Friday, March 30, 2012

seven quick takes before holy week

I don't desire to be awake yet. Marigold only sleeps through the night maybe three times a week now, and naps maybe four days out of seven. She spent from one to five am dancing around our heads, breathing heavily, playing with my hair, taking dust covers off books, singing quietly to herself, going into the garage to rummage in the cupboard, coming back with a pair of Matt's shoes on, and just generally living the good life. Matt finally gave up at 3:30 and got up for the day, even though he intended to sleep till five. And here I am, thinking I would try to sleep now that she's finally crashed, but awake never the less. Why doesn't she need to sleep? Could she be hyper thyroid? I've heard about those people. They think the rest of us are lazy for occasionally sitting down to read or sleeping for a whole 7 hours a night.
Its been almost a whole month since we trotted off to Plano to learn all about church planting and I never managed to regroup and say anything about how all the kids did, even though, I'm pretty sure, that was the most interesting part of the whole adventure. Short version? They did fine. Perfect even. And, because everyone is better than me, when I got back I discovered Three Whole Blog Posts about the Boys, and was given a beautiful little photo album of the little girls with more pictures of them than have been taken probably in a whole year. So so lovely. I'm still plotting my thank you presents.

So Holy Week is down our throats.  In preparation both Matt and I have already adopted the wild eyed insane cry 'But its Holy Week' which is wailed whenever the phone rings, when the doorbell rings, when my phone pops that there's an email or text, when Elphine twirls in to ask if she can learn to cook today (and by cook, she means a full culinary expression of all time and in all places). You know how when you pick up the phone to call someone and it seems like all the children in the neighborhood are miraculously assembled around you shouting for popsicles and lemonade? It kind of feels like that, except that I'm pretty sure its just a feeling and that not all the work in the universe has assembled on the pinhead of this week.
In the process of working so hard, I discovered this blog post which I thought might be helpful to you. Here's something to lure you to the whole post where you can see the pictures.
 Have you ever had unpublishable thoughts about your rector? Admit it, you have (and then talked behind his/her back at coffee hour). Sometimes there’s nothing like a good old-fashioned passive aggressive gift. I suggest delivering this slab of granite directly to the rector’s office (on the rector’s day off).
And then there's this brilliantly instructive post on eating with children, which, if you're friends with me on facebook, you will see is so so timely. Last night at Shepherd's Bowl, all the children but Gladys settled happily in front of trays full of nice food. She, instead, stood like a stormy little cloud as I pulled out the chair and invited her to sit down and feast.
 "I don't want to sit next to him," she announced loudly, directing her insolent gaze to the very nice young man next to whom she was going to sit.
I squatted next to her and hissed, "Oh yes you are, and you had better not ever say anything like that again because its very unkind and you will hurt his feelings very much." She gazed stonily back at me and stuck her fat lips out as far as she could.
"You may sit there," I said, "or go home right now and eat your dinner by yourself with your dad and miss Bible Class." Whereupon she lifted up her voice and wept so loudly the whole room turned to inquire if she was hurt. I smiled back at the room and then marched her back home where she spent the evening eating bread and apple butter because she wasn't allowed to watch anything or play anything nice.
Alouicious goes to Men's Bible Study now on Friday mornings with Matt. He wakes up early and drinks sugary coffee and reads the chapter they'll be discussing and then digs money out of his wallet so he can buy soda. I've been letting them all buy one soda (it hurts me to call it that, it should be called pop but I've lived in the wretched Northeast for too long) on Sunday out of the machine at church and he's taken upon himself to have a second one, I guess. Besides the soda, the main thing, of course, is the food. Matt says he eats a massive plate of food and then he comes back here to me and gets in a second breakfast. But he also seems to track well with the study and has even asked a question on occasion. I suppose it will only be a week or two before he's taller than me and telling me how to live my life.
So, I should really stop doing this and go work on a sermon and toast bread for breakfast. It appears that Marigold is up from her nap and so is everyone else. Blast it all.

Have a great weekend and go check out Jen!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

who saved a wretch like me

Finally finished the Tim Keller Marriage Book. I know that's not its name but that's what everyone calls it here. Pretty sure most all of the congregation is reading it, which is so good for us all. It is Really Good, and everyone should read it.

On a vaguely related note, although I hate to admit it, I still really like all Doug Wilson's endless marriage and family books. I love how mean and straight forward he is. I love that he doesn't shy away from telling the reader even how to arrange the living room furniture. I love how deeply and insanely Calvinist he is.

Anyway, as I was reading the Keller book, I was again relieved with gratitude about my own marriage. Matt and I are by no means perfect, how boring would that be, but God has saved us many times even before we knew we needed to be saved. For example, in the course of being engaged, without knowing anything about anything, we fought and fought about theology. We had some bitter brawls about the nature of election and free will, about what the word 'inclusive' does mean and should mean, about scripture and hell and how people are saved. Everything I've subsequently read suggests you do this on purpose before you get married.

This, among other things, has made married life a breeze (especially when you compare it with giving birth a whole bunch of times and extricating oneself from the Episcopal Church, which, incidentally, is totally befuddled by the continuing steep decline). And this also is a great gift, because if Matt and I were constantly having to work on our marriage, endlessly engaged in relationship evaluation, mired in miscommunication and trouble, we would not have the emotional where-with-all to do our job.

Being married is just like any other endeavor. If you leave the hard work aside and don't attend to it, it becomes very big hard work. If you don't teach your two year old that she may not say 'no' to you, nor run away when you say to 'come here', nor fulfill every evil and rebellious desire of her tiny black heart, you eventually have a big huge teenage toddler whose heart is just as black but now everyone can see it. In marriage, if you don't come to mutually hard won agreements on the meanings of words, if you do not work very hard to quickly forgive and let things go, if you do not practice constantly putting the other person ahead of yourself, eventually you will have a big mess on your hands and come limping into the church office.

And very often, the grace of salvation is extended to those who, like me, not only do not deserve it, but didn't know it was needed in the first place. And then you can look back over the pages of the Tim Keller marriage book and weep with joy at all the pitfalls and ugliness you appear to have missed out on because God, in his great merciful sovereign purposes had some other big problem for you to work on (like your nasty sarcastic tongue) and gave you a pass on this one.

And now I will go and begin to roll that great boulder up the hill of keeping my black-hearted two year old from fulfilling herself.

Friday, March 23, 2012

lent, its almost over

I've been meaning for the past many weeks to blather about lent and what it looks like in a house full of small children next door to a church full of new Christians, many of whom have no desire whatsoever to be Anglican in a town fading into the gray but full of nominal Catholics. Well, actually, I don't really want to talk about the town and maybe not about the church. I really wanted to, you know, just put more vapid stuff on the internet.

Anyway, the church year is a wonderful thing to blog about. You can blog about your personal church year devotion, what you're doing as a family, or how your church celebrates. Its a vast and rich source of subject matter for the person casting abroad for something about which to write. Except for me. I never manage to write about it and mostly not to do any of it either. So, after many years of feeling terrible about doing very little to celebrate the church year with my young, horribly young family, I thought I'd tell you why we don't. There's got at least one other clergy family out there who doesn't have time and who feels bad about it. This is for you!

Why You May Not Need to make Lent a Beautiful Time for your Small Children
The church year, for those of you don't know what I'm talking about, is time organized around the life of Jesus. Everyone who celebrates Christmas and Easter celebrates the life of Jesus a little bit, but some of us do more. So right now we're in Lent, the period of 40 days before Easter (not counting Sundays which are ALWAYS feast days and therefore are days IN Lent, not days OF Lent--if you've given up chocolate for Lent, you can have it on Sunday because Sunday is a feast.) which recall both the 40 years the people of Israel spent in the wilderness before they went into the Promised Land, and the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness being tempted. Traditionally its a time to give something up in order to draw closer to God.

Let me also note that Lent is my favorite time of year. I love the scaled back austerity of Lent--no flowers on the altar, more somber music and some things, like the Lord's Prayer, said instead of sung etc. Just like I generally like Advent more that Christmas, I sort of like Lent more than Easter. I mean, I LOVE the Great Vigil of Easter, but it only takes me a day to be over the riot of Easter Flowers whereas I don't really get tired of the purple veils over all the crosses, (incidentally, I still have no idea what purpose the veils serve. Someone tell me!)

But underneath the somber austerity is a grinding mill of extra work. Lent into Holy Week is the busiest most intense time of the church year, more than Christmas by far, and the Extra Work at church.....I don't even know how to describe it. Well, let me try anyway.

This Lent, for example, we've added themed Saturdays of prayer culminating in a longer time of prayer stretching from Maundy Thursday through to Holy Saturday. It means changing the scripture hanging and writing a small reflection before 11am every Saturday and getting the room back in order. And then fussing around with the altar before getting on with the usual business of preparing for Sunday. And writing some new lessons for Sunday School, because there are gaps in the older years. And learning about all the stuff that needs to happen for the altar in Holy Week because the person in whose mind it all resides has been out with an egregious and terrifying injury (but is better! by the merciful grace of God). And scheduling people to serve during Holy Week. And divvying up the sermon writing. And trying to dye Easter eggs at some point, and taking on the daunting task of Easter Baskets. And discovering that we need more thurifers because one of them, meanly, isn't coming home from college for the weekend. And seriously thinking of a way to dress up our very plain and boring dalmatics. And remembering that on Palm Sunday the Sunday Schools join for a celebration of the Last Supper. I could go on like this for a few more paragraphs.

And in all this busyness, the people who fall through the cracks, especially in Holy Week, are the children. They sometimes end up with a baby sitter every night. They have to play at church for hours while we figure out the lighting for the Vigil. They have to watch Shaun the Sheep while extra sermons are written or I go on a long scavenge for Six Equal Easter baskets. By Easter Monday we are all exhausted and lonely for each other and teary and just generally wrung out.

The great sacrifice, the great fast, for us, in Lent, is time with each other.

And so we don't give up chocolate. We don't go meatless, at all, for any day of the week. We don't add extra burdens of Lovely Lenten Prayer and Devotionals. We don't try to read through a whole book of the bible or remember to pray for the missionaries of the world. We don't even light a candle at dinner time. We don't do anything extra. We do read as much Narnia as possible. And cling insanely and desperately to our school routine.

And we look forward to the time of feasting with each other through the whole season of Easter.
And this year I rejoice that two of my herd are slated to be on the altar during Holy Week. And if I can just remember to make them practice the piano, someday they'll hopefully be playing the music and reading the lessons. But in the meantime, we take the fast God gives us at the time he gives it.

"political unrest"

Mali seems to be undergoing some kind of Coup d'Etat. Very angry soldiers have taken over the presidential palace, forcing the president to flee, and have suspended the constitution and all other relevant institutions. It seems to be the inevitable rolling down hill of insanity kicked off by the Libyan conflict, or at least that's what everyone is saying, combined with an increasing influence of radical Islam in the north with a dash of Al-Qaeda to keep everything spicy. The mishandling of the northern uprising is the stated reason for a power grab, even with elections supposed to be happening at the end of April. Was rather startled, at 11 last night, to see that the name of the leader of the coup is Sanogo, the main family name from the region where I grew up.

Anyway, that's all the news I've gleaned from various sources. I've lived through two small coups and seen more from this end of the world, watching anxiously from afar. Boy, the internet is such a great invention. Long ago we MKs would angrily rail against American news outlets not even having a clue that other countries existed. Last night, instead, I perused twitter for a long while and watched a fair amount of video posted right from Bamako. And I didn't complain once, well, not about the lack of news anyway.

So, for those of you prone to complaining about incivility in politics and a too long primary season, take a few moments today to pray for Mali--for ordinary Malians who don't need this right now, for people who wanted to fly out yesterday and now can't, for many many missionaries and aid workers who would like to be able to travel and work but who are holing up along with everyone else and trying to keep away from stray shooting. And I'm praying that this Sanogo guy is not from my village.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

on to bigger fancier things

Stand Firm just (finally!) relaunched! (sorry about all the exclamation marks)
Out of sheer nepotism I'm still linked under the Anglican category. Thanks Matt!

Anyway, as this has been looming on the horizon lo these many months, I've wallowed deeper and deeper into a lovely pillow of nostalgia about Stand Firm and all it has been over the years, both to the Current Anglican Unpleasantness and to us as a family. So many of our babies' moments of being born coincided catastrophically closely with General Conventions or Lambeth or New Orleans meetings. So many times I would sit at my computer pushing 'refresh' obsessively reading Matt and Sarah's live blogs of incredible happenings, so fat I could barely reach the keyboard, much less the endless cups of tea my mother would supply me with. She would come and prop me up so Matt could blog, blog, blog blogblogblogblog.....

That is our Life! Blogging. And the church, of course, and so many babies. But really blogging.
When I'm blessed with new technology the bookmarks always go up (in this order) Stand Firm, Matt's Email, My Email, Undercurrentofhostility, Facebook, the Bible, the Dictionary, YouTube.

As for the Current Unpleasantness, its probably too big to try to measure. We up here at Good Shepherd were able to connect with Anglicans around the world, were able to access breaking news, were able to see inside the centers of power and decision making. When we moved the readers of Stand Firm knocked us flat with prayer, love, stuff, money, vestments, technology, so many things we were completely overwhelmed.

And now the team is bigger, the site is lovely and I expect to see more and more of the inner workings of a fading mainline Christianity in the West. I raise my cup of tea, Congratulations Stand Firm. Here's to another great decade!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

let's chicken fry something

Well, here we are, a week later, back home, suffering through yet another primary night.
I DID write like six or seven posts in my head during Anglican 1000, which was a resounding success from all I could see. I didn't see any of it, actually. I ended up on a very comfortable couch in some sort of entrance like room in Christ Church, Plano, in between the library and the conference hall, desperately editing Matt's live blogs hot off his finger tips. I would manage to finish a full edit just as the next talk would pop up in my email. We rolled along thus only to collapse, at the end of each day, with coffee and then a really really really really impossibly nice dinner.

The first night we ended up in some sort of fancy looking bar wherein Matt said, 'she'll have the chicken fried steak' and then the band, for real, struck up. "We sing stuff from the 90's" bellowed the young lead lady singer decked out in hat and ill fitting clothes ostensibly from the 90's "because that's where it's at." Felt really old. Matt moved from gazing into my eyes to sitting directly next to me so we could shout lovingly to each other over the din. Felt really sad to be mentally rehearsing all the lyrics of Alanis Morrissett that I remember not being that great at the time. "What if God was one of us" the young lady wailed. Honestly. Go to church, someone, please just Go To Church.

Why chicken fried steak? Because I had never had it before. The subject has come up two or three times in the last ten years. I couldn't fathom the concept.
like chicken.
But there's no chicken. It's just fried like how you fry chicken. Wow.
What an extraordinary thing to do to steak. I probably can't ever have it again or I'll peg out, but I put it in the top 10 things I've eaten in my life, next to all the stuff on the menu from Nuit de Saigon in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire.

The next night we went to a Thai place. We were able to talk to each other in comfort and the food, again, was so amazing I ate the entire bowl of rice provided because it seemed sinful to leave even one tiny bit on the plate or table.

So this week I'm back to walking on my wretched treadmill (why does it have the word 'mill' in it? This could have been marketed in a much better way).


Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Anglican 1000

I'm down here in Plano with Matt while he blogs.

Sunday evening, after feeding the children roast beef and salad and letting them watch ten minutes of the Fantastic Four or something awful, I forget, we shoved them in the car and spent an hour driving them to the various places they're staying all this week. They are scattered across Binghamton in warm cozy houses with people prepared to stuff them with food and make them do school. Matt also legally signed his will, just a tiny superstition to keep the airplane in the sky.

I always do feel, as we hurdle down the runway in these rickety metal tubes, how totally freaky it is that we think we can fly. In Albany we were in the very last row and we were swung back and forth by the gales as we took off.

There were no less than 9 wheel chairs on that leg of the flight. 80 percent of the assembled group was over 70, at least. Then there was us and then a woman with a child. What I want to know is, why didn't the assembled throngs all just stay in Tampa? Why did they come back up to New York for February and January and only go down in March? If it was me, I wouldn't have come back up.

So now we're here and I'm trying to make up my mind whether or not I'm actually going to exercise. Its very possible that I won't really do it, since its all the way on the other side of the hotel. And walking freely around from plane to plane to car to hotel without a procession of children and luggage and sippy cups and dolls and weeping has made me already veeeerrrryyyyy llllaaaaaaazzzzzzzzzzzzyyyyyyyy. Wow. I feel like I could just never move from this spot ever.

But I probably will. Elphine called right away when she woke up to make sure we are still alive. I didn't peg her as the person who might have a hard time. She's been SO EXCITED to spend the week with her friend--just frothing with excitement for a whole month. And now last night and this morning she seemed very teary on the phone. I'm delighted, of course. I mean, I don't want her to be sad but I'm SO relieved that she misses me.

So, I guess I'll bestir myself. Matt will be blogging on Stand Firm and on the Anglican 1000 site so you can follow all the lovely talks and events of the conference. I will be trying to retool my  homeschooling life and planning the next year and probably obsessing just a tiny bit about all the Super Tuesday stuff. And probably blogging or tweeting or something.

Friday, March 02, 2012

7 catchup takes

I'm on the last day of strep and thrush medicine. Knew I had strep! I just didn't have it yet. It needed the thrush to bring it along. My doctor told me I could have my tonsils out but recommended waiting seven or eight years until my children are older and at which point he expects it will just go away on its own. But the idea of having strep 4 or 5 times a year for the next eight years does not fill me with wonder and joy.
Our washing machine broke last Saturday, and rather than buy a new one, which we just don't feel like doing right now, Matt took 12 biblical baskets of laundry to the local laundry mat and did it all in 2 hours. And now its all in my living room (three days later). I mean, I could put it away, but it is SO convenient just to pop in there and for clothes and dish towels and so on. If I was going to design a house I now know very much what it would look like.
I heard, to my amazement, from the nursery person at church that Marigold was extremely obedient on Sunday. She, the nursery person, had only to look at her, Marigold, warningly and she would stop doing whatever bad thing she was intending. This is a great shock to me because of the way our lives play out at home where she quietly and stealthily ruins everything and I run around screaming 'NO NO NO' all day.
Alouicious has been continuing his habit of waking up very early, between 6 and 7 every morning (! SO EARLY!) and doing every last bit of school he can do by himself by 8:30 or 9am. I can't tell you how unnerved I am by this, as a devoted and pathological procrastinator myself. Elphine, in a more comprehensible and reasonable way sleeps until almost 8 and then takes the entire day to do a few things agonizingly.
Have composed two or three posts in my head about why we don't do any lovely lenten things as a family only to never have time to write them down. But I should really try this weekend. I've read so many blogs posts about wonderful lent things you can do with children, and felt mournful, BUT NOT guilty. So maybe I'll really blog about that this weekend. It really does merit a whole post.
Long ago Gladys dumped tea on my lap top (I'm sure I blogged about it) and we managed to dry it out and carry on. But eventually the whole thing cashed out, or so I thought. Anyway, Matt ordered a new screen and painstakingly took the old one out and put the new one in AND IT WORKS! I'm afraid to say I was extremely skeptical about his ability to do this but, what with him being so clever, I'm hoping he will take up building computers and stuff.
Glancing up these Takes I can see I've gone rather wild with the ALL CAPS. Sorry. I feel rather jittery. As usual between 4 and 6 am Matt listened to John MacArthur preaching on Acts and I had a bizarre dream that he, John McArthur, preached a whole sermon and then just as the choir was about to strike up, he began preaching again. As it became clear that the sermon was never going to end I started nudging the woman next to me, accidentally angering her. Then I discovered that I hadn't brushed my teeth but before I could apologize I looked up at what had become a stage and there, behind John McArthur, I saw Matt and another pastor preparing to do that horrible cage fighting thing with no rules. Then a child came and woke me up to complain about there not being breakfast. And here I am, an hour later, blogging and still there's no breakfast.

Have a great weekend and go check out Jen!