The “Our Father” Counts as Prayer

Phew! Somehow a “lazy summer” has gotten busy! I’ve missed checking in here the last couple of weeks.

And, now, I hear some little tykes beginning to wake, so I’ll keep this short and sweet. For all my attempts at a regular, half hour, peaceful prayer time, every day, I learned this summer that when that fails, it totally counts to pause and pray the Lord’s Prayer in pajamas while ascending the steep steps to get the kids out of bed. Continue reading

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

“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

 

Prayers from an Elderly Lutheran that Worked for this Roman Catholic

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My first bed rest obsession was all the worry and research that goes along with wanting a good and safe labor and birth experience. I spent hours fretting over all the tubes I didn’t want going in me while having contractions, how they would for sure lead to a c-section, how the baby would probably have major health issues, and how the surgery was going to forcefully impose MORE bedrest, just at the time when I could be freed from it by giving birth. I read and researched, hired a wonderful doula, watched the second The Business of Being Born documentary (I do recommend it!), talked with my doctor about my plan for a drug and induction free delivery, and worried some more. Continue reading

Happy Week of Prayer for Christian Unity!

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A quick post before the week is over. This week sneaks up on me every year! Here’s more information from the Vatican, and from the World Council of Churches.

Erik and I are an ecumenical couple. He’s ELCA Lutheran, and I’m Roman Catholic. So this week hits pretty close to home (pun intended!).

Above you see our “great cloud of witnesses”, which was also our wedding party, at Erik’s church, where we took our pictures. Fun fact: when we get together with our best man and his wife, we represent 4 different denominations! I just love that. Then we got hitched at my church.

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That’s my dad practicing the psalm in the background. Early on in our relationship I said, “He’s Lutheran, is that ok?” Dad responded, “sure, but it’s not so much about what I think, anyways.” Amen.

Bedrest Bright Spot: a True Story

Darkness. Darkness is what I remember. Darkness and your dainty, surprisingly gentle hand on my fragile belly. I don’t remember at what exact point during that 7-odd months of bed rest that you called. I remember that it was relatively early on, and I remember trying to sound cheerful, trying to sound ok on the phone. But I felt only darkness, and I knew I should accept your offer to come pray over me and the little baby, even though I didn’t want to see anyone. Actually, I didn’t want anyone to see me. I was so lonely, that I wanted to see people. But I felt so frightened and sad and guilty and mad, that I didn’t want anyone to see me. Your initiative in showing kindness and concern won over my porcupine heart, and so I agreed to let you come that evening.

The room was dark because the wall of apartment windows was too far away, even in the summertime. The world was far away as well. It was just me and my insecurities on a faded and stained dark green old futon with black metal arms. You came and propped yourself on the side of the futon that had the least amount of space available, closest to me. It was dusk, I think. But it didn’t really mater. That darn room was always dark.

You greeted me and we talked for just a couple of minutes, and then you stretched out your hand to my belly. I instinctively drew back at first. That darn belly was so prone to contractions (you see, I had pre-term labor for 7 months), that even my cuddly, gentle husband couldn’t touch it without producing one. Even standing – standing often induced contractions. But your hand, your hand was different Julie. It was warm. It was warm and soothing. Surprising, for such a slender one attached to one of my most vivacious friends. You prayed quietly, but out loud. A few sentences that I tried to agree with and pray along with. I was not entirely sure I could mentally assent to it all, but I looked at your hand. I could see that. And the effect of that warm, gentle hand went straight to my soul. My memory is poor and mostly I remember the darkness. But I remember your hand, and it’s feeling on my belly. You were really the first to hold the tiny baby who we would later name Rebecca.

You finished the prayer and looked up at me with that half shy, half expectant, good humored smile. I have come to love your smile. That smile, your warm hand, and the darkness is what I remember clearly.

Actually, the darkness is not clear. Not all of bed rest was darkness, and this was not the only bright spot during that time. But it is one of the few that I remember today, and it is one of the few that I remembered as I went through it. As much as possible during that time, when I remembered your visit, I tried to convince my foggy self that this was evidence that I was loved, that God was there, that my baby would be ok. I must confess that my mind was weak and blind, so that little argument didn’t go very far. But when I did remember the feeling, the feeling of your warm hand holding my little baby, I was comforted by an invisible sun.

Rebecca is 2 now. A vivacious, sweet gift. I hope to tell her often of her honorary Aunt Julie, and how she first was held. It’s a pretty great story to start off life with.

I love you Julie. Thank you for coming,

Mary Clare

Welcoming Difficulties?

One word to describe this photo? GUTS. Because that is the most daring word my 4 year old can come up with, and I love it.
One word to describe this photo? GUTS. Because that is the most daring word my 4 year old can come up with, and I love it.

Heeeeellllloooooo fellow mamas!

I regret that I have not been able to write consistently… I have had a terrible time formulating posts amidst the giggles and grime of keeping up with the kiddlets. So I finally decided to go with what MC said in her previous post and get some life on this here page. AND to top it all off, I am writing this, in part, during my prayer time. Yep. Me and Jesus, typin’ together. Sometimes I really struggle with what to do during my prayer time. I like to mix it up…I don’t stick with one method for too long…and this can lead to difficulties with indecision. So I going with what Sheila described in this post about actually making a decision. And it feels great. Onward!

One thing that has been on my mind a lot is that my life as of late: life surrounding marriage and motherhood has seemed to follow a progression that in the eyes of…I don’t know…those who have gone before…. is not highly recommended if one wants to be able to keep it all together. Have you ever heard that it’s not the greatest idea to do all the following within a year: get married, start a family, make a major out-of-state-away-from-all-family-and-friends move to start a new job and buy a house? Mmm. Hmmm.

You see, when I hear a list of such things, I have to laugh to myself because the chronology of marriage and family life shows my little family to be among the ones who regularly ‘break the rules’. This has, in turn, caused me to think about “the rules”. There are excellent reasons why all of that is not recommended, and yet that is sometimes just how life goes. I know we are not alone. I have many friends who have gone through similar situations, and it seems to often happen to the people I know and love when they let the Lord take the reigns on life. Sometimes I look back and wonder how in the world we made it through those times. But truly there is no question in my mind – it was the Lord’s guiding hand and never failing strength.

When my husband and I were engaged the Lord put it on our hearts, independently, to move half way across the country. So we discerned the desire and started praying for direction and applying for jobs. Marriage happened, and then pregnancy amidst suspected infertility (a true miracle to be shared at another time). With pregnancy came hyperemesis gravidarum, and just as I got over that came out-of-state training for the new job (where I could not live with my husband). Our daughter was born right in the middle of training and then we were assigned to Oklahoma….not at all where we intended to live – or where we initially thought the Lord was calling us.

But you see, when I look at that account of how our life together progressed – down to the very day certain things happened- I see a list of prayers being answered. One thing after another being ticked off the list. And not only that but I can reflect on those moments and see growth. I had to trust the Lord more than ever before during those times. I had zero control over every major part of life: Our living situation – didn’t have our own place to live the entire first year of our marriage and until after our daughter was born. Finances – due to hyperemesis I suddenly had to quite working. Our future living situation – my husband being subject to assignments. My role in the family -could we afford to have me stay home with the kids? Healthcare for myself and the baby was very last minute – I had to switch providers in the last weeks of pregnancy when my husband started training and we went through about a month without any insurance at all. I couldn’t even guarantee that my husband would make it to the birth without losing his spot in his training class (another story of miracles), and I was unable to live with him at the end of my pregnancy or for the first 8 weeks of our daughter’s life. I learned a lot about letting go. A Lot.

We certainly ended up in some of those situations by asking the Lord to work and change things for us – they were things that we knew we would go through in order to get to where we felt the Lord was leading us. But we also ended up in surprising situations through the cascade of events that followed the things that were expected.

I am currently reading the book Interior Freedom by Jacques Philippe. Philippe talks about accepting the situations that you find yourself in that are not within your control – in particular, accepting difficulties/suffering.

He says, “The subject needs to be handled carefully. It is not a matter of becoming passive and learning to endure everything, without reacting. But whatever projects we have and however well we plan them, many times situations that are beyond our control and involve a whole host of events contrary to our expectations, hopes, and desires occur, and we must accept it.” Furthermore he goes on to talk about not accepting grudgingly, but freely resigning to and welcoming the situation, aka ‘choosing’ it even when it might truly be that we have no choice – which is of course especially hard in really painful trials. Philippe talks about how it requires following the Lord in faith and hope, and truly “believing him capable of drawing good out of whatever befalls us…” That if we can follow the Lord thus, He will draw out the good. Philippe calls this a fundamental truth.

As I have read through the book, I have really felt that Philippe’s words have shed great light on why it doesn’t matter if our family life follows the ‘rules’…and even more so that the ‘rules’ are the very things that don’t matter. What matters is that my husband and I are seeking the Lord and discerning His will. What matters is that I continue to offer my life and the control of it to the only one who has any control over it. It used to make me feel uneasy and out of control knowing that we were tackling so many things at once, and that there never seemed to be any slow-down to the things that needed tackling. But I am finding now that I have more confidence in navigating the challenges of life knowing without a doubt that I am doing what the Lord has for me to be doing. Did you know that you can be 100% confident about such things? I feel I am constantly seeing that truth burn brighter. Additionally, it is true in every situation that I mentioned above – good or bad – easy or hard – that the Lord has indeed brought about good. Mentioning all of the good would take several posts at least!

Now, I would not say that I have really experienced any truly painful suffering – especially compared to what I have witnessed others going through. This post is not at all to say that I feel I have the ‘choosing’ of difficulties and sufferings down by any means. In fact, I am currently finding myself challenged in a huge way as we have moved half way across the country (again!) with two kids this time…3 months ago…and we still do not have a house…and school is starting in 2 weeks…and I want to choose to accept these challenges – to embrace them! I find myself wondering how to do that from day to day…or if I am doing it…A work in progress. Always a work in progress. One step at a time, mamas.

I hope you find this encouraging! Anything to add? Please post below!

Over and out.

Mary D.

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

Friendship and Motherhood

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I recently had a play date with another mom and her kids.  The morning of the play date I felt really tired because I  didn’t sleep well the night before.  I kept waking up during the night worried about not being able to sleep. thus losing more sleep.  That morning getting my toddler’s diaper changed was a battle, getting him to put on pants was a battle, putting him into the car seat was a battle.  Plus, I spent a good deal of time that morning making a childproofing contraption out of cardboard and duct tape to prevent him from touching the buttons on the side of the TV.  (As of editing this post, the contraption has fallen apart).

So, that morning I called my friend to tell her it would be at least 15 minutes before we might even be getting into the car.  It would then be another 15 minutes to get to her house.  As I drove there I realized my eyes were a little hazy, and that I should have stopped to get coffee on the way and had missed my chance.  I got to her house, and she greeted my with her usual, “would you like a cup of tea?”  I love tea, so I immediately responded with, “as long as it’s caffeinated YES please!”  She then offered me some deliciously flavored coffee that was still on the pot.

We sat in her living room and had a normal mom conversation that soon delved into a more deep conversation.  Our little ones played together (and occasionally we both refereed squabbles over sharing toys). Sitting on her comfy chair and drinking coffee was a gift from the Lord.  Her friendship at that moment was a gift from the Lord.  Friendship and support are one of the best gifts we can give to each other as moms.  Whether she knew it or not, her time spent with me gave me renewed energy to make it through the day.

Let me not forget to pray for fellow moms both local and afar, who are a gift to me.  Let me always be ready to look for ways to support these moms in prayer and friendship.  Let me be ready to reach out to moms I do not know.  Let me be an encouragement to them.