Friday, July 30, 2010


I find myself in the middle of another whirlwind, so haven't much time to pop in and write. We shifted gears last week from summer camp to overnight guests, from Group Rec to dentist appointments and hunter safety classes.

Wednesday night, Emily and Dennis came in from Des Moines - YAY!!!! I am so thankful for this quick visit before school starts back for Dennis and for us here at home. It feels very, very good to have all my children under one roof again for a few days.

Yesterday, Dennis's friends Zach and Adrian joined us for the day. A truck load of guys went shooting, while all us "girls" chatted and worked on meals. Games, laughter, and general laziness made for a great afternoon.

Another special blessing, we enjoyed seeing our precious friends Shannon and Shaun and their children (all of whom actually happen to be Kendalls, in our hearts if not by blood). Even a few hours together was such a treat. As we said our goodbyes, we bemoaned the reality of every reunion ending eventually in parting. But, that is not so!

In my trek through the Bible this year, I happen currently to be in the Psalms. Psalm 23 was part of my morning reading. I love how this Psalm ends....

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD...
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD. Not Camille's house, or Shannon's house, or Emily's house, but the Lord's house! I shall not visit the Lord, but shall dwell with Him. No coming and going, popping in for a few hours or days only to leave again. No joyful reunion tinged with the sorrow of yet another impending farewell. Dwelling. Abiding I'll be home.

Even better, all my sisters and brothers will one day be home with me. Emily and Dennis. Shannon and Shaun. My family in Millington and Memphis and Nashville and New York and North Africa. Finally, "hello" will eternally trump "goodbye". In my Bible, the Psalms are written in verse format. The last line of Psalm 23 is a single, beautiful word. I shall dwell in the house of the LORD...


Wednesday, July 28, 2010


I am the daughter of an English major. Yes, I'm prone to wince when I hear the words lie and lay misused. Or when the pronoun I is used as the object of a preposition. Or when someone uses a singular verb with a plural subject.

A friend once told me that members of her church conjugated in the fellowship hall on Wednesday evenings after dinner. Were they conjugating verbs? Or, were they all engaged in some type of bacchanalian ritual, creating a new generation of little church members? I bit my lip, resisting the urge to snort with laughter and make some grossly inappropriate comment.

I have to admit that when I hear someone using bad grammar, I am tempted to dismiss them as being ignorant and as having little of value to communicate. Does this person have keen insight and understanding? Does he have a gift for applying Biblical truth to the business of daily life? Does she have a tender and empathetic heart? Sadly, I sometimes overlook much that is good, focusing instead on that which is weak or offensive.

Several years ago, I attended a worship service with a friend at a church that decorated its sanctuary with brightly-colored banners displaying the names of Christ. Lord of Lords! Emmanuel! Lion of Judah! My friend fidgeted in the pew as we waited for the service to begin. "I don't think I'm going to be able to concentrate on the message," she fussed. "These tacky banners are so distracting!"

At a different worship service, an older church member pulled me aside. "I saw someone at church this morning...barefooted! Do we really allow that kind of thing to go on here?!"

Maybe you've heard this line before: "I could never worship at a church where everyone wears suits and ties and fancy dress clothes. That's way too stiff and formal for me!"

Folks have told me they could never attend a church that sings "boring" hymns. Others have said they can't stand "contemporary" worship music - such mindless, repetitive, irreverent noise!

So, what's my piont? What's buzzing around in my head to prompt this post? Well, to be honest, it's all about head lice.

My family had just returned home from several days of church camp. Sleeping bags and coolers cluttered the living room floor. The first load of laundry was chugging in the washing machine. My kids were flopped in their beds, catching up on sleep, and I was trying to figure out what to fix for supper. The phone rang.

"Well, my camp director duties aren't over yet!" Gaye Lynn laughed.

"What's up?"

Turned out, one of our little campers had head lice. I had just spent a week sharing a cabin with "Tina" - had rocked her to sleep at night, toted her down the path to the lodge hall for meals, held her in my lap during worship. Let's just say Tina and I had lots of close contact!

"You'll want to check Martha and Helen for lice, too," Gaye Lynn advised before hanging up.

There was a time when a phone call like this would've made me angry. How dare some little kid risk causing my family an infestation of head lice! What a hassle to have to check everyone's head, and then treat everyone if needed! Gack - think of all the laundry! Well, never mind that last thought - I had a ton of laundry to do, either way.

But this time, I didn't get angry.

Tina and I had just spent a week learning about Christ's extravagant love for broken, nasty, sinful people. We had been wallowing together in the gospel. "Head lice - hah! They've got nothing on the Gospel!" I laughed.

What makes you wince, Dear Reader? What is it about the body of Christ that you find offensive? Head lice? Bare feet? Men in suit coats and ladies wearing pearls? Organ music? Guitars? Bad grammar? White skin? Dark skin?

The Gospel transcends all these...and more. The Gospel unites believers in Christ - with all our peculiarities and eccentricities and weaknesses - into a beautiful, graceful body.

The next time you're gathered with other believers for worship and you find yourself irritated by the style of music, or the pastor's too-long prayer, or your neighbor's off-key singing, or a fussy toddler's fidgeting - stop and consider anew the Gospel. Look around you for that which is beautiful, that which is evidence of the love and work of Christ. Let us extend to those around us the grace we have experienced ourselves and revel in the beauty of the body of Christ.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me - practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:8-9

Monday, July 26, 2010


Today's idea is one I posted about 2 years ago, when the blog had a different layout. I thought it was worth repeating since several readers have come on board recently.

With six children sharing one bathroom, our family needed a system to reduce the number of towels going through the laundry each day. When the kids took their showers, we had a pile of white towels and no way of telling which towel belonged to which child. Therefore, all the towels ended up in the wash, every day.

On the recommendation of a friend, I bought towels in a wide assortment of colors - red, orange, pink, yellow, blue, turquoise, and purple. Steve installed a row of pegs in the upstairs bath where towels are hung to dry after showers. Each child has their own color of towel, which is dried and then reused. Two or three times a week, all the towels are brought down to the laundry. This works much better than having to wash all the towels every day. Plus, it makes for a colorful clothesline!

What are your tips for helping de-clutter the bathroom?


Presently at my house, we are recovering from a couple of weeks of totally crazy activity. Eye exams and dental appointments, movie shoots, camp and more camp, writers' meetings, Woodmen activities,....gah! We all need to STOP!

Our calendar is not completely clear this week, either, but at least we'll be operating mostly from home instead of from some "remote location." After running around like a mad rabbit for over two weeks, I decided this weekend that Moms who do not stay at home for any significant period of not have homes. They have way stations. Drive-through kitchens, laundromats, bath houses. A place to grab a bite, shower, and catch a few winks. But NOT a home.

When we began unloading sleeping bags and coolers from the car after camp, one of the first things I noticed was that the house didn't smell "right" - perhaps a week without Kendall funk had altered the chemistry of the air. And everything felt settled, like it had been too long undisturbed. Of course, all that was quickly remedied with our sudden flurry of ins and outs, junk piled here and then sorted and relocated there. Clothes hung out on the line to dry, then brought in again with the smell of sunshine still clinging to them. Coffee brewing. Dinner cooking in the kitchen. Kids tumbling and playing music and telling stories. All the mundane activity that surrounds a Mom...children, laundry, cooking, directing chores.

Which raises the question: just what does make a home? It's not the interior decorating or window treatments. Not the pictures on the walls or the arrangement of the furniture. No, it's something else...something connected to the breath and dialogue and movement of the people who live there. Something birthed by and strangely intertwined with the soul of the Mother.

What about you, Dear Readers? What is home to you?

Friday, July 23, 2010


Another season of summer camp is behind us. The kids and I returned home yesterday with a mountain of dirty laundry and a plethora of fun memories and new stories to tell. After a peaceful night of sleep in my own bed - without ten chatty, squealing, giggly little girls sharing the room - I'm up and already working on the 14th load of laundry. Soon, we'll be able to walk through the utility room again!

I am reminded again this week of why so many parents send their children to camp, rather than going to camp with their children. Working a camp for children - whether you are cooking meals, teaching Bible lessons, or overseeing group recreation - is unbelievably exhausting. After dinner at home last night, I sat at the table in a bleary-eyed daze. While two of my boys started cleaning up the dinner dishes, I honestly felt so weary that the thought of even standing up from my chair overwhelmed me. I'm just going to sit here and cry!, I thought to myself. I am SO TIRED! Sore, stiff, and bone-tired, I wilted at the prospect of tackling all that laundry and planning for today's grocery run to restock the kitchen. Fortunately, a shower revived me long enough to make it until bedtime.

My co-teacher, Amy - a beautiful young woman in her 20's - also commented about how very tired she was after several days of camp. I think you could have pushed either one of us over with a feather by the time we saw the last of our campers packed up and headed for home! But, we both also experienced something wonderful that more than compensated for the fatigue we felt. We both knew what it was to be empty...completely and desperately empty.

After a day of actively engaging non-stop with a herd of small children, followed by late-night staff meetings, how could either of us possibly keep our eyes open long enough to hold and comfort the home-sick 7-year-old who needed to be rocked to sleep? Tired and testy ourselves, how could we possibly deal patiently and calmly with hormonal, emotional teenage girls? We both had occasions during the week when we looked at each other and said, "I don't think I can do this anymore!"

I love the story of God's redemption of his people Israel from slavery in Egypt. Over and over again, we see this vast nation caught in desperate circumstances - between a sea and an army, between famine and thirst, between unbelief and idolatry. And over and over again, when Israel reaches the point where they can do nothing else to save themselves, God says, "Be still." They wear themselves out with labor and worry and anxiety and stress, until they are empty and completely spent. Like me, they cry out, "We can't do this anymore!" Then God tells them to be still, finally, and watch what He will do for them.

That's kind of what happened at camp. I reached a break point - I can't do this anymore! God said, "Good. Now that you're done, watch what I am going to do." Amazingly, God provided the strength and the grace and the compassion that I lacked. Provided them in such abundance that they met not only my needs, but overflowed to the children around me. The sulky teenager who had been so belligerent on Tuesday, came up and gave me a big hug before leaving on Thursday morning: "I love you, Mrs. Camille." "I love you, too - I'm so glad we got to be together at camp this week!" God had transformed both our hearts. The tiny homesick camper bounced up with a bright smile. "Can't we stay for just one more day, Mrs. Camille? Please?" "No, honey, it's time to go home. But maybe we can be in the same cabin at camp next summer." Loosing sleep had become a small price to pay for the opportunity of becoming one of this little girl's friends.

God calls His people to do big things. Uncomfortable things. Impossible things. Things like loving our brothers and sisters, young and old, when we are too tired to even think clearly. Often, I tend to shrink back, because I know the work will be more than I can handle. I don't want to be tired, uncomfortable, inadequate, broken, empty. But I'm learning that God will not use a pot that is full of itself. No, He will empty it first. But then He will pour it full of Himself - a glorious fullness indeed.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


I attended camp several summers as a child. Although I don't think summer church camp at Springdale Lakes was specifically a family event, it felt like family camp to me - one or both of my parents always worked at the camp when I was there, and my brother and sisters attended camp the same time that I did.

I never worked up my courage enough to jump out of "the crow's nest," perched high in a towering pine tree. Riding the zip line over the swimming lake was a feat for braver children than myself! And I half-way believed the stories about a dragon living in the third and smallest lake. The mist settling on the lake in the evening, rising slowly in the morning, created the perfect setting for a dragon encounter.

At the end of camp week, we celebrated with the running of the annual Banana Biggie relay. Every camper ran a leg of this race - maybe eating Saltines and then whistling a tune, maybe drinking a suspicious-looking glass of Dragon Juice or swimming the length of the small swimming lake. The baton was a banana, which usually looked pretty pitiful by the time it reached the last runner. This unfortunate camper had to run up the steep hill to the dining hall, eat the banana, and ring the camp bell. I never have been any good at sports, but I looked forward each year to running in the Banana Biggie!

Last year, at Grace's first summer camp, I especially enjoyed joining a group of kids for the Creek Stomp, a walking tour of one of the park's creeks, guided by a friendly Ranger. I loved that first cup of hot coffee early in the morning, sitting alone in some secluded spot of the woods while I prayed and gathered my thoughts for that day's lesson. Energizers on the lodge deck, crazy dancing as we all went Star Trekkin'! Listening to a bunch of silly little girls giggle and whisper in their bunks during the hour-long afternoon rest time. Staff meetings at the end of each day.

What about you, Dear Reader - any fond memories of summer camp?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


The kids and I had to do some shopping to get ready for camp this week. However, with a clothing budget of nil and six kids to outfit, shopping is a bit of a challenge! Thankfully, we have a Goodwill store nearby, so I think we will now be able to live without a washing machine for the entire camp session. Here are some tips I've learned for bargain hunting at Goodwill....

Each week, Goodwill runs a half-price special on a particular color price tag. Last week, all yellow-tagged items were half off. This week, orange is on sale. Also, on Wednesdays, the color-of-the-week is marked down to just 99 cents per item!

This isn't a department store, so don't expect to go in and find racks of clothes organized into groups of just your size. Our local Goodwill sorts clothing into small, medium, large, and extra-large. I've learned to go to the "large" section (yes, I said "large"), and then check the manufacturer's tag for a number size. I grab an armload of shorts/shirts/jeans that I think will be my size before heading to the fitting room. It takes a bit of patience to climb into and then out of ten pairs of shorts, but finding a pair that fits just right for only 99 cents makes it well worth the effort!

Don't buy any garment without trying it on first, and be sure to check for stains, loose threads, etc. The store has a large selection of good-quality items, but you want to be careful not to inadvertently pick up a dud. At Goodwill, brands and quality run the gamut - Eddie Bauer to Cold Water Creek, Hanes to Tommy Hilfiger.

Checking by regularly is the secret to making really great finds. I had taken the boys in earlier this month to look for shorts, with no success - outfitting thin men is sometimes difficult. Anyway, I ran by on Wednesday and discovered a large rack of really nice, brand new men's shorts displayed right at the front of the store. There were lots of shorts with waist sizes of 28 and 30, and, even not on sale, they cost only $4.99 a pair. Bingo! The clerk who checked us out told me that one of the department stores in Jackson donates their end-of-season clothing to Goodwill instead of shipping it to a warehouse. If there are any of these shorts left when blue tags make the 99-cent-special, you can bet I'll be stocking up for next summer!

What are your tips for finding bargains when you're clothes shopping? Any great "finds" you want to share?

Monday, July 19, 2010


Okay, I admit it. I am NOT a big fan of age-segregated, youth-centered "ministry" that creates a false community defined by peer groups and current youth fads. Schools, sports teams, and even churches conspire relentlessly to remove young people from the broader context of family and community, placing them instead in an artificial world characterized by narrow age groups and the latest teen or preteen or college culture.

I've never been big on the idea of summer camp, either: highschool camp, junior high camp, elementary camp, even senior camp. Do we have so little in common that we can't benefit from spending a little time together?

But here it is, July 19th, and I find myself at church camp. Yes, I've been converted. Sort of. Let me explain....

Last year, Grace Community Church held it's first ever summer camp. Being a young church plant (we were still just getting our feet underneath us, so to speak), we were very excited about working together as a body to create a camp that would be fun for our kids and that would benefit the body of Grace as a whole. We also wanted camp to be an outreach to people in the community. The end product? Not a youth camp, but a family camp....moms and dads, kids and grandparents, teachers and students. Of course, not every child who attended had a parent there. Not every adult had a child. But what we did have was a multi-generational, absolutely phenomenal B-L-A-S-T.

We rented the lodge facility at a nearby state park. Girls and women filled one half of the divided bunk house, boys and men the other. As a mom and older woman in the church, it was a delight and a blessing to me to see junior-high girls help care for and entertain 18-month-old Emily. And high school girls, jamming out with the younger girls who admired them so much. Teenage boys, pushing kindergartners on the swings. Jacob, part of my K-3 study group, teamed up with Art, a college professor, to help guide afternoon hikes down the park's beautiful hiking trails. Before supper, it wasn't unusual for a group of kids and grownups to join in a game of horseshoes or ringtoss. The entire camp was a fun time...spent together.

In fact, we had so much fun that we're doing it again. Right now. Two other churches are joining us for camp, along with a handful of campers from the Boys and Girls Club of Union City, and this year we are at an actual camp facility. The Reelfoot Youth Camp complex includes two bunk houses, a Rec center, swimming pool, disc golf course, soccer field, assembly hall, commercial kitchen....all kinds of cool amenities. Morgan's granddaddy is helping with crafts. Our college students are working with Travis to organize and supervise games and sports in the afternoons. Mornings, I'm teaching K-3rd grade with the help of another mom - Yay! Again, we have mothers and fathers, husbands and wives, teenagers and preschoolers, pastors and elders, all working and worshipping and learning and playing together. Folks, this is summer camp - as good as it gets!

If your church is considering participating some way in summer camps, let me recommend skipping the typical age-segregated camp system. Instead of sending your kids to camp, go with your kids to camp. Start planning now for an amazing family camp experience next summer.

(For a glimpse at how much fun we had at last year's summer camp, click here and scroll down to 2010 Youth Camp.)

Friday, July 16, 2010


It is 10:21 Tuesday night as I am typing this. I am very, very tired, but won't be heading to bed for at least another hour. Why? The garden is going absolutely crazy after recent rains. It produced practically nothing for two weeks, but today....We picked a large laundry basket full of peas, four gallons of tomatoes, more okra than we want to eat, and two gallon buckets full of cucumbers. We didn't even make it to the green beans, but they need picking, too. Guess they'll have to wait until in the morning!

When the produce is ready, it's ready...and there's no putting off the work of getting it into canning jars or into the freezer. The kids have been shelling peas all evening, and I've just blanched and packed the first half of today's harvest into the freezer - seven quarts! Reuben diced onions and peppers for me to make salsa after I sliced my thumb chopping tomatoes.

Anyway, since I'm up late waiting for the salsa to finish simmering, I thought I'd type out the recipe we're using. I like salsa but am not big on really super hot. This recipe, given to me by Charles Harris of Hornbeak, is just right, in my opinion - a little warm, but not too hot. It tastes like summertime in a jar. If you want hotter salsa, add more of the hot peppers. Or, substitute a hotter variety (habanero maybe) for the jalapenos. Be sure to wear rubber gloves when handling and chopping the peppers.

24 tomatoes (13 cups)
24 hot peppers (we use jalapeno peppers, about thumb-sized - about 2 cups)
4 large bell peppers (4 3/4 cups)
6 onions (8 cups)

Chop all of the above fine. Place into a large sauce pot and bring to a boil slowly; simmer for 45 minutes. Add:

1 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup sugar (optional)
1 Tbsp. salt
2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
1 tsp. dried cilantro (or more to taste)

Mix all together and simmer another 45 minutes. Pack into hot jars. Process in a hot water bath for ten minutes to seal. Makes 10-11 pints of salsa.

(Note: I added a small can of tomato paste to the recipe to help thicken the salsa. If you choose to add the tomato paste, omit the sugar or your salsa will be too sweet. With or without tomato paste, this stuff is delicious!)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


When I was a young girl, my mom painted pictures. She had an easel set up in the many-windowed, sunbright dining room. Her brushes, palette, tubes of oil paints, and bottles of sharp-smelling turpentine occupied a small table beneath one window. When Mom worked on a painting, she often left her palette loaded with richly colored dabs of thick paint, sitting beside a work-in-progress as she took a break to switch over the laundry or prepare lunch. I remember one occasion succumbing to the overwhelming temptation to pick up a brush and add something to one of Mom's pictures. Just a teensy something, my own personal touch. A tiny dab of crimson, applied just here, would greatly enhance Mom's painting. Somehow, Mom discovered my few, tiny brush strokes. I was sternly reprimanded, and Mom quickly removed my attempts at great art!

When my two oldest were small children, I purchased a Bible curriculum to use as part of our school. The materials were excellent; the lessons were straightforward and the assignments were teacher- and student-friendly. We would read a lesson together, and then the children would join me in producing an illustration of the material we had studied. Day by day, lesson by lesson, we were creating our own illustrated journal of Bible truths.


About two months into the school year, we came to a lesson which contained this illustration:


On the spot, I closed my big expensive teaching manual, walked across the kitchen, and dumped it into the trash. If the curriculum writer had something so fundamental so completely wrong, I couldn't trust anything else they had to say.

"Sola fide" - one of the five "solas" of the Reformation. Justification is by faith alone. We are made righteous before God only by saving faith in the substitutionary atonement of Christ on our behalf, a faith worked in us by God Himself. Our good works cannot secure our right standing before God. Nor can our good works augment or add to the righteousness that is ours in Christ. Christ's righteousness is perfect, lacking nothing, and it is ours through faith.

Our good works do not in even the smallest way make us righteous. Rather, it is God-given faith that makes us able and willing to do good works. A more accurate illustration than the one above would be:


God paints masterpieces in the lives of broken, sinful people. He paints faith and life and righteousness. Let us respond to His gracious, merciful gift of faith with gratitude expressed through good works. But let us never presume to add our poor signature to the divine work of salvation that is God's alone.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


Next week at this time, I'll be enjoying the delights of summer camp with Steve, our kids, and my sisters and brothers from Grace Community Church. Ahhhhh, summer camp....Bible study, crafts, singing around the campfire, snipe hunting, and swimming at the pool. Undoubtedly, our summer bliss will be tempered slightly by annoyances like chiggers and mosquitos. So today - before camp starts - I'm asking you, Dear Reader, for your tips and suggestions for avoiding and/or treating these summer camp party crashers. Here are a few ideas to get things started:

One friend told me that Bounce fabric softener sheets can be used for repelling insects. She packs a few sheets in with her clothing, then rubs her ankles and legs with Bounce before heading out each morning. Although I think the perfume of the fabric softener would attract bugs instead of repelling them, my friend swears this keeps the mosquitos away.

I've also heard that including lots of onion and garlic in your diet helps repel mosquitos - guess they don't prefer blood from the Italian menu! Maybe I should talk to the ladies who will be working as cooks for camp next week and make a few meal suggestions.

We've learned this summer that a sure-fire way to prevent chigger infestation is to shower immediately after you've been hiking in chigger territory. This washes the pesky buggers away before they have time to burrow into your skin. After multiple trips through waist-high grass to pick blackberries, I can report having only ONE chigger this entire summer. Amazing!

If you do fall prey to a plethora of mosquito and/or chigger bites, try a cool salt-water bath to alleviate the itching. Chlorine seems to help, too, so maybe you should take a break from the hiking trails and spend an afternoon at the pool instead. Just don't forget your sunscreen.

What about poison ivy? A few of my kids are especially allergic to poison ivy and will break out from just looking at the plant. Rule #1 to avoid poison ivy - stay on mowed lawns and well-worn paths. Resist the urge to tromp bare-legged through the underbrush. If you do get a case of poison ivy, then what? My older kids say that a damp salt compress helps dry the blisters up - take a damp paper towel, sprinkle with salt, and press on affected area for several minutes; repeat a couple of times throughout the day. Another friend says that stick deodorant applied to the affected area helps dry the blisters and reduce itching. This method would also help prevent overly sweaty arms and legs, I suppose!

What about you, Dear Readers? If you have tips for relieving sunburn, repelling insects, or alleviating the misery of chiggers, we want to hear them!

Monday, July 12, 2010


The tiny twin calf that lived....died. Her beautiful sillky black coat and adorable floppy ears were not enough to compensate for the blue clouds in her eyes. If not for the blue clouds, she would have been bottle fed, like Nate's Weezy, becoming in time a beloved family pet of sorts. A tiny blind calf is one thing - an 800-pound blind cow something totally different. And so blind cows....are not.

Shalom - the Hebrew word for peace, commonly used as a greeting and as a farewell. This word means more than an absence of strife or conflict. It is something greater than rest or calm or tranquility. Shalom means....all is as it should be. But shalom is something we will never truly experience in this life, because we are sinners living in a fallen and sinful world.

I was graphically reminded of this sad reality again last Monday while walking the dogs. It was a beautiful, warm, sunny morning as we headed down a trail toward the back of the farm. Powdery dust rose like smoke from the path with each footstep and paw pad. Piff-piff-piff. In some places, the ground was lined with deep cracks, testimony of the dearth of rain these past few weeks. The blackberries are loving this dry heat, but the garden is withering and the hay fields languish. Every dusty step was a vivid reminder of our great need for rain. Things are not as they should be.

As we headed down a hill toward the creek, Jessie bolted suddenly through the underbrush. A squeak, a scuffle, and Jessie returned proudly bearing a young raccoon clamped tightly in her jaws. Maybe this is a carry-over from her days as a stray, when she had to rustle up food for herself...Jessie can flush out and kill small varmints in a flash, and is always eager to share her trophies with the family. I froze where I stood holding OB's leash, freaking out because I knew Jessie was going to deposit her prize at my feet. Ick! I did NOT want a dead raccoon for breakfast! Worse yet, what if it wasn't dead - but just mostly dead? What if Jessie dropped the raccoon at my feet, then it revived and tried to climb my legs? "Jessie! Drop it! DROP IT!" I screamed. Jessie stopped, dropped her catch, and stood looking at me in confusion. Talk about a lose-lose situation: the poor raccoon died needlessly, and Jessie didn't understand my rejection of her gift. I was sad for both of them. Not Peace.

We reached the creek and crunched through gravel to one of the few deep water holes that hasn't yet dried up. The dogs love splashing into the creek to cool off on our walks. But, no, not this morning - a long snake slipped through the water just as we reached the pool. Once again, I was freaking out. I know most snakes are not poisonous, but they still ALL give me the creepies. I didn't resort to shouting this time, but did a quick about-face and headed back up the dry creek bed. "Come on, dogs! No swimming today!" Not Peace.

The remainder of our walk, I imagined snakes slithering through the tall grass. I heard raccoons and who-knows-what scuttling in the underbrush. When a Great Blue Heron lifted off near us, the noisy flapping of its wings made my heart race. NOT PEACE!

But even seemingly small causes of stress and grief and anxiety, those things which splash against my occasional delusions of peace and tranquility, they remind me that yes, there is indeed a true peace. That one day, Christ will return and restore His creation. That the ground will not wither with thirst. Young raccoons will not die needlessly. Snakes will not threaten swimmers. Women will not scream hysterically at their dogs. There will be No More Fear. All will be as it should be.

There are two words I long to hear with my own ears. I long to hear my Saviour say, "Camille" and to hear him speak, at last, "Shalom."

It has rained since I wrote this post - Yay! - but the kids and I are still a bit sad about the calf. In the midst of much that is very good, we cannot forget that all is not as it should be. Every and longing for Glory, and for Shalom!

Friday, July 9, 2010


"Look at those storm clouds piling up - quick, somebody go wash the cars!"

Reuben was working in the garden Wednesday afternoon when he made the above comment. Drenched with sweat, he was digging irrigation trenches between the rows of pole beans. Our garden and the hay field around the house are burning up in the heat and drought currently toasting Obion County. Of course, washing the cars wouldn't trigger a rain shower, but desperate times call for desperate measures, right?

Reuben is a Calvinist. So am I. In a nut shell, that means we believe in the absolute sovereignty of God. Nothing happens outside His purpose and will. Nothing is a product of luck or chance or random forces in the universe. Nothing - not even drought, nor rain on freshly-washed cars. As one contemporary theologian puts it, there are no maverick molecules in God's economy.

We Calvinists are so self-conscious about inadvertently denying God's sovereignty that expressions like "Good luck!" or "I guess it was/wasn't my fate..." or "As chance would have it..." make us squirm. In the face of blessings and happy circumstances, we might comment, "God's providence has smiled on us!" In the face of tragedy, "This is a heavy providence." Blessing or trial, both come to us only through the hand and under the direction of our loving Father.

Still, we are country folk, and fallen, too, with old habits that die hard. Occasionally we slip into superstitious speech, if not superstitious belief. If you wash the cars today, it's more likely to rain - Not! This got me to thinking of funny superstitions and expressions I've encountered over the years. I had an Iranian friend who said that in her country, it is considered bad luck to trim your finger or toe nails after sundown. Another friend told me of this peculiar superstition: If you whip your peach trees with a hose during the first full moon after they bloom, they will produce more fruit. (Did I get that right, Donna?) For good luck, a bride wears "something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue." Find a penny, pick it up: all day long you'll have good luck! How many of us, at least as children, have altered our stride to avoid stepping on a crack in the sidewalk?

Well, Dear Reader, what about you? What silly superstitions can you share with us?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


In my trek through the Bible, I am currently reading in the book of Job. Every time I read Job, it makes me feel more than a little disquiet. Here is the story of a godly man, persecuted horrendously by Satan. Broken and despairing, Job is badgered by ungracious friends through much of the book. Then, if insensitive friends weren't bad enough, Job gets his wish of presenting his case to God himself - talk about a whammy ending!

At present, I am at the part of Job's story where he is sitting covered with sores, bemoaning his afflictions. His friends sit with him and give him "counsel" about the reasons for his present suffering. Some of their insight is almost right, some of it is really screwed up, and some of it is downright insensitive. This goes on for chapter after chapter. Eliaphaz speaks; Job answers. Bildad reproves; Job replies. Zophar tells Job he deserves even worse than what he's getting; Job responds. Eliaphaz accuses; Job defends. On and on and on....

(My mom had a formula for analyzing the words we spoke as children. "Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?" If Job's friends had been raised by my mother, they wouldn't have had nearly as much to say, and the book of Job would've been much shorter!)

So, why, I wonder, did God include in His Holy Scripture this messed up, wearisome, back-and-forth conversation between Job and his friends? As I'm reading, I can't help but be amazed that their conversation goes on for SO MANY CHAPTERS. How do they not grow weary of their own speech?!

This picture of Job and his friends is such an accurate picture of the messiness and yuck of real life and real relationships. I love how God doesn't sugar coat the truth about life in this fallen world. We all suffer (though, thankfully, not like Job). We love God and desire to honor Him with our lives - but in the gore of life in the trenches, rightly affirming what we know to be true about God can be a struggle, even for the most righteous. Articulating this faith on the canvas of life is a process, worked out slowly (day after day, chapter after chapter) and with much fumbling. Also, like Job's friends, we have all given really bad counsel - maybe our intentions were good, but our timing was totally lousy or our message was just flat-out wrong.

But something new struck me during my current read-through of Job. These loser friends of Job's....I think they really were his friends. They showed up right when Job lost everything, and they stayed with him all the way until the end of the book. Sure, they bashed him when they should've comforted. They preached on the judgment of God when they should have spoken of His mercy. They spouted on for page after page about things they truly did not understand. But, through all the misery and nastiness, they stayed. And Job stayed with them. These three friends were still there when, after much suffering, Job answered God's examination and repented.

In the final chapter of the book, Job is vindicated before his foolish friends by God Himself. God is angry with Job's friends, however, and He demands they bring a sacrifice to atone for their stupid speeches. In fact, God is so angry with these men that He says Job must offer the sacrifice on their behalf - He doesn't want them even approaching Him.

Now if I were in Job's place, I'd probably write those guys off on the spot - they were no comfort in his suffering, and only added to his misery. But Job doesn't write them off. He doesn't even say, "Ha! I told you that you were wrong, you bunch of morons!" He takes the sacrifice the three friends bring and he offers it to God. Job prays for his friends. God hears Job's prayer for these messed up friends and turns His anger away from them.

Job was transformed by this encounter with the living, sovereign, holy God of the universe. By humbly submitting to Job's ministering on their behalf, Eliaphaz and Bildad and Zophar demonstrate they were transformed, also.

The saga of Job and his friends serves as a challenge for believers today. We go through some nasty stuff in this life. Even within the body of Christ, we screw up terribly in our relationships and unwittingly hurt one another with our words. But, like Job and his friends, we need to stay together and see this journey through to the end. When we encounter the holy God and experience His grace - like Job did - we must turn right around and extend that grace to those around us, even to the point of praying for the souls of the very ones who have offended us. And like Job's friends, we must learn to speak and walk with humility.

At the end of the book, we find Job and his friends, still together, corporately experiencing God's mercy and restoration. I'm glad they stuck it out.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


I know today's post is late - I feel so guilty. Again, I've spent the time putting up tomatoes, picking blackberries, and hanging out laundry instead of writing on my blog. Why can't I do everything I want to do, everything I think I should be able to do, all in a twenty-four hour day?

Guilt is a shadow that clings close to mothers. We can never do enough, love enough, sacrifice enough. After a day of picking up toys, making snacks, and rocking sleepyheads, we look back in exhaustion and wonder if we've accomplished anything of eternal value with our time. We are frustrated by and feel guilty for what we have not accomplished. Then, we hit the Reset button and do the same seemingly meaningless, never-ending routine again the next day and the next.

Several years ago, I kept the 2-year-old child of a young mother who worked full-time while her husband completed his college education. This mom confided in me that she felt very guilty for not being at home with her child, for not being a "good" mother. "Listen," I said, "You are helping your family during this season by providing financial support. In another year, your husband will be finished with school and will have a full-time job, and then you can be at home with your child. Don't feel guilty for not being able to do it all right now. Besides, if you quit work today, you'd feel guilty tomorrow for not being able to help out financially." Seems like whatever we do, where ever we find ourselves, the shadow of guilt threatens to eclipse the sun. If we do one thing right, we do another thing wrong or not at all. It is so hard to find any peace with so much guilt looming on the horizon!

Young mother, do you ever feel guilty for not investing more of yourself in the world outside your home? For not using your gifts and talents to serve God's kingdom "out there"? For not taking on extra responsibilities at church or at the local school? For not volunteering for committees and community service projects? For not earning a second income to help support your family? For not letting your kids participate in every extra-curricular activity on their wish lists? For being tired and having a fried brain at the end of every day?

I have felt guilty for All of the Above, and have learned over the years that so much of the guilt that weighs me down is just plain wrong. It is what Jani Ortlund calls "wasted" guilt. She expresses so well the frustration and guilt which often accompany this calling of motherhood - and she offers encouragement and clear insight to disarm inappropriate guilt. Check out the godly counsel of a wise, not-so-much-older woman in her article For the Young Mother: Ministry, Guilt, and Seasons of Life (click here). I hope her words encourage you as much as they did me!

Monday, July 5, 2010

John Lafayette Girardeau

I wonder why the story of the life of John L. Girardeau hasn't been made into a movie yet - the incredible ministry of this faithful man of God stands as a challenge to the anemic religion of so many of us Christians today. The links below are to a two-part series on John Girardeau, written for Grace Community Church's weekly newspaper column, Soli Deo Gloria.

Ministry and Missions: The Life of John L. Girardeau, Part 1

Ministry and Missions: The Life of John L. Girardeau, Part 2

Thursday, July 1, 2010


Summer squash is coming in now - what to do with all that bounty? I've typed out the recipe for squash relish three times this week, so decided it was time to post it on the blog along with ideas for some other recipes for this prolific vegetable.


10 c. chopped yellow squash
4 c. chopped onion
5 tsp. salt

Combine and let stand (covered) in a bowl on the counter overnight. Next morning, rinse well and drain. Place in a large pot and add:

2 1/2 c. white vinegar
4 1/2 c. sugar
2 c. chopped celery
1 green bell pepper and 2 red bell peppers, chopped
1 Tbsp. dry mustard powder
1 tsp. celery seed
1 tsp. tumeric
2 Tbsp. cornstarch

Bring to a boil slowly. Pack in hot jars and seal. Makes about 7 pints.

This recipe comes from the beautiful and multi-talented Donna Winters - we call it sunshine in a jar. At our house, we eat squash relish with beans (white beans, pinto beans, purple hull peas, etc.), but I have a neighbor who eats it straight out of the jar with corn chips. So yummy!


My family's favorite squash "recipe" is to just brown sliced squash and onions in a hot skillet with a little olive oil. Salt and pepper to taste, and you're done.

For a little "fancier" version of this recipe, melt a few tablespoons of butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add a couple cloves of garlic, minced, and heat until soft. Cut zucchini and/or yellow squash into thin spears and add to skillet with the garlic. Add enough water to prevent sticking; bring to a simmer and cook until squash is tender. To serve, season with salt and pepper and top with grated mozzarella cheese and toasted walnuts.

The food blog Simply Recipes (link here) has several delicious ideas for squash, including Ratatouille, a summer squash salad, and the author's mom's recipe for squash prepared with onions, peppers, and cheese. I discovered this website while looking for something to do with our abundance of eggplant. Loosely following the recipe for Ratatouille, I used eggplant, yellow squash, banana peppers, and tomatoes from the garden - the dish looked, ummm, a littly yucky (eggplant has a tendency to look gross, in my opinion), but it was FABULOUS. Even the kids commented on how delicious it tasted.

Do you have a favorite squash recipe? Share it with the rest of us!