Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Glory Be to God for the Dappled Things

Today I woke up very early in the still-dark morning and had one of those episodes of free floating anxiety. That's what my succinct college roommate used to describe the feeling she used to get from time to time.

My mind ran over all of the faults and inadequacies and worries I could muster, real and present and some merely possible, some of the old ones and some new ones -- nothing farfetched, all current or certainly quite possible. I struggled to go back to sleep, but of course that was useless. So I heaved out of bed and decided to spend some time in prayer and the Bible.

This seems like so much chutzpah -- presenting my little, nagging problems to God who has set the blue and swirled world turning, whose eye is on wars and famine and presidents and poverty. And always there is His own great glory, His serene completeness and goodness, ever full and satisfied and never lacking.

But as they say, prayer changes me. His eye is on the little sparrow. If so, then His eye is on the little middle class American housewife and her nest. Now that is something to marvel at.

I must have Lists, on white index cards, or I am lost in the middle of the day looking around like a tourist in a country trying to speak the language with the formal "you" form. (Now what do I do? "Pardonez moi, ou est la train station?") But after a time of detailed prayer, I found my heart much more cool and objective and focused for this task.

The issues and tasks and soulish needs which were monstrous mind-gobbling anxieties became tame, clear and focused when anxiety had been removed.

If God can part the Red Sea, shut the mouths of lions, and convert Saul the Persecuter into Paul the Saint, well then, I expect He can handle a few things here at Anne's house. He can be trusted with the completion of what is important. He can be trusted with the little souls that live here

I finished up and walked outside into the dawn, and saw the roses blooming in my garden. I am a gardening novice, full of half-baked knowledge. I have ingested snatches of offhand information from The Secret Garden ("Dickon, the little plants needed to breathe!") and other fiction stories I have read, and from wandering the Lowe's plant aisle. So I have not held out much hope for this big garden. These plants are wonderful and some seem exotic and very prone to mysterious diseases or maybe they have mold or bugs or grubs or maybe I am watering them too much or maybe too little.

Especially the roses. There are all kinds, and I don't know the names. So I have fumbled and pruned and fed these roses for the past year. At the store I found a jug of something that kills bugs and molds and feeds the plant all in one fell swoop. I squatted down and cocked my head and noticed the undersides of the leaves and pricked my hands and arms, and staked them in the ground for stability.

Now, wondrously, this week the bushes are suddenly heavy with the first crop of pink and red splendor poking out of the gray and green, the dappled beauty, as Gerard Manley Hopkins says, of nature. Not flawless, but gorgeous. A tiny picture of the gentle grace of God... His wink, His condescension, if you will, touching the faults and limitations of the gardener herself and producing something good in the garden in spite of her.

He took care of His roses.

Here are some verses I looked at this morning (I am reading from Paul's letter to the Philippians these days so most will be from that book). All emphases are mine.

"And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ" Philippians 1:6

"...for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure" Phil. 2:13 (my emphasis)

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" Phil. 4:6-7

"Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights of the world, holding fast to the word of life" Phil 2:14-16

"Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the Lord your God is the one who goes with you, He will never leave you or forsake you" Deuteronomy 31:6

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Babies and Pregnancy, Of All Things...

It seems to me that babies are sprouting forth in other families all around me, so here I sit thinking about babies and pregnancy of all things. 

I am thinking, pregnancy is masculine. This is only right, for after all, a man is closely involved. The womb is New York City, it is a large, rumbling construction site of vessels and muscles and belly, swollen with doings and slow traffic and shut down for days, months, longer than predicted. All kinds of activities and such re-routed, things grind to a standstill, then a rush of activity.

Mom at Work! There should be orange Detour signs, No Traffic Today, Not This Month, Not This Summer, Expect Delays! Go the other way! Ok, Stand and Watch, but Stay Back behind the tape. We should all be wearing hard hats and giving cat calls and surveying the scene with our thumbs in our pockets. The baby finally emerges and looks like he has been in a brawl, red and blue and puffy and gasping and clenched.

But of course, pregnancy is also feminine. It is, as the Psalmist says, like knitting. There is fine needlework being done deep down in the womb, a genteel drawing room, private and hushed. There are delicate, tiny, original stitches... the infinitesimal, infinite, industrious click-clicking of molecule upon molecule weaving and fitting, a little friendly gossip between the soul and body, the DNA taking tea.

Did you know, the face forms itself from the outside in? It meets in the middle and leaves it's little calling card, which is the dimple and bow of your upper lip. In a child with a cleft lip, like my boy, Ben, you can see where the face did not meet, the introduction wasn't properly made, and there was a scandal. And always the placenta pours the precise mix of blood and vitamins in, the little toes and hands grasp and push away the cup. There is the clink of saucers, a polite chuckle, a murmur. Then -- shhh -- the baby is sleeping!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Contemplations on the Suburban Hearth

Saturday Ruminations

I write this on an old spiral after a day at dog obedience school, clearing out branches and logs from the storm, and shuttling to and fro the repair shop... the flotsam of suburban life.

As I change clothes, I look down at my Vestal belly, untroubled by improvements and besotted with metaphor. It is Greek Hestia's belly, or the Victorian "Angel at the Hearth," or the Hearth itself where babies are warmed, a Garden where babies are grown.

In college it was tight and brown and good to look at, good for tanning and pink bikinis. But it has been about more important business since then. Now it is good for holding babies. It is good Rx for scraped knees and stubbed toes, a pillow for tired brown heads in church, a place to bury your face when you feel shy or afraid, a warm and friendly place.

It is stretched and functional, criss-crossed with the lines, scars, and shiny stretches of 3 bonnie babies and several surgeries. It bears the haphazard tic-tac-toe of gestation and trauma, the hard work of hammering out and making people. My dad (a military man) remarks on the scars, "Your Marine friends would be jealous."

William...once and years ago you were a baby inside, elbowing my abdomen, forcing me to take up your desperate agenda. One inch of skin separated me from you. One inch of skin and womb between mother and son, and it may as well have been a mile. There was a human pressed to my heart and kicking my ribs, and I had never met him. I hadn't met you.

I'd seen many strangers and never you. And there would be no hurrying our introduction -- that grand introduction. The brutal miracle, this labor of desire, forged by your father's heat and shaped in your mother's lap -- and you, a different soul, separate from us, little squawking man. And now my brown-eyed boy, catcher of baseballs, reader of science encyclopedias, eater of large cookies... irrevocably you.

God's creation. Holy to the Lord. Never early, never late. I wait.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Kid Lit: Lunch Table Poem, Spring in Texas Poem

An Experiment Degustatory
Ogden Nash

A gourmet challenged me to eat
A tiny bit of rattlesnake meat,
Remarking, "Don't look so horror stricken.
You'll find it tastes a lot like chicken."
It did.
Now chicken I cannot eat,
Because it tastes like rattlesnake meat.


The wind is so strong and relentless in North Texas in the Spring. We shout when we are out on the soccer field even if we are close by one another. We wear sweatshirts with hoods and get sunburn and windburn at baseball practice. Our skirts whoosh up in the parking lot after church. Our patio umbrella gets knocked down and our bird feeder does, too. Our wind is the second stanza kind of wind.

Who Has Seen the Wind?
Christina Rossetti

Who has seen the wind?
Neither I nor you
But when the leaves hang trembling,
The wind is passing through.

Who has seen the wind?
Neither you nor I:
But when the trees bow down their heads,
the wind is passing by.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Good quotes, Peace at Home

Good quotes

From Will's copy work at school:
"Temptation of course cannot be avoided, but because we cannot prevent the birds from flying over our heads, there is no need that we should let them nest in our hair." Martin Luther
Another one:
"Have thy tools ready, God will find thee work." Charles Kingsley
Vocation and Moms: Peace at Home

I just read a Goethe quote. It says, "He is happiest, be he king or peasant, who finds peace at home."

It does seem that one of the greatest earthly delights is a peaceful, tranquil home life. Much can be more easily endured -- tight budgets, physical trials, upheaval of all kinds -- if one has a secure, peaceful family life.

"Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near."
Phil. 4