Happy Homemaker, Ph.D.

A novice homemaker's attempts to use her engineering Ph.D. to serve her family

Just the Way You Are

Just the Way You Are

In the last week or so, I was blessed by similar messages coming from different places:

God loves me just the way I am – and will use what I have to give.  He doesn’t ask for me to be something I’m not.

I met a friend for coffee, and we talked about how we didn’t feel we were really good at anything in particular (yes, two Ph.D.’s saying that!).  I was encouraged that I wasn’t the only one.

The same week, Chad was reading Just the Way You Are by Max Lucado to our toddler.  The story describes five children who have been adopted by the king.  In preparing for his coming, one is working on intricate wood working as a gift.  A second child labors over a painting fit for a king.  A third child is busy practicing beautiful music that she can offer.  A fourth studies hard, using his intellect, hoping to impress the king with his wisdom.

The fifth child, the youngest, doesn’t share any of these given talents with her siblings.  “All she had to offer was her heart, for her heart was good.”  She invests in people.  She knows them by name.  She cares about them.  But because she had no gift, she was afraid she would disappoint the king.  But when the king comes, she is the only one who has time for him.  The king points out her gift to her – that she gave her heart, “your kindness, your time, your love.”

(Just in case you wonder about our life being real, with one sentence remaining in the story, Clara threw up on me.)

The last place was through the Bible study I’m doing, Beth Moore’s Beloved Disciple.  On that particular day, one of the highlighted passages was Acts 3, where Peter and John heal a crippled beggar.  What stood out to me was, “Peter and John gave what they had.  I love the words ‘Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you.  In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk’ (v. 6). God never asks us to give what we don’t have.”

In this transition to staying at home, I feel a little intimidated.   I am not skilled in housekeeping, as I’ve mentioned.  I don’t have a talent for decorating our home.   I don’t sew.  I am not good at stain removal or planning fun crafts or organizing play dates.  I can get caught up in thinking about all the cool things other stay-at-home moms do – that I feel totally incompetent.

What I need to remember is:

  • God will use what He’s given me.  My special handwriting and enjoyment for writing letters and notes to people.  My interest in cooking and baking out of love for family and guests.  Yes, even my crazy interest in applied statistics and problem solving can somehow be used for His glory.  I don’t have to look like every other stay-at-home mom to be a good stay-at-home mom.  (Would there ever be two such women exactly alike?  See how silly my thoughts can be?)
  • Though I may not be gifted in the domestic arts (If only they were domestic sciences!), my little girl has my heart, and that’s what matters right now.  My time playing with her on the floor is worth more to her than a clean kitchen or a hand-sewn dress right now.
  • I shouldn’t worry about what I’m not.  Now, I fully expect that the Lord will be refining and growing me in some of these areas (and I hope with research and practice to develop some skills), but God made me “fearfully and wonderfully,” and despite the fact that I don’t seem to fit in well with my peers as an engineer, as a homemaker, or as a teacher, He has some amazing plan for this unique combination of skills and interests.  I need to trust Him with that and follow where He leads.

Are you sometimes intimidated by the ideal picture of who you think you ought to be?  Let’s look to Jesus and ask to see ourselves through His eyes.



Saturday Baking – Cherry Squares

On Saturday, I wanted to do and to eat something special.  I really enjoy baking, so I wanted to make something in the morning.  I came across a recipe that sounded a lot like one my mom made when I was growing up and decided to try it.  The Cherry Squares tasted just like I remembered and were a special treat on a sad day.  My husband also liked them!  Here is the recipe and a picture of the finished product.

Cherry Squares

1 c. oleo (I used unsalted butter.)

1 2/3 c. sugar

4 eggs (one at a time)

1 tsp. vanilla

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

3 c. flour

1 can cherry pie filling

Mix oleo and sugar. Beat in eggs, one at a time; add remaining ingredients (except cherry filling).  Spread the mixture in a large sheet cake pan that has been greeased and floured.  Drop the cherry pie filling on top by spoonfuls.  Bake 45-60 minutes in a 350 degree oven.  Frost while warm.  (I made 12 squares this time, but they seemed too big.  Next time I think I will try to make them smaller with a yield of 16-20.  The size is dependent on how much cherry filling you include in each spot.)


1 1/2 c. powdered sugar

1 1/2 tsp. vanilla

2 T. water

(adapted from Lori Schepmann’s Cherry Bars in “A Century of God’s Blessings, A Collection of Recipes by Bethany Guild St. Paul’s Lutheran Church.”)


When Everything Changes…

The last week has been emotional for me.  A dear friend of mine gave birth at 25 weeks gestation to a little boy, 1 lb. 11 oz., on Saturday.  I felt such joy for this couple as they met their much-loved, long-awaited, very special son!  Everything seemed to be going well for him when I received the news, and I looked forward to the months ahead when they would bring him home, when we would get to meet him, and when our children would play together.

On Monday, this dear child had some serious medical setbacks, and Tuesday night, he passed “from (their) arms to His” (from the headstone of another friend’s dear child).

In a whirlwind, their whole world changed as they saw their son enter the world about 12 weeks before they planned.  He was here!  “I’m a mother!” my friend said, in a joyful, but tired voice Saturday evening when she called to share the news.

And in just three days, sweet little David was gone.

I have not walked that road with the heartache and grief that I know must be greater than I can possibly imagine, but I want to be a good friend in this time of need.  My prayers are constant for this amazing couple but also include supplication that God would give me wisdom to find the right words (if any) and the best practical ways we can help these friends who have served and loved us in so many ways.

The funeral is Saturday.  Please keep this dear family in your prayers.


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Letters of Resignation…

This weekend, I need to write my letter of resignation.  I discussed my plans with my manager a few weeks ago, so this isn’t a surprise to him (and word seems to have traveled quickly through the building), just the last step in making this change “official.”

I can’t help but remember the last time I wrote such a letter.  About six and a half years ago, I decided to leave my job as a development engineer in a community I had quickly grown to love with a support system that could not be matched, to move to another state and go back to school full-time…

I want to keep these posts brief, so I’ll leave the details of that story for another time.

The parallels I see are these:

  1. Then:  I left when times were good.  It was important to me to know I wasn’t running away from the tough situations that I had faced about a year before.  I look back on those days (especially the last year) with great fondness.  Now:  I think this has been my favorite semester teaching, in part because I am teaching a quality management elective for the first time.  I’ve had some rough semesters in the past, but I’ll be ending on a really positive note.  (I’m hopeful this final round of TEVALS will continue that impression for me.  I think I’ll keep the ice cream nearby, just in case, come mid-December.)
  2. Then:  I left one dream for a better one.  I had dreamed of getting a Ph.D. and teaching since at least 1997 (though maybe not too seriously at that point).  I dreamed of teaching at the school I’m at now, my alma mater.  Now:  I’m living my dream again, and giving it up for a better one.  Before I ever dreamed of getting a Ph.D., I dreamed of being a stay-at-home mom.  I never saw how they went together, but that conflict and struggle can wait for another post.
  3. Then:  People thought I was crazy, including those who love me the most.  Now:  I’m getting similar reactions this time as well.
  4. Then:  At the end, something happened to make work seem a little more appealing.  I was offered promotion to corporate headquarters the day before I told my boss of my decision.  (Okay, so maybe it wasn’t a big draw.  I had told myself I’d never move to that city after seeing the overcast winter days during my Six Sigma training.)  Now:  After a few years without raises, faculty salaries are increasing slightly, effective the day after I am leaving.  Not that anyone teaches for the money, but I couldn’t help but chuckle when that announcement was made.
  5. Then:  People surprised me by being supportive.  My boss, especially.  They could see this was important to me and a good fit for my interests.  Now:  People are surprising me again with their understanding and support.  What an encouragement they have been!  I am blessed to have such kind colleagues and friends!
  6. Then:  God provided financially.  Yes, it was a significant pay cut, but I studied full-time debt-free without depleting my savings.  Now:  God will be providing for us through Chad.  It will be an adjustment, but I know our needs will be met.

My purpose in capturing this is to also remember God’s great faithfulness in that time of uncertainty and change in 2005.  I didn’t do what I was “supposed to” by society’s standards.  I trusted God and stepped out in faith.  I had an incredible summer ministering to friends and partnering with God to complete my thesis.  I got to study exactly what I wanted to at my school of choice under the direction of a guru in the field of designed experiments.  I started dating the man of my dreams and married him within a year.  I was awarded a fellowship that provided abundantly for us for 2 years.  God just kept going above and beyond what I could have imagined.

So my question to myself is now – why do I think this time will be different?  Our Lord doesn’t change.   I’m so silly to question when He has proven Himself faithful time and time again!  I’m starting to get more and more excited as I think about this!  What new adventures and blessings (and lessons and trials) does He have in mind this time, I wonder.  I know it must be good (Rom. 8:28)!

How has God shown His faithfulness to you?  Recall those times.  Cling to them through life’s challenges.  Share the story God’s given you, for great is His faithfulness.

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father,

There is no shadow of turning with Thee;

Thou changest not, They compassions they fail not;

As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.

Great is Thy faithfulness!  Great is Thy faithfulness! 

Morning by morning new mercies I see;

All I have needed Thy hand hath provided–

Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!                (Thomas O. Chisholm)

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