Pray the Ninja Way

Alternate title to this post is: The Steal, Sneak around, and Hunker Down Prayer Hack Method for Moms.

Sheila posted a fantastic entry and asked some salient questions regarding prayer. And it’s just the perfect timing, since I have been thinking about this subject for quite some time, and also since I had writer’s block until she posted on Tuesday!

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Getting a regular prayer time in is indeed a challenge. We all know what’s individually keeping us from prayer, whether it’s illness, tiredness, interruptions, or lack of scheduling prowess. Over the last 18 months or so, I’ve been almost constantly trying to get back to the one and only routine that has ever worked for me: wake up x number of minutes earlier than normal, use that amount of time to make coffee and pray, and then continue as normal with the day’s schedule, whatever that may be. Continue reading

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“On my back see the marks of the scourging I endured to remove the burden of sin that weighs upon your back.”

On this day, the day many of us commemorate as the day Jesus died, I want to leave you with words much better than my own. They have been instrumental in increasing my love and knowledge of God since I first heard them read by a friend on Holy Saturday about 12 years ago.

Second reading
From an ancient homily on Holy Saturday
The Lord descends into hell

Something strange is happening—there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear.

He has gone to search for our first parent, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow the captives Adam and Eve, he who is both God and the son of Eve. The Lord approached them bearing the cross, the weapon that had won him the victory. At the sight of him Adam, the first man he had created, struck his breast in terror and cried out to everyone: “My Lord be with you all.” Christ answered him: “And with your spirit.” He took him by the hand and raised him up, saying: “Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.”

I am your God, who for your sake have become your son. Out of love for you and for your descendants I now by my own authority command all who are held in bondage to come forth, all who are in darkness to be enlightened, all who are sleeping to arise. I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be held a prisoner in hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead. Rise up, work of my hands, you who were created in my image. Rise, let us leave this place, for you are in me and I am in you; together we form only one person and we cannot be separated.

For your sake I, your God, became your son; I, the Lord, took the form of a slave; I, whose home is above the heavens, descended to the earth and beneath the earth. For your sake, for the sake of man, I became like a man without help, free among the dead. For the sake of you, who left a garden, I was betrayed to the Jews in a garden, and I was crucified in a garden.

See on my face the spittle I received in order to restore to you the life I once breathed into you. See there the marks of the blows I received in order to refashion your warped nature in my image. On my back see the marks of the scourging I endured to remove the burden of sin that weighs upon your back. See my hands, nailed firmly to a tree, for you who once wickedly stretched out your hand to a tree.

I slept on the cross and a sword pierced my side for you who slept in paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side has healed the pain in yours. My sleep will rouse you from your sleep in hell. The sword that pierced me has sheathed the sword that was turned against you.

Rise, let us leave this place. The enemy led you out of the earthly paradise. I will not restore you to that paradise, but I will enthrone you in heaven. I forbade you the tree that was only a symbol of life, but see, I who am life itself am now one with you. I appointed cherubim to guard you as slaves are guarded, but now I make them worship you as God. The throne formed by cherubim awaits you, its bearers swift and eager. The bridal chamber is adorned, the banquet is ready, the eternal dwelling places are prepared, the treasure houses of all good things lie open. The kingdom of heaven has been prepared for you from all eternity.

-Author unknown. Translation found on DivineOffice.org at this link: http://divineoffice.org/lent-hw-sat-or/. Friday, March 25.

Another translation, as prepared for the Vatican

And here’s a song, Thief by Third Day, that’s so very good at getting across the tenor of the day: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MDw_9vvLcWg.

As a short closing, I’ll only add that I think knowing and loving God and neighbor is the beginning and end of faith and purpose. I’ve been thinking this as I read John’s gospel this month. So I was much encouraged – knowing John the Apostle agrees – reading Jesus’ words just this morning: “O righteous Father, the world has not known thee, but I have known thee; and these know that thou hast sent me. I made known to them thy name, and I will make it known, that the love with which thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.” (John 17: 25-26).

May we all come to know and love our Lord and each other more and more,

Mary Clare

 

What the Psalms are Teaching Me about Mission

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“We’re on a mission from GOD”.

Name that movie!

Okay, I’ll spill the answer. It’s from The Blues Brothers, which we watched a few days back and enjoyed immensely. And, while some of the actions of these bros are unmentionable, the very fact that they are on a  “mission from GOD” is enviable. (Don’t you find it so? Maybe it’s just so for me.) As I wrote about on my personal blog, I still haven’t found what I’m looking for [never mind the fact – that I’m even looking – is rather strange]. You see, I am looking for a mission, a research project, some big goals, or ANYTHING and any NUMBER of things that are important, that I can focus on. It’s somehow an integral part of my worldview. I suspect it has to do with wanting to BE important.  And so I have become really good at focusing on big projects, dotting every “I” and crossing every “T”. In short, in obsessing over the mission.

As you may know, I’ve been reading the Psalms this summer [What? It’s no longer summer? Nevermind]. I’m up to Psalm 127:

1 Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.

2 It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.

3 Lo, sons are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward.

4 Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the sons of one’s youth.

5 Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.

Sitting in our lovely sleeping porch one morning recently, I read this Psalm. And between wondering whether the kids were awake and, if so, whether they were getting themselves undressed, or, if not, whether they were getting out of their cribs, or, horror of horrors, both, I re-iterated to God that I don’t know what to do with myself. What’s MY mission? What should I focus on? The options for God to choose from in answering my question, as I see it, are the following: home projects such as organizing/unpacking/redecorating, learning how to repair approximately 20 holes in our plaster ceiling and walls, sewing, blogging like a banshee (ie: more and better), having people over for dinner, doing stuff with youth, outdoor projects (ie: winterizing), the battle of the bulges (ie: excercise), cook good meals regularly, getting our neighbors to like me (ie: baking for them), go on a mission trip and figure out how to leave the kids here so that I can go.

When my list circled back to something related to the kids (albeit it had to do with leaving them), I thought of their smiles. Both are exceptionally smiley. I thought, “hmmm, I definitely see the Lord in my kids. Do I see the Lord clearly in any of the other options? No. That’s odd. And what about my husband? He is supposed to come ahead of the kids in my priorities. Do I see the Lord clearly in him? Oh, yes. Yes I do!” As a matter of fact, I could think of several examples just in the last 2 weeks when Erik really shone with the Lord’s light. But, you know, I think this Psalm is calling me to put my work into where the Lord is, and I am not convinced he’s behind that lengthy laundry list above. So, I will focus on my husband and children. That’s obvious.

“But, Lord, that’s not enough. Can’t I do something more important?” Obvious as it seems, it is taking God some time to convince me that this can be my sole focus.

Enter Psalm 131:

1 O LORD, my heart is not lifted up, my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me.

2 But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a child quieted at its mother’s breast; like a child that is quieted is my soul.

3 O Israel, hope in the LORD from this time forth and for evermore.

[PS: Psalms in the 120s and 130s are short, pithy, and awesome! As I’ve read through the entire book from the beginning, it seems like a distinct segment. And I have to admit that the change is refreshing.]

Getting to be okay with this is an ongoing process. A friends pointed out last week the importance of evangelizing our children. I’ve never thought about raising kids being equivalent to evangelism. It helps to take the long view in this. I like that. Also, I’ve had the sense in prayer and also from our area deliverance prayer that the Lord really wants to focus on love with me. As in He loves me. That’s a huge thing that I’m trying to figure out right now. All the rest is straw, I guess, in comparison.

Today, this afternoon, now that dinner is all ready to go into the oven, I think that I’m okay with this focus. It helps that having to limit my focus in this way is – I hope – temporary. When the kids go down for their naps and I’m wandering around our cluttered house, and the options for what to do are racing through my brain, I stop (metaphorically) and consider whether the emotional and physical needs of my family are being met. If there’s more to do to meet them (such as make dinner), I straight-away decide to do that first. As I get into habits of dinner-making and spiritual-supporting for my family, I can take on other things for the Lord. Along the way, I am learning to submit my desires for these accomplishments to the Lord, and wait for his response as to whether he is interested in doing them with me. And I am well aware that as soon as someone in the house gets sick, all those other things go out the window!  It also helps that I can sneak in some unrelated tasks as I have time. Just now I hung some shelves in my closet sewing room. I hope that’s not cheating. Is that cheating, Lord? Lemme know when you get a chance.

Thank you,

Love,

Mary Clare

PS: The photo in this post is what I found one morning this week upon finishing my Psalm prayer time and going to get the kids out of bed. One of those cribs does not belong where it was: squarely in front of the door! How did it get there?

True Story: a Toddler Learns of God and Creation

Yooking side. (trans. Looking outside).
Yooking side. (trans. Looking outside).

Our toddler wanted a story before nap time. We were all the way upstairs, and mere seconds away from that blissful period, but she wanted a story from the “book. big booook!”, and the baby – for once – wasn’t needy, and her request was sincere, and I figured a one time delay wouldn’t become a habit – horror of horrors!, so I capitulated to the request. We opened to a children’s book version of the creation story, and I wearily began to read.

The words and illustrations call for more than weariness (until the seventh day, that is, and even then only if you’re God – ha!), and so naturally I began putting some expression into them. I even paused a couple of times to wonder aloud with her. ‘Just look around, Rebecca, this room, everything in it, you, everything outside; God made all of it!’ Now, normally I am focused to a fault. If we are reading a story, we are READING THE STORY, no interjections. And if it is nap time, it is NAP TIME, no interruptions. It’s a pretty big deal that I strayed from both tasks.

I am glad that I did, because a couple of days later either during breakfast, second breakfast, snack, 11-sies, or lunch (they all run together both, literally and in my memory), Rebecca was saying something about something outside the window that was next to her.

Rebecca: “Yook! Side.”  Translation: “Look outside!”

Me: “What do you see, Sweetie?”

Rebecca: “Gog!” Translation: “God!”

Yes, Little Honey, God is outside, because he made it. God is here too. Right next to you and right inside you. He even made that tree, right there. And Mommy and Daddy and Brother. And thank you for presenting such immediate and clear proof that a tiny thing I did to connect with you and teach you actually worked. It’s rewarding for me personally, and a fun little praise moment during a meal.

Love to you,

Miss Mary Clare

This is the Day the Lord Has Made!

This icon is similar to the one on displayed in the crying room at the church we attended.
This icon is similar to the one on displayed in the crying room at the church we attended.

Sundays can be difficult for a toddler.

One Sunday I took my son to church with me at a different location.  It is not our usual church, but on weekends my husband is working, I take my son there because it has a childcare during the service.  That morning we woke up 15 minutes later than usual, which means we got out the door 15 minutes later than usual.  I did not have time to feed my son a normal breakfast, so he had milk and a cheese stick in the car.  After all, the childcare would probably have a snack.

We got to the church just as the first song was beginning as shuffled downstairs to the childcare center only to discover the lights were off and childcare was cancelled this week.  We proceeded to go to the back to the crying room, so we could spend church there.  Unfortunately I was not equipped with my normal cracker snack, books, and toy cars that I usually bring to the normal church when we go as a family.  We made do with water in a sippy cup and an Apple TV remote that accidentally fell into the diaper bag.  The crying room had two religious children’s books to look at, some wooden chairs that made a high pitched squeaking sound when pushed, and an icon of toddler Jesus and Mary, which my son pointed out how much he loved Jesus’ bare feet. “Jesus- FEET!  FEET!”

We were soon joined by a couple with a 1 year old girl, who was quite energetic, and unfortunately copied some of my son’s less desirable behavior like jumping on the (low to the ground) ledge next to the large glass windows that faced the sanctuary.  She started to “jump, jump, jump” just like him and hit her head on the bar right above.  They decided to leave the crying room.

So, we had the crying room to ourselves, and I’d say we did fine and survived through the remainder of church.  I don’t remember anything about the reading or homily, but my son and I were present there.  During church that day I asked myself, “Why I am even here? How can this delight the Lord when it is simply a trial of my patience and a moment of possible stress?”  The Lord said to me, “This is the day I have made for you to be with me.  I am not asking you to be able to give church your full attention, but I that you and your son spent time with me today.”  So, my encouragement for all of us, whether or not we have little ones or not, is to answer the Lord’s invitation to us at church and even in our daily lives.  He wants us present to him.  He doesn’t need anything fancy- just us.  Can we all made Him smile by spending time with Him?

And by the way, never before have I noticed toddler Jesus’ feet on an icon!  My toddler realized Jesus had feet just like him!

Frumpy Friday Summer Summary

Dear people,

I have missed you. Hope you are well. Every time I see fantastic posts coming in regarding vacationing as a parent, a mom’s musings, and summer meal prep, I get a little twinge of guilt that I’ve been off the posting bandwagon for a bit. There’s no pressure to write. We’ve all let each other be very free. What a gift! But I have some posts in the works that take a ton of work. And in the humidity we’ve been experiencing, the water weight of that “ton” is roughly doubled. So I’ve been sludgy. And, most nap times, when I used to write, I’ve been getting some house projects done.

I do enjoy keeping in touch with you all. So I’ve thrown off the guilt and the expectations – that I have of myself – and decided to ramble a list of the things we’ve been up to and struggled over. This is a real blog by real people. Why not have posts that reflect the reality of our life right now? The reality is: we’re jumping from one thing to the next as a family and barely finishing most projects.

So without further ado, some summary:

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This photo may be my favorite of the two kiddos to date. Such happy little stinkers. And, the little guy finally began to take regular naps on June 1, 80% of the time. Yes it’s a big deal.  Yes, it is written down on our calendar.

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Here, you see a lot of what we’ve been doing, actually! 1) It’s in the porch, and there’s the reflection of an old school picnic table cloth. We’ve been enjoying most meals out here. It is so, so pleasant. Definitely one of the biggest blessings of our new home. You see, I have found since graduating from college that Fall arrives, and I feel all sad that Summer never really happened. I struggled as a working single to vacation well and use the seasons. This porch redeems that – we feel we are outside, yet we can remain in our jammies. 2) The white monstrosity is a $10 damaged kitchen cabinet that I am transforming into a bench. I need to gather the top and bottom pieces (ideally for free!) before continuing. Pray I can find those today! We may go garage-saling 3) Isn’t “garage-saling” a word? Here in Minnesota, it is a word. So why does spell check yell at me? 4) Also reflected above is a set of green shutters. I spent about $3 on them at a garage sale, then attached them to the wall over a large old mail slot. It took several weeks to complete. Now it’s a little surprise opening to do whatever we want with, and the kids haven’t torn off the doors, and it’s a completed project using wood (I LOVE wood!). So it’s a raving success. 5) The trowel on the ledge proves that we’ve done some gardening. 6) The subtle haze over everything betrays that I haven’t figured out how to clean. Yet. We’ve been in the house less than a year, people! Give me a break! A year long break, please. 🙂

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Also in the porch, I painted this table before it completely disintegrated.

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See? Painted. I learned, however, that I should believe everything I read when it comes to painting. It says ‘do many thin coats and sand in between’. And, many articles advise a poly finish. I didn’t do either. Now I know I should have, as there is already some chipping.

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On the other hand, I have 2 kids. They can’t always be corralled like they are above. So, 3 thick coats of paint are all we will do. Oh well.

As I may have mentioned, it has been hot and muggy here. I won a bet once with a colleague from Georgia. I bet him that at least one day in the Summer, we here in MN would experience a hotter or more humid day than they would in GA. And I won, handily! But that’s the only time I’ve ever in my life been grateful for this oppressive weather.

Which brings up a major question: to use the AC or to not use the AC. I’m sluggish and downright lazy in my natural humid weather state. But it costs mula and there’s just no enjoying the environment, sludgy as it is, around us when we turn on the AC. I could, I suppose, leave the windows open, take a deep breath, and do the dishes and other chores. I’ve been looking for a way to fast, and this may be it.

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Which brings up prayer. I’ve been sneaking downstairs alone in the early morning (for us – it’s  relative) to pray and open the windows. And, of course, to make coffee. It’s a real treat. A friend recommended to a bunch of us to change it up this summer in our prayer habits. One idea was to read a Psalm a day based on the date. I conveniently began on June 1, and have a 30 day cycle. So today, I added 30 to the date and read Psalm 54. In any month that has 31 days, I get a bonus day at the end to read the Psalm of my choice. It’s fun! The Psalms in the past have been difficult for me. I’ve read them and not really been able to relate to the ‘enemies round about me on every side, waiting to devour me’, and all that dramatic militaristic imagery. I look around me and I don’t seem to have that much trouble. So I think forlorn thoughts about how useless the Psalms are in my life, how I should be more serious so that life is more full of trouble, how weird I must be since other people can relate to the Psalms but I can’t, etc.  After plowing through the first few in this manner, I read Psalm 37. It’s a keeper:

Do not fret because of those who are evil
    or be envious of those who do wrong;
for like the grass they will soon wither,
    like green plants they will soon die away.

Trust in the Lord and do good;
    dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Take delight in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the Lord;
    trust in him and he will do this:
He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn,
    your vindication like the noonday sun….

Now, I read the Psalms as if I am speaking them to God, or he to me. Me and God. I have to turn off my historical imagination, and just let the words be mine alone, for me alone. Some Psalms sink in more deeply than others, but all of them are worth waking up for and sneaking past my semi-sleeping kids. On July 7, the Psalm contained plenty to ponder and resolve in my day to day life and musings.

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How could I forget?! We had a Grammy Visit, and prepped this sleeping porch for her stay.

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It’s now my favorite room in the house. Huge “thank you”s go out to Jeanne O and Erik for helping bring this room from storage with broken electrical units to perfect summer retreat place.

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I grabbed a minute at the end of my prayer/Psalm/coffee time July 4 to rig this up. Happy belated birthday, USA!

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Yes, a very happy birthday.

Best Regards,

Mary Clare

Joshy Can Now Crawl, and I am Not the Only One Crying about It

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This just cracks me up! I wrote a whole post about not wanting my son to reach a major milestone (crawling – YIKES!!!), but trying to be happy about it regardless. When it actually happened very recently, I was resigned/excited/resigned, but wanted to cry. And yell. And whine. And kick. And stomp, and most of all, to make it stop. And guess who actually cried?! The big boy himself. That’s some sort of poetic justice.

It’s fitting that he gained this independence just in time for the celebration of our country’s Independence Day. And, to be quite honest he is not generally unhappy about his accomplishment. I confess that I made him cry. But it’s my husband’s fault. You see, I took the video that produced the above still at his behest while he was at work. It was only the 2nd time he’d taken his new all fours for a spin, and Erik hadn’t seen it yet. He requested a video. I obliged by taking away the crinkly thing Josh was playing with, and putting it in crawling distance. This is a boy who likes his toys. Oh boy, does he ever. He cried and whined and wanted it back. But I made him crawl to go get it. So he cried some more while crawling.

My conclusion is that I was right! Crawling is no fun.

Actually, I’m really ok with this development. I am happy for him, and even, as I said, a little excited. I think it’s because I love the kid. A friend once pointed out one of the best features of love: ‘it doesn’t stop on a dime’. It compels us to go further and do more than we would otherwise do. In my case, this means that I’m moving past all sorts of fears and hesitations (most of which are based in selfishness or satan – the JERK (and that’s putting it lightly)!), and landing in a place where my emotions are more positive regarding this stage of parenting. This also means that my floors will soon be the clean that they deserve, and I will work off some pounds running after the kid.

Which brings up a burning question. How do you clean floors? We have hardwood, tile, and a rug over hardwood in our main living areas. Seriously, I don’t know how to efficiently clean them, and I actually can’t seem to get spills cleaned up from the wood floor. It’s a small house, so I’d prefer just 1 mop thing-y for the whole shebang. We have little/no storage space for cleaning items. I don’t know what solutions to use, whether there’s a really cool gadget that sweeps AND cleans (please tell me that there is!), etc. It’s like I’ve never cleaned before. Oh, wait, I haven’t. At least not in this house. Just like a baby needs to crawl before they can walk, I need to do the dishes before I can mop.

The end, (but please tell me in the comments how to clean my floors),

Miss Mary Clare

Oh! Brother!

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“ There’s no other love like the love for a brother. There’s no other love like the love from a brother.”– Astrid Alauda

I LOVE my brothers. I do. Truly. They are among my best friends. I am the only girl among four boys, and I am second in line. We lost the brother just younger than me when I was only three. It’s my earliest memory as a child, and it certainly impacts our sibling dynamic. We may not have all had a chance to meet him, but we all know him, each in our own way. On top of delighting in my brothers, simply because they are my brothers, I treasure my relationship with each one – even the one who is no longer here with us…or should I say – especially the one who is no longer with us.

I have been spending a lot of my thought life dwelling on my love for my brothers lately. Continue reading