Wednesday, June 30, 2010


I read an article recently discussing the increase in the average size of modern houses. Although families are smaller now than 50 years ago, our homes are significantly larger. Fewer people, more square footage.

My husband designs high-end houses. Beautiful houses, I might add. We are often amazed at the amount of space people think is necessary for their families. Mom and Dad need a master suite that includes: a spacious bedroom; huge walk-in closets; a bathroom with a jacuzzi, sauna, his and her showers and vanities; a kitchenette; and an exercise room. Little Johnny needs a spacious bedroom to himself, a walk-in closet, and a private bath. So does Little Susie. Play room for the kids. Eat-in kitchen. Breakfast room. Formal dining room. Butler's pantry. Family room/den. Living room. Powder room. Library. Office. Media room. Guest bedroom and bathroom. Utility room...Honestly, how can a family of four live comfortably in less than 8000 square feet?

Okay, maybe that seems a little over the top. Most of us aren't so extravagant, are we? How about another extreme. My mother-in-law has helped build several houses for the poorest-of-the-poor in Mexico. Big, extravagant houses with working windows and both a front and a back door, solid cinderblock walls and a metal roof that doesn't leak. How can a family of four possibly use all the space in a 400-square-foot house?!

We visited Plymouth Plantation many years ago, and I was amazed to learn that a family of six lived in a house smaller than my living room. I asked the living historian "mother" how they managed in such a small space. "Oh, we spend a lot of time out-of-doors," she answered. "We have a lot of work to do, and everyone has to help out. The house is where we gather to eat meals and to sleep - we don't loiter here." The Pilgrim family - parents and kids - worked together, and when they came inside, they ate and slept together.

Home is where we begin to learn the art of being human, of being human in the company of other humans. Something tells me that a cabin in Plymouth or a cinder-block casita in rural north Mexico would provide more opportunities to practice relating to our families than the McMansions cluttering suburban America. With our modern sophistication and insatiable desire for amenities and greater personal space, we have mastered "the house" - but what has happened, I wonder, to "the home"?

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


Aaack! It's late Tuesday morning and I have no "Titus Tuesday" post ready in queue! What on earth has been demanding all my time lately, since I obviously haven't been writing?

Produce. The garden is beginning to come in - Yay! - so the kids and I are busy picking, snapping, canning, freezing, and eating. Also, with all this dry heat lately, the blackberries are abundant this year. The boys brought me two gallon buckets full of berries yesterday, to add to the two gallon buckets already in the frig from the evening before. Ben helped me make jam yesterday, and Reuben worked on getting berries into the freezer for winter-time cobblers.

So, with berries on my mind in a big way, here is a quick tip for any of you who are harvesting blackberries/blueberries/strawberries and would like to set aside a few for winter. Blueberries - I've heard these described as one of nature's most perfect foods. Pack blueberries right from the bucket into plastic freezer bags. I usually portion them according to my muffin recipe, or in bags of 1 cup each. Don't get them wet before bagging and freezing - keeping them dry will make them much easier to handle when you pull them out of the freezer for your favorite recipe.

Strawberries - I wash strawberries, drain them well, and then cut larger berries into halves or quarters. Line a tray or cookie sheet with wax paper. Spread the strawberries on the tray in a single layer and freeze for an hour or so, until pretty hard. Then, place individually-frozen berries into freezer bags.

Blackberries - our current fruit of the day. I usually use these for jam, but have enough this year to freeze some for cobbler. Rinse berries and drain well. Spread in a single layer on a wax-paper-lined tray or cookie sheet, and freeze until fruit is fairly hard. Remove frozen berries from tray and store in freezer bags.

Okay, I realize this is not rocket science - but I froze strawberries and blackberries in great odious lumps of iciness for several years before discovering the above method of preparing them. The fruit is MUCH, MUCH easier to work with if the berries are frozen individually instead of in a massive brick of ice.

Now, time to go finish defrosting the deep-freeze - want to get it washed before I pack it with all this summer's yummy fruit!

Monday, June 28, 2010


"Hey, today's Tuesday! I get to go hang out with those really cool guys in town tonight!"

My 16-year-old son exuded excitement. All teenage boys like to "hang out with the guys," right? Okay, I want you to pause and take a minute to develop a mental picture: a teenage boy, hanging out with a bunch of really cool guys in town on a summer evening. Got a pretty clear image on your mental screen?

I bet it doesn't look anything like this....

The "really cool guys" range in age from their mid-40's to their 90's. And they're not all guys - Mrs. Judy is a tiny woman with bright eyes and a big personality. They "hang out" in a shop Mr. Kenneth built behind his house, next to the garage. An antique Phillips 76 gas station sign glows orange in the evening shadows. The gang starts gathering about 6:30, and by 7:00 the good times are rolling.

Charles and Mike on guitars, Wayne on the fiddle, Judy playing a mean mandolin. Kenneth on the dobro, Buddy on the bass guitar. More guitars, banjos, and fiddles rest on stands and tables, waiting their turn to be played.

"You're next, Kenneth. What'll it be?" one member of the group asks.

"Let's do Working Man Blues," Kenneth answers. He sets the dobro aside. "Here, give me that guitar."

The players form a large circle, sitting in chairs and on stools. Round-robin, each one picks a song as they make the, bluegrass, blues, rock-a-billy, gospel. And they pass instruments around like peas and cornbread at the dinner table.

"Give me your mandolin, Judy. You take this fiddle and show that little girl how to play a lick."

That "little girl" is new to the group. My 15-year old daughter just sat and listened last gathering, but tonight she's ready to try playing along. Mrs. Judy, her head nodding and bobbing and her elbow flying like a spinning wheel, sits knee-to-knee with Martha and shows her how to bow the fiddle.

Sixteen-year-old Tom is over his initial shyness, too, and he's ready to jump in the water. It's his turn to name a tune. "Well, I've been working on Cripple Creek, but I'm not too good at it yet." He adjusts a string on his banjo.

"Let 'er rip, boy!" the 90-something fiddle-player hoots. "We'll follow you!"

The music, singing, laughter, and fun go on for hours. Sometime around 10:00, us younger folks call it a night - we pack up the banjo and the fiddle and head for home. The older folks? They're still playing, their music following us in the darkness out to the car.

Way out here in the boondocks in the tiny town of Troy, we don't have a Sonic or a McDonald's. There's no mall where you can hang out with your friends. We don't have a movie theatre or putt-putt golf, go-carts or laser tag. There's a LOT we don't have, but maybe we've got something better than your typical teen entertainment...

Home-made Jam.

Friday, June 25, 2010


No swimming pool? No water park? No Hawaiian shaved ice or frappuccinos? How do you keep cool on hot days when you live in the boondocks?

1. Take a dip in the pond. Send the dogs in first, to flush out any turtles and snakes. However, my kids tell me even the pondwater is a bit balmy after the recent heatwave.

2. Take a dip in the creek - the creek is cooler than the pond and it's shady. Again, watch out for snakes, and don't think too much about the fact that the cows are also bathing, just upstream.

3. Drink lots of cold beverages - smoothies, iced tea, lemonade. There's not much better than swaying in the porch swing, sipping a frosty margarita on a warm summer evening.

4. Frozen treats! Freeze pops, popsicles, ice cream...summertime is "open season" on these items at our house. No permission needed, no set limit - help yourself any time you want.

5. Wash the car with a sibling. Things always get crazy - and cooler - when a water hose is involved!

6. Pick blackberries in the middle of the afternoon. I guarantee the house will feel cool, even with the thermostat set on 78, by the time you return with a gallon bucket full of berries.

7. Take a cold shower - so you don't end up with lots of chiggers after picking all those blackberries.

8. Sit. Very. Still. And don't breathe too much.

9. If all else fails, you can drive up the highway to town and walk around Wal-Mart for half an hour. Your friends and neighbors will be there cooling off, too!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


Number Two Son has just graduated from highschool and will be heading to the University of Tennessee at Martin next fall to begin college. UTM provides a service for incoming freshmen called SOAR: Student Orientation and Registration. New students and their parents spend a weekend on campus taking care of all the details involved in preparing for fall term. Housing, cafeteria meal plans, registration for fall classes, etc. I guess this helps make move-in and the transition to college life easier come August.

Anyway, Son 2 and I attended SOAR this spring. Standing in line for lunch, we talked to another student and her parents. When the other mother learned that my son already had a brother on campus, and that the two of them would be rooming together, she acted shocked. "Is that going to be okay?"

Son 2 looked confused. "Excuse me?"

"Aren't ya'll going to be getting on each other's nerves, and calling home and telling on each other all the time?"

"Um, we've been room-mates all our lives. I don't think it'll be a problem." Son 2 pulled me aside and whispered in my ear, "Mom, this lady is really weird."

The other mother was surprised at his answer, and she would've been even more perplexed if she actually knew these two young men. Son 1 is a poet, a beekeeper, an artist, and (after this week) a world traveler. Thin and wiry, he is built like one of the elves from The Lord of the Rings. Son 2 - short, stocky, and brown - lifts weights, talks with a drawl, herds cows from horseback, and doesn't particularly desire to travel any further than an elk hunting reserve in Montana. One is majoring in Botany/Art/Japanese. The other, Civil Engineering. One prefers J. S. Bach; the other, Easton Corbin and Josh Turner. One loves sushi; the other, a thick slab of grilled meat that's still cool and red on the inside. They'll make great room-mates, right?

Yes, they will. These two fellas have been rooming together since the second one arrived in the world nearly 18 years ago. They genuinely love and respect each other, despite their very different personalities and preferences, and are excited about sharing a room on campus next fall.

Son 2 asked on the drive home, "Why would a mom think two brothers would not want to room together?" Why, indeed. Is it because, as parents, we have encouraged and facilitated individuality to the exclusion of affection between family members? Does each child have his own room, own TV, own sport, own circle of friends - but no time or desire to truly know and enjoy the brother living under the same roof? And, if we aren't able to know and appreciate the individuals inside our homes, how are we going to learn to genuinely love and value folks outside the home?

A teenage girl was telling me a couple of weeks ago about one of her teachers at school, a man who, unbeknownst to her, is a friend of mine. "Mr. G--- is so strange!" she complained. "I mean, he always looks like he's in a daze, and he doesn't joke around like the other teachers..." She went on to essentially dismiss this person based on the fact that he didn't talk or act like a typical highschool teacher or coach.

"Yes, Mr. G--- is kinda different," I thoutght, "but he is also your brother in Christ. Have you taken the time to discover that?"

Christ commands me to love my neighbor, and my closest "neighbors" are the people living under the same roof with me. To not love these people is sin. I need to remember that truth, and to remind my children of it, also. As a parent, I must point out to my children that simply tolerating their siblings is not obedience to Christ. But, loving and sincerely delighting in their siblings is a glorious proclamation of the Gospel in a dark and deceived world.

If my sons can not enjoy life together at home or in college, how will they possibly enjoy eternity together in Glory?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


Want to cut down your garbage production AND improve your garden soil at the same time? Start composting! I wanted a compost box for many years before I actually got one. While waiting, I did a lot of research. All those pamphlets and garden books made composting look a little more complicated than I had anticipated.

Well, a working compost box or pile is NOT difficult to construct. The very simplest way to compost is to pick an out-of-the-way location in your yard and start dumping your lawn and vegetable trash in that spot. It's that simple. If you want something a little fancier, you can actually build a box to contain the compost. A friend built his rectangular compost box out of cinder blocks, stacked about three blocks high, with a wire mesh lid to keep varmints from digging through the contents. My compost box is constructed of four wooden pallets, wired together at the corners. (You can catch a glimpse of my fancy-shmancy compost box in the photos below.) I've also seen compost bins made of a length of steel fence wire fastened end-to-end in a circle/cylinder. Materials, construction, and size are entirely up to you.

What goes into the compost box/pile? Lawn litter - grass clippings, leaves, etc. Also, uncooked vegetable waste - potato peels, melon rinds, apple cores, corn get the idea. Coffee grounds, tea leaves, and egg shells make great compost, too. I keep a gallon ice-cream bucket in the kitchen, into which I dump vegetable waste. This is taken out and dumped in the compost box each day during evening chores. This year, I've started adding shredded paper from Steve's office files as well. Ben adds his own special ingredient - chicken manure - when he cleans out the hen house. DO NOT add scraps of cooked foods or anything with fat,grease, or meat scraps in it. Blech!

Here is a picture of "compost" going INTO our box:

Let's see...eggplant peels, egg shells, shredded paper, grass clippings, asparagus stems, tea leaves. Looks delicious!

Contrary to the claims of most instruction manuals, you do NOT have to turn/stir, aerate, or water the compost (unless you live in a desert, perhaps), although doing these things will help the compost break down more quickly. But who's in a hurry, right? Really, given time this stuff will break down on its own. By the end of summer, my hip-high box is full to the brim with garden and yard litter. By the next spring, when I'm ready to come out of winter hibernation and start working in the yard and garden, everything has broken down into a relatively small pile of rich, black compost.

Here's a picture of compost coming OUT of the box:

This stuff is black gold. Any time I plant new flowers or trees or shrubs, I always work some compost into the soil at the planting site first. I dump a shovel full of compost into each hole when I'm planting tomatoes. The kids help me spread compost on the ground around established plants to give them a nutrition boost, too. The compost adds nutrients to the soil and helps loosen the soil for better water absorption and root development.

Here, Reuben has dumped a shovelful of compost at the base of one of our tomato plants. He'll probably give each plant a couple more "doses" throughout the growing season. Then in the fall, the tomato plants themselves will be pulled up and hauled to the compost box, where they will begin transforming into fertilizer for next year's garden.

We eat a lot of fresh produce in the summer - corn on the cob, canteloupe, green beans, peas, cucumbers, squash. That means we make a lot of vegetable trash - shucks and rinds and peels. We also generate a good deal of yard and garden litter, from mowing the grass, pulling up spent bean vines, etc. By toting these items to the compost box, we greatly reduce the amount of garbage that must be bagged and hauled to the bin (& eventually to the landfill). We transform something bad - garbage that must be trucked to the dump - into something good - rich compost for the garden and yard.
A few final thoughts: some folks have asked if compost smells bad. We don't want a stinky pile of rotting garbage in the back yard, now do we? Well, my experience has been that compost does NOT smell bad. Maybe because there are no oil or fat or animal products in the mix - nothing to turn rancid and smell rotten. When you walk through the woods in late fall and kick through the decomposing leaves, you notice an earthy smell. Well, that's compost, and that's what compost smells like.
Also, wouldn't compost attract vermin? I mentioned my friend's compost box, which he constructed with a wire lid for keeping critters out of the compost. If you're concerned about attracting raccoons or such, a lid might be a good idea. We live out in the boonies, and haven't had any problem with animals getting into the compost box, maybe because they have so much room and food at their disposal out on the farm! The chickens will occasionally hop into the box if they spy something tasty between the slats, but I don't begrudge them that privilege since they make their own contribution to the compost.
Composting is extremely easy. It's earth friendly. And, it's fun. Well, maybe not fun, but I sure get excited about the black gold I've collected come spring planting time! Got any questions? Send me a note. Otherwise, go get started on your compost box!

Monday, June 21, 2010


The church I attend is credal - we regularly recite together concise statements of what we believe to be true about God, about Christ, about salvation, about the church. In worship, it often looks like this: The liturgist asks, "Christian, what do you believe?" And we (the congregation) respond in unison, "I believe..." Often, our reply is the Apostles' Creed or the Nicene Creed.

You may wonder, why would a church recite a creed as part of their corporate worship? Isn't it enough to just say we believe in Jesus? Well, creeds serve a couple of very useful purposes. First, creeds express concisely just which Jesus we believe in, and what it is we believe about Him. Since the days when Christ walked this earth, there have been false messiahs. Many churches today who claim to be Christian preach a Jesus very unlike the Jesus presented in Scripture. The Bible tells us that the demons themselves believe, and tremble - but these same demons do not tell us the truth about Christ. Creeds allow us to profess the truth, as a body, in the company of many witness.

Confessing a creed together also serves to remind us of the essential doctrines of our faith, those things which bind us together in the body of Christ. We may disagree on the mode and application of baptism, or on whether we should sing psalms or hymns, or on the type of dress appropriate for worship...but we do agree on these foundational things expressed in the Apostles' Creed. These essential doctrines unite us and give us the framework in which to examine and discuss our differences in a way that glorifies Christ.

Also, creeds wake us up to the insanity of this faith we profess. As fallen creatures, we Christians become numb to the glory of the Gospel. We think too little of the majesty and holiness of God. We presume upon His grace. We begin to take for granted God's mercy. We fall under the delusion that we can be Christ's, and still be like the world. Speaking the Apostles' Creed sounds a pistol crack in the dull fog of our sleepy, lazy faith.

I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth. Tell that to your college Biology professor and see if he takes you seriously next class meeting!

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, and born of the virgin Mary....(What? You're kidding me! Virgin birth...yeah, right. What have you been smoking?)

...he suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended into hell. The third day he rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. (Are you saying you believe in an actual, physical resurrection? This is some really crazy stuff. Jesus died and then he came back to life - right. I thought we were past the age of fairy tales. Haven't all the so-called miracles been explained away by science?)

From there he will come to judge the living and the dead. (I thought God was supposed to love everybody. What's this talk about judging people? Anyway, everyone knows, when you're dead, you're dead. The end.)

Yes, I DO believe all these crazy things. And it's good for me to say so out loud, in the company of witnesses - in the hearing of the man standing beside me; in unison with Stephanie, attending church miles away in Millington; along with Chuck, ministering in north Africa; with Carol, who stands already with the saints in Glory. Camille, what do you believe?

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.

I really do.


Friday, June 18, 2010


I wrote over a year ago about Nate and his cow, Weezy. Nate adopted Weezy when she was a sick, orphaned calf, and he lovingly nursed her back to health and cared for her like a mother. Here is a picture of Nate and baby Weezy:

Such a pretty baby!

Well, Weezy lived, and thrived, and grew to be a full-sized cow. An affectionate cow, too. She loves neck rubs and back scratches. The other cows in the herd tend to ignore you if you walk out into the fields near where they are grazing. Weezy, however, is quite sociable and will even trot up for a little loving.

Here is a shot of Nate and Weezy together, taken in April 2009. Weezy is a young-adult cow in this picture (notice how much cow and boy have grown since the above picture was taken!):

This winter, Weezy presented Nate with his first Grand-calf. (I'm not sure if that term is technically correct, but you get the idea.) Nate was delighted with this addition to his little herd! Sissy looks a great deal like her mother and is quite a butterball:

Since Sissy is not a bottle-fed calf, she is nowhere near as tame and affectionate as her sweet mother, and she is a little wary of humans. But she doesn't mind standing nearby when Weezy is in the mood for some petting.

Nate says he likes having two cows better than having just one. He puts it this way: "When I'm out with the guys, it sounds so much better to say, 'Well, I gotta get home and check my cowS.' Yep, I've got my own herd now!"

A boy and his cows!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


If you were a very small piglet living in the Hundred Acre Wood, an ideal home for you might be a beech tree.

Beech trees, for reasons unknown to me, are susceptible to a peculiar weakness: It is not uncommon for great huge beech trees, green and apparently thriving, to be completely rotted inside, beneath the bark. I pass several such trees each day when I walk the dogs. These trees are tremendous - enormous trunks, great spreading branches covered with glossy green leaves, towering above surrounding trees. But if you look closely, you'll see that their massive trunks are hollow. Whenever I pass one of these giants, I can't help but think "What a great place for a raccoon or a 'possum to live!" In fact, these trees often are inhabited by various wildlife: squirrels, birds, mice, raccoons, snakes, and even foxes.

Passing one of these hollow giants last week, I thought to myself, "I am just like that tree." On the outside, I look like I've got it all together, like my life is everything it ought to be. On the inside, though, there's just crumbling, black decay. And an infestation of all kinds of vermin - fear, anger, resentment. Blech!

The women at Grace have been working through Carolyn Mahaney's book Feminine Appeal: Seven Virtues of a Godly Wife and Mother. This is not a book for the faint of heart. It challenges us women to grow in the virtues commanded in Titus 2, and Yours Truly gets to lead our monthly discussions. Every month, I think "Oh, this topic won't be too hard to cover. How difficult is kindness?" Then, in preparation for our study, my heart is exposed, the dirty truth is revealed, and I am convicted anew of projecting external conformity to the will of God while inwardly harboring a rotten, sinful heart.

We are meeting to discuss the last of the seven virtues on Saturday. Submission. Wives are commanded to be submissive to their own husbands (Titus 2:5). This command comes from God, and our obedience in this area is obedience to God. But, hey, I'm definitely a submissive wife. Everyone knows that about me, right? Right? Whew! At least this last lesson will not be too uncomfortable. Wrong! Yes, I'm submissive on the outside. But inside - that's another story.

I don't think two people could be wired any more differently than Steve and I. Steve is spontaneous, shoot-from-the-hip, fly-by-the-seat-of-the-pants. Me...I prefer detailed plans (preferrably written out, in triplicate), calendars, long-term strategy. I'm the sort who gets inordinate pleasure out of checking off boxes on a to-do list. Steve leans toward fun and silly. I tend to be serious and introspective. I'm a front-row girl married to a back-row guy.

These differences, along with my sin nature, make true submission a difficult challenge for me. There have been numerous situations - both major and minor - where Steve's decisions and leadership have not been what I wanted. You think we should move back to the farm - NOW? Well, Okay. What? You decided to get the kids a PlayStation? Fine then, just fine. Sometimes I feel like I'm hanging off the back railing of a runaway train, flapping in the wind and trying to get my feet under me. I've conformed to his decisions and plans, but not without a lot of internal frustration and grumbling. This is not the kind of life this get-it-together girl pictured for herself!

But I've discovered something in preparing for this week's lesson. Nowhere in Scripture - nowhere - is my husband commanded to write lists, or to draw wall maps of family goals, or to make PowerPoint presentations of strategies for life. Sure, those things would be nice, but they are not absolutely necessary and failing to do them is not sin on Steve's part. However, Scripture is very clear on this point: I am to be submissive to Steve's leadership, whether I like his leadership style or not. And my not submitting (or only pretending to submit) IS sin.

Carolyn Mahaney has a knack for cutting right to the heart of my problem in this area. She writes: "Am I prepared to trust God to lead my husband, to lead me?" The question is not, "Do I trust Steve?" The question is, "Do I trust God?"

Susan Hunt, a wise older woman, writes in her book, The True Woman: "The true woman is not afraid to place herself in a position of submission. She does not have to grasp; she does not have to control. Her fear dissolves in the light of God's covenant promise to be her God and to live within her. Submission is simply a demonstration of her confidence in the sovereign power of the Lord God."

WHAM. Do I truly trust God? Sadly, no. Am I grasping? Am I controlling? Am I afraid? Yes, yes, and yes.

What is the cure for this wicked disobedience? God's promises. God's faithfulness. God's sovereign power.

When I am submissive on the outside but not on the inside, it is not because I am overly aware of my husband's weaknesses. It is because I am under aware of my God's perfect strength. It's because I have a very small view of God. Submission to Steve, then, is an expression of my confidence in the trustworthiness of God.

Thankfully, God reminds me over and over again in Scripture of His perfect love and faithfulness. Thankfully, He is committed to transforming me from a sinful and rebellious woman into a wife whose submission is characterized by true, heartfelt peace and joy. Thankfully, God is conforming me to the likeness of His beautiful Son, Jesus Christ, who lived a life of perfect submission on my behalf. Thankfully, God can transform even a hollow beech into an honest and sturdy oak.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


We did not have pancakes for breakfast this morning - but that's only because we had them for supper night before last. I love pancakes! They are our version of "fast food" - quick and easy to prepare, cheap, and everybody at my house likes them. Here is the awesome Kendall pancake recipe (so much better than a mix), followed by a few pancake-y tips and ideas.

Sift together dry ingredients:
1 1/2 c. flour
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt

Whisk together wet ingredients:
1 1/2 c. buttermilk
2 eggs
2 Tbsp. oil or melted butter
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Stir wet ingredients into dry, just until moistened. Let sit 3-5 minutes, to allow flour to absorb moisture. Pour batter onto hot griddle. Turn pancakes when tops are bubbly. Serve hot with butter and syrup.

This batter makes thick, fluffy pancakes. If you like your pancakes thinner and flatter, add more buttermilk to make a thinner batter. To feed 8, I double this recipe. As is, I think it would serve 4-6, depending upon whether you have big eaters or not.

Okay, now for the fun stuff...extras! My family really likes banana pancakes - I add two smushed, over-ripe bananas to a double recipe of batter. Yum! For blueberry pancakes, stir a half cup of fresh or frozen blueberries into a single recipe of batter. Other tasty add-ins: chopped walnuts, cinnamon, or bits of cooked apple.

Another idea - We like to spread peanut butter on plain pancakes before dousing them with syrup. This adds some protein and gives your breakfast a bit more staying power. (We learned this trick from camping buddies - thanks, Katherine!) Another friend stores leftover pancakes in a ziploc baggie and uses them to make peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches for lunch - her kids think the small, round sandwiches are pretty cool!

I prefer real maple syrup for my pancakes, but it is SO EXPENSIVE. Instead, we make our own pancake syrup. Combine two parts sugar with one part water in a saucepan (eg., 2 c. sugar, 1 c. water). Bring to a boil; stir and boil for one minute. Remove from heat. Add a tablespoon of Mapleine flavoring. Cool before serving. (Mapleine is available at Wal-Mart, on the same shelf as other flavorings and extracts. It comes in a blue box.)

One year I made strawberry jam and forgot to put in the Sure-Jell. The jam didn't "set", and I was left with several jars of strawberry syrup. This made a fabulous pancake and ice cream topping. Another yummy topping: sliced fresh strawberries, dusted with powdered sugar.

I hope this gives you some ideas - go start cooking!

Monday, June 14, 2010


I am a member of a Presbyterian church...Grace Community Church, a congregation of the Presbyterian Church in America, to be precise. I have dear friends who attend other Christian denominations...Baptist, Assembly of God, Church of Christ, Roman Catholic, COGIC, Evangelical Free, and non-denominational churches, among others. I also have friends who profess no faith at all, and still others who are affiliated with what could most accurately be called cults.

Does my church affiliation provide me any assurance of salvation? In other words, can I be confident that I, as a Presbyterian, am a member of the true church of Christ? I ask this question because I've recently had conversations with three different people - members of three different denominations - who have asserted that there is no salvation outside of their particular denomination. Furthermore, these three very different individuals all expressed confidence that they would obtain heaven precisely because of their membership in their specific churches. I don't know that this is what their various denominations teach, only that it was the confident assertion of the three people themselves.

One of the doctrinal pillars of the Protestant Reformation was Sola Christus - Christ alone. I have told my kids that the one thing above all others I want them to take with them when they leave home is this tenet: Christ alone. I earnestly desire that when they stand in Glory before the judgement throne of God, they answer any and all charges brought before them with this one answer: CHRIST. No other appeal. None.

Should they be tempted then to recall their moral virtue or their service to the church or their good deeds on earth, I pray God gives them the grace to cover their mouths. If they are inclined to speak "Presbyterian" or "Protestant" or "Calvinist" or any other name, I pray God gives them the grace to cover their mouths. I pray that God, in His sovereign mercy, gives my children the ability to utter only one word at that moment - "CHRIST!"

I am a member of a PCA church because I believe this denomination most closely aligns itself with the doctrines and the church model presented in Scripture. But being Presbyterian doesn't save me - Christ saves me. During our particularization service at Grace, Pastor Wally preached from 1 Peter 2: 4 - 10, focusing primarily on verses 9 and 10. He reminded us of who we are in Christ, and of the work we have been called to carry out. What is our assigned task? To "proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light." To proclaim the excellencies of Christ.

I'm not at all unwilling to engage in a discussion with my neighbor about the presbyterian system of church government. Or about Reformed theology. Or about Calvinism (or Arminianism, for that matter). God cares so much about doctrine and about the life of His church that He wrote extensively about these things in Scripture. They are important to God and must likewise be important to His children. Believers should discuss matters of doctrine and church government. But the topic that delights me most is the person of Christ, and He should be the topic most often on my lips. Christ pre-eminent.

Am I afraid my neighbor won't go to heaven because he is not Presbyterian? No, not at all. But, if his security lies in his church affiliation, rather than in his Saviour, I am very concerned indeed. His eternal soul is truly in danger, for no church can save him. Only Christ can save sinners. Christ alone.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


A few stints of babysitting the grand-nephew has reminded me what exhausting work it is to "mother" a very small child. Wow! I'd almost forgotten what it was like to have a houseful of littles. You may be the mother of a toddler if...

1. You speak in sentences of five words or less. And all the words are monosyllabic. (Don't worry - you'll understand that last word when your baby becomes a teenager.)

2. Your house is devoid of any decorations below waist level. However, shelves above waist level are crammed with all sorts of interesting decorations: the TV remote, Martha's knitting, the book Dad is reading, the potted plant, the family cat...

3. You pick other people's noses...

4. ...and you get genuinely excited about poop.

5. You can quote "Inside, Outside, Upside Down" from memory.

6. You know at least three toe ditties. This little piggy went to market...

7. You fall asleep in the rocking chair the third time through singing "The Farmer in the Dell."

8. You have ever chewed up a bite of food, and then put it in someone else's mouth.

9. Ring-a-Round-the-Roses, Peek-a-boo, and Patty Cake are the top three on the list of games you play.

10. You always keep a supply of Cheerios, apple juice, graham crackers, and bananas on hand. Always.

11. Your spine is permanently mis-aligned, with one hip jutting to the side.

12. You can cook an entire meal with only one hand! And your left bicep is ginormous from lugging around that 30-pound bundle of joy the entire time you were cooking - who needs to lift weights at the gym?

13. You seem to always smell like sour milk or dirty diapers, and the front of you shirt is often smeared with jelly or dribbled with juice from a leaky sippy cup.

14. You understand that, despite appearances, small brown pebbles and crushed dandelions are some of the most precious things on this earth.

15. At the end of each day, your house still looks like a disaster area, the laundry still isn't folded, and your brain feels like a bowl of yesterday's oatmeal. It doesn't look like you've accomplished very much with your day - so why are you falling into bed feeling so completely exhausted?

Young mother, resist the temptation to flee from this labor to the safety of something tamer, something more predictable and less messy. Persevere. Don't be deceived by appearances - yours is a noble calling. Yours is the care and nurture of eternal souls, souls housed in wild bodies with stumpy legs and over-sized heads.

"For anyone who makes himself responsible for one small baby, as a whole, will soon find that he is wrestling with gigantic angels and demons." - G.K. Chesterton


The mother of a dear friend died recently, and I was blessed to attend this woman's funeral. Blessed, because it is always a blessing to be gathered with the saints, even in times of grief and mourning. Blessed, because even in the face of loss, it is so good to be reminded of the riches we possess eternally in Christ.

The young man who preached the service made this statement during his sermon: "The more glimpses we have of Christ in this life, the more we long to see Him face-to-face in Glory." I looked around at those gathered in the sanctuary and saw so very many "glimpses" of Christ, reflected in the faces of His precious sons and daughters. And yes, seeing those glimpses of Christ did make me long all the more to see my Saviour in Glory. The reflection of Christ radiating in believers is beautiful - how much more beautiful must be the true source and substance!

Steve has said before that I have a weird way of looking at funerals. They are sad times of tears and broken-ness, certainly. But funerals are bittersweet for believers, because the sorrow is tinged with an inexpressible joy and a heart-rending longing. Death for Christians is the crossing over. The worm, on this side, has retreated into its cocoon. But, beyond earthly view, the butterfly emerges from its chrysalis into the radiant beauty of heaven, into the presence of Jesus. We call it death. I wonder if the angels in Glory call it a birthday.

At Saturday's funeral, I was reminded of a favorite poem by the 19th-century poet Christina Rossetti. Does this not make you long to see your Beloved in Glory?!

by Christina Rossetti

My heart is like a singing bird
Whose nest is in a watered shoot;
My heart is like an apple-tree
Whose boughs are bent with thickset fruit;
My heart is like a rainbow shell
That paddles in a halcyon sea;
My heart is gladder than all these
Because my love is come to me.

Raise me a dais of silk and down;
Hang it with vair and purple dyes;
Carve it in doves and pomegranates,
And peacocks with a hundred eyes;
Work it in gold and silver grapes,
In leaves and silver fleurs-de-lys;
Because the birthday of my life
Is come, my love is come to me.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


A Facebook friend posted a link last week to a website giving tips in frugality. The title of the post - "Extreme Measures We Took to Stay Out of Debt." You can bet I clicked on over to look for ideas on additional ways, beyond the obvious, to squeeze a little more out of a penny.

Five years ago, our family moved to rural Obion County to be closer to family. Living in the country is cheaper than in the city, right? Well, the land we live on was given to us, free. Thank you, Granddaddy! However, we are paying exactly twice as much for the house we live in. We have a huge garden in the summer, and we can and freeze produce for the winter. The boys put a substantial amount of meat in the freezer every year, also - deer, rabbit, ducks, etc. But even with these "cheap" food sources, our grocery bill runs one-and-a-half times what it did in the city. That's with buying in bulk, using coupons, etc.

Higher living expenses are compounded by the fact that Steve now makes approximately half what he earned in Memphis, despite working two jobs. Obion County had a depressed economy before the current recession, and things have only gotten worse. These are hard times for everyone, not just big families with one wage earner.

So, I clicked on over to "Extreme Measures..." looking for a little hope and inspiration. Instead, I found nothing but the same old "we gave up cable TV and disposable diapers" fluff. Folks, the Kendalls are apparently living beyond Extreme - we're all the way over to Mega-Extreme.

No, we didn't cut out cable TV - we never had it in the first place. Nor did we eliminate our second car payment - we own all our limping clunkers outright. We don't shop at thrift stores - we rely on the generosity of folks who are cleaning out their attics. (It's not Goodwill shopping - it's Black Bag shopping.) We have not eliminated vacations - the kids go swimming in the pond several times a week, and we borrow DVD's for Movie Night. "Eating out" means we take dinner to the porch. No allowances - the kids all have ways of making their own spending money (selling eggs, teaching piano, hauling hay, etc.)

To be truthful, things aren't as austere as they could be. We haven't cut out tea and coffee. On birthdays, the guest of honor gets to choose whatever he wants for the dinner menu, even if it's country ham or steak. Graduations are rather big blow-outs, and we treat Sunday like a feast day.

Still, I am confident there are ways we could make a dollar go further. And I KNOW there are some very thrifty women reading this blog. So, Dear Readers, what are your tips for saving money? Forget the coupon books for discount tickets to the movie theatre - I want to hear the good stuff, the Mega-Extreme money-saving tips!

Monday, June 7, 2010


Back in November 2008, I wrote about the sudden and remarkable formation of a Reformed church plant in Union City. Last night, Grace Community Church made the transformation from "mission" status to that of a particular church. What a wild and exciting ride these past several months have been! What amazing things God has done on behalf of this body!

Last night's service was actually a mega-service, combining three distinct procedures. First, our congregation became a particular church within the Presbyterian Church of America. Second, our very first ruling elders were ordained and installed. And finally, Billy McGarity was ordained a pastor in the PCA and installed as our teaching elder. You can imagine this was a lengthy process, involving the proclamation of much Scripture and a great deal of prayer. Very serious charges were given - to the congregation, to the session, and to Brother Billy. Very serious vows were taken on the part of each.

The wife of one of our new elders told this story afterward. "Brady (a young boy) was sitting beside me, and he began to understand this wasn't just a regular church service. 'What's going on,' he asked, 'Is it somebody's birthday or something?' 'Yes,' Melissa whispered, 'It's the birthday of the church. Listen and watch and you can see it being born!'"

Her words to young Brady capture the excitement we all felt last night - the birthday of a church!

A ninety-year-old member of our new little church beamed during the celebration afterward, "Oh, the delight of being in a room full of God's people!" For twenty-five years, this gentleman prayed for a Reformed church in Union City - such faithfulness, to persevere in prayer for so long a time. And then, finally, to see his prayers answered! Reminds me of Simeon, in Luke chapter 2!

I am eager to see what God has planned for this new body in the months and years to come, and I pray that we will celebrate every new "birthday" by faithfully proclaiming the excellencies of Christ.

Friday, June 4, 2010


All quiet on the blogfront this week...and I have sure missed writing!

The days have been crazy busy here in Kendallville the past two weeks, and I'm just now sitting down to catch my breath. Babysitting for the highly mobile grand-nephew; spring cleaning at Grace (Big Celebration this Sunday!); piano guild auditions for the girls; working on the weekly Soli Deo Gloria column for the local paper, with a few last-minute glitches to make things too exciting; working on lesson material for Sunday school and for camp; a highschool graduation/dinner/party; getting my oldest son off to Japan; maintaining the garden; one sick teenager; two silly girls for a sleepover....

Some people thrive on bustle and activity. My mother-in-law, for example - the more she has going on in her world, the more alive and energetic she is. Two straight days of relative calm and she's like a cat in a cage. By golly, if the fun won't come to her, she'll go out and find it! Even if nothing is going on over at Grammy's house, there's a feeling that if you hang around long enough, a party is bound to come crashing through the door.

Me...I enjoy bursts of busy-ness on an otherwise dull radar screen, like fireworks lighting up a dark sky. Have a crazy few days...then pull in the plank to rest and regroup. So, if there's a prolonged burst of "explosions", like the grand finale at a Fourth of July picnic, what happens then? Well, the "explosions" are still fun and thrilling...but the silence after the last sizzle-POP! can be almost deafening. Crazycrazycrazycrazy......c..a..l..m. It's like skiing from snow to slush. Sure, I want to slow things down a bit, but the decceleration is traumatic!

After giving birth, new mothers experience a phenomenon called post-partum depression. After a week of house guests and partying, we suffer the post-holiday blues. The college student crashes after a stint of caffeine-charged, round-the-clock studying for finals. It's all really the same thing - our bodies, our emotions, our minds have been running in high gear so long that shifting down to an idle feels like the world is slamming into us like the cars behind a runaway train engine. After 46 years of riding this train, I know that the squeal of steel brakes on steel will quickly give way to the soothing, familiar rhythm of slow wheels on a level track. There will be a pause to refuel and blow off steam before making the next run.

I want to say THANK YOU to a few folks who have made the wild ride of the last two weeks a thrilling adventure, who helped take the trauma out of decceleration. Thank you, Katherine - for loving me not just like a sister, but almost like you were my mother. You kept me sane. Thank you, Billy McGarity and Mike Hutto, for speaking wise, true words. Thank you, Abby, for being the Mistress of the Dance - so many folks have told me how much fun they had dancing on the lawn! Thank you, Jenny, for awesome work on bass guitar, and Kevin, for beating the bodhran - but especially for blessing me with your smiling faces. You are precious to me beyond words. Thank you, Reuben, for running the taxi. Thank you, to ALL my fantastic kids, for helping in the yard and the house and the garden and with regular chores AND with set-up and clean-up for all the extra activities/festivities.

And, thank you so much to all the dear, dear people who joined in to make Nate's graduation a truly special day. These celebrations make me long all the more for Glory, where the party will NEVER end and there will be NO post-partum blues!