Wednesday, March 31, 2010


My #3 son has loved GI Joe dolls since he was a toddler. Pretty early in his life, GI Joes became a regular gift at Christmas and birthdays, allowing him to build up a fairly substantial military force. Over the years, however, many of the Joes became wounded or disabled during combat. This led to creative medical and surgical procedures on Tom's part - a prosthetic leg for one Joe, a mechanical forearm for another. One even had the top half of his head replaced with a large glass marble, elaborate wire "skull", and some creative cosmetic enhancements - looked like something from the Borg.

One year just before Christmas, knowing that new Joes would soon be joining the ranks, I asked Tom to please clean out all the bits and pieces of broken, worn-out Joes from Christmases past. By this time, he had an enormous trunk full of Joes and pieces of Joes - they were practically taking over the boys' room - and I thought he could surely part with those who were undeniably past usefulness.

I was wrong.

A few days after my request to "thin the ranks," I walked into the boys' room to find wounded GI Joes commandeering the place. Tom had sorted through all his Joes, one by one, and had realized that not a single disabled Joe could be discarded. So, he constructed a military hospital that took up an entire corner of the room. He had Joes in home-made wheelchairs. Joes with bandaged heads and limbs, swathed in strips of torn fabric stained with red ink. Joes in bunks and on stretchers. And bins of assorted body parts - legs, arms, feet, hands - just in case the next influx of wounded needed surgery.

Some of the disabled Joes, bundled in flannel blankets, were reading tiny books. A couple sat at a table playing with a deck of miniature cards. Two in adjacent beds were propped up on their elbows, facing each other - obviously engaged in conversation.

I looked at the sprawling set-up with a mixture of amusement and frustration. I had to give the boy an A+ for creativity. But still, the Joes had to go. They were postively taking over the room. With new Joes coming in, it just didn't make sense to hang onto the broken, useless toys cluttering the floor in front of me.

"Thomas! What are you doing?!" (One of those ridiculous Mom questions.)

Tom looked up from among his wounded troops. "I made a VA Hospital," he answered matter-of-factly.

"Tom, you know you are going to have to get rid of all these broken dolls."


"Because they're useless! They're a mess! You've got Joes spread out all over everywhere, cluttering up half the floor. You know you're getting new Joes for Christmas - you can afford to clean out some of these old ones."

Tom surveyed his patients a few seconds, then looked me in the eye. "Mom, you don't keep someone just because they are whole. Because a person is broken or missing parts doesn't mean they don't still have value as a human being."

WHAM. I suddenly felt like a very. small. parent. "Oh, yeah," I managed a whisper. "Yeah, I see what you mean." Out of the mouths of babes....

The VA Hospital stayed.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


I actually had this topic in mind to write about when I received a request to dedicate a Titus 2-sday to potty training. Although I have seven children who successfully transitioned out of diapers, it's been about eight years since I last potty-trained a child. Technology has changed a lot over time, but human plumbing has not. Maybe you can glean some useful ideas from my experiences.

My first advice is - don't start too early, and don't push too hard. In our family, potty training usually took place around two years of age, but I've known women who waited until their children were three years old or older. When your child keeps his diaper dry for longer periods, has developed an awareness of when his diaper is wet or dirty, and has predictable elimination patterns, it's time for potty training. (Wow, that last sentence was awful, wasn't it? Couldn't think of a better way to delicately word that, though!) I have known mothers who started early, only to have the process drag out for several frustrating, tedious, tearful months. By waiting until the child shows physical signs of readiness, you can make the transition out of diapers more quickly and with fewer accidents.

Secondly, this a celebration - making the move from diapers to big boy or big girl panties is an exciting event! Let your toddler help pick out fun training pants. We called them "fat panties" at our house because they are thickly padded in the center. I preferred cloth training pants because they are more "grown up", less like a diaper, and are more uncomfortable when wet or soiled than something like Pull-Ups. Remember, the goal here is for the child to prefer dry, clean pants and to take appropriate action to keep his pants that way. Pull-Ups may be okay for occasional outtings or for bedtime, but I don't recommend using them at home during the day.

Your toddler can also help arrange the bathroom for this new endeavor - potty chair, a special basket of small picture books, etc. Again, make this part of the celebration!

A word about clothing during this process - don't dress your toddler in cute little overalls or frilly dresses and tights. EASY ACCESS is the rule of the day. Cotton knit dresses for girls, loose fitting shorts or sweatpants for boys. Requiring your child to be a Houdini every time he needs to use the bathroom will NOT help things.

Consistency and regularity are your allies. This may mean that you have to modify your normal routine in order to focus on potty training, but it will be worthwhile to slow life down for a few weeks and avoid unnecessary outtings. Have a routine potty schedule - first thing when your child wakes up in the morning, then every hour or hour-and-a-half throughout the day; right before and immediately after naps. Use a kitchen timer if you're prone to lose track of time, Mom. In the beginning, don't ask, "Do you need to go potty?" - they almost never do, until it's too late. Instead, simply tell your toddler, "Time to go use the potty!" Then, let your child sit on the potty while you chat or look at a book together.

When your toddler successfully uses the potty, rewards are definitely appropriate. We kept a bag of Skittles in the bathroom closet just for this purpose, but you could also use stickers or some other small token of achievement. A friend recruited her older children to help with the potty training of younger siblings - if the toddler tee-tee'd in the potty, she was rewarded with a few Skittles or M&M's. If she pooped, everyone got a treat from a special drawer stocked with snack-sized candy bars, Little Debbie cakes, etc. My friend turned potty time into party time - talk about motivating. By the way, simply flushing the toilet is quite an exciting treat for a toddler who has used the potty successfully!

Being an old-school Mom, I think negative consequences are also appropriate. If your child has an accident, let him or her rinse out the soiled pants and help clean up any messes. However, do not nag or make belittling comments. Natural consequences can be sufficient deterrents without exaggerating the negative.

After making the switch to training pants, we did not go back to diapers at all during the daytime. However, we did continue to use diapers - and then training pants with a waterproof cover - at nighttime. When a child begin waking up consistently with a dry diaper, we switched to just training pants at night. (Use a waterproof pad or cover to protect the bedding.) Amazingly, the entire process - from diapers, to dry all day, to dry all night - took only a few weeks with each of the children.

Your child shows signs of being ready, you've cleared your calendar, and the bathroom is all set up to begin. Don't turn around. Don't go back. Persevere, be consistent, and press on. You may have a bad day (or two or three) when you're tempted to go back to diapers, just for a break, but don't do it. That is confusing to your child, and will draw the process out unduly. There will be bad days, days when you throw ten pairs of wet panties in the laundry - but they will pass, and they will become less frequent. And once you're past potty-training, there will be days when your child has accidents. Don't let setbacks discourage and overwhelm you. Remember, this is a process. Hang in there, Mom!

I know several wise and experienced moms read this blog. What additional comments or tips do you have for young mothers who are just beginning the potty training adventure? Any special advice for working moms?

Monday, March 29, 2010


We name trees. No, not names like maple and oak and hickory. Names like The Robin Hood Tree. The King and Queen of the Forest. Elmer. Lord of the Great Hall.

I know that probably sounds crazy, but, at our house, it makes sense. It's so much easier to say, "Mom, we're hiking back to the Lord of the Great Hall" - than to say, "We'll be somewhere around the enormous oak in the grove at the top of the bluff above the back hay field."

Easier, and definitely more romantic. When we were clearing brush once, Granddaddy pointed out a gigantic beech towering over a broad grove of beech trees. "That tree was huge when I was a boy. I used to play back here when I was little, and imagine that an Indian boy my size once played under this very same tree." We all stood breathlessly admiring the Silver Giant - the woods seemed suddenly alive with ghosts and whispered voices. Life is an adventure when you live on a farm forested by the Silver Giant, the Narnia Trees, and the Wild Bee Tree.

If we had ears to understand the rustling of the leaves, do you think we would learn that the trees have names for us?

Friday, March 26, 2010


"Daaaddddy's home!" Squeals and screams of delight accompany the pounding of little feet as a herd of children stampede to the door. Dad's arrival home at the end of the workday is occasion for tumultuous celebration.

Me? I'm just Mom. Plain old all-day-every-day boring Mom. I used to envy Steve because of the excitement he triggered just by walking through the door. Wasn't anyone ever excited to see me?

Have any of you other moms noticed that when your kids have thrilling news, or when it's time to play, or when spirits are simply running high, Dad is the parent of choice? But, on the other hand....

Have you noticed that when a child wakes up sick in the middle of the night, or has a bad dream, he always - always - stumbles groggily to Mom's side of the bed. "Moooommm, I don't feel so good!" On a few particularly weary occasions, I actually "played 'possum", hoping my little night shadow would migrate around to Dad's side of the bed. Nope.

This got me to wondering - Why is it that happy times must be shared with Dad, but midnight goblins and 2:00 AM throw-ups demand Mom's attention? It seemed to me that disproportionate honor was being given to the male parent!

As I continued muddling over this phenomenon, something occurred to me. Those late-night entreaties for comfort were actually an unconscious display of tremendous honor. When my child was ill or frightened in the dark of the night, the need for reassurance or comfort meant he needed Mom.

I wanted to be chosen for the laughter and merriment that fell to Dad, but had instead been chosen for the tears and fears and fevers. Still, realizing that I had been singled out for the "honor" of wee-hour willies made me aware that I was indeed special to my children. Those nights of interrupted sleep became a little bit less of a burden, more of a privilege.

* * * * *
"Mom, Mom, wake up! I had a scary dream!" A little ghost shivered at my elbow.

"Hmmm?" My eyes didn't want to open. "Climb up next to me, honey. You're okay." Barely reaching consciousness, I snuggled my toddler close and tucked the blankets around her. Motherhood - what a tremendous honor!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


While pregnant with babies #5 and #6, I read a book addressing the unique situation of parenting twins. I already had four children, one of whom was less than 2 years old and another not yet one. The thought of adding two more babies to the household was daunting, to say the least. Any resource that promised to help make this new adjustment more manageable definitely caught my interest!

The lady who authored the book was herself the mother of twins. JUST twins. She had Baby #1 and Baby #2 within minutes of each other, and that completed her family. These were her first children (not a lot of motherhood experience already under her belt), and her last. So maybe her perspective was a little different from mine.

I still remember three things she said were essential to surviving the arrival of twin babies:
1.) I must hire someone to help with household cleaning, errands, etc.
2.) I must locate a local grocer who took orders and made home deliveries.
3.) I must have a resource list of mail-order suppliers for things like clothing.

The author was emphatic about these three items- she assured me that I would NOT survive twin babydom if even one of these things were missing.

Great, I thought, I'm doomed. You see, I didn't have the money to pay a housekeeper. Or, even if I could have afforded it, a grocery store nearby that delivered. Our clothes came from thrift stores, and I was fairly confident they didn't have any kind of "mail order" department. If this lady didn't think she could survive twin babies, when all she had was two babies, how in the world am I going to survive having six babies when the twins arrive?! Her book was written to be helpful and encouraging. Instead, it triggered fear, despair, and an overwhelming sense of inadequacy.

Well, my babies did not postpone their arrival simply because I was unable to hire domestic help. And, yes, that first year would've been MUCH easier with the "essential" things the writer had listed. Steve and I often refer to that first year as The Dark Fog. Overworked. Sleep deprived. Barely scraping by. Life. Was. Crazy.

But you know what? We survived. And I learned a whole lot that year about trusting God for everything from diapers to a relatively functional degree of sanity. Well, maybe that last item came and went a little. Anyway, seems like the most difficult seasons are when we learn most certainly the sufficiency and mercy of God.

So, why am I writing today about my twin babies (now beautiful, delightful teenagers)? Because I think the modern church is often guilty of "encouraging" believers in the same way that mother-of-twins "encouraged" me many years ago. Here are a few examples I've encountered recently:

*A church-sponsored youth conference - excellent teaching, awesome music, exotic location, certain to be faith-strengthening - if your teen can swing the $400+ to attend.

*An excellent book, written by a Christian for married couples, containing the exhortation that you must seek professional counseling if you're dealing with a problem like _______.

*A women's fellowship, promoted as a "dress up" affair. (All women enjoy a reason to get dressed up, right?!)

These are three examples from my own experience; maybe you have others. The things listed aren't bad. But they contain the subtle, unintentional message that in order to experience many of the blessings of the Christian life, you are going to need some dinero. Muchos dinero, perhaps. And that can be so discouraging to a believer who lacks the resources to participate. Will I miss God's blessing by not traveling to Colorado with the other teens? Will my marriage be able to survive (never mind prosper) if we can't afford counseling? Will it make the other ladies uncomfortable if I wear my "good" jeans to the Tea?

Scripture promises believers that God will provide all our needs (Philippians 4:19). Maybe not all our wants - like a housekeeper, or diaper service, or a week-long Bible conference on the beach - but He will provide all our needs. As we address needs in the church, we must point each other first and faithfully to Christ and His sufficiency, being careful to avoid the appearance of attaching a price tag His work.

We know that God loves us. Christ intercedes for us. The Holy Spirit indwells us. The Word of God, which we hold in our own hands, is alive and relevant and powerful, able to make us competent and to equip us for every good work (1 Timothy 3:16). These rich truths apply to every believer, regardless of station in life.

Christ's church is comprised of such a variety of people - different races, cultures, income levels, personalities, histories. We are free to enjoy the wonderful blessings He gives each of us, but we must be careful not to make the spiritual blessings appear contingent upon the material. Christ embraced the poor, the sick, the weary, the sinful, the unattractive, the incompetent...embraced them, welcomed them, and made them His. His is NOT a middle class Gospel.

Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Isaiah 55:1

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


Okay, I've got one more post about kids and food, and then we'll take a break from this topic for a while. Today's idea actually comes from a sweet friend who stepped in with a suggestion once that helped save my sanity. Katherine's advice? "Every one of your kids should have a signature meal."

What an awesome idea! Kids love to cook, and they are much more capable in the kitchen than you might imagine. What a blessing for them to be able to serve their family, and what a blessing for Mom to have some pinch hitters come dinner time!

Tonight, our ten-year-old is cooking spaghetti for dinner. That's a great dinner for younger kids to prepare - not a lot of ingredients or complicated instructions. Our fourteen-year-old daughter, on the other hand, will fearlessly tackle new recipes and complicated menus. She gives me a list of ingredients before our weekly shopping trip, then cooks a fabulous meal for the family on Saturday nights. One of the boys specializes in venison chili, and another has mastered potato soup and focaccia bread.

If your kids are too young to prepare an entire meal themselves, maybe they can help with a particular side dish. I remember as a little girl progressing from making the iced tea to making a tossed salad and then to baking biscuits. Plan a kid-friendly dish or meal, and let your kids start cooking today!

Monday, March 22, 2010


Several years ago, my oldest son participated in a production of Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol at Theatre Memphis. While Reuben learned the roles of the Sled Boy, Ignorance, a chimney sweep, and a street urchin, Big Sister and I volunteered to work as stage hands. If I'd known ahead of time what we were getting into, I think we'd have skipped auditions! Rehearsals began in October - we met five nights a week, for 3+ hours of practice. Once the play opened, performances were held every evening except Monday, with additional matinee performances on weekends. This exhausting schedule lasted from Thanksgiving weekend until just a few days before Christmas. I truly believe that, long before closing night, the entire cast and every one of the backstage workers could have recited the complete script from memory!

Tiring - absolutely. But also tremendous fun. And amazingly, the work never got boring. The frantic silent bustle backstage, dressing and undressing actors, readying props in the pitchblack wings. The wild diversity of personalities - Kevin, who showed up for rehearsal on Halloween dressed as Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, complete with ruby slippers (oh, yes); Anna, whose glow-in-the-dark tongue stud gave her a nearly blinding smile in the blackness that was "back stage"; the adult twins, Shawn and Kelley, who loved to pull surprises on stage to test other actors' ability to focus; Jim, the ghost of Christmas present, whose beautiful baritone and joy for life filled the theatre just months before he succumbed to throat cancer.

A dear friend and her family made a special trip to see A Christmas Carol that holiday season. Afterwards, Shannon commented the play had been great...but that when Reuben walked on stage, she had only been able to focus on him. The story, the music, the other characters faded to insignificance as he played his very minor parts. "All I could think was, That's MY Reuben! That's MY Reuben!" she laughed. "I was so proud of him, I wanted to stand up and tell everyone in the audience - LOOK! That's MY Reuben!"

Her experience got me to thinking. In the drama that is this life, that's how God looks at each of His children. I may stumble on stage, or say the wrong lines, or totally miss my cue. Shoot, I may even dive into the orchestra pit. But God looks at me through loving eyes and says, "That's MY Camille!"

Circumstances and our emotions sometimes conspire to deceive us, to make us believe that God groans at the mere thought of us, that we are to God nothing but a source of grief and constant frustration. But we do not have such a pathetic salvation as that, sisters and brothers. We are not saved to the extent that God is now able to barely tolerate us, to endure our existence without obliterating us with lightning bolts. We are saved completely, radically, eternally. We are HIS, and He loves and delights in us.

C.S. Lewis wrote in The Weight of Glory: The promise of glory is the promise, almost incredible and only possible by the work of Christ, that some of us, that any of us who really chooses, ...shall please God. To please be a real ingredient in the divine be loved by God, not merely pitied but delighted in as an artist delights in his work or a father in a son - it seems impossible, a weight or burden of glory which our thoughts can hardly sustain. But so it is.

God loves me because I am His - not because I have mastered the "stage" of life. He delights in me like a father in a son/daughter. Almost too good to believe, isn't it? But so it is.

The morning after the visits from the ghosts...
Ebenezer Scrooge (leaning out the window): You, there! Boy! What's today?
Sled Boy: Today, Sir? Why, it's Christmas Day!

Friday, March 19, 2010


There have been times when I think we do not desire heaven; but more often I find myself wondering whether, in our heart of hearts, we have ever desired anything else....It is the secret signature of each soul, the incommunicable and unappeasable want, the thing we desired before we met our wives or made our friends or chose our work, and which we shall still desire on our deathbeds, when the mind no longer knows wife or friend or work....All your life an unattainable ecstasy has hovered just beyond the grasp of your consciousness. The day is coming when you will wake to find, beyond all hope, that you have obtained it.

- C. S. Lewis, from The Problem of Pain

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


My husband is on some new medications as the doctor tries to find a way to effectively manage his bloodpressure/heart problems. Side effects of said medicines include, among other things, a general, persistent feeling of yuckiness and disrupted sleep patterns.

Steve was up until about 1:00 Saturday night, came to bed and flopped around for a couple of hours, gave up on sleep and relocated to the living room to read a couple of hours, then finally came back to bed around 5:00 and passed out from exhaustion. Needless to say, he does not feel great the day after such a miserable, restless night.

The doctor told Steve his heart problems were hereditary. In the genes. Unavoidable, really. So, while a healthy diet and regular exercise are good things, they could not have prevented the present situation.

Sort of like my heart condition. Oh, you can't monitor the sickness of my heart with a blood pressure cuff, or treat it with a combination of pills. But my condition, like Steve's, is hereditary. In the genes. I have a wicked and diseased heart that I inherited from my father, Adam.

Steve has learned to recognize when his blood pressure is elevated, even without the cuff. He gets a certain weird feeling. When my sick heart is having a spasm, I am also alerted by a certain feeling. A feeling of heightened nervousness and irritability, like having consumed way too much caffeine. A period of hyper-critical sensitivity. Moodiness. Preoccupation with myself. Frustration with unmet expectations. A general feeling of yuckiness.

Thankfully, God has promised me a new heart, a transplant (Ezekiel 36:26). What I'm beginning to realize is that this transplant is not a fast, check-in-check-out procedure. God is tearing away the old, sick heart a piece at a time, and replacing it bit-by-bit with living tissue from Christ's heart. Sometimes I wish He would just rip all the old dead stuff out at once...get it over with quick. I want a completely new and healthy heart NOW. But that's not how He is working.

Instead, He gives me some days that seem positively glorious, when my heart feels strong and alive...and other days, sick days, when I am painfully aware of the weakness of my heart, gasping for the Gospel. Maybe He wants me to be acutely conscious - right up to the very moment I step into Glory - of how desperately I need this new heart.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Last Titus 2-sday I told you my Mom's basic menu guideline - more color for better nutrition. Practically speaking, that means more vegetables and fruits. Maybe you have young children and you're thinking, "I could never get my kids to eat broccoli/asparagus/fill-in-the-blank!"

Don't think that, and certainly don't say it aloud in their hearing! It's amazing what kids will eat if you present it with the clear assumption that they will eat it, and then, if they hesitate, provide a little parental encouragement. Take your kids to the grocery and let them help pick a few of the vegetables for the week. Or, let them grow vegetables of their own. We planted bush beans and squash in the "flower beds" around our house in Antioch, TN, when the kids were very small - amazing how excited children can get about vegetables when they pick the produce themselves!

Also, we've always had a rule at the dinner table - you can't say you don't like it if you've never tried it. If you tasted a particular food and didn't like it, then...when the particular food was served at future meals, you still couldn't say you didn't like it (that would be rude to the cook), but you only had to eat a very small portion. Tom, for example, isn't very fond of potatoes or Brussels sprouts. When we have either of those for dinner, he'll put a small amount on his plate and load up instead on something more desirable.

Okay, some of you are no doubt thinking, "What kind of parent would make a child eat food she knows the kid dislikes?!" Well, a mom who wants her kid to develop a palate for a wide diversity of foods and, hopefully, good eating habits. Don't get me wrong - I'm not saying you should cram a load of some objectionable vegetable down your kid's throat. I am saying it's okay to be the parent and insist on your children eating healthy food.

As I mentioned, Tom isn't too keen on Brussels sprouts. When we have Brussels sprouts for dinner, he'll only eat two or three. But, if you ask Tom what foods he really hates, he'll answer, "Oh, I like just about everything." If you press him and ask, "What about Brussels sprouts?" - he'll come back with, "They're okay, I guess, but they're not my favorite."

Learning to eat a variety of foods, even if it requires a little effort, has a couple of benefits that come quickly to mind. First, better nutrition is built on variety. I knew a teenage girl once who would eat no vegetable except fried potatoes. Her mother and her family doctor were struggling to get her to eat other vegetables, for health reasons. I can't help but think that lesson would have been more easily learned as a small child instead of as a teenager, when years of habit had to be overcome in addition to taste preferences.

Also, we don't know for certain where in the world our children will end up as adults. My oldest son who will be traveling to Japan this summer, and you can bet he won't be eating "Momma's cooking" while he's there. However, he is excited about trying new foods, and I'm confident he won't starve to death surrounded by unfamiliar cuisine.

Better nutrition, willingness to try new foods....and one other thing. Plain old good manners. I want my children to be able to eat dinner with friends and other families without balking at the food. When they get married, I want them to be able to enjoy meals with their new families without having to put finicky restrictions on what is served.

I have a friend who, in her work with various ministries, travels to other countries. Determined to graciously receive the hospitality of her hosts, she has consumed things like fried tarantulas and fermented mare's milk. How, with a smile and a nod, is she able to crunch a cricket? By having the mind of Christ. By valuing the person who is serving her over her personal taste preferences, and by respecting their culture.

I really don't want anything less for my children.

Monday, March 15, 2010


A young friend told me of a funny conversation he had recently with a classmate, that went something like this -

Classmate: You know that new Amish family that moved just down the road from your house?

Austin: What Amish family?

Classmate: You know...they built that white house out in the middle of the hay field a couple of years ago. You pass it on the way to your house.

Austin: Huh? Yeah, I know those folks. They're not Amish!

Classmate: Yes they are. They have a horse in their front yard, and the girls always wear dresses, and they have like a bajillion kids. Of course they're Amish - don't you know anything?!

I enjoyed a good laugh with Austin when he related the conversation to me! Yes, we do have a horse in our front yard - June Bug is a yard horse, sort of like a yard dog but with longer legs. The girls have been known to dress up in long calico skirts and promenade about the yard - but they are much more likely to wear blue jeans or yoga pants. And, it may look like we have a bajillion kids if they are all outside chasing each other in circles around the house - but really, only five kids live here during the week, six on weekends.

Austin's story reminded me of how easy it is to think we truly understand something when we are in fact very badly mistaken. My kids have a favorite saying - If you were deceived, would you know it? Of course you wouldn't! The essence of deception is believing something that isn't true. But what if someone exposed the deception - then would you know that you were deceived? Well, maybe - or maybe not. Austin's classmate couldn't believe how stupid Austin was to be so completely ignorant of the obvious. Never mind that Austin rides 4-wheelers with my kids (no, we are not opposed to motorized vehicles). Never mind that my kids go swimming with Austin and his brother in their pool (yes, I admit we've participated in mixed bathing). Never mind that Austin's family and my husband's family have known each other for longer than I have been alive. When Austin insisted that we are not Amish, his friend snorted in reply, "Shows what you know!"

Romans 1:18-22 reads - For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools...

I heard that phrase suppress the truth explained once this way: It speaks of deliberate, concentrated effort, like pushing down on a spring that resists being compressed. It is one thing to be ignorant, but something entirely different to insist on adhering to, to work at perpetuating, a known lie. But, in our fallen state, we all have the hearts of liars, of truth suppressers...what hope is there for us?!

Ah, the beauty of Scripture! God has written down and preserved the truth for us. Maybe some parts of what He has written are uncomfortable, or offensive, or just plain weird - but there it stands anyway. I can take my lying heart to Scripture, and there confront it with the truths of God's Word. Maybe today I'll respond, "Yes! I see and understand!" Or tomorrow, "No! I refuse to believe that!" Or sometimes, "I am so confused." But regardless of my response, Scripture continues to faithfully testify the truth. It doesn't change. And I am compelled to keep coming back, to look and consider, to confront my lies and send them packing. Through the patient work of the Holy Spirit, to be conformed...conformed to the truth.

(Ooops - gotta go. I need to tie on my bonnet and apron and go beat out the rugs....NOT!)

Friday, March 12, 2010


Because we homeschool, my kids are together pretty much all the time. They eat together, do chores together, sit around the table together for school, play games together. Then, after a day full of togetherness, they head upstairs to rooms they share with their siblings - boys in one room, girls in the other - and they sleep together.

With so much togetherness, you'd think they'd get tired of each other. But here is a fairly common scenario at our house: It's an hour or more after all the last kid has trouped upstairs for the night. Steve and I are finally headed to bed. As I make the rounds of closing down the house for the night, I hear whispered voices drifting down the stairs.

"Girls, it's nearly 11:00! Why are you still awake?"

"Oh, we're just talking," comes the reply.

"Well, stop talking and go to sleep!"

Last weekend, one of the boys sat groggily poking at his breakfast. "Man, I don't feel awake," he complains.

"What's the matter - did you not sleep well last night?" I asked.

"Oh, no, I slept fine. It's just that we were up late talking."

And just yesterday morning, two of my highschoolers had such a hard time not chatting and instead focusing on their math that I threatened to send them to different rooms to do their school work.

These children spend almost every waking hour together. They are always talking with each other. Plans for another fort. What color of yarn they need for a new doll's hair. Preparations for the opening day of turkey season. Prospective jobs. News from the next door neighbors. They chat back and forth all day long. Then, as often as not, they stay up and chat well into the night. So, when I'm shutting down the house at the end of the day, my question is - what on earth could they possibly have left to talk about?!

I hope that five years from now, and twenty-five years from now, and long after I am dead and long as they have voices, I hope that they are still talking.

As for this quiet Mom, I am afraid that when the last bird flies from the nest, the silence in this house could be deafening.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


....grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ's gift.
Ephesians 4:7

I had a newborn baby and two kids in training pants. My husband, an architecture student at the University of Tennessee, spent 12+ hours a day at school either in classes or working in the design studio. After a quick pit stop for dinner, he'd head back out to a night job that helped us eke by month to month. Too little money, a tiny apartment, three small children, and isolated from other adults - that last year of school was a dark, difficult time for me.

But God did not let me despair completely. When I felt particularly lonely, someone from church would call or stop by unannounced, just to check in. Money was running low at the end of the month - Mary, a sweet sister in Christ, called to say she had found a sale on chicken that she couldn't pass up at the local Food Lion. She had bought all the chicken left in the case, but had nowhere to store so much meat - could she bring some of it by for my family to use? When I stood staring vacantly out the kitchen window one morning with tear-filled eyes, praying for some sign that God cared that life was so hard for me at the moment...God sent a tremendous, irridescent male peacock strolling through the yard. A peacock! How weird is that?! I wiped my eyes and laughed aloud.

Physically, emotionally, financially, spiritually - everything about life at the time felt like leaning into the harness of a two-ton wagon. Much labor, much weariness, very little rest or joy. One Sunday afternoon when Steve didn't have to be at school or work and was free to watch the babies, I left the apartment alone and drove to the nearby WalMart to just wander up and down the aisles by myself. I remember as I drove home, thinking, "What's to keep me from just driving all the way to California?" I had the car. I had the gas card. It would be days before anyone would be able to figure out where I'd gone. I could just disappear into the sunset. Hmmmm.... I pulled into the driveway and headed back inside to the yoke.

Later, I told a dear friend that, during those bleak months, God's grace to me had been a short and heavy chain. "What?!" she asked.

"I could have run away," I explained. "There were days I wanted nothing more than to just walk out and leave everything. Lots of women do, you know." My friend looked at me in disbelief. I continued, "But God constrained me to stay."

Nearly 20 years have passed since that dark season. Although the horizon has not been cloudless all those years (rather, it has sometimes been again quite as dark), I can confess that there has been much, much light along the way. Much light that I would have missed if I had run away to California. Not a day passes that I don't thank God for His intervention in my life, for holding me still when, in the flesh, I would foolishly run away. Seems I'm made most acutely aware of my need of salvation in the dark places, and it's in the midst of these low valleys that Grace comes distilled to its sweetest and brightest.

What about you? If you are in a very dark place, if it feels like you are chained in a small box with no light - do not despair. God can squeeze close to you inside the narrowest box, and heavy chains are often forged of Grace.

But the Lord said to me, "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. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


Titus 2-sday won out for the name of the new weekly post - welcome to Titus 2-sday! The plan is that every Tuesday, I'll post something related to life at cosmic lessons here, but maybe something helpful to another wife and mother, especially if you're just beginning this adventure!

Like most women, I learned to cooked from my mother. Cooking is one thing - planning menus is something totally different. Planning a week's worth of menus is not rocket science, but I thought I'd pass along some tips I've picked up over the years.

My Mom's number one piece of advice - more color for better nutrition. Imagine a plate of fried chicken, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, and a roll. Okay, I love all that stuff, too, but picture it - beige, beige, beige, and beige. And oober heavy on the carbs. Mom's basic rule of thumb for meals was - a protein (brown), a starch (white or yellow), always something green, and, if you want a little extra, a fruit or additional non-starchy vegetable. Dinner might look like this...fried chicken, rice, broccoli, and fresh squash. Or, meat loaf, mashed potatoes, green beans, and pear salad. Following this formula, you're less likely to overload on starchy foods high in carbohydrates, and more likely to consume a healthy variety of nutrients. Plan meals with lots of color. This formula provides a good basic guideline for planning menus, but we don't follow it every single night at our house. Which leads to tip #2.

Plan menus to alternate between more expensive/less expensive meals, and between more-labor-intensive/easier-to-prepare meals. We may do the meat/starch/veggies meal three nights a week. One night a week, we'll do a pasta meal - spaghetti and salad, pasta primavera, etc. - or something like black beans and rice with greens on the side. These are easy and quick, but still meet Mom's color guideline. At least one night a week, more often if the budget is tight, we fix soup. Soup is a great meal because it's cheap and is a tasty way to use up leftovers from a meat-&-three dinner. Not infrequently, we fix breakfast for dinner - again, this is cheap and easy, although not typically the best meal nutritionally. Since we eat out very rarely, I suppose this is our equivalent of a modern family's run to McDonald's!

Finally, a thought on proportions. Perhaps because we lived in the country and had a garden every summer, my Mom was big on vegetables. Some meals, we skipped the meat and the starch altogether. Fresh green beans, sliced ripe tomatoes, yellow squash with onions, juicy canteloupe - we would stuff ourselves with produce just in from the sunshine! Many folks build meals around the meat and potatoes, giving these items most of the space on the plate. Banish the meat and starch to one corner of the plate - say, 1/3 or less - and let vegetables, fruits, and salads take over the remaining 2/3 of the plate.

What about you - any favorite menus to share?

Next week....what if your kids don't like vegetables?

Monday, March 8, 2010


Breakfast is over and the dishes are washed. Animals are fed and morning chores checked off. Time to start school.

Me: "Helen, are you ready to work on your math?"

Helen: "Sure. What lesson are we on?"

Me: "You have a test today."

Helen: Her face lights up. "A test?! Yay!"

Helen bounces across the room with a smile, grabs a sharp pencil, and settles down to work through Math Test 21. Why can't I react like that to a test?!

Actually, all my kids like tests - at least the kind they have to do as part of their schoolwork. The reason for this fondness for tests isn't too complicated. On a non-test day in math, for example, we check over any missed problems from yesterday's homework, then read through and discuss a new lesson. Finally, depending on age, each child works through 25-30 problems in the new problem set, reviewing familiar concepts and practicing new ones. For my 5th grader, this means about 30-40 minutes of math work...for my highschool sophomore, maybe an hour and a half. But on test day - no review from yesterday, no lesson to discuss, and a cool 20 problems in black ink on a white sheet of paper. Because they spend so much time practicing their math on other days, because they really know the material, tests are easy cheesy and take only a fraction of the time required for a regular lesson. A test is really a kind of holiday - WooHoo!

I've written before about how miserably I handle tests in life. I usually don't even recognize a test until I'm in the middle of it and either freaking out or swinging punches or both. But maybe if I prepared more deliberately every day for tests - like my school kids - I could approach tests differently. If I took more time to study the Book, to think about (pray about) the lessons, then maybe, when I find myself facing a test, I could respond like Helen. Maybe I could respond with joy.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness...
James 1:2

Friday, March 5, 2010


While taking the dogs for their "long" walk Sunday afternoon, we stopped at the Robin Hood Tree so that three of the kids could practice their climbing. The Robin Hood Tree is a HUGE sycamore with great spreading branches perfectly spaced for climbing halfway to heaven. While Steve and I rested in the sunshine, I noticed unopened buds at the ends of the sycamore twigs. Buds! I mentioned The Greening in an earlier blog - but there are other signs that "Aslan is on the move" and winter is finally melting into spring. At our house, I've noticed....

Egg production is up in the henhouse. Ben's hens are laying over twice as many eggs as they were laying just a month ago. Egg salad sandwiches for lunch today - yum!

Everything with fur is shedding. The dogs are shedding all over the house - yuck. Martha says when she brushes Little John, she has to pause often to clean wads of winter hair out of the bristles.

Green things are poking out of the ground! I've found little green bumps at the base of last summer's dead hydrangea stems, and the irises and daylilies are pushing shoots up toward the sun.

The neighbor's bull was in our field again this morning. Have you ever heard an amorous bull, stalking the neighboring bull's herd? It sounds something like the low, rolling, prolonged thunder of a lion roaring out on the savanna. Scary, really, if you didn't know what it was. That's what I woke up to this morning. In the Bible, the phrase "it was the time of year when men went to war" is used to refer to spring. On the farm, we could say, "It was the time of year when bulls jump/knock down fences."

We are counting down lessons in our school work, racing to the back cover of the book. My fifth-grader has taped a poster to the wall showing the number of math lessons left in her book, and every day she marks a square off. This is more fun than watching the ball drop on New Year's Eve!

The countdown to turkey season has also started - poor Nate, I don't think he's shot anything in over a month. Ben is working on a paper mache turkey decoy, which now occupies one corner of the living room, and various other "turkey gear" is beginning to appear around the house.

I'm hearing more and more talk about possible summer jobs - funny how teenagers seem to be so interested in making money.

I have a growing urge to go outside and dig in the dirt.

Flip flops in Wal-Mart!

What about you? Any signs of spring in your neck of the woods?

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


"If I were in regular school, my teacher would just fail me and I could be done!" My highschooler was struggling with a new math concept, had been struggling for two days now, and was ready to just concede failure and move on to something else.

"You are not in regular school, and you are not going to 'fail' this," I insisted. "Maybe if we approach this problem from a different angle..."

We persevered and, eventually, the light came on. "Ooooooh, now I get it!"

My homeschooling adventure began over 16 years ago, when my oldest daughter was five years old. One morning, my lesson plan indicated that we were supposed to cover Lesson ___ in math: learning to count by tens. According to my teacher's manual, I would spend about 20 minutes explaining and illustrating the concept, after which my "students" would need to practice, with my help, counting by tens. By the end of the week, my kindergartener should be able to count by tens without assistance.

"Today, we are going to learn to count by multiples of ten!" I began enthusiastically.

"Oh, you mean like 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60....?" my daughter replied.

"Yeah, just like that." Now what was I supposed to do for the next 19 1/2 minutes? We skipped right to her worksheet, which took about 5 minutes to complete, then played sorting and counting games with Legos.

One thing I really like about homeschooling is the freedom to modify lesson plans and schedules to actually meet the educational needs of each child. My son, the reluctant math student, is correct - in a traditional classroom setting, he would probably "fail" a homework lesson or a test, and then just be drug along with the rest of the class as his overwhelmed teacher struggled to meet her course objectives for the majority of her students for the semester. And my kindergartener would have had to sit through a week of lessons hammering the concept of counting by tens, learning nothing new and probably bored out of her gourd. "School" would have quickly become synonymous with "tedium".

Reading over this again before posting, I am reminded of how very personal, specific, and deliberate God is in orchestrating the events of our lives to accomplish our sanctification. The lessons and exercises He has designed for me are very different from those He creates for my husband or my child or my next door neighbor. No standard curriculum or one-size-fits-all lesson plans in His book!

Also, I am reminded of the importance of fellowship with the body of Christ. My tenth-grader was NOT GETTING Lewis structures in Chemistry. His Mom was NOT SUCCEEDING in expanding his understanding. But his college-aged brother, weilding a rainbow of markers, enthusiastically explained Lewis structures in a way that "clicked" in only a matter of minutes. How often a sister or brother in Christ has said or done something that opened my eyes in a new way to the riches of the Gospel, or that pointed me clearly to the practical implications of Christ's work on my behalf!

Just fail me? No way. My Teacher will persevere, sanctifying me in the school of life, until He brings me to Glory.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


Spring is in the air - and that means my brain is buzzing, waking up from the gray fog of winter. It's been full of random thoughts, ideas to write about, gears whirring and humming.

After doing a little research about blog writing, I almost decided to rename The Hurricane Report. Most people under 50 don't get the word play in the title - maybe it would make more sense if my name were Katrina or Andrew, instead of Camille. And I don't write about hurricanes, although I have had visitors who found The Hurricane Report by Googling hurricanes and Hurricane Camille and even writing a hurricane report.

I was thinking about Plain Living - because I mostly write about life, and my life is pretty plain. Or, Titus 2 Mom, because I'm a mom and an "older" woman. But if I changed the name, that might confuse folks. And, I've been associated with Hurricane Camille for as long as I can remember. "Hello, my name is Camille. Glad to meet you." "Oh, like the hurricane! Boy, that was a whopper!"

Then, I got an idea from Christian satirist, Jon Acuff. Jon writes a humorous blog - you can check him out here. Very silly stuff. But on Wednesdays, he sets humor aside and writes some fantastic, serious stuff - calls it Serious Wednesdays. Actually, although I enjoy his regular posts, I like his Serious Wednesday posts the best.

Instead of Jon's Serious Wednesdays, I've decided to add a new post each Tuesday to unpack all the random ideas flitting around in my brain - thoughts about raising children, cooking dinner, helping your middle-schooler write a research paper, picking wild mushrooms. Come to think of it, maybe I've been into the wrong kind of wild mushrooms!

This is where I need your help, Dear Reader. Should the new weekly post be labeled Plain Living, or Titus 2-sday? You can vote in the box on top of the right-hand column of The Hurricane Report. (Oooooh, I feel so techno-savvy - I added that feature all by myself, with no help from one of my teenagers!)

Monday, March 1, 2010


All my kids had their six-month dental appointments recently. Our dentist's office is great - they schedule everyone at once, and we just sort of commandeer the facility. Six kids in and out in just over 30 minutes - pretty awesome, huh?!

We drove to town in two vehicles, partly because we don't all fit in one car and partly because my oldest son needed his brother to drive him back to campus that afternoon.

When the two oldest boys came back into the busy waiting room from having their teeth cleaned and x-rayed, they gathered their jackets and caps and prepared to depart. Then, they came and stood front of me as if waiting for some final instructions. It took me a moment to realize, these big boys were waiting for hugs! I set aside the magazine I'd been reading, stood up, and embraced each of them. "See you at the end of the week," #1 Son commented as he gave me a big squeeze. Then #2 Son - "Love you, Mom." Finally, my two huge, hulking man children headed out the door and down the highway.

Those hugs left me smiling for the rest of the day. It blessed me to think that these young men wanted to show their mom some affection - even out in public, in a crowded dentist's office. And it blessed me to think what a natural and comfortable thing that had been for both of them - no hesitation, no self-consciousness or embarrassment to pollute a sweet moment.

We've all known teenagers - cool, bored, disengaged teens - who act embarrassed to even be seen with their parents. I can only imagine that for such kids, hugging their parents in public would be a source of near-fatal humiliation! I am so grateful God has kept my sons from the false notions of propriety that keep many of their peers from blessing their parents with a simple but beautiful gift - a genuinely affectionate hug.

If any kids are reading this - to paraphrase an old TV commercial, have you hugged your Mom today?