Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Wednesday Soup

Oh I think I have shook my head and muttered some form of the word sad more times than I can bear. It seems unreasonable to talk of anything else, close to ridiculous to continue our Merry Christmas greetings and yet we do. Merry Christmas.

There are plenty of words being written about the horror, maybe too many. Maybe it is our only way to enter in and weep with those who weep.

And I am angry. Heaven help us if we ever stop being angry as hell and crying out for change.

A few voices of reason and hope . ..

so I cry again, and I curse, and pray for peace that passes all understanding.
We need the pragmatists with policy , we need the prophets streaked in ash,
We need the God who sees, and God with us. In which we need pragmatists and prophets by Sarah Bessey
Rachel Held Evans, God Can't Be Kept Out -Amen to every word of this.
God can be wherever God wants to be. God needs no formal invitation. We couldn’t “systematically remove” God if we tried. 

Bullshit National Grieving at Huffington Post
Words like senselessinexplicableunimaginable must for now be banned from our grief liturgy about gun violence in this country. For what happened in that elementary school (and on the Chicago streets, etc.)makes sense, can be explained, and is not only imaginable but predictable based on all that has happened before.

Our Moloch at NYR blog
 That horror cannot be blamed just on one unhinged person. It was the sacrifice we as a culture made, and continually make, to our demonic god. We guarantee that crazed man after crazed man will have a flood of killing power readily supplied him. We have to make that offering, out of devotion to our Moloch, our god. The gun is our Moloch. We sacrifice children to him daily—sometimes, as at Sandy Hook, by directly throwing them into the fire-hose of bullets from our protected private killing machines, sometimes by blighting our children’s lives by the death of a parent, a schoolmate, a teacher, a protector. Sometimes this is done by mass killings (eight this year), sometimes by private offerings to the god (thousands this year).

I love Ann Curry's call for 26 Acts of Kindness, and the stories I read of strangers offering kindness to others bring me to tears.

Finally, for one small dose of sheer pleasure, you really must read this incredibly lovely essay: Joy by Zadie Smith New York Review of Books
It might be useful to distinguish between pleasure and joy. But maybe everybody does this very easily, all the time, and only I am confused. A lot of people seem to feel that joy is only the most intense version of pleasure, arrived at by the same road—you simply have to go a little further down the track. That has not been my experience. And if you asked me if I wanted more joyful experiences in my life, I wouldn’t be at all sure I did, exactly because it proves such a difficult emotion to manage. It’s not at all obvious to me how we should make an accommodation between joy and the rest of our everyday lives.

Last weekend I made a little journey around the Lake to visit old friends in Grand Rapids.


It is always so good to spend time with these friends I love, and forty-eight hours of grown-up conversation and good, good food. Plenty of both. Aside from visiting my friends I had one hope for the weekend which was good food and I was not disappointed. 

We ate and talked, drank good coffee, ate, drank coffee, talked, ate, saw Anna Karenina, ate, talked, drank coffee. And just like that the weekend was over. 

Time away clears my head, offers new angles from which to think. And Seth and Sally are some of my favorite people. Jim and the kids kept busy and did great, I came home to a happy family, high on conversation and caffeine. 

I have promised Jim and myself that this week of Christmas will be slow. I will not stress out over things that don't matter, I will keep things light and meaningful, I will stay off of Pinterest and facebook.

On Monday the homeschool co-op went caroling to a nursing home, and it was beautiful. Everything is bringing me to tears right now. There is so much to be thankful for. 

Saturday, December 15, 2012

light


Today with all mothers I am attempting to string together words but the words are all gasped out of me. What can we do but groan, breathe heavy prayer-breaths, hug our own?  Words fail, silence is all we can offer now. I consider leaving this entire space blank, in honor of twenty empty beds tonight and twenty mothers leaving their child’s school yesterday with empty arms; for the empty spaces tonight in every mother lying awake and staring into the gaping chasm of evil in the world.


Yesterday morning at a little after nine I was pouring cereal. I remember because I had glanced at the clock then, thinking what a late start we were getting to the day. We were late because before breakfast I spread paints out on the table, hoping to finally finish a family Christmas project we’d been working on, it had been propped behind a chair for weeks.
At about ten after nine, as horror not yet imagined was taking place, I added the final touch to the canvas- a white star hovering above the stable.
We hung the painting on the wall, above the piano where today our daughter practices Ode to Joy. Above the twinkling lights of Christmas; the center of the room, where we automatically look.  And at the center of the canvas, where the eye lingers, is the star, this small white space, shining against the dark.

Mothers, we are called to hope. It is all we have. 

The world did not become darker yesterday, it has always been dark. One twenty year old man dressed in black blew to pieces our facade of safety, and in it’s heartbreaking wake we cry out along with this sad old world and its chasm of horrors, the groaning of the centuries, Come, Lord Jesus.
“O Come O Come Emmanuel . . . 
we mourn in lonely exile here”.
We weep.
And still, somehow, impossibly, there is Christmas. There are seven year old girls learning to play Beethoven, and mothers serving breakfast in warm kitchens, and people gathering together. My dear friend had a baby boy last night. We weep. We rejoice. There is no sense to be made of it.

We are called to hope not fear. We are called to the sacredness of everyday life and the gravity that everything we do matters. We are called to the impossibility of faith, hope, and love, and to stake our lives on it.

To live a life of hope is to arm our children not with weapons but with music. With stories and love, and with the glitter-eyed wonder at the beauty in the world. They, in turn, restore our childlike faith.

These spaces we cling to are not empty, they shine. It is not naivete to choose to see the good, but stubbornness and courage and the impossible strength of Love. 
The world is dark. But we will look in the direction of the light that still shines in the darkness.

On the darkest nights we will hang that light above the mantle and in the corners and shine it from every window. We will wrap light around the landscaping and the posts of our house and on our gates, we will bind light to our hands and our foreheads and stitch it inside the coats of our children. We will anoint them with light at every bath time, we will serve it to them with their cut-up pot roast, and nuzzle it into their ears and recite it until our own hearts pound with light. 

We will speak to one another of the light, and when you are lying so low that you cannot rise up I will lie down with you, and together in dust and desolation we will search the sky until eventually, incredibly, one night, we will again find the light.


O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie!

Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by.

Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting Light;

The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.

Where children pure and happy pray to the bless├Ęd Child,
Where misery cries out to Thee, Son of the mother mild;
Where charity stands watching and faith holds wide the door,
The dark night wakes, the glory breaks, and Christmas comes once more.



Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Kathleen Norris, Acedia & me



A Marriage, Monks, and A Writer's Life

In this theological memoir Kathleen Norris explores her relationship with acedia, a term long forgotten and now difficult to define. It is often described as chronic apathy, boredom, sloth, bleakness of soul, an inability to care." She applies this concept to contemporary society as "the ancient demon of acedia in modern dress".

Norris goes to great length to define the word acedia, a complex and little-known word that feels frighteningly familiar, and then to describe it's presence in herself, her marriage, and in the writer's life. She also compares acedia with it's often misdiagnosed cousin, depression, and tells of the effects of both within her marriage.

After reading about acedia I find myself wanting to talk about it, to name the sin in myself and find it's evidence  all around me. I would recommend this book to anyone who struggles at times to love, to find meaning, to commit, to wake up in the morning. "I have come to believe that acedia can strike anyone whose work requires self-motivation and solitude, anyone who remains married "for better for worse," anyone who is determined to stay true to a commitment that is sorely tested in everyday life."

Twenty-first Century Acedia
I am intrigued that over the course of the last sixteen hundred years we have managed to lose the word acedia. Maybe that's one reason why, as we languish from spiritual drought, we are often unaware of what ails us. We spend greater sums on leisure but are more tense than ever . . . We turn away from the daily news, complaining of "compassion fatigue,". . . We are tempted to regard with reverence those who make themselves available twenty-four/seven, and regard silence as unproductive, solitude as irresponsible. But when distraction becomes the norm we are in danger of being immunized from feeling itself. We are more likely to engage in public spectacles of undemanding pseudo-care than address humanity's immediate needs. Is it possible that in twenty-first-century America, acedia has come into its own? How can that be, when so few know its name? (46)
Norris attempts to prescribe an antidote to acedia, based on spiritual tradition, ancient monastic writings, and her own experience, believing it can be dispelled by embracing life and faith. " She suggests the Psalms. Maintaining habits. Solitude. Nurturing relationship with God and with others. To lower our standards. "Do nothing, gallantly. Awake, not asleep, and not trying to escape." She considers medication and counseling and writes about both.

Hope
     Waiting seems at odds with progress, and we seldom ask whether it might have a purpose in and of itself. Etymology helps us here, for when we look up the work wait we are instructed to see vigor. Waiting, then, is not passive but a vigilant and watchful activity designed to keep us aware of what is really going on. Isaiah evokes this radical waiting as a source of vitality: "Those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,/ they shall mount up with wings like eagles" (Isaiah 40:31). Such waiting is meant to engender a lively hope rooted in the physical as well as the psyche. It is an action, the "hop" contained within the world. To hope is to make a leap, to jump from where you are to someplace better. If you can imagine it, and dare to take that leap, you can go there- no matter how hopeless your situation may appear.
      Hope may seem a flimsy thing in the face of acedia's cold assurance that nothing matters and that waiting is unmitigated hell. In midlife, waiting can seem a barren thing indeed. What are we waiting for, except the increasing disability and inevitable indignities of old age? But hope has an astonishing resilience and strength. Its very persistence in our hearts indicates that it is not a tonic for wishful thinkers but the ground on which realists stand. For thousands of years the psalmist and the prophets have been a source of strength for people facing plague, warfare, massacre, imprisonment, execution, and exile. This is the sort of hope that matters, for it can conquer not just acedia and despair, but death itself. (220-221)
The last chapter of the book is dedicated to quotations about acedia:

"A generation that cannot endure boredom will be a generation of little men, of men unduly divorced from the slow processes of nature, or men in whom every vital impulse slowly withers, as though they were cut flowers in a vase." -Bertrand Russell, The Conquest of Happiness

"If the doors of perception were cleansed, said Blake, everything would appear to man as it is- Infinite. But the doors of perception are hung with the cobwebs of thought; prejudice, cowardice, sloth. Eternity is with us, inviting our contemplation perpetually, but we are too frightened, lazy, and suspicious to respond: too arrogant to still our thought, and let divine sensation have its way. It needs industry and goodwill if we would make that transition: for the process involves a veritable spring-cleaning of the soul, a turning-out and rearrangement of our mental furniture, a wide opening of closed windows, that the notes of the wild birds beyond our garden may come to us fully charged with wonder and freshness, and drown with their music the noise of the gramophone within." Evelyn Underhill, Practical Mysticism.

"Let it stand that there is a sin of not doing, of not knowing, of not finding out what one must do- in short, of not caring. This is the literal meaning of acedia, recognized as a sin for so many centuries and plaguing us still." Karl Menninger, Whatever Became of Sin?

"[Sloth] is the sin that believes nothing, cares, to know nothing, seeks to know nothing, loves nothing, hates nothing, finds purpose in nothing . .. and remains alive because there is nothing for which it will die." Dorothy Sayers, The Other Six Deadly Sins

Monday, November 26, 2012

Soup on a Monday

I think I would definitely call this my favorite week of the whole year, and it all began last Friday (I am, unfortunately, profoundly terrible at having my camera on hand for the really important moments which is why I have hardly any pictures from this week. Ack!)

Coby and Liz
It began with my little brother's engagement! Coby is a man of few words, and so I had to bring out the nagging annoying sister act to find out my suspicions were true, that the big date he was planning in Cleveland was more significant than just a night on the town (smile). Partway through the evening he sent a "She said Yes" text which sent the girls into a frenzy of glue and glitter that I am still scraping off the floor. Coby and Liz stayed the night and we stayed up late drinking champagne and celebrating with them. (This is the part where I forgot to take pictures! Ugh.)

Coby is the greatest guy and Liz is fabulous. It has been such fun watching this story unfold as Coby (in his quiet, subtle way) has had a huge thing for her for years- as she has traveled the world- and now to see them together and so happy is so great.

Growing up with three brothers I always wanted sisters- but I never knew how much fun sisters-in-law would be!

Thanksgiving
We did two days of school last week focusing only on the arts- reading, writing, Thanksgiving crafts and baking; a fun two days. Our plan was to drive to my parents' Wednesday afternoon but as Jim was working out of town and we needed to drive separately anyway, I decided Tuesday night to leave early and beat the traffic.

The girls were ecstatic when I told them around five in the evening that we needed to hurry and pack our things to leave that night, and then I took them through Chick-fil-a (which we never do), and let them eat in the car, (which we never do), and watch a movie as we drove (only on long trips), and they were sooo excited. For kids it really is the little things that are the most exciting, and our spontaneous night drive will probably be the Thanksgiving event they remember most this year.

It is always good to go "home" for a few days. I got to have lunch with my girlfriends who I do not get to see at all enough, and spend time with my Grandma and Aunt Sharman, and drink wine with my dad and coffee with my mom.

Salted Caramel Shortbread
My contribution to Thanksgiving was this Salted Caramel Shortbread. I didn't cook the caramel long enough so it was too soft, and next time I will double the shortbread per one batch of caramel- and there will be a next time! It was awesome.

Football
On Saturday I forced- forced myself to sit still and watch football with Jim. I find it is so hard to do nothing. Next year my word of the year is going to be to CHILL. It was a good weekend for Ohio football!

Books
I made it halfway through The Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrook. It is an excellent book, holds your attention, deeply researched, and did we miss some things in our American History education!? However I think I will leave the second half for next Thanksgiving. Janet had a good review of it here.

Orchestra

Jim and I are believers in the value of experiences over things. And one of the reasons we love living in Cleveland is all of the opportunities for experiences for our children, especially in the arts. This weekend we took the girls to their first full Orchestra experience, and it was fantastic! The Cleveland Orchestra offers a Pops Christmas concert and for this occasion children are encouraged to attend. I checked and double checked if that included squeaky two year olds, and it seemed that it did, though I was a bit nervous anyway. No need. The three girls loved it. Seeing them all on the edge of their seats, singing along to the Christmas carols (or in Josie's case, dancing) was one of my very favorite memories ever. And as the girls are beginning to learn about different composers and to appreciate music, and Sam beginning piano lessons, the timing was perfect.

(Note: The girls absolutely love the Baby Einstein classical composers series. We renewed them from the library a dozen times, and finally for Christmas I purchased a few. They are able to recognize different composers after listening to these. . . . and I should add, so am I , as my music education is just beginning.)

Career
I'm sorry for the long-winded post! Lastly, I think that this quote is an excellent answer to my career question . .. it is the task ahead of me. How simple is that! . . .
When you ask someone, "What do you do?" do you really mean, "What's your job?" Can you imagine asking George Washington what he did for a living? He would have answered that he was a farmer. He worked at home, except when he wasn't at home. His role in history reveals that he could have responded, "I'm a farmer, a citizen, a stepfather, an army officer, the president, Martha's husband, etc." Even a craftsman such as a cooper or a goldsmith in colonial Boston would have farmed and constructed and participated in church and community government. For most early Americans, their daily duties were defined by the task ahead of them rather than by a particular career they had been trained for." Leigh A Bortins The Core

Sunday, November 25, 2012

simply to dwell

Reading back today I realize the glaring insecurity that I am continually writing through on this blog is over what is my place in the world, and in the home. 

This issue is not only my own. Nearly every mother I know wrestles with the question of whether to work or to stay at home, and just because children will be in school does not necessarily make the decision any easier. 

It is my place of weakness. I often feel as though because I am a stay-at-home mom, I live under a stereotype. For example, at what point did I stop being included in the intelligent conversations? Just because I do not work outside the home, do I have nothing to talk about? 

Sometimes I worry that being a homemaker is somehow selfish, that there is more good that needs done in the world, for more people than just my small family. But then, I also have more time by being at home, to do the small acts of kindness that I find to do.

And the truth is, I love making a home. I find great fulfillment in nurturing, loving through food and acts of service. It is to me the most creative and meaningful work I can think of doing. I want to be thankful that I am even able to make this choice, as for most of the world there is not a choice to make, and to rest in this decision.  I love this quote I read this week at Steady Mom.  It seems something women can hardly allow themselves to do- "simply to dwell, having nothing to do with ambition and achievement in the world . .."
“Mother seemed happiest when making and tending home, the sewing machine whistling and the Mixmaster whirling. Her deepest impulse was to nurture, to simply dwell; it had nothing to do with ambition and achievement in the world...
How had I come to believe that my world of questing and writing was more valuable than her dwelling and domestic artistry?...I wanted to go out and do things--write books, speak out. I've been driven by that. I don't know how to rest in myself very well,
how to be content staying put.
But Mother knows how to BE at home--and really, to be in herself. It's actually very beautiful what she does...I think part of me just longs for the way Mother experiences home.”

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Soup: on beauty, church, and calling


Calling
I love what I do, I really do. Honestly, most days I haven't a doubt that this life of mothering and homeschooling is exactly what I am meant to do right now. But every once in a while, when I have been running too hard and I am worn a little thin and we are out of bread and milk- again- and the kids don't match and Jim is working a lot and throw in a little pms and a bad hair week . . . on that day all it takes is someone with a good haircut and a perfectly ironed unstained white blouse to send me directly to the employment ads on Craigslist.

I begin to dream about waking up and dressing in something other than a hoodie, and drinking coffee while chatting with other adults, while all day long at home the house is staying clean, and then actually getting a paycheck for my work, who knows maybe lunch out occasionally?

My craigslist hunt only lasts about two minutes. I know that home is where I am meant to be, and yet even within the parameters of being at home, there are so many questions about what is the best use of my time, and the constant feeling that something is being left undone or neglected.

In addition to being a mom and homeschooling I have two jobs; I write a weekly article for a newspaper and I try to do some professional writing/social media for my dad. Neither of these require a lot of time, except that I try to fit them into the margins of naptime which doesn't exist, early mornings, and a few hours on Saturdays, all of which is often interrupted or unpredictable. And I continue to blog occasionally which sometimes feels like one thing I could let go, and yet remains simply because I enjoy it.

Well, I don't know why I rambled on about all that just in introduction to Ann's post this week, but I was glad to read another woman wrestling with these questions- because I really want to get this right! Am I living well? Am I doing the thing I am called to do, with the best of my ability? Am I making any right decisions? It keeps me awake at night.

Truly it is the most important and the most difficult question to answer; What will you do with your one wild and precious life?

How to Not Miss Your Real Life Calling by Ann Voskamp
We want clarity — and God gives a call. We want a road map — and God gives a relationship. We want answers — and God gives His hand.

Daughters and Beauty
I really loved this post, I've started telling my daughters I'm beautiful
The thing is, my children are perfect. I am the grown up, so I'm supposed to show them everything about life. When they wake up in the morning, though, I stare at them and they're new. They teach me everything. They are babies and they teach me what it means to be a person. It's easy to see that they're beautiful.I am slow and I am tired. I am round and sagging. I am harried. I am sexless. I am getting older.I am beautiful. How can this be? How can any of this be true?

I don't want my girls to be children who are perfect and then, when they start to feel like women, they remember how I thought of myself as ugly and so they will be ugly too. 

Church
And finally, I have always wanted to write a post about church, how I feel about our little church, why I get up early and make lumpy mashed potatoes and take the kids mismatched to church even if Jim is working, because I love it so, because I need this community, because our kids need it . . . But Sarah Bessey took the words right out of me, and with the eloquence that only Sarah Bessey can say . .. this is the post I only wish I could write about church . ..

In which I hope she remembers
So much of our lives in this world feels like exile, and we’re making a home in a faraway land, and so every time I get to be with my people (because the people who love God, these are my people), it’s a lush oasis in the desert, a refill, a taste of living water, a glimpse of Jesus with skin on.

And one more . .. Yes, this is exactly how I feel about Sunday Nights by Ruth at There is No Such Thing as a Godforsaken Town
But it seems that there's more to it than that, a bittersweetness that I feel even when I'm on vacation, that after-Sunday-night-church wistfulness.  As though I could have squeezed more out of the weekend than I did, and now the opportunity is gone for another week. . ..  "fast falls the eventide; the darkness deepens, Lord, with me abide." 


wishing you a peaceful Sunday night. ..

Thursday, November 15, 2012

I love mom bodies


The news this week contains all of the elements of entertainment: sex scandal involving a General and a Superwoman. Her six minute mile! Her 13 percent body fat! Her impossibly toned arms! Former Homecoming Queen! You must read much further down to find that she is also a mother of two young sons. 

Once again it is images of the impossible, the Fantasy Female, scrolling across the screen. It is hardly his fault; how could one resist a woman such as this? 

I refuse to believe that this is the ideal woman. I find this standard of beauty even more sexist than a woman's place is in the home

I don't know any mothers who look like her, all angles and self-confidence.  

But I do know a certain anxiety among women, mothers, to achieve physical perfection above all else.

There is nothing wrong with being physical fit, but is it the only priority? Is her body the measure of a woman?

Why aren't women as concerned about exercising their mind as they are their body? Or getting in a daily act of generosity as they do a daily workout? 

Why must we fight against the natural softness of femininity in our pursuit of feminine beauty? 

Summers I wade my kids around the pool and think about this- how beautiful women are! Moms with toddlers balanced on hips, or nursing sweaty babies hidden beneath a beach towel, pregnant mothers with their fascinating round bellies. Tired eyes, gentle movements, soft proportions.

There are beautiful girls at the pool, for sure. They all look the same, they walk as aware of being watched.  I never was one of them, never knew how to be comfortable in my body; not until I became a mother did I learn to accept my body and its imperfections, even be glad for it.

I have no desire to look like the teenagers at the pool.  I don't care if to ever have visible abs. I like my mom body! I am proud of the fact that my body has stretched to make room for three babies, and nursed them, and has sacrificed sleep and meals and agendas. I like being thirty-five with it's spots of age and first streaks of grey, with it's quieter words and softness, it's laugh lines and evolving priorities.

I have heard women say that they do it for their daughters, that they are on the treadmill at ten at night because they want their daughters to have a healthy body image, to see their mother taking care of herself. That is great! But let's not leave out the things that make a woman, a woman- her heart and her courage, her wisdom and compassion, intuition and laughter. Let's not teach our daughters that beauty begins and ends with a body.


Ode
Elizabeth Alexander

I love all the mom bodies at this beach,
the tummies, the one-piece bathing suits,
the bosoms that slope, the wide nice bottoms,
thigh flesh shirred as gentle wind shirrs a pond.

So many sensible haircuts and ponytails!
These bodies show they have grown babies, then
nourished them, woken to their cries, fretted
at their fevers.  Biceps have lifted and toted

the babies now printed on their mothers.
"If you lined up a hundred vaginas,
I could tell you which ones have borne children,"
the midwife says. In the secret place or

in sunlight at the beach, our bodies say
This is who we are, no, This is what
we have done and continue to do.
We labor in love. We do it. We mother.



Tuesday, November 13, 2012

because it feels so much like hope


It is a season of darkness, earth's slowdance. 

Today began early, just after three, a restless sleeper crying out. They pull me out of the Night, they always have. 

I get up to soothe her and then lay wide awake, allured into the quiet of world deep asleep. Pad down the steps, reach for one corner light, set coffee to brew. Yesterday was rain and today there is snow. I light candles at four o'clock. 

There is a thoughtful beauty of these dark days; soft light, steamy suppers, layers of blankets on three tiny beds. Warm cafes lit against the night. I love our quiet hours, our dark, our interior. I want to listen to classical music and stir soup, gather with friends around softly lit tables. 

Maybe I am drawn to this season because it feels so much like hope, the way all of our living and being forms around these small lights, flaming against the dark. 

I think of my grandmother, whose hope has been made sight. She loved the deep and quiet months. Just like her, I want to draw inward, too, the way she used to be, with her books, her kitchen and her stirring. I think about prayer and how she prayed, sometimes I think I physically miss the absence of her prayers, though maybe she prays for us still I do not know.

And isn't this hope, faith, love; this tiny force, imagination, the place where dreams come from we carry at our center, against the dark, against all odds. We write it in the night, in the quiet, in this immeasurable space of hoped for yet unseen.

Later today it is I waking her from sleep. The rule is that you must go gently, and we all gather around because we love to watch her gather from dreaming. On this day she is smiling in her sleep, and as I invade her dreams she tosses an arm around my neck, pulling me to her, still deep asleep, certain she is not dreaming.

linking up today with Heather to Just Write

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Sunday Soup


School
This week I discovered the secret to smooth, productive homeschool! It is to stay at home

It was our first blank slate this week. Birthdays past, Trick-or-treat over, no parties or funerals or overnight trips . . . I relished in a simple, quiet week, a clean house, and a dramatic change in the kids' behavior: this week everyone was calmer and steadier. Of course, after about one more week of routine, we will be itching again for activity.

Add to that, I love the time change! I know it wreaks havoc for a lot of moms, but my kids already are up too early. We have simply ignored Daylight Savings and send them to bed an hour earlier; I add another book to my nightstand.

I also indulged in at least two days of media as I was glued to the election coverage. However one feels about the outcome, the democratic process is thrilling.

jesstock.com
Finally this week after blogging at blogspot for over four years, I purchased my own domain name- jesstock.com.  (I know, I am so progressive.) 

twitter
I am on twitter very minimally. Honestly, I hardly even know how to use twitter, and it has always felt like one more thing that will cause me to waste time on the internet. But my friend Bridget posted a few weeks ago on what she has learned on twitter, which got me intrigued and then when I asked she even wrote a very helpful post on twitter basics.  So I may be twittering occasionally (follow here)- and if I unknowingly do anything embarrassing there please let me know, mmkay?

If I Were a Writer . . . How Would I Engage Social Medai? at social media today

Gifts

We bought a piano from craigslist a few weeks ago. The piano itself was not expensive- $150 which seemed like a good deal- but after we got it I was sick fearing that maybe it couldn't be tuned and would have been a huge waste. This week the tuner came and within an hour had it sounding beautiful. Such a relief, and such fun to hear the girls learn to play.

For their birthdays my mom bought the girls Corolle Dolls. I love these dolls! They are so pretty, and a nice alternative to American Girl.

Book The Great Gatsby
This is one of those books that I somehow missed in my education. Actually I missed a lot of great books as I subbed a poetry class for Lit in college, and have always regretted not taking more courses. It took me a long time to get through this very short book, I didn't feel a great attachment to it but loved the sentences.

Links
I have never read a graphic novel, but after reading this article in Poets&Writers about Chris Ware, I want to. I was surprised at how the clips of graphic in the magazine drew me into the story in a very emotional way.

The Zoo at A Deeper Story

If you wait until you got time to write a novel, or time to write a story, or time to read the hundred thousands of books you should have already read – if you wait for the time, you will never do it. ‘Cause there ain’t no time; world don’t want you to do that. World wants you to go to the zoo and eat cotton candy, preferably seven days a week. –Harry Crews

Joe


Next week is Joe's birthday and as he lives in L.A., we decided to put together a little package to send him. We started with cookies: the first batch didn't mix right, the next burnt, and the last pan was perfect until I dropped it upside down on the floor.  Nevermind, we would make pumpkin bread which turned out beautifully except that I forgot to add the sugar! 

Joe, consider this your birthday greeting.  We love you!
Follow Joe on twitter.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Everybody's 4 a.m.


When it is four a.m. and you've been awake for hours- only on this night it's not the sleepy tiny voices calling but the grimy, slithery ones.

Tonight it is the dark keeping me awake and tossing, counting the ways I could have should have would have . . . I kick off thick dark blankets and then pull them over me again.

I look out the window, padding down the sidewalk a woman is out for a late jog, or maybe an early one. I wonder if she is running from something, too, the same voices calling her out of rest and into the rise-earlier-try-harder dark.

I find the best thing to do with these four a.m. voices is to look them in the eye, and agree with them.  Yes. I could have done better. Yes. I'm sorry. God I am sorry sorry sorry.

The next day, I clean out the refrigerator.  Make it really shine. Prepare a good meal. There will be dessert tonight, and carbs, and butter. I light candles.

Sometimes the only way to receive grace is by taking hold of physical grace- to scrub and wash and slice and simmer and somehow, in setting some small piece of the physical world right; in creating something good and nourishing and holy out of mundane, ugly, chaotic- somehow there is hope.
The reasons for depression are not so interesting as the way one handles it, simply to stay alive.  This morning I woke at four and lay awake for an hour or so in a bad state.  It is raining again.  I got up finally and went about the daily chores, waiting for the sense of doom to lift- and what did it was watering the house plants.  Suddenly joy came back because I was fulfilling a simple need, a living one. . . .  Whatever peace I know rests in the natural world, in feeling myself a part of it, even in a small way.   
Maybe the gaiety of the Warner family, their wisdom, comes from this, that they work close to nature all the time.  As simple as that?  But it is not simple.  Their life requires patient understanding, imagination, the power to endure constant adversity- the weather for example!  To go with, not against, the elements, and inexhaustible vitality summoned back each day to do the same tasks, to feed the animals, clean out barns and pens, keep that complex world alive.  -May Sarton, Journal of a Solitude

Loved this: The Best Thing To Do When It Comes Time to Give Up by Shawn Smucker

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

to change the world


Today is Election Day and like everyone I will be glad when the election is decided, whenever that may be. Whatever the result the world likely will not end, and I have every confidence that tomorrow I will be waking to pour my coffee in the same glorious freedom that I have woken to every other day of my life.  And life will go on, laundry and taxes, with or without our preferred party President.  
I have no doubt that the political ideals each party represents are indeed noble and worthy of our passionate discourse.  But as tomorrow we no longer have politicians to carry the weight of our convictions in a campaign for government office, I wonder if we would not be wise now, on this election day, with political signs yet in our yard and ideals fresh in our mind, to turn our own beliefs and scrutiny upon ourselves.  
G.K. Chesterton was asked to write on the topic,“What is wrong with the world?” His reply was brief; “Dear Sirs, I am.”  

The terrible truth is that I cannot blame any politician for what is wrong with the world.  I am what is wrong with the world, and it is myself who I must change.  

This was brilliantly clear to me last week as we enjoyed a visit from dear friends, who we do not get to see often enough.  These friends of ours happen to be a single mother and her son, and we do not see them enough because life is incredibly full and hard for a working mother, raising her child alone.  
As she always does this friend challenged me on two fronts, one by how tirelessly she works without complaint, without asking for assistance though it is available to her, and more by the way she gives.  This friend is, truly, an example of the widow in scripture who gave her last mite, worth more to Jesus than the extravagant donations of the rich.  My friend who raises her son on on very little, without child support or help from family, gives to others out of her poverty; liberally, all the time, more than she should, much more than she can afford.  Maybe we could say that this single mother embodies virtues of both political parties, and it was a strong message to me that it matters very little how we vote, but how we live.  
I am reminded that the kingdom we seek is not one we ever will vote into office, but one that we live now as followers of Jesus, strangers on earth; a promise of a new humanity through the wild love of God in us. So let us live.

Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world.  
Today, I am wise, so I am changing myself.
-Rumi


Sunday, November 4, 2012

Sunday Soup: Meaningful Conversation and Birthday Cake

Meaningful Conversation Can Change the World

I think the thing I miss the most in my big-girl life is the lack of meaningful conversation with other adults.  It's not for lack of trying.  It's the constant interruptions, the noise, the endless needs from little people and though I have built up a pretty healthy tolerance for noise and am able to multitask while hanging on for life to a conversation, inevitably the eyes of the person I am talking with will begin to glaze over, and they will start to fidget and lose concentration and finally look at me like I-didn't-understand-a-word-you-just-said.

Last night was not one of those nights and I happily spent that extra hour, plus five more, doing exactly the thing I love most: having a good conversation. I am going to choose to think of Daylight Savings as the start of a new era of life with children that includes adult conversation and adult beverages and children who entertain themselves. (Thanks, Jo and Larry- can we plan this every Saturday?)

It is why we read books and the reason we blog and check facebook, yes, sometimes compulsively- to know that we aren't alone.  And all of these things are good but none can replace what an hour or six of in-the-flesh meaningful conversation can do.

Related, I loved this post, Beautiful Disagreement at Jennie Allen Blog.
Recently I sat at a real life dinner table- not a virtual one- with friends who represented every end of every spectrum. But at that table with the deepest and best of conversations, we were women who loved Jesus, drinking wine and eating beautiful food and chasing God like He still contained mystery. We didn’t agree on everything but we could have disagreed for decades because it was so beautiful to disagree with people you love so much.
These kinds of beautiful disagreements were life-changing conversations for me.  I am ever grateful for the people who were able to gently disagree with me and love me anyway. In this season of polarizing politics I have to wonder if people shouting the loudest have ever shared their dinner table with a person on the other side of the issue.  Meaningful Conversation Can Change the World.

Greg Boyd on abortion
There is nothing distinctly Kingdom about having all the right opinions in the world about what governmentshould do. But when a person like Dorothy instead asks, “What can do?” that reflects the beauty of a life over which God reigns.

Busy and Busier at the Atlantic
 So then we walk around with what I call the GSA of life—the Gnawing Sense of Anxiety that something out there might be more important than what you’re currently doing. You don’t remember what it is, but it might be more important than whatever you’re doing, so you’re not present anywhere. You’re at work worrying about home, and you’re at home worrying about work, and you’re neither place psychologically when you’re there physically. That’s hugely undermining of your productivity, and certainly adds hugely to the stress factor.

 Prayers in the Garden insert book throwing moment
My friend Shannon, one of my favorite people in the world, has been writing out her faith and grief through the loss of her newborn baby, Ella. Her words are honest and bring me to tears. This post was especially beautiful.

My brother Joe:



Madden 4


We remember that the only Christian nation in this world is the church, the holy nation that transcends all human-made walls, boundaries and borders.
As we gather at the table, we remember that the power to redeem, to save, and to transform comes not from atop the seat of power but from within the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
Today I made this pumpkin coffee cake with brown sugar glaze for our church potluck.  And it was good.

After throwing out one leftover birthday cake to make another this week, and another cake in-between, we are so over birthday cake. Thought I would share our family's tradition for birthday cakes: (food dye alert) the birthday child gets to choose the cake color and what color frosting she wants, and she helps make the cake.  Add food dye to boxed cake mix, stir.  Frosting recipe: 1/2 cup softened butter with 2 2/3 c. powdered sugar, a little vanilla, splash of milk, add food dye, stir.  Revolutionary, I know.  Our friend Jody gave us this idea for colored birthday cakes, and the kids love it.  Super simple, and cheap= great birthday tradition.


Happy #5 Anna Joy!

a blessed Sabbath to you, friends!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

to be a mother

I am feeling more than a little sentimental this week, the week in-between our firstborn and middle daughter's birthdays.  

I keep reliving those first days of motherhood.  Becoming a mother was like discovering a new world, new continents of love opened up in me.  I spent the first weeks in a stunned state of elation and desperate weeping fear over the possibility of ever losing her; for the first time I was (am) capable of being completely destroyed.  I couldn't leave the room without missing her.  I still find a place in me that is only calm when all of my children are safely within sight.  I suppose this is the mothering organ we live with always.

I found this poem and I think it accurately describes what it means to be a mother.

Vietnam
Wislawa Szymborska

"Woman, what's your name?" "I don't know."
"How old are you? Where are you from?" "I don't know."
"Why did you dig that burrow?" "I don't know."
"How long have you been hiding?" "I don't know."
"Why did you bite my finger?" "I don't know."
"Don't you know that we won't hurt you?" "I don't know."
"Whose side are you on?" "I don't know."
"This is war, you've got to choose." "I don't know."
"Does your village still exist?" "I don't know."
"Are those your children?" "Yes."

Saturday, October 27, 2012

the roads we take


The problem with stories is they can only be told backwards.
Today is so full of today;
it's the dailiness that gets to you.
We don't usually recognize the story until it's past.

Deep Autumn every year I relive Autumn of 2008.
We had two kids, about to turn three and one.
It was an election year.

That summer we had left the church where Jim was a pastor,
moved out of the church parsonage and into an apartment.
Jim went back to engineering, we thought only temporary.
The apartment was small, no yard, in a small town I didn't want to be in, everything was temporary, very much a place of waiting, trying to figure out what in the world we were going to do next.

But in the meantime, in the year and a half we lived there, the apartment was my safe place;
and more than that.
I loved that apartment.
It was a new construction and everything about it felt fresh, just like our life, and it was wonderfully simple, just like life at the time.  I embraced our simplicity, our emptiness, our fresh start.

Jim was re-learning how to be an engineer.
I was shedding skin, stretching courage.
I had been a mom for a while, but the apartment is where I found my confidence and delight in mothering, where I discovered the high calling of creating a home, regardless of the house you live in.
It was where I first began to write for pay, where I learned to lean into liberty and grace, where I found my girlfriends.  It was where I grieved and fought and where I buried my imposter.
It was the in-between place through which love reached,
I came up laughing.

But I didn't really see all that at the time.
Because most days, it was just life with small children in a small apartment.
Only later did I label it Chrysalis.

And isn't every season of life some stage of metamorphosis,
some part of the Story,
character~plot~bad guys closing in . . .
We can't really identify where we are at in the story, but when we realize that it is a story we are telling,  things mean more.
It isn't just oatmeal you are stirring every morning at seven,
it is nutrition and childhood and ritual and a subplot of several stories.
These bowls piled in the sink are the daily labor, the slow unfolding of story that will one day be told, with a sigh,
ages and ages hence . . .

Even the things we strain against become weightier, meaningful . .. beautiful . .. when set against the backdrop of story.

I once believed we would come upon those two roads in the yellow wood only once,
and it was profoundly crucial that we choose the right one.
I think now that we come upon a fork in the road daily, hourly,
and we have the opportunity every day, moment by moment, which one we will choose,
to embrace the one less traveled by,
and to see the journey fresh,
 leaves no step has trodden black . . .

Saturday Soup


This week we celebrated with seven candles and a new fish named Gilda.  We are so proud of our sweet Sami Rosa. She has a kind heart and a sweet spirit, she is smart and more responsible than a seven year old probably should be (if anything happens to me I have no worries, Sam's in charge).


Next week it's five candles for our charming and sassy, cuddly and dramatic and joyful Anna Joy.  We are indeed so unspeakably blessed and humbly grateful for the amazing little lives that have been entrusted to us.


So many good things in Blogland this week, I couldn't wait to share . . .

Two Different Spirits in the Church Or, Should We Abandon Those Who Disagree With Us? by Donald Miller
Being right feels good. But let’s not fall for it. If we do, we are just like every other fighting faction in humanity. We are no different.

18 Signs You Move A Lot at Small Notebook.  I do all of these!

Homosexuality and the Church: Finding a Third Way by Greg Boyd. 
For instance, there are thousands of verses in the Bible denouncing idolatry (which would include greed, gluttony and anything else that you go to for worth and security other than God). By contrast, there are three verses in the Old Testament and three verses in the New that mention same-gender sexual activity. Yet, people guilty of the former sins are embraced without question in our churches, while people guilty of the latter sins tend to be excluded. What’s wrong with this picture?

One of the most fascinating aspects of Jesus’ ministry is that when people tried to force him to weigh in on either-or issues, he always managed to point out a third alternative —  the kingdom alternative. 



theology of the kitchen table:  I do my best theology around a table.
I invite people over and give them a place to sit. I pour wine. I offer them homemade bread. I use my hands. I whisper again and again the words of Christ: For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them, and I point out that He’s here, sitting with us, and that He is made known somewhere between the broken bread, the poured wine, the things debated with kindness and charity.

Last week at church we sang, "kindle in us love's compassion so that everyone may see in our fellowship the promise of a new humanity."  It brought tears to my eyes to think that this- THIS!- our little fellowship of believers, Christ's church, is God's plan for a new humanity.  It was never about politics.  

(If only we as believers would apply as much scrutiny to ourselves as we do to anyone who votes different than us.)
Enjoy a cozy Saturday, friends!