Wednesday, November 27, 2013

and then the ice

I lay awake from midnight to three am listening to the ice fall out of the sky. It thunked down, bouncing and pinging. I'm sure if I was up in a fancy ski lodge with a cup of fortified cocoa and an elegant pair of woolen socks I would have thought it was pristine and mesmerizing.
Lying awake half the night listening to it and fretting about all the work you're going to have to do tired--when the weak winter sun finally drags is sorry self up to the cloud line, not to shine but to make all the darkness gray with dawn--is not so romantic.
The sunroom floor is covered in snow suits half dry and now very cold. Somehow they all have to be put away and some pies made and the table extended. There's a bunch of other stuff too but listing it will just make me more fretful.
The children won't probably want to go out today even though they did have fun yesterday. At first. But then Elphine ticked everybody off by trying to control the snowball fight. She worked herself into an angry froth and then spread it around to everyone else.
I'm pretty sure I do the same thing all the time but I'm a little more subtle about it. I make everyone bend to my will, usually in the matter of cleaning up on Saturdays before Sundays, and give everyone a bad time. It's very likely I will fall into the same pit today. "We have to get ready for Thanksgiving!" I'll bark and snarl and whine. "You know, the one day of the year when we have to be thankful! Now clean up so I can feel thankful!" 
I might not say it exactly like that. Maybe I'll be self controlled and loving all day like a good mother would. You know, all those other good mothers out there. All those ones on the internet. The same internet that is both flinging itself into fits of encouraging, nay, commanding me to tap into that deep well of thankfulness that should abide in some part of every human soul, but is also, the internet that is, advertising to me so that I will be dissatisfied with everything I have. Which is it, oh internet world? Shall I buy or throw away? Shall I be satisfied or fuss? Shall I eat carbs or eschew them?
Neither, I think. Don't think I'm going to take my cue from the interwebs today. St. John told me just now One, that perfect love casts out fear and Two, that He who is in me is greater than he who is in the world, and I think we can safely lump The Internet into the category of The World. It is only the alien love of Jesus, the perfecting, life giving love of God that can bring about any gratitude from any place-- that place being not the jumbled sinful well of my own heart but from his own self. But don't worry, tomorrow I'll probably still post the 365 things I'm most thankful for. It's a useful exercise. Maybe, as a working out my way toward the perfect life giving mind of Christ, I will even include the snow. But don't even mention the ice. That is never making it onto the list.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013


We get to have a new furnace today so that will be nice. As for the scene outside the window, I can't think of anything less nice, except maybe chunks of ice barreling down from the sky. Getting the children to consider putting on a sweater and a pair of socks the last few days has been well nigh impossible. They just stand and look at me blankly when I suggest it, and when I command it because we are going outside (you fool!) they whine that they can't find a sweater or socks. And they say the word 'socks' like it is some foreign item they have only read about in the dictionary. And yet they complain of the cold. And complain when I won't let them out because it is cold and they don't have on a coat or socks. It's like being stuck in one of those loops where you say something and then the other person says something unhelpful and so you repeat what you said and then they just repeat what they said and you go on this way for five or so minutes and then by mutual frustration you drift away from each other. Except with children there is no where to go. "Can't they go play in the parking lot?" My mother wished whistfully yesterday. But they can't because it's so cold. And it's only November.

Friday, November 22, 2013

seven spiritual quick takes

Plowing through Job in the last remaining days of my bible reading plan. Job crosswayed with Isaiah and John. So Job lost everything yesterday and Jesus was crucified. And today Job was struck from his head to his foot and Jesus rose. And in Isaiah the Phonecians are a mess. Really disturbed, again, how it is God who draws Satan's attention to Job. I can see why Jesus would tell us to ask God not to lead us into temptation. It sure looks like that's what's going on with Satan in Job 1.

 On the other hand, the depth of Job's grief is really wonderful. We are too quick, I think, to jump to 'oh, I'm fine. There's no problem. I'll be fine.' I am so guilty of this with myself and of orienting my children that way. I'm always happy for them to tell me that they're fine immediately when something terrible happens to them, like being struck with a block by another child. Occasionally lying in sackcloth and woe on the ground and admitting that things are not ok would not be a bad idea.

I'm pretty sure that if Job were around today no one would be prepared to deal with his grief and he would be encouraged to take something and go to counseling to manage his problems. It doesn't feel like to me that the human person is allowed, in this culture, to properly account for great suffering and black evil. Certainly Job saw his problem as God's problem and turned his grief toward God, not towards a solution of feeling better. He was physically and materially destroyed but he recognized all the troubles as spiritual, as being in God's hands to deal with. 

I keep running across Christians--on the internet so not personally, I'm just reading what they're writing--who are really sad, unhappy, and not desirous of dying on the hill of upholding biblical marriage in the face of a whole world who wants 'marriage equality'. The trouble is, we Christians weren't super desirous of dying on the divorce hill, we let that hill melt underneath us and went on living. We didn't die on the abortion hill, however many of us would have been willing to die on that hill. So now the hill is marriage equality and while many don't want to die on this hill, many have finally been willing to. None of these hills are what anyone would pick. But eventually the hill will just be owning a bible, as we saw in North Korea this week. Will Christians be willing to die for just owning a bible, never mind if they open and read it? 

Speaking of suffering, the heating contraption in this house, I believe it's called a furnace however ridiculous that appallation is at this very moment, what with the ice cold air blowing all over everywhere, is malfunctioning. When I'm cold I feel in my flesh that God has rejected me and is getting ready to cast me into Sheol, gray hairs and all. I just can't stop being angry when I'm cold. And when people who enjoy the cold, who come in on a brisk Sunday morning into the church kitchen to rejoice over the biting wind and sloshing wet snow, it's hard for me to understand how Jesus can be Lord of us both.

Matt is preaching on the Widow's Mite on Sunday. Vaguely under the impression that he will be preaching against her. Good times, good times.

Me, I'm getting ready for Advent. Advent candles, prophecy cards, maybe even that Jesse Tree I sarcsstically considered earlier in the week. I do love Advent, almost in proportion to how much I loathingly tolerate Christmas. Not that I dislike the Incarnation. I think that part is swell. It's all the tinsel and the wrapping paper that stresses me out. And it is all about me. Me me me. See, I can get into the Christmas Spirit.

Seven may be a perfect number, but it's too much for me this morning. I have to get up and make the children do school. How many times shall I make the children do school, O My Father, seven times? Woe is me, not seven times but seventy seven times. 
Everything gets jumbled in the morning.

Have a great weekend and go check out Jen!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

{phfr}:blogging when i should be doing something else edition

Look how beautiful my house at home in Africa is right now! Miss it lots. Specially as apparently the temperature is going to fall into the 20s here over the weekend.
[picture by Miranda Jemphrey]
I hope most, if not all, of the many rooms The Lord is preparing for me look like all the rooms in this house. The cool floors, the thatch, the water jars, though not the snakes and termites and scorpions. 
We indulged in a lovely dinner with the vestry and the bishop at a pillar of a local restaurant on Saturday. Here is His Grace having a properly good time.
Why is it that when I consider the word {happy}--a word which, in my soul, I don't really approve of, a word which is rarely applied to me, a word misused and ruined by this culture, what is happiness anyway? Here for a moment and then gone suddenly in a breath--it usually has to do with food. Well...never mind Usually. Always.
This morning I made pancakes but fell short on the subject of milk and was forced into Sour Cream and Apple Cider.
If you are able, I commend you to throw out all your milk if you are setting about to make pancakes. Walk the narrow and luscious way of Apple Cider and Sour Cream. Yea, even I tasted one of these golden orbs (self satisfied delight for finally working that into an actual sentence) though did not eat a whole stack. For, though my soul draws nigh unto the Apple Cider Sour Cream Pancake, yet in my flesh I shall hate myself a whole lot for eating one. Forced myself to eat a bacon soaked egg instead.
Alouicious is turning out to be sarcastic and funny, and to have pretty good timing. Without humor, where would we be? Super depressed all the time that's where.
The garden is dead and dying.
I haven't been out to cut anything back or plant bulbs or anything. Can't face it. It's too cold already.
Also, my desk is a tragic wreck. So wrecked don't even know where or when to begin to cope with it or clean it or pitch it all in the rubbish heap or consign it to the fire that never dies and the worm that goes on forever. Pity, because there's actually a lot of work I'm supposed to do buried in its depth. Praying for God to do something supernatural, or for death.
Probably I'll still be here tomorrow, doing seven quick takes or something.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

wordy wednesday: because if I had had a camera, it would have been a great picture.

My poor mother set about to make a cake yesterday--a lemon Starbucks loaf, but in a bunt pan, doubled, so that it would turn out big and fat. She even went to the store to buy the lemons which turned out to be complicated and horrendous because of the person in front of her purposing to pay in pennies, thereby freaking out the poor checkout lady who didn't recover well and put all the lemons in between the bags and not in them. I feel like that's a story she oughta tell on her blog [dont you think she should blog every day?!] but when she came home it turned out we didn't have nearly anything else. No real vanilla. No unsalted butter. No space in the kitchen because Matt, in some kind of fit, was roasting himself a consolation turkey from having had his Harvest Dinner turkey baked for him by someone helpful and lovely and inspired by the Spirit who knew he shouldn't be cooking a turkey because he was supposed to be working on a talk. None of this I knew. I, thoughtfully, thawed what eventually felt like ten pounds of "ground beef" from Aldi (sorry to all you horse lovers out there but we're going to eat it whatever it turns out to be, stop judging me) and cooked it expecting to need to provide dinner for the family, stupid providing mother that I am. By 6 o'clock the kitchen was full to the brim of cake, turkey, unadorned ground beef and bread dough, me with a headache, Matt covered in turkey and muttering to himself, my mother wrangling with Marigold who took it upon herself to fill fifteen or so cups of water for super, plus ice, and a whole pile of children who needed to run around but had to do it in the basement because of the cold and who supplemented their running with banging on the center metal pole with some kind of stick.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

the church lady

Slowly emerging from a post weekend stupor. Feel like I worked solidly from Last Tuesday through till Sunday without pausing for breath or to put on a better pair of shoes. 
Dreamt just now that I was lecturing someone about the human capacity for work. "With each child," I explained to someone whom I pretty sure I know but whose face has disappeared with the dream, "you will be able to work so much harder." I think I was waving something around, like a rolling pin or some car keys. But this weekend wasn't about having children and the Sisyphean work of mothering them so much as it was about being a good old fashioned, hard working Church Lady. One of those ladies who sweeps the floor and makes photocopies and bakes a cake and answers the church phone and listens to people in crisis and rummages around for a nice baptismal table. "Are you the First Lady here?" a charming young child asked me at the Harvest Dinner last Wednesday. "Oh! no no, I'm a Church Lady, not a First Lady" 'and I know which is better,' I whispered to myself as I brought that good child some more pie. I'm sure a First Lady is liable to work awfully hard and do a lot of interesting things. But Church Ladies put in solid hours of good labor. When you're young you've had enough after a few minutes. But work brings endurance and endurance brings hope and hope is not a disappointment. You keep thinking you have reached the end, but then it turns out you can go just a little further before this happens.
And then you can wake up and look around and think, What's for Advent?

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

7 quick takes

We've been trying to finish watching Ben Hur for nearly a whole monthAnd we had to re-rent it each time. And every time the internet caused Matt to resort to frantic profanity, except the one section when a friend happened by unexpectedly and providentially and showed us how to make the internet go farther, as it were. And every time we turned it on, all the children would start shouting at the screen. One of the loudest, most fraught movies I've ever had to endure.
The thing that impressed me most, besides Charleston Heston, was how an ordinary American of today, excepting everybody at Good Shepherd because even the youngest among us are biblically literate, would not be able to follow the plot of the movie. Jesus is alluded to all the time, but only at the end does he come into focus. And you have to know about the regulations surrounding leprosy to know what the problem is there. So much knowledge is assumed to make the movie go forward that we in the church today don't assume any more because so few people have any of it.
Of course, there were varying levels of interest in our own small family attention abilities. Romulous felt like there should have been some actual fighting. Elphine couldn't handle even the illusion to the crucifixion and had to leave the room. Gladys and Alouicious just chattered away all the time.
Marigold and Fatty Lumpkin raged with excitement at the end, screaming and shouting and jumping, 'JESUS IS DYING ON THE CWOSS. JESUS IS DYING ON THR CWOSS.'
Last Sunday I did the Sign of the Cross in Catechesis and Marigold in particular wrestled profoundly with the wonderment that Jesus isn't any longer on the cross. At first she thought I was kidding, but then she went back over it and over it. Last year it was Gladys who surprised me. In the simple sign--Father, Son and Holy Spirit--she gathered up the two natures of Christ, the Trinity and the Atonement and said them all very simply to me as she made the sign. As an idiot adult, up to that point, I hadn't really gotten the point of this particular presentation because, well, who knows, I'm a Protestant, I only do it on Sunday morning, I don't think carefully about everything I do, and also I hadn't been in with the three to six year olds before so I hadn't had a chance to see what all the fuss was about. As Marigold made the sign again and again on Sunday the waves of foolishness washed up once more against my shadow shore. 
I think it's time for The Baby to have a proper blog name. I believe I'm ready to retire Fatty Lumpkin, much as I have loved it. She's just not Fat any more.
But nor does she fit under the Lady Elaine I had played with previous. Right now I'm leading towards Edna of CinderEdna, the neighbor of Cinderella. CinderEdna, or Edna for short, tried sitting in the cinders but got bored and so went about earning some extra pocket money cleaning bird cages and mowing people's lawns so that when it was time to go to the ball, she had already put a dress on layaway and had the presence of mind to take the bus. We'll see. I'm going to try it out for a bit, reserving the right to change my mind as she grows and changes.
The past many weeks I and a few others have been doing odd little jobs to "beautify" the Parish Hall at Good Shepherd in light of the the glorious new wall and Children's Area or Department or whatever it is we might end up calling it. I say Odd Jobs only to refer to the work that I myself have done. The work of others is much weightier and involved. The people painting all the trim, for example, and the lovely Lady who worked from 10 in the morning, last Saturday, to 10 at night covering these bulletin boards to make them all go together. 
And then a very kind and wonderful person drilled through the concrete wall so that they could be beautifully hung. None of these things was I even a tiny bit equipped or talented enough to undertake and I'm so grateful for all the care and vision and interest and hard work of everyone who does anything in the church. Its extraordinary how many people you can find at any given hour, in the church, doing something interesting and clever.
Speaking of the opposite of that, interesting and clever I mean, today I'm just going to be cleaning my house. As is so often the way, while I have been over fussing at church, my own house has vomited out the contents of all it's cupboards and everything has to be put away or we will all be buried and die. The children won't enjoy this, tragically, but they will have to help a little, as breaks from the toil-some labor of learning stuff out of their school books. What a miserable existence they enjoy, they will tell me, how they suffer. 
But, as I said before. The Bishop is Coming! The Bishop is Coming! Should I make a pumpkin pie or have Elphine make an Apple Cake? If only the garden hadn't frozen over and all the flowers died. I will say nothing more of the weather, so great is my bitterness and despair. 
Here is Gladys' rendition of me sad about the weather.
Have a great weekend (if you want to, if you like that sort of thing, don't let me tell you what to do) and go check out Jen.

Monday, November 11, 2013

monday morning haze

The children are gently squabbling in the kitchen over their vats of sugar cereal. Matt is uploading the sermon and class from yesterday. I'm trying to recover from the day's Bible Readings which included the King of Israel killing all the sons of Ahab, all the friends of Ahab, all the people who ever even knew about Ahab (possible hyperbole but not too far off) and then every single man in Israel who identified as a worshipper of Baal. From thence it went on to the killing of Athaliah. So much violence. Why is the Bible so full of violence? I frequently wonder to myself. But then I run across creeps like this
and I remember that it's a wonder that any of us get to go on at all. God is so merciful to sinners. Better to suffer the wrath of the world than to be standing anywhere near the above man when he suffers the just wrath of God.

Anyway, I'm praying for a week not full of idolatry and violence. Instead of that, a possible library moment today, preferably one where Fatty Lumpkin doesn't pee on the floor in the children's section while Marigold deliberately and methodically removes all the books from a shelf in one section so that we are forced to depart in hurried shame. Then I probably need to cut everyone's hair. For the bishop. Just kidding, obviously the bishop probably doesn't care if the children's hair is properly cut but it's helpful to have a deadline to get things done. Would be funny though. 'Here, your Grace, are my children. Observe their properly groomed hair and the fact that they are clothed.' Hee hee hee. I'm probably the only one who gets that joke. Sorry.

Later in the week is The 113th Good Shepherd Harvest Dinner. Wednesday 5-7. I know the cooks and I highly recommend you all come.

And I have to repair the little flags for the Raised Surface Map which Marigold mangled in Catechesis yesterday. And the jar of 'Polish' was shattered so I have to find a new one. Can I just say, for those of you with small people who are wandering around with nothing to do, Children Love to Polish. And by 'Polish' I mean baking soda and a little water, a sponge cut into little squares, something made of brass, and then a vigorous scrubbing of the item with the sponge and the baking soda, strewing it around, covering everything with white grainy pasty baking soda and then me taking everything home and washing it and polishing it with real polish so that it really does shine. So wonderful and fun. I just love organized religion.

I don't hear anymore squabbling. Only silence. I find that ominous and so I think I will arise and seek a cause for a quiet house in which dwell so many young children. Have a lovely day and Thank You to everyone who has so faithfully and bravely a served this country in times of war and peace. 

Friday, November 08, 2013

7 quick takes

My mother is working on the making of fancy pancakes (crepes) for breakfast with the girls (the boys are at Man's Bible Study) giving me time to "workout". Fortunately I remembered that I haven't blogged in like four days so the "workout" will have to wait.
She has a tiny special pan for each girl and she is teaching them how to pour in the batter, swirl and then flip the pancake. And she does it all calmly without screaming. But then they all listen to her because they know she means it. Unlike me, where they have worn me down to a shrivel of my former self. Even the dog regards me with a supercilious eye and barks wildly at me when when I desperately cry 'No! Stop Barking! Please! For the love of Somebody or Other!'
The general obsession with Calvin and Hobbes is reaching disturbing proportions. Gladys has been drawing God in her copy book as a Sun. In the beginning of the book she drew God like this.
God is in the sky looking down on all he has made. 
Then she switched to drawing him as a Sun. Then she joined in her syblings devotion to Calvin and Hobbes in which, you might remember, Calvin once is turned into a sun who wears sunglasses. Now God looks like this for Gladys.
I can't begin to say how much I love this.
Continuing on with Gladys, Matt has owed her a lunch out for a while. She picked out her clothes the day before and then got up and got dressed about six in the morning, but then when they were finally ready to go, she couldn't bring herself to smile for me.
I agree with her. Smiling sometimes diminishes the grandure and importance of a moment.
I agree with Matt too that he looks partially insane in this picture. I'm pretty sure it's because of the hat but I can't be sure.
And here is their lunch.
Despite what this blog may indicate, Gladys doesn't consume my every waking moment any more than any other child. She's turning out to be a drama queen just at the moment her older sister is becoming a little more grounded as a person. Elphine can carry on a conversation now without squealing or falling over which, while pleasant, is not great blog fodder. Same with all the others. Honestly, I'll take it. Calmish, moderately rational, occasionally obedient, basically cheerful, emotionally uncluttered children. Some may call it average boring mediocrity. I call it a decent, orderly, satisfying day.
The three oldest girls are going on a sleep over tonight and so Gladys and Marigold are busy gathering up stuff to take. They are also practically shaking with energy and hope and are breathing heavily. What are the chances of a little school work before they finally get to go......bets anyone?
I, on the other hand am turning my mind and heart to the fact that the bishop is coming in a week. Meals need to be organized. The church needs to be decluttered. Matt has a big pile of things to organize and do. And also, I'm starting Pageant rehearsals the Sunday he's here so there's that. Fortunately again, the Wait but Why blog  has two great posts on Procrastination the reading of which will save me from all the realities just enumerated above. So much to be thankful for in this month of thanks giving.
These are the days of book writing. Everybody seems to be doing it. Even people who don't blog. People who have an old fashioned pen in the hand and a notebook in the lap. Novels, sketches, memories. Elphine and Alouicious themselves are busy writing a stack of comics. If I was a better person I would be happy about this but the problem is, the only reason I know about the explosion of the whole world writing a book is that I Too, am busily tapping away at little sketches of this and that. And the more I work on them, the more I'm swallowing down ungodly jealousy about everyone else. But I've found a great remedy for this, and no, it's not working harder and writing more. It's watching book promotional videos of terrible books I hope never to read and which offend everything I hold as good and true and right. As a gift for the weekend, I give you this.
Have a great weekend and go check out Jen!

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

beef wellington and the terrible prospect of the fatness ahead

Matt made Beef Wellington on Sunday.
For Reformation Day, he said. The English Reformation, he said.
With peas and Yorkshire Pudding.
OMW (oh my word)
I'm having enough trouble with my normal every day life as it is.
I've taken a long restful two weeks away from the ghastly Jillian Michaels and her deeply offensive but also effective Thirty Day Shred. I haven't even really bothered to walk. Been too busy....and I had a cold...just wasn't time. You Know. There is just So Much to Do! Working out, which is so important as we all know, is also a big annoying hassle to me because I hate doing it. But that's no call to Matt to start wrapping meat in prosciutto, duxelles and then pastry and blast it in the oven at 425 for 50 minutes until it is golden and aromatic and then let it rest gently so that the pastry comes to be the abode of the what is essentially gravy, gorgeous rich gravy.
I mean, I know it's the Day of The Lord and so on and so forth. But heaven help me. Some things are not to be borne.
On that note, I can't possibly do the thirty day shred again for a while. What else should I do? Any suggestions? Keep in mind that I need to keep a strong core and I'm vain about my arms. And that I hate exercising at all and so it can't be longer than 20 minutes or I won't really do it, probably. I probably won't do it. Who are we kidding, I definitely won't do it.

Monday, November 04, 2013

there's a new church year around the corner

I'm good at living and celebrating the church year because it's my job and if I don't pull things together, the church does it for me. Or, rather, I go over and do it at church and don't have to worry about it in the same way at home. So much of my life is rummaging around in cupboards in the sacristy or the church bat cave or the Sunday school cupboard looking for advent candles or black ribbon for Good Friday or tying head arrangements on assorted boys trying to beat each other with their shepherd's staffs at Christmas time or rushing out on Saturday night to acquire unto myself oranges and chocolate gold coins for the tallest man that fits my make shift bishop hat to distribute to surprised children in the middle of church on the Sunday closest to St. Nicholas Day. My home church year life is less about all that and more about the food. And that, the food I mean, Matt and I take very seriously. Eating through the church year is our spiritual act of worship, or our love language, or something.

But vast acres of this way of living and worshipping go unexplained and might appear to be, or even are, hap hazard. And the church, this exact church here that I am lying in my bed gazing at
is full of people for whom this particular flavor and brand of Christianity is new and unfamiliar. The changing colors on the altar is the most obvious and intriguing sign of the church year but there are so many rites  and prayers and traditions that we do at Good Shepherd, sometimes explaining them, sometimes forgetting to, that many who worship here are frequently wandering around in a shadow of curiosity wondering "What On Earth are they doing and why?" And sometimes "Can I go on doing some of this in my dorm or at home with my children or something?" 

Well, rejoice beloved, now there is a clever little book to bring some of it into focus and make it easier to bring what we do at church into your various and sundry abodes.
Jessica Snell of Homemaking Through the Church Year and many other interesting endeavors has put together a practical and useful guide to understanding and doing many of the things that Christians have done done through the centuries. She writes, "This book is focused on bringing seasonal Christian traditions into the home, so that our daily routines can be peppered with little reminders of God’s goodness and grace. Ideally, we’ll all be as aware of God at home as we are at church."
Because what is the use of knowing about these traditions or seeing them if you can't bring them home and make them your own. And how can you do that if someone doesn't show how and why. And to add icing over the whole plummy wonder is that she's published the Advent and Christmas sections first and in time to really do something about them. I particularly commend Jessica's introductory explanation of what the church year is and what it is for. Rather than just adding another pile of work to your devotional life, she articulates a lovely vision for an ordered, gracious life centered around the life of Jesus and the work of the Holy Spirit. As I am constantly yelling at people, liturgy is meant to be a help. You put yourself into an action that you don't necessarily feel and it carries your forward. Wondrously, this doesn't just have to happen for an hour on Sunday morning. Carry it home with you. Let Us Keep The Feast will be a great help to you as you do!