Category Archives: Pure Country

It Could Happen To Anyone

It could happen to anyone. At least that’s what I tell myself sometimes when things unravel. I think it might be true, even if the circumstances differ.

Monday morning, I knocked a jar of banana peppers off an eye-level shelf in my basement. It landed just left of my foot, peppers in a neat little pile, vinegar splashed across the floor,  glass exploded into smithereens that embedded in my foot and flip-flops. It was not how I wanted to start my morning. I hadn’t yet made coffee or eaten breakfast. I was trying to get a jump on the day and create some order that would help me get ahead (who am I kidding? I’m so far behind, I’m just trying to catch up with the tailgate!). This little incident was not helping matters.

Tuesday morning, I discovered a package of meat between two freezers in my basement. I can’t tell you how long it had been there, but it was smelly and crawling. It was not how I wanted to start my morning. I hadn’t yet had coffee or eaten breakfast. I was all about efficiency when I set foot in the basement – in and out. This big incident was not helping matters.

I had left the safe space of my bedroom feeling pretty optimistic about the day ahead. I’d had sweet fellowship with the Lord, had a mental list going and few obstacles in the way of accomplishing that list. Monday morning left me thinking that making coffee would be a great way to start Tuesday morning; but when I noticed the empty dishwasher, I decided to put a hold on coffee until I got my canning jars loaded in to sterilize while the coffee brewed and I ate my breakfast. It seemed both smart and efficient.

Taped to the basement door was the reminder of broken glass and the need for shoes. So I stopped to get the vacuum. At this point, the vinegar would be all dry and any last glass dust easy to vacuum up. It was, but the basement was so dimly lit that even the extra lantern I’d brought to illuminate my canned goods closet was insufficient. I felt the need to explore the cause. A light bulb had been loosened in its socket, so I tightened it up, and suddenly all was exposed. The spider webs in the corners and crevices, the rotting meat between the freezers…

Let me tell you something about my basement. It isn’t really a basement. It’s more like a cellar, built out of large field rock, over 100 years ago. The rain and snow-melt run through the cracks and would fill it up if not for the sump-pump built into the low spot. The essentials are housed on concrete platforms — freezer, furnace, hot water heater, well tank. We run a dehumidifier all summer to keep the humidity down. Still, all that wet earth in the corners every time it rains can make it a little smelly at times.

This summer was hot and humid. The basement odors were unpleasant. My husband noticed, checked the dehumidifier, looked around, but couldn’t find any explanation for the scent other than wet, earthy basement. When I came home from weeks of summer travel, I found the smell offensive and did my own search, knowing that if the source didn’t easily reveal itself, I would need to find time for a thorough cleaning of the cellar. Until Tuesday morning, I had been unable to find the source of that awful smell that I’d been trying to keep hidden by a closed basement door.

I donned rubber gloves. I found heavy duty plastic sacks to scoop the mess into. I armed myself with a large putty knife.  I….was unprepared for what lurked beneath the package. I will leave that image up to your imagination. I want you to keep reading. You will undoubtedly be done if I paint that picture for you.

I scrambled for the Lysol. Bleach was out of the question because we’d used the last drop two days ago. Lysol was ineffective. I ran through the rain to the barn to find any kind of bug killers my husband had stashed there. They, too, were ineffective against the moving mass on the floor. I needed to scoop it all up, but couldn’t get the right angle with the second freezer in the way. I needed help. Kids to the rescue. Thankfully, my kids are all big now and the three still at home are used to coming to my rescue when big stuff goes down.

When the oldest came on the scene, we decided that bleach would definitely be necessary at some point. But first, we needed to shove that freezer out of the way. We two puny ladies couldn’t make it go. She woke her brother and told him to bring his muscles. I said I would pick up bleach while we waited for the muscles to fully wake, but under no circumstances should she try to clean up that mess. No way was I taking the easy job of running an errand and making someone else clean up the nasty. I said it again on my way out the door, “Do NOT try to clean that up! I’m not making anyone touch that. I’ll do it when I get back. Just spray it with more bug killer occasionally if you do anything.”

I grabbed a hat and keys and off I went. The fact that I had tackled this without ever getting to the coffee hit me as I got behind the wheel, and my neighborhood, drive-thru coffee shop jumped to mind. I was going to buy us each a specialty drink because there had to be some reward for doing a job like this one. I was off without getting properly dressed, washing my face or brushing my teeth. But I was only headed to Dollar General for one thing and would keep my head down. I figured the drive thru didn’t pose a threat, either, windows between us for the short bit of contact that would be had. I pulled in just after another car, stopped a good distance back and put my car in park.

I looked up just as the car in front of me went into reverse and started backing towards me. I tried to get mine in reverse and move, but was too slow so I just yelled “NO!” at the top of my lungs. That didn’t help. The thought of honking came after the fact. By God’s grace, there was no damage done worth caring about. But when all was said and done, I ended up inside that coffee shop in my unwashed state with 4 other ladies, wishing I could crawl under the freezer in my basement. I probably smelled bad enough to belong there.

Here is where the story takes a turn and really gets good. So don’t stop reading yet.

When I arrived home with bleach and coffees, I was greeted by 3 cheerful young adults with gloved hands who had moved that freezer, cleaned up every last bit of nastiness, and the young man with the muscles was burning the remnants. He had proved unnecessary in moving the freezer because the one puny lady did better than we two. All that was left for me was the bleaching and rinsing. Bleach and rinse I did, with a hose that sprung a leak and rinsed the upstairs as I rinsed below, completely unawares. The youngest prevented disaster and left me none the wiser till I finished.

When it was all put back together (which turned out to be no small feat, requiring four of us and a good bit of leveling), and the basement light turned off, the three laughing young adults, my children, who were gathered around my kitchen island asked if we could pray together before we moved on. As we reached for each others’ hands, one remembered a song they used to sing every morning at a camp they’d attended. So we stood in a circle and they taught me a fun version of “Bind Us Together, Lord,” complete with clapping and hugs. And then…we prayed.

All before we’d even finished our morning coffee.

Tuesday morning did not go according to plan. I thought by noon I’d be well into making pickles, if not close to done. I’d have eaten breakfast and finished my coffee and had my day in hand. But it was never my day to begin with, and the Lord had something to show me. In my quiet time during the early hours, I had been reading the opening pages of a book by Jen Wilkin where she makes the case that for the believer who wants to know God’s will for their life, instead of asking “What should I do?” we should first ask, “Who should I be?”

My prayer for my children has long been, and especially this last year, that they would be filled with the Holy Spirit, exhibit His fruit and display the character of Christ. Tuesday morning, I saw it on full display, within their home, where it is often the hardest to do, and under unpleasant circumstances. I don’t know how to answer all their questions about what they should do at any given moment, but I know who they should be, and by God’s grace they are (Romans 12:2). They are not merely rule followers who are well-behaved lovers of self, but followers of Jesus whose love has filled them to overflowing, transformed by the Holy Spirit to show the character of the God who made and loves them (1 Peter 1:14-16).

It could happen to anyone – a morning like mine. Thankfully, it doesn’t happen that way every day. But the unplanned, unexpected, and ugly sometimes pile on. As to the rest of it? The joy, the self-sacrifice, the love, and unity – those can happen to anyone, too.

They can happen to anyone, or rather within the heart of anyone, who truly knows Jesus.


©Erika Rice 2018

Mother and Gumption

I’m sitting at my computer, towel wrapped around my conditioned, but unrinsed, hair; sitting here, thinking about my mother and how she gave me the gumption to do this.

By “this” I do not mean sit here and type with a towel wrapped around my head. The situation is a little more sticky than that. You see, I have no running water at my house. Except that twice a day, for 15-20 minutes, the water runs. In that time period, we wash our dishes, fill our pitchers, and try to get everyone through the shower. This has been going on for 12 days. And it led to my current predicament.

It was my turn in the shower, and the second I was covered in soap and conditioner, the water stopped. Just like that. No warning. No “Better be quick!” slowdown. It was just gone. I yelled, “NO! I’m covered in conditioner and soap, and there’s no more water!” My ever-helpful husband arrived on-scene with an immediate, and undesirable, solution.

At this point, you need to know that my bathroom is fully occupied by 5-gallon, not-so-clean pails of not-so-clean, cold water which we use to flush toilets and meet other similar water demands.

Ever-helpful Husband said, “I’m going to pour a pail of water over you and rinse it off.”

“No! No you aren’t! I will wrap a towel around my head and wait for the water to come back again.”

He just looked at me. We both knew that could be a long wait. In an effort to sound less ridiculous and more solution-minded, I told him that the water was COLD and not-so-clean. You get what I’m saying, right?! Who wants a pail of cold (not-so-clean) water dumped over their head (unless it’s a sweltering 95 degrees and you know you’re going to shower later)? He still just looked at me.

“Okay, fine, I’ll use that water, but I’m doing it MYSELF, with a pitcher, except for my hair, ” I said. “I’m still wrapping a towel around my head and waiting for the water to come back on!”

So here I am, towel-wrapped head, thinking about Mom. I know I get that stubbornness from her, but I’m really thinking about all the things she faced head-on in life. She was a do-it-yourselfer before it was trendy. Not because that’s what made her tick, but because she didn’t have an option.

My father worked hard, but we never had much money. He was a highly educated blue-collar man who lived in a little house with his wife and seven children. My creative-brained mother was always figuring out new and better ways to utilize the space and keep us all organized. She plastered and puttied, painted, sanded and varnished, sometimes late into the night, to get the job done.

She cooked on a stove that sat in the middle of the dining room for weeks while the kitchen was remodeled–a tiny closet of a kitchen in which she somehow functioned with all of her children helping by her side. For several years when money was too tight to vacation east to see our grandparents, we camped in state parks close to home while Mom cooked over the open fire, Dad read to us, we washed our hair with frigid water under pumps, and we made inexpensive but precious family memories. Mom never stopped opening her home to everyone, especially those she thought in need of friendship, family, or food, even when all she could offer was scrambled eggs.

I learned from my mom that God is sovereign–she never lets up on that theme. Both the good and the bad (our perception) come from His hand for our good and His glory. She never let me fret, but always directed me to prayer, because it’s God’s pleasure to answer the prayers of His people.

My mom taught me how to be frugal, that no job was beneath me, and that it’s better to do it yourself than complain about it not getting done. It wasn’t a can-do attitude that never accepted help, but one that was accepting of her lot in life. Many times in my adult life, I have spurred myself on by the thought that if Mom could do it, I can too. I think she always seemed fearless and strong-willed, though the perspective brought by nearly 25 years of motherhood myself leads me to believe that it was a confidence in Christ and determination to make the most of any given situation. No obstacle ever seemed too big to overcome, no person too unworthy to receive the benefit of the doubt.

That’s what I mean by gumption. All these synonyms apply–initiative, resourcefulness, ingenuity, imagination, mettle, fortitude, courage. I’m not saying that I actually have it, but I know my mother did. And watching her for years has encouraged me to be thankful in all circumstances, to make the most of every situation, to persevere whatever the difficulty, and to know that every good thing is a gift from God.

So I’m sitting here grateful for the mother I have and the water we get, with this towel growing ever-heavier, knowing that if the water doesn’t come back, I’ll be dunking my head in a bucket. Somehow that just seems better than having it dumped on me.

©Erika Rice 2017

A Covering

I need a covering. After a string of dismal, rainy days in December, very unusual for my part of the world, the view is depressing. The sky hangs dark and gray. My yard is strewn with the debris of three dogs, two of them still puppies. Deer hides and bones dragged in from the fields after hunting season, leftover corncobs from harvest, and bits of plastic and tin cans salvaged from my recycling bins litter the backyard’s open spaces. The holes the dogs dug have become mud pots for rolling in before wanting in the house.

This bitter, ugly landscape mortifies me every time I look out my windows. The scene carries reminders of the past, embarrassment over the current state of things, and shame at my inability to bring lasting improvement to the situation. Oh, how I long for it all to disappear.

I need a covering. A good blanket of pure, white snow would do the trick. It would wipe the ugly from view and make it a distant memory.  The forgiving layers of clean ice crystals would wipe away the stark evidence of the past and dying season.

It’s not just my view of the backyard that needs help, though. It’s my view of my heart. I am constantly mortified by what I see if I dare to look closely. Too often, I barely give it a cursory glance, like the way I avoid looking out the window this week because I know what I’ll find. I’m much less likely to see the extent of my need.

I need a covering, a covering for my sin. One that blots out its memory and offers forgiving relief from the painful reminders and evidences of the destruction I leave in my wake. One that hides the raw and bitter ugliness that makes itself visible too often. I need a covering that remains until newness of life springs eternal.

God has given just that–a covering for my sin. In the birth of his son as a little baby He offered forgiveness and healing. His son, Jesus, would ultimately take my punishment, give me His life, and cover me in the pure white of His perfection. I fail, too often, to remember that I am already purified. “Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD; though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow…” (Isaiah 1:18). This covering is not whimsical like weather. It remains and brings the relief I long for.

I have a covering! My heart is clothed in Jesus’ righteousness and my yard is blanketed in pure white, for the snow has begun to fall.


“In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation [atoning sacrifice, covering] for our sins.” 1 John 4:9-10

“He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” 1 John 2:2

“Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.” Psalm 32:1


©Erika Rice

Mouse Marketplace

I’ve lived in this house for 12 and 3/4 years. I’ve never had a mouse in my pantry. Ever. I catch a couple every fall in the closet by the dog food bin or under the kitchen sink. The last few years, I’ve seen almost none. I did a battle or two with shrew during that time, but never in the kitchen. Things have changed around here quite dramatically as of late, and not for the better.  The mice have found their way in. It isn’t pretty.

During my recent two week absence, the whole country mouse village has come to market in my pantry cupboard. And they have left their mark. In-the-shell pistachios seem to be a favorite, judging by the hole in the bag and the stash of empty shells filling my oatmeal bin. I don’t want to know how they got the lid off of that one. Some things just shouldn’t even be imagined. Pistachio shells are strewn across shelves, as are the inevitable droppings left by well-fed critters of the night. Chocolate footprints are smeared across dry goods containers and half-eaten cracker packages are left for unsuspecting lunch-packers. No, there’s nothing pretty about it.

I empty the pantry shelves, throw away the remnants of mouse market nights, place an already contaminated bag of pistachios on each shelf, and strategically place traps along the trail of leavings. The mice have obviously been coming through the uncovered electrical outlet (pistachio wedged between box and wall serves as exhibit A). I go to bed and hope for full traps in the morning. Awake in the night, I inwardly raise a triumphant cheer at the sound of mouse clattering and chattering. These critters are silent and stealthy unless trapped. Imagine my rejoicing this morning on discovering two full traps, bringing the count to 3 mice who will no longer feed in my storehouse. But as I was still basking in the glory of my victory, a friend sent me this heart-tugging video:

I sniff. And then giggle. I have only two thoughts: Good thing I don’t keep cheese in my pantry, and I’m so glad I use sticky traps!

I am not cruel. I let mice live in the out-of-doors, happy to find them in a cats paw now and then, I admit. But after 12 and 3/4 years, I’m a bit set in my ways. I’d like my pantry to belong to me, to reach in for some rice or nuts without fear they’ve been nabbed out from under me. I refuse to let mice carry on in my oatmeal. I’m determined to reverse this change-for-the-worse, and bring back the pretty to my pantry.


©2014 Erika Rice

Ready and Willing

He is 16 years old, stooping to enter my chicken coop.

Ready and willing to help.

I have nothing to offer him but a wheelbarrow full of chicken poop, which he removes from my presence in seconds. I feel relief and gratitude and yet some guilt (or maybe embarrassment) letting him lighten my load. I’m ready to refuse help so he doesn’t have to see how ugly it is, this thing I work at night and day. It isn’t the first time he’s helped with chicken chores alongside my boys. The last time was more of a chicken housing project, but it also involved large amounts of disgusting chicken poop. I think, “It’s just bad luck that he’s always here to help when the job is so messy.” Then I realize that it’s never not messy. There isn’t a task connected to these chickens, a time that I do anything for them, that I don’t wear calf-high rubber boots and silicone coated gloves.

Let’s face it, chickens poop a LOT. They are smelly and gross. At least when a hundred of them get together, and especially when the sky is pouring buckets of rain for days on end. The coop always needs shoveling. The water buckets are untouchable. The feeders get covered in slime. The smell is overpowering. If I wait for a less messy moment to accept the offered help, I will be doing it all myself…all the time. I’ll get a little lonely, and I’ll get a little tired.

How like my life. I most need help when it gets the messiest. When the air around turns foul; when my feet are stuck in the muck; when I can’t shovel fast enough and the clamoring won’t stop until I get ahead, then I need the helping hands and another back to keep me from exhaustion. It’s also when I’m most likely to avoid asking, lest someone see just how ugly this life is. Come back to my coop on a day when the air is fresh. Ask me if you can lend a hand when I have something better to offer you than a load of chicken poop. When the walls are whitewashed and the feeders polished and the grass grown nicely over the fertilizer – then I will invite you to walk beside me to my next task. Which is really no work at all, and you can stand idly by and make small-talk while I pretend it is always this picture perfect.

I guess that day might never come around. And if it did, I wouldn’t need help.

But while I wait for it to get that neat and tidy, I’ll get a little lonely, and I’ll get a little tired.

It’s time to admit that I have nothing to offer but a wheelbarrow full of poop and thank you for your willingness to brave the stench while lightening my load.

Time to open the door and let someone stoop to enter. Ready and willing to help.


©2014 Erika Rice

A Fickle Lady

Spring is a fickle lady, one moment warm and inviting,

one moment wounding  us with her icy stare.

So we embrace her robustly when she allows,


and cling to her when she gives us the cold shoulder, pleading with her to come back.

Whatever her mood, even when she’s most unsure of herself,


we make the best of her presence,

letting her know that we won’t give up on loving her that easily.




With Summer giving chase, it won’t be long till Spring is compelled to stay.




©Erika Rice 2014


Good-bye, Winter!

Today was all about kissing Winter good-bye. We did not shed any tears over his passing.

We tramped joyfully up and down, snow overflowing our boot rims, feet wet with Winter’s remains, socks lost in boot toes, and pant cuffs soaked through. The woods stood drenched in sunlight under a brilliant blue sky, and we reveled in the promise of Spring. We envisioned the leafy canopy we know will come soon enough. There may be more snow in our future before those leaves umbrella our path, but we know Spring is rounding the bend, Summer close on her heels.

We stood on the high rocks and watched the slow progress of a very large ice slab, making its way down river. We were rooted. An island stood in the ice slab’s path. Would the ice be halted? Perhaps it wouldn’t survive a collision. We had to know.

Barely, imperceptibly, the slab changed course and escaped collision, skirting the island ever so slightly. Suddenly, it seemed to be speeding past, and we were off — running along the cliffs, chasing this hand of Winter being forced to release his hold on us. We had to know if he would slap the cliff in retaliation on his way past or go quietly. We clambered up the rocks, and I slid to the edge just in time to hear the gentle shushhhh of the hand brushing the cliff face in blessing as it hurried past.

We did not, however, let him off so easily. He has been hard on us these many months. Snowballs hurtled from our hands to sting him as he went. If he had not been so large and powerful, we might not have found such pleasure in it. Smack after smack. Chunk after chunk reverberated its pleasing spank of his icy skin until he couldn’t be reached any longer.

We watched winter float away as we celebrated his departure. The river cried tears of joy; and we blew our final kisses on the smoke of a maple sap fire, boiling its springtime sweetness as a yearlong reminder that even Winter is powerless to stop his passing.

Good-bye, Winter.


©Erika Rice