"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

Monday, April 30, 2012

The Smell of Holiness

"When are you most holy? When you are most at your worldly vocation. When the baby cries, I hear God Himself calling me to change the poopy diaper. When you are in the poop to the fullest, you smell holiness. We are worldly and other worldly at the same time.”
~ excerpt from Steven Paulson in a podcast titled "Christian Liberty." He was paraphrasing Luther.

The small catechism has this wonderful question we can apply to most situations: “What does this mean?” One thing it means is that my quest to become more holy just might end up leading me back to the nursery changing table. There is no greater vocation than what is before us every day, that God has set before us: changing diapers, doing the laundry, making meals, etc. This brings glory to God and places importance on what most people would call the “dirty” jobs. After all, when I am restored to my vocation what could be more exciting than that fifth load of laundry; since it pleases God and smells not only like urp, but also like holiness!

On a side note: Someone should create a counter for blogs that would tally up the number of diapers we've changed. There could be some special badge to put on your site when you've changed your 500th,  1,000th,  or 5,000th diaper !  That would be a way more useful statistic than how many "friends" you have on Facebook. I mean really, how many of those so-called friends are actually committed enough to help out when there are poopy diapers to change? I consider that a true test of  friendship.

Friday, April 20, 2012

From Small Talk to Absolution

An excerpt from “Handing over the Goods”, an article by James Nestingen

“So, I suppose marriages and families are made of small talk. There are all kinds of routine information that gets shared. Carolyn and I are talking - everyday… She tells me about the weather, and she tells me about our dog, and who’s sick, and she tells me about her secretary who is visiting and what they’ve done, and I am very interested in that information. But, the magic always happens late in the conversation, and I know enough to wait for it. She expresses herself to me, and I express myself to her.

You see, that’s how love works. Love takes possession of the details. Love takes those little clich├ęs, the minutiae of the day and turns them into gifts. All of a sudden, out of the routine, out of the small stuff, Christ Jesus is breaking loose in the words. So the information, while it is helpful and essential, is really preparatory to this… your sin is forgiven. I’m going to raise you from the dead. No power is going to ever hold you. There, Christ Jesus is making love to you. He’s speaking his Word to you. He’s breaking loose again, you see, he is saying it. And that is what the Word does. The fundamental characteristic of the Word in Christ Jesus is its power."

           ~           ~           ~           ~           ~           ~           ~           

That's what we are longing for every day. Jesus breaking loose in the midst of the details, diapers, and dialogue of every day life. The forgiveness of sin, woven in and out of conversations about which brand of diapers is the best, or who can watch the kids when it's time to go to the dentist. "Your sin is forgiven" is what enables us to enjoy our vocation as mothers, taking care of all those details and the small talk. "Your sin is forgiven" is the best news every day. And it is a wonderful thing, to see it happen, again and again. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

"Only" a Mother

"They [mothers] are led, subtly but surely, to look on the mothering they do as mere necessity – even a penance – and they live as if they were reserving their real enthusiasm for something else, usually unspecified.”

- Robert Capon in Bed and Board

OUCH. How often have I thought along the lines of “Once I get the children taken care of and the housework done I’ll be able to do ______.”? Filling in the blank with some glorious, noble task which I personally enjoy and which other people can see and will praise. Really, what is more precious than loving and nurturing my children? This world has very mixed up values. Women have been demeaned, and all in the name of liberation. The vocation and gift of motherhood has been stolen from them. 

Capon goes on to write “A mother is the geographical center of her family, the body out of whom their diversity springs, the neighborhood in which that diversity begins ever so awkwardly to dance it’s way back to the true Body which is the Mother of us all. Her role then is precisely to be there for them. Not necessarily over there, just therethereness itself, if you will; not necessarily in her place but place itself.”

"Mothers do not make homes, they are home.”

Home. It is our name. When our children grow up they may not remember the color of the walls or much of what furniture was in the house, but they’ll remember a place where they felt at peace; where Mom watched over them. Like the gospel, our name and our vocation gets poured into our ears. We get to hear from God’s messengers. Rather than seeking our own happiness, we create joy for our children. We can throw ourselves into motherhood with a vengeance, knowing that taking care of each diaper, each snotty nose, and each skinned knee brings glory to God. I am not looking for a better horizon; I have been given the best horizon possible: child of God and nurturer of children of God.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Spread a little thin?

“Just as Christ put on the sinner for you, so you will ‘put on’ your neighbor.
In faith you do not live in your old self, as we have seen, but in Christ,
and then in the works that God produces through you for your neighbor
you once again do not live in yourself but come to live in others
by helping them with their needs.
You may begin to feel like you are being spread a little thin, but then again,
when the object of life is not to become righteous by the law,
giving yourself away doesn’t seem like a loss but a gain.”

Excerpt from Luther for Armchair Theologians ~ Steven Paulson

Yes. "You may begin to feel like you are being spread a little thin?" This seems to be happening every day! But when your object in life is no longer to prove that you are good enough for God, giving yourself to your neighbors – especially those who live in the same home – is not a loss, but a gain. Is there anything better than giving our time, life, and energy to the children and husband with whom God has blessed us?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

On my way to Emmaus

Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken
-Luke 24:25

It was Easter Sunday, so our pastor read out of Luke about the men on the road to Emmaus. Most of us at least know the gist of the story. Two disciples left Jerusalem after Jesus had been crucified only to meet Jesus without realizing who he was. It is easy to look down our smug noses at these people who could not seem to see past their own shoe laces (or sandal straps). Jesus plainly said that He would be crucified and raise from the dead! What was wrong with them?

Yet, Emmaus may be closer than I like to think. 

It was a typical day, my daughters were their happy, needy selves; both wanting 100% of my time. My husband was getting home soon so dinner needed to be ready. The laundry pile seemed higher than ever and my list of daily jobs wasn't done yet. I needed a savior. You know, someone to come in and make everything right. Someone to get the children in line, the laundry done, the dinner cooked, and give me a little "me" time to boot. After all, isn't that why Jesus came? To make my batting average go up, my children shape up, turn my husband into the gracious neighbor I've always dreamt of - waiting on me hand and foot? Then a friend called and asked how it was going. She understands having two very young kids and a third on the way, so she often will say hi. I told her all of my many, many troubles. 

" And he said unto them, What things? And they said unto him, Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, which was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people: And how the chief priests and our rulers delivered him to be condemned to death, and have crucified him. But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel: and beside all this, to day is the third day since these things were done. Yea, and certain women also of our company made us astonished, which were early at the sepulcher; And when they found not his body, they came, saying, that they had also seen a vision of angels, which said that he was alive."

Ok, I may have said it differently, but it was the same disappointed hope. I expected that since I am a Christian, things are supposed to get better. Jesus should hear my cries for help and send some kind of messenger to make everything the way I want it! He should say something like, "I know that you've had a hard day. I've had hard days too you know." But no - He says (and sometimes He sounds like my husband, a pastor's wife, or even my next door neighbor) "Oh you fool and slow of heart to believe! Didn't you know that I meet you in the mundane diapers, dinner, and dirty clothes? That is why you have them! Without trouble, you would never call on me, so I take on the mask of a traveler who doesn't know about the latest news from Jerusalem or maybe even about the children and husband I gave to you."

Then my understanding became opened and I realized that I am actually the most blessed person alive. I had been talking on the phone with Jesus for the past few minutes and through confession and forgiveness I can begin again, washed by His Word. The laundry still needs folded, dinner needs cooked, and my children need direction. Yet, what else would I rather be doing? Being a daughter of God is the highest calling. I could almost start running down the city streets caroling and waving hi to the blessed old building and loan like Jimmy Stewart; but I had better put the roast in the oven instead.