Thursday, January 29, 2009


We lost power as I was writing that last post, and, three days later, I am just now able to use the computer. Praise God for autosave! And, THANK YOU LORD for the incredible line crews working for Gibson Electric Cooperative! So, what has life been like these past three days, living in the Ice Age?

First, life in the Ice Age was COLD. We were grateful for the wood-burning fireplace, and kept it well-stoked and burning hot around the clock. Still, this cold-blooded lizard only really felt warm if I was standing or sitting within 10 feet of the hearth. And I even wore multiple, multiple layers - you know, the well-padded polar bear look. Bedtime attire? Thermal underwear, thick fuzzy sweat pants, socks, and an extra blanket. Forget your romantic notions about how wonderful life on the prairie must've been for Laura Ingalls and her family. The ugly truth is, those folks froze their tookus-s off all winter. And they were tired all the time, too. Steve took "first shift" on manning the fire, staying up until the wee hours of the morning. Then, about 5:00, it was my turn to creep out from under the covers and stir up the fire. Lots of clothing, staggered did our pre-electric ancestors ever manage to procreate?

Second, life in the Ice Age was, shall we say, less than clean. We get our water from a pump, which runs on electricity. No power, no water. Fortunately, when the freezing rain started on Tuesday, Steve instructed me to fill the bathtub with water, "just in case." I also filled every available pitcher and jug with water. So, we had water for drinking, and water for flushing the toilet, and water for watering the dogs and the chickens....but no water for washing. We had lots of mushy slush coming into the house, from all our trips out to the woodpile. We had the fire burning around the clock - which means we also had the sooty dust that goes with it. Trips outside to do chores always produced wet clothing, which had to be replaced with dry clothing if one wanted to stay warm - so we had LOTS of laundry piling up in the utility room, not to mention the assorted caps, gloves, and bib-coveralls draped around the living room to dry out in the limited heat from the fireplace. We had two large dogs camping out inside with us - which means dog hair and dog breath added to the general state of household corruption. Blech. Needless to say, that first hot shower after our Ice Age adventure felt FABULOUS.

Third, life in the Ice Age was dark. Even with candles, a kerosene lamp, and a battery-powered lantern, the house grew d-a-r-k when the sun went down. But the darkness wasn't all a bad thing. For one thing, our nasty living conditions were less apparent after sundown. I commented to Steve that I thought the pioneers probably never had clean houses (see previous paragraph), but it didn't bother them too much because there was no way they could SEE just how filthy everything was. So here's a tip for the modern housewife - if you don't have time to clean, just turn off the lights! Another "benefit" of the limited lighting was that everyone had to gather in a fairly small circle if they wanted to enjoy any illumination. The first evening without power, the kids passed a couple of hours playing card games at one end of the kitchen table. The second night, they piled around the living room under blankets and told chain stories. Seeing my kids all close and enjoying one another was definitely a blessing to this mother's heart. Also, by 8:00, everyone was ready to head to bed.

Fourth, life in the Ice Age was, in spite of some difficulties, an adventure. A blazing fire, a big bowl of steaming venison stew, the dim flicker of candlelight - okay, that's just totally cool. And I have to admit that I felt some degree of satisfaction in rising early to restoke the fire, then scraping up a pile of hot coals so that I could fry sausage and eggs in a castiron skillet in the fireplace. (Thank you so much, Konos ladies, for teaching me useful skills!) And for the kids - no baths for three days! How awesome is that?! No boobing out in front of the PlayStation, no requests to play games on the computer.... going power-less definitely has its upside.

But, all that said, I am so glad that our power has been restored. It is good to be living in modern times - heat pumps, running water, automatic washing machines, overhead lighting, internet access, hot showers, coffee that doesn't have a thick layer of sludge at the bottom of the is wonderful to be back in 2009! I'd like to end by asking that you offer up a prayer for those who are still living in the Ice Age. Neighbors two hills over have been told it may be two weeks before they have electricity. Further north, just over the state line in Kentucky, the destruction is horrendous and there's no telling how long repairs and clean-up will take. Thankfully, temperatures are milder today, and the sun is bright - work crews are putting in long, hard hours and folks are beginning to emerge from the rubble and tackle the task of removing mountains of debris. It's a blessing to be leaving the Ice Age behind.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


The world outside my window is a wonderland of sparkling, shimmering crystal: an entire day of freezing rain has transformed the landscape from one of gray wood and brown stubble to one of silvery white glass. Although the world looks like a fairy land, it is also treacherous and deadly. Ben has had to take special precautions to protect his flock of chickens from the severe cold and damp. The dogs are enjoying the special treat of camping temporarily indoors. The vehicles have been moved out from under the tree line. The electricity keeps flickering on and off, due to the weight of ice on the power lines, so a stockpile of wood has been stacked beside the hearth and every available jug and pitcher is filled with an emergency supply of water. Stand on the porch a moment, and you'll hear the ripping and cracking of tree branches succumbing to the weight of ice and crashing to the forest floor. So, while we are enjoying the magical beauty of the ice, we are also a little tense and guarded....waiting, watching, and hoping the rain will stop soon and the temperature will creep above freezing. If the weather forecast is correct, this present distress will be only a memory before the end of the week. And then, sooner than seems possible, winter will begin melting into spring and it will be time to start planning a garden. Time will pass; ice will thaw; the ground will soften...

* * * * *

I was a newcomer to the group of homeschool moms who met monthly for fellowship and encouragement. This particular meeting, the group coordinator had planned a question-and-answer session where women new to homeschooling could glean wisdom from older, more-experienced women. With six kids between the ages of two and nine (three of them "school age"), I was feeling overwhelmed by the whole homeschool thing and was desperate for helpful advice. "How do you ever find time during the day to actually do the amount of schoolwork that you feel like you should? All day long, I am washing and folding laundry, preparing meals and snacks, cleaning up messes, bandaging booboos, getting little kids down for their naps, bathing just never seems to stop. And somehow, in the middle of all this, I'm supposed to find four hours of quiet, productive time to sit down with my older kids and teach them math and grammar and science and history. I just can't seem to fit it all in!" Honestly, I was exhausted, crushed by the weight of unrealistic expectations and on the verge of an emotional breakdown.

Susie-Q jumped right on my question. This woman had all the answers. "Well, let me tell you how I handle my day. First off, once a month, I prepare all my meals for the month and put them in the freezer. That way, I don't have to cook every day. On a typical school day, I get up in the morning, have my quiet time, pull dinner out of the deepfreeze to thaw, start a load of laundry, and then go upstairs to wake the children. I have my older children (Susie-Q had two teenagers at home at the time, in addition to her three littles) help the younger children dress, make their beds, and straighten their rooms. By 9:00, I have a second load of laundry in the washer, dinner thawing on the counter, breakfast served and cleaned up, the house in order, and everyone seated at the table to do their lessons..." At this point, Susie-Q's words faded into meaningless blather as I struggled to not break down in sobs. All her solutions seemed like more weight on my already breaking back. I probably looked like a deer in headlights as I sat owl-eyed, blinking back tears that threatened to overflow any second.

"Oh, Camille!" I looked from Susie-Q to the tiny brunette who groaned from across the room. Her voice sounded full of the sob that choked my throat. I had met MaryAnn during dinner earlier that evening. Like me, she had six children, including a set of twins. But MaryAnn's kids were a bit older than mine, and she was well beyond the baby stage of motherhood. MaryAnn must have seen the panic and despair rising behind my composed facade. "Camille!" Suddenly, this ceased being an open forum, a group discussion, and became instead a very personal, sister-to-sister communication. MaryAnn seemed to be blinking back tears herself as she addressed me. "I remember, when my children were little, sitting on my bed in the middle of a pile of unfolded laundry, and crying because I thought that I would never do anything ever again in life but struggle fruitlessly to catch up with just the laundry." MaryAnn paused. "Laundry, meals, was all just too much. Never mind schoolwork." She inhaled deeply and continued in a low voice. "Camille, it really is too much...the demands on your time and energy are more than you can handle. You can't do it all. But trust me, Camille - it will get better. Just hang in there." This woman had obviously seen into my heart, and by now I was snuffling and wiping my eyes with the back of my hand. "Just do what you can, let go of what you can't. Hang in will get better."

Shortly after that meeting, MaryAnn and her family moved to another state, so I never had the opportunity to know her very intimately. And within months of their relocation, MaryAnn, her husband, and four of her six children were killed in a horrible automobile accident. But even now, more than eleven years after that meeting, not a week goes by that I don't think of MaryAnn, and of the incredible gift she gave me that night. So just what DID MaryAnn give me? Well, Susie-Q gave me the law, and with it despair - the demands were too great, and I would never measure up. MaryAnn, on the other hand, gave me the gospel - she told me to let go of the illusion that I could ever measure up, that I could be a totally-together, radically-righteous homeschool mom. She encouraged me to let go of my unrealistic expectations, to persevere, and to wait and see the good work that God would do in spite of my inadequacies.
Years later, I can testify to the truthfulness of MaryAnn's words. Homeschooling - and life - has gotten easier in some respects. Two of my "pupils" have completed their home-education and study now at college. The five still at home help tremendously with the work of running the house, so that I am definitely not physically exhausted like I was 11 years ago. But still, I find that even my best teacher/mom efforts are often inadequate, and that I must continue to trust Christ to be my sufficiency in this aspect of life as well as all others. Jerry Bridges writes in his book "Transforming Grace: Living Confidently in God's Unfailing Love" - those who genuinely acknowledge they are weak, unworthy, and inadequate, God does promise to give grace. God's grace is sufficient for our weakness. Christ's worth does cover our unworthiness, and the Holy Spirit does make us effective in spite of our inadequacy. This is the glorious paradox of living by grace. When we discover we are weak in ourselves, we find we are strong in Christ. When we regard ourselves as less than the least of God's people, we are given some immense privilege of serving in the Kingdom. When we almost despair over our inadequacy, we find the Holy Spirit giving us unusual ability. We shake our heads in amazement and say with Isaiah, "Lord, ...all that we have accomplished you have done for us." (Isaiah 26:12)
What inadequacy are you despairing over today? Run to Jesus, and own your weakness before Him. Remember MaryAnn's gospel - do not pretend to be competent! Instead, prepare to be amazed at what God Himself will do for you, through you.