Wednesday, September 28, 2011


I've worked outside the home on a couple of occasions since giving birth to my first-born over 23 years ago. I'm working outside the home now, as a cashier at Wal-Mart. Part-time, an average of 25 hours a week.

And I have to say it again: When Mom works a significant amount of time away from the nest, the family is compromised. Not the identity of the family, perhaps, but the soundness of the family, the family's heart. It has something to do with the soul of the home, something I can't quite put my finger on. Trying to understand this, I feel like I'm straining to get a clear view of a shadow in my peripheral vision.

I am not writing this as a holier-than-thou stay-at-home mom who is shaking her head and clucking her tongue at all those "career-minded women who sell their children for a paycheck, " or those confused women who think that raising someone else's children or working for someone else's husband gives them more significance than pouring their talents and energy into their own families. No, I am writing this as a woman who has a family, who loves and values this family above every other earthly relationship, and who drives away from the nest every night to pull a shift at Wal-Mart.

Steve has put it this way: We are a one-income family trying to make it in a two-income economy. However you put it, the reality of trying to raise a family and the expenses that entails - even just the very basics of shelter, food, clothing - in today's economy, that almost demands the household have two-incomes. A gallon of milk is going for the "great value" of $4.28 in Union City this week. A jug of milk, a loaf of bread, and sales tax - that adds up to one hour behind the cash register. And we've got to eat, folks, even if it's not beef and fresh asparagus.

Do I enjoy my job at Wal-Mart? I like it just fine, and I work with a super bunch of people. Am I glad I have a job? Yes indeed I am. I am thankful for this job every time I swipe my employee discount card at Wal-Mart, knocking about $25 a week off our grocery bill. I'm thankful for this job when I pump gas into the car. I'm thankful for this job today, as I write out a check for the last payment for the fees for Tom's classes at the UTM. Hallelujah!

Is my working outside the home a good thing? Yes.

And No.

My husband and my children no longer get the best of me. Oh, they get the best of me that's left now that I'm running on six hours of sleep a night. Yes, they get the good dinner I put in the oven before I left for work...but they don't have me at the table, participating in the conversation and laughter. They get me less stressed about some of the financial issues...but more stressed about how to juggle schedules. They get me struggling to wake up in the morning and hurrying to get everything done before I leave in the evening.

Women who have never worked outside the home would, I think, have difficulty imagining the thousand small and not-so-small stresses their working sisters shoulder, stresses that inevitably seep out into the life of the family. Likewise, women who have never dedicated themselves to staying at home full-time cannot conceive the thousand small and not-so-small benefits of this more centered lifestyle. All this to say...

This life sure can be hard sometimes!

I know as I write this that some woman will read what I've written and write in defense of her decision to work outside the home, or in defense of her friend. She'll tell me that she really can have the best of both worlds, do it all and do it all excellently. And I can tell you now - she's wrong. She's believing a lie. She may be juggling two worlds without dropping and smashing either, but she is not giving either world her best.

Someone else will read this and say, "That's why I stay home," smugly implying that because she doesn't work outside the home, she must love her family more than the woman who does work. That is a lie, too. While many career women are no doubt motivated in their work by purely selfish reasons, I think many more are working precisely because they do love their families, love them sacrificially.

Wouldn't it be awesome, ladies, if each of us could do it all, could be Wonder Woman?

But, then again, Wonder Woman didn't nurse babies. Even with super-human powers, maybe she understood that she just couldn't do both and still pretend to be a super hero.

Monday, September 19, 2011


"I am having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day! I think I'll move to Australia." Such was my reply when asked how I was doing as I arrived at a ladies' Bible study Saturday morning.

It had been a l-o-n-g week. Late nights at Wal-Mart, along with a few rather distressing incidents while on-the-clock. Not enough sleep, partly because there just aren't enough hours between midnight and 6:00 am to get well-rested, partly because I haven't been able to breathe through my nose for almost three weeks and a person just can't sleep soundly if she's breathing through her mouth. (Amazing how Sahara dry your tongue, cheeks, palate, and throat become - Cough! Choke! Gack!) By the time I flopped into bed Friday night, I was bone-weary, half-way sick, and frustrated at my inability to juggle all the things I needed to handle.

Saturday was going to be my one and only day to sleep late, to hopefully catch up on some badly needed rest. Maybe after a good night's sleep, the world would be a brighter place.

I awoke to banging in the kitchen, a sliver of light falling through the cracked bedroom door. The clock glowed 5:21. Who is up at this ungodly hour? I groaned. Maybe one of the kids was sick... I should probably go check. I stumbled into the kitchen to find two boys decked head-to-toe in camouflage. They were rustling up some breakfast. "What's up guys?"

"We're going dove hunting...wanted to get out in time for the sunrise."

"Oh." Normally, if I know an early morning hunting trip is in the plans, I'll hear the pre-dawn shuffle in the kitchen and then just roll back over and go to sleep. But I hadn't gotten the message about Saturday's dove hunt. So here I stood, a little more than halfway awake, wondering if it would be worth the effort to try to rediscover the delicious refuge of deep sleep. You know how it is - once you're awake, you just kinda flop around in the bed, dozing a little, on and off, but not really resting.

I stumbled back to bed.

I was in one of those gray fuzzy places that is Almost Sleep when Steve rustled. "Time for me to get up if I'm going to get Martha to Martin on time." Martha was participating in Agape House's Walk of Life Saturday morning. Steve rolled out of bed and hit the shower. Where he started singing. It's a good thing that the man sings in the shower - but I wasn't very happy about it Saturday morning. I was glad he was happy and felt like singing...but I was angry that I still wasn't getting to catch up on sleep, on my one day to sleep in late. I pulled the blankets over my head.

Thirty minutes later, I gave up the battle for sleep. Anyway, I needed to make muffins and review my lesson for the ladies' brunch. As I pulled a pan of muffins from the oven, my dove hunters returned, chatting excitedly about their morning's success. In the bubble of conversation, Nate commented that Jake would be getting to the house around 10:00.

"What?!" I asked. "Jake's coming? Today?"

"Yeah. Remember, I told you a couple weeks ago that Jake was going to come up one day so we could site in some rifles together."

"Well, I remember you mentioning it, but I didn't know you had a definite date lined up."

"Yeah. He and Mrs. Donna are coming up today. They should be here in about half an hour."

"But I won't be here!" I wailed. Donna is my sister, and few things feed my soul like time spent in her presence. Here, all of a sudden, I learn that Donna is making the hour drive to my house and that I won't be here to see her. I was mad at my son for not giving me the details of his plans sooner. I was frustrated with myself - what kind of "hostess" has house guests, but isn't home to receive them? I was mad because I felt robbed - it was like knowing the sun would be shining on this particular hill for a few hours, while I was on another hill somewhere in my gray, weary world. I did not leave the house in a very good mood.

Then, I spilled coffee all over myself on the way out of the driveway. And the fuel light came on in the car. And I still couldn't breathe.

As we settled into our study at Laura's house, Ginny asked me to read the first part of our Scripture passage. (Maybe she sensed that I needed to say these words out loud to myself!) "And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming...See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are...Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is..." (from 1 John 2 and 3)

We were reminded Saturday morning of our own desperate brokenness and need; of Christ's sufficiency and loveliness; of God's great, unfaltering love for His children; of His sustaining, life-transforming presence and power as we labor to walk as His children.

I was still tired when I pulled away from Laura's house. I still had an afternoon full of too much to do and a night at Wal-Mart ahead of me. But I wasn't as tired when I pulled away as when I had arrived.

There is rest...and then there is Rest.

Thursday, September 15, 2011


I first tasted this delicious soup at a friend's house. She shared the recipe with me: white beans, chicken, onions, Rotel tomatoes, evaporated milk, 3 tablespoons ground cumin, and 1 tablespoon basil flakes. How's that for specific measurements! This friend is accustomed to cooking for crowds, and commented that the recipe can be expanded as needed by adding extra beans, chicken, broth, or whatever to make it stretch the ratios/proportions are pretty much up to you.

My girls asked if we could have this soup for supper one night this week, so a pot is simmering on the stove as I type. How nice of the weather to turn off cooler just in time for a steaming bowl of spicy soup! Smells so good - I love cumin.

Here's the basic recipe, with measurements I've created over time. (Although tonight, I'm out of evaporated milk - substituting cream instead. Also, instead of using canned white beans, I soaked a pound of dried white beans overnight and then cooked them earlier this afternoon before adding to the soup pot. If you like a little more heat, add an extra can of Rotel. Obviously, this recipe can handle your personal variations!)

Katherine's Bean and Chicken Soup

3 bone-in chicken breast halves
4 15-oz. cans of white beans (great northern beans)
1 can Rotel tomatoes with green chilis
2 large cans evaporated milk
2 medium onions, diced
3 Tbsp. ground cumin
1 Tbsp. dried basil leaves

Cover chicken breasts with water; bring to boil; reduce heat and simmer until tender. Cool. Remove meat from bones and shred; save the broth. In soup pot, saute onions in a little butter or oil until translucent. To softened onions, add chicken, reserved broth, white beans, and tomatoes. Simmer. About twenty minutes before serving, add cumin and basil. Stir evaporated milk into soup just before serving.

I love this soup because it is spicy and creamy - a wonderful combination. Usually, we have mostly liquid left over in the pot after we've dished out bowls of soup for dinner. I save the liquid and add another can of beans for my lunch the next day.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


Pancakes for breakfast this morning - Yum!

I'm on a high-carb diet, and, man, is it working. Amazing how quickly my jeans have become uncomfortably tight!

When I get home from Wal-Mart at 11:30 or 12:00 at night, I'm really not in the mood for a normal dinner. Blech. So I just kinda fumble around the kitchen grabbing whatever sounds good until I decide that sleep is a bigger issue than food. Friday night, for example - Martha had made some super-scrummy bread, so I had a slice of that, with butter of course. Something hot would be good, so I heated up a bowl of leftover rice. I love rice...could eat it every day. And I had a beer - that's my country girl alternative to Lunesta. Then, I went to bed and fell into a sound sleep, while all those carbs spent the night permanently attaching themselves to my behind and my middle.

Other random thoughts....

Thomas bought an amplifier for his electric guitar last week. He also discovered Chuck Berry last week. (Mr. Berry now joins a long list of favorites, which includes ZZ Top, ACDC, Muddy Waters, Shinedown...) The house is rocking.

Tom also got his driver's license last week, and now drives himself to classes at Martin each day. Can you say FREEDOM?! I have learned over the years that if I would be slack or lazy in praying, God allows finds a way to spur me to diligence and fervor.

The coffee fast is OFF. No, I'm not back to half a pot or more a day, but I do drink one or two cups in the morning. Seems to be the only way I can get back on my feet after six hours or less of sleep. Zombies - everyone thinks they're after brains. Nope. It's coffee they want.

I met an old man at Wal-Mart last night who had lost his wife Helen back in April. "My youngest is named Helen," I told him. With no one in line behind him, he stood at my register for a long time, telling me about his wife's illness, the long hospitalization, the trips back and forth to Jackson. He had tears in his eyes the whole time he talked. I'm so glad he shared his Helen with me.

With the milder weather we've been enjoying lately, Martha decided to do her math outside on the front lawn one day last week. She spread a blanket under our one tiny tree (it's name is Elmer), sprawled on her belly, and opened her math book. I looked out the kitchen at one point and had to laugh - the cat was sprawled next to Martha on its back, furry belly exposed to the cool breeze. Three chickens pecked in the grass nearby. Every few minutes, one of the hens would meander onto the blanket, and Martha would push it back off into the grass without even looking up from her book. Gotta love life in the country!

I'm currently participating is a scientific research project. Med schools, doctors' offices, high school science labs,...these all need models of various parts of the human body. Of course, real bones and real organs, etc., would be rather pricey. How to mass produce such models in a cost effective way? Well, the inside of my skull was filled with a thick mixture, somewhat like wet cement, which has since solidified to form a perfect mold of my sinus cavities. When we can figure out how to remove the cast of my sinuses without having to break my skull open, we'll be in business! In the meantime, I can't breathe and am beginning to suffer symptoms of oxygen deprivation. [Yes, Dad, I took the Wal-dryl...but then I passed out at the kitchen table during Helen's math lesson. :( ]

What's going on in your neck of the woods?

Friday, September 9, 2011


Mr. Slack came and tuned our pianos Wednesday. (Yes, pianos. We have two - a blonde and a brunette. How we came to have two pianos is a story for another post.) Mrs. Linda, the girls' piano teacher, had asked Mr. Slack to drive down from Kentucky to tune her multiple pianos, and she wanted to line up as many other jobs as possible to make his trip worthwhile. I knew our pianos hadn't been tuned for several years and that they were probably a little "off," so I signed up for a visit from Mr. Slack. Anyway, he pulled out his tools, sat down at first one piano and then the other, and because twisting pegs. It took Mr. Slack right at two hours to get the job done.

Funny thing is, I didn't think they were particularly out of tune in the first place. Boy was I wrong.

I'd never heard so much creaking, cracking, and string-stretch groaning come from a piano before. Mr. Slack plodded along, adjusting string after string. Not only did he bring each string to pitch, he corrected a few other technical problems - a note here that struck particularly "hard," one here that tended to strike muted and too soft. Those pianos sound like completely different instruments today.

My girls love playing the piano, whether it's in tune or not. They even love practicing. Martha sits at the piano for well over an hour every day, working through song after song. Wednesday afternoon after Mr. Slack left, Martha sat down at the keyboard and fingered through a few scales and chord progressions. She paused. She sat back on the bench, closed her eyes, and breathed a sigh of delight. Then, her back straightened, she leaned forward, and her fingers pressed ecstatically into a song that ripped up and down the keys.

I hadn't realized how bad the pianos had sounded, but once they'd been tuned, I became acutely aware of just how far off-pitch they had both become. And suddenly, I understood the joy of hearing music as it should be.

In my read through the Bible, I am currently in Proverbs and in 2 Corinthians. Over and over, I am encouraged to seek wisdom, to receive reproof, to learn from correction, to forsake folly, to disdain self-promotion. To grow beyond needing just milk, to savoring meat. To rest in Christ's sufficiency, not my own. To find my identity in Christ. To experience the joy of God's presence through a life lived in faith and obedience to His Word. As I read, I learn what is the pure, clear music of a life lived in and for Christ, and I become uncomfortably aware of how "off-pitch" my own heart is.

At Grace on Wednesday nights, we're working through a study on evangelism by Will Metzger, Tell the Truth. (You can get a copy of this excellent book here.) Mr. Metzger hands out some tough assignments. In one appendix, he invites readers to do a self-analysis: Am I broken, or unbroken? It is those who are truly broken, who see their need for and dependence on the Gospel, who can then joyfully, boldly, and effectively communicate the Gospel to others. He asks, "Do you dare to look inside yourself?" Then, he lists and contrasts characteristics of people who are broken or unbroken. Reading through that list exposed how very badly "out of tune" with the Gospel my own heart is prone to be.

Do I have a critical spirit, looking at my own faults with a telescope but at the faults of others with a microscope? Or am I compassionate and forgiving, looking for the best in others?

Am I independent and determined to be self-sufficient? Or am I truly dependent on Christ and the ministry of the body? Do I recognize others' needs?

Am I self-protecting of my time, rights, and reputation? Or am I self-denying?

Do I desire to be a success? Or do I desire to be faithful to make others a success? To advance myself, or to promote others?

Do I feel confident in how much I know? Or am I humbled by how much I have to learn?

Am I self-conscious? Or do I have no concern with self at all?

Do I keep people at arm's length? Or am I willing to take the risks of loving intimately?

Do I deal in generalities when confessing my sin? Or do I deal with specifics?

The list goes on and on and on. Ouch.

It is good for my soul to consider what is good and right and true - whether through reading Scripture, or through the wise counsel of a fellow believer - and it is good for me to be made aware of how far my heart strings still need to be stretched before they sing in tune with my Master's heart. Lots of creaking, popping, and groaning in my own heart at present, but also the awareness that this painful tuning process is to a good and glorious end: under the Father's hand, all shall be made right. And I shall spend eternity praising my King and my Saviour...beautifully.

Monday, September 5, 2011


Emily's cheesecake. Her dark, velvety, decadent devil's food cake. Reuben and Martha's caramel pie. Mom's dutch apple pie. Grammy's chocolate chess pie. Helen's brownies.

On the very rare occasion that I get to eat out at a restaurant, I have no difficulty turning down dessert. When you've got desserts this fantastic at home, everything else is doomed to be a disappointment. The lemon icebox pie that everyone raves about at the local diner? Eeeeew. The chocolate lava cake at our one upscale restaurant? Gooey, but where's the chocolate intensity? Where desserts are concerned, my family has spoiled me. Home-made truly is as good as it gets. And once you've had the good stuff, everything else is just a waste of calories - may be pretty on the plate, but it will be flat on the palate.

Not entirely unlike worship.

Yesterday evening, J.K. introduced a new hymn to our congregation - "O Thou That Hear'st When Sinners Cry." Familiar tune, new words. Rich, savory, soul-edifying words. Six verses, and it was a delight to sing them all. Glancing at the bottom of the page, I wasn't surprised to discover this was another jewel penned by the master hymn writer Isaac Watts, a man peculiarly gifted at setting deep theological truths to music. Taste this stuff, and singing "Shine, Jesus, Shine" suddenly feels more like a Pop Tart binge.

The Word of God, preached clearly, boldly, unapologetically. Some of it encouraging, some of it sobering; some driving us to brokenness and repentance, other passages, to doxology. All of it ringing with the majesty and holiness and glory of God, with the great mercy He has shown us in Christ, with the claim and the high calling He has placed on each of us as His children. Rich, savory, soul-edifying preaching and teaching. Taste this stuff, and "Your Best Life Now" takes on the flavor of a bologna sandwich, without the mustard...may satisfy a craving, but it doesn't provide any substantial nourishment.

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6). I heard it explained once that the language used in this passage referred to "touching the palate." In other words, a Hebrew mother would take a small amount of soft food and touch it to her young child's palate, thus developing in him an appetite for certain kinds of food, an appetite and a preference that would continue with the individual throughout his life. Given the strict dietary regulations and the necessity of being able to distinguish between clean and unclean foods, it's easy to see why this would be an important part of a Hebrew child's education.

O, that God would give us, His children, discerning palates, that we would be satisfied with nothing less than knowing Him as He has revealed Himself in his Word. With nothing less than worshiping Him with all our hearts and souls and minds and strength. O, that we would be satisfied with nothing less than Himself.

Friday, September 2, 2011


Questions couples should ask each other if they are considering marriage:

*Does the toilet paper dispense from over the roll or under the roll?
*Do you squeeze the toothpaste from the bottom of the tube or from the middle?
*Do you roll socks before folding them together, making a tight ball, or do you just fold them over into a loose tube?
*What kind of emotions does the "E" on your car's gas tank trigger in you?
*Do you consider an iron an essential household appliance?
*Do you prefer having all of the lights in the house On or Off?
*Is the opening day of deer season a significant day on your calendar, trumping any other family or church-related event?
*Do you consider vegetables an essential part of a healthy diet? Do you like vegetables?
*Red wine - room temperature, or slightly chilled?
*Do you sleep better in a dark, quiet room, or do you prefer some kind of soft light and a radio playing in the background?

When Steve and I first married, I thought we were so much alike. Two peas in a pod. We could never possibly disagree on anything, because we had the same likes and dislikes, the same values, the same quirks and preferences. A marriage made in heaven.

Boy, was I wrong! We both had a lot to learn from each other!

Nowadays, Steve always puts the toilet seat down after using the restroom. Me, I've learned to scrape the butter from the top of the stick instead of slicing a pat from the end. Nowadays, Steve turns his socks right-side-out before putting them in the laundry, and I don't get majorly freaked out by laundry piled in the floor.

How long did this learning to live together take us? Well, we're still working on it. And that's at 27 years and counting.

Yes, we get frustrated with each other. Sometimes, downright angry. We sometimes hurt each other's feelings, neglect each other's needs, disregard each other's concerns or preferences. But we are committed to this relationship and believe that, even with all of life's annoyances and trials, this marriage has real value, both now and for eternity. The value of the work that God is doing in each of us through the vehicle of marriage is huge compared against the bumps and scrapes and bruises of life together.

I do not always love my husband like I should. I do not love my children perfectly, either. My church family - do I always get it right there? Nope. And you know what? None of these people love me perfectly, either. But by God's grace, we are learning what it means - a little at a time, day by day - to have and to extend and to live the love of Christ.

I did not know 27 years ago that Steve's tendency to stack papers here and there would get on my nerves. (Me, I'm a "Don't pile it - file it" girl. Well, I used to be!) I did not know that closet doors left slightly ajar could be so offensive. But I did know that I loved that red-headed man. And I still do. My learning to live with the piles and cracked doors has been part of my learning to live with and to appreciate a unique individual.

My kids...this one has guns and hunting gear crammed in every nook and cranny. That one plays his music louder than I prefer. Another tapes things all over the walls. One writes notes all over her arms, like a grocery-list tattoo. One takes waaaay too long in the bathroom on Sunday morning. They are not like me - but they are beautiful, and I am learning to love and enjoy them. Because I'm their Mom, and I'm in this for the long-haul.

What about my church family? Am I committed to the local body of believers? Susie talks too much, and I think Sally dresses immodestly. Sam turns every single conversation into something heavy and theologically challenging - Lighten up, buddy! I don't think Stuart and Sarah control their kids very well - Can't you get them to sit still and be quiet? Shane sings too loudly and too slowly and drags the music down. Sharon always has way too many prayer requests. And Sandra, her life is all one great huge drama after another - exhausting!

It would be tempting to think, "I want to find a church where people are more like me. Where people look and act and think like I think they I want them to act." But that's not what this faith is about. Christ didn't save me so that I could be a member of a family that would make me comfortable, that would meet my expectations, that would conform to my preferences. He made me a member of His family, where I can learn from and teach my brothers and sisters - not because we are exactly alike, but because we are unique individuals, with unique perspectives, experiences, and personalities. I've learned over the years: if I'm too comfortable at church/with my church family, I am probably not growing.

So what holds this messy, mixed-up family of faith together? Christ. He's in it for the long haul. He knows - and He is teaching me - that this body of believers, the church, has value way beyond my personal comfort, my likes and dislikes. Am I committed to my local church even through change and growth, through bumps and bruises? By God's grace (Help me, Jesus!), Yes. Because this truly is a marriage made in heaven.