Friday, April 29, 2011

Daytime TV may suck out my brains

I’m a TV snob. While we do normally watch a vast array of programs, even that scandalous reality television is on our usual diet of boob-tube consumption, we generally have the television on for just a few limited hours a day. The kids watch Electric Company once their homework is done, and my husband and I take in some Prime Time after dinner. This, of course, is “High” television, right?

But boob-tube is actually pretty descriptive of my viewing habits lately, and I’ve found myself able to tolerate at least one of the shows that are on, at nearly every hour of the day and night. I now know that the SNL skit about Kathy Lee and Hoda is not exaggerated; they really do drink alcohol and act giddy. I know that you can skip the whole Dr Oz show, because he recaps his findings at the end of the program; just flip over for the last two minutes. I know that Kate and Will are scheduled to kiss at 8:25 EST this Friday morning; can’t miss that. And I know that Julie Chen and Leah Remini are uncomfortable bathing with their kids or kissing them on the lips; it’s hard to imagine what life would have been like without this knowledge. Sometimes I’m pretty sure I can feel my IQ dropping while I consume yet another celebrity interview or expert opinion on whether the toilet roll should be installed to dispense over or under.

My first strategy to preserve my brain function was to surf for cooking segments. At least I could gain some useful knowledge that would help me feed my family better or more interesting meals. So far, however, I have not cooked a single one of Rachael Ray’s “What’s for Dinner Tonight.” But I have attempted and consumed Buddy Valastro’s funnel cakes. Yep, imagine that, deep fried pancake batter tastes great! Not only did we make them, but while on a diaper and groceries run, I purchased better equipment to improve our funnel cakes next time. So, while we are enjoying the delicious “fruits” of my cooking segment viewing, I wouldn’t suggest that it has improved our family’s standard of living.

My next strategy was to opt out and read during the baby's mealtime. I quickly found out that reading What to Expect the First Year while nursing is like juggling fine china and a brick, so I switched to this month’s This Old House magazine. The magazine was easier to juggle, but only lasted a day. So now I’m heading back to daytime until next month’s arrives.

As long as we get through the first three months without getting sucked into any soap operas, my dignity will remain intact. Let’s all agree to blame my declining vocabulary on sleep deprivation, instead of The View. Agreed? The real irony – I’ve read that breastfeeding is associated with higher IQ in the baby. Apparently she’s gaining the brain cells I’m losing with this endeavor. That makes it all worth it.

Our people should learn to spend their time doing something useful and worthwhile. Titus 3:14

Friday, April 22, 2011

We only go to church for the prizes

Since starting my maternity leave, we’ve managed to get the girls to church all of four times; all Wednesdays, never on a Sunday. And that’s just the kids – my husband and I have made it only once, and we ended up leaving half way through the program. This probably will strike you in one of two ways:

a) Wow, for a minister, you sure bailed the first excuse you got. There are plenty of hardcore church devotees, and women who want to ogle the baby, who harbor at least a little resentment for our prolonged absence. If they had a new baby, they’d be in church praising the Father, and letting their church family hand it around and give it RSV, as soon as they could walk without assistance. My assertion about this is substantiated by an email received when the baby was ten days old, lamenting our failure to attend, and the dashed hopes of many in the congregation who had anticipated seeing us that Sunday.

b) Wow, you took your kids to church when you could have been home sleeping with the newborn? For those who either don’t go to church, or only go to church when they want to go to church, it’s nearly unimaginable that we would make such an effort when we clearly don’t have to. Especially when being on staff means that coming within a three mile radius of the building makes us a target for people to wrap us up, demanding face time with the baby or help finding things, organizing things, or handling their personal woes.

Another indictment against our choice not to come every Wednesday night and Sunday morning, is that we’ve been in the holiest season of church life, Lent. While Baptists don’t always make a big deal about Lent, we want our kids to understand the incredible significance of the crucifixion and resurrection, so we usually set these six weeks apart in our family. We avoid meat on Fridays, do some sort of daily or weekly family devotions, and give something up or commit to a short term spiritual practice. It is completely out of the ordinary for us to spend the entire season of Lent away from corporate worship and Bible study. Let alone, eating meat on Fridays and failing to make a significant sacrifice (although we both agreed that we are giving up sleep for Lent this year).

More than largely neglecting church during Lent, we probably wouldn’t have gotten the kids there as much as we did, if it weren’t for the end of the year incentives they would have missed. They made it for the Pajama Party; Talent Show; to complete a book, thus earning a trip to Incredible Pizza; and to spend their Bucks at the last AWANA Store. We didn’t attend Palm Sunday worship; we skipped the Maundy Thursday communion service. We will, however, be in attendance this Sunday. I like to believe it will be for the exceptionally special celebration of Christ’s Resurrection, but some will probably notice that the Sunday we finally chose to attend included an Easter Egg Hunt after worship for the kids; meaning, of course, that we are still attending only when there are freebees to be had.

In addition to our failure to attend so far, I will go ahead and confess now that, despite our return to church this Sunday, we are likely to miss most, if not all, of the Sundays in May, as well. I don’t equate neglecting church with neglecting Christ, but I probably could put more effort into getting there; if I really wanted to go. I guess in all honesty, while I’ve missed church and don’t want our congregation to feel neglected, being there – and therefore being their youth pastor – while sleep deprived and worried about caring for and protecting a newborn is a hassle I just don’t want to endure until I have to.

Jesus finished by saying, "People were not made for the good of the Sabbath. The Sabbath was made for the good of people.” Mark 2:27

Friday, April 15, 2011

I shouldn’t have been so polite

I knew going into it that caring for a newborn again was going to test the very limits of my endurance. Anyone who says they get “baby fever” and crave having a newborn in the house, must never have breastfed. The first two weeks nursing a newborn are the toughest challenge of parenting, in my opinion. For those who have not personally enjoyed the experience, imagine getting a hickie from a half-inch vacuum nozzle, on the most sensitive part of your body, twice every three hours. And if that weren’t enough, tolerate that discomfort and continue to nurture your other family members on 4-6 hours of sleep a night, obtained in 1 ½ hour increments. I don’t mean to say that bottle fed infants are a walk in the park – I have no idea what creative means bottle fed infants use to test your adoration. That, of course, is key; I’m already so smitten with this helpless little creature that I couldn’t imagine offering her any less than my best. Even if it kills me. And I know we’re going to make a great team by the end of this early part, able to head out on a whim; her food supply secure in my bosom, without a bagful of bottles, cold packs, formula, and purified water.
If only she were always this peaceful!

 None of the newborn stuff has been much of a surprise, our little golden girl is actually a much easier baby so far than either of her big sisters were. She caught on to nursing quicker, she often sleeps between nighttime feedings, and she never broke a capillary in my breast and burped up a flood of red milk and blood clots (my middle daughter was a rather voracious nurser). What has been a real surprise, however, is how different I am as a 35 year old new mom, than I was as a 25 year old new mom.

Take, for instance, hospital visits. When my first daughter was born, we had visitors who came the following afternoon and, despite my head-bobs and lack of color, stayed 2 ½ hours. In my fear of being impolite, I didn’t take back my baby, demand that they leave, or hint about my exhaustion and her need to nurse. Many similar scenes were repeated in our living room, once we got home. In contrast, with this baby, when my husband told me visitors had just called and were on their way, I shrugged my shoulders, continued to get my clothes together, and said, “if they get here while I’m in the shower, they’ll have to wait until I’m done.” I’ve told people “no” who wanted to drop in; I’ve taken my baby back and reminded visitors how little sleep I had; I’ve turned the phone off and ignored a ringing doorbell. This time around, I’ve also developed a much higher tolerance for letting outsiders see a messy house when I do welcome them in.

On the upside, although I may have been a little impolite, there aren’t nearly as many dirty clothes and dishes for others to see. The payoff to putting up stronger boundaries has been better sleep, a baby who found her schedule quicker, and having some energy leftover to make meals, wash clothes, and keep my older kids from feeling neglected. A newborn is a fulltime job, I spend over 8 hours a day, just feeding her, let alone diaper changing and soothing cries. My husband is a willing helper in the evening, but we don’t have a whole lot extra to offer, even for our most welcome and beloved friends.

It is an honor that so many people want to welcome and love my daughter; I’ve been able to enjoy their affection so much more, by having it channeled into portions small enough to accommodate. I only wish I had known ten years ago! My advice to young moms – do what you have to do and send visitors away after 15-20 minutes. That is, of course, if they are there to ogle the baby. If they’re washing your dishes, they are welcome to stick around until they’re done.

And when you welcome one of these children because of me, you welcome me. Matthew 18:5

Friday, April 8, 2011

Roaches kinda’ scare me.

Nothing inspires my evolutionary inferiority complex more than cockroaches. They’ve got survival perfected. They can live anywhere, and survive anything. I would be in complete awe of their perfection if they didn’t make me feel queasy, just thinking about them. To some degree, roaches are what stand between me and residence in a warm weather climate.

There are so many things about cockroaches that revolt me. The greatest, by far, being their intellect. I’m disgusted by June Bugs and Water Beetles, too, but they don’t run for cover when you enter the room or flip on the light. That high speed dart for safety that roaches make, makes me feel violated. And have you ever tried to step on one? Even if you’re reflexes are actually quick enough to make a hit, it is pointless, unless you add an ankle twist. Their hardy exoskeletons flatten down thinner than paper and, while the ankle twist ensures their loss of life, it also means cleaning up roach guts. And the trickery! If you don’t add the ankle twist to your roach stomp, all you accomplish is squishing out a pile of eggs onto the floor, so that you can enjoy the company of more roaches later! Revolting!!

I’ve been fortunate in that I have not had to share my residence with roaches for decades now, but I’ll never forget the terror, as a young girl in Southern California, of having a roach slowly creep up on me from across the bathroom, as I was helplessly confined on the throne. Or the enormous size of the roaches that scurried in every direction when anything banged into the garbage cans by the back gate. I’m quite confident that human survival is not based on our superiority to roaches, but is because the roaches held an international convention and decided to let us live. After all the more we propagate, the simpler their food collection goes.

I was reminded, a couple summers ago, of how much I despise roaches and what a blessing it is to live in a home without pests, during Youth Service Week. We were taking the church’s teens out into the community for a week of service projects. One of the days, we prepared an apartment for newly arriving refugees. You’re probably already feeling ill, but try to be brave as I describe this apartment.

We came into the apartment in the full light of midday, but a few roaches scurried for cover out of every room we entered. As the youth set to work cleaning the kitchen cupboards and stocking them with pots and pans, the other leaders and I noticed that the wall sockets and light fixtures were producing an overflow of baby roaches that ran across the walls and ceiling every couple minutes. In four years of living in the southwest, I never once saw a baby roach. You normally wouldn’t – they would be protected in a nest away from humans. We concluded that the walls of this apartment were so teeming with roaches that even the babies were coming out into plain sight in the middle of afternoon brightness.

We were amazed at the bravado of the youth. Every time they bumped the refrigerator, another bug would run out and then try to run back. They were pouncing on them,quickly learning to add the ankle twist and taking delight in the game of roach stomping. They apparently had such limited experience with roaches, they didn’t know the disease-spreading un-cleanliness the bugs' presence indicated. I wanted, every minute of that afternoon, to run screaming from the apartment, burn my clothes before entering my house, and scrub down in a boiling hot shower. Instead, I hung in there with the kids and kept cleaning. I imagined the cockroach disco party that was going to greet these new refugees that night. I wondered at the circumstances of a refugee camp, that this crummy, roach infested apartment could seem like a luxury, as the refugee service workers assured us it would. I said silent prayers of thanksgiving and gratitude for my own, pest-free house.

I have the privilege of being fearful of and disgusted by pests like roaches. I have the privilege of single family housing, where my pest prevention is not dependent on 500 or so other people, who, out of limited means and low personal functioning, share and attract pests into my slum.

I’m horrified by cockroaches, mice, and bedbugs, in part, because I can be. I’m humbled that it could be called an act of service to prepare an apartment for someone, in a building where I would not be willing to spend a single night - and barely made it through an afternoon.

Swarming insects are unclean, so don't eat them. Deuteronomy 14:19

Monday, April 4, 2011

Two Truths and a Lie II

The lie was (b).  I actually have never gotten a speeding ticket, let alone two on one trip.  However, I cannot say that I never deserved one; I've had my share of lead-foot.  Anymore, though, it is a simple math exercise for me to acknowledge that if I'm late, speeding is not going to save me.  Even on a three hour trip, it's only a fifteen minute difference whether I drive 70 mph or 80 mph, but it could be a hundred dollar difference if I get a ticket.  Not worth it.

(a) On a visit from college, my mom had recently purchased a "Jars of Clay" CD that I listened to quite a bit while I was there.  It was in my stuff when I was packing up, and when I discovered it, I didn't bother to dig it out and return it, rationalizing that since she hadn't asked for it during the visit, my mom wouldn't notice it gone, anyway.  My rationale was blown a couple weeks later when she brought it up during a phone call.  In a moment of uncharacteristic grace, however, she turned my theft into a gift, telling me I could keep the CD.

(c) Winning the town's festival queen title after high school graduation gave me a valuable feeling of connection to my hometown during my otherwise homeless first year of college. The organizers were non-communicative while I was away, even though I had offered my contact information. I enjoyed reading up on the local news through the newspaper subscription I'd won from them, though, and the year went by. When school got out and I was able to return, I found out I'd been entirely written out from ever having even won the title. I contacted them, but they didn't want to deal with me, so I showed up in my crown and sash when the new queen was to be crowned.  I was threatened with ejection if I caused a scene, but I never had any intention of doing more than just show up. In retrospect, that was certainly enough.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Two Truths and a Lie

So, in honor of April Fool’s Day, I thought about confessing something horrible and then saying April Fool’s at the end. But then I thought that would be too obvious. So I decided we should play the age old party game, “Two Truths and a Lie.” It will be up to you to decide when I’m fooling and when I’m for real.

a) I stole a Christian CD. Oh, the irony. I was too broke to afford a new CD and the owner, I rationalized, didn't really appreciate how cool the music was. These are the lies we tell ourselves to justify our actions when we know we're wrong.

You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. James 4:2

b) I got two speeding tickets on the same trip. An expensive week of seminary. I knew how long it took to drive each way to Kansas City, and I knew what time my classes started, but somehow I didn't apply that math and found myself trying to make up time on the way.  It cost me time and treasure.

If you plan and work hard, you will have plenty; if you get in a hurry, you will end up poor. Proverbs 21:5

c) I crashed a beauty contest, dressed in a formal, and wearing a crown and sash. It was a hotheaded and vengeful action.  The organizers had insulted me and I felt otherwise powerless to defend myself, so I took the wrong action and made myself the joke.

Be beautiful in your heart by being gentle and quiet. This kind of beauty will last, and God considers it very special. 1 Peter 3:4

Don't be a spoil sport if you already know the answer. Just vote for which one you think is the lie and I will confess the real ones later this week.