closer at the beauty of this day, this moment. Thank you, Jennifer.

  14. Simply Beth

    I’m so glad you decided to post this again so I had the chance to read. Beautiful! What grabbed my heart most I must say was the vision of children standing and reciting “the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag, and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, under God.” Gives me goosebumps!

    So much good in this post. Thank again for sharing it a 2nd time.


  15. Lyli @ 3-D Lessons for Life

    ok, I know everyone is saying the post is beautiful… but I really must say that those 2 precious girls are beautiful. Love those smiles! These pictures captured my heart. 🙂

  16. joanneviola

    I am so glad that you shared it as this was a first for me 🙂 It is beautiful! And so very true how we come full circle. We become caught in the middle – our mothers in us & us in our children. Amazing how the generations pass. Lovely to read!

  17. Nancy Ruegg

    Sometimes we embrace change, but more often, I think, we celebrate the familiar that has become beloved over time. Thank you for reminding us, in your beautiful prose, the value of repeated moments that honor the past. Those of us with a large collection of memories (!) especially appreciate the cyclical nature of those moments.

  18. JulieS

    Wow, Jennifer. I love the way you observe your world — the yellowing fields, the self-conscious awkwardness, the stubborn cowlick. You draw me into your world by painting pictures for me. But, your pictures allow me to experience my own world, too, prompt me to observe. Thank you.

    And I share your gratefulness in knowing that “time folds” over on itself. I see it unfolding before my eyes as my boys enter adulthood. They are making their own decisions now, apart from my husband me. Asserting their own way, but still looking back for an encouraging smile from me. It’s humbling.

    And, I wait with wonder at what the next 10 years will bring. I just hope I have the discipline to watch and observe like you’ve modeled. Again, thank you.

  19. Nicki Edwards: Day to Day Trusting God

    I read your words and I have to read them again. And then again. I simply love how you write. What a gift God has given you Jennifer. Thank you for sharing this post. Blessings and love from Australia to you. x

  20. RinaPeru

    You have a beautiful way with words, Jennifer. Lump in my throat and near-tears as I finished reading. I was blessed with a rich childhood, too, and I’ve been contemplating on writing stories about them, but, I’m fearing lest I can’t write as richly. Your words are replete with color, vibrancy, life! To God be the glory!

  21. Kelly Greer

    Your story just took me back in time…eight grade, and I ran the school newspaper. I had totally forgot about that! Thank you for helping me remember the unfolding of not only time, but of me…You gave me a big gift here today Jennifer! Thank you!

  22. Lisa @ FSL

    Jennifer- your words always, always, bring out the beauty of the pen and scribing your soul on the fabric of life. My heart thanks you for this treasure.



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