30 August 2008


"I wouldn't trade those early years with the kids for a million dollars. And I wouldn't give a nickel to go back."


"When you're young, you wonder why you had so many kids. When you're old, you wonder why you didn't have more."

29 August 2008

How I spent my summer vocation

Parenting: a task that nearly approximates the stresses, fears, physical demands, and ultimately exhilarating rewards of canning.

You are so precious to me, sealed as can be, canning of mine

28 August 2008

A different kind of crazy

An acquaintance recently lamented that her daughter “had to” put her 6-week-old in daycare and go back to work, even though leaving her newborn “was killing her.”

My purpose here isn’t to judge the specifics of that situation. There may be times when a mother of young children must work—though I suspect that, as usual, true hard cases are much rarer than we like to think.

That conversation made me immensely grateful to have a husband who has never exerted the slightest pressure on me to find “gainful employment,” nor begrudged me anything I asked because I don’t bring home a paycheck. This man thrives on sports but cheerfully chooses his children’s well-being over cable—even after Monday Night Football disappeared from the networks and even though it’s meant a months-long NASCAR fast this summer. He appreciates the fine lines of expensive engineering but is content to see a procession of used vehicles—minivans, no less—in his future. He savors the nuances of authentic pad thai, chicken tikka masala, and robust red wine, but happily consumes home-cooked substitutes and sips two-buck chuck.

Staying home with the kids might make me crazy sometimes, but I think I’d truly lose my mind if I “had to” hand over my newborn so that we could enjoy the luxuries that are marketed so seductively as necessities—possessions and pastimes which would after all only drive us to further distraction. For us, dropping the kids at daycare would effectively be sacrificing our babies on the altar of materialism. Talk about “the tyranny of the next thing!”

But I digress. I began this post, and I shall end it, in simple, heartfelt gratitude.

27 August 2008

Marriage, Recommended

My favorite pastor is drafting a newsletter article to the effect of "five books that can save a struggling marriage or strengthen a strong one."

In no particular order:

I'm rather curious as to whether anyone has any other nominations.

Ecological Breastfeeding: A Concordian Critique

Abstract: Ecological Breastfeeding will not happen naturally for all (perhaps many or most) babies. It is a learned behavior that must be taught by mothers.

Way back when I got my CCL book to learn about NFP, I was mystified by the ecological breastfeeding business. Sure, I was planning on nursing my baby, but this was certainly the first I'd heard about pacifiers being pure, unadulterated evil. I finished the chapter convinced and horrified that I would have a baby at a minimum of every 15 months if I didn't follow the Seven Rules. As I've mentioned, breastfeeding turned out to be a lot more complicated than I anticipated and it wasn't long before the Seven Rules were nothing more than Seven Sources of Endless Guilt. And what do you know? I don't ecologically breastfeed by the Kippley rules, but none of my kids have ever had a drop of formula, they've all been nursed the requisite year, and the shortest interval between any two of them is 18.5 months. It's on the tight side, but I've lived to blog about it.

Here's a little rundown of the rules and my impious thoughts for the curious.
  • Breastfeeding must be the infant's only source of nutrition – no formula, no pumping, and (if the infant is less than six months old) no solids.
Got no problem here, although I will say that I'm not going to start throwing stones at anyone who expresses for an evening out now or then. Maybe I'll try it again one of these years (we attempted it on Baby 3; she wouldn't take the bottle and we had to come home early).
  • The infant must be pacified at the breast, not with pacifiers or bottles
Not one of my kids has ever been interested in nursing to kill time. There have been times when I've wished they would be pacified by nursing, but no, they want to be hauled aimlessly around the house, perhaps while plugged into a sinful, sinful dummy. And until we get the nursing in church thing figured out, the Divine Service is ground zero for pacifier use. As for bottles, back in the Boob Hell days, bottles were the only way for my daughter to get breastmilk. I was sure glad they existed, since I couldn't afford a wet nurse.
  • The infant must be breastfed often. The standards for LAM are a bare minimum; more frequency is better. Scheduling of feedings should be avoided.
The bit about scheduling can be misleading to new moms. With all my nursing trouble, I felt like a complete failure for committing to feed the baby every two hours, come Tartarus or torrent. The truth is, she was a decent sized lass and didn't need to be fed that often. The schedule was for me, not her. It kept me operational when I so wanted to quit by attrition (oh, what do you know! I never fed the baby all morning!).
  • Mothers must sleep with their infants – in the same room, if not in the same bed.
I'd rather just say mothers must sleep and leave it at that. Blessed are you, saintly women who can sleep with a baby in the same bed or room. I, after a month or two, do a very good job of walking seven steps down the hall into the room next door when the snuffling gets loud enough to indicate that it's for real, and I'm not kept up the rest of the night by low-grade sleep-snorting.
  • Mothers must not be separated from their infants for more than three hours a day.
Really? Even three hours and eleven minutes? What if the shopping takes 2.5 hours plus 45 minute drive time without the baby (happily at home with Dad and sibling friends), or 4.75 hours with the (very unhappy) baby? Sheesh.
  • Mothers must take daily naps with their infants.
Oh my. I couldn't even make this work when I only had one kid.
  • The woman must not have had a period after 56 days post-partum (bleeding prior to 56 days post-partum can be ignored).
And woe betide that woman who shamefully did!

Here's how ecological breastfeeding really works, and please note that I'm not putting a value judgment on it: it purposely creates breastfeeding super-dependency. If your baby is used to waking up next to the deli counter and grabbing a sandwich every time, before long he isn't going to be able to just roll over and go back to sleep when he smells salami.

But I don't see a problem (biological, ethical, or otherwise) with not conditioning your child in this way if that's not your bag. If I have a baby who sleeps well on his own and puts in an 8- or 9-hour stretch overnight, there is no way I'm going to stop in on my way to bed to wake him up and feed him, and then set my alarm for an encore at 3 to make sure that we're all sufficiently ecological.

Frankly, not going the route of deliberately making your child an every-half-hour-feeder (and again, I have yet to own a baby who would be so obliging) has its advantages for those who have an earlier return of fertility. Many women breastfeed while pregnant. I've done it myself, but only of necessity for the older child. I've been pregnant again by that time at least twice (maybe three times), and nursing and pregnancy is a bad combination for me. But since my kids' worlds haven't revolved around breastfeeding day, night, dawn, dusk, and in the twilight zone, they've all signed off gradually with zero evidence of trauma, purely by my switching to a don't offer, don't refuse policy once the candle is blown out. I've been very thankful that when my children have reached their first birthdays, we've weaned without weeping and gnashing of teeth. Especially the latter.

And, tautology hunters, I always nurse on demand (which usually means by our mutually satisfactory, de facto schedule) until the baby turns one, start solids late, and never push them beyond the baby's interest, even when I am pregnant and very unhappy about nursing. Some girls just get back in the game early, and I'm one of them. The difference is that I don't deliberately inflate demand. So, no, I don't ecologically breastfeed by the Seven Rules. If I did, I'd definitely feel too exhausted for another baby right now. Moreover, for someone who doesn't follow the Seven Rules, I "should" have an earlier return of fertility than I did with babies 2 and 3. Tautology yourself!

(And if you really have lots of time on your hands and are interested further reading, I ran into this while I was working on this post.)

26 August 2008

Commands and promises

Lots of people argue that "Be fruitful and multiply" doesn't mean "keep that uterus occupied until it falls out on its own." Wow, thanks for being so understanding. Ok, ok, positive commands can be hard to quantify.

Or, wait--do we really think that? Do we ever argue about whether the Great Commission is command or promise? Is a pastor faithful if he says upon being installed at a parish, "My congregation and I will go into all the world once we've had some time together to get to know each other"? Can he say, "My ministry has been fruitful; I'm going to focus on the disciples I have and not baptize and teach any more"?

In this Ablaze!ing day and age, you'd get tarred and feathered for saying that pastors and the parishes to which they are wed should pace themselves when it comes to the Great Commission, not make more disciples than they can handle, have some fun together before they get down to the serious business of evangelism, go easy on an overextended and underhanded congregation. We all know the cost of discipleship is high, and that includes the start-up fees. But the costs don't excuse us from it.

So why does any Christian give another guff for making disciples the old-fashioned way? Does our theology and practice of Matthew 28:19-20 tell us anything about Genesis 1:28?

25 August 2008

Vote of confidence

Dad: Cleaning the kitchen is a lot easier after two margaritas.

Me: This is why I drink all day.

Dad: If that were true, I think the kids would be more disheveled and the kitchen would be cleaner.

24 August 2008

Big family study deadline reminder

To all who are participating in Marie MacPherson's big family study, remember that she would like your answers by September 1. If you're new here and didn't get the announcement a few months ago, mothers with four or more children are invited to answer some survey questions about how you get it all done. Email Marie if you've got some time this week to share your strategies!

23 August 2008

Olympic roundup

Trampoline, people. It's an event. Think of it as diving for naturally beautiful and graceful people who just never figured out how to keep their feet from going in first. Not that I would know anything about that.
Rhythmic gymnastics. What happened to the ribbons? And didn't there used to be balls, too? Why isn't this getting the air time I remember from Seoul? Surely NBC isn't deliberately snubbing the 5-12 year old female demographic?

Synchronized swimming. Such remarkable talent, and so strangely applied.

21 August 2008

Just you and me, Bébé

There’s nothing like a Great Family Vacation Adventure to lessen one’s inhibitions about breastfeeding in public. Here’s just sampling of places BabyBoy nursed last week:

Dockside picnic table overlooking Parade of Tall Ships, amid intermittent cannon salutes

Bleachers overlooking Rams’ summer training camp

Corner booth at Culver’s

Bench at downtown Farmer’s Market

Lawn chair at outdoor salsa concert

Picnic table next to quarry-turned-sandy-beach-swimming-hole

Shady nook at Irish Fest, within earshot of local pub band Blarney and Friends and Celtic rockers Seven Nations.

(Yup, lots of great food and music on this vacation)

All this fun was facilitated by the awesome nursing cover my mom got me when Boy the Latest was born (Product, Recommended!):

I could only hope to look so holistic and tranquil while nursing... And my cover is a different pattern. Though Mint Chocolate does sound awfully tasty...excuse me while I go do something about that...

Creed, recommended

The Nicene. It's great. And it's also available in an absolutely beautiful picture book for the kiddies. We've given this as a gift several times and got it back today from one of our kids' godparents (thank you!!). I'd forgotten how wonderful it is. It's illustrated by Pauline Baynes, who did the original Narnia drawings, and her artistic work teaches the text brilliantly. Very catholic, very good for provoking discussion, and very gratifying to hear even tiny ones saying the words along with you when you read it. The text is the old TLH version: the quick and the dead and the Holy Ghost. Also Catholic and Apostolic (sic). Pick it up!

20 August 2008

"I'm so glad that school's finally starting again!"

I could take the annoying, moralizing high road here and pretend that I’m appalled by this frequently-heard sentiment, especially since most of the moms I’ve been hearing this from work outside the home, so they’re not even around their kids 24/7 during school breaks.

Or, I could admit that I’m rather terrified to contemplate a possible future of being perpetually and indefinitely in the company of my offspring. BoyOne will be having a Preschool Experience outside the home this year, but given our location and situation, we’re looking at starting homeschooling next year—another item on my lifelong list of “nevers” that it looks like I’ll have to eat. (Note to self: Stop telling God what I will and won’t do with “my” life, and start listening and obeying instead.) If every mom I talk to is going out of her mind by the end of August and desperately awaiting the reappearance of that big yellow bus, what hope is there for my sanity when “back-to-school” only means more of each other’s company?

I know, I know: homeschooling will be wonderful, I'll never regret it, etc., etc. And after all, there wasn’t much hope for my sanity in any case :P

Kid Lit for all occasions

When coveting a shapelier corpus: "Gertrude McFuzz" (find it in Yertle the Turtle)

When dealing with a difficult person: A Bargain For Frances

When unsure if it's you or the rest of the world that has gone insane: The Talking Turnip

When thinking you've got it rough making all these pancakes: Pancakes, Pancakes! (although, she was only cooking for one)

When a huge frog lives in your house and it becomes a problem: Bullfrog Grows Up

When ruing public bathing: "The Swim" from Frog and Toad Are Friends

When thinking of converting: I Had Trouble In Getting To Solla Sollew

When considering asking your husband to do the shopping: Millions of Cats

When wanting to be annoyed by how purely, shamelessly political the Caldecott has become: The Hello, Goodbye Window

When despairing: "The Red Shoes" (find it in here)

When wondering how the camel got his hump: How the Camel Got His Hump

When trying to get some dude to figure it out that you're not interested: One Was Johnny (full disclosure: in my experience, he'll miss the point and then eventually convince you to marry him anyway)

19 August 2008

I and Thou

Many a Lutheran grandmother has gone head to head with the good Dr Luther, who famously called God "du." But it sounds more proper and respectful, they argue, to say "thee" and "thy" and "thou," demonstrating how these terms now connote the opposite of their original familiarity. As more naves become indistinguishable from restaurants or playgroups, the grandmas have a point. No one speaks respectfully to anyone any more, least of all to our finger-pulling pal Jesus. Inhabitants of this historical moment might find their piety better served with formality than familiarity.

And then again, can we have it both ways? If reverent words confess a knowledge of God particularly hidden in our time, are they not also uniquely familiar?

18 August 2008

The crowds of judgment gather

We've been on the "No" end of the contraception permissiveness spectrum for a while now, and all's I have to say is, it's weird. Outsiders may be surprised to learn that there is no party platform on the topic. Some won't space, some will by any non-abortifacient means in only the direst of circumstances, some will space for more or less critical reasons but only by NFP, some will call it quits after 4 or 6 or 8 and others won't. Every couple makes its own rules, and those rules are largely colored by personal experience*.

So one person thinks I'm a license-giving antinomian sellout. Another considers me a heartless, ever-accusing binder of consciences. I'm a Pietist theologian of glory and a faithless Modern compromiser, with some Gen X/Y postmodern angst/indifference muddying the rhetoric.

It's all terribly exciting.

*For those keeping score, your humble blogresses aren't all in the same boat parturitionally speaking, and should not be assumed to be walking in lockstep on these matters. For example, breastfeeding spaces children somewhat generously for one of us. One of us doesn't puke her brains out the entire time she's pregnant. And one of us isn't pure evil.

17 August 2008

I don't roll on Shabbas

I hate Sunday, because I should love it. But everybody needs to eat on Sunday, which requires cooking to begin with and by-produces dirty dishes and diapers just like any other day. Obviously there are all the complications that go into getting everyone to church while remembering to keep my voice down so the nice people on their way to church won't hear the all the yelling that goes on in their beautiful parsonage. Dad has to spend the afternoon pulling oxen out of wells. It wouldn't be a big deal except that I have this baptismally implanted notion that Sunday should be a day of rest. So I spend the whole day thinking about how it's Sunday and I should be resting instead of doing all the normal stuff plus. Then I get crabby.

15 August 2008

How to have an intervention-free hospital birth

Homebirth propagandists' warnings notwithstanding, it can be done. I've done it four times. What you do is, when the nurses come at you with a needle or a plastic bag full of evil or a pair of scissors or a beeping gizmo, you tell them no. And then they can't do it, because if they do, you can sue them. See? Easy.

Now, you do have to be ready to tell them no. You might have to tell them more than once, because nurses are used to the standard interventions and it makes them nervous not to do them. Your husband should also be prepared to tell them no because once you're in it hard core you start getting confused. But if you tell them no, they won't do it. Remember, you pay them. If they start acting up, fire them (more likely, they'll leave on their own and send in someone more accommodating). The first time is the hardest. After you've done it a few times, nurses are cooler about letting you do it your way.

D.A.R.E. to keep moms off drugs

Our first time, the nurses all thought we were Jehovah's Witnesses because I wouldn't let them hook me up to anything. But they can think whatever they want. Just push out the baby with whatever personal flair you find necessary to get the job done and be on your way. They'll be impressed, and wonder why Lutherans don't allow pitocin. :D

I would be a good candidate for homebirth if I lived in a state that allowed it, and if I lived close enough to a hospital that we could get there in time for them to save me or the baby in case of an emergency. But I don't and I don't, so it's not an option for us because I will not take the risk of not having help for our baby (I'm pretty sure I'd be fine by this point). Hospitals are all there are in these parts, and if that's the case for you, and you don't want to get poked, take a lesson from Nancy Reagan and Just Say No.

10 August 2008

I saw my life flash before my eyes today

Or, to be more precise, I saw what I always thought would be my life: Mom, Dad and 2 kids in a midsize SUV with kayaks on top and a pop-up camper behind.

This vision appeared as I entered my seventh hour in the middle seat of our minivan--the dog, that spoiled mutt, was riding shotgun, while I tried to entertain the baby and help the back row with their stickers, maps, and etch-a-sketches.

When I remarked to my husband that I had just seen my (not) life pass me by, he immediately corrected me: "No, we passed them." Well, yeah. True in all senses. Not even a contest. Though I do look forward to reclaiming that front seat.

09 August 2008

Support local business

and buy yourself a little free time for yardwork.

Go to your hometown Hardware Hank and pick up a few of these spray bottles, then go home and turn the kids loose. The bottles cost less than a decent squirt gun, have a good range, don't have to be refilled every two minutes, and feature a cool mist setting.

When the kids are done squirting each other, they move on to semi-productive things like blasting anthills and pretending to be firefighters. Lots of burning bushes around here (though none of them have delivered any particular messages).

Bonus feature: pick up some sidewalk chalk too, and they can spray their drawings when they're done.

Disturbing quotation of the week

This article (which was recently reprinted in our local paper) discusses the difficulty parents face in trying to determine which TV shows are "appropriate" for their kids.

Since parents find it taxing and time-consuming to screen what their kids are watching, Lee Woodruff, mom and parenting topics reporter, offers this advice: "That's where the mom network is really helpful. I can't know about all the shows that are appropriate for them ... so I'll do a quick 411 info gathering. 'What are your girls watching? What's it like?'"

And here's my favorite part of the article: "It takes a village of cable TV watchers."

Um, or maybe we could NOT rely on cable TV, and other people's opinions thereof, to raise our kids? Just a thought...

07 August 2008

Tunnel Vision

Thanks to Dr. H (of L&P fame) for alerting us to some inspiration over at One More Soul: This article is brief and worth the read.

Cheatsheet: Emily Sederstrand writes, “While new parenthood is certainly joyful and miraculous, the years in the Tunnel [the first five years of parenthood] can also be frightening, overwhelming and anxiety-producing. I have known many parents with two young children who say with conviction, “We couldn’t possibly have a third!” They often are working under the assumption that adding another baby would exponentially increase their current burdens, and they predict (incorrectly) that those burdens are permanent and unchanging.

I’m not naïve enough to think that parenting suddenly gets much easier once the kids hit a certain age. I have only secondhand knowledge of challenges yet to be faced (educational decisions and responsibilities, the sturm und drang of adolescence, activities here and there and everywhere, etc.). But from my limited perspective, I’m inclined to agree with Sederstrand: in many ways, the first few years of parenthood are the most overwhelming. I understand why so many people give up and say “Done” amidst the struggle to get two kids housebroken and socialized.

We haven’t hit that 5-year mark of parenting yet, but I’m already able to tell people with younger kids that in some ways, life with 3 kids is easier/more sane than life with only one or two. Never thought I’d say it, but it’s true.

Don’t get me wrong: Yesterday it took me almost an hour to mobilize the troops for a simple outing, if you count the time it took to nurse the baby, pack the snacks and diaper bag, supervise the bathroom visits, grab a few books and trucks to take along, break up the incidental fracases, get everyone buckled in…to say nothing of the emergency roadside stop—in the rain, in the mud—when the back row declared a bathroom emergency…

But it’s not always like that. And we’ve noticed that BoyTwo (not exactly a Compliant Child) will often, remarkably, follow the hard-won lead of BoyOne. A year ago, I would never have thought such a thing possible. We actually have fewer all-out battles of the will with things like church behavior now than a year ago, even with adding a baby. So by the fourth kid or so we won’t have to do much actual parenting, but just stand back and watch them fall neatly in line, right? (ha ha haaaaaaaa).

We need more of what Sederstrand is calling for in this piece: experienced mothers encouraging mothers who are struggling through those first “tunnel” years. I wish I’d had more women telling me this 2 or 3 years ago. Heck, I’d still like to hear it. We need more forthrightness about this whole adventure of motherhood: the darker realities, yes, but the light at the end of that tunnel as well.

05 August 2008

CSPP Conversion: A progressive tale

Not everyone has to be dragged kicking and screaming into CSPP. But here’s one version of my story.

1) This is your brain on drugs. You pop your pills, congratulating yourself on being responsible enough to put off children while you “get to know each other” and do Important Things like Hanging Out and collecting random graduate degrees. You may have an occasional sense of unease but it’s vague (and quite possibly related to the side effects of the hormones you’re pumping into your body).

2) Isn’t that a Papist thing? A longtime RC friend speaks gently to you about why the Pill might not be such a great idea. You try to relegate this to the same category as purgatory propaganda…but your hormone-addled mind is nevertheless more uneasy than usual. Perhaps the disquiet is reinforced by a brochure Renee Gibbs handed to you at seminary, and by rumors of classmates—uber-Lutherans!—who are tossing their pills.

3) Uh-oh. Now it’s getting personal. The unease grows and you think hey, maybe this is important enough to consider for more than half a minute. You come across evidence like this that makes you quit drugs cold turkey. Perhaps you attempt some other “methods” or perhaps you’ve simultaneously become an NFP convert, squinting through the Kippleys’ papistry in order to become champion charters (or learning the Billings Ovulation Method, or…).

4) Slippery Slope. As we well know, the trip from NFP to Baby to CSPP is notoriously short...

5) Reluctant Martyrdom/Angry Resignation. By this time you have a baby or two and are adjusting to the normal systemic shock brought by bearing a child and being in the full-time company thereof--but also to the staggering realization that the road ahead is paved with more diapers and less You than you ever envisioned. You can recite the pro-CSPP arguments in your sleep (when you get any sleep) but that doesn’t mean you have to like them. This stage may also be characterized by CSPP-evangelism that is motivated largely by Self-Pitying Self-Righteousness and Misery Loves Company.

6) Earnest zeal. You’ve become somewhat reconciled to your fate but still tense up whenever childbearing-related topics or references to being Done arise in casual conversation, feeling an intense burden to say exactly the right thing every time. (Like anyone’s really listening to you anyway!)

7) Live and let live (literally!), and revel in the wonder of it all. Theological arguments for CSPP are great…if you’ve got the time and can organize your gray matter, which seems highly unlikely, given the jumble of shoes in the back hall and the upheaval of playthings across the house. You’re not afraid to speak boldly for truth, but your life becomes your witness, along with quiet conversations at opportune moments.

And these children—they who seemed (and indeed still sometimes seem) to be your prison wardens—these same children, they are amazing. Incomprehensible. Every new morning, new every morning, you have the opportunity to nurture their growing bodies, to shape their stretching souls, even as you yourself are sanctified through the same process. And you think: I would trade the co-creation of persons who will live forever in Christ’s presence for—what again? A cubicle? A corner office? More stuff and more vacations? More time to pursue “my Christian calling and gifts” as dictated by my own self?

O, this tow-headed row of blue-eyed boys—these unexpected, undeserved, unruly and unrivalled blessings—there is no contest. There will be no trade.

Or as Rebekah has so adeptly, so succinctly, so eloquently described it: Kick A where you’re planted!

04 August 2008

Encouragement for the Battle-Weary

"Perhaps you find the duty of your calling too heavy for your weak faith. Look to God for strength. When you are sick of your work and ready like Jonah to run away, encourage yourself with God's words to Gideon: 'Go in this thy might...have I not sent thee?' (Jud. 6:14). Begin the work God has given you, and you will engage His strength for you; run from your work, and you engage God's strength against you. He will send some storm or other after you to bring His runaway servant home...

"Your heavenly Father is so eager to care for you, that while you are timidly asking for a nibble of peace and joy, He is longing for you to open your mouth wide so that He can fill it....

"Go quickly now. Search your heart from one end to another, and gather up all your weaknesses. Set them before the Almighty, as the widow placed her empty vessels before the prophet. Expect a miracle of deliverance from the limitless resources of God. If you had more vessels to bring, you could have them all filled...

"Never let the weakness of your faith keep you from the presence of God. The very sight of the pale face and thin cheeks of your faith, your love, your patience, will move His heart with compassion and carry a strong argument for His aid."

From the modernized abridgment of William Gurnall's The Christian in Complete Armour, p. 54-55 (Book, probably Recommended; I'm only 55 pages into the 3-volume set).

01 August 2008

The King Of Love My Shepherd Is

The thing that makes being a pastor's wife weird is not that pastors know people intimately, deal with them in high-pressure situations, or end up being hated by some people. These things happen in lots of other professions. The thing that makes it weird is that many people love their pastor. Doctors offer healing, police and lawyers and soldiers and Thrivent dudes offer protection. To them we are grateful, and their services are as reliable as the bills they incur. But pastors offer comfort, and comfort garners more than gratitude; it garners love.

So we who are left home alone on Sunday afternoons or Christmas or whatever other inconvenient times sheep are taken ill, alone, and comfortless cannot begrudge them their need for our loved one. He is their loved one too. He has cared for them in their indignity, respected their fear and pain and anger and doubt and sorrow by taking it seriously, even learned to see thestrals with them; of course they love him. And when we are the sheep in need of comfort, how dear is the shepherd who tends us, who leaves his dearest flock to rescue one lost.