31 January 2011

Strange grace

Warning: melancholyish musings. Recently came across this, which I wrote shortly after miscarrying the baby who’s been particularly on my mind of late, as he would have turned one this month.

My reflexive reaction to the simultaneous discoveries of my pregnancy and miscarriage shows that I have in fact learned nothing at all. Children of the Heavenly Father, I confess with my mouth, but...but…

But it’s not fair, I shouted heavenward, as the initial shock wore off. I lost him before I knew I had him! I didn’t even have a minute to be happy before I was sad! He was never mine!

I never got to feel his squalling, squirming warmth against my skin; never had him burrow and shudder happily in the instant postnatal recognition and quiet contentment of knowing his mother. He was so small when he died that, like most women who miscarry, I never got to feel him move, never had the satisfaction of knowing when he was awake and lively, or whether he had the hiccups. My especial reason for complaint was that I never had even a day of that peculiar maternal joy of being the only one in a crowded room who knows about the secret world within. He was never mine!

No. He was never mine.

Nor are my living children mine. Praise God; they too are safe in His hands. Neither is my life my own. Praise God; it is hidden in Christ.

My perfect idiocy of somehow attaining two months of pregnancy unawares was, after all, a blessed idiocy. Even in that, I can say, with scarcely a stutter (most days), “Blessed be the name of the Lord.” God is good. How could I say otherwise, when I search the faces of my living children, and know that I will one Day, in a world made new, trace their likenesses in another child as well?

Learning to love a child only through the losing of him—this is a strange grace indeed.

Clarity, charity, verity

But anyone who understands in the Scriptures something other than that intended by them is deceived, although they do not lie. However, as I began to explain, if he is deceived in an interpretation which builds up charity, which is the end of the commandments, he is deceived in the same way as a man who leaves a road by mistake but passes through a field to the same place toward which the road itself leads. But he is to be corrected and shown that it is more useful not to leave the road, lest the habit of deviating force him to take a crossroad or a perverse way.

Augustine, On Christian Doctrine XXXVI.41

30 January 2011

Be still, my skeleton, the Lord is on your side

So, the other day I went to bed pregnant, only to wake up Mondo Pregnant. KABOOM! Thus did I especially appreciate today's Collect, which read:

Heavenly Father, as You know us to be set in the midst of so many and great dangers that by reason of the frailty of our fallen nature we cannot at any time stand upright, grant to us such strength and protection as may support us in all dangers and carry us through all temptations.

I love it when the Collect so pointedly addresses my problems. Yes, I was designed to carry a baby the size of Delaware in my belly, but to stand upright while doing so? That, my friends, takes Divine intervention.

29 January 2011

And that's all I remember about it

A while ago Dad and I watched one of those loud movies with guns and cars and men and a plot I can't follow. At some point, a man with a gun standing by a car motivated some other men with guns standing by cars by telling them that if they didn't do what he wanted them to do, he would see to it that they were assigned work which required them "to touch s*** with your bare hands."

Wow, that would be really awful.

27 January 2011

Why chicks are crazy

The merest beginning of the Odd Socks Box.

25 January 2011


The people who say, "A few women did it!" never mean that just a few women should do it.

24 January 2011

Expect only good from God in every situation

During a recent meeting, my Father Confessor made available to me the "Preparation for Confession" questions based on the Ten Commandments. Although such a sophisticated Christian as myself knows her sins well, it had been a while since I'd looked over the questions. Shockingly, I ran into this: Do I expect only good from God in every situation?

Ahem. No. Well, yes, in some very pious, spiritual way. But not when it comes to this rotten afternoon and the grinding noise from the dishwasher and my achin' back. Not when it comes to thinking about what an EPT with two lines would mean (less the immeasurable gift--that old thing). Not when it comes to my fear of something much worse than the normal wear of a pregnancy. Not when it comes to my worldly-wise impulse to quit while I'm ahead, to take my five healthy kids and still functional body and tragedy-free procreative history and run.

So there it was, another sin to confess, another infidelity of which to repent. Expect only good from God in every situation--no matter what has happened to me before, no matter what I've heard about happening to other people, no matter that as a Lutheran of Lutherans I am an excellent theologian of the cross and know better than to think God will conjure me a sparkly pink Panzer if I trust him enough. The theology of the cross does not mean that I should cry all night about the mud pie I'm going to make myself for breakfast. What sick freak eats mud pies when she hasn't even bothered to check the pantry for Cheerios?

23 January 2011

Do your worst, kid

I've found it cost effective to make flannel crib/toddler bed sheets, in which I believe firmly for the winter months, but not regular cotton ones. However, I was forced to make an exception despite the expense (Walmart clearance: not actually that great) for this most felicitously colored of cottons:

(Crayola classic yellow shown for perspective.)

20 January 2011

Day's end

At the end of the day, I’m never quite sure whether I am depressed by how little, or impressed by how much, I’ve managed to accomplish. Whether I’m down about the mess in the kitchen or congratulating myself on the homemade loaf on the counter, I return again and again to the richness of Starck’s parents’ prayer. Some dark days, some long nights, my weary petitioning gets no farther than “O Lord, Lord, in all my efforts, do Thou perform the most efficient part.”

In no area of my stumbling efforts is this petition—this promise-- more desperate, more crucial, and more comforting than when I consider the End of the Day.

O Lord, Lord, in all my efforts, do Thou perform the most efficient part! Regardless of what has or hasn’t been crossed off the to-do list; even if I get no farther in my devotions-- Satis est, and Soli Deo gloria.

Live liturgically, or else!

Or else you'll be bored. Thanks to Katy for helping us out at her new blog, The Church Year In the Home.

19 January 2011

Growing up is so hard to do

I think one of the worst things about being an adult is that even when I’m in the middle of throwing a fit, I am at some level aware of how badly I am behaving.

Cuter at age 2.
Eh, then again, not really

18 January 2011

Knowledge is power

All of my maternity clothes have grease stains on the belly area. The only sensible explanation for this: My pregnant mass so badly bends the space-time continuum in my kitchen that the straightest line for free-flying grease blobs (and, boy, are there a lot of those around here) to travel is directly toward me. Precisely.

But! But, friends! There is a pre-wash treatment that works! And that is cheap! And that really, truly actually works! Just spot a bit of Dawn dishwashing detergent on those grease blobs, work it into the fabric a bit, forget about it until next Tuesday, and wash. Ta da!

And now you know. And if you already knew, now you know it more.

Force field not included

11 January 2011

Pretty ugly

I haven't been able to bring myself to feel guilty about not being much of a decorator. I just can't care about any of it, as a peek inside my house will prove. Paint, matching furniture, knobs, pretty thingies that go on tables with names, weird thingies that hang on walls--none of it interests me in the least. Seasonal pillows, man. Wow.

I can't figure out if this is a big deal. I know people who get into house garnishing projects with much enthusiasm and see it as a great service to their families. I'm so far removed from this way of thinking that I'm inclined to see home cosmetic endeavors as flatly frivolous. I have to remind myself that having a pretty house is very important to a lot of people and affects their personal happiness and, by extension, their families' well-being, and perhaps has some iconic relevance to the beauty of creation (this is where the guilt would come in if I could rummage any up). I can only be grateful that my husband doesn't care about these things any more than I do and that the kids don't know the difference, and wonder if that means we're First Article Philistines.

I think I could have gotten into decorating when houses were decorated with the physical handiwork of people who lived in them, rather than with arrangements of colors and externally acquired Stuff. Then the beauty of a house exhibited the practical talent of its residents and was a matter of personal accomplishment beyond decors gratia decoris. Now (to my reptilian mind) decorating would just mean that I spent my husband's money on some paint that a magazine said would look good until someone decides something else looks good and that other paint I busted my tail on doesn't look good any more. Decoration as skill would interest me; decoration as fashion (unskilled as I am in fashion), not in the least. So until I acquire some skills in producing decorative items I'm not embarrassed to put my name on, I must warn all decoratively inclined souls about the horror that is my house, undecorated as its nominal lady.

10 January 2011

Right vocatus

The Apostles complained rightly when they said it was not meet they should leave the word of God and serve tables; their vocation was to preach the word. But the person whose vocation it is to prepare the meals beautifully might with equal justice protest: It is not meet for us to leave the service of our tables to preach the word . . . .

The official Church wastes time and energy, and moreover, commits sacrilege, in demanding that secular workers should neglect their proper vocation in order to do Christian work – by which She means ecclesiastical work. The only Christian work is good work well done. Let the Church see to it that the workers are Christian people and do their work well, as to God: then all the work will be Christian work, whether it is church embroidery, or sewage farming . . . .

. . . when you find a man who is a Christian praising God by the excellence of his work – do not distract him and take him away from his proper vocation to address religious meetings and open church bazaars. Let him serve God in the way to which God has called him.

Dorothy Sayers, "Why Work?"

"There's ping pong games that must be played and songs that must be sung."

Read this

Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior

Thanks, Glenda!

07 January 2011

Hear, hear

Father William commends to all the General Prayer, which is every bit as good as he describes. I very much appreciate that our parish prays every week for those "in the anguish of labor." The Church cares.

06 January 2011


As the mother of an obese baby and four formerly obese babies, I find this news offensive and chilling.

He eats premium, dude! PREMIUM!

HT: My Own Brother-In-Law, once again.

05 January 2011

More dumbness from me

Overwrought and CSPP. But I repeat myself.

I wonder if the precise meaning of "your desire shall be for your husband and he shall rule over you" has ever been dissected as much as in contemporary times. The conservative explanation I've heard most often is that all women resent masculine rule and desire to rule themselves. For what it's worth (ie, nothing) this seems a little aggressive to me: accusing where no accusation is explicit, excessively psychological (reflective of our time), retrofitting Modern and Postmodern problems on a timeless structure. Or maybe its problem is that it assumes the converse of the Curse to be its explanation, and this is fallacious or something. Furthermore, it is relatively inconsequential. Sin means that all of us resent rule: children of parents, workers of masters, wives of husbands, men of God. Isn't the bottom line just that childbearing is messed up, desire is messed up, rule is messed up?

While male/female tension, disrespect, and antagonism are nothing new, the world turned without "equal rights" for women or any meaningful fomentation for such for a long, long time. This is because for most of history most women were too busy having children for the entirety of their fertile years and dealing with the fallout (or dying) to go around carrying signs and shouting for something more. The Confessions didn't have to have an article on women's ordination or address complementarianism or even give a friendly shout out to Dear Mother. Feminism as such is philosophically and historically Modern. To impose a reactionary hermeneutic of only recent historical relevance on the Curse doesn't, you know, help.

Personal disclaimer) My perspective is profoundly influenced by the fact that I have a really good husband. He is my lord and it pains me not to say it or live under his lordship (unless I'm being a jerk) because of his great benevolence. His headship of our family is a blessed relief to me--it's a fantastic system when the components are in working order. One thing with which I've never been able to help a sad friend is husband problems, because I just don't have them. I don't doubt that if he were any less faithful, dutiful, reliable, wise, gentle, and kind I'd feel quite differently. (And as for the primacy of men in general, well, that's a fact of history, and anyone who can't live with it can't live with God.)

This is where I take all the foregoing disjointed blather and get to the point. Despite my own easy ride, I do not feel that I've dodged the curse of desire, and here is how I, and I daresay my similarly lifestyled friends, encounter it: though it will mean for you pain upon pain, though it will make of your body a mass of woeful wounds, though it will maroon you with loneliness and desperation and envy* and contempt and something that feels very much and terrifyingly like despair, you will keep going back to him. If you don't, you will lose him. This is the point at which, if it could, resentment and fear would begin their corrosive attack on Love. And frankly, this rebellion is of dreadful substance and much more dangerous than a vainly competitive pursuit of human power. The latter makes the world silly; the former would choke it with malice. It takes something infinitely better than the world's flabby imitation of familial love and makes it something damnably worse than the world's quibbling over whose tur
n it is to change Junior's diaper.

". . . the women in Peru, even her nuns, went through life with two notions: one, that all the misfortunes that might befall them were merely due to the fact that they were not sufficiently attractive to bind some man to their maintenance; and, two, that all the misery in the world was worth his caress."

Most husbands of our time and place don't come home with sweaty brows or bloody hands, and yet they toil. The curse does its work even when the details change, when modernity presents us with a service economy, contraception, and androgyny to get us off the hook. But the ancient effect is alive and well where it is allowed to be and doesn't syllogistically require us to hate men and especially our husbands, or implicitly accuse us of doing so (contrariwise, rejecting one's God-given work is likely to cause precisely those problems, thus occasioning the contemporary understanding). It is simple and self-propogating: desire, suffer, repeat if desired--whoops!

Our pain is literal as it was east of Eden, and we hate it and fear it and keep signing up for more. But, sisters, we must. For the joy set before us we must. The deceiver's horrific picture of ruination only comes to life if we settle into the muck of bitterness, accepting that brief, shallow, lonely, and perverse pleasure. Ora et labora, the only way out. God help us. And He has.

*Envy of what? Not authority, but freedom. Or, more accurately, what looks to me like a greater freedom than my own, which it only sort of is.

04 January 2011

Keep your distance

For as much as everybody cares about the laundry being clean and the cups being clean, you'd think they'd have at least some interest in the mom being clean.

02 January 2011

And this is your brain on pregnancy

Though a poem about aging and its toils, this gem from Billy Collins nonetheless resonated with me, given the ongoing deterioration of what perspicacity I ever possessed. Collins is one serious, funny dude.


The name of the author is the first to go
followed obediently by the title, the plot,
the heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novel
which suddenly becomes one you have never read, never
even heard of,

as if, one by one, the memories you used to harbor
decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain,
to a little fishing village where there are no phones.

Long ago you kissed the names of the nine Muses goodbye
and watched the quadratic equation pack its bag,
and even now as you memorize the order of the planets,

something else is slipping away, a state flower perhaps,
the address of an uncle, the capital of Paraguay.

Whatever it is you are struggling to remember
it is not poised on the tip of your tongue,
not even lurking in some obscure corner of your spleen.

It has floated away down a dark mythological river
whose name begins with an L as far as you can recall,
well on your own way to oblivion where you will join those
who have even forgotten how to swim and how to ride a

No wonder you rise in the middle of the night
to look up the date of a famous battle in a book on war.
No wonder the moon in the window seems to have drifted
out of a love poem that you used to know by heart.