30 July 2010
29 July 2010
27 July 2010
The true wife clings and leans, but she also helps and inspires. Her husband feels the mighty inspiration of her love in all his life. Toil is easier, burdens are lighter, and battles are less fierce, because of the face that waits in the quiet of the home, because of the heart that beats in loving sympathy whatever the experience, because of the voice that speaks its words of cheer and encouragement when the day’s work is done. No wife knows how much she can do to make her husband honored among men, and his life a power and success, by her loyal faithfulness, by the active inspiration of her own sweet life. Here are the true words from another pen:
“The woodman’s axe swings lighter, the heavy blows on the anvil have more music than fatigue in them, the farmer whistles cheerfully over his plough, the mechanic’s severest toil is lightened by a sweet refrain, when he knows that his fair young bride is in sympathy with him, and while watching his return is providing daintily for his pleasure and comfort, eager to give him loving welcome. To the artist at his easel come fairer visions to be transformed to the canvas because of the dear one presiding over his house. The author in his study finds the dullest subjects clothed in freshness and vigor because of the gentle critic to whom he can go for aid and encouragement. The lawyer prepares his case with better balanced energy, thinks more clearly, pleads his cause with more effective eloquence, inspired by the cheering words uttered as he goes to his labors by the young wife whose thoughts he is assured will follow his work with her judicious, tranquillizing sympathy. The physician in his daily rounds among the sick and suffering knows there is one, now all his own, praying for his success, and this knowledge so fills his being that his very presence by the sick bed has healing in it. The young pastor in his efforts to minister to the spiritual wants of his flock will speak peace to the troubled souls committed to his trust with far more zeal and tenderness for the love that will smile on him when he returns home.”
25 July 2010
I recently ran again across the term sprezzatura, which in its original sense (a la Castiglione) has fake-y connotations. But the definition suggested by the context had more to do with doing something difficult, doing it well, and making it look easy. Wiktionary calls sprezzatura “The art of doing a difficult task so gracefully, that it looks effortless.” You see where I’m going with this, don’t you? Unto each woman are her own difficulties, and each difficulty presents the opportunity to respond with grace or to, well, throw a tantrum.
I’ve been thinking about this lately as I muster the troops for church. The church behavior situation had reached a fairly manageable point. Then we moved. Then we had another baby. Since then, I’ve been referring to my church attendance as “worship wars,” “the Sunday circus,” etc. We’ve discussed this here before; you know how it is. As the action rages and ebbs, there are glimpses of victory, but the skirmishes continue.
So: I can stumble into the narthex looking as dragged-out and desperate as I sometimes feel by that early juncture of a Sunday morn, or I can smile and ask that first-time mom, with genuine interest, how her baby is doing. Likewise, I can allow my frustration during the service to be broadcast loud in exasperated posture, or I can arrange the children and strategize the in-church guidance to be as minimally distracting as possible under the circumstances. (I know; sometimes there are circumstances beyond our control. Recently, I hauled out a two-year-old who was repeating, none too quietly all the way down the center aisle, “Don’t ‘pank me! Don’t ‘pank me!”)
When you hear a flawless performance, you know that it was preceded by hours of practice and thousands of wrong notes. When you behold the work of a Renaissance master, you know that beneath the familiar masterpiece are the scratches of a dozen sketches. When you encounter an elegant argument or a worthy poem, you know that for every extant line, at least twice as many were discarded.
As it is in the other arts, so it is in the art of childrearing. For every manner that’s remembered at Grandma’s house, for every instance of good behavior in the grocery store, even for every time that they remember to put their clothes in the hamper—in short for every occasion on which they fail to act like the fallen little creatures that they are—there’s a backstory of blood, sweat, and tears.
Taking large quantities* of young children to church by oneself is difficult. Everyone already knows that. What everyone doesn’t already know is that there’s also deep joy (sometimes immediate, sometimes eventual, sometimes ultimate) in taking large quantities of children to church. And of having large quantities of children, in general. There’s a masterpiece in the works—a majesty well-concealed in these small unruly people, who are after all no mere mortals. Right now the melody is marred by many a wrong note, and the portrait is lost in the scribbles. But one day—oh, one Day!—the glory of this humble and humbling endeavor will be revealed. And it will be dazzling.
*I know, I know—with only four, I’m an amateur. But I keenly feel what we often say hereabouts in bemused bewilderment: “There are just so many of them…”
23 July 2010
22 July 2010
In my humble experience,** household chaos, or at least the potential thereof, increases exponentially rather than arithmetically with the birth of each child. (It seems to me that this is often particularly true with the birth of the second child.) Long ago, I hopefully postulated a more reasonable hypothesis, but experience has not borne it out. So the equation for potential household chaos upon adding a baby isn’t simply n+1 (where n=number of havocwreakers already in the household). Help me out, people—what’s the equation I’m looking for? (Those of you with multiples can tell us how it needs to be adjusted for that situation.)
I’m thinking about this because if I can describe the situation in a neat equation, then at least one thing around here will be neat . :P
*Counterpoint: there’s nothing like adding a baby to make one marvel at the wonders God works in each family member’s heart through that newest soul.
**I'm at a particularly crazy point right now. Check back later and I may think that there's an inverse exponential effect. Or at least a plateau at some point. Or something.
21 July 2010
20 July 2010
1. Rock out, sister. You're tough.
2. Folks in my extended circle would probably not take too kindly to this. I mean, haven't we proven our point by now? Isn't this getting a little out of hand?
I know it's stupid to think people are all that interested in my life, but at the same time, I'm still feeling the pressure to represent. Every pregnancy has its thorn, and although His grace is sufficient, there isn't always much we can do to keep the poky things from showing through sometimes, laws of physics being what they are.
And then there's a part of me that wants to know what the heck I expect people to expect. Should the only person they know who has a somewhat unusual number of kids be someone whose pregnancies are pure radiance and bliss? Kind of false advertising, no? (And I say this even as someone who, on the grand scale of pregnancy, is definitely closer to the "not so bad" end.)
Well, anyway. Into every pregnancy a little pain must fall and there's not a thing to be done about it. But it does sadden me to know that some people--especially people I love and whose opinion I value--think I'm stupidly imposing needless hardship on myself, and that their judgment is based on their perception of the hardship (?!) rather than the blessing.
To whom it may concern: you can just smile and tell us how happy you are for us, since we clearly think it's worth it--which is not to say that when you visit you won't observe a voice raised, a carelessly spoken word, a dreary sigh, a narcoleptic episode, a wince or a limp. We're still broken sinners. If it bothers you that much, just stay away until we have a jolly fatling to show off. And, again, if you're really that worried about me you can always buy me a present!! SO obvious.
19 July 2010
17 July 2010
Let the only words you say from your heart be, “I am so sorry for your loss. You are in my prayers.” Then stop talking and hand her a plate of your best cookies.
That’s it. Trust me on this. Miscarriage is a death so sudden, so emotionally blanking, so bloody and perplexingly painful, that there is almost never anything more to say of your own accord than, “you have lost someone you loved and you have suffered; for this, I am sad with you.”
Because, you see, the bereaved mother has a confusing and complicated back story about which you will likely never know. Her pastor might not have called her, let alone visited her. Her husband might not know what to do with her. Her parents might have blown her off. Her doctors might have lied to her. Her hospital might have stolen the baby’s body from her and sent her home to bleed out the rest. Her mind might be in prison. Her heart might be in shards. Her faith might be seriously strained. She might feel angry, desperate, and alone. She might think that God does not love her anymore, that maybe He never did, that maybe she isn’t part of the Elect after all. She might feel like a murderer. She might want to die. She might feel dead already.*
In such a circumstance, to such a person, it is never, ever appropriate to say, “God knows best, honey.” Or, “God has a way of working these things out.” Or, for the love of all things holy, “This was supposed to happen.” Think for a minute about what these lines communicate to a mother in mourning: God aborted your baby, honey, because there was something wrong with it. God didn’t want your child to live.
That’s not the intent of those lines, but intentions do not matter. Words matter. No, better keep quiet and let God reveal what He knows. You might coordinate dinner drops on her doorstep for the next couple of weeks, instead.
Likewise, it is not wise to say something along the lines of, “You poor dear. Lucky you’re so young! You’ll be able to have another.” This may be statistically factual, and she has likely already heard it from her heartless, secularist doctor. It is not comforting to hear it elsewhere. The dead child is an actual person, lost to his mother who wanted him very badly and misses him very much. You would not approach a newly widowed woman, her dead husband’s grave still round and bare, and say, “Lucky you! Now you can marry again!” Neither should a much beloved baby be so casually brushed away. No, better keep quiet and let God reveal what the future holds. You might write Words of promise on index cards and send them to her in the mail, instead.
Because here’s the deal: death, all death, under any circumstance, is tragic. It is always bad. It is never OK. In every instance, a person, a human being, a miraculous conglomeration of flesh and soul has ceased to live and begun to decay. A body whose nature it is to endure has failed to endure. Death is unnatural. It should not be, yet the earth groans under the burden of a swollen belly stuffed full of our beloveds who shall breathe no more, who perhaps never breathed at all.
The miscarriage happened, any miscarriage, because the baby was conceived in sin and thus he died. All babies are fully human, even when sick, even when the victims of fatal genetic errors. Don't be misled: the death of an unborn child is no different than your death will someday be, for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. There aren’t any good intentions or well-meaning words that can make this less true, less horrible, less inevitable. There is only Christ. There is only His Sacrament. There is only His Church.
So do not unintentionally abuse the bereaved with the awkward phrases of this dying world. Allow Christ to comfort her, and submit to Him to serve your sister in pain. Pray for her without ceasing. Feed her your best foods. Be sincerely patient. Remind her gently and lovingly that Christ died once and for all for her and for her precious baby, that He rose the first fruits of all the living, that He is coming again in glory with all authority in heaven and earth in his hands. Though the people laugh and scoff, Christ has said that our dead are but sleeping. One short sleep past and we shall wake eternally, all of the Elect, together in perfect love, perfectly comforted, and mothers shall receive into their arms all of their children, never to be parted from them again.
Tell her this, friends, because this is really all you know on earth, and all she needs to know.
*Of course, this is not the universal experience of all women who suffer miscarriage. Some are richly comforted by pastors and families. Some are allowed to bury their babies. Some are able to move on quickly. Some don’t mourn until decades after their losses. However, my observations and experience have taught me that the majority of women suffer crises of faith and family in the midst of mourning a miscarriage, crises exacerbated by our sick, death-loving culture. Whatever her reaction to her own loss, each mourner should be treated carefully, out of love for Christ.
16 July 2010
14 July 2010
12 July 2010
08 July 2010
07 July 2010
05 July 2010
I don't feel like a Lady. I feel like a peasant. Ladies live in manors, and I'm just not running a tea-and-crumpets operation here. More like,
Ladies, like Attachment Parents, are people with a certain set of gifts. Just as I wish my kids had Attachment Parents, I wish my husband were married to a Lady. But he's got something more like a chick, or a female earthling, or just a plain old wife (emphasis on the plain). I have no desire to give offense, but I'm also not going to pare myself down to the ideal Lady idealized by the most idealistical idealist. For one thing, no one has answered my lipstick question yet, and there are countless other similarly unclear matters. I'm confident that if the one dude whose opinion matters to me determines that my personal femininity needs some helpful guidance, he'll provide it. You'll note I haven't had a haircut in ten years even though I'd look much better with one. ;)
But not only have the Ladies given an important voice to women who don't want to be men, most of them also seem nice enough to realize that there are more alternatives to Lady than Tramp. I'm glad they're out there. Nice work, girls. Here, give me your cameras and get together over there for a picture. You all look lovely.
02 July 2010
1)If you talk to a toddler like he’s an actual human being (without the condescending and simpering), he’s more likely to respond as such. (This can also result in some really hilarious, sanity -saving moments when an earnest member of the two-set, playing it cool, attempts to answer in kind.)
2)The toddler dude may not totally get what’s going on, but his comprehension far exceeds his verbal expression. If you do your best to involve him in whatever you’re doing, he’ll be awfully happy to be a part of it, and he just might surprise you by rising to the occasion. Toddlers are people too, after all. Volatile people, to be sure—but then which of us doesn’t throw a tantrum at least every now and again?
3)A toddler’s frustrations and heartbreaks are as real to him as they seem ridiculous to you. To a certain extent, those moments in which his world falls apart deserve to be taken seriously. (This goes along with him being an actual, albeit short and hilarious, person.) Then again, sometimes the best thing you can do for him is to laugh at him, until he laughs along. People who take themselves too seriously don’t often turn out well.
4)Sometimes, you need to remember that the two-year-old is still…two. Thirtysome months ago, give or take, he was an eight-pound mass of squalling flesh, propelled into an unknown world with nothing going for him but a suckling reflex. Even if you’re able to co-opt him into creating an elaborate duplo tower, his attention span will waver, particularly if he’s frustrated beyond his developmental abilities, and in the end he probably won’t be able to resist destroying it in a fit of utter glee. And what did you expect, after all? He’s only two, and if you don’t think he’ll act his age, you’re the one who’ll end up in tears.