Wednesday, February 28, 2007

late on the Bl. George

Okay, so something I've learned since starting this blog is that homemaking through the church year often means homemaking through the church year tardily. I keep having important days pass me by, and then a few days later I realize that it happened, and I try to make up for it.

Enough to say: the 27th of February is the day that Anglicans remember the Blessed George Herbert, priest and poet. So, if you, like me, forgot to pay attention to this, pay attention now. (And if you're wondering where I'm getting my dates, let me direct you to the beginning of the Book of Common Prayer, page 15, where begins the Calendar of the Church Year.)

George Herbert has a nice, short little biography written about him (by Izaak Walton) that I finished in my doctor's waiting room over the course of several visits.  If you've been wanting to read the life of a saint who was neither martyr nor revolutionary, but instead just a good, holy man, whose example led others to worship the Lord, this is the saint's life you want to read. (A bonus: it includes a lot in the first few pages about his mother, Magdalene Herbert, who was an amazing woman - among other things, a patroness of John Donne - and a good mother.)

I posted Herbert's poem "Lent" a few days ago. The rest of them are just as worth reading. For you other Anglicans out there, Herbert penned the lyrics to our hymns # 382, 402, 403, 487 & 592. (402 & 403 are the same poem, set to two different tunes.)

My favorites to sing are 382 ("King of glory, King of peace") and 487 ("Come my Way, my Truth, My Life"), but 592 is, I think, perfect for anyone out there who will be doing housework today:

Teach me, my God and King,
in all things thee to see,
and what I do in anything,
to do it as for thee.

All may of thee partake;
nothing can be so mean,
which with this tincture, "for thy sake,"
will not grow bright and clean.

A servant with this clause
makes drudgery divine:
who sweeps a room, as for thy laws,
makes that and the action fine.

This is the famous stone
that turneth all to gold;
for that which God doth touch and own
cannot for less be told.

peace of Christ to you,

p.s. Last cool Herbert tidbit: if memory serves, the humble priest never referred to his Lord except to add "my master". As in, "Jesus, my master." Now there's a fruitful habit!

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

More on Ash Wednesday

This is a bit late, but go here (Mere Orthodoxy) to read a very compelling argument for celebrating Ash Wednesday as part of the good practice of reading, digesting and practicing the whole of Scripture.

peace of Christ to you,

wfmw: kids and scones

My daughter (2 1/2 years old) loves baking with me. And baking with her drove me nuts.

No, that's not true. What drove me nuts wasn't baking with Bess (that's sweet and fun). What drove me nuts was washing her hands over and over and over because I didn't want her sticking them in her mouth. Almost all baking involves eggs, and salmonella scares me to death.

What's the answer? Baking eggless scones. Scones are delicious, flakey creations that contain butter, flour, and any kind of yummy thing you can imagine - except eggs. You can make them sweet (apple-pear scones! cranberry scones!) or savory (cheddar-black pepper scones!). They do as side dish or dessert!

Scones include all the fun, toddler-involving steps that cookies do: measuring, stirring, rolling out the dough, but no eggs! no salmonella! no worries if your kid sticks her hands in her mouth at any point during the process!

Baking scones with toddlers, works for me! (And for my daughter, who thinks the rolling pin is the coolest creation this side of toy tractors.)

(Okay, true confession time: there are gazillions of scone recipes that do include eggs. But it's not hard to find some that don't. And they're really good.)

peace of Christ to you,

p.s. You're also safe with any vegan dessert recipe. By definition, vegan recipes contain no animal products whatsoever. (But vegan = no butter = no scones. Just sayin'.)


Check out my friend Aegialia's post on dying to ourselves vs. dying inside. I especially like this observation:

This is also an incomplete answer, because (particularly in our culture) knowing ourselves can be an end in itself. We don’t know ourselves so we can give ourselves up in love for others, we know ourselves so we can deal with our families, handle our own lives, get more of what we want out of life, etc. And yet, at least for Christians, knowing ourselves seems to only be acceptable as a prelude to giving that self up for others.

Go to her place to read the whole thing.

peace of Christ to you,

Monday, February 26, 2007

spring cleaning

I remember my first Holy Week on Altar Guild, back in college, when I realized for the first time what "spring cleaning" meant. In preparation for Easter, those wonderful ladies cleaned the church from top to bottom. Cobwebs were swiped away, all of the wood gleamed with orange oil, and the huge, heavy, iron votive stands were dragged outside so that kettle after kettle of boiling water could be poured over them, washing away a year's acculmulation of wax drippings.

The beginning of Lent brings with it that happy feeling of being washed clean, of getting rid of the superfluous, of being stripped down to the essentials. What better time to do some deep home cleaning? The next forty days are an excellent time to tackle those gross household projects you've been trying to ignore. So go for it! Make plans with your husband to clean out the garage! Get down on your hands and knees and scrub the baseboards! Do that dusting that's been ignored all winter (and use orange oil, it smells delicious!). And certainly go through everyone's clothes and get rid of everything you don't wear. Donate everything in good condition to the Salvation Army and toss the rest.

It's also not a bad time to overhaul the garden. With a little luck, you might have fresh, cut flowers for Easter, and a gleaming home to put them in.

If you're following the liturgical year, the time for spring cleaning is now. Then, come the paschal season, the beauty of your home will echo the beauty of your church, and those shining baseboards will remind you, all those long fifty days, that Christ came to make us clean and new too.

peace of Christ to you,

Saturday, February 24, 2007

February 23: Polycarp, Bishop and Martyr of Smyrna, 156

Yes, that was yesterday, and I missed it. If you did too, go here to learn more about this great saint, one of the early, and most inspiring, Christian martyrs (and, if I'm recalling correctly, a disciple of St. John).

My favorite verse in the above-linked account is this one:

But when the magistrate pressed him hard and said, 'Swear the oath, and I will release thee; revile the Christ,' Polycarp said, 'Fourscore and six years have I been His servant, and He hath done me no wrong. How then can I blaspheme my King who saved me?'

And today, the 24th, is the feast day of St. Matthias, the last of the twelve, elected to replace Judas Iscariot. So, whether looking at the example of Polycarp or of Matthias, it's a good day to think about doing whatever it is the Lord has called you to, right where you're at, whether it's stating your love for your Lord honestly and calmly or taking up a burden someone else has put down. Or doing dishes. Or nursing babies. Or teaching emotionally-disabled kids. Or training for the police force. Or studying for your classes. Or fixing computers. All for the glory of God, and all in obedience. Praise Him!

peace of Christ to you,

Friday, February 23, 2007

Frugal Friday: cheap babysitting

(With a nod of thanks to my excellent brother, who rocked my crying son for a whole 30 minutes last week. That Miss. M. of yours is one lucky girl.)

My frugal tip this Friday is how to get a babysitter for less than the going rate: hire him or her for after the kiddos are in bed, and then offer him the amenities of your house.

This works best with students from your local college. If your husband works at a university (mine does, in the IT department), this'll be a little easier. But if not, get to know the college students at your church. You're sure to find one who could use A) a quiet place to study and B) free access to a washer and dryer.

Basically, you get your dorm-living sitter to show up after the kiddos are asleep, and then you go out with your husband for a one or two hour date. You can pay less because hopefully the sitter won't be doing any actual interaction with the kids; she'll basically just be there in case of emergencies. You get to go out, and the sitter gets to do nothing more than sit back and study in your living room, just keeping an ear out in case someone needs to be rocked or have a pacifier put back in. You can also sweeten the deal by letting the sitter do her laundry at your house: I have a friend who got a sitter for free this way. She babysat in exchange for laundry priveleges (doing laundry at a dorm can be really expensive!)

You can also point out to your sitter that your home is much quieter than the dorm, or that you have great snacks in the fridge.

peace of Christ to you,

Thursday, February 22, 2007

menu planning

Okay, this is a homemaking post much more than it is a church year post, but after yesterday's liturgy-heaviness, I feel like the back half of my mind is too busy meditating on death and redemption to write much about it. (Everytime I see our priest mark my babies' foreheads with crosses and intone "from dust you came, and to dust you shall return", I get a sucker-punched feeling that just doesn't go away too quickly.)

On the other hand, I just planned my menus for the next few weeks, and that, being coporeal and all, is easier to write about.

Menu planning is absolutely one of my favorite homemaking tasks. I love, love, love to cook - especially new recipes - and I love, love, love knowing exactly what I'm going to cook. (Have I mentioned that I'm a firstborn who hates surprises? No? Well, I am.) Menu planning and cooking are huge creative outlets for me.

I like balancing vegetarian meals with meals with meat. I like finding dishes that are healthy, cheap and yummy (this is just about as easy, btw, as finding clothes that are pretty, cheap, comfortable and can be thrown in the dryer). I shop every two weeks and so I enjoy the challenge of balancing the produce I buy so that the most perishable stuff will be used up first. I like taking my husband's inordinate love of cilantro and ginger into account when I pick my recipes. (He, in turn, indulges me in my inordinate love of reading the completed menu aloud to him.)

Okay, I know I said this was more about homemaking than it was about the church year, but I can't help but notice that menu planning is a tool, and like most tools, it can be used not only for the job it's meant to do (i.e., getting food on the table every night), but it can be used to love people. It'd be fun if I were doing this as a professional chef, and I'm sure there are ways you could do that job with great love (I just don't know how, not having been one), but there's a special sort of joy in doing this for my family. Joy in seeing them well-fed, happy around the supper table, full of energy from what they ate. My common prayer when I pray for our food is: "Thank you, Lord, for this food. May we use the energy we get from it to glorify You." Meals are just such a time of rejoicing and thanksgiving and fellowship. Your body and heart are fed at the same time. No wonder the commonest of all Christian institutions is a meal.

peace of Christ to you,

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Ashes and the Eucharist

Read Fr. Dan's illuminating post here.

peace of Christ to you,

Ash Wednesday

From a priest in my own Anglican tradition, the Blessed George Herberts, here's a good reading to start off the season:


Welcome dear feast of Lent: who loves not thee,
He loves not Temperance, or Authority,
But is compos'd of passion.
The Scriptures bid us fast; the Church says, now:
Give to thy Mother, what thou wouldst allow
To ev'ry Corporation.

The humble soul compos'd of love and fear
Begins at home, and lays the burden there,
When doctrines disagree,
He says, in things which use hath justly got,
I am a scandal to the Church, and not
The Church is so to me.

True Christians should be glad of an occasion
To use their temperance, seeking no evasion,
When good is seasonable;
Unless Authority, which should increase
The obligation in us, make it less,
And Power itself disable.

Besides the cleanness of sweet abstinence,
Quick thoughts and motions at a small expense,
A face not fearing light:
Whereas in fulness there are sluttish fumes,
Sour exhalations, and dishonest rheums,
Revenging the delight.

Then those same pendant profits, which the spring
And Easter intimate, enlarge the thing,
And goodness of the deed.
Neither ought other men's abuse of Lent
Spoil the good use; lest by that argument
We forfeit all our Creed.

It's true, we cannot reach Christ's forti'eth day;
Yet to go part of that religious way,
Is better than to rest:
We cannot reach our Saviour's purity;
Yet we are bid, 'Be holy ev'n as he, '
In both let's do our best.

Who goeth in the way which Christ hath gone,
Is much more sure to meet with him, than one
That travelleth by-ways:
Perhaps my God, though he be far before,
May turn and take me by the hand, and more:
May strengthen my decays.

Yet Lord instruct us to improve our fast
By starving sin and taking such repast,
As may our faults control:
That ev'ry man may revel at his door,
Not in his parlour; banqueting the poor,
And among those his soul.

George Herbert
(found online at poemhunter)

peace of Christ to you,

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

WFMW: kiddie pool planter

Maybe this would never happen at your house, but our plastic kiddie pool stayed in the yard all winter, and got badly cracked. No more toddler pool parties for this pool!

Rather than throwing it away (and after using it for frisbee target practice), my husband suggested that I use it for a flower bed. Here're the results:

In a couple weeks, I hope to have these blue beauties coming up:

As a bonus tip on finding new uses for old kid stuff: the big end of those bottle brushes make excellent scrubbers for root vegetables.

peace of Christ to you,

The Lenten Blog Carnival!

Welcome to the first Lenten Blog Carnival, here at Homemaking Through the Church Year! We have suggestions for fasting, stories of past Lenten seasons, and meditations on the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ.

In preparing this Carnival, I have been overwhelmingly blessed by all of your posts. I've learned so much. Thank you to everyone who sent something in, who wrote such encouraging emails, and who's here reading. I think I got all the links entered up in this post; if not, please forgive me - and let me know! I'll post a post-script!

Be aware, before you start reading, that this Carnival contains - as I'd hoped! - entries from each of the three large divisions of the Church: Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Protestant. So, no one, including me, is going to agree with everything she finds here. But I hope that you will all nonetheless be encouraged by one another's faith and hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

That disclaimer made, let's get on to the meat of the Carnival! (pun absolutely intended)

To kick us off are some posts about getting ready for the Lent.

First of all, I'm honored to have a post from James Kushiner of Touchstone's Mere Comments, on Eastern Carnival. If you don't read Mere Comments (or Touchstone), well, you should.

Sarah at Becoming Ourselves, a blog about spiritual growth, writes about the how easy it is to forget Lent is coming, and what that might mean.

Sherry Early at Semicolon blogs from a Baptist perspective about how Lent readies her family to celebrate the Resurrection.

Rebeca at Carried on the Wind reflects on all she's learned about Lent in the Orthodox Church these past two years, and how she's looking forward to really celebrating it for the first time.

MommaBlogger at Homemaker's Guide to the Galaxy meditates on the purpose of Lent, and on how she hopes to change by Easter Sunday.

Lindsey at Reading Red Letters takes us through her thought processes as she decides what to give up, and what to take on, this Lent.

On a blog about homemaking and the Church Year, children are often the focus of attention.

Elizabeth Foss has a post on Preparing to Prepare for Easter that includes a conversation with her children about heaven, hell and repentence, and a lesson for every age as we head into Lenten fasting.

Sara at Mom's Musings offers several resources for families (especially Catholic families) looking to celebrate the Lenten season with their little ones. Great links in this post!

As you continue your journey through Lent, be sure to check out Kelly's The Liturgical Year for Little Ones. This post about Forgiveness Sunday and Clean Monday will give you an idea about what to expect from her helpful blog.

There are also some more general reflections on the season.

First, let me direct you back to a post from a guest blogger right here at Homemaking Through the Church Year, Dr. Betsy Barber. Her post illuminates some of the reasons why we do what we do during this Great Fast.

Xapis recalls her first Lent here. This year, she's meditating on death and dying.

Picking up on one of the themes in Xapis' posts is A Penny and Her Thoughts. This post touches on the idea of balance, why spiritual disciplines are usually physical, and how to make Christ the Lord of our whole selves.

Liza's Eyeview posts about memories of Lent from her childhood in the Phillipines.

Lasselanta, a friend with a real gift for writing and a missionary's heart, talks about two memorable Lents: one about a year when her fast was involuntary and one that found her very far from home, but that brought her closer to her Lord.

At Fruitful Words, find a quiz that reveals one woman's thoughts on the season.

And, finally, an original sonnet by Juliet Wilkins, to close off the Carnival.

Thank you all again for reading and for contributing. I've enjoyed putting this together more than I ever imagined I could, and feel more honored than I can say for getting to read all this good stuff. May you all have a good and blessed Lent!

peace of Christ to you,

p.s. And, if you're like me, and much as you love Lent, just can't wait for that second Sunday of April to roll around, be assured that there'll be a first annual Easter Blog Carnival too. Stay tuned for details!

Shrove Tuesday and Menu Planning

"See to it," said Cadfael morosely, "that you do not fail me."
"No dread," said Hugh. "I'm shriven white as a March lamb."
-from One Corpse Too Many, by Ellis Peters

The traditional meal for today is, of course, pancakes, and if your church is having a pancake supper, going there is a good choice for tonight's dinner. If you're giving up butter and milk and eggs for Lent (as tradition warrents), pancakes are a great way to use up any you have left.

If you're giving up meat, tonight's a good night for steak. Don't go overboard into gluttony, of course, but if today's your last chance for chocolate till Easter, go ahead and have a bar. Savor it and thank our good Lord, who doesn't just feed us, but allows our nourishment to be so enjoyable. (Think about it: He didn't have to make food taste delicious - or taste at all!)

If you, like many, are going vegetarian for Lent, think soups. Marion Gould, in The Catholic Home, points out that all over the world, vegetarian soups are Lenten fare. So make good friends with your crockpot this month. Put it to work simmering some split pea soup for you all day, or cooking up a nice batch of lentil stew. Tomato soups, onion soups, carrot soups, leek soups and potato chowders are also good bets. If you've got time, soak your own beans to add some protein to these dishes. If you're a little rushed for time, lentils will cook up in as little as 20 minutes, no pre-soaking needed. (They're the fast food of the vegetarian world.)

Lent is also a great time to explore more traditional dishes. Indian food, Chinese food and African food, just to name three, abound with great vegetarian dishes. Again, you can't go wrong with the More-With-Less Cookbook. I also really like Vegetarian Times for meatless dishes that never (honest, none that I've tried) disappoint.

Also, if you save money by not buying meat for the next forty days, consider donating that saved money to a food bank, or an organization like Compassion International.

A good Shrove Tuesday to you!

peace of Christ to you,

Monday, February 19, 2007

a reminder: deadline extended

I just wanted to remind everyone that I'm taking entries for the Lenten Blog Carnival through the end of the day today. I've had at least one person find the original post explaining the carnival and mourn at being too late to participate - I just wanted to let you know, it's not to late yet!

The carnival is shaping up really well, btw. It's been so much fun reading all of your great thoughts on the upcoming season, and I think all of you are really going to enjoy reading all the great posts too!

peace of Christ to you,

Guest Blogger: Dr. Betsy Barber

Hi folks! Today I have a treat for you: a few quick thoughts on Lent from psychologist and spiritual director (hi, Mom!), Dr. Betsy Barber. Enjoy! -Jessica

When I think of the purpose and practice of Lent, I think of four things:

1. Lent is a mini-picture of the larger Sanctification process through which we're going as we come to know more deeply the truth about the Lord Jesus and His purpose for us. Ephesians 4:20-24 talks about the manner in which we increasingly come to know Him and the basic two-fold process that involves both the "putting off our old selves which were corrupted by deceitful desires" (v. 22) and the "putting on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness" (v. 24). And so in Lent, we consciously and purposefully practice this putting on and putting off: first, we fast and put off our desires, and secondly, we practice some virtue or alms-giving as we put on the new righteous self. In this way we participate in the larger work that the Holy Spirit is working in our souls: forming the very character of Christ in us.

2. Lent allows us to know the Lord Jesus better in a developmental way - either as a child imitating a beloved father, or as an adult falling more deeply in love with our Beloved. During Lent we fast for 40 days, re-living the experience and rhythm of the Lord Jesus' fast in the Desert.
Some of us participate in this Fast primarily as children, it seems to me. We come to it concretely and in a very external and physical sense: "since Jesus did this, I will do this, because I want to imitate His life and be like Him. So if He fasted, I will fast."
Another group of us come to this in a more internal and less concrete way, I think. We come to the Lenten experience in a more developmentally abstract way, focusing on the experience of our Beloved, and we say something like this: "since this fasting and service was part of His earthly experience, I want to try and experience something like this too, so that I can know Him better and understand Him more deeply."
Both of these two ways, the explicit approach and the implicit approach, may look very similar on the surface. Both foster deeper intimacy with our Lord.

3. Lent also helps us grow in our volitional allegiance to the Lord Jesus. We consciously practice saying "No" to our regular practices and habits, in order to truly say "yes" to the celebration of our Lord's resurrection. Here we are exercising our wills and our agency of self. Fasting comes before feasting and makes the feasting all the sweeter by the contrast. It's a simple psychological principle: only those who truly have the freedom to deny a thing, can truly have the freedom to welcome a thing. And so we first say 'no' to our body's desires in order to truly say 'yes' in celebration. Lent is preparation for our heart's festival and party to celebrate our Hero's return and rescue of His beloved church.

4. Finally, it seems to me that a good metaphor for Lent is that our keeping Lent is like one of our little children's Sunday School pictures. Lent is an artifact of the Church, it is not commanded nor suggested by Scripture. But it is a useful practice that helps us learn about the Lord Jesus, and it helps us interact with Him and His life in our own small way... like coloring a Bible story picture lets our little ones interact with the life of the Lord Jesus in their small way. And it seems to me that we offer our Lenten practices to Him similarly as our children offer us their pictures. And that He, like us, is pleased with our effort - is pleased because it is from us and it is about Him. And after the effort is done, we know His smile and His embrace and we celebrate His life and our life together.

Sunday, February 18, 2007


The weather is getting warmer where I live, and today found me out in the garden after church. There were peas to pick, weeds to pull, lettuce to transplant (it was getting crowded) and early tomatoes to plant.

I'm a bad gardener in the winter months. My plants are lucky if they get watered once a week, and to be honest, only the hearty ones pull through. But I've been better about it during the past few weeks, and today I had the joy of finding four rosebuds ready to burst on the old, gnarly rose bush in my weedy side yard. There'll be a bouquet of cut roses in my kitchen by Wednesday, I predict. And the calla lily patch - also a stalwart survivor of the weedy east side of the house - is resurrecting itself. Just in time for Lent, funnily enough.

I like spring. But there's something odd about living in this Mediterenean climate, where everything starts blooming and blossoming as we head into the Great Fast. In other parts of the world, I think, the flowers come out for Easter.

I can't pull any great meaning from my garden's odd sense of timing. But I think gardening will be a big part of my Lenten experience this year. We moved into this rental house two years ago, and each spring, I get a bit better at cultivating the plants in the yard. I'm not anywhere close to a good gardener yet, but more fresh herbs show up in my cooking, more flowers in my house, and more veggies in my pot as the years go by.

Surely that's some sort of metaphor for the Christian life.

I'll think about it more this Lent, as I weed, water and plant. And I'll let you know if I learn anything.

peace of Christ to you,

p.s. How are your gardens growing, out there in Bloggityville?

February 18: Transfiguration Sunday

On this last Sunday before Lent, we remember the Transfiguration.

Honestly, when I think about the Transfiguration, I get so struck by the picture of Moses finally standing in the Promised Land, that I have trouble meditating on any other part of it.

But, still, there's Jesus, transfigured, standing between the Law and the Prophets. The Desire of the Nations, Emmanuel.

Try seeing that picture every time you close your eyes today.

peace of Christ to you,

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Lots of Alleluias

Tomorrow is the last Sunday in a while when you'll sing the Gloria or hear any "Alleluia"'s. Sing 'em lustily folks, 'cause if you're anything like me, you're going to miss them.

And my homemaking advice for the next four days? Well, chores always goes better when you sing, so for the next half week, sing all the hymns with "alleluia" in them that you can think of. (Except, perhaps, "Christ the Lord Is Risen Today", save that for Easter.)

Some of my favorites? "Lo, He Comes with Clouds Descending", "Alleluia! Sing to Jesus!" and "Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence", which, for some reason, our organist plays during Lent despite the "Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia, Lord Most High" at the end.

Not that I'm complaining! Sometimes the Alleluia Fast seems like the hardest one of all!

peace of Christ to you,

Friday, February 16, 2007

free potty training tip

If you notice that your toddler wet her pants, don't just shuck off those wet pants assuming all they are is wet.

And then, once you realize that said pants were more than just wet, don't forget that some of the poop might have fallen down the leg of her pants onto the floor.

And then, don't forget that that poop that fell on the floor without your noticing might have also been crawled through by your infant son.

Ewww, you might say.

Thank you, yes. "Ewww," is exactly right.

peace of Christ to you,

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Evening Prayer

To make a bookend of my new habit of reading the morning prayer service, today I read evening prayer to close the day. I'd forgotten how much I loved the evening collects. I couldn't read just one, I read them all. (I suppose if I read the evening prayer service every day, I wouldn't feel the need to do that.)

What did seem odd though, was reading the same Confession, the same Creed, the same Lord's Prayer, that I'd read this morning. I found myself jerking away mentally from reading them twice in one day ("didn't I just read this?") in the same instinctive way I might press the button on a TV remote to switch away from the channel I've found playing repeats.

But then I stopped myself. Wait, why wouldn't it be a good thing to read the Creed twice in one day? Don't I still believe it in the evening like I did in the morning? And is it as if I don't have sin to confess now, it being about twelve hours since I did it last? Is it as if I was perfect those twelve hours? And don't I still want the Lord's will to be done here on Earth, as it is in Heaven?

Finding my questions pretty rhetorical, I read and prayed all of those parts of the service again. It was funny to find myself instinctively wanting to skip what I'd already done. But it was equally strange to find myself so willing to be argued into repetition.

I think this liturgy thing is growing on me.

peace of Christ to you,

Getting ready for Lent

There seem to be two different schools of thought about Lent. One of them is the more traditional one that caution us to start dialing it down, to start sobering up, to start getting our head in the game for the Church's longest fast of the year.

The other which, to be honest, I've found more frequently among my own evangelical crowd (and in my own chocolate-lovin' heart) is what I'd call the "dive in head first" category. Live it up, enjoy those things you're about to surrender for forty days, 'cause boy howdy, you're gonna miss 'em.

The problem is, the more I think about it, the more this seems sort of nonsensical. It's like giving the kids lots of sugar before bed, rather than helping them calm down with a story and a cup of milk. I mean, things like pancake dinners on Fat Tuesday make sense (used to be that's how you got rid of the sugar, fat and eggs left in the house), but the urge I'm feeling to buy lots of candy RIGHT NOW? I think that might have more to do with my tendency towards gluttony than any wisdom about getting ready for Lent.

No, I think that Ordinary Time is a time to live, well, ordinarily. I want to be moderate now, so that I can notice the difference between now and a feasttime, when it comes. So, I think what I'm going to try to do during this last week of Ordinary Time is to be moderate. Not to fast, 'cause that's not the time of year it is, but not to eat past fullness either (literally and metaphorically).

So, I'm going to get ready for Lent by living like I don't know that next week is the beginning of Lent. I'll prepare myself by deciding how I'm going to celebrate Lent, but in my moment-to-moment behavior, I'm hoping to largely ignore the impending season.

'Cause, y'know, Jesus could come back before Wednesday. Here's hoping!

peace of Christ to you,

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

February 14: St. Valentine's Day

Okay, as this link explains, St. Valentine's day might not be very much about any true, historical saint, but, in the great tradition of taking the good from pagan customs and supplying the lack from the treasury of great Christian truths ("stealing the treasures of Egypt, thank you St. Augustine), why not spend today letting your loved ones know that they are loved?

My favorite of the legends of St. Valentine is that he wrote to his loved ones on the eve of his martyrdom, telling them of his love and encouraging them in their walk with Christ. If you were, like the possibly-mythical Valentine, to die tomorrow, what would you want to tell your dearest ones? Go ahead and tell them today. And encourage them in their faith too. Valentine, after all, loved Christ best, and was following the example of the Greatest of Lovers when he went to his death.

And if Valentine wasn't, after all, a real man, there are hundreds upon hundreds of martyrs who were, and we can be encouraged by their example of bravery and love today, and all the other days of the church year.

peace of Christ to you,

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

WFMW: herb salad

The Proverbs tell us: "Better a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith."

But even though what that's telling you is that it's better to have a full heart than a full stomach, I've recently discovered that herbs aren't that bad for filling up the corners - that instead of just garnishing with them, you can actually eat them.

I discovered this on accident, when making the Vietnamese Fried Rice from the More-With-Less Cookbook. The recipe called for the rice to be served piping hot on a bed of lettuce, parsley, mint and cucumber. Well, I didn't have cucumber, but I did have lettuce, parsley and mint in my garden (the mint is currently invading our lawn), so I put together a simple salad to go under the rice.

Not only was it delicious with the rice, but it was delicious on its own. So I've been trying it some more, and I've decided that, really, herbs are just leafy greens (you know, the kind women's magazines keep urging you to eat more of). Except that they're leafy greens that taste good. And they grow like weeds, which makes keeping a fresh supply cheap and easy.

So, using fresh herbs in equal measure to lettuce in salads? Works for me!

peace of Christ to you,

seasonal decorations

Speaking of things decorating your home, some of those things are seasonal (Christmas lights still up?), and one of the things about changing as we get ready for Lent are those old palm fronds behind the crosses in your house. Time to get them to church so they can be burned to make the ashes for Ash Wednesday!

It's also not a bad idea to get some purple cloth. I didn't know this until recently, but apparently old Catholic tradition has it that the crosses and icons in your home, not just in the church, ought to be covered during Lent.

I wonder if I can find a used purple sheet at Savers?

peace of Christ to you,

Sunday, February 11, 2007

home decorations

One of the most fun parts of homemaking is slowly decorating your home so that it is welcoming, comfortable, and beautiful.

Of course, anyone's who's visited a convent or a monastery realizes that "decoration" doesn't need to be ornate in order to serve the purpose of hospitality or beauty. A crucifix above a bed is enough to tell a guest, "Christ is here, and in his name, you are welcome."

In fact, when pondering home decorating, it's a good idea to ask yourself, "What would be the purpose of decoration in my home?"

It'll vary from person to person, but one good answer for the Christian is: "The purpose of decoration in my home is to remind me that I am a part of the Church, even while I am not attending services."

Crosses, or icons, or Bible verses on the wall are obvious, and good, ways to do this. Still, you can go further and ask, "What's the purpose of my home? What does my Lord want to do in my home?"

Maybe you have the gift of hospitality, and the answer for you involves putting together a guest room where missionaries can stay. Maybe you're a good cook, and investing in your kitchen means you can make meals for the sick more easily. Maybe you have young children, and a bookcase their size filled with Bible stories is what ought to adorn your living room.

I also think it's not a bad idea to put beautiful things in your home, especially if you are home a lot, and if the beautiful things remind you why you're doing what you're doing. For example, almost by accident, my home's been decorated with several pictures of fruit. At least two were wedding gifts, and I've found myself picking up more over the years. And, believe it or not, these pictures encourage me when I'm having a hard day, because when I look at them, I'm reminded that my children (who might be making me nutty) are the fruit of my marriage. That I ought to be letting the fruits of the Spirit grow in my life. That a tree is known by the fruit it bears, and what are my actions saying about the Lord's work in my life right now? That I am to be fruitful . . . etc, etc. It's not a theme I would have planned, but show me a (non-tacky) picture of a bunch of grapes, and I'll find you a space on my wall to put it.

I like lots of plants in my home. They remind me to grow in the Lord. To nourish myself on his word. And they prompt me to ponder God as the Creator.

I have an ivy plant that I grew from a cutting in my wedding bouquet, and it reminds me to be faithful to my husband.

There are crosses over our bedroom doors, and they remind me that of all the things I have to be thankful of, "above all" I am to be thankful for the Lord's "inestimable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ, for the means of grace and for the hope of glory." And when I see the crucifix in my kids' room, I am thankful for how the Lord protects my children.

There are all kinds of symbols in the world, and no lack of symbols that are Christian. I encourage you to find decorations with meaning when you're looking at what you put in your home, and to let what you already have remind you of the things that we're supposed to be always keeping in mind. Let everything be to God's glory. Even pillowcases. Even planters. Even pictures of fruit that you never asked for but would now never get rid of at any price.

peace of Christ to you,

thanks for your prayers

My friend's baby made it safely into the world. Praise God for his mercies!

peace of Christ to you,

Lenten meditation

The first thing most of us think of when preparing for Lent is what we're going to give up. But take a break from all that wistful pondering of all the chocolate you're not going to eat, and ponder this for awhile: what are you going to take on?

Specifically: what are you going to think about more during Lent?

One of the best uses of any given church season is to choose a meditation subject for the season. Find a part of scripture, a theme, a poem, a book, a passage. Sit still for a moment, and let whatever nagging thought that's been hanging around your head the last few weeks finally get your attention. Is there something you've been neglecting? Something the Lord's been trying to bring your attention to? Is there a habitual sin it's finally time to kick? A virtue you're finally strong enough to start practicing? A subject that it's finally time to study?

One year I decided to spend Lent reading and rereading John Donne's sonnet "What if this present were the world's last night?", and C.S. Lewis' essay "The World's Last Night", and thinking about the themes presented in them, namely, repentance and the Lord's second coming. It was awesome. I learned things that changed the way I lived my life.

And it's about time to find a theme for this year's Lent. Don't do this entirely on your own. Do it with the Lord. (And what do I know? Maybe he'll tell you this form of Lenten discipline isn't for you!)

It lacks about a week and a half till Lent. Just enough time to pray, to think, and to decide. I really encourage you to look into finding a Lenten meditation subject. It makes a rich season that much richer.

peace of Christ to you,

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Friday, February 9, 2007


Well, it looks like LEM training is off for me this Saturday, 'cause my good friend is in labor, and her (first!) son is staying here while his little brother's being born. So much for that experiment! (At least this time around.)

Please pray for my friend, as you think of it.

peace of Christ to you,

Wednesday, February 7, 2007


There was a point today where it was close enough to the kids' naptimes that they were fussy, but far enough away that I couldn't just put them down, when they were driving me nuts, and I (I'm afraid) was driving them nuts.

So we danced. All three of us, me carrying the baby, and Bess zooming from one corner of the room to the other.

Yes, this has to do with homemaking, more specifically parenting, and not the church year. But it felt, in some ways, like working out that proverb "a gentle answer turns away wrath" in real life. 'Cause it may be to wild and crazy music, but dancing is a much gentler alternative to losing it and yelling (or crying, if you're the two-year old in the situation).

Thank God for music.

peace of Christ to you,

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

WFMW: Love, Sweet Love Edition

This weeks Works for Me Wednesday, hosted by Shannon of Rocks In My Dryer, is all about love, in honor of St. Valentine's Day.

Back when I was engaged, my mom gave me (along with the recipe to her amazing pie crust), some tips that have helped me time after time in my marriage. She said they summed up what she'd learned in 25+ years of marriage to my dad. So, in hopes that they'll help others, here are my mother's recommendations for a long and good marriage:

1. constant prayer
2. frequent, joyful sex
3. regular time spent together
4. continual forgiveness
continual repentance
5. conscious support of his career & hobbies
6. encourage 10x more than any critique

and then, at the end of that list (she did this, btw, at the invitation of the hostess of one of my bridal showers), she put an unnumbered tip that became my marriage mantra:

"Remember - if it's good for Adam, it's good for you."

And she's right. That sums it up. My husband's good isn't separate from mine. If it benefits him, it benefits me.

peace of Christ to you,

Update on More with Less

Someone asked that I update when we'd tried more recipes from "More With Less", so here you go!

Last night I made their "Easy Curry" (it was) and "Chapatis" (Indian flatbread). Both turned out really well, but I did notice, as I hadn't just skimming through the book, that the recipes do tend to assume that you have basic cooking knowledge. For example, I could do with a little more explanation of when to add the different vegetables to the curry, rather than just being told to add them in order of how long they take to cook.

Still, it turned out very yummy. I liked how the recipe used a bit of meat, a lot of vegetables, and was still very filling. And the flatbread was excellent and easy.

peace of Christ to you,

Monday, February 5, 2007

the other experiment!

I forgot to add my other experiment to that last post!

This is one that I'm cautiously very excited about. Ever since I had my daughter, and had to quit the altar guild (no use trying to clean a chalice with a baby in a sling - the baby will swipe it!), I've been looking for another ministry to do at church. What I've been doing is working in the nursery. And that's great, but I've been hoping to do a bit more. The problem is that, realistically, it needs to be something I can do with my kids.

So when I heard that our church needed more LEM's (Lay Eucharistic Ministers), I decided to check it out. LEM's go to mass, and after they've recieved themselves, they're given extra bread and wine, and they take it to those who can't make it to mass because of sickness or disability. I talked to my priest after church yesterday, and he said that he used to take his toddler along when he took the Eucharist to the shut-in (though of course, he could just perform a whole private mass), and that I should come to the training.

So, I'm going to! I don't know if it'll work. It's going to be hard to juggle two nap schedules with the weekday mass schedules, and our church is a bit of a drive from our home. And, honestly, I need to learn a bit more about what it involves. But I'm going to at least go to the training and find out. If it works, it'll be really cool. I even think that being a mom with little kids will make it easier for me, and more fun for the people I visit, 'cause the squirts will give us something to talk about. (It's funny, when I talked to my priest, who knows I'm an introvert, he pointed this out too.)

I'm going to try to be honest about it though, and decline to take the position if I can't do it. I have a feeling, though, that the only way I'll be able to find out if I can do it is to try.

Have any of you tried this, or a similar ministry, with or without kids? How'd it work? Any tips? I'd love any advice or stories anyone could offer me.

peace of Christ to you,

A couple of experiments

One of the characteristics of a good homemaker, I think, is that she is an irrepressible experimenter. Always tweaking her household routine, always trying to make things a little better, make things run a little smoother. Though she sticks with what works, anything that doesn't is liable to be changed, to see if it can be made more efficient, more welcoming, more homey.

I've found myself in the middle of several experiments. I blame the new year.

One of them is this blog. I had so much fun during Advent, that I decided that trying to celebrate the whole church year was a good idea. And being a writer, I thought that writing about it every day would be the best way to spur myself towards learning how to celebrate it. So far, I'm happy with this experiment. At the end of the year (St. Andrew's Day! or thereabouts), I'm hoping that I'll have laid the groundwork for celebrating the church year every year for the rest of my life.

Another one I started last week, and it came about largely because of this blog. Doing research for this blog has had me digging into the Book of Common Prayer (BCP) more than I have since I first started attending the Episcopal Church and was trying desperately to learn the order of service! And in doing that, and in thinking about how to celebrate the church year every day, I've rediscovered morning prayer.

Since I have kids, the biggest part of my particular homemaking job is taking care of my children. And one of the most time-consuming aspects of that is nursing my son, who's only 10 1/2 months old. I usually use the time he's nursing to read, but I've decided that, at least some of the time, I ought to be reading more edifying stuff than movie reviews on the internet. So, for at least the next week, I'm going to try reading the morning prayer service out of the BCP while I'm nursing Gamgee down for his morning nap. I tried it a few days last week, and I did it this morning, and so far it seems to be doing exactly what I'd hoped: it's ordering my day. Starting the day praying along with the Psalms and hymns and prayers in the BCP is starting my day with the reminder that the earth is the Lord's and all that is in it, that I am the Lord's and all that is in me is his. It's very good.

And it seems like a good experiment to start during Ordinary Time. :)

The Morning Prayer service is almost like a mini-church year all on its own. It has the same structure every time you do it (like each day has morning, noon and night), but small pieces of it changes day to day based on the season, the day of the week, which Psalm you've read last and, also, just whatever things are on your heart to talk to the Lord about, during the "other intercessions" part. I like that pattern of sameness and change. We need both.

And that's sort of the way homemaking experiments work too. You might experiment with vegetarian meals, but you still feed your family something healthy every night. You might experiment with how and when you clean the bathroom, but you still make sure that your family has a decent place to wash up. You might tweak your laundry schedule, but you still want to make sure your family has clean sheets. Sometimes our techniques change, but our big, overarching goals don't. I might learn more about what it means to obey the Lord, but I expect that even when I'm eighty, obeying him is still going to be on the top of my list of what I want to accomplish.

Lord have mercy.

So what are you all trying at home that's new and different? How's it working out?

peace of Christ to you,

Friday, February 2, 2007

Frugal Friday: Planning Ahead, But Not Too Much

Most of us know that menu planning can save a lot of money. Going into the grocery store with a list that tells you exactly what you need to buy - and no more - means that you spend less on things you don't need.

But something I've figured out is that there's virtue in being a bit flexible. I've started purposefully being less than exact in parts of my menu, and found that it saves me money.

I use this technique most often when it comes to fruit. Fruit is one of my favorite side dishes; fresh or canned, it takes little preparation, it's healthy, it's delicious, and it entirely eliminates the need for dessert. But even though pineapple might be the perfect fruit to serve with your curry on a Tuesday night, you can't count on pineapple being on sale when you go to the store Tuesday morning. So instead of saying, "Pineapple, asian pear, oranges" on my grocery list for the three side dishes I need that week, I just write, "Dinner fruit 1, dinner fruit 2, dinner fruit 3", or "canned fruit 1, canned fruit 2, canned fruit 3", and then I can just buy whatever's cheapest. This saves me a lot of money.

(My favorite canned fruit, btw, is the kind packed in juice, because then you get a nice cup of juice too. But even if its canned in heavy syrup, you can just rinse it well, and it's still a pretty healthy side.)

peace of Christ to you,

p.s. on Candlemas

With kids, this would be a great day to sing "This Little Light of Mine", and to talk about Jesus being the Light of the World. Today marks the halfway point in winter (it's exactly halfway between winter solstice and spring equinox), and it's a good day to remember that Christ came to lighten our darkness.

When my daughter started noticing that it got dark at night, I started telling her, "Yes, it is dark. But it's okay, 'cause Jesus is with us!" And now she says this mini-liturgy herself whenever we go outside in the dark. "It's dark. But Jesus is with us!" And, to tell the truth, hearing her remember that even helps me to be less afraid of the dark. Because it's true. With the Lord Christ at our side, we don't have to fear darkness, or hurt, or death.

"In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

Not a bad thing to remember halfway through the winter. We are now in the winter, but spring is coming. We are now on Earth, in a place of sickness and hurt, but the Lord Jesus will return, and will return soon.

peace of Christ to you,

February 2: The Presentation of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Temple

Or, Candlemas.

Today celebrates the day that Mary (as a good, observant Jew) goes to the temple to be purified after giving birth to her firstborn son. She's met by Simeon, who prophesies over Jesus:

"Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you now dismiss your servant in peace.
For my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the sight of all people,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and for glory to your people Israel."

So, on this day of light, it's traditional to have all the house's candles blessed - all the candles you're going to use on the holy days for the entire rest of the year!

Meredith Gould suggests that it's a good day for candlemaking, so if you've ever wanted to try, go for it! And tell your kids about Simeon and Anna (instead of the groundhog).

peace of Christ to you,

Thursday, February 1, 2007

February 1 - St. Brigid of Kildare

St. Brigid (or "Bride")of Kildare is one of my favorite saints. There are numerous, probably legendary accounts of her miracles, but even when you dismiss all the legendary accounts, what's left is still pretty impressive.

Brigid was, likely, the daughter of a king and his slave. She dedicated herself to Christ at a young age, becoming a nun. Soon after, she formed a convent (by most accounts, this was a double monastery, with nuns and monks) at Kildare, and it became a gathering place for scholars, who produced the most beautiful illuminated manuscripts in all of Ireland. She was intelligent, gentle, kind, compassionate, gave freely to the poor even before her consecration as a nun, and was courageously firm in her intent to help those who needed it.

(Speaking of legends, there's a legend that the word "bride" came into English language because St. Brigid exemplified everything a woman should be, in beauty, wisdom and kindness.

St. Brigid was also known as "Mary of the Gael" because of her goodness to the poor and those in prison. It was said that when she visited prisoners, she used the rushes on the floor of their cells to weave them crosses, so that they could look at the crosses and remember the love of Christ, even after she was no longer there to remind them.

The other cool thing about Brigid is how she shows that everything can be taken captive to serve the Lord Christ. Where "Brigid" was once the name of a pagan goddess, it's now famous as the name of one of the patron saints of Ireland, and "Brigid" is now brings to mind not darkness and fear, but the light of Jesus Christ.

As for homemaking, one of the coolest decorations you can have up in your home, to remind you to serve Christ in the poor, and to serve him in wisdom and beauty, is a St. Brigid's cross.

Happy St. Brigid's day!
peace of Christ to you,