Wednesday, December 30, 2009


My English-major daughter was flaunting her six-pack vocABulary muscles. "Concision is not your strong point, Mom."

I lugged out our 1955 edition of The Oxford Universal Dictionary...the 2515-page, twenty-seven-pound version we inherited from Steve's granddad. According to this ponderous tome (which trumps Mr. Webster and even the internet as a resource in our house), concision means conciseness, or the quality of being brief and comprehensive in statement. Not wordy.

A quick glance at just about any of my previous posts will provide sufficient evidence to support my daughter's statement. Who writes a blog post that requires 4 scroll downs? Or that would be more easily understood if it had chapter breaks? Okay, I admit it - I tend to be excessively wordy. But I come by this verbosity honestly.

I recently had the fun of perusing the school yearbook from my Dad's senior year of highschool. On a page featuring the Last Will and Testament of the Senior Class of 1950, the final entry reads, "I, William Joseph Stricklin, do hereby will my ability to make long-winded speeches to J.D. Rickard." My kids hooted over that - they are all well-acquainted with and fond of Granddaddy's penchant for telling lengthy, often outrageous tales!

The people in my family talk...a lot. And most of us seem to be under the conviction that more words are way better than a few. We have a funny twist on an old saying: "Well, to make a short story long,...."

Actually, I'm not a big talker unless I'm really, really tired or over-caffeinated. For me, writing is the equivalent of talking for most people. And when I write, I like to use LOTS and LOTS of words!

Perhaps it was an awareness of this tendency that prompted me years ago to commit to memory Proverbs 10:19 - When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise. The next few verses go on to say that "the tongue of the righteous is choice silver" and "the lips of the righteous nourish many".

I have spoken - and written - so many words over my lifetime that were full of sin, words of clay instead of silver, words that weakened rather than nourished. And by contrast, I have feasted on the well-spoken words of dear sisters and brothers in Christ, words sweet like honey and full of life, full of the Gospel. Words are tremendously powerful, for harm or for good. I pray that more and more, my words will be aptly chosen and wisely spoken.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
- John 1:1

Monday, December 28, 2009


Here is Soup #3. This recipe was given to me by Emily, and is so delicious that it was added to my "Favorites" the first time I made it.


3 cans black beans - drain and rinse
3 ribs celery w/ leaves, chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 T. olive oil
2 cans broth (or 3-4 cups)
1 14.5-oz. can RoTel tomatoes w/ chilis, undrained
1 T. ground cumin
1 1/2 t. ground coriander
1 t. hot sauce
1/4 t. pepper
1 bay leaf
1 t. lime juice
sour cream, optional

Mash 1 can black beans; set aside. Saute vegetables in oil until soft. Stir in rest of ingredients and spices, except for lime juice and sour cream. Bring to boil; reduce heat, cover, and simmer 15 minutes. Stir in lime juice just before serving. Garnish with sour cream if desired. Delicious served with cornbread! Serves 4-6.

(Note: My family doesn't like a ton of "heat", so I modified the recipe slightly by adding a fourth can of beans and an additional can of tomatoes without chilis. Also, I didn't add the hot sauce, but provided it as a condiment for those with bolder tastes. With these changes, the soup was pleasantly spicy, but not overwhelmingly hot.)

Saturday, December 26, 2009


Don't think you're "country" (see previous post) just because you like to eat at Cracker Barrel and your favorite place to shop is Bass Pro Shops. Here's a more thorough test of whether or not you are truly country-fied. And if you think I'm making any of this up - NO, I'm not. I have friends, neighbors, and/or relatives possessing the qualities below!


1. Your dog is named Blue and your cat is named Tom. You have siblings named Bubba and Sissy and, even though you are 65 years old, you still call your parents Momma and Daddy.

2. You have ever gone swimming in a cow pond. With the cows. Without swim trunks.

3. Your Momma knows what kind of ammo is best for shooting beaver.

4. You let the dogs inside on a cold winter night - not to keep them warm, but to keep you warm.

5. You learned to drive a tractor and a flat-bed dually before ever driving a car. And you learned to drive your Momma's car when you were thirteen years old.

6. You have at least three different species of dead animals hanging on your walls.

7. You store bobcat furs and beaver pelts (at least until the fur buyer comes through in February) in the deep freeze, right next to the deer steaks and rabbit meat.

8. You eat fried squirrel with biscuits and squirrel gravy. For breakfast.

9. Your BBQ is pork, your ham is salt-cured, your chicken is fried, your tea is sweet, your coffee is black, and you eat cornbread or biscuits at every meal, just like your 98-year-old greatgranddaddy does.

10. For dessert, you crumble cornbread into a glass, then pour buttermilk over it and eat with a spoon.

11. Your middle name is your Nanny's maiden name.

12. A "date" is going out for potato wedges and Co-cola at the Best-Way.

13. You answer women, "Yes, ma'am." You answer men with, "Yes, sir." And you still kiss your Momma in public even though you are a male who is a teenager or older.

14. You shoot your dog if it growls at children or kills chickens. You shoot the neighbor's dog if it's chasing your cows - you expect him to do the same if your dog chases his livestock. And you're not ashamed of shedding a few tears when you bury old Blue under the willow tree out back.

15. You think slow is good, quiet is nice, and there's no need to spoil the peace by talking when it's enough to sit side-by-side on the porch swing listening to the land breathe.

Friday, December 25, 2009


Our neighbor took offense to Steve's comment, "You're acting like a suburbanite." My husband was simply making an observation, not a judgment of morality or correctness, so why did his statement make John suddenly defensive?

Steve and I know all kinds of people - suburbanites, farmers, city folk, sho-nuff rednecks, lawyers, doctors, factory workers, preachers, teachers, students, artists, conservatives, liberals, Christians, agnostics, blacks, whites,... - and we count ourselves blessed to have such a diversity of friends. Neither of us have considered that there is perhaps some ideal "type", some societal epitome to which we or others should aspire.

Not so our neighbor. He wears a cowboy hat and boots, drives a pickup truck, and considers himself a "farm boy". He clearly takes it as an insult if you think of him as anything else. I wonder if Julia Child or Martin Luther King, Jr., or J.R.R. Tolkien ever realized how far short they fell in life by failing to attain the elevated status of "farm boy"!

Personally, I'm some kind of a weird farm girl-suburbanite-poet-mathematician amalgam. I love living out in the country, but confess I wish we had a YMCA with an indoor pool and fitness center nearby. It's great that we can grow our own delicious vegetables and kill our own meat, but I'm sometimes aggravated that I can't get egg-roll wrappers at our tiny local grocery and I'm scared of firearms. I think that animals are animals - they are not people. But, I think it's a delicious possibility that the trees dance when we aren't looking!

I have a beautiful friend who is a pure, undiluted farm girl. She can pop the head off a chicken, pluck and dress it, and cook it up for supper without hesitation or regret. She can load and fire a rifle and hit what she's aiming at. She can split wood and knows how to cook dinner over a fire. She can dress up in heels and pearls for Sunday services, then tell you about the snake she killed in the garden that morning. She is what she is - beautifully, graciously, unapologetically, without pretention.

I suppose the hardest thing for any of us to be, sometimes, is just what we are. My neighbor wants to be a farm boy - but isn't inclined to get himself or his truck dirty, and guns and dogs make him nervous. I would like to think I'm at least a little "sophisticated" - but sometimes I get a hankering for a bologna-and-cheese sandwich, and formal parties make me uncomfortable. I've seen teenagers trying to look gangsta' or goth, and almost pulling it off - only to be betrayed by a camouflage jacket or southern drawl. Like my neighbor or a sulky teen, I flush and stiffen when I am exposed, becoming instantly defensive.

It is a tremendous comfort to know that God knows who I really am - not just who I wish I could be or who I want others to think that I am. He sees past any image or persona I project (to deceive myself or others) and loves the strange, confused person inside. He knows my heart and my petty defensiveness, and He pursues me anyway. And, He patiently continues to transform me into someone truly beautiful, someone conformed to the image of His Son. Oh, to be a pure Christ-bearer, free of pollution and shame and defensiveness! To say, with complete integrity, not "I am a country girl," but "I am a Christ girl!"

But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.
Philippians 3:20-21

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


This post's title comes from a bumper sticker I saw recently: "Spandex is not a right. It's a privilege." I almost snorted soda through my nose after reading that one! Admit it - we all know what prompted the comment on the bumper sticker. Read it and unpleasant images come immediately to mind. Anyway, this got me to thinking about one of my own experiences with Spandex.

Several years ago, several years ago, I lost a substantial amount of weight due to stresses in my life at the time. Anyway, at just over 5'6" tall, I melted away to a very lean size 8. None of my size 14 clothes fit any more, and I couldn't afford an extensive wardrobe overhaul. Creativity and economy were the order of the day.

Near our apartment, an elderly lady ran a fabric store which catered to the Indian population in town. Beautiful silks and cottons, brilliant prints and solids, some with elaborate embroidery - these fabrics were for the elegant saris the Indian women wore. I couldn't afford any of the luscious gold-trimmed silks, but I did purchase a few yards of a splashy purple-pink-and-black cotton print. I stitched together a thigh-length, oversized painter's smock, which I then wore over a black leotard. I suppose I thought I looked like I'd stepped out of an old Audrey Hepburn movie! This comfortable, fun outfit instantly became one of my favorites.

Roll the clock forward about 18 months....the lean young woman in the sassy cat suit had transformed in a human blimp who had just given birth to her third child - a 10+ pound whopper! Size 8 was a dim memory. My maternity clothes literally fell off my body, but my "regular" clothes had only enough fabric to accomodate one of my legs. Get the picture?

By the time Baby #3 reached 4 weeks of age, I was desperate to get out of the house. I dug through the closet for something, anything to wear besides a nursing gown or Steve's sweat pants. That's when I rediscovered the black leotard and the brightly-colored blouse. Spandex is s-t-r-e-t-c-h-y, right? I gritted my teeth and decided to give it a try.

Believe it or not, people, you can cram a size 14-plus, mushy, post-partum body into a spandex suit that once fit a firm and lean size 8. But the visual effect? Let's just say SCARY. I did mention that I was desperate, right? Thank goodness for the billowing overshirt.

Feeling very self-conscious but determined to brave the world beyond the four walls of home, I rode with Steve and the kids to church. Sunday school was heavenly - so good to be back among dear friends and in the fellowship of other adults! By the end of that first hour, I could tell I'd soon be springing a milk leak, so I headed to the nursery, grateful for an excuse to not have to expose my distorted, spandex-clad body to the entire church during the worship service.

As I headed down the hall to the nursery, I ran smack into our pastor. He froze, eyes popping out of his head, stammering for words. I closed my eyes, grimaced, and bolted down the hallway behind him. Once in the safe haven of the nursery, I picked up my infant son and settled into a rocking chair, feeling very miserable and sorry for myself. Why couldn't I have nicer clothes like all the other church ladies? Why did I have to have such a saggy, baggy body? What was I thinking, wearing spandex to a church where most of the women were dressed and groomed like country club socialites?! Gack!

An unfamiliar woman stepped timidly into the nursery with her toddler daughter in tow, interrupting my pity party. "Do you mind if we stay in here with you?" the woman whispered. "I don't think she can sit still through the whole church service." I knew the faces of all my sisters in the congregation - this woman must be a first-time visitor. Wearing black stretchy pants, an over-sized T-shirt, and no make-up, she certainly didn't fit in with the manicured, high-heeled crowd gathered in the sanctuary. If I felt self-conscious among the beautiful church people - whom I knew and loved - how must this woman feel, standing in the midst of beautiful strangers? I nodded and smiled and introduced myself to Lara. We spent a wonderful half hour getting acquainted. Silently, I thanked God that He had dressed me specifically for this meeting. Amazing that He could use a mis-shapen body wrapped in too-tight spandex to minister to one of His children!

Spandex is not a right. It is a privilege. A privilege that is earned by passing over the doughnuts and spending time at the gym. Being a member of the family of God is not a right. It is a privilege. A privilege that is earned by the atoning work of Christ and extended to us by the free grace of God. A privilege extended to people regardless of whether they wear spandex or Spanx, Prada or Keds, Gucci bags or diaper bags, three-piece suits or stretchy pants and T-shirts. I am so often quick to judge myself and others by outward appearances, to be preoccupied with or distracted by what is external. I am glad that God sees clearly and deals with me with grace and patience. Even when I'm wearing spandex.

But the Lord said to Samuel, "Do not look on his appearance.....
For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance,
but the Lord looks on the heart."
1 Samuel 16:7

Monday, December 21, 2009


One weekend last fall, my four highschoolers travelled to North Carolina for a youth conference. With Reuben away at college and Emily and Dennis living in Iowa, that left only one child - Helen - at home with me and Steve. Sometime over the weekend, Helen commented, "It would be so sad to live like this all the time. It must be really lonely for kids who don't have any sisters and brothers."

I think for people who don't have a large zoo living in their house, the opposite might be true - relative quiet would be the norm, and the craziness our family is accustomed to might tax their nerves! Also, I suspect that kids from small families have more friends outside the family circle who help meet their need for community.

Thomas was filling out some kind of a questionnaire for a school assignment this fall, and was stumped by a question asking him to name his three best friends. He paused and wondered aloud how he should answer. "I don't have friends - I have brothers." For some reason, he thought maybe those two relationships were mutually exclusive. I assured him otherwise! I am confident the three best friends he will ever have, even far into the future, are the three brothers he currently talks and wrestles and hunts and creates with daily.

In a phone conversation with Emily recently, she commented how much she and Dennis had enjoyed a holiday dinner with several families from their new church. Being in the midst of a house full of people, with a quash of children and babies, a bustle of chatter and activity, had been such a treat. "It made me realize how much I've missed, without even realizing it, the hub-bub of a large family."

Reuben reading the latest Harry Potter book out loud to his siblings as they sprawl all over the living room floor in the warmth of a winter fire....Emily making paper dolls with her little sisters....Thomas teaching Helen how to shoot her very own Red Rider BB gun....Ben and Martha cooking together in the kitchen....Nate fixing breakfast for his brothers before an early morning deer hunt....these are some of my very favorite memories. Precious, precious times!

Yes, it gets a bit crazy and loud and boisterous around here sometimes. My huge teenage boys seem incapable of walking past one another without deliberately crashing into each other and having a wrestling match. Sometimes, there are so many large bodies hovering in my small kitchen that there really is no room to maneuver...and then I have to order, "Everybody MOVE!" They will cram shoulder-to-shoulder on the couch to read their latest library treasures, often turning reading time into wallowing time. It's not unusual for one kid or the other (or a parent) to spontaneously burst into rowdy song or dance...especially after watching a movie like "Fiddler on the Roof"or listening to a CD of Irish pub songs by the Dubliners!

A lot of people live in this house, and they seem to always be talking to each other, or singing, or debating some topic, and/or sitting on each other or ambushing each other or wrestling or dancing. It really is a Wild Rumpus. And I agree with Helen - it WOULD be kind of sad to miss all of this. If your ears are used to hearing many voices, if your eyes are used to seeing many faces, if your body is used to the frequent hugs and touches of many siblings, you would feel starved without all that stimulation. And so....

Let the Wild Rumpus begin!

Friday, December 18, 2009


One of my teenage sons had just asked for the umpteenth time for some item he thought would make his life wonderful and complete. And for the umpteenth time, I denied his request.

"But why can't I have a -----?" he persisted.

"Because I don't think having a ----- would be good for you. I'm your mother and it's my job to do what's best for you, which may not necessarily be what would make you most happy at the moment. Because I love you, you cannot have a -----."

A brief silence was followed quickly by, "But Nick's mom loves him, and she let him have a -----."

"I am not Nick's mom. I'm your mom," I replied. "Do you want me to love you like you are my son, or do you want me to love you like you are Nick's mom's son?

Another brief, thoughtful silence....and then my son looked up with a smile on his face. "Yeah, I'm your son!" he laughed. "I'm cool with that!" He headed out of the kitchen and off to find some new project to occupy his attention.

That episode got me to thinking.....there are a lot of things in life that I don't understand, things that I wish were different, things that I want but don't have, things that I do have but wish that I didn't! But everything in my life has been carefully and deliberately planned and orchestrated by my heavenly Father, for my good and for His glory. He is doing exactly what is best for me.

God doesn't love me like I'm the neighbor's kid from down the street, or like I'm Adam's child, or like I'm His favorite niece. He loves my like I am His very own, precious daughter. And I am! When I pause to seriously consider that the circumstances of my life are filtered through His perfect Father love - even though I may not understand His reasons, even though my own desires may not be realized - hopefully I can respond, smiling like my son, "I'm cool with that!"

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!
1 John 3:1

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


1. The sun is shining!
2. My husband loves his family and works hard.
3. My youngest son just built a blazing fire from a single coal.
4. My "little girls" love each other.
5. Thomas is so cool that he comes downstairs this morning, barefoot and wearing overalls, flashing a "V", and greeting me with "Peace out!"
6. Nate has almost filled our freezer with meat.
7. Grammy and Granddad are safely home from California - yay!
8. We are almost finished with schoolwork for the term - holiday begins tomorrow.
9. Reuben comes home from college tomorrow, and we get to see the newlyweds in just five days!
10. God loves me, He loves me, He loves me!

Monday, December 14, 2009


During his senior year of highschool, my oldest son took a couple of art classes at UTM, where he thoroughly enjoyed studying under the instruction of professors Diane Shaw and Jason Stout. Reuben learned a great deal that year and his own art improved noticeably under their influence.

When both of these professors were featured at a faculty art exhibit, I eagerly drove to campus to see the work of the teachers whom Reuben regarded so highly. Through their artwork, they opened little windows into pieces of their souls. Mr. Stout - a self-professed "paint snob" who prefers oils over acrylics - crammed his canvasses completely full of high-energy images painted in eye-popping colors. Crimson, turquoise, black, fuschia,...there was not a square inch of canvas that was not positively electric. His work was the visual equivalent of super-charged espresso!

Mrs. Shaw, on the other hand, painted in watercolors. For this particular exhibit, she displayed a collection of paintings featuring trees and forest scenes. Muted colors and blurred lines created a sense of tranquility and peacefulness. Standing before one of her canvasses, you could almost hear the sighing of a breeze through the trees. I had the feeling that if I could just step into one of her paintings, I would know what it meant to truly rest.

Several years ago, the kids and I had the opportunity to see an exhibit of paintings by another artist, Charles M. Russell. Wow! They were HUGE, and alive, and amazingly realistic, and I was blown away by the depth he created in his paintings. One in particular seemed almost three-dimensional, and the longer I looked at it the more I felt like I was in danger of falling through the frame and into the wild-west scene Russell had created. My wide-eyed son, mesmerized, began to lean further and further over the velvet rope toward the canvas. A nervous museum attendant suddenly barked, "Please! Step away from the painting!"

Kids love to paint, to draw with markers, to scribble with crayons or chalk. You don't have to watch kids long to realize that every child has certain favorite colors, even favorite shapes and lines. We've all known some little girl who insisted on painting ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING pink or purple. Or the little boy who dries up all the black and red markers in the box without even touching the greens or yellows. A very young friend once covered his paper with delicate, multicolored circles. "What are you drawing?" I asked. He pointed to one loop after another and matter-of-factly explained, "This is a rabbit, and this is a house, and this is a tree,...." It's a good thing I had him there to interpret, or I'd have just thought it was a picture of rainbow circles!

I am amazed at how differently each person sees the world in which we differently we process and interpret and then communicate to others the experiences of this life. Some of us "speak" in broad black lines, while others sing in technicolor explosions or whisper with the slightest variations in shade and tone. Each of us sees pieces that tell us something about the whole; each of us shares with those around us a perspective that is unique.

God must love diversity, judging from the variety of painters and singers and poets He has created! There is so much to be learned about God that He could speak to us in a thousand voices, in a hundred-thousand colors, in a million lines and textures, and there would still be more of Himself to reveal. I am grateful that our creative God never ceases revealing Himself to us...through the brilliant, modernistic artwork of Jason Stout or the soft brushstrokes of Diane Shaw, through the intoxicating beauty of a Russell masterpiece or the whimsical doodles of a preschooler named Samuel.

And I have to wonder...what is in my paintbox? And am I using the colors and the brushes He has given me to tell the world around me something about my great God? Drawing on my life experiences, my personality, my idiosyncracies, my I "painting a picture" that opens a tiny window for others into the glory of the gospel of Christ?

Or, do I refuse to paint, petulantly denying my calling, sulking because I don't think I'm as talented as I should be? Or maybe, in a fit of anger or frustration, do I cover the pages of my life with scribble-scrabble? Perhaps in this season of life, God has given me shades of black and gray to work with, and I refuse to use these colors to His glory because, darn it, I WANT RED!

Christ has, through His atoning work on my behalf, set me free...truly free...and I pray that He will knead a consciousness of that freedom into my heart until, with absolute abandon, I joyously and unceasingly paint and sing and write and dance to His glory.

What's in your paintbox?

Friday, December 11, 2009


Here is "soup" recipe #2. This one is also from my sister Suzanne and has been a family favorite since before her oldest child arrived on the scene 17+ years ago!


1 1/2 pound ground beef (we use ground venison)
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 c. green pepper, chopped
1 can tomato soup, undiluted
1 16-oz. can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 16-oz. can kidney beans, undrained
1 T. chili powder
1 t. salt
1/2 t. pepper
1/2 t. garlic powder.

Cook meat, onion, and pepper until meat is browned. Drain off fat. Add remaining ingredients and stir. Reduce heat and cover; simmer 1 hour. Serves 4.

Note: This recipe doubles or triples easily. When I make "multiples," I use a variety of beans - a can of red beans, a can of black beans, and sometimes a can of chick peas. Also, instead of using two cans of tomatoes, I sometimes use one can of diced tomatoes and one can of Rotel/diced-tomatoes-with-green-chilis....adds a little more heat!

I like this recipe because it comes together easily and all the ingredients are things I typically keep on hand. We usually serve this with grated cheese, corn chips, and sour cream available as toppings. Great on a cold winter evening!

Thursday, December 10, 2009


Last night for dinner we had chicken fixed according to my friend Katherine's recipe for Every Child's Chicken (In the words of my friend, "Every child loves this chicken because it is so sweet and tender!"). Following Katherine's instructions, the chicken is marinated in a mixture of soy sauce, lemon juice, brown sugar, and garlic, then baked slowly for several hours. Steve commented over dinner, "This is the best sauce!" And it is...dark, sweet, savory, and delicious. Yum!

At our house, recipes almost always have a name attached to them: Katherine's chicken, Pritzel meatloaf, Emily's cheesecake, Mr. Mike pickles, Mrs. Helen salad, Uncle Ray's marinade. Helen asked yesterday if she could make "Grammy Cookies." No, Grammy is not an ingredient in these cookies - they are simply a recipe associated with fond memories at Grammy's house. Actually, they are the chocolate/peanut butter/oatmeal no-bake cookies you can find in lots of cookbooks - it is only at our house that they are known as Grammy Cookies.

The recipes that don't officially have names in their titles still have a person or family associated with them. Runzas are a lunch-time favorite with my kids - another recipe from Katherine. Every time we fix these, thoughts of Katherine and her kids join us at the table, becoming part of our mealtime conversation. Preparing runzas, I reminisce about being in Katherine's kitchen years ago with other dear sisters, all of us weilding rolling pins as we pressed out the dough to make these delicious bun-sandwiches together for our horde of children.

Sour dough bread, squash relish - I can't prepare these without thinking of my friend Donna and feeling like she is somehow present in my kitchen. Taco soup, cappucino muffins - Hi, Teresa! Peanut-butter crackers dipped in almond bark - how many of those did we put away together when we were newlyweds to young Marines, Jill? ("Do we want to just talk, or talk and eat?")

Pumpkin pie - yes, my kids like the cool-whip version better, but I insist on making a dark, spicy, old-fashioned recipe handed down years ago from Mrs. Polly to my mother, then to me. Fortunately, my kids are very understanding - they appreciate the difference between no-bake pumpkin pie (which they love!) and Mom's pumpkin pie, which is a testimony to the loveliness of a dear saint, precious to me in my own childhood, who is now with the Lord. I was elated when, as we discussed menu options for Thanksgiving this year, my kids specifically asked me to make the old-fashioned pumpkin pies - we're winning them over, Mrs. Polly!

I think one of the reasons I enjoy cooking so much is because it is a way of remembering and celebrating dear friends and fond memories. Even in my remote, isolated corner of the world, I can't feel alone in the kitchen! Readers, do you have a similar practice of naming or associating certain recipes with particular people? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

On the menu at our house tonight: Suzanne's Chili

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


A friend who graciously reviewed my notes for several baby shower devotions suggested I post my outlines on this blog. Seems ideas for baby shower devotions are in demand these days! So, here are my notes for the first baby shower -


Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 1: What is the chief end of man? Answer: Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.
Our ultimate purpose is not to raise perfect children or to have an idyllic family life or to pursue personal promotion and contentment. Our ultimate purpose - the reason we were created - is to glorify God. God is our reference point for everything we do in this life. Embracing God's glory as our reason for being will translate into joyful obedience as we endeavor to complete the work He assigns us. In the face of the startling news of her own pregnancy, Mary says in Luke 1:38, "I am the Lord's servant. May it be as you have said." (I know "joyful" is a difficult word, given some of the circumstances we face in parenting, but the more we embrace our purpose of glorifying God, the more joy we will find in this labor.)

So, what work, what obedience, has God assigned to us as parents and particularly as mothers?

Genesis 17:9 - God said to Abraham, "As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations."

Genesis 18:18-19 - The LORD said, "...Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him. For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice..."

Family is the primary place where children learn about God and godliness. As parents, we must teach our children about God, the truths of Scripture, about Christ and His gospel - and then we must encourage and tutor our children to use that knowledge as the foundation for their lives. * Parents have primary responsibility for the training and nurturing of children - not Sunday school teachers or pastors or the local schools or the government, etc. *

Deuteronomy 6:4-7 - Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise....

*We are commanded to love the LORD, to meditate on His word - and then right away we are told to teach these things to our children. Teaching our children about God is a fundamental demonstration of love and obedience to our Creator. Love the LORD - teach your children. *

Also, Deut. 4:9 exhorts us not only to teach our children, but to teach our children's children. This is a calling that will last our entire lives!

Ephesians 6:4 - Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (While this speaks particularly to fathers, as mothers it is our responsibility to help in this labor and to reinforce the instruction of our husbands.)

This is not an easy assignment - the world, the devil, and our own sin nature work against us. We need supernatural power for this work. What is the Power Source for this lifelong labor of obedience to God's command to teach our children?
* God loves us - we are the object of God's amazing grace! (1 John 3:1, Romans 8:35)
* God protects us - He is sovereign over everything, and works everything to our good and His glory. (Romans 8:28)
* God's Spirit dwells in us and helps us in our weakness. (Romans 8:26)
* Christ Himself is interceding for us!

Our security and significance are grounded in Christ, not in the world or in unrealistic images of life or in our children or our marriages or our careers. This frees and empowers us to pursue God's glory. Realizing that God's glory is our purpose gives us tremendous stability in the face of emotional extremes, difficult circumstances, and the chaos of childrearing. God's glory - not our own expectations or preferences - is our basis for making decisions and dealing with life circumstances.

Practical Ideas:
* Pray daily for God's wisdom and strength as you seek to mother your children, and that you will know the sufficiency of Christ in this area of your life.
* Pray daily for your husband - try to develop a habit of doing this with your children.
* Try to read at least some Scripture daily.
* Look for opportunities to communicate God's presence, character, and attributes to your children - He's all over creation!
* Use "hard times" as opportunities for prayer and praise - Defy the devil! Develop a habit of thankfulness. Use difficulties to consciously identify with Christ's sacrifice and suffereing (2 Corinthians 12:9 - Paul: "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.) Be honest with God and with your children about the struggles of life.


2 Timothy 4:1-2 - I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.

*To yourself as a mom - Even in motherhood, Christ's righteousness is our covering, our security. You can't do this mom job - Christ can, perfectly. Rest in the work that Christ has done and continues to do on your behalf.

*To your children - In disciplining your children, deal with their sinfulness honestly. Explain to them that (fill-in-the-blank) is sin; that God hates sin and cannot even look upon it; that because of sin, they need someone to save them; that God sent Jesus to die to pay for just such sins; that Jesus bore the wrath of God so that we wouldn't have to; that Jesus loves us and is able to help us. PRAY with your children, showing them how to confess their sin and ask for God's forgiveness and Christ's redeeming work in their hearts and lives.

Closing Prayer: Ephesians 3:14-21

Sunday, December 6, 2009


In an attempt to radically reduce our grocery bill last fall, my family decided to try eating soup for dinner every night for a month...except on Sundays, which were "feast" days. We tried as many different soup recipes as possible, to avoid boring repetition, and eventually developed a repertoire of about twenty soups. With the return of cold weather, soup is once again a frequent item on the menu. I've decided to share some of our favorite recipes on days when life prevents my writing a longer post. Everyone at my table loves this first recipe, given to me several years ago by my sister Suzanne.


3 T. butter
1 medium carrot, diced
1/4 c. chopped onioin
2 T. flour
1 quart milk
1 chicken bouillon cube (or 1 t. granules)
6 medium potatoes-peeled, cooked, and diced
2 T. chopped parsley
1 t. salt
1/2 t. seasoned salt

Melt butter in dutch oven or large soup pot. Add carrot and onion; cook until tender. Blend in flour; when bubbly, gradually stir in milk and bouillon cube. When slightly thickened, add half the potatoes. Mash remaining potatoes and stir in with parsley and seasoning. Serve steaming hot with some crusty bread. Serves 4.

(Note: I use this recipe as a basic guideline, but make a much larger batch for my family. It's very easy to double or triple as needed.)

Thursday, December 3, 2009


...God Himself will be with them...He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. Revelation 21:4

Heading into the Christmas season, it may seem a bit peculiar that my thoughts are on grief and grieving. But they are. I have a friend who will be celebrating the holidays this year without her husband, who was killed in a car wreck this summer. Another young friend will be "celebrating" for the first time in his life without his father. We all know someone who has lost a beloved spouse, parent, child, or friend this year, and who is facing a Christmas painfully different from their last.

I know some folks - I call them the Happy People - who seem to grieve hard and fast, and then move quickly back to an undiluted joy of living. A death, a disappointment at work, a breakdown in a significant relationship...nothing seems to knock these people off their dancing feet for very long. I'm not one of those happy people, but am instead the melancholy type. I grieve, come up for air long enough to catch my breath, and then grieve some more. Steve commented to me once, "I don't think you're happy unless you're depressed!" Life for a Happy, living with a Melancholy, must be very frustrating at times!

Several years ago, a friend of mine was killed in a horrible car wreck - she and her husband and four of her six children. I remember when I first learned of the tragedy. Fresh grief is raw, electric, soul-shaking, numbing. Then came the realization that the two survivors, fighting for life in a far-away hospital, would have to face the news of the deaths of the rest of their family, as soon as they were physically/medically stable...down crashed a new wave of grief, for the two children who lived. A month later, the thought that a bruised and scarred 16-year-old boy would have to begin the process of "going through" his father's personal things...the awareness that he was now the man of the family, and his sister's spiritual leader...years later, the wedding without Mom or Dad or the four lost siblings there to celebrate...much, much joy in the years since the wreck, but not without the breaking of the surf - of loss, of grief - in the background.

People grieve differently. There was a time when I honestly felt guilty for being so s-l-o-w about the process myself. I considered that maybe, in some twisted way, I really did enjoy sorrow. Or, that maybe my inability to grieve more quickly was evidence of a weak faith. I finally decided that feeling bad for feeling bad was kind of stupid, realizing that not everyone's grief mechanism is alike. I no longer feel guilty for weeping, but am not yet completely free of the wish to be understood by the Happy People perplexed by the tears that seem to ready to overflow even during happy times.

I think that for Happy People, grief is perhaps like a sudden violent storm that blows up on a normally peaceful and beautiful lake, transforming the still water into dark and turbulent waves. Before too long, the storm blows itself out and the surface of the lake grows calm, reflecting once again the familiar and friendly sunshine. For the Melancholy, grief is like the ocean surf crashing rythmically to shore. Peace reigns between each of the breakers, but the waves don't ever stop rolling onto the beach. But, in case you're thinking all of this sounds horribly depressing, let me remind you that the waves bring treasures from the deep that would otherwise remain unseen. Waves of grief are often followed by waves of grace. For example....

My friend Carol left this world (see this post) for heaven almost two years ago, and the grief I feel over her absence is older now, riper, less stinging. But from out of the blue, a fresh wave crashed down on me last week - I found myself once again weeping for the friend I had lost, whom I hadn't seen in so long, whom I truly missed. (Carol, by the way, was a Happy People, but was always gracious and patient with her Melancholy friend!) As I struggled to not be swamped by this unexpected wave, I was suddenly reminded of the greatness of our salvation. It's as if God was telling me, "Camille, you are crying because you can no longer have the old Carol. Have you not even considered how much more you are going to delight in the new Carol? Imagine the Carol who waits for you in Glory!" And remarkably, I turned from looking back through tears at the Carol I had lost - to - looking joyously forward through tears to the Carol I haven't yet met. And the Glorious Carol is probably laughing right now, saying, "What took you so long!"

Now, if only I can learn to apply this insight to the many areas of life where I am still "looking back" through a blur of tears, longing for what was and is no more, instead of for the wonderful things God has in store for me ahead. Oh, if only could say with Paul, "forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." (2 Phil. 3:13)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


Today is cold, wet, and gray in northwest Tennessee. We've been nursing a sulky fire all afternoon, but finally have the masonry in the fireplace heated enough to chase the chill out of the living room and a crackling flame to diminish the general gloom. With Reuben away at college, Benjamin is now the resident fire expert. Did you know there's a recipe for a really good fire? Different woods contribute different qualities to a well-tended hearth. Here's what I've learned so far from the fire keepers in my house....

Maple burns brightly - use this wood for a good quality, cheerful flame. Oak and hickory burn hot - add a little of one of these woods to generate more heat. Beech burns well in general, but not as brightly as maple or as hot as hickory. This makes a good "filler" wood for us, as the beech trees on the farm shed plenty of limbs each year and contribute greatly to the size of our woodpile. Locust burns slowly - one locust log will last a several hours, keeping the fire going for a long time. Elm is definitely not preferred at our house, because it's a booger to split - the wood is incredibly tough and stringy. Ash is probably the "king" of all the firewoods, because it seems to have the best features of all the other woods and it splits satisfyingly with a well-aimed axe.

I can tell one tree from another when I see them out on the farm, but can't yet identify one piece of dry, split wood from another....except for beech, which has a distinctive bark. Therefore, my efforts at fire-building are best spent gathering kindling, which only requires the ability to choose a dry twig instead of a green twig from the forest floor. Fortunately, the boys can tell the different wood types apart when they go out to the woodpile to bring in an armload of logs for the fireplace. Until I'm better educated, I'll just have to leave this kind of "cooking" up to the young men!

As for me, I'm making a pot of homemade chicken noodle soup, on the stove, for dinner tonight. There's more than one way to chase a chill away!

Saturday, November 28, 2009


The Thanksgiving holidays have raced past much too quickly, and I don't think anyone in my house is ready to start back to school on Monday. We put the books away for an entire week and devoted ourselves to family fellowship, fun, and consuming lots of food. The boys enjoyed deer hunting, shooting skeet, tossing the football around, and horseback riding. And the girls? We FINALLY made hoop skirts for a country dance. Yay!!!!

Here are my two young beauties wearing the new additions to their wardrobes. They strolled leisurely about the yard in their long skirts, enjoying the sunshine and warm temperatures as they chatted and laughed. They practiced walking and sitting while maneuvering hoops. They took turns perching carefully on the piano bench to practice their recital pieces. And of course, they danced - long, bell-shaped skirts are irresistible for swishing, swooping, and twirling!

Martha pushed furniture out of the way, put on a CD of Irish whistle music, and led Helen in a merry do-si-do.

Happy feet, happy hearts, happy times!

(On a different note, we had the opportunity to see pieces of some football games on TV over the Thanksgiving weekend, while visiting with family. The television cameras zoomed in on some of the cheerleaders at one point, and the question was asked, "Why are their cheerleaders wearing clothes?" One of kids replied, "Oh, that's a college team. It's only the professional teams' cheerleaders that don't wear clothes." This mother is SO VERY GRATEFUL that her girls would rather play "ladies" than pretend to be Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders. I hope they always aspire to be pretty girls, instead of Shake-'Em-Loose Sallys!)

Friday, November 27, 2009


In the midst of Thanksgiving weekend festivities, I am reminded of the words of a wise older friend: "Extended family is the crucible where our sins are ground out and exposed...always plenty of opportunities for repentance during a family reunion!"

How many of you can relate to this scenario - You try to be a deliberate, conscientious parent, with rules and standards of behavior for your children, rules intended for their health, happiness, and spiritual growth. Then, you pack the family off to the grandparents' house for the holidays, where it is officially announced upon your arrival by a respected member of the older generation, "None of your Mom's rules apply at Grandma's house!"

I have a friend who is eagerly anticipating her first grandchild. This friend has commented on several occasions how she plans to "spoil this baby rotten", adding that she's not ever going to discipline her grandkids. Parenting her own children was hard work. For her, this baby is going to be all about happy times and having fun. And if he gets cranky or unpleasant, she'll just pack him back off to his parents.

Now, I can understand the sentiment behind these comments. Parenting IS hard work, and it's fun to think about having a fresh new generation to enjoy without quite so much pressure and responsibility. But, grandparents who indulge in such selfish, unscriptural behavior do a huge disservice to themselves, their adult children, and their precious grandchildren.

When Israel stood on the brink of the Promised Land, after 40 years of wandering around in the wilderness as punishment for their earlier disobedience, Moses reminded the people of their covenant with the Holy, Sovereign God who ruled them. Commanding them to obedience, Moses said, "Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children's children...." (Deut. 4:9)

I am at the stage of life where my children are mostly grown, just beginning to leave the nest. My job as a parent is in many ways much easier now than when my kids where younger and parenting was more labor intensive. Truthfully, I have thought to myself, "Hey, I'm almost done! WooHoo! In another couple of years, my hard work of training the next generation will be over, and I can finally start doing some things for me!" But the passage from Deuteronomy hit me like a slap of cold water recently, as I considered the delightful possibility of having my own grandchildren in the not-too-distant-future. I am not almost done - my work has just begun!

God doesn't command parents to "train up" their children....and then clock out for early retirement. He commands us to train up our children....and then train up our children's children. This does not mean that my role as a grandparent will be the same as that of a parent. But it does mean that I will be more concerned about the salvation and spiritual growth of my grandkids than I will be about whether or not they think Grandma is a fairy god mother who makes all their wishes come true. God commands children to honor their parents - as a grandparent, I should be deliberate about encouraging my grandchildren to keep that command. My relationship with my grandkids should never undermine the authority and responsibility of their own mom and dad.

And so, yes, I've had to repent of the desire to "be done" with this parenting thing, to shift from hard work to party mode. I do think grandparenting will be a delight, and I hope my future grandkids will think of me, my home, and my relationship with them with pleasure. But, I also have a responsibility to lace the parties at this grandma's house with instruction, training, and much prayer. Scripture encourages me - obedience to the calling to train my children, and my children's children, will honor God and will bless my children and grandchildren.

I want my grandkids to know that Grandma loves them, but that God loves them infinitely more. That I desire their company, but that God so desires them that He pursues them and woos them even across a chasm of sin. More than a weekend at Grandma's, I want my grandchildren to eagerly anticipate a family reunion with Jesus. Bring on the grandbabies - I'm ready to bake cookies, and to talk about the feast and the fellowship that await in Glory!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


After a three month haitus, I am so thrilled to be blogging again! These past few months have been crazy-crazy...two trips to the hospital and several to the orthopaedist and heart doctor, three funerals and three births within our church family, fraternal projects and conventions, an eventful road trip that included a vehicle malfunction and rescue by a Handsome Prince, and numerous other frustrations and absurdities which my brain has no doubt repressed to prevent some kind of nuclear meltdown. And, stirred in with all that excitement, the mundane business of regular, school, laundry, school, blah, blah, blah.

But, all that time away from the computer has not been wasted, at least not as far is blogging is concerned. During my absence, I have been learning from several of my favorite young bloggers. The Hurricane Report has a new look and a new layout, and now credit must be given where credit is due.

First, THANK YOU, Emily and Ashley, for fresh inspiration and for reminding me how much fun this blog thing is, both as a blogger and as a reader of blogs. And, THANK YOU, Jenny, for new ideas for tools and features - you inspired me to boldly blaze new trails into the technosphere. And so far, I haven't blown anything up on my computer, either!

And finally, THANK YOU, Thomas, for the awesome Tech Support! The old saying is true: "You can't judge a book by its cover."

Don't be deceived by appearances, Dear Reader. Thomas is no ordinary redneck, hillbilly type. Beneath that suave exterior lurks a superb techno-geek and talented artist. Thomas dedicated the better part of a day to redesigning The Hurricane Report, including adding that awesome shot in the header taken from our front porch. He created a fresh new look for The Hurricane Report that has me eager to start writing!

(And, no, that picture is not posed. Just outside the boundaries of this photo, Tom's three brothers are fleshing a deer hide. Tom decided to provide a little musical entertainment for them as they worked, while giving OB a break from the kennel. Sister Martha managed to snap this shot before Tom became wise to her.)

One last note: Thomas has also agreed to provide some of his fabulous graphic art/cartooning for future blog posts. You are going to love Alpha Man!

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving....and I'll see you back here, SOON.

Monday, August 17, 2009


...he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. John 10:3

Steve did not feel well when we went to bed last Friday evening, and he felt progressively worse as the night hours dragged by. By 1:30 Saturday morning, he was experiencing severe indigestion, pressure in his chest, numbness in his left arm and jaw, dizziness, and ringing in his ears. Fearing a heart attack, we headed for our local emergency room.

You can imagine the grim thoughts that haunted my mind while we were at the ER. Was this really a heart attack? Did we get medical attention in time to avert serious permanent damage? What would the doctor advise us to do next - medication, changes in diet, surgery? How much would all of this end up costing? Already just barely getting by financially, how would we ever pay off huge hospital bills? If this episode was stress induced, then it seemed like growing medical expenses would only add to Steve's stress and exacerbate the problem, thus creating a Catch 22. Worse yet, what if Steve's condition was beyond treatment and the doctor gave us no prognosis for recovery? There was a sinister spectre indeed!

Needless to say, that night in the ER was l-o-n-g, tense, and emotional. Thankfully, the ER staff were able, over a period of several hours, to bring Steve's blood pressure down to a "safe" level and he began to feel much better. Not wanting to amass additional medical bills, Steve over-rode the ER doctor's advice to be admitted for further testing. We finally headed home at about 8:00 a.m., unnerved and exhausted, armed with several prescriptions and instructions to see a cardiologist as soon as possible.

Steve still felt pretty bad and needed rest. After getting him situated at home, I gave the kids an abbreviated explanation of the night's events and instructions to call immediately "if anthing happens" - then headed back to Union City to fill the prescriptions and to give a (hopefully) short devotional at a baby shower. No sleep. No opportunity to emotionally decompress. No time to shift from "holding myself together" while feeling like my own heart was breaking - to having to minister to others in the joyous context of celebrating the life of a new child.

Running on adrenaline and auto-pilot, I shuffled into the church building looking undoubtedly like Zombie woman. Pulling out the devotional notes I had prepared earlier in the week, I explained to the cheerful gathering of women that I felt a bit tired and emotional, without divulging the reason why. I prayed that God would sanctify my words and use them to minister to the women present, especially the mom-to-be. And then something bizarre, something so amazing happened - God spoke to me through a devotional on motherhood that I had studied for and prepared many days earlier. Here are a few excerpts from my notes that morning:

Our ultimate purpose is not to raise perfect children or to have an idyllic family life or to pursue personal promotion or contentment. Our ultimate purpose - the reason we were created - is to glorify God. Embracing God's glory as our reason for being will translate into joyful obedience as we endeavor to complete the work He assigns us....

This is not an easy assignment (mothering) ....we need supernatural power for this work. What is our Power Source? God loves us - we are the object of God's amazing grace! (1 John 3:1, Rom. 8:35) God protects us - He is Sovereign over everything and works everythng to our good and His glory. (Romans 8:28) God's Spirit dwells in us and helps us in our weakness. (Romans 8:26) Christ Himself is interceding for us....

Our security and significance are grounded in Christ....this frees us and empowers us to pursue God's glory. Realizing that God's glory is our purpose gives us tremendous stability in the face of emotional extremes, difficult circumstances, and the chaos of childrearing (how about medical emergencies?!)....

...(In parenting), use "hard times" as opportunities for prayer and praise - defy the devil. Develop a habit of thankfulness; use difficulties to consciously identify with Christ's sacrifice and suffering. (2 Cor. 12:9 - 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.)

The last thing written in my notes was to pray for Kerri (our expectant mother) by name, using Ephesians 3:14-21. My lips said "Kerri", but my heart knew that God intended this particular prayer, at this particular moment, for Camille, too.

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you, Kerri (Camille), to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your heart through faith - that you, Kerri (Camille), being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory....

I walked into that baby shower feeling weary, frightened, and on the verge of falling apart. God met me there and reassured me of His love for me and His sovereignty over the events of this life. He led me from a place of dark shadows and into His light. He has called me by name - Camille - and I am His.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


Destination wedding. Marry-me-away. The young couple invites family and a few close friends to join them at a far-away location to witness their marriage vows. Maybe the wedding is on a secluded beach in Florida, or at a historic site in the Appalachain mountains. One mother-of-the-bride related how this made the whole process so much easier: "The (Florida) resort took care of everything - the flowers, the food, even the preacher. All we had to do was show up!" A young bride told me how romantic it was to be married on the same beach where, only a year earlier, she had met her future husband during a spring break holiday. Despite the increasing popularity of the "destination wedding" trend, I have to admit that my initial reaction to the phenomenon was negative. I didn't really understand why I had these negative feelings until recently, when I experienced a very different sort of wedding.

When Emily and Dennis sat down to begin working out the details of their wedding, one question dominated their decision-making process: "How can we effectively communicate the love of Christ for His church through our marriage ceremony?" Scripture, music, decorations, attendants....all were chosen with this thought in mind. More than one well-meaning friend told Emily, "This is your day. It's all about you!" They had no idea their "encouragement" was more prone to cause anxiety than enthusiasm, given Emily's quiet, private nature. It was pondering such comments that led me to understand my initial reaction to the idea of the "destination" wedding.

"It's all about you!" is a lie, and one that too many young daughters of the church have bought into. A wedding is NOT all about the bride, or her lover, or their romance, or the dress, or roses and candlelight, or favorite pop tunes,.....all of those things rolled into one ball would make only a single word in the wedding song, a song begun in eternity past and continuing into eternity future. The marriage of believers is about Christ and His bride - sort of a little snapshot for us while we are earthbound, to give us hope and to whet our appetites for the Wedding to come.

The Friday morning before the wedding, the church fellowship hall was abuzz with excitement and activity. Helen, Carol, and Reni - dear sisters in Christ -and Emily's little sister Martha chatted as they sorted greenery and wired rose stems. "Do you think I should use ivy or rose leaves for the boutonnieres?" "Help me make Emily's bouquet. Hold these stems very tightly while I tape them together." "Ooooh, the ribbon is a nice touch!" Helen made a lovely arrangement for the sanctuary altar - roses, Queen-Anne's lace that brother Reuben had cut from the hayfield that morning, sweet-breath-of-spring given by friend Donna, greenery from Helen's and Carol's yards. A piece of Helen, a piece of Carol, a piece of Donna....beloved friends were knitting themselves with joyful anticipation into the fabric of the upcoming wedding.

That afternoon, food began arriving. Reni brought beautiful Greek wedding cookies; Susanne made crunchy German nut corners; Alix added rich baklava; Grammy roasted pecans that had been gathered on the Kendall farm. Cousin Jo delivered the wedding cake, one of her yummy chocolate and red velvet creations. Decorating the fellowship hall for the next day's reception was another happy collaboration. "The tulle on the tables isn't working - just not quite right." "What if we scatter red rose petals around the base of the candles?" "I really like that - very simple and elegant. Very Emily."

The BIG DAY finally arrived. Teresa and Katherine and Suzanne and Shannon and others commandeered the kitchen, tending to last-minute preparations for the reception. Their loving service ensured that this mother-of-the-bride had not a moment's anxiety about a single detail. I was blessed to spend the morning with Emily, her precious friend Jenn, and Em's two younger sisters. We cinched and smoothed and combed and patted.....and hugged and cried (only a little!) and prayed and laughed, while a steady stream of friends and family popped into the bride's room to join the festivities for a few minutes before slipping out again.

Andrew, a friend from college, played beautiful music on the piano in the church sanctuary as guests began arriving. Michelle, another friend of the young couple, directed the brothers who served as ushers. Matt, who had traveled with Emily and Dennis to Germany two years earlier - before they were a "couple," stood armed with a camera, ready to document the occasion. Young Elizabeth sang about the love of God in an elven voice, while the wedding party lined up at the back of the sanctuary.

As we waited our cue to enter, I scanned the crowd of seated guests. There was the minister who baptized Emily, and his wife, my "mother in the faith." The pastor who had faithfully preached the gospel into Emily's life throughout her childhood, and the young campus minister who had so recently invested in her faith. The young woman who had mentored and gently counseled Emily through a difficult period during her teen years, and the older woman who loved Emily like her own daughter. The beautiful family that was now becoming a part of our own. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, in-laws, out-laws, and a host of dear, dear friends. All waiting expectantly, eagerly, almost on the edge of their seats. "Emily," I whispered, "this room is so FULL OF LOVE." Full of love for Emily and Dennis, yes - but also, so heavy that it was almost palpable, the love of God for His children, the love of Christ for His church, and the love of His people for their Savior. This was a special occasion for Emily and Dennis, but it was also a celebration of anticipation for the body of Christ who had gathered to witness their vows.

Let us rejoice and be glad and give HIM glory! For the marriage of the LAMB is come, and HIS bride has made herself ready. - Revelation 19:7 (printed on the front of Emily and Dennis's wedding program)

The congregation stood and sang: "The love of Christ is rich and free, fixed on His own eternally; nor earth nor hell can it remove; long as He lives, His own He'll love. His loving heart engaged to be their everlasting Surety; 't was love that took their cause in hand, and love maintains it to the end. Love cannot from its post withdraw; nor death, nor hell, nor sin, nor law can turn the Surety's heart away; He'll love His own to endless day. Love has redeemed His sheep with blood; and love will bring them safe to God...." (The Love of Christ is Rich and Free, words by William Gadsby)

Singing with an overflowing heart, I realized in a powerful way that as believers in Christ we are all getting ready for a wedding, The Wedding, even in the mundane and seemingly insignificant details of our lives. Helen and Carol made boutonnieres and bouquets - and Jenny is raising children who love Jesus. Katherine brewed coffee and Shannon mixed gallons of punch for the reception - and Reuben shares his faith with his classmates and professors on campus. Gerald mowed and trimmed the church yard especially for the wedding - Nate is reading through his Bible and Thomas is learning to serve others. The list goes on and on and on .......but not forever! For there will come a day when all the preparations will cease, and the radiant Bride will stand before her Beloved.

I commented to my friend Larry at the reception, "That was the rehearsal - now I'm ready for the real wedding!" Several other people I talked to that afternoon expressed the same sentiment. Our appetites had been whetted, our eyes raised to heaven, and we were longing to be with our Husband. By God's grace and guidance, Emily and Dennis gathered the church around them and pointed us to Glory. I am so grateful for the glimpse "behind the veil" that their wedding ceremony afforded.

For now we see as in a mirror dimly;
but then face to face.
1 Corinthians 13:12
(printed on the back of the
wedding program)

Thursday, May 14, 2009


(It has been so long since I last posted that I had difficulty remembering my password to log in - this simply has to change!)

While life here in Kendallville is very definitely good, it is by no means easy. I often find myself battling against a tendency to focus on life's difficulties, to wallow in negativity or self-pity....seems I am too frequently having to repent of the sin of grumbling. I find that I have to battle discontentment with very deliberate and focused counter-measures.

One frustration I've wrestled with over and over since our move relates to the seeming impossibility of my getting exercise on a regular basis. At our last house, we lived one mile from the local YMCA. I could pop over to the Y, swim a mile, shower, dress, and return home recharged and ready for whatever came next - all in less than an hour. Now, living out in the Boondocks, I have no Y, no fitness center, not even a walking trail. I'm getting fatter every day, and my energy level is at an all-time low - who wouldn't complain about such an untenable situation? Oh, how I have missed my thrice-weekly swims!

The words of a wise friend, spoken years ago, came to mind recently. Katherine once told me, during a discussion about how much exercise was necessary to be effective for good health: "You don't have to exercise every day. You don't even have to exercise three times a week. You only have to exercise once - and that is today, if you're able." Remembering her words, I resolved to take them to heart anew. Okay, I can't swim laps, my all-time favorite way of "working out." There's not an elliptical walker or a universal weight machine for miles. But it occurred to me one sunny afternoon about a month ago that "Today, I can take the dogs for a walk back on the farm." And so I did just that. And now, more days than not, you'll find me taking OB and Jesse for a walk back on the farm, sometime shortly after noon. (For an explanation of just why farm dogs have to be "walked," see earlier post - A DOG TALE, 11/19/08.)

Actually, it would be more appropriate to say the dogs take me for a walk. I commented to a friend recently that my new fitness program is called "Fat Lady Dragging at the End of a Dog Leash." OB weighs 64 pounds, and he is all muscle and all forward motion. How on earth can a 64-pound dog possibly pull a *@#! - pound woman up a 45 degree incline? Beats me. Suffice to say, my arms get as much of a workout as my legs! And, this "fitness program" seems to be working - I've lost five pounds since we began our "program," and I'm less winded on our long walks than when we began.

So what does my almost-daily drag with the dogs have to do with my anti-grumbling campaign? There is a long field waaaaay back on the furthest side of the farm - we call it "the back hay field," although we no longer cut it for hay. It's just a long strip of lush pasture, bordered on one side by the creek and on the other by hills rising up into woodlands. One day last week, I took the dogs out for a drag. I was grumbling to myself because I'd had to wait so late in the day for our walk, going out in the evening instead of the afternoon. I was grumbling to myself because OB had bolted across the creek and drug me through water that came over my shoes and soaked my socks. I was grumbling to myself because I had walked through a spider web (blech!) as I pushed through the cane thicket lining the creek bed. Finally, we emerged from the creek, into the back hay field. Because it was later in the day - very near sundown - the air in the bottomland was noticeably cooler than the air out in the open fields. A shiver tickled my spine. Then, an amazing aroma filled my nostrils...what on earth was perfuming the air so sweetly?! As we waded through thigh-high grass to the far side of the narrow field, I saw the answer to my question. Wild roses - mounds and mounds of wild roses - were blooming all along the hillside leading up to the woods. And all their scent was bottled up in the cool air settling in the little valley in which the dogs and I were walking. It was one of those rare fairy moments - I just had to stop and breathe, and breathe, and breathe in the sweet perfume.

Standing there gulping in the fragrant air, I realized that I could savor the moment - or I could continue with my previous grumbling and miss the magic altogether. I resolved to savor the moment. This is a wonderful place to be, I thought, and I'm so grateful to be right here, right now. My socks were soggy with brown creek water, and my hair was sticky with yucky spider goo - but the roses...the roses were amazing.

No, I cannot swim a mile three times this week - but today I can finagle 45 minutes to go for a drag with the dogs. And today, I will find something beautiful to be grateful for and to enjoy. Maybe my grumbling - like my excuses for not exercising - will fade away as I endeavor to savor the very simple pleasures that God has given me in this moment.

Saturday, April 18, 2009


There's nothing like the love between a boy and his....cow? This picture shows Nate with his "baby," Weezy. Weezy's mother died a few weeks after giving birth, and Nate adopted the sweet brown calf as his own. For several months, Nate bought and mixed calf milk replacement, trudging out to the barn in all kinds of weather to feed his charge every couple of hours. Of course, Weezy fell in love with her new mother and food source. Now, two years later, she still comes trotting across the field when she spies Nate out on the farm, eager for a good scratching and a snuggle from her favorite boy.

After these pictures were taken, several "special" cows from my own childhood came to mind. My favorite, hands down, was the family milk cow Ruthie, a Brown Swiss/Jersey cross with huge brown eyes and a disposition as sweet as honey. Standing only waist high to my dad, Ruthie was the perfect size cow to appeal to children. Her coat looked and felt like brown velvet, and she never seemed to mind the eager attention we kids lavished on her. Mom would let Ruthie's milk sit in the refrigerator for a day in a plastic gallon bucket, to allow the cream to rise to the top. When Mom would go to skim the cream, the bucket would be half full of cream, half full of milk. We had lots of home-made butter and the best ice cream I've ever tasted when Ruthie was with us.

Then there was Friendly Fred, a Longhorn bull the size of a locomotive. Honestly, I think this red-and-white spotted behemoth weighed well over a ton. Fred had impressive horns curving out from his enormous skull, each as long as my outstretched arm. For all his fearsome appearance, Fred was about as tame as a dog. I can remember Fred lolling in the shade of an ancient beech tree out behind the chicken house, surveying the herd of beef cows under his charge - I had no qualms about walking right up to him and scratching his long, rounded back. Of course, I didn't want to be in the way if he decided to swing his head around at a bothersome fly!

Early one spring, we had a very hard freeze right when the cows were calving. An unfortunate bull calf dropped on a bitterly cold night, and Dad didn't want to leave him out exposed to the extreme cold. Dad loaded the little fellow up into the Jeep, drove him home, and carried him into the house for a little TLC. Now it just so happened that at this particular time in the Stricklin cattle program, Dad had a Brahma bull in with the Angus cows - I think the offspring were christened "Brangus." This little bull calf looked extraordinarily like his father: long, drooping Brahma ears, a tiny hint of a hump about his shoulders, a mouse-colored coat as soft as silk, and huge glowing eyes the color of dark chocolate. Dad administered his special treatment - a mixture of whiskey, honey, and colostrum - and then bundled the little fellow up in a pile of blankets in the laundry room. By the next morning, "Mohandas" was up rollicking about the laundry room, making a tremendous mess of everything. Of course, all of us kids fell hopelessly in love with this delicious bit of cow-dom, and Mohandas became a family favorite - was even spared the normal fate of bull calves, and enjoyed a long and comfortable life following in his father's footsteps, so to speak. (By the way, Dad's "special treatment" for us kids, whenever we had a cold or congestion, was about the same recipe - whiskey, honey, lemon juice, and hot water. Blech! We thought it tasted awful, but it really did seem to help.)

Seeing my kids making bovine friends among Granddad's herd has sent me on a journey down memory lane. When my boys and girls come in talking excitedly about Clovis or Nike or Good-Momma-Cow, I smile at the thought of another young girl who loved Ada and Bessie and countless others of the family herd, many years ago. And when I'm out walking in the fields, nothing brightens my day like the sight of Weezy trotting over to say "hello," and nuzzling up for a neck rub.

Monday, March 23, 2009


I feel so "cool" - I actually know what a dojo is! (That's only because I have three college-aged kids taking shotokan karate with Sensei kids are teaching me so much.) When he is home from school on the weekends, Reuben enjoys demonstrating new blocks, kicks, and punches to his younger brothers. I am amazed at the strength, balance, and focus that karate develops - and demands.

Last night at Grace, Justin Westmoreland (the RUF minister at UT Martin) preached on Genesis 32:22-32. Here we find Jacob sitting alone in the dark, distressed about an upcoming meeting with a brother he had swindled years earlier, when suddenly he is ambushed by an unknown attacker. What can we learn from this cosmic wrestling match between Jacob and his Creator? Justin made several excellent points during last night's sermon, but I want to share a couple in particular with my blog friends.

First, Justin went into graphic detail about what wrestling actually entails - this is a close-contact, down-and-dirty, physical engagement. As Justin so vividly put it, "When you wrestle with someone, you get their stink all over you." Blech. (Okay, Justin, the reference to dripping sweat and hairy armpits were almost over-the-top for me!) In Genesis 32 we find Jacob wrestling with God, and it's no quick match - the two wrestle all night long. Could God have ended the match sooner? Absolutely. We find that at daybreak, when God is ready to put an end to the struggle, He does so with a single blow to Jacob's hip. But God allowed the wrestling to continue throughout the night because He loved Jacob and had some very important things to teach him. As day breaks, Jacob confesses his sinfulness to his opponent. "What is your name?" the mystery assailant asks. Jacob answers, "Jacob" - or, more explicitly, "I am a heel-grabber, a supplanter, a deceiver - the man who tricks and steals, even from his own brother." As sinners, and as descendents of Jacob, God wrestles each of us - for as long as it takes - to the very same place. The place where, if we're to have any rest, we must confess the truth about who we are. I loved how Justin emphasized that God wrestles us (which means He gets very, very close to us - this is an extremely personal contact sport), and that He's willing to get our stink all over Him (in the person of Christ), to bring us to the point of repentance and salvation. Jacob, the heel-grabber, became Israel that night - he who struggles with God and overcomes. Camille - the grumbler, the fault-finder, the one who is always looking out for her own interests - became The Redeemed, the beloved, a daughter of the High King.

Jacob realized this unbeatable opponent must be capable of bestowing a significant blessing - so he hung on and refused to let go, demanding a blessing first. As Jacob's great-great-great-grandchildren, we discover the same thing. We find ourselves in the dojo with Jesus, so to speak, struggling with our own sinfulness, kicking against a difficult truth in scripture, swinging violently sometimes at Christ's claims on our life. Like Jacob, we find that our opponent will not let us go, but perseveres tenaciously in the midst of our struggles. And like Jacob, we know there is a blessing to be gained at the end of a long, exhausting night, and we hold on. But here is one of the interesting points Justin made in his sermon - God not only blessed Jacob with a new name (one that would be a source of encouragement to all his descendents), but He also blessed Jacob with a permanent limp. Now, that sounds more like a severe disability to me than like a blessing. But consider this....from this moment on, Jacob would live with a very vivid reminder of his dependence on God. He could no longer connive and steal and fight to make things happen the way he wanted - he would ever after be completely reliant on God's promise and ability to provide for him and his family. As Justin commented, God will indeed bless us...but His blessings may not be what we anticipate. Some in Christian circles teach that this faith will bring with it health, ease of living, solutions to life's hard problems. Jacob learned that this faith brings with it a growing awareness of and dependence upon God's goodness, faithfulness, and love - in spite of our sinfulness, and sometimes through the very pains and trials that we would prefer to avoid.

In the dojo of this life, where we train strenuously for the life to come, it is good to know that we study under the watchful care and perfect wisdom of Sensei Jesus, the good teacher. And if we sometimes leave the mat limping, we can be confident that even the limp will be for our ultimate good and His glory.

Friday, February 13, 2009


What do I believe in my head? What do I know in my heart? And how does any of what I believe work itself out through my fingers and my feet and my words? In the midst of some very difficult relationship issues, I find that I ask myself those three questions almost daily. A close friend and I find ourselves facing the complete breakdown of a many-years relationship, and, although we both value this messed-up relationship enough to cling together and try to see it through to a more glorious end, we also both find ourselves exhausted, frustrated, and woefully inadequate for the task at hand. So, what are my thoughts today - as I sit here with a broken heart and try to write? Well, for starters, there's nothing like a broken heart to peel away empty words and vain expressions of faith and expose instead what I truly believe. It's one thing to say "My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteous" - but it's an entirely different matter to effectively appropriate the grace of the gospel of Christ to the bruised, bleeding, nearly pulse-less heart in my breast. And, oh, for the supernatural power to minister grace to my friend!

Jerry Bridges, in his book Transforming Grace, outlines four (really three) ways that believers tap into the grace which is theirs in Christ: reading and meditating on the Word of God, prayer, submitting humbly to God's will, and having friends who will remind and encourage us to read, pray, and submit.

Last night, as I lay grieving over this painful situation for the umpteenth time, I found myself engaged in a too-familiar mental monologue of despair. "There really is no hope for this relationship. I can't do anything to fix this, to make things better. Anything I say or do is always the wrong thing. I can't even trust my own motives. Doesn't scripture say that the heart - even my heart - is 'deceitful above all things and beyond cure'? I am so angry and hurt, but I know that 'man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.' There are things I need to say, but what are the right things? I have too often proven that 'Where many words are present, sin is not far off.' I am too broken, broken beyond repair - this is just all too messed up to be fixed." Like Jeremiah, I weep and cry out, "Is there no balm in Gilead?!"

But God was so good again last night, for the umpteenth time, as He brought to mind other verses. "God is greater than our hearts (even my broken, sinful heart), and He knows everything." - 1 John 3:20 And, "Heal me, O Lord, and I will be healed; save me, and I will be saved..." - from Jeremiah 17. And Paul, "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us." On and on, the claims of scripture pressed upon me until my despair subsided enough so that I could rest.

And what about prayer? I seem to often find myself having the same internal battle when it comes to prayer. "God, I have come to you over and over and over again with this....and nothing changes. I do not see your hand working here. My faith is weak, and I am weary of coming." Or, "How misdirected my prayers have been before - I don't even know what to pray anymore, for I am certain I shall ask amiss." Or, "My concerns are of little consequence in the great eternal scheme of things - You would not be bothered with them, Lord." Then I remember that Christ Himself intercedes on my behalf. That He sanctifies all of me, even my twisted, stupid, off-mark prayers. That God in His word commands me to pray, and to pray continually. And so, I am compelled to pray. The practice of prayer, by its very nature, affirms the truth that God is, and that He hears, and that He cares - and so I am strengthened again for another step in this difficult labor of life.

Well, what about submitting? Oh, that I could submit easily, quietly, graciously, instead of with all this bawling and flailing! More grace, I need more grace! 1 Peter 5 says: "Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast." Suffering is temporary, conforms me in some way to Christ, is directed by my Father (He will "restore me" when the time is exactly right), and produces in me a longing for glory.

Meditating on the Word of God, praying, submitting,....does this faith have any real impact on my life? Well, the relationship issues mentioned above are still not resolved - everything is as messed up today as it was yesterday and the day before that and the day before that. And yet, the relationship is still not abandoned. And all hope is NOT lost. God is on His throne, and through His Word has assured me that, as Sheldon VanAucken put it, "all shall be very well."


This is one of my favorite hymns. The words of this hymn were composed by John Newton (1779), and have often encouraged me when my road has been difficult and my faith weak (see above post).

Come, my soul, thy suit prepare: Jesus loves to answer prayer;
he himself has bid thee pray, therefore will not say thee nay; therefore will not say thee nay.

Thou art coming to a King, large petitions with thee bring;
for his grace and pow'r are such, none can ever ask too much; none can ever ask too much.

With my burden I begin: Lord, remove this load of sin;
let thy blood, for sinners spilt, set my conscience free from guilt; set my conscience free from guilt.

Lord, I come to thee for rest, take possession of my breast;
there thy blood-bought right maintain, and without a rival reign; and without a rival reign.

While I am a pilgrim here, let thy love my spirit cheer;
as my Guide, my Guard, my Friend, lead me to my journey's end; lead me to my journey's end.

Show me what I have to do, ev'ry hour my strength renew:
let me live a life of faith, let me die thy people's death; let me die thy people's death.

Thursday, January 29, 2009


We lost power as I was writing that last post, and, three days later, I am just now able to use the computer. Praise God for autosave! And, THANK YOU LORD for the incredible line crews working for Gibson Electric Cooperative! So, what has life been like these past three days, living in the Ice Age?

First, life in the Ice Age was COLD. We were grateful for the wood-burning fireplace, and kept it well-stoked and burning hot around the clock. Still, this cold-blooded lizard only really felt warm if I was standing or sitting within 10 feet of the hearth. And I even wore multiple, multiple layers - you know, the well-padded polar bear look. Bedtime attire? Thermal underwear, thick fuzzy sweat pants, socks, and an extra blanket. Forget your romantic notions about how wonderful life on the prairie must've been for Laura Ingalls and her family. The ugly truth is, those folks froze their tookus-s off all winter. And they were tired all the time, too. Steve took "first shift" on manning the fire, staying up until the wee hours of the morning. Then, about 5:00, it was my turn to creep out from under the covers and stir up the fire. Lots of clothing, staggered did our pre-electric ancestors ever manage to procreate?

Second, life in the Ice Age was, shall we say, less than clean. We get our water from a pump, which runs on electricity. No power, no water. Fortunately, when the freezing rain started on Tuesday, Steve instructed me to fill the bathtub with water, "just in case." I also filled every available pitcher and jug with water. So, we had water for drinking, and water for flushing the toilet, and water for watering the dogs and the chickens....but no water for washing. We had lots of mushy slush coming into the house, from all our trips out to the woodpile. We had the fire burning around the clock - which means we also had the sooty dust that goes with it. Trips outside to do chores always produced wet clothing, which had to be replaced with dry clothing if one wanted to stay warm - so we had LOTS of laundry piling up in the utility room, not to mention the assorted caps, gloves, and bib-coveralls draped around the living room to dry out in the limited heat from the fireplace. We had two large dogs camping out inside with us - which means dog hair and dog breath added to the general state of household corruption. Blech. Needless to say, that first hot shower after our Ice Age adventure felt FABULOUS.

Third, life in the Ice Age was dark. Even with candles, a kerosene lamp, and a battery-powered lantern, the house grew d-a-r-k when the sun went down. But the darkness wasn't all a bad thing. For one thing, our nasty living conditions were less apparent after sundown. I commented to Steve that I thought the pioneers probably never had clean houses (see previous paragraph), but it didn't bother them too much because there was no way they could SEE just how filthy everything was. So here's a tip for the modern housewife - if you don't have time to clean, just turn off the lights! Another "benefit" of the limited lighting was that everyone had to gather in a fairly small circle if they wanted to enjoy any illumination. The first evening without power, the kids passed a couple of hours playing card games at one end of the kitchen table. The second night, they piled around the living room under blankets and told chain stories. Seeing my kids all close and enjoying one another was definitely a blessing to this mother's heart. Also, by 8:00, everyone was ready to head to bed.

Fourth, life in the Ice Age was, in spite of some difficulties, an adventure. A blazing fire, a big bowl of steaming venison stew, the dim flicker of candlelight - okay, that's just totally cool. And I have to admit that I felt some degree of satisfaction in rising early to restoke the fire, then scraping up a pile of hot coals so that I could fry sausage and eggs in a castiron skillet in the fireplace. (Thank you so much, Konos ladies, for teaching me useful skills!) And for the kids - no baths for three days! How awesome is that?! No boobing out in front of the PlayStation, no requests to play games on the computer.... going power-less definitely has its upside.

But, all that said, I am so glad that our power has been restored. It is good to be living in modern times - heat pumps, running water, automatic washing machines, overhead lighting, internet access, hot showers, coffee that doesn't have a thick layer of sludge at the bottom of the is wonderful to be back in 2009! I'd like to end by asking that you offer up a prayer for those who are still living in the Ice Age. Neighbors two hills over have been told it may be two weeks before they have electricity. Further north, just over the state line in Kentucky, the destruction is horrendous and there's no telling how long repairs and clean-up will take. Thankfully, temperatures are milder today, and the sun is bright - work crews are putting in long, hard hours and folks are beginning to emerge from the rubble and tackle the task of removing mountains of debris. It's a blessing to be leaving the Ice Age behind.