Monthly Archives: March 2012

An update on the move to Patheos

Pinterest via Sarah Bessey

Hey friends!

Thanks for your feedback this week on the header for the new site. You overwhelmingly voted for happy sweet Micha, as opposed to “pissed, reflective Micha” to quote Cameron in the comments. Although Lyndsey was hoping I could be a little less Beth Moore and more Anne Lamott (confession: I’m way too uncool to be Anne Lamott, and way too Texas to not be Beth Moore), she was one of the few who voted for the non-smiley header. In fact, my other favorite comment of the day was Davita who said, and I quote: “NOT #1. The hair is a bit too “Hanson” (sorry)…” Ha! I love you guys. I can’t stand it.

I originally had said that we’d make the move this Sunday, April 1. But, because of a few hiccups the blog won’t be moving until April 14. That means we get to spend Holy Week together over here. And Holy Week is probably my favorite week of the year on Mama:Monk.

So, I’ll see you Palm Sunday and all the days after as we move toward Easter.

As always, I’m so grateful for you all,

Micha

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Poem-a-Day Friday: Robert Lowell, again

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Yes, I’m still reading Robert Lowell. But I promise a new poet next time. (Next Friday is Good Friday, and I will offer lots of stunning words from the best of the word-makers on that day.)

Today, however, I’m posting this, not because I understand it all. (Lowell is not the easiest.) But because I want to understand it all, because it feels significant for our preparation for Holy Week, and because it was written in 1945 and has the line: “The nineteen-hundred forty-fifth of grace,” which I love.

The Holy Innocents

by Robert Lowell

Listen, the hay-bells tinkle as the cart
Wavers on rubber tires along the tar
And cindered ice below the burlap mill
And ale-wife run. The oxen drool and start
In wonder at the fenders of a car,
And blunder hugely up St. Peter’s hill.
These are the undefiled by woman–their
Sorrow is not the sorrow of this world:
King Herod shrieking vengeance at the curled
Up knees of Jesus choking in the air,

A king of speechless clods and infants. Still
The world out-Herods Herod; and the year,
The nineteen-hundred forty-fifth of grace,
Lumbers with losses up the clinkered hill
Of our purgation; and the oxen near
The worn foundations of their resting-place,
The holy manger where their bed is corn
And holly torn for Christmas. If they die,
As Jesus, in the harness, who will mourn?
Lamb of the shepherds, Child, how still you lie.

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Let them tell this story: She was always being remade

Photo by the amazing and lovely Erin Molloy Photography

I’m a stressed mom. I’m stressed too often. I worry that August’s most prominent memory of his childhood will be my contorted anxiety face leaning over his carseat, snapping at him and plugging his seatbelt in tight. Sometimes he asks me, “Mama, are you stressed?” Sometimes he tells Chris when he comes home: “Mommy was really stressed today.”

Oh, how I hate that. That is not the story I want for my boys’ childhood. Sweet Lord, I beg from my gut, unweave that story. Put a new one in its place…

Tuesday, when were running late to dinner with some relatives I haven’t seen in years, I felt panic missile-blast (to use my son’s lingo) my insides when August wouldn’t hurry into his seat. He was crouched on the floorboard of the back seat, refusing to climb in. I yelled. I slammed my bag into the passenger seat. I sighed as if my sweet, wide life was oppressive, as if these children had made me late. (The truth: I was never on time before I had children. It’s almost always not their fault; it’s mine.) I called my husband as I pulled out the driveway, saying we were late and I was so frustrated that my relatives would have this impression of me, The Late Person. Mostly, I just talked at a high pitch and made the “Ugh!” noises Chris has come to expect from my late afternoon phone calls.

He sighed: “Well, Mama Monk, what are you going to do about it?” And I groaned. How dare he play that card, like I’m actually supposed to practice what I talk about around here? I hung up and drove tapping my hand on the steering wheel for a few blocks while August’s sweet voice was singing along to the cd. I was completely unable to hear the miracle of that boy’s voice, the glory of a 3-year-old’s vocal chords vibrating rhythm and melody.

We stopped at the light and I squeezed my mind tight enough to hear August’s song, long enough to consider Chris’ words. Then I thought about all of you. The light turned green. I prayed, turning the corner onto the access road by Mopac.

I prayed: Lord, Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.

I prayed the words over and over until my mouth was sighing Lord, Lord, Lord.

And, miraculously, my heart pounded strong and matched the sound of my little boy’s voice behind me. I widened my eyes and the world was open again. The tunnel walls fell down and light shimmied in and I breathed. Wow, Jesus, I thought. This time, you fixed me fast.

And that’s true. God is healing me, I know. I know it because each time the slick black slime seeps through my mind and down onto my tongue and slides through my arms and legs to drag me into the dark tunnel, I’m remembering more and more quickly that the tunnel is not my home. The dark slime does not have a bed in my brain anymore. All of this life–the beauty of Brooksie’s chubby legs waddling down the sidewalk, the glory of the budding vines in the backyard, the patter of the rain outside my window–all of it has the potential to break me open into the light and soft curve of God’s goodness.

So, maybe the stressed mom will be the story my boys tell. But, right alongside it, let them tell of the mom who prayed in the car, her left hand on the steering wheel, her right lifted out, offering her broken spirit.

Let them say, She was broken. Let them say, She was always being remade…

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{Practicing Benedict} When new clothing is issued

When new clothing is issued, the old should be immediately returned to be put in store for distribution to the poor. Two tunics and two cowls should be enough for each member of the community to provide for night-wear and for laundering. Anything more than that would be excessive and this must be avoided…

There is one saying, however, from the Acts of the Apostles which the superior must always bear in mind, namely that proper provision was made according to the needs of each. (The Rule of St. Benedict, Chapter 55)

I went shopping on Monday. I bought a yellow skirt, gray shorts, an orange sundress, and a new pair of jeans. I felt like these purchases were necessary.   I rarely wore shorts and skirts during our two years in San Francisco. And it’s at least 80 degrees for five to six months of the year in Austin. It felt necessary to update the bare-leg collection around here. Of course, St. Benedict would probably say my purchases were excessive. He would say that a yellow skirt, gray shorts and an orange sundress ought to be avoided (for more reasons that one!). Part of me agrees…

I’ve been in a state of anxiety over my closet for almost fourteen years. 1997 was the year I first encountered poverty. It was shocking to my soul. It snapped me into an awareness of the world, a calling toward compassion, a longing to know how my culture (American, middle class, evangelical) fit into the world I’d been ignoring those seventeen years prior.

I came home sickened by the thought of my Old Navy shorts and piles of t-shirts and–well, I’m not sure what else I wore back then…shorts and t-shirts…oh, yeah! pajama pants! I came home sickened by what I owned, what I threw around, what I valued and my new knowledge of the desperation of so much of the world. I prayed, “Lord, please don’t let me forget.” Then I made a minor vow to my brain that I wouldn’t buy any more clothes.  I broke that vow the next month. So then I made a new vow with my head: I’d only buy cheap clothes.

That’s how my struggle with clothing has been ever since. I dress like most middle class women in their early 30s. I keep up with trends. I like clothes. I like shopping. And, at the same time, I agonize about what I have. I pray about simplicity. I struggle with what it means that I have outfits and a style and Going Out Shoes. Then, I make myself feel better by thinking about how much bigger other people’s closets are. Or I consider that my concern shouldn’t be how many tops I own but the condition of my heart. And, after I hear those whispers in my brain, I see faces. I see the faces of children in the slums of Nairobi. I see the faces of the women I met along the Rio Negro in Brazil. I see the homeless I drive past in Austin.

One of my New Year’s resolutions was to practice the spiritual discipline of simplicity in my closet. Over the years, I’ve come to realize that my 17-year-old plan of “only buying cheap clothes” was not necessarily better for those living in poverty. First of all, cheap clothing is usually poorly made, which means it gets worn out faster. I’m less likely to be able to give that top from Target away in three years, which means it will sit in a landfill instead of being worn by someone who could use it. Secondly, cheaper clothes are more likely to have been made in sweatshops. That means those who made them may have been mistreated, paid unfairly, and they may have even been children. (I know it’s possible that more expensive clothing has been made in a sweatshop as well. It’s just that cheaper clothes are often more likely to have been made with cheap labor)

My husband appreciates fashion. Does that shock you? He is the best dressed man I know. I like to describe him as “smooth.” And he has slowly eased me toward the world of quality rather than cheapness, of a small closet filled with a few good pieces rather than a large closet full of every option available. The same part of me that finds God’s joy in the beauty of a good book or grasps the deep value of visual art, is also drawn to beautiful clothes. Maybe there is room for beauty as long as it is balanced by simplicity?

I’m learning simplicity. For New Year’s I loaded up two-thirds of my closet and I listened to Benedict’s instructions that they should be given away to the poor. I gave away clothes I wasn’t in love with or that were rarely worn, and kept a small number of tops I loved, three pairs of jeans that worked. I’m relearning how to shop. When I shop, I’m doing it with a purpose, with intention. I’m shopping for the long-term. I’m ignoring cute things that I don’t need, even when they’re on sale. And I’m shopping with a prayerful heart.

I’ve been learning to ask God about what my possible purchase means to him. What does it say about the state of my heart that I think I need this skirt? Then, if my heart is right, what do I know about where this skirt comes from? Will this skirt hurt or help the world?

I don’t know what the answer is. I wish that God was clearer, firmer with me about what clothes should mean to me. I wish clothes came labeled: “Made unfairly by child labor” so I wouldn’t have to do so much detective work. But, following Jesus is never simple. Neither is practicing justice and simplicity. Sometimes I think God simply loves for us to engage with these questions, to live and make choices with intentionality and reverence for God’s creation.

So, here is an instance when applying St. Benedict’s rule literally may not work in my daily life. But I’m learning how to apply it to my heart because I’m grasping more and more fully what the Lord requires of me: “To act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). I really believe justice, mercy and humility should be my standards when I shop.

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I need your help!

Hey friends,

I’m working on the new header for our move over to Patheos and I need your thoughts on my two possible headers. Will you leave me a comment with your opinion? Which do you like the best?

or

PS Special thanks to my brother, Jason Boyett, for the design and to Erin Molloy Photography for the general awesomeness!

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Dirty House Thankful

catchingfireflies.com via Pinterest

 

Come and listen, all you who fear God, and I will tell you what He has done for me. (Psalm 66:14)

  • For the prayer book I’ve been following for the past few weeks (The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle) and its collection of scripture that keeps sticking in my head. Like Psalm 66:14. “I will tell you what he has done for me.” What a beautiful calling to live into…
  • A house littered with toys and cardboard boxes and missing its kitchen table (the weather was so nice we moved it outside): proof of a full, people-filled (anti-task) weekend. It’s nice to have a clean house when Monday arrives, but this weekend was filled with life in the best kind of way.
  • Our friends Kevin and Mindy who we’ve only known for three months but whom we love dearly and who left yesterday for Shanghai, where Mindy will set up the work of an amazing organization called Epic Arts. Epic uses the Arts to engage and offer healing and purpose to people with disabilities. For Mindy’s passion, Kevin’s commitment to her calling, and their willingness to move across the world in order to love well.
  • For a late bedtime Sunday night due to an evening stroll to the park for snow cones.
  • For my little boy who still was in his own imaginary world shooting rockets and slime out his arms instead of running after the ball in his soccer game.
  • For a husband who cheers “Yeah, buddy! Are you having fun?!” when August comes off the field, regardless of his interest in sports involving a ball.
  • For the beauty of a spring that feels like summer, even if summer is going to feel like Mars.
  • For neighbors with sprinklers and kids in their swimsuits
  • For whole days spent outside
  • For friends who come to August’s soccer game
  • For late-night coffee so I can get my blog posts written
  • For my yellow quilt Memaw made me when I got married. (I love a good quilt in the summertime.)
  • For a home that is becoming a place of guests and dinners and late night grown up conversations. For our life in Austin and its goodness and God’s sweetness.

Your turn. What are you thankful for? 

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Micha tries to write about music…

Su Blackwell installation via Pinterest: "While you were Sleeping" 2004

I don’t consider myself a “music person.” I love music and I always have. It moves me and speaks to me, though usually, it’s the lyric that lingers longest in my heart.  Though I have spent a good portion of my life dancing in my closet while simultaneously buttoning my shirt and using my toothbrush as a microphone in the morning, I’m just not one of those people who talks about music in the cool kid language. I have nothing to say about rifts* and lifts and other things that rhyme with “ift.” So, in that sense, I don’t really fit into the music scene of Austin. I’m okay with that. I tried to be a cool music person in 2002 and it turned out that I was just lame. (I wish I could link here to the ridiculous review I wrote of Matt Wertz’s album in Spring of ’02 as an example. Relevant has–rightfully!–removed all hint of it.) So, since then, when people start talking band names I’ve never heard of that I obviously should have heard of, I say, “Oh, I’ve never heard of them,” and I brace myself for the label that will now be removed from their mental assessment of my awesomeness.

Last week I posted about an organization called “Trade in Hope,” which is making a feature-length film about sex trafficking in the US, specifically in Austin, and I was genuinely blessed to be at its benefit showcase this past Saturday night. I went, knowing that the showcase would involve an art display, live music and a viewing of their short film. I assumed the music would be your typical Austin fare, stuff that I would appreciate but fail to connect with because I’m not cool enough or musically learned enough.

The film’s score was written by Casey McPherson from band AlphaRev, whose voice and presence was shockingly powerful to me. He only sang two songs and I audibly sighed when he left the stage. The score was performed by a gathering of musicians called the 1211 band who played live along with the film. (Such an amazing idea, by the way.) And I was reminded that despite my feeling awkward and unsure when it comes to bands and rifts, I have always been moved by music and have always recognized beauty. What I experienced Saturday night as 1211 played was an orb of light moving from the stage toward me and settling in my chest before it exploded all over the room. (That’s dramatic, I know. But it’s true.)

Do you know that moment when you dive into a wave on the shore and you crash through the hard edge of it and find yourself momentarily touched on all sides by soft water? It was that flowing that I experienced. I had to close my eyes so I could feel the drum beat pounding my lungs open and all that good could spill out.

I think what I’m trying to say is that the next morning as I walked forward  to receive communion, loving the words we were singing, I stood as I always do at communion, facing the cross with my hands open, begging bread. And I closed my eyes while the drum beat pounded into my chest again and I felt for a moment what I’d felt the night before: the diving into the hard water, the swoosh through the cover of its softness. The priest put the bread in my hands. I took it. I drank the wine.

When I sat down and closed my eyes to say something to God about the bread and the wine, I saw a picture of the bread in me, a picture of the bread sticking to all the broken parts, holding them together. And just as they stuck, just as I knew the healing was moving through my insides, the wine was a flash-flood past the sticky broken places. The flood rushed through my center and out towards my extremities, lighting my fingers and toes, flashing out of my head and chest.

It was like music swelling and pulsing out…

 

* I’ve recently been made aware that the word is actually RIFF…further insight into my ignorance!

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