Wednesday, September 29, 2010


Last week, I painted my toenails for the first time in, umm, over a year, I think. Wow. A lot changes in a year...

I discovered that even with my "magnifying" glasses, my toes were nothing close to being in focus. Still, I pressed bravely ahead. Then I discovered that getting my toes close enough to my face to have any clue where to aim the brush was...difficult. It seems I am less flexible and much thicker around the middle than a year ago. Not a good combination for someone who wants flashy toenails.

Still, I pressed ahead. After applying one coat, I needed to dig out the polish remover and a Q-tip. It looked like I had dipped my toes into the polish instead of applying the polish with the tiny brush. Okay, quick clean up and then to apply another coat. The second coat didn't go on any easier.

But, while I discovered that I was no longer able to polish my toenails with any degree of competency, I also discovered something else. You know what? Once I put my feet back on the floor and stood up, my toes looked fantastic. From five and a half feet away, I couldn't see the blotches and smears. All I could see was bright, shiny color. Incredible.

Come to think of it, I don't have as many wrinkles, and my floors don't look so dirty after all...when I take my glasses off. Perhaps weakening eyesight is a God-given grace to the middle-aged!

Sure, you younger folks shake your heads at us messy olders. That's okay. Your day is coming. And with it, lots of grace.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


I am so grateful for the wonderful teachers I have known over the years. Even when attending relatively small churches, I've had available to me classes taught by diligent, enthusiastic, hard-working brothers and sisters in Christ. Books of the Bible, church history, ministry, evangelism, parenting - diverse topics, and sometimes difficult doctrines.

Currently at Grace, we are doing a study by The Apologetics Group on Wednesday evenings - Amazing Grace. Amazing Grace....amazing stuff! We haven't shied from discussing the sovereignty of God in election, the efficacy of Christ's atonement on behalf of His people, and "false gospels" of Grace-Plus embraced by many contemporary churches. We have some animated discussions. Sometimes, my head is so full it feels like it will explode. Always, I leave encouraged, challenged, stronger in my faith and in my understanding of Scripture.

Sunday mornings, we just finished up a study on heaven. I missed most of that class because I was teaching preschoolers over the summer. It's a good thing I wasn't able to attend the entire series...after just the last three weeks, I'm ready to check out and head home! Next week, we will begin a new class looking at the prayers of the saints recorded in Scripture. I am really excited about this new study and am eager to see how the things I'll learn will impact my own prayer life.

In my journey through the Bible this year, I just finished Galatians. This verse in chapter six jumped out at me yesterday - One who is taught the word must share all good things with the one who teaches. (Gal. 6:6) I am definitely "one who is taught" and I have received much that is good from the labors of those willing to teach. This verse reminded me that I should not keep the good things I'm learning to myself. I need to say to those teaching me, "Thank you." I need to let them know their work is impacting my faith and my life. I need to look for opportunities to bless those who step into the yoke of teaching in practical ways, to share with them "all good things."

I couldn't name here all the individuals who have taught classes in which I participated. They are simply too numerous. But today, I can write a note of thanks. It's a start.

Monday, September 27, 2010


I like that when I find an unfamiliar plant or bug or tree, one of my kids can usually tell me what it is.

I like that my kids prefer my fried peach pies over every other fried pie they've ever eaten.

I like that my girls can hide away in their room for hours, working together on a quilt or creating new clothes for their dolls.

I like that my boys, as well as my girls, talk about what they want to name their future children.

I like that my college students come home on the weekend and talk about their classes, teachers, classmates, and life on campus.

I like that my married kids call and email and chat with me on Facebook and write letters and postcards to the younger siblings.

I like that my sons take time to explain contemporary music lyrics to me.

I like that my kids enjoy making huge messes together in the kitchen....and they frequently make tasty food, too!

I like that my kids often read book passages aloud to each other and to me and Dad.

I like that my kids weave quotes from The Princess Bride or Nacho Libre into normal daily conversation without even thinking.

I like that my children can carry on intelligent conversations with people over 50.

I like that my kids enjoy making music, and I especially like hearing them make music together.

I like that my kids find ways to encourage me as a mother, whether it's a note under my pillow at bedtime or the "Here, Mom, let me help with that!"

I like that my kids create poetry that breaks my heart, music that helps me breathe, and super heroes that make me laugh.

I like that my huge boys still hug me in public, and my girls aren't embarrassed to hold hands with their mom when we're out running errands together.

I, I love that my kids love and enjoy each other.

Friday, September 24, 2010


Two of my children are running high fevers today. They are both agitated, restless, and unable to focus. I know it's pointless to get out the Tylenol or Motrin - this is just one of those things that has to run its course. By tomorrow night, my boys will have returned to normal, with only bright eyes and glowing cheeks giving testimony to today's internal inferno.

Twenty-four hours from now, Lord willing, these two boys will be eagerly perched in deer stands back on the family farm. The stands are waiting, bows are readied, gear collected and prepared. Both have invested much time in target practice. The weather forecast has become almost an obsession - what high and low temperatures are predicted for tomorrow? What about the wind direction? Will skies be clear or overcast? Any chance of precipitation? The National Weather Service website has probably been swamped by keyed-up hunters this week!

I'm sure my boys have already planned their 4:00 a.m. breakfast for tomorrow, as well as what sustenance they'll need to pack with them into the woods. It'll be early bedtimes at the Kendall house tonight, and I suspect Nate won't be in the mood to tolerate any loud, late-night movies for the rest of us!

But less than 36 hours from now, after the Saturday sun has set and we are gathered around the table for dinner, the fever will have broken. Instead of fitful pacing and chatter, instead of the nerve-wracking countdown, there will be stories of the big buck that was "just out of range," the doe that walked right underneath the deer stand, the turkeys heard in the cool morning air before dawn, maybe even the unsuspecting bobcat spotted tip-toeing through the underbrush. Excited tales of the day's adventures and eager plans for the next hunt.

And maybe this time tomorrow, just maybe, there will be the first installment of this year's meat for the freezer, hanging in the walk-in cooler at the meat processor's. Your Mom wishes you both Good Hunting, boys!

Anybody else out there afflicted with a similar bug this week?!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


Over at his blog this week, Tim Challies posted a link to an article by Albert Mohler entitled "Should Christians Practice Yoga?" Wow - what I read nearly knocked my socks off. Definitely not an article for the timid or faint of heart!

I routinely attended a yoga class several years ago at our (then) local YMCA. It didn't take me long to realize that there was a difference between "practicing" yoga and "doing" yoga. I was interested in developing muscle flexibility and proper body alignment, not "finding my inner source of strength and energy." Clara, our instructor, would shoot me a disapproving glance in the fitness room mirrors when I snorted or giggled at her instructions to "empty your mind and find your place of inner peace." Seemed to me some folks were taking this yoga business a tad too seriously!

Anyway, after reading Dr. Mohler's article, my first thought was, "Are Christians free to eat meat that has been offered to idols?" Okay, my mind moves in weird ways. I wondered if there were parallels between the dietary practices in Corinth, and the fitness practices of some Christians today. Dr. Mohler seemed to equate yoga - of any type - with pagan religious practice, therefore making it undeniably unclean and inappropriate for believers. Some in Corinth associated particular bits of cooked meat with pagan religious practices and therefore considered them unclean. Others, however, looked at the meat and saw...well, just a piece of meat. Dinner. Paul's discourse doesn't seem to imply that the issue at hand was the roasted meat, but rather the conscience of the individual diner.

So back to a forward bend or a leg lunge necessarily anti-thetical to sincere Christian faith? I think that depends on what's going on in the mind of the individual. Dr. Mohler writes, "...if you have to meditate intensely in order to achieve or maintain a physical posture, it is no longer a physical posture." Which leads to another question - is there a difference between meditating and concentrating? If no difference exists, then almost every athletic/physical discipline seems to be suddenly called into question. What about the ballerina, dancing on pointe? The major league ball player, perfecting his home-run? If a difference does exist, then is it possible to do yoga (and concentrate) without practicing yoga (and meditating)?

I have to admit that when I work through my routine each afternoon, I am NOT emptying my mind, searching for my inner center of energy, or channeling. No, I'm watching a CD lecture on American History. The yogi who truly "practices" yoga would say I'm not really doing yoga at all, although they would recognize many of the movements and positions. Sure, when I'm standing tall on one leg (like a "tree") and trying not to wobble, I'm aware of my body alignment and balance. I'm also thinking about significant figures in America's Great Awakening, or the industrialization of American cities, or the construction of the first trans-continental railroad. Clara would be appalled!

I think the key to understanding Dr. Mohler's concern hinges on that particular word "practice." Is a forward bend a posture for meditation? Or is it a way to stretch tight back and leg muscles? The tone of the article seems to communicate that exercise in any way related to yoga is contrary to Christian faith. Dr. Mohler writes, "When Christians practice yoga, they must either deny the reality of what yoga represents or fail to see the contradictions between their Christian commitments and their embrace of yoga."

After reading Dr. Mohler's article, I have to admit that I would feel uncomfortable doing yoga in front of someone who didn't know me. What if they misconstrued my actions as some form of pagan religious practice? What if they assumed I was trying to "channel the energy of the universe," instead of relying on Christ for my strength and purpose? (Then again, I wouldn't feel comfortable working out in front of a stranger anyway - for vanity's sake. Too many jiggles! Too much puffing! But vanity will have to be a topic reserved for another post.)

Back to 1 Corinthians 8...After reading this article, I agree that those whose consciences are weak in this area should not be doing yoga. And no one who claims Christ should be practicing yoga. That said, I'll be rolling out my sticky mat on the living room floor this afternoon for another session of stretching and toning, while Professor Patrick Allitt talks to me about the Richard Nixon and Watergate. And tonight - it's pork chops for dinner. Guilt free.

I found Dr. Mohler's article very thought-provoking. I need this kind of challenge to make every thought, every action captive to Christ. Thoughts, anyone?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


(Today's idea comes from my Mom. She recommended this to me many years ago, when my children were still small, and it's definitely a suggestion worth sharing.)

Several years ago, my in-laws were keeping my little niece while her parents traveled overseas for a vacation in France. A medical emergency arose - my niece somehow broke a glass storm door and suffered a very bad gash in one leg as a result. Grammy and Granddad applied first aid and rushed to the emergency room, only to find that it would be impossible to get necessary treatment without the approval of the child's parents...who were half a world away in France and unable to be reached. After a many-hours, nerve-wracking delay, Grammy and Granddad were able to secure a legal document from a local judge granting them permission to seek medical treatment for their grand-daughter. Their ordeal was an absolute nightmare - not one any childcare provider would want to have to endure. Which leads me to today's Titus 2-sday idea....

Per my Mom's instructions, I have prepared for each of my children an I.D. packet. We had photo ID cards of each child made at our local Driver's Testing Center. These look basically like a Tennessee Driver's license - except for the small red print at the bottom that reads, "Not valid for the operation of any vehicle." I believe the fee for having the ID cards made was about $5 apiece.

Then, I went to Wal-Mart and purchased some baseball card covers. These are small plastic protective sleeves made for folks who collect baseball cards, pokemon cards, etc. (I believe they were in the toy department - my memory is a little faded after so many years!) Very cheap.

Back at home, I made photocopies of each child's insurance card. I also typed up and printed a medical release form for each kid which included mine and my husband's phone numbers, basic information about the particular child, and authorization for Grammy and/or Granddad to seek medical attention for my child should they need it. I saved the form in my computer, and can easily and quickly print up release forms with the name of another caregiver as needed.

Then, I put an ID card, a copy of the insurance card, and the signed medical release (folded-up, of course!) into a plastic baseball card cover. All these are kept in a ziploc baggie in an assigned location. The few times that Steve and I have traveled without the kids, I've taken the baggie of ID's to Grammy's. Also, Grammy knows where we store the ID's here at home, in case she needs them when we're not officially "on the road."

Having everything together in a handy location makes remembering to take care of this important piece of business pretty easy. If your kids are ever cared for by grandparents, a baby-sitter, or another adult, I highly recommend making your own ID kits - it's good advice from Mom!

Monday, September 20, 2010


I played hooky on Friday. Actually, I ran away from home. But I'm back now, trying to settle into the routine of Monday morning life after a fantastic, wild-and-crazy weekend. Kind of a bummer, huh? Monday morning blahs....

I talked to a couple of friends yesterday who, like me, were experiencing waves of what I call post-holiday blues. Me? I'd had an awesome holiday with a dear sister. Talking, walking, eating, laughing, grieving, and just breathing the way it should be. My friend B. had enjoyed a long week-end with dear friends - the kind you call family - in another state. For young R., it had been dinner with church family and shopping with a buddy. For all of us, it had been fellowship, affection, delight.

But by yesterday afternoon, all the goodbyes had been said and each of us found Monday looming large on the horizon. And each of us was experiencing a sort of sinking feeling inside, a long heavy heart sigh. Not that any of us expected Monday to be's just that we were watching a delightful, precious season give way to the ordinary.

I have this same great sinking feeling when Emily and Dennis head down the driveway, back to Iowa. When the boys load up the car and drive off for another week of school. When all the Thanksgiving leftovers have been consumed and we pull out the math books again. When we take down the Christmas tree, leaving the living room strangely naked and empty. When I finish reading an incredibly good book. When Sabbath rest fades into Monday morning.

But this sinking feeling is not entirely a bad thing. Rather, it is a clue, a shadow, a reminder of something huge and eternal. We are created for community. We delight in rest and in celebration. We by nature long for the intimate conversations, the long walks, the quiet evenings under the stars, the raucous family feasts, the festival decorations, the shared laughter, the presence of dear friends, the clasp of a familiar hand, the press of a hug...we long for these things because it was for these we were created.

I find that the sinking feeling which once felt like sadness has grown to feel more and more like longing. It's as if God has assured me - "Yes, this is how it should be, this fellowship and sweet communion. And this is how it shall be, only better!" Each sweet moment shared with a beloved child or friend, each celebration and festival...they are small glimpses of the unbroken, uncorrupted fellowship that is to come. Appetizers.

Monday morning is already peeling my grasp away from a delightful weekend. But my heart sigh today, although tinged with sadness for having to leave what lies behind, is a sigh of anticipation...for what lies ahead, "further up and further in."

Isaiah tells me, "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him." Sounds like God has something incredible in store for His children. Based on the glimpses and hints He's given, I can't wait for this celebration - the one that has NO end - to begin!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


Beside the shed out back, there is a "holding pen" of sorts for the various irises my sister gave me a couple of years ago. Last year, the yellow and burgundy irises had multiplied enough that they were moved to their own spots in the yard. The iris pen is getting crowded again, and I'm hoping that next year I can relocate the beautiful pale blue ones and the ones with pink, ruffly edges. Eventually, we should have masses of irises blooming in every corner!

Out toodling in the yard yesterday afternoon, I noticed the iris pen was looking a bit weedy. It's not a large area and doesn't take long to clean out, so I headed over to begin pulling grass. But I was stopped in my tracks by....The Rooster.

Ben has two roosters who do excellent jobs of protecting their flock, even defending them against totally disinterested middle-aged women. I could see Ben further out by the fire pit. "Ben, your rooster is looking at me!" I yelled in distress.

"Just ignore him and he won't bother you," Ben called back.

Yeah, right. I tried ignoring, but Rommel kept eye-balling me and side-stepping ever closer. After about five minutes, I bolted for the house. The Rooster won.

But this morning, I got out early (like the little pig in The Three Little Pigs) and weeded my iris bed - before Ben had let the chickens out of their coop for the day. Working outside in the cool morning sunshine and fresh fall air, when everything was quiet and still, was so pleasant. The irises look great, and there will definitely be plenty to begin relocating them next spring.

All this to say...I can get un-nerved, intimidated, discomforted by such ridiculous things. People, I am not a small woman. I could stomp on that rooster and kill him, no problem. But he's got the bluff on me: come showdown time, I'm the one who folds. Rommel probably brags on the roost at night, "Hey, ladies, did you see me stare down that enormous lady by the shed? Yep, I'm definitely The Man!"

Which brings me to what I really wanted to write about.... I have a paying job for the first time in, oh, fifteen years, is it? Three mornings a week, I care for a precious newborn baby girl while her mother drives to Martin to finish her college education. Now, I am not rolling in the dough. This job pays enough to cover the girls' piano lessons, plus a little to offset our monthly grocery bill. But, as little money as it is, it's income, which means...

For the first time in many years, I get to give my own tithe! (You people who earn a regular paycheck and who get to give regularly to your church, I don't know if you can even appreciate how exciting this is for me. I feel like a kid in a candy shop come Sunday morning!) Anyway, after my first week of babysitting, I happily plopped my tiny ten-percent in the plate as it passed. But almost immediately, an awful shadow clouded my joy.

Like a rooster spotted out of the corner of my eye, up popped an ugly thought. As I passed the plate to the person sitting next to me, I thought, "What if they see how little I'm giving this morning?" My joy evaporated.

Yes, I know that was a stupid thought. Instead of gratitude for this job God has provided, I was busy comparing myself to others, to what they had, to what they could give. You can bet Sunday morning's sudden change of attitude led to much reflection over the ensuing week.

If joy is the litmus of the Gospel, then Sunday morning showed me I had lost sight of Christ's work on my behalf. Instead of looking at God and thanking Him for his abundant grace, I looked instead at my neighbor and slid into envy and thinking I didn't "measure up". I felt inadequate, like maybe if I had more and could give me, somehow that would make my joy secure.

What a lie.

I'm learning in this life...very s-l-o-w-l-y...that if my joy rests in anything besides Christ, it will not endure. But, if my joy and my security and my confidence are firmly grounded in Christ alone, they will not be shaken. Tested, maybe, but not undone. Amazing how I have to learn that same lesson over and over and over.

I am thankful God is a patient teacher, willing to return to that lesson again and again and again.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


I have no sense of fashion. My wardrobe consists of a couple pairs of well-worn jeans and shorts and half-a-dozen knit cotton shirts. Footwear? Sneakers, farm boots, or, weather permitting, flip-flops. My body type: M, for Mature. Personal style: Frumpy.

It's not that I've never dreamed of being glamorous, or at least a tad more "put together" looking - it's just that glamorous doesn't quite fit my lifestyle or my budget. Consider my job description: I make peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches, clean toilets, explain trigonometric functions to math students, and fold laundry. Manicured nails, cashmere sweaters, Prada, and "accessories" just don't come with the territory.

Important to me when it comes to clothing are things like - Is it comfortable? Is it functional? Is it wash-and-wear/easy to care for? Can I wear this with jeans/a T-shirt? Will it cling to my middle, exposing my built-in pool floatie to the entire world? Can I chase a small child around the house or crawl across the floor in this? Will wearing this make me feel like I'm wearing someone else's clothes? Is it obvious now that I need some fashion advice?!

Here's the situation: A friend recently gifted me with a couple of nice jackets. You looking thingys. (I'm so un-fashion savvy that I'm not even sure what this particular garment is called.) Anyway, I now possess a lovely tan/camel jacket, a spiffy red jacket, a lineny-looking jacket, and a navy blazer. However, I have absolutely nothing that seems appropriate to wear with any of these awesome additions to my wardrobe.

Mrs. Mary, my benefactor, assures me the tan jacket would look fantastic with jeans. Okay, I can do jeans. I'm guessing a long-sleeved T or a turtleneck could complete the ensemble, no? But I'm thinking there are probably two or three basic wardrobe additions I could make which would enable me to create several comfortable, snazzy outfits. A pair of black slacks? A simple skirt? Maybe a semi-fitted black dress to wear under the tan or red jacket? Then there is the question of shoes, and accessories - groan. I definitely need help....

So, I'm asking for your fashion advice, Dear Reader. Here's your challenge: I have the above-mentioned jackets, and really don't want to leave them hanging in the closet un-used. What few basic pieces do you recommend to go with them? What about shoes? Remember: think cheap, comfortable, and easy-to-care for when you're brainstorming ideas for outfits.

Post your fashion suggestions as a comment here at the blog or on Facebook. Be sure to be fairly descriptive: remember, I have NO fashion sense and need rather specific suggestions and advice. Who knows...if I get really inspired and can actually follow through on some of your ideas, I may post "make-over" pictures. (Next question: anyone know how to photo-shop pictures?)

Monday, September 13, 2010


I had an errand to run in the sprawling metropolis of Hornbeak this morning. While I was at the bank, the clerk helping me looked up and said, "Oh, you're the one who wrote that article about C. S. Lewis last week!" I confirmed that she had guessed correctly. She continued, "Could you tell me more about the book you were reading?"

I was checking things off my To-Do list, not contemplating C. S. Lewis, so it took me a few seconds to shift brain gears. After a bit more conversation, I figured out she was asking about Lewis's autobiography, Surprised by Joy. The clerk wrote down the book title and subtitle, commenting that it was now at the top of her reading list. "I'm going to call the library this afternoon and request a copy."

I'm mentioning this little encounter for a couple of reasons. First, small towns sure do have some charming qualities. Like tiny little banks, for instance, where there are no lines, no waiting, and no rush to take care of business. Plenty of time for conversation. And a clerk, a stranger to me, actually read my name on my account, recognized it as "that lady who wrote the article in last week's paper" - and then took the time to say something.

Second, the fact that this lady read my article, remembered my name, and then commented about it to me was such a rush. What's more, she was interested enough in what I'd written to want to read C. S. Lewis herself!

Painters paint. Dancers dance. Musicians sing and play. Writers write. We are all striving to communicate, to connect with other people in some way. Often, at least for unknowns like me, the communication effort feels like a one-way signal, a monologue into space. Yes, I write for me - writing helps me process thoughts and events and feelings, and, well, writing is just fun. But I write "out there" - for the newspaper, on this blog, even in personal letters - because I hope that my words will in some way encourage or help or inspire another. Does anything I write actually do those things? Unless there's a reply signal picked up on the radar, I have no way of knowing.

When I mentioned this morning's encounter at the bank to an editor at the Messenger, she wrote back, "I'm not sure the average reader knows how much it means for them to comment and show an interest in something that means so much to you." How much does it mean? It's like ET, finally getting a message from home. It means I've connected in some small way with another human being. It means I'll keep on writing.

Finally, I'm telling you about this, Dear Reader, to encourage you to encourage others. Write a note to your church pianist, telling her how much you appreciate the beauty she contributes to each worship service. Kids, tell your Mom tonight how grateful you are for the dinner she prepared. Take a bouquet of flowers or a plate of cookies to your local librarian. Write a comment to a newspaper article or blog post. Student, tell the cafeteria worker who serves you lunch "Thank you!" - with a smile. Wave at the postman - Hi, Russell! Connect. Encourage. Make a world of difference.

Friday, September 10, 2010


In my trek through the Bible this year, I've just started 2 Corinthians. This week I read in chapter 1: (God) comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. (v. 4) A few verses later, Paul writes of his own suffering: ...we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. (v. 9)

In this week's Serious Wednesday post, "Wondering Why God Makes Life Impossible Sometimes", Jon Acuff describes the humiliation he experienced as an eigth-grader when he was laughed at by a room full of people as he stood in his underwear, weighing in for a wrestling match. A reader commented that Jon should consider himself very lucky to be living in a wealthy first-world country, adding that thinking about the relatively insignificant "bad" stuff in life meant Jon had failed to focus on the big picture. The guy did not appreciate the suffering Jon was describing, and instead dismissed it as inconsequential. When I read this fellow's comment, I thought, "Buddy, you'd better fasten your seatbelt!" I'm guessing he's in store for a little affliction sometime he can learn a little about comfort.

Sure, the humiliation an adolescent feels when laughed at by a roomful of his peers is a totally different affliction from the grief a mother feels when she loses a child or the anxiety plaguing the man living a double life. But his suffering is real, none-the-less, and in his adolescent economy, it is HUGE.

Regardless of the size of our trials, the passage in 2 Corinthians offers a wealth of encouragement. First, as children of God, none of our trials are wasted. Not the little ones. Not the big ones. None of them. They are God-ordained for our sanctification and for the edification of the church. Trials teach us to rely on God. This is true for the scrawny eighth-grade wrestler, and for the weary home-maker, and for the persecuted third-world evangelist. And any measure of learning to rely on God is serious business...not something that to be lightly dismissed.

Suffering also enables us to comfort others who face similar trials. My guess is that the fellow making the above comment hadn't experienced teen angst or ridicule. He had no personal context for empathy. I love this quote by C. S. Lewis: Once in a hotel dining-room I said, rather too loudly, 'I loathe prunes.' 'So do I,' came an unexpected six-year-old voice from another table. Sympathy was instantaneous. Neither of us thought it funny. We both knew that prunes are far too nasty to be funny. Our own suffering enables us to appreciate the suffering of those around us (even if it's only having to face a bowl of stewed prunes!), and to offer meaningful sympathy and encouragement.

Another thing I love about this passage: the promise that God Himself comforts us in our afflictions. That's some Big Medicine. Whatever trial or hardship I am facing, God is with me in the midst of the mess. When I am tempted to despair, He assures me of His presence and His sovereign rule over all the affairs of my life. Ours is not a health-and-prosperity God who dwells only in bright places. On the contrary, we find Him very near us in even the darkest pits. And amazingly, it's in these dark places that we will see the brightest flashes of His divine radiance.

Sometimes, life truly does seem impossible - too painful or too difficult to endure. In the above-mentioned post, Jon Acuff doesn't hesitate to admit, "The night will get dark." But I love how he concludes: " God's economy, the impossible is a gift, not a curse. And it always amplifies God's glory."

In a dark place? A painful place? An impossible place? Hang on, beloved. Remember, ours is a God who raises the dead. Keep your eyes open for the light. Weeping may endure for a night - perhaps even a very long night - but JOY comes in the morning.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


With a little extra free time on their hands this past weekend, the guys decided they wanted to make a lemon pie. Reuben rolled out the crust and baked it. Here, Tom cooks the lemon filling on the stove. Stir, stir, stir, Tom!

Reuben whisked up a meringue by hand. Not too bad for a first try!

Nathaniel served as general supervisor and provided background music and comedic entertainment while the others mixed, stirred, and baked. I finally got to hear "I've Got the Magic in Me" and can now say I approve of Tom's current favorite tune. (Well, it's one of Tom's current favorites!)

Voila - the finished product! Deeee-licious!


1 9-inch pie shell, baked
1 and 1/4 c. sugar
1/3 c. flour
pinch of salt
juice of 2 lemons
3 eggs, separated
1 c. boiling water
1 Tbsp. butter

Beat yolks in top of double boiler. Add sugar, beat; add flour, beat. Add lemon juice and grated peel of one lemon. Mix well. Add boiling water, and cook in top of double boiler over hot water until thick. Add butter. Cool before pouring into crust. Top with meringue and bake until lightly browned.
3 egg whites
6 Tbsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. vanilla (optional)
All ingredients should be at room temperature. Beat egg whites until soft peaks form; gradually add cream of tartar, then sugar, and last vanilla. Beat until stiff peaks form. Spread meringue over pie, being careful to seal to edges of crust. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


In last week's Tuesday post - Cheap Dates - I suggested arranging a childcare swap with another family so that mom and dad could get out for an inexpensive date night. This got my brain to whirring. What about setting up other types of "co-ops"?

Speaking of cheap dates - our friends Kevin and Jenny (who had no children at the time) offered to swap houses with Steve and me so that we could enjoy a holiday at the Casa Hinton Bed and Breakfast. They took over kid duty at our house for the evening, so we didn't even have to worry about meals, bathtime, bedtime routines, etc. This idea would work even if both couples have kids. We had friends in Knoxville with three children the same ages as ours. Jenny and Cecil hosted our brood for an evening, and Steve and I headed home for a romantic, child-free evening in our own space. (What is it about women named Jenny? Seems they are all such sweet, thoughtful people!)

A church we attended many years ago had an awesome holiday tradition. Each weekend leading up to Christmas, the young adult class hosted free baby-sitting for parents of small children at the church. They provided dinner and a couple of hours of childcare, then got all the littles into their pajamas in time to be picked up before bedtime. What an incredible ministry to young parents!

Another idea I read about - A group of three women got together and worked out a meal co-op. These three ladies all work, and all were experiencing the frustration of trying to prepare heathly, home-cooked meals for their families at the end of an exhausting day of work. Now, they meet once a month to plan menus. Then, each woman takes one day of the week to prepare dinner for everyone in the co-op. On Mom A's night to cook, she makes dinner for her family (plus extras for left-overs later in the week), and delivers dinner to the other two families. Each mom only has to plan for and prepare one meal during the work week, assuming they eat out one night and have leftovers one night. The ladies say it has been a tremendous help, and has even reduced their grocery/food bill. When they meet each month, they share comments on which meals were "flops", which were "hits" with their families, so that unpopular recipes aren't repeated. I don't think this would work very well for very large families, but it sounds like a cool idea for smaller families!

What about a "gift" co-op? In the homeschool community, I know of several folks who get-together regularly to share/swap talents. One mom teaches drama/acting, another photography, another music lessons. What talent do you have that you could share with others? How could you trade lessons for something new that you or your children would like to learn?

Childcare, cooking, talents/gifts...what about a cleaning co-op? We'll all get together this month and wash my windows; next month, let's wash yours. I read recently of a neighborhood co-op where several families on one street meet each month to complete home-improvement and maintenance projects and enjoy a pot-luck dinner together. They rotate from house to house. One month, the group built a deck on the back of one family's house. One month, everyone helped with some major landscaping at another house. Knowing they'll have willing muscle and a definite date to tackle a project, these families say they've accomplished much more together than they ever could have or would have on their own, and they've kept their co-op going for several years now. Of course, you would need to really like your neighbors to undertake something like this!

What are your suggestions for a creative co-op, Readers? Do you share any kind of work with friends, family, or neighbors?

Monday, September 6, 2010


This past weekend, one of our neighbors was attacked by a cow and very severely injured.

Number 2 Son spent the day dove hunting with friends Saturday. Afternoon was fading into evening, so I called to see if he planned on being home for dinner. He sounded breathless on the phone, and I could just picture him crunching through brush around the edge of some field. "It may be a while before I get home. We're headed over to Mr. ----'s to shoot a cow."

"A what?!"

We didn't get the official story of what happened until this morning. The community is still holding its breath, waiting to hear some good news from the hospital in Memphis, waiting for the word that all may yet be well.

Turns out, it was just a "crazy" cow - one of those spooky, wall-eyed cows that turn up occasionally, one that you move slowly around and give a wide berth. They're not unusual. Nothing really to be afraid of - just something you know to handle carefully.

The danger with such a cow isn't that it is evil or vicious. The danger is that it is so very massive and often unpredictable. And over time, even a dangerous cow gets familiar and begins to just blend into the herd, making it difficult to remember to be alert and wary.

This cow didn't come after our neighbor with daggers and pistols, blood raging in its eyes. No, as best as can be figured, the cow spooked while he was herding it into the barnlot. It lurched an unexpected way, knocked the man down, and stomped all over him. And almost killed him.

Which got me to thinking...what slow-moving and seemingly benign "crazy cows" am I herding around? What bad habits and dark sins do I tolerate, thinking that as long as I remember to be careful, to keep an eye on them, I'll be able to handle them? Sin isn't really dangerous, is it, as long as it isn't something blatantly evil and vicious?

The truth is, even domesticated, "bovine-y" sins are deadly. And sooner or later, they'll knock you down and stomp all over you. The events of this weekend remind me, in some strange way, that sin is not a pet, not something to be tolerated. Every single trace needs to be "culled from the herd," taken out back and shot. Thankfully, we have a shepherd (cowherd?) equal to the task.

Friday, September 3, 2010


When I was a girl, my family attended a small Reformed church made up of a handful of members, most of whom were white-headed and stooped with age. At one point, the "youth group" consisted of only four children - myself and my three siblings. Not the most exciting gathering on Sundays!

The church on the highway, however, was busting at the seams. With an awesome new facility and exciting programs, it was definitely the "in" church for area teenagers. Longing to be among more kids my own age, I asked Mom, "Why can't we go to that church? The kids there have so much fun. They get to watch movies and have game nights and take trips together. Our church is so boring!"

I'm almost 50 years old now, and I still remember my Mom's answer. "Camille, we go to this church because we want you to hear and learn the truth. I'm sorry church here isn't much fun. But knowing what's true is more important than anything else, even more important than church being fun."

That little church we attended, where I first heard the gospel and learned of the loving grace of a sovereign God, eventually died out. Completely. Closed its doors. The hundred-year-old building, where eternal truths had been so valued, has been empty for thirty years now, except for a short stint when it was rented for use as a wedding chapel. I guess truth didn't really matter more than fun after all.

God is holy, just, righteous, pure, terrible, gracious, sovereign, ...and, more and more, I am seeing that God has an amazing ability to delight with unexpected twists of humor. The church I now attend - Grace Community Church - began meeting two years ago in an empty Jewish Community Center. When God provided this building for our needs, we couldn't have been more delighted. Telling others about our new church, I couldn't help but smile when it came to, "We meet in the Jewish Community Center." How absolutely perfect.

But we outgrew that facility. It seems sound doctrine does matter after all. People are hungry for the gospel, needing to hear that God loves and calls and effectually saves sinners. They are tired of working so hard to be good enough, but always falling short of the mark. People are starving for grace. White-haired people and teenagers, newly-weds and college students, couples with babies and single moms, even fifty-year-old women.

So, as we grew cramped in our first facility, our leadership began searching for another place to meet. They searched for months. And months. Suitable property, we quickly learned, was too expensive for us to buy, and not often available to rent. Every property that came on the radar proved un-doable. So we prayed and we waited and we kept cozying up in the Jewish Community Center. Everyone kept looking and asking around and hoping something would come available soon. And it did - last month. God had a particular building in mind just for us, and I think He was smiling when He picked it out.

August 29th, after weeks of cleaning and painting and pruning shrubs, Grace Community Church met to worship for the first time in our new location - the very same, hundred-year-old building where I attended church as a child. Where I learned of God's amazing grace, and where I first professed faith in Christ. Where I grew up hearing and learning the truth.

We have room, now, room to stretch and grow! Room for a nursery and space for our toddlers to play. Plenty of room for the middle kids, and our highschoolers have their very own classroom, too. We have a kitchen and a fellowship hall, and have already put them to use for our first fellowship dinner. We are so grateful for this facility God has provided our young church! (Click here to check it out at Grace's website.)

Wednesday night, my little niece handed me a flyer about a new children's club starting at the church out on the highway. She had attended a revival there recently, and then been sent out to invite others to the church. "What's this about?" I asked as I read through the flyer.

"It's a new kids' club at the ----- Church," this eight-year-old answered.

"What kind of club?"

"Well, it's for kids, and we're going to be meeting once a week to do all kinds of fun things. We're going to have games, and one night we get to watch a movie, and we're even going to go camping."

"That does sound fun," I agreed. "What will you be learning at this club?"

"Huh?" She made a funny face. "Learning? I don't know. This is just for fun!" She bounced off with her fistful of flyers.

Well, friends, we've got our work cut out for us - Let's go share some truth. Something tells me, this is where the fun really begins!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


I am out of tea. I'm sitting here waiting for inspiration to strike, and all I can think is, "Man, there is nothing I'd like more right now than a glass of tea!" Okay, you can call me a caffeine addict, and you may be partially right. But just now, even a tall, cold glass of decaf sounds pretty good. I don't think it's the caffeine - I think it's the fact that, well, I can't have it. At least not until tomorrow when I can get out and make a grocery run.

Tell me I won't be able to have a fried egg until tomorrow, and I'm fine. No time to start cleaning those nasty kitchen cabinets today? So not a problem. No chocolate in the house? Well, that's okay, at least for now (but I'd better make sure I have some on hand before next week!) Today, I want TEA.

Which has started me thinking...Why is it that not being able to have something we want often makes us desire it even more? What's one thing you crave madly when it isn't available?