23 November 2009

True Love

Some women hate laundry, but the chore I despise the most is cleaning the kitchen.  Laundry can be finished and then ignored for a day or two.  The kitchen gets dirty again the second you turn your back.  I hate it, and so my kitchen is usually in a barely acceptable state of "not quite a health hazard."

These last few weeks have been difficult, for rather obvious reasons. What isn't so obvious is that they are coming along as the most recent in a series of difficult times, that have been following close on one another's heels ever since the beginning of August. So the miscarriage was just the latest in a Series of Unfortunate Events. But it was the hardest, and for a while there, I was really struggling.

I've been weepy and emotional (every man's favourite), and I have been making the Mad Scientist late for work because I've been sleeping to totally ridiculous hours. And I've barely done any school with the children for about three weeks now. And the housework (never under control) is slipping even further from my grasp, while meal planning has gone completely out the window.

Through all of the difficulties, which would surely make most men throw up their hands in despair and disgust, my sweet husband has loved me in the most tangible ways possible.  He has given me space when I needed it, a shoulder to lean on when I needed to cry.  He wept with me as our hopes for my pregnancy ended.  He has watched the children so I could have a break, even more than he usually does.  But the most tangible thing of all?  He's been keeping the kitchen clean:

Now THAT is sexy!

21 November 2009

Let's Hear from Someone Else on Biblical Marriage

In this discussion, I have been wishing for a good example of a marriage where both husband and wife fulfill their roles.  This article from No Greater Joy is such an example.

Here, here and here are articles discussing the problems with The Patriarchy Movement, as it relates to children.  One thing I love about the Pearls is, they don't pull any punches, but tell it just like it is.  Especially note this paragraph in the last article:
Now, I would like to deal with the issue of balance. Published truth is too often delivered like a pendulum; it swings from side to side, extreme to opposite extreme, always seeking rest. Each person receiving it is responsible to assimilate the whole spectrum and to strike a balance. That is the continual challenge of one’s intellectual existence.
 Italics are mine.

The Most Patient Mother in the World

Today I flew to New Hampshire to visit my parents.  I did this alone, (which is to say, I was the only adult) with all three of the monkeys.  I spent two flights of approximately one hour each wrestling Monkey3, trying to get him not to climb the seat back directly in front of me or kick his sister.  I have been up since 5 a.m.  I am exhausted.

At the baggage claim after the last flight, an elderly woman who had been seated across the aisle from me complemented me on the older two children's behaviour, and said "You must be the most patient mother in the world!" 

Yes, some days I think so too.  But only when I'm in public.  I don't put on nearly so good an act at home.  I told her, "I only wish that were true!"

Why is it so much easier to be kind and patient when everyone is watching?  I'm so grateful for my children, who remind me "Mama, you don't need to sound so angry!  You don't need to shout!"  (Sometimes they even say it in a nice voice, rather than one like mine).  I'm grateful for their forgiveness, and God's forgiveness too.  And I'm thankful every day that there is grace to cover my mistakes, and that God is working in my children's lives, sometimes using me, sometimes in spite of me, always to draw them closer to himself.

19 November 2009

Season's Greetings

It's that time of year again, when people begin to search for the perfect gift to express their love for each member of their own little world.  I read a book last year that actually suggested knitting several extra scarves to keep in a basket, rolled up and tied individually with ribbon, to offer as impromptu gifts to those guests (or possibly the postal worker) who might stop by and catch you unprepared.  Seriously?  Do you know how long it takes to knit a SCARF?  By hand?

I ran through Sears today on the way to the portrait studio, (can we pause to appreciate the irony of "The Little Drummer Boy", a song about giving from the heart despite poverty, being piped over the loudspeaker at the mall?)  and noticed tables laid out in the middle of all the aisles, piled with "small" (think size, not price) things that would make good stocking stuffers.  You can imagine my surprise when I spotted an entire table of what appeared to be hand-knit socks, in a chunky-weight yarn.  "Wow," I thought.  "They actually look like they were really knitted by hand.  Someone is definitely going to be passing those off as 'made for you with love' this year!"  A sock knitter myself, I had to stop for a better look.  Sure enough, each pair carried a small label that assured they were "hand-crafted." 

That's the joy of the season!  Nothing really says "I support slave labour in the third world" like hand-crafted socks you bought at the mall.

18 November 2009

That's like my life

I tried to just post the picture here, but it won't let me.  Follow this link please.  Now, this comic has been on my 'fridge for a while, and I still can't decide which part I find the most humorous:  the inverted play pen, or the bull whip.

Is it really sad that my favourite comic has gone from Calvin and Hobbes, to Baby Blues?  I think I'm having a mid-life crisis.

17 November 2009

Further thoughts on biblical marriage

Wow, so apparently all I have to do to find out if I actually have anyone reading is to post on a REALLY controversial topic. Which means I must have gained a few readers since I put up my thoughts on the NRA. What, you couldn't all just drop a note to say I have cute children? :-)

I clearly touched on some sensitive issues with my last post. In particular commenter #6 shared some thoughts that I found troubling. I debated whether I should respond, and have decided that I will. I am not doing this so much in response to her, but because I know there are other women out there in the same situation. If what I have to say helps even one of them, I will feel it was worthwhile. (To sound terribly cliche) So, if I sound a bit more strident in this post than a simple response to this commenter seems to warrant, know that it is because I am trying to sound a wake-up call to other women who are still struggling with this. I don't mean to be harsh.

I will be posting the entire comment here, with my thoughts interspersed. To begin:
Anonymous said...

Marry an abusive man who believes in patriarchy and see what happens.
It is true that I have a wonderful, godly husband. I hesitate to address women in abusive marriages with a list of "you shoulds", because I've never been there. But I am able to address, as far as my understanding allows, what a God-honoring, biblical marriage is...and what it is not.
As for wives being doormats, it all depends on the man who is the leader. If he tells you you're not allowed to give your opinion, then you're not. If he tells you to jump, you jump. The way the man leads you is dependant on the man. Patriarchy provides very few caveats. No oversight. No accountability for the man, really, of any sort.
Now, I would like to make a few points in response to this paragraph. First, an abuser doesn't need biblical justification for his abuse...in fact, has none. There is no biblical justification for a man abusing his wife. That isn't leadership. It isn't biblical headship. It's just abuse. Even if it's never physical, if a man treats his wife like dirt, he is abusing her and is completely outside the biblical guidelines for marriage.
I said in my last post, that I have not read much literature from "The Patriarchy Movement". Careful readers will have noted that, throughout that post, I never capitalized "patriarch" while I was trying to define it. I wasn't trying to justify a "movement." I was trying to explain the roles of a husband and wife, as I understand them, in a biblical marriage. (I could perhaps have chosen a title that better expressed that. Sorry.) And my understanding is, that the man is called to be the head, the leader, the one who is ultimately responsible. The wife is called to be a help, a support. This is not the role of a doormat. It is a role of dignity and honor. A man is called to treat his wife with respect, as a co-heir, with him, of the grace of life. He is told to treat her with honor, and that if he does not, his prayers will be hindered. (See 1 Peter 3:7, the oft' unquoted verse at the end of all those "wifely submission" verses.) The Bible DOES NOT justify a man belittling his wife, or abusing her in any way.
As for oversight and accountability for the man, well, that is the role of the church. I'll get into that in a bit.
If you married a nice man, great. Good for you. Those of us who married abusers didn't know it until we were married. Most abusers don't show their true colors until they feel like they've "got" you. For most of us, that wasn't till the honeymoon.
As for the women being taught to be doormats, well, it's in the books. Martha Peace, a favorite of most patriarchal teachers and lauded for her "balanced" approach, teaches that wives are only allowed to have "one appeal." Don't like that your husband just told you that you're not allowed to go to bed until you've cleaned the kitchen spotlessly? You get one appeal. After that, you must submit cheerfully, trusting God. Other patriarchal teachers do much the same. It's in there.
I have never read Martha Peace, so what I have to say next is purely in response to the above paragraph. The Bible does not teach that a wife has only "one appeal." Where does that come from? It is not in Scripture!! Now, I might agree that, if your husband makes a decision you disagree with, and you share your concern (in a respectful way, of course) and he doesn't change his mind, to continue to "appeal" would really just be badgering. In that situation myself, I would let it go and follow my husband's leading. HOWEVER, this woman is not talking about reasonable decisions about which there may be a disagreement. She is talking about a husband who denigrates his wife and treats her like a servant. And there most certainly is an appeal process, set out in Matthew chapter 18, to deal with this:
15 Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. 16 But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. 17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.
In a Christian marriage, is not your husband also your brother in Christ? And, since he is called to treat his wife with honor, then if he fails to do so is he not sinning against her? Then this applies. Just as you would go to the police (and you absolutely should) if your husband abused you physically, I see no problem at all, based on Scripture, with going to your pastor, and then to the church as a whole when he abuses you in every other way. What Martha Peace and other teachers of "The Patriarchy Movement" would say to this, I don't know, but I think that Scripture is quite clear. You have an appeal to a higher authority.
Again, if you have a kind and loving husband, you most likely just don't see it. But for women married to abusive men, we see it. We see it because we scour those books, looking for help, and all they do is tell us that as long as he's not commanding us to sin (murder someone, etc), we have to do exactly as he says or we are in rebellion to God.
Now, this is where I may sound a bit harsh, so please believe me that I do not intend this to come across in that way. But I have to say this: Why waste time scouring books that are only giving you someone's opinion? Spend that time reading your Bible, and you will find that your Bible doesn't agree! Read Mark 7, because this is a perfect example of the commandments of God being laid aside so people can cling to their own tradition, and the doctrine of men!
7 Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. 8 For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do. 9 And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition. (From Mark 7)
My commenter continued:

So, we did...it was never enough for him, of course, but we did it all anyway (the more humiliated he made us, the better he felt about himself). The result wans't anything that glorified God though, even though we gave it our very best. The result was destruction. Because you can't submit to an abuser without creating an even worse abuser. Patriarchy taught us that by submitting, we would win our husbands. Patriarchy was a lie. One who was there
No, this is not something that glorifies God. Where was the church in all this? Where is oversight and accountability from the body of Christ? And yes, I am aware that some pastors perpetrate these teachings on their congregations. It is interesting to note that in the verses from Matthew 18 (quoted above) the conclusion is that a man who will not hear the church should be considered a heathen, an unbeliever. And when Paul, in 1 Corinthians chapter 7, discusses marriage between a believer and an unbeliever, he says

15 But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace.

Paul also appears to make allowance, in that same passage, for a wife to leave her husband. He says not to, but then explains that, if she does, she should remain unmarried. He does not seem to make allowance for a husband to leave his wife:

10 And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband:
11 But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife.

I am not a Bible scholar. I am not qualified to say when a woman is justified in leaving. I have never had occasion to search the Scriptures, myself, for the answer to that. But I do know that biblical patriarchy does not condone or endorse what this woman went through. Biblical headship is about a shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep. A woman is called to submit to her husband, yes. But (as one of my favourite authors said) this is a sacrifice she offers, in faith, to God. No man has the right to stand between his wife and her God and demand that of her. If he understands his own role, he wouldn't even imagine doing such a thing.

Further thoughts, anyone? You can read the initial post here.

15 November 2009

How do you define "biblical patriarchy"?

Amy linked to an interesting article on the Patriarchy Movement, and when my comment in response went into its fourth paragraph, I decided to just post it here. I think there is a great deal of danger in discussing these topics without first defining your terms, because clearly what the other author means by Patriarchy, and what I mean by it, are two completely different things. But I would have answered (if anyone had asked) that I do believe in biblical patriarchal headship in the family...so now I'm curious as to whether the entire movement is really as atrocious as she claims. I guess that means I have some more things to add to my reading list.

Here are my thoughts:

Maybe I just haven't read enough literature from the "Patriarchy Movement" but I've never understood that they teach that women are to be doormats who never ever speak up and give their thoughts in any way, shape, or form, and who allow their husbands to continue in sin without saying anything. That is completely unbiblical.

My understanding of patriarchy is a simple acknowledgment that, on a team, only one person can be the official leader. Only one person can make the final decision. Only one person is in charge of directing the efforts of the rest of the team. Anything else is chaos at worst, and confusion at best. It appeared to me, as I began to look into it, simply to be saying that husbands are designated by scripture to be the team leader, the one who is ultimately responsible. And wives are to support them in that role.

Now, a wife can certainly offer her opinion, and even assume some of the responsibilities of leadership - indeed must, if the family is to run smoothly. A wife can't sit around just waiting to be told what to do all day. She has to think for herself and take some initiative. But this can be done in a way that still respects her husband, and his role as the ultimate leader of the home, just as on a team, one member may be in charge of reading the map, and directing everyone's footsteps, even though they are not the official leader. The leader delegates the responsibility of map-reading to one he knows is capable of doing that well, and the map-reader does not try to convince the whole team that the leader is unfit, simply because he isn't the best map-reader.

It is not supportive to a team leader to allow him to continue, without ever sharing your concern, on a road that will lead to destruction. But you can do that in ways that are respectful of his position of authority. Too many women treat their husbands like rather stupid extra appendages. That condescending attitude is rampant in the culture; one sees it everywhere. Beyond not respecting a husband's role of authority, it is essentially disrespectful to him as a human being. No one suggests that women should tolerate being patted on the head and treated like dimwits. (I have never read any patriarchal material that, as far as I understood it, implied this in any way). But the culture does this to men all the time.

Is it asking too much that women could treat their husbands with respect, and not sabotage them in the difficult role of leader? This doesn't mean being a doormat. It doesn't mean catering to every tyrannical whim. It just means building up, rather than tearing down. Offering support and encouragement, rather than belittling. Sometimes going out of your way to offer some type of recognition (in the same way that you might appreciate flowers, or the chance to have an evening out with friends), that the role of leader is often difficult and tiring. Teaching your children to appreciate the effort their father puts into supporting the family, rather than encouraging them to see him as an impediment or a bumbling fool. My understanding of patriarchy, recognizing the man as head of the household, is that both husband and wife respect each other in the roles to which they are called. One has been assigned as team leader. One has been assigned an equally vital role. (How do you label the team member who is responsible for making sure everything runs smoothly behind the scenes? Is there an official title for that?)

I'd love to hear others' thoughts, but please, keep it polite. I will not publish comments that are simple rants, rather than making a thoughtful, politely stated point.

14 November 2009

Back Again

Hello, Faithful Blog Readers (also the not-so-faithful, and those who are just stopping by). That is to say, greetings and salutations to you all. My computer is back from L.A., (the Mad Scientist is home, too). It is truly a sign of how my life has gone lately, that the week he was gone was the best one I've had in about a month. Sad, but true. It actually occurred to me that perhaps I could get him to stay in L.A. a while longer...No, I didn't consider it seriously (much).

But the monkeys and I had a very nice time, which was probably just the grace of God. He must have known that I was nearly at the end of my rope. My sister-in-law watched them for me two evenings, so I didn't have to miss my knitting night and Mom's Night Out, and that perhaps accounted for why the week went so much better than might have been expected. Mama is a much happier person when she has some knitting time, and bit of a break now and then. A huge thank-you, therefore, is due to my (actually my husband's) sister-in-law. I don't think she reads this blog, but in case she stops by, I'd like to say, "I'm grateful." (Don't worry, I'll send an actual note, too).

Does anyone else out there feel guilty about the fact that going away from her children improves her ability to mother well? I know it's not just me. Everyone I talk to acknowledges this phenomenon. I still wonder, however, to what degree this is a product of our cultural indoctrination, and what degree it is actually simply that mothers really do need the occasional break. To what degree is this simply an attitude problem on my part?

My theory is, that in a tribal or clan setting, and with a great deal of extended family nearby, mothers got a whole lot more in the way of support and regular breaks. It must have been pretty common for a mother to say "Run over to your grandmother's house while I get my spinning done so we'll all have clothes for the winter." Or something to that effect. Right? But not everyone has lived in a tribal or clan situation for all of history. So what did everyone else do? Just go quietly crazy? Clearly not (I think).

I continue to ponder this. I think it may have been more do-able for, say, pioneer women not to have so much of a support network, because their children grew up faster, and contributed more, sooner. But that takes work, too. You certainly do hear of poorly-trained disobedient pioneer children. But one always gets the impression that they were the exception, rather than the rule. And hardly anyone requires as much, as soon, of their children now, as families did at that time. Farm and ranching families are probably the exception, and I suspect the reason for the change is, that so few families live on farms or ranches of any kind, any more. The family's survival and prosperity no longer depends on the children's contribution really to any extent, and so their contribution has grown less and less. Let's face it, keeping your room clean isn't really on par with helping milk, feed, and clean up after the livestock that provide a large portion of your family's food and clothing. (No matter how much the bedroom may look like a barn).

(Break for Pet Peeve: my mother always says, that messy bedrooms do NOT look like barns, because a well-cared-for barn is clean and orderly. If more people lived agrarian lives, we would hear less about bedrooms looking like barns. Just saying.)

Where am I going with this? I really do wonder how much of modern mothers' need for regular breaks (and I do acknowledge it is a need; I'm a much nicer mother on weeks when I have my knit night and such) is self-induced, or a product of the larger culture. In a world where most children could play outdoors when they were done working (also outdoors) did the Crazy not attack quite so ferociously? If a mother could settle in to her spinning, mending, knitting, and enjoy that activity while still feeling productive and useful, did those regular small breaks negate the need for a regular longer one? Or did she have to drop her knitting every two minutes to go break up a fight, or get Jr. out of the marker drawer, just like I do? (Monkey3 found a permanent marker this week. He ruined two shirts before I got smart and hid it instead of putting it away.)

When I knit, most people would say I'm wasting time. When the pioneer woman performed the same enjoyable, productive, relaxing activity, she was performing a vital service for her family as well. Maybe she hated knitting, like I hate cleaning the kitchen. Maybe I need to find a way to find more joy in cleaning the kitchen and dusting. Can we just go back to a world where everyone needed to knit and spin? Or maybe just one where I do? That would work great, for me.

Just rambling...

05 November 2009


No, this is not a health-related post, just in case you were made nervous by the title and our recent health history.

With regards and gratitude to The Nester, who is always an inspiration, and from whom I have learned a great deal...

Yesterday, I was feeling better, and the monkeys were still sick. So they were very subdued. And they took naps. So I actually accomplished something, and you get to read about it. Isn't that wonderful? :-) I was very happy.

At any rate, on to the point: Curtains were a new experience for me when I got married, and are something I'm still learning about. We didn't have curtains on the windows when I was growing up. We lived back in the woods with no neighbors in sight, and my mother likes well-lit rooms. Anything that covered the windows during the day was anathema, and at night was unnecessary. So I knew nothing about curtains at all.

When we moved in to this house, my MIL offered to make curtains for my living room. Curtain fabric costs a fortune, and I wanted the crown molding at the top of my windows to show, so I decided to just ask for a single panel for each window:

Now, this was an ideal gift for an overwhelmed young mother with a new house. My MIL sent me several fabric swatches, and then sewed the curtains as I had described them, with trim she selected to match the fabric I chose. I was very pleased, because they did a great job of covering the windows, which was all I wanted. Plus, I love the fabric, and thought they draped very elegantly when pulled back during the day:

I love the trim! But, further reading and experience taught me that these curtains are not well-scaled to the room. Also, my mother was horrified when she saw how much of the window was covered during the day, and that's been bothering me more and more lately. So when I saw a roll of fabric in Goodwill that perfectly matched my living room colors, I snapped it up. It turned out to be just enough to cut four ten-foot panels from, with just a bit left over:

(Thorvald helped). I proceeded (being limited by nap-time and my own desire to have new curtains sometime this decade) to make these up in true Nester fashion. First, I moved my curtain rods up as high as they would go. They're currently about 1 inch under the crown molding. Then, I folded the top of the fabric panels over about three inches, and spaced the ring-clips evenly across. I strung them on the rods, and hung them up, just like that:

Hanging up the rods wasn't as difficult as I expected. The Mad Scientist got a bit nervous, I think, when I called him up at work to ask where the drill bits were, but didn't say what I wanted them for. (Later he told me that drill bits don't really make him nervous, but if I'd asked for the wrecking bar that would have been cause for serious concern). I just used the cordless drill and screwed them straight into the plaster. I didn't use the drill bits, because they were out in the garage and I didn't feel like going out to get them. I tested a screw in the plaster lower down and it went in just fine, so I just went ahead without them. You can see in the picture above, I hung the first set too low. I moved them up, because they looked better higher. (No, I'm not particularly concerned about the extra holes in the wall. I'll patch them after the monkeys are in bed, next week while the Mad Scientist is out of town. Maybe).

Next, I straightened the fabric out, and folded it under about six inches:

Then I folded that up and hemmed it with safety pins so it just brushes the floor. Because I don't believe in drapes that "puddle." That look doesn't say "richness" to me, it just screams "DUST CATCHER!" Also, when the drapes puddle, the cat nests in them, which puts added stress on the rods. So, at any rate, for just the cost of the fabric ($17) and four sets of ring clips, I have beautiful new curtains for my living room:

Now, I would just like to say, that heavier weight rods would look better, and I also wish that I'd had another 20 ft. of fabric, to add another half-width to each panel. (Although, in that case I would have had to actually sew something, which would probably have meant these would never ever have gotten done). However, I think these curtains are a vast improvement on the previous ones, purely because they're much better scaled to the size of the room. The color is perfect, and overall I'm very pleased. As the Nester always says, "It doesn't have to be perfect, to be beautiful."

Incidentally, I found something to use instead of my pickle crock, as you can see in the photo above. I think that is also a decided improvement.

03 November 2009

Your Pardon, Faithful Blog-readers

Remember that trip to the doctor's office? That was last Wednesday. Thursday, Monkey1 and Monkey3 were both running fevers. (Fortunately, Monkey2 was fine, or I would have been certain it was the fault of the vaccine). Then, they started coughing. Then on Friday, I started coughing. Saturday I felt really tired...of course, that's kind of a constant in my life, so I only really notice it in retrospect these days. But Monkey2 and I both stayed in bed on Sunday...and most of the day Monday. So I'm emerging from about three days of feeling totally completely wiped out...and I have a company coming tonight. Fortunately, all my friends know that my house usually looks like a cyclone just went through, so it's no big deal. But in case you were wondering why I suddenly dropped off the face of the blogging earth, well, there you go.