Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Gifts I Wish I Could Give My Children

Dear Sami and Anna Joy,

The presents have all been unwrapped, but the tree is still shining and I can't sleep.  Thinking about the gifts we gave you for Christmas, and what things I really wish I could give you, if I could give you anything . . . 

I would give you mystery.  I hope that everything doesn't ever make perfect sense to you.  I hope you will embrace that gap, will peer into it with childlike faith and hope and imagination.

The gift of laughter.  Especially at those times when life is too serious, too dark, too ordinary.  I wish I could give you the ability to find the irony, the hilarious, the deep gut-busting soul-cleansing kind of laughter that heals you.  

Art.  Art in word or image or song or friend.  I hope, when you need it most,  you will find art that blows away the dust, sings you to sleep, shatters your idols, saves you.

The grace of failure.  If I could, I would let you fail enough for you to understand grace, how to give and to receive it, but protect you from the failures that will break your heart.

Healthy debate.  Just when you begin to think you know everything. 

A true friend.

Silence.  To hear the snow crunch.  To hear the still small voice.

Story.  Your own, the story of people, the story of God.  The ability to enter into story; to be moved, believe, become.

Language.  The strength of words, of understanding, the wealth of vocabulary.

Wonder.  I hope that storms and stars, science and art and green green grass will always take your breath away.

The ability to forgive.  This gift will always be the hardest, the most painful, the most necessary.

To see the Good, the God-image, in every person.

Simplicity.  Simplicity of faith, simplicity of wealth, simplicity of purpose, simplicity of desire.

Gratitude.  "It is gratefulness which makes the soul great."  

Freedom and rest in the unchanging, everlasting love of Christ.

I know I cannot give you these things; I am only beginning to learn how to accept them myself.  But every year when I fill your stocking, and every day these are what I hope for you to find, at the times when you need them most.

Friday, December 18, 2009

A little of what's been happening around here

Christmas . . . I didn't go crazy this year, with anything.  This year it's just the basics; a little baking,  a few presents,  some lights on the tree.  I am really, really enjoying the season this year.  I did manage to get the girls dressed in their Christmas dresses one day and my friend Summer took their pictures.  They turned out great.  (The dresses I bought after Christmas last year for EIGHT dollars!!  I've been excited all year for the girls to wear them, but, mostly to get to tell about the great deal I got!)

Here we are making sugar cookies . . . like the reindeer antlers?  She wears them everywhere.  Love it! 


I'm running low on energy this Christmas and high on trouble. My happy-go-lucky Anna Joy has recently become a tough one- whiny, irritable, wanting to be held every minute that she isn't finding something to destroy. Yesterday she took a hammer, a pen, and a fork to the walls, all in the morning, and then boycotted her nap during the time that I MOST desperately needed her to sleep, so I could meet a deadline AND get the house and dinner ready for my father-in-law's birthday dinner.  But then she wore a ridiculous scarf and hat around all day and it's hard to be mad when she's so darn funny.   Trying to remember, when she acts like this, that there is a reason and I need to try to set aside what I think needs done and give her a little extra TLC.   (She how sweet she is in this picture?  She's actually plotting how she'll grab the camera from me and throw it across the room).

I have been waiting for the day that my girls will discover  dress-up clothes!  
Little by little, since Sami was born, I've been collecting dress-up clothes: old prom and bridesmaid dresses that people were getting rid of, crazy hats and shoes, my old cheerleading outfits and waitressing aprons . . . I put it all together in a cedar chest that my grandpa made, with a full-length mirror next to it, in their basement playroom. For Christmas I've collected a few more dresses, and, the thing Sam will love the most, Amish dresses!

Finally hit my third trimester!  Every morning Sami looks at me and exclaims how BIG!  REALLY REALLY BIG!! I am.  Lovely. 

I am so so happy to be feeling so well, but my hormones this time are making me crazy!  Today someone beeped at me in the parking lot, and in the store I turned to him and said, Hey, what did I do wrong!?  (In the kindest, most Christlike way, or course!)  I have never done something like that before . . . he's lucky I didn't burst into tears!  (I don't know how my husband puts up with me).

We rented Julie and Julia last night- LOVE it- it's about my two favorite things, cooking and blogging!   

Other good things- my brother Joe is home, friends coming this weekend, and it's finally snowing!  Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Examen

My pastor's wife lent me a book, Simple Ways to Pray for Healing, by Matthew Linn, Sheila Fabricant Linn, and Dennis Linn, when I got sick.  It is a rich little book, with a lot to chew on regarding healing.  I also quoted this book here .  

At the end of the book is a chapter titled The Examen, which describes a process used to end each day. 
Every night we gather together, light a candle, look back over the day and ask ourselves two questions:  For what am I most grateful?  For what today am I least grateful?  We can ask these questions in different ways, for example,

When today did I give and receive the most love?  
When today did I give and receive the least love?  

What moment today gave me the most life?  
What moment today drained life out of me?  

This spiritual tradition is used as a way to get in touch with consolation and desolation; the two interior movements that help discern the guidance of the Spirit within us.
As a person who has often struggled with discerning my true voice, with acting upon what truly gives me life versus being led by pleasing people or keeping peace, this has been a really valuable tool for me.  It is a good way to think through any issue or problem, decision, or determining vocation.  "Because we can assume that God always wants to give us more life, the simple examen questions can guide us to greater wholeness in any situation."

Children can do the examen.  I want my girls to know what they really do want, and I find this a great way to help them to understand themselves, to notice their own feelings and have an opportunity to express them.  It also gives me an opportunity to hear and understand them, as they can express things that they may not otherwise verbalize.  I modify the questions, such as What was your happiest time today?, and What was your saddest time today?

Most nights they only want to tell me the best part of the day, and can't really think of a sad time.  But one night I had a really teachable moment with my oldest.  A person we had been with that day kept pointing out how shy she is, and they kept saying it in front of Sami, in a way that sounded negative, even though I don't think she meant it negatively.  It bothered me, because I hate when people put labels on kids; I know that kids are always changing, she can be shy at times or outgoing at times . . . anyway, I observed from her expression that it may have bothered her, but I didn't expect it to still be on her mind at bedtime that night.  When I asked her what was her saddest time, she said that it was when she was feeling shy.  I was able to talk with her about how everybody feels shy sometimes, and it's not a bad thing, that I know she isn't always shy, but when she does feel shy it's okay.   I was so glad that these questions brought out something that was weighing on her, and allowed me to talk it over with her.

The girls always want to hear the best and worst parts of my day, and I think it's a good way for them to know me, too.

The daily examen can be a really life-giving way hear the way that the Spirit leads you by reflecting on your own responses to things, learning to pick-up on patterns, negative and positive feelings, and using those signals to help discern what gives you life, and what takes life from you.  





Saturday, December 12, 2009

optimists and dreamers

I like optimists.

I like people who dream things, people who see visions, people who follow stars.

I like people who turn grief into gift, people who pray with hands and feet and wallets and cool cups of water

I like miracle-workers. 

People like this are ageless.  You meet them and their energy spills onto you.  And then life goes on, but they remain in your mind always just as they were.   And if ever you meet again, after everything has changed you find, nothing has changed.  They are still dreaming and doing impossible things and watching the sky.

And so, when some such friends are in need of a miracle of their own, and another such friend sees a vision of making a miracle happen, I want to be a part.

James and Kelly are in the process of adopting a child from Ethiopia, you can read about their journey here.  They experienced a disappointment recently related to the tremendous amount of money that they need to bring their son home.  But really it wasn't a setback, but only an opportunity for the people who love them to participate in making a miracle happen for them.

The dream is for 200 people to give $100 dollars, to raise the $20,000 needed by Christmas!  (Yes, that is now less than two weeks away).   This may seem impossible if you don't know James and Kelly.  But if your path has crossed with theirs, and you remember the grace and peace that trails after them, the amazing amount of people their lives touch, you will believe that this is not only possible, but quite certainly a miracle about to happen.

And so, if you have been blessed to have known James and Kelly and would like to offer a gift; or, if you have not known them, but are yourself an extravagant, believing star-follower, please consider donating, $100, or $5, or $10, or whatever you may have to give.  Simply contact me (jessica ellen stock at hotmail dot com)  and I will send you the address to mail your check to.  A great bundle of checks will be presented to them on Christmas morning!  Can you imagine the thrill!  Please mail your gift quickly so it can reach them by then! 

Grace and peace, wonder and joy to you this Christmas!





 


Monday, December 7, 2009

Links- anger, amazement, crumb cake

. . . come to think of it, this title pretty much sums up my life right now.

I painted the bathroom this weekend.  As is typical of all of my projects, I painted it once, hated the color, painted it a second time and I think I like it.  It was a good chance to listen to some good podcasts.  On Saturday I got to hear the entire program of the Splendid Table, love it!  It is always so inspiring and makes me want to devote my life to finding the perfect crumb cake, or the best cafe in the country.    Obviously, I have moved beyond running to the toilet at the the mere thought of putting a fork to my mouth.

(Speaking of, a few have asked and I am feeling extraordinarily normal for the first time that I can ever remember while pregnant.  With both of the girls, I felt what I would describe as seasick the entire nine months, and had morning sickness off and on the whole pregnancy.  Not to mention constant heartburn, etc. etc.  I am so so thankful to be able to enjoy this pregnancy, and be able to keep up with life as usual!)

On Sunday I listened to a Speaking of Faith about Abraham Joshua Heschel.  Such an inspirational life.  One of the things that stood out to me was his belief in the spirituality of amazement, that this is a real basis of belief/God/ how to live.  He marched with Martin Luther King, Jr., protested the Vietnam War, was passionate about the rights and dignity of every human being . . . he "insisted that the opposite of good is not evil, it is indifference."  

Another thing that Heschel said (paraphrasing) is that all of your beliefs are summed up in a life . . . what kind of person you are, what kind of life your beliefs cause you to live.  

Also they discussed learning from Heschel what it is to cling to one's beliefs in a pluralistic society, while at the same time respecting all people; he understood how to sensitively dialogue and work with people of a variety of different faiths, without denying his own deeply held beliefs.  There is too much to quote . . . this is my favorite by Heschel:
To pray is to take notice of the wonder, to regain a sense of the mystery that animates all beings, the divine margin in all attainments. Prayer is our humble answer to the inconceivable surprise of living. It is all we can offer in return for the mystery by which we live. Who is worthy to be present at the constant unfolding of time? Amidst the meditation of mountains, the humility of flowers wiser than all alphabets---clouds that die constantly for the sake of god's glory, we are hating, hunting, hurting. Suddenly we feel ashamed of our clashes and complaints in the face of the tacit glory in nature. It is so embarrassing to live! How strange we are in the world, and how presumptuous our doings! Only one response can maintain us: gratefulness for witnessing the wonder, for the gift of our unearned rights to serve, to adore, and to fulfill. It is gratefulness which makes the soul great.-Abraham Heschel
Jim read an article that said the angriest Americans tend to be young people, and parents with young children at home.  I have to admit that I have experienced a broader range of emotions, and more negative emotions, in the past few months.  Sometimes my anger takes me completely by surprise, and I overreact or can't seem to let go of things that ordinarily wouldn't bother me.  I suppose there are some pregnancy hormones at work here, but we talked about why, according to this study, people with children are most likely to be the angriest . . . once again, Ann says it best . . . it's part of receiving the gift.  (I love this woman).

Oh, and speaking of things that anger and amaze me.

I haven't gotten to go anywhere lately because the girls both have pink eye.  They look terrible! 

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

I am really enjoying living in our sweet little town, however I have a strong suspicion that our tiny library is under some fierce censorship.  (On the positive side, if you are a fan of "Inspirational Literature", you would be very happy here).  So, simply because it was the only book I could grab that intrigued me, combined with my curiosity over all of the chatter about the series among women in their 30s . . . made me decide to see for myself what all of the fuss is about.  I read the first Twilight book, and yes, it's cheesy in parts and more than a little eye-rolling sappy . . . but, it did hold my attention and even kept me admittedly captivated by this dangerous but dreamy teenage boy- er- vampire.   Who hasn't experienced a similar crush?  I don't know that I'll read the rest of the series . . . if you don't plan to read them, or don't mind a plot spoiler, this is hilarious.

Ruth wrote a post about a series of sermon podcasts by Greg Boyd on poverty, particularly one titled "A Touch of Reality," about people in poverty perhaps greater than material poverty, those who are relationally poor, people who nobody notices.  He talked about some of the invisible people in our society, how those are the people Christ spent his time with, to tell them that they are real.  It is a really moving sermon, perhaps the best kind of "Christmas" message.

Speaking of Christmas, this is a great post: We're Expecting  
 . . . I submit that there are purposes in our stables as well.

Be well!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

What If Jesus Meant All That Stuff?

It's been another pleasant weekend, particularly in the food category.

Jim and I got a date on Friday, did a little Christmas shopping, and got to eat at our favorite Indian Restaurant.  I heart Indian food all the time, but when I'm pregnant, I dream about it.

Today the Hartzler family gathered for Thanksgiving at my grandparents'.  We are so blessed that both of my grandparents on this side are still so healthy and active.  My grandma continues to insist on fixing the entire feast for the whole family . . . I've lost track of how many that is now . . . four children, eleven grandchildren . . . I forget how many great-grandchildren, and a few great-great grandchildren!  My grandma's cooking is amazing . . . homemade bread and jam, pies, creamed peas, turkey, stuffing, potatoes, noodles . . . this is one very satisfied pregnant woman tonight!  

Here are some links I liked this week . . . I'm going hunting for ice cream.

What If Jesus Meant All That Stuff?
Shane Claiborne- Letter to Non-Believers, in Esquire magazine

Sunday, November 15, 2009

An Invitation to the Perfect Saturday

Wait for a warm and sunny late-autumn day, and find your way to Amish Country.


Wear something pink and sparkly, because it makes my girls very happy.


We'll start the day at Der Dutchman.  I recommend the breakfast buffet, even if you're not pregnant.


We'll go the the Farm at Walnut Creek.  It is beautiful there.

We'll take a wagon ride . . . or, in the winter, a sleigh ride!


We'll linger with with llamas . . .


 Jest with giraffes . . .
Visit an Amish home and Dottie house . . . don't you just love the word Dottie house?  Doesn't it make you want one?  


Smell the fresh bread . . .


Drool over the canning cellar.  
Think that all is right with the world.


Play on the playground, dig in the dirt until you get crabby.

Stop at Walnut Creek Cheese on the way home, for just a little bit of everything.

Come to the Stocks' for dinner . . . I'll make you this carrot cake!

We'll watch the Buckeye beat Iowa . . . or maybe we'll fall asleep on the couch reading Real Simple.

End a perfect autumn day!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

water

This is a video everyone should watch . . . I snagged it from my friend Ruth's blog.



I only lived in Haiti for less than two years . . . not long enough to say that I did much of anything . . . but Haiti lives with me every day.  I remind myself all the time that I do not need or deserve for life to be this easy.  I still feel guilty when I flush the toilet, knowing that the clean water in our commodes is something that most of the world must travel a great distance to find. Honestly, every time I turn on the dishwasher or do the laundry, a little part of me says, This is amazing.  Do not forget to be amazed.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Do It Again . . .






"Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, "Do it again"; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, "Do it again" to the sun; and every evening, "Do it again" to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we."
— G.K. Chesterton

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Mommy Needs Girl Time


I happen to be sitting in a McDonald's where a giant flat screen is blaring a certain cable news channel, and it made me want to turn around and leave.  It's not only this particular cable news channel that irritates me, but nearly all cable news . . . I cannot watch cable news without feeling like I'm being manipulated into panic and terror and suspicion and hatred . . . none of which seem very Christlike or spirit-controlled.  I love, love, National Public Radio and Public Television.  It seems more balanced, in-depth and less reactionary than the cable stations.  And there is always something interesting to learn or think about.  And we don't have cable anyway!

I got to get away this past weekend and it was fabulous.  A girls' weekend away with no kids, and the fun part was that my two girlfriends are pregnant, too, so I didn't have to feel fat.  We invited our mothers to come along, and we shopped, ate, talked without being interrupted . .. did I mention there were no kids?  I love my children dearly, but some time away does a Mama good!  I came back feeling like I'd retrieved some parts of myself that tend to slip away in the dailiness of motherhood.

It became really clear to me again how much women need connection with other women.  We need time to talk, and we need to be able to talk about things other than our kids and life within the four walls of our homes.  When I had my first baby my mom told me, now is the time in your life when you will need your friends more than ever.  I think every day how true.

The other thing the weekend reminded me was of who I was, and still am, before I became a mom.  Without realizing it, I can tend to become so consumed with my kids and our routines, that I let myself go- my appearance, my intellect, my interest in the things I used to do before children.  I think it's really important that our children see us engaged with the world . . . challenging ourselves . . . trying new things . . . maintaining some interests that don't involve them.  For our own sake, and also for the sake of our children.  That is the kind of woman I hope my girls will become, so I had better be modeling it.

Nikole, one friend from the weekend, just had her baby yesterday and I got to go hold him and drool all over him this afternoon!!

Well, if this seemed random and superficial forgive me . .. Glenn Beck is about to send me over the edge.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Why I (still) Like Christians: Camp Buckeye!

Why I (still) like Christians:  
Camp Buckeye!

(That is me on the right and my best friend Jenny on the left at Camp forever ago.  I forget the guy's name . . .
 and it was Nerd Night, people.  I'm supposed to be dressed like that).

This post has been written in my head for a long time . . . 

Summertime means Camp.  It always has.  

Camp Buckeye is a small, grassroots Christian camp in our area that our family became involved with when we were kids.  We all started out as campers, and most summers one or more of us still find our way back to camp, in one form or another.  

Of my three brothers and I, a couple of us are pretty turned-off to organized religion.  There is some cynicism among us, maybe a skeptic or two, a little disbelief.

We all still believe in Camp Buckeye.

Nate and Vi are these idealist-types who catch a dream and actually pursue it, whatever the cost . . . and twenty-five years later, when most people their age have retired and bought a condo, their campfire is still burning.

He was a teacher, she was a social worker.  They gathered the people and resources to purchase an old boyscout camp with this vision:  God, kids, and the woods.  That's. All.

And from it's shear simplicity, something miraculous happens, Every. Summer.

Each year, Camp raises funds and works with local social services to provide scholarships for kids who would never otherwise have the chance to attend camp.  

Every year, kids from devastatingly broken lives, and church-going kids from middle-class Christian homes live together and hike and swim and sing songs, and the church-going kids don't know the difference.

Every year, the same kids have head lice, or nightmares, or don't get picked-up on time. 

Every year, counselors hear stories that would break your heart.

Every year, God is in the woods and the kids know it. . . .  Maybe it's the fresh air and healthy food.  Maybe it's the silence, or the green beauty, or the lack of television and rotten parents and labels . . . but there is safety, and tangible love, and grace, and kids. just. know . . . God is there.

Maybe these kids will never ever enter into a church.  But they have had a week in the woods, God was there, and somewhere, something green begins to grow.

I'm always amazed at the way that camp affects the counselors.  Sixteen, seventeen year old kids who if not at camp would likely be at the mall or working out . . . are given a chance to be a part of something bigger than themselves.  They fall in love with the kids, their heart breaks, and it changes them . . . .  Camp finds the idealist in everyone.  Given the opportunity, idealism opens wide in teenagers.  At camp, when given responsibility and told to go make a difference, they thrive.

I had the opportunity to work at the camp for a year or so, and I saw up close the kind of sacrifice that goes into maintaining camp:
The goals are huge.
The work is endless.
There are never enough funds.
There is an organizational nightmare required to keep it running that I can not even begin to grasp.

It may run on the tightest budget, and have the simplest agenda of any ministry that I have been a part of . . . and it just may be the most fruitful.

Nate and Vi are still the backbone of camp, still dreaming, giving, working . . . tirelessly . . . to maintain a place for kids to meet God every summer.  There would have been plenty of reasons to become burnt-out, plenty of hours of work never noticed, but somehow they keep ahold of their idealism, their simplicity, their love for God, kids, and the woods. 

And that, is one of the reasons why I (still) like Christians.
 
I  grabbed this quote from Vi's facebook status, because I think that it sums-up perfectly the work that they have given their lives to at Camp:
No moral effort that has for its final issue only the destruction of sin can hope to be successful. The motive is inadequate , and the undertaking is impracticable. You cannot fight the moral battle armed w/negatives---no matter how sound those negatives may be. Jesus did not come to destroy thorns. He came to grow fir-trees. He did not come to uproot briers. He came to plant myrtles. As the one grows the other dies. Instead of the useless shall come up the serviceable; instead of the ugly shall come up the beautiful; instead of the thing that wounds shall come up the thing that heals. This principle of displacement, this ousting of evil... by good, runs through the teaching of Jesus"
 -A Thornless World by Percy C. Ainsworth - Weavings

My brain feels sorta like the cracks in my kids carseats- all linty and fuzzy and full of old gunk that should not be there.  

I'm trying folks, really.  I'm trying.

Here's a link to chew on.  


Friday, November 6, 2009

So I have failed twice in my attempt to blog every day for one week.  Geesh.  Well I heard that November is blogging month, or something like that, so maybe I will keep trying (and failing) for the rest of the month.  If nothing else, it keeps me thinking and it's good for me to do something for myself other than counting the days until I'm no longer pregnant.

This one is for yesterday . . . I'll hopefully get another Why I still Like Christians post up during naptime today!

My brother Joe's latest commercial . . . he's the one on the couch:


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Why I (Still) Like Christians- my parents!

Is it obnoxious to write about your great parents?  Kind of like the parents who speak a little too highly of their children?  Well, I'll try to keep it light and not gush.  But if I'm writing about people who've influenced my faith, I have to start with my mom and dad.  They're the first Christians I knew.  And, if it is true that your image of God is cultivated in the first few years of your life, then they have a lot to do with my perception of God the Father.

It's difficult to sum up 32 years of observing someone's faith.  So I'll stick to the first things that come to mind.

I love my parents because they don't take themselves, or anything, too seriously.  Did I grow up in a legalistic home?  Some may perceive that I did, but I disagree.  We were pretty conservative- we went to church A LOT.   I had to fight hard to go to dances or watch certain movies.  My parents always voted Republican, they didn't drink (in front of us).  But I don't think of our home as legalistic because of how lightly they took those issues.  They didn't make the rules the point, and they were really open-minded about different opinions.  My three brothers and I have all grown up to break the rules in one way or another . . . we're all completely different, with wildly different (strong) opinions and beliefs.  Our family gatherings are loud with heated debated, but rather than being tense, it is hilarious.  I never laugh harder than when my family is arguing about money, religion, and politics . . . I suppose we have learned from my parents not to take ourselves too seriously, either.

My parents sincerely want to obey God, which means that they have always been open to examining themselves and changing their mind and admitting where they were wrong.  They still vote Republican, but there are things they like about the Democrats.  We have wine with dinner.  Rather than going to church on Wednesday nights, my parents invite us to dollar burger night at the Tavern on Wednesdays.

So if the Rules weren't the point, what do they take seriously?  My parents genuinely, really really like people.  I don't remember them being critical or holding grudges or saying that they didn't like someone.  We didn't sit around and criticize people for fun, or try to judge other people's motives.  They loved having people around, anyone was welcome in our home.  Not that they were perfect, of course.  They experienced hurtful relationships and frustrating people, and they talked about it, but they didn't dwell on it, and they were quick to let it go.  They place a lot of value on their friendships.  I don't think my parents ever consciously tried to teach us this, be we have all grown up respecting people and attempting to see the good in them.

There was a lot of grace in our home.  It took a while to get into trouble, and forgiveness came quickly.

We laughed a lot.

Their marriage, and faith, was really resilient.  I watched them go through difficult times, heal, grow, and become stronger. 

My parents were generous.  My dad owned his own business, and there were a lot of lean years when he wondered about paying the bills.  But even when finances were tight, even when they couldn't afford extra things, I always, always saw them writing checks to missionaries, giving to the church, giving here and there as they saw needs.  I know they wouldn't want me declaring that to the whole world . . . sorry!

They take work and fun seriously, too.  They believe in hard work, but believing that God gives us all things richly to enjoy, they don't feel a bit guilty about taking time for fun either. 

My parents are both optimistic, positive, and deeply grateful people.  Here's an example:  my dad has spent the past several years trying to cultivate a small grove of fruit trees.  This summer he told us how a couple of the trees had died, and the rest had yet to bear any fruit- except one.  One tree that year produced one tiny apple.  And it was a good apple!  He said, triumphantly.  This sums up my dad perfectly.

There are many other things I could say here, but these are the first that come to mind.  From my parents, I have an image of a God who is much bigger than our simple rules and opinions.  God, to me, isn't even all that concerned with the rules, but rather with my heart and how I treat my neighbor.  Thanks to my parents, I know a gracious, generous God, a laughing God who sits at your table and discusses things with you rather than shouting at you from the sky.  The God I know satisfies you with fulfilling work to do, and is pleased when we take time to enjoy life too.

Thanks, Mom and Dad, for being this kind of example to me of genuine faith.  How could I help but follow a God like the one you have shown me?

(This is the first post in a series of Why I (still) Like Christians, based on this post).

Monday, November 2, 2009

Why I Like Christians

After my post on Saturday and asking myself Why do I still believe, I was instantly reminded of the many people who's life has positively impacted mine for Christ, completely unlike the negative image I could choose to dwell on. So I've decided to write about some of these people, my own version of Why I (still) Like Christians.

People close to me have chosen to reject the church, or simply take a good long break from organized religion. I can understand why they have arrived at this place, but my husband and I do not choose to join them. The church is still something too precious, too vital, too much a part of who I am and what I believe. I still believe that the Church is Christ's beautiful, amazing plan: His body on earth, and the only option he has given us. And I find the community of believers to be cleansing, soul-refreshing, and life-giving; necessary, even, to my spiritual and physical health.

In addition to people, gratitude quickly comes to mind as one of the reasons that I find it so necessary to believe in God; daily, almost constant, reminders of all of the beauty, all of the grace, all of the amazing good in the world, despite the ugly and evil, and believing that there must be a Great, Gracious Someone for me to thank.

I am so excited to begin to write about this! In thinking about who I will write about, and what to say about each person, my only drawback has been not wanting to embarrass anyone. Because I realize that the people who have had the greatest impact on my spiritual formation are usually unaware of having made any impact at all. I know they aren't looking for accolades or to be elevated to sainthood. They weren't "trying"to teach me anything, didn't spend time with me for the purpose of allowing their Spirituality to rub off on me in some way. Really, these are all just normal people, friends and family, who follow Christ and along the way allowed me into their lives, to become so close that I could observe their actions and reactions, the things that motivate them and what they love, their wounds and failures and what they choose to do with them . . . from them I learned grace and wisdom and a clearer picture of the Christ we follow.

Looking forward to writing about some of my favorite people this week . . . I'd love to hear about yours!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

OH ME GOSH!

This has become the favorite dramatice phrase of Annie lately. When she's looking for a toy, she says Oh Me Gosh! When she realizes it's time for dinner, it's Oh Me Gosh! When she's lost her little duck . . . the one she cannot sleep or breathe without . . . Oh Me Gosh! Spoken with all of the surprised voice inflection and drama of a two year old that you can imagine.

So when my husband read my post yesterday, and clicked on the I don't like Christians link and said that it could possibly be inferred that I don't like Summer, my reaction was the same as Annie's!

Please be clear- it is the form of Christianity that has been represented to Summer that makes me angry! I can completely understand Summer's negative reaction, because I have had the same reaction at times, as I have seen up-close the kind of arrogance and rude behavior among Christians that she is referring to. I am ashamed to admit that I have been a part of it, and I am sure that it is still rooted in me, as I continue to dig up ugly things I find inmyself.

And when I linked to Greg Boyd's Painted Idolatry, I HOPE that it is clear that I am not angry at Greg Boyd, but the ethnocentricity of the kind of "Christianity" represented by the painting that he is referring to.

Whew! I hope I've cleared that up . . . I would hate to think that I gave the opposite impression.

Thinking about Summer's post today, I realized that this is the very thing that has caused me to question my own faith at times. It is hard for me to understand why the "closer" people try to walk with God (i.e., the more time they spend reading their Bible, doing church-things, etc.), the more they can often become just like the people she describes.

So I'm asking myself, why do I still believe? I know that I love God, but what hope is there for His church? And into my mind come examples of people . . . many people . . . who I have known in my life who are the exact opposite of these kinds of people . . . merciful, humble, wise people who love God AND their neighbor and left an impression on me of authentic, vibrant Christianity. These are the people, though imperfect, who continue to give me hope for the church. I'd like to blog about some of these people this week.

(By the way, this is Day Four of my attempt to blog every day for a week. Oh Me Gosh!)

Saturday, October 31, 2009

I should not blog when I am pregnant . . .

I frequently have insomnia when I am pregnant. And the problem with insomnia is that after I go through all of the things I could possibly worry about, after I attempt to pray for as many of the things I can think of to pray about, my mind eventually strays to the things that make me angry. And because I have spent my entire life in the church, because I have a great deal of care for the church and many heartfelt beliefs about the church . . . I become angry at the church.

I love the church. I love our new church, and former church. I have gigantic amounts of affection and respect for many people in many churches. Honestly, there are very few individuals that I feel anger towards. Mostly, I am angry at this church and this church, and people who act like this is a church. And what these kinds of churches represent.

I didn't sleep last night and I suppose it is not wise to say too much on too little sleep. Maybe I will continue this another night. Or maybe I will sleep . . . these sum up a lot of things better than I could anyway.

Here is an excerpt from this:


"I need to spend more time working on my relationship with God."
I responded, "Why would you want to do that?"
Startled she says, "What do you mean?"
"Well, why would you want to spend any time at all on working on your relationship with God?"
"Isn't that what I'm supposed to do?"
"Let me answer by asking you a question. Can you think of anyone, right now, to whom you need to apologize? Anyone you've wronged?"
She thinks and answers, "Yes."
"Well, why don't you give them a call today and ask for their forgiveness. That might be a better use of your time than working on your relationship with God."

My friend
Ryan posted this:


"Within the Christian churches, how else can we explain the obvious avoidance of so many of Jesus’ major teachings? Jesus’ direct and clear teachings on issues such as nonviolence, a simple lifestyle, love of the poor, forgiveness, love of enemies, inclusivity, mercy, and not seeking status, power, perks, and possessions: throughout history, all have been overwhelmingly ignored by mainline Christian churches, even those who call themselves orthodox or biblical. This avoidance defies explanation until we understand how dualistic thinking protects and pads the ego and its fear of change. Notice that the things we ignored above require actual change of our lifestyle, our security systems, or our dualistic thought patterns. The things we emphasized instead were usually intellectual beliefs or moral superiority stances that asked little of us: the divinity of Christ, the virgin birth, the atonement theory, and beliefs about reproduction and sex. After a while, you start to recognize the underlying bias. The ego diverts your attention from anything that would ask you to change, to righteous causes that invariably ask others to change."

-Richard Rohr

Friday, October 30, 2009

Loving Material Things Too Much, Or Not Enough?

I'm cheating just a bit and posting for today a revised portion of a weekly column I write for our local newspaper:

One issue my husband and I have always been in agreement on is our desire to live a simple lifestyle. We even like to believe that we do live rather simply, but our recent move proves otherwise. (Insert: mountains of boxes, groaning, complaining, cursing, arguing, me throwing myself over boxes to save them from the dumpster . . . ).
This move, combined with our two girls' birthdays happening a week apart, has me surveying the reality of just how far we are from that goal. I miserably consider the mess in the basement and wonder what to do with it all, while at the same time making my list of all the things we "need" for our new house from Target. I try to tackle the kids' toys and figure out a system for storing it all, and still think that we should buy them new toys for their birthdays.
We try not to buy a lot of toys for our girls, but what does "a lot" mean, really? Obviously, it's a purely relative term because compared to the majority of children in the world our kids live like princesses. We moved bags and bags of their outgrown clothes, boxes of toys and playthings and bulky plastic outdoor equipment. Things they have already forgotten they have.
I am realizing that the problem isn't only that we have too much, but that we value what we do have too little. After four years of birthdays and Christmases, adoring grandparents and gifts from friends, our daughter Sami likely has ten baby dolls. However, she doesn't seem interested in playing with any of these babies. This may simply be her personality, but I wonder if it is because she has not developed an attachment to any particular doll, was not able to become so familiar with her dolls so that an affection for one could grow. Perhaps I would have been wiser to limit her dolls, mend their worn-out parts, and allow her to develop a "bond" with one doll rather than being overwhelmed with many.
As parents and grandparents, it gives us great pleasure to demonstrate our love through giving our children gifts. Perhaps we do not need to change our habit of gift-giving, but rather give fewer, and more meaningful or handmade things as gifts.
In her book, "Simple Ways to Pray for Healing," Sheila Fabricant Linn describes the way that created things can give affirming love, and the emptiness of objects stripped of an affirming presence;
"We often hear that the illness of modern life are materialism and consumerism. The idea is that we care too much for material things and have more of them than we need. I believe our problem is exactly the opposite. I believe we care too little for material things and have less of them- less of their essence- than we need. Most of the things that surround us were made without affirming love. They do not nourish us, nor do they evoke our love or wonder. For example, today the average five-year-old child has owned 260 toys, few if any of lasting value. Fifty years ago, the average five-year old child had five toys, likely made with care from natural materials. Perhaps we want more things because we are starved for matter that can nourish us, just as people who consistently overeat junk food may actually be starving for nutrients."

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Ramblings from Quiet Time

Today I declared an hour of SILENCE! and glory, it's actually working. Although it took about twenty minutes to get them to nap/quiet time, and I've had to get up once to put the little one back to bed and once to find the crayons and once to look at a boo-boo and once to say do-not-ask-me-to-get-something-for-you-again . . . so now that hour is already about up. Ah, well, I'll take what I can get!

A switch flipped sometime about two days before we moved, and thank Heavens, it is like an elephant finally got off my body. It took me about another week of stumbling around but by now, so long as I don't do something crazy, like walk fast, or drink a glass of water, I am feeling pretty close to normal and could almost forget the last twenty weeks and imagine doing this pregnancy thing another time or two . . . or maybe not.

We love our new house! And we especially love the neighborhood and our new little town. I will have to post some pics and describe life in Amish-ville in another post . . . a different neighbor has stopped in to bring us cookies or a meal or put out a fire (another post) just about every day, and they are all so friendly and always act like they don't even notice the messy house/electricity/store-bought bread on the counter. We are a short, pretty walk to town, but I can see horses on the hill from my window. And we are super close to my favorite Amish market and bulk food store . . . although we are also quite a distance from things like Wal-Mart or Red Box or reasonable gasoline or what some may call civilization. We do, however, have a buggy lane in our McDonald's drive-thru.

Well, there is more to come but Quiet Time apparently is over . . . more from the land of Milk and Honey, and Peanut Butter Pie . . . coming soon!

(I'm having a current case of writer's block/ just-can't-think-straight. And, I would really like to become more disciplined about writing daily. So just to prove to myself that I can still blog, and to avoid clearing boxes out of the basement, I am going to set a goal of blogging every day for a week. I know! I can't believe it either! Well anyway, I don't know why you would want to but stop back soon)!



Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Just to clarify . . .

Today is a day of clarity, the headaches are reduced, the nausea isn't so fierce, I can think straight for once and there is something on my mind that I feel like I should explain.  

I LOVE LOVE BABIES!

I LOVE them!  I am intoxicated by them!  I could hold their sweet bodies and just breathe them for days and days.  I cannot wait to nurse a baby again.  With each of my children, I was so completely rejuvenated by their entrance into my life, that those first few months with them contained overwhelming energy and JOY and ridiculous love for them and for the whole world.  (For anyone who experienced Post-partum Depression, I do not say this in any way to condemn you.  I totally believe that it is so real, and I am grateful that for whatever reason, post-birth is the one time my hormones worked in my favor.  I pray that it will be the same this time.)  I love babies as they grow up.  I love being a mom.  If pregnancy weren't such a nightmare, I would have ten babies.  Maybe I still will.

But sometimes I forget, in my ranting and complaining about hyperemesis, that not everyone really gets what that is, and I could come across as sounding completely ungrateful and whiny and, as one commenter recently put it . . . pathetic.  

If I have any spiritual gifts, the only one I am sure of is the gift of mercy.  Mercy is usually my first reaction to everything.  I generally can enter in quite quickly to someone's pain and find a reason to feel mercy for them.  I only say this, to contrast with my reaction to the first person I ever knew who had hyperemesis; all I could think was, Get Over It.  A lot of women have morning sickness.

Unless you have experienced it, it is impossible to understand what women with hyperemesis go through.  I am fortunate to have a handful of friends who've been through it, and honestly, they are the ones I should be voicing my complaints to.  Not my blog.  Not facebook.  I can't expect other people to understand, because it is a HUGE blessing to have a baby.  The best reason ever to be sick.  My heart breaks for friends who have been unable to conceive.  I pray for them, I know they would trade places with me in a second.  I feel horrible for friends experiencing potentially life-threatening diseases.  I know that my misery cannot last more than nine months, max, and will in the end produce the great joy of a child.  They have no idea when theirs will end.  I am very sorry if my complaining has not reflected my true gratitude to the Good God who has given me a life so richly blessed.  

God is gracious to speak in our darkness.  A commenter gave me this link to a blog of a fellow HG-er, and it so perfectly spoke to the exact place of spiritual desolation that I have experienced in the sickest weeks of all of my pregnancies:
Pray when you are healthy, so that when you are sick you can just be sick. If you are never healthy again, then rest in knowing that prayer--at least as you have known it--is not necessary. Only emptiness and a glance is necessary.
Indeed, I prayed those very words-- God I seem incapable of prayer, I only can look to you, I only can hold this up to you . . . .  Our God hears the cries of brokenness and emptiness.  He invites our questions and complaints.  He is there.  He hears.  He answers even our weakest prayers.  

I am also not going to pretend that things are wonderful when they aren't.  Even if my life were always perfect, problems remain . . . suffering and injustice, prayers that aren't answered the way we think they should, Christians who are cruel and judgmental; ignoring these things is not reality, and doesn't do anybody any good.


sidenote:  this anonymous commenter seems to have a lot to say to me.  I know that I am not perfect.  If I have hurt you, or offended you somehow in the past I wish that you would email me so that we can try to work it out.  Until then, I will monitor the comments on this blog.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Some Random Updates

I am nearly seventeen weeks, and my Hyperemesis seems to be taking it's sweet time getting lost.  Typically, I am given one good day in which I declare myself hyperemesis-free . . . I take a shower, wear make-up, pretend to be normal . . . all while my husband is shaking his head saying, "it's not over," . . . and then I spend the next day, and the next, and the day after that, utterly destroyed and making up for the energy and optimism I exerted on Day One.

I went to the Doctor and have gained nine pounds, which is a good thing because last time by this week I had lost fifteen.  I've been taking zofran, which is causing me no shortage of guilt and anxiety even though my doctor and everything I have read says that the benefits outweigh the risk, and there is a greater risk to the baby by not treating it . . . it does help control the vomiting, though I still throw-up about once a day, but it leaves the headaches and nausea so I still feel pretty darn awful most of the time.  

My mother-in law is here today and I cannot begin to express how thankful I am.  In fact, she has been coming up every week for about three days at a time, to take care of the girls.  It is so wonderful when she is here- the girls are happy and entertained all day, I can rest and not worry about anything, all of our meals are taken care of . . . whew!  What a gift she has for taking care of people!  I don't know what we'd have done without all of the help from both of our families.

The girls have been wonderful through this.  If I had been planning this pregnancy, knowing I would be so sick I'd have thought we needed to wait until they are older.  But they are handling it amazingly well.  They hadn't really learned to play together before, but now they play together for hours.  It is so sweet to see them working together, Sam giving instructions and Annie calmly (sometimes) obeying them.   I LOVE the ages they are at (almost 4 and 2), and I hate feeling like I'm missing out on these precious days.

I feel guilty all of the time for all that I'm not able to do for them right now.  Especially Annie, I think of all of the books I could be reading to her and things I should be teaching her . . . when she sees a picture of a sheep she says, "meow," and I cringe and feel guilty.  She is such an easy-going girl, however.  Lately she's been waking up and wanting to sleep with us, and I am so glad to have that time with her.  We spent so much time cuddling Sami, and still have to lay down with her at night, but because Annie was such an easy baby and didn't demand a lot, I feel like we missed some of those sweet times with her.

We are moving!  Apparently, very soon, though you would never know it from looking at our apartment.  I've not packed a thing.  There's a stack of egg boxes in the middle of our living room that we all keep tripping over.  I keep believing that "tomorrow" I will feel well enough to get to it . . . the thing is, I actually like to pack things.  I love to organize and I love, love, to move!  But currently, with my mushy pregnancy brain, nausea, and fatigue, I have no idea how we are going to pull this off.     

Melissa, a friend from college, has been very much on my heart and mind the past few months.  When I wake up in the night, I think of her; when my body hurts and I feel completely exasperated with being sick, I think of her . . . Melissa is fighting a courageous battle with lymphoma, and her faith has not wavered.  Follow her blog to be encouraged, and please pray for Melissa and her family.  

Monday, September 28, 2009

I am an Old Woman

Someplace inside me is fifteen and a half weeks old.  The rest of me is a hundred.   

I sit in my chair and watch the children.
I flip between Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune.
I eat dry toast.
I stare blankly.
I am uncertain of my body.
I wonder if I'm dying.

Do you really want to hear about this?  
Of course you don't.  

I'm not dying.  I am, in fact, very much alive.  

But I'm in that dying place.  The season when everything withers and my spirit crawls inside itself and the world is very cold and dark.

And I would love to write that I am praising in this storm, suffering joyfully.

No, in fact I am a terribly crabby old woman.  

It is something I try to keep it to myself, a place in my mind I go to at the end of the day when it is all too much, everything hurts and I cannot bear one more day to feel this way.  I retreat to my dark room, where I can be alone and curl like a fetus into myself and try to lie so still as to calm this raging within.

And as my body rages I think dark thoughts, things I thought I was over, places I don't want my mind to go.  I fight old fights and scrape open old wounds and replay old regrets.  Fears that leave me cold.  Prayers that never were answered.  Pharisees and hypocrites.  Pride and ambition.  Human cruelty.  The unbearable sadness in the world.  

I wonder what it all means.  I doubt everything.

As often happens in my dark moments, God lights a candle with a book.

In Prayer, Does It Make Any Difference? Philip Yancey wrestles with these hard questions.   What is prayer anyway?  Why does God seem so arbitrary in answering prayers? Is God listening? 

He quotes one philosophy professor,
If God can influence the course of events, then a God who is willing to cure colds and provide parking spaces but is not willing to prevent Auschwitz and Hiroshima is morally repugnant.  Since Hiroshima and Auschwitz did occur, one must infer that God cannot (or has a policy never to) influence the course of worldly events. 

Even for one who rejects the professor's extreme conclusion, the haunting questions linger.
Yancey doesn't try to draw any fast formulas or conclusions.  He isn't afraid to let questions linger, to deal with the messiness.  He frankly discusses his own struggles with prayer, and gives examples of others who have experienced times when God seemed far away and not listening.  He reminds the reader that the Bible is not only a happy book, that it is indeed full of passionate emotional outbursts, questions and accusations and laments.  

In another place he writes,
Walter Brueggemann suggests one obvious reason for candor in the book of Psalms: "because life is like that, and these poems are intended to speak to all of life, not just part of it."  Brueggemann finds it jarring to visit upbeat evangelical churches and hear only happy songs, when half of the psalms are "songs of lament, protest, and complaint about the incoherence that is experienced in the world.  At least it is clear that a church that goes on singing "happy songs" in the face of raw reality is doing something very different from what the Bible itself does.
It comforts me to know that I am not alone with my questions.  I am so thankful for thinking, honest people who wrestle with God and write about their own struggles and doubts.  

Just as my raging body is curled around a small, still body yet to be known; so I sense my raging doubts and emotions curled around a small, steady faith.  
I have a lot of faith. But I am also afraid a lot, and have no real certainty about anything. I remembered something Father Tom had told me--that the opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty. Certainty is missing the point entirely. Faith includes noticing the mess, the emptiness and discomfort, and letting it be there until some light returns.
— Anne Lamott (Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith)
By the way, Yancey's website is worth checking out, especially his Q&A.  And of course, I highly recommend anything he writes.  I have also been greatly impacted by The Jesus I Never Knew and Soul Survivor.



Friday, July 31, 2009

yes.

Trust in Him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart to him: God is a refuge for us. Ps62:8  

My deepest awareness of myself is that I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ and I have done nothing to earn it or deserve it. -Brennan Manning



To pray is to take notice of the wonder, to regain a sense of the mystery that animates all beings, the divine margin in all attainments. Prayer is our humble answer to the inconceivable surprise of living. It is all we can offer in return for the mystery by which we live. Who is worthy to be present at the constant unfolding of time? Amidst the meditation of mountains, the humility of flowers wiser than all alphabets---clouds that die constantly for the sake of god's glory, we are hating, hunting, hurting. Suddenly we feel ashamed of our clashes and complaints in the face of the tacit glory in nature. It is so embarrassing to live! How strange we are in the world, and how presumptuous our doings! Only one response can maintain us: gratefulness for witnessing the wonder, for the gift of our unearned rights to serve, to adore, and to fulfill. It is gratefulness which makes the soul great.-Abraham Heschel  


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  


I think joy and sweetness and affection are a spiritual path. We're here to know God, to love and serve God, and to be blown away by the beauty and miracle of nature. You just have to get rid of so much baggage to be light enough to dance, to sing, to play. You don't have time to carry grudges; you don't have time to cling to the need to be right. — Anne Lamott  


If we listened to our intellect, we'd never have a love affair. We'd never have a friendship. We'd never go into business, because we'd be too cynical. Well, that's nonsense. You've got to jump off cliffs all the time and build your wings on the way down.- Annie Dillard       

Let us pray so much that we become Prayer. Let us laugh so much, O God, that we become Laughter. Let us sing so much that we become Song. Let us give so much that we become Gift. Amen.(unknown)

Nothing is hopeless; we must hope for everything. -Madeleine L'Engle, A Wrinkle in Time"

Alice laughed: "There's no use trying," she said; "one can't believe impossible things."
"I daresay you haven't had much practice," said the Queen. "When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."Alice in Wonderland.

I am a product [...of] endless books. My father bought all the books he read and never got rid of any of them. There were books in the study, books in the drawing room, books in the cloakroom, books (two deep) in the great bookcase on the landing, books in a bedroom, books piled as high as my shoulder in the cistern attic, books of all kinds reflecting every transient stage of my parents' interest, books readable and unreadable, books suitable for a child and books most emphatically not. Nothing was forbidden me. In the seemingly endless rainy afternoons I took volume after volume from the shelves. I had always the same certainty of finding a book that was new to me as a man who walks into a field has of finding a new blade of grass.  -C.S.Lewis

Friday, July 24, 2009

Prayer and Vitamin B

Were it not for my thickening waist and a fuse as short as the second line on a pregnancy test, I would never believe the THREE positive tests I've taken.  I don't feel pregnant.  Not queasy, not feverish, not even fluttery like I did the entire nine months before.  Usually by this time I'm curled-up on the bathroom floor, or at the very least clinging to banisters and stopping to drop my head on the table every once in a while.  

. . . Well that was so three days ago because HELLO nausea.  Although I am STILL believing that I'm feeling way better than I did before at this time (though I'm not exactly clear on the weeks-I've never been good at math, which is what got me into this situation).

So I am begging, anyone who has experienced morning sickness or hyperemesis with your pregnancies, what were your methods for coping?  I'm currently taking vitamin B6, ginger, and drinking lots of ginger tea.  And salt and vinegar chips seem to help.  Any other remedies/advice/suggestions for how to cope?  Any ideas for what to do with my babies for the next ten weeks or so?

Ok, that is my last desperate plea . . . I'm only thinking positive thoughts from now on . . . and pretending that what I'm feeling right now isn't the urge to go throw up but only great excitement over being pregnant . . . .  (I will really try not to turn this into a blog dedicated to complaining about my pregnancy for the next nine months.  I'll try.  That's what my husband is for).  

But really, suggestions for survival . . . send them to me PLEASE! 

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Making room

Eventually there comes a day when everything finally fits.  All of the toys fit neatly in the closet. The bulky baby equipment has been given away and the basement is a neat stack of boxes again. The kids fit into an easy schedule that includes nights of uninterrupted sleep.  We manage to fit time in for friends again, and books, and begin to become aware again of what is happening in the world.  My jeans fit.

Which is why it is so ironic that on the day that my car is packed with the last remaining pieces of baby . . . the monitor, a walker, bumper pads . . . that just before leaving to donate my final remnant from the baby era, the subtle but not yet stated assumption being that we won't need them anymore, I would discover that I am pregnant.

I suppose in the way that a woman's intuition just knows things before she really knows, I knew.  My body must have known, which is why it shifted into a sudden urge to clear out, eliminate, make room.  I thought that it was a process of simplifying, making everything fit, when really it was an impulse to make more room; we are having another baby.

I look around, and everything shouts impossible!  Our closets, our finances, our schedule, my jeans.  There is no more room.  Everything just fits.  

Is there enough love in me to give another child?  I love already more than I am capable, so that I think my heart will explode with love.

There will be room.  A woman's body stretches to illogical, nearly unbearable proportions, making room for life.  The loaves will multiply. Our table will expand; we'll buy another chair.  Like the widow's jug, bottomless love.