Words of Affirmation

“Good job.”  “That was really well done.”  “I’m impressed, I don’t think I could have done that.”  “That’s a great idea!”  “Thank you for putting in so much effort.”

Ahhh, words of affirmation.  They feel good when you hear them, especially when they are unexpected.  It’s also one of the most heavily emphasized techniques in teaching children.  They remember much better what they are supposed to do when you praise them for doing a good job, plus it encourages the other children to behave.  But the same goes for adults.  We probably don’t need quite as much as children do, nor should we receive it for every little accomplishment.  As adults, we should just do some things without expecting to receive anything in return.  I don’t expect to be praised for showing up to work on time, nor do I expect to hear affirmation every day that I’m doing a good job with the kids.  But sometimes the praise doesn’t come when it’s really needed.
I’m a perfectionist by nature.  It means my job at a daycare can really destroy my moral.  I do make mistakes and the problem with working with people is that when I make a mistake, someone gets hurt.  Sometimes a message doesn’t get to a parent when necessary, sometimes I loose my cool with the kids, and sometimes I make a choice that nobody else agrees with.  Those are the things I constantly hear about.
I refer to this past winter as the Longest Winter.  It snowed and snowed and snowed.  So much snow that the kids had something like ten snow days, one week had four in itself.  On snow days,  I had 20-30 hyperactive grade schoolers without a schedule.   I was stressed.  Likewise, my classroom was going through rotating teachers because a teacher had to leave unexpectedly, so some days I was the only teacher who knew how things were supposed to go.  The stress went up.  And nobody really said much about what I was doing.  I would get comments like, “Hmm. . . . the kids seem a little loud today,” or receive complaints from parents about what happened during the day.  Every once in awhile a teacher from another classroom would tell me that they couldn’t work with the school agers everyday and that they didn’t envy my job.  My husband had to deal with most of my stress and remind me that as long as nobody got hurt or because emotionally traumatized, I was doing my job.  But never once did someone say, “You’re doing a good job, you’re doing the right thing.”
After the Longest Winter, I decided to get a new job.  I told the director in March that I would be resigning at the end of the school year–she didn’t seem surprised.  Then I slowly started to tell my co-workers that I would be leaving.  Then the words of affirmation started coming.  “Oh, you’ve done such a good job with those kids.”  “That room was a disaster before you came.”  I had one parent tell me that I really made an impact on her daughter’s life.  I think I will treasure that conversation forever because someone thought I had done something right.  But for the most part the praise came in too little, too late.  Even now I go into work expecting to hear that so-and-so’s mom called is unhappy about why her child had such-and-such problem or how we should change something we’re doing because it’s not treating the children fairly.  Never do I expect my boss to call me in and tell me that a parent was pleased with something that I did.
In long the run, I suppose the “life lesson” from this experience is that I need to make sure to complement people more.  I guess that’s my new resolution–to make sure that I give words of affirmation to those around me.

You Know Your Husband is in the Seminary When. . .

Because this blog is entitled “The Seminarian’s Wife,” I suppose I should broach that topic every once in awhile. So here are ten indicators that, yes, your husband is really in the seminary and some things in your life become a little unusual.  I hear some of these things don’t go away when your husband is actually a pastor.

10.  You go on vacation and you have to visit a congregation that has been supporting your husband.  Of course, he decides to help with the service.  “Let’s go over the packing list:  Toothpaste, check.  Socks, check.  Alb, check.”

9.  You and your husband run into one of his classmates, you inevitably wind up staring off into space while they discuss some theological matter.  “I think Wingren leaves out key parts of the purpose of preaching.”  “Yes, but you have to understand the hearsays of the church that were happening at that time. . .” *eyes glaze over*
8.  You devote five-shelf bookcase to his theology books and it still isn’t enough room for all his books.  On the other hand, as an English minor I brought quite a few books into the marriage myself.  We don’t argue about the books very often.
7.  You are able to cook your first-ever Thanksgiving turkey because the Food Co-op generously gives you one.  Of course, they don’t tell you how to cook the turkey, leading to frantic phone calls to both dads on Thanksgiving morning, going, “Dad, the turkey is still frozen.  What do we do?!”
6.  Some of the most expensive clothing items in you and your husband’s wardrobe are his clerical shirts.  Mostly because clerical shirts are hard to come by at the Clothing Co-op and really quite impossible to find at Goodwill and the Kohl’s discount rack.
5.  You start to humbly accept that your family is someone else’s charity.  Despite the Dave Ramsey classes, we are still going into debt like crazy and we rely on gift money as part of our budget. 
4.  You tell someone that your husband is studying to be a pastor and you eventually have to explain the entire seminary program and the call process because they asked how much school he has left and where he is going to be a pastor.  “See, we don’t believe in actually knowing where we are going until a month or two before we have to move.  It’s just more fun that way.”  
3.  You get funny looks in the stores or restaurants you go to right after church because your husband is wearing a collar while holding your hand, you scandalous woman, you.  I’ve been told this is worse when you’re pregnant and can no longer wear your wedding ring.  

2.  You have to discuss with your husband what books he actually needs before going to a book sale or shopping online.  “Honey, I know that a personal hymnal would be a little easier to carry, but we already have three copies of TLH, two copies of LW, and two copies of LSB.  Do we really need another one?”        

1.  You get a crash course in what it means to “Trust God’s Plan.”  We don’t know where where we’re going, what we’ll be doing, and how we’re going to pay for it but we’ll trust that God will provide.

The Day the Earth Stood Still. . . And Laughed

After listening and watching the rising notice of Harold Camping’s Judgement Day prediction this week, I cannot fail to note that the world is more or less the same as it was two days ago.  Nobody was raptured, the dead didn’t rise, and Jesus didn’t come back.  Most of the world did pause as their various time zones reached the 6:00 p.m. doomsday marker and now some are facing this news with disappointment and confusion, others are mildly amused, and others are laughing gleefully.  Quite frankly, I’m angry.  I’m angry that this Camping fellow was able to make this outlandish claim that the he knew when Jesus was coming back, I’m angry that he was given so much media attention, and I’m angry that he created a false teaching under the title of Christianity.

Now, it’s pretty easy to understand why the rapture didn’t happen yesterday like Camping predicted.  First off, Lutheran doctrine doesn’t believe in a rapture of this sort.  We believe in one second coming, that will be Judgement Day and the beginning of the New Heaven and New Earth (okay, this is a pretty shoddy description of Lutheran end-times beliefs, go to http://cyberbrethren.com/2011/05/19/is-the-world-going-to-end-on-may-21-maybe-but-remain-calm-dont-panic-heres-why/ for a better explanation.  Better yet, go to the explanation of the Second Article of the Apostle’s Creed found in Luther’s Small Catechism with Explanation).  Likewise, it’s pretty clearly stated in the Bible that nobody, including Camping, will know when this will happen (Matthew 24:36).  Ta-da, Camping’s prediction was biblically unsound.
However, the media attention given to Camping and his misguided followers certainly added momentum to this movement.  News stories, forum discussions, and even a mighty Facebook and Twitter following helped announce the May 21 End-of-the-World Theory.  Granted, I’m adding to the problem now by continuing the conversation, but I’m not a national news program.  
Both of this above issues are irritating in themselves, but then I read an online pamphlet produced by these folks at http://www.ebiblefellowship.com/outreach/tracts/may21/.  There are so many made up facts and half-truths in this tract that I don’t even want to point out every one of them.  However, I will bring up the fact that in this entire pamphlet they don’t point to Christ’s death on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins as the means of our salvation.  Nor do they point to Christ’s resurrection as the reason for our hope and joy of His second coming.  Instead, it is written to frighten us with talk of destruction, death, and damnation.  Now, I’m not here to say that rubbish about nobody going to Hell because God is too loving, but it is vital to remember where our hope lies–in Christ.  The Gospel reading from this morning was such a comfort, stating, “Let not your hearts be troubled.  Believe in God; believe also in me.  In my Father’s house are many rooms.  If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may also go,” (John 14:1-3).  That doesn’t sound like God wants us to fret and worry about the end times, it sounds like a comfort to me.  So, Mr. Camping, if you are to predict the end of the world again, use some other religion as your cover and lay off Christianity for awhile.     

Junie B. Jones: An Undiscovered Joy of Childhood

The plus side of working with kids is that I get to read children’s books again.  There are some truly wonderful works that fall under the category of children’s fiction.  One such piece would be the Junie B. Jones series by Barbra Parks.  I didn’t read these books growing up but I’m enjoying them now, especially when the author throws in some detail that goes over the kids’ heads (often an adult’s reaction to one of Junie B.’s escapades).  It’s funny and can hold my kindergarteners’ attention.

I will add this as a downside, the grammar is terrible in the book (it’s written as though a kindergartner is speaking) and Junie B.’s behavior isn’t exactly exemplary.  If she was an actual child I had to work with, I would be incredibly frustrated.  On the other hand, when I have kids telling me about watching Chucky movies, singing things like “California Girls,” and telling me how their parents are having “sleepovers” with their boyfriend/girlfriend,  I find Junie B. a less harmful bad example.  Plus, it’s important to teach children that sometimes things are funny when they are in a book or movie but it’s not funny in real life.

While Barbra Parks may not become one of the all time literary greats, she still writes a wonderfully funny character that children throughly enjoy.  Next up on my classroom reading:  Tales of the Fourth Grade Nothing.   

"And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins." 1 Cor. 15:17

Last night, my dear husband and I settled down to listen to Table Talk Radio’s special broadcast,  the debate between Dr. David Scaer, professor at Concordia Theological Seminary Fort Wayne, and Dr. Robert Price, professor at Coleman Theological Seminary.  The debate was advertised as a discussion about whether Jesus really rose from the dead but really they were debating whether or not the events of the Bible could be considered historical fact.

Both men are very learned in their field of study but they look at the Bible in very different ways.  I should probably note now that Dr. Price follows the higher/historical critical method of theology, which means that the Bible is not God’s inerrant word, but just another historical document that needs to be looked at with a discerning eye for the truth.  This is not a Lutheran perspective, I can’t even say that it is a Christian perspective because 2 Timothy 3:16 states, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness. . .”  The Bible is God’s word and when we pick and choose what should and should not be accepted we become like Dr. Price.

Now the debate didn’t “prove” either man wrong; both men were able to give a rebuttal to the arguments presented, neither man was left speechless by the other’s remarks.  Dr. Scaer didn’t even touch on the topic of faith because that wasn’t going to prove anything in Dr. Price’s mind.  Some of Dr. Price’s arguments (okay, most of Dr. Price’s arguments) sounded silly, but I’m sure those higher critics were laughing at some of the statements that Dr. Scaer made.  So, at the end of the evening, what was left?  We have Dr. Scaer still sure of his faith and that Jesus rose from the dead and we have Dr. Price still sure that the Bible is absolutely not true.  But as Christians, we are to pity and pray for Dr. Price.  He said something along the lines of how he likes Christianity and he used to be a Christian but he just cannot believe anymore.  The poor man has nothing left but his own reason, he has no faith in Christ’s death and resurrection, he has no hope, he is still in his sins.

If you would like to hear the debate for yourself, go to: http://www.tabletalkradio.org/content/podcasts
The title of the Podcast is Special Live Broadcast:  Did Jesus Rise From the Dead?

The Wives’ Badge of Honor?

T. helps out around our home a lot.  I don’t mean in the sense of, “Oh, he’s a man so even the smallest chore completed means he’s exceeding expectations.”  I mean in the sense that he cooks and cleans dishes almost every night without complaining.  Likewise, we take turns cleaning the big ticket items like cleaning the bathroom and we divide the grocery shopping (I go to the Co-Op and he goes to the actual store).  My main household duties include laundry and tidying up.  In my mind, this is fairly equal division of running our home and this is what  I wanted in my pre-wedding dreams of married life.

Then  I actually got married and starting talking to more married women.  Naturally, in our wifely talks, we would discuss our homes and our husbands.  When I would mention that T. does the cooking and I do the laundry, many wives would reply, “Oh.  Well, my husband will take out the garbage and cooks dinner once a week but  I do everything else.”  The odd part of these conversations were that the wives didn’t talk as though they were sad about the lack of help or admiring of my husband’s domestic skills, they talked as though the full reign of household duties was a badge of honor that every wife should proudly wear.  I began to feel like I had yet another reason to feel like a failed wife because my husband and I have an egalitarian household.  I didn’t have the Wives’ Badge of Honor.
My confusion about the division of labor in the home and what  I should be doing as a wife continued for many months.  Then I talked to my sister-in-law about T. helping around our home and how I seemed to miss out on the Wives’ Badge of Honor, she looked at me and said, “It seems that women like to have a competition about much their lives suck.  I used to do that but then I realized how stupid that competition is.  I wouldn’t worry about having T. help around the home.”  And that’s true, why would I want to participate in a ridiculous competition about who has the least help from their husband?  I’m going to enjoy missing out on that badge and eat delightful meals cooked by my husband.

I Paid Thousands of Dollars for a Life Lesson

Next Sunday will mark the one year anniversary of my college graduation.  Almost a year ago I put on my cap and gown, proudly displayed my star that showed that I graduated “With Distinction,” and received my diploma. And now I question with a tinge of bitterness, what for?  My current job does not require a bachelor’s degree, nor does it seem likely that I will find a job that requires a degree as long as T. is in the seminary .  Sure, my resume has an impressive education section that probably helped me gain my position but I have yet to use any information that I learned in the classroom (information I went 20,000 dollars into debt to receive).  To do my actual work, I pull on my experiences from volunteer work, summer jobs, and an internship.

Now I realize what many people my age are doing to make their education worthwhile:  they continue it.  They go onto graduate school and receive higher credentials in order to find a better paying job.  Could I do this?  Sure.  Would that be responsible?  Probably not.  My husband is already accumulating thousands more dollars of debt in order to study at the seminary and throwing in more student loans for me to go back to school would only deepen our debt.  Likewise, looking at the prospect of moving three times in the next four years makes completing any program difficult.  And to add the final nail in closing my education box, I know I want to have a family someday and I know that I want to stay home with my potential children.  I’m already looking at 10 years of payments for my first round of schooling and I know that most likely I would add 10 more years of payments for graduate school.  I don’t really want to wait 10 years to start a family, much less 20.

So the lesson I paid thousands of dollars to receive is this: choice and sacrifice.  I am working while my husband goes to school, this is my choice but also my sacrifice.  I want a family, this is my choice but also my sacrifice.  I chose to get married right out of college, I chose to put family before work.  Because of this, I sacrifice the chance to make my education worthwhile and sacrifice the chance to have a lifelong career.  It’s a pricey lesson but I think I will be a better person for it.


Yeah,  I worry about this sometimes:
For more fun, go to http://www.xkcd.com.  *Disclaimer!* I don’t condone everything on this site.

Top 10 Reasons I Like Lutheranism

10.  Lutherans don’t like change.  I don’t like change, Lutherans only change when absolutely necessary.  It’s a good fit (and even if it wasn’t, I still wouldn’t be expected to change anything).

9.  The Lutheran understanding of vocation.  When my pastor in college was pushing me towards being a deaconess, I finally told him that I felt I would do better work in the secular world.  He understood.  Ironically, I married a seminarian and now work in a Lutheran daycare.

8.  Potlucks.  If you have never been to a Lutheran potluck then you’re missing out, especially if you like Jell-o

7.  Lutheran Satire.  This is a recent like: http://www.youtube.com/user/TheLutheranSatire?blend=9&ob=5

6.  The fact we have permanent pew homes.  And it is completely justified when we get upset because someone took our spot.

5.  The Divine Service.  It’s simple and straightforward:  Invocation to Benediction, it only takes a few times to figure out what is going on (except for Divine Service Setting Five in the LSB, that one took about a year).

4.  The Sacraments.  How much clearer can the forgiveness of sins get?

3.  Luther’s Small Catechism.  I’ve recently read through this again and it really does answer a lot of questions.  If only my eighth-grade self would have paid more attention in confirmation class. . .

2.  The Hymns.  “Savior of the Nations, Come,” “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” “Jesus Sinners Doth Receive,” “Abide With Me” just to name a few.  See Lutheran Service Book for more!

1.  Knowing exactly what I need to do to receive salvation.  Nothing!  Sola scriptura.  Sola fide.  Sola gratia.