Wednesday, January 31, 2007

the lessons of Christmas

Well, ever since boldly declaring that I was going to write about how we ponder the lessons of Christmas during Ordinary Time, I've had a conversation that goes something like this running around in my head:

"The lessons of Christmas, yes. The lessons of Christmas. Huh. I'm sure there must be some."
"You have to write about them!"
"Yes. Yes, and knowing what they were would help a lot with that."
"C'mon! It's Christmas! You've celebrated it since you were born!"
"Yep."
"Nngh!"

The truth is that what stood out most about Christmas for me this year was the little physical things, and not the great spiritual truths. It was doing something every day for Advent with my daughter that was new and different. So there was lots of playing with Nativity sets, lots of "yes, that's Mary, she's Jesus' mommy" and not a lot of contemplation of Mary being Jesus' mother, that is, of God being born as a human, that is, of the Incarnation.

But Mary thought about it. She pondered it. She treasured it in her heart. And she's the one who had to feed and diaper the Incarnation every few hours! (to borrow Meredith Gould's wonderful phrasing)

How tired she must have been. Because her mothering was real mothering (as Jesus was true man), even though it was mothering the Lord Almighty (as Jesus was true God). Here's a collect from the BCP on the subject:

O God, who didst wonderfully create, and yet more wonderfully restore, the dignity of human nature: Grant that we may share in the divine life of him who humbled himself to share our humanity, thy Son Jesus Christ; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


So, Lord, may what you truly assumed be truly healed: our humanity. Even my own. Even in the little things, the physical things, that I do with my kids. May I really learn what I teach my children about you. May I understand "Jesus loves me, this I know" with all of my heart and mind and soul and strength. May I ponder your Incarnation, may I treasure the truth of it in my heart. To your glory. Amen.



peace of Christ to you,
Jessica

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

WFMW: nursing poncho

Somehow, on Sundays, naptime always falls right in the middle of our church service. For me, this meant I either needed to find a way to modestly nurse my babies, or I needed to leave the service.

Well, I didn't like the idea of leaving, but with my firstborn I never was able cover up well with a blanket; it kept sliding off!

But, during a thrift store trip just before my son was born, I found a wonderful thing. It was a poncho, the kind made for teeny-boppers, the kind I'd never really consider wearing as part of any outfit, but the kind that was, though aimed for the 13-15 year old set, perfect for nursing a baby under!

The cool thing about this poncho was that, despite its loud pink and white pattern, it was thin enough that air could pass through it well (no smothering the baby you're trying to feed), but closely-woven enough for modesty (no flashing the folks in the next pew), and, best of all, since it was a poncho, it couldn't slip off.

I've nursed Gamgee under this sucessfully during many a mass, and I think what I like best about it is how well suited it is for nursing when it was never, ever intended to be used that way. Finding a new use for a silly fashion item? Works for me!

(And finding it for next to nothing in a thrift store? Even better! If you want one, you probably won't have any trouble locating one secondhand, it's the sort of thing that's always falling out of style and being tossed.)


peace of Christ to you,
Jessica

For more cool tips, visit Works for Me Wednesday, hosted by Shannon of Rocks in My Dryer.

on the practical and the spiritual

I can't tell you how much I'm enjoying writing this blog. (Here, watch me try: "Lots! I'm enjoying it lots!" See, wasn't that eloquent?)

But I've run into a slight snag: this blog is about homemaking and the church year, and while I'm under the impression that most of my posts should be about both topics, sometimes I want to write a post just about the church year, or one just about homemaking.

For the past few weeks, it's seemed to me that this might be breaking the rules, but I think I've decided (fiat me!) that it's not. 'Cause it's my blog.


Oh, okay, I guess I actually have a little more reason than that. The truth is that it's all about Jesus. If you're a Christian, everything you do is to be done to the glory of God. So, hopefully, when I write a post that's just about the practicalities of homemaking, you'll understand that I write it on the assumption that the recipe I'm cooking, or the cleaning technique I'm using, or the garden I'm planting is being cooked, used or planted to the glory of God. All things done excellently, for God's glory.

A much greater man, J.S. Bach, used to inscribe an acronym for "To the Glory of God Alone" on all of his written music. The notes, of course, being notes and not words, wouldn't spell out the gospel (though I know I have some musician friends who would argue differently!). But he wanted it understood that everything he did was with a mind of pleasing Christ. Writing down notes was practical, doing it for God's glory was spiritual, but it was all one thing.


So, while I intend this blog to look at the relationship between the liturgical church year and the job of homemaking, sometimes I'll just be talking about one or the other. Even though not all the individual posts will tie the two together, hopefully the blog as a whole will.


Okay, thanks for letting me muse on that subject. Back to more normal pontificating shortly! :D

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica

Monday, January 29, 2007

on saints' days

I just thought I'd add a note to the last post.

As a person who was raised as a (mostly) non-denominational Christian, and is now in a liturgical Protestant tradition, the idea of observing saints' days is still somewhat new to me. But what helps me understand this tradition is remembering St. Paul's injunction to "imitate me, as I imitate Christ." In the recognized saints, the church is saying, "Look at these people because they did a good job imitating Christ."

The thing is, it's sometimes hard to answer the question "what would Jesus do?" for the simple reason that you don't happen to be a first-century Jewish male in your thirties, letting alone the fact that you aren't the Messiah! When we look at the saints, we are looking at a wide variety of people who have imitated Christ: priests, missionaries, businessmen, children, fathers, mothers, monks, nuns, even kings and queens! Some of them may be in circumstances a little bit more like your own, but if most of them aren't, having all of these extra examples gives you a better idea of what following and imitating Christ looks like.

Now, you still imitate Christ primarily; the saints can't replace him in any way, shape, or form. But they're like older brothers and sisters who've been living with your parents' rules longer than you have, and can show you the ropes. You can look at them, and be encouraged, because they have proven that it's possible to follow Christ in every era, in every country, in every situation, no matter your age, race or gender.

At least, that's what I get out of observing saints' days. :D


peace of Christ to you,
Jessica

January's Heavy Hitters

Okay, so I goofed over the weekend, and forgot to post anything on Saturday's and Sunday's saints. And boy-howdy, they're not ones that should be easy to forget! Nope, this last weekend, if you were paying more attention than I was, you should have been celebrating the saint days of John Chrysostom and Thomas Aquinas.

Chrysostom's most famous sermon is his Easter sermon, but I always think first of this prayer attributed to him in the BCP, at the end of Morning Prayer:

A Prayer of St. Chrysostom

Almighty God, who hast given us grace at this time with one
accord to make our common supplication unto thee; and
hast promised through thy well-beloved Son that when two
or three are gathered together in his Name thou wilt be in the
midst of them: Fulfill now, O Lord, our desires and petitions
of thy servants as may be best for us; granting us in this
world knowledge of thy truth, and in the world to come life
everlasting. Amen.


You can see from these two pieces alone how he got the nickname of "Golden Mouth". When it comes to the subject of homemaking, I think of St. Chrysostom as a reminder to let our words be encouraging to one another, and, also, as beautiful as our skill allows us.


To be honest, when I think of Aquinas, the first thing I think of one of my college professors, who spent an entire summer reading the Summa Theologica. Apparently, if you stack all the volumes of the Summa vertically, unless you're in the NBA, you'll be looking at a stack of books that's taller than you are.

But when I think of St. Thomas' great work, I can't help but swoon at his academic dedication to the glory and wonder of God (even if I don't agree that Aristotle's categories can be applied to theology the way he thinks they can!). The amazing thing about St. Thomas is that he was a brilliant man who dedicated all of his brilliance to understanding God. He gives me encouragement as I face my own task, homemaking, with an academically-inclined mind. My reaction to learning that I was a mother was to read everything I could get my hands on about pregnancy. Pretty soon, I was reading everything I could get my hands on about babies and housekeeping also. And then, eventually, everything I could read that might shed some light on how to be a Christian woman, a Christian wife, a Christian homemaker.

St. Thomas' field was the queen of sciences, theology. Mine's a smaller field, but I'm still encouraged by his example to try to do it with not just all my heart, but all my mind, and to the glory of God.

May you be encouraged too!

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica

p.s. The reason I got so confused over the weekend was due to mixing up the Roman Catholic calendar, and the Anglican one. I finally discovered the saints' days observed by my church at the beginning of the BCP (of course, everything's in the BCP, I should have known!), and my goodness, we don't observe nearly as many as the Catholics!

I hope this blog will be a help to any Catholic or Orthodox readers, but I think I'm going to mostly refer to my own church's calendar, just to avoid (my own) confusion. However, if any Catholic or Orthodox readers want to offer a guest post about some of your own traditions, let me know!

Sunday, January 28, 2007

sunshine

I like looking at people - especially people I love - in the sunshine. Indoors, everyone looks like a washed-out brunette. Outdoors, black hair glints in the sunlight, blonde hair shines with glory, and even the actual brunettes look radiant. Eyes that all looked mud-colored turn out to be bright blue, or sherry-brown, or green and gold like a creekbed in the mountains. Sunlight brings out beauty.


Today, at the end of mass, we sang "Amazing Grace". I think "Amazing Grace" was the first hymn I learned all the verses to when I was a child (prompting the development of a lifelong love of learning all the verses).

And my favorite was the last verse, that talked about heaven. It gave me shivers:

When we've been there ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun
We've no less days to sing God's praise
Than when we first begun.


Today I sang that along with the rest of the congregation, as I stood in the back, rocking my son. We'd all just come back from taking communion together, and all of the sudden I felt like I was seeing everyone, my parish family, in the sunlight. The light of eternity. I looked at them all, even the ones I don't know that well, or don't like that much, and was overwhelmed with joy, because we were all singing about the day when we'd be doing this - this praise, this communion, this worship - all together, endlessly, in the glory of the presence of God. And everyone all of the sudden looked brighter, looked loveable.

It was like seeing them in the sunlight.


peace of Christ to you,
Jessica

Saturday, January 27, 2007

For Saturdays

In the Book of Common Prayer, we find this collect for Saturdays in the Morning Prayer, Rite I:

A Collect for Saturdays

Almighty God, who after the creation of the world didst rest
from all thy works and sanctify a day of rest for all thy
creatures: Grant that we, putting away all earthly anxieties,
may be duly prepared for the service of thy sanctuary, and
that our rest here upon earth may be a preparation for the
eternal rest promised to thy people in heaven; through Jesus
Christ our Lord. Amen.


Isn't that cool? Everything has a reason. There's even a reason for rest.

This also gives a possible justification for two-day weekends. You're supposed to use Saturday to rest well, so that you are rejuvenated Sunday morning, and have the ENERGY needed to whole-heartedly worship God, with all the rest of the assembled faithful, at the weekly remembrance of the glorious resurrection of thy Son our Lord.

And, having said that, I'm going to go rest, myself.


peace of Christ to you,
Jessica

Friday, January 26, 2007

well, I guess that's appropriate

Hunh. As I search through my library's online catalog for books about Lent, all that keeps popping up are tomes on Easter.


peace of Christ to you,
Jessica

Thursday, January 25, 2007

January 26: Saints Timothy and Titus, Companions of St. Paul

Okay, this one's just an encouragement. Today, on the saint day of Paul's "beloved child", Timothy, and his "true child in a common faith", Titus, think about this passage in 2 Timothy:

I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you.

In that one passage you can see how faith can be nurtured by parents, both natural and spiritual. I like the idea of a "sincere faith" passing down the generations. Lord, help my faith to be sincere! And, for the sake of my kids, catching!


peace of Christ to you,
Jessica

Ordinary Time, part II

That last post didn't go where I expected, so let me get back to Meredith Gould's definition of the first stretch of Ordinary Time by saying: I'm planning on doing a series of Ordinary Time posts looking at just those lessons of Christmas and preparations for Lent that she mentioned, over the next few weeks. Stay tuned!

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica

Ordinary Time

In, "The Catholic Home", after defining the church year as a "temporal cycle [which] follows an unbroken succession of seasons commemorating events and mysteries of faith organized around the birth, life, death, and ressurection of Jesus the Christ", Meredith Gould describes the first Ordinary time - the time between Epiphany and Lent, the time we're in now - as:
Weeks between the Baptism of the Lord and Lent providing time to contemplate and live the lessons of Christmas and to prepare for Lent.
In some ways, I feel like I've started this blog at an odd time, given the subject matter. I started it just before Ephiphany, right before a long stretch of Ordinary Time, in between the great feast seasons.

Except that most of the year is Ordinary Time, the time when we count (in numbers, ordinals) the Sundays since the last great feast. Most of our lives are ordinary time, counted after great celebrations, like weddings and births. Whenever you say, "I'm thirty," you're saying, "This is the thirtieth year since my birth," in the same way that the hymn board might say, "3rd Sunday after Epiphany."

And it's a green time. I think of Pentecost as the long, green season of the Holy Spirit, a phrase I'm almost positive I read somewhere, but that seems so precisely descriptive that I can't remember where it was I first came across it.

I tend to think of Ordinary Time as the Church's season, the season after Christ has come and gone, and has yet to return, after the Holy Spirit has come, and stayed. The time when we're supposed to work out the salvation that has come to us, and work it out in fear and trembling, and in work, because it is Christ who works in us.

I know that the "ordinary" in Ordinary Time doesn't mean "normal", but I still can't help but think of it that way. And to us, "normal" is a life infused with the light of God, because He did come, and did die and rise and will come again, and yet is with us. With us in the middle of work, of play, of everything. So even saying, "It's January 25th, 2007" is saying, "It's the 2007th January 25th since Christ came." The year of our Lord, 2007, as they used to say.

Normal time, ordinary time - and Ordinary Time - is a time of life lived in the presence of God. Praise God that that's what normal is, when we are His!


peace of Christ to you,
Jessica

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. (See full disclosure on sidebar of my blog.)

oops!

Um, yeah, today, the feast day of the Conversion of St. Paul, is actually taking place on January 25, not March. Thanks, Emily!

peace of Christ,
Jessica

book review: More-with-Less

This is a book I have wanted since I first spotted it on a friend's cookbook shelf. Thanks to a Christmas giftcard, it's now on my own cookbook shelf. It looks not just at the how of frugality in cooking, but at the why. And while I don't agree with absolutely all of it, it's sure a good place to start.

"More-with-Less", written/edited by Doris Janzen Longacre, and now in its 25th Anniversary Edition, is a Mennonite cookbook, put out with a purpose of "deconsumption", of using a moderate amount of food in a world where many go hungry.

The cookbook came about when the Mennonite Central Committee asked its members to look at their lifestyles, and to try to spend and eat about 10% less. The members were enthusiastic about the idea, but stymied at exactly how they were supposed to do this.

"More-with-Less" was the answer to that how. It's half cookbook, half philosophy-of-consumption book, with long introductions to each section, and quotations that begin with things like "I'm impressed with what Zambians eat that North Americans throw away ..." sprinkled throughout the recipes.

Many of the recipes are international, but real international, not the ethnic-inspired-with-lots-of-expensive-ingredients-thrown-in-so-Americans-will-eat-it sort of international recipes I find in other cookbooks. No, this is the cookbook you want if you've ever looked longly at those huge, cheap bags of rice and beans and cornmeal in the store, wishing you knew enough about cooking to know what to do with them.

One of the best parts of this cookbook is the "Gather Up the Fragments" section at the end of each chapter, which is full of suggestions on what to do with the sort of leftovers that chapter's recipes produce. The egg and cheese chapter, for example. has ideas for hard cheese, moldy cheese, leftover whites and leftover yolks. (That chapter also has complete instructions on making your own cheese from scratch - wow!)

The two cookbooks More-with-Less reminds me of most are the missionary cookbook my mother-in-law gave me, which has instructions you could follow in any country you happen to find yourself in (i.e., how to cook without common American prepared foods) and the old fifties cookbook I bought used, that has instructions for the basic-ist of basics, like how to make coffee without a coffeemaker.


We used this (our own copy!) for the first time this Saturday, with our pancakes. We've been having pancakes with jam or honey for awhile, because after our last bottle of fake maple syrup ran out, we just didn't bother to buy anymore. But I looked up syrups in More-with-Less, and pretty soon we had hot, yummy, strawberry syrup for the pancakes: just sugar, water, cornstarch and some chopped-up frozen strawberries. The syrup was ready before the pancakes were.


Cooking is a big part of homemaking; homes are made for people, people have bodies, and those bodies have to be feed. And as a Christian homemaker, I want all of my work, even my cooking, to be done in a way that pleases the Lord. As one of the readers quoted in the book says, "for Christians, even the simple act of cooking a meal can be a testimony of faithfulness." Waste not, want not. And the whole idea behind this book is that what you save from being wasted can be used to fulfill other people's want. I like that this book doesn't see spirituality as separate from practicality. I like the way it makes frugality and faithfulness march hand in hand.

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica


(For more on frugality, check out Frugal Friday!)

Spit-up

Today, while we were at the playground with a group of other moms and kids from church, my daughter, who had been happily playing in the sandbox, trotted towards me, crying.

Crying, and with what looked like foam dripping out of her mouth.

Being the good mom I am, I ran towards her, and held out my hand. She opened her mouth, and a nice half-cup of pink and white up-chuck fell into my palm. Ugh.

But I quickly shook the spit-up off my hand, and into the grass, and proceeded to console her, to hug her, to look her over, and to make sure that nothing was really wrong. Looks like it was just playing a little too hard on a full stomach (we had just picnicked), and pretty soon she was back in the sandbox, happy as a clam. The pink in the spit-up wasn't blood, just jam. Whew. Gross, but any good parent would take the jam, any day.


I didn't think anymore of it till now, but now I'm wondering how often that's how I come to God. I'd like to think I approach our Holy God with reverence and thought and due attention, but a lot of times I come to him because, in the middle of my happy play, something went wrong, and I need someone's hand to spit up in, someone to clean me up, and someone to send me, consoled, back to what I was doing.

I am God's toddler. Seriously.

Someday, I would at least like to be his teenager.

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica

Hey, I'm not the only one!

Check out this paragraph of Dennis Bratcher's essay "The Seasons of the Church Year":

Many churches have relied almost solely on the spoken word to carry the burden of proclamation. However, even in the Old Testament the services of worship involved all of the senses: sight, smell, taste, touch, as well as hearing. Modern learning theory also indicates that the more senses are involved in an experience, the more impact it makes, especially for children.


I'm not the only one who thinks the theatrical nature of the church year makes it a great way to proclaim the gospel to children!

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

January 25: the Conversion of St. Paul

January 25 - if I've got my dates right - is the day the Church celebrates the conversion of St. Paul. You can read about the actual event in Acts 9.

Patrick Henry Reardon has this observation on the event:

"In Jesus' words to the persecutor of Christians (“Why are you persecuting Me!”), we should see the seed that would grow into Paul's doctrine of the Church as “the body of Christ.” His three-day fast in preparation for baptism, a sort of early Lent, became standard in the Church for centuries to come."

Fr. Reardon - whose excellent book Christ in His Saints is my current devotional reading - always points things out to me that I've never noticed before. Whenever I read his work, I get the eerie feeling that the man has the whole Bible memorized. In the original languages. In fact, I'd be surprised if he doesn't. Anyway, enough to say, these two short sentences provide lots of meditation material for today's feast.

When Jesus talked to Paul, He asked him why he was persecuting Him, when who Paul was persecuting was the Church. Thanks to God's work through Paul, we know we are the Body of Christ. And that's a reason to celebrate today!

And when we see Paul respond to his conversion with prayer and fasting, it reminds me how much time I ought to take to listen and how much attention I ought to pay when the Lord talks to me. Lord have mercy on me.

So today, on the day of the Conversion of St. Paul, I'm going to try to think about being a part of the body of Christ. And maybe imitate Paul in praying, thanking God for graciously making me part of that Body. (And to thank him for St. Paul, and Fr. Reardon, and other men who know how to open the word of God so that it may be understood! Seriously, whenever I hit a thorny point of theology, my first question is WWPS? or, What Would Paul Say? It's a question that's stood me in good stead. :D )


peace of Christ to you,
Jessica

p.s. Anyone know if the Conversion of Saint Paul is a saint's day, or is it a feast day? Or isn't there a difference?

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. (See full disclosure on sidebar of my blog.)

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

wfmw: audio books

When I was a teenager, I read for hours and hours a day. Once I recommended a book to my mom's friend, Cyndi, and she told me, sadly, "Jess, I just don't think I have time to read that right now."

It boggled my mind. How could you not have time to read?

Now that I'm a mom, I get it. In between cooking, cleaning, child-care, doing the budget, etc, etc, etc, it's hard to sit down and polish off a good book. And even when I get my devotional time in, it's never as long as it should be.

My solution? Audio books! I usually work on dinner in the afternoon, when my kiddos are down for their naps. And now that's the time I listen to books too. And it's the time I can listen to the Bible on tape for an hour at a time, while I get other things done. It's not Bible study with any great depth, but it's Bible study with some great length, and that's a welcome change!

So, books-on-tape while I do chores: works for me!

(And what else works for me? Checking them out for free at my local library!)

For other great ideas, visit Shannon at Rocks In My Dryer.


peace of Christ to you,
Jessica

p.s. Cyndi, btw, was in the middle of getting her doctorate, and reading tons of OTHER good things, when she gently let me know she didn't quite have the time to read the latest novel that fascinated the teenage me. I don't want anyone thinking this amazing women was in the slightest bit literature-adverse. Now she sends ME books to read for MY kids. :D (Thanks, Cyndi!)

A Second Thought on Lent and Children

What really jumpstarted this whole Church Year blog was our Advent activities this year. We did something to get ready for Christmas (almost) every day of Advent. Maybe I can do something similar with the kids during Lent: doing something every day to get ready for our celebration of Easter.


The problem is, of course, that our celebration of Easter is usually so much smaller than our celebration of Christmas. I'm not sure that it's right that it's so; is the Incarnation more important than the Ressurection?

Okay, so that's a question that's not getting answered in this post! Still, I wonder how hard it would be to come up with forty things - small things! - to do to get ready for Easter.


Maybe I should host a blog carnival, gathering ideas. :D


peace of Christ to you,
Jessica

Getting Ready for Lent

My husband and I were talking this week about what we wanted to give up for Lent. I think we've found something, and so that's good.

It was funny how I knew that it was right. It was that familiar, sinking feeling in my stomach. The "oh, I'm gonna hate this, this'll be so good for me, hunh?" feeling.


I'm wondering about though, is how to involve my children in our Lenten disciplines. Fasting should be a freewill offering, I'm thinking, and preschoolers probably aren't quite up to that.

I'm wondering if the answer lies in something my priest taught me: that whenever you fast, in addition to giving something up, you should take something on. For example, if you fast from lunch during Lent, you should use the time you usually spend eating in prayer. If you fast from discretionary spending, you should donate what you save to charity. That sort of thing.

So maybe there's something extra I can do with the kids during Lent, to introduce them to the positive side of fasting, before they're old enough to be introduced to the negative. (By the way, I mean positive and negative in the mathematical sense, in the sense of something being present or missing, not in the sense of good and bad.) Something like Scripture songs with breakfast, or buying something for the canned food drive whenever we go grocery shopping and letting Bess pick the can. I don't know. But it's what I'm thinking about right now.



peace of Christ to you,
Jessica

Monday, January 22, 2007

winter

Today I was reading A Mother's Rule of Life by Holly Pierlot (review coming to this site as soon as I can finish reading it!), and came across this paragraph:

"According to the seasons, I was occupied with a great many types of tasks. Spring was planting and cleaning out the house and washing all the bedding and curtains and hanging them out to dry in the fresh spring air. Summer was weeding and beach time and picnics with the kids. Autumn was harvesting and preserving and bundling up the house in preparation for winter. Winter was indoor home improvements and decorating and sewing."

Now, I like this whole book (just to whet your appetite, it's a book that feels like it's laying out for me in a beautiful pattern a lot of disparate ideas I've been trying to piece together for myself for a long time - one of those books), but this paragraph struck me in particular because it's been shivery-cold here (in sunny SoCal!) and I've avoided going outside because of the weather, and all of that has had me staring 'round at our walls and contemplating things like curtains. I'd even gotten out lengths of fabric and my husband's staple gun (what can I say? I'm no seamstress), and let them lay on the windowsill for a few days. So the idea that the urge to stay inside and decorate our hibernation chamber might be a natural, good thing was appealing. That some things are better done in winter, some in summer . . . well, that seems too to jive with the whole idea of rhythm that intrigues me so whenever I consider the church year.

The really funny thing? That after reading that, and beginning to feel less discouraged about the fact that I've been acting like a growly bear, I spent the afternoon outside with the kids, pulling weeds, watering plants, and giving Gamgee horsey rides.

As if it were already spring.


peace of Christ to you,
Jessica

Saturday, January 20, 2007

correction: Arch books

Katrina pointed out that Arch Bible books still are published by Concordia Publishing House, which is great news! It looks like they're new ones though; I couldn't find Jesus' Second Family, for instance. Still, it'd be cool to see what these new ones are like - I certainly like the price!

Thanks for the link, Katrina!


peace of Christ to you,
Jessica


This post contains Amazon affiliate links; if you purchase a book from this link, I receive a small percentage of the purchase price.  (See full disclosure on sidebar of my blog.)

Friday, January 19, 2007

doing the dishes

Sometimes I like doing the dishes, but often it feels like drudgery.

The best dishes I've ever done were the dishes I did at church. Before I had my daughter, I was on our church's Altar Guild, and I helped to wash up the things from Mass, and to wash the wax build-up out of the votive candle holders. Doing that menial task felt peaceful and good, because I was doing it in the Lord's house. I was washing up his things.

I think I'm going to try to think about that whenever I have dishes to do, even though they're dishes full of applesauce slop and sticky animal-cracker goop, instead of wax and wine and bread crumbs. (The dishes that were used in the Eucharist, btw, are washed over a special sink called a piscina (sp?), which drains straight into the ground, instead of into the sewers, out of respect for the body and blood of Christ.) Because the dishes at the church are more special and holy, but the work I do for my kids is the work God's assigned me to do right now. And as St. Paul said, whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all to the glory of God.

I'd like all my life to be full of that kind of peace, the peace that's found in places like church sanctuaries, where people have prayed for years and years. Eventually, I want to be, myself, a place where prayer has happened for years and years. So I'm thinking I should pray all the time, even in the middle of the dishes.


Okay, I can't post this without feeling hypocritical unless I add this caveat: I'm sure as heck not there yet. But I think these things have to go together somehow, that what I find at church has to be able to come home, because God's God in both places and I'm me in both places, and I want to be as aware of him at home as I am at church. This is sort of a what-I'm-aiming-to-get-to-when-I'm-eighty post. I have to add that, because I feel like this blog is largely aspirational. It's about what I'm aiming towards, what I'm aspiring to, what I want to learn. I'm not there yet. Lord help me. Amen.


peace of Christ to you,
Jessica

Thursday, January 18, 2007

naptime ritual

Part of what I love about being an Anglican is the repetition. Yup. I like it that I know what's going to happen - or at least some of what's going to happen - when I go to church on Sunday. C.S. Lewis talked about how humans thrive on a combination of variety and stability. We enjoy the change of the seasons each year, but we also enjoy that it's the same seasons every year. I like it when summer cools to autumn, but part of what I like is how familiar that change is.

Familiarity doesn't breed contempt, in my experience. What it breeds is comfort. (What that "fort" in the word comfort tells you is that comfort is actually about strength. Gives a new twist to thinking of the Holy Spirit as the Comforter, eh?) I like slipping into the rhythm of the service, going from the Gloria to the Creed to the Lord's Prayer. But I also like that there's a different collect every Sunday. And that, then again, there's always a collect.


So I've been working on providing a similar rhythm to my childrens' days. One of the things that works well is having a bedtime routine: we change diapers, put on jammies, brush teeth, read a Bible story, sing and pray. My husband and I start our kids' bedtime routine together, but somewhere after brushing teeth, we split off, and I take my son the way of milk, and Adam takes our daughter the way of Jesus-loves-me-this-I-know.

So I get in on the song-and-sleep thing earlier in the day: at naptime. Before Bess' nap, I ask her what songs she wants to sing. Sometimes the answer is "The Wheels on the Bus" and sometimes it's "A Boy Named David" and sometimes it's "nothing". But whether we sing other songs first or not, I always hold her and sing "The Lord Bless You and Keep You" before I put her down in her bed. It's like saying the Creed every Sunday in Church, even though the scripture readings change from week to week.


What about you? Anyone out there have some good bedtime or naptime routines you'd be willing to share?

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica

The Confession of St. Peter

In the church year realm of things, today is the day we celebrate the "confession of St. Peter", the time when, upon being asked by Jesus who Peter thought He was, Peter answered: "thou art the Christ, the son of the living God."

For an interesting discussion prompted by today's feast day, check out Fr. Dan's blog, here.



Thinking about Peter's confession makes me wonder: how early do you start teaching your kiddos the creeds? Should I start them now, with the Bible verses, or wait a bit? Anyone out there care to share how you did it?

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

hmmm . . .

I would just like to note that, at least for those of us in the West, Lent starts rather late this year.

Which means that St. Valentine's Day will fall BEFORE Ash Wednesday. Before we all start fasting. Before we start all that denying-our-flesh stuff.

Do you know what that means?

CHOCOLATE!

Just sayin'.


peace of Christ to you,
Jessica

night nursing

While I was still in college, my mom introduced me to the writing of Frederica Mathewes-Greene. I quickly devoured her books Facing East and At the Corner of East and Now, chronicles of her conversion to Christianity and thence to Eastern Orthodoxy, and of life as priest's wife in a new EO mission church respectively.

I enjoyed her lucid prose, her word-portraits of her parishioners, and the explanation of parts of Eastern Orthodoxy I had hitherto found utterly mysterious. As a former Protestant, she went about explaining the exact oddities I had puzzled over in exactly the way this still-Protestant wanted then explained. But there was one habit of hers she wrote about that I couldn't make head's or tail's of.

In fact, none of the icon-writing, confession-making or fast-undertaking puzzled the teenage me so much as her assertion that she spent a half hour every night out of her bed, awake, and praying. She woke up at the same time every night, hauled herself out of her bed, and said the Jesus prayer. Over and over and over.

As I said, I was in college, and the idea of purposefully giving up one minute of precious sleep was horrifying.

Okay, that's not quite true. I stayed up late with the best of them. But waking up early after I had finally gotten to bed, waking up for the express purpose of going to sleep again after I'd finished my prayers, waking up without planning on getting dressed and going somewhere? It just didn't make sense. It didn't sound like anything anyone outside of a monastery would do. It sounded like torture. It gave me the same feeling that reading Foxe's Book of Martyrs gave me. "Dear Lord," I would think, grudgingly, "I suppose I can believe that some people are called to serve you like this." Followed by, softly and to myself: "But oh am I glad it's not me." Followed then by a whisper I barely dared let myself hear: "please, please, please, I know you could call me to that too, but oh please don't." I thought I'd rather go without food for a month of Fridays than ever have to take up such a hard habit.


You know where this is going, right? But then I had kids. Then I had kids and found myself up at nights nursing them, sometimes four or five times a night when they were in the midst of teething or illness, but certainly going month in and month out without a full night of sleep.

It was with Bess, my first child, that the thought occurred to me that Mathewes-Green's habit of watching (as I learned this sort of fasting from sleep is called) might have started when she herself had had her children. But somehow, it wasn't until I was nursing Gamgee, my second, that I thought of using those nighttime nursings for prayer. All I can say is that the sleep-deprived new-mom mind moves a little slower than old molasses.

And now I find myself looking forward to the middle of the night. Not always, of course, but more than I used to. Because three in the morning is quieter than any other time of the day, and the darkness takes away the distractions I've grown used to. In the daylight, I can always find a book to read, a magazine headline to scan or a blog article to look through. In the middle of the night I can't read. In the middle of the night, with my boy at my breast, there's no one to talk to except God.

And so I do.

I find that I'm often anxious in the middle of the night. My imagination conjures up attackers hiding in dark corners and then jumps ahead to my plans for the day and points out all the ways that they might go awry.

But there's no one to talk to about those worries but God. And so I do. I talk to him about my plans, which makes me start to think about whether or not they fit in with his plans, and then I talk to him about that to. It's a time for me to settle down, to present the thoughts whirling 'round my head for his inspection, and to listen to what he has to say to me about them. Or about anything else. And slowly I grow calm, and slowly my son stops nursing, and then I say goodnight to him and to the Lord, and everyone in the house goes back to sleep.

Other nights, especially on those four-or-five-wakings nights, I can't think straight enough to even worry to the Lord about my day. So I say the Jesus prayer, just like I learned from F. M.-G., over and over: "Lord Jesus, have mercy on me, a sinner. Lord Jesus, have mercy on me, a sinner. Lord Jesus, have mercy on me, a sinner." Other nights I'll sing Tallis' canon, All Praise to Thee My God This Night, over and over in my head. It's a song that resolves all nighttime fears, even the fear of death:

"Teach me to die that so I may
Rise glorious at the awful day."


So thank you, Frederica Mathewes-Green, for putting the idea of night-prayer in my head, even though it was years before I knew how to use it. Somehow, I think I might still be saying the Jesus Prayer in the middle of the night years from now. My kids'll outgrow their need to nurse at three in the morning, but I don't think I'll outgrow my need for quiet, undistracted time with my Lord.


peace of Christ to you,
Jessica

wfmw: kid time

For quite awhile, I'd feed my kids and myself breakfast, and then try to clean up the kitchen with my two-year old running amok and my nine-month-old hanging onto my skirt and whining. I hated the idea of leaving the kitchen with dirty dishes and the table sticky with jam, but I also hated trying to clean it up with my kids acting fussy the whole time.

I had another problem too: I couldn't seem to stick in reading time anywhere in our day. When my son was a newborn, it was easy. I just read to my daughter while he nursed. But after a few months he got old enough that that distracted him, and I had to stop doing it that way. I hate to say it, but our reading times were pretty hit-and-miss for awhile there.

But a couple of weeks ago, I found the answer! Reading time right after breakfast! Yup, I decided to be brave and try an experiment: I left the dishes dirty and the table sticky, and hauled the kids straight from their breakfasts over to our couch, where we picked out a variety of books and read for twenty or so minutes straight. I alternated between the story books my daughter likes and the board books that fascinate my son, letting my son chew on the board books when it wasn't his turn (that's what they're for!). After about twenty minutes of reading, I turned the two of them loose and went back to clean up the kitchen.

And guess what? After those twenty minutes of straight, uninterrupted mom-attention, they played happily for the twenty minutes or so it took to do the dishes! I was tickled pink - if only all of my experiments could turn out so well!

So there you have it: reading time and dishes both checked off of the list - works for me! Head over to Rocks in My Dryer for more tips and tricks.

And, in keeping with the theme of the blog, let me point out that a regular reading time is a great way to familiarize your child (and yourself) with different Bible stories. My favorite series is an old one, the Arch Bible stories. They're not published anymore, but you can find them pretty easily and cheaply in thrift stores or on eBay. Our current favorite is Jesus' Second Family, about Mary, Martha and Lazarus. Bess calls it the "Bethany" book. My favorite part comes after Jesus gently rebukes Martha for complaining about Mary's lack of help with the housework:

"Now Jesus' words surprised them all,
But soon they understood:
He didn't mean that work was bad,
But hearing God was good."

Honestly, that little quatrain helped me understand that story better than four years of Bible college ever did. I love children's lit!

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica

p.s. like the post below says: this blog's getting regular updates now. So come back, look around, leave a comment - it's great to hear your thoughts!


This post contains Amazon affiliate links; if you purchase a book from this link, I receive a small percentage of the purchase price.  (See full disclosure on sidebar of my blog.)

Monday, January 15, 2007

Christmas Plates

Last year I bought a set of Christmas plates at an after-Christmas sale. This year I got to use them. The really cool thing? How much we all enjoyed them. Even my two-year old started clamoring to eat off of them 'round about suppertime.

So, I'm thinking . . . how cool would it be to have plates for each of the major liturgical seasons? Sort of like our priests have vestments for each season? You know, you could have purple ones for Lent and Advent, and gold or white ones for Easter, red for Pentecost, and green for ordinary time. I think it would be a cool way to remember Sunday throughout the week, so to speak.

(I have to admit that I also like the idea because green is my favorite color, and that's what would be on the table most of the year. )


'course, we aren't rich out here, so it'd probably take me a few years to build up a collection like that, but with the help of my favorite local thrift store, it might be possible. Too bad they don't have after-Pentecost sales. :D


peace of Christ to you,
Jessica

p.s. I'm thinking that this would work best if you just have plain glasses and silverware, since they'd go with any kind of plate. Another way to do it would be to get placemats or tableclothes or cloth napkins for each of the church seasons. Also, how cool would it be to have something like that on the table to prompt coversations about God with the kids at dinnertime?

a post a day

Or close. That's what I want to do on this blog, but I've found the actual homemaking and church-going interfering with my grand plans.

So I'm trying something new. Using Blogger's cool "save as draft" feature, I'm going to plot out my posts on the weekend, and polish up one a day for posting. So check back often, there and you should find something new!

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

wfmw: healthy eating

(I have to start out by saying that my husband insists "wfmw" must be pronounced "oof-moo". Helpful, isn't he?)

Well, in keeping with the theme of this blog, my healthy eating tip has to to with church. My husband and I, and a lot of our friends, tended to go out to eat every Sunday after church. We're not rich, so it was usually the Carl's Jr. down the block, but still, that wasn't good for waistline or pocketbook.

So what we've started doing is packing a picnic lunch and sticking it in cooler bags in our trunk. After service, we stop at an arboretum that's between home and church, and have our picnic.

Sunday lunches are a great time to picnic. You know it's coming up and you can plan for it. And, honestly, just about anything you pack is going to be healthier than a burger and fries. It's just one meal a week, but losing weight's like saving money: little things add up.

So here's my recipe for a nice picnic bag:

-whole wheat crackers (like Breton, mmm!)
-a couple ounces of hard cheese
-a pop-top can of fruit (like peaches, double mm!)
-a 2-liter bottle of flavored seltzer
-cups, plates and a man with a pocket knife (to, um, cut the cheese)


Good food, good company, good conversation fodder (if you were paying attention during the sermon!), and a happy tummy! Works for me! Merry picnics, folks!

To see more WFMW tips, visit Shannon at Rocks in My Dryer.

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica

p.s. oh yeah, and I recommend inviting your fellow parishioners along with you after church. If it's the first time, they can just pick up their lunch on the way to the park, if it becomes a tradition, then everyone can brown-bag it. :)

Hurray for Three Kings Day!

I like finding books that tell stories about the holidays, and today at the library I found a good one.

It's called "Hurrah for Three Kings' Day" by Lori Marie Carlson, and it gets extra points right off the bat for using an apostrophe so well in its title.

It's illustrated by Ed Martinez, and it's a story of three siblings walking round the neighborhood, playing at being the "tres reyes", and looking for the baby Jesus.

One of the things I liked about it was that it illustrated Epiphany traditions from Hispanic culture, and included some Spanish words. I want my kids to grow up knowing that the church is bigger than just their own country and language.

Anyway, I think this is going to be reread a lot in this house, at least till we hit Lent!


peace of Christ to you,
Jessica

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. (See full disclosure on sidebar of my blog.)

happy Epiphany!

 I'm sorry I didn't manage to actually post on Epiphany, but it was a very busy day; Bess had her first public appearance: she was a flower girl in a dear friend's wedding.

So in my musing on homemaking through the church year this past Saturday, my mind wasn't
concentrating on the showing forth of Christ to the Gentiles.  Instead, I spent my time watching
my daughter, watching the bride, and occasionally eyeing the creche that was partially hidden
behind the line of groomsmen.

All of those images made me think about fruitfulness.  About how we put toddlers in weddings
because they're cute, but how the older reason for having young children bearing flowers before
the bride was to symbolize the hoped-for fruitfulness of the marriage.  It's old-fashioned now to think that first comes love, then comes marriage, and then comes the baby in
the baby carriage, and even more old-fashioned to think that the marriage necessitates the baby
carriage, sooner or later. 

But, more or less, I do.  The BCP puts it well: "when it is God's will, [marriage is for] the
procreation of children."  There are times, of course, that it is not his will.  But it is the normal
course of things.

Sarah and Dave, our newly-married friends, seemed to think so too, judging from the scriptures
they choose to have read.  The Psalm lavished them with blessings about progeny: may your wife
be a fruitful vine in your house, may your children be olive shoots around your table.

But, despite the small figure of the Christ-child peeking out behind the tuxedo forest, they got
married on Epiphany, and not during Christmas.   Epiphany, the time we remember the Three Kings, and Jesus' baptism.  The first showed Jesus to the whole world, represented by the wise men, and the second showed that world that Jesus was God's Son, when God the Father publically approved of him as he came up out of the water.

Marriage, when it's done right, is fruitful by its very nature.  Physically, there are the children. 
Spiritually, there are gifts of love and grace that have to come if two people are going to live
together peaceably.  And, in some mysterious sense, there is that third entity that is the married
couple, that one flesh that St. Paul refers to once, and then instantly insists that he was talking about Christ and the church.

And Epiphany is about fruitfulness too.  It's a big holiday for missionaries, for those who are busy spreading the gospel to those far reaches of the world that the wisemen represented.  It's
a time for the rest of us to pray for workers for the harvest, the workers Jesus once warned us
are so few.  The events of Epiphany represent the beginning of the spread of the good news that Jesus came to save us, and that "us" means EVERYBODY.   "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven
is at hand," preached John the Baptist.  And when he baptised Jesus, we saw the King to whom that kingdom belonged.

So, Sarah and Dave, here's a Epiphany wedding wish for you: may your marriage be glorious, like that glorious Bethlehem star was glorious.  May the brightness of your love, which grows out of the brightness of your Lord's love, show everyone around you that God is with us.

And may you have lots of cute babies.


peace of Christ to you,
Jessica

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

so what do you DO on the twelth day of Christmas?

If you're not a piper or a drummer, here are some ideas for how to enjoy the last few days of Christmas:

-sing carols with your kids
-sing carols door-to-door (surprise, neighbour!)
-read and reread the Magnificat (Mary's prayer), the Nunc Dimittis (Simeon's prayer), the Song of Zechariah and Elizabeth's greeting to Mary, all found in the beginning of Luke. These four powerful songs of praise to God reveal a lot about how we ought to feel about Jesus' incarnation. Mostly I get that I ought to be starting every sentence out of my mouth with, "Blessed be God! who . . ."
-learn how to make a Three Kings Cake. After all, Epiphany is right around the corner! ;)

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica

still Christmas

My experience of Christmas has changed since I started attending a liturgical church. Christmas used to be synonymous with the month of December. (With my birthday thrown in midway to change things up, of course.) Now the month of December is largely taken up with the season of Advent which is, of all things, a month of FASTING, and I find myself two days after the New Year with my Christmas lights still up. Stranger yet, they're still up not because I'm procrastinating, but because they are still supposed to be up; Christmas doesn't end till this Saturday.


There is no feeling to match the feeling of anticipation. Crushes are giddier and often more fun than relationships, and buying your textbooks more exciting than actually sitting down and studying them. Pregnancy is dreamier and rosier time than the midnight feedings that follow, and engagement is often more intoxicating than marriage.

But less real and less good.

You smell the meal, and your mouth waters, and you enjoy the sensation of your mouth watering. But it is watering FOR the meat. You are dreaming OF the baby. You are intoxicated ABOUT the man.

I had a high school English teacher who taught us that gratitude was the key to happiness. Looking at what you have and appreciating it. His suggestion was that if we were ever unhappy, we ought to take a hammer and pound our thumb with it as hard as we could. He swore that when the pain finally stopped, we'd be so happy not to be in pain, that we'd forget whatever we were unhappy about before.

Because of him, I often stop and thank God on days that I don't have a headache that I don't have a headache. That's been a good habit, and I'm grateful for his advice. Realizing how bad things could be puts things in perspective. Over the years I've added things like being thankful not to be in a war zone or not to have a dying child. Not that you're forsaken by God if that's where you are, but that if you're not there, you really ought to be grateful enough to notice.

But I think that being thankful for not being in pain only takes you so far. Like looking forward to what you don't yet have, it's a negative appreciation, somehow empty and unreal.

Rather, I want to enjoy what is actually happening, all these things in my life that have been long coming, long anticipated, and are now actually here. My babies. My husband.

And, of course, Christmas. The fast is over, and the feast is come. So:

"Alleluia. Unto us a child is born: O come, let us adore him.
Alleluia."

May the rest of your week be merry and bright!

peace of Christ to you,
-Jessica

WFMW: toddler memory verses

welcome to Homemaking Through the Church Year! I've decided to start this new blog off with a bang by participating in Works for Me Wednesday, hosted by Shannon at rocksinmydryer.typepad.com.


Here's the tip: you know how your two-year old toddles 'round the house all day, singing pieces of nursery rhymes and old folk songs? That means that she's just old enough to memorize, and just young enough to find anything - from TV ad to holy writ - fascinating.

So my tip is: take advantage of your toddler's propensity to repeat anything - and everything - over and over and over. Start by having her repeat the verse you want her to learn after you, and do it with enthusiasm. My favorite so far is "Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right." Short, sweet and - grin - such a USEFUL moral. Around our house it sounds something like this:

Me: CHILDREN!
Bess: CHILDREN!
Me: Obey your PARENTS!
Bess: Obey PARENTS!
Me: In the LORD!
Bess: In the LORD!
Me: For this is RIGHT!
Bess: For this RIGHT!


To make it stick better:
1) Start with something short.
2) Break up that short verse into even shorter bits.
3) Give it a nice rhythm when you recite it.
4) Recite it first, then have her repeat it in chunks, then have her recite it herself. Start a phrase and let her finish it.
5) Add actions; we point to emphasize "this is RIGHT!"
6) Recite it often, say after each meal and snack. Or before naps and bedtime. Or whatever works for you.

And that's what works for me! For more Works for Me Wednesday, visit rocksinmydryer.typepad.com.


-Jess

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

welcome!

Being a mom has changed how I attend church.  I can't help but notice as we move from Advent to Christmas, from Christmas to Epiphany, that the entire church calandar is set up like the best of preschools.  In a year, we are taken through the whole gospel, made to act out the stories, look at the pictures and sing the songs.   Even do our art projects, as we all sit in the pews the Sunday before Easter, folding palm crosses.  My dad, the literacy expert, would point out that all of the pantomime developed to teach this best of stories, the story of Jesus, to a preliterate society.  

I think "preliterate society" and I think of my two children, Bess and Gamgee.

And it fits, when you think about it.  Because, in a way, we're God's toddlers, and He's determined to hammer good discipline into us, for our own good, of course.  The church year is a tool in his hands, to remind us who He is, what He's done, and how much He loves us.

The church is also our home, the Body of Christ, that we are living in now, and will live on in even after death.  And when I say the General Confession on my knees every Sunday, it makes me think of how I have to clean the bathroom at home every week.  And when I greet friends during the peace, I think about how I need to notice and love my family.  And when I take communion, I think about how I nourish my nursing baby with my body in imitation of how God nourishes me.

Which is enough to say: I think there's a lot about the church year that I can learn by looking at my housework, and a lot about my job of homemaking that I can learn by studying the church year.   This blog is about church and home, and I hope you enjoy the journey with me.  

So, comment early, comment often and come back again! 

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica