Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Kitty's Special Music

Hello. Welcome to this week's confessional. Something has been on my mind.

When I was in high school I went to a small church tucked inside the confines of a tiny Indiana village. I say village because it was too small to warrant a town; it had only three streets. 

General store next door

The old church had many empty pews on Sunday morning, but you could count on the same familiar faces being there every single Sunday. It was a small, but dedicated, bunch. 

I went there by invitation from a friend. I knew no one on the first Sunday that I joined them, but by the time I moved to Purdue I knew nearly everyone. I'm not saying that to brag; there were maybe 20 people in the congregation. They taught me not only the words to, but to believe the message in, Because He Lives

Alabama sings Because He Lives

My friend and I brought the average age down greatly. We were 16 and 17 years old, and many of the others could have very well been our (great) grandparents. You can imagine the joy on their faces when we'd come through the doors. One woman in the church even bought my monthly devotional for me; the one where the Peril of Prosperity entry came from. Twelve years later and I still carry it around. 

Though I haven't been to that church in more than fifteen years, there is one woman I remember well. 

Her name was Kitty. 

Kitty would always come in on two wheels on Sunday morning, barely beating the clock that hung at the back of the church. She played the organ beautifully and took full advantage of the acoustics in the tiny rural church. She sang loud as she played, and rarely seemed to look at any kind of music book in front of her. When the service was over, Kitty seemed to leave as quickly as she'd arrived. 

Often we would have "special music" by Kitty. The minister would actually say it that way:
"This morning we'll now have special music from Kitty."
Kitty didn't need a microphone. She was quite small but her voice was large. And high pitched, with a hint of scratch in it? Is scratch a musical term? It is hard for me to explain in writing, but some how Kitty's singing actually reminded me of a cat.

My friend and I always kind of giggled to one another, and maybe participated in an elbow jab to the ribs, when the special music started. We always knew where it was headed. 
Kitty's music was special, indeed. 

I admired Kitty for standing in front of a group and belting out her love for Jesus. It was true. And real. And quite loud. 

I was reading the paper last week and saw a face I hadn't seen in years. 

In the obituary section was Kitty. 

I read about her life and dedication to her family, community and church. She was an organist at church for 47 years, but not the one I went to. She was an organist at the tiny church I write about for 20 years. Finally, I understood why she'd rush into our church service then leave so quickly; the woman served in many capacities on Sunday morning. She also created and directed a community choir. She was in charge of Good Friday services. Kitty was a faithful servant through music. 

I sat back in my chair after reading about her life, and thought about my short association with her. 

I felt shame that I giggled at Kitty's special music. Because Kitty's special music was how she used her God given talents to to serve and love the Lord. Her special music was how she shared her gift. Who was I, at 16 and barely able to tap out Mary Had a Little Lamb on a keyboard, to smirk each time she sang? If I could go back in time, I would rewind seventeen years and stop Kitty after church to thank her for her special music. 

I learned from Kitty last week, by reading her obituary.

God gives us certain talents, gifts. Things we can do, create, extend or give away to others that no one else can. Edwin Elliot once said, “By being yourself, you put something wonderful in the world that was not there before.” I believe that very much. There will never again be music in that church like Kitty's. 

Use up those talents and gifts. Every single one of them. Wring them out and get every last drop. Find those things that make you uniquely you and extend them to the best of your ability. Worry not what others may think of your volume or boldness or the ways in which you give. Sing it, live it and scream it to the rafters.

I've heard that the meaning of life is to find your gift, and the purpose of life is to give it away.

Kitty did, every Sunday. 

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Spaceship in the Room

In a corner of our kitchen, along the Hoosier Cabinet and the south wall, a large box sat for nearly two full months. 
Caroline found it to be a great place to stack toys or climb. 
Cody found it to be quite in the way and annoying. 
I found it to be quite intimidating. 

On Amazon Prime day (July 10) I ordered an Instant Pot, based solely on the raving reviews  I'd seen my food-fixin'-Facebook-friends give the spaceship-looking machine. 

I watched in wonder while they threw a chuck roast, a can of pinto beans and a shoe string into the spaceship, pushed a single button, used a spoon to release the valve of death, then opened the lid and basically found Thanksgiving dinner inside. 
It was real.
It was fast.  
It was magical. 

Two days after ordering the counter top spaceship, it arrived at our backdoor and a wave of intimidation came over me. I now owned a machine that is supposed to cut my meal preparation time in half and I'm scared of it? I felt silly. 

So, I did what anyone would do with something they're intimidated by: I avoided it. 
I didn't look at it. 
I didn't reference it. 
I no longer watched the videos on how to make yogurt and cheesecake and soups. 
That box sat by our Hoosier for weeks before I scooted it into a corner where it was more out of sight, out of mind. Weekly, Cody asked what my plans were for "CrockPot's Little Sister". I assured him it wasn't another crockpot! It was a pressure cooker! And it will help me in the kitchen!
But not until I got it out of the box, he was always quick to remind me. 
So one Sunday afternoon, I did. 

As I dug it out of the (dusty) box, I was surprised to find a cracked lid and broken utensil. 
I'm embarrassed to say I felt relief in finding a broken machine; that meant I didn't have to face the thing for at least a few more days. 

I know you're asking yourself: 
Why would Crazy Train buy a kitchen gadget 
that intimidates her so?
Well, thanks for asking. 
I wasn't scared of it until it showed up in my own home. 
Much like babies. 

Back to my story:
I packed the broken Instant Pot back up, intimidation and all, and put it in the back of my vehicle where it rode around with me like a bag of Goodwill clothes that don't make it to the store for five months.
You know the bag of clothes I'm talking about. 

Then I called Amazon and requested a replacement InstantPot.
It arrived two days later. What a drag.

This time, I put the box in the living room so it would annoy the heck out of me and I was forced to address the spaceship in the room. 
You guys. 
This is true!
This is how I operate!
This is what fear does to a grown woman!
This is why my husband spends so much time in the barn!

Cody asked me what I was so afraid of. 

Oh, I don't know, Cody. 
The beeping?
The hissing?
A dashboard with more options than what is offered when landing a plane?
A user's manual with more pages than my Ford EDGE's manual?
A lid that closes, seals, latches tighter and is more secure than Ft. Knox?
And when that bad boy locks, you know something is about to go down. 
Or, through the ceiling of our farmhouse kitchen. 


It was only three three days later that the weekend arrived and I opened the new box. I read every piece of literature packed within it, studied every utensil, read the trial recipe six times before attempting it. 

I then did what any confident in the kitchen cook would do, I boiled water. 
And it worked!
Relieved, I thought I better quit while I was ahead, so I dried the spaceship off and tucked it under a cabinet until the next weekend. 

Yes, I'm ridiculous. 

I told Cody,
"We'll either have supper or an insurance claim in 17 minutes."
He rolled his eyes and went to the barn. 

In the days to follow I made beef short ribs, hard boiled eggs, shredded beef nachos (no link: Jean's Boots Original Creation) and applesauce. All were quite easy to prepare and very good. And it is true: This thing really cuts down on kitchen time. 

So I have more time with this:

If you're on the fence about getting an Instant Pot, I highly recommend it. It has saved me so much time on the few recipes I've tried, and also encouraged me to try new things. I would have never attempted homemade applesauce in the middle of a busy week. Now, I have enough for our lunches and an after dinner treat. And I had a great excuse to use the high-powered Mexican vanilla my mother-in-law gifted us after a trip south. A little goes a long way. 

Also, I'm terrible about meal planning, which tends to lead to quick thawing of meat after work. Many of the Instant Pot recipes allow for frozen meat to be used, at an additional 10 or so minutes. You can't beat that with a stick. 
I guess you could - but you shouldn't. 

If you want to pull the trigger and invest in a spaceship, you can use this quick link to get the model I have:

As for the genuine fear and intimidation of the machine in the beginning:
I can only compare it to a breast pump...

You can only avoid it for so long. 

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Out of Office


  1. 1
    an act of moving back or withdrawing.

I had to step away for a minute.

Not for too long, not too far away, but I just felt the need to step away. 
So I put up a vague out-of-office message about having no access to phone or email and left for three days. 
People probably assumed I was on jury duty or deathly ill. 
It was neither. 

I recently traveled to Ohio's Hocking Hills for a small women's retreat where we shared encouragement, ideas (has anyone thought to keep a running list of items in your freezer, then mark things off as you use them in meals - - in an effort to use what you have? Me either.), struggles we face daily (
work/home/faith balance, organization, endless to-do lists, prioritizing, this list is longer than it should be....), and things holding us back (self-doubt, anyone?). 

I won't bore you with the details, but I did want to share with you a few high-level ideas I drove home thinking about, that I thought worth sharing:

There is no perfect time, so quit waiting for it. 

There is, however, the time where you actually make a change and think to yourself: I wish I'd done it (whatever that is), sooner. 

Don't live your life in fear, live your life in faith. Because faith trumps fear, every time. 

Children are the product of a marriage. How you live now reflects wholly in them. 

Your marriage should never be a product of your children. 
Let that one sink in!
One day the kids will leave and it will just be the two of you, again. Are you doing the things now to be ready for that day?

No Service is not a bad thing. We were warned prior to the retreat that our cabin didn't have  cell service. I assumed this meant it had poor cell service. I was wrong, and it was amazing
It was big time refreshing to focus on the people around me and the intent before us, rather than the newsfeed of the world. In fact, I missed Hurricane Harvey hitting the great state of Texas. What an awakening when I returned to a place with constant connectivity. 

Nature = Nurture
Prior to attending this retreat I read about the things we'd need to be prepared for: kayaking and hiking. 
I hike on the farm daily and the only boat I trust is the kind that holds gravy...," I thought to myself when reading the packing instructions. 
Then, I packed my favorite barn clothes and a really fancy pair of hiking boots I purchased for our first trip to Alaska. 

Kayaking and hiking were so, so needed. 
Kayaking and hiking forced me 1) out of any familiar activity 2) to disconnect further, with no service and no sense in bringing a phone into the elements 3) to get winded.
I thought a 30-pound kiddo and carrying buckets was work. 
Our 4-mile kayaking adventure lasted 9 miles. 
Now that's work. 
And confusion. 
And darn good conversation. 
And none of us able to pick up our overnight bags the next afternoon. 

I want to share something with you about kayaking. 
We thought we were traveling for four miles, but miscommunication took us five more. At every bend of the river that flowed through scenic Ohio I looked for a sign that we were getting close to the prize. 
The end. 
Dry socks. 
Rested arms. 
A freakin' snack. 

But it never came. 

I would fix my eyes on a landmark far into the distance, then shed an invisible tear when we passed it with no sign of the end. 

That turned out to be a good (great) thing. 
I laid back in my kayak and thanked God for a few days away. 
Off the farm 
I laid back in my kayak and thanked God for a group of women who made me think,"I thought I was the only one...." several times throughout the retreat. 

If you ever get the opportunity to disconnect and spend a few days away from your routine to focus on the things that matter, I truly encourage you to do so. 

I understand that we live in a culture that glorifies busy. Which is quite sad. 

We'll also be those people in twenty years who have to answer this question:
Twenty years ago I was
...doing things my way my dream
...learning my dream
...making it work
...never satisfied


...working a lot and using my thumbs mostly to see what other people my age were doing, with my head tucked down missing the world around me. 


  1. 1
    an act of moving back or withdrawing.

    Is it time you stepped away
    for a minute?