A lawn mower, a random play date, and hangry-ness.

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Feeling quite discouraged about not being a light to my neighbors, I hurried to church with our almost two year old. (Ask me sometime about the beached whale style dive I made into my car instead of introducing myself to the new family on the block. And other graceful stories.) Back to the current story: we walk the block and a half to get there, and we are always late. He stopped to check out a lawnmower on the sidewalk, and as he fascinates over it the owner comes up, apologizes, asks if we are going to church (yes), asks what I think of it (I like it. They have a cry room, and they are welcoming), and says he’s been getting an itch to maybe start going back. Turns out he was a lifelong, faithful churchgoer until his dad died.

I felt encouraged that I was there to talk with the guy. As a friend put it, “I think the Lord meets us where we are at.” Continue reading

Of Pludgey Tummies and Sludgy Thoughts

We’re attending a family wedding soon (which I am super excited about!), but I had the sudden realization last week that I have nothing to wear. Here, I’ll prove it. “Let’s do the numbers”, as they say on the radio: after 7 years of trying to loose weight, 4 years of marriage, 2 pregnancies, 2 twelve-ish month periods of nursing a wee babe, 3ish diets, 1 gym membership, 562 bad clothing purchases, 24 excellent shoe purchases (because any shoe purchase is, by definition, good), 5 bins of clothing that may never fit again, 1 walk-in closet of clothing that fits poorly, and, and, and, … and 3 “ands” worth of not even knowing what to say or how to act or what to wear for 5 years, I have concluded that loosing weight is a myth. Furthermore, it’s a disease of our minds whose symptoms include vain hopes and 3 years of buying poor quality,”temporary” clothing until “I loose weight again and can get back to the clothes I wore when I was 25, which was 10 years ago but not in MC years. In MC years that’s, like, 2 months. So it’s totally worth it to wait to wear real clothing until then.” Continue reading

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?

The Small Success of the Week

I made sweet potato wedges on the fly, without planning, without a recipe, without any ingredients (other than the sweet potatoes, of course!). And they turned out!

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Sometimes, when I am busy and anxious about many things (nothing too serious, just everything piling up in life), it’s really helpful to focus on something, any thing, even a very small thing, that is working. In this case, something I tried without knowing what I was doing, turned out just fine, and required only approximately 5 minutes of work total. And now, I have something to feed the beast (my 11 month old). That’s saying something, because of the grocery dearth we’ve been experiencing all week.

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Bonus Round! The beast. I’ve been admiring our son’s long, long, jealousy-inducing long eyelashes, and I can’t seem to capture them well on my camera, but I got a hilarious shot that sort of shows them off! Enjoy!

2nd Bonus Round! “Blessed is the man whom thou dost chasten, O Lord…When the cares of my heart are many, thy consolations cheer my soul.” (Psalm 94: 12 & 19, RSV)

Happy Labor Day weekend, everyone. Hope your labors are fulfilling and fruitful.

Mary Clare

“No storm can shake my inmost calm” Reflections on Crummy Situations

The Great Crash of 2009
The Great Crash of 2009

“…While to that Rock I’m clinging…”

I’m sitting here at the gym, not working out. It’s been a rough week, vehicle-y speaking. (The above photo of the worst wreck I’ve ever seen is one of the few things that didn’t happen regarding my car this week. No, that piece of work happened several years ago in the middle of the night. Luckily, I wasn’t in the car and no one was hurt.) But the way this week has gone, I could feel something like I did when I walked out my front door and saw that for the first time. Continue reading

don’t beat yourself up

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Last week we talked about the Accuser, the Enemy, who lies to us and condemns us.  But he’s not the only one condemning us – it’s often ourselves.  And the trickiest part is, these accusations are often based on a grain of truth.  It may not be true that “I am a terrible mother,” but it is all too true that I have lost my temper at my children.  It may not be helpful to tell myself “this house is embarrassing,” but sometimes it’s true that I’ve misused my free time and that a messy house is one of the consequences.  What then?

Here’s what I’ve been hearing from the Lord about this problem: Don’t beat yourself up. Continue reading

Did We Give the Kid the Wrong Name?

 Image courtesy of kangshutters at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of kangshutters at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I’ve often thought that I am most like Martha (as in Lazaras’ task anxious, task oriented sister), not Mary. When is the last time I sat, much less sat at the feet of someone? Sat and listened? Um, what is that? What does it look like?  I have no idea! Trouble is, my honest to goodness name is “Mary”. I am not Martha by the simple fact that “Martha” is not my name. “But I seam like Martha. I act like her. I don’t naturally act like Mary. “Mary” doesn’t fit as my name”, or so my thoughts go.

When we named our son, a large part of me wanted his middle name, Joseph, to be his first name. I accidentally called him Joseph many times in the first months after he was born.  Furthermore, an alarming number of friends, who don’t know my preference, occasionally call Joshua by his middle name! Every time this happens, I think, “We’ve made a big mistake! His natural name is Joseph! Besides, I just plain prefer the name Joseph.” And then I start to think about making it a big discussion with my husband to do a legal change of his name, and how much that would probably cost, and all the trouble of explaining it to people, and then I doubt it would be the right thing to do, and then I feel a little depressed and I give up. Until the next time someone calls him Joseph.

But as we were rough housing/snuggling recently, I realized that my heart whispers “Joshua”. That is his rightful name. It just is. And, really, deep down, I’d rather him be named after the big kahuna, because I’d rather him emulate the big kahuna, than anyone else. (Jesus is the big kahuna. ‘Joshua’ is thought to be a close derivation of the Hebrew.) Similarly, as logical and real as it seems for me to be Martha, I’d rather emulate Mary, as Jesus encourages us to do in Luke 10:41-42.

It reminds me of

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we’re liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others. (Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love, 1992)

Every time I read the above, I realize just how true this is for me. The resemblance is uncanny. I tend to go around town falling over backwards to keep people from having any conflict with me. It sometimes gets so bad, that I often assume that anything I ask of them will be a big inconvenience. And so I don’t ask for any favors, and I don’t even ask them any questions. And so we just sit there trying to keep my kids alive and agreeing on everything.

Names are a gift we give our children. Literally. “Rebecca” was the only Christmas present our first received. It was only 2 months before she was born, we needed to just pick a name already, and as soon as Erik ticked it off his list, I knew that it was the perfect name for that little being who I had been calling “Trouble”. (I’ll write some time about the nearly 7 months of bed rest during that pregnancy.) I think it was the Holy Spirit inspiring us to give her that specific name.

In a similar way, my name inspires me. I have to assume that my parents knew what they were doing when they gave it to me, and the grace that this points to is something I can lean on when my task-oriented nature rears it’s ugly head. God our Father has given my this name. And as Joshua grows, we will teach him more and more about living out his name. Choosing a Holy Spirit inspired name is really a very simple, yet deeply meaningful way to bring the Lord’s light to the world. May we all grow into our names more and more.

Amen.

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