Friday, March 29, 2013

The Pastor with a Penny Whistle

Rodney B. recently gave Joe this book, Grandpa Blows His Pennywhistle Until the Angels Sing, by Susan L. Roth.  Rodney also gave Joe his first penny whistle. 

Rodney's like that.  If he sees something that reminds him of someone, he often picks it up for him or her.  When he saw a penny whistle somewhere, he recalled having heard Joe talk about wanting one.  So he bought one for Joe.

So too with this book. 

The book is a good fit.  There is a pastor, the Very Reverend Wilson, (who happens to drone on and on).  There's a Grandpa who plays his penny whistle rather than going to sit in church to listen to the droning pastor.  There's a little boy, Little Boy James, who is too busy to want to sit still during one of the Very Reverend Wilson's sermons on a hot summer day.  And there's a Mama and Papa who are ready to pull their hair out trying to control Little Boy James with all his little boy energy.  Many similar themes and characters to our life.

Little Boy James falls off the barn roof while trying to avoid getting ready for church.  He lies unconscious, but alive.  Grandpa marches to church and interrupts the Very Reverend Wilson's droning to play a sad song on the penny whistle.  This draws a choir of angels into the church.  Once the angels are assembled, Grandpa marches home, with the angel choir following, playing his penny whistle all the way like the Pied Piper of Hamlin.   Once home, the angel choir sings, and Grandpa plays, and Little Boy James wakes up just fine.

I know why Rodney got this book for Joe.  The "Pennywhistle" in the title first caught his eye.  When he saw that there was also a pastor in the story, that sealed the deal.  It's a cute little story with a happy ending, and very cool cut and torn paper collage illustrations.

But I really, really hope Rodney doesn't think Joe is a droning pastor. 

And I'm pretty certain Rodney would rather have his pastor preach the Message of Salvation through Jesus' Blood and Righteousness, and faithfully administer the Holy Sacraments, than lead an angel choir around the county with his penny whistle, healing the sick.

But it would be kind of cool if he could do both, wouldn't it.  The idea appeals to our human flesh.  We want those tangible signs of God's glory.  We seek to feel and see the glory of God outside of His Word and Sacrament. 

We must remind ourselves what Jesus said to the Pharisees in Matthew 16, "A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign."  God has given us what we need.  We recall when the Rich Man was suffering the pangs of hell, and he asked Father Abraham to send Lazarus back from the dead, to his brothers, so that they would believe.  Abraham said, "They have Moses and the Prophets.  Let them hear them." (Luke 16:29).

Thank You Heavenly Father for giving us Your Written Word and the Precious Sacraments.  Those Sacraments are the signs you have given us.  The Heavenly Power in the earthly elements.  That Communion with You that we can see and feel and smell and taste. 

May we never forget the Glory and Power intrinsic in these simple elements connected with Your Word and Promise.  May we ever seek You only in those Places where and Tools within which You have promised to come to us.

Thank You for the gift of a Faithful Pastor.  A pastor who faithfully teaches us your Written Word.  And who faithfully administers your Holy Sacraments.

Even if the Very Reverend might occasionally drone a little bit.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

The Blanket that Wanted to be a Rug: And the intertwined chasings of myself around my brain

In the last few days, in between things, I've crocheted a lovely baby afghan.  Or is it a rug?  I'm not sure anymore.  But it is lovely, is it not? I wish you could feel it.  Its softness is irresistible.  The yarn is bulky and thick.  It's a cotton/acrylic blend.  And the colors are very rich.  The picture doesn't do it justice.

It was intended to be for a baby shower which I may or may not attend tomorrow.  But now that I'm done with this project, I've decided that it will not be for that shower.  Now my decision is whether or not I will pull it out and re-ball the yarn; or save it for the Nazareth fancy work sale next fall.

But we need to start back further in this saga to get the full effect of the "chasings of myself around my brain" thing mentioned in the title of this blog post.

A few facts first.
  • I'm a pastor's wife
  • My husband serves four congregations, has three services on Sunday morning and one on Saturday morning; during Lent he has midweek services three nights a week
  • I was raised in the era of that elusive ideal of the perfect pastor's wife
  • I have ten children
  • For many years I homeschooled them
  • We've been here, at this parish, for over eleven years
  • When we moved here, I was expecting my sixth baby within a few months; my oldest was nine
  • I'm prone to forgetting things of import 
  • Oh, and in my own way, with certain things, I battle perfectionism
In other words, I have been busy.  And I was doomed to fail.  At least at the part about the perfect pastor's wife.  I decided early on in my pastor wiverly career that I would not attend baby showers or wedding showers; I was busy with my kids.  They were all little.  My husband had church on Saturday, when most showers are scheduled.  There were too many children for me to want to inflict them upon any shower I might attend.

Not to mention the fact that I knew, as a reality of my personality, that I could not keep track of everyone else's special occasions, and I'd be bound to miss somebody.  And the perfect pastor's wife can't do that, right?  We can't do for some what we won't do for all.  Or at least that's the ideal I carried into this vocation. 

Not to mention the fact that when we first moved here I knew nobody so the whole gift giving thing was a little stressful for me.  I didn't know how to buy gifts for people of whom I knew so little.  I didn't know how to find gifts when I was so isolated compared to living in a small city with malls and stores.  I also, (is this stingy of me?) I also had a little bit of trouble parting with our money, when I didn't even know the people to whom I was giving.  Not that I didn't want to give, just that I'm pretty modest on the kinds of gifts I give for my own family, and the things we have.  And such simple things are not the norm for most of mainstream America.  That sinful pride of mine always feels as if the kind of gifts upon which I generally spend money are not comparably fit for the general public. 

Now that stingy or prideful part did not fit with my perfect pastor's wife ideal.  The perfect pastor's wife went to all showers and gave a little token something whether or not she knew the person at all.  The perfect pastor's wife bought some small item in bulk, to have on hand to simply grab from the shelf when a need arrived.  She wrapped them all when they arrived in the mail, all in the same kind of wrappings, so that nobody could say, "Her wrapping was nicer than mine.  The pastor's wife likes her better." 

Silly isn't it?  I know.

So with all that stupid perfect pastor's wife baggage, I decided I wouldn't do showers.  I had a handy excuse in the multitude of my children and my husband's schedule.

But I find my kids are growing up.  I no longer homeschool.

I really can attend showers now.

And I know people here now.  I even want to attend the showers.  These people are my friends.  And if I don't always know the wife- or mom-to-be, her parents or family are my friends.

But I do still struggle with that part about me being a ditzy personality who is doomed to forget someone or something.  But I'm happy to say that I've also gotten past the perfect pastor's wife thing.  My life (homemaking, orchestrating, keeping up) is such a train wreck that everyone knows full well that there is no perfect pastor's wife here at this parish.  I am so glad I don't have to carry that mantle around any more.

What a relief!  What you see is what you get, right?  Even that's hard to remember sometimes, though, as you'll see later on.

I have a skill now.  I can crochet.  I can make things for others with this skill.  I can find a little something I can make to give when the need arises. 

And the skill is also good for me.  As I've mentioned before, the rhythm, the colors, the textures of crochet appeal to me greatly.  This hobby has been a great balm to me during this lengthy struggle with depression from which I'm ever-so-slowly emerging. 

So I could whip something up for this shower on Sunday, right?

Oh-oh, here's perfect pastor's wife whispering in my ear again.  What's that you say, oh, you evil and twisted part of my conscience?

"No.  You can't go to Kim's shower since you didn't go to Stephanie's just the other week.  They are married to brothers.  All things being equal, you can't go to one, if you didn't got to the other."

"Oh, yes I can.  There are several differences.  Kim's is on a Sunday after a church dinner, so I'll be at church anyway.  Stephanie's was on a Saturday, and it was not at the church.  Kim's is more of a church community shower.  Stephanie's was a wider group of her friends and family.  Besides, I can always whip something up to give Stephanie when her baby comes.  Kim's baby is already here, so it's OK that I give her a gift first.  Just go away! and stop plaguing me with that myth of the perfect pastor's wife."

So you see, it all goes around and around in my head.  Even when I know.  I know!  I know that I don't have to put on airs of the perfect pastor's wife.  Even now!  I still struggle with those voices of perfectionism that try to doom me to failure.

And so I decided to make an afghan.  I ignored my inner perfect pastor's wife.  Yes, yes, I know.  Afghans are expensive to make.

And so more voices, "Can you really obligate yourself to $30 gifts for baby showers?  You know you won't want to make an afghan out of ordinary yarn.  You'll want that fancy soft stuff that feels so nice running through your fingers, and snuggling up next to baby's skin.  And it comes in such small skeins that it will take a whole bunch of them."

"You're right.  I can't really afford $30 baby gifts.  However, I can invest $30 in my healing.  And this crochet thing, it's therapy.  It's healing.  If I make something smaller, something like booties, for instance, it won't be as soothing.  It's less repetitive.  It's more thinking, so less relaxing."

And so more chasings of myself around in my brain.

But I threw all caution to the wind.  I counted out the skeins I had of some super soft Lion Brand Baby's First yarn and found I needed a few more.

"Matt, can you pick me up some yard when you're in Town tonight?"  Oh, Matt!  He's such a good sport to be constantly buying armsful of yarn for his mom. 

I eagerly went to work on this afghan, and thoroughly enjoyed myself.  I've been pretty busy with household things lately (I'll write a different post about that, but think painting and new floors).  I've not has as much time to crochet as I'd prefer.  Plus my scarf box is full to overflowing, since it's nearing the end of winter.  The holiday gift giving season is over.  Not much opportunity to get rid of my backlog.  But still I stitch.  Stitch and stitch and so my box overflows and I find I really do need to stop making scarves.

Where was I? 

Oh, yes.  Afghan.  I used a new stitch that in my needlework book is called close scallops.  I used the Lion's Brand Baby's First yarn.  I just stitched.  And stitched.  And enjoyed.

I planned to do a wide stripe motif of several different colors.  An ABCDEDCBA pattern.  With a wide-ish border around the edge.  I compared my initial chain to a crib sized blanket I have around here, and left what I thought was adequate room for my border.  And just stitched.  Stitched.  Enjoyed.  Reveled in the feeling.  And repetition.  And feasted with my eyes upon its beauty as the work progressed.  It really is beautiful and luxurious.

But what's this?  It's going to be too long?  Shoot, it's beginning to look more like an area rug kind of  runner thing than an afghan!

OK, quick re-boot.  I'll do fewer stripes and make each stripe shorter.  ABCDCBA.

Good thing I missed that stitch way back there and have to rip out anyway.  Oh, and just so you know, that's not a bad thing.  The ripping out.  This yarn comes right out without the tangling toward which some yarns tend.  And the textures and rhythm are still soothing.  I don't get the thrill of seeing a work progress, but I've learned to live with that.  It's the price one pays for not using patterns and guessing out of my head on how to do things.  I rip out quite often.  And I'm OK with that.

So, back to the re-boot.  I'll make these rows shorter and skip that last color all together.  Then I'll still have room for my wide border.

But as I stitched along, I realized that my length was still too great compared to the width.  I could shorten my last color by half.  But then I'd have to go back and shorten the first color that much, too.

Now anyone who crochets may imagine that this is not really a very easy thing to do.  One can pull stitches out from the working end quite easily, but not from the starting end.  One must find, in the middle of the work, the spot from which one wants to pull out, figure out where to snip the yarn, and then rip back toward the beginning.  And there's also a little trick about re-attaching some sort of chain or foundation row onto the stitches that will now be the beginning row, so that they have something onto which to hang, since you will have pulled out that to which they were originally stitched.  But that's OK.  I've done that a few times too.  I have a little system.  And no, it's not totally relaxing.  In fact, it can be even a little but stressful.  But mostly in a putzy annoying kind of way.  Not a difficult kind of way.

But I did it.  I got the job done.  I finished the body of the work and continued to the border.  I was still not totally pleased with the result, however.

The finished project was still going to be narrower than I wanted.  I had measured it against that crib quilt, but somehow, it still appeared too narrow.  The proportion was off.  I tried a few different kinds of borders, and even did a couple tries of making the side borders wider than the end borders, in order to even out the proportion.  But the various things I tried didn't please me, so each time I took the border attempts out and started again.

Eventually I did end up with a finished product.  It's beautiful.  The colors are rich.  They blend well one into the other.  The blanket is incredibly soft.  Really.  All my kids have been asking for it.  Or asking me to make them one like it.  I love to gaze at it, and to touch it.  I'd love it for my blankie were I in the need of one.

But as you can see from the photos, it is still not well-proportioned.  It still kind of reminds me more of an area rug than a baby blanket.

I woke up early this morning (on my one day a week to sleep in), and could not get back to sleep.  I found myself tossing and turning, stewing about this dumb blanket.  More chasings of myself around in my brain.

And to what conculsions did I come?  After all that tossing and turning?  And all those chasings of myself around in my brain?

Really, truly, even for therapy, I cannot afford to be giving $30 shower gifts.  Really, truly, I can start to go to showers, and I ought to do so.  Really, truly, I'd enjoy the social aspect of going to showers.  Really, truly, I have the ability to make something not so grand to give at such functions.  And even if it's not part of my therapy, I can still do it.  Something little like a hat, or booties, or mittens.  Those things I can handle.  And with practice, I might even come to find them relaxing.  I've done a few such things, and they are really cute when they are done.  Really.  Cute.

But now the puzzle remains.  What to do with the blanket that wanted to be rug?  I'm undecided.

I could give it to the Nazareth sale as an afghan.

I could put one of those non-slip backings on it and make it, officially, an area rug.  And still give it to the fancy work sale.  But do people buy fluffy baby colored area rugs for their nurseries?  I don't know these things.

Or I could simply pull out the stitches, enjoying the rhythm and the colors and the textures.  And roll all that expensive yarn back up into balls to be used at some later date.

I don't know.

But I do know I have some quick work to do on something little, if I want to start my foray into baby and wedding shower attendance tomorrow afternoon.