Friday, December 26, 2008


A couple of weeks ago, Deon preached a Sunday evening sermon based on Mark 1:29-31 that made me feel like he had been a "fly on the wall" at my house. In this passage, Jesus and his disciples go to the house of Simon and Andrew, where Jesus learns that Simon's mother-in-law is sick in bed with a fever. Jesus heals the woman of the fever, and she responds by immediately beginning to serve Christ and his followers. Why did Deon's sermon on this passage seem so extraordinarily personal to me?

Two days earlier, I had been sitting at the kitchen table talking with my sister and her husband, who were visiting from out of town. One minute, I was feeling great and enjoying the conversation. The next minute - WHAM - my head felt like it was going to explode, my vision grew blurry, and breakfast decided it was ready to "evacuate the premises." I spent the rest of that Friday either kneeling in front of the household porcelain idol or trying to lie absolutely motionless in bed - the day passed in a dark, painful blur. By Friday evening, my legs felt weak as water but the headache had subsided slightly and the world wasn't spinning as fast whenever I opened my eyes. I staggered into the kitchen thinking that I needed fluids and my neglected kids probably needed dinner. In the kitchen, I discovered my pastor's wife, Gaye, along with an assortment of kids - some of them mine, some of them hers, plus a few others. Oh, no! I thought, I forgot all about the kids' drama practice tonight! I pressed my palms against my throbbing head and tried to ignore my churning stomach. "Hey, you don't look so good!" Gaye laughed. She then assured me she had everything under control, that she would get everyone where they needed to be on time, and then ordered me back to bed. Later that night, as I sat curled in a ball in the bathroom floor, I prayed, God, You simply have to make me better. I can not be sick right now. Never mind Friday night drama practice - Saturday and Sunday were booked full of commitments and responsibilities that could not be ignored.

By Saturday morning, I felt MUCH better and managed to keep down some broth and black tea. By noon, although I still felt weak and tired, the headache and nausea were history. By mid-afternoon, I felt competent to tackle some of the responsibilities on my plate - drive E. back home to Dyersburg, fix a quick dinner, get the older guys to town for their drama performance. Amazingly, a bug that had incapacitated others in the community for the better part of a week only knocked me down for a little over 24 hours.

But did I respond with gratitude for God's gracious provision? Nooooooo. Saturday's obligations behind me, I crawled into bed with a mind full of whining and complaining thoughts. How come this Mom job doesn't allow any time off for sick leave?! Why can't I just call in sick and pamper myself a few days, until I feel ready to go back to work? Sunday morning, I was still full of self-pity and had a crabby, woe-is-me attitude. By Sunday evening, I really did feel pretty much up to 100%, physically, and I was beginning to tire of my negativity as well. . . . just in time for Deon's sermon.

I don't remember every point Deon made during his sermon that night, but, due to my recent intense affair with the toilet, a few things hit me like a two-by-four upside the head. Simon's mother-in-law was sick. Like her, we are all sick - not just sick, but dead in our sin. Christ went to this incapacitated woman and healed her. Likewise, He takes the initiative to seek us out, while we are yet unable to seek Him, and heals us, not simply of a physical fever, but of something much worse - our spiritual deadness. Christ not only healed Simon's mother-in-law of the fever, but He apparently also restored her to health and strength to the point that she was able to serve her Lord and his companions - He made her well, and He empowered her to work. Her response? She got up from her bed and began to wait on them. No feeling sorry for herself about her recent illness. No whining about needing a little more time off to pamper herself. No griping about having to serve someone else so soon after her infirmity. Her Lord healed her; she responded with the heart of a grateful servant.

Sometimes I forget that this Great Story is not all about me, my feelings, my preferences. God created me, redeemed me, sustains me . . . NOT so that I can serve myself, pursue my own goals, indulge my personal desires, but so that I can serve Him. Christ heals me; God, forgive me when I do not respond to your grace with the heart of a grateful servant.

* * * * *
Random Camille factoid: I am one of those people who spends an entire pregnancy throwing up. When most people get sick to their stomachs, they think "Maybe I have a flu bug" or "Have I eaten something bad?" Anytime I throw up, my first thought is always, "Is it possible that I am pregnant again?"
Here is a poem I wrote many, many years ago on one of those (too-frequent!) occasions when I was feeling absolutely overwhelmed by the demands and responsibilities of motherhood:
Who rocks the mommy?
Who soothes her with song
when the day has been full
and has lasted too long?
Who rocks the mommy,
softly kissing her head,
then whispers a prayer
and tucks her in bed?
To all you mommies out there - yours is a noble service. Press on.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


Corporate worship, I believe, should produce in those gathered to worship an attitude either of doxology or of repentance - or of both , as was the case a few weeks ago as I joined my brothers and sisters for the Sunday morning service at Grace.

I woke up that morning with many concerns pressing on my mind, so lay quietly in bed trying to organize my thoughts and lift them up in prayer. However, I quickly slipped into a defeatist mindset and cut my prayer time short. "God, there are just too many things for me to sort through right now. I feel overwhelmed. To keep things simple, I am going to bring just one request - just one - and I will not bring any other concerns or needs to You until this one thing has been taken care of...." I presented my one request, threw off the blankets, and plunged into the Sunday morning hustle of shower-dress-kid patrol-breakfast-lunch prep-go-go-go.

If you were going to ask God for one thing (at least one thing at a time), what would be first on your list? I could have asked God to give my young Sunday school students tender and receptive hearts as we studied the building of the Tabernacle and His coming to dwell among His people in the wilderness. Or I could have asked Him to provide healing for my friend Frances as she undergoes ongoing treatment for cancer. Or that He would bless, guide, and grow the new body of believers at Grace Community, or transform the heart of the president of Iran with the gospel of Christ, or use my children to serve His kingdom, . . . .

What did I pray for as I lay in bed that Sunday morning? "God, please grant that I may have one reliable vehicle." That's it. And then I resolved to not ask for anything else until that item had been taken care of. Obviously, I am NOT a spiritual giant! But then again, as one of our children has commented, our family strategy regarding vehicles seems to be to keep enough clunkers in the driveway so that at least one is minimally operational at any given time. So maybe my praying for a functional vehicle was actually akin to Moses's praying for deliverance from the pursuing Egyptians - either would appear to require a miracle. Hmmmm, speaking of Moses...

Fast forward through Sunday school to the morning worship service. Prelude, announcements, liturgy, prayer, a hymn, more prayer. Then, the Old Testament scripture reading - Exodus 33:12-23. Moses said to the Lord, "...You have said, 'I know you by name and you have found favor with me.' If I have found favor in your eyes, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you..." . . . The Lord replied, "My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest." . . . Then Moses said, "Now show me your glory." . . .

Ouch. I was suddenly so ashamed of my petulant request earlier that morning. I wanted a working vehicle. Moses, on the other hand, wanted to know God, to find favor with Him, and to see His glory. Ironically, Moses's prayer was already underlined in my Bible, traces of past study and conviction. As we stood for the next hymn, I prayed, "God, please forgive my narrow vision. Forgive me for being so preoccupied with and overwhelmed by such small things. Forgive me for thinking that I can be satisfied with anything less than You."

Then, as if God were determined that I not miss the point, Billy's sermon was based on John 20:24-29 - you know, the passage where Thomas insists that he will not believe in the risen Lord unless he puts his own finger in the crucifixion wounds. The sermon title? "Experiential Religion." Billy emphasized that some of us tend to make demands on God, refusing to rest in His provision for us in Christ until He has done such-and-such to convince us. Thomas said, "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands..." Generations later, Thomas's sister Camille said, "Unless I see a well-maintained, late-model automobile..." Double ouch.

I love the way Billy wrapped up his sermon that morning. Billy pointed out that, once he encountered the living Lord, Thomas's demand for proof simply vanished. Christ encouraged Thomas to touch His scars, telling Thomas to "Stop doubting and believe." However, Scripture gives no indication that Thomas did indeed touch Christ's scars. Thomas no longer needed that token of proof, because now he was standing in the very presence of his resurrected Lord. His response? "My Lord and my God!"

I am amazed at the precision with which God confronts and addresses my sinful attitudes. I am amazed at the patience, grace, and tender forebearance He displays as He works to conform me to His Son. And, I am amazed at how God administers even painful discipline with a tinge of sweetness. What hymn did we sing that morning, as we considered first Moses, and then Thomas?
I know not why God's wondrous grace to me he has made known,
nor why, unworthy, Christ in love redeemed me for his own.
But "I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able
to keep that which I've committed unto him against that day."
So, what is the next thing on my list? One thing have I desired of the Lord.....Himself.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


Boy, what a day! Yesterday was one of those special days when one vexation seemed to pile onto the heels of the next - you know, the kind of day that ends with "Okay, God, could you give me just a little clue what in the world is going on here?! Would it be alright for me to have a minute or two to catch my breath?!"

The kids and I were busy at schoolwork yesterday morning when an unfamiliar silver SUV pulled up in front of the house. I opened the door to find a very distressed man, obviously struggling to control his emotions, cradling a tiny toy pinscher in his arms. "Lady, your dogs have just torn my dog up! I know it was your dogs, because I recognized that blue heeler that lives here." About the time the fellow finished this accusation, "my" three dogs trotted up onto the porch, gleefully incriminating themselves. The rat-sized dog in his arms looked from the new arrivals to me, as if to say, "Yep, those are the ones!" I ordered Nate to put our two dogs, Jessie and OB, in their pen immediately, and I assured my distraught neighbor that I would call the owner of the little blue dog at once to let him know what had happened as well. Then I spent the better part of ten minutes apologizing profusely, struggling to keep my own emotions in check, before I finally convinced my neighbor that I was as upset about the situation as himself and that we would do what we could to help with any vet bills. (Thankfully, the little lap dog didn't look too terribly injured - he was quite bright-eyed and animated the entire time he was following our conversation. Also, as upset as the owner was, he obviously didn't feel like he had to rush down the highway before having a lengthy discussion with me on the front porch.)

In order to communicate the emotional impact that yesterday's Vexation #1 had on my nerves and my mood, I'll have to give you a little background. Shortly after we first moved to the country 3+ years ago, someone dropped a mangy, starved, lab-mix dog off at our house. Of course, the kids pleaded to be able to feed it and nurse it back to health, and, being the pushover that I am, I agreed. With some TLC, Jessie turned out to be a beautiful, well-behaved, affectionate family pet. About the time Jessie's coat was finally filling in, someone dropped a wormy, ancient, immensely-pregnant beagle off at our house. The mercy pleading began all over again. This time, I stood firm: "We absolutely can not keep another dog!" However, since I am irrationally sympathetic with any creature that is PREGNANT, I did agree that we could care for the little beagle until she delivered her puppies; then, we would find homes for her and her offspring. Our first Christmas Eve in Obion County, the beagle birthed three adorable puppies. Within a matter of weeks, Jessie birthed 9 more of her own. Talk about dog overload! The short story is that at tremendous effort and inconvenience to ourselves, we did eventually find homes for everyone and ended up with only.....two dogs.

In my opinion, one dog is almost one dog too many. Two dogs are most certainly one dog too many. So how did we end up with two dogs? This part of the story needs a little more explanation. One of the beagle's puppies was an adorable roly-poly black male with a white bib and boots. Although he was a tub of lard, loose folds of skin draped over his sides and down his legs. When he sat down, a puddle of black fur slid down around his feet and behind. This little fellow looked like something from a Hallmark greeting card - cute, cute, cute! Now, it so happened that Steve took a particular liking to this delicious tidbit of dogdom, and soon started talking about the possibility of keeping "just this one" puppy. My initial response was, "Absolutely not!", but then things got a bit complicated in a weird kind of way.

My husband is one of the most gentle, patient, gracious men I know, and he tries to be considerate of my feelings and concerns. If I had insisted - "No more dogs!" - I am sure he would have consented to giving the puppy away without any fuss or regret. At the time of our great Puppy Fest, however, we were in the process of building the house we live in now....lots of decisions to be made, lots of things to be discussed, etc. ....and Steve was also in the process of a major career change. In the midst of these circumstances, an insensitive relative made the comment to Steve, "You don't ever make any decisions without checking things out with Camille first. What kind of man are you? You don't have to have her input on everything: just do whatever you want!" Although the comment wasn't true - Steve does indeed make LOTS of decisions without any input from me, many of which I would probably address differently - the bitter jab hurt. So, when Steve mentioned he really liked the little black puppy, I suppressed my internal opposition to the idea of keeping him and agreed. "You just do whatever you want, honey. You don't need my permission to keep that puppy." This puppy would be a living testimony to the fallacy of my relative's unkind remark. Incredibly, that tiny puppy with a mother who stood less than twelve inches tall, grew to over knee-high and now weighs close to 70 pounds. OB is a moose. And, although he has proven himself to be about as smart as a brick, he is extremely gentle and has a wonderful disposition. He is the kind of dog I can imagine someone taking to the hospital for pet-therapy with small children. (I should mention here that although OB is very docile towards people, he will lay into a raccoon or snake like the devil, and without a moment's hesitation.)

So what about dog #3 - the blue heeler? Blue (or Blue Dog, Jack-Jack, Dog, Hey You....he doesn't officially have a name at our house) showed up at our house almost a year ago. He hung out with our dogs for a couple of months before the UPS lady positively identified him for us as belonging to our neighbor Earl, who lives about a mile down the road. Earl came and picked him up promptly as soon as we called. "That dumb dog...he has a habit of just wandering off, and then can't seem to find his way back home! My wife will sure be glad to get him back - we thought maybe he'd gotten killed or something." Earl laughed as he loaded Blue into his pickup. Earl pulled out of the driveway and headed down the highway. Forty minutes later, Blue Dog was back on our porch. Obviously, he had NO PROBLEM finding his way home - he just preferred to think that his home was with us instead of with his other family. Thus began an exasperating game of Take the Blue Dog Home. Every time Steve left for an appointment, he would load Blue into the car and run him over to Earl's. We would start the stopwatch - 15 minutes was the average time it took Blue to trot his way back over. Several times, we called Earl to come pick Blue up, but we finally gave up when we saw the futility of the dog shuttle service. When we see Earl in town now, the joke is always, "Come on over and pick your dog up any time!"

And so, all our goodwill and noble sacrifice in the service of Dogdom was finally rewarded yesterday with, "Lady, your dogs have just torn my dog up!" I have to admit that I had wildly mixed emotions as I stood on the porch with my irate neighbor. My first thought was, "Alright, I'm ready to shoot all three of these mutts right now. Boys, bring me a gun!" My second thought was, "Good Lord, man, do you not realize that you are living in the country?! What kind of an idiot would turn a 4-pound dog loose outdoors in an area infested with coyotes, raccoons, and hawks? Never mind my dogs, mister - your little rodent dog is going to be coyote bait if you don't have any more sense than that!" Then I thought, "We'll just have to keep OB and Jessie always shut in the pen now, to keep them from harrassing this fellow's pooch." But that wouldn't do - "No, we can't keep the dogs locked up all day. We let the dogs out during the day to keep the raccoons and coyotes away from the chickens and the cat." (These reprobate mongrels actually do provide us a meaningful service.)

So, I spent much of yesterday stewing over the dog crisis. I was mad at OB and Jessie for being nefarious, cannibalistic criminals. I was mad at Blue Dog for NOT GOING HOME, and I was mad at Earl for not giving him a good reason to stay there. I was mad at my neighbor for behaving like a petowner from a California apartment complex and so endangering his own dog. I was mad at myself for not having absolute control over Jessie and OB, and for having ever agreed to more than one dog in the first place. I was mad at the thought of having to pay unanticipated vet bills when I don't even have grocery money for next week.

So how will this all work out? Looks like I'm going to have to quit being so passive and namby-pamby and take a more deliberate, active role in the pet situation around here. And that probably means I'm going to have to step into the familiar role of being the Mean Mom, a role I particularly loathe even though I understand it goes with the job. Looks like I'm going to have to "clean house" around here - the dog house, that is. And I haven't even mentioned yesterday's Vexation #2 yet, have I?!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

What happened to October?

I woke up this morning and discovered that it is now November. Was that blur on the horizon October whizzing by? Since I haven't posted a single thing in an entire month, here's a quick update from my neck of the woods.

I felt a faint butterfly tickle in my belly a few weeks ago. "Hmmmmm, is that the hiccup of a tiny new life?" I called my OB/GYN to schedule an appointment. Within a matter of days, I was sitting on the chilly exam table of a tiny room at the Women's Clinic.

"Exciting news!" the doctor beamed. "You're pregnant!"

"Really?" My mouth fell open in stunned disbelief. "You're kidding!"

The doctor laughed and nodded. "Absolutely positive!"

It took me a few minutes to process this startling bit of information. "I had no idea....I mean, I really didn't think....this can't be possible!" I fumbled for words while my doctor stood grinning like a monkey. "Well," I inhaled deeply, "Any idea of a due date?"

The doctor flashed an impish grin and pointed to a calendar hanging on the wall. "Next week!"

* * * * *
Okay, okay, everbody calm down! Truth be told, this forty-something-year-old is closer to dementia than to giving birth. The above illustration is simply to give you an idea of the remarkable development of a Reformed church plant in our area. Less than two months ago, God very suddenly drew together a community of believers committed to the authority of Scripture and to proclaiming the sovereignty of God and His salvation of His people by grace alone. Grace Community Church is currently meeting in an unused Jewish community center (doesn't God have a delightful sense of humor?); and, for many of us, we are still amazed by the working of God's providence in forming and building this new body. In mid-September, a small handful of saints gathered to discuss the possibility of forming a Reformed church plant in the Obion County area. In less than a week from that first meeting, we had secured a place to meet and were having our first worship service. (Did I mention how suddenly this all happened?) God has provided a strong core of about a dozen committed Christian men to oversee this fledgling church, including four ordained pastors. He has added new faces to our assembly each week, to the point that we are already outgrowing our present meeting space. Members are excited by the doctrines of grace, and are eager to read, study, and discuss Scripture together. We have been meeting now for six weeks, and are overjoyed and astounded at the work God is doing from week to week among us. Soli Deo Gloria!
* * * * *
On Wednesday nights at Grace Community, I have the delight of working with eight (more this next week?!) very enthusiastic, wiggly 6-9-year-olds. Using Bibles loaned to us by First Presbyterian Church, Dyersburg, we have a kind of home-made Bible Drill every week, and are learning the books of the Bible, the location of key passages (ie., Where do you find the Ten Commandments?), and memory verses. In the short time that we've been meeting, we have learned the names and locations of the books of the Bible from Genesis to the Song of Solomon. A favorite study method with the class is reciting the names of the books as we take turns skipping rope. Last week, one of the young boys suggested we recite them while we did push-ups - I suppose that seemed a more manly approach to our study! Anyway, everyone sprawled in the floor and began doing push-ups. "Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, ...." For those of you who don't know, I am in my mid-40's, overweight, and have given birth to seven children. Yes, I DID do twenty-two push-ups on the hard linoleum, thank you very much, although I must admit that I was puffing pretty hard by the time I finally gasped out "...Song of Solomon!" By Thursday evening, my arms were so sore that I couldn't even lift them over my head. (Okay, Dalton, why don't we try jumping jacks next week?)
* * * * *
(For complete lyrics, Google The Reformation Polka, by Paul Gebel.)
Brothers and sisters from Grace Community and FPC Dyersburg, along with a few neighbors from our rural community, joined us here at Kendallville for the annual Reformation Party this past Wednesday evening. About a hundred folks celebrated with fellowship, music, games, good food, and a bonfire that was probably visible from space. Some of my favorite highlights: the caramel apple eating contest (Oh, I'm sorry, were those caramel onions? Shame on you, Gaye Lynn!); watching Julie and Melissa compete in the banana race (Yes, ladies, we have this on video!); singing I'll Fly Away, with Mr. Ed and Billy playing guitars; and visiting with old friends and new friends while getting toasty around the fire. Several people thought the traditional singing of The Reformation Polka would've been more fun - more authentic? - if we'd had steins of German beer on hand. Maybe next year....
* * * * *
I am enjoying the mild weather we've had this past week. Monday's freeze has brought the color out in the trees around our hay-field yard, but the grass is still emerald green. Gorgeous contrast. Ben's beautiful Rhode Island Reds are giving us 15+ eggs a day now. Ben supplies the family egg demand, and sells or gifts away the rest. That's a nice chunk out of our grocery bill - thanks, Ben! Nate harvested his first deer of the season last Saturday ("Looks like meat's back on the menu!"), and is pleased to have a jumpstart on the trapping season with two prime coyote pelts in the deep freeze. Martha has successfully put a saddle on Little John - he was perfectly acquiescent and didn't protest an iota. I tell you, that horse is in love with his girl! Thomas seems to be pulling out of the moody teen thing, and has been a hard, cheerful, willing worker of late. He has such a fun personality and often has the entire family in stitches. He and his brothers fired a blackpowder, Civil War-era replica pistol this afternoon, and now he wants to try out the blackpowder rifle - the ghost of Daniel Boone walks! Helen has been busy in her room all afternoon working on Christmas presents for her siblings (I think Martha has been teaching her how to knit.) She and Martha have also been practicing cosmetology on one another - we've seen some wild hairdos over the past couple of days! Reuben, Emily, and Dennis are plugging their way through fall semester classes at UTM, and we are counting down the weeks until winter break with them. Reuben is sacked out on the couch at present, catching up on some much-needed sleep....guess that means he studies really hard during the week, right?! Well, I've been officially notified that my husband and children are in danger of starving to death any minute, so I'd better post and head to the kitchen. Hope I'll be back before another month slips by!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008


It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. - Galatians 5:1

I recently had a mini-epiphany of sorts related to the doctrine of Christian liberty which I desire earnestly to communicate, but which I am fairly certain I shall muddle so badly as to sound like a most blasphemous libertine. A little personal background will be necessary to understand why this fresh revelation of grace struck my mind as so revolutionary, so outrageous.

I have been aware since childhood of the very sad state into which we humans are born: the natural depravity which touches and stains all our motives and actions, our rebellious and idolatrous hearts, our utter inability (apart from the intervening work of Christ) to do anything meriting the approval or favor of a righteous and holy God. All that said, I was also, from an early age, a very good child. I worked diligently at my schoolwork and excelled academically. I kept my room immaculately clean, and performed household chores with inordinate attention to detail. I was a hard worker and a passionate rule-keeper. Although I indulged in my share of sinful behavior - selfish desires, disrespectful attitudes, childish tantrums, outbursts of anger, etc. - I did earnestly desire to be a good Christian person, to behave in such a way as to bring honor to my parents and to God. I was sincerely grieved, even as a child, at the sin which seemed to spring up in my heart around every corner.

I also understood that - in spite of my very good behavior -anything "that does not come from faith is sin." (Romans 14:23) And, that faith itself was a gift of God. I remember an old King James translation of Proverbs 21:4b - ...even the plowing of the wicked is sin. I understood that, apart from faith, every seemingly trivial thing I did could be counted as sin and wickedness. But, praise God, I grew to understand that through the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, I could at last indeed do good! I was free! Before salvation, I could only choose what opposed God, because I did not live by faith. After salvation, I could finally choose to do what truly pleased God.

That revelation should have been cause for tremendous rejoicing, but an odd thing happened. Before salvation, I worked very hard to maintain a righteousness that would hopefully satisfy God and my parents. After salvation, it seemed all the more important for me to maintain an even greater righteousness than I had endeavored to maintain before. Now, I had more power - the Holy Spirit himself! Now, I had more freedom - a will made truly free by regeneration. Now, I had more incentive - pleasing a God who had already demonstrated His immense love for me. So began anew the pursuit of being the perfect daughter, the perfect student, then the perfect wife, the perfect mother, the perfect teacher...

In recent months, I have faced situations where I have felt absolutely paralyzed to act on insanely trivial issues. God, I want to do what is right. I want to please you. I would struggle to know what was the right thing to do, but once over that hurdle, doubted that I could even trust myself. God, I'm unsure of my motives in this situation. I found myself overanalyzing every decision, making spiritual mountains out of dirt molehills.

Then the epiphany: I realized that while I had the freedom to do good and right, I did NOT have the freedom to do the wrong thing, to make mistakes, to make bad decisions, to be less than perfect. Sure, I was free to not sin, but I was not free to not not sin. To put it plainly, I was not free at all. I had turned my freedom in Christ into a suffocating prison cell, a crippling bondage.

I John 3:1 says - How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! Those are not the words of someone whose approval is based on performance, on being "good." Those are the words of an eternally secure son, a son confident of his Father's love . . . a son who is free to do what is good and right, and who is also free to err, to make bad decisions, and to fail. A slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. - John 8:36

Sisters, do you know what this means? I AM FREE! I AM FREE! Now, if that thought doesn't shake you in your boots, I don't think you truly realize the implications of freedom! But we will have to save that conversation for another time.

- In the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith (NOT WORKS) from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous shall live by faith." - Romans 1:17 (emphasis added)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


I am the sun, and everything revolves around me.
- Teresa, Queen of the Solar Sisters

Have you ever met a goddess? I have. Actually, I used to be one. Sometimes even now, in a moment of nostalgia, I climb back onto my marble pedestal and imagine the glowing adoration of throngs of worshippers. Maybe you've worshipped at my temple. Or, maybe you are a goddess, too, and have a temple of your own! But wait: let me tell you how I discovered my own divinity. Maybe my story will help you discover yours.

Sitting at the kitchen table, skillfully crafting a pair of pants for my husband, I regarded my situation with contentment and a certain degree of smug self-satisfaction. After sending Steve off to the university with a shower of affectionate kisses and a lovingly-prepared lunch, I had spent the early morning hours setting my temple in order. I mean, cleaning our apartment. The bathroom was fresh and sparkling, the carpets vacuumed, and all of the laundry washed, folded, and put away. I even had to admire the order and cleanliness of my kitchen cabinets as I fixed lunch for myself and my two darling toddlers.

After lunch, these intelligent and talented temple servants . . . uh, children . . . entertained me with their songs and games, and I condescended to bless them with a story or two. Early in the afternoon, they retired cheerfully and quietly to their monastic cell to rest and contemplate the beauty of the life I had provided them. I had at least an hour now to devote to constructing priestly garments for my husband. So there I sat, sewing and smugly contemplating the kingdom around me, a kingdom which I ruled and directed like a queen among the gods.

Then came the incident of the welt pocket. What is a welt pocket? Look at the back of a pair of men's pants - say, a pair of khaki Dockers. A welt pocket is not a patch pocket, like on the seat of a pair of jeans, but a sort of hidden pocket which opens to the inside at a narrow slit in the fabric.

I was in the process of constructing just such a pocket in the back of the pants I was making - not an easy task, but I was being very patient and careful and attentive to my sewing instructions. All of my concentration and effort finally produced - TA DA! - a huge, ragged, gaping hole. A wolverine could've produced a neater opening. The pants were completely ruined, and I was suddenly transformed from a sublime goddess to a raving demon. I had tried so hard! I had followed the directions so precisely!

As I wrestled with which course to take next - crying or cursing - I suddenly became aware of hysterical laughter coming frm the room overhead. Not the playful laughter of innocent children, but the insane hysteria of a sinner, or two, who has defied a diety. Muttering angrily to myself - Only a god or a magician could make welt pockets! - I wadded up the unfinished slacks, threw them across the table, and bolted for the stairs.

With one child in diapers and another in frequently damp training pants, I bought Desitin diaper rash ointment in the 14-ounce economy tube. If you don't know, Desitin is made from some kind of fish oil extract, and reeks of . . . well, of oily fish. It is also very thick and greasy, like the stuff used on tractor axles. I think the only two things that can cut through Desitin are pee and gasoline. Reaching the top of the stairs, I opened the bedroom door to find NOT two quietly resting cherubs, but two squealing banshees. Emily and Reuben had completely coated themselves with Desitin. Every inch of exposed skin was painted with the opaque white goo - a whole 14-ounce tube of it. The front of their dresser had also been painted. And the back of the door. And an area of the carpet. My pristine temple had been defiled!!!

Nearly choking in rage and frustration, I dragged the shreiking offenders to the bathroom, stripped them bare, and plopped them into the tub. Several severe scrubbings later, they were finally free of the goo, but not the odor of fish oil. Then I tackled the challenge of cleaning their room. After a tremendous amount of effort and sweat, I at last headed downstairs with an armload of stinky, sticky laundry, my penitent darlings trailing behind.

Our washer and dryer were in a closet opening off the kitchen. Brushing past my sewing fiasco, I pulled open the bi-fold doors and stuffed the offending laundry into the washing machine. Well, at least I'd gotten the worst of that mess cleaned up before Steve came home. Maybe I could salvage the rest of the afternoon.

Or maybe not. As I turned to leave the churning washer, I bumped a gallon jug of liquid bleach that was sitting on top of the dryer. Do you know what happens when you drop a full gallon of Clorox from a height of three feet onto a concrete slab floor? Something more amazing than you could possibly imagine. That jug exploded like a bomb. Clorox flew everywhere . . . all over the laundry closet, all over the kitchen, all over my two stunned onlookers, all over me. As the fumes began to burn my nose and eyes, I took the only reasonable course of action left at this point. I sat down on the bleach-splattered floor and sobbed. My wide-eyed children timidly came closer, wrapped themselves around me, and began sobbing, too.

Life did eventually return to some relative degree of sanity at our house, but I was left with a very difficult question: Why had the events of the day so devestated me? Instead of calmly handling each crisis as it arose, as a goddess would no doubt have done, I had quickly plummeted from frustration to anger to despair. What was up with that?

A good bit of honest, painful self-examination eventually revealed the horrible truth: I was guilty of idolatry, and my idol was me. I was a wonderful wife and the mother of two beautiful, obedient children. Selah. I was industrious and clever and thrifty and made fine garments for my husband. Selah. I kept a spotless, well-run house. Amen, and amen! My delight and my joy, my rest and my satisfaction, my adoration were all based on and reserved for the great god Me.

As on so many occasions before and since, I found myself prostrate before the cross. Oh, God, I have turned from worshipping you and have followed after other gods. The worst of it is, I have worshipped myself and the work of my own hands. Have mercy . . . have mercy!

God is a jealous God, but He is also good. He is faithful to expose and root out even the sins to which our own eyes are sometimes blinded. And, He is gracous to forgive and quick to restore His faltering children. Jehovah is the all-powerful, ever-sufficient God of the sewing machine, God of babies and baby creams, God of hearth and home. I cannot stand - nor can any other would-be deity - I cannot stand above Him. And, I don't sew welt pockets.

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. - 2 Chronicles 7:14

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


Little John popped into our world in the wee hours of the morning one Thursday last June. From the moment he wobbled up onto his gangly little legs, he was Martha's Baby. Not long after sunrise that spring day, he lay flaked out flat on his side in the barn lot, snoozing soundly with his head resting in Martha's lap while his mother Tulip grazed nearby. From that very first day, Martha's world was all about loving and enjoying Little John - Little John's world was all about loving and enjoying Martha. Whenever Martha would feed and brush Tulip, Little John would follow at his adopted mother's heels, sticking close as a shadow. If he saw Martha out in the yard, he would whinny for her to join him in the pasture. Then, he would stand forlornly at the gate and neigh with displeasure whenever she left the barn lot to head back to the house. It was not unusual on a warm summer afternoon to find those two - Martha and Little John - soaking up the sunshine, lying side-by-side in the soft green grass of the pasture.

Little John grew over the summer . . . a LOT. If he spotted Martha from far across a field, he would raise his head and bugle like a trumpet, then come charging full blast to join her. He transformed from a dainty foal, tripping across the pasture on spindly legs, to a two-hundred pound cannon ball that flew like a rocket, then to a four-hundred pound locomotive with thundering hooves. "God, I hope the brakes work!" Always, Little John would pull up short right next to Martha, blowing with excitement as he pranced around her. Everything about him seemed to bubble, "Oh, Martha, I am SO GLAD to see you!! Aren't you SO GLAD to see me, too?!!"

Fortunately, weight and age have calmed his enthusiasm a little . . . or maybe the big boy is just becoming more mature with the onset of adolescence. He still charges across the field when Martha calls him up for dinner and a good brushing, but now he has the good manners to slow to a trot well before any danger of trampling the tiny queen of his heart. However, I still don't think Little John has realized that he and Martha are not actually blood kin . . . that he has four legs while she only has two, that although they seem to communicate splendidly, their speech sounds very different. One sultry day a few weeks ago, Martha had Little John in the barn and was brushing his copper coat to a shine while he munched sweet feed. Apparently, the heat and a good meal made Little John feel in need of a rest, so he flopped down in the dust at Martha's feet. She simply continued brushing. Little John, delighted with the attention, rolled over for a nice, scratchy tummy rub. After Martha finished brushing his belly and cleaned out his conveniently-extended hooves, Little John rolled back to a sitting position, heaved himself up onto his feet, and shook, snorting with contentment. Little John has no consciousness of the important lessons and hard work that await him in the months and years ahead, as he makes the transformation from an adored child to a well-disciplined riding horse. But, he does know that he loves Martha, and that she loves him. I'm confident that knowledge will make his lessons less onerous to him.

What about me? Well beyond the carefree days of youth, I find life full of difficult lessons - lessons in patience, in trust, in sacrifice, in contentment, in repentance. Sometimes these lessons are frustrating, sometimes exhausting, sometimes heart-breaking, sometimes very painful. Often I don't understand the purpose of these lessons, as I'm sure Little John won't understand the reason for hard metal in his mouth when he first tastes a bit. But, like Little John, I do have one unshakable assurance: I know that the One who orchestrates the events of my life loves me. I am created for His pleasure, an object of His delight. Revelation 4:13 proclaims, "Thou art worthy, O lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created." Philippians 2:13 tells me, " is God who works in (me), both to will and to work for his good pleasure." Again, in Psalm 147:11, "...the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love." I need desperately to remember this truth, especially when faced with difficult, confusing, or painful circumstances.

C.S. Lewis writes in his book The Problem of Pain: "Man is not the center (of things). God does not exist for the sake of man. Man does not exist for his own sake. 'Thou has created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.' (Rev. 4:11) We were made not primarily that we may love God - though we were made for that too - but that God may love us, that we may become objects in which the Divine love may rest 'well pleased.' . . . What we would here and now call our 'happiness' is not the end God chiefly has in view: but when we are such as He can love without impediment, we shall in fact be happy."

One day soon, Martha and Little John will race across fields together as one beautiful, fluid unit - Martha, leaning forward with delight in the saddle, Little John stretching his powerful legs as his golden tail streams out behind him. One day, I will stand before my Father in Glory, fully conformed to the image of my brother Christ - no residue of sin in my will or my being to impede the delight and enjoyment my King and I have in each other.

* * * * *
I sat in the backyard shelling peas, enjoying the shade of an enormous oak tree. "Li-i-ittle John! Li-i-ittle John!" Martha's voice rang out from her perch atop the fence next to the barn. Immediately, a drumroll of hoofbeats echoed from the far end of the valley, accompanied by an excited whinny. Looking up, I saw Little John racing the wind to his beloved. His muscles rippled under a coat that shone like glass, and his blond mane and tail fluttered like banners as he ran. I smiled. If I understood horse-talk like Martha does, I'm certain I'd have heard these words: "Martha! Martha! I'm coming as fast as I can! Aren't you SO HAPPY to see me?!! I am SO VERY HAPPY to see you!!"

Friday, September 5, 2008


A friendly old-timer attempted to strike up a conversation with my son as we waited at the Co-Op loading dock for our two bags of chicken feed. "So, where do you go to school, son?"

"Oh, I don't go to school anywhere. I just stay at home with my brothers and sisters all day."

I winced and made a mental note to add one more item to the list of Things Not to Say.

Or how about this line - I overheard one of my teenagers joking to a new acquaintance, "Know what? My Mom had to go through the third grade eight times!" (Just to set the record straight, I passed third grade on the first go-'round, thirty-something years ago, then 'went through' again seven more times just to make sure I had my math facts down pat.)

Wal-mart had their big back-to-school sale a couple of weeks ago, so I headed to town early on a Saturday morning and loaded up a cart full of 5-cent notebooks and 50-cent packs of looseleaf paper. As I stood in the check-out lane, another mother and her young son pulled up behind me with their own buggy full of school supplies. I turned to the lad hanging on the front of the cart. "Are you ready for school to start back?"

The boy screwed up his face and groaned. "NO WAY!"

"Me neither," I commiserated. Don't get me wrong - I'm a homeschool mom, and I value the privilege of teaching my kids at home. I love that we all sit around the table together doing our schoolwork each day. I am thrilled when I see my older children patiently explaining new or difficult concepts to their younger siblings, or the younger kids excitedly describing what they are learning to their older sisters and brothers. I am grateful for the opportunity to see growth and development in my kids, and for the opportunity to see and know and address their character flaws, sin, and weaknesses. But I sure do love summer holiday - with the textbooks shut away for a few months, we are all free to GET OUTSIDE to our hearts' content! Piddling in the garden, fishing, wading the creek, enjoying a cool drink while swaying leisurely on the porch swing . . . . no lesson plans, no deadlines, no homework to check, just sweet, sweet freedom.

Still perched on the front of his buggy, the little fellow at Wal-mart turned to his mom. "Hey, why can't I do homeschool, Mom? Wouldn't that be great?!" (Now, this youngster had no idea I was a homeschool mom, but his question definitely perked my ears!)

"NO WAY!" his mother protested. "I couldn't stand to have you at home for one day longer - you'd drive me absolutely crazy!" She rolled her eyes and looked my way (I guess she thought I'd be sympathetic to her situation.) "I can't wait for school to start!" she laughed.

As I drove back home, I mulled over this woman's comment. Maybe she was just joking, making small-talk with a stranger in the check-out lane at Wal-mart. But, it saddened me to think that maybe she really was eager to have her child away at school, where he wouldn't "drive her crazy." And, even if she was joking, it grieved me to think what her son must be understanding from her words, about his relationship to her and her relationship to him. Then, too, I was convicted about my own mouth - when had my loose lips unknowingly uttered demeaning or hurtful things, even in jest, in the hearing of my own dear children?

* * * * * * * * * *

Thomas, my fourteen-year-old, was out picking blackberries with me one hot, muggy afternoon this summer. "I wish I had a job," he pined.

"Oh! That's great!" I perked up, excited to know I had an eager worker on my hands.

Thomas picked up on my excitement immediately. "No, Mom, not that kind of job . . . not another job to do here, for the family. I mean a real job, one that pays money."

"Oh." Although I felt a little disappointed, I understood his desire for some kind of tangible reward for his labors. We continued picking for several minutes without speaking, noisy cicadas chirring in the trees across the pasture as we dropped dark, ripe berries into our buckets. "You know what, Thomas, nothing I do earns me money. I don't get paid for anything I do here, for my family, but my work has tremendous value." I am so grateful to be right here, right now, with this precious son of mine, I thought to myself. "I wouldn't trade my job for any other job in the world." Thomas looked over at me, and the smile on his face was rich payment indeed for my labors.

Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from him. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are sons born in one's youth. Blessed is the man (or the mom!) whose quiver is full of them. - Psalm 127:3-5a

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


Okay, so I haven't posted in a month - I've been living in the surf zone these past several weeks. What's the surf zone? When Steve was stationed at Camp Pendleton, CA, I often joined him for picnic lunches on DelMar Beach. Although not a strong or serious swimmer, this native Tennessean enjoyed bobbing and jumping in the surf zone where huge waves crashed ashore at the end of their journey across the Pacific Ocean. I quickly learned that if I didn't jump into the thundering waves at exactly the right time, I would be knocked head-over-heels and drug through churning sand and saltwater - with zero visibility and no sense of orientation - until the surging wave coughed my pummeled, numb, exhausted body onto the beach. (Maybe some day I'll tell you about the time I surfaced from one such episode without my swim suit!)

So how have I been living in the "surf zone," here atop a hill in the middle of a West Tennessee hay field? Let's see . . . in the past four weeks, our family has hosted four groups of out-of-town guests (lots of sweet fellowship!). We have made two trips to see the dentist, one visit to the doctor's office, and had two vehicles into the shop for repairs. We worked two weekends at the county fair, attended the Troy Pecan Festival (woo hoo!), celebrated two birthdays, and crashed one youth swim party. (Do you hear the whoosh of waves breaking on the shore yet?) We moved two kids to college for the beginning of fall semester, and have officially started school with the five younger guys here at home. I've taken one son to get his driver's license and to apply for a job, and ferried two girls to piano lessons. And, BIGGEST NEWS OF ALL - Emily and Dennis are now officially engaged!! Oh, yes - I've also been doing the mountains of laundry and mega-cooking that are part of our normal routine. Whew! I need a minute to catch my breath!

Some people make sense of the events of their lives by talking through them - conversations with friends or family, sort of a verbal method of processing and understanding everything that's going on. Not me - I'm the quiet, melancholy type. I ruminate. And then, I write. I don't keep a journal, but I frequently jot down thoughts and scribble notes to myself. It's my way of "thinking things through" on paper. So, as each week passed without any time for writing, I found myself growing more and more agitated. Finally, I decided that God just didn't want me to write ever again . . never ever! A totally irrational thought, of course, but it still took me the better part of a recent afternoon to talk myself out of my gloomy mood and finally sit down at the computer.

The computer mouse malfunctioned. Okay, girl, don't let a little techinical difficulty get you down! Come on, you can do this! I gritted my teeth and pressed on. Then, I couldn't find the legal pad containing my notes and musings. (I know you computer savvy people are wondering why I have to have paper and pen to write - I'm from the paleolithic age, okay?!) I left the computer to scour the house. No notebook. Fifty yellow legal pads in this house and I can't find the ONE pad with MY notes! By the time I gave up searching, one of the kids had commandeered the computer and it was time to start supper. I threw up my hands in defeat and headed to the kitchen in an Eeyore funk.

But you, dear Reader, know "the rest of the story," because you are reading the blog that I finally found time to write! And so, metaphorically speaking, I will plant my feet firmly on the sand, straighten my bathing suit, wipe the sand out of my ears and eyes and nose, and listen to the faint sucking sound of that last spent wave dragging itself back out to sea behind me. It feels wonderful to breathe the air again!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008


Driving through gray mizzle and surrounded by a pack of monster SUV's doing 70 miles an hour, I felt a shock of panic as I crested a hill to find a semi truck parked almost on the shoulder of the interstate. My side mirror hit the corner of the trailer, then flew off and popped the glass out of the side window of the van. At the sound of shattering glass, I flinched and swiped the truck with my right rear fender. Amazingly, noone was injured, although I think we probably smeared an angel all the way down the left side of that tractor trailer rig.

Twenty minutes later, I sat sheltered from the rain in a patrol car parked behind our blue Ford Econoline. The State Trooper writing up the accident report paused, pen in hand. "Are there any other passengers in your vehicle?"

"Yes, sir, my seven kids are in the van." The tremble in my voice matched the shaking of my hands.

"Excuse me?" Officer Sherron squinted at me with knitted brows from across the seat of the patrol car.

"My seven kids . . . they're in the van."

"You have seven kids?"

"Yes, sir."

"These aren't somebody else's kids, kids you're babysitting or anything, right?"

"They are all mine."

"They live with you . . . at your house?"

"They live with me, at my house. My husband is their father, and I am their mother." This wasn't the first time I'd encounetered curious disbelief about my little family, but, under the present circumstances, I was too rattled to come up with a clever or humorous response to his questioning. "I gave birth to them all . . . there are seven."

"I gotta see this!"

The Trooper bounded from the patrol car and I followed in the misty rain up to the van. Leaning through the gaping hole that had once been a side window, he pointed and counted aloud, "One, two, three, four, five, six, seven! Good grief, woman!"


A comment I frequently hear when someone first learns that I have seven kids, is: "Wow! You must be a very patient person!" I don't think God gave me seven children because I am patient, but because I need to develop patience. Imagine you're in my kitchen late in the afternoon. I stand in front of an open refrigerator, frazzled from a day of schoolwork or an afternoon in the garden, searching wearily for inspiration for dinner.

Kid 1 walks through: "Hey, Mom, what's for dinner?"

"Hmmm, don't know yet . . . I'm just now figuring that out."

Five minutes later, Kid 2: "I'm starving! What's for supper?"

"Hmmm, I think I'll defrost some chicken. Think Reuben would be willing to fire up the grill for me?"

Five minutes later, here comes Kid 3: "Hey, Mom, is it almost supper time? What are we eating tonight?"

"Chicken. And I think potatoes. What about something green . . . beans or broccoli?" I've got the chicken in the microwave and am digging in the pantry for the 20-pound sack of taters. "Go find Reuben and tell him I need some help with dinner tonight."

Another five minutes pass. Kid 4 walks through: "What's for dinner? Are we going to eat soon?"

"Chicken, potatoes, broccoli, . . . here, clean off the kitchen table for me and set it for dinner. Where's your brother Reuben?"

Five minutes later, Kid 5 pokes his head around the corner. "Is supper almost ready? What are you fixing?"

"Chicken, potatoes, broccoli . . . You make a pitcher of tea while I slice this cantaloupe."

My sweet husband drags through the door, lugging all the accoutrements of his long day's work. "Ooooooh, I could sure use a glass of iced tea." He plops his laptop onto the kitchen counter. "What's for supper?"

My voice is beginning to sound a bit edgy. "Chicken, potatoes, broccoli, and cantaloupe." I reach for a glass and fill it with ice.

Enter Kid 6, who asks in a breezy, cheerful voice, "Hey, Mom, what's for supper?"


Kid 6 winces and squeaks, "Okay, got it!"

So, this not-always-very-patient mother of seven wants to close with this exhortation: Thank God for Christ!!! Whether you are a mother of none or a mother of ten, a single young gal or an older sister saint, someone who thinks they are patient or someone who knows they are not, remember that it is Christ who began a good work in you, and it is Christ who will complete it. As sure as Christ is our righteousness, He will also sanctify us . . . even, if need be, using our children/spouses/co-workers/etc. to expose our sin and our need for His redeeming work. While you're figuring out what to have for dinner tonight, remember: "His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness...." With that to encourage us, now let us "make every effort to add to our faith, goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love." (2 Peter 1:3, 5-7)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


I lamented to a friend recently that I had been suffering from severe and unpredictable mood swings - sudden, intense bouts of irrational weepiness and irritation. I expressed my concern that perhaps these short-lived, erratic waves of moodiness were indications of the onset of menopause.

"Absolutely! Menopause can definitely cause mood swings. Have you considered hormone therapy?" Interpreting my blank look as a "No," she promised to bring me a magazine article that would shed a little light on the topic.

The article examined a variety of menopause-related symptoms, one at a time, and discussed the effectiveness of hormone therapy in treating each particular symptom. I eagerly read the first page: Is hormone therapy prescribed to alleviate mood swings? Does it provide effective relief? Does hormone therapy produce any undesirable or negative side effects which should be considered? I turned the page. What about pain and stiffness in joints? Oh!, I thought, is joint pain a byproduct of menopause too? I thought the aching in my hips and knees was just a sign of middle age! What about disruptions in sleep patterns? That's related to menopause, too? What about forgetfulness/memory loss? What about decreased energy levels and a tendency to become easily fatigued? The article went on for several pages, discussing a myriad of menopause-related symptoms that I had simply dismissed as natural consequences of growing older. Although my current financial situation eliminates the possibility of my seeking relief from any of these symptoms through prescription hormone therapy, I was encouraged by the thought that perhaps in a few years, most of my present discomforts and physical complaints might abate somewhat on their own. Post-menopause is starting to look really good! In the meantime, I'll just have to grit my teeth and face this next lovely phase of the female life cycle sans "anesthesia."

I was surprised to learn that so many of the seemingly unrelated things I am experiencing are in fact related to a common cause - the change in my body's natural hormone production. Because I'm entering menopause, my body's temperature control is completely out of whack - I go from the fiery furnace to the deep freeze in a matter of minutes, and torment my family by dominating the thermostat. Because I'm entering menopause, I fall asleep face-down at the table at one o'clock in the afternoon, but find myself wakeful and restless in the wee hours of the morning. Because I'm entering menopause, I take the front steps more slowly, unsure when that right knee will scream in protest. I fumble for words, and grow frustrated trying to recall familiar names.

But even the yucky aspects of menopause serve as a reminder of the life I'm called to as a child of God. Chemicals in my body affect my eyes, my bones, my moods, my thoughts. Likewise, the grace of God which is mine through Christ should impact my life in a thousand seemingly unrelated ways. Because God has been merciful to me, I can back off in traffic and not be offended by a rude or aggressive driver. Because I am His, I can delight in the beauty of a hawk keening and wheeling in the thermal drafts high overhead. Because I am His, I don't have to defend myself when confronted by a loving friend about sin in my life (thank you, Shannon!). Because I am His, I am free to laugh out loud at the exploits of Winnie-the-Pooh, or to weep when Peter and Susan say good-bye to Narnia for the last time. Because I am His, I don't need to fear for the future, or live with crippling regret about the past. Because I am His, I can make the journey through menopause, considering it an adventure filled with opportunities to see more of my need for Christ, more of His sufficiency to meet all my needs.

This is a glorious life, orchestrated by an awesome and magnificent God. I pray that each day, each trial and each joy, will bring with it a fresh revelation of His grace . . . even through menopause, without anesthesia.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


When I was only two years old, my parents moved our family into a beautiful one-hundred-year-old farmhouse that they had purchased from the estate of a great uncle and then modernized. That house - and the farm surrounding it - would be my home until I married and moved away, nearly eighteen years later. My siblings and I learned every nook and cranny of that piece of property over the years, and it became, in the truest sense of the word, home. My cousins lived on the adjacent farm, just a ten-minute walk over a wooded ridge. A twenty-minute hike through cow pastures and hay fields got me to my grandparents' house. I started first grade and graduated from high school in the same school system, with pretty much the same classmates for the entire twelve years. I learned to read, got my driver's license, and married my husband, all within an eight mile radius.

Steve began active duty in the US Marine Corps two months after we married, and so began my relationship with moving companies and U-Haul trucks. We bounced from coast to coast to coast, setting up a temporary base of operations in each new location. Each move meant starting life all over again - new church, new friends, new house, new streets, new stores, - and it seemed like about the time we would start to feel like we were finally settling in, a new assignment gave orders to pack everything up and do it all over again.

Now, after twenty-plus years of marriage and over a dozen moves, Steve and I are back in Obion County, just a few miles from the very house I lived in as a child. My parents and siblings and cousins and grandparents no longer live here, but the fields and woodlands still seem very much like home. The roads just "feel right" out here when I have to drive somewhere - even when I take a wrong turn, I never feel really lost, but instead have a comfortable sense of being "almost there." The faces I see when I go grocery shopping look familiar and friendly, and it's not unusual for me to run into someone who has a story to tell about my granddad or who wants to know how my parents are doing.

Yes, I am finally back home. But I find that "home" has changed. Although my feet are now planted on familiar soil, it seems I have left bits and pieces of my heart scattered all across the country. "Home" is Katherine's kitchen, two hours away, and sharing a breakfast of steaming oatmeal and strong, black coffee. "Home" is a ballpark in another county, watching a church-league softball game while I catch up on the news with Jenny and my friend Nancy. "Home" is Carol's recipe for chocolate lava cake and the four o'clocks, planted from her seeds, growing around my porch. "Home" is so many people, so many memories, so many places.

And some of these friends have done the most outrageous thing - they have taken slivers of my heart clean out of this world. Hebrews 12:1 says that we are surounded by "a great cloud of witnesses." Years ago, when I read that passage, I would picture in my mind a great throng of vague, faceless saints - a Paul, a Peter, maybe Job or David, whatever they looked like. But now, when I read that passage, I distinctly see Mary Ann and Alice, my precious friend Carol, my neighbor Bill, and so many other very real people who have laid a small or large claim on my heart by showing me something of the loveliness of Christ while they walked on this earth. Matthew 6:21 says that where our treasure is, there will our hearts be also. Each year that passes seems to find more of my treasure, and more of my heart, not in this world but in the next. It's as if God is taking little pieces of my heart and moving them to the other shore, slowly prying my affections from this world and shifting them into the next.

I currently live in a beautiful place - my childhood home - surrounded by rolling hills, lush green fields, and woodlands thick with ancient trees. It is a good place, and I can be content to finish out my days in this place, if God so wills. But, I find this is no longer home, in the truest sense of the word. More and more, my heart longs for my eternal home, to live beyond the constraints of time in the presence of my heavenly Father, my beloved brother Jesus, and my sisters and brothers in Christ.

The Sunday after Carol's funeral, a friend asked me how I was doing. "Okay," I squeaked, my chest tightening under a fresh wave of grief. I blinked back tears, forced a smile, and nodded silently that I was fine, if emotionally weary. After a short pause, my friend looked me in the eyes and gently queried, "You are jealous, aren't you?" All pretense of composure vanished as the dam broke and I scrambled to find a tissue. Jealous? Maybe a little. Jealous? No, not really jealous . . . homesick.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


"Mom, there's going to be a Balenciaga exhibit in Dallas, Texas, starting in February - do you think there's any way possible we could go see it? This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I would so love to see his work." Emily made her impassioned plea while home from college on winter break. The oldest of seven children, Emily is a girl who constantly does things for others and who very rarely asks anything for herself. I knew this must be something really important.

"There's going to be a what? Who in the world is Balenciaga?"

"Cristobal Balenciaga, Mom, THE Cristobal Balenciaga!" The earnestness in my daughter's voice tugged at my heart, but still, I had no clue what she was talking about.

Okay, folks, I live in a very rural community, a patchwork of wheat fields and hay fields and pastures dotted with fishing ponds and cows. "Dressing up" means pulling on a clean pair of jeans and trading the dust-caked garden flip-flops for the new pair with the shiny gold thongs. The biggest fashion sensations here for several years running have been MossyOak camouflage and Carhartt coveralls. So maybe it's understandable that I didn't recognize the name of the most famous haute couture designer of the 1900's. Emily gave me a crash course in high fashion, during which I learned that Cristobal Balenciaga had created beautiful clothing for the likes of Ingrid Bergman, Sophia Loren, Mrs. William Randolph Hearst, and a host of royalty and social elites during his career as a designer with shops in Paris, Madrid, and Barcelona.

Two months later, Emily and I loaded into her purple mini-van and hightailed it to Dallas for a whirlwind trip to the Meadows Museum, located on the campus of Southern Methodist University. When the museum doors opened early that Saturday morning, this fashion illiterate stepped from the common world of traffic and noise and fast food joints (wearing my nice jeans and flip-flops, mind you!), into a fantasy land of exquisite beauty and elegance. I stood wide-eyed and speechless, absolutely stunned by the magnificent artwork displayed on mannequin after mannequin. A quote by Balenciaga - "My clients do not have to be beautiful. My clothes will make them beautiful." - would have seemed arrogant, if not for the irrefutable evidence of its truthfulness, documented in picture after picture, gown after gown. I think any woman on the planet would have felt like and looked like a goddess, dressed in one of his creations.

A year later, back at the business of tending tomatoes and weeding the herb box, I still enjoy occasionally pulling the over-sized museum book off the shelf and looking through the pictures of all the lovely garments Emily and I saw that day. (Thank you so much for sharing this experience with me, Emily!) And, as with everything in life, I must ask, "What did this exhibit, this man Cristobal Balenciaga, teach me about God? Myself? My need for a savior? Christ?" The answer: very much indeed.

The prophet Isaiah writes, "I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God." WHY, Isaiah? "For He has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness..." (Isaiah 61:10) David writes, "Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered." Whose sins are covered by WHAT, David? "You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ." (Galatians 3:26-27) Do you know what this means for us as believers? We are each clothed not in a fabulous Balenciaga original, but in a garment of infinitely greater beauty and worth - a Christ original! God, in His unfathomable mercy, dresses a frumpy, rough-handed, totally unsophisticated farm girl in a robe made of the pure and holy righteousness of Christ. A dirty and sinful pauper is transformed into a dazzling princess!

Maybe because God's wonderful provision seems like something out of a fairy tale, something too good to be true, I often find myself wanting to add to it, to tack on my own little "decorations" to make it seem more tangible, more real. I am clothed in the righteousness of Christ - but maybe I'll be even more beautiful to God if I agree to teach a Bible study at church. I am clothed in the righteousness of Christ - but maybe I'll be even more beautiful if I keep my house spotless and demand perfect obedience from my children. I am clothed in the righteousness of Christ - but maybe I'll be even more beautiful if.... You get the picture. Obedience to God's word, service to my family and my church, giving my time and resources to those in need - these are all good things, but I am believing a lie if I think these things will make me more beautiful to my Father. I am called to do these good things, not because they will make me beautiful, but because I have already been made beautiful by Christ. Trying to embellish the righteousness of Christ with my own good works would be like wearing my shiny gold Wal-mart flip-flops with the ermine-trimmed, black silk ball gown designed by Cristobal Balenciaga for the elegant Claudia de Osborne. Or like topping off the fuchsia pink silk brocade cocktail dress he designed for Bert de Winter, with a MossyOak ball cap. Aaaaack!!!

So, what are you wearing to the ball? Let us celebrate God's good provision and revel in the fantastic beauty with which He has clothed us - the beauty of Christ. Come, Princesses, your garments are glorious: let us join in the dance!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Why. . . ?

My fourth-grader paused in her schoolwork, wrinkled her brow, and asked, "But why do I have to study grammar? I already know how to read and write." Several answers came quickly to my mind - she needed to study grammar simply because it was part of her language curriculum, or to improve her language skills, or to increase the likelihood of a good score on her achievement tests. But none of these answers seemed adequate. Hmmmm, I thought, why DO we need to study grammar, or anything else, for that matter? God graciously allowed me to give my beautiful, brown-eyed daughter an answer that spoke to the heart of the matter. "God speaks to us through His written word, and the more we understand about language - and how it works - the more we'll be able to glean from the words He has given us. Grammar, math, science, . . . these all have something to tell us about God."

The above incident came to mind as I've been preparing for an upcoming women's Bible study. The Introductory Lesson lays God's covenant purposes and faithfulness as the foundation for the rest of the study. All of scripture - not just the New Testament, or a particular favorite verse, or a passage dripping with practical guidance - tells us something about God, about our fallenness as humans, about God's amazing provision for us through Christ. God's covenant promises and faithfulness extend from before "In the beginning...," on into eternity future. If I fail to consider this huge, over-arching theme as I approach any passage of scripture, I will miss so much of the depth and richness it offers. I may come away from my study with a tasty crumb, but I will have missed the glory of the whole pie!

Saturday afternoon, I baked a chocolate chess pie. Grammy's recipe, of course - easy, delicious, fail-proof. As the pie was baking in the oven, I noticed the two eggs intended for the filling, sitting on the kitchen counter. Oh, no! I groaned. Maybe the pie will turn out okay anyway...isn't this how fabulous new recipes are discovered? Some time later, Steve and I ventured to taste-test the dark, dense result. It was chocolatey, very chocolatey. It was rich. It was creamy smooth and sweet. It was a disasater! Without the eggs to unify and bind everything together, all the other ingredients - chocolatey chocolate, sugary sugar, buttery butter - lacked cohesion and failed to meld into a satisfying whole. I've posted Grammy's recipe - try it, with the eggs, and you're in for a decadent treat. Study God's word this week - remember His covenant promises as you consider each verse, and you'll be amazed at the glorious beauty of this story of our sovereign, gracious God. Study your grammar - or fold the laundry, work the night shift, finish that report, whatever you do - and keep your eyes open for what this life has to teach you about God, about yourself, and about Christ's work on behalf on His children.