Tuesday, May 27, 2014


A few of my favorite snapshots from the recent holiday weekend...

Steve, buzzing about the house like a bee, checking projects off his To-Do list. Over the long weekend, he finished putting shelves in Helen's closet, built and installed a mantle over the fireplace, put extra towel hooks in the downstairs bathroom, worked on the window boxes in the upstairs bedrooms, and cleaned a ton of junk off the porch. Pretty amazing, huh?

Baby spam!!! Suddenly, Emily and Dennis and the grandbaby don't seem quite so far away.

Coffee with Nate on the front porch Sunday morning before church.

Reuben, strolling around the house strumming the ukulele and singing. A top-of-the-steps front porch conversation with a summer shower playing in the background.

Helen and Carly laughing together as they saddle Little John and take turns riding him around the yard. When they are brushing him down afterward, it's funny to hear them both talking to Little John as well as to each other, a three-way conversation between two young beauties and a horse.

Ben and a friend pull out watercolor paints, paper, and brushes and sit down at the kitchen table to paint. Eventually, almost every person in the house joins the art session - a table full of young adults, dipping brushes, heads bowed, chatting.

A game of catch in the front yard. A handstand challenge. Sliding over to make room for one more person on the porch swing. Pulling out the long-neglected BB guns to shoot at paper cups. A juggling demonstration. Ridiculous puns and random lines from stupid movies.

So much sweetness to savor!

Friday, May 23, 2014


I've heard that if you want to be successful in business, it is important to "dress the part" - you know, kind of visualize yourself in the role already, play the part, do a little self-actualization.

Do you want to be a fit and trim athlete, but you are nowhere near fit and trim? Don't head to the gym in the saggy sweatpants with holes in the knees and the stained t-shirt you wear to mow the yard. Get yourself some good shoes, a sports bra, and a pair of stretchy pants. It'll do wonders for your motivation.

You want to get into the local gossip loop with the old men at the coffee shop? Do not show up tomorrow morning wearing skinny jeans, a tight tank top, and spiked hair. I guarantee the old timers will not open up to you about town secrets - they may not even let you pull up a chair at their table.

I would really like to be a successful writer. Successful as in have an agent, and a publisher, and a national marketing campaign, and substantial sales. So, I've given a little bit of thought to "dressing the part." But I have a question: what does a successful writer look like when she goes out in public? Honestly, I have no idea.

Baby steps. Several months ago, I decided that, as often as possible, I would take the time to actually put on make-up before heading in to town. I don't have a fun, funky, writerly wardrobe, so I made small commitments in the clothing department: no more running to Troy in the shorts I wear to work in the garden, and if I wear flip-flops, my toenails will be painted. No shirts that are too snug around the middle (why do all my shirts keep shrinking?), and I'll shave my legs at least once a week.

I can't tell if the whole "dress the part" exercise is helping or not, and sometimes, it's a frustrating challenge. Pretending to be - and to look like - a successful writer doesn't really mesh with my other jobs and activities. Like today...

Exercise class first thing this morning at the fitness studio in Troy - I want to get fit and healthy, so I show up at Caroline's at 7:30 every weekday morning. I dress the part:  athletic shoes, stretchy pants, support under garments, water bottle.

Back home after exercise class, I have just enough time to plant the cantaloupe in the garden and finish mulching around the young melons before heading out to Martin. Gardener. Dress the part:  gardening shorts, the shoes I wear for yard work, a tank top that I wouldn't be caught dead in out in public.

After an hour of sweating profusely in the garden, it's time to run inside, shower, and change clothes so I can drive Helen to a piano audition. As the mother of an incredibly talented pianist, I suppose I should pull on nice slacks or a skirt. However, on the way home from the piano audition, I also have to run by the library, pick up more mulch at the garden center, stop by Wal-Mart for groceries, get gas for the van, and make a quick stop at the feed supply store for a couple more t-posts.

Forget the skirt. I chose a clean pair of jeans and a not-too-snug shirt, and my fancy red flip-flops. Thankfully, my toenails were already painted.

Anyway, all of this to say:  as a mom (aka, fitness queen, cook, gardener, music supporter, library patron, gas station attendant, farm girl, professional shopper, writer, blah, blah, blah), I can't figure out how on earth to "dress the part" without having to go through half a dozen changes of clothes in a day.

This would-be writer wears jeans and t-shirts. Why? Because on my way out the door to meet the public, I very well may have to take a detour to chase my ridiculous chickens out of the garden. Or I may have to stop and load bags of mulch into the van or get gas for the lawn mower or drop a greasy car part off to be tested at the auto parts store.

I really do want to "dress the part," but I just can't figure out which "part" to "dress." This is as tricky as juggling cats.

I need help.


Friday, May 16, 2014


Slow evolution...

It feels like we turned the calendar back toward winter here in Obion County. Brrrr! Summer was here last week - gone today - will be back again next week. Soon, summer will be here to stay. But at the moment, I am feeling pretty chilly!

Ben and Reuben prepped the garden a couple of weeks ago, covered it with newspaper and mulch. They planted a few things. A couple days later, they planted a few more things. Yesterday, I picked up some cantaloupe and squash plants - hope to get those in the ground this afternoon.

Helen finished her language arts curriculum last week. Next week, she'll work the last problem set in her Algebra 2 book. The week after that, she finishes Biology. The end of May seems a long way off, but, soon, we will complete 9th grade and will officially be on summer break. Yay!

Rewrite #2 of Book #2 is complete - woohoo! Busy weekend ahead this weekend, then, next week, time to buckle down and conquer round three of editing. Proofing. Formatting. Loading. I had hoped to have the second book ready for release by the end of May, but it looks like launch will be mid-June instead.

I feel like I'm living in a time warp. The closer we get to checking some things off, it seems work on those things shifts into slow motion. Like being trapped in a perpetual state of "almost there."

Wednesday, May 14, 2014


In my annual read through the Bible, I am currently in 2 Kings. It's amazing how whether I'm on schedule, ahead, or behind in my reading, the words I read each day are timely - surgically precise, in fact - speaking to exactly what I am dealing with or whatever has been on my mind.

Today, I read in Chapter 17 about how the king of Assyria imported people from Babylon to occupy the conquered territory of Israel. (The Hebrews had been deported to Assyria because of their disobedience to God, just in case you were wondering.) Because these pagan newcomers did not know or honor God, God sent lions among them and many of the people were ending up as kitty chow. To remedy the lion problem, the king of Assyria had one of the Hebrew priests shipped back from exile in Assyria to teach the new residents how to honor the God of that land. While this remedied the lion problem, it did not remedy the people's even greater heart problem.

Here is how everything shook down:

The people made gods of their own and worshiped them, but they also feared the LORD and paid homage to Him. Exit the man-eating lions. 2 Kings 17 concludes:  "So these nations feared the LORD and also served their carved images. Their children did likewise, and their children's children - as their fathers did, so they do to this day" (2 Kings 17: 41).

One thing I find very disturbing about this passage is that, in the five verses (vv.35-40) leading up to the sad conclusion in verse 41, the exhortation "You shall not fear other gods" is stated over and over and over. "The LORD commanded them...'You shall not fear other gods, but you shall fear the LORD your God, and he will deliver you out of the hand of all your enemies.' However, they would not listen, but they did according to their former manner." (vv.38b-40).

Okay, so how does this particular passage speak directly to the things that have been troubling my mind lately?

If you read my last post, you know that I have been feeling convicted about the "cheapness" of my own obedience and life of faith - unlike King David, I am quite willing to offer sacrifices that cost me nothing. I encounter an inconvenience and elevate it to the level of sacrifice, then expect that God will be glorified and I will be blessed.

If you read the post before that, you know that I've been in a stew lately about the cost of education.

Both of these issues melded together in the passage in 2 Kings. "Yes, this is exactly what I'm talking about!" I thought as I read this morning.

I know my thinking can be a bit squirrely, so let me explain...

Concerning education, so many people want to honor God - to teach their children to fear and love and worship Him. However, they also want to serve their old gods - money (someone else should pay for my child's education), convenience (someone else should teach my child), social status (my kids need to be integrated into the local school community), etc. Even we homeschoolers, we pretend to fear God while serving our "carved images" - self-righteousness (I'm more righteous because I homeschool), rebelliousness (I'll do whatever I want - nobody's going to tell me what to do!), idolatry (I can do it all myself because I'm SuperWoman), etc.

We want to raise our children in the fear and admonition of the LORD, to speak to them of God's laws when we rise up and when we lie down and when we go out and when we walk along the way - but we want it to be easy. We want to honor God, but without costly sacrifice - I surely don't want to give up my career, or my nice house, or my standing in the community. I want to "fear God" - but I want to do that right alongside my service to the gods of self-righteousness, self-sufficiency, convenience, and comfort.

And the very, very sad thing is, just like those Babylonians living in Israel, I am teaching my children to do exactly the same.

I am teaching them that they can have both worlds. They can be full-time students of a state that deprecates God and simultaneously be ardent disciples of Christ. They can "sacrifice" without cost, and simultaneously bow the knee to their own selfish desires. They can "fear God" while glorifying themselves.

Reading ahead in Scripture, I find that these are all lies, lies that lead to separation from God, exile, bondage, and, ultimately, death.

As a Christian parent, I want clear, easy choices concerning my children. And often, when there's a difficult decision to make or a conflict to resolve, I want someone else to fix things. But God doesn't give me easy options or easy solutions. Instead, He demands that I fear Him and trust Him to "fix things." Not trust Him a little bit, augmented by my confidence in myself or in my resources or in my government - no, trust Him alone, and trust Him completely.

Oh, that God would so capture my heart that I could live daily in the knowledge of the truth that there is no other god, none. Oh, that He would compel me to tear down the "carved images" that I would erect alongside Him. Oh, that He would so impress upon me His holiness and majesty and beauty and mercy that I would eagerly desire to make extravagant sacrifices as acts of joyful worship and praise. Oh, that I would be so consumed with love for my God that, instead of scampering about looking for an easy "out" to His claims upon my life, I would instead be diligently seeking to go "further up and further in."

Monday, May 12, 2014


"I will not offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God that cost me nothing." - King David, as recorded in 2 Samuel 24:24

As a Christian, I am called to make offerings to God, sacrifices of praise and gratitude. I am told that I must die to myself and seek instead to live to Christ. I am told that my body is to be a "living sacrifice" and that I am not to be conformed to this world (Romans 12:1-2). I am told that this "living sacrifice" - this giving over of myself - is spiritual worship, and that God desires those who will worship Him in spirit and in truth.

We have so cheapened the meaning of the word "sacrifice" in our day. I "sacrifice" technology during Lent as an act of worship. I "sacrifice" my time to devote it to running my kids to ball practice or piano lessons. I "sacrifice" my one morning to sleep late in order to go to church. I "sacrifice" dessert in hopes of losing a little weight.

Folks, that is not sacrifice. That is inconvenience.

I think it's interesting that merriamwebster.com gives the following as the most commonly used definition for sacrifice:  "the act of giving up something that you want to keep especially in order to get or do something else or to help someone." What a  thoroughly modern definition! We are such big babies that we think inconvenience, or delayed gratification, or helping someone else deserves a weighty term like "sacrifice"!

We are so easily inclined to give sacrifices that cost us little to nothing. We are Dollar Tree Christians, offering cheap trinkets and baubles to the God of the universe, and then having the audacity to speak of "sacrifice."

I am reminded of the widow mentioned at the beginning of Luke 21. She dropped two small copper coins in the offering box. Jesus said of her, "Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live one" (Luke 21:3-4).

The gift was not expensive, but it was everything she had. And there is no indication that she expected anything in return for her gift. That, folks, sounds like truly sacrificial giving.

Me, on the other hand - I'm prone to think I'm giving sacrificially any time I have to endure discomfort, or any time there's an alteration in my plans or a compromise of my standard of living or a deviation from my personal goals or a denial of my personal desires. But that is not sacrifice: that is simply inconvenience!

I am ashamed of how greatly I have inflated the value of my piddly little so-called sacrifices. My Dollar Tree Christianity has served only to exalt myself and to devalue the God I profess to love.

God, grant me the grace of repentance, that I may turn from the sin of offering what costs me nothing. Grant me instead the grace to give You all that I am and all that I have.

Friday, May 9, 2014



People, there is no such thing as a free education.


Got that?

Some folks erroneously think that their children can get a "free" education at the local public school. Wrong. Here in Obion County, the local board of education reported that in the 2011-12 school year, they spent $8409 per student on so-called "free" education. Folks, $8409 is not "free."

Poking around on-line, I found that the nearest private school, Christ Classical Academy in Dyersburg, listed tuition rates as $3600-$6625 per school year, depending on grade level. That is also not "free."

I'm a homeschool mom. School is cheaper for my family now than in previous years because we are re-using textbooks we purchased for the older kids; however, homeschooling is not by any means free. Tallying up registration fees, textbooks, music lessons, etc., for one student, I estimate that we've probably spent about $1500 this year on school. Back when I had seven kids at home around the kitchen table, the total was definitely higher.

Recently, I've had multiple conversations with parents who are considering homeschooling. However, these folks keep running up against a huge stumbling block: they want education to be free.

Of course, they don't say that outright. No, instead they say things like...

"If I homeschool my kids, I'll have to give up my job to stay home and teach them." Translation: "Homeschooling costs money (as in giving up a second income), and I'm not sure I want to pay the cost. I mean, my kids' education should be free - I shouldn't have to pay for it myself."


"I can't afford private school tuition, but maybe I can find someone to tutor my kids at home for a minimal fee." Translation: "I really don't want to pay what a good education is worth - it should  be free, after all - but maybe I can convince some poor, bored stay-at-home mom to do the job for a pittance." (BTW, paying someone else to "homeschool" your kids for you is NOT homeschooling, and, at least with the umbrella school where my kids were registered, is not even allowed.)


"Barb should teach my kids for me, as a ministry, an act of Christian service. She's good at teaching, and she doesn't have anything else to do with her time anyway." Translation:  "I don't want to send my kids to public school. I can't afford private school. I want to homeschool my kids, but I don't want to sacrifice my career, my time, my freedom, my finances - I mean, after all, my kids' education should be free."

In addition to the $$$$ that must be shelled out for each child, there are other less-objective educational costs: worldview/philosophy, socialization, safety, etc. These aspects of education don't have a price tag on them, yet they are potentially of much greater value than the cost of textbooks or a teacher's salary.

People, education is not free. Never was. Never will be. Public education is not free. Private education is not free. Homeschool education is not free.

That said, the challenge facing parents is deciding how much they want to spend on their child's education (monetarily, professionally, socially, philosophically) and where they want to spend it.

Why, you ask, am I stating the obvious?

Why? Because I'm a little weary of parents coming up to me and whining about how much education costs and how they just don't know what they're going to do and is there anything I can do to make the process and the decisions easier for them (ie, education should be free).

These are two-income parents, driving late model cars, living in nice houses, taking annual vacations, buying the latest technology, wearing the latest fashions...

...and they are whining to a woman who fed her kids almost exclusively oatmeal and PBJ's when they were little, who doesn't know what it's like to drive a vehicle with less than 180,000+ miles, who only went to the doctor when she was 7 months pregnant or bleeding to death, who thinks a "vacation" is eating dinner at Grammy's.

I have reconsidered the cost of staying home and educating my kids - the very high cost of their education - and it was worth every sacrifice, every PBJ sandwich, every missed summer vacation, every vehicle breakdown on the side of the road, every untreated medical condition, every missed career opportunity. Absolutely, unquestionably worth the cost.

But it's starting to get up my nose when these other parents come to me whining and wringing their hands. I understand how hard the decisions are that these parents are facing - I really do. But I am running out of sympathy.

One of my young-adult children has a saying: "You signed up for the job. Quit complaining."


What he said.

Monday, May 5, 2014


Scraped thin, like too little butter over too much bread...

I had just related to a friend at a meeting that I felt like a horse that was stumbling in the harness. Faltering. Going down. "Like one of those pitiful nags in Black Beauty that pulled a cart until it collapsed in the harness, and then was cut loose and left to die in the nasty streets of London," I joked.

Not more than five minutes later, another friend approached me. "We have this job we really need you to do for us..."

"No, I can't," I replied.

"But we need you," she pressed.

"I'm sorry. I really can't take this on right now."

"But you have to," she insisted. "You don't have a choice!"

I'm not afraid to say No - it's something I've been working on for years. I'm much more proficient at saying No than I used to be.

Still, I don't quite know how to respond to people who won't take no for an answer, who insist that I must do what I have expressly stated that I am absolutely incapable of doing.

I've read tips for saying No effectively...

Use emphatic language: "It would be impossible for me to do that."

Use body language:  Hold your hand in front of you in a "stop" gesture as you say No.

Use diversionary tactics:  Say No and then immediately change the subject to something different.

But sometimes, even these strategies do not work. Then what?

Today, Readers, I'm asking for your input. Actually, I'm pleading. How do you say "No" effectively, without being rude? I could really use your input!

Friday, May 2, 2014


When you are a married woman, and you give birth to a baby girl and then, two years later, a baby boy, people assume you are "done" having kids.

"Wow! A girl and a boy - you are so lucky!" Seems the assumption is, whew!, you don't have to keep trying for the gender you haven't yet had. Thank God that you got what you wanted - one of each - on your first two pregnancies.

So, with four kids in my nest already, my turning up pregnant again did not elicit the "Wow! You're so lucky!" comments. No, I had been promoted to "What? Are you crazy? You're done having kids now, right? This is ridiculous!"

My OB assumed that when I delivered this fifth baby, surely my last baby, I would want to have my tubes tied. Do something permanent to prevent this from happening again.

But I wasn't ready.

"I feel like someone is missing," I explained.

When you are a mom of a bunch of kids, you spend a lot of time counting heads. "1-2-3-4," I checked off my list. Yep, all present and accounted for. At the grocery store. At church. At the park. At the zoo. Seems I was always counting. And I wasn't at ease until everyone had been counted and I knew that all my chickens were with their mama hen.

So, with this fifth pregnancy, I had a vague sense that someone was missing. I was afraid that when I started counting "1-2-3-4-5," there would be the great uneasiness that comes from knowing I had missed someone.

About five or six months into the pregnancy, my doctor ordered an ultrasound. By this point, after several pregnancies, I could read the black and white ultrasound monitor just about as well as the technician.

The tech placed the ultrasound scope on my swollen belly. Immediately, I recognized the white ring that was the baby's skull. "This is your baby's head," she began, then slid the device across my abdomen, "and here is your baby's...."

Well, it was obvious to me:  that white circle was the baby's other head.

"Hang on a minute." The technician went back to her starting point. "Here is your baby's head." She slid the device across my belly again. "And here is..."

She sat back in her seat and looked hard at the screen a moment. I was biting my lip, trying not to giggle.

"Well," the tech finally continued, "did you know you are having twins?" She looked at me with raised eyebrows.

"I do now!" I laughed.

And so I was right:  there was someone missing. Only that someone wasn't missing at all. She was right there all along:  1-2-3-4-5-6. (Which still wasn't a full nest. Where was #7?)

My fifth pregnancy resulted in these two cutie-patooties. A boy and a girl. One of each. Wow! I certainly AM a lucky mama, don't you think?

Happy birthday, beautiful babies!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

ADBC Fitness Studio

In my last post, I complained (so sorry) about how I'd been fighting one of those skull-cracker headaches that just hangs on for days and days and days. That kind of headache makes writing almost impossible. And writing, for me, is a definite stress reliever. And cumulative stress aggravates the headaches. Which makes it difficult to think clearly and to focus and to write. Which...

You get the idea. It's a lousy cycle to get stuck in!

Today is day two of no pain meds. My stomach feels much happier. And the ache in my head now is like random raindrops in a puddle after a long storm, an occasional drip!/twinge, tapering away to nothing.

And the sky is BLUE today, and the sun is shining.

And best of all, I started today with yoga at the little fitness studio on the square in Troy.

What? Haven't heard about it?

I think ADBC Fitness Studio is the best kept secret in our rural little corner of the world.
ADBC Fitness Studio, located on the town square in Troy, TN
The narrow store front really doesn't give passers-by a fair indication of the big things that go on inside this exercise studio. Owner Caroline Duncan offers fitness classes for younger people and seniors, and personal training for individuals. She even has an extremely fit and aggressive team of folks training for the Tough Mudder run that will be held in Nashville in a couple of weeks.

I participate in the morning fitness class which begins at 7:30. Three days a week we do a cardio workout. One day a week, we target particular muscle groups with a weight workout. And Thursdays we have yoga.

I enjoy all the classes - the exercise, the people, the conversation. But my very favorite class is yoga on Thursdays. It's like the chocolate cake you treat yourself to after eating your cauliflower and Brussels sprouts. (Hmm, maybe that's not such a great analogy for a fitness class!)

So, anyway, I've been fighting this nagging headache. And I haven't been writing. Blegh. I commented to Helen yesterday, "I just want to have a day when I feel great!, when I can get excited about working on the book again."

After yoga with Erica this morning, I believe that today is that day.

I love my hometown!