Thursday, October 30, 2008

or anything but hope

Strong opinions do not come easily for me.  Even having an opinion at all is sometimes difficult.  I am working on it.  Opinions are important.  They point you in a direction.  They will you.  They ground you.  

Usually my lack of an opinion is simply because I can see both sides of an issue, and cannot commit to one.  Black and white is hard for me.  We do not live in a black and white world.  We function in a million shades of color that are not always easily defined.   

People who define things so easily are hard for me.  People who arrive are hard for me.  How do you arrive?  How do you know when you've arrived, and when do you stop searching?  

They may shake their heads and lament our generation of questioning everything, but they must accept that questions still remain.  We live with them, step around them every day, all day long.  One doesn't have to admit that there is uncertainty, or pry it open, for it yet to exist all around him.  

I am quite comfortable with being unsure about a lot of things.  There are many things that I have never figured out, or thought I had but now realize I don't, and maybe never will.  I am ok with that.

Life lived among shadows is nothing new.  If anything, living without mystery is something new, something that could only evolve in our own well-lit, well-informed society.  

Consider, when was the last time you took a long walk in the dark?  Ever?  Do we ever find ourselves separated from electricity long enough to look up, to marvel, to become aware of the glorious  mystery all around?

We so easily flip a switch, and the mystery evaporates.  It is only the familiar world we know in the light.  And so we assume familiarity with all things.  We examine, and probe, and define, until things make enough sense to satisfy us and we stop. searching.  We arrive.

But shining lights are in fact only shutting out the true reality, the true breath of mystery that hovers all around us.  We cannot turn enough lights on to make it go away.  We cannot answer enough questions.  There will always be more.

Why be afraid of the dark?  

Maybe our generation is in fact old-fashioned . . . maybe rather those who live without questions, who can make so much sense of everything, are they who have adopted the modern worldview.  It is, in fact, a quite new idea, to live without mystery.

In societies that spent time under the stars, there were people who followed them.  In places where it was quiet enough, angels appeared.   An unsuspecting woman gave birth to God.

I am glad that I can say with Paul that I know whom I have believed (2 Tim 1.12) . . . and, along with Paul, that it is fellowship of the mystery (Eph.3.9) . . . .

I want to embrace the mystery.

From the library yesterday, we brought home Owl Moon . . . 
When you go owling
you don't need words 
or warm 
or anything but hope.
That's what Pa says.
The kind of hope
that flies
on silent wings
under a shining
Owl Moon

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

About Me

Eight Random Things About Me 



Hopeful. Loved.  Lover.  Life.

This, is for my husband, who would appreciate it, if I would use more, commas



Dear, Husband, and Dad, Daddy, Jim,

We, your family, one wife, two daughters, would like to tell you, how much we miss you, when you are gone.  We each, find our own methods, for coping.  Oldest, enjoys painting.  Youngest, eating.  Wife, and mother, drinks too much coffee, because she just can't sleep, without you.

We also want to thank you, Daddy, for a wonderful, happy, happy, Birthday, weekend.  Thank-you, for the birthday dates, at Steak and Shake.  For taking your girls shopping, and out of the house, so Mom, could decorate.  And, when you came home, for not complaining, or even mentioning, well only once, that just maybe, Mom went a teeny bit, overboard, on birthdays, this year.  And, for even, appearing, delighted, when everything, in your home, turned peptobismal pink, and glittery.

We, your girls, love you dearly, and don't worry, at least half, of the pepto-pink, will be put away, when you get home.



Monday, October 20, 2008

Practicing the Presence, for mothers

Finding myself distracted, shallow, complacent . . . unsure at moments which direction to turn, what is the next thing, what is the best thing?  I have found the internet and blogging to be a way out of the common loneliness of staying at home, but sometimes I let it become a way to keep me distracted and busy but not really doing anything.  My mind becomes jumbled with information that I cannot process, my anxieties increase as I run across so many ideas and things to do that I will never have time for, and my insecurities are revealed as I compare myself with people I don't know but whose blogs make them seem super-human, perfect, something I will never attain.  

I am growing more and more anxious and aware of my need to find my rest in God, to hide-out in Him a while.  

The Practice of the Presence of God, a classic little book by Brother Lawrence, teaches the discipline of focusing all of your thoughts always on God, to be constantly in communion and fellowship with him.  

This is my suggestion for "practicing the presence of God" for moms:  Have you ever noticed how much time we spend on our knees?   She drops the sippy cup.  Pick it up.  Bend over to tie a shoe.  On your knees giving baths.  On your knees reading books.  On your knees picking-up toys.  Pick them up again.  And again.  The sippy cup, again.  All day long, keeping up with kids requires bended knees.  

So I am trying, each time I find myself on my knees, which is often, to practice God's presence.  To be aware of Him, adore Him, confess to Him, acknowledge His Lordship, accept His love.  It can be as simple as breathing, as Brother Lawrence's prayer became to Him; "Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me . . . "  Or I like how Anne Lamotte describes her two most common prayers:  "Thank-You! Thank-You! Thank-You!" and, "Help me! Help me! Help me!"  I use these a lot, too.   

This is how I am trying to get back on solid ground, to that place where I am ok, and everything is going to be ok.  I only ever find this with Him.
I know that for the right practice the heart must be empty of all other things; because God will possess the heart alone; and as He cannot possess it alone, without emptying it of all else besides, so neither can He act there and do in it what He pleases, unless it be left vacant to Him.  -Brother Lawrence

Friday, October 17, 2008

Barter

Barter

by Sara Teasdale

Life has loveliness to sell,
All beautiful and splendid things,
Blue waves whitened on a cliff,
Soaring fire that sways and sings,
And children’s faces looking up
Holding wonder like a cup.
Life has loveliness to sell,
Music like a curve of gold,
Scent of pine trees in the rain,
Eyes that love you, arms that hold,
And for your spirit’s still delight,
Holy thoughts that star the night.

Spend all you have for loveliness,
Buy it and never count the cost;
For one white singing hour of peace
Count many a year of strife well lost,
And for a breath of ecstasy
Give all you have been, or could be.

I buried her long ago

One of us had to go and I found her to be the weaker.  I couldn't live with her constant nagging, the bitter complaining.  What else could I do but silence her?  She'd never have lasted anyway I am sure.  I was ashamed of her, I admit.  Though I tried to be brave to the stark world I couldn't hold her to their harsh light, couldn't bear their scrutiny.  She grew grayer and grayer, until there was no life in her and it was just as well.

Into boxes she went and we carried her corpse from house to house.  She haunted basements with her sighs.  I ignored her and stacked more boxes on top of her.

A relief when her voice was drowned-out by children.

Little by little I began to part with her pieces until there was only one box left.  One quiet, unmarked box that could easily be lost among the others.

But lately at night, when the babies are sleeping, I hear her knocking.  

I ignore her, refuse the very thought of her.   I avoid the basement because of her.  

Until more and more I cannot escape her presence . . .
Glowing patterns on a quilt.
A glimpse of something turquoise.
Autumn.
Today, it was an old letter in my grandmother's gliding pen; instructions for my mother's first turkey.

I don't believe in ghosts.  
But I've found myself saving pickle jars.

. . .

I try to reason:
Yes I hear you but really I am just fine without you.
Yes I hear you but you've been replaced and there's no room.
Yes I hear you, one day, maybe, we will talk.
Yes I hear you.
Yes, maybe today . . . if the babies will sleep . . .

An ordinary Tuesday and I pause on the basement step, turn-on a single lamp and open up the box.  

I begin, picking through bones.

And there she is, alive before me.  Not, the old grey woman I remember . . . she is young and wearing red and I know her now, the way she once was.

. . .

Out of a pickle jar comes a dripping brush.  Hurry.  I can't find my pallet, this box lid will do. Our old kitchen table is the sacred space.  I watch it become spattered by paint.

Now a third voice, from somewhere, telling me we may need that old table one day and look I'm getting paint on my clothes.  I recognize her as myself now Mother and tell her there was a day when that was all I wore and as I shmutz out the yellow I remind her how wonderful are paint-spattered clothes.  The mother laughs and remembers.

. . .

Once more, now one of us must go.  

We look at each other,
one wearing red
one, a mother
one in grey paint-spattered clothes.

This time it is the cautious one, 
the one so very afraid, 
growing weaker and grayer, 
who steps into the box.

The mother, wearing red, shuts the lid tight.


This post was written as an entry in Scribbit's October Writeaway: Ghosts

My Jesus Help This Mom post

So this Mom not only Rocks, she also falls flat on her face and begs for mercy.  

This is my Help Me Jesus post.

My almost-three year old has been as sweet and easy as pie for the past six months until yesterday when she suddenly went hysterical on me for no apparent reason, and could NOT calm down for at least an hour.  I started with jokes, then tried hugs, at one point stripped her and put her in the tub, and ended up stepping over her still freaking out sopping wet little body and praying the neighbors weren't calling the police.  I still have no idea what triggered this breakdown, but it left me exhausted, humiliated (the neighbors right outside our open windows), and feeling like a worthless mother who cannot read her child.  A failed day.

Being a stay at home mom is hard.  There are days like the one I described, that explode like a cheap diaper all over you.  And there are a lot of days spent just trying to make it till bedtime.  I never know if I'm doing it right.  I second-guess myself ALL the time.  I'm always wondering what it is my children will need to tell their therapist about me when they are older, and I'm still waiting for my daughter to look at me and say, "Thank-you Mommy, I am sure that I will grow to become an emotionally healthy, well-adjusted, generous adult because of the way you just handled that."  There are no guarantees.  No six-month evaluations followed by a raise.  Not even any way to know if you're doing it right.  I struggle every day with the loss of identity that comes with being a stay at home mom.

And it's lonely here in Cheerio-land.  Playdates and Storytime are great, but they are spent chasing runaway toddlers, interspersed with two-word conversations with other mothers. 

Wal-Mart is hell.  

Even on my most ambitious days, when I wake-up with the greatest intentions of being fully-present, with the perfect plan for a wonderfully creative, high-sensory, educational and full-o-fun kind of day . . . it doesn't always work out that way.  And I still end the day feeling like I'm not giving enough to either child.  Or what if I'm giving too much?  This is my world.

No, I wouldn't trade it for anything.  I'm just saying to those who think that being a stay at home mom is a luxury, that yes it is, but it's also hard, and maybe I shouldn't be writing this at 12:30 a.m. when all I can do is whine.

I totally identified with this:
Being a full-time parent has more to do with sacrifice than luck  

And choosing to stay at home to raise your kids is not a choice that everyone can or wants to make.  That is okay.  As hard as it is being at home, I can't imagine how hard it must be leaving them every day either.  This seems like such a brilliant solution.  

This is another related article that examines some of the studies on our culture's isolation and it's relationship to our health.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Blog Action Day: a mother's poor

Of course He knew the great risk in of Creation
the way that sin would grow
in tangled weeds among us
within us
the Great Hurt it would cause us
the way we would in turn hurt each other
The Great Unfairness
as the earth would tilt to prosper some but
The poor you will always have with you
stretching on looking on always with us.



Yes with us
among us
within us.

So perhaps
in His Great Good heart I wonder
if I may dare to wonder
at the Great Wise Heart of God
whether
His great risky plan was to give us
the poor
a keeper protector a nurturer forgiver a healer and so
He created a Mother

Forgive me if I dream here
I can't help suggesting
in the Great Goodness of our God's mothering heart
perhaps
His hope
for the poor
among us
was it by planting in mothers
His own Great Compassion Great Insisting of the Greatness of every God-image child?
To my shame
was His trust
in my animal-mother's courage
so great to believe
I would fight for all children?

Becoming a mother makes you the mother of all children. From now on each wounded, abandoned, frightened child is yours. You live in the suffering mothers of every race and creed and weep with them. You long to comfort all who are desolate. -Charlotte Gray

Sunday, October 12, 2008

This made me want to jump up and down

What has your sin taught you?
Sin is a great teacher. Of course, we all have sinned as Romans makes very clear. One of the wonderful discoveries as you work with Jesus is that he is never upset at sinners. Go through the four Gospels, it is very clear in the text.

It's amazing the energy we put into ferreting out sinners, punishing and excluding them, and yet Jesus is only upset at people who don't think they are sinners.
-from The Little Way by Richard Rohr

(forward from a friend who really should have her own blog for all the amazing quotes she finds)

Saturday, October 11, 2008

My This Mom ROCKS Post

Sweet Heather of the Extraordinary Ordinary has one of those blogs that every mother can relate to: honest, heartfelt, and just so funny. She came up with the beautiful idea for us mothers to take a break from our mommy guilt and write a post listing all of the things that we are doing well as a mother. I love this, because every night as I go to bed exhausted I wonder, if I'm this tired why do I still feel like a bad mom, and will the day ever come when I get to fall asleep thinking, this mom right here? This Mom Rocks.

So for just one itty bitty minute here, why I am, at times, a good mom:

I know that hugs are more effective than spankings and nothing heals a sad heart like being understood.

I am good at being flexible. Somedays we have playtime choretime naptime, other days we lay in the grass and enjoy the moment.

I try to cook healthy meals and Sami is a good eater, she doesn't refuse anything.

I make a big deal of experiencing God's creation . . . gardens, changing seasons, walking in the rain, sights, smells, tastes, textures.

Holidays!

Yesterday when Sami took my toast out of my hand she broke a piece off and gave it to me and said, "I'm sharing." So I guess that means I've taught her to share?

We love the library, get new books every week, and read read read!

I LOVE doing art projects with Sami and making a big creative mess.

I hope I am good at teaching my kids about healthy relationships . . . we try to model to them kindness, respect for others, forgiveness, the Golden Rule . . . and their lives are enriched by our relationships with our friends and family.

We like to go and do fun things. I try to do something fun with them every day.

Affirmation. This is something my husband is especially good at.

She is only three but I hope that I will continue to allow her to be herself, even if it means letting her wear her SPARKLE shoes EVERYWHERE WE GO.

I am trying to be good at holding onto my own person, my own dreams, continuing to grow and learn and dare, because I know that is the only way I can teach my girls confidence to be their own person and courage for following their own dreams.

I spend time in God's Word, and every day I beg Him for His wisdom and grace to make me the mom my girls need.

At least once every day I look at my girls and remember that I get to be their mom and it takes my breath away.

This is a great question for every mom! Please tell me, what are you doing really well (even if your children are grown, what did you do or what are you still doing well?) . . . or write your own post and link to it from Heather's blog!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Another wonderful theological surprise

I LOVE opening my Bible and reading something again for the first time.  The Lord revealed this sweet little surprise this week and I am still reeling.
But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. John 4.23 
I know this verse well.  It is one of those old familiar verses as much a part of my Christian vocabulary as John 3:16.  It is the verse tucked into the middle of worship services, and to be honest I was never quite sure if it was intended as a warning or self-congratulation . . . often it made me a bit self-conscious, uncertain whether I met the criteria?  I felt like I needed to do a mental check-list and make sure I had my doctrine all in order . . . Other times the verse seemed to be used in contrast to people or doctrines NOT like us, "God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are . . . ."  

So I admit that I knew this verse well but it was not one of my favorite verses, leaving me usually feeling guilty or self-righteous, one or the other.

But when I ran across it again this morning I was shocked to realize the context of the verse which apparently I had never paid attention to before.  In fact these words were spoken by Jesus and do you know who they were spoken to?  The Samaritan Woman!   Spirit?  Truth?  What did she know about Spirit or Truth? A woman, a sinner, an outcast. . . For the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans (her words, she already knew she was unacceptable in every way).  When the disciples returned and found Jesus talking with her they were shocked! . . . (Why talkest thou with her?)! (Unworthiness confirmed.  Not a likely candidate for such high standards of worship).

I have played both roles in my understanding of worship.  I have spent too many worship services battling the anxiety that I am not acceptable . . . one of those uneasy feelings that leave me trying to pinpoint what it could be exactly but only knowing that I don't feel worthy.  I have also been a disciple hall-monitoring for Jesus, sticking stars on those of us who are in and x-es those who are out.

I wonder how the Samaritan woman understood Christ's invitation to worship the Father in spirit and in truth?  Jesus' message to her?  That he already knew her, intimately, had come to her personally, waited for her, wanted to satisfy her empty life.  The Messiah, sitting eye to eye, with a woman, a Samaritan, a sinner.  Mercy.  Grace.  Redemption.  Hope.  Thats. All.  

The woman then left her waterpot and went her way into the city, and saith to the men, Come, and see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ? . . .

Isn't this all that any of us really want?  To be sought-out . . . thoroughly known . . . set free from our past . . . a new and meaningful life.  Could it be that true worship is as uncomplicated as this?  A redeemed life. . . Spirit and Truth.

And many of the Samaritans of that city believed on him for the saying of the woman, which testified, He told me all that ever I did.

At this point in the story I doubt that this precious woman had much figured out about spiritual formation, or the pillars of Jewish study, or at what place in dispensational theology the Messiah was expected to come or if he met all of the prophetic criteria for being the Messiah . . . in fact if she had known all that, she would have realized that she was not even included in that invitation to worship, that Jesus had come only for the Jews.  According to Jewish understanding of prophecy, this woman should only have expected judgment.  But Jesus had a completely different definition of Spirit and Truth worship. 

In fact, (this is so fascinating to me), the people who DID know all about Truth, who DID have all their doctrine sorted out and DID understand prophecy and WERE well acquainted with their history . . . they MISSED Jesus!  In chapter 7:  Art thou also of Galilee?  Search, and look: for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet.  And every man went unto his own house (vs.52,53).  End of discussion.  Case closed.  Jesus is from Galilee.  NOT the Messiah.

And Jesus says, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes (Matt.11.25).

I am tired of worship that excludes, and complicated, self-righteous Truth.  I am tired of religion.  I met Jesus at my own empty well.  He gave me living, springing-up, everlasting life water.  And that changed everything.

Oswald Chambers this morning says much more simply what I am grappling with:
In spiritual relationship we do not grow step by step; we are either there or we are not. . . It is a question of obedience . . . God's revelations are sealed until they are opened to us by obedience.  You will never get them open by philosophy or thinking. . . The only way you can get to know is to stop trying to find out and by being born again. . . One reads tomes on the work of the Holy Spirit, when one five minutes of drastic obedience would make things as clear as a sunbeam. . . it is not study that does it, but obedience. . . . God will never reveal more truth about Himself until you have obeyed what you know already.  Beware of becoming "wise and prudent."



What do you think?  Considering the context how does this verse strike you?  (BE NICE)!  Is it only me totally blown away again by Jesus?

Monday, October 6, 2008

Wow . . . 

I ran across this from Christine

I wonder if I know anything about what it really means to live like Christ?
 

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Our 5th Anniversary, a MacBook, and some things you should know about the King of Starch


It arrived on my birthday, delivered along with a really cool bag and a note that says, Write on, and why this represents a lot of things you should know about my husband . . . along with a few more:

Because if he's going to do it, he'll do it right.  After doing all the research, with all the extra add-on features, and never mentioning the chunk it took out of our savings.

Because he believes I have something to contribute, something to say even when I don't believe him am too busy too afraid indifferent.

Because he's a big fan of passion, of living a passionate life at any cost and nothing makes him angrier than apathy safety indifference.

Because he'd much rather me pursue my dreams than do the laundry and I know if given the choice and I choose laundry he'll be angry.

Because it was delivered to our new apartment to our new life after nine years of giving everything until there was nothing left to give.  Because that is what he does.  

Because there's no looking back only moving forward giving everything.

Because he is honest and strong and brave and comes home and is a pony or a prince and has tea parties.

Because we talk, really talk, and he really listens really wants to understand.

Because sometimes we fight hard with every bit of passion within us and then we sigh and chisel-out our words our understanding until we both are changed sharpened better even if it takes all night.

Because our passionate fights are fewer but our dreams keep getting bigger.

Because you never have to guess with him he is incapable of flattery half-truths faking it but totally capable of sincerity compassion making you feel like a million bucks.

Because every night he says this is so good even when we're having fish lentils squash all on the same night.

Because he always says I know you're the perfect one for me even when I'm grumpy frazzled not fun.

Because five years later I am better stronger happier because of him.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

If Christianity should happen to be true -- that is to say, if its God is the real God of the universe -- then defending it may mean talking about anything and everything. Things can be irrelevant to the proposition that Christianity is false, but nothing can be irrelevant to the proposition that Christianity is true. [All] things not only may have something to do with the Christian God, but must have something to do with Him if He lives and reigns. -G.K.Chesterton

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Confessing some planks

I really try to examine myself, as I know most of us do, to discover my own sin and repent.  Especially lately, as I feel the spirit of judgment rising in me so often, I try to stop and ask God to show me the planks in my own eye.  I fear that I am so judgmental of judgmental people that I am one of them, and that scares me.  I became painfully aware of two significant contradictions in my life yesterday:

I love listening to the news on NPR, and I usually have it on as I'm making dinner in the evenings.  With the constant interruptions of kids, while attempting to follow a recipe, I only catch bits and pieces.  Yesterday amidst the confusion I thought that the story was about Texas recovering from the recent hurricane . . . so my attention was fading in and out and then I heard the reporter say that the situation is hardest on widows, who are homeless and being forced to beg or resort to prostitution . . . I stopped what I was doing . . . widows . . . prostitution . . . I listened, horrified . . . the reporter continued and I soon realized that the story was about widows in Bangladesh.  I returned to what I was doing, unaffected, thinking . . . oh, it's only Bangladesh . . . .  

I would never admit being racist, but this shameful thought process reveals that apparently my compassion only extends within my own country.

My second true confession from yesterday:

A few weeks ago I found the cutest pair of shoes for Sami at BabyGap, for FIVE dollars!  I LOVE finding deals, and this was the best deal of the season . . . as anyone who tries to keep a growing toddler fitted with quality shoes will tell, shoes are SO expensive, and kids grow out of them unbelievably fast . . . these fit her perfect, and were so darn cute.  I'd never have been able to afford them if they weren't so marked down.

We went to a state park a week ago and took pictures.  We were there for a long time, and as usual things began to break down around nap time.  It was hot, Sami took her shoes off, I began to hurry the girls into the car to get home.  I realized on Sunday when we went looking for those shoes for church, that I couldn't remember seeing them since that day at the park.  I fretted about it all day, and first thing Monday called the park to see if they'd been turned in.  No luck.  Tuesday I kept looking and asking around, and by Wednesday I am just sick about these lost shoes!  I found myself praying about them throughout the day, and last night I'm lying in bed wide awake, thinking about these dumb shoes.  

And I am forced once again to see what a hypocrite I am . . . I have a prayer list that goes neglected for days.  I don't give as much concern or prayer to any situation where there is true suffering.   And here I am in my post yesterday looking down my nose at baby Gap winners.  Forgive me.  I am, as you can see, a huge hypocrite.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

miracles miracles everywhere

I try to keep in mind as the seasons change that everything is still the first time for Annie.  Today is the coolest day we've had, and when I took her outside the breeze was cold on her cheeks and I saw her eyes light up . . . imagine living in a world still holding such surprises!  One day there is golden sunshine and the next a cold blue breeze . . . the tree outside your window suddenly puts on shocking red pajamas, and then he shakes himself and is naked!  Bright little bowls of color burst out of the ground all around, until one day flowers are replaced by giant orange glowing balls . . . yesterday you played in warm green grass, today the sky is dropping water on your cheeks.

There are only two ways to live your life.  One is as though nothing were a miracle.  The other is as though everything were a miracle.  -Albert Einstein