Saturday, February 27, 2010


Today was the last day of HealthQuest's Biggest Loser Contest. The final results haven't been tallied and published, but I am confident I am NOT this year's Biggest Loser. Some of these folks have really knocked off the weight over these past two months!

Still, I feel like I am one of the contest's winners - managed to trim off right at 10 pounds during the contest, and that's with a wild week of excess when I actually gained back 2 pounds. (No, they wouldn't let me count that 2 pounds twice, when I lost it the second time!) Maybe this good start will set the pattern for the months ahead, helping me achieve my goal of reaching a size 12 by summer. Hey, my size 14's are already noticeably looser - definitely motivating!

Thank you, friends, for your words and notes of encouragement - they really helped keep me going. And thank you, Ginny, for not posting a bunch of Facebook updates about yummy food! I'm excited to have actually completed the contest AND to have consistently lost weight over the eight weeks. Maybe in a couple of months I'll write a post about shopping for a smaller size!

Friday, February 26, 2010


I am tired of winter. Tired of the gray and the wet and the cold. I am a summer person - I love the sunshine and the heat, sweating in the garden, margaritas in the front porch swing, all the GREEN. I am tired of winter, but I have hope. Winter is leaving, giving way to warmer weather, yielding to spring.

I call it "the greening", and few things cause me so much delight. The greening has begun! Driving from Union City to Martin last weekend, we passed through the river bottoms, and I saw it. That's where it always starts - the river bottoms. It's one of those things you notice first in your peripheral vision - you won't see it if you look straight at it. The trees are different, almost imperceptibly so. Almost, but not quite. Something has changed. If you look through the bare-limbed trees crowded in the soggy river bottoms - not at the trees but through them - you'll detect the faintest blush of red. The tiny twigs at the end of the naked brances are swelling. In a few more weeks, the rosy blush will give way to a greenish haze, as if the light sifting through the trees has been filtered through a chartreuse lens. Then, leaves...tiny pale leaves at first, quickly giving way to an explosion of green.

I am weary of winter, but I am encouraged. Winter is slipping away - the greening has begun!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


This year for Christmas, my sister and brother-in-law gave us a DVD collection of the complete series of Rumpole of the Bailey. Many, many years ago, back in the days when we watched TV, Steve and I watched Rumpole regularly on the BBC network - and it has been great fun to get reacquainted with our favorite barrister.

Horace Rumpole is a stout, coarse old man who has spent his entire legal career defending criminals down at the old bailey. Rather than aspiring to rise in the legal system to the coveted position of judge, he has instead defended generations of petty thieves, murderers, and swindlers. He smokes stinky little cigars, visits Pomeroy's Wine Bar a bit too frequently, and harrasses the other, more respectable members of chambers. Most people find Horace Rumpole rather offensive.

As we've been watching the series anew, I've noticed another of Rumpole's disgusting habits. It has popped up in at least five different episodes. Horace Rumpole eats a cooked breakfast. Gasp! In one scene, Rumpole, who is staying at the house of a colleague, is reprimanded by a child for preferring a "horrid cooked breakfast", sneer, over a healthful bowl of muesli. In another scene, a colleague joins Rumpole one morning at a diner and grimaces at the plate of eggs, sausages, and thickly-buttered toast Rumpole is indelicately devouring.

This got me to wondering - Is something wrong with a cooked breakfast? When did we start preferring muesli or dry toast and coffee over a steaming plate of bacon and eggs? When I was a child, my mother nearly always cooked breakfast - eggs, bacon, and toast, or pancakes and sausage, or hot buttered waffles. Cold cereal was expensive and was reserved for a Sunday night, light dinner treat. And I don't think PopTarts or cereal bars had even been invented yet.

Based on my upbringing, I always assumed a cooked breakfast was the norm, and, not knowing better, I continued the habit of cooked breakfasts with my own family. Tom's favorite breakfasts - biscuits and gravy, or waffles. Nate - eggs, toast, and bacon. The girls like any breakfast that includes muffins. Saturday mornings, Steve sometimes commandeers the kitchen and cooks omelets, or we fix a "big" breakfast of eggs, sausage, biscuits or toast, and grits or fried potatoes. Because getting out of the house Sunday mornings can be a bit of a challenge, we settle for toasted bagels and cream cheese, knowing we'll be able to "fill in the cracks" with a doughnut at church. And one day a week, I take the morning off....we actually eat cold cereal (although I sometimes cook myself a bowl of oatmeal those days, since cold cereal doesn't seem to stick with you very long - on cold cereal days, we always have lunch a bit early, because everyone thinks they are starving by mid-morning.) We even like to cook breakfast for supper some nights, especially on Sunday when we've missed our regular morning breakfast.

All this to say - are cooked breakfasts a thing of the past? What are your family's favorite breakfasts?

Monday, February 22, 2010


As we were driving to church last Sunday morning, my 18-year-old commented: "You know, Mom, a lot of people would say you wasted your life, just staying home and taking care of all us kids. You could've done a lot of other really important things besides just being a Mom."

Sometimes your kids say things that hit you right in the heart, actually knock the wind out of you. "Nate, what on earth could I have done that would have been more important?"

Twenty-two+ years into this mothering endeavor, I can ask that question. With integrity. With confidence. Because I know the answer: Nothing.

I didn't always have this confidence. Years ago, struggling to simply survive a "normal" day with six children, ages 7 and under, I often wondered, "Why am I doing this?!" I envied peers who had interesting jobs and nice wardrobes, friends who were impacting the world with the Gospel, women who had a larger identity than diaper-changer/milk-machine, people who could carry on intelligent conversations with other adults about current events.

My son's question was providentially timed. In our Sunday school class that morning, we were talking about adoption, the roll of the church/believers in adoption and the opportunity adoption provides for Kingdom work. And, again, I considered, Is there anything more significant I can do than invest in the life of a child? Looking back over 20-something years of parenting, considering the seven eternal souls God has blessed me to mother....could I have done anything more important with my life? Nothing.

Friday, February 19, 2010


It's late Friday afternoon. Schoolwork for the week is complete. Daily chores checked off. And where are my kids? Here's a clue: They are not playing PlayStation or Wii!!

I am typing away at the kitchen counter. Outside, the sun is shining and the thermometer reads a balmy 66 degrees. Through the front window, I see my gang earnestly engaged in some type of archery competition. I watched as the boys made a series of targets and planted them in different locations across the front yard. I heard one son giving a refresher course in shooting the bow to his 10-year-old sister. And now, I hear bursts of laughter, an occasional yell of delight, and quite a few exclamations over missed targets. Heads go bobbing past the window, first in one direction and then back again. A loud cheer - someone must have shot well!

They've forgotten the Great Glowing Eye, the umbilical cords connected to hand-held controllers, the "missions" to conquer alien planets or to jump cartoon cows over scarecrows. Shhhh! Don't remind them! Shhhh! Don't tell!


You already know I'm prone to overspiritualizing things. Today's confession: I also have an out-of-whack guilt mechanism. (Could it be those two are related? Hmmmmm.....)

When I was in the hospital after delivering Baby #3, the young nurse on duty instructed me to watch a series of short programs about infant care on the in-house TV. I was about half-way through the "How to Change a Diaper" film when my OB stopped in. He sat on the foot of the bed, looked up at the TV, and asked, "Do you really need to watch this?"

"The nurse told me I had to. She said they would mark my chart 'noncompliant' if I didn't."

Dr. Pierce rolled his eyes. He stood up and turned off the TV, then checked the box on my paperwork that indicated I had conformed to hospital requirements. Fortunately, the nurse never came back and questioned me on the matter - I know I would've cracked and given a full confession. Yes, I admit it - I'm noncompliant! Slap the handcuffs on me! Never mind that I had been changing diapers and nursing babies for years. I'm guilty!

One day last week was one of those especially guilt-laden days. I forgot to bring the piano teacher's check to lessons on the day it was due. I'm late again...Guilty! I passed up an opportunity to give a ride to someone who needed it on the principle that, to avoid "even the appearance of evil," I try never to ride in cars alone with a man who is not my husband or a member of my immediate family. When I told Steve about this later, he said, "Of course you should've given him a ride!" Aaaaah! I neglected to serve a brother in Christ, out of regard for some inviolable 'principle'. Guilty! School, piano lessons, errands in town - I never got around to exercising that day, PLUS I ate a whole bag of Riesen candies. What, are you just throwing your weight loss goals out the window? Guilty! I could go on, but you get the picture. It was not a very good day.

Sometimes my guilt is very real and undeniable. I DID eat all those chocolates. I really did, and I should not have. Sometimes my guilt is totally irrational. Like the time I felt so bad about the mothers in an Afghanistan refugee camp whose babies were wasting away, displayed on the TV screen during the evening news. I had a surplus of milk...just no way to ship my boobs overseas. I probably washed a pint of milk down the drain every morning when I took my daily shower, while their babies were literally starving to death. Wasting milk...Guilty! But real or not, what's to be done with all this guilt?

According to Scripture, guilt can only be washed away with blood. Hymn-writer William Cowper, like me, struggled with a sometimes overwhelming sense of his own guilt. He also penned the words to the familiar song "There is a Fountain Filled with Blood". I looked up the word fountain in the dictionary - it means a spring, a reservoir that can be drawn upon as needed. It connotes a supply that is constantly being replenished, that is gushing over in abundance.

Christ's blood has washed me clean, but some days guilt overshadows my consciousness of this truth. And so, I run back to the Fountain. Not to re-do what has already been done, but to bathe again in the truth of the sufficiency of Christ's work on my behalf. And I find there is always more blood, an abundance, enough to cover all my guilt.

There is a fountain filled with blood,
drawn from Immanuel's veins,
and sinners, plunged beneath that flood,
lose ALL their guilty stains.
- William Cowper

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


I have a notecard taped inside one of my kitchen cabinets, placed where I will see it several times each day. On this card is written: Don't spiritualize everything!

Maybe it's the way I'm wired or something - My brain seems to be constantly whirring, churning and tumbling thoughts over like a spinning basket of BINGO balls. For example, I am what I've labeled an "active" listener. My husband and kids ("passive" listeners) can have a radio or CD playing nearby while their minds are busily engaged on some school- or work-related project or while they're having a conversation. But, if the radio is playing, I am listening to the radio....and, more often than not, commenting on what I'm hearing. "I really like this song's music, but the words are such bad theology." "Where is this singer from? She has a distinctive twang, but she doesn't sound like she's from the South." "Who is singing this song? He sounds just like a fellow who used to sing on the HeeHaw show years ago."

Not infrequently, my kids will respond, "Mom! Stop commenting on the songs and just listen to the music!" To which I've replied, more than once, "I am listening - are you?" Okay, all of that to say - I am prone to concentrate too much on the music, instead of just letting it float around in the background. I pay way too much attention to details, and miss much of the enjoyment.

Sadly, I approach most things in life the same way I approach radio music...over-analyzing, giving way too much thought where, honestly, not much thought is due. Don't spiritualize everything! In the cosmos of my alien brain, everything is spiritual or has some spiritual quality. Every thought, every decision, every action - everything must be mulled over, given a whirl in the BINGO basket of my mind. "What are the spiritual implications of this decision?" "What are my motives?" "Is God trying to teach me something here?"

Another example. I am currently the study leader for our monthly Women's meeting at Grace. I LOVE our meetings - yummy food, studying God's Word, sharing life experiences, encouraging one another, growing in intimacy. Good-good-good stuff. Doesn't take my squirrely brain long to figure this one out - I want to spend every 3rd Saturday of the month with my Grace sisters.

But, I am also the mother of a high-school senior - one who, the 3rd weekend of this month, will be interviewing and completing the application process for a college scholarship. And on Saturday, the Honors Department at the university is hosting a lunch for parents of prospective students. This may seem like a no-brainer to most of you moms - do the thing involving your child. But, to the over-analytical mind, things are never so, let's look at the facts.

Women's Brunch: This month's topic is one I particularly need to address myself. This is the one chapter out of our book that I want least to discuss, that I need most to confront. It speaks to a tender area where I long for the input and guidance of sisters in Christ. Tell me, sisters, what are the practical implications of the Gospel concerning ______? Also, we are a young group - Grace is only about a year and a half old. Every opportunity to develop deeper relationships and to work together in living out our faith is precious. And this month, we are meeting at Mrs. Kay's. I LOVE Mrs. Kay.

Scholars Luncheon: I've been to these with my two oldest kids, and they are a lot of fun. It is an opportunity to get acquainted with the Honors Department staff, to put faces with the names of campus professors, to meet other parents and students who may be part of my son's life in the near future. Current University Scholars give presentations about their participation in the program and about the interesting projects they are working on. But, Steve is attending, and my presence isn't an essential part of the application process.

So what's the dilemma? If I choose the Women's brunch - is it because I have a heart for the Gospel? Because I love my sisters? Because I see this as an opportunity God has provided to address an area of struggle in my own life? How would my son interpret my choosing the Women's brunch over Saturday's luncheon?

If I choose the Scholars Luncheon - is it because I love my son? Or, more selfishly, is it because I just really like these things, meeting and talking to other people on campus? Or, is it because attending the lunch on campus gives me an out from the difficult lesson in our Bible study, addressed in an environment of accountability?

Can you hear the BINGO balls bouncing?! Do you see how spiritualizing everything can hamper the ability to make even simple decisions?! I have two choices before me for this coming Saturday. Either choice would be a good choice. Looked at from another angle, I could also choose either for the wrong reason.

But here is the beauty of the Gospel - I am free to choose, even to choose wrongly, and to do so without fear. I am fixed securely in God's affection. He is sovereign over every detail of my life - even if I make good choices for bad reasons, or bad choices for good reasons. Praise God, Christ's blood covers my BINGO basket brain! Do you, Dear Reader, tend to overspiritualize everything in life like I do? Run with me to the cross - let us find peace in the sufficiency of Christ's work on our behalf. Then, let's go out and live boldly!

Monday, February 15, 2010


I am six weeks into HealthQuest's Biggest Loser Contest - six weeks of dieting, six weeks of exercising in front of Dr. Guelzo's American History lectures, six weeks of "lifestyle changes". The hardest part of this is NOT skipping the Little Debbie snack cakes when the kids pull out a box of StarCrunches. The hardest part is giving up Jim's homemade banana pudding at the church pot luck on Wednesday, and the bowl of ice cream at bedtime Thursday night, and the oober-chocolately brownies the little girls baked Friday afternoon. The hardest part is exercising yesterday, and then again today, knowing I should do the same tomorrow...when what I really want is to veg out with a bag of potato chips in front of a Rumpole of the Bailey DVD. The hardest part of this is keeping on.

I've heard it said that God always answers our prayers, but we sometimes miss His answers because they are not what we are looking for. Or, God always answers our prayers, but sometimes He says, "No." I think such statements are an attempt to give comfort in a situation we've all experienced - praying and praying and praying, yet receiving no clear answer from God.

I have a friend, a young mother, who is suffering from an unexplained, debilitating medical condition. For many months now, she and her doctors have searched tirelessly for answers. For months, God has graciously brought my friend to mind multiple times each day, so that I can lift her up in prayer. For months, an army of brothers and sisters have prayed faithfully for this dear woman. And for months, as my young friend has physically wasted away, God has provided no answers.

Since Steve's heart episode last fall, I have battled against anxiety over his health. anxious in nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God...(Phil. 4:6) Be anxious in nothing. Pray. A dry cough in the night and I'm awake, motionless, straining to hear Steve breathe. Pray. Pray. Pray. And still there is the breathlessness, the ringing in the ears, the fatigue, the concern about medications.

An intimate relationship violated, many years has it been now? I've grieved the loss of trust, prayed for renewed intimacy, day after month after year. Healing has been painfully slow, the fading of scars almost imperceptible. Pray. Maybe today will be the day that God's grace works a miraculous restoration.

Have you ever prayed, maybe for months or even years, and received no answer? I have. And I've found that when God doesn't answer my prayers, there is only one thing to do - PRAY...

...without ceasing...
1 Thessalonians 5:17

Saturday, February 13, 2010


Some folks think they need a Passport and a plane ticket in order to experience a foreign culture. "Exotic" is a place half-way around the world, right? Wrong. Bizarre customs, an ear-baffling language, food made from what?!, distinctive tribal dress - these are all much closer than you think. In fact, I found exotic when we moved back to my hometown. Where do I live? Why, in the Boondocks, where...

1. ...the highschool dress code initially proposed by the school board had to be ammended to allow students to wear camouflage clothing. Otherwise, 80% of the parents in the county would have to go out and buy new winter coats for their kids.

2. ...surrounding communities have names like Frog Level, Possum Trot, Booger Den Hollow, and Cat Corner. (Yep, folks, they're on the map.)

3. are late getting to an appointment because you get stuck behind a pick-up truck doing 35 miles per hour down the highway. And in the bed of the pick-up truck stands a cow, nonchalantly taking in the scenery.

4. pull off the highway to pick up a dead raccoon that wasn't there an hour ago when you passed that spot on your way out. Hey, it's fresh, right? - and that pelt is worth some money.

5. ...the hit of the lodgehall dinner is Danny's barbequed bologna. Mmm, mmm - that's good eating!

6. ...the highschool boys hanging out in front of the BestWay store almost miss the hot honey in the tight t-shirt and cut-off shorts because they are all drooling over Ted's uncle's Ford F-250 super-duty, turbo-diesel, extended-cab pickup with all-terrain tires and a brush guard. Man, now THAT'S a truck!

7. drive up to your neighbor's house, and a young cow squeezes out from under the front porch and trots over to your car.

8. ...almost any social gathering is occasion for a bonfire.

9. ...the bride's parents serve country ham, scrambled eggs, and cheese grits at the wedding reception.

10. ...everyone in the county is a relative, or an ex-relative, or a soon-to-be relative, or a step-relative. It's getting to the point where we need to import some new blood, because we're all related - how's a girl supposed to find a husband?!

After years of living out in the big wide world, I am learning to love the adventure of life back in my hometown. Welcome to the Boondocks!

Thursday, February 11, 2010


I truly like having my own laptop to work on. And this cool stick-thingy that brings our internet connection out of the Ice Age is the bee's knees. But generally speaking, I am not a fan of technology. Newer, faster, shinier rarely appeal to me as better.

My kids do not all have their own cell phones and Facebook accounts. At our house, one has to be registered for a college course and commuting to campus to qualify for a cell phone - and even then, they only get a very basic package. No texting allowed. (BTW, here's a tip for parents who are frustrated that their teenagers spend all their waking hours thumbing away on a cellular device, oblivious to the living, breathing people standing at their elbows. DO NOT get a cell phone plan that includes unlimited texting. Instead, get a basic call plan. Texting costs extra - $1.00 a pop on our particular plan. And if the kids text, they pay the toll. If they accept texts from friends - cha-ching, another dollar. They quickly communicate to their broader circle "No texting!" And, amazingly, they are able to make eye contact with the people standing next to them in line at Wal-Mart or the bookstore. Sometimes, they even engage in conversation!)

Okay, lay off the cell phone/texting thing, Camille. The real reason I'm writing is...gaming systems. Last year for Christmas, my kids received a PlayStation. Initially, the rule for using this device from the pit was simply - gaming only on Friday afternoon, after all schoolwork was complete, and on Saturday afternoon after chores. Sounds simple. AMAZING how incredibly difficult it has been to hold the line on that.

Months before the PlayStation made its advent in our house, I polled several "with it" parents to get their thoughts on the matter. Interestingly, not one parent that I polled - not one - responded favorably. One mom even went so far as to say that getting a PlayStation was the worst mistake her family had ever made. It was a constant source of struggle and frustration between the parents and kids and turned every afternoon into a whine fest at their house. But that won't happen to us. We can do BETTER...

This year, we added a Wii to our collection. Same rules: use restricted to Friday and Saturday afternoons, after school and chores. The Wii, I was led to understand, actually involved physical activity, as opposed to sitting on your bum in front of the TV working only a hand-held controller. I am ooberly NOT impressed with the reality of Wii. I haven't yet seen anything on the Wii that comes anywhere close to the wholesome exercise my kids get hiking back on the farm or climbing trees or building forts or clearing brush.

I am very sad to see what we have lost by embracing these technologies, sadder to see what we've "gained" by them. When I tell one of the kids that the dogs need to be walked, I'm likely to hear, "Just a minute...I'm almost to a new level in this game." When the games are off and an afternoon seems long, it's much more common to hear "I'm bored." And the games themselves are a disappointment to this mom, for the most part. Seems there are two basic categories of games: the utterly stupid (okay, that might make a silly party game for an occasional youth night...maybe) and the graphically disturbing. I can't see how pretending to play baseball or tennis on a TV screen is preferrable to everyone actually heading outside with gloves and a bat. Someone needs to enlighten me - I am obviously missing something here.

Sure, this is a parenting issue as much as - or more than - a gaming issue. I am the Mom. Even if it's a hassle, I can insist on the boundaries being maintained. But this isn't really a fight I wanted, and I'm not sure yet if or how I want to engage. Going backward would be even more difficult than holding out against these gaming systems in the first place. This parenting job is hard enough already, without inviting technology in to make it even more difficult.

In closing, if you are a parent who is considering purchasing a gaming system for your family, I would advise...DON'T. Insteaad, buy Legos or kites or tennis raquets or a box of 100 magic markers. If, like me, you have already made the mistake of bringing a gaming system into your house, what advice would you offer? Post a comment - if it doesn't post the first try, hit "post" again, and it should work the second go. How do you consistently control game time at your house? How do you avoid the slide into ever increasing gaming? How do you keep gaming something positive, instead of allowing it to become a source of conflict? How do you ensure that your kids spend time doing the beautiful things they did before gaming, once gaming is an option? Help me! I NEED your input!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


When No. 1 Son was five years old, he entered and won a poster contest sponsored by the local electric company. The award ceremony, which included a fancy-shmancy catered dinner, was going to be held at a historic plantation house in Nashville. Notables from the Nashville political and social scene would be present for the occasion, along with reporters from local news stations. This was going to be a BIG DEAL.

A night out, a fancy dinner, an opportunity to meet and talk to new and interesting people...I should have been excited. Instead, I dreaded the approaching festivities. My gloomy mood only worsened as the date drew nearer. Sometimes it's so hard to be cheerful, to be grateful, when....

Enter Amy, a friend from our little church plant. Amy was an executive at a Nashville publishing firm, one of those women I tried not to envy for their glamorous lifestyle. Smart, funny, a sharp dresser....Amy unknowingly made this mother-of-six unduly aware of my frumpiness. I had a saggy, baggy body and wore saggy, baggy mom clothes that looked like pajamas and that were often splattered with spit-up or bits of baby cereal. Amy, on the other hand, usually looked like she was ready for an appointment with the President. She would have fit right in at a fancy awards ceremony.

I answered a knock at the door a few days before the dreaded event. "Camille, I've been digging through my closet and think I have a few things here that would look really good on you..." Carrying an armload of dry-cleaning bags, Amy pushed past me, past the crowd of children at my feet, into the house. "Do you have any dress shoes?" she asked as she headed down the hall to my bedroom. I stood gaping like a fish out of water. What in the world is going on?

"Here, try this first." Amy thrust a hanger into my hand as I entered the bedroom. While I followed orders, she began digging through my closet. Yes, it seems I did have a pair of dress shoes - one pair of black, patent-leather pumps I had held onto from a previous life. "Good. I think we can work with these." Amy backed out of the closet and stood up, a shoe in each hand.

I pulled Dress #1 over my head. "Amy, what is this about?"

"You guys are going to a big 'Do' this weekend, right?"


"I'm dressing you for the ball." She looked at me for a minute, then shook her head. "Nope. Not that try this."

And so, before Amy left my house that morning, I had a suitable outfit for Saturday's dinner. We settled on a beautiful cream-colored dress with black trim. Simple, straight lines, very sophisticated, absolutely gorgeous. She had even brought a new pair of pantyhose. I felt like a mountain had been lifted off my shoulders. Maybe this will be fun after all...

Saturday afternoon, Amy knocked at my door again. She was on her way home from a morning at the office. "Here," she pulled off her long, black wool dress coat and handed it to me. "There are gloves in the pockets, if it's cold out." Amy was beaming. I was on the verge of tears. "Have fun tonight!" She gave me a big hug and left.

Why am I telling you about Amy? Because Amy modeled Christ, and I think we would all do well to consider her example. Amy's keen eyes and tender heart made her aware of a need I had not even expressed. Amy saw an opportunity to meet that need, and was willing to risk the possibility of some awkwardness or discomfort to help a sister. I pray that, like Amy, I will have eyes that see into the heart of things, to the not-so-obvious needs of those around me. And that seeing, I'll have the boldness to act.

Monday, February 8, 2010


I am a closet "cleanie", but you would never guess that by looking around my house right now. In the years B.C. (before children), I actually polished the fixtures in my bathroom messy water spots there, just shine, shine, shine! My closets were neat and organized. I liked to make even strokes in the carpet with the vacuum cleaner, tiptoeing backward out of a freshly cleaned room so that it's pristine state lasted as long as possible. Okay, I know this all sounds very weird. Still, in my secret heart of hearts, I genuinely do prefer order and cleanliness.

But now on any given day, you can walk into my house and find...carving tools and wood shavings scattered on the kitchen table. An ongoing paper mache project taking up most of one end of the living room floor. Knitting needles and balls of yarn piled on the couch or the coffee table. Bowls of cloudy water and messy paint trays cluttering the computer room, a blanket of watercolor paintings spread across the bed beneath the window. Scraps of wax and homemade pots piled on the hearth, ready for the next session of candle making. Random pieces of clothing, "costumes" for an upcoming play production. Sometimes, all this MESS threatens to drive me crazy! What happened to my house?!

Well, what happened house turned into an art studio. Creativity is messy business. And it's a drawn out, ongoing process. It is squelched when someone is always coming around straightening up or packing away the tools necessary for working on a new masterpiece. I am not an artist and I don't quite understand why creativity requires so much mess - but I do know that Thomas is more likely to play the banjo if it stays out of its case. That paint boxes stored neatly away in the closet get used much less than paint boxes out on the table. That fabric scraps scattered over the couch this week means all the Barbies will have new outfits next week. That a seemingly infinite clutter of papers covered with ink scrawls and doodles will magically transform into poetry that breaks my heart.

Maybe someday I'll have a clean house again. Funny thing is, I think that by then I'll miss the mess more than I ever missed the order. I've learned the mess brings with it rich, rich compensation...a spontaneous bluegrass jam session, a short verse that speaks powerful benediction to the calling of motherhood, a vision of trees dancing across a page...worth infinitely more than vacuum cleaner brushstrokes on carpet.

P.S. - Looking over this again before posting, it occurred to me that life in many ways is really an "art studio" of sorts. God is creating something exquisite - people who reflect His beauty and holiness, people who truly delight in and joyfully proclaim the Artist's glory. It's a messy process. Life is an art studio...and it is very messy. If we could put away all the yuck, if we could keep the paint boxes in the closet and the carving tools in the case, life might look neater, feel more comfortable, appear saner. But we'd be left with vacuum-cleaner strokes in the carpet, instead of the glorious, radiant saints God is creating. I am so thankful God isn't an obsessive housewife who shrinks from messiness - grateful for the vision of Glory He gives us in the midst of this wild and wonderful creative process!

Saturday, February 6, 2010


I just returned home from a long day out. Thomas and I headed early this morning to UT Martin, where he took the ACT. We left before anyone else in the house was awake, jealous of their liberty to enjoy a Saturday sleep-in.

Being out of the house all day wears me out, and this was a particularly l-o-n-g day. While Thomas was testing, I enjoyed a cup of coffee in the student center and wrote letters, then drove to Union City to weigh in for the Biggest Loser contest (click here for most recent update), stopped by the library to pick up a few books, headed back to Martin where I bought groceries, then drove to campus to pick up the college sophomore and run a few errands with him. We made it back to the administration building just in time to meet a relieved Thomas. The three of us then headed over to the University Center for lunch before parting ways. (Two pleasant surprises on campus this morning - I got to see the lovely Laykon and the beautiful Janie B!)

Tom requested that we make a few stops on the way home - and given that he had just survived a rather hairy morning of testing, I spent the afternoon accommodating him. Cruising Rural King, THE coolest store on the planet, with Tom is...let's just say, an experience. I am not a shopper, not a browser. Not. At. All. Get in, get out quick - that's my motto. Not so, Thomas. He prefers to wander aisle after aisle, seeing all the else can a person know what's available? After walking down almost every aisle in Rural King, we headed to the Outlet Mall to look for overalls. Again, we had to check out nearly the entire warehouse. When we left the mall, my reluctant student driver agreed to get behind the wheel - so we took advantage of an opportunity to drive a round-a-bout way home. Managed to make what is normally a 15-minute trip into nearly 50 minutes of driving time! (That's a good thing, in case you're wondering.)

And we just now got home. I'm pooped. But, want to hear the fairy tale ending to this story? Saturday is normally my cleaning day. After a week of snow and slush and many, many feet, my floors were filthy. The bathrooms - yuck. That's what I was coming home to, exhausted after a day "out". What did I find when I got home? My girls had swept and mopped all the downstairs floors. That's a HUGE chore, as it involves cleaning up all the rooms first, then moving furniture, etc. They had also taken care of the laundry. My boys had cleaned the bathrooms, kept the fire going, picked up the upstairs, and taken care of the dogs. All hands helped unload and put away groceries, and now, minutes after pulling into the driveway, here I sit playing on the computer, drinking a glass of iced tea. Life is so good!

My kids do chores to help around the house every day. Everyone knows how to do laundry, clean bathrooms, and sweep floors. But usually, Saturday is a day off from regular chores for the kids, a day spent cleaning their own rooms or working outside helping Dad or Granddad on the farm. Saturday is MY day to do household chores. But today, on their own initiative, my kids graced me with a clean house and piles of folded laundry. When Scripture tells us that children are a blessing - it's not speaking of some philosophy, or of an attitude we should have toward them, but of a practical reality. Children really are a blessing - and I am so grateful to my "quiver" for blessing me today!


Wow - It's hard to believe HealthQuest's Biggest Loser contest is already more than half over. Time flies! I noticed in the newspaper's weekly status report that, at week four, I was in 14th place. WooHoo!

I would love to be able to write that the pounds are positively melting away, dripping off like so much butter in the sunshine. However, the weight loss has been slow and gradual. I've averaged losing about 1 1/2 to 2 pounds each week, and am grateful for the consistently downward trend. Total lost so far: 8 pounds! At this rate, it doesn't look like I'll win the fabulouso grand prize - but, I may be able to fit into a size 12 before the end of spring. That would be an awesome "prize"!

Thanks so much for all the words of encouragement - it really is difficult to stick with this for the long haul, and your notes and comments have helped keep me going.

Friday, February 5, 2010


Okay, after that snarky last post, something a little "lighter" seems appropriate. Speaking of homeschooling, you MAY be a homeschool Mom...

1.) ...if you fix three meals a day, seven days a week, for everyone in your family. (Man, that's a LOT of groceries!)

2.) ...if you've ever overheard one of your children tell someone, "Oh, we don't go to school - we just stay home all day."

3.) ...if you've ever had a non-homeschool neighbor ask you to tutor their highschooler in math.

4.) ...if, when visiting a museum or historic site with other home-schoolers, the docent tells your children to "Line Up!" - and they gather in a mob around her. (We definitely need to practice this standing-in-line thing.)

5.) ...if your teenager is as comfortable talking to a 90-year-old or a 4-year-old as he would be talking to another teen.

6.) ...if your younger children respond with a blank look when asked what grade they are in.

7.) ...if YOU respond with a blank look when asked what grade your children are in. Hmmm, let me think a minute....

8.) ...if your kids don't get a school holiday for bad weather, but DO get a school holiday for good weather. Once that warm spring sunshine comes around, it's time to put away the books!

9.) ...if you have a microscope, a dissecting kit, and a container of preserved lab specimens in your pantry. No telling how many times I've stifled a scream after accidentally grabbing a giant pickled frog or worm. Blech!

10.) ...if, in April, you look longingly out the window at the yellow school bus driving down the highway...then think Nah! and turn back to talking about fractions with your 10-year-old.

11.) ...if a conference with the Principal means Date Night!

12.) ...if your kids believe that you understand them better than their peers and truly have their well-being at heart.

13.) ...if you know MORE about grammar and math and history at 40 than you did when you graduated from highschool.

14.) ...if the coolest people you know are the amazing young adults who have already graduated from the family "academy".

I know some of you, Dear Readers, are homeschoolers, too. How would YOU finish the sentence, You may be a homeschooler if.....?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


Warning: This post contains raw snarkiness. Read at your own risk.

I am a stay-at-home Mom...the female equivalent of Paleolithic Man. I am also a "homeschool" Mom...the quintessential modern geek-o-rilla. This means I belong to a rare species, one little known to the general public. Folks, I've decided it's about time to blow my cover...time for a news leak, just to let people know what we geek-o-rillas do with all that time we're spending at home.

I have five students - four high-schoolers and one 5th-grader. Here is a brief sketch of my typical school day: Shower, dress, fix breakfast. While I'm cleaning up breakfast dishes, the kids tackle morning chores - feed the horses, walk the dogs, tend the chickens, bring in wood and build up the fire (in winter), gather laundry, etc. Then, we plunge into schoolwork. My older students may do independent reading for their history or literature while I go over a math lesson with the youngest and get her started on a problem set. Then, time for math for the each of the older kids. The 5th-grader is now finished with her "homework" (ha!ha!), so we do a science lesson together while the olders work on their algebra and trigonometry. Then 5th grade grammar, and I assign a writing topic that will occupy my youngest student while I discuss Ralph Waldo Emerson or principles of the U.S. Constitution with her siblings. You're beginning to get the picture, right? This is sort of like playing "Tag - your turn!" Only Mom is always IT.

Mixed in with science and civics, we have pauses to switch over a load of laundry or to help Dad unload sacks of feed from the Farmers' Co-op. Noonish, we break long enough for lunch - I'm usually cooking while the kids are finishing up morning assignments, and I do clean-up while they fold laundry, walk the dogs again, etc. Then, back to school. Afternoons, we cover Spanish and American History. While my kids practice musical instruments, make huge creative messes, or hike back on the farm, I do any paperwork, filing, phone-calling, and household chores that need attention. Then, if I have been a very good girl, I play on the computer - Yay! That means I get to write for my blog, or work on this week's newspaper column for the Messenger, or catch up on e-mails, or maybe just doodle around on Facebook. If everyone works hard and stays focused, I get to "play" for about an hour before it's time to start supper and begin the evening routine.

Why, Dear Reader, do I feel compelled to describe my typical, not-hugely-exciting day? Because today, my phone has been ringing off the hook and it has just about driven me nuts. Do all these people think I have nothing else to do besides answer phone calls?! Of course they don't think that...I'm just being crabby. I love my job. I don't have any desire to "escape" out of my house into another world. But every job comes with its own peculiar frustrations. For me, one of the greatest frustrations is when it feels like others think....I don't have a job!

I've actually had folks ask me, "What do you DO all day? I'd be so bored if I just sat at home!" Well, if I just sat at home all day, I'd be bored, too. But I think you can tell from the above description that my work day doesn't usually involve much idle sitting! So when I have to interrupt a Spanish lesson to answer another sales call - or to tell a neighbor "No, we still aren't finished with school...please, don't call back for at least an hour" - or to instrutct a 10-year-old friend to STOP playing with her new cell phone, for the third time today - well, let's just say I get a little snarky! In conclusion, I thought I'd share a few things to consider, if you have friends who homeschool....

1.) If you have a quick message that needs to be relayed, by all means - call the house. If you want to brainstorm craft ideas for Bible school, which is still three months away - please wait until after noon to call, preferrably after 3:00. If you know you are the type who can't be on the phone for less than an hour - wait until the weekend to call. And if you have e-mail - USE IT! A good guideline is - would you be willing to call your friend Mary at work about this, or should it wait?

2.) If school is cancelled due to weather, or if your toddler can't attend daycare because of an ear infection, and you ask your homeschool friend to watch your children for you, be aware that what you are actually asking is for your friend to miss a day of her work so that you won't have to miss a day of yours. I've gladly cared for the children of friends in just such circumstances, so I'm not saying - Don't Ask! I am saying, be thoughtful. Consider the implications of what you are asking. Do circumstances truly prevent you from taking a day off to mother your own children? Would you be willing to call into the office and miss a day of work when your homeschool friend needs the favor reciprocated? Beware the attitude, "Since you don't have to work, would you mind keeping my kids today?"

3.) And please, please be patient with your homeschool friends when momentary job frustrations drive them to snarkiness.

Okay, play time is over - time to go start supper!

Monday, February 1, 2010


I mentioned in an earlier post that I had recently finished reading through the entire Bible. So you'd think I wouldn't be in for any surprises this next time around, right? Wrong!

About a week ago, I read something in Genesis 25 that quite startled me, even though I know I read those same verses only months ago. You know Abraham and Sarah - the parents of Isaac. And you're familiar with the messy story of Sarah's handmaid, Hagar, who became Abraham's concubine and the mother of Ishmael. But maybe you don't remember....

Keturah. After Sarah died, Abraham remarried. He took another wife, Keturah, who bore him six more sons! Their names are recorded right there in Genesis 25:2. I suppose what struck me when I read this passage was that here was a legitimate wife of Abraham, who produced many sons....but she is barely mentioned in Scripture. She makes a blip on the radar screen and then disappears!

This got me to thinking...We read about Abraham and Sarah, then Isaac, and Jacob. Why don't we get the rest of Keturah's story? Well, all of Scripture is really God's story - not Keturah's story, or Abraham's story, or Sarah's story. It is the story of God's creating and redeeming for Himself a people. Abraham and Sarah get a lot of coverage in this story - not because they are special in and of themselves, not because of their intrinsic value as humans, but because they are a significant part of the larger story which is about God and His family.

So, back to Keturah. Maybe she was a wonderful wife and mother. Beautiful, talented. A fantastic cook and hostess. A homeschool mom? Fluent in five languages? Musically gifted? Who knows. My point is, as lovely and praiseworthy as Keturah may (or may not) have been, she was not a large part of the story of God's raising up a Redeemer for His people. She gets a quick mention, and then she quietly disappears.

All this thinking led me to a renewed sense of gratitude for God's work of redemption in my own life. I am so often preoccupied with things that, in the light of eternity, are fairly inconsequential - how well I keep my house, my weight, the clothes I wear, how others perceive me. "Camille, Camille, you are worried and troubled about many things, but only one thing is needful..." (my own personal version of Luke 10:41a). Only one thing is needful, and that is - that I am His, that the story of my life is the story of God's redeeming love. Because of Christ's atoning work on my behalf, I am His. Forever. The story of God's grace in my life has barely begun...this story will take an eternity to tell. How exciting to be even a tiny part of such a glorious epic! What is your redemption story, Dear Reader?

Maybe in Glory I'll get to meet Keturah and hear the rest of her story - not how God raised up a Redeemer through her, as He did through Abraham and Sarah, but how He worked redemption in her.