Thursday, September 29, 2016


Yet she will be saved through childbearing - if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control. - 1 Timothy 2:15

I am not a theologian.

No, that's not right...we are all theologians, every single one of us.

What I mean is, I am not a theologian in the sense of someone who has learned Hebrew and Greek and who has studied for years at distinguished seminaries and who has multiple advanced degrees.

I was too busy learning nursery rhymes and relearning Algebra and studying how to feed and clothe an army of children...too busy to even think about higher education. (Would I be called a Mom-ologian, maybe? No, that's not right either.)

I am not going to try to exposit the above verse - what it does and does not mean for an individual woman, for women in general, for humanity, for the church. But I am going to say, with a very full and grateful heart...

I have known dark days when I have wondered exactly how fast I would need to drive into the concrete base of an overpass to put an end to my toil...but the thought of my children brought me safely home.

I have blindly drunk poison - ignorance, self-righteousness, bigotry, passivity, bitterness, despair - and my children have time and again dashed the cup from my hand.

I have had my heart broken so completely that I thought it incapable of loving anymore...only to have my children nurse my wounded heart, gently, patiently, until its faint pulse grew strong once more.

My children have taught me to see with new eyes, to hear with new ears, to love with greater passion, and to look ahead with more fervent hope.

They have made my sorrow small and my joy BIG and my heart very, very full.

Emily, Reuben, Nate, Tom, Ben, Martha, and Helen - thank you, thank you, thank you!

Thank you, Dennis and Justin and Abby and Carly.

Thank you, Geneva and Lizzy and Felix and Jules.

Thank you, Jesus, for the children - and through them, for the life - you have given me .

Tuesday, September 27, 2016


I ventured into the attic a couple of months ago in search of school books I needed for Helen's fall semester.

Normally, I don't go into the attic. I send one of the kids. Climbing up and down the ladder hurts my knees, and walking stooped over in the narrow corridor beneath the roof hurts my back.

I can't even remember the last time I went over-ceiling before my recent ascent up the rickety pull-down ladder. Whenever I last went up, it was way too long ago.

There are two kinds of people in this world: those who clean up/clean out, and those who stack up/move piles. (Actually, there are more than two kinds of people in the world, but right now, I'm thinking about cleaners and pilers.)

Contrary to what you might think when you first walk into my house, I am not a piler. I am a clean-out-er. However, I live among a great and glorious company of pilers, and, although they appreciate being able to find clean underwear in the morning ("Thanks, Mom!"), they do not typically appreciate my urge to try to keep things tidy ("Who moved that stack of papers I set right here on the end of the kitchen counter last October?!").

But, back to the attic.


You know that scene in Going Postal where Moist Von Lipwig gets sucked down and buried alive by the mountains of mail piled ceiling-high in the post office? My attic could very well have been Terry Pratchett's inspiration for that terrifying scene. Stephen King could make my attic the setting for his next best-selling horror novel.

When I first poked my head through the attic opening, I was a bit overwhelmed by the mounds of clutter. Overwhelmed, as in, I had to sit down and do Lamaze breathing to avert a panic attack. When I finally climbed back down the ladder, the invisible weight of all that clutter pressed down on me.

There was no way I could clean out the attic. The mess was too big. My knees and my back would never survive. But I knew there was also no way I could carry on here below with the knowledge of all that weighty chaos threatening to crash through the ceiling.

So I came up with a plan: when the temperature cooled down outside, I would haul one bag/box out of the attic per week.

Today, there is a slight nip of fall in the air outside. Today, I ventured up into the attic again.


Breathe in, hold it...focus...FOCUS!...breathe out, slowly...

I actually hauled out TWO bags of trash before my knees made my jaw clench and my eyes water. Not that you would be able to tell, though - two bags of trash made no noticeable dint in the clutter.

I am not discouraged, though. I know that if I haul down another bag of trash next week, and another the week after that, and then another...if I persevere and keep cleaning out the junk a little at a time...gradually, eventually, perhaps by the time I turn eighty-five, I will finish this task. I will!

(WARNING: If you are the stack up/move piles type, a ghoul will eat you alive if you stick so much as one hairy toe into the attic before I am done. And if you somehow survive the ghoul, I will whistle for Cujo. Love you! - Mom)

Tuesday, September 20, 2016


When I finished grading my student's math test, the page had more red ink on it than black. Despite the fact that he did well on his homework assignments, he totally bombed the end-of-chapter exam.

He looked at the bleeding paper. "Does this mean I failed?"

"Failed?" I answered. "No, this doesn't mean you failed. This means we need to go over the lesson again, until you understand the new concepts better."

We took a couple of days and worked through the chapter again. I created a second test. This time, my young student aced his exam. "That's better!" he exclaimed.

"Yes, that's much better!" I agreed.

One of the benefits of homeschooling is that when a student has difficulty with a particular subject - such as fractions or subject-verb agreement or science vocabulary - we are free to take the time needed to go back and figure out the problem. We can review and practice until the student understands his mistakes and is able to correct them.

Our goal is to learn. The goal is not: take a test on Friday and then begin the next chapter on Monday, whether you understand the previous material or not.

"Pass" and "Fail" are not legal sentences, where pass means the student is exonerated and fail means he is condemned. No, a test score is more like a litmus. It helps us assess our situation. A failing grade means we still have much to learn in a particular area. A passing grade means we are ready move on to the next lesson.

At Grace on Sunday mornings, Brother Billy is preaching through the book of Matthew. Currently, we are studying the Beatitudes. Near the conclusion of Sunday's message, Brother Billy shared that some theologians and commentators refer to the Beatitudes as a type of test: as Christians, we should be merciful, we should hunger and thirst for righteousness, we should be meek, etc.; when we examine our lives, do we find these things to be true of us?

Concerned that the congregation might misunderstand the intent of this "test," Bro. Billy gave an example. As a homeschool dad, he explained, when he gives his daughter a test, his desire is not to fail her. His desire is for her to learn and for her to pass. He wants her to grow and to improve and to excel.

I loved his example: as a homeschool mom, it is one to which I can easily relate!

Let's develop this example a little further...

Do I think God is watching me, waiting for me to fail, eager to whip out His red ink and stamp "FAIL!" across my life? When I do fail - which happens too often - do I think, "Well, I totally blew that," and then throw in the towel?

- OR -

Do I imagine that God is watching me, waiting, eager to see me learn and grow and succeed so that He can say "Well done!"? When I do fail - which happens too often - do I think, "Wow, God, I totally blew that. Please, let's go over this lesson again. I need for you to teach me more. Thank you for being so patient!"?

Dear fellow Christian, we do not have to be afraid of failing. We have an excellent Teacher. His desire is to see us "pass" - He will make sure that we do. He used up all his red ink at the Cross.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016


If you don't believe that gender discrimination exists today in America, then you obviously are not married-with-a-vehicle.

I am convinced that automobiles, household appliances, and all things electronic not only differentiate between male and female users, but these things alter their performance in favor of males.

Earlier this summer, after loosing close to a quarter of my body weight in sweat when I mopped the floors and cleaned the bathrooms, I told my husband the air conditioner was not working up to speed. Okay, maybe I'm exaggerating. Maybe I didn't really sweat quite that much. But my point is: the house was hot.

When my husband got home, he checked out the air conditioner. Everything seemed to be working fine. And it actually did seem to be cooling okay, after his inspection. At least for a little while.

Then summertime cranked up the heat and humidity again. Ummm, nope, the AC was most definitely not working. Either that, or I was having one long-lasting hot flash.

Eventually, the AC forgot that it was supposed to cool when The Man was home, and not cool when it was just The Woman. Or maybe it forgot that my husband was due in from Memphis. The AC inadvertently did its I'm-not-going-to-work trick while my husband was home. Busted! Steve got the repairman out and had the thing fixed.

And then there is the van. When I drive the van, it sounds like a rickety Tin Lizzy off of a Bugs Bunny cartoon. Seriously, I half expect the engine to fall out from under the hood and go bouncing down the road. And it dies randomly, like dying randomly is its version of a practical joke.

When my husband is in the van, all those awful noises vanish into a whisper. I don't think it has even once died in the middle of an intersection with my husband inside.

The van knows when a man is on board. It knows, and it "simpers and sighs and makes love to us all," as Mr. Bennett said of the odious Mr. Wickham. When it's just us girls, however, the van throws off all pretense: it bucks and brays and wallows down the road like a drunk rhinoceros.

Refrigerators, washing machines, thermostats, wifi routers, engines...these things have some special kind of sense, obviously. They know the difference between men and women, and they give men preferential treatment.

I protest! It is time to put an end to such gender discrimination! But how?

Be warned: if you bump into me at Walmart the next time I drive into town for groceries, I may be wearing a fake mustache.

Friday, September 9, 2016


From -

Agency (noun): the capacity, condition, or state of acting or of exerting power

Advocate (verb): to support or argue for (a cause, policy, etc.); to plead in favor of

If I lack agency, I lack the ability or power to take action to change my circumstances or to address my problems.

If I lack the ability to advocate, I am unable to give verbal support to defend or promote my opinions or ideas, or to engage in physical activity conducive to effective, positive change.

Ironically, it is often those most intimately acquainted with an injustice or a trauma or with a should-not-be-this-way life situation who feel most keenly a a lack of agency and a crippling inability to advocate. Those who know and understand a problematic situation best, those who have first-hand battle experience, frequently find themselves incapacitated by a kind of shell-shock-induced paralysis.

Sometimes this paralysis is self-imposed: a resigned passivity that is simply emotionally and physically easier than any type of intentional, ongoing activity.

Sometimes this paralysis is learned. "Fool me once: shame on you. Fool me twice: shame on me." Attempts at agency or advocacy that result in repeated failure can cause a person to believe, "Nothing I do helps. I can't do anything to change this situation." And so they give up trying.

Sometimes this paralysis is culturally imposed. I am a woman. I have experienced first hand dismissive or belittling treatment from men who behave as if women have nothing of value to bring to the table of life besides sex, dinner, and a freshly-ironed shirt. However, when I have tried to address such attitudes, I have repeatedly encountered responses that go something like, "Oh, of course you would think women need to be treated with more respect: you're a woman, after all!"

Because I am a woman, it is assumed, I am incapable of anything like an objective perspective concerning the treatment of women. The men I've addressed, on the other hand - because they are not women and therefore do not have my "vested interest" - think they are somehow capable of completely objective opinions!

I read recently that most people do not "listen to understand" - they "listen to respond." In other words, most of us are not very interested in learning what lies behind another person's words - what they are thinking or feeling, their experiences, their concerns. Instead, we are interested in formulating our own erudite responses to whatever it is the other person feels a need to express - why their opinions or concerns are unfounded, why they are wrong, why they are irrelevant or inconsequential.

Listening to respond is all about me - about promoting my thoughts, my opinions, my self. Listening to understand is about the other person - about wanting to better understand their thoughts and experiences and concerns.

I am guilty of listening to respond. I am tired of listening with such tiny ears. Listening-to-respond is an egocentric little world about the size of a pinhead.

I want to learn to listen to understand. I want to listen with ears so big that they turn my world inside out.

And then, after having learned to listen well, I want to learn to speak, to advocate, to be an agent for positive change.

Thursday, September 8, 2016


"The regenerate science which I have in mind would not do even to minerals and vegetables what modern science threatens to do to man himself. When it explained it would not explain away. When it spoke of parts it would remember the whole. While studying It it would not lose what Martin Buber calls the Thou-situation...Its followers would not be free with the words only and merely." - C. S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man

* * * * *


Just is a 4-letter word, one that I often find offensive.

"What does Mary do?"

"Oh, she doesn't do anything. She's just a mom."

Just a mom? Birthing and nursing and raising a new generation of humans, nurturing immortal Image bearers during their brief sojourn between eternity past and eternity yet to on earth, tell me, is the word just (as in only, merely, simply) ever aptly used in conjunction with the word mother?

Just a mom? Is this not a subtle way of downplaying, if not an attempt to dismiss altogether, the tremendous significance of motherhood?

Cooking dinner, resolving relationship issues, dealing with health problems or demands at work, diagnosing a vehicle malfunction...whatever the context, when the word just is used, it nearly always implies: "Your problem/concern/struggle/difficulty is really no big deal. The situation/solution is actually quite simple."

Just is often used as a tool for explaining away a reality that is bigger than a person wants to acknowledge.

Just, only, merely, simply...these words should not be used as a smoke screen to obscure our vision of reality, nor should they be used as an opiate to numb us to the very real concerns of others.

Just, only merely, simply...such small words, but deceptively dangerous. Handle them with care.

Friday, September 2, 2016


I am still working frantically to catch up on household chores, writing assignments, and errands after almost a week off doing sheep-y and cow-y things at the fair. I was wondering, "Why is it so incredibly difficult to get caught up?!"

Then it hit me: while I am whittling down last week's ToDo list, this week's ToDo list is still waiting in queue, getting backed up.

That's one of the special things about being a mom: when you miss work for a day or two or three, the boss doesn't call in someone else to cover your shift. And if you're a homeschool mom, there's no substitute teacher, either. Nope. All the work you missed just piles up, deeper and deeper, until you clock back in and start digging double-time.

So today...

(I am almost caught up...maybe...almost...)

So today, I had a difficult choice to make:

Press on at the catching-up game - OR - Hold the baby, eat lunch with The Chicken, get back into the pool, and play at the blog.

Difficult decision.

Option A: one more l-o-n-g day at the computer, and I can start next Monday right where I'm supposed to be - OR -

Option B (Man, the pool looks so inviting!): start off next week STILL a few days behind.

What did I choose?

Well, after loving on Lizzy and downing a chicken salad wrap with the cool college kids in the engineering study room at EPS, I hit the pool for 30 minutes. The water was amazing - a bit chilly at first, but perfect once I hit my third lap.

And now, a cup of coffee, a Reese's cup, and playtime at the blog.

Come Monday morning, I may still be a little behind, but...

I didn't really have much of a choice, now, did I? :)