31 May 2011

Book, recommended (for those who feel led to read it...)

One of Rebekah’s not-so-recent-anymore posts made me get really serious about getting serious about reviewing a book that I enjoyed awhile back: Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God’s Will.

As it turns out, I’m still not serious enough to write anything resembling a review, but that’s no reason for you not to read the book, so you might as well just click your way over to Amazon, flip through the preview pages, and then go ahead and beg, borrow, or buy it. If you feel so moved. ;) Or if you really want a review, you can read Tim Challies’ over there on Amazon. (You know Tim Challies, right? As the resident quasi-Protestantesque-evangelicalish (yet ever catholic) Concordian Sister, I feel that it’s my duty to more or less keep up with some of those dudes ;) )

I’m sure that the indecisiveness of which DeYoung writes plagues none of our dear readers, but this volume is a worthwhile read, fun at times, and its quick readability might make it a handy addition to your pastor’s lending library.

Honestly, the subtitle alone is worth the price of admission, and a review in itself: Or, How to Make a Decision Without Dreams, Visions, Fleeces, Open Doors, Random Bible Verses, Casting Lots, Liver Shivers, Writing in the Sky, etc.


P.S. Incidentally, “Just Do Something” is a great rallying cry to rouse oneself out of a rut in homeschooling, housekeeping, cooking, childrearing…

26 May 2011

Full kitchen press

A few Mothers Days ago, I received a tortilla press. The white girl is strong in me. I make lousy white girl tortillas. I also learned that making tortillas turns Taco Night from one of the easier Nights into one of the harder ones. So not a whole lot of tortillas get pressed around here.

But I have zero regrets about owning this awkward and heavy piece of hardware, and this is why:

--Runzas are a million times easier now, and I married a guy from Nebraska.

--Until Grandpa gets my pneumatic pie crust press built, I use the tortilla model to train up my pie crusts in the perfectly circular way they should go. (The press is only eight inches but starting the dough there keeps it from taking the shape of some creepy un-pie-like trapezoid so it's easy to roll out the rest of the way. I also think pressing keeps the dough from getting overworked. Or maybe it overworks it. I don't know.)

--This past Laetare I used it to squash beautiful, uniform, round layers of marzipan for our simnel cake.

--Although I also avoid cracker-making on the grounds of pain-in-the-neckness, the tortilla press gets pulled out on the occasional cracker days, too.

--Lacking a juicer, I used the press to squeeze a five-year-old's weight in splendiferous grapefruits we received as a gift (that was after we ate as many as we could--thank you snowbirds!). I also managed to squeeze a "Clever girl" out of my husband for this one, which is all I'm ever really after.

So, white girls, don't rule the tortilla press out of your kitchen's life. There's so much more in the world than tortillas that needs to be flattened.

24 May 2011

In praise of parsonages

A few weeks ago, a former pastor of our church who recently fell asleep in Jesus was interred here. The day before the service, his family arrived at the old stomping grounds. Broke into the old apartment . . . this is where we used to live . . . .

So we invited them in. This wasn't one of those courtesy open houses so everybody from church can see that you're not trashing the place and you pretty much figure no one's going to ask to go upstairs (NB: they might). These people grew up here. They were in no way forward or presumptuous, but even I can cipher serviceably enough to figure out that this was more their house than ours. We warned them that we live here and we have five kids, and then we opened every last door. It was nice. :) And how else would we ever have learned that there actually IS a laundry chute?

(An aside before I get all up in your grill. The previous lady of this house told me that to clean one ill-placed window, she would lay a plank from the balcony railing to the window sill, climb out on it over the stairs, and scrub suspended between heaven and earth. Let me tell you, neither that window nor its blinds--which I have given many a resigned thought--are getting cleaned as long as I'm this place's sorry excuse for the lady.)

On to your grill. In seminary there was a general impression that you didn't want a parsonage. It wasn't your house. Church people would expect to be able to come in all the time. They wouldn't take care of problems. They'd pick ugly paint. They wouldn't replace carpets. Oh, those awful church people, whoever they are! And equity, won't someone think of equity??

Here are the disclaimers: as I've confessed before, I'm not exactly an HGTV junkie. Decorative aesthetics are nowhere near the top of my domestic priority list. There are some things about this house that would probably make more attentive homemakers completely freak out, whereas I merely find them funny. There also isn't a white-glove committee from the Ladies Aid stopping in to inspect my mantles for proper dusting. If something needs to be fixed or we want to change something, not only is it not a big deal, but someone from church usually comes over to help. I'm not talking about the horror stories.

But outside of the horror stories, I've got to give the bad parsonage press a hearty MEH. There is no way our parish would be able to offer a salary that could have landed us in a house like this, which allows us to quarter a growing number of people more than comfortably. I have a hard time imagining many congregations of our beloved Synod (at least, not the kind that would call my beloved husband) putting us up so well from a paycheck. And I don't think I'm going too far out on a limb (or a plank 12 feet over my stairs) to suggest that getting out of debt profundis may be of greater relevance to most fresh-faced seminary graduates than more advanced financial achievements like equity.

As for the parsonage horror stories themselves: I recently heard another from someone. If this particular incident had happened to me, in this parsonage, with this congregation, it would not have bothered me in the least. Again, I would have found it funny. I don't know what the context was; I'm sure there was plenty of back story involved. I'm guessing it had a lot more to do with the parish than the parsonage proper. It's hard to imagine a messed up parish and a bad parsonage situation not being pretty tangled up in each other.

Since we've lived here, we've had rocks thrown at our bedroom window in the middle of the night (the phone wasn't working), dozens of centerpieces constructed in our dining room and stored in our living room several times, other large items stored in our garage to the exclusion of our car, use made of our dryer and clothesline, calls from the school requesting clean underoos in a kindergarten size, and various other zany events. Yesterday afternoon someone stopped by to see if we had a hair dryer they could use to defrost a church refrigerator. (Not only do I have a hair dryer, but I also almost never have time to use it, so no rush! Thanks for defrosting over there!) To us these aren't horror or even grumpy stories. They're funny stories about our church and its good and hardworking people, among whom we feel blessed to count ourselves. It wouldn't occur to me to call them grumpy stories if I hadn't heard similar tales classified as such by other pastors' wives.

So there's also some back story on the pro-parsonage side. There's some merit to our very house being owned by the people charged with our care, whose care in turn has been charged to the pastor who lives in it. In our case, it's like a good marriage, where both parties' default position is respect and care; where the conversation starts with "Not to be nosy, but can we help you with that busted screen?" and "Come on in, you're always welcome, and look out for the bowls on the floor because the little guys have been cooking" rather than "What makes you think you can just show up here?" and "Who owns this house anyway?"

And really, who does own this house? They do. It's just true. And who would own our house if we owned it? Well . . . still not us. And who always needs a lesson in humility? I do.

One other thing: although there are trustees here, the congregation's care of our house is not something that happens on some totally official, corporate level. Someone visits and notices the ants which we were perfectly willing to live with; she calls an exterminator. Someone else stops by with his tiller when he's making the rounds in the spring. Someone who does like HGTV can't sleep knowing that the paint in our kitchen is chipping and she repaints for us. Someone who knows one of our kids loves gardening buys a monster cantaloupe and puts it in that kid's squash plant as a joke. Etc.

There's more to be said about this, but as usual I've gone on way too long. I'm glad we're here, and I'm glad we're in a parsonage. I know it doesn't always work out this well.

23 May 2011

Father's Day Gift, Recommended

If you’ve hung around CSPP long enough, you know that we are downright partial to the Concordian Husbands/Fathers of Perpetual Parturition, and with good reason.

One of the really great things Dad does around here on a regular basis is handle the older kids’ bedtime process whilst I wrangle the baby down. Lots of sound catechesis occurs during this time; everything from Guy Stuff to reading together from some of their beloved sciencey books.

The centerpiece of their time together, of course, is evening devotions and prayers. Bits of traditional liturgy figure in the formula, but we’re always on the lookout for good supplemental resources. Last year the boys cleverly gave Dad The Victor Journey Through the Bible, which has seen lots of use. It’s also been a handy quick reference for me, a no-prep show-and-tell for when we do Bible stories or history.

(You may be able to find it cheaper elsewhere—I remember paying at least five bucks less than that for it, with free shipping, from Amazon last year.)

Now I just have to help the boys find this year's Father's Day gift...(any ideas out there? :) ).

Joy that a man is born into the world

I come unto Thee with hearty thanks that Thou hast called me to serve a little child unto Baptism and regeneration by water and Spirit. I go now, with joy, in the name and stead of this child, to renounce the devil and all his ways,and with heart and mouth and in true faith to confess Thee, the true God.

How blessed to receive tidings of a baby born healthy and well, a mother safely and mercifully delivered without complication. This week I have the privilege of praying the above words, taken from the "Prayer of Sponsors Before Baptism" from Loehe's Seed-Grains of Prayer. My new niece and intended goddaughter is beautifully named for 58 brave and faithful souls whose ship bore them not across the Atlantic but across the Jordan. They came to a land of perfect worship, far beyond the better worship they sought. God rest them in peace, and her in his promises . . . and her mother in a few months. :)

17 May 2011

Contradiction and paradox

I'm finally reading Orthodoxy. It was free on my Kindle. Yes!

There's this section where old GK talks about how his doubts about Christianity were ruined by doubters of Christianity and their contradictory arguments. Eg, Christians are bloodless wimps and also bloodthirsty monsters; Christianity oppresses women and is only believed by stupid people like women; Christianity is obsessed with celibacy and obsessed with reproduction; etc.

This called to mind a conversation in which I found myself trapped a while ago. I don't know how often this happens to other CSPP types, but somehow the Duggars seem to come up when I enter a room. Because, you know, I'm pregnant with our sixth kid and that makes us the Duggars. Anyway, this person brought up the Duggars to inform me what egocentric people they must be to have so many children.

Yup, egocentric. So parenting is the most demanding job in the world which requires us constantly to say no to our wants so that we can say yes to our children's needs, and we're all huge heroes for doing it. AND you'd have to be selfish and arrogant to have that many kids.

It's so hard to know what to do, isn't it?

(The funny thing is that if this person would read Orthodoxy, she'd find out she was right, but in a totally wrong way.)

16 May 2011

Practice makes crazy

Back on Baby 1, I did my Bradley labor relaxation exercises faithfully for months in advance. I have to admit (despite my animosity toward Bradley) that when the big day came, for as long as anything could be helpful, they helped.

On subsequent babies, I did them somewhat less faithfully, but I at least gave some old college tries.

This time I'm powerful inclined to skip the whole stupid project. Point 1: I've gotten into an indisputable pattern of bypassing nearly the entire part of the labor experience for which they are helpful and going directly to the "I cannot do this I'm going to die" part. Point 2: on that first baby, I didn't know what I was getting into, so I was able to really relax. Every time since then when I've tried to relax like I mean it, I just end up thinking about what all this relaxation is for and I end up freaking out. Also, Dr. Robert A. Bradley, that weird arm position is totally uncomfortable and I've never used it in labor no matter how much I've practiced it. It really worked for you, though, huh? Is that another idea you got from the piggies on your farm?

I'm really wondering if I'd do better just to keep making every effort to act like none of this is going to happen and think about it as little as possible. At this point in my life, thinking about labor profiteth absolutely nothing and no one. :P

14 May 2011

And so do we

I am occasionally disheartened by an assumption people seem to make about me that I have no awareness of or care for the matter of infertility and other procreative crosses. I am very, very aware, and I very, very care. :( I pray always for the many couples I know (some quite well and some hardly at all) who have not been blessed as I have, for all the Hannahs and Rachels whose tears are contagious to me. Ever noticed how the Bible talks a lot more about women without kids than the other kind?

So I commend to you He Remembers the Barren. I have not yet had the privilege of reading Katie Schuermann's book of the same name, which is scheduled to come out in July, but two ladies of fine judgment who previewed it have recommended it to me strongly.

One frustration I have is that none of my favorite prayer books have a petition on behalf of the barren to guide my intercession for them. What I usually pray for them is that God's will for marriage would be fulfilled in them. I don't always know the details of their situations; whether their cases have been declared inexplicable or impossible. I don't know if a baby is God's will for J and C or B and R or any of the others, but I know it is God's will for marriage. So that is what I pray. I hope that's OK.

12 May 2011

New wives' tales

We all know that the old ladies are hopelessly wrong about whether it's OK to Jazzercise and put pots on high shelves and pet outdoor yetis while we're pregnant. Here are the things that our educated, scientifically advanced, medically informed populace is incurably right about.

1. If your first baby was late (or early), your other babies will be late (or early).

I have personally disproven this, having given birth at 40 weeks, 39 weeks 1 day, 41 weeks, 41 weeks, and 39 weeks. You tell me, genuises: do I have babies late or early? I know Reb. Mary would also like an answer to this question.

2. Babies' birth weights just keep getting higher the more you have.

Again selflessly and personally disproven by my. My fourth baby was my smallest. 2nd and 3rd tied for heaviest. My pregnancy weight gain is always the same. I do not know one single person, of my many friends with more than 2-3 kids, for whom the "they keep getting bigger" theory is true in any meaningful way (ie, she started at 8 pounds and is now up to 12--yup, that's just the way it goes. Everyone knows that).

3. Having a lot of babies is dangerous.

This is true, but there has never been a time in history when it was less comparatively true. How many people do we know who have actually (not almost or could have) died as a direct result of having a baby? How many did our great-grandmas know? It has NEVER been safer to have babies, any number of them.

And while we're on the topic, how many people do the new wives know who have actually had more than three kids? Why do we all think the personal stories we know constitute sufficient evidence for our scientific beliefs and medical convictions? How many of us can actually read and understand a medical study? Maybe none of us know much about what happens in that shadowy realm beyond 2.1. Maybe none of us know much at all.