Unconventional

Proverbs 22:1-2, 8-9, 22-23 | Psalm 125 | James 2:1-10, [11-13], 14-17 | Mark 7:24-37

As much as we know it to be true that we aren’t perfect, that we can’t do everything or know everything, there’s something in our society that has conditioned us to believe that we can be those things. Our working norm is that we just need x, y, z to get to that better, bigger, happier place.

Think about a baby shower. A whole list of items promises the parent(s)-to-be that everything will be bright, new, and perfect. Those of us who have been through the phase a time or two or four know that really there are just a few essentials you need. Everything else you need is intangible, but you won’t typically find those items on the registry: items like babysitting while you shower/nap, meals and snacks for the family, phone-a-friend permission at 3am when you’re pretty sure your baby is going to starve to death because you can’t tell if they’re nursing properly, a list of resources for a counselor, lactation consultant, mommy groups . . . you get the idea. In fact, if these are the kinds of things you brought to the Pinterest-perfect baby shower, you’d be getting all the strange looks because your gifts were unconventional at best.

Speaking of “unconventional,” the realtor and I were swapping homeopathic remedies the other day, and I told her of a time when we lived in Fayetteville and were having a pizza party, thanks to my husband’s wood-fired oven in the back yard. The rock patio in front of it wasn’t finished yet, so we had a lot of rocks sort of positioned and scattered around, and there were some places in the flagstone that were sheeting off, leaving some very sharp rocks exposed. Along with our hedgeapple tree in the back, the ground was a landmine of dangers for the barefoot kids inevitably running around, no matter how much we told them to wear their shoes.

My oldest refers to this time in our lives as our “hippy” phase. At best we were pretty granola, but I was surrounded by folks inclined to a more natural lifestyle, which suited me just fine. Of course one of my kids cut his foot on one of the rocks, across the bottom of his foot like a crescent. I fretted over whether to take him to the hospital, wondering if they’d really be able to do anything, worried we couldn’t afford the co-pay. One of the lovely, earthy ladies at the party assured me not to worry, that it didn’t look that bad. She asked if I had any onions and clay. (Fortunately my husband was too busy making pizza when this was all suggested!) But in my gut I trusted her, and after cleaning it as best we could, we used the onion skin and clay to make a pack over the wound, wrapping it with plastic wrap to hold it in place. I could check it in the morning.

When morning came, and I wondered if I had lost my mind, I checked the cut and decided we’d take him to the walk-in clinic. You can imagine the look on the doctor’s face when I told her what we’d done. After she wrote a prescription for an antibiotic, she looked at me incredulously. “If I give you this prescription, you will give it to him, right?” “Of course I will,” I told her; I meant it and followed through. And he’s still doing okay, as far as I can tell, and he says he remembers that night. Taking a little unconventional advice saved me a lot of worry and money (which would have been worth it had he been in danger). I still keep clay on hand for spider bites.

When we cross over from the conventional to unconventional, the whole environment feels precarious, doesn’t it? Do we risk ridicule? What will others think? Will it even work? Am we even right? There’s a lot of uncertainty in unconventionality, and above all things, we fear what we don’t know.

These examples, though, aren’t too far outside the realm of normal or acceptability. What we read about in the Gospel according to Mark takes us to a whole other level.

Not only is an unaccompanied woman approaching Jesus and the disciples at table, but she is a Gentile unaccompanied woman. The only thing I could think of similar in our time would be if I entered the men’s worship space of the Bentonville Islamic Center during their Friday prayers and went straight to the Imam to ask for help. “Unconventional” would be a mild word to describe such an action. I couldn’t imagine doing it unless it were a dire emergency, and for this mother, it is. There wasn’t an ER to which she could take her possessed child. In their time and place, the Jewish people, God’s chosen, are the “children,” and everyone else, the Gentiles, are the “dogs.” I don’t think I need to give examples of the racial slurs used today, for even by mentioning their existence, you already are thinking of them. Could you imagine our neighbor the Imam dismissing me in a time of crisis with demeaning words? Could you imagine if we were getting ready for worship when someone came up for help or assistance, and I cast them away, referring to them with a slur of our time while in the same breath referring to our blessedness?

Why is it okay for Jesus to do it? Is it okay?

We want to jump to the end result: the woman stood her ground, and her daughter is healed. Everything worked out okay.

But we can’t skip over the hard realities, and we know there are many ways we can view what is. There’s a reason why we have several news channels, why we even have four gospels. We all interpret our present moment through our particular lenses. Those lenses, in turn, affect how we judge other people’s actions and reactions.

A woman finds Jesus when he’s trying to go unnoticed. She begs for healing for her daughter, but Jesus points out that the children are fed first, that it’s not fair to throw their food to the dogs. But she points out that even the dogs eat the children’s crumbs, and Jesus says that her daughter is healed, cleansed of the demon that had possessed her. The woman returned home and found the demon gone from her child.

As unconventional and unacceptable as it was for the woman to approach Jesus, so, too, was his offering healing to the Gentile woman, someone from the outside. She was an “other” in every sense of the word, yet Jesus extended his healing grace to her and her daughter. When I read this, I acknowledge that Jesus is using unfavorable images and language, but I see him making a statement of their reality, calling out the dissension in the community. He’s calling it out, and even as she recognizes the duality, the conflict, the woman also recognizes her need and the presence of that which will nourish her and her family. It reminds me of the hemorrhaging woman who had nothing else to lose and just needed to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment. They have faith. They believe. They respond wholeheartedly and vulnerably in the presence of Christ, and they are healed.

Jesus had to state what was the contemporary norm, what was considered conventional and acceptable. To us it seems very un-Jesus-like because Jesus is all about standing up for the poor, the sick, and the needy. He is! Yet he was also in the midst of his faithful followers, who were probably shaking their head in agreement with him even as they looked upon the woman with disdain, if they regarded her at all.

But Jesus crosses over into the unconventional when he listens to the distressed woman, engages with her in conversation, and then heals her daughter as she requested. Because no matter what the social norms were or are, Jesus is about doing the will of God, and God is for everyone, even if our society can’t see that or live into it, evidenced in our ongoing disdain and massacre of one another.

Our gospel continues with what seems like another general healing story, a little more graphic than we’re used to, with Jesus plugging a man’s ears and spitting and touching tongues and all, but a healing to be celebrated for sure. Jesus heals the deaf and mute, giving them ears to hear and mouths to speak. He healed them with curious actions–one might say they’re unconventional–and a word unfamiliar to us: “Ephphatha” or “effata,” meaning “Be opened.”

Open ears and open mouths. Jesus is also known to open eyes, too. Those with eyes to see and ears to hear know something about the way of Jesus. Those with open mouths apparently couldn’t keep them closed as they zealously proclaimed the marvelous deeds of Jesus.

Is it another healing story? Yes. Is it more? I believe so.

Even today, we need to know–however we can–what is going on around us, and we need the courage to see it for what it is, even if we have to call it out. Abuse, harassment, fraud, racism, discrimination, bullying–we could be and probably are witness to any of these things on any given day. Unfortunately, it’s been the norm, the convention, not to ruffle any feathers, to pretend we didn’t notice, or to let it go. Whatever we see is the demon in the child, and we are the mother. Do we bind ourselves to conventionality, our societal norms and expectations, to keep things functioning however dysfunctionally so that everything looks okay on the surface? Or do we realize the crisis of the situation? That we’re only as healthy as our weakest member? Do we have the courage of a mother who is willing to go before God saying, “I’m not leaving until you grant me what I need to get through this.”

Giving unconventional baby shower gift certificates and using homeopathic poultices are baby steps compared to the steps Jesus asks us to take as Christians. May our ears be open to hear the direction God calls us toward, our courage be strengthened to stand strong in the face of the adversary, and our love of God be reflected in our true love of neighbor and ourselves. I look forward to the day when such radical love is the norm.

 

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The Only Way is Through

Isaiah 50:4-9a | Psalm 31:9-16 | Philippians 2:5-11 | Matthew 26:14-27:66

If only the passion narrative were a “choose-your-own-adventure” story where we could make the decisions of the many characters and craft a story that wasn’t so heart-wrenching and tragic. If only our faith let us show up for Christmas and Easter to celebrate the glorious news of Jesus Christ’s birth and resurrection. If only all the stories throughout the Bible revealed the joy and faith and hope and love so we could truly celebrate being Christians and share that happiness with others. If only we weren’t so quick to run away or avoid the pain and suffering of reality.

May your hearing of the the Gospel reading today set the tone for and enrich your experience of Holy Week. It’s important that we tell the story year after year. Like our Jewish ancestors who insisted on the telling of the Passover and the observance of holy days that united them as a people delivered, a people favored by God, we, too, must tell our story and observe our holy days: our identities depend upon it. There’s insistence for all peoples and tribes to tell our stories so our children and our children’s children know and never forget who we are and where we’ve come from; it makes us stronger, these common bonds. Sharing our stories within our families and outside our comfort zones has a way of keeping our connection with reality and our dependency upon the grace of God in check.

Consider this:

Sitting with a convict who has admitted to heinous crimes, I can give testimony to the power of God to forgive him, offer redemption and wholeness, if he prays to God with repentance because I, too, have sinned (even if it’s nowhere near his crimes). He sees me as a prosperous woman in society. I must be living life right, so he wants to do what I’m doing. He wants God’s favor to be with him, too, because up to this point in his life, he can’t remember a time that didn’t reek of the stench of smoke and mildew, sweat and blood, and other things he’s trying to be polite and not mention. This makes me feel like I’ve done right, that I’ve shown him the right way. He’s going to be a better person because I’m a better person. I’m going to make him more like me.

But what about this alternative:

Sitting with the same convict, I can listen . . . not just to his crimes but to all the burdens he’s been carrying for some time: where the smoke and mildew came from, whose sweat and blood. Listen without judgment as he recounts the stories of his youth, revealing the dysfunction of his family and his parents’ so-called friends and how he thought he found a sense of belonging with his friends in school, but it turned out to be a re-creation of another mess tied up in drugs and crime. His truth-telling unfolds like a never-ending stream, and I watch as he won’t let the tears fall from his eyes until he sees my tears fall unbidden.

He looks down and away as the truth and tears stream together. All I can tell him is that the only one who knows the depths of his pain and suffering is Jesus. I won’t dismiss his doubts; rather, I share stories of those who have also questioned, “Why me?” I remind him that it’s okay to be wary of those who profess righteousness because even those who praised Jesus as he entered Jerusalem stood aside or joined the masses to have him crucified. Who’s to say we would have done differently?

I hardly know what I’m saying because a force greater than myself is flowing through me to him. I trust it to be Spirit, and I feel it to be Love. It must be what living with the mind of Christ is like. I feel small and insignificant but feel like I will never let go of the faith that holds me in the embrace of the Almighty and makes me strong. It’s not my strength that broke the floodgates of the wounded man before me. Only Jesus Christ, who persistently did what no one should have been able to do, what no one was supposed to do . . . Only Jesus Christ who faced, mostly in opposition, all manner of authority and power and still rode into town on a donkey without any sort of defense–not even fear . . . Only Jesus Christ who let us choose what would be done, knowing it meant showing us the way of suffering and death . . . Only Jesus Christ who “holds all things together” (Col 1:17) releases us into the freedom of true Love.

We deceive ourselves if we skip the arduous journey to the cross this week. Yes, we know the full arc of the story, but if we take some time to sit with the stations of the cross or just pray with this reading from Matthew, what do we find ourselves resisting? What do we want to skip over? What do we think we already know enough about? What are we already “right” about?

Jesus, who enters our world through a willing, unmarried young woman, who shows our world that things aren’t always what they seem, brings the divine into our world right smack dab into the mess of things as they are and shows us all how to go through it. We’ll die, yet we’ll live. This is the way of the cross. This is our story. This is who we are as a Christian people.

In Matthew, we are told that Judas realized too late how pointless his betrayal was, how greatly he had been used to no good end. Whatever he thought he was getting out of the deal, it had been an illusion. Things weren’t as they seemed, and he had so completely lost hope, he rejected life altogether. If only Judas had seen. If only Judas had been there. If only Judas had persevered through the despair, he, too, would have tasted and seen the glory of the Resurrection, the power of redemption, and hope everlasting while still in the flesh.

We can’t let ourselves be fooled by illusion, by quick fixes or cheap promises that guarantee us a bypass over the pain and suffering of life. We can’t succumb to normalcy of oppression and domination. We can’t let ourselves forget our story, that it’s our job, our responsibility, to live our lives in the way of Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit — because Jesus showed us that we can, with God’s help.

It’s going to mean reading even more of the Bible to tune our ears to hear God’s guidance and remember God’s power, mostly through the stories of those who walked the way before us. We have to talk to strangers, listen intently to our neighbors near and far, and get outside our comfort zones. Most importantly, living in the way of Christ means loving without judgment, loving and living without fear because we know who truly holds the power of Life.

As we walk through this week, we will open our hearts and minds to remember. We’ll taste hope. We’ll be afraid. We’ll worry. We’ll face death. And we’ll sleep, knowing the Son will rise to greet us Easter morning. But we’ve got to go through hell first.

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“Nothing complicated about it”

When thinking about how we move through the day, I’m more likely to imagine a digital clock ticking the minutes and hours away as we scurry from home to school to work to lessons and sports to home to bed. So much of our day is guided by appointments and obligations, most that make our lifestyle possible and others that make our lives enriched, and we consider ourselves privileged to do all this.

Then I come across something like this, reading out of a book I happened upon in our church lending library:

“In ancient times people found it natural and important to seek God’s will. With little spiritual guidance and in utter simplicity, they heard from God. There was nothing complicated about it. They understood that every moment of every day presented an opportunity for faith to fulfill a responsibility to God. They moved through the day like the hand of a clock. Minute after minute they were consciously and unconsciously guided by God.” -Jean-Pierre de Caussade in Abandonment to Divine Providence*

I confess that I do not in every moment think first about how my next move will “fulfill a responsibility to God.” While I may occasionally think, “God, what would you have me do?”, it doesn’t often enter my mind when I am making my daily rounds around the house or through our city’s streets. I’m more likely to be caught up in my own thoughts about what I have or haven’t accomplished on my unwritten to-do list. We are creatures of habit, and my routine is about what I need to do next, what I’m expected to do. It shouldn’t be a surprise that our society is primarily full of egocentric people, taking care of ourselves before everyone else because our primary thoughts are typically about ourselves. It’s natural for us to put #1 first, whether that be me, my family, my country, etc.

What would it be like if it were “natural and important to seek God’s will,” to hear from God, to move through our day “minute after minute . . . consciously and unconsciously guided by God”? De Caussade has a way with words (even in the translation) that points both toward a simple yet profound beauty. This beauty comes to me even as I see photos of the horror of the Syrian refugees and read the clamor of American citizens advocating for rights to marry or to live without fear.

The guidance of God contrasts sharply to the suffering and oppression at hand. Any action that is born of hatred and violence, of fear and anger, does not align with what I understand to be God’s will, that we love God and our neighbor. Christians aren’t the only ones who believe this, either.

Perhaps that’s why there’s nothing really complicated about it. If we let God’s will guide our next move, we move in compassion. If we believe in God, in God’s unconditional love for us, it is our faithful responsibility to share this love with others, including ourselves. This means that we surrender to the will of God: we surrender to experience the tremendous freedom that is found in the power of unconditional love. It’s not popular. It’s risky and counter-cultural. It makes us vulnerable because we open our hearts and become an easy target. I think God knows this kind of love well.

I’m going to replace the battery in my watch, the watch my husband gave me as a gift. I cannot promise that every time the minute-hand moves that I will first be thinking of God, but de Caussade said we can be “consciously and unconsciously guided by God.” When I fail to ask for guidance, may my faith guide me even when I’m unaware.

*As found in Nearer to the Heart of God: Daily Readings with the Christian Mystics, Bernard Bangley, ed., 2005

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Where God Dwells

The Scripture Texts for Proper 16, Year B, Track 1:

1 Kings 8: 1, 6, 10-11, 22-30, 41-43 | Psalm84 | Ephesians 6:10-20 | John 6:56-69

John 6:56-69: Jesus said, “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.” He said these things while he was teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum.

When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?” But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, “Does this offend you? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But among you there are some who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the first who were the ones that did not believe, and who was the one that would betray him. And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father.”

Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. So Jesus asked the twelve, “Do you also wish to go away?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”


 

What comes to your mind when you think of the word “dwell”?

It’s a lovely word to me, one that seems to pull the mouth into a smile just by forming the word. And the smile is naturally appropriate as it also makes me think of both my sense of home and well-being combined into one.

For most of us, what comes to mind when we consider where we dwell is that place we call home, that place where we are comfortable, where we can be who we are without pretense, without being judged. And because we are comfortable there,we remain for a time, staying however long we intend, hopefully on our terms.

Our home is our dwelling, our nest of well-being.

Often we shape the space around us to match our personalities or our aim for productivity. Sometimes, as is the case for architects ro designers, dwelling places are created for others.

I suppose King Solomon was an architect of sorts,overseeing the construction of a temple, the Temple that would by no means contain God but would at least be worthy of housing the name of God. The ark of the covenant–which is said to have held the very tablets that Moses carried–could reside in the Holy of Holies, and when the faithful needed a place to turn toward God in prayer or move toward God in pilgrimage, they could turn or move toward the Temple. The presence of God dwelled in that holy place but not only there. 

“The glory of the LORD filled the (whole) house of the LORD,” and “even heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain” the LORD our God.

God is too immanent, too transcendent for any one house or dwelling place.

Even though God is too big, we still try to put God some place, don’t we? It’s easier if we keep God stationary so we can feel like we’ve got something figured out, but maybe our ancestors were keeping God’s dwelling a little too separate, exercising personal piety a little too vigorously, or allowing other gods–pagan or material–to get in the way of true relationship with God. We as humanity needed a different understanding of God, so God came along and shook things up for us by sending Jesus.

Jesus defies what we thought we knew about God, exceeding the limits of our understanding. God can’t be just all out there because Jesus is all here, too. As Episcopalians, we have a leg up on being a both-and kind of people, but in the days of our forefathers and foremothers, Jesus was rocking the boat.

Jesus, Son of God, Word made flesh, did not cloister himself in a curtained room in a temple or in a place set apart. Sure, he retreated for prayer, but what we mostly have are accounts of Jesus in the midst of the people–and not just with his inner circle but also with those with whom he shouldn’t mingle.

So, where did Jesus dwell?

Both Matthew and Luke capture Jesus telling a would-be follower that “The Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head” (Mtw 8:20, Lk 9:58). Jesus never really stayed any one place for too long. It wasn’t like he had a private jet or a chauffeur taking him from place to place, either. He walked.

The experience of your environment changes as you walk: you see, hear, and smell things you hadn’t noticed before. Your sense of distance shifts, as you realize that it’s not really possible to do everything you thought you needed to do in one day.

If you’re lucky to have sidewalks, you notice how well-maintained they are . . . or aren’t, especially if you’re pushing a stroller or cart or are dependent on a wheelchair.

You notice trash and the weather and the condition of your own body. Perhaps you feel the glances or stares of the people passing you by. You’re vulnerable not only to the elements but also to the hospitality of others, particularly if you’re homeless. This is the way Jesus took, walking along the paths of the people, without a comfortable bed to call his own.

Where did Jesus dwell, then?

I venture to say that while he lived and walked among the people, he truly dwells in the Father. It is in God that Jesus has his true home and well-being. Jesus tells us that if we eat him and drink his blood, we dwell in him and he in us. The only thing separating us from dwelling with Jesus is our own willingness to take him fully into our lives.

This teaching is difficult, as the disciples themselves said. It goes against some basics of Jewish tradition on one hand and common sense on the other. The flesh is reserved for the offering in the Temple, and the blood, the essence of life, was God’s alone. Observant Jews wouldn’t think of eating the flesh or drinking the blood. And now Jesus is also saying, “Consume me to dwell in me and I in you.” We are to eat our dwelling?

Jesus doesn’t say take a nibble every now and then. The Greek word (TρωγωΝ) means to chew. Take him in and chew, ingesting fully. Take Jesus all into your life, your being, for it is the only way to dwell in God.

Jesus means what he says.

Where does that leave us?

It leaves us where Jesus says it does: God dwelling in me and me dwelling in God. Anywhere. Everywhere. There is no place that we can go or will go that God isn’t there or hasn’t always been.

The God of Solomon that we couldn’t conceive of containing is the same God that’s telling us, showing us, that God exists in the confines of our physical reality, too. God’s presence is all-inclusive, fully transcendent.

When we allow ourselves to dwell in the spiritual realm, we, too, transcend to experience unity with God, dwelling with God. Our awareness doesn’t generally allow ourselves to stay long in this divine union, but knowing that it’s possible, that it’s ours to claim–it’s what the mystics ultimately proclaim and what our psalmist today yearns for:

to dwell in the presence of God.

It is with and through God that we seek to live our lives because that is the only assurance of joy we have, where our happiness resides.

Like Peter, we’ve discerned that there is nowhere else to go, no one else to follow because we have experienced the presence of God, tasted the sweetness of the Breath of Life. Once we believe and know — like Peter and the faithful disciples —that Jesus is the Holy One of God, we realize that even if we turn away from the hard road ahead, we will know no peace, we will not find the beloved dwelling of God, no matter where we live physically or with what we surround or preoccupy ourselves.

It is no insignificant thing that we come together on Sundays and other occasions for the sacrament of Holy Communion. We come to the table to eat the flesh and drink the blood, and if we never thought about it before, we know now that one of the consequences is that we dwell in Christ, and Christ dwells in us. We are willingly saying with our outstretched hands,

outstretched_hands

“God, dwell in me.”

We, who have been marked as Christ’s own forever, are one way through which Christ moves about in our world today. We don’t enclose ourselves in the church as if it were a fortress, but we do, like Paul says, put on the whole armor of God and walk out of this place knowing the Lord dwells within us.

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It’s Not a Problem; It’s an Opportunity

I once heard it’s good feng shui to have your fridge full of food.  My grandpa always kept his car full of gas.  My grandma always had a pantry full of canned goods and a freezer so full of food you could barely shut it, let alone fit another bag of frozen anything in there.  My mother-in-law usually has at least two of everything, mainly so she can share with the family — thanks to the good deals she finds.

There’s a good fortune there that can easily be taken for granted.  Their ways of being and doing things rely upon being able to sustain them.  They have the resources to do so.  I didn’t realize how fortunate I was as a kid.  I knew others relied on school lunch programs.  I knew there were homeless kids and adults, that even if they had a make-shift home, it didn’t necessarily mean they had electricity or running water.

I also realize the predicament my parents were in, a stereotypical struggle of middle class America.  Keep up with the Joneses.  Make things look well and good, even if the budget is a train wreck.  Pay the medical and dental bills out of pocket; what other choice do you have?  Buy now, pay later . . . if you can.  Don’t let the kids know how hard it is.

Now my husband and I find ourselves living between these two ways of living, and I can’t help but wonder if this isn’t an opportunity to find a resolve so that our kids won’t have to struggle with the same issues.  I feel like my grandparents, who lived through the depression, wanted to make sure they never ran out, that there’s always plenty.  They also felt very strongly about paying for things with cash; buy only what you can afford.  I feel like my parents, who reached adulthood in the 70s, lived fully in the 80s mentality: get what you need (a.k.a. want), taking time to pay it back.  It provided a kind of feast or famine way of life.

Our opportunity, again, is to find what is best of each generation, and I think that relies on us being able to clearly know what is enough.

I heard that it’s best to use the full tank of gas before filling up again.  I know from experience that I feel like I’m not wasting as much money on gas when the tank if full.  (Doesn’t it seem like the top half of the tank lasts longer?)  I know that food does not last forever, even in a freezer.  It’s best to cycle through and actually use it and replace it regularly.  Some staples do last longer when frozen, so saving room for bulk flour, oats, rice and such is smart.  I appreciate credit, too, but unless it can be managed wisely and paid off quickly, it’s best to pay with cash.  Do not live outside your means.  I’m still learning this simple lesson that can be so hard to live.

I also take the opportunity to tell my kids why we don’t eat out so often, why the fridge might not be full of fresh produce, why I cannot and will not pay full price for new clothes and such (unless absolutely necessary).  I don’t tell them to make them feel guilty or ashamed; I want them to know and understand.  I also try to make sure they share in my gratitude for what is shared with us, what is given to us. As a parent, you have to know how hard this can be.

Slowly, we are learning what is enough.  Though it may feel like we’re cutting it close on having enough food and supplies, we do have enough.  We realize how little we actually need to feel sustained and thriving.  Appreciation goes a long way.  A positive attitude does make a difference.  Our time isn’t spent moping about thinking about what we lack or miss.  We have to set a standard for ourselves.  Society’s expectations and norms have proven skewed and unbeneficial.

We have the opportunity to find where the value lies in our family.  We determine what is enough for us, really and truly.  If we need to buy in bulk out of necessity to save $10 and make sure we don’t run out of toilet paper or peanut butter (you have to have your priorities!), so be it.  I have a feeling other lessons and opportunities will follow regarding learning to live sustainably.  Our awareness continues to broaden.

I am so grateful for our abundance.

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He Said It

I was trying to sit and help my eldest study for the upcoming spelling bee. Everything has felt like an effort these past couple of days, and add to that the fact that it’s after eight and in the bedtime hour. My second oldest tells us he still has homework to do, and his chores still aren’t done. Everyone seems to be a whir of activity.

The child who is supposed to be washing his lunch dishes comes running through the living room to the piano, but the water is still running in the kitchen sink.

“What are you doing?!” I practically yell at him. Maybe he’s just letting the water get hot, I try to rationalize to myself.

“I’m doing two things at once because you are all telling me to do everything,” he replies, exasperated at best, still moving, straightening up his piano things.

Alas, I feel I’ve not done a good job this day. My nine-year-old feels the need to multi-task. God bless him, the boy is as slow as Christmas and has a hard time focusing on doing one task, let alone three or more.  Often, I have to write a list out just so he knows what he needs to do, and even that can mean a day-long commitment.

Why do we have so much to do? I wonder. So much laundry. So many dishes. So much house to clean (and we’re not in an extremely large house by any means for a family of 6). So much work to be done.

I remind myself that these are the ropes. Sometimes you swing high. Sometimes you swing low. It helps keep things in perspective because as soon as I think this, I remember how grateful I am that we have all we do. We are richly blessed.

We have to be careful, though, of how much of our time we spend in the absent-minded state of doing, doing, doing. Am I showing my kids how I do motherhood, or am I showing them how to be a mother?  Am I teaching them that the only way they will get anything accomplished is if they run themselves into the ground 24/7, or am I showing them that it really is about one’s quality of being that is of utmost importance.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what I’ve said if I haven’t lived it.  I would have rather heard my son tell me he’s done his best this day to do what he can.  I would rather have seen a sleepy, contented smile on his face than the tired, sad eyes that were giving up on his homework.

When the tooth fairy visits tonight, I hope she brings another friend with a magic wand to wave over us all renewal, confidence and peace.  We’ll start again fresh in the morning light.

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Indian Summer

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This whole week embodies an Indian summer.  We’ve had our first frost.  All the trees have come aglow, and most have dropped their leaves.  I chanced upon this ginko tree at the park the day before Halloween; they drop their leaves so quickly.  Their golden leaves must be too heavy to hold for long.

And this week (which happened to include my birthday) reminds me of the renewal I feel in the fall, the creativity, optimism and groundedness.  Quite simply, I give thanks.  My blessings abound.  My gifts continue to create a beautiful harvest and provide me with plenty of work to be joyfully busy.

Even when the sun hides behind the clouds, as it undoubtedly will sometime soon, and the nighttime increases, I’ll let the Light glow from within and cherish the time to let my hands create gifts for those I love.

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What a Mother Should Never Forget

My youngest and her equally young friend pick raspberries in the autumn wind and sun, bundled in their jackets, their hands turning red.  Of course, on their return inside, there’s a heap of jackets, socks and shoes near the rocking chair/climbing gym.

My boys and their friend huddle around their DSes, plotting, sharing and exclaiming together as new levels are achieved.  A day home from school means anything can happen.  Today I’ll witness them conquer new worlds.

My oldest retreats to her room.  A house full of young ones is not her ideal.  Weeks can be stressful, especially when one has to balance living in the world with an old soul in a young body.  I should know.  She asked almost pleadingly if she could play on her DS today, too . . . after chores, of course.  I agreed.

Tonight we jump-start the Halloween celebration by dressing in costume and going to a classical concert of “spooky” music.  Tomorrow we celebrate a birthday, All Hallow’s Eve and our friendships at a couple of Halloween parties.  But as my husband remarked, we should celebrate the kids, with the kids, this weekend.  After he attended the three parent-teacher conferences, he was reminded (and thus reminded me) how wonderful our children are, how blinded we can be by being with them so much and getting muddled in the day-to-day routines.  This weekend, we celebrate.

And as their mother, I should never forget how holy each day is that I see the joy in their eyes, the fragility of their person,  the Light in their lives.  Whether we  birth our children in body or heart, whether they are with us in body or spirit, these things among many are what a mother should never forget.

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With a heart full of Love, I give thanks.

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I Never Thought I’d do this . . .

Remembering, of course, that I’m a most mild-mannered person, the realm of things I never thought I would do is rather broad. Even some things I thought I would do remain undone, and this isn’t a bad thing. My life is full of potential!

IMG_1779_1I never thought I would cut my own hair, let alone my daughter’s, into a very short cut . . . using clippers. But this I have done. I continue to cut my own hair short for convenience, cost, and practicality. Cutting one’s hair isn’t a big deal, really, but I never imagined cutting and then dyeing my daughter’s hair blue, especially not just the little bit up front that we left long enough to tuck behind her ear. This, too, was done, and most likely will be done again.


I don’t know, however, if I will ever get another opportunity to wrap someone in duct tape. That’s right. My ever-creative relative needs a corset for Halloween and found clever instructions here

that advise using duct tape to get the form/pattern needed. This is definitely a project to be done with someone you trust, and it is incredibly funny. Left alone, I think it would also make for a great superhero garb.  🙂  She didn’t have to consent to a photo, but I’m glad she did.

I hope your fall time has brought such creative exploration and new experiences.  I’ll look forward to sharing the many projects that this coming Christmas season promises.

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