Monday, February 25, 2013

more complaining about the weather

Can't believe it's nearly March. Can't believe how unrelentingly grey and cold it is outside. Irritated that the children take off their coats when they get into the cold car because they are so afraid of being "too hot". They wander around the house in t shirts and shorts and open the door wide open to see 'how warm it is'. Matt, after asking me what the weather would be like all week and hearing that it would be largely cold with snow flurries but no accumulation said, 'oh, that's good. Just so long as there's not too much sun and snow' as if he is an alien from some other place.

Then my mother posted this picture on Facebook.
Because its summer all the way over there and there were so many in her garden that she had enough to cut.

I, on the other hand, am several weeks late starting my tomatoes and peppers. Not sure where I'm going to put them to keep them from destruction and mayhem.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

early adventures in sourdough

Being rather a creature of habit it takes an act of God, or the valiant shoving of a friend (not that those are necessarily different) to get me to do new or different things. In this case I have been making bread in exactly the same way for about 14 years--the precise way my dad showed me when I was at the point of wanting to make bread. Well, I mean, of course, I've made adjustments--mainly on the size of the loaves and how often I make it and how lazy I'm being. So basically I have had no interest in the no rise excitement, even though it would mean buying new kitchen equipment, or any other excitement that requires thought and change.

But my friend arranged herself comfortably in my living room and bestowed something that looked like this

upon me.
And so what could I do but make a big fat chart of when to add flour and water and when to add salt and when to start the whole process all over again and spend the week fussing over it.

And do you know? Not only is it not too hard, it feels all pioneering and all grid-fail-exciting. And it's been a great providential blessing because I am, as Marigold would say, Actually all out of My Own Yeast. So there you are. An Adventure, as it were. Maybe later I'll post about how I've already been cheating, but don't get too hopeful. I'll probably just do something else.

Monday, February 18, 2013


So many sensible people are giving up Facebook and other Things Like That for Lent that I've been vaguely unsettled that it never occurred to me to pursue such a course. I do spend a fair amount of time online but its pretty concentrated to particular moments in the day and for particular purposes. I would never categorize myself as Needing To Give It Up.

Anyway, my real guilt lies not in the amount of time online nor in the substance of what I'm reading/viewing, but rather in the deep sense of betrayal I feel I have committed against my, as Marigold would say, Own Wittle Waptop--the laptop given to me, no less, by Matt after Gladys poured tea on the lovely little white one. This current laptop was the smallest and fastest he could find, purchased by him out of love and necessity. I have taken it everywhere, done everything that needed doing--blogging, editing pictures, reading books, watching movies, beating the children off my back from thinking they could touch it at all....

until, a few days after Christmas, I found myself holding in my own hands an itsy teeny wittle iPad mini with a bright soft red cover. I have been rapturously in love all these weeks without thought or care (you know that love--the loss of thought for self, the floating around on clouds of euphoria--or something like that anyway) until a sharp pang of guilt and disloyalty swept over me last night as I heard myself say to Alouicious, 'Sure, you can play a game on my laptop. Just don't carry it all over the house. Try to stay in one place.' Even now, as I sit here laboring away on this little tiny iPad keyboard, my laptop carefully hidden behind a tower of books and paper, averting my mind's eye from its reproachful smudgy presence, the guilt and love roll mingled down into rationalization. 'The children can use the laptop for school.' 'It will be so much safer now, me leaving it in one Central Location and it being used as needed for Educational Purposes.'

Still, this little tablet is such a pleasure to use. Matt and I have synced (is that even a word) our calendars so that we are no longer shocked and horrified by the unfolding discovery of the other person's day. I have been listening to an interesting array of books read to me by people who took the time to read them out loud. Marigold has been playing Bob with the Bob Book app. I won't list everything. You might go away and do something else besides reading the Internet, a true tragedy. But so that I don't find I need to Give It Up Entirely, I will go do something else myself, for a while, but will probably very shortly be back.....

Friday, February 15, 2013

7 quick takes

For lent this year we're saying morning prayer with the kids three times a week. I had been doing an abbreviated form in the fall, plugging some memory work into the middle and letting the kids twirl while we sang, but had fallen into the ditch of Not Ever Doing It. So Matt has joined us in a gracious effort to get it back.
Marigold would hog the whole time of prayer if we let her. She has lately been prying not only for everyone by name, but also for what she thinks they should do doing the day. She'll whisper the person's name and then a long list, like, 'school, chores, make your bed, etc.' Meanwhile, everyone else is still desperately praying for a good time. 'Dear Jesus, please give us a good time at the pancake supper' as if there were any serious possibility of not having one.
Part of launching whole heatedly into this new liturgical season involved going to the dentist on Ash Wednesday, in between preaching and distractedly painting some really hideous flowers on the wall of the little girls room. The dentist was amazingly fine. I left feeling like a reasonably dysfunctional person and not the total freak I've always assumed I must be (in terms of my teeth, don't let your imagination run away from you). I have several appointments to go back but I'm strangely not worried about it. And by the end of lent, I'll probably fall into the reasonably normal category, rather than reasonably dysfunctional. Still, I will be dragging out Mrs. Miniver later and putting some more content in that Dentist category on the side.
The little girls room had to be painted on Wednesday because a new floor began to go in yesterday. Our color choice was driven by our great desire to not spend any money at all. You know all those great bloggers out there who write and photograph so beautifully about how to do amazing things with no money at all? I'm not one of those bloggers.
So the floor is half in and I think it looks great. And Matt loves it, and the boys like it and the little girls are twirling and happy and Elphine...well, Elphine sobbed for 35 minutes last night until I finally just made her go to bed. 'Every single room has blue now' she wailed. 'Why can't we just have bare boards down?' So, anyone have any 'old fashioned' rugs lying around unused?
While the floor was going in I made what I finally called Beef and Lentil Stew for Shepherd's Bowl. Ground Beef, lentils, onion, garlic, green pepper, carrots, sweet potato, chickpeas, tomatoes, and one of those amazing shalimar packets full of indian spices my mother sends me when she can. Didn't take a picture and there was none left by the end, so you'll just have to imagine how rich and delicious it was.
Today we're celebrating Valentines Day. We have a party to go to and then Matt is taking me out to dinner. So exciting. Haven't been out since before Christmas sometime. So whoever it is that's bravely coming over to babysit, hopefully Elphine won't be crying any more. I'm sure it will be totally fun.
Have a great weekend and go check out Jen!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

sermon for ash wednesday

We'll be looking mostly at Matthew 6 this morning if you would like to turn there.
So, first of all, what is Lent?
Lent is the 40 day season of fasting, self-denial and self-examination leading up to Jesus' passion, crucifixion and ultimate resurrection at Easter. It mirrors the Israelites 40 years of wandering in the dessert, the 40 days Noah and his family were in the ark and Jesus' 40 day fast after his baptism. The Sundays in lent don't count as part of the fast. Sunday marks the day of Jesus victory over death in his rising again and is always a feast day.
Two, what's with the ashes?
The ashes are a symbol, a visual reminder of death.
In a culture and time when we do everything we can to avoid the reality of death, this morning,
we will mark ourselves out as not only going to die, but as deserving of that fate.
Adam was formed out of the dust, by the hand of God and his whole being depended on God for life. As long as he lived in obedience and love with God, he would live forever. His sin, his disobedience was a decision to cut himself off from the source of his physical and spiritual life.
He rebelled against, he rejected God, and the result of that decision was death.
As the children of Adam we,
generation after generation,
family after family,
person after person,
have joined Adam in sin,
have walked that furrow deep into the ground.
And so we also die.
Not usually because of some particular sin that we commit,
but in the cosmic way that a people separated from the source of life
cannot live.
The death we die in sin is in two kinds.
We die fist spiritually.
The result of turning away from God is a heart of stone,
a heart that cannot feel,
that cannot judge rightly,
that cannot love God,
or other people,
or even the self.
And the second death is physical.
Our bodies die and fall back into the ground, into the dust.
Part of turning around and repenting, of saying sorry to God for not loving him, for not doing what he says to do, is acknowledging that we deserve both deaths, that he has a right to judge us for sin, that we really have done wrong.
The ash smeared on your head in the sign of the cross is a mark of your sorrow for sin,
your desire for God himself to bring you back to life himself—your heart now, your body at the resurrection of the dead. This new life comes through Jesus who, in dying, lifted the sin off of you and took it on to himself.
He died so that you might live.
He paid the just penalty for sin.
When you give yourself to him, his perfect life, his atoning death count for you.
God looks at you and sees you covered by Jesus’ perfection and makes you alive in Jesus, now and forevermore.
Third, therefore, what can one do during Lent?
Let's look at Matthew 6 to answer that question. This chapter is part of Jesus' great Sermon on the Mount. In this section of that sermon he is addressing three things he expects his disciples to do. In each of the three, you'll notice in verses 2, 5 and 16, Jesus does not say, 'if you' give, pray, fast he says, 'when you' give, pray, fast and then he instructs as to the manner in which he wants you to do those things.
Let’s look at the first verse.
Jesus says,
Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order sto be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.
Beware, be warned off.
You might be tempted to engage in these actions because you want other people to notice and like you or be jealous of you.
You may be doing them as a means to an end,
to get something for yourself,
acclaim, or power, or recognition.
You may like to use your work to bargain with God,
thinking he may owe you if you 'really sacrifice yourself'.
Don't do that, says Jesus.
You will have 'no reward from your Father who is in heaven'.
The reward that is worth getting will not come from making a show
and getting other people to feel bad that you're doing it
or notice you and puff you up,
or from doing it and complaining all the time.
The good reward comes from your Father in heaven who,
we find out in verses 4 and 18,
'sees in secret'.
You do them in secret,
unseen by the world
and he sees you.
You don't know or perceive that he sees you
but he does see. He does know.
I think so many of our choices
bad and good
come from a deep loneliness,
of not feeling known or seen or understood by other people.
The first three sins after God created the world—
Eve's doubt of God's goodness,
Adam's abdication,
Cain's murder of Able—
were not born out of a desire for material things particularly,
but from a doubting that God really sees,
really cares,
is really acting in love,
is good,
and that his goodness and love are enough.
Jealousy, pride, despair, gluttony, lust, covetousness,
all these grow out of the root of poverty,
that God is not love,
that he is not good,
that he himself is not enough,
that he is not here,
that he does not see,
that he does not care.
That we can do better than him,
that we do not need him nor owe him anything.
These three, giving, praying and fasting cut at the root of that lie. They say that you cannot and do not want to live on your own power and strength,
that you trust him to provide for you,
to sustain you.
And you trust that he sees you that he hears you that he cares for you.
So, when you give,
you give because you believe that God has already given you what you need and that he will go on giving.
You don't give trying to get something,
like guilt from other people, or acclaim and recognition,
you give out of love and dependence.
And Jesus says, in secret, The Lord sees you.
So also your praying.
Pray in such a way that either seen or unseen by men,
your heart and mind are fully fixed on the one to whom you pray,
to the Father who not only hears your prayers, he hears them before you pray them.
The prayer Jesus gives here is a prayer that encompasses every part of the material and spiritual life, it is a prayer of dependence on and trust in God who sees you and hears what you say.
And finally, when you fast. That is the kicker.
I've always had a whole bunch of good reasons why I could not fast. I'm pregnant, I'm nursing (well, ok, those count), I will literally die because of my metabolism.
But what if your desire for God,
your need to be with him in prayer,
your sense of despair about yourself and your ability to fix your own problems,
and ultimately, your loneliness,
those moments when you look deeply at your heart and know
that not only does no other human person know you,
understand you,
love you to the depths of your need,
and not only so
but you do not love yourself,
you do not know yourself
and you cannot explain to yourself or to other people why you act the way you do,
why you are choosing the things you are choosing,
then a fast of some kind will maybe be a great help to you.
In fasting there might be at least two gains,
or rewards given to you which cannot be taken away or be ruined.
The first gain is that in denying yourself something,
say food for one meal,
or some food or activity you feel reliant on to get through the day,
you gain the discovery that Jesus is able to sustain you without that thing.
You don't have to provide for yourself emotional health and well-being,
or material needs,
or spiritual salvation,
he will provide them for you.
You don't need to reach out and take the fruit of the tree that you think you need,
he can give you what you really do need.
The second gain is that in taking something away,
you are making room for Jesus where you haven't had room before.
You are preparing a place for him to know you and be known by you in a deeper way.
I have one final thought to close us out.
Some of you may be uncomfortable with the dissonance
between Jesus commanding all these spiritual actions be done and if possible done in secret,
which is essentially action born out of humility and love—
praying, giving, fasting done only for God to see,
only because you love him—
and then come up here and have a smear of ash in the shape of the cross applied to you that everyone can see.
Let me suggest that this sign is actually a sign of humility.
It is a sign of mourning, of sorrow.
Let me recall to your mind a peculiar detail from 2 kings 4.
One of the bad kings of Israel was walking along the wall during a siege by the Syrians.
The people were so hungry because of the siege that they were eating their babies.
And then the writer tells us this about the king when he discovers that babies are being eaten,
" When the king heard the words of the woman, he tore his clothes—now he was passing by on the wall—and the people looked, and behold, he had sackcloth beneath on his body. "
The sign of his mourning was made bear and the people saw it.
As you come forward for the smear of ash,
for the sign of death, to bear the mark of sin and mortality on your head,
let the public sign be an occasion for true inward sorrow.
Rend your heart open before God
and let him see the darkness of your soul and mind.
Confess to him the thing that hurts you most to bring into the light of day.
And then,
even after the sign is washed away,
walk the next forty days as if you are stepping behind Jesus as he wends his weary painful way to Jerusalem. Why is he making this journey?
Why is he bearing up under the splintery hard cross?
Why is he willing to die?
Isn't it because he loves you?
Isn't it because he knows that His Father is enough to bind up his wounds?
The way of the cross is the way of life.
It is on the cross that all the sin,
all the bad motivation,
all the rebellion,
all the darkness of our hearts and minds can be wiped clean,
can be forgiven.
The sign is worn for a night,
the sorrow endures for a moment.
But life with the Father through the work of the Son, in the power of the Spirit endures forever.
You may leave here in mourning bearing the sign of death
knowing that Jesus has conquered death,
that it has no power over you.
Though you die, you will rise with The Lord of life
who sees what you do,
who loves you,
who forgives you,
who feeds and strengthens and provides for you.
The steadfast love of The Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end. He is faithful. Hear his voice today, turn to him and live that his glory may extend over the whole earth.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

it appears that marigold was trying to blog

UribrdroororrwyefuuuuiĆ aQgp,tn,o
Uh f. .
Hby4 m m.

And now she is mad at me because I made her stop.

Monday, February 11, 2013

pictures of ermentrude


Ermintrude received 'skinny jeans' for her birthday. She got all ready to go out and then lay herself down on the bed and shrieked for ten minutes or so.  

Then she was mad at me for taking a picture.
Aren't her boots  cool? 

And here is her cake. Chocolate with pink icing and kisses on the top. Basically she licked all the frosting off and then ate the candies and then got down and threw her new blocks around the room.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

the poem of god

We watched The Prince of Egypt recently in our usual lackadaisical weekly watching of A Family Movie. It's either Big Trouble in Little China (whoops) or Gnomeo and Juliet (srsly) or well, other hits and misses. So I thought The Prince of Egypt was going to be about Joseph not Moses and I didn't know it was a musical....but I tried not to feed into the general whining about all the singing. Alouicious finally stopped complaining when he realized the little girls liked it.

In particular, Gladys seemed to be thinking about all kinds of things and after talking a whole lot when it was over and rubbing my cheek announced that she would write a poem. Then, the next day, she hassled me all morning until I dropped everything and sat down and wrote down what she wanted. All that follows is her 'poem', but really more of an imprecatory psalm, scribbled by me as she spoke without breath. If you're generally offended by the violent justice of God in the Old Testament then you won't enjoy this. But if you've worked through that you should be fine.

The Poem of God
By Gladys

Mary and Joseph were going to get a baby.
An angel said to them, "You are going to have a baby."

Pharoah came to get his prisoners back
but God put up a wall of water for his people
and flooded Pharaoh and his people.
God's people were safe.

The people of Israel had a party to celebrate.
God said the people should have a place to live and lots of food and water.

They came to a place a place where the were lots
of homes with food and water.
The people lived and were safe.

All Pharaoh's people were dead,
sinking in the sand and all the frogs
were jumping on them.
They would be dead forever.

God's people were safe with food and water.
Every morning they sat in front of the cozy fire with warm blankets.

All Pharaoh's people were dead at the bottom of the ocean.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

ermintrude turns two

Shocked by the horrific cold brought about by dressing up in a huge puffy pink snow suit, boots, hat, mittens and scarf and standing in the true nightmare that is a foot of snow for three and a half minutes, Big Fatty Lumpkin is this moment siting on my lap piercing the otherwise relative quiet with shrieks and trying to shove both her plump fists in her mouth to warm them up. I agree with her. Going out there is a bad idea. The wind, the's just not that pretty.

Instead maybe, once she's recovered, she can help me do laundry and then have a lie down while I bake some kind of cake.

I'm fairly ambivalent about this birthday moment. On the one hand, the sooner a baby stops being a baby the better, otherwise we would all die from never sleeping ever. On the other hand, it would be nice if she would slow down for a few minutes and not rush from one stage to the next. She's trying to keep up with the others. She doesn't want anyone to do anything for her. The moments of sitting on my lap sucking on her fists are becoming more and more rare. She weighs the same and is nearly as tall as Marigold. Only her fat cheeks and fat neck and cry give her away as a whole year younger.

So, congratulations to you, baby Ermintrude. This may be the year we stop calling you baby and start calling you by your name. Or, perhaps not. Perhaps one more year of being Baby.

Friday, February 08, 2013

a holy lent

I wrote this for the church this week and thought it pass it on to all of you.

My psalm reading this morning just happened to be Psalm 32 which begins,
“Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.”
This strikes me as a perfect entrance into a Lenten season of repentance and self examination. The gift of God’s forgiveness to the one who turns in sorrow for sin is the beginning point. It is the moment of greatest blessing. Many things come after it—love, grace, maturity, knowledge, enlightening of the heart and mind—but none of them can be had in their fullness without repentance, without turning around and walking towards God rather than away from him. And yet this beginning step is usually always the hardest, whether it is a first time repentance, or one of the many many times of contrition the Christian faces.

And yet here is the biggest grace: Repentance itself is God’s work in you and God’s gift to you. I’ll use myself as a good bad example. I long to have a clean house. I desire almost more than anything for Cleanliness and Order. I convince myself that I can’t function properly if things aren’t perfectly picked up and put away. And then I make that desire part of my identity, part of my sense of self. And then I make other people live up to my perfect standard, judging them when they don’t meet my expectations. And I do all this without really thinking about it or premeditating it. I make myself into a tyrant god by sheer habit. But then God, through his Word, takes the trouble show this to me, both in the course of the weekly sermon, and in my private reading at home, in this case through “accidentally” reading about the Tower of Babel over and over without meaning to.

The technical word for this process is Conviction. It can be painful, but also, sweet, because God, so big, so concerned with so many important things, takes the trouble to care about the smallest, meanest darkest parts of me and you.

I pray you will take the time in this blessed season of Lent to open yourself to Jesus and let him look at your whole heart, your whole mind, and allow him to adjust things according to his own plan and purpose. Blessed is the one whose transgression, whose sin is forgiven!

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

something I meant to mention a lot earlier

My very long time friend and her sister happened to write and illustrate a lovely book recently called Olive's Balloon Adventure. Marigold received this book from St. Nicholas before Christmas and I would say that she and Gladys and I would highly recommend it for any little person who intends to do everything herself without help or interference from any living person of any kind. I meant to say this very thing here before Christmas on the off chance that any of you were casting about for just such a book. But now it's only a week before Valentine's Day and perhaps you know a little someone who longs to look at beautiful pictures and read about Olive meeting so many interesting creatures. As for me, I am so impressed to know someone cool enough to have written any book at all let alone a charming and lovely one.
Pip pip

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

work, it won't save you but it's still a good idea

I've been mulling over the Christian concept of Work over the past many weeks, not least because we do so much of it around here, but more really because of our Sunday School program, Catechesis of the Good Sheperd.

My own children have all come through Catechesis, Elphine, as in everything, paving the way. Way back then, I didn't have any expectations and didn't have time for anything either and was just really grateful for her to meet Jesus, the Good Shepherd, in a special and beautiful space and to 'work' with so many materials made particularly for her and the other children. I count her current love of Jesus as the fruit of that time in the 3 to 6 year old Atrium and I am so so grateful for it. So also with all who have followed her. The teachers and the space and the time have been such a huge gift to their spiritual lives.

And then at the beginning of this year by the strange and seemingly incomphensible organization of God, I landed in the 3-6 year or Atrium myself, not as student, you will be relieved to know, but as Catechist. And so I have over this past year, finally, seen the "work" of the youngest child, so often read about but never observed first hand (by me).

So, knowing academically what was supposed to happen, I rigorously followed the steps laid out, establishing a culture and method of common life in the space--walking quietly, talking quietly, rolling and unrolling mats, working on something and then returning it to its place before the next thing, watering the plant, carpet sweeping the floor, and so on.

 Having Marigold, who was cumbered in her speech at the beginning if the year, flower in contentment and joy particularly through the Work has been so interesting. She is 'at home'. She is restful. She gets out her folder and her mat and  pastes and colors and then she puts it away and pours beans and then she might arrange flowers and then she takes all the little switch on 'candles' and lines them up and turns them on.

That she is not this restful at 'home' is also very interesting to me. Here, she beats and shouts her way into doing things she wants to do, many of them destructive. It's a clutter and a jumble here and even when there is 'work' for her that she wants to do, usually someone else is coming in and trying to ruin it for her. I don't feel particularly bad or guilty about this. We are a lot of people doing all our own things and the little ones, as far as I am concerned, are welcome to beat their way into everyone's attention, as long as they don't literally beat each other. I'm making it sound worse than it is. Right  now, for example, Marigold is industriously coloring in her school book while everyone else also works. But still, there's a definite edge to her chin as she goes about it.

Unfortunately for all of us, this is just going to have to be Part One because I myself also have actual work to do and I haven't completed my own thought. But do not despair, I'll probably back to this subject sometime again before we all die.