Friday, May 8, 2015

Still The Best Convent


Mother's Day 2009
This is a re-post from 2009.  Nothing has changed except that everyone is now at least 3 inches taller than me, and it's not ice skating lessons, ballet, field trips, and Little League games, but coordinating the use of the car, track practice, job schedules, college visits and care packages. I still believe motherhood has been the best convent (a community of persons devoted to religious life under a superior) for my personal sanctification. My "community" being my marriage to Robert, and our "Superior" being Christ. 

In The Five Aspects of Woman, Barbara Mouser discusses the sanctity of motherhood - the setting yourself aside for the purpose of motherhood. She explores the reasons women may try and "fit motherhood in around the edges" rather than devote themselves to it as they would a career or a cause. The reasons are fairly obvious...no instant gratification, no accolades, acknowledgments, or awards, no salary, and yet the requirement of an all-out surrendering of your time, your body, your sleep, your mental energy.....in three words, your whole self.


This just seems like a very long, painful, and unnecessary route to maturity, respect, and security. And though there are other paths beside motherhood to these things, listen to the requirements of the early church for the taking in of widows who are in need of financial support. These widows were provided for by the church in return for their service in the church and ministry to other women.

"Let a widow be put on the list only if she is not less than sixty years old, having been the wife of one man, having a reputation for good works; and if she has brought up children, if she has shown hospitality to strangers, if she has washed the saints' feet, if she has assisted those in distress, and if she has devoted herself to every good work."  

I Timothy 5:9,10

Mother's Day 2013
In other words, the best preparation for leadership and responsibility for a woman was not a college degree, or a career crashing through the glass ceiling, but the giving of herself to her own home, her own family, and her own church.


It reminds me of a scene from my favorite book, Stepping Heavenward. In this exchange, Katy's husband has asked her to visit one of his patients. The patient is a very young woman whose main ailments are boredom, apathy, and selfishness. The young woman talks of her efforts to help poor children (they were unruly and smelly) and mentions that she might have joined a convent, but those are now out of vogue..... (HA!)

"The best convent," I (Katy) said, "for a woman is the seclusion of her own home. There she may find her vocation and fight her battles, and there she may learn the reality and the earnestness of life."

"Pshaw!" cried she (Miss Clifford, the "patient"). "Excuse me, however, for saying that; but some of the most brilliant girls I know have settled down into mere married women and spend their whole time in nursing babies! Think how belittling!"

"Is it more so than spending it in dressing, driving, dancing, and the like?"

"Of course it is. I had a friend once who shone like a star in society. She married and had four children as fast as she could. Well! What was the consequence? She lost her beauty, lost her spirit and animation, lost her youth, and lost her health. The only earthly things she can talk about are teething, dieting, and the measles!"

"As you have spoken plainly to me, knowing me to be a wife and a mother, you must allow me to speak plainly in return," I began.

"Oh, speak plainly, by all means! I am quite sick and tired of having truth served up in pink cotton and scented with lavender."

"Then you will permit me to say that when you speak contemptuously of the vocation of maternity, you dishonor not only the mother who bore you but the Lord Jesus Himself, who chose to be born of woman and to be ministered unto by her through a helpless infancy."

Miss Clifford was a little startled.

"How terribly earnest you are!" she said. It is plain that to you, at any rate, life is indeed no humbug."

I thought of my dear ones, of Ernest, of my children, of Mother, and of James; and I thought of my love for them and theirs for me. And I thought of Him who alone gives reality to even such joys as these. My face must have been illuminated by the thought, for she dropped the bantering tone she had used hitherto and asked with real earnestness:

(Have I mentioned that I love books that use the words "hitherto" and "earnestness?")

"What is it you know, and that I do not know, that makes you so satisfied while I am so dissatisfied?"

I hesitated before I answered, feeling as I never felt before, how ignorant, how unfit to lead others I really am. Then I said:

"Perhaps you need to know God, to know Christ."

Stepping Heavenward, pp.262-264


Mother's Day 2014
Cooper went with me to Texas to move Kory out of his dorm last year over Mother's Day weekend.
We went to Austin Stone on Mother's Day and ate lunch at Whole Foods = Perfect!
I wish I could say that I have devoted myself fully to motherhood and not tried to just fit it in around the edges. It is the hardest job in the world, requiring the greatest sacrifice - and I am selfish! I want time to myself, to do the things I want to do, when I want to do them without having to take four other people into consideration! And it may appear that I have completely devoted myself to my family from this glowing blog and the fact that I homeschool my kids and therefore spend nearly every day, all day with them, but don't be fooled! I struggle with this giving away of self every day. And yet, in doing it by faith for 14 years, I have grown. It has been the main avenue of sanctification in my life, and I can truly say I am thankful for the transforming power it has been. Within the walls of my own home, I have found my strengths and weaknesses, fought many battles, and learned the realities of life. I have had to cling to Jesus, and have come to experience Him in the intimacy my heart so desires.


It has indeed been the best convent for me. 



It has now been 20 years of motherhood for me. (That's right.  Kory turns 20 next month. How did that happen???) Come August, I'll only have Kayla at home. (Poor girl!) Kory will be a junior at Baylor, and Cooper will be beginning a "gap year" of work and adventure in California. It is both heart wrenching and exciting to watch them go.  There will be many tears, but also much delight in watching them move into the next season of life. I have plenty of regrets regarding my failures as a mother from the last 20 years, but none regarding the choice to be a mom, even a stay-at-home-homeschooling mom for all that time. Katy's right, it is Christ who alone gives reality to such joys as these, and I know Him more intimately because of the both the joys and the regrets.


Last Tuesday morning Cooper woke up to a terrible stomach virus. 12 hours of vomiting, fever, aches, chills, back pain.  Just horrible.  We had to head to the pediatrician's evening office hours for emergency meds to alleviate the nausea so that he could keep fluids down.  He was down for the count for three days and in some ways is still recovering. I hated that he was sick, but I loved one last opportunity to take care of him before he moves out. One last chance to rub his head and tell him it would be over soon. One last time of cleaning up after him and offering him comfort, a cool cloth, and an iced drink. One last tangible way to show him that despite my nagging and frustration with him at times (many, many times), he's mine, and I love him so much. 

Oh, they'll always be my kids and I'll always be their mom, I know.  But the season of hands-on motherhood is drawing to a close and I'm treasuring and pondering every moment.

I hope this Mother's Day brings you much hope in Christ knowing that the call is one of great challenge and self-sacrifice, but also one of great joy and rejoicing. And I pray that hitherto you will exercise great earnestness in setting yourself aside for this purpose, if you are so called.  It is worth every explosive diaper, pool of puke, bedtime ritual, and Little League game.  I promise.

Friday, April 17, 2015

It Was Too Cold To Blog

 See what I mean?  You really can't do anything in temps like that. The winter of 2015 was a deep freeze like we've never experienced before. And then my blog disappeared probably also due to the arctic temps. I had to rescue it from cyberspace by approving my domain name via Robert's near-obsolete chilidogk AOL email ~ ha!  All better now.
The icicles just kept growing and growing until they were scary.
 The picture of our house was taken early on ~ before Christmas.  By the end, the snow was covering the front steps and shrubs...
...and picnic table.

And as much as I wanted to stay under the covers drinking hot tea, we did manage to fit in quite a lot of winter activities. Our women's retreat was in February, mostly due to no one having anything else to do when it's below zero outside.  During free time I went snow shoeing with these lovely ladies.  Rachel, on the far right, is from India, and thoroughly enjoyed the novelty of excessive amounts of snow and special shoes to trek through it!

Cooper, Kayla, and I enjoyed another 6 weeks of Thursdays at Mt. Snow in Vermont with lots of our homeschool friends. I can still keep up with the young 'ens for the most part, but their skills improve and their speed increases with each year ~ complete with spins and jumps. I'd just like to be able to keep skiing each winter without killing myself.  Honestly, the lift is the scariest part for me. I'm getting old.
Mt. Snow is absolutely beautiful ~ and so is this little ski bunny!
We had very special visitors ~ Romy and Matt ~ from Switzerland who always come bearing the finest of Swiss treats. Such a lovely time catching up with these two, and then just a couple of days later we FINALLY got to escape our ice tundra for warmer climates and a part of the country to which we'd never been...
San Francisco!

It was wonderful to get away and participate in the Collegiate Church Planter Collaborative in Oakland with these friends and fellow church planters as well as collegiate church planters from all over the country.  Our friend from Stillwater, OK, Brian Frye, was the mastermind behind the conference. I've limited myself to an hour for getting this blog out (the to-do list is LONG), so I don't have time to tell you about the wonderful people we got to meet and the incredible church ~ Gracepoint Oakland ~ that hosted us, but it was all so encouraging and fun. Robert got to speak to the whole group ~ about 200 people ~ one morning, and I helped lead a seminar called "Help, I'm Married To A Collegiate Church Planter" as well as with a video (horrors!) on ministering to collegiate women.
 Chris and Patrick are pastors in Lowell, MA and good friends of ours.  We had a blast seeing the Golden Gate Bridge, hiking through Muir Woods, and hanging out on the wharf with them. (Somehow I managed a semi-muddy three mile hike in a skirt and flats.  Totally worth it.)

The New England Contingency (Why am I the only girl?)
 We extended our stay in the Bay Area so that I could see my one of my dearest high school friends and her family.  It was a quick 30 minute train ride to their home and we packed in as much as we could in just two short days which included quite a lot of physical exercise!  Kerry took me to her Smart Barre (ballet/pilates) class which almost killed me, and then we went for a run on their local bike trail with Robert.  The next day was a 2 hour hike around a beautiful reservoir. It was non-stop talking and catching up and cooking and eating and laughing and just so wonderful.
We went back to San Francisco one night to visit with another dear friend, Greg, but for the life of me I can't find the picture that I know I took of him and Robert right here on the famous Lombard Street. Anyway, we had a wonderful evening walking and talking and eating In and Out Burgers and drinking Starbucks.
There have been babies born and hospital visits...
The Worcester gals and Baby Analiz!
Soren was born in January ~ most prayed for baby ever!
There was a trip to a casino (shhhh....) with friends and fellow church planters, Shaun and Deshni ~ but only for steaks at the Michael Jordan Steakhouse, I promise. We loved seeing their new church building (located between two major casinos and ministering to lots of folks who work there) and hearing about all that God is doing in southern Connecticut.
 Then it was Palm Sunday and Holy Week and the Passover Seder and Crosswalk and Good Friday service and Easter...Whew. (30 people at my house for Easter which may be a record!?)

 Some new family members showed up in the frames on my piano on April 1.  Kayla loves a practical joke and this one was perfect with all our favorites: Grumpy Cat, Jack Black/Bernie, and T-Swift: Insane Girlfriend Version. It is now April 17 and these photos are still on display.  I have forgotten which photos were originally in place ~ and that would be a small indicator of the chaos of life now (and for what seems like forever) ~ no time to do anything but the next thing.

Now it's time for spring track for Kayla.  She's tearing it up in the 100m sprint as well as the sprint relay.  She also had to run the 400m recently and like a typical sprinter thought she might die due to the LONG distance.  She did GREAT!
 Just when we thought the snow and ice were over and gone, this happened last week while I was out running.  It was depressing, but we have had a couple of 60+ degree days since complete with sunshine which I thought might be gone forever.
 And then this happened on Tuesday...
Four wisdom teeth out and lots of ice cream and couch time.  He's still hurting today, but up and about and on the mend overall.

 Oh ~ and it took us forever, but Robert and I finally finished this...

...which was such a great show.  My goodness.  Tears every episode.

But now we can give our full attention to this...
If Parenthood made us cry every time, Gilmore Girls makes us laugh out loud.  Sadly, many of the 70's and 80's references are lost on our kids (there are hundreds!), but Robert and I crack up.  If you're looking for a light, funny, and (almost entirely, but not quite entirely) clean show ~ this one's for you!

Okay ~ my hour to blog was over about 20 minutes ago, but there's a quick ~  even if it is kinda shallow (because it's highly edited to make us look all fun and carefree...) update on the last three months.

Maybe (hopefully) it won't be so long next time. Thanks for checking in friends!

Friday, January 30, 2015

Wonderful Winter Catch Up

Those aren't two words I would normally use together ~ "wonderful" and "winter" ~ but there's no denying that winter has brought many wonderful things so far.

It was -1 degree here yesterday.  (Not so wonderful.) Betsy stopped by at 7:45am to pick us up for our weekly ski trip to Mt. Snow, Vermont, and as we were standing in my driveway loading up gear and lunches, she said, "It's cold."

Ha!

I think we were both of the mindset that the negative temps were over (we already had a week or so of those), but we live in New England, and it's still January, and that sort of thinking will only set you up for disappointment.
Icicles on your eyelashes isn't all that wonderful either ~ but laughing over it with a friend is!
We survived this week's blizzard just fine, and truly enjoyed a day off together ~ though the pastor wrote a sermon, paid bills, and had a conference call. Even so, we managed to make our way through four episodes of the Gilmore Girls, which is the whole family's latest addiction. (Ahhhh...Lorelai, Rory, Suki, Dean, Luke, and Lane... now we all want to move to wonderful Stars Hollow and be your best friends!) We only got about 10 inches of snow, whereas our Boston and Worcester neighbors had more like 34 and are still shoveling out today!
 Thankfully, it was not -1 in Vermont yesterday.  It actually got to be 28 degrees there and that temp plus sunshine is just perfect for skiing!

We really still can't get over the fact that we get to ski in Vermont every Thursday for six weeks in the winter.  It is something we look forward to each week.  An hour and a half of ski school (yesterday we did a black diamond and learned how to spin!) and then a couple of hours of free skiing.  So much fun! So wonderful.

 The pics above and below are pretty standard poses for these kiddos.  For some reason, the guy below is always sitting or lying on the snow ~ when he's not in motion, of course.  He loves his (well, his brother's) trick blades very much.


When we're not on the slopes, we're often at the gym for one of Coop's basketball games ~ his last year to play...
 ...or we are hanging out at some indoor track facility (Smith College in Northampton or Reggie Lewis in Boston) watching Kayla run various winter track events.  Her favorite event by far is the 55m sprint, and tonight is her last night to qualify for further meets.  She needs to go from an 8.17 to and 8.12.  I told her to just go for the 8 seconds flat.  I mean, what's so difficult about that?

Turns out it is fairly difficult, and we're so proud of her hard work and great times as a freshman.
I never got around to telling you how wonderful our Christmas was, so here are a few (lots of, actually) photos to fill you in on just how wonderful it was.

Part of the recipe for "Wonderful Christmas" was having Kory home from college.

And not only did Kory travel from Texas, but my brother, sister-in-law, and nephew came from California, and my youngest sister traveled from Colorado ~ their presence bringing together even more wonderful ingredients to the holiday.
Day after Christmas shopping at West Farms Mall in Connecticut.
Christmas Eve Chili and Queso dinner before and after a Candlelight Christmas Eve service at Mercyhouse.
Probably THE most wonderful moment for me was being gathered at the dining room table on Christmas Eve, taking turns reading an Advent devotion, and then ALL praying together, thanking God for the gift of Jesus at Christmas.  Hearing everyone's heart for Christ through their prayers and coming together as a family to worship him was just so wonderful.  Really.  I can't think of anything more wonderful.
At the Candlelight Service
 And second only to those precious moments of worship, and making Christmas extra-extra-wonderful was having THE CUTEST TODDLER IN THE WHOLE WORLD at my house for Christmas.

Just see for yourself...


He liked his blocks, Aunt Melissa!





See what I mean?

CUTEST THING EVER.

Okay ~ I think we're all caught up now. Well, except for telling you about Robert's two week trip to Texas and Oklahoma in January.  It was wonderfully exhausting.  And I started back to seminary.  I'm only taking one class again, and I still really love it.  Learning tons.

And I'm leaving out all of our church happenings, too.  We're getting started on small groups this week, and are also in the middle of planning a women's retreat.  Lots of meetings and preparations.  Again, wonderfully exhausting.

A trip to California for a church planting conference is just around the corner for Robert and me.  Pretty sure we're the old fogies they are bringing in to participate in discussions about collegiate church planting which wasn't even a "thing" when we accidentally did it 15 years ago. (It was highly discouraged, in fact. Ha!)  Anyway, we look forward to being with young church planters and seeing a new part of the country for us ~ the Bay Area.  I get to see one of my very best friends from high school while we're there and can hardly wait.

Happy Friday ~ and have a WONDERFUL weekend!