Tuesday, August 31, 2010


Steve and I have never crossed that line from barely-squeaking-by to living comfortably. That said, we almost never get out for an evening at the movies or dinner in town. Such luxuries come along only once in a blue moon. (Honestly, when's the last time you saw a truly blue moon? Me....well, I'm still looking!)

Anyway, that doesn't mean a "date night" is absolutely impossible. Here are a few cheap dates we've enjoyed over our 26+ years together:

*Doughnuts and coffee. One raspberry jelly doughnut with powdered sugar for each, coffee with free refills, and our tab totals a couple of bucks. Hey, it's the time out together that counts! Under $5.

*Breakfast at your local Greasy Spoon. Cheaper than eating out for lunch or dinner - you just have to be willing to get up early, as opposed to staying up late. More expensive than coffee and doughnuts, but still under $10.

*A trip to a nearby park. When we lived in California, our apartment was adjacent to a beautiful park that included a walking trail. At least once a week, we would head over to toss a softball or walk the trail. Free.

*Art exhibits/music recitals at a nearby university. Attend a staff or senior recital at a local college or university and you're going to hear some awesome music. We've checked out a couple of student and staff art exhibits at UTM - some fantastic, some truly horrible. But who knows, maybe one of those artists will be world-famous some day! Free.

*Open mic night at a local coffee shop. Poetry readings. Prose. Music. Some bad stuff, some good stuff, but lots of fun. Cost of a couple cups of specialty coffee.

*Movie night. Rent a movie, pop some popcorn, snuggle into the couch, and dim the lights. Or, for an occasional splurge, open a bottle of wine and pull out the bread and cheese. $5-$15

But what about childcare? That gets expensive fast, especially if you have seven or ten or fourteen children. If you have grandparents handy, don't always be taking advantage of them...but do let them keep the kids for you occasionally. Do you know other parents with children your kids' ages? I bet Other Mom would love to arrange a baby-sitting swap for once or twice a month. She really wants a night out, too - trust me. Older siblings, if they're mature and responsible, make great baby-sitters. When your teenage daughter asks, "What do you want for your birthday this year?", you can answer, "Babysitting services!"

Okay, Readers, what are your ideas? Share some fun "cheap dates" you and your sweetie have enjoyed. How do you handle child care?

Monday, August 30, 2010


All of today's schoolwork is checked off. The last load of laundry is flapping on the clothesline. A pot of chili simmers on the stove, ready for dinner later this evening. Finally, I have a few minutes to sit down and write. Is it really already after 5:00 p.m? Where did the afternoon go?!

As we begin week 5 of the new school year, the kids and I are pretty settled into a school day routine. With three in highschool, we find it takes most of each day to complete all our assignments. This being Monday, it also takes most of the day to finish washing all the laundry that has piled up over the weekend! And, yesterday being a festival day, we have all been a bit tired and slow about our work this particular Monday. Maybe I shouldn't be so shocked at the time. It's going to take a bit of adjusting, a bit of schedule jostling, to figure out how I can keep writing with the returned time demands of school, but I'll figure it out.

Walking back from a quick visit with Grammy this afternoon, I noticed a change in the air. It really is cooler out now, and the air is a bit softer - has lost that scorched, crackly feeling of a few weeks ago. Hmmm, school, milder temperatures...and this week we'll flip the calendar from August to September. Yep, summer is definitely coming to an end, fading quietly into fall. Here are a few more signs that fall is moving in -

The sassafras trees are beginning to turn. A sassafras thicket stands behind our house, the dark green leaves forming a solid curtain between our house and Granddaddy's barn. If you look out the living room window, you'll spot widely-scattered flashes of bright red among the dense green foilage. One leaf here, another way over there...one by one, the leaves turn bright red. Right now, the sassafras trees look like they're auditioning for a Christmas play, pretending to be evergreens decked with red decorations.

All the farm babies born back in the spring are teenagers now. The fuzzy kittens are almost as big as their mom. The little calves have grown into big rowdies. The fledgling Pheobes have flown away to start life on their own.

The horses are feeling frisky. Glad to be rid of the oppressive heat, they prance about the field with renewed energy. With the summer pastures burned up from months of drought, their interest in sweet feed has definitely increased, too!

Colleges and universities are back in session. My two oldest boys moved to campus this weekend, and had their first full day of classes today. And it was so nice to have several of the UTM students back with us at church yesterday!

Fall foods are beginning to sound really good. Chili for supper tonight - yum! This weekend, we made an awesome apple crisp for movie night dessert (we used Paula red apples instead of Jonathons - still, so delicious).

We can finally turn off the air and open the windows as the day cools into evening. Yesterday, a beautiful rainstorm blew up - so nice to hear the sound of rain coming through the open windows.

Speaking of windows, mine look totally disgusting. Spiderwebs, handprints, bug splatters, smudges - yuck. We wash windows twice a year: once in the spring, with the onset of warm weather; once in the fall, after a hard freeze has wiped out the bugs and spiders. It is definitely time to wash windows...thankfully, fall isn't too far away!

The sky is a softer shade of blue, the sunlight a little less brassy, and already the days are growing shorter. Any signs of approaching fall in your neck of the woods?

Friday, August 27, 2010


I've discovered that one of the characteristics of life in the early-menopausal, late-40's is disrupted sleep patterns. Waking up at random times in the wee hours of the morning - not completely rested for the start of a new day, yet awake and with an active mind. Sleeping straight through the night is now the exception rather than the norm.

When I was struggling to meet the needs of several very young children, I reacted to late-night wakefulness with dread, tossing and turning and praying for a return of sleep. I'm one of those people who needs lots of sleep in order to function rationally, and I knew I wouldn't be in any shape to face a new day without it. If I missed sleep, everyone in the house suffered.

But this new phenomenon is different, and has presented itself as a blessing rather than a curse. Very often, I wake thinking of someone in particular for whom I can pray. It's almost as if God Himself is rousing me from sleep, saying "Camille, while the house is quiet and still, pray for your friend -------!". And that thought and prayer leads to another, and another, and often, when my mind finally begins to grow foggy with sleep, I find the wakeful time has sped by and seems to be ending too soon.

This morning, I woke in the wee hours thinking of one of the young, newly-wed couples at Grace. They are expecting their first baby in January. Such a precious family! Thinking of and praying for them led me to think of another young couple at Grace, just recently engaged. Then of another couple who are planning a spring wedding. Then another young family who have just recently joined our fellowship. Then my own newly-wed daughter and her dear husband. And my young niece and her husband and their new baby. Seems this was the morning of newly weds and the soon-to-be-married!

But near the end of this morning's prayer journey, I had a sinking spell. It occurred to me that somewhere else, in the star-lit hours of the night, someone else was lying awake and praying for those God brought to mind. "Is anyone praying for me?" I asked God. "In the struggles and trials I'm currently facing, is someone lying awake burdened for my needs, for my faith?" I began running through a list of those who know me and love me best, those with their fingers on my heart's pulse. Hopefully, they were all sound asleep in their beds at 2:47 a.m.! Yet I felt so desperately in need of prayer. Who could I turn to at such an outrageous hour?

Thankfully, the God who wakes middle-age women and prompts them to pray, also teaches them how to pray. "Jesus, you must pray for me yourself. The world around me is asleep. Jesus, only you are here to make intercession for this weary child."

Great comfort came with that thought, that prayer this morning. I can pray at 2:47 in the morning, for others or for myself, and have confidence my prayers are heard - because God never sleeps. Jesus can pray for me at 2:47 in the morning, because He is always ready to intercede for the saints. And, His prayers will be heard and answered, being perfectly conformed to the will of His Father.

Scripture being the only sure basis of truth and any confidence I may claim, that's the first place I headed after showering and dressing this morning. "Tell me it is so. Tell me again that the assurances given in the night are true and reliable. Tell me I really can rest in the confidence that someone - Christ, no less - is praying for me right now." And here is what I found....

The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. Hebrews 7:23-25

Permanently. Forever. Always. Jesus lives to make intercession....intercession for me, to a God who "never slumbers, never sleeps."

That, my friends, is very great encouragement indeed!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


Deer season opens in just a month. I can tell because two of my boys are out every afternoon practicing with the bow, working on deer stands, and/or scouting for deer. More and more, regardless of where conversations begin, they end up on the topic of deer hunting. The hunting bug will be at fever pitch by mid-September, and the fever won't begin to subside until the first deer is brought home for processing.

Psalm 127 refers to children as a heritage, a reward, and a blessing. This is no abstract "philosophy of childhood." No, in my experience, it is practical, concrete reality. With deer hunting on my mind, I got to thinking of the many ways my kids bless me. (Deer hunting, it seems, is related to everything else in life!) Besides the fact that they are mine, and the fact that they are some of the most awesome people I know, my kids....

...fill the deep-freeze with meat every year. They also help plant, maintain, and harvest the garden, and then work with me to can and freeze the produce. One son supplies the family with eggs; another son shares fresh honey. What a blessing!

Piano, penny whistle, banjo, guitar...my kids fill the house with music. A couple of my boys are teaching me to appreciate country music. It's not unusual for someone to share aloud an interesting or amusing exerpt from whatever book they are currently reading. One is about to melt my brain with his development of a philosophy of science. Their discussions over schoolwork keep my brain from atrophying. Dinnertime conversations are amusing, sometimes positively ridiculous. What a blessing!

A call or a letter from my daughter in Iowa brightens my day like no amount of sunshine can. So does checking in on Facebook and getting to "chat" with my son-in-law. The notes of encouragement tucked under my pillow, discovered at the end of a long day; the bouquet of flowers gathered from the hay field; a bowl of fresh, warm blackberries, picked "just for Mom"; a blazing fire kindled on a cold winter morning....I should pause more often to consider all the many ways my children bless me each day.

My kids challenge me to think, to give, to laugh, and to live. They make this journey an adventure. Yes, children really are a blessing. I'm so grateful for my "full quiver"!

Monday, August 23, 2010


Crazy week last week. I'm still exhausted, even after a Sunday of rest. Hog show and livestock sale at the county fair, dentist appointments, piano lessons, a birthday party, work day at the "new" church building (more details in a later post), bonfire/cookout at a neighbor's, school with my three highschoolers and one junior-high student, still recovering from this bronchial nastiness,...I was that crazy crying kind of tired by the end of the week.

Steve usually picks out the movie for our weekly family movie night. The majority of the DVD covers displayed at Family Video are so disturbing that I feel like curling up in a fetal position and whimpering five minutes after walking in the door. Last week, however, Steve was helping man a booth at the fair, and movie night was the furthest thing from his mind. No problem - I already knew exactly the movie to watch.

"I'm picking the movie tonight," I announced. "It's one we already have here at the house."

"Oh, no," one of the boys groaned, "not Milo and Otis."


"Napoleon Dynamite?"


"Is it about animals?"

"No, it's not about animals."

"Lots of people, with lots of talking?"

"Hmmm," I thought a moment. "It does have people in it, and talking, but it's not a walkie-talkie." (That's my boys' name for movies like Pride and Prejudice.) "Everyone tackle your chores and we'll start the movie in thirty minutes - you can find out what it is then!"

Popcorn popped, lights out, everyone flopped in front of the TV. No one expected Mom to choose....Fellowship of the Ring, extended version. Four discs later, we're two-thirds of the way through the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy. If we get all our schoolwork finished before dinner this evening, tonight we'll watch disc one of Return of the King.

I hate the orcs and all the darkness in these movies. The w-a-y prolonged battle scenes. The heartbreak of Smeagol. The passing of the elves. And where Tolkien was all about the light, Peter Jackson instead got a little too carried away with the darkness. But, after the past couple of weeks, The Lord of the Rings was good medicine. Because the story is epic. Because the movie is epic.

Because life is epic. And sometimes, amid all that seems so wearisome and trivial, I forget that - life is epic. Tolkien vividly reminds me that my life on this planet, as dull and tedious and disheartening and exhausting as it sometimes seems, is part of a grand story, an epic tale, that begins in eternity past and rolls on into eternity future. A story which is the fulfillment of all the epic myths of old.

Tolkien coined the expression euchatastrophe. A euchatastrophe, he wrote, is "the good catastrophe, the sudden joyous 'turn'....it denies universal final defeat and in so far is evangelium, giving a fleeting glimpse of Joy, Joy beyond the walls of the world, poignant as grief."

Joy beyond the walls of the world, poignant as grief. Epic. Like a weary Frodo, I just needed to be reminded.

Friday, August 20, 2010


Monday, I wrote about the redheaded boy I fell in love with way back in fourth grade. Many years later, when I was in highschool, I almost got to go on a date with that guy....

Steve (the redhead) was a big fan of John Denver. When John Denver scheduled a performance two-hours away in Memphis as part of a national concert tour, Steve immediately went out and bought tickets. Four tickets. One for himself, one for a friend, and tickets for his older sister and brother, who were also fans.

As the day of the concert approached, Steve's sister and brother found they had other plans and would not be able to make the trip to Memphis. Hoping to find "takers" for the two extra tickets, Steve thought of my cousin Ginny and my older sister Alice, who were also fans. Did they want to join an outing to Memphis for dinner and a concert?

Ginny said "Yes," but my sister....

Alice already had a commitment for that evening and couldn't make the concert. However, she also knew that I'd had a monster crush on Mr. Redhead since elementary school. "Sure, I'll take a ticket," Alice told Steve over the phone. "I won't be able to go to the concert, but I know someone who would love to go!"

Plans were made for everyone to meet in the Troy grocery store parking lot after school the afternoon of the concert; the four concert-goers would ride together from there to Memphis. When Alice handed me the ticket and explained her match-making endeavors, you can bet I was a bundle of nervous anticipation!

Well, maybe you can imagine, too, the mortification I felt when Steve met Ginny and me in the Food-Rite parking lot...with his date sitting next to him in the car. In her excitement over the opportunity of arranging a quasi "date" for me and Steve, my older sister hadn't even considered the possibility he might already have a date for himself!

I still get tickled sometimes thinking about that horribly awkward NOT first date. I wasn't disappointed at the odd turn of events for too long - I was in good company, the concert was awesome, and a road-trip to Memphis was a big deal for this homebound country girl, even if my big crush had his date along! And as it turned out....

...although the John Denver concert was not Steve's and my first date, is also wasn't our last.

Okay, Readers, any funny stories of first dates to share?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


"The trouble about God is that He is like a person who never acknowledges one's letters and so, in time, you come to the conclusion either that He does not exist or that you have got the address wrong." - C. S. Lewis, to his friend Arthur Greeves

"There are things, say in learning to swim or to climb, which look dangerous and aren't. Your instructor tells you it's safe. You have good reason from past experience to trust him. Perhaps you can even see for yourself, by your own reason, that it is safe. But the crucial question is, will you be able to go on believing this when you actually see the cliff edge below you or actually feel yourself unsupported by the water? You will have no rational grounds for disbelieving. It is your senses and your imagination that are going to attack belief." - C. S. Lewis, Christian Reflections

"Faith, in the sense in which I am here using the word, is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods. For moods will change, whatever view your reason takes...Now that I am a Christian I do have moods in which the whole thing looks very improbable: but when I was an atheist I had moods in which Christianity looked terribly probable...unless you teach your moods 'where they can get off,' you can never be either a sound Christian or even a sound atheist, but just a creature dithering to and fro, with its beliefs really dependent on the weather and the state of digestion." - C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

From Not a Tame Lion, Terry Glaspey's biography of C. S. Lewis: (Faith) is coming to the end of our rope and realizing that it is God who holds the other end, it is surrendering and laying down our arms. It is learning that we must stop trying to please God and recognize that He is pleased with our realization that we need Him. "It is not trying that is ever going to bring us home. All this trying leads up to the vital moment at which we turn to God and say, 'You must do this, I can't.'" (C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity) We must reach a point at which we despair of all our efforts and realize that what we cannot do for ourselves, God will do for us.

(Do you see why I so love C. S. Lewis? Every time I read him, I thank God for giving me just such an older brother.)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


With school just starting back, here's a fun idea for an alphabet book you can make with your preschooler. Use a large sheet of construction paper for each letter. On your background page, glue a cut-out letter of a contrasting color. (Better yet, make both an upper case and a lower case letter for each page.) Then, decorate the letter/page with something that uses that letter's most common sound. Make a page for a different letter each day, until you've worked through the entire alphabet. Then, bind the pages together into a book.

Here are some ideas for "decorations" - hope this gets your creative juices flowing!

A: give your letter A an afro with some frizzy yarn; decorate with ant stickers
B: stick Band-Aids all over the page; decorate with small buttons or beads
C: glue candy wrappers on your letter C
D: coat your letter D with glue and a layer of dirt

You're getting the idea, right? The weirder or funnier your decorating/illustrations, the more your preschooler will enjoy this project! Here are a few more ideas to close with....

G: glue pieces of stick gum on the page
K: using a bright color of lipstick, let your child make "lips" all over the page
P: recruit a pet to help you make paw prints
R: spread a thin layer of glue on your letter R, then sprinkle with rice
U: cut out the waistband of a pair of your preschooler's outgrown underwear to make a U
Z: attach a zipper to your letter Z

Want to share additional ideas for decorating letters? Post a comment!

Monday, August 16, 2010


"When I was a young, single woman," my friend confided, "I prayed that God would give me a husband who would challenge my thinking." She married a genius with a steel-trap memory who, many years later, still enthusiastically pursues knowledge and who is always asking questions.

"You sure got what you asked for," I laughed.

"What about you? What were you looking for?"

"Ummm, me?" I was embarrassed to answer, after hearing her comment. "Well, I really, really liked red hair."

I saw Steve for the first time when I as a little girl in fourth grade. Too young to even notice boys, right? Nope. Steve had the brightest, orangest hair I had ever seen on a human. He looked like a human torch. It was love at first sight.

My girlfriends and I had a game we would play at recess. As we sat on the sidewalk playing jacks, we would make up code names using the initials of our crush-of-the-moment. Then, we took turns seeing if we could guess each other's love interests. I never had a crush on anyone, never had any initials to add to the game...just had to content myself with being totally awesome at picking up jacks on a single bounce of the ball. Until I met Steve.

"I have a name!" I announced gleefully as we sprawled on the sidewalk one afternoon during recess. "His initials are S.K.!"

"Sauerkraut Kisses," one girl laughed.

"Strawberry Kangaroo!"

"Give us another hint," another girl coaxed.

"He has red hair," I gloated. And then the game fell completely apart. It just so happened we had a classmate named Steve K------, who also had red hair. None of the girls knew my Steve, and they all assumed my crush was on this other fellow. Needless to say, the girls ignored my protestations that they had guessed the wrong boy. And, needless to say, an unholy amount of teasing and embarrassment followed.

It wasn't until many years later - eight or nine? - that Steve asked me out on a date. In the meantime, I had dated many boys who did not have red hair. One of the first guys I dated inflicted so much emotional trauma that the relationship ended with my praying, "Lord, please just let me date someone who is KIND." God did send along someone kind...but, lacking an appreciation for either Cardinals baseball or sports cars, I had nothing in common with the fellow. It didn't take long for the two of us to discover that we were boring each other to death!

Too many years and too many disastrous relationships later, I finally got a call from the boy a couple of farms over. The first boy I'd ever had a crush on. The only boy I ever had any real interest in at all. He was kind! He was interesting! And he had the most amazing red hair.

Twenty-six years later, I can confidently say that a fondness for red hair is not a strong foundation on which to build a relationship. Steve and I have had a hard go of it at times, and are still struggling to grow in this journey called marriage. This is hard work and has often been painful. (And it has turned us both gray-headed!)

But in the midst of all the work and mess and struggle, I haven't forgotten the red-headed boy I fell in love with way back in fourth grade. Just the thought of that flaming head full of hair, now faded to gray, still makes me smile.

What about you, Dear Reader? What first caught your attention when you met your future spouse?

Friday, August 13, 2010


A cat food commercial playing over the sound system at Wal-Mart last week purred about cats dreaming of meaty, moist, delicious Brand X cat "dinners." I smiled, thinking "Well, they definitely got that wrong!" Some folks may think cats dream of saucers of milk or of chasing mice or bobbing for fish in a fishbowl. J.R.R. Tolkien once said something to the effect that, when cats dream, they are chasing gazelle. Anyone who owns a cat can testify - Tolkien had it right. Every cat, in his own little mind, is really a lion, ruler of the savannah.

Our cat Elizabeth looks like a small, rather plain domestic tabby. But watch her for any length of time and you realize she is really a ferocious lioness. At least that's the case when she is self-aware. Other times, she is a very silly kitten, despite her years. Like when she chases a BB around the house, batting it across the hardwood floor in a frenzied fit of hysteria. She likes to herd a BB up to one of the floor vents. There, sitting calmly at last, she slowly rolls the BB over the grate, pushing it delicately with a tiny paw, and then watches in smug satisfaction as it rattles out of sight. This game never gets old.

But back to the lioness. Lacking an African savannah populated with antelope and elephant calves, our kitty contents herself with hunting the smaller residents typical of a Tennessee hayfield - mice, voles, lizards, birds. She often shares her kill with the rest of the pride, leaving a tiny carcass on the front doorstep to be discovered by one of us as we head out the door. Blech! This summer, we have noticed a distinct preference for things blue. Blue birds. Indigo buntings. Which got me to wondering - are blue-colored birds just easier to catch than, say, sparrows - or - are they more fun to stalk, or perhaps tastier than drab little mice? Any thoughts, cat owners?

In closing, here is a recipe for scrumptious cat-head biscuits. This was breakfast at my house this morning....

Cathead Biscuits
2 c. all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp. butter, chilled
1 c. buttermilk
1 Tbsp. butter, melted

Combine the flour, baking powder, soda, and salt, stirring well. Cut in the 1/4 c. + 2 Tbsp. butter until mixture resembles coarse meal. Pour buttermilk evenly over mixture and stir gently until dry ingredients are just moistened. Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead 10 - 12 times.

Shape dough into 2-inch balls, and press with knuckles. Place biscuits on a greased baking sheet. Bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes. Brush tops of biscuits with melted butter, and bake 2 minutes more, or until lightly browned. Yield - about 1 dozen. (Note: I usually roll these out and cut them with a biscuit cutter...but then they don't look like catheads!)

Serve hot with butter and jelly...or fresh bluebird, if Kitty is just back from the savannah. Just kidding!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


Braving the fiery furnace of our recent heatwave, I made my regular trek next door to catch up on news with Grammy and Granddad.

Granddad sat watching a St. Louis Cardinals baseball game and Grammy was toodling at her computer. "Hey," she asked as I poured myself a glass of iced tea, "did you see ---------'s status update yesterday?" She read the status of one of our relatives off her screen, and we wondered together what message lay behind the typed words.

"Why would anybody want to be writing about themselves or checking up on other people on Facebook?" Granddaddy asked with a bit of disdain.

Well, his question got me to thinking. And that evening, while I was out walking the dogs, I think I hit upon an answer.

Some of us live fairly dull, quiet, isolated lives - not a lot of news or gossip or neighborly faces at my house most days. Facebook is a way to get outside my familiar four walls for a few minutes, a couple of times a day.

Steve used to get frustrated when he would try to engage me in conversation at the end of the work day. "So, what did you do today?"

"Ummmm, we did school. And chores. And I fixed lunch. And dinner...." I really had nothing much to relate. Every day was pretty much the same as the day before.

But Granddaddy's world runs very differently from mine. Coffee with the guys in town every morning - including all the local news and gossip, along with a plethora of silly stories and jokes. Then, off to the office for a bit to call or meet with clients, or to the golf course (more socializing), or some errand to tend to for his renters. He's out and about, meeting friends and kinfolk, chatting with his neighbors as he goes about his daily routine. Dinner out each week with this Woodmen lodge or another, church a couple times a week, highschool football games in the fall and baseball in the spring. For living in such a small town, Granddaddy moves in a pretty big world!

My day, on the other hand, looks more like this: Breakfast every morning with the kids, and then morning chores. School all day, including lunch, with the kids, and then afternoon chores. Finish up the laundry and start dinner. Walk the dogs. Weekends, it's movie night with the kids. My great excursions into the larger world each week include a trip to get groceries, which I try to check off as quickly as possible so that I can get home to unfinished household chores, and church on Sundays and Wednesdays. Need I say, I LOVE my time at church?!

So, when I check in on Facebook in the morning and find a message from a friend I haven't seen in twenty-five years asking me "Are you the Camille who....?" - or an encouraging note from a sister in Christ - or pictures of my out-of-town niece's new baby - or an invitation to a worship service where Tim Keller is preaching and Michael Card is providing the music - WOW!!! My four walls suddenly don't seem so close. And, when Steve asks me at dinner, "Anything interesting happen today?"...I have some answer besides, "Ummmm, nope. Just the same ol', same ol'."

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


"Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But only a few things are needful - really, only one. Mary has chosen the better part, and it shall not be taken from her."

Call me Martha. Much to do, too much to do. My feet hit the floor in the morning and my brain is already whirling through a list of what must be accomplished in the day ahead. Shower, dress, breakfast, chores, school, go-go-go-go.....

No, wait a minute. Stop. Just STOP.

After 46+ years on this planet, I am finally learning - learning a teensy bit - to just stop. To abbreviate my own plans and goals. To resist being swept into the chaos of other people's busy-ness. But saying No is not easy for me, for this Martha.

Circumstances have required me to develop fluency in saying "No" to my children. "No, we can't stop at McDonald's." "No, we are not going to the theatre." "No, you may not have that video game." Saying "No" when there is actually a choice - when "Yes" is a legitimate option - is a little more difficult, but I'm learning that ability, too.

Saying "No" to those outside my home has also gotten a bit easier. "No, I can't serve on this committee." "No, I will not be attending that fraternal event." "No, we will not miss church to help clean up the Junior Culinary display at the fair."

Saying No is so not easy! My husband runs a close second for hardest-to-tell-No. Somehow, I've picked up the absurd notion that, as a wife, my answer to my husband should always be, "Yes. Of course." But I'm learning, I'm learning. Sometimes, the loving answer is "No" - not because I'm defiant or want to be in control, but because I'm increasingly aware of my own limitations, my own inabilities. The charade is fading. Superwoman-who-can-do-it-all is disappearing. The real Camille is emerging, and often, the real Camille simply cannot do all that is asked or desired.

Who is Number 1 on my hardest-to-tell-No list? Myself. Maybe because even if I tell myself No, myself just keeps rattling on inside my head, refusing to have an end of the discussion...."No, you do not need to eat those cookies." "Okay, but maybe a little ice cream would be okay instead. You know - dairy. It's good for me." - OR - "Do not take on that additional responsibility." "But it's actually something I enjoy doing for once. And it's such a good opportunity. And, well, somebody needs to do it!" If my kids talked back to me the way I talk back to myself, they'd be due for some serious discipline! But I'm learning to tell myself No, too, and to stick to my guns. I'm learning, slowly.

So what is my encouragement to you today, dear reader? My encouragement is this: don't wait half a lifetime, like I did, to learn to say No. Start today. Plan to say No. Say No. And then stick to it. Why? Because fluency in saying No makes life a little less crazy and much more pleasant. Because saying No increases appreciation for Yes. Because saying No means...

...you have time to be Mary instead of Martha. And Mary, we all know, has chosen the better part. The eternal part. The part which shall not be taken from her.

Learn to say "No," and then discover the real beauty of saying "Yes."

Monday, August 9, 2010


Read Friday's post and you'll know I've been fighting for joy the past several days. Funny how God delivers timely medicine to His faltering children...

I wrote Bull! on a frustrating Wednesday evening. Thursday afternoon, I was reading over my Sunday school lesson for the preschool class at church. Here are a few excerpts from the "Heart Preparation" section of the lesson (our topic Sunday was Joshua and Jericho):

"Then the Lord said to Joshua, 'See, I have delivered Jericho...'" (Joshua 6:2) The New Geneva Study Bible commenting on this phrase states that it is "A striking paradox, since all that had been 'seen' according to verse one was Jericho's shut gates. The promise of God creates possibilities not inherent in the present situation. A similar contrast between present circumstances and what God promises is found often in the Bible, as in the present experience of believers."

The Teacher's guide goes on to ask: "How do you respond when there is a big difference between your present circumstances and what God has promised? Do you trust in God's Word, or do you get overwhelmed by what you see?....Ask for God's grace to hope in his unfailing love in the middle of your present circumstances or problems."

Friday, I came across this in my daily reading: "Your righteousness, O God, reaches the high heavens. You who have done great things, O God, who is like you? You who have made me see many troubles and calamities will revive me again; from the depths of the earth you will bring me up again.....I will sing praises to you..." (Psalm 71:19-20)

Then Saturday, I read the following quote from Dan Allendar, on the blog of a friend whose precious little baby is still in the hospital (going on two weeks now), struggling to recover from a devestating virus. Meredith posted:

"As odd or nearly impossible as it may seem, we are to welcome our times of trouble as we would greet a friend who has been gone a long time. We are to greet trials with joy (James1:2) and to rejoice when suffering comes (Romans 5:3). Why? Because suffering sets into motion our will to find meaning; it compels us to honestly assess the facts of our lives and begin to order truth into a framework that has personal meaning to us. We cannot have a sense of purpose or a deep understanding of what we're created for unless we encounter the kind of pain that compels us to rise above the daily domain and recollect who we are. Pain enables us to discover ourselves."~The Healing Path, Dan Allender

Then on Sunday morning, I read this from Susan Hunt's book, True Woman: "To reduce blessing to external, temporal gain is to misunderstand and minimize the eternal plan and purpose of God for His people. Blessing (barak) involves redemption from the curse of death to an eternal, covenant relatinship with the living God. Blessing ('ashar) involves our unwavering trust in and response to this truth. The two together provide a kingdom mentality, a transcendent reality that brings magnificence to the seemingly mundane, and glory to the seemingly gory."

Hunt then includes an excerpt from a letter Elizabeth Prentiss (author of the hymn More Love to Thee) wrote to a mother who had recently lost a child. Prentiss wrote: "Faith is His, unbelief ours. No process of reasoning can soothe a mother's empty, aching heart, or bring Christ into it to fill up all that great waste room. But faith can. And faith is His gift....My intellect is of no use to me when my heart is breaking. I must get down on my knees and own that I am less than nothing, seek God, not joy; consent to suffer, not cry for relief. And how transcendently good He is when He brings me down to that low place and there shows me that that self-renouncing, self-despairing spot is just the one where He will stoop to meet me!"

This particular chapter in Susan Hunt's book begins with the testimony of a young woman who was raped and who conceived a child as a result of this tragedy. As she puts it, "Nothing was ever again the same." She goes on to describe her faith journey through this difficult time. Towards the end of her story, she writes, "Sometimes God's purpose in shattering the peace in our lives is to remind us that He has a purpose for everything. Consequently, my confidence in His sovereignty may at times be nudged, but it will never be shaken. Though I may anguish over future trials, I will not have to search for the antidote to my sorrow, for I have laid my faith on the foundation of God's undeniable goodness." She concludes her story, "'Don't ask God for patience; you might get your prayers answered' goes the popular warning. I say, 'Don't pray for a life of convenience; you might get it - and wouldn't that be too bad?'"

To seek God, not joy. To consent to suffer, not cry for relief. To abandon a desire for a life of convenience. I am so thankful God has placed wise older sisters in my life to speak timely words of truth and wisdom. I pray for a teachable heart.

Still fighting...

Friday, August 6, 2010


I once heard someone say, "The Christian life wouldn't be so difficult if it weren't so daily!" 1 Thessalonian 5:16-18 tells us, "Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." Always? Continually? In ALL circumstances?

It is 8:00 Wednesday evening as I write this, and I should be at church. But here I sit at home instead. Guess this is a good time to do some blogging!

Okay, my last post was about the perfect love of God for His children. What could be more encouraging, more uplifting, than considering how great is our Father's love towards us? But twelve hours later, I'm discouraged, mopey, and on the verge of a full-scale pity party.

The red car broke down today - again - and is out of commission until further notice. It died four times while I was out running errands and taking Martha to piano lessons. Martha and I were laughing at the Farmers' Co-op, wondering what they would do if we couldn't get it started after we had backed it up to the loading dock. It didn't seem as funny when the car died the second time, just as I was turning into a parking space at Wal-Greens. When it died as I was driving down the street back to Mrs. Linda's, laughing was the last thing on my mind. After that, every intersection loomed like a potential disaster. Lord, please just get us home! I pleaded. He did, but I was not happy.

With only one working vehicle, someone had to stay home from church - we don't all fit in either of the cars, and it takes both cars to get the entire family somewhere. Well, two of the boys are sick, so I volunteered to stay home with them. That left only five people to cram into Steve's car for the drive to Union City. I figured I needed to stay home anyway, given the turn my mood was taking.

After the "church bus" left, I set about cleaning up the dinner dishes, a litany of complaints rising as I worked. I washed and rinsed cups and bowls, placing them in the dishwasher to dry. No, the dishwasher isn't working, either. It's been broken for over a year. (But, hey, it makes a dandy built-in drain rack.) We've lived in this house going on five years, and we still haven't built shelves in the closets or finished the window seats in the upstairs bedrooms! I drained the sink and straightened my stiff back. I am so tired of my back hurting, I smoldered, and this loose filling in my tooth is absolutely driving me nuts.

With the two boys flaked out asleep in the living room, I decided it must be my job to take the dogs for their evening walk. The thermometer said it was 98 degrees. In the shade. Yes, these are the two dogs that we no longer have - we got rid of them over two years ago, remember?, after our angry neighbor threw a hissy fit on the front porch. Just kidding!

I headed out with the dogs, and was sniveling like a two-year-old before I had crossed the first field. I am tired of hurting! I am tired of the car breaking down! I am tired of not being able to fix things that need fixing! The full-scale pity party was officially underway. Yes, I know that you love me, God, and that everything you bring into my life is for my good. But I am SO TIRED!

Funny thing about a long walk...it's hard to concentrate on feeling sorry for yourself when you're concentrating on not falling down a creek bank, not stepping on a snake, not going blind from the sweat in your eyes, not passing out from heat. By the time we had reached the farthest corner of the farm and turned back toward home, I had no more tears left to cry and was preoccupied with just breathing.

As we topped the hill beside the old pond - the big pond - I chuckled in surprise: there sat the bull, probably 20 feet out from shore, looming like a small black mountain in the midst of the scummy brown water!

Now, cows swimming in the pond is nothing new around here. They do it all the time. They sometimes even swim with my kids, in fact. But they usually swim in the small pond right behind the house. In fact, when I had left home with the dogs, several cows were out lolling about in the small pond, enjoying some relief from the scorching heat.

But the old pond, the big pond, is too wide and deep and murky for bovine swimming. Or so I had always assumed. But here sat Mr. Bull, all by his lonesome, basking in the cool murky slime. Not meandering about in the water like cows usually do - no, he had walked into the deeper water and plopped down. There he sat, completely immobile, his massive shoulders and head peeping above the surface like Bull Island. Even when I called to him, he sat motionless, lost in some summertime reverie.

He looked ridiculous.

He looked a lot like me. This heat is oppressive! I am so miserable! I can't take it any more! I'm sure that's what he was thinking, in his bullish kind of way. And so he had marched into the biggest, muckiest, scummiest hole he could find and sat down. Absolutely nothing was going to disturb his sulky soak in the slime.

Yes, I got the message. I walked the rest of the way home with the dogs, feeling a little bit silly and much less discouraged. A couple of ibuprofen, a cold shower, and a tall glass of lemonade later, I am quite revived. And I am reminded again that, although I fail repeatedly to obey the will of God revealed in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, God loves me...always, continually, in ALL circumstances. Not because I am faithful, but because He is faithful.

Pity party, pffft! What a lot of bull!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


The following excerpt from Thomas Goodwin's The Greatness of God's Love to the Elect was used as part of our Sunday worship service at Grace:

God was not drawn on to love us, as a man is, who first begins to love one, and to set his heart upon him, and then his heart being engaged, he is drawn on beyond what he thought, and is enticed to do thus and thus beyond what he first intended. No, God is not as man herein, but as 'known unto God are all his works, from the beginning of the world,' so is all his love that he meant to bestow. And he took up love enough at first, as he should be expressing of all sort of ways that he hath taken to do it, unto eternity. For there is no new thing to God; if there should be any one thought or degree of love rise up in his heart afterwards, which was not there at first, there should be some new thing in God. And the reason is clear by this too, that he doth love out of his own love, therefore his love at the very first dash, when he first began to love us, was as perfect as it will be when we are in heaven. When Adam fell, God was not then drawn out to give his Son; no, we are not so to conceive it, God had all before him from everlasting.

Christian, consider how great is God's love for you this very day! God's love for us has been complete, perfect, and absolute from the very beginning. And this love is certain, unchanging, eternal, secure, beyond our comprehending.

Having a "bad" day? Struggling yet again with a familiar sin? Feeling not-very-righteous? Crabby with your kids or your husband or your boss? Thinking maybe, at least for today, God loves you a little less?

The great sin of our first parents, Adam and Eve, was that they denied the veracity of the Word of God - they disbelieved God. As their great-great-great-great-grandchildren, our great sin is the same - we do not believe the Word of God. God loves us, delights in us, rejoices over us, calls us His beloved children. Sounds too good to be true, doesn't it? But that, plain and simple, IS the truth, the ravishing beauty of the Gospel. God's love for us today is perfect - not because we are perfectly lovely, but because He loves perfectly.

Feeling like God doesn't particularly love you today? Don't believe the lie. Consider the exhortation of Thomas Goodwin....(God's) love at the very first dash, when he first began to love us, was as perfect as it will be when we are in heaven. Believe the truth, rest, and rejoice!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


This week marks a shift from the relative freedom of summer break to the routine and discipline of school. At our house yesterday, school began at about 8:30. With breakfast, dishes, and morning chores out of the way, I sat down at the kitchen counter to read through a math lesson with my 6th-grader. Lesson covered, she settled into working her problem set while I moved to the table to go over math with my three highschoolers.

School at our house works sort of like a game of tag. Math with one child, assigned problems to work on her own; math lesson with an older sibling, assigned problems....Eventually, back to the first child to read through history together and assign independent reading; over to older students to discuss material covered in literature.... You get the picture.

All of my students were done with schoolwork by 2:00 Monday afternoon. Me, I wasn't finished checking work and planning for the next day's lessons until after 4:00. An hour spent doing odd chores, checking email, etc., and it was time to start dinner. Dinner, evening chores, a 40-minute walk with the dogs, shower, and the day was almost over.

A very full day.

But an awesome day, too. I am amazed at how much time we waste when we aren't operating on a schedule. We seem to kind of piddle through the day, accomplishing nothing. But now, with much required of us, we find that we are capable of accomplishing much.

Funny thing is - with our more structured day and rigorous work demands, everyone seemed to have pleasanter attitudes, too. While one student did lament "More Spanish?", I didn't hear a single "I'm bored!" or "Can we play PlayStation?" And no fussing or crabbing between siblings, either. Amazing. At least two of my kids even commented that they needed to head to bed earlier, so they could get a good start on the day tomorrow. Wow.

When my children were very small, I used to insist on maintaining a fairly strict daily routine. Meals and snacks were at regular times. Nap time was a must. TV wasn't background music for life.

Often, when we would visit family, Steve and I would be chided for not letting the kids skip naptime or pig out on sweets. We sometimes felt like the "tough" parents - too rigid, too particular. But it didn't take many visits too realize that routine had its benefits. Sure, the family picture had to be delayed an hour until the kiddos were up from their naps - but then they were happy and cheerful for the rest of the day, while other young relatives were whiney and fussy. Waiting until after dinner for a dessert - instead of eating cookies and treats all day - made dessert something special.

Overall, sticking to a routine made for noticeably happier, healthier, pleasanter children. If you're a mother of young children and others sometimes try to make you feel guilty for insisting on naps or limited sweets, hold to your guns! The benefits to your kids and to those around them will be worth having to play the "bad guy" for a season.

Days are crazy at our house during summer. For the past four weeks, we have been racing like a runaway freight train, all of us wearing ourselves into frazzles. It feels wonderful to be settling down into the familiar school-year routine. Ahhhhh, routine!

Monday, August 2, 2010


Today at my house, we are trying to work our way back into the school routine. Time for lunch, and so far, so good! I hope our afternoon will be as productive as our first morning.

Anyway, school work has delayed my ability to post here on the blog. So today, while I'm trying to get my school legs under me, here is a post written about two years ago, just at the start of school. I need to be reminded of some things over and over again!

(originally posted September 5, 2008)

A friendly old-timer attempted to strike up a conversation with my son as we waited at the Co-Op loading dock for our two bags of chicken feed. "So, where do you go to school, son?"

"Oh, I don't go to school anywhere. I just stay at home with my brothers and sisters all day."

I winced and made a mental note to add one more item to the list of Things Not to Say.

Or how about this line - I overheard one of my teenagers joking to a new acquaintance, "Know what? My Mom had to go through the third grade eight times!" (Just to set the record straight, I passed third grade on the first go-'round, thirty-something years ago, then 'went through' again seven more times just to make sure I had my math facts down pat.)

Wal-mart had their big back-to-school sale a couple of weeks ago, so I headed to town early on a Saturday morning and loaded up a cart full of 5-cent notebooks and 50-cent packs of looseleaf paper. As I stood in the check-out lane, another mother and her young son pulled up behind me with their own buggy full of school supplies. I turned to the lad hanging on the front of the cart. "Are you ready for school to start back?"

The boy screwed up his face and groaned. "NO WAY!"

"Me neither," I commiserated. Don't get me wrong - I'm a homeschool mom, and I value the privilege of teaching my kids at home. I love that we all sit around the table together doing our schoolwork each day. I am thrilled when I see my older children patiently explaining new or difficult concepts to their younger siblings, or the younger kids excitedly describing what they are learning to their older sisters and brothers. I am grateful for the opportunity to see growth and development in my kids, and for the opportunity to see and know and address their character flaws, sin, and weaknesses.

But I sure do love summer holiday - with the textbooks shut away for a few months, we are all free to GET OUTSIDE to our hearts' content! Piddling in the garden, fishing, wading the creek, enjoying a cool drink while swaying leisurely on the porch swing . . . . no lesson plans, no deadlines, no homework to check, just sweet, sweet freedom.

Still perched on the front of his buggy, the little fellow at Wal-mart turned to his mom. "Hey, why can't I do homeschool, Mom? Wouldn't that be great?!" (Now, this youngster had no idea I was a homeschool mom, but his question definitely perked my ears!)

"NO WAY!" his mother protested. "I couldn't stand to have you at home for one day longer - you'd drive me absolutely crazy!" She rolled her eyes and looked my way (I guess she thought I'd be sympathetic to her situation.) "I can't wait for school to start!" she laughed.

As I drove back home, I mulled over this woman's comment. Maybe she was just joking, making small-talk with a stranger in the check-out lane at Wal-mart. But, it saddened me to think that maybe she really was eager to have her child away at school, where he wouldn't "drive her crazy." And, even if she was joking, it grieved me to think what her son must be understanding from her words, about his relationship to her and her relationship to him. Then, too, I was convicted about my own mouth - when had my loose lips unknowingly uttered demeaning or hurtful things, even in jest, in the hearing of my own dear children?

* * * * * * * * * *

Thomas, my fourteen-year-old, was out picking blackberries with me one hot, muggy afternoon this summer. "I wish I had a job," he pined.

"Oh! That's great!" I perked up, excited to know I had an eager worker on my hands.

Thomas picked up on my excitement immediately. "No, Mom, not that kind of job . . . not another job to do here, for the family. I mean a real job, one that pays money."

"Oh." Although I felt a little disappointed, I understood his desire for some kind of tangible reward for his labors. We continued picking for several minutes without speaking, noisy cicadas chirring in the trees across the pasture as we dropped dark, ripe berries into our buckets. "You know what, Thomas, nothing I do earns me money. I don't get paid for anything I do here, for my family, but my work has tremendous value." I am so grateful to be right here, right now, with this precious son of mine, I thought to myself. "I wouldn't trade my job for any other job in the world."

Thomas looked over at me, and the smile on his face was rich payment indeed for my labors.

Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from him. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are sons born in one's youth. Blessed is the man (or the mom!) whose quiver is full of them. - Psalm 127:3-5a