Sunday, January 21, 2007

Milestones in the Midst of Mayhem

I was recently rebuked for not showing more hospitality. I tried to be very apologetic and humble about the matter because I understand where the person rebuking me was coming from- although he/she spoke with little to no mercy or compassion. I tried to explain that we just haven't really been in a position to extend a whole lot of hospitality for a while. We have a very limited budget. For five months we didn't have our own home. And then we had just four weeks to move into our new home before we had a new baby who is still only four months old and eats pretty much every two hours still. It actually makes me pretty angry to think someone would expect me to don my apron and begin entertaining again right now. But I also struggle with finding the right medium between what I want to do and what I ought to do. I also take criticism very much to heart. The criticism was received about a month ago and since then I have had a flu, a ten day trip out of town, three visits to the pediatrician (well check ups for each child), two ballet lessons, and a three day power outage. Chaos- not really a whole lot of opportunity to be the model hostess in there. But I have not forgotten the hospitality I have been shown by friends near and far. And I really do want to be a friend to people. So we invited some people over for dinner for last night early in the week and then yesterday morning ended up canceling. They were not people who have criticized me and they have canceled on us plenty of times so I am sure they have forgiven us. I just couldn't figure out how to get a meal on the table for them. I have no idea how to get a meal on the table for my own family most nights. And by the time I figure it out and we all sit down, it is usually about eight o'clock. Then the kids don't end up in bed until 9:30 or so. Elspeth goes down even later which means we don't get a minute to ourselves until about eleven o'clock at night. Consequently, we don't end up getting to bed until about one or two in the morning. It is a mess. I find myself cleaning the bathroom, balancing the checkbook, writing thank you notes, making grocery lists and planning meals, doing pretty much anything that requires a moderate amount of concentration in the middle of the night. And so I am also tired. I end up sleeping in, after Elspeth's early morning feeding, until nine or ten. I am like some crazy nocturnal, disorganized freak these days. Furthermore, I have a guilt trip the size of a glacier hanging over my head for not having people over and for not doing enough home school and for not being cheerful and energetic enough and generally just not being some person I either think I should be or really should be. It's either that I am wrong or that the person who put a whole heap of guilt on me was wrong or maybe a little of both; but whatever the case is, I have been losing heart.

One thing that has been fun is that George has seen my need for a break and we have had different friends meet us at a restaurant on the night where kids eat free. I wish I could have each of their families over and make a big spread, but I am so grateful they are willing to meet us out. And two other things have really been encouraging in spite of what seems like a pileup of failures- one major milestone for each of my two eldest. First of all, about a week or so ago, Amabel read her first book, a reader from our homeschool curriculum. She was really excited and proud; and of course, so was I. She wanted to call my mom and tell her, as her Nanna is her biggest fan in her mind (of course, George and I would beg to differ, and it is probably actually August in the end). My mom was so encouraging to her; she has a cheerleader personality that I think she has worked really hard to refine. I am glad for Amabel and August and Elspeth that she is such a positive and unconditional figure in their lives. Incidentally, I am glad for me too. She was at every track or cross country meet I ever ran in (literally, except one) cheering at the top of her lungs even though I was usually dead last! She made a special point to call me the day after she talked to Amabel last week. She said she was really proud of Amabel and her achievement, but that she was also very proud of me for what I had achieved, teaching my child to read. That was a very encouraging to me. I had not thought of it that way. I suppose it is quite the accomplishment for both of us!

And August has had his own little achievement. We thought it would never happen. The child, at three years and four and a half months no less, has given up his passy! I just got sick of it. I was so tired of the whining. He is so impatient and so used to being the baby (okay so that's my fault) and I have a real baby to take care of now. I couldn't stand the fussing over wanting a snack when I was trying to feed Elspeth one day last week. I told him what he needed was a nap which sent him into fits and he ended up being sent to bed and pitching an even bigger fit because he couldn't find his passy. So I told him he didn't get a passy anymore. I told him he needs to learn to be a big boy and stop acting like a baby and that if he could get through his nap and through the night without a passy, we'd go to the zoo the next day and ride the train and buy a prize. He made it through the nap and I asked him if he was ready to throw his passy away. Nope, not yet. He made it through the night and we went to the zoo. Unfortunately the train wasn't running. But he was okay with that. He just wanted to see the animals. It was a great day for seeing the animals by the way, who knew how alert and playful they are in thirty-five degree weather. After we got back from the zoo he said he was ready to throw his passy away. I didn't even ask; he just said it was time. We all gathered around the trashcan and in it went. There was much hugging and high fives and then we went out for pizza. Way to go, Aug! And we have made it successfully through two bedtimes and a naptime since!

Things right now just are crazy. And you can't please everyone. I guess there always will be that somebody who thinks you aren't doing enough whether they say so to your face or not. But whatever people say, we're getting somewhere, I think. We may not be getting everything right, or even many things right, but we're working on it. I think we might even have more milestones to report again sometime!


dblyoo said...

way to go, amabel! way to go, august! way to go, abby! it's been quite crazy the last few months for you guys and i happen to think YOU are doing very well with everything that's been thrown your way. i'm also incredibly happy that things are so much better with your family. hang in there, little mama. no matter who may criticize, your righteousness is not in your's in Christ and Christ ALONE. i have to be reminded of that constantly. love you, guys!

the good, the bad & the ugly said...

I can't imagine being critical of someone else's hospitality. That takes a lot of nerve! I feel sure that in a couple of months your little Elspeth will be eating less and playing more and your life will settle down. I think people forget how hard it is to move into a new place and settle in. We moved here in July and had Lydia Joy in September and I am constantly looking for time to do the endless amounts of projects on the "list". I was just telling Andy today that I am going to tell people "No" more often because I have not been serving with a cheerful heart. I think we just have seasons where we can't serve as much as we would like. It's okay. I hope you find time alone with your man and can find a way to end your day sooner. Sleep deprivation is awful!

jennifer said...

First, I wouldn't criticize anyone for not being hospitable because no one really knows the circumstances another person faces. But I did want to encourage you not to think that hospitality has to be a big dinner for an entire family. It can be anything from a cup of coffee for a friend, a simple desert for as few or as many people as you want, or even drinks or popsicles for the kids' friends when they are in your house playing. It might be as simple as offering a cup of coffee for one of those electric company guys who was fixing the power. Hospitality does not equal entertaining. And, your house doesn't have to be perfectly clean and decorated for you to be hospitable. I hope those thought might help relieve any guilt you might have.

george edema said...

That's what I always say. I think part of the reason she thinks she has to do it all is because since it has been so long it has to be a big. Kind of like when Joel was confronted with the fact that he hadn't returned anyone's dinner invitations in the three plus years he had been in Alaska and decided that he'd throw a dinner party for everyone who had had him over all at once (this happened in the TV show Northern Exposure, in case you were wondering).

Anonymous said...

I hope that the person that said that to you doesn't read this blog b/c that is such a self-righteous thing to say!! Anyway, I think that it has to be much more difficult for wives of pastors and/or seminary students b/c everyone thinks they are superhuman. Now, I will say that you do have a special calling to be in the position that you are, but, that is to be on your knees more than anything else! Which, consequently, I think you are and the honesty in which you deliver news of your life is refreshing and uplifting to those keeping up with you. But, I know what you're referring to and I say - Fear not; you're doing just fine according to your hubby, and apparently your friends who have signed this blog!!!


Elizabeth said...

Seriously, it seems like people are so dang critical of others these days. Yeah, I've been guilty of it plenty, but this is something that I've noticed a lot lately and it's really starting to get on my nerves. Yes, we should be living intentionally and covenantally with one another and be willing to accept correction, but as I told you in my e-mail, I think MOST of the time this means being patient, kind, forebearing, and giving the benefit of the doubt to the other person, not trying to come up with ways that they've missed the bar.

rhb said...

Ok, I think you are the queen of hospitality, but here's an idea- have people over for coffee. I love that- just coffee. It's so much easier! And it provides a time to get together and chat and for the kids to play or whatever. I am discovering this as the 5 course French meals are a ton of work and I just get so stressed out every time. I love the meeting friends at a kid friendly restaruant idea too!

Yaaay for Amabel! And yaay to you! Maybe if you can start sleeping more life will seem less overwhelming. I realize that that is way more easily said than done, however.

Mark said...

Umm... When I think about how you spontaneously baby-sat all my children when I just let them loose on the apartment complex without warning--while you were seriously pregnant and seriously under the pressure of not having a place to live in the all too near future--I have to resist the temptation to make my point with a bunch of cuss words. But trust me when I tell you I will never believe there is any rational reason whatsoever to criticize you for lacking hospitality. You showed it to me and my family when we needed it with great cheerfulness.

Mark said...

last sentence: insert comma between "it" and "with."

lauren said...

First of all, my jaw is on my keyboard.

Second of all:

"Hospitality does not equal entertaining."

I totally agree with this, and apparently so does Harry Reeder! He spoke to a women's Bible study at Briarwood last year saying, "Many women think they have the gift of hospitality, but in fact they have the gift of entertaining." It is so true!!!

Abby, don't even think for a minute that that person it right. You are giving your all to 3 very needy humans and supporting your husband in seminary. This is not a season in life where you need to feel pressure to pull out all the stops. If you get settled and are craving fellowship in your home, order a couple of Imo's pizzas (just kiddin-i know you don't like our hometown pizza-order your favorite kind :) ) and have rootbeer floats. Or just have a dessert night. Your Martha days will be here again before you know it (serving chili in pumpkins and all), so cut your self some slack and make things simple. Love you girl!

[picks jaw off keyboard now]

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