Wednesday, February 26, 2014
Monday, February 24, 2014
I have long been desiring a new blog.
Not because I haven't loved posting here all this long time. As the years have wended themselves away, through crisis and quiet, through babies and exhaustion, always in the church, always with a big pile of laundry and a sink full of dishes, I have lived here working out my salvation with fear and trembling. Looking back through eight years of posts there are some bright moments and some funny hysteria but really this has been the mundane recording of ordinary time. It is here that I got into the habit of writing, both the discipline and the glory. Of all the things in my life, blogging has become a true place of pure uncluttered enjoyment. It has never been a chore, never a trial. It has been a 'duty' I imposed on myself for 'fun'.
And every year I've become a little more hostile to blogger and a little less hostile about everything else. Why, many have wondered, is her blog called An Undercurrent of Hostility? She seems nice, if overly sarcastic. What is she hostile about? And is it really an undercurrent?
Well, when I started writing here I grasped about for a name for a blog. It was a new thing. I wanted in. And I come from a large extended family where sometimes, in-spite of all the love, my father used to say 'you could cut the undercurrent of hostility with a knife'. So, I thought, that's a great name. I love being hostile. And I had so many things to be hostile about--the apostasy of TEC, our being sued and losing our building and moving home and church in a bleak mid winter, a culture that is becoming more and more coarse and violent and broken. And I was occasionally hostile about sin, both in myself and in the world. I could go on listing all the various undercurrents of hostility for a while.
But I tried not to, in all my writing here. More and more I didn't want the hostility to be the Main Thing. I wanted to keep track of the funny and ridiculous, of various ordinary miracles that sorted out and ordered our lives, of what interesting things God was saying to me in his word. I wanted always to be writing something, even when I should have been doing other more important things.
And then, a long while ago, Matt and I thought, suddenly at the same time, that it would be awfully nice to blog together. We do everything else together--house, children, church, cooking, everything--why not blogging. And so after thinking about it for a year and then messing about with platforms and thinking all the time about a new name, last week jumped in and bought a domain name and I accidentally moved all my archives over. We're finding our way around a new space, a more complicated space, but a much much cooler space than blogger ever allowed.
The new name is Preventing Grace (preventingrace.com). We try to prevent God, all the time, from doing his will and arranging things in the best way, but God's Preventing, as in Going Before, Grace, leads and guides us. We say Prevenient now for grace, what with language always changing and moving along, but I like the old word working along with the new word. God's Preventing Grace is stronger than our preventing him.
I'm sure there will still be an undercurrent of hostility here and there. I'm sure you will be able to find it. But it's not the Main Thing. I hope and beg you'll follow me over to Preventing Grace and comment and book mark and come along for a new chapter, another decade of Ordinary Life with God's Preventing Grace.
Thursday, February 20, 2014
I'm a pretty cruddy homeschooler. Every year I learn a valuable lesson but it's always because I was blind to something obvious or something terrible happened that derailed me, bringing me to the brink of failure, and I learned stuff in the middle of the suffering. Like the year we moved across town in the dead of winter and the whole year devolved into watching you tube clips and trying to make up songs for all the CC memory work. So I've learned a lot. But none of it will be useful if you aren't a person who walks around in a blind terrifying fog, afraid to look at reality because you know it's really bad.
So here's seven quick things I've learned about homeschooling.
You have to teach the children to read and do math. This may surprise some of you, but I'd encourage you to add it to your homeschool day. Teaching reading is a real enormous drag and makes the average adult human want to jump out of her skin and run naked and skinless into the snow, screaming and crying. But you have to do it anyway. One helpful thing, as you're beginning to teach a child to read is to know, in the way that you know God know, that every single child will not be able to learn to read in the way that any other single child learned to read before her. So if Teaching Your Child to Read in 100 Lessons (and what a misnommer that title is) worked with your second child, it won't with your third. Know also that one of your children will try to win the battle and Not Ever Read. You should not let your child win this battle, any more than you let them win any other battle. Remember, what doesn't kill you just makes you angry and bitter, but that's ok, at least your child can read.
You oughtn't to have to do school before the child is seven. I know that all the states in the union make you report before then and so you should definitely "do school" and teach them stuff, but all the years before seven are going to be a time of suffering that you could probably skip, if you were allowed to do whatever you wanted. As it is, at seven, so many things click into place, not least the ability of a child to sit and do something sensible that doesn't include the destruction of every material item you hold dear.
February will always be a drag. You can try and do a bunch of stuff to make it better, but you will probably always want to die in Febrary and you will probably conclude that you're whole life has been a miserable wretched failure. I've heard this is true for every human person in the colder climes. Don't actually chuck it. The year I did I was proved to have made The Wrong Choice. Remember, don't have a baby in February because then you will have to celebrate a birthday every year in February.
Don't try to run your home "school" like a school. The reason you're homeschooling is because you don't want to stand out in the snow with your child waiting for the school bus at six o'clock in the morning or whatever. Sleep till 7, pray, read some of the bible or have it read to you by the internet, eat a good breakfast, work out, take a candle lit shower, anoint yourself with oil and nail polish, open the living room curtains and fluff the pillows and finally enter magesticslly into the school room with your coffee (half hot milk, four tablespoons of cream, one tablespoon of Lyle's Golden Syrup, one quarter cup of coffee) at ten o'clock sharp and find the children working hard since 8 so that later they can play. Train them to work alone so that your morning routine will not be disrupted. Arrange your flowers
and drill spelling and multiplication and otherwise dispense wisdom and advice.
Take breaks. Don't do school All The Time because of panic. Take a holiday in the summer and at Christmas and if you're sick, think about resting for an hour or two. If you can't walk through the school room, take a half day and clean it instead of pushing forward with your curriculum. I know it sounds insane, but it is possible to progress more rapidly when you can find all the books easily. Remember that ice skating is PE and you are not "missing school" you are "in PE". But still, don't yell at the people who are questioning your life decisions. Don't shout "Don't question me!" as you skate away, say, "physical activity is so imortant in the winter! But don't worry! The children sit still and silent all the rest of the day!" Feel guilty for lying.
Structure your school year around the date of Easter. If Easter is early, start the year late and plan a long holiday around Holy Week and Easter Week. If Easter is late, start early and finish the year before Palm Sunday. The longer you celebrate the passion and resurrection the more it will become moored in your children's spiritual lives. Don't try to do anything else but be in church and pray and eat junk food after church every night. Buy a pink pair of shoes for Easter Sunday and collapse on Easter Monday knowing that not only is Jesus risen, but all you have to do now is standardize test and plant a garden. Drift into depression because life has suddenly lost all its structure, focus and meaning.
Pray. Pray all the time. But don't pray scared. Don't not ask for patience because you think God will make your life more frustrating to "teach" you patience. Don't not ask for humility because you think God is waiting to humiliate you. You are already in frustration and humiliation for screaming and yelling and having a filthy house and not meeting your own expectations, let alone the state's or anyone else's. When you are a homeschooler and you pray, God gives you grace. People say this all the time but they never spell it out, which I find extremely frustrating. When you ask God for something, like, say, the ability not to yell at a particular child for a particular offense, and you throw yourself down on your face and beg him to have mercy, he will, when you're sitting in front of that child consider whether or not to yell, remove the desire form you, miraculously. Or, when you can't get the children to spell anything, not even their own names, and you throw yourself on his mercy, he will improve their spelling, or give you some insight into how to make it click. It's not just that he died and rose again, it's not just that his "grace is sufficient for you", is not just that you have to "lean on him". No. He will answer specific prayers for particular problems when you ask him. Because he loves you. He's not going to make it worse by "teaching" you into more suffering. Just ask, and he gives. That, I think, though sometimes I'm not sure, is what Grace means. That when you throw yourself down, God hears you and loves you, even for your children, even when you fail.
So there's my seven takes. They're longer than I thought they would be. I hope they inspire you to homeschool...just kidding. Put your kids in school. No I'm serious, right now. Stop reading this and enroll them, and mine.
I've always thought it was a great mercy that Moses didn't get to go into the Promised Land. Certainly it was a judgement to work so hard but then not go in to enjoy Israel's inheritance, only standing on a mountain to see what all the fuss was about before being gathered to your people. But it's like God jumped at the very first opportunity to keep Moses from going into the land, knowing that he had done a complete work and someone else needed to carry on from there. I sometimes wonder which of the disappointments I have suffered were actually a point of God's mercy. By refusing me something I'm pretty sure I need, it may be that I am not going to face something I would ultimately be happy not to face.
Moses had worked very hard. Israel was going in to the land but they wouldn't be having a rest right away. They had to conquer and then build and plant and settle and put everything in order. Moses was an old man and full of days. Building and planting are more work. He was ready for a true eternal inheritance. Still, if it had been me up there surveying the landscape, I would have been muttering.
It makes more sense, or comes full circle....what is the word I'm grasping for....the sense of disappointment dissipates when you come to the Ascension. Jesus does a full work of atonement and redemption and oblation and satisfaction. He brings his sheep safely through. He conquers evil. He does what he came to do and then, as he rises up on the cloud, surveying the landscape, it's not a picture of muttering but of relief and joy to be going to sit at the right hand of the Father. It's the disciples who stand around covered in disappointment. What do you mean we have to go on without you?
But Jesus going away was the greatest mercy. Sitting at the right hand of the Father, interceding for us, living in us through the Holy Spirit, conquering and building and settling in and putting everything in order--he doesn't rest, though his glory must be a rest for us.
Either way it's mercy, and with it a measure of grace.
Wednesday, February 19, 2014
I like to think of myself as a reasonably good cook but lately, maybe because it's February, there are always at least two kids walking right up to the Complaining Line, if not actually crossing over it.
Our kids aren't allowed to say anything negative at meal times about the food. They can express preferences at other times. Like in the parish hall of the church to their friends they can say insane things like "I don't like bacon". Hey, your dislike of bacon is objectively wrong but you're welcome to be stupid. When you come to the table, however, you get to leave your negativity over there, far away from me the cook. If you have bacon on your plate and you don't like bacon, you have to eat it with a smile on your face. You don't have to say you like it, but you can't complain. If you work yourself into a froth and and actually throw up, you're in a world of hurt. And I don't mean that metaphorically.
So they've gotten creative in their effort to let us know how they feel about the food.
"I really love this," someone will say, "I'd really like to save it and eat it on another day."
"My favorite food is just like pasta only it looks more like rice."
Stuff like that.
Of course, with your sixth child you have had your will beaten out do you and so that child will say "I don't Wanna eat this!" and run away fast while you pour yourself another glass of wine and decide you don't care anymore.
So I was really surprised when all the dinner was eaten by everyone last night without any veiled complaining and no one pushing the food around into little piles and getting thirty cups of water. I mushed some ground beef in a pan with onion, garlic, green pepper and carrot and then Matt did something to it to make it taste like tacos. Then we shoved it in 56 cent Aldi taco shells with cheese and lettuce and it was all gone. Too bad when I sweat and slave and fuss it's apparently "just as delicious as all your other food, I just love all that other food better".
Tuesday, February 18, 2014
I am getting through Numbers as best I can on these bleak mornings and am finally up to chapter 30. I always feel that a book should be over by chapter 30 and yet so many of them go on for another 30 after that.
Numbers chapter 30 is a long instruction about vows. If a man makes a vow, says The Lord, he shall keep the vow or the oath to which he binds himself. He shall do, says God, all that proceeds from his mouth. That is the substance of verse 2. Verses 3-15 cope with the eventuality of a woman making a vow.
There are at least two interesting things to notice about a woman making a vow. First, it's terribly complicated and fraught. You can see a whole ancient household being thrown into turmoil upon discovering that their young teenage daughter has gone to the tent of meeting and promised something stupid. Or, I can see an old couple bickering vociferously because she vowed something and he didn't really want her to. Look out across every marriage everywhere and you can see how complicated something as "simple" as a vow can become. The text reflects the fraught trauma of familial life.
Second, how old the woman is and her status as a daughter or married woman are important. If she is young and unmarried and living with her father, her vow is handled a certain way. If she is married her vow is handled a certain way. If she is widowed or orphaned, that is a different matter. I say 'handled a certain way' but really it just means that if she is yet unmarried with a father, or married with a husband, that is, neither a widow nor an orphan, her vow can be nullified by either her husband or her father. The father or husband can "oppose" her and then her vow no longer exists.
Well, thought I this early morning, that's not very fair. I mean, I know women are stupider, certainly Matt, as everyone knows, is my intellectual superior, but I have a relationship with Jesus and if I want to make a vow, I should be allowed to make a vow, mumbled I to myself this morning.
But then I listened to the chapter again and heard the hint of something I thought I'd heard before. If the father or the husband "in the day that he hears of it" "says nothing" the vow stands. The text identifies particularly if she makes a "thoughtless utterance". So, let me get this straight. Young girls and married women sometimes make "thoughtless utterances" or promises they don't have the means or intention to carry out. If their husbands or fathers hear about it, those husbands and fathers have the opportunity to rescue their daughters and wives from the consequences of those words. But, and I bet this happened a bunch, sometimes fathers and husbands heard about it and couldn't be bothered, and then the woman was stuck with doing whatever she said she was going to do.
Hmmm. I wonder where we've see any thing like that in scripture before?
I'll go ahead and tell you in case you haven't read it before.
Much longer before this chapter in Numbers, in that primordial dust up in the garden, Eve had to stand around wrestling with Leviathan while Adam, Who Was With Her, kept silent. He didn't say anything. He didn't do anything. She sold herself away to the devil and he joined in. If ever a vow or an oath should have been "nullified" or "opposed" that was the moment.
This happens so so often in marriage. The woman is wrestling her way along, trying to oppose evil and love God, and the man, who is supposed to be studying the law and protecting her and bringing her close to God, is standing around doing nothing and saying nothing. In the church, she signs the family up to do everything and he leaves as soon as the service is over to watch football, or he doesn't come at all. She exhausts herself, and usually out of love for Jesus, and he can't be bothered.
But here, in Numbers 30, is a glimpse, a foreshadowing, of the correcting saving grace of the second Adam who didn't stand around saying and doing nothing but finally went out to battle Leviathan himself. God offered under the law, a picture of a good father and a good husband who would hear and stand with the woman, and protect her from Satan. And I bet some fathers and husbands did avail themselves of this chance to love and protect their women. Just like there are plenty of vigilant fathers and husbands who are with wives and daughters and who are more like Jesus and less like Adam.
Is it "fair"? Well, it wasn't fair of Adam to abandon Eve. And it's not fair of Jesus to rescue you and forgive you for the stupid vows you make, but he does. So I'll take Numbers 30 as a blessing and get on with my day.
Monday, February 17, 2014
We've been enjoying a nice respite from family movie nights and reality in general by watching the Olympics whenever we have a spare moment. We don't get to it enough to watch the cool stuff, like curling, and it seems like I'm watching one particular ice dancing routine over and over, but we have seen some snowboarding and cross country skiing and finally some bobsledding. I'm surprised how much I enjoy watching the actual sports and how exciting it can be.
Which is why I think NBC should be sent away for some reparative therapy and the gospel for their treatment of Bode Miller in prime time last night. For those of you who were fortunate enough to miss it, after tying for bronze medal, an NBC interviewer accosted Bode not to ask questions about the technicalities of his run but instead to focus her ratings driven reportorial gaze on his personal life, reducing him, finally, to a weeping broken fetally positioned puddle of sorrow. NBC filmed it, edited it and ran with it. And I and Matt rushed desperately around looking for the remote trying to end the anguish and despair, crying out in rage at out helpless condition of having to watch something so inappropriate and weird we might as well have been in a Real Housewives of New Jersey set. To try to connect us emotionally to a grown man at the top of his sport, as if his skiing is so inconsequential that we can't be bothered to care about it, that what really matters is that his brother recently died and that he has a hot hot hot Olympian wife whose every word must be audible to the entire American public, is shameful.
I know there are a lot of factors bringing American culture and life into a cesspool of debauched stupidity, tv being one of those at the top of the list. There's a reason we don't ever watch it except for the Super Bowl and....hmmm....I think we watched something some time ago but I can't remember what it was. So anyway, I know that one reason tv is so dumb is because the people who watch it are dumb and we accept the stupidity and become stupider for accepting it. And one of the stupid things about America is that we (and I use 'we' here very loosely so as to not include myself) don't care about real things, real objective true things, we only care about how it makes us feel. So what's going on in the world is not important to me unless I can feel something about it and since I don't have any feeling about Syria, who the hell cares anyway. Bring it to sports and the actual sport is a great bore to me unless I know something about each sporting person, something about their intimate life, that let's me feel "connected" to them and then I'll awaken my dull dull mind to some kind of feeling and watch them slide down a melting snowy slope. Except for ice dancing, apparently I'll watch that all day long with no problem.
Do I sound bitter? I am. I'm made so tired by American civic appeals to my emotions. It's like when I couldn't get out of the hospital without watching the Shaken Baby Syndrome video. Six times I had to watch it. And do you know how they tried to guarantee that I won't shake my tender and precious offspring? By trying to make me fear, emotionally fear, that I might accidentally do it. I might just so lose control of myself, as a hormone soaked dumb young mother, that when the baby cries, I might just pick it up and shake it. Not one rational, logical, objective, fact based appeal to my intelligence and mind was made in the Shaken Baby Video.
Americans, I think, love to see other Americans cry. And they'll goad and push until it happens. And every time it gets a little more boring and a little more stupid. Because there's so little appeal to the mind, to real thought and intelligence, the emotions and feelings careen around our lives like overwhelming little Honey Boo Boos. "Watch this! It will make you cry!" we lob heart wrenching youtube videos back and forth through cyber space trying to feel something and "connect" to others. But the less there is the more immediately the feeling dissipates and we have to looking for another fix.
Friday, February 14, 2014
Another great celebration of a Christian Martyr turned into a secular moment to eat chocolate and spend money you don't have. And hold the one you love up to an impossible standard. Will he fulfill all my longings? Will he meet my expectations? Does he love me as much as I deserve to be loved? It is a perfect American Expression of the average dysfunctional, wrong headed, regular relationship that most everyone seems to be either in or looking for these days. Except me, of course. I love Matt with an agape, life giving, self sacrificial, Jesus like love. That's why I calmly and rationally told him that if he didn't take me out to dinner he would be miserable for at least three weeks. Twelve years ago I would have waited for him to figure it out. See? Just like Jesus.
Anyway, the great thing about Valentine's Day with children is that it's about having a party and going ice skating, which is what we're to do because we finished our third quarter yesterday. The list of things that we've finished for the year? History, Geography, Science. But not spelling and math and writing. I have a small glimmer of hope. And! Elphine has been sewing.
Here is the purse she made herself, completely unaided by me or anyone.
So I'll be making a big gorgeous salad this weekend in honor of you whom I love.
So many people to love, so little time. Six of them require breakfast and me not sitting here thoughtfully considering the nature of love. So, I'll leave you with a true expression of love, from the
Holy Scriptures, a little verse from my readings this morning, "And the donkey said to Balaam, “Am I not your donkey, on which you have ridden all your life long to this day? Is it my habit to treat you this way?” And he said, “No.”
Happy Valentine's Day! Hope you all have a beautiful weekend!