Wednesday Prayers: Rest

Mr. M and I are trying something new. We gave a curfew to problem-solving. After 8 P.M., we're done fixing/brainstorming/analyzing/planning in our house. This wouldn't be a good thing in households where issues aren't discussed, but we are not one of those, by a long shot. Ergo, there is to be no improvement after 8.

There are so many areas where we're both growing lately that it's a little overwhelming. We welcome those changes, we've been waiting for them, but... well, I one of us can be a bloody Jack Russell of singlemindedness a bit determined. So we're making time to let go. We're deliberately noting that we are not in control of the universe. We're putting into practice the understanding that growth takes time, and constant poking at a seedling doesn't make it a great big plant overnight. And, even more importantly, God is the one who turns the seed into a plant-- let's make some space for divine work instead of fooling ourselves that it's all us. I can put a seed in the ground, but I sure can't cause a tiny shoot to emerge.

In honor of this, I offer the following prayer this week, found in my battered copy of The Pastor's Prayerbook by Robert. N. Rodenmayer (altered for gender-inclusiveness):

O Thou unchanging lover of people, who dost continually make new the failures and imperfections of people, accept, we beseech Thee, the offering of what we have done, and left undone, and done amiss this day. Meet our imperfection with Thy perfection, our weakness with Thy life, our sins with Thy transforming love, and accept and make perfect these our imperfect prayers.



For Lent this year, I gave up shopping for clothes.* Mr. M gave up eating out, so for the most part, I'm not doing that, either.

I didn't think that I shopped a lot (and compared to a lot of people, I truly don't), but I know that I do it when I need a boost. I think that a new skirt or shoes will make me seem more appealing somehow-- prettier, sweeter, more interesting, funnier, more thoughtful, more serious, less serious, more athletic, smarter, more competant-- you get the idea. I don't trust that people will see and love those things within me, and so I look for external ways to flag them.

There is nothing I can buy that will make me lovable. If you roll your eyes because I wear girly dresses, or grimace because I'm not stylish enough-- well, you probably wouldn't like me much, anyway. I'm not going to wear a burlap sack-- I still love soft fabrics and pretty colors (and Peacebang), but there is nothing I can wear that will make you think I'm beautiful. On the other hand, there's also nothing I can wear that will make you think I'm not. As evidence: while Mr. M loves my little black dress, he loves my gross sweaty gym clothes just as much. My favorite girlfriend knows I'm smart even when I sit around her apartment in a towel and a feather boa.

Yesterday, I realized that for the first time in I-can't-even-imagine-how-long, I wasn't at all worried about money. I felt totally comfortable with how much we have. It wasn't because we've been saving money by these Lenten practices (though in some ways that's true, it's also being spent on other things), but rather because I felt like we have what we need. We have plenty. There are things we don't have, and that's okay. We have enough money, and I have enough love.

*In the interest of full disclosure, there was a Champion closeout sale last week, and I bought a sports bra. That I needed. For $10. I think it's OK.


A Sartorial Aside

Skinny white boys should not go running in just beige shorts. It makes 'em look nekkid.

That is all.


Wednesday Prayers: Enough

I put off this weekly post all day today. Every time I thought about it, I felt stuck: what do I need, what do I have to share?

Until finally: today, I have enough. There are unresolved, unanswered problems. But for today, I'm OK. For today, I can live without knowing the solutions. I have been given my daily bread-- enough to sustain me, for this one day. I can live with where I am.

There are days to plead with God, to remember that God invites those pleas-- "Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone?" (Mt. 7:9). But today, I have already been given enough.

How about you? Is it a time to rest, or a time to reach?



It's been a family joke for a long time that I have a horribly brown thumb. My mother practically drips chlorophyl, she's so good with plants, but I once killed an air fern.

At my last job, I decided to have plants at my desk, but I didn't want it to become a collection of terracotta tombs. Ergo, I tried succulents-- cute little ones, in darling tiny pots. I bought one each time we visited Longwood Gardens as a special treat. Mr. M told his dad, and then I got a cutting from one of his, too. I've lost a couple, and they lose leaves from time to time, (and occasionally a cat will fling one off the windowsill) but for the most part they're holding up well.

A couple of weeks ago, I noticed that a fallen leaf had sprouted other, tiny leaves! This morning I transplanted it, and indeed, there's a long, healthy-looking root!

To go from killing all plants to being able to make a cutting-- impressive! (Erm... even if it was accidental.) Maybe eventually Mr. M will let me get a dog...


Wednesday Prayers: Here I Raise My Ebenezer

I was poking through the Old Testament this week when I came upon a verse I hadn't thought of in a while:
"Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Jeshanah, and named it Ebenezer; for he said, ‘Thus far the Lord has helped us.’ " - 1 Samuel 7:1

The only reason I'd ever thought about that verse at all is that it's referenced in one of my favorite hymns. In the version I know of "Come, Thou Font of Many Blessings," we sing, "Here I raise my Ebenezer, hither by Thy help I've come." I learned in college that an Ebenezer was a monument to God's help, and the definition stuck with me. (Mr. M once told me that a parishioner leaned over to him one Sunday as I was setting the altar for communion and asked if I knew all the hymns by heart. No, not all of them, but definitely that one.)

So, anyway, I stumbled upon my old friend Ebenezer and sat with him a while. Thought about having gotten here by God's help.
Here with vocation.
Here with family.
Here with friendships.
Here with my husband.
Here with God's own self.

Sometimes "here" stinks on ice, and other times "here" looks awfully good, but either way, I've come this far with God's help. And when I'm reminded of that, I can see it. I can't see all of it, I'm sure, but enough to be steeped in gratitude. I have inklings of where I might be without some extraordinary interventions-- friends, mentors and advisors who have cared for and guided me, in particular-- and I'm overwhelmed.

How about you? Any gratitude I can share in with you? Any need I can pray for?


The Centrality of Being a Military Brat

My last year of college, I met another student who told magical stories about the small town he was from. As a military brat, I was particularly enthralled by his tales. And so, when I graduated I packed up for a similar small town, and hoped to find the same wonder, love, and safety that he'd experienced.

As the less naive of you might have guessed, it didn't quite turn out that way. While it's a lovely little town, I figured out within a year or two that the only people I was making friends with were other transplants. Natives weren't friendly at all. They weren't unfriendly, but as one of them said to me, "I don't know how to make new friends, because I've never needed to." (And here I'd been thinking I just stopped being likeable after college...)

It wasn't until I met a Mennonite pastor, Max (whose family has been in their town so long that he can see the porch where his great-grandmother smoked pipes from his own porch), that I found someone who understood. Max had been telling the same sort of Phil Gulley/Jan Karon stories that my college friend did, and when we had a few minutes alone, I told him about my experience. He thought quietly, and told me that he thought the place I might feel most at home would be somewhere with lots of other nomads. He said that people are like lego bricks, and we tend to feel most at ease when more of our little notches line up. I was grateful to him, and I've rarely felt so deeply understood by someone than during our brief conversation.

And he's right. The two places where I've felt most at home were Washington, DC, and college-- both places where not many people were from there.

The last year I was in The Process, the bishop was upset that it takes a while for me to open up to people. He saw this as arrogance, or as being unwilling to look at myself. I can't tell you how comforted I was when a wonderful friend said, "doesn't he know that's part of being a military brat?!" Because we make friends, but we're often skittish, and we've learned to be cautious about revealing ourselves. (Related note: this makes those people to whom we can reveal ourselves immeasurably precious to us.)

I'm thinking about this today, because Angela posted a great video (see below), and I was grateful for the reminder that I'm not the only one.

I've tried to explain to a few people how difficult it's been for me to live in this small town for 8 years (though there have been parts I've loved). Without this context, it can be impossible for people to understand. (Sometimes even with context explained...)

We look to a person's origins, their hometown, for clues about them. If, like me, they don't have a hometown, we tend to assume they're a blank slate. Instead, transience itself becomes a formative hometown.


Wednesday Prayers: Calls to Prayer

I know a little, but not much, about calls to prayer in different communities of faith. Christian monastic communities are often grounded in specific hours of daily communal prayer, signaled by bells. One of the five pillars of Islam are 5 daily times of prayer, and visitors to Muslim countries might hear the call to prayer called out from minarets. For most of us, though, we must listen for covert calls to prayer.

When I first moved to this small town, I particularly enjoyed the church bells that play every day at noon and 6. This is an easy call to prayer to notice-- favorite hymns from the bells remind me of worship.

The sirens of emergency vehicles are a call to prayer for me. I remember a pastor from my childhood who would stop his sermon and offer a brief prayer for both those requiring and offering help when he heard a siren. I liked that a lot, and have offered a lot of silent prayers the same way.

When I do the week's grocery shopping alone (often this is a shared activity-- Mr. M LOVES grocery shopping), the checkout line is a call to prayer. I don't have anything to do, and the lines are filled with so many different people, often frazzled and unhappy. As I wait, I silently bless them.

These are my regular calls to prayer, but you'll notice they leave huge swaths of time without a call. I'd love to hear some of yours, to learn to notice other calls.