Smart Help

Worship Fully:  From “My Utmost” – “My questions come whenever I cease to obey. When I have obeyed God, the problems never come between me and God, they come as probes to keep the mind awake and amazed at the revelation of God. Any problem that comes between God and myself springs out of disobedience; any problem, and there are many, that is alongside me while I obey God, increases my ecstatic delight, because I know that my Father knows, and I am going to watch and see how He unravels this thing.”

Spend Less:  Instead of running out and buying something, I managed to scramble together an acceptable snack for Judah’s helper day:  chocolate-covered pretzels and string cheese.  AND Judah got to help make the pretzels (an excellent sprinkle distributor, if I do say so):  double score!

Give More:  In the early morning feeding hours I listened to a podcast of Rick Steves, which I always enjoy, but this time it was a show entitled Smart Help for the Developing World:  “Rick explores practical solutions to addressing world hunger in the 21st century with guests from a preacher-economist who heads a non-profit agency advocating for the interests of hungry people around the world to a Kenyan agricultural specialist who helps address policies and markets benefiting people in developing nations.”  One story stood out from a woman in Africa who, although her country had poverty and great hunger, labored to get ships from First World countries full of donated flour to be sent back; when that flour floods the country, the native growers (who grow their own flour) can’t get money for their crops, and the cycle of poverty continues.  Interesting how mindless giving can hurt, not help.

Love All:  My darling daughter cried for most of the day.  I think it was because I spent most of the weekend telling folks how easy-going and laid-back she is:  she wanted to assert her right to be a fussy baby.  🙂  It’s hard to find love when she can’t settle down on my chest to nap and the middle-born is voicing quite loudly the injustice of a mandatory quiet time (not so quiet) and the eldest is complaining that everyone is too loud (no kidding).  🙂  My mom always says how quiet it is when we all leave her house, and how she misses the noise.  I know some day I will miss it as well …. someday.

The Ministry of Snuggling

Worship Fully:  This evening the family was planning on attending a special seasonal worship service at our faith community.  But the kids and I napped, and I just couldn’t pull it together, so Jason went on without us (he was playing with those leading musical worship).  At first I felt profound guilt:  “You should have bucked up and gone!”  “You chose to stay home rather than worship God!”  “You are choosing comfort over worship!”  Condemnation upon condemnation.  Then I ate something, and as the blood sugar rose, a sense of normality started to return.  The kids and I had a really good evening.  Nothing out of the ordinary:  helping me make dinner, playing computer games, taking a long bath, reading Christmas stories on my bed, drinking hot cocoa with marshmallows.  But we spent time together – non-demanding, enjoying each others’ company, reading about “One Baby Jesus Sleeping Peacefully.”  And I felt that Spirit in the Every Day, and felt greatly blessed.

Spend Less:  I made laundry detergent.  Spent less money, know what’s going into my laundry, and hopefully it’s not mucking up the water system as much.

Give More:  My Sunday School is spending time exploring the concept of diversity.  I’ve heard it said that if a faith gathering is not racially and socio-economically diverse, then it’s not truly living and working in the will of God.  I’m not so sure about that statement:  I see a lot of truth in it, but there’s something else about that …. Something for me to give more attention to, as uncomfortable as it can make me.

Love All:  Today I spent most of worship making faces at my daughter.  And as she went all googoo eyed and wide-grinned and cooing, I wondered if Mary ever did the same thing at the Tabernacle.  If Christ looked half as cute as Josephine did today, it would be easy and hard to love others:  my heart was full, but if others hurt my child, I’d be that much more hurt.

Yvonne

Today we celebrated an amazing woman’s life and legacy.

She Worshiped Fully:  from laughing and loving and writing notes asking forgiveness in advance as a child (so funny!) to caring for and praying for and giving to those in need.

She Spent Less:  jokes of her ability to get grocery stores to pay her for taking their products (maximum couponing!), stories of her sharing with others because she didn’t want or need to take, a note from her to her mother saying moms should receive gifts on their children’s birthdays because the moms really did all the work (and now could she get her driver’s license? :)).

She Gave More:  time to her family, prayers to those who did and did not want them, attention to drawing her family and others together for game nights and traveling adventures, voice and beauty and “grace” as she performed with her family on stage, her home to those who needed food and shelter, an ear to those who needed a safe place to confide.

She Loved All.

You legacy in Christ is strong and sweet, Yvonne; may it remind us to draw closer to Christ each and every moment.

Just a Day

Worship Fully:  While reading a lift-the-flap nativity book, Judah asked online canadian pharmacy me questions like, “Why was there no room?”  “Where were they going?”  And as I was summarizing the story for him, I wondered, “Was Mary miffed at Joseph that there was no room?”  Let me tell you, when I was in labor, if Jason didn’t know where we were going and could guarantee that I’d have a clean bed and help with the experience, there would be some STRONG words said.  “Really?  We have to do this census thing NOW?  You couldn’t have arranged for a room?  REALLY?”  Ah, Mary, I’m sure you were more gracious than I am: perhaps something to think about in my daily interactions.

Spend Less:  Today I heard a friend announce that he no longer ate meat:  “Correction:  I don’t eat *commercial* meat.”  His family had us over for a wonderful dinner, part of which was a “happy chicken” (free range/organic), although I don’t know how happy any chicken is in a crockpot.  🙂   His family had gone in with a group of people to purchase a large quantity of fryers, bringing down the price.  Happy meat sure is monetarily expensive and can take a while to find and process (spendy timewise), but I wonder if we end up spending less in the long run:  on doctors for health reasons, on food by making meat more of an accent than the main ingredient, on the world’s resources from packaging to shipping to the horrible conditions the animals exist in.
Give More:  Today I gave more personal space to my kids.  From eating breakfast with not one, but two people on my lap; from nursing one and reading to two others at the same time; from letting the eldest have input into what should be served in my cafe on Facebook:  I want to remember that this time shall pass, and soon I’ll be begging to give them a hug instead of the other way around.
Love All:  Another rough day – just feeling a bit beaten down.  But hearing the giggles of my boys with their friends, racing around with light sabers and foam swords galore, I realize my heart is filled with love from and for our community, and even when I’m tired and just want to crawl into bed, it’s much better to be with friends and family (and yummy food).  🙂

Simple as a Drink of Water … Or Not

Worship Fully:  got to engage in song with wonderful women as we mourned and rejoiced as the physical passing of a friend.  So happy she’s dancing with the saints, but selfishly sad for our missing of her body in our midst.

Spend Less:  Today’s speaker at WBF shared her reflections on Luke 17 & 18.  So many stories packed into two chapters!  Christ doesn’t seem to be one to babble. 🙂   What stood out to me were stories regarding water.  First, she told of a time when she went to a pumpkin patch with her extended family.  She was about to buy a bottle of water, having forgot her water bottle at home.  She offered it to others, and her grown son said that he no longer drinks from bottled water:  much of it is bottled by Nestle, who has bought the rights to water in countries where people desperately need water and can no longer have access to it because of our consumerism.  She also shared how when hosting kids from an African choir they could not get over her washing machine:  “You mean water just comes in there?”

When I spend more, others have to spend less.  I heard someone recently define rich as “when I am rich, it means I am taking from others who can no longer have.”  When I drink water without thinking where it comes from, I am taking from others who don’t have; my need to be quenched creates a thirst in them.

Give More:  I’m not so much a baby person:  give me a teenager any day, and let’s have awesome conversations and go do stuff.  But babies:  they sure take a lot, and don’t give a lot, that is, if you’re a person who wants to go and do.  I’ve never been a sit & cuddle person as my folks can tell you – I held them at arms length pretty much since day one.  And when I have an infant of my own, I’m easily babied-out.  But today I actually wanted to hold someone else’s baby:  he was born one day after my daughter, and he reminds me of my boys – a bit more on the fussy side, active side, wearing his mama out side.  See, she had a girl first:  a cuddler.  Me, the opposite.  And now that I have little miss “let me smile at you to show you all the insides of my mouth:  see, this is how big I can get it!” girl, I don’t mind pacing with the active boy:  I have something of me to give.  Finally.  That sure is nice.

Love All:  Funny how I just talked about loving on my friend’s boy, and yet I had not a lot of love for my own boys this afternoon.  It’s too easy to whang on myself, so I’m just going to put this day away and look forward to a day tomorrow with new opportunities to create and play and love, or at least try to keep the tiredcrabbies to myself.  🙂

Tradition as Alternative

Worship Fully – Last night over knitting needles and peanut butter cookies, some friends and I had a discussion about the alternative gathering our faith community is having on Sunday night.  One of my friends couldn’t figure out why she was on the planning group and how the service was alternative.  Finally the realization came, “You mean Tradition is alternative to Quakers?”  Yes, my Presbyterian friend.  🙂

Spend Less – It’s hard to read blogs online about all the amazing, crafty, wonderfully planned out things mothers are doing with their kids during this holiday season.  I feel like all my time is spent reacting:  to calls of hunger, needs of diaper changes, books desired to be read, cleaning up the messes as a result of not being able to split into three separate people.  But I have a goal of spending less time beating myself up:  baby steps to four o’clock.  There may not be pictures of crafty things from our abode, but at least the kids will still have a mom, and that should count for something, eh?

Give More – Again, see the amazing things others are doing; frustrated I’m not doing the same.  But is this the season of focusing on others, or focusing on Christ?  When I know who I am in Christ, I will be doing what I should.

Love All – My son came and gave me a big hug today.  True, it’s because he wanted candy from his Advent calendar, but it’s still nice to hear the “I love you, Mama.”  And today I found out that some friends might get to hear those same words:  they’ve been in the process of adoption, and through *crazy* circumstances are meeting the mother of their potential daughter.  It’s a story to share another day once things start to pan out, but needless to say, a whole lot of love has been/is being poured in their directions.  Yay!

Day Late

When it’s 11:15pm and you haven’t posted and the page won’t come up, you can wait to write until morning.

Worship Fully – Listening to the latest Rob Bell talk always puts me in a pondering, in a good way, kind of mood.  Discussing the functionality (or not) of structures within my denomination puts in in a pondering, but not such a good way, kind of mood.  Pointing out that a number of former members of the area headquarters now live in fairly remotes areas makes me laugh, in a nervous kind of way.

Spend Less – I’m wondering about spending less time focusing on the muck that I can’t change and focusing on the things that are life giving or I’m being called to.  But sometimes that muck is as hard to let go of or scrub off as the slug I found on my carrot in the fridge:  bleck.

Give More -I made my last CSA pickup run of the year.  Our farmers are past due with their first child, so next week’s pickup is most likely a celebration of one bundle of a human life rather than a bundle of yummy, organic veggies.  Which is great;  they’ve been packing our past deliveries with an overabundance in anticipation.  They give more, knowing there is a time when they may not be able to give.  I want to live in that sort of abundant spirit.

Love All – My ministry of cookie baking continues.  I may not be able to distill grief or feed the world or change economic times, but I can provide a small treat that says, “I love you, and we’ll get through this time” via molasses or peanut butter or chocolate chip.

Surrender

Worship Fully.

Spend Less.

Give More.

Love All.

When I got into the car this evening, the radio played the song “Surrender” by U2 (my boys).  Seemed appropriate since my friend surrendered her physical existence this evening.  Yvonne, thank you for your sweet presence and wonderful legacy:  thank you for being who you were, surrendered to Christ.

That’s Why We Give?

Worship Fully:  Didn’t make it to corporate worship this morning – sniffles, aches, and sleepyheads.  But I tried to slow down the day, not engage in the hustle and bustle of being at home (laundry, cleaning, etc.).  The tree was decorated, manger scenes played with, and some cleaning happened, but that was during quiet time, so it doesn’t count, right?  🙂

Spend Less:  Like I said, I was going to spend less time doing the things I feel *need* to get done.  Normally I would dive into the laundry with the air of martyrdom about me while everyone else rested.  Instead, I sat.  I sat with a baby on my lap and looked at the tree.  In the evening Jason asked if he could help start laundry:  who am I to say no? 🙂

Give More:  Today I gave more thought as to why we give at all.  At lunch time while reading a Parenting Magazine  I came across a section explaining brief synopsis to give to kids about the variety of holidays occurring this time of year.  The Christmas explanation stated that we give presents in remembrance of the magi who gave gifts to the Baby Jesus.  For some odd reason I’ve never made that connection.  I would say something about St. Nick giving gifts and celebration of Christ’s birth, but I never tied it to the Magi.

Which got me thinking:  if it’s in remembrance of that event, then the whole Christmas holiday is really mucked up!  Obviously.  But really:  if we’re going to be like the magi, we should be giving gifts to Christ, not each other.  True, I could use a Quaker principle as a cop-out, “But I’m giving to that of Christ in others!”  🙂  But how is giving a DVD player to another person honoring the birth of the Christ child?  Yes, the magi’s gifts were extremely costly, so we need to spend ourselves into debt?  OR we give of something that’s truly costly to us.  For myself:  it’s my quiet time – I *love* to be by myself, to think and write and read and be.  To give that time to my kids, to do something they want to do whether I find it a good use of time or not, that is costly to me.  And I think that might be honoring of Christ ….  Just some interesting thoughts.

Love All:  I don’t know that I loved all today, but I certainly felt loved by my family.  I’ve been feeling under the weather, and my husband took care of the kids this morning.  He held the baby when she cried, he front-packed her while sorting through gobs of laundry, and he asked repeatedly how he could help today.  My sons gave me lots of hugs, cuddles, and made all sorts of appropriate yummy noises when I made them hot (lukewarm) cocoa with marshmallows and candy cane bits.  And my daughter made all sorts of gummy smiley faces at me.  I am truly blessed by these people in the small things and the big things.

Rattle …. and Hum

Worship Fully:  Family attended Jason’s work Christmas extravaganza, minus the real worship aspect of it (too bloomin’ cold!).  But I think connecting with friends, watching kids decorate cookies and go bizerk, and reflecting on the season counts.

Spend Less:  Money – not so much.  After my grocery shopping trip, my husband asked, “What?  Did you buy out the whole baking section?”  To which I responded:  “Yeah.”  Cookie baking is my love language, and now is a great time to stock up the potential blessings.  🙂

Give More:  Normally I use the self check at the grocery store, but today I decided to take the baking isle, I mean, my cart to a “normal” checkout line.  I enjoy the self check because I can keep my ear buds in, listening to the word puzzles on A Way With Words while scanning to my heart’s content.  But today:  not so much.  Instead, I chatted with the clerk and found out that a) she has two daughters very close together, one that wants to bake cookies all the time, which she had a problem with (I had to share why that’s a good thing); 2) she makes an awesome homemade pizza (sometimes using a Pillsbury box mix marketed as cinnamon rolls – hmmm); iii) she’s eaten at the pizza shop that my husband worked at in high school – small world!  So, I gave of my free ears, and my attention, and I think that made the few minutes of shopping closure enjoyable for both.

Love All:  Instead of talking about how I did or did not love all today, I’d rather focus on a woman who is known for her love.

When I first attended Women’s Bible Fellowship, I hadn’t participated in a group activity for some time, and I’m certain I had spitup on my shoulder.  I was late, having to sneak in and take a seat up front at a table with women I didn’t know, which almost had me run for the hills, but then women started sharing about how their summers were.  One woman stood up and talked about her breast reconstructive surgery and how women had thrown her a party when it was done, complete with a cake shaped like a boob.  My two thoughts:  I can’t believe these pillars of the church community are talking about things like boobs – they must be real people after all! and if they can talk about boobs within five minutes of the gathering starting, then I can be okay here.

This wonderful woman had had cancer, fought it, won, and then had a relapse.  Recovery, and another relapse.  And now she’s within days of leaving us physically.  Our women have prayed over her, the church community has prayed over her, friends have experienced insomnia and deep soul groanings over her suffering and imminent passing.  She is a woman I did not know well personally, but she embodied warmth and acceptance and love that only comes from knowing Christ.  She persisted in praying for everyone, loving them even if they didn’t appear to want to be loved.  She walked with people through hard times, and she allowed us to walk with her through these past years of pain.

I’m sure I saw her as a tyke.  Her uncle was my childhood pastor, and her family was known for their musical abilities, so I’m sure they came to my church and performed.  Such beautiful harmonies I’ve heard her family blend together, most recently as they’ve sung hymns and songs of praise to her in her sun room to help ease her pain and do the thing they seem to love best:  worship the Lord together.

This evening an update was given stating that she now has the “death rattle”:  a sound in the chest present hours or days before passing.  To think that a body capable of creating such beautiful sounds is now involuntarily giving off that kind of noise:  I don’t want that to be the last thing her family hears!

But then I realize that it’s only for a short while, and hopefully their memories of her past songs, words, actions – the natural hum of her true self will reign dominant as she’ll be singing as she was created to with the other saints.  And I hope, oh I hope, her family and loved ones will feel that hum in their daily lives, because you know she’ll be interceding like nothing else.  Lord, transform that rattle into a hum; thank you for letting Christ love us through her; may we continue with the melody today and everyday.