It’s been just over 3 years since my husband was ordained and installed at our church in Iowa. 3 years seems to be about the amount of time needed to really start putting down roots. We’re slowly making friends–or at least extremely familiar acquaintances–with people around town, becoming a bit more involved with the town happenings (we actually look forward to the town’s Independence Day festival now!), and getting a better feel for what my husband really needs to do in order to best shepherd our congregation for better or for worse. Aside from giving birth to 2 little girls since we moved, life has almost fallen into a predictable rhythm.
Or I should say, life had almost fallen into a predictable rhythm. Next week my husband starts a vacancy position at another small, LC-MS church 20 miles from our current congregation.
Now we will all pause to ponder the good Lutheran question of what does this mean?
What is a vacancy pastor?
For those of you who don’t know (which was me until some point during my husband’s seminary years), a vacancy pastor is essentially a long-term substitute pastor for a congregation who doesn’t have a called pastor of their own. The vacancy pastor leads the services, visits the shut-ins, teaches Bible studies, attends meetings, and so on, while the congregation works to call a new pastor.
How long does a vacancy position last?
It depends on the church. Sometimes congregation can’t really afford to call a pastor or can’t get their act together to put together call documents, and a vacancy can last for years (note: This isn’t really recommended). From my observation, a vacancy for a church actively seeking a new pastor usually last several months to a year. Calling a pastor can be a long process involving interviews, meetings, votes, etc., so it takes time.
While this congregation is wanting a new pastor sooner rather than later, they have the added complication of needing to be a dual parish with another congregation since they can’t afford a pastor for only their congregation. This means a dual parish agreement with another congregation has to be put together, which of course takes time.
How will my husband take care of 2 churches?
Vacancy pastors are picked in part of their availability. Sometimes a retired pastor will serve a vacancy, sometimes another pastor in the circuit will fill in. My husband was asked based on his proximity to this church and his schedule. Our church is on the smaller side to begin with, not to mention he currently only has a couple of shut-ins to visit, so he has more available time then some of the other pastors nearby. Of course adding another church to his workload will add more work hours to the week (not to mention travel time), but the new church is asking for about 8-12 hours of work a week from him. It’s not easy, but it is doable.
How does this affect our church?
Right now, the main effect of the vacancy means that our church service time changes from 9 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. Likewise, Sunday morning adult Bible study will be temporarily suspended since my husband has to go to the other church for a 10:30 a.m. service.
How does this affect our family?
Currently, the vacancy position means that my husband will be away from home more often. It also means there is the added stress of starting something new (neither my husband or I are the adventurous type). He’s going to be more tired on Sundays after leading 2 full services. He will also have a few more shut-ins to visit.
So, there you have the down low on vacancy positions and the changes in our life. The moral of the story: You never know when life is going to change!
I’ve never considered myself a naturally patient person. However, I did fancy that I was decent at forcing myself to be patient once I started working with children. On particularly hard days as a daycare worker or nanny, I could always tell myself on difficult days that I only had to stay patient for x number of hours before going home. There was a finish line for patience at the end of the day.
Even when I just had Babykins, I still could dig deep to find patience when I was starting to loose it. Love is a powerful motivator and I could often look at the situation and tell myself that she was just a baby–she needed me to be patient.
All this isn’t to say that I didn’t lose my patience as an employee or a mother of 1. There were times that I was impatient or things were going so horribly that even the most composed person would have lost their cool. But my patience reservoir seemed much deeper then.
But being a mother of 2 young children. . . oh, man. Patience is in short supply these days. It’s no longer enough to fake patience anymore because Babykins and Sweet Pea still need most of my attention during their waking hours and it seems like someone is always awake. There is no “end time”. Additionally, Babykins is in a “I do it!” phase, so everything takes 5 time longer than if I was doing it myself (and yes, I know it’s good for toddlers to learn to do things and have a sense of independence. It’s hard to wait when the baby is crying and dinner is burning and for the love of all that is good and holy can we get this show on the road?!).
So in these long days, the three of us are all having a lesson in patience. Babykins is learning that she doesn’t always get what she wants, Sweet Pea is learning that her whims aren’t always immediately answered, and I’m learning to take deep breaths before speaking.
18-20 years from now, I might actually have the patience of a saint. Until then, “Lord, help me,” is a constant prayer in my life.
Most of the time being a Stay-At-Home-Mom isn’t the most exciting job. Daily tasks seem to fall into 2 categories:
-Keep the household running another day (this involves cooking, cleaning, errands, child wrangling, etc.)
-Teaching my toddler to become a functioning human being (while important, usually involves repetitious and tedious activities like reading a beloved story for the millionth time in an hour).
Admittedly, some days it’s hard to see the worth of working in a dizzying circle of tasks to get the smallest chore or activity completed. It also doesn’t help when a peppy, young college student calls asking for financial support for your Alma Mater and the following conversation ensues:
Student: So what did you get your degree in?
Student: And what job do you currently have?
Me: I’m a Stay-At-Home-Mom.
Student: . . . Um. . . Huh. . . How did you come to do that? I mean, did it just kinda happen?
To be fair to this poor kid, I know he has a script to follow and it probably didn’t have a scenario for tying my degree to being a SAHM.
At any rate, some days are long and hard. But most days have a little taste of pure joy, moments that make this gig wonderful.
Yesterday after nap, I cut up a huge watermelon that a member have given us. I took a bowl of slices outside so Babykins and I could enjoy the late summer sunshine while eating our snack. Watching Babykins happily devour her watermelon was marvelous. She danced around the driveway with juice rolling down her cheeks and chin. We then sat on the front steps and watched the school buses drive away from the school. Babykins excitedly jabbered about the buses rolling past our house. Still eating her watermelon, she then sat next to me on the steps for a few minutes, her sticky arms resting against mine. She was having the time of her life and her happiness brought me contentment.
Of course, moments like these could still occur if I wasn’t home all day, every day. There would still be time after dinner or on the weekends to eat a watermelon outside. But it was such a simple piece of bliss to feel the warm sun, taste the sweet watermelon, and watch my toddler’s joy on a ho-hum Monday afternoon.
We’re going to our friends’ house for dinner tomorrow night under the guise of a “Corn Festival” (they weren’t able to go back to their hometown’s Corn Festival this year, so I think this is something for their kids to look forward to). Consequently, I had the bright idea to make popcorn balls this morning.
The thing about making popcorn balls from scratch is that you essentially have to make caramel from scratch. That takes time. And since making caramel pretty much involves a million pounds of sugar and heat, Babykins couldn’t “help” me much.
The good news: I made the popcorn balls this morning and they are edible (although some of them have started to come apart since I took the picture).
The reality check: I pretty much gave Babykins anything to distract her while I was stirring the caramel and she was still tearing around the kitchen, yelling with boredom, by the time I was done.
The cat also enjoyed finishing a bowl of oatmeal and milk that Babykins had started eating.
In our world of Pinterest and DIY blogs, it’s good to remember that this whole scenario is most mothers’ reality.
When Babykins was about 15-months old, I had this insane idea to teach her how to drink out of a regular cup. She hadn’t shown any interest in giving up her sippy cup but I felt she should learn sooner rather than later. After all, some toddlers her age were pros at drinking out of regular cups and cups were better for oral development. Additionally, I had started teaching one of my nanny kiddos around that age how to use a regular cup, so why shouldn’t I teach my own child?
Babykins was more than happy to try the regular cup, but every meal quickly became a milk bath for her. It was messy, frustrating, and tiring. We returned to the sippy cups. I would think about regular cups every once in awhile and feel a little guilty about not pushing them more, but the ease of the sippy cups won over the guilt.
Suddenly, about a month ago, Babykins started begging for drinks out of our glasses at dinner. Then she started to throw a fit if we tried to give her a sippy cup when we had regular cups. She essentially told us with her yells, “Look, guys, enough of this sippy cup business–I’m 21-months old and ready for the real deal!” So we brought her little plastic cups back out.
There were a few days of extreme mess, but Babykins made it clear that sippy cup at the table was no longer acceptable. Plus, her coordination was much better than it was months earlier, so more milk wound up inside her instead of on her. What would have taken enormous effort to teach her in the winter was astoundingly simple this summer. While Babykins will now occasionally take a drink from a sippy cup, we mostly offer her drinks in regular cups or her water bottle.
Watching this skill unfold has reminded me to have patience with Babykins’s development. With the arrival of a new baby in about 4 months, there is enormous internal and external pressure to make Babykins grow up. There’s a long list of things we could do now to make Babykins into a “big girl”: Ditch the pacifier, bring out the toddler bed, start potty training, get her a part-time job, and enroll her in SAT prep courses (I’m joking about the last two). After all, a new baby will make focusing on these transitions much more difficult.
But you know what? Babykins has shown me time and time again that she’ll make these transitions in her own time. From sleeping unswaddled to drinking from a real cup, she has always made it clear when she’s ready. Not that these changes will be easy if we wait, but they may be easier if I’m patient.
So for now, Babykins can keep sucking on her paci, sleep in her crib, and stay in diapers. There’s plenty of time for her to grow up.
Despite not having a summer break anymore, it’s hard not to feel like life will be a little less chaotic when we flip the calendar to June. The town becomes alive with happy children pedaling their bicycles to the pool and neighbors taking longer walks around town. Even my husband’s schedule gives the appearance of calm. Confirmation is on break for the summer and he doesn’t have monthly chapel duties at the Lutheran school 20 miles away. And, for a moment, we think that we’ll have a little reprieve from the rigors of pastoral life.
But June is a trickster month. While children are on summer vacation and confirmation class isn’t a weekly obligation, June is the month of VBS and weddings. Illness and death also don’t take a summer break and still strike when they please.
So, here we are, midway through June: 2 funerals completed, a wedding and VBS still coming. My husband and I are giving each other frazzled looks asking, “How did June get so busy?!” And I would like to say that we were naive and didn’t know to expect this, but the June did the EXACT same thing to us last year. In fact, I remember telling myself, “Next year we’ll know that June isn’t a quiet month.” How could I have forgotten?!
Now, don’t worry about us. We’ll survive June and we’ll go on a family vacation later in July (because nothing says “relaxation” like driving across 3.5 states with a toddler). The end of July and August do promise to be our calmer time of year (it was last year as well), so we’ll get our reprieve. And next year we’ll remember that June isn’t a quiet month and it won’t lure us in with its false claim of summer calm.
A couple of years ago, one of my sister-in-laws taught me how to cut my husband’s hair. I was so excited to cut barber fees out of our budget (ha, I made a pun!). Then I got pregnant with Babykins and morning sickness and fatigue sapped my energy to do things like cut my husband’s hair. Back to the barber shop he went.
After we moved to Iowa, I had more time and energy again. So, I picked up the razor and continued to learn how to give my husband a haircut. It was a short-lived endeavor because then Babykins made her big appearance and once again my energy was limited. Back to the barber shop he went.
When Babykins was around 8 months old, I decided it was time to really push to get our lives back in order. We had a nice electric razor for haircuts and I wasn’t quite as exhausted as I was when Babykins was itty-bitty. However, Babykins was still a terrible napper and would often wake up and need to be soothed after 30 minutes. My plan was to try to cut my husband’s hair while Babykins was freshly awake and fed. She could sit in her activity saucer and watch me play barber.
I got everything set up in the bathroom–chair, razor, broom. Babykins watched from the doorway. I carefully started to trim my husband’s hair.
Everything went fine for the first couple of minutes, but then Babykins started to fuss. “It’s okay, we’ll be done soon!” my husband and I cooed at her. Then Babykins started to cry. “Shhhh, Babykins, you’re okay!” we continued to coo. Then Babykins started to scream.
Have you ever tried to concentrate while a baby screamed 5 feet from you? It’s difficult. Now imagine that you’re doing this with an electric razor.
Trying to hurry the haircut, my hand slipped and I cut off a big chunk of my husband’s hair. I was completely flustered by this point and Babykins was screaming louder and louder. I started to swear. “I’ve ruined it! I’ve ruined your *@#$% hair!” I cried.
My husband, ever patient and rational, calmly said, “It’s okay. We can stop now and finish later.”
“No!” I yelled, ever impatient and irrational, “I have the #$%* stuff out NOW, we’re doing this @#$*% haircut NOW!” I was crying, Babykins was crying, and my poor husband had to watch as his daughter sobbed and his wife went into hysterics with an electric razor in her hands.
I’m not really sure how I finished the haircut, other than it got done. Still crying, I grabbed the red-faced Babykins and locked myself in her nursery to feed her.
A few days later, my husband suggested that maybe he should just get his hair cut at the barber shop for now. I begrudgingly agreed. I still feel guilty from time to time that we’re spending money on his haircuts when we have a perfectly functioning electric razor sitting in a closet. After all, $12 a month makes a chunk of change at the end of the year. However, I’ve decided to look at it as part of our contribution to the local economy. Likewise, a friend recently pointed out that $12 a month is much cheaper than a divorce or counseling fees.
When my siblings and I were children, my mom always had us put together a little craft around major holidays for our aunts, uncles, grandparents, and godparents. It’s something from my childhood that I would like to repeat for Babykins. And now that she is 17-months old, I decided she could do a little project for Easter.
I thought I was so smart. Easter still a month away, so we had plenty of time to finish. Likewise, I set my expectations for a project extremely low. No Pinterest searches for me! Instead, I drew a little Easter egg picture on the computer, typed “Happy Easter!” underneath, and printed off some copies for Babykins to color. Since Babykins has been playing with crayons for many months now, scribbling on some cards wouldn’t be too difficult for her.
I expected the project to go like this:
We would easily kill 15 minutes as she “colored” the cards. She wouldn’t be able to finish all of them in one sitting, but that’s way I started the project a month early. We would have fun!
This is what really happened:
Something tells me a hand-colored card from me won’t be the same as from Babykins. *Sigh* Maybe we’ll try again at Christmas.
Growing up, my parents took my siblings and me to the library almost every Saturday morning. I attribute these trips as a component to my love of reading as an adult. Wanting to instill the same love of reading into Babykins, I’ve started to add a trip to the library into our weekly routine.
This sounds great in theory. It gives us another activity to do during the week and it will introduce Babykins to even more books. I always envision our trips to the library to be peaceful and fun. I’ll find some books to check out. Babykins will then sweetly sit in my lap as we read together among the shelves of the children’s section. What a great mom I am to bring my young daughter to the library!
In reality, our trips to the library go like this:
First, I let Babykins crawl up the steps to the children’s section. She then wants to crawl back down the steps. I tell her, “No, no, we’re going to look at books first.” She cries.
I try to distract Babykins with a book. She looks at it for 10 seconds and then starts pulling more books off the shelf. “No, no,” I tell her. She cries (after all, Pull-the-Books-Off-the-Shelf is one of her favorite games at home).
I then try to distract Babykins with the only toys our town’s library has: stuffed animals. It works for about 20 seconds, and then she wants to sit in one of the plastic chairs. I put her on it. She then tries to stand on it. I say, “No, we don’t stand on these chairs! You’ll get hurt.” She cries.
I take Babykins off the chair and put her on the floor. “Let’s read a book!” I exclaim. I try to find one that is short enough for her attention and put her on my lap. I start reading. She listens for about 2 pages and then wiggles away.
Babykins spots the stairs again (why are the board books next to the stairs anyway?!) and quickly starts crawling towards them. I grab her and explain, “No, no, we’re not going down the stairs yet. Mommy still needs to find books for you.” She cries.
By this point, my patience is waning and Babykins is tried of having me ruin her fun. She’s starting to fuss and I’m randomly pulling books off the shelf. There is no time to carefully select books that will nurture Babykins’s mind; there is no sweet moment of reading together. Nope, we’re just an irritated toddler and frazzled mother.
However, since I like attempting the same thing over and over again and hoping for different results, we’ll be heading to the library again next week! What fun!
After doing this SAHM gig for over a year, I would hope you could come to the realization that some weeks things don’t get done.
Now please look at the calendar. See how your husband is going to be gone at the district pastor’s conference for 2 days? Do you remember that he comes back and needs to catch up on those 2 days of missed work? And don’t forget he has a council meeting Wednesday night.
See how your daughter has a doctor’s appointment today and will get vaccinated? Do you remember how awful she feels after these shots?
It would be in everyone’s best interest if you would lower your expectation on what will get accomplished this week. Dishes will pile up. Vacuuming won’t get done. Meals will be thrown together. And that piece of writing you’ve been trying to finish won’t be completed this week.
Realize this now and perhaps you can prevent the hysterical feeling that arises when your week doesn’t operate smoothly. Oh, and feel free to buy some chocolate from the grocery store.
With much love,
Your Pragmatic Side