An Anniversary Massage

Several years ago, Froghair and I began a tradition for our anniversary (and Valentine’s Day) in which our “gift” to each other is a couples massage.  We usually make a date of it and go to dinner afterwards in spite of pillow lines on our faces and greasy hair.

In his absence today, I spent my anniversary with my sister, my matron of honor, who was pretty close to the groom except she was directly behind me throughout the ceremony while WB stood directly in front of me, but it’s almost the same thing right?!?!

I was susceptible to massage temptation due to the previously mentioned tradition, so when she said, “Let’s get one of those massages at the mall.  When I got one before, it was the best $20 I had spent in a long time,” I readily agreed with the small condition that we would find the one in a storefront rather than the one in the middle of everyone walking by.

Can I just say that was one of the most painful experiences since I last birthed a child?  I was reminded of descriptions of massages in Thailand.  This man gave new meaning to the words “deep tissue” and “heavy pressure.”

I wondered at one point if he was going to push my face through the little hole in that cushion… and if my fingers were going to be permanently curled in pain… and if there could be a camera planted somewhere waiting to record the moment when I screamed for him to stop.  As he worked his way up and down my left side with his elbows and fists, contorting my left arm behind me and in front of me and everything in between, all I could think was that he was about to come around and do the same thing on the right side!

So now as I write this, I will tell you that I plan to honor the promise I made to God in the middle of that massage.  Since He let me live to write this blog post about it, I will never get a mall massage again!

The Daddy Pillow

For those of you with husbands (or maybe some of the wives are the travelers) who travel often or are gone from home often, I wanted to share an idea with you.  When my kids were little and summers were long, I had this idea to use one of daddy’s frequently worn, clearly recognized shirts to make a pillow.  I just cut a section with the front (and back if possible) decal on it.  I stitched the sides then just stuffed poly-fill in it and hand-stitched the open side.  You will be able to tell from the picture that there was no Pinterest or other social media around when I tackled this project.  Clearly I wasn’t sewing with publication in mind!  I didn’t realize how much I should appreciate that.  The goal was to make something that my kids could snuggle with when they missed Daddy.  The Girl Child keeps hers in a special place, but I had to dig the Boy Child’s out of the bottom of a chest.  They are no longer needed as a source of comfort because the kids are on those trips with their dad.  Those days that seem so long pass so fast.  I am currently in a season of at least one of my people being gone each week, so I’m contemplating making myself a few pillows from their shirts!

I hope this idea helps someone else.  If you make a creative one with trim and real pillow inserts and cuteness, please post a photo and tag me.  I’d love to see them!

Shelly

daddypillows

Student Ministry Wives, Brace Yourselves, Summer’s Coming!

As we celebrate Memorial Day with perhaps more time with our families or time to relax and be off of work and school, a reality must be faced.  Summer is here.  For some of you, that means relaxing with your family, down time, time to regroup from the stresses of the school year, but for some of us, summer means life is about to get really crazy so hold on!  I would like to share with you a few words of advice if you are a minister’s wife facing June, July and August with dread in your heart.  This post will address challenges that are unique to wives of student ministers because that’s what I know.  I don’t pretend that we are the only ones who have busy husbands.  I can’t imagine what February, March, and April are like for accountants’ wives or what August- December are like for football coaches’ wives.  Maybe someone has written a blog about that!

Rule Number One:  No whining!

(Thanks, BC!)  Try to keep things in perspective.  Most women have busy husbands who work many hours at various times of the year, as referenced above.  Some husbands travel for weeks on end.  Some women are single moms 24/7/365.  That doesn’t make camp week any easier though.  If you need to “vent,” first do that in your journal or prayer time then perhaps confide in a close friend when things get really tough, but spare your husband and church members.  Your husband has a lot on his mind right now, and your complaints can make church members really uncomfortable.  Remember Philippians 2:14 says, “Do everything without complaining or arguing.”  In other words,  your husband is doing what he loves and what he is paid to do, so put on your big girl panties and suck it up, Buttercup!  That’s easy to say and harder to do, and I have had summers when I’m more successful than others.

Rule Number Two:  Plan ahead

Take note of your husband’s calendar.  Notice when he will be out of town and plan things to distract you from the fact that you have to parent three preschoolers by yourself that week.  Plan a trip to the zoo.  Meet friends at the park.  Go visit grandparents.  Invite grandparents to come visit you.  These events break up the endless hours of changing diapers and filling sippy cups and answering the “When is daddy going to be home?” question 4,000 times.  Don’t plan a huge painting project or a reorganization of the kitchen when you are home without dad.  That is a recipe for frustration and sets him up to be the object of your wrath.  I have often found it helpful to join a summer Bible study.  Nothing works like walking in the Word to keep the flesh quiet!

Rule Number Three:  Take those thoughts captive

You know what sets you off.  You see a dad at the park in the middle of the day with his kids.  Instead of thinking that his busy time was probably a couple of months ago, so he has time to spend with his kids now, you let yourself think something damaging like this:

“Well!  It must be nice to have a husband who takes his kids to the park in this blazing heat so his wife can enjoy some nice, cool, quiet time at home.”

There was no social media when I was raising preschoolers, but I can imagine what it is like to see pictures that people on the trip are posting of the group singing with a tribe in Africa or sitting in a circle of kids in an inner city playing a game of Duck, Duck, Goose or of the whole group playing a game of beach volleyball.  It is easy to sink into a pity party and resent the opportunities he has for ministry while you are stuck at home.  Please take those thoughts captive as 2 Corinthians 10:5 says.  When you know a thought is selfish or bitter, don’t allow yourself to feed that attitude.  Focus on the blessing of mothering your children and the joy of watching the man you love do something he loves and that God has gifted him to do well.  Remember that as with all things regarding our kids, time passes quickly.  You’ll be back in the thick of things with your kids in the student ministry before you can blink!

Rule Number Four:  Consider your timing

Resist the urge to have your purse and your keys in your hand the minute he walks in the door and head out as soon as he walks in.  That is not good loving.  Give him time to rest and sleep off the camp coma before you demand his help with the kids.  Don’t be selfish, but make him aware of your needs in a gentle and non-whiney manner.  It’s not selfish to need time to regroup by yourself, but just consider gentleness.

Before I close, I want to make sure you hear my heart on this.  I don’t set myself up as someone who did every summer well.  I can clearly remember visualizing myself shoving Frog Hair’s Franklin Planner down his throat.  He is too sweet to do it, but he could easily remind me that there were some thoughts that should have been taken captive before I let them spew out of my mouth.  Just remember that your kids are watching you.  They will mimic your frustration and your resentfulness or your joy and your excitement.  When they ask when daddy is coming home,  you have to choose whether to answer, “I don’t know.  He’s off having fun while we are stuck at home.” or “Daddy is loving on the teenagers and teaching them about Jesus.  I’m sure he can’t wait to come home and see what fun we’ve been having while he was gone.”

Hang in there and make the most of the opportunity God has given you to influence (directly or behind the scenes) the lives of teenagers!  May God bless our efforts with a harvest of teenagers walking with Jesus this summer.

My 25 Year Class Reunion

This weekend is my 25 year class reunion, and I’ve been perusing the yearbook pondering how things have changed and what I’ve learned in my 25 years of “adulthood.”  If you lived through the 80′s as a teenager, maybe you’ve noticed some of these things also.

Fashion- Everything Old is New Again

Maybe “everything” is a bit of an exaggeration, but some things that were stylish when I was in high school can be found in stores and fashion magazines again.  For example, on a recent shopping trip with my 16 year old Girl Child, I was stunned to see high-waisted, acid wash shorts on the shelves.  Now let’s be honest, some of these young girls will benefit from the high-waisted jeans because nothing emphasizes a muffin top like those low rise jeans that have been so popular for the last decade or longer, but I truly never thought another generation would find the acid wash thing attractive.  I wonder if they will start doing the fold-over, roll up thing to their jeans to make the ankles as skinny as possible.  Another fashion recycle is Topsider shoes.  Now, whenever I call them that, my kids look at me as if I referred to thongs as footwear, but we all know that Sperry’s are a slightly updated version of the Topsiders of our day.  Finally, in my stroll down memory lane with my yearbook this morning, I couldn’t help but notice how popular scarves were.  Of course, we folded them in half to make a triangle and draped them over our shoulders with a knot in the front to look somewhat like a sailor, but scarves definitely made the fashion rounds in the 80′s.

Hairstyles

In my opinion, nothing signifies the styles of the 80′s more obviously than the enormous hairstyles.  I remember this look could only be accomplished after agonizing months of growing out the bi-level (aka “mullet”) from junior high.  In my yearbook, I noted very few girls who were even able to get their entire head of hair in their school pictures.  A few exceptions clearly demonstrated that some moms decided that was a battle worth fighting and convinced their daughters that they would regret it one day if they didn’t tame that beast a bit.  However, I could see logic in these hairstyle choices because anything smaller would have been dwarfed by the gigantic glasses worn by some.  The hair also balanced out that linebacker look so many of us achieved with the aid of foam shoulder pads strategically placed in every article of clothing we wore.  So, I see a method to our permed, teased, sprayed madness, but the damage done to the ozone layer by the ladies of the 80′s and 90′s can never be repaired.

Life Experiences

Another change I see in myself since those years, and maybe I speak only for myself, is the ability I have to be comfortable in my own skin.  I think I can appreciate the person I have become because I know that only comes as we walk through challenges in life and grow and change.  I’ve seen (thanks to Facebook) classmates courageously battle cancer and endure the pain of divorce and walk through sickness with their children.  I have to determine that maybe the person we become in life is more about how we live than about how we look.  I think 25 years of adulthood has made me appreciate who I am and where I’ve been.

 

Science with the Boy Child

Today I will share a story from October.  I share the approximate date of this event because my science eagerness wains as the year goes by.  “Labs” that I might allow and/or participate in morph into “can’t you just find it on YouTube and watch someone else make a mess in their house?”  My attitude changed earlier than usual this year, and you’ll understand why when I tell you about October.  I stood in my living room, near the kitchen, artfully arranging fall leaves and berries on a buffet to look as if the roof had opened up and the trees had dropped colorful clusters of leaves onto specific surfaces in my home.  The reality of fall in my yard is less beautiful and less welcome, but we’re talking about decorating here.  Actually we were talking about science, so I’ll get back to it.

The Boy Child walked through the living room at that moment and asked, “Mom, can I do a science experiment?”  The child has an uncanny knack for manipulating me, and that question illustrates this phenomenon.  First, he knew to call it a “science experiment” instead of a “potentially colossal mess,” which would have been a more apt description for this activity.  Second, I’m positive he senses my feelings of inadequacy in providing a science education for my children.  I seek outside classes whenever possible, and I would way rather have them read about science and write a paper (my comfort zone) than gather supplies and make a mess do an experiment.  By wording the question the way he did, he almost guaranteed a positive response.

“Why do you have two cans of Hawaiian Punch in your hands?” I innocently inquire.

“Because you have to shake them up for this experiment.” He patiently proclaims. (There is a wealth of foreshadowing in that statement that I wouldn’t have missed if I hadn’t been preoccupied with the placement of the foliage.)

“Well, nothing happens when you shake Hawaiian Punch.  It’s not carbonated.  You need to get a couple of Diet Dr. Peppers.”  Now, in hindsight, one additional independent clause could have changed this whole story.  If I had merely added “and you need to do it outside” things would have turned out much differently.

I was vaguely aware of the return of the Boy Child and the sound of shaking behind me, but my attention was instantly captured by the next sound I heard.  It was a thunk/splash sound that is universally recognized as spewing soft drink.  I debated the wisdom of turning around due to my awareness that “behind me” consists of approximately 800 square feet of carpet and 4 rooms of furniture and walls.  Nothing good can be behind me.  Because I am the brave mother of a boy who taught me years ago that I don’t think like him or understand his logic in 60% of life’s circumstances, I turned around prepared to be surprised.  Astounded.  Stupefied.  Bewildered.  The spray potential of a 12 oz. can of Diet Dr. Pepper is indescribable, but I will try because I am a writer and describing is the point of this post.  Brown liquid splattered the carpet, the walls, the furniture, the television, and the Boy Child.

At this point, I had a few choices in how to respond.  I could scream- tempting, appropriate, and almost unavoidable.  I could chew him out, rip him a new one, vent my spleen, and any number of other expressions that describe the same behavior that moms can be so good at unless some sliver of self-control takes over.  Or I could tell the round-eyed boy that I love to get some wet towels and start cleaning this mess up.  Only my closest friends and my children know the work the Holy Spirit did in my heart by allowing me to have that reaction.  My fleshly instincts wanted to come screaming out of my body.  As we finished cleaning, I looked at him and observed, “You know this will have to be a blog post some day.  I can’t survive something like this in such a calm and loving way without writing about it so my friends can know what a sweet kind mother I am.”  His response was typical Boy Child.  “I don’t care, Mom.  I can assure you,  NONE of my friends read your blog.”  I called that permission.  And insulting.

The story doesn’t end there.   That evening I asked Boy Child to share with his father about our adventures from the day.  Parents will understand that the awareness that good parents don’t punish and scream over accidents kept me calm in the face of extreme pressure to not be calm.  In fact, I had already called several friends and shared with them how amazing I was and the story that proved that.  You can imagine my surprise when he got to the part of the story about throwing the can on the floor.  I interrupted, “Don’t you mean that you accidentally dropped the can on the floor.”  He responded, “No mom, you have to throw it hard on the floor for the experiment to work.”  In the interest of self-control, which I propose is over-rated sometimes, I excused myself.

What Are Proper Grounds for Unfriending Your Spouse?

This evening my loving, loyal husband questioned Girl Child, who is 16 and an expert on all things social media, about whether or not it is ever appropriate for a husband to unfriend his wife on Facebook when she posts controversial statuses, or if he should stick by her.  While I recognize this is a reference to a post today that could have been sticky, that whole “stick by her” comment stuck in my craw so to speak.  While I also recognize that his primary goal was to push my buttons, which he likes to test his skills on often, I didn’t want to disappoint him by toning down any reaction that might come to mind and burst from my mouth.  While I also recognize that he is one of the most patient and self-controlled men God created (I test this skill more often than I like), I felt it necessary to chronicle my history of “sticking by him” just to refresh his memory.

If Facebook had been around in 1993, would a new fiance unfriend her heartthrob when she realized that she would be facing an “interview” for his job that would place her 5 hours from home as a newlywed hoping to start a teaching career in a city surrounded by colleges spitting out teachers by the bushel to compete for available jobs?

If Facebook had been around in 1997, would a new mom of a five week old baby unfriend her Baby Daddy when he moved her to a new city into the home of a stranger and proceeded to work 60+ hours a week?

Or would the Baby Daddy unfriend the mom when hormones and excessive change resulted in mascara stains on his favorite sleep shirt?

Wisely, the Girl Child admitted that I had a point.  I think she knows that her parents will be sticking together in life and on Facebook.  See, those highlights of our journey have pulled us closer together.  All of those situations that I reference turned out to be blessings of immense proportions.  Neither of us have any regrets in following God to the places He has sent us, and we really don’t keep score on who has “stuck by” the other through the most unpleasant parts of the journey.  That’s the beauty of marriage and teamwork.

Birth of the Boy Child

You may have noticed that I added Candy Crush back to my phone… really, that’s not all that has kept me off the blog over the past few months.  We’ve completed another basketball season and another debate season, and I’ve been as busy as a one armed paper hanger.  (I love to sprinkle little Meme-isms into my writing!)

An important day is coming to the Ballou house.  Tomorrow marks 14 years since the Boy Child made his appearance two days late.  You might guess that I never let him forget that.  Truly, his late arrival fit perfectly with what was happening in our lives at that time.  I just had to overcome a little jealousy.  Four of us from college expected the blessed event within the last two weeks of March.  Each of those babies made their appearance, and I became more convinced that I would be the first person in history to be pregnant forever.  As I neared the end of that pregnancy, my Nanny was living her final days of Alzheimer’s.  She died in a nursing home nearby, and the whole family gathered for her funeral… on my due date… with my husband officiating the funeral.  Needless to say, once the family confirmed the date, I started praying this baby would stay in a little bit longer.

We made it through Nanny’s funeral and relatives began to disperse.  My parents returned to Longview knowing they would probably be back soon.  My sister and her family, including my six week old niece, stayed over until Sunday.  While we were at church, she fixed lunch, and they packed to return home.  At church that day, the pitying looks I received convinced me not to return until my pregnant status had changed.  I tried not to look miserable, but I really don’t do pregnancy well.  Of course, who does at 40+ weeks?

After lunch I realized I was very uncomfortable, but again, 40+ weeks and all that.  No one expects anything but discomfort.  Finally we realized these pains could be contractions.  I had a vague idea of what they felt like from Taylor.  Remember I’m the number one epidural promoter in all of blogdom so I wasn’t sure.  We decided to go ahead and go to the hospital and rejoiced that they admitted me!  Several hours later, after much pain, the doctor decided to break my water.  Then, she assured me, I could have my epidural. Ladies and gentlemen, the order of those two events is key to the birthing process.  I had no idea how much that water protected me from the worst of the contractions.  I’m sure thirty seconds passed from the rupturing to the anesthetizing, but it felt like 3 hours.  I think I appreciated that epidural more.  Never take for granted a good anesthesiologist! I also learned at this time that the lady next door was progressing at a similar rate and that there was only one private room left.  Suddenly we were racing in a process that neither of us could really control.  With the epidural, I felt like Superwoman, so the nurse cranked up the pitocin.   A few hours later, I began pushing.  The only problem with that came from the medicine they had given me several hours earlier to “take the edge off” the pain until I could get the epidural.  That drug is worthless for pain, but evidently it is great for insomnia.  I could not stay awake.  My most vivid memory of the boy child’s actual exodus from my body is WB waking me up to push then letting me take 30 second naps between pushes.  I spent about an hour and a half in cycles of 10 seconds of pushing and 30 seconds of sleeping, but finally his chalky sweet 8 pound 14 ounce body made an appearance!  And I won the private room!

I will attempt to describe the joy this boy has brought to my heart.  My sister and I had no brothers and only one boy cousin on either side of the family, so boys were a fairly foreign species.  I’m not sure if more joy comes from seeing his imagination that is so different from mine (I have a good Dr. Pepper story coming soon in a blog.) or from the things that come out of his mouth that are hilarious (i.e. WB is preparing a neti pot at the kitchen sink while talking to me about his recent run through the woods.  Boy Child politely says, “Dad, can you use that in the bathroom?  It’s kind of gross.”  Um, yes, it goes without saying that I wasn’t planning on cleaning out my nasal passages all over the kitchen sink.)  He can be cuddly… and not.  He can be sweet… and not.  He looks just like his daddy.  He often smells like a puppy.  He is my Boy Child and one of my top two favorite kids in the universe!

The Second Worst Christmas Eve Ever

As Christmas week approaches, I am reminded of all the reasons I love student ministry.  I love getting all of your Christmas cards with pictures of your sweet families.  I love seeing pictures on facebook of all of the babies being born.  There seems to be an abundance of you sweeties getting married and having babies right now!  One thing I don’t love in student ministry, but I always try to take in stride, is the way you show your love through your humor.  Although I use the word humor loosely since we all have different perspective on what is considered funny.

One December about 15 years ago, we embarked on a ski trip with a group of teenagers from Metropolitan Baptist Church in Houston.  As happened often, we hired someone, a college student, to come over and take care of our dog once a day, and we begged someone, my parents, to take our daughter for the week.  I will mention that finding someone to feed a 120 pound Rottweiler was a bit more challenging than twisting my mom’s arm to entertain herself with a 14 month old cutie pie.  Compounding the issue, Walter is cautious about security issues like giving out house keys and letting people into our home.  He chooses carefully in these matters.

Christmas that year was going to be at our house, so I meticulously decorated our real Christmas tree, which was dry and messy by that point.  The house sparkled and things were arranged perfectly to receive my parents and my sister’s family of 3 when we arrived home on Christmas Eve.  This required some intense planning on my part to have all gifts purchased and wrapped, food planned and purchased, and the house clean.  Did I mention how hard I worked to clean that house?

As we headed home on that charter bus for the 18+ hour ride back to Houston, I mentally shifted to how excited I was to see my baby again and have a Christmas she could enjoy after the last one where she basically slept through the whole thing.  My family would be arriving with her just a few hours after we got back from Colorado, so my to-do list needed to be short and shared between Walter and I.  Thankfully the guest bath tub had already been cleaned, so he could devote his attention to other tasks.  As the hours passed, the weather grew worse and the roads began covering with ice.  Being on a charter bus with other people’s children on icy roads amps up the stress level a bit.  When an 18 hour trip stretches to 27, the stress level also rises.

We realized that we weren’t going to be home in time to let my family, with two toddlers in tow, into the house, so Walter called our dog sitter to see if he could open the door for them.  For the sake of convenience, we’ll just call him Johnny.  Well, Johnny sheepishly admitted to my head of security husband that he had lost the key to our house after taking care of the dog the day before.  This was going to be a problem since they were all in on the road already.  The only solution we could think of was for them to hang out at a nearby McDonald’s and let the kids play while they waited for us to get there and open the door.  As soon as the bus stopped, I jumped off to run home and open the door before running back to help unload food and supplies from the bus.  Again, the stress level compounded by the exhaustion level was not conducive to a peaceful family holiday.  Then I opened my door and the stress level reached an all time high.  In the light from the entry way, I could see into the living room, but I couldn’t imagine why I was looking at the back of my dresser.  I walked into the living room and saw that my entire bedroom was in the living room.  Realizing that this couldn’t be dealt with at this moment, I closed the door and went up to the church to finish cleaning up from the trip.

Upon arrival at the church, I sought out Walter and promptly burst into tears explaining the mess that we faced when we got home.  We finished our work while some mystery person made some calls and explained to “Johnny” and his sidekicks (let’s just call them Drew and Wade) that Shelly didn’t seem to be enjoying their little joke.  Evidently these boys had decided it would be funny (again the distortion between what some people think is funny) to completely switch my bedroom with the dust and clutter stored under the bed and the living room with the live Christmas tree surrounded by presents and already breathing its last breath.  This included taking pictures from walls and doors from hinges to make the closest possible imitation of each room in the other’s space.  I must admit that I only heard this description from a female who had been present at the rearranging and wisely tried to explain to the 20 year old children that while Walter may laugh, Shelly most certainly wouldn’t.  The glance I got as I opened the door and promptly left did not do it justice.  When we arrived home, all of my family sat at the kitchen table while those three boys put the finishing touches on vacuuming the pine needles and returning my house to its former state.  Evidently they had received and earful from another sponsor who had been on the trip with us, was just as tired as we were, and had an extreme aversion to any kind of pranks to people’s houses, including toilet paper in the yard.  My mom said that wasn’t a pleasant discussion and my dad and brother in law informed us that it really was a great prank.  We will have to take their word for it because we never saw the completed product.  In fact, as divine justice would have it, Walter never saw even a tiny glimpse of what they did.  I can imagine the hours they spent getting everything just right and the hours it took to get it…well… just right back where they found it.  Two of those boys married and went into student ministry.  I still wish for them to face a similar prank.  Although Walter told them he would probably find it funny in a couple of years, I assured them I never would.

And that is the story of the second worst Christmas Eve ever.  Now those boys have finally received the notoriety their prank deserves!  If you are curious about why I changed the title, Walter did a funeral for an 18 year old boy involved in a ski accident on Christmas Eve one year.  I couldn’t imagine that my little inconvenient furniture arrangement could compare to that.

I wish you all a Merry Christmas!  The Christmas card and letter aren’t happening from us this year, so consider yourselves loved.  We are truly thankful for all of the people God has brought into our lives to bless us and help us make wonderful memories!

Shelly

Merry Marriage Musings

Nothing seasons a marriage quite like those first holidays spent together.  As each person brings expectations and traditions from separate families seeking to merge into their own traditions, misunderstanding is inevitable.  The Ballous also learned some important lessons in those first years, and I decided to share a couple of them with you.

We moved into our first house one year after we were married, on the second day of school, in my first year of teaching my own class.  We like to maximize our stress when the opportunity presents itself.  We built this house, our very own track home in a neighborhood of such homes, which meant that right down the street and around the corner and in at least a dozen other places in the neighborhood, another house just like ours perched on its own patch of grass with two requisite Bradford Pear Trees and 6 shrubs planted outside.  I loved making that house our own and looked forward to our first Christmas there so much that I encouraged Walter to invite all of the youth workers over for a Christmas party.

The day of the party arrived and a few jobs remained to be done.  The first of which involved my selection of a Christmas tree skirt as the floor under our tree was unacceptably bare.  This job fell to me for obvious reasons.  Walter had no desire to fight the crowds at WalMart while reading my mind and determining the perfect skirt for our (okay my) taste and decor.  Since cell phones did not exist, I called him before leaving school to ask him to work on cleaning the house.  I had no idea when I would be home, company was coming, dishes were in the sink, and laundry was on the couch.  I assumed he would start on the areas where the party would be and went on about my shopping.  This might be a good place to mention that the whole reading of minds thing has never worked out well for us.  Marital tip #1 for this post would be to say what you want to be done rather than attempt to not be bossy and assume your partner will walk into the house, see the laundry and dishes, and tackle the mess.

I searched and searched and finally found the perfect ecru colored crocheted tree skirt.  The only one in the store of its kind, this one lacked any sort of price tag or label or match that could be used for pricing.  I braced myself for a long wait realizing that the tree skirts ranged in price from $35.97 to $6.97 for the cheap sparkly plastic-y ones.  Because no tree skirt in the store was as beautiful as this one or more perfect for our home, I nervously waited for the price checker to come back, knowing I couldn’t spend $35.97 on a tree skirt.  I really hoped my search would end here because I needed to get home and help with those dishes and laundry and a myriad of other tasks that only I could do to the level of perfection required by my newly  married self.  Imagine my delight when the sales person came up and told the cashier, “Just give it to her for $6.97.  I can’t find another one.”  What a gift!  That Christmas tree skirt is one in a long line of blessings the Lord has piled on us for no apparent reason other than the fact that He loves us.  We still use it 20 Christmases later and tell the story.  Marital tip #2 for this post is to walk through life as a team watching for how God wants to bless you.  It is so easy to push for our own agendas and desires and miss out on great things He wants to do!

I rushed home with only an hour to spare before the party.  As I let myself in, I couldn’t help but notice the laundry on the couch and the mess in the kitchen.  Had someone died?  Had there been an accident at the church?  A pregnant teenager?  A crisis only Walter could handle?   In Shelly world, something major had to have happened to have such a mess remaining when the party was imminent.  I methodically searched our 1500 square foot home in 7.2 seconds and finally found Walter.  In the guest bathroom.  Cleaning the bathtub.  That had never been used.  That would not be used at the party.  My brain scrambled to find a more appreciative reaction than the one that jumped to my mind and wanted to jump out of my mouth.  I’m pretty sure we threw the clean laundry into the clean bathtub, closed the shower curtain, and had a party!  Later (and for the next couple of decades) we would discuss the reasoning required to choose that chore to focus on at that time.  Marital tip #3 for this post goes back to the whole reading minds concept.  That doesn’t work out for us.

Fast forward a couple of years.  I decided, like only an amateur wife can decide, that I would help Walter out with the Christmas lights this year since he was so busy and surely it was only a matter of using a staple gun to attach a few strands of lights across the roof and around the eaves.  I say “eaves” like I know that is a part of the house that can be stapled into, but I’m actually not sure that is what the wooden part under the roof before the brick is called.  You get my drift.  To confirm my plan, I consulted with one of Walter’s friends who was known for his legendary light displays.  After imagining the wife of one of his good friends crawling up a ladder and over a roof to staple lights into shingles, he wisely offered to come over and help.  Let me review the facts of this situation in case you missed them.  My intention was to help my seminary student husband who was in the midst of finals with a job I was sure he would love to do if time allowed.  The friend’s intention was to help the wife of a good friend avoid broken bones or paralysis.  Neither of those intentions was the first thing Walter noticed when he drove up to the house and saw that his wife had recruited another man to do something to his house that he could have done himself.  Charles felt terrible.  I felt terrible (and misunderstood).  Walter felt unappreciated.  I learned that Christmas that Walter has no desire to put Christmas lights up and it isn’t worth it for me to do it myself, or recruit a friend, or hire a company, or especially to nag my husband into doing it.  We have a couple of light up metal things that we sometimes put in the yard, but otherwise we just put a wreath on the door and keep the peace.  Marital tip #4 is that no comparison to the neighbors is worth tension in your marriage.  Some things just need to be left alone.

Thanks for reading this long post.  I have a great story to share about the worst Christmas Eve ever, so I’m sure you’ll be waiting on the edge of your seats for that burst of Christmas cheer!  It really is a funny story, if it didn’t happen to you.

Shelly

The Joy of Discipline

I confess to being a binge blogger.  I apologize for the spurts of writing then weeks of nothing in between.  I keep a list of topics I want to write about when I get a chance to sit down and do it.  This one isn’t on the list but is something I’ve been reading about and thinking about this morning.

Our topic is discipline.  We associate discipline with negative emotions and trouble, but in scripture we see that the discipline God offers his children has positive motivation and positive results.  Rest assured, I’m not ignoring the distinctly negative part that comes between the motivation of the discipliner and the results for the disciplined.  I’ve experienced that lesson as both the receiver and the giver of discipline.

Hebrews 12:5-6 tell us not to make light of the Lord’s discipline because He disciplines those He loves.  This chapter goes on to refer casually, as if it goes without saying, to the discipline of parents on behalf of their children.

v. 7- “What son is not disciplined by his father?”

v. 9- “… we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it.”

Discipline is an act of love.  I think we as modern parents have believed the lie that we show love to our children by not frustrating them or making them cry.  I’m too cautious to go into the specifics of what discipline should look like in your home.  The basics are that parents establish and explain an expectation for behavior that includes consideration of developing children that other people find pleasant to be around.  When that expectation is not met, consistent consequences occur.  Whatever those consequences look like, they should not be something pleasant that the child looks forward to.  Now I don’t mean that we should all parent to please others or meet their expectations.  Sixteen years of raising pastor’s kids has taught me that we will never please everyone.  We have to strive to please God, but we do them a disservice if our laziness or lack of willpower causes them to be the child that others don’t want in their homes or don’t want their kids to be around or ask to be moved away from in a restaurant because they are loud and disruptive.  That actually happened to me recently, but thankfully we were dining in a group so I could just assume that other people’s kids caused the problem.  Isn’t it nice to have someone else to blame?

I strive to keep this brief because I recognize the miracle that anyone actually clicked on a blog that is openly about discipline- bleh!  Let me clarify that I didn’t choose this topic because our parenting and children are perfect, and I wish yours were too.  Too many people do life with us and know that is untrue.  I chose this topic because I empathize with parents who hear so many messages from magazines and books and “experts” who share conflicting “wisdom” regarding discipline.  I encourage you to go back to the basics and recognize that you are the person God put in their lives to teach them how to be responsible, productive, pleasant adults one day.  It will challenge you daily, but I have to believe that it will be worth it when we get to the “end” of parenting, wherever that is, and see the adults they have become.  I challenge you to read Hebrews 12 and see what it says about how God disciplines us.  That is another topic for another time.

Stay strong!  Do hard things! The reward will be worth it!