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Monday, August 6, 2018

Real Life. True Confessions. OR Still Thankful for My Babies

It's been a day...and night. Clara's definitely teething more (her upper left molar came in late last week and the other one year old molars are on their way), and she may also have a cold (but it could be all teething symptoms too). She's working on standing by herself, including getting up to stand with no help. So, between all those things, she was restless and couldn't breath through her nose. She went to bed late, and then woke every 45 mins to one hour between 10 pm and 12:45 am. Then I couldn't get her back to sleep and tried every conceivable arrangement. She just could not breath through her nose. Finally, she fell back asleep in her bed around 2 am, at which point I finally fell asleep for the first time. The girls work shortly before 6 am. So I slept about 4 hours.

Today was Aldi day, and I didn't know what to do since I figured she'd really need that morning nap. Well, she didn't go down at her usual time, so we headed to Aldi (I and all 4 kids). When we got there, I realized that I had forgotten my list. So now I'm trying to remember my list, which I had written the night before (YES, I KNOW. WHY DID I HANDWRITE IT), while dealing with a very fuzzy brain and several children asking me non-stop questions. I only forgot one thing, btw. Aldi was a little disappointing today as the produce looked not so great and they didn't have quite a few of the items on my list. So we headed home. Clara fell asleep and transferred to her crib. She slept from about 10:20-12:45, which was great, but now she's awake while the other two are napping. It was a hard nap too (see handprint on cheek photo, something I've only ever seen before with her sister, Helene).

The rest of us unloaded groceries and made lunch. There was a lot of squabbling. Helene jumped on the couch and hurt her finger. I was pretty sure I had bought some I REALLY thought I had put them in the cart, but they were nowhere to be found. Finally, I checked the receipt, and apparently HADN'T bought any.

It's been a day so far of confusion, constant interruption, lots of fighting among the kids, and Matthias threw the hymnal on the floor during Matins, so he's in big trouble. BUT Thomas has been helpful, Clara is super happy and sweet now that she's slept, and I had a cup of tea. Matthias randomly started singing one of his VBS songs as we left for Aldi (All Who Believe and are Baptized) and worked really hard to refresh his memorization (with Helene listening raptly). Helene and I read a story from her Little House picture book treasury. This is a harder day than normal. Matthias and Helene also are ill, though Helene doesn't really act it. But we'll get through this one. We just seemed to choose the worst possible time to move Clara into Helene's room as it turns out, but Helene slept through all that crying last night, so I guess it proves that when all are well, it should work out okay?

Today I'm tired, and things are grating on me more than normal, but I still love these precious God-given gifts of mine.

Monday, July 2, 2018

"Books I Love" -- What Does it Mean to "Love" a Book?

Recently, I participated in a Facebook "challenge" wherein you post the covers of seven books you love without comment or explanation, and then nominate others to do the same.

The no explanation part is kind of hard for an English major and a writer, so, here's a little bit of general reflection on the whole idea and the books I chose, and since it's on my blog and not on the actual posts, it doesn't break the rules, right?

As I've thought about what to post, it's made me ponder what I, at least, mean by books I "love." As I scoured my shelves trying to decide on seven covers, the ones that popped out aren't ones that I "love" in a sort of effusive sense of the word. They are books that have made an impact on the way I think, have special memories attached to them, have made me ponder, or have served as comforts.

Comfort Food
I don't reread a lot of books, so when I do, you know it's meaningful to me. So several books that I've read more than once made the cut. Some of them are like eating comfort food. Jane Austen books, for instance, have been a late pregnancy staple in several of my pregnancies. Some people nest -- I read the complete works of Jane Austen. Romantic, moral, insightful, witty, clever, and yes, even sarcastic and instructive, Austen's works offer satisfaction and rich language all at once. (P.S. Yes I KNOW not everyone feels this way about Austen.)

Another "comfort food" book is Ann Howard Creel's The Magic of Ordinary Days, (also fairly well adapted to a Hallmark film starring a personal favorite actress of mine, Keri Russell). This book is soft and poignant and quiet, yet deals with big topics, such as an arranged marriage for an unwed mother and the Japanese Internment camps during WWII. It takes on these big topics in a beautifully quiet way without being about making political statements, but rather just telling the stories of these specific characters and learning to love in a simple, sacrificial way.

Other books were ones I studied in school. Their depth, the discussions around them, and the papers I wrote still leave deep impressions and memories, and sometimes shaped the way I think about things, or at least are brought to mind when something in day to day life reminds me of them. Books like this include Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment and Shakespeare's Hamlet.

I mean, it's been 17...ahem...YEARS since we discussed Crime and Punishment in my high school's AP English class, but I still remember vividly the instruction to look for how Dostoevsky makes use of the color yellow, and I can still picture in my mind what Raskolnikov's little hole of a room looked like to me as I read that description. It's one of the few books where I almost have a moving picture of that opening that runs in my head, even though I've never seen a film version.

Hamlet and John Milton's Paradise Lost were extremely important to me in my college career. The class I took on Milton and the Honors Proseminar wherein we studied Hamlet and texts which inform or come out of it in depth, were both taught by an amazing professor, Prof. Huston Diehl. Prof. Diehl was an amazing teacher with an incredible personal story, who passed away from a recurrence of cancer several years after I graduated. The intensive study of both of these works came at a time when I had decided to pursue a post-graduate degree in theology, and was becoming more and more immersed in my Lutheran heritage. As I read them, and because Prof. Diehl was such an amazing and open teacher, I was able to study them with an eye toward theological concerns in conjunction with literary ones. She encouraged me to write about what I saw there through the eyes of my faith. My paper on Milton's Paradise Lost explored Milton's conception of the Son's sonship, the Arian heresy, and the earlier concept of the Doctrine of the Logos. For Hamlet, I explored overtones of Lutheran theology or ways of thinking, as well as reformed ones and how they intersected, and how Lutheran doctrine allows Hamlet, finally, to act. These works and the writing I did on them married two things I love and still am fascinated with: theology and literature. I'm still really proud of that Hamlet paper most of all. It was supposed to turn into an Honors thesis my senior year, but I dropped it to study Attic Greek in anticipation of studying theology and the Biblical languages at the seminary. I wish I had pushed myself and also expanded that paper to be my Honors thesis. (Hindsight and all that).

One particular pick is a testament to the book itself as I really do love its wit, humor, childlike wonder, and fantastic characters, but also a testament to our family life. Far before I discovered Read-Aloud Revival, and started thinking very intentionally about what to read to my children, Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner were a favorite tradition. When my oldest (now 10) was two, we began reading A.A. Milne's fantastic stories. It's become rather a tradition to read them at least once a year. With each reading, my oldest understands more of the humor and word-play, and laughs at different aspects. When he was younger, he laughed at the obvious humor; the slapstick, and the silliness. Now that he is older, he laughs at the puns and the more subtle humor. So I love the book for the book itself, but I also love it because of the tradition it has gifted to us, which has expanded to include Milne's earlier poetry books, in which Pooh first appears with Christopher Robin: When We Were Very Young and Now We are Six.

Some others that have really been bonding for my children and I, but didn't make this particular quick list, are Escargot, Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, Harold and His Purple Crayon, The Tale of Despereaux, The Reluctant Dragon, Farmer Giles of Ham, and, with my oldest, the Harry Potter series.

The Killer Angels accompanies an intense period of pre-teen and teenage obsession with all things to do with the Civil War. I went on to read all of Michael & Jeff Shaara's books, and they are some of the books that have survived several library reductions due to international moves, even though it's been years since I've read them again.

On an amazing seventh grade trip which they probably don't even do anymore, we visited American Revolutionary War and Civil War sites, including Gettysburg. To have read the book and also walked in those places was bone-chilling and deeply impressive to a pre-teen weirdo girl who was most definitely UNCOOL and way too into literature, history, old fashioned music, movie musicals and the like. (Can you picture me? Oh man).

Impacting the Way I Think
Of course, any one of my other picks fits into this category in some way, but one of them does so most explicitly. One of my picks is a non-fiction and theological title: Family Vocation: God's Calling in Marriage, Family and Parenting. This book is one that it's time to reread! It has been so helpful to me as I have struggled in the different times and circumstances of our lives as they have shifted with how to fulfill my vocation as a mother and how to think through also having other vocations (such as a job outside of the home when necessary). What does it mean to live sacrificially? How do children live out their vocations as children? The book isn't a how-to, but a thoughtful look at what vocation looks like for different members of the family, what it requires of us, etc. As I get older or more thoughtful, vocation comes out more and more as an incredibly helpful and important doctrine and way of thinking about life, and who we are, who our neighbor is, etc.

Not only has this book resonated in my personal life, but I've also used it in my newest book, Demystifying the Proverbs 31 Woman.

So these are books I love. Just a few of the many that have shaped me, challenged me, taught me, entertained me, and even seen me through difficult transitions and new beginnings. Grab a cup of tea, and tell me, what are the books that you love, and why?

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

A Review of The Messengers: Revealed -- You Won't Want to Miss This Book!

I was recently asked to review Lisa M Clark's third book in her series, The Messengers. Here's my review, along with a link to Goodreads where you can mark the book "to read!" Believe me, you want to! You can preorder from Amazon now, as well!

Lisa M Clark has many talents as a writer. She writes poetry and hymnody, as well as prose, devotions and much more. She weaves her gifts into her fiction, using poetry and hymnody to enhance her compelling fiction. She laces this final installment of her The Messengers series, like the others, with hymnody and original poetry, as well as Scripture, to show how the Word of God is living and active in the lives of believers, and how these beautiful words we have been given help to guard us, guide us, comfort us, and give us hope.

I was privileged to read an advance copy of The Messengers: Revealed. In the first two books, Discovered and Concealed, Simon begins his journey of understanding who he truly is and what the message worth dying for is. They are fairly action packed. While the third installment still has action, its contemplative nature reflects on Baptismal life -- life under the cross. In Revealed, Simon grows and matures as a young man and as a Christian as he faces the reality of Satan’s many means of attacking, both physical and spiritual. He wrestles with grief, anger, and broken relationships around him. Simon learns how to die, but also how to live, echoing the Baptismal life we all share. Lisa’s ability to tackle tough subjects seamlessly within the narrative, along with the use of Scripture and hymnody, leaves the reader with the hope that only God in Christ can give.

My 10-year-old can’t wait for this installment, and this is exactly the kind of reading material I hope to give him. I’m looking forward to placing the book in his hands come the release date, and to rereading these books with him as he grows and matures. Simon’s journey is ultimately one we all share as Baptized Christians struggling with the ways of this world while living in the hope of the world yet to come.

Friday, September 25, 2015

A Better "Mom Parody"

Am I the only one who is over these Mom Parody videos? They are all the same. They all have the same basic negative themes: 1. I never sleep, 2. My children are monsters, 3. everything is always a disgusting mess, 4. I like my children most when they are asleep. I realize that they are supposed to be funny, but why are they ALL about how hard motherhood is? Why aren't there any about what makes up 99% of motherhood: the heart-aching beauty of our children and our vocation?

Where is the parody video about the first thing in the morning nursies and snuggles with your 6 month old? Where is the mom parody about the deep peace of snuggling your baby for a few extra minutes after the feeding, with your hand on her heart and her thumb in her mouth? Where is the mom parody about how her eyes light up every time she sees or hears her older brothers? Where is the mom parody about the warmth of her little body as you hold her, and her sweet baby smell? Where is the mom parody about how you can't stop kissing her? Where is the song about how her eyes light with love when she hears Daddy's voice, or about that excited/happy grunty sound she makes when she catches Momma returning to the room after a 5 minutes' absence? Where is the song about how fast she is learning, and how many things she is learning? How she is rolling, but it still fills her with wonder and confusion. She's not sure how she did it, and the look on her face is priceless. Where's the song about the first time she grabbed the ring on the baby gym?

And where is the parody about the 2.5 year old big brother who loves baby sister so fiercely, his love literally hurts? Where is the parody about the little boy learning to speak and the sweet sound of his voice as he repeats "Flop on the floor" while you read him a book, or sings "Jesus Loves Me," or repeats his bedtime prayer, or tries out a new German word, or calls his baby sister's and big brother's names? Where is the parody about his silly smiley face with the huge smiles, big dimples, squinty eyes and wrinkled nose? Where is the "parody" about how impossibly adorable he is? Where is the "parody" about how he tries to care for and entertain his sister? Where is the mom song about how he looks up to big brother and how much he loves his brother? Where is the song about how excited he is when it's Mommy's turn to put him down for nap and he says "Daddy kiss, Mommy nappie?" Where is the mom parody about how adorable he is with the Hungarian Goulash all over his face, or his request for "bread, cheese, and haim" (ham) for lunch? Where is the song about how he loves to play Holy Communion and points out every cross, saying “Jesus, cross”?

And where is the mom parody about the wonder of watching your 7 year old read fluently in English and German? Where is the song about how loving he is toward his siblings? Where is the recognition of the fact that if you bring the baby to his room to wake him up, he wakes happy and full of life, wanting to hold and kiss her? Where is the song about how he watches out for his younger brother when Mom and Dad are busy with other things? Where is the song about his goofy noises and beautiful songs that make his baby sister smile, coo, and giggle like she does for no one else? Where is the mom song about his half toothless grin and his excitement over the play they did yesterday in class? Where is the song that celebrates the way he tells stories about Grandpa Rick as if he remembers them himself, even though he was 10 months old when Grandpa died? Where is the song about how he pulls the scrapbooks off the shelf and sits and pages through them for hours or how he suddenly started reading chapter books on his own? Where is the song about how he loves to read his German Bible and can repeat the Biblical stories and their meanings in German during a special children’s sermon, when you could never tell that story in another language? Where is the song about how he loves to sing, and the beauty of hearing him practice hymns and songs in German with his Daddy accompanying on the piano?

I understand humor. I understand that motherhood is hard sometimes. But is that really the motherhood we want the world to always, always see? A world that is hurting precisely because it's swallowed the lie that children are inconveniences and hardships and dismissive of that hurt? A world that discards children, has disdain for them, or is hurting in not being able to have them? Why don’t we show the world that we are grateful for the amazing gift of our children? Let’s show them how we don’t know what to do with our hands when we’re not holding a child because it’s so natural and so a part of who we are…and that’s a good thing. Let’s show them what a privilege it is to watch them grow and learn. Let’s show them that being a mother is a huge part of who we are, and there is nothing wrong with that! Let's talk about how you love them so much sometimes you ache. Let's talk about how it's nice when they sleep, but you still really miss them, and sometimes you just want to hold them while they sleep. God has given me these beautiful gifts. I want to delight in them.

Moms and Dads, I want to know: What are some of the beautiful, hilarious, joyful things you love about your children and your vocation? Post some in the comments!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

A Little Something

It has been a year since I posted here. Last April, we moved to Germany, I had a new baby to care for, a new language to learn, a new job, and a book to write. So this Consecrated Space has been quite neglected. As a missionary and Deaconess, I write regularly for The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod's Eurasia Blog, all about the mission work we're doing in Eurasia. You can catch that here. But I thought it might also be nice to try and ease back into my personal blog. So here goes. An easy one. Lists.

American Things I'm Looking Forward To During Home Service This Summer

1. Cold, fizz free water, for free. Kostenlos. Whenever you want it. Without having to budget it. And not icky and warm. Oh gosh, how I love just plain old, cold water!

2. Tator Tots

3. The Hill in St. Louis

4. Weirdly, Chili's Restaurant

5. French Silk Pie

6. Grandma Yvonne's Sour Cream Meatloaf

6a. Related to 6 because you have to have it to make certain dishes such as Sour Cream Meatloaf: Condensed "Cream of..." Campbell's soups.

7. Ted Drewes

8. Customer Service. Nice customer service. Like, they don't believe you're in their way when you want to go down the aisle customer service.

9. Target. Stocking up on clothes for Thomas for sure. And maybe me too.  :-) (Matthias just has all of Thomas' old clothes).

10. Smoke free dining. Smoke free a lot of things. Just a lot less smoking.

11. Air conditioning. It got to be in the 100's here last year. Very unusual. No air conditioning. 3rd floor apartment. You do the math.

12. Obviously, our families and friends!

                                          In the Gemeindehaus on Easter Monday.

German Things I Will Miss While in America

1. Afternoon tea/coffee time.

2. Kuchen

3. Marzipan (seriously, one of the most glorious things on earth. Where has Marzipan been all my life??!!)

4. Being able to walk a lot of places.

5. Our apartment.

6. Our friends.

7. Our church.

Well, after all, it's home now too.  :-)

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Top Ten Initial Reactions to Living In Leipzig, Germany

So it's been a year since I posted here. Probably because I've been preparing for and then having, nursing and loving my second son, Matthias, while also preparing for and then moving to Germany. My husband received a Call last May to serve as Strategic Mission Developer for the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod in Leipzig, Germany.

So we are finally here after much preparation (all of us), fund-raising (Chris), crying (me), and having Baby #2 (also me). We arrived on April 3rd. Here are a few initial impressions concerning Germany:

1. Our partner church, the congregation we are working with, and all of its members and other staff are completely AWESOME. They have been so kind and good to us. We are living in a temporary situation with no washer/dryer and trying to find/buy all the things we will need for our permanent apartment, so they have been doing our laundry for us, driving us around, and helping us do things like set up bank accounts.

2. If you at least TRY to speak German and then fall off, anyone who knows English will smile at you and start speaking to you in English. They take pity on you and your as yet poor German. If they don't know English, they still smile, speak just as rapidly in Germany, gesture, and basically compliment your Baby.

3. They love the babies here. They are always stopping to admire Matthias and then tell us (in German, rapid German) how beautiful he is, and other things I don't understand but which must be complimentary because they are smiling and cooing, and generally making the happy noises people make concerning babies.

4. They love music. Friday night. Choir. Organ. Thomaskirche. PACKED. This would not happen in America. I'm sorry; it's true. I'm just saying.

5. Every other person smokes and they are still allowed to to it pretty much anywhere. It is taking a lot for me to get used to gagging on smoke while eating my dinner. This mainly bothers me because it exposes my children.

6. Public transportation. Trams and buses. This is how we will likely always get around here (not planning to pick up a car anytime soon). I actually really enjoy it. It's expedient, affordable, and kind of fun. And Thomas loves it.
A Leipzig Tram passing by us at the Hauptbahnhof (Main Train Station)

7. Germans have cooler strollers with better wheels. I covet.

8. Everyone here speaks at least 2 or more languages. Our waiter last night spoke 4. Again, this does not happen much in America, and I wish we were better about this.

9. It's really hard to plan and buy a kitchen. (Most apartments/houses do NOT come with anything in the kitchen; you must plan and buy the kitchen yourself, and you take it with you when you move).

This is our IKEA kitchen plan. They are installing this on May 7 & 8!!!!
10. All in all, we are really liking it here, and I think it's going to be a wonderful place to live. It's beautiful, and it offers so much culture, tons of opportunities to engage in the arts, and yummy food.

Oh, and I have to add a bonus:

11. The fresh bread from the bakery, and the 4:00 PM kuchen (cake/torte) or butterspritz/butter keks/cookies tea time...yeah, LOVE. This country is not going to be good for my waist line.  ;-)

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

God's No, God's Wait, and God's Yes (Finally)

Almost exactly one year ago, in May of 2011, my husband graduated from the University of Texas with a Doctor of Musical Arts in Organ Performance (as in the instrument; you will not believe how many people think that has something to do with bodily organs). By the time he graduated, his name had been out for Call (he is also a Lutheran pastor) since November 2010. Everyone told us, "Oh, don't put his name out there too soon. 6 months, maybe less." Yeah. Right.

My husband had served part-time as an assistant pastor at two congregrations concurrent with his further graduate school work post-MDiv. First, he worked at a congregation in Indiana while earning his Mastor of Sacred Music from Notre Dame. Then, he worked at a congregation in Texas while earning his doctorate. Both of these arrangements were part-time and everyone knew that they would end when his schooling ended. It allowed my husband to "keep his hand in" so to speak and it gave the congregations the help they needed. Due to the fact that the call in Texas was part-time, we could not sustain ourselves on that salary alone once Chris' TA position ended with graduation. We were afloat.

There were a few good nibbles here and there, even down to an onsite interview with one congregation (which then decided not to Call another pastor after all). Nothing came, though, and we moved to Nebraska to live with family. Chris went into Candidate Status (which just means "available for a Call and not currently in one") and took a part-time job as head organist and choirmaster at a church in Lincoln. I amped up my tutoring hours. Chris took on lots of other projects and work (weddings, funerals, compositions for CPH, a semester teaching a course at Concordia in Seward). Still nothing. Little nibbles. Here and there. Then, nothing.

I don't know if "Candidate Status" spooked people (what does that mean? Did he do something "bad?"), or if they did not want to pay the scale for a pastor/organist with a doctoral degree, or if they thought he'd leave for a University job (of which there were very, very few anyway), or what. But the fact remained: nothing. Dead silence.

We lived our lives here in Nebraska as best we could day to day. We had a normal routine. Thomas started preschool. We enjoyed the extra benefits of being near family: weddings, Baptisms, holidays, birthdays, etc. But in the background the question loomed:

Where is God?

And we asked him. "Where are you Lord? What are you doing? Here we are, wanting to faithfully serve your church, and there is no place for us. What are you DOING?"

God was hiding. He does that: "For the LORD will rise up as on Mount Perazim; as in the valley of Gibeon he will be roused; to do his deed -- strange is his deed! and to do his work -- alien is his work!" (Isaiah 28:21). Yahweh's alien work hurts, it kills, it raises your hackles.

First we repented and pleaded. Then we asked and asked. Then we demanded.

You see, when God hides, you don't look to the hidden God with his alien work, you look to the revealed God and his promises, which are his proper work. And you hold him to those promises. So then the prayers became this:

"We've had enough. You have promised to provide for us, you have promised to hear our prayers and answer them, you have promised to be gracious for the sake of your Son, Jesus Christ. So, Lord, we are holding you to it. It's time to be the God of Promise. It's time to be the God of Grace. It's time, Lord. It's time to say yes."

That's faith talking, by the way. It sounds bad to our ears, but faith clings to the promises of God and holds him to those promises. Faith sees and knows that all of what happens is in the Lord's hands and by his doing, and holds him accountable.

We're not the first ones to talk like this.

Take Job, for example. The Lord had declared him righteous (Job 1:1,8), so Job held God to that declaration. When all his friends said "repent, do something differently, you must have done something wrong" Job said, "No! I know that the Lord has declared me righteous and blameless and I am holding him to it." Job goes so far as to confess that he will have an Advocate and that Advocate will bring his case before Yahweh, who will have to see that he has done wrong by Job. And even if Job were to die and decay, yet in his flesh he knew he would see God, his Redeemer (Job 19).

We are like Job. In our Baptisms, we have been declared righteous and blameless by God. We have gained an Advocate, Jesus Christ the Lord, who pleads for us before the throne of his Father. When God hides and works his alien work, we too can hold him to his promises in Christ Jesus. We too can confess that no matter what God does to us in the meantime, we know that we will see him with our own eyes and in our own flesh on the Last Day when he will vindicate us for Christ's sake.

That's faith talk. And there comes a point where that is all you have left. Faith and its clinging hand, holding on for dear life to the promises of God despite all appearances to the contrary. It is not a fun or easy place to be.

Almost a year to the day on which my husband graduated, he received the paperwork for a Solemn Call to serve as Strategic Mission Developer based out of Leipzig Germany. The Call was issued through the LCMS Board for International Mission. Finally, God said yes and worked his proper work. It was not the type of thing either one of us had ever envisioned ourselves doing (that's the way Yahweh likes to do it -- he sends you out to do the very thing you never thought you could. That way you know it is only because Christ is working in and through you that anything happens). And we responded by saying, "Here we are; send us." So it's off to Germany we go to find out what the Lord has in store for us there, and to serve him and his church throughout the world. That's a big yes from God after a lot of "No" and "wait".

God hides himself at many times in our lives. Deaths of loved ones, miscarriage, infertility, joblessness, depression, illness, injury, etc., etc. During those times when God is hiding and doing his alien work, the faith of the Baptized reaches out its hand and clings to the promises of God, holding on for dear life. And God will reveal himself, God has revealed himself, and God does reveal himself in Christ through Baptism, preaching, absolution and his very body and blood. There faith clings, and there faith will not be disappointed.