Marching toward spring

March comes in like a lion and does not go out like a lamb.

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March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lion.

March comes in like a lion and goes out like a bear.

March comes in like a lion and goes out like a tiger.

March comes in like a lion and goes out like a wolverine.

March comes in like a lion and goes out like a hyena, laughing fiendishly all the way.

*

But we know better.

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Teach us to pray

A question for you this morning:

If intercessory prayer is as important as we think, why is it not touched in The Lord’s Prayer, the model given when His disciples asked for a lesson? He said—

“After this manner therefore pray ye:

Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.

Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread.

And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.” Matthew 6:9-13

I suppose this word “us” could be considered interceding for mankind along with ourselves, but Jesus’ prayer seems to have four basic components: praise, submission, request, and more praise.

Hmm.

I actually think my own prayers are getting a little top-heavy in the intercession department. Part of this is because I am too fearful and stubborn to bring my own needs.

Now I am curious: what would happen if I took this prayer as my model for a month? What would I learn about God? About prayer?

In April, I would like to pray Jesus’ words daily, in some way. Some days I will recite them, some days read them in another translation, some days use them as an outline / framework / launch pad for my own praises and requests. Anyone want to join me? At the end of the month, we’ll talk about this again, and share whatever we learned.

Do you have anything to say about the Lord’s Prayer, for starters? An answer to my question above?

Lord, teach us to pray.

The tale of Ralph

Confession: My daughter got a pet mouse for Christmas. She’d been begging for one for months.

I said “Honey, are you sure you don’t want a dolly?”

No, she was sure. A live mouse that she could keep and hold in her hand.

Deep breath from Mommy. Already then.

We bought his cage and food and things ahead of time, which she unwrapped on Christmas morning to the tune of a delighted shriek and a huge grin. A day or two later we took her to the pet store and she picked out Ralph, a rather darling black mouse with a white star on his forehead. (Kelly insisted it was a heart, not a star.)

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She held him often in the next few weeks. He was a sweet mouse, if there is such a thing—nice and slow. If he got away, he was easy to catch. We filled his food dishes once a week when we cleaned out his cage. He stayed clean, and didn’t bite, and got used to Kelly and his new home. He never ran the exercise wheel, just moseyed up and down his little purple ramps.

“Ralph is living a long time, Mommy,” Kelly would say happily.

Then came March, my wild month of tasks, and one week in particular when I kept thinking I needed to clean the mouse cage but it wasn’t too bad and I was so busy… I’d do it tomorrow… or the next day… Ralph seemed to be doing alright until the night I found him unmoving on his cage floor, with his food dishes empty. There may have been moments in my mothering career when I felt like a greater heel, but I don’t remember any.

“Ryan,” I said. “I starved Ralph to death. What do I do?!?”

I tried desperately to think of any way to avoid telling Kelly. May I insert a disclaimer here? I am not the kind of mother who shields her kids from the realities of life most of the time. But oh, the realities of life in the country! If it’s not a goat getting chewed up by a passing predator, it’s a darling chipmunk caught by the cats and found too late to be rescued. Entrails on our doormat. Cats always tangling with traps and vehicles. Six precious puppies all heartlessly sold to new owners despite her tears. The purpose of Ralph was to be Kelly’s very own—not to be given, mutilated, or sold, so help me God.

I decided what I would do.

The next day I made an emergency run to the pet store and found they had a single black mouse in a cage full of white ones. He was missing the star, and I thought briefly of doctoring him with Wite-Out, but otherwise—he looked just like Ralph. “I’ll take him,” I said. I hustled home, slipped him into the cage (clean cage) (freshly filled with food cage), and breathed a huge sigh of relief.

But I had not reckoned on one thing: mouse personality. I didn’t even know there was such a thing.

First of all, he wasn’t a he. He was a she, and she was a wildcat. She had more energy than ten Ralphs, nosing about her cage, climbing up the wire walls, scurrying about. That first night as we sat eating supper, she started running her exercise wheel. Kelly went over to watch. He learned!! The rest of us all got a case of the dry grins and tried not to show it. Having learned how, Ms. Ralph kept that wheel running, boys—day and night. I think she had a nervous disorder. Little vixen.

And then her odor!

The following day, from that new mouse in her pristine second-day cage there arose to my nostrils such a stench—(Am I getting carried away? Yes, I am.) In short, she reeked. I couldn’t enter the house without smelling her in the next room.

I hadn’t realized Ralph was such a prince among mice. Now I felt even worse.

I sat down with my daughter and said “Honey, I need to talk to you.” I didn’t exactly say how Ralph died, but I said all the rest, including “Sweetie, I just can’t live with this mouse. Can we get rid of her and let you pick out a new animal at the pet store? A hamster? A gerbil? A new mouse?” She laughed a lot and cried a little and looked at me with those beautiful wide eyes… and agreed.

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The result is an adorable baby gerbil, no bigger than a mouse, named Sugar. He’s a boy—I’m not taking any more chances with girl rodents. He is very sweet. He has no discernible odor. He will spill his food all over the cage digging for the best bits, but it may have something to do with the fact that I’m feeding him every day.

Sigh.

All’s well that ends well. But I am sure I’m going to get to heaven and God is going to say “Well, dear, you visited the fatherless and widows in their affliction and kept yourself unspotted from the world—but WHAT ABOUT THAT MOUSE??”

No-Bake Energy Bites

Well, it’s been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon.

{snort}

In truth I find myself in the busiest stage of life I’ve ever experienced, a relentless and impossible month. So here’s a recipe for such a time as this—No-Bake Energy Bites, our favorite cookie at the moment.

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I found this recipe online (there are versions galore), and tweaked and tweaked it until it’s just right for my family. We like a mix of quick oats and rolled. We like milk chocolate chips. We found the vanilla distracted us from the creamier flavors, and began omitting it. Even my kids who don’t like coconut love these little guys.

No-Bake Energy Bites

1 ¼ cup quick oats

1 ¼ cup rolled oats

1 cup coconut

1 cup wheat germ

¾ cup chocolate chips

2 Tbsp. flax seeds

1 cup peanut butter

¾ cup honey

Stir dry ingredients together, then add peanut butter and honey. Stir well. Chill half an hour, then shape into balls. Refrigerate to store. Yield: 40-50 1” balls—enough to last two days at my house if I’m lucky.

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Of course you could add whatever you’d like to this recipe: dried fruit, more seeds, M&Ms. What would you throw in?

Happy eating! May your energy rise to meet the road. Or something like that.

Processing miscarriage

Thank you so much for your advice and wisdom on my last post. I wrote what follows before I read your stories, but I could be quoting you. You also said some things I’d never thought of before. Thanks for being so brave in sharing your words.

Here are the suggestions good women gave to me, which I will share in turn. I will not tell their stories, but they were right. Thank you, Jean, Renee, Becca, Rachel, Marlene, Stephanie, Renita, Chastin, Hope Anne, and Cynthia. In the interest of being concise I’m afraid of sounding terse and superior… Please know that I’m talking out of pain I will not describe here.

*****

Confession: I don’t have a philosophy of miscarriage. It’s unfortunate that when a Trouble comes, my ideas and theories about it fly away. Or maybe that’s a good thing? I have found nothing to stave off the pain or to match the needs of varied situations, and a numbered list has a ridiculousness all its own.

But in the weeks following my miscarriage, Jesus began the work healing me. (He’s not done yet.) Here are some of the things His daughters taught me.

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1. Talk to other women who’ve experienced this loss.

One strange thing about pain (any pain, whether cancer or abuse or the death of a loved one) is that you enter unwittingly, even unwillingly, a sisterhood of those who have known this pain. After you come to accept that you are here, gathered with others around a life event you’d never have chosen, you may find much comfort in this place. These other stories are not yours, and do not need to define yours, but are there in a circle of strength around you. Your grief is not isolated. Your sorrow does not stand alone.

Miscarriage can be part of a healthy family story. It has touched countless women without destroying them; it is not the end of the path.

As Rosina pointed out yesterday (and several of you demonstrated), anyone softened by sorrow can offer meaningful care. Let’s not demand that someone must have walked in OUR SHOES before receiving the love they have to give…

2. Find a few physical things by which to remember your baby.

Early miscarriages especially give little closure, little to say goodbye to. You might fill a box with the notes and cards you receive over that time, plant a special tree or flower, stand a Willow Tree figurine on your mantel, write a letter, sew a little blanket, or put a remembrance stone in your garden. Somehow, touch the things that will remind you of him.

3. Give yourself time and grace.

Though many experience it, miscarriage is also a private pain—no one but you held this child. It is okay to feel a lot, to cry. You have been touched by love and human life, and cannot be unchanged. Journal, talk to a friend, listen to music late at night when you can’t sleep. Give your emotions and your hormones time to settle. Don’t be hard on yourself or blame the body that betrayed you.

4. Spend time with your spouse.

Let him comfort you and sorrow with you. He’s part of this story, and it’s his loss too, though he’ll process it differently. Even after the tears are done and the words are silenced, be together. Treasure his presence and his feelings.

5. Name your baby.

…Even if you do not share his name with others. He is real, and your loss is somehow validated by naming him.

6. Re-read Psalm 139.

I couldn’t find God’s heart in the weeks after losing my baby. Most of the time I thought He probably didn’t care. He drew near and opened my eyes each time I read David’s words about an unborn child, depicting the loving and intimate involvement of the Father.

7. Steep yourself in love.

There will be a few very painful reminders along the way: the first pregnancy news from a friend, the baby who is born when yours would have been, the next Mother’s Day. You will survive this thing by loving, not by hating. Open your arms and heart to the little people around you, and to the women whose bellies are rounded with unborn life.

8. Hold onto faith.

(This one was hardest for me.)

God may seem different than you ever thought him to be. Heaven may seem more real than ever, or an uncertain castle in the air. When you have no assurance of your own, lean on the faith of others and trust their words. Feel, more than figure out. You can experience the pain without finding answers for all the hard questions right now.

He is good. And the story is not done yet…