Putting up with Southern Women

Boy oh boy the things I am learning at the canning plant. Since my last post, I have become an employee of the local canning plant – where country folk (and some city folk) come to put up their produce in jars or cans for the winter. In regards to manual labor, it is similar to my produce packing job back in Raleigh (i.e. lots of manual labor and being on your feet). In regards to pay, I make half of what I made there. So, yes, I am taking positive steps with my life.

For the most part, I like working there. I like meeting with the locals and learning how each different person puts up their produce. I like mixing and mingling with the farming community and I like that staying busy makes the day go by quickly. What I do not like is the amount of tomatoes I have steamed, peeled, cored, and cut in the last month. Tomatoes have rotted on my clothing (along with soured peas and corn), tomatoes have seeped into my skin, tomatoes have been the cause of many cuts on my hands because apparently I don’t know how to use a knife. Tomatoes. They just might be the death of me this summer. 

I have decided that no real woman needs a spa. All she really needs is a visit to her local canning plant. It is the perfect place to receive a facial. Between the constant steam being emitted from the pressure cookers which provides a sauna-like experience and the abundance of natural skin care products (corn, peas, tomatoes) splashing on my face, I think I have found the fountain of youth. If you look at it that way, I am basically getting paid to receive an all-natural facial. I just can’t understand why everyone wouldn’t want to work at the canning plant.

It is not a good place, however, to receive a manicure. In addition to my chopped up hands cause I can’t wield a knife, I have found that I am also developing muscles in my fingers and forearms that no person should ever have. Gripping a corn cob so I can cream it and holding a tomato firmly so I can core it have resulted in some very sore finger and forearm muscles. Man hands here I come.

We get all types of women, and some men, in the canning plant. My favorite though are the hoity toity ones. The ones that come in with their hair all done, their make up layered on, khaki pants, a sweater, and ballet flats. Really people? Really? Today, a lady came in and I kid you not, she had on nude panty hose under her capri pants with her open toed sandals. In a place where moisture, humidity, and stains are just a part of every day life and she walks in wearing panty hose?! That’s just not right. I won’t even discuss the fact that she was wearing panty hose with open toed sandals, cause let’s be serious if anyone has seen me at the canning plant this summer they know I have no right to be calling the fashion police on anyone.

You’ve also got the farmer’s wives with their cute little Southern drawls and their fresh off the farm produce. Then you’ve got those who share all the latest news and updates of a small rural town. That’s when I keep my mouth shut and just do my work. Like I said in the beginning…the things I learn at the canning plant!

Panty-hose-wearing-women and gossip aside, I really have enjoyed my job at the canning plant and the things I have learned while working there. If you need me though, I’ll be at the local nail salon getting a manicure. These man hands aren’t going to fix themselves! 

Stuff Southern Women Say

Have y’all seen that video about the “stuff” Southern women say? If not, you can check it out here…but only if you don’t mind a little profanity and a real strong dose of Southern drawl.

I lived a real life version of that video yesterday while working in the Colquitt County canning plant – the place where people come both from in town and out in the sticks to put up vegetables for the winter. I got summoned to the canning plant by my father to help put up two bushels of green beans and I walked out of there 7 hours and 7 bushels of green beans later with quite the education on Southern women. As we sat cutting the ends off of green beans and then cutting them in bite size pieces, I got to learn all about the lives of true Southern women.  It was Real Housewives of Moultrie, Southern Style.

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And we’re not talking about rough ole nasty country girls. I’m talking pretty, classy women with their hair and makeup did, deep golden tans, and pretty southern drawls. That being said, these made up country girls made me feel like a dadgum yuppie. I know, I know, some of you people think I am as country as it gets, but, noooo. Compared to these women I am a farm girl wanna be. Heck, my mama doesn’t even fry chicken or make sweet tea so that automatically eliminates me from the true Southerner category.

I learned about son-in-laws, raising babies, raising daughters, raising husbands, raising bulls, shot guns, cleaning house, planning a wedding, being married, eating peas, canning food….everything a good Southern woman needs to know.  All the while, we were just a hacking away at some green beans. These women talked non-stop for 7 hours and most of that time I just sat and giggled at them because they were nothing less than entertaining. The real kicker came when they started talking about snatching oak snakes out of the garden by their tail and hacking their heads off. I can do a lot of things, but I don’t do snakes. If I see a snake, you can bet your rear end I’m gonna be running in the opposite direction probably screaming profanities.

About hour number 6 when I was wishing we had finished three hours ago, I look over and one lady is cutting one green bean at a time while pausing to use hand gestures as she told her story. I was about ready to agree with that old misogynistic concept of women being seen and not heard. A little less talking and a little more cutting please ladies. This girl needs to go home.

I have a feeling I won’t be eating green beans for a while. They’ve lost a whole lot of their appeal but I gained a whole lot of culture after a day like yesterday.

Back at Mama’s

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Meanwhile Back at Mama’s.

It’s a new song by Tim McGraw. And on my 9 hour ride back to mama’s this week, I heard it no less than 10 times. Every time I heard it, my soul resonated more and more with it. Me and ole Tim must be on the same page on this one. As highly unlikely as it is that Tim McGraw and I think alike on much of anything, on one thing it seems we do agree…mama’s is a good place to be.

Meanwhile back at Mama’s
The porch lights on, come on in if you wanna
Supper’s on the stove, and beer’s in the fridge
Red sun sinking out low on the ridge
Game’s on the tube and daddy smoked cigarettes
Whiskey keeps his whistle wet
Funny the things you thought you’d never miss
In a world gone crazy as this

If you eliminate the beer, whiskey, and cigarettes, you’ve pretty much got a picture of life at mama’s.  The thing I most resonate with in this song and being back at mama’s is supper being on the stove.  Now, that’s what I’m talking about woman!

The semester at seminary finally wound to a close and I considered myself D-U-N – done with the whole seminary school thing.  My roommates moved back home, my apartment lease was up, my job ended and I was full of intentions to move to North Georgia and get a “real” job.  As usual, my plans didn’t exactly turn out the way I expected and in that last week in Raleigh a couple of difficult decisions were made and instead of everything panning out the way I had kind of been thinking all semester, I found myself two days from leaving North Carolina and having zero clue as to where I was moving or what I would be doing. Then mama came to the rescue – literally and figuratively.

She really did come to North Carolina and helped me move out. She scrubbed and cleaned like the good mama she is and helped sort through more crap than I can even begin to describe. Props to both my parents that when I told them I had no clue what I was going to do in a couple of days, they both without hesitation opened their home and their hearts for me to return. Initially, I thought it would be for a couple of weeks until I found something a little more permanent, but as I thought more about it, I decided to just stay for the summer and regroup. I mean, really, who wouldn’t want to spend their summer in South Georgia…I hear it’s beautiful this time of year. If you love gnats swarming your face and the feeling of walking through a swamp in the midst of ridiculous heat and humidity, then it’s just a dream. Yep, South Georgia for the summer. Probably my best idea yet.

Daddy in all his goodness to me decided to wean the calves the day before I came home. That means nothing to most of you, but what it means to me is that about 100 feet from my bedroom window, 25 little baby calves were separated from their mamas and neither group was too happy about their circumstances. In their unhappiness with their situation, they weren’t too concerned with whether or not I slept. The honest truth is that I didn’t mind, not even a little bit, falling asleep or waking up to the sound of mama and baby calling to each other.

Give me incessant mooing. Give me gnats. Give me South Georgia heat and humidity. I’ll take it any day over apartment complexes, traffic, and shopping malls. I can’t breathe there. As Tim put it,

 

I miss a little dirt on the road
I miss corn growing in a row
I miss being somebody everybody knows there
Everybody knows everybody
I miss those small town roots
Walking around in muddy boots
The sound of rain on an old tin roof

Yes. All of the above. It’s good to be back at mama’s. The sad reality is that ultimately I am really back at Michael’s, not mama’s. In a circumstance of divine providence, my little brother just happens to live by himself in a 3 bedroom house on some land in the country and he begged me to come live with him [Read: he reluctantly agreed when I begged him to let me come live with him]. There is definitely never any supper on the stove, but there is beer in the fridge out here.

Meanwhile back at Michael’s, I have completely moved in while he was at work. Hope he likes the way I rearranged the house. I can’t help but think of that scene in Sweet Home Alabama when the guy comes home and Reese Witherspoon has redecorated the entire house and replaced the beer in the fridge with light beer. I can hear Michael now opening up the refrigerator, taking a look at the Greek yogurt and hummus, and asking, “What is this? Chick food?” Seeing as how there was no food in the fridge when I got here, I’d say anything is an improvement.

I’m baaaaack….who missed me?

After my time in town today, I’m thinking there could be more to blog about regarding culture shock here than there was during my time in Africa. It’s a whole different world down here folks. Between Africa, Raleigh, and now Moultrie, who knows if I’ll ever get situated properly in any one culture.

So, if you need me, I can be found in Moultrie fanning away the gnats and just fanning myself in general. It’s good to be back.

What Little Girls Are Made Of

Sugar and spice and everything nice. That’s what little girls are made of, right?

That’s what I’ve always been told. Having grown up the middle girl of two boys where I was affectionately known by my father as his third son, I would say I knew very little of what little girls were made of. I’m pretty sure I owned all of two Barbie dolls and I got limited enjoyment from playing with them. I would much rather be doing whatever the boys were doing than playing sweetly and nicely.

So leave it to me to recently get hired to nanny three little girls each week. Twin 4 year olds and a 7 year old. Three blond haired, blue eyed, skirts and leggings wearing, pink, purple, and glitter loving adorable little girls.

In just one week, I’ve participated in more singing and dancing and ballerina twirls than perhaps in all of my life. I’ve also been quite humored at how not so girly these girls can be too. Again, having grown up with all boys, I fully expect boys to be….ahem….boys and I find myself occasionally caught off guard by the not so girly things that these precious little girls say and do.

Certainly, they are quite the mixture of giggling, squealing, dancing, singing, punching, tackling, fighting, and screaming. Never a dull moment.

girls

The one girly thing I can do – braid hair. They loved it!

So, here’s to the next three months of sing-a-longs, crafts, nail painting, baking, ballerinas, braids, and baby dolls. They are bound to be full of sweetness mixed with sass and absolute complete adorableness. That’s what these little girls are made of.

Life Without Coffee

coffeeNot that I would ever be dramatic about my need for coffee or anything.

When it came time for Lent, I felt like there was one thing that had been on my heart as something I placed too much dependency on for survival, happiness, and general well-being and that one thing was coffee. That being so, giving up coffee for Lent could be the most idiotic decision I have ever made. And I was well aware of that possibility when I made it. My brain without coffee is equivalent to swimming through mud. It is comparable to driving through a deep, dense fog. It is like opening your eyes underwater and realizing that everything is murky. My brain without coffee is a tired, exhausted, blurry, foggy mess of a brain. And it has been years since this brain has functioned without numerous cups of coffee each day!

I didn’t grow up participating in Lent and even in recent years when I have participated in it, far too often I have done so without really knowing what the purpose behind it was. Knowing me, I probably just thought it was something that “serious” Christians did, so I felt like I was supposed to do it. And no, you could never confuse me with a Pharisee.

I’m pretty sure I thought it had something to do with the fact that Christ suffered and died for us so we were supposed to suffer for Him by giving up something we loved. That is about as theologically deep as my brain took it. That is why I am in seminary of course – because I am so theologically deep.

According to Eugene Cho, who you will quickly realize knows more about this than me,

“For those that might not be familiar with Lent, it is the 40 day period (not including Sundays) between Ash Wednesday and Holy Saturday that has traditionally been a time of preparation for those who were preparing for baptism and later expanded to include the larger Christian community.  It marks a time of prayer, penance, repentance, humility, self-denial, and soul searching as one draws closer to the Passion of Christ and ultimately, culminating in the celebration of the Resurrection. …it started (likely) as a 2-3 day event and eventually became a 40 day rhythm by 325 AD at the Council of Nicaea.”

Morning one of the Season of Lent (yep, that would be today), found me sitting staring bleary eyed and very unproductively at my computer while I was supposed to be feverishly writing a research paper in the library. Of course while I sat wistfully wishing my brain into some form of productivity, I decided to check Facebook since that always clears a good brain fog.  As I scrolled through the morning’s newsfeed I came across this blog post, “Umm, I didn’t ask you to give up coffee, I asked you to surrender your life.” – God.

Hallelujah! Praise God! I took it as a sign come down from heaven to land on my Facebook page. God really didn’t want me to give up my coffee for Him after all!

Or maybe that was just the lack of caffeine speaking. I might have misinterpreted it. But, who am I to say?

As I clicked on the link and read through the blog that followed, I was challenged to remember that the Season of Lent isn’t about what we are giving up for God. I would repeat what the man said, but heck, he says it better than me and has a whole sermon to go with it (which to be honest I haven’t listened to yet), so you can read it here.

After reading the article, I promptly stumbled across the street to the Coke machine and purchased a caffeinated beverage willing it to get me through the morning and stop the deep thud that was beginning to pound in my brain.

Here’s to hoping your Lent Season starts off less dramatic than mine! And more importantly that you experience more of Jesus during this time, not just focus on what you are giving up. I’m doing great with that on my end right now.

Have We Seen or Only Heard?

As per usual in my Old Testament class, I had my mind blown this week. Prior to class about all I knew about the book of Job was that Job got dealt a bad hand by God, but in his suffering he didn’t sin. By bad deal, I mean that God allowed Satan to destroy all of Job’s property, kill all of his children, and then infect Job with a horrific skin disease. Job went from living the Hebrew version of the American Dream to playing the lead role in a Hebrew Horror Story. [Fun fact: According to my textbook, there is no evidence in the text indicating that Job is actually an Israelite] Yet Job did not sin and turn from God. (Job 1:22)

“The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” Job 1:21

Other than that, I knew that the book lasted for some 40 chapters with monologues from Job, his three friends, some other dude who randomly shows up, and from God. I considered these monologues to be long and wordy and thought perhaps they should be shorter…you know, if it were up to me. Which it obviously isn’t. Actually that is kind of the whole point of the book of Job – it is not up to us and our understanding. We are not God. And we are not privy to know the mind of God. And if we only trust what we can understand then we don’t truly trust Him.

In the book of Job, God openly states that he afflicted Job with suffering for no reason (2:3). No reason that we know of or that we can see. Job was blameless, yet God allowed, perhaps even encouraged, his suffering (1:8, 2:3). That’s rough.

In the midst of all of his suffering, Job’s friends did a great job of offering sage advice and sound wisdom and talking all about God. Job is the only one, however, who talks to God. Actually, Job talks pretty freely to God. In return, Job gets a literal come to Jesus meeting from God regarding the words he had spoken (38-41). Despite this, Job is never considered to have sinned and in the end he is the one who must offer a sacrifice on behalf of his friends – a definite implication that his friends sinned and that he was clean enough to act as priest before God on their behalf (42:7-9).

As Westerners, heck perhaps just as humans, we like to know the why behind everything. And that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Yet, in our walk as Christians, we must be willing to submit to the fact that we aren’t God and he doesn’t owe us an explanation. Job never got an explanation. Nothing. God never justified or defended his actions to Job. What Job did get was an encounter with God and after he “sees” God as opposed to “hearing” about Him, he is moved from mourning back into the land of the living (42:5).

“I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eyes see you.” Job 42:5

As a sign that his mourning is over, he is able to feast (42:11), have sex (assumedly since he had more kids) (42:13), and worship (he offered a sacrifice for his friends) (42:9) – three things that those in mourning in the Jewish culture could not do.  For 30 something chapters his friends had gone on and on with seminary-like discourses about who God is and the ways of God and Job was left just as distraught as when the rambling began (16:2-4). All it took was one true encounter with the God of the universe and Job was comforted and restored back to life.

Sometimes I look at seasons of my life and I want an answer. But we don’t always get an answer to our questions do we? I don’t always know why certain things happen in my life and in the lives of loved ones. I don’t have to know why. I simply have to trust God. And like Job, sometimes my trusting might involve a little heated discussion beforehand.  Job made it pretty clear to God that he didn’t feel like his lot in life. He even told God that he had been wronged (19:6). And then he brought that anger and frustration and put it at the feet of God…where it belonged. Only then did God open his eyes and change his heart.

We see this often in the Psalms as David and the other Psalmists cry out to God passionately as is the case with “My God my God why have you forsaken me?” in Psalm 22:1. Jesus himself cried this out to God the Father in Matthew as he hung on the cross. But what we don’t see is them shaking their fists at the heavens and then turning and walking away. They come in anguish and hurt and frustration and ask “why” and then sit with their face turned towards God and wait for an answer. They don’t always get one and they are not owed one, but what they do get is a heart turned towards the Lord saying,

“Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” Psalm 42:5-6

The Bible never tells us that this approach to God is wrong. We are often very uncomfortable with it and therefore imply that you can’t speak to God that way. But, time and time again the Old Testament, specifically Psalms, shows examples of people rightly crying out to God, pleading their case and not hiding their distress. It shows human beings with feelings attempting to rightly come to terms with the mystery of the divine will.

I want to wrap up this past season of my life and tie a pretty little bow on it and present it to the world as finished and complete and oh so righteous. But I am a human and not a robot. I may never know the whys of some of the things in my life, but what I do know is that as I cried out in anguish over and over again, I was eventually met by the God of the universe and that all it took was one meeting with Him for me to turn from mourning into life again. (Psalm 40)

Snow Days Make Me Healthy

Seldom do I blog about food on here. Not because I don’t thoroughly enjoy eating it  – we all know that I do – but because as of lately my food is most often some form of McDonald’s and really you can’t blog about that junk. Disgraceful.

It is even more rare that I blog about eating a vegetable. Sure, sure, I like to play like I eat healthy sometimes, but it’s honestly pretty hit or miss around this house with me and the veggies. Like if a vegetable hits me upside the head and then falls onto my plate I will eat it, but if not I would not be missing it. Fruit I can do. Vegetables, they’re a struggle for me.

For some random reason I decided to bring home a butternut squash from work this week. I keep hearing people talking about eating butternut squash and felt like I needed to give it another shot. I actually brought some home earlier in the winter and ended up throwing them out because they were just intimidating. I had no idea what to do with one and despite the fact that I looked up instructions for cooking one it appeared so unappetizing that I could never muster up the gumption to go through with it. Somehow I have made it through my entire adult life and have never eaten a butternut squash. Seems I wasn’t eager to change that status.

However, I guess I was stuck inside too long today due to the snow and the result was an effort at cooking butternut squash. Just to cover my bases with this strange specimen I decided to do one half savory (salt, pepper, and olive oil) and one half sweet (brown sugar and cinnamon) and roasted the joker for 30 minutes or so. Honestly, I wasn’t thinking that either half sounded good or appealing. I had very low expectations for this sucker. Perhaps that is why I was so pleasantly surprised when I bit into it and didn’t gag. It was good. Actually, it was pretty darn good. Who knew?! Obviously not me.

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Ate me some butternut squash with a side of kale chips and declared myself to be a picture of health and began my return to vegetarian status (NOT!). If only eating two vegetables in a two week span counted as being a picture of health, then a photo I would be. IMG_0616

So venture on out and get you some butternut squash. Hey, while you’re at it kale chips aren’t so bad either. Take it from me and roast them both. You’ll be glad you did.