Shepherdess: File me under miscellaneous

If nothing is filed before something, then would order come before chaos? Or would it be the other way around? The life of this minister's wife may be unpredictable, but at least it's not boring!

Filing class, a required course for a secretarial minor, met on the fourth floor. One afternoon a week I climbed the seventy-four stairs to spend three hours learning to file alphabetically, numerically, eternally.

I entered the classroom and sat down to a table with a box of cards labeled "Halsey, Patricia." The rest of the afternoon I played in that box moving three-by-five' inch cards from A to Z and back again. I still remember one of the basic rules for filing: "Nothing goes before something." Or is it "Something goes before nothing"? No, I'm sure it's "Nothing before some thing," because if you have-nothing, you put it before "A," and if it's a little bit of nothing, like "AN," it goes before some thing more, like "AND."

By 5:00 P.M. my fingers would be numb, my eyes crossed, and my brain turned to alphabet soup. I got an A — in the course and vowed to organize my life, but I couldn't decide whether to do it numerically, alphabetically, or by subject.

I still hadn't reached a decision by my senior year, because I needed to find a husband first so I would have something to follow my nothing or nothing after the something of college. Whichever.

That's when I met a theology major in the library. Two dates later, he announced to his roommate, "I'm going to marry that girl." But when he mentioned it to me, I panicked. I needed more time to organize and file my feelings—were they love or infatuation? Within a year, I'd put all my thoughts solidly under LOVE, and we got married with a minimum of preparation because I worked myself to near exhaustion as a dean of girls at a boarding school up to a week before our wedding. We got married anyway, and moved into a basement apartment while he finished college.

Still convinced about the efficiency of filing, I pasted small signs on his bureau drawers that read "Underwear Here," "Socks There," in the hope it would inspire him to throw his clothing in the drawers instead of under the bed. He laughed and kissed me while he kicked his shoes into the closet.

But I stood firm on the issue of having "BABY" come after "COLLEGE" and "SEMINARY." We compromised (or rather, I capitulated), and we put "BABY" between the two (or I should say in the middle of "SEMINARY"), which unfiled our finances and rearranged our lives.

True to the disorganized turn my life had taken, our son arrived three weeks before I'd earned the paycheck earmarked "Layette." While I lay in the hospital worrying about swaddling clothes, my husband and a friend's wife bought a few necessities, and we brought Daniel Scott home and put him in a clothes basket.

Two years and nine months later, I scraped the paint off the secondhand crib and gave it a new coat of no-lead enamel, but our daughter, Patricia Joanne, came before I got the last leg painted. It remained a bare reminder of my attempts to do things "decently and in order."

Thirteen years have plummeted past, and I'm still scrambling to keep up with life, much less file it. But I continue to try to practice the organizational techniques I learned, and am rewarded with shouts of "Honey, where did you put that book I was reading?"

"What book?"

"You know, the yellow one with the brown lettering."

"What's the name of it?"

"I can't remember."

Or, in fortissimo: "Honey, I can't find my sermon!"

Or: "Where are the tax forms for this year?"

"In the file cabinet."

"Where in the file cabinet?"

"Under T for Income Tax."

"Oh, I was looking under T' for Tax.'That's the trouble with filing systems. You can't ever find anything."

"Here, let me look for it."

So we bump heads over file drawers, or I lose half his address file, which is an assortment of names and addresses scribbled on everything from funeral programs to paper napkins that I periodically brush into his drawer when I can no longer remember whether the dresser top is walnut or cherry.

In between these clashes of life styles, I try to define the role of a minister's wife so I can order my life thereby, but I get interrupted by such calls as "Could you bring a salad to the church potluck." "The organist isn't here today; could you play?" "Honey, is it all right if I bring Mr. Thrombortner home for lunch in about fifteen minutes?"

"Who's Mr. Thrombortner?"

"Oh, we just met this morning." And I know by what is not said that Mr. Thrombortner is sitting thirty-six inches from the telephone, so I say, "Of course."

And as I whirl through the refrigerator and cupboards praying and looking for a luncheon menu, I forget whether I'd decided a pastor's wife should be a sit-by-the-fire type or an out-on-the-front-line sort. I don't even know whether I've got all my women's rights, much less my sense, or am self-fulfilled or have met all my personal goals as I catapult from one crisis to another. On really bad days I wish I'd married a $15-an-hour, nine-to-five plumber instead of an always-on-call preacher. But I wouldn't trade the excitement of this unpredictable calling for a thousand evenings of bored togetherness in front of the TV. 

Prayers from the parsonage

By Cherry B. Habernicht.

Here I am, Lord, asking the same questions others have raised about sending their children to a church day school:

"How can we afford the tuition when we've already been taxed almost $500 for the local elementary school? I'll have to work harder to save or earn the extra money, which means there'll be less time for the children.

"Is church school worth the bother of one or two—sometimes more—twelve-mile trips a day?" That chunk of our day spent in city traffic is so unnecessary; Lisa could walk to public school five blocks away.

"Really, what could a child possibly learn in first grade at the district school that would undermine religious beliefs?" I attended public school through second grade, and Dick received all but two years of his elementary education at the local country school. Neither of us has ever strayed from the church.

"The Lord giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and under standing" (Prov. 2:6).

Daily Dick and I have prayed with Lisa, teaching her that You are her best friend. Where would she find You, the source of wisdom, in the classes and programs of a secular school system? She is strong-willed and secure in her principles, but might she not be confused by conflicting ideas and peer pressure? During these formative years we want our "home school" to be rein forced, not minimized.

Thank You for a church that emphasizes Christian education. Thank You for consecrated teachers seeking to bring Your love to each discipline.

If there were no church school nearby, we could confidently ask Your blessing on our little girl in a less-than-ideal environment. Instead, Christian education is available, and we ask You to bless our decision to sacrifice in faith.

Tomorrow we'll open those heavy entrance doors, take a place in line, fill out various forms, and put down a $50 semester fee, as well as one month's tuition. But the archway quotes Your words, "Let the youth come unto Me," and the mural in the hall shows You smiling at the children. What better choice could we make?

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September 1981

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