Wednesday, May 26, 2010


Preaching through the Bible. It's called expository preaching. Your pastor takes a book of the Bible and preaches through it verse by verse, from beginning to end. Then he takes another book of the Bible and does the same thing. And then another....

In recent years, my pastors have preached through Jeremiah, Ephesians, John, Ruth, and Genesis. Currently at Grace, Brother Billy is preaching through the book of Exodus. If you consider that every Sunday during worship we read together a New Testament passage, an Old Testament passage, and then the Scripture passages for the morning and evening sermons, it should be evident that we will eventually read through the entire Bible, corporately.

Preaching a series of sermons on a particular topic - say, loving your spouse, or how to glorify God with your finances. It's called topical preaching. The preacher develops a series of messages on the topic of choice, then researches and presents Scripture related to that topic in his sermons. As we engaged in the very serious business of electing our first elders at Grace, Brother Billy took a short break from Exodus to preach a series of sermons about leadership in the church. Topical preaching - very practical, so pragmatic.

But this method of preaching can be problematic, for a couple of reasons. First, it necessarily pulls Scripture passages out of their broader context. You may talk about the armor of God mentioned at the end of Ephesians 6, and miss that this armor is designed to be used as we engage in the difficulty of intimate relationships mentioned in Ephesians 5 and 6.

A second problem - it is very easy to skip some passages of Scripture all together. Especially icky, difficult passages that deal with things like God ordering Israel to destroy whole cities, men, women, and children. Or God electing to save some and not others. Eeeeew. Who wants to hear about that stuff? Let's just skip over it and hear about the five steps to becoming better potato farmers.

A friend related recently how he had gotten into some pretty intense conversations with his son concerning the sovereignty of God. Son asserted that God was sovereign over ALL things, even the hearts of sinful men, and he kept pulling up Scripture passages that clearly stated as much. Dad contended that God left men free to choose whatever they wanted and thereby limited His sovereignty, making it contingent upon the will of men. Dad was completely baffled by these strange verses his son kept referencing.

Here's the kicker to this story. My friend has been a Christian and has been in church for many, many years. Decades. Early in his Christian life, he began marking in the margin of his Bible any passages that were read at church either as part of a sermon or a worship service or a Sunday school lesson. None of the verses his son showed him had been marked. Not one. My friend discovered that while he been sitting under topical preaching for decades, his pastor had conveniently not preached on the sovereignty of God. Or election. Or predestination.

As children of God, we have a duty to be reading the Word of God. All of it. As the church, God's covenant people, we have a duty to be proclaiming the Word of God. All of it.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


I've been told there are certain flowers and shrubs for which a person should NEVER pay money. Monkey grass, hostas, day lilies, forsythia, mint, and others...once established, these tend to go wild and try to take over a yard. Therefore, folks who have these plants are regularly trying to thin them out and are more-than-eager to share some bulbs, shoots, or cuttings.

A friend of mine recently hosted a plant swap. A bunch of ladies met for a cookout and fellowship, and each of us brought several plants from our own yards to share with the others. We sorted through the collection of assembled greenery, picking things we wanted to take home, getting instructions from one another on where and how to plant each item - shady or full sun? dry or moist soil? Shovel in hand, our hostess took us on a tour of her beautifully landscaped yard and dug up "starters" for any interested takers.

Sharing plants - not only is it a great way to get free flowers and bushes, it fills your yard with memories and thoughts of special people. Around the Kendall house, we have daylilies from my Grandmother, hydrangeas from Donna, irises from Suzanne, Carol's four o'clocks, my great-great-great Grandmother's green beans, Mr. Mike's cream peas. I mentioned to my sister this spring that everytime I pass the irises she gave me, I think of her. "When you see them and think of me, then pray for me, too," she commented. And so they became prayer irises.

Does your monkey grass need to be thinned? Forsythia taking over the front yard? Four o'clocks threatening to eat the house? Call your friends, fire up the grill, get out your shovel, and have a plant swap!

Monday, May 24, 2010


Back in January, I wrote about trying to read through the entire Bible in a year. Well, I'm still reading, but 1 Chronicles sure is tough going!

Here is how chapter 6 begins - "The sons of Levi: Gershon, Kohath, and Merari. The sons of Kohath: Amram, Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel. The children of Amram: Aaron, Moses, and Miriam. The sons of Aaron: Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar. Eleazar fathered Phinehas, Phinehas fathered Abishua, Abishua fathered Bukki, Bukki fathered Uzzi, Uzzi father Zerahiah, Zerahiah fathered Meraioth....."

This goes on for nine chapters! After reading just one of these chapters, I feel like my brains are scrambled. I try to say the names out loud sometimes, fighting the temptation to just skip over them, but how in the world do you pronounce a name like Meraioth?

Over at another blog that I enjoy reading, someone wrote in a comment recently that in 20 years, they had never heard of Nehemiah. Then, several times in one week, the book of Nehemiah popped up - in conversations, on websites, at church, etc. The writer commented, "Geussing I'm going to start reading Nehemiah. Now."

Or how about this story - The children at our church were learning the books of the Bible, the location of key passages, etc. They gave a little demonstration of what they were learning one Sunday night before service. So that we could appreciate what these kids had learned, their teacher gave us grownups a challenge - "Can you locate the book of Hezekiah in ten seconds or less? Begin now." After ten frantic, frustrating seconds of page-flipping, every single one of us had to concede that No, we could not find the book of Hezekiah. Well, that's because there is no book of Hezekiah. Needless to say, we felt very silly. More than one adult resolved that night to begin learning the names and locations of the books of the Bible!

Maybe you're like me...Your Bible practically falls open to the Psalms, or to Galatians, or to the book of Ruth. You have favorite passages that are underlined and highlighted and marked with stars. But what about those less familiar books of the Bible, like 1 Chronicles or Amos or Jude? God has given us His holy word - all of it - to tell us about Himself, and we must be careful not to neglect 98% of Scripture out of our fondness for the other 2%.

All that to say, press on. Keep reading until you have read ALL of God's word. Then, read it again. And please, don't name your son Meraioth.

Friday, May 21, 2010


I love my garbage man. I experience a thrill of excitement when I realize on Thursday morning, "Hey! Today is garbage day!"

We have one of those chest-high, heavy-duty plastic bins that the boys haul out to the highway once a week for garbage pickup. Most weeks, the bin is only a little over half-full. Marvelous, mysterious Garbage Man pulls his big lime green truck up beside the bin, a mechanical arm grabs the bin and empties it, and Mr. Garbage Man drives away. My hero!

But yesterday, our big bin was filled to overflowing. Literally. Bags of trash piled on top of the bin. Bags and boxes of trash stacked on the ground around the bin. As I surveyed the mountain of trash, I begin to wonder how much Mr. Garbage Man really loved me. Sure, he could handle my usual piddly trash - but what would he do when he saw all this crap?!

You know what he did? Mr. Garbage Man took it ALL away.

We've been cleaning closets at the Kendall house this week. And cleaning under the beds. And cleaning bookshelves. The only storage area left to clean downstairs is The Closet Under the Stairs, and that will take a week's worth of work all by itself. I can now walk into my bedroom closet without having to push past six month's worth of ironing. I can open the pantry door and immediately locate a 28-oz. can of petite diced tomatoes. I can even find the pesticide for the rose bush out in the garden shed, where sharpened and oiled garden tools stand like ranks of ready soldiers. All the old feed sacks are gone. And the bathing suits that haven't fit any of my kids for years. And the 60-pound rock collection has been relocated to the herb box outside. All the clutter and trash is gone. My closets are at peace.

The rest of the house? Well, that's another story. Fifteen pairs of boots, flipflops, and sneakers are crowded beside the front door. (Yes, fifteen. I just counted them.) Riding tack is piled beside another door. The kitchen counter is buried under a pile of neglected paperwork. The yard needs to be mowed and trimmed. If you walked into my house right now, you would see no evidence of the tremendous amount of work that's been accomplished here this week. Well, not unless I drug you to the closet (which I have done to a few folks this week!) But even if I showed you my orderly pantry, you still wouldn't be able to appreciate it if you hadn't seen what it looked like before.

I mentioned in a previous blog that Monday was a low day for me. Why so low? Because my heart was like a closet full of old feed sacks, shriveled potatoes, and neglected laundry. Blech. You might not have known by looking - I usually keep the "public face" pretty tidy, just like I mop my kitchen floor and clean the bathrooms every week. It's the hidden, neglected, closed-away places that get so oppressively junky.

Steve tried to encourage me: "You don't my-particular-flavor-of-sin. It's just not in your nature." I responded, "It IS in my nature - you just don't see the war going on in my heart." Smiling on the outside, dying on the inside. Can you relate?

I am so grateful God sees past outward appearances. He doesn't leave us smiling on the outside, rotting on the inside. He doesn't settle for great looking floors and shiny bathroom fixtures. He pushes right into the closets and starts cleaning the heart of the house. He fills my big green sin bin to overflowing, hauling out load after load of buried, hidden junk. And He doesn't stop after just one "closet." He gets into every nook and cranny.

Day after day, week after week, God keeps digging out and throwing away trash. Monday, I was wondering, "Can my Garbage Man handle all this junk? How much does He really love me?" Amazingly, day after day, week after week, Christ keeps carrying it all away. He loves me that much.

I love my Garbage Man.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


I do not ask God for signs.

Once several years ago, when I was particularly discouraged and grieved about a broken relationship, I did ask God for a sign. I had a little garden plot out behind our church (Thank you, Mr. Mike!), a few miles from home. Emotionally and physically exhausted, I drove over one afternoon to work in the beans, tears streaming down my face. "God," I prayed, "I am so broken, so discouraged. I am emotionally destitute. I need some affirmation that you love me, that you know I'm hurting and you care." I turned off Highway 51, praying that the quiet time working among the rows of beans would be a time of intimate fellowship with God, of prayer and healing...praying He would give me some irrefutable sign of His love.

Instead of a warm embrace, God met me with a sledge hammer. I parked the car and stepped toward the garden in disbelief. All my precious pole beans, row after row, were on the ground in a tangled, matted mess. Their supporting canes had collapsed, no doubt due to inclement weather the day before. Stunned, I had no tears left to cry. There was nothing left for me to do but start pulling up vines. My garden was ruined.

Did God give me the sign I coveted that day? No. Did He love me? Yes, but I have to admit I thrashed and flailed against this unearthly love that met my grief with even more disappointment.

That wasn't the only time that, broken and exhausted, I asked God for a sign. But most of my pleas were answered in much the same way. So I quit asking for signs. I'm not strong enough for God's signs.

Monday was a low day for me. Not a cataclysmic emotional crisis, but weariness with difficult circumstances and ongoing trials. Kinda like having an infected tooth...nothing utterly disabling, but a constant drain on the body and a nagging pain that occasionally flares to drown out everything else. Monday, I didn't ask God for a sign of His faithfulness and love toward me. God knew the dark valley I was in, and I knew He could meet me there in whatever way He wanted, sledge hammer or embrace.

And here is how God met me....

Editing J.K.'s article for this week's Soli Deo Gloria newspaper column, I read a quote by B. B. Warfield. Warfield was writing about Romans 8:28 - "We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them that are called according to his purpose." This great theologian endured tremendous trials and difficulties in his own life, yet he wrote: The fundamental thought is the universal governance of God. All that comes to you is under His controlling hand. The secondary thought is the favor of God to those that love Him...He will so govern all things that we shall reap only good from all that befalls us.

This article - with this quote - was in queue for the column over a month ago. Yet it was Monday morning that God had me read again of the trials of B. B. Warfield and read this comforting reassurance from Scripture.

And God met me like this....

Monday afternoon, the kids and I raced outside to experience a weird weather phenomenon. Dark storm clouds had blown up from the west and stopped, like Eeyore's nimbus, just over our house. It was raining in the front yard, dry in the back, with a clear line of demarcation straight down the center of the house. Of course, we all had to leave the porch to run into the rain, out of the rain, into the rain, out of the rain. Crazy, silly fun! And we all saw the rainbow...

A triple rainbow. Two together, one tucked right inside the other, back-to-back, stretched like extra-wide ribbon across the sky, and another higher up, separated from the others by a band of blue sky. Have you ever noticed how when you see a rainbow, all you can do is stand and look? You know it won't last long, and the magic freezes you in your spot. Ever notice, too, how your eye automatically follows that great arc to the horizon? How you always think, "I wonder where it ends? What does it look like, at the end of the rainbow?"

Well, Monday's triple rainbow ended in our field, between the house and the eastern tree line. The trees and the waist-high grass were bathed in red and yellow and blue. There was no way we could have run fast enough to reach that beam of shimmering, multi-colored light before it began to fade. But it was enough just to have seen it - to have seen the end of the rainbow, reaching down to dance in the hay.

Monday was a low day for me. Some days are just like that. Next time God points His jeweled finger at me, I will run faster toward the light. I will dance with the grass in His rainbow.

When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you... Genesis 9:14-15a

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


Question: How much do you have to know about a particular subject in order to be a teacher to someone else?

Answer: More than the person you're teaching.

We live in an age of specialists, experts, and high-tech gurus. It's easy to think that the only person qualified to teach a certain subject is someone with very extensive study and experience in that subject. But that is not always true.

With my first baby, I had some questions and concerns about breastfeeding, which I posed to my OB/Gyn during an office visit. This man had years of medical training and experience in everything to do with babies. In response to my questions, he paused and then chuckled. "Hmmm, let me call my wife!" My doctor knew he could give precise technical answers to my questions, but that his wife could provide practical, empathetic answers. In this instance, she would be the better teacher.

What about our children? Are they qualified to teach? Maybe so! A teenage friend - a very talented vionist - offered to give lessons to one of my daughters who had expressed an interest in learning the instrument. Amy planned and prepared weekly lessons, working hard to lay an excellent musical foundation in her young pupil. Martha is now studying piano, and has in turn taken on the challenge of teaching her younger cousins. I've been impressed with how much these little cousins have learned over the past few months - and also impressed with how much this experience has worked to improve Martha's own skill and understanding.

One teenage son has made it his mission to pass his knowledge of hunting and trapping on to his younger brother. They have spent countless hours together scouting for wild turkeys, tracking deer, looking for signs of raccoon and otter. Our college sophomore tutors our highschool sophomore in Chemistry, creating amazing diagrams and illustrations to explain difficult concepts.

But even young children have something to teach. The six-year-old can help teach the four-year-old to clean up the toys in the playroom floor. The fourth-grader can help the first-grader with reading and basic math. Both benefit - one, from the personal attention and involvement of a more knowledgable sibling; the other, from organizing and explaining concepts to someone else, thus solidifying and broadening their own understanding of the subject at hand.

It is an awesome thing for our children to be able to help and encourage those around them. I hope my kids, their entire lives, will be learners...and teachers.

Monday, May 17, 2010


Monday morning - and by now I should have a new post up on the blog. Actually, should've posted a couple of hours ago. But last week ate up my short queue of posts, and the weekend afforded no opportunity to write. Where has the time gone and why can't I seem to find a few minutes to sit down and write?!

Last week, our family enjoyed the privilege of babysitting my little grand-nephew for several days. Logan is fifteen months old, is just about the pleasantest baby I've ever met, and is amazingly MOBILE. The kids and I quickly ascertained that Logan's favorite activities include scooting chairs and climbing!

Okay, I suddenly remember life with toddlers - days spent chasing and laughing, reading the same books over and over again, sharing bites of round oat cereal, singing silly songs, and falling asleep together in the rocking chair. Days spent NOT cleaning the house, writing on blogs, buffing your toenails, and contemplating the theology of Avatar.

Kids - especially little, fast, active kids! - demand that you set aside the you-centeredness of this life and they draw you instead into a world spinning on a different axis. All you mothers of young children reading this: yours is a high and holy calling. Sometimes it is an exhausting calling, sometimes mind-numbing, sometimes so repetitive that you can't imagine it having any real significance.

Having stepped back into that world for a few days, I encourage you to persevere. Keep giving of yourselves to these little ones. As one of my now-adult children puts it, keep giving "until you have nothing left to give but Jesus." You are doing kingdom work, young mother, work of eternal value.

Friday, May 14, 2010


The June/July 2010 Reader's Digest reports in "Health News You Can Use" that "Slow breathing seems to damp down the body's stress reactions, such as a faster heart rate and higher blood pressure..." (p. 92, article by Beth Howard) Moms have known this for ages. How many times, as a child, did you hear your mom inhale deeply and then blow out slowly when faced with some new disaster? How often have you, as a mother, done the very same thing? Breathe deeply. Breathe slowly. Stay calm and focused. Maybe that's why they teach controlled breathing in prepared childbirth classes - not just to help you in labor-and-delivery, but also.... the nursery, during that first week of breastfeeding when everything is still - ayiiie! - tender. the pediatrician's office, when you're helping restrain a furious and incredibly strong two-year-old for an unpleasant round of childhood vaccinations. bed, when your four-year-old creeps up next to you in the wee hours of the morning, tells you he has a tummy ache, and then proceeds to throw up all over you and everything else within a five foot radius.

...on the interstate, when you hit heavy traffic on your way to the emergency room with a child who has a severe head injury.

...on the phone, when you're trying to work out a problem with your health insurance company and you've been passed off and then put on hold for the third time since they first answered the call twenty minutes ago. Cue elevator music...wo-oh-oh, Mandy, you came and you gave without taking...BREATHE. the community pool, when your little angel smiles from overhead and then marches resolutely off the end of the high dive. the car, when your fifteen-year-old is merging into interstate traffic for the first time ever. the airport, when you are putting your teenager on an airplane headed to the other side of the world. the checkout lane when, after totaling a two-cart order of groceries, the new clerk grimaces and says, "Oh, no! I just accidentally voided your order!" the dentist's office, when the dentist tells you to relax while he jams that ginormous needle into your jaw. Deep inhale; now, exhale s-l-o-w-l-y. the kitchen, when you discover you've burned the pan of lasagna that is supposed to feed the eight dinner guests who just pulled into the driveway. And you live so far out in the country that "fast food" means you don't have to kill dinner first before cooking it - not an option. the back pasture, while you are helping your sons splint your husband's grotesquely bent leg before dragging him into the back seat of the car.

...on the front porch, while your neighbor is lambasting you for your sinner-dog's bad behavior. the morning when you first wake up, before you tackle that list of two-hundred forty-seven things you absolutely must get done today. the dark, as you wait for sleep and consider what a blessing it has been to have mothered your children for another day.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


Twenty-something years ago, pregnant with my first child, I participated in classes on prepared childbirth and breastfeeding. Okay, seven babies later, I have to admit that the idea of a mother having to be trained to deliver or nurse her baby seems very silly. What other member of the animal Kingdom has to attend classes in order to do something so natural, something which to a large extent just happens, whether you're educated/experienced or not? Those classes did make me feel better prepared, however, and the breathing techniques I learned have been helpful in an astonishing variety of situations besides childbirth.

One of the books I read then - back when breastfeeding was slowly becoming a more popular option for modern mothers than bottle feeding - had a peculiar illustration. It compared the deragotory labels various countries used for other nationalities. While an insensitive American might use the expression "vodka drinker" to refer to someone from Russia, eastern Europeans had their own slang for us - America was called the land of "milkless women."

Milkless women. Androgenous "females" incapable of mothering their own babies. Sure, American women may look like they have the goods, but in reality they are dry and unfruitful.

Fast forward 20+ years. Today, many more American women choose breast feeding over bottle feeding. Or, aware of the health benefits of breast milk, they at least pump milk to be bottle fed by others to their babies. Can we finally deny the slam that we are a nation of "milkless women"?

I'm inclined to think not. While it looks like we have discovered the value of breast milk for babies, it is not yet evident that we have discovered the value of mothering. Yes, we finally have working lactation equipment - but do we have working hearts?

As a mom, am I grateful for the opportunity to use my energy and my talents to invest in my family? Or, do I resent the imposition of having to care for small, ungrateful children, wishing I could instead use my energy and talents for my personal benefit? Am I willing to spend my life serving in a way the rest of the world fails to notice (or even devalues)? Or, am I hungry for recognition, longing for some kind of validation from society? Do I consider having to wear faded jeans and drive a clunky car a small price to pay for the treasure of holding my children for more than a few minutes every day? Or, do I covet the vacations and retirement accounts of others, inwardly angry that I can't be home with my babies and have a lucrative career?

Honestly, I've felt all of the above at various times. This mothering business is tough work. Sometimes, I don't care what anyone says about the value of raising children - I just want a week on the beach myself, by golly! I can make milk, but I can't make my heart be consistently filled with sweetness, with sincere affection, with sacrificial love for the children God has given me.

God, in His great mercy, redeems even this fundamental relationship. While Satan would have mothers (and fathers) consider their children a burden and a liability or perhaps a glorified pet, God enacts for us the true love of a parent for a child. From creation to Glory, He tells us in Scripture, "This is how you parent. This is what parental love looks like." And, discovering ourselves inadequate to such a high and holy calling, we find in Him the grace and strength to answer in spite of ourselves, "Yes." Malachi, the last book of the Old Testament, ends with the beautiful promise that God would send His Messenger, who would "turn the hearts of the fathers to their children..." In Christ, we are freed from being apathetic (or even resentful) fathers and mothers who perform the mechanics of parenting while devoid of truly loving hearts. We are freed to love, and to love generously.

In Christ, we are no longer milkless women. You could even say, in Christ, regardless of our nationality, we are women "flowing with milk and honey."

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


My oldest child was 7 years old when babies #5 and #6 arrived. With six children ages 7 and under, three of whom were in diapers, I found myself overwhelmed by the daily challenge of cooking, cleaning, and staying on top of the laundry. Thankfully, a dear friend intervened. "Camille, it is time to put away the school books and begin classes in basic life skills." That simple, practical piece of advice probably saved my life.

I had been trying to do all the housework by myself, not realizing what wonderful, eager helpers flocked around my feet. Prodded by necessity, I learned that a seven-year-old can make pancakes. A five-year-old can do laundry...and actually enjoy it! (We marked the various settings on the washing machine with star-shaped stickers, since he wasn't yet reading.) A three-year-old can unload silverware from the dishwasher, sorting it into the cutlery tray in the kitchen drawer. (Sorting and matching - sounds kind of like preschool, doesn't it?) And a one-year-old and twin newborns? Well, I already knew they were really good at....making messes!

My kids are much older now, but they still help tremendously around the house. Our current chore chart includes five tasks. "Wipe down the bathrooms" involves emptying the trash, cleaning the mirrors and fixtures, replacing dirty towels with clean ones, and replenishing the toilet tissue. "Dinner dishes" means kitchen cleanup after our evening meal - wash and put away dishes, wipe down table and counters, store leftovers. "Sweep porch/empty trash" - sweep outside (porch, steps) and empty large kitchen trash can; also, on garbage pick-up day, make sure the bin is out beside the highway. "Laundry" - gather and sort laundry, keep washer and dryer running, and fold clean laundry. "Big Sweep" means sweep all the downstairs floors (we don't have any carpet downstairs) - kitchen, dining/living area, laundry room, bathroom, bedroom, office.

Some of these tasks are more labor intensive than others. For example, laundry is a HUGE chore on Mondays, especially after a particularly outdoorsy weekend. We rotate jobs, day to day, so that noone is stuck with always having the same chore and everyone has practice with household tasks they'll eventually be doing in their own homes as adults. Also, I've found that each child is particularly good at different tasks - by rotating chores, the floors get swept really well at least once during the week by our super-sweeper, and the bathrooms get a very detailed cleaning by the shine lady.

Assigning chores doesn't mean Mom eats bonbons all day (although it does mean that I have time to write on this blog!) My youngest and I team up on her laundry day. If I've fixed an especially messy meal for dinner, I'm happy to clock in to assist with kitchen cleanup. And most Saturdays, while everyone else is cleaning their bedrooms or helping Dad with chores outside, I get to tackle the entire chart, Mom style.

All this to say - there are SO MANY WAYS your kids can help around the house. And I've found that, for the most part, they are willing workers. They are pleased to know they contribute something of tangible value to the family. Yes, we slack off on the chore chart occasionally, but day-to-day life is much pleasanter when we each do our part around the house. How does that old saying go? Many hands make light work!

What about your family? I know several moms read this blog - what chores have you found suitable for particular ages? How does your family divide up housework? Any interesting tips on motivating reluctant helpers?

Monday, May 10, 2010


My Grandmother used to say, "Everyone needs a little bit of dirt to scratch in."

I think she's right. We were, after all, created to be gardeners. And, as citified and urbanized as we sometimes become, something in us still pulls a little toward the earth. Even a very small child senses the magic involved in stirring up a little bit of dirt and planting a seed.

I remember the delight I felt as a child when the day finally arrived to plant the garden each spring. Dad plowed the garden plot, then ran over it with a disk. Finally, he zig-zagged back and forth with the joint-jarring tiller. I loved to wade into the loose soil behind the tiller and burrow my toes deep into the dark, cool, softness of the pulverized dirt. It felt positively delicious.

As an adult, I still enjoy the pleasure of beautiful soil. A couple of young neighbors were helping me plant tomatoes a few weeks ago. Grabbing a 5-gallon bucket, I headed to the compost box for some of the rich remains of last year's garden, intending to work a shovelful of compost into the soil around each young plant.

"Girls! Look at this!" I was so excited to discover that last year's bean vines and egg shells and melon rinds had transformed over the winter into soft, black, beautiful soil. I couldn't resist burying my hands deep into the bucket, crumbling handful after handful through my fingers.

"What is it?" Bailey asked.

"Black gold!"

We are winding down school at our house - Yay! - and that means more time free to spend outside in the garden, in the yard, working on flower boxes. More time for scratching in the dirt!

Friday, May 7, 2010

YOU MAY BE APPROACHING 50 IF.... understand the meaning of the term compression garment. Your underwear is a practical application of NASA technology, and, in size, is not unlike a spaceshuttle landing field. climb out of the recliner after working the daily crossword in the newspaper, and, hearing a clatter, begin looking to see if you've dropped your glasses or your pen. Oh, yeah, I forgot....that's just my joints cracking.

...your kids have ever laughed at you for simultaneously wearing two pairs of glasses - one on your face, and a forgotten pair on top of your head. have discovered that, at large gatherings, everyone in the room sounds like the adults in a Peanuts cartoon. "Wah, wuh-wa-wah..." You're seriously considering taking a class in lip reading. hesitate at the top of stairs, trying to decide between the danger-induced thrill of walking down normally or the safety of taking the steps sideways, one at a time. Step, close. Step, close. Step, close.
...the Classic Rock station plays all the tunes you loved in highschool. Where do they get off calling those songs "oldies"?
...your son asks if he can spend Saturday helping a friend round up cows, and you answer by telling him the menu for tonight's supper. "What?" "Oh, you weren't asking about dinner, were you. I misunderstood. What did you ask?"
...your hour-glass figure has transformed into something more like a Ripley's-Believe-It-or-Not version of a sweet potato. Yep, you finally got some curves...they're all just six inches lower and much bigger around than they're supposed to be. think making the bed, showering, and getting dressed in the morning qualifies as an aerobic workout. drop something on the floor, and, after a pause, you decide to leave it there. You'll pick it up later, after you've dropped three or four other things. That way, bending over will be more worth the effort.
...even when you're wearing your reading glasses, your arms are not long enough to allow you to read the buttons on the TV remote. the morning, you reach for the Raisin Bran or the Meusli instead of the Lucky Charms or Cap'n Crunch. And you absolutely MUST have that morning cup of coffee. For health reasons. bedtime, you frequently find yourself debating whether to take two ibuprofen - or - drink a glass of wine - or - just go straight for the Lunesta.
...a good night's sleep means you stayed in bed until the alarm went off (not that you slept the whole time), except for the two times you got up to use the bathroom and the time you got up to change nightgowns after a nuclear hot flash. Hello, menopause!
...instead of doing things for your kids so that they won't hurt themselves, your kids now do things for you so that you won't hurt yourself.
...removing your brassiere is a cost-effective alternative to having surgery for a face lift. Here is the dilemma: Do you lose twenty pounds in pursuit of your youthful figure, only to find you now look like one of those raisins at the bottom of the box? - or - Do you keep the extra weight, sacrificing your fanny for your face, so that you look a little younger above the shoulders?'ve ever thought that you have probably already lived at least half of your life. You've paddled your canoe to the middle of the lake. From here on, no matter what life throws at you, you're paddling toward shore. It's all home from here!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


I love the book of Ruth in the Bible, but not because of Ruth and Boaz. Yes, that is a beautiful story of romance and the redemption of a vulnerable young widow (although it is a rather calm, deliberate, dispassionate romance, by Hollywood standards!)

I love the book of Ruth because of the story it tells of broken Naomi and her faithful God. Sure, lovely, young Ruth is redeemed - but, even more amazing, the old, worn out, childless Naomi is redeemed.

Everything Ruth does in this story, she does out of love for Naomi, the woman who introduced her to the living God. She leaves her relatives and her homeland to travel with her mother-in-law to the distant, unfamiliar town of Bethlehem. Destitute, Ruth works tirelessly in the fields, despite the danger of physical abuse, gleaning grain to feed them both.

Their story rises to a climax in the third chapter of the book. Ruth, per Naomi's instructions, lies exposed and vulnerable at the feet of Boaz as he sleeps on the threshing floor. Around midnight, Boaz is startled awake. Realizing someone is lying at his feet, Boaz asks, "Who are you?"

Knowing full well that her bold response equates to an unorthodox request for marriage, Ruth replies, "I am Ruth, your servant. Spread your garment over me, for you are a redeemer." Ruth was very bold indeed - but she was motivated in her boldness, no doubt in part, by love for Naomi. Ruth understood that marrying Boaz would secure rest and safety not only for herself, but also for the mother-in-law she loved. "Spread you garment over me..." - Boaz's garment was sufficient to cover Ruth and Naomi.

Boaz redeems Ruth and, by doing so, reaches out to redeem Naomi also, eventually even providing withered, broken Naomi with a son. I love the way the book of Ruth ends. "A son has been born to Naomi!" They named him Obed, worshipper.

Change gears now, and take a peak into my squirrely brain. I look at every passage of Scripture with at least three questions in mind - What does this say about God? What does this say about Christ? What does this say about me, a child of God through the atoning work of Christ? Maybe that's way overpersonalizing Scripture, but it's how my brain works.

Like Ruth, I have someone I love most dearly in this world, someone living Naomi's broken reality, someone weary and needy and longing for rest. Like Ruth, I lie at the feet of my Redeemer and say, "Spread your garment over me, for you are a redeemer" - all the while praying that His garment is sufficient to cover both me and my beloved. Maybe, after all, this is how we are called to pray for those we love who are hurting or lost.

Often throughout the week, the words run through my mind, "Spread your garment over me...and let it reach to also cover --------." My faith and my prayers will never bring peace or rest or relief to another, but my Redeemer will.

Jesus isn't wearing Spandex (although He does love people in "stretchy pants"!) Scripture assures me He does not wear a skimpy, tight-fitting garment that has to be stretched to just barely - hopefully - cover me, leaving gaps that reveal my shame and expose me to the elements. No, Christ's righteous robe is large enough to cover me and my beloved. Large enough to cover all who are His.

I guess that's why I like the book of Ruth so much - it shows me a big, generous, sufficient Jesus.

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. - Isaiah 6:1

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


I've discovered over the years that most people fall into one of two categories - Hoarders and Purgers. Or, put a different way, folks who hang on to stuff and folks who throw stuff away. Me? I'm a lonely throw-it-away Mom in a house full of pilers, stackers, save-it-forever stashers.

When Steve was still on active duty in the Marine Corps, frequent moves prompted us to clean out regularly. Did we want to pack fill-in-the-blank, haul it all the way across the country, possibly store it for a season in a rental unit, move it again, unpack it, and then go through the entire process again in six months or a year? Amazing how that process clarified what things we really needed and valued enough to keep. Amazing, too, how effectively it kept the clutter to a minimum!

Fast forward to today - we have been living in this house almost five years, and, this being the family farm, Steve and I will probably die here. That means no more moves in sight to motivate us to clean out. What looked like a spacious attic five years ago is now crammed to capacity. Locating anything up there is a daunting task due to the difficulty of having to shift heavy boxes and climb over clutter. And that's just the attic....

There are also the closets. Beneath the beds. The laundry room shelves, groaning under who-knows-what. The screened in porch/"storage unit". The shed out back. THIS IS CRAZY!

When Steve was in architecture school, he brought home a book he was reading for one of his classes. I believe the title of that book was simply Home. Anyway, the book described an interesting phenomenon which occurs annually in a community in the Netherlands. It's called Hell Week. (Yes, it actually has an official title.) During Hell Week, all the homes are completely emptied of their contents. Completely. Attic to ground level. Everything is drug outside, covered with tarps or stored elsewhere, and the houses are scrubbed top to bottom, aired out after being closed up all winter, and repainted if needed. Personally, I find the idea of a Hell Week almost heavenly - must've been the men who had to haul everything out and back in again who named the event!

I suspect that if we implemented an annual Hell Week at the Kendall house, we would be able to manuever in the attic, find the pruners in the shed, and vacuum easily under the beds. But, after five years of accumlating and cramming, trying to start such a tradition would probably lead to weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth. So, I've got an alternative plan....

I want to take one room a week and clean it completely, top to bottom, baseboard to baseboard. Everything, toys, books, clothing, everything. I figure that by taking one room a week, we should be able to work through the entire house - including attic and storage shed - before time to start school in the fall. Maybe, by tackling only one room at a time, cleaning out won't be so traumatic for my save-it-all family. Maybe, by having to move everything out and then back, it will be easier for everyone to decide what is really worth keeping and what they can let go of.

And maybe, if we're successful in actually carrying out my plan, I won't have to wonder any more if the foundation of this house is about to collapse under the weight of so much accumulated junk.

Okay, Readers, I obviously need some help here! What tips do you have for fighting clutter at your house? I'd especially welcome advice from those of you living with family members prone to pack rat-ism.

Monday, May 3, 2010


I am amazed at how God's Word is new with every encounter, how new insights jump out of even the most familiar passages. This truly is a living book!

Reading through Judges again last month, I quickly recognized the cycle of sin, affliction, repentance, and restoration that defined the life of the nation of Israel and their relationship to God. Sadly, that same rhythm resonates in my own life.

No, I don't have a Baal or an Ashtaroth standing in the corner of the living room, and the Philistines are not breaking down my door. For me, it looks more like this.... I begin to take the blessings and promises of God for granted. Slowly, imperceptibly, I shift ever-so-slightly from delighting and resting in Christ and His work on my behalf. Instead, I long for something besides my Savior. I want a bigger bank account. Fewer demands on my schedule. More time for myself. To be recognized and appreciated by others. A body that isn't quite so achey and creaky. A more understanding family.

Then, like sinful Israel, I am taken captive by these false gods. My thoughts grow preoccupied with these other desires, leaving little room to contemplate the beauty of Christ. I begin to live and think as if these other things are the only means of finding peace or joy. The peace and security of resting in Christ are left behind as I foolishly wander off into the land of the Philistines.

Funny thing is, living in Philistia yet again, I find I am still not happy. No, I become absolutely miserable. So wretched, eventually, that I grow desperate to be delivered. Just like Israel.

In Judges chapter 10, we find Israel languishing in captivity for the 5th or 6th time since the beginning of the book. They cry out to God to deliver them. He responds by pointing out their repeated unfaithfulness - "Let your false gods save you!" To God's charges, Israel replies, "We have sinned; do to us whatever seems good to you. Only please deliver us this day." (Judges 10:15) Then, they make a pretense of putting away the false gods, gods they will be worshipping again in just a few pages. There is no sincere repentance. They do not desire to worship God. They only desire to be saved from their present distress. Their cry is, "Whatever! Just deliver us!" Just like me.

I want to be delivered from the trials and difficulties of life on this earth, from my own obsessions and insecurities - not so that I can worship God, but so I can be comfortable. So I can get back to the business of pleasing myself.

Considering anew the faithfulness of Christ, I cry not "Deliver me from my afflictions!" - but - "Deliver me from myself!" God, who is ever faithful, even to faithless Israel, even to faithless Camille, promises to do exactly that.