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Author Archives: katemckinneycake

About katemckinneycake

A little bit crunchy, a little bit rock-n-roll. ENFP. A Hippie in red lipstick & kitten heels. Mother of 4. Wife to Hugh. Follower of Christ.

That Writing Thing: Part One

A few years ago it seemed my career was really flourishing. The career I never expected to have. As I’ve said on my other blog I never wanted to do anything but make and raise babies, much to the chagrin of my lovely journalism teacher, Ms. Gregg. She plucked me out of obscurity when I was just a sophomore in high school after I wrote a rebuttal to an op/ed in the school paper. Ms. Gregg was completely opposed to my viewpoint but she respected the way I expressed myself and asked me to join her journalism class. Journalism? What’s that? Little did I know I was embarking on a lifelong love affair with story telling. Sometimes the stories are my own, sometimes they belong to other people. I cannot thank this woman enough times for showing me my voice, and pointing the way to my calling.

I didn’t do what was expected. Every other kid in class was discussing the magazines they wanted to work for, the colleges they wanted to attend. Family was secondary, if ever thought of. Something to pursue after they fulfilled their dreams. For me, family WAS the dream. It was only when the babies came and I still felt like there was something missing that I began to think hey, maybe I could do TWO things.

I had lunch with Ms. Gregg and I FORGOT MY WALLET, I swear to you. She paid, and she gave me good advice. She helped me get set up with Linda Negro at the Evansville Courier Press, and that got me started into freelance writing. Before I knew it I was literally steeped with writing jobs. Then the pace quickened even more, and I was in the running for a job managing a mothering website. A dream job. I didn’t get the job, but I was hired to work under the woman, who was another previous mentor of mine!

Around this time I became friends with a woman whose writing I really respected and who was fairly famous. She certainly had a very loyal fan base and to be counted in her close circle was indescribable to me. I felt…unstoppable. A force of nature.

Until everything stopped.

The job at the website went sour. My boss stepped down, and when I tried to step into her place I was viciously shot down by people who felt I was, in all honesty, too popular. Too influential. An unconventional person being popular and influential can be terrifying to the wrong people. I was working with just such people.

I had left two other writing jobs to focus on my work at the web site. At least I could still count on my job at the paper! But then my editor left…the editor who had groomed me for a year, encouraged me and had given me lots of work. Who really believed in me, even believed I could run a website! I was handed over to a new editor but she proved to be difficult and unreliable. She promised me work, but no matter how often I called or met with her she would never deliver.

Then my friendship with my writer friend went VERY sour. There were terrible misunderstandings, a lot of foolishness on both of our ends, and poof! A relationship I had spent a year cultivating was gone. In the blink of an eye. Devastated could hardly be the word. I was addicted to her poison, and I went through major withdrawals without it.

I sat in the van with my mother, feeling despondent. Everything had been going so well and now it was all gone. My career was stalled, my friendship ruined. “I just wish I knew what God was trying to tell me.”

The next day he told me.

In the form of a positive pregnancy test.

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Posted by on October 25, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Guest Post: First Fruits Open the Floodgates

Today I am linking to a post made by my awesome friend, Kim McCool. Her blog, Just One More Thing, is great fun to read. Kim has five kiddos with her husband George and they have an incredible love story that I hope she gets down on paper someday because if she does, I’m linking to it!

Kim has been a huge encouragement to me in many ways, not the least of which about tithing. She always says “It’s God’s economy. It doesn’t work on paper but somehow, it works out.” Hard to argue with a testimony like that.

One story that Kim didn’t tell is about the time she and George felt led to pay for the cleft palate surgery of a child in a third world country. They put the check in the mail, and later received a check from the IRS due to overpaying their taxes. The check was the exact amount of the cleft palate surgery that they had paid for with the faith that things would work out. The McCools are living, breathing proof that obedience to God will not return void!

So without further ado: Just One More Thing.

PS: Some people might take issue with the fact that the McCool family benefitted from someone else’s travails. Exodus 33:19 states   “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” We have no idea if there was any reason at all why bad things happen, and it’s foolishness to speculate or concern ourselves with it. The fact of the matter is that the McCools were faithful, and they were cared for! Praise God!

 
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Posted by on October 25, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

To Dream the Impossible Dream

I just spent an hour and a half trying to get my baby to sleep and it didn’t work. Whenever I got close, someone would barge in, rudely, demanding my attention and distract him and I’d have to start the whole process over again. I finally left the baby with my husband, went downstairs, stared at the mess that is supposed to be my home, and started to cry. I ate a bunch of cookies and drank some milk, and it made my stomach hurt, and I cried some more.

I haven’t stopped.

I have years, and years, and years of mistakes to correct. Financial mistakes. Housekeeping mistakes, mixed in with the general life with four kids and a husband who works, and who went to school for several years while I homeschooled and was pregnant or had newborns. I can’t beat myself up for choices that I made that were less than ideal, but I understand why people want to run away from home.

So I am going to take five minutes to list my desires for my life, and then I am going to sweep up all those dang packing peanuts off the floor that my daughter dumped on the babies head to make snow, and organize the danged laundry, and make my kids pick up all their junk, and vacuum, and mop, and then I am going out with my friend Julie. (Man do I feel sick…I wish I hadn’t eaten those cookies and drank all that milk. Ugh)

I want a reasonably clean, attractive, and maintained home with room for my kids to play and sleep and grow. I want a yard, and access to nature. I want wood floors that are easy to clean, tile that is not peeling up, and a bathtub with no mold growing in it. I want a big, airy kitchen with lots of counter space, and a dishwasher that is anchored to the wall and won’t tip over. I want framed family pictures and the kids art on the walls, as well as art and photographs I have purchased from my talented friends. I want a home filled with experiences and not just stuff.

I want my husband to have a job that fulfills him, working for a company he can respect, that pays him a wage that he feels he has earned. I want him to be able to talk about what his day at work was like, before for years now, he hasn’t even wanted to mention it when he comes home. He just wants to forget it. I want him to be satisfied. I want him to feel his home is his castle, and not his grave.

I want my kids to feel safe, happy, and well fed, not just in body, but in soul. I want their mamma to be at peace, and for my peace to radiate towards them. I want cuddles and songs and stories and happy attitudes.

I want to be happy, healthy, whole. I want to stop crying in frustration. I want to be able to say, All in all, this is good. This is happy. And on days like this I wonder if it will ever be?

I want to write. I want to be really amazingly good at it, so good “they can’t ignore you,” as Steve Martin once said. So good my husband can quit his job and be my personal accountant.

There is a song that Hugh and I love originally sung by Sandie Shaw in the 1960s, and later by The Smiths in the 1980s, called Jeane. Someday I want this song to just be another song prettily sung, and not one that pierces my heart so much with it’s accuracy…

Jeane
The low-life has lost its appeal
And I’m tired of walking these streets
To a room with a cupboard bare

Jeane
I’m not sure what happiness means
But I look in your eyes
And I know
That it isn’t there

We tried, we failed
We tried, and we failed
We tried and we failed
We tried and we failed
We tried

Jeane
There’s ice on the sink where we bathe
So how can you call this a home
When you know it’s a grave ?

But you still hold a greedy grace
As you tidy the place
But it’ll never be clean
Jeane

We tried, we failed
We tried, and we failed
We tried and we failed
We tried and we failed
We tried

Oh …
Cash on the nail
It’s just a fairytale
Oh …
And I don’t believe in magic anymore
Jeane

But I think you know
I really think you know
Oh …
I think you know the truth
Jeane

Oh …

No heavenly choir
Not for me and not for you
Because I think that you know
I really think you know
I think you know the truth
Oh …
Jeane

That we tried, and we failed
That we tried, and we failed
We tried and we failed
We tried and we failed
Oh …
Oh …
Jeane

How much longer, Lord? How much longer will everything feel so wrong? I want it to be right. I want so much, and I have tried so hard, and I don’t know what else to do. So much is stacked against me, and it’s no one’s fault but my own and the sins of the father being visited on my generation and who knows how many others. But my heart cries out for Eden, and it cries out for a life that I know is not impossible, but seems just out of my reach.

I wrestle with what it is that is required of me. Contentment? Labor? Discipline? What do I put my efforts into first? My home? My career? My health? My kids? It’s all swirling around me and I feel like I am getting pulled downward all the time.

Abba! Father!

 
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Posted by on October 15, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Mustard Seeds (and Ketchup)

So, Hugh survives another layoff. The fifth in five years. On the day we choose to fast for him, we receive this news, and are awestruck by God’s timing. Surviving another layoff has become a frequent enough occurrence that it’s not surprising, but the fact that we were fasting for him made this victory seem especially poignant.

But we weren’t out of the woods yet. A giant energy bill plus a little bit of this and that had eaten away at our money and we were terribly strapped. And I was terribly afraid. I had seen enough of God’s work to know that we, somehow, would be ok, but I still felt like I was living in a tourniquet.

But there was a light in the form of my husband’s parents, who were coming to visit. Generous, kind, devoted people who love their son and his family dearly. A visit from them meant gifts for the children, shopping, a dinner out. Time to forget our problems for a day or two. I had hopes that maybe we could fulfill some family needs through their generosity too.

Part of me hated myself for feeling that way. For feeling dependent. For feeling desperate.

My super sweet mother in law called me from a Publix in Georgia to ask me what I needed…if there was anything she could bring us, anything I would like that I don’t normally buy. I panicked…I hadn’t thought about it. I had thought we might go shopping while we were down there together. She was in the laundry aisle. I had started making homemade laundry detergent and I had a TON, plus ingredients to make more after the huge 5 gallon bucket ran out in oh, a year or so. I wish I had said Woolite…anything! I stuttered and finally asked for Downy Unstoppables because Amy Sedaris was in a commercial for them. Basically perfumed laundry pellets, like fabric softener. That’s something I’d probably NEVER buy for myself!

I finally told her I couldn’t think…but diapers, wipes, toilet paper and paper towels would work great. Always helpful.

I had just started taking thyroid medicine a few days before to help boost my sluggish metabolism. It was to be taken on an empty stomach first thing in the morning. The day my in-laws arrived though, I had taken it later in the day, which was a mistake. I soon found myself consumed with severe anxiety, which is a side effect of the medication. They came, bearing gifts of household goods, and I was grateful, but also full of nerves. There was dread climbing up my skin, speeding up my heart, nagging me in my brain. It’s hard to describe when you are not in the middle of it…but if felt as though the inside of my body was trying to commit suicide by jumping out of my skin, and it couldn’t make it through.

Besides the diapers, wipes, toilet paper, and paper towels there were several packages of pasta, and a picnic pack of ketchup, mustard, and relish. I started to hyperventilate. Describing this sounds ridiculous…but I had a brand new bottle of ketchup in the pantry, and here were two more. I didn’t need ketchup, and all I could think was that it was $12 or so that could have been spent on something else. My best friend put it best…”When you are crying about ketchup, you know you are down and out.”

I tell this story not just to highlight my anxiety and just how bad the stress had gotten to me, but to show the insidious nature of fear. I was so afraid that I could not appreciate the gifts in front of me because they were “wrong.” My fear took the form of control. I had specific ideas about where my blessings needed to come from and when they did not take that form I began to feel crazed. I ran upstairs and cried for several minutes. Over ketchup.

I finally steeled myself and we went out to dinner, at my insistence to Bob Evans because that Labor Day weekend kids ate free with a coupon. I was going to do my part. If I couldn’t pay for the meal at least I would provide a COUPON! And after dinner my husband revealed to me a piece of news that made my foolish weeping seem almost clownish.

Hugh’s parents not only brought toys for the kids, and household necessities. They also brought a hefty sum of money collected from various family members. To help us. Nothing quite so humbling as being caught grumbling and then having your prayers answered in a way you never imagined. And of course, I cried. Out of gratefulness, and out of embarrassment.

(Jesus) replied, “Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.a” Matthew 17:20.

I know my faith is not even as big as a mustard seed, but after seeing what God has accomplished by just one act of obedience, by just one day of fasting, I can feel it growing day by day. My mountain needs moving, but I am starting to see how it can be done.

 
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Posted by on October 15, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

The Fast

My dishwasher had this bad habit of tipping over. See, it wasn’t screwed into the wall. I bought it off Cheapcycle for $100, but it wasn’t a portable. “Why does that matter?” I asked my mom when she expressed skepticism. Well, that’s why. A dishwasher that is meant to be anchored, and isn’t, will fall over. You have to open it just exactly perfectly, and have just the right balance of dishes, or the whole thing knocks over in slow motion. It will fall on your baby, your dog, your foot… and spill food and soap and dishes everywhere.

Or in this case, peanut oil. I had tried and failed to make home fries a few days before and I had left the fryer on top of the dishwasher to cool because I have no counter space and it’s not like the dishwasher tips over at random, just like it takes a special way to open it to make it fall over, or not. And sometimes I get distracted. Like on this day. I got distracted.

I wish I could remember everything leading up to that moment when I watched a flood of peanut oil land all over my dirty clothes pile. What was stressing me out that day? My daughter’s UTI that meant she was peeing through her clothes every singIe day? PMS? My boys starting public school and the inevitable behavior problems that my eldest was showing? Whatever else, I know that it was the final straw. I wanted to throw up. I remember going to take a shower while my husband took the last of the paper towels and mopped it up…the only time our floor ever looked shiny. Peanut oil. $13 a bottle. Ruining my clothes. Because I couldn’t afford to anchor my dishwasher.

I decided to go to a church fellowship even though, at that moment, all I wanted to do was crawl into bed and stay there forever. When I saw my friend Elizabeth, I tried to be lighthearted, but I told her truthfully that I had been crying all afternoon. About our financial situation. About how everywhere I turned, I felt destroyed.

She suggested we fast. I agreed. Desperate times…desperate measures.

I drafted this note on Facebook and invited people to join us.

The last few years have left my family feeling beaten down. No need to go into great detail, but suffice to say financially and emotionally we feel pretty fragile right now. Hugh went back to school to get a second bachelors degree when Alice was still a baby, and by the time he finished we had another precious little one in our family. Hugh graduated a year ago and has not found a new position yet. 

Hugh has worked for the same company for 9 years, working long hours with no comp time for little pay or recognition. He is loyal, hardworking, and one of the best people they have. He desperately needs to find a career that is more upwardly mobile and emotionally rewarding as he supports his family. He needs to be somewhere where his education level and dogged determination to do things right are appreciated! 

 This is a man who achieved Eagle Scout at age 14 when most boys don’t make it until they are 18! He works HARD. He’s incredibly intelligent. He’s the perfect employee. And of course, he’s also modest, and would never say that to anyone.

 But I’m his wife. And I will say it. He deserves a thousand times what he has, he deserves not just more financial stability but an environment where his hard work is received! Somewhere he is respected for who he is, which is a wonderful person, husband, and employee.

I told my friend Elizabeth tonight about what all has gone on…the tears I have wept as I feel squeezed from all sides, and she suggested we fast.

Hugh has a potential opportunity coming up where he will be in touch with a person of influence who can help him get on the right track. This is a HUGE deal and something we have been working towards for MONTHS now…praying, and asking, and trying to figure out how to make this happen. It first came to him in a dream, a literal dream while you are asleep! And we’ve been trying to figure out for months what it meant…who to ask for help…

If you pray, pray for Hugh on Thursday. If you feel called to fast, then fast. I feel we are hitting a wall of crisis right now and something HAS to change. What we want more than anything, is to be the person BEING charitable instead of always needing charity. We long to give out of abundance…for we will never forget how this feels .

Thank you.

God Bless.

The day came, and I fasted all day…till I was lightheaded. I prayed. And prayed. My friends prayed. My family prayed.  My husband was calling an influential man on the phone. That’s why we thought we were fasting. To move his heart. That’s what we thought.

Until my husband texted me midmorning to tell me that layoffs were once again rippling through his company. Once again, the rumors were sweeping, desks were being cleared out, people were storming out angrily. The fifth time in 9 years.

Once again, he survived.

Shaking, stressed, sick to his stomach. But he still had a job.

And we got rid of the dishwasher.

 
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Posted by on October 13, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

A Constant Assault

I’ve never been much for bible teaching tapes (do they still call them tapes? Audio teachings. Whatever.) But something compelled me to listen to “The Fight for Life” on Daily Audio Bible. The very first thing I heard was a man’s voice saying “Do you ever feel like life is just a constant assault?” And just then I opened the fridge and a box of cookies fell and hit me on the head. Message received!

It didn’t take me but two minutes of listening to that teaching before I was literally sobbing. Now, it might be because for the first time in three years I was no longer taking an anti-depressant, but I think it was a little bit deeper. It was the validation I was feeling. That I was not alone in this creeping terror that I felt. That there really was a lion seeking to devour me. That my soul would never be fully satisfied on this planet because I longed for a place that no longer existed. That my heart was in Eden.

It’s something that I tried to tell people…when I would try to pull myself together and I’d have a few days of things going really well and then BOOM. Down with an illness. Or BOOM. Down with severe depression. Or shoot, why not both? I have spent a decent wad of cash on vitamins and supplements and doctors and psychiatrists trying to figure out what my deal is. And while I respect the diagnoses I have been given…I would like to add another. Persecuted.

I used to have this Bible…I actually still have it, but I no longer use it. I got it at the Christian Book Store when I was about 16, and I decorated it. With wrapping paper and band stickers and funny decoupage. It even had one of those Ichthus decals for cars right on the front, and prayers and thoughts taped all over the inside. And at Cornerstone Festival my tent flooded and my Bible mildewed…and I honestly have hardly read it since. I had spent so much time underlining and highlighting and writing poetry based on the psalms…it hurt to have to start over.

And that’s what my whole life has been like. I let things like that take over. I don’t fight back. I don’t say no. When the voices whisper that I am no good, that I will never succeed, that I will never have control…I tend to agree. And I let my faith mildew like that Bible because I let a little bit of rain take me out.

I can’t do that anymore. I’ve got to rage against the dying of the light or I will be snuffed out, if not physically, then emotionally and spiritually.

That’s part of what this is about. That voice telling me that if I gave my money away…that my life would be ruined. That I’d never have enough.

That I’d starve.

Now, that’s a ridiculous thought! But deep inside me is the fear that if I do not grab and hoard and store, I will starve.

But we know from the Bible that manna rots…that each portion is for each day.

Not to say we are not to be wise. We should save. But saving and hoarding are two different things.

I have eaten my way to almost 200 lbs because of this fear. Hoarded myself into a house filled with junk (we are getting better but…old habits die hard!) Instead of having things I need, I have a bunch of physical and emotional weight that I don’t want.

Perhaps that is part of what tithing is. Learning to let go. By letting go of a portion of my money…I am letting go of the fear that I will starve and die in ruin.

I believe that with every check we write, the whispering will grow quieter and quieter until I won’t be able to hear it any more.

 
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Posted by on September 25, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Trust and Obey

My life is messed up.

Not in the, I’m starving to death in a war-torn country way. For that I am grateful.

But in the sense that I just can’t get a handle on what to do.

I tried to do right.

I got married to a wonderful man. We had four wonderful kids. He has two bachelors degrees, and has had the same job for nine years. We own a modest home, and a modest dog. We are faithful to each other. We teach Sunday School.

But underneath that stability there is a gnawing. We live in constant fear. Like many Americans, we live paycheck to paycheck. The money starts to run out about a week after we get paid.

That first day, payday, I could hardly be in a more wonderful mood! But as the money runs through our fingers, my good mood subsides. I get depressed and scared.

The day the food stamps refill, that’s a good day too. Not quite as good as payday, but still great. Yes, we went on food stamps a few months ago, and we have been on WIC for years. We figured it was a temporary solution to a temporary problem.

Except that the problem has been less than temporary. It’s been a year since my husband got his second bachelor’s degree, and he has not even had an interview. The economy has shifted since he started the accounting program. Jobs are far more difficult to get.

I am blessed that we have no credit card debt. But we also have no savings. If something bad were to happen, and I can only say it is by the grace of God that it has not, we’d be ruined.

I look at our thirty year old kitchen floor in our 100 year old house…at the mold in the bathtub and all the other little things that add up to an uncomfortable place to live…and what can I do? Tax time comes but once a year. This year we pay off the van, and then we can start on student loans. Student loans that were supposed to carry us to a better place by now.

My husband’s salary would be fabulous for a single guy starting out…maybe a married man with one child. But for a man with a family of six who has been working hard for 9 years…it’s hard to swallow.

Yes, the children were our choice. But never did we dream he’d be making what he makes. I got married believing I’d be middle class. That we’d not live luxuriously, but comfortably. That I’d never have to feel worried about spending $20 at a yard sale. I know how to live frugally. I don’t spend my money on expensive purses or haircuts. My luxuries are the 75% of rack at Target and Goodwill, the occasional 80% rack at Kohls. But often even these amenities require sacrifice.

Bitterness has set in, over time. Many have heard me complain. I have cried out. Like the persistent widow, I keep asking God for justice. And in the meantime, my weight has spiraled out of control. I have grown to dislike my children. I am constantly stressed and irritable. My husband comes home from work and is emotionally exhausted. And his castle is not a castle. It’s a place of strife.

The hopelessness keeps washing over me as it seems there is no end in sight to this life…like trudging through the mud. I try to keep up good spirits, and so does he, but it just seems like daily we feel like a tube of toothpaste someone squeezed out and washed down the drain.

“What are we doing wrong?” I wondered. I didn’t finish school, but it was because I really wanted to be a homemaker. But even that has brought me down. I wanted to homeschool my kids, and I couldn’t keep house and have them at home, so we sent them to school. And the house still isn’t clean and I am still stressed. I thought I was doing the right thing by being a stay at home mom, but lately I had been doubting every choice I had ever made in my life.

I began to deconstruct a house of cards. Namely, in our financial situation. Yes, we were somehow making it, to the shock of many who discovered the truth of our money matters. But as I said before, we were one or two emergencies away from being destitute. How many resumes could we send out with no response? How many times could we drag ourselves to church and feel ignored by God?

I will go into the whole story later, but something happened that really rocked me to the core and God showed me that he is there. He is listening. So I started listening too. Pressing into his comfort. Really trying to daily live without fear.

And that’s when I realized the missing link.

The Tithe.

We have always known we “should” tithe just like we knew we shouldn’t eat trans-fat or drink soda, but there we were with our McDonald’s French Fries and gigantic cups of soda anyway. Tithing and saving were just one more obligation. Besides, we give to World Vision every month! Isn’t that enough? Shouldn’t we decide who we give our money too? Why does it have to be our local church?

We said that even though we knew darn well our church was struggling, that we had given up some meetings in winter just so we wouldn’t have to heat the building.

Sometimes I felt like Oskar Schindler at the end of Schindler’s List….wracked with guilt over the fact that his gold ring might have saved another fifty jews. The guilt would wash over me and I’d look at some silly thing I had bought (never expensive, but also rarely necessary) and think “I could have done more.” Was I the reason things were not moving forward? But then I’d go right back to feeling sour about our finances. Angry that I was abandoned.

But was I? Or had I abandoned God?

The other night I felt, as clear as day, that my husband WILL NOT find a new job until we fill in the missing link. And I realized, maybe for the first time, that tithe is NOT just another bill. It’s not “one more obligation.”

Then what is it?

It is…the manifestation of TRUST.

I have trusted God with my marriage. My children. But I can’t trust him with my money?

How ridiculous is that?

Malachi 3:10 states

“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.”

Test me in this. I have heard it said that this is the only place in the Bible where God asks you to test him.

This blog is me stepping out in faith. On September 30, my husband will get the second of his twice-monthly paychecks. And before we pay a single bill, we are writing a check to our home church. 10%. All that is required.

Not because I feel obligated. Not because of a strong-armed sales tactic. Not to be braggy.

But because I am learning to trust. To trust that my family will have their needs met. That by giving, we will not be in peril.

I will test him in this.

I invite you all to watch.

 
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Posted by on September 24, 2011 in Uncategorized