Now observe that when that clever harlot, our natural reason… , takes a look at married life, she turns up her nose and says, “Alas, must I rock the baby, wash its diapers, make its bed, smell its stench, stay up nights with it, take care of it when it cries, heal its rashes and sores… ?
What then does Christian faith say to this? It opens its eyes, looks upon all these insignificant, distasteful, and despised duties in the Spirit, and is aware that they are all adorned with divine approval as with the costliest gold and jewels. It says, O God, because I am certain that thou hast created me as a man and hast from my body begotten this child, I also know for a certainty that it meets with thy perfect pleasure. I confess to thee that I am not worthy to rock the little babe or wash its diapers, or to be entrusted with the care of the child and its mother. How is it that I, without any merit, have come to this distinction of being certain that I am serving thy creature and thy most precious will? O how gladly will I do so, though the duties should be even more insignificant and despised. Neither frost nor heat, neither drudgery nor labor, will distress or dissuade me, for I am certain that it is thus pleasing in thy sight…
God, with all his angels and creatures is smiling-–not because the father is washing diapers, but because he is doing so in Christian faith.
The idea of mothering as vocation is sometimes one we wrestle with. . . individually, together. The inherent struggles related to the concept is probably why we have a whole section of the MbG community set aside to encourage one another in vocation.
I could almost end the post there. But that would be so entirely out of character of me. A title and a sigh? Too brief. Lee don’t do brief. That much is likely obvious at this point.
So here I am. In a quiet house. With a laptop on my . . . well . . . lap. And a glass of wine beside me. Merlot. It’s only a tiny bit, but it’s there. Nice. Relaxing. The quiet. The wine. My warm, humming, lap-dwelling, purple-plastic-encased friend and my thoughts. *sigh*
I had a stupid crazy day. A roller coaster day. One that needed to end this way. With my older two off to a Halloween party with my husband and Ruth asleep upstairs at the early hour of 6 P.M. It’s so quiet. So very quiet. I’m rarely alone in the house. Not that I’m truly alone right now, the lull of Ruth’s white-noise machine coming through on the monitor reminds me of that. But I am mostly alone. Alone enough. In my own house, so I can wear sweatpants and a fleece pullover and thick cozy gym socks and no shoes and no makeup and messy hair. I can feel the tension that built up all day seeping out of me. With each breath, my lungs expand a little fuller, my shoulders drop a little lower, my blood pressure follows my shoulders.
What brings me to this place? The place of extreme tension that needed release? I’m not exactly sure. I don’t know what made me crazy today, I just know that I was.
We had a wonderful Friday and Saturday. My used-to-be-imaginary friend came to visit with her cute, cute boys. The three older ones had a great time playing together, the blue-eyed visitor eagerly and comfortably exploring most every nook and cranny of our home in search of more and more of what I’ve discovered is an excessive amount of toys and treasures. My toddler-girl only barely tolerated all my lovin’ on the baby-boy visitor, but I reveled in it. My future mom-to-many preschooler did more than her fair share of lovin’ on the baby too. Well, lets face it, we all did. I imagine it was most intense as our own last baby just turned 18 months and with that turn has now left babyhood in her rear-view mirror.
It was glorious to get simply to sit and chat with a bona fide grown-up, one who is a mom of wee ones, like me. One who is a Christian, like me. One who hops up immediately to tend to her crying baby, like me. One who doesn’t think I’m stark raving mad for still nursing my toddler. One who thinks. Really thinks about things, who had a thinking life before children and looks forward to thinking more when her children are older. One who joined my husband and me in our coffee extravaganza yesterday.
Online chit-chat is wonderful. I love it. I love my message board. I love my imaginary friends, and truly do count them among my real friends, contrary to what I call them. I know they’re real. They know I’m real. And we have a real relationship. And I don’t know how I would have made it through my parenting years, particularly the last 20-plus months without them.
However. Nothing can replace that comfort of being face-to-face with someone who gets you. Someone who looks straight into your eyes as you talk, indicating she’s listening intently, encouraging you to say more. Encouraging me to say more, when this blog is my best attempt at making my stories brief. No matter how well you can express your feelings in writing, no matter how expansive your pantry of emoticons is, it’s not the same–it can’t be the same–as sitting with another flesh-and-bone human being and exchanging thoughts, ideas, stories, laughter, coffee-coffee-coffee, dinner, screaming kids, loud cymbals crashing, and more electronic toys than you ever thought a semi-crunchy mom would allow. It can never be the same.
God came in flesh and bone.
I didn’t mean to go that direction when I sat down to my laptop in my quiet house and with my glass of wine. None of this was what I planned to say. But here I am, staring it in the face. As I ponder the difference between this long-distance, two-dimensional medium of relating and real (IRL) human interaction, theological implications bubble up. I think it’s my job. I typed flesh and bone and WHAM! Incarnation popped into my head. Well, I’m not sure if it would WHAM if it simply popped in, but at any rate, I was staring it in the face. Scratch that. I was staring Him in the face. God. In flesh. To earth come down. God is incarnational. In-flesh-y. For the sake of not only our sin, but also for our sensual nature, God put on flesh to be amongst us IRL. Real, tangible, concrete, face-to-face. And in that encounter, we are given a full-on view of God, his nature, his character, his personhood. God has still left some things to mystery, for sure. But in Christ Jesus, we see our fullest possible view of God. We needed it and he gave it to us.
This is how we operate. We need the tangible. Something is lacking in both our relationship with God and with one another if we don’t have the concrete, tangible, taste-touch-smell-see encounter with Him or with one another. God knew this (well, of course He knew it, he’s God!) and came to where we could see him and touch him and smell him–and think on that, he did smell: first century Palestine, sandals and poor sanitation, donkeys and all that–and did his best work amongst us and for us. And he continues to relate to us that way, in-flesh-y. He meets us there in the sacraments in a way we can see and taste and smell and splash and accidentally pour down the front of our favorite church-y maternity blouse. He knows we work best through our senses–even poor, sensory-dull me–and he accommodates that sensory nature of ours: meeting us in flesh and in water and in bread and in wine (even if it is Welches’ and not merlot) and in people.
Is it any accident Jesus didn’t come to earth in the time of mass media? Well, it’s God we’re talking about here, so that’s your first clue that it was no accident. No. God came at a time when in order to share good news with someone, in order to share any news with someone, you had to be with that someone. Sure, you could write a letter, but even that letter had to be delivered by someone sent from me to you with a message you could likely see written all over his face in the form of JOY. You can’t text joy. You can’t chat joy. You can’t post it, put it in a thread, or even emoticon it. That is not joy. It looks the same as happy. And kinda happy. And gee I just smiled thinking of you. Even my favorite, :bounce (with the little smiley-guy bouncing up and down on a couch) that’s not joy. Eyes glowing, tears glistening, body shaking, that’s joy. Or at least the start of it. Voice higher, faster, brighter; hands gesticulating wildly, knee bouncing. More joy, with some excitement thrown in.
This is how God made us to interact: three, four, eight dimensions, all at play, communicating, relating, being together. It’s a necessary part of being human. It’s the fullest way of being friends. It’s God’s fullest way of being God. With us.
Hunh. That didn’t go where I though it was going to go. My wine is gone, my laptop is making my lapsweat, and I just heard the mini-van door close, indicating my house will only be quiet for about another thirty seconds. But I thought. And I’m relaxed. And I’ve gained a greater appreciation for my God and for my crazy, loud, boisterous, smelly, dirty, cute, sweet, bouncing, joy-filled, exuberant children. And for my husband who is every bit flesh and bone. Human. And wonderful. Praise be to God He made us to be with people. Smells and all.
So, after the long ramble, here’s the simple bit. I would love to know what you all think, or your ideas along these lines.
- Identify your local immigrant cultures. Where I am now, it’s Hispanic food, but there’s also a small Asian and Middle-Eastern population. There are so many amazing and inexpensive Hispanic restaurants and grocery stores with amazing and exotic foods and spices. Look around you!
- Identify your inexpensive food sources. Down here, it’s an international farmer’s market in Atlanta, & we’re doing CSA boxes with a friend. In Pennsylvania, there are urban farmer’s markets scattered all over major cities. And through this, make inexpensive staples/seasonal foods the basis of your cooking explorations as much as possible.
- Experiment with spices.
- Feel free to substitute similar ingredients, using things that are available where you are, or ingredients that your family likes. We can’t eat things too hot-spicy, so we usually make things flavor-spicy instead, if that makes sense.
- Save yourself time when you can by doubling what you need.
- Use food as a learning experience.
- Practice hospitality as you’re learning.
Cross-posted from In Search of Lost Time.
It seems like new parents often have to learn to get balanced, like learning to ride a bicycle — some are comfortable with authority and wobble to the side of being too rules-oriented and need to balance that with more grace and flexibility and others are natural nurturers and wobble to the side of being too permissive and need to balance that with firmness and authority.
One nice thing about getting older is that I find I have so much in common with parents no matter which side they wobbled to early on — in the end caring parents generally are balanced out.
Did you find you “wobbled” a bit to one side or the other in your earliest parenting years? Did you find you overcompensated as you found balance? What ideas helped you find balance? What encouragement do you have for other mothers during the wobbly years?