Wednesday, August 27, 2008

on necessity and free will

A post by my friend Sarah has gotten me thinking about duty and free will. And love.

Right now, I feel very tied down. Absolutely restricted. But not in any malevolent sense. I am simply bound.

I am bound by the demands of four children. I am bound to spend my waking hours tending to their needs and their comforts. Those take most of the time. I am moreover bound to their education and their sanctification.

But I walked into my restrictions of my own free will. My husband and I bound ourselves in our marriage vows, and the children follow logically.

But it's strange, nonetheless, because though children were what I signed up for, I did not expect four, ages four and under; I did not expect twins. I did not expect this.

So, in that way, it feels like I gave the Lord an inch and He took an ell, binding me to a regimen of hard, delightful labor.

It's a bizarre feeling to be doing exactly what I wanted to do, but without the liberty of doing anything else. I've always believed the maxim, "You can have it all, just not all at once" but I never before knew how few things you might be allowed at once.

Just this. I just need to do this. And do it, and do it, and learn to do it very well. There is no room - or very little - for anything other than my family.

(On a side note: I wish, wish, wish it were possible to explain to anyone who is not a parent of twims just how all-consuming having two babies at once is. It is the deepest blessing and the direst strain of your resources. My mother worried that we didn't know - in our head-deepness - how little margin we have in our lives right now. But I assured her, "oh, we know. Whenever we actually get a chance to talk, that's about all we talk about.")

But what is this one thing I'm learning? What is it the Lord has constrained me to learn?

Love. Love and obedience. I think the Lord decided, in His grace, to constrain me to learn to love and to obey.

And trust. He has taken me beyond my own resources, my own ability, and told me to obey anyway. And minute by minute, He has taken up the slack, multiplied my fishes, kept us afloat, cleared away again and again what seemed to be the storm that would surely drown us.

It is strange, to be forced to practice the virtue you always wanted. I think, if I keep obeying, I won't be able to help becoming a loving person. Not the selfish, crabbed one I was before. But a true Christian. Of my own free will, but only by God's constant badgering, constraining, helping, warning.

As I wrote on Sarah's blog: On my best days these days, my free will and my necessity are running in tandem, and I’m hoping that when necessity slackens, that my will keeps me going on this straight line of duty and delight. (Not of changing diapers, but of loving others.)

That's the thing? Can I keep doing it when I don't have to do it? So far, I don't think so. But I hope so. Someday.

By God's grace alone. Meanwhile, I'll do this. Thank you, Father, for this kindest of disciplines.

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Monday, August 25, 2008

Menu Plan Monday

Monday: tomato soup with basil grilled cheese sandwiches, and Crenshaw melon
Tuesday: freezer stash meal, with watermelon
Wednesday: pumpkin pie and whipped cream
Thursday: spicy peanut chicken over rice
Friday: dinner out
Saturday: sesame brown rice with shredded chicken and peanuts

The brown rice salad is a repeat, and I highly recommend making it the day before - it's one of those recipes that tastes even better the second day, y'know?

The spicy peanut chicken is a new one, and I'm interested in seeing how it turns out.

Tonight's dinner is the soup with grilled cheese (is there anything better than grilled cheese dipped in tomato soup?). But grilled cheese with BASIL - oh my. Just put some fresh basil in there with the cheese, and you've got something you'll think you should have paid twenty bucks for at a fancy lunch cafe. Mmmmm-mmm.

We don't have much room for a garden, but I do have potted basil growing on the patio! It's a summer must. :)

For more great menus, visit Org Junkie.

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

p.s. Oh, and the pumpkin pie for dinner? Sometimes, you just have to have pumpkin pie.


I made ants on a log (celery spread with peanut butter and dotted with raisins) with the older kids today. I've been trying to think of ways to get more veggies into their lives. They're fruitavores, and they Hoover plums, bananas, apples, necterines, you name it, every day. But veggies are harder because they take more prep. (They take more prep because, in my opinion, most of them taste much better cooked.)

They do get plenty of veggies with dinner, usually, because I cook things that have a lot of vegetables in them. But I'd like to supplement that a bit, hence the ants on a log. (Other hits are carrot sticks with ranch dressing, frozen veg microwaved with a bit of butter and salt, and sneaking handfuls of Mom's mixed greens salad - if I'm eating it, they want some.)

So, Bess and Gamgee were sitting at the table, enjoying their veggie creation, and Bess declared, "Mom, I think we should say that the peanut butter is the ants' poop."

Whatever makes it tastier, dear. :)

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Saturday, August 23, 2008

oh so true

I found this when I was reading through a comic book while, coincidentally nursing twins. So true! So true!

Friday, August 15, 2008

tears running down my cheeks

It might just be that I'm tired, but my husband and I looked at all the pictures on this site tonight, and I at least laughed hard enough that I had tears running down my face. See: Cake Wrecks. Go ahead, scroll through the archives.

happy feast day!

And may I point you over to this delightful Assumption post by Melissa Wiley?

Hope your day was good.

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

on baths

I discovered, btw, that a bucket and a cup can do wonders on sandy kids.

I've also discovered, while we're on the topic of odd clean-up jobs that a vacuum's upholstery attachment is just the thing for taking care of the stream of ants who've discovered the leftover food in your son's booster chair.

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

biology may not be destiny after all

So, you have two babies. They share every strand of DNA. They have the exact same milk for breakfast, lunch and dinner. (And second breakfast, third breadfast, fourteenth lunch, etc., ad infinitum.)

And one poops every day, several times a day.

The other poops once a week.

You tell me this world isn't a mysterious and marvelous place.

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

oh dear

so far, I've avoided giving the kids baths when my husband isn't home. After all, what do you do with twin babies while you have two toddlesr in the tub?

I think I might have to figure that out.

See, my idea was that Bess and Gamgee could play with water on the porch, with buckets and cups and dishtubs and all good things.

My idea was NOT that they'd get into the sandbox with the water.

Silly me.

St. Mary's Day for children

I started to tell Bess, my 4 year old, about Mary's Day, and before I had a chance to tell her how we were going to celebrate it, she burst out, "We could pick flowers!"

Indeed! Funny how kids tumble to things sometimes!

Picking flowers is a traditional way to celebrate Mary's life. Roman Catholics will decorate her statues with flowers on Assumption Day. We don't have any statues of Mary, but we have some icons of Mary and Jesus, and I like the idea of making a small wreath (as Bess and I often do with the clover she picks out of the grass) and hanging it 'round the icon.

It's really, if you think about it, not that different than taking flowers to a friend's grave. It's a way of celebrating what God accomplished in the life of his servant, and remembering her willing obedience to Him, and encouraging ourselves to follow her example.

Here are some other ways to celebrate St. Mary's Day with children:
-draw a picture of her.
-read Bible story books about the Nativity or finding the boy Jesus in Jerusalem or the crucifixion, when Jesus told John to take care of his mother.
-make cookies with blue icing (use food coloring). Blue is the traditional color for Mary, and as you make the cookies, you can talk about how blue reminds us of Heaven, and how Mary welcomed heaven into her heart when she welcomed God into her life. And about how she is in Heaven now. This can lead to a conversation about salvation.
-talk about people you might know who are named after Mary, and how we name people after saints to encourage us to love God like they did.

As always, it's a good day to sing "I Sing a Song of the Saints of God".

How are the rest of you celebrating this Friday?

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Monday, August 11, 2008

of the Virgin Mary

This Friday is Mary's day. In Anglicanism, we celebrate it as her "falling asleep day" or "the Dormition", the day she died and went to be with God. The Roman Catholics celebrate it as the Assumption. I once heard an Episcopal priest explain the Feast of the Assumption and then observe, "of course, as Anglicans, we feel free to call it just that: an assumption!" :)

In either case, it is a day to celebrate the Mother of God, the woman who was a model for the whole church in the way she bent her own will to the will of the Lord. There is no better answer to God's commands than Mary's, "May it be to me as you have said." In this, she sets an example for us all.

Now that the babies are six months old, and life has a rhythm again (it's staccato, but it's a rhythm), I am trying to find my way back into the celebration of the church year. It seems like spending the week thinking about Mary is a good place to start.

I don't pray to the saints, but I take deep comfort in their example of faithfulness, and know that there is a lot for me to learn from studying their lives and words. And as my primary job right now is mothering, Mary is someone I want to spend a week meditating on.

Again, life is very full right now with the babies, so I'm setting myself an easy task: memorizing the Magnificat. I have it near to memorized, having read it often and often during Morning Prayer. But I don't have it quite by heart. I'd like to by the end of the week, and I'm planning on copying it over today so that I can read it while I nurse, or prop it on the counter while I do the dishes. I'd encourage you to do the same, if you are looking for a devotion fitting to the season. And, if you get a chance, read the first chapters of 1 Samuel, to see where Mary's prayer echoes Hannah's.

So, that's my celebration this week. I plan on doing my next post on how you can celebrate Mary's Day with children. There are some cool traditions that have grown up throughout the years that can be adapted to use with toddlers and preschoolers. Stay tuned!

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Menu Plan Monday

Monday: Easy Cinnamon Bread, lunch meat and fruit
Tuesday: Beef and Broccoli w/ rice, casaba melon
Wednesday: picnic cavier with corn chips, watermelon
Thursday: carne asada with corn tortillas, broiled grapefruit
Friday: dinner at folks;
Saturday: yummy pasta salad

I miss baking, but don't have time to do baked goods AND get a meal on the table every night - not with four small children to take care of too!

So I have a new strategy: every week or two, we have a baked good for dinner! That's the explanation of tonight's cinnamon bread supper. Last week we had a supper of apple-pear scones and bacon.

However, we got invited out for supper tonight, so intead of being the main dish, the cinnamon bread has become the dessert we're bringing along to our host's house.

For more menus, visit Org Junkie.

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell