Monday, November 29, 2010

I can't really blog because

I have a rich and bubbly cold and can't think very far about anything except the fact that I'm profoundly unready for school tomorrow. Not only do I have nothing to say but I haven't been reading anything either
for Simcha Fisher
who is so funny I have just spent the last ten minutes weeping real tears of laughter. I commend to you her latest post, but also her important and immortal thoughts about the Little Drummer Boy. In particular, point number six
"6.  What is it with this song?  “Little drummer boy?”  What little drummer boy?  You played your drums for a newborn?  Par-rum-pa-pum-what? What kind of drum makes that sound?  100% terrible!  There is nothing and no one that can make this song listenable.  My stars."
I read this moments before hearing Scott Simon (I think--the days are sewn seamlessly together) weeping first about the beauty and sacredness of I'm dreaming of a white Christmas (I kid you not) and then about his 'favorite' holiday song of all time...that's right, the Little Drummer Boy.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

An Alien Joy--Thanksgiving Sermonette for the Southside Ecumenical Service

About a month ago, in the middle of grading a geography exam,  I was overcome by a wave of panic.
Not only was I profoundly and inexorably behind in my laundry mountain,
not only was I not on top of upcoming Christmas Pageant preparations,
not only was I not prepared for the next day of school—
either in having procured the right kind of snack to make everyone happy,
but more importantly in having made any lesson plans—
but in that moment of burden, I saw also a vision of the very few days before me slipping by So Fast that it would be mid-December and I would have made No Preparations for Christmas.
 And so, as usual, the moment I turned to the scriptures to begin preparation for this evening, there was a great deal that God could teach me.
Indeed, these Ecumenical Services, for me, over the past many years, have been God’s constant and consistent Emergency Spiritual Intervention before the beginning of Advent and the chaos and stress of Christmas.

Rejoice in the Lord always,’ writes Paul. And, for you stubborn anxiety laden members of Jesus’ Body who are already making an excuse for why joy is impossible, who are trying to tune me out altogether, ‘I will say it again’, says Paul, ‘Rejoice!’
 And if that wasn't unrealistic enough, Paul goes on.
Let your gentleness be evident to all. Do not be anxious. In everything, by prayer and thanksgiving, present your requests to God.’
 Did anyone notice what I left out?
Exactly, verse five—“Let your gentleness be evident to all.’
Because the Lord is near.’
This is the hinge of the whole passage.
Rejoice, be gentle, and do not be anxious but pray are linked together by The Lord is near.
What does that mean? Near like next door? Near like right at your elbow?
Paul means something very specific.
First, he's specifically talking to those who are in Christ--who know Jesus and who are known by him. If you know Jesus and love him and he knows you, and you have the Holy Spirit living inside of you, than, the Lord is near. He is so near He is in your heart and in your mind. He is not distant, watching you wrestle with your turkey and fret about whether everyone will get along around your dinner table or if anyone will have their feelings hurt or if you got the right kind of tokenary Christmas present for your boss that says not too much nor too little also, and if your children are making the right kind of decisions and marrying the right people, and will you ever get that stain out of your favorite sweater that you’d like to wear at Christmas but the way it  is now there is no way you’ll be able to…
The Lord is near! He is living inside of you through the power of the Holy Spirit so that you are never ever alone. There is never a moment when you cannot go before the very throne of God for help with whatever it is, and God, Jesus, can hear you, see you, console you and help you.
Therefore, on one hand you can be gentle.
Gentle with yourself in setting reasonable expectations for the outcome of your days and your relationships.
Gentle, most especially, with other people. Letting those around you off the hook, being very very quick to forgive, not ever taking offense even when it seems like the only reasonable thing to do.
And then, on the other hand, putting away anxiety.
Its interesting to me that Paul doesn’t start with putting away anxiety. In my human reasoning, I would think, well,
If I’m free from anxiety, then I would be able to be gentle, and then, because life was so pleasant and ordered, I would be able to be joyful—it would be natural bi-product of a well lived life.
But this is not the order Paul gives us and his order says something great and big about joy and rejoicing.
First of all, it’s a command, and therefore, to some degree a decision of the will.
Its a decision we have to make. I'm going to thank God right now instead of panicking. I'm going to pray about this and trust that God is working all things for my good rather than flying in and making a stupid decision. I'm going to forgive this person quickly and completely rather than holding on to my hurt, because I am commanded to rejoice and not to be anxious.
But like every command, everything that God requires us to do, this command is in many ways completely beyond us. I may struggle and try to have joy just as I may struggle to do good works and save myself, but ultimately, because I am a sinner, because I am small, because my mind and heart are cloudy, I will fail. I cannot save myself, I cannot just Rejoice!. I cannot always quickly forgive. Sometimes anxiety overtakes me like a wave. 
No, this command to rejoice, to choose joy, like grace, like salvation itself is ultimately an alien joy, a foreign joy, a great great gift given to us when we give ourselves to Jesus.
 It is the necessary mark of a person’s relationship with Jesus. It has to be there. It is both something that we struggle and strive and pray for, and, when we come down to brass tacks, it is the simple and overwhelming gift that God gives when we place our full and complete trust in him.
 Are you anxious about many things? Give them to Jesus.
Is the weariness of work and family bowing you down? Offer your family and work in thanksgiving to Jesus.
Are you holding a grudge? Put that down and forgive.
The Lord is near, he is in your heart and in your mind and he loves you and he can handle everything—the tiniest most distressing details of life are within his ability to provide for and solve. Put yourself in his hands and take up his Joy.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

all dickensy and english

I really miss blogging.
really really really
But also, I'm really really tired
just a little more tired every day
and a little more hungry
and a little rounder
and a little more out of breath.

I tried to read aloud two paragraphs of A Christmas Carol in class and found myself completely out of breath.

On a completely unrelated subject, Prince William is finally going to marry that lovely girl!!! Listened to the BBC giggling on about it all the way to school this morning. Immediately was able to taste the delicious hamburger I ate as a small enthralled child watching Princess Di process down the aisle on the telly in Horsely's Green .

On that auspicious note, I will betake myself to bed and dream of  the queen in a large hat.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

In the Eye of the Beholder

"Look Mommy!!!" shouted Gladys leaning over and smearing her grubby mits all over this picture, "There's you and me!!!! That's me and you. That's me (pointing) and that's you (pointing)!"

This announcement comes as a great great surprise to me. I don't see myself this way At All. I'm actually wearing a foul pair of gray trousers and and a dowdy gray sweater and my hair is not up in a pretty bun but sort of flat and, well, flat. And, in fact, none of us are sitting in a beautiful field picking pretty flowers together.

Nevertheless, I'm delighted she thinks our life is like this. I mean, it is a touch too nostalgic for me, this picture. But a little early childhood nostalgia shouldn't hurt her too much, should it? I mean, should I worry? Oh dear.

Props to Apple Cider Mill for the pretty picture.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

maybe some day joy will showeth up in the morning

So, what is it like to get out the door every morning by 7:30 with five children dressed, fed, shod and in a reasonable frame of mind? (Well, skip the 'reasonable frame of mind', that's non essential). Maybe you aren't asking yourself this question, having other more important things to do, but I've sort of been wondering how we manage to do it, morning after morning, and how it is that I'm still standing on two feet.

It is crazy.
I'm not a morning person. At. All. I wake up almost every morning with a a gentle swear word on my lips and an ugly light in my eye. Usually there's already a couple of kids in my bed, wiggling, kicking and sometimes shouting. I can't bear actual light at 5:30 so I stagger around in the dark looking for a candle to light. And then I sit on the floor of the shower and start racking up anxiety about stuff like 'Oh No, we don't have enough shepherd's staffs for the Christmas Pageant!' or 'what if May isn't warm enough to seriously garden and I don't get my zucchini in the ground soon enough!'

Eventually I manage to get downstairs where I wander around the kitchen buttering reams of toast and cooking oatmeal in the microwave and watching dispassionately as Romulus weeps because we're have the wrong snack, weeps because he cannot find spiderman and weeps because someone is already sitting in the red chair.

Then suddenly, at 7:20, I hit full bore panic and start shouting and screaming at everyone to get in the car and get their back packs and for Pete's sake STOP SCREAMING. This morning I smeared peanut butter all over myself at 7:27 and then dumped over my travel mug of tepid tea whilst tearing my sweater off in anger and heartbreak. We were very late for school--the first time.

On that note, I'm going to sleep. Its 9:30 and 5:30 will be down my throat before I can say Jack Robinson.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Saturday Gray

Yesterday was Guy Fawkes Day, I think. It would have been great to light a big bonfire in the parking lot but it was rainy and windy. I think the last time I really celebrated Guy Fawkes Day I wasn't very old and I'm pretty sure I had a stiff neck and was whining about the cold.

Anyway, Elphine and I are having lunch out today. She kept her shoes on in school (basically) for a month and so earned this lunch and, I guess, a walk around the mall. That's what she says she wants to do. Maybe she will change her mind.
"How does she know about the mall?" Matt inquired of me this morning.
"Well, she's been before." I think I said.
"What does she want to do at the mall?"
"Just see what there is" I said.
I think the mall on a Saturday seems like a pretty bad idea.

So thats where I'll be. And then tomorrow I'll be sleeping an extra hour and trying to explain to my children how the government can just arbitrarily change the hour because it thinks we'll spend more money or something.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Conversation of this Afternoon

Matt: Get in the car everyone! We're going to vote.
Gladys: Why are we getting in a boat?
Matt: We're going to vvvote, not get in a boat.
Gladys, deeply disappointed: I'm too old to vote.
Elphine: You're not too old to vote.
Alouicious: I don't know how to vote.
Matt: Don't worry, when the time comes, I'll tell you Exactly How.

Now we're hustling the children into bed so we can glue ourselves to the computer in preparation for a long cozy frustrated evening. Election night is one of my favorite nights of the year, only superseded by, um, well, I can't think of anything. I LOVE Politics. Its so exciting!

Monday, November 01, 2010

bits...not even enough for a whole piece

The children are super hyped up from sugar, still, even though we really tried to limit it today. Matt took all their Halloween candy and lined them all up and said, "let's talk politics. This is your candy, right?" They all nodded. "well, I'm going to take all your candy and combine it in this big bag together. This is called Redistribution of Candy. Every day you can have some if you're good, but every day I'm going to take some too, even though it's not mine. That's called Taxation." Laughed hysterically to myself while the children cried and whined.

Halloween with five children is what I imagine it would be like to take some mind altering drug, like crack.

So anyway, I shouldn't really be blogging because I'm not ready for school tomorrow, other than picking out clothes for all the children and doing six loads of laundry. I CANNOT WAIT for uniforms. This year is practically a uniform but one step further and I'll be on easy street. I always felt cheated that we didn't have a uniform at school. What't the point of going to boarding school if you can't also have a uniform? The complaint ultimately sounds hollow--oh yeah, well I had to drive two days on an unpaved road and we had to eat oatmeal and there was no dating allowed....Did you have a uniform?....No..... Well, it couldn't have been that bad.

Matt is shouting for back up. We've been alternating between buying a small turkey and a giant piece of pork every week, cooking it on Monday night and eating it all week. Sometimes we reconstitute it, sometimes we just carve bits off and plunk it on a plate. Pork and Candy. What a delicious week we'll be having.