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!