Chicken Little Shop of Horrors: Rural Life is a Freak Show

I’ll never understood why city folk think that living out in the boonies is boring. After all, where else can you chase after a chicken barefoot through the front yard (with a diaper-only baby on your hip) just to capture a picture of a mouse hanging from the yard-bird’s beak? Yep, that’s right. A mouse.

I have seen many strange things while living out in the country, but this was by far one of the freakiest. (Turns out this is pretty common, but we’re relatively new to raising chickens. You can see a video of such activity here.) My husband told me he’d seen it a few days ago, but I didn’t quite believe him. He’s not prone to making things up, but I have to see things to believe sometimes. (I’m sure he adores that quality. Snicker.) 

Sure enough, while standing at the kitchen sink this morning, I saw one of our tall, slender hens dashing across the front yard with a medium-sized, gray field mouse dangling from her mouth. “There it is!,” I shrieked to my daughters, and grabbed the camera. I bolted out the front door only to hear the baby revolting behind me. Oh yeah, better take her along. I slung her up on my baby-carryin’ hip and chased that chicken all the way to the just-cut wheat field. “Ouch, ow, yikes!” (This was the sound of me stepping on gravel and stickers along the way.)

Finally, I got close enough to snap a few pictures. (FYI, chickens do not yield to the command, “Stop!” It only makes them run faster.) Facing the morning sun just coming up over the horizon, I couldn’t really see what was in the view-finder. So, I squatted down, pressed the button a few times, and hoped for the best. 

This was the result. Yes, rural life is a freak show. And I’m happy to have a front-row seat. 

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Yes, that’s a mouse, in a chicken’s beak. Freak show.

Love Bigger than a Lie: God’s True Nature Revealed

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You’re accepted. Completely, lovingly accepted.

To be honest, I don’t want to tell this story. I’d rather forget it ever happened, keep it hidden with the other skeletons in my closet of shame. But, there are some stories that just have to be told. I hope the beauty and deeper meaning in this message surpasses my ugly deed. I hope.

January 2010: A blizzard was descending upon Wichita, and I was anxious to leave my office to make the 45 minute drive home. I sat white-knuckled in the seat of my Honda, eyes carefully trained on the road ahead, careful to avoid and slick spots or crazy drivers (truth be told, I drive like a grandma, and inclement weather brings on a high level of paranoia). I made it to the opposite side of town, and onto the two-lane that heads out to my neck of the woods. The snow was coming down hard, and my windshield wipers were working overtime to keep it from building up on the glass.

All of a sudden, my stomach dropped out from under me, and my head began to spin. I thought I was going to be sick. No, I wasn’t having a stress-induced breakdown from the treacherous drive (although it wouldn’t have surprised me if I did). Rather, I had just been hit with the realization that I’d forgotten something. Something very important. My parents had asked me to run an errand for them on my way home from work, and I’d forgotten. Now, this wouldn’t normally be a big deal, but this was something they really needed, and I’d been so consumed with my work lately that I felt I was majorly slacking in the daughter department.

This was my one chance to redeem myself. My one shining moment to perform a good deed and begin repay them for all of the love and support they’d shown me over the years. And, I’d let them down. (Let it be known that this pressure I felt was all self-induced. My parents were not pressuring me or guilt-tripping me in any way.)

I panicked. Did I have time to go back? No, it was all the way on the other side of town, and to turn around in this kind of weather would be foolish. But that’s exactly what I did. I headed back into Wichita. I made it less than a mile before I came to my senses. “What the hell am I doing?,” I asked myself aloud in the car. The snow pelted the windows, and the lines on the road were getting harder and harder to see. I couldn’t do this.

Headed back the other direction, towards home, I had to make a phone call. One that I didn’t want to make. I wasn’t really sure what I was going to say. All I knew was that I didn’t want to let them down. Didn’t want them to be disappointed in me.

Never in a million years could I have guessed what would come out of my mouth when my mom answered the phone. A lie. A big, terrible, ugly lie. I think I even covered my mouth after the words escaped my lips, I was so shocked by what I’d done. “Mom, I got in a fender bender. I’m okay, but I wasn’t able to pick up your prints in time…” And on and on the story went. It was as if it had actually happened. To this day, I’m still in wonder at where I came up with that story line, everything from the location of the accident, to the color of the truck that “hit” me. (I’m waiting for karma to catch up with me, and I now avoid this intersection as I’m convinced it will actually happen to me.)

But my lies didn’t stop there. I even told my husband when I got home about what had “happened” to me. He was very sympathetic, and so glad I hadn’t been hurt. I’m not sure why I felt compelled to pull him into this deception, other than the fact that I was crying by the time I got home, and I had to have a plausible explanation other than, “I lied to the people who gave me life.”

Coming Clean

The rest of the night was a blur. I was so consumed with guilt that I couldn’t focus on anything else. At 2-something in the morning, I welcomed the opportunity to get up with my 7-month-old daughter. I wasn’t sleeping anyway, and her warm, snuggly body gave me some measure of comfort. As I rocked her back to sleep, I knew what I had to do. I had to come clean.

The tears started falling, and falling and falling. I hadn’t cried this hard in so long. But why was I so torn up? Was I afraid they wouldn’t forgive me? Wouldn’t love me anymore? No. Rather, I felt this wave of emotion because I knew they would forgive me. They would always love me, no matter what.

After putting the baby back down, I snuggled in with my husband. He was awakened by my sobs shaking the bed. “What’s wrong?,” he asked. “I lied to you,” I blubbered. “Lied to you, and to mom and dad. I’m horrible. I’m so, so sorry. Please forgive me.” And he did. (I was blown away at his ability to forgive me so quickly, and assure me that everything was going to be okay.)

Still unnerved by my actions, I got back out of bed, sat down at the computer, and typed out this email to my parents at 3:41 a.m. (condensed version):

This is so awful. I just can’t sleep. I am so, so sorry. I hope someday you can forgive me. I don’t think I’ve lied to you since I was a teenager, and I’m sure I haven’t confessed what I lied to you about then, so I’m sorry. I am so incredibly self-centered, and I have no excuse for being that way. You raised me better.

I should have done this in person, but I was afraid. I wanted to call, but it’s 3:41 in the morning, and that would only benefit me by making me feel better, and I didn’t want to wake you up.

I love you both so much. You’re so generous, kind and thoughtful. I don’t deserve parents like you. I’m so sorry.

I hit “Send” and tried to salvage what little sleep I could. The next day, I frantically checked my Inbox, waiting for a reply. Even though I knew their love for me was unconditional, I was still scared. I felt like a small child, awaiting punishment after majorly misbehaving.

At 2:31 p.m., I saw a message waiting to be opened. Nervously, I clicked on the email, and braced myself for my parents’ reaction. Here is what I read:

All is forgiven … And, I’m so proud of you for letting us know.

If you were not so anxious to do us a favor none of this would have happened. 

I hope you know you can come to us with any issue as you would a life long friend .. because of course … that is what we are.

Love you forever,

Dad

And just like that, he had forgiven me. Not only did he release me from the shame of my sin, but he awoke in me a renewal in my spirituality, although I wasn’t quite sure why just yet.

It wasn’t until several months later that the true depth and meaning of this incident hit me. Up until this point, I’d approached my relationship with God all wrong. No matter how much I strived for his affection, his approval, his blessing, I never felt good enough. Guilt and shame clung to my ankles like heavy, wet sand bags, making forward motion nearly impossible.

As I divulged my shameful deed to my Bible study group, I realized something. I was so upset by my actions because I knew my parents would forgive me, that they would always love me. Not because I was afraid that they wouldn’t forgive, wouldn’t love. And if my earthly father feels that affection for me, how much more must my heavenly father feel?

Finally, after all of these years, I got it. I saw God’s true nature:

I am not accepted because I obey. Rather, I obey because I am accepted. 

He knows we aren’t perfect, but He loves us anyway. He knows we’ll screw up again (and again and again), but He loves us anyway. He knows that we will never measure up, but He loves us anyway. I regret that it took the consequences of a lie to show me His true nature, but I’m eternally grateful that He used my shortcomings to bring me closer to Him. His love is bigger than a lie, bigger than any sin from your past. Your debt has already been paid. All you need to do is pour your heart out to Him, and hit “Send.”

 
read to be read at yeahwrite.me

The Blessings of Not Being Beautiful

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest…oh who cares?

By society’s standards, I am not a stunning, beautiful woman. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think I’m hideous. I can relate to this line from one of Gretchen Wilson’s honky-tonk tunes: “I may not be a ten, but the boys say I clean up good.” Give me a shower, some makeup and a flattering dress and I’m not too shabby.

No, I’m not fishing for compliments or affirmations of my appearance. Rather, this is a celebration of my imperfections. There are things on my body that are large when they’re supposed to be small (pores, nose, feet). And there are things on my body that are small when they’re supposed to be large (use your imagination).

But you know what? I’m glad. So glad that I don’t have a perfect complexion to maintain, rock-hard abs to keep sculpted and a long, glossy mane that requires gobs of potions and lotions. Some women are blessed with effortless beauty, and I’m happy for them. But also a little sad if that’s where they hold their self worth. Because external beauty is fleeting.

When I see my young daughter beginning to recognize that beauty is a common currency for women, I have to set a good example for her, as hard as it is to go against the grain. It’s important to take care of ourselves, but why chase something so unattainable? Why spend so much money on gizmos, gadgets and elixirs?

God gave me what I have and don’t have for a reason. And besides, I’m just a nerd at heart. That’s why, many moons ago when asked to “shake my moneymaker,” I shook my head. :-) I’ll take brains over beauty any day.

Shut Yo Mouth! 3 Things Not to Ask At-Home Parents

Yes, these two are actually a full-time job.

These are actual things that people have asked me since I decided to stay home with my girls a little less than two months ago. I’m getting a little tired of pushing my right eye back into my head (it pops out a little when I get angry), so I decided to provide some “education” to those who may come into contact with  a SAHM, WAHM, SAHD, WAHD, or whatever term you prefer.

Please, please, please don’t ask me:

1. How are you enjoying your retirement?
My response: “How are you enjoying your ignorance?”

Retirement? Are you kidding? Staying home with your kids is really no different than having a full-time job outside of the home. And why is it that if you have the title “daycare provider,” people understand what you do all day? You take care of kids. Well, as an at-home parent, you take care of kids (and a lot more). It’s simple, really.

2. Isn’t it nice to have a clean home?
My response: “Yes, it is nice. Someday, I’ll know what that’s like.”

I, too, once thought that staying home would mean non-sticky floors, crumb-free couches and panes of glass you can actually see through. Wrong. My at-home friends tried to warn me, but I had to find out the hard way. Fact: while you’re cleaning room A, your kids are destroying room B. Fact: When you cook 3 meals a day (+ snacks) in your kitchen, it gets dirty, really dirty. My favorite phrase: “Trying to clean house while the kids are still growing is like trying to shovel snow while it’s still snowing.”

3. Don’t you get tired of couponing? 
My response: “Don’t you get tired of throwing money away?”

Yes, I get tired of couponing (and deal searching, and garage sale shopping, etc.).  My college education did not include “Scissor Savvy 101,” but maybe it should have. It takes time and effort to find ways to cut your family’s expenses. Some say it’s like a part-time job, and they’re right. Recently, I discovered our family’s expenses dropped by 56% once I stopped working outside the home! But that didn’t just “happen.” It takes time and effort. It’s not some fun, new hobby. It’s essential to making this lifestyle choice possible.

So, now that you know the things not to ask me, here’s a safe bet:

How are you enjoying the extra time with your kids? 
My response: “:-) :-) :-)”