Tradition, thou art for suckling children,
Thou art the enlivening milk for babes;
But no meat for men is in thee.
But, alas, we all are babes.
28 September 2009
And then there are the days when I just want to say, "We're Christian."
25 September 2009
Right up front I'll tell you I haven't kept all these rules. Metanoio. Further analysis below.
--Cleavage, except on busty society matrons at formal events. I'm pretty sure you have to be at least 60 to qualify for this.
--Clothing which appears to have been painted, pasted, or spackled onto the body or a part of the body, no matter how much skin is covered in fabric. It is very possible for a turtleneck, layered tops, or a floor length dress to be immodest, as my beautiful associate notes below.
--Tops cut so low that everybody gets an eyeful when you bend over
--Ill-fitting clothing resulting in gappage and overhang
--Exhibitionist undergarments (vanity or peekaboo straps)
--Clothing through which undergarments are visible
--Midriff exposure (unless you're dressed traditionally in India--yes, culture is also a part of this discussion. But let's stay focused.)
--Skirts or shorts shorter than low to mid-thigh (please note, a skirt's length is measured from the highest point of its slit, not its lowest point on the leg).
--Clothing which makes it obvious that the wearer is wearing a thong or is lacking one of the two standard female undergarments (sorry, hippies).
--Clothing with detailing which draws attention to the places where everyone already pays attention without the helpful direction of seams, sequins, or stripes.
--Clothing with "cute" expressions like "Eye Candy," "You Wish," "Please Mentally Rape Me," etc.
--Unlined skirts or dresses without a slip
--Also, athletic events are not an excuse for cleavage or cling. You can wear a t-shirt. It will not kill you.
Inappropriate for church includes all of the above plus:
--Cleavage, ever. This includes bridal parties. I cannot believe this needs to be spelled out. A bride can still look absolutely beautiful in a wedding dress that shows she belongs to her husband alone rather than everyone. If you must cleave, save it for the reception. And then ask yourself, especially if you're the blushing bride, why must I cleave? Why do I want a whole bunch of people looking at my boobs?
--Clothing requiring specialty underclothing (halter, criss-cross, asymmetrical, or no straps or a low back: all these call attention to what's under your dress, since it obviously isn't standard). This excludes by definition spaghetti straps and strapless or backless tops/dresses. Save all these "cute" items for garden parties.
--Scoop necks, deep Vs, and loose collars of any kind. Kneeling, folks. Think about it.
--Skirts shorter than knee length. Bowing, ditto.
--Heels so high that you can't walk in them without wiggling
--Anything clingy or tight on any part of the body
--Also, dresses or tops with buttons must be checked for gapping. If two-sided tape can't take care of it, retire that piece or buy the next size up.
"Style" is one of the falsest aspirations of humanity. No female has a right to wear any particular article of clothing, even if she looks great in it, even if it's what everybody is wearing, even if it's so cute and she really really likes it. Also, for maternal types, they're not "my clothes" if they don't fit me. Get some that do for early pregnancy, postpartum transition, nursing, and whatever else throws off your measurements--that's what thrift stores are for. My wardrobe is a mile wide in sizes and an inch deep in any given size. Sigh.
Now, I realize that it is very difficult to buy clothes for your exceptionally unique body, for someone your age, etc. Girls, deal with it. There are certain styles which simply cannot be worn modestly on certain body types, and certain styles which are immodest, period. I'm sorry. Your body may also be proportioned such that you have to select certain styles of clothing to modestly fit your largest measurement rather than your smallest one. I'm sorry about that too. I don't like it either. I'm fully aware that it often doesn't look as good as we all want to look, and the misery of having a size that big in your closet.
24 September 2009
Interesting discussion here.
A few months back, I was bulldogging an overfull cart through the grocery store when I walked by a middle-aged mother happily discussing the merits of some brand of something with her three older daughters. All four women were dressed in denim jumpers and loose T-shirts, and they wore their hair up in simple ponytails. The simplicity and uniformity of their clothes startled me (we don't get a lot of that around here), and as I looked them over the oldest daughter noticed me and gave me a warm smile.
I smiled back, of course, but as I lugged my stuff away I wondered, “Why do they do that? They’re communicating ‘weird’ by dressing that way.”
Then: “Oh. That’s why they do that.”
Then: “Ack! No! That’s why they do that!”
Then: “But I LIKE wearing jeans!”
That brief encounter with such unobtrusive modesty made a deep impression on me. Those women were different, and they wore their difference on their sleeves. Their clothes sent a clear message to any onlooker: We aren’t like you; we belong to someone else; we know something you don’t know.
Yet they were not snooty broads, those women. They didn’t seem to be conceited legalists. Their ponytails hinted that they weren’t members of some woman-hating cult. Their cartful of products boasted of normal tastes and a normal life (unlike my cartful of wheat flour and raw beans). They smiled at me kindly when I passed. They laughed easily. They were typically human, but they were modestly dressed and, therefore, set apart.
I have committed various crimes against modesty over the years. I confess I used to wear the girl uniform Father Curtis lambastes in his post. I still own a few tighty-Ts, given to me as gifts, which I have worn. I am heartily sorry and sincerely repent of my tighty-Ts, because I now see that wearing such clothes, clothes that invite the world to appraise my frame, is disrespectful to my confession, my marriage, my children, my brothers and sisters in Christ, and myself. I am a woman, and can hardly disguise it. I am not ashamed of being a woman; I look the way I was designed to look. But there are limits, and looking like a woman needn’t translate into everyone looking.
What is more, I am responsible for the dress of three little girls. The type of woman I am now heavily influences—if not directly predicts—the type of woman my daughters will become. What I wear and how I comport myself communicates consequentially, and my little ones are paying attention. Shape up, self. Lose your vanity and kick the world out of your closet.
The problem: there is precious little available to the sewing-impaired on humble incomes who wish to dress themselves and their daughters modestly. The blousiest blouse is too low cut, the highest turtle neck is corset tight, the loosest pants are much, much too “juicy” or “go team” or “take a good long stare.” Modesty is especially difficult to affect when nursing, for obvious and "I hope it's not so obvious" reasons.
Sure . . . I'll get right on that.
So . . . the most apparent answer: Maternity clothes from the 1980s. The second most apparent answer: Denim jumpers. Aaaaaa! :D
In reality, I’m not about to give up my beloved blue jeans and sweatshirts. Neither am I going to force my daughters into Mennonite garb* anytime soon. We’re weird enough already, and I’m not sure I’m as brave as those grocery store ladies who wore their confession (whatever it was) outright. Instead, I’ve started budgeting to buy my girls' church clothes from providers like Hanna Andersson and April Cornell, whose products are less influenced by Disney, and competitively priced on the sales racks. And I purchase our play clothes from uncool bargain bins at Goodwill. Overall, I’ve started thinking more carefully about what our clothing communicates to outsiders. Does that skirt scream “Everyone, lookit here”? Or does it confess that, finally, we belong to someone else, that we know something the world can’t understand? Our clothes are the first and, sometimes, the only thing people know about us. I think it’s worth considering what our clothes confess, and being sure that our clothes don’t betray us and our children to our enemies.
Goodbye tighty-T. Sure, I was saved by the efficacious blood of Christ while I wore you, but you didn't do me any favors. I’m sorry I ever knew you.
*Though, consider this: I grew up in capped Mennonite country. All the Mennonite girls and women wore tea-length, home-sewn dresses in calico fabrics. The married women wore their hair coiled in buns and covered in black caps. But knock on a Mennonite family’s door in the middle of the day, and you’d likely find the girls and women in jeans with their hair flying loose. Their “capped Mennonite” uniform was for social purposes only . . . which I think very interesting. Very interesting indeed.
1. The anovulation thing is way overblown by NFPers. As we've discussed before, it requires a very calculated approach to breastfeeding which can hardly be called natural for many people, and even then often doesn't "work" for a lot of women. Ecological breastfeeding is the coldest of comforts for someone with an early return of fertility, no matter how much she loves babies.
2. Breastfeeding, the magical weight loss cure. It's true for some people. Not everyone. It's annoying at best to a more traditionally built hard core nursing mom when some scrawny young thing beams knowingly to everyone who tells her that she doesn't look like a mother (horrors!), "I just breastfeed!" So do a lot of moms, get it? Wouldn't the imperfect among us be doing ourselves a favor to emphasize the fact that no naturally occurring function or appearance of our bodies is a personal accomplishment?
3. "If it hurts, you're doing it wrong." I've finally gained enough confidence in my own non-idiocy to say this is . . . let's see, how would pious Grandma have put it? Well, I guess I'll go with "for the birds." Incredibly stupid birds. Lobotomized, inbred, Epsilon Minus dodos. Some women have difficult pregnancies or deliveries, not because they're being pregnant or laboring wrong, but because it's just how their bodies (don't) work. And some women have difficulty breastfeeding, not because they're too stupid to understand the extremely simple latching directions or need even more ogling and manhandling by lactation consultants or really should join La Leche League if they're serious about this. For some reason, breastfeeding can be hard even when executed with the correct mechanics, and by hard I don't mean "Ding bust-it spit, this zipper won't zip!" I mean, "Has the old CIA waterboarding team heard about this?" So deal with it, lactation experts. Breastfeeding is just as screwed up as everything else on this screwed up planet. You, of all people, ought to know. Quit blaming mothers who already hate themselves for failing at something beyond their control, and please make the next edition of your
>>YES. YES. Say it. He vas my... BOYFRIEND.
23 September 2009
There is another advantage, too--I don't have to figure out what to call that one guy any more. I call him Dad, both directly and referentially. I know no one else from church will appropriate this familiarity for personal use. I won't be suspected of affecting formality in these highly informal parts by calling him Pastor. Everyone knows what I mean and it keeps us all very human in a place where it's important to be very human. And I'm partial to the paternal nuance. ;)
21 September 2009
This prayer, however matter-of-factly uttered, is heartwrenching. The lad is tough, but with a tender heart, and he has shed tears for babies loved and lost. Did we err in sharing grief with him?
No. We have shared not only our grief, but the reason for the hope that we have—the reason that we do not grieve as those who have no hope. This kid gets it. He knows the race isn’t over yet. He knows we’re waiting on That Glorious Day. We’re listening for the trumpet blast that heralds the One who brings an end to all strife and the beginning of life made new.
More: He’s five, and he knows that even a teeny, in-utero sibling or cousin or friend that he’s never seen is a person, created and loved by God, whose existence is cause for rejoicing and whose temporal loss is cause for sorrow.
When it comes to topics like death, the truism is true: each mother and father can best discern the information that’s appropriate for their children. (For instance: We’re not totally sure where the three-year-old is with all this. We haven’t talked quite as much with him about it, but neither have we hidden anything from him. Also: we don’t dwell extensively on the topic with our older son, but deal with it as it comes up.)
Sometimes, the suddenness of grief forces a parent’s hand. Misguided protective instincts might tempt us to wrap our children in cozy euphemisms, or else cut them out of the loop altogether. Let’s not be misled by a world that grieves without hope into thinking that we should “love” our children by insulating them from sadness. Let’s not make our children’s happiness into an idol that usurps the place intended for a more profound joy. True Love, after all, is stronger than death.
Let us suffer here with Jesus, and with patience bear our cross.
Joy will follow all our sadness; where He is, there is no loss.
Though today we sow no laughter, we shall reap celestial joy;
All discomforts that annoy shall give way to mirth here-after.
Jesus, here I share Your woe; help me there Your joy to know.
19 September 2009
But there is one other thing I spend a lot of time doing: church stuff. Dad has me subcontracted for a women's Bible study, I'm involved in various modest musical endeavors, I'm inextricably entangled with the school, I'm elbow-deep in every project and event, I babysit to make it easier for other people to do church stuff, I put up signs around town, I have clean underpants on hand for when a kindergartener next door needs a pair (something that happens enough that it doesn't surprise me any more), not to mention that I'm the main supplier of children to the cradle roll. Many of these things cause our house to fall into greater chaos than usual, but it's cool. It's for church, and everyone in our family gets that. Church operations are a "hobby" for all of us.
This, I think, is what pastor's wives used to do. They weren't co-pastors. They did for their church families the kinds of things they did for their families at home. But since wives don't do what wives used to do any more, pastor's wives don't either. Instead of spending the week making pies for the auction (what am I, a scullery wench? and who makes pies any more?), they won't suffer anything beneath the dignity of leading exegesis sessions in the original languages or organizing spiritual retreats where everybody has to sing stupid songs and cry. They're just as busy and tired from working as everybody else, so they're not going to spend their spare moments doing grunt work at church any more than anyone else from church is. Furthermore, the few who are home and are called upon for such tasks are likely to feel taken for granted, since anyone else would be getting paid for their work, and it does intrude upon household operations.
Contemporary pastor's wife angst is cut from the same cloth as contemporary maternal angst. Maybe we don't all play the organ or teach Sunday School or do those things we all love pointing out that we don't do to prove that we're "not the typical pastor's wife," but sheesh, can we please put this boring whine away? I know it would make my husband's life a lot easier if I did play the organ, so that's nothing to be proud of. :P
But the argument I'm more interested in making is that the traditional pastor's wife, like the traditional mom, is primarily someone who is available. Someone who might be able to answer your question, or if she can't, can make sure it gets answered for you. Someone who has the keys and knows where things are. Someone who is there when there's cooking or cleaning or calling of plumbers to be done. Someone who is sensitive to and patient with a parish's quirks and needs. Someone who knows who needs help when, and who might be able to offer it. Someone who can quietly take care of the stuff that other people don't even realize needs to be done. Someone who considers her special gifts an offering to the church rather than something she has a right to pursue and showcase on her own terms for her own fulfillment. Someone whose work stretches the church budget rather than eating into it. Someone who doesn't growl about how she's not getting paid for this and if she were in some other church she'd have a desk and a paycheck (thank you, Commissioned Minister roster).
And all this disregards the fact that there's a rather huge Christian tradition out there that's been getting along just fine without clergy wives and their important, important "ministry" for centuries. Perspective, girls.
Anyway, that's my hobby. And I like it. I love church and I always have and I'm glad I can do things for church because I'm home. Thank you, God.
UPDATE: That should be "pastors' wives," not "pastor's wives" in the third paragraph. How embarrassing.
17 September 2009
16 September 2009
But there are also women whose children are all their joy; to whom the four-toothed smiles and goofy games and wadded flowers are their days' sunshine. Blessed are you and your children. You are the kind of mom crusty rhinos like me wish we were. You are the kind of mom I wish my kids had. Thank you for the example you set in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity. Don't let it get you down when all the crusty rhinos start snorting and bellowing. We think you're great, and you help us remember what we're aiming at.
15 September 2009
Wow, does this sound familiar or what? And a valuable warning for those of us for whom any attack is fine as long as it's prefaced with "Well of course I'm the biggest sinner there is, but . . . ".
"The term "social justice"is in danger of losing its rational content--which would be replaced by a powerful emotional charge."
Prophetic indeed. At least he's been spared the pain of witnessing the abuse done to "sustainability" and "organic."
T.S. Eliot, Christianity and Culture
14 September 2009
Exercise has never felt good to me. I don't get second winds, or that endorphin rush they talk about. And when I imagine what my life would look like on a rainy day digital treadmill readout, I get sad. I see this looooooooooooooooooong course marked out in the red dots, and I'm so much closer to the beginning than the end (DV), and I'm already dripping sweat and dying to quit.
I imagine 15 years (!!) from now when I will maybe, finally be crumpled in the grass, sticky forearms on my sticky knees, too tired for a drink, feeling how hot my face is blazing, wishing for a breeze, waiting for the strength to get to the shower and stand in the icy water and wash it all away. Only thinking, "It's over. It's over."
I know all lives are hard and every time of life is hard. But this feels like that heavy part where I haven't even reached the middle, and all I can think about is being done.
12 September 2009
11 September 2009
*in most cases, in most cases, in most cases.
10 September 2009
Really? She never complained? Ever? To whom did she never complain? To a person who, 200 years later, pieced together the sketchiest of 70 word biographical sketches from a book about the subject's famous husband?
There are also the sainted mothers in living memory who never complained. If I may say so, this is a rather silly assessment for a child to make. The main people in front of whom I strive not to complain are--can you guess? My dear children. Come to think of it, I can't remember my mother ever complaining. I can remember a few impressive outbursts at extremely trying familial moments over the course of my childhood, but I would not classify them as complaining. More like us rotten kids hearing what we deserved to hear for once (and that was my perspective then).
I marvel that I remember so few of these explosions, considering the amount of time she spent taking care of my three closely spaced siblings and me. But now that I'm an adult, she's been more forthcoming with her feelings on child care, and I don't feel quite so alone. :D I still consider her one of the least grousy people I know. (In case anyone is wondering, the persons to whom a mother is likely to complain are her sisters and friends who are also mothers, her own mother, and her husband. And, obviously, her blog.)
And what's complaining anyway? Is it complaining if a third spectacular excretory event in a day makes a mom want to cry, and the kids can tell? Is it complaining if it becomes observable that a 10th week of nausea is starting to get a pregnant lady down? Is it complaining to say that childbirth really, really hurts? Are the facts of a mother's life complaints in themselves, such that they should never be stated?
I'm a complainer, there's no doubt about that. But I don't think that if a pregnant mother or a mother of young children or a mother with little household help answers honestly when someone asks how how she's doing she should be painted as a bitter, closet feminist complainer. If you ask me what I did today, the facts are that I got hugs and kisses and sang songs, but also that my hands got really, disgustingly dirty and more than a few times I was discomfited by the thought that I've got an unpleasant day coming up a few months from now. It's just true. A mother's whole life is true, not just the romantic parts.
09 September 2009
Our work is undergirded by a builder whose plans we don't yet see. Nonetheless, we are called to build carefully and to labor well, not always knowing how God will use the work. It is reminiscent of the line in C.S. Lewis's Perelandra: "One never can see, or not till long afterwards, why any one was selected for any job. And when one does, it is usually some reason that leaves no room for vanity. Certainly, it is never for what the man himself would have regarded as his chief qualifications."(1)
HT: My own mother, who is doubtless still waiting to see how on earth her labors in raising me will turn out :P
08 September 2009
She could never be a saint, but she thought she could be a martyr if they killed her quick.
05 September 2009
I don’t have to get out the CSPP trading cards to know that a 4-to-1 boy/girl ratio (counting Dad and me) is not even close to the big time in boy numbers (think Preus…). But I’m here, and so are they, and—some days, it just seems like there are so many of them.
Scene: Nature’s call interrupts a family walk around the periphery of the local golf course. Dad directs the boy to the most appropriate venue, given the available options.
Boy, returning to path: Why are there so many bathrooms on the golf course?
Mom, muttering darkly: Some people call them trees.
Dad, gleefully: My son, you’re catching on: the world is our bathroom!*
Boy, musing contentedly as he gets back on his bike: I’ve never peed on the golf course before.
This episode occurred shortly after a family vacation during which the three-year-old, to amuse himself along the drive, composed a song. It was a real epic, celebrating the struggles and triumphs of the trip. The refrain: “And I peeeeeeeed on the plaaaaaants in the woooooods.”
Sorry. I just had to share. It's been like that lately.
*I should perhaps note that Dad is normally what I would consider to be a fairly civilized specimen of the male of the species (or should I say, the male species).
03 September 2009
I do a lot of canning. I don't know if it saves any money when you factor in the peripheral expenses (jars, lids, garden costs, and ingredients I have to purchase), but it makes me feel like I'm helping.
Canning is hot work and all husbands like a barefoot wife in the kitchen, so I've been going about it for three summers without benefit of shoes. And it wasn't even the canning that got me in the end, but it could just as easily have been.
On the day in question I received one (1) phone call. I answered the phone and the person on the other end said, "Peanut butter rolls." Then he hung up. This was the only adult to whom I spoke that day.
Now, some people might find this insulting. Especially pregnant people who had spent the morning loading the dehydrator with a million bananas acquired free the day before and the afternoon canning jelly in a very zone 6 kitchen in August while still looking forward to making the buns for supper. But the caller had the callee's own gluttony going for him. So she counted not the heat and the fatigue and the completely unseasonable and arguably terse request, finished her jelly, and moved on to the unscheduled rolls. She even altered her course mid-prep when the Dad/Baby Caucus decided they'd rather have caramel than peanut butter.
Everything was going fine until it was time to turn the rolls out onto the plate. Then the uncoordinated barefoot pregnant lady in the kitchen spilled boiling caramel on her foot. Her bare foot.
It was sad.
What's a girl to do? Cooking barefoot just isn't safe, especially when the project involves lots of hot liquid transfers. But being barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen is a confessional statement not to be cast off in the face of mere personal injury. Fear of blistered feet didn't get anyone onto the sanctoral calendar.
Then I remembered another project I'm supposed to have in the works: Dad's boot scent pads. He told me it would be cheaper for me to make them but I see now that they are quite inexpensive, and considering how much it's going to cost to get my sewing machine fixed so I can do this project (elastic, you know), maybe we'll have another talk about it.
Anyway, it seems to me that these scent pads could easily be adapted to ensure both foot safety and essential barefootism in the kitchen. Simply slide a protective layer under the pad, adjust to a comfortable tension, and the top of your foot will be covered while the bottom remains bare as Bilbo's (and probably as crusty after a few years). Obviously asbestos is the ideal option (that's why they call it asBESTos), but with all these dang hippies taking over the government and outlawing my favorite deadly household products that actually WORK, we'll just have to improvise with what we can find around the house. Probably a disposable diaper full of cutaneously toxic chemicals would do pretty well. Sizes NB-2 should cover most sizes of feminine feet.
Girls, you know we want you barefoot, pregnant, and sweating to death in the kitchen. But please, be careful.
02 September 2009
01 September 2009
I shook off that feeling as best I could, reminding myself to focus on what we were doing rather than on what we weren’t. And I thought: Hey, I can do this. Hey, I’m doing this! The afternoon drew to a close in triumph* with the reading of the last Sidewalk Sentence, and we began eagerly to anticipate Dad’s appearance. Suddenly, the nebulous forgetfulness that had been bothering me all day came sharply into focus in a single, urgent word: Supper!
Right. I’m supposed to feed them all, too. Every day. Several times, every day. Sigh.
Everyone got fed, and everyone was happy, especially when I pulled out the leftover cookies for dessert. But I’m at least one ball short of an amateur juggling act, ya know? :P
*Lest you be conjuring up some ridiculously idealistic picture of our day in your head, let it be known that “triumph” can be defined as follows: BoyOne hopping back and forth over his Sidewalk Sentences, insisting that he can read them just fine upside down (he can); BoyTwo dancing about in rage because BoyThree interfered with his dirt pile; BoyThree, moving on with complete unconcern for the maelstrom in his wake, dumping an entire bucket of water onto himself; the dog all the while trying really hard to get someone to throw her ball.
But if they felt as remorseful as I think they should feel over all the crimes they commit in a day, they'd be depressed all the time. Perhaps this is some kind of built-in coping mechanism so that humans can remember their childhoods fondly. And really, it isn't just a feature of childhood. Although we occasionally feel genuine sorrow over pain we've caused, it's pretty common for our primary cause for remorse to be getting caught or having lowered others' opinion of us, no matter how old we are.