But more personally, thank you for writing this quote below. It sits on the windowsill over my sink and reminds me what I'm doing most days. I hope you understand, it's easy to lose track sometimes.
Our natural reason looks at marriage and turns up its nose and says, "Alas! Must I rock the baby? Wash its diapers? Make its bed? Smell its stench? Stay at nights with it? Take care of it when it cries? Heal its rashes and sores? And on top of that care for my spouse, provide labor at my trade, take care of this and take care of that? Do this and do that? And endure this and endure that? Why should I make such a prisoner of myself?"
What then does Christian faith say to this? It opens its eyes, looks upon all these insignificant, distasteful and despised duties in the spirit, and is aware that they are all adorned with divine approval as with the costliest gold and jewels.
It says, "O God, I confess I am not worthy to rock that little babe or wash its diapers, or to be entrusted with the care of a child and its mother. How is it that I without any merit have come to this distinction of being certain that I am serving thy creature and thy most precious will? Oh, how gladly will I do so. Though the duty should be even more insignificant and despised, neither frost nor heat, neither drudgery nor labor will distress me for I am certain that it is thus pleasing in thy sight."
No, just kidding...that's not the question I meant. The question is, what should we do as Christian parents of young kids on Halloween? What is the best thing for our children and our neighbors? How can we please God on this day?
Here's a brief history of what we've done thus far in our young life as parents...
The first two years, we did nothing. We gave out candy but our kids stayed home, because a) we hadn't thought much about how to approach the day b) it was too cold in Massachusetts to make it tempting to leave the house, and c) well, quite honestly, we were tired and just didn't care that much.
When we moved to Southern California, the "cold" excuse was gone, and as Cameron emerged from his toddler years we decided we'd give Halloween a shot. I dressed Cameron as John Elway and Ben as a train engineer, and took them around our downtown area during the day, where local merchants were dressed up, handing out treats.
This trip was a turning point for me. As we walked on the sidewalks of Camarillo, the older children I saw were consistently dressed as horrible things. "Scream" masks abounded. Blood and gore were everywhere. And I wouldn't have made a big deal of it, but Cameron, who was a tender age 2 1/2 at the time, kept asking, "Mommy, why do they look like that? Mommy, what's that?". I found myself searching for an explanation and one never came. What should I say? "Well, honey, today is a day that many people set aside for celebrating fear, death, and evil." So why were we doing it?
One thing you should understand about David and I...(I hope I am not speaking out of turn here; if I am, David, please leave me a comment to correct me) ...as parents, we try to be minimalists. By minimalists, I mean that rather than think about what we shouldn't do, we think about what we should do. We try to start at zero and then start adding things. A good example of this is at Christmastime, when we don't "do" Santa Claus. Rather than asking, "why not?", we prefer to ask, "Why? What does this accomplish?". With the short amount of time that we have with our children before they leave the nest, I would prefer to spend time on the truth rather than a myth...even if it is a fun, magical myth. So start knitting your "Mrs. Scrooge" sweaters for me now. In spite of the lack of Santa Claus at our house, we believe Christmas has done us good. And I say, God bless it. :-)
But I'm getting ahead of myself...back to the question at hand. Why should our kids dress up and go trick-or-treating? The only really convincing reason I could come up with is that it's a great night to hang out with your neighbors! What other night of the year will people willingly open their door to you? And this hit upon another problem I had with Halloween...people come to my house and stand back as their kids collect their candy, and then they're on their way. I was always left feeling like I wanted to talk to them more!
So we have happened upon a compromise that we hope to try out this year. We're going to throw open our garage, put up some twinkly lights, play some music and set up a table. We'll have candy for the kids and coffee, doughnuts and cider for the adults. We've invited another family from the neighborhood to hang out with us, since their kids don't go trick-or-treating, either. Our hope is that people will stay and chat and that it will be a more fruitful time than the usual "drive-by" candy collection.
The other option was to dress the kids up like Martin Luther and have them hammer a copy of the 95 Theses to everyone's doors. But I don't think that would be a good way of making friends with the neighbors. ;-)
I'll let you know how it goes!
P.S. Please don't "hear" what I'm not "saying." There are plenty of Christian parents who choose to send their kids out trick-or-treating for the same reason...to be visible in the neighborhood and get to know people. I'm just explaining why we're doing what we're doing this year, and maybe next year, depending on how it goes! Not everybody will land on the same conclusion that we have, and our traditions may change in years to come.
Two planet Saturns, meet Dunkin' Donuts box.
Gramma was nice enough to get a big package while we were there so Andrew and I could stand in the box.
And even though we missed our AYSO game on Saturday, we still got a workout in the backyard.
Last Thursday we left at noon and stopped halfway, which works out to be right up the road from my alma mater, Messiah College. When we arrived, a men's soccer game was going on, so we wandered over and watched a good part of it. The Falcons are undefeated this year and it looks like they may repeat the last two years' Division III national championship performances.
In between the raindrops the next day, we saw some lovely foliage.
And when the clouds finally parted somewhere north of Waterbury, CT, a rainbow smiled on us for a few miles.
(in front) Rhiannon and Jonathan
If Cameron switched places with Aisling, they'd be in order by age. But it was really all we could do to get them to stand there.
Throwing leaves on the babies, who were rather confused by the whole thing!
On the see-saw
Andrew chasing a pigeon by Park Street Church
Here's my high school (it's in Worcester, not Boston)
Here's a lousy picture of the building where we lived when we were first married. Our apartment was way cool...hardwood floors, huge windows, a drafty fireplace, a crazy neighbor lady, cats that would fight outside the building at 2 AM...
The Customs House Tower
The Old Statehouse
The Steaming Kettle
(I suppose it's appropriate that it now resides over a Starbucks!)
On Monday morning, the boys pull the sheets off their beds and bring them to the washer. They drag their laundry out of all the corners of their rooms (mostly the hamper corner) and bring it to my room. Then the laundry sorting begins. Or should I say...laundry sorting/wrestling match. If I am in the room, it's laundry sorting. If I leave the room, it quickly descends into chaotic clothes-pile wrestling.
Then, all day long, amidst meals and school and all the other routine tasks that make up my day, I am summoned by the buzzer to the laundry room. More to dry. More to wash. More to fold and hang. More to iron (hmmm....that's supposed to happen today too, but funny how it never does).
I remember my friend Rachael ruminating one day on all the women through the centuries who have done laundry on Mondays. She joked that she felt like she was part of a grand sisterhood as she toted, sorted, washed, dried, and folded clothes. And at least, we agreed, we had modern appliances to make the job attainable. Laundry day used to be the day that children were expected to stay home from school because the household wash was such an enormous task.
At the end of the day, when the beds are (mostly) remade and the clothes are (mostly) done, we always eat the same meal...spaghetti. I make a huge batch of sauce once a month, and break it into batches to eat every Monday. Monday's laundry tasks are so time-consuming that I simply cannot wrap my mind around the question, "What are we having for dinner?" so I've made it another routine. Spaghetti has been our Monday night dinner for a few years now.
Don't get me wrong. I LOVE the weekend and its break from routine. I love Sundays, especially. Having guests over for Sunday lunch is one of my favorite other routines of the week. We adhere to a relatively strict schedule during the week with the children's rest times so that on Sunday they are able to enjoy company, too, without falling to pieces in want of a nap. But there's something welcoming about the reliability of the weekdays. I know what time things will be happening. I know I can fall into bed on clean sheets on Monday nights, even if I just put them on the bed ten minutes before my head hit the pillow. At least that's done. Another week begun.
As a result of my routines, the children have become little creatures of habit, too. Last night as we enjoyed our spaghetti dinner, Ben asked two questions that betrayed his love of routine. The first was, "Where's the salad?". I had cooked green peas as our vegetable instead of making the regular green salad. His second question was, "Where are the Kellys?". Our friends the Kellys are nearly always here for spaghetti on Monday.
A few months ago Cameron approached me in the afternoon with wide eyes and his Bible clutched tightly in his hand and said, "Mom, tomorrow morning, before I change out of my jammies, I am going to read in my Bible, just like you and Daddy do." Tears came to my eyes as I thought, "thank you Lord, some of our good habits have worn off on our children, not just the bad ones."
We serve a God of seasons and of routines. During the past three weeks, the boys and I have been learning about different Jewish holidays. The sheer number of holidays is telling. People forget. They need to be reminded. The many festivals and holidays were a time to remember God's blessings throughout Israel's history.
We also serve a God who graciously broke a routine. The routine sacrifices at the temple could never satisfy His holy demands. Praise Him that He spontaneously -- in the fullness of time, as He had foreordained -- broke into time with the gift of Christ, His Son.
"And every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins; but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God...." Hebrews 10:11-12
"For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly." Romans 5:6
The rocking chairs are going to be replaced with normal chairs eventually. They make seatwork a little difficult, because as the boys lean forward, the chairs slide backwards.
Ben doing his Math
Cameron doing handwriting
Here's Andrew in the hay "maze."
Cam and Ben finding their way through the maze.
Jonathan enjoyed riding in the wagon.
All the boys