"Your body is the first thing any child of man ever wanted. Therefore dispose yourself to be loved, to be wanted, to be available. Be there for them with a vengeance. Be a gracious, bending woman. Incline your ear, your heart, your hands to them.... To be a Mother is to be the sacrament - the effective symbol - of place. Mothers do not make homes, they are our home." from Bed and Board, Robert Farrar Capon

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The wife is like the fire.

     "...There must be in every center of humanity one human being upon a larger plan: 
one who does not "give her best," but gives her all.

Our old analogy of the fire remains the most workable one.  The fire needs not blaze like electricity nor boil like boiling water: its point is that it blazes more than water and warms more than light.  

The wife is like the fire, or to put things in their proper proportion, the fire is like the wife.

Like the fire, the woman is expected to cook: not to excel in cooking, but to cook; to cook better than her husband who is earning the coke by lecturing on botany or breaking stones.

Like the fire, the woman is expected to tell tales to the children, not original and artistic tales but tales - better tales than would probably be told by a first class cook....

Woman must be a cook, but not a competitive cook; a school mistress, but not a competitive school mistress; a house decorator, but not a competitive house decorator; a dress maker, but not a competitive dress maker.  She should not have one trade but many hobbies; she, unlike the man, may develop all her second bests....

Women were not kept at home in order to keep them narrow;
on the contrary, they were kept at home in order to keep them broad."

from The Emancipation of Domesticity, What's Wrong With the World, by G. K. Chesterton

By the Hearth, by Platt Powell Ryder

(You gotta love that last line!)

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Weaving of a Story

"Why do I have to make my bed every morning if I'm just going to sleep in it again tonight?"

I'm sure every mother has been asked that question at one time or another, and perhaps even felt a fluctuating doubt of her own as she answered.  The child certainly must be told some sort of solid answer to this question, but even more importantly, the mother must have a solid answer for herself.  Because without it, the subtle "what a waste," and "who really cares about any of this?" and "what's the use?" implied in that question have the potential to cause major upheaval in the domestic value system of her heart and in her home.  I realized this when my son asked me that question a while back. (His motives were anything but philosophical. Just laziness at its best. ;)  But I pondered it for a many days afterward.  The quick-shot answer I gave him on that rushed morning before school wasn't satisfactory.  I would like him to have a better one.

I believe Martin Luther's explanation of the fourth petition of The Lord's Prayer provides a much better answer than the one I gave that morning.  It's from "Give us this day our daily bread."
God gives daily bread, even without our prayer, also to all the wicked; 
but we pray in this petition that He would lead us to know it, 
                                           and to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving.

Luther goes on to say that "daily bread" includes everything that belongs to the supports and wants of the body. Then a bed is an example of something in that category. If we are to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving, acknowledging it as a gift from God, then caring for it is part of recognition of this.  After all, we pray each petition, not for God's sake, but that we would come to know it.  I think this is a great reason my children should make their beds each morning. They learn that no thing in their life is just there to be used, and simply disposed of at their convenience, but should be recognized as an undeserved gift and benefit, and therefore tended and cared for as such, for their own sake, and their neighbor's as well (especially if they share a room :).  I believe this is part of how they come to know it.

As for a mother, the answer seems to be much bigger, since it seems most of her daily work consists of things that will only get messed up again tomorrow.  Or five minutes from now.

So why?  And who really does care?  And what is the use?   I believe it's more than the thing in itself.

Something from a C. S. Lewis article I had read long long ago found its way back to the forefront of my thoughts lately on this subject.  After much searching I found it again in his article, On Stories, and I feel that it has a great correlation to the settling of this question from a mother's perspective: 

"It must be admitted that the art of Story as I see it is a very difficult one.  To be stories at all they must be series of events; but it must be understood that this series - the plot, as we call it - is only really a net whereby to catch something else.  The real theme may be, and perhaps usually is, something that has no sequence in it, something other than a process and something much more like a state or quality....

Shall I be thought whimsical if I suggest that this internal tension in the heart of every story between the theme and the plot constitutes its chief resemblance to life?....   In life and art both, as it seems to me, we are always trying to catch on our net of successive moments something that is not successive."

It's not just about making a bed for the thousandth time.  It's not just about making a dinner for the thousandth night.  It's not just about washing, drying, and folding the thousandth shirt that is only going to be soiled and wrinkled again.  It's about telling a Story.  It's about the daily string of these seemingly trivial successive events that becomes one more thread weaving a net, a home, a worldview, but more importantly, faith, trust and contentment in one's God given vocation that catches up and forms the people who are in this home.

When a husband puts on his carefully ironed shirt in the morning and comes home to the smell of a good meal at night, or when a boy walks into his room after school and faintly senses that something's different, not necessarily noticing that all the little mounds of dirty socks have magically disappeared, or that the dresser has been dusted, or that the closet has been organized, or that his bedspread has been tucked in neatly, but feeling a sense of welcoming, like a sweet smell suddenly filling his room and his being, that net has caught him for a second. It has told him a story.  Mom's been here.  Mom cares.  It is good when someone cares.

It happens in a thousand little ways, all stranding together, rendering value to life, in minutes.  By living in a house where things are cared for, because people are cared for, because this God-given realm of responsibility is cared for, fulfilled in daily trust and surrender to God's perfect will, a daughter learns that there's nothing out of the ordinary or wasteful in making beds every day, or ironing clothes over and over, or cutting up all those vegetables for just one meal, or taking the time to place everything on the platter nicely to be pleasing to the eye of the partakers.  It's more than a series of events.  It's a Story being lived out, being passed on to the next generation.  It's a story that our lives are to be poured out in service to our neighbor, just as Jesus poured the water over his disciples' feet and washed them.  He being Lord of all, emptied himself, took the form of a servant, and we are to do likewise.  When that net has caught you, your whole perspective on life changes.

"And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, 
giving thanks to God the Father through Him."
Colossians 3:17

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Critical State Thickens

They're In For It Now
      Husband and wife, however, are only the beginning of the hierarchy.  Under normal conditions, involvement in matrimony means entering something like what scientists call a critical state. 
The situation, not to mention the wife, becomes pregnant with possibilities. And when those possibilities are actualized they begin to require minding and feeding, they conduct interminable conversations on the telephone, they borrow cars, get into scrapes, and generally cause their parents to wonder, what it was they could possibly have had in mind. 
The happy couple have let themselves in for Fatherhood and Motherhood, and it is the unvarnished irreversibility of those vocations that brings us to the next course of stones.

Here again, the building up of the Body, the fruition of the Mystery, operates through the divine comedy of hierarchy among equals.  Here again - this time as parents and children - human beings of equal worth, but with diverse functions, are set in a dance in order that their separateness might become membership in each other.  Here again, persons are invited into the Coinherence through love."

Bed and Board, pg. 57, by Robert Farrar Capon, 1965

(This is the quote Jane referred to in the comment section of the previous post.  
She is, understandably, just a little busy right now, so I'm saving her the trouble.  :)

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Are Mothers Crazy?

Yes, we mommies are indeed crazy. We want children, even though during pregnancy we often have weeks and months of the worst sickness imaginable, great weariness, and other physical afflictions. I have heard that there are some fortunate women who actually enjoy all nine months of their pregnancy, in happy, eager anticipation. But that is not the case for most of us. Finally the big day comes for "the baby to arrive". That sounds so exciting and pleasant. Huh. It is pretty exciting. When I was in labor for the first time I realized I had never experienced real pain until then. I thought I was going to die. Then the doctor handed her to me. I was so happy my tears changed from tears of pain to tears of joy. God actually gave this little miracle to her daddy and me! What did we do to deserve her? Nothing. The Lord had blessed us above anything we could have imagined. 

So, we mothers go through all this and still consider a child one of the greatest gifts the Lord can bestow on us. And then we love them so much we want more of them and are willing to go through it all again! It's an incredible cycle. See what I mean? We're crazy!

And yes, this is an announcement. My third little baby is on the way.

Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Christian Vocation - Issues, Etc. Broadcast

This is a great broadcast from Issues, Etc.

Christian Vocation, Part 3: 

Husbands, Wives, Parents & Children – Pastor Peter Bender  


Here's an excerpt to whet your appetite:

"If God couldn't even keep Adam and Eve in line, we should not think that as earthly fathers we are going to you be able to make everybody tow the line and make everybody do what is right in the home and all the children be dutiful, etc.... We can only do what we're given to do in our vocation. [carrying out the duties of our office]  That's a call to live by faith... The conversion of the hearts of our children is going to be up to God, working it when and where He pleases."

It reminds me of how our pastor always says, to comfort a parent whose child is actually shown to be a sinner (shocking, I know!), "Adam and Eve had perfect parents, and look what happened to them."

It is good, encouraging, instructional, comforting - for husbands, wives, and parents. 
Listen to the whole thing, all the way to the end.  You won't be sorry! I promise.
Okay, I don't promise because the Bible says not to, but some of the really good stuff is at the end. :P

(Click on the broadcast title to listen to it.)