Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Eve

As we get ready for service, I think, “The mother who can get her little children to a Christmas program WITHOUT yelling is a superwoman.” And most definitely not me. The too-big socks, all white, the belts missing because you were hitting each other with them yesterday, the too-short pants, and the ever-loving other SHOE… and the baby with the too-short nap who is too grumpy even for Jesus’ birthday cake, already telling me he is NOT singing, clinging to my leg… and THEN, the one crying “I don’t want to be a sheep!” and the other child saying “You HAVE to be a sheep, Eldon,” which leads to an all-out screaming-crying-on-the-floor FIT, and after I "handle it," I tell all children that nobody is allowed to say the word “SHEEP” for the rest of the night.

But with a little help from Grammy Pammy (ok, a lot), we leave on time. Five kids in dress clothes, and one dressed as the Virgin Mary.  I notice the nervous smiles on the older children, so I give a quick encouraging hug.

Somehow between the elbows and the threats and the craning to see,
I was given moments,
moments on each of their sweet faces with more depth than I could ever catch on camera.  

Aggie's looking for me, in her green dress, while she sings and I can her her sweet voice over all the others. Finally she finds me, and when her eyes meet mine, she smiles into her song, and it gets louder, happier.  She sings to make me smile and I am smiling my "glorias" up to the sky.

Lorraine, nearly eleven, not wearing her glasses because the real Mary would not have worn glasses. I wonder if her friends teased her about the boy. She was nervous about that, more so than her performance as Mary.  The blue shawl is draped over her head, and her brown eyes sparkle as she sits by the manger with the boy she most certainly would not have chosen to be Joseph, and she smiles shyly as she holds the baby. 

Seth is wearing a tie tonight, and he's up on the highest riser. This child, who is uncomfortable in large crowds, who spent our first year at this church hiding behind my leg; he is determined, serious. I don't know if he sees me, but it's almost time for him to take the microphone. He reads, clearly, confidently, and the moment is over. But the second he finishes, he looks right at me, and he sees my proud smile. He gives a subtle nod, receiving my message, and gives his shoes a tiny, satisfied smile. And I am suddenly overwhelmed with joy, with the privelage of being the one he looks for, the one whose approval goes right down into his heart and makes him smile like that.

The chaos is too much for Peter. He held me tightly, and when it is time to go up front, his wide eyes fill with tears and he says (lies) "My tummy hurts I need you to snuggle me!" (for the millionth time this month.)  He refuses to go up front, so we watch his peers from the front row.  

We watch Eldon stand proudly in his suit, sneaking peeks at me watching him and smiling whenever he caught my eye. And Marcus, in the front row, stands with his arms crossed and back to me. He turns to scowl at me and I take a picture of his dirty look. His scowl deepens.

Later, we pray, and I've had enough managing the pokey, wiggly, crazy boys to the left and right of me, on top of me, everywhere. Threatening whispers, firm squeezes, even mild mommy pinches do not slow the train barreling towards utter chaos.  

But then, I hear it: the tiny Eldon voice, praying along with the Lord's prayer, just as he should! That deserves a smile and a "good job," and I give it to him immediately.  He smiles back he puts his feet up on the back of the pew in front of us. For a second, he sits like a hammock with a proud smile, then his shoes slip and CRASH right on his behind.  It must have hurt, but his eyes showed only shock and fear (of me), but then he sees my smirk and it spreads to his face, and though I try to stay serious and keep praying with him, we just barely hold back guffaws.  

And the child in the front row is taking off his cowboy boots.  And Peter will not stop touching my face and feeding me my necklace. And finally, we sing the last song and we go. 

Merry, Merry Christmas, everyone.

God is with us, for us, in the chaos, in the darkness, right here.

Come, let us adore him!

Sunday, December 22, 2013


How our eyes open, and our perspective shifts when we spend time in God's Word...

"Very often when I leave a place of worship, the first impression I have of the so-called "outside world" is how small it is - how puny its politics, paltry its appetites, squint-eyed its interests. I have just spent an hour or so with friends reorienting myself in the realities of the world - the huge sweep of salvation and the minute particularities of holiness - and I blink my eyes in disbelief that so many are willing to live in such reduced and cramped conditions. But after a few hours or days, I find myself getting used to it and going along with its assumptions, since most of the politicians and journalists, artists and entertainers, stockbrokers and shoppers seem to assume that it's the real world. And then some pastor or priest calls me back to reality with "Let us worship God," and I get it straight again, see it whole." 

(Eugene H. Peterson, "Take and Read")

Grant that our attentions may not be swept away by little things.  Grand that we may be immersed in Your Word, swept up by Your salvation story-- the story of all of history, that has become our story by the grace of Christ.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

open, eyes!

I don't know if it's the busyness of the season, or just a season for me personally, but my eyes are having trouble staying open to grace lately.  I'm finding myself overwhelmed, stressed, and resentful far too often.

I've been writing less. I would I could honestly say I've been listening more, but that is not necessarily true. I've just been doing more, doing other things.  And napping. That's important too, of course.


One day, I was napping, and someone somewhere was too loud, so I got up to rebuke.  I tiptoed in the living room (so as not to wake daddy and the younger two), hissing rebuke on my lips... "WHO is making that noise?" wide-eyed Lorraine and Marcus met me, quickly telling me it must be Aggie making a tent in the basement.

But my hissing melted away before I had completed that sentence. For they were in dress up clothes: Lorraine and Marcus. Lorraine, in a flowing vintage dress, and Marcus, in his best suit, too small, but still adorable. He called it his "Batman suit" when he wore it last Easter, and he refuses to hand it down. "We're putting on a play," they said, when they noticed me noticing, noticed my hiss turned to silly grin.

After they promised to show me the play later, I went back to bed. Our bedroom was warm from the electric heater and it smelled like the Yankee Christmas candle burning.

Daddy, asleep, and two little boys on the floor, finally asleep after too much tossing and turning.  So much warmth in that room. I lay down under the warmth, without covers. I thought of the boy in his suit, the shining grace of that one moment: brother and sister, playing, creating, imagining, and the grace that opened my eyes and allowed me to see them as more than just noise, nap-interrupters.

Oh Lord, open my eyes,
that they may behold your goodness in this place,
in the waiting,
and in Jesus, come to be with us.

Grant me the faith to know that the world will not stop if I do,
that it is OK to nap,
that it will be OK even if it doesn't all get done,
and that I am your dear child, welcomed into Your rest,
because of Your great mercy

Thursday, December 12, 2013

reach for it

How strong a cord seems —until your life slips off the edge of a cliff and you lunge for something to hold on to. One braid of fibers enough to hold you —that’s your literal only hope. You know it with startling clarity in that moment —how there’s only a singular cord in this knotted mess of a world worth reaching for. It’s dangling right there from our impossible tangle, and it’s the one hope you need to reach for this Advent. 

That scarlet lifeline of Christ.

Voskamp, The Greatest Gift

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


"God teaches us to pray by sending needy people to make demands on us." Kleinig (And snow days.)

Between snow days and sickness, I've had little time for writing this week.  

Drinking with the Dead: Country Music and the Communion of Saints
On the ache for lost loved ones, and the foretaste

The Uncivilized
A call into the wilderness

Familiarity Breeds Comprehension: What a trail taught me about the liturgy
yet one more profound writing by Chad L. Bird.

A note from Chad:
If you enjoy my writings, please consider purchasing my newly published book, The Infant Priest:  Hymns and Poems.  This poetry gives voice to the InfantPriestfrontcovertriumphs and tragedies of life in a broken world.  Whether you weep, rejoice, struggle, or hope, through these hymns and poems you can speak to God with honesty and fidelity.  By buying a copy, you will also aid mission work, for 25% of the proceeds from book sales go to benefit Lutherans in Africa.  Click here to purchase your copy.  (Also on Amazon)

No good thing
Words from Ann Voskamp

For fun: 
How to make ice cream from snow 
A glimpse into my mess (on the family blog)
Glass candy: Easy and good!
Dancing with and Ipod in Public

Must listen- you will be swept up!
Angels we have heard (Piano Guys)
Little Drummer Boy
Charlie Brown Medley (at the old folks home! so sweet!)

Happy Advent!

Saturday, December 7, 2013


The gigantic secret gift that He gives and we unwrap that we never stop unwrapping--- we who were barren now graced with teh Child who lets us laugh with relief for all eternity.

  There is nothing left to want. There is nothing left to fear: "All fear is but the notion that God's love ends."  And his for you never will. 

So loosen up, because the chains have been loosed, and laugh the laughter of the freed.  

Laugheter-- it's all oxygenated grace.

-- Ann Voskamp, The Greatest Gift

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Ultimate (imaginary) Christmas Wish List for moms

What do I want for Christmas? My mother keeps asking me. I’d like to tell her something good, something that would really make my everyday life easier. But so far, I have not found any of these items on Amazon.  But, still, a girl can dream...

A nagging parrot
Trained to say, at appropriate times of day, “Did you brush your teeth? Make the bed? Zip your zippers? Practice the piano? What’s 3 x 5? Do you have any homework?)

A BS Indicator light
A tiny lie-detector to be worn by the children. A red light flashes when child is faking a tummy ache, an injury, innocence, etc. If BS does not dissapate after 5 minutes, the BS alarm wails until child assumes humble position in designated time-out location.

An encouraging parrot
“Yes, I see your picture, mmm hmmm, good job honey, that’s a great trick on the monkey bars…” Oh, and it should be able to spell, too.

Sleep dust
Self explanatory. I’m pretty sure I shouldn’t be allowed have this because I would overuse it.

A cone of silence
For big mommy fits, or, just for… silence. Ahhhhhhh…

A Pause Button for Life
So I can dwell in those sweet lovey blankie snuggle sigh blessedly blessed moments and so that I can control a runaway temper. Maybe I could take a quick run on the treadmill while the children are “paused” instead of yelling at them. Or I could go sit by the pond. Or have a beer. Or put my feet up. Shoot, I’d overuse this one too, obviously.

Lifeline- phone a friend
I can phone a friend now, I know, but this magical lifeline would allow me to phone a friend AND keep the kids quiet and out of trouble for the duration of the phone call.

A personal force field
For those days when I just need a little space. I wouldn’t wear the force field every day, I promise. And the outside of it doesn’t HAVE to shock intruders. It just has to keep them out of my personal space, by any means necessary.

A drain in the middle of my dining room floor
(And a high-powered hose.) After dinner clean up made simple.

Portable, adjustable, invisible fence for children
Small range at the grocery store, then a larger range of play at the park… All the safety without the trouble of a “leash.”

Wireless turn-taking system
Because I just can’t keep track of it all.

Library books with voices
Trained so that, two days before they are due, they start hollering reminders at me from under beds, behind dressers, and in backpacks. (Important: must have an “off” switch.)

Magnetic Shoe Locating system
When mom turns the switch “on,” each child’s feet and shoes are paired perfectly, even if the shoes were downstairs under the couch. (Be sure doors are open before you turn the switch “on!” Some parents have reported finding their child stuck to a door with his shoe on the other side!)

Air hooks and air shelves

Keep things out of their reach, anytime, anywhere.

Whine spray
An air modification tool, designed to teach children to take long, slow, calm breaths and use quiet, calm words. Those who do not adapt sneeze and/or hiccup uncontrollably until they do.

A backup team
When it’s really out of control- a child throwing up, another on my leg, another running towards the road, another with hurt feelings, another laughing at everybody, and the dog attacking the UPS man— push a button, and certified childcare providers climb in the windows and repel from the celiling.

Which of these would you choose?
Anything to add to my list?

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Bored? Restless? (A Book Review: Boring by Michael Kelley)

Boring: Finding an Extraordinary God in an Ordinary LifeBoring: Finding an Extraordinary God in an Ordinary Life by Michael Kelley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There are wonders all around me, and yet I find myself bored, restless. Why is this? Is it simply the hardness of my heart? Can I blame the extra caffeine for my apparent inability to sit with a child, to do a puzzle, to watch the light of learning dance in his eyes? Why, sometimes, do I find myself unable to rejoice in this small thing?

Some days I can write beautifully about motherhood because I can see the beauty in it; in the children God has made, in my hands, being His hands, used to care for them. We make up pretend names, we smile, we pretend and play until the day ends and we are tired but happy.

And yet some days, my soul seems to have grown old. Old and boring. Old and bored. As if the miracle of the soul happening in front of me-- the little boy, sharing cheerfully with the other little boy-- is something I’ve seen a hundred times, something not worth celebrating, something as boring as one little blade of grass in my front yard.

It was on a day like this that I received Michael Kelly’s book. It was good medicine for my soul.

In it, he argues, “We find ourselves bored in life not because of the absence of the extraordinary but because of our paralyzing lack of vision.” (40)

Michael Kelley addresses his newest book to the average person, the one who feels ordinary, small, and perhaps, bored. He implores us to open our eyes, to see God working in and through our lives, in the major life events, in the kitchen, and in the morning commute. His book helps pry those eyes open.

My favorite part of this book is the concept of “chasing donkeys.” The author retells the story of Saul, and points out how God was in control, leading Saul right into His plan, even in the midst of the most mundane even frustrating daily chores, like chasing donkeys. If God works all things for our good (ie, to make us more like Jesus and draw us closer to Him), does this not include the broken dishwasher in my kitchen? The toddler who needs extra attention?

It does, and Kelley encourages me to see my daily chores with God’s ends in view. Marriage, children, finances; all of these can be seen in a new light, and in general, I thought the author’s insights into these specific areas were helpful. His chapter on church, however, I found lacking. Community and service are important elements of church life, but I wish he would have spoken of those without neglecting the most important reason for church: our need for spiritual nourishment, and reception from God through His Word and Sacraments.

After reading this book, I find myself more content with my station in life, and filled with wonder at the work of God around me and in me.

Some are called to a radical life, to be a bright star streaking through the sky. Most of us, however, are simply called to shine in our own little corners, living daily acts of faithfulness, loving God, loving neighbor, giving off a slow, steady, dependable light. And as we do this, we are the hands and feet of an extraordinary God who provides for His people.

I recommend this book to the bored, the restless, and those who long for meaning in the mundane.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

View all my reviews

Sunday, December 1, 2013

To earth He came

Sitting next to my kindergartener in church is not always my favorite thing. But I do like it when he draws, when I see him inspired by the banners and the Word and the grace around him.

I remember this day, when he wrote words I really, truly needed to hear.

Baptized into thy name most holy- we are, even MOM is. The frazzled mom who can't get the kids lined up in the pew without losing her patience, with the daughter with tangled hair, with her own tangled heart.

Sitting in the sanctary, words and images swirl around us, Words, and we take them in, breathe them in, let them forgive, renew, and lead us.  And the brother kicks the other brother, and I force a patient-looking smile, hoping it covers up my clenched fist of a heart. 

And even that heart recieves a shower of grace and mercy through the Word.

And I pick up the little one, and we begin to pray together. And just as gratitude begins to melt my heart, he tries to feed me my own hair while I am speaking.  

And mama spits in church.

This God, he lifts up my head, but he does not lift me up out of the struggles of this life.  Instead, He comes here, with us, in the earthly, normal, frustrating things. He's here in the gray areas, here in the daily exasperation, here in the mama heart that wants to rest but has so much to do she doesn't know where to start.  

The sanctuary is a holy place, but He is with us in all places.
And so the little boy's mind wanders, and he stops drawing the church banners.  And he draws this:

That's a turkey.  And daddy is shooting the turkey... while he's smoking his pipe.

Daddy is actually up in the pulpit at the moment, but this little boy knows his father does other things when he's not preaching. 

And though it seems so out of place, I smile, because God is there, too.

God is God with us, and more importantly- thanks be to Jesus'- He is God FOR us.
God around us and in us, before and behind us, covering us with HIS righteousness and mercy.

And so what is there left for us to do but this?

Live in God's grace. 

In the woods, in the kitchen, in the sactuary, by the bedside, at the mall. 

Live in God's grace
in the knowledge of His presence
for us.

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